September 26, 2016

Recent Reads

146. Clive Barker's The Thief of Always
I read an omnibus edition of this graphic novel that contained all three volumes, so I'll review them as a set here.

You know that saying, be careful what you wish for as you just might get it? This graphic novel is adapted from a book of the same name by Clive Barker, and I plan on reading that as well.

Harvey Swick is a bored little boy, and time seems to go by at a glacial pace. He wishes he could run away and have adventures. Then one day he meets someone who promises to take him to a place where all his wishes will come true. What happens when Harvey gets there, and the characters he meets is a fun read. The art is wonderfully evocative, and this would be the perfect story for young readers around Halloween. Spooky without being too scary. Rating: 3 stars.

147. Descender, Vol 1: Tin Stars
I really liked Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth and Trillium, and if you have yet to read those graphic novels, stop now and read those first. He knows how to tell a story with an emotional punch, and his art is very evocative of the mood he sets.

Based on his earlier works, I'd been waiting to start this new series until the second volume was issued, but there is something missing. It's a humans versus robots world, but the main thrust of the story is one I simply could care less about. What I love about this one is TIM-21, a young robot boy and his confusion upon waking up after a ten year nap, to find himself in a universe where all androids have been outlawed, bounty hunters lurk on every planet, and most importantly his human family missing.

Lemire does not really explore new territory (pun intended) with this one, and while I like the loose watercolor art, it takes a little getting used to. I like this enough to continue reading the series. Rating: 3 stars.

148. Descender, Vol 2: Machine Moon
This volume collects issues #7-11, and while the action picks up in this installment of the story, the dialog is uninspired and feels like place holder lines until the writer comes in to work. I'm also ambivalent about the watercolor artwork in this series. While it works really well for large scale scenes, it's rather too loose for close ups in my opinion.

I continue to love TIM-21, and the fact that his emotional setting is rather high compared to everyone else just makes me love him more. It's the people around him and their motivations that I could care less about. P.S. Could have told you who the masked dude was after the first two panels. Not sure if I'll continue with this series, though maybe I'll feel differently when the next volume appears. Isn't that the definition of insanity? Rating: 2 stars.

149. The Goblin Emperor
I listened to the audiobook which is wonderfully narrated by Kyle McCarley.

Having read several dark books lately, I was in the mood for some fun and light fantasy, and this book delivered just that. At about a third of the way in, I thought this would be a four star read, but then the plot starts to meander in unnecessary ways, and took too long to close.

This is the story of Maia, the forth half-elf/half-goblin son of the emperor, who has lived in exile his entire life. When there is already a heir and a couple of spares around, one does not expect to suddenly be Emperor, but this exactly what happens to Maia one morning. He has not been educated for this position, so has to be a quick study, and things proceed from there.

There is something about stories that feature abandoned/rejected/abused children who suddenly make good that cheers us immensely. Take a minute and thing about it - bet you can name at least a handful of stories you've loved with a similar premise. Like most of the books in that trope, this one is a feel good story that made me smile and root for our boy Maia. The world building is good, but the names of people, places, and ceremonies were ludicrous. It's as though the author threw darts at an alphabet board whenever she needed a name, and went with what the fates gave her. Thank goodness the narrator figured out how to say all those words. The only problem is that my brain kept thinking I was immersed in a new language, and worked very hard to learn it. {smile}.

As I mentioned earlier, the story does get rather too long winded, but if you are in the mood for a light fantasy tale you might like this one too. Rating: 3 stars.

150. The Girl on the Train
I recently saw the movie preview so decided it was time to read this much hyped book of last summer, and it unfolded as I suspected. I simply don't know why it is that a book loved by so many often does not resonate with me.

I really like the premise. Who has not sat on commuter trains, gone by the same houses, and wondered about the lives of people in those houses? Heck, I do that on late evening walks around my neighborhood. What I don't do is go totally nuts, which is what the main character in this story does. This all starts when she sees something that jolts her out of this fantasy world she created in her head about a particular couple in a particular house. She then proceeds to do things that are simply mind boggling, and what's more, everyone around her must have grown up in incredibly dysfunctional homes because they put up with her crazies. Honestly?

The story has three women narrators, and I usually find it interesting to see events from various points of view, but the writing voice for the three women is identical, so they all blur together. It was fairly obviously what happened early on, so I spent a long time waiting for the nutty one to figure things out in her nutty way. The writing is pedestrian, but the chapters are really short so it does make for a quick read.

There is not a single likable person, of either gender, in this story, but unfortunately none of them were fleshed out enough for me to push back on. A deeper dive into some of the experiences of the women in this story would have made this a much more compelling read. So yeah, not for me. I read this a week or so ago, and barely remember much other being annoyed most of the time. Rating: 2 stars.

September 22, 2016

Cinemascope: Meet The Patels

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

Image result for meet the patels

Released in 2014.

Plot line: This documentary is features an Indian-American man who is about and turn 30 gets help from his parents and extended family to start looking for a wife in the traditional Indian way.

This documentary is laugh out funny in places, and if you are either of South Asian descent, involved with a South Asian in any manner, or simply want to understand a culture through the particulars of one family's story, you have to watch this one. I was laughing and cringing, and even though I am not a Patel, we have a lot in common.

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

September 19, 2016

Recent Reads

141. The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How to Draw
This graphic novel has an interesting premise. Can you take the basics of how to draw, and incorporate them into a story? This book shows that you can. It's a cute story of a young boy who has a passion for drawing, and along the way the reader learns along with him the fundamentals of drawing. This would make a good introduction for young artists. Rating: 3 stars.

142. Lucky Penny
New Adults. Emerging Adults. Whatever you call them, this genre tends to deal with collage age-ish people and their woes and misadventures. I can see how this would appeal to many in a similar situation, but unless the story sheds some new light they don't work for me.

This graphic novel is about a young woman who loses her job, loses her apartment, and ends up living in a storage unit. The story is light and fluffy, and given some of the issues lightly touched upon, this would have been a much more interesting read if the author had dived deeper. The art is cute and manga-ish, with all those large eyes. A fast read that I will not remember having read in a week or two. Rating: 2 stars.

143. Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (Delilah Dirk #1)
This graphic novel is about the swashbuckling (mis)adventures of Delilah Dirk. I especially like that the story starts in Constantinople and includes a Turkish angle. The art is good, and while I enjoyed all the action, I'm not sure that there was an actual plot. Still, this a fun read with an unorthodox heroine. Rating: 3 stars.

144. The Muralist
I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Xe Sands, and I bailed about 32% in.

This story has so many elements that I usually love. It's a story with two time lines. The earlier one is set in the 1940s, and centers around a young painter in the days of the WPA, and her cadre of painters, who are household names today. The second story line is set in 2015 and centers around woman number one's grand niece. Painters, artists, missing people, authenticating artwork, the plight of Jewish refugees, etc. All these should have added up to something with more meat, but alas did not.

The writing itself is not bad, but the plot seemed to rely on the reader's emotional response to events surrounding World War 11, without the author earning those emotions, and that felt somewhat like cheating to me. There was not enough character development for me to know, or really care, about any of the people in this story, and they seemed to be generic stand-ins for historical figures. I don't have an issue with very specific stories that use war time or historical events as their backdrop, but the author must earn the emotions in the writing, and not simply move characters around while dropping clues that tell the reader what to feel.

On the plus side, this is the first that I'd heard about the history surround the MS St. Loius, and I plan to read more about it. Also, this book reminded me that I really should move a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt higher up my TBR pile.

This is the second book by this author that I have DNFed, both for similar reasons: books with a wonderful premise that do not deliver. Rating: 1 star.

145. Shelter
Someone close to me once said that he knew how to be a son, a husband, and a father, but not all at the same time.

I read this book in three sittings, and I don't recall a book that has so haunted my dreams in a very long time. The premise is a deceptively simple one: what does it mean to provide for one's family? It is what the author does with this question that makes this very hyped book deserve all the hype.

This is an example of a book that the less you know going in the better. The author explores so many themes really well in this slim novel. We get a look behind closed doors at a couple of marriages, parent - child relationships, and violence in various forms. There is much to ponder about humanity and yourself while reading this one, and you will not look at things the same way after you are done.

I really cannot say more without giving away things that are better discovered while reading it yourself. I docked a star because this is a debut novel, and it shows in parts, but I cannot wait to see what else this author uncorks in the future. Rating: 4 stars.

September 18, 2016

Vegas 2016 Traveler's Notebook - PreTrip (Video)

Here's the new journal I'll be using on an upcoming trip.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

Links to videos mentioned:
Creative Tip: Re-use Sticker Backing as Stencils
Turkey Travel Journal
Journal Tips

September 15, 2016

Cinemascope: Underground (Season 1)

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

Image result for underground tv show

Released in 2016.

Plot line: Underground centers on a group of slaves planning a daring 600-mile escape from a Georgia plantation. Along the way, they are aided by a secret abolitionist couple running a station on the Underground Railroad as they attempt to evade the people charged with bringing them back, dead or alive. As an aside, it is really wonderful to see so many people of color on the screen.

This is an interesting show, and while it has its flaws it is an interesting and disturbing show that looks at various angles surrounding a significant part of US history. History is an accounting of what happened as told by the victors, and it is always a good thing to balance the telling of it from various points of view. Injustice and oppression affects every single person in the sphere of their influence, not just the victims, and I think this show explores some of that as well.

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

September 12, 2016

Recent Reads

136. All Things Cease to Appear
I listened to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Kirsten Potter.

The basic premise is that a man comes home one day to find his wife dead, and his three year old daughter alone in the house with said dead Mom. Who dunnit?

I knew within the first several chapters who did it, but was interested to see how the author would spin out the yarn. The writing is solid, the character development interesting, and the setting very atmospheric, but, and it a huge but, the plot itself lacked any drive. There were too many character points of view, many of which did not add to the story in my opinion. The supernatural touch was entirely out of context, and did not work at all. There were two things that kept me reading:

1. The exploration of how marriages can deteriorate over time and circumstance.
2. The manner in which the author addresses mental illness and the unraveling of a mind.

The final chapters of the book were rather predictable and completely unbelievable, and I might be the only person who liked the ending for the killer. This is quick summer read, and while I enjoyed it at the time, it has not stayed with me. Rating: 3 stars.

137. Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy #1)
I listened to the audiobook, which is superbly narrated by Will Patton.

The final book in this trilogy was released recently, so decided to dive in. This is the first King I've read that is a detective story. I don't think he's done it before, and it shows.

The title refers to a person who used said car to plow through a crowd, killing and injuring many. The killer escapes. The protagonist is a retired cop, who is haunted by this unsolved crime, and is not handing retirement too well. The story goes back and forth between the cop and the killer, with a smattering of other characters to help flesh out the story.

In classic King style, this is a fast paced and fun ride. However, there is not much character development, there are so many implausible things that happen, and do not get me started on the ridiculous women characters. Does King really not know any woman who can parallel park a car? Sigh.

If you can ignore the flaws I've outlined above, this would make a good beach/airplane read. I've got the other two books on audio, and in spite of the superb narrator, I'm in no hurry to get to them at this time. Rating: 3 stars.

138. Hamilton: The Revolution
This Broadway musical hit is impossible to get tickets for, so I opted for the next best thing. I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by Mariska Hargitay. Lin-Manuel Miranda narrates his annotations at the end.

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked up this audiobook, but what I got was a delightful back stage pass to the show's inspiration, creation, and production. Also included was a short biography of all the major players, both in the cast and those behind the scenes.

This is a really wonderful look at how work gets done, and if you are person who enjoys seeing how the art (or sausage) is made, you'll enjoy it too. What I did not expect was to be in tears at various points of the book. I've got the original cast soundtrack on deck to listen to next, and plan to read the biography by Chernow as well. Rating: 4 stars.

139. The Rook (The Checquy Files #1)
"The body you are wearing used to be mine."

That might well be one of my top 10 fave first lines ever. Imagine that you wake up with no memories, and then find letters in your pocket that inform you that you are now inhabiting the body of someone else, who sadly has been separated from it. What do you do?

This is clearly a case of the right book finding the right reader at the right time. I cannot even begin to explain why I enjoyed this one so much, as much of it is ridiculously over the top. It's like a Jason Bourne/ Harry Potter/ Men in Black mashup, and I enjoyed every minute of the ride. The story alternates between letters from the woman who used to inhabit said body, and the current day resident of the body as she tries to figure out what the heck is going on. The humor had me laughing out loud several times.

This is a fun romp of a read, and while it might not be for everyone, I'd suggest giving it a try. Rating: 4 stars.

140. The Geek Feminist Revolution
"There are many ways to silence a woman, and not all of them involve getting her to stop speaking. Sometimes it's enough to simply ensure all she speaks about is you."

If you are looking for a fun, fast read look elsewhere. I found this collection of essays educational and thought provoking. It is always interesting to see how the younger generation deals with feminist issues. The author takes on popular culture, and holds everyone, including herself, accountable. There are so many lines that I highlighted in this collection.

I deducted a star because there was a bit too much repetition in several of the essays, and some of the essays addressed issues faced by writers, particularly women in the science fiction and fantasy genre, and I'm not really the target audience for those, even though they were enlightening.

This is the first book I've read by this author, and I'll be trying some of her fiction next. Rating: 4 stars.

September 11, 2016

Creative Tip: Re-use Sticker Backing as Stencils (Video)

A fun and easy way to get more bang for your buck from stickers.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

Links to other videos you might be interested in:
Summer 2016 Traveler's Notebook
2016 Journals and Planner, plus a Sketchbook Flip Through of my Nightstand Binder Journal
Turkey Travel Jounal

September 6, 2016

Journal pages / Journal Flip Through (Video)

I've completed the first insert of the fabric Traveler's Notebook I'm using this summer, so here's a journal flip.

If the embedded link does not work, click here.

Links to other videos you might be interested in:
Summer 2016 Traveler's Notebook
2016 Journals and Planner, plus a Sketchbook Flip Through of my Nightstand Binder Journal
Turkey Travel Jounal

September 5, 2016

Recent Reads

131. Brown Girl Dreaming
This book won several awards including the National Book Award for Young People's Literature (2014). A novel in verse for kids you say? I was intrigued.

I listened to the audiobook which was well narrated by the author.

I'm not sure that novel is an accurate label for this one. I'd go with memoir. I don't think I've ever read anything quite like it before, and it took a little while to understand that this was really a memoir told in short, very short, poems. Once I settled into the groove of the narration, I enjoyed the ride.

This coming of age memoir reflects the personal, familial, societal, and political waypoints of a young African American girl growing up in the 1960s and 70s. We still live in a world where the color of one's skin matters, and I really liked how the author explores the concept of home in a world that tells you that you don't belong. I was especially delighted with all the vignettes that highlighted her relationship with her grandparents.

The language is lovely, and the author evokes her childhood with such clarity that I questioned how it was possible for her to "remember" events that happened when she was so young. Memory is a strange thing, and in the afterword, the author outlines her sources.

This book would be a wonderful way to introduce middle grade readers to the themes covered here. A quick and lovely read. Rating: 4 stars.

132. Lonely Planet Washington, DC (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet is one of my go-to travel guides, and this one was exactly what I expected. Easy to use, clearly laid out, and I especially liked the updated information section. Came in very handy on a recent trip. Rating: 3 stars.

133. Saga, Volume 6
This volume collects issues #31-36.

“Anyone who thinks one book has all the answers hasn’t read enough books.”

