January 23, 2017

Recent Reads

1. My Name Is Lucy Barton
This is my first DNF of 2017, and I barely got to the first weekend. Sigh.

There are some authors that simply do not work for me, and I've decided to add this one to that list. This is the fourth book I've read by the author, and I feel the same way about all of them. There are wonderful nuggets of insight about the human experience, and some really lovely writing, but these peaks are surrounded by vast amounts of wasteland. And these are not long books.

I bailed about a third of the way through this one. I've read glowing reviews, but did not feel the same way. As stated above, those little nuggets keep me hoping, but alas, I found the writing and the dialogue awkward and pedestrian. This is a daughter/mother relationship, but I felt as though I was looking in on this relationship from behind bullet proof glass, and they were speaking in a different language. I was bored, so gave up.

Lots of people love it, so don't take my word for it, but I don't plan on reading any of her other works. Rating: 1 star.

2. The Motherless Oven
This is a graphic novel that I just didn't understand. It's a sort of coming of age story in a bizarre setting. In this world, children make their parents, there are no birthdays but deathdays, I can't even continue. I liked the art, but the story itself didn't work for me, probably because those off-the-wall parents. There were some plot points that I enjoyed, but overall, this one left me scratching my head wondering what it is that I missed. This might actually end up with 1 star upon further consideration. Rating: 2 stars.

3. Bleak House
At 1%: This is the second year of my Dickens in December project.
At 10%: Dickens is simply brilliant, and the names of his characters are so fun.
At 25.0%: What a page turner of a read this one is turning out to be.
At 32.0%: Such wit and on point critiques of people and society. Too bad Dickens isn't alive to write about our times.
At 46.0%: Almost at the halfway mark, and it just keeps getting better.
At 55.0%: Distracted by holiday travels, but back in the swing of things, only to find myself delighted by an incidence of spontaneous combustion.
At 75.0%: And now we have a murder mystery thrown into the mix? Oh, Dickens, how I adore thee.

I read some Dickens in school, and while I recall liking them, I think I was more impressed with myself for reading him than his actual writing. So to rectify that, and to get to the rest of his oeuvre, I decided in 2015 to start an annual tradition of 'Dickens in December'. 2016 was year two of the new tradition, and I decided to go with what is widely considered his masterpiece. What with holiday travel, etc. I didn't end up completely the book until early January, but I'm not complaining.

I listened to the audiobook, and was enthralled for the entire 33 hours or so it took to get through this masterpiece. I loved everything about it. The wit, the social and judicial critiques, the character development and their individual voices, the plot, the numerous tangents, the wonderful names of people and places, oh, I could go on and on. This is a classic for a reason, and I don't think I need to summarize the story, for indeed how could I? The wonder of this master craftsman is that whenever he took me on a tangent, I waited with delight to see where we'd end up. In the end you realize that there is a reason for each and every sentence, each scene, and each item that we are shown. There is not a wasted sentence in my opinion, and all those nay-sayers who say he wrote such wordy tomes because he got paid by the word can go suck on a lemon. I wanted more, and would happily have read a book twice this size. I had a severe book hangover when I was done, for who on earth could even hope to keep my interest after Dickens?

A note on the audiobook production. The book was narrated by the wonderful Simon Vance, and his ability to keep the numerous character voices straight is incredible. The narration is superb and only added to my delightful experience. I'd highly recommend the audio version of this one.

I could not put this book down, and when I had to, I found myself thinking about the characters and saying things they would say. It surely is an East Wind I feel now that I have to wait until December to read my next Dickens. Which one will it be? Rating: 5 stars.

January 19, 2017

Cinemascope: Sing Street

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

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Released in 2016.

Plot line: SING STREET takes us back to 1980s Dublin seen through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy named Conor who is looking for a break from a home strained by his parents relationship and money troubles, while trying to adjust to his new inner-city public school where the kids are rough and the teachers are rougher. He finds a glimmer of hope in the mysterious, über-cool and beautiful Raphina, and with the aim of winning her heart he invites her to star in his band's music videos. There's only one problem: he's not part of a band...yet. She agrees, and now Conor must deliver what he's promised - calling himself Cosmo and immersing himself in the vibrant rock music trends of the decade, he forms a band with a few lads, and the group pours their heart into writing lyrics and shooting videos. Inspired by writer/director John Carney's life and love for music, Sing Street shows us a world where music has the power to take us away from the turmoil of everyday life and transform us into something greater.

I hadn't even heard about this movie until it ended up on several best movies of 2016 lists, and I'm so glad I gave it a chance. This coming of age story is simply delightful.

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

January 12, 2017

Cinemascope: The Handmaiden

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

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Released in 2016.

Plot line: A gripping and sensual tale of two women - a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but is secretly plotting with a conman to defraud her of a large inheritance. Inspired by the novel Fingersmith by British author Sarah Waters, The Handmaiden borrows the most dynamic elements of its source material and combines it with Park Chan-wook’s singular vision to create an unforgettable viewing experience.

I hardly ever go to see movies at the theaters. It's not that I can't, it's that by the time I think about seeing something I really want to see, it's already run its course and I have to wait for the DVD to show up at my library. This movie I knew I wanted to see, and I put it on my calendar so I would not miss it at the cinemas. 

There is so much I love about this South Korean adaptation of Fingersmith. If you've read the book, or seen the English adaptation, you know what to expect. If you have not, then sit back and enjoy the ride. The scenes are all beautifully composed, the acting really good, and I was surprised at how explicit the sex scenes were. This is a movie I will watch again on DVD, as I think I missed some of the cinematography because my eyes were busy reading the translated text on the screen.

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

January 9, 2017

Recent Reads

196. Artist's Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures
I dip into this book whenever I'm looking for creative inspiration, and it has not failed me yet. I always find something new to try, and I believe this is my fourth reading of the book. This wonderful book is full of ideas, inspiration, advice, and has lots of colorful examples of fun journal pages. Rating: 4 stars.

197. Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening
I don't even know how to summarize this graphic novel, so will stick to the blurb:

"Set in an alternate world of art deco beauty and steampunk horror, Montress tells the epic story of Maika Halfwolf, a teenage survivor of a cataclysmic war between humans and their hated enemies, the Arcanics. In the face of oppression and terrible danger, Maika is both hunter and hunted, searching for answers about her mysterious past as those who seek to use her remain just one step behind...and all the while, the monster within begins to awaken..."

This might well be the most beautifully illustrated graphic novel I've read in ages. The art alone makes this one worth picking up. But, that's not all you get. This is a wonderfully women/girl/female centric world, and trying to figure out what different groups the main characters belong to is part the fun. This one is certainly more action/plot driven than I'd expect for the first volume. There isn't much world building, and you are left to figure things out at your own pace. And there are things that we just don't know, and I look forward to uncovering those plot lines as this story unfolds. There's also this adorable fox. There so much I loved about this one, and if you are a cat person, you must get this one pronto. Delightful. Violent. Dark. Not for the kiddos. Rating: 4 stars.

198. Velvet, Volume One: Before the Living End
Book blurb: Velvet Templeton is supposed to be just a secretary, the personal assistant to the Director of a top secret Intelligence Agency, but when the world's greatest spy is killed, she quickly finds herself caught in a web of mystery and murder, as her own secret past comes to light.

Rather than review each volume of this graphic novel trilogy individually, I'm going to review it in it's entirety here.

If you are a fan of Jason Bourne and James Bond, and have always wondered why those roles are not cast with a woman, this is the series for you. A fun, fast paced, violent, spy thriller, with a kick ass older woman in the lead role. Yes, you read that correctly, older woman. In a genre where so many of the women are young and perky teenagers (or so it feels to this middle aged woman), it's wonderfully refreshing to see this one cast differently. The story is interesting, the art wonderfully evokes the right noir mood, and Velvet Templeton rocks. The only reason I docked a star, is that I wanted more dialog to flesh out the story better, and some of the men were hard to tell apart. Now, will someone please make this a movie and make my day? Rating: 4 stars.

199. Velvet, Volume Two: The Secret Lives of Dead Men
See my review of this trilogy above. Rating: 4 stars.

200. Velvet, Volume Three: The Man Who Stole the World
See my review of this trilogy above. Rating: 4 stars.

201. Snow White: A Graphic Novel
I'm not sure what I expected when I picked up this graphic novel, but it wasn't what I got. I love the art, and the setting of this classic story in New York City, circa 1928, is a brilliant idea. The plot does not stray far from the Disney adaptation, and the casting of Snow and the seven street urchins was quite fun. There is so little dialog, that this might almost be a wordless picture book, and while the art is wonderful, I found the story itself just OK. So, 4 stars for the art, and 2 for the story, averages out at 3. Rating: 3 stars.
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That's the last of my 2016 reads. It's been a good one, and I look forward to 2017.
Happy reading!

January 6, 2017

My Fave Reads of 2016

It's always fun to review what I read in any given year. Here are my fave books of 2016 :

Non-Fiction:


I rated the top two as 5 star reads, and the bottom two received 4 stars.

Fiction:


2016 was a fantastic year for classics. I adore every book on this list, and each got 5 stars. An interesting note is that I listened to each of these on audio, and that seems to be a trend that will continue in the new year.

Comics:


The Comics genre is exploding, and I'm delighted with the sheer variety of what is available today. I rated the top four as 5 star reads, and the bottom two received 4 stars. The thing to note is that three books in the Ooku series garnered 5 stars, while the rest were 4 star reads.

There are many other 4 star reads from the year, but these are the ones that really stick out for me as I look back over my list. You can read my reviews of these and other books read in 2016 here.

I'd love to hear about your fave books, and if there are titles you think I must read in the new year, please do let me know.

January 5, 2017

Cinemascope: Brokeback Mountian

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

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Released in 2005.

Plot line: A ranch hand and a rodeo cowboy, meet in the summer of 1963 and unexpectedly forge a romantic and lifelong connection. The complications, joys and heartbreak they experience provide a testament to the endurance and power of love.

This is one of those rare occasions when the movie adaptation is better than the book. I love everything about this movie and the themes it explores.

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

January 2, 2017

Recent Reads

191. Lazarus, Vol. 2: Lift
This volume collects issues #5-9.

I liked that this installment of this graphic novel series introduces us to some of the "waste" - people who are of no value to the ruling families. As one might imagine, life is not pleasant for these people, but again, there is no new ground trod here. I continue to like how the Lazarus story unfolds, but the author does not push beyond cliched stories and scenes in the telling of this tale. Let's see what happens next. Rating: 3 stars.

192. Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery": The Authorized Graphic Adaptation
I love the original short story, and I knew better, but was intrigued. The author is Shirely Jackson's grandson, and the introduction where he talks about the family traditions was an interesting read. However. I really liked the art in this, the colors, the ambiance, were all good, but somehow it did not work in toto. It might be because it lacks the punch of the original story, and something is lost in the adaptation. If you have yet to read the original, skip this and read that. Rating: 2 stars.

193. Lazarus: The Second Collection
This omnibus edition collects Volumes 3 (Conclave) and 4 (Poison), so issues #10-21.

I continue to love the backstory of Eve, the Carlyle Lazarus, and getting to understand her childhood makes one appreciate even more the internal conflict she is struggling with. What do you do when you are not who you think you are? Tough questions for most of us, but when you are a Lazarus, the stakes are that much bigger.

I enjoyed meeting the the members of the other families, especially the Lazarii (is that the right word?). The diversity is appreciated, and watching the power struggles both inside the family, and the world at large is a fun read. My complaint with this collection is the same one I've had all along, namely, there is nothing really new explored here, and there is so much potential material! While I'm a fan of strong kick-ass women, and there are loads in this series, that's just not enough to warrant a higher rating. A fun, fast read, and I thought I was done with the series, and then was hit with that ending. What?! When does Volume 5 come out again? Rating: 3 stars.

194. Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous
I love Kamala Khan, I do, but I might be the only one who is not thrilled with the company she keeps - and by that I mean the Avengers! I know she's reached the big leagues, and her glee and pinch-myself-feelings about being allowed to join the As is all well and good, but I for one am conflicted about it.

