Road Trip Essentials (RelayRides)

As you may or may not know, I am a big fan of traveling. I have been to about ¾ of the States and five countries (including living in Scotland for a year). I am obsessed with traveling and seeing new places and meeting new people. So when I was contacted by Emma from RelayRides (a super cool – and cheap! – peer-to-peer car rental service) to create a post with some of my travel essentials, I thought it’d be fun and figured some of my fellow travel-lovers might appreciate it! First, let me tell you how cool RelayRides is. Not only can you pick the car that fits your price range and taste (which the owner will bring to you at the airport to look over and get the keys), but you can also rent out your car to travelers so you can make a little money as well. Sounds like a pretty great idea. Unfortunately, they don’t do these airport rentals in Mississippi, but maybe they’ll have rentals at your airport!

Road Trip[Source]

I take a lot of road trips and I’ve been on a lot of flights (over 25!), so it was kind of hard to decide if I should do a road trip essentials post or a carry on essentials post. As I’ve most recently been on a road trip (and I know a lot of you drive to see family during the holidays), I figured I’d better go with a road trip post.

Here are some of my absolutely-gotta-have on a road trip essentials:

Audiobook logo

Several audiobooks or lots of CDs to choose from – I despise the radio. My car only has a CD player (no aux port. Sad day) so I have to lots of CDs and several audiobooks to choose from. I’m apparently very finicky and indecisive when it comes to what to listen to in the car. Audiobooks really help to pass the time and make the drive feel less short and less boring. And I’m sure you were all surprised that BOOKS were the first thing on my list. They are always the first thing I pack. 🙂

Hand sanitizer – Gas stations are nasty, you guys.

Starbucks DoubleshotComfy pants – I cannot drive longer than 2 hours in jeans without being uncomfortable. I mean, I have done it, but I’d rather not. I wear pajamas or stretchy pants or shorts or something (anything) other than jeans. Please.

Starbucks Doubleshot(s) – I am not a fan of normal energy drinks, like Redbull or Monster, but I love coffee. I usually buy at least two Doublshots (Vanilla, Mocha, or White Chocolate) before I head out, which increases as I go.

Water – I’ve also got to have a couple of bottles of water. Make sure you stay hydrated. No, you aren’t doing anything super physical, but anyone who’s gone on a long road trip will know just how exhausting it can be.

Cash – I have stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere to buy some gas or snacks and been told there was no card machine. That sucks, you guys.

Snacks – Road trips will make you hungry. Some of my favorite snacks for the road: pretzels, peanut m&ms, string cheese (best to eat these early in the trip), ranch Corn Nuts (whatever, they’re delicious), Kashi Crunchy Granola and Seed bars. I also usually pack a sandwich – cheaper than getting fast food.

Burt's BeesBurt’s Bees – The definition of essential.Meds – If you take any daily meds, make sure you pack it, plus a few extras just in case.

PRINTED directions – You never know when you’re phone will die, you won’t have service, or any other number of problems with technology. Having printed directions or an actual map is definitely essential.

Tissues/napkins – Spills SUCK when you’re driving.

Phone chargers (wall AND car) – Again, technology problems. If you’re like me, you use your phone to take a billion pictures and that drains the battery. You can plug your phone up at Dunkin Donuts while you get some coffee and be good to go.

Okay, so I could probably list at least ten more things I like to have in my car on a road trip, but I’ll stop there. What do you guys HAVE to have with you on a road trip?

Also, make sure you go check out RelayRides! They have an amazing service with some really great prices – I saw some cars on there for like $25. Dang.

Audiobook Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Author: Mindy Kaling
Narrators: Mindy Kaling
Audiobook length: 4 hours and 37 minutes
Genre: Autobiography, humor
Publisher: Random House Audio
Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

Okay, so I’ve never watched The Office (well, except for about 30 minutes of one episode I was forced to watch and didn’t like) and the only thing I’ve seen Mindy Kaling in is The 40-Year Old Virgin and about three episodes of The Mindy Project. In case you were wondering, I also didn’t like The 40-Year Old Virgin. You’re probably also wondering why in the world I would want to read/listen to a book by someone I have little to no experience with. Well, even though I haven’t seen her in much, I’ve always found her to be pretty funny and a lot of people (including author Jennifer E. Smith – who I love) have raved about how much they loved this book. I had to check it out.

I listened to this whole audiobook on a weekend trip and it made the drive feel both short and long. I doubt this book was meant to be an insightful piece of literature, which is good because it isn’t. It’s silly, light-hearted and quite fun. At times. I can’t say that this book is laugh-out-loud funny the entire time. It’s not. I did laugh though – more than I thought I would.

There’s a lot of lists in this book, and I’m a big fan of lists. We get Mindy’s favorite comedy moments, and I agree with a lot of them. Except every mention of Will Ferrell (and there are A LOT), who I don’t find funny. I didn’t really enjoy her lists about dieting – she mentions how she was constantly made fun of for her weight as a child but she was comfortable with herself, yet she is constantly trying new diets and regimes. Blah.

For the first two-thirds or so of the book, I was enjoying myself. It’s an interesting and funny memoir about her super normal childhood and upbringing and then her subsequent super unlikely rise to fame and success. But then she reaches her current height of success at NBC and the book just falls on its face. There are essays entitled “Why Do Men Put on Their Shoes So Slowly?” and “In Defense of Chest Hair” which are just as silly and pointless as they sound. This is when I was rolling my eyes a lot, which probably isn’t that great of an idea while you’re driving down the interstate but I couldn’t help it.

Overall, I mostly enjoyed this book, because Mindy is charming, funny, silly, and as much a fan of lists as I am. It made my trip feel a lot more fun than it usually is and the boring, drab trip down to the coast of Mississippi wasn’t as blah as normal. So yay for that! But then the trip back home started off well and then made me wish I had brought another audiobook. I’m glad I finally listened to it though. Recommended for fans of Mindy Kaling, for sure, and fans of fun audiobooks, Hollywood stories, and tales of living in NYC.

P.S. If you aren’t a fan of Kaling’s voice or are iffy about it, I’d read the physical book.

Audiobook Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

I am reading several books for the Magnolia Book Awards. When I saw that Doll Bones was on the list, I volunteered to read it for my library as it’s been on my TBR for a while. I checked out the audiobook to listen to, and I am glad I did.Doll Bones

Author: Holly Black

Narrators: Nick Podehl

Audiobook length: 5 hours and 15 minutes

Genre: Middle grade, fantasy, adventure

Publisher: Listening Library (audiobook), Margaret K. McElderry Books (physical book)

When I’ve reviewed audiobooks in the past, I’ve kind of just done a general review, mixing both the story and the review of the narration into one review. I think I want to start breaking them down into Story and Audiobook as a way to better clarify my reviews and make them easier to read. How’s that sound to you guys?

STORY

Zach, Poppy, and Alice are best friends who’ve been playing a continuous game of adventure – with mermaids, pirates, and thieves – for a long time. Ruling over their land of make-believe is the Great Queen, a special, bone-china doll locked up in a cabinet and trapped there. When Zach’s there-again father pushed Zach to give up make-believe, Zach quits the game. But Poppy begins having dreams of a ghost girl who won’t rest until the Great Queen is laid to rest, the threesome must go off on an adventure to bury her. Is there really a ghost? Will she curse them if their quest isn’t completed? Bum. Bum. Bum.

This is a perfect coming-of-age story full of fun, adventure, spookiness, and a sense of is-this-real-or-not? Holly Black wonderfully captures that age just before adolescence that us adults tend to forget. Growing up tends to mean putting away our toys and entering a new and scary world of adulthood, and Holly Black is able to weave a story that brings you back to that age of first crushes, awkwardness, and confusion.

There’s also a ghost story here. I think it was just creepy enough, but not too creepy to scare young children into nightmares. The best part is that Black leaves it up to the reader to decide whether or not the story is real.

NARRATION

I’d heard Nick Podehl’s narration once before in the audiobook for Wonder. I enjoyed him then, but I really liked him in Doll Bones. He was able to use his obvious talent for creating voices and narrated the entire book himself. He perfectly captures the voices of Poppy, a somewhat sassy, confident young girl, Zach, a sad, strong, intelligent young boy, and Alice, a shy, reserved girl, as well as the variety of other cast members – including a creepy old man on a bus and a firm but kind librarian. Nick Podehl is very, very good, and I will look up some of his other narrated books to try.

OVERALL, I quite liked the audiobook for Doll Bones, and I will definitely be checking out some of Holly Black’s other books to read. Recommended for those who have middle-school aged children or for those who just enjoy a good ghost story.

Bookish Talk: Why I Like Audiobooks

Bookish Talk

I recently started listening to audiobooks on my daily commute to and from work (which roughly equals an hour and twenty minutes in the car every day). I used to be really iffy on audiobooks. Why would I want someone to read to me? That didn’t sound like something I would like. At all. But my new to me car doesn’t have an auxiliary port in it, I absolutely hate the radio, and I was starting to outplay all of my physical CDs. I work in a library and a bunch of my patrons told me how much they love audiobooks, so I thought I might as well try. What could go wrong?

Well, I started with The Dead Fathers Club, which was absolutely amazing. I had a couple of crappy ones in between, which I DNF’ed (see Eat, Pray, Love), but then I listened to The Help (INCREDIBLE), The Labrador Pact, Wonder (enjoyable save for the end), and Shiver, and I realized I actually like other people to read to me. If they have a good voice, of course.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because I had a really awesome/crazy moment while listening to my current audiobook – Doll Bones – yesterday morning on my commute. I got in my car, turned on the radio, and didn’t resurface from under the spell Nick Podehl put on me until I was almost all the way to work. Do any of you listen to audiobooks? It’s such a weird feeling. I didn’t even realize I was driving (I mean, obviously I knew I was driving) or how long my commute was or anything. I was focused on the story.

The part that really tripped me up though was when I realized what was happening. There was a general scene in the book in which a person’s room is being described. I realized as I was driving down the road that a picture was being painted in front of me. I could both see the road and the character’s room.

It’s a completely different feeling compared to reading a book, in which you picture everything in your mind along with the words. You’re stationary. You have something concrete in front of you that you’re holding and reading, but with an audiobook, it’s different. I don’t know if I’m doing it justice, but it is such a cool thing that I would’ve missed out on had I not tried audiobooks.

Basically, the point of this post is to say that you should try audiobooks if you’ve ever been curious about them. 🙂

Do you read audiobooks? Do you get the same feeling as me? Recommend some good ones to me in the comments!

Audiobook Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

PanicAuthor: Lauren Oliver

Narrators: Sarah Drew

Audiobook length: 8 hours, 11 minutes

Genre: Young adult, thriller

Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks (book via HarperCollins)

The plot of this book is really intriguing: in a small, boring town named Carp in the middle of nowhere New York, the students give a dollar every day for the whole year into a pot. The pot is the prize for the winner of Panic, a game that the newly graduated seniors can take part and which tests their courage, smarts, and daring through a series of exceedingly ridiculous and sometimes illegal stunts over the course of the summer. Heather wasn’t going to participate, but she does and throughout the game, her friendships are tested, alliances are made (and broken), and her life is put on the line. Interesting, right?

Well, it was a little underwhelming for me. I’m really glad I listened to this as an audiobook because Sarah Drew’s narration made this book for me. Her cadences and emphasis and ability to race through words to give the listener a sense of the overwhelming panic Heather feels throughout the tasks was amazing. There are lots of feels in this book too. Heather’s family problems with her mother and the relationship between her and her friends goes through a rollercoaster of emotions and changes, and this is definitely a part that Oliver did a seriously good job with.

On the other hand, several parts of this story are unrealistic. To illustrate, I’m going to quote my friend over at Booknerderie’s review of Panic:

The game itself. On what planet do teens participate in a game that consists of breaking and entering, arson, russian roulette and tigers. Not this planet.

In addition to being somewhat unrealistic, it is also seriously predictable at times. I called the end by about halfway through, which is disappointing.

I’m glad I listened to this as an audiobook, because I think if I had read this, I would’ve given up. Unrealistic, predictable, eye-rolling inducing. Yeah, I would’ve given up, but Sarah Drew’s narration made this book actually thrilling. So yay for audiobooks!