Friday, March 24, 2017

Pixel Craft with Perler Beads

Anyone who has attended one of our Teen Lock-In programs within the past couple years will tell you: Next to Hide and Seek, the Perler Bead table is consistently the most popular lock-in activity. 

So we're especially excited to add Pixel Craft with Perler Beads to our collection. This fun book has more than 50 easy to follow patterns, ranging in difficulty from simple to very complex. Each lets you know what colors to use and how many of each you'll need to complete the project (but feel free to swap out if, let's say, you prefer blue and green to the suggested orange and yellow). All in all, this book looks like lots of fun, and we can't wait to test ot out!

If you love perler beads, this is the book for you! --AJB

Friday, March 17, 2017

Moana (New DVD)

  • An idealistic, but sheltered teen on a forbidden road trip.
  • A narcissistic shapeshifter who has lost his ability to shapeshift.
As a mysterious and sinister darkness spreads throughout the world, draining the life force out of whatever it touches, this unlikely pair are (unwillingly) thrown together on a mission to save life as they know it. And they just might succeed. IF they can put their personal differences (and pride) aside. Easier said than done...

Know this: I prefer Dreamworks Animation to Disney any day (Come on! Shrek! Kung Fu Panda! Animated movies seriously don't get better than that!), because I am SO over the whole over-hyped Princess-In-Distress thing that makes Disney...well, Disney. As a member of the Grrl Power Movement of the mid-to-late 1990s, I find the whole "someday my prince will come" mentality insulting. It introduces unhealthy and unrealistic ideas into the heads of impressionable little girls, and that is not cool.

I could go on and on, but I suppose, for the sake of this review, I should just "Let It Go"... (excuse the horrid pun, but I'm trying to earn my official Lumberjanes Pun-Geon Badge).


Despite what I just said about Disney, Moana, the latest Mouse-endorsed release, just might be a new animated favorite. This new-to-DVD film pairs stellar animation, fantastic music, humor, and a fun, adventurous plot that, I might add, DOES NOT involve romance in any way. How awesome is it? Let me count the ways!

Set several thousand years ago on a gorgeous tropical island, Moana is the daughter of the chief. Her destiny is to someday take over her father's crown and lead her people (a female it already!). But for as long as she can remember, she has been drawn to the sea and would love nothing more to explore beyond the safety of the reef. But no one ventures there. No one. It's not safe. Or so she is told...over and over and over again. 

But this is not necessarily the whole truth. Moana's people were once explorers, discovering island after island. Legend has it they only stopped voyaging when demigod Maui stole the life-giving heart of Te Fiti, unleasing a terrible, all-consuming darkness upon the world. A darkness that would drain the life out of everything it touches.

But some legends are real. Because the darkness has reached Moana's island.

On the night her beloved grandmother dies, Moana learns a secret: She has been chosen to go on a great quest. She must find Maui and, thogether, they must restore the heart. In doing so, they will save the world.

So Moana borrows a boat and sets off... But, with danger at every turn (not to mention a very stubborn Maui), her task proves to be much harder than she ever anticipated.

Not only was this movie an edge-of-your-seat adventure, it also had a plot that was NOT focused on romance between the two main characters (that would just be weird). There was humor, there was great music, there were fantastic characters, and there was a twist at the end that made the film, as a whole, even more awesome. Plus, the animation was bright and colorful enough to make the viewer feel warm and tropical on even the most drab Michigan winter day. Break out the SPF!

Moana gets 5 stars. No, 10 stars (out of 5 stars). It's pure awesomeness! Watch it! 


p.s. To be fair, Disney has, in recent years, been making a conscious effort to break out of that "Helpless Princess" cycle. Brave... Frozen... And now Moana... Props to them for that :)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas

I picked up this book purely because it was mis-shelved and on the day that I found it I think that I was feeling a bit like I needed a sign of some sort.  Books make fabulous signs.  I read the first couple of pages at my desk and then took it home with me.  You may recognize the name Rob Thomas, the creator of Veronica Mars, but I didn't.  This was nothing more than a short book with a strange name in the wrong spot on the shelf.
It was great.
It's the early 90's and I got a healthy dose of nostalgia from that.  Steve is living in San Diego with his mother, her new husband, and his sister.  When we meet Steve, he is in danger of not graduating due to being short an English credit.  His guidance counselor, Mr. DeMouy, offers to make him a deal.  He can make up his English credit by writing 100 pages about anything he wants.  DeMouy has seen Steve's transcripts and knows that he was pulling straight A's when he lived in Texas, that he was smart enough to be a National Merit finalist.  Steve doesn't have to tell him what happened, he just needs to write.  Steve agrees and ends up telling the story of his Sophmore and Junior years in Texas.
Back in Texas, Steve lived with his father, worked at the Cineplex after school, and had friends.  His best friend, Doug, has a $500 bet with his father that he will appear in the year book and so they form a club, The Grace Order of Dadaists or GOD, with no intention of it going anywhere.  Instead the group widens their social circle and together they work on a number of dada inspired school projects.  It's through this club that Steve meets Dub, short for double-u, short for Wanda, who he falls for almost immediately.
Steve's story bounces between the past and the present.  He writes his paper about what happened in Texas and struggles to make something of San Diego.  He's sarcastic and the antics of GOD are entertaining.  This was definitely worth the read.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Zebrafish, by Peter H. Reynolds

Zebrafish by Peter H. Reynolds isn't your typical story about teen drama where, after reading, you feel like you spent the day at middle school (how exhausting!). Rather, it's a story with a purpose. And that purpose is cancer research awareness. But, unlike some other over-dramafied cancer books with uber-tragic endings, this one isn't in-your-face about it.

I didn't even know it was a cancer book when I picked it up to review. That awareness came in the reading.

The story centers on Vita, a girl who dreams of becoming a famous musician. She's got the guitar, she's got the rock star hair, and she's got a band name. All she needs is a band. Recruiting turns out to be easier said than done when the only people who come to band tryouts are the non-musical types who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket (although a couple are obsessed with a Rock Band-type video game called Strings of Fury). But even so, slow friendships are forged within the group. And Vita plans to carry on with the band regardless. Virtually, at least.

Then Vita learns a secret about one of her "band mates" that could change everything.

And it does.

While Zebrafish was no Lumberjanes (or Jem and the Holograms, for that matter), it was still a cute story about friendship (to the max!). The artwork is colorful and fun, and the storyline, while a little After School Special, was engaging. And it had a good message without being preachy. 

A worthwhile read.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Lost & Found (DVD)

When teenage Andy gets busted for shopliting (again), his parents decide to ship him off to stay with his estranged Uncle Trent on the remote Walton Island, which used to be part of their family's estate in better days. But that was before Grandfather Walton mysteriously vanished years before, taking the family's legendary riches with him. 

When Andy and younger brother Mark arrive, they learn the island is about to be bought by Mr. Broman, a greedy land developer, and turned into a tourist trap for the rich and elite. The boys also learn that their grandfather's treasure is still on the island, well hidden somewhere within the supposedly haunted West Forest. Of course clues have been left to find the treasure. Clues only the brothers can decipher. With Broman and his henchmen also hunting for the riches, the brothers must put their differences aside if they want to find the treasure and restore their family legacy.

When I first read the synopsis for Lost & Found, I was excited, expecting a fun, Goonies-type adventure (which is one of my favorite movies of all time). And although there was a treasure hunt and a bit of a mystery, the angst-y plot was more Lifetime Movie of the Week Drama than Fun Adventure. And quite a bit heavier than what I was looking for. Some plot twists were predictable while others felt forced. Additionally, the main characters were never properly developed, and the actor who was cast as the villain has played the hero in too many other well-known films (one a cult classic/pop culture phenomenon) to be convinving as a bad guy. Overall, it was kind of disappointing. Not because it was terrible (it wasn't), but because it wasn't what I was looking for.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Frogkisser, by Garth Nix

Get ready for an epic adventure reminicent of The Princess Bride and Catherine Murdock's Wisdom's Kiss (a book I especially loved). Frogkisser, by Garth Nix, was fun and unique and impossible to put down.

The Kingdom of Trallonia has been under the stewartship of Duke Rikard for the past 10 years, and things have been getting progressively worse. Not only does the Duke, who just happens to be an evil wizard, have the bad habit of transforming all who irritate him into animals (take the poor assistant cook who accidently burned  breakfast), but he also has his eye on the crown. I don't have to tell you that the evil duke becoming king would be a very bad thing. A very bad thing indeed!

Fortunately, Princess Morven will come of age in only a few weeks and be crowned queen. Unfortunately the princess is a complete airhead, more concerned to flirt with her latest princely crush (which changes by the hour) than learning what it takes to properly run a kingdom. Also unfortunately, the Duke is cooking up something truly sinister to make sure Morven never makes it to her next birthday. Or, at least, makes sure she is not around when it comes time to claim the throne.

Good thing for Morven's younger sister, Princess Anya, who is smart, resourceful, and has the rare ability to keep her head when things get crazy.

And they're about to get crazy.

