February 2019 Wrap-Up

Reading Wrap:

  • Total books toward reading goal so far: 18/105 (2 ahead of schedule!)
  • Total books read this month: 10
  • Poetry book read for Poetry Challenge: Season of the Second Thought by Lynn Powell. Lovely nature-based poetry with a wry pushback-against-religious undertone. Lots of fine poems in the collection, picked up randomly off the shelf and glad I did. A taste of all the seasons during a month that has been too wintery.
  • Best audiobooks of the month: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, read by Bahni Turpin (I adore Bahni Turpin and loved Thomas’s first novel, so I’m not surprised) and The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Both were so immersive I had trouble unplugging from them.
  • Other bests of the month: I had a really good reading month, which I desperately needed. The Friend by Sigrid Nunez was exactly the genre-breaking, heart-breaking novel I needed, and I chewed through The Nix in less than a month, which had been on my TBR forever. If you want a David Foster Wallace-esque book, but with more heart and firmer narrative structure: you’ve found it in The Nix by Nathan Hill. Finally, I loved Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith. It was a multiple POV love story–really, love in every formulation.

Writing Wrap:

This was kind of a fallow month for me, which I think I needed. I wrote a few shorter pieces, essays and humor mostly, and did a bit of editing, but I think I needed a creative recharge. I’m considering myself fallow, but receptive, and I’ll hit the longer works again soon.

Life Wrap:

This month I quit Facebook, had too many snow days, got very little sleep due to a sick baby, went to lots of meetings, counted piles of box tops for my kids’ school, made lots of phone calls for volunteer work, and generally felt a little burned out. These long, cold days need to brighten soon, and I think they will. The seed catalogs have started arriving and mentally mapping my garden brings a smile to my face. Other bright spots of the month include watching Jeopardy! with my husband, starting Harry Potter with my oldest kid, and watching my baby learn to pull himself up and navigate around the furniture.

Also InspiroBot, which never fails to be weird

Thank you InspiroBot

June Wrap-Up

Reading Wrap

Total number of books read this month: 10

ARCs: 2. Illegal and Kill the Farm Boy.  I recommend both! Illegal is a graphic novel about immigrant siblings from Ghana. Kill the Farm Boy  is a zany adult fantasy which upends practically every fantasy trope in the book. Very enjoyable!

Number of people I purchased The Belles for this month: 2. Seriously. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re missing out.

Audiobooks listened to this month: 7! And I wrote about favorite audiobook narrators here.

Best of the MonthWinter by Marissa Meyer (a satisfying end to the quartet of books) and The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, which I had never read. I’ll be checking out more of that series soon.

Writing Wrap-Up

Finished the edits and sent my dear little book along to my agent. Hoping to hear back notes soon, and in the meantime, working on essays and smaller stuff. This month I published a piece in Scary Mommy,  wrote an exasperated thing on my Medium , and finished edits for something forthcoming in Split Lip (can’t wait!)

Taking a social media hiatus in July to help get started on something new. Planning on doing Camp NaNoWriMo!

On a less happy note, my computer crashed– blue-screened– and luckily I had backed things up recently. If you haven’t DO IT NOW. It could have been a real nightmare otherwise!

Life Wrap-Up

FullSizeRender (1)Average hours of sleep per night: 4.5

Guests in town this weekend: 14

Dairy products that I’ve had to give up to breastfeed this baby: 100%

Percentage of my diet that was cheese before I gave up dairy: 90%

Dairy free cheese products that taste good: 0%

Percentage worth it when the little guy gives me a grin: 110%

 

Audio-Crushes

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Me? Sleep? Why would I do that??

I’ve been averaging 4-5 hours of broken sleep a night for the past two weeks. I don’t know if the baby is going through a growth spurt or if I can just diagnose it as “baby wierdness” (a real and all-too-prevalent condition). No matter the reason, I have to be up with him when he’s up and audiobooks have been keeping me company.

I always roll my eyes when people say that listening to audiobooks isn’t “really reading”. Sure, my eyes aren’t tracking each word, but my brain is engaged in the same imaginative exercise– sometimes moreso since I’m half-dreaming in the middle of the night anyway. Being read to, especially by a great narrator, can make chores more bareable or these middle of the night feedings more alert.

I admit I have an audiocrush on more than a few of them. What follows are my audiobook narrator crushes, and no, Jim Dale isn’t on there (although he has my undying love for his fantastic work on Harry Potter)

Narrator Stand-Outs

First, Bahni Turpin.

https://twitter.com/rmmckenny/status/972155839451680768

Turpin narrates quite a few of the books in my Audible library, including The Hate U GiveThe Underground Railroad, and Bad Feminist. She could read my grocery list and I would toss all the money at her.

Second, Wil Wheaton

I hadn’t read, or listened to, any John Scalzi before this year, but Wheaton’s voice is the perfect companion to his quirky sci-fi texts. The Collapsing Empire got me hooked with not only Wheaton’s voice, but also the kick-ass cast of strong ladies, and I dug into his older works with Wheaton narrating the Trekkie homage of Redshirts (a perfect pairing for us The Next Generation fans).

