Blogs

Who likes the post-apocalypse? How about when it happens right here in Multnomah County? Etiquette for an Apocalypse by Anne Mendel is the funniest book you’ll ever hear described as “a mystery-thriller set in northwest Portland after environmental disasters cause the collapse of of civilization as we know it.”

No, there aren’t any zombies for Sophie (the heroine) to battle, and who needs ‘em? Shady characters may be aiming to take over what’s left of the world, while an even shadier character may be engaged in serial killings. (Or is it the other way around?)

This is a perfect summer read if you want to 1) laugh, 2) turn pages one after the other not able to put the book down, and 3) get inspired to stockpile toilet paper, duct tape and big black garbage bags.

Dystopia has never been so much fun.

You may have heard of Polk's city directories, but there are other companies that published city AND rural directories. These are commercial products, so were developed to help businesses.

The earliest Portland City Directory was published by S.J. McCormick in 1863. It included information on new buildings and newcomers, on fires, city improvements, locations of fire stations and alarms. It also included the names of the men who lived in the city -- and the names of some women. (Primarily those who owned a business, had an occupation, or were unmarried, living outside of the parental home.)

Businesses paid to be listed in the Directory; some purchased highly detailed advertisements, while other smaller businesses like neighborhood general stores simply listed their name and location.

Another important value to business beyond advertising, was the list of residents in the city. If someone wanted to rent or buy services from a business, the Directory could be checked to find out if the person lived locally, and where; in later years a check of earlier directories under the name, would let the business know how long they lived in the City, what their occupation was, and whether they moved often. All information that helped a business decide whether to extend credit to a customer, to hire someone to do a job, to lease or sell to a person.

The best way to find these kind of directories in the library catalog is to search using the name of the city or the county and the word "Directories" as a subject keyword search; eg, Wasco Directories. Eugene Directories, Baker Directories.

It's summer - regress a little! Have a Popsicle (root beer and white licorice were the best flavors). Swing on the monkey bars. Revisit some of the books you loved as a child. The best ones will be just as good as you remembered, and offer fresh pleasures to an adult perspective.

George Bernard Shaw famously said that youth is wasted on the young; maybe some great kids' books are wasted on young readers. Two classics, The Yearling and National Velvet, were originally written for adults - but since their main characters are children, they were marketed, unimaginatively, as books for children. How many kids tossed them aside after a chapter or two? Years or even decades later, though, they're worth a second look.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Enid Bagnold both loved their home landscapes, the scrub woods of central Florida and the chalk cliffs of the English coast, which they evoke with such detailed vitality that the land itself becomes a vivid character in their books. Both stories are superficially about animals: The Yearling's title refers to an orphaned fawn adopted as a pet by a poor farming family, and National Velvet follows a horse-crazy village girl as she trains up a runaway piebald to be a steeplechaser.

While the animals and gorgeous settings are appealing, what's so moving and worthwhile in both books is their true common theme, which is how the deep, wordless bonds of community and family guide, ground, and sometimes confound us. These poignant books will reward and satisfy parents of sensitive misfit children, adults who were themselves those children, and everyone who's felt the ties which bind us so fiercely to people who don't always understand us very well.

Which children's books do you still like to read? Tell us in the comments!

Three bookworms and a dog person took a shared place at the Oregon coast for a long weekend. Unsurprisingly it was a little damp, leaving plenty of time for books. And a vacation, however short and close to home, isn't the place for deep reading but for enjoying oneself!  So, without further ado, here are the titles that were the best of the weekend.

One person was reading Redshirts by John Scalzi. Based on their reaction this is absolutely hilarious if you've watched the first Star Trek series.  If, like me, you haven't but are familiar with the genre, it's still an amusing story riffing on the foibles of bad science fiction television - I'm pretty sure I missed many of the jokes but I liked it quite a bit anyway.

I read Casket of Souls by Lynn Flewelling. This is the sixth book about a pair of spies and thieves in a nicely detailed fantasy setting--think roughly halfway between medieval barbarism and the Renaissance and you should have a fairly good idea of the setting. The author has an earlier series set in a more standard medieval fantasy world called the Tamir Triad. Flewelling writes beautifully detailed settings and sympathetic, likable characters; these are the lightweight beach novels of the epic fantasy genre.

The last thing I read was Shadow Ops. Control Point by Myke Cole.  I'd noticed this debut novel had a very solidly positive set of reviews so I decided I'd give it a try. I had the oddest love/hate reaction to this book. I didn't like the plot. I didn't like many of the characters. I didn't like the setting. It was well written though, and so I'd have to say it just wasn't to my tastes, despite being quite good. A quick summary: magic has popped back into the world and America has reacted by cracking down HARD on the unfortunates who have magic. Our hero is a good soldier and a decent man who has the bad luck to turn up with a prohibited  magic power right after having a really hard time morally with the last target he was sent to take down. It's a page turner. I finished it in a single sitting and it was entertaining and deserved the good reviews. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes military science fiction/fantasy. I really liked this one in spite of myself. 

Congratulations! Your car is in a thousand parts on a blue tarp in your driveway. Now how are you going to put it all back together again? Luckily for you, we've got the resources you need to repair your vehicle and get your wheels back on the road.

Are you looking for a manual to figure out what part goes where? Auto Repair Reference Center is a comprehensive collection of repair and maintenance information on most major manufacturers of domestic and imported vehicles. 

You'll also find wiring diagrams and other useful information in Alldata, a source used by vehicle technicians around the country. This resource is available at the Central, Gresham and Midland libraries.

Can't find what you're looking for in these online resources? The library has a wide variety of automobile repair menus. Try searching with the keywords "automobile", "repair" and adding the make of your vehicle. And of course, you are always welcome to contact a librarian with your research question and we'll be happy to help you out.

If you've done a fine repair job and are now ready to sell your car, take a look at our blog post: Buying or Selling a Car? Get the information you need with these librarian-approved resources. 

Maybe you've given up on your car and are now ready to donate it to a worth cause? Take a look at Give.org. This site, built by the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, reports on charitable organizations that are the subject of donor inquiries. The Alliance offers guidance to donors on making informed giving decisions through charity evaluations, various "tips" and giving information, and the quarterly Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide.

 

Looking for work, but not sure where to start? At CareerOneStop, you'll find career resources and workforce information for job seekers, students, businesses, and workforce professionals. The site is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. Within the site you'll find:

Explore career opportunities to make informed employment and education choices
 
Helps laid-off workers and other career changers find new occupations to explore
 
Employment, training, and financial assistance for laid-off workers.
 
Provides career information and links to work-related services that help veterans and military service members successfully transition to civilian careers.

The Web is a large and awesome source of all kinds of information about health and wellness. Sometimes it's hard to separate authoritative and accurate information from resources that offer unrealistic claims and research that has not been verified or cited. Here are some resources we think are "at the top of the list" in terms of currency, timeliness, scope (the depth of the topics they cover), authority and sponsorship,  as well as ease of use.

MedlinePlus, from the National Library of Medicine,  is one of the best starting points for any kind of health topic. Not just for seniors, it does provide age categories to help limit the scope of your search.  All the information has been thoroughly vetted, and information comes from a variety of trusted sponsors and organizations. What else does it provide? Videos of an upcoming surgery, a dictionary, multiple languages, easy to understand articles, a comprehensive set of health organizations and directories as well as information about diseases and drugs, including holistic and alternative treatments. 

NIH Senior Health is another resource we highly recommend. The information is geared specifically for people over fifty and the site has a simple design with the ability to increase text size. Find information about diseases and drugs as well as information arranged in categories such as healthy aging and memory and mental health.

The Administration on Aging is a great resource because it links a wealth of information in one place and lets you search for resources and information locally. The misson of this organization is helping boomers find resources and services. The ElderCare Locator helps you find information in your area on a specific topic, like Alzheimer's, long-term care, or transportation services.   

Locally, we recommend SHIBA, the Senior Health Insurance Benefit Assistance Program. SHIBA helps with any kind of question about Medicare and Medicare benefits. You can call for individual counseling about coverage, eligibility, comparing plans and choosing a Medicare prescription drug plan.

Portland is a fabulously crafty city. We are host to Crafty Wonderland, which began as a small craft show at Doug Fir Lounge in 2006. It now happens twice yearly at the Oregon Convention Center and features hand made goods from artisans in the Pacific Northwest. Another treasure is the Portland Saturday Market which runs from March through December.  Portland is also home to a wide variety of artists and crafters, many of whom are bloggers and authors. 

Alicia Paulson, a local blogger and craft maven, loves to make things.  Her blog, Posie Gets Cozy, is full of projects, photos, and musings. Lee Meredith shares tutorials and knitting patterns on her blog, Lethal.NetDiane Gilleland, formerly Sister Diane of the Church of Craft, shares her love of crafting and writing on her blog, CraftyPod, where she also helps you with the business side of crafting.  Susan Beal blogs on West Coast Crafty.  Some of our crafters are also zinesters and the library carries a wonderful collection of zines of all kinds.

Portland also offers open studio spaces to crafty people, with no or low cost fees.  Modern Domestic on Alberta offers open sewing nights in their classrooms.  Collage on Alberta offers inexpensive classes to sample new creative techniques on Tuesdays and Fridays. SCRAP is a creative reuse center, brimming with used craft, art and office supplies. 100th Monkey Studio offers open art studios and supplies, for a small fee.  A haven for knitters and spinners, Portland yarn stores offer drop-in nights for chatting and socializing as well as knitting, especially great for those dark, rainy nights in the winter! 

The area also shines with galleries and exhibit spaces23 Sandy Gallery features book artists and book art. The Museum of Contemporary Craft is the primary exhibitor of crafts in the Pacific Northwest, with both permanent and visiting displays.  Oregon School of Arts and Crafts has recently added an MFA in craft to their masters programs and they have a fabulous gift store, as well as three galleries of exhibitions.

Our city has become a mecca for crafty people and you can find lots of meet-ups and events to keep you happily crafting throughout all of the seasons.  To find even more events, try DIY Alert, and check out the the library's crafty offerings too.

 

 

I just finished listening to Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir Blood, Bones and Butter, and I feel like my best friend moved away. She narrated it herself. Hamilton’s the real deal, a chef and a writer, not a chef who writes or a writer who cooks.

Contemporary chef memoirs bug me. In 1999, when I graduated from cooking school, famous chefs were just that: chefs, only famous. Now many are full-blown media superstars, more concerned with scoring merchandising deals than actually cooking. So I eschewed Hamilton’s book (the Anthony Bourdain blurb on the cover wasn’t doing it any favors.) But I prefer the immediacy of recorded books read by the author, and hers fit the bill.

Lucky me. I love Hamilton’s voice, how unadorned her own words are coming from her own mouth, her wryness and lack of tolerance for B.S. It’s right there on the page, but when she speaks, it’s right there.

Hamilton’s mastery of culinary and literary arts shows in how seamlessly she weaves her narrative in and out of the kitchen. She nails the details we expect in such a book--the grating din of a ventilation hood whirring 18 hours a day, the punishing pleasure of surviving yet another brunch with one cook down--then one-ups genre conventions by making the non-industry parts of her life equally compelling, and often more so.

Yes, she spent Julys in Puglia at the seaside villa of her Italian husband’s family, but these sunny escapes have a turgid darkness lurking under the lusty Mediterranean idyll we Americans can’t seem to get enough of: the villa is crumbling, as is her marriage, as is her faith in her ability to maintain her composure, to just settle the hell down. Cooking, as it turns out, isn’t a magic bullet to bring about a blissful storybook ending. Like all worthwhile pursuits in life, it’s challenging and trying and immensely satisfying.

(Also indispensable for 'Read by the Author' fans: E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. You have not fully taken in this book until you have heard White’s Yankee intonations of “Fehn” and “Wilbaah.”)

Naturally, the color scheme of Commando, Johnny Ramone’s posthumous autobiography, is red, white, and blue. Johnny drove American cars and drank American beer, though it’s worth pointing out he capped himself at two bottles; his post-concert routine for most of his career was to hit up 7-11 for milk and cookies, then retreat to his hotel room.

In a band of dudes who are hard to love, Johnny was the hardest. His sourpuss face is synonymous with the band’s sulky collective persona. Spying multiple photos of Johnny smiling in Commando was shocking enough, but when I saw a picture of Johnny and his wife on Disney World’s dinosaur ride, I thought my face was going to melt off.

Don’t worry, Commando still teems with frowny Johnny photos. Hostility was his internal engine, his Bizzarro World Zen. Instead of denying his anger, he used it as a medium, the way a sculptor chisels a marble slab. Punk is the music of rebels, and Johnny was a rebel among punks. He stashed his earnings into a retirement account. His favorite president was Regan.

There are a lot of books by and about The Ramones. Direct and dynamic, Commando is easily the best. Johnny didn’t exactly exude compassion during his interview segments in the well-made 2005 documentary End of the Century: Story of the Ramones, so it’s refreshing to discover he had a human side.

Another enlightening look at the inner workings of the band is the unfortunately titled I Slept with Joey Ramone, by Joey’s brother, Mickey Leigh. While not a great read, it’s a worthwhile skim, and it offers many insights to Joey’s sickly constitution and obsessive-compulsive disorder (giving songs like “I Wanna Be Well” and “Go Mental” a bittersweet new dimension).

But for the best instant Ramones immersion, just watch Rock’n’Roll High School. Yes, it’s a schlocky teen b-movie, but it captures the spirit of the Ramones in the most buoyant fashion possible, and the concert scene at the end exudes a blissfully straightforward musical purity. Look out for Johnny’s solitary line: “We’re not students, we’re the Ramones.” 

Every nonprofit has to start somewhere and the library is a great first stop. Since 1973, Multnomah County Library has been part of the  Foundation Center's Funding Information Network, a nonprofit organization established in 1956 concerned exclusively with gathering, analyzing and disseminating information on philanthropic foundations. Foundation Center libraries are located throughout the United States.

Via our Nonprofit Resource Center, Multnomah County Library makes the publications of the Foundation Center available to the public along with other materials on foundations, corporate philanthropy, government grants, proposal writing, fundraising and nonprofit management. Library staff provide help in using these materials, and brief reference questions can be answered by telephone. Some of the indexes and directories published by the Foundation Center are also available online. Multnomah County Library provides access to these online Foundation Directory resources, including Foundation Directory Online Professional, a database of nearly 100,000 U.S.-based foundations, grantmaking public charities, and corporate givers and IRS 990s, has federal grant information and offers periodicals, newsletters and the Foundation Center's Web site, which contains current information on nonprofit management, grantmakers, news and events. And here are a few more handy sites that will help you track down just the right way to kick off your cause. 

A directory of Federal programs, projects, service and activities which provide assistance to the American public. It contains financial and nonfinancial assistance programs administered by departments of the Federal government.
 
An independent organization that evaluates the financial health of America's largest charities. Rates charities on their fundraising efficiency; fundraising, program, and administration expenses; primary revenue growth; and capital ratio. Can be searched by keywords, category of charity, or geographic region.
 
A nationally prominent charity rating and evaluation service dedicated to helping donors make informed giving decisions.
 
Provides news and information for nonprofit leaders, fund raisers, grant makers, and other people involved in the philanthropic enterprise. It also offers lists of grants, fundraising ideas and techniques, statistics, and more.
 
A National Charity Reports Index provides reports on charities and other soliciting organizations that solicit nationally. Reports on local charities that solicit regionally are also available via a link to local Better Business Bureaus. Reports provide contact information, evaluation conclusions, programs, governance, fund raising, tax status, and financials.
 
A central storehouse for information on over 1,000 grant programs awarded to universities, researchers, cities, states, counties, and nonprofit organizations.
 
A comprehensive directory of public and private research funding resources from the Society for Research Administrators International.
 
The center provides links to more than 70 nonprofit groups' websites and the "Nonprofit Locator," a searchable data base of IRS data on charities in the United States.
 
On-line search tool that allows users to search for tax-exempt organizations that are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.
 
National clearinghouse of data on the nonprofit sector in the United States.
 
Formerly known as TACS, this is a statewide network of nonprofits, foundations, business partners, and individuals dedicated to supporting Oregon’s nonprofit sector.
 
In order to solicit for donations in Oregon, most charitable organizations must be registered with the Oregon Department of Justice. Before you give, check their database or call (971) 673-1880 to confirm that the organization is properly registered. Also has information on how to become a charity.
 
An overview of key topics for consideration by people who work for, lead, or support nonprofit organizations in the United States.

Forbes Lists: Companies
Lists of companies include the 200 best small companies, the Private 500, America's 500 Leading Companies, the Platinum 400, the International 800, and Best Places. Listings contain contact information, web addresses, basic revenue, assets, market value, and stock price and earnings information. Searchable.

ThomasNet (formerly Thomas Register)
ThomasNet is a directory containing over 72,000 product headings and 170,000 U.S. and Canadian manufacturers. It allows you to search by product, company or brand name. Provides you with basic contact information as well as links to websites and e-catalogs. Free registration required for some features.

Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments.

I fail as a genre book geek. I confess that I finally caught up on the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. I read books one and two years ago and really liked them but never quite got around to book three. I re-read book one just before season one aired last spring. I decided it was time to catch up with books two through five in a marathon session - given the thickness of these tomes calling it a marathon session is quite appropriate.
If you like epic fantasy, but have missed reading this series so far, it really is very good even though very grim and bloody. I will add one caveat: if you get attached to the characters you like... you should remember that old saying about life being nasty, brutish and short.

There are a lot of characters. Even just tallying up the important ones is quite the undertaking. Morality in this universe is a thousand shades of gray (mostly dark) and the only characters that are completely innocent are some very young children and a mentally handicapped giant of a man. The plot - well - please keep in mind I'm trying to summarize well over 4000 pages into a single paragraph.

So, with that in mind: The king is dead! Long live the (insert quite a bit of horrific war, machinations and assassinations to seize the throne here) king? And while we're at it... The seasons are different than ours, winter might last a decade. So, winter is coming and everyone really should be trying to put away the harvest to prevent starvation instead of burning it down in war... But at least with the country-wide war there are far fewer people left alive to feed... Oh, and instead of spending all of the kingdom's strength and resources on fighting each other, perhaps focusing on the barbarians invading from the north (the barbarians fleeing from a nightmare of undead and the killing long winter in their turn...) instead might not be such a bad idea?  Not to mention the surviving daughter of the previously deposed king kicking up her heels just across the sea... Plus, just to add to the general chaos, magic went away a long time ago and now it seems to be trickling back into the world. And it's not generally happy, helpful magic.  It's more of the creepy, icky, run in blind terror for your life sort of magic. That's going to mess with the balance of things too. And now it's started to snow...

There are characters I hope live to get happy endings. Some of the other characters... may they get the endings they deserve. I did warn you not to get too attached to the characters...  

For those of us who struggled with high school chemistry at the hands of a sadistic middle aged teacher having an affair with the trigonometry instructor (and I know you’re out there) we can now make another attempt at understanding the periodic table, and thank God, I say. Writer Sam Kean, in The Disappearing Spoon, makes the subject matter so wonderfully approachable--he welcomes you in, pours you a cold one, and just starts telling great stories about the elements.

There’s neon rain, gas warfare, ruthless scientists, passion, betrayal, adventure and obsession. What cool prank can you pull with gallium and a cup of tea? Why was cadmium the Godzilla killer? And did you hear about Marie Curie’s sullied reputation? There are some black and white illustrations and photos, and one of them is of an old ceramic urn-like device called a Revigator, a pottery crock lined with nuclear radium. Users, back in the day, filled it with water which turned radioactive overnight. The manual suggested drinking six or more refreshing glasses a day. Yum. Maybe there’s a chance for me to love chemistry after all.

(Originally published on Nov. 16, 2010.)

Have you heard about this great period British T.V. series? It’s about class divisions and war, and there’s romance, too. I got so caught up in it one night I watched the final episode instead of reading the last ten pages of Mockingjay. And...it’s not Downtown Abbey.

Danger UXB aired on British T.V. in 1979, then later in America on Masterpiece Theatre. It takes place in Blitz-era England, where the inexperienced Lieutenant Brian Ash leads his ragtag company of Royal Engineers as they disarm unexploded German bombs (the titular UXBs.) It’s a nail-bitingly inexact science of hunches and luck. Likable, established characters blow up.

Ash’s men do the dirty work, digging and hauling, but Ash, as an officer, does the dirtiest work of all; it’s up to him to tap and prod the UXB’s fuse just so, often while in mud up to his knees or dangling from ladders propped against burning buildings. A tiny misjudgement of pressure or time could obliterate him. After the satisfaction of not dying, the men head back to their dreary barracks, while Ash kicks back some gentlemanly tipple in the relative comfort of the officer’s club and alternately broods over and delights in his affair with a married woman.

As with many British television series, Danger UXB had an intentionally short run (just one season), and while it takes its time establishing very human dramas, it also doesn’t namby-pamby about: thirteen episodes and boom, it’s over. Anthony Andrews’ Ash is hapless, cocksure, capable, and adorable all at once (you may recognize him from his pitch-perfect Sebastian in the 1981 television adaptation of Brideshead Revisited). Alas, just as in the conclusion of the Hunger Games trilogy (yes, I finished it), even surviving the gory losses of war brings no truly happy endings for Ash and the men in his section. The damage is done. And there’s something very immediate to see an English-speaking country that’s the front of a war. This didn’t happen so long ago, really. This could be us again.

OK so I've finally read The Hunger Games (previously reviewed by Jen). I avoided it because I wasn't in the mood for a dystopian novel, and it sounded like reality TV (which I hate) gone amuck. They didn't tell me I would fall in love with Katniss! She's a tough girl who has kept her family alive since the age of twelve, is coming of age with a pure lack of self-involvement, and is unaware of her effect on others. At its core this book is about loyalty, courage, honor, love. That book I would have read long ago.

It makes me think of other tough girls who I have loved.

Terrier by Tamora Pierce

You could pick up any series by Tamora Pierce and you'd find a tough girl that worms her way into your heart. The first one I picked up was Terrier, about Beka Cooper. She's a rookie cop...in Pierce's parlance, a dog, or I should say a puppy, in the Provost's Guard. She chose the tough beat where she grew up, but despite her beginnings, she has some advantages, including consultations with ghosts, dust spinners that spit out hidden conversations, and a very special cat. I'm currently listening to the third, Mastiff, and still loving her no-nonsense voice, strong with loyalty, duty, and astute investigation.

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Plain Kate has a few things working against her.  She lost her father and must support herself with her woodcarving skills. She lives in a world where magic is sinister, and the townspeople accuse her of being the witch who caused their bad luck. Then she makes a deal with a real witch, and she escapes the town accompanied by, wait for this, her very special cat. (Come to think of it, there's a special cat in Hunger Games too...hmmmm.)

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Katsa may be the most feared assassin in all the seven kingdoms.  Born with the Grace to kill, she is the property of the king.  She doesn't like being the thug that her Grace makes her, and she's behind the secret Council that would change the way things work.  Then she meets Po, from another kingdom where people with these special abilities are free to make their own choices.

Oh, and all of these books...quite well written...with complexity, flowing prose, and no extra or missing plot points.

Do you ever take books to bed with you? I don’t mean reading before you turn off the light. I mean taking books, multiple books, to bed and sleeping with them.

I used to do this a lot before I was married. Sometimes it was too difficult to commit to reading just one book at bed-time, so I’d grab two or three, knowing full well I’d wind up dozing off with the light still on. I stopped, because my husband understandably is not keen on sharing the bed with a nocturnal makeshift library, but I miss it. If there is not enough time in life to read every book, you can at least have many books close to you. 

To be surrounded by books, even books we don’t read or open, is both a privilege and a burden; having moved four times in as many years, we’ve whittled our books down to what we deem the bare necessities, and even then the shelving and organizing of books is always the most toilsome moving-in task. At those times, I feel like our books own us.

One solution? Read Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books, in which writers share their own book-keeping habits. It’s a bibliophile’s voyeuristic fantasy come true. Leah Price, a professor of English at Harvard, interviewed the authors and took photos of the bookcases, both elegant and makeshift, that dominate their dwellings. Junot Diaz has a few volumes of the O.E.D. that are still in shrink-wrap. Jonathan Lethem’s books are pleasingly, exactingly arranged. Phillip Pullman’s books overrun his house, spilling off shelves and teetering in stacks.

I was happily engrossed in Unpacking My Library while my husband was trying to hold conversation. “Are you even listening to me?” he asked. No, I was not. I was reading a book about the books owned by people who write books. I bet at least one of them takes books to bed, too.

Ichiro by Ryan Inzana

On a visit to Gramps in Japan,

Ichiro hatches a plan:

to catch a tanuki

(it's just a bit spooky)

and spring from his cell Hachiman.

So far this year I've read a number of good books so I'm going to name the best of the lot for you. The Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed is a debut novel worth reading. In many ways it's a traditional high fantasy adventure story but with a setting that evokes the middle east. Doctor Adoulla Makhslood is an aging 'ghul' hunter and while he's grown weary of the fight, he gets drawn back for one last adventure. It's a very good stand-alone fantasy adventure and I really look forward to the author's next book.

I finished the last book in Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, Timeless. I've mentioned the series in a previous entry better than a year ago. It deserves a second mention. If you don't want to take the time to read a novel, try the manga adaption of book one. Vampires, werewolves, steampunk  urban fantasy... What more could one ask for?

I also got sucked into reading a non-genre series, the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich. They are hilarious in their own special way--I've been getting odd looks from both cat and husband at the random bursts of snickering and snorting coming from the couch when I read these. Also, in in the right perspective they really are every bit as much a fantasy as anything else I read, despite being set in New Jersey and being about an incompetent and improbably lucky bounty hunter. The Stephanie Plum books aren't even the popcorn of the book world...they're cotton candy.

Ever since I was little, I've loved houses. I'd page through the Sears catalog and pick out furnishings for my future home. When I started house-hunting for real, I found out that people even ordered houses from Sears!

In some books a house is more than just the setting, it's a main character. After reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, I hope to visit the mansions of Savannah, Georgia, some day.

Merry Hall in England is another grand character. Beverley Nichols details the renovation of this Georgian mansion and its gardens that's fun to read, but I'm glad it's not me doing all that work! Laughter on the Stairs and Sunlight on the Lawn complete the trilogy.

Since decorating, like gardening, is a process and that you don't have to finish, I continue to look for inspiration. My current "wish book" is Modern Vintage Style by Emily Chalmers. With scrumptious photos of amazing pattern and color combinations, I fall asleep dreaming of garage sale treasures yet to be found.

Walking by the new book shelf, The New Bespoke: Couture-Inspired Rooms That Seamlessly Combine One-of-a-Kind Objects with Hand-Made Furniture by Frank Roop caught me eye. It's modern vintage at a higher level! Totally out of my league, but I can savor the gorgeous colors and textures in the photos and pretend I'm a kid again, decorating a dream house.

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