Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Blast from the Past: Love Stories for Young Adults

I was at the thrift store today, looking at the books for inspiration for the blog when I happened across a book from a series that I used to read when I was in Grade 7.

Now if you fear the past then close your browser because I am about to unleash the full force of 90s YA romantic fiction on here.  I also hope that I am not the only one who remembers this series.

The Love Stories for Young Adults Series was published from 1995 to 2001.  It had more than 50 books in total.  Goodreads has a great list of them here but I keep finding other books in the series.

For example, The Popular One, The Dance, My Best Friend's Girlfriend, Love Happens and The Older Guy.  It brings the total up to 56 books and there may be more.

It also had 3 sub-trilogies within the series (i.e. the Prom Trilogy,  the Brothers Trilogy and the Year Abroad Trilogy).  Each book was pretty small and quick to get through since none of them surpassed 250 pages in length.

The cover art was also pretty simple.  You either had the main character on the cover or the main couple.  It was also the first  young adult series for me to feature couples with people of colour on the cover too.

The stories were all pretty cliché like best friends falling in love, a girl crushing on the bad boy in school, a girl trying to decide between two guys, high school politics affecting a relationship, the best friend's boyfriend or girlfriend, total enemies falling for one another and the list goes on and on.

I remember enjoying the ones I read because these books really focus on the romance and the heart wrenching struggle to be with the one you love.   They were also surprisingly addictive.

Some authors that participated in the series are still out there writing young adult fiction today such as Rachel Hawthorne, who wrote the Dark Guardian Series.  

She also writes under the pen name, J.A. London. She wrapped up her Darkness Before Dawn Trilogy in 2013 but recently released two new stories.   Trouble from the Start and The Boyfriend Project were released earlier this year in April.

Current and Future Read

I'm currently reading Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Nielsen and earlier this month she revealed the cover for the next book in the series.

I would provide a little description of what to expect in this book, but it would give too much of the first book away.  Seriously too much.  However, if you are interested in being spoiled then please read her blog post on the book.

I will say this though, the cover is beautiful.  Whereas the first book's cover didn't wow me (i.e. not enough contrasting colours), this one does.

It's real fancy. I'm not even done the first book yet but I'm excited.

Board Games & Popular Culture

Board games are making a huge comeback.  More and more shops are popping up where they allow you to hangout with friends and play some quality board games.

There are about three that I know of specifically: 1. Snakes and Lattes Board Game Café, 2. Snakes and Lagers and 3. Castle Board Game Café.  Here's a good list of other such places in the city of Toronto.

What I am seeing a lot of though are older games taking on a new life through popular culture themed editions.  This list is about showing readers a few of them.

Let's begin!


This Monopoly: The Walking Dead Survival Edition holds all of the basic rules of the classic game.  There are just a few slight differences like the tokens each player can use including Rick's hat, a telephone, Michonne's katana, an RV, a baseball bat and a bucket of zombie bits.

While it still deals with setting up properties and such, you also play for supplies.  Not a lot of it is different so it should be easy to play.

Other editions include: Dr. Who Monopoly, Pokemon Monopoly, WWE Monopoly, The Legend of Zelda Monopoly, Retro Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Monopoly and Adventure Time Monopoly.

The game is recommended for a group of 2-6 players.  Players should be 13 years of age or older.

Clue is such a classic game.  I owned the basic version when I was young (i.e. inherited it from my brother) and enjoyed it a lot.

In the Firefly edition, the mystery centers around who betrayed River Tam and turned her over to the Alliance.  The game board consists of the rooms on the ship and the characters you know from the show.  Your goal as a player is to find out who did it, where the abduction took place and what was used to do it.

Other editions include: Seinfeld Clue, Big Bang Theory Clue, & Supernatural Clue.

It is recommended for players 9 years of age and older.  It allows for a play-through involving 2-6 players.

Risk is another strategy game and this Doctor Who edition puts players in control of several Dalek armies.  Your game board is a map of the Earth like the classic game and a lot of the old rules will still apply.

You are basically waging war against your friend's Dalek army in order to reign supreme.  But also be prepared for variations of the old rules and new additions to the game with this special edition.

One example is The Doctor himself.  He will swoop in during each turn and prevent your armies from moving forward across Earth.

Other editions are mostly related to video games: Risk Mass Effect Galaxy at War, Risk Metal Gear Solid, Risk Halo, Risk Plants VS. Zombies, Risk Starcraft, Risk The Walking Dead, Risk Star Wars & Risk The Lord of the Rings.

This series of games is recommended for players over the age of 10.  It's great for 2 to 5 players.

Settlers of Catan is a strategy game where each player chooses the area of their settlement and builds it with each turn.  You also collect resources and compete with friends to collect victory points and win the game.

I love this game.   I know it looks and sounds so boring, but if you play with friends and get competitive, it is incredibly fun.

This is the only game in the Settlers of Catan series that is based on a show from popular culture (i.e. Star Trek).  The rules of the base game apply.  It just makes use of resources and landscapes from the original show.  I really wish they would make another one because it would be fun to see what they do with it.

Settlers of Catan is recommended for players over the age of 10.  It can involve 3- 4 people at once.

Honourable Mention

Jenga isn't a board game, but it is definitely a classic.

There have been quite a few themed editions of Jenga including: TETRIS, Donkey Kong, Nightmare Before Christmas and this here, classic Spider-Man Jenga.  And the cool thing is that each edition has a little twist to it that strays from tradition.

For example, the Spider-Man edition offers two ways to play. 1.  The regular way.  2.  Build the tower and play to help Spider-Man catch the Green Goblin using the blocks.

They are pretty rare and if you see one, scoop it up before it's gone.  They tend to be made in low quantities.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

New Twists on Old Tales

Found these two books while perusing through a book store and knew I had to check them out.  Both are delightful and surprising retellings of two fairy tales.

Snow White and the 77 Dwarfs
by Davide Cali
illustrated by Raphaelle Barbanegre

Snow White is running from an evil witch she stumbles upon the home of 77 dwarfs.  They allow her to stay but in return, Snow White must do her part of the household chores.

Unfortunately for Snow, this means doing everything 77 times. Whatever will she do?


I really liked this picture book because of its humour and amazing richness of colour.  Seriously, every page is bright and lush.  And the story is so funny.  The ending alone tickles the funny bone.  It is also an ending that is different and refreshing.  I won't spoil it because that would be cruel.

This picture book is all about having a fun reading experience.  One of my favourite parts is when each dwarf shares its name with Snow White.  All of them have different names including Donut, Larry, Rutabaga and Akimbo.

Interstellar Cinderella
by Deborah Underwood
illustrated by Meg Hunt

How will Cinderella get to the ball without a ride through space? Hopefully, her fairy godrobot can help save the day.

This picture book was a joy to read from start to finish.  Told in verse and beautifully illustrated, it really brings the story to life in a new way.  Check out the page with the space parade.  All those spaceships and aliens are so cool to look at.  But what I really loved was how unique this Cinderella was.  We get to know her dreams and passions.  We get to see her fight for herself.  The ending is happy and everything you could wish for a character.

Read it to your children or nieces/nephews or godchildren.  It reads like a song and you can enjoy trying to say the names of some of the tools in Cinderella's tool box together.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Testament of Youth

This post is brought to you by my unerring ability to find movies that involve British actors from well known television programs.  In this case, it was Game of Thrones and Merlin.  So while actors helped me find the film, I also found a new book to check out.

In this case, the memoir Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain.

In 1915, Vera Brittain decides to enlist in the war as a nurse instead of going to University.  She served in a several places including the Western Front.

Testament of Youth describes her experiences as a nurse and as someone who experienced incredible loss throughout the war.

And now there's even a film based on her memoir.  How exciting!  It stars Kit Harington from Game of Thrones and Colin Morgan from Merlin.  Alicia Vikander plays the lead role.  She was in Ex Machina and Anna Karenina. 

The film will have a limited release in North America and it should be floating around starting June 5th.  The trailer is below.  I hope people will get out there and give the movie and the book a chance.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lovelace & Babbage

I was stumbling around on the internet, as I usually do, when I found a notification for this graphic novel about Ada Lovelace (i.e. historically believed to be the first computer programmer) and Charles Babbage (i.e. the guy who invented the first mechanical computer).  Though their accomplishments are often contested.  Lovelace & Babbage corresponded with one another and Lovelace even translated some of Babbage's lectures and papers.

 The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage:  The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer
written and illustrated by Sydney Padua

But this comic is not about complete historical accuracy.   It's a work of fiction littered with facts (copious amounts of thrilling footnotes), and it uses people who were once alive.

It is a graphic novel that asks, what if Lovelace and Babbage had stopped talking about it and instead built the difference engine?


But if you are looking for something about Ada Lovelace that is a little more firmly grounded in historical facts, then you can also check out the book below.

A Female Genius: 
How Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's Daughter, 
Started the Computer Age
by James Essinger

In his book, James Essinger details the life of the often overlooked Ada Lovelace.  She was not just Lord Byron's daughter, but a woman ahead of her time.  Overcoming obstacles and attitudes about women, Lovelace worked hard to accomplish what she wanted.  Essinger seeks to show readers her story and prove that Lovelace's work, if it had been taken seriously at the time, could have jump started the computer age.