Friday, January 31, 2014

Before I Go to Sleep, Shatter Me, Hunted (Mini Book Reviews)

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Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson:

This book was 50 First Dates and Memento's love child. It was a great thriller with quite a few plot holes but it's so fast-paced I didn't mind them too much. Looks like this is going to be a new movie this year as well. Starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth! Woot!



Shatter Me by Teherah Mafi:

I read this for Misty's (from Book Rat) Wednesday YA book club.


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It's a unique book. Mafi writes this as first person stream-of-consciousness. It's odd and off-putting. It's really a romance thrown into a dystopic setting. She uses the dystopic world to throw out a few jabs about how evil humans are for killing the world but for the most part it's second fiddle to her love triangle with the hero Adam and the evil villain Warren. Overall, it's an interesting story and since the books are pretty short, I think I may pick up the rest of the series just to see how it all ends. But it didn't hold me. There weren't a lot of stand out characters or storyline to keep me hanging on the whole time. There were a few action scenes but overall it just left me unimpressed.


Hunted by Kevin Hearne:

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This is the 6th book in the Iron Druid Chronicles. I've reviewed the first 5 here, here, and here.

The Greek and Roman goddesses Dianna and Athena are after Atticus and Granuile and their Irish wolfhound Oberon. Lots of fighting, death, new alliances and old ones come into play.

Once again I adore Hearne's way of bringing mythology to life in such a glorious and funny and creative way.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

One Line Movie Reviews (17)

1. My Girlfriend's Boyfriend (2010): Cheesy (so so gooey it sticks) but interesting romance.

Rating: C+

2. The World's End (2013): Not Simon Pegg's best but still great.

Rating: B

3. Elysium (2013): Too much of the white savior story-line and let's not forget about the gaping plot holes!

Rating: C

4. The Wolverine (2013): The plot holes sing in this one but it's Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and I can't deny I loved every minute of it!

Rating: B+


5. The Way Way Back (2013): An adorable coming-of-age story.

Rating: A-


6. American Hustle (2013): The acting is superb but the movie only left me feeling so-so.

Rating: C+

7. Whip It (2009): A great feel-good strong women movie!

Rating: A+

8. The Lone Ranger (2013): I really had to shower after this one; it made me feel dirty for even laughing in a couple of parts.

Rating: D


9. Away We Go (2009): I think it took itself a bit too seriously.

Rating: B-


10. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010): Not a bad idea but it was terribly executed aka bad acting and script.

Rating: C-


11. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013): A lot better than the first but still suffers from major plot holes and WTF moments with the main character.

Rating: B-



Cat Thursday (23)

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! Hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict.

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I have saved up a few for this week!



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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

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Cain does an amazing job getting to the nitty gritty of what makes introverts tick. I enjoyed her down-to-earth style and stories which helped bring it all-together for me.

She starts off with who are introverts, what does that mean, and who came up with this? We get a little background into some psychology history.

She then goes into why we live in such and extroverted culture and what that means. And how are basic assumptions like brainstorming and groupthink actually aren't effective. She gives us business example of where these ideals are failing and where the introvert ideals are succeeding.

The second part focuses on biology, our genes. Are we born this way? What can we do about it?

Most of what I've read (while not a ton) seems to agree that about 40-50% of our personality comes from our genes. But the biology examples and studies she threw out didn't convince me. Too many of the psychologists had a theory and then used the data to confirm said pet theory. Her psychologist was Kagan and he had some out there pseudoscience she was quoting...like he thought maybe men were attracted to fair eyes and fair skin and hair because that made the other person seem more trustworthy and honest...um yeah so the rest of the majority of the population are just evil shmucks, right? It was a weird thing to add and she never talked about it again and just kind of left it hanging there. Weird.

Then there's the loaded term of 'free will' that she uses. She didn't really define what she meant by it. Dualism? Soul? Philosophical free will? She could've used a more descriptive term.

The other thing about this section that bothered me was how much she threw extroverts under the bus. Introverts are more compassionate, better critical thinkers, less impulsive, basically why would anyone ever want to be an extrovert? This is her book and she is an introvert so it's a rah-rah book for all of us introverts. But I could still feel the empathetic pangs for those extroverts.

The third section focused on cultural ideal for extroversion or introversion. The stereotype is for Asians to be more introverted culturally, which is also true. She goes a bit into why and how the cultures clash once Asian-Americans and white Americans come together whether it's in high school or college.

