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.

Are the dark days of winter getting to you? The cold and the rain and the wind bringing you down? Need something to cheer you right up? How about a book or two?

Maira Kalman is a unique, eccentric, whimsical illustrator and writer of both kids' and kid-like adult books. Her illustrations even make William Strunk’s The Elements of Style a fascinating read. Beloved Dog bookjacketHer books are filled with illustrations of the things that she likes, and her likes range far and wide and slightly off-kilter. Kalman’s latest book, Beloved Dog, is dedicated to dogs. I hadn’t noticed that pictures of dogs appear quite often in her works and this book is a lovely ode to dogs. Maira Kalman’s books will cheer you right up.

It Ended Badly bookjacketFor me, a real mood lifter is to compare myself to others who have suffered more than me (Jeez, that sounds terrible. Really, I’m not that awful a person.). We’ve all had to deal with relationship breakdowns. If you’d like to read about some of the absolute worst, peruse Jennifer Wright’s It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History. It’s a fun, entertaining, and quite educational romp through some spectacular breakups. In the course of these breakups, people are stabbed. Prison sentences are served. Icky hair clumps are sent through the mail. It should put all of your own breakups in perspective.

Need some more cheering up? Try one of the books on my list here.

The Northern Lights book jacketNorthern winters are harsh things, especially when you live in a cabin deep in the woods. When nature calls, you may find yourself sprinting through the snow in the middle of the night, flashlight in hand, dodging moose with giant glowing eyes, just to get to the outhouse. You might have to be pulled on a dogsled attached to a snow machine to get to your baby-sitting job. Your family dog might get eaten by a wolf. You might have to hike ten miles to school in a blizzard, uphill both ways… err wait, that last one isn’t true! But I did experience the rest. Despite all these inconveniences, the north does have its pleasures, and the beauty of the night sky is one of them, especially the chance to see that most elusive atmospheric phenomenon, the northern lights. The ghostly colors that flicker and flare, the cold rays that splinter the darkness into sheets, curtains, coronas… well, it truly is awe-inspiring.

But how do these displays actually work? What forces are behind them? This was what one brilliant scientist in turn-of the-century photo of Kristian BirkelandNorway wondered. Kristian Birkeland was both driven and talented, and his quest to understand the workings of the aurora led him to Norwegian mountaintops and on expeditions to Russia’s far north. He didn’t limit himself to the arctic and also spent time in Africa researching the then-mysterious zodiacal light.  In addition, he was an inventor, and attempted to market creations as diverse as hearing aids, electromagnetic cannons, and methods of producing fertilizer in order to fund the research he truly loved. Even more amazing is the fact he accomplished all this before age 50. Find out more about Kristian Birkeland and the aurora in The Northern Lights by Lucy Jago. This is a great read for those who are interested in the lives of scientists, the history of science, and arctic adventure. And if you want more, look here.

This past year I've become a downloadable audiobook super fan. I still love to read, but I also love to do and audiobooks free up your hands to do so much. For instance:

Knitting: The voice of the grumpy Swede in A Man Called Ove, with his laugh-out-loud rants against "whipper-snappers doing monkey business" proved the perfect companion as I worked (and then re-worked) a poncho called Ella from this book of Danish knits. 

Commuting: O.K. more of a "have to do" than a "love to do" but Hector Tobar's Deep Dark Down: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in A Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free , kept me anxiously looking forward to my work commute for weeks. And so what if I arrived at work a little weepy as the men were finally freed from the mine. I'm a sensitive person.

The only drawback to my audio habit thus far, is that I've developed a bit of a Veruca Salt syndrome. When I want an audiobook I want it now. I want it right now! Which is why I love Hoopla. With no waiting, I check out my book, download it and quickly get back to the business of doing.
 
Need a great listen while you get stuff done this holiday season? Or maybe you just want to relax your eyes and shelter your ears from that annoying battery-operating talking toy the grandparents bought for your kid?
 
Tune in to something off this list of 10 great audiobooks that you could be enjoying right now.

I love Christmas, but most of the things I love about it probably originated in the celebration of the solstice. Sure, I appreciate super-religious and very old carols (“Fall on your knees! O  hear the angel voices!”), but for me, really, it’s mostly about having a real tree in my living room that’s all covered in lights and sparkly things, and the fact that the world will begin, finally, slowly, to get lighter and lighter.

