Saturday, April 29, 2017

April 2017 #Readathon

24 hour readathon

Another Readathon has come and gone, whomp-whomp. I did manage to complete my goal of reading The Vegetarian by Han Kang, so yay! That makes it the first and only book I've ever started and finished in a single Readathon. I wouldn't say I enjoyed reading it, but I'm pretty sure it's not meant to be an enjoyable read anyway. It was really dark and violent and weird and disturbing. But, if you can get past that, well worth the time to read I think.

If you read The Vegetarian too, be sure to check out my discussion post for it on BBI.

CLOSING SURVEY

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Honestly, there were a lot of daunting hours. The three hours it took to make dinner, which turned out to be a disaster, for example. Also around 2am I was just really tired and fed up with reading The Vegetarian.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a reader engaged for next year?

No.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season?

Idk, I kind of miss the cheerleaders. Maybe people could commit to a length of time and platform?

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

Even though I got annoyed with it, reading one short book during the Readathon worked out better than I expected. I may do something similar next time.

5. How many books did you read?

One (and on a side note, how do people manage to read multiple books??? I know I got a late start, but I was also up until 4am, so it's not like I wasn't putting time into reading)

6. What were the names of the books you read?

Don't make me type it again.

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

I didn't.

8. Which did you enjoy least?

All of them.

9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I will definitely participate if I am able!


STATS

Mini-challenges completed:

  • One Night Reads
  • Show Us the Weather
  • A few of the #IGReadathon challenges
  • Summer Road Trip
Consumed:
  • 2 glasses of water
  • 1 cup of coffee
  • A piece of breakfast casserole
  • Snacks: grapes, apple, hummus and pita chips
  • Roasted chicken, paprika-parmesan corn, yeast roll
  • Wine/martinis
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Hallo hallo. For those of you who don't know, today is the 24 Readathon, aka the bibliophile's Super Bowl. I'm getting a late start on the Readathon this time around, even by my standards, but I am awake at last a ready to read!

Let's get this party started with the opening survey. I'll be updating this post throughout the Readathon instead of creating new posts because laziness.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

"I believe I have seen hell and it's white, it's snow-white."

A snow-packed Colorado.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

My goal is only to read one book this time around, The Vegetarian by Han Kang, for a readalong I'm hosting over at Book Bloggers International. It's a live readalong!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I don't really do snacks. I am looking forward to the breakfast casserole I currently have in the oven, and maybe leftover enchiladas for lunch.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Okay! I have three dogs: two Scottie/schnauzers from the same litter and one miniature schnauzer who's a rescue dog. They enjoy watching Cesar Millan and Animal Planet.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Usually I just try to finish what I'm currently reading during the readathon, but this time I'm focused on getting through one book. Fortunately Andi said it was a fast read and she was right! I'm already 10% through it and I literally just woke up.

MID-EVENT SURVEY

It's the middle of the Readathon already??? Wow, time flies when you sleep in till 10. Here's the mid-event survey:

1. What are you reading right now?

The Vegetarian

2. How many books have you read so far?

Zero!

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

I'll probably pick up What Did You Eat Yesterday? Vol. 3 if I ever get through The Vegetarian (I'm actually more than halfway through already, I just know that after dinner when Doctor Who comes on and everyone piles into the living room it will be a challenge to focus on reading).

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Not really. I took a shower.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

It's been a pretty quiet Readathon. I wish it was warm so I could sit outside with a glass of rosé, but otherwise it's been what I imagine an ideal Readathon would be like.


Are you joining in the Readathon today? What are your plans?



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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday Snapshot – Spring is Here!

The eye of Calypso

Currently reading:

An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles: Idk, I don't hate it, but I do wish I was finished with it already.

Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone by GS Denning: Absolutely hilarious.

Posted:

Reviews of Act Like It, A Study in Charlotte, and Beastly Bones over at Book Riot; and a peek at the exhibition Japan Style over at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center.

Movies:

cafe society
Café Society, starring Guy Who's Not Michael Cera and Kristen Stewart

Ooof. This script needed A LOT more work. One thing you should know before watching this movie is that the first 2/3rds are a prologue. The actual story about the "Café Society" doesn't start until there's only about forty minutes left to go! But since we've fiddle-farted around with the prologue for so long, none of the secondary characters are fleshed out and the story has no emotional impact. The narration should have been done away with completely, Kristen Stewart and Not Michael Cera have zero chemistry together and are occasionally painful to watch, and even the art direction made me feel like I was wasting my time.

There is one good line in the movie, though: "Socrates once said, 'The unexamined life is not worth living.' But the examined one is no bargain."

This week in heidenkindom:

Not much new and noteworthy to report, but spring is in the air and that makes me happy (most of the time). Here are some pictures of flowers!




Bonus:

When we think of novels that inspire people to do crazy things, we probably think of Catcher in the Rye. But Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther inspired so many people to commit suicide that it was banned in Leipzig, Denmark, and Italy. Even today, a rash of suicides in a single area is called The Werther Effect.

the more you know


Have an excellent, Werther-free week, everyone!



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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Snapshot for the Last Sunday in March

High winds tore the roof off my local library

Currently reading:

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino: Coming across an old school chum is never a good sign in these books.

Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter: TBH I've completely forgotten what these two are investigating or why.

Posted:

Discover the other wines of Champagne and meritage, the New World wine blend to look for if you love Bordeaux.

Movies:

woman in gold
Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, and Tatiana Maslany

LOVED IT. This movie shows exactly why I study art and why I think it's important: it tells us who we are. But it doesn't necessarily tell the story we think it does, or tell a single story. I ugly cried at the end and I didn't even care. The scenes of pre-War Vienna were also perfect; Tatiana Maslany really looked like she could be a younger Helen Mirren.

My only criticism is that Ryan Reynolds struggled with the whole mild-mannered nice guy persona. Sometimes he'd break character, and when he wasn't breaking character it was painfully obvious he was Acting!.

life
Life, starring Rebecca Ferguson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Bradley Cooper (kidding, it's Ryan Reynolds again)

Scientists at the International Space Station collecting samples from Mars discover an adorable single-celled organism named Calvin that's all eyes, all brain, all muscle, looks like a vampire bat, and grows rapidly. What could go wrong?!

Idk about this movie; I spent most of it rooting for the alien. Also there are a ton of inconsistencies: lack of oxygen is supposed to kill Calvin, but it spent 20 minutes frolicking around in outer space like a kid in a McDonald's play area! I think it would have been better if the filmmakers had pulled a Jaws and not let us see Calvin for most of the movie. Because it was way too cute.

foodies movie
Foodies: The Culinary Jet Set, directed by Thomas Jackson, Charlotte Landelius, and Henrik Stockare

This documentary follows the life and adventures of top-tier foodie bloggers, who travel the world in their quest to eat at Michelin-starred restaurants. In other words, the life I wish I had.

If anything, this film made me glad I'm not one of these super food bloggers, or whatever they call themselves. Yes, I have scheduled portions of vacations around eating in specific restaurants before, but they weren't Michelin restaurants, and even if I could afford such a diet, I wouldn't even want to eat in these fancy-ass places for all three meals every damn day. I would have liked to have seen some questioning of the Michelin rating system and a few bloggers who don't slavishly follow it, as well. Overall just an okay doc.

snowden
Snowden, starring Shia Lebeouf? wrong! Joseph Gordon-Levitt

You can really tell this movie was directed by Oliver Stone. For some people that might be a good thing. For me, eh. I enjoyed JFK, but that movie was actually entertaining. This one, on the other hand, is too vague and bland to be terribly interesting. Your time would be better served watching Citizenfour.

I did like the performances, however! I was impressed by how well Lebeouf–no–Levitt transformed into Snowden, but really all the actors do a top notch job. My favorite by far, however, was Rhys Ifans as Corbin O'Brien. He brought some very much needed personality and energy into this film.

miss peregrine's home for peculiar children
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, starring Eva Green and Asa Butterfield (for whom I couldn't invent a more appropriate name)

Okay, but not as good as the book. I would have expected a movie like this to be totally up Tim Burton's alley, but he never went for the jugular with it. It could/should have been scary, or at the very least creepy, but instead it was all nice, bright skies, flowers, fun people with British accents, etc. Plus they kept the prologue and, while I can understand why they did, I still found it irritating.

Bonus:

Time is getting on, so I'm going to skip the updates for this week. I did want to share one link, though. Remember how I started keeping track of the nationality of all the authors whose books I read this year? Well, check out this handy map of every country's favorite/most famous novel.


Have a great week, everyone!



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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday Snapshot: Saving Daylight

Calypso needs a few more zzzzs

Currently reading:

Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas: So far I'm enjoying it a helluva lot more than Marrying Winterborne.

Beastly Bones by William Ritter: Frankenstein!

Posted:

Learn about Jura, France's most obscure wine region! And read my article on the Denver Art Museum's Mi Tierra installation art exhibit.

Movies watched:

gods of egyptGods of Egypt, starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gerard Butler

I expected this movie to be pretty stupid, and I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed! Although it is better than some other ancient tymes action flicks I've seen (Prince of Persia, The Last Legion, The Scorpion King... I could go on, I've yet to come across one I can say no to), it was about as accurate and plausible as one would expect. Which is to say not. at. all.

This week in heidenkindom:

Whelp, daylight savings is upon us (if you live in most of the US anyway). The long slog through winter is semi-officially over! Sometimes I don't have any problems adjusting to the time change and sometimes it takes weeks; I have a feeling this year it's going to be the latter.

Art history time:

jug in the form of a head gauguin
Jug in the Form of a Head, Self-portrait, Gauguin, 1889. Kunstindustrimuseet, Copenhagen.

I thought this was pretty damn fascinating: Only days after his epic fight and split with Van Gogh, Gauguin attended a decapitation in Paris, where he conceived of Jug in the form of a Head, a self-portrait-as-beheaded-death-mask. Even more curiously, the head has no ears. Is it a reference to Van Gogh cutting off his ear in Arles?


Have a great week, everyone!


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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sunday Snapshot is MARCH-ing Along (See What I Did There?)

This is why we can't have nice things.

Currently reading:




Posted:




Movies watched:

i don't feel at home in this world anymore
I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore, starring Melanie Lynskey and a completely unrecognizable Elijah Wood

When Ruth's laptop and her grandma's silver are stolen, she finds the police not just unhelpful, but completely without fucks to give. So she decides to take matters into her own tentacles and look for the stuff on her own, with a little help from a not-so-mysteriously-single neighbor.

Imagine Kill Bill, but instead of a ninja assassin seeking vengeance for a wedding massacre there's a shy nurse trying to find the people who broke into her house, and you basically have this movie. I thought the start of the film and the conclusion didn't really go together, but I did enjoy both parts for different reasons. Weirdly, it reminded me of Idiocracy–it's in that same lane of really sharp social commentary crouched in a completely ridiculous plot. Worth watching, I think!

This week in heidenkindom:

Not a lot going on this week, aside from the usual, which is nice after a hectic February. I finally finished Pretty Face, which was a slog (review to come!), and started The Last of August yesterday. Oh, and I made homemade hamburger buns from starter on Wednesday.

We've actually been trying out a few new recipes recently, and I have to say America's Test Kitchen has been killing it this season. Their cast iron steak and chicken are both simple to make and fantastic, and I tried their pan seared salmon this week and it was SO GOOD. Even my dad was like, "This is my new favorite salmon recipe!" (Note you have to create an account to access ATK recipes on their website.)

I also got a cookbook called Simple: The Easiest Cookbook in the World, where all the recipes have no more than 4 steps and 6 ingredients. So far every recipe we've tried from this cookbook have been absolute winners! Full of flavor and just plain delish. Some of the recipes are "strange" by American standards (it was written by a Frenchman and originally published in French), but as far as I'm concerned that only makes it more fun to flip through. It's fascinating to get another cultural perspective on basic, everyday dishes. I definitely recommend this one!

