The Monster Squad, on DVD

As a classic kid-comedy film from 1987, The Monster Squad is underrated. Not enough people of a certain generation have seen this film, and I speak of my peers. Peers who, when hearing a quote from this movie during a trivia contest, hadn’t heard of the movie, let alone recognized the quote. The silence of the film's initial release in 1987 was slowly followed by a rebirth as it was discovered by old and new fans. After 20 years of VHS life, it was finally released on DVD.

The film follows 12-year-old Sean, his best pal Patrick, and their gang of misfit friends. As fans of classic horror films, they gather in the local tree house to talk monsters. The monsters become all too real when Count Dracula shows up in town with the Wolf Man, the Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Gill Man, all searching for an ancient amulet that will shift the balance of good and evil, giving Dracula control. It’s up to Sean and the newly formed Monster Squad to stop the end of the world from arriving.

It’s a zany pre-teen adventure, filled with pesky little sisters, creepy neighbors, childlike one-liners, and a swirling vortex of evil. The two-disc 20th anniversary edition of the film is available at AADL on DVD and Blu-ray.

"Bitten & Smitten"

One of the many perks of working in a library includes shelving books. It's often during shelving that I find some of my favorite reads that I'd likely not come across otherwise. One of those books (and the rest in the series) is Bitten & Smitten by Michelle Rowen. The bright cover caught my eye and the witty summary sucked me in (pun fully intended).

Sarah Dearly, the saucy yet reluctant heroine, finds herself just trying to live through what she has dubbed the "world's worst blind date" when she suddenly wakes up to find herself being buried, almost undead, in a shallow grave. She escapes only to witness her blind date being "taken care of" by what she soon learns are vampire hunters. Unfortunately, thanks to the "love bites" left by her undead date, she now has to escape the hunters or wind up sharing more than just a bad night with her toothy date.

Her escape leads her to Thierry de Bennicoeur, a moody vampire master who helps her evade the stakes of her stalkers. After stumbling through her first "undead days," Sarah realizes she's going to need a little more help than she thought when it comes to navigating the night. Michelle Rowen draws the reader into this light read with suspense and quick one liners.

Let the Bridge Work Begin - Big Project Next to the Big House

You've been winding your way through the single-lane situation on East Stadium, eagerly anticipating the next phase in the Ann Arbor Bridges project. Well, the wait is almost over. Beginning in November 2011, the Ann Arbor Bridges Reconstruction project will begin.

The Project Update Press Release details, concretely, every phase of the project. Leaving no cone unturned in their effort to keep citizens informed, the city will provide updates on the website throughout the reconstruction.

And speaking of the Big House, Sparty sends his best.

Coming Out, Standing Up

Expertly turned phrases and pithy remarks have long been the sword and shield of LGBT people making their way through life. Look no further than Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein, the patron saints of savage wit and wisdom. Today is National Coming Out Day, when we are encouraged to celebrate being out and open about ourselves. Nobody does this as well as the wielders of words, the Valkyries of verbosity, the champions of chortling, the legends of laughter. I’m talking of course, about gay and lesbian comedians, people who make a business of opening their lives up to other people and encouraging laughter.

The diversity of LGBT folks is reflected in the wide variety of comedic performers. You couldn’t get much more opposite than the prim and proper English archetype Stephen Fry and the extremely raunchy John Waters.
Matt Lucas is a sketch comedian most famous for his series Little Britain.
Margaret Cho is most well known for her hilarious stand-up routines, but she also has a hand in fashion design, music videos, and social activism.
Wanda Sykes, named one of the 25 funniest people in America by Entertainment Weekly, has been doing comedy in television and films as well as on-stage for the past two decades.
Oh, and then there’s this comedian named Ellen. Maybe you’ve heard of her?

Confessions of A Serial Novelist

If you have enjoyed the books of Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith, we have a real treat for you in the audiobooks section. Confessions of a Serial Novelist is a recording of a hilarious, live presentation by him in New York City while on tour.

Many of us know him as a talented and amusing author of numerous series, including The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency, The Sunday Philosophy Club and 44 Scotland Street. If you are a fan of his writing, and enjoy his erudite commentary, cheerful manner and quirky sense of humor, this recording of him talking about being an author and reading from his work is so laugh-out-loud funny and so thoroughly delightful and entertaining it is not to be missed.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #292

Admittedly, William Giraldi's debut Busy Monsters * * appears at first a bit outside my comfort zone. But I have learned from experience that adventurous reading is often its own reward.

I was intrigued by the publisher's blurb... "Echoing a narrative tradition that includes Don Quixote and Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, William Giraldi's debut novel is a love story of linguistic bravado that explores American excess, the diaphanous line between fiction and fact, and what desperate men and women will do to one another."

Charles Homar, a "memoirist of mediocre fame" for a weekly magazine rescues Gillian Lee, superman-style, from a stalled Ferris wheel and is immediately smitten. Before he could march her down the aisle, she takes off to pursue her passion for a legendary giant squid. To win her back, Charlie crisscrosses the country seeking counsel, confronting creatures both mythic and real: Bigfoot on the Canadian border, space aliens in Seattle, a professional bodybuilder with Asiatic sex slaves in suburban New Jersey, all the while "battling his own equally dangerous internal monsters", and writing about it.

"Charlie's last name is no coincidence as here we have a seriocomic picaresque that references everything from the Odyssey to medieval romances to Don Quixote and Moby-Dick. A brilliant first novel that may well be in the running for 2011's literary awards." (Remember how Goon Squad came out of nowhere to snatch several major awards?)

Quirky, hilarious at times, and surprisingly engaging. Well worth the time and effort.

* * = starred reviews

Next Week In Booklists

Significant Dates for the Week of September 25 to October 1

Sunday September 25: Kick off Banned Books Week by reading some Banned Books.

Monday September 26: Johnny Appleseed Day

Tuesday September 27: Ancestor Appreciation Day

Wednesday September 28: Rosh Hashanah

Thursday September 29: National Coffee Day

Friday September 30: Ask A Stupid Question Day

Saturday October 1: First day of Adopt A Shelter Dog Month

Always remember that every day is a celebration!

TV Shows: Bored to Death

It seems like offbeat comedy TV sure is easy to come by these days, and though it may not all be quality, it exists. HBO’s Bored To Death (A noir-otic comedy) is one that hits the funny bone, and hard.

Created by author Jonathan Ames, the show centers around a fictional Jonathan Ames, played by Jason Schwartzman. He is a well meaning but struggling writer, living in New York, who decides to lead a double life by pretending to be a private detective. He starts out by placing an ad on Craigslist, and ends up getting calls for cases that take him on crazy adventures with his two friends George and Ray, played by Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis.

Schwartsman's great, but Danson and Galifianakis kind of steal the show in this one. Their style of comedy is less stuffy than Schwartzman, and their wacky characters allow for some killer scenes with even more killer lines. Danson is at his best in this one.

It’s akin to Curb Your Enthusiasm, Party Down, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Community, if you’re into that. Season 3 of Bored To Death begins this fall on HBO.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #278

Your read the New York Times review, now you cannot wait to read the book. Can't blame you.

I have to admit, this is my first Colin Cotterill, (and the first of a project new series) and it is sending me straight to his Dr. Siri Paiboun series, another unlikely and exotic sleuth (a septuagenarian Laotian coroner).

The intriguing title had me laughing out loud when I realized that it is derived from one of the many George W. Bush quotes, each heading a new chapter. “Free societies are hopeful societies. And free societies will be allies against these hateful few who have no conscience, who kill at the whim of a hat.” (September 17, 2004) Too far-fetched? It's for real, check it out!

Killed at the Whim of a Hat * * * features Jimm Juree, a thirtysomething "sardonic, self-important 'almost award-winning' " female crime reporter who has been exiled to Chumphon, (Southern Thailand) to run a seedy and decrepit beach resort with her eccentric and loony family.

The discovery of a buried Volkswagen van from the 1970s with two buried hippie passengers brings a flurry of excitement to this tiny village and hopes for a big journalistic break for Jimm Juree. Then there is a real murder and Jimm just cannot stay away, even if her life depends on it.

You will thank me later for not giving away the plot. "Cotterill combines plenty of humor with fascinating and unusual characters, a solid mystery, and the relatively unfamiliar setting of southern Thailand to launch what may be the best new international mystery series".

British expat. and CWA Dagger Awards winner Colin Cotterill taught in Israel, Australia, the U.S. and Japan before started training teachers in Thailand. He and his wife live in a small fishing village on the Gulf of Siam in Southern Thailand.

* * * = Starred reviews

June's Books to Film

Green Lantern is based on the grahic novel series by DC Comics. In a universe as vast as it is mysterious, a small but powerful force call the Green Lantern Corps has been dependent upon as protectors of peace and intergalactic order. When a new enemy called Parallax threatens to destroy the balance of power, the fate lies in the hands of Green Lantern's newest recruit, the first human ever selected to wear the ring that grants them superpower.

In Submarine, 15 year-old Oliver Tate has two big ambitions: to save his parents' marriage via carefully plotted intervention and to lose his virginity before his next birthday. Worried that his mom is having an affair, Oliver forges suggestive love letters from his Mom to his Dad. Meanwhile, Oliver attempts to woo his classmate, Jordana, a self-professed, bossy, pyromaniac who supervises his journal writing --- especially the bits about her. I look forward to this delightful adaptation from Joe Dunthorne's humorous and imaginative novel (2008).

Based on the The X-Men comics created by Stan Lee, the current box-office smash X-Men, First Class is set up as a prequel. Before mutants had revealed themselves to the world, and before Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men, closest of friends, working together to prevent nuclear Armageddon.

green lanterngreen lantern

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