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