October 17, 2017

Journal pages

It's October which means it's time for another Inktober. I'll be posting daily on my Instagram page (@kisiwa82) and will update my blog every week or so with my sketches. I'm doing my own thing and not following the prompts. If you are playing along do let me know so I can see your art too. As always click on the photos for a larger image.

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October 16, 2017

Emma Thompson: Harvey Weinstein 'top of harassment ladder' - BBC Newsnight

"There just aren't enough women in positions of power to balance out the system." Harvey Weinstein is just at the top of this particular iceberg, so let's not pretend that he is somehow unusual. Talk to the girls and women in your lives and take your blinders off.



If the embedded video doesn't work click here.

Recent Reads

107. Ms. Marvel, Vol. 6: Civil War II
3.5 stars.

I always excited to get my hands on Ms. Marvel installments, and I particularly loved the sections in this volume that flashback to Partition and that part of the family's history. Also, there is this awesome science competition with very cool and somewhat dangerous inventions. The conflict between being a good superhero and being a good friend comes to a head with this installment, and it's always hard when you realize that your hero might not be worth all that worship. I also really liked the tie-ins to some current affairs, and the art is really good. I had some issues with the pacing of this one and don't love all the fight sequences, but I loved the Partition/Pakistan plot lines enough to round up. Rating: 4 stars.

108. Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
DNFed at 60%.

This book is much loved so I'll be swimming against the current, but that's never stopped me from being honest with my thoughts so here goes:

Let me first start by saying that I was a huge fan of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and when Trevor Noah joined I gave it six weeks before deciding he was just not for me. Something about him rubs me the wrong way, so I wasn't planning on picking up this book, especially since it was a memoir. Then my local book club selected it for this month and I decided to at least try, maybe I would be pleasantly surprised. That did not happen.

I did not know going in that this was a collection of "eighteen personal essays" which explains some of the somewhat disjointed style of this book. It was interesting to hear about this mother and the decisions she made, and this is clearly an ode to his Mom, but why would I care about any of this? While I did smile at some of the humor, I found myself mostly annoyed both with him personally and how he talked about his experiences. Was this a difficult childhood, sure, but so what? As someone who grew up in Kenya, there wasn't much he described that was new to me, and the fact that he talks about his "mischievous" acts where there were no consequences without a sense of regret was something I found deeply disturbing. The longer I listened the more unlikable he become, and when I got the section of his Matric dance when it suddenly occured to him that he and his date didn't even share a common language I called it quits.

I was completely blown away when almost half of the book club members "didn't know about Apartheid." How is that even possible? The group had a mixed reaction to the book, with many feeling that he left out significant bits about how he got to host the Daily Show for example. However, given that this book might be a way to introduce people to some of what happened in South Africa I'm glad Noah wrote it. I'm just clearly not the target audience.

I listened to the audiobook which is well narrated by the author. I did enjoy listening to his various accents as he switches back and forth between South African languages. I would not have read this far if I'd read it in print, but if you're a Trevor Noah fan, or somehow who doesn't know anything about Apartheid this might work better for you. Rating: 1 star

October 15, 2017

Journal pages

It's October which means it's time for another Inktober. I'll be posting daily on my Instagram page (@kisiwa82) and will update my blog every week or so with my sketches. I'm doing my own thing and not following the prompts. If you are playing along do let me know so I can see your art too. As always click on the photos for a larger image.

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October 13, 2017

Journal pages

It's October which means it's time for another Inktober. I'll be posting daily on my Instagram page (@kisiwa82) and will update my blog every week or so with my sketches. I'm doing my own thing and not following the prompts. If you are playing along do let me know so I can see your art too. As always click on the photos for a larger image.

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October 12, 2017

Cinemascope: This Is Us (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 this is us cast

Released in 2016.

Plot line: The Pearson family's generational story unfolds in this emotional drama. In moments of love, joy, triumph and heartbreak, revelations emerge from parents Jack and Rebecca's past, while triplets Kate, Randall and Kevin discover deeper meaning in their present day lives. Successful businessman and father Randall searches for information about his biological parents. Kate finds love and self-acceptance while battling obesity. Kevin pursues a more meaningful career, which brings some difficult choices.

I honestly think that the less you know about this show going in the better. I'd been hearing buzz about this one, and it got some Emmy nods and wins, but all I really knew going in is that it's a family drama. I didn't have very high expectations, and was blown away by the themes this show tackles, and tackles well. Once I started watching I couldn't stop. I was in tears most shows and right out bawling in others. No car chases, no gun fights, just a powerful look at humanity and our pain and our joy. Loved it.

