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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book Review: Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson

Battle Cry of Freedom (1988) by James M. McPherson is an indispensable modern interpretation of
the American Civil War by one of its leading historians. In fact, this volume is now considered the standard one-volume history of the great conflict – a war that killed more Americans than all of the country’s wars combined. It is also considered the most readable one-volume history. The author deftly melds the latest research with a traditional understanding of the issues to produce an incredibly concise and brisk narrative that seamlessly integrates the political, social and military events of two decades that began with the outbreak of one war with Mexico and the ending of another at Appomattox. 

This dramatic, thoroughly researched work vividly recounts the momentous events that preceded the Civil War – the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry – and shifts into a stunning chronicle of the war itself. The battles, strategic maneuvering, politics and personalities serve as a framework for an insightful discussion of the political, economic, social and diplomatic events. And MacPherson’s innovative views on such fundamental questions as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession and anti-war opposition in both the North and South are more than noteworthy and deserve the full attention of the reader.
Review by Peter Critchley from the Vernon Branch

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Get Ready for Back to School!

     With summer vacation coming to an end, it’s time to get ready for school!
     To prepare preschool children for Kindergarten, we recommend two great picture books:  Pete The Cat: The Wheels on the Bus by James Dean; and The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School by Deborah Diesen in which Mr. Fish tells about his challenging , but fun first day of school.
     If you love playing video games, you should login to The Nerdy Dozen by Jeff Miller. Neil Andertol and his video game buddies are recruited by the Air Force, after hacking into a classified military training program.
     Unexpected and dire consequences result when best friends Matt and Craz’s cartoons become real on a weird web site at Kilgore Junior High!  Draw your own conclusions in The Awesome, Almost 100% True Adventures of Matt & Craz written by Alan Silberberg.
     Once homework starts, you will be checking out the library, so read The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand by Jan Swann Downey.  Accidentally opening a portal to Petrarch’s Library, Dorrie and her brother Marcus uncover warrior librarians, who travel in time, protecting the world’s great thinkers from torture and death for sharing knowledge and ideas.
     A graduation day of another type awaits teen readers in Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau, in which the United Commonwealth wants to stop the rebel alliance fighting to destroy The Testing for Good.  Find out if Cia is ready to lead the chase, with her classmates following her into battle. 
     Every teen needs school spirit, but when fifteen-year old Izzy, whose ancestors were monster hunters, investigates hauntings in his new high school, he gets an icy reception!  Ghosts wreak havoc in School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins.
    School stories of all sorts are available at your local library.  Check out our website at www.orl.bc.ca  or ask a librarian for books, programs and more!

Written by Linda Youmans, Youth Collections/System Librarian, Okanagan Regional Library

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