Photoshoot with my mom

My mom loves to knit. She keeps a blog about her knitting projects.
I love to take pictures. Every once in a while I post on this blog about photos I’ve taken.

I’ve been taking a class on photography. Yesterday I learned what a certain lens I have and didn’t know what to do with could best be used for. Portrait photography. When I came back home my mom asked if I could take a couple of pictures of her in her latest knitting project. I was excited because it meant I could try out this lens and what I have learned in class.

These are some of the results of a photoshoot with my 55-200mm lens. I am happy with how these pictures turned out. Tips to improve are always welcome.

20140316-DSC_0718 20140316-DSC_0724

 

20140316-DSC_0712 20140316-DSC_0756

My Books of 2013 – Part 5: Non-fiction

Previously: Part 4 – Classics

For me to read a non-fiction book there has to be a really good reason. I don’t really know why, but I read a lot more fiction than non-fiction. Because the threshold for a non-fiction book is a lot higher I tend to love those I do read more often.

Self-Inflicted Wounds – Aisha Tyler

16248207On the hit comedy podcast Girl on Guy, comedian and actress Aisha Tyler talks with actors, artists, musicians, athletes and iconoclasts about their path to personal and professional success, in forthcoming and sometimes shocking conversation. The coda of the show is Self-Inflicted Wounds-where Aisha’s guests recount something they’ve done that was ill-conceived, dangerous, or just plain dumb-with hilarious or poignant ends. In her book Self-Inflicted Wounds Aisha turns the lens on herself, recounting spectacularly comedic mistakes and stories of crushing personal humiliation, along with what she’s learned. Riotous, revealing, and wonderfully relatable, Self-Inflicted Wounds showcases a sharp comedic voice on the rise.

While I was staying with Andrea in NYC this summer, she suggested I check out Aisha Tyler’s podcast, Girl On Guy. Aisha is the new host of Whose Line Is It Anyway, a show I love and Andrea thought I would like the podcast. She was right, I liked it. A lot, actually. The 2-hour interviews are great, funny and interesting and sometimes painful. While I was in NYC, Aisha did a book signing for the launch of her new book, Self-Inflicted Wounds. I went along with Andrea, bought the book, got it signed and got my picture with Aisha. It was all very fun. As part of Girl On Guy, each guest tells a Self-Inflicted Wound. These are stories, usually funny, of how choices you made caused damage to yourself. In Self-Inflicted Wounds Aisha tells her own stories. She has a very funny voice and it was a fun read.

July 14 – July 29

The Reason I Jump – Naoki Higashida

18168324You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.

I picked up this book after it was recommended on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart was very convincing in saying everyone should read it, and I have to agree with him. This book is not a normal read. It was written by a thirteen-year-old boy with autism, a boy who has a very hard time communicating with the outside world. In this book he describes how he sees the world, and how he thinks this differs with those who don’t have autism. It offers a fascinating insight into a world most people don’t understand.

Oct. 7 – Oct. 8

The Fry Chronicles – Stephen Fry

8649656Stephen Fry is not just a multi-award-winning comedian and actor, but also an author, director and presenter. He is one of the most influential cultural forces in the country. This title details some of the most turbulent and least well known years of his life.

I love Stephen Fry. I think he is smart, funny and he has an amazing way with words. Yet it took me an incredibly long time to get started with this book. Not because I didn’t want to read it, but because I got it as an audiobook (narrated by the man himself!). I’m not in the habit of listening to audiobooks, I have enough podcasts to listen to. Yet once I started with this book it was hard to listen to anything else. Stephen is a very good storyteller and he has lived a fascinating life. If you like Stephen Fry you should really read (or listen to) this book.

Dec. 5 – Dec. 10

Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin

2199The life and times of Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed and dissected in countless books. Do we need another Lincoln biography? In Team of Rivals, esteemed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin proves that we do. Though she can’t help but cover some familiar territory, her perspective is focused enough to offer fresh insights into Lincoln’s leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation. Goodwin makes the case for Lincoln’s political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates.

I went to see Lincoln (the movie) because Lee Pace had a role in it and I had heard it was good. I loved the movie and decided that I wanted to learn more about this period in American history. I knew the general storyline (civil war over the issue of slavery, Lincoln gets assassinated) but apart from that I knew very little. This book was a great read. Not an easy read as you can see by the time it took me to finish it (10 months) but I learned a lot from reading this one. I’d definitely recommend it, but beware that it’s really long at 900+ pages.

Feb. 21 – Dec. 30

My Books of 2013 – Part 4: Classics

Previously: Part 3 – Fiction

I try to read a couple of “classics” (or old books) each year, to broaden my literary knowledge and maybe boast a bit?

