October 30, 2014

Boston Book Festival 2014

October is a fabulous time to be in Boston. There is just so much going on, and one of my fave things is the Boston Book Festival, which took place last weekend. There are so many events with wonderful authors, but honestly my fave thing is being surrounded by people who love reading. The Kids' Keynote was given by Rick Riordan, and the lines went around the block. It made me so happy to see so many excited kids there. The History Keynote was given by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and though I really wanted to see her, I opted out of the long, long lines. Here are the sessions I attended, and got to be in the front row for each one! As always click on photos to view larger.

First session of the day: Fiction with a Twist




Blurb: Thrillers, romances, and fantasy novels have always been segregated from so-called literary fiction on bookstore and library shelves. These days, however, even serious (and seriously successful) authors are embracing genre fiction. Bestselling YA author Lauren Oliver’s first foray into adult fiction is the ghost story Rooms. Ben Mezrich, best known for nonfiction like Bringing Down the House, offers a cinematic worldwide adventure in his novel Seven Wonders. And William Giraldi takes readers to the frozen north in his atmospheric thriller Hold the Dark. What brings these authors to explore new genres? Do they just offer a fun diversion, or are they breaking down barriers between literary categories? Robin Young, co-host of Here & Now on WBUR and NPR, will lead a discussion of these questions and more.


Photo: William Giraldi, Lauren Oliver, Ben Mezrich and Robin Young. Such a great panel discussion.

Second session of the day: South Asian Authors: Impact Across Genres


Blurb: The authors in this session write high-impact works spanning a range of subjects and genres. Vikas Swarup’s novel Q & A became the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire, while his latest, The Accidental Apprentice, is also slated to be adapted for film. Vikram Chandra’s latest novel is the thriller Sacred Games; his most recent book, Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty, explores the connections between technology and the art of writing. Journalist Geeta Anand’s nonfiction work, The Cure, about a father’s race to find a cure for the disease afflicting his two children, became the film Extraordinary Measures starring Harrison Ford. Ulka Anjaria, who teaches South Asian literature and film at Brandeis, will lead the wide-ranging conversation with these fascinating, multi-talented authors. Sponsored by the South Asian Arts Council.
(Due to travel complications, Vikas Swarup will be unable to join us for this session.)

Photo: Vikram Chandra, Geeta Anand and Ulka Anjaria talked about fiction and nonfiction in India and abroad.

Third session of the day:My Memoir, My Quest


Blurb: Each of the panelists here writes of a quest for self-discovery, a search for a deeper understanding of a subject with lasting, lifelong impact, or both. In My Life in Middlemarch, Rebecca Mead unpacks the many ways that nineteenth-century novelist George Eliot influenced her own life and career. Max Tegmark, in in Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality, reveals his theory of how mathematics explains the cosmos while also sharing the triumphs and setbacks of his own life in science. Joanna Rakoff, in My Salinger Year, reflects on a defining year spent answering J. D. Salinger’s fan mail. Moderated by by Ethan Gilsdorf, author of the memoir/pop culture investigation Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. Sponsored by May K. Houghton.


Photo: Entertaining and informative panel discussion by Rebecca Mead, Max Tegmark, Joanna Rakoff and Ethan Gilsdorf.


Fourth session of the day: Fiction: Another Country


Blurb: The authors in this session use the whole globe as a canvas for their recent fiction.Joseph O’Neill’s The Dog, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is set amid the singular landscape and complex social milieu of Dubai. In Euphoria, winner of the 2014 New England Book Award, Lily King charts a passionate love triangle among anthropologists working in 1930s New Guinea. And in Secrecy, Rupert Thomsonexplores issues of power, religion, and art while taking readers deep into Florence’s Medici court. Their engrossing discussion will be moderated by James Wood, book critic for the New Yorker.
 

Photo: The Joseph O'Neil, Lily King, Rupert Thomson and James Wood panel was a fab way to end a wonderful day.

If you have yet to check out the Boston Book Festival, you must go. Put it in your calendar for next October.

October 29, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 10.29.14


Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

October 28, 2014

Journal page

I started with a white watercolor page that already had the purple stenciled image on it. This was done using leftover acrylic paint and an alphabet stencil. Decided to sketch the face, and then color in the hair, clothes and background with Sharpie Flip Chart markers. I quite like how this page turned out.

