Monday, September 16, 2019

Stargazing, by Jen Wang

I love stories about friendships that seem magical from the first! I mean, don't even get me started on Perks of Being a Wallflower. I will gush endlessly! And I will do the same of Jen Wang's amazing and incredible new graphic novel, Stargazing.

(although Stargazing is directed more toward a Middle School audience and Wallflower is decidedly mature)

In Stargazing, we meet Christine, the eldest daughter of very conservative and strict Chinese-American parents. Christine is shy, reserved and very responsible, but a part of her wishes she could break free of that image and be more herself... or, to be exact, the version of herself she wishes to be. If only her parents would allow it. If only she could allow herselfMoon, Christine's new neighbor, is everything Christine is not: Outgoing, free-spirited, imaginative. These two opposites become best friends. They plan to participate in the school's talent show together and Moon even tells Christine her deepest secret: That she has visions of magical beings who will, eventually, some to take her back to her home world somewhere among the stars.  Unfortunately, Moon's "visions" are a symptom of a brain tumor. Now it is up to Christine to be there for Moon. But cam she deal?

Stargazing dealt with so many feels-worthy subjects: Friendship, family drama, jealousy, and, of course Moon's scary health issues. But the author wove all the difficult elements into the story in such a way things never felt preachy or forced. Rather, it was just a beautiful story with wonderful characters and an equally wonderful message.

I recommend you grab Stargazing as soon it hits the shelves! You'll be so glad you did!

--AJB

Friday, September 6, 2019

Pumpkinheads, by Rainbow Rowell (illus: Faith Erin Hicks)

In honor of Pumpkin Spice Season 2019, I give you Pumpkinheads, the latest literary offering from Rainbow Rowell (author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl). This seasonally fun graphic novel (illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks), is an absolute blast to read! And it most certainly did get this Summer-Loving librarian excited for Autumn. And for pumpkin spice...and apple pie...and S'mores...and kettle corn... and... Well, maybe I'm just hungry!

Anyway: It's Halloween, and best friends Deja and Josiah are wrapping up their last season ever at DeKnocks World Famous Pumpkin Patch & Autumn Jamboree. Come next fall, these two besties will have gone their separate ways to separate colleges. So Deja decides they must make the final night count! This means ditching their post and sampling all the tasty snacks DeKnocks has to offer and, most of all, helping Josiah finally talk to Marcy, the cute fudge shop girl he's been crushing on for three seasons but never had the guts to approach. As the night progresses, Deja and Josiah chase Marcy across patch and encounter petting zoo escapees, snack-snatching hooligans, evil exes, and rival employees. Will Josiah track down his crush before the patch closes for the night--and for the season? And, if he does, will the encounter be everything he hoped for?

You'll have to read the book to find out!

Pumpkinheads was such a fun adventure and I loved everything about it. The characters, the plot, the humor...and even the predictable (yet adorable) Rom-Com-worthy ending. This is one of those books that leaves you feeling happy. And I highly, highly recommend it!

--AJB

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Snow, Glass, Apples, by Neil Gaiman (illus: Colleen Doran)

Firstly, a word of caution: Snow, Glass, Apples is not your average Disney fairy tail. 

Neil Gaiman, the Grand Master of Dark (and gorgeous!) Fantasy, puts a vampiric spin on the classic tale of Snow White with this beautiful graphic novel. In this version, we focus on the so-called Evil Queen...who, as we learn, may not be so evil after all.

This well-known Villain (who is not really a villain) narrates this creepy tale, telling how she came to the palace as an innocent girl who naively believed she was to have her own Happily Ever After... Until she met her new stepdaughter and learned that the girl, while impossibly beautiful, is not, in fact, the sweet and innocent princess Disney taught us to know and love. In fact, this Snow White is a bloodthirsty monster who murdered her mother and, when banished to the forest, preyed on the citizens of the kingdom. Using the classic poison apple ploy, the Queen believed she had defeated her stepdaughter. And she did...until a prince with exceptionally creepy ideals came along and foiled her plan. No spoilers, but I will say that things do not end well for the Queen. In this story, there is no Happily Ever After for anyone. Except, perhaps, the real villain. 

