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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: Switched by Amanda Hocking

               A few months back while I was searching for some books to interest my special niece; I came across an interesting young adult series written by a woman named Amanda Hocking. After reading an excerpt from it I decided that it was something also worth exploring for myself. The author began her writing career without a major publisher; instead publishing her books herself electronically and after 2 million dollars in sales (which is completely unheard of for those following this path) she did finally land a publishing deal with St. Martin’s. The author has currently written over a dozen titles and many of which may well be of interest to some young (or young at heart) readers in your life.

               The title that I have just finished was called: Switched. It starts with the main character, a 17 year old Wendy Everly, recounting her particularly unpleasant and life-changing 6th birthday party. As the novel unfolds you begin to understand more about this particular event and the motivating forces behind it. You will get sucked into a world of mythical creatures and hidden cities; forbidden love and prophecy. The story is well-crafted and filled with unexpected situations and twists. It is the first in a Troll-ogy (trilogy about trolls) and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for something that will definitely entertain. Books are always a great Christmas gift…but if you want to try-before-you-buy; don’t forget to borrow a copy from the local library!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Scary Story Competition Winners!

Thanks to everyone who submitted scary stories to the Kelowna Branch Scary Story Competition!
Here are your winners!

PS - they are pretty scary, so please read them first before showing younger children!

Bloodied Rooms by Chelsea, Grade 6 at Bankhead Elementary

Blood is everywhere, there is no escape. Blood is dripping from the walls and trickling through the air vents. It’s flowing in from under the doors. The doors locked from the outside. No escape. The blood is up to my shoulders now. I close my eyes and sink under to drown myself. I wake up in cold sweat. Where am I? I look around for clues. Blood is on the walls, on the floor and on me. I find a sharp, bloodied knife lying beside me. I look around more and find a mutilated body on the ground. I examine it further and it slowly realise that it’s the body of my son. What happened? I follow the trail of blood to my bedroom, odd. I find my soon-to-be husband isn’t there and the blood trails to the closet. I slowly open the closet and I find a small handheld mirror. I look at the reflection and I see a monster with eyes oozing a black goop out of its eyes and covered in fresh blood. This has to be a bad dream. I try to wake myself up but when I open my eyes I’m still there. I glance back into the mirror to look behind me and the monster is gone. I shake my head; it must have been a hallucination. I am a little dehydrated and who knows how long I was on the floor. I turn around to continue searching but then I see him across the hall “Jake!” I yelled to him “I’m so happy to see you! I was afraid something bad happened to you!” I run up to him but he screams and runs as fast as he could away “Jake?” I felt tears sting my eyes. Why was he afraid of me? I look back into the mirror to try to see if I looked different. I shriek and throw the mirror down. In the mirror I saw why he was so afraid of me; I was the monster. I try desperately to remember what happened last night but the only thing I remember was the nightmare. Kill. Kill. Blood shall flow. The voices had repeated that over and over as the room filled up. The voices had started up again and whispered in my ears. Wouldn’t it be nice to just give in? Just kill him so he can never run away from you no matter what! Just think about the warm blood, so comforting, so soothing. They got more and more convincing until I just gave in. I ran down the stairs, no longer in control of myself, and I sunk my nails into him. I hit, scratched and stabbed him until he was completely limp. I was afraid of how much I enjoyed it but now I am not. No one can stop me. I had always loved to travel. Who knows? I could be watching you from nearby. You look awfully lonely, mind if I join you?   

