Sunday, April 2, 2017

Clearing Out My Collection Again

Hi all and welcome back to another episode of "What's Penny Going To Write About Now?" I know. Very original.
About three years ago (Aww man it's been three years?!) I wrote a post entitled Donating Books and Making Room for More where I talked about finally sitting down and getting rid of some of the books that I'd endlessly hoarded. That post and de-clutter was rather easy because I had never discarded books before, so most of what I was getting rid of were books I really didn't enjoy.

For the past month or so, I've basically made it my special mission to evaluate all of my possessions and donate, giveaway, or throw away whatever I haven't used in ages...and I didn't need a book to tell me that. I may have just thrown a bit of shade at that Marie Kondo book and I bet whatever I'm going to say afterwards will directly communicate with it's premises. Dear self, refer to above Easy A gif.

As stupid as it sounds, I realized that for most of my life, I've been operating under what I'd like to call consumer guilt. I've spent my hard earned or gifted money on an item, so I have an obligation to keep it or make the most of it's use. Instead, those items end up sitting in drawers and talking up space, which is very limited at the moment. I mean a good chunk of my book collection is still in storage if that tells you how little I can afford clutter. As terrible as it sounds, when I go through a round of de-cluttering, I remove the price tag from the equation. It doesn't matter how much I've spent. If I don't like it. I'm not going to keep it.

I've also entered a different mindset when I go shopping now, which is something I should point out is due to my steady source of income. Whenever I buy clothing, I like to think of the dollars as number of wears. Before I would put anything above $30 back on the rack no question. Now I start to think of clothes as an investment. I can justify that $40 jacket if I know I will hypothetically get 40 uses out of it. Now I can look at a $10 shirt and realize yes it may be a bargain, but will I get 10 uses out of it? Hell will it even survive 10 washes! Conscious shopping is the point I'm driving at here.

Now back to the title of the post: books. Particularly, I looked at all of the books I've yet to read. My TBR pile, which is actually composed of four decorative cardboard boxes of varying sizes as well as the two actual piles on the shelf above my bed. I pulled them all out and considered whether or not I actually have the desire to read them all. Do I still have a huge TBR pile? Yes. Is it quite as substantial? Nope.  

I've also started to view my book collections as just that: a collection. It's something to be heavily curated. Do I own books that I actually love? Are they books that I want people to ask me about? Are they books that I'd ever want to read again? If the answers are "No," then they've got to go. Hey, that rhymed. For example, just this past month, I read two books both written by favorite authors and I paid full hardback price for them. After I finished reading them, the stories turned out to be rather mediocre. They really didn't grab my attention and I knew right then and there that I would probably never read them again. Sure, I could add them to the growing author collection I already have. Instead, they went right in the donate pile. Screw consumer guilt. Granted, I can't really afford to buy hardback books that will just be donated in the end, so I really need to make the time find a library again.

So anyway, here I am a few days before turning 24 saying to myself: "Do you need this? Can you get rid of it? What can I de-clutter next? Honestly, it's so invigorating too. You feel like you've accomplished something substantial. I totally recommend it. Although I do think I'm starting to develop an addiction to candles and someone may have to stage an intervention before everything I own smells deeply of apples and cinnamon. Another issue for another time. Bye!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Pygmalion Watch-a-Thon: Pygmalion (1938)

Hello readers and welcome to the second post in the new Pygmalion Watch-a-Thon series. For all those out there new to my blog, I regularly do a Watch-a-Thon series where I pick one piece of literature and review movie, tv, and even sometimes YouTube adaptations of that work. I'd like to think it's an active discussion about the ways different forms of media shape or build off of each other. Often the limitations of the form determine what aspects of the literary work get represented.

This time around I decided to choose George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, which happens to be one of my favorite plays. What I love about this Watch-a-Thon series is how the chosen work communicates with the original Pygmalion myth. That is a subject I touch upon in the last Watch-a-thon post, which I will link at the bottom of this post. It also includes a nice summary of the play, if you aren't completely familiar with it.

