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  • Lindsey Lewis Smithson 2:00 pm on 2016/06/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , for your listening pleasure, , road trip etiquette, ,   

    7 Awesome Audiobooks that Make for Awkward Road Trip Listening 

    Audiobooks are a great way to pass the time on a long drive or to make your commute a little more entertaining, but not every book is the best choice for every road trip. Whether you are out exploring with family, friends, or a caravan of adventure-seeking souls, carefully consider which books to load on your listening device. For example, each of the books below are fun and thought provoking stories worthy of the time spent reading them, but they might not make a great road trip audio fodder. Instead of listening to these with your kids, or sensitive friends and family, plug in your headphones and enjoy the thrill of hearing a good book alone. Maybe grab some jazzy soundtracks to sing along with on your trip with Grandma; that’s usually a safe bet.

    Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades Trilogy #1), by E L James
    While this is probably an obvious no-go for a trip with kids, also consider the adults in the car too. True story, my husband and I tried to listen to this while driving across the country…and we just couldn’t. We felt at turns silly, awkward, and extremely interested in the world outside the car. The book is a fun read, and the audio is super entertaining for a solo listener, but it might not be the group share you thought it was.

    Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer, Ilyana Kadushin, and Matt Walters
    While the Twilight series is a fun supernatural YA read, it gets darker as it goes along, and fourth (and final) installment Breaking Dawn might be a little blush-worthy with the kids in the backseat. So, although we totally understand your desire to the the “cool” parent who is into all the books that the kids are reading these days, spare your tweens the urgent need to avoid eye contact with you for the next few hours and instead let them enjoy this book with their headphones on. Then you can listen to new Justin Timberlake single by yourself without their judging. Win-win!

    A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1), by George R. R. Martin and Roy Dotrice
    The TV adaptation is of course insanely popular, so it makes sense that fans of the show might be interested in discovering the books it is based on during a long road trip. And if all of your passengers are already familiar with the sex, violence, and dragons involved, then go for it! But if not, maybe spare that one rider who isn’t into all things Stark from a group listening session. Alternatively, send your outlier friend the books beforehand so they can prepare, or listen to the soundtrack on the road to make the ride seem more epic (and then binge watch every episode on the hotel’s free HBO channel).

    American Gods, by Neil Gaiman and George Guidall
    At turns thought-provoking, funny, dark, and unexpected, this unique book is a great reflection of American culture. But (or because of this), there are also some rather graphic sex scenes and a fair amount of profanity. A group of tight-knit, like-minded buddies will probably enjoy listening to this on a funky, soul searching kind of road trip, but American Gods probably isn’t your best bet for a family jaunt to see the grandparents. For younger kids, and some impressionable teens, not all of the characters are great role models, and a lot of the philosophy may be little overwhelming.

    Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed
    You might think that a book about soul-searching travel would be an amazing audiobook for a road trip. Well, if you’re on a solo excursion, definitely listen to this book; twice if you have the time. But since it depicts a struggle with depression and addiction, the passing of a beloved figure, and a bit of sex, this memoir might make an uncomfortable companion for a family trip. For a more all-ages appropriate chronicle of a long, life-changing walk, check out The Lord of the Rings (or A Walk in the Woods)and maybe save Wild for one of your own personal journeys.

    Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume and Laura Hamilton
    This a YA masterpiece, but it is one of those important, find-it-yourself kinds of YA; not one that you listen to with your parents. Judy Blume is the queen of books that every teenager should read (and that maybe parents of teenagers should reread along the way, too). The main character’s self exploration, the talk of bras and puberty, the general teenage-ness of it, just oozes awkward family listening. Instead of spending quality time trying not to look at each other in the car while listening, leave the book (or a download of the audio) for your budding teenager as a summer gift. Later in life your kids will thank you for sharing, and for not listening to it in the car with you this summer.

    The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike Series #1), by Robert Galbraith, J. K. Rowling, and Robert Glenister
    Yes, this is the other fantastic J.K. Rowling series—but just because your family loved listening to the entire Harry Potter canon during your last road trip, does not mean that you should pick up the Cormoran Strike series next. Written as a classic crime thriller full of well-drawn characters and Britishisms, it involves is a fair amount of violence, profanity, sex, and discussions about all of the above. Like most of the other books mentioned here, a group of adult friends would probably enjoy trying to solve the murder of Lula Landry, but leave this one on the shelf when you head to Disneyland with the kids in the car.

