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I Like It LOUD!

Remember That Time When...

August 29, 2014 | Alice | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

There are those times, those rare occasions that seem to bubble with a sense of limitless possibility, like you could do just about anything. Maybe it's a special night, a trip, doing something you've always wanted to. Or maybe you didn't even see it coming until you were in it and found yourself suddenly riding a wave of excitement, ready for something - anything - to happen. It seems... like magic. Like it's changed you. Like things will never be quite the same again.

Breakfast-Club-movie-posterThere are movies that capture this perfectly - 80s teen movie master John Hughes was a master of this lightning-in-a-bottle feeling. It's exactly what made Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off into instant favourites of countless people. Sometimes the movies are goofier, heavier on comedy, but still create that bonding moment - think Hot Tub Time Machine, for example, or pretty much any road trip movie ever made.

I had the same feeling from a couple of books I was reading for this summer - like the one that landed on the list to exemplify this, The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life. It's one night, and it's supposed to be amazing. Mary has a vision of how it should go in her head, and a fantasy of how triumphing over a school rival is going to feel soooooo good, it will change everything. Things of course don't quite go according to this plan of hers because, life. Still, even as things fall apart, other things come together, and by the end of the night, Mary has had a night to remember, it just wasn't the one that she expected. And most of all, she's been forced to examine some of her hopes for that night, and whether they really meant what she thought they did in the first place.

Tag alongTag Along is kind of like this, too - and also happens at the end of the school year, when everyone is celebrating and summer feels ripe with possibility. In this case, though, three kids whose prom plans fell through and one who is just out on her own meet up and spend time in various different combinations over the course of the night, forging unlikely friendships, pushing boundaries, learning about each other and themselves, and in the end, turning a total disappointing disaster of a night into something they'll remember for years.

Nick + noraI think my very favourite example of this, though, has to be the fantastic Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. A night that started out not that exciting, not that important, turned into a series of adventures, up and downs, and steps toward falling in love in a way that is bound to change both Nick and Norah. Romantic, music-filled, and beating with the rhythm of New York's Village, it's a great read. They even managed to make a movie of it that does a surprisingly good job of keeping the same spirit, despite my real worries about them ruining it!

I think it's no accident that these are often set in and around summer, as summer can feel like just the sort of little golden bubble of time that incubates otherwise impossible things. I hope you enjoyed your summer here with us, and that maybe it's transformed you a little, made you think a bit, or given you a little something special to consider as you go back to real life, back to the rhythms of school. I know I've had a fun time writing and sharing conversation in comments, so I hope you all have, too. Thanks for coming around and being part of Word Out this summer, everyone, and I hope your school year is a great one!

Music in Words

August 22, 2014 | Alice | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

Headphones_girl_from vidzshare dot netI'm a huge fan of music - if you were around for Word Out last year, I wrote about music all summer long, and loved it. I think most people would say they love music - it can speak to us in a way that feels really direct, like nothing else, and it's often tied really strongly to memories and feelings.

It can be hard to capture that in words, or explain the way it can make a feeling bubble up in you, or seem like every song coul be about your situation. But you know? I love reading books about music, and those moments when authors try to bottle that magic in words, it's a beautiful thing. I don't dog-ear books ever, except when it's passages like that, that I want to be able to find later, maybe write it down somewhere to save it for later. I love reading about how other people react to music - it's one of those times I find myself nodding along, feeling kindship with the character. No wonder I love books about music so much!

It means I'll read almost any book with a music theme to it, so I read a lot of them. This summer, there are four I've read that I really enjoyed, and thought you might, too. They aren't just about music, though, there is a lot in these about group dynamics, about friendship, and about finding your own strengths. All of which make for pretty compelling stories even without the great music talk and constant song references.

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Going Viral

August 16, 2014 | Alice | Comments (5) Facebook Twitter More...

Biohazard from michigan dot govOutbreaks. They are both fascinating and alarming, the perfect combination to make them the stuff of novels and movies and breathless news stories. Like lately? The Ebola virus outbreak? I'm riveted.

My fascination with all things viral and epidemic-related began a long time back, but exploded when I read Richard Preston's books The Hot Zone and The Demon in the Freezer. These are about epidemics, emerging viruses, vaccination and eradication, and the potential for bio-terrorism, and they are amazing. The best part is that he's a true master of what we call narrative non-fiction - he writes like a storyteller, the real people who inhabit the factual accounts presented like characters, and it is extremely interesting and readable. (By contrast, he wrote a fiction book that really didn't work as well!) From then on, I was hooked. Everyone who knew me got sick of hearing about those books.

