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.

woman in front of nyc public library

Can you recommend a good book?  

This may seem like a contrived ploy to plug our My Librarian and Reading suggestion services, but I'm serious.  Everything I pick up these days misses the mark.

At the moment a so-so mystery/thriller is filling in for the right title. However, that's not enough. I need an inspired, page turning book.  One that makes me cling to every page with the hope that more will magically appear to give more time with the characters. A bit dramatic? Sure, but you get the point.  

Luckily, there’s an answer to such dark literary times.  Nothing new, borrowed, or blue is gonna fix this.  Something old?  I think so. It's time for a  book so good, so familiar, that only the magic of the emotional bond between reader and a beloved story will do.  Perhaps an old favorite will jump start my book rut.

Hello old friend.

 One of my favorite sub-genres is a secret no longer. What was once a small specific mash-up of genre fiction sprinkled among a few authors and anthologies has blossomed into a renaissance of books, comics, and films. The Weird Western has its roots in classic pulp paperbacks and magazines (Robert E. Howard, Lon Williams, and Charles G. Finney) where authors who wrote with familiar tropes and themes of the western tale started to incorporate supernatural, speculative, ancient mythological, and even robotic fibers into their yarns. Unfortunately, in terms of content and what is available today with the e-boom of self-publishing, there are quite a few six-guns that should have remained holstered. This gold rush of stories has also expanded the arm of steampunk fiction, which has usually been contained within the constantly fluctuating threshold of science-fiction-fantasy. I’ve never been a huge fan of steampunk. I’ve read and liked a few original authors, but there is no denying that when it comes to Weird Westerns, that universe and it’s facets, without question, adds flair and substance to many creations on the Ranch.

So, every other month, in order to get you through the shutter doors of the saloon slinging the best whiskey, I’ll help you wade through the muck that has appeared near the hitchin’ post right outside...This month on the Ranch I highlight two collections that share the same title.

Just released is the anthology Dead Man’s Hand, edited by John Joseph Adams. Short stories are the backbone of the genre despite many successful and original novels and this new title has some heavyweights including Joe Lansdale, one of the patriarchs of the Weird Western tale, Alastair Reynolds, Orson Scott Card, Kelley Armstrong, and Jonathan Maberry. The Tad Williams story “Strong Medicine” recalls the enjoyable stop-motion film Valley of the Gwangi.  Despite leaning more towards fantasy and alternate history over horror, Adams has nonetheless roped some wonderful tales.

The other Dead Man’s Hand, by Nancy A. Collins, was published in 2004 and contains three novellas, two short stories, and an intro by, who else? Joe Lansdale. Known for her Sonja Blue series and most recent Golgotham books, Collins adds old and new elements to her offerings. I particularly liked “Lynch,” with its contribution to the Frankenstein legacy, and I have a personal attachment to the darker Dia De Los Muertos story “Calaverada.” This title is a softer addition to the canon but a worthy collection and perfect for the entry-level Weird Western reader.

If you like these titles or the booklists below, send me a message and I will provide a more thorough bibliography (or filmography) of other great Weird Westerns. Other booklists and reviews in the next roundup, happy reading!

"Donald Harington is not an unkown author.  He is an undiscovered continent."- Fred Chappell

Just as with the early settlers who arrived on saddle bagged mules, only to say with a shrug, ‘Pears lak this here road don't go no further' and start falling trees, the mythical Ozark hamlet of Stay More was not my planned travel destination. I love books that take me places, but the Arkansas Ozarks just wasn’t on my itinerary. All it took however, was one chance encounter with a book titled With to quickly realize that this was a travel destination beyond compare.

The town of Stay More is strongly rooted in the real history and folklore of the Ozarks and just as solidly established in the vast imagination of little-known author, Donald Harington. Harington has written thirteen novels set in this town where animals talk, ghosts provide companionship to the living and the local doctor, who despite his lack of formal medical training, is able to cure patients in their dreams.

I recently traveled back to Stay More with The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks. Using architecture as a marker, the novel lays out the history of Stay More from the founding of the town by the Ingledew brothers in the 1830s, through six generations of Stay Morons up to the 1970s. Along the way, Harington's voice, like Waylon Jennings narrating the Dukes of Hazzard, injects countless lessons in folklore, history and linguistics; some of them true, some appropriated, some entirely made up and all of them fantastically entertaining.

Donald Harington's Stay More might not be everyone's ideal travel destination, but if you enjoy masterful storytelling, bawdy humor and philosophical conversation written in a dialogue that you really must read aloud, (preferably with a swig of Arkansas sour mash whiskey), then you will most certainly find yourself stayin' more.

I was born in 1954. 

Here is Elvis bookjacketa snapshot of that year:

Elvis Presley paid to have his first two songs recorded in Memphis.                                                                                                                                    

The average cost of gas was twenty two cents and Lassie and Rin Tin Tin were keeping us safe from the bad guys.                                                                              

There was a new trend called DIY that encouraged citizens to decorate their own homes and fix own their cars through magazines like Popular Mechanics and Better Homes and Gardens .

It was also an exceptional  publishing year with modern classics likeHorton Hears a Who by Dr.Seuss and Live and Let Die by ex-British Spy Ian Fleming.

When I read the list of books that were published the year I was born it was like seeing a snapshot of my own personal history. For example, my dad carried a copy of Ian Fleming's books in his black metal lunch box to read at work. Among the piles of book we brought home from the library every week there were always at least one or two by Dr. Seuss. The families we knew traded stories and ideas for fixing up their hoHorton bookjacketuses and gardens and cooking with new and interesting ingredients, among them Jello.

Wondering what books were published the year you were born and what they might tell about your personal history snapshot? I would love to make you a list.

cover image of year of pleasuresI just read Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg for the third time. What books do you re-read? Is it a yearly thing or on an as-needed basis?

I read Year of Pleasures when I am feeling sad. Betta Nolan, the main character, is a recent widow (which you find out in the first few pages). She and her husband had planned to move from Boston Massachusetts to the midwest. John, her husband, requests that she still move to the midwest after he passes. Betta doesn’t disappoint and moves to a small midwestern town.

Elizabeth Berg is a bestselling writer because she knows how to tell a story. She finds all the intimate places of a character's mind. She knows what makes them tick. And what makes them ticked off! Her characters start over or refurbish their lives. At the same time they notice the simple pleasures of life. She is one of my most favorite authors. I look forward to her books every year. While Year of Pleasures is sad, it honors and celebrates those beautiful parts of the parade of life. Check it out!

Portland author Nicole Mones’ novels are so interesting. You get well-developed characters, a bit of romance, and good writing, but you also get to share in her wealth of knowledge including, but not limited to, all things Chinese. Ms. Mones owned a textile business for many years that required her to spend a lot of time in China. Between that and the research she's done for her books, she is such an expert on China that she’s now a member of  the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Her novel, A Cup of Light is full of information about Chinese porcelain, and The Last Chinese Chef offers an introduction to the fascinating philosophy that guides Chinese cuisine.

Her new book, Night in Shanghai, introduced me to an astonishingly interesting and vivid city. Shanghai in the 1930s was an open port, with a thriving International District. It was full of money, jazz clubs, dangerous women and political intrigue. Communists jockeyed for position against Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist party, powerful crime gangs fought each other, and the Japanese army had long been an increasingly menacing presence in the city. Black American jazz musicians came in multitudes because in China, they could escape from the racism and segregation they left behind in the United States and could earn a fair living. Shanghai also came to be a haven for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, mostly because of one man, Ho Feng-Shan, a Chinese diplomat in Vienna. Jews were desperate to flee Austria, but no one was issuing visas for Jews anymore, and they were not allowed to leave without a visa. Shanghai, as an open port, did not require visas, but in order to help thousands of Jews escape, Ho set his staff to creating fake ones, as fast as they could, in spite of the fact that his superiors were ordering him to stop. His heroic actions didn’t do much for his career, but he is still honored in Israel for them.

In this exciting city, a  romance blossoms between Thomas Greene, a classically trained pianist turned jazz musician, and Song, an indentured servant and secret communist.  It’s ever more obvious that World War II is coming, and as Japan allies with Germany against the United States, we wonder if Greene will get out in time, and will Song go with him, or if she’ll stay in China to fight with the communists. And what will happen to all those Jews who have found refuge in Shanghai now that Germany is demanding that the "Jewish Problem" is addressed there?

Mones writes beautifully in this book about music, how it feels to improvise, and how music can change the world. More Portlanders should know about this local author. Give her books a try!

Remember Mary Stewart?  She may be best known for her Merlin Trilogy, which I devoured in school.  Recently however, her other novels have been re-released as rediscovered classics. These rediscovered classics involve a female heroine, an exotic locale, a little bit of mystery, and a gentle romance. They are just the thing for reading whilst on holiday, commuting on mass transit, are something fun and light for those summer days, and cozy enough for a winter evening.  In short, they are just about perfect anytime, anywhere. cover image of Wildfire at Midnight

Several of these novels are now available with new cover designs, but my current favorite is Wildfire at Midnight. A young divorcée from London escapes to a remote hotel in Scotland for a much needed break and discovers that not only has there been a strange murder on the nearby mountain Blaven, but one of the hotel’s guests is none other than her estranged husband. Some holiday!

Samuel Delaney’s 1966 novel Babel-17 centers on a language where the meaning is so perfectly expressed in so few words that it accelerates thought. This perfection makes it possible to solve previously insurmountable problems in a nanosecond. It is not just a language — it is a weapon.

Babel 17

In Jo Walton’s tor.com blog post about Babel-17 she relates that the plot grew out of a linguistic theory that was in vogue at the time. Called the strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, it posited that language shapes perception so deeply that thinking in a different language gives you a different perception. This has apparently been disproven.

Disproven or not, I find this theory deeply intriguing. If you have lived in another language, you know that translating is, well, a little lie. When you live in a language you live in a culture, and quickly need to transition from converting words using an equation to understanding the words as they are.

So, how do the words we use shape what we are capable of imagining? How deeply are we divided by culture and language? And, if the only tool we have to communicate are words, can we ever understand someone from another planet?

I’ve made a booklist of novels where the plots are driven by some of these questions, or by wonderfully playful insights into words and the nature of narrative: The words are the plot

And, incidentally, Jo Walton's blog posts on classic science fiction and fantasy, like the one linked above, have been collected into a new book called What Makes This Book So Great. She is insightful, informative, and has a contagious love of the genres. If you are looking for fodder for your summer reading, look no further.

Look into the futureI have friends who are political junkies who count the days between each Presidential election. That’s four years of waiting filled with competitive yet non-athletic bluster, bloated hypocrisy, and stagnant idealism, not including the Congressional races. But I do know how they feel, because the cruel disappointment and heartbreak forced onto me by twenty-one years of loyalty to Newcastle United FC, fractured Yugoslavian teams, and U.S.A. soccer is lifted every four years with the angelic arrival of the holiest of holies in all of sport: the World Cup. Somehow, before, during, and after this soccer celebration, politics, both governmental and athletic (FIFA is no secret to controversy) always seem to pervade the social and cultural unification of the games no matter the host country. In 2014, inside the fascinating world of Brazil, this impending party-crasher will be no different.

Government corruption, political demonstrations, martial law, election scandals, destructive floods, terrorist bombings, and kidnapping. These issues are everyday and commonplace around the globe. For twenty-five days this summer, however, these same problems currently presenting hardship in nations represented within the Cup will briefly stand aside to the enthusiasm, optimism, and allegiance of the Beautiful Game. Floods and landslides in the Balkans will further motivate Croatia and first-timers Bosnia-Herzegovina. The mass kidnapping and subsequent bombings in Nigeria should emphatically inspire the Super Eagles. Russia will undoubtedly be playing harder than ever in proud fashion to prove they can adequately host the next Cup. Yet it is Brazil and it’s society’s turbulent clashes over the expenditures of hosting both the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics versus the lack of basic human social programs that face the toughest scrutiny. If ever the host country was to win it all at home, the Canarinho would be wise to do it this year. Teams representing countries in the news, especially negative news, tend to play harder with more passion and a greater sense of urgency. That’s when timeless moments occur and with one kick, an exhale or a blink, the entire conscience of an impoverished nation can be instantaneously and collectively transformed into pure hope and bliss. This is the power that gives names to snapshots such as “The Hand of God,” “Goal of the Century,” and the “Miracle of Bern.” Slayer of Lions

It seems that each day the news is consistently full of sorrow rather than smiles, but teams such as Nigeria, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and flamboyant host Brazil will all be trying to erase the crushing adversity pervading their societies (as of this post) for at least a brief ninety minutes. And every team desires as many successive ninety minute chances as possible, for each match pulls them one step closer to lifting not only the World Cup trophy, but glory for their country and symbolic spiritual triumph over the perpetual numbness of suffering. So soak it in as much as possible I say, it goes by quickly. Samba till you just can’t stand up anymore.

 

Adventure Time, a cartoon series created by Pendleton Ward on Cartoon Network, could easily be a favorite for all members of your family. Your kids might like how creative and goofy it is and you might appreciate some of the positive messages and varied references. Watch Finn, a human boy, and his shape-shifting brother/dog, Jake, save or be saved by friends in the land of Oo and other dimensions.

One of my favorite episodes,“Box Prince,” is about how Finn and Jake project their views of an ordered society onto a group of cats that appear to be living in the Box Kingdom. Who is the true Box Prince? If you look closely you might catch references to My Neighbor Totoro and the internet cat celebrity Maru. That season hasn't been released yet on DVD, but seasons one, two, and three, are ready to go.

I love the range of immature (fart) jokes to adult-ish jokes (Jake calls sweat pants "'give up on life' pants.") I can appreciate that it's a kid’s show with strong female characters and endless amounts of cute and colorful animation. Watching an episode of Adventure Time can be some of the best 11 minutes of my life.

If you’re just starting the first season, why not also read the first volume of the comic at the same time? The comic is cleverly written by Ryan North, author of Dinosaur Comics, whose humor remains true to AT style.

The DVD Adventure Time: It Came from the Nightosphere is a must watch for people who want to hear some indie pop. Sure, Finn can auto-tune like the best of them, but don’t miss out on one of Marceline the Vampire Queen’s best hits, “The Fry Song.”

If you could use a shake up, check out the graphic novel, Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake, a comic based off the episode “Fionna & Cake.” In this alternate version, all the main characters change genders and the characters are so good you wish it was a regular thing.

Whether want to share something with your kid/teen or you want to nurture your inner child, Adventure Time is worth checking out.

Portland hill walksWe all sometimes feel like we can't escape the office, but we library folks are unique, I think, in that we get a real kick out of seeing someone enjoying a library resource when we are out and about. A few weeks ago I was walking some stairs in my neighborhood (the never ending quest for fitness continues), and I spotted a young man walking in front of me. He was wearing a backpack, walking slowly, and seemed to be studying everything around him as he walked. As I got closer, I could see that he had a book in his hands. Excited now, I said to my fitness partner, 'He's got a book! I'll bet it's a Laura Foster book!'. Laura writes very interesting books about the neighborhoods of Portland and how to explore them on foot. As we got closer, I saw that the young man was reading Portland Hill Walksand, better yet, his book had a Multnomah County Library stamp on the top! 

We chatted a bit about the book, the neighborhood, but especially the library. Having just moved to Portland, this young man was very excited to make use of our wonderful library system. And I was very excited to chat it up. In my work at the library, I don't get a chance to interact with the public as much as I used to, so I relish these chances to spread the good word about us when outside a library building. I have spotted Multnomah County library books on planes, trains, and automobiles, and they are always a catalyst to a wonderful conversation. Maybe I'll meet you out and about, and we'll talk about the library book you are carrying.

 

Hello. My name is Matt and I read mysteries.  

I never thought I’d be a mystery reader. It started off with the occasional Agatha Christie title to mix things up. A few years later,  I found myself reading a too cozy for comfort title involving a doughnut shop and recipes.  Things had gone too far. What kind of mystery reader was I? Was I one book away from entering the soft boiled world of J.B. Fletcher?

Luckily, the answer was right in front of me: gay detective novels.  In a literary world with limited LGBTQ characters, it’s exciting to find a likeable protagonist to identify with. Exploring the cast of gay detectives, I was surprised to find a collection of gentlemen larger than expected.

amuse bouche cover

Russell Quant is an everyman living in Saskatchewan. As a handsome rookie private detective in a small city, business can be slow. However, when it gets busy things quickly get out of hand.  His cases take him to exotic locales and always lead back to his Canadian home for a thrilling finale.  His love life is, uh, complicated and has it’s ups and downs.  A quirky cast of friends and family round out the series to keep things interesting.  Start with Amuse Bouche.

book cover rust on razorWhat do Scott, a famous baseball pitcher and Tom, a dedicated school teacher have in common? For starters, a penchant for getting in over their heads when mystery comes a calling. The heart of these books is dark, gritty, and reflective of the era in which each of them is written. The series spans twenty years of great change within the LGBTQ community and doesn’t hold back.  Are there schmaltzty moments?  Sure, but reluctant detectives need love too.  Start with “A Simple Suburban Murder” via Interlibrary loan or “Rust on the Razor” available at Multnomah County Library.