To me, the dark and disturbing vibe of Snow Glass Apples was, perhaps, closer to what the Grimm's Brothers were shooting for when they first penned the tale. The illustrations are haunting and beautiful, and artist Colleen Doran did an amazing job bringing the tale to life.

If you prefer your fairy tales with Happy Endings, this is not for you. But if you have a taste for the macabre, you should absolutely pick this one up! It's just as good as How to Talk to Girls At Parties or Sleeper and the Spindle (if not better).

--AJB


Cat Shaming, by Pedro Andrade

Popular blogger Pedro Andrade's Dog Shaming was such a hit, he had to give props to America's other favorite household pet: The Cat.

Cat Shaming (shelf location: T636A) is hilarious as can be, and I found myself literally laughing out loud as I flipped through it. These adorable felines are accused of everything from biting and vomiting to yowling at 3 a.m. to destruction of property. Some are even Cat Burglers in the most literal sense. However, none of them look the least bit ashamed. On the contrary, their reactions range from indifferent to downright proud! In fact, the very term "Cat Shaming" is, to me, an oxymoron. Because any person who is now, or has ever been, will tell you that you can't shame a cat. Because cats are above it...ALL of it.

Still, Cat Shaming is an amusing and fun read. I've been owned by cats for more than 15 years and, I read, I related to quite a bit of the feline antics (For example, when my Luna is especially displeased, she will empty the food dish...and then Revenge Vomit the contents right in the path of the highest foot traffic. And she's not sorry either). I'd recommend this for anyone who has ever been owned by cats or just enjoys cat memes.

--AJB

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Summer Reading Reviews, Part 10

The Star of Kazan
The Star of Kazan is about a girl named Annika who as a baby is found in a church./  She grows as a servant.  One day her "mother" comes and takes her away.  She becomes an aristocrat and a "Von).  Then an old lady who is dead leaves her a trunk full of jewels.  Her mother sells them.  Then Annika is sent to a school.  After that, her friends have to save her.

Circles of Seven
I read Circles of Seven by Christian fantasy author Brian Davis, the third book in the thrilling series Dragons in Our Midst.  I discovered this series first when I found out about this amazing challenge.  This book will have you hurtling off a cliff with the characters Billy and Bomiel.  He is very clear about the subject of book dragons, and danger, and Jesus Christ.  I would recommend this book to anyone who would listen.  I can say that there was never a part I didn't like.

Land of Stories audiobook
The Land of Stories is about two twins escaping a book. I also liked the authors voices.

Girls World, August 2019, magazine review
I really enjoyed reading Girl Woprld 2019 August edition!  the magazine included games, recipes, fun quizzes, and tons of DIY's.  Even though this is a little different from the magazines I usually read, I still loved it!  I highly recommend this issue!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Summer Reading Reviews, Part 9

Cats (CD review)
Most musical CD's I've listened to make sense.  But this one was totally crazy, wacky, and quirky with a good beat and it made me want to dance!  I loved all of the names of the cats and I would totally want to see the actual musical.  I recommend this to anyone who like fin, upbeat music and cats!

Every Soul a Star
Ally, Bree, and Jack couldn't be different and have never met each other in their lives.  But a total solar eclipse brings them together and they discover that they're more alike than they realize.  With Ally's friend Ryan and Bree's sister Melanie, they attempt the almost impossible- finding the exoplanet.  This book was very interesting and in depth.  My favorite scene in this book was the solar eclipse scene because I've never seen a full solar eclipse.  This book gave me so much detail about what it would look like.  I'd recommend this book to, well, anyone because it's got something in it for every one to enjoy.

Mr. Lemoncello
Mr. Lemoncello and the Lemon Heads are back- this time competing in a VR game against Charles Chillington and his team of 8th grade bookworms.  There are twists and surprises around ever corner.  (Get ready for Haley Daley and her Kid Palooza Peeps.)  But nobody would expect any other because- Hello?  It's Lemoncello!  I loved all of these books because they are so unexpected and fin with lots of fun library facts and cool games.  I would recommend this book to anyone who loves fin books, adventure books, and fiction books.

Evermore by Sara Holland
Jules Ember is in hiding. She's trying to stay away from her enemy- the sorceress names Caro.  Jules must find a way to defeat Caro so she cannot break her heart.  On the way she learned that she loves  ****.  (Removed in case of spoilers!)

Star of Kazan
I read the Star of Kazan.  I really liked it.  I liked how she loved to be friendly and was never mean.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Summer Reading Reviews, Part 8

Taste of Home
The July-August 2019 edition of Taste of Home magazine is great for those who like to cook food or bake goodies.  It's great for those of us who just like looking at food and reading about it.  Make sure to take a look at it on Flipster today!

City of Fallen Angels
Clary is training to become a more skilled Shadowhunter.  Her mother is marrying Luke.  Some unknown person is murdering Shadowhunters for an unknown reason, but somehow its all connected.  Jace, Clary, and Simon must stop whoever is doing it before it gets too far.

Leepike Ridge
This is a really good book for adventurous readers.  It's about Tom who lives by Leepike Ridge, and he escapes his house to get some fresh air because Tom's teacher asks his mom to marry him and eventually ends up below Leepike Ridge.

Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes
I really enjoyed the book Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes.   I enjoyed reading a different perspective on the Greek myths.  Percy's retellings are hilarious and enjoyable, making it a refresher from the old myths.  I enjoyed the fresh perspective on the stories and the fascinatingly enjoyable illustrations.  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a creative take on the old classics.

The 100
I read The 100 by Cass Morgan.  Overall, I really liked the book.  I thought the characters had very interesting character development.

Wink Poppy Midnight, by April Genevieve Tucholke

Some stories unfold like a fairy tale: Predictable, and with clear-cut heroes and villains. Other times, it's harder to tell who is whom: The scary-looking Ogre could harbor a heart of gold while the beautiful maiden is as evil as the night is dark. And sometimes there are infinite grey areas. And the reader can't begin to know who they can trust. Even after the final page is turned.

The later is the case with April Genevieve Tucholke's exciting novel Wink Poppy Midnight. Wink is the quirky redhead who is obsessed with obscure fairy tales. Poppy is the Queen Bee and crueler than a whole horde of mean girls put together. Midnight is the shy, quiet boy caught between them. But what, at first, seems a Trope As Old As Twilight quickly morphs into a mystery that changes with every chapter. A mystery that cumulates one fateful night when the paths of the tree teens clash at the haunted house...and something unexpected and awful happens. 

There is romance.

There is intrigue.

There are clues scattered throughout that are so well-hidden the reader won't recognize them for what they are until much, much later.

And finally, at the end, the reader must decide: Who is the REAL villain? Who is the REAL hero? And do these designations even exist?

Wink Poppy Midnight recalled, for me, E. Lockhart's popular novel We Were Liars. The plots and settings of the two books are completely different, but the way the authors handled the mystery-building and the Big Reveal Plot Twist were reminiscent of each other. The endings of both stories had me completely shocked. And then I was flipping back through the pages searching for clues (they were there, but so embedded in the plot and dialogue I didn't see them for what they were).

If you're looking for an incredible mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat, pick up Wink Poppy Midnight. And let us know what you thought.

--AJB

Spellbook of the Lost and Found, by Moria Fowley-Doyle

It all begins on a Dark and Stormy night. 

The lives of three teens (Olive, Laurel, and Hazel) are inexplicably drawn together in the aftermath of the town's annual bonfire when a mysterious handwritten notebook titled The Spellbook of the Lost and Found comes into their possession under just as mysterious circumstances. Each of the girls has lost something recently, some things small and trivial (bracelets, hair clips), others life-changing and important (diaries, reputations), so they decide to perform the ritual written inside the book in hopes of recovering the lost items.

They're not completely serious when they perform the ritual (I mean, really? A spellbook? How old are they? Like, 11?), but they're astonished when they discover that the spell actually worked. The missing items begin to turn up in strange places, along with other things they weren't looking for... Like the discovery of three runaways secretly squatting in the abandoned housing development. Or the enigmatic guitar-playing Jude, who may (or may not) be the origin of the trouble in the first place. Also, all magic comes with a price. And, as time goes on and the repercussions of their actions come to light, the girls aren't sure the cost was worth what they got out of it.

