Blogs

Generation V book jacketThere are a lot of vampire novels out there.  Some are good.  Some are okay.  Some are very, very bad. If you'd enjoy a fresh take on vampires, I've got a series for you. M. L. Brennan has a new trilogy (so far...) of vampire novels that begins with Generation V. At the time of writing this blog entry, I've only finished the first two books.  I've got the third sitting unread on my shelf.  I liked the first two so much I think the third will be a great diversion from my misery the next time I get sick. I find this series has had enough charm and fun that I think I'll be totally distracted from pitying myself.  I'll be almost happy to be unwell!

Fortitude Scott is a young slacker in a dead end job avoiding the family business and trying very, very hard to pretend he's a normal guyIron Night book jacket and not the youngest child of a merciless alpha predator.  Vampires in this universe aren't undead humans.  They're a separate species really, and Fortitude is trying desperately to pretend that he loves vegetarian food and that his roommate's leftover steak doesn't smell really, really good. Raised by humans, Fortitude remembers that his foster parents loved him, that they would do anything to protect him, and that they were brutally murdered in front of him.  Their murder was by his mother's order when his foster parents thought to try to run away with him to protect him from his mother and whatever she had done to traumatize their beloved son so.  So, as the saying goes, Fortitude doesn't have issues - he has entire subscriptions.

Tainted Blood book jacketFortitude's mother is a survivor and remorseless as a shark.  Vampires in this world do age and die - eventually. As vampires age, they become less and less able to eat solid food until blood is the only thing that they can still digest. Thus they are still "vampires" as per the standard mythos.  Vampire reproduction is... interesting and probably the creepiest part of this series.  As vampires tend to have very few young, Fortitude's mother stands out for having three surviving offspring. She has indulged her odd youngest instead of killing him as a weakling. Fortitude's older brother is kind to him in a distant sort of way. He's also kind to his wives as he kills them slowly, eating their life a bit at a time, one after another after another. Fortitude's sister is as brutal as her mother and seems to delight in tormenting Fortitude like a cat with a mouse.

This series is more for the urban fantasy fan than for readers of horror or paranormal romance. Sex and violence are side notes, although still there, in this heavily character-driven story.

Cover image of Ship of MagicPeople have been telling me over and over again that I should read the Patrick O’Brian series of nautical-historical fiction, and they’re probably right. But ... I don’t know. Months and months at sea, with nary a bit of land in sight? Ship’s biscuit? Ship’s medicine? Sounds pretty wet and unpleasant to me. Now, add a sea serpent in, and maybe some swordfights, and perhaps a curse of one sort or another... that's another story.

Case in point: Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb. This is another author that I’ve been told I should read, and I’m glad that I finally did.

The setting for the book is the lands and oceans around Bingtown, populated by pirates and sea-traders, monks and slavers. And sea serpents. The most successful trading families are the ones who own liveships, sentient ships made of wizardwood that are bonded with their owners. Althea Vestrit is the headstrong daughter of a liveship trader, but she has been denied the ship that should be hers. Captain Kennit bitterly wants to capture a liveship and rise above the petty thuggery of pirate life. They and many more characters (including sea serpents and the ships themselves) are swirled into a maelstrom of greed, romance, deception, and brutality. It’s Game of Thrones on the high seas, and the writing, pacing, and character-development are all top-notch.

And, also like Game of Thrones, it is, of course, only the first book in a series. The good news is that the remaining books in this trilogy (Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny) have already been written! Check them all out, and get ready for many nights of staying up past your bedtime to find out what happens next.

In Oregon as in other states, 2014 may well be remembered as the year same sex marriage became legal after a federal judge struck down the state ban. It is also notable as the year Oregonians voted to legalize recreational marijuana. While same sex marriages commenced immediately after the court ruling in May 2014; the possession and the use of marijuana in Oregon will not be legal until July 1, 2015. It won't be until 2016 before marijuana can be sold legally in the state.  In the meantime, Oregon looks to its neighbor to the north to see how this new law might affect the state. What other new laws await us in 2015?

In addition to the marijuana initiative taking effect in July 2015, the Oregon State Legislature passed two other drug related laws that will take effect January 1, 2015. One is HB 4094a law that gives immunity from being cited for alcohol possession to persons under 21 when they request assistance for an alcohol-related medical emergency either for themselves or another person. The other new law is HB 4065. This law applies in cases of foreclosed residential properties that are auctioned. The seller must include language warning prospective buyers that the property may have been used in manufacturing methamphetamines.

Tree trunk on a city street.If you are interested in browsing all of the bills from the Oregon State Legislature, including the ones that did not pass, you can view them online.  The bills are listed in the Bills and Laws tab under the 2014 Regular Session.  From the Oregon State Legislature website you can search for bills by Bill Number, Bill Text, or Bill Sponsor by clicking on the Bills icon in the upper right hand part of the screen.  You can also review a flowchart illustration of how a bill becomes law.  For a more animated version try Schoolhouse Rock's video, I’m Just a Bill.

At a city level, the Parks and Recreation department of the City of Portland has a new tree code beginning January 2, 2015.  You can read all of the details for Portland Trees from Parks and Recreation but one of the major changes is that removal of trees will require a permit on all private properties regardless of where they are located.

As is always the case,  librarians are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice, including selecting or interpreting legal materials, but we will happily suggest research tools to help you find the information you desire.

Wishing you the best in a lawful new year!

Andrew Proctor, Literary ArtsAndrew Proctor is the Executive Director of Literary Arts, a nonprofit literary center that serves thousands of readers and writers each year. Ann Patchett says of the organization, "there are no readers more passionate than Portland’s, and no organization better at bringing readers and writers together than Literary Arts." 

Reading is essential to my well being.  It lifts me out of myself and gives me perspective. Aside from the facts that might appear in a book, it is the opportunity to be in someone else's narrative that ultimately teaches me who I am and how I can be a more empathetic and stronger person.  And a confession: I might be the world's worst speller.

Here are ten books that inspire me:

  1. Underworld by Don DeLillo

“Longing on a large scale, that’s what makes history.”  This might be my favorite book written in the 20th century.  I love DeLillo intense prose style and use of voice.  He is unafraid of big ideas, and capable of rendering them in beautiful prose.

  1. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

The first truly subversive book I ever read, given to me by a high school English teacher.

  1. Voss by Patrick White

A magisterial novel by the Australian Nobel Prize winner.  This novel is an unusual and exciting mix of Victorian prose and modernist sensibility.

  1. The World and Other Places: Stories, by Jeanette Winterson

I read “The Green Man” in Harpers when I was in college and was completely blown away by Winterson's use of language. These are some of my favorite short stories.

  1. Tremolo: Poems by Spencer Short

I keep this on my desk and dip into it all the time to shake myself out of my “thinking ruts.”  His associative powers are unlike any I have ever seen.

  1. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Possibly the greatest modernist novel of all time because Woolf has all the force of intellect of Joyce but is a better storyteller.

  1. The Residue Years by Mitchell Jackson

This year’s Everybody Reads pick.  This really is a novel every Portlander needs to read.  It’s a modern day Grapes of Wrath in its unflinching look at society.  Jackson’s mix of street and literary language is electrifying. 

  1. Consider the Lobster: Essays by David Foster Wallace

Wallace is the only essayist that has made me cry, I was laughing so hard.  Why do such tragic lives often produce humor?  This question comes up again and again in these essays in moments from the sublime to the ridiculous.

  1. Herzog By Saul Bellow

      I just love his book for its voice and humor, and its painful honesty.  I so admire Bellow for his work.  He was constantly experimenting and taking risks.

  1. Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back by Andrew Zoli

I read a fair number of business books. This often comes as a surprise given what I do. But running an independent nonprofit is the same as running another business, only with a social mission.  I loved this book and I think about its lessons a least once a week as we build Literay Arts into a world class literary center that is at the leading edge of innovation.  Zoli’s central premise: All resilient organisations have three defining characteristics: they are dense, diverse, and distributed.  I will leave you to read the book to learn what he means.

My Librarian and our featured guest readers are made possible by a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to The Library Foundation, a local non-profit dedicated to our library's leadership, innovation, and reach through private support.

 

 

what you say matters

    We are deep in social media, of course. 74% of adults who use the internet use social media sites! It’s what we do now: how we maintain friendships, meet people, have conversations, begin relationships, learn about news, undertake social change, and market our services and products. There’s a lot (A LOT) that can be said about this, from whether or not it’s good for us to what Big Data from social media tells us about ourselves.

    So we do social media, and it results in a whole lot of writing. Research from last decade indicates that people are writing more than ever before. If we’re going to do a ton of writing in social media, we should do it well!

    That could mean a few different things:

    Hungry for more books on how (or why) to do social media? There’s something out there for the beginner, for the optimist, for the contrarian, or the pragmatist.

    Book jacket: Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera2014 is almost over and I’m calling it.  My favorite book of the year was Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera. Shortly after I finished it, I sent a Facebook message to the author gushing that her book was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever read. I never do that. Here are 5 reasons why this one stands out to me among the other fantastic books I enjoyed this year:

    1.    It’s transportive: While the book’s characters are complex and still linger in my mind, Island of a Thousand Mirrors is the story of a country first and foremost. This book transported me completely to the island of Sri Lanka with a winter craving for coconut milk and curry that traces directly back to the author's delicious descriptions of food.

    2.    It’s short:  OK brief doesn't immediately translate to beauty. Munaweera however, does write in a beautifully minimal style, but still manages to tell a sweeping multi-generational story that's lush with detail and emotion without ever feeling rushed.  

    3.    It has both a map and a family tree: These are seemingly small details, but ones which I love. It’s hard to keep track of geography and relationships in any family saga and more so when the names are unfamiliar. Wait, where is Jaffna located again? Who was Yasodhara’s grandfather? A quick flip to the front pages and you’re back on track.

    4.    It taught me something new: We don’t hear much about Sri Lanka in our news and I certainly knew very little about the country when I picked up this book. Munaweera’s novel really brings to life the complexities of the decades-long Sri Lankan civil war with an intricate story that follows two girls caught on either side of the conflict.

    5.    It strikes that perfect balance between devastating heartbreak and beauty:  I was often caught startled by Munaweera’s forthright descriptions of the horrors that accompany war, but was left equally stunned by the beauty of her writing.  In fact, I can't seem to resist a story that breaks my heart and then shows me great beauty. If this formula appeals to you too, here's a list for you!

    I’m living more of a Little House on the (Urban) Prairie life these days, but when I was a kid, I didn’t want prairies, chores, or family togetherness. I was looking for the entrance into a magical world, like the Pevensie kids found to get into Narnia, or perhaps a cyclone to take me into Oz.

    Quentin, the main character of Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy, was, like me, obsessed with finding his way into magical worlds-- but unlike me, he manages to do it. After that, the books are chock-full of unpredictable pleasures. Quentin flies to Antarctica as a goose, makes deals with a dragon, takes a voyage in a magical boat to the end of the world, and lives through what I believe is the best post-breakup smackdown in literary history. Finally, In The Magician’s Land, the third and last book of the series, which came out this year, he stops being kind of a jerk and turns into a man.

    Excuse me for a moment while I push past the coats into this big old wardrobe. Feel free to check out my list of genre-bending fantasy novels while I’m gone. 
     

    When it seems like the rain is never going to stop, don’t despair! Whether your tastes run more towards Portland puppets or Troutdale trains, Multnomah County has no shortage of fascinating and quirky museums that won’t cost you anything. (Check the links for updated hours and contact information.)

    Whimsy. Revisit the toys of your (or your grandparents') childhood at Kidd's Toy Museum. And if your pipsqueaks are pleading to ponder a plethora of puppets, perhaps Ping Pong's Pint Size Puppet Museum is your pleasure.

    Safety. Witness the evolution of fire fighting at The Safety Learning Center & Fire Museum. You also might find the Portland Police Museum rather arresting.

    History. We love that the Gresham Historical Society museum is housed in an original Carnegie library! Not to be outdone, the Troutdale Historical Society has three museums: The Barn Museum, The Harlow House, and The Rail Depot. And don’t forget, the expansive and amazing Oregon Historical Society is free to all Multnomah County residents; just be sure to bring a proof of residency that includes photo identification.

    Miscellany. Check up on medical history with the fascinating exhibits in the Main Library of Oregon Health & Science University. If you're interested in "the art and industry of the cast letterform," then the Museum of Metal Typography is definitely your type. Then float on over to the Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum to learn more about indigenous small watercraft and suck up some cleaning history at the Vacuum Museum at Stark's Vacuums.

    Free Museum Day Portland and Portland on the Cheap both have information about when paid admission museums might cut you a break. And for more on free and not-free-but-still-great museums definitely check out the Hidden Portland website, which was an invaluable resource for this blog post!

    P.S. More in the mood for an art gallery ? Check out Rainy Days, Part 1: Free Art.

    When it seems like the rain is never (ever) going to stop, don’t despair! Multnomah County has a lot of hidden art to see that will get you out of the house and won’t cost you anything.

    The area’s colleges and universities are a treasure trove of free art galleries! Here are links to some all over town:

    Government buildings are a great place to see rotating exhibits, usually by local artists. Experience interactive and experimental media installations in the Portland Building Installation Space; visit the art gallery in the Gresham City Council Chamber Foyer; and check out the current exhibition at Central Library’s Collins Gallery.

    The Regional Arts & Culture Council has a searchable database of public art around the county. (Tip: Click on Advanced Options to search by Collection and Discipline.)

    View work by local photographers at Blue Sky Gallery, originally founded as the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts.

    Learn more about contemporary art in the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Resource Room. It is both an archive and library, housing over 3,500 artist publications, magazines, and audio and video recordings, as well as a video archive of performances and lectures presented by PICA over the span of the organization's history.

    But wait, there's more! Check out Rainy Days, Part 2: Free Museums!

    I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like bookjacketI like my music to tell a story and that's exactly what Todd Snider’s songs do. His memoirish book, I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like: Mostly True Tall Tales is full of stories. I can listen to Todd's (he's such a down-to-earth kind of guy that I feel he'd want me to call him by his first name) music all day. And then his live shows are great not only because he plays his fabulous songs but also because he has hilarious stories to tell. In his book, he sets down some of those entertaining stories plus a whole bunch more. It's great to hear the (mostly true) stories behind his songs and how he ended up in the singer/songwriting world. You get to hear about some of the inner workings of the music business and the inner life of a fallible, creative guy.

    “I thought about what I wanted, knowing that I’d probably fail to get it. And I decided that I wanted most to fail at being a singer in a band .  .  . That’s what I wanted to fail at in this life. And, oh brother, have I. Over and over again. Spectacularly.”

    As a bonus, Todd's a local boy; he grew up in Beaverton and he has several songs that feature Portland prominently. He's got a great voice, and I'm not just talking about how he sings; you get a real sense of who he is as a person in his songs and his stories. Now instead of having to wait for his next show, I can read a chapter of this book, pop in one of his cds, and pretend I'm sitting in a club right next to the stage while Todd Snider performs.

    Golden Son: Book II of the Red Rising Trilogy

    by Pierce Brown

    Book 2 of the sci-fi sensation Red Rising that takes place on Mars. Fast-paced, gripping and well written. For fans of Hunger Games, Enders Game and Game of Thrones. A film is coming out. Place your hold now.

    War of the Wives

    by Tamar Cohen

    Two wives married to the same man--and they just found  out he's dead. With dark humor and wit, it is a story of betrayal and love.

    Gateway to Freedom: the Hidden History of the Underground Railroad

    byEric Foner

    Foner, a Civil War specialist, relates the dramatic story of fugitive slaves and the abolitionists who helped them to freedom in spite of the law.

    Whipping Boy: the Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully

    by Allen Kurzweil

    The author takes the reader around the world in his search for his childhood tormentor. The trail he follows reads like a John Le Carre novel as he discovers his bully is involved in federal crimes  with unbelievable real-life characters that supports the saying that "truth is stranger than fiction". A memoir of obsession, recovery and courage.

     

    cover image of The Other TypistI was forever waiting for this one, first on the hold list and then once I found a copy of my own, I still waited to read it. Why? I suppose I have read so many duds of late, I was loathe to even pick it up. Here we go again, I thought, another flapper fiasco. It’s going to be trite, it’s going to be a slog. But I started reading it and tra la! It sparkled!

    We have Rose, our unreliable narrator—and who doesn’t love an unreliable narrator—and Odalie. Both are typists for the New York Police Department in the 1920s and both are keeping secrets. Surely one of these fine ladies must be genuine...

    dead pic veneta live cover

    I never planned to Like the Grateful Dead. 

    Shaped by easy punchlines, alarmist tales of parking lot antics via local news outlets and teenage stubbornness,  I used to think of the Dead and their followers as a sea of tie dyed drifters. However, both times and I have changed.

    Luckily, no miracles are required to get your Dead fix at Multnomah County Library. A library card is the only ticket required. Hoopla, available with a Library card has 120+ streaming Dead albums including numerous live shows. Looking for the complete studio recordings? The extensive collections The Golden Road and Beyond Description have you covered in two box sets. Additional live sets and exhaustive books are also available. Check them out here.

    If that’s not enough, the Grateful Dead Archive at The University of Santa Cruz has what you need.  This growing archive is “a socially constructed collection comprised of over 45,000 digitized items drawn from the UCSC Library’s extensive Grateful Dead Archive (GDA) and from digital content submitted by the community and global network of Grateful Dead fans”.  

     Is there tie dye tinged light at the end of this tunnel?  Perhaps, but I’ll pass for now...

    Wanting to add to your cocktail expertise?  Or maybe you are interested in the history of spirited beverages? Perhaps you just wonder what your literary hero drank?  If you said yes to any of these questions then I have the list for you.  My coworker Jeanne has been studying cocktail and spirited beverage history for awhile now, and she gathered together this list of wonderful books for you.

    Lately I’ve been obsessed with Coco Chanel.  This is thanks in part to my own couturier aspirations (Is there life beyond pajamas?) and to a new novel I recently read by C.W. Gortner, a writer of historical fiction who has conceptualized the lives of many historical figures including Catherine de Medici, Elizabeth the First and Isabella of Castille.  In Mademoiselle Chanel,  Gortner sets his sights on Gabrielle Chanel, the self-taught seamstress from a small town in France who became a cultural icon.  

    Mademoiselle Chanel book jacketBorn into poverty and abandoned by her father, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel spent her childhood in an orphanage.  Blessed with exceptional sewing skills and unstoppable ambition Gabrielle left the convent at eighteen to become an assistant seamstress by day and a cabaret singer by night.  She discovered a passion for millinery work and when she met the powerful playboy Etienne Balsan, his money and connections provided her with the freedom to pursue her minimalist designs.  Through Balsan, Coco met Arthur “Boy” Capel, another wealthy and well-connected benefactor who turned her designs into a profitable business and became  the love of her life.  Coco ultimately branched out into clothing, jewelry and her signature Number Five scent.  

    Coco’s life was not without controversy.  During World War II and the Nazi occupation of Paris, Chanel closed her shops.  She moved into the Ritz Hotel, began a romantic liaison with a German officer and became involved in military intelligence.  After the war she spent nine years in Switzerland, hoping to escape the memory of her wartime activities.  She returned to France in 1953, re-entered the fashion world, and continued to work on her collections until her death in 1971.  

    As a designer Coco Chanel left behind a lasting legacy.  She had the courage to challenge the fashion rules of the day and create clothes for women to live in.  Her fluid jersey garments and famed tweed suits combine style with practicality and freedom of movement.  Her little black dress was simple yet fashionable and her signature scent Number Five was designed to embody the liberated woman.  

    Chanel the company still maintains a boutique in Paris at 31 rue Cambon,  the same building acquired by Coco in 1918.  Despite her checkered wartime history Coco Chanel’s accomplishments and ambitions are unparalleled.  She went from poor orphan to global icon and along the way changed the way women saw themselves and lived.  She is considered by many to be the most important fashion designer of the twentieth century.  And by the way, Chanel is also known for her pajama designs.  They are elegant, sophisticated, and very chic.  Much like Coco herself.

    The Miniaturist book jacketBefore learning that I had a Dutch great-grandfather, I wasn't particularly interested in the Netherlands.  Since then, though, I have taken a trip to Holland, found a new appreciation for Edam cheese, and read a number of books about the place.

    Two excellent novels published in 2014 are set in 17th century Amsterdam. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton follows the first months of Nella Oortman's marriage to Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant who is rarely around.  He pays scant attention to her when she arrives at his home in Amsterdam after a very brief marriage ceremony months earlier in her own town.  Weeks after her arrival, Nella is still waiting for Johannes to come to the marriage bed.  Roaming around a big house with two servants and her dour sister-in-law and only rarely seeing her husband is not how she thought marriage would be.  In order to make up for his inattention, Johannes purchases a wildly expensive dollhouse, or cabinet, for Nella to furnish that is an exact miniature replica of their home. When the furniture and dolls begin arriving from the miniaturist, Nella becomes intrigued (and slightly concerned).  The miniaturist sends objects that Nella has not requested and seems to know things that only someone living in the merchant's house would know!

    The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal is told by several people who were involved in the story of Rembrandt's painting, The Anatomy Lesson of Nicolaes Tulp. The Anatomy Lesson book jacketThis exquisitely told tale throws us right into the day Adriaen Adriaenszoon (aka Aris the Kid and - spoiler alert - the corpse in the painting) is hanged for being a thief. As the events of the day unfold, we see Rembrandt working in his studio, Aris contemplating his life, and Aris's lover making her way to Amsterdam in order to try and save him or at least bring his body home if he cannot be rescued.  French philosopher Rene Descarte and Jan Fetchet, the man charged with preparing the body for the anatomy lesson, also make appearances.  I was so absorbed in the novel that when I looked up from my e-reader, I was surprised to find that I wasn't walking out in the cold, flat Dutch countryside or on a canal in the middle of Amsterdam.  I was, however, happy to be secure in my home knowing that I didn't have to face the hangman or figure out how to paint a hand on a corpse that was missing one!

    For more books - both fiction and non-fiction - about the Netherlands, check out this list.

     

    Each year at Multnomah County Library, staff members volunteer to participate in a “best books of the year” forum where they inform staff and patrons about their favorite works within a particular genre. For 2014, I was privileged to be one of the reviewers for science fiction. Many years ago I read a great deal of SF, but graduate school and professional obligations kept me from reading as much as I wanted until very recently, so for me, it was a real treat to reacquaint myself with what was new in the genre.

    The Joys
    The Martian book jacketWhat I discovered was that modern science fiction is more vibrant and of higher quality than I expected. The breadth of works is astonishing and run a gamut of styles and varying degrees of scientific accuracy—yes, as someone who leans toward “hard SF,” that accuracy is important to me. I found this epitomized by Andy Weir’s The Martian, a work where the science matters but doesn’t stop us from enjoying a great story with a strong protagonist. I also enjoyed Daniel Suarez’s Influx, which is something new for me: a science fiction techno-thriller—think Robert Heinlein meets Tom Clancy. I don’t recall anything quite like it fifteen or so years ago when I was reading a lot more SF.

    The Frustrations
    I also discovered that finding a science fiction book not part of a series is nearly impossible. I can understand the reasons for this. First,Proxima book jacket authors often go to a lot of effort to create a rich and realistic universe for their story. It must be difficult to work so hard for a single tale when so many other stories could be told within that new setting. Also, the reality of the publishing world means that a series will potentially sell more books as readers come back to see what happens next to their favorite characters. For me, however, it’s frustrating to either see a title that looks interesting but discover that it’s #4 in a series or to read a book and reach the end only to find that none of the central mysteries of the story are resolved. An example of this is Stephen Baxter’s Proxima, a novel which drew me in and I really enjoyed until it was over and there was very little resolution. It felt like the author had reached a certain page count, decided “That’s enough,” and simply stopped with a brief, unsatisfying wrap-up. There are plenty of series that provide some closure at the end, such as Ann Leckie’s fantastic novel Ancillary Justice, which is part of why I find Baxter’s book so aggravating. Some might say he has written an effective cliff-hanger, but I find it irritating and a bit manipulative.

    So, overall, I’ve been very happy to reacquaint myself with a genre that meant a lot to me for a long time. I’ve already volunteered to read for the 2015 “best books” forum, so my exploration shall continue. I’m sure I will continue to be surprised.

    When I was a little girl, I loved to sit with my great grandpa and put together jigsaw puzzles. He told me:” first you turn over the pieces, and separate out those that belong in the frame. Once the frame is put together, then sort the pieces into colors and  put the picture together.”

    Reading a mystery by Kate Atkinson is like following that advice in reverse. First, she dumps the pieces of her stories in a big, dramatic heap: murders, kidnappings, mistaken identity, loyalty, country music, lost dogs, little sisters, misunderstood characters. Then, slowly, she turns over the pieces one by one and fits them together until the whole picture begins to emerge. Private detective Jackson Brody is a major piece in that picture. However, until the frame is in place and the picture is clear and bright, the reader isn’t quite sure. Brody  seems to be the hero, but….sometimes he seems to be the problem too.

    Then she gives the reader side pieces that  begin to put together the frame.  Here is a train wreck that brings several characters of the story together; here is a dog that Brody rescues and then finds his owner was a mafia thug; here is a retired police detective who spontaneously steals a child and doesn’t know what to do with her.  Closer and closer we get, piece by piece the picture becomes sharper, the colors fit together- and out pops the picture-  in a way that could never be seen at the beginning.

    One more thing about putting a puzzle together with my great grandpa is this:  My great grandma always snuck a few pieces out and hid them in her apron pocket. Kate Atkinson does that too. The pieces that are  missing belong to Jackson Brody’s own personal puzzle. When will she put them in place? I can’t wait for her next book- maybe it will be the one that finally puts the whole puzzle of his past together.

    Don’t you love it when you find a new series to read? I found myself just reading Regency Romance and decided to branch out. I am now reading a romance series set in the broader Georgian era (1714-1830) called Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt. If you like historical fiction that comments on the social conditions of the times, that has a family of characters with secrets, mystery, great writing, and romance then I think you might love the Maiden Lane series.  

    The setting is the worst neighborhood in London: St. Giles and the orphanage that Temperance Dews runs with her brother. Lord Caire needs a guide to help him solve a mystery in the neighborhood. Temperance needs money and a sponsor for the orphanage. A deal between the two is struck. Inquiring minds want to know can Lord Caire and Temperance forgo the attraction that is brewing? You’ll have to read it and find out!

    I made a list called Good Reads in Historical romance with Wicked Intentions the first in the Maiden Lane series and historical romance titles that cover 1714-1901. Hope you find the list swoon worthy.

    Searching for information online can be a great way to learn more about issues in the news. But trying to follow constant updates on social media can be overwhelming and confusing, and sometimes it's hard to make connections between events elsewhere and what's happening here in Oregon. 
     
    Here are a few articles about how people are responding locally to the issues being raised about civil rights and policing in the protests in Ferguson, Missouri and around the country.  
     
    Ferguson shooting: Why does it matter to Portlanders? Casey Parks, OregonLive, November 24, 2014.
     
     
     
    "For anybody willing to feel uncomfortable." Eliza Kamerling-Brown, Grant Magazine, December 4th, 2014. 
     
    For more information and suggestions about how to further research the issues, read "I Can't Breathe."

    Pages