Thursday, August 16, 2018

Breaking Cat News, by Georgia Dunn

As a general rule, I typically try to avoid the news whenever possible, finding it too filled with Drama Queens, Dooms-Dayers, and mean, unpleasant people whining about other mean, unpleasant people. All of that is about as appealing to me as being forced to down a plate of overcooked, week-old broccoli (and I hate broccoli). Plus, having spent 10 years in the newspaper business, I know that all news reports are biased. Even when reporters try not to, it's impossible for said reporter to not put their own spin on things.

But I gladly made an exception for Breaking Cat News: Cats Reporting on the News that Matters to Cats, by Georgia Dunn

A coworker first introduced me to Breaking Cat News (the webcomic) about a year ago, and I was instantly hooked! Lupin, Elvis, and Puck are three adorable house cats who do daily news reports on what's really important: The Red Dot, The Buzzy Mouse, Bacon, the mysterious and curious actions of the humans with whom they live, and more. The "news" reports delivered by these felines are insightful and hilarious (and sometimes heartwarming), and I enjoyed reading the News for perhaps the first time in my life. Because cats!

So when I learned that the webcomic had its own book... Well, of course I had to read it! (and recommend we order it for the collection)

Breaking Cat News (the book) covers the early reports, before field reporters Tommy, Tabitha and Sir Figaro Newton were introduced. But it is nonetheless genius and an overall fun read. I have already recommended it--twice! And would do so again in a heartbeat.

--AJB

p.s. Rumor has it there will be a sequel coming out early next year.

The Sleeper and the Spindle, by Neil Gaiman (Audiobook)

A little over a week ago, I purchased a new (used) car. Unlike my former ride, which allowed me to synch my phone and listen to tunes from my iTunes library, this car only has a CD player. But I've found that this is not a bad thing at all. Because since I have rediscovered the magic that is Books on CD, something of which OPL has an abundance. 

Recently I picked up the audio version of Neil Gaiman's short story The Sleeper and the Spindle. Narrated by a full cast, this twist on the Sleeping Beauty tale is absolutely gorgeous! It tells the story of a young queen (listener, I leave it to you to figure out who she is) and her three dwarf companions who travel to a distant kingdom to unravel the mystery of a terrible sleeping sickness that has been sweeping over the land. The four travelers brave many dangers and must fight the sleep themselves. And finally, once inside the castle where the enchantment began, they learn that the myth of the sleeping princess is nothing like they thought. 

I'd read The Sleeper and the Spindle years ago when it was featured in a book of short stories. And I didn't remember much about it other than The Kiss caused much controversy and buzz among the literary community (because, after all, it is a woman, not a prince, who administers the kiss that wakes the princess. Things were not so open-minded then as they are now). So it was like re-discovering the story, the characters, the world-building...everything. The story itself was a magical enchantment, and the audio format only made it more so. What's more, I was able to listen to the story in its entirety within one round trip to work and back.

I absolutely recommend this one! --AJB

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Little Mermaid (DVD)

I've been on an animated movie kick lately. Of course I've always been a fan from the time I was a kid, be it Disney or Dreamworks or Don Bluth or something else. I've even been known to dabble in Anime now and then. Particularly the films of Studio Ghibli (When Marnie Was There is a favorite). I've just always had an appreciation for animation. The medium lends itself especially well to the fantasy genre where live action just couldn't hack it--even with the aid of computer graphics. 

Recently, I was in the mood for something animated. So I visited the New Movie shelf before I left for the day. I knew we'd just gotten in a bunch of such films and I figured I'd grab one or two. I ended up with an Anime version of The Little Mermaid (I recalled we'd had a request for it just the week before, and I suppose that stuck in my mind and made the movie stand out among the others). Plus I like mermaids. Like them as much as I like unicorns, if not more so.

As the story opens, we meet Marina the mermaid, the youngest daughter of the sea king. Marina wants nothing more than to visit the surface as her older sisters do. But she's just not old enough yet. So she does what any self-respecting rebellious teen would do: She convinces her BFF, a dolphin named Fritz, to help her sneak out. While above, Marina and Fritz spot a ship and decide to investigate. And this is where Marina spies the infamous Prince. A sudden storm comes up and the ship goes down. Marina saves her royal crush, but swims away when a group of girls from a nearby school appear on the beach. Convinced she cannot go on unless she and her Prince can live Happily Ever After, Marina visits the sea witch to request she be transformed into a human. (don't know what she sees in the guy. he's as shallow as they come)

And here is where the story begins to diverge from the Disney film.

I won't spoil the rest, but do know this: This version of The Little Mermaid is very faithful to the original Anderson story (I'm always happiest when films stick to the source print material...aren't you?). It's dark and sad and has some truly creepy elements, but in many ways I actually found it preferable to the more well-known and Mouse-Approved counterpart. Character interactions seemed deeper and more meaningful, particularly the dynamic between Marina and her sisters. And the film didn't rely so heavily on humor from side characters. The most notable difference (other than the ending) was in this version the mermaid was on her own once she was on land. She didn't have an entire entourage of undersea friends to help with the whole "kiss the girl" thing. In that, she seemed more capable--even if things didn't exactly work out the way she hoped. Additionally, in this version, the mermaid's character undergoes considerable growth, maturing from a spoiled child used to getting her way into someone who actually thinks about what would be best for those for whom she cares and takes responsibility for her own (stupid and impulsive) choices.

All around, an enjoyable cinematic experience. Although I DO think I'm in the mood for something a little happier just now.--AJB

Monday, August 6, 2018

Giant Days: Extra Credit, v. 1, by John Allison

A couple years back, a coworker passed me the first volume of a new graphic novel, claiming I'd probably enjoy it. The book was John Allison's Giant Days and it was all about three college freshmen, each who is somewhat of a misfit, who'd become best friends. I read it and was hooked. Daisy, Esther, and Susan have become something like friends to me (don't you love it when that happens with books?), and I'm always thrilled when the next volume comes out so I can catch up with them and see what they've been up to.

So I was especially ecstatic when that same coworker passed me Giant Days: Extra Credit. And I devoured it on one sitting. Here are a series of short vignettes and bonus material, including an alternate history where our three heroines didn't become friends and another detailing the girls' drama-filled holiday adventure in London. Plus other fun stuff. The only drawback is I now have Extreme's "More than Words" stuck on repeat in my brain. 

While not part of the main series, this one was fun to read. And it will get me through until the next main volume comes out next month. Guess I'll have to wait a little bit longer to find out what happens between Susan and McGraw... 

--AJB