cyborgWhat is a superhero? Is it someone with a lot of money who makes costumes and weapons for himself? Is it someone living a normal life who then has powers mysteriously thrust upon him? Is it a god or creature from another world? Is it someone who has a near-death experience and is given superhuman qualities in order to save their life? A number of different qualities can factor into the origin story of a superhero, something that I wanted to expand my knowledge base and learn more about. My first stop: Cyborg.

Cyborg, Volume 1: Unplugged introduces readers to the life of Victor Stone. Victor has lived through a large number of near-death experiences, something that his scientist father has seemingly used to his own advantage by saving Victor’s life and implanting cybernetics into his body. As a result of having these cybernetic enhancements thrust upon him, Victor has become a cyber-enhanced superhero called Cyborg, a mantle that rests heavily on his shoulders. After traveling the universe and visiting other worlds to fight with other superheroes, his most recent brush with death, one that has changed and messed with his cybernetics, Victor soon finds himself heading back to his father’s laboratory looking for answers.

Victor and his father, as well as the other scientists in his lab, have a strained relationship, to put it nicely. His father only seems to see Victor’s enhancements, ignoring the man underneath. Exploring the newest changes to Victor’s cybernetics shows that his powers are changing and no one has the slightest clue why. Victor’s new tech seems to be communicating with other worlds, specifically with a group called the Technosapiens. This group wants to possess Victor’s new technology and they are determined to do so by any means necessary. As is par for the course of any superhero graphic novel, Victor finds help in the most unlikely of places: the Tekbreakers, a group of warriors from another world who have a plan to fight the Technosapiens. Victor just has to decide if he can truly trust them, considering they did try to kill him earlier… This graphic novel is a fantastic addition to the DC line and gives readers just enough back story to be able to follow along, while also drawing them in with vivid artwork and connections to other main DC storylines. Check it out!

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers! How was your May? Did you read something new and wonderful? Or did you pass on this month’s challenge?

I have to admit, this was not my favorite theme. Nor did it turn me into an avid Graphic Novel fan. However, it did encourage me try something that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, and I did enjoy the books I read. And while I’m unlikely to pick up another Graphic Novel unless someone recommends it highly (I still find the pictures to be distracting), I did learn a bit about the whole genre and gain a greater appreciation for them. Win win!

nimonaI read two books this month. The first was Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. Sharp and witty with surprising depth and heart, Nimona is about a young girl (we think) who appoints herself as Ballister Blackheart’s sidekick. Blackheart is the designated villain of their country (after his former friend Ambrosius Goldenloin accidentally cut off Blackheart’s hand during a duel when they were in school training to be heroes) and spends his time terrorizing the peasants, with Goldenloin in hot pursuit. Nimona comes up with many nefarious, clever plans to reign down terror, but Blackheart (who really isn’t terribly evil) insists on conservative actions that actually harm no one. Nimona gets frustrated with Blackheart, but remains loyal and always has his back. When true evil arrives, it is the teamwork – and unlikely friendship – of Blackheart and Nimona that stand against it.

As expected, I found the illustrations distracting, but less so as I kept reading. It helps that the illustrations are clever and drawn in an interesting style. It’s the story that I really liked, drawing me into the lives (and snark) of the characters. A great read with a satisfying, although somewhat bittersweet, ending.

relishThe second Graphic Novel that I read was Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. This is Lucy’s story of growing up, shown through her experiences with food.

Somewhat unusually, Lucy grew up with two parents who were enthusiastic foodies. She was never a picky eater and learned to try to appreciate most foods. A new culture (such as her visit to Japan) was an opportunity to learn more about the country via the meals and food related customs she experienced. Her life is influenced and improved by her relationship with food and the opportunities it brings – jobs, friends, culture, unique experiences. This book is often very funny and always interesting, and bonus!, includes several (illustrated) recipes.

Once again, I found the illustrations to be distracting at first – they add a lot to the book, both humor and detail, but I didn’t always know where to start, or I’d accidentally miss a section. However, I did enjoy the style of the drawings and found myself looking for quirky, humorous asides tucked into them.

Yes, I would recommend both of these books, whether that person was a Graphic Novel fan or a newbie. And I might even try another Graphic Novel someday!

What about you – what did you read this month? Did you find something you really liked, or was this month a loss? What about any Graphic Novel fans out there – what did you read? And what would you recommend for someone that still new (and a bit hesitant) with Graphic Novels – what should they read next?

Thanks all for reading along! See you next month with Summer Reads!

 

lucybartonIf you have not read a book by Elizabeth Strout, you need to change that right now. Her latest novel, My Name is Lucy Barton will be sure to please. Strout’s writing is honest and beautiful as she writes about a mother and her daughter.

We find Lucy Barton in a hospital room in New York City recovering from complications after her surgery. Lucy’s husband does not like hospitals, and he knows that she is lonely in the hospital, so he asks her mother to come and visit. Lucy’s mother lives in a small rural town in Illinois, about an hour south of Rock Island. Lucy and her mother have not seen each other for quite a few years since Lucy moved to New York. But mother and daughter are happy to be reunited. Her mother refuses to leave her daughter alone and she sits in the chair in the hospital room during her entire visit. The reader learns more about Lucy through the women’s conversations. For a time, their family was so poor that they lived in a relative’s garage. We learn of Lucy’s struggle to become a writer. The women discuss their family and people from home. Throughout theses conversations, it is often what is not said that speaks volumes about the women’s relationship. Pieces of a story are not revealed and the reader is often left wondering what really happened.

I enjoy listening to audiobooks and My Name is Lucy Barton was a superb audiobook. The narrator, Kimberly Farr, has such a pleasant voice to listen to that I did not want to shut off my car stereo. What made My Name is Lucy Barton such a memorable book was the way that the story made you feel. It is difficult to describe what My Name is Lucy Barton is about. It is not a murder mystery and it is not a romantic love story. And yet, this books feels more real than most because it is an honest portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship. It is about two women that love each other even though they do not always have an easy relationship.

My Name is Lucy Barton is the fifth novel by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Elizabeth Strout.

complete book of chalk letteringUbiquitous at boutiques and cafés, on Etsy and Pinterest, in stationery and home decor, the art of chalk lettering is hotter than ever. Valerie McKeehan, an Etsy standout whose work has been featured in magazines and websites from Good Housekeeping to RealSimple.com to Martha Stewart Living, teaches us everything we need to know to create gorgeous hand-drawn chalk designs in The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering.

In over 60 lessons, learn the ABCs of lettering (literally) and basic styles: serif, sans serif, and script. Next, how to lay out a design, combine various styles into one cohesive piece, add shadows and dimension. Master more advanced letter styles, from faceted to ribbon to “vintage circus.” Use banners, borders, flourishes. And finally, 12 projects to show off your newfound skills: including a Winter Wonderland Snow Globe; a smartphone-themed birthday card to text friends and family; a one-of-a-kind party invitation to create, photograph, and mail; and a bake sale sign guaranteed to put everyone who sees it in the mood for a cupcake! (description from publisher)

fermentedIncorporate fermented foods into everyday eating with delicious recipes that are easily achievable at home with Fermented by Charlotte Pike.

This gorgeous, fully photographed cookbook includes chapters covering fruit and vegetables, milk, pulses, baking and drinks that will introduce you to unique new flavors as well as traditional fermented vegetables such as German Sauerkraut and Korean Kimchi. Use fermented ingredients in dishes such as Kraut-slaw, Bacon and Potato Soup, Kimchi and Pork Salad and Smoky Grilled Tempeh. Learn how to make sweet and savory yogurts such as Coconut Yogurt or Cardamom and Rose Yogurt Cream to go with your perfected Sourdough Chocolate Cake.

Create essential pickles, sauces and chutneys with fermentation that will have endless uses, fully stock any kitchen cupboard or make an excellent homemade gift. (description from publisher)

knot outdoor weddingsThe romance of an outdoor wedding is undeniable. In any outdoor setting – beach or backyard, vineyard or mountaintop – the couple has unlimited opportunity to personalize their day and create unforgettable ambience. The 50 real weddings featured in The Knot Outdoor Weddings were inspired by twinkling lights and cityscapes, fresh herbs and countryside farmers’ markets, shells and the sea, mountain peaks and endless vistas. . . .

These gorgeous celebrations reveal the keys to making the most of your setting’s natural beauty, while infusing it with special, meaningful touches that are all your own. The Knot Outdoor Weddings also includes location-specific planning advice for the details of your event, such as attire, color palettes, stationery, menu, and favors, as well as considerations for perfecting your plan B and keeping guests comfortable in any weather. (description from publisher)

grandbaby cakesAs a child, Adams and her family would routinely embark on the ten-hour journey from their home in Chicago to Winona, Mississippi. There, she would watch her grandmother, affectionately nicknamed Big Mama, bake and develop delicious, melt-in-your-mouth desserts. From blooming tree-picked fruit to farm-raised eggs and fresh-churned butter, Big Mama used what was readily available to invent completely original treats. Adams treasured the moments when her mother, aunt, and Big Mama would bring her into the kitchen to let her dabble in the process as a rite of passage. Big Mama’s recipes became the fabric of their family heritage. Grandbaby Cakes is Adams’s love note to her family, thanking those who came before and passing on this touching tradition with 50 brilliant cakes.

Grandbaby Cakes pairs charming stories of Big Mama’s kitchen with recipes ranging from classic standbys to exciting adventures—helpfully marked by degree of difficulty—that will inspire your own family for years to come. Adams creates sophisticated flavor combinations based on Big Mama’s gorgeous centerpiece cakes, giving each recipe something familiar mixed with something new. From pound cakes and layer cakes to sheet cakes and “baby” cakes (cupcakes and cakelettes), Grandbaby Cakes delivers fun, hip recipes perfect for any celebration.

Readers will love this cookbook for its eclectic and bold recipes steeped in equal parts warm Southern charm and fresh Midwestern flavors. Not only will home bakers be able to make staples like yellow cake and icebox cake exactly how their grandmothers did, but they’ll also be preparing impressive innovations, like the Pineapple Upside-Down Hummingbird Pound Cake and the Fig-Brown Sugar Cake. Grandbaby Cakes is a collection for both new-aged and traditional bakers, but mostly it’s for anyone who wants a fresh, modern take on classic recipes as well as cakes full of heart and soul. (description from publisher)

spoonflowerDesigning fabric, wallpaper, and gift wrap used to be the stuff of dreams. Only a few select creatives got to do it, and it required formal training and significant financial investment. But times have changed, and today anyone with a computer, Internet connection, and idea can upload a file and order their own fabric or paper, printed affordably one yard or more at a time.

At the forefront of this revolutionary DIY movement is Spoonflower, a North Carolina startup that produces designs for hundreds of thousands of users worldwide–24 hours a day/seven days a week to keep up with demand. With step-by-step tutorials and projects that span a wide spectrum of skills, The Spoonflower Handbook  by Stephen Fraser is written for both new and experienced users of this print-on-demand technology. Covering everything from equipment to software to working with photos, scans, repeats, vector files, and more, it is an essential guide to a booming new creative outlet. (description from publisher)

flower chefThe Flower Chef by Carly Cylinder is a modern, comprehensive guide to floral design that caters to all readers–from beginners who have never worked with flowers before and are looking for a new creative outlet, to decorators, party planners and photographers looking to liven up their spaces. Even professionals will find ways to update their techniques!

This book teaches you everything you need to know about flower arranging including tips on how to buy and care for flowers, how to cut and prepare them, and how to use floral foam, vases, and various other decorative elements in your arrangements. Filled with beautiful photographs and easy-to-follow instructions on how to create over 80 different arrangements, this is the go-to guide to floral design that every flower lover will want to add to their collection. (description from publisher)

say goodbye to the cuckooThe return of migrant birds from their wintering grounds in the tropics is one of the delights of America’s spring, as anyone will testify whose heart has leapt in April or May at the first liquid song of the woodthrush, or the first black-and-orange flash of the Baltimore oriole. But in recent years concern has grown that migrant birds may be declining, perhaps because of deforestation at their winter quarters in the Caribbean and in Central and South America.

In Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo, Michael McCarthy highlights for the first time the disappearance of these birds which, he points out, are a part of Europe’s distinctive cultural furniture, “as much as cathedrals, Latin, olive oil, or wine.” He shows how their loss would do devastating damage to the cultural inheritance of us all. (description from publisher)