So I’m not a believer, but it was still an interesting time of year to listen to Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary, which focuses intensely on the story of one woman who just happens to be the mother of Jesus Christ. This short novel is narrated by Meryl Streep, who is a magnificent reader, and the experience of listening to it was vivid and intimate. This Mary is a person who has lived through real anguish and is unwilling to put up with any nonsense. The novel is set several years after the crucifixion, and she is being cared for, or perhaps held by, some of the disciples, men who are hard at work making Jesus into a myth. She has no patience for them. For their part, they want her to cooperate or else to just shut up. The human aspects of the story, which are everything to Mary, don't interest them at all.

I listened to this because I was charmed by the author's By the Book column in the New York Times. Tóibín's a voracious reader, and I liked the warmth, humor, and wide embrace of life that came through as he spoke about books he’s loved.

Here’s a list of audiobooks that, like this one, are read by extraordinary readers. I wish you all a season of glorious reading while these long winter nights and rainy days continue, and let me know if I can help with some suggestions.

What’s great about helping people find books is learning about the books they loved. Tweens (grades 5-8) often are passionate about certain titles.

Cover of Michael Vey by Richard Paul Evans

Tween 1: I want to read something exciting. I really liked (names a title like "Michael Vey.")

Me: Hmm, I better go read that!

Tween 2: I like action in books. Like in (names title.) I tried (historical fiction title) at school but I couldn’t get into it.

Me: Hmm, I better read that first book.

Tween 3: Some books are so slow...nothing ever happens. But  (names a title) is the best book I ever read.

Me: Hmm, these books the tweens are recommending definitely have violence, but the heroes have a heart and soul. And there’s no putting them down.


And that’s how I’ve finally arrived at this list for 6-8 graders. I discovered some myself, but my fast and furious meter is now finely tuned, so not to worry.


Hold on tight and enjoy. 

 

Not reading much? This blog’s for you. A short list of short reading. Four of my favorites. Plus digital magazines and comics.

Cover of The Arrival by Shaun Tan

The Arrival  by Shaun Tan: no words, all ages; beauty in small things; immigration

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concrete Park Volume 1

Concrete Park by Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander: sci fi graphic novel; great characters and world creation; #weneeddiversebooks 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Point Your Face at This: Drawings by Demetri MartinPoint Your Face at This: Drawings by Demetri Martin: clever; few words.

 

 

 

 

 


Quotations for All OccasionsQuotations for All Occasions: lots to think about without having to read much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you prefer magazines and comics, you could try our free digital magazines and comics.

Happy reading, my friends!

(Thanks to my colleague Matt M. for modeling the art of brevity.)

 

In June of this year I brought home my first ever canine companion. My daughter named him SodaPop, and at one year old he is a bundle of energy. A bundle of energy who loves to go on long walks around the neighborhood. I’ve always enjoyed listening to audiobooks, but now that hour long walks are a regular part of my daily routine, audiobooks have become a necessity. When you are going for lengthy foggy morning and rainy evening strolls, the perfect companion is a good horror story. 
 
It audiobook coverStephen King’s It is a monstrous audiobook, both in length (clocking in at 45 hours long) and in the amount of chills that it is sure to give you. It is the story of a small town that has been haunted by an evil shapeshifting entity and the seven children who face this nameless horror. The narrator, Steven Weber, does a fantastic job of embodying the voices of each of the many characters in this horror classic; from young Ben Denbrough’s stutter and Trashmouth Tozier’s impersonations to the nightmareish voice of Pennywise. It will give you many hours (days) of entertainment...but when you are out walking in the rain, steer clear of the storm drains.
 
Heart-Shaped Box audiobook coverI can’t really talk about Stephen King without talking about his son, Joe Hill, another one of my favorite masters of horror. Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box centers around Judas Coyne, an aging death metal rock star and collector of the macabre. When Judas buys a suit that is said to be haunted by its recently deceased owner, he gets a lot more than what he paid for. Narrator Stephen Lang’s deep, somber voice is the perfect match for this spine tingling ghost story.
 
Here in the Pacific Northwest we have a few months of long, rainy days and nights ahead of us. May I recommend that you spend some time wandering around our fine city, bundled up and warm while listening to a chilling story. 
LEGOland FloridaLEGOs. You probably played with them when you were little, and maybe, like me, you still have a stash of LEGOs that you pull out when the mood strikes. Or maybe you're a parent who is intimately familiar with the excruciating pain of stepping barefoot on a LEGO, cursing the day that you ever let those tiny instruments of torture into your home. No matter what your opinion is of this classic toy, you have probably clicked a few of those bricks together at some point in your life.
 
Last November I was lucky enough to visit LEGOland in Tampa, Florida. I was completely in awe of the creativity and skill that went into building everything out of LEGOs. Buildings, bridges and boats, animals, Star Wars scenes and full sized characters, a full sized car, all built with LEGOs. What can be build with those bricks is only limited by your imagination (and access to vast supply of LEGOs). 
 

A couple of months ago I wrote about how I had just started reading and appreciating manga. Well, my first touch of manga fever has become an acute case of manga-itis that has taken over my reading life. Biweekly trips to the Kinokuniya Bookstore in Beaverton have served only to further my new obsession. Pursuing their manga shelves provides regular inspiration for my “must read” list. Given my love for horror films and graphic novels it should come as no surprise that the manga that I have been most drawn to falls within the horror and supernatural genre. 

Seraph of the End book jacketSeraph of the End is set in a world that is ruled by vampires. After a mysterious virus kills all humans over the age of 13, vampires come out from the shadows to take over. Intent on avenging the deaths of his friends and family, a young, angry and impulsive Yuichiro joins the Japanese Imperial Army. Yuichiro is anxious to earn his demon weapon and start battling vampires, but first he has to take on a most difficult task, make friends with his fellow vampire slayers.

Tokyo Ghoul book jacketToyko Ghoul is a series that was first released in the U.S. this year. I was first drawn in by how beautifully illustrated this manga is but the story has made me want more.The plot centers around Ken Kaneki a shy, book loving college student who enjoys hanging out with his best friend Hide. After a violent encounter, Ken finds himself in the hospital with a new kidney, a kidney that once belonged to a ghoul. Now half-human and half-ghoul, Ken must learn how to straddle the thin line between the human world and the vicious underground world of the ghouls. 

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service book jacketAdapted and published in English by local darlings Dark Horse Comics, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is a horror manga that I am in love with but that I recommend with a bit of caution. Some of the stories are quite gruesome. This series follows the adventures of five recent graduates from a Buddhist college who find that their special skills do not translate to employment. So what are a hacker, a dowser, an embalming specialist, a medium and a psychic to do? Carry out the wishes of the dead, of course. 

Kitaro book jacketThe last title that has sparked my manga loving heart is KitaroThe series was first published in the 1960s, but an English translation collection of the Kitaro episodes was published in 2013. The main character, Kitaro, appears to be at first glance a normal young boy, but he is really a 350-year-old yokai (supernatural monster). His hair serves as an antenna directing him towards paranormal activity, he has one eye and his yokai father lives in his other eye socket, he has jet powered sandals and he can seamlessly blend into his surroundings. In each episode Kitaro and his father cleverly battle criminals and malevolent yokai with the purpose of keeping humans safe. Kitaro is a wonderful melding of horror and whimsy where the good guy always wins.

 

For a lot of people, the pleasure of reading is enhanced when they can discuss books with friends or family. But children, teens and adults can't always read the same books. If you'd like to amp up the conversation at your dinner table, explore some of these titles grouped by themes and subject.

To begin, if your family enjoys stories about real people, here's one that is available in formats for beginning readers to adults. William Kamkwaba is a Malawian innovator. As a teen living in poverty, he devised a windmill that provided first electricity and then drinking water to his community.

Talking about animal welfare can be a challenge, for both kids and adults. Here are three stories for varying age levels that examine our treatment of animals.

If you're off on a camping trip this summer, what better time to discuss wilderness, courage and the will to survive?

Are you waiting with bated breath for Go Set a Watchman? Read, (or re-read) To Kill a Mockingbird, while younger readers get engrossed in The Lions of Little Rock, and then talk about civil rights and the power of friendship to bring people together.

In the early 1900's, Edward Curtis traveled North America taking photos of Native people, an obsession that almost destroyed his life but left us with an amazing historical record. Here's his story told for both adults and kids.

Looking for some creative inspiration? Syllabus is essentially a college course on connecting to your inner artist; My Pen encourages artists of all ages to draw. Just add blank paper.

Happy reading and discussing!

Ah, the slight autumnal chill in the air. The smell of apple pie wafting from the kitchen.The clouds and the greyness and the rain on the horizon. Yes, indeed, here in Portland, it's time to hunker down and watch some good shows.

The Affair coverWhat to watch, you ask?

Are you in the mood for deceit and mystery and sex and how distorted our memories can be? Try The Affair

Fortitude cover

 

Want to visit a bleak, desolate land of ice and snow? If you can suspend your sense of disbelief just a bit and want an intriguing story set in the Arctic Circle that’s filled with a completely bizarro mystery, pop Fortitude into your dvd player (the first half is the best part of it),

 

 

 

And then for a little lighter fare, an entertaining, series that stars the most splendid character, Miss Phryne Fisher wearing fabulous 1920s dresses, watch Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries cover

 

 

 

Need a few more shows to while away the winter with? Check out my list here. If you'd like even more suggestions, please ask me

 

Associates "Sulk"

 

"Your limitations are our every care"

The Associates (primarily singer Billy Mackenzie and multi-instrumentalist Alan Rankine) were a Scottish act, now identified as quintessentially "post-punk."   But there's no way any taxonomic indicator could ever contain or expand enough to encompass the sounds embedded in "Sulk." Leading with the shrill blast of "Arrogance Gave Him Up"'s racing drums and fluorescent synth stabs, the record defies expectation at every turn.  Predictably, Bowie genetic traces run rampant - but "Sulk" sidles into the outer territories of what "pop" might be/come, like an acid spill corroding the enervated gestures of everything else happening in 1982 (Bowie soul-boys, New Romantics, chart entryists, end-days disco).  The record is overflowing with ideas and impulses - gorgeous, but like a still life of a swamp, harboring all kinds of unknown and carbonized creatures, sensations, and pitfalls.

No album is ever fully outside its historical moment.  "Sulk" has "1980s" written all over its face - Thatcher-induced paranoia, the seemingly endless money-spouts pumping out of the pores of the culture industry, and a leashed but furious gnashing of the teeth at sex and desire's constraints.  And drugs of course.  Legend has it that Rankine and Mackenzie spent half of their 60,000 pound advance (massive for '82) on cocaine, clothing, cocaine, room service, cocaine, and inspired concepts like chocolate life-sized guitars for a Top of the Pops appearance.  Mackenzie's lyrics are ultimately impenetrable but necessarily so. These songs are howls from the edges of a self-enclosed world that Mackenzie knew would never be able to carve out new space quickly enough for escape.  

I'll end with Mackenzie's voice.  It moves everywhere at once, sometimes following the often unpredictable musical pathways but just as often birthing new songs within songs, burning like brush fires that we know will eventually (though we don't want them to) self-exhaust.  




I've kept a list of the authors and titles I've written about over the last five years in order to avoid duplication, but I've finally found an author that really deserves another mention. I first wrote about N. K. Jemisin in 2010: A New Voice in Science Fiction.  Over the last five years she has been nominated for several awards for her early novels. She writes fairly short series and each series has an overarching theme. In an interview I read with her, she said the theme of the first series was racism, the second was religion, and the third is about the collapse of civilizations.The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms book jacket

Her first trilogy begins with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms where Yeine Darr, one of the many descendants of the emperor, is summoned to the court and told she is one of three potential heirs.  Being the "other", the jumped up barbarian half-breed from the uncivilized hinterlands, her welcome is about as warm as you'd expect.  The "civilized" heirs promptly try to assassinate her and it all goes on fromThe Killing Moon book jacket there.

The second series, a duology, begins with The Killing Moon.  Ehiru is a gatherer who is sent by his church to collect "dreamblood" from the dying and those too corrupt to let live.  He's too much of an innocent to realize that he's being used by the less ethical members of his church and that he isn't simply granting a merciful end to the dying and criminals.  Once he becomes aware of the corruption, his faith is tested.

The Fifth Season, the first book in her most recent series, has just come out. The world she created is prone to regular extinction level The Fifth Season book jacketevents that are called a “fifth season”.  Volcanoes so massive there might be 5 or 10 years of winter from the ash blanketing the sky.  Massive earthquakes flattening not just cities but entire regions. Tsunamis wiping out coasts (not towns, entire coasts) every few years. Despite this, humanity survives.  "Stonelore" tells what to do and how to make the hard choices so that some of the community might survive until better days come back. Then the ground shakes and the ash starts falling. This time it doesn't stop.

I wouldn’t  be surprised to see The Fifth Season make the final ballot for the Hugo award this coming year.  She's one of the best new authors in the genre, and I fully expect she'll win a well-deserved award one of these years.  Pick the theme that speaks to you and give one of her series a try!

arctic tern

I always thought that bird watching would be boring until I actually did it!  I can't recall exactly how many birds I saw on my first official try, but I do remember being impressed by the beauty and variety of shorebirds on view in winter down around Tillamook Bay.  I was so completely charmed by the sweet little buffleheads as they bobbed around that I almost forgot the freezing temperatures!  Then there was the visit in and around the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in spring where I was blown away by the beautiful American White Pelicans and got a close-up look at a rough-legged hawk making a meal of a duck.  On another visit to the same area, I got a rare and long look at some juvenile golden eagles as they were snacking on something. 

My latest avian adventure happened last spring in Britain when I went to the Farne Islands and was dive-bombed by an Arctic tern!  Fortunately, I had a hat on and had been warned that this might happen. I wish I had started my bird-watching ventures when I was a lot younger. if I actually kept a life list, it certainly would have been more complete had I started observing birds when I was five.  Fortunately for today's youth, there are lots of fun, fact-filled books to help get them excited about birds.  Check out this list for some ideas!

Renee watson headshotRenée Watson grew up in Portland, Oregon, and currently lives in New York City. She returns to her hometown on Nov. 7 for Wordstock. She is the author of This Side of Home, which was nominated for the Best Fiction for Young Adults by the American Library Association. Her picture book,  Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills received several honors, including an NAACP Image Award nomination in children’s literature. Her novel, What Momma Left Me, debuted as the New Voice for 2010 in middle grade fiction. 
 
One of Renée’s passions is using the arts to help youth cope with trauma and discuss social issues. Her picture book, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, is based on poetry workshops she facilitated with children in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
 
Renée has worked as a writer in residence for several years teaching creative writing and theater in public schools and community centers throughout the nation. She is a team member of We Need Diverse Books.
 
As a young reader, I loved the Ramona series by Beverly Clearly, in part because I also grew up in Northeast Portland. I knew those streets and it was fascinating to me to read about my hometown. In middle school I read To Kill a Mockingbird countless times and, in high school, I not only read the play Raisin in the Sun but I acted in it as well. These books, like the books on my list, explore issues of race, class and activism. They dig deep into neighborhoods and communities that are sometimes overlooked or misunderstood. They show us complicated, layered relationships between family members and friends. Each story has caring adults and mentors that come alongside young people to help them make sense of this world. Each book has made me laugh out loud or brush away tears. These are books I have used in the classroom when I teach creative writing. These are words I return to when I need inspiration and courage to tell my own stories. I call this list "Books on Home, History and Hope."
 
Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz. A is for Angela Davis. Z is for Zora Neale Hurston. A book of female leaders, artists, and activists that everyone should learn about.
 
Speak to Me & I Will Listen Between the Lines by Karen English. Six third-grade children. One day. One classroom. One teacher who loves them all and truly sees them for who they really are.
 
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Two teen males — one black, one white — grapple with the aftermath of a police officer who has brutally beaten the black teen. This is a raw, honest, and necessary book.
 
These books and more that I find inspiring can be found in my list below!

When I was in Berlin a few years ago, I made it a point to visit the Bebelplatz -- site of the infamous Nazi book-burning of May 1933. This understated memorial consists of a glass plate set into cobblestones; peering into the glass, you see empty bookshelves below -- enough to hold the 20,000 or so volumes that were incinerated on that terrible night.Photo of Bebelplatz memorial

Fast forward 10 years and the world was embroiled in the most savage and destructive war in history. The movement that sought to quash freedom of thought in 1933 was now working to impose its will on the rest of the world. But those fighting against the oppressors were fighting not only with the personnel and material of war, but also with books.

Image of Armed Services EditionAmerican citizens suddenly found themselves transformed into military personnel and were stationed thousand of miles from their homes and loved ones. The Council on Books in Wartime was formed to provide America's military personnel with literature to enrich their lives, make them laugh, and to remind them of home -- and so the Armed Services Edition was born. These little books were produced in the millions and were specifically engineered to be light and to fit neatly into the pockets of government issue uniforms. These little books could be found virtually everywhere from ships to foxholes and in both the European and Pacific theaters. Photo of When Books Went to War

In her new book, When Books Went to War, Molly Guptill Manning relates the fascinating history of these little books which did so much not only to support the country's men and women in uniform, but to combat the philosophy they were fighting so hard to defeat as well.

 

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 Sky. Follow her: @staceyleeauthor

under a painted sky cover

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!

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