Today is the first day of my vacation where I actually had nothing to do. NOTHING. So I actually did nothing. I didn’t even go to the gym. This is the first time I haven’t left my house in…I don’t even know when. So that was exciting.
Last week was busy because we celebrated my daughter’s high school graduation on Thursday. Her father and paternal grandparents came into town. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re her), the graduation was ticketed and at night, which meant the celebration was very small. I would have preferred a huge party with everyone we know in the whole wide world. She was happy to have it be just family. And that’s all that matters. I guess.
This was a good weekend. I went to a wedding, which…I love weddings. I don’t ever want to have a wedding (at least not in the traditional sense), but they are a delight. Anyway, the couple was super cute and happy even if there was a slight rain delay. (It’s been bone dry for weeks so of course it finally rains on the day of their wedding. Of course.)
Anyway, some slight changes had to be made to accommodate the weather, but everything after that was two thumbs up, fine holiday fun.
Then, on Sunday, my daughter and I went to my parents’ to spend Mother’s Day with my mom, and we taught my daughter how to play Spades. She’s almost ready for college for real now.
We also watched Miss India America, which is really cute and fun and a great example of a compelling, though mostly unlikable protagonist. It’s also streaming on Netflix. Ahem.
Vacation, vacation, vacation, vacation! Also: vacation.
I am not at Jay Pritchett levels of luxury or anything, but I did wind up taking super long naps every day since Wednesday. You know, not to brag or anything.
(Okay, okay. A little bragging.)
Anyway, this week, I have some appointments so it may be a while before I can get to that nap level again. Oh well.
I may post about being on vacation every week, just so you’re all forewarned. Did you know school doesn’t start until August? Oh, this is just delightful.
So, yes, I went on my church retreat and it was quite relaxing and delightful. I took several naps and even got to play Catan, which I now want to play again. Don’t worry. I have pretty much already set up a game night to make that happen.
Ah, the beauty of retreat.
Speaking of the beauty of retreat, here is a picture of my view from the dock on Saturday morning.
Me, saying goodbye to my daily post-lunch nap:
Goodbye, old friend. I’ll see you during summer vacation.
So, the greatest act of self-care I have indulged in since this year started is listening to Thug Notes: A Street-Smart Guide to Classic Literature by Sparky Sweets, Ph.D.
In case you’re not familiar with the greatness that is Thug Notes, here is a brief intro, using a story we’re all familiar with:
Traveling to the march this past weekend put me behind on everything. Sigh.
First things first, though: I didn’t make it to the actual march because on the way there, about two hours outside of DC, I got sick and knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the walking or the crowds.
However, I still had a positive experience because of all the awesome women in my life, most notably my friend Monique who was willing to brave traffic, etc. to pick me up from RFK at 7:30 a.m. when I told her what was going on and also a woman named Crystal on our bus who supplied me with Dramamine and anti-nausea meds when I got motion sickness on the bus ride home (before I knew her name, even!).
And, yes, that means I got sick on the way there AND the way back.
Anyway, the best sign I saw this weekend was black text on a white background that said, “NOPE.”
Then, of course, there were the books.
The topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about audio and rather than list my favorite narrators or audiobooks, I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about a different kind of reading/audiobook experience I had this summer.
This summer, I actually spent quite a bit of time listening to plays, which if you have never done that, I highly recommend it. The plays I listened to are all full-cast productions so all of the characters are played by different actors. If you’re wary of audiobooks or not sure if they’re for you, I think full-cast productions are the perfect entrée into the format.
When we watch plays (or TV/movies for that matter), I think we take for granted how much work the dialogue has to do. So I really appreciate listening to plays because they give me an even greater sense of how much work the dialogue does in terms of setting the scene, establishing character/character relationships, and advancing the plot–all without huge dumps of exposition (if it’s done well, of course).
I listened to 3 1/2 full-cast plays this summer. Here are the three I actually reviewed over on Goodreads:
I wanted to tell them that I’d never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz has been on my radar since it first came out–not only because it has won so many awards and is lauded by many, but also because my summer book club picked it a few years ago. I didn’t read it then because I had required reading fatigue (it’s a thing I tend to get every summer), but I knew I would get back to it eventually. Well, eventually came this year once I found out Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame) did the narration for the audiobook.
The plot of the book is pretty straight-forward: Aristotle (who goes by Ari) is a lonely 15-year-old who befriends Dante one day at the swimming pool. Then, you know, life and stuff happens. Big life and big stuff. I am avoiding spoilers here, obviously.
