Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Night of Cake & Puppets, by Laini Taylor

As much as I enjoyed author Laini Taylor's epic fantasy Daughter of Smoke & Bone, I couldn't get behind the romance between the two main characters, Karou and Akiva. I mean, #1: He got her first incarnation executed (and then neglected to tell her about it). And, #2: When he met her again in her second incarnation, he ended up killing her family. Those two things are pretty serious Deal Breakers, in my opinion. I wouldn't have forgiven the guy. But hey--that's just me. 

However: Zuzana and Mic, two side characters in the series... What can I say? I heart, heart, HEART them! So much! They are the Ultimate Couple for all the right reasons. They're romantic, they're funny, they have fantastic chemistry, and, as an added bonus, they're both non-magical people existing in a magical world.. Also, no love triangles or drama. While reading the Smoke & Bone series, I was happiest reading the scenes that included these two characters. 

So imagine my extreme delight when I finally, finally got my hands on Night of Cake & Puppets, a companion to Smoke & Bone that focuses entirely on Mic and Zuzana (originally published as an ebook, but recently came out in hardcover). In fact, it's about the night they finally got together. And it's adorable!

As we know from the first Smoke & Bone book, Zuzana has a huge crush on Mic (a.k.a. "Violin Boy"), but is too shy to act on said crush. Well, turns out Mic feels the same way about Zuzana (but is also too shy). Armed with a string of wishes, gifted to her by Karou, Zuzana decides to discover once and for all if this thing could happen. On a snowy evening, she leads Mic on a treasure hunt all around Prague. The end result: Herself, of course. 

Told in alternating viewpoints, the night unfolds. And concludes better than either could have hoped.

There is magic.

There is cake (as promised in the title).

And there is kissing! (This is SO MUCH a kissing book)

Night of Cake & Puppets is a sweet, simple romance that was fun to read and 100% met any hopes and expectations I could have had for the story. In fact, it was better! --AJB

A-Force: Rage Against the Dying Light by Kelly Thompson

I read the first A-Force trade and liked it a lot more than I expected.  When I finished reading, I noticed that it was by G. Willow Wilson and I really liked her Ms. Marvel so I felt less surprised and also very excited to start the second trade.  Then I checked it out and I realized another reason that I get so ticked off about comics.  New writers.  New artists.  I know Kelly Thompson from her work on Jem, the first trade of which I really liked.  I decided to give it a try.

I liked it.  I did.  Again.

Which has left me in a kind of conundrum.  Am I going to have to admit that maybe I DO like superhero comics, if they are the right ones?  Am I going to have to trust Marvel's choice in writers and artists?  (I don't think I can do that because we all know they have a tendency to do stupid stuff constantly.  Though I do like that both writers for this series were women.)  And, you know, is there ever going to be more A-Force because I kind of need it?

We join the team this time in the midst of a battle that is going poorly.  It goes poorly enough that She Hulk ends up in the hospital, in a coma.  Meanwhile, Captain Marvel has heard a prophecy that Nico will kill a woman named Alice.  Cap wants to arrest Nico in order to prevent this murder until they can figure out what is going on.  Nico is not a fan of being arrested by her teammate and runs away (ha) to a safe house she has in Colorado.  However, when she gets there she finds that the townspeople are being turned into giant insects.

Another fun run!  I want more, Marvel. -RYQ

Monday, September 25, 2017

Project You: More Than 50 Ways to Calm Down, De-Stress & Feel Great

Ok, so unless you've been living completely off the grid for, like, the past decade or so, you know that Mindfulness is a 'thing.' But unlike shirts with odd cut-outs or the latest designer skinny jeans, this trend won't make you broke. And it won't make you cringe when you look back at your photo memories 5 years from now and think "OMG" (if that's even still said in the future) "What was I wearing? What was I thinking?"

Rather, Mindfulness is something that's always going to be trendy. Because mindfulness is all about YOU: Your self-esteem, your good health, your happiness, and, well, just all the good and positive things that can make your life awesome. Stuff like that is never out of style.

And in today's busy world, your personal health and well-being is more important than ever! Like I said, it's a "thing."

Project YOU: More Than 50 Ways to Calm Down, De-Stress & Feel Great, a recent addition to our New Book Shelf, has a variety of tips & tricks (50, to be exact) that will help your life become happier, less stressed, healthier, and, overall, more balanced. There's overviews on Meditation, Yoga, feng shui, aeromatherapy, massage... And, for the more practical-minded, tips about eating healthy and exercise. This book has it all. Although geared toward teens, Project YOU can be helpful to everyone.

In short, it's awesome! --AJB

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Seeking Mansfield, by Kate Watson

Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson is sort of like Jane Austen re-telling Mansfield Park. It's been such a long time since I read Mansfield Park that I can't really comment on how faithful it is to the source material. I do know that the basic structure of it is similar and reading this made me really want to go back to re-read Mansfield Park.

I really liked both Finley and Oliver.  I loved their friendship and how they always supported each other. I loved the slow burn romance between them, too. We get both of their points of views throughout the story. Normally when we get both perspectives, we end up finding out that both characters have feelings for each other. I really enjoyed getting both perspectives here. I think that I could have ended up disliking Oliver a bit without his thought process of how he was justifying his actions. Instead I thought he was pretty adorable, even if he frustrated me at times.

I loved "uncle" Thomas and how the parents in this book were present. There were consequences for bad behavior and guidance when needed. I thought the other side characters - Harlan and Emma Crawford (Hollywood actors and new neighbors) and Tate and Juliette (Oliver's brother and sister) were all fairly well developed, though I would've liked a little more of Oliver's siblings. From what I remember of the Crawfords from Mansfield Park I thought Harlan and Emma were really well done though maybe a little more likable here.

Overall, I really enjoyed Seeking Mansfield. I liked the characters and the romance and the message of self-worth and standing up for yourself. It was an easy and addicting read. Though I thought the middle of the story dragged a little but it did pick right back up and I really enjoyed it. *JK*

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!  


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.


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