Monday, May 29, 2017

Book Review: Big Mushy Happy Lump

    Her name is Sarah and she writes about my life,
    Well, actually she writes about HER life, but it's also my life and your life and the life of every girl who is just a little bit weird, a little bit awkward and a little bit silly.
    Big Mushy Happy Lump is the second of Sarah Andersen's collections from her popular web series Sarah's Scribbles, but in this round we also get to know a little bit more about the author, because Sarah has also thrown in some stories about herself and some of her personal issues and struggles.
   The book, like everything Sarah writes is funny and heartwarming and totally honest and real.
   I love her.

Final Review: 4/5 bookmarks.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Book Review: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

   Oh joy! Another book about a fat girl who is not at all fat learning to love herself because a boy likes her. Yaaaaaaaaay..... Ok, now let me put my eyeballs back in their sockets, as they fell out from the massive amounts of eye rolling I did while reading this book.
    Virginia Shreeves is not fat. She is just slightly larger than the rest of her family members, which she is CONSTANTLY being reminded of by her disgusting misogynist father (whose favorite things to say include things like "skinny women are more attractive." Joy!) and a mother who may or may not have an eating disorder (though the book strongly hints that if she doesn't have one now, she most likely had one in her teen years).
   This book is, for some reason a Printz honor book. I have no idea why, as it hits on every single "fat girl book" cliche in existence. 1) Fat girl is not fat!!!!!! 2) Popular and pretty girls at school are secretly miserable and have eating disorders 3) Fat girl only has one friend in the whole world and this friend has moved, oh woe is fat girl! 4) Fat girl decides the only way a guy will ever like her is if she in a huge slut, because hey, why else would ANYONE EVER be interested in a fat girl. 5) Nice, cute boy actually LIKES fat girl, but of COURSE she doesn't believe it at all until she loses a bunch of weight (with almost no actual effort at all) and gains all kinds of self esteem because all it takes to have self-esteem is to be skinny!
   Throw in a date rape and a neo-feminist sister and you have a delicious cliche pie. A delicious AWARD WINNING cliche pie.
   *Commences stomping up and down and tearing out her hair*
   Listen to me fellow fat girls of the world (size 16 here, and also, smoking hot, if I do say so myself): THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU. Your life will NOT become instantly better if you drop weight - if you are messed up in the head, losing weight is just going to change your BODY not your PERSONALITY. Also, it will take you longer than a minute and a half to actually drop weight. And ALSO there are MANY MANY MANY wonderful, handsome, decent and respectful guys who would LOVE to date you regardless of how many fat flaps you have! Trust me. I outweigh my boyfriend by a good 80 pounds on an average day and we're just fine!
   Books like this that try to "help" by perpetuating disgusting stereotypes DO NOT HELP. Awarding these books DOES NOT HELP.
   I'm done ranting now. I'm gonna go eat an ice cream now.

Final Review: 2/5 bookmarks (only because I like the best friend character and her weird, onion loving parents).

Monday, May 15, 2017

Book Review: Britannia

    In Peter Milligan's Britannia, the land that we now know as Great Britain is a nasty, festering, haunted hell hole that has just been taken over by the Roman Empire. Rumors abound that there are demons there, and news of murders and chaos have now made their way back to the Caesar, Nero who has dispatched Antonius, First Detective of the Empire to figure out just what the heck is going on.
    Antonius is not a well man though. He's still suffering from the childbed death of his beloved wife, and grappling with the decision he made to give up his son, who now believes him to be merely a family friend. Plus, Antonius has been to Britannia before, and nearly lost his life in the process. Still, part of him is just suicidal enough to take on the mission, accompanied by his faithful slave, who is a Britannian native and knows more than Antonius about this strange and deadly land.
   Of course, along the way there is plenty of T and A to keep Antonius distracted. For some reason every single female he encounters along his journey is a super hot busty blonde who is more than willing to jump into bed with him (he even bangs a Vestal Virgin). This obviously knocks my opinion of the story down a few notches, because it's just on the wrong side of pandering for my liking.
    The art is amazing though, and the concept behind the story: the history of Great Britain as told from the ancient Roman point of view is not something I have seen before. It almost makes up for the blatant fan service.


Final Review: 3/5 bookmarks. Because the T's and A's are at least gorgeously rendered.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Book Review: The Life After

     Joshua Hale Fialkov's The Life After is one of the most off the wall and weirdest graphic novels I've read in quite a while.
     Our main character Jude has an extremely average life. It seems to him that all his days are pretty much the same. He's never even had the courage to talk to the pretty girl who rides his bus. And then one day he does talk to her. In fact he reaches out and touches her, and in that moment all hell breaks loose. Sort of literally, actually.
    Jude can see into the girl's past, and ultimately realizes that all his days feel the same because they ARE the same - he is stuck in purgatory. The purgatory reserved for suicides, in fact. And he seems to be the only person there who knows this... until he runs into Ernest Hemingway. Yes, THAT Hemingway. Papa H is the only other guy in the place who is self-aware and knows he's in purgatory. Of course, once these two team up it causes a bunch of problems at the home office, which is a very corporate and soulless, kind of like Office Space but worse. And when Jude starts to figure out who he really is and why he is really in purgatory stuff really hits the fan.
    God makes an appearance, (and WHAT an appearance God has! GROSSSSS!!!) as does a crazy shape-shifting hell-demon assassin bounty hunter. Oh and there's a cute dog! Because you have to have a cute dog! With artwork reminiscent of Chew (though less stomach turning), done by the super cool artist Gabo, it's totally worth checking out.
    This one kind of blew my mind in a very cool way. Go read it!

Final Review: 5/5 bookmarks!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Librarian Post: So You Want To Build An Escape Room (Part 2) - The Dry Run

Ok people, this is it, I tested out my Escape Room with actual living human beings. ARGH! I was so nervous that this would not work at all!
Disclosure: all 3 people who were in my test group knew at least SOME of what I was working on, since 2 of them were coworkers and one was my boyfriend and all 3 had either heard me talking about some of the puzzles or knew something about what I had been working on, so they did have a bit of an unfair advantage going into the room.

It took me about an hour to set up the room as far as I did. If you remember from my last Escape Room post, I had 10 props in the room that contained actual clues or puzzles, and the rest were red herrings. Before entering the room the participants were read the scenario and told the rules of the room:
1. Their 30 minutes of time would start when I closed the door.
2. They were not to force locks under any circumstance, or try to remove the bungee chords off of any locked item without opening the lock first.
3. They were not to throw any items on the floor, or at each other.
4. They could, and in fact were expected to, talk to each other and work together, but could not ask me any questions about anything in the room.
5. Their first clue was written on the white board, and would point them in the correct direction once solved.

Clue #1.

Two things I SHOULD have told them was that cell phones, or writing utensils were not allowed in the room! At one point there was a fairly simple math problem (basic arithmetic) that needed to be solved, but because time was running out and tension in the room was high, one of the testers became flustered and wanted to use his phone's calculator. I was actually surprised he did not try to Google some of the other clues! Cheater! Haha!
The other issue came when one of the testers who for some reason had a pencil in his pocket tried to use it to write something on one of the puzzles. I reminded him that on the day of, the scenario would have to be re-set 4 times and I would rather not have to have 4 version of each puzzle ready. Also, the puzzle solution was simple, 4-letter word, so they really didn't need to write anything down, but I think the pressure of solving it had become too much for coherent thinking.
I will definitely enforce these 2 rules during the "real" program date.

Overall, I think the run-through was both a good idea, and a success. The testers major feedback was that there was not enough "stuff" in the room. They all thought it was almost too easy to find items that held clues because there just weren't that many things in the room period, so most of them would by default have clues. I am already working on more red herrings and bringing in more weird stuff from home to use.
Because of their feedback, I also decided to completely change the end-game puzzle. and re-evaluate one of the puzzles, which involved invisible ink that just totally failed to "activate." They had a great suggestion for a replacement, so I will be trading out the invisible ink for something else.

The best part of the whole thing, other than watching the testers have fun, was watching how easily they freaked themselves out and how often they saw clues in things that had nothing to do whatsoever with the game. At one point, for example, they found a piece of paper that just happened to have a small hole of it, that was there of its own accord. They cumulatively decided this HAD to have something to do with the game, and wasted at least 5 minutes holding this hole up to everything in the room hoping a secret message would be revealed. They also thought the conference call system, which is just part of the room and could not be removed was part of the game, though in that case I explained it was not before they wasted too much time.

My biggest issue? Keeping myself from laughing hysterically at every single thing they did, and trying to keep a poker face when they would ask me questions they KNEW they were not supposed to be asking.

More on my Escape Room adventures to come! For now, here are some pictures!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: The Castoffs

     New series alert!! M. K. Reed's The Castoffs is going to be a popular one with tweens, especially tween girls! 
     The story begins in a futuristic society where many inhabitants are born with magical powers. Those who do not have magic have turned to machines - but now society in this world has gotten to a point where a great deal of resentment has been brewing between the magic users and the machine users, and a war has erupted. 
    Fast forward a decade or two and a grudging peace has been achieved, with the magic users having separated themselves from the machinists and live an work in their own guilds. That's where we stand where the real meat of the story begins - with three ethnically diverse mages  being sent to deliver something important to a neighboring guild. One of the girls is an incredibly skilled fighter, but kind of bossy and a pain in the butt. One girl is a bit of an outcast, because despite having the power to make herself invisible, she is also a total klutz who breaks pretty much everything she touches. And one girl is SUPPOSED to be an herbalist, but kind of sucks at making potions. (Of course, girl #3 has a cool secret.)
    On the way to complete the mission, the girls accidentally stumble onto a dastardly plot that aims to bring machines back into power and destroy the magicians. Even though the girls don't really like each other very much, they realize they need to come together for the good of their people.
    Beautiful illustrated, and snappily written this series is a great one for young girls (and there's plenty here the boys will like too!) and this is a really promising start. It just hit shelves on April 12th, so go pick it up!
   Final Review: 4/5 bookmarks! Best new tween graphic novel so far this year!