Tuesday, December 6, 2016

My Reading Year 2016

Girlxoxo.com is hosting a month of faves #amonthoffaves2016 to recap the year of 2016. They've got different themes everyday all planned out so you can participate any time!

My list throughout the year usually consists of non-fiction and young adult or children's fiction. I try to throw in some literary fiction along the way and around the holidays I try a scary book or two and maybe a silly cozy mystery around Christmas.

How I Read: 10 on audiobook; 44 physical; 6 ebooks

17 non-fiction so far

25 young adult or children's books

15 literary fiction or adult fiction

1 cozy mystery

1 thriller

7 horror

10 fantasy

My favorites so far were Malcolm X: A life of Reinvention by Manning Marable. It's keen insight into a man we usually only get one narrative on. He's neither gushing nor overly negative. He presents the good, the bad, and the in-between.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Such insight into the lives of black immigrants. She specifically focuses on Nigerians. Her tale is woven beautifully.

Best horror: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist and The Heart-shaped Box by John Hill.

Let the Right One In was haunting and real all at the same time. Good horror and good fiction rolled into one. The Heart-shaped Box was a great listen too. How do you get rid of an evil ghost who follows you everywhere and controls your perception of reality?

Best Young Adult: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira and Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Love Letters explores one girl's tragedy when her older sister dies. We see her after but the book explores her experience from before, during, and after her sister's death. And all through letters she writes to dead people like Kurt Kobain and Amy Winehouse, etc. Tragic and beautiful.

Ghosts also deals with death or at least impending death and what that means when we might lose those we love. It's also a cultural experience. We learn about the Day of the Dead and why it's celebrated. And family ties. All done through a graphic novel form. My son loved reading it with me.

Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood from Creative Legends by David Stabler

Image Source
"Kid Artists" tells the tales of childhood from the artists we know best. What were they like as kids? What happened to them in order for them to become the great artists we know today?

The book is divided into 3 parts: It's a hard-knock life, practice makes perfect, and call of the wild.

The first section focuses on artists who grew up poor or experienced severe hardships from war to death. Yoko Ono was fascinating. She started off as pretty much royalty and then through World War II became destitute. She wanted to work it all out through poetry and created a style called Conceptual Art.

Part two focuses on kids who had some amazing mentors to help them on their way to their greatness. Frida Kahlo was a fascinating kid. Loved her father, loved nature, overcame illness.

Part three are kids who were greatly influenced by nature and the great outdoors. Vincent Van Gogh was a big nature lover. He pretty much spent his whole childhood out there. Nature was truly the only thing that made him happy. He poured all of his sadness into his art. At least he had that.

All the stories featured art. They all had interesting facts and anecdotes. It's a small and diverse introduction, one that gives kids a taste and a desire for more information.

My son and I really enjoyed reading about these artists together.

*I received an advanced copy from the publisher in return for an honest and fair review.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Salt Flats Family Portraits

Can I just say it's been a whirlwind of a month or two. Halloween is already gone. I got a lot done on my horror reading and watching but never managed to actually record it here. Still need to do that.

The election was a bust and I'm still trying to deal with it. It hasn't been pretty around here. I've dedicated myself to getting out more and being proactive. I'm volunteering at the local humane society shelter. Among some other things I'm hoping to pay attention and be involved with, hopefully despair will not set in.

On a brighter note, we took to the beautiful Bonneville Salt Flats here in Utah last Sunday and had our family pictures taken. Ken did some amazing shots. I'm posting just a handful here but he does amazing work. For the full shebang go here.

After the shoot we hit a small little Mexican cafe and were blown away by its deliciousness. So all in all we had an amazing weekend!







Wednesday, September 28, 2016

R.I.P. XI: Book Review: The Ritual by Adam Nevill

How often do we feel fear when we head off into the woods? How many horror movies have been about well, horror in the woods! Lots. There are reasons why. Nature is scary. Nature doesn't care about us. It just is. It exists. The woods hide things. We can get lost.

Nevill does a fantastic job building up the horrors his characters face. Four friends head out on a camping/backpacking trip through the northern woods of Sweden. Soon one suggests a shortcut through some unknown woods since one of them has damaged his knee. Then they come upon a dead and horrifying slaughtered animal...it's fresh. How did it get up there?

They come upon an old cabin. They find a sewn together animal of goat and man and who knows what else...then the nightmares begin. It's a race for their lives as they try to outrun an ancient creature that wants to slaughter them.

