Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Snapshot for the last weekend in November

Breakfast of champions.

Currently reading:

Cool Japan Guide by Abby Denson: Have to start planning my trip to Japan!


Last week I neglected to mention that I posted a review of the book and media streaming service, Playster, as well as photo-heavy post of a super cool new hostel in Tokyo designed just for book lovers.

Movies watched:

copenhagen movie poster
Copenhagen, starring Gethin Anthony and Frederikke Dahl Hansen

William is a truly rare breed: a Canadian who happens to be an asshole. He could move to New York to be among his true people (ha! Only kidding), but instead he travels to Copenhagen to find his long-lost grandfather. William doesn't have much luck until he befriends a waitress at his hotel, who reluctantly agrees to help him. I loved this movie. It's like a Danish version of Lost In Translation, where two people of different ages and backgrounds unexpectedly form a connection that skirts but never quite crosses into romance territory. As soon as it was over I wanted to watch it again! Definitely recommend this one to Lost In Translation fans or people who enjoy coming of age stories.

Subscription boxes:

rocks box

I haven't been taking pics of all my subscription boxes lately. Just not feeling it. The thrill is waning I suppose.

I did have a weird experience with this week's Le Tote: when I confirmed my box (they let you review your boxes and swap out items you don't want), it showed that I was receiving two sweaters, one cardigan, a bracelet and a handbag. What I got instead was one sweater, one cardigan, three pieces of jewelry, and a wispy short-sleeved top. A SHORT SLEEVED TOP IN NOVEMBER? It's 27 degrees outside right now, guys. Come on.

I was also meh about this week's Rocks Box. C'est la vie.

This week in heidenkindom:

Not a bad week by any means. Thanksgiving! I gained four pounds! Also my dad's birthday, which didn't help matters with the weight gain. I also had an exciting and fun new freelancing project this week that I really enjoyed. Yay new projects!


In keeping with the loose Japan theme this week, I thought this article from the New Yorker provided food for thought. It's widely stated that Japan has one of the two healthiest diets on the planet, light in grain and heavy in fish, fruit, protein, and veggies. But in fact, what we think of as the typical Japanese diet is the result of a very recent cultural shift. There's hope for 'Murica yet!

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Snapshot

I'm struggling to get into the Sunday Snapshot mood today, guys. So let's just skip to the good parts.

Movies watched:

pitch perfect 2
Pitch Perfect 2, starring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson

Such a disappointment. This movie is all over the place, kind of like, you know, when you have a mess and you apply something hot to it so it gets even messier. But what really bummed me out was the music–so boring!

I did enjoy seeing Snoop Dogg sing Winter Wonderland though.

mockingjay part 2
Mockingjay Part 2, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson

I was nervous about seeing this, since the book enraged me to the point that I still want to burn it page by page. The movie is nearly exactly like the book, unfortunately, but less upsetting because part one happened a whole year ago, and who can remember that? Also, I felt like the themes were fleshed out better in the movie and there was less wallowing on Katniss' part. So: better than the book, not that that's much of a challenge.

This week in heidenkindom:

It's finally starting to feel holiday-ish around here. We had our first snow and I put on a sweater! Plus I want to just sit around eating and watching movies, which is like the definition of a holiday in my mind.


Given the events in Paris this week I thought it would be somewhat pertinent to share this article on the French national anthem, La Marseillaise. Most Americans don't realize what a bloodthirsty tune it is. I knew about the lyrics, of course, and the origins of the song; but I found the conflicted responses to the anthem by contemporary French people to be particularly interesting.

My favorite version of La Marseillaise is still Edith Piaf's. Who could avoid getting fired up listening to that?

Have a great week!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Book Streaming Service Review: PLAYSTER


I was provided with a free week of Playster for review purposes. Although I could have gotten a whole month free just by signing up on my own, so the monetary value of this is questionable. Either way, all biases and opinions are my own.

