Sunday, 27 July 2014

Sunday July 27, 2014 2014 Reading (so far)

I am a devoted user. Never heard of it? GoodReads is a free social media site (like Facebook) but instead of friends, you can add books! Searching by title, author, or series will bring up nearly every published book along with a description of the title and reviews from other users. You can then choose which “shelves” to add it to – the defaults are read, to-read, and currently-reading, but you can create your own using genres or any other designation.  One of my favourite aspects of GoodReads is how easy it is to use for straightforward and more complex tasks: simply track books you want to read next, use it as reminder of those books you’ve already read, or maintain detailed records useful for making reading recommendations to others. You can also add friends to look at their bookshelves or follow authors. My personal GoodReads account can be found at - feel free to browse my shelves!

One of my favourite book-related writers on the Internet recently posted an article about her 2014 reading and inspired me to do the same using the details of my GoodReads account. When I began working on this article, I had read 120 books so far this year. This may sound like a very high number, but keep in mind that this includes all kinds of books, regardless of length: picture books, middle-grade reads, comics, YA books, non-fiction and adult fiction. I am responsible for ordering the Young Adult books for TBPL’s collection and guessed (accurately) that the majority of my reading would be in YA – 55% of my titles read are classified as Young Adult fiction. Picture books are the next highest, at 40%.   

Next, I looked at my use of their five-star ranking system. Five stars indicate a new favourite; the lowest ranking of one star means it was disliked. I awarded only seven five-star rankings this year so far, and interestingly none of them were YA. Instead, of the seven awarded, six were picture books and the other was middle grade. My top picture book picks include Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle and Who Goes There? by Karma Wilson. Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle is an exceptional middle-grade title about a 13-year-old musical-theatre devotee sneaking out for a secret Broadway audition (the sequel, Five, Six, Seven, Nate!, is also amazing). The star ranking I have most commonly awarded in 2014 is the three-star ranking: “liked it.” Only one book received a one-star ranking.

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement in April 2014 sparked a lot of conversation, book lists, and thought-provoking dialogue about the importance of visibly diverse books and authors in literature for children and youth, prompting me to wonder how my reading measured up. Despite literature’s continuing emphasis on the voices of men, I have long noticed a bias in my reading towards female authors. As expected, the majority of my reading is by women: only 26% of the books I have read so far this year were written by men. I was also successful in reading a variety of titles with queer themes or authors. However, regarding ethnic, cultural, or religious diversity, I was unhappy to realize that my statistics do not reflect a truly concentrated effort to engage with more diverse reads. Using resources like book lists from the Diversity in YA website, I hope to broaden the swath of cultural experiences in my reading for the remainder of 2014.

Do you keep goals in mind for your reading? And do you use GoodReads or another tool to track those habits? If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you in the comments!

Laura Prinselaar

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sunday July 20, 2014 Tee off Time at TBPL

This weekend the Staal brothers Eric, Marc, Jordan and Jared, are prominently associated with a sport other than hockey. PGA TOUR Canada, the Staal family and the Thunder Bay Golf Classic tournament have announced that the Staal Family Foundation has a three-year agreement to become the title sponsor of PGA TOUR Canada’s Thunder Bay Golf Classic. Henceforth known as the Staal Foundation Open.

The Staal Foundation Open is the sixth tournament on the newly expanded 2014 PGA TOUR Canada schedule. As an added bonus the top three players on the PGA TOUR Canada following the Staal Foundation Open will earn a spot in the RBC Canadian Open at the Royal Montreal Golf Club in L'Île-Bizard, Quebec.

The tournament, which is taking place from July 17 to July 20 at the Whitewater Golf Club, features the 18-hole, par-72 layout and beautiful natural scenery. PGA TOUR Canada is structured to identify the best players each year, with the top five players earning Tour status. Mike Weir, Graham Delaet and Steve Stricker all made their start on PGA TOUR Canada.  

Maybe this inspires you to take up the sport or if you already play, to brush up on some technique. As always, the library has many books on this very topic.

18 Ways to Play a Better 18 Holes: Tips and Techniques from America's Best Club Professionals by John Steinbreder who calls on elite PGA club professionals to provide tips on every part of the game.

The Best Instruction Book Ever! edited by Golf Magazine. Golf Magazine's collection of top 100 instructors each provides their top tips and most effective lessons in an expanded edition of this popular instruction book.

Lower Your Golf Handicap: Under 10 in 10 Weeks by Nick Wright. This book helps you develop your skills on the tee, fairway and green, eliminate common errors and become a better all-round golfer. Included are self-assessment charts and a daily practice planner.

Practice Makes Perfect [dvd] by Firefly Entertainment. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this DVD’s for you. World-famous golf coach David Leadbetter shows you his top 25 drills, all of which have been adopted by the pros he coaches. You don't even have to be on a golf course. You can practise these drills in your backyard or even your living room.

Fit for Golf: a Personalized Conditioning Routine to Help You Improve Your Score, Hit the Ball Farther, and Enjoy the Game More by Boris Kuzmic with Jim Gorant is available as an eBook in the Virtual Collection.

So go ahead check out a book or two, head out to a golf course and mainly have fun.

Caron E. Naysmith

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Sunday July 13th, 2014 The Joys of Summer Reading

Summer is finally here, just when most of us had lost hope that the long months of winter, followed by a very inclement spring would ever loosen its hold. We in the Northwest are blest with long hours of daylight and the beauties of nature around us, so our natural inclination is to spend as much of summer outdoors as we can. Unfortunately, we still get rainy days so I love spending some of those precious hours reading, especially the types of books that I normally wouldn’t choose throughout the rest of the year. Whether its finding time for that classic that I always meant to read, diving into a new genre, or grabbing something that’s non-fiction and topical in an area that I’m unfamiliar with; summer is the time to experiment. Suggestions on what to read are everywhere, from Oprah to Entertainment Weekly, everyone has a list of “must-reads” for the summer season, and so I’ve collected some of the most popular works most anticipated by the patrons at TBPL as a starting point. If you’re curious, I’ll be spending most of the summer reading George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, on which the television series “The Game of Thrones” is based. It’s the first real fantasy series that I’ve read in about 15 years.

One plus One by Jojo Moyes
This is the first book by Moyes since her heartbreaking novel, “Me before You”. This time the story focuses on a crazy road trip by single mother, Jess and her two children on the way to Scotland to compete in a math Olympiad. Her daughter, Tanzie is a math whiz and Jess needs the money to afford her school fees. Unfortunately for Jess, (and fortunately, for the reader), their car breaks down so they are forced to take a ride with a stranger and the fun begins.

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittmore
This is one of the most talked about thrillers of the summer. When unlovely and unpopular Mabel is invited to the summer home of her upper-class college roommate Ev’s summer home in Vermont, she gets a look at the life of the superrich and the danger and dirty secrets that accompany money and power.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
In her guise as Galbraith, famous children’s author J.K. Rowling is back with another of her Cormoran Strike mysteries. This time Strike is faced with solving the mutilation murder of a third rate novelist and the suspects are from the publishing world. Rowling combines in her mysteries a classic sense of sleuthing and the sensibilities of the modern world.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
What is summer without a book by Stephen King? In a departure from the horror genre, King gives us a fast paced psychological thriller about a retired police detective named Bill Hodge and his attempt to catch a killer who ran down 23 people in a stolen Mercedes. The killer has sent him a taunting letter that threatens the death of thousands if Hodge doesn’t catch him in time.

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid
The classic novels of Jane Austen are updated for the modern world by a group of famous British authors. This is the second in the series, following Joanna Trollop’s take on “Sense and Sensibility”. Crime novelist McDermid approaches the darker elements of “Northanger Abbey”, that were only touched on by Austen, as she translates the story to modern day Scotland.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
An instant bestseller on both the popular and literary charts, this historical novel is the story of a blind French girl and a German boy in Occupied France whose lives intersect as they try to survive the horrors of the Second World War.

Lori Kauzlarick

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Sunday July 6th, 2014 Got Game?

Have you ever wanted to go to a game developer conference?  Not to be confused with conventions, the conferences, such as March’s Game Developer’s Conference (GDC), July’s Casual Connect, and November’s Montreal International Game Summit (MIGS) are where the professional game developers get together to learn and network. While fun and informative, it can unfortunately be hard to get to these conferences. But if they are out of the question, why not make some games instead?  The library has many books and eBooks that will get you developing your own games in no time!

Before you start, it’s a good idea to know the history of games (and hence what has already been done). For a complete picture, start with Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy, which talks about the history of computer programmers from the 1970s and 80s. The Ultimate History ofVideo Games by Steven L. Kent focuses on early video games, particularly those made by Atari. Once you’re familiar with the history, check out Jeannie Novak’s Game Development Essentials:an Introduction. Novak’s book covers everything from design to marketing; Game Development Essentials is a great book for anyone who wants a better understanding of the industry as a whole.

If you have a game idea, but don’t really know how to turn it into a finished game, we have a couple of options for you. Game Design by Bob Bates will walk you through the entire process of designing a game, starting from the initial idea. A similar book is Les Pardew’s Game Design for Teens, which deals specifically with creating a game design document (GDD). The GDD is a living document that has a plan for creating the game. Parts of it are used to communicate what your finished game will be like to the developers and other stakeholders. Finally, Richard Rouse III’s Game Design: Theory and Practice discusses the theory of game design in a way that makes it easy to use that theory in your own project.

If you’re interested in only a specific aspect of game design, we have many books to help you out, too. For those interested in programming, a great book is Programming Like a Profor Teens by Charles R. Hardnett. Hardnett’s book is excellent for anyone who is new to programming; it progresses gradually, introducing concepts and jargon only as you need them.

If you’re an artist, why not check out Chris Solarski’s Drawing Basics and Video Game Art: Classicto Cutting-Edge Art Techniques for Winning Video Game Design, which shows you how classical art theory and skills are used within video game art. Les Pardew’s Beginning Illustration andStoryboarding for Games goes a little further, showing you how to storyboard a game; Pardew’s book also shows you how art appears in the GDD.

While art and programming are the two roles that typically spring to mind when thinking about game design, they are by no means the only ones. If you want to get into level design, try John Fiel’s Beginning Game Level Design. For quality assurance, which typically means testing games for bugs, check out Charles P. Schultz, Robert Bryant, and Tim Langdell’s GameTesting All in One. If you’d like to be a game producer, then Dan Irish’s The Game Producer’s Handbook is for you!

If you’re not interested in making video games but instead would prefer to develop more traditional card or board games, then don’t despair - the library has The Game Inventor’sGuidebook by Brian Tinsman. The Game Inventor’s Guidebook will show you the steps for publishing your non-video game.

So if you’d like to make games, no matter their form, the library has something for you!

Shauna Kosoris