August 29, 2016

Recent Reads

126. Pablo: Art Masters Series
I have yet to read a Picasso biography and thought this graphic biography might be a good place to start. I was mistaken. There were lots of people coming and going, and since I did not know many of them, it made for a rather confusing read. I gather this is also a collected edition, which might explain some of the choppiness of the reading experience.

I was expecting a biography of his entire life and work, but this one is rather narrow in scope, and is restricted to the first several years as an artist in Paris. There is all the usual artistic angst, and what I really liked is that this story is told by Fernande Olivier, his lover, obsession and muse for the years they were together. The woman behind the man and his paintings in an interesting angle. I really liked the art and the mood evoked by the color palette used. The story does capture the excitement of Paris in that time period really well. I clearly need to move a biography of the man, and maybe the memoir of Fernande up my TBR pile. Rating: 2 stars.

127. Ballpoint Art Pack: Cool Techniques and Creative Explorations for Drawing with an Everyday Pen
Creative people tend to collect supplies. If you create art, then your hoarding tendencies run toward art supplies, paints, etc. There is this strange phenomena where we often think that if we only knew what paper/pen/ink/insert your crazy here, we would also be able to create in the manner of artists we admire. In the midst of all that collecting of supplies it's easy to forget to actually create, and this wonderful little book reminds us that all you really need is a pen. A simple Bic will do. There are examples that cover various techniques, and the gallery of art is a wonderful reminder that less can be indeed be more. Rating: 4 stars.

128. Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond
I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by the author.

When we think about Pandemics, most of us think about them in a historical context, and there seems to be this strange belief that we'll be able to successfully deal with whatever pathogens come our way with the aid of the super duper drugs churned out by Big Pharma. Boy, oh boy, are we wrong.

How the topics and events in this book are not the headline news every single night is something I simply do not understand. Well, I do understand, because it is much more entertaining to hear about an escaped monkey, than to address the microbes said monkey might be spreading about on it's jaunt.

The topics covered in this book are a clear and present danger to all of us. Not those people over there, but all of us, and if we learn anything from history, it should be that microbes will find a way to become pathogens, and these in turn will find a way to spillover to humans.

I know there are other highly reviewed books out there on this subject but if, like me, you are new to really diving into these topics this is a great place to start. It is easy to read and digest, and the author makes complex subjects accessible to a layperson. This book explores not just the life cycle of pathogens and the history of pandemics, but also explores how medicine, big pharma, global travel, population numbers, habitat and environmental destruction, cultural norms, etc., all affect and contribute to the problem.

There are so many dots this book connected for me, and I learned about events that should have been major news stories that got little, if any, national coverage in the media. I found this a fascinating, educational, and terrifying read. I just picked up the ebook, and have not doubt that I will re-read it. I highly recommend this one. Rating: 5 stars.

129. Dogs and Water
This graphic novel is all about the journey, so don't even think about getting to any particular destination. It's a quick, if rather surreal, bleak, and dreamlike read. There is is guy walking down a long road with a stuffed bear strapped to his back. It's not clear where he came from, and equally unclear where he's headed. What is fascinating about this book is that the author is able to convey such a variety of emotions within this stark and lonely landscape. The simple black and white art is quite effective in evoking the right mood, and when I turned the last page I was unsure who was doing the dreaming. Rating: 2 stars.

130. The Vegetarian
Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2016.

I listened to the audiobook which was well narrated by Janet Song and Stephen Park.

The fascinating thing about reading translated works is that the worlds you step in are at once both bizarre and familiar. This South Korean novella is setup in three parts, each with a different point of view. I cannot quite explain why this story wormed it's way into my psyche, but I could not stop listening to it.

On the surface this is a rather simple story. A woman decides to stop eating meat, in spite of the title she is technically a Vegan, and as anyone who decides to buck popular culture knows, there are huge ramifications. I love that we don't really get her point of view, but rather each of the three narrators tell us about her and how her decision ripples out in their lives. The narrators are her husband, her brother-in-law, and her sister, and from their accounts we might actually get a better understanding of the situation than if we had simply heard from the vegetarian.

This little story explores really big themes quite deftly. In a sexist, patriarchal world, does a woman have agency over her life? Can she even make a decision about something as simple as what she puts in her mouth? Mental health is still a taboo subject, especially in many communities of color, and I admire the author for the way she handles it here. Once you decide to discard one social norm, does it make sense to follow any others? So much to chew on with this one.

The only reason I docked a star is because I felt the ending was rather rushed and I was left wanting more, but maybe that was intentional on the author's part. Rating: 4 stars.

August 27, 2016

Journal pages

Here are a couple more pages in my traveler's notebook. As always click images to view larger.

Are you ready for some football? This Hobonichi prompt reminded me of Green Bay Packers fans. I've been dipping in and out of the prompts. Many simply do not call to me.

How is it that I know so little about Margaret Sanger? This woman should be on stamps and currency. Created an homage page to her in the style of this graphic biography.

August 25, 2016

Cinemascope: The Forsyte Saga (Seasons 1 & 2)

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2002.

Plot line: Chronicles the lives of three generations of the upper-middle-class British family, the Forsytes, from the 1870s to 1920.

The Forsyte Saga, first published under that name in 1922, is a series of three novels and two interludes published between 1906 and 1921 by Nobel Prize–winning English author John Galsworthy. 

I have yet to read these books, but this PBS series is really, really good. I cannot wait to read the books. The cast is great, the opulence smothering, and the familial issues explored still relevant today.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is TV worth watching.

August 23, 2016

Summer 2016 Traveler's Notebook (Video)

DIY Fabric TN that I'm using this summer.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

Links to videos mentioned:
Fabric Journal Covers:
Easy-Peasy Journals:

August 22, 2016

Recent Reads

121. Death: The Time of Your Life
I'm a huge fan of the Sandman series, and have been intrigued by the sibling spin offs for a while, so thought I'd try this one. If I had to pick my favorite Endless sibling, after Dream, of course, it would be Death.

This graphic novel tells a story I did not expect. It is a coming out story, and while it was interesting, Death herself only makes a cameo appearance. While, we would wish that she visits us that infrequently in real life, I wanted more of her, and less of the melodrama of the coming out story. That being said, if you are in the closet and have coming out drama, or if you want to revisit those angsty days, you might like this one very much.

I, however, did not have the time of my life while reading this one. Rating: 2 stars.

122. The Golem and the Jinni
I listened to the audiobook, which is superbly narrated by George Guidall.

A golem and a jinni walk into a bar. Well, not a bar exactly, but New York city circa early 1900s.

I've been saving this book for just the right moment, after all, it is not everyday that I am in the mood for magical realism. I was pleasantly surprised that this one is more historical fiction than magical realism. There is the golem and the jinni and other magical stuff to be sure, but their story plays out against the backdrop of 1901 New York city.

The scope of this novel is wonderful. It is an immigrant story, a coming of age one, an exploration of various cultures and the clash of said cultures. History and mythology all swirl around seamlessly in this lovely tale. The author wonderfully juxtaposes the innate characteristics of a golem and a jinni against each other, and one cannot help but see all of humanity in this exploration. I was expecting the magical realism, but the philosophical musings were an unexpected delight. This is a fun and fantastical tale that really asks what it is to be human.

The only reason I docked a star is there is some repetitive stuff that could have been edited out to make this a tighter story. After finishing this I see that there will be a sequel, and I look forward to spending more time with Chava (the golem) and Ahmad (the jinni) during the Great War. Rating: 4 stars.

123. Cowboys and East Indians
"We were the wrong kind of Indians living in Wyoming."

While in college I worked in an after school program, and a five year old girl asked me if I was Spanish. When I said I was Indian, she paused, squinted her eyes, and then calmly said, " I thought all the Indians were dead."

Another flashback. When we were kids playing Cowboys and Indians in Kenya, all of us wanted to be Cowboys, because they were the good guys, besides the Indians all got killed. Sigh.

The immigrant experience tends to be unique to each immigrant, but so is the American experience. It is too easy to cast all Americans into one bucket and call it done, but the author quickly dissuades you of that notion. These stories all have an Indian at their center, the dot not feather kind, which is also the category I fall into.

I'm not a fan of the short story format, but I really liked the voice and glimpses of the American experience captured in this one. As with any collection, there are stories I loved, and others I did not, and the ones I loved have stayed me. Rating: 4 stars.

124. The Fireman
I was in the mood for a thrillery summer read, but do expect that a few brain cells will be engaged while I read said thriller. That is not the case with this one.

This post apocalyptic story has all the summer buzz this year, and it has two things going for it in my opinion: spontaneous human combustion and about 800 pages to wallow about in for a good while. You've probably heard of the premise by now, but in case you missed it, the world has gone to hell in a hand basket, and people are a flame, literally. You know you're infected when cool markings that look that tattoos start to appear on your body. Death by spontaneous combustion is right around the corner, so how is it that there is this guy who's infected but not burning to death?

On the plus side, I really liked the premise of the story, and some of the interesting plot points. The negatives however tip the scale. The characters are not fleshed out and do not develop at all over the course of the story. Given the ecological adage of move, adapt, or go extinct, the main characters should have gone extinct. After the initial setup and world building, the plot is rather ridiculous, and predictable. I'm no rocket scientist, but I knew where this was heading the entire time. I was annoyed by the magical realism touches as they were not developed enough to really belong to this genre story. The writing is rather pedestrian and simple and might have worked better if targeted at a young adult reader. I could go on and on, by why bother? The only reason this does not get a 1 star is that I actually finished it, and that is mainly because it was a really fast read despite its size.

This is the first novel I've read by the author, though I'm a fan of his graphic novel series, Locke and Key, and if you have not read it, I would highly recommend the series. He brings some of that talent to this book; so much of the dialog felt like it was a speech bubble. Ah well, I cannot love them all I suppose. Rating: 2 stars.

125. Finding Wild
The art in this children's picture book is gorgeous, and I really like the message of getting out and exploring the natural world to "find wild", however as an adult reader the text is rather underwhelming. This one is geared for the very young, and maybe it's just right for that audience, so if you've got littles in your home this one might be worth checking out. Rating: 2 stars.

August 20, 2016

Journal pages

The fun thing about reading graphic novels, is that I get exposed to a wide variety of artists and their styles. I really liked the sketchy art in this one, and decided to try and capture it in my art journal. As always, click on images to view larger.

I am finding that sketching on colored paper is both fun and challenging, and I can achieve interesting results with very few supplies.

August 18, 2016

Cinemascope: And There Were None

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2015.

Plot line:Ten strangers are invited to an island by a mysterious host, and start to get killed one by one. Could one of them be the killer?
And Then There Were None is a mystery novel by English writer Agatha Christie, widely considered her masterpiece and described by her as the most difficult of her books to write. This BBC One mini-series has an excellent cast, a very atmospheric setting, and does justice to Ms. Christie. A fun and suspenseful story that is all about the dialog and the plot. No special effects at all. 

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is TV worth watching.

August 17, 2016

Journal pages

Here are a couple of pages in my traveler's journal that are all about the Hobonichi Challenge. I do a couple prompts every so often. I clearly need to spend more time drawing sneakers. They are more complex than I imagined! As always click on images to view larger.

I always like seeing where people create, and this pic shows my desk in my newly cleaned and organized study.

The nice thing about the Hobonichi Challenge, is that the prompts give me a boost when I feel totally uninspired.

August 15, 2016

Recent Reads

116. Redemption Road
Summertime is the prefect time for fast paced thrillers, and this new one got rave reviews, so took it out for a spin. I've had this author on my TBR for a while, but this is the first book of his I've read. Color me disappointed. After about 200 pages, so about halfway through, I decided to stop wasting my time and DNF it.

I heard Helen Mirren say that the thing all humans have in common is our interest/fascination with sex and violence. TV, movies and best selling books seem to bear this out, but in my opinion there is a difference between violence that serves a purpose in story telling and gratuitous violence. This story seems to showcase the latter, but to give credit where credit is due, the violence is against both women and men. Equal opportunity violence.

The plot revolves around a young boy, a troubled female dectective, a cop recently released from prison, and a serial killer. It's set in a small town, so I'll suspend disbelief, and go along with the premise that they are all connected in the manner that unfolds. The problem is that the plot needs the violence to move it along, as there is no other anchor point into this story. The characters are not well fleshed out, their motivations are murky at best, and in a couple of instances simply mind boggling. The point of view changes from character to character, all in the third person, which does little to pull you into the story. The writing was not good enough to pull me along either, and I was bored. The reason I even got this far in the book is that it is a quick read, and I was at the halfway point in a couple of sittings. However, I could care less about these people and where they are headed, even though I think I have a pretty good idea of the grand reveal.

This was labeled as a literary thriller. I found it to be neither, but based on all the 5 star reviews, it might just be me. Rating: 1 star.

117. Shackleton's Journey
This children's illustrated book has won several awards so I was intrigued to see if it would be something my nieces and nephews would be interested in.

This is a large format book with very few pages, so is a quick read. The art is fun, and the way the author creates collections of stuff is interesting, but I did not learn anything new here, and some of the art and text is so tiny you'd need a magnifying glass to really see it. The text was rather bland, though maybe it would work for younger readers, in which case it would make a good introduction to Shackleton's adventure. I expected to find a book that would leave little readers inspired to explore, but that is not the feeling I was left with after reading this one. Rating: 2 stars.

118. Lady Susan
Book blurb: Jane Austen's earliest known serious work, Lady Susan is a short, epistolary novel that portrays a woman bent on the exercise of her own powerful mind and personality to the point of social self-destruction.

I read someplace that Ms. Austen wrote this when she was 19, and my already considerable esteem for her went up another notch. That someone so young could walk in the shoes of the much older Lady Susan is simply astounding. Austen writes wonderfully complex women characters, and this one is a fun and fast read. I quite enjoyed getting the story via various letters and from different letter writers. No one is seen as they imagine themselves to be, and the characteristic Austen wit is already fully formed in this one.

I listened to the audiobook with multiple narrators, and enjoyed the additional dimension that added to the story.

I wanted to read this one before watching the new movie, Love and Friendship. That Kate Beckinsale plays Lady Susan Vernon in the movie makes me so happy. Cannot wait to see how she inhabits that role. Rating: 4 stars.

119. Daring Adventures in Paint: Find Your Flow, Trust Your Path, and Discover Your Authentic Voice-Techniques for Painting, Sketching, and Mixed Media
This is a colorful book indeed, but the art is not really to my taste, and there is a bit too much whimsy and magic in this one. The most useful thing in this book is the two page spread at the end that outline the steps the author uses to create her art. The rest is simply filler in my opinion. Not for me. Rating: 1 star.

120. Giovanni's Room
I listened to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Dan Butler.

I have started and bailed on several recently released books lately, and whenever that happens, I reach for the classics.

I've had this novella on my TBR for ages, and cannot believe that I've waited so long to read a book by Baldwin. That this was first published in 1956 with this content is in itself a remarkable thing. What is even more remarkable is how relevant and fresh this story feels today.

This is a story about love, sexuality (gay, straight, and bi), betrayal, and guilt. The heart wants what the heart wants, but we must all live in society with others, and that places constraints on us all. There is much heartbreak in the world because of this, and the rawness and honesty of this book took my breath away. The writing is masterful, the characters fully fleshed out, the Paris setting evocative, the struggle of the human heart palpable. When I finished this one, I felt like I knew and cared about these people.

This is my first Baldwin, and I plan to read everything the man ever wrote. He is that good. Rating: 5 stars.

August 11, 2016

Cinemascope:The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2015.

Plot line: In 1970s San Francisco, a precocious 15-year-old (Bel Powley) embarks on an enthusiastic sexual odyssey, beginning with her mother's current lover (Alexander Skarsgård).

This coming of age story is not easy to watch, but the honesty of the telling is so dang compelling. There are lots of stories of the sexual awakenings of boys, but can you watch this one without judgement? All the while I was cringing, I could not look away. So many issues raised with this one.

This is movie is based on a graphic memoir, and I've added the book to my to be read pile.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

August 9, 2016

Journal pages

I'm going to attempt the Hobonichi Challenge this month. It's basically a prompt a day. Will see how that goes. The page below is for the first two days, and shows the art supplies I used.

I continue to play in my traveler's notebook, and am finding that my 100-Day project has started to influence my pages. So fun.

August 8, 2016

Recent Reads

111. Everything Is Teeth
This graphic memoir is so simple and yet incredibly effective. It tells the story of the author's obsession and fear of sharks as a young girl. The art is not complex, but sets the right mood for capturing the terrors of childhood. If like me you had a problem swimming after watching Jaws, then this is one for you. Beautifully and tenderly told. Rating: 4 stars.

112. Salem's Lot
I listened to the audiobook, which is superbly narrated by Ron McLarty.

If you know my reading habits, then you might know that I bookend sailing season with a King novel. He sure knows how to spin a yarn, and can evoke the claustrophobia of creepy small towns really well. I'd read this book decades ago but remembered so little of the actual plot, that I thought I'd do a re-read, something I very rarely do.

I love a good vampire story. The vampires of old, ala the Anne Rice and Bram Stoker kind. None of these "skin sparkles in sunlight" crap for moi. King does a decent job of paying homage to the genre, and it is clear, as he states in the introduction, that he was heavily influenced by Shirley Jackson and some of the "trash" he read as a kid.

While I liked this story, I did not love it as much as his other works. The build up is oh so slow, and the sheer number of characters mentioned, who add almost nothing to the story other than having their name dropped got a little tiresome after a while. It's the place and setting that pulled me along, and I enjoyed the ride well enough. Rating: 3 stars.

113. Y: The Last Man - The Deluxe Edition Book Two
This deluxe edition book two collects issues #11-23, and I liked this installment even less than the first one. Let me try to articulate why.

As I've said in my review of the first volume, just because all but one man dies, it's not as if the world stops turning. In this volume, we meet more groups of women, some of whom add absolutely nothing to the plot, other than as a means to show some barely clothed voluptuous bodies. If such a apocalypse were to occur, I'd agree that not all women would respond in the same way, so some of what the author does here could be seen as quite feminist. However, when the only "good girls" around are the ones trying to save the sole man, or are all about the man, it's hard not to see that as very anti-feminist in reality. There is almost no character development or depth, so it feels like watching two dimensional cutouts move across a stage. The Israeli angle is ludicrous, and I continue to be annoyed at all the stuff that no longer works - because you know what would be solved if all the men disappeared? Unemployment.

On the plus side, I liked the art much better in this volume, and there were scenes with more realistic women bodies, but at this point I'm wondering if I'm even interested enough to see where this story is headed to continue reading on. If you've read the series, and think I should, please chime in. Rating: 2 stars.

114. Becoming Unbecoming
I'd never heard of this author or graphic memoir, and am so grateful to my Goodreads friends whose reviews of it put in on my radar. This might well be the most thought provoking and important graphic memoir I've ever read. The author uses words and art to tell the heartbreaking account of the violence she experienced growing up, and then juxtaposes her personal story against a national serial killer story playing out in the media at that time. She explores how societal and cultural attitudes towards girls and women play a huge role in the gendered violence experienced.

We continue to live in a world that values girls and women less than boys and men. Girls and boys continue to grow up in a culture where male violence mostly goes unpunished and unquestioned. Victims of violence continue to live in a culture of silence and shame, and are further victimized by being held responsible for being the cause of the violence because of how they were dressed, or lived, etc.

The personal is political, and the political is personal. We are either part of the solution, or we are part of the problem. I cannot put into words how important a book this one is, and I'd recommend it to everyone. Rating: 5 stars.

115. The Collage Workbook: How to Get Started and Stay Inspired
I'm in the midst of the 100-day project, and creating a collage a day, so thought this book would give me some ideas. It's a basic introduction to collage, and there are some exercises to try, but it felt more like a showcase of the author's work, than something I found useful. If, however, you are completely new to collage, this might be just the right book for you. Rating: 2 stars.

August 6, 2016

Journal pages

Most people tend to be uncomfortable with solo dining. I enjoy it. I get a chance to really look at my fellow diners and sketch them in my traveler's notebook.

August 5, 2016

Journal pages

Playing in my traveler's notebook makes me happy. I love the flexibility of being able to bind different papers into each signature. The page on the left was created with acrylic paints and sharpie flip chart markers.

One of the ways I've changed my daily journal, is that I treat it more like a an actual travel journal, so have started including photos, ephemera, etc. in addition to to art play.

The thing about always have a journal and basic art supplies with me is that I can do quick 15 minutes watercolor sketches like the one above. My everyday carry supplies include some Derwent watercolor pencils, a pen, and a water brush. Light and portable.

August 4, 2016

Cinemascope: War and Peace

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2016.

Plot line: In a new adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless novel, three young people experience life, love and loss against the epic backdrop of Russia’s wars with Napoleon.

I tried to read Tolstoy's masterpiece over 25 years ago, and bailed about 100 or so pages in. I just don't think I was ready to read the work, and I didn't understand that the characters are called by different names by the people in their lives. Since I grew up in a culture does this too, I am surprised that I did not cotton on sooner, but there you have it. I've been meaning to take a Mulligan and try reading this tome again, and then to my delight BBC creates a new adaptation of the book. It is beautifully done, every frame in the movie looks like a painting, the clothing is sumptuous, and I loved everything about it. I have not read the book itself, so am not sure if Tolstoy had such an Austenesque sensibility, or if BBC simply knows what will appeal to their viewers. Either way, I feel better equipped to attempt to another reading.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is TV worth watching.

