Books I read: 2018 Edition

For the last couple of years,  as my children are older, I have returned to reading. I have always loved to read. My favorite past time when I was a teenagers was to curl up with a book and my cat and dog in our living room and escape to a new world. While my favorite literature types are science fiction and mysteries I don’t necessarily limit by reading to just those.

This year I challenged myself again to read one book a month and I was successful!

This post is meant to summarize those books, and give you a few sentences of my thoughts of each one. Presented in the order I read them last year, here are the Books I read in 2018.

George Lucas: A Life, by Brian Jay Jones

Truth be told here, I read about half of this book and listened to the audio book for the other half. Star Wars is the most important piece of entertainment in my life, and I’ve read several books, articles, and other pieces on its creator, George Lucas. I definitely enjoyed this one and it solidified my opinion that Mr Lucas himself would have done something far different and much more uplifting than the new sequel trilogy.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert

I picked up my second book of the year on recommendation from an internet friend of mine. As with the Lucas biography, I listened to the audio book of this one, primarily because Elizabeth Gilbert herself reads it.  It was definitely inspiring for my creative side. I read “Eat, Pray, Love” with my sister a few years back and was surprised at how much it resonated with me. This book, while smaller, did the same. It helped me with my 2018 resolution to draw more.

It’s Your Universe: You Have the Power to Make It Happen, by Ashley Eckstein, Stacy Kravetz

I had to read this one even though it’s really more for pre-teen and teens as they are figuring out who they want to be, because it’s written by Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka Tano and founder of HerUniverse.com. I adore Ashley, for Ahsoka and for Her Universe and for her infectious positivity. Bucket list for me would be to finally meet her and thank her for being a shining light in my Star Wars fandom. The book is adorable, and meant to be written in, as young girls do their own dreaming for their future.

Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty

I read this one because it one goes back to my love of mysteries and because I saw there was an HBO miniseries retelling staring Reese Whitherspoon (whom I also love). I typically like to read the book before seeing the movie. Yes, that always leaves me disappointed, but it allows me to enjoy the book without being spoiled by the movie. I had also “The Husband’s Secret’ by Ms. Moriarty a year or so ago, and enjoyed her ability to intertwine mystery with drama. After reading the first chapter, I worried I wasn’t going to like how this one ended, but I m happy to say that it ended just as it should have. That is all I will say.

Most Wanted, by Rae Carson

After seeing, and loving, Solo: A Star Wars Story, after definitely not expecting to, I thought I’d pick this one up and read some backstory of a young Han and Q’ira in this new Star Wars Canon. This is definitely a young adult novel, with only a few characters, but it added some relationship backstory between Han and Q’ira that dovetailed nicely with their relationship on the screen.

A New Hope (Star Wars: Novelizations), by Alan Dean Foster (Ghostwriter), George Lucas (Story & Screenplay)

Feeling the need to go back to my Original Trilogy love, I broke out my old copy of the original Star Wars; A New Hope novelization. It was a bit of a pallet cleanser for me after all of the disappointment with Disney’s direction of the Sequel Trilogy. I read this over and over again when I was young, and it brought me back to those days. Still such a wonderful story, and wonderful world building. Nothing today comes close to how much I enjoyed Star Wars as a kid.

Alliances (Star Wars: Thrawn, #2), by Timothy Zahn

Mr. Zahn has written the only stories I will ever accept as those that follow the end of Return of the Jedi in the Star Wars universe (in spite of Disney Designating all Star Wars Expanded Universe materials as “Legends”).  I hadn’t read the first of his new Thrawn books when this came out this summer, but I decided to jump in anyway. I read this in less than a week on our annual trip to Canada and loved every page. The action here takes place in two timeframes, prior to the fall of the Jedi and prior to the events of A New Hope, and focuses on Anakin and Padme and Darth Vader and Thrawn respectively. I found my favorite parts were those of Anakin and Padme. What surprised and delighted me was that as I read, I heard the voices of Matt Lanter and Cat Taber, the voice actors to provided their voices in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. If you’re a Clone wars fan, or a Thrawn fan, or both, I highly recommend this one. I have the first book in this trilogy and have it on my to read list for this year.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom

This one had been on my list of books I was interested in for a while. My daughter had to read it for her summer reading between 7th and 8th grade, so as I did with my son with his last summer’s reading, I read along with her and we had our own little Book Club. I didn’t expect anything from it and found it to be both melancholy and really charming.  After complaining about having to read during the summer for a couple chapters, my daughter fell in love with it too. It made us both smile and cry. Beautiful reminder that we all have an impact in the lives of others.

Unqualified, by Anna Faris, Chris Pratt (Foreword)

I am not quite sure why I read this one. I am not an Anna Farris fan. I am, however, a Chris Pratt fan. I love him as Peter Quill in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Guardians of the Galaxy) and I appreciate that he’s one of the few folks in Hollywood willing to be open that he is a person of faith.  Written before they separated, this book has a bunch of anecdotes from Anna’s life before and during her relationship with her then husband Chris. After having read it, I found myself sad that they couldn’t make it last. Definitely a fast read and something I didn’t spend much time thinking about.

Season of Storms, by Susanna Kearsley

These days, I would have to say that Susanna is my favorite author. I read her “Winter Sea” several years ago and was instantly hooked on her time traveling drama/romance style. I’ve read one of the Outlander books, and while those are similar, I grow tired of all the terrible things that keep happening. Susanna is obviously a hopeless (or is it hopeful) romantic and it shows. There’s always a happy ending. I got my youngest sister hooked on her too, and now I have to catch up with her and get through more of her books.

#sleevelife: Losing Half of Myself and Finding the Rest, by Jonathan P Dichter

I’ve been listening to Jonathan Dichter on various Disney parks related podcasts for so long now that he feels like a friend. Over the last year, he has recounted his experience having gastric surgery and losing over 100 pounds. His health and love life have made dramatic improvements and his positivity and perseverance shows in this book. I bought it to support him, but read it to join him on his journey. Those considering the surgery will get a first hand look at what it entails. I wish him nothing but much success and happiness.

Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn

This is another book I read in anticipation of possibly watching the movie/miniseries version. I love Amy Adams, so I thought I might eventually watch the adaptation. I still haven’t. I read “Gone Girl” before it was made into a movie and, well, I hated it. It was well written and constructed but the two main characters were so awful, the reader just couldn’t like any of them.  This time, it was slightly different. I actually thought the main protagonist was sympathetic at times. Still, it was another book filled with broken and messed up people. I don’t really enjoy these sorts of stories. After two strikes, I don’t plan on reading any more from Ms. Flynn.

And the last book…continuing the theme of reading the book before watching the movie:

Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians, #1), by Kevin Kwan

I read this book in four days. That’s a record for me these days, when I have very little free time and have to borrow time from my sleep to do any reading. “Luckily”, I was home due to the government shutdown, so in addition to cleaning out the basement and taking things to Salvation Army, I did some reading. This one was completely a light beach read. Loads of drama and back-stabbing. Had the title and character names not been Asian, this story could have been set in any rich family, which tells me that money does the same thing to people, no matter the culture. I was intrigued by Singapore and its history, and might actually add it to my list of places to see one day.

And that was it.  Looking back over the list, again my reading was all over the place, from beach-reads and drama, to dark materials, Star Wars inspired and autobiographies.  I’ve challenged myself again to read another 12 books in 2019 (and have already finished one). I Look forward to putting together my summary in next year’s first blog post.

Happy Reading!
RSM

Of disappointment, resolutions and drawing things

My first #drawingaday this yearAt the end of last year, I found myself very down. I’m not sure entirely why but as funny as it sounds, Disney’s depressing take on the Star Wars saga was a large part of that. I would read every article, every blog post and every comment I could of fellow SW fans who felt the portrayal of Luke (and Han and Leia for that matter) was just wrong. These comments assured me I wasn’t alone but in the end they left me even more sad.

Sad wasn’t good. I needed to do something. I needed a distraction. So on New Year’s Eve I decided to make a resolution for 2018. I resolved to draw more and Facebook less. That was it. Just draw more. Pretty nebulous.

On January first, I picked out one of my sketchbooks that had been sitting, unloved, in my bedroom and drew. It was a quick pen and ink sketch of our television. I drew while my son was playing Legend of Zelda on our new Nintendo switch. It took me maybe 15 minutes. It wasn’t anything special but it made me feel amazing.

I started this blog years ago, as a place to post drawings I would do using the Brushes app on my original iPhone. I used it as a motivator to make me draw or do something creative. For a time it worked, then I let life get busy.

After I finished my first drawing, I posted it on my Instagram account with the hashtag #drawingaday and my new resolution took form. It has been so fulfilling to draw that I decided I would find the time to draw every day. It’s February now and I’ve actually done it. I’ve done one, quick pen and ink sketch every day so far this year and it’s been wonderful. I feel more creative than I have in a while.

There’s only one rule I’ve given myself on these drawings. Just do them. They don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have to be amazing. They just have to be. Every drawing I’ve done has been a small learning experience. I feel that I’m improving with the practice. When I pick up the little sketchbook I love flipping through it to see what I’ve drawn so far. My kids have honored me by also flipping through it to see what I’ve done. I’m looking forward to what I might draw this year.

Since I’m setting aside that half hour a day to draw, I’ve less time to blog, but I might post a picture of one of my sketches from time to time.

I encourage you to do that thing you’ve been wanting to do. Give yourself permission not to be perfect. Just do.

Her Universe Annual Christmas Pin

20161202_ghibli_01_ahsokapinIt’s available! In spite of the recent Her Universe/Hot Topic merger, Ashley Eckstein has continued the annual tradition of an autographed Star Wars themed holiday pin included in orders of Her Universe items at Hot Topic for a limited time.

I was actually worried about this one when I learned about Ashley’s new path with Her Universe. I have put in an order at Her Universe on Black Friday every year sine she started offering these free Star Wars limited edition holiday pins with an autograph card. This year the pin is so awesome, I knew I had to have it. It’s a Holiday Ahsoka!

I logged in to Hot Topic early this morning, not quite at the stroke of midnight, but before the kids woke up. Sadly, almost all of the Her Universe Star Wars clothing had sold out of my size. So I bought an item that probably won’t fit me but might just fit my daughter, and was able to get the pin!

Looking forward to wearing this one on Christmas with my family.

Thanks, Ashley, for such a wonderful tradition. I wish you and Her Universe many more years of happiness. Looking forward to what you bring us next year.

RSM

Drawing a Day: RSM Day 41 – Fall trees

The last trees full of fall leaves.

It’s been a long time since I added another drawing to this space. We went on a family trip in the middle of October, then my son had his birthday, then there was Halloween, and then, and then, and then. Eventually I just didn’t get to drawing anything. That stopped, at least for today, with this drawing.

I was in an afternoon meeting today, and as I listened to the person leading the discussion, I noticed the beautiful trees outside the window. Watching them and the interplay of colors from the sunshine, even through the dingy blinds, I was inspired to take out my iPhone. In doing this drawing, I became quiet in the meeting. This prompted a fellow meeting attendee to take out his own phone and send me a text message urging me to pay attention. 🙂 His urging, sufficiently shamed me into putting away the Brushes app and paying attention. I will not say which fulfilled me more: drawing these trees or listening to team-building discussions.

It’s gorgeous here today, and given that it’s November already, I know there are only a handful of beautiful days left before winter. The interplay of the remaining yellow leaves against the blue blue sky was just beautiful.

I hope that wherever you are today, you are able to enjoy the day.
RSM.

Drawing a Day: RSM Day 40 – Fairy flight

Fairy Flight

Another drawing to keep my drawing promise to myself (and forty drawings already? wow!): Fairy Flight. The inspiration for this one was a suggestion from a twitter friend of mine. She suggested I do some drawings where I could leave them outlined and let my kids color them in. While I colored this one in, it started as a line drawing of a fairy that I thought my daughter might want to color. Then I ended up playing with the colors myself. I did this during one of the “mommy come and draw with me” times with my kids recently, so it’s as light and free as they are. With the Brushes app on my iPhone, I plan on going in with another layer and tracing the outline of the fairy so I can make this into a coloring book style drawing for my daughter to color in as she sees fit.

Enjoy and I hope the fairies are flying for you today too.
RSM.

Drawing a Day: RSM Day 39 – A cup of Tea

Teacup

I was putting together an event invite in facebook for a school sponsored mother-daughter tea party, and decided that I didn’t want to use some clip art for the graphic. So I used this as my opportunity to do a small sketch for today. I wanted to capture the simple nature of a tea party and some pink since this is, after all, for my daughter who adores pink. I drew it really quickly, as more of a gesture sketch than a delicate drawing from life. Typically, I draw what I see, and prefer to draw from a still life of life drawing subject. This one is totally from my imagination.

Without further adieu, here is a quick drawing of a teacup, done on my iPhone 4 using the Brushes app and taking advantage of the use of layers. I don’t normally use layers. I was more or less “classically training” in drawing, and having never used photoshop, or any of the other computer graphics programs, I just paint or draw, one layer on top of the next using physical pencil or paint on paper or canvas. Doing something in virtual layers, so you can more easily do things like lift the black outline drawing on top of the coloring (as I did here) isn’t they way I think. At least, it’s not the way I think when drawing or painting. I thought I’d give it a try here, and I am happy with the way it looks.

Enjoy and have a nice warm cup of tea.
RSM.

Drawing a Day: RSM Day 38 – Suzy in Green

Suzy in Green

Not to be outdone, here is a drawing of my one and only; my baby girl; my sidekick kitty cat, Suzy. Here she sits, in full regal pose, and I put in green around her to match her beautiful eyes. She’s a tuxedo kitty, and every inch of her is a commanding presence. Enjoy today’s drawing on my iPhone with the Brushes app.

RSM.

Drawing a Day: RSM Day 37 – the tale of our outside cat

Kee Kee on the porch

For today’s drawing (sketch) I present the outside stray kitty cat who has made her home under and on our front porch since this past summer. Dubbed (by me) Kee Kee (say Kitty Kitty fast, and you’ll see where it came from), this little kitty is very afraid but very very sweet. A visit to my local vet yielded the following: She’s old (about 9 ish), fixed and declawed on the front paws (something I suspected, but at that time, she wouldn’t let me lift up her paw and check). She definitely had an owner at one time.

For the first month that KeeKee joined us, I did nothing to encourage her to say. I did not feed her. I did not approach her. I simply noted her presence in my flowerbeds, and when I was outside weeding or tending to the garden, I made a big deal of acting as though I had no idea she was there. I did this both for her (because I could tell she was very timid) and for my husband who wanted anything but for me to adopt an outside kitty.

A month went by and I could no longer let her live there and not feed her. She’d cleared out our mole infestation naturally, so that my husband didn’t have to go buy something at The Home Depot to do it chemically. She’d even left a couple of dead moles on my front door mat, as though she were feeding us, her adopted family. I felt I owed it to her to leave some kitty chow out for her.

Slowly I left bowls of water and dry cat food under the bushes in my front garden around the porch. Slowly, I would refill them, in her line of site but made no movement to come near her. Slowly I let her get used to the site of me and understand that she had nothing to fear from me. I would provide her food. I would do what I could to make her comfortable.

Eventually, she came up to me. She let me pet her. She purred. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of winning over the trust of an animal. I do not take it lightly. No matter where she came from, Kee Kee has a place around my home as long as she needs it.

I have set up a shelter on my porch. First it was just a cat carrier. I set it out, and let her decide whether she wanted to use it. When the rains of the summer got too much for her, she did. I started to see her snuggled up inside it at night. Now that it’s getting chilly, a friend of mine has given me an igloo shelter for which I bought an outdoor heated cat pad. I set that all up last night, much to KeeKee’s appreciation. When I checked on her last night, she was snuggled up nice and cozy in the igloo.

I do not know how the winter will go. I do not know if Kee Kee had ever faced a winter outside. She showed up at our house pretty skinny. I’ve done what I can to help fatten her up. I already have an indoor cat, and neither my husband nor my kitty are willing to entertain adding another. Besides, if KeeKee’s been living on her own for a while (which the neighbors think she has) then she’s probably an out of doors kitty and might not do well with the rules and regulations of living indoors (litter box, etc).

So, there you have it. That is my tale to go with this sketch. This is Kee Kee, my new outdoor kitty. The sweetest little old lady you’d ever want to meet.

RSM.

Drawing a Day: RSM Day 36

Gesture drawing - my daughter smiles

These days I am starting to think I need to retitle these drawings from “Drawing a Day” to “Drawing a Week” since that’s more of the pace I can keep. Either way, I have drawn more this year because of my own personal motivation here, than I have drawn in the last 8 1/2 years (since my first child came along).

Without further adieu, for my drawing this week, I present another drawing from my iPhone, and done in just a quick time. This is my daughter, smiling and posing. I used a photo as a reference, and only gave myself about 10 minutes (if that) to do this drawing. I tried to keep it light and gesture drawing style.

Drawing a Day: RSM Day 35

Stuffed Animals Discussing things

Another quick drawing for another day. This one was of two of my daughter’s stuffed animals. She had left them downstairs in the family room while she went off to bed. I left them sitting as they were, because the arrangement makes it look like they are having some sort of secret conversation. My daughter was delighted the next morning that I’d drawn some of her toys, and has asked that I draw more of her things as she sleeps. Let’s see what I can come up with. Drawn on my iPhone 4 with the Brushes app.

Enjoy and sleep tight. RSM.