It was creepy. The end took a different turn and that was creepy too. Overall, Nevill keeps us scared, guessing, and afraid of the woods. Perfect horror.

I read this for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI challenge hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

R.I.P. XI Movie Review: Let Me In

Let Me In is the American adaptation of the Swedish book Let the Right One In. It stars Chloe Grace Moretz as the vampire.

I thought they did a good job of adapting the overall isolation and drudgery of the Swedish novel. It's now small town New Mexico in the middle of nowhere. Many characters are cut and put into smaller parts to keep the adaptation more coherent.

Abby and her 'father' move in next door to Owen and his mother. Owen is bullied at school. His parents are getting a divorce and he wants power back in his life. Abby and Owen soon become friends because they're pretty similar. He soon finds out she's a vampire and bad things start happening...can he truly be friends with a monster?

The story is so good! But the American adaption was a little boring, honestly. I missed some of the characters from the book but I understand why they needed to be cut. I still think this is a worthwhile movie. It's still pretty horrific with a little girl being a vampire. It was fun to watch right after finishing the book.

I watched this for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril challenge hosted by Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

R.I.P. XI: Movie Review: The Omen (1976)

The Omen (1976) with Gregory Peck is number 25 on the list of TimeOut.com's top 100 horror films of all-time. The story opens with Gregory Peck's character Robert rushing in a car, worried and frantic that his baby died and that he can't tell his wife. He's in Italy and heads to an orphanage or hospital where a priest and a nun hand him a new baby he can present as his own to his wife. (I already had problems with this...why can't he treat his wife as a grown-ass adult and tell her what happened? sheesh...)

Flash forward a few years and all seems well. The happy family moves from Italy to England in order for Robert to be the American ambassador to England. So they're ridiculously rich and live in the middle of nowhere....

Flash forward two more years and little Damien is 5. It's his birthday and he's having a huge party all for him. He has a nanny who within minutes after looking into the eyes of a random Rottweiler on the property hangs herself from the top story of the house in front of everyone. And thus it begins....

I'd heard the director wanted it written vague enough to make it seem like the mother could be hallucinating it all. I kind of like that route. The whole time I'm watching it I'm thinking it's all the crazy fundamentalist adults who are blaming this poor little kid into being the AntiChrist.

The music is haunting. I loved the monk chorus. It was very haunting. The way the journalist dies was pretty crazy and spooky.

Overall I can see why it's a horror classic going along with pagan- like scares of the 60s and 70s with Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist.

I watched this for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril challenge hosted by Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

R.I.P. XI: Book Review: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

The book was so much creepier than the movie. But the movie kept the same feel of the book, which was nice. Overall, it's a coming of age story for both Eli, the vampire, and Oskar, the boy she lives next door to.

Oskar's parents are divorced. He lives alone with his mom. He's picked on brutally at school by three bullies. He wants a new life. Then he meets Eli, the girl next door. She's not like other girls. She stinks, for one, but she's really smart at the Rubik's cube. Plus she never judges him. Ever. They even start using Morse Code to talk to each other through the walls.

But then a boy is murdered in the woods. It looks like a ritual killing. More murders and more questions. Is Eli involved and her caretaker?

The pace is surprisingly quick. The author introduces all the characters that become entangled in Eli's web. We start to empathize and we're not quite sure who to root for....

I loved it. I loved the dark and cold feel of the book with a hint of warmth in how he writes both Eli and Oskar. Everyone seems human, even the monsters. It's a classic. I will read again.

There are two adaptations of this book. The original Swedish and the American one "Let Me In" with Chloe Grace Moretz. I saw the Swedish version a few years ago and plan on rewatching it soon and I just picked up the American version from the library so I'm excited to compare and contrast all three.

I read this for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.

1/4 read

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI

I've been so excited to start on all things Horror, whether books, movies, television, etc. So I'm signing up for Stainless Steel Droppings R.I.P. challenge.

There are multiple levels to choose from but I'm on a mission so I'm taking on the:

Read four books of any length that are considered scary or mysterious, etc.

And I'm also going to read watch a lot of horror these next two months. I've come up with a good list from TimeOut.com Top 100 Horror Films. I don't know if I'll watch all of them but there are so many to choose from I shouldn't run out over the next month and a half.

Some possible books on the list:

  • Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. READ!
  • The Ritual by Adam Nevill. READ!
  • The First Days by Rhiannon Frater. 
  • The Ruins by Scott Smith. 
  • Hell House by Richard Mather. 
  • Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden. 
  • Swan Song by Robert McCammon.
  • Texas Gothic by Clement Moore.
  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson.
  • Ghost Story by Peter Straub.
  • The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe.
  • The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe.
  • The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft.
  • The Dreams in the Witch-House by H.P. Lovecraft.

Some possible movies on the list:

  • The Devil's Backbone (2001) directed by Guillermo Del Toro.
  • The Omen (1976) directed by Richard Donner. WATCHED!
  • Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil directed by Eli Craig.
  • Let Me In (2010) directed by Matt Reeves. WATCHED!
  • Let the Right One In (2008) directed by Tomas Alfredson.
  • The Blair Witch Project (1999) directed by Daniel Myrick.
  • Don't Breathe (2016) directed by Fede Alvarez.
  • The Babadook (2014) directed by Jennifer Kent.

Top Ten Tuesday--All Time Faves Memoir/Biography Genre

The folks over at The Broke and the Bookish have an awesome weekly meme, Top Ten lists. Who doesn't love hearing about what others have loved in any and all genres?! This will be my first time participating and I'm excited to list my all-time favorite memoirs/biographies!

I know it's not Tuesday....but I'm only a day late so here we go:

Favorite Memoirs (in no particular order):

  • Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl. It's been a long time since I read this. But it's stuck with me. Such an amazing girl who was able to make the best of her situation. Even more tragic knowing her fate. It's a must read for anyone.

  • Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She's a beautiful writer. She's been through so much and continues to do so. Her struggle and redemption changed my worldview and am forever grateful.

  • Bossypants by Tina Fey. She started the funny and poignant memoirs by smart and sassy women, at least for me. One of my first audiobooks too. So so funny and so much to learn from her. I hope we hear from her in a memoir every ten years or so.

  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. This woman has been to Hell and back. Her insights are life-changing. I loved this book.

  • Secrets and Wives: The Hidden World of Mormon Polygamy by Sanjiv Bhattacharya. As a person who grew up Mormon and as someone who's fascinated by people this was an amazing book. A fair look into the underbelly of who and why theses people practice polygamy. 

  • El Deafo by Cece Bell. A beautifully written and drawn graphic novel based on the author's life. She became deaf from meningitis at a young age. She brings all of this to life in her graphic novel for kids. 

  • The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Also a graphic novel based on the author's life. Growing up during the Iran revolution. How it played out and how scary it all is. Made me think. A must read.

  • Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. This biography blew me away. So many things I didn't know about Malcolm X. It's a fair treatment of all the flaws and all the good things too. It made me think about Malcolm X in a whole new way.

So not quite ten but it's the best highlights I've read in a long time.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

This book is a beautiful work of art. Love, anger, acceptance, and change are all ideas within. Native American artists sharing their work with the world. The most haunting are those stories about being forced into reformation schools where they had to learn English and Christianity and be taken away from their parents. Abuse ran rampant through many of these schools. History and culture and love was lost. But seeing the stories of redemption and reclamation is truly heartening and inspiring.

The book is divided into various sections like Roots--where they come from or Battles--stereotypes to fight, reappropriation, etc. Medicine--how they are healing. Dreamcatchers--how they live now. So many different art styles are incorporated from music lyrics, food, art, stories that are heartbreaking to stories that are inspiring. It's a beautiful layout and one that should looked at over and over again.

I recommend this book to see the amazing stories and art work and activism going on right now. Beautiful.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Weekend Outings: Antelope Island State Park

There were a lot of these artsy bison
IMG_8360I like to get out on the weekends.

 Especially with summer drawing to a close, it's nice to make the effort to see the outdoors. Utah has many State and National Parks to choose from and all within a few hours' drive.

an old washing machine
This weekend we headed up to Antelope Island, only 1.5 hours from our house. The island was first explored by white people in 1845. It was privately owned until 1981 when the state purchased it for a state park. The antelope are native to the island but the bison were brought in in the 1890s.

The geology has rock formations as old as ones found at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. My DH couldn't stop talking about all the stones and all the rocks!


a really large farm chair!
We headed up for a little hike to the top of Buffalo Hill. It got pretty toasty so we stopped after that hike and went on to the historic ranch a few miles down the island. Gabe loved all the old farm equipment. He kept asking questions about what this or that could have been used for and even came up with some interesting ideas for others!

I was born and raised in Utah and I had never been here! I'm so glad we decided to make the journey. We will be back for more hikes and more bison.

a panoramic at the top of the hill

we saw this bison as we were leaving

Monday, August 22, 2016

Wolfy and Frodo

Little Furball4IMG_4576In February I lost my sweet Wolfgang to kidney failure and two months later my oldest cat Frodo also died to kidney failure. It was a very traumatic time for me and one that still makes me weep. I felt both their lives drain away from me and it's been devastating.

I've had Frodo since before I met my husband. He was the first cat to be my cat, not the family cat, not my mom's cat. Even though he was grumpy to everyone else, he loved me. I could pick him up and put him over my shoulder and he would just sit there and rub my head and purr and purr. Every night he'd hop up on my lap in bed and get his nightly pets. He'd knead my arm and lick and purr.

It's been hard to form into words or even get the energy to form words. But we've come into two more cats, both from friends who needed someone to take care of their babies since they couldn't anymore. Nala and Frankie.

We have big hearts and we open up our home. But we forever feel the gap that Wolfy and Frodo leave behind. It's never easy but it does get better.

I found a funny poem that puts it better than I can:

Friday, August 19, 2016

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

I had never heard of Gloria Steinem until very recently...like the last 5 years. I grew up very religious and feminism was not something I was supposed to connect with. Her name was never mentioned in my home or in school, even college. It wasn't until I decided to leave my religion and open up my eyes to different ways of thinking that I became familiar with her name.

I've read things about her since then. I've seen her face online and in magazines. I've watched a documentary about her. But I had never actually read one of her books. So when her new memoir came out last year, I picked it up on a whim while on vacation.

It only took me a few more months to actually sit down and read it. I loved it. Ms. Steinem describes how her literal life on the road has changed her. She shares with us her lessons learned from the people she's met and the places she's stayed.

My favorite stories are how she connects with people one-on-one. Her stories center on talking and communicating and coming together as equals rather than in hierarchies. Traveling and getting out and meeting people and hearing their stories is what can bring us together.

Each chapter focuses on people she met and the stories they shared with her. The good and the bad and in between all come out. A very enlightening memoir and one I'll read again.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Cat Thursday- Happy International Black Cat Appreciation Day

Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by True Book Addict) 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)

Here's my own black kitty Shadow. She's crazy but we love her! Black cat appreciation day was yesterday the 17th but I still think the whole week counts!


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

What can I say? The Dark Days Club was supposed to provide a nice historical fiction feel from the vein of Jane Austen along with a fun supernatural fantasy and of course, a kick-ass female....

I did not get that. Goodman was very very proud of the fact that she did so much research into the Regency era that she had to let us know throughout the book about all the details! All the words like hoyden and by jove! She took me out of her world fast with her blatant snippets of historical minutiae. The story refused to flow for me. And because she focused so much on the Regency details her supernatural world-building completely fell apart. Her mythology is confusing. Demon-like energy beings from who knows where sucking out the lifeforces of all humans via nasty energy tentacles and whips only seen by our heroine and her fellow reclaimers and only via some weird crystal apparatus.

She tries really hard to combine supernatural Christian and Eastern philosophies along with natural philosophies. It just ends up a mess. Lady Helen says how well-read she is but the author doesn't show how well-read she is. Her thoughts and views and inner musings are really not well-read. She's your typical selfish rich upper class Regency Lady. All about duty and the balls and social graces. After she gains her powers she only plays with them once dancing alone in her room. That's it. No tests on how far she can go to read her uncle or aunt or anyone else unless she's told to. No tests of strength unless she's told to.

Also the love triangle? Was so weak. Both are boring and of course both hate each other and are in love with her because author said so....

I also didn't like the literal demonization of all of humanity. Yes we have sex and we lust and we're greedy but lets not say it's only the lower classes that take it too far and basically all the demons have control of the lower classes...just not my cup of tea. Lady Helen has to go down to the horrible parts of town, aka where all the poor people are. The stench and filth are terrible and she has the gall to ask how people can live like this? Really? The fate of the world rests on such caring and humane people as Lady Helen....oh boy. And let's not forget how she discovers Lord Carlston's humanity when he deigns to bow low to a lower class mother whose son's soul has just been redeemed....Really? What a super guy to bow to a lowly woman.

I know my modern sensibilities are getting in the way. And I'm not denying that that would be a sign of humanity back in those days. But it's not a story I'm really interested in. The characters are just blah. The secondary characters are worse. Poor things. Her lady's maid Darby only exists for serving Helen. She has no mind of her own at all. She couldn't be happier than to be a lowly servant in a rich upper class home. I'm sure she's grateful but that's all she wants to be or achieve in life? Don't think so. Servants are human beings with lives and wants and needs. She was so bland I didn't even realize she was only twenty until the author said so 3/4 through the book.

