Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Best Kind of Magic, by Crystal Cestari

The Best Kind of Magic, the new novel by Crystal Cestari pairs the all the best elements of romantic comedy and paranormal romance. The end result is pure awesomeness!

Amber Sand comes from a very magical family. Her mom, a powerful witch, spends days giving readings and mixing up all sorts of charms and potions for the patrons of Windy City Magic (the family New Age shop). And that's just scratching the surface of the Sand family's magical ancestry. Unfortunately, Amber's powers are quite limited. Specifically, Amber is a Matchmaker. This means she can look into anyone's eyes and see their one true love, the person with whom they are destined to spend their Happily Ever After. And while there IS a market for this talent among the tourists, Amber is still pretty low on the Supernatural Being Hierarchy. Because how useful is this talent, really? I mean, where it counts. Especially when Amber can't even use her talent on herself. 

Then classmate Charlie Blitzman's new future stepmother, Cassandra, goes missing. And there seems to be something distinctly paranormal afoot. And with Amber's mom distracted by a new witch running amok in the family coven, Amber knows it's up to her to figure out what's really going on. 

Teamed up with her psychic BFF Amani, Amber and Charlie begin investigating... And discover the mystery goes far deeper than any of them suspect, to the very heart of Chicago's paranormal underbelly (shady vampires, goblin mafia, and other creepy crawly creatures that one would NOT want to encounter in a dark ally - or any ally). And they begin to ask themselves: Who is Cassandra, really? Why are these shady characters so interested in her? And what are her plans for Charlie's father?

But the biggest question of all is this: How can a non-magical girl focus on solving a magical mystery when she might be in love with a boy she's not meant to be with?

The Best Kind of Magic was lots of fun right from the first page. The author did a fantastic job creating a world of magical beings who, apparently, are secretly living alongside us regular people. The characters are all very likable. And even though the plot was predictable, it was extremely enjoyable! Overall, a fun read. --AJB

Monday, September 11, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2 (DVD)

If you thought the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie was awesome, wait until you see the sequel. It's even better than the original, which is really saying something!

While fleeing the wrath of the Sovereigns, a race of genetically perfect beings whom Rocket angered when he stole from them a stash of Anulax Batteries, the Guardians are rescued by Ego, a man who claims to be Peter Quill's estranged father. While Rocket and Baby Groot stay behind to repair the wrecked ship and babysit Nebula, Quill, Gamora, and Drax accompany Ego and his companion, Mantis, back to Ego's planet. Here, Peter learns something about his legacy and, for a time, everything appears wonderful. But nothing as it seems, and the Guardians soon find themselves facing a threat that could mean the end of life as they know it--for the every single planet in the universe

Meanwhile Rocket and Baby Groot are captured by the Ravegers and must find a way to escape, find their friends, and help save the universe. 

What can I say: Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is non-stop awesome! All the best characters are back, and some of the villains from the first film get a chance to redeem themselves in this one (always something I like). There's action, amazing special effects, some very well-placed humor, and, of course, a killer retro soundtrack. What can I say: This movie has it all!  


--AJB

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Nest, by Kenneth Oppel (illustrated by Jon Klassen)

Patrick Ness' creepy Tween novel The Nest combines a child's anxiety over a mysteriously ill newborn sibling of Under Shifting Glass (Singer) with the uncomfortable skin-crawling vibe of A Monster Calls (Ness). It's subtle, it's terrifying, and it's definitely not something to read while you're alone at night. 

It's also awesome!

Steve's newborn brother is sick, and no one can figure out what is wrong. Or...that's the story as far as Steve knows. His parents aren't saying much. They're also gone a lot, what with all Theo's doctor appointments. So Steve is left to worry while he takes care of his little sister. That's a lot for an already-anxious 10 year old boy recovering from OCD to deal with. On top of that, strange white wasps are building a nest just outside the baby's window (Steve is allergic to wasps). And then there's the Knife Man. And the shadowy Mr. Nobody who haunts his nightmares.

It's shaping up to be a bad summer all around. And even falling back on his rituall behaviors (the OCD) doesn't help.

Then the Wasp Queen begins visiting his dreams, promising she and her workers will help Theo. At first, Steve thinks she's an angel. But with each consecutive dream he learns the Queen's real agenda...and it's more horrible than anything he could have imagined. And, since no one else sees the wasps for what they really are, Steve knows it's up to him and him alone to save the day. No spoilers here. You'll have to read the book for yourself. Just be prepared for the book to stay with you for a long time. 

The Nest is Magical Realism at its best! The fantasy elements build slowly, until the reader can't tell what's real and what's simply taking place in the narrator's imagination. Additionally, Oppel did a fantastic job writing Steve's character. The voicing, the word choices...Steve's age comes across as authentic. The Nest is an all-around awesome book. Just be prepared to be creeped out a little. Or a lot.

--AJB

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A-Force: Hypertime by G. Willow Wilson

A while ago, I gave up on superheroes.  I was just, you know, over it.  In all fairness, the superhero comics get damn confusing.  New arcs, new dimensions, cancelled stories left incomplete, no clear jumping in place.  Plus, there are SO MANY great comics out there right now that aren't superhero centric.

But, of course, being me, I decided to delve into graphics this year and I also decided to just "go ahead and start at the beginning of the graphic novel section" which just so happened to plop me in A-Force: Hypertime.  I actually really enjoyed this.  I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

When a strange being appears in space Captain Marvel moves in to destroy it.  However, the destruction is only temporary and in its wake there appears another being:  Singularity.  Singularity is from another dimension where she was part of the A-Force that protected Arcadia.  Now that world has been destroyed but she remembers the people who were her friends: Medusa, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Nico, and Dazzler.  When the original being remanifests and goes after Singularity, she gathers these friends around her to attempt to defeat it.  The only catch is that her friends don't know her and nobody knows how to defeat Antimatter.

A-Force was added to the collection based on the suggestion of a TAB member.  I always try to order what TAB members recommend.  -RYQ

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman

Have you ever been completely frustrated by your lot in life? Do you wish things were different...better? Young Coraline just moved with her family to a large house in the country, and nothing is going right for her: Her parents are distracted by work and don't seem to have much time for her (and neither can cook a satisfying meal). Her elderly neighbors are all crazy and just can't seem to get her name right. And there's no one even close to her age to play with (even the stray cat that hangs around the house runs from her). Life can't get any worse, can it?

One day while exploring the new house, Coraline finds a strange locked door that opens onto a bricked wall. At least...it does at first. One day Coraline chances to unlock the door and finds herself in another world. A world that, st first, seems just like the one she left behind. But there are differences: Food is prepared exactly to her liking, animals speak and dance, and she seems to have everything her heart desires. And, of course, there is The Other Mother, a button-eyed woman who gives Coraline all the attention she wants and actually seems to want her around. In fact, she asks Coraline to stay with her forever. It seems a dream come true.

But there's a catch.

A horrifying catch.

Soon Coraline finds herself trapped in this nightmarish other world, and all she wants is to get back home. If only she can find her way...

I stumbled upon Neil Gaiman's Coraline sevreal years ago and it stuck with me...so I decided to re-read it for review. To date, it is still one of the most disturbingly creepy stories I've ever read (heavy horror hitters like King and Koontz have nothing on Coraline). If you're looking for something to give you nightmares, this is it!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The City of Ember, By Jeanne DuPrau


A dark city underground with all of the food, supplies, and sources of light at high risk of being completely depleted. The dreary City of Ember is in danger of leaving no survivors and the people are in panic. The ones who are brave enough to walk out into the complete darkness in hope of another way of life come back terrified in a matter of hours. There is very little known about what is beyond the city lights and there is no way to bring light with you to explore. Imagination and fear brings out the worst in the desperate people trying to make it out of Ember alive. Lina and Doon follow the mystery of how the city came to be, in hopes of finding a way to save them all.

This book has been on my list for quite some time now. I loved the elements of adventure and mystery and it is just spooky enough to get in the mood for fall without over doing it. If you are one of the few out there (like me) that hasn’t read this one yet, I highly recommend it. Great for tweens AND teens.

If you enjoy it, you can try to heal your “book ending feels” by reading the rest of the series or watching the movie. I haven’t done either of these yet, but I think I will. I was sad for the book to end.    -MC

Monday, August 28, 2017

Real Friends, by Shannon Hale (illus. LeUyen Pham)

Teenage life isn't always easy. Not even for a (now) well-publicized YA author.

In her new graphic novel memoir, Real Friends, author Shannon Hale talks first-hand about growing up and what happens when your best friend starts hanging out with the popular girls. Sometimes this means you get included (and that's awesome), sometimes it means you get left out (and that's awful). Always, there is drama. Always, there are tears. And aways, you never know where you stand...and this can change from moment to moment. Literally.

Red-haired, freckled Shannon became friends with pretty blonde Adrianne in Kindergarten, and she believed they would always be best friends. But by third grade, things were changing. Adrianne had attracted the attention of Jen and Jenny, the most popular girls in class. Thus began a constant tug-of-war that lasted until just before the summer before of middle school (And probably continued well after it, but since the book ends there, the reader can only make a logical guess). Rumors were hatched, secrets were whispered, lies were told, and friendships broke up and made up. Add to this family issues (with parents, with siblings), and you can't escape the drama. But throughout everything was the theme of what friendship is (and isn't), what it should be (and shouldn't be), and how to find it (and keep it the best way you can). The lesson here is this: No matter what, your real friends will be the ones who stick by you. And sometimes they're found in the most surprising of places. 

Real Friends reminded me a lot of Raina Telgmeier's uber-popular book, Smile. It has similar themes about family and friendship and finding who you are supposed to be, similar colorful & whimsical illustration style, and a storyline that anyone will relate to. 

I definitely recommend this one! --AJB