Entertainment

Music to Create By

I am a big fan of Amanda Palmer. I mean, how can I not be? She’s pretty freakin’ awesome and (bonus!) is married to one of my favorite authors.

Her music is great. I heard “The Bed Song” when the video was released on Valentine’s Day last year and knew I had to have the “Theatre is Evil” CD.

 

Theatre_Is_Evil

 

It’s a good soundtrack to paint by. Here’s the video for “The Killing Type”, which is one of my favorite songs on the CD. Enjoy!

Check out the Amanda Palmer youtube channel for more of her videos.

Please notice the warning at the beginning- if you don’t like cursing or mild gore, go ahead and skip this one. Also don’t follow any of the links in this post.

 

Music to Create By

Haim has been my latest musical obsession. I like their sound and it reminds me of music I grew up listening to. I think my favorite song from their album right now is “My Song 5″.

 

 

Here’s their video for “The Wire”. I like to blast their music at high volumes while painting and creating creatures!

 

Favorite Books of 2013

As we head into 2014, I’d like to share my top books of 2013.

Last month a friend asked me to pick my top ten books of all time and that was one of the hardest lists to write. So I’m only picking from what I read in 2013 for this.

I’ve read over 60 books this year and these are the ones that stood out for me. The books on this list are from multiple genres and were published in various years.

Here’s my list of favorite books that I read in 2013:

1.) The Twelve by Justin Cronin

This is the second book in The Passage trilogy. The Twelve left me unsure of what I could possibly read after it because I couldn’t think of anything that could follow this.

This is the kind of story that I strive to create someday. It is a beautiful story about humankind, it is an adventure and a tale that takes you out of your world and into another.

The characters grab you and make you a part of their lives. I was shocked by some of the twists and had to talk to people about it even though they weren’t reading the book and had no clue what I was going on about.

It kept me awake late into the night because I could not put it down.

The Passage is the first book in the trilogy and I read it right before this one. It was really good and engrossing, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as this one. That being said, you have to read the first one to understand the second.

The third book, The City of Mirrors, is due to be published sometime in 2014. I cannot wait!

 

2.) The Lost City of Z by David Grann

I enjoyed every single word of this book. I love the era that it takes me back to, a time when people risked their lives to explore.

A time when the world wasn’t connected to everything by technology, when people could disappear and no one would know what truly happened to them. It amazes me to think that this wasn’t that long ago.

It fascinates me to read books like this that are recounting things that really happened. I am intrigued to learn about how people used to live, and how explorers did what they did.

Percy Fawcett may have disappeared, but his story lives on. You have got to admire a man who fights that hard for what he believes, even when most people think that he is crazy.

 

3.) Under the Dome by Stephen King

This book is 1074 pages, but it could have been 1000 pages more and I would have loved every second of it. I finished this in less than a week.

Stephen King is a master at creating characters. The good ones and bad ones. I hated the Rennies with every fiber of my being. I was planning ways for them to be tortured or killed. Or both.

That is talent. To be able to create fictional characters that people feel so strongly about is amazing. The good characters are soooooo good.

This book is a triumph. I will certainly read it again. It breaks your heart, makes you angry as hell, makes you laugh, makes you cry, and makes you think.

You are missing out if you don’t read this. Especially if you don’t read this and only watch the mini-series on television.

The series is fine, but it is a different story. It is missing some great characters and story lines. The book is an easy and fantastic read.

 

4.) The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

This book sucked me in. It is well written and enthralling. It is a great story and also reawakened a fondness for Chicago.

I enjoyed the history and architecture tidbits, like finding out how the Ferris Wheel was invented. I found that fascinating.

The parts about Holmes are horrifying, yet also intriguing. The idea that someone can be so well known among his neighbors and no one is aware of his being a serial killer is scary.

The tale of building the World’s Fair, even without the weaving in of the serial killer story, is suspenseful. The hurdles that had to be overcome were large and daunting.

Even knowing beforehand that the World’s Fair took place and wasn’t a huge failure, I was on edge reading this. It was so perfectly worded and paced that it read like a novel.

This non-fiction recount of a magical time in our past is a must-read.

