The Bees: Should You Read or Listen?

For quite some time now I’ve been trying to come up with a “regular feature” for my blog.  Something unique that I can offer the community.  On my ride into work, inspiration hit.  I listen to a ton of books.  My 0:45-1:30 commute gives me ample time to listen to books.  However, I really like listening to books that I have read already.   That way when the person in front of me slams on the brakes and I have to make evasive maneuvers I don’t miss any of the plot.  I can pick up right where I left off.  Bingo!  I can do reviews of reading versus listening to a book.  That way if you aren’t like me and automatically do both, you can gain from my dual book experience.  Without further ado:

Should you read or listen to The Bees, by Laline Paull?

The Afthead Summary:

The Bees is a remarkable novel told from the perspective of a honey bee.  Flora 717 isn’t just any honey bee, she a bee from the lowest class worker in her hive.  Flora shares the life of her hive from child rearing, to drone care, to foraging, to fighting enemies and through her life we learn of the political and social struggles of hive living.


I read the novel first and the book moved quickly and was one of my favorites of the year.  I loved Paull’s description of the hive and the places Flora visited.  Her perspective of life as a bee was so unique that it sucked me in, and I couldn’t stop reading.  I learned about the novel from NPR’s list of best books from 2014, which has contained some of the best books I’ve read this year.


The listen on this wasn’t quite the experience of the read.  I’m a dedicated Audible user and I downloaded the book to my iPod to enjoy while I drive.  Sometimes the story is enhanced on the second telling, but for this one, I think the power of the story was in it’s uniqueness.  That was lost the second telling.  Also, the magic and the flow for me weren’t as apparent with the audio version.  I liked flying fast while Flora was on the wing and slowing down when she was tired.  The reader didn’t bring the same pacing to the story that I had internally.  Also, I’m a fast reader, and tend to miss details when I read.  In this case I think that helped.  At times I got tired of all the details, because in an audiobook I listen to them all.



Let me know what you think about this feature.  If it’s popular I’ll make it a normal Monday post.  Also, does anyone know about using images of book covers in my blog?  I took this picture, but since it has Paull’s cover, is that kosher?

I’m Reading it

Okay, I decided to give in and read my novel.  My daughter left with my mom for her sleepover.  I went for a run, ate my takeout Thai food and decided that I was in a decent enough mindset to give the book a try.  Here’s a blow by blow update:

8:22 – One hour in and I’m on page 40.  It doesn’t suck. It’s actually far from sucking.  There are a couple of plot features I’d completely forgotten about that I think I can tie to later in the story.  I got teary eyed once.  I laughed once.  Good signs!  The kittens like my book too.  They like chewing on the spiral binding.  I’m going to eat a Halloween Oreo, or two, and get back to it.

9:28 – It’s still good, and I’m on page 75.  Two scenes I thought I would cut actually flow well.  Not ideal since I need to cut quite a bit, but there is still plenty of book to go.  One of my favorite scenes feels way too short.  It was drawn out and dramatic in my head, but was over in an instant when I read it.  Another teary scene, another laughing scene and a surprise dinosaur-with-short arms joke.  I’m feeling pretty good!

11:11 – Page 102, and I’m getting sleepy.  Over halfway through and only 90 pages left.  I’ve had a couple of, “that person would never say that” moments, and “this sentence make no sense” thoughts, but overall I’m still happy with it.  The plot moves quickly, which I like.  Unfortunately I went past another major section I thought I would be able to delete and it works.  I’m hoping at the end I’ll be able to see the sections that may flow but don’t add anything.   So far, I’m glad I’m reading it and thinking I need to make time for a second draft.

My Soul is Tired

Eighteen days ago my world turned upside down.  I figured it would be no big deal to bring tiny kittens into my house and foster them.  I’d feed them, clean their litter box, give them fresh water and continue on with my life as normal.  No big deal.


Three dead kittens later, eye drops, antibiotics, steam showers, and subcutaneous fluids have eaten up every spare moment I have and several spare moments that I don’t have.  What the heck was I thinking?  The care of these kittens has not just drained my energy, it has drained my soul, and this is a problem.

It’s a problem because tomorrow is the day.  It’s the day I have planned for eight weeks.  The day to break open my novel and read it for the first time.  I should be excited and jittery, but I’m exhausted.  My wonder has gone the way of dead kittens, and that is not a happy place.

Do I seize the time I’ve carved for myself and read?  Do I wait for the next free moment, even if it means waiting until November?

Fostering was supposed to be fun and a great life experience.  Who knew these tiny cats were so fragile?  I haven’t felt this raw since the pediatrician uttered the words “failure to thrive” over my tiny daughter’s body.  I was not a good mother to a newborn human.  I am not a good mother to cat newborns either.  They consume every ounce of me, these tiny new beings.  I give more than I have and then I give more.

