June Reading Wrap-Up: All Audio, All The Time

Reading Wrap-up

Whew! It’s been a while since I’ve wrapped up a month of reading! Since I started working full-time again, I’ve been hitting the audiobooks hard (I love you, Overdrive) and I’ve been incredibly pleased with June’s line up.

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

I started this book a while back, but ended up having to return my copy to the library before I could finish it. Towards the end of May/beginning of June, I finally made it to the top of the wait list for an audio copy. This book was… just… wow. I think about this book a lot, especially when the author spoke about how fear is often the emotion that drives violence. I look at the incarcerated men with which I work daily and see how that fear could have been a factor in their behavior.

A Fighting Chance – Elizabeth Warren

Of my June reads, and possibly all of 2016 as well, this is one of my favorites. Warren has been fighting for everything she’s ever accomplished: going to college, being a working mom, becoming a law professor, all her political work from the outside, and her arduous run for Senate. She’s a remarkable woman, despite all the shit she’s been getting from some Bernie supporters as well as the presumptive Republican nominee. However, I will say that her book convinced me that I will never, ever, not in a million years, ever run for public office. Nope, nope, nope.

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, #2) – Douglas Adams

I know I just read this last year, but after listening to my boy, Stephen Fry, narrate Hitchhiker’s Guide, I decided to give the whole trilogy (in five parts) an audio go. This installment was narrated by another British fave of mine, Martin Freeman. Yet again, I love the absurd brilliance of this story, and I think it was even better the second time around. I’m currently on the wait list for Book 3.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloane

I heard about this through some social media buzz, and, I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for a book about books. I didn’t really know what to expect from this, but I loved it! Personally, I believe you cannot go wrong with bookish secret societies and super computing powers. Additionally, the narrator, Ari  Fliakos, gave a stellar performance. I highly recommend that if you, my dear readers, decide to pick this one up, go with audio. I was so enthralled, I listened to almost all of the ~8 hours in a single Saturday.

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

I told y’all I liked books about books, didn’t I? Sadly, I must confess that this is my first reading of his classic. *hides face in shame* Well, let me tell ya, I picked the wrong election cycle to start picking up such discomfiting dystopian dramas as The Handmaid’s Tale and Fahrenheit 451. Holy T.A.R.D.I.S. of Gallifrey, these stories are chilling and eerily relevant for 2016. Nevermind the whole burning books thing, which is enough to make me squirm. What really got me was the sheer lack of thought demonstrated by characters like Mildred Montag; it reminded me of too much of how accepting some people are of what they are told without ever thinking about the situation themselves.

Coming up in July…

The Namesake – Jhumpa Lahiri

This one’s for book club. I’m just getting started so it’s too soon to tell.

The Color of Magic – Terry Prachett

I’m giving Discworld a try because it seems right up my alley. This one is actually an eBook, so it’s slow going. I read the first chapter and it got my head swimming, but I think I’m going to love it!

How was your month, readers?!

Sunday Salon: Where In The World Is Heather Bee

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Currently// relaxing, watching HP4 on the tele, and doing laundry. Oh, and actually blogging! I’ve been away for quite some time now mainly because I’m….

Working// all the time.

About six weeks ago, I started my job as an addictions counselor at the state prison. With an hour-long commute each way and having to be at work at 7:00, I’m pretty whooped by the time I get home each day. It’s cutting deep into my reading time, too, damnit. But I’m slowly getting used to the grind and to working with inmates.

Watching// Doctor Who (or, rather, rewatching).

In the evenings when I get home, I’ve been too tired to do anything else but sit, nor had the mental fortitude to read much. So I’ve been hitting the Amazon Prime hard lately going back through Doctor Who. I just started season 7, and I have every plan to start some form of exercise plan when I’ve finished. Cant’ use the “getting used to the new job” excuse for much longer.

Listening// a lot. Between a recent road trip and two hours each day driving to and from work, I’ve been devouring audiobooks in rapid succession. The latest of which is Maestra by L.S. Hinton, which may warrant some form of review; it’s been…. interesting, but not necessarily in a good way or in the way the author intended. But I like the narrator’s voice, so that’s something.

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Reading// a little. I finished Thursday, 1:17p.m. by Michael Landweber about two weeks ago, which was load of timey wimey fun. I’ve got a review brewing for that one that’ll be out soon.

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Writing// even less. I’ve gotta few ARC reviews that I need to write up, and I’m slowly progressing on that. Again, stupid work is interfering with my blogging and leisure reading. How rude!

So, that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to. Keeping this as bookish as possible. How are all of your readers doing????

Guest Post: Mr. Bee Buzzes About Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Guest Post: Mr. Bee Buzzes About Lyndon Johnson and the American DreamLyndon Johnson and the American Dream by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Published by Open Road Media on August 4th 2015
Genres: American Government, Biography & Autobiography, Executive Branch, Political Science, Presidents & Heads of State
Pages: 438
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars
An engrossing biography of President Lyndon Johnson from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Team of Rivals Hailed by the New York Times as “the most penetrating, fascinating political biography I have ever read,” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s extraordinary and insightful book draws from meticulous research in addition to the author’s time spent working at the White House from 1967 to 1969. After Lyndon Johnson’s term ended, Goodwin remained his confidante and assisted in the preparation of his memoir. In Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream she traces the 36th president’s life from childhood to his early days in politics, and from his leadership of the Senate to his presidency, analyzing his dramatic years in the White House, including both his historic domestic triumphs and his failures in Vietnam. Drawn from personal anecdotes and candid conversation with Johnson, Goodwin paints a rich and complicated portrait of one of our nation’s most compelling politicians.

The following review was written by my husband, editor, and fellow bibliophile, Mike:

I have always been a big fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin. I went to a lecture that she gave when I was in college; I have always enjoyed her TV appearances; I have read her books. I have joked to my wife that I could just sit and listen to Goodwin talk for hours on end and never be bored.

I never had the opportunity to read her first book, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, originally released in 1976, and rereleased in 1991. I had read about the book and how it came to be. I knew it provided a unique perspective on Johnson due to Goodwin’s access to Johnson during the end of his presidency and his retirement (to help him with his memoirs). I was finally given the chance to read it when it was released as an e-book in August of 2015.

Simply put, I was not disappointed. While I wish it had provided a bit more detail on some of the historical events that involved Johnson, it did prove to be an interesting psychological study. This was due to the author’s access to Johnson. He opened up to Goodwin during the memoirs project more than he had to any other journalist or writer. I also always think it is interesting to read someone’s first book after having read all of his or her other books to see how their writing style changed or evolved.

It takes years or decades to make a proper assessment of a president. That has to be kept in mind while reading this book, due to the fact that it was released only 3 years after his death.

Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream is a good companion piece to Robert A. Caro’s epic Johnson biography series. Both provide great insight into Johnson’s rise to power as U.S. Senate Majority Leader, his frustrations as Vice-President, and his assumption of the presidency following JFK’s assassination. The multivolume Caro biography goes into more detail, but Goodwin’s book has Johnson’s first hand account.

Any fan of presidential history, or any of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s previous works will be interested to read this book.

 

Here’s my Tournament of Books Picks (so far)!

The tournament begins today! Here are my picks!

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Play-in Round – Avenue of Mysteries v. A Spool of Blue Thread: Currently working on Avenue of Mysteries and kinda diggin’ it. Didn’t finish A Spool of Blue Thread.

Fates & Furies v. Bats of the Republic: Admittedly, I haven’t (yet) read Bats, and heard it was very good. But, damn, Fates & Furies. That book was a beast, and I believe, a TOB finalist.

The Sympathizer v. Oreo: This one is mostly a guess. I started both of these books, but finished neither. However, the way in which Oreo was written just didn’t work for me, and it didn’t seem to work for several other bloggers I know. Also, I kinda felt cheated by this because it was originally published in the 1970s.

Turner House v. Ban en Banlieue: I didn’t get to Ban en Banlieue and I didn’t finish Turner House. Basically, this was a toss up. #noshame

Our Souls At Night v. The Whites: Loved Our Souls at Night, didn’t finish The Whites. It was like watching an episode of Law & Order. Our Souls was a lovely story, and one of my TOB faves.

A Little Life v. The New World: I haven’t read The New World, but A Little Life got into my head and hasn’t left.

The Book of Aron v. The Tsar of Love and Techno: Book of Aron was good, but not great. Tsar was bloody fantastic, and I project, a TOB semifinalist.

Avenue of Mysteries (play-in) v. The Story of My Teeth. I had to stop the audiobook of The Story of My Teeth after about 10 minutes–that’s a new record. ‘Nuff said.

The Sellout v. The Invaders: The Sellout is my favorite TOB read and my favorite to win. I couldn’t finish The Invaders.

Check back for updates, and to see how well I’m doing! What are your picks?!

#BBAW Day 3: Great Books Recommended by Great Bloggers

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Today’s questions is: What have you read and loved because of a fellow blogger? And the truth is, between my blog feed, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Goodreads, my TBR pile has increased exponentially since I started blogging myself in June. Here are just a few of my favorite reads and the bloggers who recommended them:

Of Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson (my review here)

This book was recommended to (and given to) me by Monika at The Lovely Bookshelf. Shortly after she helped me setup on my blog, she invited me to a book swap, and told me how much she liked this one. And did I, too. This is one of those books where the beautiful writing outshined the storyline; the authors use of words was simply delicious, that’s the best way I can describe it.

Dietland by Sarai Walker

I saw several people reading and reviewing this right around the time I started blogging. I knew that April at The Steadfast Reader thought very highly of it, and that it was being discussed by the lovely ladies at The Socratic Salon, all of whose opinions I greatly value. At the time I didn’t know how to navigate NetGally or Edelweiss, so I placed it on my TBR and kind of forgot about it. In December I found it at my local library, and decided to check it out, and it really hit the spot. I loved the main character, strongly related to her struggles, and I think about her often when I want to disparage my own appearance.

The Library At Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

This is another one that several fellow bloggers read, but I associate this book with Andi at Estella’s Revenge. I loved it; is a perfect mix of horror and supernatural and interpersonal struggles and it just hit all the right buttons for me. It also contains one of my favorite books quotes:

“‘Oh,’ she considered this. ‘Are you a Buddhist?’

‘No, I’m an asshole. But I keep trying.'”

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

No one really recommended this book to me. My IRL spirit nerd, Allysia, told me about the television show and that it was based on a book. I found out this series was available on my local library’s audiobook app, and decided to look it up on Goodreads. Once again, it was Andi who sold me with her short review. It only contained two sentences, the first of which was: “I’m sad that I can never read this book for the first time again.” I think that’s one of the best things that you can say about a book. And, not surprisingly, it was great.

I could really go on and on. For the most part, the books I’ve been reading since launching this blog have been good, if not great, and I have yet to be led astray by a fellow blogger. For that, I say

 

#BBAW: Introduce yourself with Books

So, today is a day for new things: this is the first time I’m going to try to blog from my phone (it’s storming like crazy here, and I’ve turned off all the electronics, including the wireless router) and this is my first Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Thank you Estella Society for hosting this event!!!!

Day One is about introducing myself by sharing five books that represent my life and who I am. Hmmmm… I’m going to have to think about this for a few minutes.

 

Ok. Here goes!

I love reading, but I also really love words. Some words I like because of their mouth feel, like “muffin” or “foot”, and others for their meaning like ” sesquipedalian” or “Panglossian“. With that, I think The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester definitely fits in this list.

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As long as I can remember, I’ve been a passionate animal lover, especially the pets that have come into my life. Today I live with three animals: two little senior dogs and one fluffy street cat.  They are my children, and they rule my life. And I’m totally OK with that. I thought If Dogs Could Talk was appropriate, considering one of my pack ironically chewed it up a few years ago.

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It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grow up, and I was in my late 20s by a time I discovered the field of counseling psychology. I know this is a new level of nerdy, but I’m putting a textbook in my list: Contemporary Behavior Therapy by Michael Spiegler. I could’ve gone with something by Freud or one of the “famous” psychologists, but I’m a behaviorist, so I figured a behavior therapy book was the best fit.

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When I was an adolescent I hit my reading stride, and discovered that I really enjoyed horror and science fiction, and I became a huge Dean Koontz fan. I must’ve read dozens of his works during junior and senior high school (I eventually branched out beyond one author). I can’t remember exactly the first Dean Koontz novel ever read, but I vividly remember binge reading The Funhouse in about a day when I was a teen.

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And finally, although I was an adult before I was introduced to the Wizarding World, I am an unapologetic Potterhead and proud Gryffindor. I close my list with the first book in that series since that’s where I first met Harry, Ron, and Hermione ( my spirit witch): Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling.

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That’s my five! Thanks for stopping by and reading about me and my books. Please visit me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I love connecting with other readers and bloggers!

Heather Bee’s Book…Tube?

Here’s my first attempt at BookTubing! I’ve seen a few other bloggers posting videos, and thought I’d give it a try. In this, I talk about some of the books I’ve read from the 2016 Tournament of Books shortlist, including The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra, The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard, Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, and The Sellout by Paul Beatty.

 

As this is a new endeavor, I welcome any feedback from you, readers (and seasoned BookTubers) so I can make my videos better (and one day be an Internet celebrity). 😉

Sunday Salon: It Was A Great Week Edition

Currently// in my jammies, but about to switch on Uber so I can schlep folks to and from their Super Bowl festivities.

Celebrating// the fact that, after three months of applications, interviews, and rejections, my husband got a job!!!!!!!!! I know it has boosted his self-esteem and self-worth, and taken a little of the financial pressure off of our situation. We are also celebrating my invitation to interview for the Combined-Integrated Clinical and Counseling Psychology PhD program at University of South Alabama. I interviewed there last year, but wasn’t selected. Here’s hoping second time’s the charm!

Watching// Hail, Caesar! I love the Coen Bros, but this movie just felt like butter scraped over too much bread. There was a lot going on and the story felt thin. Having said that, it was very entertaining, and I LOVED the musical number with Channing Tatum (and I’m not on Team Channing or anything).

Not Watching// the Super Bowl. Or anything on television, for that matter. I’ve been too busy reading all the books!

Reading// several Tournament of Books selections. I finished The Sellout by Paul Beatty and Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf, both of which were very good. I also tried to reading The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak, but it wasn’t working for me, so I DNF’d it and moved on.

Listening// to lots of books. I am doing the 14-day trial subscription to Scribd right now, and used it to Listen to The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (also TOB and fantastic), and then, on a whim, I started Brief Interview with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace. I still don’t know what to think about that book, but my dog, Pearl, was unimpressed with the author’s narration (everyone’s a critic?). I have started The Danish Girl, and hope I have time to finish it before my trial runs out.

Attempting// to BookTube. I recorded myself talking about all those aforementioned books I’ve been reading, but now I have to edit it, and it just seems like a lot of work. Maybe I’ll just write it down instead. 😉

Feeling// the Bern. 😉 Not for any particular reason, it just felt right for the SS format.

Well, that’s about it for this week, readers? How was your week? 

A Few Thoughts on Fates and Furies

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Published by Penguin LCC US on 2015
Pages: 390
Format: Hardcover
Source: West Florida Public Library
Goodreads
four-stars
"From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia, an exhilarating novel about marriage, creativity, art, and perception. Fates and Furies is a literary masterpiece that defies expectation. A dazzling examination of a marriage, it is also a portrait of creative partnership written by one of the best writers of her generation. Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years. At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive, and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart"--

When a book is described as one of the best books of the year, there’s not a whole lot I can really say that might persuade others to read it. So, instead of writing a standard review, I would like to share a couple of my favorite moments, which will involve minor spoilers.

Spoilers

I loved the character complexity of both Mathilde and Lotto, but I found myself admiring Lotto in the same way a host of minor characters did. I relate it to his unfailing ability to find beauty in others, from his long list of lovers to his wife to the operatic composer with whom he was determined to collaborate.

My absolute favorite moment in this book was during the artist’s retreat, when Lotto had a pity party of epic proportions. He and Leo had been working vociferously on their opera. Suddenly Leo takes leave to compose the music, thus abandoning Lotto to languish alone (and after he has extended his time away from Mathilde and missed Thanksgiving to boot). It went on for a couple of pages, but this concisely sums it up:

“He would starve here. On the shelf he had one apple kept back from a lunch, a box of skinny-person granola bars that Mathilde had packed, one last ramen cup. He would bleed to death from his cheek. The tailbone fracture would go septic inside him. No electricity and he’d burned up all his firewood in his gluttonous frenzy last night: he would freeze. No coffee either, caffeine withdrawal the real tragedy here.”

Groff exquisitely demonstrated Lotto’s proclivity for dramatic flair during this scene. Poor Lotto, cold, alone, cut off from everyone he loved. Poor, poor Lotto. I laughed out loud reading this.

Near the end, Groff beautifully describes the difficulty Lotto experiences when faced with a dissenter. Despite overwhelming praise and adoration, Lotto allows one person’s negative opinion to dash his confidence. This struck me quite forcefully. In that moment, I recognized myself in Lotto, that streak of perfectionism that sometimes allows a small blemish to mar my achievements (particularly my written work during my master’s degree). Seeing it before me as a narrative allowed me an opportunity to reflect and I intend to use this newfound insight the next time I start to “Lotto out” over a thesis draft. And I doubt I’m the only one out there who can relate to this.

So, to sum up, it’s a book that made me laugh, made me think, and made me stay up half the night to finish it. Read it!

Can She Do it? Tournament of Books 2016

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This is my first foray into the rabble and ruckus that is Tournament of Books. I’ve heard it’s loads of fun, so I’m going to do my best to read all of the books on the short list. I’m going into each book with an open mind, and I’m not going to be afraid of setting books aside if I’m just not feeling it. I’m also trying to (finally) finish up my thesis paper this month, too, so I am going to have a busy February. Here’s where I am so far

      • The New World by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz – awaiting hold from library
      • The Sellout by Paul Beatty – currently reading
      • Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson
      • The Turner House by Angela Flournoy- saved in my TOB16 library list
      • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – read, review pending (because I’m slow…)
      • Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf- checked out from library
      • Ban en Banlieue by Bhanu Kapil
      • The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli
      • The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra – listened
      • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen- checked out from library
      • The Whites by Richard Price- checked out from library
      • Oreo by Fran Ross
      • The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard– read
      • The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak- currently reading
      • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara- awaiting hold from library

Play-In Round

      • Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving- saved in my TOB16 library list
      • A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler- checked out from library

I’m trying to do as much of this as I can by utilizing the library. I’m also using this time to demo some different audio and e-book subscription services (basically, do it for free 🙂 ). I plan to at least provide mini-reviews of each book, so make sure to check back as we get closer to the tournament start date!

Alright, readers, who’s with me? Are you ready for TOB 16?!