 

5.) Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton

If you don’t already follow HONY on a social media site, you should. Sure, there’s not a lot of reading to be done in this book, but it is a delight.

Stanton has a knack for getting people to share personal information and capturing beautiful moments in his pictures. This book isn’t so much about people in a specific location as it is about humankind in general.

This book is great for making you smile or lifting your spirit. Open it up to any page and what you see there will make your day that much better.

I enjoy this book so much that I sent a thank you to Stanton.

 

6.) Getting Stoned with Savages by J. Maarten Troost

I love everything by J. Maarten Troost. He’s one of the most entertaining and hilarious travel writers that I have ever read. I read Lost on Planet China years ago and it has stuck with me. I can still recall his descriptions of the pollution in the air vividly.

This time we find Troost in Vanuatu, among cannibals. His ensuing adventures are endearing and so very funny.

I have always felt that this man gets me. His introduction to this book in particular perfectly described how I was feeling about my own life at the time.

A great, self-deprecating author that I might possibly have a little crush on. Read his work. It’s highly entertaining.

 

7.) Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

This is only 80 pages long, but it is 80 pages of amazing. It is intelligent and uplifting.

If you create anything or consider yourself a dreamer, you should read this. I keep it close so that I can pick it up and feel understood.

Life can go wrong and when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art. I’m serious…. Make it on the good days too.

 

8.) The Green Mile by Stephen King

Yes, Stephen King is on here twice. I have always enjoyed his work, but what I’ve read this year of his makes me realize what a great writer King is.

I had seen this movie a few times and I know how much better the books always are. The Shining is a great example of this- the book is 100 times better than the movie. This book is no exception.

When I finished this, I had tears on my face and all I kept thinking was, “wow”. I may even have said it out loud.

Read it. And then read it again.

I learned a terrible thing: sometimes there is absolutely no difference at all between salvation and damnation.

 

9.) The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

The first thing I want to say is that if you think you don’t need to read this book because you saw the movie, think again.

The movie and the book are two completely different stories. The movie is great. The book is amazing.

This story is so real. Pat peoples is such a great character and a seriously wonderful person who was dealt a shitty hand. Some parts are so heartbreaking.

I love the ending, where he pushes aside his own feelings for a moment and is able to recognize what he has in front of him.

The therapist, Cliff, is such an awesome character in the book. He plays a much larger role than in the movie. He is truly great. The father is also a different character entirely in the book.

This is such fantastic writing and an earnest look at someone dealing with difficult situations.

 

10.) Looking for Alaska by John Green

You cannot go wrong with John Green. Everything he writes is golden. If this were a list of what I read from last year The Fault in Our Stars would be high on it.

This is a wonderful story. It is beautifully written and reads with ease. It made me laugh and cry.

Miles, the main character, is searching for his “Great Perhaps” and memorizes the last words of famous people.

This will make you think about your choices and how you live your life. I love this paragraph from the book:

There were so many of us who would have to live with things done and things left undone that day. Things that did not go right, things that seemed okay at the time because we could not see the future. If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can’t know better until knowing better is useless.

 

11.) Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

From the beginning there was no question that Agnes was going to die, but I still found myself hoping that she would find reprieve.

This book is a dynamic story that has real characters (portrays people that actually lived, but also are written in a way that makes them human to the reader).

The setting is as much a character as any of the people. It’s a beautiful look at Iceland and a wonderful recount of history.

It makes you think about truth and how it can vary based on the person who tells it. It makes you think about innocence and justice.

Hannah Kent did a great job with her debut novel and I will definitely read her again.

 

12.) Everything Must Go by Elizabeth Flock

This is a beautifully written book. I was pleasantly surprised. I found it at the library and really didn’t expect much at the time. I had never read Elizabeth Flock or heard of this book.

This is the story of Henry, who is unremarkable, but wants to be remarkable. He is a man who made a mistake as a child that he cannot seem to outlive, and that his family won’t let him outlive.

I found it very easy to identify with Henry and his story. I also found it scary, how simple it was for him to stay in his rut, getting older and not even realizing.

