Stevenson – Nimona

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Date read: 01-02 June 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image from the graphic novel Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Paperback, 266 pages
Published 2015 by HarperTeen
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Teen Graphic Novel STEVENSON NOELLE]

A supervillian and a sidekick. Institution. Good vs. evil. But which is which?

An entertaining story that demonstrates the moral complexities of life, and of the labels we use in that arena of thought.

My wife requested it from the public library for some reason and thought I might like it. I most certainly did!

The lettering borders on tiny frequently, but it otherwise is readable and legible. The drawing style is not extremely nuanced or detailed but almost always tells the story extremely effectively. There are only a very few panels where I’m like, “Not sure what that was …,” unlike say the two manga by Toboso that I read right before it where it frequently happened (and other manga, and other graphic novels). So while I would’ve preferred the lettering just a bit bigger most of the time (old eyes with slight astigmatism and serious shortsightedness), I found the text and images worked extremely well together to tell the story with neither getting in the way or being all flashy and attracting attention to one or the other.

I found this a rather endearing and morally complicated story which I think is a great story for teens (and adults). There’s plenty of negativity and broodiness and Nimona is just a girl (or is she?) and such a bad-ass with a go-getter, in-your-face attitude. Circumstances made Lord Blackheart a supervillian but his heart really isn’t in it. Who is the villain or hero, and who is the sidekick? And does that imply that the sidekick is neither villain or hero?

There are nemeses, dragons, science and symbolism and many other exciting things in this endearing tale of friendships.

The author’s bio:

“Noelle Stevenson has been nominated for Harvey Award and was awarded the Slate Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Web Comic in 2012 for Nimona. A graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, Noelle is the cowriter of Lumberjanes. She lives in Los Angeles.

Visit her online at www.gingerhaze.com.“

I have heard great things about Lumberjanes and it appears she has several webcomics available—although only a part of Nimona is still—if you wanted to check her work out for free. Also there’s the library which we used.

This the the 29th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Toboso – Black Butler I & II

Black Butler I & II by Yana Toboso; Tomo Kimura, translation; Tania Biswas, lettering
Date read: 01 June 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars each
Challenges: 201gnc 2016transl

Image of the cover of Yana Toboso's Black Butler I

Image of the cover of Yana Toboso's Black Butler I

 

Paperback [manga]: I = 186+ pages; II = 180+ pages
Published I = First Yen Press Edition 2010 [Kuroshitsuji Vol. 1 © 2007] by Yen Press [Square Enix co., Ltd.]; II = Yen Press 2010 [Kuroshitsuji Vol. 2 © 2007] by Yen Press [Square Enix co., Ltd.]
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Jefferson County Lib. district] [YG Black Butler (v.1) & YG Black Butler (v.2)

These were a quick, sitting in the sun in the backyard read yesterday. There are many more but I will probably try just a few more and then get bored. So many others out there. I did already request III and IV, though. They are manga so read from back to front for us Westerners.

From the back cover of I:
“Just a stone’s throw from London lies the manor of the illustrious Phantomhive earldom and its master, one Ciel Phantomhive. Earl Phantomhive is a giant in the world of commerce, Queen Victoria’s faithful servant … and a slip of a twelve-year-old boy. Fortunately, his loyal butler, Sebastian, is ever at his side, ready to carry out the young master’s wishes. And whether Sebastian is called to save a dinner party gone awry or probe the dark secrets of London’s underbelly, there apparently is nothing Sebastian cannot do. In fact, one might even say Sebastian is too good to be true … or at least, too good to be human …”

If you understand the genre of blurb writing, then you realize that that story synopsis is mostly, but not entirely, true, and the story is certainly a bit more complicated than that might suggest.

Incompetent servants as additional, but mostly harmless, foils to the butler. Demons, evil geniuses, kidnappings, billiards, dinner parties, martial arts, and much more. What’s not to love?

These are the 27th and 28th books in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

These are the 9th and 10th books in my Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Dysart, et al. – Neil Young’s Greendale

Neil Young’s Greendale by Joshua Dysart (writer), Cliff Chiang (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), Todd Klein (letterer)

Date read: 30 May 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Neil Young's Greendale by Joshua Dysar

Hardback, unnumbered
Published 2010 by Young Family Trust and DC Comics
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Teen Graphic novel DYSART JOSH]

I greatly enjoyed this. It went places I hadn’t imagined and it’s far more complex than it needs to be as if there are more Green family stories out there still to be told. Almost makes me tingle.

Let me back up. I heard and acquired this album when it came out in mid-2003 and listened to it many, many times. I was fully immersed in Greendale lore as either directly elucidated or as hinted at on the album. I truly wanted to have a serious “book discussion group” about this album as a text, as a narrative. I was at university at the time and was well-integrated into a couple of those sorts of discussion groups then so it made some sense. Sadly, it never happened. The album truly is that complex. There is one other album from around the same time that I believe merits the same treatment, Poe’s Haunted.

Greendale (the album is Young’s twenty-sixth studio album and his ninth with Crazy Horse. My copy was one of those which “… was originally released with a DVD of live “Neil-only” acoustic performance of the Greendale material from Vicar Street, Dublin, Ireland.” So this was another interpretation.

At some point I also got the movie, which gave another spin on the story. Clearly, Greendale was a rich mental ecosystem for Young.

This graphic novel adaptation by Joshua Dysart and others, with a short intro by Neil (and supposedly some direct involvement) really expands the world while keeping the story the same. It really is pretty brilliant. I honestly think I want to own a copy of this. As I said above, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Greendale on a fairly serious level.

Highly recommended whether or not you know the album or even if you can’t stand Neil Young (I know those people exist; I don’t hold it against them.).

I really wish there was more of this world, perhaps exploring more of those members of the family who barely made a complicating appearance.

Description from Vertigo website:

“Legendary singer-songwriter, musician and activist Neil Young brings one of his most personal albums, GREENDALE, to comics. Overseeing the work of acclaimed writer Joshua Dysart (UNKNOWN SOLDIER) and fan-favorite artist Cliff Chiang (HUMAN TARGET), they compose a graphic novel that explores a whole new dimension to the album that Rolling Stone voted as one of the best of its year.In the Fall of 2003, as the nation gallops into war, a politically active teenage girl named Sun lives, loves and dreams in a small California town named Greendale.Sun’s always been different. There’s been talk that the women in her family have all had a preternatural communion with nature. And when a Stranger comes to town – a character whose presence causes Greendale to, well, go to hell – she’ll find herself on a journey both mystical and mythical. To face the Stranger, she’ll unearth the secrets of her family in a political coming-of-age story infused with its own special magic.”

This is the 26th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Love – Bayou, volume one

Bayou, volume one by Jeremy Love

Date read: 29 May 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Jeremy Love's Bayou, volume one

Paperback, unpaged
Published 2009 by [Zuda Comics] DC Comics
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel LOVE JEREMY]

No idea where I heard of this one; has been in my Goodreads list since June 2014 and I failed to mention why. Hints at from Goodreads itself then, but who knows?

Excellent! And not your typical fare either. African-American magical realism in the swamps of Nawlins. I am hoping to get the second volume soon but I had to go a different route. Deschutes Public Library only has the first. I am hoping I can get it via Summit and Portland Community College. I have a request out.

Not for the young due to explicit and overt racism, violence, and other forms of pointing out the ugly truth of US history.

Not a nice place but it seems to be a magical place. I truly hope I get to read more.

 

This is the 25th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Tezuka – Apollo’s Song

Apollo’s Song by Osamu Tezuka
Date read: 07-08 May 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc 2016tranls

Cover image of Osamu Tezuka's Apollo's Song

Paperback, 541 pages
Published 2007 by Vertical (originally serialized in Japanese as Aporo no Uta in Shukan Shōnen Kingu, Shōnen Gahōsha, 1970
Source: Deschutes Public Library

I wish I had more to say about this. I quite enjoyed it but looking back through it today (14 May) there are large bits I simply do not remember. [I also have the flu right now and am not quite in my right mind and I read it a week ago so….]

Due to a bad upbringing, a young man unknowingly pisses off a vengeful goddess who condemns him to the eternal pain of (the eternal) loss of love.

The back cover says it for Ages 16+

Description from the inside back cover:

“Apollo’s Song reaches Olympian heights of tragedy as the story proceeds from a Nazi concentration camp to a dystopian future where human beings are persecuted by an ascendent race of their own clones. Will Shogo ever attain redemption, or, like the human race itself, will he have to relearn row lessons of love forever? Is it better to have loved and lost if the heartbreak must recur eternally?

Love, propagation, nature, war, death—Tezuka holds his trademark cornucopia of concerns together with striking characterizations, an unfailing sense of pacing, and of course, stunning imagery.”

I also read the author’s Ode to Kirihito back in January. 

This is my 24th book in this year’s Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge [I got to 24 last year by mid-March but that was almost all I was reading then. I’ve read vastly differently this year so far] which completes the middle level of the challenge for me. The last one is Silver Age with 52 books. Even at this pace—which has not been strenuous—I would be past 52 by the end of the year. So, onward! And if I don’t quite make it I read other things and/or had no time to post reviews.

This is the 24th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 8th book in my Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Immonen & Immonen – Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures by Kathryn Immonen & Stuart Immonen

Date read: 10 April 2016
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Moving Pictures by Kathryn Immonen & Stuart Immonen

Paperback, 136 pages
Published 2010 by Top Shelf Productions
Source: Central Oregon Community College Barber Library [PN6727 .I466 M68 2010]

From inside front cover flap:

“During the Second World War, French efforts to inventory, categorize and hide the collections of the major galleries collided with the German Military Art Commission’s attempt to do the same.

This is (not) that story.”

But it is. Or a part of a small one based on that historical storyline.

The flap goes on but I am omitting it because I think it seriously oversells the work. I just wasn’t that impressed after that (admittedly short) sales job. I guess the story can be described as it is but whatever. It was OK but not amazing.

Lots of artists names, and some titles and images of artworks, are thrown around and it is historically-based fiction.

But. Meh.

This is the 23rd book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

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