What I Read | November 2016

Eight books this month, ranging from YA fantasy adventures to historical scandals in early Hollywood.  Oh, and I finally read The Little Prince, which was a LONG time coming.


anotherbrooklyn-hc-cAnother Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Woodson’s prose reads like poetry, which helps make her story more palatable.  I mean, it’s GOOD, but it is a devastating look at growing up female, black, and poor.  There is an thread of hope throughout, though, which left me feeling like the book was short and beautiful.  The main thing I took from Woodson’s novel is that I need to be more intentional about including diverse authors in my reading list.

26109391Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

The setup of this book made me assume that it would deal with its central issues of agoraphobia and panic disorders with casual flippancy, but I was so mistaken!  Everything was handled respectfully (and entertainingly, since it is, after all, a novel).  I really liked that the story revealed how messed up everyone was, whether they were diagnosable or not.  Well, except for Clark.  Just like our two main characters, I also fell in love with him.

the-little-princeThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery

This story has existed in the periphery of my experience for years and years, but I was never interested enough to sit down and read it.  Until this month, when I bought a cute little hardback copy on Santorini and immediately read the whole thing.  It is so sweet, so sad, and so poignant.  I love the emphasis on childish creativity and love, and how valuable it is to cling to those things even as we become adults.  I especially loved the story of the fox and how we are responsible for the things (and people) we tame.

9780142180679_ScandalsofCl-CVF.inddScandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen

It is a testament to Petersen’s writing capabilities that I have almost no knowledge of classic Hollywood or the actors and actresses that dominated tabloids in the 1910s – 1950s, but I still really enjoyed this book!  That because the book is not about the people specifically; it’s a fascinating look at culture, fame, and changing societal mores.  It asks why one person’s scandal was forgiven while a similar scandal ruined someone else’s career.  I could easily imagine modern equivalents to these situations, and I found myself wishing she would write a follow-up book!

annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeerAnnihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

I bought this at the recommendation of a bookshop worker, and wow was it weird.  It was genuinely creepy because everything was OFF in this indescribable way.  I was so unnerved by it that I could only read it during the daylight hours, but I had to keep reading because it’s story was so compelling.  I had decided to buy it because I was intrigued by its cast of characters including only women, and this remained its high point for me.

unknownThe Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

I wanted this book to be about the merging of two cultures (Indian and French) and how food brings people together.  It was not about that.  It was about how an Indian prodigy chef managed to rise to fame despite his humble background.  Which, now that I phrase it that way, is a compelling story.  Unfortunately, it was not the story I expected, so I found myself increasingly uninterested.

51t5lwxhdhlMagnus Chase: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

I am continuously amazed at how Riordan manages to take the same formula and finds ways to make it fresh.  I am especially amazed that the way he chose to make the Magnus Chase series fresh is by ramping up his level of representation.  This book is phenomenal, boasting a five person main cast that includes a practicing Muslim woman, a formerly homeless teenage boy whose talents skew feminine, a black dwarf devoted to fashion, a deaf elf, and a transgender/genderfluid person.  I LOVE that Riordan decided to take the fantasy trope of shape-shifting and use that to explicitly talk about gender fluidity.  That is total genius.  Oh, and the plot is super fun, I love how Loki is both very evil and very victimized, I love the giants and their illusions, I love the epic wedding showdown.  More, please!

the_thread_webThe Thread by Victoria Hislop

This novel tells the history of Thessaloniki specifically, and Greece generally, through the story of one family.  It helped me SO much to piece together all the holidays I’ve seen celebrated and names I’ve heard dropped while living in Athens for a year.  Finally everything was put together in a cohesive narrative, and I understand more than ever the pride and pessimism that makes up the stereotypical Greek mindset.  A lot has happened in this country in the last century, and I enjoyed reading its history within a novel.  Great sneaking education!

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DUBSMASH at the Palace of Knossos in Crete

I have a new obsession:  Dubsmash!  This app has provided me with HOURS of gleeful giggling at my face, which is honestly one of my favorite pastimes.  I think I’ll try to put together some compilations like this one so that everyone else can have a good laugh (and perhaps join the app yourself!  and friend me so we can send dumb videos to each other!).

The Palace of Knossos is remarkable and beautiful and everyone should visit it while in Crete…but you won’t see much of that in this video.  Instead, there are time travel references, screaming Indiana Jones, and a valley girl who almost definitely existed thousands of years ago too.

A Weekend in the Island of Hydra

They say a good story uses the “show, don’t tell” policy, so there’s a very good chance that this video, in which Mallory and I walk around talking about being in Hydra without actually showing Hydra, will only be interesting to those who are obligated to love us.

For everyone else, here’s a little show AND tell.

