Category: Rewind

Sep 03

Words for Worms Rewind: Road Trip

Audio Books, Rewind 3

Well Hello Bookworms!

I’m resurrecting another old post today that was devoured by the evil spirits of the internet. It’s ginormous and about audio books. I’ve updated it with the occasional aside in bold parentheses, because I simply cannot leave well enough alone.

If you’re anything like me the idea of a road trip is made more pleasant by the sheer joy of having so many uninterrupted reading hours. Unfortunately, that isn’t really an option if you happen to be the driver. Or is it? That’s right, my friends. Today we shall explore the glories of the audio book!

My BFF (we can use that terminology because we’ve been BFF since middle school) gave birth to one of the greatest human beings to ever grace the planet roughly 4 ½ years ago (UPDATE: Jack is now 7 ½. And he has a super cute baby sister named Junie who’s creeping up on 1 ½. I Seriously can’t even.) Unfortunately, my BFF has lived in a different state than I have for the past 15 years (Now 18. Holy smokes.) As an honorary aunt, I vowed I’d never miss one of Jack’s birthday parties (at least, until he’s old enough to decide he doesn’t want his weird Aunt Katie hanging around… At which point I’ll show up anyway and be EXCEPTIONALLY embarrassing. “Hey Jack, remember that time you accused me of pooping in your diaper? No?”) (<— That’s a true story, BTW.) And thus, every year around the Ides of March (I seriously never get tired of the Julius Caesar joke) I make the trek to… Whatever state or city Jack and Heather happen to be residing in.

road trip

The first couple of trips I made to visit Jack after he was born I made in the first vehicle I’d purchased for myself. A 2002 Oldsmobile Alero with crank windows and a broken radio. I fed my CD player hour after hour of music, but 5-7 hours of driving (each way), even with musical accompaniment, is tedious. Then I got smart. I had discovered that even on my 20 minute morning commute, I felt more alert listening to NPR than listening to morning music radio. I assumed the same principal- someone talking to me to keep my mind occupied- would hold true for road trips as well. I was right.

Do audio books count as reading? Umm, yeah they do! At least in my opinion. You hear the whole story, experience all of the description- it’s still theater of the mind. It’s just that you can safely drive while you enjoy it. I would also highly recommend audio books for anyone with a learning disability that makes it difficult to enjoy reading. Put a book on in the car instead of listening Rhianna. I can guarantee an audio book will make you smarter than Rhianna’s lyrics. (Still true.) Without further ado (Seriously 2012 Katie? That was so much ado. SO MUCH), I shall tell you a bit about the audio books I’ve enjoyed over my past several road trips…

herfearfulsymmetryHer Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger was my first foray into road trip reading. I wanted to read it because I’d loved The Time Traveler’s Wife (book is infinitely superior to the movie, no matter how handsome Eric Bana is). Her Fearful Symmetry started out promising, but then started taking turns for the bizarre, and then the REALLY bizarre. Once the book ended I was really quite surprised it had gone the way it did. Part of what I’d loved about The Time Traveler’s Wife was that Niffenegger took an unbelievable situation and turned it into a realistic view of what life would be like to live with and love a man who could at any moment disappear into another time. Symmetry was the opposite- it started out with a realistic presence then steadily got stranger and stranger. And not in the way I like my strange.

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant was my next selection. As I’ve previously professed, I adore historical fiction. I had read other Dunant novels (The Birth of Venus, In the Company of the Courtesan) that were set in Renaissance Italy, and enjoyed them. Sacred Hearts was set in a convent during the same time period. It gave me more insight into the life of a Catholic nun in the Renaissance period, as well as insight into the few options available to women at the time. That part wasn’t exactly new to me (Hello, Women’s Studies Minor!) but I always like to read things that make situations come to life. This centered on a very reluctant novice who had been sent to the convent by her family to keep her from marrying an “inappropriate” suitor and the nun who took her under her wing. The supervisory nun was also the convent physician of sorts, so you’ll pick up all sorts of useful tidbits about old school diseases and treatments. Fascinating, if I do say so myself.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot was this year’s Jack-spedition selection. I really enjoyed this as an audio book, but I think it might be harder to get through reading in print. This book is non-fiction, and it is about the woman who (unwittingly) donated the first “immortal” henriettalackshuman cells that could be used in laboratory work. I’m not nearly scientific enough to explain how that’s really possible, other than to say that Henrietta Lacks had a very unique and aggressive form of cervical cancer. The cancer ended her life, but took on a laboratory life of its own. The cells were so important that they were the basis of research for countless medical breakthroughs. What’s most interesting about this book is reading about the abject poverty of her descendents and their corner of Baltimore. It’s a long story, but I found it very interesting, and since I was listening as opposed to reading, I didn’t get too bogged down in the scientific jargon. I highly recommend this book. (I really need to come up with a ratings system). (No you don’t, 2012 Katie.)

