September 21, 2020

Review: A Wave of Stars

A Wave of Stars
By Dolores Brown
Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer
Available now from NubeOcho
Review copy

I was attracted to A Wave of Stars due to the arresting cover, with adorable turtle and a seal clutching a merman plush. I am glad I decided to pick it up, because the art is beautiful throughout.

 Sonja Wimmer's art has a softness to it that makes the characters look extra cute. The bright colors are well-suited to a story that partially takes place in the ocean. There are also lots of fun details for young readers to spot, like where the merman plush is on each page as it gets tossed through the waves with Mimbi and Kipo, the seal and turtle. There's also a really fun use of color and style where not only are some detail images done in black and white, but some images turn black and white when they cross a border.

The story by Dolores Brown is quite simple. Mimbi and Kipo are told a legend about the moonbow (a rainbow at night), and then they see one and are turned into human children against their will. With the help of a thankfully kind fisherman, they are able to turn back and go home. The flow of the text was somewhat choppy, in my opinion. Also, Mimbi and Kipo's distress at being turned into humans might be too much for more sensitive children.

I think A Wave of Stars is best used in a setting where a child can really linger over the illustrations instead of having to hurry on to the next page to finish the story.

September 17, 2020

Review: The College Vegetarian Cookbook: 150 Easy, Budget-Friendly Recipes

The College Vegetarian CookbookWritten and illustrated by Stephanie McKercher, MS, RDN
Available now from Rockridge Press
Review copy

Stephanie McKercher is a registered dietician as well as a food blogger. Her first cookbook, The College Vegetarian, focuses on dishes that are easy and quick and inexpensive to make, and that use few ingredients and tools. This focus means that the recipes are also handy for those of us who are well past our college years.

The first chapter of The College Vegetarian is a handy reference that covers  cooking techniques, how to store the ingredients and food, and other basics. It also introduces the main ingredients for a healthy, inexpensive vegetarian diet and discusses what nutrition each provides. (It also further convinced me I could never actually be vegetarian as I don't like beans, tomatoes, or mushrooms.)

The recipes contained within The College Vegetarian are quite simple. Most involve around five steps. Some in the drinks section only have two steps. There were a few recipes that struck me as perhaps too simple for even a basic cookbook. "Lemon-Blueberry Yogurt Bowls," for instance, is instructions on how to add things to yogurt to jazz it up and add additional ingredients. But I can acknowledge that parfaits are a dish.

There were also times I felt McKercher went too simple. The "Vegan Gumbo" uses only vegetable broth. Gumbo is a roux-based soup. Now, you would need to adjust roux to make it vegan instead of just vegetarian, but with single search, I found three-ingredient vegan rouxs. I don't think it would've added that much complexity, and making a roux is an excellent foundational skill to learn for making all sorts of soups. 

I made a few test recipes. In general, I found that the times took about twice as long if you needed to chop your vegetables or do other prep that was taken for granted. Every recipe I tried was also distinctly underseasoned. I would add extra salt and pepper to taste. The strangest issue I ran into was making the "Broccoli Cheddar Strata," which called for an 8-by-11 inch glass baking dish. I have an 8-by-8 dish and a 9-by-13 dish, and another search reassured me that those were the two standard glass baking dish sizes (along with a 9-by-9 square). It's just an odd thing to mess up.

But I do think that these recipes are quite nice and a good intro to vegetarian cooking on a budget. I certainly have plenty of ideas to try out.

September 13, 2020

Review: Looking for Ladybug in Ocean City

Looking for Ladybug in Ocean City
Written and illustrated by Katherina Manolessou
Available now from Frances Lincoln Children's Books
Review copy

This is the second Look for Ladybug picture books, but like many picture books of a similar type, you don't have to read them in any particular order. In this book, animal detectives Daisy and Bell lose their pet ladybug in Ocean City and look for her in all sorts of undersea landscapes.

Look for Ladybug in Ocean City is designed for younger children than Where's Waldo? or the I Spy books. The pages are less crowded, although there is still plenty to discover within the bright, inviting illustrations. There's five items to look for on every page, three items mentioned in the text on every page, and plenty of other things for children to spot on their own.

(There is one time where Ladybug is hidden in a corner, so be careful where you rest your hand on the page!)

My favorite spread was that covering "The Museum." On the gallery walls were fish versions of famous artworks. I found them hilarious! There are several jokes in the design that are likely to amuse an older reader who is challenging a child to look for Ladybug.

This is a very beautiful search and find book for children.

September 9, 2020

Review: Ghostwriter

GhostwriterWritten and illustrated by Rayco Pulido
Available now from Fantagraphics
Review copy

In 96 pages, Rayco Pulio delivers a taut thriller that makes excellent use of the graphic novel format. I can see why Fantagraphics decided to translate Ghostwriter from the original Spanish.

Set in Barcelona, 1943, Ghostwriter follows Laia, a scriptwriter for a popular advice program on the radio, as she hounds the detective she hired to find her missing husband. Laia's advice is constrained by religious control and patriarchal oppression; she has to write that women should stay by their husbands and try to be better wives, no matter what horrors are in the letters sent to her. Laia's dead-eyed rage is a simple thing to understand.

I adore how the words and images work together to tell the story in Ghostwriter. Many things are shown before they become important, but since they were shown, the connections make sense and everything feels intentional. One of my favorite bits is when Laia throws a coin-like object in a jar in the first few pages. It gave me pause at first, trying to figure out this small object in black and white. Later, it became sinister.

For all the twists and turns it takes, Ghostwriter is not a very complicated story. Laia's motives are simple, no matter how convoluted her methods. There is a delightful economy to this dark little tale. Ghostwriter also isn't afraid to be a little silly or to include moments of juvenile behavior.

I quite enjoyed Ghostwriter and hope more of Pulido's work gets translated.

September 5, 2020

Review: A Smart Girl's Guide: Crushes

A Smart Girl's Guide: Crushes
Illustrated by Elisa Chavarri
Available now from American Girl
Review copy

The Smart Girl's Guide to Boys has been fully updated to become A Smart Girl's Guide: Crushes: Dating, Rejection, and Other Stuff. This book is a timely, relevant guide for young girls who are starting to become hormonal.

 The most obvious update to the material is the A Smart Girl's Guide: Crushes acknowledges that girls might have crushes on boys, girls, both, or neither (and that the same goes for boys). Most of the examples use boys and straight is generally assumed as the default, but there are nods to same-gender attraction throughout. (There is no trans inclusivity that I noticed, which is a lack.)

Elisa Chavarri's cartoons liven up the proceedings and also work to include all girls. There are boys and girls of many ethnicities shown, some variations in body types, and a very few disabled people. 

 I appreciate that the focus of A Smart Girl's Guide: Crushes is on how to handle crushes without losing sight of yourself and the things you value, such as schoolwork and friends. It covers many tricky situations, including how to say no clearly to someone who asks you out (without being mean) and how to dump someone (with signs of when it needs to be done).

The content is carefully targeted to the age group and doesn't go past kissing and hand holding. The book gets raciest when talking about things to watch out for. For instance, if a boy sends a girl a photo of  a woman in lingerie, that is harassment, not flirting. A Smart Girl's Guide: Crushes also covers tough situations like if a friend's boyfriend is being mean to her or if friends report to you that your boyfriend is mean to people when you aren't around. Though domestic abuse is a heavy topic, these red flags are handled at an entirely appropriate level with sensible advice.

I also appreciated how A Smart Girl's Guide: Crushes handled the role of social media and texts in modern-day flirting and dating, with reminders that texts and photos can be forever through screenshots and forwarding. The example shown is an embarrassing photo wearing a face mask, but teaching children to stop and think before sending even innocent photos is a good foundation. The book also emphasizes that selfies should also never be sent to people you only know through online games, but only to people you know in real life.

A Smart Girl's Guide: Crushes also doesn't give in to silly romcom logic. If someone starts dating someone they knew you were crushing on, that's fine. A crush isn't dibs. You can date someone a friend used to date and broke up with. There's also some handy gentle advice on how to avoid getting sucked into drama.

I think A Smart Girl's Guide: Crushes is a handy book to pass on to any young girl in your life. I suggest reading it first, so you know the jumping-off points for anything you might want to talk about in more depth.

