Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Afternoon Book Post

It's Good Friday. I'm baking Hot Cross Buns. It's a Good Friday tradition around here, but man, they take all day with all the rising time. The house smells delicious, but it's almost time to head off to church, but I thought I'd pop in with a short book post. (All of my posts these days are about books.)

I just finished re-reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I'm not much of a re-reader, but I kind of thought it needed a re-read. I read the book last year, about this time, in a very detached manner. I didn't really want to get too close to the cancer story because, cancer just sucks. This time around, I let myself feel the story more and I really got more out of it on this second read.

The movie comes out in June and I will go and eat popcorn and hopefully, that popcorn will mask my tears.

I have book club tonight and no, I never did get very far into The Goldfinch. It just won the Pulitzer. I'm sure I'll get back to it, but I won't have much to say tonight.

That's it for now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Twitterature (April 2014 Edition)

I'm linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy today for monthly Twitterature. Twitterature is just a fun way to share short, casual reviews of what you're reading and lately, my blog has been all about what I've been reading.

Here's what I've been reading:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green- This one's a re-read. It's unusual that I re-read anything, but I saw this book on the Lucky Day shelf at the library and I was compelled to pick it up again. I want to go see the movie which comes out in June. So, I thought I'd revisit the tragic love story of Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace. They both have cancer, but Hazel's diagnosis is terminal. The first time I read this book, I deliberately kept myself remote to shield myself from the sadness that is cancer. This time around, I want to let myself feel more of this story.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger- I recently re-watched the funny 2006 movie starring Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep and I thought I'd pick up the book. I'm only 85 pages in and this book is much different and wildly more detailed than the movie. Usually, I savor these bookish details left out of the movie, but strangely, I can already tell that I prefer the movie.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting by Jennifer Senior- This book largely deals with the recent research that concludes that non-parents are much happier than parents and why. Parenting has gotten so much more challenging and the bar is high for modern parents. I'd like to know why. I always love a good social science book and where I am in life, raising five kids, this is going to be sentient information. 

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo- Usually I love Kate DiCamillo. I love her rich diversity of story telling. I know that this book just won the Newberry Medal, but I'm just not connecting with the story of Flora and her superhero squirrel, Ulysses. This book will appeal to those who love graphic novels and comic books. What am I missing here?

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta- This novel has been on the back burner, but I'm still reading it. Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastian's school that's barely co-ed. Her mother, suffering from depression, can't get out of bed. So far, Francesca is a fish out of water trying to make the best out of a less than ideal school experience. I can't really predict where this one is going, but I read that Marchetta really knows how to to write a YA novel. I thought I also should diversify my YA reading.

That's it for me. Go check out what Modern Mrs Darcy is reading.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Morning Book Post (and some movies too)

 I feel like I lost most of March due to a nasty strain of flu that ripped through my family. I spent nearly six days in bed. Many of those days, I was too weak to even read. Isn't that awful not to be able to read? I would try to read using the Kindle app on my phone, but it would hurt my eyes and I wouldn't get very far. Here I was in bed and I couldn't read. It was so frustrating.

Slowly, I got better, but even when I was getting well, I remained tired for a long time. During this time, thankfully, I was able to read.

I started reading Ann Patchett's The Getaway Car. This is a Kindle Single rather than a full length book. It's a short memoir about the writing life. Here's a quote:

“The journey from the head to the hand is perilous and lined with bodies. It is the road on which nearly everyone who wants to write—and many of the people who do write—get lost.”

In college, I took a short story writing class. I loved that class so much. If my college had offered a degree in creative writing, I would have jumped on it. I would have lost myself in words.

 I've wanted to write a novel for as long as I can remember. I have yet to start one, but I always have stories floating half-formed in my head. Patchett captures the writing life perfectly. It's quite difficult to transfer those images that play like a movie in your head into just the right words. I love reading about the discipline of writing.

 It's been just over twenty years since River Phoenix died of an overdose in front of the Viper Room in 1993. I wrote an extensive review of this book over at Goodreads. So, I won't go into much detail here. After reading this short biography, I've been revisiting some of his movies in the past week.

I watched The Thing Called Love (1993) where honestly, River just seems so off as an aspiring country singer and Sandra Bullock steals the show. The Thing Called Love was released the same year he died and I can only guess that his shaky and uneven performance is due to his increasing dependence on heavy drugs. This week, I watched his Oscar-nominated performance in Running on Empty (1988). Quite frankly, Phoenix really was at his best playing quiet introverted characters. Running on Empty is dated, but I still enjoyed watching River in this movie. I'm still waiting for Stand By Me (1986) to arrive at the library. I haven't seen Stand By Me in a really long time. Unlike Running on Empty, Stand By Me has a timeless quality and I look forward to sharing this film with my oldest son Luke this time around. I hope he will find the film soulful like I did at his age.

 I'm not going to re-visit all of his movies. Strangely, as a fan, I haven't even seen most of his movies. There was just a small handful that spoke to me. Despite his self-destructive behavior, River Phoenix is worth remembering even I've deliberately skipped several films in his filmography.

 As a side note, The Body, the short story that inspired Stand By Me is the only Stephen King I've ever read.
Here's a still from Stand By Me. Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, River Phoenix, and Jerry O'Connell

I've really only just stared Shirt of Flame, but since I've come to terms with the fact that I cannot read just book at a time, I've been much happier. I'm not going to fight the urge to read many books at once. I'm a binge reader and I'm proud!

 Anyway, I've always admired St. Therese and this book keeps showing up as a recommendation. So, I added it to my Kindle and started reading. Even happiness guru, Gretchen Rubin admires St. Therese and I thought that reading this book would help me understand this wise French nun.

My husband, my oldest son Luke, and I all finished Divergent recently. I took Luke to see the movie over Spring Break. Luke and I have a long tradition of reading the book before the movie is released and I really love discussing books and film with him. Reading the book before seeing a screen adaptation always builds the excitement of seeing the film.

 I didn't love Divergent, but it's probably not Veronica Roth's fault. I couldn't help it. I kept comparing it to The Hunger Games and that's so unfair. I'm not in a hurry to read the next installment, but I'm sure I'll get around to reading Insurgent when the next movie is released, because, you know, we have a tradition of reading the book before seeing the movie.

Next up on the page-to-screen adventures for me and Luke: The Maze Runner. Is it me or do most YA novels right now have menacing covers like this? The YA world is stuck in dystopia right now.

I'm also reading the current Newberry Medal Winner, Flora and Ulysses to Sam (almost 9). I usually love Kate DiCamillo, but I'm having a lukewarm response to Flora and Ulysses so far. Flora is obsessed with super hero comics and some unlikely circumstances make her a sidekick to a super squirrel. I've chuckled a few times and I appreciate the short chapters, but I'm not loving it. We're about half-way through this short novel. So, I may have to re-evaluate my current sentiments. The thing about DiCamillo is that she doesn't keep writing the same novel over and over just varying her formula. I really appreciate that.

That's it for Books this week. Have a great weekend. I hope you find time to curl up with a good book.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Yarn Along

      ~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my                 photographs.

I've been knitting nothing but hats. They're all different, but I haven't been pleased with any of them.I think I've decided that I really don't love slouchy hats. They just look enormous even though they're supposed to. I clearly need a break from hats so I began knitting a Spring sweater for Tess. I'm making the Bulle sweater. If you have a Ravelry account, you can go to the link and see all the Bulle sweater projects. It's adorable and so far, it's easy and it's top-down raglan construction which I love! I'm getting a little nervous as I approach the pockets though. I'm not quite sure that I understand the directions for adding the pockets.

As for reading, I just started reading The Goldfinch. I have book club this Friday. There's no way I'm going to make it through a 700 page book by then. It's my fault. I read way too many other things before getting to book club books.

Join Ginny for more yarn tales.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Yarn Along

 I'm still knitting. The knitting bag is overflowing with mostly unfinished hats. I'm working on three very distinct hats: The Dustland Hat, the Woman's Hound-Tooth Hat, and the Camden Cap which involves knitting over a piece of plastic to make a brim. I've also learned a new technique to make my stranded knitting much less tight. I'm getting a lot of practice on the Hound's Tooth Hat.

This is the Hounds Tooth hat picture from Knit Simple Magazine. 

I just started Diary of a Wimpy Kid today. It's going to be a quick read. My oldest son, Luke and I thoroughly enjoyed the first two movies. A while back, my husband checked out the first movie from the library. I almost sent it back to the library without watching it, but then Luke and I sat down to watch it. We both found ourselves unexpectedly laughing out loud.

My eight-year old son, Sam likes anything comic-y. I am not very well-versed in the whole graphic novel genre. He recently finished the entire Calvin and Hobbes canon. I started to worry that he would lose interest in reading if I couldn't find more age appropriate graphic novels. Diary of a Wimpy Kid features a middle-schooler named Greg. Sam is in third grade. He went ahead and read the first book, but I am just not sure if the entire series is appropriate for him. So, despite having seen the movies, I'm jumping in and I'm reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Who knows? I may just get sucked into the entire Wimpy Kid series!

For more yarn tales, click on over to Ginny's.

