McCoola & Carroll – Baba Yaga’s Assistant

Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola; illustrated by Emily Carroll

Date read: 23 September 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of McCoola & Carroll's graphic novel Baba Yaga's Assistant

Hardcover, 132 pages
Published 2015 by Candlewick Press
Source: Deschutes Public Library [J Graphic Novel MCCOOLA MARIKA]

Baba Yaga eats children. She is deceitful and wicked. Her sentient house strides around the countryside on giant chicken legs. Stories like these have been told for a long time [based on Slavic folk literature].

There’s always another side to the story.

Our story begins with a help wanted ad:

ASSISTANT WANTED ASAP

Must have skills in hauling, obeying orders, cooking and cleaning. Magical talent a bonus. Must be good with heights. Enter Baba Yaga’s house to apply.

Well, that’s reasonably straightforward as these things go. But this is Baba Yaga. Deceit is the rule.

Masha’s circumstances are dire and she has some family history so off she goes. Are the stories accurate, can she remember them, what exactly are these tests? Can Masha outwit Baba Yaga as her grandmother did?

Find out in this great adaptation of Baba Yaga. The artwork is wonderful and exceedingly colorful, especially for being in many ways a dark story.

How can a story with a sentient house that moves around on two giant chicken legs not be intriguing? The enigmatic witch is just a bonus. Highly recommended.

I heard about this from Unshelved back in April.

This is the 45th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

My Pilot Butte story

Carol Smith asked folks to share their Pilot Butte stories if so inspired. Here’s my still ongoing story:

I don’t have a Pilot Butte story but I do consider myself to be working on one.

After moving to Bend in August 2012 we climbed Pilot Butte but then gave it little thought. On January 1st 2014 we had hiked to the summit with an acquaintance for sunrise in 6°F weather and snow on the ground. We attempted another sunrise hike on January 1st 2015 but our timing was a bit late so we stopped part way up and watched the sunrise from an east-facing bench. We tried to do it this year but a temperature inversion had kept a good bit of pollution in so we (reluctantly) passed.

In mid-2014 I had some fully unexpected health issues arise. After almost 9 months and no real answers from doctors as to what the issue was I decided to try eating healthier and to try to get back to exercising.

In the past I was primarily a runner, even if any extremely fair weather one. Along with being an on-and-off one over the years. I knew my frame was not strong enough for running so decided I could use the butte since it is so handy. We live 0.65 mi from the the backside Lafayette Street park entrance. I tried doing the summit once or twice but that almost completely broke me so I switched to the base trail, which I fell in love with.

I got so good at it that last year my times just kept dropping and dropping. Eventually in later summer, I walked the 3.03 mi, from home to the base trail around and back home, in an average of 12:00 miles. This includes a fair bit of up and down. Yes, the down helps lower the uphill times but there’s still a lot of uphill.

Early this year, after some physical therapy for structural issues last fall, I began summiting. Now most of my hikes include both the base trail and the summit. I have even now worked up to twice around the base trail and once to the summit and back for three laps, and once so far I managed a 2×2 with a base, summit, base, summit hike for endurance.

I have ran/walked the base trail a couple times over last fall and this year so far. A couple weeks ago I ran/walked the summit and earlier today I ran/walked the Pilot Butte Challenge course. It was still far tougher than I would like but I also know I have a long, long way to go to be in good shape.

Clearly I have to do other things than hike to get there but Pilot Butte has been a major instrument in getting me there. It is full of an ever-cycling profusion of wildlife, be it plants or animals. The views are incredible and inspiring, be it the gorgeous Cascades to the west, the hills on the way, Newberry Caldera in the south, the austere beauty of eastern Oregon, or the grandeur of Smith Rock and Mount Hood to the north.

I now have 442 miles in the Pilot Butte Century Club since ~March 2014. Some people summit 4-5 times a day, almost every day. I would like to be able to do that too, although it would only be a once in a while thing for me, I think. If I can do that hike then I would probably prefer to get out and do more of the amazing hikes in and around Bend than I have so far.

I will keep hiking Pilot Butte whether it is the base trail or the base and summit. In the winter I will take the road when I have to.

Maybe Pilot Butte isn’t fully responsible for saving my life but it has been a major factor in my renewal. I am so very thankful that it is as close as it is to us so I can walk to it and back. It is a massive inspiration and I love its trails. The butte is there. Has been and will be for a long, long time. Perhaps it’s that love that has saved me.


My other 10 or so Pilot Butte posts can be found here.

 

Orchard – Bera the One-Headed Troll

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard

Date read: 27 August 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image from Eric Orchard's Bera the One-Headed Troll graphic novel

Hardback, 126 pages
Published 2016 by First Second
Source: Deschutes Public Library [J Graphic Novel ORCHARD ERIC]

“Bera doesn’t ask for much in life. She’s a solitary, humble troll, tending her island pumpkin patch in cheerful isolation. She isn’t looking for any trouble.

But when trouble comes to find her, it comes in spades. A human baby has arrived in the realm of the trolls, and nobody knows where it came from, but Bera seems to be the only person who doesn’t want it dead. There’s nothing to it but to return the adorable little thing to its parents.

Like it or not, Bera’s gone and found herself a quest.” – Inside front jacket flap.

A story of heroes, both renowned and unknown, friendship, responsibility, and cross-species caring. Things do not end up exactly as the blurb above alludes but then that is often the case.

If you are looking for intelligent books for children then you ought look at First Second’s line. Actually, they have great books for all ages. I actually follow First Second in Goodreads and although they effectively recommend many of their own books by reviewing them I do not mind as I believe I have enjoyed every last one, from Feynman to Bera the One-Headed Troll.

Taking a quick look through their line made me make a note to look a lot closer and add some interesting looking things to my to read list.

Highly recommended.

This is the 44th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Ottaviani & Wicks – Primates

Primates: The fearless science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviano and Maris Wicks

Date read: 26 August 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc 2016nfc

Cover image from Primates: The fearless science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Gladikas by Jim Ottaviano and Maris Wicks

Hardback, 140 pages
Published 2013 by First Second
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Teen Graphic Novel OTTAVIANI JIM]

I really enjoyed this book, as I have the previous two Ottaviano books I have read: Feynman and The Imitation Game [Sorry, no actual review of Feynman.]  I have pretty much all other of his books on my to read list now.

This book tells the story of three fearless women: Jane Goodall and her chimpanzee research, Dian Fossey and her research into mountain gorillas, and of Biruté Galdikas and her research on orangutans. The book has four sections, in that order, with the fourth being on the three of them together. [All links in this paragraph to Wikipedia.]

All three women were protégés of Louis Leakey and they all became preeminent ethologists although they all started with little in the way of formal academic “qualifications.” In fact, all three made discoveries—repeated, recorded observations really [which is what much “discovery” consists of]—that radically changed how we think of ourselves and some of our closest relatives, much less the behavior and intelligence—tool use, anyone?—of animals in general.

The book is considered a young adult book but I fail to see why that is the case. Anyone older can certainly learn a great deal from this book and also appreciate it at the same time. But I guess it alerts us to the fact that it is appropriate for that age group and that is cool.

An afterword from the author discusses the fact versus fictionalized narrative issues, while the book ends with a picture of all three renowned scientists together, a bibliography and a colophon.

The artwork is in one sense fairly simplified but it is also extremely effective at relating the story. What I mean is that facial and body expression is used more prominently than over-detailed extraneous visual details. Thus, much of the rest is as minimal as needed to effectively help move the narrative along. I think the artwork is exceptionally done overall!

Highly recommended! For every one.

This is the 43rd book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 21st book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

 

Abel – La Perdida

La Perdida by Jessica Abel

Date read: 20-24 August 2016
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image from Jessica Abel's graphic novel La Perdida

Hardback, ix, 275 pages
Published 2006 by Pantheon Books
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel ABEL JESSICA]

The description from Goodreads:

“From the Harvey and Lulu award–winning creator of Artbabecomes this riveting story of a young woman’s misadventures in Mexico City. Carla, an American estranged from her Mexican father, heads to Mexico City to “find herself.” She crashes with a former fling, Harry, who has been drinking his way through the capital in the great tradition of his heroes, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Harry is good—humored about Carla’s reappearance on his doorstep—until he realizes that Carla, who spends her days soaking in the city, exploring Frida Kahlo’s house, and learning Spanish, has no intention of leaving.

When Harry and Carla’s relationship of mutual tolerance reaches its inevitable end, she rejects his world of Anglo expats for her own set of friends: pretty-boy Oscar, who sells pot and dreams of being a DJ, and charismatic Memo, a left-wing, pseudo–intellectual ladies’ man. Determined to experience the real Mexico, Carla turns a blind eye to her new friends’ inconsistencies. But then she catches the eye of a drug don, el Gordo, and from that moment on her life gets a lot more complicated, and she is forced to confront the irreparable consequences of her willful innocence.

Jessica Abel’s evocative black–and–white drawings and creative mix of English and Spanish bring Mexico City’s past and present to life, unfurling Carla’s dark history against the legacies of Burroughs and Kahlo. A story about the youthful desire to live an authentic life and the consequences of trusting easy answers,La Perdida–at once grounded in the particulars of life in Mexico and resonantly universal–is a story about finding oneself by getting lost.”

This title won the 2002 Harvey Award for Best New Series per the inside back flap of the book cover. Verified at Wikipedia.

I thought it was alright, a bit too self-indulgent perhaps. No idea how I was supposed to think of Carla by the end, just another stupid American who lost her ideals, was changed in the process, and lost her self.

All of the other Americans in Mexico City kept together and were generally asses, while none of the many named Mexican characters had any real redeeming qualities either. Only the unnamed masses were held up as innocents, if you will.

Just not sure what I’m supposed to take away from it and I can’t find a lot of depth other than perhaps “people and life are messy,” and that isn’t very deep and has been told much better a thousand different ways before.

By the by, La Perdida translates to “the loss.”

This is the 42nd book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

 

Ottaviani & Purvis – The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by Jim Ottaviani & Leland Purvis (illustrator)

Date read: 15-16 August 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc, 2016nfc

Cover image of The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by Jim Ottaviani & Leland Purvis

Hardback, 234 pages
Published 2016 by Abrams ComicArts
Source: Central Oregon Community College Barber Library [QA 29 .T8 O772 2016]

 

I enjoyed this, just as I enjoyed Ottaviani’s Feynman, which I read in 2012. I also just marked most of his books as To Read in Goodreads.

“I still work as a librarian by day, but stay up late writing comics about scientists.”

I didn’t know he was a librarian too!

Aha! That’s right. “He now works at the University of Michigan Library as coordinator of Deep Blue, the university’s institutional repository.[1][2]” [per Wikipedia].

The book consists of some prefatory material, 222 pages of graphic novel, an author’s note a bit over a page long, an annotated 3-page bibliography and recommended reading, and 6-pages of notes and references.

The graphic novel proper consists of the following sections: “Universal Computing” (pp. 1-66), “Top Secret Ultra” [think Bletchley Park] (pp. 67-152), and “The Imitation Game” (pp. 153-222) [links are to Wikipedia].

Highly recommended! If you know about Turing, and have, like me, perhaps read his papers on universal computing and the imitation game (philosophy and applied computer science undergrad), then this is still a great resource with all of the notes and references to specific works that might be of particular interest to you.

If you know little to nothing about Turing then this is a great introduction. Far better even than the recent (2014) movie, The Imitation Game, with Cumberbatch and Knightley. The presence of actual citations and sources are the basis for this claim.

This is the 41st book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 20th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

This is actually way past 20 nonfiction books for me this year; I simply have failed at reviewing quite a few, or finishing reviews, which is essentially the same thing. Many were started.

Martin, et al – Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, volumes three and four

A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, volumes three and four by Daniel Abraham (adaptor), Tommy Patterson (art), Ivan Nunes (colors), Marshall Dillon (lettering); based on the novels by George R.R. Martin

Date read: 09 August 2016 and 09-10 August 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover mage of A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, volume three by Daniel Abraham , et al. Cover mage of A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, volume four by Daniel Abraham , et al.

Hardbacks, 1 volume ea. (unpaged)
Published 2014 by Bantam and 2015 by Bantam
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel GAME OF THRONES V.3 & V.4]
Volume Three contains Issues 13-18 plus “The Making of A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume 3”
Volume Four contains Issues 19-24 plus “The Making of A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume 4”

Abstract v3

“In King’s Landing, Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell, the Hand of King Robert Baratheon, is surrounded by enemies. Some are openly declared, such as Ser Jaime Lannister and his sister, Queen Cersei. Others are hidden in the shadows. Still others wear the smiling mask of friends. But all are deadly, as Eddard is about to discover. Nor is the enmity between Eddard and the Lannister siblings the sole source of friction between these powerful noble families. For Tyrion Lannister, the Imp, whose stunted, twisted body houses the mind of a genius, has but lately won his freedom from Lady Catelyn Stark, Eddard’s wife, who had accused him of attempting to murder her youngest son, Brandon. Now he seeks out his father, his restless thoughts bent on revenge. Far to the north, the bastard Jon Snow, newly sworn to the Night’s Watch, takes the first faltering steps toward a destiny stranger than he could ever dream, a destiny that will bring him face-to-face with unspeakable horrors from beyond the edge of the world. While across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen, wed to the great Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo, and pregnant with his child, a son prophesied to conquer the world, will see her own destiny take an unforeseen turn.”

Abstract v4

“The kingdom of the Stark family faces its ultimate challenge in the onset of a generation-long winter, the poisonous plots of the rival Lannisters, the emergence of the Neverborn demons, and the arrival of barbarian hordes.”

I find the different lengths of these abstracts/summaries from the WorldCat records hilarious. Volume one and two were the same but reversed; one was real short and two was lengthy like three above [see My review of the first two volumes is here.]

I enjoyed these also and am considering trying the TV series. No way in hell I’m reading all those thousands of pages in the novels though, especially since the dang story isn’t even finished. Had to do a lot of Wikipedia/library catalog poking to suss out what part of the full story, if you will, this was. It seems to be the first book, A Game of Thrones, of the series A Song of Ice and Fire.

I imagine these four volumes are a much more condensed adaptation than the TV show with its seven seasons or whatever. Oh, so only the first season covered the same material. Well then. That might be a good way to get more of the story without committing to all those pages. If I can take the graphic violence.

By the by, I am in no way against thousands of pages for a story, fiction or otherwise, but I am extremely selective, and extremely narrowly so, in choosing anything of that length to deal with. Too many other interests and diversions out there.

Recommended. If you are a fan of the novels and/or the show then have a look to see another take on adapting the same story and, if like me, you are not familiar with either then this provides a great entry.

This is the 39th and 40th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

McCool & Guevara – Nevsky: A Hero of the People

Nevsky: A Hero of the People : written by Ben McCool; drawn by Mario Guevara; colored by David Baron with Allen Passalaqua & Peter Pantazis; lettering by Shawn Lee. Based on the film Alexander Nevsky written & directed by Sergei Eisenstein.

Date read: 10 August 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of McCool & Guevara - Nevsky: A Hero of the People

Hardback, 117 pages
Published 2012 by IDW
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel MCCOL BEN]

Summary:

“Alexander Nevsky is a medieval Russian hero-prince and saint, and passionate warrior; he is proud and honored to fight for his home nation of Russia. When the Teutonic Knights of the Holy Roman Empire attack his beloved homeland, he assembles the Novgorod people (Russian people) for battle, and faces the invading forces to save his people from tyranny and oppression. Against the odds– and against the nobility of Russia, who wanted to appease the invaders– Alexander Nevsky and his people’s army fight the evil Teutonic Knights in a famous epic battle on the ice”–Excerpt from back of dust jacket.

I quite enjoyed this and have requested the DVD of the movie it is adapted from, Sergei M. Eisenstein’s 1938 Alexander Nevsky with score by Sergei Prokofiev. So much film history here that I know I’m missing 80% of it and that’s OK.

I can’t find anything that recommends it for mature audiences but it does have a fair bit of violence and gore, and a definite anti-religious—particularly anti-Catholic—theme to be aware of.

