Saturday, May 31, 2008

Quick Fire Review Challenge

Christensen, Pernille Fischer, et al. Soap. [Culver City, CA]: Strand Releasing, 2006.

Charlotte is a beautician who just left her boyfriend and moved into her own place. Her downstairs neighbor is Veronica, a pre-operative transwoman who earns her living via domination. The two don't mix at all, but events seem to conspire to throw them together and a really sweet story develops between two strong personalities. The story is told in soap opera style with titillating narration breaks between acts. Veronica is a huge soap fan and knows exactly what she wants. Charlotte is prickly and strong-willed but waffles on her love life. The second viewing of this the movie was much slower moving then the first time, but the story retained its sweetness throughout. This movie contains scenes of sexual violence and harsh language. In Danish with English subtitles.

She & Him. Volume 1. Chapel Hill, NC: Merge, 2008

Ever since Zooey Deschanel sang the duet of "Baby it's cold outside" with Will Ferrell/Leon Redbone in "Elf" I have wanted her to come out with her own album. Fortuitously she was paired with M.Ward to make a song for a different movie and in the end they came out with a full album. Some of the songs are covers, some remind you of your parents music or their parents music even, but almost all are strong, and this is by far the best album involving an actress to come out in a long long time. Too bad her latest movie is "The Happening" which looks to be a movie I'll never see.

Questionable Content
The artwork in this comic improved exponentially in its first few years. It is, as Jeph admits, glacially paced, but not worth the ribbing it gets from his fellow webcomic author John Allison. One of the funniest things to me, being an avid webcomic fan, is the friendcestuous nature of webcomics. If you ever see a guest comic week at a webcomic you'll see some of it, or just read a few weeks worth of Overcompensating. Basically all the webcomic dudes know each other and alternatively tease, flirt with, and abuse other webcomic authors. Anyway, back to QC. At this point it is the one I've read the longest and most consistently and the only one I've been able to spread like a virus to friends and family. Despite the slow moving quality of the storyline, the jokes hit more often then they miss. Also it has the ingredient voted Most Likely To Ensure a Successful Webcomic: an adorable side character. In this one the adorable side character is an AnthroPC named Pintsize. Good stuff.

Anders Loves Maria
Anders <3s Maria, Maria <3s Anders but they both do stupid impetuous acts that constantly threaten their relationship. Often humorous and always very human, Anders <3s Maria is overall one of the best comics on the web. My main problems with the comic generally are that sometimes it is unclear who characters are or are supposed to be (especially when they are the same character but younger or older.) Also, she goes back to earlier threads and time periods with know warning or explanation making the story hard to follow, and of course the general fact that I want the lead characters to be a happy family. Also, I was a little outraged a bit ago when Rene was being harassed because of webcomic level celebrity status. She gave her harassers exactly what they wanted by putting Anders <3s Maria on indefinite (and possibly permanent) hiatus. But, I'm not Rene and I can't get too down on her for worrying about her safety and retreating to metaphorically lick her wounds. I don't know the details of the story, and since the comic is back up and running I don't really care that much. I wouldn't have cared at all probably, except for despite the problems pointed out earlier I really love the art and the story and atmosphere that Rene creates with each new installment and it became a bit of a web-addiction for me and I was angry to be cut off. So, I'm glad Anders <3s Maria is back and I recommend it to anyone over the age of 18 or at least mature enough to handle the sometimes explicitly sexual artwork and language.

This webcomic is pretty and makes me happy every single time I read it. It shines with muted innocent deviousness and stellar recognizable art.

YA book awards

I know it is impossible to read every book ever written, but it is possible to keep up a little with some booklists published by the ALA. I don't believe the ALA is the end-all be-all in book selection. Committees can be more hindrance than help when it comes to finding literature other people want to read, but I do look to them to always know what is coming out and have already whittled that huge number into a more manageable list.

Anyway, I may not review every single thing I'm reading on those lists here, but I will be writing mini-reviews as I read on my LibraryThing page.
You are welcome.

Oh and this is neither here nor there, but if I were going to review a place to go it would be the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis, MO. It is beautiful and above all, interesting. I took most of these pictures there. And evidently gas prices are cheaper in St.Louis than anywhere else in the country:

Feather and Bone

Martini, Clem. Feather and Bone triology: The Mob, The Plague and The Judgement.. Toronto: Kids Can Press

Genre: Animal

Plot Summary:
The Mob:The crow clans have met at the gathering tree for their yearly Gathering to find mates and catch up. Things are different this year. And three young crows manage to be the saviors of the families.
The Plague: A mysterious plague has decimated the flock and many others around it. The main characters from The Mob are back in different roles for this continuation of the series which involves crow on crow violence. Human interaction is becoming a key to survival.
The Judgement: The collective is still after Kyp and he chooses to take his motley flock and flee. As the Chooser all decisions and responsibilities fall to him and he must be wise beyond his years to lead them to the giant meeting known as Urkana which may only be a legend.

Geographical Setting: Where the crow flies.

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: Feather and Bone

Appeal Characteristics:This series is interesting because it is told only from crows point of view. Their distrust of humans, their old ways, their rituals and their conflicts are all somewhat alien how humans would approach them. The book is sometimes funny, often suspenseful, and full of myths and side stories.

Red Flags: The first book is the strongest of the three. The second book has some issues at the end with suspension of disbelief and the third book is convoluted and maintaining interest -especially with so many new characters- becomes difficult. Also some violence/death from natural causes.

Blink once for Yes and twice for No.

Kennedy, Kathleen, et al. Le scaphandre et le papillon. Burbank, CA: Touchstone Home Entertainment, 2008.

As this blog is mostly for reader's advisory purposes and not so much general media reviews I am only sneaking little tidbits of film and music and television in every once in a while to spice things up. And because as a librarian I am extremely interested in storytelling and good stories can be told well in a variety of ways.
Plot Synopsis
Anyway, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly as this movie is more often known is a great story of a man trapped in his own head. Literally. One minute Jean-Dominique is the editor of the French Elle, and the next he's had a stroke and can't move except to blink. He has something called "Locked-in syndrome." The consequences are interesting he is helped to "break out" by communicating through blinks by two beautiful therapists.
The movie was hard to watch at the beginning since everything was shot as though you are Jean-Dominique just waking up from a coma after the stroke. But later the interplay of his past and his present and his now vast internal world is beautiful and striking.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

People Loving Art In Neighborhoods

Castellucci, Cecil, and Jim Rugg. The Plain Janes. New York, N.Y.: DC Comics, 2007.

Genre: Graphic Novel, Coming of Age story
Plot Summary:

Jane is in the line of fire during a bombing in Metro City. Her parents freak out and move her to the boring suburbs. She was one of the popular girls in her old high school, but in the suburbs she wants a new identity. So she befriends a group of girls who all have names that are some variation of Jane and who all a bit socially misfitted.There's Jayne, the semi-goth avant garde art nerd, Polly Jane the tomboy sports nut who can't seem to actually make a team, and and Jane a brainy science geek. Main Jane (as our hero is known) has a great idea for a guerilla art initiative similar to the guerilla girls.

But instead of focusing so much on feminism the Plain group just wants people to appreciate art and to stop being so afraid all the time. Their work gets the entire town in a tizzy though and dire consequences are potentially awaiting them if they are caught.

Geographical Setting: Metro City, Suburbs, High School
Time Period: Contemporary

Appeal Characteristics: The art in this book is good, but simple and focused mainly on the characters and not impressive backgrounds. The message is uplifting and shows teenagers making a difference in their community. The story is told mostly through a series of letters from Main Jane to another bombing victim that she is connected to through his "art saves" sketchbook. There are serious moments and issues in the book, but the story is overall a story of coming into ones own and the tone reflects the story and characters. The ideas for the P.L.A.I.N stunts are pretty cute. The other characters are not as well developed as Main Jane, but the story, though character involved, is more idea driven then character-driven. As with most graphic novels it is a quick and gratifying read.

Read-alikes: Many of Minx's publications seem to be in the same vein. Though "Breaking Up" by by Aimee Friedman (Author), Christine Norrie (Illustrator) published by Graphix is similar in the fact that it is a group of four friends dealing with issues of friendship and high school and all of the group of friends have special talents.

Red Flags: Independent thinking teenagers bucking authority. Some language, implied violence. Somewhat flat characters.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I am Iron Man

Iron Man 2008
Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, and Jeff Bridges.
Rating: 4 of 5 sarahs approve

As comic-book superheroes go Tony Stark aka Iron Man is perhaps one of the less well known, but at least in this movie, one of the most interesting. In the first few minutes of the movie we see Tony in an envoy charming the U.S. army and then watching those same people die as the convey is attacked. The violence in this movie isn't too much for younger audiences, but might be more than small children can handle. The plot, while somewhat filled with thin pro-America propaganda, is well suited for a super-hero story with heart and character and lots and lots and lots of neat gadgets. The technology in this movie is outstanding and in many instances beautiful. Additionally it is sometimes the technology that adds character and heart to the script. In fact, a movie with nothing but the electronics and robotics would be worth seeing. As an added bonus the special effects are not super-obvious and extremely well done. Hurrah! A note about the plot going deeper than was perhaps meant. Tony Stark's father worked on the Manhattan project and founded Stark Weapons. Albert Einstein has been documented after Hiroshima as regretting his recommendation to start the Manhattan Project. Tony Stark after seeing that how the weapons he designed were being used by both sides and actually feeling the effects of one of them loses his naivety about weapon design, and that is one of the best moments in the film Robert Downey Jr. is completely well-suited to play pompous womanizing genius Tony Stark. Gwenyth Paltrow is wonderful as his poorly named assistant Pepper Potts. *BEGIN SPOILER* Kudos to the writers for not letting Pepper give into stark so easily. I love that they are not a happy couple, but a more complicated professional relationship at the end. *END SPOILER*
Bridges is so likeable that he's almost unbelievable in this film, and that almost makes it even better. Terrence in this movie.

So this is generally a good movie for most audiences and really only has some language, violence, and mild womanizing/sexual situations to watch out for with the kids. Go forth and enjoy.
And for a more personal opinion see my livejournal.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

King Dork in a deck of cards.

Portman, Frank. King Dork. New York: Delacorte Press, 2006

: YA Fiction
Plot Summary:
Tom Henderson and his best (only) friend Sam Hellerman (they became friends from unbreakable Alphabetical order, and that's forever) spend most of their time avoiding the psychopathic normals and thinking of clever band names (instead of actually writing and practicing music.) When Tom finds a copy of his dead father's copy of "Catcher in the Rye" with a secret code found in the pages it turns his entire world upside down. There are some wacky hijinks, an accidental assault, a dangerous assault, and an actual useful therapist along the way.

Geographical Setting
: California (High School)
Time Period: Late 1990s
Age Level: 10th grade and up

Appeal Characteristics: Despite being a deeper character study and blatantly filled to the brim with 10th grade vocabulary terms this book is a fast-paced, (surprisingly)light, and humorous read. Tom Henderson is the anti-heroes anti-hero. The book deals with serious subjects, but humorously through the eyes of an introverted 14 year old. Tom parent's try hard, but fail to understand him. His best friend can't be trusted despite the sacred bonds of alphabetical order. Their band is never going to get off the ground and Tom has the worst and weirdest nickname ever. All of the elements of plot, setting, and style fit together nicely to form a brilliant character study. One of the best bits is character evolution, when new information or characters or settings come into play it is easy to see Tom integrating it into his character or the characters around him.

: Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Pocket Books, 1999.
Thematically and attitudinally these two books are extremely similar. The anti-hero coming into his own, the humor, the musical references, the first time sexual encounters are all very similar in these two books.

Red Flags
:language, sexual situations involving high school students, inept parenting, and violence. Don't look for any sort of actual conclusion to this book. Also, the now-trendy name dropping of 70s mod rock can be extremely tedious unless you are really into that era of music.

For more personal opinions on this book see my livejournal.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Things to come

This page is changing (again, as I try and work out my exact presence on the web). Soon this blog will be for me to give you professional quality reviews. And now not just of books but of other popular media as well. If you want to know about the more personal side of what I'm reading and how it affects me (and sometimes how I went about finding the material) you'll have to visit Reading_Sarah at

Reviews Coming Soon

Books and Graphic Novels
Clem Martini's Feather and Bone Trilogy
Frank Portman's King Dork
Cecil Castellucci (Author), Jim Rugg (Illustrator) The Plain Janes

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly
Appleseed Ex Machina
En Soap

She and Him Volume 1

Questionable Content
Anders Loves Maria