April 24, 2017

Recent Reads

37. The Spectrum: A Scientifically Proven Program to Feel Better, Live Longer, Lose Weight, and Gain Health
From page 17: ...nine factors related to nutrition and lifestyle accounted for almost 95% of the risk of a heart attack in men and women in almost every geographic region and in every racial and ethnic group worldwide. These factors were: smoking, cholesterol level, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, diet, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and psychosocial issues such as emotional stress and depression. In other words, the disease that kills the most people each year worldwide and accounts for the single largest expenditure of healthcare dollars is almost completely preventable just by changing diet and lifestyle in ways described in this book.

If that doesn't make you pick up this book, I don't know what will.

This first third of this book dives deeply into the fields of nutrition, stress management, guided meditations, and exercise. The information conveyed in these sections is clear and easy to understand with scientific studies as backup. These are the sections that I found most useful and in some cases mind blowing.

The second third deals with specific issues: lowering cholesterol, losing weight, lowering blood pressure, preventing and reversing type 2 diabetes, preventing and reversing cardiovascular disease, and preventing and treating prostate and breast cancer. There is really great information here, but there is a ton of repetition, as the solutions have already been outlined in the sections before this one.

The final third covers recipes, cooking and shopping tips. Honestly, this is the part I found least useful, but it would be pertinent information for anyone new to the ideas in this book.

In some ways, Ornish is preaching to the choir with me, but I reinforced ideas I already had formed, learned some new things, and have no doubt that I will re-read sections of this book for the rest of my life. Rating: 4 stars.

38. The Essex Serpent
I love the cover of this book, readers I tend to share similar reading tastes with have raved about this one, and it was long listed for the 2017 Bailey's, so I was really excited to get my hands on a copy. Unfortunately, it did not work for me, and the only reason I did not DNF it was because the writing is lyrical and poetic in sections.

In her GoodReads bio the author states that her "early immersion in old literature and the King James Bible profoundly influenced her writing style." I concur. There are sections that read like paragraphs that Dickens or George Eliot might have penned, and there are certainly biblical overtones, both of which I love, and yet I did not like this book.

The story centers around Cora Seaborne, Will Ransome, and the people in their orbits. She is a wealthy London widow, and their paths cross when Cora moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, where Will is the local vicar. The rumors that the mythical Essex Serpent has returned and is claiming human lives is the thing that this tale spins around. The push and pull of science and religion. Again, sounds intriguing right?

However, the story is told in the third person, and at no point did I know, hence care, about any of these characters. The parts I liked best were the letters that went back and forth between the various characters in the story. I also liked the unusual relationships (don't want to spoil anything so will leave it at that), and I especially appreciated how things ended without going the expected Hollywood route. Still, as mentioned above, it was the writing that kept me reading, and while this story didn't work for me, I will try another book by this author, as there are moments of luminous writing in this one. Rating: 2 stars.

39. Solanin
As I read this manga comic I realized something important about my reading tastes, namely, that while I love coming of age stories, I'm not as enamored by the "new adult" genre/stories. This book is the latter, hence the fact it doesn't get a higher rating is really because of that.

A term I see bandied about by Millennials is "Adutling." I often hear someone say "Adulting is hard." If you agree, this book is for you. Meiko is 24, a recent college grad, and working in a job that she hates. Her boyfriend, Naruo, isn't doing much better, and seems to have moved in with her, as with this part-time job he can't swing rent. The book follows both these characters as they struggle with the dreams they once had juxtaposed against the lives they are living. The black and white art is lovely, there are wonderfully poignant moments, and I liked it well enough. Rating: 3 stars.

April 20, 2017

Cinemascope: The Dressmaker

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

Image result for the dressmaker movie poster

Released in 2015.

Plot line: A glamorous woman returns to her small town in rural Australia. With her sewing machine and haute couture style, she transforms the women and exacts sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.

I'm a Kate Winslet fangirl so maybe it's not a surprise that this is on my recommended list. I loved the setting and how the story unfolds and we learn things as the main character does. A very feminist story that I'd recommend for fans of historical fiction, fashion, and movies featuring a strong woman character.

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

April 17, 2017

Recent Reads

34. Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History
Book blurb: Eating one’s own kind is completely natural behavior in thousands of species, including humans. Throughout history we have engaged in cannibalism for reasons of famine, burial rites, and medicinal remedies; it’s been used as a way to terrorize and even a way to show filial piety. Today, the subject of humans consuming one another has been relegated to the realm of horror movies, fiction, and the occasional psychopath, but be forewarned: As climate change progresses and humans see more famine, disease, and overcrowding, biological and cultural constraints may well disappear.

I listened to the audiobook which was well narrated by Tom Perkins.

One of my fave questions to ask at parties (I kid you not): Say you are starving and your survival is at stake. Do you feel differently about eating a person who is already dead, as opposed to killing someone to eat? Try it at your next gathering and report back.

This book hits my sweet spot on so many levels. Most people tend to be really squeamish about the topic, but if you're not a vegetarian, what's all the fuss about? Who decided that we can eat some animals and not others? Besides, if you think that cannibalism is awful, you might want to put it in perspective. Considering the horrid historical accounts of human behavior, eating your fellow Sapiens doesn't really seem all that bad.

This is a fun, informative, and eye opening book, and I learned so many things about the animal kingdom I had no idea about. I'll bet school would be much more interesting if some of these topics were incorporated into the curriculum.

I could talk about some of the specifics, but then that'd spoil all the fun for you. I assure you that it's full of fascinating and juicy tidbits. The author stays away from sensational crime stories, so if you are looking for recipes, look elsewhere, but if you are willing to have "no way!" moments, and are willing to annoy your loved ones by constantly saying "did you know?", move this up your TBR.

This will end up on my best of 2017 reads, and the only reason I docked a star is due to the fact that there are sections, like the final chapters, where the author gets side tracked and wanders off topic. Rating: 4 stars.

35. The South Beach Diet
First read in 2005, then again in 2012. Recently completed a full re-read.

This book changed my life, my health, my understanding of so many things. It was the first time I'd read a book that validated my sense of the notion that Big Pharma prefers us to be sick for many, many years. After all, that's where the money's at. It was the first time I undersrood that I knew what was better for me than my pill-pusher of a PCP, who wanted me to go on cholesterol meds. For how long? For life, she said. Wrong answer! Told her to give me six weeks and if my numbers didn't improve we'd have another discussion.

Changed my diet (and I mean that in the true sense of the word, not as a fad) as outlined in this book, and my number went back to normal. She was shocked, and asked ME how I did it. It's taken me a long time to realize that doctors are trained, and trained well, to help with meds and other high tech interventions, but they actually get very little education about the role nutrition and lifestyle play in preventing most diseases in the first place. All you gotta do is look and see what your health insurance will cover: primarily meds and other expensive interventions. And while I'm all for getting the expensive, maybe life saving interventions when needed, I learned that I needed to take responsibility for the prevention portion of the equation.

This re-read was to motivate and remind me to recommit to being as healthy as I can be for as long as possible.

A note on the meal plans: I no longer use the meal plan or recipes in this book, but use the guidelines to make tasty and nourishing meals that follow the spirit of the plan. Rating: 5 stars.

36. The Arab of the Future 2: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1984-1985: A Graphic Memoir
This graphic memoir picks up where the first volume left off, and the family has now settled in Riad's father's hometown of Homs. The author starts to attend school and tries to fit in, but this is Syria under the dictator Hafez Al-Assad, and with his blond hair the author is often mistaken for a Jew, and is treated in ways that shouldn't surprise anyone.

Being a child in an adult world is bewildering in the best of times, and I love how we get glimpses of moments small and large in young Riad's life, juxtaposed with the politics, religion, and poverty of the environment he now inhabits. His awful teacher reminded me of many nuns of my youth, and with her headscarf, she even looked like my tormentors of old, albeit without the short skirts and high heels. There should be a support group for kids who endured these type of teachers. In some ways this is the ordinary life of an ordinary child, but this particular child is lucky enough to also get exposed to different ways of being in the world. The art style is not one I love, but it gets the point across, and I really like how the colors used evoke the appropriate mood for the various settings in this book.

How often do we really think about how much children are affected in ways large and small by the whims of their parents? This thought provoking memoir does just that. I highly recommend this series, and cannot wait for the next installment. Rating: 4 stars.

April 13, 2017

Cinemascope: Fences

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

Fences (film).png

Released in 2016.

Plot line: Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, the film adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play takes a passionate look at former baseball player Troy Maxson as he fights to provide for those he loves in a world that threatens to push him down.

This movie got Oscar nods this year, and Viola Davis won for her role in it, so I was curious to see if I'd like it. It is fantastic. The acting is superb, the lines hard hitting with not a wasted sentence. Not surprising as this is based on a play of the same name, and I plan on getting my hands on it as well. This is not a fun or entertaining movie, so save this for when you want to watch a realistic slice of life family drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.

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

April 10, 2017

Recent Reads

31. Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature's Most Memorable Meals
This book is like following an Instagram user who loves books and food. The author selects texts that talk about food from fifty books (you've either read, or at least heard of them all), and then creates a meal from the text and takes a photo of said meal. The book is a collection of these texts and photographs, and it's quite fun to see how the text is interpreted. I especially enjoyed the little factoids at the end of each text. A note for foodies, recipes are not included.

This little book can be read in one sitting, but I'd suggest taking breaks to eat and nap between readings/viewings. Rating: 3 stars.

32. Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey
This graphic memoir is not labeled as such, but would work really well for kids, especially girls, fourteen and up.

It's the coming of age story about a young Turkish girl who struggles to reconcile her dreams with those her father has for her. Can she be both an engineer and a scuba diver like Jacques Cousteau? It's a delightful tale of family, friendship, and self-discovery, and while it touches on some of the social, political, and religious issues of the day, it does so lightly, and readers not familiar with the backdrop can read up on the events mentioned. When there are so many voices telling you how act, and who to be, how does one have the courage to listen to her inner voice? Can she please everyone she loves without making herself miserable?

I really liked the art, the use of collages, and the fact that unlike most graphic novels, there aren't many rectangular boxes in this one. The whimsical style and light watercolors work really well for this memoir. Like memory itself, there's a bit of disjointedness, but I was rooting for young Ozge the entire time. A lovely, and quite feminist read, that I'll be putting in the hands of my nieces before too long. Rating: 4 stars.

33. Oh She Glows Every Day: Simply Satisfying Plant-Based Recipes to Keep You Glowing from the Inside Out
Over the past decade or so I've been adding more plant-based meals to my diet, and I've dipped in and out of this cookbook several times. I also follow the authors' blog, which has a wonderful variety of meals to try. While I certainly have not tried all the recipes in this book, I can unequivocally say that the author is responsible for the large amounts of kale I consume every week. If you have yet to try The Best Shredded Kale Salad (page 117) and Protein Power Rainbow Quinoa Salad (page 99), start there. Delish. Rating: 4 stars.

March 27, 2017

Recent Reads

28. Wires and Nerve, Volume 1
Let me first say that I have not read any of the Lunar Chronicles books, so I was meeting all the characters in this graphic novel for the first time. It's my understanding that it picks up after the final book in the that young adult series, so I figured it'd be a good place for me to start to see if I wanted to try reading any of the original series. I liked the art, and the there were some fun moments, but I was not sucked into the story, though if you are already a fan, I can see how it might be more appealing. Rating: 2 stars.

29. How to Breathe Underwater
Book blurb: In story after story, Orringer captures moments when the dark contours of the adult world come sharply into focus: Here are young people abandoned to their own devices, thrust too soon into predicaments of insoluble difficulty, and left to fend for themselves against the wide variety of human trouble.

Short stories are not my jam, but I've challenged myself to read more of them this year. I'd heard glowing reviews of this collection of nine stories, so decided to start here. These are all stories that have young girls or women at the center of the tale, and each and every one of them has a moment where I had to pause and re-read the previous sentence or two. Each story captures a seminal moment in these girls' lives, and the writing wonderfully captures the emotions surrounding these moments.

I'm not going to talk about the premise of each one, as the reveal is partly why these work so well. I spread these nine tales out over a week, and have a distinct sense of each one. As with all collections, I liked some more than others, and my faves were Pilgrims, The Isabel Fish, Care, and Station of the Cross. I docked a star because as usual each story left me wanting more. Just when I settle into a story, it ends, and I have to surface and re-orient myself.

Parents/adults can be so clueless. We often forget how difficult it is for kids to navigate this crazy world, but this collection helps us remember. Rating: 4 stars.

30. Tiger's Curse (The Tiger Saga #1)
I recently asked my nieces and nephews to recommend books they thought I must read. This was the one my fourteen and a half year old niece, Isabella, selected. She loves the entire series, and was so excited for me to read it too.

Let me start by saying that the writing is simply awful, and if not for my niece, this would never have made its way into my hands, and the writing is not the worst thing about it! Can one be racist unintentionally?

Kelsey is a white girl living in Oregon. She's 17, if memory serves, and after a tragedy ends up living with loving and caring foster parents, who don't seem to mind at all that she suddenly decides to take a job that requires her to live at a circus for two weeks, and also while you're at it, why not go all the way across the world to India with a strange man and a Bengal Tiger? See the world! Wherever did she meet this tiger you ask? Why, the above mentioned circus of course. And, yes, it turns out that the tiger is actually an Indian prince who was cursed over 300 years ago. Oh, and it turns out that Kelsey is the chosen one of the Indian Goddess Durga, because you know, there aren't like half a billion Indian girls who could have been picked instead. Aren't we done with the "white person saves darkie" trope yet? Anyway, there are four curses, and Kelsey and her tiger/prince have to figure out how to solve them. This book has an Indiana Jones type of sequence, as the duo try to crack the first curse. Oh, and yes, there is the requisite love triangle and teen angst, not to mention that these guys, while they look 21 are really around 350 years old. But then again, Vampires have been doing this very thing for millennia, and now that I think about it, this certainly has shades of Twilight.

After reading the above, you might be wondering why the generous two stars. Yes, the plot is ridiculous, the writing bad, the characters not well fleshed out, the dialogue stilted and so dang cliched, but this story also has hot Indian dudes, is set in India, and has Indian mythology, albeit watered down, but still. In a world where my Indian American niece does not often see or read about hot Indian guys, let along girls, I can see why she loves this series.

Everything about this story didn't work for me. The other books solve the remaining curses, but needless to say, I simply don't care enough to continue with the series. Rating: 2 stars.

March 26, 2017

Journal pages

Creative mess on my desk as I prepare my travelersnotebook for a trip next week.

March 24, 2017

Journal pages

A lovely way to welcome the weekend. Owls inspired by @majasbok.

March 23, 2017

Cinemascope: Royal Wives At War

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

Image result for royal wives at war

Released in 2016.

Plot line: The Queen Mother and Wallis Simpson look back at the dramatic events of 1936, which led to King Edward Vlll giving up the throne for the woman he loved.

This BBC docudrama is so fun and informative. I recommend this ones for people who enjoy period pieces, love getting an inside look into the British monarchy, or are fascinated by the events covered in this movie.

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

March 20, 2017

Recent Reads

25. Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy (Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy series, Book 1)
This cute graphic novel for kids is really a prescription for healthy relationships. Laser Moose is always on the lookout for danger, and sometimes jumps the gun and uses his laser eyes indiscriminately. Not to fear though, as his BFF Rabbit Boy is cheerfully optimistic and balances out this evil fighting duo as they take on aliens, and other evil mutant/cyborg/mechanical beings. This short story collection is funny, and the art is cute and colorful. Perfect for readers of all ages who need a feel good read. Rating: 3 stars.

26. His Bloody Project
Book blurb: A brutal triple murder in a remote farming community in northwestern Scotland in 1869 leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. There's no question that Macrae is guilty, but the police and courts must uncover what drove him to murder the local village constable.

I'm not really a reader of crime fiction, so I wasn't sure what to expect when I started this one, but I found myself quickly engrossed in this crime drama. Unlike your typical crime story, the question is not who dunnit, or even why, but an exploration of the societal, cultural, and religious backdrop of the community where this crime occurs.

The story unfolds via documents "discovered" by the author and include the accused's memoir, trial transcripts, and newspaper reports. The story starts with police statements taken from people in the Culdie, who give conflicting impressions of the accused, so what's the truth? As the story unfolds, I found myself getting enraged, and thinking that certain people might indeed be better off dead. Then we get to trial, and certain facts shed a different light on things. I really enjoyed the themes this story explored, especially the look at class structures in Scotland, circa 1869. It really is quite well done, and I ripped through it in a couple of days.

I listened to the audiobook, which is superbly narrated by Antony Ferguson. His accent and performance perfectly set the mood for this dark tale. Rating: 4 stars.

27. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay
I'm a Harry Potter fan, but sometimes I think it's a mistake to not let things lie as they are, and try to eke more out of a fantastic series. Case in point is this book, which is the authors' screenwriting debut. The book itself is lovely to hold, and I enjoyed the illustrations, but overall I didn't enjoy this. There are hints of her writing chops, but I think one would be better off simply watching the movie, which I intend to do. However, is you are a Pottermore fan, I guess you'd have to read this too. Rating: 2 stars.

March 16, 2017

Cinemascope: American Crime (Season 2)

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

Image result for american crime season 2 show poster

Released in 2016.

Plot line: When shocking photos of high-school student Taylor Blaine show up on social media after a party, the boy accuses two basketball players from the elite private school of posting the pictures after drugging and assaulting him. Taylor and his mother stand as the school's wealthy families attack them while the school's headmistress fights to maintain the school's reputation. At the same time, Taylor's girlfriend faces issues of racial tension at her own school, and while the two institutions are widely different in status, the lives of students and teachers at both become entangled.

Right after I finished the first season I started this one. This series continues to blow me away with the themes explored. I love the idea that this series uses a stable of actors and each season everyone plays a different role. It's interesting that I felt a certain way about a characters' behavior in the first season, and then felt very differently when similar behavior was shown by a different character. This made me examine my prejudices and snap judgments, but I can't talk about the things that moved me, made me angry, or made me think without spoilers, so all I'll say is that I need a discussion group to talk about this show.

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

March 13, 2017

Recent Reads

22. Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag
I haven't had children so skipped all those books about what to expect when you're expecting, but the title of this book is what hooked me. Nine long months spent in drag? Tell me more.

This graphic memoir recounts the authors' experiences as she navigated this heavily trodden path as a not just a queer woman, but a butch one at that. There is humor and aggravations galore, but it all turns out well in the end. The art is good and I especially enjoyed the nod to Tintin. This is a fun and informative look at her experience, and the intersection of gender and pregnancy. Rating: 4 stars.

23. Descender, Volume Three: Singularities
This graphic novel series explores a universe in which all androids have been outlawed, and bounty hunters are rounding up all the remaining ones. This war between humans and machines unfolds from multiple points of view.

I'm up and down with this series. I liked this installment better than the last one, so that's good. This one is all about back stories. We get a deeper dive into each of the characters stories and I liked that, as it helps to better explain what's currently going on in the story. My fave back story was the one with Driller, though I continue to have a soft spot for Tim-21. The art continues to be lovely with loose watercolor washes, and I hope the writing gets better in future installments. Rating: 3 stars.

24. 750 Years in Paris
This lovely graphic novel is an almost wordless picture book. The unfolding of 750 years of history plays out against the back drop of a single building in France. In each illustration changes are made, and part of the delight of this book is figuring out what has changed with the building and building materials, but also what are people wearing, how are they getting around, and who are those people in the upper windows.

I recommend reading it as I did with a finger bookmarking the page in the back, which briefly describes significant dates in history, so as to easily be able to flip back and forth between the two. As you flip the pages one appreciates the grand scale of time, the transitory nature of cultural upheavals, and the insignificance of any one individual life.

Highly recommended for fans of nontraditional graphic novels. Rating: 4 stars.

March 9, 2017

Cinemascope: American Crime (Season 1)

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

Image result for american crime

Released in 2015.

Plot line: The first season of this anthology crime drama focuses on the aftermath and investigation of the murder of a veteran, Matt Skokie, and brutal assault of his wife, Gwen. The story centers around the impact of the event on the victims' families, as well as the suspects and their loved ones. Matt's parents, Barb (Felicity Huffman) and her estranged ex-husband Russ (Timothy Hutton), struggle to cope with their son's death while relentlessly seeking to bring his killer to justice. They also clash with Gwen's parents, Tom and Eve, as they endure the legal investigation and discover dark secrets about their children along the way. The narrative also follows the lives of the various suspects and examines the racial tensions that are prevalent within the legal system.

Somehow I didn't hear about this series until the second season was already done, and I'm so glad I stumbled across it. In my opinion, this is one the best shows I've ever seen that looks at race, class, gender, relationships, and the judicial system without holding any punches. This show has a wonderful ensemble cast and really good writing that tackle these themes head on. I loved how I felt one thing going into the show, and then changed how I felt about things as the show proceeded. I need a discussion group to talk about all my feelings about this show.

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

March 6, 2017

Recent Reads

19. Trees, Vol. 1: In Shadow
" Ten years since we learned that there is intelligent life in the universe, but that they did not recognize us as intelligent or alive."

I was interested by the premise of this graphic novel series, and that is what drew me in. Ten years ago aliens landed, but these are not aliens like we expect, but tall, solid towers, that look like trees (hence the title), and they do nothing other than excrete waste from time to time. But something seems to be happening ....

While we wait for something interesting to happen with the aliens, we spent time getting to know a few characters in three locations around the globe: China, Italy and the Arctic. The Chinese angle and the exploration of sexuality and gender was the most interesting of the three to me, but there are sections that are rather preachy for my tastes. In Italy, a woman meets a strange man, and then decides to change her life circumstances, while in Svalbard, there are these strange flowers growing around the trees, and scientists are at a loss to figure out what it all means.

While the idea is interesting, I didn't much like the execution of this one. I didn't get sucked into any of the story lines, and I didn't love the art either. Even though I have the second volume in hand, I'm not interested enough to continue with this series. Not for me. Rating: 2 stars.

20. And Then There Were None
I listened to the audiobook, which is well narrated by Dan Stevens.

This was my book club selection for the month, and Agatha Christie does not disappoint. This was first published in 1939, and is as thrilling and wonderful (dare I say even better?) than any of the books in the genre being published today.

This standalone murder mystery with the locked room trope happens on an island. Ten strangers are invited for island vacation, and discovering how the story unfolds is part of what makes this fun, so I'll say no more. Read it. Then watch the 2015 mini-series of the same name. Chillingly delightful. Rating: 4 stars.

21. Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation
I have only read one book by the author to date, and really disliked it. That book, in case you are wondering, is Dawn. It's not that I don't like sci-fi/fantasy, it's that when I read a book I expect to either learn something, or be entertained, so don't get me started on my issues with tentacles in Dawn. That experience did not encourage me to read any more of her books, and it's a shame as so many people think she's one of the sci-fi greats.

When I saw this graphic novel adaptation of one of her more recommended books I decided to dip my toes back into the water. Imagine my delight when I found myself swept away in this tale. The story centers around Dana, a young black woman who suddenly time travels between her home in 1970s California and the pre-Civil War South.

I'm usually annoyed by time travel tales where a woman goes back in time, and happily decides to stay. This book wonderfully and painfully explores the perils of going back those so called halcyon days of old. Some of the themes explored include race, gender, slavery, and ancestry, and I love that the author does not shy away really looking at the multiple facets of these complicated constructs. I also really liked the art style and color used in this one.

I plan to pick up the novel, and will keep my fingers crossed that it works as well in prose form. Rating: 4 stars.

March 2, 2017

Cinemascope: The OA (Season 1)

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

Image result for the oa images

Released in 2016.

Plot line: In addition to her role as creator and executive producer of this mind-bending series, Brit Marling also plays the role Prairie Johnson, a young woman who returns home after a 7-year disappearance. Her sudden return is not the only miraculous occurrence: everyone is shocked to learn that Prairie is no longer blind. While the FBI and her parents are anxious to discuss Prairie's disappearance, she won't talk about what happened during the time that she was missing.

This is a strange, eerie, and disturbing show that sucked me in slowly, and then wouldn't let go. I think the less you know going in the better, so enjoy.

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

March 1, 2017

Journal page

How is it already March? I cannot wrap my head around it. Due to one reason or another I haven't been playing with my art supplies much lately. Here's a page from a late night session using a student box of Prang watercolors.


Not particularly my style, but why not try something different?

February 27, 2017

Recent Reads

16. Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride
Let me first start by stating that I do not think that getting married means you've won the golden ring, or that you needed to be be coupled in any manner to be worthy of respect or value. I do personally know women who had a crisis because they were not married by thirty, and dang it, but forty was the absolute latest this sorry state would be allowed to continue until something drastic would be done. Not my jam, but to each their own.

This graphic memoir explores the trails, tribulations, expectations, stereotypes, and joys of being a bride and deciding to have a DIY wedding. The author has clearly matured in her storytelling skills, and in this book dives more deeply into the themes explored. However, she still seems to shy away from taking deep dives, which leaves me, the reader, wanting more. I have to keep reminding myself that she is brave for putting as much of herself out there as she's currently comfortable doing. There are humorous and poignant moments in this story, and I appreciated her resistance to many of the cultural/religious/societal/capitalist norms, but it's her day, and she can have it any way she dang well chooses. The illustrations are typical of her signature style, and are colorful and cute.

At 300 pages this is a long time to spend with the author and her wedding planning, yet I do think that she bucks the mainstream commercialism surrounding weddings and for that I'll round up my 3.5 rating. Rating: 4 stars.

17. The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction
I listened to the audiobook which is wonderfully narrated by Neil himself.

This is a collection of essays, introductions, speeches, and reviews about a diverse range of topics, including authors (dead and alive), music, the power of stories, comics, fairy tales, and pretty much anything else that the author is interested in. As with any collected works, there are pieces I loved and others I did not. I'd highly recommend the first hundred or so pages, where he talks about his love of literature, stories, libraries and librarians, and his childhood influences. I loved this section, and that alone deserved five stars. The rest were more of a hit or miss depending on whether I knew or cared about the authors/artists/books/music discussed. Still, a must read for Neil fans. I dipped in and out this collection over a couple of weeks, and that felt like the perfect way to experience this one. Rating: 3 stars.

18. The One Hundred Nights of Hero
I really liked her first graphic novel, so was looking forward to the publication of this one. It's a beautiful book - the actual book I mean - and the story itself is an Arabian Nights type saga. While I didn't love every one of the stories, I was delighted by the feminist take of these strange fairy tales. The art is folksy and sketchy with wonderful use of color. This is an ode to stories and storytellers, especially women. Delightful. Rating: 4 stars.

February 23, 2017

Cinemascope: The Crown (Season 1)

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

Image result for the crown

Released in 2016.

Plot line: Based on an award-winning play ("The Audience") by showrunner Peter Morgan, this lavish, Netflix-original drama chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) from the 1940s to modern times. The series begins with an inside look at the early reign of the queen, who ascended the throne at age 25 after the death of her father, King George VI. As the decades pass, personal intrigues, romances, and political rivalries are revealed that played a big role in events that shaped the later years of the 20th century.

I love everything about this show. A triumph of duty and tradition. How can one not respect QE2? I wonder how much is based on actual events, because other than Elizabeth, I feel like hitting everyone on the head with a saucepan! If you are a fan of luscious period pieces, you'll love this too.

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

February 20, 2017

Recent Reads

13. The Seventh Plague (Sigma Force #12)
Book blurb: If the biblical plagues of Egypt truly happened - could they happen again - on a global scale?

At 35.0%: The intersection of science, religion, history and conspiracy is absolutely my sweet spot. If only the writing were better ....

I read some of the earlier Sigma Force books and enjoyed them. Did not love them, but they were fun airport or beach reads. Well, as I was neither flying nor on a beach, this one, the 12th in the series, did not fare as well. I hadn't read past the first handful of books in this series, and it didn't really matter for this one. The premise is fascinating, but the writing is really bad, the characters boring, and oh the cliches! The bad guys are really bad, and the good guys really good, the women all needed saving by some dude .... I'll stop there. The only reason I added a star is because I was intrigued by some of the new theories explored. I do not plan on picking up another Sigma Force book in the future. Over and out. Rating: 2 stars.

14. Irmina
I actually think the less you know going into this graphic novel the better, so I'll keep my comments to a minimum.

The author finds a cache of letters and journals that her Grandmother kept, and creates a fictionalized biography based on that material. The story unfolds over three sections, and the major action occurs in the mid-1930s in London and Germany. The art while not as polished and finished as some, wonderfully evokes the right mood for each of the sections.

I am always fascinated to read stories told from the German point of view, and while it is easy to judge others harshly, until we walk in their shoes we don't really know how we might act. Especially if our options are limited, and one is a woman. After all, would your late teen/early twenty year old self even begin to comprehend the person you are today?

This graphic novel explores the tension between integrity and social advancement, and is rather pertinent to our times. Rating: 4 stars.

15. I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies #1)
Book blurb: They caught Number One in Malaysia. Number Two in England. And Number Three in Kenya. They killed them all. I am Number Four. I am next.

I recently asked my nieces and nephews to recommend books they thought I must read. This was Luke's selection. He's 14 and loves the entire series, and is delighted when a new installment is released.

See that blurb above? That's the style of writing throughout this book. Simple, plain, and so pedestrian it might have been written by a computer, though that might be an insult to computers. I'm always leery of book with multiple authors, and this one has two; the author name is made up and "he" leaves notes for the reader in the book.

What's it about you ask? Well, there are these aliens who fled their planet's destruction and landed on Earth. This all happened about nine years ago. Unfortunately, the bad aliens who killed everyone and destroyed their planet are now also on Earth, or might have been for a long while, and are out to kill each of the nine. Because they are special and might one day exact revenge. Fortunately, our boy, Four, and the rest of the good aliens look human, only are much stronger, faster, etc. and as they hit puberty there are more goodies in store. Will Four survive long enough to even have a first date?

There are so many things wrong with this book that I'm not even sure where to start. Maybe with the aforementioned bad writing. So bad. You'd be lucky to get away with a D in high school with this schlock. The characters are ridiculous and are not fleshed out at all. Every scene is a cliche, and I mean every single scene. Why make the aliens look human? Well, because then we can have a sappy love triangle, that's why. Ugh. You know you're in trouble when your fave character is a dog, and he has more personality than all the aliens/humans combined.

On the plus side, it's all plot and action and reads so fast that I was done before I could DNF it. My library copy of this book (you surely did not think that I bought this did you?), had a Guys Reads sticker on it, so I guess it is written to encourage guys to read, something I'm all in favor of, but if not for my nephew, this is not one I would have picked up, as I am surely not the target audience. I can see why Luke loves it though, and boys, and maybe even girls, around that age might love it too.

Do I need to mention that I will not be continuing with the series? Rating: 2 stars.

February 16, 2017

Cinemascope: The Fall (Season 3)

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

Image result for the fall season 3

Released in 2016.

Plot line: The Fall is a crime drama that follows an investigation into a series of murders involving young business women in Belfast, Ireland. Superintendent Stella Gibson has Spector under arrest, however, its uncertain whether he will survive or not to face justice for his crimes. Meanwhile, Spector's family have to deal with the consequences of his arrest and evidence emerges that there could be more of Spector's victims than Superintendent Stella Gibson first realised.

This will not be a show for everyone, but I really enjoyed the themes explored in this final season. It is character driven, and there are so many things to ponder about the aftermath of a crime.

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

February 13, 2017

Recent Reads

10. Queer: A Graphic History
Book blurb: From identity politics and gender roles to privilege and exclusion, Queer explores how we came to view sex, gender and sexuality in the ways that we do; how these ideas get tangled up with our culture and our understanding of biology, psychology and sexology; and how these views have been disputed and challenged.

I was at a gathering recently where people were asked to introduce themselves, and identify which pronouns they prefer. Huh? There are times I feel so dang old. Sigh.

This nonfiction graphic novel is a historical overview of queer theory. There were things I knew, much I did not, much I learned, and though I'm not sure I understood everything being covered, this is one I will certainly be reading again. Lots to ponder and highly recommended. Rating: 4 stars.

11. My Brilliant Friend (L'amica geniale #1)
This book is translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein, and I listened to the audiobook, which is really well narrated by Hillary Huber.

The hype surrounding this book and the entire quartet made me uneasy. I tend not to like books that are really buzzy, plus several friends did not have positive things to say about it. Since I'm trying to read more translated works in 2017, I decided to give it a try, and I'm so very glad I did.

The story is set in the 1950s, in a poor neighborhood outside Naples, and revolves around two young girls, Elena and Lila. The story is told entirely from Elena's point of view. This is a coming of age story, and is rather wonderfully spun. It's not unusual to get close up looks at the lives of boys, but it's rarer to get those types of stories about girls. This story is not plot driven, but is a delightful character study, so if you are looking for a fast paced plot, this one's not for you.

The story explores the friendship between two young girls, and the challenges their friendship faces as they grow up and take different paths through life. This quite feminist story explores the lives, choices, and agency or lack-there-of available to girls and women in this community, and asks us to look at how those play out in our lives as well. I love these girls, and completely related to their push-me-pull-you friendship. My heart ached at certain points, especially when certain paths were closed off to them because of circumstances outside their control. It's generally understood that parents want a better life for their children than they had, but what sorrows and heart break await those parents when their children become unrecognizable to them and their old way of life? Children have dreams of their own, but how do they cope when those pursuits change them so that they no longer fit in with their families or communities?

This story clearly resonated for me, and I really enjoyed this journey. I docked a star, because I felt that there were plot points that did not add to the story, but maybe I'll find they are there for a reason when I get to the next book in the series. Rating: 4 stars.

12. How to Survive in the North
When we make poor choices, does it help to know that others have done the same with much more catastrophic results?

This graphic novel combines three narratives, two historical and one fictional, of people making bad decisions. The historical ones are both Arctic explorations, namely Vilhjalmur Stefansson's 1912 and 1926 expeditions. The 2013 fictional one is the story of a professor caught having an affair with a student. Things do not go well in any of the narratives, and it's interesting to see the links between the stories unfold. The flat colors of the art evoke the right mood, and help to determine which narrative one is reading, which is useful as we go back and forth between these three stories. A quick and enjoyable read. Rating: 3 stars.

February 10, 2017

Cinemascope: The Hunting Ground

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

Image result for the hunting ground

Released in 2015.

Plot line: A startling exposé of rape crimes on U.S. campuses, institutional cover-ups and the brutal social toll on victims and their families. Weaving together verité footage and first-person testimonies, the film follows survivors as they pursue their education while fighting for justice - despite harsh retaliation, harassment and pushback at every level.

This one made me angry, mad, and so sad. I applaud these brave women who stood up and told their truth, and am so angry at the college/police/societal systems in place that allow these attacks, and perpetuates the silencing and shaming that surrounds victims of these abuses.

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

February 7, 2017

What's up buttercup?

I don't tend not to cross post much of my Instagram to this blog, so here's a snapshot of what I've been up to lately.


February 6, 2017

Recent Reads

7. Hot Dog Taste Test
The thing about navel gazing is that if your audience does not find similar fluff in their belly buttons things simply don't make sense. This graphic novel is sort of a memoir-ish book dealing mostly with food and bathroom issues, with full page illustrations sprinkled throughout. This is a collection of vignettes, with some longer pieces, and while there were some humorous bits, I was underwhelmed with this one. Rating: 2 stars.

8. Mooncop
This slim graphic novel has wonderfully atmospheric art, but I didn't find the story compelling.

There's a lunar colony, but it's not the utopia once hoped for, and people are leaving and headed back to Earth. The main character is a cop, and as the moon empties out, his beat gets smaller and smaller. There is a pervading sense of melancholy, and there are some humorous moments, but this is not one that will stay with me. Rating: 2 stars.

9. Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1)
I recently asked my nieces and nephews to recommend books they thought I must read. This was Maya's selection. She's 13 and a half, and she and her sisters love the entire series. I've had my eye on this series for a while, but didn't think I was the target audience, so hadn't picked it up. Turns out my instincts were dead on.

This is falls into the young adult/fantasy/romance genre, and it has been compared to both The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones. Do not believe that hype. In my opinion this book has pedestrian writing, a weak plot, poorly developed characters, and all the usual genre tropes. Not a single bit of new ground explored here. I was quite intrigued by the premise, but Celaena Sardothien, the young assassin, seems to lose her way once she gets to court. She spends an inordinate amount of time focused on the materials of her dresses, and the two men who make up the other nodes of a love triangle. What happened to the young woman who was the most feared assassin in the land? Does it really only take a few pretty dresses and some "excessively handsome" men to make her so shallow? Given her backstory, this is one traumatized young woman with PTSD, but oh wait, pretty dresses to the rescue. There are trials/tests in this story, but they mostly happen off screen, as so much time gets taken up with dressing and swooning. Sigh.

On the plus side, this is a really quick and easy read, and I was done in a couple of sittings. Also a couple of the characters love to read, however nothing from this story will stick with me. Making the character names interesting does not cut it. There was zero exploration of any of the themes that would have made this an interesting story, and I found it too superficial for my tastes.

Look at the Goodreads reviews, and you'll see that I'm in the minority. I can certainly see why my young nieces loved it. They are currently in the beautiful dresses and "arrogantly handsome" men phase. They assure me that a way more interesting person shows up later, and several reviewers mention that the next installment is fantastic, but I've lost interest in this story and do not plan on continuing with the series. Rating: 2 stars.

February 2, 2017

Cinemascope: Stranger Things (Season 1)

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

Image result for stranger things

Released in 2016.

Plot line: This thrilling Netflix-original drama stars award-winning actress Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers, who lives in a small Indiana town in 1983, inspired by a time when tales of science fiction captivated audiences. When Joyce's 12-year-old son, Will, goes missing, she launches a terrifying investigation into his disappearance with local authorities. As they search for answers, they unravel a series of extraordinary mysteries involving secret government experiments, unnerving supernatural forces, and a very unusual little girl.

This is a throw back series of sorts. If you loved movies like ET and Super 8, and good old fashioned story telling, give this series a try. As usual with the best sci-fi, the themes explored are wonderful, and this one is fun and a little scary. I enjoyed every minute of it, and cannot wait to see what the next season brings.

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

January 30, 2017

Recent Reads

4. The Polar Bear
For some reason Goodreads does not have this listed under the author of The Blue Whale, but it is her. This is the next book in the endangered animals collection picture books for wee ones, and I really liked The Blue Whale so picked this one up.

Just as in the first book, the art in this one is beautiful. The text however, while factual and informative, does not have the flow of Whale. It's almost like the author couldn't decide whether to keep this a picture book, or make it more interesting to older (8-12 years) readers, and in doing so, some of the magic is lost. Still, it's worth getting a copy for little readers to see how they feel. They will certainly learn some cool things about Polar bears with this beautiful book. I certainly did. Rating: 3 stars.

5. Watson and Holmes - A Study In Black
In this retelling Holmes is a P.I., Watson is an Afghanistan war vet, now medical intern, and 221B Baker Street is located in Harlem, New York. I enjoyed the updated version of this duo, and the gritty, urban setting. Holmes sometimes talks in old-timey speak which does not make sense, and is no where as quirky as the original. Watson, though is great. I didn't love the art in this graphic novel, but do plan on reading the next installment to see how the story unfolds. Rating: 3 stars.

6. Silence
Book blurb: Father Rodrigues is an idealistic Portuguese Jesuit priest who, in the 1640s, sets sail for Japan on a determined mission to help the brutally oppressed Japanese Christians and to discover the truth behind unthinkable rumors that his famous teacher Ferreira has renounced his faith.

This is translated from the Japanese by William Johnston.

Since Scorsese is about to release a movie adaptation of this novel, this moved up my TBR pile. I'm a fan of Jesuits in [Insert Sceanrio]. Scenarios include, but are not limited to: Space, Japan, Africa, the Vatican, etc. This book is a Jesuits in Japan story.

If you are new to the history of said scenario, the forward by the translator is well worth the read, and I learned things I did not know. However, while I am fascinated by the premise of the story, I did not love it, and I really expected to. Maybe because I've read several really fantastic books on Japan, and this one while interesting, is not one of them.

The story unfolds via letters written by Father Rodrigues, and there-in lies the main problem with this story. We only get his point of view, and it's not enough. There's this huge gap between what he sees and experiences, and what we the reader get to read. There's quite a bit of repetition, and the writing is choppy (though, that could be the translation). This is a brutal time to be a Christian in Japan, and the horrors are real, but only seen from a distance by this reader. What I really liked was the exploration of the sense of silence, in particular the silence of God in the midst of all the horror. I also really liked the exploration of Christianity in the "swamps" of Japan, and how the Japanese interpreted Christianity. I wanted more of that. More theology, more philosophy, more of the dialogue between Rodrigues and Ferreira. I found these themes the most interesting parts of this story, and because of that I'll round up my 2.5 stars rating to 3.

I'll be curious to see if the movie adaptation explores more with these themes. Meanwhile, if you have yet to read Shogun (which has a side plot with these exact themes), I'd highly recommend moving it up your TBR list. Rating: 3 stars.

January 26, 2017

Cinemascope: Narcos (Season 1)

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

Image result for narcos

Released in 2015.

Plot line: Netflix takes on the infamous Medellín drug cartel in "Narcos," which follows the rise and fall of Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar and the Drug Enforcement Agency agents hunting him. The story is told largely from the points of view of Escobar, played by Brazilian actor Wagner Moura, and U.S. DEA Agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), on opposite sides of what would become an all-out war. The gritty drama begins with the early days of the drug battle, when the biggest offenders were "hippies in flip-flops" caught with up to a kilo of marijuana, continuing to the violent, bloody battles between members of the cartel peddling tons of kilos of cocaine and drug agents from Colombia, Mexico, and the U.S. -- a struggle estimated to have cost at least 4,000 lives over two decades.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, this might well be the renaissance era of fantastic original content production. I doubt that the networks would have taken the risk on something like this, and they can keep their reality TV shows, I'm looking elsewhere for my entertainment.

This show is fantastic, and does not shy away from some hard truths we would all do well to look clear in the face. I love the writing, the acting, and the themes explored. Seeing so many people of color on the screen was also a plus, and that most of the show is in Spanish with English subtitles? Daringly brilliant. Cannot wait for the next season.

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

January 23, 2017

Recent Reads

1. My Name Is Lucy Barton
This is my first DNF of 2017, and I barely got to the first weekend. Sigh.

There are some authors that simply do not work for me, and I've decided to add this one to that list. This is the fourth book I've read by the author, and I feel the same way about all of them. There are wonderful nuggets of insight about the human experience, and some really lovely writing, but these peaks are surrounded by vast amounts of wasteland. And these are not long books.

I bailed about a third of the way through this one. I've read glowing reviews, but did not feel the same way. As stated above, those little nuggets keep me hoping, but alas, I found the writing and the dialogue awkward and pedestrian. This is a daughter/mother relationship, but I felt as though I was looking in on this relationship from behind bullet proof glass, and they were speaking in a different language. I was bored, so gave up.

Lots of people love it, so don't take my word for it, but I don't plan on reading any of her other works. Rating: 1 star.

2. The Motherless Oven
This is a graphic novel that I just didn't understand. It's a sort of coming of age story in a bizarre setting. In this world, children make their parents, there are no birthdays but deathdays, I can't even continue. I liked the art, but the story itself didn't work for me, probably because those off-the-wall parents. There were some plot points that I enjoyed, but overall, this one left me scratching my head wondering what it is that I missed. This might actually end up with 1 star upon further consideration. Rating: 2 stars.

3. Bleak House
At 1%: This is the second year of my Dickens in December project.
At 10%: Dickens is simply brilliant, and the names of his characters are so fun.
At 25.0%: What a page turner of a read this one is turning out to be.
At 32.0%: Such wit and on point critiques of people and society. Too bad Dickens isn't alive to write about our times.
At 46.0%: Almost at the halfway mark, and it just keeps getting better.
At 55.0%: Distracted by holiday travels, but back in the swing of things, only to find myself delighted by an incidence of spontaneous combustion.
At 75.0%: And now we have a murder mystery thrown into the mix? Oh, Dickens, how I adore thee.

I read some Dickens in school, and while I recall liking them, I think I was more impressed with myself for reading him than his actual writing. So to rectify that, and to get to the rest of his oeuvre, I decided in 2015 to start an annual tradition of 'Dickens in December'. 2016 was year two of the new tradition, and I decided to go with what is widely considered his masterpiece. What with holiday travel, etc. I didn't end up completely the book until early January, but I'm not complaining.

I listened to the audiobook, and was enthralled for the entire 33 hours or so it took to get through this masterpiece. I loved everything about it. The wit, the social and judicial critiques, the character development and their individual voices, the plot, the numerous tangents, the wonderful names of people and places, oh, I could go on and on. This is a classic for a reason, and I don't think I need to summarize the story, for indeed how could I? The wonder of this master craftsman is that whenever he took me on a tangent, I waited with delight to see where we'd end up. In the end you realize that there is a reason for each and every sentence, each scene, and each item that we are shown. There is not a wasted sentence in my opinion, and all those nay-sayers who say he wrote such wordy tomes because he got paid by the word can go suck on a lemon. I wanted more, and would happily have read a book twice this size. I had a severe book hangover when I was done, for who on earth could even hope to keep my interest after Dickens?

A note on the audiobook production. The book was narrated by the wonderful Simon Vance, and his ability to keep the numerous character voices straight is incredible. The narration is superb and only added to my delightful experience. I'd highly recommend the audio version of this one.

I could not put this book down, and when I had to, I found myself thinking about the characters and saying things they would say. It surely is an East Wind I feel now that I have to wait until December to read my next Dickens. Which one will it be? Rating: 5 stars.

January 19, 2017

Cinemascope: Sing Street

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

Image result

Released in 2016.

Plot line: SING STREET takes us back to 1980s Dublin seen through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy named Conor who is looking for a break from a home strained by his parents relationship and money troubles, while trying to adjust to his new inner-city public school where the kids are rough and the teachers are rougher. He finds a glimmer of hope in the mysterious, über-cool and beautiful Raphina, and with the aim of winning her heart he invites her to star in his band's music videos. There's only one problem: he's not part of a band...yet. She agrees, and now Conor must deliver what he's promised - calling himself Cosmo and immersing himself in the vibrant rock music trends of the decade, he forms a band with a few lads, and the group pours their heart into writing lyrics and shooting videos. Inspired by writer/director John Carney's life and love for music, Sing Street shows us a world where music has the power to take us away from the turmoil of everyday life and transform us into something greater.

I hadn't even heard about this movie until it ended up on several best movies of 2016 lists, and I'm so glad I gave it a chance. This coming of age story is simply delightful.

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

January 12, 2017

Cinemascope: The Handmaiden

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

Image result for the handmaiden

Released in 2016.

Plot line: A gripping and sensual tale of two women - a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but is secretly plotting with a conman to defraud her of a large inheritance. Inspired by the novel Fingersmith by British author Sarah Waters, The Handmaiden borrows the most dynamic elements of its source material and combines it with Park Chan-wook’s singular vision to create an unforgettable viewing experience.

I hardly ever go to see movies at the theaters. It's not that I can't, it's that by the time I think about seeing something I really want to see, it's already run its course and I have to wait for the DVD to show up at my library. This movie I knew I wanted to see, and I put it on my calendar so I would not miss it at the cinemas. 

There is so much I love about this South Korean adaptation of Fingersmith. If you've read the book, or seen the English adaptation, you know what to expect. If you have not, then sit back and enjoy the ride. The scenes are all beautifully composed, the acting really good, and I was surprised at how explicit the sex scenes were. This is a movie I will watch again on DVD, as I think I missed some of the cinematography because my eyes were busy reading the translated text on the screen.

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

January 9, 2017

Recent Reads

196. Artist's Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures
I dip into this book whenever I'm looking for creative inspiration, and it has not failed me yet. I always find something new to try, and I believe this is my fourth reading of the book. This wonderful book is full of ideas, inspiration, advice, and has lots of colorful examples of fun journal pages. Rating: 4 stars.

197. Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening
I don't even know how to summarize this graphic novel, so will stick to the blurb:

"Set in an alternate world of art deco beauty and steampunk horror, Montress tells the epic story of Maika Halfwolf, a teenage survivor of a cataclysmic war between humans and their hated enemies, the Arcanics. In the face of oppression and terrible danger, Maika is both hunter and hunted, searching for answers about her mysterious past as those who seek to use her remain just one step behind...and all the while, the monster within begins to awaken..."

