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The characters of fantasy novels are so often great warriors or mighty magic users (aside from the hobbits of course!) .  Special people marked for greatness.  Somebody Important! What about the rest of us?  How about a book about a miller's daughter in a humble colony village?  Or a teenage prostitute? 
 
A Turn of Light book jacketA Turn of Light by Julie E Czerneda is about Jenn, a miller's daughter in an isolated frontier community.  Jenn dreams of a wider world that she can never see and as her birthday marking adulthood approaches she is in many ways still a child. Though nearly an adult and with her father suggesting marriage, Jenn is still running off to pick flowers in the meadow and dodging her chores.  Jenn has always had an invisible protector that only spoke to her.  A careless wish of hers one day turns him into a man.Karen Memory book jacket
 
In Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear,  Karen Memery ("like 'memory' only spelt with an e"), a teenage "seamstress" at Madame Damnable's Hôtel Mon Cherie in Rapid City (reminiscent of a gold rush era Seattle) is making the best of things...  Her world is full of steam powered marvels that can do wondrous things and steam powered terrors as well.  Karen is well treated where she is and knows most girls in her trade have it much, much worse.  Sensible sort that she is, she is putting every coin she can aside as a girl can't "sew" forever.  Once she had a mother and father and a good life helping them gentle horses.  Then death claimed them both too soon.  She had no higher hope than setting aside enough silver to buy a little bit of land and a couple of promising horses to train and sell, but she can't turn aside when a badly brutalized girl is found near the establishment she works at.
 
And now I'm going back to lords and heroes with the new book by Stina Leicht: Cold Iron. I always enjoy finding a new author to try.  Maybe
it'll be great!

Taiga or boreal forest is one of the most pristine biomes on earth and it  spins the Northern Hemisphere in a wide swath across Alaska, Canada, Russia and Scandinavia,  forming the world’s largest continuous biome.  Most of taiga's trees are conifers, or trees that make cones: cedars, cypresses, firs, hemlocks, junipers, larches, pines, redwoods, sequoias, and yews.  Kids Info Bits is a very helpful resource for obtaining information on commercial uses of conifers and their importance in global environment.

Which conifers grow in taiga? The spruces are very common, with the Norway spruce thriving in European forests and the Siberian spruce in Siberian taiga. In North American boreal forest white spruce and black or bog spruce are very common. 

Conifer needles and bark of the trees contain a sap called resin. If you make a small cut in a pine tree, you will see resin oozing out. It is very sticky and it does not taste good. Can you eat resin? What are some uses of resin? United States Department of Agriculture provides a wealth of information on use of resin in medicine and manufacture .

 

 

 

 

Leaves of conifers

 

 

Mayor Charlie Hales at National Night Out - City of Portland photo

Are you thinking of planning a block party this summer? In early August for the last 30 years, communities and neighborhoods have been getting together to meet, celebrate, and have fun as part of the National Night Out celebrations. These events were started to promote safe neighborhoods and crime prevention initiatives by solidifying partnerships between law enforcement and communities. These events are generally free and family-friendly. A continuing feature of local celebrations is that groups can request to have police officers and firefighters show up at their party. And who knows, your neighborhood could throw a party and maybe even the Mayor will show up!

I know my neighborhood party will have grills and hot dogs and some games for the kids, but each party is a little bit different. Some are small affairs with a handful of neighbors potlucking, while others occupy the better part of a city park. Thinking of planning your own party? The Office of Neighborhood Involvement in Portland has a variety of National Night Out party planning resources to help you get started that should assist planning for everything from a small potluck picnic with chalk out for the kids to a big bash with a live band that shuts down the street. There is a brief National Night Out page for Gresham and a National Night Out page for Fairview, each with a contact person for more information. The message from the experts is to start early--it's not too early to plan for next year! 

The official date of National Night Out is the first Tuesday in August, but there are so many parties happening in Multnomah County, they can't all take place on the same day. The City of Portland compiles a list of parties submitted to them for publicizing. Check out the Find a party link (coming soon!) to find events in Portland. In Gresham, call 503-618-2567 to find out where there's a party near you and in Troutdale call 503-665-6129. Learn more about Fairview's party on their National Night Out web page

We've compiled a list of books to get you planning your party, meeting your neighbors and thinking about community. See our picks for National Night Out celebrations. 

You might see your Library at a National Night Out party. We can't hit all the parties (we'd be so tired!), but where you see us, you can guarantee that we'll be talking about all the great books, services, and resources the Library can provide to you.  Below is a list of neighborhood parties and which location's staff will be attending. Come say hi!

Cully - Tuesday, August 4, 4:00-8:00
6723 NE Killingsworth St.
Gregory Heights Library staff

Downtown Friday, August 7, 6:30-8:30pm
Lovejoy Fountain Park, 
1990 SW 4th Ave
Central Library staff

Fairview - Tuesday, August 4, 5:00-8:00
Community Park, 21600 NE Park Lane
Fairview Library staff

Foster/PowellTuesday, August 4, 6:30-8:30
Kern Park, 
SE 67th Ave & Center St
Holgate Library staff
 
Mill ParkTuesday, August 4, 5:00-8:00
Mill City Park, SE 117th Ave & Mill Ct
Midland Library staff
 
Rockwood Tuesday, August 4, 5:00-8:00
Vance Park, 1400 SE 182nd Ave
Rockwool Library and systemwide staff
 
South BurlingameTuesday, August 4, 5:00-8:00
Burlingame Park, SW 12th Ave & Falcon St
Hillsdale Library staff
 
 

Spare Parts book jacketI like finding a book that is both engaging and makes me think. Spare Parts is one of those books. It is the story of four teens in a poor Phoenix high school who join the robotics club. Their teacher decides to challenge them to design an underwater robot for a NASA sponsored robotics competition. They overcome all sort of design challenges to end up winning.That would be a good story in itself; now throw in the fact that all four boys are undocumented. They are from Mexico and they live under constant threat of being deported. If they had been citizens, winning a major robotics competition would have led to scholarships and opportunities. For Oscar, Cristian, Luis and Lorenzo it led to struggling to get into college, deportation and dead end jobs.

Spare Parts; Four undocumented teenagers, one ugly robot and the battle for the American dream, by Joshua Davis will change the way you view the debate on immigration and show how people's lives can be negatively affected by government policies.

Were you popular? I don’t think I was popular. Actually I don’t know if I was mean or nice. I thought I was a social outcast until I saw the 30 Rock episode about Liz Lemon’s class reunion. Liz Lemon thinks she was a lonely nerd but she was a tyrant!  Oh she had a way with words that tormented her classmates. I felt haunted after seeing that episode. I know I said zingers like Liz Lemon, but I don’t know if anyone heard them. The last time I read one of my middle school or high school journals I tore it up and burned it. I felt pretty tortured by classmates and my mother. I definitely expressed that on the journal page.

When you read Maya Van Wagenen’s memoir you won’t be tempted to tear it up. No. Popular a Memoir : vintage wisdom for a modern geek is filled with good tips for teens who are working on popularity. And her writing isn’t full of angst -- it’s inspired! When Maya’s family was decluttering their house she discovered her father’s garage sale find: Betty Cornell’s Teen-age Popularity Guide . Betty has lots of tips on how to become popular. Maya was intrigued. And her mother, a documentarian, encouraged Maya to secretly take on the experiment of using Betty’s 60 plus year old tips on how to become popular. Could you wear pearls? Maya takes on wearing pearls, makeup, and sitting where no unpopular teen has sat before: the popular kid’s lunch table. Is it the experiment? Or the journey that enlightens Maya? You’ll have to read her most excellent memoir and find out.

Photo of The Nakeds by Lisa Glatt resting on a lawn chair with a summer cocktail

I hadn’t heard a thing about The Nakeds by Lisa Glatt when I saw it in the new fiction section of my library. The title made me smile and the collaged cover art drew me in closer.  Then a quick skim of the book jacket picked up the words: 1970s… Southern California… painfully honest...nudist camp, and I was sold.

But while 1970s California nudist camp was enough to pique my interest, this book is so much more. When the story opens, 6-year-old Hannah Teller’s parents are busy with the argument that will culminate in the end of their marriage. Hannah steps out of her home, determined to walk to school on her own and is struck by a hopelessly drunk teenage driver named Martin Kettle.  Sounds like a real downer right?

Bear with me. Yes, The Nakeds is a story of a broken girl, a broken marriage and a broken young addict but it’s funny- not quirky funny but unflinchingly honest and brave funny.  Plus it’s a story filled with so much human beauty and compassion that you want to hang around: Even as Hannah gets fitted for yet another cast by another doctor who probably can’t fix her. Even as Hannah’s dad goes ahead and becomes a Jew for Jesus, marrying the blonde Christian surfer girl he started an affair with back when Hannah’s mom was pregnant.  Even as (especially as) Hannah’s mom and her new stepdad expand their nudist camp weekends to include naked Fridays at home. And perhaps most difficult, as Martin Kettle stops and starts his life, paralyzed by denial and self loathing for what he did and failed to own up to.

So beat the crowds and spend a regret-free weekend with The Nakeds this summer. When you’re finished, check out this list for more intriguing new titles you may have missed.

I like things that defy pigeonholing. Sure, sometimes knowing what you're going to get is exactly what you need, but when you feel adventurous, have a look at these. 

Here book jacketHere, a graphic novel by Richard McGuire, is like no other I've encountered. From the book jacket: "Here is the story of a corner of a room and of the events that have occurred in that space over the course of hundreds of thousands of years." Each page is the same view of the same space, but the various tales that occurred there are woven in and out of each other via colorful windows. Several points in time may be shown on the same page, deftly comparing and contrasting each to each. (The little panels are dated with their year, thank goodness.) Touching, real, sad, joyous, mundane and fantastic are here combined as well as I've ever seen. (This would make an interesting flip-book! Time travel, bound.)

Reading this inspired me to share another favorite genre-buster from a few years ago, Bryan Talbot's Alice in Sunderland. So what is it? 'An Alice in Sunderland book jacketentertainment.' It is a history, a biography, a speculative reconstruction, a philosophical musing about a place and its people (including Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell). We enter Sunderland's Empire Theatre to be a part of the audience on a tour through time. Talbot's creation contains photographs, computer renderings, 'found' images and certainly lots of line art. This was my favorite book/graphic novel of the year when I discovered it, and it occurs to me that it is time to have a look again. Gotta go... it's reading time.

On car trips, my husband and I used to pretend that there was a noise-proof window between the front seat and the back. One of us would hit an imaginary button on the dashboard, and-- in our minds-- the window would close, so we couldn’t hear our little darlings squabbling and shrieking in the back seat at all-- except that sadly, we could still hear them, due to the unfortunate imaginary nature of the window.

I wish that we’d discovered audiobooks for the car ages ago! A whole lot of library users have apparently wised up to their usefulness in the past few years;  I've been asked frequently lately for audiobook suggestions for family car trips. So I’ve made some lists of great audiobooks that can be enjoyed by listeners of various ages, one in CD format and one in downloadable. You might also consider consulting two excellent lists a  colleague of mine made: this list of classics on audio and this one for very young listeners.

It’s amazing how much kids will settle down when they’re involved in a story. I tried to find audiobooks that would be interesting and involving for the adults in the car, as well. So go ahead-- plan a summer getaway. Just don’t forget the audiobooks.

Or the barf bags. (But that’s another story.)

Have you ever wondered if the dead can talk to the living? Is there is a spirit world that we can communicate with, but can’t see?  

Portland author, Cat Winters wonders about it too. She is fascinated by the idea that the dead can come to the living to comfort or warn them. Both of her books take place at the turn-of-the-century and reflect the emotion of people reeling from the senseless slaughter and indiscriminate death caused by World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic. They were desperate for a word or a sign from dead or missing sons, husbands, fathers.

In The Shadow of Blackbirds, Mary Shelley Black is visited by a mysterious blackbird.  What does he want? Has her sweetheart been killed in the trenches? Set against the backdrop of seance and spirit photography, and illustrated with archival photographs of World War I, this gripping story takes you into the dark and dangerous world of spirit communication.

Cat Winter’s second book, The  Cure for Dreaming, tackles a different type of spirit -- the spirit of independent thinking. This type of spirit is alive in the main character, Olivia Mead.  It is the year 1900 in Portland, Oregon. When Olivia’s father realizes that she is growing into a strong-minded  young woman in favor of women’s suffrage, he decides to take extreme measures. He hires visiting hypnotist Henri Reverie  to make her think and act like a docile, obedient daughter. But Henri whispers a hidden command in her ear: ‘You will see people as they really are’. Now, what began as a known story veers off into the unknown. This book is filled with authentic local details and presents a fascinating look at the unquenchable spirit needed for to fight for change.

If you like historical mystery with a flash of courage to face the unknown, check out The Shadow of Blackbirds or The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters. Need some music to accompany your reading? The author has created playlists for her books on Spotify and Pinterest.

Machu Picchu is what dreams are made of, at least one of mine anyway. Long had I wanted to visit this magical place, immerse myself in the colorful textiles and culture. I went expecting much, and I returned not disappointed. The food, people, landscape, Incan ruins—all of it was incredible. 

Things I knew how to say in Spanish before I left:  *hiking haunya pichu*Hello my name is Heather. Where are the toilets? Thank you.
Things I learned in Spanish while there: Una mas pisco sour por favor.                                                                                                                     
Things I thought I knew but actually didn't: Paddington Bear is not an English Bear. He is from deepest darkest Peru.                                             

I can't explain this long held fascination I have with Peru anymore than I can my proclivity for Hercule Poirot, or travelling with a stuffed panda.    I just do.                                                                                              

If you are curious about Peru or Machu Picchu specifically, I've put together a little reading list that should transport you, without actually having to wait around in an airport for fourteen hours only to have your flight canceled and then be air sick. Ah, the joys of travel.

 

 

*By the way, that mountain in the background, that's Huayna Picchu. And that is me climbing it!*  
**Also the sneakers in photo of the weaver belong to mi hermano y hermana.**

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