Now it's time to tackle the first adaptation of the series and logically that has to be the first prominent adaptation of the play. Today's post will focus on...

Pygmalion (1938)
Leslie Howard as Professor Henry Higgins
Wendy Hiller as Eliza Doolittle
This black and white version has a total runtime of 96 minutes.
Here is a link to the IMDb page for more information about the cast as well as the production:

Before I start discussing the film, I think it's best to start by looking at how a "Hollywood" adaptation of the play shapes the narrative. If you can recall from my last post, I included a section about the ambiguity at the end of Pygmalion. Shaw wanted to leave the conclusion open ended, without any clear indication whether Eliza would return to Higgins or make a life for herself with Freddy Eynsford-Hill. Later, he was forced to make it known that in his mind it never made sense for Eliza to return to Higgins. The edition of the play that I own even includes an afterward that touches on this very film adaptation. This is the adaptation that includes the "happy ending" that Shaw detested immensely, which was said to be included in order to please audiences who expected the movie to have a neat, happy ending for Eliza. More on this later.

Shall we talk about the promotion of the film? So much of the intention of the film is usually revealed in the way that studios market it. Let's keep in mind that this was the 30's and a very different time. This was one of the first images that I came across in my search.

It has to be one of the tamer examples, but still interesting to look at. "From City Streets To Society Glamour Girl!" really seems to suggest that this is a more lighthearted transformation movie. Watch as this poor, downtrodden girl is lifted up into the high life!! Sadly, that's not what Pygmalion is about. What Not To Wear: 1900s London Edition, is all I can imagine. The center of the poster features the coded glamour shot of Eliza and Henry, our romantic pairing. This next promotion has to be my favorite.

Ladies Everywhere! You too can transform just like Eliza. "Any girl can do it. You need a guy and a trunkful of clothes!" I think I vomited a little in my mouth, but if Shaw carried on after this, so can I. I also just adore that godlike image of Higgins looking over his transformation. It kind of reminds me of our original Pygmalion who shares the statue's gaze with the heavens. With promotions like this, you'd have to assume some people walked into the theaters with an incorrect perception of what the movie was going to be about. 

Now you must be wondering how the actual movie turned out. In my opinion, the 1938 version of Pygmalion is not as bad as the promotions make it out to be. In fact, if the ending had been faithful, I would have said this is a near perfect adaptation of the play. I'm getting ahead of myself though, so let's breakdown the movie.  

Quite unexpectedly the movie gives a nod to the origins of George Bernard Shaw's play in the Pygmalion myth.

In theory, I like the inclusion of the myth in the film to give it context. In reality, I think it serves no purpose. This is really a watered down and simplified summation of the myth and I have to wonder if the writer of this preamble knows what the word "theme" means. If you read into that summary, I guess you could glean that the theme indicated is the theme of transformation. It should be "modern interpretation of this myth." Moving on.

At this point, I'm going to give the requisite warning that there will be spoilers for the movie as well as the play. You have been dully informed.

As mentioned earlier, I have a real fondness for this adaption because so much of it, including the dialogue and staging has been lifted right from the play. Additionally, so much of the authorial intent is reflected in the technical elements (camera angles, staging, and soundtrack). Case in point: the beginning of the movie itself. Our first glimpse of Eliza is amidst the hubbub of what I assume is Piccadilly Circus. She has a place in this small swath of society. Higgins, on the other hand, is an aloof observer, winding his way through the crowds and eavesdropping when something catches his attention. Quite like our mythical Pygmalion figure who chooses to live alone in distaste of the "vices" present in female dispositions.

What follows is a perfect introduction of our players: The Note Taker, The Gentleman, and The Flower Girl. Just in case you're impressed by Higgins' show of phonetics in the previous scene, the movie finds a stylistic way to undercut him. Instead of presenting a following scene where Colonel Pickering returns to Higgins' residence, there is a transitional moment that involves Higgins setting up all the machines used in his study of phonetics. The overlaid music feels right out of a horror flick and gives the impression that Higgins is like a mad scientist setting up his instruments of torture. As the last piano note fades out, Higgins and Pickering enter their banal discussion about vowel sounds.

