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Dueling reviews: Ketchup Cloud by Annabel Pitcher

August 28, 2014 | Cameron | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...


Librarian review:

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher is a bit of a conundrum for me. I really wanted to like this book, I really, really did. But . . . I did not like it really at all. The problem I have with this novel is that too much was going on and none of it was satisfying for me. I did appreciate the family dynamics that Pitcher created in this novel, I found them real and refreshing and fun to read. I did not like Zoe writing letters to a condemned man on death row. Artistically I think that the author was going for a sort of "Dexter" meets "My Mad Fat Diary" but it does not really work out.

I kept waiting for the action to start interesting me and drawing me in and I waited till the very end of the novel. The prose is lovely and succinct and the characters have some depth and are not cardboard, but I just felt that too many loose ends did not tie up and there was too many side plots and other issues that really had nothing to do with the main core of the story.

This is not a terrible book my any means and as youth novels go it had some lovely moments. Perhaps being an older person I am jaded or there is something that I am not getting from this book. I suggest you read it to find out, I don't think you will feel like you have wasted time - in fact maybe you will get something out of it that I did not.

 Kirkus review:

Of course Zoe isn’t anything like Texas death row inmate Stuart Harris. She got away with her murder.

Plagued by guilt and using the alias “Zoe,” the British teen writes a series of confessional letters to Harris. These episodic letters reveal a string of fateful decisions, including her role in a young man’s death. Seizing on her parents’ marital problems, Zoe escapes to a party and finds instant attraction with “The Boy with the Brown Eyes.” But when he disappears, she takes solace—with clothing removed—with popular Max Morgan. While periodically running into the mysterious guy, who she learns is named Aaron, Zoe continues her mostly physical relationship with Max. When she also discovers that Aaron and Max are brothers, readers clearly understand that one of them will die because of her. It’s not just suspense that drives this epistolary page-turner, but Zoe’s authentic emotional responses and unyielding wit (“who knew that vomit could be flirtatious?”). Zoe’s not a monster here but a typical adolescent who does like Max but is in love with Aaron. An engaging subplot involving Zoe’s younger, deaf sister and her mother’s culpability in her disability mirror Zoe’s mounting tension.

After many red herrings, a bittersweet ending brings compassion and answers to Zoe’s dilemma and shows just how easy it is to make mistakes and how hard love can be.

Contest: AudioSplice v.9

August 28, 2014 | Alice | Comments (5) Facebook Twitter More...

Ben_Turntable from openclipart dot org
Turntable image from

The Last AudioSplice!!!

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 31st at 11:59 PM.


AudioSplice Aug 28


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 

True Crime

August 28, 2014 | Monica | Comments (7) Facebook Twitter More...

In-cold-blood-truman-capote-paperback-cover-artWell, it’s been a great summer. Thank you all for your amazing participation and excellent submissions. You guys are incredibly talented, and really represent how multi-faceted, and multi-talented the youth of our great city are. I hope you enjoyed participating in Word Out 2014, and look forward to participating in 2015.

Before I go, I just want briefly mention a topic that I had wanted to blog about, but didn’t get the chance; True Crime. This genre of books is all about real crime stories. One that I read years ago and thought was really well written, was In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. This book is about the murder of four members of a family, and carries the reader through every stage of the event, from the murders, to the investigation, and finally to the sentecing of the murderers.

From the cover:
On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

Now, this genre deals with real life stories, and real murders.  Doctors who killThere is no comfort of knowing that what  you are reading is a work of Fiction, therefore made up by one extremely imaginative individual. With this being said, it is easy to conclude that this genre is not for the faint of heart. The reason I mention it here, is for all you crime/suspense/murder mystery fans out there, who have read books in this genre, and on my booklist. Another author in true crime is Max Haines. He is one that I have read a lot of, all thanks to my best friend who introduced him to me with her copy of Doctor’s Who Kill way back in high school (yes, the morbid fascination dates that far back!). It was scary, weird, and strangely captivating to read about professionals, in such a highly regarded profession, committing such crimes. Suffice to say, it definitely had me hooked! I think it also had something to do with the almost comical cover, which I thought was funny and kind of lame at the same time.

So for those of you interested in some True Crime, check out these authors and their works, and for those that are already into the genre, let me know which authors/titles you would recommend.

I hope everyone has a great long weekend, before getting back into the routine of things, and wish you all great new school year.

Goodbye till next summer!

Read it for the awesome life quotes -- THE SECRETS OF LILY GRAVES reviewed

August 27, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover the secrets of lily graves by sarah strohmeyerThe Secrets Of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer


Reviewed by Anupya, age 15


“More often than not, it was the little things that brought you down.” – Lily Graves


The Secrets of Lily Graves is a crime novel by Sarah Strohmeyer about the death of seemingly perfect Erin Donohue, frenemy of Lily Graves. After an exciting catfight between Lily and Erin, leaving Lily wounded and bruised, Erin is found dead the next morning. Fingers are pointed at an alarming rate as main suspects are rounded up and interrogated. Like in every good crime novel, everyone’s got a secret, the theme of betrayal stands triumphant and the killer is hidden in plain sight. The book is like the high school version of Broadchurch. It portrays death in a realistic way with the repercussions in the community. Lily and Sara are adamant to not be normal (they refer to Erin’s gang as “Tragically Normals” while they are “Happily Twisted”). The reader can’t blame Lily and Sara because the TNs unfairly judge Lily for her family business. The first half of the book is perfect and a juicily entertaining read.

That’s where the excellence of The Secrets of Lily Graves stops.

The female supporting characters serve no purpose in the story except to bully Lily. The men in the book however, are a huge part of the plot. Each one is important. Someone close to Lily is accused of being a psychopath and a murderer yet she pays no heed and can’t wait to see him. It is stupid. At one point, she decides to meet up with the same person in a remote area, loudly voicing, “I don’t care about safe.” Although it does turn out to be harmless, it stands as a terrible response to general creepiness. The romance in the story ruins the suspense and action since it changes the focus of the story. The last line of the book does not reflect on the death of Erin but more on Lily’s love life. It feels anticlimactic. It’s not the best crime-fiction I’ve read, but read it for plot and awesome life quotes.

Mini-Writing Contest # 9 -- August 27 to September 1

August 27, 2014 | Christine | Comments (9) Facebook Twitter More...

Hey everyone! Welcome back for Mini-Writing Contest Number 9. :)

Since this is the last mini-writing contest of the summer, I'd like to end with something very fun. 
Have you ever heard of a “spoonerism”? A spoonerism is a pun that happens when you accidentally switch the letters or sounds of two words in a sentence, creating something very funny. Here’s a great example of what can happen:

Runny Babbit kneared to lit,
And made a swat and heater,
And now he sadly will admit
He bight have done it metter.
(from pg. 24 of Runny Babbit: a Billy Sook by Shel Silverstein)

Try experimenting with some of your own spoonerisms and try writing a funny short story or a poem using them.

Please keep in mind the following contest rules:
1. You have to live in Toronto to win this contest.
2. You have to provide a valid e-mail address so we can contact you if you win a prize (see privacy statement for more info)
3. Your entry must be submitted by Monday at 11:59pm to be considered to win.
4. Winners will be announced the following Tuesday.

Have fun!

Your name, your e-mail address, the books you read and your thoughts about them are your personal 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

Extended drought: What do you think will happen? How would we be affected?

August 27, 2014 | Ray | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Former Fish of Folsom Lake [image from Associated Press]

If you've been following the news, perhaps you've heard something about the extreme drought that riddles nearly the entire state of California.  The snowcaps from the mountains haven't been replentished over last winter and the mountain rivers the supply the water reservoirs are running dry.  Even the reservoirs are down to mere puddles.  Since we're surrounded by freshwater lakes and even living on a great lake, why would we care? 

For starters, tons of food is imported from California. Strawberries, almonds, most out-of-season fruits and veggies.  Ultimately the high cost of water (due to scarcity) may impact agriculture - determining what plants and animals can be grown with little water - and supply could affect the prices at the supermarket.  Conventional breeds of beef cattle are known to consume more resources than chickens, many places with little water raise goats and sheep rather than cows.  Is it possible that longer-term drought could affect the food supply chain? Perhaps plants that are better for dryer conditions - drought-tolerant plants like sweet potatoes, millet, and sorghum - could have increased production.  How do you think we might be impacted?

So what does this drought look like? Dramatic photos taken around Califoria reveal what used to be hidden at the bottom of water reservoirs - cars, furniture, and garbage is now roasting under the sun. 

The largest reservoir for California, Lake Mead, is dangerously low.  Using a sliding comparison bar, check out these past and present photos of the lake


Meanwhile, people across California are asked to reduce water consumption and in some cases are asked to replace green lawns with native, drought-tolerant species like succulents and cacti.  What do you think? What would a lawn of native Ontario plants look like? 

Will reduced water consumption and replacing lawns have an impact? Is this a way to begin rethinking water use? 


Like a projector in my head! DYING TO GO VIRAL reviewed

August 26, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (7) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover dying to go viral by sylvia mcnicollDying to go Viral by Sylvia McNicoll! 

Reviewed by Nicole

Would you believe me if I told you you had the chance to relive one week of your life after you've died?

Probably not. But Jade, a 14-year-old girl, does. After passing away from a bad skateboarding accident, she's left the world without saying goodbye to her dad, brother (Devon), and her best friend (Stephen Craig Alan Thomas Chalms a.k.a. "Scratch").

In Heaven, she meets her mother who grants Jade another week to relive her life. But Jade has a few goals she wants to achieve by the end of the week. Seven goals to be exact. But those are for you to find out within the book! 

