Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld

3 Stars Graphic Novel

Obsession with sharks.  Evie spent her summers in Australia and she was mesmerized by sharks.  Not just the horror of them (although she does get consumed by this) but everything about them.  “I make up stories about myself and my schoolmates getting attacked by sharks.”   “I learn where the spleen is positioned, how deep a tooth would have to go to pierce the diaphragm.”  As I read this, I thought, as a child, who thinks about these things? Especially a child and if they do, why?  I picked up this graphic novel because the illustrations grabbed me.  Reading the text, I thought the book was chopping at times and her obsession with sharks was rather comical at times and then, she’d go off into something interesting about sharks which could grab me.   It was a rather interesting book to read.  If it hadn’t been for the illustrations, I think I wouldn’t have made it to the end of the book though.  

I did enjoy the illustrations in this book as they were different.  The use of mixed was used in some of them as that was fun and interesting.  I also liked how the illustrator used color in this book. 

We go from black and white pages, to adding a light yellow to the mix, to adding shades of gray, to highlighting the colors of the sharks, to the bloody scenes of the sharks, the use of color changes the chemist of this book.   I’m glad I picked this book up, it was interesting and the artwork wonderfully done. 

Trejo’s Taco: Recipes & Stories from L.A. by Danny Trejo

5 Stars Nonfiction Cookbook

Informative, versatile, down-to-earth Mexican dishes from a book that packs a punch.  When I saw that Danny had a new cookbook out, I wanted to get my hands on it but then realized that I hadn’t even seen his first cookbook, so I picked it up from my library.  From the variety of articles randomly situated inside this cookbook, the great Mexican recipes and the photographs which add flair to the book’s style, this cookbook is one you should look into if you cook this cuisine.   

Danny starts off the book by talking about how he got into cooking and his story is quite interesting.  His mother helped plant the seed as this was his safe place and she was a “killer cook.”  As Danny got into his teens, he knew how to find trouble, he knew prison, he knew crime, he knew he had to do something different, he had to get clean.  When Danny came clean, new opportunities opened up and well, he’s a celebrity who started his own successful restaurant which has now grown.  Danny talks about his childhood, spices, meats, other great venues, sides, and other interesting topics in this book.

The recipes are broken down into salsas, cremas, sauces & vinaigrettes. Next is tacos, burritos, bowls & quesadillas. The third group is food that is not a taco (guacamole, shrimp, chicken, nachos, fajitas, salads, vegetables, beans, rice, risotto, etc.). The fourth group is donuts & desserts and the last group is margaritas & other drinks.  There is an index in the back of the book also. Each recipe comes with detailed instructions, ingredients list, how many it will serve, and a some of the them include some information about dish.  No nutritional information is given.  Photographs are not included for all the recipes. 

I liked how versatile some of the recipes were.  Trejo’s Grilled Chicken is a good example of this.  This recipe has a photograph but on the two pages following this recipe, there are no photographs but there are recipes for Grilled Chicken Tacos, Grilled Chicken Burritos and Grilled Chicken Bowls which use the Trejo’s Grilled Chicken in their recipe. The recipes don’t require a lot of crazy special ingredients either.    I feel this is a good Mexican cookbook to have. 5 stars

Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder

3 stars YA

I didn’t know what to expect going into this graphic novel but the cover and the title grabbed me at the library.  This was one of those fantastic finds, that touched my soul and left a deep impression within.  Being both a sad and humorous memoir, the story is one that I feel most individuals will be able to relate to, in some respect, as Tyler is as real as it gets. 

At the age of 19, Tyler’s mom dies from cancer.  When her mother discovers that she’d been misdiagnosed, there were signs of hope but then….  It was now, less than a year since Tyler heard the dreadful news and now……. Tyler’s dad and her two younger siblings had each other but Tyler …………  Tyler had just started college; she was feeling isolated and ……. Tyler needed a shoulder, someone to listen to her, a ……… This book is about loss, it’s about the struggle an individual faces when dealing with the loss of a loved one.  Tyler voice is honest as she combines humor and affection in this story of survival after the death of her mother. 

Tyler’s spoke from the heart and her honesty was appreciated and respected as she says what so many individuals feel but are hesitate to speak out about.  As Tyler shares some Jewish traditions, I enjoyed reading about them and her perspective on them.  I honestly liked the idea of the Shiva.  What a wonderful, 7-day tradition that brings the whole family together celebrating the life of the individual who has passed away.  I really enjoyed this book and it does a fantastic job talking about grieving process yet I thought the book wasn’t heavy or depressing.  5 stars

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation by Ari Folman

4 stars Graphic Novel

I remember reading the original version of this story many years ago in school so I’m somewhat familiar with the storyline.  It’s a daunting, sad story but one that I feel is important for its historical value and the impression that it leaves behind. When I saw this graphic novel adaptation, I was excited to see exactly what they had done with it.

Graphic novels…….graphic novel adaptations…… this world is just exploding! As a former substitute teacher, I’m all for graphic novels. Whatever you can do to get someone reading, I’m all for it! In one of my classes for my education degree, we had to read a variety of children’s books and discuss them. I remember one hot discussion was about graphic novels and whether they were actually “reading.”  I definitely think they are “reading” now but at the time, the selection in graphic novels was fairly limited, so some individuals thought “reading” comic books wasn’t reading.  So, I wonder what they’d think now, with all the different titles available.  Perhaps they’d see that graphic novels are reading; they have a lot of different subject matter now.  I think of the example: Margie wants to read the graphic novel of a book that was assigned.  She reads the graphic novel, understands it and whether or not, she likes the book, she read it and was able to follow it.  Had you only offered Margie the fiction or nonfiction version of that book, Margie would’ve struggled to read it or she wouldn’t have read it at all, she would have failed. She wouldn’t have gained anything.  Actually, she would’ve lost a bit of herself for she now knows that she doesn’t like that book and she can’t read it.  It’s funny actually but this argument is still an issue today. 

There are some good points and some difficult issues with this adaptation.  Again, this is a sad, depressing story but I liked the flow of this story.  The author did a great job showing the conflicts the characters face and how Anne’s emotions come into play.  As an author, you can’t have too much doom and gloom yet most individuals know that this is part of this important story.  This story also covers a lot of time and there was quite a bit of narrative in the picture boxes but I figured there would be to keep the timeline moving. There were times in which the author devoted a whole page to narrative language but it was creative and wasn’t overwhelming.  I thought the illustrations were wonderfully done, with precise details and colors and they complimented the text wonderfully.

The story begins with a page devoted to a Cast of Characters, which is helpful.  The characters are grouped and I liked that under their illustration, they had their name and who they were in the story.  The story begins on June 12, 1942 when Anne is celebrating her 13th birthday and she receives the important diary, Dear Kitty.  In Dear Kitty, Anne writes down everything important to her: her thoughts and feelings and the events that occurring in her life.  When Anne and her family are forced into hiding, they never imagined they would be hidden for years.

I think after reading this, I need to read the original story again as I feel that I don’t remember everything about this book.  I remember the ending being abrupt in the original and again, the ending left me hanging.  I do remember Anne growing as a character but I was surprised how forthright Anne becomes in this book. She’s almost too blunt and too brass for me.   As Anne becomes a woman, her sexuality becomes important and she’s definitely frank and direct in this area also. I think the wake-up call for me was when Anne sat Peter down at a desk and she got out her pointer stick.  Using her stick, Anne begins to explain to Peter the illustration on the wall. I don’t remember that from the original story and I even asked a few friends if they did. You’d think that as a teen, I’d remember something graphic like that.   So, now I think I need to reread the original to see if my memory is correct or if I actually forgot part of this classic.

With other incidents pertaining to sexual content, I don’t feel this graphic novel is appropriate for younger readers.  Overall, I thought the author did a great job and the illustrations were fantastic. This is one that you’ll definitely need to check into, if you get the chance.  4 stars   

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

4 stars Memoir

This memoir covered a lot of ground but there seemed to be one common thread: Michelle wanted to connect with her heritage. As her mother prepared her traditional Korean dishes, Michelle stood by, trying to comprehend everything that was playing-out before her.  Michelle wanted to please her mother, she wanted her mother to be proud of her and food was going to be her stage.  If only she could please her mother, the pieces would fit together and so she persisted. 

Michelle is Korean-White and we do meet her father in the book.  We hear more about him in the second half of the book whereas the first part of the book, he worked his job and he liked his drink.     

I didn’t know much about this book when I went into it, except that it was a fairly popular book.  I think the driving force about the book for me was how much Michelle, a bi-racial woman, was trying to connect with her mother. Michelle felt a void in her life, her mother would be the one to fill it.   

It was going well and then, they hit a road block.  Mom was diagnosed with a form of cancer and everything, I mean everything changes.  Time, energy, emotions, space, and values have to reevaluated.  What has the highest priority?  It’s not as if anyone’s desires have changed but now: new necessities have become the top priority.   

This was an interesting and honest story and I appreciate Michelle sharing her story.

Living With Twelve Men….. a mother in training by Betty Auchard

4.5 stars Memoir

Reading Betty’s stories are like sitting beside her and having a conversation.  Betty doesn’t leave out anything as she writes about events in her life and I enjoyed the assortment of stories and her honesty.  I found myself laughing many times as I read and I even thought, “no, she really didn’t do that, did she?” 

Her story about the prayer chain hit home with me.  When it came time for Betty’s turn to pray, I cracked up as she spoke to the group.  I would have loved to be in that room and see everyone’s response as I think I would’ve started laughing. Her story about the guinea hens reminded me of the time I had turkeys.  I don’t know how she kept her composure during that whole ordeal but I feel she’s a strong woman as I know I wouldn’t have been able to.    

This is my second book of Betty’s that I’ve read and they’ve both been very enjoyable.  Betty writes about her personal experiences which are honest and open.  I read this book for book club and we had the honor this month (April 2021) of having Betty at our book club meeting via Zoom.  Seeing her in person was wonderful, as she’s just like the individual, I pictured her to be.  A very sweet, entertaining woman spoke with us.  She answered all of our questions, talking about the stories in the book, asking us questions, and telling us about her life.  We all enjoyed having her join us. 

April Bookclub

This is my April’s bookclub book that I picked up today. I belong to my local library’s bookclub, which is in Iowa and we meet once a month, usually at the library but lately we’ve been meeting online. We read the author’s, The Home For the Friendless: Finding Hope, Love and Family back in November 2020 and our group’s leader connected with the author, since the author lives in Iowa. We’d looked at her other books and some of our questions surrounded this book, Living with Twelve Men….a mother in training, it sounded interesting.

Today, when I picked up my copy at the library, imagine my surprise when I opened my sack and I found all these extra goodies. Yeah! A library coffee mug, tea, popcorn, candy, bookmark, and the book.

The Home for the Friendless: Finding Hope, Love, and Family by Betty Auchard

5 stars Memoir

I read this book for bookclub otherwise I think I would have missed reading this gem.  What a great memoir!  I enjoyed many things about this book and although, I live in the area that the author talks about, that is not what makes this book so special.  This book is about the stories, the memories, and how those made me feel.

I could go on forever about the stories that are included in this book but some of my favorites were the name confusion story, Spike the dog, how her family lived through WWII, and her relationships with her family.   The pictures that she included in the book were great, as I like looking at old photographs and they helped with the stories. 

Pearl, Elizabeth, Betty, Betty Bop, Lizzie, whatever name you want to call her and that also depends upon who you were and what age she was (name confusion story) shares some great personal stories that left me smiling, shaking my head, and some almost left me in tears.   Each chapter is a separate story and boy, does she have the stories. 

When Spike got stuck in the toilet, I couldn’t quit laughing.  In my mind, I imagined exactly what that scene must have looked like, as I read the words that were printed on the page. What a sight that must have been!  When she wrote about WWII, as the family condensed themselves into 2 rooms, how cozy and scared everyone must have felt living side-by-side.   Each story felt as if she was telling it to me personally, the details and emotions she wrote about were vivid.   The story about eating the sandwiches during this time period and the free liver.   I just cannot imagine.

I’m so glad that I read this for bookclub.  I told our librarian that I appreciated her picking out this book for us.  I will be recommending this book to others as it’s definitely one that others need to read. 5 stars

Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cummings

4 stars Memoir

I listened to this book on audio and I felt overwhelmed at times at how emotional this story was.  I am not familiar with this actor but his story was an emotional one and I was glad that he had his brother with him for the most part, for Alan dealt with some heavy issues.  This book uncovers some powerful discoveries and his relationships as he was growing up.

Alan talks about his abusive father and the ways his father would provoke him as he was growing up.  I could still hear the emotions in the author’s voice as he spoke about it and I could feel the pain that was inflicted upon him.  It wasn’t until many years later, that Alan along with his brother, did something about what occurred all those years and I was glad that they did. For they finally “did something.”

The book was not all depressing as Alan does tell us about some happy and fun moments in his life.  I liked when he talked about his brother.  They had both experienced life under that roof so they knew what had actually occurred, they had that bond.  You can’t take that away and they were able to talk about it and be honest.

This is not a light book but I think it’s a book that provides hope to others.