February 28, 2015

My Favorite Things: Invisibilia Podcast

My Favorite Things is a regular blog post where I will share with you something that currently delights me.

Released in 2015.

Plot line: Invisibilia (Latin for all the invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior - ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Co-hosted by Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, Invisibilia interweaves narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.

I love listening to podcasts, and am delighted when I find new ones that are interesting, and fascinating, and thought provoking. This new podcast fits that bill perfectly, and will make you think and want to talk to someone after each episode.

You can get more information and the downloads here. If you have not already listened to it, this is a podcast worth listening to. 

February 27, 2015

CY365 | February 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.

46/365 - 021515 #DepthOfField #cy365 #nofilter

47/365 - 021615 #OffPrompt #cy365
Second batch of roasted chickpeas. First batch too crunchy, this batch not crunchy enough. Neither batch spicy enough. Three times a charm? #foodie

48/365 - 021715 #Wide #cy365
One of my fave things is getting snail mail from friends far and wide.

49/365 - 021815 #OffPrompt #cy365
Not a roof rake to be had in New England, so we made our own. Only three more tons to go. #newinter

50/365 - 021915 #IsolateIt #cy365
At my annual physical noticed how bio hazardous waste is isolated.

51/365 - 022015 #OffPrompt #cy365
After another day of shoveling and raking about three tons of snow off the roof, I can barely raise my arms, so a quick photo of my version of a gel pack for long duration exercise will have to do.

52/365 - 022115 #Indistinct #cy365
The paperwhites have been in full bloom for a week now. Sometimes I love how they smell, and other times they smell like something rancid.

As always, click o photos to view larger. You can also follow along with daily updates on my Instagram and Flickr accounts.

February 26, 2015

Cinemascope: Forks Over Knives

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

Released in 2011.

Plot line: Examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.

I watched this documentary when it was first released, and watched it again recently. I picked up things this time around that I had missed the last round. A fascinating and informative look at how diet affects our health.

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

February 23, 2015

Recent Reads

13. The Great Zoo of China
I've been disappointed by the "literary" reads I've tried the past couple of weeks, so decided to try something totally different. Went with an author completely new to me, one known for fast paced thrillers, and oh what a ride this has been.

Think of this story as a cross between Jurassic Park and Sharknado, though not nearly as good as the former, set in China. It is ridiculously over-the-top, and the characters are so transparent that you could swap out one American for another, or one Chinese for another. The writing is not good with liberal usage of exclamation points and italics. The plot is predictable, and I knew how things would go wrong fairly early on in the story. As for our heroine, CJ makes Jack Bauer look like a wimp.

Given all that, I read the 400 or so pages in two sittings. I giggled when people were decapitated or bitten in half - and that is no spoiler, c'mon, you know it's going to happen! This was exactly what I needed to cleanse my palate, and I'd recommend that if you read it, you have some crunchy snacks and an umbrella drink at your side. Rating: 3 stars.

14. The Paying Guests
The setting is London circa 1922, and life in Britain has changed in incomprehensible ways after the war. Zoom in to a upscale neighborhood, where we meet Frances Wray and her mother, who must reluctantly take in lodgers in order to generate some much needed positive cash flow. The lodgers, Lilian and Leonard Barber, will shake up life in this genteel house in unexpected ways.

I'm a huge Sarah Waters fan, and had been saving this book for a time when I knew I could fully immerse myself in the story. If you are a Sarah Waters fan, you know to expect certain themes, and this one started out delightfully. However, while there is some lovely writing, I found myself bored with the story. It all seemed to be happening at too much of a distance, with characters who did not seem fully fleshed out. At no point was I emotionally sucked into the lives of these people and their dramas. The suspense seemed rather contrived, the ending anticlimactic, and honestly if this had not been a book by this author, I would have bailed about a hundred pages in. 

This is yet another literary read on the 2015 Rooster list, and high on my TBR, that has left me cold, and I'm a little gun-shy about starting any of the others. Time for a graphic novel or two while I decide what to read next.  Rating: 2 stars.

15. In Real Life
This graphic novel, targeted at a teen audience, has surprisingly feminist and social justice themes weaved into the story. Anda's life is divided in two: her real life, and the online life in a massively-multiplayer role-playing game. The art wonderfully captures the sense of how the two worlds are differently tinged, and yet there are parallels in both that I found quite lovely. This did not get more stars as things were a little too neatly tied up in a bow, and there were many issues simply glossed over. Still, a fun and fast read. Rating: 3 stars.

February 20, 2015


Picked up a new batch of library books, mainly graphic novels. Lots of books, not enough time is a good problem to have.

February 19, 2015

Cinemascope: The Honorable Woman

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: Centers on Nessa Stein, a woman who inherits her father's arms business and finds herself in a international maelstrom when as she continues to promote the reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

This mini-series by BBC has 8 episodes, and is a smart and complex story about families, secrets, and politics. I was hooked from episode one, and was delighted that this series had such strong roles for women actors. 

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

February 18, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: 02.18.15

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

February 17, 2015

CY365 | February 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.

39/365 - 020815 #Pink #cy365
Pink is not a color you'll usually find in our home, so was delighted when I realized that the candles we're currently using for dinner were pink. #serendipity

40/365 - 020915 #SoLovely #cy365
It is so lovely to be able to look at Daffys after another bout of shoveling snow. We have had an unbelievable couple of weeks.

41/365 - 021015 #Striking #cy365
In my Cardinal outfit for another round of shoveling. Five feet in the last two weeks, and more on the way on Friday!

42/365 - 021115 #Cozy #cy365
Winning a half a billion (that's with a b) bucks would make me feel a lot of things; cozy might be one I suppose. #powerball #fingerscrossed

43/365 - 021215 #AFavorite #cy365
My absolute fave vest; one I would wear everyday if I could. Am dreading the day it will wear out.

44/365 - 021315 #OffPrompt #cy365
A bowl of fruit and Greek yogurt is my go to fave snack year round. #delish

45/365 - 021415 #AValentine #cy365
In the midst of winter storm #4. Sukiyaki valentine dinner at home. #delish

As always, click o photos to view larger. You can also follow along with daily updates on my Instagram and Flickr accounts.

February 16, 2015

Recent Reads

10. River God (Ancient Egypt #1)
I'm having a throwback kind of read. This is the kind of book I spent much of my teens devouring - once I got tired of all those Mills and Boon romances with the throbbing thighs. Seriously as adults do we ever read anything with the kind of sheer abandon we had as kids? Well, I captured some of that fun these past couple of weeks.

This is the first book in the Ancient Egypt pentalogy, and it was the recent publication of the latest installment that made me look into this series again. I am sure I've read this before, but it was so long ago that it did not diminish my enjoyment one bit. 

This book tells the story of ancient Egypt through the eyes of Taita, a slave, who seems rather like a cross between Einstein, DaVinci and Michelangelo's David. Yes, the writing is really ham handed, and over the top, it was written in the early 1990s after all, but I ripped through the 600 or so pages in no time at all. Pharaohs. Blinding beautiful women. Treason. Murder. Star-crossed lovers. The invention of the wheel. Journeys up and down the Nile. War. Bastards. And, it isn't technically a bodice ripper if no-one is wearing any clothes right? 

They do not write epic sagas like this much anymore, and while it will not be for everyone, I was delighted with the shenanigans of Taita, and the time I spent along the Nile during these cold winter days. Rating: 4 stars.

11. Everything I Never Told You
This book made lots of best of year lists in 2014, but it really moved up my TBR pile when it was short listed for The Rooster. I listened to the audiobook, which was well narrated by Cassandra Campbell.

The premise of the book is an interesting one: Lydia, a 16 year old Chinese American student is dead. We the readers know this before anyone else does (not a spoiler, as this happens on the first page), and as the story unfolds, we meet Chinese Dad, American Mom, and her two siblings. I really liked the themes this story explores - racism, inter-racial marriages, bi-racial kids, fitting in, parental disappointments and how that affects their kids - but I wanted a deeper exploration than this book provides. This debut novel could easily be read by kids in the 7th grade and up, and while that is a plus for kids who might never have thought about differences, racial or otherwise, as an older adult, it seemed to have a rather "Lifetimey" approach to these important topics.

I think it would make a good book club choice as it is a quick read with interesting themes, and if you like domestic fiction with some meaty issues that are not delved into too deeply, this would be a great book for you. As the best of 2014 lists show, there is a target audience that loved this book, sadly I am not one of them. Rating: 2 stars.

12. Kiki de Montparnasse
This graphic biography introduced me to Kiki who "escaped poverty to become one of the most charismatic figures of the avant-garde years between the wars. Partner to Man Ray, she would be immortalized by many artists. The muse of a generation, she was one of the first emancipated women of the 20th century". 

While I did not love the art in this book, I was fascinated by this woman, and her life. Since this book attempts to cover her entire life, it has to jump around a lot, and introduce us to loads of people, and that is its biggest weakness. I wanted more about Kiki - her inner life, her demons - and while these are alluded to, the author does not dive deeper. Still, am delighted to have learned a bit about the woman, and I plan on reading a biography to flesh out the details. Rating: 3 stars.

