31 July 2012

The Shining, by Stephen King (Audio Review)

People. If there is only one scary audio book that you get this year, make it this one, narrated by Campbell Scott. This actor knocked it outta the park.

Everyone knows the overall story, so I'll give you a quick synopsis. Jack is a failed teacher after a startling incident; struggling with alcoholism and regrets, he agrees to take a winter job overseeing a magnificent and sprawling mountain resort in Colorado to get himself back on track. With his wife and young son in tow, Jack resolves to write a book that will get him back in with society and wipe away his past mistakes. What he doesn't realize is that spending the winter at the hotel might release his own demons amidst the haunting of the Overlook Hotel and with his son Danny still wrestling with his telepathic gifts and near catatonic states, the family faces a catastrophe that is eerily similar to the past caretakers of the hotel.

The thing about Stephen King's books and their subsequent adaptations to film, is that a lot of times it never works out well. There's been a lot of debate about Stanley Kubrick's version (which Stephen King did not like) and the TV miniseries from 1997 that Stephen King wrote (which fans did not like). I've seen both versions and while I get why Stephen King didn't like Stanley Kubrick's version, I do like it a little bit better than the miniseries. I do think Rebecca De Mornay from the miniseries was a better choice for Wendy than Shelly Duvall was, though.

Selecting this story in audio was a little worrisome for me, and not because it's scary. I don't mind that part at all. What I was worried about was whether it would be any good in audio, but I shouldn't have feared it one bit. In Campbell Scott's easy and laid-back voice, the creepy story of Stephen King's The Shining takes shape and is riveting. I was spellbound by the many voices that Campbell Scott easily elicited (especially Jack's inner thoughts) and I soon found myself making every excuse to run, do errands, so I could listen to it, even listening to it while I took a shower. Without question, I would highly recommend this frightening story, but I'd almost feel more confident to suggest this in audio versus printed simply because Campbell Scott was THAT good. Just make sure you either keep the lights on or have a buddy around when you listen. Guaranteed to scare ya.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: 8/12/05
Audio Time: 15 hours, 54 minutes
Narrator: Campbell Scott

Audio Notes: As I mentioned above, Campbell Scott rocked this. Click here to listen to the Audible.com sample and click here for all the books this talented actor has narrated.

About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty novels, including The StandThe Dark Tower series, ItThe Shining, oh...what more can be written that one doesn't already know. So here you go, click here to visit this wicked cool author's official website.

The Stephen King Project. My education (and others') continues! The Shining is another selection for the challenge Kathleen and I are hosting. The site can be found (with other participants' reviews) here.


27 July 2012

Laws, yes. I've finished Stephen King's The Stand, and M-O-O-N, that spells freakin' awesome.

