Bad Machinery Vol. 3: The Case of the Simple Soul Review

bad-machinery-3Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison

Oni Press, 2014. 978-1620101933

Synopsis: The Tackleford gang is back with a new case that demands solving! When Tackleford’s derelict barns begin going up in flames, Linton and Sonny are on the case with a moderately mysterious new friend. Paths cross, however, when Lottie and Mildred meet a terrifying yet misunderstood creature living beneath a bridge! Throw in an overly enthusiastic Fire Brigade, a transforming skate ramp, and a new French teacher and you’ve got the kind of charming genius that can only be found in John Allison’s BAD MACHINERY. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: This was a splurge purchase at a book sale after trying (and failing) to remember the name of the comic.

Why I finished it: I was hard pressed to find the actual mystery in this installment of the series. The mysterious barn fires start out as a prevalent plot point, but it sort of fades into the background behind the other plotlines. Granted, the case does get solved in the end, but it doesn’t seem like our sleuths really have much interest in solving the case that they seem to have happened upon. Mildred, Charlotte, Linton, and Sonny all spend a significant amount of time trying to fill the void left in their groups by Shauna and Jack, who are now dating (and they are totally my OTP of this series). So in that aspect, Simple Soul is more about transitions than it is about finding an arsonist. Allison has found a different rhythm for his characters this time around, showcasing their struggles with the end of the year at a new school, changing friendships, new romances, and the general angst that comes from being an almost teenager. Yet, the comedic timing and the offbeat humor continue to shine through which is what makes the comic so likable. The volume also includes another edition of Charlotte’s explanations of British Idioms and a collection of hand-drawn husbands by Charlotte and Mildred. Overall, it’s a great, fun read that continues to see our characters growing up and learning more about life – which, it turns out may or may not be hazardous to your health.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

 

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Feature Presentation: The Lego Batman Movie Review

legobatmanonesheetThe Lego Batman Movie starring the voices of Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Zach Galifianakis, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, and Jenny Slate

DC Entertainment/Warner Bros./Warner Bros. Animation/Vertigo Entertainment, 2017. Rated PG

Synopsis: When Gotham’s bad guys surrender themselves, it looks like Batman might be out of his post as vigilante crime fighter. Once heralded for his heroics and bravery, he’s even more broody than usual now that there’s no criminals wreaking havoc. Plus, there’s this kid he adopted at a city gala for the police commissioner’s retirement that he isn’t sure what to do with that he’s maybe sort of hoping he can send back to the orphanage. So when Joker hatches a plan to break the city apart (literally), it’s going to be up to Batman, Alfred, Robin, and Barbara Gordon to save the day.

I love that Will Arnett is reprising his role as Batman because he is able to bring a distinct humor to a traditionally much darker character. Granted, this is  family movie, but it’s still refreshing to see Batman’s more childish side – something that is prevalent throughout Lego Batman. The film makes reference to all of Batman’s previous movie and television appearances: Alfred makes note of Batman’s many ‘phases’ and there is a bit at the end in which words like “Bam!”, “Pow!”, and “Biff!” appear in the air as Batman and Robin are fighting (spoiler: it’s a reference to the 1960s Batman television series with Adam West). These may go over the heads of younger viewers, but for those of us that have followed Batman in his many incarnations will get a kick. Viewers will also be amused to note that Siri (the iPhone personal assistant) is the voice of Batman’s computer and she seems to have developed a little bit of a personality to offset Batman’s sarcasm. I also loved Michael Cera’s Robin/Dick Grayson because he is such an innocent overachiever. He, like Batman, wants love and attention, but since Batman seems to be afraid of having a family and letting people in, Robin is there to show him some unconditional love. Alfred is still the most awesome butler ever and his ability to ‘handle’ his adopted son/employer is a bit of a running gag as well. But I think what really sold me at the end was the element of friendship and friends being the family we choose – there’s even a catchy pop song to that effect at the end to rival “Everything is Awesome”. It’s sure to entertain viewers of all ages.

 

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Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy Review

bad-machinery-2Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison

Oni Press, 2014. 978-1620101148

Synopsis: Toddlers are going missing all over Tackleford and witnesses report they are being carted off by a mysterious beast. Meanwhile, another mystery beast appears in Mildred’s backyard – but at least this one appears to be friendly…and polite…and able to drink tea from a cup? Is it in any way related to the ‘dogs’ the girls drew with Mildred’s supposed magic pencil? Can Jack and the boys find the beast before Jack gets too beat up by the school bully? Will Shauna and Jack ever have a date?

Why I picked it up: I loved the first volume and was eager to read more about Shauna, Mildred, Charlotte, Linton, Jack, and Sonny’s mystery-solving exploits

Why I finished it: Allison has created a wonderfully diverse world filled with marvelously fleshed out characters whose interactions remind us of our own adventures and misadventures. Shauna, Mildred, Charlotte, Jack, Sonny, and Linton could all very well be people we know, and the reader is instantly drawn into the group, looking for clues about what currently plagues their small town. There’s somewhat less interaction between the girls and the boys in this volume, since each of them seems to have stumbled upon their own separate mysteries. The bit with Jack being bullied is poignant without detracting from the main plot. Bullying is a big deal no matter your age group, and Allison addresses the issue in a way that seems to spark something in the reader. We can get called out on the fact that we’re in trouble, but it’s often hard to admit that we need help, that we can’t handle it ourselves. I also appreciated that the adults are just as snarky as the teens, walking a fine line between being a disciplinarian and being an advocate. It gives us a different look at our own lives and our own world without detracting from the fun and quirky nature of the comic itself. And again, there’s a helpful glossary in the back of the book to help readers with the idioms of British English.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

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Whales on Stilts! Review

whales_on_stiltsWhales on Stilts!: A Pals in Peril Tale by M.T. Anderson; illustrations by Kurt Cyrus

Beach Lane Books, 2010. 978-1442407015

Synopsis: Lily Gefelty thinks it’s more than a little weird that her father works for a company that makes prosthetics for cetaceans. I mean, what do whales need stilts for anyway? But when she realizes her dad’s boss, Larry, is outfitting the whales with laser eyes as well, she knows there’s something even more dastardly going on. Luckily, she has her friends Katie Mulligan and Jasper Dash to help her save the day!

Why I picked it up: I wanted a short read for a weekend trip.

Why I finished it: What I like about this series is that it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. Our heroes find themselves in improbable situations, but for them these (for the most part) are everyday occurrences. The ridiculousness gives it the feel of a pulp novel while taking the reader on a highly imaginative trip through an alternative version of our own world. I really identified with Lily because I often wanted to hide behind my bangs and pretend I was invisible when I was younger. I know the feeling of not being up to par with my friends, of believing that I’m too ordinary to do the fantastic. But despite Lily’s shyness, she uses her cleverness and wit to be able to come up with a plan to stop Larry and his mind-controlled whale army from taking over the world. She might not have Jasper’s knack for inventing or Katie’s ability to fight off a zombie attack, but her ability to think and act quickly truly makes her a hero. I’d give this book to people who like fast-paced adventure and edge-of-their-seat action – it’s a pretty fast read and keeps up a good pace throughout.

Other related materials: The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; Agent Q, or The Smell of Danger! (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; Zombie Mommy (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; He Laughed With His Other Mouths (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron; Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist books by Jim Benton; Cardboard by Doug TenNapel; The Wild Robot by Peter Brown; Ungifted by Gordon Korman

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Fun and Games: Science Activities for Kids

This was a blog I originally did for the lovely Darlene Beck-Jacobson, but I wanted to try something different this week so I am re-posting here. Check out Darlene’s blog here.


When you grow up with a father who is an engineer and a mother who has degrees in both Biology and Geology, science is kind of hard to avoid. Then again, science is pretty hard to avoid in general because it’s happening all around us all the time.

The obnoxiously hot weather? Science.

Trees turning colors as the seasons change? Science.

The reason your dog turns in a circle before lying down? Science.

Making cookies or baking a cake? Science.

Your younger sibling always being with you at the most inconvenient times? Could be science.

There’s a plethora of fun activities and experiments you can do at home with common household items, and like in Math Curse, ideally these can help you stop thinking of science as scary and intimidating and turn it into something fun.

science

After a (largely thorough) scouring of the internet (read: Pinterest), I’ve compiled a list of my own personal favorites along with some of the newer ones I found in my search.

Disclaimer: I’ve tried to ensure clarity of directions in each of these activities, please use common sense when performing these experiments to ensure your own safety and the safety of those around you.

– Erupting Volcano (from how-things-work-science-porjects.com):

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup vinegar (up to a cup if you have a large bottle)
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • cherry jell-o granules

Procedure:

  1. Place the vinegar in the bottle.
  2. Stir the baking soda and enough cherry jell-o mix to make a pinkish powder.
  3. Either wrap the soda mixture in tissue paper or use a funnel to add it directly into the bottle. Tissue helps get all the soda in the vinegar at once, but if the funnel hole is large enough, that method works just fine. Either way, the goal is to get the baking soda into the vinegar as fast as you can.
  4. Stand back and watch what happens – Erupting Volcano!

(Note: There’s oodles more recipes on the site (and the rest of the internet) that can be tried besides the one I have here. Check them all out and then pick your own preferred method.)

– Salt Volcanoes (from whatdowedoallday.com):

  1. Pour several inches of water into a jar.
  2. Add about 1/3 of vegetable oil.
  3. Drop in food coloring and observe what happens.
  4. Shake salt on top of the oil/water/food coloring mixture. Observe, observe, observe.
  5. Pour or sprinkle more salt, as desired. You may want to touch it. (Tip: Have towels handy.)

– Potato Battery (from PBS Kids):

You will need:

  • Potato
  • Plate
  • 2 pennies
  • 2 galvanized nails
  • three 8 inch lengths insulated copper wire, each with 2 inches of the insulation stripped off one end
  • digital clock with attachments for wires

Procedure:

  1. First, cut a potato in half and put the two halves on a plate so they stand on their flat ends. The plate is there to keep your table clean.
  2. Then, wrap the end of one piece of wire around a galvanized nail and wrap the end of a second piece of wire around a penny.
  3. Stick the nail and penny into one half of the potato so that they’re not touching each other.
  4. Next, wrap the third piece of wire around the other penny and put it into the other half of the potato. Put the other nail into the second half of the potato, but this nail should not have wire wrapped around it.
  5. Now, connect the wire from the penny on the first half of the potato to the nail that has no wire on it in the second half of the potato.
  6. Finally, touch the free ends of the wires to the wires coming out of the digital clock.
  7. Does it work?
  8. You’ll probably have to try connecting the wires to the clock in different ways to get the energy to flow through the clock in the right direction.
  9. It’s just like putting batteries into a clock; they have to go in the right way.

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W.A.R.P.: The Forever Man Review

forever_manW.A.R.P., Book 3: The Forever Man by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2015. 978-1484726037

Synopsis: Riley, an orphan boy living in Victorian London, has achieved his dream of becoming a renowned magician, the Great Savano. He owes much of his success to Chevie, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent who traveled from the future in a time pod and helped him defeat his murderous master, Albert Garrick. But it is difficult for Riley to enjoy his new life, for he has always believed that Garrick will someday, somehow, return to seek vengeance. Chevie has assured Riley that Garrick was sucked into a temporal wormhole, never to emerge. The full nature of the wormhole has never been understood, however, and just as a human body will reject an unsuitable transplant, the wormhole eventually spat him out. By the time Garrick makes it back to Victorian London, he has been planning his revenge on Riley for centuries. But even the best-laid plans can go awry, and when the three are tossed once more into the wormhole, they end up in a highly paranoid Puritan village where everything is turned upside down. Chevie is accused of being a witch, Garrick is lauded as the town’s protector, and . . . is that a talking dog? Riley will need to rely on his reserve of magic tricks to save Chevie and destroy his former master once and for all. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: This series is filling the hole that Artemis Fowl left. Plus, I like the sci-fi/historical fiction mashup.

Why I finished it: This book starts off a little bit slower than the previous novel and seems to keep up the meandering pace throughout without ever really picking up speed. We’re getting much more into the science bit now that Garrick has been reintroduced and much like the characters, the reader is playing a guessing game about his powers and how the mutations created by the wormhole will affect Chevie, Riley, and the rest of the Puritan village in which they have been deposited. The plot centers around an ongoing game of cat-and-mouse between Riley and Garrick, which it should be noted started many years before while Riley was still under Garrick’s apprenticeship. It’s a cunning element to the plot, but unfortunately I wasn’t feeling much of the suspense I felt like I should be feeling. Riley has to get very creative knowing that his target is basically immortal and considers himself to have the upper hand. Yet, our heroes seem to have lost a little bit of their spark (along with a few other things) coming into this book and it doesn’t seem to get shaken off as the story moves along. I was anxious to see Riley succeed in killing Garrick once and for all, and I was hopeful that he and Chevie could make it out in one piece, but there wasn’t a hook for me to really drawn me in. The ending did manage to pick up a bit, but it was just a little bit too late.

Other related materials: The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P., Book 1) by Eoin Colfer; The Hangman’s Revolution (W.A.R.P., Book 2) by Eoin Colfer; The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer; Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer; Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud; Seven Wonders books by Peter Lerangis; Keeper of the Lost Cities books by Shannon Messenger; The Lunar Chronicles books by Marissa Meyer; Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children books by Ransom Riggs;  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle;  A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle;  A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle; The CHRONOS Files books by Rysa Walker

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Bone, Volume 9: Crown of Horns Review

bone_9Bone, Volume 9: Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith

Graphix, 2009. 978-0439706315

Synopsis: It’s full-fledged war as Briar, the rat creatures, and the Pawan army storm the city of Atheia. The Bone cousins, Thorn, and Gran’ma Ben are all there to defend the Valley and stop the return of the Lord of the Locusts. When Thorn goes inside a ghost circle, she hears a voice urging her to seek the Crown of Horns. What follows is another dangerous journey for Thorn and loyal Fone Bone as they race to the sacred grounds of the dragons, searching for the one thing that may save them all. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: EPIC CONCLUSION TIME!

Why I finished it: I think the descriptor “epic” gets thrown around quite a bit when we’re talking about finales, but I think Smith actually pulls it off. The reader has officially peeled all the layers back from the story and gotten to the core. Action, drama, and humor take center stage as we follow our heroes through the final battles and an emotional homecoming. It’s hard to talk about this last volume without giving too much away, but needless to say that Smith has wrapped everything up nicely. There’s a bittersweet feel to the conclusion, but really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Like any series, it’s hard to say goodbye to the characters we love. We feel like we’ve gone through everything with these characters and we don’t want them to leave, but we have to trust that they can look after themselves without the reader peeking in at their lives. This series more than deserves every award and accolade it’s received. I’ve said before that this book has more than earned its place on my shelf, and it’s a series I will happily recommend to readers of all ages.

Other related materials: Bone, Volume 1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 2: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 3: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 4: The Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 5: Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 6: Old Man’s Cave by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 7: Ghost Circles by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 8: Treasure Hunters by Jeff Smith; Bone, Prequel: Rose by Jeff Smith; Bone: Tall Tales by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Bone: Quest for the Spark Books 1 & 2 by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Knights of the Lunch Table books by Frank Cammuso; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; Nnewts books by Doug TenNapel; Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

 

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