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Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: The Doomsday Book

 The Doomsday Book (1992) by Connie Willis, a multiple Hugo-and-Nebula-award-winning author, is a storytelling triumph, a blend of classic science fiction and historical reconstruction. Kivrin, a history student at Oxford in 2048, travels back in time to a 14th century English village, at a time dangerously close to the onset of the Black Plague. When the technician responsible for the procedure falls prey to a 21st century epidemic, he accidentally sends Kivrin back not to 1320 but 1348—right into the path of the Black Death.   

Unaware of the error at first, Kivrin becomes deeply involved in the life of the family that takes her in. But she soon discovers the truth and confronts the horrible, unending suffering of the plague that would wipe out half the population of Europe. She also discovers she is trapped in time while her rescuers in 21st century Oxford battle their own deadly epidemic and try to reach her in time.

 Willis brilliantly weaves two storylines together as she depicts a pair of closely knit communities that face equally frightening and unknown enemies. The author uses the language of time travel and advanced technologies to speak of human concerns and finds parallels that transcend time in the hopes, struggles and fears of her modern and medieval characters.

Review by Peter Critchley, Vernon Branch

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Review: The Mountain of Gold - High-seas Adventure

The Mountain of Gold (2012) is the buoyant sequel to the first novel by J.D. Davies (Gentleman Captain) that continues the valiant antics of Matthew Quinton, a young captain in King Charles II’s royal navy in 1663. This grand adventure begins when a captured Muslim pirate, who turns out to be an Irish renegade, tells Quinton a preposterous tale about a mountain of gold in Africa. King Charles, blinded by greed, does not hang the pirate but orders Quinton, his ship and the Irishman on an inauspicious expedition to Dutch-held West Africa to find the treasure.

 Before setting sail, Quinton attempts to passionately dissuade his older brother from marrying a mysterious French vixen who may have murdered her previous husbands, a marriage arranged by the king. Once out to sea, the captain’s mission is anything but straightforward—his own brother-in-law warns him that his mission to Africa must not succeed--and the complicated expedition tests his crew and England’s reputation as a maritime power to the utmost.

 Davies, a noted historian on the 17-century British navy, vividly captures the romance of high-seas adventure as well as the era’s politics, battles and tactics that shape his intrepid sea captain.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Book Review: The Religion - A Swashbuckling Epic Set Adventure!

The Religion (2007) by Tim Willocks is a swashbuckling epic set adventure that plunges readers into another world and time, a compelling tale of romance, courage and religious conflict on the island of Malta during the 16th century. The epic story details the medieval exploits of Capt. Matthias Tannhauser, a Saxon soldier of fortune with carnal appetite and a droll irreverence, and his unlikely journey to help French countess Carla La Penautier rescue her illegitimate son now trapped in a fundamentalist bloodbath between Christian and Muslim on Malta, an island under one of the most bloody and spectacular sieges in military history.

 Mattias, Carla and their companions must not only confront the invading Ottoman empire but a rogue Roman Inquisitor who happens to be the father of Carla’s lost child. Mattias and Carla do not even know the name of the boy, taken from her at his birth twelve years ago.

 The Religion is an epic novel and the first book in an epic trilogy. It is like a panel in a Renaissance triptych and is a vivid depiction of a world on the cusp of modernity. But like all great tales the characters are richly drawn, even flawed, and this imparts a gripping quality to the epic that even transcends the plot.
by Peter Chritchley, Reference Librarian at the Vernon Branch

Friday, March 21, 2014

Go Buggy for Books at the Okanagan Regional Library!

Spring into action by reading some great nature books! 

Captain Bob keeps a watchful eye on bugs everywhere in “Bug Patrol” by Denise Dowling Mortensen.  To find out if butterflies taste with their feet – just read “How Does a Caterpillar Become aButterfly? And other Questions about – Butterflies” by Melissa Stewart.  Reciting a romantic insect poem, such as “Lovebug Alone” to your favorite bug buddy is possible if you check out “BugOff! Creepy, Crawly Poems” by Jane Yolen. An early reader Spring series has “Animals in Spring” by Martha E.H. Rustad as one of its titles!

Of course, with spring comes frogs and baseball!  Join the frog family when they wake up in the spring and decide to get the other hibernating animals up too in “999 Frogs Wake Up” by Ken Kimura. Tiny tike sports fans will enjoy “Goodnight Baseball” by Michael Dael for the perfect bedtime book! Beginning readers will love the illustrations in “Springtime inBugland!” by David A. Carter where all the Bugland critters celebrate spring. 

Perhaps you are going away for Spring Break. Books to bring would be:   Lulu and theDog From the Sea” by Hilary McKay, a chapter book;  Paper Crafts” by Gini Holland which features gift wrap origami paper lanterns; and “The Ultimate Book of Family Card Games” by Oliver Ho.

