letter to my daughter

Last week I needed a short audiobook for my last few commutes to and from rehearsals for our holiday concerts, before taking a break for the rest of the month. I settled on Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou, perfect at a brief 2.5 hours, and also because I love Angelou and have wanted to read more of her work for years. From Goodreads:

Dedicated to the daughter she never had but sees all around her, Letter to My Daughter reveals Maya Angelou’s path to living well and living a life with meaning. Told in her own inimitable style, this book transcends genres and categories: guidebook, memoir, poetry, and pure delight.

I enjoyed Letter to My Daughter a lot, but didn’t quite love it. It is too brief, perhaps, or perhaps it deserves a read on paper, too, to fully absorb her writing and advice. But I absolutely loved listening to Angelou narrate on this unabridged audio version. Her words and voice are just so comforting, so welcoming, so endearing. I felt like she was speaking right to me through a lot of this.

Some chapters resonated more with me, especially those in which she recounts major events in her life, and finding a personal-professional life balance. She also spends a good deal of the book on her experiences with faith, family, and race. This is only the second book of Angelou’s that I’ve read, but I did learn that several of the personal anecdotes were covered in previous books.

Letter to My Daughter is one I would recommend to all women, especially those new to Angelou, and those in their 20s, finding their way into adulthood. Her brilliance, wisdom, and humility are beautiful and abundant in this short volume.

Listened to audiobook from December 9 to 13, 2014.

tiny beautiful things

The second audiobook I listened to on my road trip to Wisconsin over Memorial Day weekend was Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. From Goodreads:

Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpusnow revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice. Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond. Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.

So many great reviews (and enjoying Strayed’s Wild last year myself) prompted me to add this to my listening queue. I liked how Strayed tackled a wide variety of issues, from dysfunctional divorces to “does he like me?” queries, from deaths of children via drunk drivers to high school love triangles, and pretty much everything in between—it was a good balance between soft and hard.

As many other reviews I read mentioned, Strayed more often than not regales her readers with stories of her own life, making this much more of a memoir than a self-help book. It’s better that way, in my opinion, because Strayed’s advice usually boils down to “just do it,” in so many words. To her credit, she does admit she is not exactly qualified to dole out traditional advice, but says she offers more of a “alternative perspective” to her letter writers.

Because her replies are long and meandering, you lose yourself in her straight-forward yet warm and elegant prose, and more than once I completely forgot she was answering a letter. Her writing is sharp, lovely, rich, and stays with you—not afraid to get down there with the ugliness of life and work through it. I love the honesty and compassion in her responses, which was enhanced greatly in the audiobook version, read by Sugar herself.

Listened to audiobook from May 26 to 31, 2014.

virtual advent tour: holiday concerts

Virtual Advent TourWelcome to Day 19 of the 2013 Virtual Advent Tour! I’m pleased to be a part of the tour this year. Special thank you to hosts Kelly and Marg for including me (visit their blog for all the posts, and my fellow Day 19 poster Heather @ Capricious Reader today).

For my advent post, I’d like to talk about holiday concerts. Confession: I’m not too much of a “Christmas person.” My favorite holidays are by far St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Super Bowl Sunday (what? 🙂 ). But one aspect of the holiday season I do have a lot of fun with is participating in holiday concerts around the Kansas City metro.

For the past seven or eight years I have been a member of the Kansas City Civic Orchestra (currently as principal bassist), and we always have a holiday concert titled Sounds of the Season. This one has grown and grown every year, so much that now it’s a two-concert series (Friday and Saturday). We typically play a wide variety of holiday favorites:

  • Leontovych: Carol of the Bells
  • Traditional: The First Noel
  • Anderson: A Christmas Festival
  • Anderson: Sleigh Ride
  • Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a
  • Holcombe: Festive Sounds of Hanukkah
  • Reed: Russian Christmas Music

I always liked Russian Christmas Music because it has a great bass part, and I appreciate our music director’s acknowledgement of other religious holidays as well (Festive Sounds of Hanukkah). This year, we only played Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite—trading off movements with our guest the Washburn University Jazz Band playing Duke Ellington’s arrangement of Nutcracker. It was really great to experience two strikingly different versions and the crowd loved it!

Kansas City Civic Orchestra

(That’s me—the bassist in front, wearing yellow.)

I’m also in two more local orchestras, Heritage Philharmonic and Kinnor Philharmonic. Heritage’s holiday concerts usually include a children’s choir, and we’ve also played familiar classics (Silent NightO Come All Ye Faithful, etc.), even ranging into medleys of holiday movie music (Home Alone theme, A Charlie Brown Christmas, etc.).

Kinnor Philharmonic is the premier Kansas City Jewish orchestra, now in its third year. Kinnor has an annual New Year’s Day concert to start of the year with inspiring, hopeful music. This time around we’re playing Strauss waltzes and marches (The Blue Danube, Kaiser Waltz, Egyptian March), Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, Weber’s Oberon Overture, Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, and the Allegretto (last movement) of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (which you’d recognize from Disney’s Fantasia film).

Outside of these orchestras, I’ve taken gigs playing bass for various churches around the holidays, most recently for Handel’s Messiah (on my birthday, December 8!) and I’ve played Fauré’s Requiem around this time of year in the past, too.

In addition to playing concerts myself, I also end up reviewing holiday performing arts offerings in the Kansas City area for my online arts journal, KCMetropolis.org. Here are a few favorites over the years:

I have found so many great, fresh twists on holiday standards every year attending local arts organizations’ holiday events, and I urge you to do the same in your town!

Happy holidays and a merry musical new year! 🙂

book bloggers international

I’m honored and excited to be featured on Book Bloggers International today!
CLICK HERE to check out my interview.

It’s a great site with tips and ideas to make book blogging easier and also interviews with bloggers from all over the place, introducing them and their sites in order to bring a huge online community a little closer together. Big thanks to Book Bloggers International’s masterminds, Tif, Tasha, and Becca! If you are a blogger interested in being featured on BBI, click here to find out more.

Have a great day and happy reading 🙂

happy 4th blogging anniversary!

I was just thinking this morning that I didn’t have anything new to post today (still have 64 pages to go in The Shadow of the Wind, hoping to finish this weekend, though!) and then I logged into WordPress to this notification:

I truly had no idea which day my blogging anniversary was, and I sort of didn’t realize it has been four years—I know I started around 2008 or 2009 but basically took 2011 off and really didn’t get serious and consistent with posting until 2012. So anyway, whoo! I am happy to accept fruit, flowers, and/or appliances on this, my 4th anniversary 😉

I hope all of you, dear readers, have a lovely weekend and (if in the US) a fun Labor Day holiday! Thanks for stopping by my little slice of the internet from time to time 🙂

top ten tuesday: reading/blogging made easy

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, a fun way to get yourself thinking and sharing about books and bookish things.

August 20: Top ten things that make your life as a reader/book blogger easier

This is a fun one. In no particular order:

1. Goodreads
I love keeping digital lists of books I want to read, and my reading stats, and finding new recommendations through friends and people I follow on there.

2. My purse
Big enough to fit a book in!

3. My iPad
Same deal as my purse (sort of). While in general I’m not totally into reading on an ereader, I do like not having to haul around paper books on a trip.

4. Kansas City Public Library
One of the first things I did when I moved to KC in 2001 was get a library card, even though I was a student at the university and used that library. Who doesn’t love a library?? Books, movies, audio, internet, events… and I’m really glad I discovered its book groups.

5. Rainy Day Books
The author events Rainy Day Books hosts are always awesome. In just the last 12 months alone I’ve seen David Sedaris, Michael Pollan, The Oatmeal, Jim Gaffigan… and ordered autographed books from events (couldn’t make it to these) of Cheryl Strayed, Jojo Moyes, and Susan Cain. Seeing Susannah Cahalan next!

6. Audiobooks
I was hesitant for a long time about getting into audiobooks, and I still have a little trouble listening in my everyday lifestyle… but I’m so glad I finally really discovered audiobooks and decided to include them anytime I have a long road trip.

7. Readalongs and readathons
Another recent discovery, I joined my first readalong this summer with the DomeAlong. Not only did it get me to pick up a book I may never have picked up on my own, but introduced me to a bunch of other great blogs. I also really enjoyed the Bout of Books readathons in which I participated this last year.

8. Giveaways
I’ve entered TONS of giveaways and feel like I’ve had relatively decent luck, winning a nice handful from Goodreads and book blogs. I like giveaways because it’s a way to try out a book you might not have otherwise noticed, and what’s the harm in entering? Nothing to lose. (More than half the time I enter and forget, too, so it’s an extra good “surprise!” feeling whenever I win!)

9. Readers, friends, and family
It’s always great to hear a friend or family member say “Oh yeah, I saw on your blog that you are reading that!” or nice comments from readers/other bloggers. Sure does make continuing to blog more fun and worth it!

10. My husband
Nick lovingly teases me whenever I get more books, but he likes that I love to read 🙂

What makes your reading/blogging life easier?