January 28, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: 01.28.15


Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

January 26, 2015

Blizzard Warning


Recent Reads

1. How to Be Happy
This is a collection of short stories/vignettes on the pursuit of happiness. I liked the sketchy art, and the bold watercolors, but the rave reviews this book gets simply stumps me. Yes, each story explores a different take on what happiness means, and how one pursues it, and there were one or two that seemed to be right on the money, but overall I was left unimpressed. Rating: 2 stars.

2. The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3)
I'm one of those people who seems to have a genetic need to finish a trilogy, no matter how bad it is. I have successfully modified my non-coding DNA in some cases, but clearly I missed a chain or two.

This is the final book in the All Souls Trilogy, and honestly if I had my life to do over, I'd skip this one entirely. The writing is not compelling, the plot transparently thin, the characters come across as boring rather than enigmatic (I presume that was the author's intention), there are people and plot threads that do not move the story forward, there are about 350 unnecessary pages, and I honestly don't know why I finished it, other than reading about this dysfunctional family while spending time with other people's family was soothing in some way. I blame it on all the sugar I consumed during the holidays, which is when I started reading it. 

Did I like anything at all? I did like the toe dip into genetic and evolutionary science - and a full dive into that subject would have delighted me. But then this would have been a different book. I quite liked Gallowglass, and wanted to leave with him when he made the smartest decision of his life and left these people behind. What about the Book and the kids? Skim the Wiki page and get the gist. You'll thank me later. Rating: 2 stars.


3. Sisters (Smile #2)
This graphic novel/memoir is targeted for middle school readers, and is a companion piece to SMILE, though it works well as a standalone book. Raina wants a playmate, so cannot wait to have a sister, but when Amara is born, things do not go quite as she planned. This is a cute story of sisters, a family, and the road trip from hell. The thing I related to most? The snake of course - which actually reminded me of my sister. Rating: 3 stars.

January 25, 2015

CY365 | January Update

Are you playing along with the CY365 project? You can read more about what I'm doing here.

Here is another week of 2015 Captured.


A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on




A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on












A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on











You can also follow along with daily updates on my Instagram and Flickr accounts.

January 24, 2015

Booktopia Vermont 2015

One of the book podcasts I listen to is Books on the Nightstand, and through them I've met a fun community of readers, both online and in person. A couple of times a year, the hosts of the show organize a weekend getaway for readers and authors. I attended one of these events a couple of years ago, and am delighted to be attending again this year. 

Here is an excerpt of an email sent to attendees yesterday outlining the authors who will be attending the Booktopia Vermont event in May:

  • Josh CookAN EXAGGERATED MURDER - This brainy spoof of traditional detective novels features inept kidnappers, fedoras, fight scenes, and jokes about Ulysses. This hilarious debut novel is written by an independent bookseller at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA.
  • Michael CrummeySWEETLAND - Set in a tiny town on remote Canadian island, this beautiful novel tells the tale of Moses Sweetland, a man determined to remain in his home on the island, despite the will of the government and of nature itself.
  • Cristina HenriquezTHE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS - This heartbreaking novel gives voice to millions of Americans by telling the story of the love between a Panamanian boy and a Mexican girl--teenagers who live in a Delaware apartment block of immigrant families much like their own.
  • Steve HimmerFRAM - In a novel that thrills, entertains, and makes you think, Steve Himmer gives us the story of Oscar, a minor bureaucrat whose life is upended when he’s sent on a mission to the Arctic, a place he’s only ever seen in maps, photos, and his own imagination.
  • Dylan LandisRAINEY ROYAL - Ann fell in love with Dylan Landis’ short stories in a writing class and Michael fell in love with her novel Rainey Royal, which reads almost like a collection of linked stories. Rainey’s voyage through Greenwich Village of the 1970s is filled with tales and encounters you won’t soon forget.
  • Kelly LinkGET IN TROUBLE - Eight dark tales—sometimes comic, often disturbing—make up Kelly Link’s new collection.  Already praised by Karen Russell, Peter Straub, Erin Morgenstern, and others, this book of stories may give you nightmares, but it will also give you plenty to think about and discuss.
  • Megan Mayhew BergmanALMOST FAMOUS WOMEN - Some are women whose stories we think we know. Others we’ve likely never heard of. The haunting stories of Megan Mayhew Bergman bring to life the hidden joys and trials of women on the periphery of fame.
  • Mary Doria RussellEPITAPH - After the wonderful novel Doc, Mary Doria Russell now brings us the story of Wyatt Earp, his common-law wife Josephine, and the legendary events that took place on an October 1881 afternoon at the O.K. Corral.
Am delighted. And a little nervous. I'm not a fan of the short story, and there are several short story authors attending. Since the small author sessions allow for an intimate time with authors, I plan on adding these books to my already tottering TBR pile. Can't wait!

Snowday


January 22, 2015

Cinemascope: The Imitation Game

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.


Released in 2014.

Plot line: During the winter of 1952, British authorities entered the home of mathematician, cryptanalyst and war hero Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) to investigate a reported burglary. They instead ended up arresting Turing himself on charges of 'gross indecency', an accusation that would lead to his devastating conviction for the criminal offense of homosexuality - little did officials know, they were actually incriminating the pioneer of modern-day computing. Famously leading a motley group of scholars, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers, he was credited with cracking the so-called unbreakable codes of Germany's World War II Enigma machine. An intense and haunting portrayal of a brilliant, complicated man, THE IMITATION GAME follows a genius who under nail-biting pressure helped to shorten the war and, in turn, save thousands of lives.

This is one of the few movies that I was excited enough to go see in the theaters. I knew a bit about Alan Turing's achievements, but did not know much about the man, and this movie helps shed some light on the man and his work. Granted, the movie glosses over the technical stuff, which I for one am really interested in, and does not really explore Turing's sexuality, but overall, I really enjoyed it. A movie for adults with really wonderful performances by the actors. I plan on picking up a biography on the man in the near future.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

January 21, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: 01.21.15


Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

January 19, 2015

Recent Reads

193. Unterzakhn
Once upon a time there were six year old twin sisters, Esther and Fanya. The sisters lived among the hustle and bustle of New York's Lower East Side circa 1910, a place where immigrants struggled to get their piece of the "golden land". 

This historical graphic novel explores the coming of age of these sisters - their interests, the choices they make, the different lives they end up living. The bold sketchy black and white art really worked for this story, and I liked the juxtaposition of their young innocence against the hard earned wisdom of their later years. 

The title of the book Unterzakhn (Yiddish for "Underthings") is wonderfully apt for the lives of women. This feminist text asks the tough questions - what does it mean to be a girl/woman? Who gets to decide? What are the repercussions of not living a life that is expected /proscribed for you? 

While on the surface the twins live very different lives, they are similar in that they make choices that are right for them. I grew quite fond of these sisters, and their insistence on living a life of their choosing. Rating: 4 stars.


194. Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual
Birds have been extinct since 2031, but fear not, Aviary Wonders Inc. can fulfill your aviary needs. This is their 32 page Spring Catalog, in which you can browse through bird parts - feathers, beaks, legs, etc - and make your very own custom bird. The catalog includes instructions for feeding and care of the new arrival, home assembly, teaching your bird to fly and sing, and an important trouble shooting guide. Sold? There is an order form at the end you can use to get one of your very own.

What a fabulous and scary premise! This is a picture book for elementary/middle school age readers, and is an informative and colorful introduction to birds, environmental adaptations, and extinct and endangered species.  Rating: 4 stars.


195. Gun Guys: A Road Trip
A holiday road trip to the Mid-West was the perfect time to listen to this audiobook, which is strangely, yet wonderfully, narrated by Richard Kind.

