Tag Archive: comics


Enterprise-Schematic-star-trek-the-next-generation

Sorry I’ve been MIA lately. Last week got kinda crazy. My boss’s fiance gave birth the week before last so he was out of the office pretty much all of that week and most of this past week. We had just been slammed with work and on top of that, my son and I got either food poisoning or this one-day stomach bug that’s been going around the Phoenix area. Then my hubby got sick and had to see a doctor. Last weekend I got to see the new Star Trek movie, which was awesome. I saw it in 2D but I know it would’ve been pretty cool in 3D as well. I had heard pretty mixed reviews on it, so wasn’t sure it was going to be all that great. I must say though, Benedict Cumberbatch made a very interesting villain, most of all because of his deep gravelly voice (so sexy). Not to mention Chris Pine playing the hero Captain Kirk, with that roguish bad-boy charm, who has to make some incredibly hard choices to get the job done. The movie was full of male and female eye candy, but a good story and a lot of action and adventure to keep everyone entertained as well. I’m hoping they’ll continue making more of these movies. I’ve always been an on-again off-again Star Trek fan, but right now I’m definitely a fan. I grew up watching Star Trek: Next Generation and ST: Deep Space Nine, which I just loved. Probably one of the only reasons I have any idea who Wil Wheaton is today is because of that show. Well that and he now does some of the best teen audiobook narration ever. I watched a bit of Star Trek: Voyagerand think that Janeway was a pretty good captain. I know I’ve watched the movie Star Trek Generations, and the latest Star Trek movie (2009), but I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the other movies. I’m gonna try to watch the original Star Trek series with Kirk, Scotty, Dr. McCoy, Spock et al, but it’s so spectacularly bad (low budget), I’m not sure how long I’ll last. Then I was hoping to tackle 1-6 of the original Star Trek movies.

phoenix-comicon-logo

This weekend was the Phoenix Comicon. For those who have never been to a comic convention, it is definitely an interesting experience. This was my third one, and it was definitely the biggest and craziest one I’ve ever been to. I went to my first one totally by accident. I had a friend who was interning at the Museum for Comic Book Art in NYC and they were having one at the museum, and I was visiting, so I got invited to it. I wanna say that was the summer of 2003. Even though it was small, it had some really big name people there. Frank Miller, who created/illustrated the series From Hell, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns300, and Sin City just to name a few. My friend had an art-gasm being that close to a legend and got him to sign his copy of From Hell and he did a little drawing too. I discovered a few really cool things like Edward Einhorn, who did an Oz spin-off book called Paradox in Ozwhich was illustrated by the now pretty famous Eric Shanower, who does Oz comics/graphic novels. I’ve read his 5 volume set Adventures in Oz. I also discovered the series Max Hamm: Fairy Tale Detective by Frank Cammuso. That first comicon really opened my eyes to comics, though I probably didn’t really start reading them till around graduate school. My second comicon was last year in Tempe, and it was a bit bigger. I saw a lot of creators/illustrators I had never heard of and some that I had. It was a fun event.

The one I went to yesterday was similar but about 5 times bigger. It took me three hours just to walk all the way through all the vendors/artists/famous folks. They had actors/actresses from many sci-fi and fantasy shows like Babylon 5 (apparently this year was the 20th Anniversary of the show so they had about 14 cast members plus the shows creator there), The Walking Dead stars Laurie Holden, Chandler Riggs, and Michael Rooker (and I was impressed how friendly the last guy looked, not at all like his TV persona), some anime voice over actors, Wil Wheaton, and John Barrowman (star of Torchlight and a frequent guest of David Tennant’s Doctor Who). I would’ve really liked to have met the last two but everyone was charging a minimum of $20-50 for pictures and signatures, so I just checked them out from a far. One of my current favorite writers was there, Adam Rex, but he just happened to be away from his table when I was over there and wouldn’t be back for a half hour. It’s a good thing I’m not claustrophobic, as I have never seen so many people in one area. There must’ve been more than 1000 people in the giant halls they blended together to have one giant space for all the vendors and creator/illustrators. The Society for Creative Anachronisms was there, along with L.A.R.P. (Live Action Role Play – another friend of mine used to do that). I have never seen people in so many different costumes in my life. There were people dressed up like unicorns, any number of superhero and anime stars, Disney princesses, zombies (even saw a zombie Snow White), Catwoman, and there was a guy dressed up like a Tusken Raider from Star Wars and his son was dressed up like a Jawa. There was one random pair of girls in literally just heels, underwear with something written across the butt and a very short top. There was one whole section just for this Star Wars charity group, but they had Lego Star Wars models (Millenium Falcon, Death Star, Star Destroyer). There was this one guy who did these almost pin-up versions of sci fi girls like Princess Leia and others. They had a lot of steampunk jewelry for sale, which I liked, but most of it was out of my price range. Lots of guys and girls were dressed up like Doctor Who, which I was pretty surprised about, to be honest. I mean I know more and more people know about it, but I didn’t think it was that popular. For some reason, that kid’s cartoon show Adventure Time was also really popular and there were quite a few teenagers dressed up like those characters. From a people-watching perspective, it was a very interesting time. There were a ton of families there with small children, though I’m glad I went by myself as I know my son would not have been a happy camper for that long there. His toddler patience is shorter than mine. I didn’t manage to make to any of the panel discussions even though there were quite a few that I had wanted to attend. I think if I decided to do this again, or even better, go to the San Diego Comicon (my ultimate goal), I would buy a two day or weekend pass far in advance. That way I could hit all the vendors one day and then take another day to do panels.