(Click on image to view larger)

Mixed media in my large single signature art journal.

October 27, 2014

Recent Reads

146. Matilda
My 9 year old nephew, Jonah, told me the other day that this is one of the best books he has ever read. How can one pass up that kind of recommendation?

Having never read any books by Roald Dahl, and knowing how much he is beloved by kids and adults alike, I decided to start reading my way through his works with this one. It is hard not to love little Matilda, and her love of books and knowledge. She is an exceptional girl from an unexceptional family, and if that were not enough, she has to face Miss Trunchbull when she starts school. Thanks goodness for Ms. Honey. 

I can certainly see why my nephew loved this story of a young child who was able to get back at the adults who made her life miserable, and I quite enjoyed my time with Matilda, even though some of the melodrama seemed rather over the top. But then again, this is written for the middle grade reader, so the more drama the better I suppose. I listened to the audiobook which was wonderfully narrated by Kate Winslet. Rating: 3 stars.


147. Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals: A Mixed-Media Workshop with Carla Sonheim
I am not a fan of cutesy animals, but do like the whimsical quality of the author's art. This book has projects using various techniques and materials to help you to draw and paint animals that might have gone gone extinct due to natural selection processes. Rating: 2 stars.

148. How the World Was: A California Childhood
Book blurb: In 1994, French cartoonist Emmanuel Guibert befriended an American veteran named Alan Cope and began creating his new friend's graphic biography. Alan's War was the surprising and moving result: the story of Cope's experiences as an American GI in France during World War II.

Telling someone's biography in Comics form is an interesting choice, and this form captures a sense of emotion that would be harder to do in prose. The art is fantastic, and wonderfully atmospheric, but I was not really interesting in the biography of this person. The telling seemed like snippets of memory, place and time, and not a point to point narrative one would except with a biography, and was too fragmented for my tastes. However, this book is worth getting your hands on to simply gaze at the artwork. Rating: 2 stars.


149. An Age of License: A Travelogue
I keep travel journals while on on the road, and love travelogues of any kind. In this graphic memoir, the author records her experiences while on a European trip in 2011 that involves some business, lots of pleasure, delicious food and wine, and enough angst to make one's hair curl. 

I guess this book would fall into the "New Adult" genre. The publisher touts it as the Eat, Pray, Love for the GIRLS generation, and I would agree with that, sans the Pray part. My complaint with this book is that it does not dive deep, but snorkels on the surface of the author's emotional life. I did love the watercolors and sketches, and I think this might really appeal to 20 somethings. Rating: 2 stars.

October 23, 2014

Cinemascope: Tim's Vermeer

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: Inventor Tim Jenison seeks to understand the painting techniques used by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer.

Have you ever tried to paint? Have you marveled at Vermeer's paintings, and wondered how he might have painted with light like he did? Well, this documentary film is a fantastic exploration about one man's obsession with these questions. Absolutely fascinating.

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

October 22, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 10.22.14


Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

October 21, 2014

Journal page

Every now and then I do a page like this. A week in review of sorts. A fun way to jot down random thoughts as they occur to me.

(Click on image to view larger)

I used a DIY stencil and Sharpie Flip Chart markers in large cheapo journal.

October 20, 2014

Boston MASALA

The other night, Boston's MASALA group had a party celebrating its 20th anniversary at Club Cafe. 


It was a fun night reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.

Recent Reads

144. Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre is a name that I've known for as long as I can remember, and yet I do not recall ever reading this book, so I was glad to have it moved to the top of my To Be Read pile by The Fiction of Relationship class I'm taking with Coursera.

First published in 1847, this book has many themes that are still relevant in our times, and while some of the events seem a little contrived, there is much to admire about the author's talent and skill. 

While Jane Eyre is no Elizabeth Bennet - but then who could be? - I quite enjoyed this bildungsroman. I loved how the story started - well, I felt bad for Jane - but her character built in those earlier years helps her in later ones. I assert again that girls become way less interesting once their hormones kick in, and yes Dear Reader I heartily endorse romantic ties, but I would suggest that while they are fun for the couple, it can be rather tedious for outside observers. As for Mr. Rochester, I did not like him one bit. Not one bit. Still it is said that love is blind, and based on events at Thornfield Hall that Jane seems not to bat an eye at, she was blind indeed! 

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Classics are books that should be read to me. I imagine (rather nostalgically) sitting in a drawing room with my knitting, while someone standing by the single lit candle reads the book aloud to me. Yes Dear Reader, I know that I conveniently have left out the smoke in my eyes, the chilblains on my feet, and the fact that I would have died young in those times, but please allow me my conceit. This audiobook is superbly narrated by Juliet Stevenson, and I have decided that she should narrate all classic works I will listen to hereafter. 

I was thoroughly engrossed in the story throughout and was often to be found walking and muttering aloud, "Run Jane. Run." I found it to be quite a fun feminist text, albeit there were attic issues. Still, a book I would recommend listening to if you have yet to read it. Rating: 4 stars.


145. Americanah
Even though this is the first book I've read by the author, I am quite a fangirl of Chimmamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is wonderfully articulate on a variety of topics and I was delighted to discover that her writing skills do not disappoint. 

I can not summarize the book better than the Guardian review (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013...) did, so I'll quote them here: It is ostensibly a love story – the tale of childhood sweethearts at school in Nigeria whose lives take different paths when they seek their fortunes in America and England – but it is also a brilliant dissection of modern attitudes to race, spanning three continents and touching on issues of identity, loss and loneliness.

Immigration stories are similar in many ways, but can be quite different in their particulars. An an immigrant from Africa to the US, I was alternately delighted and sobered to read how many of Ifemelu's first contact experiences were similar to mine; the author could have picked those stories out of my own journals!

I was not as enamored with the love story portion of this book, as I was with the exploration of race and skin color. The honest, unflinching manner in which the author explored these themes was quite refreshing. The plot is interspersed with blog posts, and while I enjoyed them, I did feel that many of the characters introduced in the book (that appear once and are never heard from again) were means to simply get in additional speechifying on specific topics, and that detracted from the flow of the story.

This was my book club selection for the month, and I think it was a great choice for all the discussion topics that it raised.  Rating: 4 stars.

October 18, 2014

The What's Underneath Project: Jacky O'Shaughnessy (Video)

Stumbled across this incredible project with this video. Honest. Searing. Real. Love it.



If the embedded video does not work, click here.

You can see more videos from this project here.

October 17, 2014

Bryan Stevenson Extended Interview @TheDailyShow

The opposite of poverty in this country is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice.

I have a new hero to add to my pantheon.


Bryan A. Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a private, non-profit organization headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, and is a professor at New York University School of Law.


You can watch his extended interview on the Daily Show here.

Manon @ the Royal Opera House


Have you heard of Live Cinema Season? Well, if you haven't you are in for a treat. It is the time of year when you can watch world class ballet, plays, and musicals at a theater near you. 

Last night The Royal Ballet’s Manon was relayed live to cinemas across the world. Well, it was not exactly live for us in the Boston area, but this Kenneth MacMillan’s 40th-anniversary staging stars Marianela Nuñez and Federico Bonelli. And it was simply fantastic. If you are at all interested in the arts, check out what is playing in theaters near you.

October 16, 2014

Cinemascope: Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia

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


Released in 2014.

Plot line: This documentary follows people from the LGBT community in Russia after new legislation in 2013 prohibited so-called gay propaganda in the country. We meet various people who have been attacked for being gay, get to know how hard they struggle, and how they try to live with being gay without making it public.

This HBO documentary is tough to watch and really upsetting, but I think it is important to learn more about the issues discussed.


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

October 14, 2014

Journal page

There is something so satisfying about using colored pencils. Being surrounded by all those pencil shavings reminds me of being a kid. This page was inspired by an artist who doodles on photos of faces. So fun.

(Click on image to view larger)

Pen and colored pencils in my large single signature art journal.

October 13, 2014

Five reasons Microsoft CEO's gender gaffe is worrisome for women

Here is the link to the CNN article.

In his apology, Satya Nadella apologized for being inarticulate. He was not inarticulate. He was offensive. Would he have dared to tell a roomful of men not to ask for raises, but to wait for "good karma"? The problem is not only that he thinks that women deserve less pay for equal work, but he felt totally comfortable telling a roomful of women that he thinks it. Unbelievable!

23!

Babes and I are celebrating another anniversary today. 23 years! Where the heck does the time go?

Happy versery Babes. 82.

Recent Reads

140. Manon Lescaut
I am currently enrolled in the Coursera class The Fiction of Relationship, and this is the first in the list of assigned reading. I had never heard of this French novella, first published in 1731, and am delighted to have made its acquaintance. 

