Tag Archives: quirky

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth

Author: Frank Cottrell Boyce

Illustrator: Steven Lenton

My rating: 5 of 5

Prez used to live with his grandfather, a crusty old sailor who took care of Prez and told stories about traveling the world. Then, as his grandfather’s memory got worse and worse, Prez took care of his grandfather. That is, until they came and took Prez’s grandfather away and put Prez in the Temporary. Now Prez is staying with the Blythe family on their farm for the summer–trying to help where he can, but not saying a thing. Enter Sputnik: a weird little alien wearing goggles and a kilt who always carries a doorbell with him. He tells Prez that 1) he’s here to look after Prez and 2) they only have until the end of summer to save the Earth. Yikes. On top of that, Prez can’t figure out why everyone just accepts Sputnik’s appearance out of nowhere and is so thrilled when he shakes their hand . . . oh, wait, to everyone else, Sputnik looks like a dog. This is going to be an interesting summer.

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth is just so utterly zany that I can’t possibly do it justice. It has all the fabulous writing of Boyce’s other books, which I just love. The characters are heartwarming and funny. I really liked the Blythes; they manage to be good people with kind intentions without being an overkill unbelievable foster family. I absolutely adore the way Boyce writes family conversations; it’s like this cloud of sentences competing on the page! And there’s Prez, sitting quietly in the midst of it all. Sputnik’s character is fabulously absurd–he adds quite the wild-card effect to basically everything. Gravity tides, real working light sabers, reverse grenades that put things back together . . . physics does not work normally around this strange being. But I love the way he sees the world, the way things we typically think of as amazing are unimpressive to him, but random ordinary things are important enough to be worth putting on his list to save the planet. He has a way of making you re-think priorities. Basically, Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth is a fabulous, funny middle-grade story, and I would highly recommend it.

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014 movie)

Marvel Studios

My rating: 3.5 of 5

An unlikely band of misfits and unsavory types is thrown together–mostly by their own greed and/or hatred of each other, surprisingly enough. And in the midst of their joint efforts at prison breaks, selling of stolen goods, and running for their lives, they somehow manage to go from being at each others’ throats to having each others’ backs. Which is good, because they might just be the only thing standing between the galaxy and total destruction.

I’ve probably stated this before, but I’m generally not a big fan of superhero/comic-based stories–and Marvel ones in particular. I actually mostly watched Guardians of the Galaxy because Karen Gillan is in it. That was a bit of a disappointment; I felt like her character ended up being pretty flat. *cries* But I did enjoy other aspects of the story and characters. It was weird to me that the entire main group of characters are really not what would typically be considered good people–thieves, bounty hunters, traitors, and individuals bent on revenge. But they made for an amusing and sympathetic group, I have to admit, and the tension between the characters is a big part of the enjoyment of the film. Obviously, Rocket and Groot are the best (and funniest) part of the whole story. But with that, I also have to give fair warning that this is PG-13, and it shows in the humor–as well as in the language and the violence, although it’s not particularly bloody or anything. I think one of the things I loved the most is how integral music and dance are to the story throughout. Plus, it’s an origin story of sorts, which I generally enjoy, so there’s that. Overall, the whole film has a funky, off-kilter flair that feels almost indie, although that’s immediately belied by the impressive visual production, which is quite attractive and fun. While it will probably never be my favorite movie, I think Guardians of the Galaxy was a funny, quirky tale that I did enjoy and will likely watch again sometime.

Written by James Gunn & Nicole Perlman/Directed by James Gunn/Produced by Kevin Feige/Based on Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning/Music by Tyler Bates/Starring  Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, & Benicio del Toro

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Ten Inch Hero (2007 Movie)

Follow Spot Entertainmentten-inch-hero

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience/Rated R

The help-wanted sign outside the quirky little sub shop tells you everything you need to know: “normal people need not apply.” The employees certainly attest to that, from the owner Trucker, a surfer child of the sixties who is obsessed with owner of the crystal shop across the street, to the new hire Piper, a bright young artist who came to Santa Cruz in search of her daughter. Then there’s Priestly of the crazy hair and ironic t-shirts, Tish who mostly uses her (formidable) sex appeal to get what she wants, and Jen who feeds the homeless and is sure she’s met her true love online. Together, these individuals form something more than just a group of co-workers–they’re a family. Which is a good thing, because for all the fun, flirtation, and laughter that permeates the very foundations of the shop, there’s a large measure of tears and broken hearts to get through as well. . . . Which they will do, together.