I've never been one for subscription streaming. I am subscribed to Hulu, so I can watch The Mindy Project, and Amazon Prime, though I mainly have that for the free shipping and not for the movies, etc. But I've never been tempted by book subscriptions like Scribd or Oyster, for several reasons:

  1. I'm poor. Sad but true.
  2. Most of the books I read I get for free (see point 1). The vast majority of them are from my local library, and a few are ARCs or gifts/loans from friends. If I can get most of everything I want to read at the library, why would I pay for a book subscription service?
  3. I feel like subscription services generally do not have the books I want to read. That may not be true, but the ones I've looked into mostly have lit fic and best sellers. That makes sense from a business standpoint, but my jam is quirky romance, YA, cozy mysteries, and spy novels.
  4. I don't read enough to justify paying a monthly fee. I usually average only one book a week. To my mind, I'd have to go through three or four books a week (which I used to do... ah, childhood) to make signing up for most subscription services a good deal.

All of which is a long way to go about saying that I am not well-versed in subscription services, and my opinion on Playster should be taken as one who is a noobie in this market. That said, I was pretty impressed with it.

Playster, in case you hadn't guessed, is a new subscription service. It's not just for books, but audiobooks, movies, TV shows, games, and music as well. The monthly charge for all services is $24.95/month, which is pretty steep compared to Amazon Prime or Hulu–but, you could also argue you get more services through Playster. Alternately, you have the option to subscribe to just one of the services–for example, books–for $9.95/month.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of books and audiobooks available on Playster. I found exactly the audiobook I wanted to listen to, and there were plenty of YA, mystery, thriller, and romance novels, some I'd never even heard of. So, not completely dominated by best sellers.

My favorite part of Playster's service was actually the audiobook section (I didn't have an opportunity to look at the games, video, or music, so I can't tell you how those were). Audiobooks aren't included on Amazon Prime, and many of the audiobooks from my library are only playable on Overdrive, which is a giant pain in the ass. Playster's audiobooks were easily streamable from Chrome, which was a simpler way to listen than through Audible, even. So that definitely elevated its value as a service for me.

One thing about Playster that kind of confused me was that the app wasn't available yet. I could sign into it on a browser using my Mac and iPad (although I wasn't able to sign in on my iPhone, don't know why), and reading books through Chrome on iPad wasn't any more onerous than reading books through Kindle's app; but it still felt strange not to have a dedicated app. So if you do decide to try Playster you might want to hold off until the app is ready.

Another point of concern I noted while scrolling through the books was a lack of diversity–not in genre, but in authors. I was able to find one author who was a POC, but that was after a concentrated search on my part. I would definitely recommend Playster make more of an effort to include and feature books by a more diverse group of authors in the future.

Anyway, those were my impressions. If Playster is worth the monthly fee is up to the individual, of course, and to be completely honest I'm going to stick to the library. But for those of you who use (or canceled, for that matter) Scribd, Playster might be worth checking out.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday Snapshot Is Loving All the Books!

Another visit from our hawk friend. I think I'm going to name him Martimus. Is Martimus a proper name for a hawk?

Currently reading:


My bookish guide to travel in Dublin on Book Riot. Bookstores! Awesome libraries! Museums!

Subscription boxes:

ipsy glam bag

November's Ipsy Glam Bag was pretty fair. I actually liked the bag more than I thought I would based on the fabric. The highlight trio is fantastic and I adore the eyeshadow. The brush isn't too shabby either. As for the mascara and hairspray, which I'll probably never use... well, nothing's perfect.

rocks box

This week's Rocks Box was something of a surprise. I thought I'd love the earrings, but they're just okay. On the other hand, the moon pendant necklace is too cute! Love it.

The week in heidenkindom:

I had a fantastic reading week this past week! First I finished Cold Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas–awful and inaccurate title, but still loved it. Kleypas can really tell a great story when she puts her mind to it. I stayed up until 6:30am two nights in a row reading it, and cannot wait for the next book. So much excitement!

Then I started Dinner Most Deadly by Sheri Cobb Smith, which was absolutely DELIGHTFUL. The mystery was completely silly, of course, but in a charming, wink-at-Agatha-Christie sort of way. The real drama came from Lady Julia Fieldhurst and her thankless beaux, John Pickett. SO MUCH DRAMA. I did roll my eyes unto the heavens at the conclusion, but other than that I adored this book. Chalk up another night spent reading until sunrise.

After that, I decided to change it up a bit with a fantasy, A Darker Shade of Magic. Another major page turner. I fell in love with the main character immediately because he has an awesome coat. Anyway, I haven't stayed up quite so late reading this one, yet, because I was getting pretty tired. But the weekend is still young.