And now? The news is reporting on an outbreak of the Ebola virus that started this spring. Ebola_Virus from CDCs PHIL_1832It's really interesting, though not in the same way as those books, because this is real time, and people are suffering horribly from this deadly disease. It's not the first outbreak, and not even the first outbreak of Ebola, but there is something about this disease and others like it that is so awful, it's almost unreal. There are other hemorrhagic viruses as well, Marburg, Dengue Fever, Lassa Fever, and a couple of others with names for the specific locales of their discoveries.

And there have been much worse outbreaks of horrific diseases throughout history. Plague. Smallpox. Various Influenza pandemics. Polio. Typhiod. Disease has been the constant companion of mankind through the ages, as it has for animals and plants, as well. 

So why is this so intriguing? Well, there's an element of danger, of course, which always gets our attention. In the case of these more exotic diseases, it's also at enough of a remove for people to feel less immediately threatened, and at the same time drawn in by the really unusual nature of a disease unlike others we've seen here. And, of course, what makes it perfect fodder for spinning stories, there is the "what-if" factor. What would we do to protect ourselves if it happened here? How would we stop it? Can it be stopped? Sounds just like the questions that come with alien movies, doesn't it? It's the same sort of idea - a mysterious enemy, danger, and the race to set things back to normal.

But meantime, with a real-world epidemic going on across the ocean, are there things you should know?

Why it is scary: It's a really awful disease. The symptoms are horrifying, and the death rate is usually quoted at 90%, though this outbreak seems to be sitting at more like 60%, which is interesting, given that it's also the biggest one yet and may actually be giving more accurate numbers because of the larger sample size.

Biosafety_level_4_hazmat_suitWhy it's NOT scary: It's not easy to catch unless you are around someone in the final stages of the disease. People are contagious until they are showing the first symptoms, and even then, it's not airborne, you have to be in contact with the body fluids of the person suffering. Which means health care workers on the ground in this epidemic are in danger, family members caring for victims at home are putting themselves in danger, but just being out and about in the world? Not a problem. Also? There's never been a case in North America, and hopefully the airport screening going on will help prevent that from changing.



Author Talk: Moira Young Answers!

August 8, 2014 | Alice | Comments (8) Facebook Twitter More...

So Moira Young, author of the awesome Dustlands trilogy, agreed to answer some questions for us about the books, the barren setting, and her warrior-like heroine, Saba. I was delighted to get to ask her because I've been loving these books, but equally happy to read what she had to say in response. Read along...

1. I'm always curious with trilogies - did you have the whole arc of the story mapped out in the first place, or did it come as you wrote along the way?

Blood red road moira youngNo planning, no mapping, not a thought of any such thing. The first book of the Dustlands started life in 2006 as Dark Eden, a stand alone, dual-viewpoint story set in an ice age future and it took me pretty much all of four years to write, rewrite, despair, give up, restart and re-vision it into Blood Red Road. If I'd known that it would be the first in a trilogy, I would have been so daunted at the prospect that I never would have set down a word.

It was only as I was writing the last few pages of Blood Red Road that I began to sense that I'd planted the seeds of a larger story and I found myself telling people that this was the first of a trilogy. At that time, mind you, I had no idea what that larger story was. In meetings with publishers, editors, marketing and movie people, I marvelled at this person who looked and sounded just like me as she proclaimed confidently that the three books would be akin to the three acts of an opera; each act fulfilling a function within the story telling arc, each with its own very particular mood, shape and momentum. That is, in fact, how the three books turned out and now I understand that Saba's epic story was growing within me at a subconscious level. Between 2010 and 2014, my job was to feed that story and bring it up into consciousness and onto the page in Rebel Heart and Raging Star. But I didn't know that at the time either.

I didn't know much of anything, to be honest. Almost the moment I finished writing Blood Red Road, it was out of my hands and I was suddenly a person with an agent,various publishers and a movie deal and apparently I'd told everyone it was trilogy and it was all quite impossible to take in.

It's a nerve-wracking way for a novice writer to proceed and I can't say I'd advise anyone to follow my example. I don't suppose I'll ever make a parachute jump or climb Everest so maybe this is the closest I'll get.

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Girls Who Kick Ass

August 8, 2014 | Alice | Comments (11) Facebook Twitter More...

Warrior_girl by bugball on DeviantArtGirls. Sugar and spice, and everything nice? Not always. Lately, we've seen more and more girls more into a white-knuckle ride than a white knight, and I am loving it. Maybe it's a trend. Maybe it is backlash against all the chicklit and swoonier heroines that were around for a while. Maybe it's that the popularity of dystopian settings allow you to throw out the expectations of contemporary lit. Whatever the case, I love seeing girls come to the fore as serious action heroes in their own right, so I'm sharing some good ones in case you want to get in on all the ass-kicking goodness, too.

There's the obvious dystopian candidates, of course, the ones you would think of first. Hunger Games's Katniss. Tris, from Divergent, who didn't start out as much of a fighter, but learned quickly. You've seen these girls wielding weapons and showing their inner strength onscreen as well as on the page, and they have quickly become the models of tough girl material.

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Contest: AudioSplice v.6

August 7, 2014 | Alice | Comments (8) Facebook Twitter More...

Ben_Turntable from openclipart dot org
Turntable image from

What's an AudioSplice?

The Basics:

I've taken little snippets of a handful of songs and smashed them together into a sort of sonic puzzle for you to figure out. There is also a theme that links the songs somehow for you to work out, to help you along and make it a little more fun.

So what do you need to do? Listen carefully! Try to identify as many songs as you can, look for that link between them, and leave your guesses in comments. If no one is getting close after a couple of days, I may come back and leave a hint below...

Winners of book prizes will be the commenters who a) get the link and the most songs, and b) enter the most amusing guess at the link (even if they are wrong). And by amusing, I mean it amuses me. ;)

This Week's Puzzle:

Five Songs. One theme to link them. A few rules:

  • In order to qualify to win this contest, you have to live in the city of Toronto.
  • You have to provide a valid email address - otherwise we can't contact you to let you know you've won the contest! We promise to keep your email confidential - for more information about this, see the privacy statement below.
  • You have to have submitted your entry by Sunday, August 10th at 11:59 PM.


AudioSplice Aug 7


The boring legal stuff:

Your name, your e-mail address, the books you read and your thoughts about them are your Ipad-minipersonal information. Why do we need your personal information here?  Well, we want to publish your reviews, and we need your name and e-mail address to help administer the contest.  The Public Libraries Act is the law that lets us do this.  We'll be protecting your privacy every step of the way, but if you have any questions about how we're going to do that, you can contact TPL's Privacy & Records Management Officer, 789 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON, M4W 2G8, 416-395-5658 or by e-mail at [email protected] 

Contest Roundup: AudioSplice

August 7, 2014 | Alice | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Audiospllice turntable from openclipart dot comHalfway through summer, I thought you might want to get the final word on the AudioSplice winners so far?  Yes?

So while today's contest is brewing due to some technical difficulties and will be up this evening, here we go:

Week 1

The one that got it right:
July said... Green Day: Holiday Boulevard of Broken Dreams, The White Stripes: Seven Army Nation?, P!nk: So What, The Black Keys: Lonely Boy, Red Hot Chili Peppers: Californication?

The link is colours!

The ones that amused me:

Aly said... Link: I am guessing it's about some sort of fight and/or challenge that must be faced alone with issues like society and more. Another thought I had was with the music, the guitar riffs! XD

Yasmine said... All five of the songs represent what Summer is like when you're a teenager.

The first song that plays is Holiday, by Green Day. This represents the excitement we feel in the first week or two of Summer break. "School's out! Holiday!". We're all excited and feel like Summer will last forever. But our excitement changes to annoyance and frustration in the face of "Summer Drama" - the "he said, she said" that surfaces in the Summer months when people have more time on their hands, and want to cause problems. This is represented by the second song choice: The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army: a song about the pressures of fame and being gossiped about. But Summer's not all bad, as we see with the third song choice: So What, by Pink. Here, the message is to forget about Summer drama, kick back, and have fun. Because it is Summer Break after all! But some Summer days can be long, and boring, and that's the reason for song choice 4: Lonely Boy by The Black Keys. The fifth song is Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (rock on!). As teenagers, we face a lot of pressure to have the "perfect Summer". A lot of this pressure comes from Hollywood and the media - and this is exactly what this last song is about. 

Though it did not appear obvious at first, the link between the five songs is that they represent the highs and lows of being a teenager during the Summer time.


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Alien Invasion

August 1, 2014 | Alice | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

So Guardians of the Galaxy opens tonight, chock full of aliens as both the good and the bad guys - I'm so excited for this! But since I haven't seen it YET, it is making me want to look at other alien movies because hey, has Hollywood ever loved them some aliens over the years. They were everyone's favourite bad guys for the loooongest time, and still come out to play nasty on a pretty regular basis.

The first ones really started to appear in the 50s, with classic titles like The Man From Planet X and The Day The Earth Stood Still leading the way and borrowing from earlier SciFi lit many of the standard features that have persisted ever since. The War of the Worlds, which had caused major panic as a radio play, also made it onto the big screen amidst a flurry of other alien movies, most of which were the same sort of idea, humans being overrun by force, until The Invasion of the Body Snatchers suggested a creepier, quieter mode of takeover. This was the era of the B movie, and plenty of them relied heavily on these tropes while also cementing them as the way to make an alien movie. You'll recognize them in this funny little satire of a movie trailer: 

 There are so many of them out there that there are a myriad of lists out there on the internet, but you can be pretty sure that alien movies have been a huge phenomenon because of two things. One, all those lists, but most of all, a top 100 list. I mean, if you can round up 100 that you could even consider putting on a "top" list? You have got to be spoiled for choice, amirite?

And second, the satires. Best and most famous being Tim Burton's wonderful, campy Mars Attacks! which plays on every stereotype of the golden age of B movie aliens that you can think of, then runs them up a level or two to hilarious effect. Crazy-looking aliens? Check. President being presidential? But, of course! Lovely women panicking? And also serious scientists and trigger-happy army guys, yes. It's brilliant, really. Check out the trailer:  

Alien invasions have been a cinematic mainstay over since, with everything from the Alien movies to Close Encounters of the Third Kind to ET, the one that really breaks the mold by making the alien lovable, not a threat. And they still keep going strong. Independence Day, a remake of War of the Worlds... And again, another comedic riff on aliens in the wonderful Men In Black series, a big favourite of mine, with Will Smith sort of playing on his own role in Independence Day. So fun.

 And with recent alien movies made from YA novels like Ender's Game and I Am Number Four, it doesn't seem like aliens are going to leave earth any time soon... But that's another post.

Paintless Street Art

July 31, 2014 | Alice | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Emeza_anti-graffiti via openclipart dot com*PAINT*less. Jeez. ;)

Yes, you can. You CAN have street art with no spray cans, no brushes, no markers or stencils. So, uh, what's that look like, then, you might ask? Well, for one thing, it usually doesn't go by the name of graffiti. Same guerilla art heart, different exterior, and often seen more as community minded, rather than about the individual.

What might make it community-minded? There are, in some cases, community-supported painting spaces, even in Toronto. But often it's something more temporary and easier to remove, so partly, it seems less like vandalism. And in some cases, it's something that involves people in the community. Something open-ended, that they can contribute to and join in on, something that can bring them together. (Though, in a lot of cases like that, permissions have actually been sought.)

Community_Garden_Letterboxes via WikimediaCommunity gardens or playgrounds springing up in abandoned lots being reclaimed by the community can be like this - one day, the whole community just pitches in and turns something useless and ugly into something for them all to share. In New York, this started among some dirty and dangerous empty lots in the lower east side and alphabet city, and grew into a movement. Some of them are pretty impressive, and now are used to grow food, as well!

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Written Revolution

July 25, 2014 | Alice | Comments (7) Facebook Twitter More...

Graffiti in Lisbon by MarkHillary on FlickrGraffiti is all about art and expression, at its heart. But sometimes, it serves other purposes as well. In this morning's post, we looked at graffiti that was more about the art and the fame, arguably less about the political message. This is not to say that the two can't co-exist, because Banksy's massive worldwide fame, gallery presence, and punchy, thought-provoking stencilled images combine them like nobody's business. But while he might be the best-known graffiti provocateur, he's not the only one with something to say.

Graffiti has also long been a tool of dissent, from simple scrawls of "Down With _____!" to full-scale murals depicting injustices, silenced voices, and oppressive regimes. The idea is to let people know not everyone supports what's happening, to inspire hope for change, to get people thinking about what they want to see happen and questioning the current order of things.

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