This might well be the most beautifully illustrated graphic novel I've read in ages. The art alone makes this one worth picking up. But, that's not all you get. This is a wonderfully women/girl/female centric world, and trying to figure out what different groups the main characters belong to is part the fun. This one is certainly more action/plot driven than I'd expect for the first volume. There isn't much world building, and you are left to figure things out at your own pace. And there are things that we just don't know, and I look forward to uncovering those plot lines as this story unfolds. There's also this adorable fox. There so much I loved about this one, and if you are a cat person, you must get this one pronto. Delightful. Violent. Dark. Not for the kiddos. Rating: 4 stars.

198. Velvet, Volume One: Before the Living End
Book blurb: Velvet Templeton is supposed to be just a secretary, the personal assistant to the Director of a top secret Intelligence Agency, but when the world's greatest spy is killed, she quickly finds herself caught in a web of mystery and murder, as her own secret past comes to light.

Rather than review each volume of this graphic novel trilogy individually, I'm going to review it in it's entirety here.

If you are a fan of Jason Bourne and James Bond, and have always wondered why those roles are not cast with a woman, this is the series for you. A fun, fast paced, violent, spy thriller, with a kick ass older woman in the lead role. Yes, you read that correctly, older woman. In a genre where so many of the women are young and perky teenagers (or so it feels to this middle aged woman), it's wonderfully refreshing to see this one cast differently. The story is interesting, the art wonderfully evokes the right noir mood, and Velvet Templeton rocks. The only reason I docked a star, is that I wanted more dialog to flesh out the story better, and some of the men were hard to tell apart. Now, will someone please make this a movie and make my day? Rating: 4 stars.

199. Velvet, Volume Two: The Secret Lives of Dead Men
See my review of this trilogy above. Rating: 4 stars.

200. Velvet, Volume Three: The Man Who Stole the World
See my review of this trilogy above. Rating: 4 stars.

201. Snow White: A Graphic Novel
I'm not sure what I expected when I picked up this graphic novel, but it wasn't what I got. I love the art, and the setting of this classic story in New York City, circa 1928, is a brilliant idea. The plot does not stray far from the Disney adaptation, and the casting of Snow and the seven street urchins was quite fun. There is so little dialog, that this might almost be a wordless picture book, and while the art is wonderful, I found the story itself just OK. So, 4 stars for the art, and 2 for the story, averages out at 3. Rating: 3 stars.
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That's the last of my 2016 reads. It's been a good one, and I look forward to 2017.
Happy reading!

January 6, 2017

My Fave Reads of 2016

It's always fun to review what I read in any given year. Here are my fave books of 2016 :

Non-Fiction:


I rated the top two as 5 star reads, and the bottom two received 4 stars.

Fiction:


2016 was a fantastic year for classics. I adore every book on this list, and each got 5 stars. An interesting note is that I listened to each of these on audio, and that seems to be a trend that will continue in the new year.

Comics:


The Comics genre is exploding, and I'm delighted with the sheer variety of what is available today. I rated the top four as 5 star reads, and the bottom two received 4 stars. The thing to note is that three books in the Ooku series garnered 5 stars, while the rest were 4 star reads.

There are many other 4 star reads from the year, but these are the ones that really stick out for me as I look back over my list. You can read my reviews of these and other books read in 2016 here.

I'd love to hear about your fave books, and if there are titles you think I must read in the new year, please do let me know.

January 5, 2017

Cinemascope: Brokeback Mountian

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

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Released in 2005.

Plot line: A ranch hand and a rodeo cowboy, meet in the summer of 1963 and unexpectedly forge a romantic and lifelong connection. The complications, joys and heartbreak they experience provide a testament to the endurance and power of love.

This is one of those rare occasions when the movie adaptation is better than the book. I love everything about this movie and the themes it explores.

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

January 2, 2017

Recent Reads

191. Lazarus, Vol. 2: Lift
This volume collects issues #5-9.

I liked that this installment of this graphic novel series introduces us to some of the "waste" - people who are of no value to the ruling families. As one might imagine, life is not pleasant for these people, but again, there is no new ground trod here. I continue to like how the Lazarus story unfolds, but the author does not push beyond cliched stories and scenes in the telling of this tale. Let's see what happens next. Rating: 3 stars.

192. Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery": The Authorized Graphic Adaptation
I love the original short story, and I knew better, but was intrigued. The author is Shirely Jackson's grandson, and the introduction where he talks about the family traditions was an interesting read. However. I really liked the art in this, the colors, the ambiance, were all good, but somehow it did not work in toto. It might be because it lacks the punch of the original story, and something is lost in the adaptation. If you have yet to read the original, skip this and read that. Rating: 2 stars.

193. Lazarus: The Second Collection
This omnibus edition collects Volumes 3 (Conclave) and 4 (Poison), so issues #10-21.

I continue to love the backstory of Eve, the Carlyle Lazarus, and getting to understand her childhood makes one appreciate even more the internal conflict she is struggling with. What do you do when you are not who you think you are? Tough questions for most of us, but when you are a Lazarus, the stakes are that much bigger.

I enjoyed meeting the the members of the other families, especially the Lazarii (is that the right word?). The diversity is appreciated, and watching the power struggles both inside the family, and the world at large is a fun read. My complaint with this collection is the same one I've had all along, namely, there is nothing really new explored here, and there is so much potential material! While I'm a fan of strong kick-ass women, and there are loads in this series, that's just not enough to warrant a higher rating. A fun, fast read, and I thought I was done with the series, and then was hit with that ending. What?! When does Volume 5 come out again? Rating: 3 stars.

194. Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous
I love Kamala Khan, I do, but I might be the only one who is not thrilled with the company she keeps - and by that I mean the Avengers! I know she's reached the big leagues, and her glee and pinch-myself-feelings about being allowed to join the As is all well and good, but I for one am conflicted about it.

There are really two stories going on here. The one I'm not really loving is the Avengers/battling various bad guys/frogs bits. It's fun, but that alone would only get a 3 star rating. The parts I adore deal with the struggles of being a young, Pakistani Muslim girl trying her best to fit in, make her family happy, being a typical teen and getting mad at Bruno for dating Mike, etc. Kamala's brother has his eyes on a girl, and the family scenes around this just warmed my heart. Where were books like these when I was a kid? Better late than never. That story line gets 5 stars. So, I'll average this out to 4. I'm so much more interested in the family drama in this series, and love that it explores new, uncharted ground in the comics genre. Rating: 4 stars.

195. In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs
In a world that rarely celebrates women, especially women who choose to follow unconventional career paths, this book is a breath of fresh air.

I really liked the diversity of the women in this collection, and the photographs showing each woman in her space are beautiful. However, this is not an in-depth interview with each of the 100 women, but a short Q&A with each. So on the one hand, we quickly get their insights, but on the other, the reading becomes rather rote, and I found myself skimming those towards the end. I did not know the majority of these women, and maybe this is a book better dipped in and out of, rather than being read in a couple of sittings.

I would recommend this to young women starting out, or even more mature ones looking to make a switch. There is comfort in being the company of women who are also following their passions. Rating: 3 stars.