I think we can all agree online privacy is important. But how to achieve that while still sharing the stuff you want to? Mr. NSA himself, Edward Snowden, gives some basic tips in this incredibly informative interview at The Intercept (and everything he mentions is all really easy to download and use).

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sunday Snapshot Shaken and Stirred

Currently reading:
Cold Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas: One doesn't generally imagine rakes to be as fiscally responsible as this guy is.
Unexplained!: I've never been so freaked out by kangaroos.
The Camel Club by David Baldacci: I like the parts with the Camel Club and Alex the Secret Service agent. All other parts are boring.

Posted: My review of The Marvels by Brian Selznick

Movies watched:
Spectre, starring Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, and Christoph Waltz

Not quite as good as Skyfall, although I loved the opening sequence in Mexico City and the Rome shots, including the car chase, were amazing. The easter eggs to classic James Bond books and movies were also fun, but one could argue there was too much of a nod to past films–overall the movie felt a little derivative. Léa Seydoux's wardrobe verged on the cartoonish: where is she getting all these locationally-appropriate clothes??? SHE HAS NO LUGGAGE.

Also (mild spoiler), I was somewhat disappointed the cool blonde didn't turn out to be evil. But still very enjoyable, classic Bond. Women, fast cars, bespoke suits, martinis, explosions. What more could a girl ask for?

Subscription boxes:

le tote

Another Le Tote this week, and I have to say the denim jacket is HOT. In a style sense. I like the purse in theory but still can't fit all my stuff in it (and I don't carry around a bunch of stuff).

This week in heidenkindom:
A laid back week, work wise, so I've been investing time in research and learning. I downloaded some apps to help teach myself Japanese and it is TOUGH. I'm not sure how much progress I'm actually going to make on my own. I also decided to try to dip my toes into learning Italian (again), which is fortunately much easier.

Other excitement included repeated visits from our new resident hawk! He is not afraid of humans AT ALL. He let us walk right up to him and take pics.

Would you rather have a husband or hat? On the evolution of the Ste. Catherine Spinster Bonnet.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Review: THE MARVELS by Brian Selznick

the marvels

Who are the Marvels? I'm glad you asked. The Marvels are a family of actors, ruling over the Royal Theater in London across generations, until one them decides he doesn't like acting. Did he and his family survive the burning of the famous theater? Meanwhile, in the 1990s, a young boy named Joseph runs away from school to the home of his uncle, who lives in a mysterious house frozen in time. How are the Marvels and Joseph's uncle connected? With the help of an odd new friend named Frankie, Joseph aims to find out before his uncle sends him back to boarding school.

I loved Wonderstruck and The Invention of Hugo Cabret, so when The Marvels came out I was pretty durned excited. As always, Selznick combines art and story in The Marvels in a way that's not-quite graphic novel, nor quite illustrated text. However, unlike in his previous two books, I didn't feel like the art was well integrated with the secondary narrative (or at all, really), and the story was kinda boring.

The first half of The Marvels is really a GIGAAAAAAANNNNNNNNTIC, image-only prologue about the family the Marvels: who their founder was (a lone 18th-century shipwreck survivor named Billy) and their looong history with the theater. Y'all know how I feel about prologues, especially prologues disguising themselves as actual beginnings of a book, but this part of the book didn't annoy me *because* it was a prologue.

No, what annoyed me was the complete lack of anything resembling a story or character development. The art was fantastic, of course (Selznick can really tell a story through images; he should take up film directing), but it was basically like a giant book of begats. You know, the part of the Bible where it's all like, "This guy married this woman and begat so and so, he begat so and so, and then he begat another blah blah blah, and blah blah blah married what's-her-face and begat yada yada," and it goes on and on and on. The first half of The Marvels was really exactly like that: Billy Marvel adopted whomever (I forgot his name, something theatrical), and he married an actress and they had a baby, then that baby grew up and slept with some woman, and they had a baby, then THAT baby, miracle of miracles, also got married and had a baby, and I'm like:

(Except not actually, because unlike Mrs. Hudson my parents are very strict about in-home firearm discharge.)

The second half of the book is pretty much all text, like a regular book, and has an actual plot. So, plus side! At first it's also a pretty good story: there are Questions, like what happened to Joseph's friend at boarding school, who is this weird kid running around chasing after a dog constantly, and why does his uncle live in a house that looks like the Victorian family it really belongs to just stepped out of a holiday party to go caroling?

