Monthly Archives: March 2013

Join the Literary Resistance!



How awesome is that sign, above?  Pretty darn awesome.  It’s part of an interactive game the Toronto Public Library has come up with, based on Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

For those of you who haven’t read the book, the gist is a future where books have been abandoned in favor of mass media entertainment.  Sound a little scarily familiar?  Yeah.  Well worth reading, if you haven’t read it yet, and worth re-reading, even if you have.

Starting April 2nd, you can join the Literary Resistance, a revolutionary organization for book lovers.  The name of the game is KTR 451. The KTR stands for Keep Toronto Reading, April being the month-long Toronto Reading Festival.  The library calls it an alternate reality game.  Know what an alternate reality game is?  I didn’t either, until I read an interview with the game’s developer, Jim Munroe, on the TPL web site:

For those unfamiliar with alternate reality games, can you briefly explain how they work?

Sure. Also called pervasive or transmedia games, they are an experience that spans different kinds of media and often involves real world actions.

For instance, you might be told via an email to meet your fellow players at Union Station or to watch a video that has clues as to how to solve a mystery. 

What makes “Fahrenheit 451” a good source for an alternate reality game?

Science fiction often asks us to question basic assumptions about reality in “what-if” scenarios. 451, in particular, presents a nightmare future where art’s thought-provoking qualities have been stripped away and only the thought-numbing parts are allowed to exist. Library lovers will find it easy to unite to fight that future from happening!

Why should people pick up the phone and join the Literary Resistance?

Captain Beatty from “Fahrenheit 451” would say they really shouldn’t. They’re better off staying in their comfort zone, passively watching something familiar, then falling asleep until their alarm clock gets them up for another day of work. Exposing themselves to new approaches to storytelling is just going to confuse them and make them think differently: that won’t end well.

Traditionally, games have been shunned as having no literacy/literary merit, but attitudes are changing. In your opinion, what literacy/literary value do games have – especially for young reluctant readers?

Games are the new cultural boogeyman, blamed for society’s ills just like rock music and comics were before them. If you look far enough back you can see that even novels were demonized when they were new media – the stories they presented were so immersive that young women were warned away from them.

Interaction is the key difference between games and other media, and many bright minds prefer to learn by doing rather than learn via traditional teaching methods. Even beyond educationally-focused games, games present incredible opportunities for learning persistence, puzzle solving, and collaboration.

Is it just me, or does this sound super cool?  I think I’ll be picking up the phone on April 2nd, which is when the game starts.


Vive la résistance!




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Sacrilege Trailer

I love book trailers.  That’s Stephanie Merritt (aka S.J. Parris) narrating, by the way.  I love her voice.


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I love Sacrilege!  If you try it, you’ll like it too!  Sacrilege is fun for the whole family.

Okay, I’m done now.  But seriously folks, it is an excellent read.  S.J. Parris is the pen name for Stephanie Merritt, a British journalist and author of two previous novels in the series, Heresy and Prophecy.

I had the opportunity to talk with her when she was visiting Toronto recently, and she spoke about writing when your child is on vacation (tricky), researching the Elizabethan era (fascinating), and how it feels to have your book published (amazing).   She was gracious and warm, and happily answered the questions of eager book nerds like myself.

The protagonist of the series, Giordano Bruno is based on a real person, who some historians suspect may have been a spy, at a time when modern spycraft was being invented. Merritt said that in some ways it was easier, writing with a framework that already existed, in terms of first he was here, then he went here, etc.  But it also meant that if there was a character that you particularly liked, and that character died, you couldn’t have him showing up later, no matter how much you liked him.

This book, ladies and gentlemen, is how historical fiction should be written, with a deft blend of an interesting time and place and a page turning story.   This author isn’t as well known as she should be, and I think we should all make sure the word (sorry) gets out there.

Happy reading!


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Wave – A Memoir

Every once in a while, there is a book so powerful that you have to stop reading so you can breathe.  This is one of those books.

Sonali Deraniyagala was in Sri Lanka with her family when the tsunami hit, in 2004.  She was the only survivor.

I met her at Random House, where she was talking about her book.   She said that she wrote the book for herself, to try, as she said, “to make sense of the water itself.”  To banish fear.  It took her five years to write it, and she never thought anyone would want to publish it as a book.

Usually I’m eager to ask authors questions about themselves, their books, but in this case it seemed cruel.  She lost her husband, her parents, and both her children – and managed to write about it.   I will be satisfied getting my answers from the book, although even that seems like prying.

She manages to convey, very well – too well for comfort, what it is like to live with that loss.   I wanted to go and get my children from school and just hold onto them.

She did survive, and is  still surviving.  You realize that she is choosing life, every day.



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The Hundred-Year-Old Woman Who Jumped Out the Window and Disappeared?

Thanks to Harper Collins for the image.

I loved this book too, a lot.

I’ll be reading for the rest of my life too.


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Want to meet Guy Gavriel Kay?

Now that I have secured my tickets, I will tell you guys that Guy Gavriel Kay is going to be making an appearance at the Toronto Reference Library, in the Appel Salon.  The tickets are free, but you do have to register.  Click here  to go to the page to register.  Maybe I’ll see you there.  For those of you who can’t make it, na na na na na na.


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Sylvia Plath Paper Doll

Thanks to Lisa Perrin for the image, and Dawna Rae for the link.

I’m pretty sure I’m a bad person for thinking this is funny.  But it is.


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Happy Pi Day!

Today’s date is 3.14 .  Pi day.  So read Life of Pi, eat Pi pie, and make terrible puns.


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Don’t Panic!

Happy 61st birthday to Douglas Adams.  He is best known as the writer of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, A Trilogy in Five Parts, one of my favorite sci-fi series.   If you haven’t read it yet, I’m not speaking to you until you have.  So there.

Adams died young, at the age of 49 of a heart attack.  He is well known enough that today’s Google doodle is in his honour.   He is, to sci-fi, what Terry Pratchett is to fantasy: a comic genius.   Sci-fi and fantasy tend to have a dedicated reading community, and most people who aren’t sf/f readers don’t tend to read its authors.  Douglas Adams was one of the few, among them Neil Gaiman, Aasimov, and Bradbury, who managed to gather readers among the mainstream book audience.

If you love Douglas Adams, and are looking for writers in a similar vein, I have a few suggestions.  My criteria are as follows: excellent wordsmiths and a love of language, beautifully done satire that you don’t have to be a member of the sf/f in-crowd to understand, and great stories that make you want to share the books with others.  My candidates are as follows:

Terry Pratchett, particularly his Discworld series.  Start with Guards, Guards!  Then Men at Arms.  Don’t limit yourself only to his adult titles, because his writing for children and young adults is equally adept, and well worth a read.   Nation is one of my favorite books, still, and probably always will be.

Neil Gaiman.  Stardust was… perfect.  Anansi Boys, I loved.  And the paragon of funny books, written by Gaiman and Pratchett together is Good Omens.

Jasper Fforde for a fine sense of the ridiculous, and nods to lovers of literature like Austen and Bronte – read his Thursday Next series.

Christopher Moore.  I think my favorite was You Suck: A Love Story.

Go forth, and snicker.



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The Demonologist

I’m pretty sure Andrew Pyper has a winner here, at least in terms of bestsellers.  I’ve been hearing The Demonologist suggested for those who liked
The Da Vinci Code; it’s really not.  It features a book (Paradise Lost) and some obscure clues.   So really, it could also be compared to Nancy Drew.

It would be more accurate to compare it to classic horror like The Exorcist by William P. Blatty (yes, it was a book first), or Unholy Fire by Whitley Strieber.  It’s not gore fest horror, more of a psychological thriller.

What makes it scary is the combination of the protagonist’s daughter going missing (presumed dead by everyone but him), and his own internal debate about whether or not this is all the product of him having gone insane.

It’s a relatively fast read, and probably not a re-read for me, but it was enjoyable.  A little of a slow start, but a decent pace once it got going.

What I do, weirdly, appreciate is that the cover under the dust jacket is also cool.  So few books are like this, and it’s a nice surprise.

If you’re looking for a fun horror/thriller that won’t have you hiding under your bed for the night, this is a good candidate.

Happy reading!


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