Off the Beaten Page: Relish in the foodie graphic novel “Relish”

As both a book enthusiast and a foodie, I always look for a good read that combines them both, and I honestly believe I have found a book that tackles food honestly. Lucy Knisley’s “Relish: My Life in the Kitchen” is a graphic novel, a memoir, and a cookbook all in one. It may appear to be everything but the kitchen sink, but it is formed so simply and truthfully that you won’t want to put it down.

Knisley, the daughter of a chef and a gourmet, spent almost the entirety of her childhood around good food. She recalls certain moments of her life and how they formed her relationship with food. She speaks about everything food, from moving from the city to the country and learning to adapt to animal mortality to her favorite recipes illustrated in the cutest animated fashion. She even includes a two-page spread on her time as a cheesemonger and how to categorize cheese down to the most miniscule details, all with ironic smiling cheese rinds adorning the sides of the pages.

A novel like this could usually read as campy in its illustration style and pretentious in the topic of discussion. However, Knisley attacks it in such a tasteful way that it doesn’t come off as either of the two. It reads as an authentic view of growing up around great food. An important thing to note is that Knisley is not trying to condescend with her work, she aims to educate and share her passion of food with readers everywhere.

The popularization of the memoir as a graphic novel has catalyzed over the last few years, with works like Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” and Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home.” “Relish” does not fall short of these well-known works. The tone, though, is much lighter than the aforementioned two, which may make people question its worth compared to more serious pieces. In writing a more comedic piece, Knisley shows that a memoir can be written solely for the purpose of fun. The book is fun to read, the cartoons are fun to look at, and the recipes interspersed throughout are fun to try. Overall, it excels in several genres.

It is a sad truth in literature that we often times do not give less serious pieces the credit they deserve because they are constantly in competition with their dramatic counterparts. I do encourage readers to give “Relish” a try. The story is definitely food for thought, and it gives the reader greater thought for food.  

Book(ish) Boxes — the perfect gift for literature lovers

Bookworm, Bibliophile, Book Lion (for some Youtubers). There are a number nicknames for those who love the written (or typed) word. In a world of changing wardrobes, traditions, and Netflix, it seems that one thing has never changed.  People love stories. And although the platform has changed over the course of a few centuries there have always been people who enjoy books.

A place for book lovers. A place where love of all things literary and fashion collide. Founded in June 2012, the appropriately named “Appraising Pages” is a book review website as well as a shop.

Appraising Pages started as a book review blog, to be able to discuss and share the books I love. Eventually, the shop was started as a way to express the emotions that books fueled,” said the shop’s owner Justine Brooks.

On the blog side of things, you can find out into which books it is worth investing five hundred pages of your time. In the shop, you find products that would make any fangirl (or boy) swoon. T-shirts, jewelry, coffee cups, wall art — Appraising Pages has something for everyone in any fandom.

An avid reader, having grown up reading “A Wrinkle In Time” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” Justine Brooks wanted to create a place where people could wear their love of reading on their sleeves.

The products often pay tribute with quotes and sayings from popular works of fiction, from Sarah J. Maas’s “Throne of Glass” series to Cassandra Clare’s numerous works from the “Shadowhunter’s Chronicles.” Since it’s launch products from the shop have become so well-known that authors have even on occasion asked the shops to craft shirts based on their books. Although you can take your pick of items related to “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent,” the shop does not limit itself purely to literary items products. They also have merchandise related to “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” or “Doctor Who” available.

Literary t-shirts are not the shops only attribute. In a world full of emails and text messages, subscription boxes have brought a new twist to the mailing experience. Instead of sweaters from your grandmother that you’ll never wear or sweaters you ordered from Forever 21 that you will actually wear, you get a mystery box of fun depending on what your interests are. From boxes dedicated to sugary surprises to battle supplies needed in the event of a zombie (yes, really) apocalypse, there is a subscription box out there for everyone.

With positive reviews often including capslock, it can be said The Bookish Boxes are well received by their subscribers.

“I wanted literary subscription box, that wasn’t based on books, but instead themes that allowed small shops to create new items.” Brooks said. Themes have been things such as “Things That Go Bump In The Night” and “Deep Reads” inspired by “All The Bright Places.”

The boxes are put together in a collaborative effort and consist of products from different shops. Some are created by guest curators, such as author Jennifer Niven.

Given the chance, Brooks would have coffee with Harry Potter’s Albus Dumbledore, feeling that he would be able to provide a great deal of warmth and wisdom.

In regards to business ownership she had some words of wisdom of her own: “It’s really hard work, and you’ll feel vulnerable when you are trying to achieve your goals, but do it, it’s so worth it.”

Although not easy her business experiences are not without highlights, “My favorite moments are anytime I see someone in public wearing something in public wearing something I designed, or getting a email from someone who loved their order,” she said. “When an author that I love asks me to make them a shirt, that’s a really special moment.”

Appraising Pages and The Bookish Box’s products can be found at

Off the Beaten Page: James Patterson pleases again with “Murder House”

James Patterson is well-known for his provoking thrillers, as well as his embracing of supernatural elements in his literature. With “Murder House,” his newest creation in conjunction with David Ellis, he instills a feeling of looming dread in his readers, something that he so often excels at doing. The plot, from the outside, appears to be a bare-bones interpretation of an old ghost story, but Patterson adds all the necessary garnishes to create a proper plot.

The story focuses on Noah Walker, a young Hollywood mogul with a dark and seedy past. While this archetypal character is bordering on cliché, the way in which Noah is portrayed is as an antiheroic protagonist. The beachfront community where most of the horror unravels is an unlikely setting for a mystery novel, adding a layer of needed depth to set it apart from other books that follow this similar plot progression. Since a majority of Patterson’s stories follow the same essential format, the revamping of scenery and character development is a major factor to keep in place in order to add spice to a novel.

The prologue of “Murder House” is one of disturbing connotation, which sets the tone effortlessly for the eeriness to come later in the book. Patterson posted several excerpts of the novel online for reader to review before purchase, which is a good tactic since the first thing they will see is this prologue. The main character’s detailed language and vague pronoun usage lead readers to believe the story will turn down a certain road before it unexpectedly halts and makes a turn in the opposite direction.

Fans of Patterson’s other works, however, may not feel like they are getting the best work out of the author. Patterson is very well-known for his intricate storylines and tumultuous character development. “Murder House,” however, provides a more straightforward approach to a mystery, leaving the audience with few small questions, but a couple big ones. It is similar to his other pieces in how it is set up; it just progresses at a different pace and in a new way. That does not in any way affect Noah as a character; he is a fully developed, multi-layered individual with a deep secret. The novel keeps the reader guessing until the end and satisfies for horror and mystery fans alike.

Fantasy author captivates pittsburgh fans at CMU lecture

On a cold October afternoon Pittsburgh readers both young adult and practiced adults ventured to Carnegie Mellon University to see Maggie Stiefvater.  The New York Times Bestselling author of “The Scorpio Races,” “The Raven Cycle,” and the “Shiver” series captivated Creative Writing majors and fans with enthusiasm and humility, with stories of her life and career, and with insight into her works of fiction.

Maggie Stiefvater, who was born Heidi Hummel, could have potentially had a promising career as a stand up comedian. From tales of taking unfortunate photographs of “ugly babies” to recounting the academic programs she was rejected from the writer was very open with her audience. She spoke of her life in chapters of a memoir she never plans to write.

Describing her younger self as if she were a character in a novel she recounted to the audience stories about herself as a “horrible child,” then a “horrible” Wednesday Adams-like teenager “mourning modern society,” and now an adult who watched fellow Young Adult novelist John Green be pulled from a burning car like “a baby calf” twice.

Considering the audience’s responses (not to mention her book sales), it can be said that Maggie Stiefvater is as captivating a storyteller in person as she is on paper. That could be attributed to the fact, that in her own words, she has been telling them her entire life. Some more innocent than others as she admitted that she used to make up stories to entertain her siblings, saying, “It’s not lying it’s storytelling.”

She then kindly informed the writers in the audience, after they’d identified themselves, that they were terrible: “You’re all terrible, just so you know.” She claimed to know this from personal experience as a writer having roughly thirty unfinished novels by the time she started college.

Although she can laugh at herself and get others to laugh about the days when she and her husband that she affectionately referred to as “lover” were, “living off dried pasta and broken dreams,” Stiefvater did not have an easy road to success. In spite of being a history major and lover, she studied it because the Creative Writing Department rejected her, going as far as to suggest she major in business.  Additionally, she has had bouts with writer’s block, too, saying that she started writing her series “The Raven Cycle,” published in 2012, at nineteen (she is thirty-three now).  And with books that top that bestsellers list can come a great deal of pressure. Stiefvater described her experience ending her first trilogy as writing with, “one million mom’s watching.”

“I learned after that I really needed to write books for myself,” she said after recounting having to rewrite an eager to please manuscript.

Now with eight finished novels and several short stories, two children, quite a few farm animals, still a lot of black clothing, and a car that caught on fire after a possibly illegal drag race, she still considers her protagonist to still be developing.   Making Harry Potter references and begrudgingly describing herself as a “grown up,” she signed books and gave aspiring writers in the audience humor filled advice.  