While the Higgins presented is a little younger than I imagined, I think Leslie Howard's portrayal is spot on. I'd only ever seen him as Ashley in Gone With The Wind and my distaste for that movie colored how I viewed him as an actor until I saw this. Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller also have great chemistry and their verbal back and forward is perfect when Eliza asks for speech lessons.

I also can't forget to give Wendy Hiller credit for her role as Eliza. She emotes so perfectly that it's easy to tell what Eliza is feeling. For example, when Eliza is attempting to convince Higgins to give her lessons, he treats her like dirt. In comparison, Pickering addresses her with the respect afforded to any gentile lady. You can see the change in Eliza's demeanor the minute Pickering calls her "Miss Doolittle."

Next, the movie undercuts Higgins again when Mrs. Pearce is serving breakfast. In my first post, I mention that Mrs. Pearce is really one of the many Pygmalion figures in this play. The poor woman has just finished wrestling Eliza into the bathtub, a scene that I have the turn the volume down on lest someone think a woman is being attacked in my house, and now she is serving Higgins breakfast. All the while lecturing him about the proper way to treat Eliza and making sure that he doesn't use uncivil curse words around her.

If you thought Higgins was a paragon on a pedestal before, Mrs. Pearce has soundly kicked him off that pedestal. As far as Eliza's training is concerned, the movie shows them as flashes of scenes or vignettes. The soundtrack is this screechy violin number that builds in volume with every scene change. Again it gives the sense that Eliza is in some sort of nightmare and Higgins is an exacting taskmaster. I also don't think I've laughed more at the scene where Eliza has her first "test" at Mrs. Higgins "At Home Day." Can you imagine saying slang in such a posh accent?!

I also want to give this adaption some credit by including a number of scenes showing Freddy's attempted courtship of Eliza. Again and again he appears at Higgins' door and every time he's turned away. His periodic inclusion in the movie makes Eliza's suggestion of marriage to him a little less out of left field in this film's context.

Now we come to the party, where the bet between Higgins and Pickering is won or lost. When Eliza arrives, you can immediately tell she will perform beautifully, but the film makes it clear this party is really about Higgins' and Pickering's egos, not Eliza's triumph. When Eliza is asked to dance, the camera hardly stays on her for long. Instead, it pans back and forth between Higgins and Pickering, who are all too astonished at the suggestion that Eliza is a Hungarian Princess. Even when they return to Higgins' place, the camera focuses on them, while Eliza seems to skulk in the background, shrouded in shadow. The film really plays up that she is just a pawn in this friendly wager.

As expected, Eliza throws Higgins' slippers at him and they get into a heated discussion about her future. Higgins makes it seem like he has the last important word by declaring Eliza a "heartless guttersnipe", but I just love how he subsequently trips up the stairs. Again the movie finds a way to undercut his pompousness. 

Now I suppose we have to talk about the ending. What confuses me so much is that this movie sets everything up in such a way that it stays true to the play. Eliza and Higgins confront each other and Eliza realizes her own self worth and the potential for independence. In fact, the movie even visually presents her as such.

She's not cowering in corners or looked down upon by Higgins. She has her own strength and her own will. Eliza makes her dramatic exit and Higgins is left to ponder her loss...but not for long. In enters Eliza and the film ends with Higgins playfully asking if she knows where his slippers are at. As I mentioned earlier, this is the "happy ending" audiences were said to expect. What's sad is in some way, if I separate my knowledge of the play from the viewing experience, that would be the ending I would expect. Higgins treats her in such a deplorable manner and sees her whole being as a result of his machinations. Instead of our Pygmalion and Galatea, Eliza and Higgins are our romantic leads who are expected to couple in the end. Can you imagine though what the ending of the film would have felt like if it had ended with Eliza walking out the door with some of the original ambiguity remaining from the play? I guess that's all Shaw fans can do when faced with this adaption.

