An Embarrassment of Riches

An Embarrassment of Riches is a blog about the best the library has to offer. From audio books to movies, from novels to zines, library staff and guest bloggers will tell you about their latest library discoveries. Read. Watch. Listen. Chat.

I am not a hoarder!  So okay, my work desk might have goat’s paths and the 9 x 9 storage unit down the hall from my condo could use a good clear out, but still, I can let go of things!  In the new book Mess: One Man's Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act, I learned that hoarders really can’t give up anything. I, therefore, am merely a clutter bug and only at work.  My living quarters are actually quite neat.  Each room and piece of furniture can be used for its original purpose, and clothing, books, and craft supplies are not stacked up on every surface. 

This was so not true for Barry Yourgrau, the author of Mess.  His girlfriend, Cosima, was horrified when she finally arrived on his apartment doorstep some Mess book jacketyears after he had taken it over from her and gave him an ultimatum:  Clean it up or we’re breaking up!  Now Barry had a sweet gig – he worked in his own apartment, but actually lived at Cosima’s much nicer place where she regularly cooked gourmet meals for him.  Additionally, they traveled all over the world to foodie events for Cosima’s career.  He had plenty of reasons to clean up his act, but would he be motivated enough to actually get it done?

Follow Barry as he does his “researches” that include lots of reading, talking with organizing professionals and a psychiatrist, and visiting one of the most famous hoarders of all time. It’s the most fun book on organization (or lack of it) that I’ve ever read!

Here’s a list of further resources on clutter and hoarding, most of which Yourgrau refers to in Mess.

Stacey Lee photo

Stacey Lee is a fourth-generation Chinese American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys. She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul. A native of southern California, she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall. After practicing law in the Silicon Valley for several years, she finally took up the pen because she wanted the perks of being able to nap during the day, and it was easier than moving to Spain. She plays classical piano, raises children, and writes young adult fiction. Her debut book is Under a Painted SkyFollow her: @staceyleeauthor

under a painted sky cover

Stacey Lee will also be a panelist at Censorship by Omission: The Diversity Deficit, Oct. 3,  2 pm at Midland Library.

I write young adult historical and contemporary fiction, but read across all genres. As long as it's a good story, I'm in! I didn't find enough stories about people who "looked" like me growing up, so I'd love to share with you some stories that either feature diverse characters, or are written by a diverse author. 

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith. A black girl in 1940s Louisiana joins the Women Airforce Service Pilots "passing" as white. A touching story of sacrifice and friendship.

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert. A small town boy's radio minister father is accused of murdering a cop. This one will wring your heart dry.

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. Backstabbing ballerinas. It's juicy. Read it.


Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking book jacketHere are the top four reasons why I love Maangchi:
  1. Maangchi is a girl gamer - her handle means "hammer" in Korean.
  2. She's a good dresser.
  3. She's a YouTube and blogging star.
  4. Finally, she taught me everything that I know about Korean cooking!
Three years ago, Maangchi taught me how to make kimchi at home. Fast-forward to 2015: With Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking at my side, I made Korean fried chicken (dakgangjeong) and soft tofu stew (kimmchi-sundubu-jjigae). If you've never had it before, Korean fried chicken (KFC) is super crunchy, garlicky, and has a great sweet and spicy sauce. Unfortunately, you can't eat KFC everyday, but that's what soft tofu stew is for. The stew, which is made red and spicy by hot pepper powder, is full of onions, garlic, kimchi, silken tofu, and pork belly. Both dishes are comfort food at its best.
Other things that I've made in the past that are absolutely yummy include: kimchi fried rice (kimchi-bokkeumbap), LA kalbi (LA galbi), bok choy with miso (cheonggyeongchae doenjang-muchim), and stir fried potato glass noodles (japchae). All these recipes are highly recommended.
Although many of these recipes are available online, I encourage you to check out her book because it's a work of art. Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking is an excellent cookbook for people like me who get easily intimidated by complicated, unfamiliar foods. Stop running away from your true desires! Cook with Maangchi now.

Do you enjoy reading stories told from multiple perspectives in alternating chapters? Do you like your characters to surprise you, but still feel authentic? Are you more moved by a story with substance but also want it to be a page-turner?  
If you answered yes, then there's a good chance you'll enjoy three of my recent five-star reads. Each one shares all the traits mentioned, but the best part? Their similarities end there. Because, when I put down a book I love, I want another great book, but not the same great book. I want to be surprised by something new.
Book jacket: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna NorthThe Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North is fiction, but it reads like the true documentary of a controversial filmmaker. Sophie Stark's life unfolds in chapters told from the perspective of the people that were most affected by her and by her work. Never mind that the title gives away the ending; I got sucked in fast to this story and didn't dare look away for fear of missing a hint or clue as to where it all went wrong. Sophie Stark is not exactly likable, but as an outcast artist, who relies on images to express how she sees the world when words fail her, she was absolutely believable. If you love outsider stories or psychological fiction about art and creativity, don't pass this one up!
Book jacket: The Fair Fight by Anna FreemanI have a hard time imagining why anyone wouldn't want to read about female bare-knuckle boxers in 18th century England, so I'm baffled that The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman doesn't have holds on it. Told from the perspective of three characters who defy social class and convention in their own way, this is a great read for fans of richly-detailed historical fiction looking for unconventional characters. But what makes this book especially fun to read is the language. Filled with cullies, strumpers, and babbers, The Fair Fight is a brilliant, brash and brawling book that shoves you through a mass of foul smelling coats, out the back door of a Bristol tavern where you're left looking up at a young woman on a low wooden stage, petticoats pinned up to expose thick legs, stays loosened, bandaged fists raised, head high and eyes fixed, letting her opponent know, "I'll drive that breath out of you sonny." 
Book Jacket: All That Followed by Gabriel UrzaAll That Followed by Gabriel Urza begins with a terrorist act. The 2004 bombing of commuter trains in Madrid, stirs up painful memories in a small Basque town miles away. The truth behind the gossip whispered in the cafes of Muriga unfolds slowly, told in alternating voices by the town's residents: the lovely young widow of a murdered outsider politician, an American expat teacher with a dark past that binds him tightly to his adopted homeland, and the young radicalized Basque separatist, jailed for his part in a crime that should have never happened.
If you like fiction that brings to life newspaper headlines, this could be a book for you. If you like stories vividly set in small towns with complicated histories and nuanced characters with dark secrets that leave you questioning where to place blame; this might be a book for you. If you think you'd like a story where a character believes her donated "terrorist kidney" is talking to her, sharing images and smells from the donor's life, this is definitely a book for you!
Have you recently loved a book, but are still waiting to find your next great read? Tell me about it, I'd like to help!

Book cover of The Underground Girls of Kabul“What’s bacha posh?” you may ask. Literally it means “disguised as a boy.”
I learned about bacha posh in The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg. She interviewed many Afghan women to learn about this cultural practice of girls dressing and living as boys in Afghanistan. Why would a family choose to do this?

I can’t stop thinking about these women’s experiences, because there’s so  much to think about: the roles of women, gender identity, human rights, cultural beliefs. Even the way Nordberg titled the sections of this book made me think. The book’s about girls and women, right? The sections are titled Boys, Youth, Men, Fathers. What’s that about?

Since I’ve read the book twice already, I've started looking for more about bacha posh and women in Afghanistan. Here’s my list. Is there anything else that you think I should add to it?
 I love when people recommend books to me. In fact, it’s because a friend gave me this book as a gift that I discovered it at all.  (Thank you, A. It’s my favorite book so far this year.)

If you’d like me to recommend books especially for you, contact me at My Librarian Lisa W

The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse

by Piu Marie Eatwell

The story of a sensational ten year trial that took place during Edwardian England full of greed, fraud and characters that seem fictional rather than real. A cliffhanging narrative which will be a treat for anglophiles.

The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and Its Aftermath

by Ben Bernanke

The chair of the Federal Reserve reveals how his agency used every resource it could muster to pull the country through the economic crisis of 2008, and the efforts made to prevent a global economic disaster.

Keeping an Eye Open: Essays on Art

by Julian Barnes

The iconic novelist and Man Booker Prize winner Barnes presents his essays on his love of art and his fascination with painters such as Delacroix, Magritte and Lucien Freud.

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring the Real Landscapes of the Hundred Acre Wood

by Kathryn Aalto

An exploration of Ashdown Forest, the real Hundred Acre Wood, which Milne used as the setting for his beloved stories of Winnie-the-Pooh.

The Witches: Salem, 1692

by Stacy Schiff

The Pulitzer Prize winning author of Cleopatra, portrays the historic witch scare in Salem, Massachusetts which lasted less than a year but quickly spread panic among all levels of the inhabitants of the colony.

Elephant House

by Dick Blau

Elephant House takes an inside look at the Oregon Zoo's Asian Elephant Building exploring the relationship between the elephants and their caregivers through photographs and commentary by zoo staff.

Whoopi's Big Book of Relationships

by Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi presents her hilarious take on relationships, love and marriage.


What a summer it was in Portland for the gardener and cook. And what a perfect book Kitchens of the Great Midwest was to read while harvesting piles and piles of the tastiest tomatoes our garden has ever produced.

Kitchens of the Great Northwest is a new novel by J. Ryan Stradal. It’s been compared a lot to Olive Kitteridge, because both of these take the form of short stories told by different narrators that illuminate one central character, but Olive Kitteridge, while a very fine book, is a bit more glum. Kitchens is brighter in its outlook, much funnier, and more delicious, as its central character is Eva Thorvald, the daughter of a chef and a sommelier. Eva is excited about food even as a baby, and she ultimately becomes a famous chef, the kind of chef who does simple, amazing things with the best local ingredients. It was a really fun book to read, and I read it fast, enjoying the well-developed characters. I also enjoyed the enticing recipes that appeared from time to time.

Different varieties of heirloom tomatoes are passionately described several times in this book, and this reminds me... I need to go make a ton of tomato sauce and can it right away. Sadly, I can’t invite you all over for spaghetti, but I can offer this list of very delicious fiction for you to savor. Bon appétit!

A Collection of Essays book jacketYou’ve probably noticed that much of what is said does not actually say anything. Yes there are words, but they are vague enough to mean anything or nothing. George Orwell also noticed and he wrote an essay in 1945 called "Politics and the English Language". The problem, he says, is lazy writing which often is just a bunch of worn out phrases strung together. Orwell says when our writing is sloppy it is easier for us to have foolish thoughts. It also makes it possible to dance around an issue without committing ourselves. He calls for writing that is clear and concise, where we are aware of the meaning.

Give Orwell’s essays a try. You will be treated to some fine writing and great arguments. I hope you will enjoy his essays as much as I have. They should help you develop the critical tools needed to evaluate if what you are hearing or reading makes sense or is nonsense.

All Art is Propaganda and A Collection of Essays contain "Politics and the English Language" and are available at Multnomah County Library.

Thrillers and series are not exactly my thing, but I was swayed by the common themes in The Expats and The Accident by Chris Pavone: who can you trust and what happens when secrets are revealed, as they always are…

cover image of the expats


Imagine yourself keeping secrets from your spouse. Now imagine that secret was in fact your day job. Makes things a bit more complicated right? Consider that while you have been lying to your husband about how you earn a living, perhaps he has been hiding some things from you as well? Now take the setting out of the USA and make it some rainy European city like Luxembourg or Paris. Still with me?

Once that mess has been settled, you make a brief appearance in another story (but only figure in it as a minor character). The main players in this one? An author, a publisher, and a who's hunting who scenario.

cover image of the accident

I was hooked on audio for both of these. Normally I drift peacefully off to sleep while listening, but I found myself still awake at the end of the disc and getting up to put in the next one. So much for my relaxing bedtime ritual. No need to read them in order, they stand alone.


"There are these things and they
are da kine to me. They are the tear.
The torn circle.
There are these things and they are
the circle malformed, pulled tight
in one place. These things are the
symbol of all not being right. They
are da kine for me.
Da kine for me is the moment when
things extend beyond you and me
and into the rest of the world. It is
the thing.
Like two who love each other
breaking eye contact and coming
out of that love and back into the conversation " (p. 8)
Cover of Spahr Aloha Book

"That Winter the Wolf Came" - Julianna Spahr's recently published collection of thoughtful and painful interrogations against capitalism - is unfortunately not currently available through Multnomah County Library.  We do however have a copy of "Fuck You, Aloha, I Love You," her mesmerizing
book of poems from 2001.
The poems in "Fuck You, Aloha, I Love You" generate a never-ending series of questions and tensions, pitting the cost and construction of selves (most assuredly not as specific indicators of psychological depth) within the coordinates of location/place.  But the selves in these poems are never transcendent, never reified - barring those collisions when the determinate conditions of history and capital freeze us in frightening, dead, and/or emptied moments.  

As the title suggests, most of these encounters and repetitions occur in Hawai'i, where Spahr was living and teaching at the time the book was being written.  Spahr's poems are tricky (but never clever-tricky) in the way they reveal aesthetic structures that are doubled in the
structures of Hawai'i as political geography.  Spahr elicits Hawai'i's ongoing history of  violent colonialism without reducing the conflicts and tensions to an outsider's appreciation of the "local" or within a liberal's plea for empathy for the other.

"We want this story, our personal
story, to tell this story:

It is late at night and we lean over
and kiss, our one head one way
and our other head another way,
and stick our tongues in our
mouths and it feels strange this
way, top of tongue on top of
tongue." (p.85)

I have finally found my answer to the question, “what author, from any time period, would you want to invite to a dinner party?” My answer is Shirley Jackson.Shirley Jackson, The Lottery bookjacket

I'll always remember the visceral feeling of reading Jackson's amazing short story, "The Lottery" (And if you haven't read that story yet, read it now. Or listen to Shirley Jackson read it to you.). Her memoirs, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons, are totally entertaining. The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle are wonderfully creepy. And now there's a lovely new collection of her writing, Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings.

Let Me Tell You bookjacketAnd boy do I want Shirley Jackson to tell me things. I would like her to regale me with her short stories. I wish she could talk to me about the craft of writing. If only she would join me at my dinner table and describe her daily, rather surreal, home life. Let Me Tell You is a collection of her short stories, domestic humor pieces, and essays - many of them never published. There are even some of Jackson's witty little line drawings.

Alas, since there shall be no dinner with Shirley (she died at the too-young age of 48) I will have to be satisfied with Let Me Tell You.

I am fast approaching the age where women are considered invisible. I have noticed in the last 10 years or so that I am invisible. It’s a relief because I received a lot of street harassment over the years. Question is have you ever wanted to be invisible?

What if you didn’t want to be invisible and you were? That’s what happens to Clover Hobart. One morning she wakes up and she is invisible. It doesn’t help that she is 55-plus woman and already invisible in society’s eyes. Even her family is oblivious to the fact that she is invisible. The only one who notices is her best friend, who tries to help Clover in her non-visible adventures.

Calling Invisible Women is a clever and hilarious book by Jeanne Ray. It’s a thought-provoking look at women of a certain age in our society. Sometimes it takes a touch of magic to open our eyes.

The weather is starting to cool down, kids are back in school, leaves are falling from the trees. It’s fall! My favorite season. Favorite not so much because of the gorgeous cool weather and the explosion of fall colors, but because fall equals my favorite holiday. Halloween! The costumes and parties, the Halloween decorations, the haunted houses, the corn mazes, the pumpkin patches. I love it all! 
Trick 'r Treat DVD coverFor me, Halloween is a month long celebration that I like to kick off by watching one of my all time favorite horror flicks, Trick 'r Treat. This anthology of five Halloween themed horror stories opens with a suburban husband and wife getting ready for Halloween night. The husband loves the holiday while the wife detests it and can’t wait for the night to be over. She later pays for her wanton disregard for Halloween traditions in the most gruesome way.The tales that follow include the story of a murderous school principal, a terrible and terrifying high school prank, a college virgin who meets the man that she has been waiting for, and a cantankerous Halloween hating man who enjoys scaring away trick-or-treaters. This collection of horror stories at first seem fairly disconnected except for one common element, a creepy child-like character wearing grubby orange pajamas and a burlap sack over its head. So, horror fans and holiday ghouls, grab a friend, pop some popcorn (or bake a batch of pumpkin seeds) and cozy up for this delicious Halloween horror treat. 

Awkward book jacketAh, back to school! The crisp fall days, football on Friday nights, challenging classes, and the absolute terror of starting at a new school! I switched from public to private school in 8th grade and, fortunately for me, the students were really friendly and welcoming.  I bonded with a couple of girls right away over soccer and disco, and even though our main teacher was a bit intimidating, I managed to get along with her despite being sent to the library for talking to a pal during a boring film.

Penelope (aka Peppi) has a pretty rough start when she begins classes at a new middle school.  On the first morning of the first day, she manages to trip in the hallway and scatter books and papers everywhere.  When Jaime, a kind, but nerdy boy, attempts to help her and the mean kids laugh at them, she screams at him to leave her alone.  She almost instantly regrets her action, but can't seem to find a way to apologize and avoids him like the proverbial plague.  Peppi finds friends among the Art Club and things are going pretty well, but then - horror of horrors - the science teacher assigns Jaime to be her tutor!  What's a girl to do?  Skip the sessions and flunk science or just face the music?  Maybe art can meet science and have something positive emerge.  You'll have to read Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova to find out.

