Tag Archives: genre: fantasy

Feature Presentation: Trolls

Trolls_(film)_logoTrolls starring the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Baranski, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, John Cleese, James Corden, Jeffrey Tambor, Ron Funches, Aino Jawo, Caroline Hjelt, Kunal Nayyar, and Quvenzhane Wallis

DreamWorks Animation/Hurwitz Creative, 2016. Rated PG

Synopsis: When the ghoulish Bergens invade the Troll Village to steal its citizens for their annual Trollstice Feast, Princess Poppy recruits fellow villager/hermit/doomsday prepper Branch to journey to Bergen Town to rescue her friends.

I honestly don’t know what I was expecting from this movie, but it was definitely girlier than I anticipated. Maybe it was something about the metallic trolls farting glitter or the hugging/singing/dancing nature of the trolls themselves. Sadly, even Branch’s depressed mood and color scheme didn’t do much in the way of making it less girly. Nonetheless, the film’s upbeat energy and the character’s happy-go-lucky attitude is truly infectious even in the most dire of circumstances. Poppy’s self-confidence and positivity sharply contrasts with Branch’s curmudgeonly demeanor, even when he agrees to help Poppy save her friends from certain doom. The Bergens themselves are just as depressed: their only true joy comes from the consumption of Trolls once a year and, as King Gristle Sr. tells his son, there is no other way to be happy. In their own ways, both the Trolls and the Bergens are searching for happiness, but it seems that only one truly knows how to achieve it. While there are part of the movie that seem trite and overly optimistic, the message of perseverance is one that resonates with viewers of all ages and encourages us to see the bright side of life.

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Feature Presentation: Sing

Sing_(2016_film)_posterSing starring the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Nick Kroll, Beck Bennett, Jay Pharoah, and Nick Offerman

Illumination Entertainment, 2016. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Buster Moon’s greatest ambition has been to run a theater ever since he was a young Koala. So when the Moon Theater’s ledger goes deeply in the red, Buster decides to host a singing competition in an effort to save the institution he loves. Little does he realize that the contestants will not only change his life, but their own lives a well.

While the film centers around humanoid animals in a fictional city, the characters each touch on the different ways that one can go about pursuing their dreams. Ash, a porcupine, was just dumped by her boyfriend because he didn’t like that she wanted to sing lead and write her own songs. Meena is a shy elephant with a beautiful voice and a severe case of stage fright. Rosita is a stay-at-home pig mom who yerns to do something beyond taking care of her 25 offspring. Johnny isa gorilla with a natural born talent for singing that is being talked into helping out with the shady doings of his father’s gang. Mouse Mike is a street musician with a big ego in search of some recognition for his hard honed talents. Their ability to keep going in spite of the many setbacks the group endures while prepping for the big performance shows the audience that our ability to dream big dreams and fulfill them is only limited by our own discouragement. We find ourselves cheering for each of these contestants, hoping that they are able to break out of their shells and show the city and the rest of the world what they are made of. The film is largely formulaic in terms of its plotline, but the soundtrack and the eclectic nature of the cast make it worth the hour and forty-five minute runtime. Like with most family films, there is a broad range to the humor that will appeal to viewers of all ages. Younger viewers will be espeically amused by Buster using his own body as a sponge to wash cars in one particular sequence while older viewers will connect with Donnie’s fear of his grandmother Nana, a famous opera singer back in the Moon Theater’s heyday. Overall, a cute and inspiring film about following your dreams and unleashing your inner animal.

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A Clatter of Jars Review

a_clatter_of_jarsA Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff

Philomel Books, 2016. 978-0399174995

Synopsis: It’s summertime and everyone is heading off to camp. For Talented kids, the place to be is Camp Atropos, where they can sing songs by the campfire, practice for the Talent show, and take some nice long dips in the lake. But what the kids don’t know is that they’ve been gathered for a reason—one that the camp’s director wants to keep hidden at all costs. Meanwhile, a Talent jar that has been dropped to the bottom of the lake has sprung a leak, and strange things have begun to happen. Dozens of seemingly empty jars have been washing up on the shoreline, Talents have been swapped, and memories have been ripped from one camper’s head and placed into another. And no one knows why. from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I loved A Tangle of Knots.

Why I finished it: In this companion to A Tangle of Knots, Graff introduces us to a new set of Talented kids who find themselves in the midst of a mystery while attending summer camp. As a refresher, those with Talents can do something special like tie perfect knots or talk to animals or mix a beverage perfect for making you feel better or matching orphaned children with new parents. Those without a Talent are Fair, meaning they have no special powers. Lily, Chuck, Renny, and their siblings are hoping to have a summer camp experience that will help them find something about themselves beyond their Talents. As the story unfolds, we see each of the characters discover something unique about themselves that sets them apart from the rest of the campers and allows them to find and solve the mystery of the jars of Talents in the lake. What I love about this book is just how imaginative it is. It gives the reader a chance to think about what their own Talents are (both magical and nonmagical) and about how we express love for our families and friends. We learn that forgiveness is not always an easy thing to do, but we also see that reconciliation can help to mend broken hearts and minds. I also liked that this book included recipes for some delicious sounding summer time beverages that can be made year round (depending on the availability of the ingredients). It’s a fantastical read that gives a positive message about the power of love.

