Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Harry Potter : a journey through a history of magic.


 (Today, July 31st, is good ol' HP's Birthday- if you didn't already know)

As a 90's baby, Harry Potter has made an immeasurable positive mark on my childhood and sometimes I cry just thinking about how much I love it. As a librarian, I adore being able to witness the continuing phenomenon of Harry Potter and seeing it alive in so many young hearts. So, naturally, this book made me cry a sappy Harry Potter cry within the first few pages. Reading Alice Newton's hand written report of how she (as an eight year old) felt about the book was the perfect introduction. I loved learning of the real (muggle) world history of magic that helped to inspire JK. Even if Harry Potter isn't your thing and you enjoy weird historical facts- you would still probably still find some of this book interesting. I especially loved seeing JK's beautiful sketches and pen-and-ink drawings of her characters. The early synopsis and drafts were also a good treat to read. This book was extremely well done for a non-fiction. It is engaging on every page. I would recommend it to any HP fan.

This book is actually located in the Non Fiction area of the Youth department at our library, but it can be enjoyed by all ages. Find it under call number (J 001B)    -MC

Friday, July 27, 2018

Wild Blue Wonder, by Charlie Sorosiak

Charlie Sorosiak's novel Wild Blue Wonder has been on my radar for several months now, and I finally got the opportunity to read it. Which I did. All in one sitting.

This is one of those books that is nothing like you expect, but you enjoy anyway. From what I knew of it, I thought I'd be getting magical realism with a bit of romance thrown in. And while Wild Blue Wonder was both those things, it was much, much darker than I thought it would be. No lighthearted, beachy read here. Nope. (and if that's what you're wanting, look to authors like Kasie West and Jenny Han)

We first meet our heroine, Quinn, a few months after a terrible tragedy happened at The Hundreds, the summer camp owned by her family. Since, life as Quinn knows it has fallen apart: Her siblings aren't speaking to her (or to each other), her parents are constantly arguing, and everyday existence is extremely tense. Even the magic (yes, magic) that has been part of The Hundreds since the beginning of time has vanished. The worst part is, everything was Quinn's fault. No one comes out and directly says this, but Quinn knows it's true. 

no spoilers, though. 

Quinn's friends and the new boy at school (and possible love interest) are doing their best to be supportive, but in the end Quinn must forgive herself before she can move on with her life. Yep, this is one of those books...but it's very well-done! 

To be honest, I was hoping for a light, fun read. Especially following the intensity and heartbreak of The Museum of Us. Wild Blue Wonder was not what I was hoping for. And I wasn't prepared for the feels I got while reading it. But despite everything, I loved it and would recommend it to anyone. 


Monday, July 23, 2018

The Museum of Us, by Tara Wilson Redd

Sadie's life couldn't be better: She has a wonderful best friend, an incredible boyfriend, trusting, classic-rock-loving parents who give her quite a bit of freedom. 

And there's George, who has been her sidekick and partner in crime for as long as she can remember. Together, they've explored fantastical worlds, traveled to far-away locations, sampled exotic food and drink, and had just about any sort of adventure one could dream of. Sadie can talk to George about anything. And he understands her better than anyone.

The's only one problem: George is only a figment of Sadie's very active imagination. And it is this imagination that gets her into trouble. 

When Sadie spaces out while driving and totals her car, she doesn't even know what happened...until she wakes up in the hospital. And not just any hospital, but the psych ward. Apparently she was crying out for George when the paramedics arrived. And, of course, her family and friends don't know any George.

Sadie's doctor, concerned that George has hurt Sadie and caused the accident (or, worse, is out there and injured himself), is urging Sadie to tell the truth. But Sadie can't. Because if she does, George and the beautiful, magical world they've built together will vanish. And Sadie doesn't know what she'd do if she lost all that. If she lost George.

Tara Wilson Redd's gorgeous novel The Museum of Us is probably my favorite book I've read all summer (so far). Or one of them.

The novel alternates between the past and present, slowly revealing to the reader how Sadie created George (and their world) and how she came to be in the car on the day of her life-changing accident. Mixed in are flashes of the adventures she and George have taken together, so we get to see Sadie's imaginary world too (which, I agree, is quite a bit more exciting and beautiful than reality). This really gives the reader a chance to know Sadie's character intimately. 

Redd treats Sadie's issues delicately, but doesn't sugar coat anything. And in the end, she does accept herself and she does seek help for becoming more grounded (although I hope she doesn't lose her imagination entirely).

Perhaps the only flaw in this gorgeous story is the way the minor characters were handled. Henry and Lucie, Sadie's boyfriend and best friend, were too perfect: Attractive, talented, understanding, smart... They had no flaws. And, in many ways, that made them seem even more fastastical than George. And then there was Eleanor, who, at first, seemed important, but was "killed off" (not literally) in a way that made it seem the author changed her mind about having the character in the story but couldn't be bothered to go back and edit her out.

Aside from that, the story was perfect. I didn't even mind that the ending wrapped up a little too neatly, much like an old-school TV show where all the world's problems are solved in a 30-minute span (roll credits, studio audience applauds).

I absolutely recommend this one! --AJB

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Guitar Hero Night

Guitar Hero Night

Tuesday July 24 @ 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Channel your inner Rock Star and play Guitar Hero on the big screen! No musical experience required, but be ready to have fun, play some mini games, and cheer on fellow guitarists as they rock their way to stardom. 

Oh yeah...and there will be snacks!

Friday, July 20, 2018

The History of Jane Doe, by Michael Belanger

Author Michael Belanger's debut novel The History of Jane Doe is a decent read-alike recommendation for anyone who loves the writings of John Green and wants something pretty much exactly like a Green novel (and I do mean exactly).

Raymond is your typical nerd whose sole passion in life is collecting obscure historical facts. Particularly those having to do with his town of Burgerville, which is famous for being home to mythical green cows. His life has thus far been boring until the New Girl shows up. Jane is mysterious, alluring, and has a tragic air about her Ray can't quite put his finger on. Her arrival seems like a miracle...especially when she picks Ray over the more popular choices to be her best friend and, eventually, her boyfriend. 

Jane becomes Ray's new reason for getting out of bed in the morning and the two have random and quirky adventures together. But Jane is hiding some Big Tragedy from her past. Something she won't talk about. And that secret is slowly wearing her down.

Of course it's only a matter of time before the truth is revealed and things spiral downward. 

I won't spoil anything, but I bet you can guess what's going to happen. Especially if you've read John Green's Looking For Alaska, which I was reminded of several times over the course of reading Jane Doe. In fact, this book was so similar it felt like a reboot of Alaska.

Unfortunately, Jane Doe wasn't nearly as good as Alaska. The plot was highly predictable and I easily guessed all of its secrets well before they were naturally revealed to me (and I promise I didn't peek ahead). Characters were more stereotypes than fleshed-out people. There was the Emo Male Protagonist, the Quirky Best Friend, and, of course, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl With LOTS of Baggage who became the Emo Male Protagonist's reason for living. This made it difficult for me to connect with, or have any sympathy for, any of them--even after the Big Tragedy was revealed. 

Overall, The History of Jane Doe wasn't terrible. It just wasn't anything new or exciting. It's been done before and done better at that.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Leah on the Offbeat, by Becky Albertalli

After devouring Becky Albertalli's novel Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and its film adaption, Love Simon, and loving, no, adoring, them both, I just wasn't ready to leave that world or those characters behind. And thanks to the author's spinoff Leah on the Offbeat, I didn't have to.

Seriously, you guys...I was so happy this book happened!

Leah on the Offbeat focuses on Simon's sarcastic artist/drummer-girl friend, Leah. The novel is set about a year after the events of Simon. And unfortunately, not all well among the friends: Abby has split with Nick, unwilling to attempt the long distance relationship thing when they go off to college in a few more months. And Nick is not taking the break well. Meanwhile, Simon, while still rock solid with Bram, is facing his own doubts about taking that next big step toward adulthood. And Leah, in the middle of all the friend drama whether she wants to be or not (try NOT), has her own struggles to contend with. Particularly when she unexpectedly falls for a certain classmate at the worst possible time.

Could life get more awkward?

The answer is, yes. Yes, it can. 

And it does. 

Everything comes to a head on Prom Night, but things actually turn out all right  for Leah and friends (I know, how very John Hughes of you, Becky Albertalli, but I loved it just the same). Another feel-good ending.

