Book Review–Relish

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in book reviews, First Second, graphic novel | Posted on 09-02-2013

Relish:  My Life in the Kitchen
Lucy Knisley
FirstSecond
April 2013

Lucy Knisley is the daughter of a chef/caterer and a gourmet foodie.  So unsurprisingly she also loves food and equates many of her memories growing up with it.  In this thoughtful and funny memoir, Lucy shares with readers key moments in her life — her parents divorce, her moving to the countryside, trips out of the country — and how food framed each moment of this journey.  We see how a trip to Italy is influenced, not by Italian cooking, but by eating a local McDonald’s that brought the comforts of home.  And we learn how even though her parents are separated that home cooked meals prepared by Lucy’s mother can bring them together once again.  Through many meals and snacks, Lucy shares with us her memories of growing up and the unique experiences she has.  Each chapter concludes with an illustrated recipe that ties into the just completed chapter, daring us to sample some of the adventures.

Like many people, I was first introduced to Lucy Knisley through her travelogue French Milk and I was quickly enthralled.  Her simple, yet evocative, line drawings created an entertaining story that made me feel like I was sitting with a good friend, sharing a meal, and listening to their adventures.  Since that time I’ve eagerly kept up with Lucy’s work and career and she has quickly become one of my all time favorite artists and storytellers.  And her latest work of course is no exception.

What I love best about this story, is not only that Lucy shares her journey and her story with us, but I find it easy to relate to her work.  I know that sounds strange because I’m not a foodie and I’m not female, but I can honestly say that I can look at her work and find some trace of myself in it.  Mainly because Lucy doesn’t try to hide those unflattering moments that so many of us wish we could hide, such as being a brat and rebellious towards are parents.  Lucy instead embraces it and share it with us in such a way that we can relate to it and remember our own experiences growing up.  And I stress that point because some authors seemingly want nothing more than pity or take such a hard look at themselves they no longer seem human.  Lucy’s writing puts us on her level and makes it easy to relate to her and feel like we’re talking with a good friend, which to me is the sign of a great writer.

While the story is fantastic, Lucy’s artwork is even better.  Her watercolor paintings of her adventures are bright, colorful, and exude life.  It makes me feel like I’m standing right there with her sampling exotic candies in Mexico and smelling fragrant cheeses in Chicago as she serves them to customers.  She has an elegance to her work that easily captures the human figure without overwhelming it with detail and unnecessary lines and just brings the story to life.  I could say more, but why give unnecessary detail?  Go check out her work and you’ll be impressed as well.

As you can tell I really enjoy Lucy’s work and I think a y’all will as well.  I highly recommend this book.  The story is simple, easy to follow, and flows naturally and the artwork is beautiful.  And I can’t give it any higher praise than that.

ARC provided by Gina at FirstSecond

Book Review—Poseidon: Earth Shaker

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in book reviews, First Second, graphic novel | Posted on 07-02-2013

Poseidon:  Earth Shaker
George O’Connor
FirstSecond
March 2013

The Earth-Shaker. Father of Horses. Lord of the Ocean. One of three powerful sons of Kronos, Poseidon, along with his brothers Hades and Zeus (and their siblings) have freed the mortal world of the rule of the Titans. They take over their realms and usher in an age of peace…such as it is. Poseidon is deep and dark, calm and chaotic, just like the ocean that he dwells in. His children, like the cyclops, the pegasus, and his mortal children are often monstrous and destructive…reflecting the darker nature of their father, wreck havoc on the world above, causing conflict between Poseidon and the other gods. And at times…putting the three powerful brothers at war with each other.

Unlike the other books in this series, O’Connor has Poseidon tell his own story. From the defeat of the Titans to his children to his time in Kronos’s stomach, O’Connor allows Poseidon to explain why he acts the way he does, which creates for a unique storytelling experience. And while it is an epic story, it sometimes strays from being the story of Poseidon and instead becomes the story of the Minotaur or Theseus (children of Poseidon.) And while O’Connor does this because there isn’t a lot of information on Poseidon, it just doesn’t read as a complete story like the books on Zeus and Hades. 

I really like the artwork in this book. It has such great use of color and shadow in the depictions of the world, especially the underworld. Instead of depicting it all flames and fire (which seems to be something some artists like these days) it’s more of a darker, almost hopeless place…much like it’s described as in the original myths. It might be a bit creepy for really young readers, but middle schoolers and above will enjoy it. I enjoyed most of the character design, although at times Poseidon’s mustache bugged me…it made him seem like a dastardly villain vs. being a god. 

Overall this is a great series and this is the perfect companion for people that have been enjoying the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan and want to know more about the Greek/Roman gods and how they work. Even better is that at the end of the book is nice a little feature that talks bout the different characters, who they are, and other details to help you learn more about the Greek world. Even better, from a librarian perspective, they have a bibliography! A list of websites and recommended reading list to go to get more information. I can’t wait to read the next volume in the series!

ARC provided by Gina at FirstSecond