Game On!

Grab some snacks, clear off the kitchen table and invite your friends over – WPL now has board games! There are over 40 different games available for you to borrow. The games range from simple card games to more creative role-playing games. WPL bloggers Ashley T., Jenna H. and Lesley L. tried out a few of them.

Ashley’s Picks

Hanabi
Number of Players: 2 to 5
Age range: 8+
Complexity: Easy
Objective: To work together to create full suits of fireworks in numerical order, and have a successful fireworks show!

Review: Hanabi (which is Japanese for fireworks), is a unique card game in that you only know everyone else’s cards and not your own. It is a co-operative game, where players have to communicate with each other in order to make sure the right cards are played in the right order to create the fireworks display. You can play with different rule variations to change things up as well. It’s a nice and quick little game.

Dixit
Number of Players: 3 to 6
Age range: 8+
Complexity: Medium
Objective: To choose cards that best describe the clues, and be the first player to reach 30 points.

Review: Dixit is one of my favourite board games. The game has a deck of beautifully drawn cards with abstract scenes. When it is your turn, you get to be as creative as you want when you think of a clue for a card in your hand. It can be a word, a scenario, or anything you can think of. Other players then need to pick a card from their hand that best fits your clue, then the cards are displayed anonymously and everyone votes on which card they think was the original. It is so much fun to see how everyone thinks, and how the different images can describe the same clue. You also have to be very creative with your clues, because if everybody or nobody guesses your card then you don’t get any points. It’s a creatively challenging game that is so much fun to play.

Pandemic
Number of Players: 2 to 4
Age range: 8+
Complexity: Medium
Objective: To work together to eradicate the diseases that are ravaging the world.

Review: This is a co-operative game where players work together to cure 4 diseases that broke out in various countries and are spreading around the world. Each player takes on a different role, like medic or researcher. Each role has a different special ability that can help stop the crisis. The deck options make for a different game experience every time. You can increase or limit the difficulty level by adjusting the number of epidemic cards in the deck. It feels very satisfying to win, and even more satisfying if you can eradicate all the diseases instead of just curing them. Players have to strategize together and try to use each turn to its full advantage in order to succeed. Pandemic is a really enjoyable game – who knew rampantly spreading diseases could be so much fun!

Jenna’s Picks

NMBR 9 : take it to the next level
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Age range: 8+
Complexity: Easy
Objective: Each round a card is flipped over, showing which number tile you have to add to your individual board. The goal is to fit the tiles together so that you can stack additional tiles on top to create new levels. The higher the level, the higher the score. The game goes until all the cards are flipped.

Review: This is a great puzzle game that will be fun for the whole family! We played it with only two people and still had a great time. The instructions were simple to understand, making for a quick setup when playing for the first time. The different shapes of the number pieces make the game satisfyingly challenging, without being too difficult. At first I was concerned that we would create the same boards, since everyone draws the same number tile, but that didn’t turn out to be a problem, since everybody thinks so differently and there are so many ways to build the board. For that same reason, the game didn’t get repetitive when we played it a few times, which was a huge bonus. Another bonus (depending on who you ask!) is that it exercises your multiplication skills when it comes time to score the levels, so this would be a great game to play with kids who are learning basic math skills. I definitely recommend borrowing NMBR 9 this summer.

Biblios
Number of Players: 2 to 4
Age range: 10+
Complexity: Instructions make it seem harder than it is. Once you get the hang of it, it’s relatively easy.
Objective: Win the most Victory Points by having the biggest collection of Scribes, Illuminators, Manuscripts, Scrolls, and Supplies. Resources can be collected during the donation round or purchased during the auction round. Victory Points are determined by values on a die that can be raised or lowered throughout the game.

Review: This game was fun once we got through the instructions. The instruction booklet is quite lengthy, which is nice because it’s thorough, but a little overwhelming when you just want to get to the game. We played this game with two people, and we both agreed that it would have been a little more enjoyable with more people. We did appreciate that the game offers some alterations that you can make based on the number of players. The Medieval trappings were visually impressive, including the manuscript-like box that the game comes in, but they don’t really affect the game-play. We found that once we made up a few “House Rules,” such as forcing the first player to make a bid during the auction round, the game was much more enjoyable. I think this is definitely a fun game, but I wouldn’t count on it for all your entertainment when you’re off to the cottage this summer.

Lesley’s Picks 

Animal Upon Animal
Number of Players: 2 to 4
Age range: 4+
Complexity: Very Easy
Objective: Players take turns stacking wooden animals on top of the alligator base. The first player to safely stack all their animals wins the game.

Review: Animal Upon Animal is a bit like playing Jenga in reverse. Players roll the dice to see how many animals they must stack. It is easy enough for small children to play but it’s interesting enough to keep older kids and adults entertained as well. As the game progressed, I had to get fairly creative at how to stack my animals so they wouldn’t fall. Certain animals are a lot harder to stack than others. I highly recommend this to play on family game night!

Exploding Kittens
Age Range: 7+
Number of Players: 2 to 5
Complexity: Easy
Objective: Players draw cards from a deck. If a player draws an Exploding Kitten card, they lose. All the other cards in the deck are used to strategically avoid drawing an Exploding Kitten card.

Review: The first time I played Exploding Kittens I found it a bit confusing but by the second round, I had caught on completely. There are a lot of little rules that take a bit of getting used to, but once you understand, it’s so much fun. It is a highly tactical game. You must avoid that Exploding Kitten card at all costs! Keep a close eye on where it moves in the deck. Exploding Kittens can be played by older children, but I would recommend it more for teenagers and adults.

Bananagrams
Age Range: 7+
Number of Players: 2 to 8
Complexity: Easy
Objective: Players individually arrange their letter tiles into a crossword format. The first player to correctly use all their letters wins the game.

Review: Bananagrams is similar to scrabble but played at warp-speed. If you enjoy word puzzles, you will love this game. It’s really easy to play and to transport. There is no board, just a small bag filled with letter tiles. I found it rather addictive; the rounds go by so fast that I just wanted to keep playing over and over.

Fun Employed
Age Range: 18+
Number of Players: 3 to 7
Complexity: Medium
Objective: This is a role playing game where players are given four random ‘qualifications’ they must use to apply to a real life job. Players improvise a job interview scenario and the most convincing player gets the job.

Review: This game is hilarious and is definitely not for children. The more creative you get with your qualifications the better your chances of winning. For example, in one round I had to interview for a job as a gynecologist using the qualifications that I am emotionally hollow, I have jazz hands, and I own a jet pack and a jack hammer. It’s a great party game. The more players you have, the better the game works.

Lighten Up!

Book clubs are a nice way to enjoy books, friends, and discussions. So why is it that almost every book club I hear about only reads depressing books? I feel like every time I ask someone what their book club is reading, they describe a novel that involves a family member slowly dying, a memoir of someone who lived in a concentration camp, and so on and so forth. I know it is human nature to focus more on negatives than positives, but I think we can successfully turn this trend around.

Why can’t we talk about happy books? There are still things to discuss, even if a book doesn’t have you in tears the whole time. There are even books that have a little bit of both for some more emotionally balanced reading. When I read an exciting book that has made me laugh, I love talking about it. Especially with other people who have read it as well. Imagine: a room full of people happily talking about funny or uplifting things!

The world has enough sad things in it that I think it is okay to read something happier for a change. Jenny Lawson’s books are hilarious with moments of poignancy, and are really fun reads. They would give a book club plenty to talk about! Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series are books that are full of literary references, humour, and intelligence – another great addition to your book club list.

I’m not saying you should never read or discuss books that evoke difficult emotions, but I do believe we should mix it up a bit. There are so many types of books to read and enjoy exciting debates about, so why not widen the scope of your book club roster? It’s important to remember to keep laughter and light in our lives, and what better way to add to your life than with a book? Here’s to happy discussions!

— Ashley T.

Re-Reading…Yes or No?

Do you ever re-read books? I have found that people absolutely do or absolutely don’t and there really is no middle ground. I myself am a big fan of re-reading, but I can understand where the opposition comes from. The argument I hear most often from people is that there are so many wonderful new books that they don’t want to spend their time reading something that they have already experienced. I get it. It’s logical BUT I’ve never really been one for logic.

There are so many books out there that I want to read and I can’t wait to start them but there really is something so amazing about re-reading. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t re-read every book, just my favourites, and when I re-read I remember how I felt the first time I read the book and add on to that experience.

There are different levels of enjoyment that can be had from re-reading. You will discover new things, perhaps because you have a different mind set the second time round or maybe there has been a few years between reads and your perspective has changed. I find it so exciting when this happens especially with a special book which I have read many times over. I still love the re-reading experience even without any new discoveries. I live vicariously through those stories and love spending more time with my favourite characters. It’s like eating comfort food or wearing that cozy old sweater.

I must confess that there are books that I have read more than twice. Books like The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay, Dune by Frank Herbert, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – to name just a few. My record for the most re-reads though goes to a series I first read as a child and have re-read every single year since. I have read the Belgariad and the Malloreon series by David Eddings twenty-four (yes, that’s 24!) times and counting. Reading these books is both comforting and comfortable, and feels like coming home.

There are a lot of books that I have never read before and while logic dictates that I read those, my heart says to read what makes me happy. Sometimes that will be a new book but sometimes it will be an old faithful. So go on, go re-read one of your favourite books right now. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

— Ashley T.

GuRu

I was so excited to see GuRu : by fixing one piece of the jigsaw puzzle, you’ll miss seeing the whole picture by RuPaul in WPL’s collection. I had just finished a RuPaul’s Drag Race marathon over the holidays, where I watched all seasons on Netflix in an embarrassingly short amount of time. It’s safe to say I am addicted. I don’t normally enjoy reality TV, but I find this show compelling, so much fun and yes, addictive. While watching Drag Race I had the impression that RuPaul was someone who was smart, wise, and funny. I looked forward to reading GuRu to gain some more insight into just who RuPaul is.

While I enjoyed the book it wasn’t what I thought it would be. It was more of a coffee table book than a wordy tome. GuRu is a beautiful book, filled with philosophies, insights, and pictures. The photos are all shots of RuPaul and are unsurprisingly fabulous. As with RuPaul’s Drag Race, I find the transformations fascinating. The different looks and aesthetics that can be achieved by one person is mind-boggling to me, with my own very limited look. RuPaul, like all the drag queens on the show, are far better at being women than I will ever be. It is great to see so much variety in self-expression and the vivid colours of the photographs adds to the positivity conveyed in the book.

81vrmbonjslWhile there isn’t a lot of writing in GuRu, the words that are present are from the heart. They are genuine philosophies meant to inspire readers. There are a lot of good quotations, some insightful and some absolutely hilarious. It’s a book you can read through from cover to cover or you just read a random page for a pick me up. These quick inspirations can help to brighten your day and make you think about your perspectives. From thought provoking quotations like “The ego perceives us as separate from one another, but we are not. We are one thing.” to the inspiring “You’re actually stronger than you allow yourself to be.” to the unexpectedly practical “When driving in the rain, always turn on your headlights.”, RuPaul’s book offers wisdom for many situations.

GuRu is such a positive book. It was fun to read and offers some light when your world view is feeling dark. I definitely now want to read RuPaul’s others books to see what they have to offer.

— Ashley T.

Unsung Heroes

Have you ever watched a deleted scene from a movie and felt that there was something missing? Chances are that scene didn’t have any music. Soundtracks often go unnoticed by people when they are present, but without them movies would be lacking a vital element to make the stories truly come alive.

Music plays many roles in the things we watch. It can identify a character, a setting, or a significant event. Throughout the film, that music will remind the audience of whatever has been associated with that theme. This can be useful in subtle ways, like when the protagonist is thinking about their love interest. We don’t need them to say who they are thinking about if the score for the love interest starts playing. Whether we pay attention or not, we will pick up on the auditory clues and intuitively know what is happening.

Another crucial aspect of movie scores is giving the viewers emotional cues. The music tells us how we are supposed to be feeling and plays a huge part in setting the mood. Can you imagine if fanfare was playing during a death scene? Or if a sweeping ballad was underscoring a series of prat falls? They just don’t work. Those scenes would become jarring and unappealing. The emotions that we feel while watching a movie are significantly enhanced with the right kind of music. Even scenes like in the Lord of the Rings movies when they are journeying across the mountains. The music makes us feel the excitement of adventure and the epic importance of the journey. Without the score to provide us with that emotional boost, watching people hike would not be nearly as exciting.

It’s not just scores that bring a movie to life, but soundtracks as well. What’s the difference, you ask? A score is orchestral music composed for the movie that is usually meant to exist subtly under the dialogue and action. Soundtracks are pieces of music chosen to be in the movie that are usually contemporary with lyrics. While they can be used under dialogue and action, they are more typically for montages and transitions.

The right choice of a popular song can perfectly encapsulate a moment or call forth an emotion for the audience. A lot of the music I enjoy, I first discovered from watching a movie or TV show. I would fall in love with the soundtrack music and have to look up what the songs were so I could buy them or borrow from the library!

Many movies use both scores and soundtracks to round out the storytelling of the movie. Take Guardians of the Galaxy as an example. We have an excellent score that is full of sweeping heroic pieces, tense escape music, and more poignant emotional pieces. Then there is the amazing soundtrack based on the main character’s cassette tape. These are all songs from the 1970s that are not only great songs, but are significant to the character. The audience knows that he has been listening to these songs all his life, and we are able to further identify with him through the soundtrack.

Movies just wouldn’t be the same without music. Scores and soundtracks are integral to the characters, story, and overall emotional depth. Movie music is one of my favourite things to listen to and fortunately the library helps keep me supplied with excellent score and soundtrack options. If you are interested in listening to some, just check out WPL’s collection!

— Ashley T.

I Want to Be a Ghibli Heroine!

Forget Being a Disney Princess, I want to be a Ghibli Heroine!

Like many people in North America, I was raised on Disney movies. Snow White, Cinderella, Robin Hood, The Little Mermaid, and so on and so forth. They are good movies, and I still enjoy them to this day – but I wish I had been raised on Studio Ghibli movies too.

Studio Ghibli is the Japanese equivalent of Disney. Founded in 1985, they have been creating animated masterpieces for over 30 years. While Disney movies are starting to have stronger and more independent heroines, they used to mostly be tales about princesses who didn’t have much more going on than being good people who were pretty. Since its inception, Studio Ghibli has made films with strong female protagonists who were leaders and heroes, while also maintaining very real and human flaws and vulnerabilities. The protagonists can make mistakes, and we can develop sympathy for the antagonists. Studio Ghibli movies will also often have quiet moments that show the mundane lives of their protagonists. These moments of ordinary make them seem more like real people, and make for accessible role models. The heroes aren’t in hero mode 100% of the time, they have moments of ‘real life’ too. The stories are also more varied than the boy meets girl, they get married and live happily ever after template.

The first Studio Ghibli film I ever watched was ‘Princess Mononoke’. The protagonist is male, but the movie’s namesake is a close second. She’s a girl who defies all the stereotypes that are associated with the word “princess”. Literally raised by wolves, San operates mostly on instinct, and certainly doesn’t have any of the normal princess mannerisms. She is fighting against civilization to protect the forest that has been her home, and she is fierce and uncompromising as she does it. San is definitely a heroine with courage and the ability to protect what she holds dear.

Some of the other Ghibli heroines don’t have the same kind of epic battles, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t as heroic. A great example of this is Satsuki from ‘My Neighbor Totoro’. She is a child whose mother is quite sick. Satsuki, her father, and her younger sister move to be closer to the hospital that is caring for her mother. She stays strong for her family, takes care of her younger sister, and still has cheer and laughter despite her circumstances. It may not be what we are used to describing as a movie hero, but Satsuki is brave and she sets a wonderful example of dealing with life’s difficulties with optimism and grace. There is a wide variety of characters and they are heroes in their own unique ways, showing strength in all its different forms.

Studio Ghibli movies have more going on than just great characters. Their stories are rich and moving, and the animation is beautiful. Each movie of theirs that I have watched has deeply affected me, and made me realize something about myself or world view. They have a way of touching your heart and challenging your mind in ways that are completely different from what we are used to. One of their most unique films is ‘The Red Turtle’ because there is no dialogue. This story of a shipwrecked man uses art and music, and a few vocalizations, to convey they story. I think this movie proves that the people at Studio Ghibli are master storytellers.

Lucky for you, the Waterloo Public Library has many Studio Ghibli movies! While it isn’t technically a Studio Ghibli movie because it was made before the studio’s official founding, you should see ‘Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind’ because it is amazing. You can visit your closest WPL location to also check out: ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’, ‘The Secret World of Arrietty’, ‘When Marnie Was There’, ‘Ponyo’, ‘Only Yesterday’, ‘The Wind Rises’,  ‘From Up On Poppy Hill’, ‘Spirited Away’, ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’, and ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’.

— Ashley T.

 

Judging By The Cover

I admit it, I judged this book by its cover … and I was not disappointed. In fact, The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins is now one of my favourite novels.

As anyone who reads a lot will know, it is hard to be surprised by a story. Tropes are everywhere, and while they can certainly be enjoyable they can also make stories and characters a bit predictable. This book had me wondering what could possibly be happening, and surprised by whatever came next. It has been a while since a story kept me on my toes the way that this one did and made for a very exhilarating read!

Carolyn and her adopted siblings have been raised by a man they call Father for almost as long as they can remember. He teaches each child to be an expert in a subsection of his library, with teaching methods that are often quite cruel.

As the children master their library catalogues they gain fantastical abilities that relate to their area of study. The story opens when they are adults, then the narrative jumps around in time.

The storytelling is masterfully done. Scott Hawkins keeps his readers on the edge of their seat by revealing things in bits and pieces. While you start off accumulating only more questions, by the end of the book you have a complete picture of everything that has come together like the final image of a jigsaw puzzle. Characters are discovered the same way and the revelations can completely change your opinion of who they are. I found myself empathizing with characters I never thought I could.

This is a story about revenge and the bonds that tie people together, but it is so different from your average story. There is some dark and disturbing content, however it is all essential to the narrative. Hawkins has written an amazingly creative book and it is hard to believe it is his debut novel.

The Library at Mount Char is a beautiful, twisted, and layered story. I absolutely loved this book and I can’t wait to read more from Scott Hawkins.

— Ashley T.