Blogs

Recently I decided to see if I could up the number of books I finished in a year if I moved the books that were well reviewed to the top of my reading list.  I know it takes me longer to finish a book that's only just barely good enough not to put down than it does to finish a top-notch page-turner of a book.

Uprooted book jacketTwo well-reviewed titles I've finished recently are Uprooted by Naomi Novik and A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly.  Uprooted is a charming fairy tale about Agnieszka, a peasant girl in a humble village on the edge of a corrupted Wood.  The village is kept safe by the Dragon who asks only that a girl of his choice from one of his dependent villages enter his service every ten years.  At the end of her term of service, she is let go with a fine fat pouch of silver coins for her time.  But the girls are never the same after and they always leave their village homes.  Agnieszka never thinks that she'll be the chosen one....
A Criminal Magic book jacket
A Criminal Magic is about a 1920s America where prohibition doesn’t ban alcohol; instead it bans sorcerer's "shine".  Sorcerers can bottle their shine which gives an incredible and addictive high, but the shine loses its power after only a single day.  After prohibition begins, shine distribution falls to mobsters - the same as alcohol did in the real1920s world.  Joan is a sweet young orphaned sorceress from the back woods who only wants to earn money and look after her little sister and her cousin. Alex is a Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a scandal in his past who is forced to go undercover into the world of "shine" dens.  Both are forced to confront all the unpleasant realities of the world they find themselves in.  It's early in the year but I can already tell you that A Criminal Magic will be in my top ten titles for the year.

If you are looking at a title in the newer version of the catalog (Bibliocommons), scroll down past the title information to "Opinions" then look for "From the critics" to see professionally published reviews.  In the classic catalog, click on the cover picture for the book (you'll need allow new windows to pop up) and any published reviews will be available in the new window.  I found these two titles as delightful as the reviews promised and finished both in short order since I didn't want to put either one down!

Part of the joy of reading The Improbability of Love was that it was like revisiting the art history classes I loved in college. Author Hannah Rothschild clearly knows the art world, and it was such a pleasure to learn about the mechanics of that world, the kinds of characters that populate it, and the art itself. I learned to keep my iPad close by so I could look up paintings and statues that were mentioned, and all that beauty became part of my experience of the book.

In this novel, a young woman impulsively buys a painting that’s been moldering in a London junk shop for decades. It winds up being an important (imaginary) painting by Watteau, a (non-imaginary) French painter from the eighteenth century- a Rococo painting, featuring attractive people in nice outfits in an outdoor setting. There’s a bit of romance as well as a family secret that is very dark indeed. The painting itself is one of the narrators, telling us about its long, fascinating history, from Madame Pompadour's boudoir to dark days in Nazi Germany. 

Treat yourself and read this book. Then take a look at my list of fiction about art and artists.
 

If you hear “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” in my apartment, you’d know that rice was cooking. That’s the song my rice cooker plays when I hit the “start” button. I like planning my meals around rice and these past few months I’ve found some star accompaniments: short rib kare-kare, Visayan roast chicken, and garlic shrimp. (Most of these recipes are available online in some form or another, but I encourage you to check out the books too.) Here’s what I made:

Asian-American book jacket1.  Short Rib Kare-Kare from Asian-American by Dale Talde: Kare kare, as slightly reinvented by Talde, is a decadent Filipino pot roast in a savory coconut milk and peanut sauce. Talde labelled the recipe with a "Filipino advisory explicit flavor" warning, noting that it was "too funky for most white people" probably due to the shrimp paste ingredient. I’ll just say that my boyfriend loved kare kare and creatively used it later in sandwiches and burritos. (Note: if you can’t find boneless short ribs, feel free to substitute with another cut ideal for slow cooking.)

2.  Visayan Roast Chicken with Lemon Grass from The Cooking of Indonesia and the Philippines by Ghillie Başan: This roast chicken is a riff on Filipino barbequeCooking of Indonesia and the Philippines book jacket flavors. Here, the whole chicken is rubbed in a heavenly spice paste containing garlic, ginger, lemongrass, soy sauce, brown sugar, and lemon. I love that the recipe has you make roasted sweet potato fries as a bonus “one pot” side dish. (Note: Ignore the temperature and time directions and roast this chicken at 425 °F for 35 minutes breast side up, flip it, and roast for 20 minutes or until the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 °F.)

3.  Ms. Vo Thi Huong’s Garlic Shrimp from Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes by Peter Meehan: Just a few words: best souvenir from Vietnam ever. Here, the shrimp is quickly stir fried in an amazing combination of garlic, shallots, green onion, Sriracha, Kewpie mayo, and soy sauce. Much like many of the recipes in the book, the garlic shrimp was super easy to make.

These recipes are perfect for people who like Southeast Asian flavors and want to feel proud of themselves in the kitchen. I’m all about kitchen victories. Are there any recipes that you’d recommend to me? Please let me know in the comments!

I can’t get enough of some authors that I love. I also try to slowly savor authors I discover. I don’t read all their books in one fell swoop: I read one every couple months. I am on my third book by Rainbow Rowell: Carry On. I love how Rowell writes about contemporary life, people, class issues and love through her adult and teen fiction.

There’s a reason she’s a best seller. She can tell a love story. I am haunted by the amazing and awkward love story of Eleanor and Park. I want to reread Fangirl which alludes to the romance between Baz and Simon in Carry On. Fangirl has its own marvelous, slow paced romance but I don’t want to give anything away.

I grew up working class: my father was a surveyor’s aide, and my mother was a part time key punch operator. The worries of Rowell’s working class characters really resonate with me. For instance, Eleanor worries about clean clothes with her small wardrobe, and Simon just wants enough to eat like many growing teens. These details add to the realistic aspects of the world she is building. She nails it without rubbing it in your face.

I’m so happy to find another author to love! Have you found any new authors to love lately?

newsradio cover

It was a dark and drizzly night in Portland, Oregon...

Thanks to the magic of Roku, the hilarious and irreverent Newsradio was on my television. Nothing could have been better. Then, out of the elevator, arrived the cast of Mr. Show.

Mic dropped. Laughs ensued.

During the 90s and early 00s a collective of writers and comedians produced a body of work featuring each other in one form or another. However, when shows like this aired, the internet was merely a buffering baby - finding and watching these shows was not a click away. Well worn VHS tapes and personal retelling after a ten mile uphill walk through the snow filled the gap until the current overabundance of content was available. 

 

Haven’t seen the Kids, Bluths, or the Party Down crew in a while? Check out this list and say hello!

Spring 2016 teen booksSpring 2016 kids booksAh, spring break! In my memories of childhood, it was always filled with chocolate Easter eggs and lots of time to read the stack of good books I’d just checked out from my local library. In honor of those memories, I’ve gathered up a crop of new books for kids and teens that I want to read over the upcoming spring weeks that are bound to be cool and rainy.  I might just have to buy a bag of chocolate to go with them!

Check out the kids’ stack here and the teen stack here.

The Library is Like Falling Into HeavenVolunteer Carla Lang

by Sarah Binns

Carla Lang is one of those people with whom you can start talking about books and look up from your conversation to find two hours have passed without your knowledge. The phrase “voracious reader” can be overused, but in Carla's case it is true. It’s a lifelong trait: “When I was growing up my dream was to be locked away in the library. As long as there was a store nearby,” she adds, pragmatically.

Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, Carla later drove her VW bus all the way to Alaska - and stayed for forty years. When she and her husband moved to Nome in the early '70s, the local library association was little more than a women's social club. “Over a period of a few years we transformed into a working association with an eye toward a true lending library that was funded by the city,” she explains. Through their efforts, library funding was eventually secured, and Nome's Kegoayah Kozga Public Library continues to this day.

Shortly after Carla and her husband moved from Nome to an apartment above the Sellwood Library in 2006, she noticed a sign soliciting volunteers. She started as a paging list volunteer in 2007, pulling items that patrons have put on hold. On her inaugural day, Carla was dismayed to locate only a few of the books on the 100-book list. “It turns out it was the previous day's list!” she laughs. She says the paging list is “the ultimate Easter egg hunt” and intends to go on doing this task.

Carla also volunteers with Words on Wheels, a Library Outreach Services program which delivers books to those unable to go to the library. She's been with some of her patrons for two years now and still enjoys bringing them book suggestions. When it comes to the library and reading, Carla says, “It's like falling into heaven. I never mind waiting in lines because I always have a book with me. As long as I have a book, I'm fine.”


A Few Facts About Carla

Home library: Sellwood Library

Currently reading: The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson

Books that made you laugh or cry: Dave Barry's books make her laugh; “I try to avoid books that make me cry,” she says, "but The Art of Racing in the Rain was one that did."

Most influential book: Probably Lord of the Rings; “I always go back to it, I've read it at least 14 times.”

Guilty pleasure: “All books are guilty pleasures! But probably my science fiction.”

Favorite book from childhood: Little Women, Uncle Tom's Cabin, “and a story about a young girl in the Revolutionary War that I can't remember the title of!”

Favorite section to browse: New books, graphic novels, and staff picks

E-reader or paper books: Paper, though e-books are a nice option when on the go.

Favorite place to read: In bed in the morning with a cup of coffee or a chair in her apartment loft with good light.

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! Read last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

¡Usted lo puede leer en inglés también!
 

Thing Explainer book jacketHow do you explain something? If you are telling someone how to do something and they don’t understand, what do you do? Do you repeat what you just said hoping that repetition will help? Or do you come up with a new way to explain it. If you find a new way to say it, you are a much better explainer.

One book that made me think about this is Randall Munroe’s Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words. He set up a challenge for himself to explain things like a Saturn V rocket and weather maps using the 1000 most common words in the English language. This is hard because you can’t use words like rocket, Saturn, weather or thousand. He had to find a new way to explain everything.

The Saturn V became the US Space Team’s Up Goer Five. Weather maps are Cloud Maps. Complicated things have to be described in very simple ways to get by using only the ten hundred most common words. Reading this book will bring clarity and new understanding to complicated things you may or may not have understood before. This is a fun and very cool book.

If you want a challenge, try to explain something such as your job or a hobby using Munroe’s XKCD Simple Writer which only allows you to use the 1000 most common words.

For a short read you could finish over a cup of coffee, try Carlos Fuentes's Aura. You can also read it in Spanish!

Eureka! I have found one!

Does anyone else get this feeling when they find an audiobook reader that they can love?

My new favorite is Lisette Lecat. She reads the Alexander McCall Smith series No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels. 

After trying (and failing) to read the No. 1 Ladies in print, it was a joy to hear the rich, rolling tones of Lecat sing out all those names that had given me grief. In The Full Cupboard of Life, the women are grown-ups, dealing with adult issues such as overbearing rivals, taking care of other people's children, or finding the perfect mate.

And I thoroughly approve of 'the traditional Botswana shape'!

If you have a reader that you adore, I would welcome the suggestion. And next month we might be able to write a blog together!

Pimpón - Español
 
Pimpón es un muñeco 
con manos de cartón
se lava la carita
con agua y con jabón.
 
Se desenreda el pelo
con peine de marfil
y aunque se da estirones
no llora ni hace así.
 
Pimpón dame la mano 
con un fuerte apretón
que quiero ser tu amigo
Pimpón, Pimpón, Pimpón.
 
Y cuando la estrellas
comienzan a salir
Pimpón se va a la cama,
Pimpón se va dormir.
 
Pimpón - English
 
Pimpón is very handsome doll
made of cardboard
he will wash his face
with soap and water. 
 
When he combs his hair
with an ivory comb
when he pulls his hair
he will not cry nor go like this.
 
Pimpón give me your hand
give it a good squeeze
because I want to be your friend
Pimpón, Pimpón, Pimpón.
 
When the stars in the sky
start to blink
Pimpón goes to bed
Pimpón goes to sleep.

Victoria Jamieson; photo: Herminio JacomeVictoria Jamieson is the author and illustrator of  books for children, including the Newbery Honor book Roller Girl. Along with writing and illustrating, she teaches children's book illustration at Pacific Northwest College of Art.

A good percentage of my childhood was spent at the library. When my brothers and I were young, my mom helped organize the summer reading program at our local library outside of Philadelphia. I created many a diorama based on books during those summers. A few years later, my mom started working there as a children’s librarian where, much to our chagrin, she seemed to learn all of the gossip in town (“So, I hear you’re dating so-and-so!”)

The most formative books for me as a kid were the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. I related to her so much -- she seemed like a real kid. I appreciated the fact that her family worried about money, and her dad worried about finding a job. It reassured me to no end to read about kids facing real-life situations. I can’t tell you how many times I read those books. They MAY have been a factor in my deciding to move to Portland.

Other childhood favorites included Anne of Green Gables and all of the Roald Dahl, but especially The BFG.  That book inspired a lifetime of whizpopper jokes. I love re-reading childhood favorites. I teach a continuing education class in writing and illustrating children’s books at Pacific Northwest College of Art, and I always recommend re-reading old favorites. It’s fascinating to read them from an adult perspective, and if you want to write children’s books yourself, it’s a great way to remember what you loved about reading as a child.

Here’s a list of my recent favorites:
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
This was the last book that made me cry — like, a deep, body-shaking sob. If you like a body-shaking sob as much as I do, this is the book for you.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
As soon as I read this book, I knew it would be a book I would read to my kids someday. It’s just a book you want to share. Now I just need to wait for my son to be old enough.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
You just have to read it. It’s an amazing book.

Ida B by Katherine Hannigan
This book is both laugh-out-loud funny and cry-out-loud touching. Be careful where you read this one; I was reading it on the subway in New York when I started ugly crying.

A few more:

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

El Deafo by Cece Bell

One Crazy Summer by Rita Willams-Garcia

Get even more reading recommendations hand-picked for you by My Librarian.

In the time it takes your bread to toast, you could be making art.

Filmish bookjacketA picture is worth a thousand words, or so people say. If you’d like to learn about something but don’t necessarily want to read a big ol’ tome (or conversely, a short Wikipedia entry), there just might be an excellent graphic novel available that will tell you everything you want to know about a subject.

Interested in the history of film? Check out Filmish by Edward Ross. Not only did I learn about everything filmic, I also could congratulate myself onOut on the Wire bookjacket the huge number of movies I’ve watched over the years.

Do you spend your morning commute listening to podcasts? If you’re curious about the evolution of narrative radio stories (I’m talking to all you Serial fans out there), then check out Out on the Wire: Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio. Not only will you get the behind the scene action of podcasts, you might just be inspired to create your own radio program!

Ready to delve into other subjects through the world of comics? Take a look at this list of some very enlightening graphic novels.

Job search image

If you're looking for work and aren't sure where to start, consider these top sites that will help you begin your job search, network with others find out when jobs in your area of interest open up.
 
OregonLive: Best Local Jobs
Take a look at the Oregonian’s online employment classified section.
 
Craigslist isn't just for getting a couple of bucks for selling that old futon in your basement - you'll also find lists of local jobs in a wide-variety of categories. Here's a great article on getting the most out of Craigslist for your job search.
 
Craig isn't the only one with a list - this is a newsletter and website that posts jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities from hundreds of Portland Metro and greater Oregon non-profits, public agencies, and private employers. It also offers a resource page with recommended books, career coaches and more.
 
LinkedIn is a profession-focused network that allows you to link to people you know and network with those who know them. Its job board allows you to post your resume and it also includes a browser toolbar widget that can help connect you with your targeted employer. Still not sure what LinkedIn is or how it can with your job search? Take a look at LinkedIn's job searching tips and here are some tips from Forbes that LinkedIn won't tell you.
 
Indeed allows you to set up searches and have the results emailed to you daily and/or pushed to you via RSS. Easy to limit to a particular location. As with LinkedIn, this site also lets you post your resume.
 
City of Portland Jobs | Multnomah County Jobs | Metro JobsClackamas County Jobs | Washington County Jobs | Clark County Jobs
Search for government employment in the Portland Metro area.
 
Search for jobs throughout the state - use the advanced search to limit to a wage per hour, occupational group and more.

Knickers in a Twist book jacketBefore I headed across the pond for the first time, my stepmother loaned me a slim volume entitled Coping with England.   While I appreciated her thoughtfulness, I seriously doubted that I needed that book.  I mean what’s to cope with? I knew enough to avoid the mushy peas and eel pies and I’d heard about the quirky plumbing, but I was pretty sure I could hail a cab or understand directions as long as the person giving them out wasn’t from Glasgow. Well let me tell you how wrong I was about my ability to cope; on my first few days in London, I was introduced to the twin domestic horrors of limescale and salad cream. I’m still scarred by that experience, and so I will just say this:  Avoid them at all costs! If you are about to make your initial journey to Britain or just want to know more about the ways of that island nation and its people, take a look at the following offerings. You’ll be glad you did (or at least you’ll know when you’re being insulted).

Someone (Shaw? Wilde? Churchill?) once said that Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language.  If MasterpieceDivided by a Common Language book jacket Theater isn’t helping you as much as you’d like with your grasp on British English, get your paws on one of these titles. Knickers in a Twist is a hilarious look at British slang.  Due to my long association with Brits and their police procedurals, I was fully aware of about three quarters of the words and phrases; however, I encountered some new-to-me lexical gems when I read this recently. 

Ever wonder what Brits mean when they natter on about toffs, yobs, twitchers or white van men? You'll wonder no more after reading The Queen's English and How to Speak Brit. They offer fewer words and phrases than Knickers, but most entries are longer. And finally, both you and your British pals (who somehow think the words "sidewalk", "stove" and "garbage" are weird and/or hilarious) might find Divided by a Common Language helpful in understanding each other. You'll find several side-by-side comparison charts for British and American terminology, words and phrases you shouldn't use while in one country or the other, and a pronunciation guide. So I'll close by saying Have a nice day! and Cheers!

For a list of books on British English, click here.

Pages