We Have Moved!

We have moved our blog to the new CHB website! Check us out over there to find our latest stories and reviews!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Introducing Blue Orange Games

We have been slowly expanding our sideline items at the store as we discover gifts and games that we really love. One of the newest additions comes from a company called Blue Orange Games. Blue Orange's line of Spot It and Tell Tale games are exactly the type of fun items we like to recommend.

Spot It is a flash card game for players young and old. Each card has a series of images with one image repeating on the succeeding card. It is the player's job to spot the image. I absolutely love this game, but the best thing about it is how great it is for families. It is meant to be all ages, but eagle eyed children typically have a leg up on their parents making it all the more fun and competitive.

Tell Tales takes the flash card premise of Spot It but moves the focus away from competition and turns it to creativity. The goal of Tell Tales is to tell a story with the cards, with each card you flip a new element must be draw in to the story. This is another great game for families and works as a great alternative to movie night – make your own stories!

These both games are endlessly fun to play at home or while traveling. They also work well in the classroom. We have been so happy with them in the store and I can't wait to see what games Blue Orange comes out with next.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Victoria Reviews: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

I don't normally spend my time reading lifelike stories, so John Green books are something new to me. Most of the time, I prefer to read about magic and aliens rather than regular kids in high school, and I actively avoid novels that portray ordinary life. However, I've been hearing glowing recommendations for John Green for quite a while now, so when Michelle asked me to read one of his books, I quickly accepted. That night, I curled up with a copy of Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

I was a bit surprised by the book and the way it was written. The story follows the points of view of two different boys, both named Will Grayson, and the events that lead up to their meeting point as well as the repercussions that follow. Each chapter alternates between their narration. The first Will Grayson seems to be a decently normal, shy kid, and the oddest thing about him is his best friend. Will Grayson #1 is best friends with a flamboyantly homosexual boy named Tiny, ironically nicknamed for his very large size. Will Grayson #2 seems depressed and angry, and he's harboring a deep secret that he hasn't yet shared with the world. The writing of his point of view differs from Will Grayson #1 because it doesn't use any capital letters and often leaves out punctuation as well (something which annoyed the Grammarian in me at first but which was surprisingly easy to get used to).

The oddest thing about this book, to me, was that the main story wasn't even about either of the Will Graysons. The actual plot revolved around Will #1's best friend, Tiny Cooper. The Will Graysons were just the vehicles for Tiny's story to be told. They were almost minor characters, in their own way, and their own personal journeys only seemed important because of how they affected Tiny. It was an interesting way to read a story.

John Green and his contributor, David Levithan, did an excellent job on characterization. The characters are normal, flawed people just like anyone you'd meet on the street. They have doubts, fears, and awkward moments, and they make mistakes just like the rest of us. At the same time, their ordinariness does not make the story uninteresting. Contrariwise, the story is interesting in part because they are ordinary. The characters embody the traits of the kind of people that everyone knows. Everybody knows someone who is always at the center of attention. Everyone knows a shy kid. Everyone knows the guy who treats everyone else with contempt. We all have that friend who we love even though they frequently embarrass us in public. The story is an easy one to like because there's something for everyone to identify with. It's also a rather emotional read because the realness of the characters makes them easy to care about.

I think Will Grayson, Will Grayson was a good start for me on John Green. I'll definitely be picking up his other books in the near future. I recommend you do the same.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review: An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

After reading and loving Steve Martin’s Shopgirl, I decided to keep up with his novels, so it was with great excitement that I finally picked up An Object of Beauty. It becomes clear almost immediately that this is going to be a very different novel. The main character, Lacey Yeager, is basically a predator. She lacks the soft, shy, loneliness of Martin’s previous characters (though the narrator, who we learn very little about, has it in spades). The predatory Lacey begins the novel as a recent college graduate looking to make her place in the art world of New York through whatever means necessary. Now, if this were merely the story of a beautiful young social climber it would hold no interest for me, but it is so much more than that.

Essentially, An Object of Beauty is the story of the New York art scene over the past twenty years. Steve Martin uses Lacey and her story to tell that much broader history; from the rise in popularity (and price) of modern artworks in the mid 90s to the economic collapse of 2008 and the subsequent collapse of the art market, the book was a fascinating look into a world I knew nothing about. Martin described the fluctuations of the market in terms that I could understand, as he did when describing the rise in prices of contemporary works following Andy Warhol’s steady rise in price:

“When Warhol started to achieve newsworthy prices, the value of contemporary art, including art that was yet to be created, was pushed up from behind. Warhol’s presence was so vivid, so recent, that he was identified not with the dead, but as the first nugget from Sutter’s Mill. The rush was on.”

The feeling of being in on this art world esoterica was good enough, but Martin combined it with an interesting, if immoral, character in Lacey. The novel also holds an element of mystery, as very early on the reader is made aware that Lacey has done something that was not exactly on the level. This is entirely true to her character, but what exactly she has done goes unexplained until the end when it comes to light as the art market crashes in on itself.

Steve Martin has written a very good novel with a slow, natural tone that will be familiar to the fans of his other books even if the significantly less endearing characters are not. The book itself is beautiful, as it contains illustrations of various works of art alongside the discussions about them in the text.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower made high school a little easier for me. It was something that I could point to that said I was not alone. A touchstone of the awkward loneliness of the lost and confused. And I was afraid to reread it. It had been something greater than ten years since I read and loved Perks, what if I had changed while the novel had not? Books have great power and I was afraid that this one would lose its place for me as an adult reader.

It didn't.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the story of Charlie, who is slowly learning to be an active participant in life. Charlie begins his first year of high school scared and alone. To cope, he writes letters to a stranger. This is someone he's been told will listen and understand. Someone Charlie can trust because they “didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though (they) could have.” The format of the novel in letters so suits this books as it affords an intimacy that would have been lacking from a more straight forward telling.

Charlie's letters, addressed simply to “friend,” follow him through his freshman year. From the lonely first day, to his first party, first kiss, all of the wonderful lessons learned from books, teachers, and new friends, and finally to the end of year departure of those who are graduating and moving on. The book is about learning to navigate the complex relationships that come postchildhood, especially a childhood that ends as abruptly as Charlie's.

Charlie has been stuck between the innocence of childhood and the harsh realities of the adult world for most of his life. He was forced into situations he was not yet capable of understanding which led to a series of mental breaks. This instability is what led Charlie to his life as a wallflower; he was too trapped in his own mind to participate in life. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the narration of his breaking free of that incapacity through friendship and books and music all leading up to actions. Because actions can make life feel infinite.

I identified completely with this novel as a young adult, my review may be biased, but I think that The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an important book. I feel that it is too cliché to refer to something as “the new” anything, but if it must be said then Perks is the new Catcher in the Rye. It is a novel that gives friends to the friendless and a place to go for anyone who doesn't understand or isn't understood.


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