The first sentence of the book is: "It was a perfect day to die." Not like a lot of books that might start with something else a little less pessimistic. Throughout the whole book, my interest was carried through and that made the book even more interesting to read. Cliffhangers were left here and there, leaving you to read more (obviously). I found out that I was really into this book after I read six chapters within a day. The POV of the book is Jade's -- first person. I liked how the author did that, rather than being third person omniscient. You get to learn a lot about Jade because she is the one talking throughout the whole book. 

By the first chapter, you're hooked into the book. You can't put it down because it feels like you've reached the climax, but you don't realize that there's more. There are humorous parts, some sad parts, along with some romantic parts, which makes the book 10x more awesome. I felt like the book was if you could relate to it in a way. The author didn't make something up for the people to say; it felt quite real. What Jade said in the book was something a 14-year-old girl would say in real life. I really loved how the author took the time to describe what was going on in the scene. There was like a projector in my head that was projecting everything I read on the book, somewhat into a movie. This is how well the author described the scenes. 

What really interested me to read the book was if Jade got to get her last week perfect. I wondered if she achieved the goals she wanted to finish before she had to go back to her mom. That was what caught my eye. It was also eye catching to see how the author would explain each goal and how Jade could reach it. 

So the real question is: Did Jade reach any of her goals within the week she had? Or did she fall short on time? 

Get the book and read it to find out! 

Set your Style

August 26, 2014 | Thomas Krzyzanowski | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Björk and the Swan Dress

Image of Bjork in Swan Dress By Cristiano Del Riccio
[CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Whether walking to through the mall or down the halls at school, there’s an incredible amount of pressure to adopt particular fashion trends. Stores will push particular looks, magazines will declare certain accessories ‘must haves’ for anyone who wants to look stylish, and peer pressure can push one into taking on a group’s chosen sartorial decisions.

Its easy to go with the accepted and approved – to choose a normal wardrobe and blend in with with the people around you. Which is why those who take a risk and choose to break the mould and establish their own look are so amazing and cool.

Continue reading "Set your Style" »

A Gripping Tale of Wonder

August 26, 2014 | Christine | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick coverWhat would you do if you thought your father had gone missing? What if no one believed you? This is what happens to Laureth Peak, the 16-year-old daughter of Jack Peak, a British author who has been trying write a novel about coincidence for several years. Her mother thinks he’s obsessed, and Laureth thinks he’s on the verge of a complete mental breakdown. During a time when her father is supposed to be doing research in Austria, his personal notebook is found in New York City. Sensing that something is terribly wrong, Laureth tries to figure out what has happened to her father. On an impulse, she steals her mother’s credit card, and with her seven-year-old brother Benjamin in tow, takes a flight across the Atlantic to the United States. Over the next twenty-four hours, Laureth and Benjamin are reunited with the notebook, and must then try to follow the clues written inside to find their father in the bewildering streets of New York City. The siblings face many challenges and threats over the course of their journey, all of which are even more difficult for Laureth. That’s because Laureth Peak is blind.

I think that She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick is an excellent book. I really enjoyed reading this novel, and liked the challenge of trying to see the world from Laureth’s perspective. I felt that her character had a very strong presence, and that her interactions with other characters were very believable, especially those with her brother Benjamin and his toy raven Stan. I also liked the inclusion of hand-written images from the father's lost-and-found notebook. I felt that this gave a lot of depth to the story, and provided a lot of details about the different kinds of research the father had been doing for his writing about coincidences. If you are looking for an exciting and intriguing book to read this summer, I highly recommend this novel.

What do you think of She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick?

Friendship, loyalty, world-building and explosions -- IDOLS reviewed

August 25, 2014 | Ken Sparling | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

Book cover idols by margaret stohlIdols, by Margaret Stohl

Reviewed by Anupya, age 15

“How do we fit together? These men who call us children yet insist we are not?”


A sequel to Icons, Idols is an action-packed, fast-paced novel written by Margaret Stohl about Doloria Maria De La Cruz, her position as an Icon Child and the responsibilities that come with it, including saving the world from destruction by the ‘Lords’. The Icon Children are humans fallen from the sky, who are immune to Icons stopping their hearts. However, one Icon Child is missing and it is their mission to find him/her. The theme of hero’s journey is highly evident as the story progresses -- there is a mentor, friends, a major death and a major transformation that Dol undergoes.

I suggest you read the first book first, since not doing so makes it very hard to keep up with the pacing of the story. Mythology plays a great part, explained with great symbolism and metaphors elevating the reading experience. One criticism I can give is that it might have been a relief for the reader if the author switched points of view. Dol’s head contains way too much doom, gloom, confusion regarding her romantic choices (yes, there is a love triangle) and angst –- it gets tiring to read her conflict, emulated multiple times in different fashions. Exploring a different character’s thoughts might have enhance the reader's enjoyment of the book. Besides, the two guys, Ro and Lucas, bicker over Dol like elementary kids. It’s annoying. Dol is better off breaking up with both of them and being alone.

The book has a major plot twist in the end, confirming your subconscious suspicions. Additional warning: major death. If you are someone who loves excitement, friendship, loyalty, world-building and explosions in every chapter, Idols is for you.