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Friday, August 15, 2014

Who Says Teens Today Don’t Read?! YA Book Reviews

Library Page Cameron Bridge displays
some new and notable young adult titles
     Who says teens today don’t read?! According to Publisher’s Weekly, young adult fiction is the fastest growing publication category right now. Buoyed by successful trilogies such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, books for young adults continue to gain in popularity thanks to media tie-ins. This summer’s blockbuster movie, The Fault in our Stars, for example, was based on John Green’s book of the same title; there’s the upcoming If I Stay film, based on Gayle Forman’s book as well as the much anticipated The Giver based on Lois Lowry’s classic title. Not surprisingly, young adult fiction is popular not only with teens but with adults too. The biggest demographic group buying YA titles are those ages 18 to 29. Here are a few other notable YA books to check out this summer:

Cabin Girl (Orca Currents) by Kristin Butcher
When 16-year old Bailey takes on a summer job at a fly-in fishing lodge, she gets more than she bargained for. Written by award-winning Canadian author Kristin Butcher, this Orca title, like all of those in the series, is a fast-paced read that will appeal not only to older, reluctant or struggling teen readers but also to stronger readers looking for a quick, engaging story.

Ungifted by Gordon Korman (ages 10-14)
After pulling a major prank at middle school, troublemaker Donovan Curtis is mistakenly sent to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction, a special program for gifted and talented students. In typical Korman style, situations are presented hilariously, and the underlying message that we all have different gifts to bring is subtle yet insightful.

Threatened by Eliot Schrefer (ages 12-16)
An African boy living on the streets of Gabon escapes his jailer by heading into the forest with a scientist who is not entirely what he seems. They've come to study chimpanzees, but when the scientist disappears, the boy must fend for himself — and then join forces with the chimps to save their habitat from unwelcome intruders.  This action/adventure/survival story has received a lot of critical acclaim.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (recommended for older teens due to subject matter)
This graphic novel by Canadian cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki is a coming of age story that would appeal to older teens, particularly reluctant readers since there is not a lot of text. Rose and her parents have been going to Awago Beach since she was a little girl. It’s her summer getaway, her refuge. Her friend Windy is always there too, like the younger sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and Rose and Windy find themselves tangled up in a tragedy in the small town. It’s a summer of secrets and heartache…and ultimately hope.

By Elena Doeble, Head Librarian at the Westbank Branch

Monday, August 11, 2014

Random Acts of Libraryness by James Laitinen at Salmon Arm Branch

As the great Austin Powers once said, “Allow myself to introduce myself”.  I am the new Branch
James & Roswitha at Roswitha's
Retirement Party
Head Librarian at the Salmon Arm Library.   Having grown up in Salmon Arm, it’s great to be back.  Thanks again to Roswitha Klawitter for her 18 exuberant years as Branch Head, and we wish her all the best in her new adventures.  We also bid a fond farewell to Colleen Smith, who worked 16 years at the Circulation Desk.

Random Acts of Libraryness

Maybe I’m being lazy with my first column, but I thought I would start off by highlighting some of the many services offered at the library:
• We’re more than just books (although we have a lot of those).  We have movies, TV series on DVD, audiobooks on CD, free Wi-Fi, workstations with internet access and Microsoft Office.  And people to help answer your questions (because Google and Siri just haven’t mastered the personal touch).
• Looking for something to read, but the library is closed?  You can download hundreds of magazines for free from our Zinio magazine collection.  Just a small sample of available titles:  Car and Driver, Rolling Stone, Knitters Magazine, Harvard Business Review, The Walrus, Shape, Us Weekly, Wood Magazine and many, many more.  Click on the ‘Zinio for Libraries’ icon on our homepage (www.orl.bc.ca), and start your own personal collection.
• If you’re having problems downloading eBooks or audiobooks to your eReader or tablet, you can make an appointment with myself or Alice, and we can show you the process from start to finish.  Just phone the library at 250-832-6161 or email us at salmonarm@orl.bc.ca
• Many of you audiobook-philes have probably discovered our collection of OverDrive downloadable audiobooks, but don’t forget our OneClick collection, which includes a number of Canadian titles
• Are you looking after kids yet in August, but have run out of reading ideas for them?  If you’re looking for advice, just head to the ‘Custom Booklist’ link on our website.  One of our librarians will create a booklist of 5 children or young adult titles
• Do you need to scan and email a document?  Our photocopier can scan and email a PDF copy of any document you need to send
• Did you know that we have books in other languages?  Our collection includes books in French, Chinese, Dutch, German, Japanese, Punjabi and Spanish.  We just got a brand new batch of books in Spanish.

Roots and Blues

If you’re going to Roots and Blues, and want to preview some of the performers, dig into our deep CD collection.  We have a wide range of titles, from headliners such as The Sheepdogs and Ian Tyson to emerging talents like Shad and MonkeyJunk.

Staff Picks

Ardie, our Youth Services Librarian, recommends Glimpse: The Dean Curse Chronicles by Steven Whibley, a Canadian author whose style is reminiscent of Gordon Korman and Sigmund Brouwer.    This is a thriller for ages 9-12 about, as the author describes “24 hours to save a life”.

And In Other Library News

• Saturday Afternoon Book Club:  Join Alice on Saturday, August 23 to discuss The Golden Spruce:  A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed by John Vaillant, which won the 2005 Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction.  Check out our branch webpage for upcoming book club titles (http://www.orl.bc.ca/branches/salmon-arm)
• We will be launching a new version of our catalogue and website in early October.  If you have been using the Enhanced Catalogue, the new catalogue will be quite similar in look and feel. 

Column by James Laitinen, new Head Librarian for the Salmon Arm Branch
This column was first published in the FRIDAY AM Paper

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book Review: Force of Nature by C.J. Box


Force of Nature (2012) by American crime writer C.J. Box is an “exquisitely designed, six-act mystery” according to a Library Journal review, that uses falconry for its central metaphor without ever losing the necessary drive to make this a riveting read. In other words, it works on more than one level, a common attribute of great art.

  This is the author’s 12th Joe Pickett novel and focuses on Joe’s outlaw friend, Nate Romanowski. Nate hides from his enemies in the foothills of Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains, where he raises and flies his falcons, except when he helps game warden Joe on cases. But he realizes his former sociopath Special Forces commander is hunting him down and systematically killing all his known associates. Joe and his family are on the list and it forces him to consider how far he can go to help his friend Nate.

 The struggle between loyalty and law is not a new theme for the author. It infuses the entire Joe Pickett series, a work primarily set in the wilds of Wyoming far from the legal support systems found in big cities. This exploration of the theme is notably impressive in this superb entry.

Review by Peter Critchley of the Vernon Branch

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Review: Original Sin by P.D. James


British author P.D. James, critically acclaimed by such literary journals as the Times Literary Supplement and Literary Review, is another writer whose finest work transcends the mystery genre. Original Sin (1994), featuring New Scotland Yard Commander Adam Dalgliesh, is set in the modern publishing world and showcases the author’s uncanny penetration into even the most minor of characters. The characters live on the page with a fierce intensity, even deeper than the mystery at Innocent House occupied by the venerable publishing firm of Peverell Press.

 The directors of the firm believe the suicide of senior editor Sonia Clements in the archive room of Innocent House is the last and most shocking episode in a series of disruptions to their business. But their troubles have barely begun as they learn when they open the door to discover the body of managing director Gerard Etienne dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, with his dead jaws open and the head of a stuffed snake stuck inside. Commander Dalgliesh is assigned to investigate and ferret out motives and opportunity that lead to a hair-raising resolution.

Review by Peter Critchley of the Vernon Branch

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Review: Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke


The best work of James Lee Burke, an American author who grew up in Louisiana, probably justifies the belief of the Denver Post that he is “America’s best novelist” working today. A great example is the Tin Roof Blowdown (2008), a novel that is meticulously textured and as vibrant and vital as the thick, green stands of fern and white and purple irises of the Louisiana swamps and bayous.

 This is the 16th novel in the author’s award-winning Dave Robicheaux series, a tale of sin and redemption set in the nightmare world of Hurricane Katrina. It just might be the most complete work he’s ever written. When Detective Robicheaux’s department is assigned to investigate the shooting of two looters in a wealthy neighborhood, he learns they ransacked the home of New Orleans’s most powerful and ruthless mobster. Now he must find the surviving looter before others do and in the process learn the fate of a priest who disappeared in the ill-fated ninth ward trying to rescue his trapped parishioners.

  The author’s luxuriant prose draws the reader into a swamp of greed and violence. Grace and perdition touch each of the characters and the final outcome of the struggles they face is never quite certain, much like what occurred in the aftermath of Katrina. Mr. Burke often uses Louisiana more as a character than a setting in the Robicheaux novels and this time the approach works wonderfully to convey the true horrors and add another dimension to the tale.

Review by Peter Critchley from the Vernon Branch

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Book Review: Starting Now by Debbie Macomber


       Last week I was spending some time checking up on my favorite authors looking for any new titles that may have snuck through and been published without my noticing… and I found a title by Debbie Macomber called “Starting Now” that had been published back in April of 2013. To my delight I had not in fact read it (I am very paranoid about this right now…) and began picking it up to read a couple of pages whenever I had a few minutes.

         The story focuses on a woman who has spent her life trying to attain a partnership in a law firm and who suddenly finds herself unemployed, packing on some excess poundage, and in serious need of a lifestyle re-evaluation. As she begins to navigate this new life without the debilitating demands of her career; she learns what truly gives her life meaning and joy. It is by no means a truly enlightening novel (the messages in the story are important but predictable) but the characters and storylines are enjoyable. It is a perfect “weekend-away” or “beach-read.” For those who are familiar with this author- it is a part of the “Blossom Street” series.

         So if you are looking for a nice and gentle story that you can pick up and read quickly, or one you want to savour slowly over a week or two- this might be one to try. Copies are available at the library and I am quite certain you can find it for your e-reader/e-device, or at a local book store. It is not necessary to have read any of the other titles in the series- but if you enjoy it there are several others you can try!


Book Review by Diana McCarthy, Community Librarian for Falkland

Friday, July 4, 2014

Beware of Summer Brain Drain!

Assistant Community Librarian Raphael Desjarlais.
     Raphael not only works at the Westbank and Mission branches of the Okanagan Regional Library, but she is also the School Librarian at Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School in West Kelowna; consequently, Raphael is a great person to ask about book recommendations for school-age kids!
     Raphael and her family have lived in the Lakeview area of West Kelowna for the past 17 years.

Beware, Summer Brain Drain!
     A disturbing but well documented fact is that children’s academic performance declines by approximately one month during the summer. This loss, called Summer Slide, or Summer Learning Loss, or Brain Drain, is cumulative over time. Children who do not read during the summer can have their reading skills slip entire grade levels during the course of their elementary years.
     Children often stop learning in the summer and instead focus on indoor activities that are sedentary and involve electronic devices like video games, television and social media sites. Research shows that if they participate in summer reading programs they can actually make academic gains over the summer. In order to stem academic decline children need to be exposed to high-quality summer learning opportunities. The catch is, where to find these opportunities?
     One easy, free method is to simply visit the library. We offer a variety of programs, materials and electronic resources that expose children to learning and cultural experiences. The Westbank Library‘s Summer Reading Club offers weekly reading activities and cultural programs including a magic show, clown, drawing class, puppet show and balloon art. There are also weekly contests with prizes.
     Every study recommends taking children to the library to stem reading loss, so please visit the Westbank branch either in person or online this summer!

Series Recommendations for Summer Reading:

Kung Pow Chicken by Cyndi Marko
This series is an early chapter book for children who have just become independent readers. Low vocabulary but high interest content with illustrations on every page.

Bad Kitty by Nick Burel
Again a high interest, low vocabulary book with lots of illustrations. Appealing to both boys and girls this book is for emergent readers that can decode information from illustrations and contextual clues.

Nancy Clancy by Jane O’Connor
Transitioning from picture books to chapter books, the Fancy Nancy character with her excellent vocabulary now includes educational themes in her story lines.

Land of Stories Series by Chris Colfer
Aimed at pre-teens and written by “Glee” actor Chris Colfer this series is an entertaining and imaginative story of kids in a fairy tale world. Even though some of the books reviews have been critical of Colfer’s writing, I have not found a child who did not enjoy the book.

Did You Know?
The Okanagan Regional Library’s website features educational databases as well as an online catalogue where children can browse for library material. One recommended database is TumbleBook Library for Kids. TumbleBooks is an online, multilingual tool that allows children to read electronically. The site offers story books, chapter books, math stories, puzzles, educational games and a library of animated books that is an excellent tool for emergent or beginner readers. Access this database free with your Library card!


Elena Dobel is the Branch Head for the Westbank Branch of the Okanagan Regional Library. Her columns run monthly in the Westside Weekly newspaper.