Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday Snapshot

Currently Reading:

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman: There's a lot of unnecessary repetition going on in this book, which is kind of weird.

A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie: Christie certainly had a talent for coming up with unique premises for mystery novels, I'll give her that much.


Mini-reviews of The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer, The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman, The Heir by Kiera Cass, and Noblesse Oblige by Cynthia Smith.

Movies watched:

sour grapes
Sour Grapes, directed by Reuben Atlas and Jerry Rothwell

If you've run out of art crime documentaries to watch, why not watch something about wine fraud instead? This doc investigates Rudy Kurniawan, a "wine expert" who came of nowhere and defrauded dozens of rich white guys with bottles of fake wine, to the tune of at least $33 million. The private investigator hired by David Koch poetically called Rudy "the Great Gatsby of millennials."

This documentary has everything: a charismatic kid with a mysterious past, fancy wine, a billionaire with an underground cellar larger than two or three average American homes put together and hidden behind a secret passage (say what you want about David Koch, but at least he's doing filthy rich right), an adorable French winemaker somewhat inaccurately dubbed "the Sherlock Holmes of wine," Wall Street d-bags being out-wine snobbed by Robert Parker ("You like this? It tastes like swamp swill to me"). But even though it's obvious what Rudy's game is from the beginning of the doc, a mystery still remains: who funded his entree into the world of fine wine, and who profited from his success? Definitely recommend this one!

sky ladder
Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang, directed by Kevin Macdonald

Cai Guo-Qiang is a famous Chinese artist who uses an unusual medium: fireworks. You might remember his work from the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, although that's probably not the best example, artistically speaking. This documentary specifically chronicles Cai's 20-year quest to create a ladder in the sky connecting heaven and earth, while delving into his life and past projects.

The strength of this documentary is the gorgeous cinematography, which captures Cai's work from large-scale firework displays to "studies" painted with gunpowder. The work itself is really cool and innovative, as if he's sculpting with light and powder. Still, some people question if Cai has sold out his artistic integrity to the Chinese government. Even though I had to read large sections of the movie, it still wasn't boring. Really a fantastic portrait of an artist and his life that doesn't shy away from criticism, either.

bad santa 2
Bad Santa 2, starring Billy Bob Thornton, Christina Hendricks, and Kathy Bates

I never saw the first Bad Santa, from what I can gather based on this one, the franchise is about grouchy, depressive nihilist who uses the role of "Santa" as a front for criminal activity.

If you're looking for a heartwarming holiday movie, this isn't it. I kind of wish I had mind bleach for this one, actually. Is Christina Hendricks that desperate for work now that Mad Men's over? If she is, I will willing start a charitable fund to keep her from making another movie like this one. I would say this movie was pretty bad, not because it wasn't funny or because of the gratuitous cursing, sex, and general disgustingness, but because underneath it all it all rang weirdly hollow? Like they were going through the motions of being bad rather than channeling true nastiness. IDK, I'm not a Bad Santa expert.

This week in heidenkindom:

I hope all you USA-ers had a good Thanksgiving. I certainly tried to. There was pumpkin pie, at least. Now I have to try to think of gifts for everyone and I'm coming up with a complete blank.


foodie guest posting

Get ready for December Food Fest at Book Bloggers International! I have some excellent guest posts lined up, but if you still want to participate I'd love to fit you in. Just drop me a line anywheres on the interwebs.

Bonne nuit and have a good week everyone!

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Heap of Mini-Reviews

I've been neglecting book reviews on this blog for much too long. The problem is, while I do have things to say about the books I've been reading, I rarely have bunches to say about them. So, enter mini-reviews!

For this batch of mini-reviews, I'm looking at a mystery, YA dystopian, fantasy novel, and thriller. Which were worth my time and which made me want to set fire to something? Read on to find out!

noblesse oblige cynthia smith
Noblesse Oblige by Cynthia Smith (mystery)

Emma Rhodes has a very unusual job: essentially, she's a private problem resolver. Rich people hire her to solve their problems, big or small, in just two weeks for the low low fee of $20,000. Business is strange, but good: Emma wears the best clothes, drinks the best booze, and jets between her three homes in NYC, London, and Spain. On this particular week, she's house-sitting in Bruges when she happens to be in the right place at the right time to stop the kidnapping of a member of the Belgian royal family. The royals quickly retain her services, but Emma soon realizes she may not survive the two weeks until she can collect her fee.

I read this book when I was a teenager, and I remember being all about Emma Rhodes. She has everything a girl could want: a life full of travel, handsome men, excellent food, exciting puzzles to solve, and best of all complete independence. She's practically the female version of James Bond. As an adult, I found this more irritating than anything else (jealousy? perhaps) and also found it hilarious how Emma goes into rants that leave her sounding like an octogenarian whig. Some of the things Emma has issues with:

  • Kids these days! They blame their parents for everything!
  • Cell phones: terrible invention of the 20th century, or WORST invention of the 20th century?
  • People who don't say good morning. Even if you're a not a morning person, there's no excuse for being rude!

