heartlandA pioneer in the local field-to-fork movement showcases the fantastic bounty of America’s Midwest with recipes from his storied St. Paul restaurant in Heartland: Farm-Forward Dishes from the Great Midwest.

Lenny Russo, chef at Heartland in St. Paul, was inspired by the lakes, fields, farms and orchards of his adopted homeland to create 100 delectable recipes including Midwestern Cassoulet, Sweet Corn-Black Barley Cakes, Chocolate-Sorghum Custard Tart, Freshwater Bouillabaisse, Wild Rice Salad with Baby Kale and Blue Cheese, Fennel-Cured Whitefish with Danish Brown Bread Salad and dozens more. (description from publisher)

low v2Rick Remender’s Low series is so far one of my favorite discoveries this summer. Low, Volume 2: Before the Dawn Burns Us brings to light the tragedies that the Caine family was faced with in the first volume and expands upon the ways the mother, Stel, is trying to rise up and save who she can.

In the first volume, the entire Caine family is torn apart with the father dead and the two daughters torn away from Stel and her only son. She vows to bring the family back together only to fall into despair. The sun has gone radioactive forcing all of the Earth’s inhabitants underwater, knowing they cannot stay there forever and hoping for an eventual inhabitable world to be found elsewhere. Shoot forward ten years and a probe has been recalled to the surface of the Earth, one that shows Stel that there is an inhabitable world elsewhere. She must get to the probe first and  find her children along the way.

In volume 2, Stel wrestles with herself as she feels her hope in the future fading, something that had previously seen her through numerous bad situations. Stel struggles to salvage what she can of her mission to find the probe and ultimately save all of humanity, while a side story shows Stel’s estranged daughters working to find themselves and each other after their horrific split from their parents. One of her daughters, Della, is the relentless Minister of Thought, living in a totalitarian state where hope and optimism are squashed. Stel and two members of Marik’s surviving gladiator team are still searching for the probe. This second volumes is full of tragedy, loss, and hopelessness, but is ultimately about what happens to all of us when we lose hope and try to find it again.

online colorHello Readers! How is your July challenge coming along? Find anything amazing? Or are you going to keep yourself safely grounded in 2016?

I have been reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Well, I’ve been attempting to read it. King is very…….wordy, isn’t he? And this is a very long book. He’s a great storyteller, but this is not my favorite writing style. I’m not sure I’m going to finish a Time Travel book this month, but don’t let that stop you – this is such a fun and intriguing trope and kind of mind twisting – what would you change? what would be the consequences and ripple effects?

If you are struggling to find a Time Travel book that intrigues you, you might want to look at some of the alternate history books that are out there which also play around with the question of what if? What if the Nazi’s had prevailed and won World War II? (Try Fatherland by Robert Harris) What if Alaska became a Jewish refugee settlement in 1941 and Israel no longer existed? (Read the hilarious The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon) What if the Black Death had killed 99% of Europe’s population instead of one-third? (Find out in The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson) What if Roosevelt lost the 1940 Presidential election and now anti-Semitism is accepted in America? (Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America examines this idea.) What if dragons had been used by the English to help defeat Napoleon? (I’m not kidding and it’s actually a terrific book, especially if you’re a fan of Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander series or a fan of Jane Austen. Really. Naomi Novik creates a believable and fascinating world in His Majesty’s Dragon, the first in the Temeraire series)

The only question left now is, where will you travel to? Let us know in the comments!

Titles mentioned in this post include:

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the girl on the trainThe Girl on the Train is a messy intrigue of a book. If you’ve read Gone Girl, this book covers the same bases: suspense/psychological/mystery fiction, murder victims, witnesses, married people, and missing persons. This book is fast-paced and, at least for me, it was difficult to pin down who the killer actually was.

The Girl on the Train is the story of Rachel Watson’s life post-divorce. Every day she takes the same commuter train to London to work and passes the same houses and scenery. As one is apt to do on long train rides, Rachel creates stories about the people, places, and things that she sees along the way. One particular couple catches her eye on every trip. Rachel soon finds herself looking out for this married couple every time she speeds by, hoping to catch more of a glimpse into their daily lives. She gives them names, invents background stories for them, and even gives them careers. Everything is seemingly perfect until one day when she sees something out of the ordinary happen at the married couple’s home and soon after, the woman goes missing.

Rachel is forced to confront whether she should go to the police, contact the missing woman’s husband, or just lay low. Rachel is having a rough time dealing with her past, with her ex-husband, Tom, and his new wife, Anna. Her life is spiraling out of control and the peace that she found while watching the married couple has been shattered, leaving her in the lurch and without a solid place in the world. This novel shifts between three different narratives: Rachel, Anna, and the missing woman. Each narrative is packed full of action. Readers will be left wondering what happened and wondering about each characters’ motives.

The Girl on the Train will also be released as a movie on October 7th!


This book is also available in a wide variety of other formats.

 

the danish girlThe Danish Girl follows the lives and work of artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. This movie is based on the real lives of these two Lili Elbe was a transgender Danish painter, born Einar Wegener. Einar and Lili were married and lived together painting and illustrating different portraits and landscapes.

Einar Wegener was a Danish landscape painter born in 1882 who married Gerda Gottlieb when they were just 21 and 19. This movie begins with them being happily married with a loving relationship. One of the couple’s friends walks in on Gerda painting Einar as he is holding up a dress and wearing heels and tights. The friend says that they should start calling Einar, Lili instead. This name-giving serves as a sort of shift for Einar.

Einar begins dressing up more as a woman with Gerda even helping him get into character one night when they go to a party. Einar ends up in full Lili garb and this new persona is born. Einar begins treating Lili as if she is a totally separate individual from himself. Einar has begun his transformation into completely becoming Lili, something he always knew he wanted to be. Einar and Gerda’s relationship becomes strained, but they don’t stray from each other’s sides, eventually settling in Paris with Einar fully transitioning to live openly as Lili.

This movie follows Einar’s journey to Lili and how Lili struggles to accept the truth that this ‘Lili’ persona is her true an authentic self. He reveals that he is a woman, that he was simply born into the wrong body, but that it sometimes feels like he has two people in his one body and that they are both fighting to see who will take over. Einar struggles with revealing this admission because the doctors he visits sometimes either do not believe him or wish to send him to a mental institution. Lili eventually meets a doctor who tells her that he can help her become her true self through sex reassignment surgery, something she desperately wants. Gerda and Lili’s relationship evolves and changes throughout this movie as both of them struggle to deal with their new identities. This movie was sincerely eye-opening for me and the actors did a wonderful job of portraying each character.


This movie is also a book, available in a physical copy and also as an OverDrive ebook.

 

prezIn a world where corporations have the power to rule the world, where social media has infiltrated presidential elections, and when the age restriction on who can run for president has been abolished, you know things are bound to get interesting really quick. Prez, Vol. 1: Corndog-In-Chief tells the tale of this messed-up world and all the deals happening behind the scenes.

In the not so distant future, 2036 to be exact, the world is topsy-turvy. People vote for elections via Twitter, corporations have the ability to run for President, and a strain of cat flu has infested the world, one that costs millions of dollars to cure and that is infecting people worldwide. One of the people infected and dying is Beth Ross’ father. Beth becomes viral-video famous, an internet celebrity named Corndog Girl, after an unfortunate incident at the fast food restaurant where she works.

The country is in the midst of a presidential election, one that is being controlled behind the scenes by a few major corporations. Two candidates have been presented, but a famous video blogger has chosen to endorse Corndog Girl for President instead! She’s eligible to become president, something the corporations never believe would happen, so they write her off. Joke’s on them! She becomes president and soon finds herself thrown into a messed-up world of politics and corporate power grabs. Beth is left to fill her cabinet with people she can trust and all the while try to figure out how if she has the power to take back control of this upside-down world. This graphic novel is full of snark, witty social media commentary, and a glimpse into what our lives could possibly be like if corporations are given more control over our way of life.

basson king2The Basson King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy by Rainn Wilson

If you watched the television show, The Office, (the American version) you will remember Dwight Schrute.  Dwight was the nerdy coworker that irritated his coworkers with comptetiveness and his lack of social skills.  His coworkers Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly could not resist from pulling pranks on Dwight which delighted the rest of the staff.  Dwight also owned the family beet farm and he later turned the farmhouse into a bed and breakfast.

Now, the actor portraying Dwight Schrute has published a memoir of his life.  Wilson describes his geeky childhood, or in his own words, “bone-numbingly nerdy before there was even a modicum of cool attached to the word.” Rainn talks about his life as a drama geek or as he describes it, “the highest rung on the vast, pimply ladder of high school losers”. Wilson talks about his life as a struggling actor in New York, his episodes of debauchery (but he was not that bad), and how he came to have the sense of humor that we know and love him for today. His fans will be delighted with his tales  and insights from working on The Office.

The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy is available in print and on audiobook.  Rainn Wilson narrates the audiobook and the forward is by Dwight Schrute so I would recommend listening to the audiobook.

 

 

 

 

low v1Low, Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender blew all of my science fiction/fantasy/graphic novel expectations out of the water. Even though the woman on the cover, Stel Caine, the matriarch of the Caine family, is wearing heels, she is an incredibly strong and powerful leader who leads her family and community through despair. Her belief that human consciousness can change your reality pushes her through dark times, leading her to believe deeply that hope can change anything, no matter what the people around her may say or do or what her current circumstances are.

In this first volume, Low begins by introducing you to the Caine family, mom Stel, dad Johl, and their three kids. Many millennia in the future, humanity was forced to abandon the earth’s surface and take refuge underwater because of the sun’s intense radiation. They knew that living underwater would only prove to be a temporary solution as the sun’s radiation would reach them eventually. As a result, the first batch of mankind to live under the waves sent probes into the galaxy to look for inhabitable worlds, knowing their great-great grandchildren would be the only ones who would benefit from the results. Generations later, the Caine family is in control, fighting off invaders and trying to keep their lives together. A great disaster alters their family forever and the Caines are forced to reach deep within themselves to try to find the strength to survive. Grief cannot be given control leading Stel to work to find a solution to both the loss of her family and the necessity of finding a new inhabitable world quickly.

Tocchini’s artwork grew on me. His work is sketch-like with colors that are rich, but also at the same time, muted. His style of drawing really leads you into the different scenes and the different places underwater that the characters find themselves traveling to. I recommend you check this out! (I’m currently deep in the second volume, so stay tuned for a review of that one!)

whyknotDid you hear about the high-wire artist named Philippe Petit who walked between the twin towers in New York City in 1974? A documentary, a movie and several stories have been written about him, including the Caldecott award-winning children’s book by Mordecai Gerstein entitled The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. All of these are fascinating and captivating and I recommend them to you wholeheartedly.

This book is different in that it is written by him. It is called Why Knot? How to Tie More Than Sixty Ingenious, Useful, Beautiful, Lifesaving, and Secure Knots! It isn’t about Petit’s high wire walk between the World Trade Center towers – or any other of his wire walks, for that matter – though he does mention them. Petit reveres the two hundred knots he has mastered (of the four thousand purported to be in existence) as his “guardian angels.” And as the subtitle suggests, he teaches his readers a knot for every occasion. Have an upcoming wedding to attend? There’s a knot for that!

His enthusiasm for the topic is contagious. Whether you are into boating, rock climbing, quilting, animal husbandry or you don’t have time to engage in any of these pastimes because you find yourself constantly chasing around children whose shoelaces always seem to come untied, this book will be useful to you!

 

bizarro

Everyone loves a good superhero, right? They swoop in and save the day, leaving the public stunned at their magnificent feats of strength and good will. Not all superheroes are worshipped though. Enter in Bizarro. Bizarro is Superman’s opposite in every way. From the way he speaks to the way he flies, Bizarro is truly Superman’s mirror opposite.

In this first volume of Bizarro by Heath Corson, Jimmy Olsen, one of Superman’s friends, finds himself on a roadtrip with Bizarro from Metropolis to Bizarro America, aka Canada. Jimmy has an ulterior motive: he wants to create a coffee table book of their adventures, something that will hopefully make him lots of money. Road-tripping with Bizarro turns a little crazy when he introduces Jimmy to Colin, his pet chupacabra, and when Bizarro takes the two of them off on strange and funny adventures. This graphic novel allows readers to follow Bizarro’s mixed-up life and the messes both Jimmy and Bizarro inevitably end up entangled in. I hope future volumes will give readers more of a look into Bizarro’s back story.

Corson is giving new life to Bizarro in this first volume, highlighting all the differences between Superman and Bizarro and even giving the superstars of Metropolis multiple cameos in this book, a shout-out fans of Superman are sure to enjoy. This addition of familiar people to Bizarro’s world helped me ground and better understand this book. (The way Bizarro speaks may push you out of this book, but I encourage you to stick with it and just remember that he always means the opposite of what he is actually saying.) Happy reading!