Book Reviews: February 2017

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It’s been a short and busy month, so I only managed 3 books, but my reactions to them vary widely, so here goes:

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The Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Rudolf Erich Raspe:

My only knowledge of this book of tall tales comes from the adaptation by Terry Gilliam (I’ve never seen the movie, but I know of it), but it was on sale and I thought it would be a fun, quick read. Well, it’s certainly quick, but not as entertaining as I hoped. Some tales get a chuckle or two from me, others are just too random and meandering for my taste. 2/5

The Rainbow Troops by Andrea Hirata:

This book was recommended to be by one of the editors at the publishing house I freelance for, so I thought it was worth considering. It’s about a group of children on a remote Indonesian island who defy all odds to maintain their rights to an education, so I thought it would be one of those sweet, charming, inspirational children’s book (in the vein of one of my favorite books, Totto-chan). Boy, was I wrong, on both counts. This could have been a great book, but the writing was terrible. The author keeps telling us everything instead of showing us, so the inspirational becomes preachy, the moving becomes cheesy, the funny becomes cliched. And it was supposed to be semi-autobiographical, but I didn’t buy any of the stuff that happened in it nor did I connect to any of the characters. I don’t think I’m going to take a recommendation from these editors ever again. But then, these are the people who thought a pile of garbage like The Atlantis Gene (it’s not even a best-selling pile of garbage like, say, the Twilight series) is worth translating, so what did I expect? 1/5

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer:

No, this is not a sci-fi/fantasy time-traveling story, it’s just non-fiction book about life in Elizabethan England, both the good and the bad, the glorious of a “Golden Age” and the not-so-glorious. It is incredibly detailed, but it’s written like a travelogue, with chapters devoted to what to eat, what to wear, where to stay, how to travel, what to do for entertainment, etc. so it’s really easy to read. Some may find the details tedious, but I love it. I’m going to read his other book, The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England, as well. 5/5

So that’s it for me this month. What books have you guys read?


SIA Inspiration: Movie Poster

It’s again my turn to host SIA, and since the Oscars is this Sunday, I decided to celebrate by picking a movie poster as our inspiration this week:

The movie poster is pretty much a lost art these days, but occasionally you can still find some great ones. I was debating between this and Moonlight, which is a great design too, but in the end, I decided to go with the poster of one of my favorite films from last year – the criminally underrated Sing Street (I watched it on the plane from Hanoi to Amsterdam and I was in love. Seriously, go watch it).

Of course, since I’m living out of a suitcase at the moment, the predominantly black-and-green palette helps too. That said, there are a lot of great little details and pops of color here for you to play around with, and if you can put together an outfit inspired by the movie itself, all the better. Just don’t forget to send your outfits to me (14shadesofgreyblog@gmail.com) by next Monday, February 27th. Enjoy!


Hello From Singapore

singapore outfit by 14 shades of grey

Just a quick post to let you guys know my week in Singapore is going well. It’s been raining almost every day, so it’s a lot cooler than I expected. I could’ve worn jeans if I wanted to! Still, I didn’t regret my packing strategy – I have plenty of choices for mix-and-match. The above outfit is a good sampler of what I wear most days (often I would have to add my blazer as well, because like I said, Singaporeans like their AC set to “arctic”.) I actually left a pair of sandals at home – three pairs of shoes are plenty – and I didn’t miss them at all.

I’m pretty busy with my students in classes and on excursions so I won’t be able to post much in the next two weeks, but there will be SIA posts on Monday as usual. See you guys!


Singapore Packing List II

Remember when I went to Singapore for 3 days to see Dylan Moran back in 2015? And I said I wished I had stayed longer? Well, wish granted – I’m going to back Singapore, for 3 weeks this time, on a work trip. I’m shepherding a group of students to participate in an exchange program with another university there, which is pretty exciting. Still, I’m glad that I’ve already been to Singapore; that means I can better focus on my task and help the students instead of figuring out a new country.

Of course, it helps with the packing as well. I’ve never packed for a business trip before, but luckily it’s a pretty casual affair, so my packing list came together pretty quickly. I didn’t have the time to doodle or paint it this time, so a quick photo will have to do:

singapore packing list by 14 shades of grey

Tops: 2 button-ups (white & blue print), 2 sleeveless blouses (white & blue print), 2 dressy tees (black & white), and 2 casual tees (black & gray)

Bottoms: 2 wide-leg pants (black & white), 1 casual navy linen pants, & 1 dressy gray linen pants

Shoes: 1 pair of black flats and 2 pairs of sandals (brown & nude)

Accessories: 1 scarf, 1 necklace, 1 brooch

As you can see, it’s all light, natural fabric in neutral colors, to maximize the mix and match. Now, the difficult thing is that we’re having a cold snap here in Hanoi, meaning I’m going to travel from one climate to another. So I had to plan a separate airplane outfit, something that’s warm enough and can still be worn in Singapore:

singapore airplane outfit by 14 shades of grey

My trusty striped tee, a black blazer, black khaki pants, a big (but light) scarf, and sneakers. We’re going to walk a lot, so the sneakers are a must, and they tend to crank their AC to “arctic”, so I suspect the scarf and blazer won’t be superfluous either. With each trip, my packing gets a little better, so we’ll see how well I packed this time!


Pond In The Woods

green coat green scarf navy jeans brown booties by 14 shades of grey

Like I said, this SIA is pretty easy for me – green, blue, brown, black. When I saw the inspiration painting (“Pond in the Woods” by Georgia O’Keeffe, just in case you forgot), I immediately thought of this coat and this scarf. The rest of the outfit came together very quickly. Then I added my ceramic brooch, because the circle shape and the pattern are reminiscent of the painting, and the swirls of colors in the painting look like glazes to me as well. Done, and done.

Don’t forget to check Erin’s blog to see how others interpret this!

green coat green scarf navy jeans by 14 shades of greygreen coat green scarf navy jeans brown booties by 14 shades of grey

green coat green scarf navy jeans brown booties by 14 shades of grey

green coat green scarf ceramic brooch by 14 shades of greygreen coat green scarf by 14 shades of grey

Top: Uniqlo, Scarf & Boots: local shops, Jeans: Mango, Coat: thrifted, Brooch: vintage


Glint, Gleam, Glitter

black embellished sweater green scarf blue jeans black pumps by 14 shades of grey

So the traditional outfit from Wednesday’s post is what I wore to the Lunar New Year celebration at work, and here’s what I wore at home – it was mostly a day of preparing, cooking, and eating food, so I wanted something simple that I could move around in, but I also wanted to show a sense of festivity too, so this embellished sweatshirt was the perfect choice. (The scarf and the shoes were literally an afterthought – I spent most of the day indoors so there was no need for them; they were lying around so I just threw them on for the pictures.)

black embellished sweater green scarf blue jeans by 14 shades of greyblue jeans black pumps by 14 shades of grey

Sweatshirt: Zalora, Jeans: Sneak Peek, Scarf & Shoes: local shops

A bit of unrelated note on the title: I was running out of titles when I suddenly remembered this bit in Terry Pratchett’s A Slip of the Keyboard, in which he talks about how some words sound exactly like their meaning. Here, I’ll bring up the quote: “I like the fortuitous onomatopoeia of words for soundless things. Gleam, glint, glitter, glisten … they all sound exactly as the light would sound if it made a noise. Glint is sharp and quick, it glints, and if an oily surface made a noise it would go glisten.” Thinking about words like that, feeling them like that, that’s the mark of a good writer.


Traditional

ao dai black flats by 14 shades of grey

As you can see, this isn’t your typical #ootd. It’s a áo dài (literally “long shirt”), the Vietnamese national costume, something people wear mostly for special occasions. At our school, for example, people would wear it for things like graduation ceremonies and Teacher Day’s celebration. It’s not mandatory, but you’re encouraged to. I’ve gotten away with wearing dresses or skirts on most of those occasions, but I’ve been wanting a set of my own – it’s like a Vietnamese version of the LBD, something you should have in your closet – so I bought this over the Lunar New Year (it was warm enough for me to actually wear this to the Lunar New Year party at our school this past Friday.)

The áo dài has been through many incarnations, but at its most basic, it’s a long tunic worn over pants. In recent years, the trend is tight-fitting, shorter tunics worn over straight-leg or skinny cropped pants, but I prefer a more loose-fitting silhouette, similar to the style of the 1930’s-1940’s (though of course, the traditional style would have a high collar instead of a round one like mine.) And the best part? The pants can be worn separately. Often áo dài’s pants are made of white silk and not meant to be worn with other tops, but these are made just like culottes, so I’m totally going to wear them in the summer.

ao dai black flats by 14 shades of greyao dai black flats by 14 shades of grey

ao dai black flats by 14 shades of greyao dai by 14 shades of grey

Áo dài & Culottes: local boutique, Flats: Vagabond