Eragon by Christopher Paolini, one of my favourite books, is both adventurous and suspenseful. The book takes place in the mystical land of Alagaёsia (pronounced al-uh-GAY-zee-uh), a land with dwarves, humans and elves living together in peace since the beginning of time. When humans arrived in the land, they went to war with the elves, and the Dragon Riders were created to keep the peace. These human magic-wielders had fulfilled their task for countless years, until one turned against the others, ending the reign of the Riders.
All of the dragons were slayed, and all of the Riders vanished from existence. However, there were three dragon eggs that survived, in the presence of the evil human king, Galbatorix. If the king gets one of the eggs to hatch, he will be able to control all of Alagaёsia. As it turns out, one of the eggs has been stolen, and hatches in the presence of a farm boy, in the north of the land, isolated from the rest of the country. The name of the farm boy is Eragon.
Eragon travels the land of Alagaёsia with an old storyteller named Brom who trains him in the uses of magic, swordplay, and dragon lore. They want revenge on the Ra’zac, evil beings who work for the king and killed Eragon’s stepfather in search of the farm boy. The Ra’zac want to bring Eragon to the king in order to make him work for their master, but Eragon has managed to evade them. After tracking them to a small town, he is captured and thrown into prison. Eragon is questioned by a Shade, the darkest spirits that walk the earth. He manages to escape, along with a fellow traveller named Murtaugh. Eragon, through his magic, learns that an elf is captive in the prison, and manages to save her. The three cross the great Hadarac Desert, hoping to reach the Varden, a group that rebels against the king’s reign. Whichever side controls eragon, the first Dragon Rider in hundreds of years, will have a major advantage in the war.
The story is very adventurous, as there are many chases, battles, and traps. Both sides use different means to try to sway Eragon to join their side. It is also very suspenseful. Most of the time, characters refuse to explain their full history to anybody, as any information could fall into the hands of the enemy. Eragon has many adventures and in just the first book of this series, meets with the dwarves in their magical city, talks with an elf, and rides a dragon: feats that few, if any, of the people in Alagaёsia can boast of.
Because of the high-action adventure, the suspense, and the amazing blend of magic, war, sword fights, dragons and more, I give this book 5/5 stars. There are three other books in the series.
A gifted and haunted older sister and an air-headed younger sister duo, along with their traditional immigrant father, struggle with mental illness in the family while opening a new shop. It sounds like a clichéd story of a family overcoming their dark past and everything is back to normal and everyone is happy at the end. However, it was a pleasant surprise to be wrong.
Little Pretty and The Exceptional is one of the six plays that charts new Canadian experiences at the Factory Theatre in Toronto.
— Jaclyn Qua-Hiansen (@JaclynMQH) April 8, 2017
It’s a bittersweet family story that deals with heavy themes. Simran (Farah Merani) is an aspiring lawyer — the exceptional — while her younger sister Jasmeet’s (Shruti Kothari) highest ambition is to be prom queen — little pretty — and spending time with her boyfriend, Iyar (Shelley Antony). Dilpreet (Sugith Varughese), their father, acts traditional and thinks differently from the sisters, but together they plan the opening of their sari shop on Gerrard Street East. Simran becomes frantic after receiving poor LSAT results. Over time, Simran’s mental state declines, and the family has to support each other through the hardship.
The acting was notable, particularly Sugith Varughese as Dilpreet, the father. Sugith portrayed the character to a T. He never broke character and even put on an accent. Even without lines, all the actors still stayed in character; it was most noticeable during the microwave scene, when the actors were waiting for microwaved Chinese food. Iyar, portrayed by Shelley Antony, lacked depth as a character originally. He would awkwardly leave when the scene became serious and didn’t quite fit. However, in the second part, Iyar became more aware, resulting in a better character. Jasmeet also matured in the second part, but lacked a reaction when she learned new information about their family’s tragedy.
The set was spectacular. The lighting was the most impressive aspect; it helped smoothly transition between scenes and set the mood of each scene. A good example is when Simran was hallucinating — the flickering of the lights in the shop added a horror feel. The usage of all of the stage was wonderful. An example of this is Simran peeking from the curtain and stepping out from there. All of it is made even more impressive by the fact that the whole story took place in one location, the shop.
— Sugith Varughese (@SugithVarughese) April 6, 2017
The playwriting/script/plot was good. The struggles of an immigrant family, the ties of family and the toll of mental illness on everyone was portrayed well. The family strain when Simran was slipping away from them was tear-jerking. Simran having schizophrenia wasn’t shown well; the various symptoms were questionable, especially in a specific scene where Simran was detached from her body. It could’ve been interpreted in many ways. It could’ve shown disillusion of reality or another personality (Dissociative Identity Disorder) or Depersonalization Disorder. It was also disappointing to how quick and easy it was for Simran to find the right medication that works and getting the correct diagnosis, considering the play took a minute or two to microwave Chinese food for authenticity.
The story set a base for the actors, but the actors really brought it to life. Everyone stayed focused throughout the production and the set allowed the scenes to feel more real. The plot had so much potential, but could’ve been more precise. It’s a play worth checking out. Unfortunately, Little Pretty and The Exceptional showings ended on April 30th but the Factory Theatre offers other productions also worth looking at.
Readers are just one tap away from unlocking the power of the written word.
Borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your local public library.
Libby allows you to use multiple cards and different libraries, which is great if you want to include the whole family. Libby’s design is simple and easy to use. The app starts with the user saying hi to Libby. All materials will be available as soon as you log on. There are collections of different genres and types of materials. There is a single bookshelf that automatically presents all of your loans and holds, all the materials you borrowed through the OverDrive app (or your library’s OverDrive website) will show up in Libby too. All the materials can be downloaded and borrowed with a single tap.
Some advantages of using Libby is that your session doesn’t time out, you can download your materials to use offline, you can sample books, tag your materials, you can keep track of what you read with your activity tab and you can skip and rewind your audiobooks. The best part about Libby is that materials are always available and will be returned automatically, so fees will never be a problem.
This is an educational and potentially fun app. Libby has books and materials for everyone. From beginning readers with read-a-long picture books to the foreign language learner and anyone else. However, you still must monitor children using Libby to keep them away from material that isn’t age-appropriate. It is possible to apply preferences but some materials could slip through and the setting could be changed easily.
I recently finished reading Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat. Published in 1956, this story is both adventurous and exciting. Set in the north of Canada, it tells the tale of two young boys stranded in the wilderness.
Editor’s note: To accurately describe the content of Lost in the Barrens, this review references terms for Aboriginal Peoples used in the book that were in common use at the time of the book’s publication.
Awasin, an Indian Chipewyan, has lived in the north all his life. Jamie, on the other hand, grew up in Toronto and attended an expensive, private boarding school. He was sent to the school after the death of his parents when he was nine years old. But Jamie’s uncle and only living relative, Angus McNair, does not have enough money to continue sending his nephew to the school, so he arranges to have Jamie brought to the north to live with him. When Jamie arrives at Angus McNair’s dwelling in the woods, he and Awasin become good friends.
Jamie is enjoying his life in the north. But winter is coming, and an Indian camp even farther north is running out of food. This camp, led by a man named Denikazi, normally has plenty of caribou meat to last the winter. But this year, the caribou are late in coming, and the camp is starving. In a desperate effort, Denikazi and a group of hunters go searching for the animals, hoping to find enough meat to feed their camp for the rest of the year. When Denikazi and his hunters arrive at the Chipewyan beach in their canoes, looking for supplies and help, Jamie and Awasin eagerly volunteer.
Everything was going well on the hunting trip, until Denikazi and a small group of hunters decided to leave the boys behind, heading northward at a faster pace in order to hunt. But the boys get bored and want some adventure. Leaving the camp by canoe, they paddle miles downstream. After a day’s excursion, Jamie and Awasin find a rapid that they can’t traverse. It wrecks the canoe, and the boys are left stranded on the endless tundra.
This book is very exciting, and there are many times when it is suspenseful. It is also interesting to see how resourceful the boys are in their quest for survival. They build an igloo of stones, spend days making clothes of deer skin, and collect lots of fuel for fires. When winter arrives, they can be seen as courageous and inventive. After finding a small hidden valley, they construct another cabin, this time out of logs. Jamie and Awasin show incredible skill while they prove that surviving in the frozen north is not hopeless.
One of my favourite things about this book is that Jamie and Awasin’s beliefs are challenged. The Indians were traditionally terrified of the Eskimos (now called the Inuit), thinking that they were cannibals and inhospitable. The two boys were in constant fear of these men of the north. During the long, cold winter months, a short change in the weather convinces Jamie and Awasin that it is time to attempt a break for the south where they will be safe, but they travel less than forty miles when a storm rolls in. The two boys, just minutes away from death, are lucky to find an Eskimo’s igloo. After days spent recuperating, they become friends with a young Eskimo. Jamie and Awasin realize that the Eskimos are, contrary to their previous beliefs, warm and welcoming people.
