Sunday, September 12, 2021

Sadako at the End of the World, by Koma Natsumi

Remember the creepy cursed girl from the movie, The Ring? The one with the hair who met her demise at the bottom of a well and, somehow, created a cursed videotape that would bring a horrible death to anyone who viewed said tape? Yeah, that girl.

Well, when I first saw that movie, it terrified me beyond all rationality. Of course I watched it alone. In a creepy pitch-black apartment. And, at the time, I had this old TV with a screen that would glow faintly for several minutes after I switched it off. Oh yeah, and a friend just happened to call shortly after I'd finished watching the film. Not a good combination all around. Needless to say, I've avoided the movie and everything to do with it since.

Until now, that is.

Enter Sadako At the End of the World, the delightfully twisted (and also twistedly hilarious) graphic novel by Koma Natsumi. The story opens when two apocalypse survivors happen upon the infamous cursed videotape. Of course they watch it and of course Sadako crawls from the TV, intent on bringing death and destruction in her wake. Imagine the cursed girl's surprise when the intended victims excitedly embrace her as a New Friend, rather than the bringer of their demise. The girls decide to help their new pal break the curse and travel around a ruined landscape, seeking more victims friends with whom they can share the video. When the last survivor has happily accepted their fate (much to Sadako's surprise), will the curse finally be broken? Or will there be one final twist to the story?

Although not a fan of the (backward to me) Manga format, I braved it so I could read this amazing story. The plot was twisted and funny and strangely endearing and 100% creative. I loved how the two heroines so openly befriended the movie monster, despite her creepiness and desire to kill...and the way Sadako's perspective on the world changed (yes, she became a different person at the end of the story).  

Am I still creeped out by the movie? Yes. Absolutely! 

But would I watch it again with this book in mind? Maybe... But I'd be switching my ringer to "silent" if I did. No promises, though...

This book, though... Awesome!!


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Daria (the complete TV series)

I totally get that representation in books, TV Shows, and Movies needs to be Real in order to be taken seriously, but sometimes things beg to be poked fun of. Like High School and, more accurately, high school clichés. 

Lately, I've been revisiting Daria, an hilarious and, often, on-point TV series from the 1990s that was actually a spinoff of a much more well-known and controversial show (Bonus Points if you can name said show without Googling). Daria tastefully pokes fun at all the standard tropes of the High School Movies and TV Shows that were so popular in the last few decades of the twentieth century: Mean Girl Cliques, Dumb Jocks, Flaky Cheerleaders, Nerdy Smart Kids, and don't forget Clueless Parents and Out of Touch Teachers. All of this filtered through the eyes of the show's cheeky, sarcastic heroine. Of course the show has a lot of heart as well, sometimes addressing more serious topics as (freakin') friendships, relationship dynamics, self esteem, and death (but never so seriously things veer into After School Special territory). The show is funny, smart, and, although cliché (purposefully I assure you), holds up today.

If you're looking for a bit of 1990s nostalgia without committing to a full-length movie, an episode or two of Daria is a good place to start. I bet you'll be hooked and end up binging the whole thing! 


Thursday, September 2, 2021

Sweet Revenge, by Heather Kim

I've been feeling a bit angsty this past week or so (No particular reason or person causing this angst, just life in general being dramafied...and I'm totally OK now, though, thankyouverymuch!), so I'm talking a break from Back To School Books to blog about something very near and dear to my heart: Dessert!

Back to School is overrated anyway. It's like New Year's. Once the supplies and new clothes have been shopped for and the excitement of seeing all your friends again has passed, you find yourself sitting in an uncpomfortable desk, under the harsh shine of the florescent lights, listening to some teacher drone on about whatever... and you find yourself wondering what all the hype was for. Because it's not a fresh start. It's just another (school) day.

But desserts!!

Angsty ones!!

Without further ado, I give you Heather Kim's culinary masterpiece, Sweet Revenge: Passive-Aggressive Desserts for Your Exes and Enemies. 

So... You know that cheating ex who broke your heart & crushed your soul, friend who turned ghost for no reason, or resident bully who will not leave you alone? Well, doing something just as terrible to them might feel good in the moment, but there's a good chance you'll feel guilty about it later (like any decent person would). Also, you don't want to rack up a negative tab with Karma. But what to do? Kim suggests baking them something tasty.

But wait, you say. Why would I want to bake that jerk anything? Isn't that, like, doing something nice

I believe Kim said it best in her book intro: "Get out your heaviest rolling pins, sharpest cleavers, and most blistering torches, and kill your enemies & exes...with kindness."

Besides, doing something actually nice for those who have scorned you will totally throw them for a loop. It'll make them lie awake wondering about your motives and what that batch of Go Fudge Yourself brownies or I don't Give a Fig cookies could really mean. It's really very diabolical.

And BONUS! channeling all your heartbreak and rage into doing something creative and beautiful is probably the best way for you, personally, to deal and heal. Just ask Taylor Swift. (or Alanis Morissette for you Gen X-ers out there)

p.s. This book is great even if you don't have anyone in mind to get revenge upon. 



Monday, August 30, 2021

Giant Days, by John Allison

Hands down, my favorite Back To School book isn't even a's an entire series

I was introduced to Giant Days, the college-themed graphic novel saga by John Allison, when it caught my curious eye on the New Book shelf. This way back in 2016, and I've since re-read it twice and am on my third re-read. The plot follows the misadventures of Esther, Susan, and Daisy, three unlikely friends braving the (sometimes calm, but often turbulent) college waters. The quirky, slice-of-life humor and character interactions/relationships is very reminiscent of the TV show, Friends. At least it was to me. Which is what got me hooked.

Because this is a series, I couldn't even begin to describe everything that happens...or even one particular plotline. But I will say that Giant Days is just a lot of fun and a series you really can't go wrong with. And (BONUS!) you'll be happy to learn that this series is not only several volumes long, but it's complete. Not a cliffhanger in sight. So, that said, it's safe to binge away!


Monday, August 23, 2021

The Moth Diaries, by Rachel Klein

It's always hard when someone you always thought was your BFF suddenly drops you for a new BFF. But just how far would you be willing to go to win back your friend? And what about the person your friend has replaced you with? Let's consult Rachel Klein's short, but suspenseful novel The Moth Diaries for the more dysfunctional approach.

Upon returning to her exclusive private school, an unnamed narrator is obviously upset when her longtime BFF, Lucy, is suddenly more interested in hanging out with mysterious new girl, Ernessa. Sure, our girl could have tried to befriend Ernessa as well. She could have suggested the three of them go grab a coffee together or something. But no... Instead she observes, spies, stalks, sneaks, and, like a twisted version of Nancy Drew, records all she sees in her journal (which is what we have here). And she reaches the unlikely conclusion that Ernessa is secretly a vampire who has chosen Lucy as her next victim. And we're not talking the sort of Vamp who is the stuff of a Mid-2000s paranormal romance novel, but the real sort. The scary sort. (so no sparkles here)

I know, right. It sounded crazy to me too. But as I read the "evidence" in this journal, I became increasingly convinced that maybe, just maybe, the narrator was on to something here. Maybe. I won't say more. I won't spoil. You'll have to read The Moth Diaries for yourself and see what you think: Is Ernessa really a vampire? Or is she just a somewhat strange girl who innocently happened to get between an unstable and unreliable narrator and her Bestie?

I won't tell you what conclusion I arrived at. But I can recommend it as a great read!


Friday, August 20, 2021

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, by Maya Van Wagenen

Today we travel into the realm of true stories with Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, by Maya Van Wagenen.  Think a book is just a book and can't change your life? You may have a different opinion after reading this:

Penned when the author was still in middle school, Popular details how a teen who began at the bottom of the social ladder gained confidence and popularity using a surprising tool: A how-to-be-popular guide from the 1950s.

When Maya ended her seventh grade year, she claimed she was only a little more popular than substitute teachers (so not at all). She wasn't bullied or anything. She just didn't exist. Then her dad discovered Betty Cornell's Teenage Popularity Guide while cleaning, Maya thought, "Why not?". She decided to try an experiment: Going through the book chapter by chapter and incorporating tools like can curlers, pearls, proper diet & exercise, and other things suggested by the book, Maya gains confidence and develops a whole new outlook. And, naturally, the way the world responds to her changes as well. Does Maya become Queen Bee of her school? Maybe her transformation was not quite that extreme (because that sort of thing only happens in 80s movies), but it was certainly an improvement. So her experiment was a success. More so than she ever could have imagined. Maya even gets to meet her hero, the author of the book that changed her life for the better. So an extra happy ending!

Popular is a fun read. Maya is very likable and her writing style is so accessible you don't even realize you're reading nonfiction.

100% recommended!


Thursday, August 19, 2021

Withering Tights, by Louise Rennison

Admittedly, yesterday's featured book, although awesome, was pretty serious and heavy. And there was virtually nothing cute or fun about it aside from an ambiguously hopeful ending.

Today, to make up for yesterday's bookish seriousness, I'm going the opposite route with Withering Tights, a comedy of errors by Louise Rennison. This fabulous book stars Talulluah Casey, a charming and quirky aspiring actress who hopes to get her Big Break while attending the famed arts academy, Dother Hall...or at the very least not break anything. Bones or otherwise.  But even more so than fame, Talullah hopes to meet some snogworhy boys ("Snogging" for those not in the know is the same as yes, this IS a "Kissing Book"). This book details the misadventures of Talullah and her bonkers friends during their first year at Dother Hall. Oh...and there are squirrels, owls, Irish dancing, and an abundance of British slang to boot. This one had me literally laughing out loud. 

To say any more would spoil everything.

This one is 100% recommended!