"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Audiobook review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Barnhill

1. In Which Anne Attempts to Summarize the Book
     Once a year the people of the Protectorate are forced to sacrifice the youngest baby born in the year to the evil witch so that she won't destroy them. Everyone is extremely sad about this forced sacrifice but they worry about the consequences if they don't comply. Instead of killing the babies, a kindly witch, Xan, actually rescues them, feeds them with starlight, and delivers them to kindly families who raise them with love. Once Xan accidentally feeds the rescued baby moonlight instead of starlight, which is full of magic so she decides to raise the child herself. This child is a delightful yet a wild child who needs a firm hand to train her up to use her magical skills properly. If Xan isn't an evil witch does one actually exist? Are the people of the Protectorate victims in more ways than one? There are lots of plot twists and plenty of unique characters to help the reader find out the truth.

2. In Which the Main Characters Are Named
     Xan, a kindly witch who has lived for over 500 years and has forgotten many things which might be important now yet she always tries to do a good job.
     Glerk, a swamp monster who lives in the bog. He is older than magic.
     Fyrian, a tiny dragon who was raised by Xan and loved by Glerk. He has always believed he was a simply enormous dragon.
     Luna, the baby rescued from the sacrifice who was given moonlight to drink, which is powerfully magical.
     Sister Ignatia, the leader of the Sister of the Stars, advisor to the leaders of the Protectorate
     Antain, a carpenter, nephew of the Grand Elder of the Protectorate, he is a loving, kind person.
     The madwoman, is locked in the tower after she went mad with grief after she was forced to sacrifice her daughter.

3. In Which the Newbery Medal Award Committee is Quoted
“Moonlight is magic. Ask anyone you like.” Barnhill’s story is also pure magic, distinguished by careful development of a complex plot and indelible evocation of unique characters. Love, heartbreak, hope, sorrow, and wonder all shine in exquisite, lyrical prose.
 “This compassionate, hopeful novel invites children everywhere to harness their power, and ask important questions about what keeps us apart and what brings us together” said Newbery Medal Committee Chair Thom Barthelmess.
4. In Which Anne Tries to Convey How Much She Loves the Book
     Moonlight may be magical and so is this book. From the very first page I was completely sucked in to this magical story and its cast of unique characters. I did feel the power that hope has over despair, how love can concur sorrow and selfishness, as I listened to this audiobook. I was swept up in the story and charmed by the writing. I don't often read books targeted at middle grade children, but I am SO glad that I did read this one. In fact, it is sort of a relief to read a story where I never had to cringe at foul language or worry about gratuitous violence or inappropriate situations.

5. In Which Praises for the Author, Kelly Barnhill, and the Narrator of the Audiobook, Christina Moore, are Given.
     Part of the magic of any good book is the writing. Kelly Barnhill's previous works had received some critical acclaim. I'd even heard of The Witches Boy and I rarely pay attention to middle grade books. But her work in The Girl Who Drank the Moon was so deft. I kept marveling at how she made the book "not too" anything---not too scary; not too sad; not too mushy; not too complicated. I kept wondering how Barnhill would handle this situation or that without overwhelming her reading audience, but the story-line was handled just right.
     Christina Moore was perfect as the narrator of the audiobook. I especially liked her voice for Fyrian, the miniature dragon. She made him sound so friendly and sweet and small, even when he got huge. Reading for a fantasy novel must be no easy task with the variety of voices and creatures but Moore did a remarkable job. In fact, I would recommend this medium for your reading/listening enjoyment.

6. In Which Anne Encourages You to Read and/or Listen to the Book, too!
     I guess this heading is really unnecessary since it must be obvious that I think very highly of this book. I especially want to encourage parents of elementary children to consider this book for a family read-aloud selection. My guess is that children as young as six or seven and as old as twelve or thirteen would really enjoy the community spirit of this book read together. Heck, borrow the audiobook from your library, download it onto your phone or device, and listen to it as a family as you take your family vacation this year. That way even your high school kids will enjoy the book with the family!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Next week's book club selection is LESS by Andrew Sean Greer. The club, which is made up of teachers and retired teachers, is getting a reputation for selecting pretty serious books. Books which deal with important topics like immigration and abandonment (The Leavers), family communication and cultural issues (Pachinko), slavery and death (Lincoln in the Bardo), and issues related to motherhood and the meaning of family love (Little Fires Everywhere.) Though all these books have been excellent and the topics generated great discussions, we craved a laugh or at least a more lighthearted selection.  LESS came to our attention when it won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Literature. It sounded like a perfect selection for a club in need of a bit of fun.