Third, Rebecca Soler

Ms. Soler’s voice is the one that’s been keeping me company the past few weeks. Too tired for overtly “literary” works, I turned to Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. They were honestly delightful with a wide variety of accents and pacing in her reading. Soler, obviously, enjoyed reading them as well. You can hear it in her voice, and in the interview between Soler and the author after the end of Winter, the final book in the series.

Thanks, Rebecca, for keeping me conscious.

BP-SN_350wFourthKatherine Kellgren

I bought the Timeless Tales of Beatrix Potter for my kiddos, and Kellgren’s reading brings Potter’s work to life in a way that I envy (and, with a background in theater, I like to think that I’m a pretty good reader to my children). She sings tunes to Potter’s made up songs and uses voices that somehow sound both refined (because of the accent) and hilarious. My kids laugh every time– their favorite is “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.”

Fifth, Readers of Long, Long, Long Books

I like big books and I cannot lie. I like them even more when someone else reads them to me, but I can only imagine the strain and time that goes into narrating forty-hour-plus novels. A few stand-out examples:

  • Stephen Fry’s Sherlock Holmes, a 62 hour behemouth, which also includes personal commentary by Fry about some of the stories
  • Anna Karenina read by Maggie Gyllenhaal, which clocks in at 36 hours. I’m not sure I would have gotten around to reading this classic otherwise, but it touched me to my core with her sensitive reading. Gyllenhall talks about this experience here. 
  • Another book I never would have taken on was Infinite Jest, read by Sean Pratt. I would love to sit down and talk to him about the process of reading this book– the layers upon layers and the footnotes upon footnotes. I ended up buying a physical copy to pair with the audio version, mostly for footnote reference, but Pratt’s wry timing partnered well with Foster Wallace’s surrealism.

Finally, Authors who Read Their Works Really, Really Well

And that’s not all authors, unfortunately. A few in my collection who do, however:

  • Arnold Lobel reads his collection of tales about best friends in Frog and Toad Audio Collection. Lobel’s recordings have stood the passage of time since he has been dead for many years, and his easy pace and diction, plus emphasis on the fun, make him an ideal reader to children.
  • Unlike her collection Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay chooses to narrate Hunger herself– and it was the most stirring thing I listened to last year. Even if you don’t love audiobooks, you need to check it out.
  • As you would expect with a comedian, Trevor Noah is the best possible reader for his memoir Born a Crime. The funny parts actually made me laugh out loud, and the horrifying parts were devestating. I try not to judge people’s reading habits because books are great in all forms, but I feel like you miss half of the experience if you don’t hear him read it.

There are many more, of course, (like Alice Walker’s warm reading of The Color Purple that will leave you breathless).

Maybe you don’t like being read to any more. Maybe you haven’t tried it lately… but maybe you should. There are so many fabulous recordings out there to keep you awake, teach you something new, and make you laugh or ugly cry(oh lord, George Newbern’s reading of A Man Called Ove did me in).

What’s the best audiobook you’ve ever heard? I have three credits on Audible burning a hold in my digital pocket.

Reading and Writing Wrap-Up for February

The Month in Numbers:

Books read: 11

Audiobooks: 3

Nonfiction: 3

Birthdays this month: 1

Girls Nights Out: 3

Hours spend editing new project: 43

Papers graded: 85

Most steps in one day: 14,534

Details

Best Books of the Month: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (how had I never read Waters before?) , Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (I could have read entire novels in each perspective), and The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante (read more than half of this in the airport. I had a 7 hour flight delay in the airport on my way out to AWP…)

Funny story: I have a toddler who is just learning to talk. She was obsessed with the cover of Homegoing and kept bringing the book to me during play time. I taught her to say “Yaa” when she did that. I think she might be Gyasi’s youngest cheerleader.

I’m obsessed with #audiobaking… baking while listening to audiobooks. I made thin mint brownies and snickerdoodles this month while listening to VE Schwab’s A Conjuring of Light.

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Loved running into friends at AWP in February! (waves) I’m already mourning the fact that I probably can’t go next year, but hopefully I’ll be there in 2019 (geez does that sound like a long time away).

I finished the first draft of a new novel (hooray!). It’s now with my trusty and very honest beta-readers.  I can’t read anything in my genre while I write and polish, so I’ve been reading a LOT of excellent sci-fi and fantasy lately. I’d love some more recommendations. I’m going to read the Jemison’s Obelisk Gate and Butler’s The Parable of the Sower, but I’d love more recommendations for what to read after those!

Speaking of the writing and reading life, I’m proud to announce that my partners at the Litsy Feminist Book Club and I have started a review site over at Books That Shook Us. We’re looking for submissions of book reviews, so see that site for more details.

Happy March, everybody!