May 30, 2016

Recent Reads

61. Prison Island: A Graphic Memoir
It seems to me that almost everyone is writing a memoir these days, and while I do believe that we all live interesting lives (at least to ourselves), I'm not sure anyone else cares. The publishing industry seems to churn out memoirs at an alarming rate. Maybe it's because they are easy to write, and people are fascinated by an insider look at the lives of celebrities, but come on, not everyone lives a memoir worthy life!

Now that I've got that out of the way, let's talk about this book. Literally the only interesting thing about it is that the author lived with her family on an island in Washington State that used to house a prison. Given that, this book should have been about a 5 page pamphlet. No more is needed in my opinion. The black and white art is not good, and the story is dull and uninteresting to anyone who does not love the author. There are not many graphic novels I have bailed on, and this one joins that trashy heap. I quit about half way through, and let me remind you that graphic novels generally can be read in a single sitting.

I really wish publishers would reconsider the glut in the memoir genre, and go for quality over quantity. It's not that I dislike memoirs, though the last three or so I've read were all awful, but there needs to be something interesting about the life of a total stranger that makes me care to read on.

Want to read some great books in this genre? Try any of these brilliant ones: Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright, or The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, or The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, or The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer. Rating: 1 star.

62. Steps to Success in Watercolor: Learn Eight Valuable Principles for Planning Your Next Watercolor Painting
Book blurb: Accomplished watercolorist Brenda Swenson breaks down the process of planning a painting into eight individual steps, which include choosing a format, planning out values, effectively using color, developing a center of interest, creating a visual path, incorporating variety, painting negative shapes, and introducing light and shadow. Then she combines the steps in one final painting to show how each step works together to produce a pleasing, successful work of art.

I can't put it any better than the blurb, so will leave it at that. This is the second time I've read through this one, and a little more sinks in each time. It is wonderfully clear and concise, and I feel like I've attended a a really good watercolor workshop. I plan on doing some exercises in my journal soon. Rating: 4 stars.

63. Mixed Media Masterpieces with Jenny & Aaron: Create Incredible Art Journals and Handmade Mixed Media Treasures with Two Master Crafters
The thing about style, is that it is a very personal thing. This book has several art projects that I found way too kitschy for my taste. Not for me at all. Back in the library drop off it goes. Rating: 1 star.

64. Me Before You
The thing is, I have no one but myself to blame on this one. In spite of the rave reviews, I just knew that I was not the target audience for it. I mean, all I had to do was look at the cover, read the blurb, and I knew. I just knew better. But then I saw that it will be made into a movie, and that the Khaleesi from GOT will play Lou, and I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, all my fears were realized.

On the plus side this is a fast, light read, and the writing while not good, is not bad. The characters and the plot though are paper thin, and I was both annoyed and bored. Can one really get to be 26 years old and be as ridiculous as Lou? She seemed to act like an eight year old most of the time. As for Will, well, this would have been a more interesting story if he was not so filthy rich, wouldn't it? I was annoyed at the tired, old trope of a woman who gets saved by a man, and I think the notion of telling (not showing) the reader about certain things in Lou's life so as to evoke an emotional reaction from the reader is a kind of cheating by the author. The themes explored are done with such a light touch that it sheds no light on anything, and this could easily have been a YA book - though I doubt that teens would put up with it either.

I bailed about 170 pages in, and was not really surprised at how much I disliked this one. I guess I'll wait for the movie on DVD, and will keep my fingers crossed that the Khaleesi will use her charm to enliven the immature and annoying Lou. Rating: 1 star.

65. The Outside Circle
In the entire history of humanity, has there ever been a positive story about what happened to the native/indigenous/aboriginal peoples of any land? Sigh.

This graphic novel is targeted at an older teen plus audience, and I think it would make a good introduction for anyone who has not read anything about some of the issues explored here. Set in Canada, this story revolves around two brothers of aboriginal heritage struggling to find their way in the world. I really liked the art and the themes explored in this gritty bildungsroman, but my complaint is that it reads more like an brief, educational introduction to the First Nations history than a fictional story. The plot itself is a simple and straightforward one, but it is the historical facts and data thrown in that makes this worth reading for anyone interested in these important issues. Rating: 3 stars.

No comments: