July 30, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 07.30.14

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July 29, 2014

Journal page

It has been a while since I've posted some of my art journal pages. Here is one where I played with the idea of light and shadow. 

(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 cheapo art journal.

July 28, 2014

Recent Reads

97. Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy #1)
I love that the author and his publisher decided to release all three books in this trilogy in one year. As a person who waits until the final book in a trilogy is about to be released to start in on the first book, I appreciate the quick release schedule.

I had heard such great things about this trilogy, and on the surface there is much to get excited about: Area X has been abandoned by humans after some disaster and is now a pristine natural environment sans humans; all prior expeditions to explore and map out the terrain have ended badly; the latest (and 12th) expedition is made up of four women; strange things happen and all is not as it seems.

See what I mean? How could this not work? And yet it does not. I found the writing too strange - almost like the narrator was high the entire time. The story felt muddled and unclear and maybe that is what the author intended, this is a trilogy after all, and I assume answers are forthcoming, but I do not care enough to read on. Rating: 2 stars.

98. We Were Liars
This Young Adult book is generating such buzz, and is on so many Summer/Beach Read lists, that I had to give it try. Why, oh why do I keep believing the hype? Sigh.

The narrator is a "poor-little-white-rich girl" whose family spends their summers on a private island off Cape Cod. The Liars of the title is a group comprised of four kids: our narrator, two of her cousins, and an outsider. The group is close as only kids can be at this age, but everyone is rather one dimensional, and dare I say it? Rather shallow. There are important themes (Class, Racism, Trust funds, Politics, etc) touched on, but without any real substance which I found disappointing. I really disliked the writing style: choppy sentences that read like bad teenage poetry is just not my thing.

Did I like anything about this book? I liked the fairy tales interspersed within the novel. I also liked the believable way that the adult to adult relationships were depicted. The author also captures well the sense of summer living in New England, albeit a very privileged white perspective of it. Still one can smell the ocean and hear the sea gulls. {Spoiler ahead: But don't get me started on [ the M. Night Shyamalan style twist. Why does this book not have a "magical realism/fantasy" label?}

OK, I'll now crawl under the covers while those of you who loved this book throw your rocks at me. Rating: 2 stars.

99. This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage
I believe that we all want friends like Ann Patchett, and with this book we have one. At least for the duration one reads it. 

I like her fiction, but am finding that I love her non-fiction even more. In this collection of essays, we get a glimpse of the woman behind the novels: a woman who is smart and funny and flawed and brave and loyal. 

I listened to the audiobook wonderfully narrated by the author, and while some pieces are better than others, reading every one of them felt like having an intimate couple of hours with a warm and loving best friend. How the heck does she do that? Rating: 4 stars.

July 25, 2014

Lowell Folk Festival (#LowellFolk)

Tonight was the opening night for the 28th annual Lowell Folk Festival.

We are lucking out with fantastic weather, so decided to go check it out. 

Thrilled that this year features Japanese taiko drumming by Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka's San Francisco Taiko Dojo. They were really good.

Cannot wait to check out the other musicans over the weekend. If you are in the area, come on over. 

July 24, 2014

Cinemascope: True Detective (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: The lives of two detectives, Rust Cohle and Martin Hart, become entangled during a 17-year hunt for a serial killer in Louisiana.

I don't know what is going on at HBO, but they are producing incredible content over there. Almost makes me want to get cable. Not really, but almost. Since we do not have cable, I have to wait until the show comes out on DVD, and I put my hands over my ears every time someone talks about the show before I've seen it.

I love the cast. I love the lines. The acting is really good, and the setting and story is so dark. This is not your detective story of old. It is very cleverly told in present time and with flashbacks. So, so good. Though I do have a quibble with the ending. I think there was the perfect ending, and then they got picked up for another season, and some junk got added on. Can Season 2 be even remotely as good as this one? We'll see.

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

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


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.