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A Librarian Takes on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read an All-Ages Comic 1

18 Jan

This year I decided to follow the Book Riot Read Harder 2017 Challenge. I said the same thing about the 2015 and 2016 challenges but didn’t succeed. But this year I’d like to complete the challenge! Sharlene has inspired me with her Dewey Decimal Challenge, so like her, I will write about the books I read here for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge to hold myself accountable.

I set the barrier for entry low by choosing to complete the “Read an all-ages comic” challenge first. I recently became aware that Jem and the Holograms have been revived in comic book form, and immediately borrowed the first two volumes. As a kid I loved watching the Jem and the Holograms cartoons, which aired from 1985-1988 (seasons one, two, and three on DVD are available to borrow). What I remember most about Jem was her pink hair. I thought it was so pretty and believed that I would have pink hair when I grew up. While I lived through the era of using Manic Panic and even Kool Aid to dye hair wild colors, I never experimented with those means. But now I have something to talk about with my hair stylist…

Back to the comics!

Jem and the Holograms, by Kelly Thompson

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Jem and the Holograms, the first volume that collects books 1 through 5, establishes the Holograms’ origin story. Jerrica Benton is the manager and lead singer of the band, with her sisters Kimber the keytar player, Shana the drummer, and Aja the guitarist. The story opens with the band trying to record a music video to submit to a contest sponsored by the Misfits, but Jerrica’s stage fright impedes filming. After once again failing to perform and overhearing her bandmates’ frustrations with her, Jerrica goes home where she discovers Synergy, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) computer designed by her late father that allows Jerrica to transform into the fearless pink-haired Jem. As Jem, Jerrica is able to record the video, which takes off and threatens the Misfits, led by the volatile Pizazz, and breeds a rivalry.

I loved the art in this edition. Each woman has her own distinct style, and diverse body types are depicted. Truth be told, I prefered the Misfits’ edgier color palettes over the Holograms’.

The story was fun to read, too. A forbidden romance develops between the Holograms’ Kimber and the Misfits’ Stormer. Jerrica dates Rio, a reporter who is writing a story about the Misfits but becomes intrigued by the Holograms, in particular the mysterious Jem who is never in the same place as Jerrica.

Jem and the Holograms Vol. 2 Viral, by Kelly Thompson

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What makes Viral, the second volume that collects books 6 through 10, different from the first volume is the pop culture references. In the opening story, the exhausted Holograms argue over what movie to watch and we see their dreams where they are characters in their favorite movies that you will recognize, with Synergy playing a key role in each dream. I personally liked the story that imagined the Holograms and the Misfits as babies, a la The Muppet Babies cartoon (another childhood favorite!) with Synergy as Nanny, who we see only from the knees down. Viral ends with several cliffhangers and I am anxious to read the next volume to see where the story goes.

If reading these doesn’t give you enough Jem, you can borrow the recent live action movie of the same name on DVD or Blu-Ray. While I didn’t love the movie, I enjoyed Juliette Lewis as the band’s villainous manager Erica and Kesha’s cameo as Pizazz. What can I say, I think Pizazz is more interesting than Jerrica/Jem. Although regarding hair color inspiration, I am not sure green hair would be as flattering as pink.

So, this is my first completed Read Harder Challenge. Stay tuned for the next one!

Do you have any special reading goals for this year? Let me know in the comments.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

Breakout the Seedcakes and Blackberry Tarts: Celebrate the 125th Anniversary of Tolkien’s Birth!

6 Jan

January 3 is the 125th birth anniversary of J.R.R. (John Ronald Reuel) Tolkien who was born in 1892 in what is now South Africa in Bloemfontein.  Tolkien’s hobbits celebrated their byrding days (birthdays) by giving gifts to others rather than simply receiving gifts themselves.  Tolkien has clearly gifted the world with his writing; his work has been translated into over 60 languages as well as having been adapted as movies and even video games.  This is the perfect time to come in and check some out some of his writing and works he inspired today.

The Hobbit: or, There and Back Again

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The first and perhaps the most accessible of Tolkien’s novels set in middle earth, The Hobbit tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit whose life is changed when Gandalf the Wizard transforms his safe ordinary life into one of adventure.  My first encounter with it was the cartoon from the late 1970’s, which is available at some BCCLS libraries.  Also available to check out is Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings published as three volumes (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King) which continue to be influential on many contemporary writers and is the archetype of High Fantasy.  If you would like to start listening to them right now visit Hoopla for digital audiobook copies.

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Films Directed by Peter Jackson

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You can borrow several of the ambitious films that Peter Jackson directed including The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from HPL.  I saw The Lord of the Rings trilogy with my father who was overjoyed with the special effects laden and visually stunning adaptations of books he had loved as a teenager.  The Hobbit movies were a bit controversial with some fans due to the addition of new characters and plot lines to allow for three films; check them out and see what you think.

Video Games Set in Middle Earth

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Not satisfied with merely reading or watching about Middle Earth, immerse yourself in the epic battles with Lego The Lord of the Rings for the Xbox 360 or PS3.  The game allows you to unlock over 80 playable Lego versions of Middle Earth characters.   This game is rated E 10+.  For those looking for a more adult game check out Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor for the PS3, PS4, Xbox One, or Xbox 360 rated M; you play as Talion, a Ranger of the Black Gate and is set prior to the events in Lord of the Rings.  Also available is the rated M game The Lord of the Rings. War in the North for Xbox 360.

The Story of Kullervo

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If you are already a fan of Tolkien and looking for something new then you might be intrigued by The Story of Kullervo.  Although only recently published, The Story of Kullervo is an early short story from circa 1915, which is based on part of the Finnish epic Kalevala.   Also included are transcripts of Tolkien’s talks on Kalevala.

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski

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Tolkien was part of a literary club in 1932 called the Inklings, who first met at Oxford University. The Inklings critiqued each other’s works and debated the hot topics of the time.  The Fellowship focuses on four of the groups most famous members and it is an interesting look at some of the forces that shaped Tolkien and his work.  Looking for more in-depth insight into Tolkien’s work?  You can also borrow from HPL The Tolkien Companion by J. E. A. Tyler and Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Corey Olsen.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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