November 23, 2015

Recent Reads

134. Lost at Sea
I believe I read someplace that this is the author's first foray into graphic novels, and it shows. His more recent stuff is better. 

Teenage angst on a road trip. The thing is that for many people being a teenager is a very angst ridden time of their lives, but this story does not do a good job of exploring what is going on with our protagonist. There are some interesting threads, but nothing really comes of any of them. It felt murky and unfinished, and I'm not a fan of the manga style illustrations for this story. 

This book is targeted for a teen audience, and maybe they'll get more out of it that I did. Not my cup of tea. Rating: 2 stars.

135. Chocky
Book blurb: Matthew's parents are worried. At eleven, he's much too old to have an imaginary friend, yet they find him talking to and arguing with a presence that even he admits is not physically there. This presence - Chocky - causes Matthew to ask difficult questions and say startling things.

I'll stop the blurb there, as I really think the less you know about this story and the genre it's in, the better your reading experience will be.

John Wyndham is a British author whose work I've been meaning to read for ages, as his works are considered classics. This one was first published in 1968, and holds up really well today. 

I listened to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Daniel Weyman. This delightful and charming novella takes a little over four hours to listen to, and I'd recommend it for both teen and adult readers. Rating: 4 stars.

136. Sandcastle
This is an interesting graphic novel to read as the weather turns crisper in these northern climes. You know that feeling when you're walking outside in the fall and your breath catches as you glimpse something out the corner of your eye, and then realize it is only falling leaves? 

This story is like that, only there is no relief to be had. It is hard to talk about this book without giving away the fun of discovering what it is about, so all I'll say is that it'll make you think about beach days very differently after you read this one. The black and white sketchy art wonderfully evokes the right mood for the story.

If you decide to read this, do not read the book blurbs, just pick it up and read it. Rating: 4 stars.

137. Disgraced: A Play
Book blurb: Everyone has been told that politics and religion are two subjects that should be off-limits at social gatherings. But watching these characters rip into these forbidden topics, there's no arguing that they make for ear-tickling good theater.

I've always loved plays, and have fond memories of both watching regular productions as a kid, and also acting in several, and to this day The Sound of Music, and Fiddler on the Roof hold a special place in my heart.

There is something magical created by the words, the actors, the setting, and the audience when one watches a play. I don't however, as a general rule, read plays. There is so much lost when all you have are the words on a page, and I quite appreciated that in the forward the author talks about what is gained and lost when you see a production, as opposed to read the words.

This won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner for Drama, and is really good. The characters and dialog draw out some of the experiences of being a Muslim in a post 9/11 America, and it is a frank exploration on race, religion, being an immigrant and a person of color, art, and relationships.

Life and love are complicated things, and this play sheds some light on the things we look at, but often do not see. I look forward to seeing the play in Boston next year. Rating: 4 stars.

November 19, 2015

Cinemascope: Madam Secretary (Season 1)

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: 
In the first season of the gripping political thriller Madam Secretary, Dr. Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni) navigates the maze of politics to protect America and affect global issues. When the current Secretary of State is killed in a mysterious airplane accident, the White House turns to Elizabeth to take over the job. As a former CIA analyst, she understands the risks of the world. However, she's far less prepared for the treachery of politics.

This show has politics, drama, conspiracy, and smart women - all key ingredients to shows that I find binge watch worthy. And that is just what I have done with this season. My reading life suffered greatly once I stumbled upon it.

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

November 16, 2015

Recent Reads

130. The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances
I gather that the Oatmeal has a Web presence, but he is not someone I knew anything about before picking up this book.

This graphic novel elaborates on the title of the book, and is a fun quick read. If you are looking for a serious running book look elsewhere, but if you think running might be for you, this book has some motivational tips with a fun digression on Japanese giant hornets. Rating: 3 stars.

131. El Deafo
The author lost her hearing when she was young, and this graphic novel memoir is about how she dealt with that loss, and how she negotiated starting a new school with a huge hearing aid strapped to her chest.

This book is targeted at the 8-12 year old reader, and gently explores themes of friendship, being different, and learning to appreciate who you are. The art is cute and colorful, and I liked the stylistic use of large bunny ears to underscore the importance of hearing, or lack there, of to this story.

This is a fun and quick read of this period of the author's younger years, and would be good book for the young readers in your life. Rating: 3 stars.

132. Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops
This book could best be described as "a miscellany of hilarious and peculiar bookshop moments."

You know how when you are sitting in a cafe sipping your drink and pretending to read a magazine, but what you're really doing is eavesdropping on conversations around you? Oh, you don't do that? Sure. Right. Whatever. Anyways, this book is like that. A collections of snippets of conversations in a book shop, between a customer and a book seller, or between customers. 

Some snippets made me laugh out loud, some made me smile, some had me shaking my head, and a couple I'm not sure I really understood. This book will take you about forty minutes to read, and I'd suggest it as ideal reading material for your next dental appointment or while waiting for a flu shot. Rating: 3 stars.

133. The Dragonet Prophecy (Wings of Fire #1)
"It is seriously so good! You have to read it before you die!" So declared my 10 year old nephew, Jonah. How can one resist such a recommendation? 

This is the first book (of eight) in the Wings of Fire series, and it's a story about dragons. There is a dragon war, lots of bad things happening, but there are these five young dragonets who are destined to save the day. Or are they?

This book starts with a map of the land, which is of course shaped like a dragon. Then there is a list of the types of dragons, their habitats and such, complete with drawings. And it all starts out with a prophecy. What's not to like?

There is nothing special about the writing, though the plot is quite fast paced with lots of intrigue and murder, and I can see why my nephew loves this series. The story explores themes of family, loyalty, friendship, courage, and teamwork, and is a rollicking fun ride.

I enjoyed this well enough, and look forward to discussing it with Jonah, but do not plan on continuing with the series. Though, don't take my word for it - many adults seems to love this series as much as my nephew. Rating: 3 stars.

November 12, 2015

Cinemascope: Jane The Virgin (Season 1)

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 daughter of a teen mother, Jane Villanueva grew up determined not to repeat her mom's mistakes. At 23 her life is on track; Jane is studying to be a teacher and engaged to a handsome detective who supports her decision to remain a virgin until marriage. Then a routine clinic visit flips her life upside down. Inseminated by a specimen meant for a patient in the next room, now-pregnant Jane is in a situation made only more-insane when she learns that the sperm donor is her boss, Rafael. As her meticulously planned life gets more like the telenovelas she loves, she faces a lot of complicated decisions about where to go from here.

The words "satirical romantic comedy-drama television series" usually makes me pass on a show. What we find funny can really vary from person to person, so I watched the first couple of episodes without any expectations that I would like this show, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I do. Yes it is over the top in some ways, in a telenovela way to be exact, but it is fun, and surprisingly good. I especially love all the women in this show, and the Villanueva women in particular have won my heart.

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

November 11, 2015

Jenni Chang and Lisa Dazols: This is what LGBT life is like around the world (Video)

As a gay couple in San Francisco, Jenni Chang and Lisa Dazols had a relatively easy time living the way they wanted. But outside the bubble of the Bay Area, what was life like for people still lacking basic rights? They set off on a world tour in search of "Supergays," LGBT people who were doing something extraordinary in the world. In 15 countries across Africa, Asia and South America — from India, recently home to the world's first openly gay prince, to Argentina, the first country in Latin America to grant marriage equality — they found the inspiring stories and the courageous, resilient and proud Supergays they had been looking for.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

November 9, 2015

Recent Reads

127. Here
Book blurb: Built in six pages of interlocking panels, dated by year, it collapsed time and space to tell the story of the corner of a room - and its inhabitants - between the years 500,957,406,073 BC and 2033 AD.

I love books that experiment with a different way to tell a story. If you have yet to read Building Stories by Chris Ware, stop reading this review and start there. So very cool. This one is nothing like Ware's book, but is equally brilliant in weaving a story.

What's this graphic novel about? Well, it is the story of a corner of a room. And if you think that sounds boring, think again. Here's what I mean. Look up right now and gaze at a corner of the room you are in. If you are outdoors, shut your eyes and imagine a corner of your bedroom. Are you there? OK. Now imagine that you have the ability to wind time back and forth - like a time machine - only you do not move from your current position. You can move time back and forth a few years, decades, or even millennia, but you remain in the exact same location on the planet. What do you think you'd see in that corner over that time scale? Right??!!

I have never read a book like this, and it does something that only graphic novels can do so well. Check it out and let me know what you think. Rating: 4 stars.

128. Fifteen Dogs
Book blurb:
— I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.
— I'll wager a year's servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.

This story starts with two gods walking into a Toronto bar. How could I resist?

What makes a human human? This question has niggled homo sapiens since we first had that thought. This novel explores whether other animals (dogs in this case) would handle themselves better if granted human consciousness and language. 

This story is both humorous and dark, thoughtful and meditative, and explores deeply philosophical questions. I read it in two sittings, and if you are a fan of Animal Farm, I'd highly recommend this one, though this one has less politics and more poetry. A warning to dog lovers out there - remember what these fifteen dogs have been granted, and gird yourself for what you know is coming. 

An interesting coincidence is that I started reading this book while listening to The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, and it works wonderfully as a companion piece. Rating: 4 stars.

129. The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Book blurb: In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thailand–Burma Death Railway in 1943, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier. His life is a daily struggle to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from pitiless beatings—until he receives a letter that will change him forever.

It is not a surprise to me that this book won the Man Booker prize in 2014. Finest fiction indeed. 

“A good book, he had concluded, leaves you wanting to reread the book. A great book compels you to reread your own soul. Such books were for him rare and, as he aged, rarer." 

I cannot think of the last book that made me examine my own soul as much as this one. It is not an easy read by any measure, but so, so worth it.

A couple of things to keep in mind if you decide to read it:

1. The first 20 to 30 pages setup the entire book, and in my opinion the author gives us hints as to how to read the story.

2. Most stories have a beginning and an end, and the story tends to move in a linear manner from one to the other. There is nothing linear about this story. It is like a nautilus - the story folds in on itself again and again.

3. There are several points and counterpoints in this story; lots of duality, and one of the keys to fully immersing yourself in this story is to find those points. For example: Doorigo and Nakamura, Keith and Ella, etc.

4. We often talk about the notion of walking in someone else's shoes, but can we really? The author is incredibly skillful in his ability to create multiple first person narratives, and we do get the chance to walk in those proverbial shoes. 

5. War is hell, we all know this yes? And yet, we are asked to spend time in this partuclar hell. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This book explores so many themes: love and loss, fidelity and betrayal, honor and duty, morality and war, family and belonging. The thing about most war stories, is that they are written from a particular point of view; we often get only one version of the story. This one switches sides frequently, and I have never read a book that examines something from such various points of view without an axe to grind. 

A note on the audiobook production. This book is wonderfully narrated by David Atlas. The thing about the audio is that I could not skim, or close my eyes during the hard parts. I heard every single word, and that made me feel like I was embedded in the scene.

Yes, the writing is lyrical and beautiful, but the most important thing to me is that I am not the same person I was before I read this book.  Rating: 5 stars.

November 7, 2015

THE LAB: DECOY - A portrait session with a twist (Video)

Interesting food for thought.

A photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera than by what's in front of it. To prove this we invited six photographers to a portrait session with a twist. ‘Decoy’ is one of six experiments from The Lab, designed to shift creative thinking behind the lens.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

November 5, 2015

Cinemascope: Penny Dreadful (Season 1)

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: Explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, American gunslinger Ethan Chandler and medium Vanessa Ives unite to combat supernatural threats in Victorian London.

I like to watch something creepy around Halloween, and this fit the bill perfectly. Showtime has created a fun show including some of literature's most terrifying characters, including Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, and iconic figures from the novel Dracula are lurking in the darkest corners of Victorian London. Penny Dreadful is a frightening psychological thriller that weaves together these classic horror origin stories into a new adult drama.

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

November 2, 2015

Recent Reads

123. The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave #1)
How could I not pick up a book touted as a cross between The Passage and Ender's Game? And it starts with this quote by Stephen Hawking: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans.” Talk about right in my wheel house!

I picked it up to read over Labor Day weekend, and was done in a couple of sittings. The thing to note is that this is a book targeted at a Young Adult audience, so the pacing is fast, the action kinda non-stop, and it is really light on dialogue and character development. I quite liked the premise and the slow reveal of what constitutes the 5th Wave, but there is just not enough meat on the bones for my taste - not enough of the Sci in Sci-fi, the characters are not well fleshed out, and talk about unbelievable coincidences! But, based on Goodreads reviews, I am clearly in the minority on this one.

While I did not love it, it was a quick, if mindless, read - and that can be exactly the right book at the right time. As for me, I'd be curious to see what my nieces and nephews think of it, but I'll be passing on the rest of this trilogy. Rating: 2 stars.

124. Manifest Destiny, Vol. 2: Amphibia & Insecta
Book blurb: Lewis, Clark and the surviving members of their expedition continue westward across America, only to learn there is nowhere to run on a river. Collects Manifest Destiny Issues #7-12.

This continues to be a fun graphic novel series about the alternative history of the Lewis and Clark expedition. There are more monstrous creatures, and dangers abound both on land and on water. We know that they'll make it through, but finding out how is half the fun. The art continues to be wonderful, and the writing is better than the first volume, so that makes me happy. I want to get my hands on the alternate journal that was kept during this expedition. Wonder if it can be found in Monticello ... there are some artifacts from the trip I saw there on a visit a couple of years ago. Need to make friends with a docent I guess. Rating: 3 stars.

125. Air, Volume 2: Flying Machine
Book blurb: In this second volume, Blythe's mysterious rescuer reveals the truth behind one of the most shocking disappearances in aviation history - a secret tied to the origin of hyperprax flight. As the race to find the device begins, Blythe must master her skills as a hyperpract. 

I've always wondered what happened to Amelia Earhart. Now I know. This four book graphic novel series is a fun romp into different dimensions, time frames, and even bodies; the part when our heroine ends up in the young body of the man she loves - creepy and cool at the same time. I've got the next book queued up. Rating: 3 stars.

126. Vincent
Video review:
Rating: 3 stars.

October 29, 2015

Cinemascope: Ancient Roads from Christ to Constantine

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: Join author and distinguished history professor Jonathan Phillips of Royal Holloway, University of London, as he takes viewers on a spectacular and dramatic twelve thousand mile journey of a lifetime, traveling the ancient roads to the very places where Christianity began. Ancient Roads from Christ to Constantine is a captivating adventure through four centuries and seven countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.

This six hour PBS series is an informative and fascinating journey into the early history of Christianity. It does not matter where you are religious or not, this is the way history should be taught. Oh, the dots I connected with this one.

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

October 26, 2015

Recent Reads

119. The Green Road
Book blurb: Spanning thirty years and three continents, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigan family, and her four children.

This is the fourth book I've attempted to read from the 2015 Man Booker Longlist, and I'm happy to report that while I did not love it, I did make it all the way to the end. 

This family story is narrated from the point of view of the various members, and as with most families, I found certain characters more interesting than others. And like most families, some members get way more air time than others. 

I've got a couple of bones to pick with the style of writing in this book. For one, I'm not a fan of third person narratives as, unless superbly done, they create a distance from the characters for me. Also there is something about the flow of the writing that kept pulling me out of the story. At no time did I feel like I was immersed in the story - I was constantly aware of the fact that I was reading a book. On the plus side, there are scenes, conversations, and settings that the author captures brilliantly, and those gems are really what kept me reading on. 

This is the second book I've read by the author, and like the previous one, I have to confess that this is not a story that I connected with, and it will not stay with me. But those gems, oh so wonderfully sparkly. I'd give this one 2.5 stars, and will round up for those gems. Rating: 3 stars.

120. The Three Incestuous Sisters
Think of this book as a picture book for adults. 

Once upon a time there were three sisters: one beautiful, one smart, and one talented. And as with all fairy tales, they live happily together until a boy arrives. Then all hell breaks loose, and there is a whirlwind of love, jealousy, sabotage, revenge, and despair. Will women never learn? Sigh.

The text is very simple, but the art is quite wonderful and evocative. You could spend quite a long time simply looking at the art in this book and making up stories of your own. I liked this strangely disturbing story. Rating: 3 stars.

121. On Immunity
I listened to the audiobook, which was well narrated by Tamara Marston.

This is not the book I expected to read. I expected a historical look at vaccines, past, present, and future, and that is not what I got. It is a collection of essays chock-full of the bricolage the author found during her clearly extensive research on the subject. While some of the bricolage was indeed interesting, I wish an editor had taken out some of the tangents, and created more of a logical structure to this one. It could be that these tangents would be applicable to parents, but since I am not one I can only assume that is the case.

The book starts out in the manner I expected, and then veered into what one might title " A Mother's Search for Peace of Mind." Still I learned things and connected several dots, so this was certainly worth a read as it is a good introduction to the topic. I'll be looking for other books that cover the history I was in search of, so if you know of a good one please do let me know. Rating: 3 stars.

122. The Wicked + The Divine, Vol.2: Fandemonium
This volume collects issues #6-11.

The art in this second volume continues to be fab, but the story line, while a bit better than the previous volume, is still not sufficiently developed. Maybe twelve gods is simply too much to deal with? This installment tries to solve the murder mystery created in the first one, and has some interesting twists. All I can say is be careful what you wish for, and everyone is not what they seem.
C'mon writers of this series, take it up a notch and execute on this vision. Rating: 3 stars. 

October 23, 2015

CY 365 Update

If you are regular reader of this blog, you might be wondering if I've quit on the CY 365 project. Absotutely not. I'm no quitter. I still post daily to my Instagram account, but have decided to not re-post those entries here are well. So, if you want to follow along, you can see what I'm up to here.