I do the happy dance every time I get one of these volumes in my hands. This graphic novel series continues to be smart and funny and inclusive and all around lovely. The art is really great, and Hazel is growing up so fast. There are scenes in this one that actually left me with my mouth open in disbelief. Such a fun series, and if you are not reading along, whatever are you waiting for? Rating: 4 stars.

134. Our Souls at Night
This is the first book I've read by the author, and based on all the rave reviews this book has garnered, I was sure I'd love it. Alas, no.

The premise is an interesting one. A lonely widow, aged 70, decides to ask her neighbor, an elderly widower, if he would consider sleeping together. Not for sex, mind you, but rather like a sleepover, for companionship. Such a wonderful premise right?

What I really liked about this novella is that the story is based on a relationship between two elderly people - not something that is usually given its due. I also really liked that Addie, the woman, is the instigator of this arrangement. This is a simple, quiet story about two ordinary people, living ordinary lives, and there is a beauty to that.

However, I found the writing itself to be rather pedestrian, and there was too much telling and not enough showing. They did this, then did that, then did this. That did not work for me at all, and I found it a really distracting style of story telling. Without going into details, so as to not spoil the story for those who have not read it, I found certain details implausible and I could not suspend my disbelief enough to really go along for the ride.

It seems that everyone I know loves this author, and this book in particular. It works well as a stand alone, and I'll be curious to read his earlier beloved works to see if they work better for me. This one gets a 2.5 stars, and I'll round up to 3 because of Addie. Rating: 3 stars.

135. Rat Queens, Vol. 3: Demons
This volume collects Issues #11-15.

This installment, while fun, is not as engaging as the first two. The one focuses mainly on Hannah, and fleshes out more of her back story. The other Queens basically sit around while all this is going on. The art is really good, but in this installment everyone seems to have had some plastic surgery to enhance the usual areas. Why is it that we can't have kick ass women that don't look like porn stars? Sigh. Rating: 3 stars.

September 2, 2016

Journal pages (Video)

Remember those glue gun stencils and my new traveler's notebook inserts? Well, here's what happened with those. 

You can see a video slideshow of the steps to creating this page below.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

September 1, 2016

Cinemascope: The Night Manager

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

Released in 2016.

Plot line: Based on John le Carré's novel of the same name, `The Night Manager' is a crime drama following the work of former British soldier Jonathan Pine. Hotel night porter Pine is contacted by an intelligence operative who asks for his assistance to spy on international businessman Richard Roper. The entrepreneur is believed to have forged a criminal alliance between the secret arms trade and the intelligence community, prompting the need for surveillance. Pine attempts to infiltrate Roper's inner circle by becoming a felon himself, while keeping his mission a secret from his hotel colleagues and girlfriend.

If you are a fan of spy/espionage books and movies, you have to try this one. I have yet to read the book, but this show is wonderfully produced. I realize that so many of the movies or TV shows I've been recommending lately are based on books. Not a surprise really right?

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

August 30, 2016

Current creative projects

I've been working on a couple of things lately. First up, I decided to make some new inserts for my #travelersnotebook. I'm planning on using these for my #useupyourstash project.

My plan is to try various art journaling techniques in these journals while only using supplies currently in my stash.

Keeping with that theme, I pulled out a glue gun and tried my hand at making some glue stencils. Easy, fun, and addictive.

August 29, 2016

Recent Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 27, 2016

Journal pages

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

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

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

August 25, 2016

Cinemascope: The Forsyte Saga (Seasons 1 & 2)

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

Released in 2002.

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

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

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

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

August 23, 2016

Summer 2016 Traveler's Notebook (Video)

DIY Fabric TN that I'm using this summer.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

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

August 22, 2016

Recent Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 20, 2016

Journal pages

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

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

August 18, 2016

Cinemascope: And There Were None

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

Released in 2015.

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

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

August 17, 2016

Journal pages

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

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

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

August 15, 2016

Recent Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 11, 2016

Cinemascope:The Diary of a Teenage Girl

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

Released in 2015.

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

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

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

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

August 9, 2016

Journal pages

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

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

August 8, 2016

Recent Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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