I thought the artwork was particularly effective, in all settings from cities to huge citadels to snow-covered expanses of  wilderness. I thought the story told was a powerful and important one in its own right, but I greatly appreciated the four pages of context at the end, “The Life and Death Drama Behind Alexander Nevsky,” which situated the story in a pre-WWII context, and the two page interview with film historian and Eisenstein specialist, Naum Kleiman, on Eisenstein’s place in film history.

Highly recommended!

This is the 38th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Arcudi, et al – A god Somewhere

A god Somewhere by John Arcudi (writer), Peter Snejbjerg (artist), Bjarne Hansen (colorist), Wes Abbot (letterer)

Date read: 10 August 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of A god Somewhere by John Arcudi (writer), et al.

Trade paperback, 193 pages
Published 2010 by WildStorm Productions
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel ARCUDI JOHN]
“Suggested for mature readers”—back cover.

“A mysterious disaster. Four lives torn apart. A world changed forever. This original graphic novel charts the arc of one man’s evolution from human to hero to—something else, as seen through the eyes of his family and his best friend.”—Back of cover.

I quite enjoyed this. The artwork was almost always effective and helped tell the story and move it along. The “mature reader” suggestion is well-earned as it is brutal at times, nor does it ever flinch from the things humans do.

Eric survives a freak accident but manifests powers and helps with the rescue and continues to be a hero. But then he isn’t so careful of collateral damage while doing good; then he’s not at all good and believing he’s a god. He becomes a god-like force of joyful destruction and then ….

Redemption? Maybe; maybe not.

Highly recommended. All of the main characters develop complex motivations and change dramatically over the course of the story.

This is the 37th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Martin, et al. – Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, volumes one and two

A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, volumes one and two by Daniel Abraham (adaptor), Tommy Patterson (art), Ivan Nunes (colors), Marshall Dillon (lettering); based on the novels by George R.R. Martin

Date read: 09 August 2016 and 09-10 August 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover of Martin, et al - Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, volumes two Martin, et al - Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, volume one

Hardbacks, 1 volume ea. (unpaged)
Published 2012 by Bantam and 2013 by Bantam
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel GAME OF THRONES V.1 & V.2]
Volume One contains Issues 1-6 plus “The Making of A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume 1
Volume Two contains Issues 7-12 plus “The Making of A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume 2”

Abstract v1

“The kingdom of the Stark family faces its ultimate challenge in the onset of a generation-long winter, the poisonous plots of the rival Lannisters, the emergence of the Neverborn demons, and the arrival of barbarian hordes.”

Abstract v2

“In this second volume, the action moves from the icy north, where the bastard Jon Snow seeks to carve out a place for himself among the bitter outcasts and hardened criminals sworn to service upon the Wall … to the decadent south and the capital city of King’s Landing, where Jon’s father, Lord Eddard Stark, serves as the Hand of King Robert Baratheon amid a nest of courtly vipers … to the barbarian lands across the Narrow Sea, where the young princess Daenerys Targaryen has found the unexpected in her forced marriage to the Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo: love — and with it, for the first time in her life, power. Meanwhile, the dwarf Tyrion Lannister, accused by Lady Catelyn Stark of the attempted murder of her son, must call upon all his cunning to survive imprisonment in the dungeons of the Eyrie, where Lady Stark’s sister rules.”

[Abstracts from the records in OCLC Worldcat]

These are my introduction to A Game of Thrones; I have neither read the books nor seen any of the TV show. I enjoyed them and “The Making of …” bits in each of these collected volumes but the number of characters is beginning to get out of hand. The 3rd volume is waiting for me at the public library and the 4th is on its way.

I may try and get the DVDs of the HBO show so I can see Peter Dinklage playing Tyrion Lannister. I would think he’d be an utter hoot in that role. I am a bit concerned about the amount of utterly visual violence though.

Quite enjoyed but perhaps too many characters for me. And going to get worse. Oh well.

By the way, the graphic novels are not recreations of the HBO series but a completely separate adaptation that pretty much happened parallel to the TV show. They talk, in the first volume, about keeping an eye on what HBO did to solve certain problems and sometimes it worked for them but just as often they did/needed another solution.

Recommended for mature audiences.

These are the 35th and 36th books in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups