Book reviews and the zine distro

I’ve spent the past month finishing my degree program at IADT and redesigning the distro website. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time reading on my Kindle, and I’m glad that I now have a lot of time to do that. One thing I missed while in school was all the hours I could devote to reading – and now I have them back.

Here are two reviews of the books I read recently. I’ve copied the reviews from my Goodreads account.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: Harry Potter meets Peter Pan. It was an interesting story, definitely a page turner, and I loved the pictures throughout the book. I used to think it would be cool to take my antique/vintage photographs and write a story about them, so I was excited to see what Riggs did with it. Overall, I would recommend this book to most readers. It’s a fast read, interesting plot, and beautiful to look at. But I took off two stars for the following reasons:

1) The end obviously sets it up for a sequel. The main plot was not wrapped up at all. It ends so awkwardly that I was expecting there to be another chapter…but there wasn’t.

2) The character development could have been stronger. SPOILER ALERT! We only get to know one of the Peculiars beyond her ability – everyone else is just…their ability. Floaty girl! Invisible boy! Tree girl! I wanted to delve more into the psychology of the kids, but it never happened. /SPOILER

The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto: I’ve read five or six of Yoshimoto’s novels, and this one falls in the middle. It wasn’t as good as Kitchen (which remains, by far, my favorite) but not as weak as Goodbye, Tsugumi. This is a quick read, and the style, ending, and pace made it feel more like a short story.

I like how Yoshimoto slowly exposes the character of Nakajima. I read on Good Reads that his big secret is revealed on the back cover, but I read this on my Kindle so I didn’t have that problem. I think knowing his secret would ruin most of this book, as the true beauty of the writing is showcased by that slow revelation. I also enjoy Yoshimoto’s simple, conversational prose – it’s definitely easy reading, which is something we all need once in a while.

Sometimes the dialogue was a bit heavy handed and filled with aphorisms. I guess that’s true of most of her work, but it’s been a while since I’ve read one of her books. I also think this is a very dysfunctional love story, but certainly not as dysfunctional as, say, the love story in Twilight. I did like that the narrator recognized its dysfunction, but she sort of pushed it all away in her mind because of her love for him.

Overall, I’d recommend this over some of her other books. It’s probably a good introduction to her writing style and stories.

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Right now, I’m reading Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. I have a very strong attachment to Dana (the narrator) – she’s pretty kick ass, smart, and maybe my favorite literary character in a while. I love the time travel element, but I also find it completely terrifying. Butler has a way of transporting the reader right into the middle of the story, and I can’t wait to see what happens.

Next, I will probably read The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing by Mayra Calvani and Anne K. Edwards. I could really use any help in the writing area, and this looks like a good place to start.

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Designing and Creating

I’m a student at the International Academy of Design and Technology, going after my Associate’s in Web Design and Development. It’s kind of backward, seeing as I already have a Bachelor’s in English, but obviously, those are two completely different areas of study. An Associate’s is all I can afford at this time, but I think what I am learning now is enough to really advance myself in the field.  I’m definitely a better coder than a designer, but I think (hope!) that my design skills are good enough to get me somewhere.

I recently finished designing the new layout for my zine distro, Things You Say.  I was happy with the way it turned out, and I was even happier that this was the first website I completely coded myself – and I think it looks better than anything I’ve done in a while. One thing I need to work on is my graphic design skills – actually, more like my overall design skills.  I think what I do is really great, until I look at other websites and I see I’m not as good as those. But I know learning these things takes time, and I’m not going to be a design/coding genius overnight. I need to get my feet wet a bit more before I feel comfortable and confident enough in my work to go out and seek freelance jobs.

There’s something about when you finish a website  and then upload it to the web and you can see that it works that really makes me excited about life. That is probably the dorkiest statement you have ever read ( when my friends need some code who do they call, I do HTML for them all, yo!), but it’s true. I get that same feeling when I finish creating my zine and hold the first stapled copy in my hand. I love making things, and I love sharing those things – that’s why I gravitate toward zines and writing and web design.

My next design venture is making my dad’s guitar website. Like me, he designs and makes things – for work (he’s an engineer) and for a hobby (making/designing guitars). I guess that’s who I get my artistic passion and technonerdity from, although my mom is pretty crafty herself. My brother is very artistic, too. So I guess we’re just creatin’ fiends at the Hawley house. Hopefully, my niece acquired this trait – her mom is a florist, too, so it’s definitely in her genes. We’re all thinking she’s going to be a musician because she loves listening to Rod Stewart and Phantom of the Opera.

What have you created or designed lately?