Friday, November 21, 2014

North of Normal by Cea Sunrise Person

Born to a teenage mother, author Cea Sunrise Person grows up in the Canadian Yukon wilderness with her dysfunctional extended family, surviving completely off-grid.  They live in tipis, gather, kill, and prepare their own food, and smoke pot they grow themselves.  Their commitment to a natural lifestyle includes nudity and free love with outside visitors.  Young Cea learns to make do without modern conveniences, fashioning homemade roach clips for Christmas gifts when she is only four.

Over the years, her mother leaves the home camp with assorted boyfriends, taking Cea along.  The men in her mother's life are violent-tempered, dishonest vagabonds who provide neither stability nor security.  Cea attends various schools where she learns that other kids wear nice clothes, live in real houses, have television, and go to birthday parties.  She longs for a more normal life, deciding at just thirteen that she will have one only if she makes it happen herself.

Naturally tall, slender, and beautiful, Cea enters a modeling contest and is discovered by a Calgary photographer.  A modeling career becomes her ticket out of the crazy world that is all she has ever known.

Some readers may object to the book's graphic sexual descriptions and vulgar language, but those elements were very much a part of the author's reality as a young girl.  Her story is beautifully written and utterly unforgettable.   -MS

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hand Job: A Catalog of Type by Michael Perry

To quote a line from the book’s description, “In this digital age of computer-generated graphics and typography, it's refreshing to find typographers who still believe in working by hand.”  I can’t agree enough.  Computer-generated graphics and typography are all well and good, but after a while they all seem to look the same.  I also spend a good deal of time working with computers, so it’s a pleasure to grab a fresh sketchbook and my pencils and sit down with a resource where the artists still draw.

Hand Job is a compilation of work representing fifty typographers who have produced their art by hand.  The result is a diverse plethora of hand-drawn inspiration - in short, it’s eye candy for the artist.  You don’t need to be a typographer to enjoy this book.  Art journalers and doodlers should find plenty between the covers to interest them.  -JW

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Goblin Emperor By Katherine Addison

Maia accedes to the throne of the Elflands very unexpectedly when his father the emperor and three older half-brothers all die in an airship crash, not necessarily by accident. Raised in exile, schooled only in etiquette, but not in imperial history or politics by his abusive guardian, Maia is thrown into the deep end and has to cope. To top it off, he’s half-goblin in an elvish empire.

This is a very charming story. I hope there are sequels. The author has fleshed out her fantasy empire very thoroughly and carefully, and it has a distinctly different flavor from the average elvish fantasy.  I like the way the author set up the formal language as opposed to how family and friends speak to one another – the emperor is always formal, and Maia even loses his personal name to the requirements of his reign.  An excellent read!  -LP

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Friday, November 14, 2014

I Know That Voice (2013)

If you, like me, are a sucker for the "behind the scenes" featurettes on any given DVD, you should get a kick out of this documentary.  Director Lawrence Shapiro assembled an impressive group of voice actors and directors to talk about their profession, including John DiMaggio (Futurama's Bender), Tom Kenny (SpongeBob Squarepants), Kevin Conroy (Batman), Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson) and voice director Andrea Romano.  The movie covers the history of voice over acting with nods to the influence of Mel Blanc and Chuck Jones, along with the experiences of those currently working on the shows we (or our children) love.

I was most entertained, I think, by the sheer talent displayed by the interviewees as they demonstrated how they create different voices and voice-effects.  Many note that good voice work is more than being able to do a funny voice.  The actor has to be able to create a character through voice only, which the animators then use as a guide to their work. Here's a clip of The Simpson's Nancy Cartwright talking about one example of this process, describing the differences between two of the characters she voices.  Through anecdotes and the actors' vocal virtuosity, the movie sets out to erase the notion that voice acting is not real acting, or is somehow second-tier to on camera acting.  I for one am convinced. -BR

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Somebody Stole My Iron by Vicki Tapia

Somebody Stole My Iron documents the slow, agonizing decline, both mentally and physically, of the author’s aging parents, who suffer from dementia.  From the first signs that something isn’t quite right to witnessing her mother’s last breaths, Vicki Tapia chronicles the details of a journey no one should have to take. 

The book is written in short chapters that began as diary entries describing a multitude of experiences and observations over the course of several years.  Many of the chapters are followed by brief nuggets of helpful advice for others struggling with caring for loved ones in similar circumstances.  Those with relatives who have dementia will find comfort in knowing they are not alone. 
One day, long after her parents have developed memory impairment, the author accompanies them to an Alzheimer’s evaluation with a doctor to see if they qualify for hospice care.  When her mother leaves the room with the doctor, her father asks, “What is that woman’s name?”  It is apparent that he is interested in her.  Upon hearing that the woman is his wife but no longer comprehending what that means, he continues to ask about her as though hoping to pursue her.  The book is filled with such touching anecdotes, along with more sobering details that make up the author’s new reality as her parents gradually lose touch with theirs. 
The book’s title stems from one of the mother’s many discoveries that she has misplaced something, often accusing her daughter or her caregivers of theft.  The author explains that blaming others is a coping mechanism frequently used by dementia patients to explain their own inexplicable behavior.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  It teaches us patience with the elderly and gives us a new appreciation for how precious a gift each day is.  -MS  

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Love, Lashes, and Lipstick: My Secrets for a Gorgeous, Happy Life by Mally Roncal

QVC viewers may be familiar with makeup artist, Mally Roncal. Roncal developed her own makeup line in 2005 and frequently appears on QVC. Roncal also writes a regular makeup how-to column for Redbook magazine and inspires outward beauty as well as internal beauty. She recently wrote her first book, Love, Lashes, and Lipstick: My Secrets for a Gorgeous, Happy Life. The book is part biographical and part instructional.

In her book, Roncal writes about her life and growing up with her stylish mother who was also medical doctor. Tragically, Roncal’s mother was diagnosed with cancer when Mally was two, but survived for another 15 years. She also describes meeting her future husband and model turned photographer, Phil Bickett, and later giving birth to twin babies.

At the end of each chapter, Roncal lists step-by-step makeup tips and tricks. For example, she describes how to create “Man-Friendly Makeup”, a natural look achieved with minimal makeup. In another chapter, Roncal lists steps for “How to Look Fierce in 2 (or 5, or 10) Minutes Flat”. A third chapter describes how to create “The Feel-Good Face”, a makeup technique that allows you to look your best even when you feel less than optimal.

Overall, Roncal inspires her readers to find happiness in themselves through beauty. She also shares the journey of her life and allows her lively personality to shine through her writing. As an added bonus, Roncal includes her best makeup tricks. --JK

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Ragtime in Simla By Barbara Cleverly

World War I hero and Scotland Yard detective Joe Sandilands is traveling to Simla, summer capital of the British Raj,in the Governor of Bengal's touring car.  While stopped at the crossroads known as Devil's Elbow, his traveling companion, a Russian opera singer, is shot dead at his side. The Governor calls upon Joe to solve the murder, and the investigation unravels into a labyrinth of plots and sub-plots that really don’t help Joe at all. 

This is an engaging book, set in British India in the Roaring Twenties, when the empire was on the wane and everything had political consequences. The historical setting is well done, and so are the characters.  -LP

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