October 17, 2016

Recent Reads

156. Sketching People: An Urban Sketcher's Manual to Drawing Figures and Faces
I'm a fan of this artist and her work, and I was delighted when this book was published. It shows how the artist captures her subjects, the tools and techniques she uses, and is filled with lots of her drawings. There is almost too much to soak up in my first reading, and this is a book I plan to revisit with watercolor pencils in hand. Rating: 4 stars.

157. My Name is Leon
This is the story of Leon. When we meet him, he is almost 9, his Mom has just had another child, and she is having a hard time with postpartum depression and alcohol. Things spiral downwards as you might expect, and social services steps in to take the two boys out of the house. Mom is no longer around/ capable of being a parent, so long term solutions must be found for the boys. The baby brother is adopted, because he is white and an infant, while Leon who is not either has the added trauma of being separated from his beloved brother.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I found the content to be quite emotional, but the writing is not good enough to really work. I really like that the story is told from Leon's point of view, and since he eavesdrops every chance he gets, we hear tidbits that fill in the gaps of what is going on in the larger backdrop of his family and 1980s British society.

The heartbreak of an abandoned and neglected child is something that is all too common, and stories like these that shed light on the plight of these kids are clearly important. Foster parents and social workers often go unheralded in their efforts, and I applaud the author in her efforts to give them their due in this story. All that said, I expected to love this one more than I did. Rating: 3 stars.

158. Mr Loverman
And the streak continues! Another five star read this year featuring a gay man, albeit a closeted one, and this one was written by a woman.

This story is about Barrington Jedidiah Walker (Barry to his friends), a seventy-four year old Antiguan living in Britain. He is a husband, father, grandfather, and has been cheating on his wife with his childhood lover Morris, for the past sixty years. Based on this description you would think that you'd dislike Barry, but you would be wrong.

There is so much I loved about this book. I appreciated the humor, the witty dialog, Barry's wisdom and insights into human nature, the exploration of being a gay man of color before all "this gay liberation stuff", the observations of being an immigrant in a country that does not want you, the challenge of raising children in a culture not your own, the ripple effects on the family caused by this double life ..... I could go on and on, but you really need to experience this for yourself.

This is mainly Barry's story, but we also get sections from Carmel's (the wife) point of view, and the juxtaposition of the two is fantastic. The language is wonderful, the story sucked me in and I could not wait to see what would happen next. I slowed down the pace of my reading as I got closer to the end, because I did not want to stop hanging out with the characters in this book. I loved every minute of this excellent book, and would highly recommend it.

I listened to the audiobook, which is superbly narrated by Robin Miles and Ron Butler. If you decide to read this one, I would highly recommend the audiobook version. The narrators have accents and a delivery style that added immensely to my enjoyment of this story. Rating: 5 stars.

159. Ghosts
This graphic novel is targeted for middle grade readers, and is my favorite of the author's books I've read to date.

This is the story of two sisters, Cat and Maya. Maya has cystic fibrosis, and the family moves to the coast of Northern California for her health. It's not that Cat does not love her sister and wants what's best for her, but moving to a new town and leaving all your friends is really tough, especially when you are a person who does not make friends easily. Also, the town they move to has ghosts, and while this delights Maya, Cat has no interest in meeting one, thank you very much.

I really liked the push/pull portrayal of the sister relationship, the celebration of culture and tradition, and the weaving in of death as a part of life. The art in this book is the author's best yet, and I especially love that the girls have bodies that look like girls. There is not enough depth in the story for this adult reader, but this would make a fun Halloween read for the tweens in your life. Rating: 3 stars.

160. Poetry Is Useless
I found this one both fascinating and frustrating. What is it? That's a good question. It is part sketchbook, memoir, travelogue, brain dump, and musings. There are parts that I loved, but so much of the text was unreadable - this either needed to be a larger format book, or come with a magnifying glass attached. I love the artistic style of his work, and this volume will certainly inspire you to pick up your sketchbook. Rating: 3 stars.

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