Hydra is an island about two hours from the Athenian port of Piraeus.  I suggested Mallory and I visit it when she came to Greece because a Rick Steve’s guidebook that my Dallas family gave me said it was the best easily visited Greek island.  When I heard that it’s famous for its total lack of cars, I was sold.  I have always wanted to go somewhere without automobiles!

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I Went to a Greek Women’s Conference about Joy

Two of my co-workers are on a committee that creates a yearly inter-denominational conference for Greek Christian women.  When they invited me to join them by saying, “It’s at a resort by the beach, and the cost of €100 includes two nights in a 4-star hotel plus six buffet gourmet meals,” it was very easy to say yes.

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Dina drove me to Euboea, a massive island near Athens, and we got to the resort hours before the 200+ women who were attending the three-day conference.  Due to poor planning on the part of the resort, about half of us had to spend the first night at a nearby sister-hotel.  Dina dropped me off there while she worked, and I had virtually AN ENTIRE HOTEL to myself for five hours.  It was AMAZING.

Later that first night, the buses full of women arrived.   Continue reading

Friends, Food, and Spiritual Insight: A Christian Conference in Greece

A few weeks ago, Anthi invited me to join her and some friends in going to Leutraki (near Corinth) for a weekend conference with the Free Evangelicals of Athens.  Apparently I have not been attending a Free Evangelical church, but when asked my opinion on free will vs. predestination (“I think they’re both right, but we don’t know how”) I was given clearance to come.

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I didn’t expect to learn anything, since the whole conference would be in Greek, but I was super into the location.  We stayed at a resort by the sea and paid only €105 for two nights and six buffet meals.  That would have been enough to satisfy me, but Anthi made sure to find translators for me during each presentation.

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Can we pause a second and talk about how humbling it is to not know a language?  There’s the everyday “everyone is talking about something, and I have no idea what it is!” and the similar “oh no, they are asking me to perform and all I can think of is ‘Μιλἀω ελληνικἀ λἰγα αλλἀ νομἰζω οτἰ ξεχνἀω πολὐ’ and I said that last time.”  But there’s also the next level up: being translated to while 130 people sit around you.  This is maybe an introvert-specific humiliation, since my highest aim in life is to blend in.  There’s something so humbling about letting everyone know that you’re alone in your confusion and that you need help.  This is a good thing, I think, learning to accept help….I just don’t like the process of learning it.   Continue reading

LIVEBLOGGING: The Moon-Spinners

When I was a kid, we had the VHS version of The Moon-Spinners that I absolutely loved.  I watched it multiple times, and when it was released on DVD I got it for nostalgia’s sake.  But I haven’t watched it yet!  I brought it with me to Greece (because it’s set here), and I had two very important questions I needed answered:

  1.  Is the guy still as hot as I remember?
  2. Is the cheetah still as awesome?

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  • Yuck, I hate how movies used to put loads of credits before the film without even a cool James Bond montage of psychedelic symbolism. 
  • Crete is on my destination wish list, but not the public transit there…in the 60s, at least. 50s?  70s?  I have no sense of the recent past. 
  • Hayley Mills is British? Huh, I didn’t remember that.

Fran:  I say, I wonder if you’d be so kind as to put that (dead fish swinging in her face) somewhere else?
Man: *stares uncomprehendingly*
Nikki:  THE FISH. COULD YOU PUT IT SOMEWHERE?  IT’S A BIT STRONG. COULD YOU PUT IT SOMEWHERE ELSE?
Man: *continues to stare uncomprehendingly*
Fran: I don’t know why one always thinks foreigners will understand English if one shouts.

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No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by REX/Moviestore Collection (1659596a) The Moon-spinners, Joan Greenwood, Hayley Mills Film and Television
  • I understand the Greek!! It’s like, the simplest words, but still!
  • Of course they enter town on donkeys while a fancy wedding is taking place. That has not been my experience…maybe I need to tour island villages until it happens. 
  • Telegram? Is this the 40s??? When did telegrams happen?
  • Musicologist? That sounds like a cool job, traveling around to find and record folk songs. 
  • You can tell they’re the female protagonists because instead of getting upset by some truly rude behavior, they put their hands to their foreheads and chuckle about it. 
  • “I bet the Englishman is super old and boring,” she says, not realizing he is a dreamboat. I HOPE HE’S AS MUCH OF A DREAMBOAT AS I REMEMBER. 
  • Those short shorts and THAT ACCENT as he vaguely threatens his stalker!  

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Video Blogs of Jenna’s Visit!

I really like editing together vlogs with varying levels of seriousness, so when Jenna said she was okay with my documenting our adventures, I had a ball!  Here are the vlogs I made of her four-day visit!

1|  Jenna arrived in the afternoon and we hurried downtown to do a little sight-seeing and a LOT of eating.

2|  We made the most of our tourist day by visiting All The Things:  the Acropolis and its super-cool new museum, the Temple of Zeus, and the 1896 Olympic Stadium, where we were big weirdos and it was so much fun.   Continue reading