July 21, 2014

Recent Reads

94. Panic
I'm visiting with my tween nieces, so am trying out some new YA authors.

Teenagers in small towns are always looking for some action, and in this story high school graduates play a high stakes game, where the last person standing wins $60,000. The story is told with two narrators who want to win for different reasons. Written for a young adult audience, this is a coming of age story with death stalking the players. I found it an OK read - rather predictable with lots of action, but not much depth. Rating: 2 stars.


95. Tripwire (Jack Reacher #3)
It must be me. There are over 33,000 reviews of this book on GoodReads, and and the average rating is 4.05 stars. This is my third attempt at reading the very popular Jack Reacher series by Lee Child, but I fear that it will be my last. I looked back at my reviews of the first two books in the series, and realize that I have felt this way from the start, but I so wanted to join the fan club of this series that I tried again. 

Reacher is digging pools in Key West, when strangers show up looking for him. It takes him finding one of those people dead to head up to New York to see if he can get to the bottom of what is going on. I found the Vietnam War information interesting, but found myself rolling my eyes every time Jodie skipped - on her way to work, on her way toward him - really how many thirty year old lawyers in business attire have you seen skipping? The pacing is slow, the plot plodding, the characters one dimensional, and oh yeah, I could tell how this was going to go down fairly early on in the story. I slogged through to the end, and the description of Reacher's well defined pecs acting like three inches of Kevlar had my eyes rolling so far back that I almost harmed myself. Three strikes and Reacher is out. Rating: 1 star.


96. Alpha & Omega (Locke & Key #6)
This is the final installment in the Locke & Key graphic novel series, so there was a lot of ground to cover. Bad things continue to happen, and the high school graduation after party does not go as planned. I have enjoyed the creativity and artwork in this series, but the ending did feel a little too tidy. Still a fun and disturbing read. Rating: 3 stars.

July 19, 2014

The BPL + Boston Bikes = The Bibliocycle

Yet another reason I love the Boston Public Library.


July 17, 2014

Cinemascope: August: Osage County

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



Released in 2013.

Plot line: A look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them.

This has got to be the best movie I have seen in ages. A movie made by adults for adults. The movie is based on the play of the same name, and I've got it on my list of books to read. Wonderful lines and setting, and incredible performances by the entire cast, especially Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts (not really a surprise is it?). Simply fantastic.

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

July 16, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 07.16.14


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July 15, 2014

Fitbit Junkie

I've joined the Fitbit train, and man, oh man, am I enjoying the ride. Who knew? I've used RunKeeper to track my workouts the past couple of years, and while I love it, there is something addictive about tracking how much I move during the day, and reviewing the data and charts I get with my Fitbit. 

There are several product options, and after doing my usual exhaustive research and reading loads of reviews, I decided to go with the Fitbit One model


As you can see from the product info above, this tiny device measures steps taken, calories burned, distance traveled, stairs climbed, hours slept and the quality of sleep. It syncs via bluetooth to your smartphone or computer. I have an iphone 4, and the direct sync does not work with it - it needs a 4s or newer model, but this is not an issue as I can easily sync via my computer and I can view the data on my iphone 4 via a free app. 

Here for example is a screen shot of  my phone from yesterday. 


I love the hours slept and the quality of sleep function, and you can track additional information like the amount of water you drink (I do), and the food you eat (I do not).

I bought the device on July 1, and have set my daily target at 10,000 steps, which is about 5 miles, and I've hit or exceeded that target every day but two.


Does it work? It depends on the type of person you are. If like me, when you see that you are short of your target for the day and that gets you moving, then yes, this is for you. If you have friends who are kicking your butt and you are determined to catch up and maybe even pass them, then this is for you. If however you have a tendency to beat yourself up for failing at yet one more thing, then maybe this is not for you. Another bit of advice is to track what you actually walk in a day, and then set a realistic target depending on your baseline. Do not set yourself up to fail.

Yes, comparison is the thief of happiness, but in this case it gets me moving just so I can catch up to a friend who seems to be a jack rabbit.

A fad? Maybe. But 2 weeks later, I've walked or run about 84 miles. Not bad. Not bad at all. And a bonus side effect is that the kitchen has never been so clean! Yup, that is what I'm doing right before going to bed to get in those extra steps.

Are you a fitbitter? I'd love to hear your thoughts, and if you'd like a little friendly competition, let's be fitbit friends.

July 14, 2014

Recent Reads

90. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
OK, I give up. Am about half way through this collection of short stories, and I simply do not care enough to continue. Some interesting ideas, but overall not a compelling read. The audiobook is narrated by various people you might know, but rather than add, in my humble opinion, they are actually a distraction. I know many loved this collection, but it so did not work for me. Rating: 1 star.

91. Clockworks (Locke & Key #5)
I knew it was only a matter of time before we got the "origin" story that helps explain how it all began. Fun and scary, and maybe the people you think are bad, are not really so bad. Who can you trust? More keys are put into play, and I look forward to seeing how this story ends in the next installment. Rating: 3 stars.

92. A River Runs Through It and Other Stories
I love the movie based on this story, but had not read the novella, so when the folks at Literary Disco raved about it, it moved to the top of my TBR pile. 

I listened to the audiobook wonderfully narrated by Ivan Doig. This is really a meditation. A meditation on nature and fly fishing, on fathers and sons, on love and loss, on the push and pull of siblings. I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to this on my evening walks along Boston Harbor, and plan to watch the movie again soon. Rating: 4 stars.


93. Sycamore Row (Jake Brigance #2)
I am a fan of Grisham's backlist, especially his earliest stuff, but have not been too impressed with his newer books. Still, I really liked A Time to Kill (the prequel to this one), and needed something quick to read while preparing for a trip, so figured I'd give this one a try.

Book blurb: Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten, will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County's most notorious citizens, just three years earlier. 

I read A Time to Kill a long time ago, but you don't really have to have read it for this one to make sense. Most of the pertinent details are handily recapped to bring a new reader up to speed. While the story explores interesting questions, especially the greedy grab for money when someone dies, or suddenly comes into money, this is not a thriller or page turner of a read. And that surprised me. It kept my interest enough to finish it, but seemed rather formulaic and predictable, and I figured out what was going to happen from clues laid out in the early parts of the story. Rating: 2 stars.

July 10, 2014

Cinemascope: Saving Mr. Banks

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



Released in 2013.

Plot line: Author P.L. Travers reflects on her childhood after reluctantly meeting with Walt Disney, who seeks to adapt her Mary Poppins books for the big screen.

It is funny that how we first encounter a story colors our perspective of it for the rest of our lives. I read the Mary Poppins books as a kid and loved them. I knew nothing about the movies until I was an adult, and was not overly impressed with them. Susan on the other had seen the movies, and had no idea that they were based on books. 

It seems to me that until recent times, one read books and did not overly care about the author: who they were, what they looked liked, what they thought about or where they got their inspiration. It was all about the books. Not so in this day of book tours and author talks and interviews, and while I like knowing about the author, sometimes it spoils the fun. Case and point: I had not once thought about the author of the Mary Poppins books. Not once. I do not even recall wondering if the author was a man or a woman. It simply did not matter. This delightful movie tells the story of how the first book got made into a movie. Do not be put of by the fact that it is a Disney production, it has a wonderful cast and spins a good yarn. Emma Thompson is one of my all time faves, and she is brilliant in this movie.

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

July 8, 2014

World Cup Semi-Finals

Update #3: The game between ‪#‎ARG‬ and ‪#‎NED‬ was boring until we got to the penalty kicks. They could have simply skipped the 120 mins of play and gone straight to the kicks. That said, fantastic saves by goalie Romero had me in tears. Di Maria you were missed today. ‪#‎WorldCup‬

Update #2: So excited for the ‪#‎ARG‬ v ‪#‎NED‬ game that I barely got any sleep last night. Jet lagged and ready for the game. Go Argentina! ‪#‎WorldCup‬

Update #1: Germany came to play today, and looked good doing it. It was painful to watch Brazil get spanked.



So, if like me you are a football fan, today and tomorrow are going to be all about the FIFA World Cup semi-final games. Today Germany plays Brazil and tomorrow Argentina plays Holland. Should be such great games. Ole. Ole. Ole. Ole.

July 7, 2014

Recent Reads

87. The Secret History of Las Vegas: A Novel
I'm headed to Las Vegas next week to visit family, so thought it would be the perfect time to read this one. And holy moly, but where has Chris Abani been all my life?

Here is the premise: Before he can retire, Las Vegas detective Salazar is determined to solve a recent spate of murders. When he encounters a pair of conjoined twins with a container of blood near their car, he’s sure he has apprehended the killers, and enlists the help of Dr. Sunil Singh, a South African transplant who specializes in the study of psychopaths. 

This dark and gritty tale is unlike any other mystery/crime novel I have read. The prose is lyrical, the sense of place so wonderfully described that I could feel the grit, and the book is peopled with fascinating characters.

This is a book about many things: secrets, atomic testing, apartheid, psychopathy, serial murders, regrets, freaks, the human condition, and yet somehow the author skillfully weaves all this threads together to form a tapestry that disturbs as much as it delights.

This is not one for the faint of heart. And I've read reviews where people where bugged by the fact that the author does not use quotation marks. You get used to it. So why not 5 stars? I felt that the women characters could have used a bit more fleshing out. I'd highly recommend this complex and disturbing story, just be forewarned that there is quite a bit of violence, so it is not a cozy read. Rating: 4 stars.


88. Keys to the Kingdom(Locke & Key #4)
Did you read Calvin and Hobbes? Well, there are sections that are clearly a homage. The art in the start of the story is so different that it is jarring, but I'm all for pushing boundaries. 

I did not love this one as much as the first 3 books, but it is still good. My fave part was the month of February in the Locke household. If you think you have a crazy calendar, you might want to read that section just so you can feel better about your life. 

More keys are found, and part of the fun is discovering what they do. Creepier and creepier. Rating: 3 stars.


89. Parnassus on Wheels
First published in 1917, this novella is a quick and delightful read.

Roger Mufflin has been traveling the New England countryside with his horse drawn book mobile leaving literacy and the love of books in his wake. He's ready to retire and write his book so is looking for a buyer for his Parnassus on Wheels. Enter Helen McGill, who has kept house for her brother for far too long. 6000 loaves of bread too long. Adventure awaits. 

Curl up with this lovely book and see if you don't smile as you read this fun yarn of days gone by. Rating: 4 stars.

July 4, 2014

TGIF

So much going on today. Started the day with a run and encountered deer and bunnies. Love that.

Today also had two fantastic semi-final games for World Cup 2014.  The noon game was Germany versus France. Germany advances.


The 4pm game between Brazil and Colombia was a battle til the end. Brazil advances.


And then Hurricane Arthur stopped by for a visit.


Arthur was preceded by an amazing lightning and thunderstorm last night. As much as 7 inches of rain before it is all done.

And here in the US we are celebrating Independence Day.


What a day. Hope you had a good one too.

July 3, 2014

Cinemascope: The Broken Circle Breakdown

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



Released in 2012.

Plot line: Elise and Didier fall in love at first sight, in spite of their differences. He talks, she listens. He's a romantic atheist, she's a religious realist. When their daughter becomes seriously ill, their love is put on trial.

I love good foreign films, and this one from Belgium has a great story, wonderful acting and American Bluegrass music to boot. An intelligent movie for adults about the complexity of relationships.

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

July 2, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 07.02.14


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July 1, 2014

Journal page

I like color. There is something colorful about it. And adding some black makes colors pop. I find coloring in the lines soothing, it reminds me of the peaceful times of early childhood.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Sharpie flip chart markers (see if you have some in your stash - so juicy to play with) in my large single signature art journal.

June 30, 2014

Recent Reads

84. Crown of Shadows (Locke & Key #3)
The imagination of the author and the fantastic art has me flying through this series, and that is too bad because I really want to slow down and savor every frame. And that Crown of Shadows? Stuff of nightmares! Rating: 4 Stars.

85. The Neon Rain (Dave Robicheaux #1)
I've heard this series is a good one for fans of Harry Bosch, so thought I'd give it a try. While Dave Robicheaux is no Bosch, they are both flawed men who have PTSD from the Vietnam War, and a tendency to do things their own way, torpedoes be damned.

The setting is the seedier side of New Orleans, and what I was not expecting is the poetry of some of the prose. Also a lot more political than your average police procedural. I tried to puzzle out the crime along with Dave, who goes a bit too rogue for my tastes, but every time the man ate a po' boy or beignet my mouth watered and I wanted me one too. There are several books in this series, and I liked it enough to give the next one or two a shot. Rating: 3 stars.


86. The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3)
This is the final book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, and while targeted for kids, it is also a fun read for adults. I listened to the multicast audio version, which is wonderful.

There are so many things I love about this series, and this final book in the trilogy is even better than the first two - really unusual for trilogies. The war that has threatened has finally arrived. Good versus evil, religion and dogma versus open minds and kindness. Humans, angels, specters, ghosts, witches, armored bears, and the dead oh my! The metaphysical and philosophical themes explored in this book would lead to interesting discussions for adults, let alone kids. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series, and I will miss spending time with Lyra and Will.

Bravo Philip Pullman. Bravo. Rating: 5 stars.

June 27, 2014

Summer reading


My reading nook on the boat. Hanging with Bill, my fave kickstand. #fridayreads

June 26, 2014

Stephen Colbert: USA @ FIFA 2014

Big day for the USA today. Stephen is hilarious, and explains all the options in which the USA advances.



If the embedded video does not work, click here.

June 25, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 06.25.14


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June 24, 2014

Journal page

While going through my journals, I recently found this page inspired by the cover of a Title 9 catalog. This was created back in March when it was freezing and dark and I was clearly thinking about sunshine and warmth.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Pen and watercolors in my large single signature art journal.

June 23, 2014

Recent Reads

81. A Tale for the Time Being
** spoiler alert ** This book should have gotten 4, maybe even 5 stars, and until about the second half of part three, I thought that it would. And then that dream scene happened, and I threw up my hands in disgust.

I love how the author writes. She is very skilled at capturing people and place and relationships. There are multiple narrators in this story, and I loved the parts where Nao tells her story via diary entries. The relationship between 16 year old Nao and her 104 year old great-grandmother Jiko is heart warming and lovely. I was less impressed with the Ruth parts, though again, the author captures well the people and place. All the characters in this book have distinct voices, and the author fleshes them out really well.

Now let's get to what upset me about this book. I felt cheated by the magical realism and quasi quantum mechanics devices used by the author. Either write a magical realism story ala Isabel Allende, and I would have loved it. Or write a true sci-fi story, and I would have loved it too. Dream travel does not a multi-universe story make! I needed more. Based on all the science infrastructure that is shared in the book, I expected/wanted/hoped that the author would fully leap into parallel universes. But in my opinion, the story fell flat. It was almost like the author started out with a wonderful story, but then did not know how to end it. The themes of suicide, bullying, environmental collapse, etc, were all compelling, but the underlying structure of the story did not hold, and like a badly baked meringue simply fell flat.

My book club discussed this over the weekend, and the general consensus was that although the writing in wonderful, the story was too fragmented and did not hold together. You know that feeling you have when you get a crush on someone and then realize that you were mistaken? That is how I feel after reading this book. Rating: 3 stars.


82. A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire #4)
Other than the Bible, is there really a book out there with these many characters? 

This is book #4 in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and at this point you are either along for the ride, or you have not bothered to start. There are parts of this installment I loved, parts that I did not, and parts that I found downright boring. 

If you are reading these tomes, you already know that GRRM decided to split the story into two books, and this one deals with stuff that happens around Kings Landing, while the next book picks up what happens on the Wall and with the Dragon Mother during the same time frame. Sure, some of my fave characters were missing in this book, but the sheer volume of new characters I was introduced to was breath taking. 

While I did not love this volume, it moves the story along in important (I assume) ways, and I look forward to #5. And then what do I do? Books #6 and #7 are not published yet, so I guess I'll join the masses who pray that the author does not die before completing this series. Rating: 3 stars.


83. Head Games (Locke & Key #2)
I am loving this graphic novel series, and am slowly reading my way through the collection because I do not want it to end. The Locke children are in serious trouble and do not even know it. Another key is found and what it does will blow your mind. This story is such a wonderful exploration of memory and fear, and as in the first book the art is fantastic. Got the next two books on my nightstand, and I look at them the same way I gaze longingly at lovely desserts in brightly lit French cafes. Delish! Rating: 4 stars.

June 22, 2014

Pirate jellyfish

This is what we woke up to this morning!


The invasion of the jellyfish ....


Some of the pirates tried to board the boat via the salt water system. Susan had her work out cut repelling unwanted boarders!


Such a lovely sight on this beautiful morning.

June 21, 2014

Celebrations

We are celebrating the birthday girl, an anniversary and the summer solstice!


It is a Goldilocks kind of day, so we started with a stroll around the neighborhood.


Welcome Summer! 


And there ain't no better way to celebrate summer than on the water.


Hope it is a Goldilocks kind of day wherever you are too.

June 20, 2014

World Cup Fever


With the rest of the world, I've got World Cup fever. So fun that the games are at a reasonable times for those of us on the East coast of the US.


We don't have Cable, so am watching the games on Univision. In Spanish. No I do not speak Spanish, but I just might be able to after the games are done. 

June 19, 2014

Cinemascope: Dallas Buyers Club

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


Released in 2013.

Plot line: In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.

This is a tough movie to watch, and Matthew McConaughey is disturbingly skinny, but this movie raises so many issues around the AIDS crisis, medical care, the FDA process regarding drugs, etc that it is worth watching. I was a little disturbed that the story is told from the POV of a straight man, a homophobe when we meet him, when there are many incredible and moving stories from the LGBTQ community that are under-represented in the mainstream media. But maybe that is the power of this movie, that people who might not go see And The Band Played On or Milk, might be educated about these issues.

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

June 18, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 06.18.14


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June 17, 2014

Journal pages

Couple of early pages in my new larger journal. Loving all that space to write in.


As you can see from the page above, I simply write out whatever is in my head at the moment. Get it out. If the writing turns out to be private, I just don't share it. Have loads of pages like that. For my eyes only.


But then I have pages like this one that I knew I would share, and I adjust accordingly. Both pages were done on the same day I think, and capture a moment in time. As always, click on images to view larger.

June 16, 2014

Recent Reads

78. Saga, Volume 3
This volume collects Saga issues #13-18.

I know that most new parents worry about simply keeping their wee ones alive, but poor Marko and Alana have actual bad guys trying to kill not just the wee one, but want them dead too. This continues to be a smart, adult story with fabulous art, and while I did not love this one as much as the first volume, the story moves along on various fronts. Oh, and turns out this volume was not the final in a trilogy as I expected. There is more coming, though am not sure when. 

If the last comic book you read was when you still wearing knee socks, give this series a try and see how far the genre as come.

PS. If you know where I can get me a lying cat, please PM me. Rating: 3 stars.


79. The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
War is hell, and there are many wonderful books that describe that hell really well. This non-fiction book looks at World War 2 from a different perspective: the preservation of art and culture during times of war. 

There is so much I did not know about the men and women who helped preserve historic buildings and great art during WW2. On my travels through Europe, it never even occurred to me to wonder how all the marvels I was looking at survived wartime. I found this book educational, informative, moving and inspiring, and am so grateful for the courageous men and women who did this work.

The audiobook is wonderfully narrated by Jeremy Davidson, but I think this book would work better in print or ebook. The action takes place on several fronts, and there are letters, memos, diary entries, etc, and the audio also has no maps, which would better help set the scene. If you are a history or WW2 buff, or even interested in art, I would highly recommend you give this book a try. Rating: 4 stars.


80. Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft
I'm the kind of person who watches scary/horror movies with my hands over my eyes, peeking every now and then to see if the scary part is over. Turns out that is kinda hard to do while reading. 

This fantastic graphic novel is the first in a series that I found creepy and scary and delicious all at the same time. You can tell that the apple does not fall from the tree: Joe Hill is as creepy and awesome a writer as daddy Stephen King. This story of a family that moves into a creepy mansion with doors that open into worlds not on this plane, is classic King-like scary. And while the writing is really good, let me just say that the artwork by Gabriel Rodríguez is amazing. I've got the next book in the series on my nightstand, and if you enjoy creepily good yarns, check this one out. Rating: 4 stars.

June 14, 2014

Journal page

I am back home and catching up on my sleep. In the meanwhile, here is a page that I created using a handmade stencil from a photo of myself. Not great, but for a first pass, I am quite pleased with it.

(Click on image to enlarge)

June 11, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 06.11.14


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June 10, 2014

Travel journaling

Taking the time to capture moments, memories, and snippets of conversation as I go along. A little bit every day adds up.


Have along some basic supplies: pen, watercolor pencils, a water brush,  and stencils.

June 9, 2014

Recent Reads

74. The Burgess Boys
I read it for my book club this month, and honestly would not have finished it if not for that.

I really like how the author writes, and this is the third book of hers I have read. It is however my least favorite of the three. The author captures human interpersonal relationships really well, and this book also has a wonderful sense of place, but overall the story did not work for me. 

This is a book about a dysfunctional, damaged family, and with that backdrop I expected more: more depth, more insight, more connection. But the characters in this book are not fleshed out, and I felt remote from all the pain and angst. There are some wonderful insights about humanity that the author shares, but overall, this is not a book I would recommend. However, half of my book club loved it, so maybe you will too. Rating: 2 stars.


75. Urban Watercolor Sketching: A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color
Book blurb: A guide that shows painters, drawers, doodlers, and urban sketchers how to bring their drawings to life with colorful, bold, yet accessible painting methods.

This is a colorful and informative introduction to watercolor sketching. Rating: 3 stars.


76. The Abominable
This has been our read-aloud book at home for the past several months, and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. 

This story of friendship, mountain climbing, and human endurance reads like a fast paced thriller, and kept me guessing at the twists and turns. Much of the action takes place on Mt. Everest, and if you are fan of climbing stories you gotta read this one. If however you are not a fan, the technical, equipment and scientific details might be too much for you, but I'd advise you to skim those sections and enjoy the ride.

I loved the author's skill at telling a rollicking good yarn, with real bits of history woven in. This is my first book by the author, and it will certainly not be my last. Backlist, here I come! Rating: 4 stars.


77. Art Journal Freedom: How to Journal Creatively with Color & Composition
I am always looking for creative inspiration, and while I did not love this book, did get some good ideas that I will try out in my journal. Rating: 2 stars.