August 3, 2016

Journal pages

A page spread that highlights key elements of my summerhood walking route in my DIY traveler's notebook.

August 2, 2016

Journal pages

While I am delighted that I completed #the100dayproject, I know I am not alone when I say that my art making seems to have lost some steam and direction. Time to change that, so pulled out my #travelersnotebook and my artsupplies and started to play. And you know what? By the time I was done I had completed five pages in my journal.

August 1, 2016

Recent Reads

106. Craft-a-Doodle: 75 Creative Exercises from 18 Artists
I think I've learned that I'm not a doodler. I try, but it's just not me. This book is a collection of doodling exercises, and while I liked a couple enough to try, most them them simply set my teeth on edge with the level of something I have no words for. So, not for me, but if you are a doodler, you might like it just fine. Rating: 1 star.

107. Princeless, Vol. 3: The Pirate Princess
In the third installment of this graphic novel series, we are introduced to Raven Xingtao. It turns out that even if your father has no lands or territory, but is considered a King by his gang, that makes you a princess. Who knew?

Raven is the daughter of the Pirate King, and although she is the oldest child, her younger brothers have convinced their father that a son, rather than a daughter, should be his rightful heir. What else is new? So Raven gets locked up in a tower, is saved by our heroines and their dragon, and hijinks ensue.

I continue to liked the art in this series, but the quality of the writing and plot weakens with each installment. The target market for this series is young girls (and boys), so why do all these girls look like they could use a good meal? They also have unexplained prowess in the several fights in this one. I'm all for girl power, but can two young girls really fight off a ship full of grown up pirate men? Really? The dynamics between the girls has also deteriorated, and while I appreciate that Raven is Asian, my current fave character is Sparky the dragon. Sigh. Rating: 2 stars.

108. Princeless, Vol. 4: Be Yourself
Finally this installment gets back to the roots of what makes this a fun and colorful graphic novel series. Before we got sidetracked, you might remember that the mission was to rescue all the royal sisters, and middle sisters are the ones most often forgotten. Fear not, our heroines are on the way to the swamp to set Angoisee free, but first they must outwit goblins, zombies, and something far worse, I cannot say what for fear of spoiling the most delightful thing about this volume. Well, there are actually two delightful things, but I won't spoil either.

Everyone still looks like they've been on weight watchers, and there is a bit too much switching of stories back and forth in this one, but a fun ride nonetheless. Rating: 3 stars.

109. Y: The Last Man - The Deluxe Edition Book One
This deluxe edition book one collects the first ten issues.

I can totally see why so many people love this graphic novel series. I really do. But as an adult woman there is some stuff I feel is my duty to point out to the dudes out there, and to the women as well. Even if every single male mammal (including humans) dropped dead tomorrow, it would not be the end of civilization. Shock, grief, yes, but in no way the end of civilization. You'd think in this day and age that would not need pointing out. Sigh.

So, there-in is my biggest problem with this comic. I love the premise, I enjoy the art, I totally understand that this is some guy fantasy - if you are the last man alive, then no matter how dumb you are, you are still the most fuckable guy on the planet, and every woman on the entire planet wants you right? Hurrah! Just so you know, we would not need clone technology to continue on, there are these things called sperm banks, you might have heard of them.

I so liked the premise that I've suspended disbelief, and am trying to shake off all the chauvinistic crap in this story, and enjoy the ride. Will continue reading on to see if it gets any better. Rating: 3 stars.

110. Painting Nature in Watercolor with Cathy Johnson: 37 Step-By-Step Demonstrations Using Watercolor Pencil and Paint
I'm a huge fan of the author and her work, and this book does not disappoint. This is probably the third time I've read through this book and I pick up new tips each time. If you are looking for guidance on how to use watercolor pencils and paints, get your hands on this one and get inspired. Rating: 4 stars.

July 30, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 96-100

I've accepted the 100-day project challenge this year, and you can read more about it here. I post my collages daily on Instagram, and plan to post a recap every 5 days or so here on my blog. As always, click on images to view larger.






My mixed media supplies include card stock, junk mail, outdated sailing charts, origami paper, wall paper samples, fabric samples, paint chips, acrylic paints, paper, gel pens, stamps, stamp pads, and sharpie markers. I glue everything down using an uhu glue stick.

Done! 100 days. A collage a day for 100 days. Delighted with this challenge. I'll write up a lessons learned post when I get a chance.

You can see a video of the journal I'm using, and my thought process for this challenge here.

July 29, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 91-95

I've accepted the 100-day project challenge this year, and you can read more about it here. I post my collages daily on Instagram, and plan to post a recap every 5 days or so here on my blog. As always, click on images to view larger.






My mixed media supplies include card stock, junk mail, outdated sailing charts, origami paper, wall paper samples, fabric samples, paint chips, acrylic paints, paper, gel pens, stamps, stamp pads, and sharpie markers. I glue everything down using an uhu glue stick.

Only 5 more to go! I can hardly believe it.

You can see a video of the journal I'm using, and my thought process for this challenge here.

July 28, 2016

Cinemascope: The Crimson Field

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2015.

Plot line: Doctors, nurses, and women volunteers work together in a tented field hospital to heal the bodies and souls of men wounded in the Great War. It becomes clear that no training could have prepared the volunteer nurses Kitty Trevelyan, Flora Marshall and Rosalie Berwick for this work, but a breath of fresh air soon arrives at the hospital in the form of Sister Joan Livesey, a disarming and spirited nurse with a decided mischievous edge.

I really enjoy period pieces, and this one in a field hospital hit all my sweet spots. We know that war is hell, but it also creates opportunities and societal upheavals that change the world as we know it. I love that there are so many women characters in this one, and that they are all wonderfully complex. I'd recommend this one to fans of historical fiction and period pieces, and Downton Abbey fans will delight in seeing two of the cast in a new light.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

July 26, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 86-90

I've accepted the 100-day project challenge this year, and you can read more about it here. I post my collages daily on Instagram, and plan to post a recap every 5 days or so here on my blog. As always, click on images to view larger.






My mixed media supplies include card stock, junk mail, outdated sailing charts, origami paper, wall paper samples, fabric samples, paint chips, acrylic paints, paper, gel pens, stamps, stamp pads, and sharpie markers. I glue everything down using an uhu glue stick.

Some of these were done while on the road. Fun and portable. And only 10 more to go!

You can see a video of the journal I'm using, and my thought process for this challenge here.

July 25, 2016

Recent Reads

101. Jane, the Fox, and Me
I have mixed feelings about how to review this picture book/graphic novel. The intended audience is clearly 8-12 year olds, and that might be why the story has so little depth. Though the kids I know around that age seem to read complicated stories with ease, so what do I make of that?

The story revolves around Hélène, a young girl who is suddenly shunned by her friends, and is made fun of for being fat and having body odor. The bullying takes a toll on Hélène, and she does what many kids do in that situation, which is turn to books for solace. Enter Jane Eyre, the Jane of the title, the book our girl is currently reading. She feels a connection to Jane, and while the transitions between her story and Jane's are a little clunky, I understand the author's intent. We find friends and safe harbors wherever we can. Just when life seems to take a turn for the worse, Hélène encounters a fox, and makes a friend, with a girl not the aforementioned fox. The fox encounter might have been too metaphorical for me. Was it meant to imply that she got in touch with her wild, inner self? Or was it simply an encounter with a fox that changes her life. I'm not sure.

What is wonderful about this book is the art. It is beautiful and I've looked through the book several times to soak it in. It is very evocative of the mood of loneliness and despair in this story. The text however felt too thin and under cooked, it needed more in my opinion. I'd give the story 2 stars and the art 4, so will average out at 3. Rating: 3 stars.

102. The Oven
This dystopian graphic novel reads like it was created for a final project in a MFA class.

The basic premise is that the environment has deteriorated, and people have moved to cities as a way to survive. However population control is strictly controlled in the cities, so the couple in this story decide to head to a wilderness, off-the-grid society so they can have a child. Things do not go as planned.

The art in this one is really good. The flat colors wonderfully evoke the sense of heat and deadly radiation, but there was simply not enough character or story development for my tastes. This really short book missed the mark for me. Rating: 2 stars.

103. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Somewhere along the line I missed that this book was a memoir, and therein lies most of my issues with it. I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by the author.

The topics discussed in this book are clearly important and relevant to our time, and this might be a good introduction to someone not familiar with our judicial system and capital punishment. The author uses his efforts to exonerate Walter McMillan, an African-American man, who was falsely accused and convicted of killing Ronda Morrison, a young white woman, as the main arc of this book. Interspersed with McMillan's story are about a dozen other cases the author and his team worked on. All of these cases highlight some of the issues surrounding race, class, gender, age, mental disability, and the fallibility of humans as they pertain to the judicial system. No matter how great our laws, they are still administered by humans who bring with them their particular baggage. There are also laws that are unjust, and the author and his team work successfully to change some of them.

There is little doubt that the individual stories are compelling, but in my opinion the issues get buried under the memoir aspect of this book. This would have worked much better as a collection of essays - each essay tackling a particular issue with examples. As it was, we bounce around from one case to another too quickly to do much more than feel outraged. The systemic issues get watered down, but maybe that makes this a book that is easier to digest. I for one found that the author's coming of age story did not play well with the points he was making. The writing is not very good, and there is lots of repetition and time spent driving around, all of which detract from the main thrust of this book.

There is no doubt that the author makes the world a better place, especially for the clients he works to exonerate, and this review is not about the value of the man or his work, but about this book. My book club was in agreement as to the points made above. As an aside, I do plan to read his arguments to the Supreme Court. Rating: 3 stars.

104. Lady Killer
You'd think that Josie Schuller would have her hands full with being a wife, mother, and daughter-in-law, but she was a woman ahead of her time and also works outside the home. This being the 1960s, she is always impeccably dressed, no sweatpants or jeans for Josie, and given that she is killer for hire, you'd think that she'd invest in some overalls. This is a fun, satirical story with lovely art, however the text is rather pedestrian given the subject matter, and it could have use more satire. Josie has little depth of character, and everyone else is just scenery. A fun, if bloody graphic novel that makes you question what housewives might really be up to. Rating: 3 stars.

105. Fires of Invention (Mysteries of Cove #1)
The first book in this series was recommend to me by my nephew Jonah, age 11. He loved it and I can see why. This dystopian/steampunk story revolves around 13 year old Trenton Colman, who is creative in a world that harshly punishes anyone who rocks the status quo, and Kallista Babbage, who is year or so older than Trenton. She comes with her own baggage, and awesome mechanical skills. The community in this story retreated inside a mountain when the outside environment became too dangerous. Based on the cover, you know that the story also involves dragons.

