Let’s Talk About The Baby-sitters Club

Yes, you read that right. I’m a guy who was curious about the Baby-sitters Club books. Yes, I’m comfortable with my sexuality. I did it out of purely academic interest. I mean, they’re there to be read, right?

Anyway, I only read the first book Kristy’sGreat Idea. That was more than enough for me to give an honest view.

Basically, the first book is about four friends who create a club for babysitters (thus the title) and they babysit a whole bunch. That’s really it.

Yes, I’m aware there have been a lot more books written n the series (my sister had a whole bunch when she was a teenager but gave all the books away.) I’m a guy and know that 1. This series was not meant for me and 2. I can see the appeal of these books.

You see, every form of media has that one (or 100) series that really talks to people. For teenage girls, this is one of them because, even today, many girls make money babysitting. Based on this first book the babysitting stories are similar to what happened to the reader when they babysit. One thing of note is that, though a bit outdated, kids really are like this. There are good kids and then there are holy terrors. Babysitters have babysat all of these. Thus, female readers see themselves in these four girls’ shoes.

As mentioned above, the first book is a bit outdated. Since this was written in the 80s some things (like the old fashioned corded phone) will be alien to girls from this generation on. Girls will still read them because, besides the things mentioned above, the writing has not aged. There is no slang, regional sayings or even mentions of items from that time. This is another strength this series has and why some girls still read it.

Of course, these books aren’t masterpieces and aren’t as popular as they were in the 80s and 90s, but they can still be enjoyed. Think of it like this: boys have Goosebumps and girls and The Baby-sitters club. Though I am against this whole gender appropriate crap (I like Sailor Moon. Don’t say anything) this is one of those times where boys will not like what they’re reading.

Even though I’m, not the right audience, I can still see how and why this series got so popular and still read today. Though the popularity died down, girls can still read these books, enjoy them and identify with them. Just don’t expect anything too profound, though.

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Brooklyn (Movie) Review

One of the things I’ve made blatantly obvious on this blog is that I live Brooklyn. So of course whenever something takes place in Brooklyn I have to read/watch it. I remember coming across a book called Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín in the Barnes and Noble in Park Slope (one of only two B&Ns left in Brooklyn. The other one is on Court Street.) I barely remember reading like fifty pages of this book and then returning it to the library. Then the movie came out and I was unsure if I should see it. Then I finally watched it on demand and, yeah, not what I was expecting.

Eilis Lacey is just an Irish country girl whose life in going nowhere. She gets a sponsorship to go live in America but quickly gets homesick. Her life does take a turn for the better when she meets Italian-American Tony.

The first half of the movie was interesting. I actually liked Ellis and what happened to her. At the 45 minute mark, something started to feel wrong. At the 90 minute mark, it dawned on me: this is boring. Yeah, I said it, Brooklyn is boring. Ellis does absolutely nothing to move the plot forward. The plot moves her forward. Hell, I’ll actually say Ellis is barely a character.

One of the worst things about Ellis is that SHE DOES NOT SPEAK UP! Seriously, was it too hard to tell her Irish relatives that she got married in America? Of course not, because the whole third act would not exist if she did. I hate to say it, but she’s basically an Irish version of Bella Swan. Everyone else decides what she does and thinks and she just goes along with it. Add in no characterization and here’s Ellis.

The only positive thing that can be said about this movie is the acting is at least decent. It’s nothing memorable or outstanding but the actors do try their best with what’s given to them.

Brooklyn sounded like an interesting story, but the overall experience is boring with a shoestring plot. This is one of the many reasons I’m an advocate for libraries; the worst thing is to buy a book only to hate absolutely hate it.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Review

It’s been nine years since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published and every Potter fan has grown up. Not to mention Warner Bros. has been trying to find its next cash cow for years and hasn’t found one. Well, rejoice Potter fans because another Harry Potter book has been published called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And it’s a play instead of a novel.

Now, that is one thing I keep hearing people complain about this. The thing is, every media outlet has said that it’s the script to the play that opened the same day the book came out. This should not come as a shock. Also, plays are super easy to read, especially if they’re modern plays. This isn’t Shakespeare or a Greek play. Also, it’s the first Harry Potter play in nine years.

Anyway, onto the plot. Nineteen years after Deathly Hallows, our heroes have kids who are going off to Hogwarts. Albus, Harry and Ginny’s second son, is having daddy issues in that everyone expects him to be at the same level as his dad. Not to mention he’s best buds with Scorpius Malfoy and was sorted into Slytherin. So he and Scorpius decided to steal a time turner and go back in time to change the future.

Obviously, there are a lot of paradoxes in this story and none of them are good. Yes, it’s one of those stories. Cliche though it may be, it’s actually quite interesting. Yes, most of the story is focused on the kids, but remember Harry’s story has been told. Hell, look at another series that did the same thing: Naruto. They are now coming out with stories about Naruto’s son Boruto and the fans like it.

Admittedly, there are some sour notes to the story. One of the major ones is Draco Malfoy being pretty damn out of character. He’s WAY too nice to Harry even if his son is in trouble. Him also trying not to be his dad is another thing that doesn’t make sense. He did everything to follow in his dad’s footsteps in the first seven books.

Then there’s the power of love. I’ll leave it at that.

Another downside is the main villain. This character has a cliche backstory and isn’t all that interesting. Yes, this character does have some new interesting powers, but on a whole was pretty weak.

Of course, novel writing and playwriting are two different things. John Tiffany and Jack Thorne are both stage veterans and the script itself is well directed even if some of the stuff can only be done with a Broadway budget. It’s one of those plays that are easy to pick up and do any kind reading, even if it is a drunken dramatic one.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” may be a play, but the story is good enough for a Harry Potter story and it does make you want to see the play. It’s too bad that as of the publication of this review you can only see it in England at the Palace Theatre in London. Just hope it does well to come over to the US or, if you’re an actor, try to get your company to do your own production.

 

 

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Diary of a Haunting Review

I love horror. I may be as big of a horror fan as many people, but I do like it. the problem I found is that horror works best as a visual medium. It’s rare to find a good, scary horror story and usually, these are in the form of short stories or novellas. Stephen King gets away with writing 600-page horror stories because he apparently found the secret to it. One of the most recent examples I found is Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano. Once again, I found this while browsing the library and the cover is what caught my eye.

Paige, her mom and brother Logan has moved into an old house in Idaho from LA. Of course, she hates her new house. Main reason is because of all the flies and spiders the house has. Soon after moving, Logan starts acting weird and there are times when electronics in the house start to not work properly. Not to mention there is a buzzing noise in Logan’s room. Paige thinks that the house may be haunted, but there is plenty of people saying otherwise.

One word perfectly describes this book: dull. Absolutely nothing scary happens. It’s just spiders, flies, cell phones not working and Logan having seizures and acting weird. There is no ghost, there’s nothing scary about the house except it has a morgue once upon a time and Logan is acting weird. There is NO suspense to this book whatsoever.

The writing style is supposed to be a diary since this book is called Diary of a Haunting. It reads more like a regular first person narrative than just a bunch of journal entries. I hate using this example, but the best place to see what a good journal entry story looks like is Diary of Anne Frank. Yes, I’m aware that was a real diary, but it’s the best reference.

Let’s not forget the ending. Rushed doesn’t even begin to describe it. Hell, it’s even predictable. There are clues all over that point to how this book would end.

This book is 310 pages. None of them are scary. The only scary bits are the black and white photos this book has to make it seem like it’s “based on real life.” It just goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by its cover. That image does not happen in the book. The book would’ve been much better if that happened. Skip this book.

Expect a review of the new Harry Potter book next time.

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Good Omens Review

I know I’ve been away for far longer than I should, but I’ve not been well and had classes to attend. Now I’m back with a review of a book that I pushed to the side years ago like a dummy: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. When I first read it years ago I didn’t get it. After re-reading and finishing it, I have a new found respect for it.

Heaven and Hell are preparing for the end of the world because The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch says the world will end on a specific date. Problem is, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley rather like Earth, thank you very much, but they have work to do. One of them is getting the Anti-Christ born and finding him. They messed that up and don’t know where he is. Now everyone is trying to gather in the spot where the prophecy says just because it’s a prophecy.

This is the first time where the end of the world is made fun of and both Pratchett and Gaiman do a fine job. The humor is that dry British humor that makes you want a spot of tea afterward. Most of it, however, isn’t laugh out loud funny, but there some that are few and far between. That doesn’t mean it’s not funny, it’s just not that particular kind of funny.

The idea of an angel and devil living on Earth and liking it is funny. It’s funnier that they work together and only have a friendly jab at each other once in awhile. There should be more of this kind of situation.

Don’t worry about not knowing who wrote what part. Each writer has their own unique style and it’s easy to tell who wrote what. Each part is equally as good as the other and they have some great chemistry with each other.

Everything isn’t perfect, though. For one, most of the book is just set to the ending. We do learn about each character, but some like the witchfinders and Anathema aren’t all that well fleshed out. They aren’t even all that important to the finale.

In all, I should’ve given this book a much better chance. Some some criticisms, this is an excellent book by two great authors that’ll we’ll never see work together again. Give it a shot.

 

 

 

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The Fall of Arthur Review

J. R.R Tolkien is considered to be one of the greatest fantasy writers ever.. Of course, like many people, I found out about him when the first Lord of the Rings movie came out. I did read The Hobbit and liked it. The first Lord of the Rings book, well, didn’t like. Mind you this was twelve years ago so I may go back to it. I did decide to read the epic poem Tolkien wrote called The Fall of Arthur recently and it was awesome.