I can also appreciate that Helen may have a hard time with gaining all these new powers and finding out about demons and the Dark Days Club. I can accept all those things. But the author did not make me care one whit about Helen or any of that Regency World. I'm kind of rooting for the demons. At least they know how to have fun....

Maybe the second book gets better? I hope so.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable

Image Source
I didn't know much about Malcolm X before I decided to read his book. The book by Ta-Nahisi Coates Between the World and Me convinced me to finally pick up the Pulitzer-winning biography. I knew he was a controversial figure. I knew Spike Lee made a movie based on his autobiography starring Denzel Washington. That's it.

Let's just say I learned not only what an interesting and complex person he was but I learned so much more about history during that time.

Manning Marable does not sugar coat anything about Malcolm X. He let's us decide how to interpret it all together in the end. But he does not paint to be a hero not a villain. He calls him out on his prejudices and sexism when he sees it. It's a beautiful portrayal and one I want to have permanently in my collection.

Malcolm X did not want to write his own history; he was approached by Alex Haley and reluctantly agreed to do so after he got the OK from his leader Muhammad Elijah. But it was an opportunity to rewrite and advance some of his history and tell it like he wanted it. Thus the main theme and angle of this biography is how Malcolm X continued to reinvent himself from his challenging criminal days in Harlem as a teenager to his conversion and salvation in prison to Islam and specifically that of the Nation of Islam.

And even from there he could not help his changes. He visited Africa and the Middle East twice and both times left him a different person. He truly set out to embody his wisdom and seek that for his people.

This is a large book and I can't even begin to summarize everything but I'll end with the final paragraph of the book which sums up what Malcolm X did and what he should become in our collective consciousness .

"A deep respect for, and a belief in, black humanity was at the heart of this revolutionary visionary's faith. And as his social vision expanded to include people of divergent nationalities and racial identities, his gentle humanism and antiracism could have become a platform for a new kind of radical, global ethnic politics. Instead of the fiery symbol of ethnic violence and religious hatred...Malcolm X should become a representative for hope and human dignity. At least for the African-American people, he has already come to embody those loftier aspirations."

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

From Goodreads:

She's a stunner.Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.
She's a liar.But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she's leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense thesìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.
She's a murderer.Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.
She's a Falconer.The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother's murder—but she'll have to save the world first.
I always enjoy a good fantasy story with elements of myths and legends and throw in a kick-ass female and I'm pretty happy. It doesn't always work out that way but this time it did.

I still had some hesitations like the fact that her world-building was a little shoddy. I almost felt a little bad for the fae folk. She paints them as horrible monsters with no redemption and yet her trainer is one and her tailor is also one, though tiny.

Our entrance into her life is one of murder and mayhem. She's a lady and has a hard time keeping up her lady-like duties---like not tearing dresses and corsets while killing fae and saving lords.

She wants revenge for her mother's murder a year ago and only her trainer knows what killed her mother. She's bloodthirsty for the hunt and it's almost all-consuming. The author tries to show her humane side by sharing her feelings of shame and guilt over wanting to hunt and kill the fae but it kind of comes off clunky.

The romance starts off a bit like a love triangle but you soon know where it's all going. Not a lot of chemistry between her and Kiaran. You could also substitute vampires for the fae and not be the wiser....

Overall, it's an interesting and fast-paced story. I like Aileanna. She tries to keep her humanity under horrid conditions. But the world fell flat for me. The steampunk was only there to serve as a way to bring her modern-type weapons in the mid-1850s of Scotland.

It would also be nice to have an ugly protagonist just once. Someone who can get the job done but is not physically pretty. Oh well.

The story gets a bit convoluted towards the end with ancient seals and portals and wandering fae lands. So I'm hoping she delves a bit more into the world and creates some nuance. So many fantasy worlds in YA fiction just need a little more nuance.

Strong and capable female character with some fun fantasy elements. Overall a win. I just hope the next book is better.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cat Thursday

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.

Image Source

Yesterday was International Take Your Cat to the Vet Day! Mine are all up-to-date with their vet visits! Whew. But Boredpanda had some fun and sad pics of cats' visits to the vet! Poor babies.

They also have some good tips and getting your kitty accustomed to going to the vet. So let's keep our kitties safe and healthy!


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