So there you have it. Those are my thoughts on the 1938 adaption of Pygmalion. Not quite the polarizing reaction that I usually have when reviewing film adaptions of literary works. For those looking for a hint about what the next watch-a-thon post will feature, all I can say is that it'll center around a much more modern and, dare I say, derivative adaption of Shaw's Pygmalion. Until next time...

Previous Post: The Pygmalion of Ovid and Shaw

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Creative Slumps and Letting Yourself Re-Read aka Updates

Hi all! Long time no the case may be. It's been quite a while and by that I mean almost half a year. Apparently time flies when you're trying to figure things out. (Remembering to insert vaguely appropriate gif here)

Ah yes, just like riding a bike as they always say. The last time you heard from me, I was dealing with a rather difficult reading slump, but I was quite optimistic. Who knew that the reading slump was really more like a creative slump. See, bringing it back to the title 😊 Blogger really hasn't changed, but boy have I.

Sometime in September, I just started feeling burnt out. I wasn't in the mood to write and I wasn't in the mood to read. It took me a while to get over the guilt of not getting to my TBR pile and not writing all of those posts that I'd scheduled. I, instead, realized that my need to document every bit of reading sucked all of the fun out of it. I love how the internet has made people's love of reading into a community, but at the same time, it kind of breeds this mentality that you need to keep up with the latest bestseller. It's not about the quality of the books that you read, but the quantity. It's not about building a discussion around the books you enjoyed, but reviewing as many as possible.

It got to the point where my opinions of books that I didn't like came off a bit more vitriolic than I'd have liked because in my mind, I saw reading that book as a waste of my time. I got sucked into that nasty reading habit and it's taken me this long to figure it out.

Hermione side-eye to myself
Just within the past of couple of weeks, I sat down with my book collection to do the yearly culling of books I've bought but have no desire to keep, and I came across The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. For well over a year, I kept telling myself that I wanted to re-read that book and that day, I just sat down and re-read it. Nevermind that my bedroom floor was scattered with books. Granted, that decision mean't that I got to the end of the book at like 3am and was trying to quietly sob into my pillow over the ending. Don't judge. I dare you to read that book and not cry.

Anyway, I felt like I was reading for myself for the first time in a long time. The next day, I picked out some of my favorite books from my collection and just started reading. Did you know that the last time I read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte all the way through was in high school? As in, the last time I read my favorite book was well over 4 years ago.

Funny. I made up my mind to start re-reading all of my favorite books and Goodreads was like: "I got chu!!" They finally enabled it so you can track all of the times you've re-read books. Can we all say this was well overdue.

I've been reading just as much, if not more than I was before the reading slump and I've had the urge to blog again. Rather than browsing lists of the most anticipated releases in my favorite genres, I've been looking back at all of the books I've loved and buying those I don't already own. I may have just put an order in today and I can't wait to re-read all of them. I mean, what's the point of having a book collection if you don't take the time to revisit all of those books that had a hand in shaping the person you are today? 

I'm now more certain about how my reading habits are going to shape up for the next portion of the year, so I want to direct content here in the same fashion. I won't be continuing on with monthly TBRs or wrap-ups for the time being. That being said, I'm finally getting back some of that creativity I lost months ago and I'm going to see where that takes me. That includes resuming some of my blog series that got lost in the shuffle. Until then, I think it's time to dig around this blog and do a bit of formatting updates...or maybe do some more re-reading. Who knows?!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

August 2016 Wrap-Up

Hello readers and welcome to the long overdue August 2016 wrap-up. In case you're new here, this is where I share all of the books that I read during the past month and give each book a mini review. As you may have heard a few times so far, August was the month that the great reading slump hit.