Guns. Abortion. Gays. Religion. What do they have in common? Ideological hysteria from all sides. What has happened to us as a nation, that we cannot have civilized, respectful, well informed debates over important issues? 

This book is a travelogue that could help start moving the conversation in the right direction, at least on the gun front. Can you be a liberal and love guns? The author, who is a Jewish Democrat and a lifelong gun guy, takes to the road to understand America's love affair with guns. He introduces us to a sampling of the 40% of Americans who own guns for a myriad reasons: hunters, sport shooters, collectors, people who simply love the machinery, and yes criminals. 

I found this nonfiction book to be insightful, educational, and surprisingly humorous. You might not agree with everything the author has to say, but read this book to get a better understanding of the gun culture before you get on your soap box with statements like "Guns bad!" Highly recommended.  Rating: 5 stars.

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This marks the end of the books read in 2014.

January 18, 2015

CY365 | January Update

Are you playing along with the CY365 project? You can read more about what I'm doing here.

Here is another week of 2015 Captured.


A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on



A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on



A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on



A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on



A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on






A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on



You can also follow along with daily updates on my Instagram and Flickr accounts.

January 16, 2015

CY365 | Plan for success

This is the first time I am attempting the CY365 project, and as with any new project or endeavor, I first go to my journal and plan it out. What are my goals? What will make success likely? How do I define success? What is my process?


After thinking about my objectives and doing some research, here is my plan for success:
  1. My primary camera will be my phone (Samsung Galaxy S4). I might use my Canon dSLR some days, but in order to make capturing photos and uploading as easy as possible, with the least amount of steps, my phone will be my go to device.
  2. I decided to upload my daily photos to both my Instagram and Flickr accounts. They are both easy and fun to use, and have a built in community. Weekly updates will be posted to my blog.
  3. I decided to use a square format for my photos. Which photo format I would use took the longest time to decide. I want my photos to all have a standard format, and since I was using Instagram, opted to go with the default square one. Yes, I could post regular format photos, but that would involve using another app, hence an additional step, and I was trying to eliminate steps. I have not regularly shot in a square format before, and the design implications are new to me. 
  4. I was going to focus on progress not perfection. One day at a time. My goal was to use the prompts to inspire and challenge me to be creative, not to create stress. The goal is to have fun. I am using the prompts as a way to play and learn about myself and my surroundings. This is an important one for me. 
  5. In terms of organization, I decided to label my pics in the following manner: #/365 - DayMonthYear #Prompt #CY365. This captures the key meta data with each photo. I also created a CY365 folder on my PC, and have two subfolders: POTD and Extras. The Photo Of The Day is the one I post. I will only post one photo each day with the cy365 hastag. I might post additional photos, but they will not be tagged for this project.
A couple of weeks into the project, I've already had to constantly remind myself of plan item #4. There are already photos that I do not love, and think could be oh so much better. I need to remember that I will not be hanging these photos in a museum. These do not have to be my best of the best photos, they just have to be good enough for that day. Good enough and done. Bring on the next day.

So far, so good. I am having fun connecting with others playing along. Are you?

January 15, 2015

Cinemascope: Transparent (Season 1)

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.



Released in 2014.

Plot line: An LA family with serious boundary issues have their past and future unravel when a dramatic admission causes everyone's secrets to spill out. Starring Jeffrey Tambor, Judith Light, Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, and Gaby Hoffmann.

Dysfunctional families are dysfunctional in their own unique ways. In this Amazon Original Series, we meet a family with issues galore. This is a domestic drama, where the only explosions are ones of the heart. 

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is TV worth watching.

January 12, 2015

Recent Reads

189. Older, Faster, Stronger: One runner's quest to find out how women are running into their 50s, 60s and beyond, and what that can teach us all about living younger, longer
Book blurb: One part personal quest to discover running greatness after age 50, one part investigation into what the women's running boom can teach athletes about becoming fitter, stronger, and faster as we age.