    Does your family have any favorite audiobooks for road trips?

     
  • Lindsey Lewis Smithson 6:00 pm on 2016/06/02 Permalink
    Tags: a child called it, a good cry, , , , , the still point of the turning world, ,   

    7 More Sob-Inducing Books That Deserve to Be Made into Movies 

    Me Before You

    Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, the emotional bestseller that brought countless fans to tears, hits theaters across the country this week. On June 3rd many of us will be seen walking out of movie theaters with red-rimmed eyes and all the feels, glad to have been able to spend some time with Louisa and Will and to witness their unexpected love story on the big screen. Books and movies that have the ability to bring fans to tears often stay with us long after we have experienced them. If you enjoyed the Me Before You or the book (or film adaptations of) The Fault in Our Starsor Wildyou may also find yourself hoping for movie adaptions a few of the books below as well. Make it happen, Hollywood!

    We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
    Everything changes for Cadence Sinclair during her fifteenth summer at her family’s beach. As Cadence struggles with memory loss, physical injuries, and a secret that no one is willing to share, she is also growing into adulthood. After spending the next summer in Europe, and then finally returning to the family’s beloved summer house on the island, Cadence has to face some harsh realities about herself and her cousins. In much the same vein as the twisty Gone Girl, readers will find themselves by turns sad, frustrated, amazed, and shocked. It’s nearly impossible to read this book without having some strong feelings, and a movie adaption would be irresistible.

    A Child Called It: One Child’s Courage to Survive, by Dave Pelzer
    I wept, a lot, while reading Dave Pelter series of memoirs. At turns devastating and hopeful, producers could film a heck of a tearjerking masterpiece of Oscar material with this set of books. Why this material hasn’t yet been tapped for a movie is almost inexplicable. Depicting Pelzer’s journey from an abused child to an adult who has to learn to cope with his terrible past, and eventually to thrive, is as heartbreaking as it is inspirational. A film that blends the realism of Wild with the elements of a damaged childhood like Room would no doubt rack up some nominations…and plenty of drenched hankies.

    The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
    Granted, there is a Bell Jar film from 1979. There is also the Gwyneth Paltrow/Daniel Craig film Sylvia, which loosely covers the author’s more autobiographical material. But a real, gritty, earnest look at the health care system and the borderline torture that Esther Greenwood underwent during a mental breakdown in the 1950s would make for a devastating film. This novel, which explores the pangs of teenage love and rejection, along with the pressures to achieve perfection in a competitive world, is timeless—maybe even more so today.

    Looking For Alaska Special 10th Anniversary Edition, by John Green
    John Green is the brains behind many of our beloved sob-inducing books and movies like Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars, and Looking For Alaska was his first novel. Miles Halter is a high school junior, with a penchant for darkness, who is on his way to a new boarding school. As he takes on new friends Chip “The Colonel” Martin, and Takumi Hirohito, along with crush Alaska Young, the journey unfolds into a series of pranks and personal revelations. The more that each character reveals, the more readers begin to worry. The end, which I won’t spoil here, is a heartbreaking series of events that places it among the ranks of A Separate Peace (another must read weepy classic) and Me Before You.

    The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
    Just ask any parent the last time they cried over a children’s book and you will mostly definitely hear someone say The Giving Tree. From the master of poignant children’s literature, this classic tale of self sacrifice to one’s children will make you cry every single time. And not just cry, I mean Dawson’s Creek ugly face cry crying. Given its brevity, the book may be hard to adapt, but if Hollywood can turn Where the Wild Things Are into an emotional film about parenting and birth, than I have faith that we will all be sitting together crying about The Giving Tree one day. I’ll save you a seat.

    Wonder (B&N Exclusive Edition), by R. J. Palacio
    A film based on Wonder is currently in production, and it is no surprise, seeing as this is a beautiful novel that is beloved by kids and adults alike. The story of middle grade boy with birth defects that leave him extremely disfigured, and the struggles he has while attending school for the first time, is a universal tear jerker. Who hasn’t felt out of place, or longed for acceptance in some way? Who hasn’t been betrayed, fought for, or lost a friend? Despite its middle grade labeling, all readers can find something of themselves in main character Auggie. In the same way that The Lovely Bones and The Fault in Our Stars touched fans of all ages, this movie could be popular among all ages.