This is one area where I think the extrovert ideal is a bit better when it comes to higher education. Once you defer to authority and don't ask questions or take a stand for another/possibly better idea you aren't innovative. Granted, the youth in more introverted cultures have memorized more and overall they are going to have better knowledge about how the world works and their place in it, but from an innovative perspective on overall who's going to be leading the new sciences and techs, it's going to be the loud mouthed extroverted cultures because they aren't going to just defer to their professors and the authority. Let's combine both somehow so we can ask questions and make mistakes and learn from those while still having the basic population know a lot about the basics of science and math. (off soapbox).

Part four focuses on how to put the masks on and off successfully as an introvert. And how to accommodate introverts when you are a business/employer that usually focuses on the extrovert ideal.

I liked Cain's self-help stories that illustrate this. How does an introvert/extrovert couple work it out? How do they compromise their opposite tendencies? How do you help your introverted child succeed in a school system that highly favors extroverted styles?

This was the self-help portion of the book. Questions to ask, points to ponder, other books and articles to read.

Cain does mention at the end why she uses such a dichotomous system to talk about this. She knows it's not just black and white, you either are an introvert or you're not. But culturally people know what it's supposed to mean. It's a way to talk about it and see where we lie and our loved ones, along the introvert/extrovert scale.

Overall, I think it's an important book, one that should be read by anyone.

*I read this for my Skeptic book club. And it was a part of my Nonfiction Reading Challenge.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet, and How We Live by Marlene Zuk

We haven't ever been perfectly evolved for any environment at any time. Zuk lays down what people seem to have missed when they claim that we need to go back to our "paleo" days since our brains and bodies were perfectly suited for life in the "savannas." She tells us about evolution and how it actually works and has worked and how it is continuing to do so.

She attempts to lay out the facts in a down-to-earth manner. I enjoyed her writing style and her approach to science. 

It was a relatively fast read and I think anyone could tackle this one.

I read this for my local skeptic book club. Also a part of my Nonfiction Reading Challenge.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Week With Gabe

Sometimes I do fun stuff with Gabe so sometimes I'll post those rare moments :)

Last Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I wanted to at least introduce Gabe to him and the Civil Right's Movement. I did a bit of searching and Pinterest came through for me.

I showed him this video:



It's a great introduction for kids. Gabe was absorbed.  We talked a little about how people are different but how we are all the same on the inside and our differences are what make living in the world so awesome. We also talked about a bit about how he could help others who were feeling left out because they were a bit different.

Then we made art that helped bring it all together.

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We drew an outline of his hands and then colored and outlined them. Inside the card we cut out a paper chain of people and Gabe painted them and we glued googly eyes on. He colored a rainbow and talked about what his dreams were to help make the world better and more tolerant place.

My dream: Share with friends, love everyone, and invite them to play.

There's a fine balance between introducing Gabe to pretty heavy topics without making them to daunting and still make the topic understandable. I hope it allows him to think and to ask questions and to eventually want change the world for better one day!

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Find Momo: Hide and Seek With an Adventurous Border Collie by Andrew Knapp

I had never heard of Andrew Knapp or his beautiful dog Momo until I was asked to review the book. Knapp took Momo into the woods to play fetch one day and Momo didn't bring the stick back. Instead he was playing hide-n-seek. From then on Knapp thought he'd do a new twist on "where's Waldo." Knapp takes beautiful pictures and Momo hides. It's a beautiful book with a fun twist of finding out where Momo's hiding.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.




This is also apart of my Nonfiction Reading Challenge.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Publisher's Summary from Quirk Books:

You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But the lives of real princesses couldn’t be more different. Sure, many were graceful and benevolent leaders—but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their royal closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elizabeth of the Austro-Hungarian empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev murdered thousands of men, and Princess Rani Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield, charging into combat with her toddler son strapped to her back. Princesses Behaving Badly offers minibiographies of all these princesses and dozens more. It’s a fascinating read for history buffs, feminists, and anyone seeking a different kind of bedtime story.

This was a fun book! These women were all so different. McRobbie made them all come to life and I loved it. She writes with a "folksie" style meaning there were a lot of awesomes and other colloquial writing. It made the stories more down-to-earth. I think these would be awesome bedtime stories to read to older children. One could use these stories to talk about history in context, especially how women have been used and abused throughout history.

So in that sense, it was also sad. Like the title suggests, most of these princesses did not get their fairy-tale endings. But some turned their lives around and learned how to run their companies, countries, etc!

There was only one instance where I thought McRobbie's language was a bit too judgy with one princess. But for the most part, McRobbie humanized these princesses and brought us their stories. They were all complex human beings just like the rest of us.