This fast paced book is targeted for middle grade readers, and I think works great for that age group. As an adult reader, I wanted more depth, more exploration of the themes touched upon, more character development, more world building. I also found the romantic love triangle a forced and unnecessary device. I read it in a couple of sittings, and while it was a quick, if light ride, I don't plan on continuing with the series.

If you are interested in a community living underground story, I'd recommend you might try the Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey. Rating: 2 stars.

July 23, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 81-85

I've accepted the 100-day project challenge this year, and you can read more about it here. I post my collages daily on Instagram, and plan to post a recap every 5 days or so here on my blog. As always, click on images to view larger.






My mixed media supplies include card stock, junk mail, outdated sailing charts, origami paper, wall paper samples, fabric samples, paint chips, acrylic paints, paper, gel pens, stamps, stamp pads, and sharpie markers. I glue everything down using an uhu glue stick.

July 21, 2016

Cinemascope: Spotlight

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2015.

Plot line: In 2001, editor Marty Baron of The Boston Globe assigns a team of journalists to investigate allegations against John Geoghan, an unfrocked priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys. Led by editor Walter "Robby" Robinson (Michael Keaton), reporters Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Matt Carroll and Sacha Pfeiffer interview victims and try to unseal sensitive documents. The reporters make it their mission to provide proof of a cover-up of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church.

I lived here in the Boston area during this timeframe, and was outraged and heartbroken by the findings of the Boston Globe. This movie is really well done with superb acting by everyone in the cast. It's focus is more on the investigators, and that helps temper some of the emotions you'll feel as you watch this one. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the death of investigative journalism impacts us all and we are poorer for it.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

July 18, 2016

Recent Reads

96. Princeless, Vol. 1: Save Yourself
One of the things that really annoyed me as a kid, and does to this day, are stories about women who wait to be saved or rescued. All those princess stories did absolutely nothing for me. So dang boring. Girls locked up in castles, or in a coma, just waiting for a prince to show up. Who cares?

This is a fantastic graphic novel series that challenges those boring stories. Princess Adrienne is tired of waiting to be rescued, and decides to take matters into her own hands. Also, if you know what's good for you, don't you dare call her "fair" - an adjective still lobbed about in people of color communities to this dang day. Don't get me started.

This is a really fun and feminist take on the princess story targeted at middle grade readers. I was delighted by our plucky heroine, and immediately called my nieces and nephews to recommend they pick it up too. Rating: 4 stars.

97. Princeless, Vol. 2: Get Over Yourself
This second volume finds the runaway Princess Adrienne and her sidekicks on a mission to save the most beautiful princess in the world, who also happens to be Adrienne's older sister. Meanwhile Daddy (the King) has hired a band of mercenaries. High jinx ensue.

This continues to be a fun graphic novel series for middle grade readers, but it is clear that there was a bigger budget for this volume. I continue to enjoy this series, but this installment was less pointed than the first one, and what's with everyone looking like a Playboy bunny suddenly? Sigh.

I've got the rest of the series on request, and am keeping my fingers crossed that the story gets back to what makes it awesome in the first place. Rating: 3 stars.

98. Mara
Book blurb: A gifted athlete and a mega-celebrity, Mara Prince is a global brand and the most famous girl alive. But when she starts to manifest superhuman traits, her world starts to crumble around her.

See that premise? That's what sucked me in. I'm disappointed with how this turned out. That Mara is an athlete, of color, and non-heterosexual are all pluses. The world building is interesting, but overall I was bored with this story. Mara suddenly realizes that she has super powers, and seems to take it all in stride. The text would suggest otherwise, but nothing about what the character says or does seems to suggest much angst about this turn of events. There is zero character development, and while the art is good, it is not good enough for me to continue with this graphic novel series. Rating: 2 stars.

99. Nanjing: The Burning City
This graphic novel tells the tale of two Chinese soldiers trapped in Nanjng after the bombing and invasion of Japanese troops.

War is hell, atrocities are committed by all sides, and everyone suffers. I liked the art in this book, and while I liked the creative way the author shows the destruction of the city and its people, there was not much new here for me. I wonder if this was targeted at a young adult audience who might have not been exposed to this story before. If that is the case, it is a good introduction to this historical event, and would also be good for readers who like learning history via comics. Rating: 2 stars.

100. Patience
The basic premise should have resulted in a story that worked. I cannot really say too much about the premise as it gives away the plot, but the main story revolves around this dude who I could care less about. It is a love story of sorts with time travel. People always seem to think that if we go back in time we would do better. I'm not so sure. There are some interesting plot points to the time travel thread, but I was not hooked into this story at any point in the reading. I did like the art, and I much preferred the scenes that did not have this mopey dude in them. Don't take my word for it however, as based on all the rave reviews it might just be me. Rating: 2 stars.

July 14, 2016

Cinemascope: G.I. Jane

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 1997.

Plot line: In response to political pressure from Senator Lillian DeHaven (Anne Bancroft), the U.S. Navy begins a program that would allow for the eventual integration of women into its services. The program begins with a single trial candidate, Lieutenant Jordan O'Neil (Demi Moore), who is chosen specifically for her femininity. O'Neil enters the grueling training program under the command of John James Urgayle (Viggo Mortensen).

I recently watched this movie again for, oh maybe the sixth time. It works just as well today as it did when I first saw it almost a decade ago. Demi Moore is kick-ass in this one, and I love everything about it.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.

