one of my favorite places.

Friday, August 5, 2016

It’s been months since, but I had to share with you of that time I went back to one of my favorite places on Earth – Orcas Island. Located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest in Washington state, I spent a full weekend there, experiencing true beauty in its purest form. 

@mhitchner1 and I
I remember falling in love with the place when I first visited a few years ago; it was during the winter time. It was quite cold, and I remember feeling invigorated by the chilliness of the seemingly empty island. Since it was off season, there weren’t a lot of people. It was so quiet. We drove around, walked around, and we welcomed the serenity. I found myself realizing that I may have found the most peaceful place I’ve ever been in.

Going back during the spring/summer time a few months ago was a much different experience. It's a time when locals open up their shops and stores to the tourists (like me) that flocked to their little island. It gives you a much busier vibe, but you relish in that colorful atmosphere too. We mainly stayed out of town, opting to camp. Nothing beats sleeping under the stars, roasting marshmallows at night with good company, and waking up in the morning to watch the sunrise and see deer next to you. 

The more I think about it, the more I feel that the reason I love this place so much is not necessarily because of the place itself. While Orcas Island is truly awe-inspiring and breathtakingly beautiful, I feel its power lies in its ability to transform. For me, while in a serene place like this, I feel I am given time to open my eyes, to help discover myself, to uncover the flaws needed to be fixed in my life, and to realize what truly matters in my life. 
our friends while we were kayaking
I feel that being one with nature, walking on the rocky beach, hiking up muddy hills, smelling the ground, kayaking in the clean water, and breathing in fresh, untouched air can do all that. I’m grateful for that. It's quite an invigorating experience.  
I remember as we got on the ferry back home, I looked back at the island with its natural beauty, thanking it for the memorable moments yet again. Until next time, I thought to myself. Until I see you again.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Harry Potter is life. It just is. It was after all a decade (and more) of growing up with Harry’s story, so like many, I waited for this book and bought it with so much uncontrollable excitement. 

First off, I knew even before that this novel was written as a play. I expected it to feel different and I knew it wouldn't be the same, but I welcomed it anyway because it's Harry Potter after all. I was just happy that I had the chance to come back to the same characters I loved. That's all I wanted. 
I should also mention that I am not a picky Potterhead at all. That being said, I did finish it last night and what a disappointment. This work truly upset me, made me sad. 
I'm skeptical as to how much Rowling actually put into this. There were two other writers, and honestly, it was kind of obvious. First off, the atmosphere is way off. The magic just isn't there. Is this taking place in the same Wizarding world? It didn't feel like it. Then, the character, which arguably, are the heart and soul of the stories, were butchered! They deserved better. As for the plot, I felt it was incredibly contrived. It just read like a really bad fanfic and I enjoy a good fan fic every once in a while. There were many moments I rolled my eyes, wanting to scream at the writers, knowing that Rowling would have never done this to these characters and this world if she had 100% control over the story. Perhaps if her name wasn't attached to this and it's not considered canon, I would like it much better because this excuse of an 8th Harry Potter book was just a sad and stunning disappointment. 
Should YOU read it? Sure. I know some who liked it, so you should definitely read it and judge it for yourself. I hope you love it more than I did, because sadly, I didn’t. Now I’ll just post this photo I took of the Hogwarts castle, purge this “8th book” from my memory, and reread the other seven books I loved so much. 

Fell out of love (with my Kindle)

Friday, July 8, 2016

When I first got this ereader a year and a half ago, I immediately fell in love with it. It made my reading life so much easier. It offered hundreds of books in one location and incredibly fast and easy access to them in an instant. It gave accessibility, convenience, and portability. It also did not hurt that its screen resembled that of a real page from a book. I read many books in it, and I thought everything was going great.

Like most love stories I guess, I fell out love with my Kindle too.

It just did not have the same feel naymore after a while. It also felt a lot like cheating - not supporting bookstores or print.

Truthfully it's about six months since I last used it, and after months of mainly choosing to buy and read physical books instead - even while traveling - I think it's safe to say that I will probably never reach for it again.

I figured this can be a little goodbye post - an ode to the device I thought I'd always love. We've had great moments, but alas, physical copies won me over yet again.

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon Recommendations

Thursday, April 21, 2016

My favorite book event is here yet again - Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon. It is a 24 Hour event wherein readers around the world get to read along together for an entire day. I feel like after participating in this event five times now that I know which books tend to work. Obviously, there are so many other ways, but for me, I think the key is not to overwhelm yourself and to just have fun. As for book choices, I feel like the best options are those that are effortlessy easy to read and books that are fast-paced page-turners. If you are still looking for options, here are just some of the books I had in mind:

In this stack, I have a mix of different genres. There's the non-fiction choices: memoirs and historical accounts, the poetry and short stories for when you need a fresh break, a children's classic, unputdownable contemporary fiction, thrilling mystery, ridiculously fun science fiction, easy-to-get-through Young Adult, and not pictured, because my brother borrowed them: comics and graphic novels. Watchmen would be my top pick, as always.

What are some books you think would be perfect for the readathon? Suggest away!

Reading Stoner by John Williams

Friday, April 15, 2016

I am finally about to start this novel, Stoner, written by American author, John Williams. This has been on my to-be-read list for a while now, but just haven't gotten to it until I found myself in the bookstore last weekend, locking eyes with a copy of this 1965 novel. It was a used paperback, and it looked like it was in pretty good shape, so I bought it.