Tomorrow.  Do I read?  Do I not?  This too is supposed to be fun.  The anticipation of the first read.  The triumph or the tragedy when the last page is turned.

What to do….

Crying Myself to Sleep

I am a reader.  I can state that with certainty and my head held high.  (When I say I am a writer I want to whisper it cowering under the table with my face hiding behind my hair.)  I don’t ever remember not reading.  I sit in line at the grocery store and read on my iPhone.  I make dinner turning pages on my Kindle with gloopy fingers.  I leave books on the towel rack, driving my husband insane. My bedside is piled with books and my decor can only be described as mid-century modern library eclectic.  I am a reader.

When I was young I had a book I loved:  Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls.  Did you read it?  If not, stop now if you don’t want the ending ruined.  Still with me?  Remember it’s about two dogs and at the end the dogs die.  Well, I loved that book.  I would hide under the covers with my flashlight and I would read that book over and over, and each time I got to the end the same thing would happen.  I would sob loud shuddering snot producing sobs.  I’d blow my nose and the words would get blurry through my tears and on I would read.  My mom would come into my room and look at me and shake her head when she saw I was “reading that book again.”  I love a book that produces unabashed sobbing.  That and apocalyptic fiction are my favorite genres.

So this week I found a new favorite sob-inducing book.  Have you read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness?  If not, spoiler alert again, although you could see the ending coming from the beginning.  It’s about a little boy and his mom has cancer and his dad left them and his grandma is terrible and he’s being bullied at school and he gets visited by a monster.  Yeah, sounds amazing right?  The perfect beach read.  Who wouldn’t want to read such an uplifting tale?  Monday night I’m reading in bed and I saw the ending coming.  The mom was going to die.  The tears started flowing down my cheeks as I leaned forward to get closer to the book propped on my knees.  The illustrations were magic and the story was a roller coaster that ended in broken track.  I was all set to let forth a torrent of loud gasping sobs, but I held back.  See, I share my bed now with this guy who tends to look at me like I’m contagious when I cry.  I kept reading and breathing in hitches and the book kept getting better and sadder and then Mr. Afthead turned to look at me and said something.  I have no idea what he uttered because as soon as I was caught the dam burst.  Oh, and there were still glorious pages left.  I cried and read and blew my nose and cried and finished the book while my husband looked at me with my mom’s “that book again” look.  The minute I read the last word I wanted to turn to the beginning and start all over.

How do these author’s do it?  How do they generate that kind of emotion through words?  I don’t like dogs.  I tolerate dogs.  I have met dogs I like, but dogs as a whole?  They are kind of smelly needy garden ruiners.  Yet somehow I read Where the Red Fern Grows and I am a wreck.  I don’t have a son.  I am not a son.  I did not have a mom die of cancer when I was young and my dad never left me.  I have no frame of reference for A Monster Calls but the author can wring my heart out through my eyes with his story.  It is amazing that a writer can have that kind of power over a reader.  I love it.

In Stephen King’s On Writing he says that writing is telepathy and I believe it.  How else do you take a situation for which a reader has no personal frame of reference and impact their emotions?  In my secret dark under the table dreams I hope someday I can become a sender of such messages and not just a receiver.


As I was perusing Longreads I clicked through to “The Books” by Alexander Chee.  While reading, I was struck by a need to jump up and examine our household Harry Potter collection and all the doubles, triples and quintuples contained therein.  My husband and I read all of the books, listened to all of the books and saw all of the movies numerous times. Away to the shelves I flew to start counting.

First to my collection.  The top shelf?  All the hardbound first editions of the collection.  (Yes, I know EVERYONE has a first edition of all the books.  Amazon brought them to your door at midnight in Harry Potter cardboard for goodness sake.)  Note the books are neither in chronological, size or color order.  That’s how I roll folks.  The collection is guarded by my hippo bookend.

Shelf two contains the real collection.  Book one and two from countries around the world.  It started when I was in Italy with my husband’s aunt.  The Chamber of Secrets was out and I wanted a memento from the trip, so I purchased the Italian version.  Next my husband purchased the German version for me when he was on a work trip, and a collection was born.  There are copies from Brazil, Japan, Korea, the UK (multiple copies of the same book) and Hungary.  They are not all purchased by us, but by friends and family as they traveled.  My favorite is the Chinese copy.  It’s the one in the paper bag.  Apparently there are black market copies of that book all over China and the only way to know it is authentic is if you buy it in the bag sealed with the special tape.  At least that’s what my dear friend who bought it told me, so it authentically remains in the paper bag with the tape hanging on for dear life.

Harry Potter from around the world
Afthead’s Harry Potter Collection

Oh, that thing on the left?  It’s a slide rule.  Never know when you’ll need one.

Next, to my husband’s collection.  It’s on his most special bookcase surrounded by sports memorabilia and his favorite series: The Dark Tower, Lord of the Rings, and Calvin and Hobbes.  His books are paperback, of course, because he hates reading hardcover books.  I honestly don’t know if he waited to read each book until the paperback came out.  How could anyone have that kind of patience?

Dark Tower, Lord of the Rings, Calvin and Hobbes and Harry Potter
Mr. Afthead’s favorite series.

Finally to the archives, where dusty cassette tapes of the early audio books are stored.  Yes, you read that right, cassette tapes.  I listened to the first five books using the tape deck in my 1999 red Subaru.  It does appear that for book six I moved over to CDs.  Someday I hope that the digital audiobooks will show up somewhere on a device I support.  Jim Dale’s rendition of the series is even better than reading it in my own head.


The movies?  We have most of them too.  I loved the books more, but the movies have strong memories associated with them.  I was struggling with losing pregnancies and I remember sitting in the theater sobbing during the fourth Harry Potter movie because I was never going to have a child who would enjoy these movies with me. Our first date after our daughter was born was to see the first half of “Deathly Hallows.”  My husband and I are patiently, patiently waiting for our her to be ready for Harry Potter.  She shuns them now as “too scary” but the day will come when she sits down on my lap and we go to Hogwarts together, or we road trip and Jim Dale tells her about Quiddich, or she sits next to me and we enjoy watching the “Goblet of Fire.”  I’ll bet you anything that when she does finally read the books herself, she’ll need her own copy, because mommy and daddy will be reading right alongside her.

Final Tally:

  • Sorcerers/Philosophers Stone :: 6 copies
  • Chamber of Secrets ::  15 copies
  • Prisoner of Azkaban :: 4 copies
  • Goblet of Fire :: 4 copies
  • Order of the Phoenix :: 4 copies
  • Half-Blood Price :: 3 copies
  • Deathly Hallows :: 4 copies (if you count each movie half as one)

The Nutcracker Redeployment

“Well troops, today is the day where we must migrate from our dignified post across the staircase and return to our plastic storage container home.”

Several of the older more claustrophobic nutcrackers faint at the news.

A new-this-year nutcracker pipes up, “What do you mean?  Do we have to go back to our boxes?”

“No, no.” The lead nutcracker chuckles, “Your new home is this industrial grey box, but take comfort that once a year we will return to the glory of the shelf and again be organized in formation from tallest to shortest.”

Nutcrackers in a bin
As the leader of you troops, and the tallest, I’ll be residing in the green bin with the wrapping paper.

(Part of me really believes these guys are alive.  I anthropomorphize everything.  No wonder I hate those elves on shelves, huh?)

Have courage brave soldiers!  Until we meet again in December!


I guess the first step here is to introduce myself.  So far I’ve been yammering on like a new hire at orientation without the good sense to tell you a bit about myself.  By now you are probably rolling your eyes and wishing you had sat next to someone else.  My apologies for being rude and self absorbed.  I’ve never been much for small talk. So here goes:

  • I am a manager of a team of 13 web developers, database administrators, analysts and projects managers and have a degree in chemical engineering
  • I am a mom to a first grader which means I am also a soccer coach, a working mother, a doer of laundry, and owner of two cats, one hamster, about 50 snails and a host of roly polies.
  • I am a crafter with a primary focus on knitting, but also enjoy sewing
  • I am a reader, currently engrossed in John Scalzi’s “Lock In” and listening to Stephen King’s “On Writing”

While I think this all makes me a fascinating well rounded person, it does not explain why I am publically entering the blogosphere.  I am also an aspiring writer and novelist (holy crap it is scary to write that out loud.)  My first book is about half done and was abandoned because my second book couldn’t be ignored.  It flew out of me in a frenzy, and the story took my breath away.  I was about three quarters done when my husband suffered a major depressive episode.  (He doesn’t believe in half-assing anything.)  I sporadically worked on my book, but life took so much out of me that I had no emotional energy left to give and the project languished.

In November my husband was declared cured, for this episode, and I had my own mini-breakdown.  Then, my characters started calling to me again, so it’s time to start writing.  This time I’m going two directions: the blog and the novel.

Why the blog?  Well, it’s really because I could buy the afthead domain and I love the idea of aftheads.  I also have the occasional story that has nothing to do with my novel.  I am not really sure what I hope to get out of the blog.  I make a good living, so I don’t need to make money from it.   I guess I’m looking for some virtual companionship while I go on this new journey into the writing world.

Nice to meet you!