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Horry for Aussie authors!

by Alexandra May - 0 Comment(s)

Is it just me, or are Aussie authors exceptionally fabulous?

Aussie #1: Melina Marchetta Jellicoe Road

A couple weeks ago I finished Melina Marchetta’s “Jellicoe Road.” In this book Taylor Markham faces just about every demon you can think of: a mother who abandoned her, a creep who tried to get her involved with child porn, a boyfriend who doubles as her sworn enemy, being a school dorm leader when she really doesn’t want to, nightmares about her mysterious past—you name it. Taylor has never met her father and doesn’t know anything about him and because her mother abandoned her at such an early age, she only has faint memories of her past. In her final year of school, Taylor decides it is finally time to unravel the mystery of her birth and childhood. Hopefully she can do this before her own life unravels.

Aussie #2: Markus Zusak The Book Thief

Markus Zusak hails from Sydney. I’d talk about The Book Thief, and I Am the Messenger—but I’m pretty sure you all already know how awesome they are.

The Lost ThingAussie #3: Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan is Author and illustrator of The Arrival, The Rabbits and The Lost Thing. I love them all, but right now I’m just going to talk about The Lost Thing.

A small boy is collecting bottle caps on a beach when he encounters a large lost thing. Against his better judgment, he begins to feel sorry for the thing and decides to help it find its home. He asks the people around if they know where the thing is from, he talks to his trusted friend—but no one can help. In fact, people don’t even seem to notice the lost thing. His friend suggests that some things are, “just plain lost.” Still, the boy continues his search for a place where the lost thing will belong.

Tan explores ideas of belonging versus being lost and asks readers why lost things are often invisible. He conveys this all with a whimsical prose and quirky illustrations.

As you can see, Aussies authors are tops.

When Steam Gets Fed Up With the Establishment

by Alexandra May - 1 Comment(s)

Steampunk is kinda like cyberpunk, only steamier, but not steamy as in romance; more like stLeviathaneamy as in steam engines, but not steam engines like in historical fiction; more like steam engines as in science fiction, which doesn't have many steam engines, which is why there's steampunk. Got it? Good...

Like a lot of genres and sub-genres steampunk isn't exactly new, (it's arguable how long it's been around) but there are always new entries and new people (like you!) to discover the old ones. Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, Kenneth Oppel's Airborn series and of course Fullmetal Alchemist are some of the more recent and popular examples of Steampunk which combines historical settings (usually 20,000 LeaguesVictorian) with technology beyond what was available at the time. For example, a steam powered airship or... even more steam powered airships! (there's a lot of steam powered airships). Sometimes the plot is set in an alternate world, or sometimes just an alternate reality, but in either case it's always fun to see the ways in which society is reinvented through this clanky, gear driven, yet futuristic technology.

The roots of this genre go very deep, as such classics as H.G Well's War of the Worlds and my personal favourite, Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues UFull Metal Alchemistnder the Sea (giant squid vs. submarine what's not to love?) can be regarded as inspiration for Steampunk as they introduced extremely advanced technology into a Victorian setting while actually being published during Victorian times! (1898 and 1867).

Will similar genres emerge about our own time? What would we call it? Gasolinepunk? ipunk? e-punk? Let's hope so... or not... but check out one of these titles in what is definitely a quirky, imaginative and very fun genre.

That’s a lot of history (and spandex!)

by Alexandra May - 0 Comment(s)

Born in the late 1930’s and early 40’s Superman, Batman, The Flash, The Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman are some of DC Comics most recognizable and beloved super heroes.

You might already know that Superman is “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound,” or that Batman is often referred to as the “Caped Crusader” and that The Flash is “the fastest man alive.” You may be aware that Wonder Woman owes her power to Aphrodite, or that The Green Lantern can’t defend himself against the colour yellow (that’s my favourite too!). There might even be a few of you who could name all of Batman’s enemies, all of the characters who’ve been The Flash, or how many costume changes Wonder Woman has had.

And then there are the rest of us…

If you’re curious about these characters but don’t know much about the last 70 years of superhero comics, it’s a daunting task to pick a place to start. My suggestion: Start from the beginning! Check out DC’s compilations -- the stories of their most famous superheroes in chronological order.

Batman Chronicles Flash Chronicles Green Lantern Chronicles Superman Chronicles Wonder Woman Chronicles

Ghost Stories

by Alexandra May - 0 Comment(s)

Ghost: “Soul or spectre of a dead person, usually believed to inhabit the netherworld and to be capable of returning in some form to the world of the living.” - Encyclopedia Britannica

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! No one can send chills down my spine quite like the Encyclopedia Britannica! That’s some scary stuff in… ok, well maybe the encyclopedia isn’t the best place to go looking for ghost stories, but here are a few places that are.

Breathe: A Ghost StoryBreathe: A Ghost Story by Cliff McNish

Jake and his mother move into an Old English farmhouse which turns out to be more haunted than quaint. The ghosts who live there (or dead there?) are definitely not the Casper kind.

My rating: Three Nights of sleeping with the lights on.

The Shining

The Shining by Stephen King

I can't have a list of ghost stories without this one. The Kubrick film is also a must-see.

My rating: Buying a new night light, a big one...

Haunted Canada Haunted Canada by Pat Hancock

"True" Stories about hauntings across Canada.
Fortunately none of these stories are set in my house.

My rating: Two nights of hiding under the covers
with your old teddy bear and a baseball

Curious GeorgeCurious George Rides a Bike by Margret Rey

Oh George, why did he have to be so curious?? Ok, this one isn't a ghost story, I just wanted to read something happy after Haunted Canada.

My rating: A great night's sleep

Do you like scary stories? If so let us know your favourite one, and don't forget to include your rating!

Freedom to Read Week Feb 21 - 27

by Alexandra May - 0 Comment(s)

Freedom to Read Week

It's Freedom to Read week again, and if you're thinking, "so what, I can read whenever I want, I don't need to have a week about it" think again!

Freedom to read week is an annual event which challenges us to think about intellectual freedom in our society. Even in a nation such as Canada books and magazines are pulled from shelves, removed from classrooms, banned or otherwise challenged almost every day. Whether it's The Anarchist's Cookbook or Judy Bloom's Are you there, God? It's Me Margaret, Freedom to Read Week encourages us to take a closer look at the reasons books are banned.

For more on banned books check out this post by one of my favourite bloggers. Be sure to check out Freedom to Read Week's website by clicking the image above.

Emily the Strange: The Lost Days

by Alexandra May - 0 Comment(s)

Emily doesn’t know who she is. At least not for the time being. You see, she has a strange case of amnesia right now, and as she will tell you: “AmnesiaEmily Strange sucks rocks: big…black…rocks.” She has managed to indentify that she is left-handed, seems to like the colour black and the number 13, and has discovered/ rediscovered that she is good at communicating with cats. There are 4 black alley cats she really gets along with, it seems, and she names them McFreeky, Wily, Nitzer and Cabbage (names which they do not seem to acknowledge...of course, fans will recognize these cats as Mystery, Miles, Sabbath and Nee Chee, but Emily with her amnesia does not!)

Emily ends up in a small town called Blackrock, where, as she tells it, “there is never an Amnesia Recovery Centre when you need it.” She also rediscovers she is uncannily good at fixing and inventing things…including a sinister duplication device, which may have gotten her into trouble in the first place (most notably by producing an accidental Emily clone!) Whether Emily can handle Emily then becomes the question, yet this story is far from being a total nightmare’s more of a spooky adventure with few leads on our heroine’s identity, doppelgängers, a sandstorm generator, angry ponies, and many, many tickets issued against her (including one for loitering!).

Read Emily’s second journal and be delighted by her zany stories and fantastic illustrations – including a detailed map of Blackrock, alley cats and all – all in the vein of Emily the Strange of course. Emily has also become her own strange franchise, as somewhat of a counterculture icon, with cats and bats, golems, and attitude included.

Goodbye Salinger

by Alexandra May - 0 Comment(s)

J.D. Salinger, seen in this photo from 1951, lived a reclusive life in New Hampshire and shunned critical and media interest, giving his last interview in 1980.

J.D. Salinger, acclaimed author of Catcher in the Rye, died this past Wednesday.

You can read about Salinger here.

Celebrate his life (and Freedom to Read week) by reading Catcher in the Rye, which has been banned more times than I can count.

Angels are the New Vampires

by Alexandra May - 0 Comment(s)

I'm sick of vampires. How about you? Even if you love them, maybe you've read all the good vampire fiction out there. Not to worry - there's a new supernatural being stealing hearts and souls in YA Fiction!

Angels seem to be popping up everywhere lately. Fallen angels are especially prevalent, possibly because they're rebels, which is always fun. If you're hankering for some heavenly (or not-so-heavenly) romance, try one of these!

Hush Hush Cover

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Fallen Cover

Fallen, by Lauren Kate

Kissed by an Angel Cover

Kissed by an Angel, by Elizabeth Chandler

Eternal Cover

Eternal, by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Naruto vs. Bleach: Choose Your Team!

by Alexandra May - 1 Comment(s)

Bleach Vol 1 Naruto Vol 1

This post is the second in Laura's Manga Mania series.

Naruto and Bleach are both team-centered shonen adventure series which star blond spiky-haired troublemaking teenagers. Both heroes have enormous power and a desire to protect everyone. The series are epically long (over 40 volumes each and growing), with complicated plots and a huge cast of characters.

For some reason, anime and manga fans have taken it upon themselves to pit Naruto and Bleach against one another. So I urge you, read them both, get in on the action, and pick your team!

Art and story by: Tite Kubo

Teenage trouble-maker Ichigo Kurosaki has always been able to see spirits. But his trouble really begins when he meets Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki. He accidentally inherits her shinigami (death god) powers, and is forced to take up her task of sending lost souls to the afterlife and defending humans from evil spirits.

Bleach is an ongoing series, and the English translations are currently at volume 28, with a new volume coming out in December. It’s currently one of the hottest series in Japan, and has sold over 40 million copies. Bleach is so popular, it’s inspired several Original Video Animations (OVAs), animated feature films, rock musicals, video games, and a plethora of other merchandise.

Some fun facts:
You will notice the appearance of the number 15 in background art and costume design. This is because the name Ichigo can be broken up into “ichi” and “go,” which in Japanese are the words for “1” and “5.” The word “ichigo” also means “strawberry,” something that the hero is often teased about. His father meant for “Ichigo” to mean “he who protects." With Japanese kanji, it all depends on how you spell it!

Art and story by: Masashi Kishimoto

Naruto is a story about an adolescent ninja, Naruto Uzumaki, whose skill is pulling pranks. However, his dream is to prove himself by becoming the leader and most powerful ninja in the village, the Hokage. Although this seems to be a pipe-dream, it’s not out of his reach. After all, he’s the vessel of an enormous power: the nine-tailed fox demon.

This series is ongoing, and available in English up to volume 46. The next volume is due out in December. Naruto has sold over 89 million copies in Japan and is the inspiration for: several sequels, original video animations (OVAs), novellas, video games, trading card games, and much more!

Some fun facts:
The name “Uzumaki” literally means “coil.” You will find images of coils throughout this manga (especially noticeable on Naruto’s belly). The word “naruto” is the Japanese word for a steamed fish-paste cake (looks like a flower with a coil in the middle) which is used to decorate soup or ramen -- Naruto’s favourite thing!

Freedom to Read Contest

by Alexandra May - 0 Comment(s)

Freedom to Read Week 2010 Banner

Books are regularly challenged, banned and censored in Canada! See this post for more info on banned books.

February 21 - 27 is Freedom to Read Week, a time when we celebrate intellectual freedom - your right to read, write or view whatever you want.

And we're having a contest! Submit a short essay about your experiences with censorship (has a book been banned at your school?) or about what "freedom to read" means to you. Then win prizes!

Click here for details and the entry form!

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