brass sunDo you enjoy world-building? If you do, then I recommend Brass Sun, a science fiction and steampunk graphic novel by Ian Edginton and I.N.J. Culbard. In this graphic novel, Edginton and Culbard take the world-building idea often present in science fiction and fantasy novels and give it a quite literal translation. Someone actually built the Wheel of Worlds in Brass Sun and after its creation, the creator gave each world a piece of the key that when whole, would allow all of the worlds to reach and restart the sun. Sounds like a solid plan to make sure everyone gets along, right? Not even close.

The Great War broke out amongst all the worlds as some worlds clamored for all the pieces of the key, while others struggled to stay out the way. Hoping to lessen the damage, the tram/train system that connects the worlds is closed off, plunging the worlds into further chaos. After the Great War ends, the surviving inhabitants see their beliefs shift and the surviving knowledge about the Brass Sun and the Wheel of Worlds begins to be twisted.

Now this giant mechanical solar system is dying. It’s failing. The outer worlds are starting to freeze and inhabitants are dying by the millions. Sounds like a pretty cut-and-dry and fairly urgent problem that the governing party would want to solve quickly, right? Nope. INSERT ALL THE CHAOS!

First of all, there are MAJOR disagreements throughout the people in charge regarding who and how the world was created and for what purpose. There is this mysterious religious order who is literally burning people at the stake if they disagree with the common doctrine, ie. if these dissenters say that the cog is failing and the world is slowing down, they’re lying and must die! The Orthodoxy believes if you have faith, there is nothing wrong. There is also a whole class of royalty fighting amongst themselves with their dissent stemming from the aftermath of the Great War. On one of the worlds where ice is encroaching, a young girl named Wren is given a piece of the key by her grandfather and entrusted to save the galaxy. Thrust into this crazy chaos with absolutely no idea how to complete this task, she starts collecting a rather ragtag group of accomplices to help her. The power to save the galaxy rests in her alone though. The art in this graphic novel is stunning, the colors bright with brilliant world creation. The art combined with the elaborate storytelling hooks you in and definitely left me rooting for a positive outcome.

what phil's havingI enjoy a good travel documentary, but what really hooks me in are the ones that focus on the local food that can be found and enjoyed when you are on vacation. I’ll Have What Phil’s Having is what I would call a food travel documentary and definitely fulfilled my wish for more of a focus on food than the sites that you would see in a traditional travel documentary.

I’ll Have What Phil’s Having follows Emmy Award-winner Phil Rosenthal, the creator of the hit show Everybody Loves Raymond, as he travels around the world looking for fantastic food in various countries and cities. Phil visits six sites: Tokyo, Italy, Paris, Hong Kong, Barcelona, and his hometown, Los Angeles. At each place, he seeks out what he thinks to be the world’s best food, looking for chefs, ground-breaking style-setters, and leaders in the culinary world to expand his palate and find places where both locals and tourists go to find the best food.

What I loved about this documentary is that Phil was looking for restaurants and chefs that both kept the food traditions of their communities alive and also were working to create new foods, ideas, and restaurants. He acknowledges that he looks for places that both tourists go to, but that going off the beaten path and looking for places that the locals know of will sometimes lead you on a new adventure.

This documentary caught and held my interest because of the wide variety of food he tested, the places he visited, and because of his hilarious commentary and facial expressions as he experienced anything new for the first time. He also gives tours of the famous and historical sites around as enticement for visiting the places that he is at as well. Highly recommended.

Working on your bucket list? Here’s a great book that will get you out into some of the most beautiful places in the world for a once in a lifetime experience.

Fifty Place to Hike Before You Die explores the world’s greatest walking adventures. Some, such as the Lunana Snowman Trek in Bhutan  or the Kangshung Valley Trek in Tibet, are difficult, multiweek backpacking adventures. Others, such as Japan’s Nakesando Trail, are more leisurely, traveling from village to village or try Italy’s Amalfi Coast, visiting bistros along the way. There are hikes from all parts of the world and include the expected – the Matterhorn in Switzerland and the Grand Canyon in Arizona – and the surprising – Snow Lake in Pakistan and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. All of them have one thing in common though – extraordinary experiences in extraordinary places.

The major shortcoming of this book is the brevity of each entry – while basics of each trail are included, the serious traveler will need to investigate more complete information in other sources. Treat Fifty Hikes as an appetizer, an introduction to possibility and inspiration. Then choose a destination, get out your hiking boots and mark another item off that list!