Her newest addition to “The Raven Cycle” will be released in February 2016.

“All the Bright Places”: A brief interlude on romanticizing suicide

This year has been a bustling one for young adult fiction, and a common topic that has found itself at the surface of these novels intended for teenagers is illness. Ever since the popularization of “The Fault in Our Stars,” young people have flocked to novels that show aspects of hurt, distress, and even death. Authors have glorified death in order to get more readers. Thanks, John Green, for the misconception that illness helps you fall in love.

Jennifer Niven, a writer of mostly adult fiction, has tried her hand at this blossoming young adult trend and has brought suicide to the forefront of her piece, “All the Bright Places.” The novel centers in on two teenagers, Violet Markey and Theodore Finch, who meet and end up engaging in a serious relationship after standing on the same sixth-floor ledge of their high school in order to attempt suicide. This is the glue of the plot. Unfortunately, it is not taken as seriously as it should be. While it is a hard, sad truth that some school officials in the real world do not take these attempts as seriously as they should, the adults in Niven’s novel are portrayed as callous, unemotional creatures with not so much as a heart for their students. Plus, the supporting cast of additional characters are just as bad as the educators are. It is upsetting that there is very little support for these two very ill characters.

Mental illness is often glorified in literature, and I am in no way discrediting “All the Bright Places.” It is an absolutely gorgeous novel. The diction is beautiful, the plot is solid and relatable in some senses, and the novel itself explores all facets of a young adult relationship. However, I feel that this novel just further shows that there has been a fetishization of ill individuals in current literature. Readers often feel that this makes the narrator more vulnerable, but should that not be shown by indirect characterization? Niven sort of shies away from this skewed way of thinking and has these characters wanting to get better throughout the novel, but the main pull of this book is that it focuses on illness and how being sick can get someone to love you. It does not give the actual written word justice.

“All the Bright Places” is going to be made into a major motion picture after countless reviews have said what a heart-wrenching story it is. Sound familiar? Illness and suicide, especially, resonate with people. People crave death in literature, and while these two main characters embody the probable archetypes you could have in any young adult novel, they are further complicated by being suicidal. While it is done tastefully, it still fulfills my argument that writers today are focusing too hard on making the reader “feel” things. My advice to the writers? Stop romanticizing mental illness. Don’t rely on gimmicks to make your pieces better. You don’t need it, and neither do people with mental illnesses.

Cultural Corner: Television plays Pittsburgh

Hipsters, both old and young, spent the evening of Friday, September 25, watching Television — the band, that is.

The show, at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland, was a special one for Television.

“This is this band’s first time playing Pittsburgh,” said frontman Tom Verlaine, which gained a laugh from the audience.  

Television — whose current line up consists of Verlaine on guitar and vocals, Jimmy Ripp on guitar, Fred Smith on the bass, and Billy Ficca on the drums — performed their first album, “Marquee Moon” (1977), in full, along with a few other early songs.

The band, formed in 1973 in New York City, was a pioneer of the punk scene, although their music is cleaner than that of their contemporaries.

“Brother” will chill even the bravest of readers

With Halloween fast approaching, horror novels have been flying off the shelves. One of the most provoking novels comes from Ania Ahlborn, author of “The Bird Eaters” and “Within These Walls.” Titled simply “Brother,” Ahlborn takes us on a journey to backwoods Appalachia, where our young protagonist Michael lives with his twisted family. This novel is not for the faint of heart by any means, and takes you on a terrifying adventure through the darkest corners of the mountains.

Released on September 29, “Brother” is a brand new piece, and it makes Ahlborn’s previous works look tame. As a baby Michael is picked up from the side of the street by a deranged family, and at nineteen years old, he desperately wants out. He is constantly tormented by his older brother Ray, who goes by the name Rebel, and he feels completely trapped in his West Virginia life.  When Michael meets Alice, a young girl from a neighboring town, he thinks he has found true love. However, his family is not shy to put him back in his place.

The novel is extremely creepy and sometimes gory, as Ahlborn notes some of her literary inspirations as Joe Hill, Stephen King, and Gillian Flynn. This is apparent throughout “Brother,” as it emulates the horror and dread of some of the greatest shock novels. The book has a peculiar air about it that will make you not want to put it down. The suspense is just one facet of the piece, and there are so many absurd plot twists you will just be dying to know what happens next. Again, I say that “Brother” is not for faint-hearted individuals. You will need a strong will, a strong mind, and even a strong stomach to be able to get through this entire chiller.

