Monday, March 27, 2017

Series Review: Bizenghast - The Manga


        Bizenghast is an interesting manga. First, because it's not strictly speaking actually a manga - it is written by an American-educated and German-raised author, and is not set in Japan or feature Japanese characters, yet it was featured in Tokyopop magazine and is presented in manga format. Second, M. Alice LeGow, the author is a Cosplayer, and the first couple of issues of the story seem more an exercise in creative (and exceedingly frilly) costume design than in actual storytelling. 
     In fact, there is bonus content in a few issues in which the author actually models costumes she created for herself based on those worn by her main character Dianah. Because the costuming and story telling is initially so strange it is difficult to tell what time period the story is set in. At times it seems very Victorian, at other times more modern, but never quite set in the present time. 
     Eventually the story settles itself down and you figure out the basics: Dinah is an orphan. Her parents have been killed in a car accident, and Dinah, who was the only survivor is now living in a decaying old mansion with her aunt, who believes Dinah is mentally ill. One day, while running away from potentially being put in an asylum, Dinah and her friend Vincent stumble upon an old graveyard, and accidentally enter into a sinister contract: Dinah must figure out a way to tame and release the restless spirits who reside in the mausoleum - one per night for 40 nights - until they are all at peace (or in hell, in some cases) or else she will be absorbed into the mausoleum herself. 
    The first several issues of the series focus only on Dinah and Vincent's quest to release the spirits, though eventually they do get some help from Edaniel (a supremely goofy cat-looking jokester who adds a lot of humor to the story) and his brother Edrear, mausoleum employees and guides. About halfway through the story though, it takes a darker turn when the spirits become darker and harder to tame and people start dropping dead.
     Overall, I can't say I was a huge fan of the series. There is entirely too much fluff for my taste, and wen the good stuff starts happening it is wrapped up MUCH too quickly in only the final 2 volumes. My favorite character by far was Edaniel. mostly because he reminds me of my cat Hades. 

Final review: Somewhere between 2.5 and 3 bookmarks, so I will give it the benefit of the doubt and call it 3.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Librarian Post: Summer Reading Is Coming! (AAAAAAAAAAARGH!)

     So, am I the only one that is totally NOT jazzed about this year's Collaborative Summer Reading Program theme? Architecture? SERIOUSLY? SNOOOOOOOOOOOOORE!
     Luckily the actual slogan "Build a Better World" lends itself to a lot of things that have nothing whatsoever to do with deadly-dull architecture. Don't get me wrong, I love STEAM/STEM whatever they call it in your neck of the woods, but it just doesn't excite my nerdity the way something like superheroes or next year's theme, music does.
   So, I am planning four "special" programs for this year's festivities, two of which are STEAM related architecture/engineering programs and two which are not.

1) Paper Buildings: in teams of up to 4 people, you get a pack of 3X5 index cards and your goal will be twofold - first, we will see who can build the tallest structure and second, we will build structures of great sturdiness that we will then attempt to balance books upon until they topple.

2) Tasty Architecture: I will provide graham crackers, frosting and assorted candies, and you and your team (of up to 4 people) will attempt to recreate a famous international landmark of your choice out of these materials. A team of judges (my unwitting coworkers whom I will ply with candy treats) will choose their favorite and said team shall win a prize (a mini orange cone topped with a 3D printed hard hat, I think).

3) Escape Room. Because I REALLY want to do an escape room. I am calling this one "build a better world through team work," and anyone who doesn't think this fits the theme can suck it. Mwahahahahaha!

4) The Living Library. This is my piece de resistance, my crowning glory, my gold medal winner! I am in the process of recruiting living books right now and have already gotten some news coverage on it, even though the program won't be until July. If you want to see the piece my local news station did on our recruiting effort, the link is here: Living Library on KYMA.

What is everyone else working on? I would love to hear about your awesome programs! I will post more on what I'm up to in the coming weeks. Good luck with SRP everyone!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Review: The Chocolate War


     Boys are the wrongest, grossest, most evil creatures on God's green Earth, and I think, based on reading Lord of the Flies and now Richard Cormier's Lord of the Flies-esque but much milder, and a lot more boring, The Chocolare War, I feel as if private all-boys schools are probably the wrongest, grossest most evil PLACES on Earth. 
     The premise is simple: Jerry Renault is a student at a private Catholic all-boys school that is run, not by the priests, but by a gang of jerks known as The Vigils, who are infamous for making students pull goofy pranks. Every year, the students are expected to take part in a chocolate sale to raise funds for the school. THIS year, one of the priests, Bother Leon, who has dreams of being the new head of the school.
    Brother Leon wants the boys to make him look good by selling twice as many chocolates as last year, and thinks the Vigils will help him. But, unbeknownst to Leon, the head Vigil tells Jerry to refuse to sell the chocolates for the first half of the sale.
    At first, Jerry is terrified that Leon will punish him, but as time goes by, and he nears the point at which he is finally supposed to go ahead and agree to sell chocolates, Jerry decides he's not going to do it. At. All.
    Boys being horrible, all hell breaks loose.
    And it breaks loose in a nasty, violent, disgusting way it could only break loose when boys are involved.
     Where the book fails is that it is not as brutal or impactful as LOTF. No one gets REALLY seriously hurt, and no one suffers any REAL serious consequences. It's basically just a character study of the most distasteful male stereotypes you can imagine.

Final Review: 2/5 bookmarks.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Three Dark Crowns

     WHYYYYYYYYY is Kendare Blake not, just, THE most famous Young Adult author in the world by now? This woman is amazing, and Anna Dressed In Blood is one of my favorite books of all time.
     Three Dark Crowns is her newest effort, and it's a very different type of story than her other works (but honestly, every single thing that she writes is different from every other thing that she writes, which is what makes her so awesome!) Whereas Anna was horror and The Goddess Wars trilogy was action/fantasy with Green mythology as the focus, this new book, which Blake has promised is the first of at least a two-parter, is the closest she has come so far to true fantasy.
     The Kingdom of Fennbirn has always been ruled by Queens, not Kings. Every generation, each Queen gives birth to a set of girl triplets. Each of these triplets has a specific gift: one girl is always a naturalist who can control animals and make plants grow, one is always a poisoner, who can ingest and prepare the deadliest toxins and never sicken, and the last is always an elemental who can control fire, water and wind.
     At birth, triplet queens are always separated and raised by sponsor families until they turn 16. On their 16th birthday the queens reunite - in order to kill each other. Only one of triplets can be Queen, and in Fennbrin this means a fight to the death in which the new Queen becomes the last girl standing.  It has been this way for as long as anyone can remember, except this time something has changed. This time, two of the Queens have been born without power. Only Mirabella, the elemental has true power, and her sisters Katharine (the poisoner) and Arsinoe (the naturalist) have been doing everything they can think of to fake their way through life. But now the time has come for the girls to face each other, and only one can live.
     The only thing I will tell you about how this all plays out is that the book is a slow burn. You sort of feel like not much is really HAPPENING, until about the last 1/3. But then you realize that everything that had come before was actually really important, and the ending... well, the ending kicks you straight in the stomach from out of left field. I am DYING to get my hands on the sequel, tentatively titled One Dark Throne, which is scheduled for release this September.


Final Review: 4/5 bookmarks.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: Splintered

     Disclaimer: I can't stand Alice in Wonderland. I didn't like the animated Disney movie. I didn't like the book. Or Alice Through The Looking Glass. I didn't like the new Johnny Depp movie. And I think Lewis Carrol was a weirdo dope-fiend pedophile. 
     That being said. A. G. Howard's modern-day take on the Wonderland series, and its first offering, Splintered was actually pretty freaking awesome!
     Alyssa Gardner is a direct descendant of Alice Lydell, the woman thought to be the inspiration for the original Wonderland books. She even looks like Alice: petite, blonde, delicate and beautiful. This alone causes her endless teasing from her school mates, but Alyssa is hiding a deep dark family secret: all the women in her family, including the original Alice: they all suffer from severe mental illness. In fact, Alyssa's mother is currently in a padded cell at an asylum, and Alyssa knows it's just a matter of time before she ends up there herself... especially when she starts hearing flowers and insects talking to her, warning her that something bad is coming.
    What ends up coming in Morpheus, the gorgeous moth-man who sweeps Alyssa away to Wonderland... which she soon finds out is not the lovely and magical place from the stories.  The real Wonderland, is a dark, grotesque and deadly place, filled with sickeningly deformed creatures and dangers around every corner. All Alyssa wants to do is go home, and get her friend Jeb, who was accidentally swept into Wonderland with her, back home too. But, in order to do that, Alyssa has to right the wrongs of her ancestor Alice, through a series of seemingly impossible tasks - like drying up the sea of tears Alice left behind.
     Of course, this is a teen novel, so there is a love triangle with two hotties vying for Alyssa's affections, but that is sort of beside the point, although important to the story in its own way. The most important part is how deliciously gross and horrific Wonderland is, and how A. G. Howard found such new and unique ways of translating characters and events from the original books into this new horror show.
    It definitely left me wanting to read the next book in the series.

Final Review: 4/5 Bookmarks!