For those who don’t know, Tolkien was a professor at Oxford university and a lot o his works are based on classic literature (The Lord of the Rings has a lot biblical and British mythology in it.) He always wanted to add a story to the Arthurian myth. He started it and, sadly, never finished it. It’s a shame really because he was on to something with the story. The story is basically Arthur and his knights fighting Mordred to get Guinevere back. It’s a nice little story that perfectly fits with the Arthurian myth.

Since this is an epic poem, we need to look at it as a poem. One thing that I’ll give Tolkien credit is that he knows how to write poems and songs. Some people may not like that it is written in “old English” (it’s actually Modern English or “Shakespearian English.” Old English actually looks a lot like German.) This was actually a smart move on Tolkien’s part in that it looks a lot like what any Medieval poet would write. It also flows nicely and even sounds nice when you read it out loud.

It’s a shame that only fifty pages of it exist. I would’ve loved to see this story complete because I want to know what happens next. Add this to the list of things that need to come back along with the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Library of Alexandria and the Legacy of Kain team.

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur is an excellent modern epic poem that will sadly never be completed. Even though I’m not a huge fan of Tolkien, this poem is something I must commend him for. It shows his excellent grasp of literature and poetry skills. I say to every literature professor, have your students read this as part of the Arthurian Legend curriculum. It’s about as important as Mallory’s Mort D’Arthur and White’s Once and Future King.

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The War Within These Walls Review

I tend to avoid any novels about Jews in World War II. The biggest reason being they are way too depressing (The Diary of Anne Frank, anyone?) It’s not that they are poorly written or anything, it’s just something that I never really bothered to touch on except when I really have to. I broke with tradition and picked up one of those books called The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax with illustrations by Caryl Strzelecki.

Based on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Misha, and his family are forced to live in the ghetto with the rest of the Jews. After what seems like an eternity being abused by the Germans, Misha comes across a resistance group that decides to stand up against the Germans.

This book is told in the first person, but it’s presented like a poem but not really a poem. Confused? You have to read the book to know what I’m talking about. One thimg this book deos is that one page is white and the other is black. It seems like the black pages are more for writing that is supposed to be super shocking than on white pages, but it’s hard to decern with all the horrible things happening. One of the worst things that happen is Misha sees a German soldier kick over a baby carriage, pick up the baby, slam it against a way and then shoot the mother. That was the only time I stopped reading for a while.

Is the book any good? Well, it is cleverly written, has some nie illustrations and shocking, but it’s nothing groundbreaking. This may sound heartless, but these kind of stories are a dime a dozzen. Yes, World War II was hell for everyone involved and we must hear the voices of those involved, but the sheer number of these stories is staggering. While these stories are important and have historical significance and we must hear them in order to not repeat history, the genre is now tired.

It’s not a bad book, it’s just something we’ve heard many times, but it is one of the better-written books out there.

The War Within These Walls may be one of the better written World War II books about the Jews, it feels the same. Yes, I will say it is one of the more important books as well as Mause and The Diary of Anee Frank, but don’t expect anything different.

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Reading the Oz Books.

The Wizard of Oz was a huge gamble for MGM when it came out in 1939 seeing as how expensive it was to film because filming in color was unheard of back then. It may have done reasonably well in theaters, but it gained a huge following when it started airing on TV. What some people may not know is that this was based on a book by L Frank Baum. A book that’s book one of fifteen. Yes, FIFTEEN, Oz books.

Now, if you’re thinking about reading all fifteen Oz books, I’m here to tell you that, no don’t. Only read the first three (maybe four,) and then stop.

Let’s start at the beginning. The first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is about young girl Dorothy who has whisked away to a magical land called OZ. Her farmhouse kills the Wicked Witch of the East. Of course, her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, is none too happy about that. So, Dorothy is given the silver slippers by the Good Witch of the North (not Glinda as the movie says( and is sent to the Emerald City to seek help from The Wizard.

This is probably the best book of the lot and, of course, there are a lot of differences from the movie. What makes this book great is that while it is the typical book of a kid finding him/herself in a fantasy world, that’s not the point. The point is more along the lines of a kid going through hardships in order to grow up. Not to mention that this world is pretty much something a kid would imagine based on their real life.

The differences between the book and movie are apparent. For one, the slippers are silver and not ruby like in the movie. Also, we don’t see Glinda until the end of the book and she’s the Good Witch of the South. Not to mention the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy are the only ones who get captured by the Wicked Witch. Dorothy kills her by, well, getting angry and throwing a bucket of water on her to shut her up. No epic chase, just “I’ve had enough of your shit.” Also, the flying monkeys are just slaves controlled by a cap the witch wears (and Dorothy uses.)

The next two books, The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, tell of how Ozma, the real ruler of Oz, comes back and Dorothy’s return to Oz. They also introduce more elements of the world (a powder that makes inanimate objects come alive) and the like. Both are well worth reading.

Then we come to Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. This is where Baum lost steam. This book is boring. Like, really boring. Not to mention this introduces a deus ex machina that is used throughout the series: a belt that the Nome King had and now Ozma has it grants the wishes of whoever wears it. This belt is used to wish Dorothy and her friends back to the Emerald City. Yawn.

Why do the books go down in quality? If you read the intros done by Baum, you’d know he was sick and tired of writing Oz books after number three. It was obvious he was phoning them in. There were some neat ideas and creatures in Oz, but the writing wasn’t really good.

So, if you want to read the OZ books, just read the first three and that’s it. Hell, go ahead and read/go see Wicked and other Oz books not written by Baum.

 

 

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Dragons at Crumbling Castle Review

Yes, another Pratchett review. That’s what fanboys do, you know.

Dragons at Crumbling Castle is a collection of short stories Terry Pratchett wrote when he was young. As many of you know, Pratchett hates the stuff he wrote when he was young. Well, there is some good stuff here.

The first story is the also the title of the book. It’s about King Arthur hearing that there are castles occupying a castle. Problem is, his knights are away and the only one available is a boy named Ralph. So King Arthur tells the boy to go and kill the dragon. This is actually a pretty funny story, especially once you consider it’s  a King Arthur story. Since ths is Pratchett, the ending is unexpected.

In fact, most of the stories are worth reading. Some of the best are Hercules the Tortoise, Dok the Cavemen and Hunt the Snory.

Of course, this collection also has two early version of The Carpet People: Tales of the Carpet People and Another Tale of the Carpet people. Both are the longest stories in the collection. They’re not bad stories, but if you’ve read The Carpet People you know what to expect. If you’ve read my review of The Carpet People, you know my stance.

One thing these stories have are illustrations by Mark Beech. These same illustrations appear in The Carpet People. They may just look like silly pencil sketches, but when you realize what kind of stories these are, they fit perfectly.

Should you read these stories? Of course. Why? As the name implies, these are stories. A novelist should write short stories to strengthen their writing prowess in order to write longer fiction. If they can write a good story in just a few pages, they can write one in a few hundred. There are other short story collections of Terry Pratchett’s work, and I have every intention of reading them.

 

 

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Captain America: Civil War and Marvel: Civil War Review

I’ve never been a big Marvel/DC reader. I really only watch the movies, watch some of the cartoons and only reading started reading the big name comics. That doesn’t mean I can’t give a fair review of the movie and the books they’re based on. So, a few days ago I decided to get the trade of Marvel: Civil War to prepare for Captain America: Civil War. Sadly I did it backward because everyone I know said not to read the comic.

First, let’s talk about the movie. The UN has decided to create a law that says The Avengers need to operate under the supervision of local governments after an incident that killed thousands of innocents in Africa. Captain America and Iron Man have different opinions on this matter which causes The Avengers to choose sides and fight in a big battle.

This difference in opinion is handled very well. Their reasonings do not appear petty or something thought up by some amateur screenwriter. How both sides handle it os also well written, and the consequences of their actions do make a ton of sense.

The acting is one of the high points of this movie. It appears that he writing has gotten a lot better which in turn makes these great actors do some impressive acting. Even the new guy who plays Spider-Man (Tom Holland) does a great job even though I think he comes across as a bit too young for the role.

Speaking of Spider-Man, he was pretty cool and not just some trailer bait. He  actually had an impact on the fight scenes and the story. Although of course *MAJOR SPOILER* the after credits scene says that there will be a new Spider-Man movie. This is a “no shit sherlock” situation. *END SPOILER*

The fight scenes are some of the best this franchise has seen. They are well choreographed and will keep you on the edge of your seat. The fight between Captain America and Iron Man is pretty damn awesome and will give you feels.

Now for the comic. Pretty much the same plot except it’s the New Warriors going after escaped villains and Pyro blew up, killing a bus filled with kids and most of the neighborhood they were in. This causes the creation of the Super Hero Registration Act and each superhero is picking sides on the law.

This book started off great but then devolved into crap. The characters all had one personality: asshole. You really did not want to choose a side because nobody, not even CAPTAIN FUCKING AMERICA, was righ. Even the ending is fucking stupid and feels rushed.

One of the biggest problems with this story is that there are way too many characters. The movie did the right thing in making it only a handful of characters because things get way too jubled as the story progresses. The worst part of this story is that it sets up One More Day, a comic 99.9% of readers say is worse than dying of AIDS. Yes, it’s that bad.

The art the only good thing about this comic. It’s some of the best you’ll see in Marvel.

In all, the movie was great and the comic is shit. The movie version took the basic plot line of the comic and made it not shit. Watch the movie and skip the comic.

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