When it is revealed that the Evil Duke plans to marry Morven off to a transformed magpie (that is, the bird has been temporarily changed into a human) and, afterward, do who knows what to the newlyweds, Anya knows it is up to her to do something. 

Fleeing the kingdom before she, herself, is about to be shipped to a boarding school halfway around the world (if she survives the perilous journey), Anya begins a quest that she's sure will save her kingdom. Her mission: To find a way to transform Morven's real true, Prince Denholm, love back into a human. That way, her sister can marry the true prince, rather than the false one cooked up by their stepfather, and take her rightful place as Queen of Trallonia.

But as with all epic quests, nothing turns out as planned. 

Frogkisser is awesome! There are talking animals (transformed and actual), magic (good and bad), and a kick-butt heroine. Wrap that all up in an adventure, and you've got a winner!

Definitely recommended! --AJB

Friday, March 3, 2017

We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour

I love the sort of books where, at first, it seems as though nothing happens. But I read and read and read and, by the time I'm finshed, I realize that everything has happened. And by "everything," I mean EVERYTHING. The book as brought out all the feels, forced me to break out the tissues, and I am not the same person as I was before I read it.

We Are Okay, the latest by Nina LaCour, is like that.

In under 250 pages, it tells the story of Marin, a college freshman who is alone on campus for three weeks holiday break. Not by choice, but because she has nothing to go back to. At least, she believes she has nothing to go back to. So I suppose her exile, her solitude, IS by choice.

But she won't be absolutely alone for the entire time.

There is Tommy, the campus groundskeeper, who has agreed to check in on Marin from time to time. Just to make sure...

There is also Mabel, Marin's best friend from back home, traveling from California to New York to visit for a few days. 

At least... Mabel and Marin used to be best friends.

But that was before Marin's grandfather and only family drowned, quite possibly on purpose. That was before Marin learned the truth: that her entire life up until that point had been a lie.

That was before...

Unable to deal, Marin ran away. Without a word. Not even goodbye.

Marin and Mabel haven't spoken in months. Sure, Mabel has texted and called and emailed, but her communications were ignored. Marin isn't angry. She just can't. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

But as a blizzard sweeps across the state, causing widespread power outages, the girls become trapped on campus. They're forced to talk about the past and confront the restless ghosts that lurk there. They must face what brought, not only Marin, but also Mabel to this point. This place. 

And maybe then, and ONLY then, things can be okay. 

Or, at least, start to be that way.

We Are Okay is one of those books that surprised me. Sure, I've read this author before. And sure, I enjoyed what I read. But I didn't expect to love this book the way I did. I didn't expect it to make me FEEL so deeply.

Everyone, no matter who they are, has faced a turning point in their life. Maybe they didn't go through the sort of tragedy Marin faced, but everyone has (or will) come to a time when they need to step away from things in order to get a better perspective. And when they step back into life, they're changed. They emerge a deeper, better, more worldly version of themself. And they can never go back. But that's ok. 

I felt the author did an exceptional job conveying this time of transition. The characters, their journey, their development... All if it was beautifully done.

Absolutely recommended! --AJB

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Lumberjanes v. 5: Band Together

If, a couple years ago, you'd asked me if I would enjoy reading graphic novels as much as I do, I'd have probably given you a very strange look. Oh sure, I'd read and liked Smile (everyone has read Smile), but when I thought of a typical "graphic novel" I thought of superheroes (not really my thing). Also those strange backward things from Japan (really not my thing) I'll never understand and don't really want to. Nope. Give me a book where the word to picture ratio is 100/0. Even 90/10 to account for books like Harry Potter where chapter headings feature small illustrations.

But I've gotta say: I totally heart the Lumberjanes series!

In the fifth volume, Band Together, Jo, Mal, Ripley, Molly, April, and their counselor Jen have a very strange encounter while hanging out by the lake. Of course strange encounters are nothing new to the girls of Cabin Roanoke, who have survived parallel universes, endured weather anomalies, and faced off against more Monsters of the Week than Mulder and Scully (of X-Files fame). But this time the adventure involves mermaids. And not just any mermaids, but mermaids who play in a rock band. least they used to play in a rock band before all that drama happened. 

It is then that the mermaid-obsessed April decides to make it her life's mission to reunite the rock band. No matter what.

In typical Lumberjane fashion, things don't go as planned. But do they ever?

In fact, the situation turns from bad to downright apocalyptic. And the angry sea serpents are the least of April's worries.

If things are going to work out, the girls are going to have to put aside their differences and work together. 

No spoilers, but if you love mermaids, music, and things that sparkle, you'll love Lumberjanes: Band Together.