This is the story of the Chevalier de Grieux, a nobleman who falls in love with the beautiful and poor Manon Lescaut. While on the surface it reads like a romance novel, this is really a story of obsession, passion, betrayal and class set in 18th century Paris. The entire story is narrated by Des Grieux, so we only have his version of the story, and I love how the author does not judge either character, but lays out a story and lets the reader decide how to feel about the characters.

At times I had to remind myself that the narrator was only in his late teens, a time when passions can rage out of control, but this complex story asks some important questions of who we are in relation to others and how much love can blind us. This was originally going to get at least 4 stars, but I got rather annoyed by the Chevalier's reluctance to take responsibilities for his actions. Rating: 3 stars.


141. Amulet, Vol. 6: Escape From Lucien
Book blurb: Emily, Navin, and their friends continue to battle the Elf King in hopes of destroying him forever, but one of his most loyal followers, Max, isn't making it easy for them. The crew journeys to Lucien, a city that's been ravaged by the war. Emily has more enemies there than she realizes -- and it'll take everything she's got to get herself and her friends out of the city alive.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the best young adult graphic novels work really well for adults as well. Our heroes face new dangers on many fronts. Will they survive? This story will not make any sense unless you read the books in order, and I plan to revisit the entire collection once the story concludes. The art only is worth the price of admission. Rating: 3 stars.


142. Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?
Sometimes comics can capture a mood so much better than prose, and that is the case with this graphic memoir. The author describes with endearing honesty the love, and sorrow, and loss, and frustration, and craziness, and expense, and the laugh out loud moments that the final years with elderly parents can entail. This is a memoir, so is very particular to her experience, but the author's storytelling skill makes it seem like an universal experience in an uncanny way. 

I am not an only child (unlike the author), and am happy that both my parents are alive and well. And yet. They will not talk about end of life issues either! Might this book make a good birthday present for them? Or would it be too much "unpleasantness"? Rating: 4 stars.


143. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
Reading this book is like taking a class on Comics History, and like any good class, there are parts that are a bit of a slog and parts that blow the top of your head off. There is something magical about learning about Comics in a book written as a Comic. I took my time with it, reading slowly and letting the ideas sink in, and you know what? It has enhanced the way I read graphic novels! 

I have long felt that Comics can often convey many concepts better than prose, and I've struggled to understand why that is. This books helped me to understand. I see things that I was blind to before. You know that old adage, you see what you are prepared to see? Well, my eyes have been opened, and I cannot tell you how excited I am to begin the Comic Books and Graphic Novels Coursera course in a couple of weeks. 

I would recommend this nonfiction book to anyone interested in learning about Comics History, and it should be required reading for those of us that read Comics on a regular basis. Rating: 4 stars.

October 10, 2014

It's time for a Malala Festival

This just makes me so happy. 

Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi win 2014 Nobel peace prize.

Pakistani teenager and Indian children’s rights activist beat Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, the Pope and Vladimir Putin to the prestigious prize 

You can read the Guardian article here.

"Why is my daughter so strong? Because I didn't clip her wings." - Malala's father.
You can watch his TED talk here.

The 29-Year-Old Who's Chosen to End Her Life Speaks Out (Video)

Brittany Maynard, who is suffering from brain cancer, explains why this is the right choice for her. I am in awe of this courageous young woman, who has decided to end her life with dignity. It still boggles my mind that there are only 5 US states that allows a person this option. 



If the embedded video does not work, click here.

You can also read the interview she gave with Good Housekeeping here.

October 9, 2014

Cinemascope: Queen

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


Released in 2014.

Plot line: A Delhi girl from a traditional family sets out on a solo honeymoon after her marriage gets cancelled.

This is a Bollywood film in Hindi, and I watched with English subtitles, though I was surprised at how much Hindi I actually understood. This is not your typical movie from either Hollywood or Bollywood - not your typical boy meets girl story. It is the coming of age of a young woman from Delhi, whose life does not roll out as planned. There are so few movies about young girls coming of age, and many of the ones that exist tend to play out in ways you might expect. This is an unexpected delight, but be warned that in typical Bollywood style, there are songs, and the movie is long.

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

October 7, 2014

Journal pages

I'm a huge fan of graphic novels, and I often find myself sketching while reading them. Here are a couple of pages that are just that. Doodles while I was reading.

On this page I had the blocks of acrylic paint already on the watercolor paper.


I could not resist these faces, and quickly sketched them in my journal one night before bed.


As always, click on images to view larger.
Pen, acrylic paint and markers in my large single signature art journal and my large cheapo art journal.

October 6, 2014

Recent Reads

136. Through the Woods
'It came from the woods. Most strange things do.' 

Isn't that a great way to start a story? This graphic novel is targeted at a teen audience and is a collection of five stories. The kind that you tell as a kid, in the dark, around a campfire. The cover art is what captured my attention in the first place, and the art in this book is wonderfully atmospheric and moody. The stories though were disappointing, and I am puzzled by the rave reviews this book has gotten. Rating: 2 stars.


137. Blood Safari (Lemmer #1)
Book blurb: Lemmer is a professional bodyguard. Silent, invisible, he never gets involved. Emma le Roux is convinced she's seen her brother on the news as a suspect in the recent killing of four poachers. But her brother is supposed to have died twenty years ago. When le Roux hires Lemmer to watch her back while she goes looking for answers, it becomes clear someone wants to keep them in the dark. And when that someone tries to murder them both, for once in his life Lemmer steps out of the shadows.

I listened to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Simon Vance. This mystery/crime novel is set in South Africa, and introduces us to Lemmer in this first book of a two book series. This is not really a thriller of a read, but more of a meditation on the many issues faced by the people and animals of South Africa. Don't get me wrong, there is some action, but I did not find the mystery itself really compelling. I did however enjoy the setting and the well developed characters. I also liked how the author weaved in political, environmental, conservation and poaching issues into the story. This is the first time I have read anything by the author, and I enjoyed it enough that I will try his other books. Rating: 3 stars.


138. Fourth of July Creek
I've decided to leave my Catholic school girl guilt aside and stop reading books that do not grab me. At page 99, I have decided to do just that with this debut novel that gets rave reviews, and one I was looking forward to getting lost in. There are some wonderfully captured scenes, but overall the writing kept jarring me out of the story - something about the way it is written. A social worker whose life is as nuts as those he tries to help is an interesting premise, but I simply do not care about Pete, and am not invested enough to see how this ends. Rating: 1 star.

139. Freehand: Sketching Tips and Tricks Drawn from Art
This little book might be good for the absolute beginner, or in an art classroom, but in my opinion it is mis-titled. I expected to see art drawn "freehand", but much of the art was digitally manipulated in some manner. And while the art is fun to look at, the written blurbs that accompanies each piece of art is rather rudimentary and not really informative.

October 4, 2014

Until We Could - Richard Blanco (Video)

Until We Could, a gorgeous new video poem written by Richard Blanco, celebrates love and the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. The film is narrated by Golden Globe winning actress Robin Wright and actor Ben Foster.
   
If the embedded video does not work, click here.

October 2, 2014

Cinemascope: Her

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: A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that's designed to meet his every need.

I was rather skeptical about the premise of this story; how many more movies with sexy bots is Hollywood really going to make? I really like Joaquin Phoenix as an actor though, so got the DVD from my library and settled in with low expectations. And was pleasantly surprised. He is wonderful in this role, and this movie explores themes of love and loss and community and friendship and reality. A wonderful exploration of humanity in a virtual world.

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

September 30, 2014

Piper Kerman @ UMassLowell

I spent this chilly and rainy night at UMass Lowell's new student center. And holy smokes, the area around the North Campus has dramatically changed for the better.


I was there to hear Piper Kerman talk about her book Orange Is the New Black, which is also a Netflix series hit I mentioned in my Cinemascope post last week.


Piper gave a riveting and educational talk tonight @UMassLowell. One of the top ten author talks I've ever attended.


There were long, long lines to see Piper tonight. The room was full, so people were directed to overflow areas with a TV feed. The book gods smiled on us - we were pulled out of an overflow conference room and given seats front and center!


A fun evening at my old alma mater with Charlene and Janice (a senior in Chemical Engineering I met in line). 

Journal page

The thing about art is that it helps to center me when I am out of sorts. I created this page over several weeks, a little bit at a time. The page started with some leftover acrylic paint slapped on from another project. Then I added the girl in pencil. Decided I wanted her to be in the background of a two page spread, so added text blocks with white acrylic paint.