Things aren't going well for Arthur Less. He is turning 50 and feels like he is the only homosexual who has ever gotten old.  His writing career, which was never the most illustrious thing, has gone down hill so that now if he sits next to someone on a plane, they won't know of him or his books. A friend once told him that all he did was write the gay Ulysses story. In addition his x-boyfriend is getting married and has invited him to the wedding. He doesn't want to go but has to figure out a solid reason to not attend the ceremony.

Arthur feels alone and depressed. In a moment of almost sheer madness, he accepts invitations for a series of literary events, award ceremonies, and teaching positions which will take him around the world---to Italy, Germany, France, Tunisia, India, and finally Japan. He most certainly will be forgiven for missing the wedding if he is out of the country when it takes place. So off Less goes on a Ulysses-type journey of his own but as he moves from one location to another he is met with disaster after disaster. To the reader (me) everything seemed hilarious and brilliant at the same time.

In a literary festival in Italy, Less finds himself in the running for a literary award he has never heard of before. He thinks, How has it come to this? What god has enough free time to arrange this very special humiliation, to fly a minor novelist across the world so that he can feel, in some seventh sense, the minusculitude of his own worth? Decided by high school students, in fact.” But out of this disaster emerges a kind of humanity. As it turns out the teenagers like Arthur and he likes them.

Less is always putting himself down, or dare I say, he is always trying to diminish or make less of himself. Yet circumstances lead the reader to the opposite conclusion. Everywhere Less goes people like him and he does great at teaching, or making friends, and he even finally decides that a rewrite of his latest novel is in order, this time with a humorous slant. By the time that Less wanders home to San Francisco, the reader is definitely cheering for him and for his future.

As I was preparing for this review, I stumbled upon the review in the New York Times by Christopher Buckley. Even though people were sleeping in the room I was in as I read it, I couldn't stop myself from laughing out loud. The book is funny and so is this review. Read both!

6/27/18 P.S. I just got back from book club and was shocked that I was the only person in the group that enjoyed this book. As we diagnosed the reasons, the topic of audiobooks came up. I was the only one who listened to the book. Perhaps the book is funnier and more poignant in that medium. At any rate I stuck to my guns and remained resolute in my opinion of LESS. I loved it.

Monday, June 18, 2018

TTT: Summer Reading list

Top Ten Tuesday: What books do I hope to read this summer?

Upcoming book club selections:
  • Educated: a Memoir by Tara Westover
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (a re-read)
  • Under the Wide, Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
YA books that are potential award winners (with lots of starred reviews)
  • Boots on the Ground by Elizabeth Partridge...nonfiction about the soldiers in Vietnam War. (5)
  • The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (5)...everyone seems to be talking about this one.
  • Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman...I want to finish it. I had to return it to the library unfinished. (5)
  • Picture Us In the Light by Kelley Loy Gilbert (5)...I just got a notice from the library that it is ready for pickup.
  • Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi...a timely memoir about immigration issues. (4)
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker by Wang...a graphic novel that defies categories we place on people. (4)
  • My Plain Jane by Hand/Ashton/Meadows...should be very fun and funny. (3)
Audiobooks (already cued, ready for listening)
  • When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon...I've already completed 1/2 of this audiobook. It will be the first book I finish on this list.
  • Educated: a memoir (see above)
  • Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood...a retelling of The Tempest by Shakespeare.
  • My Plain Jane by Hand/Ashton/Meadows (see above)
Just because...
  • She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) by Ann Hood...because, um, I love the Beatles.

Going Bovine...a wonderful and emotional re-reading experience

Last week during our cross-country road trip, my daughter and I listened to a favorite YA audiobook, Going Bovine by Libba Bray. We had both listened to it back in 2009 and had positive memories of the book and the listening experience. So we added it to our road trip playlist and I am so glad we did.

In my original review, written in January 2010, I said,
Going Bovine by Libba Bray- Cameron Smith is a nobody high-schooler with a dysfunctional family until his diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jacob, "mad cow" disease changes everything. When his hallucinations begin they seem to be related to his disease, or are they? So begins the journey, or is it an hallucination (?), to find the elusive Doctor X who will not only cure Cameron of his disease but will also save the world from the negative effects of dark matter. Along the way Cameron is helped by a dwarf side-kick named Gonzo, a punk-rock angel named Dulcie, and a Norse God stuck in the body of yard gnome. The quest has many parallels to the hopeless but inspirational efforts of Don Quixote, the book Cameron had been reading before his illness. The story is tragic, inspirational, funny and sad. I laughed and cried. The ending wasn't what I wanted but it was very satisfying.
Soon after writing the review, Going Bovine won the coveted 2010 Printz Award. A student who was reading as a Mock Printz participant that year, told me the book would win and she was right! In fact, a few months later that same girl told me that she was rereading the book for the third time because she loved it so much and felt that it was so deep that reading it once wasn't enough to catch all the hidden gems within.

Over the years I have frequently mentioned Going Bovine in my blog. I, too, came to realize what a special book it was. In 2009 I selected Going Bovine as one of my favorite reads of the year. In 2011, I mentioned Going Bovine on a Top Ten Tuesday post for Thanksgiving, calling it a "YA book that is a cut above the rest." On another TTT post in 2016, the task was to pair contemporary novels with classics. Of course I paired Going Bovine with Don Quixote, even though I haven't read the latter. In 2013 the TTT topic was to identify books with great endings. Here is what I said about Going Bovine when I added it to the list, "... the story is either a madcap road trip novel or a tragic disease tale.  Either way, the ending brings all the parts together and the reader is left with both a question mark and a smile." 

I have listed Going Bovine at least fifteen times during Top Ten Tuesday posts. In 2012 I listed books which I often recommend that others read. Of course I listed this book, but here is the comment I made: ".I actually haven't recommended this book to many adults but I think that English teachers should read it since it is so many literary allusions in it and it crammed full of symbolism.  If I was a College professor, I'd make my students read it just so that I could talk about it over and over again.  Besides the fact, the book is flat out genius." Ha-ha. Isn't that great?  "If I were a college professor..."

Well, it is obvious that I like this book. But how was the re-read? Here is what I said right after we got home from the trip, " If it is possible I liked this book better the second time around. Narrator Erik Davies was spot on. Can I give it 6 out of 5 stars?"

Carly and I were both in tears as the audiobook wrapped up. In fact, we were both so moved, we didn't talk about the book for one full day after completing it. When we finally did talk about it, we both ended up in tears again. Cameron, the hero of the story, confronts his own death, yet along the way he learns so much and lives so fully. If only we all had a chance to embrace life so fully and meet our challenges head-on.

Going Bovine has to be the quintessential tragic-comedy. If you missed it in 2009, it is not too late to read it in 2018. I promise you that you will laugh and cry, you will groan and cheer, you will have strong feelings. One of those feeling will be satisfaction that you have finally read this marvelous book. What are you waiting for?

Bray, Libba. Going Bovine. Delacorte Books for Young People. 2009. 480 pages.

Monday, June 11, 2018

TTT: Books that have awakened the travel bug in me

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that have encouraged the travel bug in me.

I just got back from a road trip this past Friday. This meme is perfectly timed.
1. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Amy and Roger don't know each other. They have just partnered to drive a car from California to Connecticut. But one can't spend hours alone with another person without getting to know them a bit. That is when Amy and Roger decide to take a few side trips. The book makes me want to jump back in my car and take few detours myself.
2. Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith
Matt and Karen visit all 58 National Parks and write emails back to their friends, Bob and Sue. I love visiting National Parks because of their pristine beauty and the interesting visitor centers. I just visited the Badlands National Park in South Dakota a few days ago, as a matter of fact. I want to see more. 
3. Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Arthur less just wants to escape the country so he won't have to attend his x-boyfriend's wedding. So he plans a round the world trip which will keep him busy and far away. Though not a travel book, per se, it certainly made me want to go to Italy, Germany, Tunisia, India, and Japan.
4. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Every time Bill Bryson walks out his door, another travel bug is ignited within me. This book is all about Australia. He covers the whole country and discovers some really fun and funky things on his journeys Down Under. I am currently saving my pennies for an Australian trip.
5. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl was completely ill-equipped to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the California/Mexican border to the Oregon/Washington border, but she did it anyway and then wrote about it. I am not sure if I want to do the whole thing, but I would like to hike part of the trail.
6. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Though not a favorite book, in fact I didn't even finish it, I did enjoy the bits related to her travels to Italy, India, and Indonesia. After reading this book I was determined to travel differently...to get to know countries more deeply by investing myself in the culture and the language, the food and the people.
7. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
Truth is often stranger than fiction as is the case with this murder mystery set in Savannah, Georgia. The city is full of such quirky characters and describes such exotic locations, I really want to go visit Savannah for myself.
8. The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper
I used to live in Liberia, West Africa, when I was a kid. This book is set in Liberia right before and during the early stages of Liberia's revolution. I wanted to go back and see the country with adult eyes after reading this book.
9. The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein
Set in Scotland, this novel describes the beautiful setting and the unique history of this part of UK. 
10. The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
Venice as it is today and how it was in yesteryear. This book made me anxious to visit the city before it completely sinks into the ocean.
11. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway and The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
The Moveable Feast is a book of essays written by Hemingway while he lived in Paris in the 1920s. The Paris Wife is a fictional account of the same time period but with the focus on his first wife, Hadley Richardson, and her impressions of Paris and life with Hemingway. Both books made me want to visit the city of lights.
12. Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
Set in Japan this beautiful novel is full of Japanese pop culture and folk mythology. I felt like I was really there and now want to travel to Japan for real.
13. The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
This is a beautifully written book about memories. The main character, now near the end of her life, recalls what it was like to live in Leningrad and work at the Hermitage Museum before and during WWII. The descriptions of the art and the museum made me want to visit the city and more specifically the museum.
14. Washington Curiosities by Harriet Baskas
One Spring Break I decided to investigate weird places and oddities right near where I live. My husband and I embarked on a Weird Washington tour and discovered a troll living under a bridge; a statue of Lenin in Seattle; a ghost town; mima mounds; a document museum which was practically right under our noses but we didn't know existed; a bunch of houses painted completely black in Olympia; an old gas station built into the shape of a cowboy hat and boots; and a dive bar built into the shape of a coffee pot. I got all the ideas to do this from the book Washington Curiosities. I bet your state has some similar book. I highly recommend taking a road trip to do the wackiest things your state has to offer.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Salon...'Home Again, Finnegan'

Mt. Rushmore at night

Weather: Rain and hail.

'Home Again, Finnegan': Carly and I arrived home after our cross country trip from New York to our home in Washington State. We piled all her earthly goods into and onto her Subaru Outback and headed out last Sunday for a coast to coast trip. It took us five solid days of driving and one day of sight-seeing with a bit of driving to make the 2800+mile trip.

Weird things we noticed during our trip:

  • Pennsylvania must not want to spend any money on dead deer pick-up and disposal because we saw at least 32 dead deer alongside the road in that state. Ugh.
  • Though there are no physical barriers between states, we could usually tell when we crossed borders because of the condition of the roads. Sorry Wisconsin, you lose. You have the worst roads of all the states we drove through.
  • South Dakota and Montana are missing out on an opportunity to harness the wind.  The grasses were certainly blowing as we drove through your states but we didn't see any windmills like we saw in Minnesota and in Eastern Washington.
  • States that charge road tolls offer really great service areas with gas, toilets, food all in one. States that don't, it is up to the driver to find the services and it may require three separate stops.
  • Most states just repair their roads but some states, like South Dakota just destroy the old road and start over on the same bed. Impressive.
  • Weirdest sign at a rest stop (in South Dakota): "BEWARE OF POISONOUS SNAKES".
  • Weirdest place, which ended up being super cool: The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. They decorate the outside with murals created by corn in a variety of colors. The murals are changed every year using a sort paint by corn system. Carly and I were pretty impressed.
Touristy things we did:
  • Ate lunch in Pokagon State Park, Indiana. When I typed it into my phone, spell check corrected it automatically to Pokemon. We wished we had more time to explore this lovely site.
  • The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. (See note above.) In addition to the corn murals, we wandered around and learned about the artists who create the blue prints for the murals. We were especially impressed by the permanent display of Oscar Howe, a Native American artist who designed the murals for the Corn Palace for many years.
    Mural on the Corn Palace. Last year's theme was Weather of South Dakota.
  • Badlands National Park, South Dakota. An amazing portion of the landscape with so many rock formations and outcroppings. We spent several hours driving around from location to location and a bit of time in the National Parks Service building talking to Rangers about the fossils they have found in the rocks. We saw more wildlife in South Dakota than anywhere else on our trip (if you don't count dead deer): pronghorns, prairie dogs, big-horn sheep, the occasional live deer. Thankfully no snakes.
A big-horn ewe and her lamb
  • Wall Drug. It is iconic. We had to see it for ourselves.
  • Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota. We checked into our hotel, ate fast food, and drove up the mountain to see the famous sculpture in stone of four American presidents. We arrived an hour before sundown. At nine in the evening Mt. Rushmore is lit up and the park rangers put on a program. While we waited for it, we wandered around the excellent museum on site. One would have to be a very negative person to come away from whole experience without feeling very patriotic and proud. The program, the museum, and the sculpture itself has so much to do with FREEDOM.
    State walkway with flags from all 50 states
Inadvertent tourism: A few miles out of Madison, Wisconsin the 'check engine' light came on the dashboard. We decided to not risk it so we turned around and had the car run through a diagnostic test at Autozone. The test revealed that we needed a new catalytic converter. We called around and found a business, Meinike, who could do the work for us that day. While the work on the Subaru was happening we were given a loaner car to explore the city. We decided on a movie to see first: RBG, a documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. We both thoroughly enjoyed it and learned so much. (Go see it!) For lunch we dined at a restaurant right across from the State Capitol building called The Old Fashioned. We tried a local delicacy: fried cheese curds. Yum!After we got our car back we headed for South Dakota expecting to get to our destination by midnight. We did. En route we got to witness a thunder/lightning storm across the prairie.
Fried cheese curds at The Old Fashioned in Madison, Wisconsin
Hosts: We were hosted twice during our trip. Thank you Aunt Betty and cousin Robin for rolling out the welcome mat in Wisconsin. Thank you Alec and Courtney for dinner and good conversations in Missoula, Montana. We loved meeting your boys! Good luck on the remodel.

Audiobooks: We listened to 5 1/3 books. For a complete list and short preview of each please click this hyperlink: Audiobooks on Road Trip.

Worst traffic of the whole trip: was near our own home on Highways 18 and 167. We made it home about an hour later than we anticipated because of the end-of-the-trip traffic snarl. 

Yesterday: Don and I babysat our grandson while Rita and Carly joined a RHS alumni choir to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of their high school. I wanted to attend the program but fell asleep and missed it.

Just Home and Love! the words are small
Four little letters unto each;
And yet you will not find in all
The wide and gracious range of speech
Two more so tenderly complete:
When angels talk in Heaven above,
I'm sure they have no words more sweet
Than Home and Love.
                     -Excerpt "Home and Love" by Robert William Service

Road Trip...the audiobook and e-book version

Yesterday my daughter and I concluded our cross country road trip: New York to Washington State. According to Google maps the trip was 2,875 miles and could be driven in 43 hours. Of course, our trip had side trips and wasn't accomplished in a nonstop fashion. Our trip took six days of pretty intense driving and we got home yesterday around 7 pm.

While on the road we listened to audiobooks. In the evenings and on the plane ride to New York, I read e-books. Here is our road trip in books:

