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The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (2005)

Percy is a twelve-year-old dyslexic boy who doesn’t fit in, his mother lives with an abusive stepfather, and he has just been expelled from his sixth school in six years. Life is frustrating, and the future seems bleak, when he suddenly learns the truth: his father is one of the Greek Gods! This, of course, means that Percy is half a God, and it opens up a whole new world full of danger, but also hope. The Lightning Thief is the first book in Rick Riordan’s young adult series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and it will make you wish you paid attention more in high school when you were studying mythology. This is a fun book with a Herculean quest, prophecies, and plenty of action.

Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013) PG

Discover how “Oz” came to be in Oz: The Great and Powerful. James Franco stars as Oz, a magician caught in a power struggle between three witches (Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, and Rachel Weisz).

For all things Oz, also check out the original movie The Wizard of Oz (1939) or the novel of the same name by L. Frank Baum.

From Time to Time (2009) PG

From Time to Time promo movie poster AFM 2009This fantasy film starring Maggie Smith is the story of a thirteen-year-old boy named Tolly staying with his grandmother in the country in 1940s England. Grandmother lives in a very old house built during the time of the Normans. While living there, young Tolly travels back to the time of Napoleon and meets some distant ancestors.

This film was adapted from the second of the Green Knowe books by Lucy M. Boston, The Chimneys of Green Knowe (released in the US as Treasure of Green Knowe). From what I have read, most people are enchanted by the movie with the exception of those who have read the book before seeing the film.  Since I had not read the books, I too loved the film, but I have to agree that the film could have been much better if it had stuck closer to the book.

Nevertheless I still recommend seeing From Time to Time. Although the books were written for children, if you like things British, you will thoroughly enjoy them.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)

Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth is a word lover’s paradise which both children and adults can enjoy. The story follows Milo, a boy with not much interest in anything, through a mysterious tollbooth into a magical land where he must try to reconcile the differences between the land of Dictionopolis (which holds words most dear) and Digitopolis (a kingdom ruled by numbers). Only by rescuing the princesses Rhyme and Reason can Milo end the discord dividing the kingdoms. It is a fun adventure for everyone as Milo learns to find delight in the world around him.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (2002)

The story takes place in an alternate 1985, where Thursday Next, intrepid Special Operative battles an arch-villain who's kidnapping characters from classic literature. As a member of the Literary Detective Division of the Special Operations Network, she pursues literary crimes such as forgery, plagiarism, manuscript theft, and the abuse of literary characters.

In Japser Fforde’s world, matters of literature receive the kind attention we reserve for professional sports or Hollywood celebrities. The novel is fun and diverting with a great arch-villain and an intrepid heroine.

Full of literary allusions, this is a good novel for readers of classic fiction. People are able to pop themselves into novels, while fictional creations are able to escape into the real world. There is also a funny bit where a production of Richard III is done with boisterous audience participation à la The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The Eyre Affair is the first of seven in the Thursday Next series (the next is Lost in a Good Book).

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is one of those timeless classics that is best read on a dark night. The plot is familiar to most people thanks to television and the movies: Doctor Frankenstein works secretly in his laboratory to bring to life a slow, dim-witted monster. Imagine, if you will, that the monster is not dull, but rather a genius who can move at incredible speed and he is coming after you! Is there any place on Earth that you could hide?

Stardust by Neil Gaiman (1999)

In Stardust young Tristran Thorn grows up in the Village of Wall which lies on the edge of Fairie land. The villagers only enter the land beyond their walled town once every nine years when they mix with magical folk at a temporary market. Following his heart, Tristran embarks on a journey into Fairie which reveals his gifts and subjects him to great challenges. Gaiman's fantasy is entertaining, at times amusing, and very engrossing.

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (2010)

At first glance, The Unwritten seems to be about a grown-up, real-life Harry Potter: a man desperately trying to escape the shadow of the fictional character based upon him. (In actuality, co-creator Mike Carey has said the character of Tom Taylor is based more upon the real-life Christopher Robin of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories than anything else.) But read a little more, and you'll witness Tom Taylor get dragged further into a world that may or may not be fictional, where the collective of human consciousness can grant powers, and a shadowy, book-burning cabal wants him for their own purposes.

The Unwritten is an ongoing comic series published by Vertigo, currently collected in six volumes (the seventh was published in March 2013). It features diverse artwork by Peter Gross (The Books of Magic, Lucifer) and beautiful, lush cover art by Yuko Shimizu (Barbed Wire Baseball).

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce (2012)

In Some Kind of Fairy Tale a teenage girl disappears in the woods near her English home, then returns to her family 20 years later. She has barely aged and her explanation, hardly believable, is that she was abducted by fairies…as the story unfolds it reveals an increasing amount of tangible evidence to back up her explanation.

Joyce weaves elements of folklore and myth into this novel of magical realism; its well-drawn characters build a tale of family, life and contradicting realities.

I find this idea of an updated fairy tale very appealing and as a quote in the novel says:

A fairy tale...on the other hand, demands of the reader total surrender; so long as he is in its world, there must for him be no other.” – W. H. Auden

True Blood. Seasons 1 and 2 (2008-2009)

Vampires have always existed in the shadows of Bon Temps, Louisiana, but with the invention of the artificial blood product “True Blood,” vampires have come out into the open. Some residents welcome them, like heroine Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), but others need a little persuading.

As so often happens when vampires are around, other supernatural creatures make appearances as well. Be prepared for great characters, violence, gratuitous nudity, goofy humor, and a touching love story in seasons 1 and 2 of True Blood. Seasons 3 and 4 are also available on DVD. Based on the novels by Charlaine Harris.

Edward Scissorhands (1990) PG-13

I hadn’t seen Edward Scissorhands in about 20 years, but after seeing the previews for Dark Shadows, I decided to revisit the first collaboration between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. And I’m glad I did.

Edward Scissorhands is a good movie and a classic filled with funny moments. Costarring Winona Ryder.

For more on Tim Burton, check Sally's spotlight of the director.
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Joe Golem and the Drowning City by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden (2012)

An excellent read for fans of classic Lovecraftian horror. Whereas Mignola and Golden's last team-up, 2007's Baltimore, or the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, was an homage to Gothic horror in the vein of Frankenstein, Joe Golem and the Drowning City hearkens back to the horror writers of the early 20th century such as Lovecraft and Poe.

Filled with old gods and occultist pseudoscience, fans of Mignola's Hellboy series will also be charmed by the similarly gruff but deeply caring character of Joe. Though it's got plenty of monsters and creepy stuff, at its core the story is about friendship and family – and how to move on for the sake of others when faced with an inevitable loss. Mignola's skillfully haunting black and white artwork compliments Golden's descriptive (but never longwinded!) prose.

Firebird by Jack McDevitt (2011)

Firebird is not just fantasy, but an adventure-mystery story about what may have happened to an imaginative scientist when he disappeared 40+ years ago from the time of the story. There are business problems in selling artifacts from his estate and frustrating government inaction in giving help to the investigators. Also the reader gets a glimpse of what it might be like to get caught in a time warp. An enjoyable read; I like McDevitt’s books.

 

Midnight in Paris (2011) PG-13

This is a Woody Allen film, but because he is not in the cast I put it in the DVD player and settled in. It was a delightful fantasy about Paris in the 1920s. There was nothing to dislike about it; it was a pleasure to watch.

Gil (Owen Wilson) and Inez (Rachel McAdams) are sort of in love, and in Paris with her parents. Gil is caught up in the romance of Paris in the springtime. A screenwriter from Hollywood, he has written a novel with visions of joining the ranks of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and the other legends of Paris in the 1920s – the perfect set up for what follows.

The film is not without a serious moment. It has a message that is purposely delivered at the end; it’s an illusion that a life different from the one we have would be much better.

Did you participate in the 2012 Big Read? We read Paula McLain's The Paris Wife. For more on the book and its related resources featuring Paris in the 1920s, visit thebigread.org.

Pick up a copy of Midnight in Paris from the library.

Hugo (2011) PG

I usually begin my reviews by stating the year of the film and listing the main stars. I briefly describe the plot, perhaps quote a line from the film or describe a scene and emphasize what I believe are some of the high points of the film.

In this case, I decided to write my review as I approached viewing the film. I knew almost nothing about the film. All that I knew was that it won several Oscars, and I had seen a few brief snippets during the Academy Awards ceremony. I chose not to find out anything more about the film, and I would advise anyone who has not seen this film to take the same approach.

If you appreciate art, science, fantasy, a vivid imagination, you will love this film. If you don't appreciate art, if science bores you, if you look at a cloud and that's all you see, you won't like the film.

This film reminded me of what it was like to see a motion picture in a movie theater for the first time. I was amazed and filled with a great sense of wonder. You too can experience this again, if you see this film.

Based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Directed by Martin Scorsese.

Join us on Friday, May 4 at 7:00 for a screening of Hugo. Doors open at 6:30; fresh popcorn will be served. Register at calendar.ippl.info.