One thing that I dislike about the story is that time passes so quickly. There are multiple instances when, in just one paragraph, many days pass. This makes parts of the story seem like you are just reading about the passage of time.
Farley Mowat has managed to create an extreme survival story in unbearable conditions – the endless Canadian north. Lost in the Barrens also has an amazing blend of diverse cultures and near death experiences. Overall, the book has a very strong sense of danger. At every turn, the boys are trying to solve the problem of what could kill them next – the cold, the wild animals, food shortages, or living conditions. The book is suspenseful and exciting; in every chapter, Jamie and Awasin are put to the test to survive in the barren north.
In conclusion, the read deserves 4.5 out of 5 stars.
All the way from Uganda, Joshua shares his love of dance and where he gets his inspirations!
Intricate and plot twisting, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a suspenseful dystopian novel. The entire story occurs in a virtual reality world called the OASIS. Developed by multibillionaire James Halliday, the OASIS has everything that you need in life, from schooling, homes, food, and games, to cars, spaceships, and weapons. There is not a single person on the planet that does not use the OASIS. As a result, the Internet and OASIS have become synonymous. All you need are a pair of haptic gloves and a visor. However, when James Halliday dies, his billion-dollar fortune is the prize of finding the easter egg that he has hidden inside the OASIS. By finding cryptic clues and fighting great beasts, one user will win the fortune and the game.
Our protagonist, Wade Watts, has none of the amazing qualities of a true OASIS Gunter, the name for a person that searches for the hidden egg. With a Level One avatar and using it only for his schooling, he has no coins, points, or cool weapons. But Wade solves clues and finds himself at the top of a leaderboard after defeating one of the mythical guardians of the keys, devices that open the gates to a new puzzle challenge.
There are a few lessons that can be learned from reading this book. Early in the competition, Parzival, Wade’s avatar, races against the other people on the contest leaderboard. However, when several Gunters figure out that the IOI, an internet service provider, wants to win the game to take over the OASIS for evil, Parzival turns to his friends for help. As a result, we see that friendship and cooperation can be used to defeat evil.
The book is full of adventure as we watch Parzival battle great beasts and legends. Best of all, it is played like a videogame, so there is a lot of detail and suspense. One of the most interesting things is that James Halliday was born in the 1980’s. As a result, Gunters like Wade have read every book, watched every movie and played all of the games from the era, in the hope of finding some obscure reference or hint. Although I was not alive at the time, it is interesting to see how Ernest Cline has managed to combine those tidbits of the past with the setting of the future. This book takes a chilling look at the possibility of a dystopian future, and combines it with the era of the invention of the first 3D video game.
Overall, I give Ready Player One 4.5/5 stars.
A mission to Mars… A mistake… A cover up… Star-crossed lovers…
Space Between Us is science fiction movie (rated PG-13) that’s main focus is on human relations, in particular, love.
A group is sent to Mars to colonize the planet because Earth won’t be able to sustain us forever. Unfortunately, on Mars, a lead astronaut dies giving birth. The child born on Mars has to be kept a secret from humanity on Earth as to not ruin the reputation of the company that planned to colonize Mars. Gardner Elliot, the first human born on Mars feels alone. He has only met less than 15 people consisting of astronauts and scientists; who have raised him into a very brilliant child. He managed to forge an unlikely friendship with a girl on Earth named Tulsa, through an internet chat room. Gardner really wants to meet Tulsa, find his father, and experience Earth. However, his body wouldn’t survive on Earth due to the effects of zero gravity on him during pregnancy. He has an enlarged heart and his bone density and lungs might not be able to handle Earth’s atmosphere.
Luckily, with a surgery and rehabilitation/training; he was able to go to Earth. When he was on Earth, he was quarantined in NASA to run tests for abnormalities that could jeopardize his time on Earth. The tests seem never ending and the likelihood of Gardner actually taking in Earth is dim. Gardner decides to escape. He eventually finds Tulsa, a sharp girl that has been bouncing from foster home to foster home. She is very upset that Gardner hasn’t messaged her in seven months, but she forgives him and agrees to help him find his father.
On the search for his father, Gardner comes to encounter the wonders of Earth and love. Within this movie, there are many good qualities and not so good qualities. I adored the amount of detail put into the movie, for example, Gardener walking funny when he arrived on Earth due to the change in gravity, or the effects of space on the body (osteogenesis imperfecta). The producer and co-writer, Richard Lewis put in a lot of effort for realism; he consulted with experts from NASA, physicians, flight surgeons, astronauts and Hubbard.
The film had lots of action and different changes of scenery which kept it exciting. However, the story was just okay. The characters all have interesting backstories and interesting quirks but they weren’t fully fleshed-out. Unfortunately, the movie went by too fast to grow a strong connection with the characters. The main part of the movie, the love between the star-crossed lovers felt disappointing and cheesy. I could sum it up in two easy words ‘puppy love’. “Gardner Elliot: [to Tulsa] I was scared I wouldn’t know how to be human. You made me human, and no matter what happens, it was worth it. All of it.”
The ending, in particular, felt dissatisfying, I felt a lot the problems were unresolved and everyone just went back to how things were in the beginning. It was a typical teen love movie that had the special element of Mars. The premise of the movie was interesting but the movie’s plot was underwhelming. In my opinion, it receives 3/5 rating.
Nine-year-old Solange lays out the best traits of Stuck In The Middle.
Color Switch is an app by Fortafy Games. It’s an addictive game in which you tap to move a ball through a variety of obstacles. The colour of the ball must match the colour of the obstacle otherwise you will have to start the level again. There are bunches of different balls to collect and different game modes to play. You can collect stars when playing different levels. The stars collected can then be used to buy unique balls. The game design changes according to the holidays/seasons.
It’s a great app to waste time by playing endless mode or the plethora of levels in all very distinct game modes. Color Switch is a challenging game that requires your attention and quick reflexes.
It’s hard to lose interest because new modes are constantly being added, and the game style changes too. The layout is colourful and bright, which is eye-catching. The game can become frustrating and tedious, however, since you only have one chance to complete the level, causing you to play the same level over and over. That is, unless you decide to watch an ad to skip a level or to get an extra life, but the extra life option only works if you’re near the end of the level. There’s also a lot of ads on the game, which is quite tiresome.
In conclusion, Color Switch is a very entertaining free game that doesn’t require wi-fi and can be enjoyed by all ages. It’s annoying when you struggle to beat a level and a wave of ads barrage you. Nonetheless, it’s a great time waster and has a colourful appearance.
The Truancy series, written by Isamu Fukui when he was a 15-year-old high school student, is an extremely well-written and suspenseful dystopian series. Set in an experimental city divided into 58 different sectors and ruled by forces that value education, a group of schoolchildren, known as the Truants, wants to fight back.
In the first book, Truancy, a boy named Tack is living the life of a schoolboy. Dealing with surprise tests and harsh learning ways, Tack is getting frustrated with the system. When he finds a school dropout his own age, alone in abandoned sector 19, Tack sees his life begin to change. Training under the boy, Umasi, Tack learns to fight with both words and swords. But when he witnesses the death of his sister by a Truant, Tack is devastated and wants to seek revenge.
After finding his way to one of the many Truant hideouts in the city, Tack is accepted into the rebel group. Gradually rising up the ranks, he eventually battles the leader of the Truancy for the chief role. He subsequently changes his name to Tackan and starts to realize exactly how hard the life of a leader can be.
The second book, Truancy Origins, shows us the early years of the two brothers, Umasi, the boy from sector 19, and Zyid, the future leader of the Truancy. In this book, we learn how Umasi and Zyid’s paths begin to separate.
The final book, Truancy City, brings us back to the city when Tackan is the leader of the Truants. The city’s long want of taking down the Truants might just have a new secret weapon – a boy, trained by Umasi, who is an amazing fighter and has few weaknesses. In a final all-out battle between the Truants and the general population of the city, the overarching leader of all of the experimental cities steps in, using her own troops to help maintain order. Attempting to evade the Government, the Truants try to seek refuge by leaving the city.
The series ends with a stunning conclusion at the top of the tallest building in the city, a 108-floor tower that overlooks all 58 sectors. The amazing ending shows that not all forces are what they seem to be.
This is a very well-written book with a lot of action, suspense and mystery. The character development is superb, and it is a very captivating series. It is fictionalized, yet provides a somewhat scary foreshadowing to what the future could hold.
Overall, I give this book 5/5 stars.
Meet our kids' panel: a savvy group of kids with a strong point of view about the media and the culture they consume. Culturally diverse, a range of age and interests, they'll provide you with an insight into kids' media ... what works, what doesn't and why. Check back often for new reviews. We think you'll be inspired!