Tuesday, January 30, 2018

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women

I picked this up one day hoping it would be a quick read, but at the end I wanted more. #NotYourPrincess is full of a wide variety of moving artwork, poetry, essays, short stories, and meaningful quotes from modern Native American women who are sharing their stories. The pieces in these collected works strongly speak volumes about the damage done by abuse and stereotyping. Although it is heavily emotional, this book is beautiful, empowering, and well worth the read if you are ready for it. This book is a quick read that will make your world bigger. Like I stated, I just wanted there to be more. 

I would especially recommend this to any older teen that is interested in poetry or one who is willing to allow themselves to learn more of the challenges and hardships of Native American women. -MC

I will also caution that there was some distressing physical and sexual abuse survivor stories in this book and that it might be better suited for a more mature teen audience. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Jumanji - DVD (1995)

I somehow missed the original Jumanji movie (based on a 1981 children's book by Chris Van Allsburg) when it hit theaters in 1995. 

Not surprising, considering... I was transitioning out of high school that year and, at the time, a kids' movie about jungle animals that somehow come out of a board game wasn't exactly my thing. Plus, between working, taking classes, and preparing to move across the state to attend college, I didn't have a lot of time for fun stuff. That whole year was kind of a blur...

But when the reboot hit theaters earlier this year, you bet I watched it...in all its big screen, surround sound glory. My hubby and I are big fans of both Jack Black and The Rock, so a movie featuring both actors had to be absolutely fantastic. We were right. It was. And more!

But this got us curious about the original film. I'd never seen it and my husband, being a few years younger, didn't remember much about it except for an elephant crushing a car with a kid inside (spoiler: the kid survived. of course he did). So we checked it out of the library and were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed it! Aside from being a bit dated, we found it to be creative, funny, and just a lot of fun.

The movie begins with two siblings who move to an old house that is rumored to be haunted. While exploring, they discover a jungle-themed board game. They begin playing and, in doing so, begin releasing jungle animals (monkeys and elephants and giant mosquitoes--oh my!). Among the creatures released is Alan Parrish, who has been trapped in the game for nearly 30 years. The three of them, along with Alan's childhood friend, must finish the game in order to return their town and their lives to the way things should be. 

Although I liked the reboot much better (we both did, actually), the original Jumanji was still exceptionally enjoyable. Definitely recommended! -- AJB

p.s. Just an observation: Change a few minor plot details and this would make an excellent horror movie. A haunted board game that has a mind of its own and tries to kill its players... It's very The Ring in a way. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan

Have you ever read a book and thought, "This has so much potential, but..." Or maybe you spoke those words aloud to a friend. In any case, you felt the book was capable of so much more, but, for you, it just didn't live up to being all it could be. Gloria Whelan's YA book Homeless Bird was one such book for me. 

I recently read Homeless Bird for an upcoming library program. 

Spoiler-Free Review: The story centers on Koly, a teen girl in India who is forced into an arranged marriage. The husband dies shortly after the wedding and Koly suffers several hardships and learns some harsh lessons before her life finally sorts itself out. 

To be honest, Homeless Bird is not the sort of book I'd pick up on my own and, had I not been required to read it, I very likely would have left it on the shelf in favor of something else. But it sounded kind of interesting. Also, it was a past National Book Award winner, so it must have some merit. Right? And BONUS! it was short (less than 200 pages). So I dove into it with high hopes that I would find book love in an unexpected place.

Unfortunately that was not to be. For all the drama and excitement that happened in such a short number of pages, I found Homeless Bird to be kind of, well...dull. Koly's first person narration felt distant and distracted. She could have been reciting a shopping list rather than tell of all the hardships she went through. At no point did I feel any connection to her character. Also, the ending wrapped up a bit to neatly. Throughout the whole book, I had the impression the author just wasn't feeling the story at all. It was almost like she was challenged to write the book rather than felt inspired to do so. This made me sad, because I felt the story could have been so much more. 

The verdict: Sadly, I can't really recommend this book. But at least I can check this required read off my list, but that's about all I can say. If you're looking for a book about teenagers of Indian culture, there are so many better options out there! I recommend picking one of those instead. 


Blankets by Craig Thompson

I was surprised to see that this book came out in 2003.  The way Thomson talks about his teenage years, which I placed vaguely in the early 1990's, made it feel more distant at the time of writing.  You know, I am one of those people who forgets that I graduated 16 years ago so I guess that's not really surprising.

This book, well, it was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me.

Thompson tells the story of his coming of age.  I can't think of any better way to describe it.  He tells stories throughout that are memories of his childhood, when he shared a bed with his little brother.  Craig says that he was not a very good older brother, that he was sometimes mean to his brother and that he didn't protect him.  He touches on the inappropriate conduct of a babysitter, a trap that he let his brother fall into and that sent him headlong into religion and the striving for heaven.

Craig takes religion seriously, seriously enough that his pastor asks if he has considered going into the ministry.  Craig hasn't really considered anything about his future.  Then he meets Raina at winter church camp and he is instantly smitten.  When he goes to stay with Raina and her family in Michigan for two weeks in the winter, he begins to see that he may have missed out on some of life.

This book touched on a lot of sensitive and emotional subjects: religion, abuse, first lover, doubt.  However, I felt like all of these things were handled very well.  I can promise that I was invested in this story after my initial doubt that it was for me.  Craig's experience of first love and his realization that he may not have been invested enough in the real world felt like legitimate experiences to me.  They felt real.

This was a touching tale but one which I can see not fitting for everyone. -RYQ

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire

Beneath the Sugar Sky, the third volume in Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children series picks up shortly after the events in Every Heart A Doorway. And all I can say is, wow!

Rini, a resident of the land of Confection, is in for a surprise when she lands in the turtle pond behind Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children. The visiting teen thinks she's got a simple quest ahead of her: Find her future mother, Sumi, and return with her to Confection so Sumi can fulfill the prophecy and save the land. But Sumi has been dead for several months, murdered by Jill, another resident of the home. Jill committed this, and several other crimes, as a desperate attempt to reopen the door to the sinister world in which she and her sister felt most at home. Now Rini and four other Waywards must travel to the land of the dead and beyond in hopes of finding Sumi, somehow resurrect her, and bring her home. And they better hurry! Otherwise history will rewrite itself completely and Rini, the land of Confection, and maybe other worlds will all doomed.

This series just gets better and better! And Beneath the Sugar Sky is a very satisfying addition to what is shaping up to be a truly excellent fantasy series. It's also quickly becoming one of my favorites. In this book, we readers get a more in-depth look at worlds only alluded to in previous volumes. The world building, the characters, the creativity...it all combines to create a story that's pretty extraordinary.

Absolutely recommended! But....for ultimate enjoyment, read the series in order. 


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Foolish Hearts, by Emma Mills

Foolish Hearts was such an enjoyable novel to read!

Prior to reading this novel, I had not read anything or heard of anything written by Emma Mills. Until a friend handed me the book and I started reading it and I'm happy to say that I absolutely loved it!

I could go on endlessly about the author's style of writing. The writing and the story flowed so well, the characters were likable and everything was extremely relatable. Not only was this an extremely accurate "coming of age" story for teenagers but at the same time, some of the event/emotions that the characters are feeling can relate to any age. It definitely is a suitable novel for a variety of ages and I think that many will get enjoyment from it.

Additionally, in attribution to the author's style, the humor within this novel was legitimately laugh-out-loud funny. Believe me, it actually had me laughing out loud and wanting to tell people the jokes that I read. They were unique, creative and a direct representation of the author's personality.

Overall, I just can't get over this novel or the level of the author's writing. The writing style in combination with an incredible story made for the perfect "recipe". I could go as far as comparing the style of writing of this author resembling a female John Green and I mean that in the highest esteem. Definitely recommend this novel and I know for certain that I will be on the look out for more that has been written by Emma Mills. *JK*

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Misfit City, by Kiwi Smith

The tiny coastal town of Cannon Cove is known for two things things: The first is its record abundance of cloudy/rainy days. The second (and by far the biggest) is it was the was where the 1980s cult classic movie, The Gloomies, was filmed. Other than that, nothing exciting ever happens. Which is why Wilder is so anxious to leave for college. In fact, the further away she can get from Cannon Cove, The Gloomies, and the constant stream of (annoying) tourists, the better.

Then Captain Denby, the town recluse, dies and donates a trunk to the local museum. A trunk that just happens to contain an ancient treasure map that, if sources are correct, was created by none other than the legendary (and infamous) pirate, Black Mary. Wilder, along with friends Macy, Dot, Karma and their dog Pip set off to translate the map and see where this adventure might lead. Maybe to treasure! But predictably there are some very bad people after the map as well. Which means Wilder and company find themselves deeply involved in what could be the most exciting (and dangerous) adventure of their lives so far.

The story ends on a pretty big cliffhanger, so we can (hopefully) expect the adventure to continue. And the sooner the better!

Misfit City is the first installment of a fun new graphic novel series by Kiwi Smith. The references to real-life 1980s movie The Goonies are obvious and intentional. I will tell you that I am a HUGE fan of this movie. It's one of my favorites and something I can happily watch again and again. So it goes without saying that I was very excited about this book! But despite the pirate treasure-themed plot, Misfit City is not an exact reboot of the film (but with a female cast). And it is the differences that make it an awesome read. 

I'd recommend this for readers who love series featuring strong female characters, like Lumberjanes and Giant Days. Fans of The Goonies won't want to miss this either. --AJB