Blogs: Adults

The Elephant House, EdinburghThis summer, I got to see the birthplace of Harry Potter!  I’d been in Edinburgh before but had managed to miss the café in which J.K. Rowling first began writing about Harry, Ron and Hermione.  I also had a pint in Inspector Rebus’s pub, The Oxford Bar, and revisited the statue of Greyfriars Bobby.  Visiting literary sites and libraries is something I try to do on every trip, and I had a bookish bonanza this year in Scotland.  In past years, I’ve wandered the Portobello Road antiques market in London where Paddington Bear’s friend, Mr. Gruber, has his shop, have made a pilgrimage to James Herriot’s veterinary clinic in Thirsk, England, and ridden the rails in Yorkshire close to Thomas the Tank Engine’s home.

When I was a child, we did a lot of traveling around the Pacific Northwest as well as Pennsylvania and KentuckyThe Oxford Bar, Edinburgh where my family’s relatives lived.  All of those trips were fun, but I can only imagine how excited I would have been had I gotten to commune with Peter Rabbit in England’s Lake District or been lost in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler takes place.  If you or your children have a hankering to visit places you’ve come to love in favorite books, there are several guides to help you get there.

Storybook TStorybook Travels book jacketravels covers thirty literary landmarks around the world.  The guide gives you information about the books covered, suggested itineraries, and addresses, phone numbers  and websites of the places to visit.  Portland gets a mention for Beverly Cleary's books!

Once Upon a Time in Great Britain covers literary sites in England, Scotland and Wales and also notes sites where you can see original artwork and manuscripts.

I don’t know where I’ll travel next, but I’m sure it will include places important in my reading life.

The Dying Grass: A Novel of the Nez Perce War

by William T. Vollman

Vollmann, a National Book Award Winner, brings us a stirring account of the 1877 Nez Perce War as seen through the eyes of the Civil War general leading the US Army.

One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon

by Tim Weiner

Weiner, a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, presents a portrait of one of the most controversial and disastrous presidents in US history. Based on declassified documents, he shows Nixon as a brilliant but tortured man who distrusted not only his own staff and Congress but the American population at large.

A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design

by Frank Wilczek

Wilczek, a quantum physics scientist, explores the universe through historical scientific discoveries starting with Plato and Pythagoras through the present. He looks for the deep logic in the forms the universe takes and describes their harmonic and balanced symmetry.

On Writing

by Charles Bukowski

From the late great poet and novelist, gathered here is a collection of his correspondence with publishers, editors, friends, and fellow writers.

How We'll Live on Mars

by Stephen Petranek

Petranek claims that humans will live on Mars by 2027, and he makes the case that living on Mars is not just plausilble but inevitable due to the environmental and human conditions on Earth.


Book Jacket: The City of Palaces by Michael NavaA handsome doctor, tortured by his dark past, returns home from exile in Europe to perform house calls for bored, rich housewives.

Robbed of her beauty by smallpox, a spinster countess in a crumbling palace, swallows her own pain by devoting her life to God and caring for the downtrodden in the city’s worst neighborhoods.

An upper class gentleman, shunned from the city as a “sodomite” returns as an openly gay revolutionary who refuses to apologize for his politics nor for whom he loves.

It’s the end of the 19th century and the setting is Mexico City under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. The Eurocentric old guard are losing their hold on the city, but who or what will replace it remains uncertain.

The book is The City of Palaces by Michael Nava; A finalist for this year’s Lambda Literary Awards. As a devout chilangophile, I’ll read anything set in Mexico City, but this particular book took my breath away. The surprising cast of characters sucked me in right from the start and Nava's talent for storytelling carried me straight to the heart of a country on the brink of revolution.

If you need a page-turner to read this Summer with amazing characters that breathe life into history, check out The City of Palaces

The Unforgiving Coast book jacketSummer is here and as usual we are inundated with reading lists of the best summer beach reads. They are everywhere. Locally, The Oregonian has a list of 19 Must Read Beach Books and the Portland Mercury tells you How to Pick the Perfect Summer Book.  Nationally, Good Housekeeping has their Best Summer Beach Reads, Entertainment Weekly recommends 10 Big Fat Beach Reads, the New York Times offers Cool Books for Hot Summer Days and the Huffington Post offers a list of “titles to get you started whether you are at the beach or just wish you were.”Jaws book jacket

Well, I for one feel it is time to revolt against the tyranny of summer beach reading. Maybe you don’t like the beach or don’t live near the ocean. What’s wrong with staying inside and enjoying the comfort of your own home? Also, lots of bad things can happen at the beach.  Bad things like tsunamis, sharks, venomous jellyfish, shipwrecks, pollution, and crowds to just name a few. So I say let’s celebrate staying away from the beach with our reading this summer!  Try something from this list of books and enjoy reading in the comfort of your own safe and cozy home.

Hold Still book jacketWhen Sally Mann’s new memoir opens, she is sitting in the attic sorting though boxes of photographs. Deciding what to keep and what to throw out is difficult. After a lifetime spent documenting the lives of her children, the landscapes surrounding her Virginia farm and her own and her husband’s aging bodies, Mann recognizes the challenge inherent in relying on photographs to keep and preserve the truth.  For Mann, photographs should never be mistaken for reality. It is this philosophy that infuses Hold Still, a way of thinking that allows readers to get to know her beyond the controversy that has followed her professional career.

It’s hard to think about Sally Mann and not think about that controversy.  In the mid 1980’s, Mann began photographing her children. In many of the photographs the children are nude or partially nude. In the early 1990’s, a show of Mann’s work at a New York gallery resulted in a scathing critique of her work and officially placed her in the category of the controversial.   

Hold Still proves that Mann is also a wonderful storyteller.  Her writing is exquisite – the perfect balance of forward motion prose and past reflection.  The book is also a satisfying visual journey.  Mann has included well-known photographs as well as letters, drawings and other memorabilia. Chapters denote the major relationships in her life. She tells the story of her own youth and early years and her marriage to Larry Mann which endures today despite her mother-in-law’s attempts to sabotage it.  She talks about the brutal murder of her in-laws, a Capote-like story if ever there was one. And she talks about her farm, which she credits with providing her a place from which her work and her life could thrive.  

Mann’s works today sell for thousands of dollars and her photographs are collected by major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian. But the days of criticism have dogged her career and, if nothing else, this memoir makes a valiant attempt to set things right –to show Mann the person and the philosophy behind her work.  For Sally Mann, photographs do not preserve the past. Instead they “supplant and corrupt the past, all the while creating their own memories.” With honesty and a clear eye, Hold Still introduces readers to a Sally Mann who is more than the controversy.

Do you get lonely for friends? I do. Some of my closest friends live hundreds of miles away. Sometimes I start to need the balm of sharing and feeling safe. I like knowing they will laugh with me or have the tissues ready. And I do the same for them. When I start to long to hang out with some friends, that’s where books or movies come in. I have been reading novels with female friendships as the main topic for a while.

Get cozy and have the tissues ready, these ladies will be there for you.

Is your data safe? I don’t mean from hackers, I mean from catastrophic computer failures. We all hope it won’t happen to us, but do you really want to lose your music collection, digital photos or that paper you’ve been working on for 2 weeks? There are a number of ways to back up important data, and it’s even recommended that you use more than one of them, just to be safe.

The first level of data protection is often a local backup - usually to an external hard drive or a flash drive. If you own a business, experts recommend keeping a backup drive off-site so that you’re also protected should something happen not just to your computer, but to your business itself.USB flash drive

One way to get your data to an external backup is to manually copy your important files to another hard drive or flash drive. This isn’t necessarily the easiest way, however, and it requires that you remember to do it! There are also many software programs that will do it for you. On Apple computers, the more recent operating systems come with Time Machine. Windows 7 machines have Backup and Restore built in, and Windows 8 uses File History. You can also do a search for ‘best backup software’ and you’ll find guides and reviews of both free and paid software options.

A second way to back up your data is to use online, or cloud solutions. While not strictly backup tools, cloud-based file storage services provide a small amount of online storage space for free (generally 2-15 GB, depending on the service) and additional space for a monthly or yearly fee. Some cloud storage services come with your email, like Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive and Apple iCloud, and also feature access to online office software. Some services, such as and, provide software that you can install to automatically sync one or more folders between your computer and the online storage, and your files will also be accessible online through their website. As an additional bonus, most of these services are also accessible from smartphones and tablets, which means you don’t have those photos and files taking up precious storage room on your handheld device.

cloud iconWhich cloud solution you choose depends on how much room you need, or if you need advanced features. There are so many options, it’s worth it to do some comparison shopping before picking one. You can search for recommendations, reviews, or lists of the best free and premium services. For example, I searched for ‘best cloud backup storage’ and found ‘The Best Cloud Storage Services for 2015’ from PC Magazine and ‘36 Online Backup Services Reviewed’ from’s Tech page. One warning, though - it’s recommended that you do not save sensitive data to online storage, unless you encrypt the file first. (Some services offer encryption among their options as well.)

I hope this inspires you to make regular backups, if you don’t already, or gives you some ideas for more options try even if you do. Comment below if you know of some great services or software to recommend!

The Sculptor bookjacketI just finished The Sculptor by Scott McCloud and I want to tell everyone I know (even complete strangers!) about it. I loved it as soon as I saw the cover - a stunning facade that incorporates the main character and the woman he loves as a sculpture. 

And then the story. It's that age-old tale of selling your soul for your art, but it's told in a brilliantly fresh way. Did I mention the drawings? This is a graphic novel and even if you've never been interested in reading one before, please take a chance on this one. This picture story tackles all of the important issues - destiny, art, love, one's legacy, loss, death. It's all here in the most beautiful wrapping imaginable and I want everyone to read it now.

Cool Japan Guide book jacketLots of Americans are way into manga and anime, but Abby Denson loves both so much that she tries to go to Japan every year.  She’s pretty much a fan of all Japanese pop culture and now she’s written and illustrated a fun travel guide to help others navigate the land of manga, lucky cats and ramen.  She’ll tell you about the best times to go, how to deal with the weird toilets, where to find the most awesome souvenirs, what to eat (the ramen is WAY better than the stuff you find in the U.S. and the sweets are to die for), along with interesting things to see and do. You’ll also learn a few Japanese words from Abby’s cat, Kitty Sweet Tooth.

Comics conventions! Maid and butler cafes! Vending machines with funky food and drink! Abby throws you right into the middle of it all.  After reading the Cool Japan Guide, you’ll want to hop the next flight to Tokyo and start your search for the perfect omamori and Taiyaki.

For another fun illustrated guide to Japan, check out Tokyo on Foot by Florent Chavouet.

Death and Mr. Pickwick: A Novel

by Stephen Jarvis

Jarvis recreates the writing of Charles Dickens'  first novel "The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club" giving us a flavor of 19th century London and the publishing industry of the time. For Dickens fans everywhere.

The Orpheus Clock: The Search for My Family's Art Treasures Stolen by the Nazis

by Simon Goodman

A dramatic story about a seventy year detective hunt for stolen family treasures which included works by Degas, Renoir, Botticelli and many more. A heartfelt tale of loss and redemption.

Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs --  A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal and Murder

by Ben Mezrich

The bestselling author of "Bringing Down the House" brings us a tale of wealth and rivalry among the super-wealthy oligarchs who amassed great riches and power after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Theft of Memory: Losing My Father, One Day at a Time

by Jonathan Kozol

Kozol, who has written award winning books on vulnerable children and education, tells the story of his father's life, a specialist in brain disorders, and his descent into dementia. A tender portrait of love and understanding.

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship

by Robert Kurson

An extraordinary tale of the search for the 17th century pirate ship Golden Fleece lost somewhere near the Dominican Republic. In thrilling detail, Kurson relates the excitement of the search for gold and the research involved looking at documents and maps in libraries around the world.




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