I’ve since expanded my audio book indulgence to any road trip I take, not just the epic ones. This includes the 2 hour each way drive to visit my parents. I had been meaning to read Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland for years. It was one of the books handed out at the graduation party for my Women’s Studies group. (I got Pope Joan by Diana Woolfolk Cross, which may just merit its own entry *UPDATE* Pope Joan review HERE.) Anyway, I’d been meaning to read this for a long time, and finally decided to get on with it. The story girlinhyacinthbluefollows a (fictional) Vermeer painting from the present day back through time to its inception. Throughout the ages the painting had a profound impact on a number of lives and went through many adventures itself. I’ve always had a soft spot for historical fiction that revolves around works of art (Girl with a Pearl Earring, Burning Bright, and The Virgin Blue all by Tracy Chevalier are worth mentioning) so this was right up by alley. (UPDATE: I made a list of Hist-Art-Ical Fiction. You can read it HERE.) I also learned more about the Netherlands that I’d ever known before, thanks to this book. I rather enjoyed that part, since, if the family lineage I’ve been told is accurate, I’m approximately 25% Dutch. Fun Fact: The Netherlands are mostly below sea level and flood a LOT. Also, horses can swim.

Finally! This has been an epic blog post. Last review, I promise. I just finished Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith in the car this morning. I’m technologically impaired, so I actually listened to the second half of the book before the first due to a downloading error, but aside from being a bit of a banana head, I enjoyed this book. I was shocked at how well researched this was. I mean, the vampire bits were obviously creative license, but the documented facts of Lincoln’s life and the chronology were spot on. I felt like I’d learned some useful American history by the end. A movie was just released. I will probably see it at some point, but I’m sure I won’t much care for it. What I liked most about this book was the historical accuracy and the filling in of life’s plot holes with fantastic farfetched theories. Judging by the movie’s trailer, it’s just a lot of Abe Lincoln killing vampires and crazy action sequences. I think there will be a lot lost in translation, but since I haven’t yet seen it, I can’t say for sure. (Who are we kidding? Of course I can say it for sure. The book is ALWAYS better than the movie!)

Congratulations for finishing this post, and many thanks. Until next time, my wormy worms!

Holy guacamole, 2012 Katie was VERY chatty, wasn’t she? I’m sorry, guys. I probably should have broken this post into pieces but I’m so very lazy. Also, if you buy anything from one of the 8 zillion links in this post, I’ll get a small commission. Yay for that.


Jul 07

Words for Worms Rewind: Campy Vamps!

Rewind, Vampires 13

Greetings Bookworms!

I mentioned last week that I was going to be resurrecting some of my old posts that had been eaten by internet gremlins, right? Who’s up for another one? I’m imagining thousands of hands in the air even though I am acutely aware that I do not *have* thousands of readers. A girl can dream, right? In this early post, I talked about my fixation on vampire novels. Welcome to time-capsule Katie, y’all!

I promised I’d be honest in my blog, didn’t I? That’s probably a good thing, because I’m a terrible liar anyway. We’ve all got guilty pleasures. Perhaps yours is belting “Call Me Maybe” along with the radio. Or you have a secret celeb crush on Jesse Eisenberg. Or you cry at the end of the Care Bears Movie. No? I guess that’s just me. It is time for me to confess my love affair with those sexy bloodsuckers of the night, vampires.

twilight41. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Oh Twilight. Stephenie Meyer, you weaver of tales. Sparkly vampires and teen love and werewolves and silliness. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I really liked the Twilight books when I read them. I read them before the movies came out, so I somehow feel that is justification. I don’t think they really provide a good message to young girls- I mean, Bella pretty much embraces a stalker and a dude who literally wants to kill her like all the time. But I couldn’t help myself. Blame my inner 13 year old. Bella’s falling for Edward reminded me of my awkward middle school crushes, only her story had a “happily ever after” and mine ended with a “you’ve got a booger in your nose.” I was bereft when I finished the series. She was immortal with a family and her beloved and she didn’t even want to eat people that badly. I had to clear my head of the swoony fog and get excessively annoyed with the movie marketing in order to break the spell of Twilight, but my inner 13 year old persists on some level.
2. Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris.True Blood on HBO is based on this series of novels, albeit very loosely. Like VERY loosely. When I ordered these books deaduntildark(thanks Amazon!) there were 10 in the boxed set. I devoured them all within 2 weeks. Sookie Stackhouse is the heroine of the series, who happens to be telepathic (much to her chagrin). She’s also part fairy, so, there’s that too. These books aren’t especially well written, but they’re so imaginative. The town of Bon Temps reminds me a little of Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls!!!!). It’s just got such an oddball cast of weirdos flavored with Louisiana accents and supernatural beings that it’s hard not to get swept up. Despite the fact that these books make my guilty pleasures list, I must admit that the recent contributions have been lackluster. The latest book, Deadlocked, is the 12th in the series. I read it shortly after it was released, and pretty much nothing of note occurred for the entire book. I don’t know that I can blame Harris- how can you really keep a series fresh and interesting into the double digits? But… If you’re going to dive into these, throw in the towel around book 6. *Update: I finished the series and if you’re interested in my thoughts on the final installment, you can read them HERE.*

3. The Circle Trilogy by Nora Roberts. Yes, THAT Nora Roberts. She wrote a trilogy of books about a vampire war. Morrigan’s Cross, Dance of the Gods, and Valley of Silence kept me on the edge of my seat. I blame this ENTIRELY on my BFF. She told me she was reading these goofy vampire books she couldn’t put down, so obviously I picked them up. These books roll every supernatural idea into one crazy package. Time travel? Check. Witches and warlocks? Check. Shape shifters? Vampire hunters? Alternate dimensions? Check, check, and check. Throw in some romance for good measure. She’s Nora Roberts, for heaven’s sake, there MUST be some romance! Are you shaking your head yet? Yeah, me too. However, if you’ve got a high tolerance for this sort of thing, these are glorious.
To draw a comparison, if Shakespeare is the broccoli of literature (you know, REALLY good for you but a lot of people don’t like to eat it?), then these books are a giant bag of Doritos. They’re delicious, to be sure, but should only be consumed in moderation. Of course, if you’re suffering a literature famine, then damnit, eat all the Doritos you can find! Reading anything is better than reading nothing. Keep that in mind, my little worms.

Oh 2012. You were a good year. I’ve since changed my stance some on the idea of guilty pleasure reading. I don’t like that for YEARS I allowed myself to feel silly for liking what I like. I shouldn’t have to. You shouldn’t either. Talk to me Bookworms! Have you ever been embarrassed to admit how much you liked a particular book, genre, or series? Let’s just get it all out there, shall we?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*


Jun 29

Words for Worms Rewind: Fifty Shades of Shenanigans

Rewind, Trashy Romance Novels 5

Greetings Bookworms!

I realized recently that some of my older posts somehow got dropped when I did a website migration. I’m not sure exactly how many, but there are a couple that I found particularly amusing, and thus I’m going to re-publish them. The following post was originally published in August of 2012 (one of my very first posts!) It’s about the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy. Since the latest installment of the series, Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian, was just released, it seemed timely to revisit this post. Here goes nothing.

