Friday, May 17, 2019

The Big-A$$ Book of Bling, by Mark Montano

I love looking through craft books! Especially ones that show you unique and quirky ways to re-purpose old stuff. Mark Montano's Big-Ass Book of Crafts has been a favorite for years, and I always enjoyed going through it while looking for potential program ideas. When it was on the shelf, that is. And more often than not, it was checked out. Would I actually make and use anything in that book? Honestly...no. But it sure is fun to see what this master Recycler would do with this or that.

So when I found out there was a follow up to Book of Crafts, I had to recommend it. I was sure Big-Ass Book of Bling would be just as popular as its companion. And I don't think I'll be wrong. I had the chance to page through it this morning, and absolutely everything in it is fabulous! Fabulously atrocious, that is. In the best possible way! This stuff is tacky, obnoxious, and Bling-y enough to make Lady Gaga positively chartreuse with bling envy. This book will be the perfect inspiration for an Ugly Craft Night program we're planning sometime in the definite future. (So stay tuned!)

--AJB

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

William Shakespeare's Get Thee Back to the Future, by Ian Doescher

I fully enjoyed Ian Doescher's Shakespearean spins on the Star Wars saga. Even the ones inspired by later movies (Because any Star Wars Superfan will tell you that the only true films from this series are Episodes 4-6. There are things--and characters--in episodes 1-3 of which we shall not speak. And the later episodes, while fun and action-packed, strike me as more Fan Fiction than Cannon). So imagine my excitement when I learned this very same author had published a tome of similar format based on one of my absolutely favorite 80s movies, Back to the Future!

William Shakespeare's Get Thee Back to the Future is everything I could have hoped for. As with the Star Wars books, this tells the classic story of Marty McFly's journey (via time-traveling DeLorean) to the the year 1955 to save his friend and reunite his parents, thus ensuring he and his siblings will be born. All  the iconic scenes are there and written in traditional Shakespearean style, complete with iambic pentameter and minimalistic stage directions. The Bard would be proud! This one did not disappoint!

Also, if you're a fan of the film like I am, you'll notice little Easter Eggs and references hidden throughout the book. But I won't tell.You'll have to discover them for yourself.

The verdict is this book was highly enjoyable and I can absolutely recommend it. Especially if you're a fan of classic 80s films.

--AJB

Friday, April 19, 2019

Throwback Thursday: Pretty In Pink (dvd)

From time to time, I like to watch or rewatch old movies with the question of "Would this hold up today?" in mind. Having recently read and enjoyed Pretty In Punxsutawney, a modern-day mashup of Groundhog Day and Pretty in Pink, I decided yesterday to watch Pretty in PinkI've actually never seen this movie.  Shocking, I know, but it was came out in that odd space that was a few years before I was old enough to watch it and, when I finally was old enough, I just never got around to it. But since I had fun reading the book that drew inspiration from the film, I caved into curiosity. 

The result was...fairly lackluster, at best.

The plot of the movie is pretty simple (or is it simple-minded?): Poor Girl Andie is in love with Rich Boy Blaine. He kind of likes her too...but so does her geektastic and, quite honestly, obnoxious best friend, Duckie. Andie and Blaine go on a few dates, upsetting everyone at their cliquey school. Duckie also tries to throw a wrench or two into their relationship (what sort of bff does this? I ask you?). There is drama. Much drama. And so much angst. The film cumulates, rather predictably, at Prom where the two high school lovebirds share a kiss. And apparently everything is peachy after that.

TBH, I can't believe this movie is considered to be the classic it is. I found it to be so awful I could barely get through it! There was absolutely no chemistry between the characters, romantic or otherwise, and the acting was severly amateur (however, I do have to say that Molly Ringwold can pull off deadpan almost as well as Aubry Plaza). Side characters were one-dimensional and all attempts to make main characters seem quirky and well-rounded only came off as off-putting. If one were in the mood, one could also find a lot be offended by too, from Duckie's sexual harassment of random female students and pretty much stalking Andie to characters openly smoking in school (I know, it was the 80s, but still) to the all-white cast. Cringe and cringe and cringe again. I could go on, but I'll keep it short. All I know is if this film were released today as-is, it would draw an unprecedented firestorm of critique.  

But taken for what it is and considering it comes from a time period when the world was a far different place... It's still a terrible film. Not something I would recommend. 

--AJB

Monday, April 15, 2019

Meg, Jo, Beth & Amy, by Rey Terciero

Growing up, I was never an avid reader of the so-called "classics," only picking them  up (grudgingly) when I was assigned to do so by a well-meaning English teacher. I'm still not a classics fan. So it goes without saying I never read Little Women. I knew the story, though, because my cousin had an uber-condensed, kid-friendly audio version that we once listened to in the car on the way to the water park: There's these four sisters who live with their mom and one of them dies at the end (or doesn't, I suppose, if you're reading the alternate ending). In the middle, there's a bunch of girl drama and a boring romance. 

So...yeah.

But while not being a fan of Classics, I DO love me a good reboot of such stories, be it in book or movie form (for example, the movie Clueless is a retelling of Emma). In fact, I could even make a case that one of my favorite books of all time is a modern remix of Don Quixote. So I wasn't so adverse when I picked up Meg, Jo, Beth & Amy, by Rey Terciero, a modern-day graphic novel re-imagining of Little Women

Here, the author took several liberties to make the story more accessible to the intended teen audience. Firstly, the characters are in their teens and tweens, rather than already (or mostly) grown. And they had contemporary struggles, such as wanting to fit in by having things like the latest iPhone and struggling with questions about their sexuality. Also, because the story is set today, modern medicine is able to save Beth. Finally, the sisters are very diverse. There's still plenty of drama, though. Maybe even more so than the original.

While I didn't absolutely LOVE the book, I did enjoy it. And I think the intended audience will enjoy it too. I'd give it to fans of Smile and Sisters and Positively Izzy. --AJB

Friday, March 29, 2019

Fireworks (DVD)

When translating a film with an already confusing plot from one language to another, the result isn't always satisfactory. And sometimes it can be a disaster. Thus was the case with Fireworks, by Studio Shaft (Your Name).

The film centers on shy Norimichi, who has a crush on the same girl as his more energetic and popular best friend. Nauzna, the girl in question, has just found out her mother is to remarry and she will have to move away from all she knows. Unhappy with the situation, Nazuna plans to run away from home, but things go awry. Norimichi uses a strange glowing sphere found in the ocean to help rewind time so his crush can escape (and just maybe they can be together). But each time he rewinds time, something goes wrong. Can the teens set the world right? 

The concept of Fireworks sounded really interesting. I'm always game for sci-fi movies. Especially if they involve time travel or alternate universes/outcomes. But this one did not work for me. At ALL. The plot didn't really seem to go anywhere, and the poor execution of the time travel aspect only made things confusing (this could have much to do with language translation, however). And the characters were as cliche as can be and seemed ripped straight from the pages of a John Green novel, but with far less depth: Shy male protag, manic-pixie-dream-girl love interest, funny/goofy best friend. Side characters were no more than placeholders. 

As excited as I was watch Fireworks, I was disappointed in the reality of it. And, admittedly, turned the film off about 2/3 the way through. Perhaps things came together in the end and everything made sense, but at that point I didn't care anymore. For a better Anime film, try When Marnie Was There or The Tale of Princess Kaguya. --AJB

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Dam Keeper, by Robert Kondo & Dice Tsutsumi

Sunrise Valley is an oasis within a post-apocalyptic world. Outside its walls awaits death and decay, brought on by a toxic black fog that attacks the walls every few days. The only thing that keeps the fog (and certain death) at bay is the windmill stop the wall. 

Young Pig is the Dam Keeper. Like his late father before him, Pig's task is to maintain the windmill and its daily operation, ensuring the safety of each and every resident of Sunrise Valley. It's a lonely and thankless job. In fact, Pig's father couldn't take it and walked into the fog. And it is a daily battle for Pig to not have the same fate.

One day after a particularly violent fog storm (which destroys the windmill), Pig, his best friend Fox, and his nemesis Hippo become trapped miles outside the wall. It is a race against the clock as they must now get back home and fix the dam before the fog returns. But the world outside the wall may not be what they thought... What will Pig, Fox, and Hippo do when they learn the truth? 

The first volume in Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi's The Dam Keeper trilogy is incredible! Although there is very little dialogue, much is conveyed through the story's beautiful artwork. I loved everything about this series: The highly original story, the characters, the humor, and, of course, the art. I've already read Book 2 and am anxiously awaiting the third and final installment, which comes out in July 2019.

--AJB

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Opposite of Always, by Justin A. Reynolds

What if you didn't like how a story ended? What if you got a second chance to try and make it right? I'm not talking about the sort of second chances where you mess up, sincerely apologize, and get put on probationary forgiveness until you prove you won't mess up in the same way again. I'm talking about a real do-over that can only happen with...

Wait for it...

Time Travel! 

This is what happens to Jack when he meets Kate, falls in love, and then Kate dies from a rare genetic blood disorder. Not just once, but many times. So many times Jack loses count. At first Jack thinks he's getting sent back in time to save Kate's life, but what if that's not it at all? And what if, by preventing Kate's death, something bad happens to someone else he knows? What if his actions only make things worse for everyone (like, apocalypse-level worse)? Jack better figure out exactly why he's stuck in this time loop, and he better do it soon. Otherwise, he may be there forever. And that would be a bad thing.

Justin A. Reynolds' debut novel Opposite of Always is kind of Groundhog Day mashed up with Butterfly Effect. And don't let the happy yellow cover with the cute happy couple fool you. This is NOT a light, fluffy love story. And the ending isn't exactly a happy one, although it is realistic...as much so as a story about time loops can be. 

When I first heard about Opposite of Always, I was intrigued. The concept of time loops is a pretty well-explored trope, and didn't think there would be anything new (there wasn't), but I still wanted to read it because I enjoy me a good time travel story. And it was...pretty good. A bit long for what it is (like, the story could have been condensed by 150 pages). And the characters were pretty much cliche John Green (sensitive boy with Issues meets Manic Pixie Dream Girl with Tragic Secret). Still, I liked it. And I think the target audience will too.

--AJB