Library Moments: Royalty

queen victoria

Iconic photograph of Queen Victoria by Alexander Bassano, 1882

Bessie Sullivan, County Library: Hello, I’m Bessie Sullivan from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.

Victoria Day is next Monday and Canada is the only country in the world that commemorates Queen Victoria with an official holiday, she was known at the “Mother of Confederacy” so it somewhat makes sense. Queen Victoria was born on May 24th, 1819. We celebrate the holiday on the Monday preceding the 25th of May. Although Canada does have a constitution, we recognise Queen Elizabeth II as our head of state along with the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Queen Elizabeth turned 91 on April 21st and is still fulfilling all her royal duties. It is certainly something to think about, a job that you are born into and can never leave.

Today on Library Moments, Nancy Therrien and I will each talk about a work of fiction; one about Elizabeth II and one about Victoria.

the uncommon readerNancy Therrien, Programming and Outreach Coordinator: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett is a 120-page novella about the queen’s growing fascination with books. She comes across a bookmobile on the grounds of the palace and borrows a single book out of politeness. One tale leads to another, and soon the Queen develops a voracious appetite for reading. Her staff members discourage her newfound hobby at every turn. They believe that reading is a selfish pursuit that distracts the Queen from her duties, but the Queen won’t be stopped. She foists her love of reading upon everyone she meets and through reading she develops empathy and a truer sense of the lives of her subjects.

The Uncommon Reader drops names of many famous classic authors and uses high-brow language including words such as amenuensis, and opsimath. In case you’re wondering, an amenuensis (/əˌmanyəˈwensəs/) is a literary assistant and an opsimath (/ˈäpsəˌmaTH/) is a person who learns later in life. The story is witty and humourous. It will remind you of the best reasons why you read and how much reading enriches your life. If you love books about books, like short stories, or enjoy tales about royalty, The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett may be for you. It is available to reserve at the Haliburton County Public Library.

victoria goodwinBessie: In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; and resolute about meeting with her ministers alone. In the novel Victoria, writer Daisy Goodwin relies on Queen Victoria’s diaries to bring the young queen richly to life. I love learning about history through reading novels. I am always inspired to read further on a subject when reading about historical people or events in a novel. I want to verify that the fictionalization has been handled accurately, but also a well told story makes me genuinely want to know more about the time and its people. What I have learned from reading this novel is how close the relationship was between the monarch and the prime minister of England. The book has also reinforced that those born into monarchy have very limited life choices.

You however, have many choices, over 50,000 items on our shelves and countless more in downloadable products available from our website. Stock up for the long week-end at any branch of the Haliburton County Public Library or check out our website at

That’s it for this week’s Library Moments thanks for listening here on 100.9 Canoe FM.

*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM, May 14 – 20, 2017.


Library Moments: National Mining Week

Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: Hello, I’m Bessie Sullivan from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.

The week starting the second Monday of May every year is “National Mining Week”. According to the royal proclamation establishing this week, mining has made a significant historical and economic contribution to the development of Canada; minerals and metals mined in Canada contribute significantly to Canada’s economy, including international trade; and a prosperous mining industry committed to sustainable development will continue to play a major role in job creation and in the economic well-being of all Canadians. That said, not all with mines means rosy economic boon. Mines are dangerous places and accidents happen. Sometimes the people who work in mines are doing so because their employments choices are limited.

Today on library moments Erin Kernohan-Berning and I will each talk about novels where mining plays a significant role in the plot.

MiNRsErin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: There are environmental and political concerns when it comes to mining, and both aspects are explored in Kevin Sylvester’s junior sci-fi novel MiNRS. In the future, Earth has depleted all of its resources, and the Melming Mining Company has looked to unlock the precious resources of space. They terraform and colonize the asteroid Perses, mining it for minerals and ore to send back to Earth. Christopher is one of the colony’s kids, his mother a teacher and his father a supervisor in the mine. When Perses orbit with Earth is about to result in a two month communication blackout between the colony and Earth, Christopher and his friend Elena want to throw a party to keep spirits up. But when communications go down, bombs start falling.

Under attack and with many of the colonists dead or severely injured, the kids head down into the winding maze like tunnels of the mine for cover. But whatever is after them is eager to follow. What’s worse, the idyllic life that Christopher thought he was leading on Peres turns out to have a dark side, so now on top of it all, the kids need to come to terms with their world not being as utopian as they were led to believe.

twenty-sixBessie: An explosion on May 9th, 1992 deep inside the Westray Mine in Plymouth, Nova Scotia killed 26 underground miners. The mine had been open less than eight months and had provided badly needed jobs in the area. In 2003 Leo McKay wrote a debut novel centred on the Westray mine disaster by writing about a fictional small town in Nova Scotia. The novel, entitled Twenty-six examines the lives of characters before and after the tragedy, and probes deeply into family loyalties, survivor guilt, and key issues (personal choices, economic pressures, family expectations) surrounding the very worst-case scenario of workplace safety: death on the job. Twenty-six manages to face the darkest depths of human tragedy while remaining an essentially optimistic book.

Libraries have an obligation to provide information from all angles of an issue. For non-fiction books on mining itself and for the books mentioned today, visit any branch of the Haliburton County Public Library. That’s it for this week’s Library Moments thanks for listening here on 100.9 Canoe FM.

*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM May 7 – 13, 2017.

Library Moments: Science Fiction


A building in London (UK) or a vertical colony from a science fiction story? Photo credit: Adam Birkett (

Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: Hello, I’m Erin Kernohan-Berning from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.


Science fiction is steadily becoming more and more mainstream. Once relegated to smaller genre publishers and shunned by large publishing houses, and even waived off by authors who didn’t want to be pigeonholed, science fiction can now be found along side big releases and on literary awards lists. Far from just spaceships and flying cars, science fiction deals with the big questions and fears of our time, evolving along with science and society – whether responding to the fear of the atomic bomb after World War II, or the thorny ethics of genetic engineering since the discovery of DNA. Newer science fiction adds artificial intelligence and climate change to the list – both very present realities. Recently some classic science fiction has gained newfound popularity, indicating that some old fears have cropped up again – or maybe never went away.

Today on Library Moments Bessie Sullivan and I will each talk about a piece of science fiction – old or new – that reflects some of the fears and insecurities that we are experiencing in the world today.

handmaid's taleBessie Sullivan, County Librarian: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was published in 1985. It was made into a movie in 1990 and now has had a resurgence in the form of a TV show. The TV show, in which Margaret Atwood has a cameo, has been dubbed as being “anti-Trump” but ironically predates his life as a politician. Set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian theocracy which has overthrown the United States government, the dystopian novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain individualism and independence. The issue causing the most difficulty for women in the story is reproductive rights and control of one’s body. Restrictions on women’s rights that are happening right now all over the world are mirrored in this story. Science Fiction can explore current fears which is why this novel has made a comeback. Margaret Atwood has never defined herself as a Science Fiction writer because I think she felt it jeopardized her status as a prominent literary author. Clearly some of what she writes, including The Handmaid’s Tale, falls squarely in the category of Science Fiction.

american war.jpgErin: While not being marketed as science fiction, Omar El Akkad’s American War certainly has all the trappings of it. The years 2074 to 2095 mark the second American Civil War. Once again the North and South are divided, but this time biological warfare, unmanned drones, and runaway climate change feature heavily. The story focuses on 6-year old Sara T. Chestnut, who calls herself Sarat after a teacher misreads her name during roll call. Growing up in rural Louisiana, Sarat and her family live in a shipping container in the nearly underwater state. Other states are underwater as well – Florida is mostly gone, the federal government now resides in Columbus, Ohio, and Augusta, Georgia is now a major port. Fossil fuels have been outlawed, which is why the country is at war. When Sarat’s father is killed while trying to get a Northern work visa, and the fighting grows closer to their home, Sarat’s mother is forced to flee with her children to a refugee camp in the MAGS (Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina territory – otherwise known as the Free Southern State) – where they rely on aid brought on ships from China and the Middle East, and Red Crescent workers struggle to get people the care they need. But coming from a “purple” territory, life in “the Red” is perilous, and as Sarat grows older she is befriended by a mysterious functionary and turned into a deadly instrument of war.

country of ice cream starAmerican War, like all good science fiction, looks at the world and asks “what if”. What if society can’t weather the runaway effects of climate change? What if one of the world’s most influential democracies crumbles under the pressure? What if our weapons of defense are turned inward on us? As with all my favourite science fiction, including Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam series, The Mercy Journals by Claudia Casper, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman, Omar El Akkad’s post apocalyptic future contains enough call-backs to our present to allow the reader to find themselves immersed in that world – whether they want to be there or not.

If you have never read science fiction because it brings to mind the spaceships and scantily clad female aliens of 1980’s pulp fiction covers, it’s probably time to try it again. You have so much to choose from whether it’s the timeless work of Atwood, Asimov, or Lovecraft, 2017’s Canada Reads runner up Madeline Ashby, or a book adapted to the screen like Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series or Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, you’re bound to find an author or sub genre that will capture your imagination. Science fiction changes with the times and – well – the times they are a changin.

