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!


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

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!



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

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)


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

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.




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

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Snapshot

Calypso found an ornament she likes

Currently Reading:

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken: I know it's a fool's errand to expect a story about time travel to make sense, but still. I'm having some issues.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore: I'm enjoying it, but I do have to agree the feminist lip service is growing irritating for various reasons.

Posted:




Movies:

animal house
Animal House, starring John Belushi, Karen Allen, and Tom Hulce

A little too long (like the entire scene with the sorority girl undressing served absolutely no purpose), and obviously hailing from a more "innocent" time (the girl almost getting date raped at the frat house party, ish), but soooo funny. I think we can all take inspiration from the words of John Belushi: "Over? It's not over till we say it's over. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"

gold
Gold, starring Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramírez, and Bryce Dallas Howard (Mandatory: must be pronounced, "Goooooold!")

Kenny Wells is a mining company owner and the last in a long line of Nevada prospectors. Unfortunately, he is really really bad at it. Facing down getting a dreaded "real job," Kenny has a dream that leads him to The Most Interesting Geologist In The World, and the gold find of a lifetime. Or is it???

Better than I was expecting, despite the script's propensity to reiterate the obvious ("We gonna make a ton money!" "I went looking for gold and I found a friend," etc.). The movie really succeeds because of two things: one, McConaughey is obviously enjoying the fuck out of playing Kenny Wells and generally not wearing pants. And two, the friendship that develops between him and the geologist, Michael Acosta. It's almost a romance between those two, I swear to god. So sweet. I wouldn't run out to watch it in the theaters or anything, but worth streaming on Amazon or Netflix once it gets there.

inside job
Inside Job, directed by Charles Ferguson

A very clear and compelling account of how the world economy went into a tailspin in 2008. There's the unholy trinity of power, greed, and corruption; men who seem like prime candidates for "The sphincter says what?" jokes; and graphs. SO MANY GRAPHS. While the documentary feels a little outdated now that Obama's not in office (though I doubt Trump will improve matters), it's an eye-opening look into just how intertwined the worlds of government and finance are. "It's a Wall Street Washington," one interviewee replies when Ferguson asks him why there have been no serious financial reforms or accountability. I was also surprised by how deeply Wall Street has its hands in higher education. Definitely a must-watch.

This week in heidenkindom:

Is January over yet? To quote one of my FB friends, "Die, January, die!" This month feels like it's been dragging on forever.

Bonus:

Don't forget I'm hosting a readalong of Trevor Noah's memoir, Born a Crime, next month at Book Bloggers International! The schedule will be posted February 1st. Only 10 pages a day gets you to the end of the book by the 28th.


Have an excellent week, everybody!


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

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mini Reviews III: A Convenient Artistic Malice

mini reviews

This parcel of mini reviews features a contemporary romance set in New Zealand, a classic Regency, and a mystery/thriller from Japan. Enjoy!



artistic license
Artistic License by Elle Pierson

Art student Sophy is so distracted by a museum security guard with a face "Picasso would love" that she doesn't duck out of the way in time to avoid colliding with his impressively muscled torso. When she asks him to model for, Mick feels like he can't say no, and he's not sure he wants to. Will these two crazy kids get together???

I'll readily admit that I have a weakness for any book involving artists or art. Sometimes this leads me astray, but in this case it didn't. While Artistic License isn't a perfect novel–the clothing descriptions in the first chapter were enough to drive me bonkers; the author apparently has an obsession with jackets because I literally knew what kind of jacket every single character was wearing, or had ever worn–the story drew me in and, for the most part, I enjoyed reading it.

Sophy is an Anastasia Steele type of character: young, uncoordinated, shy, awkward, and not very confident. Normally this would be eye roll inducing, but here it felt authentic, possibly because Sophy is also quirky and accepting of herself as she is. Mick is slightly less well-drawn, but I loved the details in his mannerisms that gave the book a well-needed dash of realism.

This is one of those stories where the hero/heroine don't hook up for a long ass time for no good reason, and there were some niggling little details that bothered me, but overall Artistic License is a good–not great–read. If you're at loose ends searching for a romance, you could do worse.

the convenient marriage
The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

I've tried to read a couple of Georgette Heyer books in the past and pretty much gave up on that. But then I saw a post on Angieville about how she loved The Convenient Marriage, and one of the commenters said the audiobook version was narrated by Richard Armitage. RICHARD ARMITAGE, said my brain. And, lo and behold, said audiobook was on Hoopla. I immediately started listening to it and I'm glad I did, because it's a hella entertaining coming-of-age story full of adventure, duels, and social contretemps.

The Convenient Marriage is kind of like Pride & Prejudice, if Mary Bennet had decided to take matters into her own tentacles and propose to one of Jane's wealthy suitors. Horatia *seems* like she would be a shy, uncertain young woman, because of her stutter. But in fact she's feisty and a grab-life-by-both-hands sort. She's self-conscious about her stutter but still insists on going out in society and doing what she wants, which also makes her seem really brave.