One thing's for certain: The ritual has caused an immeasurable amount of trouble in their town, and the girls figure the only way to undo it is to repeat the ritual. So they do. But will this fix things...or make them worse?

You'll have to read the book to find out (Yep, I just pulled that).

Did you love Spellbook
of the Lost and Found?
Try this one!
Moria Fowley-Doyle's sophomore effort is seeped in a perfect blend of magic and strangeness, an ideal combination as we approach the Halloween Season (which, as we all know, begins October 1), when all things mysterious and magical are appreciated even more so than any other time of year. The shifting viewpoints take some getting used to, but as you get deeper into the story things quickly come together, piece by piece. And the Big Reveal makes it all worth the effort. So stick with this book! Follow the trail of clues! You'll be more than glad you did.

And if you enjoyed Spellbook of the Lost and Found (because of course you did), be sure to check out Fowley-Doyle's other book, The Accidenet Season, which is just as engrossing and just as magical.

--AJB

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Summer Reading Reviews, Part 7

Everless
A girl names Jules lives in a town with her elderly father.  She decides to work at a place called Everless in order to earn money for her father.  Her father warns her not to go but Jules does not know why.  As Jules meets new people she learns she has a sister and who she truly is.

City of Glass
Clary must go to the City of Glass to try to save her mother.  Her friend, Simon, was thrown in prison and her brother left but didn't want her to come with him to the City of Glass for her won safety.  Jace and Clary must defeat the villain before he takes over the world of Shadowhunters.

Planetarium
The Planetarium was a great informational book about space.  It talked about the universe, the Milky Way, black holes, constellations, and lots more.  For example, by reading it I learned that Saturn isn't the only planets in our solar system with rings.

11 Birthdays
11 Birthdays is a groundhog's day like story where the two main characters have to relive the same day over and over again.  11 Birthdays is a really funny book with a good story.  I suggest reading it.  It's sure to make you laugh!

Forks Over Knives (magazine review)
A magazine that had tips on becoming a vegan.  In the magazine there was a recipe for strawberry banana cupcakes, the ingredients surprised me because I never thought of tofu being used in a cupcake.  In the magazine there were lots of advertisements and I learned about Brunchables by Lunchables.  There were so many recipes that looked amazing and delicious, from pepper poppers to almond salads (bad examples).  So many great recipes that helped me think more about going vegan or first vegetarian.  So thanks to this magazine and the amazing ideas I got in August I'm to to try, as one of the writers likes to say, "life with only veggies."

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Summer Reading Reviews, Part 6

Trout Fishing in America (CD review)
I love this CD because it has a lot of fun and creative songs.  Trout Fishing in America is a good CD for parents with kids because they will love all of the songs.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 
I love this book because J.K. Rowling keeps you hooked with every chapter and it's filled with LOTS of cliffhangers.  I would recommend this book because it's really fun to read and lots of people recommended this book to me before and I loved it!

News of the World
News of the World by Paulette Jiles is a great book and I totally recommend it to a friend.  The main character in the book is Captain Kidd, for a living he goes around Texas and reads the paper.  In the story he gets paid to take a Native American girl back to her tribe.  It's a great book, 10 out of 5!

If I'm Being Honest
It I'm Being Honest is all about Cameron Bright and after saying hurtful things at a party, her crush sees who she really is.  Cameron goes and tries to apologize to everyone she hurt and after that all of the people realize she's not a bad person on the inside, she's just honest.

13 Little Blue Envelopes
Ginny Blackstone had an aunt who recently died due to sickness.  She left Ginny 13 little blue envelopes that instructed her to go backpacking through Europe.  She meets many people and learns about her aunt's secret.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Summer Reading Reviews, Part 5

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Gettaway
This Diary of a Wimpy Kid book is about Greg Heffley and his family are going somewhere to escape the stressful holiday season, but things don't go as planned, like heartbreak and collecting "sea shells."

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Rodrick Rules is about Rodrick and Greg Heffley and in this book Rodrick gets lots of revenge on Greg, like taking his old diary and showing it to the world but Greg takes it and little did he know that was a big mistake.

Snake Bites
Snake Bites is a great book if you want to learn about snakes.  In this book I learned that some snakes live underwater and have super poisonous bites!

Better You Than Me
Better You Than Me is all about two girls who get stuck in a prop room and wish for each other's lives.  But when they switch,k they realize being themselves isn't that bad after all.

Honor Girl
A girl named Maggie goes to a camp that she goes to every summer.  She makes a new friend, becomes closer with her other friend, and learns something about herself that changes her perspective forever.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Summer Reading Reviews, Part 4

City of Ashes
Clary is the daughter of a rogue shadowhunter named Valentine.  Clary and her brother go looking for their father in an attempt to stop him from starting a war between shadowhunters.

We Should Hang Out Sometime
Josh realized at 21 that he had never had a girlfriend.  He describes and evaluates all of the situations that went wrong.  In the end, he finds out that it was his insecurities about himself that stopped him.

Sisters Red
Scarlet and Rosie March are hunters.  They hunt wolf-like monsters to protect people.  Scarlet's hunting partner is in love with Silas only to find out that he could become one of the wolf-like monsters.

11 Birthdays
It's Amanda's birthday and she's super excited.  But from the start everything is wrong.  Leo, her best friend, whom she has shared every birthday with since she was one, won't be having their birthday party together.  When Amanda wakes up the next morning, everything seems the same.  In fact, it is!  As Amanda lives through her birthday over and over again, you will be chuckling through the whole story.  What I liked about this book was Wendy Mass's time loop concept which kept me really interested!

Wonder
Wonder is a great book and is all about a normal kid with some little differences and can be no longer home-schooled so he is starting a public school and he is bullied along the way.  But, in the end, he made lots of friends and people realize he is as normal as anyone else.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Summer Reading, Part 3

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson
A boy named Henry has been living with his uncle and aunt because his parents are missing.  When he lives with his aunt and uncle, he discovers cupboards hidden behind the wall.  Henry and his cousin, Henrietta, explore the cupboards and find new places, things, and people.

Because You Love to Hate Me (short story collection)
This book told the stories of multiple villains.  It showed their side of the story.  My favorite was the story about Medusa's backstory.  It was called "Beautiful Venom."  I also love the twist in the fantasy stories.

Projekt 1065
I loved the book and will definitely read it again.  It was intense and you just wanted to keep reading.  I would recommend it for teens but for kids over nine.

BTS Persona (CD review)
I liked the music it had and it made you feel calm.  I still sing to the English parts.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Harry has three children with Ginny.  One of his sons, Albus, is different than Harry.  He makes it into the Slytherin house at Hogwarts.  After Harry and Albus have a fight, Albus takes a time turner and travels in time.  In the end, both son and father understand each other better.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Summer Reading Reviews, Part 2

Linkin Park (CD)
I listened to a Linkin Park CD.  In it you can feel with the lead singer Chester of his pain.

The Amazing Book is Not On Fire: The World of Dan & Phil
This audio book was about two youtubers names Dan and Phil.  It starts with when they were born and talks about their lives.  It was pretty much an autobiography where they told funny events that happened to them.  The best story in my opinion was the one about when they went to Las Vegas.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Steiver
I liked this book because it was a fantasy book.  I also liked how it wasn't very predictable.  It was about a girl named Blue and how she was the daughter of a psychic.  She becomes friends with four boys who are nicknamed the Raven Boys because they all go to a private school.  I would recommend this book to people who enjoy fantasy books with unpredictable plots.

J-14 (magazine review)
This magazine had many pop stars that teens know.  For example, there was a page about a band called Why Don't We where each member answers questions about what they each like.  There is Dane, Zack, Jack, Jonah, and Corbyn.

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer
After the new princess of Luna takes the crown, there are still wolf-hybrid soldiers on earth from the previous Lunar queen.  Iko, a droid, is ordered to destroy them to bring peace but they create a plan to try and take back Luna.  They do this by capturing all of Cinder's allies.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

This Was Our Pact, by Ryan Andrews

I got the opportunity to sample lots of amazing books this summer, but by far my favorite was Ryan Andrews' graphic novel masterpiece This Was Our Pact. This one had it ALL, you guys: Fantastic characters, gorgeous imagery, and the most perfect ending. 


Every year during the Autumn Festival, the residents of Ben's town set hundreds of lanterns adrift on the nearby river. Legend has it that, when the lanterns have traveled far enough downstream, they change into stars and float into the sky. Of course Ben and his friends don't believe the stories, but they're still curious. So they make a plan to hop on their bikes and follow the lanterns to see what happens to them. 

That IS the plan, anyway. But soon enough Ben's friends drop out of the journey, one by one (ok...Taco Night is a pretty good excuse). And soon it's only Ben and Nathaniel, a somewhat nerdy and awkward classmate whom Ben cannot stand. But Ben won't let a tagalong distract from his mission. And Nathaniel is just as determined.

Over the course of the night, the rivals have some unbelievable experiences and encounter some pretty fantastic characters...like Fisherbears and Giant Map-Making Crows and witches who wish to harness the sun. And over the course of the night, the boys become friends in the way only people who have shared amazing experiences can.

And they DO discover what becomes of the lanterns. And it's even more incredible than they could have imagined. But no spoilers.

I loved this story, you guys, Absolutely loved it! And I think you will too. So check it out! And if it's not on the shelf (and chances are it's not, because word of this book's awesomeness has spread), ask a librarian to put it on hold for you. I promise you you'll be glad you read this one!

--AJB

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Summer Reading Reviews, Part 1

You guys did such a good job this summer!  I can't wait to share the reviews we received!  For the rest of the month, I will be rolling out a few reviews at a time.  I hope that you find something you want to read!  -RYQ

Wizard of Oz L. Frank Baum
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy goes to a different place and asks for help from a wizard and she has to kill a witch to get home.

Artie Shaw Greatest Hits Artie Shaw (CD)
The CD "Artie Shaw Greatest Hits" is a great mix of his band's popular song versions.  It is very relaxing music and easy to listen to while drawing or even reading!  If you decide to listen to this CD, I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

Giant Days, vol 10 John Alison
Daisy, Esther, and Susan are in their last year of university and it's getting crazy.  Daisy's broken up with Ingrid, Esther is working things out with Ed, who seems to want nothing to do with her, and Susan is trying to cope with living in the building she hates the most.  It may seem easy but nothing ever is for these three.  My favorite character is Daisy because she's mature but also fun loving and she doesn't care what others thing.  Now a combo of Daisy and Esther?  Sign me up, please!

When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? Billie Eilish (CD)
Billie's album is very dark but her voice is very nice and beautiful.  She may look frightening in pictures, and in her song lyrics, but her voice takes you away!

Girls Life (magazine)
I love Girls Life magazine!  It's great for girls that are in between teenagers and kids.  They've got useful crafts, inspiring articles, and advice and inspiration.  I especially loved this one because it gave lots of advice about school and plenty of great style tips.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Last Year of the War, by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner is an emotional journey of a young girl growing up during wartime. This story is touching as Elise makes one last effort to rekindle a friendship broken by time.

Elise Sontag is a German American teenager living in Iowa during World War 2. Her parents have lived in the US for twenty years but are not legal citizens. While the war in Europe is escalating, her father is arrested and charged with being a Nazi sympathizer. Rather than be separated, the entire family is interned at a government camp in Crystal City, Texas.

Life at the camp becomes bearable when Elise befriends Mariko Inoue, a Japanese American girl from California. They become close while spending all their free time together. Together they plan for a future in New York City with a fresh start and new careers. These plans get put on hold when Elise's family is sent back to Germany in a prisoner exchange.

I simply loved this book and the characters that Susan Meissner brings to life, by the end of the book they felt like old friends. The historical research is evident but seamlessly woven into a very realistic story. There are broad themes of friendship, love, identity, family loyalty, and the damages of war -- all with an important historical backdrop.

I adored the character Elise Sontag and cheers for her to overcome the huge obstacles placed in the way of her happiness. I highly recommend this story if you enjoy WWII historical fiction. *JK*

Friday, May 31, 2019

Unicorn Your Life

All you have to do is look around to see Unicorns are what you'd call "trending" right now. They can be found everywhere from T-Shirts to menu items at your favorite coffee shop (💗Hello!Unicorn Frappuccino!💗) to right here in the OPL Teen Department (of course we Teen Librarians loved these magical creatures before they became a thing). Unicorns may once have been a rare, once in a lifetime encounter, but nowdays they're everywhere! And we think that's just awesome!!

Unicorns are the best!! So it goes without saying that we'd have plenty of books featuring them. One such being Unicorn Your Life by Mary Flannery. This adorable, rainbow-colored book is not so much about these creatures, per-se, but a guide to living your best, most magical life possible, whether at work, at home, among friends and family, or just being YOU(icorn). There's even advice on how to deal with such undesirable, but unavoidable, creatures as Ogres and Vampires, who would try to bring you down and suck every drop of magical energy from your sparkletastic aura. As in What Would A Unicorn Do?  

Unicorn Your Life is filled with fun, whimsical advice. Most is common sense and has been delved into way more deeply by other books. So you've heard it all before. But are those other books even as half as fun and colorful? I think not! So if you want an instant pick-up, grab Unicorn Your Life and get ready to start living your most magical life ever and feeling like the sparkly Unicorn you are!

I love this one!!

--AJB

Skyward by Joe Henderson

Yesterday's book was based on historical events. Today's centers around an alternate future and falls under one of my favorite genres, Science Fiction.

The premise of Joe Henderson's new graphic novel series, Skyward, is what happens after the Earth's gravity is suddenly reduced to a fraction of what we know it to be. Sounds cool, right? Being able to fly through the air with the greatest of ease, not unlike Superman... But what about being sucked into the vacuum of space and not being able to control it? Doesn't sound so fantastic anymore, does it?

Willa was only a baby when G-Day happened. Her mother, who was out for a jog when things went haywire, was lost...sucked up into the sky. Her father, who witnessed the event from the safety of the family home but was powerless to do anything about it lest he meet the same fate, has never been the same. Now, 20 years later, the world is a different place. Magnetized technology is available to the elite, while the majority of society must rely on weighted belts and other, less dignified methods, to keep from flying into the sky. 

But Willa's father and his former partner, Roger Barrow, know what caused the Earth's gravity to do what it did...AND they know how to restore it, and society, to what it was before G-Day. Willa goes in search of Barrow, who has made a fortune on Magnetized gear. She hopes that if he and her father partner up once more, they can fix the planet. But Barrow, she learns, has much to lose from returning things to how they were. Too much to lose. And he will do anything to stop Willa's plan.

ANYthing.

I first heard about Skyward months ago but forgot about it until I saw it on the New Books shelf this morning. I'm always game for a story with a unique and interesting premise, and this one fit the bill perfectly. Naturally, since this is a series, things left off on a pretty big cliffhanger. I look forward to reading the next volume, which, happily, has already been published.

--AJB

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Three Day Summer, by Sarvenaz Tash

Throwback Thursday


Today's Throwback is a Throwback in more ways than one: Because it was published in 2015 (so not really a NEW book) and because it is set in 1969, at perhaps the most historically significant musical event, well, ever: Woodstock. The original.

Three Day Summer is a fun, summery story by Sarvebaz Tash, author of The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love (which, if you haven't read yet, go do it NOW...but not before checking out the book featured in this review). It centers on a blossoming romance between Michael and Cora, two teens who meet-cute when Michael falls ill and is taken to the medical tent where Cora is a volunteer. They become friends and then become more as they get to know each other.

Three Day Summer is most definitely a character-driven story. The alternating viewpoints give insight into the minds of Michael and Cora and to the events, hopes, and dreams that led them to be where they are and who they are when we, the reader, encounter them. And the festival is like a character itself. The author, who obviously did her research about the featival, added lots of little details to put the reader right in the rain-soaked fields of Mr. Yasgur's farm. Also included are little historical details about Vietnam, the hippie movement, and the state of the country during that time period. All of this really helped to set the tone of the story.

This one is for music lovers and for anyone looking for a quick, fun romance. You can find Three Day Summer on our fiction shelf. Or ask for it at the Teen Desk and we'll track it down for you. I recommend it. It's totally groovy! --AJB





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