September 1, 2020

Review: Stress Relief Dog Coloring Book

Stress Relief Dog Coloring Book
Illustrated by Pimlada Phuapradit
Available now from Rockridge Press
Review copy

I have never stopped enjoying coloring and I am quite happy that the trend of adult coloring books is still going strong. I've found that it makes it simple to find a coloring book with subject matter that I like. Since I'm inside most days, I am going through the books I already own, which meant this dog coloring book came at just the right time.

This Stress Relief Dog Coloring Book contains 35 designs by Thailand-based illustrator Pimlada Phuapradit. Like many adult coloring books, the designs are only printed on one side of the pages. I personally prefer the double-sided style of children's coloring books, but I accept that it is a lost battle.

Of the 35 designs, most are breed specific. At the end of the book there are several mandala-like designs with little dog silhouettes worked throughout. They're super cute! I felt the designs had a good mix of small and large areas and also liked that some dogs were more detailed, some less. I can choose whether I am in the mood to color something intricate, or if I want to do something simpler. The table of contents also reprints all the designs in thumbnail form, making them colorable by someone who wants to work on a really small design.

I liked the texture of the paper. My colored pencils moved across it smoothly and laid down a nice layer of color. It is suitable for both wax crayons and colored pencils. The book itself is a little bendy. I'll simply be careful where I store it.

I am very happy with this coloring book. I think the dog designs are super cute. I look forward to coloring in all of them!

August 28, 2020

Review: The Flapper Queens

The Flapper Queens
Edited by Trina Robbins
Available now from Fantagraphics
Review copy

The Flapper Queens: Women Cartoonists of the Jazz Age is a gorgeous volume that presents the 1920's art within as it was meant to be seen: oversized and in color. (Excepting the black & white strips, of course.) The art within is gorgeously reproduced, although sometimes the text is a little blurred or placed on a dark background, which I suspect is an artifact of the sources.

This anthology includes selections from Nell Brinkley, Eleanor Schorer, Edith Stevens, Ethel Hays (with Gladys Parker, who took over her Flapper Fanny strip), Fay King, and Virginia Huget. There's also brief coverage of the Annibelle strips by Dorothy Urfer and Virginia Krausmann, which isn't listed in the table of contents.

While I appreciate getting to see this art so beautifully presented, Trina Robbins has never been the best anthologist. Her introductions are brief (a paragraph to a few pages of text) and lack analysis. Some of the artists have five times the amount of work represented as others. I had no clue why until the write-up on Virginia Huget mentioned she was one of the three flapper queens. So Nell Brinkley, Ethel Hays, and Virginia Huget are the eponymous queens, based on my observations, but there's no indication why the other women artists were chosen for inclusion with them. 

Since Trina Robbins has published two previous volumes on Nell Brinkley, it is no surprise that Brinkley gets the most coverage. (Both as a singular artist and in the outro discussing the end of the flapper comics trend.) However, this was a chance for her to showcase other artists as well. Much of the Brinkley material was previously printed in her 2009 volume The Brinkley Girls. It is now out of print, to my knowledge, but still available in the way high-quality material for the other artists isn't.

Also, the comics are presented in a baffling order. I understand keeping each strip by an artist collected together, but the dates are printed on them and many are not presented chronologically. If there is a different significance to the order, it is not given and I cannot ascertain it. There's also no given reasoning for why the strips reproduced within The Flapper Queens were chosen to represent each of the artists. Are these strips considered their best? (By who?) Where they chosen randomly? Maybe.

(There is also one error where Fay Kings "Preserve Your Own Personality, Says Fay King" is printed on both page 110 and 113.)

I also felt that historical context could make this a more valuable volume for readers interested in these cartoonists. Some of the humor eluded me, especially that of Virginia Huget. There are also periodic appearances by racial caricatures and stereotypes, most often in Nell Brinkley's The Fortunes of Flossie strip, which could have been contextualized.

I appreciate the work Trina Robbins has done to preserve the history of women in comics and present their art to new audiences, but I am often disappointed by her work as an anthologist.

At the same time at all, I am not disappointed at all to see the work of these artists beautifully presented. The fashion! The cars! The pretty, wild girls! If you like comics history, or simply looking into the past, then this is a wonderful, beautiful volume.

August 22, 2020

Review: Still Life Las Vegas

Still Life Las Vegas
Illustrated by Sungyoon Choi
Available now from St. Martin's Press
Review copy

Voice actor James Sie's debut novel starts out strong, with a woman pushed to her limit, driving anywhere and lightening the car as she goes including tossing out a car seat. This woman is Emily Stahl, musician, mother, carer to her depressed husband. The child who normally would occupy that car seat is Walter Stahl.

Still Life Las Vegas alternates between their points of view (Walter in the past, Emily in the present) and Walter's father's point of view (also in the past) and comics (drawn by Walter) telling the story of Emily as told to him by his father. Walter lives in Las Vegas, where his father moved him while trying to find Emily. Now seventeen, Walter is driven to chase down the secrets of his mother's history. A chance meeting with a living statue in the Venetian hotel, Chrysto, also puts him on the path to discovering his sexuality.

I loved both narrators. They're both searching for direction, albeit in very different ways. The interstitial comics are great too, Sungyoon Choi's art a beautiful accompaniment to James Sie's words. It's also provides a clear division between what Walter has been told versus Emily's actual words.

However, I felt that Still Life Las Vegas didn't quite live up to the strength of its opening. I felt Emily had reason to run from the very beginning, but the story keeps adding new layers of sadness to her past and reveals a horror that I think was gratuitous, not adding to the plot or being explored with the weight it deserved. As the story goes on, Walter also has to deal with the unfortunate truth as well as a betrayal.

Still Life Las Vegas is an engrossing bildungsroman, but ultimately too depressing for me. Still, I'm a little sad that James Sie has yet to write a second novel. I think he has a knack for description and character and I'd like to see what he'd write with more polish.

August 9, 2020

Review: From Where I Watch You

From Where I Watch You
Available now from Soho Teen
Review copy

From Where I Watch You was Shannon Grogan's debut (and so far only) novel. I think it is an ambitious novel with lots of promise, but that Grogan didn't quite have the experience to bring all the storylines together naturally.

Kara McKinley is a star baker. Only 16, she's in the running for a baking competition that would get her a scholarship to culinary school in another state. She wants to escape from her home and the shadow of her older sister's death at college, and her mom's resulting holy roller ways. She also wants to escape her stalker, whose notes are becoming increasingly threatening.
Those plot drivers are covered by the blurb. What isn't covered is that From Where I Watch You details Kara and her sister Kellan's history between the present chapters, building up the reason why Kara isn't sorry her sister is dead. Kellan's betrayal is horrible, but I'm not sure what happened to Kara fits the rest of the novel. It is a heavy subject to add to a book, and I'm not sure there was enough room to give it proper weight. There could have been tension between the sisters without it.

Kara is also hallucinating her dead sister. Oh, and falling in love with Charlie, who is finally noticing her now that he works in her mother's cafe and who might be homeless. There's a lot going on, and I feel like paring down a few of the minor plots would have helped From Where I Watch You hit harder, particularly the reveal at the end.

As it was, it felt like there was barely time for the mystery. Kara never tells anyone who might help her and never does much to solve it. In the end, the stalker has to reveal himself, which felt anti-climatic to me.

August 1, 2020

Review: Earth Flight

Earth Flight
The third novel in the Earth Girl trilogy
Available now from Pyr
Review copy

When I picked up Earth Flight, I didn't realize it was the final novel in a trilogy. This did leave me lost at some points as Earth Flight is heavy on the future slang and such, but I also enjoyed piecing the worldbuilding together. Janet Edwards doesn't leave new readers too lost, however. There's exposition about what happened in previous novels.

In the future Earth of this trilogy, most humans can portal to other worlds. Those that have an immune system that doesn't allow them to portal are discriminated against. Jarra hid her condition, got caught, but still saved the world and is now a celebrity. Earth Flight tackles what happens after the unlikely hero has saved the world, a plot that seems obvious but that I haven't seen too often.

Jarra's clan are now prepared to adopt her, but not everyone wants someone with her condition to be officially recognized as a clan member. She and her boyfriend are going to get married, which also results in prejudicial objections. Fantastic prejudice can be a way to get out of writing about real prejudice, but I feel like Edwards does a good job in showing how many avenues of life prejudice can affect. Even as a hero, Jarra can't just get married if she wants to. While I didn't have much of an opinion on Jarra's boyfriend Fian (I think he did more in previous books?), I liked what Edwards showed of their relationship and how they work together as a team.

There is an action story to go along with the political plot, involving an alien probe and a scramble to figure out how to get Jarra into space if she can't portal. The action keeps the story moving along nicely.

Earth Flight feels like a throwback to seventies science fiction juveniles, but with a female character front and center and none of the casual misogyny common to that era of science fiction. That old-fashioned approach helps Earth Flight stand out from the current crop of novels. There's not much psychological depth, but there is fun worldbuilding and a cracking, straight-ahead adventure story.

I'll probably not go back and pick up the first two books, but I thought Earth Flight was a fun afternoon read.

May 13, 2020

Review: Hero Complex

Hero ComplexThe second Keaton School mystery
By Margaux Froley
Available now from Soho Teen
Review copy
Review of Escape Theory

Because I enjoyed Escape Theory, I wanted to read the sequel, Hero Complex. However, it had been a while since I read Escape Theory, so I wanted to reread it first, and eventually I decided to just dive into Hero Complex any way.

I had forgotten quite a bit, but it came back to me. Devon Mackintosh was working at a peer counselor at the private school she attended on scholarship to help boost her college applications. Her knowledge from those sessions made her suspicious of the apparent suicide of popular Hutch, which led her to become embroiled in a mystery.

At the beginning of Hero Complex, Devon has figured out who killed Hutch but she's still trying to figure out the why, which could be the key to getting the testimony needed to put his murderer away. But soon a new mystery arises when she goes to a boat party with her friend Cleo and gets clobbered over the back of the head. No one believes her that the assault happened, much less that it was attempted murder.

What I found most delightful about Hero Complex was that Devon never would have known the secrets she uncovers in the novel even existed if the villain hadn't attempted to get rid of her. I love seeing a bad guy hoisted by their own petard. At the same time, Hero Complex feels like the middle novel in a trilogy. The mystery at the center doesn't have the emotional drive of Hutch's death, and the revelations feel like they're setup for the fallout in the third novel.

... which doesn't exist. As much as I enjoy Escape Theory and Hero Complex, I have trouble recommending the Keaton School mysteries since the third novel was never published, leaving the story feeling unfinished.

April 27, 2020

National Theater At Home

The National Theater in London started the National Theater Live program to broadcast performances internationally. You might have seen National Theater Live advertised through Fathom Events before movies, back when you went to movie theaters.

This summer they're making proshot performances available for one week at a time. Last week was a fantastic Treasure Island starring Arthur Davrill, and if I'd watched it earlier in the week, I would've shared it.

This week is Twelfth Night (the Shakespeare play) starring Tamsin Greig. I can't wait to watch!

As for what comes after that ...

We’re excited to announce two new titles for #NationalTheatreAtHome.

#Frankenstein is on 30 Apr and 1 May. Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternate the roles of Frankenstein and his creature.

#AntonyAndCleopatra, with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo, is on 7 May.

I appreciate all these theater, musical, and opera organizations making staying at home a more appealing prospect. I am thrilled at the amazing performances I've been able to see.

You can donate through their YouTube channel or the other places listed here.

April 25, 2020

Watch The Globe #AtHome

Adetomiwa Edun in conversation with my class
Shakespeare's Globe is making a number of productions available online. These include full productions, and actors performing some of the greatest love poetry from their own homes. There are also more performances available to buy.

You can see a full schedule here. Please consider a donation to help Shakespeare's Globe continue their work in Shakespeare scholarship and performance.

The current play, Romeo and Juliet (2009) is a special one for me because I saw this cast perform it live while I studied in the UK, and my class was able to do a special Q&A with a few of the actors. You might recognize the stars. Ellie Kendrick (Juliet) appeared on Game of Thrones and Adetomiwa Edun (Romeo) appeared in FIFA 17/18/19.

This stream is available through May 3rd.

April 23, 2020

Review: Kendra Scott Literacy Charm

Back in March, I purchased the Kendra Scott Literacy Charm as a birthday gift to myself.

Turns out it is difficult to take a picture of a bracelet on the wrist of your dominant hand.

50% of the proceeds of this charm benefit First Book, a program I've championed on this blog before. Each charm sold provides a book to a child in need.

Kendra Scott is distributing 2,000 books through First Book to children affected by the COVID-19 crisis, so any purchase of this charm has an immediate impact.

The Kendra Scott Literacy charm is available in gold, rose gold, vintage silver, and vintage gold. I purchased the vintage silver charm to match my charm bracelet.

The included removable bail is very easy to use. You flip it open, place it around the desired link in a bracelet or around a necklace chain, and then close it. It is very secure and I don't think it would come undone on its own.

As for the charm itself, it is heavier than my James Avery charms. I wouldn't do a whole bracelet of Kendra Scott charms. But a few won't cause a bracelet to weigh too much. The front of the charm is stamped with the Kendra Scott symbol and you can open it to read the words "Be Kind. Do Good."

Opened charm
Closed charm
I like seeing this charm on my bracelet. It represents my love of books and helps engender that love within a new generation. I think it was worth the $35 I paid for it and will hang on my charm bracelet for a long time to come. I recommend the Kendra Scott Literacy Charm to any book lover.

World Book Day 2020!

World Book Day is today! This is the 25th anniversary of the celebration of reading, publishing, and copyright.

The UK and Ireland charitable organization for World Book Day has all sorts of cool stay-at-home ideas and author and illustrator masterclasses you can watch.

Amazon has made nine international Kindle books free to download in celebration, ranging from nonfiction to children's books.

I'm most excited for Hard Rain by Irma Venter, with a translation by Elsa Silke.

Chaos, murder, and a hint of sizzling romance descend on East Africa in this electrifying page-turner of a mystery.
Hard Rain
Hard Rain cover
Journalist Alex Derksen’s new assignment in Tanzania should be easy, but he soon finds himself on the wrong side of the news. It starts when he meets Ranna, a beautiful photographer with something to hide. Alex stopped believing in love a long time ago, yet here in the middle of East Africa, it’s found him again.
Alex knows a thing or two about chaos—wherever he goes, it follows. When an IT billionaire washes up onshore after seasonal flooding, he finds himself at the center of an investigation with Ranna as the main suspect. It turns out she may have a good reason for hiding her past.
Wherever she goes, murder follows.
Alex should be used to these cat-and-mouse games, but this time it’s different. Should he listen to his heart and help Ranna hide the bloody trail leading to her? Or should he use his head and run for his life?

April 18, 2020

The Shows Must Go On Presents The Phantom of the Opera

The Shows Must Go On presents a weekend musical to help raise money for COVID-19 efforts. This weekend's free musical is the 25th Anniversary Concert of The Phantom of the Opera, available for only 48 hours (which are already partway gone). The Phantom of the Opera is based on the novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra by Gaston Leroux.

From their YouTube description:

Join us from Friday April 17th at 7pm UK time, as we bring a true musical theatre icon to YouTube, with Andrew Lloyd Webber's masterpiece The Phantom of The Opera starring Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess and Hadley Fraser!
Donate to NHS Charities COVID19 Appeal:
Donate to these worthwhile arts causes:
Buy and Keep The Full Show Here:
From Phantom of The Opera at the Royal Albert Hall (2011): In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, Cameron Mackintosh produced a unique, spectacular staging of the musical on a scale which had never been seen before. Inspired by the original staging by Hal Prince and Gillian Lynne, this lavish, fully-staged production set in the sumptuous Victorian splendour of London's legendary Royal Albert Hall features a cast and orchestra of over 200, plus some very special guest appearances.

April 17, 2020

The Hunger Games Movie Night

If you're like me, you're eager for anything to do. So check this out: Lionsgate is running a free series of movie nights, starting with a showing of The Hunger Games tonight.

I posted a very short review of the movie back in 2012.

You can add to Lionsgate's donation to the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation to support out-of-work theater employees.

You can also buy a special snack pack with free shipping from Snack Nation and Popcornopolis will have a movie night offer and donate 10% of sales to the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation.

ETA additional details on Popcornopolis offer:

Popcornopolis knows you can’t have a movie night without popcorn, so they are also offering consumers a special promotion as well

Movie lovers can shop with promo code MOVIENIGHT for 15% off + Free Shipping! In addition, Popcornopolis is proud to donate 10% of all MovieNight sales back to the Will Rogers Foundation to assist theater employees.
🍿 Share your #LionsgateLIVE movie night with us using @popcornopolis and #popcornopolis

So let's enjoy a night at the movies!

Enjoy a night at the movies with Lionsgate, and your friends and family!

Join us for a free screening event of THE HUNGER GAMES on YouTube Live this Friday, April 17 at 9pm ET / 6pm PT.

Watch-along and engage in the conversation online using #LionsgateLive.

Stay tuned for DIRTY DANCING on April 24, LA LA LAND on May 1, and JOHN WICK on May 8!

Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games.  A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which "Tributes" must fight with one another until one survivor remains.

Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy.  If she's ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

The Hunger Games is directed by Gary Ross, with a screenplay by Gary Ross and Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray, and produced by Nina Jacobson's Color Force in tandem with producer Jon Kilik. Suzanne Collins' best-selling novel, the first in a trilogy published by Scholastic that has over 23.5 million copies in print in the United States alone, has developed a massive global following. It has spent more than 160 consecutive weeks/more than three consecutive years to date on The New York Times bestseller list since its publication in September 2008, and has also appeared consistently on USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, Willow Shields.

Rated PG-13

March 23, 2020

Review: Tiny Pretty Things

Tiny Pretty Things By Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
Available now from HarperTeen
Review copy

There are a number of review copies stacked in various places around my house. Yes, I know I haven't reviewed any of them in more than a year. I moved Tiny Pretty Things up my to-read list after a Netflix adaptation was announced. They have a good track record with YA properties, so I'm looking forward to what they'll do with this story of scheming ballet students.

Tiny Pretty Things is told in alternating points of view between ballet students Gigi, Bette, and June, with the prologue from the school's former top ballerina, who has to leave after an engineered accident. Gigi is the new girl who gets bullied because she instantly rises to the top; however, she's hiding a medical condition that could end her chances of dancing professionally. Bette is balancing romantic drama with trying to reclaim the top spot, while her mom berates her for not being her sister, a current ballet star. June works to hide her eating disorder while trying to discover who her secret father is.

I honestly found all three of the girls somewhat hard to like, but I liked that all three had real determination and drive, despite often channeling it in destructive ways. (The academy has male dancers, too, each with their own agenda, though they don't get their own point of view sections. They're mostly suitably hunky love interests who might perform some of their own backstabbing.)

If you're read Gossip Girl or one of the many series it spawned, this is pretty familiar ground. (Even the escalation to attempted murder.) The setting at least means the girls are fighting over something real; it is their future career on the line. Still, don't go in expecting realism. Their antics are pretty over the top. Conversely, I often found June's eating disorder too real, especially the explicit details in how she fakes a higher weight for weigh-ins. The potential tips felt slightly irresponsible to me.

I did appreciate that packager CAKE Literary made a commitment to diversity. For example, June is Asian and Tiny Pretty Things addresses the race problem in the ballet world and that June knows she'll always have to be better than the white girls to get picked for roles ahead of them.

While I enjoyed Tiny Pretty Things as a frothy, dramatic read with ballet flair, I have not yet picked up the sequel, Shiny Broken Pieces. I have made it a goal to read it before the Netflix series comes out. I'm looking forward to seeing who ends up on top!

March 21, 2020

Self Isolation, Not Shelf Isolation

In this time of social distancing, I know I'm not the only one turning to books to fill my spare time. Books are not only entertainment, but a connection to our fellow humans (that can be made from more than six feet away).

The blogger in her Matilda sweatshirt
Things in my part of Texas have turned for the cold and rainy, so I pulled out my Matilda sweatshirt from Out of Print. (By the way, they're donating 25% of profits from their current promotion to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation to help booksellers through this time.)

Wearing this sweatshirt reminds me of reading Matilda, and I find its messages comforting in this time:

So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.


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