Friday, December 23, 2011

A look back at 2011

Well I met my goal of 100 books with 101 listed in my journal. I read more than that but didn't count some of the shorter works. I am in love with my Nook and I think it has opened new doors to me, as well as joining the NetGalley family.
I got an email from one of the reading sites I have subscribed to (this one I didn't even know I was a member of). They asked everyone to list their top ten books of 2011. That sounded like fun. I have read some amazing books this year and looking over my journal, I remembered what I loved about them.
So, in order that I read them, here are my top ten picks of the books I have read in 2011.

Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft
20th Century Ghosts
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling
I Am Number Four
America I Am: Pass It Down Cookbook
How David Met Sarah
Bearded Women Stories
The Girl Who Owned a City

It was a tough list to make since there were so many great books this year. These 10 still make me want to recommend them. In fact, I submitted Bearded Women Stories as a possible all university freshman read. To me, it's an amazing study of humanity and how we are all struggling with being different.
How David Met Sarah practically haunts me - it's such a great book. There has never been another like it and I can't wait to find more.
I like that the list is all over the place - fiction, nonfiction, adult, juvenile. It just goes to show how eclectic my reading is (there are even 2 graphic novels). There are a multiple of reasons why these 10 are my favorites and I recommend that you read them. They may not make it on a bestseller's list but I think they are worth your time.
Happy Holidays and see you in the new year.

Little Black Dress by Alison Marie Behnke

To look at me, one would believe I have no interest in fashion. I would normally agree but there is something about clothing from another time that just captivates me. I drooled and dreamed my way through the 60 some pages of Little Black Dress.
If I had to guess, I would say this is juvenile non-fiction based on the length of this book but Alison Marie Behnke does not dumb down this information. I was a little disappointed to find there was no pronunciation guide at the end. So many designers and people of influence had really hard names.
The book is an easy to read book but there is a ton of information about fashion, politics and history. It’s a great introduction into fashion of the 1930s through 1950s. I’m still reeling. Right after I finished the book, I started checking out the recommended websites. I love looking at Elsa Shiaparelli’s designs at the Philadelphia Museum. I have to say it makes me want to design clothing and, to me, that’s the mark of a great piece of non-fiction – the desire to learn more or to experiment on your own.
This book inspired me but it also taught me. There were so many influences in fashion during those eras that I had never thought about. There was The Great Depression, World War II and television. For the first time, television was a major influence on how people dressed. Movies had often inspired high fashion but television shows offered a more every day fashion with shows like I Love Lucy and The Donna Reed Show.
With World War II, America was able to step up in fashion design. New York was able to compete with Europe which was still recovering from the war. World War II influenced a lot of fashion. Americans were introduced to Hawaiian shirts and capris. Because of the fabric shortage of that time, clothing got shorter and opened the door to smaller bathing suits and eventually the Bikini.
Fashion may not be your thing but this book is so much more than clothing. It’s history and how fashion played a part. Every culture is identified by its clothing. History is no exception. Take the time to pick up this book and you’ll be amazed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I Before E by Susan Randol

When I picked up this book, I thought it was a grammar book but it’s a book on mnemonics. The book is broken into subjects from Science to Language Arts to History and offers easy ways to remember facts. The book is written for school aged children but would prove useful for any age group.
Some of the mnemonics are ones I remember and others are not. The author offers opportunities to create your own based on the information you need to remember. For those who might pass over a book like this, I would like to share that there are still mnemonics that I use to this day. Some I can’t help but to remember as I access that particular fact. For example, I find myself singing H-A-double L- O W- double E – N spells Halloween every October without fail even though I haven’t actually heard the song since second grade.
Who can forget ROY G BIV or Mary Visits Every Monday and Just Stays Until Noon Period (that’s not in the book but there are similar ones for remembering the order of the planets). Mnemonics are a great teaching tool and this is a wonderful resource for those who want to find an easy way to remember facts.
The book even offers mnemonics for remembering how to spell tricky words. I know there are a few I struggle with that will become easier due to this book.
Subjects in this book: Calendar, Astronomy, Geography, Language Arts, History, Math and Music.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Maya & Filippo Play Chef at Sea by Alinka Rutkowska

I just am not sure how I feel about this book. The language is funny and makes me suspect the author is not a native English speaker. I searched the author only to find there is no real information about her. Every thing is about her decision to travel and write but nothing about where she originated. The language on her blog only seconds my suspicion that she is not a native English speaker. Had she mentioned that, I think I would have enjoyed the book more.
The great thing about this book is that the drawings are simple and open inviting the reader to color. I am big on coloring.
However, the story was a bit odd as if the author is not really familiar with child behavior. The characters, Maya and Filippo live on a ship and this particular day they are joining other children in the kitchen to make cakes. They are left to make whatever they like. One boy is not sure he wants to make a cake. With one sentence, Maya is able to convince the boy to make a cake and then at the end he doesn't like it. The other weird part had to do with Maya and Filippo fighting over an orange. It just didn't work for me.
This is the second book in the series but to be honest - I wouldn't pay $10 for either. I think there is a good idea here but the author needs to work on the story more than the concept.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Infestation: Outbreak by Chris Ryall

One thing I want to get out right away – I prefer graphic novels to single issues. This was a single issue but a complete one. The galley description had this as a first issue, in a way it is. This is the first issue of a new plot line for an existing series.
The story and the characters were not difficult to connect with but I kept feeling like I was missing something. It does make me want to go back and find the start of this series and hope I can find it in novel form.
The story is interesting – CVO is an organization that defends the world against supernatural enemies such as vampires and zombies. The story contained demons and ended with an alien invasion. I couldn’t help but feel like there was a little BPRD rip-off especially since their demon advisor was bright red with horns that came out of his forehead.
Infestation is well drawn and easy to follow which makes the story so much better when starting in the middle. I had no difficulty determining which character was which.
I was impressed that this series is done by the same publisher that does Joe Hill’s Locke and Key. I love that series and it made me feel connected to this series. Who knows where it’s going to go but if they make an Infestation movie – I’ll be there.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Aliens: Fast Track to Heaven by Liam Sharp

What a privilege to read a graphic novel before it’s published. In this case, the work is a novella – shorter than the average graphic novel. I didn’t think they could get shorter, to be honest. It was far too brief for my taste but a nice treat anyway.
Aliens was drawn wonderfully. The monster remained true to the movies. I wasn’t so keen on the multicolor panes for the characters. I prefer clean drawings but this one was filled with green, red and blue squares making it difficult for me to connect with the characters. I had difficulty determining the characters in the beginning. I know that in the horror genre, getting to know the characters can often play second to the monster.
The world was different than the worlds of Ripley in the movies and I didn’t quite connect to it. I can only hope that this was just a sample of what they are going to do with the Aliens franchise. I want to know more about this future and its intricate parts. I didn’t see a character that stood out like Ripley and it would be nice to have someone to connect with while the Aliens are wreaking havoc.
I’d read more, if offered. I may even look out for more Liam Sharp. Because this was an e-copy instead of a print copy, I did have difficulty reading some of the print but I hope that isn’t true in the print copy.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Do You See What I See? by James Sallie

I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It was entertaining but I don't think it's worth the price. According to amazon you can get this for Kindle for $9.99 and in hardback for $70. It not worth $70 and I'm not sure it's worth $10.
It's interesting and I do recommend picking up a copy from the library but it lacks that something that would get me to come back to it time and time again. The humor is very juvenile, which is okay and some of the pictures are clever but it's not the sort that really catches your eye.
In places, I found the book confusing and rather frustrating. I believe that James Sallie has some great talent but many pictures just looked thrown together. I have set this aside for my husband and son to look at and I will share their opinion which may differ from mine.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The 5 Minute Snack Diet by Benjamin Swartzman

I'm just not sure where to begin with this book. I was excited to get to review a diet book and this one sounded like a great one. However, pages into this work red flags began to pop up for me. This is one scary book and I hope people are not so caught up that they don't notice. The first thing that caught my eye was the author mentioned studies but didn't cite a single one. For me, that's important. It says several things - one the author is honest enough to share the data's source, two the studies are real and three the author has enough education to know how to write a real paper (even grade school kids learn to cite their information).
I started wondering what the author had to hide and I wanted to know who this man was that wrote the book. The book does not come with an author biography. I checked his website - none there, not even so much as a mention of anything personal about the author. I went to Smashwords where I got the book - nothing there either. This is where I begin to have problems with self published books. There is a reason why it's difficult to get a nonfiction book published - you have to have some expertise. When it comes to dieting, you really need someone who has some medical or nutritional background. I'm not saying that the author has to be a registered dietitian but have working knowledge of health.
With that aside, this is a terrible book and had it not been for the fact that I feel like I need to warn the world away from this book I would have totally skipped reviewing it. It's poorly written. The information is confusing and contridictory. The description of the book claims that the reader will learn to cook their meals in five minutes but the book lacks standard recipes. There is some cooking information but it's poorly designed and a small part of the book. The language is off putting. I don't care why someone diets but having the author tell me every few pages that this diet will make me "hot" makes me want to buy him a thesaurus. There is probably some good information in this book but I can't tell you where. It's not worth anyone's time to find out.
If you want a good diet book - there are tons out there or better yet join a group that will support you while you work towards becoming more healthy. Maybe it's my age but I found the idea of being "hot" to be less important than trying to be healthy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bearded Women Stories by Teresa Milbrodt

I'm not even sure how to categorize this book. It's beautiful and touching with just a touch of sarcasm and wit. This collection of short stories has to be the best I have ever read.
The description from NetGalley is this: Welcome to the contemporary Freak Show. A woman trying to have a child has a parasitic twin, an extra lower torso, and set of legs named Bianca—should she have "Bianca's Body" removed to improve her chances at conception? A bearded lady considers coming out of the closet about her hirsute nature, while carrying on a battle of wills with an overeating patron in "Mr. Chicken." A woman with four ears gets a chance to make extra money as the mascot of a tattoo parlour, and encounters a middle-aged, cookie-baking stalker who believes she is a sign that the end of the world is nigh. Meet the "freaks"—they're mothers, wives, and lovers: all of them trying negotiate a world that is quicker to stare than sympathize.
I figured it was up my alley. What I didn't expect was something so visceral and emotional. This is not a freak show but an expose of what it's like to live as someone who is different. The first story Bianca's Body was more than a tale about a woman with a parasitic twin. This nameless woman struggles with jealousy over that part of her body that seems to be more receptive to her husband, the pain of not being able to maintain a pregnancy and the identity of who she really is. It's the perfect introduction to Teresa Milbrodt's world.
The writing is a little odd which only adds to the work. Many of the characters are unnamed and the stories a brief snapshot of their lives. Some left me wondering and others felt complete. This is one I am glad to review and such a gem that will sadly be overlooked by those who would appreciate it most.

Martha Stewart's Handmade Holiday Crafts

Martha Stewart never fails to please with her craft books. There is always something for everyone in each of her collections. I enjoyed looking through the crafts and have a few slated to be completed over the next month.
There were many things I loved about this book - it had a variety from easy to do with the kids to something elegant and showstopping. She hit all the major holidays and gives us projects for the whole year.
What I didn't like was how quick some of the instructions were. Some of the projects I would have liked more detail and more pictures. I was able to find more instructions on her website but not much. I like her projects but it's a little frustrating going in blind. I know that I will most likely figure out the project on my own but it makes me less likely to do more projects.
I love her eye for crafts and really like the ideas she offers. This is definitely one worth checking out.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Food52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser

Little did I know when I picked this book up that I was going to be completely swept away. First Food52 is a website created by the authors to support home cooking. I could spend a day there just looking over their dinner and a movie section.
The cookbook represents a year's worth of recipes that the authors gathered from their website. These are not just any recipes but the winners of a variety of contests they hold.
The recipes are real world recipes - sophisticated and yet homey. I can imagine my family eating these foods at the dinner table. I pictured my son enjoying buttery cookies and exotic soups and loving them.
I can't even begin to pick out a favorite and I'm sure my days will be consumed with fitting these recipes into our menus.
I liked that the recipes stretched beyond my comfort level but not so much that I was intimidated. The cookbook its self is open and honest like sitting down with friends to talk food.
The recipes are adult but can easily be served to children (minus the numerous inventive cocktails). I like that there are whole foods in these recipes and they are not too complicated. This is definetely one that is going on my shelf at home.

The 25 Greatest Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur

I remember my first Top Secret Recipes experience. A friend had loaned me her copy of this cookbook which had a recipe for something we had been talking about (I believe it was a candy). I can't remember what the recipe was because a few pages in and I was in love. Todd Wilbur has become famous for breaking down popular processed foods so that the average cook can make them in their kitchen. After many books, Todd is coming out with a greatest hits (a first in cookbook history).
This book is only available in e-book and is designed to help smooth the way for those who love e-books. This is the first Top Secret Recipes book to go digital.
If you are not familiar with Top Secret Recipes, recommend this book as a great introduction. If you are already a fan, this is a condensed version with his most popular recipes.
The recipes range from popular sweets like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Oreos to restaurant standards like McDonald's Big Mac and Outback Steakhouse's Bloomin' Onion. Each recipe comes with a short introduction to the company and the dish.

Real Cidermaking on a Small Scale by Michael Pooley

I make up my own version of cider and have for years but I really want to learn how to use a ciderpress. When the opportunity to review this book came up, I jumped at it and hoped I could make use of the information while I still have access to apples.
This is a well written book on making cider. It defines apple qualities, press options and finishes with fermenting choices and recipes for using the cider.
The only complaint I have is that the author is from England and the apple selection is available in the UK and not the United States. That won't stop me from using the press information, it just means more experimenting with the apple choices I have (which here is Washington is vast).
There are plenty of instructions for making a ciderpress but I may cheat and purchase one. Regardless of where the press comes, I still can't wait to play with the recipes at the back of the book - fish baked in cider, yummy!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dark Eden by Patrick Carmen

This was an interesting book. I'm familiar with Patrick Carmen's work and it was nice to see something darker but what made it interesting is that you can choose to read the book or experience the book through a multimedia app found here. The first chapter is free but I found I preferred the flow of the book.
The story follows Will Besting as he attends Fort Eden, a camp to cure him and six others of their fear. It's a good concept and just experiencing Will's part made for an entertaining read. However, more is going on at Fort Eden and even though I had some guesses - I was wrong and there were surprises I didn't see coming. I give Patrick Carmen kudos for that.
This is a young adult book with young adult themes but it's an enjoyable adult read. I'm not sure how this would go as a movie but I'd be willing to see that. It's a great book for most ages. It's dark but not overly scary so a young or sensitive reader would do well with it. There is some slight romance but nothing beyond hand holding and the occasional kiss.
I like how the chapters focus on each of the characters and their cures. At the end, there seems to be several epilogues but they don't detract from the story.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How David Met Sarah by Anne Kelleher

I have to admit that this is one of the hardest reviews I have ever had to do. It’s not because of the book but because I believe so strongly in the cause it represents. If you haven’t guessed, literacy is quite important to me. However, there is another cause that I don’t often talk about and that’s providing individuals with disabilities the opportunity to live their life to the fullest.
When my son started to read, it was amazing. He was just so smart and wanted to read everything. My mom commented that she wasn't surprised because reading allows for a certain amount of power. The story of Martin Luther seconded this idea. If you are not familiar with his story let me paraphrase – Martin Luther believed that the Bible should be translated into the common language (in this case German) so that everyone could have access to reading God’s word. The church had all the power because they were the only ones who could read the Bible.

What do you do when you don’t have the ability to read at an adult level? I never thought about this. To me, reading is reading. I never thought about it. I read anything and everything without thought or care – if it appeals to me then I read it. But what would my life look like if all I could read were children’s books. This makes me think of the scene in Lorenzo’s Oil when the boy indicates he’s sick of the stories his mother reads to him and wants something more age appropriate.
This is the case for many adults with disabilities that affect their ability to read at an adult level. They are relegated to the children’s section of the library for life. That is until Anne Kelleher wrote How David Met Sarah.

For me, How David Met Sarah was a beautiful snapshot in the life of a man who falls in love with a girl he sees in a restaurant. David may have a different life than mine but he was no less of a man. It was such a touching story. For those like David, this is a story they can relate to. David has work problems, life problems and through all this he’s found something to make it all okay. He has found a beautiful angel that occupies his every thought.

I highly recommend this book. I think it’s a must have whether or not you have someone in your life like David. I think it’s the perfect tale of what it’s like to live with a disability. Not everyone in David’s world accepts him. People can be very cruel and David’s story made me cry. I cry still. I am so grateful to have been given a review copy of this book.

I want to share one more point that I loved about this book. You know that David has a disability but it’s never used to describe David. In fact, David’s disability is never defined. A few words are thrown around when his parent’s talk to Sarah’s mother and it made me realize that as a parent of a child with a disability that I am like that too. I try not to let my son’s disability define him and then I throw it out there because I’m afraid the world won’t understand him.

Thank you Anne Kelleher for writing such an amazing story and I hope other authors step up and follow suit.

This post is part of a book blogtour, visit How David Met Sarah

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Griff by Christopher Moore

Today I needed to read something that did not require a review. I picked up Christopher Moore's The Griff from the library. Christopher Moore has several novels that have caught my attention but that haven't made it to being read. The Griff is a graphic novel and I can always slip one in to my reading pile.
I loved this. Slightly humorous and all action. The world has been conquered by dragon-like beings from outerspace. The book follows five survivors as they connect to come up with a solution to their problems.
It's not a deep plot with subtext as novels have a tendency to have but a straight forward good vs evil (more us vs them really). Christopher Moore and Ian Corson originally created this story as a screenplay and I have to tell you - it's a movie I'd watch. I hope that someone steps up and hands them the money to produce it. I can picture it as a great action movie. The characters are just every day people who use the situation to re-invent themselves and their skills.
So, Syfy channel - if you are reading this, I have your next movie right here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Treats Truck Baking Book by Kim Ima

I love baking and cookbooks but one thing that has always bothered me is when an author creates a new recipe instead of altering one. I have read so many cookbooks that have dozens of pages of recipes that vary only one or two ingredients. This is not the case wi Kim Ima's book. She offers a recipe and then follows it with several alternative ideas. She has so many ideas. I love the mix and match format of her book.
She encourages experimentation with flavors and combinations. She takes cookies to a new level when she uses them to create dishes such as Dessert Nachos. She takes vanilla cake and makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (something I can't wait to try).
She has a concoction she calls Movie Treats Cake that layers Junior Mints, Raisinets, and Milk Duds between vanilla cake and buttercream frosting and then covers the whole thing with popcorn and Red Vines (I'll be making this soon, too).
I love her ideas and creative concepts of taking a plain chocolate cookie and turns it into something homey and exotic at the same time.
If you love desserts, especially ones designed to be shared, this is the book for you.

Can You Tell an Alligator From a Crocodile by Buffy Silverman

I hate to admit that I have a difficult time understanding the difference between Alligators and Crocodiles. That's why I requested this particular book. In just a few pages, I have a better understanding of the difference between these two reptiles that look so much alike.
The book is simple and easy to understand. Even a young reader can understand this book but it won't appeal to a sensitive reader. There are some pictures that, while not graphic, don't leave much to the imagination. Several shots of the reptiles eating other animals are depicted. It's done very tastefully and realistically. The truth is that alligators and crocodiles are well designed predators and their differences allow them to be better hunters in their environments.
All the pictures are real - no illustrations. The chapters are simple and concise.
I recommend this for any bookshelf - from classroom to personal. I can see young boys pouring over the "horror" of these mostrous reptiles and they might walk away learning something.

The Supernatural Kids Cookbook by Nancy Mehagian

I would love to say that this is the perfect cookbook for all children, however I believe that the concept will be lost on many children. I love the idea behind this book. Any child can be supernatural with the right nutrition but I think most will pick up this book with the impression that the recipes are more about fantasy than health food. (That's what I thought - with all the themed cookbooks out there I thought this would include things like worms with blood sauce instead of whole wheat spaghetti with tomato sauce).
It's not a bad thing. The cookbook is well designed with fun illustrations and pages of good instruction. This is a wonderful first cookbook for children. The author includes instructions on how to steam vegetables, chop an onion and cook brown rice.
I really liked the week of salad and sandwich ideas.
Nancy Mehagian encourages whole foods and creating a better way to eat. Sadly, I think this book will become a case of preaching to the choir. Those who already have an interest in eating like this are the ones more likely to pick the cookbook up. Those who love Moosewood Cookbooks will love this one as well.

Watch Over Our Water by Lisa Bullard

Trina is learning about the Earth's water and has decided to save the planet. She shares with readers tips she learns and the reasons why the water is not safe for drinking.
This is a great book. I am so impressed with the format. It's not preachy and it encourages children to take the initiative to reducing water waste. And it's not overwhelming. So many books offer so many solutions that you feel like you can never do enough. That is not true with this one, at the end you feel like the little things do make a difference.
This is a great classroom book with lessons that can vary from geography to science to even math as children figure out how much water they use or is wasted. It's an easy to understand format and the pictures are so inviting and vibrant.
There is just enough humor to make the book entertaining but not reduce the impact of the message.

Fall Pumpkins by Martha E.H. Rustad

This is a cute picture book that covers the growing of a pumpkin from seed to pumpkin pie or carving. Even though the title says Fall Pumpkins this a book that would be good any time of the year from the Spring planting to the Fall harvest.
The book shares how to plant a pumpkin, care for it through the summer and what to do with it when it's grown. It even includes a recipe for roasting pumpkin seeds.
I see this book as a perfect addition to a classroom or homeschool shelf. There are little bits of trivia scattered through the book that would be great lead-ins to a lesson. This book can assist in a number of science lessons and if you are really creative - other subjects as well.

Tricky Raven Tales #4 by Chris Schweizer

Part graphic novel, part picture book and part choose your own adventure, Tricky Raven Tales is a fun book for beginning and early readers. The stories are short and simple while allowing the reader control over where the story goes.
Raven is curious and loves collecting objects which gets her into trouble. There are a few morals to these stories but more often than not it's just good fun. Most children will see a little Raven in themselves. There is a little fantasy and lots of magic through Raven's tales.
Reading this book, I wished there had been something like this around when my son was younger. He would have loved the bright pages and the silly stories. There's something about picking which path the character goes down that makes the book extra fun.
I recommend this for young readers, older readers may get frustrated with choosing the story to find it ends in a page or two. The stories are really short and I couldn't find a way to make them longer. It's perfect for readers with short attention spans.

Mush by Glenn Eichler

Adult graphic novels are tough. I don't know why but I find them lacking. Mush wasn't bad. It started off rough but it was entertaining.
The novel centers around a team of sled dogs and the various issues they have. It was a little weird. The lead dog spends her time moping about being the lead while Buddy spends his day obsessed with mating. Fiddler is constantly philosophising while Guy plots to take over as lead. It's odd.
It took me some time to identify with the dogs. I wasn't really connecting and you have to connect to the characters even if it's a graphic novel. I will say that I would have been completely lost if this was a written novel.
I didn't really care for the humans and when all was said and done I didn't feel like anything was resolved. Being that this is a graphic novel and not a series, I felt like there should have been something more concrete with the ending.
All in all - this was entertaining and enjoyable. It wouldn't be something I would necessarily seek out but I'm not everyone.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Poisoned House by Michael Ford

The copy of this book that I received was an unedited galley so I won't talk about any errors I found since they may not exist in the finished book.
This wasn't the best writing I have ever read but the story kept me enthralled until I reached the end. I could barely put this book down.
The story follows Abigail Tamper as she uncovers why her mother is haunting the house that they both worked in. Every little clue led to another until Abigail discovers that everything she knew as truth was a lie.
This book is Young Adult and quite simply written so that the younger audience can easily read it. The story is set in the mid-1800's so the behavior is modest (there is an unplanned pregnancy and an affair but no real talk about sex).
The ghost is somewhat frightening but the suspense is what pulled at me. I couldn't wait to read what was going to happen next.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Supernatural Noir

