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Summer So Far

I’ve been too busy to blog for the last month and will hopefully make up for that soon. I just finished two courses (Copy Editing and Visual Arts) and they were pretty much my life throughout June. Here’s a bit of a photo dump of some things going on outside of school.

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Book Recommendation of the Week: All The Light We Cannot See

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What It’s About: A cursed jewel, a locksmith, a blind girl who traces wooden streets in her room to navigate the real ones. A radio program, a boy and his sister who listen in the dark, an army of boys chasing the weakest, a boy who loves bird. Marie Laure is twelve when the Germans occupy Paris, and with her locksmith father who works at the Museum of Natural History, they flee to Saint-Malo to stay with her Great Uncle. With them they might carry a cursed and coveted jewel. Werner is a gifted German teenager who can build radios and attends a prestigious Hitler Youth school where he loses sight of himself. Werner spends the war tracking down illegal radio broadcasts, which leads him to Saint-Malo.

Who Will Love It: Everyone? It’s literary historical fiction, but can be loved by those who don’t usually read from either genre. Humanity is captured so beautifully in this novel that it’s bound to hold mass appeal. Comparisons to The Book Thief are inevitable, not just because of a story of war and children during WWII, but because the characters have depth and the story is more than a war story: it’s about the best and worst of humanity.

What I Loved: The writing is beautiful, the story is heartbreaking and inspiring. Every single character is well written and memorable. The story grabs hold of you and makes you crumble by the end. This thought provoking story showcases the convergence between hope and tragedy, darkness and light.

Top 10 Pivotal Albums In My Life

Not necessarily my favourite albums (although many are), here are ten albums that have played a big role in my life so far.

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Blue by Joni Mitchell (1971) While the first Joni Mitchell album I listened to obsessively was Hits, Blue just feels like every emotion I’ve ever felt contained in ten songs. The quote from Love Actually about Joni Mitchell teaching Emma Thompson’s character how to feel comes to mind.

It’s hard to choose, but my favourite song from the album is “All I Want.”

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Begin to Hope by Regina Spektor (2006) In tenth grade I was driving to school with my mom and heard “Samson” on the CBC, and it made me wonder why on earth I was listening to whatever I had been listening to before I heard that song. While some albums exemplify my teenage years (From Under the Cork Tree), Begin To Hope was a big change in what I listened to and started a shift, inching me toward the sort of things I like now as a adult.

It’s REALLY difficult to choose, but my favourite song is “On the Radio.” Way back in 2006, it was “Better.” 

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Ella in Berlin by Ella Fitzgerald (1960) I had a slightly different version of this when I was a young teen, with live versions of “Mack the Knife,” “Bill Bailey (Won’t You Please Come Home” and “(If You Can’t Sing It) You’ll Have To Swing It.” “Mack the Knife” is the star: Ella famously forgot the words and improvised, and somehow it turned out better than it would have if she had remembered them. Somehow none of my mistakes ever turn out that way.

My favourite song is, obviously, “Mack the Knife.”

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Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel (1968) The album follows a unified story, in order of youth to old age. My favourite song is “America.”

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Rubber Soul by The Beatles (1965) Like The Beatles, I grew up and matured with this album. A shift in style for the band, this was my first Beatles album, and while it’s not my favourite (hello Abbey Road) it did have a big influence in me.

My favourite song is “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”.

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The Suburbs by Arcade Fire (2010) You know it’s time to move out of your suburban home town when you sit around crying to this album. I think the whole album is brilliant and seems to sum up young adult life, at least for me.

My favourite song is “The Suburbs.”

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Under a Killer Blue Sky by Jupiter Sunrise (2003) I only knew about this band and the album because my friend in high school went to Warped Tour (maybe in 2005, maybe in New Jersey) and the band was going around offering people their walkman so they could listen to the album. My friend listened to it and bought it, and later I listened to it and liked it. The songs often tell stories and actually managed to influence my high school writing.

My favourite song is probably “Kaye”.

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Set Yourself On Fire by Stars (2005) I didn’t hear this album until 2009, and suddenly my friends and I were all obsessed with it. Stars took over my life and are probably favourite living band (maybe scratch the probably.) This is another album that really influenced the sort of music I listened to.

My favourite favourite FAVOURITE song is “Calendar Girl.”

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Plans by Death Cab For Cutie (2005) My Death Cab obsession has faded over time, but this was the album of high school (the greatest competition was Fall Out Boy.) I was obsessed completely. My favourite song is “Crooked Teeth” (but “Soul Meets Body” is amazing too.)

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Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim (2002 Broadway Cast) The only Broadway recording on the list, amazingly. While I feel about lukewarm about the movie, the musical took something I like and gave it a depth and darkness, but also humour. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to and thinking about this album.

My favourite song is “Children Will Listen.”

What albums are your favourites, or have played a big part in your life? 

City in Pictures: Bruges, Belgium

When I arrived in Bruges in October 2013, I was half asleep and not quite sure what language they even spoke there (I had heard French at my 5am stopover in Brussels.) This was on my second Euro Trip: my first had been inspired by my long term ‘dream destinations’ list: London and Paris. This next trip, a year later, was more based on things I had learnt since. I had actually never heard of Bruges until I talked to other travellers. But everyone loved the beautiful Bruges.

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Book Recommendation of the Week: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

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What It’s About: Ari has always been a loner, never letting himself get close to anyone. A Mexican American growing up in El Paso in 1987, he was born after his father returned from Vietnam with a part of him broken. While the war still casts a shadow over Ari’s life, the absence of his older brother does the same, ever since he went to jail twelve years ago. Ari’s brother is never mentioned, and Ari has learnt to take after his parents and never discuss things. Ari is a master at distancing himself from those around him. But when he meets Dante at the local pool, he finds someone he can connect with. Dante is nothing like Ari. He loves his parents and art, reads big books and seems to be able to do anything. To Dante, the world is a great place and he can’t understand Ari’s darkness. Dante is a boy who knows so much and still wants to know more, and would risk his well being just to rescue a bird. Ari is hard and has always known how to hide what he feels. Together, Dante and Ari try to find a way to understand the mysteries around them, and along the way they might just save each other.

Who Will Love It:  If you’re feeling disenchanted with YA novels or are having trouble finding a book that can live up to your favourite, then read this one. Also a great candidate if you’re looking for a more diverse read, since the characters are Mexican American and LGBT.

What I Loved: The characters are full of depth and intelligence and will make you love them. The story was well paced, and although there was a lot of discussion and thinking and less action, I read it quickly and fiercely. It’s a coming of age story that still manages to feel unique.