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:


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 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

DeConnick, et al. – Bitch Planet

Bitch Planet, Book One:: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, et al.

Date read: 10 July 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of DeConnick, et al. Bitch Planet, book one: Extraordinary Machine

Paperback, [156 pages]
Published 2015 by Image Comics [Originally published in single magazine form as Bitch Planet #1-5]
Source: Deschutes Public Library via Jefferson County [GRAPHIC Bitch V.1]

I enjoyed this quite a bit and would like to see where it goes but the next volume does not come out until 8 November. I will have no idea who the characters are anymore or what happened up till now in the story by then. Perhaps when a few more volumes come out (assuming they do) I will come back and revisit it.

Rated Mature as contains nudity, cursing, and violence. Its themes and subject headings are Women prisoners and Penal colonies. So think, Women in prison (exploitation) films and novels but within an exclusively patriarchal corporate political system.

As I said, I quite enjoyed it but personally I prefer there be more of a story published before I get into it.

There is already a fair bit of social commentary but these first 5 issues contained in this volume are still background for the story so not as much as would be possible in a developed world/context.

Recommended for fans of feminism, women in prison exploitation films, social commentary, and so on.

This is the 34th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups


Toboso – Black Butler III & IV

Black Butler III and IV by Yana Toboso; translation by Tomo Kimura.
Date read: 06 June and 7-10 June 2016
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image for Black Butler IIICover image for Black Butler IV

Paperback, 194 pages each
Published 2010 by Square Enix Co., Ltd. [First published in Japan 2008, same publisher] and 2011 [First published in Japan 2008, same publisher]
Source: Jefferson County Library via Deschutes Public Library [YG Black Butler (v.3) and [YG Black Butler (v.4)]

I wrote about I and II here.

My prediction was correct. I read III in one sitting but IV took almost 4 days; life did interrupt but I also simply was not motivated to finish it.

Via Goodreads:

Description of III:

“Terrorizing its populace, Jack the Ripper has shaken London to its very core. But when Sebastian Michaelis, singular butler of the Phantomhive house, lays bare the madman’s true identity, all that is left for him to do is eliminate the perpetrator in the name of the Queen and Phantomhive. But inhumanly efficient skills don’t guarantee victory when the opponent is just as supernaturally gifted! And though Sebastian may be able to save Ciel from physical harm in the battle that ensues, will the young earl ever recover from the emotional scars it will leave on his heart? “

Description of IV:

“London – the capital of the Great Empire – is once again under siege, as a string of bizarre attacks on British citizens returned from India sends rumours flying and casts a pall upon Queen Victoria’s rule. Sent in by Her Majesty, young Earl Phantomhive and his most capable butler, Sebastian, follow a trail that collides head-on with an Indian youth who claims to be a prince. And this prince possesses an extraordinary butler of his own! As an intense rivalry between the two butlers begins to form, will the kitchen be the dueling duo’s final battleground?!”

There are at least 7 more in English and more after that possibly only in Japanese still. Not worried abut it. It might be for you. Got repetitive—almost “monster-of-the-week” for me.

Sorry this isn’t really much of a review. Not caring about these much especially a week or more later.

This is the 32nd and 33rd book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 11th and 12th book in my Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader, which means I have “completed” it. The max is 11-12 books for “Linguist.” I personally consider this a seriously low number but whatever. I hope and intend to read more translations but this gamified portion of my motivation no longer drives at this point.

Love – Bayou, volume two

Bayou, volume two by Jeremy Love and Patrick Morgan
Date read: 06 June 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Bayou, volume two by Jeremy Love

Paperback, unpaged
Published 2010 by DC Comics
Source: Summit request [Portland Community College]

Based on what I can tell from both Goodreads and Amazon there are only 2 volumes of this, this being the last and published in 2010. That’s a shame as the story certainly wasn’t over. I would definitely read more of this story.

From both GR and Amazon:

“South of the Mason-Dixon Line lies a strange land of gods and monsters; a world parallel to our own, born from centuries of slavery, civil war, and hate. Lee Wagstaff is the daughter of a black sharecropper in the depression-era town of Charon, Mississippi. When Lily Westmoreland, her white playmate, is snatched by agents of an evil creature known as Bog, Lee’s father is accused of kidnapping. Lee’s only hope is to follow Lily’s trail into this fantastic and frightening alternate world. Along the way she enlists the help of a benevolent, blues singing, swamp monster called Bayou. Together, Lee and Bayou trek across a hauntingly familiar Southern Neverland, confronting creatures both benign and malevolent, in an effort to rescue Lily and save Lee’s father from being lynched. BAYOU VOL. 2 collects four new chapters of the critically acclaimed web comic series by Glyph Award nominee Jeremy Love.“

I really like this story and I like that it has mostly African-American characters and that most (all?) whites that show up are bad people. But Lee’s trying to save her white friend and her father. Life is fucking complex. I wish there were more.

My review of the first volume is here.


This is the 31st book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups