March 31, 2015

CY365 | March Update

Are you playing along with the CY365 project? You can read more about what I'm doing here.

Here is another week of 2015 Captured.

67/365 - 030815 #Green #cy365
Gift cards to Indie bookstores make me happy.

68/365 - 030915 #Lime #cy365
A rather literal interpretation. Lime and friends.

69/365 - 031015 #OffPrompt #cy365
It has been all about pills, naps, mugs of tea, and bad movies today.

70/365 - 031115 #OffPrompt #cy365

70/365 - 031215 #Texture #cy365
A sad thing about this nasty bug is that my taste buds are not working. Everything tastes like oatmeal, so decided to have just that with some added tidbits for additional texture.

71/365 - 031315 #OnTheEdge #cy365
The hard part after reading a great book is deciding what to read next. #bookstagram #shelfie

72/365 - 031415 #Pi #cy365
The date just makes me happy. On this rainy and dreary day we made a roaring fire to celebrate Pi day.

As always, click o photos to view larger. You can also follow along with daily updates on my Instagram and Flickr accounts.

March 30, 2015

Recent Reads

28. Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor
Book blurb: For the past decade, Lynda has run a highly popular writing workshop for non-writers called Writing the Unthinkable - the workshop was featured in the New York Times magazine. Syllabus: Notes from an accidental professor is the first book that will make her innovative lesson plans and writing exercises available to the public for home or classroom use. 

I have read the entire book, re-read portions, and implemented some of the exercises already. Chock-full of ideas and exercises, there is so much I loved about this book. Whether you think you are creative or not, if you have tried to journal and failed, or if you simply want to look at a fun, colorful journal of a creative teacher, give yourself the gift of getting your hands on this book. This is a class I would love to take in person, but in the meanwhile, I'll keep thumbing through sections of this book. Rating: 5 stars.

29. The Sandcastle Girls
I've waited three days before reviewing this book to see if I would change my mind. I have not. I love historical fiction, and find the genre a wonderful way to immerse myself in a world/time/place. This novel contains a piece of history that everyone should know about - the genocide of approximately 1.5 million Armenians - and I applaud the author for writing an easily accessible book that might make this atrocity more widely known. And yet.

In preparation for a trip to Turkey a couple of years ago, I read several books, fiction and non-fiction, set in the country. As with most countries, history shed some unflattering light on the Turks. I might have heard about the genocide in passing before that trip, but I knew much more about what had happened by the time I arrived in Turkey. I was fascinated (is that the right word?) by the outright denial by every single Turk I met that any such thing happened to the Armenians, let alone in their country. 

This novel contains two stories - one set in present day New York, and one set in 1915 Syria, and this story should have worked. Yes, I found the atrocities a compelling, if difficult read, but I did not find any of the characters or their motivations - either in the past or present - believable, credible, or fleshed out in a way that made me care about them. I found the present day story line too contrived, and found it jarring that the present and the past sections switched within a chapter, and often with only a paragraph break. And if that were not enough, there are other narrators, and plot lines (photographic plates, the other orphan girl, and what's with the sandcastles?) which in my opinion detracted from the flow of the story. I also did not understand the author's decision to include a Gallipoli story line. Watertown, yes. Gallipoli no. There is a lot of movement from place to place in this story, and I think a map of the region in the front of the book would have been useful. 

However, as I said earlier, this might be just the right book for certain audiences - this is after all the One Book selection for the town I live in. I'll be curious to hear what my local book club members have to say, and plan on attending the author talk as well. The history of the region is one well worth reading about, and there are fantastic books that worked much better for me. Rating: 2 stars.

30. The Sculptor
There are many reviews on the "brickness" of this graphic novel, and I for one would have loved the heft if the story was any good. I'm a fan of the author's non-fiction, but am not impressed with his foray into fiction.

This is a story about a "stubborn, self-absorbed, and aggravating young man" - and that's what his love interest calls him! I'd add immature, whiny, and narcissistic. Is this what the emerging adults of today look like? I sure as hell hope not! The premise is an interesting one: a young artist with promise destroys his own career, and now is broke and uninspired. A classic lead-in to a dance with the devil, right? What will he give up for his art? Is it worth it?

There are so many things about this guy that annoyed me - his focus on fame and not his art, his infantile fixation on a girl, his ridiculous promises, his tempter tantrums - what is he, four?! There is no new ground covered with this story, and that is a shame, because the art, people. The art is fantastic. Lovely illustrations in black, white, and blue. I give the story 2 stars, and the art 4, so will average out at a generous 3 stars. It is the art that kept me reading to the end.
  Rating: 3 stars.

March 28, 2015

Journal tips (Video)

I share some journaling tips that I've found useful.

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

March 26, 2015

Cinemascope: Pride

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: PRIDE is inspired by an extraordinary true story. It's the summer of 1984, Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers is on strike, prompting a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists to raise money to support the strikers' families. Initially rebuffed by the Union, the group identifies a tiny mining village in Wales and sets off to make their donation in person.

Most life affirming movies are so sweet that my teeth hurt, and I am delighted that this is not one of them. A wonderful story with a great ensemble cast.

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

March 24, 2015

CY365 | March Update

Are you playing along with the CY365 project? You can read more about what I'm doing here.

Here is another week of 2015 Captured.

60/365 - 030115 #OffPrompt #cy365
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. I'm ready for sailing season.

61/365 - 030215 #Vignettes #cy365
A sampler from my art journals. This just makes me happy. #journal #draw #sketches #art

62/365 - 030315 #WhereIStand #cy365
Yes, the stretching area of my gym is carpeted with green astroturf. Classy.

63/365 - 030415 #Celebration #cy365
So fun to see a collection of the books I have read so far this year. #bookstagram

64/365 - 030515 #Legacy #cy365
I am the grateful beneficiary of the public library legacy in this country. #librarylove

65/365 - 030615 #OffPrompt #cy365
Nightime rituals. #timefortea

66/365 - 030715 #AnHeirloom #cy365
I love that I have some of the jewelry my Mom wore on her wedding day.

As always, click o photos to view larger. You can also follow along with daily updates on my Instagram and Flickr accounts.

March 23, 2015

Recent Reads

25. The Housekeeper and the Professor
I loved the premise of this story: A math Professor has suffered a traumatic brain injury and and cannot remember anything later than 1975. He does have short term memory, but only in 80 minute loops. The tape erases and starts over every 80 minutes. The Housekeeper, who is the narrator of the story, is hired to take care of him, and she has a ten year old son.

This slim Japanese novel is less than 200 pages long, and I really liked how the story explores "what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family". I enjoyed the math, glossed over the baseball, and really liked that the relationships that develop in this story are not the kinds that poems or songs are written about. But I wanted more. The writing is so sparse as to not really allow me to connect deeply with the characters, and while there is some wonderful imagery, and the writing is lovely, I did not love it. This was my book club selection this month, and the themes explored in this novel make it a good choice for discussion. Rating: 3 stars.

26. Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir
As a girl who disliked dresses and often had shorts on underneath (who wants everyone to see your underwear when you do a cartwheel or hang upside down, am I right?), actively disliked anything pink, was not into dolls, and was your classic tomboy (oh how I hate that word), I would have loved this book as a kid. I so wanted to be a boy, and it took me many years to realize that what I really wanted was not to change genders, but to change gender roles and expectations. Yes, we've come a long way baby - after all, we do have Skirts With Benefits (read built in shorts) available these days, but I still have nieces who are so angry that they are girls. "It's so not fair!", is a refrain that comes up often when I talk to them about the roles/rules/dress code that applies to girls as opposed to boys. I'm sure my Mom heard that same thing more times than she cares to remember.

This graphic memoir is targeted at a teen/YA audience, and the author is honest and unflinching on her trip down memory lane. This would be a wonderful gift for all the little, and not so little tomboys in your life. And while you are at it, have the boys read it too. Rating: 4 stars.

27. The Clothes They Stood Up In
Book blurb: When the sedate Ransomes return from the opera to find their Notting Hill flat stripped absolutely bare—down to the toilet paper off the roll, they face a dilemma: Who are they without the things they've spent a lifetime accumulating? Suddenly the world is full of unlimited and frightening possibility.

The physical book is a delight to hold - so tiny that it could fit into your pocket - it reminded me of books for little hands. It is hard not to be drawn in by the premise of this story, and then to find yourself quite in like with Mrs. Ransome. A charming, humorous story with some surprising depth, this is a quick, one sitting read. Rating: 3 stars.

March 22, 2015

David Eagleman: Can we create new senses for humans? (Video)

Consider my mind blown!

As humans, we can perceive less than a ten-trillionth of all light waves. “Our experience of reality,” says neuroscientist David Eagleman, “is constrained by our biology.” He wants to change that. His research into our brain processes has led him to create new interfaces to take in previously unseen information about the world around us. 

If the embedded video does not work, click here.

March 20, 2015

Journal page

I was recently flipping through this book, and used some of the images as inspiration for this page.

As always, click on image to enlarge. Done with a blue ball point pen in my large cheapo journal.

March 19, 2015

Cinemascope: Royal Cousins At War

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: At the outbreak of the First World War three cousins reigned over Europe's greatest powers - Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and King George V of Britain. This two-part series looks atthe role played by the three monarchs, and their relationships with each other, in the outbreak of war, arguing that it is far greater than historians have traditionally believed.

Sometimes the sheer amount of things I do not know stagger me. I found this fascinating documentary educational, informative, and entertaining. It helped connect many dots for me, and left me some questions I plan to explore further. 

You can learn more here. If you have yet to see it, this is TV series worth watching.

March 16, 2015

Recent Reads

22. The Children Act
Those of you who know me are probably wondering why I decided to read another book by an author whose work I tend not to like. I blame my local book group.

I listened to the audiobook, wonderfully narrated by Lindsay Duncan. This slim book tackles some big questions: What is in the best welfare of a child? How does one handle the news that your husband needs one last passionate fling with someone else? How does work and the decisions we make at work - especially if they involve life and death - affect our personal lives? Can we really be objective when it comes to the lives of others?

I quite loved the start of this book - the court cases and the dynamics between Fiona and her husband - but as the book went along, I found my attention wandering, and by the end I simply wanted the book to be over. Cut out some of the rambling, and things that matter not one whit to this story, and this would have gotten a higher rating from me. Also, did not love the bullet form/summary manner of storytelling - that style of writing pops me right out of the story and I become a mere spectator of something I can only view remotely. Nevertheless, this book had me thinking about the questions mentioned above, and it made for a good discussion. Rating: 2 stars.

23. Ant Colony
I found this graphic novel surreal, dark, and gross in parts, and yet I could not look away. It's the story of a civilization writ small: war, corruption, sex, angst, ennui, the search for meaning, them versus us, gender politics, murder, etc. all set in an ant colony. The art is creepily good - I especially loved the spiders, and was more than a little disturbed by the queen illustrations. My fave parts include an ode to the Lion King, the 300 style battle scenes, and the final bucket list. There are multiple narrators in this story, and I found it rather male-centric, but it is an interesting and colorful read nonetheless. Rating: 3 stars.

24. Flowers of Evil, Volume 1
I've said this before and I'll say it again: Adults who want to be young again must not remember how hard growing up can be.

This graphic novel series is a semi-autobiographical story about Takao Kasuga. He is in middle school, an avid reader, failing a class or two, and puberty comes knocking. Nakagawa, the class bully and all around strange girl, sees Takao do something that he is deeply ashamed of, and uses this power to make his life hell. Nanako Saeki is the beautiful and smart girl Takao has a crush on.

On the surface, this is a simple coming of age story, about a boy, a crush, a bully, and peer pressure. What I loved is the honesty with which the story is told. Like most of us, Takao is neither a hero nor a villain. He is just an average kid, who loves books, especially one by Baudelaire, and cannot find anyone in his little town who understands his passion, which makes him feel trapped and lonely. The tsunami of emotions he experiences in this first volume are those that can only be felt by the very young - the highest highs and lowest lows. 
I really liked the art, and this black and white manga needs to be read back to front, and each panel reads right to left, which takes a little getting used to, but is quite fun. I'm not sure if this series is targeted at middle school kids, but this volume would certainly stir up some great conversation with kids that age. There are ten volumes in this series, and I've already got the next two in the series on hold at my library. Rating: 4 stars. 

March 13, 2015

Journal page

I've been reading a lot of graphic novels this year, and love trying to capture a specific artist's style in my journal, in this case  this book.

As always, click on image to view larger. Done with a sharpie pen and markers in my large cheapo journal.

March 12, 2015

Cinemascope: Tell Me You Love Me

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

Released in 2007.

Plot line: This series is a drama about three couples and the therapist they share, Katie confronts Dave after catching him in a private moment; Carolyn and Palek face an ongoing fertility crisis; and Jaime questions Hugo's ability to remain faithful after they are married.

I watched this HBO series recently, and found it fascinating and disturbing. This is not your typical sappy-happy-ever-after trope that Hollywood continues to generate. It is an adult exploration of relationships, love, sex, secrets, and baggage. Yes, the couples were mostly Caucasian, hetero, and well off, but the themes explored are universal, and topics we do not really see explored often. A heads up that the sex is very explict, so if that bothers you this might not be for you. 

I could not find an official trailer, but you can see some that people have created online. If you have yet to see it, this is TV worth watching.

March 9, 2015

Recent Reads

19. A Matter of Life
What drew me to this graphic novel was this on the back cover: "An Autobiographical Meditation on Fatherhood and Faith." I guess I expected a more in-depth exploration of those themes, but alas, that is not what I found. Yes, there are faith and fatherhood and growing up memories, told in short story form, and while not everyone has huge epiphanies, I expected a little more than a fortune cookie style memoir. No depth, and I did not like the art either. This will probably be a wonderful treasure for the author's son, but not a book I'd recommend to anyone else. Rating: 1 star.

20. The Freddie Stories
I am a huge fan of the author, and this graphic novel does not disappoint. This coming of age story is told from Freddie's point of view, via a collections of comic strips - each double page moves the story forward. While many complain about her sketchy illustration style, they work really well for this dark, and so very sad story. The author's unflinching look at growing up, friendship, bullying, and child abuse is raw and often gut wrenching. To say more would be spoilery. A word of caution, do not read this if you are already sad, or looking for a pick me up read.  Rating: 4 stars.

21. Saga, Volume 4
Volume 4 collects issues #19-24. These collected volumes are coming out way too slowly - isn't there a kickstarter I can fund to speed things along? I am continually surprised by where the story goes - I mean that opening scene! There is humor, and darkness, and plain ol' shoot-the-messenger drama. The art is fantastic, and I have no doubt that I'll re-read the entire series when the set is complete. Cannot wait. Rating: 4 stars.

March 6, 2015

Journal page

My photo project for the year has distracted me from sketching in my journals, so am delighted to be back playing in them. This page was done using a ball point pen in the large cheapo journal I started last year. You can see a video of my 2014 journal plans here.

March 5, 2015

Cinemascope: Blue Jasmine

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: Poignant, romantic, and mesmerizing, writer/director Woody Allen's latest masterpiece centers around Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), a former New York socialite teetering on an emotional tightrope, balancing between her troubled east coast past and a fresh start in San Francisco. Having moved into her sister's humble apartment, Jasmine ricochets between the tumultuous acceptance of her new limitations, and the dreams of reclaiming her past life's glamour. Join a powerful cast for an intimate portrayal of the battle between fantasy and reality which rages within us all.

This movie has stayed me with since I watched it on a flight a couple of months ago. Cate Blanchett is incredible, and gives an oh so cringe worthy performance, and for that alone this movie is worth watching. It is easy to believe in the facade we present to the world, but who are we really beneath it?

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

March 4, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: 03.04.15

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

March 3, 2015

CY365 | February Done

Are you playing along with the CY365 project? You can read more about what I'm doing here.

Here is another week of 2015 Captured.

53/365 - 022215 #LookingForward #cy365
eBooks on my #nooktablet that I plan to read in the next several months. #bookstagram

54/365 - 022315 #Potential #cy365
Finally a breather from storms and equipment malfunctions, so ready to start planning a vacation. Belize is one of the potential destinations.#bookstagram

55/365 - 022415 #OffPrompt #cy365
When we don't have to shovel out after a winter storm, we have to deal with frigid temperatures. #newinter

56/365 - 022515 #OffPrompt #cy365
Just wanted to capture a wonderfully relaxing and rejuvenating hour I enjoyed this morning. #timefortea

57/365 - 022615 #Engaged #cy365
Natural materials need a little extra care. Today Susan is engaged in oiling these wooden handles.

58/365 - 022715 #TheSeason #cy365
"Summer bodies are made in the winter".

59/365 - 022815 #Anticipation #cy365
Looking forward to a #delish surprise. What will Susan make with these oh so very black lentils? #foodie

As always, click o photos to view larger. You can also follow along with daily updates on my Instagram and Flickr accounts.

March 2, 2015

Recent Reads

16. Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal
Holy smokes Batman, but this sure isn't the superhero graphic novel of old, and I for one love the change. If like me you are rather sick and tired of the trope of old, you'll be delighted with Ms. Marvel. 

Kamala Khan is an ordinary Pakistani Mulism teenager living in Jersey City dealing with all the things that you might imagine that entails, when lo and behold a strange fog covers the landscape. Kamala is granted her wish to be like one of her fave superheroes, Captain Marvel; after all, is it not every girl's deepest wish to be blonde and "wear classic, politically incorrect costumes and kick butt in giant wedge heels?" Be careful what you wish for! Can Kamala come to terms with who she really is without giving up her culture, and disappointing her parents? Also, there are people who need her help, but what is a superhero to do when her parents ground her for a month? 

This volume collects the first five books in the series, and is a fun, feminist take on grappling with growing up without losing yourself, and I for one cannot wait to see what happens to Kamala next. This would be a great series for teens, especially girls of color. Rating: 4 stars.

17. Displacement: A Travelogue
The author is known for her graphic memoirs, and this is the third one of hers I've read. In this installment, the 20-something author decides to accompany her 90-something grandparents on a Caribbean cruise. This memoir recounts those 10 days, the ups and downs of traveling with aging grandparents, and the heartbreak of watching those you love get closer to death.

The art remains true to her style of being light, airy, and fun. What I really liked in this installment is that the author explores her complex emotions better than any of her other works I've read. This story was both funny and sad, and I think if the author allows herself to dig deeper as she ages, she'll be one to watch. Rating: 3 stars.

18. Feed (Newsflesh #1)
This is the first book in a trilogy targeted at an older Young Adult audience, and since the complete set has been published, I figured it would be a good time to try this very highly rated trilogy.

What's this book about? Zombies + Blogging + Politics are the major themes. Toss in some Science + Sabotage + Betrayal for some additional flavor. There are things I loved about this book and things I did not. 

Let's start with what worked:
- The two main characters, Georgia and Shaun, were well developed and the relationship between these siblings was really well done.
- The world creation is great. I loved the science behind what created the zombies in the first place - a classic case of you solve one thing that terrifies humans only to replace it with another.
- I was pleasantly surprised by the political slant of this book, not one usually found in this genre. 
- I've said it before and I'll say it again, humans are way more scary than zombies.

As for what did not work as well:
- The beginning and end of the book are great, but there is a lot of slogging in the middle sections of this book. In my opinion, it did not need 600 pages to tell this story; about 200 pages or so could easily be trimmed without losing anything important.
- While I liked the blogging aspect of this story, there was a bit too much of the technology/blogging/screening stuff which actually bogged down the pace of the story.
- While I'm not a fan of gory zombie stuff, this could have used more zombie scenes.

All in all an interesting read, and I liked it enough that I'll read the next book in the trilogy. Rating: 3 stars.