Saga, Volume 3

The third installment of the Saga quest was, different, shall we say from the previous two.  Saga 3It’s the middle-child of the group, I guess you could say.  Continuing the story of Alana and Marko and their quest to keep their daughter, Hazel safe from the clutches of their warring governments, Volume 3 pauses the forward momentum of the plot and take sometime to give background to many of the characters that we have been introduced to in Volumes 1, 2.

The Brand is still trying to hunt them down while Marko’s ex-girlfriend, Gwendolyn, has met up with The Brand in her quest to bring home Marko to face justice.  The Brand is still recovering from the loss of a loved and a friendship/alliance forms between he and Gwendolyn.  Together they try to rehabilitate Sophie, the child sex-slave The Brand rescues from Sextilion.  However complications ensue when all is not as it appears on their planet.  Because who ever thought there were happy endings when space has become as dystopic as Earth is/was/will be.

Next to take up the chase for Alana and Marko is Prince Robot IV.  At first I thought this species was just a humorous gag the writers threw in, but in this volume they’ve done a good job showing the complexities the Robots have.  Imagine humans with blue-tinted skin, but with TV sets for heads.  Their thoughts and emotions are mirrored on the screens, and they can change their hands into weapons or anything they’d like.  The Robot kingdom is allied with Landfall against their enemies from Wreath.  But IV is getting disenchanted with the war.  And his back story and personality start to make readers realize he’s more complex than a first reading might reveal.

I can’t go much further into the plot without spoiling it.  And that would be a travesty.  So if you’ve made it through volumes 1, 2, keep reading!  Just realize the pace slows down, but only so the characters become even more developed and endearing to the readers.

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Saga, Volume 2

Continuing the amazing story from Volume 1, Volume 2 delves into the stories of the other Saga 2characters in the Saga world.  Alana and Marko are fleeing the winged army and find out that the horned planet’s government is also out to get them.  But instead of an army, they’ve hired an assassin called, The Will.  He’s kick ass.  Like James Bond except no British accent.  But he’s got a bullet proof cape, a spaceship, and a giant cat that can tell if someone is lying (I promise it’s way cooler than how cheesy that sounds).

The Will is close to catching the fleeing couple when a subplot involving under-aged sex trafficking side tracks him on a planet called Sextillion.  It’s basically Las Vegas, but planet size.  While The Will doesn’t talk much, it’s his actions that make me want to know more.  He’s mysterious and just when you think you know him, you realize there’s more to his character.  His vicious and cold, yet is very loyal and is smarting from a break up with another assassin.  Weaving The Will’s story into the fabric of Alana and Marko’s gives more depth to the story and gives the readers a break from the fleeing duo.  It also shows us that there’ snot a clear distinction between who is good and bad.  This struggle is pretty much what makes it so hard for Alana and Marko to trust anyone; it’s not clear who’s on whose side.

Mid-way through this volume, Marko’s parents show up and we suddenly get a bit of multi-racial family drama.  His mother is angry at Marko for attaching him self to the enemy, but his father is more concerned with just getting to know his granddaughter.  It’s not heavy-handed, but there’s a lesson for our culture today and we move from being one distinct ethnicity to becoming multi-racial/ethnic families.  Ultimately the horned in-laws move past their biases and learn to just love and accept.

Once again Vaughan and Staples have created a captivating piece of art that deftly carries the plot from Volume 1 while also making Volume 2 a piece unto itself.  If you made it through Volume 1, keep going with Volume 2!

Saga Volume 1

Saga by Brian K Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples burst onto my reading horizon Saga 1when my sister-in-law brought the first three volumes over and told my wife and I we HAD to read it.  Wanting to get more familiar with the graphic novel world I was immediately interested in reading them.  Plus, it’s a sci-fi graphic novel and I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to sci-fi/fantasy stuff.  I took the first volume and immediately got lost in the story.  I finished the first and immediately took up the next two and read them all in one sitting.  It was awesome.

This was almost two years ago and since then I’ve seen Saga become more and more talked about.  And for good reason!  The ultimate premise is that there’s this war between two neighboring planets.  The smaller planet is a people who have horns (horns of all types like sheep, goats, deer, antelope, gnu, buffalo, etc.) and who are able to channel magic.  Their antagonists are a winged people (whose style of wings range from insect to avian).  Almost like Star Wars their conflict has moved from just their two planets to all over the known galaxies.

Then we meet the protagonists. And by meet, it’s at the birth of their child.  She’s from the winged planet, he’s from the horned one, Alana and Marko, respectively.  Beginning in media res, we see that they are being hunted by the winged military, of which Alana once belonged.  As they escape capture we get flashbacks of how they met and what’s going on in the world around them.

The balance between Alana and Marko’s story and other plot lines is part of the beauty of this work.  This first volume sucks you into this world that you feel so familiar with, yet are still so interested to hear new facts.  In this balance Vaughan avoids the Romeo & Juliet trope, and thank goodness! And while we are speaking of beauty, the illustrations are off the chart!  Staples really captures the nuances of each individual and culture.  This is art at it’s finest!  I certainly recommend this if you are looking for a good absorbing read.  And now that there’s four volumes it’s like four servings of your favorite foods.

Revered Wisdom: Judaism

This was, unfortunately, a very disappointing read.  The author’s in this tome, took an interesting topic and completely killed it.  What was supposed to be the historical background of the second half of the Old Testament and an overview of Jewish literature, turned into a biased/prejudiced slog through history and a superficial slice of Jewish authors.

JudaismJudaism by Charles Foster Kent & Gustav Karpeles, was given to me by my parents for Christmas.  They know I like to read about Biblical history as well as expanding the pool of authors I select from.  This book seemed to them to kill two birds with one stone.  What they didn’t know is that this book is a compilation of two different books.  Kent and Karpeles wrote separate books and the publisher of the edition that I have, decided to abridge both books and smack them together into single volume.

Kent’s work is from 1945 and some of his language is very dated.  He also writes with a somewhat arrogant tone.  He does a good job giving the background to books of the Old Testament such as Esther, Isaiah, and Nehemiah.  This interested me because sometimes I think we lose context by not knowing the history of what was happening when these books were written.  Knowing the context gives more meaning to what was written, in my opinion.  However, every now and then, Kent makes these remarks like, “Of course we know…” or “Obviously it couldn’t be…”.  It irks me when authors make those evaluations when there is some doubt that there is 100% certainty.

Karpeles’s section on Jewish literature was more modern, but was sparse when it came to actually discussion works of Jewish literature and authors who wrote them.  Instead, it was a long discussion of the Bible and the Talmud, which no one will argue is the foundation of Jewish literature, but there’s much more than that.  For example, Sholom Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman and Motl The Cantor’s Son is now famous for being the origin of The Fiddler on the Roof, yet it’s not mentioned in this section.  If I were Karpeles, I would’ve wanted to give readers a sampling of Jewish authors, rather than spending time on works that are already well known.

This book was a two star.  It was slow going and I think it could’ve been written better.  I’m pretty sure there’s much better books out there so I do not recommend this book.

The Cuisines of Germany

Who doesn’t love history, culture, and food?  Having already reviewed a book about the history of American foods, I happened across this book, combining actual recipes and the history behind the dishes from each region of Germany.  Apparently this is my year of reading historical cook books.

GermanyThe Cuisines of Germany by Horst Scharfenberg is different from other books on the dishes Germany.  First off, Scharfenberg begins by giving a brief history of the influences on each region’s typical cuisine.  I’m turning into a bit of a food history nerd, so this immediately grabbed my attention.  I find it fascinating how dishes develop due to climates, geography, flora, and fauna.  A little anachronistic, but still intriguing is that the regions now no longer considered part of Germany: Silesia, Pomerania, and East Prussia are also included in the list as well as references to East and West Germany.  None of this distracts from the succinct and purposeful explanation for how each region developed a certain palate.

Scharfenberg then divides the book into sections like soups, stews, desserts, beef, poultry, game, etc.  With each recipe under each section, Scharfenberg gives a note on the history of the dish, where the recipe came from, and on what occasions the dish would’ve been served.  Sometimes the recipe is actually taken from a historical diary/cookbook from several centuries ago.  And let’s just say that I’m grateful today we have standard measurements.  Some of those old recipes clearly assume you’re an established cook.  With directions like, “a pinch of salt”, “enough flour”, and “amount of sugar to your choice”, it drives me crazy!  Luckily, Scharfenberg gives a modern recipe to accompany the antique one.

While some of the recipes are typical “meat and potatoes”, there’s actually a lot of diversity within each category.  Amongst the soup recipes, there were several fruit soups as well as bean and barley soups.  So if you’re a vegetarian or just not big on having meat in every dish, there’s still recipes for you.

If you like a good serving of history and culture with your food then I do recommend this book for you.  Guten appetit!