Friday, December 23, 2016

The Complete Chi's Sweet Home: Part 4, by Kanata Konami

When I first began reading Chi's Sweet Home a feline-themed manga series by Kanata Konami, I thought the whole thing would simply be about cute kitten shenanigans. And, while I DO enjoy such antics (I mean, I can watch cat videos on YouTube for hours), I knew there wouldn't be much depth to the series if it were JUST that. Not enough to sustain me through four volumes at several hundred pages a pop. 

Boy was I wrong!

Sure, the bulk of the first volume was just Chi geting into trouble (adorable trouble) as she acclimated to her new family and new surroundings. About the only drama was the apartment Chi's human family lived in at the time didn't allow pets. But the storyline deepened as I read into the second and third volumes. Sure, there were still the Cute Kitten Eposides, but Chi also learned about friendship and family and what it meant to have a loving and comfy home (and that not all kitties have these her new friend Cocci).

Part 4 brought out All The Feels, though:

Early on, Chi's human daddy sees a poster advertising a missing kitten who looks exactly like Chi. He's torn over what to do: Should he ignore the poster? Or should he do the honest thing and call the number? 

Meanwhile, the reader learns that Chi's cat mom goes out every night to search for her missing kitten. While playing with Cocci, Chi encounters his littermates, but doesn't realize until much later that his new friends are actually his brother and sister (a "DUH! moment for our fuzzy little heroine, but it adds to the drama). 

Things come to a head when Chi's cat mom saves the kitten from being hit by a car...and ends up getting hit herself. Chi's human family comes to the rescue, and Chi's cat mom ends up being OK. But Chi's human daddy knows it's time to take both cats home. Their REAL home. And they do just this, much to the sadness of little Yohei. 

At first, Chi is happy with her cat family. But as time passes, she starts to miss Yohei and the only home she's ever known. The poor kitten gets sadder and sadder until her cat mom tells her she may leave and go home to her her human family.

Chi races away, but her human family has packed up to move. To France. Chi returns to find the apartment empty. Oh no! Chi begins calling out to Yohei, but will she catch up with her family in time?

You'll have to read the book to find out!

 Overall, I adored this series! --AJB

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Romantics, by Leah Konen

So, I've been hearing things about Leah Konen's quirky romantic comedy, The Romantics. And they've all been good things. So how could I NOT check it out.

I was not disappointed.

The Romantics read like the manuscript for an old-school John Hughes film. But cast with modern-day actors...with, perhaps, a cameo from Molly Ringwald and/or maybe that squirrely-looking dude from 16 Candles (you know, the one who wanted to borrow the protag's underpants). The characters were adorkable and quirky, the romance was sweet, and, of course, there was a Happy Ending that was right up there with kissing your crush over your birthday cake whilst wearing a horrible frothy-poofy dress the color of flamingo vomit (but wardrobe doesn't matter, because you're kissing your crush...right?).

The Romantics is narrated by Love. That's right. Love. But if you're thinking a winged, diapered cherub sporting a bow and arrow, get that image out of your head right now. Love, in this case, is more abstract, but still very much a physical character. Love tells the story of Gael, a hopeless romantic band geek who is hopelessly in love with Anika, the girl he's been seeing for the past few weeks. One night, he drops the L-Bomb and thinks everything is cool. Unfortunately, Anika doesn't feel the same way. To add insult to injury, Gael learns Anika has been cheating on him...with his best friend. Gael goes through the usual post-breakup scenario: He mopes, he gets mad, he does the rebound thing... And that's when Love steps in to make sure Gael doesn't miss out on True Love. 

The result: Awesome! 




Yes to that too. 


Yeah. Sometimes.

But Awesome? 

You betcha!

Recommended for someone looking for a light, cute read. --AJB

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Last True Love Story, by Brendan Kiely

Teddy Hendrix is a good kid, but a bit lost. He doesn't really have any true family except his paternal grandfather, aka Gpa, who is suffering from Alzheimer's. His mother is always away for work, so Hendrix is the one who sees Gpa losing his mind more each day. He loves Gpa and the stories he tells about his grandmother who was the love of his life. One thing Hendrix does know is that he wants to write all these stories down before Gpa's mind goes and loses them forever. One day, however, good, sweet, Hendrix does the unthinkable. He asks Corrina, the girl he has a crush on, to help him spring Gpa from the facility he's living in. Corrina, who is just looking for a reason  to leave, takes him up on it. They steal his mother's car, and decide to drive across country to Ithaca, NY, where Gpa and his wife first began their love story.

The Last True Love Story, by Brendan Kiely, is a great YA summer read. It has all of the elements of a fun road trip book, including a budding romance, woven with more serious issues dealing with family and belonging. I really enjoyed the main character Hendrix's love for his grandfather and his dedication to record all of his grandfather's stories for their family history before Gpa loses his memory permanently to Alzheimer's. This is definitely an endearing novel.

I was able to make so many different connections with this book. From the grandfather with Alzheimer's to the many impressive classic rock references. *JK*

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Inn Between, by Marina Cohen

Quinn hasn't had it very easy lately. Everything started unraveling when her younger sister, Emma, vanished on the way home from school one day last winter. That's when her parents stopped being happy. Ever since then, Quinn has felt crushing guilt. She should have been with Emma that day, not in detention for something that never should have happened (she was caught cheating). Everything bad that happened since was her fault.

And NOW Quinn's best friend, Kara Cawson, is moving halfway across the country.

At least Quinn is getting to ride with Kara's family to their new house, where she will spend some much-needed time away from the madness of her homelife.

It's been the weirdest road trip ever, though: There was that odd diner that only served grilled cheese sandwiches. There were those creepy wind turbines. There was the desert itself, which Quinn is positive is filled with snakes and scorpions and other creepy crawlies just waiting to pounce...

Most of all, there is The Inn Between, the uber-strange Victorian bed and breakfast she and the Cawsons stop at. Here, things are just The staff is a bit too cheerful, there are no phones (or cell service), and the physical structure of the building itself seems to change from moment to moment. There are other things too, like the familiar-looking man in the cap who fills Quinn with dread. And the girl Quinn keeps seeing from a distance, the one who looks like Emma (but Quinn can never get close enough to be sure). 

Then Kara's parents and brother mysteriously vanish, and no one seems to know where they've gone. As the girls try to unravel the mystery of the missing family members, they begin to learn the truth about what really brought them to The Inn Between. A semi-inconclusive ending lets the reader come to their own decision about happens next, not unlike the age-old riddle about The Lady or The Tiger. 

Marina Cohen's chilling middle-grade novel, The Inn Between, deals with some very deep concepts for the age level of its intended audience. Almost right away, readers will conclude that the characters are in some sort of limbo, a stopping place between the conscious world and the next (thus the name of the hotel). This could account for the disappearances of Kara's family. Readers may also guess at Emma's unfortunate fate. Predictable, yes, but in that intentional way when authors want the reader to catch on. And that doesn't minimize the awesomeness of this story, which had me glued to the pages!

The Inn Between reminded me a lot of the movie The Dust Factory (available for checkout from the Teen DVD collection). In this sleeper film, a teen boy is in a rollerblading accident. When he sits up, his world is strangely changed: His mother and best friend are nowhere to be found, but his grandfather, who is suffering from severe Alzheimer's, is suddenly lucid and talkative. There's also Melanie, the girl who is always cold and ice skates on the lake even though it is summer. Melanie shows Ryan The Dust Factory, a strange circus tent across the railroad tracks. Together they learn the truth about their strange surroundings and what they must do if they wish to go home.

Both book and movie are highly recommended--AJB

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Secret Life of Pets (DVD)

So... Years before The Secret Life of Pets movie aired the first teaser trailers, my husband and I pondered the age-old question: "What do Howard and Luna do when we leave for the day?" (Howard and Luna are our cats). It was one of those oddball questions one tosses to their BFF when it's late at night and you're tired and both feeling a bit silly. On the other hand, the inquiry is totally legit. I mean, do they raid the refrigerator? Invite Sam and Zack (the neighbor's dog and cat, respectively) over for wild parties? Haul the old Nintendo out of the closet and challenge each other to a Street Fighter challenge? 

Ok, maybe the question isn't "totally legit," but still funny to discuss...and funny to picture. 

I just never imagined there were others out there who asked the same strange questions of the universe. But apparently, there are similarily twisted minds out there, because here we have The Secret Life of Pets, the latest from Illumination Entertainment and one of the latest additions to the New Movie Shelf.

It all starts when Max, a tiny dog, meets his new roommate, a huge, harry dog named Duke. Things don't exactly go well. There are jealousy issues and territory issues and personality issues. One thing leads to another and the two find themselves collar-less and lost in the streets of New York. After getting jumped by a gang of ally cats, the boys are picked up by a duo of bumbling dog catchers. They quickly sprung from their prison by a rouge bunch strays led by a cute, but psychotic bunny with a serious vendetta against all humans. Max and Duke are soon in a sewer of trouble. Fortunately, Giget, a pampered pooch with a crush on Max, is at the ready to lead the neighborhood pets on the Ultimate Rescue Mission. 

The Secret Life of Pets has everything one could want from a great film: Car chases, kung-fu fights, explosions, heroic rescues, and grand romances. And it all happens before the owners return for the day.

The only drawback is the film's humor isn't exactly geared toward young children (in fact, many of the jokes and situations would fly over a little kid's head). Older children, teens, and adults will find it hilarious, though! In fact, the hubby and I liked it so much we watched it twice. And laughed just as hard the second time as the first.

Also, don't miss the three awesome mini-movies that come with the DVDs Special Features. You'll be humming a certain song from one of the shorts for days afterward. But no spoilers. 

So yes, this one is absolutely recommended!! --AJB

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Book vs. Movie

What do you usually prefer? 

The book version or the movie version?


So... Books allow for so much more detail. I mean, how often does a key scene get left out of a movie? How often do movies just get the whole thing wrong? And, when it comes to the final part in a series, the book usually doesn't get split into two or more parts so the studio (or whoever) can squeeze more $$ out of the franchise. Everyone says, "The book is better". 

But is it always?

Movies, on the other hand, bring your favorite characters to life: Harry, Frodo, Katniss... And, true, they're A LOT more visually appealing than books (when you don't count reader imagination, that is). Movies can be tackled a lot quicker than books. Even the two-hour-plus epics. Also, with movies, you don't have to worry about buttered popcorn stains on the pages.

But We Want To Know What YOU Think!

Stop by the Teen Department in December and vote for what YOU prefer: The Book or The Movie (See the voting box on the display by the Graphic novels). A winner will be randomly chosen in January.

I Could Pee On This Too, by Francesco Marciuliano

Here in the Teen Department, we Teen Librarians read A LOT of books written specifically for the teens and tweens. It's our job to keep on what's good (and not so good) in Teen Literature. But we don't limit ourselves to that. Occasionally we'll pick up and read a book from another department (Youth or Adult). And if we think teens might enjoy said book, we review it here.

This is the case with I Could Pee On This Too: More Poems by Cats, a humorous poetry collection by Francesco Marciuilano.

So: Everyone knows about Librarians and Cats. And it's not just a stereotype or cliche. It's actually true in a lot of cases. We bookish/literary types really DO tend to be cat people as well (Although other animals are cool too. I, personally, have an affinity for turtles--especially sea turtles). I am no different. 

So when I passed by the New shelf in the Adult Area and saw I Could Pee On This Too, with its cover featuring two adorable fluffy kittens, I just had to check it out. And I was pleasantly surprised. Very much so. Because I don't usually go for poetry. In fact, I avoid it if I can. Basic rhyme, slant rhyme, free verse, and the occasional iambic pentameter all kind of escape my interest along with the hidden meanings and metaphorical imageries poems are meant to convey. Reading it just makes my eyes glaze over. Give me straight-up narrative any day.

But I Could Pee On This Too is laugh out loud hilarious! These "poems by cats" are simple and straightforward and totally sum up feline behavior. Anyone who has ever coexisted with a cat will be able to relate to them. There's "Sit," all about a cat's mysterious need to sit on whatever their humans need at the moment. There's "Home Decour," which details knocking things to the floor ("I'm Sorry" reflects the same musings, but involving food). There are poems about catnip, poems about interacting with other cats, poems about the desire to spaz at 3 a.m. after sleeping all day, poems about self-esteem. And more. Accompanying each poem is a cute cat picture, which adds to the book's Awesome Rating. 

I Could Pee On This Too can be found in the Adult Area (811.6 M). --AJB

Friday, December 2, 2016

Can YOU Solve The Ultimate Puzzle?

Do YOU love puzzles? 

Do you love winning prizes?

If you answered "Yes" to both questions, than stop by the Teen Department in December and try your hand at solving The Ultimate Puzzle (yes, it's really called that). If you get it right, you'll receive a small prize, bragging rights, and be entered into a drawing for the chance to win an Ultimate Prize.
You should totally try this. Because who DOESN'T love winning prizes?

Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson

I just finished reading the fourth installment in this series and it is so wonderful that I wanted to give you all a little overview.

Phoebe is a normal girl who one day sees a unicorn transfixed by her own reflection in a lake.  The unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, grants Phoebe one wish and after the customary wish for infinite wishes, Phoebe wishes for the unicorn to be her best friend.  At first, Marigold seems too selfish and vain to be much of a friend but eventually she grows attached to Phoebe too.

Then there are all of the great side characters.  There's Dakota, the popular mean girl who always picks on Phoebe and somehow ends up with sentient hair.  There are goblins, who want Dakota's magical sentient hair.  There is a candy dragon named Todd.  Phoebe has a guy friend named Max who is kind of a nerd.  There is even a lake monster named Ringo.

These comic strips are funny enough to make me giggle out loud like a weirdo.  Plus, who doesn't love unicorns?  Look for the books in our youth department.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Dear My Blank: Secret Letters Never Sent, edited by Emily Trunko

Have you ever really really wanted to say something important to/about someone, but didn't have the courage to sign your name or single out the person or persons you wanted to say this important thing to/about? 

Well, now you can!

And I don't mean by posting a vaguely-worded, passive-aggressive meme on Facebook (as if the world can't figure out that you're talking about your ex or your best frenemy). 

Dear My Blank: Secret Letters Never Sent is a book based on Emily Trunko's Tumblr of the same name. Here you'll find Words of Wisdom to younger selves, hate mail to ex boyfriends or girlfriends or friends, yearnings of unrequited love, musings of regret, and more angst than can be comfortably handled in one sitting. Really, it's all kind of depressing. And sometimes reading it gives you that squeamish feeling of sorting through someone's dirty laundry (or, if you prefer, closet skeletons).

But it's entertaining for the same reasons. And its easy to see how this book could become as popular as Post Secret or Cringe. And I did love Cringe

The only real problem I had with Dear My Blank was in the formatting. Half of the pages feature either dark yellow text on a light yellow background or white text on a yellow background. Often the text is microscopic small. This made for difficult reading, and I was more inclined to skip those pages. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Make A Magazine Tree

Stop by the Teen Department this Saturday to make and decorate a Magazine Tree. No registration is needed to participate in this seasonal craft, but supplies are don't wait until the last minute. Program begins at noon and runs until 4 p.m. (or until supplies run out).

See you there!

Dan vs. Nature

Geeky Dan Weeks is the last person you'd expect to find on a wilderness survival camping trip. He's more the sort to sit safely in his room in suburbia and work on drawing his comic book. And that goes double for Dan's germaphobe best friend, Charlie, who is twice as geeky and ten times as wimpy. Yet here they are. Hundreds of miles from civilization, with the cold ground as their bed and leaves know. 

How did a guy like Dan get himself into this mess?

It's like this: His mom, whose soon-to-be husband, Hank, is a hockey-loving outdoorsman, signed him up. So he can properly get to know his soon-to-be stepfather. Just them. Out in the Idaho wilderness. With nothing but their witts and a Swiss Army Knife. Worse than being out in the sticks? Being forced to bond with Hank, who Dan is positive is no different from the other losers and deadbeats his mom thought was "The One" (before they showed their true colors).

So Dan and Charlie formulate a plan: They will stage a series of increasingly gross and humiliating pranks until Hank can't take it anymore and flees like the cowardly snake the boys are sure he is. But that's easier said than done. Not only do the pranks backfire, but it turns out that Hank may not be such a bad guy after all. 

Dan vs. Nature is pretty much everything you'd expect from Don Calame, the author who penned Swim the Fly and its two sequels: Gross humor, crude language, seriously awkward moments, and plenty teen boy shenanigans. But it's also a coming-of-age story in which all the characters emerge better, more mature people for the torment they endured. There's even a bit of romance, albeit not the swoony fairy tale sort. Although it was likely written with teen boys in mind as a target audience, I think that Dan vs. Nature is something that lots of people (regardless of gender) would enjoy. 

Definitely recommended--AJB

Nine Lives (DVD)

If you're looking for a great movie to take home for the weekend, look no further than Nine Lives. This fun film gives new meaning to Warm and Fuzzy. Literally. Fuzzy. 

Businessman and CEO Tom Brand is...well... How do I put this nicely? He's kind of a jerk. He neglects his family, treats his employees like dirt, and cares more for public appearances and status symbols than he does does about the things that really matter. Example: He's spent all his focus lately on making sure the new HQ of Firebrand Industries is the tallest building in the USA. 

Then his daughter asks for a very specific, game-changing present for her 11th birthday: A cat. Even though he hates cats, Tom finds himself at Purrkins Pet Store, a feline-friendly shop run by the quirky Mr. Perkins (expertly played by Christopher Walken). He picks Mister Fuzzypants, a shaggy, blue-eyed tomcat with an attitude. 

But before Tom can reach home, he is involved in a tragic accident. When he wakes up, he finds himself in the body of the cat he just adopted. His human body? In a coma. At first Tom/Fuzzypants can think of nothing but breaking the curse and returning to his normal life, which leads to some very funny cat antics. Then something happens: Living constantly at home instead of at the office makes him realize just how much he's been missing out on. He also realizes the negative impact his prior awful behavior has had on his family and his company. And Tom/Fuzzypants has a change of heart. But will that be enough? Because time is running out...

Nine Lives was simply adorable! The plot had the right mix of humor and heartwarming, and the acting was superb. Plus, it's "clean" enough that your younger siblings can watch it with you (but it's not juvenile).

I highly recommend it.--AJB

p.s. You don't have to be a cat person to enjoy Nine Lives (although it helps).

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Holiday Stories

It's getting to be that time of year again...

If you're looking for a great Holiday read, look no further than the OPL Teen Collection. We've got a lot of awesome books that are perfect for reading while curling up with a cup of cocoa (or tea? or coffee?) and your favorite blanket.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, co-authored by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, is the story of two New York City teens who begin a romance over their holiday break. It all begins when Dash, who is...well, kind of a Grinch, discovers a curious-seeming notebook while browsing his favorite used bookstore. After deciphering the clues written inside, Dash finds himself on a scavenger hunt that takes him to several NYC landmarks. A scavenger hunt for romance! Maybe. But can a boy who hates Christmas and a girl who loves it really make it work? You'll have to read the book to find out. Oh...and p.s. If you wanrt more of these characters, you're in luck. Because there's a sequel: The 12 Days of Lily and Dash.

New this month is What Light, the latest novel by Jay Asher. Sierra, whose family runs a Christmas Tree Farm, begins an opposites attract-type relationship with bad boy Caleb while in California for the tree-selling season. Fans of Jenny Han's Summer trilogy will love this one!

Don't have time for a full-length novel right now? Try My True Love Gave to Me and its companion/sequel Summer Days & Summer Nights. These collections are filled with sweet short stories that really do have something for everyone. Another great choice iLet It Snow

Whatever book you're looking for this holiday, we have it! And, if it's not on the shelf, ask! We'll get it for you. --AJB

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Someone I Wanted To Be, Aurelia Wills

Someone I Wanted To Be by Aurelia Wills can grab you by the heart and I highly recommend this book to both young adult and adult readers.

The plot is quite original and believable. Leah Lobermier dreams of  becoming a doctor, but it's hard to stay focused on getting good grades when boys make oinking sounds at her in school and her mother spends every night on the couch with a bottle of wine. Leah's skinny and popular "friends", Kristy and Corinne, aren't much better and can hardly be counted on for support. When the girls convince a handsome older man to buy them beer, Leah takes his phone number and calls him, pretending to be Kristy --coy and confident-- and they develop a relationship, talking and texting day after day. Soon, the lie she created grows beyond her control...

Leah basically struggles with self image, her weight, and bullying. Her home life is far from perfect, which adds to her stress. The issues these girls deal with seem what any girls would go through in real life.

This story shares authentic teen struggles with identity and body image and friendship. It addresses tough topics (obesity, alcoholism, teen drinking, assault, depression, poverty, child neglect, cancer and death of a parent) in an approachable way. *JK*

Friday, November 18, 2016

Welcome to the Island of Misfit Books!

Stop by the Teen Department and visit our Island of Misfit Books display. These poor, unfortunate books haven't gone out for a loooooong time. But that doesn't mean they aren't excellent reads, because they totally are! They've just gotten buried under all the dystopians and vampire romances.

So take a chance on these awesome stories (you'll be glad you did). Check out a Misfit Book today! --AJB

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Teen Vogue is starting a book club!

I just came across this article this morning and thought that some of you might be interested.

Here's the link!

For their first selection, Yara Shahidi and Rowan Blanchard have chosen Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neeale Hurston.  I've read this book three times and it is really good!  Plus, there's a good chance that you'll have to read it for a college class.

Happy reading!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Bad Girls of Fashion, by Jennifer Croll (illus. by Ada Buchholc)

Think the latest and greatest fashion look can be achieved by opening an issue of Seventeen or Cosmo and mimicking whatever you see? Think again! Truly great style is NOT wearing what everyone else is wearing, but, instead, following your own instincts and wearing (and doing) what works best for YOU...regardless of if it makes you stand out.

Still not sure if you've got the guts to do such a thing? Take inspiration from some true fashion icons. The ladies of Bad Girls of Fashion, which can be found in our non-fiction section. Here you'll find everyone from Cleopatra to Marie Antoinette, from Madonna to Lady Gaga, and everyone in between. Not only did these fearless women refuse to conform to appropriate fashion guidelines, they were revolutionaries in their other ways as well. 

Now we're not saying you should parade around in an outfit made entirely of meat or sport a dress that looks more like taxidermied waterfowl than anything else (Unless that's your thing. In which case, you should, of course, go for it). Bottom line is: Never be afraid to be yourself. And whatever your style may be, ROCK IT with pride! Who knows. You-yes, YOU!-may be the next Bad Girl (or boy) of fashion!

Overall, Bad Girls of Fashion was an exceptionally entertaining read. Not only did the pictures make this a fun book to browse, but the write-ups were really interesting and packed with little-known facts. For example, did you know Marie Antoinette often dressed as a man and went hunting with her husband, Louis XIV? Or that fashion giant Miuccia Prada was a mime before she became a designer? either.

This interesting bit of women's history is definitely recommended! --AJB

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Deep, by Helen Dunmore

Sapphire may look like a normal teen girl, but there's nothing ordinary about her. She possesses an incredible secret: She is part mer (yes, as in mermaid), and this heritage allows her to exist as easily under the sea as she does on land.

Having just helped prevent a tidal wave from destroying her (human) town, Sapphy and her brother, Connor, are called upon once again. And this time both worlds, land and sea, are being threatened. A powerful monster called the Kracken has awakened from a centuries-long slumber, and he is hungry. If he is not lulled back to sleep, his existance would end life for everyone everywhere. And Sapphy, with her mixed blood, is the only one who can enter The Deep and stop him. 

But the battle with the Kracken is small compared to the inner struggle going in within Sapphire's mind and heart. The pressure of living in two worlds, yet striving to keep them separate (and secret), is becoming increasingly difficult for her. She knows she must choose one or the other soon or go mad. But how to decide?

The Deep is the third book in Helen Dunmore's Ingo trilogy. Here readers see lots more of familiar characters, get to know others better, and meet new ones (both good and evil). And, as do the characters, we also get to go deeper into the world of Ingo and are privy to more of its carefully-guarded secrets. All in all, The Deep is a fantastic book and an excellent continuation of an amazing series. --AJB

Ingo, book 1
Ingo, book 2
p.s. Reader take note: If you're looking for a happy, fluffy mermaid story where sea creatures dance and sing and gaze longingly at the human world, turn to Disney. You will not find that sort of thing with the Ingo books, which are heavy on the mythology. 

p.s.s. Ingo is also a great fantasy choice for readers who want stories with little to no romance. That is: This is NOT a kissing book.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Complete Chi's Sweet Home, Part 2, by Konami Kanata

In author/artist Konami Katana's The Complete Chi's Sweet Home, part 2 (which combines stand alone books 4-6), Chi's human family has moved to a new home. One that actually allows pets. No more hiding for Chi. But with the move comes new smells, new sights, new neighborhood animals, and lots of new experiences. Some are confusing, like figuring out stairs and cat doors. Others are terrifying, like claw trimmers and the neighbor's dog. On the other hand, some are amazing. Like discovering delicious human food. All that is a lot for one little kitten to take in in such a short time! Chi eventually adjusts, but there's a lot of super adorable humor as she does so. Other things are hinted at as well, such as the whereabouts of Chi's cat mama (who he was separated from in Book 1), but nothing is resolved. The book ends on a cliffhanger, with Chi following a neighborhood stray, not knowing how far from home she will wander. 

Having not yet read Book 1, I snapped up the second Chi's Sweet Home because the cat on the cover bore an uncanny resemblance to my cat, Howard. IF Howard were to be drawn as an Anime character, that is. I'd like to add that, while I've really embraced graphic novel/comics these past several months, I still shy away from the Manga because it's just so different. And sometimes it's backward! Also, since Manga has been translated from another language, there's lots of opportunity for things/context/meaning to get lost.  I loved Chi, though! This kitty cat tale (tail?) was totally cute and charming and made me want to go home and cuddle with my cats (Howard would be up for it. Princess Luna, who prefers not to be touched, would probably consider biting).

I'll definitely be grabbing up the Book 3 as soon as it hits the shelves! --AJB

9 (DVD), produced by Tim Burton

Legendary filmmaker (and master of all that is visually weird and twisted), Tim Burton, produces this unusual animated dystopian in which humanity and life as we know it has become extinct. The world, now a post-nuclear wasteland, is overrun by mutated machines and the trash we left behind. Some are harmless, but most are unspeakably evil and determined to destroy any spark of humanity that remains. We learn this through the eyes of a ragdoll-like creature known only as 9.

But lets go back a bit... In humanity's final moments, a scientist-inventor learned the secret to preserving what remained of his world and life as he knew it. He put small pieces of his soul into nine of these ragdoll creatures and sent them out into the world. If all were to be reunited, that would begin a process to restore the world. But that feat is not as easy as it may seem.

Upon waking, 9 ventures out into the ruined world and discovers there are other creatures like him. Eight others, to be exact. These creatures must avoid being destroyed by rogue machines. Harder still, they must learn to trust each other and work together, something that Number 1, the original, struggles against with every fiber in his stiched-together being. Will these odd little creatures succeed at their mission? Or will humanity remain lost forever? You'll have to watch the movie to find out.

When I watched 9, my first thought was: "Hey! That scientist-inventor guy just made horcruxes! How very Voldemort of him." Overall, though, I wasn't sure what to think of the movie at first. I didn't know if I loved it or hated it. I just recognized the overwhelming feeling of weirdness it left me with. But as the days passed, I found myself thinking of the movie at odd times: Unloading the dishwasher, feeding the cats, driving to work, waking in the middle of the night to get a drink of water... And that original feeling of weirdness began to morph into one of awe. It really is an incredible film. The animation is first-rate, and the storyline is very deep and intelligent. 9 may not a movie to watch casually, but it's definitely enjoyable. --AJB

Thursday, November 3, 2016

How to Talk to Girls at Parties, by Neil Gaiman (illus: Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba)

It's the holiday. Enn and Vic are two carefree teen boys out for a night of fun on the town. They're looking for a supposedly awesome party that studmuffin Vic heard about from a friend of a friend. There will girls there, Vic tells his awkward and introverted friend. Girls!! Enn isn't so sure, though. He's never been comfortable striking up conversations with members of the opposite sex. As far as Enn is concerned, girls may as well be from another planet entirely. 

(Note the subtle use of foreshadowing...)

After a bit of wandering, the boys do, indeed, find the party house. They are greeted at the door by a gorgous blonde. Inside the house (which is bigger on the inside than it appears from without), there are, indeed, girls. Each of them different, but eerily perfect in the same way. Before disappearing with the pretty host, Vic tosses his friend this last bit of advice: "Just TALK to them." And Enn is left on his own to fumble awkwardly through some very strange conversations with various female partiers. With each encounter, the weird vibe grows and grows. But Enn doesn't really catch on until a terrified Vic pulls him away from the party. Away from the girls who are not who they appear.

The guys escape just in time, but the strange terror of that night will stay with Enn forever. And neither of them will ever be the same.

The graphic novel adaption of Neil Gaiman's short story How to Talk to Girls at Parties is incredible. Illustrations by Brazilian artists Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba perfectly bring to life this classic sci-fi tale of close encounters. (I should mention that the print version of this story can be found in Gaiman's short story collection, M is for Magic).

How to Talk to Girls at Parties reminded me quite a bit of Bennett Madison's 2013 novel, September Girls. In this book, two brothers visit a very unusual beach town that is inhabited by hundreds of seemingly perfect girls. The boys get caught up in an ancient curse involving these girls, who aren't what they appear to be (spoiler: They're not human). Along with plot similarities, both stories were atmospheric in the same sort of way. They gave off the same sort of otherworldly vibe that kept me hooked, wondering what would happen next, but knowing that things wouldn't end well.

If you're looking for something a bit different than the typical Dystopian or want a Kissing Book that's not really a Kissing Book, recommend checking out both stories. You won't be disappointed.--AJB

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I Hate Fairyland, by Skottie Young

Fairyland is an amazing world filled with nonstop wonder, magic, laughter, and joy. There are rainbow unicorns, sparkle fairies, and islands of ice cream...and the whole fluffing place is ruled by a kind and beautiful queen who is made entirely from clouds. But don't let this fool you. I Hate Fairyland, a graphic novel by Scottie Young, is absolutely NOT a light-hearted romp through a brightly-colored land of fairy tale fancy. On the contrary, this story is straight-up horror! In the best possible way.

When Gert was a starry-eyed six year old, she made a wish to be transported to Fairyland, where she could eat rainbow cupcakes and frolic through the daisies with her favorite fairy tale characters. And guess what? Her wish was granted! YAY!!

Upon arrival, Queen Cloudia tells Gert that, in order to get home, she must go on a quest to find a magical key to open a magical door back to her world. Until then, she is a special guest of Fairyland.

Nearly 30 years later, Gert is still stuck in Fairyland. She may still look like a sweet, curly-haired child, but inside she is a bitter grown-up in need of some serious anger management therapy. And the constant exposure to the (actually kind of scary) randomness of the Fairy Realm has made her...well...kind of crazy. Ok, REALLY crazy. But Gert is still a special guest. And no guest can be harmed. No matter how violent or bonkers they become. And believe me, Queen Claudia will do anything to get around this law. Even dig up a long-forgotten loophole.

Meanwhile: Welding a giant-sized battle axe stolen from the Headless Huntsman, Gert has been chopping her way through Fairyland on her continued quest to find the Key. But she comes up against her biggest challenge yet: A super-adorable, super-happy human child who has the power to blast magical rainbows from her fingertips. And oh yeah...this cute little newcomer is on the quest to find the key too. And if she gets to the key first, that means Gert will be trapped in Fairyland. Forever. It will also mean that Gert is no longer a protected guest, and all bets are off (the Queen is counting on this).

Only one thing will save Gert now: The Powers of the Seven Evil Dooms. But first she must defeat the Darketh Deadeth. IF she can survive.

I've been hearing a lot of good things about I Hate Fairyland. And everything I heard about this darkly humorous story is true. Although it's most definitely for OLDER readers, I Hate Fairyland is nonstop action and entertainment. Older teens with a dark sense of humor will love this one! --AJB

Friday, October 28, 2016

Six Impossible Things, by Fiona Wood

Six Reasons why you should read Six Impossible Things, by Fiona Wood:

1. Dan, the main character, is adorkable: He's motivated, he's sarcastic/funny, he's actually pretty mature for his age, and he's soooo in love with Estelle. And we're talking the totally cute-sweet sort of puppy love that can only happen with a first crush. Also he admits to owning a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beanbag chair. How retro-cool is that?!? (wish I had a TMNT beanbag chair)

2. Howard the Dog. I'll admit it. The fact that there's an animal friend named Howard in this book hooked me. And I thought I was the only one with an animal friend by that name. True, my Howard is a cat and the one in the book is a dog, but the name is pretty unique for a pet. Plus, Howard the Dog is awesome! Wise, loyal, and awesome!

3. It's hilarious in the completely awkward, real way all well-written coming-of-age stories are. No spoilers, though. You'll have to stumble upon the humor yourself,

4. The romance! I can't make this list without mentioning the romance! It's not the hot & heavy stuff. There are no grand, sweeping gestures. This is the sweet, cute, innocent first-love romance that will totally give the warm fuzzy feels.

5. The side characters are well done, from the bullies to the parents to the friends. This makes the story feel more real.

6. The whole package! Six Impossible Things is an excellent book.

And So...
Dan's life has been going great up until this point: His well-off parents were able to provide a comfortable life, he was attending a prestigious private school, he was well-traveled, and he wanted for nothing (see: TMNT beanbag chair). He was happy. Or at least content. As much so as a 14 year old nerdish boy can be.

That was before. Before Dan's dad announced they were bankrupt, came out as gay, and ditched Dan and his mom to pursue other things. 

Now Dan and his mom only have the clothes on their backs, a few boxes worth of possessions (stuff hidden from the Reop team), and an inherited house that smells like, pee. No nice way of saying it.

Although Dan is at rock bottom, he's ambitious. He creates a list of six impossible goals. Among them being cheering his mom, getting a job to help with finances, and figuring out his place in the world. But the main goal, the one that tops his list, is to kiss Estelle, the cute girl next door. 

Admirable goals, all of them. Except that Dan hasn't even worked up the nerve to talk to Estelle, let along get into a kissing sort of situation.

What follows is Dan's stumbling, awkward, and inspiring journey to achieve all six of his goals. And he discovers he's capable of a lot more than he ever dreamed.

So DOES Dan kiss Estelle?

You'll just have to read Six Impossible Things to find out. --AJB

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Be Good Be Real Be Crazy, by Chelsea Philpot

I picked up Be Good Be Real Be Crazyauthor Chelsea Philpot's second book, because I loved Even In Paradise. Unfortunately, this one wasn't nearly as awesome as I hoped.

Shy Homer is impossibly in love with Mia. Impossible because a girl like that could never return his feelings. But being a typical myrtar of unrequitted love, Homer decides to further torture himself by offering to drive his (very pregnant, but not by Homer) dream girl from southern Florida to her new home in Glory-Be-By-The-Sea, a postcard town on the coast of Maine. Accompanying them on their road trip will be Homer's doomsday-obsessed little brother, Einstein who, true to his name, is a certified brainiac. And their mode of transportation? It's ugly, it's smelly, and it's very, VERY yellow. Like, Taxi cab yellow. Homer's mission: To confess his feelings to Mia and, maybe, convince her to stay with him and live happily ever after.

If this sounds like the typical setup for a typical road trip story, you're absolutely right. It is.

Be Good Be Real Be Crazy reads more like a collection of random cliches than a linear story. 

