March 7, 2016

Recent Reads

1. Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)
This book is a perfect example of why one should not judge a book by its cover, and I honestly have to wonder if all the rave reviewers are reading the same book!

The basic premise sounded promising, but what grabbed my attention was the creative way the authors decided to tell this story. It plays out as a case file with audio and video transcripts, emails, memos, IMs, ship schematics, journal entries, and my fave, wonderful space images.

Unfortunately, the writing is not great, the plot is rather ridiculous, the characters were flat and had no personality at all, and to top it all off, there is a teen romance thing that made me want to barf. I've said this before, and I'll say it again, it takes a very talented writer to make someone else's romantic mushing not be barf inducing to people not in the relationship, and unfortunately, the authors did not succeed here.

Okay, so they did not nail the teen romance thing, but what about the ships in space thing, or the Artificial Intelligence thing, or the wormholes thing, or, or, or... Honestly, I was bored for much of this one, and kept putting the book down to do others things, and if it had not been for the creative manner the story was packaged, this would have gone into my DNF pile. This one is targeted at the young adult reader, and maybe it plays better for that age group.

I've added an additional star for creativity, but I'll not be picking up the rest of this trilogy. Rating: 2 stars.

2. Hurry Up and Wait
"How long can we stay here?
We hurry around for a while and then it's time to go.
Time to go. Everybody says it. Time to go.

And then we do."

I love art collaborations, and this book is the result of a collab between Maira Kalman (an author whose work I adore), Daniel Handler (a.k.a Lemony Snicket), and The Museum of Modern Art.

You've got to be in the right frame of mind to really get into this one. This little volume has text, paintings, and photographs, and if you really take it slowly, really read and let the text sink in, really look at the photographs and paintings, you cannot help but have a better understanding and appreciation of humanity, time, and this ephemeral thing called life.

I read someplace that this is the second such collab, and have already ordered the first book. Rating: 4 stars.

3. The Blue Whale
The natural world is fascinating, and this wonderful non-fiction picture book would make a great read/read aloud book for both kids and adults. The illustrations in this book are beautiful, and the factual text is conveyed in a simple, straightforward, and entertaining manner. I learned some stuff along the way as well, and would highly recommend this one if you have young readers in your home. Rating: 4 stars.

4. SuperMutant Magic Academy
Let me start this review by saying that I'm not a fan of the short story format. Why does that matter? Because this book is a collection of connected comic strips. Each page is a single vignette of life as experienced by a group of teens in their final years of high school. Yes, it is boarding school, and the kids are all mutants in some manner, but first and foremost they are teens, so prepare to wallow in vats of teen angst.

The mostly black and white art is really sketchy, which I did love it, but I think the author wonderfully captured the humor, anger, moodiness, and snarkiness of that age group. I read some place that is book is a collection of her web comics, and as with any anthology, there are some pieces that are fantastic and others that were merely OK. Still, the ones that are fantastic are breathtakingly on point, and I would highly recommend this one for older teens. Rating: 3 stars.

5. Daily Painting: Paint Small and Often To Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Artist
Having just completed of a daily sketching challenge in December, I'm already familiar with the concept of daily painting. This book was not what I expected it to be, and in that the fault is all mine. It does have some interesting background about the author and the Daily Painting blog/meme, but much of the book pertained to oil painting, which is not something I do. However, there are some general tips on composition, value, and color mixing that I found very helpful, and the art throughout is lovely. Rating: 2 stars.

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