Friday, May 17, 2019

The Big-A$$ Book of Bling, by Mark Montano

I love looking through craft books! Especially ones that show you unique and quirky ways to re-purpose old stuff. Mark Montano's Big-Ass Book of Crafts has been a favorite for years, and I always enjoyed going through it while looking for potential program ideas. When it was on the shelf, that is. And more often than not, it was checked out. Would I actually make and use anything in that book? Honestly...no. But it sure is fun to see what this master Recycler would do with this or that.

So when I found out there was a follow up to Book of Crafts, I had to recommend it. I was sure Big-Ass Book of Bling would be just as popular as its companion. And I don't think I'll be wrong. I had the chance to page through it this morning, and absolutely everything in it is fabulous! Fabulously atrocious, that is. In the best possible way! This stuff is tacky, obnoxious, and Bling-y enough to make Lady Gaga positively chartreuse with bling envy. This book will be the perfect inspiration for an Ugly Craft Night program we're planning sometime in the definite future. (So stay tuned!)

--AJB

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

William Shakespeare's Get Thee Back to the Future, by Ian Doescher

I fully enjoyed Ian Doescher's Shakespearean spins on the Star Wars saga. Even the ones inspired by later movies (Because any Star Wars Superfan will tell you that the only true films from this series are Episodes 4-6. There are things--and characters--in episodes 1-3 of which we shall not speak. And the later episodes, while fun and action-packed, strike me as more Fan Fiction than Cannon). So imagine my excitement when I learned this very same author had published a tome of similar format based on one of my absolutely favorite 80s movies, Back to the Future!

William Shakespeare's Get Thee Back to the Future is everything I could have hoped for. As with the Star Wars books, this tells the classic story of Marty McFly's journey (via time-traveling DeLorean) to the the year 1955 to save his friend and reunite his parents, thus ensuring he and his siblings will be born. All  the iconic scenes are there and written in traditional Shakespearean style, complete with iambic pentameter and minimalistic stage directions. The Bard would be proud! This one did not disappoint!

Also, if you're a fan of the film like I am, you'll notice little Easter Eggs and references hidden throughout the book. But I won't tell.You'll have to discover them for yourself.

The verdict is this book was highly enjoyable and I can absolutely recommend it. Especially if you're a fan of classic 80s films.

--AJB

Friday, April 19, 2019

Throwback Thursday: Pretty In Pink (dvd)

From time to time, I like to watch or rewatch old movies with the question of "Would this hold up today?" in mind. Having recently read and enjoyed Pretty In Punxsutawney, a modern-day mashup of Groundhog Day and Pretty in Pink, I decided yesterday to watch Pretty in PinkI've actually never seen this movie.  Shocking, I know, but it was came out in that odd space that was a few years before I was old enough to watch it and, when I finally was old enough, I just never got around to it. But since I had fun reading the book that drew inspiration from the film, I caved into curiosity. 

The result was...fairly lackluster, at best.

The plot of the movie is pretty simple (or is it simple-minded?): Poor Girl Andie is in love with Rich Boy Blaine. He kind of likes her too...but so does her geektastic and, quite honestly, obnoxious best friend, Duckie. Andie and Blaine go on a few dates, upsetting everyone at their cliquey school. Duckie also tries to throw a wrench or two into their relationship (what sort of bff does this? I ask you?). There is drama. Much drama. And so much angst. The film cumulates, rather predictably, at Prom where the two high school lovebirds share a kiss. And apparently everything is peachy after that.

TBH, I can't believe this movie is considered to be the classic it is. I found it to be so awful I could barely get through it! There was absolutely no chemistry between the characters, romantic or otherwise, and the acting was severly amateur (however, I do have to say that Molly Ringwold can pull off deadpan almost as well as Aubry Plaza). Side characters were one-dimensional and all attempts to make main characters seem quirky and well-rounded only came off as off-putting. If one were in the mood, one could also find a lot be offended by too, from Duckie's sexual harassment of random female students and pretty much stalking Andie to characters openly smoking in school (I know, it was the 80s, but still) to the all-white cast. Cringe and cringe and cringe again. I could go on, but I'll keep it short. All I know is if this film were released today as-is, it would draw an unprecedented firestorm of critique.  

But taken for what it is and considering it comes from a time period when the world was a far different place... It's still a terrible film. Not something I would recommend. 

--AJB

Monday, April 15, 2019

Meg, Jo, Beth & Amy, by Rey Terciero

Growing up, I was never an avid reader of the so-called "classics," only picking them  up (grudgingly) when I was assigned to do so by a well-meaning English teacher. I'm still not a classics fan. So it goes without saying I never read Little Women. I knew the story, though, because my cousin had an uber-condensed, kid-friendly audio version that we once listened to in the car on the way to the water park: There's these four sisters who live with their mom and one of them dies at the end (or doesn't, I suppose, if you're reading the alternate ending). In the middle, there's a bunch of girl drama and a boring romance. 

So...yeah.

But while not being a fan of Classics, I DO love me a good reboot of such stories, be it in book or movie form (for example, the movie Clueless is a retelling of Emma). In fact, I could even make a case that one of my favorite books of all time is a modern remix of Don Quixote. So I wasn't so adverse when I picked up Meg, Jo, Beth & Amy, by Rey Terciero, a modern-day graphic novel re-imagining of Little Women

Here, the author took several liberties to make the story more accessible to the intended teen audience. Firstly, the characters are in their teens and tweens, rather than already (or mostly) grown. And they had contemporary struggles, such as wanting to fit in by having things like the latest iPhone and struggling with questions about their sexuality. Also, because the story is set today, modern medicine is able to save Beth. Finally, the sisters are very diverse. There's still plenty of drama, though. Maybe even more so than the original.

While I didn't absolutely LOVE the book, I did enjoy it. And I think the intended audience will enjoy it too. I'd give it to fans of Smile and Sisters and Positively Izzy. --AJB

Friday, March 29, 2019

Fireworks (DVD)

When translating a film with an already confusing plot from one language to another, the result isn't always satisfactory. And sometimes it can be a disaster. Thus was the case with Fireworks, by Studio Shaft (Your Name).

The film centers on shy Norimichi, who has a crush on the same girl as his more energetic and popular best friend. Nauzna, the girl in question, has just found out her mother is to remarry and she will have to move away from all she knows. Unhappy with the situation, Nazuna plans to run away from home, but things go awry. Norimichi uses a strange glowing sphere found in the ocean to help rewind time so his crush can escape (and just maybe they can be together). But each time he rewinds time, something goes wrong. Can the teens set the world right? 

The concept of Fireworks sounded really interesting. I'm always game for sci-fi movies. Especially if they involve time travel or alternate universes/outcomes. But this one did not work for me. At ALL. The plot didn't really seem to go anywhere, and the poor execution of the time travel aspect only made things confusing (this could have much to do with language translation, however). And the characters were as cliche as can be and seemed ripped straight from the pages of a John Green novel, but with far less depth: Shy male protag, manic-pixie-dream-girl love interest, funny/goofy best friend. Side characters were no more than placeholders. 

As excited as I was watch Fireworks, I was disappointed in the reality of it. And, admittedly, turned the film off about 2/3 the way through. Perhaps things came together in the end and everything made sense, but at that point I didn't care anymore. For a better Anime film, try When Marnie Was There or The Tale of Princess Kaguya. --AJB

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Dam Keeper, by Robert Kondo & Dice Tsutsumi

Sunrise Valley is an oasis within a post-apocalyptic world. Outside its walls awaits death and decay, brought on by a toxic black fog that attacks the walls every few days. The only thing that keeps the fog (and certain death) at bay is the windmill stop the wall. 

Young Pig is the Dam Keeper. Like his late father before him, Pig's task is to maintain the windmill and its daily operation, ensuring the safety of each and every resident of Sunrise Valley. It's a lonely and thankless job. In fact, Pig's father couldn't take it and walked into the fog. And it is a daily battle for Pig to not have the same fate.