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

October 9, 2017

Recent Reads

105. The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2)
The thing about King is that he has books where one word can bring back an entire yarn. For example, if I say RedRum, doesn't a whole tale play out in your mind? For this book the word is lobstrosities. Holy smokes!

I didn't love the first book in The Dark Tower magnum opus so wasn't sure about picking this one up, but when a constant reader said it got much better I jumped in and was hooked by the first page or two. Classic King. In this installment Roland, the Gunslinger, meets up with other characters, and understanding what the title means will take you until the last sentence or two. I don't want to spoil the reveals, so all I'll say is that if you quit after the first book, do yourself a favor and try this one. Fans of King will get a thrill with references to his other works. There are lots of loose ends in this one, so I'm waiting impatiently for the next book in the series to arrive. Yes, I should have planned better, but I really had no plans to continue on so that's on me.

I listened to the audiobook which is superbly narrated by Frank Muller. If you have yet to read it I 'd highly recommend this one on audio. Rating: 4 stars.

106. Stay with Me
This debut novel has been getting lots of buzz and I was intrigued by the premise, but even though it has gotten rave reviews, it didn't work as well for me.

The story unfolds over multiple timelines in Nigeria, and personal dramas are juxtaposed with the larger political ones unfolding in the country. A man and a woman meet at university, get married, but alas do not live happily ever after. When the couple remains childless, the family intervenes, and one day the woman learns that her husband now has a second wife. You know things are not going to end well.

I have no issue with polygamy as long as both genders are free to partake, and am always disappointed when books don't address that option, a sure sign that patriarchy is still deeply entrenched in our societies. There are many juicy themes explored in this novel, love, marriage, familial obligations, polygamy, the importance of a male heir, a woman's agency or lack thereof, are the ones that come to mind. Any of these themes could be explored in a full length novel by itself, and I think that is part of what weakened this novel for me. There are so many things going on, and with such a short novel the author tells and tells with very little show. There are big emotional plot points, but the author does not dive deep or flesh out any of the characters in this novel enough, so the foundation doesn't really support the structure. A scene is laid out and we the reader must infuse it with emotion that doesn't really derive from the words on the page.

Another issue I had is that we alternate between two points of view - the wife (number one) is the main narrator, while the husband inserts his POV from time to time. I suppose that this device was used to garner sympathy for the husband, but it didn't work as he wasn't fully developed enough for me to care about his issues. There isn't a likable character in this story, and I was okay with that, but there just wasn't enough meat on the bones of these people for my tastes.

The writing itself was easy enough to read and this is a really quick read. I liked the slow reveal of things known and unknown, and the customs and traditions described. While there is real heartbreak in this story, it felt rather like listening to a disaster story on the news - lots of sound bites without the punch that remains with you when you are done. And do not get me started on that ending. Oy veh!

Still, it's a good debut novel, and the author has enough writing chops to make me pick up her next book. Rating: 3 stars.

October 7, 2017

Journal pages

It's October which means it's time for another Inktober. I'll be posting daily on my Instagram page (@kisiwa82) and will update my blog every week or so with my sketches. I'm doing my own thing and not following the prompts. If you are playing along do let me know so I can see your art too. As always click on the photos for a larger image.

1/31:

October 6, 2017

Journal pages

Am inordinately proud of my third attempt at sketching one of the actors.

October 5, 2017

Cinemascope: Dead Poets Society

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

Related image

Released in 1989.

Plot line: A new English teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams), is introduced to an all-boys preparatory school that is known for its ancient traditions and high standards. He uses unorthodox methods to reach out to his students, who face enormous pressures from their parents and the school. With Keating's help, students Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) and others learn to break out of their shells, pursue their dreams and seize the day.

I've been disappointed with the movies I've tried lately. So much hype that they just don't live up to, so I decided to go back and watch an oldie but goodie. Also, Autumn always makes me think of boarding school stories, so I picked this one, and am delighted at how well it holds up. So good on so many levels, and asks an important question: what is education for? All these years later and I was still in tears during that last scene.

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

October 4, 2017

Journal pages

Buildings are harder to draw than you'd think. The next six pages in my journal is me learning about perspective. I kid you not.


Insomnia isn't so bad when you've got art supplies. Swipe left for the October setup in my morning pages composition journal.


Setup the first week's gratitude/ good things record page.

October 3, 2017

Journal pages

Inspired by my reading material.


Continue to be inspired by my reading material. This graphic memoir didn't work for me, but I did like the art.

October 2, 2017

Recent Reads

102. Wide Open: Creativity Notebook & Card Set: Inspiration & Techniques for Art Journaling on the Edge
When you are jetlagged and wide awake at 3 am, art books might be just the thing. I enjoyed flipping through the art cards, and really like the color palatte used. Since I'm no longer a beginner, I didn't love it as much as during my first reading, but there are still some interesting ideas in this deck.
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First read in 2012 with a 4 stars rating.

This is not a book per se, rather a stack of cards that prompts you think about how you use your art journal. I own this set, and tend to read through them about twice a year. Have yet to use the notebook, as I prefer to make my own journals. A fun way use creative prompts.

103. Pretending is Lying
This graphic memoir is translated from the Belgian by Sophie Yanow.

If you know me you know I have issues with memoirs in general, and yet I keep picking them up, go figure.

The author recounts events of her life pertaining to her father, lover, and daughter, and what I did like about the telling is how episodic these events seem to be. That's exactly how we remember things. Memory is not like a film that plays, but is more like tuning into a channel. Sometimes we get a clear sharp image, other times simply static. While that really makes sense to the person with the memories, it's rather a disjointed experience for me the reader. I get (I think) what she was going for, but something seemed lost in translation to me. You know that experience when you are trying to describe a really vivid dream to someone, and you cannot convey how it felt? Reading this book felt like that. I'm not a fan of the art style either, pencil with some color, and there were panels I puzzled over trying to understand what was being conveyed with the strange figures and positions. There are people who love it, but there was something lost in translation for me. Rating: 2 stars.

104. Twilight (Twilight #1)
You know that ole adage not to make life changing decisions in the middle of the night? Yes, well, I'm currently still on Pacific Standard Time, so while flipping through my tablet for a book to read at 2 am last night I stumbled across this one. I have the entire series checked out of my library because I love vampire stories, lots of people loved these, and most importantly, my 14 and 15 year old nieces love the series. While mediocre, it is a fast read and I found myself at around page 60 when I decided that no, this was absolutely not the book for me. I'm not dissing all the fans of this series, it's just not my cuppa tea, and I'll be deleting the series from my device shortly.

PS. If you loved the vampire angle do yourself a favor and read Anne Rice. Rating: 1 star.

September 25, 2017

Recent Reads

99. Monstress, Vol. 2: The Blood
"To quote the poets ... it is possible to drown in information ... and die for lack of wisdom."

I adore this graphic novel series and tore through this volume, though I did go back and flip through it more slowly so as to better savor the art. The art is fantastic and might be some of the best I've ever seen in a comic. Combine that with a wonderful story and color me delighted. We get to meet a whole new cast of characters, and learning more about the worlds this story is set in is delightful. The Isle of Bones is especially wonderfully illustrated, and the various factions and their agendas makes this a compelling read. It's hard when you don't fit neatly into any of the boxes, but can Maika come to terms with her dual nature without turning into a monster herself? I docked a star because some of the plot lines are rather murky but I expect things will clear up as the series continues. Sexy, violent, wonderful. Cannot wait for the next installment. Rating: 4 stars.

100. Frommer's Portland day by day
This little guide book is a wonderful and practical introduction (or review) for a visit to Portland. Easy to use, chock-full of information with good maps and fun itineraries. If you're looking for just one guidebook to take along with you for a city visit, I'd suggest trying this one out. Rating: 4 stars.

101. The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
Book blurb: "The Oregon Trail" is a major work of participatory history: an epic account of traveling the 2,000-mile length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way, in a covered wagon with a team of mules--which hasn't been done in a century--that also tells the rich history of the trail, the people who made the migration, and its significance to the country.

I love reading books about or set in places I visit, so moved this one up my TBR in anticipation of our Oregon trip for the Great American Eclipse event in August.

This is a memoir of a trip that two brothers, Rinker and Nick Buck, plus dog, Olive Oyl, undertake to traverse the trail the old fashioned way. I quite enjoyed learning about both their day to day predicaments and achievements, and the history of the early pioneers on the trail. The early section on mules alone makes this one worth picking up. As you'd expect with a story that has two dudes, a dog, and three mules, there's a bit of repetitiveness to this story, but I learned many things I didn't even know, for example Hollywood did mules a huge disservice when they pretended that horses did all that glorious work in getting the early travelers across the country. It wasn't horses, but mules that made Manifest Destiny possible, so where are all the odes to mules I ask?

