Hoffman – Survival Lessons

Survival lessons by Alice Hoffman

Date read: 18-19 March 2016
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Survival lessons by Alice Hoffman

Hardback, viii, 85 pages
Published 2013 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Source: Deschutes Public Library via Jefferson County Library [616.99 Hoffman]

This is a book with highly divergent reviews. Some find it uplifting, delightful, beautifully written, and so on. Others find it trite and written from a position of privilege. I would say it is all those things and more, both good and bad.

It was written as a survivor, 15 years after Hoffman was diagnosed breast cancer, as you read about in the preface.

It is a small book that can be quickly read, which is what I did. In that manner, it very easily seems trite. But if you truly need this book—which, in effect, is trying to teach you how not only to be a survivor but to thrive doing so—then you ought read it slow. Read a section at a time. Ponder what your own answers to the topic might be. Don’t just embrace hers. Not everyone needs a puppy. Then act on them. In that way, the book would become much much more and could, in fact, be life changing. But only as a catalyst; one must still choose and act. That was always the answer.

Contents:

  • Preface
  • Choose Your Heroes
  • Choose to Enjoy Yourself
  • Choose Your Friends
  • Choose Whose Advice to Take
  • Choose Your Relatives
  • Choose How to Spend Your Time
  • Choose to Plan for the Future
  • Choose to Love Who You Are
  • Choose to Accept Sorrow
  • Choose to Dream
  • Choose Something New
  • Choose to Give In to Yourself
  • Choose to Make Things Beautiful
  • Choose to Tell Your Own Story
  • Choose to Forgive
  • Choose to Claim Your Past
  • Choose to Be Yourself
  • Choose to Share
  • Choose Love
  • Choose the Evidence

Each section is between two and seven pages long, and the book includes a brownie recipe and instructions for knitting a hat.

One main comment regarding the book is that you do not need to be fighting cancer or trying to survive a trauma or whatever your situation may be. These points are all valid for every single person. Your character will come through by what you choose and, more importantly, those choices you actually act on.

Recommended if you need it. But know that simply reading it will be pointless, as quick as that may be. You must invest thought and action. Otherwise it is simply tripe.

This is actually my 19th nonfiction book finished this year but the review for the 18th is taking a bit.

This is the 18th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

North and Henderson – The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 (2015)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 (2015) by Ryan North and Erica Henderson; et al.

Date read: 05 March 2016
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1

Comic, single-issue
Published December 2015 [published monthly] by Marvel Worldwide
Source: Gift; wife was given this at the World Muse Conference in Bend

Before I review this let me say that comics often drive me crazy: all the reboots, spreading story lines across different titles, and just plain weirdness. This one being only the first issue falls into the last since it is actually the second first issue of this title. Seriously. W.T.F. Do publishers think they are cute? Is it some kind of litmus test to see if you can be geeky enough? Who knows? Maybe there’s even more weirdness going on in this title than I know. All I have at hand is this issue, which proudly proclaims on its cover, “Only Our Second #1 So Far This Year.” It also references that other first issue within the text. Whatever.

This is rated T for teen and that’s probably who it is best suited for. It was generally fun and kind of interesting. In the future, if there is ever a collected volume I might revisit it. Otherwise it isn’t really to my taste, even though I like squirrels.

The cast includes Squirrel Girl, aka Doreen Green; Tippy-Toe the squirrel; Nancy Whitehead, Doreen’s friend and roommate; Chipmunk Hunk, aka Tomas Lara-Perez; and Koi Boi, aka Ken Shiga. The human characters are second-year computer science students who generally act as a team saving folks and stopping bad guys. Props for a diverse cast. Squirrel Girl is a New Avenger; for proof the editor tells us to go read New Avengers #1. Um, nope.

The artwork is clearly drawn and supports the story without confusing the reader. At the bottom of each page is some tiny print that offers assorted commentary on that page or some aspect of it. For instance, on the third page when Squirrel Girl is about to leap out of a burning building with a parent over each shoulder and the kid she told to grab her tail and the mother begins to protest the safety of the idea, the text reads, “I was gonna the say the mom is being a drag here for not assuming this is safe, but Squirrel Girl never actually told her that “leaping hecka far” is one of her powers, so—good work, mom. You are a sensible mom, and you only want the best for your child.”

All in all, was OK but not my thing right now.

This is the 21st book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Thug Kitchen Party Grub

Thug Kitchen Party Grub (TK2) by Thug Kitchen

Date read: 29 February – 02 March 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Thug Kitchen Party Grub

Hardback, xv, 240 pages
Published 2015 by Rodale
Source: Own; Barnes & Noble

Warning: This book and review contains curse words and dope references. Move along if either of those offends you.

This book is the shit! My son and daughter-in-law turned us on to the first book from Thug Kitchen, Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck, which we also own, around Thanksgiving 2014. Seeing as that [this one too] is totally a vegetarian and vegan cookbook, and neither of them are and they were raving about it, we gave it a chance. We haven’t honestly used it a lot but we both loved its attitude. [Looks like I need to read through the first book; according to Goodreads I only browsed a library copy but we do own it.]

Sara grabbed this new one a week ago when we were at Barnes & Noble for a local author reading. It is awesome! And we have already used it.

The attitude is almost over-the-top but stops shy of completing the arc. Now, if you can’t take cursing then stay the fuck away. And if you think, “Hey, I’m a loner/introvert/non-partier/etc.,” then no worries—we think that about ourselves also—then this book is still for you (x):

Image from page 10 of Thug Kitchen Party Grub

Contents

  • Picture This Shit
  • Wake and Bake: Badass Breakfasts and Bougie Brunches
  • Pre-Party Like a Fucking Champ: Small Bites, Dips, and Stuff to Throw in Bowls
  • Dress to Impress: Salads, Sauces, and Sides
  • Bon Appétit Motherfucker: Potluck Staples and Main Dishes
  • Spin the Bottle: Desserts, Drinks, and Sides of Sweetness
  • Quick and Dirty
  • Thanks
  • Index

Oh, clearly, the authors are stoners or at least trying to rope in that crowd too. If you’re not you may well miss the references; but if you can get them and they bother you then also stay the fuck away.

We both found lots of good sounding, and pragmatically doable, recipes in this book with a lot of overlap. I am an omnivore but the wife is vegetarian, although honestly she is more of a carbohydratarian, by inclination. Thanks to my health issues of the last almost two years, I am eating and cooking a lot more vegetables and more plant-based proteins, along with trying to make myself reasonable amounts of quality meat.

The wife found 22+ recipes she’s interested in and I found 53! I’d say that’s a pretty good ratio and, bonus, across the recipes she and I picked we chose 17 of the same. Score.

One of the tips I already used is in making couscous. Maybe I’ve seen this elsewhere but if so I don’t remember.

“This cooks quickly since technically it’s a pasta, not a grain. Look that shit up if you don’t believe us. Anyway, these mini motherfuckers will be ready in 10 minutes flat. Throw 1 cup couscous in a pot or heatproof bowl with a pinch of salt. Add 1 1/4 cups boiling water, stir, and throw the lid on (or cover the bowl with a plate). No heat under the pot or anything. Let that sit for 8 minutes, then fluff the couscous with a fork and serve. Fucking done” (213).

Worked excellently. Only thing that makes me sad is that even regular pasta is just a tiny bit healthier and I’m not really supposed to be eating that. Sure wish this worked on some of the tinier grains; might have to experiment.

Highly recommended for everyone who wants to eat healthier while entertaining (even if just yourself), but especially if you are an omnivore looking to be just that little bit healthier by incorporating a few more non-animal products into your diet. Also recommended for party people. You know who you are. Just don’t forget this grub is dope for introverts too; you gotta eat something while you binge on that TV show.

The book even contains a few random lifestyle tips. For instance, maybe you do want to push yourself out of your comfort zone but can’t stand the thought of even your few friends nosing through your bathroom. They got some dope advice for that worry (141):

Image from page 141 of Thug Kitchen Party Grub

“The rumors will start themselves!” Ha. I love it.

If any of our local friends are reading, be warned, we’re dreaming up a Thug Kitchen-themed party. If you play nice we’ll let you pick your own recipes from the book to bring. Otherwise we’ll be sending you a recipe and be like, “Bring this shit, motherfuckers!”

This is the 13th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Dunlap-Shohl – My Degeneration

My Degeneration: A Journey Through Parkinson’s (Graphic Medicine series) by Peter Dunlap-Shohl

Date read: 02 March 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc 2016nfc

Cover image for Dunlap-Shohl's My Degeneration

Paperback, 96 pages
Published 2015 by The Pennsylvania State Press
Source: Deschutes Public Library (Graphic Novel DUNLAP-SHOHL PETER)

Highly recommended.

Graphic Medicine series; Susan Merrill Squier and Ian Williams, general editors

“Books in the Graphic Medicine series are inspired by a growing awareness of the value of comics as an important resource for communicating about a range of issues broadly termed “medical.” For healthcare practitioners, patients, families, and caregivers dealing with illness and disability, graphic narrative enlightens complicated or difficult experience. For scholars in literary, cultural, and comics studies, the genre articulates a complex and powerful analysis of illness, medicine, and disability and a rethinking of the boundaries of “health.” The series includes original comics from artists and non-artists alike, such as self-reflective “graphic pathographies” or comics used in medical training and education, as well as monographic studies and edited collections from scholars, practitioners, and medical educators.” (Half title verso)

Other books in the Graphic Medicine series at WorldCat.

This personal account of Parkinson’s Disease from diagnosis through the next ten years of terror, struggle, acceptance, surgery, and post-surgery “tuning” is more than brave and illuminating.

It also utterly terrified me. Kind of like looking up some of my recent and current symptoms in a late night Internet search; which I generally avoid at all costs. The author was a political cartoonist for twenty-five years, most of which was pre-diagnosis.

Contents:

  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Diagnosis Blues
  • 2. Learning to Speak Parkinson’s
  • 3. Interview with a Killer
  • 4. Moping and Coping
  • 5. The Parkinson’s Prism
  • 6. Island of the Caring and Competent
  • 7. A Different Path
  • 8. Diagnosis, Reprise

The eight sections are all relatively short, considering it is only 96 pages total, and thus the book is a quick read but would also be well-suited for digesting more slowly a section or two at a time.

Highly recommended. I really enjoyed this book, if that is the correct idea. It was well-executed, is brutally honest, pulls no punches, is itself caring and thankful, and teaches those of us who know little of Parkinson’s quite a bit in a small, power-packed package.

This is the 20th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 12th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Gunders – Waste Free Kitchen Handbook

Waste Free Kitchen Handbook: A guide to eating well and saving money by wasting less food by Dana Gunders

Date read: 17 February – 01 March 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Gunder's Waste Free Kitchen Handbook

Paperback, 200 pages
Published 2015 by Chronicle Books
Source: Own

Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Making a Difference
  • Part One: Strategies for Everyday Life
  • Part Two: Recipes
  • Part Three: Directory
  • Foodborne Illness
  • Notes
  • Index

“The author is a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and leads NRDC’s work on reducing the amount of food wasted across the country” (back cover).

The Introduction covers where food is wasted, what contributes to food waste in homes, what it takes to produce food, how wasting food saves money and resources, and how this is about “small, easy changes you can make in your daily food rhythm that will streamline your consumption” (21).

“My journey into becoming a food-waste warrior started at work, where I was researching how to improve farming. My aim was to help farmers use less water, fertilizers, and pesticides. But what I found startled me. After all the effort and resources that were being invested to get food to our plates, a huge amount of it was going uneaten! It occurred to me that no matter how organically or sustainably we grow our food, if it doesn’t get eaten, it doesn’t do anyone any good.

About 40 percent of all food in the United States does not get eaten.1 That’s crazy! It’s like buying five bags of groceries and then dropping two of the bags in the grocery store parking lot and not bothering to pick them up.

Collectively, consumers are responsible for more wasted food than farmers, grocery stores, or any other part of the food supply chain” (Introduction, 9).

You may have noticed the footnote in the above quote. The book contains a fair few (61 total) endnotes, many of which are to free and open sources. I have added the two citations used in quotes I am using near the bottom of this post.

Growing portion sizes come in for a bit of analysis in the Intro. “Portion sizes are now sometimes 2 to 8 tines larger than the standard serving sizes defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration7” (11). There is a chart on p. 12 showing the growth in portion sizes from 1982 to 2002 for nine food items. The smallest increase of 70% was for pepperoni pizza to 205% for soda and 400% for a chocolate chip cookie!

Part One covers Sage Shopping (tricks of the grocery trade, meal planning, shopping guidelines, and waste diagnostics), Smarter Storage (refrigerators, freezers, blanching, canning, pickling, drying, and root cellars; although these last four are simply overviews), The Crafty Kitchen (setting up your kitchen, tenets of mindful cooking, making the right amount, salvaging kitchen crises, leftovers, keeping food safe, and food waste management for parties), Can I Eat It? (what happens to food as it ages, expiration dates, and who should be particularly careful), Getting Scrappy (food scraps for and not for pets, things that can be (re)planted, household uses for scraps, and composting), and Go Forth and Go For It, which provides a short recap so far.

Part Two consists of 20 recipes ranging from infused vodkas through desserts and main dishes to side dishes by using food items that are nearing or just past prime.

Part Three covers Fruits; Vegetables; Meat, Poultry, and Seafood; Pantry Staples; Dairy and Eggs; Beans, Nuts, and Vegetarian Proteins; Oils, Condiments, and Spices. The Directory “… offers advice on how to store foods, how to freeze them, and how long they stay at their best quality. It also has helpful tidbits on ways to use parts that you might have thought were inedible, tips for reviving foods, and answers to questions like, “What are those brown spots?” (146)

It clearly cannot cover everything but it does have many, if not most, of the more normal fruits, vegetables, meats, etc.

Foodborne Illness addessses pathogens, toxins, Listeria, and pasteurization.

Recommended. A fairly quick read with lots of ideas, some more practical than others depending on your situation, which she does acknowledge. Early on the author comes across as a bit of a zealot but then this is a huge problem worldwide. See, for instance, Food Waste: The Facts by the United Nations Environment Programme, Regional Office of North Africa.

The scale of food waste is truly terrifying and criminally unjust.

1 K. D. Hall, J. Guo, M. Dore, and C. C. Chow, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in American and its Environmental Impact,” PloS One 4 no. 11 (2009), e7940.

7 L. Young and M. Nestle, “Expanding Portion Sizes in the U.S. Marketplace: Implications for U.S. Counsleing,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 103, no. 2 (February 2003): portionteller.com/pdf/portsize.pdf [link verified 05 March 2016]

Actually the 12th nonfiction book for me this year but the review for number 11 is taking a while.

This is the 11th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Black – The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book

The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book by Jessica K. Black, N.D.

Date read: 06-16 February 2016
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Black's The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book

Paperback, xii, 243 pages
Published 2006 by Hunter House
Source: Own

I actually read the follow-up book, More Anti-Inflammation Diet Tips and Recipes, back in July 2015. In my review at Goodreads I wrote:

“I really enjoyed this. Overall it is quite good and makes sense with very little frou frou. But, seriously, the only salt to eat is from one place on earth in Utah. I don’t think so.”

I gave it one more star than this one and I found a few more recipes to try. My wife has only read this one and found quite a few recipes. We need to start using them and trying some of the recipes or at least glean good ideas from them.

Contents:

  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Why an Anti-Inflammation Diet?
  • Ch. 1: Modern Health Paradigms
  • Ch. 2: Inflammation: What’s the Big Deal?
  • Ch. 3: The Importance of Diet
  • Ch. 4: The Anti-Inflammation Diet
  • Ch. 5: How to Use This Book
  • Recipes
    • Appetizers, Side Dishes, Seasonings, and Spreads
    • Breads, Muffins, and Tortillas
    • Breakfasts
    • Teas and Other Beverages
    • Entrées
    • Grains
    • Salads
    • Soups
    • Sweet Things
  • Appendix: Substitution Chart
  • References
  • Online Resources
  • Index

The early chapters do a good job of explaining the why and how and the benefits of an anti-inflammation diet. This is followed by about 175 pages of assorted recipes.

I do recommend it but suggest you try getting from a library first to see if it might benefit you. The second book is 7-years newer and so has some updated information; also some different information along with different recipes. Start with whichever one you can get your hands on.

This is the 10th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Morrison, et al. – The Invisibles, Vol. 1: Say You Want a Revolution

The Invisibles, Vol. 1: Say You Want a Revolution by Grant Morrison (writer, creator), others

Date read: 15-16 February 2016
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Grant Morrison's The Invisibles

Paperback, 222 pages
Published 1996 by DC Comics [Originally published in single magazine form as THE INVISIBLES 1-8 1994-5]
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel MORRISON GRANT]

This was OK. Pretty strange.

Mostly a rant against/questioning the seemingly never-dying, yet highly dangerous, concept of utopia. The art was reasonably well done yet still somewhat confusing at times. It also jumps around in time narratively, just as some of the characters do in time. Also present are forms of astral projection, mind control and other complicated topics. The Marquis de Sade makes an appearance, as does Shelley, Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron.

If you like such things then recommended. Not for children; note the de Sade, amongst other things.

This is the 19th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Simone, et al. – Red Sonja, vol. 1 and 2

Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues, and Red Sonja: The Art of Blood and Fire by Gail Simone, Walter Geovani (illus.), et al.

Date read: 14 February 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Red Sonja: Queen of PlaguesCover image of Red Sonja: The Art of Blood and Fire

Paperback, unpaged volumes
Published 2014 by Dynamite Entertainment [Vol. 1 “collects material originally published in Red Sonja volume 2 #1-6” and vol. 2 ““collects material originally published in Red Sonja volume 2 #7-12, 0.”]
Source: Deschutes Public Library [actually Crook County Library via DPL GRAPHIC NOVELS YGN Simone, G]

I quite enjoyed both of these. I see that there is a 3rd volume titled The Forging of Monsters, which collects #13-18 but it doesn’t look like my public or university libraries have access. I may have to ask that they get it.

The artwork is well done and the story lines are solid.

Recommended if you like sword-and-sorcery stories and/or strong women.

These are the 17th and 18th books in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Alanguilan – Elmer

Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan

Date read: 09 February 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Alanguilan's Elmer

Paperback, 1 vol. unpaged
Published 2010 by SLG Publishing [originally self-published by the author in the Philippines]
Source: Central Oregon Community College Barber Library [PN 6727 .A383 E46 2010]

This book kicked my ass! I am declaring it my favorite book of 2016. Calling it now.

I was tweeting about it all evening while I was reading it. I almost never tweet about books while I am reading them. Seven tweets in total. Simply unprecedented for me.

Utterly recommended! For everyone and anyone who may be considered “mature readers,” as labeled on the back cover.

This edition collects together all four of the originally issued comics into a single, coherent whole.

From the back cover:

Elmer is a window into an alternate Earth where chickens have suddenly acquired the intelligence and consciousness of humans, where they consider themselves a race no different from whites, browns, or blacks. Recognizing themselves to be sentient, the inexplicably evolved chickens push to attain rights for themselves as the newest members of the human race.

Elmer tells the story of a family of chickens who lives and struggles to survive in a suddenly complicated, dangerous and yet beautiful world.”

It could serve as commentary on our eating of chickens and other animals, and it does some, but its main focus is a commentary on race, hatred, the irrationality of humans, love, fathers and sons, compartmentalization of roles in society, and humanity at its best in the individual where it ultimately resides.

It is quite graphic in spots, which I will not downplay, but it is in black & white so is not as bad as if red had been splashed everywhere.

Single panel from Elmer

There are many ways to tell the story of bigotry, racism, and hatred and this may be one of the seemingly more absurd but it works very well. Of course, a “mature reader” will also explore other perspectives on these topics as one should, be it the lived experience of individual persons of color (or other targets of bigotry) to the collective movements, such as Black Lives Matter, to the things disciplines such as psychology, sociology and anthropology can teach us, to explorations of the structures of racism (and other -isms) built into our laws and societies.

Single panel from Elmer

This book can be difficult. But my heart is ripped apart every single day when I see where American society is still on these topics at this point in history. And, no, this book does not solve any of that. It is not supposed to. Its purpose is to illuminate, perhaps educate, to make one think, to make one question. Maybe even to help one love.

There were a few spots where the transition from one time frame to another was abrupt and not as clear as most, but in the end the story was so powerful that this did not detract from it for me.

I give this the highest recommendation I possibly can. Beautiful. Haunting. Hits so close to the bone that it drills in and starts sucking the marrow out.

Two panels from Elmer

This is the 16th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Hayden – The Story of My Tits

The Story of My Tits by Jennifer Hayden

Date read: 07-08 February 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc 2016nfc

Cover image for Hayden's graphic novel The Story of My Tits

Paperback, 352 pages
Published 2015 by Top Shelf Productions
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel HAYDEN JENNIFER]

I quite enjoyed this graphic novel. Well, as much as one can enjoy a book so full of disease and death. But it is also full of strong women (and a few strong men) who find ways to deal with what life throws at us; which makes it utterly full of life.

Jennifer Hayden was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 43. Her mother had already had a mastectomy just after Jennifer had graduated from college. This book is about how one small group of family and friends and their caregivers handle cancer and all that comes with it.

The book actually deals with many other issues around family, parenting, and everyday living.

Recommended.

This is the 15th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 9th book in my Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader