Thursday, February 26, 2015

I'm Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal
written by G. Willow Wilson
drawn by Adrian Alphona

Kamala Khan is just like any ordinary kid from Jersey City.  But one confusing night out changes everything when she's given extraordinary powers.  Now she has to figure out who she really is and what kind of Ms. Marvel she wants to be.
What can I say about this new Ms. Marvel that hasn't already been said?  Not very much.  This comic deserves all of the praise and emotional tears it has been getting because it is just that good.

Kamala Khan is so funny and interesting and human.  She asks questions about her own identity being a Muslim teenager born in America.  We see that struggle throughout the first volume.  There is such a depth to her character that it is impossible to walk away from reading Ms. Marvel without being touched by Kamala in some way.

Something I really loved about this first volume was that in figuring out her powers and dealing with how they are changing her life, Kamala shares tidbits of her faith with readers.   How she explains those pieces of the Quran and what they mean to her in that moment are powerful. I think those had to be the most memorable moments for me in reading this comic.  
And the art is fantastic and fun!  Adrian Alphona is so good at creating unique looks for each character. 

Ms. Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why has a release date of March 24th, 2015 but that could change. I feel like I say that a lot but comics/books have a habit of changing their dates.

I also included a video of an interview with Sana Amanat, the co-creator of Ms. Marvel.  She discusses Kamala for a little bit before moving onto other topics.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Sherlock Holmes of the Paranormal

by William Ritter

It's 1892 and Abigail Rook has just arrived in new Fiddleham, New England.  Desperate and in need of work, Abigail rushes to fill the position of assistant to R.F. Jackaby.  Jackaby is a young investigator with a reputation for being eccentric and odd.   As soon as Abigail takes the position, she's pulled into a case involving a serial killer.  The police are looking for the ordinary.  Jackaby is searching for the extraordinary, a nonhuman creature. 


I have re-written this review so many times.  Admittedly, I have been having some trouble putting into words my thoughts and feelings about this book.  To make it short and sweet, the novel is okay but I was disappointed.  

I'll start with the good because there were good things about this novel.   It had a lot of interesting elements like the lore and the creatures featured in the story. I think that had to be one of the most enjoyable parts of this novel for me. Jackaby's house was also a wonder. The levels, objects and rooms in his house were curious.  William Ritter's descriptions of this new world within the confines of a house on a regular street were a joy to read. 

Jackaby himself was an interesting character, but we never got to know much about his life beyond the work.  He's brilliant, blunt but also has the capacity to empathise with other individuals he meets.  For instance, he grew increasingly concerned for Abigail's safety the deeper they got into the case.  But he's still so much a mystery and I would have liked something more to get me hooked on his character.

The mystery also fell sort of flat.  There were moments that were intense and incredibly interesting but they seemed to fizzle out quite quickly.  The identity of the villain wasn't hard to figure out either. I was a little annoyed with how early on I was able to pinpoint who it was.  I also think this book could have done better with a darker atmosphere and build-up.  It's a supernatural detective novel that deals with threats to human lives and it just wasn't very scary.

And Abigail's crush on a certain character? It was so unnecessary and forced.  A friendship would have sufficed.  While we are on the topic of Abigail...I found her to be a bit annoying at times.  I hate to say this but I got frustrated with her more than once.

With all this you would expect me to have hated this novel but I didn't.  It was an okay book that had a lot of potential to be a better than it was.

A second novel is on its way.  It will be called Beastly Bones.  I have decided to check it out when it is released.  I'm not hooked on William Ritter's book, but I have a tenuous interest in the characters and seeing what happens to them.

gif made by michaelsw0rd

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


I had a post a while back where I discussed the alternate spider-verse Gwen Stacy possibly getting her own series.  It was full of excitement and full of my hopes and dreams.  Well, it became official that she was getting a series.

And the first issue comes out tomorrow! 

Jason Latour returns as lead writer and Robbi Rodriguez returns as artist.   

So go out on Comic Book Wednesday and check her out at your favorite shop.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Burning Down the Kitchen

According to my mum, I watch a lot of cooking shows.  From competition programs like "Masterchef Junior" to travel shows like "You Gotta Eat Here".  

The funny thing is that I am a complete disaster in the kitchen.  So what is a tragedy like myself to do?  Learn by trial and error and have an arsenal of resources.   


How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
by Mark Bittman

If you want a book that will help you not mess up a meatless dish, this book if for you.  This book is not strictly for vegetarians.

The recipes are simple and though this book does not have large photos of the end result, it has some how-to illustrations for certain techniques.  So don't panic! Bittman will also give variations for each recipe. Some of which will be great for vegans. 

Bittman's writing style isn't intimidating either.  His voice isn't dry or lifeless.  The last thing you need when learning to cook is someone giving you complicated instructions.  Bittman is great at keeping his instructions easy, relaxed and pretty informal. 

The Ultimate Student Cookbook
by Tiffany Goodall

I know it says "student" on it but some people have learned to cook by striking out on their own at college and university.  I included this book because it seemed like a great beginner book.  It also has some elements that are quite important in terms of thinking about what you eat throughout the day.

Firstly, it has step by step photos to show you some techniques in creating each dish.  It also has short, simple and to the point instructions.  She doesn't spend a lot of time waxing poetic.  She also usually has suggestions at the end of each recipe with ideas for extra things to add to the dish, stuff you could serve with it and its leftover value.

Secondly, she gets you thinking about breakfast and lunch.  Students are on the go a lot just like adults.  I have noticed with my friends that they tend to rely on fast food places for both those meals.  Her sections on breakfast foods and lunch items you can take with you really help beginner cooks think beyond just getting dinner on the table.  

Thirdly, she really makes an effort to add healthy ingredients to many of the recipes in her book even though she already has a section for healthy dishes.  It's a theme you can see in all of her recipes and even in her suggestions for additions to each plate. 

The Can't Cook Book
by Jessica Seinfeld

The CAN'T is what caught my attention but the book itself has a lot of value for beginners in the kitchen.

It has pictures of each dish and depending on the recipe, it will have several pictures to clarify some steps.  The instructions are also really simple and easy to follow.  Each recipe will also carry some encouraging words and remind you not to panic.

Her recipes cover breakfast foods, fish, meat, chicken, vegetables, desserts, quick foods, salads, grains and beans.  But if you're looking for foods from other cultures, you won't really find that in this book.  

Contains a bit of useful extra info. like temperature charts, storage times for food, tools, measurement conversions and visual how-to steps on how to cut up certain items like onions, lemons, garlic, avocados, nuts and herbs.

The extra information isn't dense either.  She gets through it quite quickly and simply and moves onto her recipes.   This book puts you at ease and can change your attitude about your own skills in the kitchen.

Youtube Channels

Hilah Cooking! : Her channel is full of high quality videos that feature simple dishes like mashed potatoes.  She also has recipes that seem a little more daunting like vegetable curry. I really like the variety of the recipes in her video list too.  I don't think I've seen any other channels with a recipe for Egg Rolls. She also has a few vegan dishes! 

What makes Hilah's show great is her delivery of information.  She does it simply and in a way that everyone can understand.  She's also great at putting her viewers at ease.  She makes jokes, laughs and is pretty calm in a lot of her episodes.   She even has a website where you can find written pages of her recipes to go along with the videos.

AND she has a book for beginner cooks called Learn to Cook.  It contains a lot of the recipes found on her youtube channel plus a lot more that viewers haven't seen.  The recipes don't have many accompanying photos but Hilah is detailed in her recipes.  She also has some fun things in there like a spice chart, which explains what flavors can go together.

Food Wishes :  One of the drawbacks from this channel is that the food looks really fancy. Too fancy for someone just starting out.  BUT the despite the names of the dishes, the recipes are easy to follow.  Watch a video and you'll find that Chef John keeps things simple. He doesn't insert himself in the videos.  Rather, he keeps the focus on the food.  You'll see his hands and hear his voice but that's about it.

What is also nice is that he always reminds viewers to not stress out about little things that might go wrong and even if they do go wrong, it's not that big of a deal.  And it's not all about recipes either.  Chef John has some good videos on tips and techniques.  So check out his channel, which contains more than 1,000 videos.

You can find all the information you need (i.e. measurements & ingredients) at his website.

SORTED Food :  What I love about this channel is the variety.  They have vegetarian recipes, Italian recipes, Chinese recipes, baking recipes, Brazilian recipes, Moroccan recipes and list goes on.   They tackle these dishes that sound so hard and break them down for their viewers.  It really makes the task of cooking a lot less intimidating.

I also really enjoy their video series called "3 Things to do With..."  because it's creative and it makes connections between familiar ingredients and other sometimes unfamiliar dishes. And, the guys hosting the show are pretty hilarious and have a fun energy.  I think they really keep you engaged.

Again, if you're worried about written recipes, they have a website where you can find them. It might be a little hard to find them but just click on an arrow at the top of the screen in the left hand corner and it will present a drop down menu with links to the recipes.

Helpful Links

10 Helpful Tips for Beginner Cooks 

- Follow the Link

  • Why this link?  Because it's a personal post and it highlights a lot of the things beginner cooks forget about and don't even think about.  Each tip is followed by the writer's actual experience, which makes it more genuine.   It's also a recipe blog so keep the link and explore it beyond the little tips.

15 Websites to find Recipes by Ingredients You Have 
- Follow the Link
  • Why this link? Because sometimes you have ingredients and no idea what to do with them.  This link takes you to a list of sites that will give you written recipes using ingredients that you have on hand.  If you do this early enough, it will let you know what other ingredients you might need to go out and get.  I kept the list instead of just picking one site because everyone has different likes and dislikes with search engines. The link I gave you breaks down each website and even lists a few pros and cons.
Stone Soup: Healthy Meals made Easy
- Follow the Link
  • Why this Link?  Because it's a health focused recipe blog that doesn't use a lot of complicated things.  It keeps the instructions, tools and ingredients simple.  This list so far has carried a lot of generic recipes with a lot of meat and North American dishes and I wanted to give readers other options.   She is also big on giving suggestions for replacement items in case of dietary restrictions.
How To / The Kitchn
- Follow the Link
  • Why this link? Because this site has a section that has how-to tutorials on how to make certain dishes of food including sauces and steamed vegetables.  It also teaches you various ways to take care of your kitchen like cleaning your sink using flour.  I know...I am just as stunned as you are right now.  There isn't much in this section and it gets repetitive but look through it and you might find things you need.

Simply Recipes
- Follow the Link

  • Why this link? Because it offers readers a good variety of foods including Creole, Japanese, Hungarian, Polish and Ethiopian cuisine.  This website also takes into account things a lot of people are currently concerned with like carbs, gluten, time and budget. The instructions are also pretty simple.  However, some dishes will require quite a few ingredients so expect dishes to range in difficulty levels.
Honorable Mention

Rachel Khoo is an honorable mention because I think her recipes may be a little too hard for cooks that are still getting the hang of things. It's something to work up to so borrow it from the library. 

But if you are ambitious, some of the recipes in The Little Paris Kitchen look pretty small and simple.  So feel free to tackle them.

One of the things I really like about Rachel Khoo is how she talks about the food she makes.  She makes her recipes pretty accessible on her programs through her process, tips and overall enthusiasm for what she does.  

There are a good many videos of her recipes on youtube. I've included two of her videos below.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Freedom to Read Week 2015

I always get so excited when Freedom to Read Week rolls around each year just because I truly and wholeheartedly believe in it.  

Every person deserves the right to decide what they want to read.  Freedom to Read Week is important because it reminds us that not everyone has that right.  It also reminds us that no matter what country we live in,  censorship still happens.

We may not see it.  Books or magazines can be stopped at the border. They can be petitioned against by citizens in your community and removed from bookstore shelves or library stacks without notice to customers and library users.  Check out this list about some of the challenged works in Canada.

It's important to get involved in Freedom to Read Week by spreading awareness.  Have that conversation with your friends or family and discuss how censorship affects you.  You can even attend FTR events happening in your province or a city near you.  

The video below is from 2013 but give it a chance.  The people interviewed make some important points.

Visit the Freedom to Read Week website for more information.

The Vicar of Grantchester

Tonight is the Oscars and if you're watching that, then you're probably missing a little show called "Grantchester" on PBS.  

"Grantchester" is about a young Anglican priest named Sidney Chambers who falls into solving crimes after one of his parishioners dies.  I know PBS does nothing but air British detective dramas. Father Brown, Foyle's War, Midsummer Murders, Poirot, Vera, etc.  The list is quite long.

BUT...this show feels different.  

There's an emotional vein that run throughout the series.  You see Sidney experience heartbreak, sadness, happiness, regret and confusion. The crimes are interesting but what makes you stay is watching Sidney and the people in his life navigate their world.   His partnership with Detective Keating too is really wonderful to watch.

Watch the trailer below and check it out when it comes out on DVD.

The show is even based off of a series of books: The Grantchester Mysteries by James Runcie.

Right now there are 3 volumes of collected  stories and a 4th one is expected to be released in May of this year.  If you enjoy mysteries, small towns, England and authors who are still alive, then check out this series.

Here's a list of the books in the series if you're curious.  Click on the titles and you'll find a link to a preview for each book. 

1. Sidney Chambers & the Shadow of Death 

2. Sidney Chambers & the Perils of the Night
3. Sidney Chambers & the Problem of Evil

Gif made by Emily