October 22, 2015

Cinemascope: Poldark (Season 1)

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: It's 1783, and Ross Poldark has returned home from the American Revolutionary War to find England in the grip of recession and his beloved Cornwall on its knees. His father is dead, his family's land and copper mines are in ruins, and his childhood sweetheart is about to marry his first cousin. Feeling betrayed by everything he loves, Ross must rebuild his life, embarking on a risky business venture, facing new adversaries, and finding love where he least expects it. Based on the novels by Winston Graham and set against the dramatic Cornish coastline, this striking saga stars Aidan Turner (The Hobbit) as Ross Poldark, and Eleanor Tomlinson (Death Comes to Pemberley) as the fiery Demelza

If you a fan of period pieces, and sagas set in England (I'm talking to you Downton Abby fans), try this BBC series. There are good guys, wonderfully bad guys, and some merely stupid guys you really want to kick in the shins.

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

October 19, 2015

Recent Reads

116. Devil's Peak (Benny Griessel #1)
Book blurb: A young woman makes a terrible confession to a priest. An honorable man takes his own revenge for an unspeakable tragedy. An aging inspector tries to get himself sober while taking on the most difficult case of his career. From this beginning, Deon Meyer weaves a story of astonishing complexity and suspense, as Inspector Benny Griessel faces off against a dangerous vigilante who has everything on his side, including public sympathy. 

This is the first of five books in the Benny Griessel series, and the second book I've read by the author. I listened to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Simon Vance. 

The story is set in South Africa, and unfolds via three narrators: Christine the prostitute, Bennie Griessel the cop, and Tobela Mpayipheli the man who decides to set right some of the wrongs of this world. And you just know that their worlds will collide one day. The writing is really good, the sense of place wonderful, and the characters are fully fleshed out. I quite liked some of the themes this story explores: What does justice look like? Are there some crimes that can be forgiven, encouraged even? People have an idea of who they will be, so how do they lose their way?

I really enjoyed the author's skill at spinning an interesting yarn, and I've already picked up the rest of the series. Rating: 4 stars.

117. The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present
Book blurb: A highly provocative, mindbending, beautifully designed, and visionary look at the landscape of our rapidly evolving digital era.

Okay, let me try to talk about this one: It is a little book with text and graphics. It can be read in one sitting, but I decided to do it in two. Each double page spread or two could be used to spark very interesting dinner conversations. You could start reading this book at any page, but I'd suggest for the first read through that you read it front to back. There are things in this one that gave me pause, and really made me think. I will be reading this one again.

Honestly people, I not sure how to even describe this book, but I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy pronto.  Rating: 4 stars.

118. The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sherlock Holmes #5)
Ah, Sherlock Holmes. I have yet to read the series; in fact this is only the second book in the series I've read. Not sure why. I enjoy his stories immensely - but there you go, I think I just hit the nail on the head - they are indeed stories. Not a huge fan of short stories. But every now and then I find myself in the mood to indulge, and when this story won the 2015 Audies for Audio Drama, that decided it.

I'm sure you all know the story, so I won't summarize it. This full cast production by the L.A. Theatre Works is wonderful. I had a delightful time listening to this story read by Geoffrey Arend, Wilson Bethel, Seamus Dever, Sarah Drew, Henri Lubatti, James Marsters, Christopher Neame, Moira Quirk, and Darren Richardson. 

I have no doubt that there will be more Holmes in my future, and if you have yet to read this one, or even if you have, give yourself the gift of a couple of fun hours listening to this production. Rating: 4 stars.

October 15, 2015

Cinemascope: Death Comes to Pemberley

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: Masterpiece Mystery!: Death Comes to Pemberley It is the eve of the Darcys' annual ball at their magnificent Pemberley estate. Darcy and Elizabeth, now six years married, are relaxing with their guests after supper when the festivities are brought to an abrupt halt. A scream calls them to the window and a hysterical Lydia Wickham tumbles out of a carriage shrieking, "Murder!" What follows is the somber discovery of a dead man in Pemberley woods, a brother accused of murder, and the beginning of a nightmare that will threaten to engulf Pemberley and all the Darcys hold dear. Adapted from P.D. James clever whodunit, this delicious homage to Jane Austen s beloved Pride and Prejudice stars Anna Maxwell Martin (Bleak House), Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Matthew Goode (The Good Wife), and Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who). Elizabeth and Darcy never knew marriage would be like this! 

I have yet to read the book this is based on, but have read and loved Pride and Prejudice. If you loved P&P as well, you'll probably enjoying spending a bit more time with the old gang. So fun.

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

October 12, 2015

Recent Reads

112. Wytches, Vol. 1
Book Blurb: When the Rooks family moves to the remote town of Litchfield, NH to escape a haunting trauma, they're hopeful about starting over. But something evil is waiting for them in the woods just beyond town. Watching from the trees. Ancient...and hungry. Collects Wytches #1-6.