Anyway, I did like this book, but Emma probably won't be my role model. Anymore.

the heir
The Heir by Kiera Cass (YA dystopian-ish)

Princess Eadlyn is the first female to ever be in line for the crown, thanks to her politically progressive parents. But despite their open-minded policies, her parents think forcing her to submit to the traditional Selection–where suitors are gathered from all over the kingdom to compete for a royal's hand in marriage–is a good idea. Eadlyn disagrees, but is forced to go along with it. Nevertheless, she is determined never to fall for any of these "boys."

This is the first Selection book I've read. It was okay. I liked that Eadlyn was a total bitch, but in a good way. Cuz, you know.

bitches get stuff done gif

I found the details of the Selection often vague or illogical. For example, the cameras–when and where are these people being filmed? Sometimes it sounds like there are hidden cameras on them all the time, and sometimes it's only when they're permitted. If they're only allowed during official times, how would they have "caught" her kissing Kyle? Makes no sense. Perhaps it's explained in the previous three novels.

The book ends on a cliffhanger, sort of, and there's another book to wrap everything up, but I'm not sure I'm going to read it. I don't really care who Eadlyn winds up with and the drawn-out passages about other couples in love and how mayyyybeeee she might want that (or not) made me want to scream. How on earth has this been stretched into five books?

masked city genevieve cogman
Masked City by Genevieve Cogman (fantasy)

Librarian Irene has been permanently assigned to Viction Steampunk London with her apprentice, Kai, a dragon. Then Kai is kidnapped by the fae, the dragons' mortal enemies, and taken to a fae-controlled Venice that's a mix of fantasy, dream, and nightmare. Will Irene be able to rescue him and prevent a war between the dragons and the fae that could stretch across worlds and destroy everything the Library has accomplished?

I liked previous book in this series, The Invisible Library, but I adored Masked City. First of all, Venice! And not just any Venice, but the Venice of imagination, with prisons straight out of a Piranesi sketch and a constant whirl of masked balls and mysterious happenings. Another highlight was Sherlock Holmes–oh, sorry, he's called Vale in this alternate–who remains true to the Holmesian tradition by being at once an irritating jerkface and completely awesome. I am totally shipping him and Irene, I don't care about the canon. The ending of the story was very abrupt but left me wanting more and more. I definitely recommend this series!

the chemist book
The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer (thriller)

The Chemist is basically Meyer channeling David Baldacci or Lee Child. Unfortunately she's really bad at it. Basically, you've got a woman of several names and unknown age, hiding from an evil government department she used to work for. What exactly this department does, is called, how she got the job, and what she did there, is never specifically addressed. At some point someone decided she and her mentor were expendable (again, we're not really told why) and attempted to kill them both. They succeeded with the mentor, but she survived. Now she's on the run, dodging assassination attempts. Perhaps she would have more luck with this if she moved beyond driving distance of DC (just a suggestion on my part but what do I know). But then! The department contacts her, asking her to return to the fold and stop a nonsensical terrorist plot that only she can prevent.

I appreciate that the smart, ruthless main character in The Chemist is a woman–you'd never see her like in a Child novel, for sure–but nothing in this book sounded plausible, and reading the long-ass explanations of our paranoid heroine's daily routine was like watching paint dry. Meyers gives us all the details we don't give two shits about and skips over the information that would make this book feel at least slightly grounded in reality. When the secret twin showed, I was done.


Major ugh.

Stay tuned next time for more mini-reviews!

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday Snapshot

Kiyomizu-Dera, Kyoto

Currently Reading:

The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand: Hygge reread!

Real Food/Fake Food by Larry Olmsted: This book is making me paranoid about everything.


girl on a bicycle
Girl on a Bicycle, starring Vincenzo Amato and Louise Monot

Paolo, an Italian, just proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Greta (she's German, in case you couldn't guess by the name), only to be captivated by a French woman riding a bicycle on the streets of Paris. When he accidentally hits said woman with a tour bus, he becomes embroiled in her life, all while trying to maintain his relationship with his fiance.

This movie is like the European Union in romantic comedy form. In other words, a complete mess. I'm talking twenty car pile-up on the interstate during rush hour level of disaster here. Odie Henderson of called it, "the worst romantic comedy I have ever seen," and I'm somewhat tempted to agree, although I feel like I have seen worse. Can't remember what they were at the moment, though. Anyway, I fell asleep about an hour in and that's probably for the best.

This week in heidenkindom:

Not much going on this week. I finished up a bunch of writing assignments that were due and did some half-hearted Thanksgiving shopping. Oh, and I shopped for auto insurance. The thrills just keep on coming.


I feel like you guys deserve a bonus after that blah description of my week, so how about an adult "coloring" book illustrated by Walter Crane??

