Saturday, February 6, 2016

Jem and the Holograms (DVD)

When I was a kid (9 or 10), I loved the Jem and the Holograms cartoon. It had everything I could have asked for all rolled into one: Action, adventure, comedy, mystery, romance, Sci-fi, and a killer soundtrack (yep, even at the tender age of pre-teen, I was all about the music...which explains a lot about how I still am today). Every Wednesday at 4 p.m., I was faithfully planted in front of the TV, anxiously awaiting the continued adventures of Jem and her band of sisters as they traveled to exotic locations and thwarted the next evil scheme of their arch-rivals, The Misfits. And revisiting the cartoon 20-some years later...I found it to still be pretty awesome (although I did wonder how The Misfits and Eric Raymond didn't end up doing 20-to-life in prison for some of the stunts they tried to pull off).

So back in 2010, when I heard the first whisperings that there might be a live-action movie based on my favorite childhood show, I was understandably geeked. Fast forward to 2013, I was starting to lose hope that this movie would ever be made (each check of IMDB told me that the film was "in production" and no further information was available besides that). Then the first photos were "leaked"...and then the trailer...and then a Fall 2015 release date was announced. Unfortunately I missed the movie while it was in the theater. It was quickly pushed aside to make room for the latest Even-Worse-Movie-Based-On-An-Already-Bad-Teen-Book (gag). And, of course, each movie complex has to have at least 3 theaters devoted entirely to the influx of people lined up to see Star Wars VII (I'm not dissing Star Wars. The original trilogy was a cornerstone of my childhood). Also because the so-called professional reviewers didn't have a very stellar reaction to the film.

I will hereby disagree with every negative thing the critics said. This movie was awesome!

Jem and the Holograms (2015) is an entirely new Jem story, updated for the 21st Century. But the critical pieces still remained faithful to the original story: The music, the importance of friendship and family, the battle of good vs. evil. In this 2015 update, Jerrica Benton is a shy teen who lives with her three sisters and her aunt. All four girls are exceptionally musical, but despite Jerrica's sister Kimber's obsession with all things social networking, that talent is unnoticed. Then Kimber secretly posts a video of a disguised Jerrica singing an original song, and things explode! The girls are contacted by Erica Raymond, the mean-girl-esque owner of the country's biggest music company. The girls are wisked away to Hollywood, where they will begin their new life as rock stars. But not everything is sunshine and happiness. Jerrica is worried that her aunt will lose her house and, when Erica pressures her to sign a solo contract in exchange for the money to save the only home she knows, Jerrica caves. Feelings are hurt, band drama ensues, and everything almost falls apart. There's also a mystery involving finishing Jerrica's (deceased) scientist father's final and greatest invention (I'll say right now that Synergy is almost as cute as Wall-e, and certainly as cute as BB8, if not cuter).  In the end the good guys win and the bad guys get their just desserts (no spoilers as to how, though). There's even a bit of romance toward the end. And a bit of a cliffhanger ending that hints there may be more to come (and I hope there is!).

Overall, Jem and the Holograms is an awesome movie. It wasn't Lord of the Rings or (original) Star Wars caliber, but then it wasn't that sort of film. For a film marketed to teen girls, it was fantastic. Plus, the lack of sex, drugs, and fowl language makes this movie a good choice for the younger crowd. I enjoyed the story, but my favorite part was the costumes, which are fantastic enough to give Lady Gaga wardrobe envy.  The only negative thing I could say about this movie is the soundtrack was sort of wimpy (Kind of Katy Perry wannabe), despite the talent of the musicians (It's not that it's awful. I just think those girls were capable of something more worthy of iconic an powerhouse Girl Band like Heart or The Runaways).   

I'll absolutely recommend this one!! --AJB

and p.s.: Check out the original cartoon, if you have the chance. OPL owns the first season.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Lumberjanes (vol. 1): Beware the Kitten Holy

Ok. So. Confession time: I never used to be into comics or graphic novels or Manga or any of that--despite the fact that I actually write and illustrate a comic (Winston's World) for OPL's quarterly newsletter. I'm too enamoured with the written word and, I suppose, I just like to use my (sometimes too active) imagination to form my own images of characters and places and whatnot rather than relying solely on pictures created by the author/illustrator. Same reason I usually take issue with movies made from books (I have trouble silencing that little voice that says, "No! That's NOT how Professor Snape is supposed to look!" or whatever...and then I'm distracted and/or bugged throughout the rest of the film.). It's just how it is. 

