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April 23, 2015

By Madeleine

The book series Pretty Little Liars starts off as the story of a group of four sixteen-year-old girls who used to be friends but have lost contact in the past three years.  On their last day of seventh grade, they had an argument with the mean girl ringleader of their group, Ali, who then stormed off into the night and was never heard from again.  In the present day, the four girls who have lost touch over the years are struggling with their own personal problems.  Emily likes girls (specifically her new neighbour, Maya) and is worried what her family would think if they knew.  Spencer has a crush on her older sister’s boyfriend.  Aria meets a cute new guy who turns out to be her new English teacher.  Hanna uses some dangerous methods to make sure she stays thin.  At the beginning of the school year, Ali’s body is discovered under the gazebo of her family’s former home.  Shortly after the funeral the girls start receiving anonymous text messages from a mysterious someone calling themselves “A” who bullies and stalks them while threatening to reveal their secrets.

In December, Sara Shepard’s final book in the Pretty Little Liars series was released.  After sixteen books the author decided it was finally time to put an end to A’s tormenting of Hanna, Spencer, Aria, and Emily.  The series initially started off as eight books—one mystery was resolved after book 4, and a bigger, overarching mystery in book 8.  The ending was really unsettling and satisfying.  It gave me the same uncomfortable feelings I got after I first watched “Vertigo” by Alfred Hitchcock.  Around the same time that book eight, Wanted, came out, the Pretty Little Liars TV show started and became a huge hit.  It was recently announced that there will be two more seasons and then it will end after season 7.  The show deviates from the books in a lot of ways but is very entertaining in its own right.  (Unfortunately I fell behind a while back but have every intention of catching up before the end!)  There was also a Pretty Little Liars spinoff show called “Ravenswood” but it was cancelled after ten episodes.

Sara Shepard wrote another six-book mystery series, The Lying Game, which I also loved, though I was severely disappointed in the ending.  It also got a TV series though it was not as successful as the Pretty Little Liars show and was cancelled after two seasons.  Shepard also decided that she wasn’t quite finished writing Pretty Little Liars books and started writing new ones.  They started off mysterious enough—the girls had gotten themselves into new situations that they were desperate to keep secret, and a new “A” is all too ready to exploit them.  They weren’t quite up to par with the first eight books, but I was still enjoying them, as I assumed she was only writing four more.  Then I learned that she was actually writing EIGHT more and had to raise an eyebrow—dragging out one mystery for eight more books?  A’s seeming omnipotence started to get a little too farfetched.  My favourite comment about this is from Ian Harding, who plays Ezra on the television show:

The last books were a bit of a slog to get through, but I was determined to find out how it all played out.  The final book, Toxic, was pretty exciting as everything FINALLY came to a head.  But in general, it seemed the author was phoning it in for

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April 2, 2015

The other day, I was sitting on the bus reading Delirium by Lauren Oliver on my iPod, while listening to Adele’s latest album 21. The music was a perfect backdrop to the raw, emotional, and wrenchingly heartbreaking story of a dystopian world where love is treated like a disease. Adele has described her own musical style as “heartbroken soul,” and when her amazing smash-hit Rolling in the Deep started to play, I couldn’t help but notice that the music and lyrics fit the tone of the book to a “t”: “we could have had it all….”

More and more, books and music seem to have this symbiotic relationship going on. Of course, there are soundtracks to movies that are based on books, but nowadays, authors are also coming out with playlists for their novels. One of the first YA authors to do this was Stephanie Meyer who created a Twilight Playlist. Meyer says that she can’t write without music and that the playlist is composed of the music she hears in her head while reading the book. Mostly, it’s a collection of alternative rock (Coldplay, Muse, My Chemical Romance), and I think it works quite well.

Maggie Stiefvater has also created Shiver & Linger Playlists. Maggie says, “I have to have music playing non-stop while I write, or I can't focus. All I can think about is doing laundry, taking a walk, making cookie dough, or laying on the floor. So I create focused playlists for each book, every song picked to reinforce the mood or help me through a scene.” Stiefvater’s lists have that alternative feel as well, but its more Folk Festival than Rock on the Range with tunes from Rufus Wainwright and Fleet Foxes. Fitting, nonetheless.

I love this idea of pairing music with books (it’s almost as natural as cake & ice-cream, chips & dip or macaroni & cheese), and I think this only the beginning. As ebooks become more mainstream, it seems only natural to listen to some tunes while reading a good book. And hey, if it means I don’t have to listen to that crying baby on the bus while I’m trying to read, I think that’s a good thing. Music most definitely has the power to influence mood, and it can really enhance your reading experience. So why not put together your own book playlist, and see what you can come up with!?

Some other really cool book playlists? John Green’s Papertowns Playlist, Becca Fitzpatrick’s Crescendo Playlist, and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls Playlist.

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March 23, 2015

by Spencer

My favorite game console is the PS4. The controllers are very light, comfortable and the graphics are much better than the PS3. Winnipeg Public Library recently started buying video games and I think the idea is genius. What a great way to encourage teens to use the library!

Here are my top 5 game recommendations for the PS4 available at Winnipeg Public Library. I've also indicated when the game is available for other machines. :

5. NEED FOR SPEED Rivals (XBox 360, XBox ONE, PS3, PS4). I like racing games and the graphics on the PS4 are WAY cooler. You can customize your cars but only with paint and pinstripes. You can race your cars and also be a cop chasing the speedsters. Racing against your friends in the online play is fun too.

NHL154. NHL15 (XBox 360, XBox ONE, PS3, PS4). I love hockey and all the NHL series have been good. You can play against your friends or other teams. Scoring in Shoot Out mode is entertaining and exciting. You can Be A Pro where you play as one character on the team and have your time on the bench. You can customize this character with your name and it feels like you're a NHL player.

Infamous Second Son 3. INFAMOUS SECOND SON (PS4).  The story is about a guy who finds prisoners and you get their super powers. From there you have the choice of becoming good or bad. There are several different powers that you can unlock in the campaign depending on which way you want to play the game. This game has lots of extra content which makes it really fun.

Destiny2. DESTINY (XBox 360, XBox ONE, PS3, PS4). In this future world, you are a Guardian of the last city on Earth. You have to explore the solar system and there are a lot of different types of creatures that you have to battle. The huge selection of guns and armour are awesome.

Minecraft1. MINECRAFT  (XBox 360, XBox ONE, PS3, PS4). This is one of the most popular games and my personal favorite. You use your imagination and creativity to make a world of your own. You collect resources like wood and minerals and use them to build anything you want. Check out videos on youtube for inspiration.

With your library card, you can borrow 2 games for 7 days. You may renew up to 2 times as long as no one is waiting for the game. They are really popular right now so you might have to place a hold and pick it up when it's your turn. But it's a great way to try new games before you consider buying them.

Spencer is a member of the Millennium Library's Youth Advisory Council, which is why he gets to call himself a library insider and do awesome things like write for this blog. Find out more about the Youth Advisory Council on this page.

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March 23, 2015

by Audrey,

During the summer holidays, I discovered the fascinating world of BookTube. If you have not heard of BookTube, then you are definitely missing out! It is a book community on YouTube, where YouTubers (known as BookTubers) create book vlogs, book reviews, and take on book challenges. Their channels are entirely about books and their main goal is to encourage reading among the YouTube community.

I first discovered BookTube, when I looked up Divergent by Veronica Roth on the Internet. When I finished reading Divergent, I had a sudden urge to search up the book. I loved the novel and I tend to search the book that I immediately fall in love with online, so I can fangirl about it for hours on end. As a result of searching the highly acclaimed dystopian novel, I came across a YouTube video titled, DIVERGENT BY VERONICA ROTH: booktalk with XTINEMAY (ep 32). This intrigued me. As a result, I clicked on the video and I was immediately hooked! Why have I not heard of the world of BookTube? I began to watch more videos from the person who created a video review of Divergent and I discovered that the BookTuber’s channel name was polandbananasbooks and the creator’s name was Christine Riccio. Riccio’s comedic style and her wit in her videos immediately let me hit the subscribe button. Christine Riccio isn’t the only BookTuber that is popular among the BookTube community. A few examples of other BookTube channels are Katytastic, jessethereader, abookutopia, thePeruseProject and Ariel Bissett (which I should mention, is a fellow Canadian!). Check out their channels!

 

BookTube has changed my life for the past several months. I have always been interested in reading, but I don’t think I’ve ever read more in my life! I have been trying to read so many books to catch up with what others have already read. It has caused me to borrow numerous books from the library and certainly buy many books. I never thought I was capable of reading seven books in a week during the week of BookTubeAThon in the month of July!

BookTube has allowed me to keep up to date with new upcoming novels and discover brilliant authors I have never heard before. For example, I was introduced to the Delirium trilogy by Laruen Oliver, when I constantly heard about the trilogy being mentioned in numerous BookTube videos. I heard many great reviews about her writing style by a few BookTubers, so I decided to go to the library and check out the three books and marathon through them. When I read the first few pages, I was suddenly intrigued, and I was hooked on these books. I love Oliver’s poetic style of prose and the themes that run through her novels.

It has also opened up a new range of books that I never knew about or even thought of trying to read. I was hesitant upon reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, for I heard it was high fantasy, but I got over my hesitation and accepted the challenge, and boy, did I make a great decision! It allowed me to expand my imagination and fall in love with a unique, intriguing world.

BookTube became a part of who I am and I found something that others were also passionate about, which I think is an amazing feeling. My passion for books grew even more, when I found others who were willing to share their love for books to people among the Internet. Even though I am not a fellow BookTuber myself and I am just a subscriber, I feel like I am a part of the BookTube community. If you think about it, without subscribers, the BookTube community would not have come to be.

Audrey is a member of the Millennium Library's Youth Advisory Council, which is why she gets to call herself a library insider and do awesome things like write for this blog. Find out more about the Youth Advisory Council on this page.

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March 9, 2015

by Alan

The first draft of this blogpost was six words.  It was written by my 12 year old self and was something I wanted to finish quickly and scream from the rooftops:  Video games. At the library. *Mic drop* 

As a lifelong gamer, I was excited.  Video games at the Winnipeg Public Library – it was one more hurdle crossed towards the cultural acceptance of video games.  But after figuratively dropping the mic I started to reflect on some of the challenges that video games have faced and continue to face.  So while I could wax poetic about some of my favourite games in our collection, I’ve decided to talk about these games in relation to some of these issues.

But first I want to plug a program that will be of interest to any budding game designers out there.  On Tuesday, March 31 Transcona library will be offering Scratch Programming.  Scratch is an easy, intuitive programming language that allows you to design and make your own games!  So sign up and spend the day learning the basics of Scratch.

And now on to the games…

Journey

One of the measures by which a society accepts a medium is whether that medium is considered art.  The famous film critic Roger Ebert famously declared that “Video games can never be art.”  Roger Ebert was (he passed away in 2013) a fantastic film critic, but I wholeheartedly disagree with his views on video games.  Journey, I would argue, stands as a shining example of a video game that is art.  Journey starts the player out alone in a vast desert.  The goal of the game isn’t immediately apparent, but if you have any sense of adventure you’ll be drawn towards the mountain peak shining in the distance.  As the name implies, the game isn’t about having a well-defined goal, but rather the sights you see and the people you meet along the way.  The ‘art’ in Journey comes from the emotions and feelings that you have playing the game, much the way you have emotions and feeling when you watch a movie or read a book.

Super Smash Bros. Wii U

I’m a relatively new librarian and thus much younger than many of my co-workers, many of whom don’t play video games.  So when the new Super Smash Bros. came and I was able to track down a rare GameCube controller adapter at a shop in a far corner of the city, I of course ran into one of my co-workers on the bus.  “What brings you to this end of the city?” she asked.  I hesitated for a moment.  Do I out myself as a gamer?  And if I do, will I lose the respect of my co-workers? 

Have you ever had to explain to someone much older than you that you play video games?  The older you get, the more difficult this can be.  People of a certain age often have the misconception that video games are for little kids.  So often, if you’re a teenager (or in my case an adult) explaining to someone older that you play video games can be akin to you saying you sleep with a teddy bear because you’re afraid of the dark. 

But I buckled down and told the truth.  After all WPL was introducing video games, so it couldn’t hurt to have an expert on staff, right?  The conversation went well; I saw no judgement in her eyes.  She is actually one of the librarians who orders video games for WPL and she told me if she ever needed advice she’d give me a call.  Which is fine by me, I love talking about video games. 

Oh, and for the record: The new Smash Brothers is fantastic.

Final Fantasy X/X-2Final Fantasy X/X-2

Final Fantasy X/X-2 is a remastered compilation of two classic Playstation 2 titles.  If you missed them the first time around, now is the perfect time to give them a go because they look better than ever.  But for me it was never the graphics that drew me to Final Fantasy (although they are pretty), for me it was always about the story.  One of the hallmarks of a Final Fantasy story are strong female heroes.  In fact, the playable characters in Final Fantasy X-2 are exclusively female.

This brings me to my last and most important topic that I wanted to discuss today:  Women and video games.  The term gamergate has made waves in the media lately and sadly highlights much of the misogyny and vitriol that women face when they choose to participate in making and discussing of video games.  I don’t want to dwell on negativity, so I would rather discuss why women are important to the gaming community. 

Video game critics such as Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency allow gamers to step back and look at games with a critical eye, and often from a new perspective.  Looking at games critically helps gamers not to just consume games, but to think about games.  And thinking about something is never a bad thing. 

It’s important to remember that looking at games critically isn’t complaining, or whining, or a call to take video games away.  Looking at games critically is an attempt to start a conversation and it’s a challenge to make games better, for everyone.  Neil Druckmann, writer and creative director of the much anticipated Uncharted 4, has said of Anita’s work:  “[Feminist Frequency’s Tropes vs. Women] was influential in putting me on a path to create and write stronger more complex female characters.”    Neil is living, breathing proof that critically looking at games leads to better games. 

Video games are no longer for a select group of people – and I doubt they ever were.  We have a saying in libraries:  Every book has its reader.  I’m happy to help libraries work towards a new saying:  Every game has its player.  If you’d like to join in the conversation, please leave a comment below.

Alan is a librarian and a gamer or is it gamer and librarian?

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