May 31, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 31-35

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.

31/100:

32/100:

33/100:

34/100:

35/100:

My mixed media supplies include card stock, junk mail, outdated sailing charts, origami paper, wall paper samples, fabric samples, acrylic paints, paper, gel pens, stamps, stamp pads, and sharpie markers.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

I continue to love this creative challenge.

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

May 30, 2016

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Primaries and Caucuses (Video)

I know what I'll doing on Feb 2, 2017. Do you?

Primaries and caucuses are a surprisingly undemocratic part of the democratic process. John Oliver discusses our convoluted system for choosing presidential nominees.



If the embedded video does not work, click here.

Recent Reads

61. Prison Island: A Graphic Memoir
It seems to me that almost everyone is writing a memoir these days, and while I do believe that we all live interesting lives (at least to ourselves), I'm not sure anyone else cares. The publishing industry seems to churn out memoirs at an alarming rate. Maybe it's because they are easy to write, and people are fascinated by an insider look at the lives of celebrities, but come on, not everyone lives a memoir worthy life!

Now that I've got that out of the way, let's talk about this book. Literally the only interesting thing about it is that the author lived with her family on an island in Washington State that used to house a prison. Given that, this book should have been about a 5 page pamphlet. No more is needed in my opinion. The black and white art is not good, and the story is dull and uninteresting to anyone who does not love the author. There are not many graphic novels I have bailed on, and this one joins that trashy heap. I quit about half way through, and let me remind you that graphic novels generally can be read in a single sitting.

I really wish publishers would reconsider the glut in the memoir genre, and go for quality over quantity. It's not that I dislike memoirs, though the last three or so I've read were all awful, but there needs to be something interesting about the life of a total stranger that makes me care to read on.

Want to read some great books in this genre? Try any of these brilliant ones: Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright, or The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, or The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, or The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer. Rating: 1 star.

62. Steps to Success in Watercolor: Learn Eight Valuable Principles for Planning Your Next Watercolor Painting
Book blurb: Accomplished watercolorist Brenda Swenson breaks down the process of planning a painting into eight individual steps, which include choosing a format, planning out values, effectively using color, developing a center of interest, creating a visual path, incorporating variety, painting negative shapes, and introducing light and shadow. Then she combines the steps in one final painting to show how each step works together to produce a pleasing, successful work of art.

I can't put it any better than the blurb, so will leave it at that. This is the second time I've read through this one, and a little more sinks in each time. It is wonderfully clear and concise, and I feel like I've attended a a really good watercolor workshop. I plan on doing some exercises in my journal soon. Rating: 4 stars.

63. Mixed Media Masterpieces with Jenny & Aaron: Create Incredible Art Journals and Handmade Mixed Media Treasures with Two Master Crafters
The thing about style, is that it is a very personal thing. This book has several art projects that I found way too kitschy for my taste. Not for me at all. Back in the library drop off it goes. Rating: 1 star.

64. Me Before You
The thing is, I have no one but myself to blame on this one. In spite of the rave reviews, I just knew that I was not the target audience for it. I mean, all I had to do was look at the cover, read the blurb, and I knew. I just knew better. But then I saw that it will be made into a movie, and that the Khaleesi from GOT will play Lou, and I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, all my fears were realized.

On the plus side this is a fast, light read, and the writing while not good, is not bad. The characters and the plot though are paper thin, and I was both annoyed and bored. Can one really get to be 26 years old and be as ridiculous as Lou? She seemed to act like an eight year old most of the time. As for Will, well, this would have been a more interesting story if he was not so filthy rich, wouldn't it? I was annoyed at the tired, old trope of a woman who gets saved by a man, and I think the notion of telling (not showing) the reader about certain things in Lou's life so as to evoke an emotional reaction from the reader is a kind of cheating by the author. The themes explored are done with such a light touch that it sheds no light on anything, and this could easily have been a YA book - though I doubt that teens would put up with it either.

I bailed about 170 pages in, and was not really surprised at how much I disliked this one. I guess I'll wait for the movie on DVD, and will keep my fingers crossed that the Khaleesi will use her charm to enliven the immature and annoying Lou. Rating: 1 star.

65. The Outside Circle
In the entire history of humanity, has there ever been a positive story about what happened to the native/indigenous/aboriginal peoples of any land? Sigh.

This graphic novel is targeted at an older teen plus audience, and I think it would make a good introduction for anyone who has not read anything about some of the issues explored here. Set in Canada, this story revolves around two brothers of aboriginal heritage struggling to find their way in the world. I really liked the art and the themes explored in this gritty bildungsroman, but my complaint is that it reads more like an brief, educational introduction to the First Nations history than a fictional story. The plot itself is a simple and straightforward one, but it is the historical facts and data thrown in that makes this worth reading for anyone interested in these important issues. Rating: 3 stars.

May 26, 2016

Cinemascope: Chi-Raq

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: A modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes, set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago.

I like Spike Lee movies, and while I really liked this one, it took me a while to warm up to it. The entire movie is done in verse, and it is quite a different movie experience, though ultimately quite satisfying. I did not agree with all the messages in this one, but loved the exploration of themes we don't often see talked about in the movies.

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

May 24, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 26-30

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.

26/100:

27/100:

28/100:

29/100:

30/100:

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

Sometimes day 100 seems so far away.

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

May 23, 2016

Recent Reads

56. Low, Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope
This volume collects issues #1-6.

I love the premise of this graphic novel series, but am so disappointed with the execution. So check this out, at some point in time our Sun changes, and the 3rd rock is not longer a comfortable habitat for humanity. I still remember with glee talking to my 7th graders about all the ways the Earth might end - it is not a question of if, but how and when. That sure sparked a fun class, but I digress, back to the premise. In order to escape the dangerous radiation, humans have moved to the deep oceans, but resources are running out, and soon there will be none left. Will humanity survive?

See what I mean? An aquatic sci-fi/fantasy series should be right in my wheel house. However, the story is rather thin, and the art is so chaotic as to not leave my eyes a place to rest comfortably. I really like the creativity at play here, but it did not work for me. I have the next volume in the series in hand, and hopefully things will get better. Rating: 2 stars.

57. Low, Vol. 2: Before the Dawn Burns Us
This volume collects issues #7-10.

I started of this series by complaining about what I did not like in my review of the first volume, and I liked this one even less. So, this story now has underwater thunder dome like scenes? Puhlease. And while I have absolutely no issues with nudity and scantily clad women, why the hell are all the men dressed as if for the Siberian winter? What's good for the goose is good for the gander no? There is also too much of a preachy, quasi-religious, positive-thinking-will-solve-all-problems tone to these books for my tastes. So while I love the premise of this series, it does not work for me on any level, and after this one, I'm out. Rating: 1 star.

58. H Is for Hawk
There are many readers who have loved this book and raved about it all over the place, but unfortunately I am not one of them. I listened to the audiobook, which is really well narrated by the author, but about half way through it, 43% to be precise, I have decided to DNF it. Let me try and explain why.

It is quite clear that the author can write, and I would try her work again, but this book is all over the dang place. It is a grief memoir about the death of her father, it is the actual training of a goshawk, it is a memoir of her childhood experiences, it is about the author's connection with the author T.H. White through his writings, it is part nature writing, part history, part biography, part, part, part. All those parts did not work for me. While I am not particularly interested in falconry, I would have enjoyed a book on the training of a goshawk and the history of falconry, or I would have enjoyed her training juxtaposed with a biography of White, or I might even have enjoyed a straight up grief memoir, but this book is too much of a mashup to work for me. So, while I do think this one has some lovely prose, it felt rather too work-shopped and unfocused to make it an interesting read. Rating: 1 star.

59. Ongoingness: The End of a Diary
I'm a person who has kept a journal since I was a young girl, and I am convinced that to non-journal keepers, keeping a journal for long periods of time must feel like a Jedi Knight skill. It might well be, I don't know. I'm too close to the pages to be able to make an objective assessment. I know many people who struggle with keeping a journal, and personally I cannot imagine why they do. But then, I also cannot imagine why people who can read don't. All this means is a lack of imagination on my part maybe. I am a reader, and I am a journaler. Oh sure, we could use that lofty term "Writer", and it would apply, but why be so formal when we're among friends?

Journalers write for all sorts of reasons, and I love reading published journals - May Sarton's for example are wonderful - so I was expecting to love this one. Alas, I did not. The author has kept a journal for twenty five years with this objective: "I wanted to end each day with a record of everything that had ever happened." Well, as those of us who keep journals know, that is a tall order indeed. This little book is not a published journal, it is more an essay on keeping a journal, and not even an essay, but a collection of very short musings on the topic.

What I did like was that the author goes back and looks through all her entries, and in these musings meditates on her personal journey. There are some wonderful insights, and some well crafted sentences that are made me catch my breath, but overall, this one just left me wanting more. Rating: 2 stars.

60. Identity Crisis
This volume collects Issues #1-7.

Let me first say that I'm not a big superhero fan. I did not read those comics when I was a kid, and do not often read them now. The reason that is important for this review is that I read this book not knowing these characters, or their back stories, relationships, feuds, etc., and I think that might be the reason I felt lost and bewildered most of the time while reading this graphic novel. Elongated Man! Was he even a real thing?

I really liked the premise of this story, and it was fun to go home with the super heroes and villains - after all what did you think they did when they clocked out and were not busy saving the planet or a kitten? They have lives, and parents, and spouses, and when a serial killer seems out to hurt the heroes by killing their loved ones, who do you call? I was pleasantly surprised by the unexpected humor in parts, and the art is really good, but I think not already being familiar with these characters might have been the reason this did not work for me. Rating: 2 stars.

May 20, 2016

A taboo-free way to talk about periods | Aditi Gupta (Video)

Video Blurb: It's true: talking about menstruation makes many people uncomfortable. And that taboo has consequences: in India, three out of every 10 girls don't even know what menstruation is at the time of their first period, and restrictive customs related to periods inflict psychological damage on young girls. Growing up with this taboo herself, Aditi Gupta knew she wanted to help girls, parents and teachers talk about periods comfortably and without shame. She shares how she did it.

This is not just a problem in India, and not educating girls, and shaming them about their periods continues to this day. Watching this video gives me hope.



If the embedded video does not work, click here.