One day after a particularly violent fog storm (which destroys the windmill), Pig, his best friend Fox, and his nemesis Hippo become trapped miles outside the wall. It is a race against the clock as they must now get back home and fix the dam before the fog returns. But the world outside the wall may not be what they thought... What will Pig, Fox, and Hippo do when they learn the truth? 

The first volume in Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi's The Dam Keeper trilogy is incredible! Although there is very little dialogue, much is conveyed through the story's beautiful artwork. I loved everything about this series: The highly original story, the characters, the humor, and, of course, the art. I've already read Book 2 and am anxiously awaiting the third and final installment, which comes out in July 2019.

--AJB

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Opposite of Always, by Justin A. Reynolds

What if you didn't like how a story ended? What if you got a second chance to try and make it right? I'm not talking about the sort of second chances where you mess up, sincerely apologize, and get put on probationary forgiveness until you prove you won't mess up in the same way again. I'm talking about a real do-over that can only happen with...

Wait for it...

Time Travel! 

This is what happens to Jack when he meets Kate, falls in love, and then Kate dies from a rare genetic blood disorder. Not just once, but many times. So many times Jack loses count. At first Jack thinks he's getting sent back in time to save Kate's life, but what if that's not it at all? And what if, by preventing Kate's death, something bad happens to someone else he knows? What if his actions only make things worse for everyone (like, apocalypse-level worse)? Jack better figure out exactly why he's stuck in this time loop, and he better do it soon. Otherwise, he may be there forever. And that would be a bad thing.

Justin A. Reynolds' debut novel Opposite of Always is kind of Groundhog Day mashed up with Butterfly Effect. And don't let the happy yellow cover with the cute happy couple fool you. This is NOT a light, fluffy love story. And the ending isn't exactly a happy one, although it is realistic...as much so as a story about time loops can be. 

When I first heard about Opposite of Always, I was intrigued. The concept of time loops is a pretty well-explored trope, and didn't think there would be anything new (there wasn't), but I still wanted to read it because I enjoy me a good time travel story. And it was...pretty good. A bit long for what it is (like, the story could have been condensed by 150 pages). And the characters were pretty much cliche John Green (sensitive boy with Issues meets Manic Pixie Dream Girl with Tragic Secret). Still, I liked it. And I think the target audience will too.

--AJB

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Alice From Dream to Dream, by Giulio Macaione

Author and artist Giulio Macaione's graphic novel Alice From Dream to Dream has been on my radar for some time now. I've never read anything by this author before, but the concept sounded interesting: A teen girl who has the ability to enter other's dreams.

I was expecting something along the lines of Inception or maybe even The Cell, but unlike most people with this unique ability probably would, Alice doesn't abuse her power. No nocturnal influencing the choices and actions of her family and peers... No getting nighttime revenge on her jerkface brother or the resident Mean Girl... No trying to make her cute best friend see her as more more than a friend by being a literal dream girl... If anything, Alice seems more a victim of her ability than anything else. Especially when she is forced to share dreams with her horror movie-obsessed brother. 

Daily life isn't much better. Between family troubles at home and being bullied at school, Alice's only relief from the drama is her secret place in the local graveyard. But then there are those dreams of a girl trapped in the graveyard pond... So, really, there's no escape at all. 

But just when life seems as bad as they can be, things get worse: Alice's best friend, Jamie, is in a terrible accident. And Alice, with her dreamwalking abilities, may be the only one who can save them both. But first they must solve a long-buried mystery. And they can only do that in the dream world.

Alice From Dream to Dream was pretty much the most unique graphic novel I've read so far in 2019. The concept is so unique, the artwork is beautiful, and the story (and its characters) are so well done. I couldn't put this book down until I learned all its secrets. Although this appears to be a stand-alone, I wouldn't say no to a sequel. These are characters I'd like to revisit.

--AJB


Saturday, February 2, 2019

Pretty in Punxsutawney, by Laurie Boyle Crompton

Confession Time: I've never seen "Pretty in Pink," half the inspiration for Laurie Boyle Crompton's new book, Pretty in Punxsutawney (the other half being Groundhog Day, which I did see...a long time ago & remember liking). 

