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2016 Favorite Fiction - And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

2016 Reading Favorites

I feel like I just wrote about my favorites for 2015, yet here it is the end of 2016 already. This year I read 105 books by 104 different authors–Fredrik Backman was my only repeat (maybe I’ll fit another one in before the technical end, but we’ll go with 105). Of the 104 authors, 81 were authors I had never read before.

The breakdown looked like this:

Fiction – 76
Nonfiction – 29

Male authors – 63
Female authors – 41
(one book was a male/female team)

Print books – 74
Audiobooks – 30

73 books were written by American authors; 12 authors are from the UK; and the remaining titles were from Canadian, French, Norwegian, Swedish, Israeli, Australian, Irish, South Korean, and Vietnamese writers.

And 14 books were debuts.

So from that vast array of books, I’m offering you my favorites in three categories: fiction, non-fiction and audiobooks. I’m including 10 for fiction, 6 for non-fiction and five for audiobooks. I wasn’t able to winnow my 6 non-fictions down to 5. Picking the best non-fiction was my hardest task. I read great non-fiction this year. I’ll start with the audiobooks:

2016 Favorite Audiobooks

2016 Favorite Books - IQIQ – written by Joe Ide, read by Sullivan Jones. This was the best of both worlds. A fabulous book and an amazing performance. I reviewed this one for Audiofile Magazine.

Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil – written by Lezley McSpadden and Lyah Beth LeFiore, read by Lisa Renee Pitts. If I could nominate an audiobook performer for an Oscar, it would be Lisa Renee Pitts for this narration. It is astounding. The book is emotionally charged and the sparks fly from Pitts as she reads. Loved it! This was another review for Audiofile Magazine.

Night Work – written by David Taylor and read by Keith Szarabajka. I was floored by this duo last year with Taylor’s debut and Night Work resonates just as strongly. Szarabajka is fantastic and these are great suspense novels from Taylor. An Audiofile Magazine review.

Charcoal Joe – written by Walter Mosley and read by Michael Boatman. Boatman picked up all the wonderful nuances in Mosley’s writing and just made this an engaging listen. In addition to my review for Audiofile Magazine, this audiobook was picked as one of their 2016 Editors’ Favorites in the mystery & suspense category.2016 Favorite Books - Lily and the Octopus

Lily and the Octopus – written by Steven Rowley and read by Michael Urie. This audio made me laugh and cry and drive an extra time around the block. If you haven’t read or listened to this one, don’t find out anything about it…don’t read reviews or dust jackets, just start it. You’ll appreciate it more. And Urie does a fantastic job delving into all the range of emotions then pulling those same emotions from his listeners. I reviewed it for Audiofile Magazine.

2016 Favorite Non-fiction

2016 Favorite Books - BallsBalls: It Takes Some to Get Some – Chris Edwards. Far and away my favorite book of 2016. I reviewed this for Shelf Awareness and it was chosen as one of their favorites of 2016 as well. I wasn’t expecting the level of amazingness I experienced when I requested the book, so I was wonderfully surprised. I hope you’ll check this one out. It’s so worth it!

Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World – Baz Dreisinger. Our prison and “justice” system is an issue I’m interested in and constantly wanting to understand better because I feel it is a high priority for our society. This book is incredibly enlightening and looks at prisons on a global level. We can and should learn a lot from Dreisinger’s project.

Moranifesto – Caitlin Moran. I just posted this review to the blog earlier this week. I loved every bit of this book. Moran is insightful, funny and incredibly smart. I want to share this book with every female who is important to me. Which is not to say men won’t love it or benefit from it. Any man that cares about a woman should also check it out. We can definitely use more Caitlin Morans in the world.

Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives – Gary Younge. This is a tough but important read. I can’t say enough about it. I reviewed this for Shelf Awareness and it was also chosen as one of the publications favorite books of 2016. Younge has a unique perspective and does a stellar job on his research for this eye-opening look at the gun epidemic in the United States.

2016 Favorite Books - You Will Not Have My HatePilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis – Mark Shriver. I am so fascinated–and inspired–by Pope Francis, so I was very excited to get this book for review. He’s an amazing human being and Shriver does a lovely job of illuminating the man who leads the Catholic Church now. We can use more Pope Francises in the world too.

You Will Not Have My Hate – Antoine Leiris (trans. by Sam Taylor). This short work is beautifully and powerfully written. I read it in one night and it will stay with me forever. As I recover from the awful, ugly hate that filled our presidential election this year, I’m inspired by Leiris work.

2016 Favorite Fiction

The Bo2016 Favorite Books - An Obvious Facty Who Escaped Paradise – J.M. Lee (trans. by Chi-Young Kim). I was so excited to see a new book from J.M. Lee, the author of The Investigation. And The Boy Who Escaped Paradise did not disappoint. Lee is an incredible writer. I hope we are able to enjoy a long career from this talented man.

An Obvious Fact – Craig Johnson. A regular on my favorites list, Craig Johnson continues his string of hits with the newest Walt Longmire. The subtle allusions to The Dukes of Hazzard really won me over in this one. What can I say? I’m a child of the 80s.

Property of the State – Bill Cameron. The first of this new YA series from Bill Cameron is spectacular. You don’t have to be a young adult in years to love the start of this new series. I’m looking forward to more of it.

Britt-Marie Was Here – Fredrik Backman (trans. by Henning Koch). Another regular to my favorites list, Backman makes two appearances this year. His third full-length novel is as wonderfully rich and thought-provoking, as delightfully funny and as creatively beautiful as his previous works. 2016 Favorite Books - And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer – Fredrik Backman (trans. by Alice Menzies). I laughed and cried and sat in wonderment at this beautiful novella. It’s a treasure.

The Opposite of Everyone – Joshilyn Jackson. This was my introduction to Jackson’s work and I’m hooked. I loved the depth of character, complexity of plot and amazing atmosphere. She has rich themes and great language. What more could you hope for in a great reading experience.

Hanging Mary – Susan Higginbotham. Higginbotham’s historical novel about Mary Surratt  kept me fascinated and engrossed the entire time. I read a number of historicals this year. When a person or event is intriguing to me, I’m captivated by the way a writer can mold and craft a story around those elements from history. Higginbotham does a stellar job with the woman who was hanged for Lincoln’s assassination.

King Maybe – Timothy Hallinan. Tim’s Christmas novel, In Fields Where They Lay, is getting a fair amount of attention, but I am giving kudos to King Maybe from earlier in the year. With two books out in a year, you’d wonder if maybe the quality would suffer. Well rest assured, that’s a no go. King Maybe is top notch. I’ve never been disappointed by a Hallinan novel and this was no different.

2016 Favorite Books - DarktownHitman Anders and the Meaning of It All – Jonas Jonasson (trans. by Rachel Willson-Broyles). I had a little bit of a love affair with the translations this year. I was especially drawn to Scandinavian fiction and this is one of the handful I really enjoyed. The social commentary, the style of humor it all works well for me.

Darktown – Thomas Mullen. This was a powerful historical novel. Not an easy one by any means, but so authentically done and that’s what makes it so amazing. We’ve made advancements as a society, but Darktown also reminds us how much we haven’t changed. This is the level of book that changes you after you’ve read it.


And there you have it. My finalized list of favorite reads of 2016. What topped your list of favorite books this year?

It always ends up being a bit of a struggle to finish these lists. There are a few titles you know right away are on the list, no question. Then you struggle with about 8 titles to fill the remaining 4 or 5 slots. At least that’s the way it is for me. There’s always a few more I’d like to include. I could give you two or three more for each of my categories. I guess that’s the great thing about reading. There’s a lot of crap out there, no doubt. But there’s also a lot of wonderfulness as well. So here’s to a 2017 filled with a lot of wonderful books for you. Happy Reading!

Brown Dog Solutions | Moranifesto Book Review

Book Review :: Moranifesto

I wanted to sneak this review in before my end of the year lists because it will definitely be one of my favorite reads. This is my first experience reading Caitlin Moran, and after I finished Moranifesto, I wanted to subscribe to The Times of London in order to read her regularly. She now rates on my list of heroes. My review first appeared as a starred review in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Hope you enjoy!

First line: “So welcome to my second collection of writing.”

Brown Dog Solutions | Moranifesto Book ReviewCompiling a generous collection of her London Times columns written since 2011 and adding brief introductions for each that tie the anthology together, Caitlin Moran (How to Build a Girl) has composed a manifesto. “After twenty-three years of commenting on things, you’re not really just commenting on things anymore. You’re starting to…suggest alternatives. You’re forming a plan.”  Moranifesto is her plan: a shrewd combination of culture, politics and feminism; witty and intelligent, honest and silly; a conversation worth joining.

Moranifesto is divided into four sections, each including humorous articles intended to entertain–like “I Am Hungover Again” where she concedes the fact she will “never learn to have just two glasses”  because she simply doesn’t want to–sidled up next to thoughtful pieces offering social commentary, such as Moran’s thoughts–oozing with sarcasm–in “Women Getting Killed on the Internet.”

“I’ll be frank–it does my head in to see someone who lives in a democracy, wears artificial fibers, drives a car, has a wife who can vote and children whom it is illegal to send to work up a chimney, saying, on the Internet–invented in 1971!!!!–‘NOTHING CAN CHANGE!'”

Her love letter to books in “Reading is Fierce” will endear her to bibliophiles, while her capitulation in “It’s Okay My Children Do Not Read” may make them cringe. Moran offers advice, reveals encounters with celebrities and laughs in the face of decorum. She’s blunt and colorful, inspiring and authentic. Moranifesto exposes the many facets of this complex, wickedly smart woman. Missing it would definitely be a crime.

New Photo Friday – Week 16

jennifer forbus - new photo friday

Happy Friday! If you’re observing Christmas this weekend, I hope you’re ready for the festivities. I’m not really, but it’s going to happen one way or the other. 😉

I mentioned in last week’s post that I would be doing a Santa Claus shoot last weekend and that’s where my picture today comes from, although probably not what you’d expect.

Because we were setting up the facility before sunrise, I was able to snap this shot outside in the parking lot at Lakeview Park where they have a lovely light display all over. I was tickled by this beach volleyball scene with gingerbread people. The volleyballs blink on and off so it appears as though they are going over the net. I shot this, obviously, with a long exposure so all of the volleyballs appear lit in the image except for the fourth, which was burned out.

This is a crop of the original image and I realized when I cropped it that my focus was in the center of the picture, so gingerbread man is sharp but gingerbread girl is slightly blurry. That’s my biggest regret on this image. The beach scene to the right of ginger-boy is sharp, but I removed that to declutter the image.

What I really liked about it: I got the long exposure and the volleyballs all came out lit. I love the reflection in the puddles on the asphalt. And it’s whimsical and fun. Festive for the season. I hope you enjoy it too.

The technical details: I obviously shot this on a tripod. The shutter speed was 4 seconds, ISO 100 and aperture 5.0. I should have used a larger aperture setting and a slower shutter speed to get little miss ginger-girl sharper. I may go back another night or morning and try again. I’ll also frame the picture to only include the volleyball part of the scene.

New Photo Friday - long exposure

Next week I’ll have my end of the year lists for reading and a final new photo for the year. I hope you’ll stop by and check everything out. In the mean time, happiest of holidays to you one and all.

New photo Friday - lighting

New Photo Friday – Week 15

jennifer forbus - new photo friday

Once again, I have to apologize for the delay since my last post. I am well-meaning, but somehow the days just get away from me. I have a number of odds and ends to share with you before I share my photo for this week.

The first is the December Nerdy Special List. Those of you who have been following from the old blog know that I contribute to Pop Culture Nerd’s monthly Nerdy Special List. The end of year list for 2016 is rather nice, especially if you might be looking for a last-minute gift idea. There are some great titles over there.

Shelf Awareness had their favorite books of 2016 issue and I have two non-fiction reviews included in that list. And today is the last day to enter AudioFile’s contest to win 6 months of free audiobooks in conjunction with their editors’ favorites of 2016. I have three reviews in various categories for that issue. Check it out…and enter to win!

I’m into my 2017 books now, so I’ll be posting my favorites lists soon. Be on the lookout.

O.k. so that brings me to this week’s new photo. It comes from my photography class on Sunday where I was again working on lighting. I’ve been using the Cactus RF60 Wireless flash. In my set-up for this shoot I was using two flashes and the V6 transceiver. I have been quite impressed with the Cactus products. They’ve been easy to use and make the shoot go smoother, which is a plus for a photographer who’s still mastering all this lighting business!

In addition to the flashes I used a Godox softbox on one flash. I need to get a grid to go with my softbox, but for what I paid for it, it’s a good, portable, easy-to-use diffuser. The kit I bought comes with the S-type bracket, but you can buy kits without that and pay a little less.

My photo was taken with my Tamron 17-50mm lens at an aperture of 8.0. My shutter speed was 1/100 and my ISO was 100.

New photo Friday - lighting

So what’s your favorite equipment that you use for lighting? Do you have any tips or tricks that you like to follow for lighting? Feel free to share with us. And share a photo if you have one today. I’d love to stop by and see it.

Hope you have a great weekend. I’m going to help out with a Santa photo shoot. I’m sure I’ll have fun stories and pictures to share after. Stay warm. Happy reading and shooting!

New Photo Friday - Rufus

New Photo Friday – Week 14

jennifer forbus - new photo friday

Happy Friday and beginning of December everyone. How in the world is this year almost over already? Yikes! This week I’m cheating on my new photo and using one from a week ago. It isn’t because I wasn’t taking pictures this week; in fact, just the opposite. But I can’t share those with the world, yet. I will when I can.

So the picture I’m going to share with you is my greatest passion–photographing animals. My dog Rufus and I took advantage of a bizarre 70 degree day in November and played a little hooky in the park. This picture is from our romp through the woods.

I took this one with my Tamron 17-50mm lens with an aperture of 2.8, a shutter speed of 1/320 and an ISO of 100. I like the texture in Ru’s fur. He tends to blend in with the fall browns and reds, but his pose was fun and every chance I get to practice with animals, I’m thrilled.

New Photo Friday - Rufus

This weekend we’re headed to a dog walk sponsored by the local metro parks. It’s in the evening, but if I can get some good pictures of that there may be more dogs next week for New Photo Friday as well.

In the mean time, if you’re a photography enthusiast, you may want to check out this free ebook. I’m not sure how much longer it’s going to be free, so I’d go quickly. But working effectively with reflectors is one of my goals for the near future, so I want to check this one out.

Book review: An Obvious Fact

Book Review :: An Obvious Fact

I‘ve fallen so far behind in getting my book reviews on the blog and I apologize for that. I’ll try to catch up a little here in the coming weeks so you can have some ideas for holiday book gifts. And of course, I’m always a pusher for this man’s books, so if you know someone who isn’t reading them yet, they’d make a great gift for sure. So here’s the most recent Walt Longmire from Craig Johnson–make sure you read the acknowledgements, it’s a bonus story! My review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

First line: “I tried to think how many times I’d kneeled down on asphalt to read the signs, but I knew this was the first time I’d done it in Hulett.”

Book review: An Obvious FactFor the twelfth novel in Craig Johnson’s highly addictive mystery series, Absaroka County sheriff, Walt Longmire, and his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, are in Hulett, Wyoming during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It’s August and bikers from around the world are pouring into the area when one of them is run off the road and left in a coma. The investigating officer calls on Walt to help solve the crime.

While following the clues, Walt encounters hostile biker gangs, an undercover ATF agent, the namesake for Henry’s ’59 Thunderbird and a 15-ton, military-grade MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle. Meanwhile Walt’s undersheriff, Vic Moretti, shows up in her rental car, a bright orange Dodge Challenger. The suspense ratchets to nose-bleed levels and the action races non-stop. Paying homage to what is arguably the most famous orange Dodge, albeit a Charger, Johnson includes a rip-roaring car chase complete with a field full of hay bales. The Dukes of Hazard would certainly be proud.

Rounding out a dozen books with his beloved sheriff, not to mention short stories and novellas, Johnson hasn’t lost a step. An Obvious Fact is fresh and exciting, while still maintaining all the attributes that make this series so popular. It’s witty and complex with pop culture weaved into clever Sherlock Holmes literary references. The brilliantly colorful, snappy dialogue remains second to none. And dynamic characters surprise and delight readers with their charm, authenticity and depth. The most obvious fact is not deceptive at all; Craig Johnson writes a mighty fine story.

New Photo Friday – Week 13

jennifer forbus - new photo friday

Happy Friday everyone! We’re supposed to have a little spurt of warmish weather today in Northeast Ohio, so I’m in a stellar mood. This week has been rather crazy busy but sunshine and warm temps are the perfect remedy for almost anything in my sphere. I hope you’re able to enjoy today as well.

I’m going to share a photo today from my photography class last night. My group was working on low-key lighting, which I LOVE. The dramatic effect of this lighting approach definitely grabs the eye and it’s a fairly easy technique with little equipment needed. We used two off-camera flashes on this shot, one with a shoot-through umbrella and one with a softbox. For this shot, I used an ISO of 100, an aperture of 4.0 and a shutter speed of 1/125.

New Photo Friday - Low Key Lighting

Let me know what you think. Have you ever tried this technique?

And if you have a photo to share this week, let us know where to find it. I’d love to take a look. Thanks for stopping by. I’m hoping to get some bookish posts up next week as well as my new photo, so do keep an eye out. And have a wonderful weekend!

New Photo Friday - Maddee James

New Photo Friday – Week 12

Happy Friday everyone! And I apologize for no photo last week. I just ran out of time before I had to set off for Milwaukee, which is where this week’s photo comes from. In our workshop for the Erie Shores Photography Club we worked on family portraits using flash photography, which was a great exercise. And in my class this week, we photographed a dancer. I’m also entering photos in our club’s competition for the first time this month. Cross your fingers for me. So a lot of fun photography stuff going on.

Jen

The picture I’m sharing this week I took when I went out for a little stroll in Milwaukee. I just did a little jaunt around the immediate neighborhood of the Irish Cultural Center. This little weed caught my attention so I played with some depth of field on it. I shot this at an aperture of 2.8 and 1/160 second shutter speed (ISO 100). I don’t have a macro lens, so it lacks a lot of the great detail a macro would have brought in, but it still tickled my fancy.

New Photo Friday - weed

Maddee J.

Maddee is infusing this week’s post with some color! Here’s what she has to say about her photo this week:

“I know I seem to be rose-obsessed but I’m really not at all… in fact I just removed a bunch from my yard! BUT — I love taking photos of them because they’re so luscious and layered! This is taken with my iPhone early one morning and the cool thing is that I wasn’t wearing my close-up glasses so actually had NO idea that morning frost lined these petals. It was a beautiful surprise when I got home and downloaded them to my computer where I could really see! Anyway, the colors of this rose are like orange-strawberry sherbet! One of my favorite flower shots I’ve ever taken. :)”

New Photo Friday - Maddee James

I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos week. Be sure to let us know if you have one you’d like us to check out. I hope your weekend is filled with great books and photograph-worthy moments!

Book Review - Fredrik Backman

Book review :: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

First line: “There’s a hospital room at the end of a life where someone, right in the middle of the floor, has pitched a green tent.”

