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.
The Princess and the Warrior
While crossing the street one day,
Sissi’s squashed in the usual way,
Though a truck stopped her breathing,
Bodo helped her start wheezing,
Through a straw he found at the cafe.
Librarian vices in no particular order: cookies, curiosity, coffee, and concertos. Luckily for us, and you, we get to celebrate all of these things April 16th from 12-1 pm at Mondays on the Mall. Come and join us for “Café Day” at The Congress Center, SW 5th and Salmon, and chat with a librarian, ask us anything (especially stumpers!), get a free cookie and a coffee, and hear some live music. We’ve compiled some of our favorite pastry and cookie cookbooks, which you can read about below. Hope to see you there!
Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich
Awarded the 2010 IACP Baking Book of the Year, this cookie book is uniquely organized by texture - Flaky, gooey, crispy, chewy, chunky….one of each, please.
One Sweet Cookie: Celebrated Chefs Share Favorite Recipes by Tracey Zabar
Imagine having a cookie swap party with your favorite chefs. Mario Batali, Todd English, and Daniel Boulud are all represented here, along with many other signature creations.
Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar: 100 Dairy-Free Recipes for Everyone's Favorite Treats by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero.
THE rock stars of the vegan world, Moskowitz and Romero, apply their expert knowledge and non-preachy attitudes to dairy-free cookies with delicious results.
Gluten-Free Cookies: From Shortbreads to Snickerdoodles, Brownies to Biscotti - 50 Recipes for Cookies You Crave by Luane Kohnke
Need cookie recipes that avoid the G-word? Try these using Kohnke's own flour blend, which was chosen by taste testers as the closest to wheat flour in taste and appearance.
Cutie Pies: 40 Sweet, Savory, and Adorable Recipes by Dani Cone
From the owner of High 5 Pie in Seattle comes this book filled with miniature sweet and savory cutie pies, flipsides (turnovers), pie-jars, pie-pops, and petit-5’s (muffin-tin pies).
The Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed, Baking Book by Judy Rosenberg
In an updated reissue of Rosie’s original book from 1991, you will find not only 300 rich and tasty recipes (40 never before published), but also tons of mouthwatering photos.
One Girl Cookies: Recipes for Cakes, Cupcakes, Whoopie Pies, and Cookies from Brooklyn's Beloved Bakery by Dawn Casale & David Crofton.
The Brooklyn bakery self-described as an “Urban Mayberry” was started by one girl who borrowed from her family’s heirloom recipes, ultimately creating a dessert destination.
The Treats Truck Baking Book: Cookies, Brownies & Goodies Galore! by Kim Ima
Since no Portland booklist would be complete without an entry from a food truck, we’ll include this well-designed one from the Vendy Award winner for Best Dessert Vendor.
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours by Sarabeth Levine
Legendary NYC master baker delivers the goods with over 100 recipes for re-creating her perfectly buttery, flaky pastries and scrumptious desserts; lots of “technique” photos, too.
Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito
Featured on The Today Show and Martha Stewart, Lewis and Poliafito are hip, cool, and forward-thinking bakers who urge you to try these new-fangled confections.
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick
Information can come from a drum,
Or encased in a bit that’s quantum,
But in this book Gleick proposes,
It’s communication that drove us,
To the edge of our knowledge kingdom.
Got a *liter-ick of your own you'd like to contribute? Do so in the comments.
*A book review in the form of a limerick.
Well, we'll let you be the judge. And if you discover a similar passion in yourself, won't you please share? (We're talking the kind that is good for audiences of all ages, please.)
How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival
When the scientists of Berkeley colluded,
To experiment with habits ill-reputed,
Their horizons expanded,
As with mystics they chanted,
And “Bell’s Theorem is grand,” they concluded.
Did I mention that your very own Multnomah County Library has the best collection of sheet music and other music instruction materials in any public library west of the Mississippi? I have some of it checked out right now, plus lots I’ve bought, but still I can never find ‘that tune’. You know, the one I can’t get out of my head, that tune. You can search for individual tunes in the catalog by putting the title in quotes as a keyword search and limiting to sheet music (More search options > Material Type > Music score). The problem is that not all larger collections of sheet music have the full table of contents in our catalog (for reasons irrelevant here).
There are a number of possible work-arounds. You could use a song index in book form where you can look up songs by title and see which of a finite set of sheet music collections they might be in, and then check to see if we have said collections in our collection. We have reference copies of a number of these that live on the Third Floor of Central Library. (A keyword search in the catalog for <song index> gives a decidedly over-inclusive result, a subject search for <indexes-songs> an under-inclusive one.) Or you could go to the web sites of some of the bigger publishers of sheet music from whom we buy fake books (say Hal Leonard). I’ve done that and it works OK too. Or you could go to World Cat (which generally has the full contents) via our website and do a title phrase search for the name of the song and limit it to things we own (thanks to our music librarian for walking me through this process).
Or, you could get frustrated decide to learn to play by ear, take out some of our material on ear training and never have to rely on sheet music again. More work in the short run, bigger pay off in the end. Maybe someday I’ll get my stuff together and actually do this. The music collection certainly does have its quirks, so don’t hesitate to call our Reference Line (503-988-5234) for assistance.
Mothers know the weird duality of being able to sleep at the drop of a blankie combined with the super spidey-sense that allows us to hear four-year-old eyelids popping open at, say, 2:37 a.m. for no discernible reason. I have an interest in sleep which I compare to the interest armchair travelers have in far-off and exotic lands to which they never actually travel. My personal feeling is that parental sleep deprivation is nature's way of attempting to dull or cushion the other body blows children dole out on a daily basis.
A recent example would be Child the Elder's decision to microwave butter in an orange enameled cast-iron pot. If you're wondering, it takes exactly one minute and thirty-seven seconds to blow a hole through the interior wall of the appliance and this will be accompanied by impressive sound effects and fire. If a younger child is present for the explosion, you will also have much terrified screaming to accompany the wails of "I didn't know it was metal! It doesn't look like metal!" from the responsible party. The pot itself will emerge completely unscathed--and completely unlike your nerves, despite the sleepiness. A well-rested parent might have noticed the child putting the pot in there in time to intervene, but where's the fun in that?
But enough about parents. James Mollison's book Where Children Sleep is an intriguing photo-essay of the circumstances in which children rest all over the world. A two-page spread is devoted to each individual child with one page containing a portrait and paragraph about the child's life and the other a picture of the place in which that child sleeps. It is a vast and sobering continuum, from the mansion bedroom of a child in New Jersey to a discarded sofa on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The details in each picture speak volumes and add layers to the spare text. In one paragraph we are told that Alyssa's "shabby house" in Kentucky is "falling apart." Indeed, the photo of Alyssa's bedroom shows a missing ceiling with insulation hanging from the rafters above a once regal angel doll, wings battered and drooping and gray with dirt.
If this sort of photography is your cup of tea, I would also highly recommend Material World: A Global Family Portrait and What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets by Peter Menzel and 1000 Families by Uwe Ommer. All of these titles offer fascinating looks at the eye-opening contrasts in circumstances for humanity around the globe. They are enough to wake a person up--no destruction of small appliances required.
I really like Jim Butcher's books, especially the Dresden Files. So, when I saw a new novel, Fated by Benedict Jacka, that has a cover blurb by Jim Butcher reading: "Harry Dresden would like Alex Verus tremendously--and be a little nervous around him. I just added Benedict Jacka to my must-read list." Well, now I'm intrigued. That's obviously the next book for me! After all, I have many long "Cold Days" to wait before the next book of the Dresden Files and I would like to find some great new books between now and then. Benedict Jacka even gives the Dresden Files a nod in this quote from the first chapter: "I've even heard of one guy in Chicago who advertises in the phone book under "Wizard", though that's probably an urban legend."
This urban fantasy does an excellent job of setting up the world that Alex Verus inhabits. Set in London, there are many familiar elements for a reader used to urban fantasy: magic is real, but rare and your average mortal overlooks it. There's even a council of the more powerful mages, divided into Light and Dark. But it works! The Dark mages hold a rather Nietzsche-like philosophy of 'might makes right'. The Light mages don't come up that much in this book but they're just *sure* that they can work with the Dark mages. There have been forty odd years of peace after all! Because trusting that guy who thinks that if you can't stop him from doing whatever he wants it's your own fault for being weak... Yup, that's such a good idea...
Our protagonist, Alex Verus is a diviner. That's all the magic he has. He has no offensive or defense magic except that if he thinks about a question he can know the answer - at least in so far as the human mind can follow the possible branching futures. So, if someone is shooting line of sight bolts of death at him he can see which hiding places let him not die right now. He can use those moments in hiding to see paths which might trick his enemy to the roof's edge. If he needs to see something with more possible branches it might take him hours or days of looking down each path of the future, one path at a time, to see the path that leads to the outcome he wants. He can acquire magic items to help him, he can acquire allies, he even owns a gun but there's no future in which Alex is going to become a more versatile mage. The allies that are introduced in the first book include a minor air elemental and a woman named Luna who is cursed with luck. Bad things never happen to Luna. Bad things happen to anyone she passes by. Actually touching another person isn't a good idea for Luna since she's not evil.
This is the start of a trilogy. The publisher is putting out the next two books over the course of the next several months to try to build up this new author's readership. A lot of the first book is world building, but it's a really interesting world. I wanted nothing more than to see what was around the next corner. I'm really looking forward to Cursed and Taken this spring and summer. One book by this author wasn't nearly enough. I finished this book in a single sitting because I just couldn't put it down. And having finished the first book in this series I'll say that I can see Harry Dresden and Alex Versus sitting down in a quiet pub for a beer or two and enjoying the company.