The Monday Salon: September in Review [9.1.14]

It’s hard to believe it is already September, otherwise known as the disappointing month where I mistakenly think the weather should cool down. Maybe this year I won’t have to wait until November to turn off the a/c? But, this is the August wrap-up, and I expect nothing less than miserable heat in August.

Books & Blogging

I didn’t read much this month. This was more a concious decision than it has been in the past. I was away for two of the weekends and while I was home, Ben and I were spending time together after his summer away.

I finished Girls in White Dresses and Story Hour in print and the latest Maisie Dobbs in audio.

I am in the middle of a few good books and I’ve just been slowly reading them. I took a little break from audiobooks and have been listening to some podcasts. I guess August was my reading vacation month.

As for blogging, I had one good week and some sporadic posts in the other four. You win some, you lose some. I do intend to continue the feature I introduced about the books Evan is reading though – look for those most Fridays.

Health

Well, I fell off the wagon hard. After my foot injury in April, I stopped running. I got the all clear in July and I have been running twice since then (see the weather paragraph above). I haven’t been to a dance class in months. I haven’t been to a real yoga class (as opposed to family yoga which isn’t much actual exercise) in months. I haven’t weighed myself in months. I haven’t counted calories in months.

I am still pretty happy with my weight. But my back has been giving me problems lately and I am sure it is due to this lack of exercise. So I am jumping back on the wagon.

Amanda from The Zen Leaf (which is back up!) created a 100 days of exercise challenge – just ten minutes of exercise for 100 straight days. I’ve already managed to miss some days, but more days than not, I am making an effort to do something.

I am hoping to get a real yoga class in Wednesday and ballet the following Monday.

Photography

I haven’t used my camera much this month, but I did share a bunch of photos on the blog here and I’ve been following some new critique groups on Facebook. I’m always learning.

My most-popular post this month was the one where I shared some of my cell phone photography tips and tricks. I’m thinking about doing another post like this since you all seemed to like it.

Evan

Evan started 2-year-old preschool. And he started sitting in a real chair at a restaurant and kind of listening when we ask him to use his walking feet. And he says “thank you, mommy” and “good morning, mommy” and “I love you, mommy” and it is wonderful. He throws things at me. And he runs off in public. And he throws tantrums when he’s tired and upset. But he’s two and 80% of the time it is awesome.

 

The Sunday Salon.com

No, I Won’t Be Reading that E-Novella

This post follows up on a little mini-rant on twitter the other day about how every series now comes with little novellas between books.

I pretty much hate these extra stories. I’ve read a few (Wicked Lovely’s Stopping Times and Old Habits; Delirium’s Anabel, Hana, and Raven; Newsflesh’s Countdown; Fallen’s Fallen in Love) and I’ve decided I am not reading anymore. Here’s why.

They rarely move the story forward, but instead add a level of detail to a character or an event that wasn’t included in an actual official book in that series. Or they tell the same story from someone else’s perspective. They are not necessary to the story.

As such, they seem like a money-making scam. It seems like publishers see how much money a series is bringing in and decide, let’s see how much money we can get out of these suckers. Now, I know that publishing is a for-profit industry and no one is in it just for the joy of books. I am happy to pay for a book. But do I really want to shell out another $2 for a few dozen pages every other week?  It’s sort of like how I feel about the new trend of breaking the last installment in a book series into two movies. You, movie studio, are only doing that to make money. Admit it.

They make me anxious. To be fair, all of the books that exist in the world that I want to read already make me anxious. But if I add all of these little novellas to my TBR pile, it’s certainly not helping things. There is simply not enough time in the world for me to keep up with every series I am reading AND read those 40 extra pages that no one thought important enough to actually put in the book. But skipping them also makes me anxious. I loathe reading things out of order. And skipping something that might have the tiniest chance of being important to the story makes me nervous. So it’s a lose-lose here on the reading anxiety front.

I can see why some people might like them (you do get even more of your favorite series, right?), but these people must have different priorities from me because every series seems like it is doing this and I just can’t possibly keep up.

  • The Lunar Chronicles has 3 novellas.
  • Shade (Jeri-Smith Ready) has 2.
  • Newsflesh has 4.
  • Divergent has 5.
  • Across the Universe has 1.
  • Shades of London has 1.
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone has 1.

I would list these as some of my favorite series. But I will not (and, really, cannot) read 17 novellas plus all the ones that have yet to be published. I just won’t. (Okay, I’m a little tempted to read that last one because I love Zuzana so much).

So, I’m putting my foot down.  I can’t make the publishing industry stop this trend, but I can stop taking part in it. Unless JK Rowling wants to write one for Harry Potter, or unless someone makes a really compelling argument for an exception, I won’t be reading anymore of these things that are not really part of the series. Publishers, if a story is really important, please make it a real book.

Instead

What I’ve been doing instead of reviewing books (which I intend to start doing again soon).

  • Hanging out with my family
  • Watching Doctor Who
  • Watching The West Wing
  • Watching Everything Else that’s on my DVR
  • Reading Attachments
  • Listening to Bill Bryson and Lani Taylor books
  • Working
  • Injuring my foot
  • Learning about biking and swimming
  • Watching a lot of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
  • Planning a birthday party that is Mickey Mouse Clubouse themed
  • Enjoying the beautiful weather
  • Traveling to Savannah, DC, and – this weekend – Tallahassee.
  • Sleeping
  • Editing photos
  • Reading about editing photos
  • Discussing vaccines
  • Discussing equality
  • Going to movies
  • Hanging out with friends

Sometimes I miss the old days. Sometimes a break from the book blogging gig isn’t so bad.

Another Beach Day [Wordless Wednesday]

Sorry for being MIA this week. We were out of town this weekend and I thought I would have some Washington, DC pictures for you today, but I haven’t gotten around to editing any yet (that’s the problem with shooting RAW – every photo needs at least some editing). So here are some more photos from Ben’s parents’ visit last weekend when we went to the beach on a very non-beachy day.

 

 

 

 

The Dangerous Animals Club [Audiobook Review]

Title: The Dangerous Animals Club
Author: Stephen Tobolowsky
Narrator: Stephen Tobolowsky
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 352
Audio: 11.6 hours
Year: 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Source: Personal Collection
Book Rating: 4/5
Audio Rating: 5/5

Summary:

Actor Stephen Tobolowsky shares stories from his childhood, his marriage, and his career.

My Thoughts:

We started listening to this one on a family road trip. Whenever E was asleep, Ben and I would put it on. E didn’t actually sleep as much as I expected him to, so we each had to finish it on our own. But we were both enjoying it so much that there was doubt that we would.

Stephen Tobolowsky, as he explains it, is that guy you recognize but you’re from where (the store down the street? the laundromat?). You recognize him from television and films. But he’s a solid character actor – not one to stand out or be memorable. But he is in practically everything, from Groundhog Day to Glee. And he has amassed some wonderful stories which he tells masterfully.

The book started with stories from his childhood and those mostly featuring animals (the title story is about a tarantula- and scorpion-catching club he was in as a boy in Texas). The stories then move on to his schooling, his relationships, and his career. He has had an interesting life so far and his tales are well-crafted. If you just want to listen to some good storytelling, this one is for you.

Audiobook Thoughts:

Tobolowsky reads this one himself, as he should. You’ll recognize his voice, even if you don’t recognize his name. He’s a born storyteller.

The Sunday Salon [2.2.14]

I’m writing this on the fly from my phone, having forgotten to write anything earlier, so bear with me.

I finally finished – thank god – Dave Egger’s The Circle. I think you can tell how I felt about it from that sentence. I am cleansing my palate with some Maisie Dobbs (Elegy for Eddie) while I await Cress’s publication on Tuesday.

In print, I read nothing this week. I spent the last half of the week at a conference and/or socializing. And I don’t see the reading time increasing anytime soon. I am sitting for the Labor and Employment Law Board Certification in 6 weeks and I need to actually start studying, so I think my reading time might be spent reading about unions, overtime, and discrimination instead. Riveting stuff.

I’m a bit behind on my 8k training, but I’m doing alright. I think my schedule and health may actually allow me to run this week. What a winter this has been.

I hope you all have a lovely Sunday.

Beyond Snapshots [Book Review]

TitleBeyond Snapshots: How to Take That Fancy Camera Off “Auto” and Photograph Like a Pro
Author: Rachel Devine; Peeta Mazey
Genre: Photography; Nonfiction
Pages: 240 pages
Year: 2012
Publisher: Amphoto Books
Source: Library
Rating: 3.5/5

Summary:

This is a how-to for photography, offering tips from beginning to end and everything in between. It is written by two photographers and filled with their own photos.