Only a few years too young to appreciate 'The Brat Pack' at their height of popularity, I was busy enjoying films like The Goonies and Neverending Story and even The Last Starfighter. All great films, by the way. But Pretty in Pink? Never saw it. And based on the spoiler-heavy plot of Pretty in Puncsutawney, I suspect I'd have some serious Thoughts about the film's ending. As in Epilogue of Harry Potter Seven-Level Thoughts. Because the book's entire premise is pretty much based on how, I suspect, the author feels the film should have ended. And I would have to agree. I'd be Team Duckie too.

But I DID enjoy Pretty in Punxsutawney. Even though I knew how it would end almost from the first chapter. The story was adorable. Predictable, full of cliches, and as fluffy as a Really Bad 80s Prom Dress, but adorable. Like a cheezy movie (at least one with a great ending), I couldn't help but love it.

Andie has spent the entire summer stalking Colton like a crazed fangirl, all the while oblivious to Tom's obvious feelings for her. I mean seriously... How adorkable was their 'meet cute'! The Whopper incident! They friendly way they always butted heads! And pretty much everything about the two of them! Any cinema expert will tell these two characters (Andie and Tom) are totally M.F.E.  

Except Andie is blinded by her crush. 

On the first day of school, Andie has the perfect plan to make Colton her official boyfriend. But nothing goes as she hoped. In fact, her first day is the worst kind of trainwreck imaginable. Not only does she NOT get the guy, but manages to make an mortal enemy of the resident Mean Girl and get on the bad side of pretty much every clique in school. At the end of the Worst Day Ever, Andie wishes for a second chance... And she gets it! She becomes stuck in a Groundhog Day-like loop, forced to repeat the first day of school again and again. Hundreds of times. Until she gets it 'right'. Andie is convinced that finding True Love's Kiss will break the curse, so she sets out to kiss Colton. But maybe this kiss is not what it takes for Andie to find her Happily Ever After. Maybe it's something a little harder to come by.

What I liked most about Pretty in Punxsutawney was how Andie was forced to break out of her comfort zone and get past the her preconceived (and totally false) stereotypes about people, most of which were gathered from watching too many bad 80s movies. Even more, the moral of the story was about being true to yourself and NOT squeezing yourself into an unfamiliar mold in order to reach your goal. So LOTS of good character growth here. 

Overall: Although the story was predictable, although the plot wasn't particularly deep, although there were still far too many cliches, there was a good general message to be found: The way to make your dreams come true is to be true to yourself (However, one shouldn't make Getting the Guy/Girl the Ultimate Life Goal as Andie's story implies. So I will have to deduct a couple points for that). 

Still... a cute read. And a good way to kill some time during the Polar Vortex when you're stuck inside anyway. --AJB

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Illegal by Eoin Colfer

Illegal gives a perspective that many have trouble to comprehend done through very moving storytelling and expressive artwork. What could make someone board a crowded, small, inflatable boat, and cross a sea? Ebo's parents are both dead. Ebo's sister left months ago and is unsure of her fate. Now his brother is missing. He knows he needs to chase after his brother and either try to stop him from making the dangerous journey to Europe to find his sister OR go along with him.

The journey across the desert, through towns owned by violent gangs, hiding from soldiers who will jail them, and forced to trust conmen who will sacrifice their survival for money, is not for the faint of heart. Ebo keeps is spirits up (and makes a little money or food sometimes) by singing.

I have been wanting to read this book for awhile, but I kept putting it off because of its heavy topic and I am glad I finally picked it up. This is a story that deserves to be read and I would recommend it to any Oxford teen who has ever wondered how their life might be different if they were born somewhere else.

