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Tag Archives: child-and-young-adult

My Sucky Teen Romance (2011): Still a Better Love Story than Twilight

My Sucky Teen Romance (Emily Hagins, 2011)

8-bit-style representations of the main characters, with Paul munching on a heart, grace the movie poster.

“The only thing they told me not to eat on a first date was spaghetti!”
photo credit:

Despite only giving Emily Hagins’ first feature, Pathogen, three stars (but let’s remember, three is still “above average” on a five-star scale), I unhesitatingly recommended it in my review because, well, it’s a zombie movie that was made by a twelve-year-old and, aside from having basically no budget and some problems with acting ability, was a clever, fun take on the genre. Hagins returned five years later with her third feature, My Sucky Teen Romance, a teen vampire comedy whose purpose is to make fun of teen vampire comedies. And my favorite thing about it is that in every way, it’s obvious Emily Hagins took Pathogen as a learning experience. My Sucky Teen Romance is a much better movie technically, with much more solid acting and a clever script (written by Hagins). In short: if you like your teen comedies with more romance than raunch, My Sucky Teen Romance is for you.

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The Maze Runner (2014): Death Metal

The Maze Runner (Wes Ball, 2014)

A pair of ant-sized figures make their way to the massive doors at the edge of the glade on the movie poster.

Those are some big walls right there.
photo credit:

The Maze Runner does something interesting in the current world of YA dystopias: it gives as an actual mystery as opposed to laying everything out at the beginning and then getting on with the plot. (I’m looking at you, Hunger Games.) The shape of the dystopia and the reason for its existence is therefore a part of the mystery of The Maze Runner, and that is a good thing indeed. Of course, it helps to have a compelling story and a number of good actors to help pull it off, as well as a solid director in Wes Ball, turning in his first feature film.

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Straydog (2002): One of the Best Books You Will Ever Read

Kathe Koja, Straydog (FSG, 2002)

[originally posted 4Nov2002]

A collie thrashes against a cage, teeth bared, on the book's cover.

Bite. Bite. Bite. Cry.
photo credit: Goodreads

Over the course of my existence I’ve read somewhere between fifteen and twenty thousand books. While I am one of those people who will start sniffling at the merest hint of decently-rendered emotion in a movie, and bawl like a baby when certain songs come on the radio, I’ve never been that way with books. With reflection, I’ve been able to think of three books that reduced me to tears while reading them (Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows, Kathe Koja’s Strange Angels, and Clive Barker’s Sacrament). Add a fourth to the list: Kathe Koja’s newest offering, the short novel Straydog.

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Capsule Reviews (vault): July, 2014

Peter D. Hipson, What Every Visual C++ 2 Programmer Should Know (Sams, 1994)

[originally posted 19Feb2002]

A "just the facts, ma'am" cover with the red title on a green background.

Even more dated now than when I wrote this review.
photo credit: ebay

What Every Visual C++ 2 Programmer Should Know is the perfect compliment to Gurewich and Gurewich’s Master Visual C++ 2. Both put out by Sams in the same year. Coincidence? Probably not. Everything the Gurewich book lacks is covered here. The detail and amount of code examples is lacking in comparison, but given the topics covered, that’s an excusable oversight.

What Every Visual C++ 2 Programmer Should Know looks at the more advanced features of Microsoft’s primary development platform: programming with Unicode, OLE, ODBC, multithreading, etc. It’s more a reference book than a how-to manual, but the user who’s followed and mastered the Gurewichs’ book should already have enough coding under his belt to integrate the information presented here without much trouble. The two books, taken together, provide the best introduction to Visual C++ 2 on the market, and are highly recommended for those still programming in DOS/Win3.x/Win95. *** ½

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Missing Pieces (1995): Puzzternity

Finally…the catch-up begins…

Norma Fox Mazer, Missing Pieces (Avon, 1995)

Jessie leans up against a tree looking reflective on the book cover.

His bark is worse than his bite.
photo credit: ebay

The only reason I had any idea who Norma Fox Mazer was when I was going through a box of my wife’s books from her junior high and high school years was that way back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, Mazer has co-written a teen thriller with husband Harry called The Solid Gold Kid. Looking back on it, the parts I remember about it were cheesy as hell (a romance subplot developing between two teens who have been abducted? Really? Even I wasn’t that horny when I was 15!), but at the time, that book was, if you’ll excuse the pun, solid gold. So when I found Missing Pieces in the stack she was planning on sending to Half-Price Books, I kept it out and gave it a go. I wasn’t as enthused about it as School Library Journal (“…brilliant and subtle…”), but it does what it sets out to do, and that counts for something.

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Where the Red Fern Grows (1974): It Grows for Thee

Where the Red Fern Grows (Norman Tokar, 1974)

Billy, Dan, and Ann frolic on the movie poster.

Men Who Run with the Dogs.
photo credit: Wikipedia

I don’t keep a Best Books list the way I keep a Best Movies list (yet), but if I did, Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows would be somewhere in the top ten. I don’t believe there’s a single book that requires multiple sittings to read that I have read more often than that one; I probably read it four or five times a year between discovering it in sixth grade (I had Summer of the Monkeys as an assignment in school, and so I decided to find out what else that guy had written) and, oh, 1990 or thereabouts. And yet somehow I had not only never seen the movie adaptation, but never even knew such a thing existed, until a few nights ago. So, with trepidation, I sat down to watch it. Now, I haven’t read the book for quite a while, and I tried to take into account that the book is never as good as the movie, but still, I found myself entirely unable to work up a lot of enthusiasm for it.

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Super Buddies (2013): Unfortunately, This Probably Made Money

Super Buddies (Robert Vince, 2013)

The buddies of the title pose in their superhero outfits on the movie's poster.

I wish I could say this was a poster for a movie that does not exist.
photo credit:

Five dogs discover alien rings that give them super powers, after which they run around bumbling their way to saving people (and pets). Which would be your basic stupid kidflick (and even if it were, why would you waste your time on this crap when there are so many better kidflicks out there?) were it not for the personalities of the pups in question, based on the characters of the owner of each, including a prepubescent (white) jive-talker, a spoiled princess, a bully, and a nerd, all stereotypes with the depth of a sheet of onionskin, if even that. Ten minutes into this I was ready to tear my hair out; after eighty I was considering canceling my Netflix Streaming subscription just so this monstrosity would be out of my Recently Viewed queue and the Bean would forget about its existence. Absolutely horrifying. I found it offensive because of the stereotyping (and how it is used not even to address any issues, but just to distinguish the characters—the laziest possible use of stereotyping); YMMV, but I kind of hope it doesn’t, because if you find it acceptable, yes, I will probably judge you for that. (zero)

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