Ten Inch Hero is definitely one of those movies that I would normally never have watched and that I basically picked up just because Jensen and Danneel are in it–because I feel like you can hardly be a Supernatural fan and not watch the movie where they fell in love. And I have to say, the Priestly/Tish dynamic in this story is superbly adorable. But I found that I loved this movie for so much more than just that. Actually, I found myself entirely captivated within the first five minutes. The characters are–every single one of them!–unique, well-written, and excellently cast. They cast some seriously talented people (not what you’d typically expect on an indie film like this), and the actors fit the roles beautifully. The story itself is adorable and heartwarming–a quadruple love story, no less, so if you’re in the mood for romance, this should fit the bill. Plus you’ve got all the friendship dynamics within the shop and Piper’s interactions with eight-year-old Julia, which are just wow. Those are aspects I would love to see a lot more of in any and all stories. Honestly, the movie could easily have been disgustingly Hallmark-y, but the combination of indie quirkiness, funky humor (it’s very funny), and the language/sex/nudity that make it R-rated help to counterbalance the sappiness and keep the story grounded. Just be warned that the rating is earned; there is a lot of sexual content here, although surprisingly I found it a lot less embarrassing to watch than some PG stuff I’ve seen. That’s probably just me. In any case, for adult viewers who like a cute romance with a refreshing indie tone, quality acting, and nice original music, Ten Inch Hero would definitely be on my recommended list; it’s certainly a happy place for me.

Directed by David Mackay/Written by Betsy Morris/Music by Don Davis/Starring Elisabeth Harnois, Clea DuVall, Sean Patrick Flanery, Jensen Ackles, Danneel Harris Ackles, Alice Krige, & John Doe

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Ned Feldman, Space Pirate

Author/Illustrator: Daniel PinkwaterNed Feldman, Space Pirate

My rating: 3.5 of 5

One day, while his parents are out, Ned Feldman notices a noise beneath his kitchen sink. Upon investigating, he finds a strange little man claiming to be a spaceship captain–also claiming that his spaceship is occupying the same space as Ned’s kitchen sink! He invites Ned to come in and take a quick trip with him. And what do you know, it actually is a spaceship–a pirate spaceship, although the captain is not exactly the most scary pirate around. Ned and Captain Bugbeard encounter all kinds of interesting things in space, even giant chickens and a yeti!

Ned Feldman, Space Pirate is one of Daniel Pinkwater’s older adventures for younger kids. And I must say, it’s classic Pinkwater. The story is absolutely, ridiculously off-the-wall in the best possible way. The characters and situations are so absurd that you find yourself just accepting them in spite of yourself . . . it’s that kind of story. But definitely a fun read. Also, it’s nice in that it’s written for elementary-age children and would be appropriate for a younger reading level. Pinkwater’s illustrations fit the quirky style of the story perfectly, making the story even funnier than it already is. I would absolutely recommend Ned Feldman, Space Pirate for anyone who enjoys zany adventure stories, and especially for younger children and for anyone who already has enjoyed other books by Daniel Pinkwater–he really is a fantastic author.

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Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy

Written by: Noelle Stevenson & Grace EllisLumberjanes Beware the Kitten Holy

Illustrated by: Brooke Allen/Colored by :Maarta Laiho/Lettered by: Aubrey Aiese

Lumberjanes, vol. 1

My rating: 4.5 of 5

At Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hard-Core Lady Types (“Friendship to the Max!”), the counselors aim to inspire girls to gain new skills and face challenges boldly and resourcefully. But one cabin of girls seems to be experiencing more than their usual share of . . . well, strangeness and adventure this summer. Friends April, Molly, Jo, Mal, and Ripley have encountered sea monsters, hipster yetis, and even weird three-eyed foxes in the night that warn them to “beware the kitten holy.” But these brave, determined girls are more than ready to face whatever comes their way–which is good, because they’ve still got to placate their counselor Jen, and it looks like more trouble’s on the horizon.

This first volume of the Lumberjanes graphic novel, Beware the Kitten Holy, was quite the fun read! I didn’t really know what to expect coming into it, but after the fun I had reading Nimona, I was ready for pretty much anything Noelle Stevenson had to offer. Lumberjanes has much of the same offbeat humor and hipster whimsy that I found in Nimona, but with its own quirks, for sure. This graphic novel is set up as though it were a guide for those attending the camp, with each chapter beginning with a page describing a different badge–all rather stuffy in a funny sort of way. Then the rest of the chapter bursts into the crazy fun adventure in which the girls do something that would lead to their earning said badge–usually not in the ways originally intended by the camp leaders. The stories are fun–exciting, adventuresome, and quirky. There’s a noted penchant for each chapter requiring some particular skill to be used or some puzzle to be solved for the girls to proceed safely–and the way in which the girls are able to pull from their individual gifts to answer these challenges is very reminiscent of tales like The Mysterious Benedict Society, I must say. The characters are amazing; they have strong but believable and interesting characters that totally leapt off the page. Very fun. The art is dynamic and drew me in instantly as well. Surprisingly, although I found this in the young adult section of the bookstore (and I think it would be a blast for young adults to read), the contents of the story almost seem more geared for middle-schoolers. In any case, it’s age appropriate for younger readers, although I think older readers would greatly enjoy Beware the Kitten Holy as well. I’m delighted to see where the story goes from here.

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Dragons at Crumbling Castle

Dragons at Crumbling CastleAuthor: Terry Pratchett

Illustrator: Mark Beech

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Here be dragons. . . . Also pond monsters, abominable snowmen, and the dread Snorry. Within these pages, you will find brave explorers who travel great distances and brave untold dangers . . . even braving the vast inches of the Carpet and the Linoleum! You will meet knights and princes who approach their quests and tasks in, shall we say, an unconventional manner. Regardless of the adventure, you’re bound to find a sense of fun and quirky humor that’s sure to please.

I started reading Dragons at Crumbling Castle initially in memoriam to an incredible author who will be deeply missed by the literary world. While the reading was certainly bittersweet, it was also wondrously enjoyable. This book is a collection of short stories that were written and originally published in a newspaper when Pratchett was in his early twenties. The tales are delightful–full of wit, good humor, and a reckless, youthful abandon that is great fun to read. I would say the writing reminds me of other great children’s authors (Roald Dahl, Edith Nesbit, and Edward Eager in particular), although it retains Pratchett’s own unique flavor as well. I wish this book had been around when I was little. In this collection, which was just recently published, Pratchett added footnote commentary (mostly fun, slightly sarcastic side remarks to further explain or enhance the story) which is really interesting to read, showing both the development of the author over the years and the consistency of his writing throughout as well. Beech’s illustrations are a perfect fit for these stories–offbeat and quirky in a style that reminds me strongly of Quentin Blake’s work. Altogether, I would highly recommend Dragons at Crumbling Castle, especially as a fun book to read aloud with the children in your life–it would be a very fun book to share together.

Note: Normally, I don’t comment on the typography of a book, but I feel this book deserves comment. The majority of the text is set in a standard serif font, nothing special. But then you have random words and phrases on the page set in all sorts of random fonts, maybe one or two times on a two-page spread. It’s really striking and dynamic!

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The Last Dragonslayer

the last dragonslayerAuthor: Jasper Fforde

The Chronicles of Kazam, vol. 1

My rating: 5 of 5

(Almost) 16-year-old Jennifer Strange finds herself with her hands quite full after her boss, the (once) Great Zambini, disappears, leaving her in charge of a collection of finicky, easily-offended, pretentious, and slightly-shabby magic users of various sorts. Did I mention that she has no way out of this situation, since the disappeared Zambini is the only one who can sign off on her indenture papers? Fortunately her new assistant, Tiger, seems bright and level-headed enough to be a big help . . . a help much needed when work on the street arises that Jennifer Strange is fated to slay the last dragon in the Ununited Kingdoms–next Sunday!

I really enjoyed this quirky, rambling fantasy. The Last Dragonslayer feels something like “Garrison Keillor meets Diana Wynne Jones”–unusual but fun. The characters are an intriguing bunch: some not so likeable, many quite surprising. I particularly liked the Quarkbeast (Jennifer’s unusual pet) and Tiger (the new assistant). The plot elements in The Last Dragonslayer are off-beat, but crafted to make rather a classic sort of fantasy. The combination works very well. Check it out!

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