I picked up this collection of short stories with the idea I would read a few and then do a quick review. The concept is a little lost on me. Noir is a genre that often includes the Mafia and private detectives. It's not a genre I read (with some exceptions). But I didn't think about that when I selected this book from NetGalley. I love horror and supernatural and that was all I saw.
This book was an odd collection. The reason I say the concept is lost on me is that I didn't get the reason why some of these stories were considered Noir vs just horror or paranormal. Quite a few stories didn't fit into my understanding of the Noir genre. That may be due to my inexperience with the genre. No matter.
This collection was beyond my expectations. Most of the stories were dark and creepy just they way I like them. Some didn't reveal their supernatural element till nearly the end which lulled me into believing someone had let just a good story slip through.
Some felt forced but those were few compared to the number that just sucked me in and left me wondering when it was over. I couldn't put it down. When I hit that last page, I was disappointed. I wanted more.
Reviewing collections is always difficult for me because I have a difficult time sharing stories without wanting to sit down and talk about each one. Supernatural Noir had sixteen stories and that's a lot to share. I didn't love them all, in fact I think the first story was my least favorite but it still pushed me to continue. I think the first story "The Dingus" gave me a real noir experience as a man searches for a killer only to find that it's not what he expected. (Later a story talks about a dingus that is completely different and really made me feel like this story was more bizarre).
To say what is my favorite is hard but I can tell you which will stick with me for awhile.
The Absent Eye - a story of a boy who loses his eye to discover he can see these strange spirits. Eventually left in an institution he learns how to communicate and agrees to discover what happens to them when they disapper so that the spirits will help him escape. It's a haunting story about commitment and the lengths a person will go for freedom.
Along those same lines is But For Scars about a young woman who escapes an institution because her mother's ghost haunts her bed. The girl makes her way to her old house to find one of her mother's lovers living there. She kills herself in his room, leaving the ghosts with him. (That's a terrible explanation and you will understand when you read it but it's the best I can do).
I do think I have a favorite now that I think about it some more - The Last Triangle. A man finds himself in withdrawal in an elderly woman's garage. She lets him stay and helps him get straight. What she wants in return is his help to save a life. A powerful, touching story about faith, compassion and strength that still makes me feel things long after I have read it.
Pick up a copy of Supernatural Noir. I will warn, this is not a book for children. There is swearing but that's the least of the problems after all the violence and sex. A fun read for any adult who likes paranormal/supernatural and wants to see a different sort of darkness when it comes to the world.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Creepy Presents: Bernie Wrightson

Bernie Wrightson's claim to fame began in the seventies. A leader in the new wave of comics, Bernie created a darker sort of comic in contrast to the superhero comics that came before. Some might contribute the salvation of comics to artists like Bernie Wrightson. His work was featured in Creepy and Eerie, two publications of his time.
While I don't have a reader relationship with Bernie Wrightson, I know his work. In fact, I'm rather sad that I didn't know his name before. His art is black and white and his stories borderline on the bizarre but all frightenly good.
For those familiar with the Masters of Horror television series, you might recognize Jenifer - a tale about a man who rescues a woman from murder in the woods only to find that there was a good reason for her to be killed.
This Galley had only half of the book but since it's a compilation of short tales, I didn't feel like anything was missing. I look forward to getting my hands on the complete manuscript and hunting for more of Bernie's works.
If you like horror comics, is this for you. It's not overly scary but it does get a little gruesome (muted by the black and white). Some of the stories were just slightly spooky and may be well received by young teens. However, older braver teens and adults will love this work.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

50 Underwear Questions by Tanya Llyod Ki

Picking up a book about underwear may not sound interesting but I couldn't help but wonder what it was about. This galley was amazing. I never really thought about underwear prior to this book but I realize it has more significance than I ever gave it.
50 Underwear Questions follows the history of underwear through 50 questions. I didn't notice the questions much but I appreciated the information. The book was colorfully illustrated with fun pictures. The subject matter might get a little uncomfortable but Tanya Llyod Ki had an easy way of making it delightful.
I can't say much about this because it is non-fiction and the format is choppy (in a good way) but I do feel differently about the subject. Who knew that underwear had such an influence on fashion, history, politics.
Pick up this book for a good time. Easy for most ages with lots of explanations.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place - The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood

I loved the first book of this series that I had to take a break from all the review books to read this newest installment. It did not disappoint except that it just wasn't long enough. I need the third book - now! I guess I will have to be consoled with Maryrose Wood's newest series The Poison Diaries of which I have a galley.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place is a great series and this book was just as delightful as the first. Penelope gets an invitation to London and requests an opportunity to go and take the children with her. Lady Ashton is so pleased that the entire household transplants to London.
Armed with Hixby's Lavishly Illustrated Guide to London, Penelope and the children set off on a whirlwind adventure through the city. They make new friends and stumbled upon new mysteries. However, there are some obscure answers to previous mysteries. To share would ruin the plot.
Readers of all ages will love these books. There's adventure and action, art and a slight romance, all tapered with humor and just a little education (reminiscant of Lemony Snicket).
If you haven't picked up the first book, I highly suggest you do. It's a quick, fun read and I can not wait for the next book to come.

LiteraturelySpeaking: Contest #1 Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman#links

A chance to win a new book - love these contests. I always get such fun new things to read.

LiteraturelySpeaking: Contest #1 Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman#links

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Marineman: A Matter of Life and Depth by Ian Churchill

There was a time when graphic novels meant stories of superheros - Batman, Superman, etc dominated the page. These days the percentage of true superhero graphic novels is far fewer than other tales. With Manga, the storylines stray from the typical superhero tome even more so. When presented with the opportunity to review a new superhero story, I was so there. I haven't read many superhero tales, especially those who still uphold that bright colored world of the right.
Marineman did not disappoint. From the vivid imagery to the good ole boy Steve Ocean to the "save the oceans" moral, this graphic novel has returned the genre to it's origins.
I loved it. Marineman, or Steve Ocean, is the ultimate superhero. He's passionate, strong, morally straight and sexy as all can be. He's perfectly matched with Charlotte "Charlie" Greene who is equally strong, sexy and wonderful.
The story begins with Steve Ocean, a tv personality, whose goal in life is to educate the masses about oceanlife. Charlotte Greene works for the Navy and has been selected to test their newest submarine.
A chance accident and Steve Ocean reveals himself to the world as Marineman. He's dealing with the situation as best as he can. However, when Charlie goes missing, Steve has to put it all aside to save her and the submarine.
Every superhero needs a villain and Marineman is no exception. The Ancient Mariner exposes Steve's true origin leaving Steve to question his purpose in life.
The end of this volume includes real life marine scientists who work to save the oceans and the original drawings of Marineman from Ian's childhood.

Holy Terror by Frank Miller

I'm not overly familiar with Frank Miller's work. I have seen his movies but not taken the opportunity to read his graphic novels. When Holy Terror came up, I jumped at the chance. I'm almost sorry I did. It just wasn't the work for me.
To start with, Frank Miller uses the hard black and white images that are difficult for me to see. I had a hard time distinguishing characters. The book starts with two costumed characters - one male, one female - in chase. She is a diamond thief and he is a superhero. That was interesting for me since I like superhero works but their battle was a mess of black with the occasional color thrown in. I couldn't tell who was winning or if I even cared.
I can't remember the female character's name but the male was The Ringer. Their costumes reminded me of luchadores with combat boots. I was already disappointed but there was still potential, especially since The Ringer is concerned he's falling in love with the thief.
Then the explosions happen, I'm still okay with the book so far. It's not going to be a favorite but there still is so much potential until Frank Miller reveals the villian.
I need to point out here that I don't read realistic horror. I don't watch crime or war movies unless they focus on something other than the graphic violence that comes with. I like stories to be my escape. To read about something that is true and horrific disturbs me. Holy Terror disturbed me.
The villian was not some made-up costumed sort that the beginning of the story led me to believe. The man that The Ringer captured was a Muslim who he called Mohammed because that's what all Muslims are called. I was shocked and not in a good way. I was appalled.
What Frank Miller has created was hateful and encourages racism. Now he did through in an Irishman leader to break up the Muslim focused hate but that didn't do the job. He painted a picture that Al Queda was more than just Muslims and that they use them because the Muslim's make for good mindless soldiers. It was just sad and violent and hateful.
I kept hoping for something poinent to come out of this but it never came. There was no real budding romance for The Ringer or at least that the reader saw. It just reminded me that there is a reason I am not a Frank Miller fan. I won't be seeking out his graphic novels.
I won't tell you not to read his work because he has an audience but I will caution parents not to let their children read this one. I don't think my teenage son will be getting any Frank Miller works for his library. It just makes me sad to think that this might just help fuel hate to a group of people who just happen to share a religion with extremists.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Sneezy Wheezy Day by Sharon Cramer