There are really two stories going on here. The one I'm not really loving is the Avengers/battling various bad guys/frogs bits. It's fun, but that alone would only get a 3 star rating. The parts I adore deal with the struggles of being a young, Pakistani Muslim girl trying her best to fit in, make her family happy, being a typical teen and getting mad at Bruno for dating Mike, etc. Kamala's brother has his eyes on a girl, and the family scenes around this just warmed my heart. Where were books like these when I was a kid? Better late than never. That story line gets 5 stars. So, I'll average this out to 4. I'm so much more interested in the family drama in this series, and love that it explores new, uncharted ground in the comics genre. Rating: 4 stars.

195. In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs
In a world that rarely celebrates women, especially women who choose to follow unconventional career paths, this book is a breath of fresh air.

I really liked the diversity of the women in this collection, and the photographs showing each woman in her space are beautiful. However, this is not an in-depth interview with each of the 100 women, but a short Q&A with each. So on the one hand, we quickly get their insights, but on the other, the reading becomes rather rote, and I found myself skimming those towards the end. I did not know the majority of these women, and maybe this is a book better dipped in and out of, rather than being read in a couple of sittings.

I would recommend this to young women starting out, or even more mature ones looking to make a switch. There is comfort in being the company of women who are also following their passions. Rating: 3 stars.

December 31, 2016

2016 - My Year in Books




You can browse the books I read below, and also here. It was an excellent reading year for classics and graphic novels, not so much when it came to new releases. Stay tuned for my best of 2016 lists.

My Average Rating for 2016: 3.1/5.0 stars.

My 2016 Books:



Snow White: A Graphic Novel
Velvet, Volume Three: The Man Who Stole the World
Velvet, Volume Two: The Secret Lives of Dead Men
Velvet, Volume One: Before the Living End
In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous
Lazarus: The Second Collection
Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery": The Authorized Graphic Adaptation
Make Your Own Ideabook with Arne & Carlos: Create Handmade Art Journals and Bound Keepsakes to Store Inspiration and Memories
Lazarus, Vol. 2: Lift
Lazarus, Vol. 1: Family
Adulthood Is a Myth (Sarah's Scribbles, #1)
Plutona
The Unseen World
Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil
The Singing Bones
The Bluest Eye
Angel Catbird, Vol. 1 (Angel Catbird, #1)
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye
Azores, 5th
Royal Assassin
Saudade
Lester's Dreadful Sweaters
5,000 km Per Second
How to Talk to Girls at Parties
The Only Child
Pereira Declares: A Testimony
The Nameless City
Panther
Fatherland
Poetry Is Useless
Ghosts
My Name is Leon
Sketching People: An Urban Sketcher's Manual to Drawing Figures and Faces
Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)
Incite 2, Color Passions: The Best of Mixed Media
A Single Man
The Girl on the Train
Descender, Volume Two: Machine Moon
Clive Barker's the Thief of Always Book 3
Clive Barker's the Thief of Always Book 2
Clive Barker's The Thief of Always Vol. 1 #1
The Goblin Emperor
Shelter
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (Delilah Dirk, #1)
The Muralist
Lucky Penny
The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How to Draw
Hamilton: The Revolution
Dark Matter
Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #1)
Hot Milk
Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening (Collected Editions)
All Things Cease to Appear
Saga, Volume 6
The Geek Feminist Revolution
Dogs and Water
Ballpoint Art Pack: Cool Techniques and Creative Explorations for Drawing with an Everyday Pen
Lonely Planet Washington, DC (Travel Guide)
Finding Wild
Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond
The Fireman
The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound: A Birder's Journal
Cowboys and East Indians
Pablo: Art Masters Series
Death: The Time of Your Life
Giovanni's Room
Daring Adventures in Paint: Find Your Flow, Trust Your Path, and Discover Your Authentic Voice-Techniques for Painting, Sketching, and Mixed Media
Y: The Last Man - The Deluxe Edition Book Two
Y: The Last Man - The Deluxe Edition Book One
The Collage Workbook: How to Get Started and Stay Inspired
Redemption Road
Lady Susan
Becoming Unbecoming
Shackleton's Journey
Princeless, Vol. 4: Be Yourself
Princeless, Vol. 3: The Pirate Princess
Craft-a-Doodle: 75 Creative Exercises from 18 Artists
Fires of Invention (Mysteries of Cove, #1)
Salem's Lot
The Oven
Jane, the Fox, and Me
Patience
Mara
Nanjing: The Burning City
Princeless, Vol. 2: Get Over Yourself
Princeless, Vol. 1: Save Yourself
The Vegetarian
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Coffin Hill Vol. 3: Haunted Houses
Take It As A Compliment
The Lie Tree
The Heart
Nijigahara Holograph
Power of the Dog
The Grownup
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Coffin Hill Vol. 2: Dark Endeavors
Girl in Dior
The Heart of Thomas
Thirteen Hours
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man
Asterios Polyp
Painting Nature in Watercolor with Cathy Johnson: 37 Step-By-Step Demonstrations Using Watercolor Pencil and Paint
The Lost Thing
Coffin Hill Vol. 1: Forest of the Night
Hey, Wait...
Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules
The Fade Out: Act Three
The Fade Out: Act Two
The Fade Out: Act One
Lulu Anew
Mixed Media Masterpieces with Jenny & Aaron: Create Incredible Art Journals and Handmade Mixed Media Treasures with Two Master Crafters
Prison Island: A Graphic Memoir
Me Before You (Me Before You, #1)
Ongoingness: The End of a Diary
Identity Crisis
Steps to Success in Watercolor: Learn Eight Valuable Principles for Planning Your Next Watercolor Painting
Low, Vol. 2: Before the Dawn Burns Us
Low, Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope
Firelight (Amulet, #7)
The New Yorker Book of Literary Cartoons
A Glance Backward
The Great Showdowns
Liō: Happiness is a Squishy Cephalopod
Aama, Vol. 2: The Invisible Throng (Aama, #2)
Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 11
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers Volume 10 (Ōoku: The Inner Chambers / 大奥, #10)
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 9 (Ōoku: The Inner Chambers / 大奥, #9)
Space Dumplins
Killing and Dying: Stories
The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir
Nimona
Middlemarch
Meanwhile in San Francisco: The City in its Own Words
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 8 (Ōoku: The Inner Chambers / 大奥, #8)
Self-Portrait as Your Traitor
Giant Days, Vol. 1 (Giant Days, #1)
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 7 (Ōoku: The Inner Chambers / 大奥, #7)
The Price of Salt
The Bird King: An Artist's Notebook
Whatever You Are, Be a Good One
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 6 (Ōoku: The Inner Chambers / 大奥, #6)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The Sandman: Overture
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 2 (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, #2)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 1 (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, #1)
Rat Queens, Vol. 3: Demons
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 5 (Ōoku: The Inner Chambers / 大奥, #5)
A Burnable Book
How to Relax (Mindfulness Essentials, #5)
Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'rygoth
The Private Eye: The Cloudburst Edition
Do the Work
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Volume 4 (Ōoku: The Inner Chambers / 大奥, #4)
Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir
Playing with Sketches: 50 Creative Exercises for Designers and Artists
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 3 (Ōoku: The Inner Chambers / 大奥, #3)
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 2 (Ōoku: The Inner Chambers / 大奥, #2)
Girls Standing on Lawns
Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them
Our Souls at Night
Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel
1984
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days
Moose
Daily Painting: Paint Small and Often To Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Artist
SuperMutant Magic Academy
Hurry Up and Wait
Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)
The Blue Whale
The Sixth Extinction
Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars
Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future
Beloved Dog
The Story of My Tits
Trashed
Two Brothers
Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations
Aama, Vol. 1: The Smell of Warm Dust (Aama, #1)
Black River
Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London
The Outside Circle: A Graphic Novel
H Is for Hawk
Lady Killer (Lady Killer, #1)
Everything Is Teeth
Go Set a Watchman
Mr Loverman
Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine
A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)
Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery
Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story
The Fair Fight
Brown Girl Dreaming
Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned
The Complete Decorated Journal: A Compendium of Journaling Techniques
Doctor Sleep (The Shining, #2)
The Golem and the Jinni
The Rook (The Checquy Files, #1)
My Family and Other Animals (Corfu Trilogy, #1)
Evidence: The Art of Candy Jernigan
Artist's Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures
We Have Always Lived in the Castle