Bonus:

Tif is hosting a readalong of The Underground Railroad over at Book Bloggers International this month. The first discussion will be Monday, March 6th, for those who want to join in.


Have an wonderful week, everyone!



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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sunday Snapshot: Adios, February

plexus no. 36 by gabriel dawe art installation denver art museum
Gabriel Dawe, Plexus no. 36, 2016

Currently reading:

Pretty Face by Lucy Parker: I keep picturing Luc as a bald Ron Howard.

Jackaby by William Ritter: Looooove this one.

Posted:




Movies watched:

blind date 2015
Blind Date (French title: Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglément), starring Mélanie Bernier and Clovis Cornillac

A young woman whose dream is to be a professional pianist settles into her first apartment in Paris. At first she thinks it might be haunted, but she quickly realizes that her next door neighbor, a reclusive inventor, is instead trying to scare her off. The apartment acoustics are shoddy and they can hear what's going on in each other's space as if there isn't a wall between them. To keep from driving one another crazy, they set up a schedule of time when each can make noise or concentrate, but as they get to know one another more they fall in love–all without ever having laid eyes on each other.

This is a fun, modern take on a marriage of convenience romance plot. The hero and heroine are forced to essentially cohabitate and go from hating one another, to grudging respect, to love. Aside from one particular scene that was eye-rollingly sexist, and some stuff that seemed laughably convenient (he just happens to be a music expert as well as an inventor? mrokay), I completely enjoyed this movie. Definitely recommend it if you're in the mood for a romcom!

john wick 2
John Wick: Chapter 2, starring Keanu Reeves

There are three things you need to know about John Wick: he has a dog, he has a car, and he used to be the best hitman for a cabal organization that can't really be that secret, since it seems like everyone is a part of it. Naturally, the organization isn't going to let him stay retired for long.

Hmm I'm kinda torn on this one. On one hand, it's a well-made movie that sets a surprisingly high bar for assassin revenge flicks (seriously). There were long stretches that I totally enjoyed, the locales are amazing, and it looks really fucking cool, which I think is probably the main point. On the other hand, the gun violence was way over-the-top. TOO MUCH. It was like those single-shooter video games except worse. And you can tell it's gun porn because the characters feel the need to tell you what every goddamn firearm in the entire film is. Like it makes a difference? There were times when I was caught by Reeves' balletic prowess and the impressive fight scene choreography, but really how much of that do you need when you can just lay lead into people? Still, I'm glad I watched it. I found some excellent articles about the filmmakers' nods to Buster Keaton and the problematic gun violence in the movie as well.

This month in heidenkindom:

Ooops, looks I unintentionally checked out of blogging this month. This is definitely the fastest February I've ever experienced in my life. Usually it feels like three months rolled into one; but this year, what with the unseasonably nice weather (temps in the 60s and 70s), another job I got setting up a website, and various birthdays and writing assignments, I'm legit shocked February's almost over.

Bonus:

Last Saturday I went up to Denver to see a new exhibit called Mi Tierra, which features installations from up-and-coming Latino artists. I was really impressed! Here are a few pics of my favorite pieces:

fridalandia
Justin Favela, Fridalandia, 2017

Justin Favela, Fridalandia, 2017
Justin Favela, Fridalandia (detail)

Justin Favela, Fridalandia, 2017
Justin Favela, Fridalandia (detail)

Daniela Edburg, Uprooted, 2017
Daniela Edburg, Uprooted, 2017

Gabriel Dawe, Plexus no. 36, 2016.
Gabriel Dawe, Plexus no. 36

Gabriel Dawe, Plexus no. 36, 2016.
Gabriel Dawe, Plexus no. 36 (detail)


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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mini Reviews: 2 YA Fantasy Novels

mini book reviews of passenger and graceling

Sometimes I have some things to say about a book, but not enough for a whole post. Enter mini reviews! This week I'm reviewing two young adult fantasy novels that, on the surface, have a lot in common: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken and Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Both have one-word titles. Both are the start of a series (but then what book isn't these days). And both were kind of a mixed bag. However, I think one was slightly more successful than the other. Read on to find out which!



passenger
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

A gifted violinist, 17-year-old Etta Spencer is eagerly awaiting her professional debut concert. But her career and everything else in her life is put on hold when she's literally shoved through time and into Revolutionary-Era America. Trapped aboard a pirate ship, Etta has to figure out how to get back to her own time and save her mom.

I can never say no to a story about time travel, especially when it involves romance, so when I saw this book on Booktalk & More Too, I immediately requested it at my library. I definitely enjoyed reading Passenger, but there were some inconsistencies and issues that kept pulling me out of a story I desperately wanted to be sucked into.

I loved the beginning of Passenger, where we get a peek into the life of a child prodigy and witness Etta's passion for violin. It reminded me of Mozart In the Jungle, which is one of my favorite TV shows ever. I also liked that Bracken didn't completely whitewash the past and that Nicolas was black (that said, I would have liked it even more if he wasn't the only black person in the book). The story itself was perfectly paced and it's the type of book you don't want to put down.

Unfortunately, Passenger also has some major weaknesses in regards to plausibility and continuity that made it a frustrating read, especially in the second half. I'm not talking about the time travel aspect–I don't expect that to make sense, and it doesn't–but character motivation and practical details that the author skips over or makes a hash out of.

For example, when Etta first time travels, she gets "Traveler sickness" and is unconscious for several days, allowing Sofia to take her from the time portal and deposit her on a ship. Okay, fine. But how did Sofia get Etta from the portal to the ship? Did she have someone carry her? Fireman's hold? Wingardium Leviosa? Teleportation? I guess we'll never know.

Then there's the romance, which I simply did not feel at all. It's one of those romances where they're attracted to each other as soon as they lay eyes on one another, but then spend 500 pages not doing anything about it BECAUSE REASONS. And let me add here that the male half of this equation is a pirate. I found his behavior distinctly un-piratical.

Add to all that long-ass passages of really headslappingly stupid exposition ("Marrying up was the only way that any number of women in history had escaped their pasts and whatever stations they’d been born into. They couldn’t work to improve their lives the way men did, and live by their own means. It was grossly unfair to them–" Thanks for that), and descriptions that are just a bunch of words strung together in sentences that honest to god mean absolutely nothing, and I couldn't work up more than a like for this one. But, it's a decent and fun time travel story, and if you enjoy shows like Timeless you'll probably enjoy this read.


graceling
Graceling by Kristin Cashore

In an alternate world, Katsa is graced with a powerful fighting ability, which her cousin and king exploits to his own advantage. But when she meets similarly graced Prince Po, he inspires her to rebel and set out on an adventure.

Graceling is another novel with a well-told story, but some problems that prevented me from really getting into it.

When I was reading reviews of this book on Goodreads shortly after I started it, I noticed that some people were grouchy about "the raging feminist agenda." And, about halfway through, I understood why. Graceling makes a big show of being "feminist," with a heroine who literally kicks people's asses. But when there's only one female character (aside from a maid whose only purpose in the narrative is to make Katsa attractive so she can attract boys) and the book doesn't even pass the Bechdel Test, the feminist agenda feels more like patronizing lip service than empowerment. I got pretty damn cranky about the whole thing myself, I have to say.

I also was not into the romance between Kat and Po. I did like that they were equals and Po treated her as such, but for me personally it's hard to wrap my head around a positive relationship built on fighting. And the sex scene was like something out of a different novel. A bad one.

But! In the last quarter of the book Po is out of the picture, and I have to say Graceling improved by about 1000 percent. More female characters showed up–a princess, who while a little kid is pretty smart; a sea captain; Po's mom–and since Po's not around, Katsa can do what she does best: survive against the elements and baddies.

I probably won't read the second book in this series, but Graceling was okay. I'm glad I finally got around to finishing this book that's been on my shelf for years.




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