Saturday, January 19, 2019

Moonstruck by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle

in Blitheton, it's not unusual to encounter a vampire or a shapeshifter or even a unicorn. In fact, in Blitheton, Magical Creatures are as commonplace as you or me. 

In the first volume of Moonstruck, by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle, Werewolves Julie and Selena and their centaur friend Chet are working at their neighborhood cafe and enjoying day to day life (despite sometimes getting pulled, against their will, into friend drama). Then they are all invited to a mysterious magic show where an enigmatic illusionist performs a trick that transforms Chet into a human! Needless to say, they are devastated! Julie and Selena explore first love, help their friend cope with the loss of their horsey hindquarters, and try to track down the mischievous magician so they can demand the return of Chet's proper butt. The three friends must team up with some unlikely acquaintances, not to mention explore their own identities, if they ever hope to solve this mystery. 

Moonstruck is a cute story about friendship, first love, and accepting yourself for who you are, all of which is great. And it could have been wonderful! Unfortunately, the plot gets somewhat muddled and difficult to follow. The secondary storyline about Mark and Lindi's band drama seems out of place and confuses the plot rather than enhances it. Ditto for the "Ask A Know It All" panels and bits from the book Julie is reading, both of which are interspersed with the main comic. More importantly, I didn't really pick up on why the Magician had such a vendetta against Chet...or any of the friends, for that matter. Either it was never explained or I, the reader, just didn't pick up on it. Neither of which bodes well for the writing. Perhaps everything will be explained in the next volume, but I didn't get enough of a feel for the story to continue (Unfortunate, because the art and the concept are both so cute that I really wanted to love this book).

Not really recommended. There are better options out there! --AJB

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Throwback Thursday: How to Train Your Dragon (1 & 2)

While visiting my parents over the holidays, my dad was raving about the How To Train Your Dragon movies. The TV was on in the background and an trailer for the newest HTTYD film, out this month, came on...which is how the subject came up in the first place. Rarely does my dad rave about movies, so when he does I pay attention.

I had never seen How To Train Your Dragon. Although I'm a fan of Dreamworks Annimation (Shrek, Kung Fu Panda), even preferring this studio's films to those of Disney and Pixar, I'd somehow missed the Dragon series. When the first one came out, I guess it seemed a little silly and childish, even by animated movie standards. And when the sequel was released, I didn't pay attention. 

"Oh they're so good!" my dad exclaimed. "You'd like them!"

And then the rest of the holidays happened and New Years happened and getting back to work and back to normal routine happened. And I didn't think of this conversation until weeks later when I was rooting around in our DVD shelves, hunting up items to put on display. I came across How To Train Your Dragon and recalled my dad's words. Curious, I checked it out.

And dad was right. I did like the movies. Loved them, actually.

How To Train Your Dragon (1 and 2) is about the adventures of a viking teen named Hiccup and his dragon, Toothless. The first film focuses on how the two become friends, despite the overall (and irrational) fear of dragons much of Hiccup's clan has. The second film tells the tale of how the pair, along with their Dragon Rider friends, save their village and their dragons from a ruthless madman trying to take over the world. In both films, the themes of friendship and family and good winning over evil are strong. And Toothless has got to be pretty much the cutest dragon ever! 

I'm so happy I finally discovered How To Train Your Dragon. And I'm very much looking forward to the third film, due in theaters later this month.

--AJB


p.s. I'm SO adding Night Fury to the list of Magical Pets I Would Like to Have.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Little Mermaid (dvd)

I've always been a fan of mermaids. More so even than unicorns. Which is saying quite a lot. So naturally I had to check out the new Little Mermaid movie when it hit the New DVD shelves. 

This film takes the classic, well-known tale and transports it to the Big Top. Here, a mysterious Ring Master claims to possess Mermaid Water, a cure-all for whatever illness or infliction ails. Skeptical journalist Cam Harrison must travel to this small-town Mississippi circus to get the scoop. Traveling with Cam is his young niece, Elle, who suffers from an asthma-like disorder and who, as fate would have it, is obsessed with mermaids. Cam expects the story to be an easy one: Debunk a hoax and come home. But not all is as it seems. As it turns out, the mermaid, Elizabeth, is the real deal. And she is being held captive against her will. Now it is up to Cam, Elle, and their new circus performer friends to defeat the evil Ring Master and set Elizabeth free. 

Despite less than stellar box office reviews, I really liked The Little Mermaid. Loved it, actually. It was every bit the fantasy adventure film I hoped it would be. And although (very) loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson story, the plot felt completely original and fresh. Sets and costumes were gorgeous too. And the whole thing felt absolutely magical! It was the perfect film to watch on a chilly winter afternoon.

--AJB

Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power, by Mariko Tamaki

I've been a fan of the Lumberjanes comic series since the first volume, Beware The Kitten Holy (Read it! I can't promise kittens, which DO figure in quite significantly later in the series, but it's still amazing! To the max!!). So when I learned of the existence of actual books featuring my favorite 'Hardcore Lady Types,' I had to see for myself what they were all about. And I was not disappointed. Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power, written by Mariko Tamaki, is every bit as awesome as its graphic counterparts. This story finds the five friends (Jo, Mal, Molly, April, and Ripley) deep within yet another magical adventure. 

It all starts when April, seeking her next badge (and a new challenge), leads the scouts up a mysterious mountain that's not on any map. It's also the tallest mountain any of them have ever seen. Oh...and there are a bunch of ominous signs all over the place, warning would-be explorers it might be best to Stay Away! But when did a sign ever dissuade a Lumberjane? Before long, the girls have trespassed on sacred ground: The home of the mysterious and magical Cloud People. And living among them is someone who is both strange and familiar. And this someone is NOT pleased to have their peaceful life disrupted by five ambitious adventurers...especially when one of them really likes to hug. In order to get off the mountain and back to camp, the 'Janes will have to use all of their survival skills, supernatural and otherwise. 

Also, there are unicorns! Which, if you haven't figured out, make everything more awesome!

Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power was a really fun read. Tamaki did an excellent job with keeping these beloved characters...in character. This story is everything I have come to know and love about The Lumberjanes. I didn't even miss the graphic novel format. I look forward to the next installment, The Moon Is Up (which I hope will clear up the cliffhanger at the end of Unicorn Power).

AJB

Friday, December 14, 2018

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (dvd)

First, know that I am a fan of Harry Potter. The original 7 books (I don't count Cursed Child as cannon; it's really more like fan fiction), the film adaptions of those original 7 books, and, to a lesser degree, spinoffs like Beedle the Bard, which is a cool novelty thing. Anytime something new is introduced into the Potterverse, I read it...or at least read about it. Also, my House is Slytherin and my Patronous is a cat. 

Yes, I AM a geek. That's something I proudly admit.

Still, I was reluctant to watch the film adaption of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, despite great reviews. Basically, a guy running around the city trying to catch a bunch strange creatures? Snore!

"That sounds like Pokemon Go," I complained to my husband when he asked if I wanted to go watch the movie in the theater. "If I wanted to watch that, all I have to do is go...anywhere."

That was a couple years ago when the movie was in theaters and Pokemon Go was still super popular (something I never got into, by the way). We ended up watching a different film that day, although I don't recall which one. In hindsight, I probably would have liked Fantastic Beasts better...

Recently, the trailer for Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindewald has been circulating heavily. And yeah, it looked awesome! Jim insisted we watch it when it came to theaters. But in order for either of us to have any clue as to what was going on (other than awesome special effects), the original film had to be watched. Especially since my husband, a muggle, has neither read nor seen Harry Potter and has no experience with that world whatsoever aside from what he's learned from me. And still...there is too much to even sum up. So I rented Fantastic Beasts 1. I admit my hopes were NOT high. At all.

But that's the great thing about going into something with low to no expectations: Sometimes you end up pleasantly surprised. And this movie was absolutely that sort of situation. Yes, the basic plot sort of does have a Pokemon-Go-Gotta-Catch-Em-All thing going on. That's unavoidable. But the characters, their relationships, the special effects, and the sense of adventure and suspense throughout are so, well, fantastic that resemblance doesn't even matter. It was a completely enjoyable film, and I am so glad I finally watched it. Even better, it's a movie that can be enjoyed even if you have no knowledge of the original Harry Potter series. So Muggles rejoice! 

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing Fantastic Beasts 2 on the big screen! If the trailer tells me anything, this next one will be even better than the first!

--AJB

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Space Boy (vol. 1), by Stephen McCraine

I may have never picked up Stephen McCraine's Space Boy if its sequel hadn't been left on the desk awaiting pickup by a patron. Curious, i paged through it and was intrigued enough by the story to track down part 1. And it was totally awesome!

The story centers on Amy, who lives with her parents in a mining colony in deep space. She has synthesia, which causes her to assign a flavor to each person she encounters. For the most part, she's happy. But then her world is shaken up: Her father loses his job and her family must move to Earth. This journey will take 30 years, so Amy and her parents are cryogenicly frozen for the trip. When they arrive, nothing is as Amy imagined. Not only must she adjust to the ultimate culture shock, but the knowledge that everyone back 'home' have aged 30 years while she is still a teenager. Mind blowing! But after a few humorous blunders, Amy makes friends and begins to adjust to life on Earth. Until she encounters a mysterious boy whose presence has no flavor. This is a first for Amy. Her friends warn her to stay away from him. He's bad news, they say. But Amy is curious...

The first volume of Space Boy was so good! Amy is a character everyone can relate to. Not because of the Deep Space thing, but because who hasn't had to make a BIG adjustment at some point in their lives? Whether moving away to attend college or starting a new job or even making the transition from middle school to high school. Change is an inevitable thing, and this first issue is about one such journey. 

I absolutely recommend this! And I can't wait to read the rest of the series! --AJB

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Nightingale by Amy Lukavics

When I first read the description of Nightingale, I knew that it would be a book that I added to the collection.  It sounded right up my alley.  1950's, not wanting to conform to the norm, wanting to be a writer.  Then add the insane asylum (an iffy trope for me) and something that sounds like maybe cannibalism and I knew that I would have to read this.

Nightingale goes back and forth in time, dividing this time into "the institution" and "days past".  We learn that June is in the institution because she believes that her parents have been replaced.  Leading up to this incident, June has been under a lot of stress.  She has been writing a horrific sci-fi novel and wants to be published someday.  While her parents map out the perfect future for her with her father's boss's son, June has secretly applied to a writing program.  But the morning after her disaster of an engagement party, June's mother calls her "nightingale" and June is sure that her parents are no longer her parents.

Shipped away to Burrow Place Asylum, June finds herself in a strange kind of nightmare.  She befriends her roommate, Eleanor, who thinks that she is dead, and Eleanor's friends and quickly discovers that things are not normal here.  The nurses and doctor seem off.  The medical treatments are brutal.  The sanitation is questionable at best.  Even worse, when someone speaks up they are bound to disappear or die.  Can June unravel the mystery of the asylum and of herself in time to save them all?

I was surprised by the direction this one took.  It definitely had a twist that I should have seen coming but didn't.  I don't know what was more horrifying: the institution or watching June being forced into a mold at home.  This was a great read and much more horror than I expected. -RYQ