While reading Americanah, I came across a quote that I thought would be perfect to use for these pages, so made a note of it. Added it to the white text blocks with a blue pen, and played with the font by simply making lines thicker. 


The girl on the left side of the spread was inspired by a singer in a magazine. Added texture to her dress with a pencil, then painted her in with watercolors. Added in some shapes and colored them with Sharpie Flip Chart makers. Gave the layout a black border with the same, and added textured white dots using the end of a paintbrush dipped in white acrylic paint.

Here is the completed spread. A true mixed media project.


As always, click on any image to view larger.

Mixed media in my large single signature art journal.

September 29, 2014

Recent Reads

133. The Whale Rider
I saw the movie based on this novella when it came out years ago, and remember really liking it. I listened to the audiobook wonderfully narrated by Jay Laga'aia, and would recommend the audio as there are Maori phrases and music that add to the enjoyment of this story. 

I love creation stories, and this one retells an ancient Maori legend juxtaposed with the present day lives of the Maori. Kahu is a young Maori girl who has the misfortune of not being born the boy her Great-Grandfather desperately wanted. This story switches back and forth between her struggle to find her place in the world, and the reminiscences of the ancient whale of legends. The book is populated with wonderful characters, and explores themes of holding on to one's culture in a modern world, gender politics, and coming of age in a changing world. While written for a young adult audience, this one is a lovely read for adults as well. Rating: 3 stars.


134. Outlander (Outlander #1)
I've had this series on my TBR for years. Many people I know love it, and I'd socked away these books for a rainy day. So what was the compelling event to start? The STARZ original series of course. I love chunkster books, so imagine my disappointment when this one did not grab me, and I almost quit several times.

I love historical fiction, so did enjoy the setting and time frames, but that is about all I liked. I like a good romance as much as the next person, but this one read like the Mills and Boon stories I devoured as a teenager. Also, there is no science fiction to this story. Walking through a circle of stones to a time 200 years earlier does not science fiction make people. It is an easy way to create time travel without having to explain how it works, and while I was OK with that, sci-fi fans beware. There were some fun characters in this book, but they all seemed rather one dimensional - the hero, the damsel in distress, the witch, etc. I needed more depth to these characters to connect with them. An interesting aside, the bad guy is one of the more multifaceted people in this story. 

So let's say that you suspend disbelief and go along for the ride. Is it even remotely possible that you walk through a portal, end up 200 years back in time and seem to have no distress at all? Okay, there is some shock when you figure out that you are in a different era, but then nothing? Really? Spoiler ahead: [And given the choice to stay there, or go back to your time, you choose to stay? Really? All eras are tough for women, but you, an educated woman with options, chooses to stay in a era 200 years before your own for love? Right. Must have been great sex!].

Unfortunately I was bored for much of this book, and will certainly not be reading the rest of the series. Ah well, at least I tried. Rating: 2 stars.


135. The Shadow Hero
Book blurb: In the comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comics characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity... The Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero.

A Chinese mother decides that her son should be a superhero, so makes him a costume - never mind that he actually has no powers - and what an outfit it is! This was a fun graphic novel with wonderful art.  Rating: 3 stars.

September 25, 2014

Cinemascope: Orange is the New Black (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 2013.

Plot line: The story of Piper Chapman, a woman in her thirties who is sentenced to fifteen months in prison after being convicted of a decade-old crime of transporting money for her drug-dealing girlfriend.

I was a huge fan of Season 1 of Prison Break, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the prison setting. If you have yet to watch it, I would highly recommend that as well. I also tried Oz, but was not sucked into the story or characters, so bailed after a handful of episodes. Then along comes Orange is the New Black, based on a memoir of the same name. The story is set in a women's prison, deals with themes of sexuality, criminality, class, race, etc and is so good. 

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

September 24, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: 09.24.14


Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

September 23, 2014

Broken Monsters Tour

I love indie bookstores, and am always on the lookout for author visits. Tonight at Porter Square Books, the South African author Lauren Beukes was in town.


She was interviewed by the author Joe Hill, who came prepared with "essay type" questions followed by a "speed round".


The dynamics between these two authors was quite enjoyable to watch. They riffed off each other really well.


Lauren gave two readings from her latest novel Broken Monsters. She is a dynamic reader and left me wanting more. This book will be moving to the top of my TBR pile.


Lauren is funny and articulate and a natural story teller. To this Kenyan girl hearing her say that "Johannesburg is the New York City of Africa" made me laugh out loud.

A fun evening is always better when shares with friends. Here is the requisite selfie taken with book buddies Julia and Cate.

Just why does the NFL have tax-exempt status?

Top of my head blew off today when I learned that the NFL does not pay any taxes because it is a non-profit!  

Journal page

I've been playing with faces and colored pencils lately. Colored pencils are remarkably portable, and I do not need to worry about the cheap paper buckling. Here is a face on HONY that captured my attention.

(Click to view larger)

Pen and watercolors in my large cheapo art journal. 

September 22, 2014

Recent Reads

129. The Heist (Gabriel Allon #14)
I'm a huge Gabriel Allon fan, but I humbly disagree with many of the rave reviews of this, the 14th book in the series. 

Can it really be summer without time spent with my fave Mossad assassin and art restorer? I think not. Every year I have the publication date marked in my calendar, and eagerly await the new release of one of my fave characters in a contemporary series. As I look at my reviews of the previous books in this series, I see that my ratings have been dropping, but how can I resist attending the reunion of the Barak team every summer?

This one is the worst in the series so far. It is rather formulaic and the writing seems rote. The characters are recycled without any additional depth added. The story is almost the same as a couple others in the series, just updated with Syrian troubles. I almost did not finish it, and that makes me sad. If you have yet to read about the exploits of the man named like an archangel, I would highly recommend reading some of the earlier books in this series. But skip this one.

And yet. I'll be waiting to see if there is a new installment next July. Come on Mr. Silva, give this junkie a good fix. Please. Rating: 2 stars.


130. The Polysyllabic Spree

Book blurb: In his monthly column "Stuff I've Been Reading", Nick Hornby lists the books he's purchased and the books he's read that month - they almost never overlap - and briefly discusses the books he's actually read.

This little collection of essays is a delightful read. Some people can vegetables, the rest of us hoard books. If you are the type of person who buys books whenever you walk by a bookstore, because even though you have 1000 or so unread books on your shelves at home, you are concerned about the coming apocalypse and are never sure that you have enough reading material to get you through those dark days ahead, then this is perfect book for you. Reading each short essay is like having a drink with a literate reader friend, and every essay adds more books to that pile you must someday read. 

Funny that I have yet to read any of the author's novels, but there are 4 books in this essay series, and I plan to slowly savor my way through them all. Rating: 4 stars.


131. Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

Book blurb: Sum is a dazzling exploration of funny and unexpected afterlives that have never been considered–each presented as a vignette that offers us a stunning lens through which to see ourselves here and now.

What do you think happens when you die? Do you believe in an afterlife? Well, I'll bet that you have never considered the afterlife scenarios explored in this little book. This book is what you get when an incredibly imaginative mind ponders the afterlife. Each story is about a page or two in length, and this is one to read slowly, or read aloud and then discuss. Some of the stories are just OK, hence the deduction of a star, but I highly recommend this gem of a book. Rating: 4 stars.


132. 11/22/63

I've spent the past two weeks walking about a hundred miles while listening to this audiobook wonderfully narrated by Craig Wasson, and for the majority of those 30 hours and 44 minutes, Stephen King had me enthralled with this yarn. He would have made a great traveling bard in the land of ago.

If you could go back in time, what would you change? Humans have probably been asking ourselves that question ever since we conceived the notion of time. I think we all believe that knowing what we know now, we would be better, braver, more courageous. I'm not so sure.

This is not a horror story, nor is it a science fiction one. Sure, there is time travel - but basically there is a portal in the pantry of an old diner that lets one step back to September 9, 1958. Same place, same day, same year, every single time. There is no dial you can move to switch things around. Enter Jake Epping, a high school English teacher, who steps through and has the chance to change lots of things, including trying to stop the assassination of JFK. Note that he gets there in 1958, so has several years to kill (hah!) while waiting for the main event. There is a lot of time spent on him trying to build an ordinary life while waiting, and some of that strained my patience. King is wordy, as usual, and there could have been some editing that would have made the story tighter in my opinion. I did like getting to know the various characters in the story, but felt that the ending was rather rushed compared to the sedate pace of the rest of the story. Still, a thoroughly enjoyable yarn, well worth the time. Rating: 4 stars.