While I didn't get the same feels about Leah on the Offbeat as I did about Simon, I still enjoyed the book very much. I really liked Leah's character. While she comes across as tough and blunt (almost rude at times), she's someone who cares deeply about her friends and her family. At the same time, she's trying to find the courage to be true to herself. Leah is not always likable, but she's a very "real" character. Someone pretty much anyone can relate to.

I'm hoping Becky Albertalli writes more books centering on these characters. Or maybe make it so Leah on the Offbeat gets a film adaption. All I know is I'm looking forward to more good things from this author in the future. The hardest part will be waiting for that to happen.


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Love, Simon (DVD)

Know this

I simply adored Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, so when I learned that Becky Albertalli's iconic novel was being adapted into a movie, I was excited. And maybe a little apprehensive. After all, how many fabulously amazing books have been spoiled somewhat by absolutely horrid film adaptions as of late? Too many, in my opinion! Did I really want to witness this happening to yet another beloved book? (Not so much)

(I'm not being pessimistic, blog reader. I'm being realistic)

Somehow I missed Love, Simon when it was in the theater. Life. You know. It gets in the way sometimes - lol.

So when the Love, Simon DVD finally, at long last, crossed my desk, curiosity won out over concern. Besides, I'd heard nothing but good things about this movie. So I watched it. And I was not disappointed. 

In fact... If anything, I loved the film as much as (if not more than) the book. First of all, the casting was stellar! The characters were pretty much exactly as I pictured them while reading the book. And the director & writers obviously had the utmost respect for the source material, because the film stuck pretty close to the book. Some liberties were taken, of course (liberties are always taken, no matter what), but those didn't interfere with the film in any way and, in fact, only enhanced my overall viewing experience. Much like the liberties that were taken with The Princess Bride and the Lord of the Rings movies. 

So the verdict: Out of 5 stars, I give Love, Simon a solid 10!

For those who have not yet read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda or seen the movie adaption: What's wrong with you? Only kidding :)

The story centers around Simon Spier, a likable high school student who has pretty much everything going for him. He's got an awesome family, an amazing group of friends, and is mostly pretty happy. Simon lives a fairly charmed life. Except for the fact that he's been keeping a huge secret (he's gay) from everyone.

And Simon is content to keep this bit of personal info under wraps indefinitely. Especially when he starts emailing another closeted boy from his school (alias, Blue) and, for the first time, finds the safety of common ground. Inevitablly, Simon begins falling for his secret pen pal. 

But Simon's secret may be out sooner than he thinks (or wants) when fellow student, Martin, happens to take a screenshot of Simon's emails and uses them to blackmail Simon to get a date with Abby (who, by the way, wants nothing to do with Martin). This means not only will Simon be outed, but Blue as well (whoever he is). Simon can't let that happen, so he agrees to Martin's demands.

Things obviously spiral out of control from that point.

I won't spoil the book (or the movie). But know that this is one of the most enjoyable stories out there. The characters are well-developed and likable. Even the hapless and annoying Martin. The romance is sweet. And the ending has enough happy feels to brighten even the worst day.

I adored it! (both)


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Big Water, by Andrea Curtis

The year is 1882 and Christine is aboard the Asia steamship, making its passage through the Great Lakes to Sault Ste. Marie. She is trying to restart her life on her own after the heartbreak of losing her twin brother puts a large strain on her relationship with her parents, who cannot bare to look at her. Chris does not know how to live her life without the person that has been there through it all with her. She does not have a plan about what she will do when she gets to the Soo, but the need to run away from it all is strong enough. She isn’t traveling alone- her older cousin, Peter, happens to be the heroic first mate who acts as a mentor to Christine. After a huge storm hits, the Asia steamship and everyone on it is in trouble.

This new teen book of historical fiction takes in a heavy breathe of survival story grit. That being said, this tale is not for the faint of heart. The sinking ship alone is heavy, but Christine’s heartbreak of the death of her twin brother, becomes incredibly intense after being surrounded by the death of the passengers of the Asia. Christine also experiences some intense survivors guilt since she is one of the two people who survive the tragedy.

Big Water is a fictional tale based off of the real story of the only two survivors of the sinking of the SS Asia in 1882 in the Great Lakes.

If you are looking for a nail biting survival tale of suspense, this is it! - MC