So here it is. The last post for all our hard work reading with everyone for Trish's Standalong (thank you, Trish, for hosting!) through nine long weeks. All 1,100+ pages. And I believe it was definitely worth it. SPOILERS will be in this, so if you haven't read this book or watched the TV movie (which I did watch and my thoughts are at the end), I would suggest you skip this post.
  • Favorite Characters: Hands down, Tom Cullen was my absolute favorite character. That and Big Steve. Er, I mean Kojak. Good dog! And I just wish Harold had come to his epiphany much sooner. That scene with him? After Nadine and the oil slick? Oh, my goodness. I felt so bad.
  • Characters I Hated: Nadine Cross. Oh, little missy. I did not like you, you twisted woman. (But, didn't it seem a bit odd that she went through her own quest to be with Randall Flagg and then she gets there, is pregnant, and then very quickly launches herself right off the balcony?)
  • Characters I Hated That I Know I Was Supposed to Love: Sorry, I still don't like Frannie. Man, she. drove. me. NUTS. First, she won't say a word about crazy Harold and then she decides it's a super idea as the only pregnant gal in the Free Zone to go breaking into crazy Harold's house with Larry and not tell Stu? Which brings me to Larry. I... I just didn't feel the love for him that I knew I was supposed to feel. I found that he definitely grew up a little more, but I just never connected with him, sadly.
  • No Resolution on the Abagail/Abigail Typo Debate: For those who may not have noticed, Mother Abagail was spelled two ways throughout the version that I had (1,100+ page with illustrations) and I thought it was something significant, but it wasn't. It really was just a typo. But this is Stephen King! Is it really just a typo...?
  • Overall Thoughts: I finished late Tuesday night, and shut the book, speechless. I loved this journey, the quest, the ultimate stand, and I was amazed at the depth to which Stephen King's imagination can go. These characters felt real and in the Free Zone, most of them were ones that I'd want to hang out with and survive with. This is a book that I will love forever and will put up there in my own personal top 5 of favorite Stephen King books. It will also be one that I will frequently re-read. In fact, when it ended, I went right back to the first page and read the first few chapters again, picking up things that seemed much more important now that I knew what ended up happening.
  • Something that Surprised Me? I was surprised at how much positivity was placed towards religion and God. In a lot of King books, there is always a touch of the spiritual, because in order to have evil, you must have good, but I was surprised that it didn't rage on the religious fanaticism piece for the good guys in the Free Zone. I'm not a very religious person, but it always annoys me when authors jump on bandwagons and rip apart those who are religious and throw a blanket over it all and claim it's fanatical, so it was cool to see that King made it extremely positive.
  • Do I have any Mixed Feelings? Nah. I loved the book overall. I guess the only thing I wanted was closure on just a few minor things at the end. I needed silly resolution with two of my favorite characters, Tom Cullen and Kojak. I mean, after everything Stu went through at the end with Tom Cullen and Kojak, why, oh why, couldn't there have been closure for those two when they returned back to Boulder? I assume Tom moved back into his house, of course, but what about Kojak? Did he live with Stu, did he live with Tom? Silly little details like that are something I need to feel closure about!
Yes. I watched the 1994 TV version in the evenings this week, finishing it up late last night. Here are a few thoughts:
  • What's With the Cheese? I was in college in the early 1990s and I recall excellent movies back then, including TV movies. Why was The Stand sort of cheesily produced? I mean, don't get me wrong, it follows the book pretty closely, but the acting was mostly poor and melodramatic (sadly, I'm looking at you, Molly Ringwald and Corin Nemec), with the exception of a few fantastic actors who are just awesome anyway (Ruby Dee as Mother Abagail and Ray Walston as Glen Bateman), but overall, it was just...cheesy.
Corin Nemec as Harold Lauder
Stu and Frannie
  • Music is Key, but... The theme music with the guitar was cool and it made this post-Captain Trips world feel very sparse and desolate, but the rest of it was just layered into the film unnecessarily.
  • Anything Strikingly Different between the Book and Movie? Other than all the cheese and melodrama, what I loved about the book was that the people over in Randall Flagg's camp were people who were led astray. That means that a lot of them were seriously twisted people, but a lot of them were also extremely good people at their core but who were weak and the alternative of being with Flagg was much more appealing than being with Mother Abagail. The former police detective, who meets up with the four from the Free Zone, Dorgan, was a good guy who happened to have chosen poorly. I felt for him in the book, felt sad for his weaknesses, but in the TV movie, Dorgan and everyone in Flagg's group were just a bunch of wild things that lived off chaos and reminded me a lot of the characters from the movie Escape from New York. I half-expected someone to start clinking beer bottles together and repeating "Warriors...come out and plaaaaahaaaayyyyy..." I wish Stephen King, who wrote the screenplay, stuck with the elements in his book that made it so phenomenal.
  • All in All? It certainly is a nice chapter in the overall King book-to-film adaptation legacy, but I still feel that it didn't capture it well. As with a lot of King books that are turned into films, there is a lot more ham acting and outdated camera angles (look, it may have been filmed almost twenty years ago, but movies back in the early 1990s were not all like this, for cryin' out loud).
  • In the end, though, I'm looking at you, Mr. Affleck, to remake The Stand the way it should be. I am trusting you, good sir. Don't let us down!
Image Credit
EXTRA! BeyondHollywood.com has a great snapshot of insight from Stephen King about his thoughts on the TV movie and the upcoming remake. It's pretty funny.

Click here to read other Standalong participants' thoughts. I took part in this for my own project, The Stephen King Project, which I am hosting with Kathleen from Boarding In My Forties.


24 July 2012

Well, it is immensely satisfying when you can read a book and think, "This book is going on my list of Best Books Read in 2012. Hands down." 

Harold Fry lives a quiet and uneventful retirement in England, each day ordered and routine. In his 60s and after forty years of marriage with Maureen, the last half resulted in Harold sleeping in a separate bedroom. The only wrinkle each day is whether Harold's done anything to annoy Maureen. Other than that, in the lifetime of their marriage, it's the same as the day before. When Harold receives a startling letter from a person he hasn't spoken to in twenty years, it hits him hard. Queenie Hennessy, a dear friend, is dying from cancer, with not much time and no chances left. The news is devastating and he struggles with finding the right way to respond back to her. He finally puts down a few words and closes up the envelope.

With his tie squarely knotted, and his yachting shoes snugly fit, Harold walks the short distance from his house to the mailbox, but finds that he might need to go a little bit further. With each mailbox he comes across it seems to him more appropriate to mail it at the next one. Before he knows it, he's traveled further and come to a decision: He will walk all the way to Queenie in hospice six hundred miles away and will give her the letter in person and to thank her for her friendship. Harold painfully regrets the years of not speaking with Queenie, and so with this pilgrimage, he is confident she will live. Along the way, he comes across people with their own story of regrets and he realizes that it's really never too late to live a life of purpose. With Maureen waiting at home for his occasional phone call providing status updates, the separation between them grows and each feel the gaping hole of absence. 

I fell in love with this book, with Harold, with his pilgrimage, absolutely everything. I had a lump in my throat by page 10 and I consistently blinked back tears with every person Harold meets. Each character, Maureen especially, is not what they initially seem, and before I knew it, I found that all had a deeper tale to tell of understanding, love, loss, pain, and regret.

This was an absolutely beautiful story. Sweet, confused, regretful and saddened Harold Fry had the urge, a revelation to finally do something in life, to feel whole and complete and to feel that he has accomplished something of importance, and I was there cheering the whole time. Harold's journey reveals wounds that have been covered for years, and he's deeply disappointed with his own life and all the people he knows he has let down. Even Maureen, who initially comes across as cold and heartless, goes through her own reawakening that breaks my heart even more and at one point, I was dumbstruck by how much pain has been in both of their lives. It is a powerful story told quietly with subtle moments so compelling that I know I will always remember it. A book about regrets and the hope of redemption no matter when it's realized in life is something that will always tug at my heartstrings and this one even more so. To me, the quieter book draws the pain of regret much more vividly than any other. I eagerly await Rachel Joyce's next novel.

You really, really, REALLY need to read this book.

Passages of Note:
Harold sat in silence. The silver-haired gentleman was in truth nothing like the man Harold had first imagined him to be. He was a chap like himself, with a unique pain; and yet there would be no knowing that if you passed him in the street, or sat opposite him in a cafe and did not share his teacake. (p.89)
He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others. As a passerby, he was in a place where everything, not only the land, was open. People would feel free to talk, and he was free to listen. To carry a little of them as he went. He had neglected so many things, that he owed this small piece of generosity to Queenie and the past. (p.90)
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Release Date: 7/24/12
Pages: 336

About the Author
Rachel Joyce is an award-winning writer of more than twenty plays for BBC Radio 4. She started writing after a twenty-year acting career performing lead roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and also winning multiple awards. Rachel Joyce lives in Gloucestershire on a farm with her family and is at work on her second novel.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for inviting me to participate. For all other tour stops for this incredible debut novel, please click here.


22 July 2012

I was recently perusing choices on my Audible.com library and found that I'm pretty consistent with the total audio time for books I select. Most of what I pick runs at about 11 hours, versus the audio time of the books in my wish list, that average at a minimum of 25 hours and creep upwards to 50 hours of total audio time. For some reason, I just can't download it if it's that looonnnnnng. Part of it is because I am a virtual worker so I don't have a commute time which means I only listen to an audio book when I'm running or doing errands around the house or about town. The other part of it is, well...come on! I mean, seriously, it just seems like a crazy long commitment, right? Look at Ken Follet's epic novel, Fall of Giants: 30 hours!! What?!

So I turn to you all with some questions:
  • Do you have a maximum audio time length that you won't go over?
  • Do you have a loooongggg audio book suggestion you think that I am INSANE for not listening to because it is SO GOOD? Tell me!
Okay, that's it. Looking forward to your responses!


21 July 2012

Saturday Snapshot: Antique Car Show

I just love the grill of this car. While it retains this super-cool feeling of a time gone by, I think it also has a little bit of creepy to it as well. Like a little bit of Stephen King? Or something.

Anyway, after reading Under my Apple Tree's post last week that her pictures have been lifted online and her watermark cropped out, I think I'm going follow her lead and add the watermark somewhere more in the middle of the picture so it can't be stolen. Granted, all my stuff is on one-of-those-picture-apps, but here on the blog, I want to retain what I can. Wishful thinking?

For more Saturday Snapshots or to participate, please visit Alyce with At Home With Books.


19 July 2012

Her Facebook page has this photo in the file bloggers can use
If you're like me, then you love music. So while I won't listen to full on music on my evening runs (when I'm not experiencing a little sciatica problem, of course), I do love a good audio book. And if it's got some music to flavor it up? Even better.

But, who the heck am I? I'm just a reader who experienced The Scorpio Races in audio format, and I was completely blown away, not just by the story, but by the music. And dontcha know, but the author is not only a writer, she's a musician as well and did all of the music for The Scorpio Races. We're talking beautiful melodies that are perfectly suited for the Celtic landscape of the story.

This is one of the main reasons why I love the audio book world. I love that full experience. After I listened to The Scorpio Races, and read a few more of her posts on her blog, it's pretty obvious she cares about how her work will be experienced by a reader/listener. Fully engaged in the entire creative process, down to participating in the selection of the narrators, her audio books and book trailers get the full treatment. In The Scorpio Races, she contributed all of the music for those magical in-between moments. It was incredible. It's frustrating at times when listening to an audio book and it just seems like a publisher threw it on the assembly line of "get-the-audio-out-of-the-way" and doesn't care about the narrator, the music, etc. Not so in the Maggie Stiefvater case.

I have to read more of her works (I mean, listen). Click here to view the YouTube video of her playing a haunting melody that was used in the Shiver book trailer.

Then last night on her Facebook page, she shared that she would be doing a giveaway for her upcoming new release The Raven Boys, that will be similar to a prior giveaway when she took a Sharpie and drew such unique and wicked cool designs on these guitars. She's an accomplished illustrator and artist, too. I. Am. Floored.
Click here to go to the author's Facebook page. I tweeted asking the author if I can use this, but I haven't gotten a response just yet. I will remove it if she wants me to!

Anyway, a long way of saying that I plan to read much more from this author and should probably add all of her audio books to my TBR.

So I ask you: What's your favorite Maggie Stiefvater book? And did you listen to the audio?


17 July 2012

Oh, my gawd, in my life right now, this is PERFECT. I'll explain at the end, but my favorite part is the realization that "I am blessed to be born with a body that gets fat."

With my new love for running, I've found that music doesn't help me run any better, longer, or stronger. Music distracts me, making me ambivalent. I end up running to the beat more than anything else, which is annoying if I need to slow down or speed up. But listening to an audiobook? Fantastic. And listening to one about running by Haruki Murakami? PERFECT.

Only Haruki Murakami could write his memoir, and make it seem like it's just going to be about one thing only, something simple, but then he sneaks in so much more to make you really think. Is it only about his love affair with running? It is, but I would say it's a straightforward reflection about one man's evolution in his life and how running has made him better. Although Murakami falls in love with it, he just can't fight growing older, and this is tough to accept.

Before his career as a novelist, Murakami smoked sixty cigarettes a day. SIXTY. He decided to get healthier, so he quit smoking and ran. Short distances at first and then eventually his runs lengthened. Soon, he was running an average of more than 36 miles a week. Marathons are now a way of life for him and Murakami puts his heart and soul into it all. He experiences highs and lows that confuse him and make him question what his body can do, but he still pushes himself, trying to become better every day.

Whether you love the chaos of your job, are stressed out by it, or a little bit of both, you have to commit to it in order to make a living and survive. However...you still need that moment to yourself, right? This is where I'm at in my life now. I want to find time each day, but I also want to be better in everything. While I am no athlete (or perfectly coordinated human being, for that matter), I now suddenly find myself in a life more chaotic than ever before. So I want to run and it makes me feel so much better. Listening to this audio helped me understand why. There is one part about feeling the pain, but moving past it and not really feeling it anymore that resonated with me. I ran a little bit longer that night.

Running or not? Will you like the book either way?
I think you'll still enjoy it even if you're not a runner. It's hard for me to feel like I'm giving great guidance about that because I recently fell in love with running, so I instantly connected to it. Murakami is a fascinating person and the different races he participates in are incredible. He is motivational simply because he doesn't want to be anything other than what makes him happy. He talks a little bit about his writing, and the success of his books, and how he is extremely pleased with those who love his work, particularly the young college kids he never expected. But at the end of the day, the book is about a runner, one man who finds complete and total joy in the beauty of pushing yourself, but truly enjoying the art of being who you are.

And you know what my favorite part really was?
As I mentioned earlier, Haruki Murakami revealed a wildly cool idea about something I never thought I would feel: "I am blessed to be born with a body that gains weight.Huh? What? I thought this was crazy-talk. But as I listened, I totally got it. Like he says, by having a body that gains weight, we have something that is our trigger to motivate us to get healthier and to exercise. If we had a perfect {read: relative} body, then we wouldn't really ever get healthy. We'd smoke and drink and eat junk and maybe we'd clog up our arteries and get sick and a host of other issues but we would think we were fine because hey, our bodies look gooood. This was eye-opening for me. I resolved to feel happy with the fact that I need to work out and eat better,  that I have to invest in myself in order to look and feel the way I want to. I loved this revelation of the book and it's a lesson I'll take with me forever.

Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Release Date: 07/29/08
Audio Time: 4 hours, 25 minutes
Narrator: Ray Porter

Others said:
Book Chatter
Bookfoolery and Babble

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this book on the audiobook website, Audible.com

About the Author
Haruki Murakami is a Japanese author of such popular works as Norwegian Wood and 1Q84. He is also a translator of English classics to the Japanese language. Although he shuns the public eye, he is a passionate runner and has been featured in running magazines for participating in several marathons each year. He lives with his wife, Yoko in Kyoto, Japan.

Audio Notes: Ray Porter's voice was outstanding and the inflection in his voice carried the emotions of the words right to my ears and it was blissful to listen to him while running. I loved it even more so because of Ray Porter's narration and am girlishly delighted to find another narrator to add to my favorites list. Click here to listen to the sample. And to Audible.com, please create a way to "favorite" your favorite audiobook narrator so that I can receive an alert when they have a new audio released!


15 July 2012

Yesterday, I asked a question on my Facebook page if people can read more than one book at a time. Those who responded normally had three going, which is what I'm doing, too. In fact, I've somehow created this beautiful reading experience that is the most fun I've had in a while with my bookish love. Here's my recipe:
  • Mix together one chunky book
  • Sprinkle with shorter books to take a "break" from the bigger book
  • Throw in a dash of audiobooks during errands and running.
  • Result? MUCH more fun reading.
This really is refreshing. Here are my current ingredients for perfect reading:

  • Chunky: The Stand, by Stephen King. Yes, still reading and it is GOOD.
  • Short: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. I love it. Quiet grief and a sweet old man walking to save a good friend's life. I have a lump in my throat with every page.
  • Audio: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. Pretty cool so far, and the narrator is fantastic.
So then you asked, "Coffee and a Book Chick, any revelations?" Why yes. Yes, indeedy.

  • Taking my timmmmmeeeeee (time) is wonderful. Reading The Stand's 1,000+ pages has been a lovely and lounge-like reading experience. I'm enjoying savoring the story and taking my time, devouring the pages in this summer heat. In the past, I would flit through books so quickly that I felt like I had to re-read certain sections to make sure I didn't miss something. Now, I'm taking time and jotting progress notes on Goodreads. Love it.
  • Keeping this up. Reading like this makes me want to keep going in exactly the same way all the time. I want to have one chunky book to read leisurely, and then take books that are shorter (at around 300 to 400 pages). Taking breaks and reading a shorter book makes me not feel like I normally do when I read a wicked long book, which is a feeling similar to *this-book-has-to-end-soon-so-I-can-read-something-else-before-I-go-crazy.* Even if the chunky book is amazing, it's still a long book, you know? Then, having the audio really changes it up.
  • Don't Forget! To keep the three selected books extremely different genres, so there is no confusion.
  • So, what's next? I think I have my next chunky book picked. Ready...? Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I've never read his work before, and since Gillian Anderson starred in the BBC mini-series, Bleak House, I thought I'd read the book first, natch. (I first became a fan of hers because of The X-Files, but have you seen her in the movie The House of Mirth? I loved the book by Edith Wharton and I thought Gillian Anderson was amazing as Lily.) Also, The Solitary House by Lynn Shepherd seems extremely interesting and it's based on places and characters from Bleak House. Her 10-minute video explaining her book was pretty cool.
  • Now what about you? Do you have a special formula when reading more than one book at a time?
Above are the stories I'd like to tackle over the next few months. Lounge-like reading and all.


14 July 2012

Saturday Snapshot: This Dude Is So...!

Yeah. Not a fan of heights and this freaked me out. My husband and I went to Annapolis recently and this dude was fixing the mast of a sailboat. Look how high he is! Freaky.

For of this week's Saturday Snapshots and to participate, visit Alyce with At Home With Books.


10 July 2012

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin (Audio Review)

1899. The Awakening is released.

Many have already stated this and I must also echo the same, and unashamedly so. This is the sort of book that I, for just a second, wish I was around during the time it was published so I could see how society responded. After all, the topic is no acceptable thing back in the day.

Scandal! Illicit affairs! A woman choosing to live her life, separate from her husband and children, and society's expectations! To have her own identity?! *scoffs* How dare she?!

What an intriguing peek into this time. Although part of me shrugged and said, "meh" about the characters, another part of me was thrilled at the sauciness and independence of it all. Scandal and intrigue is always a bit fun to read about.

I wasn't completely blown away, though, but I love a classic. Yes, it was beautifully written, but it was Shelly Frasier's voice that kept me rapt with attention. A few months ago, I listened to her narrate the hilariously freaky and sometimes gross, Stiff  by the fantastic Mary Roach. Shelly Frasier, I will listen to you tell me any ole story, I do believe.

Edna is a woman of respectable stature, married to a prominent businessman in Louisiana. With two children, they create the very image of a young and affluent family. Edna, however, isn't quite pleased with her life, and feeling empty and dislodged from everything, begins to have deep feelings for another man. The eventual affair is tense, yet minimal, and it is more of Edna's discovery of who she is, that reveals her independence. She has awakened and finds she no longer wants to be represented as a wife and mother. Unhinged from her family ties and society labels? Yes, she is. I'd also hasten that she became unhinged mentally as well, but it's not surprising considering it must feel like she became completely untethered to all the things that once made her who she was. That can be tough to deal with. The labels one defines themselves with, while they can be wrong or unfair, are still ones that define a person and give something of a foundation. Not having those self-defined labels while the rest of the world still has them over you, can make you feel adrift.

Without question, this is a story I'm sure rocked the times. I can picture this book hidden away, women gasping over the pages, yet ultimately finding some sort of their own awakening, a personal revelation or epiphany that maybe, just maybe, they don't need no man to get it done. Why, they can do it all on their own. My heavens! Such a thought.

There is a haunting and quiet feel to the story that I did enjoy, and was curious to see how it would all turn out. I suppose, while the end was a little surprising, it was to be expected. Edna is selfish in many ways, but her perspective and eventual change in her outlook was a little bit fascinating. Of course, if this were a contemporary novel, I probably wouldn't have been all that interested.

Note: So that you're not surprised, there was definitely an inordinate amount of racism, which of course is attributed to the times, but still. Some really horrible terms were used, and I cringed every single time.

Audio Notes: Shelly Frasier is just AMAZING. This story was a much better experience because of her voice, the accents of Louisiana, and the lilting drawl of French New Orleans. Her voice is like a lazy raft ride down the river on a summer day. Click here to listen to the sample.

Publisher: Tantor Audio
Release Date: 08/23/05
Audio Time: 5 hours, 5 minutes
Narrator: Shelly Frasier

Others said:

FTC Disclosure: I downloaded this for free from the Virginia Beach Public Library.

About the Author (from KateChopin.org)
American author Kate Chopin (1850-1904) wrote two published novels and about a hundred short stories in the 1890s. Most of her fiction is set in Louisiana and most of her best-known work focuses on the lives of sensitive, intelligent women.


08 July 2012

It's not like I can't immediately see how many "followers" I have when I sign onto my Blogger dashboard, but earlier this week I decided to remove the Google Friend Connect widget from my sidebar. I was hovering at around 350 followers for the longest time and every time I went up or down, it would drive me nuts.

Then I remembered blogging is my hobby not my day job.

My day job already causes enough stress. It's sometimes fun, mostly overwhelming, but all in all, it's my job and I expect a certain amount of pressure. It's what pays the bills and I'm not naive enough to expect that my day job would afford me any type of relaxation. Blogging, though, is for fun. It is to relieve the pressures and stress from the real job and everything else. And to blog about books is the break I take from it every week.

Lately, though, I've been getting frustrated, overwhelmed by review request emails. It's something I know everyone has felt at one time or another, so I know I'm in good company. The overwhelming number of requests never seem to fit your preferences even though the Review Policy clearly outlines it.

Sigh. I'm sure you've all read a post like this one many times before, in a variety of different ways, on a gazillion other blogs. My apologies if you're patiently reading through this. And I don't want to sound ungrateful.

I've been lazily crafting this for a while and it wasn't until Andi over at Estella's Revenge who recently wrote about Book Blogger Liberation that made me sit up and take notice of my feelings. My first thought was, "YES!" She is much more eloquent in her thoughts, so I encourage you to head on over there to read.

I've been declining review requests for months now and it has made me feel so much better. I only have one coming up and it's been the first one in months. My husband pointed out that when I first started blogging, after I got over the initial excitement of receiving ARCs, what I really enjoyed was the community and interaction with everyone. That was what fed me.

So here is my decision, my new change at Coffee and a Book Chick and it's fitting that I would have come to this choice this past Wednesday, July 4th, Independence Day: I am removing my Review Policy. I'm not accepting review requests for a while. I will spend my time at the library and Netgalley, where I can overwhelm myself with selections that I want, with no pressure to review it by a certain date. I adore audiobooks as well, especially as work is very busy for me right now.

So. This was a long way to say that I'm done with the pressures from hobbies.

And since I'm running now, you can definitely expect more audiobook reviews here. And...as some of you may know, I'm trying to get healthier, so I'll also be at my new blog, This Chick Will Run. I hope to stay consistent with it and maybe putting it on paper will help me. Of course, I'll never, ever leave this book corner of the blogosphere, but I have to spend a little more time over there, so I hope you'll visit me!


07 July 2012

Saturday Snapshot: Freedom.

I'm trying very hard to not give up on running. It is almost the end of my third week. I did start another blog to document it, and you can find it at This Chick Will Run and I really love it. Of course, feel free to visit. I've also got a second Twitter account started for it, but I'm not sure if I want to manage two accounts... so we shall see. I have a couple tweets posted.

For more of this week's Saturday Snapshots, visit Alyce with At Home With Books.


03 July 2012

Don't Forget to Run

Don't forget to run. It's my reminder every day. Don't forget to run, don't forget to run, don't forget to run.

I never thought I'd enjoy it. I thought running was strictly a chore to stay healthy. So I'd listen to "motivational" music and treadmill it, or I'd run outside and my lungs burned. Nothing seemed to fit.

For just a few weeks now, I've been running. It started when I was extremely stressed out by work one day and when the end of the day rolled around, I felt so extremely overwhelmed and frustrated and worried that I didn't know what to do. I hate working out so there was nothing in my closet that worked, but I hurriedly put on a pair of old beach shorts, a heavy t-shirt, and Merrells that are primarily for walking, not running. I threw my hair into a ponytail and I RAN.

And I'm not talking about a jog. I was so stressed out that day that I RAN, unhealthily pushing myself, my body that has not worked out in years. I RAN, sprinted like someone was coming after me, and everything hurt. I thought I was having a complete meltdown.

When I slowed down, my lungs about to fall apart, and my mind in a complete whir of to do lists and "oh-my-goodness-I-forgot-to-do-that" moments, I realized I actually felt...better. Could it be? Was it possible the people I knew who ran for fun, the ones I always scoffed at and thought they were insane, might actually be right?

I tried it again the next day. The temperature was creeping up but I didn't care, I wanted to try again and see if I could do it and feel the same way. I did. I felt refreshed, I felt better, I felt FREE.

The next day I took my iPhone so I could listen to my audiobook. I've always thought I was supposed to listen to something like hardcore music, or something uplifting, making me feel like I was in my own personal Chariots of Fire movie. Meh. I guess it could help. But for me, the ticket was realizing that I don't always have to do what everyone else does and instead, I decided to listen to an audiobook. It WORKED. I was so focused on the story that I didn't even realize I had been running for a little bit and that I was having fun. I could not believe it.

And you know what else I realized? I knew I was not a natural runner, but because I finally bought the RIGHT types of running gear (Brooks shoes, lightweight shorts, dri-fit socks, an armband for my iPhone, a white lightweight hat made for running so it reflects the sun and cools my head instead of my dark hair soaking in the sun), it's like it suddenly clicked. I outfitted myself with the right stuff and the gear helps, it doesn't weigh me down. It all makes sense for me.

But, it's only been a few weeks since I started running. I hope I don't lose sight of my goals to lose weight and to feel FREE, and I hope I don't forget how much FUN I'm actually having. It's my own thing, it's about me. Don't forget to run, don't forget to run, don't forget to run.

Yeah, I've got a Pinterest board now for running. Let me know if you have one so I can follow it. I need all the help and reminders I can get.

This post was my first for Joy's Book Blog's regular Tuesday meme, Readers' Workouts.


02 July 2012

Lullaby, Chuck Palahniuk (Audio Review)

Someone will download this audiobook because of my freakish exuberance and will think I've gone crazy. SO BE IT.

Guys, it is completely ridiculous. It is hauntingly weird. It is fantastic. But, this is not for everyone. 

This was AWESOME. Finally, people, I have come across an audiobook that I don't "just enjoy" but that I LOVE. And I loved both this crazy, crazy story and the narrator. Everything fell into place, and oh my, was I hooked.

Carl is a lonely widower in his forties. As a reporter, he starts writing an article for the newspaper he works at about the sad topic of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. A curious link to a poem, either sung or spoken, to children before they go to bed is uncovered and is the only common event for all of the deaths he's researching. The only problem is that it's not an innocent poem at all; in fact, it's actually a tribal death chant.

Carl and a real estate agent named Helen, her secretary Mona, and Mona's boyfriend known as Oyster, go on a quest to pull all of the books that have this lullaby in it and rip the pages from the books. It's their way to save the world, and for Carl especially, a way to overcome the death of his own wife and daughter. As Carl goes through the process to find each and every single copy, he has to stop himself from using this on people he doesn't like. He knows he needs help when he's beginning to wildly wield it on not just enemies, but on random, innocent people. He certainly didn't realize that along this insane path, he might actually come to terms with the horrible things in life, and maybe, just maybe, fall in love.

I'll go over my thoughts on the narrator below, but let's just say he is AWESOME for this story. I couldn't stop listening to it and I got pretty ticked off when I had to pause it.

At the heart of this story is just a lonely man who has an inordinate amount of pain and suffering in his life that he's experienced, as are the people he teams up with to track the whereabouts of the poem in every part of the country. But, it's not just what's at the heart of this that makes it so unique, it's the entire story, the peculiar method of storytelling, the characters that could be loyal or maybe not. Lullaby is certainly not for the faint of heart in several scenes, but it certainly is memorable. What a sad story wrapped up in creativity.

This is my very first time with a Chuck Palahniuk story and it will absolutely not be my last. I have this sneaking suspicion that his books might be even more fantastic in audio; I can assure you this one certainly is. It is odd, unique, filthy, ridiculous, hilarious, and heart-wrenching. And it is WEIRD. If you are a fan of straight-forward stories that don't have creatively uncomfortable and odd ways of telling the story (with a dash of crudeness), then this may not be for you. However, if you want to try something a little different and don't mind a little bit of contemptibility in some of the characters' actions and events, than oh my, pick this one!

Audio Notes: As I've already gushed, Richard Poe ROCKED. This was like some fantastic stage play come to life for audio only. His voice is smooth and he easily voiced the emotions so effectively that in the earlier spots when there was a considerable amount of heartbreak and sadness over his personal losses, my heart felt the character's pain. Richard Poe's breathing, his enunciation for certain feelings, was just PERFECT. I am a brand-new fan of his. Look at me! I'm downloading all of the audiobooks he's narrated! You know what I wish? I wish that Audible.com has the ability to "favorite" a narrator, so that way when a new audio comes out that they narrate, you'd get an alert letting you know. Isn't that a great idea? Do they do this already? If they don't, this is my idea!

Oh, yeah, click here for the sample from Audible.com.

Publisher: Recorded Books
Release Date: 01/17/05
Audio Time: 7 hours, 15 minutes
Narrator: Richard Poe

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this audio from Audible.com

About the Author
Chuck Palahniuk is most immediately known for his popular book Fight Club, which some guy named Brad Pitt starred in back in the 1990s. It was an awesome story on film, so I can only imagine what it's like to read it.

Visit the author:


01 July 2012

The Standalong - Halfway Post

I completely forgot that today was the day to post our thoughts on The Stand, by Stephen King, so two posts go up for this Sunday, July 1st. Thanks to Trish for hosting! And people! Ben Affleck is going to direct The Stand for release next year or something like that. I'm so excited; I feel much more confident that Affleck will do a better job than other directors when bringing Stephen King projects to the big screen.

Okay, FYI to all readers and to fellow participants of this #standalong. Only one spoiler below, so if you haven't read up to this part, tread lightly with that bullet.

Overview of where I'm at with a few thoughts (no spoilers)
  • I'm on page 751 of the uncut edition and I love it.
  • I will say that I thought Book 1 was much, much scarier when Project Blue unfurled out. The complete and utter destruction that the man-made disease caused was believable and frightening. I've heard a few other #standalong participants were developing a cold around the same time they started reading the book and I shudder for you all. I can only imagine how much scarier the book was.
  • Once the story got going into the eventual movement of post-apocalyptic groups converging together, I found it wasn't as scary, which is relative. I mean, it's still competely unnerving, but compared to the first part when everyone was dropping like flies, I haven't felt as, well...concerned when opening up the book.
  • The book Nick is reading, Set This House on Fire, by William Styron is a real book and one of the character's names is Mason Flagg.
  • As my "education" with Stephen King books continues throughout this year, I've learned that EVERY CHARACTER in his books will eventually WET THEIR PANTS.
Things I thought were extremely creepy (no spoilers):
  • Larry Underwoood walking through the Lincoln Tunnel.
  • Harold Lauder.
  • Trashcan Man. (He and Harold Lauder are the reasons kids shouldn't bully others.)
  • Randall Flagg, the hardcase, the walkin' dude. He. Is. So. Freakin'. Scary.
  • The Kid. (I actually felt a little bad for Trashcan Man.) I learned from The Guilded Earlobe that The Kid was not part of the original version of the book, and I agree with him that this is one section that I would have been happy if Stephen King left out of the uncut version. I mean, the scenes with The Kid were forty pages of NASTY. Also, The Kid reminded me of Arnold Friend from Joyce Carol Oates' short story, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"
Characters that annoy me to NO END (mini-spoiler on the 3rd bullet):
  • Frannie. For the love of all that is holy, the way she doesn't tell ANYONE ANYTHING is so ridiculous. The entire human race has fallen off the planet, and there are things that make you uncomfortable with Harold Lauder, and you DON'T TELL ANYONE? Not even Stu? What is wrong with you? Open up your mouth!
  • Larry Underwood. I guess he is going to improve (I hope), but right now, he's just so annoying to me.
  • SPOILER. The Committee. Seriously, you want Tom Cullen to do what? Really?! That's just wrong.
Characters that I love (no spoilers):
  • Mother Abagail. Of course. She's awesome.
  • Nick Andros. He is just so daggone smart and cool.
  • Stu Redman. Love him, but because Frannie is a naive idiot at times, I question why he'd want to be with her. He seems much more sensible.
  • Kojak/Big Steve. This is what I love about Stephen King. He devotes three pages to Kojak's perspective and experience. I LOVE THAT.
QUESTION: Has anyone noticed that sometimes Mother Abagail is spelled "Abagail" and then also "Abigail?" I can't tell if it just happens to be a typo, but who knows with Stephen King.

All right, folks! That's my halfway point post for this incredible book. It goes without saying that I feel like Stephen King is THE MAN.

Note: I'm participating in Trish's #standalong and it coincides nicely with The Stephen King Project I'm hosting with Kathleen. Join if you want to, runs all year.


You may have noticed that it's been a bit quiet out here in my neck of the woods. Truth be told, I'm absorbed in my new role at work and it's swallowed up a lot of my time. When I do get time to read, it's mostly consumed by reading, listening, and... exercising.
  • Reading. Stephen King's The Stand for Trish's #Standalong. Man, this book is truly epic and magnificent. What a tale!
  • Listening. It's not that audiobooks require less concentration, but when my workday is done, I don't have the energy after being at a computer all day to pick up a book and read. So now when I do stuff around the house, out of the house, and my new hobby of running (!! I know, right?!), I listen to an audiobook to saturate my time with reading while still being active. And I love it. Right now, I'm listening to Chuck Palahniuk's Lullaby. And the story is so freaky weird that I love, love listening to it and get annoyed when I have to turn it off to do something else.
  • What? I'm RUNNING now? And who knew I'd ever run as a form of...relaxation...? I'm not a big runner, and I mostly fast-walk, but every now and again, and particularly one stretch of my neighborhood, I actually run. After a stressful day, I enjoy my twenty or thirty minutes when I just get to unwind and abuse the day back by running. Never thought I'd actually like it. I mean, I bought real running shoes. And an armband to put my iPhone in so I can listen to my audiobooks when I run. I have no idea who I am.
So that's life right now.