Search This Blog

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