We are left with a sense that maybe, just maybe, there will be a happy ending for him. But we don’t get to see it. We see the possible beginning of it.

Flock is a very talented author and I look forward to reading her other work. This one was certainly worth the read.

 

Some Inspiration

It’s been a busy week here at CandaceOnline. If you haven’t yet noticed, there were some changes made to the website.

The home and product pages have been updated. The menu on the right has new links to my shop and social media sites. There’s a new search option, too.

You can now subscribe by email to my blog. I have also added a new Gallery page where you can view my arts and crafts all in one place.

I hit over 50,000 words on my NaNoWriMo novel on the 14th, a day before the halfway point! My goal for the month has been upped to 80,000.

Last but not least, if you missed the announcement, my Etsy shop opened yesterday. You can get 20% off this weekend in celebration of the grand opening. Just enter the code GRANDOPEN at checkout.

Now that you’ve been updated, let me leave you with some inspiration!

Youtube is a great place to find videos that will offer you motivation and encouragement. Whatever your thing is, there are videos up there on how to do it, tips, tricks, etc.

I love going on there and watching the videos of people doing their artwork. Some of my favorites are the ones doing abstract paintings. As you guys know, that is my thing these days!

I’ve been knocking out new sets of abstracts on a regular basis. Usually I have a starting point in mind, what colors and shapes I will use, but sometimes I just start slapping paint on the canvas and go from there.

I love the videos done by John Beckley. Here’s a great one by him:

 

Halloween!

Halloween is my favorite holiday. After that Christmas is my favorite. (I love the decorations, claymation movies, picking out/creating gifts and wrapping presents).

I like Thanksgiving alright because, you know, food.

I love Zombie babies, horror movies, scary decorations. I love the excitement, the chill in the air. I don’t like being cold, but I do like winter clothes!

We’re entering the time of year where the days just feel magical. It’s the holiday season, with parades and parties, where you spend time with loved ones you haven’t seen in a year. So yay!

I know a lot of people don’t share my excitement for the holidays, and that’s fine. I try to find the positive in things. Believe me, I have things about the holidays that I wish I could avoid.

Next week, though, is the holiday I look forward to the most. Kids will be trick-or-treating, dressing up in costumes, getting scared.

I’ve been thinking about my costume for a year now. I love the movie REC. Which lead me to watch the sequels, which aren’t as good. The third movie actually has nothing to do with the first two.

The third movie is hilarious in its ridiculousness. But I knew when I saw it that I had to be Clara for Halloween. So I found a cheap white dress at a thrift store and ripped it up, coated it in fake blood.

I don’t think I will get to wear it this year, as my original plans changed and I most likely won’t be putting on a costume. I’ll probably wear it next Halloween instead.

What I do know is that whatever I do on Halloween this year, I will have fun. I will still be excited because I love the holiday. To me, it’s the official start of the season.

The day after Halloween is the start of NaNoWriMo, which always adds a bit of anticipation/tension to the 31st.

It’s going to be awesome this year! I hope all of you have a great Halloween and that you find something to enjoy in this holiday season, even if it isn’t usually your thing.

Think you love Halloween and the holiday season as much or more than me? Prove it! I’d love to see your costumes and hear what you like about the holidays! Send me pictures and stories!

Music to Create By

My Latest Obsession: Goodreads

OK, I know that I am slow to buy into whatever happens to be popular. I question everything and automatically want to dislike something if it is “in”.

But… I recently checked out Goodreads and I am in love. If you are already a fan of the site, that’s great. Let’s high-five and you can ignore this blog post. If you aren’t familiar with it, then read on.

I am always reading. I love finding a new book to read. I love libraries and used bookstores. The smell of books makes me happy.

I am such a nerd that since 2006, I have kept a “book database” where I track the books I’ve read, when I read them and I write a review of it. I think I’ve covered my deep affection for books and literature previously, so I’ll get back on topic.

Goodreads has a thing where you can track what you’ve read in a year and set a goal for yourself. It tells you how far you are in your goal, how many books ahead or behind you are. This makes me giddy.

For kicks, I set a goal of 50 books for this year, pulled out my database and plugged in what I’ve read so far. I’m ahead of schedule by 6 books right now!

Also, there are book clubs. I used to do Barnes and Nobles online book clubs, but stopped awhile back. Now I am trying out one on Goodreads and so far it is a good experience.

I like the daily email digests that I get and I enjoy the friendly atmosphere. I like that you can make bookshelves in Goodreads.

So, I’ve been geeking out since I came across it. I mean, I love that I can enter the book I am currently reading, what page I am on, and it will tell me what percentage I am through.

Obviously, some basic math will get me that number also, but still. I like it. It gives me a thrill.

If you have become a fan of your favorite authors or rated a book, you will get messages inviting you to events involving the things you like. For instance, in a few days they are doing a Q&A with an author I enjoy and I was invited to submit a question to be asked of him.

You can add your friends, see what they are reading. You can take quizzes on books, find quotes you like, follow your favorite authors, make a list of books you want to read, get ebooks, get reading recommendations based on what you’ve read, etc.

And of course, there is an app for it.

If you are a book lover like me, you’ll probably like Goodreads.

Music to Create By

I am obsessed with Lorde. Seriously, “The Love Club- EP” album is amazing. My favorite song on there is “Bravado”. In fact, this piece is named “Bravado” because I had the song set to repeat the whole time I was working on it. Check her out.

 

Music to Create By

One of my all-time favorite bands is Mr. Gnome. They are my go-to band to blast at full volume while I make art. If you don’t know them, you can thank me later for introducing you. Now, go listen to them!

 

My Latest Obsession: Duolingo

A few weeks ago, I discovered Duolingo. If you aren’t aware of what this is, it’s a totally free language-learning website.

They offer 6 different languages: Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian- and for those who aren’t native English speakers- English. The goal is to translate the internet.

There are lessons to do and articles to translate. It’s way cool! You get points when you successfully translate sentences and do the lessons.

There is a social aspect to the site. You can add friends, follow their progress, and compete with them. There are discussions on the lessons and anything else involving learning your chosen language.

One of my favorite bloggers- Christine Gilbert over at Almost Fearless is challenging her readers to a “bilingual summer”. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, she and any readers who want to participate are trying to beat each other in points.

Of course, being me, I love this! I finally pulled ahead of Christine today. I have over 1600 points!

I also love that you can learn more than one language at a time. I am currently studying Spanish, Portuguese and French. I feel like I am progressing well and I am enjoying it.

I get on there every day, even if I don’t have time to do a full lesson I will do a quick practice lesson in each language. It helps that you can set Duolingo to email you a reminder to study and that there is an app.

The emails are a kind of pep talk, giving you suggestions on learning goals for the day and telling you how many days you’ve studied in a row (called a learning streak).

A lot of times I do my practice lessons on my iPad, which is cool because I can use the microphone on there and not on my computer (my issue, not theirs). So I get to practice my pronunciation and change things up.

I spent hours on there the first day I signed up. I am addicted. It’s fun and easy. I’ve found myself translating conversations in my head into one of the languages I am studying.

I find it provides motivation to continue learning in other ways. I’ve been turning on Spanish subtitles when I watch DVDs and listening to more music in foreign languages.

A cool option for people who are already familiar with the basics of their chosen language is to test out of a lesson. If you don’t want to start at the beginning and can pass the tests, you can skip on ahead.

Duolingo will tell you if you need to strengthen a skill you have already learned. For instance, I had completed my color lesson in Portuguese, but hadn’t used any of the words from that lesson in awhile.

When I logged in the other day, a pop-up told me that I needed to work on this lesson again or my knowledge of it would weaken. This is exactly the kind of feedback that I need and find helpful.

I’ve used Rosetta Stone in the past and it was not as much fun for me. I feel like I didn’t retain the information as well. I am so excited to have this free option.

Duolingo is only a year old. They just celebrated their one year anniversary this past week and it seems they have big plans for the future. They will be adding more languages and released their android app last month.

If you are interested in learning a new language, check out Duolingo before you spend money on anything. If you think you can beat me in points, send me an email with your user name and I’ll add you!

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