This book is part memoir, part research reporting, and in many ways so inspiring. I loved learning about some of the older elite runners - some in their 90s! And while I have no plans to become an elite runner, I found some nuggets that were very useful to me. Rating: 3 stars.


190. The Property
In this graphic novel Regina Segal, a Polish Jew who now lives in Israel, takes her granddaughter Mica to Warsaw to reclaim family property lost during World War 2. 

How well do we know our parents or grandparents? How about our family secrets? This story is not what is seems on the surface. There is the publicly declared mission that Mica believes they are on, and then there is the private mission that Grandmama is on. 

I really liked the art in this book, and appreciated the humorous touches to what could have been a very dark story. I also liked the exploration of how the past affects the present, and I developed quite a soft spot for Grandmama Regina. However, Mica is not well developed, and the romance angle simply did not make any sense, and actually detracted from the story. I understand that this is an autobiographical story, so while the romance might have actually occurred, I think the author missed a chance to explore why it had any significance to this particular story. 

In spite of its shortcomings I liked this graphic novel and will read other works by the author. Rating: 3 stars.


191. I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World
Book blurb: Through rants, poetry, questions, and facts, we come to understand the universality of girls everywhere: their resiliency, their wildness, their pain, their fears, their secrets, and their triumphs. I Am an Emotional Creature is a call, a reckoning, an education, an act of empowerment for girls, and an illumination for parents and for us all.

I am a huge fan of Eve Ensler's work, and but this one did not work as well for me as her previous works. This book is a collection of prose, poetry, and lists that captures the varied issues that girls and women face around the world. 

While I appreciated the attempt to catalog, educate, and shed light on many of these issues, there was something missing. It felt like there was a thick glass window I was looking through that created a sense of disconnection that was distracting given the subject matter. And while some of the pieces are wonderful, overall I did not love this collection. 

That said, this would still be an important read for older teens and the adults who love them. Rating: 3 stars.


192. Hark! A Vagrant
This is another blog to book scenario. Why do I seem to be reading so many of these at the moment? This book is a collection of comics that poke at history and literature in fun ways. Some are laugh out loud funny, some I did not get. My faves were the strips that judged a book by its cover - the Nancy Drew ones in particular are absolutely delightful. Rating: 3 stars.

January 11, 2015

CY365 | January Update

Are you playing along with the CY365 project? You can read more about what I'm doing here.

Here is another week of 2015 Captured.

A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on


A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on


A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on


A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on


A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on


A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on

January 8, 2015

Cinemascope: Fed Up

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.



Released in 2014.

Plot line: Upending the conventional wisdom of why we gain weight and how to lose it, Fed Up unearths a dirty secret of the American food industry-far more of us get sick from what we eat than anyone has previously realized. Filmmaker Stephanie Soechtig and TV journalist Katie Couric lead us through this potent exposé that uncovers why-despite media attention, the public's fascination with appearance, and government policies to combat childhood obesity-generations of American children will now live shorter lives than their parents did.

If you've been reading my blog, you know that I decided to get off the sugar ride last year after coming to terms with the dangers of sugar. This documentary will inform, educate, and make you mad. After watching it, you'll look at food in a entirely new light and want to take action. Both personal and political.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

January 7, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: 01.07.15


Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

January 6, 2015

Best Books of 2014

Some facts about my reading year:
  1. I cracked open 201 books.
  2. I gave 9 books a rating of 5 stars.
  3. I read some classics and some current stuff, but 2014 was clearly the year of the graphic novel for me.
  4. You can see a fun compilation of the books I read here.
My top 5 reads for the year were:
  1. Gun Guys: A Road Trip
  2. The Signature of All Things
  3. Shōgun (Asian Saga #3)
  4. The Orphan Master's Son
  5. Bad Feminist: Essays
Please note that I still have a couple of weeks of posting my 2014 reviews on this blog, before I switch over to my 2015 reads.

What were your fave books from last year?
Happy Reading!