That’s it for this week’s Library Moments, where we also change with the times – but not too much – here in 100.9 CANOE FM.

*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM April 30 – May 6, 2017.

Book Talks: The Break by Katherena Vermette

the breakIn the novel The Break, when a young Métis mother looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house, she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime. In a series of shifting accounts, people who are connected with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed. A powerful intergenerational family saga, The Break showcases Katherena Vermette’s abundant writing talent and positions her as an exciting new voice in Canadian literature.

The Break is one of ten titles nominated for 2017’s Evergreen™ Award – a program that was introduced in 2005 to give adult library patrons the opportunity to vote for a work of Canadian fiction or non-fiction that they have liked the most. Read one or more of this year’s shortlisted titles and during the month of September we want you to let the Haliburton County Public Library know which book you think should win the Evergreen Award. To view all titles nominated this year, just click on the 2017 Evergreen Award link on the library’s website

*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM.

Library Moments: April Online Book Club

the waste landErin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: Hello, I’m Erin Kernohan-Berning from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.

In 1996, the Academy of American Poets stood on the steps of a New York City post office handing out T.S. Elliot’s poem The Waste Land to people waiting to mail off their tax returns. The poem begins, “April is the cruelest month…” and there, April as National Poetry Month was born. Or so the story goes. National Poetry Month is now celebrated in both the United States and Canada, and is meant to celebrate poetry and it’s important place in our culture.

There are many great collections of poetry available at the Haliburton County Public Library, but for our April online book club we decided, in a twist on poetry month, to look at novels written by poets. So today, Sherrill Sherwood and I will each talk about a book written by a poet.

the bell jar.jpgSherrill Sherwood, Collection Development Coordinator: The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath’s only novel, was originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The novel is partially based on Plath’s own life and has become a modern classic. Celebrated for its darkly funny and razor sharp portrait of 1950s society, millions of copies have been sold worldwide. The story is about Esther Greenwood winning an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953. She is elated, believing she will finally realize her dream to become a writer. But in between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther’s life begins to slide out of control. She finds herself spiraling into depression and eventually attempts suicide, as she grapples with difficult relationships and a society which refuses to take women’s aspirations seriously. As well as The Bell Jar, Haliburton County Public Library’s collection includes The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath: 1950 – 1962 plus the movie Sylvia starring Gwyneth Paltrow, celebrated for her portrayal of Plath.

the nightingale won't let you sleepErin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: In The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep by Steven Heighton, Elias Triffanis – a Greek-Canadian – joins the military to appease his dying father. After a traumatic incident in Afghanistan, Elias is shipped to a facility in Paphos, Cyprus to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder – but also to keep him away from public scrutiny. A trip to the coast to visit relatives, a hook up in a bar, and a roll in the sand on a dark beach interrupted by punchy Turkish soliders result in Elias making a quick escape under a barbed wire fence into the abandoned city of Varosha – which is a real city, abandoned in 1974 during a coup that saw Cyprus ever since split between Greece and Turkey with Varosha frozen in time between them. But in the novel there are people living secretly in Varosha, living off the abandoned goods that still survive, under the occasional glance of Turkish Colonel Erkan Kaya – and Elias’ presence there is upsetting a delicate balance. In what has been dubbed a literary thriller, secrets and intrigue unfold among the ruins of Varosha. The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep has received mixed reviews, and it seems both the positive and the negative are owing to Heighton’s prowess as a well-decorated award winning poet and how that has influenced his writing in this novel. When I see mixed reviews, I often want to then read the book, just to see what is in it that has polarized readers so much.

Anyone can participate in Haliburton County Public Library’s Online Book Club by choosing to read one or more of four books selected each month. You don’t even have to read from a particular month’s selection you can just go online and make comments about books and reading in general. Just go to and click on the “g” for Goodreads.

That’s it for this week’s Library Moments. Thanks for listening here on 100.9 CANOE FM.

*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM.

Hot Reads: April 27, 2017

one perfect lie.jpgThe following are popular new additions to the Haliburton County Public Library’s collection this week.

1. One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline
2. The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve
3. Fast & Loose by Stuart Woods
4. Infinite Tuesday: an autobiographical riff by Michael Nesmith
5. Solitude: a singular life in a crowded world by Michael Harris

*Originally published in The Highlander.