Yes, these are intriguing questions. If only the answers to them were half as interesting. If I was a middle-grade reader the case might have been different, but as it was I found myself pretty bored and skimming to get to the end. There is a twist, but I felt like it made the book lamer rather twisty and interesting.

The Marvels isn't awful, but compared to Selznick's other novels it felt uninspired and rushed. I don't know why he didn't break up all those damn begats, but he should have; that would have helped a lot. Or, you know, just write a novel using words! That would have worked too. Either way, I think this book misses the mark.

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sunday Snapshot–Eliminating the Impossible to Focus on the Improbable

The dogs' Halloween costumes this year. They love this holiday, can you tell?

Currently reading:

A Kind of Grief by AD Scott: Did I mention this one last week? Anyway, I'm still reading it.
The Conjure Woman by Charles W Chestnutt: A collection of antebellum slave folktales framed by the story of a Northerner trying to start up a vineyard down South. Pretty fascinating actually. Chestnutt's writing style is fantastic.
The Camel Club by David Baldacci: So far it reminds me of Scandal.

Subscription boxes:

wantable box

This month's Wantable was a study in blue. I feel okay about it. The lace-trimmed cami is very pretty, and the blue cami is okay, although one of the straps is sewn inside out so it twists around. The bra is way more support than I really need, but it fits perfectly.

le tote box

LOVED this week's Le Tote. I got a cool asymmetrical black top (which you can't really see here, but trust me, it was rad), a badass wine-colored leather jacket, pretty pink blouse, scarf, and a pretty awesome necklace. I think Le Tote's jewelry is much edgier than Rocks Box's, strangely.

rocks box

And speaking of Rocks Box... more silver jewelry from them. This time it's a pair of bar studs, a Y necklace, and a wrap bracelet. The bracelet kind of bothers my brain; I can't stop messing with it when I wear it. I'm aware this is a personal problem.

This week in heidenkindom:

kingman estates winery

Busy busy week! Last Sunday we went to a winery called Kingman Estates. Their wines were so unusual and unique, and we got to go on a tour of the winery that was super interesting. This is the type of place that, if I lived closer, I would visit every week.

The next day we went to The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes, which I'm sure you can imagine I was suuuuuuper excited about. (Most important decision: which Sherlock Holmes t-shirt to wear.) Anyway, the exhibit was fun, if not terribly informative. There was a mystery to solve and lots of kid-friendly activities to complete (so, perfect for me, then). Not that the exhibit wasn't informed–there were a ton of Easter eggs buried throughout guaranteed to delight devoted Sherlockians. But you wouldn't notice them unless you were already familiar with them and the cannon. The exhibit was mostly about going to the museum and having silly fun than learning about Sherlock, and there's nothing wrong with that.

sherlock's study
Sherlock's study

International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes
The scene of the crime!

International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes
The road to Baker Street

International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes
Do YOU have what it takes to join Scotland Yard? Because I don't.

International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes
This is the type of Easter egg I'm talking about. If you read my latest post on Book Riot, you not only know who this woman actually is, but who she's supposed to represent.

International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes
A nice shoutout to Edgar Allan Poe and his Inspector Dupin stories, which were a strong inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.

International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock in pop culture.

International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes
My t-shirt's in a museum!

Now the gift shop on the other hand... as soon as I stepped inside I knew me and all my monies would soon be parted. TONS of awesome books, maps, Sherlock toys, etc. I bought two books and a Sherlock hat and pipe–I obviously wasn't leaving without that–and they also had to-scale copies of the Sherlock Holmes story Conan Doyle wrote by hand for Queen Mary's Doll's House library, "Watson Learns the Trick." This was VERY cool. I didn't buy it because it was $25, but I read it, and the story was super silly.

The rest of the week was spent furiously playing catchup on my writing assignments and helping my parents move into a bigger storage unit. Oh, and trying out St. Germain cocktails. It's the perfect liqueur for fall.


Speaking of St. Germain cocktails, here's one I mixed up that I HIGHLY recommend. I think it's called an Elderflower Fashioned? If not, it should be.

  • 2 oz Scotch whiskey (a cheap blend like Grant's works fine, although if you want to use the high end stuff, go on with your bad self)
  • 1 oz St. Germaine
  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine all three ingredients in an old fashioned glass and stir. Then add ice and stir again, until chilled. Add two hefty twists of lemon.

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