This book is due to hit stores January 1, 2012. I hate to review it so early but there are other books in this series that are available.
The Sneezy Wheezy Day is the latest book in the Cougar Cub Tales from B&F Publishing (located in Spokane, not so far from me!). It's beautifully illustrated. The colors are vibrant and attractive.
The story is cute - a brother and sister cougar are out playing when the brother becomes ill. The sister takes him to all the animals looking for a cure. The cures are silly and don't work so sister cougar puts brother to bed and when he wakes he's all better.
I didn't love this book and that makes me sad because I wanted to love it. I think for an adult the book is simple and fun but for a child the words are advanced. Sharon Cramer's vocabulary is beyond the scope of the reader for this book. I would guess the book was designed for quite a young reader based on the format but the words are prohibative for a young reader. They may enjoy listening to the book but I still think they would be confused. She uses words like crystalline, deduced, admirably, and saraphine. Not bad words but difficult for a young reader.
I, also, didn't care for the rhymes. The poetry was stilled and didn't flow like I felt it should. Had the rhymes not existed I would have liked the book more.
I would still recommend the book, solely based on the beauty of its illustrations. It's a great addition to any library.

Nice Shot, Cupid by Kate McMullan

Nice Shot, Cupid is the fourth book in the Myth-O-Mania series from Capstone Kids.
I think I liked this story better than Say Cheese, Medusa. It's not that this is a better story but I understand the rythym of the books better now. There's a lot to be said about Kate McMullan's myth books.
Nice Shot, Cupid tells the story of Psyche and Cupid. Psyche was the beautiful daughter of a king and Cupid, the son of Aphrodite. Mortals were so taken with Psyche's beauty that they stopped worshipping the goddess Aphrodite. Angry, Aphrodite told Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with a horrible man but Cupid feel in love with her himself.
Psyche is kidnapped and all she can think of is her love for the Voice, which is Cupid behind a curtain. When she sees him, she knows he's her true love but Aphrodite won't let her be with him until she's completed a series of tasks. The list of tasks continue to grow as Psyche ages.
Without Hades help, Psyche would never be able to settle down with Cupid and find happiness.
I loved Psyche. She's beautiful but that doesn't matter to her. She's kind and thoughtful. She's willing to accept her fate but doesn't mind doing the hard work. She loves Cupid so she doesn't mind all the tasks Aphrodite makes her do.
It's a sweet story of love, perseverance and gratitude. I highly recommend it for all ages. It's a great introduction into Greek Myths and a good catalyst for discussing good personality traits.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen

I grew up with tales of the Green River Killer. My family lived in Western Washington until the mid-80s when we moved to Eastern Washington. We still remember the women who lost their lives to this man, especially since my brother bought a place off the Green River (further south than where the bodies were found). Green River stills gives me chills. Growing up with this tale, it's hard not to be affected by it. When I had the opportunity to select this graphic novel for review, I took it. I knew about the Green River Killer but I didn't really know the case.
I looked at this work as a chance to learn more about the case that deeply infected Washington for over 20 years.
I didn't know until I reached end of the story that Jeff Jensen is the son of the man who led the Green River task force for that time. Tom Jensen was not only the lead detective but returned to the task force as a consultant after his retirement.
This is not a gruesome tale about a serial killer. This is a touching story about the men and women who dedicated their lives to finding a killer long after he stopped killing. This is how the case touched their lives and the lives of those around them. It's a tale of courage and belief that right will prevail.
It's deeply moving. A testiment of our justice system and a reminder that no victim is undeserving of closure.
Jeff Jensen ends the book with this "The Green River Killer's victims were prostitutes, but to their families they were daughters, sisters and mothers." It's this compassion that made his father a great detective.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Say Cheese Medusa by Kate McMullan

This third book in the Myth-O-Manic series from Capstone Kids is phenomenal. The "true" story of Medusa and Perseus as told by Hades. It's not accurate to the original myth but a great introduction to Greek Myths for young children.
The story starts with Hades spending a night with his brothers Zeus and Posiden. "Po" wants to picnic with some moon goddesses at Athena's new temple. When Athena finds out, she curses the moon goddesses turning them into gorgons.
Later that night, Hades discovers Danae and Perseus. This starts off a legend in the making.
Hades promises to keep Perseus safe only to find he's grown up to be like his father Zeus - arrogant and lazy. Fun and frolics occur when Perseus sets of to hunt Medusa and bring back her head.
It's a violent concept but the book is violence free. It's witty and amusing with lots of cheese and pop culture references. Perfect for middle grade readers. There are some tough words but the book comes equipped with a glossery of names and another for more difficult words.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Magdalena Vol 1 by Ron Marz

I'm not quite sure how I feel about this one. I like the action but not so keen on the characters.
The Magdalena has served as the Catholic Church's weapon for 2000 years. Patience is the most recent in the line and doesn't care for how the church is ran. Called back to stop the son of Satan, Patience finds that there's more to the battle than meets the eye.
I'm interested in more of her story but probably not enough to seek it out. The art is well constructed and the plot is engaging. As I said I just couldn't connect to the characters. I liked Patience but her wishy washy feelings about her calling was less than desirable. I don't think she needed to be fully invested in the church and she could question the church's role but I don't think it came across well.
Her companion Kristoff had a lot of potential but it just feel flat.
I know we're supposed to hate Innocence but I really didn't like him. Not even as a villian. He just came across as mealy. I, also, didn't care for his name. Cardinal Innocence just sounded cartoony especially with her name, Patience. At least they had enough sense to give Kristoff a more human sounding name.
The rumor is there's a Magdalena movie - I'm interested but will have to see how it plays out.

Simply Great Breads by Daniel Leader

So many bread books are filled with the same recipe repeated over and over with a few alterations. They make the reader feel cheated out of new and exciting recipes. That is not the case with this bread book.
The variation of recipes is nice, a sampling of bread recipes from pancakes to challah to flatbread to doughnuts to monkey bread. There are great stories with the recipes and cultural explanations as needed. I loved the bounce from sweet to savory but more so I liked the small sections after each recipe that explained different ways you could make the bread.
I loved the addition of non-bread recipes such as the three jam recipes after the Jelly-filled Berliners (a stuffed doughnut).
This is definitely one book for my shelves. I can't wait to get elbow deep in flour and try the recipes. I have been wanting to make crumpets and bagels so I know what I am doing this weekend.

The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm by Peg Schafer

Peg Schafer's book is for anyone interested in Chinese natural medicine, gardening, and farming. She takes the time to break down the growing of Chinese herbs from soil preparation to use of the herb.
The first part is a broad overview of Chinese herb farming. Topics range from preserving the plants through farming to quality of herbs grown to growing and harvesting the herbs.
The second part is a detailed description of each herb. She gives detailed information on growing the herb followed by preserving and using the herb. I was amazed at how much information she offered in a short space. It was slightly overwhelming to read but a great resource when read one herb at a time.
I tried to come up with questions I was sure would not be answered to find that the information was easy to find and gave me a complete picture.
There's pest control information along with soil composition.
I really recommend this and am sorry it's fall right now because I can't wait to add some Chinese herbs to my garden.

