Library vs. Audible

I love my iPod nano. It’s cute and perfect and holds a million hours of entertainment. It fits in my pocket. I love love love it. This is why I thought I’d love Audible.

In theory, I do love audible. I always have my iPod with me, so I thought having the audiobooks I’m listening to on there would solve the problem of always having to listen to audiobooks in the car. First of all, my son understands (perhaps ‘repeats’ is a better word) curse words now, so lots of books are out. Second, he gets tense and whiny when there’s a tense scene in the book. Not good. Plus, he loves air guitar and drums, so I’d rather let him enjoy music.

In comes Audible. I can listen to my book anywhere. Except, I’m really picky. I check out two or three audiobooks from the library each trip. I usually only listen to one all the way through. If I don’t like it, or I’m not looking to listen to the next installment, I give up on it and return it. With Audible, I feel like I have to choose so carefully because I’m paying for it. My first selection was Atonement and I could care less about it. (To be fair, I’m only on chapter 5 or 6, so I haven’t really given it a chance.) Now I have another credit sitting in my Audible account, and I’m kind of gun shy. I don’t want to waste it.

My first idea was to try out books from the library, and then, if I love the book, use my Audible credit to get it. But with the last audiobook I listened to, The Expected One, I felt like I already had it for free, and it would be wasteful to return the free book just to purchase the same book from Audible.

There’s one other problem. Lately, when I have the chance to listen to my iPod, I catch up on episodes of Slate’s Political Gabfest, This American Life, or Real Time with Bill Maher. Which is also why I haven’t given Atonement it’s proper attention.

So is the problem time? Maybe. How do I best use my time?

How do people deal with these dilemmas?

Please understand that I appreciate the bounty of my blessings as I write these things. I know there are people who can’t read, who don’t have books, who don’t have libraries, who can’t afford iPods or Audible accounts. These things don’t really help me. They just make me feel guilty.

Jeanne Ray

I love Jeanne Ray. I’ve been reading her books for three weeks now. I started with Eat Cake on audiobook. Excellent. And hunger-inducing. Then I read Step Ball Change, which even though I never took tap, made me REALLY miss dancing. I laughed, I cried, I sang along to Puttin’ on the Ritz. Highly recommended. Then I requested her first books from the library. Romeo and Julie and Romeo and Julie Get Lucky. I read the first one in one sitting, and am 3/4s through the second, which I started today. The first chapter made me laugh out loud. Now I want to go down to the farmer’s market for some wholesale flowers.

Jeanne Ray is Ann Patchett’s mom. Very talented family. If you like Janet Evanovich, I highly recommend Jeanne Ray. Her heroines tend to be in the 40 to 60 age range and funny. I feel like I’d like to grow into all her main characters.

I gave up counting my books, as I fall way behind and then feel all this pressure to keep up, so I’ll just go back to mentioning the great ones. If you’re looking for a new author, check her out.

I also read the latest Elm Creek novel by Jennifer Chiaverini, The New Year’s Quilt. Loved it. Turns out Jennifer was at the quilt show I just went to and I missed her. Total bummer. I love her books.

On audiobook, I’m listening to The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan. Excellent, but moving a little slow. It kind of parallels The DaVinci Code – like a different tangent on heretical blasphemy. Or not – depending on your religious views. Anyway, it’s about a descendant of Mary Magdelene. I really like it. It reminds me a little of The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Big parts of it are in Mary’s voice – 1st person account of her time with Jesus. Interesting perspective.

On my iPod, I’ve got Atonement. It’s kind of dull, but I plan to finish it before I see the movie. Good reader, I’m just bored with the story. I’m not sure why, because when I’m listening, I enjoy it. I just don’t ever feel like listening to it.

I think that’s it for books for now. What are you reading?

Book #64 – World Without End

World Without EndKen Follett, writer of my all time favorite book Pillars of the Earth, has done it again. With his new tome World Without End, he takes us back to Kingsbridge Prior and introduces us to the descendants of Jack Builder. Coming in at just over 1000 pages – I still managed to read it in about three days. I won’t say it’s as good as Pillars, because it’s not, but it definitely stands on it’s own and is excellent. You don’t need to have read Pillars either, because other than being set in roughly the same spot and alluding to some of the main characters, it’s not a sequel.

Basically, it chronicles the life of two brothers, and two girls. One brother moves through the life of knighthood to earldom while the other brother goes from apprentice to architect. The two girls live distinctly different lives – one being high-borne and one being very low-borne. Their lives continue to intersect and there are more twists than in daytime drama. Throughout, the town of Kingsbridge and the priory cathedral remain central figures, and the new addition of the plague swarming through Europe makes for some serious storytelling.

If you’re into 18th century English townships and priories with all their sordid goings on, I think you’ll love Follett’s latest creation.

Craft Book Reviews

(For my book count, these books are #59-#63. I wasn’t sure whether I should count them in my goal towards 100 books for the year, but since I’ve read them cover to cover more than once, I figured they should count.)

I love pattern books.The easier the pattern, the better the book! So here are a few of my favorites, if you’re interested in sewing and quilting, check them out.

Bending the Rules on AmazonThis first book, Bend-the-Rules Sewing: The Essential Guide to a Whole New Way to Sew
by Amy Karol, is awesome for the beginning seamstress. I’ve already made two of the purses in here. The directions are really easy to follow, the patterns are easy to cut out. There’s lots of room for personal interpretation, but Amy also provides everything you need if you want to create exactly what she’s made. Fun project, great gift ideas – I really really recommend this book. The author has a super cool blog called Angry Chicken, and she’s also set up a fun flickr group where people post the projects they’ve made from the book. These photos are great for inspiration, color options, ect. [rating:5]

Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted GiftsNext is Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts
by Joelle Hoverson (Author), Anna Williams (Photographer). Again, I seriously love this book. I’ve already made a bunch of those sweet birds on the cover filled with bells and catnip. I’ve also made the coasters and I’m working on a pin cushion. Super easy instructions, great patterns, GORGEOUS projects and photos. I love love love this book. The author also has a great blog called the PurlBee and an online shop called PurlSoho. Definitely check them out. I actually found this book through another blog, Wee Wonderfuls – written by the designer of the sweet little elephant, Wee Peanut, in the book. [rating:5]

In StichesNext is Amy Butler’s In Stitches: More Than 25 Simple and Stylish Sewing Projects
by Amy Butler (Author), Colin McGuire (Photographer). I won’t lie, I haven’t made anything from this book yet. Her patterns, instructions, and materials lists are more involved than the first two books. I feel like I’m not quite to this level. HOWEVER, I love the projects – the book is gorgeous, and I look forward to the day that I master the patterns. If you’re a seasoned quilter or sewer and you’re looking for some cool projects for your home, I highly recommend this book. I wouldn’t recommend it for brand new sewers – although I’m sure smarter people than me could handle the challenges just fine. [rating:4]

Denyse Schmidt QuiltsNext is Denyse Schmidt Quilts: 30 Colorful Quilt and Patchwork Projects
by Denyse Schmidt (Author), Bethany Lyttle (Author). Again, I love love love this book. I’ve made one of the quilts (top left, orange and white pattern), and it was very simple. I even changed the pattern to fit a little better to the fabric I had on hand and it was no problem. I’ve seen a few of her quilts for sale in other places like Anthropologie and in the Sundance catalog and they were ridiculously expensive. I was excited because I already had the patterns, and I can make them myself! The projects really range from super-beginner to a little more seasoned, so I think this is a book for every level. Highly recommended! [rating:5]

amy butler's midwest modernFinally, Amy Butler’s Midwest Modern: A Fresh Design Spirit for the Modern Lifestyle
by Amy Butler (Author), David Butler (Photographer).

This one is really more of a coffee table book, although it does have one pattern in it. Still, it’s gorgeous. Her sense of style and her fabric designs are awesome. I was a little disappointed that the book only has one pattern, but it was nice to get a peek into her life, design mentality and creative process. It’s amazing how many talented, inspired people there are out there – and she’s definitely one of them. [rating:4]

Hope you found those reviews helpful – now stop reading and get sewing!

Saturday happenings

I’m way behind on my book reviews. Like about 10 books behind. But let me just say that if you liked the Traveling Pants books, definitely read Ann Brashares new book, The Last Summer (of You and Me). The title is a little long and unnecessary, but the rest is excellent. Her first adult book. Loved it. Here’s a much better review than I have time or inclination to write.

By the way, that blog I linked to, Books Are Pretty, is excellent. Great reviews that always start with a very funny, often unrelated intro.

Today, my football team (University of Central Florida) got their asses handed to them. 57 to 12. By USF of all schools. The annoying upstart football team formed 20 years after us, and already ranked #5 in the nation. Lame. Lots of mistakes, but I’m confident UCF will rally and win the rest of the season. Go Knights!

I started a new quilt today. The pattern is from Denyse Schmidt’s book Quilts, and it’s coming along nicely. I’m using Moda charm squares from the Fall Back In Time line. Beautiful. Pictures coming soon. I also finished (yesterday) six lavender eye pillows and two lavender and rosemary heating pads. Pictures coming soon also.

Far away lands…

booksRight now I’m reading Harlequin’s Tyler series. Twelve books by different authors with recurring characters, all set in the small Wisconsin town of Tyler. I find that I love reading books all set in one place, and that I often want to move to that place as I’m reading the books. This must be a sign of good writing.

For example, when I read Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove books, I want to live in a suburb of Seattle. Or at least in the Pacific Northwest. Southern California is great, but the rain in those stories always makes me wistful.

Or how about Anne Rivers Siddons and Pat Conroy, often setting their dramatic tales in the Carolinas, with the Outer Banks always figuring prominently. I want to go there and sink my feet in that sand and watch a sunset listening to the cicadas. I don’t even really know what a cicada is, but doesn’t it sound lovely?

Sometimes I’m in a Danielle Steele mood, and I want to wisk from San Francisco to Carmel to Paris. Her books are always set in the same metropolises (is that the plural of that word?!).

Or there’s the whole crop of Chick Lit whose heroines toil away in New York City, working for tyrants and earning very little money. Sharing walk-up apartments with too many people, struggling to find themselves, but having the times of their lives.

What I’m getting at is that I love books. What an awesome creation!

Hearing the written word

slow down, already!I usually have a book on CD going in my car, as well as a book or two on the nightstand. Right now on CD, it’s book two in Meg Cabot’s Mediator series. I just finished Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. I just fininshed reading Susan Wiggs’ Dockside. On my iPod (my new gorgeous light blue nano), I’ve been listening to NPR Selected Shorts and New Yorker Fiction podcasts (free for downloading on iTunes). In the blogosphere, I’ve been catching up on Lin’s Breakdown in the Fastlane – a blog everyone should read.

Here’s what I’ve been noticing.

I love dialogue. I love how good dialogue advances the story and reveals so much. I tend to skip over lengthy detail in a novel and dialogue serves as the speed bumps to counteract my haste. If I ever fulfill my dream of becoming a writer, I think it will be when I learn to master the art of dialogue. It’s probably going to be a while.

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days, and reading Diane’s post about studying other artists for aspects you admire really brought it home. It’s easy for me to speed read/listen my way through 100 books a year, but to grow, I should slow down and pay attention. It’s one thing to say anyone can write a book (which I often hear about the romance genre, although I don’t think it’s true in the least), it’s another to really appreciate the skill involved in making short-attention span readers like myself NOT skip the detail.

So I’m going to take time to read about the smell of roses. Or something like that.

One reason I’ve been noticing dialogue so much is that in my current audiobook, The Ninth Key by Meg Cabot, there’s a lot of rehashing the first book to catch readers up in between the dialogue. I keep wanting to fast forward, but I can’t because it will just jump to the next track. So actually, the unabridged audiobook format is quite effective at making me pay attention.

If you’re a fan of podcasts, download some of the NPR Selected Shorts – they’re short stories written by well known classic and current writers, read by theater and film greats. My new favorite thing to take to the gym.

Books #46 through #58

Well, clearly, I’m WAY behind on my book reviews. So this will be the short and sweet version.

Books #46 – #51: Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove Series

I have really enjoyed these books. So far, there are six books out. The seventh book comes out next month. Debbie’s characters are very sincere, easily relateable, and fun to read about. Each book in the series is named after a the address of a home in Cedar Cove, where the occupants of that home are the central figures of that particular book. Sort of. Actually, all six books could easily be one long book, because while things get resolved in each book, there are ongoing stories that last for several books. New storylines crop up, and get resolved a few books later. I think it’s excellent. I only wish that I had waited until all the books came out to start it, because I hate waiting for the next installment. These are not deep books – this is definitely light, pleasant reading. I highly recommend these books if you’re a fan of romance that’s not trashy with good characters.[rating:5]

Books #52 – #54, Debbie Macomber’s Blossom Street series

I blew through these books in a weekend. I liked the characters even better than the Cedar Cove series. The main character (and again, she’s got tons of characters that step into the spotlight all through the books) opens a yarn store in the first book, and each character is introduced through her (and sometimes his) relationship with the yarn store or a knitting class. I loved the theme of knitting running throughout, because I too am a big believer in keeping your hands useful to calm your mind. There are great characters forming believable (and enviable) friendships – it made me want to go and sign up for a class somewhere. Again – light, pleasant reading. Crafters will especially like this series. [rating:5]

Book #55 – The Nanny Diaries by Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Loved it. I wanted to read it before the movie came out – but now that I’ve read it, I just watched a trailer, and I can see that it’s totally different. I’m kind of glad because the ending made me cry and I was hoping for some different outcomes. I don’t want to spoil it, so that’s all I’ll say. But if you’re a fan of witty banter, quick dialog, and smart chick lit writing, you’ll love this. I instantly thought of Jennifer Weiner and Kristen Gore when I was reading it. I’m also happy to say I have Citizen Girl on my bookshelf that someone left here, so I can read their next book :)[rating:5]

Book #56: The Wedding Planner’s Daughter by Coleen Murtagh Paratore and Barbara McGregor

Loved it. Fans of YA – this one is for us! Willafred Havisham is a 12-13 year old daughter of a super uptight, rule crazy, broken hearted mom who happens to be a world famous wedding planner. This book chronicles Willa’s adventures on Cape and her struggles with her mom, other kids, boys, etc. Super cute, and I’m excited to find that there are two more Willa books out there, so the adventure continues![rating:5]

Book #57: Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich

As always, the Stephanie Plum books are great. However, this was the first one where I DIDN’T laugh out loud, so I was a little disappointed. It seemed to be kind of a place holder – like half of the story could have been in #12, and half could have been saved until #14 because nothing really happened. I mean, Stephanie got involved in some harrowing mystery – but the love triangle of Joe and Ranger didn’t budge, no good Grandma adventures (besides the exploding beaver). I thought it was just okay. Still, I read it in an afternoon. Looking forward to the next one. [rating:3]

Book #58: Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson

This one was a book on tape, and I liked it, but didn’t love it. I really liked the main character’s family, but the story seemed to drag on. I think I would have liked it better if I read it. There’s something annoying about accents going in and out – less believable. It would have been better if I had given the characters voices in my mind because the audiobook was a little inconsistent. Anyway, cute YA story about a high school senior that ends up helping her best friend save the prom. She’s an unlikely hero, which I like. Again, I think the regular book would have been much better. [rating:3]

Whew. That’s it. What are you reading?

Books #39 – #45, The Epic of Harry Potter (spoiler!)

Well, I’ve finished all seven books (reread 1-5, first time reading of 6 and 7). I was especially sad when I finished #6 because I knew I only had one more to go, and I couldn’t imagine leaving that world. I feel like I’ve lost quite a few friends who I will miss dearly. These really are phenomenal books…

Here are my views of book seven, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. First, I’ll say that I was satisfied with the ending. I would have liked to hear what happened to everyone (Hagrid, George and Luna were absent from the last few pages), and I thought the whole “Harry has to die for Voldemort to die but not if Harry kills him, etc.” went on and on and got a little confusing. Did Harry survive because he had the Hallows? I’m still not sure I get it. Otherwise, I loved every bit of it.

I cried like a baby when Dudley showed a little kindness to Harry, and when Dumbledore died. I was relieved that the spiders didn’t eat Hagrid. I was also relieved that Snape wasn’t actually a bastard and Dumbledore was right to trust him all along.

Now I’m just looking forward to all the movies being out on DVD so I can watch them one after the other. Even though they’re not as good. I think I’ll reread the books every few years, too. I was amazed that it was like I was reading them all for the first time again. I knew certain major plot points, but I had forgotten how well written the dialog and the harrowing situations were written.

And how cool would it be to have an invisibility cloak or a wand? Thank you, Ms. Rowling! I’m sorry that the adventure is over.

I Heart Harry

At any given time, I have 10 or so library books languishing on my bedside table. This week, it’s a mix of polymer clay how-to books, a couple of Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove series, and the new Paulo Cohelo. So far, I only have eyes for Harry Potter. For the last two Harry Potter releases, I’ve preordered them from Amazon, and received my spanking new copy with the rest of America – but without the lines and wizard hats. I started Year 6 the day I received it, but couldn’t remember half of the characters from Year 5. I decided then that I would wait for Deathly Hallows to come out, and then I’d start from the beginning. So this week, Deathly Hallows arrived. I immediately picked up my copy of The Sorceror’s Stone, and haven’t been able to put it down.

It’s officially the second book I’ve ever read twice. The only other one is Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – which is my all time favorite book of the universe.

As I was getting my hair cut today, reading about Hagrid and the baby dragon, there was a 14-or-so year old boy reading Deathly Hallows. When I was on the quilt run, I saw several husbands waiting out their wives with crisp new copies of the finale.

Whatever people think about J.K. Rowling and Harry, they can’t deny that it’s created a resurgence of reading in children (and 30-year old stay at home moms!) unseen since the advent of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boy, or even Oprah’s book club. If you’ve never given it a chance, nows the time to pick up the first year – Harry’s trials and adventures appeal to all ages, all cultures. The stories are a marvel of imagination.

And even though wizardry and magic is a central theme – the books are really about good vs. evil, not unlike The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (or Narnia). So don’t shy away because of it’s perceived evil – that’s shortsighted, and you’ll be missing out on wonderful stories.

~End Lecture~