*I received this from Quirk Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.


This also counts in my Non-fiction reading challenge :) My goal is to read over 16 non-fiction books this year and this is number 3!


Monday, January 20, 2014

A Reading Life (8)

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A Reading Life...hosted by Michelle at The True Book Addict, and also inspired by Lisa at Lit and Life--Life: It Goes On...is a meme where we get to talk about other stuff we're doing in our lives along with reading!

I've been fighting a sinus infection the last three weeks or so and I'm slowly starting to feel human again! Yay!

Listening to:

I started the "You Are Not So Smart" podcast hosted by David McRaney. I recently read his book of the same name a couple of months ago. His podcast interviews various psychologists and other experts relating to cognitive biases, etc. Fascinating stuff!

Books Finished:

  1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.
  2. Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet, and How We Live by Marlene Zuk.
  3. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson.
  4. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
  5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling.
  6. Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories From History Without the Fairy-tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie.
Reading:

  1. Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids by Eline Snil.
  2. Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Saw There by Lewis Carroll.
  3. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.
  4. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Coming Up:

I'm starting a 12-week programming class on Tuesday! I've been dabbling a bit here and there over the last few month but this will be the first time I'm getting into something more concrete. I'm excited!

Watching:

I haven't been watching too much. Still on Dexter. I won't finish that series up for awhile. My regular shows have come back on: Bones, New Girl, The Mindy Project. And my friend is trying to get me into Big Bang Theory, so I've started the first season on that.

Making:

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I made chicken noodle soup the other night and it was delicious! I also tried out a new cocktail recipe: Red Velvet Cupcake cocktails! I found it on Pinterest and it contained really simple ingredients. Yay! Lots of times the recipe calls for a lot of expensive and unavailable liqueurs that I just can't find in my area. So it's fun to find ones that are yummy and simple :)

Grateful For:

My son Gabe. He makes me laugh! Just this week while driving home from preschool he tells me: Even though my great-great-great-great-great grandparents are dead I still love them and miss them.

It was so cute. He then proceeded to tell me how he missed everyone who has died. He's got a big heart.

I'm also grateful for amazing people who are willing to stand up against the norm and to speak out for the equality and rights of others. I'm thinking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all those who have stood up in the face of horrific opposition to help those who can't help themselves.

And did you know that it was actually a woman named Claudette Colvin who refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama? She was dragged from the bus and kicked and yelled at by police officers and taken to jail. She was only 15. She was too young, poor, and pregnant to be considered an ideal poster child for the movement, unfortunately. But I want to remember her and her bravery, even though most do not know anything about her.

So many do not have legal access to basic human rights. I hope we can remember that and do what we can to change that all over the world.

Looking Forward To:

Still planning Gabe's birthday in a few weeks. I've been searching Pinterest to find simple and no fuss ideas for a Minecraft party. I found a pretty simple Creeper cake that I think I can manage!

Pictures:
Magformers!
We got Gabe some Magformers for Christmas and his dad helped him.


Sweet kitteh bodies :)
Shadow and Frodo snuggling :)


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Wolfy is a shnuggler

Friday, January 10, 2014

Mini Book Reviews

I can get really behind in my book reviews. Some I don't even bother reviewing since it's been too long...but here's a short list from over the holidays.


1. Forever His by Shelly Thacker. Historical romance. I got this one for free for my Kindle app on my phone and I was sick and this was sheer brain candy. The sexy scenes were fun but that's about it. The whole book was full of male and female stereotypes, which is why I don't usually read historical romances.

2. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. I saw the movie adaptation way back when. So I finally got around to reading the book. The movie was adapted for a wider audience, for those who don't normally read magical realism. They took out those elements that I kind of find endearing and quirky in magical realism books. But the story was a bit uneven and it wasn't a favorite.

3. Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales edited by Paula Guran. I love fairy tales and fairy-tale retellings so this one was a hit. Some were better than others but I really enjoyed the retelling of the 12 swans. I highly recommend this one!

4. You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney. Fun and quick book about cognitive biases, heuristics, and fallacies that make us all not quite so smart. Very enlightening.

5. Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I didn't quite like how it ended
but the overall story and the experience of reading it with news articles, and web pages and portfolios actually scanned into the book so you feel like you are reading and seeing what the characters are was new and I liked it. It was dark and gritty and kept me up a few nights longer than I wanted to be :)

6. Stepford Wives by Ira Levin. A sci-fi and somewhat dystopic classic that's been on my list for quite some time. It was well-done. I was highly disturbed. And those are the kinds that make us think. It's one that should be read by everyone.

7. Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay. A dystopic retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I liked it. I didn't love it. The world didn't quite jump out at me but I enjoyed the romance and easy ending.

8. The Pyschopath Test by Jon Ronson. I love this author. He's funny and real and quirky and it made the story human. He focuses on psychopaths this time around and the history of how the psychopath test was formulated. He pokes wholes, makes us paranoid, and makes us realize we all have a little bit of the psychopath within. Good stuff.

9. Skyjumpers by Peggy Eddleman. This was a breath of fresh air. Just when I thought I had to give up on young adult dystopia. There was enough story and character to really make this stand out. I enjoy it more when the author decides to not give too much detail about why the world is a dystopia, maybe a few hints, but nothing too glaring. She combined the efforts beautifully and I really look forward to more in the series.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cat Thursday (22)

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! Hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict.

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She ran out of toner...

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I pulled all of these from Ricky Gervais's Facebook Page! He's a kitteh lover, too :)


Monday, January 6, 2014

A Reading Life (7)

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A Reading Life...hosted by Michelle at The True Book Addict, and also inspired by Lisa at Lit and Life--Life: It Goes On...is a meme where we get to talk about other stuff we're doing in our lives along with reading!

It's been a really rough last month. I had big plans for celebrations and new traditions but they mostly fell through. I did get the Winter Solstice celebrated and that was about it (of course, Xmas and New Year's Eve were a hit). Plus it was a very tough year. So I'm very excited to getting into a brand new year with new possibilities!

Listening to:

Podcasts. This week I started a new one called History of Philosophy. So interesting.

Books Finished:


  1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
  2. Hunted by Kevin Hearne
  3. Forever His by Shelley Thacker.


Reading:


  1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  2. Paleofantasy by Marlene Zuk

Coming Up:

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Movie night is this week with my ladies! That sounds funny but me and some friends have been getting together since late Fall about once a week or every other week to watch some fun films, try out new cocktails, and hang out and laugh and cry or whatever :) It's been keeping me sane this long cold and dreary winter. And this week is The Descendants with George Clooney. One of my favorite films!

Also, the holiday decor must come down this week. We had to take the tree down last week since it was a real tree was drying out fast...but I held off on the rest of the decor. It's sad taking it all down. I love how cozy everything feels during the holidays. It helps take the stress off during the hustle and bustle of the season. But taking it down means I can put it up later ;) And the wheel of life keeps on turning :)

Watching:


  1. Homeland--Just finished up with the first season! 
  2. Scandal--well, that was finished up 2 weeks ago but I'm behind a season and I can't wait until the third season comes to Netflix. That is one addictive and crazy show!
  3. Dexter--Just started season four.


Making:

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I plan on making Hawaiian haystacks, homemade fettuccine alfredo, and chicken noodle soup this week.

For movie night I'll be trying my hand at Blackberry Bramble gelatin shots! I got a calendar that has one or two new jello shot recipes each month and I've decided to try them all...the only drawback is my state of Utah has a limited supply of liquor so I may have to be very creative as I make them!

Grateful For:

Antibiotics! Beds and Netflix. You can tell what I've been doing the last few weeks....

Looking Forward To:

This new year of 2014! Gabe turns the big 5 next month and wants a Minecraft party so Archie and I will have to be pretty creative to get this pulled off. Five means kindergarten in the Fall. I can't believe he's getting so big now!

Pictures:

Despite everyone getting sick the last 3 weeks, we still found ways to have fun on Christmas and New Year's Eve.

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Ice cream and movies


Cookies are made!
Decorating sugar cookies!




Friday, January 3, 2014

One Line Movie Reviews (16)


1. Frozen (2013): A very cute retelling of the Ice Queen fairy tale.

Rating: B+
2. The Conjuring (2013): Well-done but was hoping for a few more scares!

Rating: B-

3. Zero Dark Thirty (2012): Great dramatization of how it all went down, and loved that the one to figure it all out was a woman!

Rating: B

4. Practical Magic (1998): Definitely different than the book but I liked the new additions better!

Rating: B-

5. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983): Still scary and creepy and fun after all these years.

Rating: A-

6. Happy (2011): Beautiful insight into what makes people happy.

Rating: A+

7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991): Best one of the whole series.

Rating: A-
8. Joe Versus the Volcano (1990): Quirky rom-com featuring the bestest duo of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks!

Rating: B+

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