But lately I've been more into graphics, thanks to crossover/combo/whatever books like I Am Princess X (by Priest) and The Year of the Beasts (by Castelucci) which are part graphic, but also part-to-mostly straight-up text. And then there were the full-on graphics I hearted, like Smile (by Telgemeier), This One Summer (by Tamaki), and Nimona (by Stevenson). OMG Nimona (insert heart-eyed emoj here).

So when Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy, by the author of Nimona, crossed my desk, I gobbled it up like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would gobble a peanut butter and pickle pizza. Because Nimona was awesome. And because kick-butt female characters who solve mysteries and who aren't afraid to use their brains...or their martial arts skills. Because martial arts!!! And because the implied promise of kittens...and I DO like kittens...so cute and fluffy!

But I digress... Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy introduces the reader to Jo, April, Mo, Molly, and Ripley, five five bad-to-the-bone campers at Miss Qiunzella Thiswin Penniquiqul Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. Whilst attempting to earn their Up All Night Badge, the girls are ambushed by some magical talking foxes. And before you say anything, no, no NO, these foxes did not spew random gibberish, as suggested by that catchy, yet annoying song that went viral on YouTube a few years ago (OMG, I still can't believe the cast of Glee covered that one! Such bad form... Aaaghhh! Ear Worm!!). Before vanishing back into the dark and creepy forest, the magical talking three-eyed (Did I say three-eyed before? No? Well, they were) foxes tell the terrified campers to "Beware The Kitten Holy." Ooooooh...cryptic, right? I know! Before they can say S'Mores, the campers have a mystery on their hands and are soon escaping river monsters, arm wrestling with giant statues, and puzzling over riddles that, if solved correctly, will help them evade certain and painful death. But there's still danger afoot. Danger that, I assume, will be delt with in vol. #2, Lumberjanes: Friendship to the Max, which I seriously want NOW!

You can currently Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy on our New Book shelf. That is, IF it's there. And it might not be, because I will be recommending it to everyone. I promise you that. Scouts honor! --AJB

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cringe edited by Sarah Brown

I found this book sitting on a display of "I Can't Believe It's Nonfiction!" books.  I had never heard of it before and I had to snatch it up right away.  I've kept a journal pretty solidly since I was 14, sometimes writing multiple times in a day, lining the edges of the page with angsty lyrics, and copying in some of my "best" poems.  Now that I am the ripe old age of 31, it's kind of funny to go back and see what I had to say when I was in high school.   There was a lot of drama, a lot of scandal, and a lot of insights that I've carried with me through the years.

But the embarrassing is key in this book.

Sometimes it's nice to know that there are things that are universal.  I really enjoyed reading something written in 1990 that I would have written in 2000 and that someone else is probably writing right now.  My favorite pieces were the ones concerning the very elaborate plans to get the attention of a crush.  Some of the plans are hilariously ridiculous and involved and made that one time I made a mix tape and then posted online about how it wasn't just a mix tape seem not so desperate.

Basically, it's nice to know that no matter how embarrassing you are at 14, you'll totally grow out of it.  Someday you'll probably even laugh about it. -RYQ

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Blind Date With A Book

You've heard the expression, "Don't judge a book by its cover"...right? So now's your chance to see if there's any truth to that.

During February, the Teen Department will be featuring a Blind Date With A Book display. Book "dates" will be in sealed envelopes, so you won't know what you're getting (could be adventure or romance or humor or horror or, really, anything). Take your "date" home and spend some time with it. Then fill out the "Rate Your Date" review card and turn it in at the Teen Desk for a small prize.

Maybe you'll have absolutely nothing in common with your "date"...or maybe you'll discover your next favorite book! You can't know until you give it a chance.

p.s. NO CHEATING! Do not open your "date" envelope until you're home!


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Juniors, by Kaui Heart Hemmings

For some reason, I was expecting sort of a We Were Liars (E. Lockhart)/Even In Paradise (Chelsey Philpot) sort of thing with this book. You know: average teen falls in with rich family with deep, dark, awful secret...and then follows drama and possibly doomed romance worthy of Shakespearean tragedy. 

Don't know why I thought that. 

Juniors the first YA (I think) novel by Kaui Heart Hemmings wasn't like that at all. Not really. There were elements of my expectations, like the poor(ish) girl becoming involved with a family rich almost to the point of obnoxiousness, but the book didn't really meet up with what I thought.