Her Campus publishes “The Her Campus Guide to College Life”

For those looking how to navigate college life, Her Campus has always been an irrefutable resource. Now co-founders Stephanie Kaplan Lewis, Windsor Hanger Western, and Annie Wang are taking their efforts a step further. They have written a book titled “The Her Campus Guide to College Life: How to Manage Relationships, Stay Safe and Healthy, Handle Stress, and Have the Best Years of Your Life.”

While the title says a lot, it does not say enough. Written in the Her Campus tone of a trusty friend or a wise big sister, the book will be any college student’s new best friend. With 19 chapters to peruse, the book can aid a helpless freshman or even an experienced upperclasswoman.

When asked where they got the idea for the book, the co-founders answered, “As much as we love everything about the internet, we still appreciate the value of curling up with a good book, too. And while our site provides a ton of fabulous articles individually, we thought it would be nice to put together a comprehensive ‘guide’ of sorts to college life, that would be the collegiette’s bible, and we always imagined this to be in book form. It was just a matter of the timing being right to finally make it happen and publish a book.”

The chapters cover dorm safety; safety around campus; sexual assault; studying abroad; nutrition, fitness, and eating disorders; physical health; drinking, smoking, and drugs; mental health; sexual health; roommates; professors, RAs, and TAs; dating, relationships, and hooking up; unhealthy relationships; extracurriculars; Greek life; juggling social life and academics; social media dos and don’ts; managing your money; and landing jobs and internships. Within each chapter are multiple sections to break down the finite details of each chapter’s theme. Put simply, this book is the godsend that women college students—or collegiettes, as Her Campus calls them—have been waiting for.

When asked about the most helpful chapter, the co-founders stated, “It’s impossible to pick just one chapter since the book is really about how all these areas of your life—health, relationships, academics, etc.—come together in college. But [we] would say the chapter on mental health is one of the more critically important ones. In college it’s key to manage stress and make sure you’re in a positive state of mind in order to be able to get the most out of everything college has to offer.”

And no doubt this is a book the world has needed desperately. While there are dozens upon dozens of college self-help books, the advice in Her Campus’ compilation is incomparable. Especially for young women, the book conveys Her Campus’ commitment to giving sisterly advice in the friendliest form possible.

The co-founders shared collectively that the best advice they got in college was, “Pursue what you’re passionate about and success will follow,” “Don’t go chasing a career path just because it seems like it will make you a lot of money, if it’s something you aren’t truly interested in,” and, “If you immerse yourself in things you love, you’ll be best positioned to see where there is opportunity and to capitalize on that.”

They also said the best advice they could give a college student was, “Don’t feel like you can’t achieve something just because you’re young, or inexperienced, or don’t have enough money,” “If you set your mind to something and work your hardest, you can achieve anything,” and “Just be sure to be smart about it and to find mentors and advisors who can help you along the way.”

“The Her Campus Guide to College Life: How to Manage Relationships, Stay Safe and Healthy, Handle Stress, and Have the Best Years of Your Life” is now available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, and more—including a digital version available in the iTunes iBookstore.

Check out “The Her Campus Guide to College Life” here.

Waiting for Intermission, New on Netflix: Review of “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn”

In the mindset of my last review for the Communique, I wanted to choose a movie that would reflect the anxiousness of this part of the semester when all the final projects, final papers, and dreaded tutorials are due. In one of his last movies, “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn,” Robin Williams had been able to portray to us all how important time really is.

Henry Altman is an incredibly angry man. It seems that in this case, the title does give away the film when you meet Henry. In the first 10 minutes on screen, he narrates to the audience that he is adding things to his list of things he hates. He looks worn from a horrible night’s sleep and tired of waiting in traffic, but more importantly, he’s angry that he is late for his doctor’s appointment. Once he’s finally there, he has to wait even longer for a doctor who isn’t even his normal doctor.

Just when things couldn’t possibly get any worse for Henry Altman, he is told he has 90 minutes to live.

Storming out of the clinic with a too-revealing hospital gown, Henry hails a cab to go back to work. But then the news finally sinks in for him. What was he, a man who has spent the better part of the last two years of his life angry, going to do? That’s when 90 minutes become as precious as gold to Henry Altman, and he realizes there are so many things he needed to fix before the clock strikes 6:22 p.m.

Throughout his day, Henry tries to reconcile with his loved ones and his close friends before he dies. Unfortunately, everyone he meets manages to make him lose his temper. The only one who seems to chase him down on his last day of life is the doctor who told him he had 90 minutes to live. But the movie shows a minute of happiness is worth a lot more than a year of anger.