The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen

This graphic novel made me want to sigh, heavily. I can't explain the beauty of this work. Jane Yolen is a master at weaving a story.
Generations after the great Dragon Wars, a new dragon is born. The villagers are no longer able to defeat a dragon. A hero must come save them. What they get is a man pretending to be a hero. Tansy, the healer, has a plan to save the village and make Lancot a hero.
The story is simple but Jane Yolen manages to give it so much depth and life. Rebecca Guay's art compliments it perfectly, giving the reader a full on fairy tale reminiscant of days gone by.
I want to fill this post up with all sorts of descriptions and words but I find they can't express the wonder of this book - you need to go out and get it yourself.
The story will appeal to adult, child, boy or girl. The language is delicate and uncomplicated.

The Bare Facts by Josh McDowell

In college, I studied to teach sex education. As a parent of a teen male, I am constantly looking for good resources for him to learn to make healthy choices. The Bare Facts toted 39 questions your parents hope you never ask about sex. This book was right up my alley.
However, that was not the case. This was not a bad book but the title does not prepare the reader for the Christian feel of the book.
I was thoroughly impressed with Josh McDowell's view of the bible, saying that he believe God wants us to have sex but wait until we are married. There's a lot to be said for taking that viewpoint.
The book did fall flat for me, though. There was a lot of discussion of STD's, especially HPV. I understand the transmission rates have increased but over half of the book focused on why sex out of marriage leads to STDs. I think that's a naive approach and one that will turn readers away. But then again, reading the book in bits and pieces might be how the author intended it to be used. I sat and read it cover to cover and in the end, I no longer cared that the premise was awesome.
I did like the start of the book and the argument for waiting to have sex. I prefer that concept to "just say no". There was some great stuff at the end as well when Josh McDowell starts talking about peer pressure and how it's never too late to live God's original design.
As someone who's not a Christian, I was torn. There may be Christian reviewers out there who love the message in this book. I was left uninspired even though I felt that way early in the book.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homemade Sodas by Andy Schloss

In this day and age of endless chemical laden sodas, one begins to dream of a simpler time. A time when soda was made with real sugar. A time when flavors of soda actually tasted like something nature made. I remember my parents had purchased a home soda maker from Schwan's when I was a child. I loved the idea of making my own soda. Even today, I collect recipes for all natural homebrewed sodas but brewing my own is intimidating. I could make it, it's not that hard but I always feel like I need someone to hold my hand through the process.
Enter Andy Schloss and his new book Homemade Sodas. The book starts out with clear instructions for making and brewing your own sodas. He talks about the history of soda and how ingredients have changed. The pictures call to the reader to remember the better times. Times when drinking coke was a treat not a necessity.
Andy Schloss then moves into the drinks, slowly, starting with sparkling waters. Easy to create mixes that combine with sparkling water to make a refreshing spa-like drink. He moves onto fruit based drinks some mixed with seltzer, others carbonated with a soda siphon and eventually to brewing.
What I loved about this book is he gives you all three options most of the time. You can make the soda with seltzer, through a soda siphon or brew it. For me, that gives me the chance to work my way up to brewing. If we like the flavor with the seltzer then we know we'll like the brewed variety. And it gives me the chance to chicken out if I still can't talk myself into homebrewing.
Some of the soda concoctions sound highbrow - like honey cardamon or fizzy honeydew. They can be off putting for your average soda drinker but those with a sense of adventure can only see the beginning of possibilities.
Don't worry Andy Schloss has offered a few "normal" recipes from Orange Crush to Cola to Very Cherry Cola to several types of root beer.
This book has recipes for everyone from the soda drinker to the organic concoction drinker. I will definitely be making some cola extract and see if I can wean my boys off the canned stuff and to the homemade varieties. Now all I need is a recipe for Mellow Yellow and we just may give up store-bought soda all together.

Cutie Pies by Dani Cone

Dani Cone owns and operates High 5 Pie in Seattle Washington. Cutie Pies is a culmination of her work as a pie expert.
Her pies come in six "varieties" - cutie pies, petit 5's, pie jars, flipsides, pie pops and full-sized pies. Cutie pies are baked in standard muffin tin. Petit 5's in mini-muffin pans. Pie jars are pies baked in half pint canning jars. Flipsides are similar to turnovers. But Pie Pops are what caused me to really want to share this book. They're little pies served on sticks like lollipops(so cute!!!!).
Her recipe collection bounced from sweet to savory making this the most inclusive pie cookbook I have seen.
Dani offers such a selection that not only makes me want to go home and bake but find my way across the state to Seattle just to try High 5 Pies (anyone want to send me one, my birthday is in two weeks).
What I like best about Cutie Pies is that this book touches on all the pie needs one could have. The crust recipes vary from an ordinary crust to a graham cracker to a vegan to a gluten free. For those not on special diets this might not seem that important but for someone who might make a pie for someone with a gluten allergy or is vegan - it's nice to have the options. I love that I can make the gluten free crust and stuff it in a sterilized canning jar for the cutest treat out there.
This book makes me wish my son was still in elementary school so I can send pie pops to a class party.
I feel like I should share some recipes here but my tastes run more to the four cheese and onion pie variety. Who ever thought of a mac and cheese pie? Yum! Wait- Mac and Cheese on a stick. Hmm I've got some free time coming up this weekend so pies might be in my future.

Fire Bubbles and Exploding Toothpaste By Steve Spangler

When I requested this book from Netgalley, I hadn't realize I had picked up this book before. I saw Steve Spangler on tv and had to pick up his book for my son. We got it from the library and it was a hit.
Fire Bubbles and Exploding Toothpaste is the ultimate science book for kids who like science messy.
The book starts off with a must-read safety lesson. Steve Spangler has created multiple science experiments that can get out of hand if not properly respected. That's not to say that your children are in danger but accidents happen.
Each experiment is followed with an explanation of the science and it's real world application. Great for homeschooling or those involved with educational programs like Boy Scouts.
Dotted here and there is information on Steve Spangler and how he used the science, such as how he used the first experiment, the windbag, to break a Guinness World Record.
Most of the experiments use common articles such as plastic bottles and are a great way to add a recycling component to the lesson.
So far, our favorite - the skewer through the balloon. Definitely one for the birthday party.

Echoes by Joshua Hale Fialkov

I just don't know where to begin with this graphic novel. It's wonderful and frightening.
Echoes is the story of a man who goes crazy and the disappearance of a little girl. It's possible he did it or that he knows who did it. Filled with hallucinations and odd memories, we follow his path, never knowing what the truth is.
It's such a simple story but I think it's one that will stay with me a long time. You root for the main character and yet are horrified that you might be rooting for a monster.
It's confusing and wonderful. I have a bit of a hard time with black and white art just because my eyes have some problems but this one wasn't as difficult as others have been. The art is soft and disturbing.
I, almost, want to see it as a movie because it could be a great one but then I hate to ruin the integrity of what Joshua Hale Fialkov has done.
If you like horror, pick this one up. If you like a good thriller. It's not violent or graphic but it is frightening.

Dante's Divine Comedy adt by Seymour Chwast

Dante's Divine Comedy is one of those classics I've been curious about but not enough to actually read the original. Seymour Chwast's graphic novel adaptation was a perfect introduction to the story. And one I am grateful for.
I can't say this will be a book I will seek out because it was rather confusing and in the end not as interesting as I hoped.
However, it was interesting enough to carry me through the end of this book which seemed long enough.
Dante wrote his Divine Comedy around 1302 - 1321. He was not a happy man, having been banished from his home and forced to wander Italy. He had been political and outspoken which led to his banishment. This shows up in his work.
It's very political and religious in nature.
The plot is simple, Dante is invited to see what it is like to die and visit Hell, Purgatory and Heaven so that he may tell others about it. This was interesting because much of what he wrote shows up in pop culture these days.
Dante designed the seven circles of hell and came up with the seven deadly sins (which are actually the levels of purgatory).
He met many people on his journies but most of the names have been lost in history. I am certain that those he met were political figures of his day. I was shocked by all the accusations of corruption. Not because they were corrupt but that the themes are still heard today. The problems Dante spoke of are problems of our current government.
I do recommend this version of Dante's famous work. It may encourage to read the whole tome or just feel grateful you didn't.

My Dead Girlfriend Vol 1 by Eric Wight

I picked this graphic novel from the new book selection at the library. I am so glad I did. This is a light, funny story that touches on real teen angst.
Finney Bleak comes from a long line of cursed individuals. His entire family has been fated to die in weird and horrific ways (some so funny I had to stop and breath after reading them). He just knows his time is coming.
Finney doesn't live in the same world as we do. His classmates include witches, werewolves, vampires and other assorted creatures. Finney comes across as the only "normal" one in the bunch except that his dead relatives refuse to stay dead. The ghosts of his family irritate him.
The only shining moment he had was at the carnival months previous when he met Jenny, his true love or so he thought. His heart is broken when she disappears from his life.
Stuck in high school hell, Finney is just trying to survive. He's bullied and friendless but when he learns what happened to Jenny he discovers he can find something worthwhile.
It doesn't feel like one of "those" books but underneath the charm of Finney's plight is a real emotional story about growing up, falling in love and facing the world.
The only thing that disappointed me was when I discovered that this was Volume 1 (of course at the end of the story) and I would have to wait to find out what happens next.

In The Flesh by Koren Shadmi

Every now and again I think I should upgrade my reading and read something more adult oriented. Koren Shadmi's In The Flesh seemed to be something of interest and the themes of the graphic novel were more adult in nature. I have to admit that many adult oriented books disappoint me. I'm not talking erotic here, I'm talking about books that cater to those over the age of 18. You will note that I read a fair amount of YA and juvenile literature. It's not because I am incapable of reading at an adult level but there's something less complicated about a book geared towards younger readers.
Sex or not doesn't really matter to me but I hate when sex becomes the plot. Koren Shadmi's book centered more around sex than I would have believed. I can get over a good smutty book but this was not it. The series of short stories left me puzzled. I feel like there's a joke that I missed the punchline. The saddest part is if someone cared to explain it to me - it still wouldn't be funny.
This book is quite artsy and I don't mind artsy but I like to be able to follow a plot. I can't even explain what this was about which just goes to show you that it was just weird.
I do have to say there were things I liked about this work. One story centered around a young woman who was hit by a pastry truck which left her with a craving for all things baked. At the end, her best friend (a boy) didn't want to be her friend anymore but decided to have sex with her. While he was kissing her neck, she bit a chunk out of his shoulder. I felt he deserved it because he was a jerk.
I'm sure someone thinks Koren Shadmi is brilliant but not me. His art is well created - I just didn't get his stories.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Avatar:The Last Airbender The Lost Adventures

I picked this selection because my son is huge Avatar fan. I've watched some of the cartoon episodes and the movie with him but I can't say I have followed it well. I can't think of anytime I have read an Avatar book either.
Knowing that, I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel. This is a collection of stories that have not been previously published. They touch on parts of the Avatar story but do not tell it.
I will say it helps to have some background knowledge of the characters and the world of the last airbender but you do not have to be familiar with the plot to enjoy this collection.
The tales are short and humorous. They would entertain any reader but young readers may find some of the wording too advanced (mostly the Asian names). However, the story lines are simple and enjoyable.
Though the series revolves around Aang, a male character, there are a couple of strong female characters that would entice any adventurous girl. I think my favorite tale had to do with the two girls having a girl's day out. One doesn't want to go to do girly stuff so the other goes overboard with being tough. In the end, they learn that girl stuff can be fun and tough.
This is a must have for any Avatar fan and a great selection for those who like Nickelodeon's action and comedy mixes.

BPRD Being Human by Mike Mignola

After watching Hellboy and Hellboy 2, I was ready to take on BPRD. I love the Hellboy stories. The difference with BPRD novels is that Hellboy does not take center stage. It's nice to get more story on the other characters.
Being Human starts with a story starring Liz as a teenager. This gives some back story for Liz and shows the start of her growth into a strong confident woman.
The next two stories come and go rather quickly - a short with Abe and Liz. Their dialogue is touching when they discuss how they didn't choose the life they are living.
Followed by Johan Krauss's backstory. Johan's backstory wasn't even hinted at in the movies so this was a real delight for me.
Finally, the book is wrapped up with a case for Hellboy and Roger. Roger was not in the movies nor has he appeared in the Hellboy graphics I have read so he was an interesting character to me. There was backstory included with this tale of VooDoo.
My only complaint is the same one I have for most graphic novels - it wasn't long enough. I love the simplicity and design of graphic novels but they are never long enough for me to feel like I got completely emmersed in the world. It's not a bad thing because it gets me looking for the next issue but sad for those of us who want to visit for awhile longer.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Chimichanga by Eric Powell

I don't normally read humorous graphic novels, can't say why but it just doesn't happen. Chimichanga was a delight to read. The story of a young bearded girl, Lulu, who's grandfather runs the circus. She gives away some of her whiskers to a witch in exchange for a shiny rock and a wagon. The rock turns out to be the egg. It hatches a beast she names Chimichanga (after her snack that he eats). What happens is an amusing battle between this little girl, the circus and a pharmaceutical company that wants to use Lulu's whiskers in a gas remedy.
Short, sweet and appropriate for most readers. Chimichanga can be a little frightening to sensitive readers.

America I Am Pass it Down Cookbook by Chef Jeff Henderson and Ramin Ganeshram

It's not uncommon for me to get excited about a recipe, but a cookbook is a different story. I can easily find something in a book that makes me glad I picked it up but I haven't had a whole book get me interested like this one. America I Am is a line of books catering to the history of African Americans. Pass It Down shares African American recipes old and new.
I'm not African American but there was something about the description of this cookbook that I liked. It's old Southern recipes (hubby's family is from the south) and maybe something I could add to my growing collection of recipes for my husband. What I didn't expect is a look into the life and history of food for those who came from Africa to America. I learned more than I thought possible from a cookbook.
To start with, the book talks about how plantation owners choose slaves from various regions of Africa for their knowledge of certain crops, rice being a big one. Now I'm no agricultural dummy but that surprised me. I didn't even know we grew rice in the US. That was it, I was hooked in the history of food in America.
Then came the next "story" about a man who converted to Judaism and re-discovered his heritage through food. That was it, I couldn't put it down. We forget, in this day and age of fast food and busy schedules, how much of our history comes from the kitchen. This book was a great reminder. There were tales of food as a catalyst for civil rights. Cooking and gardens as tools to better communities. Ways to teach our children to not only cook but to preserve their history.
As if that wasn't enough, there are amazing Soul Food recipes. Many I can't wait to try in my own kitchen. My favorites - recipes written by George Washington Carver to promote peanuts (peanut doughnuts, anyone?). I have to admit he has got to be my favorite unrecognized historical figure. I owe that man most of my diet since, to me, peanut butter is a must and it made my pregnancy that much easier. I may have to find a time machine and send that man a letter of thanks (or maybe to his descendants).
You know, I may be a foodie and I love learning about food in history but this book should be required reading for everyone who calls themself an American. We have so much to thank those who came before us and to honor them, we need to remember what we have that they gave us.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Secrets, Monsters and Magic Mirrors, edt. Donald Lemke

My final graphic novel for Capstone (at this time) and it was a doozy. Secrets, Monsters and Magic Mirrors was the retelling of five popular fairy tales by five different teams of authors and illustrators.
The stories told were Rapunzel, Thumbelina, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast and Princess and the Pea. I loved that they were each adapted by different people. It gave the stories an element of surprise because the illustrations were so varied. All, but Snow White, followed the popular telling of each story.
I recommend this book for any reader. I can see it appealing to girls more than boys but the style of the various stories might catch a male eye. They definitely would be a great replacement for your average fairy tale picture book.
One feature I loved the most was at the end of each story was its history. A single page detailing who published the first copy of the story and some of its evolution. To me, that made the book jump over my favorite list.
There's something fascinating with the history of a story and learning exactly how it's changed over the years.
I should make a note of the illustration styles for those who need to do the hard pitch.
Rapunzal was a rather basic design, lots of grays with accents of color. The style almost reminds me of Charles Addams or Roald Dahl's books. The witch is a series of circles against sharp scenery. The characters had a German flair. When Rapunzel is free of the witch, the grays turn yellow.
The illustrations for Thumbelina are bright and more cheerful. They remind me of Nickelodeon, specifically The Wild Thornberries. I'm sure other readers can connect it to other cartoons.
Snow White has a "true" comic book feel to it. I could easily see it sitting amongst stacks of Superman, Elf Quest and others. It's darker than the rest in this book.
Beauty and the Beast is lighter and more colorful. The work is digital resulting in sharp contrasts and less round edges. It feels more like a picture book than a graphic novel.
Princess and the Pea completely reminded me of Japanese graphics or manga. The characters have sharp features and huge eyes. Everything is much lighter and muted.
I can not wait to get my hands on more of this series. Start the hunt for Capstone books and enjoy.