May 19, 2016

Cinemascope: Game of Thrones (Season 5)


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: Season 5 is based mostly on the fourth and fifth novels of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, respectively. The storylines of the two books run concurrently but follow different sets of characters.

I can not be objective about this one. I've read the books, and in preparation to watch this season, I re-watched all the previous ones. Oh my word, but I love this show. Yes, it is incredibly violent, would you expect anything else during times of war? The writing is great, the setting, lighting, and cast is excellent, and I enjoyed every minute of these 50 episodes over a couple of months, even though I was sobbing at the end of this season. When I was done, I glimpsed a very large hawk outside the window, and for a moment I was convinced it was a dragon. Now the wait begins until the next season is out on DVD.

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

May 17, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 21-25

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.

21/100:

22/100:

23/100:

24/100:

25/100:

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

I'm a quarter done. Time sure flies.

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

May 16, 2016

Recent Reads

51. The Great Showdowns
Calling all movie buffs. This one is for you.

There is no great story that does not have a conflict or struggle that needs resolution, and this little book showcases some of the great showdowns in movies. This book has no text. The showdowns are represented by lovely, whimsical watercolors, and you really have to be a movie buff to get all the references. There are quite a few I did not get. This is a fun art book that would make a perfect gift for movie fans. Rating: 3 stars.

52. Liō: Happiness is a Squishy Cephalopod (Liō #1)
Book Blurb: LIO is a pantomime strip featuring a curious young boy whose daydreams embark from reality destined for the dark chasm where wit and sarcasm collide.

Some boys might be made of snips & snails & puppy dogs tails, but Lio is a different kind of boy. Some of his interests include science, space and experimentation. To say more is to give away some of what makes this a fun read. This is a collection of comic strips, and if you are a Calvin and Hobbes fan, give this one a try. But be forewarned, this one is much darker. The mostly black and white art is really expressive, and most of the panels need no text at all. I read it in two sittings, and I liked the first half of this book better than the second, maybe because I was used to Lio's antics by then. Rating: 3 stars.

53. A Glance Backward
This is a strange and surreal graphic novel, and reminds me of what nightmares might look like if captured with watercolors.

The premise of the story is that Joey, who is 11 years old, finds himself trapped inside the walls of his home. The entire book then follows along as Joey tries to find his way out. Do not be fooled by that premise into thinking this is book for kids. I think it's too dark for little ones; older teens maybe.

When I got to the end of the book, I realized that it was about an allegorical journey that we all make, namely that of growing up. The journey is full of danger and wrong turns, and thankfully, a little kindness, and while I think the watercolor art is creepily good, this was not a story that pulled me in. Rating: 2 stars.

54.Amulet: Firelight (Amulet #7)
This graphic novel is a quick, fun read targeted at middle grade readers. In this installment, Emily and her sidekicks make it to Algos Island. Why are they there? Well, to access lost memories so they can understand the events of Trellis's childhood, and what happened between him and his father, of course. Things do not go smoothly, but then when do they ever in a quest?

Emily is center stage in volume, and could it really be true that the Amulet chose her for her weaknesses rather than her strengths?

The art continues to be lovely, but I do think that this series is dragging on longer than necessary. In this volume the story only moves forward a couple of inches, and I hear that there might be another two volumes still to come. I'm hoping that the next one is tighter and starts to bring this fun series to a satisfying close. Rating: 3 stars.

55. The New Yorker Book of Literary Cartoons
This anthology collects 104 cartoons from the New Yorker that pertain in some manner to all things literary. Some are fantastic, others not so much. Some of my fave ones had to do with how books are arranged on shelves in bookstores and libraries. For example:

Option 1. Sorted by attention span - Short/Medium/Long.
Option 2. Sorted by book size - Small/Medium/Large.

This is a quick fun read for bibliophiles. You know who you are. Rating: 3 stars.

May 12, 2016

Cinemascope: Amy

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



Released in 2014.

Plot line: The story of Amy Winehouse in her own words, featuring unseen archival footage and unheard tracks.

I was a fan of this young woman. What a voice! I'd watched an earlier documentary on her, and was intrigued by this one. Actual footage you say? They are not kidding. I've never seen a documentary quite like this one, one that uses actual day to day footage. A sign of the times perhaps, but the effect is an intimate behind the scenes look at this talented and troubled young woman. Powerful and moving.

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

May 10, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 16-20

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.

16/100:


17/100:

18/100:

19/100:

20/100:

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

20 percent done, and I continue to love this challenge.

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

May 9, 2016

Recent Reads

46. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers Volume 10
The second to last volume of this magnificent manga series made me so dang angry and oh so sad. If you are a fan of happily-ever-after stories, or stories in which life is fair, look elsewhere.

What is it about human nature that always, and I mean always, looks for a scapegoat when things do not go well? When beset by famine or earthquakes do people think, or well that is just nature being nature? Clearly not. The gods must be displeased with something, and miraculously there is always a person or groups of people clearly responsible. Sigh.

Several plot lines reach their logical, if undesirable conclusions, and I literally could not put this book down until I was done. Powerful women are no longer a new concept, but the fact that there are men who actually think about something other than power makes for a refreshing change. Who knew that men had brains? (Smile). There are always early adopters and laggards to any new technology and change, and that is true in the Inner Chambers as well. And that ending? Holy moly! Rating: 5 stars.

47. Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 11
This is the final volume in the fabulous Ooku manga series, and the story closes with a bang. The last two volumes start with a much needed cast of characters and family tree diagram, which help the reader navigate this epic story. There is almost nothing I can say about this volume that would not be a spoiler for those who have not read the last book, so all I'll say is that in this volume we get the back story of our first real psychopath - Tokugawa Harusada, and I for one am really glad her eyes did not alight on me for any reason.

This wonderful manga series is the best of the comic genre - wonderfully and intricately plotted with fully fleshed out characters, set in an alternative historical setting in Edo, Japan. The story is set roughly over a 150 year span, and generations and Shoguns rise and fall over that time frame.

I am lucky enough to have come to this series after all the books were published, so got to enjoy reading them one after the other. However, the final pages of this book seems to have left open the possibility of future installments, and I for one would be delighted. Pretty please Ms. Fumi Yoshinaga? Rating: 5 stars.

48. Aama, Vol. 1: The Smell of Warm Dust
Book blurb: In the distant future, Verloc Nim wakes up in the middle of nowhere suffering from complete amnesia. He remembers nothing of his former life. But when Verloc is handed his diary by a robot-ape called Churchill, he is able to revisit his past.

This sci-fi graphic novel, the first in the Aama series, is a bit perplexing for me. I liked some of the ideas in the book - who could not love Churchill, and where can I get one of my very own? - but, overall this book felt like a barely remembered dream. Maybe that was the point, but I was not along for the ride. The art is not to my taste, but the coloring is really well done. Still, I'm intrigued enough with the premise that I've got the rest of the series on request from my library. Rating: 2 stars.

49. Aama, Vol. 2: The Invisible Throng
The thing about keeping a journal, is that if one day you suddenly wake up with amnesia, and had had a crappy life before the incident, your journal would remind you of your crappy life. Something to ponder.

This installment of the graphic novel is better than the first one. There are interesting backstories, and some of the sci-fi gadgets are very cool. Verloc Nim, his brother, and Churchill (my fave character), are on a strange new planet. They have to meetup with a scientific expedition that was sent to jump start life on the barren planet about a decade or so ago. All communication was lost over the ensuing years, and what the group finds in terms of human and non-human life is part of what makes this a fun read. I enjoyed the exploration of the various paths evolution might take on a different planet, and the creative illustrations are quite good.

So, while this book makes more sense than the first one and is more enjoyable a read, I'm still not bought into the story yet. That is where my wonderful library comes in. I can try out the rest of the series without opening my wallet, and if they don't work for me, no harm no foul. Rating: 3 stars.

50. Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir
This is a tough book to review as I have very mixed feelings about it. Death, and the grief that accompanies it is very personal, but also very universal. It is the one thing that all humans have in common. We will die. And people we love will die.

This graphic memoir is about the death of a daughter at the age of two. Rosalie's death is unexpected, and I can imagine maybe all the more devastating for it. In this memoir, the author takes us through the emotional and physical journey he and his wife go through as they struggle to deal with the aftermath of Rosalie's death.

And here is where I am conflicted. Why do we read books, especially memoirs? I think it is different for each reader, but I read to either be entertained or educated, preferably both. I am not a parent, and I can only imagine that the death of a child might be the most devastating loss that can be inflicted on a parent, but, while I think this a wonderful record for the author's family, particularly their second child, I felt at too much of a remove while reading it. I'm not a fan of the sketchy, black and white art, and that did not help either.

Does that make me a psychopath? I don't think so. I appreciated the effort of the author as he worked through his grief, but was also left with nothing I could really hold on to, unlike various other grief memoirs that have stayed me with over the years. Joan Didion's, The Year of Magical Thinking, comes to mind as an example. So while I did not love it, I did appreciate the author's honesty in the telling of this life changing moment for his family. Rating: 3 stars.

May 6, 2016

Clinton vs. Sanders: POLICY IS EXCITING! (Video)

"In which Hank does his best to cover the tax plans of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in a video that should really be much longer. In many ways, these are two plans that almost shouldn't be compared. Obviously, Bernie Sanders' biggest tax increases are contingent upon a massive change to the U.S.'s healthcare system that would free up a huge amount of revenue for a lot of Americans. And, of course, neither candidate has a great chance of passing any significant legislation if the state of Congress remains the same. But I am looking at these plans externally from the current political climate, and doing my best to simply explain them with as little opinion as I could muster."

What I want to know is where is the discussion regarding the $ allocated to military budgets, and why there is little public accountability of said funds.




If the embedded video does not work, click here.

May 5, 2016

Cinemascope: Truth

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: Truth is a 2015 American political docudrama, based on American journalist and television news producer Mary Mapes' memoir Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power. The film focuses on the Killian documents controversy, and the resulting last days of news anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes at CBS News. It stars Cate Blanchett as Mapes and Robert Redford as Rather.

Finally a recently released Hollywood movie made by and for adults. Don't get me wrong, I like all the superhero stuff, but honestly has that cash cow not been milked dry already? I guess not. This movie will make you mad. It is so much like Orwell's 1984, and it actually happened in the not too distant past. Blanchett is superb (when is she ever not?) in this one, though I'm not sure about the casting of Redford. The death of investigative journalism is a bad thing for us all.

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

May 4, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 11-15

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.

11/100:

12/100:

13/100:

14/100:

15/100:

My mixed media supplies include acrylic paints, paper, gel pens, stamps, stamp pads, and sharpie markers. I glue everything down using an uhu glue stick.

15 down, 85 more to go!

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

May 2, 2016

Recent Reads

41. The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir
Something you might not know about me, is that as a kid born and raised in Kenya, I was a huge fan of Muammar Gaddafi. Huge. He was one of the African leaders who created the hope that we would end Imperialism and all its vices in Africa. Well, things did not quite go as planned, but, I think it is important to not gloss over the things we believed in our childhood, as they affect how we develop our world views as adults.

This graphic memoir is set in France, Libya and Syria, and we learn about the childhood of the author and his family as they navigate various cultures, religions, and political landscapes. The author's father is a Sunni Arab who married a French woman, and like many immigrants, he is a contradiction that many people find hard to understand. His father is quite Western and modern in some ways, but also retains much of the values and prejudices he acquired as a child, and like all kids born into cultures not of their parents, the author grapples with these contradictions.

The art is quite basic and sketchy, but I loved the way the author uses color in his panels. I really enjoyed the exploration of different cultures/religions/environments from the point of view of a child, but filtered through adult eyes. This is a rather straightforward memoir, but it is the honest look at these situations that suck the reader in, and reminds us of how much that happens to children is really because of parental whims, and how much our family histories influence the adults we become.

It is not often that we get an insider look into the lives of ordinary people from these parts of the world, and I hope the author's other works will also be translated into English. I highly recommend this one. Rating: 4 stars.

42. Killing and Dying: Stories
This graphic novel is a collection of six stories, and they all deal with regular people, and their dreams and despair. No super heroes, no villains, no happily-ever-afters, and that is what I liked about these stories. They seemed liked snippets of people's lives that you might learn about if you spent a long plane ride with them. The art is wonderful, but I think it's just me - I'm not a fan of short stories, and while I liked most of these, not one of them really stayed with me after I finished reading the book. Rating: 3 stars.

43. Space Dumplins
My 11 year old nephew loves comics, so I'm constantly on the lookout for ones I think he'll like, and this one should be right in his sweet spot.

This graphic novel is a science fiction story with important themes of family, friendship, and the environment, but is not preachy at all. There are cuddly and not so cuddly characters, and I love that the main character is a girl named Violet, and that a quest plot line that carries this story along. The art is wonderful and colorful, and there are enough adventure and thrilling scenes to inspire even the most reluctant middle grade reader out there. Rating: 3 stars.

44. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 9
I'm in the final three installments of this manga series set in 17th century Edo, Japan, and they are getting better and better. I am so often disappointed when a series loses steam over time, but that is not the case with this one. Loved this book which is #9 in the series.

When children feel that their mother loved them unequally, there is usually trouble on the horizon, and in this volume, the anger and jealousy of one generation is passed down to the next, poisons a lovely girl, and sets some unfortunate events into motion. There is the usual intrigue, back-stabbing, and jostling for power, and these women play the game like chess masters - with long term strategies in mind. In the meanwhile, the blond haired, blue eyed giant, also known as Aonuma, has entered the inner chambers, and his mission is to teach the men about the Hollander language and medicine. But will anyone be interested in learning the foreign ways? I really liked the exploration that Aonuma spearheads in regards to the spread of infection, and how to prevent and/or stop the spread of the Redface Pox as well as other diseases that devastate the population.

All the modernization in the land is because of my two fave characters to-date: Hiraga Gennai, the cheeky and brilliant woman who everyone thinks is a man, and the lovely and formidable Tanuma Okitsugu, who has attained the highest rank of political office after the shogun herself - and you know that there are women quite unhappy about that.

I started this one last night and could not put it down until I turned the last page. There is trouble a brewing, and I am tense as I think of all the things that might go badly in the last two books of this fantastic series. Rating: 5 stars.

45. The Private Eye: The Cloudburst Edition
Book blurb: The Private Eye is a detective story set in 2076, when everyone in the United States has a secret identity. Our protagonist is a member of the paparazzi, outlaw private investigators who dig up the kind of personal dirt no longer readily available through search engines. It’s a mystery with lots of masks, but no superpowers. This edition collects Issues #1-10.

This graphic novel is quite wonderful, and explores many important issues, the one of privacy being the one that I loved the most. This futuristic world where there is no internet is an interesting one to contemplate. Today, almost everyone has various online avatars that somewhat resemble who they are in real life. What if we reverted back to a world without the net? Should not be that hard for anyone over 25 years or so to imagine. In this world, people do not leave their homes without a mask/costume/disguise of some sort, and I loved the exploration of identity and privacy. This is a fun and timely comic with wonderful art that should be read by all, especially those of us who are digital natives. Rating: 4 stars.

April 30, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 6-10

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.

6/100:

7/100:

8/100:

9/100:

10/100:

My mixed media supplies include acrylic paints, paper, gel pens, and sharpie markers. I glue everything down using an uhu glue stick. This project is making a part of my brain stronger for sure. I can feel it flexing.

10 down, 90 more to go!

April 28, 2016

Cinemascope: Testament of Youth

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




Released in 2014.

Plot line: Testament of Youth is a powerful story of love, war and remembrance, based on the First World War memoir by Vera Brittain, which has become the classic testimony of that war from a woman's point of view. A searing journey from youthful hopes and dreams to the edge of despair and back again, it's a film about young love, the futility of war and how to make sense of the darkest times.

I seem to be watching quite a few war movies lately, but I love that there are from a woman's point of view. I have not read the memoir this is based on, and this is an interesting story about the horror and life altering times of war. I especially liked how this movie explores how turbulent times change society and women's roles in them. I would recommend this one for fans of historical fiction and period pieces.

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

April 25, 2016

Recent Reads

36. Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel
This book is a physically beautiful object, and the author makes creative use of an assortment of documents, books within books, maps, notes, illustrations, and more to tell two stories set about 300 years apart. The only problem is that all the beautiful packaging is only skin deep. The writing is not compelling, the characters are uninteresting, and while I enjoyed the setting of stories within stories, and how it is tough to tell which is the present time, and how time folds back on itself, I did not care one whit about the characters and their issues, and found this one a bit of a slog to get through. Too bad really, because this is a physically lovely object, and for that fact alone it gets an additional star. Rating: 2 stars.

37. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 8
The thing about this wonderful manga series, is that 8 volumes in, I am still loving the complexity of the story telling. There are several interesting plot lines in this one, and I so felt for Ieshige. How awful to be the "oafish" older daughter in a world that values outward beauty, and to have a beautiful mother and sister to boot. I was rooting for her all the way, though she is not as good a leader as her Mother, but then, who could really match Yoshimune? Interesting gender role reversals continue to highlight some of the ridiculous norms that are still accepted in our times. Can't wait to see what happens next. Rating: 4 stars.

38. Self-Portrait as Your Traitor
"Illustrated essays and visual poems are part philosophy, part art, part deeply personal memoir exposing the universal triumphs and tribulations of being human."

Well, color me confused. This book made the Brain Pickings' Best Books of 2013, and I for one don't get it at all. I did like the hand drawn lettering, and some of the ways the author plays with text as art, but honestly, this one left me shaking my head. Not for me. Rating: 1 star.

39. Meanwhile in San Francisco: The City in its Own Words
I love books like this and wish there was one for every city. The thing about travel guides is that while they are chockful of information, they are often rather antiseptic as well, and they have to be I guess. In this delightful book, the author captures a sample of the people and neighborhoods of San Francisco, using gorgeous pen and watercolor illustrations, and snippets of dreams. Do not expect an all encompassing guide to the city, but if you are in the mood for a whimsical travelogue, give this one a try. Rating: 4 stars.

40. Nimona
Nimona is a young shapeshifter, who badly wants to be the sidekick of an evil lord, aka Lord Ballister Blackheart. They team up on a mission against the Institution of Law Enforcement, and the shining hero, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. The names alone are worth the price of admission.

This a fun graphic novel about the battles between the two sides, and lots of death and mayhem ensue. I quite liked the relationship between Blackheart and Goldenloin, and was pleasantly surprised at how Nimona does not play the typical girl tropes. The art is colorful and sketchy, and while I smiled at various moments, I did not love this one as much as I expected to. As an aside, my 11 year old nephew read it through in a couple of sittings, and enjoyed it. Rating: 3 stars.

April 23, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 1-5

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.

1/100:

2/100:

3/100:

4/100:

5/100:

My mixed media supplies include acrylic paints, paper, gel pens, and sharpie markers. I glue everything down using an uhu glue stick. Since my collage skills are almost non-existent, this challenge is forcing my brain to work in unfamiliar ways. I am delighted to find my brain working on compositions and ideas all the time, and sometimes an idea comes to me in its entirety. So fun. I am also using up my stash, which is another thing that makes me happy about this project. 

5 down, 95 more to go!

April 21, 2016

Cinemascope: Restless

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




Released in 2012.

Plot line: Based on the bestselling spy novel by William Boyd, this Emmy®-nominated BBC drama is a tale of passion, duplicity, and betrayal. Ruth Gilmartin (Michelle Dockery) is stunned to learn that her mother, Sally (Charlotte Rampling), has been living a double life. Her real name is Eva Delectorskaya (Hayley Atwell), she worked as a spy for the British Secret Service in the 1940s, and now someone is stalking her.

When I saw that this was based on a William Boyd novel, and a spy novel at that, I was sold. There are two timelines in this one, and the story shifts back and forth between the 1970s and WWII. I love spy stories that feature women, and this one does not disappoint. I would highly recommend this one for fans of historical fiction and period pieces.

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

April 20, 2016

Journal pages

I continue to love bedtime sketching in my Nightstand Journal. A pen and some paper. No fuss, no muss.

(Click image to enlarge)

You can see a video of the journals I'm using in 2016 here.

April 18, 2016

Recent Reads

31. Whatever You Are, Be a Good One
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this was not it. This is a book that has inspirational/self help quotes on each page. These quotes are hand-lettered, and often accompanied by a whimsical sketch. The author does make clear that this is a sample set from a project she used to improve her handwriting, but I fail to understand why this book was published. Simply not for me, but if you are a fan of quote books, you might like it. Rating: 1 star.

32. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Originally published in 1968, this post apocalyptic novel imagines the world in 2021, after the World War essentially destroyed the planet and most living things. The majority of humans now live off planet, and the ones that remain on Earth covet any living thing, be it a horse or a spider, and since most people cannot afford the real thing, they buy simulated animals. But that's not the interesting part of this story. The interesting part is that there is a new robot on the market, and this robot is virtually indistinguishable from humans. The only way to tell if one is a robot or not is to have a test administered that evaluates your empathy response to various scenarios.

I started this book in graphic format, and realized that was not working for me, so moved to the actual text itself. It is good, but not great. The exploration of what constitutes life is an interesting one, and while I enjoyed the story, it did not have the impact I was expecting based on the the premise.

As an aside, my nephews and I have a password that we have to say out loud whenever we see each other in order to ensure that they have not been replaced by a robot or alien life form. So far, so good. Rating: 3 stars.

33. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 7
This is the best one in this manga series so far. The court intrigues continue, political maneuvering, murder, all of the stuff that I now expect from these books. What this one had in addition is the story of Ejima, and it is a sad one indeed. The emotional depth conveyed in his story is wonderful. We also circle back to Yoshimune's rise to power, and she is the powerful woman indeed. Loved it. Rating: 5 stars.

34. Giant Days, Vol. 1
This volume collects Issues #1-4.

This graphic novel tells the story of Susan, Esther, and Daisy. They are three weeks into university, and have become friends because their dorm rooms are next to each other. There is much to work out when you first start university, and are away from parental supervision. I was quite amused when the characters realized that they would fail the Bechdel test. This was a fun read, though it did lack a cohesive direction. Rating: 3 stars.

35. The Price of Salt
Book blurb: First published in 1952 under the pseudonym Claire Morgan and touted as "the novel of a love society forbids," the book soon became a lesbian cult classic.

Let me start by saying that this novel is wonderfully narrated by Cassandra Campbell.

Patricia Highsmith has been on my TBR list for ages, and since I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie, the stars finally aligned. This is really a coming of age story, and I did not know that going in. Therese Belivet, 19, has dreams of being a stage designer, but in the meanwhile she's got a deary temporary job in a department store over the Christmas holidays. One day her eyes lock onto Carol Aird, a customer buying a present for her daughter, and Therese is smitten. The rest of the novel follows the relationship that develops between the two women.

Highsmith wonderfully evokes a place and time in New York, and I could almost smell the cigarette smoke, and taste the cocktails. I also really liked the exploration of power dynamics in relationships between the various couples: Therese/Richard, Therese/Carol, Carol/Harge, and the author captures really well that shock of recognition when you fall in love for the first time. However, the story moves at an incredibly slow pace, there are really tedious scenes that add little to the overall story in my opinion, and I found both women not very well fleshed out. Okay, so I do know that it was first published in the 50s, and the world was a different place back then, so there is only so much that Highsmith could get away with, but still, I expected more of an emotional depth to this story given what the main themes were. I did not love it as much as I expected to, though I was delighted that the author did not end the book the way most books/movies of that era seemed to end gay/lesbian tropes.

As an aside, the book blurb contain spoilers that, though I saw coming, might be very spoilery for some. Rating: 3 stars.

April 14, 2016

Cinemascope: Ricki and the Flash

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: Meryl Streep is a hard-rocking singer/guitarist in Ricki and the Flash, In an original and electrifying film loaded with live musical performances, Streep stars as Ricki Rendazzo, a guitar heroine who made a world of mistakes as she followed her dreams of rock-and-roll stardom. Returning home, Ricki gets a shot at redemption and a chance to make things right as she faces the music with her family.

I am a Meryl Streep fangirl, and it was so fun to see her play something really different. Women have been vilified over the millenia for not conforming to some standard set for them by the men in their lives, and it is refreshing to see a woman be true to herself, damn the consequences. Yes, it is a little too lifetimey for my tastes, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. 

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

April 12, 2016

Journal pages

I continue to love bedtime sketching in my Nightstand Journal. A pen and some paper. No fuss, no muss.


(Click image to enlarge)

You can see a video of the journals I'm using in 2016 here.

April 11, 2016

Recent Reads

26. A Burnable Book (John Gower #1)
I'd been saving this one, sure that I would love it. And you know what? If it were not for the fact that I listened to the audiobook, superbly narrated by Simon Vance, this would have ended up in my DNF pile.

This is a historical mystery of sorts, set in London, circa 1385. I really liked the gritty atmosphere the author captures, but I was bored with the overall story. I'm not sure I've read Chaucer, or if I did in school, it's lost to the mists of time. Maybe if I was a Chaucer aficionado this would have worked better for me, but alas I am not. The story starts with a bang - a murder, a book, a mystery - but then seems to plod about trying to find it's way home. I absolutely loved the maudlyns and their part in this story, but could have cared less about much of the rest of it. It does pick up a bit towards the last several chapters, but I have little doubt that if I had read this in print form, I would have bailed about 50 pages in. So I'd give it 2.5 stars, and will round up to 3 because I so loved having Simon Vance read me a story again. Rating: 3 stars.

27. The Sandman: Overture
I am a huge Sandman fangirl, so I'm not even going to pretend to be objective about this book. It's a prequel to the Sandman graphic novel series, and if you have yet to read those, stop reading this review, turn off all screens, and go start now. I loved that series, so was delighted that Neil Gaiman decided to go back to that well again. And for those skeptics who say you can never go home again, you are wrong. This one is fantastic on every level. I loved the creativeness of the story, and the art - holy mother - the art is a thing of beauty. Am I the only one who noticed how much Morpheus looks like Neil Gaiman in this volume? There is nothing coherent I can say, other than I loved everything about this one, and took my time in reading it so as to make it last longer.

If you a Sandman virgin, I would not recommend starting here however. I'd suggest starting with the original series, and after you have read them all, read this one. Speaking of which, it might be time to revisit the original series myself. Rating: 5 stars.

28. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 6
I continue to really enjoy this manga series set in 17th century Japan, where the Shogun is a woman, and the harem is filled with beautiful boys. There are so many characters in this series, that I sometimes have to remind myself who is who, and what would really help is a family/character tree in the appendix of each book, along with the excellent footnotes. The drama, intrigue, and scheming continue unabated in this volume, with some murder added in for extra flavoring. The art and story continue to be excellent, the old English continues to annoy forsooth, and I cannot wait to see where this series goes next. Rating: 4 stars.

29. Go Set a Watchman
This one was my book club selection for the month, and given that Harper Lee died a couple of days ago, it seemed a very appropriate time to meet and talk about it.

At the time the book was released I read a bit about all the hoopla, but I decided to ignore all of that and see what I thought of it. Well, color me delighted. I'll admit that for the first bit of the book, I was disappointed. Not because the writing is bad, but because I loved Scout as a kid, and was unhappy that she had turned out to be this whiny woman. I realized that my attachment to Scout was adversely coloring my reading of the book, so decided to uncouple this one from Mockingbird, and read it as a completely new book with characters with the same names. No prequel/first draft/ sequel hullabaloo, and low and behold, the magic and mastery of Harper Lee shines through.

There are so many themes explored in this one, but at the heart of it, it is really a coming of age story for our girl, Scout. The novel is filled with scenarios of us/them: men/women, white/black, quality/white trash, North/South, rich/poor, and how Ms. Lee gives us so much to chew on with so few pages is something I still do not understand. I loved the flashback stories, and can see how Mockingbird is the gem that it is, but I also really liked the exploration of how one becomes an adult. When is that exactly? When we understand that things are not black or white, but that there are shades of grey. When we decide that our values are not necessarily those of our parents, or community. When we realize that life and love is complicated. When you realize that parent you idolized as a kid has feet of clay. That scene between Scout and Atticus after she confronts him had me sobbing over my breakfast omelet.

Half of my book club did not like the book, so it clearly resonated for me in ways that it did not for them. The only reason this is not a 5 star read is that it does need some editing and feels unfinished, but holy smokes, I hope there are other first drafts that Ms. Lee left lying around for us to delight in.

A note on the audiobook. This book was narrated by Reese Witherspoon, and at first, I was not sure that her twangy voice would work for me, but it turns out that she was a great choice for this story. Rating: 4 stars.

30. The Bird King: An Artist's Notebook
Everything about this little book makes me happy. I love the author's art, and work, and was delighted to get my hands on this collection of art from unfinished projects, finished work, and sketchbooks. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into the mind and creative process of this artist/author, and flipping through this book is like exploring a delightfully curated art installation. Rating: 4 stars.

April 10, 2016

National Siblings Day

It's National Siblings Days here in the States. I wonder who comes up with these holidays. Still, it gave me a reason to look through some old photo albums, and this one of all my sibs is from bygone days that feel like from a different lifetime. 

April 9, 2016

The100DayProject Prep (Video)

Here is my #the100dayproject planning and journal video. Am both excited and nervous about this challenge.



If the embedded video does not work, click here.

For daily updates once the challenge starts follow along on my Instagram account.

April 7, 2016

Cinemascope: Before Midnight

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: Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) first met in their twenties in BEFORE SUNRISE, reunited in their thirties in BEFORE SUNSET, and now, in BEFORE MIDNIGHT, they face the past, present and future; family, romance and love.

This is the final movie in this trilogy, and it has been quite a journey. I love the idea of checking in with a couple over several decades, and the fact that the director uses the same two actors is wonderful. Hollywood and romance novels have created an illusion of what relationships are supposed to look like, and I really appreciated this more honest look at the reality of how couples age together. A movie made for adults about adult things. Unlike so many movies made these days, there are no car chases and aliens, but there is lots and lots of talking.

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

April 6, 2016

The 100-Day Project prep

I've got things I need to be doing, but instead of doing them I'm making a new journal for #the100dayproject.


Video of what I've decided to do for 100 days, and the journal I'll be using coming soon .....

The 100-Day Project

I love challenges, and I especially love challenges that hold me accountable because I need to blog/post about them. Some of the challenges I've participated in over the years include December Daily, One Little Word, Capture Your 365, Every Day in May, 12 Weeks of Summer, and Project Life

This year I am doing a challenge that is new to me. The 100-Day Project. Are you playing too? If so, do let me know so I can follow along.


You can learn about the challenge here, and read an interview with the creator here.

I'll be posting weekly recaps here on my blog, and you can follow me on Instagram to get daily updates on my progress.