I really liked the illustration style used in this horror graphic novel - there is something about paint spatters in the back ground that add to the effect of layers. And this story is about layers - layers of lies, of secrets, of horror, of love. You know those dreams where you know there is something horrible, but you can only catch glimpses of it? The wytches are depicted in a similar manner - your eyes try to see clearly what is on the page, but your mind refuses to co-operate. And the dad in this story - I love the dad. 

"Pledged is pledged." I'm very interested to see where this story goes. Rating: 4 stars.

113. The Girl with All the Gifts
This genre book is best read with as little foreknowledge as possible. Unfortunately, I already knew a key piece of the story's reveal, so it did not have that extra punch for me.

I loved the premise of this story, and it starts out wonderfully. The reader only knows things as 10 year old Melanie reveals them, and unlike her we know that things are not normal. But after that great start, the story is unfocused, plodding, and frankly boring. The characters are not well developed, the dialog is stilted, and the pacing of the story is jerky at best. After I finished the novel, I read that the author is best known for his graphic novel work, and things suddenly fell in to place. At no time while reading this novel did I drop into the story - it was almost like I was reading the text of a graphic novel and was missing the illustrations that completed the picture. 

I loved the twist of seeing this genre story told through Melanie's point of view, but there was just not enough in this one for my tastes. I would love to see a graphic novel adaptation of this book. Rating: 2 stars.

114. The Leviathan Effect
Don't you just hate when you settle in with a pot of tea and a new book and the book lets you down? I was in the mood for a thriller, a fast paced story that would keep me turning the pages, but this was not it. It should have been. It's got a great premise, but I simply do not understand all the rave reviews. Color me not thrilled. I was bored and bailed on page 42. Rating: 1 star.

115. The Wake
This graphic novel is like none I have read before. It is not an easy read, but so worth the effort.

There are two story lines, separated by two hundred years or so. I am not sure what genre this belongs in, there are so many covered, but maybe the overarching genre is a dystopian one. The art is strangely compelling, and fits wonderfully with this fairytale/monster story. I loved that the protagonists of both story lines were women - Dr. Lee Archer and Leeward, and the myths/folklore/ancient stories interspersed in the story delighted me. 

The story reaches for the stars, and while it might not get there completely, it comes so, so close. Rating: 4 stars.

October 10, 2015

Elizabeth Gilbert & Marie Forleo on Fear, Authenticity and Big Magic (Video)

Elizabeth Gilbert's new book is out, and I for one cannot wait to dive in. Here is a fun and inspiring interview she did recently.

Listen in as Elizabeth Gilbert and Marie Forleo talk perfectionism, why you shouldn’t strive to be fearless, and unpack the keys to living your most creative life. Don’t miss this Big Magic episode, it’s one of my all-time favorites!

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October 8, 2015

Cinemascope: John Rabe

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

Released in 2009.

Plot line: Based on actual events, John Rabe tells the story of a German businessman who rescued more than 200,000 Chinese during the Nanking Massacre in China by courageously negotiating a safety zone to protect innocent civilians from the Japanese Army. Drawing from John Rabe's 1937 diaries as source material, Academy Award® Winner Florian Gallenberger has crafted a portrait of a man revered as a saint in China to this day and yet never rewarded for his courage during his lifetime. 

I knew nothing, absolutely nothing, about John Rabe, so was delighted to find this movie. It is set during the Nanking Massacre, so do not expect any laughs. I appreciated learning about this piece of history, and there is a certain kind of irony in a member of the Nazi party saving so many people. Tough to watch, but well worth it.

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

October 7, 2015

Taiye Selasi: Don't ask where I'm from, ask where I'm a local (Video)

You know how things all align sometimes? Well, look at what I found while listening to my current fave book.

When someone asks you where you're from … do you sometimes not know how to answer? Writer Taiye Selasi speaks on behalf of "multi-local" people, who feel at home in the town where they grew up, the city they live now and maybe another place or two. "How can I come from a country?" she asks. "How can a human being come from a concept?"

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October 5, 2015

Recent Reads

109. Satin Island
Man Booker Prize Longlist Strike #1. I'm a huge fan of this prize, and like many fans I've started to make my way through the long list, and so far it has been a disappointing experience.

This one started out nicely - a little navel gazing, but interesting, and then it just got boring. Several reviewers have said that it is all worth it in the end, but after about 50 pages, I'm bowing out. Just do not care enough to continue.  Rating: 1 star.

