Blogs

The Life-changing magic of tidying up bookjacketI am susceptible to the idea of 'organize your home = organize your mind', so with all the buzz around The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I had to try it. Though the author, Marie Kondo, had me at "life-changing", the subtitle is equally intriguing: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I was thinking about the path to beauty through study and simplicity - bonsai, sushi, ikebana. Would there be an equally methodical approach to tidying?

The verdict? There are some eye-opening and sustainable tips here, including storing everything, including clothes, vertically (don't worry, she'll tell you how.) In light of our consumer culture and the rise of movements like Buy Nothing Day, the author's advice about keeping or buying 'only those things that spark joy' makes sense; um...well, except for underpants...and insurance...and, oh, never mind. 

But the bits about the crushed and defeated clothes on the bottom of the pile and the sadness and despair of socks that have been tied in knots? Well, sorry, I'm not buying the sentient clothing argument. But, if you're interested in a peaceful and organized home, this book is well worth a read. If you adopt Kondo's methods, you'll probably enjoy a more restful space - that is, if you can convince the rest of your family to play by the same rules!

​​persephone books ltd logoIt was not long after my discovery of Virago Press, that I stumbled upon another small independent British press for women—Persephone Books Ltd. Founded by Nicola Beauman in 1999, this press pleases its patrons with a thoughtful selection, not only the books themselves, but in the design. Each  has a dove-grey book jacket, its simple elegance inspired by the off-white vintage French paperbacks, and endpapers that are very often textile designs from the era the book was originally published. Also included is a bookmark matching the endpapers with a brief passage from the text. The kernel of the idea came from watching the classic film Brief Encounter and wondering at which books Laura, the heroine, would have checked out from the Boots library on her weekly visit. Nicola, in an interview with The Telegraph, said "I don't relish modern writers and felt there was a market for the books I love—domestically-focused and well-written, often by forgotten or unfashionable authors." If you are sometimes overwhelmed by the glut of printed material and long for something absorbing, try picking up a Persephone.

I solemnly swear on a stack of unopened self-help books I’ll do something reflective, meditate, or whatever such a thing suggests. In the meantime, they can keep my bookshelf looking thoughtful…

nerdist book coverHowever, when things got rough a while back, the right book appeared at the right time. Speaking to my inner skeptic, pop culture loving self, and former Dungeons and Dragons(D&D) player,  Chris Hardwick’s The Nerdist Way offered the advice I was looking for in my time of rediscovery. Unlike other books promising personal growth, the nerdist way takes a humorous look at discovering one’s strengths and weaknesses, improving on both through, well, nerdy excercises (literally and figuratively).

Whether it’s identifying who you are, improving your physical prowess, or finding the motivation to seeing  projects through, there’s something for everyone’s inner nerd. Me? I Made a character sheet ala D&D with Hardwick’s advice and found myself in a coffee shop filling in experience points of my goals with colored pencils.


Being nerdy never felt so good.

Congo Refugee Finds Refuge in North Portland Library

by Donna Childs

First, a bit of background, from Medical Teams International:Picture of Volunteer Elise Ekombele

Congo’s long-standing conflict has been called the world’s deadliest dispute since World War II. Aid organizations estimate that nearly 5.4 million people have died in this decade-long conflict, nearly half of them children. An additional one million people have been displaced by the ongoing violence in the Congo.

One of those displaced by these brutal wars is North Portland Library volunteer Elise Ekombele. Born and raised in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Elise was forced to flee from her home to a Senegalese refugee camp with her son. Through a US refugee resettlement program, they were sent far away to Portland, Oregon, speaking no English and knowing nothing about American culture. Despite the difficulty of learning another language and culture, Elise likes it here because it is so much safer and more peaceful.

As she has learned English, Elise has had several jobs in Portland. A French speaker (the official language of Congo), she first worked at the Portland French School. She has also held positions at various organizations that assist immigrants, such as IRCO and Catholic Charities, and is currently looking for work. Although Elise has made much progress learning English and adapting to her new life in America, she says it is her son who “has become a real American.” He graduated from the University of Montana where he was an accomplished athlete scouted by the NFL.

Elise has been volunteering at North Portland every Thursday for the past year. According to staff, she is very conscientious about her volunteer duties as a Branch Assistant. She also volunteers with her church, helping to distribute food boxes to those in need.

To improve her English, Elise participates weekly in two different language programs at North Portland. The Talk Time program provides an opportunity for non-native speakers from around the world to practice English in an informal, conversational environment. She also participates in l’Echange, a French-English language exchange program for native English speakers who want to practice French and native French speakers who want to practice English. Elise has found a perfect balance of helping the library and benefiting from library services and programs.


A Few Facts About Elise

Home library: North Portland Library

Most influential book: A biography of Angela Davis (title unknown)

Favorite book from childhood: A novel written by a French woman about Chinese women (title unknown)

Favorite section of the library: Biographies and self improvement books, new ideas! 

E-reader or paper? Paper

Favorite place to read: In a chair in the bedroom

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

The Art of Asking audio book coverWhen it comes to audiobooks, there are some publications in which the experience of the book is somewhat lost without the visual or tactile experience of a book. There are others that can equally be enjoyed by either the the listener or the reader. And then there are those rare audiobooks that are enriched by the listening experience. Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking, is one of those uniquely luscious listening experiences. Amanda delivers her words from her mouth to your ears. There is something in the authenticity of  listening to an individual tell their story in their own voice that makes the reader (or listener) a believer. The added bonus to The Art of Asking audiobook is the music peppered throughout.

I admit that I knew very little about Amanda Palmer before listening to her audiobook. A couple of years ago, she came to Portland for a small solo show at the Independent Publishing Resource Center (if you don’t know about IPRC, check them out). Some of my friends were so excited for the show, that for weeks beforehand it seemed like that was all they were talking about. I wasn't a fan of her music. Not because I didn’t like it, but because I hadn't really been exposed. After hearing her stories and her experiences as a musician and an artist, she has gained a lifelong fan in me.

The Art of Asking was birthed from Amanda’s popular TED Talk of the same name. The book’s title might lead you to think that this is a self-help book, but really it’s more of a memoir than a how-to. From her life as a living statue, as a punk cabaret musician and artist, a wife, a friend, a community leader and collaborator, and crowdfunding wizard;  Amanda’s magic is in her ability to be vulnerable and to graciously ask for, and receive help. Listening to her audiobook, I felt like she was not just sharing her story, but her secret recipe, her magic.

 

 

 

The weather is getting colder, and you feel the urge for soup. Making homemade soup is easy and inexpensive, and not to mention, it's healthier than store-bought. I recentely made phở chay, Vietnamese vegetarian noodle soup, and it was simple and delicious. If you prefer to have meat in your phở, you can add chicken and/or beef The options are endless, so be creative. 

You can find Thai basil, cilantro, and other herbs and sauces at various Asian grocery stores, but the one that I frequent most is Hồng Phát

The Kept bookjacketDuring these cold days of winter, what could be better than finding a book that takes you on a journey through the bleak days of a winter of 1897? The Kept is the perfect book to hunker down with while the wind howls and the threat of snow is upon us.

This is the story of Elspeth Howell, beginning on the day she returns home from her midwifery duties to her isolated farmstead in upstate New York and finds her husband and 5 of her children murdered. Only her 12-year-old son, Caleb, has survived. The book traces their journey to find the men who committed that horrific deed. As the journey progresses, so also do we slowly learn much of what has brought them to this point in their lives.

Scott has written a beautiful, bleak, extraordinary story. It's the kind of book that made me want to rush through my workday, wake up early in the morning, and stay up late to read. On the next blustery day, pick up The Kept and take a journey through the snow to Watersbridge, New York with James Scott.

Rene Denfeld is an internationally bestselling author, journalist, and death penalty investigator. Of her latest novel, Geek Love author Katherine Dunn says, "The Enchanted is unlike anything I’ve ever read...it’s a jubilant celebration that explores human darkness with a profound lyrical tenderness…" Check out Rene's selected favorites. For more reading recommendations with your tastes in mind, try the My Librarian service. 

Local libraries were my sanctuaries growing up, and in each one I left a child version of myself, roaming the aisles, pulling out titles or checking out the books where librarians had left little tags that said read this. The best ones were those little-known gems, the books that may not have hit the bestseller list but still ended up lodged in my heart.

When I was a young child, the North Portland library was my refuge. I will forever associate that beautifully carved wooden ceiling with my favorite books of childhood: Trask by Don Berry, which I must have read a hundred times, or Crazy Weather by Charles McNichols. It was from the wide selection of African-American folktales I discovered my own joy of fable in books like The Cow-Tail Switch by Harold Courlander, with its jubilant stories and unforgettable phrasing: “A man is not truly dead until he is forgotten.”

When I was in middle school my family moved to Sellwood, then a blue-collar neighborhood where fishermen still hung the catch outside the local tavern. I spent endless drowsy afternoons in the local library, and remember the books that tore the sides of the paper grocery bags I carried home: from the astonishing Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter to the gentle yet wise memoir, West With The Night by Beryl Markham.

By fifteen, I was on my own, and like a lot of hardscrabble kids, the downtown library was my safe place. I celebrated my birthday on the second floor of that library while rain howled outside. Just the sight of that brick and stone façade brings back memories of all the books I discovered there, including Yellowfish by John Keeble and The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchet—I’m the one who dog-eared all those pages—and who could forget the warmly humorous science fiction by our late and lamented local author Robert Sheckley?

Libraries saved my life. They gave me comfort, solace, and a vision of life as limitless as the shelves. They made me the writer I am today. So when I recommend my secret treasures, what I am really recommending is my own memories, and want to caution: the best way to find your own is to wander the stacks. Feel your hand on the books—reach for them the way we reach for each other, with longing and an open heart. Then you will never be dissatisfied.

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.

Cover image of Love Saves The Day   
     "If there's a cure for this
       I don't want it
       Don't want it
       If there's a remedy
       I'll run from it
       From it"

If you ask many people what the term "disco" conjures, you'll likely hear about drugs, excess, sex, celebrity and exclusive parties/clubs - not to mention the questionable fashions, the quintessential hairstyles and the inevitable accusations of artificiality and inauthenticity  (anyone remember "Disco Sucks"?).

But disco was a complex musical and cultural set of coordinates that originally emerged from the economic, sexual and racial peripheries of early 1970s New York City.  Tim Lawrence's Love Saves The Day - a definitive and exhaustive intervention in cultural history - uncovers these radical roots in eye-opening detail.  Lawrence draws upon a ton of archival material and interviews with many of the (surviving) primary players to construct a wonderful narrative that should appeal to anyone fascinated by the intersections of the social, economic and cultural in the 1970s. Lawrence documents the founding of David Mancuso's legendary Loft and tracks the myriad divergent strands forward that ultimately lead to the dead end of Studio 54 and the mass burning of disco LPs in Chicago's Comiskey Park.

Especially of interest for pop music aficionados (disco touched just about every pop musical genre that followed), sound junkies and anyone curious about the complex intersections between sexuality, technology, music and politics. 

And for your dancing pleasure, here's a playlist featuring some of the best music of the period:
 











A magic trick can leave some people slack-jawed with amazement. I can take or leave the sleight of hand; for me, an artist performs the most awe-inspiring of trick of all by conjuring something out of nothing. Watching an artist create gives me the same pleasant and engrossing buzz that many magic fans enjoy.

Maybe I caught this bug as a kid watching a show called The Book Bird. In it, a mustachioed man named John Robbins combined two of my great loves into performance art - he drew a scene from a book as he described the story. I would then rush to my public library to find out how the book ended. Public television has always been a good place for art junkies. Long before the idea of personal affirmation became popular, Bob Ross assured us that we could paint and encouraged us all to embrace "happy little trees".

According to Clarke's third law, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Watching an artist create something out of nothing feels like magic to me. Whether you're looking for inspiration for your own work, or you just like to watch, take a look at this list of artists in motion. And here's some affirmation from Mr. Ross himself.

Never put off till to-morrow what you can do day after to-morrow just as well.

- Mark Twain (though he satirically attributed it to Benjamin Franklin)

Close up of clock face showing 7 - 8 - 9.The Oxford English Dictionary defines procrastination as “the action or the habit of postponing or putting something off,” and the word itself is derived from Latin meaning “to put off for tomorrow.”* Most of us do give in to some level of procrastination; students and writers are especially predisposed (this blog author included). We all do our best to start our research early but when that does not happen the library is here to help.  

Here are the top go-to research tools and resources I recommend for authoritative research when time is truly of the essence. You can immediately use each of these resources with your library card, anywhere you have internet access.

Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL)

GVRL is my top recommended resource for immediate research on a variety of topics, including research in biography, business, culture, education, health information, history, religion, science and general reference. It is a collection of more than 1,400 e-books and databases from encyclopedias to biographies. Each article is available to read immediately online or can be downloaded as a PDF to be viewed as they appear in the print edition. Citations indicate the articles are from actual books or encyclopedias (digital and print) and include page numbers.  You can tell your professor or teacher, “Yes these are actual books!”   

Opposing Viewpoints in Context

Do you need access to primary resources? Are you writing a persuasive essay or on a debate team?  May I strongly recommend Opposing Viewpoints in Context? This invaluable research tool provides information and discussion about current topics in the news.  Importantly it includes arguments from different points of view. From police violence to drug abuse, or gun rights and gun control; Opposing Viewpoints is the place to go for all sides of an issue. The resources provided are overflowing: video and audio clips, magazine and newspaper articles, academic journals, images, and primary resources.  In addition, there are original persuasive pieces called “Viewpoint essays” that clearly lay out one side of an issue and provide a list of books and periodicals for further reading.

eLibrary    

The last resource to have at the ready when you are done procrastinating is eLibrary.  This is a perfect resource for getting an overview of a topic.  Having trouble deciding what to focus on? Right away eLibrary asks, “Starting a Research Paper? Find your Research Topic here” and then provides a link to a list of possible topics linked to a wide range of resources.   With one search you can find information in books, journals, and the media; in print, audio, or video. Like GVRL and Opposing Viewpoints, eLibrary also provides citations . You can email yourself any of the resources you find for later review.

Would you like more assistance?

Don’t hesitate to contact an information professional (that’s us!) and we can help you navigate these or any other of our many research tools and resources. For the most immediate assistance (who knows, your homework might be due tomorrow) come see us at any of our 19 library locations,  call Information services at 503.988.5234 anytime during Central Library’s business hours, or chat with a librarian 24 hours a day.  You can even text us! If you have a little bit more wiggle room on your deadline (i.e. not due tomorrow) you can also send us an email or request to book a librarian for one-on-one help with your research at any library location.  

No matter when or how you request it, we will be happy to help!

 

* - “Later,” by James Surowiecki. The New Yorker, 10/11/2010.

 

On the Run bookjacketLouisiana has Mardi Gras and Lent. The other 49 states have New Year's Eve and the hangover.

Similarities are: feasts & drinking; dancing & drinking; and OMG  please somebody invite me to the party! & drinking. We go to church, get ashed, and promise to give up a pleasure. Y'all make a resolution and promise to be good. Same difference.

The point we try to make is: that a change will improve our life. The collection offered here is about folk who try to improve their life while being The Other in society. All opened my eyes to the lives being lived around me of which I am wholly unaware. How fortunate I am to have my work at the library, my family and my community, all of whom are welcoming and supportive.

Not so for some less fortunate, as I was reminded by a patron request. She enjoys good writing about realistic situations. Alice Goffman's On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City immediately came to mind. Ms. Goffman is a middle-class white woman who lived in a hyper-policed black Philadelphia neighborhood to complete her doctoral thesis. Her account is lucid and alarming. If you are doing the library's Everybody Reads book, The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson, you would benefit by reading On the Run.

Check out this eye-opening list done by my colleague Memo. Contemporary Chicano-Latino Literature: Short Stories and Flash Fiction includes The Holy Tortilla and a Pot of Beans mentioned below. As a New Mexican, the title grabbed me immediately, but it was Ms. Tafolla's exquisite writing that hooked me. Writing well about difficult subjects is hard enough, but to add humor? I kiss my fingers to her skill.

Rounding out this list of skillful writers is the under-appreciated Tim Gautreaux. Dr. G is a critical success of the highest grade, yet somehow remains unknown to the general reading public. For a laugh-out-loud yet insightfully accurate picture of my Louisiana roots here is 'Welding with Children'. Need I say more?

Resolutions, changes and promises, hum-m? Is there room here for a bigger picture? Anyone?

 

 

I read a lot of great books last year, so I had a hard time choosing, but (fanfare, please!) the best book I read in 2014 was Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. It came out in 2010, but I didn't read it for years because the title misled me into thinking it was a different kind of book altogether. The goon in the title is time, and the main theme of this book is how time changes us, turns us into someone we wouldn't have recognized when we were young. This could be a real bummer of a theme, too, but the book is so smart and engaging that the theme just kind of washed over me because I was completely involved with its characters and delighted by its fine writing.

Goon Squad seems like more of a collection of short stories than a novel, at first, but the characters are connected to each other, sometimes very loosely. The narrative bounces around in time from about the 1970s into the 2020s and is mostly about people involved with the music and entertainment industry. There's a very moving PowerPoint presentation, a punk rock show at a club in LA in 1979, a celebrity journalist who tries to rape the starlet subject of his interview, a lion attack in Africa,  and an erotic kiss delivered to the unwilling lips of a Mother Superior. Which is to say that this book is wildly entertaining on top of being incredibly, dazzlingly good.

Multnomah County Library's Lucky Day service includes books for kids, teens and adults.  Lucky Day copies are available for spontaneous use and are not subject to hold queues.  Nobody can place holds on these items; it's first come, first served.  That means you might not have to wait at all for the most popular new titles!  You never know what you might find at your neighborhood library - it just might be your Lucky Day!

 

Beethoven portraitIf you could be magically transported back in time to any concert, what would it be? The Vienna concert of 1808 in which Beethoven premiered not only his fifth and sixth symphonies, but his fourth piano concerto as well? Incredible! The first complete performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Bayreuth, Germany in 1876? Awesome! The world premiere in 1913 of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring that nearly caused a riot at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris? Scary!

Carnegie Hall Concert CD jacketAs amazing as it would be to witness any of those events, I would choose to be in New York City on the evening of January 16, 1938 at Carnegie Hall. My ticket would put me front and center with one of the most extraordinary assemblages of jazz greats of all time. Led by clarinettist and bandleader Benny Goodman, the night was a virtual parade of some of the most talented and popular musicians of the day -- Goodman, Harry James, Lionel Hampton, and “The Liltin' Miss (Martha) Tilton” -- to name just a few. The climax of the evening was the 12-minute performance of Louis Prima’s Sing, Sing, Sing (with a Swing), punctuated by the steady drum beat of Gene Krupa and topped off by the piano solo of  Jess Stacy. Wow -- check it out!

What about you? Is there a concert that you would love to be teleported to? Or maybe you would like to bring together some musicians who never were able to link up -- Bach and Bartók, Bing Crosby and Lady Gaga, Elvis and Caruso? Tell us about it!

http://multcolib.bibliocommons.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&t=smart&search_category=keyword&q=lives in ruins&commit=Search&author=JThe online Free Dictionary defines ‘serendipity’ as, "the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident." I thought about serendipity when I picked up my books on hold and found out that instead of Light in the Ruins  by Chris Bohjalian (featuring an Italian detective who is investigating a gruesome new case by digging into the past of the murder victims as well as her own buried past), I had mistakenly reserved  a similar title: Lives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson, subtitled Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble. Now that involves digging of a whole different kind!

Marilyn Johnson was curious about what drives archaeologists since the work is often hazardous to their health and there is little profit or fame in it. After reading her introduction I was curious too.

In her effort to unearth an archaeologist's passion, Ms. Johnson decides to go on digs with them, interview them, listen to, and live with them.  She writes about uncovering hidden battle sites, exhuming secret cemeteries, and excavating on a deserted island.

Here are a couple  of the subjects:

Patrick McGovern, an expert on the archaeology of  ‘extreme beverages’,  his term for beer, wines, ale and mead.

Volunteer archaeologist Erin Coward, who helped sort through the remains, human and otherwise, of the World Trade Center site after 911

Intrigued I sat down with my cup of hot coffee in hand and  began to read. An hour later, I was  still sitting there, my mind buried in in the remants of shipwrecks, Revolutionary War graves and the unoffcial saint of archaeologists, Indiana Jones.  My coffee had gone long since gone cold and my husband was asking,  "Don't you have to go to work today?"

Putting the wrong book on hold  was a ‘fortunate accident’ indeed!  

 

 

 

 

1040 tax formMultnomah County Library is here to help with tax season. All library locations can access state and federal tax forms and instruction booklets online as they become available. Library staff members are happy to help print what you need. Printing costs 10 cents per page; two-sided printing is available.

Thanks to the AARP, the library will offer filing assistance programs at the Midland, Gresham, Woodstock, and North Portland locations. We can also help refer you to tax professionals.

Federal Hard Copy Forms

Due to federal budget cuts this year, libraries will not be receiving any instruction booklets and only the 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ forms.  We can't promise when they will be available, or that we won’t run out, but we can always download and print out most federal tax forms and instruction booklets that are available on the IRS Forms & Publications page. There is also a contact page for the local IRS offices serving Portland and Gresham for further questions. Of special note, neither the 1099 and 1096 forms nor any of the W series (W-2, W-4, etc.) are available for download. Many office supply stores have the 1099 forms or you can contact the IRS directly to have those mailed to you.

State Hard Copy Forms

Public libraries are no longer a distribution center for state tax forms and booklets. If you need Oregon forms or booklets, you can come into the library to print them or do it yourself from the Oregon Department of Revenue page. They have a separate page for personal income tax forms & instructions. If you want forms mailed to you, then you can contact the Oregon Department of Revenue via:

Other States

You can stop by the library for assistance printing out tax forms for other states, or you can go to the Federation of Tax Administrators Links to State Tax Forms & Filing Options, which provides links to tax forms for each state.

Online Filing

Once the tax season officially opens, both the IRS and Oregon Department of Revenue will have listings for online filing services. Remember, state and federal taxes are due by April 15th.

hands filing out tax form

Tax Help/Filing Assistance

Volunteers with AARP will be offering preparation assistance through Tax Help at four different Multnomah County Library locations beginning in February. Keep your eye on the events listed to the right of the library's Taxes page or search the Events page for "taxes." Requirements to get tax help vary by location:

  • Midland: Fridays and Saturdays; No further appointments are available at this time. 
  • Gresham: Wednesdays; No further appointments are available at this time
  • Woodstock: Saturdays; same day registration
  • North Portland: Thursdays; first come, first served

If you can't make it to the library for tax help, see AARP's Tax-Aide Locator for more free tax preparer locations.

Finally, be sure to check out the post from guest blogger Janet Hawkins, of Multnomah County's Department of County Human Services, on ways to save big money with free tax filing services.

 

 

 

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!

Pages