I will be reading along with other readers through Instagram, which I think will make reading this classic novel more fun. Together we will be using the hashtag #SundayswithStoner, which basically means we will take the time to discuss the chapters with each other. I feel like it's the kind of book that can be incredibly engaging and can spark different perspectives. If you have already read this book, what did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts, without spoilers of course.

Shirley Jackson and Her Subtle, Masterful Creepiness

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Just two weeks ago, I purchased a copy of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a now-classic novel that was originally published in 1962. This was Shirley Jackson's final book before she died in 1965, and it's a book I've repeatedly told myself to pick up. I'm glad I finally got around to reading it.

This eerie tale is narrated by Merricat Blackwood who lives on their family estate with her sister, Constance, and their uncle. There used to be seven Blackwoods in their estate until one night, a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl. Later, after Constance was acquitted of the murders, she has returned home and it's Merricat's mission to protect her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers in the town. They happily stayed put in their home until their cousin, Charles, appears. Only Merricat can see the danger and she must try every possible way to keep Constance away from him.

The premise is enough to capture any reader's attention; it is full of intrigue and mystery! Add to that the never ending praise this novel has gotten over time and I found myself expecting something from this book as I was reading it. I have to admit that I wasn't sure what to think. I spent most of my time trying to find the 'creepy parts' that everyone keeps talking about. I was waiting for the horror part of the novel. It didn't come for me, and when I finished it, I felt disappointed because I wasn't creeped out at all. I mean, yes, it was perfectly paced, excellently told, effortlessly written, and it was so easy to read and get through. However, something seemed to be missing for me while I was reading it.

Then that night, I found myself laying in bed, ready to sleep, but unable to, as images of the Blackwoods sisters kept creeping into my mind. It was such an uncomfortable situation, being bothered by a story I thought I was done with. I even ended up having a dream about some events in the book. When I woke up from my dream, I felt disturbed.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is, Shirley Jackson proved to be a master at creating subtle, eerie moments that will sneakily creep up on you when you least expect it. As the reader, you will surrender yourself and be lost in the world Shirley Jackson created. You might be like others who will get lost in her world while reading it or you could be like me, who won't experience the book until right after. Either way, her stories will feel real. They will be raw and they will make you feel something; it's incredibly immersive, sometimes uncomfortably so. It left me disturbed, but also wanting more from Shirley Jackson. What a fantastic writer and storyteller, and I'm so happy I finally got around to reading this. It's been a long time coming.

Why Everyone Should See The Revenant (even though it's not for everyone)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I saw The Revenant the day it came out. I was waiting for this movie for a while due to the promising trailer and anticipation from others, and I was so excited to see another Leonardo Di Caprio film. I also could not wait to watch another film directed by Alejandro Innaritu. After seeing his creative work in Birdman, I craved his sense of style - original, transcendent, and artistic.

The Revenant certainly did not disappoint. Leonardo di Caprio delivered a haunting performance. He played it with the kind of passion that is unforgettable. He is unrelenting, and it was easy for me to personally empathize with the character, completely forgetting that this was the same actor who starred in many other familiar movies. He was just different here! He truly captured the anguish, sorrow, despair, and many other emotions stirred in this film.

Of course, Innaritu delivered as well. I believe that there hasn't been a film that has offered a more visceral experience than this. He truly made the world immersive, and he made it as realistic and believable as possible. I'd like to mention that when filming this, he only used natural light and they only shot during certain times of the day, aiming to capture the raw essence of the environment. That to me is dedication.

Innaritu (left)
I also have to mention the cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, as his shots, to put it simply, were magnificent and unforgettable! Both Innaritu and Lubezki showed the harshness of their unforgiving location and they showcased its undeniable beauty. They both truly partnered into creating a one-of-a-kind piece of art.

As for recommending this movie, I do think this movie is not for everyone. In fact, certain moviegoers would think of The Revenant as an absolutely boring and slow film. Some would say the story is mediocre. While I personally don't see it that way, I do see it from their perspective. Now the reason why I still think everyone should see the movie whether or not one might like it is simply because it is different. It does not dumb itself down, it is serious, it is aggressive. It is slower paced than most movies nowadays, which is something not everyone's used to. It took its time telling its story and it developed the suspense, thrilling the audience with its slow peak to an epic conclusion. As for the story, it may seem like a mediocre story but the film showed how magnificent Hugh Glass's story is. Learning more about him is great enough, but seeing it told in a visual way like this gives it a bit more of a relatable feel.

All in all, I believe The Revenant demands to be seen and it deserves to be seen by everyone, whether  or not you might like it. You could very well hate it, but you might also appreciate it for what it is and for what its goal is - to give the viewers the ability to have a visceral cinematic experience. Any movie that is as ambitious and creative as this is a winner in my book. 

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rating: 4.5 stars
The Master and Margarita is one of the seminal works of twentieth-century Russian literature. In this book, the devil is disguised as a magician who goes to Moscow in the 1930s, accompanied with a talking cat and an expert assassin. Admittedly this crazy-sounding story intimidated me, and I wasn't wrong to feel this way. As everyone has warned me, it is quite an unusual story. To be honest, I'm not even sure I fully understand it, but it has sparked my interest and I've been reading essays on this, learning more about others' take. Generally, I think it is a satirical and philosophical look on communism, religion, history, and maybe even fantasy. It is quite strange but beautiful at the same time. With a genius prose like Bulgakov's, you can't go wrong. I do this it is entertaining on its own, so if you're looking for a well-written story, go for it. However, understanding the subtext and deeper messages make it even more hauntingly substantial! Overall, I thought it was unnerving, poetic, funny, terrifying, and truly transcendent.