My Thoughts:

Part One: Getting Off Auto

I have a basic understanding of the relationship between ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, but reinforcement of the ideas is extremely helpful and hearing different photographers describe it a little differently helps me gain a better understanding. This was my first lesson in light metering. The photoshop section was helpful even before I had photoshop as it talks about what kind of fixes you might want to make post-processing. I think this is a good beginner’s lesson in shooting in manual.

Part Two: Life as a Photo Op

I liked this part less. I thought the tips for certain subject matters and situation were helpful but this section went on too long. I grew bored by the end and only finished to finish. Perhaps it’s a book that isn’t meant to be read cover to cover and that was my mistake.

Accepting Yourself

I was going to write a post about some minor injuries I am dealing with, but then I caught myself having some more positive thoughts this week and decided to share those instead.

On several occasions this week, I have looked in a mirror and been happy with what I see. I still have a little more work to do (my favorite pair of pre-pregnancy jeans still don’t fit) but I am comfortable with my progress so far.

I had a baby. My body is different now. I can accept that. That doesn’t mean I just want to sit on the couch, 15 pounds heavier than before. I’ve worked to lose almost 10 of those pounds. And now that I am within sight of my “goal,” I’m finding some satisfaction.

I think we all need to remember to put a positive spin on things. If we are working toward change, we should be able to look in the mirror and be happy with our progress.

So cheers to everyone who is making healthy changes. Even if you haven’t achieved your ultimate goal yet.

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(The look is because I was about to brave the cold for a run)

Fresh Start

As much as I love yearly recaps, I am not usually one for new year’s resolutions. But this year I am going to take advantage of the new year and try a fresh start here.

I recently realized that I may have accidentally quit book blogging. My last real review was nearly two months ago. I can’t even muster up enough blogging mojo to write a mini-review.

But that’s okay. I am a different person than I was when I started this thing. I am a mom and that takes up a tremendous amount of my time. And in whatever free time I have, I have shifted some of the priority from reading to other activities, like photography.

So here is what I am going to do. Because I think having a PLAN will help me.

  • I will do my best to resume Sunday Salons where I will discuss what I am currently reading.
  • I am going to write one review a week. I will post it on Monday.
  • I am committing to Wordless Wednesdays, so expect regular photo posts.
  • On Fridays, I am going to talk about something health-related: food, running, dance, yoga etc. I need to be held accountable.
  • I will continue to do a monthly recap. Because I like those.
  • The remaining days of the week will be free days. I will most likely not post anything. But if I want to, I can blog about anything I feel like blogging about. An extra book review maybe? Some more photos? My current views on parenting?

I am going to try my hardest to stick to this for the first three months of 2014. I want to really give it a try. This blog needs to shift topics a little if it is going to survive and I really would hate to see it go. Honestly. This is the direction I’ve been going so I’m just taking it a little further.

If  I do go missing here for some period of time, please look for me on twitter or instagram. I rarely go missing there.

Do you have any blogging plans for 2014?

Enthusiasm [Audiobook Review]

So here is what I am going to do. Despite the fact that I barely read these days, I am crazy behind on writing reviews. So I am going to do some mini-reviews. I’ll be using publisher’s summaries instead of writing my own and probably keeping my thoughts to a few sentences. But at least I’ll be catching up and you’ll finally get some long overdue reviews.

Title: Enthusiasm
Author: Polly Shulman
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, YA
Pages: 212
Audio: 6.5 hours
Year: 2006
Publisher: Recorded Books
Source: Audible
Book Rating: 3.5/5
Audio Rating: 4/5

Publisher’s Summary:

Best friends Julia and Ashleigh are looking for some romance, but Ashleigh’s ways make Julia a little uncomfortable. While crashing a fall dance, they are befriended by two boys, one of whom being the mysterious male that Julia had seen at the mall. Unfortunately, Ashleigh has laid claim to her mysterious boy first. Julia is totally confused about high school love.

My Thoughts:

This book was a fun read for any Jane Austen fans out there. It’s light and funny and is really a very sweet story of friendship. It’s not going to change your world. It’s not going to make you think. But it will entertain you. It was just what I needed after a long, less-entertaining audiobook.

Audiobook Thoughts:

When I first started listening, I thought there were some weird pauses but they either went away or I got used to them. Ikeda did a good job capturing the feel of this book.