I could feel the reading slump slowly coming these past couple of months, but I just kept denying that it would happen. Then all it took was reading some really great books, which turned in to a book hangover, which in turn snowballed into the slump. Now my room looks like a library because my TBR pile is kind of out of control. As you'll soon be able to see, I only read five books in August. I know. How can I call this past month the month of the reading slump when I still read enough to equal out one book a week? Well, I read the first three books one right after the other at the beginning of August and then the slump hit hard.

Now enough whining about lost reading time. I think I've just about pulled myself out of the slump, so September should be a great month. As I mentioned in my last book haul post, I will not be posting a September TBR. I just want to read whatever sounds awesome in the moment. Limiting my reading choices will send me back into the slump. Time to review my August reads.
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

You had to know that as a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I needed to know how Harry Potter's story would continue. Now that it's been a few weeks since the book's release, I've heard about all of the backlash on the internet. I seen and read some pretty harsh reviews from people who are fans of the Harry Potter series. For whatever reason, I feel like I'm in the minority because I actually liked this play.

I think part of the reason why I enjoyed the play so much was because I came into the reading experience in the right frame of mind. I don't think people fully realized that this is not, in fact, the "Eighth Harry Potter Book." It's just the script of the play showing in London. While not written exclusively by J.K. Rowling, in my head, I like to think of this as fan-fiction canonized.

The protagonists in this continuation of the Harry Potter series are Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, the son of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy respectively. The both of them are headed off to their first year at Hogwarts and despite the antagonism of their parents, they become friends. Once the weight of his father's fame gets the best of Albus, he ends up on a time turning adventure with Scorpius. That's all I want to say about the plot because I don't want to spoil the play for others.

All I have to say is that I acknowledge that this book really does have some flaws. Choosing to have the main mechanic of the story involve the most questionable part of Rowling's world in the original series (the time turner) was kind of a bad idea. The big character reveal near the end really gave this play the "fan-fic" vibe that I mentioned earlier. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the plot and I loved getting to know all of these new characters. I do have to say that the best parts of this play were revisiting old characters, who triggered all of the old emotions you experienced near the end of the Harry Potter series.  
  • My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

Lately, I've been in the mood to read a lot of nonfiction works and part of that includes memoirs by some of my favorite historical figures and celebrities. I read quite a bit of feminist literature in college, but I never read anything written by Gloria Steinem. My Life on the Road shares her experiences traveling as an activist and writer. She talks about how the effects of traveling influenced her family growing up. Not to mention she shares stories about some of the people she met along the way. I thought it was a great afternoon read if you are interested in learning more about Steinem.

  • This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

In the past year, Victoria Schwab has become one of my favorite authors. Her worlds and characters are so distinct and the plots are always action packed. This Savage Song is no different. The story centers on two protagonists, Kate Harker and August Flynn. Both reside in a city divided between monsters and humans. They exist in this kind of dystopian world where violence seems to create dangerous monsters.

August is one of those monsters desperately trying to live a normal life and Kate is the daughter of a man who uses the threat of monsters for his own personal gain. When the two sides collide, August and Kate are thrown together, fighting for their own survival. What makes this story different from some other YA releases is that there is no romance between the main characters. Instead, they build a bond of friendship. That may not sound so groundbreaking, but it seems like so many YA novels romantically pair their male and female protagonists.

While the world building wasn't quite as fantastic as some of her previous books, the reading experience was just as fantastic. The end of every chapter forced you to keep reading, which is both a positive and a negative, particularly if you have to go to work early in the morning. All I can say is you are really missing out if you haven't read a Victoria Schwab book.
  • Ancient Egypt: Civilizations of the Nile Valley from Pharaohs to Farmers by Parragon Publishing
Near the beginning of August, I was looking around a dollar store and ran across this book. As some of you may know, I have a huge interest in Ancient Egypt and I love reading about it.

As far as the content of the book is concerned, it provides a nice broad overview of the culture, particularly for those without too much knowledge of the time period and region. If you've already studied Ancient Egypt in the past, this book really won't provide you with new information. In fact, I found the text to be really too broad to suit my taste. but the photographs and illustrations were very interesting to look at. It also made for some great light reading near the end of the month. 