The Provider by Becky, Grade 10 at Kelowna Secondary
The Provider is here. I think it’s around food time. I hope The Provider has meat for me, meat is always warm. The Boy in the Corner reminds me that not all meat is warm, sometimes it’s cold. The provider is here, he has food. I know that the provider is a he because he has short hair, just like The Boy in the Corner. I have long hair, like Rapunzel, so I’m a she. The food that The Provider has is not meat. That’s too bad, but it’s still food. He is a good provider.
The Provider is not here today. I hear lots of sounds coming from the up-the-stairs. Sometimes this happens. The Provider says when other hes and shes come to his living space he has to pay attention to them. The Boy in the Corner asked me to read to him, he picked The Snow Queen. He sits with me on my mattress. The Provider gave me it last week as a gift. It’s a lot more comfy than the ground. I hear banging and a scream. I hope that I get meat tomorrow.
The Provider has meat for me today! It’s always the best when it’s red and drippy. After food he plays a game with me. He hides the bones from the meat and I try to find them. If I can’t he wins. He always wins. The Provider also braided my hair. The Boy in the Corner was making faces and made me giggle. The Provider asked what was funny. I stopped giggling. He gets angry whenever I talk about The Boy in the Corner. He says he doesn’t exist.
The Provider didn’t come today. But I don’t hear any sounds. I’m sure The Provider is ok. The Provider is always ok. The Boy in the Corner is saying rude things about The Provider. I curl up on the mattress and pretend that I don’t hear him. The Provider would never forget about me. The door opens but The Provider doesn’t step through. Only a bag full of leftovers gets through before the door to the up-the-stairs shuts.
The Provider hasn’t come down in a while. I’m very hungry. The Boy in the Corner says that I’ll be like him soon if The Provider doesn’t come down. I’m scared. The Boy in the Corner says not to be, that it’ll be ok in the end. I’ve been reading to him lots. I wish he could read to me. Or braid my hair like The Provider used to. I miss The Provider, I hope he’s ok.
There are lots of sounds coming from the up-the-stairs today. The Boy in the corner looks scared, he’s never scared. The door opens and The Provider comes down very fast. Then the door shuts. I move over to The Provider but he doesn’t react. The Boy in the Corner says it is food time. That this is the only way The Provider could provide for me. My stomach rumbles and I take the first bite. He is a good provider.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Review: First Love by James Patterson & Emily Raymond

            This month I have something a bit different to recommend; a Young Adult novel written by James Patterson and Emily Raymond: First Love.

            This title was published earlier this year and tells the story of two teenagers who embark on an amazing journey of discovery. Axi is a sixteen year old girl who has suffered much through her life: a younger sister who died of a cancer that she herself is battling, a mother who chose to leave her family after the sister’s death and Axi’s diagnosis, and a father who is slowly drinking away his sorrows. Axi was always the good-girl; predictable, responsible, and eager to please others…until one day she decides it is time to break free of her good-girl ways and drag her best friend Robinson off on an adventure across the United States. Robinson’s good humour, bad-boy ways, and incredible magnetism helps Axi break free from her fears and find the courage to ask for what she wants most in the world.

            I would recommend this title to teens (or adults) who have enjoyed stories written by author Lurlene McDaniel, Jodi Picoult, or even Nicholas Sparks. The storyline is perhaps a bit predictable, but it cleverly mirrors the main theme of the book: It really is about the journey- not the destination!

            So grab some ice cream or chocolate (or whatever your go-to comfort food of choice may be,) and sit down for a few minutes with this title. I don’t think you will be able to put it down for very long! The library has many copies of this book available and it is also available as an eBook.
Review by Diana McCarthy, community librarian in Falkland

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

        I am happy to report that I have just finished reading Diana Gabaldon’s eighth title in the Outlander Series: “ Written in my own Heart’s Blood.” This title takes place directly after book seven and features more of the characters, adventures, joys, and sorrows dedicated readers of this series love. But for those who aren’t interested in this series, or haven’t yet caught the reading bug for these stories; I would like to introduce you to something a little bit different.
         “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (also available as an ebook) was published back in 2011 by Ransom Riggs (this being his first novel) and is considered to be a children’s chapter book. I read this title last year and was thoroughly impressed with the storyline, themes, and characters. I see that Tim Burton is working on a movie version of this story set to be released sometime next year…and that a sequel to this story was published this past January.
         The main character, Jacob Portman, witnesses his tall-tale-telling grandfather’s death at the hands of a hideous monster that apparently only Jacob can see. Shortly after, Jacob travels with his father to a small island near Wales which is near the orphanage that his grandfather had lived in for a time when he was a child. Jacob sets out to explore the remains of the old orphanage but instead encounters far more than he could ever have imagined. (The plot is rather twisty and complex so I won’t explain it all and ruin the magic for you!)
         If you like adventure stories with a bit of “spooky” this would be a great choice. I would recommend this title to adults, young adults, and kids alike (though some younger kids might find the book a bit disturbing…but with some parental discussion they should manage just fine!) If you want to beat the rush that will likely happen when trailers for the movie start coming out; pick up a copy today! The library or a good bookstore should be able to provide you with a copy of this amazing story.

Book Review by Diana McCarthy, Community Librarian in Falkland

Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: The Black Count by Tom Reiss

The Black Count (2012) by Tom Reiss tells the extraordinary true story of General Alex Dumas, the
forgotten hero who inspired such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. The man is virtually unknown today but his story still resonates because his son Alexandre Dumas used it to create some of the best-loved heroes of literature. The story of his father, of mixed racial and cultural heritage born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) to a slave mother and a French nobleman father, is almost completely lost to history solely due to his race.

 But Reiss brings this remarkable man to life in The Black Count. The book is brilliantly researched and the author draws on the material Alexandre Dumas incorporated into his own novels and memoir. The work explores the life of his from the time he arrived in France, through his schooling as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy and his subsequent rise from a lowly private in the dragoons to a respected general who marched into Egypt at Napoleon’s side.

 Dumas came of age at a unique time in history during the French Revolution, a brief period of equality in the French empire. During this period numerous opportunities arose for the son of a slave that would not have emerged 20 years before or even 20 years later. Dumas, a dynamic individual of tremendous courage and physical gifts, took full advantage of the opportunities and ended up commanding armies at the height of the Revolution in campaigns across Europe and the Middle East, only to one day face an implacable enemy he could not defeat. 
Also available as an audiobook.

Review by Peter Critchley of the Vernon Branch

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Book Review: The 900 Days by Harrison Salisbury

A great American author once wrote that truth is stranger than fiction. In fact, truth is sometimes far stranger than any fiction ever created. 

If you dare, read The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad, is a riveting narrative nonfiction epic by Harrison E. Salisbury about one of the harrowing and heroic chapters in the annals of history. In nine hundred days, beginning in 1941 when a German army blockaded the city, as many people died in Leningrad as the entire war losses suffered by the United States in the whole of its history – nearly a million and a half men, women and children. They died fighting in citizen militias on the front line, fell to the incessant German shelling that pounded the streets and avenues of city, starved in their unheated apartments and hospitals and froze to death in the frigid cold and deep snow of the brutal Russian winter.
It is also believed that some even died to feed a thriving market in human flesh that sprang up in The Haymarket, a great peasant market before the war but now operated by fat, oily, steel-eyed men and women, the most terrible people of their day. There is no question people practiced cannibalism on a large scale during the darkest and most desperate months of the siege: the evidence clearly shows that people butchered corpses on a widespread basis.

More people died in the Leningrad blockade than ever died in a modern city – anywhere and anytime. But 600,000 people remained when the Russians finally broke the siege and Salisbury weaves the stories of these survivors, and those who died in this city of ice and death, through the fabric of this searing narrative.
Review by Peter Critchley from the Vernon Branch of the ORL

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Importance of Early Literacy

Storytimes resume in September, so this seems like a good time to talk about the importance of early literacy.

Early literacy is defined as the pre-reading skills children acquire from ages 0-5, which help them prepare for and succeed in school.

Children are born with 100 billion brain cells, the same number as adults, and 85% of those cells are developed before kindergarten.  Brain researchers liken brain development to building a house, and the first three years are vital to building a strong foundation and framework. The bonds a child forms in his early years are crucial to future learning and success. Parents are children’s first teachers, so at the Library we work to educate parents on the importance of shared reading and learning experiences. The Library’s programs and collections emphasize the five early literacy practices, as outlined in the American Library Association’s “Every Child Ready to Read” program: Sing, Talk, Read, Write and Play.

Singing (which includes nursery rhymes) increases children’s awareness of and sensitivity to the sounds of words. It doesn’t matter if you are a “good singer” – children will respond to your voice before all others. Have fun with silly songs and bounces, or soothe children with lullabies and gentle swings. The Library has a great collection of children’s music CDs and nursery rhyme books.

Talking with children helps them build their vocabulary and learn oral language. Self-expression and narrative skills are crucial to communication and developing interpersonal relationships. Talk to your child about your day together, ask them questions, and narrate your activities (e.g.: “Now we are putting on our shoes, so we can go and play at the park”). The Library is a great place for your child to interact with others his or her own age!

Reading together, or shared reading, remains the single most effective way to help children become proficient readers. Expose children to a variety of books and authors – your library card allows you to borrow up to 100 items for 3 weeks at a time, so borrow away! Our board book collection is intended for our youngest readers – the thick cardboard, laminated pages stand up to exploring hands (and teeth!). Let your child practice turning the pages, point out pictures together…let your child have fun with books. It’s also great to be a reader role model – if your child sees you enjoying books and newspapers, they will learn that reading is an enjoyable pastime.

Writing, scribbling and colouring all help children learn fine motor skills and learn that written words stand for spoken language. Pick up your weekly colouring sheet at the Library and help your child practice writing his or her name. Point to words when you read together. Use alphabet magnets to put together sounds and words on the fridge.

Playing helps children put thoughts into words and think symbolically, so they understand that spoken and written words represent real objects and experiences. Play develops their imagination, creativity and social skills. Children will often mimic real life situations (grocery store shopping or “playing library”), helping them make sense of their world.

Storytimes for babies through to preschoolers are held at branches across the region!
Details about these programs, and others, can be found on our website:
Have fun visiting the Library and exploring these early literacy practices with your child.


Written by Elena Doebele, Head Librarian for Westbank Branch

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  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 (, 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
• 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 (
• 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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Science Fiction Book Talk!

     The genesis of science fiction can be traced directly to the publication of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley more than two centuries ago. It grew so popular in the decades that followed to where today the genre  greatly influences modern popular culture through movies, television, books and a myriad of computer games.
     It is not every reader’s cup of tea but some science fiction authors are terrific storytellers and their work is easily accessible to readers of other genres, especially when time travel is used as a device to drive the story. Everyone can identify with the thought of travelling time.
      Blackout and All Clear (2010), a stunning two-volume work, clearly illustrates multiple prize-winning author Connie Willis well deserves the critical acclaim she’s earned as an incomparable storyteller. The first novel in the series is an enormously entertaining tale of time travel, war and the deeds—great and small—of the ordinary people who shape history.
     Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-travelling historians being sent into the past. Michael Davies is preparing to go to Pearl Harbor, Merope Ward is struggling with a group of bratty 1940s evacuees and Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. But the time-travel lab is now cancelling assignments for no apparent reason and switching everyone’s schedules.
     When Michael, Merope and Polly finally travel to World War II it only grows worse. They face blackouts, unexploded bombs, dive-bombing Stukas, rationing, shrapnel, V-1s and two of the most incorrigible children in all of history, to say nothing of a growing unease that not only are their assignments but the war and history itself are spinning out of control. The once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches and the three heroes begin to question their most firmly held belief that no historian can possibly change the past.
     Blackout and All Clear reveal a side of World War II seldom seen before: a dangerous desperate world where there are no civilians and everybody, from the Queen to the lowliest barmaid, is determined to do what they can to help a beleaguered nation survive.
     The Map of Time (2011) by renowned Spanish author Felix Palma is a riveting thriller that explores the impact of time travel in three intersecting narratives. The opening chapter of the story, set in 1896 England, starts out like a tragic Victorian romance. Andrew Harrington plans to take his own life, despondent over the death years earlier of his lover, the last victim of Jack the Ripper. Meanwhile, 21-year-old Claire Haggerty plots to escape her restrictive role by escaping to the future via Murray’s Time Travel, a new commercial concern that offers such a trip for a hefty fee.
     Finally, Colin Garrett of Scotland Yard believes a weapon from the future could only have caused a fatal wound on a murder victim. H.G. Wells, the author of The Time Machine, becomes involved and serves to link all three stories. The Map of Time is a wonderful blend of genres, including science fiction, steampunk, mystery and romance, and will appeal to a wide range of readers even if they seldom read science fiction.
    The Accidental Time Machine (2007) by Joe W. Haldeman is an unusually insightful and evocative tale that shines. Matt Fuller, a likeable underachiever stuck in a rut as a lab research assistant at MIT in the near future, is startled when a calibrator he has built begins to disappear and reappear, apparently springing forward in time for progressively longer intervals. The young research assistant eventually develops a time machine but when he claims to have done so it costs him his job, girlfriend and possibly his freedom.
     A keen curiosity and a series of unfortunate accidents hurtles Matt through different futures and he gradually becomes more adaptable and resourceful as the experiences hone his character. The young woman he rescues from a techno-religious dictatorship offers him a chance to develop a mature relationship. He also teams up with an AI that intends to press on to the end of time and this forces Matt to decide what he truly wants from life.
     The Accidental Time Machine is a brisk cautionary fable that ultimately spins a humorous, provocative tale that in tone is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys, another bewitching tale. It is also easily accessible and well worth the effort.