I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by the author, and I would not recommend going that route. He's got a way of reading that emphasizes incorrect parts of a sentence, and there were some strange pronunciations that kept pulling me out of the yarn. I really liked the historical facts woven into the story, but felt that there was much that could have been edited out to make this a tighter story. I tend to love travel/adventure stories, and this one while good wasn't great. Still, I enjoyed learning about prairie schooner travel logistics, and it gave me a better appreciation for the ease of air travel as I flew across the country. Rating: 3 stars.

September 21, 2017

Cinemascope: Narcos (Season 3)

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

Image result for narcos season 3 poster

Released in 2017.

Plot line: Now that the bloody hunt for Pablo Escobar has ended, the DEA turns its attention to the richest drug trafficking organization in the world: the Cali Cartel. Led by four powerful godfathers, this cartel operates much differently than Escobar's, preferring to bribe government officials and keep its violent actions out of the headlines.

I love this Netflix series. You learn much about the drug industry, the cartels, the US culpubity in all of it, and the reason why the moeny spent on "the war on drugs" was essentially money flushed down the toilet. The acting and production quality is really good. I am often to be found talking to the characters while I watch, and my blood pressure increases with every show. So good.

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

September 18, 2017

Recent Reads

96. A Bride's Story, Vol. 4
This installment could be subtitled "Double Trouble."

In this volume, we stop at a fishing village along the Aral Sea, and tumble headlong into the lives of young, loud, and troublesome Laila and Leily, The twins are not fishing for fish, well, they do that too, but they are really fishing for husbands. After all, their father doesn't seem to have his act together, and they are rather impatient. Their (mis)adventures made me smile, and I was rooting for them the entire time. The art continues to be astoundingly good, and I really liked getting a look at this community and their clothing style, etc.

I look forward to seeing where this story goes. Rating: 4 stars.

97. 2 Sisters: A Super-Spy Graphic Novel
This is an example of a graphic novel I wish I had read with Kindt fans. The rave reviews make me thing I missed the point of this one in a major way. There are things I really liked about this one, and the two sisters and the artifact threads were interesting enough, but I'm not a fan of the art style, and after the final page was left wondering what it was all about. Rating: 2 stars.

98. Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening
Updated August 2017: Re-read before I dive into Volume Two.

From the author's note: And the root of my desire, I finally realized, was to tell a story about what it means to be a survivor. A survivor, not just of a cataclysmic war, but of racial conflict and its antecedent: hatred. And to confront the question: how does one whom history has made a monster escape her monstrosity? How does one overcome the monstrousness of others without succumbing to a rising monstrousness within?

As good as the first read. Can't wait to see how this yarn unfolds.
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First read in December 2016:
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.

September 12, 2017

Journal pages

Inspiration is where you find it. Junk mail in this case. This one just makes me happy.


Bedtime sketches while listening to the wisdom of #tarabrach. Anyone else a fan of this #podcast?

September 11, 2017

Recent Reads

93. A Bride's Story, Vol. 1
As a kid I was fascinated by stories of the Silk Road, so imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this Manga series set in Central Asia in the 19th century. This historical fiction graphic novel slowly reveals the culture, artifacts, and traditions of people we don't often get to read about.

The story itself centers around Amir Halgal, a young woman who finds herself married to a twelve year old boy, eight years younger than herself. Over the course of this book she settles into married life, and has to deal with cultural and familial differences in a new place while surrounded by strangers.

I loved so much about this book, but the art is what steals the show. Wonderfully detailed pen and ink illustrations that made me feel as if I was walking in Amir's world. I could feel the textures, taste the smells, hear the sounds, see the colors. I love Amir, and was delighted by how her new family treated her. If I have one complaint, it's that they were simply too nice and welcoming, but maybe that's just my jaded point of view.

This didn't get a higher rating because I had issues with some of the pacing, and inspite of the historical setting, there is no doubt that this is Japanese Manga, and all those big eyes can get a tad annoying. That being said, I'd highly recommend this one to anyone interested in learning about a different culture, and reading about a strong woman character in a world that is oh so Patriarchal. Wonderful. Rating: 4 stars.

94. A Bride's Story, Vol. 2
I'll keep this one short and not repeat all my gushing from my review of the first volume of this Manga series.

The art continues to be superb, the story is engaging, and I got used to all those huge Manga eyes. I love that this story educates about the culture without being heavy handed. Those scenes around the value of sewing, embroidery and dowry cloth are wonderful. Plus, we get introduced to more feisty female characters. Just loved everything about this one. Rating: 5 stars.

95. A Bride's Story, Vol. 3
This installment of life on the 19th century Silk Road has Mr. Smith making his way to Ankara. On the way he meets Talas, a young widow with an interesting and very sad history. Their lives get intertwined in ways neither expects.

It's easy to in this modern age to forget that we live in a patriarchal society as so much is not as overtly visible as in the past. Talas is another interesting character, though not as well developed as Amir, and her situation is very different as she has no man to "protect" her. I loved the relationship between Talas and her mother-in-law. A bit fairytale-ish I suppose, but lovely nonetheless.

The art continues to be fantastic. There isn't as much action in this one, though the market scenes with all that delish food had my mouth watering. After three volumes I'm still unsure about Mr. White. Is this white guy supposed to represent us the reader? Outsiders trying to make sense of a different culture? It was fun that characters we've met before make a cameo appearance, but this one is clearly focused on the lack of agency women have in the culture.

Am gobbling up these books. So good. Rating: 4 stars.

September 9, 2017

Journal pages

I've been sketching in bed right before I fall asleep. Taking a line for a walk is so soothing.

September 7, 2017

Cinemascope: Hidden Figures

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

Image result for hidden figures

Released in 2016.

Plot line: Three brilliant African-American women at NASA -- Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) -- serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation's confidence, turned around the Space Race and galvanized the world.

I have yet to read the book that this is adapted from, and plan to move it up my TBR. This is an interesting look at the contributions that women, women of color in particular, made to America's space program. It's about time stories like these are told on the big screen. It could have been tighter in parts, but I really enjoyed learning more about these women and their achievements.

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

September 4, 2017

Recent Reads

90. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
This coming of age novel is targeted for a young adult audience, and while it won lots of awards, I didn't love it as much as I expected to.

Aristotle and Dante are two Mexican kids who meet one summer in El Paso, Texas. They are both loners, but don't really have much in common other than that. One teaches the other to swim and a friendship develops.

Let me start with the things I really liked about this novel. Firstly, I love that these types of stories now exist for teens, especially kids of color. There is quite a lot of teen angst, and I especially liked the exploration of the horror of hair growing in unexpected places. C'mon, we all went through that awkward phase, and it is well described here. I liked that both boys had a good relationship with one or both parents, which is somewhat rare in YA books and I found that quite refreshing. Also, I was interested in learning about the parents who would give their kids such names, for surely they are interesting people.

All that being said, I had quite a few issues with this one. I didn't like the pacing. It's hot. I'm bored. Nothing happens, and then bam something does. Oh wait, nothing happens again, until bam. Rinse. Repeat. While I think the author accurately captures what time feels like for a teen, it didn't make for a engaging reading experience. Lots of time nothing happens, or you're wondering where the story is going. And while I really liked the parent/child relationships depicted, and it's wonderful to read about such supportive families, it's more than a tad unrealistic in my experience. No one had any issues at all with what was going on? Really? I simply could not suspend my disbelief. After lots of nothing happening, the ending felt rushed and we only get a superficial view at that. The other issue I had was with the dialogue. Maybe teens do talk this way, but I wanted more. More talking, more depth, more reality I guess.

When you're a teen no-one has ever felt the way you do, and there is that sense of being the first person on the planet to ever feel this way. I liked this story, I especially liked Dante, and I want to join the Quintana family too. I liked that it explores diversity in a couple of ways, and hope it ends up in the hands of kids who need some light in the depth of their darkness. Rating: 3 stars.

91. The Crabby Condition (La Marche du Crabe #1)
A graphic novel about crabs? I'm in.

We think of evolution as inevitable, but what if you are a species that hasn't had to evolve for millennia? This cute and poignant story is told from the POV of three Cancer Simplicimus Vulgaris, or the square crab, who decide to try something radical one summer day. The art is wonderful, and I enjoyed the deeper exploration of rebelling against the straight and narrow and finding your own path. An informative and fun summer read, especially if you plan to spend some time on a beach. Rating: 3 stars.

92. Dragon's Breath: and Other True Stories
I'm one of those people that think that there are simply too many memoirs being published these days, but decided to try this one as the reviews were great. This graphic memoir is a collection of vignettes, and I appreciated the honesty of the author in the telling. I really liked the illustration style, especially how extraneous bits are simply left out. That sentiment carries over to the stories themselves. I enjoyed this collection while reading it, but a couple of weeks later find that none of the stories have stayed with me. Rating: 3 stars.

August 31, 2017

Cinemascope: Chasing Coral

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

Image result for chasing coral poster

Released in 2017.

Plot line: Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.

I have zero patience for gobal warming skeptics. This is a clear and present danger, so stop with all the BS and educate yourself on the issues. This documentary had me in tears, and I'd highly recommend it to every human, but especially divers and snorkelers who've spent time among one of the wonders of the natural world.

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

August 29, 2017

P!nk's VMA Speech

This is what excellent parenting looks like.



If the embedded video does not work, click here.

Buy a book to help relief efforts in Houston

Got the following email from a reader friend in Houston:

Elizabeth

I am safe here in Houston but my city is devastated by this epic weather event. I know you have a blog and wondered if you could get this information out for me.

Brazos Bookstore in Houston is donating 20% of proceeds from now until Sunday to relief efforts in Houston. Our city needs help. Please visit their website and considering making a purchase.

www.brazosbookstore.com
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Sounds like a wonderful way for readers to contribute to the relief efforts.
Thank you.

August 28, 2017

Vegas 2016 Travel Journal Flip

Finally getting around to a flip of this completed journal.



If the embedded video does not work, click here.

August 21, 2017

Recent Reads

87. The Master (The Gameshouse #3)
I listened to the audiobook which is wonderfully narrated by Peter Kenny.

Contrary to what all the movies and ads sell us, we know, deep down we know, that the house always wins. The game being played here is the ultimate one: a game of chess against the Gameshouse itself. Who would dare? Silver, of course. He's had cameo appearances in the first two novellas, and in this final one he takes center stage, and in this case the stage is the entire planet. Can Silver really win against the Woman in White?

Yes, I'll repeat myself with how much I loved the writing, the plot, the setting, the characters, etc. There are so many things that made me smile in recognition, and I flew through this one too. I docked a star because the point of view of the story changed, and I so loved the original format. Also, I had an inkling about the head of the Gameshouse, so was not really surprised. Still, loved that ending. It's a game after all, so why would you expect anything different?

I honestly can't put into words the wondrous experience of this trilogy. I've enjoyed every minute of my time in these worlds, and would highly recommend you give this series a try. Rating: 4 stars.

88. Ruined
The winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this play is a difficult yet important read.

I use a cell phone. Maybe you do too. There are so many ethical issues concerning how and where and by whom our gadgets and products are manufactured. Coltan, a mineral mined in the Congo and used in cell phones, is partly the cause of the ongoing war in the region. This play sheds some light on the collateral damage of devices upgraded often, and one we take for granted.

Inspired by interviews the author conducted in Africa with Congo refugees, this it both an engrossing and horrifying read. The setting is a bar/brothel at the edges of the war in Congo, and the diverse cast of characters each illustrate a different perspective on the war. If you are a sentient being you already know that rape is a weapon used by all sides, and this play gives us a glimpse into the lives of Congolese women in this particular war.

It's my opinion that plays are better seen than read, and that was certainly true in this case. For example, there were a couple of women whose name both started with S, and I often had to pause to remind myself which one was talking as I was reading. I'll be on the lookout for a production near me, and would highly recommend this one. Rating: 4 stars.

89. In the Sounds and Seas (In the Sounds and Seas #1–3)
This wordless graphic novel is supposed to be a "poetic investigations in to mythology and the quest for meaning-making," but I simply did not get it.

The story starts with three figures sitting around a fire in the woods, and as they burst into song their individual voices weave around each other to create the world. OK, that I got. The rest? Not so much. I liked the ship/sailing sections, and I enjoyed what I think is the message that art and creation is what it's all about. But honestly, I felt like I needed a cheat sheet to figure out what the point of this was. I really loved the art, the line work is wonderfully detailed, and it would be worth checking this out of your library just to look at the art. However, I for one felt like I had definitely missed a memo that would have made this story understandable. Rating: 2 stars.

August 14, 2017

Recent Reads

84. The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo #2)
For our family reunion this year my nieces and nephews picked the first two books in this series for our Myrtle Beach book club.

I have essentially the same things to say about this one as I did for the first one, so rather than repeat myself, I'll add that the haikus was a fun touch. Plus Peaches cubed! Rating: 2 stars.

85. The Serpent (The Gameshouse #1)
I listened to the audiobook which is wonderfully narrated by Peter Kenny.

Don't you just love when you stumble onto something unexpected that delights you? That's exactly how I felt when I found The Gameshouse novella trilogy at my library's Hoopla account. I'd never heard of the author, it turns out she's got several pen names, and this series seems to have some passionate followers, so decided to try it. And was immediately hooked.

This first volume is set in 17th century Venice, and we meet a young woman who is married off to a drunk who spends her dowry on drink and gambling. The young women enters the Gameshouse, where fortunes are won and lost over various games, and proves herself worthy an invitation to the exclusive higher league of the house ... "a league where the games played are of politics and empires, of economics and kings. It is a league where Capture the Castle involves real castles, where hide and seek takes place on a scale as big as the British Isles." The game she plays is a one that will determine Venetian politics, but there are others who want the win the game as much as she does, will she prevail?

The language is wonderful, the setting of Venice beautifully described (especially if you have visited it), the characters interesting, and watching the game unfold is thrilling. If you enjoy interesting narrative forms, and are okay with uncertainty as you wait for the yarn to fully unfold, give this one a try. It's a feminist tale with intrigue, mystery, murder, political maneuvering, philosophical musings, and a look at humanity in a wonderful setting. I gobbled it up and downloaded the next in the series immediately upon completion. Rating: 4 stars.

86. The Thief (The Gameshouse #2)
Book blurb: In 1930s Bangkok, one higher league player has just been challenged to a game of hide and seek. The board is all of Thailand - and the seeker may use any means possible to hunt down his quarry - be it police, government, strangers or even spies ....

I listened to the audiobook which is wonderfully narrated by Peter Kenny.

This is the second novella in the Gameshouse trilogy and I loved it even more than the first one. If you have ever visited Thailand you'll get even more of a thrill as you read this installment. We've all played hide and seek as children, but not with stakes or allies like these! We get introduced to some new characters, and run into some old pals too. The writing continues to be wonderful, the characters well developed, the setting beautifully described, and I loved the exploration of philosophy, humanity, greed, gambling, and emotions evoked by games. And that ending! So dang good. As with the previous one, I gobbled it up and downloaded the final one in the trilogy. Rating: 5 stars.

August 12, 2017

Journal pages

I continue to play in my cheap sketchbook. The paper isn't very good, but takes light watercolors okay. These were all done on location with my trusty travel kit. 

Trying to capture some things on the boat.


Outside at the Lowell Folk Festival with a pen and some Crayola colorpencils.


These guys were not this short. Ah well. 

August 10, 2017

Game of Thrones (Season 7)

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

Image result for game of thrones season 7 poster

Released in 2017.

Plot line: George R.R. Martin's best-selling book series "A Song of Ice and Fire" is brought to the screen as HBO sinks its considerable storytelling teeth into the medieval fantasy epic. It's the depiction of two powerful families -- kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars and honest men -- playing a deadly game for control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, and to sit atop the Iron Throne.

Winter is here!  I've been slowly re-watching all the previous seasons in preparation for Season 7, and it's interesting the things I forgot, or confused with sections of the books. I continue to love this show. This season starts off with a bang, and I cannot wait to see what happens next. At this point you are either already on the bandwagon or not. Yes, the show is violent and bloody, but I squint my eyes for a few seconds and move on. Go House Stark!

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

August 7, 2017

Recent Reads

81. Waltz With Bashir: A Lebanon War Story
"One night in Beirut in September 1982, while Israeli soldiers secured the area, Christian militia members entered the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and began to massacre hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians."

We often forget that history is the story of war told by the victors. The massacre that occured in Sabra and Shatila is not one I had even heard about until I was in college and met a classmate called Sabra. In every war and conflict, it is too easy to label one group the good guys and the others bad, but that is not ever the entire story, and this comic explores the history of this event and the amnesia, personal and collective, that surround it. What people knew and did not, what they did and did not. While it's often easy to think we might behave differently in a given circumstance, this book is a reminder that when we are in high stress situations we behave in unexpected ways and often have no memories of the trauma at all.

I really liked the art in this one, and the exploration of how memory and history intertwine. I appreciated learning more about these events, and it's fascinating and horrifying to read about events from a different perspective. I plan to watch the movie, and deducted a star because it felt unfinished in some crucial manner.

It's interesting that this my library labeled this as fiction when it clearly is not. An important book for anyone with strong opinions about the Israeli/Palestinian "conflict". If you tend to only hear one side of that story, give this one a try. Rating: 4 stars.