Man Booker Prize Longlist Strike #3. I'm a huge fan of this prize, and like many fans I've started to make my way through the long list, and so far it has been a disappointing experience.

I had such hopes that this one would break my horrible streak with the books on this list. And it started out so well. I loved the first chapter - the women, the writing - wonderful. And then. I turned the page to chapter two, and I honestly did not even understand much of what was being said, even though it seemed to be beautifully written. Here I go again. 50 pages and I'm out.

So what do I do now? The first three books I tried were by men, and maybe I'll have better luck with the women authors. Pretty please, with my fingers crossed for luck. Rating: 1 star.

I am at a loss as to how to rate this book. Let me explain. I have no doubt that if I had read the print version of the book that I would not have finished it. I would probably have quit about a third of the way through. Maybe sooner. So I'm glad that I decided to listen to the audiobook, and I cannot begin to describe what a fun experience that has been for the past week or so. Lenny Henry narrates, and this guy is simply brilliant.

I love Neil Gaiman, but continue to find that I love his graphic novels way better than I like his novels. It's not that his novels are bad, it's just that I think I might not be the right audience for them. But I do love his quirky writing, so keep searching for the one novel of his that will blow my socks off. The search continues.

This is the story of Fat Charlie. It is a fairy tale, a mythological story, one of magical realism, and humor. It is peppered with some wonderfully idiosyncratic characters, and dialogue that made me smile and chuckle in places. This is the kind of story that the travelling story tellers of old would tell as they made their way from village to village. Classic Gaiman in other words.

Since this site reviews book and not the audio production, I'm going to go with 3 stars, but would give Lenny Henry a solid 5 stars for his narration. Rating: 3 stars.

October 3, 2015

BJ Miller: What really matters at the end of life (Video)

Here is a talk I found both moving and inspiring this week.

At the end of our lives, what do we most wish for? For many, it’s simply comfort, respect, love. BJ Miller is a palliative care physician at Zen Hospice Project who thinks deeply about how to create a dignified, graceful end of life for his patients. Take the time to savor this moving talk, which asks big questions about how we think on death and honor life.

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October 1, 2015

Cinemascope: Liberal Arts

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: When Jesse, a 35-year-old New York college admissions adviser, is invited to his Midwestern alma mater to attend his favorite professor's retirement dinner, he quickly falls back in love with the university life. But when he meets 19-year-old student Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene , Peace, Love and Misunderstanding), the bright, beautiful, book-loving daughter of his professor's friends, he suddenly finds himself caught in a moral dilemma: does he pursue a relationship with this kindred spirit, or does he break her heart and return to the "real world?" 

If you love books, then you'll enjoy this fun exploration of this relationship between two readers.

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

September 30, 2015

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Migrants and Refugees (Video)

I'm John Oliver fan, and this episode made my day. Did you see it?

Millions of migrants seeking asylum in Europe face hostility, racism, and red tape. John Oliver does one admittedly tiny thing for one of them.

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September 28, 2015

Recent Reads

106. Dark Places
I decided to move this up my TBR pile as I wanted to read the book before watching the movie.

This dark story is the second book I've read by the author, and I so much preferred this one to Gone Girl. The outlines of the story are quite basic: Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered. She testified that her fifteen year old brother, Ben, was the killer. We pick up the story twenty five years later.

It is what Gillian Flynn does with that skeleton plot that makes this a fascinating read. The story line is told through three narrators and two timelines: Libby Day in present day, Ben Day (brother) and Patty Day (mother) on that fateful day in 1985.

I am not a fan of multiple timeline stories, but this one should be taught in MFA programs to showcase how to use that device brilliantly. The people in this story are not likable, and the author excels in delving into the minds of flawed, broken, and ultimately very well fleshed out women characters. So much for sugar and spice and everything nice! You won't find that here. 

This is a story that explores themes of family and loss, damaged people and how they cope, memory and the passage of time, secrets and communal hysteria. I really liked how the story played out, the quirky cast of characters, and the slow reveal of the mystery at the heart of the story: Who committed the murders? Was it really Satanists? As an aside, this story had me Googling "Satanic Panic" which lead to some fascinating dinner conversations at our house. 

I listened to, and highly recommend, the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Rebecca Lowman, Cassandra Campbell, Mark Deakins, and Robertson Dean. Rating: 4 stars.

107. Air, Volume 1: Letters from Lost Countries
Do you think you could tell the difference between a frequent flier and a terrorist?

This graphic novel is the first book in a series of four. I'm not even sure how to summarize it, so let me simply say that it would fit in the following genres: science fiction and fantasy, romance and political thriller, spy and espionage, magical realism and terrorism, and I'm sure I've left out one or two! It is strange and surreal and full of quirky characters, but did feel a little too rushed. The art is really good though, and I'm hoping the story settles down somewhat, and develops the characters better in the later volumes. Rating: 3 stars.

108. The Fishermen
Man Booker Prize Longlist Strike #2. I'm a huge fan of this prize, and like many fans I've started to make my way through the long list, and so far it has been a disappointing experience.

I really liked the premise of this story and had read great things about this one, but there is something missing. I did not connect with the story, the writing, or the characters, so I've thrown in the towel after 50 pages. 

This does not bode well... Rating: 1 star.

September 26, 2015

Why Humans Run the World | Yuval Noah Harari | TED Talks (Video)

I am currently reading a book that is blowing my mind, so went in search of finding out more about the author. Listen to his TED talk, and see if it does not whet your appetite to pick up and read the book too. This one is great on audio.

"Seventy thousand years ago, our human ancestors were insignificant animals, just minding their own business in a corner of Africa with all the other animals. But now, few would disagree that humans dominate planet Earth; we've spread to every continent, and our actions determine the fate of other animals (and possibly Earth itself). How did we get from there to here? Historian Yuval Noah Harari suggests a surprising reason for the rise of humanity."

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September 24, 2015

Cinemascope: Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

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: Follow the shocking, yet humorous, journey of an aspiring environmentalist, as he daringly seeks to find the real solution to the most pressing environmental issues and true path to sustainability.

This documentary is enlightening, educational, and inspiring. I cannot even begin to talk about how important the topics covered in this one are - and that's me the omnivore talking. Do yourself a favor and just watch it. 

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

September 21, 2015

Recent Reads

103. Any Human Heart
I finished the book last night, and did not sleep well. What do I feel? Grief. How does one grieve for someone who was not real? Will write up a review after I've had some time to process....

Later ....

There is an old adage that what you observe closely you cannot help but love. That is how I feel about Logan Mountstuart. In many ways LMS is an ordinary man who lives in extraordinary times, but he is not the hero of the times he lives in, but rather on the fringes of it. Yes, he travels widely and has encounters with many famous people, but this is really a personal story of one man's life. One that unfolds through intimate journal entries. We first meet LMS when he is teenager, and follow along on all his (mis)adventures, loves, and heartbreaks through to his eighties. 

Such is the skill of the author, that not only did I get to know LMS, but I grew to love him, and when the book ended, it felt like a much beloved great uncle had died. Yes, grief is what I feel. There is a gap in my life that Logan Mountstuart used to inhabit. He will be greatly missed.

A word on the audio production. This story was narrated by the wonderful Simon Vance. The narration is probably the best work by Simon I've heard yet, and that is saying something. He changes the timbre of his narration, so we feel like a young LMS is sharing his secrets with us at the start of the story, and then as LMS ages, Simon's reading gets deeper, more crackly, and elderly. Simply wonderful.

I'm not sure why I waited so long to read this one, and if you have yet to read it, I highly recommend the audiobook. I've got my hands on the TV adaptation, and am delighted to be spending some extra time with Logan Mountstuart. Rating: 5 stars.

104. Ghost World
This graphic novel has the dubious distinction of being the first one to end up on my Did Not Finish pile. Actually, now that I think about it, it is the second one. The art is really fun, but this book is a collection of connected stories about two girls that did not make any sense to me, and reading that it was made into a movie only makes me scratch my head. Not for me. Rating: 1 star.

105. The Left Bank Gang
Book blurb: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce walk into a Parisian bar... no, it's not the beginning of a joke, but the premise of Jason's unique new graphic novel.

I really love the art in this one, and the story of these giants of literature re-imagined as graphic novelists and their escapades is a quick and fun read. I was especially delighted with the scenes where Gertrude Stein lectures Hemingway, and the fact that everyone is drawn as dogs. And it's all fun and games until it's not.
  Rating: 3 stars.

September 19, 2015

Connie Britton's Hair Secret (Video)

Have y'all seen this? Made my day.

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September 17, 2015

Cinemascope: Still Alice

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: Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease, Alice and her family find their bonds thoroughly tested. Her struggle to stay connected to who she once was is frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring.

I read and loved the book with the same name when it came out. A 5 star read for me, so was delighted to finally see this movie adaptation. And it does not disappoint. So, so good. Julianne Moore is brilliant in this role. My only advice is to keep a box of tissues handy while watching.

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

September 14, 2015

Book Review: Vincent

I find that graphic novel reviews are better with a look at the art, so trying this out. Let me know if you like it.

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