For older creepy crawly fans, read “The Worm Whisperer” by Betty Hicks.  You can cheer on Ellison Ellis Coffey, a fifth grader, who discovers that he has a special gift of talking to bugs, and decides to use his new-found skills to enter in the town’s annual Woolly Worm Race!  Many teens will enjoy Meg Cabot’s “The Princess Present”, while others will race to read “The ForbiddenStone” by Tony Abbott. So enjoy spring and go buggy over books!
by Linda Youmans, Youth Collections/System Librarian

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Review: The Secret River - Provocative and Illuminating

The Secret River (2006) by Orange Prize-winning author Kate Grenville is a provocative novel of the settlement of New South Wales by exiled British criminals. It is the illuminating story of husband, father and petty thief William Thornhill and the path he followed from the utter poverty of the slums of London to prison and finally freedom. When he sentenced to death for stealing some lumber his sentence of death is commuted to transportation to Australia with his pregnant wife, Sal, and a flock of children. 

Thornhill leads a life of convict servitude, the fate of all those transported to the new British colony, and gradually works his way through the penal system until he transforms himself into a trader on the Hawkesbury River. He regularly sails by an appealing piece of virgin soil and when he gains his freedom he and his family move onto the land, raise another rude hut and begin to cultivate corn.

But he soon realizes the British are not the first people to settle in New South Wales and he and his family forge a tenuous coexistence with a small band of Aborigines camping nearby. The uneasy relationship is shattered by violence by other settlers on the river and Thornhill is drawn into the storm against his will.
Review by Peter Critchley of the Vernon Branch

Friday, March 14, 2014

At the Library - Just in time for St. Patrick's Day!

At the Library

Westbank Library StaffWelcome to this new monthly column featuring reviews, news and book recommendations from the friendly staff at the Westbank Branch of the Okanagan Regional Library. Our first guest columnist is Sondra Scott-Neeson.

Sondra moved to Peachland nine years ago from Calgary where she worked for the Calgary Public Library for 14 years. She joined the Okanagan Regional Library eight years ago, taking a permanent position at the Westbank Branch in 2009.

In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, I’d like to talk about some of my favourite Irish authors.

I’m from a large Irish/Scottish family all in Eastern Canada. St. Patrick’s Day has always been a month-long celebration for our family culminating with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Montreal. I can’t begin to count the number of Irish coffees consumed!

I have always enjoyed reading novels set in Ireland, especially those by author Maeve Binchy. Maeve’s stories about everyday Irish life and people really transport you to that country. I’d particularly recommend Circle of Friends which takes place in the village of Knockglen. It tells of the sins and secrets behind the lace curtains of every villager who lives on Tara Road. The saga continues with other books that feature a cast of recurring characters. Maeve Binchy passed away in 2012 and her final book, A Week in Winter was published a month later. Maeve will be sadly missed by all her fans.

Another Irish author I recently discovered is Patrick Taylor. His Irish Country series is a great hit with readers all over the world. Patrick Taylor was born in 1941 in Northern Ireland and received his medical education there. He won many awards for research into infertility. Patrick Taylor immigrated to Canada in the 90s.  He was encouraged to write stories by his long-time friend, Kelowna writer Jack Whyte. Patrick Taylor now lives on Salt Spring Island.

If you like Maeve Binchy and Patrick Taylor I would also recommend the Virgin River series by Robyn Carr, the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton, and the Judge Deborah Knott series by Margaret Maron.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone and happy reading!

Sondra’s Irish Coffee Recipe
  • Fresh brewed coffee
  • 1-2 jiggers of Jameson Irish Whisky
  • sugar – optional
  • can of real whipped cream

Wet the rim of Irish coffee cup, dip in bowl of sugar to coat rim, add Jameson, coffee, and top with whipped cream.  Enjoy while singing When Irish Eyes are Smiling!

Did you know that the Library also subscribes to some excellent digital resources? For a traditional Irish stew recipe, check out Global Road Warrior. This database, accessed from the Okanagan Regional Library website, is a great way for travelers to learn about other countries. To visit Ireland on this database go to our website at Click on “Web Resources” and then “View all eResources from A to Z” and select “Global Road Warrior.” You will be asked to enter your library card number and 4 digit PIN. Search for Ireland and access the Country Overview, Photo Gallery, Recipes, Travel Essentials and more!


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Diana Gabaldon's Outlander Series - Put it on your "To Read" List!

This month I am looking back at a series that has been around for quite some time. It is a series that has been sitting on my “To Read” list for a number of years but I haven’t had the mental fortitude to get started until this past November. The bulk of the books are about 1000 pages- so they aren’t for the faint of heart! The first novel in the Outlander Saga by Diana Gabaldon (pronounced as GAH-bull-dohn [rhymes with "stone"])is Outlander. It was published in 1991 with a new novel or related novella released every few years after. The eighth book in this series is set for publication in June of this year (and with any luck I will be ready to read it then…currently I have just started book 5.)

        For those who enjoyed George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (aka: The Game of Thrones series) this would be a series to consider trying. The storyline is generally speaking geared towards women readers (the main character is a female and it tends towards a romantic storyline) but would be enjoyed by anyone curious about things such as time-travel, stone circles, Medicinal practices of the 1700’s, English/Scottish historical events and politics. When I finished the first book I was utterly amazed at the amount of information I learned about the time period, the sheer volume of events/disasters/rescues etc., and the lack of sleep that I could function with!
        I have recently recommended books to several persons by author Deborah Harkness: All Souls Trilogy (A Discovery of Witches, and Shadow of Night [the third is due to be published this summer]) and I think that those same persons might also enjoy Diana Gabaldon’s series of books. So if you have a “To Read” list put this series on it – or if you are feeling up to the challenge pick up a copy of the first book today. The library does have regular book, audiobook, and ebook copies of this story.

Review by Diana McCarthy, community librarian for Falkland Branch

Friday, March 7, 2014

Book Review: Havana - Gritty and Bloody

Havana (2003) by Stephen Hunter is a gritty, bloody tale of tremendous power and satisfaction set in Cuba 1953, a world of vice, gambling, sex and drugs just thirty minutes by air from Miami. The Mafia runs the casinos and Meyer Lansky, the mob’s leader in Cuba, vies with the CIA and American business interests to control the Batista regime and keep the river of cash flowing. Into the cauldron steps Earl Swagger, the protagonist of three previous 1950s-set Earl Swagger novels.

 This time the ex-Marine Medal of Honor winner and legendary gunfighter is called in by the American government to serve as a bodyguard to Congressman Harry Etheridge in his investigations of New York-gangster activity at the American naval base in Cuba. The congressman is more interested in exploring the city’s culture of vice and Swagger is reluctantly drawn into a complicated plot to kill self-centered, failed baseball star Fidel Castro, intent on wresting power from the corrupt government and returning it to the people. But Swagger thwarts backstabbing countrymen, the mob and even the Russians in this excellent addition to the series.
Review by Peter Critchley of the Vernon Branch

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Great Information at Your Fingertips! Or, Why the Library Databases are Better Than the Internet

Get free magazine and journal articles online from your library!

As you may have heard, the library subscribes to a number of online databases

But, what on earth is a database? And why would you want to use one?

In the library world, databases are generally collections of digitized articles from the back and current issues of journals, magazines, newspapers and more, which are collected together based on similarity in subject. You can find information in the database using its search box -- type in a few key words and quickly retrieve articles containing the information you need!

Isn’t it easier to just look it up on the internet?

Using library databases can go hand in hand with your internet search and have a few added benefits! 

Do you want free articles from recognized magazines and journals?

 On the web, many articles from popular publishers can found behind a pay-wall, and you may be asked to register and pay to read the article.

 Using library databases opens you up to a lot more content then what is just freely available online and you can read articles from popular and scholarly publications you would normally have to pay for, free with library membership.

Do you want unbiased search results?

 Some internet search engines may tailor your search results based on where you are and what you have looked up in the past. This can be unhelpful if you want comprehensive information about a subject.

 This won’t happen when using library databases!

Do you want skip the ads and pop-ups?

 Finding good information on the web can get distracting when you have to sort through ads and close pop-up windows.

 If you want an ad-free experience, check out a library database.

Explore a few databases today!

This month, explore the MasterFILE Premier and Academic Search Elite databases. Both come from the same company, EBSCO, so you’ll find that you can use each database in the same way and you can easily switch between them (as well as a few other databases) once you are signed in.
MasterFILE Premier provides articles from many popular magazines, so you’ll want to use it to for general reference, business, health, and consumer information. You can find and read articles from such magazines as…

  • Consumer Reports
  • Time
  • Scientific American

Academic Search Elite provides articles from more than 2,000 publications from various academic fields, many of which are peer-reviewed. You can find and read articles from such journals as…
  • Canadian Journal of Archaeology
  • History Today
  • Shakespeare Studies

Try them out for yourself

  1. From the ORL homepage,, click on the “View All Digital Resources” button.
  2. Under the “Magazines, Newspapers, & Journals” heading, click on the MasterFILE Premier or the Academic Search Elite link and sign in with your ORL card barcode number and PIN.
  3. Select the database you wish to use (by default MasterFILE Premier is selected).

And lastly, enjoy great information at your fingertips!

Each month, the ORL features one of its eResources. Library membership gives ORL patrons access to a wide range of eResources that can be accessed from home and in the library. These eResources can be used for reading and enjoyment, to help you with your research needs, or to learn new things.
Bring the library to your home today!

--With files from EBSCO