Have a hella fantastic week and a yummy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Discus this post with me on Twitter, FaceBook, Google+ or in the comments below.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Snapshot – Everything is Strange

Hakone Open Air Museum, Japan

Currently Reading:

Real Food/Fake Food by Larry Olmstead: I don't recommend the audio on this one; the narrator sounds like he's constantly surprised and it's a little OTT. The book itself is good, though.

The Forgers by Bradford Morrow: Honestly, I haven't read more than a few paragraphs all week. Might be time to throw in the towel and start on something new.


red obsession documentary
Red Obsession, directed by David Roach and Warwick Ross

In recent years, the price of Bordeaux wines has skyrocketed, so much so that they've priced themselves out of the market–the US and European markets, that is. China, on the other hand, is Bordeaux mad, relentlessly seeking wine from the most famous Bordelais châteaux and willing to pay enormous prices for it. Why is China so obsessed with red wine and will the bubble ever burst?

An interesting documentary, although probably only worth watching for hardcore wine geeks. I learned that China is making wine now in the Gobi Desert! That's about all I have to say about it, though. I prefer Burgundy wines. And champagne.

doctor strange
Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel McAdams

After a car accident, dashing and brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange starts to spiral. Without the use of his hands, he can't perform surgery and his life has no meaning. Then he hears about the Kamar-Taj, a mysterious place in Nepal (inhabited by what appears to be characters from Assassin's Creed), where he might find a magical cure. While he doesn't find a cure, he does find magic.

This movie has everything: A library, beards, flying, Benedict Cumberbatch with a weird American accent, magic, time travel, martial arts, moving buildings, a loyal cloak. It's trippy, dude. I'm really glad I didn't watch it in 3D because I would have probably thrown up. Anyway, Cumberbatch does a great job, as usual, and his cheekbones are amazing. I do wish someone other than Tilda Swinton had played the Ancient One, because her white Britishness does not add a lot of authenticity to this movie. To say the least. But other than that it was different and entertaining and I enjoyed it.

This week in heidenkindom:

I was going to say something about the election here, but I just don't have it in me right now. I think I need more time to process it. I actually predicted Trump would win, but I'm still recovering from the shock. Also, protip: Facebook is a trash fire.


Chrisbookarama has an excellent idea to devote the coming months to hygge (pronounced "hooga"), a Danish word meaning "cosiness." It involves creating a warm environment and enjoying the good things in life: food, alcohol, friends and family, more alcohol (I kid, maybe), hobbies, etc. This made me think of my favorite comfort reads and maybe having a go at rereading them this winter. Some of my favorite are:

...and a bunch of others. I'm also open to new comfort reads, so if you think of any I'd like, let me know in the comments!

Have a hygge week, everyone!

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sunday Snapshot

Currently Reading:

The Forgers by Bradford Morrow: The only book I bought in Japan.

The Heir by Kiera Cass: I wouldn't have thought I'd be at this point in the book and wondering who she'd choose, and yet I am.


Explore Jimbocho, Tokyo's bookselling district.


inferno movie
Inferno, starring Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones

Harvard University professor and symbologist! Robert Langdon is confuzzled when he wakes up in a Florence, Italy, hospital with blood all over hisself. Then a woman with a gun tries to break into his room and kill him, which leaves him only more confused. His only chance at figuring all this out is the beautiful young doctor who saves him, and a map of Dante's Inferno.

According the professional critics, this is "the best Dan Brown book to movie adaptation to date." Uh, I guess. If you like being bored. The movie was okay but it felt INSANELY long. The other two movies may not be "good," but at least one enjoys watching them. This one has no Paul Bettany and no Ewan McGregor, and the art/secret passages aspect was disappointingly small. Plus I could have done without either of the love stories–really did not care.

They did fix a lot of the problems in the book, but it was still lacking in any oomph or conviction. You can stand to wait for this one to come on cable, believe me.

This week in heidenkindom:

Another busy week, but full of fun things to do. Monday was Halloween, officially my least-favorite holiday, and I'm glad it's over. We did take the dogs for a walk in their costumes, though, so everyone could admire them. Calypso and Sofie were bad and good angels, respectively, and Thor was a dragon!

Thor really really hated his costume. It was hilarious.

Anyway, then on Tuesday my mom and I went to the zoo with one her friends and her friend's grandchildren. Fun fact about me: I LOVE zoos. It was beautiful fall day and we got a couple of good shots outside.

The cutest bunny ever.

This Sunday we also went to a holiday preview wine tasting, an event specifically designed to get you liquored up so you'll foolishly spend more money than you would otherwise. But if you can manage not to do that, the tasting is free, which is awesome. I tried a few interesting wines but I absolutely CANNOT WAIT for the champagne wine tasting they have coming up.


I'm still looking for guest posts for Book Blogger International's December Food Fest! If you want to participate, email me at book bloggers intl at gmail, or hit me up on Twitter @heidenkind.

Have a great week!

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