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book image of victorian chaise longueMarghanita Laski is an author not much talked about, but who has an enormous talent for writing a gripping novel. Her books vary in their subject, but all keep you turning pages. If you are looking for an emotional thriller, you will find Little Boy Lost will do a fine job of suspense while pulling at your heart. But if psychological thriller is more your bag, try Multnomah County Library’s new acquisition The Victorian Chaise-Longue. And yes America, it is longue and not lounge—see here for explanation. It is similar to that Charlotte Perkins Gilman classic The Yellow Wallpaper. A well-kept wife decides to take a nap on the newly obtained antique only to find herself waking in a very different world. At first she tries to believe she is dreaming, but then the terror grows when she realizes she is awake and not in her own body. Will she wake from this nightmare? How will she cope? How will it end?

Like Laski, there are other grande dames of the psychological thriller genre who have been quietly ignored by history. Rediscover them here.

Plover bookjacket"I think everything that ever happened to us is resident inside your head and heart and often you just need the right key to get it out -- a snatch of song, and angle of light, a taste, a smell, a tone of laughter..."

This quote by Brian Doyle aptly describes what happens in his latest book The Plover. Though one reviewer accused the book of being 'plotless', really the main character's thoughts, the accumulation of all that he learns and sees as he floats around on his sailboat, seemingly aimlessly, is the plot.

The Plover is the story of Declan, who flees society to sail around the world with only his thoughts and his beloved author, Edmund Burke, for company. Starting with a persistent gull (yes, another sentient bird!) he is obliged to take on passenger after passenger and has to adjust both his physical and mental space to make room for each one. From a father and his injured daughter to a larger-than-life woman and a singing shiphand, each subsequent passenger challenges Declan to emerge from his introspective life.

The storyline is often meandering, evoking the meditative state of being on water, of being on long journey and having time to ponder whatever comes to mind. There were many times when a plot point was introduced, and I thought with a certain dread, 'this isn't going to end well'; but Doyle resists cliche. Even though the people on board are tormented, Doyle treats both them and the reader with compassion.

If you enjoy meditative reads that make you think, stories rich in language and a sense of place and all things sea and sailing, this might be the book for you.

If you are looking for original, brave science fiction the Tiptree Award is there for you.
 
Given out annually to science fiction or fantasy works that expand or explore our understanding of gender, the Tiptree has been called “the single most subversive award in Tiptree autographsscience fiction.”  Tiptree winners are nearly always superlatively well-written, and always investigate the cultural constructions and biological realities of gender with insight and inventiveness.
 
The award also serves to publicize often neglected works — novels that were not reviewed in major publications or distributed widely find eager readers after they receive the Tiptree. 
 
Two of my all-time favorite novels, China Mountain Zhang (post) and The Sparrow, are Tiptree winners. I am currently reading Ammonite by Nicola Griffith, which won the Tiptree in 1993. It is about a human colony on a planet far from Earth where the men were all killed by a virus generations ago. I have not yet discovered how the generations have been possible, but I am discovering a beautiful, harsh, and believable alien landscape. 
 
The Tiptree is named in honor of Alice B. Sheldon, who wrote as James Tiptree, Jr. and was both a talented science fiction writer and a fascinating person. It is given out annually at WisCon, the feminist science fiction convention. Read more about it at tiptree.org.
 

The Illusion of Separateness book jacketOn a muddy World War II battlefield a young soldier happens upon the enemy, shoving a gun in the terrified man’s mouth. In 2010 Los Angeles a newly arrived nursing home resident drops dead at his welcome party. In 1960’s rural France a young boy excitedly shows his classmate the ruins of a burned-out German plane. A pair of young lovers has their picture taken at Coney Island in 1942. A blind woman in the Hamptons in 2005 yearns for someone to love.