But sometimes experiences not meeting up can be a good thing. It was for me with this book...and it was for the book's main character.

Lea (pronounced "Lay-uh", not "Lee-uh") Lane and her D-list actress mom recently moved from California to Hawaii so her mom could take a job with a new TV series. Although this move to paradise may sound idyllic, Lea is feeling a bit like a fish out of water. Not sure where, or even IF, she fits in. This feeling is only enhanced when her mom moves them from their lower middle class neighborhood to the guest cottage of the extremely affluent West family (her mom and Melanie West are sort of friends). Most teen girls would probably feel like Cinderella at the ball, but not Lea. Instead, she's wondering what the motive is. Does Melanie West want something in return? Are they just a spontaneous charity case, adopted for show or sport? What? To say Lea is suspicious is putting it mildly. She doesn't expect to ever feel "at home" living at the West property. And she certainly doesn't expect to become such good friends with Whitney and Will West, people she assumed would be shallow and snobby because of their privilege. Like with any realistic relationships, these aren't all sunshine and sandcastles. But also like any realistic relationships (the ones worth holding onto), the teens work through their differences (when they have them) and help each other grow as people.

At its heart, Juniors is a story about growing up, putting aside preconceived ideas, and learning to become the person you're meant to be. This, if done well, can be interesting enough. No magic, post-apocalyptic-ness, or paranormalcy (ronantic or otherwise) required. And Juniors did it well.

I enjoyed Juniors. Not only for its tropical setting (it's January in Michigan, ok), but also for the well-developed and realistic characters. I also appreciated that there was quite a bit of multicultural flavor to the story (Hawaii is, after all, a complex blend of different cultures and nationalities). This last bit got me curious about a few things as I read, so I kept wikipedia open nearby.  

So yeah. I recommend this one. --AJB

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cemetery Boys, by Heather Brewer

Seeking a good, old-fashioned scary story? Look no further than Heather Brewer's uber-creepy novel The Cemetery Boys

After Stephen's mom goes crazy and is committed to the local mental hospital, Stephen's dad moves them back to his hometown of Spencer, Michigan where they will live with Grandma until the finances get sorted out. Now Spencer is NOT your picturesque small town with white picket fences and welcoming, down-home attitude. Rather, it's run down and populated with bitter, superstitious people who have definitely seen better times (but not in a very long time). There's even a creepy reservoir where people have died and a local legend about Winged Ones who bring about the Bad Times and must be appeased with a sacrifice to keep those Bad Times from getting any worse. 

Right away Stephen falls in with Devon and the crowd of local teens who meet up each night in the town cemetery (a.k.a. "Playground") to drink and engage in typical teenage debauchery. He even has romance potential with Cara, Devon's Tarot Card-reading goth girl sister. But as with any horror story, things aren't what they seem. And soon Stephen is in over his head. Because the Winged Ones will be returning soon. And they'll be hungry. And what better sacrifice than an outsider?

The Cemetery Boys is my first experience with Brewer's books (we have others, but I'm not exactly into vampires...even ones that don't sparkle), and I really enjoyed it. All the right elements of a good spooky story were present (in the right mix). I'd definitely recommend this one! --AJB

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Stung by Bethany Wiggins

13517444Bees... They are necessary to our everyday life. They are almost as essential to plant life and in return our life, as water. However, when we see one we tend to scream and run around. Most of us would not be doomed, however we know the pain that is associated with a bee sting. Ouch. But what were to happen if bees carried a more deadly sting- a sting that caused a world wide epidemic. Fiona Taris doesn't have to imagine because in her divided post-apocalyptic world this is exactly the case. The Bee Flu has run rampant across the nation. The only way to survive is caution and luck. Those parents in power and that have wealth even attempt a vaccine for their children. Of course vaccines have almost annihilated Polio, the Mumps, and various other diseases. Why not this one? When Fiona awakens not remembering why her home is destroyed and her family missing she finds out just what destruction the flu and the vaccine have created.

Stung is a must read for all dystopian lovers. The story runs along the same lines as Divergent (read and maybe you will catch it). However, with an interesting plot and all of its twists and surprises you'll be holding your breath and breaking your promise to your self of stopping after "just one more chapter". There is enough romance, suspense, and even a little blood for all genre readers. Stung is located on our New Book Shelf!

P.S. If you like the first book, author Bethany Wiggins wrote a second book, Cured, that continues Fiona's story along with adding in a new perspective and several new characters.

-JAC