June MiniReviews – Part 1

Have I mentioned that my life is pretty much just peaches right now???  You all really just can’t understand LOL  In the meantime, here are a few books that I read all the way back in June…

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

The Horse & His Boy by C.S. Lewis – 5*

//published 1954//

Growing up, this was one of my least favorite books in the series (along with The Silver Chair), but every time I reread it, I enjoy it more.  There’s a lot to soak in here about providence and why bad things happen to people and how that all works together for good, plus it’s just a fun story.  Narnia is always a joy to me.

Kitty’s Class Day & Other Stories by Louisa May Alcott – 3*

//published 1882//

I’m a huge fan of Alcott, and some of my all-time favorite books were penned by her.  However, I’ve had this collection of short stories on my shelf for literal years and somehow never read it… and when I did, I honestly wasn’t that impressed.  The subtitle for this one is “Proverb Stories” and each tale has a little saying/proverb at the beginning and then the story goes on to illustrate it.  Consequently, these came across as a little on the preachy side.  Alcott is always a fan of making her writing somewhat moralistic, but I feel like that works better with her longer-form writing, as we are able to see characters grow and mature organically.  Here, with only a few pages per story, the lessons felt a bit too in-your-face for my tastes.  Perfectly fine but honestly not particularly engaging.

Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling – 4*

My reread of the Potter books also continued in June with a chapter a day of the fourth book.  I think this is where the series really starts to take off, with a lot of connections being made.  It’s a chunkster of a book and sometimes does feel a little ponderous, but overall I still find this series plenty entertaining.

Written in Starlight by Isabel Ibañez – 3.5*

//published 2021//

In May I read Woven in Moonlight and found it to be a decent enough read that I wanted to pick up the sequel, Written in Starlight.  It’s hard to tell about this one without giving away some spoilers for the first book, but basically there is a character from the first story who ends up being sent away into the jungle as a punishment at the end of the book.  It honestly felt a little jarring, so reading the second book felt like reading the other side of the coin.  Although the main character is different, it really ties in with the first story and, I felt, tied up a lot of loose ends.  Overall, I think I actually liked this one better, even if the main character was super dense from time to time.

Led Zeppelin: Heaven & Hell by Charles Cross & Erik Flannigan – 3.5*

//published 1991//

My husband is a huge Zeppelin fan, so we have several nonfiction books about the band.  In my quest to read all of the books I own (LOL) this one was the next stop.  Published in 1991, it was written at a time when there was still a lot of chatter about whether the band would get back together, with John Bonhome’s son, Jason, as the drummer.  This book read more like an extended fanzine, with a lot of information about band paraphernalia, concerts, albums, concert memorabilia, etc.  If you already love Zeppelin and are just looking for some random tidbits, it’s worth picking up for the photographs if nothing else, but if you don’t know much about the band, this isn’t really a great place to start, because the authors definitely assume that you already have foundational knowledge about the band members and the trajectory of the band itself.  I definitely preferred Flannigan’s sections to Cross’s – I find Cross’s writing to be somewhat condescending, something I also noted when I read his biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier Than HeavenUltimately, Cross felt like it was super important to spend a great deal of time hating on Hammer of the Gods by Stephen Davis (which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet), which, whether or not his claims were justified, just came through as rather petty.  A moderately enjoyable read, but not one I’d particularly pick up again.

Top Twenty Tunes

So I’m thinking about starting a semi-regular posting of my current Top Twenty Tunes.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’m not very good at inserting cool stuff, so I probably won’t be putting in a way to actually listen to the music… you’ll have to figure that bit out on your own. ;-)

Tom and I use Rhapsody for a lot of our listening.  It has its pros and cons, but it is a really fun way to find new music, and keep track of old favorites.  Unfortunately, that means we’re also somewhat limited by whatever Rhapsody has the rights to play.  For instance, my favorite Counting Crows song, “Untitled (Love Song),” has mysterious disappeared.  Within the last year, though, Rhapsody finally got the rights to Led Zeppelin and The Beatles, so, on the whole, it’s a pretty good selection.

My musical tastes are a bit eclectic at times, for which I definitely blame Tom. He is way into music and definitely more knowledgeable than I am… I just know what I like!  Point being, you’ll probably hear about his opinions as well.  :-D

I like to keep a Top Twenty playlist, and update it every couple of weeks.  Basically, I think of it as the songs I definitely want to hear every time I drive into town.  I’m really not at all an auditory learner.  It’s really hard for me to listen to books on tape, or even just people talking on the radio as I frequently loose track of what they’re saying or what’s going on, especially if I’m also trying to drive.  But music…  music is magic.

So, without further ado, my current Top Twenty Tunes.

#20:  “Hey Jude” by The Beatles – Like I said, The Beatles are finally on Rhapsody, so I’ve been listening to a lot of their music lately.  It’s fun and interesting because I’m familiar with a lot of their stuff, but a lot of it is actually pretty new to me.  Even though “Hey Jude” is kind of a long song, I just really like the way the song builds.

#19:  “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature” by The Guess Who – Love the way the voices go together in this song.  I heard it on the radio the other day and realized I hadn’t listened to it in quite a while.  If I’m honest, it’s probably about to rotate off the list, but it’s still a fun listen.

#18:  “One Headlight” by The Wallflowers – I actually first started listening to The Wallflowers because of their song “Sixth Avenue Heartache,” which is still a favorite.  I was pretty surprised when Tom told me that the main guy from The Wallflowers is actually Bob Dylan’s son!  He definitely doesn’t have the talent of Dylan, but still some good tunes.  I keep meaning to listen to Bringing Down the Horse, since I like the first two songs, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet…

#17:  “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows – Last summer, Counting Crows suddenly came into focus for me.  Like, I had heard their songs before and was somewhat vaguely aware of them, but I kept hearing “Scarecrow” on the radio, and realized that I wanted to hear more of their stuff.  Then I heard “Untitled (Love Song)” and uggggghhhh that song really is perfect in every way.  I’ve been listening to Counting Crows pretty much ever since.  “Mr. Jones” is one of their older songs, but I still like it a lot.  Even though it’s basically a song about them hanging out at a strip club (sort of), there’s a lot going on with the lyrics beyond that – “All the beautiful colors are very, very beautiful/Gray is my favorite color/I felt so symbolic yesterday” – I dunno.  I just like this song about how we all want to be liked and be beautiful, and we really think that if we were, then our lives would be really good.  But the truth of the matter is that being famous or beautiful doesn’t automatically solve all your problems.

#16:  “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles – Does this song even need an introduction?  How can anyone not like the happiest song in the world??

#15:  “What Light” by Wilco –

If you feel like singing a song
And you want other people to sing along
Just sing what you feel
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

And if you’re trying to paint a picture
But you’re not sure which colors belong
Just paint what you see
Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong

And if you’re strung out like a kite
Or stung awake in the night
It’s alright to be frightened

When there’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)
Inside of you

If you think you might need somebody
To pick you up when you drag
Don’t loose sight of yourself
Don’t let anyone change your bag

And if the whole world’s singing your songs
And all of your paintings have been hung
Just remember what was yours is everyone’s from now on

And that’s not wrong or right
But you can struggle with it all you like
You’ll only get uptight

Because there’s a light (what light)
There’s a light (one light)
There’s a light (white light)

#14: “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star – This is one of those bands that, for me personally, is a one-hit wonder.  I have yet to come across any other Mazzy Star songs that I even particularly thought were worth a second listen, but “Fade Into You” has been on or close to my Top Twenty Tunes for at least two years.  I just love the floaty-ness of this song.  Perfection.

#13:  “There Ain’t No Good Chain Gangs” by Johnny Cash – So Tom is a total outlaw country addict.  While I can’t listen to nothing but Roger Miller for months at a time (one of the few times we had to have a serious intervention in our marriage…  we were getting read to drive 24 hours to Colorado and, while I love Roger Miller, there was no way I could handle it for 24 hours straight…!!!), I do love a bit of twang now and then.  Cash is always full of pithy advice, which is a bonus:  “There ain’t no good in an evilhearted woman/I ain’t cut out to be no Jesse James/Don’t go writing hot checks down in Mississippi/And there ain’t no good chain gangs”

#12:  “Level” by The Raconteurs – While, from all I hear, Jack White is a total jerk, there is no denying that he is fabulously talented.  There is usually at least one of his songs, either from his solo career, The White Stripes, or The Raconteurs, on my playlist all the time.  “Level” is an old favorite – super catchy.

#11:  “Hangin’ Around” by Counting Crows – Whoops, here they are again!  :-D  Lately, I’ve been seriously digging the bass line to this song.  On the whole, I tend to like songs that are uptempo and make me want to move my feet.  “Hangin’ Around” definitely accomplishes that.

#10:  “Jackie and Wilson” by Hozier – I’m not an overall huge Hozier fan (there was a period of time where, if I heard his song “Take Me To Church” one more time I was going to have to do something drastic), but the lyrics to “Jackie and Wilson” are just too adorable for words.  There is something about being single, and building an entire life-together-day-dream from just a glimpse of someone, that is kind of magical and depressing all at the same time, lol.  Hozier really captures that, and all in a catchy package.

#9:  “My Silver Lining” by First Aid Kit – Sometimes I have a song that I think of as my theme song for a certain year, and “My Silver Lining” was that song for 2015.  I really love the words to this song a lot.  

I don’t want to wait anymore I’m tired of looking for answers
Take me some place where there’s music and there’s laughter
I don’t know if I’m scared of dying but I’m scared of living too fast, too slow
Regret, remorse, hold on, oh no I’ve got to go
There’s no starting over, no new beginnings, time races on
And you’ve just gotta keep on keeping on
Gotta keep on going, looking straight out on the road
Can’t worry ’bout what’s behind you or what’s coming for you further up the road
I try not to hold on to what is gone, I try to right what is wrong
I try to keep on keeping on
Yeah I just keep on keeping on

I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won’t take the easy road

I’ve woken up in a hotel room, my worries as big as the moon
Having no idea who or what or where I am
Something good comes with the bad
A song’s never just sad
There’s hope, there’s a silver lining
Show me my silver lining
Show me my silver lining

#8:  “Help!” by The Beatles – I actually think that this song is just adorably romantic.  The second verse is actually my favorite:

And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before

#7:  “Tangled Up in Blue” by Bob Dylan – Okay, so, confession is that I’m not honestly a huge Dylan fan.  I can appreciate his talent and what he did for the musical world, but sometime I hear his voice and just start giggling.  What is he even doing!?  But “Tangled Up in Blue” is brilliant from beginning to end and is one of my all-time favorite songs.  I can’t even explain why.  It’s one of those rare perfect songs.  The other day I was feel super frustrated and annoyed with life, and it was pouring rain, and dark, and I had to go grocery shopping after work, which I hate, and it was late, and it’s a 25 minute drive home from the store, and in the midst of feeling really sorry for myself, “Tangled Up in Blue” came on the radio, and something about that opening guitar, and the line – “Early one morning the sun was shining/I was laying in bed/Wond’ring if she’d changed at all/And if her hair was still red” – I can’t explain it.  My life was suddenly better.

#6:  “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do” by Led Zeppelin – Zeppelin is Tom’s all-time favorite band.  I mean, we actually have this poster framed and hanging in our house:

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Although, let’s be fair, who doesn’t want that hanging in their house?  :-D

Anyway, there is always at least one Zeppelin tune on the list.  “Hey, Hey” is one of my all-time favorite songs, despite the depressing storyline (“Hey, hey, what can I do?/I got a woman and she won’t be true/Hey, hey, what can I say/I got a woman – stay drunk all day” haha), the music is, as always, brilliant.  I love listening to Zeppelin, love choosing just one instrument to follow throughout the song.

#5:  “Pretty Pimpin’ ” by Kurt Vile – Four of my top five songs are new(ish).  Tom heard this one on the radio, and it became an instant favorite.  It has that perfect sort of roll through the song, that quiet groove.  The lyrics are good, too, because I think everyone has had those moments where you wonder what reality really is, and if we are actually real…???!  “I woke up this morning/Didn’t recognize the man in the mirror/Then I laughed and said/’Oh silly me – it’s just me’ ”  It’s a great song.  The rest of the album was a lot more downbeat, but this one is a keeper.

#4:  “2 Heads” by Coleman Hell – Tom and I have this thing, where he gets annoyed when the radio decides what song we should like.  I get annoyed, too…  except when I end up really liking the song.  Even though “2 Heads” is everything that should be cliche and annoying in a song, it’s still seriously grooving and I really like it. I just don’t play it when Tom’s around so I can avoid getting judged. ;-)

#3:  “Babylon” by David Grey – The first few times I heard this song, it didn’t really do much for me, but it’s really grown on me a lot.  It’s one of those quietly catchy songs that takes a little bit to build.  My coworker and I love this song and sing it really loudly together, so there’s that.

#2:  “Elephant” by Tame Impala – I think it may be physically impossible to listen to this song and not dance.  Waylon (that’s the dog) has gotten to where he recognizes when this song comes on and comes running up to me because he knows I’m going to start dancing, and Waylon is way into dancing with me. :-D  My coworker, on the other hand, has requested that this song be removed from our work playlist for the same reason….

#1:  “Mountain at My Gates” by Foals – Okay, so I’m literally addicted to this song right now.  I listen to it once, since it’s the first song on my list, and think, Okay, only going to listen once and then move on.  Then five times later I’ve arrived at my destination and listened to nothing else.  Whoops.  This song has a great build, it’s super catchy, and just all-around fun.  I will say that Tom has deemed this song “too dancy” so it may not be for you…

So, what are you guys listening to?  Are any of these on your favorites list?  Any suggestions for me based on what I’m already listening to?

I may be back with another Top Twenty Tunes one of these days.  Until then…  happy listening!