Lord Rule is a bit more of a caricature, all laconic and superior all the time (except when he gets really pissed off), but whatever. It works here. And there are many other characters and a ton of stuff happening in the book that has nothing directly to do with the "romance" between Rule and Horry, so much so that you could almost turn this book into an entire TV series!

Finally, I really have to mention Armitage again, because he is an AMAAAAAzing narrator. Every character had his or her own voice and it was hard to believe one person could embody so many different personalities and accents. Honestly the best audiobook narrator I've ever listened to; I will definitely be listening to every other audiobook he's ever worked on.

Highly recommended!

And now for something completely different...

malice
Malice by Keigo Higashino

I received Malice as a birthday (or Christmas?) present, and honestly didn't know what to expect from it. It's not the type of book I would normally pick up on my own: the summary makes it sound like a dark and gritty police procedural, which is not my jam at all. After reading it, I would still say it's not "my type" of book. But because the writing is so fantastic, Malice transcended its genre and completely won me over.

The story is about two writers and their books: one, Kunihiko Hidaka, is a bestselling author; the other, Osamu Nonoguchi, is a literary unknown and Hidaka's childhood friend. When Hidaka's body inside his locked office, Nonoguchi decides to write about the investigation, much to the consternation of Detective Kaga.

I wish I could say more, but I don't want to ruin the twists and turns for you. I'll admit that the last twist went way beyond the bounds of plausibility and sense-making for me, but it was a thrilling ride getting there nonetheless. I can definitely see why Higashino is one of Japan's bestest-selling authors: his writing is compulsively readable. This is the type of novel you want to consume in great big gulps because it grabs hold of your imagination almost immediately. I'll definitely be on the lookout for more of Higashino's books in the future!





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

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday Snapshot

Buffalo at Yellowstone

Currently reading:

Malice by Keigo Higashino: This was a birthday present, and I had no idea what to expect from it. Pleasantly surprised so far!

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas: Uhg. I was looking forward to this one, because Sherlock Holmes, but so far it's meandering and eye roll worthy. This might be a DNF.

Posted:

Mini-reviews of Real Food/Fake Food by Larry Olmsted and But First, Champagne by David White.

TV:

I didn't watch any movies this past week, but I have been watching some TV series I'd like to talk about.

a series of unfortunate events
A Series of Unfortunate Events, starring Neil Patrick Harris, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith, Patrick Warburton, and K. Todd Freeman

As I mentioned last week, this Netflix series is fairly delightful, even though the final episode was pretty damn grim. After Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire's parents are killed in a fire, they're thrown out into the world and forced to deal with an increasingly myopic and unimaginative series of adults, all while trying avoid falling into the clutches of the evil Count Olaf. There is no happy ending for the poor Baudelaires, but the series is interspersed with a ton of fun literary references, awesome guest stars (including Aasif Mandvi, Alfre Woodard, Will Arnett, Don Johnson, and many others), and on-point art direction. This is a series for book lovers, for sure.

The Young Pope, starring Jude Law, Diane Keaton, and Silvio Orlando

When the first episode of this new series aired, I thought it had fantastic acting and production values, but was a little long and dull. BUT THEN – that second episode! The pope's opening speech went in a direction I totally did not see coming. What is Lenny's long-term plan here? What does that blonde woman have to do with anything? How will this affect the Vatican? Add in some film-level cinematography and I'm officially hooked.

emerald city
Emerald City, starring Adria Arjona and Oliver Jackson-Cohen

A darker, grittier take on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, because that's what we all need in our lives. /sarcasm I tend to be suspicious of Wizard of Oz adaptations because they're pretty much always a trash fire, and this one makes the same mistakes all the other awful ones do. Dorothy's an adult (and a rode hard adult at that); the Emerald City and its wizard are the opposite of wonderful; and Oz is a depressing hellscape instead of colorful and fun. After the first ep I was like, "Well that was pretty terrible," but decided to keep watching because Lucas is super hot. Unfortunately, ep 2 was boring, and not even the cute guy could save it. Not worth watching imo.

The week in heidenkindom:

My reading so far this year is starting off promising! (I hope I didn't just jinx myself by saying that.) I've read 10 books already and–here's the part I'm really excited about–I've been surprised at how diverse my reading's been in terms of nationality.

I spontaneously started keeping track of the nationality of the authors of my books in the second week of January, and so far 2/3rds of the books I've finished have been by non-US authors. I don't know why I'm so pumped by this because it's a total coincidence and I've certainly not been trying to read internationally, but it gives me a thin sense of accomplishment. We'll see if this trend continues as the year goes on.

And for the first time in years I'm also looking forward to a bunch of new releases this year, including The Last of August, Pretty Face, and A Crown of Bitter Orange.

Bonus:

born a crime readalong

Don't forget to join me in February for a readalong of Trevor Noah's memoir, Born a Crime, on Book Bloggers International. I don't usually read memoirs at all, but I was intrigued by this one, since it tells Noah's story of growing up in Apartheid-Era South Africa. Every review I've read of the book so far has been glowing.

It's a short book so the readalong shouldn't be too onerous, just about 10 pages a day, or 20 minutes a day if you're listening on audiobook.


Have a great week everyone!



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

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...