July 28, 2016

Cinemascope: The Crimson Field

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



Released in 2015.

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

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

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

July 26, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 86-90

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

86/100:

87/100:

88/100:

89/100:

90/100:

My mixed media supplies include card stock, junk mail, outdated sailing charts, origami paper, wall paper samples, fabric samples, paint chips, acrylic paints, paper, gel pens, stamps, stamp pads, and sharpie markers.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

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

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

July 25, 2016

Recent Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 23, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 81-85

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

81/100:

82/100:

83/100:

84/100:

85/100:

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

July 21, 2016

Cinemascope: Spotlight

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



Released in 2015.

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

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

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

July 18, 2016

Recent Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 14, 2016

Cinemascope: G.I. Jane

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



Released in 1997.

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

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

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

July 11, 2016

Recent Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 9, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 76-80

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

76/100:

77/100:

78/100:

79/100:

80/100:


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

Only 20 more to go!

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

July 7, 2016

Cinemascope: American Hustle

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



Released in 2013.

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

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

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

July 6, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 71-75

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.

71/100:

72/100:

73/100:

74/100:

75/100:

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

At this point I'm dreaming about collages, and everything I see has collage potential.

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

July 4, 2016

Recent Reads

86. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
The advances in medicine have lengthened human lives in ways that were inconceivable to people even 70 years ago, but if the ultimate goal is to cure death, then medicine get an F. We often forget that. Death wins. Sooner or later we will all die. We are mortal after all.

It is clear that medicine can improve life, but can it also improve the end of life? This is the main question tacked by the author, who is also a surgeon. There is so much packed into this short book to ponder, and I highlighted something on almost every page. Life and death are two sides of the same coin, and we forget that at our own peril (hah!). If we are lucky, we arrive in the land of the aging, a land with its own specific challenges. Hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice are places most of us don't even want to think about, until we find ourselves or a loved one there. I would highly recommend this book for all mortals as the topics explored should be part of our personal, familial, and political conversations.

So why not 5 stars you ask? This could have used better editing, and would have been more effective as a long essay. In order to make it book length, there is a bit too much repetition and bloat for my tastes. Rating: 4 stars.

87. The Story of My Tits
If you are a woman your breasts are a significant part of your biography. There is that moment when you realize that you are no longer allowed to run around topless. There are those horribly restrictive days of wearing your first bra, and maybe later your first under-wire one. You might have been someone who agonized about the lack of growth in those buds, or alternately, someone who was anguished by how big they were getting. And on and on it goes. In no way am I implying that there is not more to women than their breast size and shape (au contraire!), but there is no avoiding how much angst they tend to give rise to until one gets more mature. And then, just when you are comfortable with them, you might get breast cancer.

This is a graphic memoir about the author and her tits. It's not often that we get that point of view. The black and white art is sketchy and rather cartoonish, but works really well juxtaposed against the text. Like any life, the story is funny and sad, full of heartbreak and loss, and moments full of joy. Up. Down. Repeat. It is the story of one life, and the lives of others also affected (and lost) to cancer. There are tangents that don't add to the overall story, but I really liked the honesty in the telling of this one. Rating: 4 stars.

88. Nijigahara Holograph
I picked up this manga based on the beauty of the cover art, and while I liked the art in this one, I did not understand what was going on for most of the story.

I knew going in that this was a horror story, and I quite liked how the author shows that what is often most horrifying is not some unknown bogeyman, but often the people around us. There is clearly trauma of various types in this story, and some of those scenes are shown in ways that made me pause for several minutes. However, I was confused as to what was going on, and the fact that there were multiple timelines only added to my confusion. The little I understood was brilliant, but unfortunately, that light at the end of the tunnel never did clear things up for me. Rating: 2 stars.

89. The Heart
I'd heard that this book was all the rage in France and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. My copy is translated by Sam Taylor.