July 11, 2016

Recent Reads

91. The Lie Tree
As the winner of the Costa Book of the Year 2015, this one moved to the top of my TBR pile.

This YA book has so many of the tropes I tend to love: historical fiction, a feisty, headstrong girl, a moody island setting, fossils and scientific discoveries, journals, feminist musings, and mythical things that harken back to the Garden of Eden.

Twelve year old Faith Sunderly is a girl born in the wrong era. She is smart, intelligent, and rather headstrong in a time when girls were expected to be meek, submissive, and rather passive. Things are clearly a struggle for our girl, especially given that she has a thirst for science and secrets.

The author can clearly write, but I had issues with the pacing of this story. The characters are fun, though rather one dimensional, and I have no doubt that if I had read this one as a young girl Faith would have joined my small but precious pantheon of she-heroes. I was delighted with the way the author connects the tree in this story with the tree of knowledge, and how knowledge of many kinds are forbidden fruits. Also, really fun very feminist themes in this one. A fun and quick read. Rating: 3 stars.

92. Coffin Hill Vol. 3: Haunted Houses
This is the final volume in this horror graphic novel series, and there's not much I can say about this one without spoilers. What I will say is that the art continued to be good, the plot interesting, and the conclusion quite satisfying. This would make a great series to read during Halloween. Rating: 3 stars.

93. Black River
Book blurb: A group of women, one man, and two dogs are making their way through a post-apocalyptic world in search of a city that supposedly still has electricity and some sort of civilization.

This graphic novel did not work for me on any level. I've often said that the scary thing about any apocalypse scenario is not the zombies, or vampires, or what-have-you, but people. People can be the scariest thing on the planet. This story happens to agree with me, and there are horrible things that happen in this one, but ultimately, I did not think that it added anything new to the genre, and I did not like the sketchy art either. Not for me. Rating: 1 star.

94. Power of the Dog
Book blurb: This explosive novel takes you deep inside the drug trade, a world riddled with corruption, betrayal, and bloody revenge. From the streets of New York City to Mexico City and Tijuana to the jungles of Central America, this is the war on drugs like you've never seen it.

I listened to the audiobook, which is superbly narrated by Ray Porter.

If you, like me, have often wondered how the multi-billion dollar war on drugs seems to have increased the availability of drugs, you too might find this to be an eye opening read. Where is the media coverage on stories like this one? Must we now turn to fiction to help us understand what is going on?

This story spans several countries, has lots of characters, drugs, sex, murder, and it is often hard to distinguish the good guys from the bad. The cast of characters include a DEA agent, and people from all other US government agencies with acronyms, members of the Irish mob and Italian mafia, a very expensive hooker, a priest and other representatives of the Vatican, members of the Mexican and Colombian cartels, and well, just about everyone in the supply chain. This is not sanitized in any way, so prepare for a gritty, fast paced read that will make you angry while also educating you on the despair, murder, money, and politics that keeps this particular wheel turning. The only reason I deducted a star is that the ending seemed to run out of steam, and was not as meaty as the rest of the novel.

There are so many things that our government does on behalf of its citizens that we do not know about. Or maybe we don't want to know. Pulling back that veil is part of what it takes to be a citizen, and this is as good a place to start as any. I would highly recommend this one.

PS: In case you have yet to see Kill the Messenger, I would also recommend that movie. Rating: 4 stars.

95. The Heart of Thomas
The introduction to this graphic novel states that Manga featuring romances between boys is/was very popular with straight young women. I wonder why.

This story is set in an all boys boarding school in Germany (of all places), and boy on boy romance and crushes are all the rage. Most of what is actually depicted is rather chaste, but there is abuse and the story starts out with a young boy committing suicide. I liked the art, but the story did not really work for me. There were too many things that did not make sense - for example Juli's hair is sometimes black and sometimes not, and the author makes a point of talking about his black hair. Then there is Bacchus - was he a teacher of a student? The religious overtones were a bit jarring as well. There is the expected teen angst and melodrama, and if that's your thing you'll probably like this one. This is a fat book, so there were plenty of pages in which to spin out this yarn. I know this is considered a classic in the genre, but I wanted more. Rating: 2 stars.

July 9, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 76-80

I've accepted the 100-day project challenge this year, and you can read more about it here. I post my collages daily on Instagram, and plan to post a recap every 5 days or so here on my blog. As always, click on images to view larger.






My mixed media supplies include card stock, junk mail, outdated sailing charts, origami paper, wall paper samples, fabric samples, paint chips, acrylic paints, paper, gel pens, stamps, stamp pads, and sharpie markers. I glue everything down using an uhu glue stick.

Only 20 more to go!

You can see a video of the journal I'm using, and my thought process for this challenge here.

July 7, 2016

Cinemascope: American Hustle

Cinemascope is a regular blog post where I will share with you movies and TV shows I think are worth watching.

Released in 2013.

Plot line: Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) dabbles in forgery and loan-sharking, but when he falls for fellow grifter Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), things change in a big way. Caught red-handed by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), Irv and Sydney are forced to work under cover as part of DiMaso's sting operation to nail a New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner). Meanwhile, Irv's jealous wife (Jennifer Lawrence) may be the one to bring everyone's world crashing down. Based on the 1970s Abscam case.

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I watched this movie, but I was highly entertained. There is some superb acting by this all star cast, and some really funny moments. My only complaint is that the movie needed tighter editing. Still, a movie I enjoyed and one that actually had me laughing out loud a couple of times.

You can see the trailer here. If you have yet to see it, this is a movie worth watching.