These are my favorites of the bunch, but check any of them out.  Each of these mystery series have their own feel.  It’s what makes the genre so much fun to read.  Plus you never know if the perfect pie recipe is on the next page...

It is a question you hear all the time...if you were stranded on a desert island, what book or books would you choose to bring?  And while the question rattles off the tongue easily enough, it is not such a simple answer.  I'm always torn between being practical or romantic. If I were to be practical (which I'll have you know I quite often am), I would grab something like my Auntie Carol's 1950s Girl Scout Guide, or some other survival manual of sorts.  At any rate, it would end up being a very different list indeed.  I'm going to throw practical aside for just a moment and imagine myself stranded on a desert island with the basic necessities sorted.  All I have is time, no worries, and a few favorite reads....

emily-jane on stairs with books

Emily-Jane at Central is reading Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor, and has this to say about it:

The teenaged Patrick Leigh Fermor walks across Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria in the early 1930s, on his way from Holland to Istanbul. I'm loving the awkward contrast between the international collegiality of the upper class on the one hand, and Fermor's vivid and moving descriptions of everyday Central European landscapes and life on the other.

Since the book doesn't have any maps and takes place before the Second World War, a lot of the borders and place names are unfamiliar to me—so I've also been reading Paul R. Magocsi's Historical Atlas of East Central Europe, which is helpful for armchair orienteering and historical context.

The other volumes in Fermor's walking memoir series are: #1: A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople : From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube and #3 (just published in 2014!): The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos.

I love the Columbia River. I spend much of my free time on or near it and enjoy its beauty and grandeur. When I travel, I am reminded that most other rivers are not in its league.  The Columbia River defines this region. Without the Columbia River, Portland would not be an important port. There would be no Columbia Gorge and also no Bonneville Power Administration. These four books help to capture what the Columbia River was and now is.

Sources of the River book jacketI always like to start with history. Sources of the RIver: Tracking David Thompson Across Western North America by Jack Nisbet tells the story of David Thompson. He explored western North America from 1784 to 1812 and was the first person to chart the entire route of the Columbia River. Two hundred years ago he was one of a handful of white Europeans and Americans to explore the area which was home to many Native American tribes. He was looking for better fur trading routes and ended up helping to expand trade and settlement in the Northwest.

The Columbia River was a wild and free flowing river until the Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams were built in the 1930s. They were A River Lost book jacketthe first of fourteen dams that changed the river into the relatively tame river it is today. A River Lost: The Life and  Death of the Columbia by Blaine Harden looks at the modern river. He tries to explain what has happened to the river and how it is perceived by those who live near it and depend on it for their livelihoods.

Voyage of a Summer Sun book jacketThe book that opened my eyes to how dams change a river is Robin Cody’s Voyage of a Summer Sun: Canoeing the Columbia River. It is a journal of his trip down the entire river, from the headwaters to the ocean by canoe. His voyage is down a modern managed river whose ecology has been greatly damaged. It is a river that David Thompson would hardly recognise.

Wanting to end on a happier note, my last book is by Sam McKinney, an Oregon native and a  respected maritime historian. He has written several books about the Columbia River. Reach of Tide, Ring of History: A Columbia River Voyage is about his journey up the lower Columbia River from the mouth to Portland. He tells about the towns and places along the way and the people who lived and worked on the river. Most of the towns have faded into obscurity, but the lower Columbia being is still free flowing and is most like the river it used to be.

These books will give you much to ponder while you hike, sightsee and go boating on the Columbia River this summer. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

 Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons book coverAs a psychology major in the late 70's and early 80's it seemed that every textbook for every class included the story of Phineas Gage. He was the guy who had a tamping iron accidentally blasted through his cheek and out the top of his head while working on a railroad explosives crew in 1848. There were always illustrations, daguerreotypes, and a gruesome description of his injury.  (As I read the Wikipedia page about him right now, I get a little sparkly thing at the back of my eyeballs, and I'm not easily grossed out.)  As students, what always blew our disco-studded minds was that Gage lived.  Not only lived, but seemed mostly normal. However, as we all know, "normal" has a lot of gray matter near the edges. 