Seattle to New York (flight)
  • The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin (e-book)--- I put in a request for this book after the famous fantasy writer died earlier this year. Everyone else must have done the same thing so I had to wait a long time to get the book. When it arrived, my husband was pigging the Kindle every evening working on another book so I didn't get a chance to finish it before the due date. I placed another hold on it and this time was able to finish it on my trans-continental trip to join my daughter.  The book is amazing. It was LeGuin's first young adult novel and she wanted to explore the nature of man, how he has to war with himself over uses of power, forming and keeping friends, and accepting self. It is a tremendous book. Published in 1968 it is the first book in a multi-book series.
Every evening
  • Truth Like the Sun by Jim Lynch (e-book)--- Truth Like the Sun is a novel about the 1962 Seattle World's Fair told from two time perspectives, 1962 and 2001. I should want to eat this book up being from the Seattle area and having enjoyed other books by this local author, but I am having a hard time gaining any traction on it at all. Why? I suspect the reason is multifaceted. First, I attempted to read it each night after a long day of driving when I was tired and my eyes were already fatigued. Secondly, the story is told in a very hands-off third person perspective, creating a sense of distance from the characters. But since this is a book club selection for an upcoming meeting I will finish it. Progress: 27%. 
First leg of the trip: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio

  • A Force of Nature by Jane Harper (audiobook)--- Aaron Falk is investigating a company for possible money laundering when his inside connection, Alice, suddenly goes missing while participating in a company outdoor adventure. When her four hiking companions all tell a different story about her disappearance, Aaron is concerned that her cooperation with him has led to her demise. Set in Australia, this mystery had us guessing to the end. The narrator was Australian which made the book more authentic but did cause us a few problems with comprehension. 3/5 stars. 

Second leg of the trip: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin

  • Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer (audiobook)--- Greg Mortenson became famous after he published his book Three Cups of Tea about building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This book, by a well-known author, debunks quite a bit of his story and proves that Greg has not been honest in his stories and his business dealings. Krakauer is a first rate author and works hard to get the details right. Parts of this book did not lend themselves to the audio format, like when the long list of persons included in the story was read out. 4/5 stars.

Third Leg of the trip: Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota

  • Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (audiobook)--- Set in Philadelphia during the beginning days of our nation, Anderson novelizes a true situation--- a yellow fever outbreak that killed nearly 3000 souls. This is a YA book and though the details were interesting, the YA features like the little romance, and the childish past-times made this book drag a bit in the audio format. Long before the story was finished, we were ready for it to end. Several years ago I read a nonfiction book about this epidemic, An American Plague by Jim Murphy and was much more satisfied by it. Often and oddly, listening to audiobooks of YA literature isn't as satisfying as just reading the print version. I think this book would be better in the print format. 3/5 stars.

Fourth Leg: South Dakota--- Corn Palace, Wall Drug, Badlands National Park,  Mt. Rushmore

  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (audiobook)--- this is the only Christie book which was included in the 1001 books everyone-must-read-before-they-die list. Classic Christie with Inspector Poirot conducting the investigation. Both of us decided that we could have listened to Agatha Christie the whole trip. We were shocked by revelation of whodunit. The narrator, Hugh Fraser, kept us engaged. 5/5 stars.
Fifth and sixth leg of the trip: South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington

  • Going Bovine by Libba Bray (audiobook)--- this was a re-listen for both of us. Going Bovine was the Printz Award winner in 2010 and has been one of my favorite YA books of all time. It is hilariously funny and zany, while being extremely sad and poignant at the same time. Cameron is diagnosed with Mad Cow Disease, which has no cure. Instead of spending his final days dying in a hospital he decides he must find the illusive Dr. X and save the world. He embarks on a heroes jouney with two companions: a dwarf named Gonzo, and a yard-gnome named Balder. If it is possible I liked this book better the second time around. Narrator Erik Davies was spot on. Can I give it 6 out of 5 stars? This was the longest book we listened to on the trip. We were half way through Washington the second day of listening before the ending.

  • When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (audiobook)--- Dimple is on her way to Stanford in the Fall. Before then she really wants to attend a 6-week programming workshop in San Fran. She is ready to get away from her mother who does understand her at all and just wants Dimple to meet a nice Indian boy and get married. Rishi, also from an Indian family, wants to honor his parents and agrees to cooperate with the scheme to find a suitable wife. This YA novel is charming. 1/3rd complete.
We each had several other books on our devices which we didn't get to, or decided we didn't want to listen to. One book club selection, The Leavers, is 15 hours of listening time and we decided that we didn't want to get stuck in a super long story. Two others, The Hag-Seed and Euphoria, didn't strike our fancy after brief previews. While two others, The Nightingale and Goldfinch, Carly wanted to listen to but since I had previously listened to them, we decided against them.

That's all.