Spoiler Alert!

John Dies at the End.

But in the beginning, John was alive and well when David Wong’s book started as a free webserial in 2001. It garnered enough popularity (approximately 70,000 fans) to get a more concrete existence and was printed as a paperback in 2007. Now, it has been adapted to film and premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

This comedic horror story centers around two friends, eccentric slacker John and self-deprecating, sarcastic Dave, a dog named Molly, and their experiences with, and caused by, a drug called "Soy Sauce." The drug is said to cause hallucinations and "out-of-body experiences" for the users. But John and Dave start finding themselves in situations that seem more real and even less explainable.

Strange deaths start occurring. Molly, the dog, is finding herself in strange instances of trouble and heroism. People are going missing, being possessed by evil, and all hell may literally be breaking loose. Dave is not thrilled about their new paranormally-enhanced life, but John loves all their unusual encounters and dives in headfirst. It looks like it's up to John and Dave to save the day, willingly or unwillingly. With less than 400 pages, this book is a quick read, full of genuinely frightening things as well as genuine hilariousness.

Outstanding Teen Book: "Sorta Like a Rock Star"

Seventeen-year-old Amber Appleton is homeless and virtually unparented. She struggles living in the school bus her mom drives, but somehow manages to do amazing things in her community – visiting lonely old people, teaching English and music to Korean Catholic women, and befriending an eccentric Vietnam veteran and his dog. She also is part of a school "marketing club" which calls itself Frank's Freaks Force Federation. She is, as the title says, Sorta Like a Rock Star.

But when violent tragedy strikes her life, she succumbs to weeks of deep depression. This part of the book is more than enough to break a reader's heart. Eventually, though, Amber heals, emerging stronger than ever, with her joyful spirit and remarkable ability to help and inspire others. This is an amazing feel-good story in which all the fascinating people in Amber's life are ultimately brought together. Matthew Quick is a superb writer and storyteller whose latest book is Boy21. Check it out.

Melancholia, on DVD

Writer and director Lars von Trier’s latest film, Melancholia, is not just another “end of the world” movie, it’s also a story of the complex relationship between two sisters. A wedding reception at a lavish Scandinavian countryside home sets the scene for this dark and beautifully made film. Newlyweds Justine and Michael celebrate their nuptials at the home of Justine’s sister Claire and her scientist husband John. With their opinionated family members in attendance, including the girls’ mother who bad mouths all marriages, it makes for quite the melancholy reception. Kirsten Dunst portrays the deeply depressed bride so wonderfully that it appears effortless, which earned her the best actress prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

The dreary state of the reception leads one to believe that the new marriage is doomed from the start. At the same time, the planet Melancholia is on a slow path towards earth, which has the sisters on edge as they try to comfort Claire's son and deal with Justine's illness while the giant blue planet's collision course taunts them. It is cinematically breathtaking and unsettling. I’m not usually a fan of films of an apocalyptic nature, but there’s something about this one. Perhaps he beauty helps balance the tension?

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

The documentary Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at O’Brien’s 32-city music and comedy show known as The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour.

The tour was a result of O’Brien stepping away from "The Tonight Show" after a dramatic dispute with NBC over moving the show’s timeslot from 11:35 pm to 12:05 am, following Jay Leno. O’Brien didn’t agree with the deal and walked away from the show with a settlement, but was contractually banned from appearing on radio or TV for six months.

The talk show host didn’t want to stop the late-night comedy act, so he took it on the road, in a most interesting fashion. I saw it performed live, and it was indeed a wonderful ruckus.

The film is an in-depth look into the birth of the tour, how the live comedic material was brought to life. It follows O’Brien and crew on an emotional backstage look at what it takes to do so much in so little time. Conan fans will appreciate the candid look at his life during such a tumultuous time. Two weeks after the successful live show wrapped, O’Brien began preparations for his newest late night show, Conan, which now airs on TBS.

International Romance: Embrace This Teen Novel

Jennifer E. Smith has created a mini-masterpiece in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Sophisticated and heartwarming, the novel stars charming and intelligent 17-year-old Hadley Sullivan, who is four minutes late for a JFK-to-London flight for her father's second wedding.

Her feelings about the wedding, and the bride she has never met, are complicated, to say the least. As she waits for the next flight to London, she meets Oliver, a sharp, witty Brit who is going to college in the United States and is bound for London for complicated family reasons of his own.

Oliver is in seat 18C, Hadley is in 18A, and the elderly, long-married woman who at first sits between them is a hoot. There is plenty of snappy dialogue here, plus surprise plot twists and believability of characters. The plot, which unfolds over a 24-hour stretch, will make you -- or perhaps remake you -- into a true believer in true love when it is least anticipated. Sigh.

The book also does a fine job with family connections and humor. As Publishers Weekly notes, Smith's book is a "fast-paced and entertaining novel with a superlatively romantic premise."

The Devil in the White City

Do you enjoy a good suspense story? How about a suspense story in a one-of-a-kind historical setting? What about a good suspense story with amazingly well-researched historical facts about Chicago hosting the 1893 World's Fair with a serial killer preying on tourists, a delusional political hopeful stalking the city's officials, and a team of architectural geniuses thrown into the mix?

If you missed Erik Larson's 2004 bestseller The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, here’s your chance to get all of the above, plus more. Erik Larson meticulously researched the ambitious Daniel H. Burnham, Patrick Prendergast, and Henry H. Holmes and cast the three into this single volume.

Prepare yourself to learn about the first sparks of industrial unionization, the development of America's urban landscapes, artistic feats in action, and the shocking brutality humans can inflict upon each other. A must read.

'1Q84'

Recently, I've read several books that were good enough to recommend: Stephen King's 11/22/63, Lev Grossman's The Magician King, and Pascal Girard's Reunion, to name a few. The problem is that none of those books come as close to, well, perfect, as 1Q84.

To be fair, I haven't actually finished Haruki Murakami's "1Q84" yet, but this is because the process of reading it cannot be rushed. I'm going to go out on a corny limb here and actually put this next sentence in print. Reading "1Q84" is the literary equivalent of watching a flower bloom. The plot unfolds slowly, the direction of the book is kept mysterious, and the reader is drawn in to see what will happen next. The writing is wildly eloquent and the characters are fascinating. Only halfway through this book it already surpasses everything I've read since Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex.

The story begins with the introduction of Aomame, who steps down a ladder and enters a parallel universe. Next, the story sits down with Tengo, a man who can write lyrically, but cannot create a story in which to lyricize. Soon afterward the audience is shown Fuka-Eri, a nearly monosyllabic teenage girl with wisdom beyond her years and a past she won't explain.

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.

'Dead End in Norvelt'

Handed to me late last year by a savvy children’s librarian, Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos, surpassed my wildest hopes for a good read. Imagine my delight in January when the novel -- written for ages 10 and up -- won the American Library Association’s 2012 Newbery Award for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children, plus the 2012 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction!

This fabulous story is the "entirely true and the wildly fictional" story of the author’s childhood, unfolding in historic Norvelt, Pennsylvania, during the summer of 1962, as the narrator awkwardly turns twelve. “Eccentric” is not too strong to describe his family and his adorable, elderly buddy, Miss Volker, the town historian who helps Jack with his nosebleeds, while also teaching him valuable life lessons about humans, tenacity, and love. The writing in the novel is seamless, while the story manages to be both heartwarming and hilarious. Comedian Dave Barry praised the book as “brilliant . . . full of history, mystery, and laughs. It reminded me of my small-town childhood, although my small town was never as delightfully weird as Norvelt.”

"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.

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