Road Trip Audiobooks For Kids 8-12 and the Grownups Driving The Car

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I brought my two kids on an epic East Coast road trip last week, and as the only driver I really wouldn’t have survived if it weren’t for audiobooks. The problem with family road trips though is you have to be selective about the books you pick. Here are several that have been acceptable for all the kids ages 8-42 in my family.

Leave recommendations for our next trip in the comments section!

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Writing Prompt: Hebert Hoover and The Duke of Windsor Bromance

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In the 1950’s and 1960’s Herbert Hoover and The Duke of Windsor both lived in the Waldorf Hotel in New York City, and from what I read they were good pals. I would love to be a fly on the wall as the two disgraced leaders talked about their lives.

This is the historical fiction book I would love to read, but no one has written yet. If you write it please send me an ARC!

Background Reading:

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Show Us Your Books July

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Summer reading season is officially here! I’ve been spending many hours on the porch drinking tea and reading books (and maybe eating a burger or two.)

When I first went to tally up my books, in my mind I hadn’t read much in June. But then I looked at the numbers, and I had actually read twelve books — 6 were paper and 6 were audio.

Favorite

Save Me The Plums by Ruth Reichl — This was a glorious audiobook read by the author. I thought I was signing up for tempting descriptions of food when I bought this, but there were so many other nuggets about working motherhood, corporate politics, and recovering from mistakes that I loved. I ended up taking many long walks the weekend I listened to this just so I could finish.

****

Great Beach Reads

Daisy Jones And The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid — This was excellent brain candy. It was reminiscent of a VH1 documentary, and I read it all in one sitting. I read the print book, but I heard the audio version is amazing.

****

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser — A thriller about a missing mom, and the aftermath of her disappearance. Did she flee on her own, or did someone take her? Was it the husband? What about the missing money? This was perfect for laying on the beach while my kids built sandcastles.

***

Moody Reads To Dwell On

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella — This is the book that Field of Dreams was based on, and I’ve been meaning to read it for years. It’s different from the movie, but it has that same dreamy and hopeful feeling.

***

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent — I read this for a book club, and it was perfect pick for that. I appreciated that the love affair I thought the author was building towards never happened.

****

The Guineveres by Sarah Domet — This book was without place or time, and it worked. I enjoyed the characters.

***

The Near and Distant Past

The Boat People by Sharon Bala — An important read considering what we’re facing in our country these days. This book gives a face to the refugee crisis. Wish I could make this required reading for all of America.

****

Tear Down This Wall by Romesh Ratnesar — A non-fiction audiobook that I downloaded from Audiobook Sync. I’m of the age where I can remember when the Berlin Wall fell, but had no real idea of what that meant at the time. I appreciate books that help fill in the gaps now. I’m going to recommend this one to my 11 year old as well.

***

The Future

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King — This book went on a little too long for my tastes, but the afterward at the end of the audiobook by the authors made up for it. I love getting a glimpse of what goes into writing books.

***

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins — This was a re-read for me. I’m not a huge fan of this book, but I really liked the ending.

***

Audiobooks to Take Your Mind Off Things When You’re Home Alone and Cleaning For HOURS

(Or Maybe That’s Just Me)

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling — My favorite of the series. I could listen to this audiobook again and again.

****

The Lost City of Z by David Grann — I liked this armchair adventure story, minus the description of all of the snakes and other creepy things that can kill you in the Amazon.

***

Life According to Steph

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Bookish Gifts I'm Giving This Year

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It's no surprise that I give a lot of books for gifts. (Note: I rarely get books because everyone says I have read them all. My TBR says differently! Is this a common book worm problem?)

Here's what I'm giving this year:

For my history loving husband:

Grant by Ron Chernow -- I got him both the hardcover and the audio versions. It would drive me crazy to go back and forth, but this is his new preferred way.

For my reluctant reader son:

Guinness Book of World Records -- My son isn't a big reader, but he loves trivia. I think he'll love finding obscure facts (and might even try to break an obscure record or two!)

For my bookworm jr. daughter:

I know she is going to go nuts over this personal library kit. I predict a lot of playing library in my future. Let's hope she doesn't charge late fees! (She'll be getting several books as well, of course.)

For My Secret Santa:

Food Anatomy by Julia Rothman -- An illustrated history of food- doesn't it sound just perfect for snow day reading? I hope she enjoys it.

What are you gifting this year?

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August 2017 Audiobooks

The world may be ending, but my flowers look great this summer!

The world may be ending, but my flowers look great this summer!

I can't believe it's August already. Summer is almost over, and I'm turning 40! No worries. In my head I'm maybe 32.

Anyway summer always leads to good audiobook listens. Here are some of my favorites from the last month.

Apollo 8 by Jeffrey Kluger - I LOVED this book, especially the recordings of the astronaut's chatter with mission control at the end. Audio added so much to this book. It's about, as you may have guessed, the flight of Apollo 8. Apollos 11 and 13 get a lot of attention, but this one was truly groundbreaking. I'm glad to know more about it.

Song of Susannah by Stephen King - This is a re-read for me. I first read it on my honeymoon, and my memories of it mostly included our balcony in Mexico. This time I paid more attention to the book, well aware of what's going to happen at the end. It's weird that Stephen King wrote himself into the book, but I appreciated the technique more this time.

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan - This book about the Dust Bowl is so interesting. I highly recommend it if you enjoy non-fiction that reads like fiction.

Happy reading friends!

Life According to Steph

The Best Road Trip Audiobooks for Adults

One of my favorite parts of road tipping is listening to good books with my husband while the kids snooze in the back seat. We've never been people to read the same paper books, but we can usually find plenty of audio books to amuse both of us. Here are some of our favorites.

Fortune's Children by Arthur T. Vanderbilt II -- The history behind the Vanderbilt family is fascinating, and the gossipy parts are fun too.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman -- There are two types of people - those who have read A Man Called Ove, and those who have it on their TBR. If you haven't got to it yet, a road trip would be a great time to listen to this wonderful story.

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard -- James A. Garfield is a forgotten president, and was so glad I had the opportunity to learn more about him in this fascinating audio book.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee -- You can't go wrong with a classic, especially when it's read by Sissy Spacek.

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin -- I loved this baseball memoir. If you grew up in a baseball family you'll relate.

What's your favorite road trip audio book?

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April 2017 Audiobooks

Spring is here, and I'm spending a lot of time listening to audiobooks while I walk under flowering trees. I'm enjoying it as much as I can before summer starts, and I need to stay inside near my air conditioner! I live in DC, so probably about another two weeks.

I found Z for Zachariah in the kid's section of my library, but it freaked me the heck out, and I'm glad I didn't try to listen to it with my kids. It's an end of the world novel about a girl living alone on a farm after a nuclear war - until a man finds her.

I finished The Nature of the Beast, and am sad to say I only have one book left in the series until the new one comes out in August. I liked this one as much as I have liked the last few. That is to say, a lot. Plus there's physics! Yay physics!  Can anyone recommend a similar detective series that is good on audio?

I've also been busy reviewing books for The Armchair Audies.

Here are my review so far:

In Harm's Way

Paul McCartney

A Time to Die

Reviews for the last two in the category will be coming this month, and then I'll announce who I think should be the winner in the category.

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Life According to Steph

REVIEW: In Harm's Way by Doug Stanton (Audiobook)

I didn't think I had heard of the story of the USS Indianapolis, and it's sinking during World War II. Then someone reminded me of the scene in Jaws.

Oh, yikes. That ship.

The audiobook doesn't start with Jaws. It starts with Captain McVay, the ship's commander, and his suicide. In a story that sounds like it belongs on the Podcast Serial we're told Captain McVay was in charge of the USS Indianapolis when it sank, and was court-martialed under some dubious circumstances.

This is one of those books that is non-fiction but reads like fiction. It's a horrific yet inspiring story of men stuck in treacherous water for five days without water, most with just a life vest on to keep them afloat. I mean, imagine being in the water so long that you have time to name the shark that wants to eat you.

By the time you get to the court-martialing, it's almost unbelievable that any body would dare bring to trial a man who went through all of that. They even had the Japanese commander of the submarine that sunk the boat as a witness against Captain McVay. I'll admit to tears of rage over the kitchen sink as I listened.

This is a great book. A powerful book made all the better by a steady narrator. I highly recommend it if you are a fan of other non-fiction World War II narratives such as Unbroken and Boys in the Boat.

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This is my first review in the History/Biography category for the Arm Chair Audies. Check back for more reviews, and to see who I think should be the winner.

Armchair Audies

I'm super excited to be a judge in the History/Biography category of this year's Armchair Audies. (Although since these are audiobooks maybe I should call them laundry time/driving to baseball practice/tedious work time Audies.)

Here are the books I will be listening to:

  • In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton, narrated by Mark Boyett
  • Paul McCartney: The Life by Philip Norman, narrated by Jonathan Keeble
  • A Time to Die by Robert Moore, narrated by Pete Cross
  • Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick, narrated by Scott Brick
  • The Year of Lear by James Shapiro, narrated by Robert Faas

These books are all brand new to me, and I'm excited to dig in.

If you'd like to be a judge too there's still plenty of time. Sign up here.

REVIEW: Life of the Party by Bob Kealing

Every so often you stumble across a book about something obscure, and it's so interesting that you spend the next month telling all your friends what you know about said obscure topic. If you're willing to talk to your friends about Tupperware you should read Life of the Party by Bob Kealing right away.

Life of the Party starts from the beginning of the company when plastics genius Earl Tupper came up with the secret formula using materials previously cast off by other processes. At his side was glamorous but smart and hard working Brownie Wise, the woman who really made the home sales party the phenomenon it was in the 1950's. 

The writing in this book was repetitive in some areas, and lacking depth in others. At one point much was made of a law suit, but it was never resolved in the book. However the fascinating hidden story behind the Tupperware empire was more than enough to make up for any problems in the text.

If you like fascinating but obscure stories like the ones you might hear on This American Life be sure to pick this book up.

Note: this book was provided by Blogging For Books in exchange for a honest review.

August Quick Lit

New bikes for the kids have given me a good excuse to sit on the curb while reading a book.  (Pictured here: wolf by wolf by Ryan Graudin)

New bikes for the kids have given me a good excuse to sit on the curb while reading a book.

(Pictured here: wolf by wolf by Ryan Graudin)

I have been reading a wide variety of stuff lately - just whatever suits me at the time, really. It's too hot to stick to a list!

The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper was an interesting book, made all the more interesting because it's based on a the true story of the Nanny who took care of King Edward VIII and King George VI. It's a little longer than needed, and is sure to force interaction between the Nanny and all the major political figured of the day (the Tsar, Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, etc.) Recommend for fans of royal baby pictures and The Royal We. (I got this book from Library Thing in exchange for a review.)

I wanted to read Jaws by Peter Benchley this summer, but forced myself to wait until after our annual trip to Cape Cod. I needn't have waited, as the movie is way more scary than the book. I kind of thought the book was just meh, actually. Plus a lot of the 1970's language is offensive. I know they didn't live in such an enlightened time as us, but it's not really worth it for a sub-par book.

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin was about a motorcycle race in a world that would have existed if Hitler had won the war. If you try not to think about the details too much this is a really good book. I'm looking forward to the sequel due out in November.

I've had Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu on my to be read list forever, but it took the Rio Olympics to finally get me to read it. This book has its ups and downs, but was really interesting to a once every four years gymnastics freak like me. I did some background research on Wikipedia, and it seems like a lot of people in the gymnastics industry deny a lot of Moceanu's claims. However given recent news stories about USA Gymnastics and Marta Karoli's handling of the team I see Dominique in a much better light than I may have a month ago.

Each month I link with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit as a way to talk about the books I liked, but didn't review.

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Best books about World War II

Like a lot of people I read a lot of books about World War II. It's an interesting subject, and there's a lot of material. Here are some of my favorites.

Novels

Margot by Jillian Cantor

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Diaries

Mr. Brown's War Ed. by Helen D. Millgate

The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

Non-Fiction

No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin

D-Day by Stephen Ambrose

Kids and YA

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wain

World War II Spies (Choose Your Own Adventure)

Cookbooks

Cooking on the Home Front by Hugh and Judy Gowan

Lost Recipes by Marion Cunningham

What am I missing? What are your favorite books about this fascinating time period?

This month's audiobooks

I have been listening to audiobooks like no one's business lately. My rabid consumption has been driven by a combination of a huge pile of laundry from my kids' swim camp, and all of the time in the car spent driving them to said camp. Being a parent is giving me perspective into how much work my mom had to do so that I could be bored all summer. Oh well, turning lemons into reading time and all that. Anyone want me to throw in a load of towels for them?

The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower was fascinating. I really liked getting a behind the scenes look at life in the White House. (But note: both of my kids complained endlessly about the narrator on this one. They said the voice gave them a headache.)

I had seen the movie version of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, but I've never read an Agatha Christie book. The movie was pretty good, but the book was just so much more messed up. (In a good way.) Look for more Agatha Christie in my future reads.

The Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot was my solution when I was craving something light and funny. It was super predictable and stupid, and that made me love it all the more. Sometimes that's all you need.

Eruption by Steve Olson was a fascinating look into the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. I didn't know much about the eruption going into this book. I remember a teacher bringing a jar of ash to school, and all of us being like Mount St. Who? I was also vaguely aware that the state highpoints of Oregon and Washington were volcanoes. I was too young at the time, and too distracted since with my east coast problems to realize that there are volcanoes that have, can, and will explode in the Pacific Northwest. I can't decide if I should should rush out west to see them before they do, or stay far far away forever in case they pick my vacation week to come alive. There were some boring bits that I tuned out about the history of the lumber industry, but most of this audiobook took my breath away, much like Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air.

Life According to Steph

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I read about it in a book, and now I must go...

I finished The Wright Brothers last week, and now I am itching to travel to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. I've been there before, but David McCullough's book is so rich with detail that I need to figure out a way to see it again. I barely remember it, and I'm sure I didn't appreciate it enough. Luckily it's only about a four hour drive from here (when traffic is good.)

Have you ever done that? Read about a place, and gone there? As much as I read it usually works the opposite for me. I read about a place because I've just been there, or because I have plans to go there.

A new adventure! How exciting!

REVIEW: The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

I used to hate books told by two narrators to the point where I wouldn't even pick them up, but lately I have been giving them another chance. I'm not sure if old age has mellowed me, or if I just needed to find some good ones. The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy is a good one.

The novel is narrated by two childless women struggling to find their purpose. In the present day we have Eden, a former PR worker who moved to West Virginia to start a family. In the past we have Sarah Brown, the daughter of abolitionist John Brown, who reacts to her father's hanging with a resolve to fight on. Both characters are sympathetic, and the way their stories eventually come together is very creative.

If you like historical fiction, you'll love this book. The chapters that deal with the present enhance rather than distract from the engrossing tale of Sarah Brown and her family.

(Note: Blogging For Books sent me this book, but all opinions are my own.)

REVIEW: A Place We Knew Well by Susan Carol McCarthy

A Place We Knew Well is a fascinating novel that takes place in the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It hits all of my sweet spots: a historical novel with likable characters, and a good story line. Besides the likability though, what fascinated me the most was the exploration of the ways people act in times of extreme stress.

In the novel we learn about the crisis, mostly through the character's reactions to newspaper articles and television reports. At the same time, we get caught up in small town drama heightened by the fact that the residents are kind of worried that World War III is going to start at any minute. You really get a personal and nuanced look into the Cuban Missile Crisis from the point of view of a variety of people. Reading this book encouraged me to read more about the Cold War.

If you liked A Place We Knew Well try:

When I was reading this, I kept thinking about one of my favorite brain science books Willpower.  The reasons people use (or don't) when making decisions is fascinating to me, and very applicable to the story line in A Place We Knew Well.

People see the name Stephen King, and immediately decide they won't like it. What's great about 11/22/63 though isn't any kind of mystical horror woo woo stuff. What's great is the historical detail, and obvious research that went into this most excellent time travel novel.

Books I'm Adding To My TBR:

Note: Links to amazon.com are affiliate links. I was given a copy of A Place We Knew Well as part of the Library Thing Early Reviewers program, but all opinions are mine.