What do these people have in common? Nothing at first glance but then again that is the illusion of separateness. In a world that is vast and often alienating it is comforting to think we are somehow all connected – that like the idea of six degrees of separation we don’t have to go too far to find our footing or to appreciate the intricate twists and turns that got us here. More than a series of linked short stories, Simon Van Booy’s delicate novel is a world slowly revealed, where discoveries are made, connections are forged and the reader is part detective, part voyeur and part conspirator.

Beautifully written, with fascinating characters readers will grow increasingly attached to, The Illusion of Separateness depicts a world that will stay in the reader’s mind long after the book is closed.

Kitty cats. We love them. They power the internet (proof). The little dears surely deserve their crystal goblets of Fancy Feast, don’t they?  Or is that a more malign glint I see in that crescent-pupiled eye?

House dvd coverThe most unhinged, bats-in-the-belfry-surreal cat movie of all time has to be House (Hausu), a must-see for all crazy cat ladies (and men) in training. In this cult film from Japan, high school girl Gorgeous is upset when her father introduces her to his new fiancee - perhaps understandably so, since the fiancee enters in a white dress that conveniently streams in the wind every time the camera settles on her. Outraged at this soft-focus replacement for her dearly departed mother, Gorgeous plans a summer vacation to her aunt’s country house instead of with her father. She takes comfort in the companionship of a white cat named Blanche who has mysteriously appeared in her room at the same time as her aunt agrees to host her.  All her friends, who have unlikely names like Fantasy, Prof, Mac, Kung-Fu, Melody, and Sweet, are invited, and they think nothing of it when Blanche appears on the train. But when they arrive at the aunt’s house, she is a little too eager to see them, and they begin to be killed off one by one.  The cat starts shooting green lasers from its eyes, pianos eat people, mattresses swallow others, and then things really get weird.

Part of the joy of the film is in its unabashed use of the most cheesy, improbable special effects - it really must be seen to be believed, and even then you still won’t believe it. What’s that, Puff? You need me to bike home from Fred Meyer with a can of tuna and 20 lbs of litter on my back? At your service, my feline overlord, at your service.

Multnomah County Library has an amazing array of titles that might be of interest to our LGBTQ community:

Speaking of Librarian Matthew, he is one of our very special My Librarians. He loves making up reading lists and providing readers advisory for LGBTQ literature and non fiction in general. Some examples of his excellent lists are Getting Started with LGBT Fiction and Character Driven Gay Fiction. Not sure what to read next, ask Matthew!

Or you can contact any of us with questions about our collection - or any other question you may have - just visit the Contact page and let us know!

You know how it feels when you are in love with new music or a book, and you feel all exultant that this is yours, yours, yours? That’s how I am loving the new tUnE-yArDs CD, Nikki Nack, like a dragon loves his treasure, like cookie monster loves his cookies. The only reason I’m  telling you about it is that I actually bought it, because otherwise I wouldn’t want you to put it on hold and take it away from me.

The tUnE-yArDs is largely the work of one person, Merrill Garbus. She plays most of the instruments and does all the singing, including back-up vocals. You can hear the single here.

The music is amazingly interesting, a wild and free mix of R & B, Haitian rhythms, children’s music (with a dark side), pop, punk, and a lot of sampling and repetitive sounds. It sometimes veers close to Captain Beefheart’s and Ornette Coleman’s disjointedness-- which I actually don’t like-- but it doesn’t quite cross that line. It’s unusual, but catchy, even in its strangeness, and you know what?-- you can dance to it, too. Garbus’s  voice is the most powerful instrument she has. It sounds to me like my own voice in my head, sometimes sweet and melodic, sometimes ragged and atonal, and sometimes a roar. She’s playful, brave, and astonishing. There’s even an interlude in the middle, a sweet little story about eating children which comes to a much quicker and more hedonistic rationale for cannibalism than Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal.

Have a listen!

It’s a jungle out there. And if you have pets, it might be a jungle in here too… So with so many animals- millions and millions of species- where do you start looking for the ones that you want?

Turtle from USGS

The Encyclopedia of Life probably has what you are looking for. It is easy to search, has a really cool map system and tells you where to find a lot more info. The catch is that it is all pretty high level reading and information. Don’t get me wrong- it’s great stuff and there aren’t that many other places to go looking online for sloth genetic code. Some of these other places might ease you into the Encyclopedia of Life. Try one or try them all, it’s up to you!

If you are looking for smaller bites of animal information Animal Planet can keep you up to date on Wild Animals and Pets in fun and handy top 10 lists. My favorites: Top Animal Thieves and the Top Cats of the internetWolf photo from US Fish and Wildlife

A classic place that people learned about animals is the tv show Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. At their site you can watch new videos and check out some of the old videos all the way back to the 1960s. And from there you can head over to the Colorado State library’s collection of photos that one of the Wild Kingdom’s photographers gave to them. The Garst Photographic Collection has thousands of photos and information about the animals in them. They do warn that there are “only” 600 or so species listed, but they are fun and different species like the Egyptian Goose and the Yellow Mongoose. (Hint: only one of those is a bird.)

You can check out the animals at the Oregon Zoo or at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago online and visit them in person if you like. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has things covered here in the states and oversees the Endangered Species Act.  They also have a huge collection of pictures, videos, sounds and maps that are almost all in the public domain. (Meaning you can use them!)  If you want more about people working to help animals, World Animal Net is network of animal protection and conservation groups working all around the globe.

Male Ocelot from US Fish and WildlifeThe Natural History Notebooks covers animal species both extant (living) and extinct (died out) from dinosaurs to komodo dragons to squirrels. (And if you scroll to the bottom of the page, they give you the citation for your paper too!)  The National Geographic Creature Feature is arranged a lot like the Natural History Notebooks and if you can’t find the animal you want in one it might be in the other.

Still need more animals? Ask a librarian!

In the face of tragedy and violence, it can be hard to know what to say to kids. How do you answer your child’s questions while reassuring them that you will keep them safe? The authors of Taking the Terror out of School Shootings remind us that “[w]hile there are no easy answers about these kinds of events, children will want an explanation from parents and teachers. A complete explanation will not be easy, it may not even be possible, but we must try. We must strive for a balance between helping a child feel safe and acknowledging the existence of violence, evil and danger in the world.”

Here are three other resources that can help parents and caregivers:

Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting. From the American Psychological Association.

How to talk to your kids about Reynolds High School shooting, recent teen deaths (links). Oregonian reporter Amy Wang includes links to helping a grieving teen.

A Survival Guide for Parents of Teenagers: What if the next shooting is at my school? (pdf). A tip sheet for talking to your teen about school violence. From the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development.
 

Lan Su Chinese GardenLan Su Chinese Garden is on a city block downtown. Most of us only go there when we have out of town visitors, traipsing through and taking photos. I have a membership and love to go there often. A visit to Lan Su truly complements a reader’s life.*  Here’s what you might do in the garden:

1. Sit in a cozy spot and read.

Benches in gazebos or rocks by a pool are so cozy, and everyone else will ignore you. When you get up, rest your eyes on the many shapes and textures, and breathe deeply--fragrant plants are in bloom year round.

2. Get the feel of the inner courtyards, gardens and rocky landscapes featured in books about China.

I just finished Amy Tan’s Valley of Amazement, which sweeps through several settings in old China and sometimes takes place in a scholar’s quarters.  The Garden is also known as a scholar’s garden and has many of the objects I read about on display.

3. Enjoy the brush paintings, script and poetry on the walls and even inscribed in the wood.

Maples in the Mist is a great intro to contemplative poetry for kids and adults. There are also occasional live demos of brush painting and poetry readings.

4. Enjoy music, tea, and treats in the teahouse.

Perhaps you’ll be reading The Garden of Evening Mists, a moving story set on a tea plantation, as you sample the many varieties available. Check the calendar for music times.

5. Find wonderful Chinese-themed books for children and adults in the bookstore.

And, as a bonus, if you love to read cookbooks, look for the cooking demos throughout June.

*There are usually a few free days in January.

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