Look for Illegal in the Graphic Novel section!
Shelf Location: Teen Graphic Novel - GRAPHIC COLFER

-MC

Monday, January 21, 2019

Movie Monday: House With A Clock In Its Walls

My husband and I are huge fans of the actor Jack Black, seeking out and devouring every one of his films we can find, from his voice-over work (Kung Fu Panda, Shark Tale) to live action blockbusters (Jumanji, Goosebumps). We even enjoyed his more unusual offerings (Pick of Destiny). So we were especially excited to see what the recent movie adaption of John Billairs' classic YA book, House With A Clock In Its Walls, was all about.

In this fantastic fantasy film appropriate for most ages, Black plays Uncle Jonathan, the eccentric caretaker of the titular mansion. The film opens with tween-age orphan Lewis coming to stay with his Uncle and his uncle's friend, Florence. Turns out Jonathan and Florence are witches, and they begin to teach Lewis their craft under one condition: He is never ever to open a certain locked cabinet and/or touch the book hidden away within. He isn't even allowed to ask about it. But dream visits from his deceased mother, as well as taunts from the school bully, lead him to do the one thing he is not supposed to do. Lewis ends up using the book to raise Isaac Izard, a terrible dark wizard, from the dead. Turns out the house used to belong to Izard, and he has hidden within its walls a magical doomsday clock that will reset the entire planet back to pre-human time. And the clock is slowly ticking down...set to go off the night of the Great Lunar Eclipse which, as bad luck will have it, is just days away. Turns out only Lewis has the power to stop the apocalypse from happening. But is he brave enough?

Having not read Billairs' book, I had no basis for comparison and don't know how closely the film stuck to the source material. But it was a thoroughly enjoyable watch. Acting was ace and special effects were spectacular (albeit a little creepy in parts). To add to the suspenseful atmosphere of the film, there was an actual lunar eclipse happening as we watched. This was pure coincidence, but it made things that much cooler. I'd recommend this movie to fans of Goosebumps and Harry Potter films. Definitely fun!

--AJB


Saturday, January 19, 2019

Moonstruck by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle

in Blitheton, it's not unusual to encounter a vampire or a shapeshifter or even a unicorn. In fact, in Blitheton, Magical Creatures are as commonplace as you or me. 

In the first volume of Moonstruck, by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle, Werewolves Julie and Selena and their centaur friend Chet are working at their neighborhood cafe and enjoying day to day life (despite sometimes getting pulled, against their will, into friend drama). Then they are all invited to a mysterious magic show where an enigmatic illusionist performs a trick that transforms Chet into a human! Needless to say, they are devastated! Julie and Selena explore first love, help their friend cope with the loss of their horsey hindquarters, and try to track down the mischievous magician so they can demand the return of Chet's proper butt. The three friends must team up with some unlikely acquaintances, not to mention explore their own identities, if they ever hope to solve this mystery. 

Moonstruck is a cute story about friendship, first love, and accepting yourself for who you are, all of which is great. And it could have been wonderful! Unfortunately, the plot gets somewhat muddled and difficult to follow. The secondary storyline about Mark and Lindi's band drama seems out of place and confuses the plot rather than enhances it. Ditto for the "Ask A Know It All" panels and bits from the book Julie is reading, both of which are interspersed with the main comic. More importantly, I didn't really pick up on why the Magician had such a vendetta against Chet...or any of the friends, for that matter. Either it was never explained or I, the reader, just didn't pick up on it. Neither of which bodes well for the writing. Perhaps everything will be explained in the next volume, but I didn't get enough of a feel for the story to continue (Unfortunate, because the art and the concept are both so cute that I really wanted to love this book).

Not really recommended. There are better options out there! --AJB

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Throwback Thursday: How to Train Your Dragon (1 & 2)

While visiting my parents over the holidays, my dad was raving about the How To Train Your Dragon movies. The TV was on in the background and an trailer for the newest HTTYD film, out this month, came on...which is how the subject came up in the first place. Rarely does my dad rave about movies, so when he does I pay attention.

I had never seen How To Train Your Dragon. Although I'm a fan of Dreamworks Annimation (Shrek, Kung Fu Panda), even preferring this studio's films to those of Disney and Pixar, I'd somehow missed the Dragon series. When the first one came out, I guess it seemed a little silly and childish, even by animated movie standards. And when the sequel was released, I didn't pay attention. 