My kind of fan fiction

I recently listened to a Bookrageous podcast about fan fiction the other day. I hadn't really ever considered fan fiction other than what my son Luke tells me about the ever expansive universe that is Star Wars. I prefer my Star Wars to contain only Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia. I really don't care about the back story of Boba Fett. I don't want anyone messing with the Harry Potter universe, but yet there is all kind of fan fiction about Hogwarts. There's fan fic that imagines Harry Potter without the epilogue in the final book. I originally thought that fan fiction was really relegated to the world of DC and Marvel Comics and science fiction geeks, but I learned something. There is fan fiction for everything! What is fan fiction? It's stories written by fans about characters or settings of the original work.

So, I may not be comfortable with all the re-imagined universes of other favorite books and characters, but I'm excited about almost all Austen-inspired fiction. I suppose I prefer a re-imagining of the original tale vs. a story that moves Austen's characters in a different trajectory. Longbourn, a recent book club selection has a shifted narrative of the story. While the elements of Pride and Prejudice remain the same, it's vantage point is from the help.

This is my recent book club selection. It's Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the help. Think Downton Abbey meets Austen. 

So, I realized that I'm steeped deeply in the world of Jane Austen Fan Fiction. I never read Austen in either high school or college, but shortly after graduating from college, I realized what I had been missing. The first Jane Austen novel I read was Emma. I remember being delighted by the Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma  in 1996.

  Are you surprised that it wasn't the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice mini-series that made me mad for Austen?
I'm pretty sure this is the reason that most women decided that Austen was irresistible. It's this iconic Darcy-in-a-wet-shirt scene.

 Emma was the reason I fell in love with all things Jane Austen in the first place. I proceeded to read all her novels and collect multiple editions of Pride and Prejudice and Emma.

Can I just say how much more I prefer Mr Knightley to Mr Darcy?
                                         Then, there were a slew of Austen-inspired movies.
As if!

Fox Books. F-O-X.

Mark Darcy!
This adaptation of Pride and Prejudice transported to India is just lovely.

The Jane Austen Book Club. The movie is WAY better than the book.

Just when you didn't think we needed another adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, we kinda did and while not fan fiction, I'm sure this new movie rekindled the Austen imagination. So, in 2005, a feature length P&P was released and guess what? The new Mr. Darcy grew on me. 

The trend continues today. Last weekend, I watched Austenland based on the novel of the same name by Shannon Hale. Remember, I'll read anything Austen-related. (Well, almost anything.) I remember thinking that the book was just so-so, but I thought it might make a delightful movie. As it turns out, the movie is so-so as well, but it did make me think about how much Austen has impacted our culture.

When Austenland landed in theaters several months back, my friends and I made plans to go to see it wearing Regency gowns. It never happened, but that doesn't mean I haven't paraded around Bath, England wearing a Regency gown during the Jane Austen Festival. Because I have! Yup. I'm that girl.

Anyway, I'll continue to read a lot of Austen-inspired fiction. I have read two (yes, 2!) YA novels that re-imagine Pride and Prejudice in the modern high school. Of course, you're dying to know the titles so that you can read them too, right?? Right? Okay, it might just be me, but these books were cute and just fun.

I have a whole shelf dedicated to Austen-related fiction on Goodreads. Check out my Austen-pastiche shelf.

So, yes, I love fan fiction. I just happen to love my particular brand of fan fiction.

Friday, February 21, 2014

There should be gold medals for speed watching the Olympics

Meryl Davis and Charlie White win Ice Dancing Gold!
Are you  watching the Olympics? I am. Lots of it. I blame my recent exhaustion on watching the Olympics every night. I will fully admit that I can watch maybe three luge runs before they all look the same. Without the excitement in the announcer's voice, I would never be able to tell you that this luge run is .087 of a second faster than the last luger.

I'll watch a couple of Skeleton runs and think about who these crazy  people are who decide to slide head first at nearly 80 miles an hour! I watch speed skating and slope style snow boarding! I do a lot of speed watching, but I always stop and settle in for the figure skating. All of it.

I used to hate ice dancing. It was weird, over-the-top, theatrical, and there were no jumps. I wanted to see Axels not Twizzles. I mean, seriously. Twizzles? This year, I liked the ice dancing the best. I hadn't realized that ice dancing had changed over the last decade. (The last Winter Games I watched were the 2002 Salt Lake Games where figure skating was fraught with cheating and scandal. Remember the double gold medal in pairs figure skating? The French judge?)

I think the reason that I'm watching so much of the Olympics is that I missed everything from both Torino and Vancouver.This was the period where we didn't have network TV. We watched everything via Netflix streaming and movies from the library. I didn't feel deprived, but it turns out that I've missed a lot. So, when Paul added Aereo  this year giving us the opportunity to watch TV online, I was enthusiastic. Very enthusiastic!

My husband did not anticipate my enormous enthusiasm for the return of network TV to my house. I've never been a TV person and I'm still not, but I'm happy to be back to engage the culture in real time.

Next up? The Oscars!!!