Henry Altman was rushing against the clock to be able to travel through one of the busiest, loudest cities in the country to tell his loved ones that he loves them. Altman states, “The only people who don’t look back with regret are idiots and psychopaths. And I got a lifetime of regrets, boy.” Only when his time was running out did he stop and realize what he had become. With all the anger he held against the world for what it was, Henry made himself the thing that he hated the most.

Robin Williams reminded the world of laughter and how the world is full of life and goodness. His character, although starting out as mean and hateful towards the world, manages to teach the audience the same lesson that Robin Williams did.  We need to take a moment to remember that time is precious enough to appreciate it. Final projects, papers, and tests make it easy for us to have a sense of lost time; however it’s when we take the moment to breathe that we acknowledge all the hard work we’ve already accomplished.


Artist Collective hosts successful, annual Extraction

Despite the poor weather, crowds of people from Chatham and the surrounding community flocked to the Welker Room in the Laughlin Music Hall on the evening of Thursday, March 26, to take in the sights at Chatham’s much talked about annual art exhibition: Extraction.

Photo Credit: Katerina Sarandou

Photo Credit: Katerina Sarandou

Decorated with string lights and white balloons, and with the comforting sounds of an espresso machine whirring from Caffe d’Amore’s coffee table near the front room, the venue gave off an air of sophistication.

The award-winning event was hosted by Chatham’s Artist Collective and was organized for the second year in a row by Sophomore Meg Scanlon, an Art History major and President of the group.

“I think [Extraction] is an excellent opportunity–the only opportunity–for students of any major to show their art on campus,” Scanlon said of the event.

“We accept any art, as long as we have room for it,” she continued. “We try to make the show as inclusive of the community as possible.”

One look at the art that filled the large room was enough to prove the truth of her words, as the collection included everything from simple contour drawings and renderings of leaves to multimedia sculptures complete with naked Barbie dolls.

Photo Credit: Katerina Sarandou

Photo Credit: Katerina Sarandou

One big change to the event this year was the addition of film to the collection of items on exhibit.

Sophomore Alice Shy, who was instrumental in this change, explained,Last year I asked Meg about incorporating video, but by the time I asked it was too late to do anything.”

She continued, “This year she asked if I was still interested,” which is how three of Shy’s films ended up on display in the Founder’s room, connected to the Welker room.

As students perused the various art pieces on display, musicians from Chatham, as well as local bands, added an auditory dimension to the evening’s artistic theme. Musicians throughout the evening included sophomore Emily O’Brian on piano, guitar and keyboard duo Jonathan Pezzuti and Jason Leech, junior soloist Natalie Beck, Chatham’s own Ukaladies, and local band Fun Home featuring sophomore Jessica Turner on keyboard.

On the other side of the room from the musicians’ performance space was a craft table, hosted by Feminist Activists Creating Equality (FACE), Chatham’s recently formed feminist coalition, where students could decorate sanitary napkins with beads, glitter, and other assorted materials.

Kelly Nestman, a sophomore Women’s Studies and Social Work major and President of the group, explained that they planned the multimedia project to display, “different interpretations of what people think vagina’s look like.”

Nestman restarted the group, which existed a few years back but disbanded due to lack of participation and differing definitions of feminism, with the goal of, “doing everything in our power to make sure that Chatham College for Women is still present and relevant next year.”

Photo Credit: Katerina Sarandou

Photo Credit: Katerina Sarandou

FACE is holding their first official meeting in the Carriage House on April 2, where they will be playing feminist bingo and giving out prizes, including finger puppets of famous women, and “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirts.

Next to FACE, Bonnie West, a Senior studying Visual Arts, sat at a table previewing the work that she will be displaying at her tutorial show in early April.

“My show’s kind of about memories and collecting,” West explain, continuing, “It’s more than art as a finite piece; it’s a process, and this is documenting it.”

As she sat at her table pinning intricate patterns of beads and sequins (which she has been collecting since he was young) into a piece of Styrofoam, West explained that her show is “subverting consumerism,” by taking her collections of various things like ChapSticks and plastic 90s toys, which were meant to be fleeting and ephemeral, and making art out of them.

Attendees were fairly unanimous in their high praise of the event. Sophomore Maggie McGovney explained that she always enjoys attending, saying, “It’s great to see what my classmates have made.”

Shy expressed similar sentiments, saying, “I feel like this event gets better every year.”

When asked what motivated her to take on the task of planning Extraction, Scanlon replied, “My favorite part of the event is when I have a second to stand back and watch people fill the room and have conversations about anything.”

She continued, “It’s nice to be able to facilitate a space for the community to come together, observe and enjoy.”