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons is Kean's newest book. His first one, The Disappearing Spoon was super good, and very easy to read even if one may have gotten a C in high school chemistry. This one promises to be just as good, thanks in part to Phineas Gage. And I like brains better than the periodic table anyway. 

 

Feel like moving some paint?  Want to splatter some alcohol inks?

One of my current obsessions is learning how to do mixed media visual art.  To get started I looked at books by Seth Apter. I took classes at the local mixed media center: Collage and with Serena Barton and Chris Cozen.  I also like to follow the blogs of Pam Garrison and Mary Anne Moss for learning mixed media tips and tricks.  

To continue learning I started a mixed media club with a couple of friends. We meet monthly. We share and try new products.  Basically, we cheer each other on!  I have found the best mixed media foundation recipe from the Jenny Doh’s magazine Somerset Studio. Don’t be fooled by the lack of a cover image in our catalog - this magazine is visually stunning. Most importantly I am having fun and I wanted to share some of these resources so you can have fun too!

Officially I live in a land called the United States of America.  But much of my time is spent in the somewhat gritty, dangerous land of the BBC mystery. It is a cold place and people speak in a number of interesting and different accents. Their words are the same as mine but they mean different things. They say things like ‘have any joy?’ and ‘are you takin’ the piss out of me?’

The detectives keep their emotions to themselves, have horrible homelives or none at all. They drink too much and throw things around when they get frustrated. They repeatedly flaunt the rules, their supervisor and common sense. But they find evil wherever it is hiding and root it out. The bad guy may seem to gain speed, and bodies may turn up in unexpected places, but in the end Vera Stanope, Jane Tennison, Inspectors Morse and Lewis, Cordelia Gray and Jackson Brodie will win

They will win with grace and style, and just when I think I will go crazy if I don’t see another episode of Vera, or Prime Suspect, Inspector Morse, Cordelia Gray or Case Histories, I come back to myself here in the United States where I rush to the library website to check out books featuring these and other favorite detectives.  Maybe it will hold me over untill the next season comes out.

Check out my complete list of gritty and dangerous BBC mysteries.

Self portrait paintingBefore I became a parent, I was a painter. When my son was born, I imagined a mini easel propped up next to mine, where we would paint together. If anybody has actually made this work for longer than three minutes, I’d love to hear about it. I will also suspect you are lying through your teeth.Book Jacket: One Painting a Day by Timothy Callaghan

Now that my son is more self-sufficient, I think I’ve simply stalled out and I need an assignment to help jump start my art.  I already went back to art school in my thirties, so this time I'm taking a different and less costly approach.  My first course is One Painting a Day by Timothy Callaghan. The 42 exercises in this book center around painting ordinary things, but the examples from contributing artists are far from mundane. There is no muse more accessible than your every day surroundings and I am already looking ahead to day 11: Paint a storage still life.

Next quarter, I'm considering How to be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith.  I bought this book for my (then) 12-year-old niece with the intention of hanging on to it until she was a little older. In theBook Jacket: How to Be An Explorer of the World by Keri Smith end, I gave it to her anyway because I’m disorganized and found myself otherwise empty-handed on her birthday. It turned out not to matter that Exploration #26: Becoming Leonard Cohen, didn’t strike a familiar chord. Her interpretations of Exploration #9: Case of Curiosities and #34 Interesting Garbage, completely blew me away.

I hope to graduate this time, with a renewed and regular art habit. Feel free to join me. Admission is open year-round and you only need to dust off your art supplies and pull out your library card to get started with your first assigment!

Flowers are very important to me. I put up a couple vases at a time in our house. One has to be on the dining room table and another on the fireplace mantle. And if I am really flower rich, I will put a couple vases in the bathroom or bedroom. I am usually flower rich when flowers are blooming in our garden. In the dead of winter I splurge for flowers on payday.
 
I mark certain times of years by which flowers are in bloom. February is all about hellebore and daphne. Because it can be dark and gloomy in Portland in the winter, seeing these plants in bloom means the sun is coming with spring on its heels.
 
So when I found the book The Flower Shop by Sally Page I was thrilled! The Flower Shop is one year in the life of a flower shop in a village in England. Each chapter is about a month of the year. Every month is marked with holidays that are celebrated with flowers. Birthdays, parties and weddings are celebrated throughout the book. Pictures and tips for flower care weave their way through the pages. If you are looking for something touching and colorful, this is the book for you. 

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