  • The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

Recently, I've read a lot of fiction books set during WWII with a good majority of them taking place in France. Personally, the best books with this setting are thought-provoking. They are grounded enough in the time period to give you a sense of how terrible life would have been like then, while also having complex characters that allow you to emotionally connect to the story.

Some of those books strike that nice balance, while others don't. I found that The Paris Architect was kind of an average read. The story focuses on Lucien Bernard, an architect living in France. Not much work has come his way since the German occupation of France. All of that changes when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise a hiding place for Jews escaping persecution. Part of the deal also includes designing factories for the Germans.

I found the plot to be pretty engaging, although it did lag at some points. The main reason why I didn't rate this book any higher is because I really didn't connect with the main character. Granted, I don't expect all protagonists in such a situation to be morally perfect, but I didn't like him at the start of the novel and nothing changed by the end.
Those are all of the books that I managed to read during August. The month was by no means a complete fail and I did happen to read some really great books. Now that I've gotten back into the habit of blogging again, hopefully this month will be a little more productive. Now to tackle all of those new books that I bought.

Friday, September 9, 2016

New and Used Book Haul: August and September 2016!

Hello readers and welcome back to another better late than never post this September. As you may already know, I've been going through one of the worst reading slumps I've experienced in a while. With this slump comes the urge to just veg out on the couch and do nothing productive, like write blog posts.

Naturally, the most illogical decision to make when you are experiencing a huge urge to do anything besides reading is to go book shopping of course. As if I don't already own too many books. This time, I decided to save my wallet and buy the bulk of my books used. A couple of weekends back, I made my way to the local Salvation Army to find some great used books. Then a week after that, I ordered a few books from Amazon and then rounded everything out by buying some books from Barnes and Noble. I have a book hoarding problem.

Anyway, time for me to share what books I bought during the past month.

A few of these books may seem familiar and that's because they are! If I happen to read a really great book on my tablet, I have to own a physical copy of the book. That means some of these will go straight into my book collection, while others will make it to my ever increasing TBR pile. 

The first half of the books, which I included above, are the used books that I picked up at the Salvation Army. Usually buying books there can be a hit or miss experience. This time it felt like someone with my similar taste in books donated a bunch. 

The first book is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle and it's one that I've been meaning to read for the longest time. After that is another classic to add to my stack, The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I've only read a few of his short stories, so I'm interested to read one of his full length novels. Next, is Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. I actually already own a copy of this book, but for a while I've been meaning to replace it. I wasn't so kind to my books when I was younger and the copy I currently own has a ripped and torn cover. After that is Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding, which was an impulse buy if there ever was one. I remember watching the movie and enjoying it, so I figured why not read the book.

Vampire Academy and Frostbite are the first two books in the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. Despite the fact that it is one of my favorite series, I didn't actually own these two. Many of you may know that I occasionally like to read a nonfiction book and one of my favorite nonfiction writers is Erik Larson. He takes historical events or true stories and molds them into a book that's just as exciting to read as a fiction novel. When I saw Thunderstruck, which happens to be one of his books that I haven't read, I needed to own it. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson was another classic to add to my TBR pile. 

I snatched up Rules of Civility by Amor Towles purely because it is set in the 1920s, which is not a great reason to get a book, but meh. Then when I saw Ready Player One by Ernest Cline at the Salvation Army, I almost did a happy dance in the store. I was THIS CLOSE to buying this book at full price when I was at Barnes and Noble. It's a fantastic book that I've reviewed on this blog and I highly recommend it. Last but not least of the used books is Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie. Christie is one of my favorite authors and I've read so many of her books. The problem that I'm running into now is that I have no idea what books I haven't read when I go book shopping. I don't even know if I've read this book. I really should make a list of the books I still need to read.

Now on to the new books that I purchased! The first is a book that I've been meaning to buy for a long time. Like many others, I consider myself a Jane Austen fan, but I've only read her main novels. I haven't spent any time exploring her other writings. This book is a small bind up of Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sandition. The next book is one that I knew I shouldn't have bought, but I couldn't resist. In one of my past wrap-up posts, I reviewed The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May by Mark Z. Danielewski and I went on a long discussion about how I was wary that his books were all form and no substance. I made up my mind not to continue on with that series. Rather than leaving it there, I scanned over his section at my local Barnes and Noble and found Only Revolutions. Again it's a book with a unique format and I'm hoping the story shines through the form like House of Leaves

Apparently, I don't own enough classics so I bought volume two of The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, even though I haven't read the first volume yet. I have a problem. Next, I bought a physical copy of one of my favorite books of all time, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I love this book and I highly recommend it if you were not made to read it in school.

A couple of weeks ago, I was on Goodreads looking for new books to read that I hadn't heard about yet, and I came across a list someone made of books that have unique formats or narratives. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente was one of them. I did read her middle grade book, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and found it to be an average read. I figured why not explore some more of her writing.

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix is another book that I first read on my tablet and throughout the reading experience, I wished that I had bought the physical copy. This book is formatted to look like an IKEA catalog and is one of the best horror stories I've read in a long time. The last book in my giant stack is The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt - Edited by Helen Strudwick. I've always loved learning about Ancient Egypt, so when I came across this huge book in the bargain section at Barnes and Noble, I snatched it right up.
Those are all of the books that I've bought during August and the beginning of September. I hoping that some of these books will tempt me enough to get out of this reading slump. I've managed to do some reading this month, so I'm optimistic. For those wondering, my August Wrap-Up post is on its way! I've started putting together the formatting, but I'm desperately waiting for the motivation to review everything. I will probably mention this again in that post, but I will not be releasing a September TBR post. I don't want to plan or promise to read anything this month because I feel like that would only increase the severity of the slump. I just want take my time and read whatever I'm craving in the moment. In the meantime, happy reading!!  

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Penny's Music Recommendations: August 2016

Hello all of you music lovers and welcome back to another rather late Music Recommendations post. I've sadly been in the throes of the dreaded reading slump, which has also kind of zapped all of my creative juices with it. I finally just had to suck it up and force myself away from the lure of tv shows and video games in order to let you know about all of the music I've been listening to in the month of August.

Normally when I write these posts, I'm still obsessively listening to the songs I recommend, but in this case, I've kind of worn them all out to death. Every work day, I have an hour drive to work and an hour drive home from work. Let's just say you over listen to songs with that kind of commute. I'm thinking of exploring audio books just to preserve my music sanity. Anyway, how about I stop blathering and talk to you about all of the songs I've listened to at least 20 times this month.
  • Send My Love (To Your New Lover) by Adele

Normally, I dislike most of Adele's songs and it has nothing to do with her singing ability or the quality of her songs. The real problem is that for four years in college, I was stuck on all girl floors and the moment any of them broke up with their boyfriends, Adele could be heard all the way down the end of the hallway. Freshman year was the worst. Now that I no longer live in a dorm, that dislike has been tempered. When I heard "Send My Love" on the radio, I actually really enjoyed it.

Rather than the usual mournful break-up songs that I generally associate with Adele, this is really catchy and upbeat. I'm also a huge fan of the lyrics, which reflect a break-up from a mature adult perspective.
  • I Wanna Get Better by Bleachers

So much of today's indie music has a real 80's aesthetic to it and I honestly don't mind it at all. I know I've featured another Bleachers song on this music recommendation series and as the months go by I like more and more of their songs. In my head, this is the song that you would hear in the background during the climax of a John Hughes movie. Again it has an upbeat electronic/rock sound with lyrics that deal with the desperate desire to improve yourself. 
  • Midnight City by M83

Before I say anything about "Midnight City," let me tell you there is probably an 80% chance that you've already heard this song before, but you just don't know it. This song isn't really known for it's complex lyrics or the misadventures of their band members. The most appealing part to this song is its atmospheric sound. It has the weird synth beat that think at first listen is going to be really obnoxious, but it isn't. I swear this song has been sampled by numerous tv shows, movies, commercials, and video games. After hearing it so many times, I finally looked the song up and it turns out I do really like it. It's also one of those perfect driving songs. I may have to look into M83 some more and see if I like any of their other music.
  • Take a Walk by Passion Pit

Passion Pit is another indie artist that made its way onto my radar through my random Pandora listens. As with much of my taste in music, Passion Pit is described as synthpop, indie pop, and even indietronica in sound (the last term being one that I never even knew existed). The song has a driving synth beat and guitar that distracts you from the kind of depressing lyrics about life and raising a family.
  • Faint of Heart by Tegan and Sara

At first listen, I wasn't really a huge fan of Tegan and Sara's new album, Love You To Death. After a couple of listens, the album is really starting to grow on me. "Faint of Heart" is the newest song to grab my attention. It has that standard indie pop sound that I love. It may not be the best song from the album, but it's still merits a listen or two on the drive into work.

Those are a few of the songs that I listened to over and over again during the month of August. Now I think it's time to break this creative/reading slump of mine. Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

August 2016 TBR

Hello readers and welcome back to another monthly post. Now is about the time to share with you the books that I plan to read during August. Or in the case of this month, what books I might have already read. What can I say. Sometimes I'd rather procrastinate on these posts and get a jump start on the new month. After having such a fantastic reading streak last month, I'm hoping to keep the trend up.
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
 You had to know that the new Harry Potter book would be on the list. I was so excited to read it that I finished it a few hours after my pre-order copy came in the mail. Just in case you haven't heard about this, it isn't the eighth Harry Potter book. You'll be sorely disappointed going into the reading experience if you think that's the case. This is the script of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play currently showing in London. The script was not solely written by J.K Rowling, but I'm pretty sure with her name on it, it has her canonical stamp of approval. This play picks up right where the last Harry Potter book ended, with Harry's son Albus heading off for his first year at Hogwarts.

I can't wait to share my thoughts about this book with you!!

  • My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
 I've been in a huge nonfiction mood lately and this month is no different. In fact, the urge to read nonfiction was so strong that I've already finished this book too. As the title suggests, this book is made up of Gloria Steinem's experiences traveling as a writer and activist. She reveals moments from her life as well as encounters with other influential people.

  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

For those of you who follow my Goodreads, you know that I've also started reading this book. In order to prevent a book slump, I've just been book hopping when I feel a sense of boredom creep in. The Eyre Affair has been on my TBR list for ages and ages, so I figured now was as good as any time to read it.

This book takes place in an alternate time in Britain circa 1985. In this setting, time travel is a reality and people love to forge great works of literature. The story focuses on Tuesday Next, a special operative in the literary detection division. Apparently, the plot is about someone who kidnaps characters from stories. I'm excited to see what the author does with this premise.

  • This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Finally!!! Another Victoria Schwab book has been released and I'm so ready for some awesome reading. She is the one author that has consistently released stories with amazing worlds and characters.

In this book, the world is split between humans and the monsters that prey on them. This Savage Song has a dual narrative, with half of the focus on Kate Harker, the daughter of a man that provides protection to humans at a cost, and August Flynn, a monster desperately wishing to have a normal, human life.

While I'm not 100% sure this is true, I've heard rumors that this story has no romance and you have no idea how happy I am about that.

  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin
 Now it's time for the classic pick of the month. I've really been into reading books lately that deal with social class as well as women's traditional gender roles. I never read The Awakening in any of my English or Women's Studies courses in college, so I figured now was the time to do just that. The plot focuses on Edna Pontellier, a woman who struggles with the expectations of her role as wife and mother.

Those are all of the books that I plan to read in August. I think it's a nice mix of recent releases and well as books that have been lounging in my TBR pile for far too long. Now time to get back to reading!