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

Delavier’s Core Training Anatomy

Delavier’s Core Training Anatomy by Frédéric Delavier and Michael Gundill

Date read: 01-07 March 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Delavier's Core Training Anatomy book

Paperback, 144 pages
Published 2010 by Human Kinetics (“This book is a revised edition of Des Abdos D’Enfer, published in 2010 by Éditions Vigot.” — Half t.p. verso)
Source: Own

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Part 1 20 Steps to Creating the Perfect Core workout Program
  • Part 2 Increase the Visibility of Your Abs
  • Part 3 Basic Exercises to Sculpt Your Abs
  • Part 4 Advanced Exercises and Techniques
  • Part 5 Exercises Using Machines and Accessories
    Part 6 Workout Programs for Abdominal and Core Muscles
  • Exercise Index

While the title of this book claims to be focused on core anatomy I am a bit disappointed in that coverage. It does cover the abs quite well. Of course, the abs are part of the core, and a few of the exercises also strengthen other core muscles, but there is otherwise absolutely no coverage of the other core muscles, or even a discussion of balancing the entire core. That seems odd for a book titled “core.” Perhaps the American publisher hosed the title; in French it is Abs of Hell.

Considering this as a book about the abdominal muscles and their care and keeping, it is quite good.

Part 1 considers 20 questions/factors so that you can either build and focus your own training plans, along with verifying theirs for yourself. Some of these factors are: Set your goals, how many workouts each week, how many sets, how many exercises for each muscle, how many reps per set, rest time between sets, choosing exercises that work for you, and so on. Many of these are pulled apart based on the four possible main goals that are elucidated: strengthening core, losing inches off waist, using as a cardio workout, and improving athletic performance.

Part 2 is a short section focusing on exactly what it says, Increase the Visibility of Your Abs. Not my concern so am happy that the coverage—while good—was short.

Part 3 Basic Exercises to Sculpt Your Abs goes through 17 exercises covering the rectus abdominis, obliques, stability, breathing exercises, stretching the abdominal muscles, the hip flexors, and the low back. Anatomical drawings showing the muscles in use, along with photos of the exercise being performed, really help to understand what is going on. Variations are provided for each exercise, some to make it easier and some to make it more difficult.

Part 4 Advanced Exercises and Techniques discusses isolating the upper from the lower abs and provides 7 exercises for the upper abdominals, lower abdominals, and the obliques.

Part 5 Exercises Using Machines and Accessories discusses home and professional machines and again provides 7 exercises for the upper abdominals, lower abdominals, and the obliques.

Part 6 Workout Programs for Abdominal and Core Muscles provides 8 programs under Six-Pack Programs, 4 under Programs for Well-Being, and 4* under Sport-Specific Core Programs. I put an * for sport-specific because there are actually 19 specific sport programs after 3 more general athletic-enhancing ones. Along with those, most of the programs I listed have a beginning and an advanced version, and sometimes even more. So quite a few programs are provided for the novice or anyone who simply doesn’t want to bother with making their own programs, at least starting out.

An Exercise Index is also provided.

The book is easy to understand and does a good job pointing out dangerous practices and how to do these exercises properly.

Most of the exercises require no equipment as that is where they chose to focus. They do bring a a few bits using hanging bars, stability balls, and a few ab machines but the vast majority are equipment free.

Highly recommended.

I previously reviewed Delavier’s Stretching Anatomy and have been meaning to get around to reading some others.

This is the 16th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

McQuaid – Tasty

Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat by John McQuaid

Date read: 21 February – 05 March 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc, 2016poss

Cover image of Tasty: The Art and Science of What We Eat by John McQuaid

Hardback, vii, 291 pages
Published 2015 by Scribner
Source: Own. Bought via Amazon July 2015 (released January 2015).

Contents:

  • 1 The Tongue Map
  • 2 The Birth of Flavor in Five Meals
  • 3 The Bitter Gene
  • 4 Flavor Cultures
  • 5 The Seduction
  • 6 Gusto and Disgust
  • 7 Quest for Fire
  • 8 The Great Bombardment
  • 9 The DNA of Deliciousness
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

1 The Tongue Map

Covers the origin and spread of the infamous tongue map.

Edwin G. Boring, in his “magisterial survey of the science of the human senses,” Sensation and Perception in the History of Experimental Psychology (1942), reviewed an experiment (1901) by David P. Hänig (2):

“He [Hänig] found the threshold for detecting each taste varied around the edge of the tongue. The tip, for example, was more sensitive to sweetness and to salt than was the base.

It wasn’t clear what this meant—if anything—and the differences were very small. But Boring found this notion interesting and went to some lengths to illustrate it. He borrowed the data from Hänig’s study and turned it into a graph. The graph was just a visual aid; it had no units, and its curves were impressionistic. But the result was that—perhaps to dramatize the point, or perhaps inadvertently—Boring made small difference in perception appear huge.

The wayward chart became the basis for a famous diagram of the tongue, divided into zones for each taste: …. Linda Bartoshuk, a professor of psychology who has studied the map’s origins, believes it came about through a game of “telephone”: First, Boring exaggerated Hänig’s findings. Then researchers and textbook editors misinterpreted Boring’s graph, using the peaks of its curves to label specific areas on the tongue. A final round of confusion produced a diagram with taste boundaries clearer than those on a world map” (2-3).

“The old diagram has lost much of its cachet in recent years. But it still lingers in some areas of the culinary world, including coffee and wine tasting, which value tradition and continuity as much as science” (4).

The chapter goes on to explain the research that has proved the tongue map wrong and also discusses some other topics, such as the development of taste in children. We learn that  flavor science made great strides in the 20th century, and is progressing with astonishing speed in 21st.

Beginning early on, I found it quite interesting, but the endnotes are that asinine textual selection thing. Grrr.

2 The Birth of Flavor in Five Meals

“The first inklings of flavor appeared as early life-forms began to sense the world around them and the taste of nutrients floating by in seawater excited primitive nervous systems. … Five ancient meals, each taking place at a turning point in evolutionary history, help explain where the ensue of flavor, and Homo sapiens’ talent for culinary invention, came from” (17).

3 The Bitter Gene

While not exactly a hop head, I do like many bitter foods and drinks and—like most everyone—had to learn to like them. As a serious beer drinker, homebrewer, student of brewing, friend of hop growers, …, I am especially interested in bitterness and its detection.

There is a test to determine if one is a non-taster of bitterness, which includes about a quarter of the US population [PROP test, 6-n-propylthiouracil]. 58

The biology of flavor perception, and particularly bitterness, is crazy intriguing and as we learn more it will only get more so (68-71).

“… the preponderance of them [correlations] indicates that bitter taste biology influences the whole body. Since the DNA of taste receptors was decoded over the last decade, it has been found all over the body: along the digestive tract, in the pancreas and liver, in the brain, and in the testicles. (Smell receptors have also been isolated in the liver, heart, kidneys, sperm, and skin.)” (69).

4 Flavor Cultures [Fermentation]

5 The Seduction [Sweetness]

6 Gusto and Disgust

Brain damage, “wild children,” and other topics to show that “Feeling and observing disgust generate similar patterns of brain activity, and similar feelings” (146) because “Distaste and the “yuck” face are the products of an ancient circuit of firing neurons, blood flow, and neurotransmitter activity in the brain that includes the insula and orbitofrontal cortex. Disgust uses the same circuit.” (145).

“The insula, remember, is also a hub for many of the body’s internal states and feelings. … It also contains a distinct kind of neuron found only in the brains of humans, great apes, elephants, and whales and dolphins” (147).

Which goes to show that, “This means that visceral taste reactions underlie our most sophisticated behavior, animating our thoughts and judgments about everything from politics to money.” 148

7 Quest for Fire [capsaicin]

Quite interesting and includes a good bit on the search for the hottest peppers.

8 The Great Bombardment

Potato chips, fats, flavor’s deep connection to pleasure, and why there’s always room for dessert, among other topics.

9 The DNA of Deliciousness

Gastroscience, new mappings of the flavor space, and umami.

Wrap-up

I know I could’ve done a better job with this review but I want to re-read it in the not too distant future anyway. I also need to go back and get the sources I marked and read those. So it is what it is. Take my word, very intriguing.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it for anyone interested in our senses of taste, aroma and flavor, but especially for anyone seriously tasting (and/or judging) beer, wine, coffee, etc.

This is the 15th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

This book also is one of my 2016poss books.

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