Reviews by Peter Critchley from the Vernon Branch

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Reading Club Kicks Off With a Lot of Funny Business!

Branches throughout the Okanagan Regional Library district are now taking registration for the 2014 Summer Reading Club!

No need for kids to be bored this summer. There will be a lot of funny business going on this summer for kids aged 5 to 12. Best of all – it’s free!

Registration in the ORL Summer Reading Club includes an awesome reading log, chances to win great prizes, lots of special events including magician Leif David, and great programs in the library to help your kids enjoy the world of reading. The theme for this year’s Summer Reading Club is “Funny Business” and our librarians have developed a summer full of opportunities for your kids to laugh out loud. Find out more information about Summer Reading Club here, and discover the details in your area here.

Travelling around a bit this summer? Kids are welcome to drop in at any branch of the ORL to take out books, get stickers on their reading logs and participate in the special events. Please note that some events require preregistration because of space restraints. Please call the branch to preregister your child

Some branches are also offering teen reading clubs and preschool storytimes – check out your branch page for more information.

We hope your kids have a lot of fun at the library this summer!

Monday, June 16, 2014

2014 Summer Reading Club Community Story Award Winner

All Summer by Beverley Rintoul from Rossland Public Library

"All summer we had a delightful 8 year-old boy attend the Summer  Reading Club. He came every time, took part in everything, helped  with clean-up and almost cried when told our student was going back  to university.

However, he struggled to read. We spent time finding books that were interesting but not difficult to read. And still he struggled.

Last week I ran into his mum and we talked about what fun he'd had. She said she was frustrated by the lack of improvement in his  reading until the day before, when suddenly, out of a clear blue sky, he read recipe instructions to his dad without stumbling or stopping to sound out words.

She believes it was because we spent the time, making him believe that there were books out there for him."
What's your Summer Reading Club story? Has your child or someone you know been positively impacted by the program? Let us know in the comments section!
For more information about the Summer Reading Club and fun programs happening through the Okanagan Regional Library system please click here.


Friday, June 13, 2014

National Aboriginal Day Book Recommendations

Saturday, June 21 is National Aboriginal Day, so this month I thought I would recommend some great local First Nations authors that I’ve enjoyed reading recently:

I See Me by Margaret Manuel

This baby book is filled with images of baby eating, sleeping and playing. Little ones love to see pictures of other babies! A PDF file of all the words in Okanagan (Sylix) is also available for download at Theytus Books ( Margaret Manuel was born in Kamloops, raised in Merritt, and is of Okanagan and Shuswap heritage.

Dancing with the Cranes by Jeannette Armstrong

This is a gentle story for families about love, loss and the circle of life. Chi’s momma is expecting a baby, but Chi is having a hard time being happy about it. Chi misses Temma (her grandma), who has passed away. Chi’s momma and daddy help Chi understand life and death as part of nature. Armstrong’s language evokes beautiful imagery and, as a nature lover myself, I loved the descriptions of the cranes’ migration. Jeannette Armstrong is from the Okanagan Nation and was born and raised on the Penticton Reserve. We have many of her books at the Library, including Slash, which is recognized as an important work of literature and studied in high schools, colleges and universities. Illustrator Ron Hall is an Aboriginal artist of Okanagan and Thompson ancestry and is a member of the Osoyoos Band.

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

I loved this novel, a Canada Reads selection in 2013. Saul Indian Horse is dying in a hospice. He looks back on his life as a northern Ojibway, when as a young boy he was taken forcibly from the land and his family and sent to a residential school. Salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement. Although from the Ojibway Wabasseemoong First Nation in northwestern Ontario, Wagamese now lives, writes and teaches in Kamloops. His newest book, Medicine Walk, was just released in April 2014 and you can find copies of it on the Library’s Quick Reads (7 day loan) shelf! 

Nature Power: In the Spirit of an Okanagan Storyteller by Harry Robinson; compiled & edited by Wendy Wickwire

This second edition features stories of the shoo-MISH, or “nature helpers" that assist humans and sometimes provide them with special powers. The concept of nature power is central to most Native cultures and is based on the understanding that a form of spiritual energy animates all things in the natural world. Robinson’s short stories capture the oral storytelling tradition. One of my favourite stories, “You Can’t See Me, But Just Listen,” tells of a man who goes hunting and hears a voice predicting future development. Robinson was a highly respected Okanagan elder who spent his life in the Similkameen Valley. He was one of the Okanagan people’s greatest storytellers.

Stories from Westbank First Nation Women and More Stories from Westbank First Nation Women
These DVDs, produced by Rick Sagayadan in cooperation with BC Museums Association, look at the role of Aboriginal women, whose voices are often under-represented. The first DVD includes a tribute to the late elder, Lala San Pierre, for her contributions to the preservation of cultural and traditional practices, especially through oral storytelling.

Part two celebrates the strength and fortitude of four generations of First Nation women, many of whom have faced the challenges of raising families while trying to make a living under extreme circumstances. Both films emphasize the vital role indigenous women play in maintaining cultural and traditional practices within their communities.

Be sure to ask at the Library for other recommended reads by local First Nations authors!
Check out these booklists on the ORL Catalogue for more recommendations:
        ORL Reads - Okanagan First Nation history, stories & legends
        ORL Reads - Kids - First Nations Books
Learn more about National Aboriginal Day here.

Recommendations by Elena Doebelle, Librarian at Westbank Branch

Monday, June 9, 2014

Book Review: The Imposter Bride

  Another talented Richler has emerged on the Canadian literature scene. Mordecai Richler's second cousin, Nancy Richler, has set her third novel,    The Imposter Bride (2012) in post WWII Jewish Montreal.

     The stories of the two central characters, Lily Kramer (the bride of the book's title) & her daughter, Ruth, are told in alternating chapters. Lily Azerov, a Holocaust survivor, arrives in Montreal in 1946 from Poland, under a false name for an arranged marriage, only to be rejected immediately by her intended groom, but accepted by one of his brothers instead. This actually happened to Richler's paternal grandmother.

     Richler has drawn on her own experiences of growing up in postwar Jewish Montreal, a community where loss & dislocation lay at the core of so many people’s lives. The women at the heart of this narrative are grandmothers, mothers, wives & daughters, each one of them harbouring personal grievances, grief, pain & passion, all connected by the enigmatic Lily. In many ways this is a mystery novel; the question of who Ruth’s mother actually is propels the narrative, as pieces of her story are slowly revealed, leaving the reader hanging until near the end. I do not want to give too much of the plot away. The question of identity lies at the heart of this novel: Ruth delves into the past, her own & her mother's, to salvage & make sense of her own fragile identity.

     This novel is both heartrending & hopeful. As author Ellen Feldman states: “Nancy Richler dissects the mysteries of family bonds and betrayals with stunning emotional precision and magical insights into the human heart’s ability to heal.”

 Diana Inselberg is a retired librarian and resident of Enderby.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Book Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

     Recently I picked up a copy of the title “Still Missing” by Chevy Stevens. I had read the synopsis for this story online and immediately placed a request for this title to come in for me at the library. When I opened the book and began reading I had a feeling that I had read something like it already...yeah, because I had already read this story a few years ago. So don't worry if this happens to you sometimes- I am 34 years old and this is certainly not the first time it has happened (nor will it be the last I'm sure.)