February 15, 2015

Snow and more snow

Here in the Boston are we have had about 9 feet of snow in the past 3 weeks. Kinda crazy. And if that were not enough, we are also having record cold temperatures. Here are some pics from today.

Our driveway is getting narrower after each storm. Pretty soon we'll have to leave the cars behind and snowshoe out. 

Another foot and a half of fresh powdery snow. Windchills in the -35F ahead, and the furnace has stopped working. Grateful that we have power. Life could be worse. There could be zombies at my door.

February 13, 2015

Sergei Polunin, "Take Me to Church" by Hozier, Directed by David LaChapelle

What happens when you combine the talents of Russian ballet bad boy Sergei Polunin, Irish gospel luminary Hozier and photography pop wizard David LaChapelle? Apparently, a whole lot of angsty, sexy, beautiful dancing ensues. (via Huffingtonpost)


February 12, 2015

Cinemascope: My Cousin Vinny

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

Released in 1992.

Plot line: Two New Yorkers are accused of murder in rural Alabama while on their way back to college, and one of their cousins--an inexperienced, loudmouth lawyer not accustomed to Southern rules and manners--comes in to defend them.

If you are an American Football fan, you'll have heard all about Deflategate, and whatever you happen to think about that, you must admit that the one of the most interesting things about it was that the Patriots coach, Bill Belichick, mentioned a character from this movie. And named her in full: Mona Lisa Vito. I've seen the movies a couple of times, and I could not have come up with the name of the character played by Marisa Tomei if my life depended on it, even though I can faithfully recite entire lines from the movie. So, naturally, I had to watch the movie again, and I must say that it holds up quite well, and Tomei is as brilliant as I remember. 

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

February 11, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: 02.11.15

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

February 10, 2015

CY365 | February 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.

32/365 - 020115 #IHeart #cy365 
I heart my library cards and use them daily - in person and online.

33/365 - 020215 #BlurredBackgrounds #cy365
After a Sukiyaki dinner with liberal amounts of hot sake, all backgrounds look blurry to me!

34/365 - 020315 #WhereIStand #cy365
In a bookstore, after a fun book date, with one of my fave guys in the whole wide world.

35/365 - 020415 #Trees #cy365
Time to dig out the snowshoes.

36/365 - 020515 #MyView #cy365
Something I see every morning at home that let's me know that all is well in our lives #family

37/365 - 020615 #Minifigures #cy365
A recent gift from my nephew Jonah. He attached it to the bag I use everyday.

38/365 - 030715 #Gateways #cy365
Oh the wondrous and marvelous worlds that lie beyond this simple gateway!

As always, click o photos to view larger. You can also follow along with daily updates on my Instagram and Flickr accounts.

February 9, 2015

Recent Reads

7. The Man in the Rockefeller Suit
I listened to the audiobook, which was really well narrated by Erik Singer, for my book club this month. I had to give myself a couple of days after I completed the book to see how this one settled before I reviewed it. And here's the thing, there are parts I loved and parts I felt dragged on and on.

I did not know much about this story going in, other than the broad strokes: a man named Clark Rockefeller kidnapped his child, and it was discovered that he was an impostor. Yes, he was the kid's father, but not a Rockefeller or any of the other aliases he used. What he was able to pull off would be much harder in this digital age, but what I found fascinating was his gumption, his intelligence, his obvious charm, his understanding of human nature, his lack of empathy. We all think we are a great judge of character, but are we really? As the saying goes, a sucker is born every minute. It is the sheer scale of the endeavor that is amazing. And as much as we'll have to discuss about him at book club, I am more interested in the people who were snowed by this man, especially his wife. Fascinating.

So why not a higher rating? I really felt that the book dragged in parts and did not give me a complete picture - there are clearly holes in this story. The thing is I'm not a huge fan of true crime books, but if you are, you'll probably love this one. Rating: 3 stars.

8. Second Avenue Caper: When Goodfellas, Divas, and Dealers Plotted Against the Plague
The tragedy and heartbreak of the 1980s AIDS epidemic is a story that needs to be told, and there are many really great books that tell it. This book however was not one of them. It recounts the true story of a group of artists and activists living in New York City who find themselves on the front line of the AIDS battle, but the detached way this story is told did not work for me. Rating: 2 stars.

9. Why Are You Doing This?
The jacket copy and the description of this graphic novel give away too much of the plot, so I'd recommend skipping them and just reading the book. I picked this one up because I loved the cover art. This short story appears to be one thing on the surface, but is really about something else on a deeper level. I cannot say anything more without a spoiler warning, so all I'll say is that this a fun and quick read. Rating: 3 stars.

February 8, 2015

Movies for a snowday

We are in the midst of another winter storm here in the North East. Good thing I picked up some movies at the library before the snow started falling. Am always looking for something good to watch on the treadmill.  Bring on another snowday or three!

February 7, 2015

An Interview with Mary Oliver | On Being

Often quoted, but rarely interviewed, Mary Oliver is one of our greatest and most beloved poets. At 79, she honors us with an intimate conversation on the wisdom of the world, the salvation of poetry, and the life behind her writing.

I've spent a wonderful morning listening to the unedited version of this interview. You can listen or download here.

February 5, 2015

Library Love

Stopped at my library today and came home with this stack of books, because, you know, my TBR pile is not already towering over my head. Nicer to have books towering over one's head than snow banks though!

February 4, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: 02.04.15

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

February 2, 2015

Recent Reads

4. Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush 
Why the heck are you reading this book? I've been asked that question a couple of times, and my response is always the same: Tom Clancy. I am a huge Clancy fan and have read all his books - the ones he wrote himself - none of the ones with a co-author. And one of the things about the massive Clancy books, is that in the midst of all the drama and action, there are these detailed descriptions of military technology. And I love it.

This author has been on my list to read for a while. He is a Brit and an odd duck from what I gather - though I assume that he is not an odd duck because he is a Brit. Anyways, he gets a grant to be a writer-in-residence on this American aircraft carrier for two weeks. It is a strange choice, and he spends much of his time whining, but there is something about him that makes you want to both hit him and soothe him simultaneously. I don't understand it, but there you have it. 

His "reportage" is really nothing like being on a carrier, but is everything like being this guy on a carrier for two weeks. It will not be for everyone, but I liked it and will read more of his stuff. Is he is man-child in all of them I wonder? Or did this project just bring out that side of him? Rating: 3 stars.

5. Mom's Cancer
It was Susan Sontag who wrote: “Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.” 

This little graphic memoir is the story of a family visiting and living in the kingdom of the sick. The author's mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and he created and posted these web comics anonymously about the experience. His work has been collected in this book, and won an Eisner.The art is simple and stark, but there are panels that made me hold my breath. I loved the honesty in the telling of this story - the good, the bad and the ugly. A quick read, but one that will stay with me. Rating: 4 stars.

6. Orphan Train
I've had this book on my TBR for ages, and even though I attended a wonderful author talk, I have been reluctant to pick it up. Not exactly sure why, but since this was the selection for a local book group, I figured it was time to dive in.

The Orphan Train is historical fiction, and the backdrop of the story is the history of the train riders - orphans who were moved from NYC to the American Mid-West during the years of 1854 to 1929. I had not heard about this bit to history until the author talk, and was intrigued with the notion. I know of kids transported during wartime in Europe, but had never heard of any such thing in an American context.

The story is told through two narratives: Molly, a troubled foster kid who is aging out of the foster care system, and Vivian, an aging widow who lives in the same town as Molly in Maine. They have more in common than would seem on the surface, as we learn as the story unfolds.

I love historical fiction, and should have loved this book. The themes of loss, family, abandonment, finding one's place in the world, finding your tribe, etc, are all themes I love to read about, but there was something about this story that did not work for me. It just did not dive deep enough - everything seemed rather superficially laid out - this happened and then this happened. I wanted more: more depth, a deeper exploration of themes. As it was, this read more like Chick Lit, albeit with a historical context. 

Still, it is a fast read, and I liked it enough to read it all the way through to the end. Rating: 2 stars.

February 1, 2015

CY365 | January Done

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.

25/365 - 012515 #Resolve #cy365
My resolve to be sugar free gets challenged daily. I did walk away without getting one though, and am inordinately proud of myself.

26/365 - 012615 #Move #cy365
Birds do it. Bees do it. Wildebeest do it. Migrate I mean. What did you think I meant? In our house dishes move with the season. I'm always a little sad when the Xmas dishes are packed away.

27/365 - 012715 #Nourishing #cy365
There is something magical about cheese toast, especially as a snack while shoveling out from under 30 inches of snow.

28/365 - 012815 #Play #cy365
After shoveling out from under three feet of snow, am simply too tired to play.

29/365 - 012915 #Tethered #cy365
One of these headphones tethers me to the larger world of audiobooks, podcasts, music and videos everyday.

30/365 - 013015 #Commitment #cy365

31/365 - 013115 #OneDone #cy365
I am happy getting on the treadmill when it's bitterly cold outside. One mile done, four more to go.

As always, click o photos to view larger. You can also follow along with daily updates on my Instagram and Flickr accounts.