What I Liked
– First and foremost, this is a friendship novel. I LOVE FRIENDSHIP STORIES. They make me happy. Friendships can be easy and challenging and hard and beautiful, and that’s exactly what happens here.
– Dante is pretty fantastic. He’s such a great character: open, honest, frustrating, angry, challenging. He’s just so earnest! Ah, it’s adorable.
– Ari is pretty great, too. He’s the narrator, so the reader is more privy to his thoughts, and he is struggling to find his place in the world. I liked that he is pretty much just doing what comes next like a checklist for life, even if he isn’t sure what he wants yet. I think that’s pretty accurate for how many teens do things.
– This is a kissing book. Lots of talk of kissing here. Lots of kissing happening, too. I approve.
– THE PARENTS. Both boys’ parents are excellent. They are supremely flawed human beings who are doing the best they can, which means they screw up sometimes but that they love their kids so, so much–and the narrative acknowledges it. Also, Dante’s father is an English professor, so that automatically raises his level of awesome for me.
– Gina Navarro and Sophie (I can’t remember her last name). These are girls Ari grew up with who drive him insane but also love him a super lot and force him to participate in life stuff. At first, I was jarred by their presence, but I really like how they challenged him and how he came to see their place in his life.
– So basically all of the characters were great is what I’m saying.
– THE ENDING. I 100% love the ending to this book, and that’s what took me from liking it to really liking it. And when I say the ending, I don’t mean the last chapter. I mean pretty much the whole last act, starting from the moment Ari’s parents sit him down for a heart-to-heart until the very, very end. It was pretty much perfection.
– The dialogue is super realistic and I loved, loved, loved any time the characters were talking to and interacting with each other. I could pretty much see every single one of those scenes playing out in front of me. They were so great.
– One of the running threads through the book is this idea of being a “real” Mexican. I loved that exploration of the boys’ identities and how the idea is tied into not only cultural expectations but also outside stereotypes. It’s really well handled and Saenz is subtle in how he completely and most emphatically states that the only thing that makes someone a real Mexican is being Mexican. Love.
– Lin-Manuel Miranda is A+ as a narrator. I would listen to another book he reads. Also, he can definitely roll his r’s. I tried over and over to say Bernardo the way he does, and it just wasn’t happening. I also don’t speak Spanish, so you know.
What I Didn’t Like
– I thought this was a summer book. It’s not. When Ari went back to school, I was so confused and a little upset. This is all about my expectations as a reader, but it is what it is.
– I am pretty sure Ari is depressed throughout most of the novel (thought it’s never explicitly stated), and that’s fine. He’s also a pretty interior character, which is also fine. However, what that meant for huge chunks of the novel is that Ari is completely in his head and most of what he thinks is expressed in negatives. There is a lot of “I don’t know why I did this” and “I don’t know why this” and “I didn’t say anything, but” or “I didn’t ask him this.” Those moments (and there are A LOT of them) made the narration and the story drag.
Also, one thing I was taught when I studied creative writing was not to describe what a character doesn’t do and so I am hyper aware of when an author does it.
Those moments may have played out better in the text than in the audio, but just imagine listening to someone tell you for five minutes straight all the things they didn’t do in a given situation. It would get real old real fast.
On the plus side, it did make the moments of dialogue and character interaction that much more enjoyable, so.
In conclusion: A really powerful look at friendship, family, and love with great characters and an excellent ending.
I should be at the gym is what I’m saying. But no. Bands of rain with squall lines are coming through. RUDE.
This past week, I read:
3.5 stars, rounding up
Great characters, EXCELLENT ending. Also, Lin-Manuel Miranda is an A+ narrator. Will review on the blog.
I. Love. Grandmère.
That is all.
I made it about 1/3 of the way through this book and just could not bring myself to pick it back up again.
I find all of the characters grossly offensive and problematic on pretty much every level. If the author was aiming for satire, she missed. By a lot.
As of today, I’m reading:
I am still making my way through my library book sale finds, so I started Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories by Norma Fox Mazer last night. It’s a definite palate cleanser after Kill the Boy Band.
I’m currently listening to some podcasts so my audiobook adventures are on hold for now. However, I’m going to have to start packing soon (as in, I should have started yesterday), so I should really get on finding my next read.
Happy reading, everyone!