     I happily spent a few minutes skimming through the book, reliving the storyline, characters, and plot. I remembered too much of it to bother re-reading it, but enjoyed flipping through it and refreshing my memories. This story was recommended to me by one of my library customers (Thanks again) and I really liked it!
     Set in Vancouver Island (the author's stomping grounds) it tells the story of a female Realtor who is abducted and held for many months before managing to escape. The story focuses on this time in her life as well as how she handles her life after (with a few plot twists and turns to keep things interesting and exciting.) If you like a good thriller and don't mind some colourful language and descriptions of sexual abuse, this could be an enjoyable book for you.
     In many respects it reminded me a bit of “Room” by Emma Donoghue; but I found it to be a bit less “heady.” Chevy Stevens has several other books that I will be exploring in the coming months; including one due to come out on June 17th of this year called “That Night.” You can place your name on the request list now at the library – stop by the branch, give me a call, or give it a try online! At least we can all be confident that it will be one book we haven't already read!

Review by Diana McCarthy, Community Librarian, Falkland Branch


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Winners of Vernon Branch Writing Contest!

Congratulations to the winners of the Vernon Branch

Big Orange Tent and Creative Writing Contests!

Enjoy reading the submissions:

1st Place: Greyhound Valhalla by Tom Glenne
2nd Place: Coleman Lanterns and Radio Hockey by Ted Mellenthin
3rd Place: Becoming by Lisa Santos

Short Story
1st Place: Raspberry Pulp by Sharon McLean
2nd Place: Centurion Child by Matt Ingrouille  
3rd Place: Her Name is Hope by Eric Reimer

Kids Categories

Ages 6-8 category
1st place: Annie Hayhurst, age 6, author of Penguins.
2nd place: Ava Tepper, age 8 ,author of The orange tent.
3rd place: Lily Butler, age 7, artist of man-eating bunny.

Ages 9-11 category
1st place: Olive Butler, author of Big Orange Secret.
2nd place: Katelyn Kadach, author of littlest of the little people.
3rd place: Anastasia Wasylinko, author of Unbelievably Orange Adventure.

Ages 12-15 category
1st place: Christy Richards author of Weaver.
2nd place: Sarah Kadach author of orange tent robbery.
3rd place: Elizabeth Vargas author of Reminiscing of a 12 year old.

Thanks to the Vernon Friends of the Library for providing the prizes for this writing contest!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

     There has been a lot of buzz about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (2012).  Another first novel, this one's plot is unusual & unpredictable, but ultimately very captivating.
     Harold is a retired sales representative, married, & living a quiet, unfulfilled life in a small English town. He is an ordinary man, one who does not voice his feelings, who plods on whatever life throws his way. A letter from a former work colleague, telling him that she is dying, but wanting to say goodbye, sets the rest of the story in motion. Harold replies. When he goes out to post the letter at the mailbox at the end of the road, he unwittingly, (at first), starts a long journey by foot, without returning home. As the result of a chance encounter, he convinces himself that his 600 mile journey will help his old friend survive. He carries nothing, walking in “yachting” shoes. His journey becomes a pilgrimage, a tale about the journey being more important than the end itself. Along the way he ponders his life, his marriage, his relationship with his son, all of his past. He meets a wildly varied cast of characters who help him see his life in an entirely new light. His voice alternates in the novel with that of his wife, Maureen; we see her struggles as she also undergoes a transformation as the result of Harold's “unlikely pilgrimage”.
     It is a well written story about faith, persistence, hope, redemption, second chances, & opening oneself to the world. The Daily Mail (UK)'s reviewer said “It's a deceptively simple novel about the anguish of regret, the importance of faith, and the redemptive power of love...humorous, moving and of the best books you'll read this year”.
Do yourself a favour & take a walk with Harold.