    The Still Point of the Turning World, by Emily Rapp
    Emily Rapp’s second memoir is a book like few others. At six months old her son Ronan was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs, an always fatal genetic disorder. In an attempt to find a path in a world that no parent ever expects to inhabit, Rapp takes readers through the emotional, physical, and intellectual stages of grief. Readers also are shown the absolute beauty in loving the small things, in embracing the entirety of life. More than story of grief though, this is a story of fierce—even staggering—unconditional love.

    Which beautiful, sad, books do you want to see in theaters?

     
  • Lindsey Lewis Smithson 3:00 pm on 2016/05/12 Permalink
    Tags: american crime story, ,   

    5 Astonishing Reads for American Crime Story Fans 

    The thrill of celebrity, the intrigue of an unsolved crime, the search for closure and justice; American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson brought it all to TV and then some. While few things have the pop culture impact of that infamous glove, there are plenty of gripping crimes that are worthy of our attention. From stories as well known as Waco and Tupac to twisted tales of murder in the desert, international espionage, and cannibals, these five books all make worthy reads for American Crime Story fans, and fans of its inspiration, The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson.

    Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines and the Mojave, by Deanne Stillman
    In 1991 two girls were murdered outside Twentynine Palms Marine Corp Base. The Marine in question had recently returned from the Gulf War and found himself readjusting to life in another desert setting. But how did they all find themselves in the same apartment in the middle of the night in Twentynine Palms? Was there something in their pasts, their families, maybe even their cultures that brought this unlikely set together. And what ultimately sealed their fate? What is life really like for those who live outside military bases? What does this rootless culture do to towns, neighbors, even individual families? With so many questions, an amazingly vivid setting, and bigger—even national—implications, Stillman’s exploration is a must read.

    The Waco Siege: The History of the Federal Government’s Standoff with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, by Charles River Editors
    People may mention the Waco massacre in passing, thinking they know the details, but this story is one that has changed law enforcement in immeasurable ways. With a paper trail running all the way from local law enforcement to then President Bill Clinton, there is much more to this 50 day standoff than meets the eye. With a mix of high profile government involvement, extreme beliefs, and terrifying violence, the Waco Siege is a gripping story of unanswered questions and the cult of personality. In the aftermath of David Koresh’s standoff with authorities, local and national law enforcement agencies have reworked how they respond to large scale situations and domestic terror attacks. This case shaped America, and it is fascinating.

    Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest, by Carl Hoffman
    Travel back in time to the 1960s and the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller, the son of New York Governor, and later Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller (and yes, a member of that famous family). The who’s who connections of the Rockefeller family, the remote terrain, and the still-unanswered questions about Michael Rockefeller’s death make this a most fascinating read. In the same way that most questions will never be resolved in the OJ Simpson trial, we may never know if Rockefeller drowned or was taken—and eaten—by local cannibals in New Guinea. The art that Rockefeller collected and can be found in some of the world’s most famous museums, such as the MET in New York, but this mystery may be his biggest legacy.

    LAbyrinth: A Detective Investigates the Murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., the Implications of Death Row Records’ Suge Knight, and the Origins of the Los Angeles Police Scandal, by Randall Sullivan
    Tupac and Biggie, two of the biggest names in the early LA rap scene, are also at the center of some of the most wide-spanning conspiracy theories and fan fantasies. Is Tupac living peacefully on an island somewhere? Were the two killed by rival gangs? The police? Their own label—or maybe a competitor? Russell Poole, a highly decorated LAPD detective, was called on in 1997 to investigate a controversial cop-on-cop shooting that turned into more than he could imagine. Eventually Poole came to discover that the officer killed was tied to Marion “Suge” Knight’s notorious gangsta rap label, and the Bloods street gang. The shocking crossovers between the police, gangs, and the rap industry are as as riveting as they are controversial.