January 5, 2015

Recent Reads

185. This is Where I Leave You
Tropper and Tolstoy agree on one thing: All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. 

In this story we meet the Foxman family in all their glorious dysfunction. The Dad has died after a long lingering illness, and the family is all back together. Sitting Shiva. Under one roof. For seven days. 

The author is a really talented writer, and the writing is often both funny and snarky, and while I enjoyed it overall, it felt more like the author was writing a movie script. A little too cliched, with great one-liners, but without any real deep exploration of the myriad issues faced by the characters. I get that the author might have been going for a comic touch, but the narrator got on my nerves after a while. I got a bit tired of all that BOY angst, jokes and one liners. And the way Judd thinks about and treats women? Maybe he should be alone until he grows up.

Still, this is a quick read that might be the perfect book for the holiday season while visiting family. It can be very therapeutic to be mired in someone else's dysfunctional family for a while, can it not? Rating: 3 stars.


186. Little Humans
I am a huge fan of the Humans of New York (HONY) blog, and loved the book of the same name. This one however is not what I expected. It is a very thin collection of photos of my fave segment on the blog - Today in Microfashion, but with such forgettable, pat, one line text per page. Why? Maybe this was a fundraiser for some project, and I missed it. Maybe it a book targeted for the very, very young. Anyways, color me disappointed. Skip this one, and check out his blog instead. Rating: 2 stars.

187. A Year of Mornings: 3191 Miles Apart
Book blurb: A Year of Mornings collects 236 images, always taken before 10 am without discussion between the two women, from this uniquely 21st-century artistic collaboration. 

I love the idea of this project. Two bloggers, one living in Portland, Maine, and the other in Portland, Oregon capture daily morning photos, pair them up, and post a diptych on their blog. It is a wonderful reminder to slow down and notice what we see in our ordinary daily routines. 

This is another blog to book venture, and while many of the photos are lovely, this probably worked better in blog format as opposed to this book. Most of the diptychs in the book are too small to really work in print, and I found myself squinting a lot while looking at the tiny photos. Rating: 2 stars.


188. Smile (Smile #1)
Middle school is tough enough without falling down and losing your two front teeth. In this coming of age graphic memoir, the author tells the story of that period in her life. In addition to all that dental drama, there are the typical things going on in her life - boy crushes, her changing body, transition to high school, and finding your tribe. This is a cute story targeted at young adult readers. Rating: 3 stars.

January 4, 2015

CY365 | January Update

Are you playing along with the CY365 project? You can read more about what I'm doing here.

Here are the first four days of the new year Captured.

A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on


A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on


A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on


A photo posted by Elizabeth A (@kisiwa82) on


I am having such fun with this creative challenge, and came up with some guidelines to make is at easy as possible for me to be successful, and I'll share what those are next week.

January 1, 2015

One Little Word 2015 | CY365

If you read my blog, you know that rather than make resolutions, I pick a word each year. I've discovered that having a word as a focus, shapes my year dramatically. I am affected physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually in unexpected ways.

Past years:
2008: Health and Wealth
2009: Passion
2010: Connect
2011: Explore
2012: Light
2013: Begin

My word for 2014 was CULTIVATE, and each month I paired my word with an objective and tracked how well I did, or did not do. It turned out to be a great word for me last year, and I learned much about myself, my self-imposed restrictions, and made major changes that I plan to maintain this year.

My word for 2015 is CAPTURE. Here are some facets that excite me:
Record or express accurately in words or pictures| Represent| Interpret| Attract| Appeal| Change| Aquire

As part my One Little Word project this year, I have decided to play along with Capture Your 365 - a daily prompted photo project. My plan is to post daily photos on Instagram and Flickr, and do a weekly summary here on my blog. If you are playing along with the CY365 project I'd love a link to your shared photos. 

Here is the photo for today's prompt: Good Morning 2015!


I wanted to take a moment to thank those of you who read along, share your journey, and inspire me. May 2015 be the best year yet.