Medical science has advanced to the point that transplants are no longer considered all that unusual, but how often do we really think about all the players involved in a transplant? There are of course the donor and the recipient(s), their families, and the medical staff that manage, or perform the actual operations, and all these humans carny their own individual stories with them.

This is one such story. We get into the story from various points of view, and while there is the tragedy at the core of a story that results in the donor, the story is always so much more than that. I don't think I can put into words how wonderful the writing is in this one. The sentences are long and lyrical, and there are lots and lots of commas. If run-on sentences bother you, go in with the mindset of reading a long prose poem, and you'll appreciate the skill shown by the author. It is a thing of beauty.

My one complaint is that the entire story is told in the third person, which creates an emotional distance between the reader and the events unfolding on the page, and yet I was deeply moved. I understand this choice though, as there is no real way to do what she did in any other voice. I would highly recommend this one. Rating: 4 stars.

90. Take It As A Compliment
Book blurb: Bringing together the voices of males and females of all ages, the stories in this collective graphic memoir reflect real life experiences of sexual abuse, violence and harassment.

What I did not know going into this graphic novel is that it is a collection of experiences, and that each vignette was not fictional, but in fact represented something that actually happened to the people in this collection. That would have been useful information to have at the start of the book instead of the end. Since I did not know that going in, the short vignettes, and changing gender voice was confusing as I thought I was reading a single story.

The art is sketchy and cartoony, and maybe that was a deliberate choice to help offset the violence of the stories themselves. The themes covered in this collection are important ones that affect too many of us, and this might be a useful book for starting a discussion on these difficult topics. I so appreciated the author's efforts in shedding some light on these issues, but the book as a whole lacked a cohesiveness for me, and maybe that was due to the issues I mentioned earlier. It's hard to say I "liked" this one given the subject matter, but this slim volume is worth a read. Rating: 3 stars.

July 2, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 66-70

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.

66/100:


67/100:

68/100:

69/100:

70/100:

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

The think about trusting the process is that I am not committed to a particular outcome, and sometimes create a piece that delights me no end. Some of my fave creations are in this lot.

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

July 1, 2016

31 Plays in 31 Days

Hello July. If you follow along on this blog, you know that I love challenges, and you can read about some of them here

My One Little Word for 2016 is STRETCH, and I've been doing that in various way this year. As we start the second half of the year, I thought it might be fun to add another challenge that stretches me out of my comfort zone. 


My challenge? 31 plays in 31 days. I love watching plays, but don't often get around to either reading or listening to them, so this is a way to change that. To make this doable, I decided that rather than find plays to read, I'm going to leverage the Playing On Air podcast. From their home page:

"Short plays + radio = theater for the ears, available to audiences anywhere, anytime. It’s the best seat in the house, no matter where you’re tuning in.

That’s the simple idea behind Playing on Air. We’re a public radio show and podcast distributing the work of great contemporary playwrights for today’s digital audience. Our episodes feature short plays followed by conversations with their writers, performers, and directors, moderated by Playing on Air’s artistic producer, Claudia Catania. "

This works for me in a couple of ways:
1. The plays are digitally available, so I don't need to go find source material, and lug anything around.
2. It's portable. I simply download plays onto my phone using my favorite podcast app.
3. The plays are short, so they won't take up a lot of time.
4. I'll get exposed to a large sample of new and contemporary plays.

I've sketched out a monthly tracker in my newly started 2016 Volume 2 composition journal, and I've downloaded the first week of plays. I'm all set to go!

I'll post regular updates on my progress during the month of July, and will report back as to what I learn along the way. So excited about this one.

Do you have a challenge you are working on? If you love plays, I'd love to hear about ones you'd recommend.

June 30, 2016

Cinemascope: Flesh and Bone (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: A Starz Limited Series from Emmy® Award-Winning Writer and Executive Producer Moira Walley-Beckett (Breaking Bad), Flesh and Bone follows a young ballet dancer, Claire, who has a distinctly troubled past, as she joins a prestigious ballet company in New York. The dark, gritty, complex series unflinchingly explores the dysfunction and glamour of the ballet world and New York's inherent drama. Claire is emotionally wounded, sexually damaged, and possesses self-destructive tendencies amid her vaulting ambitions. She is a transcendent ballerina, but her inner torment and aspirations drive her in compelling, unforeseeable ways, especially when confronted with the manipulations of the company's unpredictable Artistic Director, and an unwelcome visitor from her past.

I am usually not a fan of Starz productions. They are just not to my tastes, but I keep trying various episodes to see if I'll change my mind, and am I ever so glad I did. This show is dark and gritty. The beauty of ballet juxtaposed with the real lives and tragedies of the actual dancers. This one gave me lots to think about. As a bonus recommendation, if you have yet to see Black Swan, I'd highly recommend that movie too.

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

June 29, 2016

Journal pages

I'm processing the horrible news from Istanbul in my journal. It's a beautiful city with a long and important history, and I was lucky enough to spend time exploring it's marvels several years ago.

June 28, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 61-65

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.

61/100:

62/100:

63/100:

64/100:

65/100:

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.

It's rather fun going through free magazines and seeing what grabs my attention.

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

June 27, 2016

Recent Reads

81. Girl in Dior
Winner of: YALSA 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens.

You only have to look at the cover to know that the art is beautiful. It is so lovely that I flipped through this graphic novel several times. Given the lovely art the lackluster story is doubly disappointing. It reads like a boring memoir or biography of a woman whose life intersects with Christian Dior (yes, that Dior), but then at the end you read that this woman, the main character in this story, is a figment of the author's imagination, and was inserted into Dior's life to illustrate what? I'm not sure. The text is uninspired and without passion, and given that we are immersed in the fashion world, among models, and a creative genius, it just does not make any sense that it is so. Still, I would recommend that fashionistas and artists pick up a copy from the library so you an feast your eyes on the wonderful art in this one. Rating: 2 stars.

82. Coffin Hill Vol. 2: Dark Endeavors
This is the second volume in the Coffin Hill graphic novel series, and the art continues to be good, the story interesting, and I really like the local (Boston area) setting. However, there are even more timelines and flashbacks in this volume, and it is sometimes hard to keep it all straight, and I for one have no idea what that ending was all about. Still, I liked it enough that I'll continue with the series.

If you are in the mood for a paranormal horror (is there any other kind?) story with multiple timelines, give this one a try. Rating: 3 stars.

83. A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)
The premise of this novel is wonderful and I was really looking forward to it, so I'm disappointed that I did not love it as much as I expected to.

In this fantasy novel, there exists four versions of London: Grey, Red, White and Black. Each one is different in a myriad of ways, the most important being how magic is regarded by the locals. In earlier times moving back and forth between the Londons was done with ease, but in the current time, there are walls between them that are impassable for all but Antari, and there are only two of those left. Kell, the lead protagonist, is one such Antari, and he calls Red London home. Meanwhile in Grey London there lives a thief named Lila, and their paths are destined to cross.

I really liked the setup of the Londons and the magic system, however, the characters had little depth, and the story while fast paced was all tell and no show. I listened to the audiobook in a couple of days as the book flies by quickly, but ultimately it felt rather like watching a long car chase scene in an otherwise lackluster movie - lots of things happen, but its way more fun for the actors than the viewers. Is this targeted for young adult readers and I missed that? I wanted more complexity, more depth, and more meat on the bones, so while I liked this story am not sure at this point whether I care enough to read the sequel.

The audiobook is narrated by Steven Crossley, and I did not like how he reads this one. His voices are annoying and distracting, so would not recommend the audiobook. Rating: 3 stars.

84. Two Brothers
This graphic novel is an adaptation of Brothers, a novel written by the popular Brazilian writer Milton Hatoum. I had not heard of either the book or the original author, so was interested to get my hands on it.

The story revolves around the relationship of twin brothers, Omar and Yaqub, and the people in their circles. I really liked that the Brazilian setting and that the Lebanese angle, however I did not connect to the story in any way. I did not love the sketchy black and white art, and the story failed to resonate with me. I enjoyed most the relationship of the twin's parents, and there are some wonderful moments of inter-generational angst, but overall, this one just did not work for me. I might see if I can get my hands on the original novel to see if I was simply lost in translation. Rating: 2 stars.

85. The Grownup
This is a short story. A really short one. The audio takes a little over an hour, and it can be read in one sitting. If you've read anything by the author, you know that you are about to be taken for an interesting ride, and this one does not disappoint. There are loads of reviews out there, but I really think that going cold into this one is the way to go, as the less you know going in the better. A really fun ride, and I would highly recommend the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Julia Whelan. Rating: 4 stars.

June 25, 2016

Journal pages

A few art supplies and my journal is all I need to keep me happily occupied for hours. We're on the boat and I'm in the v-berth sketching and writing. Capturing moments in time.

I'm about halfway done with the first volume of my summer traveler's notebook, and so stay tuned for a flip video soon.

June 24, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 56-60

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.

56/100:

57/100:

58/100:

59/100:

60/100:

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.

It's rather fun going through free magazines and seeing what grabs my attention.

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

June 23, 2016

Cinemascope: Suffragette

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



Released in 2015.

Plot line: In early 20th-century Britain, the growing suffragette movement forever changes the life of working wife and mother Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan). Galvanized by political activist Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), Watts joins a diverse group of women who fight for equality and the right to vote. Faced with increasing police action, Maud and her dedicated suffragettes must play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, risking their jobs, homes, family and lives for a just cause.

Watching this movie made me oh so mad, so if you are looking for a light, fun movie, save this for a different night. For some reason, I assumed that this was based on the US Suffragette movement, of which I know a bit about, but this is based on what happened in London in the early 1900s. I knew almost nothing about the women in this story, and there are now things I'm going to look up.

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

June 21, 2016

The 100-Day Project | Days 51-55

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.

51/100:

52/100:

53/100:

54/100:

55/100:

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.

A couple of these were done while away from home, and as I suspected, portability is a plus on any long term project.

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

June 20, 2016

Recent Reads

76. Asterios Polyp
The thing about art, is that it is often impossible to convey what you feel about it to anyone else, and that is exactly how I feel about this graphic novel. Please bear with me while I try.

On the surface this is a simple story of a man who is middle aged, and his life has not turned out as he hoped. He is a successful theoretical architect. Stop for a second and think about what that actually means. In this case, it means that he has award winning designs that never get built. The story moves back and forth between the present and the past, and one of the things that comes through very clearly is how unlikable a character he really is. What events have conspired to bring him to his present situation, and is there any hope of redemption?

This graphic novel takes some very philosophical questions and explores them in art form. What is art? Who are we? What makes us who we are? How do our childhood wounds affect the adults we become? Can we really ever connect and communicate with another person? The art is really important in this one. The colors and the types of marks used all convey meaning, so you need to pay really close attention. How the author uses them to explore these themes is wonderful, and that spotlight sequence with Hana stopped me in my tracks.

The only reason I docked a star is that the ending was a bit Hollywoody for me. I'm not a fan of putting a bow on it, and it felt a tad contrived. I highly recommend this one, and expect to read it again. Rating: 4 stars.

77. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Reading this novel really brought to mind the notion of confirmation bias.

From Wiki: Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.

This novella (it's about 150 pages, never mind what the hardcover page count claims), is written for a bibliophile audience, and panders to everything that will cause said reader to nod head in vigorous agreement.

For example: Books great. Readers make the best friends/lovers/insert your fantasy here. Cannot possibly have any friends or intimates who do not read. Vampires bad. Indie bookstore awesome. Online stores bad. Ereaders bad.

Did you feel your head nodding? Then you might enjoy this book. It is a light, breezy, fast read about a grumpy indie bookseller who finds a baby left abandoned in his bookstore, and life is henceforth fun and easy, even death, lack of money, and divorce is not a problem. Turn that frown upside down! This book skims so much that it barely touches the surface of issues of race (on a New England island at that!), adoption, grief, financial worries, or really any more complex emotions at all other than what a dog might experience, albeit if said dog could read.

This one gives chick lit a bad name, and could be read by YA audiences, though not sure why they would bother. "A love letter to the world of books" it is not in my opinion. Yet so many readers (including my friends) have loved this one, maybe because it reads like a fairy tale. I simply do not understand all the love. It is not well written, the characters are caricatures, and the plot is all tell and no show. No show at all - and that is something even the main character himself criticizes.

Still, I can understand how one might be delighted by references to books or stories one has already read, and there are some cute moments, and if not for that I would have docked an additional star. Remember how you felt after you ate cotton candy at the fair? How there was this fluffy sweet taste in your mouth for a brief moment, and then it melted away to nothing? No aftertaste, simply nothing? That is how I feel about this one. Rating: 2 stars.

78. Moose
Bullying is a thing, and probably has been a thing since humans first formed cliques of any kind. This graphic novel is the story of Joe, a high school student, whose life is a kind of hell when we check in with him. He is bullied mercilessly and has no-one he can turn to for help.

The simple, stark, no frills black and white art painfully evokes the world of terror occupied by Joe. The author captures the isolation, despair, and loneliness felt by Joe, and accurately depicts how clueless many adults, including loving parents, can be, to the hell that is childhood for some kids.

This graphic novel is labeled YA, and would make an excellent short story for discussion on the topic with older teens, as some of the things that happen are quite explicit, and might not be appropriate for a middle grade reader. What happens in this story will haunt me for a long time. Rating: 4 stars.

79. Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London
Whether living in New York, London, or Lahore, the author considers Pakistan home, and as many people who are displaced either by necessity or choice know, this can lead to severe emotional turbulence.

This slim book is a collection of previously published essays on the author's musings on books he has read and loved, or not, on marriage and extended family, on being a father, on being a Muslim man in the post 9-11 world, on being an author, on the politics of Pakistan, the Pakistan-India relationship, on US Drone attacks, on Islam.

It is a good collection, but not a great one. Some of the essays are really short, while others are feature length. There are wonderful tidbits and insight to be gathered and marinated over, but as with any collection, I liked some of these essays better than others. Rating: 3 stars.

80. Thirteen Hours (Benny Griessel #2)
This was exactly the right book at the right time for me. I was in the mood for a fast paced thriller, and this, the second book in the Benny Griessel series, did not disappoint.

When an American backpacker disappears in Cape Town, the clock starts counting down, and the story moves along at a breathless pace for the next thirteen hours (hence the title). I really like that this South African detective series incorporates complex post-apartheid issues into the plot. The writing is really good, the characters well fleshed out, and the seemingly unrelated strands of the story converge in a satisfying manner.

That the audiobook is wonderfully narrated by Simon Vance was the icing on this already delicious cake. Rating: 4 stars.

June 16, 2016

Cinemascope: Miss You Already

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: An honest and powerful story following two best friends, Milly and Jess, as they navigate life's highs and lows. Inseparable since they were young girls, they can't remember a time they didn't share everything - secrets, clothes, even boyfriends - but nothing prepares them for the day Milly is hit with life-altering news.

I can't put it any better, so here is a critical review of this one: Miss You Already isn't shy about going for filmgoers' tear ducts, but its solid script and talented cast are often powerful enough to make up for its more manipulative moments. This stayed away from being a pure chick flick by dealing with some real life issues in such an honest way. Plus, it passed the Bechdel Test. What's not to love about that?

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