    Hard Drive: A Family’s Fight Against Three Countries, by Mary Todd and Christina Villegas
    This more recent story is still playing out in three countries, yet no one seems to have the answers. Or do they? What appeared at first to be a standard tech industry job for Dr. Shane Todd turned into an international intelligence nightmare that caught the Chinese government, Singapore police, and one American family in the same net. Dr. Todd was found dead by apparent suicide in his apartment, but among his personal belongings his family discovered an external hard drive with thousands of files that called everything they were told by police into question. The information in those files transformed this story from a tragic suicide to an international saga of mystery, deceit, and coverup. What do you do when all of your attempts to get the truth are thwarted by every level of international government and no one wants to help?

    What crime story do you think needs the American Crime Story treatment?

     
  • Lindsey Lewis Smithson 6:15 pm on 2016/04/25 Permalink
    Tags: , , , ,   

    The Best Honeymoon Destinations for Book Nerd Newlyweds 

    Wedding season is on the horizon, and with it comes some amazing honeymoon travel opportunities. In the quest to find the perfect spot to relax after the months of planning, family time, and the ceremony itself, consider hitting the country that best suits your literary tastes. Both coasts of the U.S. boast their own wonderful literary histories, or well read and adventurous couples can branch out into more far reaching countries, like Japan or Cuba, to find their literary loves. Of course, there are certain distant havens for the written word, like London and Paris, that should not be overlooked. Wherever you and your beloved decide to go, be sure to bring plenty of books for your downtime.

    Washington, D.C.
    Washington D.C. is a gorgeous city with amazing literary offerings. The Library of Congress can be an almost full day adventure for any book lover, with exhibits that highlight everything from historical maps to the origins of jazz. True must-sees include the Thomas Jefferson Collection, holding many of the actual books read by the third President. And along the National Mall is the Folger Shakespeare Library, home to one of the few copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio. The Library regularly hosts productions of Shakespeare’s plays, poetry readings, and exhibits relevant to Shakespeare’s world. Visit the city in spring for the beauty and romance of the cherry blossoms, and stay for the fantastic history and literary sights.

    England
    England’s literary bona fides are unending and make it a dream honeymoon destination. Take in one of Shakespeare’s romances at The Globe Theater, walk the moors so loved by the Brontë sisters, sit in the village of Haworth at dusk for an otherworldly view of nature. Take an afternoon turn in the gardens of Jane Austen’s house in Hampshire while chatting about the love affair between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Maybe you want to check out a tour of the Harry Potter sets; they were good enough for the royals to visit. England is an amazing country, full of more literary sites and romantic day trips than could ever be listed in one place.

    Northern California
    Stay at the Hotel Boheme, visit Chinatown and the Chinese Historical Society to relive the worlds of Amy Tan’s novels, and spend a day at The Beat Museum to immerse yourself in the writing of the Beat Generation. Travel farther down the coast that inspired so many writers and photographers, and take in the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean before a stop in Salinas and the National Steinbeck Center. The dramatic contrast of the ocean and the redwood forest, the fertile valleys and the busy cities, are as interesting as any other characters in East of Eden, and time spent here won’t soon be forgotten. Whether you find the beaches or the forests, the cities or the open roads, California has a stop—and an author—for every taste.

    Paris
    Even without its astounding literary connections, the City of Lights can be the honeymoon of a lifetime. Make a reservation at Le Procope to eat like Victor Hugo, or drink 40 cups of coffee like Voltaire at cafés around town. A cemetery might not seem like a romantic stop, but Père Lachaise is the most visited cemetery in the world, with residents including Oscar Wilde, Honoré de Balzac, Colette, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, and Richard Wright, where a true book-loving couple will be glad to pay their respects. Or, if graveyards aren’t your thing, step into the 1920s and get a drink in the same speakeasy where Hemingway met F. Scott Fitzgerald in April 1925; Le Rosebud is literary destination like no other. From your perch atop the Eiffel Tower or at a sidewalk café table, drink in the city that was home and muse to centuries of revolutionary writers.

    Cuba
    Now that Americans can travel to Cuba to sightsee, the Hemingway House in San Francisco de Paula should be at the top of book lovers’ travel lists. Just outside of Havana you’ll find Finca Vigía, where Hemingway wrote his classics For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea, and began A Moveable FeastThe house is on both the World Monuments Fund’s list of 100 Most Endangered sites and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Places, so it is very much worth the visit. Nearby, visitors can see the National Museum of Fine Arts, the mosaic art at Fusterlandia, and grab something to eat in Old Havana. For a unique adventure in a country few have vacationed to, book nerds can immerse themselves in a culture we’ve only read about in books like Dreaming in Cuban.

    Japan
    A step outside of Western culture may bring book nerd lovers to Japan. The country is currently home to Kenzaburo OeHaruki Murakami, and Natsuo Kirino, among others, but these literary heavy hitters are just part of a long literary tradition. Plan your trip using this list of cities where famous Japanese stories take place, find a Tokyo jazz bar where you can whip out your favorite Murakami novel, and carry a tour books like Lonely Planet Japan to ensure you hit all the major points of interest. To see Western lit through an Eastern lens, check out a themed night at a restaurant, where they often take on classics like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

     
  • Lindsey Lewis Smithson 5:00 pm on 2016/03/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , parenting tips,   

    Let the Wild Rumpus Start! And Other Parenting Tips From Kids’ Books 

    “The days are long, but the years are short” is possibly the most honest phrase ever said about parenting. Becoming a parent is one of the best, hardest, most wonderful, and most trying jobs there is. To help get through the long days, the short years, and the temper tantrums in between, during your next story time, take a look at the messages behind your picture books; you might be surprised at just how helpful (and prescient) they are.

    “’And now,’ cried Max, ‘let the wild rumpus start!’” (Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak)
    This could be said about every single day of parenting, from those first kicks to the bladder during pregnancy, to the crayon on the walls of toddlerhood, to the tearful high school graduation. Every day is crazier than you’d planned, more fun, and more frustrating, all at the same time. Parenting is indeed a wild rumpus—and if we take it as such, then at least we’ll be more prepared for the absurdity.

    “It has been a TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY. My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia.” (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz)
    There will be days when no one makes it out of their pajamas, the dog spills your last precious cup of coffee, and your toddler takes magic markers to the TV screen. It happens, despite our best efforts and our most carefully laid plans. No matter how the day unfolds, it’s comforting to know that it’s normal, and everyone has been there. File it away, have a glass of wine or a cookie, and remember it’ll be okay tomorrow.

    “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh, by A.A. Milne and Ernest H. Shepard)
    When you get down to it, we’re responsible for teaching our children how to be good, kind, responsible human beings; that is a powerful mission, and we should take the time to recognize that, and to acknowledge and appreciate our own efforts, even though we often feel like we aren’t doing enough. Maybe your kids haven’t mastered shoelaces yet, but however far along you are in this endeavor, you are a superhero.

    “I should count backwards from 5 to calm down.” (The Pizza Problem, by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson)
    When things do get too crazy, take some advice from Peg and count backward, slowly. A lot can be gained from not immediately reacting to a situation, instead stepping away and taking a breather. When you jump back in, you may be surprised at how much your perspective has changed. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint, so sometimes you need to catch your breath before pushing on.

    “The truth is grown-ups often need some extra help. Baffled and befuddled, mindless and muddled, they sometimes forget what they know.” (Julia, Child, by Kyo Maclearand Julie Morstad)
    With a focus on staying young, enjoying some freedom, and being yourself, this whole book is a gorgeous reminder to live in the moment. And, as a bonus, there are also fabulous pictures of food throughout. If we stand back and watch, we can learn a lot about how to live our best lives from our children. Also, it’s really about time the iconic Julia Child got a picture book of this quality. After all, what’s happier and more heartening to families than food?

    “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” (The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien)
    Speaking of food and happiness, take a page from The Hobbit. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of getting by we can forget to enjoy what we have. Instead of taking every overtime shift and letting that vacation time expire, take a day or two off to enjoy your kids, your home, and your surroundings. There’s more wealth in family and friends than we sometimes realize. Your sanity, and your children, will thank you for listening to Tolkien on this one.

    “When they’ve finished reading, Olivia’s mother gives her a kiss and says, ‘You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.’” (Olivia, by Ian Falconer)
    No matter how tired, filthy, or frustrated parenting can make you feel, try to remember just how much you do love that little person. Everything may feel like chaos, and your house may actually look like the definition of chaos, but if your family is more or less happy, healthy, and safe, pat yourself on the back and move on to tomorrow.

    “Go the f**k to sleep.” (Go the F**k to Sleep, by Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes)
    Sometimes the best lesson is the briefest. Everyone, get some sleep when you can. It can make all the difference.

     
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