To quote the great Dr. Evil, “I’m hip. I’m with it.” Actually, I’m no more “hip” or “with it” than Dr. Evil and his Macarena, but even I, she of the rock dwelling, have heard of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Like many of the socially awkward, I’m more likeable in a digital format, so I spend a decent amount of time on Facebook. Whenever a bestseller comes up as a frequent topic of conversation, I like to be able to chime in with a self-satisfied “oh yes, I already read this, here is my opinion…” So I was vexed when Fifty Shades was everywhere and I hadn’t read it. I looked up the synopsis, and it didn’t sound that intriguing, but the sheer volume of readers it had made me feel left out.

fiftyshadesHeck, even my Mom was telling me all about it. Actually, she was telling me that one of her co-workers’ husbands had taken to hiding from her because Fifty Shades had turned her into a wanton woman. A little bit of background information on Fifty Shades in case you’re still under a rockIt started out as Twilight fan fiction. Fan fiction can go in all sorts of directions, from re-writing endings to writing unauthorized sequels to just taking the beloved characters you’ve grown attached to and throwing them into an alternate universe. Fifty Shades is Edward and Bella, minus the supernatural, plus the super lustful. For every instance where Twilight was wholesome (the characters didn’t sleep together until marriage at which point Bella conceives a lethal Halfling child- a cautionary tale to the teen readers I presume), Fifty Shades is, well, unwholesome. It’s erotica.

Fifty Shades didn’t invent the genre. Steamy romance novels have been around forever. My college roommate Chrissy introduced me to them. Harlequin romance novels, to be specific. It was fun to take a break from studying to read a trashy book. It was downright hilarious to read them aloud in a group after a few cocktails. Frankly, if you need smut to inspire you to read, so be it. It may not be great literature, but you’ll improve your vocabulary (creatively!) and indulge in escapism. Win-win. So, if you read Fifty Shades of Grey and you never read anything else, I applaud you! Yay for reading! You can stop reading this blog right now, because I’m about to completely trash your favorite book.

You’re still here? Okay here goes. My problem with these books (they’re a trilogy, I read the whole thing) is not the S&M element. Well, maybe a little bit. But only because Anastasia wasn’t really sure she wanted to be doing it, but did it anyway. The coersion skeeved me out, and that’s a whole OTHER ball of wax, but let’s back burner that for a second. I’m nobody’s moral authority. Nobody else’s nocturnal activities are any of my business. My biggest problem with these books is that they send the WORST POSSIBLE MESSAGE to women about their independence.

Oh did I just get political there? Yes, I did. It makes me angry. Being a recent college (or high school, or fifty_shades_of_grey_ver5grad school or whatever) graduate is terrifying. You’re officially out of the world of academia and expected to figure out what to do with the rest of your life, find gainful employment doing so, and somehow manage to support yourself in the process. People make mistakes, they learn, they grow. But you know what never happens? A gorgeous BILLIONAIRE never falls madly in love with you and buys you a publishing company to play at while he lavishes you in finery. Also, with the amount of nookie going on in these books, I frankly can’t figure out how anyone ever slept at all. And THAT is unrealistic. Because people sleep and snore and drool and fart and that’s just LIFE, okay?!

I hate the idea that the new “ideal” man is a hunk who wants to control you to the point of dictating your eating habits. And if that weren’t enough, Ana, through her love and devotion, “FIXES” Christian’s problems. Yeah, there’s a therapist involved. But really, it’s romanticized to her being all “oh let me fix your broken psyche.” Because American women don’t fixate enough on “improving” the guys in their relationships. A single episode of daytime television will show you how well THAT works out! I’m not anti-romance. But I am anti “if I just wander around being adorable someone will come along and make all my life decisions for me so I never have to think and I’ll also get to wear designer shoes every day.” (I’ll admit it, I might be a little jealous about the shoes…) Not to mention, Ana has really low self esteem and can’t figure out why this Greek God of a man wants her. You know why she can’t believe it? Because it’s ridiculous. Even the main character has trouble suspending her disbelief in light of her situation.

Don’t be stupid ladies. If you want to read these books to indulge in a little scandal and spice, then by all means, enjoy. But for the love of Pete, don’t try to glean any life lessons from them. Please. Sorry for ranting.

PS- Is anyone else concerned about how they’re going to make this into a movie? I really can’t see how it can be done without being full pornography. There’s precious little story to go along with the spanking and shenanigans.

UPDATE: Since this post is ancient in internet time, the first movie has long since been released. Did any of y’all actually see it? How did they manage to make it viewable in standard theaters?

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