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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Book Review: The Secret of the Blue Trunk

I just finished reading the true story (although catalogued as fiction)  “The Secret of the Blue Trunk” by Lise Dion. I started reading it last Saturday afternoon around 2pm, could not put it down, and read straight through until Sunday 3am.   After the death of her mother, Lise was packing away her mother’s items when she discovered the key to the blue trunk.  Lise was never permitted to open the blue trunk throughout her childhood, and often wondered what it contained.  She opened the trunk and discovered a photograph of her mother wearing a nun’s habit, and 5 notebooks.  This book is a translation of those five notebooks which reveal the amazing history of Lise’s mother, how she came to be a nun, and the powerful story of how she survived almost 5 years as a prisoner of war in Germany during WWII.


Review by Monica Gaucher, Area Librarian North

Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian will Capture Your Heart

     It’s been a long time since a fictional character captured my heart as much as Arnold Spirit does in "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian". Arnold (closely based on the author, Sherman Alexie) is an intelligent and determined Native American boy growing up in the Spokane (Washington) Indian Reservation (“the rez”). A caring teacher and the fateful discovery that his eagerly anticipated geometry textbook is so out-of-date that it once belonged to his 44-year-old mother convince Arnold that he must do whatever it takes to avoid the fate of his parents and many of their friends; a fate defined by poverty, alcoholism, and despair. This is not to be the fate for Arnold, just as it wasn't for Alexie.
     Sherman Alexie has written several books, poems, and a screenplay collaboration about his experiences as a Native American; most of them award winners. Although his writing focuses on the feelings of powerlessness of many Native Americans and their struggles against racism, Alexie writes with such a unique candour and humor that he is a pleasure to read. A great example of his style is this description of his sister's funeral: "How do we honor the drunken death of a young married couple? HEY, LET'S GET DRUNK!"
     His story is filled with powerful and moving moments of laughter and love which he expresses through the cartoons that he loves to draw because "words are too limited. But when you draw a picture, everybody can understand it." He draws as a way of reaching out to a world beyond the "rez" - a world with more opportunity and chances for happiness. Those closest to Arnold have intelligence, talent, and promise of their own but lack his determination to break free of the “ugly circle” that is the fate of too many of the people he sees around him on the reservation. “You start believing that you’re poor because you’re stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you’re stupid and ugly because you’re Indian. And because you’re Indian you start believing you’re destined to be poor…and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
     What could be a sad story is kept from being so thanks to the charming vocabulary and exceptional humor of 14-year-old Arnold. It is a story of hope told from the point of view of a young person full of promise and the courage to fulfill a fate of his own choosing. The illustrations by Ellen Forney also give the story a humorous and hopeful tone. Her depiction of Arnold with his nerdy looks are exactly right and the reader loves him both for his precocious personality as well as his vulnerable appearance. The most wonderful image of all is the one we are left with at the end of the story; Arnold is happy for now on the "rez" and happy also in his certainty of a future in a wider world.

Review by Kendra Runnalls, Community Librarian at the Revelstoke Branch of the ORL

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Congratulations to Short Story Contest Winner: Esther Denhollander!

Esther with Salmon Arm Librarian Ardie
Congratulations to Esther Denhollander, age 13, who won the Okanagan Reads for Kids Short Story
Here is her winning entry:

The Bond of Love

My name is Dominic and I’m going to tell you how I found the person I love today. Her name is Lisa Tilling. She is thirteen. I was born far from any humans, in the hills of Denmark. My father was the herd leader, my mother was a flashy buckskin, whose colors I inherited. When I was around three I was kicked out of the herd and went to roam on my own.
One day I smelt a strange new smell. I looked around till I found the source. In a clearing there stood a little wooden building . In a fenced in area there were three bay horses covered in the strange smell. I walked up to them and asked, “Why are you not running free?’’ One of them lifted its head from the brown grass it was eating. “Why would we want to run free when we are protected and fed good food?’’ Before I could answer, the door of the cabin opened and out came a young girl. She was tall and skinny and her hair was tied tight in two braids. “Mom, Dad there’s a buckskin mustang out here,’’ she called softly into the house. Out hurried Mr. and Mrs. Tilling. “My, what a beauty he is,’’ sighed Mr. Tilling. If horses could blush I would have. I looked at them for a minute or so, then I turned and galloped back into the woods.

The next morning when I returned, resting on a post there was a shiny, round, green object. I sniffed it cautiously. I questioned one of the horses . “ It’s an apple you dummy,’’ he laughed.’’ The girl left it for you.’’ I knew it could be a trick, but it did smell delightful. I ate it. It tasted like nothing I had ever eaten before. So juicy and crunchy. I made sure that I left no remains.

For the next week I kept coming back and every time there was an apple on the post. But the last day I observed the girl placing the green fruit on the post, but instead of going into the cabin as she always did, she just walked a little way and played with her braid. I was scared at first, but seeing that she wasn’t going to do anything to me, I snuck out of the trees and out into the open. I trotted up to the post and ate my treat. I was leaving the clearing when I heard a soft clicking sound. Curious, I looked behind me and saw Lisa with an outstretched arm, holding another apple. I couldn’t resist. I turned around and trotted over to her.

I halted a few feet away from her and stretched my bur covered neck to snatch the apple, but the little blighter kept moving her arm closer to herself, forcing me to step closer. Finally however, I was inches away from the apple. I snatched it hurriedly and ate it. But as I munched away I felt a warm hand on my nose. I looked up and saw Lisa’s brown hand caressing my velvety nose. “Good boy,’’ she soothed softly as she slipped a rope around my neck. At first I was terrified, but after a few minutes of soft pats I was relieved that nothing was going to harm me.

Lisa stood up slowly, as not to startle me. She led me into a small shed beside the cabin that I had never noticed before. Inside she poured me a bucket of tiny golden kernels. I shoved my nose into the bucket and ate. Oh they tasted even more glorious than apples. When I had finished every last kernel, Lisa backed me into a box like room and left me. I was beside myself with terror by now. I kicked frantically at the walls trying to escape.

About an hour later Lisa returned, this time with her Father. “I told you I would capture him,’’ she said triumphantly “You did, but he does not look happy,’’ her father observed, studying my sad eyes. They then left the shed, leaving me alone by myself again. How I hated both of them. I struck my black legs out and hit the walls.
I tried to escape all night, but nothing I did helped. By morning all my strength was gone. When Lisa came to check up on me she carried a bucket of those sweet golden grains. I ate them greedily. Then she slipped a cold metal bit in my mouth. I was too tired to object.

Lisa continued to come every morning and feed me, and every day she introduced a new piece of the horrid tack. But one morning everything was different. She put all the tack on me and lead me outside. It was the first time I had been in the open since that day when I was taken prisoner. She placed a stool on my left side and slowly eased her way into my saddle. The minute she was seated properly I became a demon horse. I bucked, reared and even rubbed against the fence post. But she would not fall off. At last I got to my knees and was about to roll and then she hurriedly leaped out of the saddle.

Lisa slowly unsaddled me. When she finished she lead me out to the yard. There she slipped my halter off. She was letting me go. Joyously I started to trot back to the open plains, but as I looked back, I saw Lisa crying. It was then that I realized that I couldn’t leave her. All that time I had spent with her, I had a growing affection for her. I turned around and ran to her and nuzzled her with my big head. I couldn’t tell if she was laughing or crying, but I knew she was happy. And so was I.

Written by Esther J Denhollander, age 13


Thursday, April 17, 2014

It's a Marathon - Diana Gabaldon Keeps You Reading!

     Wow! 1344 pages in 3 weeks. Yes, I am proud to report that I am one more step closer to finishing my Diana Gabaldon marathon. Can I finish the seventh book: “An Echo in the Bone” before the upcoming release of the eighth book in June of this year? It is possible...this title boasts a measly 1078 pages...good grief! Thankfully the fate of the world, my life, or my career does not hang in the balance!

     The storyline for this series is filled with adventure, heartache, mystery, and a touch of the supernatural. The characters in the story are all wonderfully conceived and full of flaws, idiosyncrasies, and endearing qualities. Even those you want to hate you begin to love..just a little! Certainly it is enough to keep most people thoroughly entertained and focused on reading far past the time they should be snoring softly into their pillows. My husband laughs when I say “sure, just one more page,” or “be right there, just have a few pages left to read” as he knows it will be ages before I raise my bleary eyes from my Kobo reader and join him in the real world. But isn't that what many of us love about reading? The escape from reality into a world that is more exciting, romantic, prosperous, wonderful than our own? So if you are wanting an escape from your life for a few minutes – try a book. And if you feel that a Diana Gabaldon marathon isn't appealing – there are thousands of other wonderful books that could be just what you are looking for!

     So now as I begin to reach the light at the end of my reading tunnel I am feeling just a bit sad. All  readers know that reaching the end of a great story brings a feeling of accomplishment but also a measure of sadness as the magic of the story can never really be captured again. So if you have read something wonderful let me know! I should be ready in 2-6 months (finger's crossed!).
By Diana McCarthy, Community Librarian, Falkland

Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Review: Mistress of the Art of Death

Mistress of the Art of Death (2008) by Ariana Franklin is an absorbing blend of historical fact and grisly fiction that will keep readers turning the pages. It is 1171 in Cambridge, England, and Henry II is extremely agitated—four children have been found murdered and mutilated and the townsfolk are blaming the Jews, who have sought shelter in the castle. King Henry, less concerned about the murderer than the tax revenue he is losing while the Jewish community languishes in the fortress, appeals to the king of Sicily to send him a master of the art of death, one who can examine the deceased and determine the cause of death.  

 Dr. Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, a mistress of this art, arrives with a returning group of pilgrims. Along with an eunuch escort named Mansur and Simon of Naples, a Jew with an affinity for detection, she must piece together the mystery of these gruesome crimes before the monster kills again.

Review by Peter Critchley, Vernon Branch

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Amazing True Stories!

At the Library

This month’s Westbank Branch book recommendations come from Assistant Community Librarian Catherine Mamo.
Catherine has worked for the Okanagan Regional Library for over seven years. She works in several branches, but calls the Westbank branch home. Catherine enjoys delivering storytimes and other children’s programs.
Many of you may not know that Catherine is a published author! Look for her book of poetry, Paperwhite, in our collection. She has also taught Creative Writing courses.
Catherine reads “everything” (fiction, nonfiction and poetry) except genre fiction. She enjoys memoirs and stories that are based on true events.
Catherine lives in Peachland with her family and a menagerie of animals!


A girl of three, kidnapped then abandoned in the rainforest, survives for five years by following, watching and finally joining a troop of Capuchin monkeys. Once “rescued” she ends up enslaved and beaten by the owner of a brothel. She escapes only to begin a life as one of many homeless children on the mean streets of Colombia. The monkeys definitely come off better than the humans in this amazing memoir. Could it really be true?
Faced with her son Jake’s diagnosis of severe autism, Kristine refuses to give up on her child. In the process of helping Jake grow and flourish, she discovers new ways of encouraging autistic children to develop by igniting their “spark.” Turns out Jake is a genius with an IQ higher than Einstein who is now doing advanced research into quantum physics.
This devastating memoir documents Hornbacher’s struggles with anorexia and bulimia from a very young age. Eating disorders plague her into young adulthood and she barely survives. For anyone trying to understand these complex mental illnesses, Wasted is a gripping and terrifying account by an intelligent young woman. Not for the faint of heart.
Here’s one for history fans. The Great Pearl Heist is a romp through Edwardian London on the trail of some very smart jewel thieves. Joseph Grizzard and his gang have just stolen the most valuable string of pearls ever known. But will they get away with it? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Wave: A Memoir
By Sonali Deraniyagala
The tsunami of 2004 took Deraniyagala’s entire family—children, husband and both parents-- while they were holidaying on the Sri Lankan coast. How does a person bear such grief? This is not a happy memoir but it is moving and skillfully written.
This book tells the story of the wealthy and cultured Ephrussi family. De Waal inherits a collection of small Japanese carvings known as Netsuke from his uncle in Tokyo. In trying to learn more about the carvings he uncovers a compelling family history.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Listen to a Good Book from the ORL!

Let’s celebrate Spring with the sounds of eAudiobooks from the ORL!

Most know about the eAudiobooks found in popular digital book collections like ORL eBooks (and BC Libraries’ Library to Go), but did you know that eAudiobooks can also be found in some of the library’s other digital collections?

Check-out and download eAudiobooks from OneClickdigital

OneClickdigital is a fantastic source for eAudiobooks because you can find thousands of titles, including quite a few popular titles and bestsellers. Best of all, most of the eAudiobooks in the collection are always available for you to borrow, so you don’t have to sit on wait-lists.

eAudiobooks can either be downloaded to the free OneClickdigital Media Manager program, which is used to transfer the book to a compatible MP3 player or iPod, or they can be downloaded and enjoyed using the OneClickdigital App on iOS, Android, or Kindle Fire mobile devices.  

Find out how to get started with borrowing eAudiobooks from the OneClickdigital collection on the ORL website:

Stream eAudiobooks from the TumbleBookCloud & TumbleBookCloud Junior collections

Did you know that there are over a hundred eAudiobooks that you can listen to by streaming them on the internet browser of a computer, from TumbleBookCloud and TumbleBookCloud Junior? The eAudiobooks in these two collections can even be enjoyed on the browser of a tablet* and the books are great for kids and teens.

TumbleBookCloud features books for tweens and teens in middle and high school (and have a lot of titles found in language arts curriculum). Many of the titles can be enjoyed by adult audiences, too, as it can be a great way to consume the classics of literature.

TumbleBookCloud Junior features books that are fun for kids that are in grade three to six.
Some of the perks of these two collections are that there is no need to check-out the book or download extra software. After choosing a book, just hit the “Listen Online” button to start the book right away. Every title in these collections are always available – you just need an internet connection to listen to the book.

To find the eAudiobooks in TumbleBookCloud: Click on the “Audio Books!” link found near the top of the site.

To find the eAudiobooks in TumbleBookCloud Junior:  Click on the “audio books” link found underneath the Our Collection heading.
*Some of the book types offered in TBC and TBC Jr, such as ebooks marked as Read-Alongs and Graphic Novels (which feature sentence highlighting and narration) require Flash, so are not mobile device compatible. TumbleBooks is working on making all of their titles mobile compatible, though!
You can visit each of the collections mentioned above by clicking on the “View all Digital Resources” button found on the ORL homepage, Library membership gives you lots of ways to enjoy eAudiobooks, try one out today!


Each month, the ORL will be featuring one or some 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!