The Valley of Fear (Sherlock Holmes #7) – Arthur Conan Doyle

736130Holmes and faithful Dr. Watson are summoned to a country house by a coded message. They arrive too late to save a life, but pursue the trail to unmasking the murderer.

I like reading the Sherlock Holmes stories. They are good mysteries and feel like the basis of what modern murder-mystery stories are based on. The one thing I like less about these is that it is very hard to figure out the mystery for yourself because you are never given all the same clues as Sherlock.

Aug. 13

Little Women (Little Women #1) – Louisa May Alcott

6252154Little Women is the heartwarming story of the March family that has thrilled generations of readers. It is the story of four sisters–Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth– and of the courage, humor and ingenuity they display to survive poverty and the absence of their father during the Civil War.

I liked this book. It is a nice story about a family sticking together through tough times and always trying to do right. Sometimes it felt a little too moralizing. I think that is both a sign of the times and the author.

Oct. 8 – Oct. 12

Good Wives (Little Women #1.5) – Louisa May Alcott

78960Amy looked relieved, but naughty Jo took her at her word, for during the first call she sat with every limb gracefully composed, every fold correctly draped, calm as a summer sea, cool as a snowbank, and as silent as the sphinx. In vain Mrs. Chester alluded to her ‘charming novel’, and the Misses Chester introduced parties, picnics, the opera, and the fashions. Each and all were answered by a smile, a bow, and a demure “Yes” or “No” with the chill on.

I did not realize when I started Little Women that the story is sometimes split into two (Little Women and Good Wives). I felt like I had to read Good Wives as well now that I’d read Little Women. Like the first book, it exudes decency. The girls make mistakes, remember the lessons their mom told them and fix their mistakes. Nothing in real life is ever that easy (at least not to me).

Oct. 13 – Oct. 20

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

6519719The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when, The New York Times remarked, “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s that resonates with the power of myth.

I read this book now because of the new film version released this year. I haven’t seen the film but I did really enjoy the book. I found Gatsby intriguing and liked that the story was told from the point of view of a “normal” person, someone we could identify with.

Oct. 21 – Oct. 24

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain

11323701Impish, daring young Tom Sawyer is a hero to his friends and a torment to his relations. For wherever there is mischief or adventure, Tom is at the heart of it. During one hot summer, Tom witnesses a murder, runs away to be a pirate, attends his own funeral, rescues an innocent man from the gallows, searches for treasure in a haunted house, foils a devilish plot and discovers a box of gold. But can he escape his nemesis, the villainous Injun Joe?

This was much more readable than I had expected for such an old book (it was first published in 1876). It was an enjoyable story, although clearly from a different time. Children these days wouldn’t get away with all that Tom Sawyer gets away with.

Oct. 31 – Nov. 6

Next: Part 5 – Non-fiction

My Books of 2013 – Part 3: Fiction

Earlier: Part 2 – Young Adult Fantasy

This is a list of assorted books that don’t fit in one of the other lists of books I’ve read this year. There’s a thriller, a comedy,…

Someday, Someway, Maybe – Lauren Graham

17406658Someday, Someday, Maybe is a story about hopes and dreams, being young in a city, and wanting something deeply, madly, desperately. It’s about finding love, finding yourself, and perhaps most difficult of all in New York City, finding an acting job.

I love Lauren Graham as an actress. I finally got around to watching Gilmore Girls (loved it) and she is equally amazing on Parenthood. I was curious to see what she would be like as a writer. I was happy to find out that her voice is as funny and witty as she comes across in her roles. This book was a joy to read.

June 26 – July 1

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

13261812On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer?

I had heard many great things about this book. It was a Goodreads Awards winner in 2012. It had been on my to-read list for quite a while. I finally got around to it this summer. This is a dark story but a very good read. I found it hard to put down.

July 27 – Aug. 7

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

8120173Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This book has just been turned into a movie, if that tells you anything about its popularity. I read this on the train to Amsterdam and back. I was crying (still on the train) by the end. This is an amazing story and, in my humble opinion, a must-read.

Sept. 3 – Sept. 7

Not Quite The Classics – Colin Mochrie

15792001Colin Mochrie, a man known worldwide for working without a script, has penned a collection of stories destined to make its own mark in the literary community. Borrowing from a well-known improve game, Mochrie takes the first and last lines from familiar classics and reimagines everything in between. With the same engaging humour he exhibits on stage, television, and film, he takes the reader in bizarre and hilarious new directions, using the original writer’s words as a launch and landing point. Imagine A Tale of Two Cities in which Wile E. Coyote gets his revenge on the Road Runner, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat with zombies, or The Night Before Christmas with a time travelling twist. Imagine Sherlock Holmes devising a foolproof method for eliciting laughter and then taking the stage at a Victorian comedy club in Old London.

I love Colin Mochrie. He is a very funny guy, amazing at improv comedy. I was looking forward to reading this book, hoping it would be as funny. This was a disappointment. It didn’t have any laugh-out-loud moments, more little twists that were clever. It’s a clever concept (using the first and last lines from a famous book to start a story) but it fell flat for me.

Oct. 13 – Oct. 16

Next: Part 4 – Classics

My Books of 2013 – Part 2: Young Adult Fantasy

Read Part 1 for my introduction and new rating system.

This will be the longest list of books as I love reading Young Adult Fantasy books. They are most often fun, fast and very enjoyable reads. The fantasy worlds offer an escape but also a reflection on our world. The difference with normal fantasy books, I find, is the names. They seem much more normal or at least pronounceable.

One thing I’ve noticed in compiling this list is that all YA books seem to be part of a series. For some I really like this because I like the world created and want to learn more about it. For others this feels unnecessary. Some books don’t need a part 2 or 3 or 4 or…

If you like reading YA books I would recommend following Epbot. Jen regularly posts book reviews of YA books.

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane (Underland Chronicles #2) – Suzanne Collins

9226959In the months since Gregor first encountered the strange Underland beneath New York City, he’s sworn he won’t ever go back. But when another prophecy, this time about an ominous white rat known as the Bane, calls for Gregor’s help, the Underlanders know the only way they can get his attention is through his little sister, Boots. Now Gregor’s quest reunites him with his bat, Ares, the rebellious princess Luxa, and new allies and sends them through the dangerous and deadly Waterway in search of the Bane. Then Gregor must face the possibility of his greatest loss yet, and make life and death choices that will determine the future of the Underland.

If you enjoyed reading Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy (or you enjoyed the movies) I would highly recommend reading these books. They aren’t quite as violent as the Hunger Games books (no kids fighting each other to the death). Instead Gregor, our hero, needs to rescue the Underworld where he feels more at home than in NYC. He finds friends and foes among the rats, mice, cockroaches and other animals leaving below.

Jan. 21 – Jan. 26

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods (Underland Chronicles #3) – Suzanne Collins

385706Book Two left off with Gregor reading the Prophecy of Blood: a prophecy that calls for Gregor and Boots to return to the Underland to help ward off a deadly plague. But this time, Gregor’s mother refuses to let him return to the Underland… until the rat Ripred assures the family that Gregor and Boots are just needed for a short meeting, which the crawlers will attend only if their “princess” Boots is present. Gregor’s mom finally relents, on the condition that she go with them. The Underland plague is spreading, and when one of Gregor’s family is stricken, he begins to understand his role in the Prophecy of Blood, and must summon all his power to end the biological warfare that threatens the warmblooded creatures of the Underland.

March 24 – April 3

Gregor and the Marks of Secret (Underland Chronicles #4) – Suzanne Collins

319644It’s only a few months since Gregor and Boots returned from the Underland, leaving their mother behind to heal from the plague. Though Gregor’s family receives frequent updates on her condition, they all know Gregor must return to fulfill his role as the warrior who is key to the Underlanders’ survival. Accompanied by his now-talkative little sister Boots, still considered the honorary “princess,” Gregor joins forces with another princess–12-year-old Luxa–and Ripred the rat to defend the Underlanders and the vulnerable “Nibblers,” or mice, from the rat army.

April 9 – April 16

Gregor and the Code of Claw (Underland Chronicles #5) – Suzanne Collins

537070The stunning conclusion to the riveting Gregor the Overlander series.
Everyone in the Underland has been taking great pains to keep The Prophecy of Time from Gregor. Gregor knows it must say something awful but he never imagined just how awful: It calls for the warrior’s death. Now, with an army of rats approaching, and his mom and sister still in Regalia, Gregor the warrior must gather up his courage to help defend Regalia and get his family home safely. The entire existence of the Underland is in Gregor’s hands, and time is running out. There is a code to be cracked, a mysterious new princess, Gregor’s burgeoning dark side, and a war to end all wars.

May 9 – May 9

Boundless (Unearthly #3) – Cynthia Hand

15697999The past few years held more surprises than part-angel Clara Gardner ever could have anticipated. Yet through the dizzying high of first love to the agonizing low of losing someone close to her, the one thing she could no longer deny was that she was never meant to have a normal life. Since discovering the special role she plays among the other angel-bloods, Clara has been determined to protect Tucker Avery from the evil that follows her . . . even if it means breaking both their hearts. Leaving town seemed like the best option, so she’s headed back to California—and so is Christian Prescott, the irresistible boy from the vision that started her on this journey in the first place. As Clara makes her way in a world that is frighteningly new, she discovers that the fallen angel who attacked her is watching her every move. And he’s not the only one. . . . With the battle against the Black Wings looming, Clara knows she must finally fulfil her destiny. But it won’t come without sacrifices and betrayal. In the riveting finale of the Unearthly series, Clara must choose her fate once and for all.

I was really looking forward to this third book as I had loved the first two books when I read them last year. As you can tell from the time it took me to finish the book (2 months) I did not enjoy this one at all. Maybe it was the wait between reading the first two books and this one but I was no longer connected to the characters and the story was just meh.

Jan. 27 – March 30

Off to Be the Wizard – Scott Meyer

17713508It’s a simple story. Boy finds proof that reality is a computer program. Boy uses program to manipulate time and space. Boy gets in trouble. Boy flees back in time to Medieval England to live as a wizard while he tries to think of a way to fix things. Boy gets in more trouble. Oh, and boy meets girl at some point.

I don’t remember how or why I came across this book. I found it on my Kindle one day, started reading and fell in love. The premise is great for someone like me who knows a bit about computers and programming (the whole world is one big program saved in one single file that’s editable). It’s also very funny. I definitely recommend this book.

May 3 – May 7

Specials (Uglies #3) – Scott Westerfeld

6479322Tally thought they were a rumor, but now she’s one of them. A Special. A superamped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid. But maybe being perfectly programmed with strength and focus isn’t better than anything she’s ever known. Tally still has memories of something else. But it’s easy for her to tune that out–until she’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.

I really enjoyed the first 2 books in this series. The premise is quite unique and scary at the same time. Children wait until their 16th birthday to get surgery to make them pretty. This third book wasn’t quite as good as the first two but still enjoyable.

May 17 – May 29

Across The Universe (Across The Universe #1) – Beth Revis

9583408A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder…. Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, 300 years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end 50 years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules. Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone – one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship – tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next. Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

I enjoyed reading this book but this was a book where I wished there were no sequels. I won’t read any of the others in the series. I liked this book by itself and that is the way it will be.

Aug. 24 – Sept. 2

Fallen (Fallen #1) – Lauren Kate

8145496There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori. Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move. Even Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce – he goes out of his way to make that very clear. But she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, Luce has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret…even if it kills her.

Like Across The Universe, this was a book I enjoyed reading yet I have no intention of reading more in the series. I’m also getting a bit annoyed by so many YA books being about angels. It’s starting to feel like some authors are copying other popular books. I’m sure they are not, but publishers are putting these out because that is what’s popular right now. Still, I would like some more originality.

Sept. 25 – Sept. 29

Allegiant (Divergent #3) – Veronica Roth

17406183The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

This is a very popular series (the first movie is coming out in 2014). The series is similar to The Hunger Games, I think. It’s set in a seemingly post-apocalyptic world with teenagers in the lead. This is a good series, but as with so many series, the third one is not as good as the first two books. Still, very well worth a read.

Oct. 25 – Oct. 31

Flora Segunda (Flora Trilogy #1) – Ysabeau S. Wilce

13648197Flora knows better than to take shortcuts in her family home, Crackpot Hall–the house has eleven thousand rooms, and ever since her mother banished the magickal butler, those rooms move around at random. But Flora is late for school, so she takes the unpredictable elevator anyway. “Huge” mistake. Lost in her own house, she stumbles upon the long-banished butler–and into a mind-blowing muddle of intrigue and betrayal that changes her world forever.

These books are set in a wonderfully bizarre world. They are a great read, very fun with a kick-ass and yet very flawed girl in the lead. I loved them.

Nov. 7 – Nov. 12

Flora’s Dare (Flora Trilogy #2) – Ysabeau S. Wilce

15745462Flora Fyrdraaca wants nothing more than to be a ranger, and for that she must master the magickal—and dangerous—language of Gramatica. But before she can find the ideal teacher, her aspirations are put to the test. Would a true ranger be intimidated by a tentacle that reaches for her from the depths of a toilet? Be daunted by her best friend’s transformation into a notorious outlaw, thanks to a pair of sparkly stolen boots? Be cowed by the revelation that only she can rescue the city of Califa from the violent earthquakes that threaten its survival?
            Never. Saving her city and her best friend are the least a Girl of Spirit can do—yet what Flora doesn’t expect are the life-altering revelations she learns about her family and herself.

Nov. 25 – Dec. 11

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) – Alan Bradley

6477877Flavia de Luce, 11, is an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. In the summer of 1950, inexplicable events strike Buckshaw, her decaying mansion home. A dead bird is on the doorstep, a postage stamp on its beak. Hours later, Flavia finds a man dying in the cucumber patch. His last words must save her father imprisoned for his murder.

This was an enjoyable read about a smart young girl who is trying to solve a murder to clear her father. While I liked the book, this is another one where I will not be reading anymore in the series. I didn’t really like the lead girl enough to read more about her adventures.

Nov. 13 – Nov. 23

Continue with Part 3 – Fiction