Diana Inselberg is a retired librarian and resident of Enderby, who has worked at various Okanagan Regional Library branches.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book Review: I am Malala

A few weeks ago I forgot my E-reader at home and had to find a real, live, book to read on my break at work...yes, sadly I have become one of “those” people who regularly use (and really and truly adore) an electronic reading device. I went searching and came across a title that several people had recommended I read: “I am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb (published in 2013.)

What an amazing book! The story takes the reader to some of the small towns and villages of Pakistan; describing the history of the area and it's inhabitants while focusing on the time just before and after the 9-11 attacks in the United States. I was shocked to discover how little I really know about the people living in the Middle East during this time period. It was eye-opening for me to read about the things that they did not have access to, the money for, or even the right to ask for. The main character “Malala” is a young girl whose family longs for stability, peace, and a political climate that encourages education -especially that of females. The story describes their fear, their courage, and their tenacity as they strive to hold on to things that are slowly and methodically being stolen from them by or with complacency of those who should be protecting them.

This book served not only to highlight my ignorance of this part of the world and it's affairs; but made me grateful to live in a country where the concept of personal freedom may not be perfect- but it is a heck of a lot better than millions of others experience! I would recommend this title to anyone who is experiencing good mental health and a desire to become more globally aware. The library has copies available and I suspect you can find this title at practically any store that sells is an excellent read, but it's not for those who can't stand a little sadness in their stories.

Diana McCarthy, Community Librarian, Falkland Branch

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Auto and Small Engine Repair at the Library: Great DIY Resources!

It’s the perfect season to do auto repairs and other tune-ups in preparation for the summer season and the ORL offers two great online resources for customers to explore: Auto Repair Reference Center & Small Engine Repair Reference Center.

Auto Repair Reference Center 

In the Auto Repair Reference Center, you can find coverage of more than 37,000 vehicles from 1954 to 2010. There are thousands of drawings, photographs, and wiring diagrams to guide you.

To find vehicle repair information, you can look by year, name of vehicle manufacturer and model of your vehicle. You can find such information as service bulletins and recalls, repair procedures and diagrams, specifications and more.

You can also find general car care tips, “Auto IQ” videos, and troubleshooting walkthroughs to help you learn about your car. These additional features are found in boxes lined along the bottom of the Center’s page.

Small Engine Repair Reference Center

The Small Engine Repair Reference Center provides detailed repair guides for both routine engine maintenance and for more extensive repairs for such things as motorcycles, lawnmowers and boat motors.

The repair information comes from hundreds of reference books and manuals, and many include photos and illustrations for step-by-step help.

You can easily explore the Center by category, where you can choose the type of engine you need information for, and select the brand, engine type and model numbers.


You can visit each of these Centers through the “View all Digital Resources” button found on the ORL homepage, . They can both be found under the ‘Automotive’ heading and can used at home or in the library, just sign in with your library card and PIN!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Book Review: The Light Between Oceans: Visually Stunning and Emotionally Harrowing

     The Light Between Oceans (2012), a first novel by Australian writer M.L. Stedman, has become a bestseller since its publication last year. Stedman is a lawyer who now lives in London, England.
     This novel is a visually stunning & emotionally harrowing love story with a moral dilemma at its centre. It is set initially on a fictional remote island off Australia in the years following WWI. A lighthouse keeper & his wife, Tom & Isabel, find a boat washed ashore after a storm, with a dead man & 2-month old infant in it. Isabel, childless, has had 2 miscarriages & has just buried a stillborn child. The rest of the novel deals with what happens after they decide to raise the child as their own, a decision which alters the course of their lives & affects the lives of many others. An emotionally complex story, you are made to feel the same inner conflict as Tom & Isabel. I guarantee you will have trouble putting it down.
     Stedman gives detailed descriptions of the inner workings of a lighthouse & what life in a remote lighthouse was like. But it is her creation of very difficult scenarios, with many grey areas, which make the novel so compelling & suspenseful until the end. To her credit, the author has resisted the temptation of resolving the story in an overly tidy fashion.  Every character has had to make tough choices.
     A great first novel & a great read. It is no surprise that Dreamworks motion picture studio is in the process acquiring the rights to the book.

Diana Inselberg is a retired librarian and resident of Enderby, who has worked at various Okanagan Regional Library branches.