Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Romeo And/Or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure by Ryan North

If you grew up in the age of Choose Your Own Adventure novels, are feeling a touch nostalgic, and also like Shakespeare: never fear, Ryan North has you covered.

Romeo And/Or Juliet is one of the funniest books you will read this year, and is pleasantly accompanied by artwork from many big names in illustration. You can choose to go through the story as either Romeo or Juliet, characters with whom North has taken a few liberties in the most amusing ways possible. While there are many, many roads to travel down in this novel, North guides readers through the original story as well using an heart icon to clue you into the original plot, clearly stolen word-for-word by that thief, William Shakespeare. The whole story is an excellent exercise in absurdity, but there are highly enjoyable snippets of commentary for the literature nerd: all the things you never (or perhaps did) think about when reading the original play are called out in style. This book also has excellent appeal for those who enjoy Role-Playing Games, with stats listed for your player characters and consequences to every choice, it's like playing a Tell-Tale game, but in book form and Shakespearean.

Romeo And/Or Juliet is the kind of book that keeps on giving, so if you need a great book for a trip, long weekend, or just need something to occupy your time, this book has so many options you will want for nothing.

My first path ended in a life of piracy. What does Romeo And/Or Juliet have in store for you?

If you enjoy this title, you'll be glad to know that we have Ryan North's first Shakespearean chooseable-path adventure, To Be Or Not To Be, available as well. Readers can enjoy further illustration and unique literary and historical comedy by one of the artists of the novel's artists, Kate Beaton, in her own book, Hark! A Vagrant

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Dear Hunter

Stories come in all shapes and sizes, and music can tell stories just like books do. The Dear Hunter is a band that knows how to tell a story. Essentially just Casey Crescenzo of Receiveing End of Sirens fame, The Dear Hunter is a reference to the central character of the story they're aiming to tell. Spanning four released albums, with another scheduled to release on September 9th, 2016, the Dear Hunter's "Acts" series tells a story about a Boy, from his humble beginnings through his rise to (and most likely fall from) power in a very much morally dubious locale. While Act I: The Lake South, the River North functions as more of a prologue than anything else, the real meat of the story kicks up in Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading. It's widely suggested that listeners interested in the story start there. Carrying notes and lyrics through from album to album, Crescenzo hearkens back to songs past like flashbacks in a novel or television series, building the narrative with threads of what came before. The Color Spectrum, while not a definitive story of its own is a masterpiece of theme: each song is meant to exemplify a different color (I'm rather fond of the White songs). While Migrant represents the band's only true album without a concept, it is still an exceptional album. Their Live album will also stun you when you realize how well their live performance matches the studio production. Every piece on each album is brilliantly orchestrated: no notes are out of place, every lyric resonates.

"They have so many songs!" I hear some of you saying. You'd be quite right about that. In excess of 100 songs, the Dear Hunter has a lot to appeal very widely. These are my top picks, in no particular order:
  1. "Whisper" Migrant
  2. "Bitter Suite I & II: Meeting Miss Leading/Through the Dime" Act II
  3. "Bitter Suite III: Embrace" Act II
  4. "Bitter Suite IV & V: The Congregation and the Sermon in the Silt" Act IV
  5. "Bitter Suite VI: Abandon" Act Iv
  6. "The Kiss of Life" Migrant
  7. "No God" The Color Spectrum: White
  8. "Lillian" The Color Spectrum: Violet
  9. "Go Get Your Gun" Act III
  10. "A Night on the Town" Act IV

While Migrant and Act IV: Rebirth and Reprise are available to check out on CD, much of the Dear Hunter's other works are available on Hoopla, including Acts I-III, and the entirety of the Color Spectrum. Even better, Migrant and Act IV are available to download from Freegal! With five free songs a week, you'll have plenty of Dear Hunter to keep and listen to as long as you wish!

Recommended bands to listen to if you like the Dear Hunter include Coheed and Cambria, another group that similarly strives to use music as a story telling device, Say Anything, and Eisley, their upcoming tour mates.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine is not a typical biopic that paints a glossy overview from birth to death. Rather, it’s a critical (and at times, scathing) documentary. While the film acknowledges Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’s extensive contributions to technology, it also exposes his lifelong practice of alienating the people closest to him, including business colleagues and his own family.

The film opens with various people, both young and old, reflecting on the numerous products that Jobs introduced: perhaps most famously, the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Each of these products has become synonymous with the Apple brand and, in many ways, with Jobs himself.

When Jobs passed away from pancreatic cancer in October 2011, there was an enormous outpouring of grief from all over the world. In particular, dedicated fans of Apple products turned Apple storefronts into makeshift memorials, leaving flowers and hundreds of notes. Some stood holding virtual candles displayed on their iPads and iPhones. On social media, users changed their profile pictures to photos of Jobs, some with no text except for the caption “iSad.” Although the vast majority of these people never met Jobs, many of them felt a great sense of loss when he died.

Filmmaker Alex Gibney sought to discover just what it was about Jobs that caused so many strangers to feel a deep connection with him. The film examines various periods of Jobs’s life, from co-founding Apple with Steve Wozniak, becoming its CEO, being ousted from the company by its board of directors, founding Pixar and failed company NeXT, and eventually returning to Apple as its CEO, ushering in the hugely successful era of the iPod and later, the iPhone and iPad.

Throughout his life, Jobs was a brutally determined businessman and innovator. He was also a paradox: while simultaneously touting Apple’s core philosophical values, for many years Jobs did not acknowledge his own biological daughter, Lisa.

Immediately after his death, Jobs became somewhat of a mythical figure for Apple fans, who credited him with inventing the various products that forever changed the technology industry. However, Jobs wasn’t an inventor in the traditional sense of the word. Yet, many assigned him this legacy, even though what he really did was take products already in existence, improve them, and reintroduce them to the general public. Additionally, the great irony is that a man who was responsible for making such products commonplace—technology that, in many ways, brought people together—also kept his own family and friends at arm’s length.

Jobs’s detractors will appreciate the portions of this documentary that shed light on his ruthless behavior as well as his many personal failures as a friend, husband, and father. But despite the fact that Jobs still remains a highly divisive figure even in death, many continue to remember him with a sense of affection because of the enormously influential role he played in introducing technology that is—for better or worse—now part of everyday life.

Search the VBPL catalog for Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. If you enjoy this documentary, you might like Steve Jobs, the definitive and extensive biography written by Walter Isaacson. You might also like the feature film that was based on Isaacson’s book, which stars Michael Fassbender as Jobs.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Spare Dog Parts by Alison Hughes

Spare Dog Parts by Alison Hughes

Spare Dog Parts, written by Alison Hughes and illustrated by Ashley Spires, is a whimsical picture book about how one special dog came to be.

“When my dog was made, they used leftover parts. And they put her together like a big dog puzzle.”

Spare Dog Parts by Alison Hughes

In this book, a young girl imagines that her dog was formed from a patchwork of mismatched parts:

  • A stubby body—but comfortable and perfect for cuddling 
  • Unmatched paws—but ones that get the dog where she needs to go 
  • And admittedly, not the biggest brains—but she knows all the important things, like when someone needs her.

Spare Dog Parts by Alison Hughes

Together, the sum of these parts add up to the perfect dog. Owners (aka pet parents) of mixed-breed dogs (aka mutts) will especially appreciate this book.

Search the VBPL catalog for Spare Dog Parts. If you enjoy this book, you might also like Mutt Dog! by Stephen Michael King and Trouper by Meg Kearney.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst is a fascinating documentary about three cases: the 1982 disappearance of Kathie Durst; the 2000 murder of Susan Berman; and the 2001 murder of Morris Black.

What do all three cases have in common? Robert Durst.

Durst was born into a wealthy family that deals with real estate. Despite his privileged upbringing, his younger years were troubled. At one point, he saw a psychiatrist, who mentioned that Durst might have schizophrenic tendencies.

After graduating from college and feeling pressured by his father, Durst went on to work for his father’s company. However, he lacked the knack for business that his brother had. His brother Douglas, rather than Robert, would become the heir to the Durst Organization.

At the time of Kathie Durst’s disappearance in 1982, she was married to Robert, although the two were estranged. During the weeks preceding her disappearance, the two had fought over a divorce settlement as well as other financial issues. Kathie was last seen at a party, which she left after receiving a phone call from Robert.

Susan Berman was Robert’s longtime friend and confidante. When the cold case of Kathie’s disappearance was reopened, Kathie’s friends suggested that Berman might have information implicating Robert. However, Berman was found murdered on Christmas Eve, 2000.

When Morris Black was killed in 2001, he was Durst’s neighbor. Durst was arrested and charged with Black’s murder. The trial took place in 2003, at which time Durst claimed self-defense. Due to a lack of forensic evidence, Durst was acquitted of the murder charge.

New evidence surrounding Berman’s murder came to light during the filming of The Jinx. Director and writer Andrew Jarecki had previously made a film, All Good Things, which was based on the disappearance of Kathie Durst. After the release of All Good Things, Robert Durst contacted Jarecki, granting him interviews which would later be used in the documentary. You might recall news reports from 2015 when The Jinx originally aired on HBO. Durst was caught off camera on a live microphone and his recorded statements were rather shocking.

The Jinx is a fascinating examination of not just one, but three cases that all reaffirm the adage, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Fans of true crime will find this a compelling documentary.

Search the VBPL catalog for The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. If you enjoy this miniseries, you might also like All Good Things, the feature film which was based on the marriage of Kathie and Robert Durst.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I Love Cake! by Tammi Sauer

I Love Cake! by Tammi Sauer

I Love Cake! Starring Rabbit, Porcupine, and Moose is a charming picture book written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Angie Rozelaar. In this book, Moose learns two big lessons: the importance of sharing and the importance of friendship.

I Love Cake! by Tammi Sauer

Best friends Rabbit, Porcupine, and Moose are excited about Rabbit’s birthday. While Rabbit and Porcupine are looking forward to playing games and having fun, Moose is most excited about one thing—cake!

I Love Cake! by Tammi Sauer

When it’s time to eat, Rabbit and Porcupine realize that two things are missing: Moose and the cake. They look all over, but all that’s left are crumbs. When they find Moose, he’s wearing some incriminating crumbs all over his sweater.

Poor Rabbit and Porcupine are sad, which makes Moose sad, too. He decides to do something special for his friends to make up for hurting their feelings. In the end, Rabbit and Porcupine receive a special surprise from Moose, who still loves cake—but he loves his friends even more.

Search the VBPL catalog for I Love Cake! Starring Rabbit, Porcupine, and Moose. If you enjoy this book, you might also like Llama Llama Time to Share by Anna Dewdney and Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bridal Wave

Bridal Wave

Bridal Wave is part of the Hallmark Channel’s June Weddings lineup. Georgie Dwyer (played by Arielle Kebbel) is engaged to marry a successful cosmetic surgeon. Although she should be excited about their upcoming island wedding, she’s starting to have cold feet. While they’re compatible as a couple, Georgie is beginning to realize that a certain spark is missing from the relationship.

Georgie’s doubts are reinforced when she meets her future mother-in-law (played by Jaclyn Smith), who’s in a much higher tax bracket than Georgie’s blue-collar family and looks down on them for it. As the wedding day approaches, Georgie meets Luke Griggs (played by Andrew Walker), a local resident. Luke used to be a successful architect in the city, but left that job and moved to the island, where he’s much happier.

Georgie and Luke meet for the first time in the general store, where they battle over the last bottle of aspirin on the shelf (sorely needed by both of them, for separate reasons). Fate continually throws them together in the subsequent days leading up to Georgie’s wedding. As the two of them get to know each other, Georgie finds herself questioning more and more what she wants out of life and what will truly make her happy.

Strong chemistry between the lead actors, along with a heartwarming yet comedic story, make this a real feel-good movie. Search the VBPL catalog for Bridal Wave. If you enjoy this movie, you might like A Bride for Christmas, also starring Arielle Kebbel and Andrew Walker.