Thursday, April 28, 2005

Reading Journal Entry: The Lost Mother

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is set in Vermont during the Depression as it is experienced by 12-year-old Thomas and his spunky little sister Margaret. The opening line says, "They said it was bad for everyone, but nobody else the boy knew had to live in the woods." As the story begins, it is summer, so it does not seem so terribly bad to have to live in a tent. The worst thing is missing their beautiful mother who just up and left one day, supposedly to work in a factory. The children are certain that she will come home just as soon as she has saved enough money. Their father is an itinerant butcher who struggles to provide for them, and often must leave them alone as he scours the countryside looking for work. He is devastated by his wife's desertion, but the children misunderstand his anger and bitterness. A prosperous neighbor woman begins to woo the children to be companions for her pitiable, but warped, son--and soon events spiral out of control. One reviewer compared this author to John Steinbeck and Carson McCullers, and I would have to agree that her story has elements of both, and is "a gritty, beautifully crafted novel rich in wisdom and suspense."

For the illustration of this book review, I decided to use a photo of my mother who was a child during the Depression. It was serendipitous that the only photo I have of her during that era shows her holding a cat, since one poignant episode in the book is what happens to Margaret's cat and Thomas's part in that. A significant, recurring theme in this story is Thomas's ambivalent feelings toward Margaret. It is obvious that he loves her and feels responsible for her well-being, but she also aggravates and exasperates him. Sometimes this leads him to do mean things to her, which he regrets even as a 70-year-old.

I wrote the title in casual Roman caps that I learned from Sherri Kiesel. These were done with a black .8 Copic Multiliner pen, with the horizontal lines drawn by a Scarlet Red Prismacolor pencil. The background is acrylic paint in three shades of green (Celedon, Sage, English Ivy) with touches of Sandstone. The text was written with a .05 Copic pen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

"Missing Persons" by Stephen White Posted by Hello

Reading Journal Entry: "Missing Persons"

I've read a couple of other books by Stephen White that feature the psychologist Alan Gregory. They're always set in Boulder, which is kind of fun, since I recognize some of the places mentioned. This particular story starts off:
"A girl was missing. In any other town it would have been local news...but it wasn't any other town. It was Boulder. It wasn't any other day. It was Christmas. And a girl was missing. Again. God."
This time it was a 14-year-old, but it turns out that 8 years before, she had been a classmate of Jon Benet Ramsey, so the news media are hysterical. The police believe that she's a runaway, but as other people connected to her also become missing, Alan is pulled into the search. He encounters many ethical dilemmas, finally making some decisions that could cost him his license.

I like this book fairly well. It wasn't a great read, but there wasn't anything really annoying about it either. It was reasonably fast-paced, but the characters were not particularly engaging. It's not a book that I would go out of my way to recommend.

It doesn't show particularly well in the scan, but the silhouettes of the people are speckled with white in imitation of snow. This was acrylic paint applied with a sponge over a stencil cut from an actual photograph of four people. I didn't want their features to show, as a way to indicate the theme of people who are missing. I am not at all happy with the way I wrote the title. I used walnut ink, and seemed to have no control over how it came out of the pen. Note to self: Gouache works so much better on these acrylic-painted pages.

"A Christmas Visitor" by Anne Perry Posted by Hello

Reading Journal Entry: "A Christmas Visitor"

This novella features one of the characters of the William Monk series. Henry Rathbone is a distinguished mathematician and the father of Sir Oliver Rathbone (a one-time suitor of Hester Monk.) He is summoned to the Lake District by his goddaughter Antonia Dreghorne, whose husband has recently died in what appeared to be a senseless accident. But his good name is being smeared by a man he sent to prison for 11 years, and now Judge Dreghorne's wife and brothers fear he was murdered by Ashton Gower. This was a pleasant little read, but far from gripping. A bit of trivia that tickled me were the whimsical names of the jams that Henry had for breakfast: witherslacks (damson plum), black kite (blackberry) and hinberry (raspberry)

I made the illustration for this book review by first painting the pages with purple acrylic paints. The estate that is at the heart of the story was represented by tearing around a picture of a home that I found in a British tourism magazine. To soften the torn edges and blend them into the background, I used rubberstamping pigment inks on a fingertip dauber. The title was written with gold gouache, while the author's name was gold gouache with a bit of indigo added to it.

"The Confessor" by Daniel Silva Posted by Hello

Reading Journal entry: "The Confessor"

Many years have passed since Gabriel Allon took retribution on those who killed the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Now he is a master art restorer in Venice. But when one of his fellow agents in that affair is murdered, Gabriel is reactivated by his old mentor, Ari Shamron, to find out why. He discovers that Benjamin had been investigating Pope Pius XII's role in the Holocaust, and apparently was getting too close to the truth. A secret Vatican society known as the Crux Vera is intent on hiding the facts. A powerful Cardinal and his henchmen plan to assassinate the new Pope to keep him from opening the Vatican's secret archives. Gabriel races across the face of Europe, from Venice's Jewish ghetto to Vienna to London to a convent on Lake Garda, and finally to the innermost parts of the Vatican. He is usually just one step ahead of Italian and German police, an assassin known as The Leopard, and even some Israeli agents, as he desperately tries to discover the facts and save the Pope. In the end, it all comes down to a very young nun and a sleepy little orphan boy.

 I was reading it about the time that Pope John Paul was in his final illness, and one of the characters in the book is the imaginary pope who follows him.

The Rule of Four Posted by Hello

Reading Journal entry: The Rule of Four

One reviewer called this a stunning first novel; a perfect blend of suspense and a sensitive coming-of-age story. If Scott Fitzgerald, Umberto Eco, and Dan Brown teamed up to write a novel, this would be the result.
Two Princeton students are obsessed with unlocking the coded secrets of the "Hypnerotomachia Poliphili", a Renaissance text that has baffled scholars for 500 years. Just as they are on the brink of success, a murder rocks their lives, as well as that of their suite mates.
I found this book totally amazing! It was both erudite and suspenseful, and often the writing was sheer poetry. Here's a sample quote:
"The two hardest things to contemplate in life are failure and age; and those are one and the same. Perfection is the natural consequence of eternity: wait long enough, and anything will realize its potential. Coal becomes diamonds, sand becomes pearls, apes become men. It's simply not given to us, in one lifetime, to see those consummations, and so every failure becomes a reminder of death."
It's hard to believe that the authors are 20-somethings.
I found it interesting how I just happened to read the following group of books in the last few months that are all related to each other, and even watched a PBS special on the Medici during this time period:
  • Angels and Demons
  • The DaVinci Code
  • The Birth of Venus
  • The Rule of Four
I'd never been really aware of Savanarola until I read "The Birth of Venus," but after confronting him there, I was sure he must be the antagonist in "The Rule of Four" even before the book confirmed it. And just as coincidentally, there happened to be an article about him in one of the Horizons that I picked up this fall at an antiques store in Angleton.