Mia is the stereotypical Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl. She dyes her hair unnatural colors, revels in cloud shapes, shoplifts junk jewelry (but it's ok, because she can charm her way out of trouble), and has a deliberstely mysterious past (because, of course, she's a fabulous liar). She's so quirky she's almost ordinary for a MPDG. She's more caricature than character, and that made her hard to relate to (or even care much about). As a reader, I've encountered so many MPDGs in my literary travels that I'm kind of sick of them. 

Homer and Einstein are equally quirky and have equal amounts of personal baggage, but they're, at least, more sympathetic.

As is typical with road trip stories, Homer, Mia, and Einstein encounter a series of unusual characters, eat bad road trip food, take photos on disposable cameras, and have a series of unfortunate (and also fortunate) things happen to them. Drama and angst and ghosts from the past all come out. 

And then...the bittersweet resolution. 

My overall reaction to Be Good Be Real Be Crazy was lukewarm, at best. I didn't dislike it, but I didn't like it as much as I hoped I would. As far as road trip stories go, there are better ones out there.  Be sure to ask at the Teen Desk for recommendations. --AJB

Monday, October 24, 2016

Giant Days, vol. 3, by John Allison

Welcome to Giant Days #3

The first semester at University is ending, and Susan, Daisy, and Esther are all wrapped up in their own dramas. 

At the forefront of this is a highly-heated campaign for Student Union President (fitting considering the 2016 presidential election, perhaps the most dramatic one ever, is only weeks away). When the school paper writes a tell-all expose about the current president's sketcky behavior, ol' Prez is forced to resign after a riot breaks out on campus. With the help of an anonymous "Deep Throat"-like character, Susan gets so caught up in the new campaign she neglects everything: Her friends, her schoolwork, her health, McGraw. 

And McGraw is none too pleased. Could mean it's over for these lovebirds. And on Susan's birthday at that! Poor Susan. And poor McGraw!

On top of the usual guy drama, Esther must face a terrifying blast from her past...which may not be so terrifying after all. 

Ed has been having trouble shaking the aftermath of a humiliating first date with an older woman. But fear not! Help comes from a surprisig source! (See: "Terrifying blast from the past")

And Daisy... Well, Daisy is the voice of reason who is trying to hold everyone and everything together amid the turmoil. But even the most reasonable, patient people have their limits.

But wait! Just when things seem like they're mellowing out for our heroines, just before the "To Be Continued..." ending, Esther drops a HUGE bombshell!

Ah, the plot thickens...

Fans of the series will be anxiously awaiting #4. (I know I am!)

This fun comic just keeps getting better. Giant Days has everything one could want in a great story: Well-developed characters, exciting plot lines, humor, tragedy, romance, drama... everything! --AJB

Saturday, October 22, 2016

P.S. I Like You, by Kasie West

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West is ridiculously adorable. I'm a huge fan of modern settings/real world and I was very impressed with this story which had solid plots and strong characters.

Basically, Lily is an aspiring songwriter in an endearingly chaotic family. She sees a note on her chemistry desk from another student who shares her taste in music, so they leave notes for each other and build a strong connection throughout the semester. There are a few possible guys who could be it. So the first third of the story is trying to figure out his identity. The rest of the story is her trying to reconcile the guy she knows in the notes with the version she knows in real life. It's a total Darcy/Elizabeth relationship of Pride and Prejudice.

The way everything unfolded was the best part --the pacing and execution were perfect. The characters felt like totally believable, realistically flawed teens. Even the secondary characters were well done! I loved how important Lily's home life was and how kind she was to her brothers. Lily herself was hilariously awkward, stubborn, and probably my favorite main character.

I don't want to say who the guy is (even though it's really easy to guess!), so I'll just say that whole relationship built up perfectly. They go from hating each other to slowly getting to know each other to being in love. It's a hate to love romance that actually works and doesn't feel at all forced.

Kasie West is such a talented writer. Everything is so real and just pulls you in. It's one of the most adorable, feel-good books I've read in a long time. If you like her story, I also recommend you to read The Fill-In Boyfriend which is also my favorite! *JK*

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Still Life With Tornado, by A.S. King

Sarah used to be a normal, well-adjusted kid. She loved art, idolized her older brother, and lived in the shelter of the blissful ignorance that is common to very young children (even when everything is everything but ok). Then came the family vacation to Mexico when Sarah was 10. The one that changed everything. This is when her parents stopped speaking to each other. When her older brother vanished and never came back. 

Flash-forward to when Sarah is 16 and a complete hot mess. She stops going to school and stops anything to do with art. She can't tell you why she does what she does. Just that she simply can't continue. Instead, she spends her days wandering around the city, speculating about a homeless man (called Earl) and conversing with 10-year-old, 23-year-old, and 40-year-old versions of herself. Readers can only guess that Sarah has some serious baggage to work out, baggage that has everything to do with the events of that fateful family trip when she was 10. Despite her behavior, she actually DOES want to work things out. But first she has to remember what happened to make her the way she is.

If the plot snyposis of A.S. King's latest novel Still Life With Tornado sounds exceptionally convoluted, you're absolutely right. It does. This amazing book is one of those that can only be properly experienced in the actual reading. You can't figure thing out by skimming reviews. Any spoilers I could give you would make no sense (and I wouldn't give spoilers for a story like this anyway). You just have to read it for yourself.

And you absolutely should! --AJB