Book Review - Fredrik BackmanIt isn’t Black Friday yet, but I have my first literary gift recommendation for 2016. Fredrik Backman’s new novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, is stunning. This beautiful little book is a gem of a read that will be devoured in a couple of hours at most, but will demand to be read over and over.

Backman’s amazing stroll through the lives of three generations–father, son and grandson–will make your heart smile through the tears your soul cries. He paints a debilitating disease using his magnificent brush of creativity. In phrases only he could compose (and Alice Menzies deserves accolades for her astounding translation), the man who brought us Ove, Elsa and Britt-Marie, tells a mesmerizing story of minds that betray before the bodies wears out. A story of sons and grandsons who have to say goodbye to someone who’s still with them. In his letter at the book’s opening, Backman says, “This is a story about memories and about letting go. It’s a love letter and a slow farewell between a man and his grandson, and between a dad and his boy.”

Parts of the book take place in the man’s mind, a lovely little town square that he says gets smaller every day. The faces of the people that pass are fuzzy. They look familiar but he simply can’t focus in on exactly who they are. The man’s grandson, Noah, sits with him in his mind. “Noah’s feet don’t touch the ground when his legs dangle over the edge of the bench, but his head reaches all the way to space, because he hasn’t been alive long enough to allow anyone to keep his thoughts on Earth.”

The man’s wife also visits him in his mind. She’s been dead awhile now. “Her hair is old but the wind in it is new, and he still remembers what it felt like to fall in love; that’s the last memory to abandon him. Falling in love with her meant having no room in his own body. That was why he danced.”

While the heart-breaking dementia invades the man’s mind, Backman helps the reader experience his glorious life–his blessings as well as regrets.

This gorgeous, little volume has less than 100 pages and includes delightful, color illustrations throughout. After you get a copy for yourself–this is one you’ll want to keep, but really what Backman don’t you want to keep!?–snag some extras to tuck in stockings, to share with friends and family who might be experiencing something similar, or just to gift to someone you care about. I’d add a package of tissues to the gift though. You won’t get through this one without crying.

New Photo Friday - long exposure

New Photo Friday – Week 11

jennifer forbus - new photo friday

Happy Friday friends! I hope you had a great week. Mine was a whirlwind it feels like. How is it the last Friday of October already? As I mentioned last week, I went to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park last Saturday with my photography club–Erie Shores Photography Club–and shot beautiful nature. We saw three different falls and a nature trail. It was such a wonderful–and exhausting–day.

This weekend is going to be a little mundane as I have a lot of work to catch up on, but next weekend is Murder and Mayhem in Milwaukee. Are you planning to attend? I’m looking forward to a fun bookish weekend since I had to miss the last two M&Ms.

So let’s move on to this week’s photos!

Jen

I had a hard time picking which photo to use today. We had such great content to shoot. I have a few heron images that came out nice from the nature trail, but I opted for a water image because I used long exposure for these and I really haven’t done that technique in the past. And I was like a fascinated little kid. I’d adjust my settings to use the fastest shutter speed I could and then I’d go to the slowest, and then I’d play with the ones in between. So I ended up with a slew of the same shots, just different water effects. (It really doesn’t take much to amuse me!)

This one ended up being one of my favorites. The leaves aren’t spectacular, we’re having an overall disappointing color change this year–maybe due to the strange weather–but there’s still some color. The shot was taken with an ISO of 100, an aperture of 18 and a 20 second shutter speed. Obviously I took this on a tripod at that shutter speed. 😉

New Photo Friday - long exposure

Maddee J.

Maddee is sharing some faith with us this week. She has a lovely church, and this is what she shared about it:

“I took this in San Miguel de Allende, like last week’s photo.  It’s this amazing church in the main square.  Taken with my iPhone in the evening so the edges aren’t sharp… but the lighting was so pretty, and I adore palm trees so the lone one there next to the church made me happy!”

New Photo Friday - San Miguel de Allende

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed our photos this week. Definitely let us know if you have pictures we can come check out. And have a wonderful last weekend of October!