Are you heading back to class or just wanting to relive those days? If so, check out these graphic novels about the school experience...they've got to be more fun than a calculus textbook!

I Read Banned BooksYou’ve probably seen the bumper stickers, buttons and T-shirts and other paraphernalia. But why do books get banned? For a variety of reasons -- political views, offensive language, sexual content, or content that for various reasons is felt to be “inappropriate” for children, to name just a few.

But books are not the only things that get banned. Music has its own long history of being banned. For instance, the works of many composers were banned in Nazi Germany and in the Soviet Union during the reign of Joseph Stalin.

The banning continues in the Twenty-First Century. About a year ago, the New York Youth Symphony commissioned a new work by the talented young Estonian-born composer Jonas Tarm. The Photo of Jonas Tarmpiece, entitled Marsh u Nebuttya (March to Oblivion), which was to run about 9 minutes in length, included a couple of quotations from other musical works. The most controversial of these was a 45-second quote from the Horst Wessel Song (listener discretion advised) -- the unofficial anthem of the Nazi Party.

The work’s debut at Carnegie Hall was cancelled. The orchestra’s executive director said that the instrumental quotes from the Horst Wessel Song and the Ukrainian Soviet national anthem were offensive, even though the composer insisted that the piece was dedicated to “the victims who have suffered from cruelty and hatred of war, totalitarianism, polarizing nationalism -- in the past and today.”

It’s a classic case of judging a creation by its parts rather than its overall artistic merits. I look forward to the day when I can hear this piece and make my own decision.

Celebrate Banned Books Week later this month, September 27-October 3.

There are some images that stay in our minds forever and the picture of "the Afghan Girl" is one of them. Those sea-green eyes captivated the world when we saw her portrait for the first time on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985.
Steve McCurry, a National Geographic photographer, made famous the face of this girl when it appeared on the cover of the magazine, and later on the cover of his book, Portraits. The intention behind the picture was to document the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation. While walking through the camp, the photographer asked for the teacher's permission to take the photo. He never imagined those amazing eyes would become a global symbol of wartime. McCurry didn't ask her name; seventeen years later he decided to search for her as revealed in the documentary, Search for the Afghan Girl.
In 2002 he came back to Pakistan searching for the nameless girl. After many challenges and with the help of a team of experts including the FBI, he found her. Her name is Sharbat Gula and surprisingly her identity was revealed through her eyes, with the use of iris recognition technology. Her sea-green eyes matched the characteristics of that first and only picture. Learn more about McCurry's work by exploring this list.

Martha Stewart's Appetizers

by Martha Stewart

200 recipes for fuss-free party foods that are delicious and easy to make. Enjoy!

Heartlandia: Heritage Recipes from Portland's The Country Cat

by Adam Sappington

Comforting wholesome recipes from The Country Cat-- one of Portland's acclaimed restaurants.

My Kitchen Year:136 Recipes That Saved My Life

by Ruth Reichl

When Gourmet magazine suddenly folded, editor Ruth Reichl spent a year back in her kitchen rediscovering kitchen comforts.

Theo Chocolate: Recipes and Sweet Secrets from Seattle's Favorite Chocolate Maker

by Debra Music

Sweet and savory chocolate recipes from Seattle's Theo Chocolate along with their story of how their fair trade chocolate factory came to be.

The Art of Memoir

by Mary Karr

From the author of Liar's Club and Lit: A Memoir, Karr presents her perspective on how to write a memoir.

Deep South: Four Seasons on the Back Roads

by Paul Theroux

For fifty years Theroux has written about far-flung places but never America. Now he describes his wanderings through the south visiting the local sights in small towns.

St. Paul: The Apostle We Love to Hate

by Karen Armstrong

(No picture available of the book)

One of the most popular writers on religion brings us a stirring account of the life of Paul, the apostle who brought Christianity to the Jews.

Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science

by Richard Dawkins

The award winning author of The God Delusion and The Selfish Gene now tells about his intellectual inquiries into the relationship between nature, culture and religion.


I’ve wanted to write a little something about Roald Dahl for a long time.  Yes, everyone knows him for his children’s books: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, and Esio Trot seem to always have a permanent place on the bookshelves of many young readers.  Yet there is more to Dahl than his beloved children’s books.  His short stories for adults are among the best around. They are highly original, deeply engaging and filled with unusual characters who stand out from the ordinary but seem strangely familiar.  

Roald Dah's Collected Stories book jacketThe titles of Dahl’s stories suggest something of the intrigue to come.  Someone Like You and Lamb to the Slaughter, which can be found in his Collected Stories, suggest stories filled with unexpected twists and dark humor and they never fail to deliver both. In Lamb to the Slaughter’s title story, a disgruntled wife kills her husband with a frozen leg of lamb and then feeds the roasted meat to the investigating policeman. In The Landlady, an unsuspecting traveler falls prey to a landlady who prefers stuffed guests. Dahl’s dark and often macabre stories are beautifully written and always contain at least one moment of absolute surprise that pulls the rug out from under the reader’s feet.

Dahl has been around for the long time, rising to eminence long before J.K. Rowling and writing before the days when series fiction was needed to draw young readers in.  Roald Dahl appeals to children because he takes them seriously and endeavors to treat them well.  Dahl created worlds where magic lived just along the edges of ordinary life and where a shove in any direction would turn that life upside down.

Dahl’s personal life was filled with its own share of the unexpected. His autobiographical books including Boy and Going Solo detail his early school daysGoing Solo book jacket through his wartime service as a fighter pilot. After being shot down, Dahl eventually landed a post working in Washington D.C. at the British Embassy where he hobnobbed with Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn and played poker with Harry Truman. He also met C.S. Forester who encouraged him to write. Dahl started with short stories and magazine articles and eventually branched into his well-known children’s books and often overlooked adult works.  Roald Dahl’s stories are the kind that can be read over and over.  Lucky readers will discover new and exciting details with each reading.

I fell in love in Africa once. On horseback. Surrounded by giraffes and impala. My boyfriend and I were backpacking around southern Africa, and that’s when I knew my heart was his.

Reader, I married the guy. We moved to Portland and acquired jobs, a mortgage, and two kids. It’s great, really, but I miss traveling. I miss that sense of not knowing what the day before me will bring, and I dream about going back to Africa.

Paula McLain, whose Paris Wife was a big success in 2011, has just published Circling the Sun, a new novel about Beryl Markham, the pilot, horse trainer, and author of West with the Night. West with the Night is an awfully good memoir that I’ve owned forever and finally read after finishing McLain’s book. Hemingway said of it that "this girl, who is to my knowledge very unpleasant and we might even say a high-grade bitch, can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers ... it really is a bloody wonderful book." (The story goes that Hemingway wanted to sleep with Markham and she refused him!) 

It must be said that both books skirt the very real issue of how British colonists treated the natives-- but I still couldn’t help being beguiled by their descriptions of Kenya in the early 20th century.  I long to join all the expats on Karen Von Blixen's veranda to sip gin and tonics and watch the hills in the distance turn a darker and darker shade of purple as the sun goes down. I want to go riding along Lake Elementaita in the early morning, scattering  thousands of flamingos who take to the sky as we draw closer, and I want to go on safari again and see lions stalking a kudu in the long grass.

Paula McLain is so good at putting my fantasies on the page. Someday I'll get to travel the world some more, but until then, Circling the Sun offered a great escape, one I think you might enjoy. 

I have always been fascinated by the number of artists who are 'twice -gifted'.  For example: musicians who started out in art school- John Lennon, David Bowie,or Joni Mitchell.  Or Ethan HawkeStephen Fry, and Whoopi Goldberg are actors who are also authors.

Author, Daniel Handler (AKA Lemony Snicket) sings in  a band, so does  Stephen King and Amy Tan.

Guess what?  There  is  a whole group of 'twice-gifted' mystery writers-they  are musicians and songwriters too!

Books with musical CDs

The Merry Band of Murderers is a collection of mystery stories written and edited  by mystery authors who also have musical talent.  Some of the stories even have a musical theme. But listen to this! The included CD  features the authors singing and  performing original music related to her/his story.

As a bonus at the end of each story,  the author answers questions such as  ‘What 3 people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner?’ or ‘Which would you rather do- read or listen to a favorite piece of music?’

My favorite story Shuffle Off This Mortal Coil  by Rupert Holmes, is about a man who puts his mammoth record collection on his iPod and finds that it begins to give him secret coded instructions using the shuffled titles of its songs. Sounds exactly like something that would happen to me!

To check out The Merry Band of Murderers and other books with CDs, see my list below.





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