82. Boundless
Do you admire an author but somehow their books don't resonate with you? Am I the only one with this problem? I follow the author's work, but somehow her books don't work for me. I had high hopes that this would work better for me, but it was not to be. This graphic novel is a collection of short stories, and while I appreciated some of the art and the premise of some of the stories, overall this one left me scratching my head over all the rave reviews. Maybe it's just me. Sigh. Rating: 2 stars.

83. Elizabeth Is Missing
Book blurb: In this darkly riveting debut novel—a sophisticated psychological mystery that is also a heartbreakingly honest meditation on memory, identity, and aging—an elderly woman descending into dementia embarks on a desperate quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared, and her search for the truth will go back decades and have shattering consequences.

I really cannot say much more about the plot of this book without spoilers.

It's not often that we read about older women in fiction, and I'm loving the trend to change that. Who are we without our memories? Aging is challenging, but it surely is better than the alternate, and yet the losses encountered along the way are heart breaking. There are two mysteries in this story, and while they are interesting that was not the main draw for me. I loved the voice in this novel, and I found myself angry at some people, and saddened by what was happening to Maud as time passed. It's not so much a plot driven story as a character driven one, and it gave me insight into both the aging and their caretakers, and has helped me look at aging family members differently. That this is a debut novel, by one so young at that, is simply astounding, and I plan on reading everything Ms. Healey writes.

I listened to the audiobook which was superbly narrated by Davina Porter, and would highly recommend the book in the audio format. Rating: 5 stars.

August 3, 2017

Cinemascope: Allied

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

Related image

Released in 2016.

Plot line: Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) and Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard) are World War II operatives who never reveal their true identities. After falling in love during a risky mission, they hope to leave all that double-dealing behind them and start new lives. Instead, suspicion and danger envelop their marriage as both husband and wife become pitted against each other in an escalating, potentially lethal test that has global consequences.

How much can you ever know another person? Wouldn't that be so much harder if you were both spies? This is an interesting look at relationships formed under war time conditions, but with a twist. I'd recommend this one for fans of period war movies, though it isn't about war as much as about the two main characters.

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

July 31, 2017

Recent Reads

78. Big Mushy Happy Lump (Sarah's Scribbles #2)
This is the second collection of comic strips about the author's anxieties and musing. It's a quick light read, and while there were some that I found amusing, for the most part this one didn't work as well for me. Rating: 2 stars.

79. The Weight of Ink
Book blurb: Set in the London of the 1660s and of the early 21st century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect: Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city, and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history. As the novel opens, Helen has been summoned by a former student to view a cache of 17th-century Jewish documents newly discovered in his home during a renovation. Enlisting the help of Aaron Levy, an American graduate student as impatient as he is charming, and in a race with another fast-moving team of historians, Helen embarks on one last project: to determine the identity of the documents' scribe, the elusive "Aleph".

I'm a fan of historical fiction, especially ones that have strong woman characters who buck society's expectations to follow their own hearts. This one also has old documents, recently discovered, which sheds new light on life in the 17th century. The story follows two timelines, one present and one past, and unlike many novels that utilize this device, the author does a superb job of making the two story lines dance and complement one another. I loved the writing, the settings in both timelines, the mystery, and for much of the reading I thought this might be a five star read. I did not however enjoy the Aaron Levy thread, and while I understand why the author might have added him, I could have cared less about his rather predictable story. The book could also have used some tighter editing.

I was fully immersed in these worlds as I was reading, I found myself talking to the characters and pondering their various dilemmas. How could I not thoroughly enjoy a story about unconventional women with a dash of history and old letters, a pinch of mystery, with a teaspoon of philosophical musing thrown in? I'm off to look into her back list.

I listened to the audiobook which is wonderfully narrated by Corrie James, and I'd recommend trying this one on audio. Rating: 4 stars.

80. The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo #1)
For our family reunion this year my nieces and nephews picked two books for our Myrtle Beach book club. This one, and the next in the series.

I've read and really enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, but have since stalled on finding any of the other books compelling enough to read. The kids on the other hand continue to love these books, so I was curious to see if this latest series was any good. I think this would have worked much better if I was the age of the target audience for this series. It's not a bad book, and I quite enjoyed Apollo's point of view - oh the snark of being a handsome immortal god and then suddenly finding yourself in an acne covered teenage boy with - gasp - flab! I loved that sexuality was simply a spectrum and not a big deal either way, and I really liked how myth and history were intertwined in this tale. However, it is rather plot heavy and if that's your thing you'll probably like it. Still, it's a quick read that made me smile in places, and I really enjoyed our book club. Turns out the entire family loved Peaches. Rating: 2 stars.