August 3, 2015

Recent Reads

88. Sketch!: The Non-Artist's Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life
"The process that you go through, be it for ten minutes or three hours is the drawing. Like a visually impaired person has to feel someone's face with their hands to tell their features, I sit and gradually take in the details of a place or a person through the pen. While taking pictures with an SLR or smartphone is great fun, I feel involved on a much deeper level through the act of drawing. I sometimes walk through or past places I have drawn and am so well acquainted with them that I have the uncanny feeling of having lived there."

This delightful book is full of inspiration, tips, and wonderful sketches. The author walks you through supplies, how to start, drawing exercises, and ends with a list of A-Z prompts. I dare anyone to read even a couple of pages of this and not pull out a piece of paper and draw something. I'd recommend it to all creative souls, and anyone who wants to see more clearly the spaces they inhabit. Rating: 4 stars.

89. Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
Book blurb: In early 2001 cartoonist Guy Delisle became one of the few Westerners to be allowed access to the fortress-like country. While living in the nation's capital for two months on a work visa for a French film animation company, Delisle observed what he was allowed to see of the culture and lives of the few North Koreans he encountered; his findings form the basis of this graphic novel.

I love travelogues of all kinds, and was intrigued by this one. People who live and work in a foreign country often have interesting observations of the local culture, so I was looking forward to reading about the insights the author had on this trip. Unfortunately he does not seem to make a distinction between the North Korean regime and the North Korean people, and while I found some of his observations interesting, there is a disturbing amount of racist and misogynist comments in this book. I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he was trying to be funny, but it just did not work. There were glimmers of how good this book could have been, but unfortunately the reader learns more about the author's prejudices than about the country he visits. Rating: 2 stars.

90. Crossing Midnight, Vol. 2: A Map of Midnight
This volume collects issues #6-12.

Twins Toshi and Kai continue down their separate paths, each with a different objective. Toshi starts training to serve her new master, and Kai gets enmeshed with the enjokosai - middle to high school age girls who go on dates for money. It's legal in Japan, but a supernatural slasher is voicing disapproval in the bloodiest ways imaginable.

This is an interesting story with Japanese cultural aspects that I find fascinating, and I look forward to finishing the trilogy with the next installment. Rating: 3 stars.

91. Crossing Midnight, Vol. 3: The Sword in the Soul 
This final volume in the series collects issues #13-19.

Kai is trying to find and save her his sister, but Toshi has had her memories erased, and has a new assignment - kill Kai. You just know this is not going to end well. We learn more about the backstory about how the twins are the way they are, and I loved the explanation. War is inevitable, and this is a fun and satisfying conclusion to this graphic novel series. Rating: 3 stars.

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