"Oh they're so good!" my dad exclaimed. "You'd like them!"

And then the rest of the holidays happened and New Years happened and getting back to work and back to normal routine happened. And I didn't think of this conversation until weeks later when I was rooting around in our DVD shelves, hunting up items to put on display. I came across How To Train Your Dragon and recalled my dad's words. Curious, I checked it out.

And dad was right. I did like the movies. Loved them, actually.

How To Train Your Dragon (1 and 2) is about the adventures of a viking teen named Hiccup and his dragon, Toothless. The first film focuses on how the two become friends, despite the overall (and irrational) fear of dragons much of Hiccup's clan has. The second film tells the tale of how the pair, along with their Dragon Rider friends, save their village and their dragons from a ruthless madman trying to take over the world. In both films, the themes of friendship and family and good winning over evil are strong. And Toothless has got to be pretty much the cutest dragon ever! 

I'm so happy I finally discovered How To Train Your Dragon. And I'm very much looking forward to the third film, due in theaters later this month.

--AJB


p.s. I'm SO adding Night Fury to the list of Magical Pets I Would Like to Have.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Little Mermaid (dvd)

I've always been a fan of mermaids. More so even than unicorns. Which is saying quite a lot. So naturally I had to check out the new Little Mermaid movie when it hit the New DVD shelves. 

This film takes the classic, well-known tale and transports it to the Big Top. Here, a mysterious Ring Master claims to possess Mermaid Water, a cure-all for whatever illness or infliction ails. Skeptical journalist Cam Harrison must travel to this small-town Mississippi circus to get the scoop. Traveling with Cam is his young niece, Elle, who suffers from an asthma-like disorder and who, as fate would have it, is obsessed with mermaids. Cam expects the story to be an easy one: Debunk a hoax and come home. But not all is as it seems. As it turns out, the mermaid, Elizabeth, is the real deal. And she is being held captive against her will. Now it is up to Cam, Elle, and their new circus performer friends to defeat the evil Ring Master and set Elizabeth free. 

Despite less than stellar box office reviews, I really liked The Little Mermaid. Loved it, actually. It was every bit the fantasy adventure film I hoped it would be. And although (very) loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson story, the plot felt completely original and fresh. Sets and costumes were gorgeous too. And the whole thing felt absolutely magical! It was the perfect film to watch on a chilly winter afternoon.

--AJB

Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power, by Mariko Tamaki

I've been a fan of the Lumberjanes comic series since the first volume, Beware The Kitten Holy (Read it! I can't promise kittens, which DO figure in quite significantly later in the series, but it's still amazing! To the max!!). So when I learned of the existence of actual books featuring my favorite 'Hardcore Lady Types,' I had to see for myself what they were all about. And I was not disappointed. Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power, written by Mariko Tamaki, is every bit as awesome as its graphic counterparts. This story finds the five friends (Jo, Mal, Molly, April, and Ripley) deep within yet another magical adventure. 

It all starts when April, seeking her next badge (and a new challenge), leads the scouts up a mysterious mountain that's not on any map. It's also the tallest mountain any of them have ever seen. Oh...and there are a bunch of ominous signs all over the place, warning would-be explorers it might be best to Stay Away! But when did a sign ever dissuade a Lumberjane? Before long, the girls have trespassed on sacred ground: The home of the mysterious and magical Cloud People. And living among them is someone who is both strange and familiar. And this someone is NOT pleased to have their peaceful life disrupted by five ambitious adventurers...especially when one of them really likes to hug. In order to get off the mountain and back to camp, the 'Janes will have to use all of their survival skills, supernatural and otherwise. 

Also, there are unicorns! Which, if you haven't figured out, make everything more awesome!

Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power was a really fun read. Tamaki did an excellent job with keeping these beloved characters...in character. This story is everything I have come to know and love about The Lumberjanes. I didn't even miss the graphic novel format. I look forward to the next installment, The Moon Is Up (which I hope will clear up the cliffhanger at the end of Unicorn Power).

AJB