Other related materials: A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff; Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff; The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff; Double Dog Dare by Lisa Graff; The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff; Bliss by Kathryn Littlewoood; A Dash of Magic: A Bliss Novel by Kathryn Littlewood; The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd; A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd; Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl; The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders; Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice; Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz; Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein; Hold Fast by Blue Balliett; Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle; Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis; Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass; The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech; The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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The Princess Curse Review

the_princess_curseThe Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

HarperCollins Publishers, 2013. 978-0062008152

Synopsis: In the fifteenth-century kingdom of Sylvania, the prince offers a fabulous reward to anyone who cures the curse that forces the princesses to spend each night dancing to the point of exhaustion. Everyone who tries disappears or falls into an enchanted sleep. Thirteen-year-old Reveka, a smart, courageous herbalist’s apprentice, decides to attempt to break the curse despite the danger. Unravelling the mystery behind the curse leads Reveka to the Underworld, and to save the princesses, Reveka will have to risk her soul. from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: The title caught my attention while I was browsing for books in the library.

Why I finished it: Those of us who know anything about fairy tales know that they usually involve a curse of some sort that a brave hero or heroine must break before the all-important happily ever after ending. What piqued my curiosity about this particular book was the nature of the curse. Did the author choose to retell a fairy tale? Did Haskell take an existing plotline and add a few new twists and turns of her own? What is the curse and is it something I’ve read about before? The answer to all of these ended up being that yes, this is a retelling of a fairy tale with some new twists – including a variation on the traditional curse. It’s a clever mash-up between Twelve Dancing Princesses and Beauty and the Beast that takes an almost mythological turn as Reveka reveals the true consequences of breaking the curse. Reveka has been labeled a liar and a troublemaker by the nuns who raised her, but it’s clear to the reader that though her actions at the outset seem somewhat devious and selfish (the reward is enough for her to pay the admission dowry to a nunnery where Reveka wishes to start her own herbary), she begins to see the selflessness that comes from freeing the princesses from their obligations to dance. It’s a fantastical read that fans of Gail Carson Levine, Karen Cushman, and Megan Morrison will devour.

Other related materials: The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell; Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell; Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison; Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison; Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine; Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale; illustrated by Nathan Hale; Princess Academy series by Shannon Hale; The Chronicles of Claudette by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado; Princeless series by Jeremy Whitley, illustrated by M. Goodwin; The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrations by Ana Juan

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Unicorn Crossing Review

unicorn_crossing_coverUnicorn Crossing: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1449483579

Synopsis: Time flies in this fifth volume of Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn! Follow the lovable duo as they experience somewhat-spooky Halloween parties, ecstatic snow days, and looming summer reading assignments. Although the journey of growing up can sometimes be difficult, along the way Phoebe and Marigold discover something more enduring than goblin fads, unicorn spa vacations, and even a Spell of Forgetting—their one of a kind friendship. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I wanted a lighthearted break after all of the heavy books I have been reading for my book clubs.

Why I finished it: I’ve mentioned before that I love this series in large part for Simpson’s often tongue in cheek humor that can be enjoyed by any age reader. Ever the drama horse (that’s a thing; I might have just made it up, but it’s a thing now), Marigold continues in her somewhat half-hearted quest to understand humans – namely Phoebe – when she decides to dress up like her best friend for Halloween. And while the experience doesn’t give Marigold any more insight into the non-unicorn beings, it’s an amusing anecdote about how well Phoebe and Marigold know each other. This bit is followed closely by another in which Marigold goes to a unicorn spa in Canada and leaves Phoebe on her own for a few days – needless to say, that although she survived for nine years without her friend, it proved hard to be without her.  The stories each touch on the notion that friendship is a bond that continues to strengthen and maybe even get a little weirder (in a good way) over time. Simpson’s art is fresh and fun without taking itself too seriously, contributing to the lighthearted humor of the comics. It’s a must read for fans of this series and even if you’re new to Phoebe and Her Unicorn, you’re sure to find something magical within the pages.

Other related materials: Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson; Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure; Phoebe and Her Unicorn in The Magic Storm by Dana Simpson; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Alien Invasion in my Backyard: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling; The Ghostly Thief of Time by Ruben Bolling; Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; Hamster Princess books by Ursula Vernon; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale; Lunch Lady books by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Stinky Cecil books by Paige Braddock

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The Dark Prophecy Review

trials_of_apollo_2The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo, Book 2) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2017. 978-1484746424

Synopsis: After experiencing a series of dangerous–and frankly, humiliating–trials at Camp Half-Blood, Lester must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Somewhere in the American Midwest, he and his companions must find the most dangerous Oracle from ancient times: a haunted cave that may hold answers for Apollo in his quest to become a god again–if it doesn’t kill him or drive him insane first. Standing in Apollo’s way is the second member of the evil Triumvirate, a Roman emperor whose love of bloodshed and spectacle makes even Nero look tame. To survive the encounter, Apollo will need the help of son of Hephaestus Leo Valdez, the now-mortal sorceress Calypso, the bronze dragon Festus, and other unexpected allies–some familiar, some new–from the world of demigods. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I wasn’t a huge fan of the first book in this series, so I was hoping the second would help me come around.

Why I finished it: Mkay, so, Apollo is still annoying. A little bit less annoying, but still annoying. He seems to have developed a little bit of a conscience, but he’s still just as self-centered and selfish as he was when we wasn’t an acne-plagued teenager. Riordan delves a little more into the mythology of the Hunters of Artemis, introducing the reader to Britomartis the goddess of nets and traps. We also get a glimpse at some of Apollo’s past mistakes – leaving his son Trophonius to die, killing Commodus after giving him his blessing – and it helps to fuel the plot. The cast of characters continues to grow, adding two former and a handful of current Hunters, Lityerses the son of Midas, and former emperor Commodus, who is bent on killing both Apollo and Meg. As the stakes continue to stack themselves against Apollo and Meg, it looks like it will take a miracle from the gods in order to save them. The plot is much more fast-paced than the previous book, and Riordan manages to up the ante for our heroes in a big way. I am happy to say that I have warmed up to this series a little bit more and I’m eager to see if Apollo succeeds in his mission.

Other related materials: The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, Book 1) by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan; Demigods and Magicians: Percy and Annabeth Meet the Kanes by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas; Seven Wonders books by Peter Lerangis, illustrated by Torstein Norstrand; Five Kingdoms series by Brandon Mull; The Blackwell Pages series by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh; The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh; Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger; Kingdom Keepers books by Ridley Pearson; The Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann; Seven Realms novels by Cinda Williams Chima

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Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian Review

artemis_fowl_8Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian (Artemis Fowl, Book 8) by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2012. 978-1423161615

Synopsis: Having been cured of his Atlantis Complex, Artemis is released to find that the fate of the world is yet again at stake – thanks to an elaborate plan masterminded by none other than Opal Koboi. Using dark magic, she has awakened the dead warriors that once found on the grounds that are now the Fowl Family Estate and plans to use the dormant magic of the estate to destroy humanity. As things go from bad to worse, Artemis, Holly, Butler, Mulch, and Foaly race to find a solution that will be able to save the world once more.

Why I picked it up: Final Showdown. Cue the music.

Why I finished it: This is, of course, the ultimate showdown we were hoping for and didn’t really get much of a lead up to in the previous installment: a battle of wits so intense that the fate of the world rests on which genius can outwit the other. Thankfully, Artemis is back in his right mind and so his genius is on full display. Opal is still the evil genius she ever was, but her character has grown sort of tired now that she has had to execute large portions of her revenge herself. Even the Berserker spirits she bonds have a strong desire to maim her. The plot is a good blend of action and strategization, and Colfer uses this last book as an opportunity to showcase some of the other secondary characters that were previously mentioned in name only: Caballine and Mayne, Foaly’s wife and nephew. It was refreshing to me to have that character development, even though this is the last novel in the series and so it appears this is the only little bit the reader will get. I liked Caballine and the reader can easily understand how well matched she is with Foaly. What he lacks in brawn, she more than makes up for with her own study of martial arts; and she has a quick-witted mind to boot. Mayne is just as annoying as previously described in previous books, but he still has a function within the context of the larger story. Artemis’s final solution to saving the world is both bold and selfless, characteristics that the reader might not have used to describe Artemis on our first meeting but we see that he has certainly grown into a more compassionate individual. It’s a magnificent end to such an epic series, and while I am sad to see Artemis go, I’m looking forward to one day reliving the adventures of the boy genius again.

Other related materials: Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, Book 1) by Eoin Colfer; The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, Book 2) by Eoin Colfer; The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl, Book 3) by Eoin Colfer; The Opal Deception (Artemis Fowl, Book 4) by Eoin Colfer; The Lost Colony (Artemis Fowl, Book 5) by Eoin Colfer; The Time Paradox (Artemis Fowl, Book 6) by Eoin Colfer; The Atlantis Complex (Artemis Fowl, Book 7) by Eoin Colfer; Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel adapted by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, art by Giovanni Rigano, colors by Paolo Lamanna; Artemis Fowl: The Seventh Dwarf by Eoin Colfer; W.A.R.P.  books by Eoin Colfer; The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer; Max Powers and Project Gemini by Keith Philips; The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud; H.I.V.E. series by Mark Walden; Inkheart by Cornelia Funke; Inkspell by Cornelia Funke; Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

 

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