My Crafty Book Club meeting was last Thursday and I was so much looking forward to it. Getting out of the house, even with my child, is a welcome relief. My son managed to charm all the ladies that attended (which is kinda crazy really as he was running around, bumping into things the entire time), and but we didn’t manage to get much book discussion done. I am still trying to read Hitler’s Piano Player: The Rise and Fall of Ernst Hanfstaengl: Confidant of Hitler, Ally of FDR, which is actually a really excellent biography. I’m just incredibly slow when it comes to reading nonfiction biographies. I discovered the subject matter, Ernst Hanfstaengl, when I was listening to Erik Larson’s book In the Garden of Beasts, which is about Hitler’s coming to power in the 1930s, as seen through the eyes of the American Ambassador to Germany and his family. I found it fascinating that this guy went to Harvard and lived in the States for awhile and yet was a German in Hitler’s Inner Circle, and then later betrayed him by becoming a spy for FDR. So I’m reading this biography, which as far as I know, is the only book written on the man, apart from his personal biography. I am also  finished with the audiobook version of Lirael (Abhorsen, #2) by Garth Nix.

Aside from that, I have been having some luck in the job search. I got an email about another position in a local library and interviewed for it last Tuesday. Still no word back, but I’m still hoping that good news will come out of it. I’ve also got an interview coming up with a local museum that I hope will pan out, if the library one doesn’t. I know it’s only been about 2 1/2 months, but I’m going stir-crazy in this house and we could use the extra income. Well anyways, on to the book reviews. As always, I rate things from 1 – 5 stars, one being the lowest and 5 being the highest. The Caldecott Challenge is my attempt to read all of the Caldecott Honors and Award winners from 1938 – the present.

Children

Bearskin by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

I found this book after looking up other Trina Schart Hyman illustrated books and it looked interesting. The storyline was predictable and seems like it had just borrowed elements from other tales. Basically the king wants to prevent a prophecy from coming true, so he pays off the miller and takes his son and tells his huntsman to get rid of it. The huntsman’s wife takes pity on the baby and they leave it in the woods and bring the king back a rabbit’s heart. The baby is then raised by a motherless she-bear, who later helps the man, called Bearskin, out on his quests. He prevents the princess from marrying a deceitful steward of the king after it is revealed that he, not the steward, actually slew the dragon. The illustrations were great and featured an African princess and wise man, as well as other characters scattered through the story who were from a variety of different cultures. This was a nice change to your traditional fairy tale. I also like that the illustrator included top of page illustrations, so it made it look like a much older book. Recommended for ages 5-10, 3 stars.

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? by Mo Willems

I enjoyed this quick easy read from Mo Willems. I think the combination between the whiny slightly annoying Pigeon and the super cute Duckling is fantastic. Basically the Duckling asks for a cookie wit nuts(politely) and gets one, then the Pigeon rants and raves about how he always asks for things but never gets them. Then the Duckling gives him the cookie, and the Pigeon is blown away. Afterwards, the Duckling asks for a no-nut cookie. My son loved this book, I think mostly because I loved doing the voices for it! Recommended for ages 1-7, 5 stars.

Queen Esther Saves Her People retold by Rita Golden Gelman

I never really knew the story of Esther so I figured getting a children’s picture book would be one of the easiest ways to find out the story. Well that and I’m trying to find more books to put on my Biblical Children’s Book list. The story is basically this: The King of Persia (called Ahasuerus in the Bible but in actuality it is Xerxes) has banished his wife for refusing to dance, and a few months later, he is lonely. So his advisors look for a woman to replace the queen. Esther is a beautiful young Jewish woman who lives with her cousin Mordecai. She is soon found by soldiers and brought to the palace. She lives in the harem with the rest of the young women brought to see the king, and one day she meets him and she is named Queen. Mordecai stops a plot to kill the king. Now Hamen, was the king’s vizier and he demands that people bow down to him. Everyone but Mordecai does because he will not bow before another human, only God. Hamen vows to kill all the Jews because of this, and Mordecai finds out and tells Esther to talk to the King. So she does and saves not only Mordecai but all the Jewish people as well, so now Jews celebrate this victory in a celebration called Purim.

Now I enjoyed the overall story, but I didn’t like the way the author dumbed down the story because it was meant for children. You can always use the correct words (like harem instead of “special house” or vizier instead of “prime minister”) and have an index in the back of the book or put definitions in the book. The illustrations were really good too, and helped to put the story at a child’s level. I would recommend this book for ages 7-10, 3 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin

This book won a 2001 Caldecott Honor. Like her other books I’ve read “Giggle, Giggle, Quack” and “Duck for President,” Betsy Lewin’s illustrations are what make Doreen Cronin’s books awesome for kids. Well that and the cutesy storyline about cows that borrow a typewriter from the barn and start making demands of Farmer Brown. The best one was when they promised to give back their typewriters for electric blankets, because the barn is too cold. Now if only he could stop those ducks from making demands. My son loved the pictures. Recommended for ages 1-7, 3 stars.

So Want to Be President? by Judith St. George

This book was the 2001 Caldecott Award winner, though I must preferred “Casey at the Bat” or “Olivia” to win that year as I thought they were much better done books. This was an interesting take on the US presidents, giving fun factual information like what kind of pets each president had, who was the tallest/shortest, thriftiest/spent the most money, and what kinds of sports they liked to do. It gets the most props for the illustrations, which were amusing and full of caricatures. The back of the book featured a list of the illustrations, in case you couldn’t figure them out from the descriptions and a list of all the presidents and their major achievements in office. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

This book won a 2000 Caldecott Honor award. It is a gorgeous nature-filled adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic  fairy tale, done in Jerry Pinkney’s glorious watercolor illustrations. The ugly duckling spends a year being bullied by all sorts of animals and birds before finally realizing that he is a beautiful swan that everyone now adores. I loved the paintings of the Canadian geese and the swans. Highly recommended for ages 5-8, 4 stars.

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

This book won the 1999 Caldecott Award, and I must agree with some others that have said that it was nice that a non-fiction book won. I will say though that I waited forever to read this book as it was so touted as a good book that I tried to avoid reading it. Once again, I was proven wrong. Snowflake Bentley was the name of a man who lived in Jericho, Vermont and loved the winters there. He was so fascinated with the different shapes of snowflakes that he asked for and got a special camera that could photograph them. He became the world expert on snow and when he was 66 years old, with some help from fellow scientists, he finally got a book of his photographs published. The back of the book features a picture of Snowflake Bentley with his special camera, as well as some reproductions of some of his snowflake pictures.

I like how you have the main story in the middle of the page and the facts on the outskirts, for more information. I love the illustrations that are woodcuts that are hand-tinted by watercolors. They really make the story more awesome. Highly recommended for ages 5-10, 5 stars.

Olivia by Ian Falconer

I loved the diva Olivia and her zany adventures dressing up, building sandscrapers, going to the museum and unleashing her inner artist. My favorite lines are at the end where she is reading books with her mother before bed and her mother says “You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.” I totally know how that mother feels, as I feel the same way about my son. This book was a 2001 Caldecott honor winner. Recommended for ages 1-7, 5 stars.

The Graphic Alphabet by David Pelletier

This book won a 1997 Caldecott Honor award. Now it is supposed to be for kids, but really I think adults will appreciate the graphic design of it more (after all, that is what the author/illustrator’s main job is). As a reviewer on Amazon said, this book would be great for art teacher to use in their classes. It is definitely not your traditional ABC book. Recommended for ages 4+, 3 stars.

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney

This book won a 1999 Caldecott Honor, but it would’ve been really hard to choose between this book and “Snowflake Bentley” for the Caldecott Award, because they are both excellent books in story and illustration. The author does a fantastic job in retelling the life of Edward Kennedy Ellington, otherwise known as Duke Ellington, jazz musician and composer, and his orchestra. The illustrator Brian Pinkney, who happens to be Jerry Pinkney’s son, did a fabulous job at making the pictures match the music. He did it in scratchboard renderings with dyes and paint, which makes the artwork look like it is in constant motion, just like a musician does when they feel the music flow through them. The back of the book contains a small biography of Duke, as well as the source materials used for the book, which included books, videos and a museum exhibit. Recommended for ages 7-11, 5 stars.

The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey

This was a 1997 Caldecott Honor award winner. I can see why for its lovely painted illustrations, which help depict the life of a paperboy. The young boy goes out and does his paper run in the dark and only returns to bed, just as light is about to dawn on the rest of the world. My favorite painting was the last one in the book where the boy and his dog are floating off into dreamland. Recommended for ages 1-7, 3 stars.

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

This book won the 1996 Caldecott Award, but I have been putting off reading it forever because there was so much press about it. It was actually a really cute book, and even my son liked it. Officer Buckle knows all there is to know about safety and regularly lectures about it at the local school. However, no one listens to him until he gets a new K-9 dog named Gloria who makes his lectures fun and everyone wants to see them. I especially liked the girl with the star-shaped paper. Cute story and good illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-7, 4 stars.

Adult

My Life As a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud by Kevin Clash

I found about this biography after I blogged about the Muppets yesterday and put a link to the Muppet Wikia, which listed this book. I had already seen the documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.” I absolutely loved the movie and it gave me a little more respect for Elmo, whereas before I just found him to be incredibly annoying. Kevin Clash has had a fascinating career and he is doing something that he loves doing (and it gets paid for it!). If only all of us were that lucky. In the book, he and his co-author give a short biography of himself and how he came to be working for Jim Henson and Sesame Street. By being Elmo’s puppeteer, he has learned love, joy, creativity, tolerance, courage, friendship, cooperation, learning and optimism. Some of the cool things I found out in this book include the following: Mo Willems (one of my favorite children’s author/illustrators) was a Sesame Street writer who came up with the concept of “Elmo’s World,” the mix of computer-generated and live action that brings out a child’s imagination. The Elmo’s World segment of the show was created in the late 90s to get to their new audience: two to four year olds. Originally the show’s audience was 5-8 yr olds. In the section on friendship, Kevin discusses Jim Henson, something I always find fascinating because he seems like he would be a really cool guy to work for, and apparently he was. I also found it interesting that in 2002, “Elmo and Kevin went to DC to testify in front of Congress at the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, to help prevent them from eliminating funding for school arts programs.” Kevin talked about his own experiences in music and drama in school, and how important he believes it is for children to be able to get the same opportunities he did. In the Tolerance section, he discussed the South African version of Sesame Street and how they had decided to put an AIDS-infected character on there to represent the thousands of infected Africans who had the disease. I thought that was a really cool thing they did to address issues of modern society that some people aren’t willing to deal with, but it’s okay to do it on Sesame Street because it is almost like it is in a neutral setting. Anyways, overall I really enjoyed the book and it was a nice quick read. 5 stars

Preacher, Vol 3: Proud Americans by Garth Ennis

Overall, didn’t like this one as much as the last one, but they did explain a lot more storyline in the second half of this volume. I guess the title is about Jesse being overly full of pride and an American, which is one of his downfalls. Continuing the storyline of the last volume, the Grail organization has control of Cassidy and they are slowly killing him. Jesse doesn’t want Tulip to get hurt, so he leaves her at a motel and asks to meet up in a couple weeks in NYC. He goes on to Masada alone. Starr’s mutiny plans aren’t quite working out as the Allfather decides to show up with the actual Grail (inbred offspring of Christ)and figures out that Starr is working against him. Oh yeah, and the Allfather is distantly related to the L’Angelle family, so he’s pissed that Jesse killed Aunt Marie (Jesse’s crazy grandmother). The Saint of all Killers finally catches up with Jesse and almost kills him, until they find out that Jesse knows the secret of what really happened to the Saint’s family. The only problem is he has to be able to access Genesis’s memory, which is currently locked up, according to the angel father of Genesis (who was cast out of heaven and has been imprisoned by the Grail organization). God appears to Cassidy and tells him to tell Jesse to back off and stop trying to find him. Jesse and Cassidy manage to escape and head to New York. The end of the volume we learn of Cassidy’s story, and turns out he’s not quite 100 yrs old. The funniest part was learning Cassidy’s first name. 4 stars.

Preacher, Vol 4: Ancient History by Garth Ennis

This was my least favorite volume of the Preacher series so far. It was solely about minor characters, in this case, the Saint of Killers, Arseface, and the rednecks Jody and T.C. who used to torment Jesse Custer. I will say that my favorite, though definitely the bloodiest/gun-riddled part of the story was about the Saint of Killers and how he got that title. I’m still not sure exactly what miraculous thing Jesse is going to reveal about him and his family, but we will have to wait and see. The Arseface section is where the son of Sheriff Root earns his name and appearance, and vows to hunt down and kill Jesse Custer for his role in his father’s death. You kind of feel sorry for the kid, even though he did it to himself. The Jody and T.C. section just explained how bad-ass they were, despite appearances, and how they took care of business. Overall, I give it 2 stars.

Preacher, Vol 5: Dixie Fried by Garth Ennis

This was much better than the last one as it actually involved storyline. In this volume, we see the less glamorous side of Cassidy. We see his past, where he meets up with another vampire in New Orleans, decides he’s a douche and kills him. Herr Starr goes back to San Francisco to meet up with Featherstone as the new Allfather and is pissed at Jesse for scarring his head, and vows to kill him. Tulip meets up with Jesse and Cassidy in New York and can’t decide whether she wants to stay with him or not, but a conversation with her friend Amy, helps her decide after Jesse swears that he will always trust her. Ever since Cassidy saved Tulip, he has developed feelings for her and finally tells her in NY, which she naturally gets really pissed off about (as she loves Jesse and Cassidy just swore a vow that he would stay with them till the end of this conflict). Arseface returns and eventually finds the gang (Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy) but the boys manage to convince him to stop and take him with them to New Orleans. They are going there to get a friend of Cassidy’s who can hypnotize Jesse and help him remember Genesis’s memories. Only things don’t go quite according to plan for anyone, and Cassidy’s stupidity/selfishness is partly to blame. The only major thing we find out is that God is responsible for the existence of the Saint of Killers and the death of the Devil, and that makes Jesse even more determined to find him. 5 stars.

Preacher, Vol 6: War in the Sun by Garth Ennis

This volume is like volume 3 as it is chocked full of storyline and action! It starts out with Herr Starr’s story of how he got into the Grail and worked his way up the ranks. The new Allfather enlists the help of the American military, via his connections to the President, to help kill the Saint of Killers, so he can get to Jesse Custer. Cassidy apologizes to Tulip for his behavior, then ends up hanging out with Jesse philosophizing about life. The gang (Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy) head to Monument Valley, where Jesse brings some peyote and plans on accessing Genesis this way, only things don’t go according to plan. They run into the Saint of Killers, and Jesse tells him that God is who made him what he is and the Saint swears that they’re even. Despite shooting him with a tank and about a million bullets, the Saint doesn’t die. The gang tries to escape on a plane, but the Allfather drops a nuclear bomb on the Saint (which still doesn’t kill him), and Jesse ends up falling out of the plane. Tulip goes into a horrible depression thinking Jesse is dead, but he miraculously survives and only loses his left eye. One of my favorite parts is when Jesse meets up with the guy out in the desert, Johnny Lee Wombat. After a month goes by and Jesse is healed (thanks to Johnny), they go out to drink beers and smoke in the desert. Johnny is explaining himself and his choices and says “See, you gotta remember, man…It doesn’t matter who you are, or how good you got things. Sooner or later, sh*t goes wrong for everybody. Sooner or later, there comes a time when all you want to do is shout f*** you to the world.” Jesse manages to make his way to Phoenix, where he believes Tulip is and finds her with Cassidy, and he is blown away. Can’t wait to see what happens next! 5 stars.

Preacher, Vol 8: All Hell’s A-Coming by Garth Ennis

So for whatever reason, someone decided to permanently borrow Preacher Vol 7 from the library and I’ve not been able to find it anywhere else in the area. So I had to skip it and go to Vol 8. From what I can tell, not much happens anyways, so there ya go. Tulip has had enough of Cassidy keeping her drugged and drunk, so she skedaddles outta there right quick. We finally get to see Tulip’s back story, how she was raised by her dad, met Amy and Jesse, and eventually meets up with Amy in the present. Amy informs her that Jesse isn’t dead, and that he’s coming to her house to get her help in finding Tulip. Jesse and Tulip reunite and she spills the beans on Cassidy and what he did to her. Jesse finds someone from Cassidy’s past that tells all his secrets and Jesse means to punish him for what he did. Meanwhile, Herr Starr is trying to get rid of the one person that can screw his plans up. Arseface has been disgraced and lost everything. It ends with an episode from Amy, Jesse and Tulip’s past that explains a bit more about Jesse’s cowboy tendencies. Overall, it was action-packed edition that explained a lot of storyline that was left out in the past. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Preacher, Vol 9: Alamo by Garth Ennis

I enjoyed this volume, but the ending was a bit disappointing. Jesse teamed up with the Saint of Killers to give God his comeuppances for the havoc he’s caused. He plans to have his final showdown at the Alamo, which is rather fitting given that he is a Texan, with Cassidy. Herr Starr finds out his plans and plans an attack of his own. Arseface finds Salvation, Texas (where Jesse was in Vol 7) and meets the girl of his dreams there, and decides to settle down. Jesse tries to save Tulip again by drugging her, but she wakes up in time and reeks mayhem on Herr Starr and his men. Cassidy and Jesse beat the crap out of each other, and then they both pay for their crimes. Or do they? Can’t give away more because you’ll want to read it. 4 stars.

Anti-Inflammation Diet for Dummies by Artemis Morris

I picked up this book because I have joint issues and thought that this diet would help, as it is supposed to help those that suffer from asthma, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes due to inflammation. It very plainly outlines anti-inflammatory nutrition, how certain foods can be toxic for your body and cause allergies/sensitivities, and some really great recipes to use on the Anti-Inflammation diet. Anyways, they break down their food requirements like this: heavily dependent on fresh organic fruits and veggies, beans/nuts/seeds make up 3-4 servings per day, at least 3 servings of omega-3 rich seafood per week, only 1 dairy serving per day, 3-4 servings of whole grains per day, 2-4 servings of lean meat per week, anti-inflammatory herbs and spices to be used at least once per day, and anti-inflammatory oils (olive, sesame, sunflower or coconut) 2-4 Tbsp per day. So basically I need to cut out red meat and eat more whole grains, legumes, seafood, healthy oils and spices. Also stop eating so much professed food, white sugar/flour, and drink more water. While I may not be able to get my husband on the anti-inflammation bandwagon, I will try to be healthier and hopefully that’ll help with some of my issues. 4 stars.

The Inflammation Syndrome: Your Nutrition Plan for Great Health, Weight Loss, and Pain-Free Living by Jack Challem

A bit too technical/doctor-speak for my liking, this book was pretty much a much more in-depth look at what I previously read in “Anti-Inflammation Diet for Dummies.” Mr. Challem’s diet varies slightly from the Dummies version in that it follows more of the Paleolithic caveman diet that has become so popular lately. I get that organic is healthier for you, but it is also more expensive and with the cost of grocery products rising every day, it is sometimes hard to justify the cost. Also as much as I like fruit and veg, I don’t see myself getting 5-10 servings per day. Other than a couple good recipes, the only other good thing I got out of this was the section on fish oils improve mood, which detailed how “omega-3 fish oil supplements were helpful in treating depression, reducing impulsive behavior and hostility, and those that take it are less likely to develop cognitive problems and Alzheimer’s disease.” 2 stars.

Vegetarian Indian Food & Cooking: Explore the Very Best of Indian Vegetarian Cuisine with 150 Dishes from Around the Country, Shown Step by Step in more than 950 photographs by Mridula Baljekar

I found this one browsing the new cookbook section at the library. I have been looking for more vegetarian recipes since I started looking at starting the anti-inflammation diet, which expects you to eat 5-9 servings of veggies a day. I love Indian food, so I figured it was a good place to look. It is a well-done cookbook with a whole introduction section on every province of India and the type of food they cook before getting to the actual recipes, which all had gorgeous photos with every recipe. My biggest issue with the book was that most of the recipes were fried (shallow fried vs deep fried, but still), which I am trying to avoid. Aside from that, it had some really yummy-looking food, like Plantain Curry, Chickpeas in a spice-laced yogurt sauce, Masala Dosai (rice pancakes filled with spiced potato mixture) from South India, not to mention Wheat-flour flat bread with spiced greens, Cardamom-and rose-scented mango drink, and Soft mango fudge. 4 stars.

Vegetarian Entrees That Won’t Leave You Hungry: Nourishing, Flavorful Main Courses That Fill the Center of the Plate by Lukas Volger

I picked this up at the library this past weekend as I’m trying to eat more veggies/fruit, but have run out of ideas of what to do. This book caught my attention as it is frequently the problem I and my husband have with vegetarian food, i.e. it fills you up but you’re hungry afterwards. While I’m not a fan of squash, which the author is fond of in the book, overall I thought it was a great cookbook that definitely expanded the world of vegetarian cooking outside of pasta and pizza (though those are in there too). I found the vegetarian Kimchi to be intriguing, as well as dishes like Bulgur Salad with Kale and Feta, Pumpkin Risotto with Spinach and Chestnuts, and Soba Noodles in a Mushroom-Ginger Broth. He also had five marinades for tofu, which is excellent for me because I am no expert on it either but it is full of calcium and protein and a non-meat source, which I’ve been trying to eat more of. Plus I get bored with my traditional tofu marinade, i.e. soy sauce, seasoned rice vinegar and chili-garlic sauce. I wouldn’t mind owning that book. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Five-A-Day Cookbook: 200 Vegetable & Fruit Recipes by Kate Whiteman, Maggie Mayhew, and Christine Ingram

I’ve been looking for more veggie-themed recipes lately and thought this book would help, so I picked it up at the library yesterday while I was browsing. I definitely marked more desserts than entrees, but found a few good recipes like Spinach in Filo with Three Cheeses and Gnocchi with Oyster Mushrooms. I think the only reason I would give it three instead of two stars was because of the fruit and veg dictionary parts at the beginning of each section, as they were very thorough and I discovered some things I’ve never heard of or seen before. 3 stars.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer

I had no idea that this place or the cookbook existed until I saw it mentioned a couple times on one of my favorite food blogs, Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. Now I don’t have an ice cream maker, but this cookbook definitely makes me want to buy one right away. Jeni has such amazing and intriguing flavor combinations that I would’ve never thought to put together, like Sugar-Plumped Cherries and Earl Grey tea, Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Cherries, Gorgonzola Dolce with Candied Walnuts, or Cucumber, Honeydew and Cayenne. I definitely would also want to try the Tuscan Sundae, which involves whipped cream, Salty Caramel Ice Cream, Honey/Vin Santo (a sweet Italian dessert wine) Sauce, and topped with a real cherry and Biscotti on the side. Yum, ’nuff said. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth and Other Useful Guides by Matthew Inman

I had looked at a few of “The Oatmeal” comics online via some of my friends, and thought they were pretty funny, so when I found this at the library the other day, I checked it out. I will say that most of the comics were definitely geared towards guys, and would probably be more funny to them. However, I did enjoy the grammar and other food-related guides, even if you learned totally useless facts, which I happen to enjoy. Like I learned that if you’re lactose intolerant (which I think I am), you can have cheddar and other aged cheeses because it doesn’t really contain that much lactose. I loved the section on Nikola Tesla, which just made me want to read a biography about him. 4 stars.

The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey by Janna Gur

I liked that new Israeli food is much more diverse than people think of as traditional Jewish food. There are so many different cultures and languages spoken in the country that the food can’t help but be changed by that. Israeli food has influences from Morocco, Yemen, Ethiopia, Russia, Poland, Spain, Austria, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Iraq. The cookbook recipes reflect these countries with dishes such as Shakshuka (traditional Israeli breakfast with eggs, tomatoes and hot sauce) with Spinach and Feta, Chreime-North African Hot Fish Stew, and Chicken Albondigas in Tomato Sauce (Sephardic chicken dumplings). I am very much looking forward to cooking items from this cookbook. 4 stars.

Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes by Joy Wilson

I’m pretty sure I’ve been on her blog before, to check out a recipe or two, but never really looked at it. This cookbook was awesome, full of not only amazing recipes like Chocolate Malted Buttercream Frosting and Oatmeal Raspberry Ginger Scones, but also it had a really personal funny family touch as well. I enjoy it when bloggers/cookbook writers tell you about family history and anecdotes and not just make it all about the food. It gives their story personality and makes you want to come back and read it again. This is one of those books. Can’t wait to try out the recipes! 5 stars.

Crocheting and Book Reviews

So I finally have some yarn so I can start on a new craft project, which is just in time for my Crafty Book Club meeting this Thursday. I’m making a scarf or a hat, just haven’t decided which pattern I’m gonna use yet. There are a few to choose from, like this wavy scarf, this basket-stitch one, or this hat. The yarn is a really nice dark teal color and I’m thinking about maybe sending it to a friend of mine, if it’s not totally screwed up at the end of it. My last scarf was pretty uneven because I hadn’t done any crocheting in over a year, and that one was finished something like 6 months ago. Thankfully, a lot of the women at the Book Club crochet so I could probably ask if I have any questions. I’ve been on a roll reading, due to trying to finish up the baby’s summer reading and being really bored because of my lack of employment. But good news on that front, I have an interview next week, so fingers crossed that I get it!

I am currently reading a volume of Steampunk short-stories, but I know that will get put on the sidelines when I can get to the library to get Cassandra Clare’s newest YA book City of Lost Souls. On to the book reviews. As usual, I rate everything from 1-5 stars, one being the lowest and 5 the highest.

Children

 The Monster Returns by Peter McCarty

I enjoyed this sequel to Jeremy Draws a Monster better than the original. Jeremy gets a call from his monster, the one he sent away in the first book, saying that he’s bored and he’s coming back home. So Jeremy calls up the kids on the street and gives them magic pens to draw their own monster with, so the monster has some friends to play with. Jeremy also gains some friends. Love the illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-7, 4 stars.

Hey Rabbit! by Sergio Ruzzier

This was another summer reading selection for my son, though he couldn’t really focus on this one because it was a half-wordless book. Rabbit has a magic suitcase that gives his friends Dog, Toucan, Bear, Cat, Mouse, and Crab whatever they are asking for, but Rabbit wonders if it has enough for him too. It does, it is full of his friends and a giant radish for Rabbit. The repetitiveness got boring after the second time, but I liked the imagination of the book. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

Happy Hector: A Tilly and Friends Book by Polly Dunbar

This is another book I got for my son’s summer reading program, which he enjoyed as did I. It is a cute and simple book about Hector the pig, who is perfectly happy sitting on his friend Tilly’s lap. That is, until all the other animals that live in Tilly’s house all decide that they want to do the same thing. Hector is now upset because he didn’t want to play with the other animals, he just wanted Tilly, so she paints a picture of Hector. He loves it and then gets to sit in Tilly’s lap again, which makes him even more happy than before. Loved the illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-5, 5 stars.

Remembering Crystal by Sebastian Loth

I originally picked this up for my son because of the adorable illustrations, but he couldn’t pay attention. So I read it. It is a neat and sympathetic way to prevent death to a child. Zelda the goose is friends with Crystal the Turtle. Zelda is very young, while Crystal is much older. One day, Crystal is not there anymore and Zelda searches everywhere for her, but cannot find her. She has passed away, but Zelda remembers all the great things that Crystal taught her and all the fun they had together. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Clarence and the Great Surprise by Jean Ekman Adams

Clarence the pig and his friend Smoky the purple horse are going on a trip together to see a great surprise. On the way they meet an old dog who doesn’t hear very well but can dance and has a tiny hat. Clarence experiences all kinds of new things for a city pig, but none of them is the surprise Smoky has planned for him. Until they reach the Grand Canyon and both Clarence and Smoky are blown away by the grandness (no pun intended) of it. I liked that it was a Smithsonian Notable Book, and the author lives near Phoenix. The illustrations were bright and colorful, which kept the attention of my 11 month old even though the story was a little long. I got this for his summer reading. Recommended for kids age 1-7, 4 stars.

Gideon and Otto by Olivier Dunrea

Absolutely adorable story about a russet colored goose named Gideon and his stuffed octopus, Otto. One day Gideon goes off to play with some bunnies and leaves Otto on a stump. When Mama Goose calls for Gideon to come home, he goes to find Otto, but he is not there. He looks everywhere for him and eventually find him on the back of a turtle. Gideon and Otto are together again. I picked this one up for my son’s summer reading and he loved it. Recommended for ages 1-4, 3 stars.

Ollie the Stomper by Olivier Dunrea

This was the last book I read to my son for summer reading (yay he’s finished 20 books!). Ollie the gosling wants to go stomping with Gossie and Gertie, who have boots to do this with. So they each give him one boot and they got stomping together, until he gets bored with it and they decide to go swimming instead. My son enjoyed the story and illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-4, 3 stars.

Doodle Bites: A Tilly and Friends Book by Polly Dunbar

This book had a cute story, though not as good as the “Happy Hector” book I previously read. Doodle is a alligator who just feels like she needs to nibble, crunch, and bite things. All is well until she decides to bite Tumpty the elephant’s behind, and then in his anger, he steps on her tail. Tilly and Pru the chicken sort everything out and everyone apologizes and is happy again. Love the illustrations. Recommended for ages 1-5, 3 stars.

Little Quack’s New Friend by Lauren Thompson

I picked this up at the library after I bought “Little Quack’s Hide & Seek” and my son really liked it. This book is about Little Ribbit, Little Quack’s new frog friend. At first, Little Quack’s siblings don’t like him because he is green, little, a frog and doesn’t quack. But as the day wears on, they realize that it is okay for him to be different, when they have one thing in common – they all like to play. My son loved the illustrations and “sound effects” in the book. Recommended for ages 1-5, 4 stars.

The Loud Book by Deborah Underwood

I’ve been waiting forever to read this book, after I fell in love with “The Quiet Book”. The Loud Book is just as great with it’s different kinds of loud, from Deafening Silence Loud to Fireworks Loud. I love the illustrations as well. My son enjoyed the book, especially when I made sound effects for him. Recommended for ages 1-5, 5 stars.

Time to Eat by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

I picked this up for my son as I thought it might be a simpler nonfiction Steve Jenkins book that he could listen to now. I had previously gotten the book “Actual Size” but it’s a bit too advanced for him. Sadly, there is still a lot of text in it, and I would say he would need to wait about 4 yrs before he could really enjoy it and have the attention span to sit down and read it. It is a cute book with Jenkins’ trademark cut-paper illustrations, which I love so much. It tells little stories about each animal/bird/insect and what they eat. The book also has a more detailed description in the back of the book of each creature. Great book for boys ages 5-9, 3 stars.

Time to Sleep by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Another book I picked up for my son that was a little too advanced for him at the moment. Again love the illustrations and the facts and descriptions about the animals/amphibians/birds/fish are better I think than “Time to Eat”. For example, giraffes sleep less than two hours and a group of giraffes is called a corps or tower. The wood frog hibernates by freezing solid and thawing in the spring. Or that bottlenose dolphins “keep one half of their brain awake and one half asleep. The awake half tells the dolphin when to go up to breath, and the two halves take turns sleeping.” I like fun factual information like that. Recommended for ages 5-9, 4 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

All the World by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon

This book won a 2010 Caldecott Honor, and deservedly so as it is a well-done and beautiful book. While my son wasn’t that interested in the poem or the illustrations, I loved them, especially the soft gorgeous colored pencil and watercolor designs. The poem is about how all the world is in all of us and everywhere. As another reviewer has put it, I liked how the setup for the next group of images was in the 2 page spreads. My two favorite images was the one of the giant tree overlooking the Spanish Colonial-style building with the kids climbing in it, and the last double page spread with the words “Hope and peace and love and trust” under a lightning and gradually darkening sky. It is hard to beat a Jerry Pinkney book for the Caldecott Medal, but this book comes a very close second. Recommended for ages 1-7, 5 stars.

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

I picked this up because it was a 2011 Caldecott honor book and it’s been on my to-read list for a while, plus a lot of people have been raving about it. It is a very cute and funny story about a father chicken trying to read bedtime stories to his “interrupting chicken” daughter, who can’t help but give her opinion in the fairy and folk tales he reads her. In the end, it is Papa Chicken who falls asleep and not his daughter. This book cracked me up because my son totally does this, although he interrupts by dropping his bottle repeatedly while I’m trying to read him stories. Highly recommended for ages 1-7. 5 stars

Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

I picked this one up because it won a Caldecott Honor in 2004, but I think the selection must’ve been slim that year for it to have won. The whole story is about a girl wearing a kooky collection of clothes because she and her friends are getting together for a dress-up tea time. Other than the brightly colored illustrations and the tea time at the end, this book didn’t have much going for it. Recommended for kids aged 1-5, 2 stars.

Children and Young Adult

A Hero for Wondla (Wondla, #2) by Tony DiTerlizzi

I loved the last book, “The Search for Wondla” and honestly thought he couldn’t do any better. The author proved me wrong by creating an even more spectacular book in which I saw the main character, Eva Nine, grow in ways I didn’t think possible. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!

This book starts off where the last left off. Eva Nine and Rovender (Rovee for short) are going with Hailey to New Attica, the current home of humans on Orbona/Earth. She is excited at the prospect of meeting others like her. Once Eva Nine enters the city, she is greeting enthusiastically by Cadmus Pryde, who founded New Attica and is the reason for her creation (babies raised by robots in separate facilities called Sanctuaries). At first things seem great, she meets some girls her age and they show her around the town. But as the day wears on, she starts to feel uneasy. The humans seem in the dark about everything outside of the city, thinking they are the only inhabitants. Eva Nine meets another “reboot” named Eva Eight and finds out they are from the same Sanctuary. Eight tries to escape with Eva Nine, but they get caught by Cadmus’s henchmen. It is during her captivity that she finds out the truth behind what Cadmus has been doing and manages to rescue some friends, new and old. Hailey, Rovee, Eva Eight and Nine and some others manage to escape back into the Wandering Forest. Will they find the Vitae Virus generator before Cadmus? Will Rovee ever be united with his clan? To find this and what really lurks at the Heart of the Wandering Forest, read this fantastic book. I know this review may not do this book justice, but it is a great read and has fabulous illustrations. Recommended for ages 10 and up, 5 stars.

Adult

Timeless (The Parasol Protectorate #5) by Gail Carriger

I would just like to say that I am very sad that this is the last book of the Parasol Protectorate series. Alexia, Lord Akeldama, Biffy and Professor Lyall are so fantastically done in this book. The story is that it is about 2 years since the end of “Heartless,” and a lot of things have happened. Felicity was exiled to Europe, Biffy has settled into being a werewolf and taken over Madame Lefoux’s hat shop, and Alexia and Conall are living in Lord Akeldama’s second closet secretly raising their metanatural daughter Prudence and discovering all her powers and their restraints. Life seems relatively normal, by Alexia’s standards anyways, when suddenly the Beta of the Scottish pack has disappeared in Egypt and then been mysteriously killed. Then Alexia and Prudence are summoned to the local vampire queen’s hive to get a summons from the most ancient of all vampires, the Alexandrian Queen. As the Maccons are patrons to Ivy & Tunstell’s acting company, they use them as a cover to go to Egypt to meet the Queen. Madame Lefoux, who has been indentured to London’s local queen vampire goes on the trip, but Alexia is never quite sure where her allegiances lie. They discover that Egypt has an outbreak of the God-Breaker Plague, which makes supernaturals mortal. Meanwhile trouble is brewing at home between Lady Kingair of the Scottish pack, Professor Lyall and Biffy. What will they find out about the plague and who has started it? What secrets will be revealed? Will everyone survive? To find out, read this great final book to the Parasol Protectorate series!

I will say that overall I really enjoyed the book, although the ending was a bit disappointing. The relationship between Biffy and Lyall was a surprise, but I was glad that they both finally found someone. I’m very excited at the prospect of the series continuing sort of, with a grown up version of Prudence in “The Parasol Protectorate Abroad” series. 4 stars.

Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals, and Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents by Debbie Koenig

I’ve been waiting forever to get a copy of this from the library and it was finally available a few days ago. I really enjoyed the recipes, but I will say that I would not be cooking them with a baby strapped to me. I guess that would work if your baby wasn’t over 8 pounds at birth. Aside from that, I thought the recipes, especially the slow-cooker and big batch ones looked particularly good. If I ever decide to have another child, the galactagogue recipes are definitely the ones to use (foods that help you produce breast milk, like oatmeal, barley, fennel, buckwheat and almonds). I liked the author because she was 40 when she got pregnant and I could relate to her stories, especially the ones about breastfeeding. Some of the recipes I enjoyed included Balsamic Beef Stew, Korean Beef Stew, Sfiha (Middle Eastern Meat Pies), Amy’s Slow-Cooker Thai Brisket, Little Gram’s Sauce (which is apparently the best pasta sauce ever), and A Greekish Orzo-Tomato Salad. 5 stars.

Vintage Tea Party by Carolyn Caldicott

I picked this up because I love tea services and I figured there might be some cool recipes in here. Most of them were pretty typical, and the advice was pretty common sense (like mixing and matching tea cups and servers, what other equipment to get etc). I did like the history of the tea service and how tea came to England and became a popular drink. They also explained the kinds of tea times, and I had no idea there were tea + alcoholic drinks. 2 1/2 stars.

Lethal Legacy (Alexandra Cooper #11) by Linda Fairstein

I was very impressed by this book, especially as I had never read anything by the author before. She was very thorough on researching the New York Public Library and getting all her facts straight, and showing her love for librarians. All this is mentioned in her acknowledgement section in the back of the book. She is obviously a great supporter of librarians and libraries. So she gets kudos for that.

The story is about Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cooper and this is Ms. Fairstein’s 11th book featuring her (thankfully this is a stand-alone story, so you don’t have to have read the previous 10). Ms. Cooper is a part of the Sex Crimes Unit (as was the author in real life), and she is called to investigate Tina Barr, a woman that was attacked and left naked, though nothing seemed to have been taken and the woman wasn’t hurt, just knocked out with chloroform. She is taken to the hospital but decides not to give a statement and instead just runs away, and isn’t until the following week, when a dead woman is found in Tina’s apartment that the police begin to suspect something is going on. Tina is a conservator who used to work at New York Public Library, but is now a freelancer working for some of the Library Board’s trustees. Well she was until she also mysteriously shows up dead in Bryant Park, and the police and Alex are now trying to solve just what she was involved in. All they know is it centers around some rare books and an even rarer map from 1507. Will they figure out who was behind the killings? Will they find the map? To find out read this most excellent mystery. 5 stars.

The Cake Mix Doctor Returns! by Anne Byrn

I had heard of the Cake Doctor from a friend of mine, who swears by her cake recipes. So I decided to give her newer basic cookbook a try. I will say that she does know what she is doing as most of the recipes seem relatively simple and fun to make. I like that she doesn’t just do layer cakes, but also poundcakes, bundt cakes, brownies, bars, cookies, cupcakes, and frosting. I’ve been looking for a cake to do at my son’s birthday party and I think I may have found it in the Lemonade Chiffon Layer Cake with Raspberry Filling, though I am considering switching the filling to a blueberry one as the theme is Rubber Duckies (blue and yellow). Either way, I’m sure it will be delicious. It is a little annoying that the only color pictures are in an index in the front, instead of with the recipes themselves. I like that she includes lots of tips and tricks to help the reader. I’ve never made a layer cake, so any tips I can get are helpful. I am hoping to make Easy Coconut Refrigerator Cake for my grandfather as it is his favorite, but would also like to try the Kentucky Blackberry Jam Cake, Apple Butter Spice Cake, Caramel Tres Leches Cake, Music to my Mouth Brownies (with Symphony Chocolate Bars inside), and many more. 5 stars.

Preacher, Vol. 1: Gone to Texas by Garth Ennis

Do not read this if you offended by bad language, graphic violence or are a conservative/fundamentalist Christian! That being said, I enjoyed the hell out of this first volume (the first seven comics) in the Preacher series. I was recommended to read this by an old friend of mine and I’ve been unable to find it in a library until now. This is the basic gyst of the story. An angel and a demon fell in love and had a kid named Genesis that God didn’t know what to do with, so he threw his hands up and left Heaven. Genesis wants a soul and escapes to earth, where he goes into Rev Jesse Custer and accidently annihilates a whole congregation of people at church on Sunday. The angels realize that Genesis has escaped and call this ruthless dead guy called the Saint of Killers to go after Genesis and kill him. This starts Jesse’s bad luck, he realizes the true story behind Genesis and orders an angel down to explain things properly (side power that Jesse gets is the Word of God that can basically order people around and do what he wants). So Jesse decides to start a quest to find God. He is traveling with his trained hitman ex-girlfriend Tulip and an insanely old Irish vampire named Cassidy. Oh and Jesse has been advised (and still advised to this day) by John Wayne as a cowboy. To find out what goes on with the rest of their adventures together, you gotta read this volume. 5 stars.

Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 1 by Gail Carriger

First off, I would like to say that this is a manga in the sense of the type of illustrations and the newspaper it is printed on. However, it does not read like one (aka back to front, nor directionally). Aside from that, I really loved this adaption of Soulless, the first book of The Parasol Protectorate series. Alexia was just like I thought of her, though I would’ve put more meat on her bones. The front cover pictures on the books themselves make her out to be too thin, whereas the author describes her as more plus-size curvy. Conall was pretty much as I would’ve pictured him, handsome and dashing, though I would’ve put him a little bit older-looking than Alexia’s 26 years. Now for whatever reason, I’m guessing because it is classed as a manga, they filed this in the teen section, but I’ve always thought the series was just a little bit too adult, especially the first book (my personal preference). This is just the next step into making them into movies. 5 stars.

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