Vampires vs Werewolves

I'm nearing the end of the Capstone picture books/graphic novels. They have been a blast to read but I have a couple of novels by them that promise to be just as fun. Vampires vs. Werewolves is part of their Edge Books Monster Wars line.
I loved this book. It started when I discovered that one of our own WSU professors acted as a consultant. How can you not love something homegrown? Okay so maybe that wasn't a real reason but it started my excitement.
I don't recommend this for young readers but those who love scary stories will love this book. It breaks down the vampire and werewolf legends and compares their strengths and weaknesses. The very last chapter is an imagined fight between the two. It was well done and clever. It was a bit violent but it came with a warning for those interested in learning more but not getting scared.
All in all, I recommend this book. I'm throughly impressed with Capstone and will keep an eye out for their books.
This one came with a facthound link to more books and a couple of websites. Any book that gets a kid looking for more to read is awesome in my book. This is not a graphic novel (thought I should point that out) and includes amazing shots from a variety of werewolf and vampire movies throughout the ages. The final chapter has illustrations of the story.

The Awakening by Donald Lemke

This was another Good vs Evil graphic novel from Capstone Publishing (under the name Stone Arch Books). I didn't like this one as well. There were some captivating moments and some interesting mix of the blue and the red in this one but the story didn't work for me.
Yoshiro Tanaka find a cassette tape (it's 1984 after all) and in playing it wakes a troll-like beast called the Oni. The story is far too frightening for young readers even though the simple language leads one to believe it is written for young readers. It is graphic and violent compared to everything else I have read published by Capstone.
There were moments where the panels seemed out of order and confusing. I learned in the section at the end that discussed the graphic novel process that this was somewhat intentional. I think of myself as rather intelligent and as an avid reader, pretty versed in the world of graphic novels and I was left scratching my head. I can't imagine what this would be like to read as a younger reader.
Aside from that, I enjoyed the premise. The world was well drawn and, as I said, I enjoyed the mix of the two worlds. For example, the Oni was paneled in red but there would be moments where the doorways would be blue indicating where Yoshiro was. Yoshiro's blood was blue in the red panels as well. At one point Yoshiro is grabbed by the Oni, Yoshiro was blue and the hand red. I really liked the artist imagary in this work.

Alien Snow by Michael Dahl

Another Capstone Publishing book, this line of graphic novels titled Good vs. Evil.
This is an interesting graphic novel that got me reading it twice just to see how it changed. The concept of the Good vs. Evil line is to have the opportunity to read the story from different perspectives. At first I thought this was more like choose your own adventure but it's not. The top half of each page is inked in red and the bottom half in blue. Read just the top you get the perspective of "evil" or, in this case, an alien who captures the boy. The bottom half is from the boy's perspective and inked in blue.
Reading just one or the other, does give an interesting perspective but leaves out minor details. The thing I liked about that concept is that you could feel a story from the character not the omnipresent narrator, which is common in graphic novels.
The story is not very long making it perfect for young readers but the concept of the good vs. evil will appeal to older readers looking for a quick read.
Because Capstone is education oriented, the end of the story comes with questions that get the reader thinking about different aspects of the story. These have more to do with the creation of the story or how the drawings give more information instead of focusing on moral issues.
The end wraps up with a quick lesson on how graphic novels are created. This is fascinating, even for the most advanced graphic novel reader.

Vampires and Cells by Agnieszka Biskup

Another great creation from Capstone Press (publisher of Honestly, Red Riding Hood Was Rotten). This particular work is from the Graphic Library - a series of educational graphic novels.
The topic, as you can see from the title, is about cells but told from the perspective of vampires. It's a cute mesh-up that does get a little distracting for my old lady brain. For a kid, however, this is a great introduction into the science of cells. The book does get a little technical at times but a quick look at the glossery in the back will help. The technical parts are kept interesting with little captions from the vampires learning about the cells.
This is a great book for anyone but would be easily loved by a child and, perhaps, even a teen. The descriptions combine technical words with plain english explanations making it more universal than many other similar works. I appreciated the plain language which allowed my aging brain to actually learn something new.
There's no real story line with the vampires but they are humorous and entertaining. The pictures are colorful and captivating.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Honestly, Red Riding Hood Was Rotten by Trisha Speed Shaskan

I don't normally review young children's books but I read a fair amount. I don't review them because I don't include them in my book count unless they are spectacular in some way. When I joined NetGalley, I agreed to do children's books. I have come across some really cute books and can't wait to share them.

Honestly, Little Red Riding Hood Was Rotten is such a cute book. It's funny, entertaining and gives a different perspective to the Red Riding Hood story. This story is told by the wolf who explains why he ate Red Riding Hood and her grandmother. It's not scary in any way and should not frighten small children. The pictures are vivid and wonderful.
One thing that really sets this book apart from others I have viewed is that at the end it encourages the child to compare the story to the original and asks some questions. It encourages creative thought.
It, also, comes with a couple of websites associated with the publishing company. I explored these sites and just was amazed at the content. It is geared towards younger children (up to 4th grade) but it attempts to offer more advanced sites for those in 5th grade and up. I think they are worth exploring. and

Witch and Wizard: Battle for Shadowland by James Patterson

This graphic novel is based on the Witch and Wizard series by James Patterson. I was given the first issue of the graphic novel in exchange for an honest review. The full novel will be in stores October 2011.

I was a little disappointed with this work. The beginning felt stagnant and didn't draw me in as I had hoped. About half way through I started to feel as if this was something I wanted to read. There was just enough mystery that I want to read the next installment but I didn't connect enough to the characters to really care if I read it or not.
This is one of the problems with graphic novels, the development is different. I could see areas where the artist was attempting a connection but it was too far away for me. It's possible that Battle for Shadowland is not the first graphic novel series for Witch and Wizard. If that is so, then I suggest starting with the first to create a connection. If it's not, then perhaps that connection can only be made for those who have read the actual Witch and Wizard series.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Witch Song by Amber Argyle

I got this e-book from the publisher for free in return for an honest review.
Brusenna has been an outcast her entire life and suddenly, she is alone. Tired of waiting, she starts a journey to find her mother and the other witches she hadn't known existed before her mother disappeared.
On her journey, she learns of Espen, a witch who is determined to rule the world and destroy the other witches. Senna has to stop her, save her mother and just survive in a world she was completely unprepared for.
With a few new friends, her constant companion and guardian is Joshen, a stable boy with dreams of greatness serving the witches. They set off to find and destroy the one witch no one else has been able to defeat.

I enjoyed this book. I can't say it was my favorite and it took me far too long to read. Part of that may have been because it was an e-book not a "real" book but I can't say for certain. The book just seemed really long. I liked Senna as a character but her lack of confidence started to wear on me just a tiny bit. I loved how she grew though. It wasn't that she was a witch but she became powerful as a person. She discovered her own ability to lead, I think I would have preferred her becoming that person sooner in the book.
Joshen was great and I have no complaints about him. The characters were good but the book only touched on most of the other characters. I can barely remember anyone's name and certainly couldn't distinguish which character was which. The difference in cultures was a little weird since there seemed to be only two "peoples" in all of this world even though the entire world was affected by Espen's evil.
I never really understood why Espen was doing this (a little but there are more questions here that would contain spoilers). I thought the ending was a little too easy and strange.
I must stress that I liked this book but it did fall a little flat for me.