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I have a strong preference for character-driven fiction.  If I can't bring myself to care about what happens to the characters or the characters fail to act in a fashion consistent with how they've been described, I tend to put the book down long before finishing it. The worst I've read recently was a well-reviewed urban fantasy where the main character, a nurse, expressed concern about bodily fluid borne disease transmission from her intravenous drug using brother.  The very next thing the character did was to go unwind at a bar and pick up a random stranger for the night.  The author lost me right then and there when the main character couldn't stay consistent in her actions and behaviors for even a single chapter... and I really wanted to like that book too after the good reviews. 

The Goblin Emperor book jacketOne book I've read recently that did have great characters who were well-drawn and consistently portrayed and who really drew the reader into the life of the novel is The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.  In this world, the goblins are warlike but not the bestial hordes that they are usually portrayed as in fantasy.  The elves have an early steampunk sort of technology including pneumatic tubes and airships.  Maia has been raised far from the court in a lonely and, since his mother died, loveless exile.  Maia is the half goblin, last and least-loved son of the elf emperor.  When his father and all his half brothers die in a fiery crash, Maia is summoned back to the rigid and formal elven court as the sole surviving heir to the imperial throne with unknown assassins aiming for his imperial head.

In The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, a grimmer novel than the fairly gentle Goblin Emperor, the emperor has scattered his threeThe Emperor's Blades book jacket children across his land.  The heir is learning humility (and something else) being raised by monks in rural isolation.  The second son is learning to be a commando-like warrior and the daughter, unable to inherit, is made a minister by her father so her clever mind isn't wasted.  The emperor is assassinated and his three scattered children have to survive the forces arrayed against them in this excellent series set up.

Broken Blade book jacketLastly, if you would prefer a story about a killer of kings rather than the children of emperors, I'd like to recommend the Fallen Blade novels by Kelly McCullough.  Beginning with Broken Blade, you learn the story of Aral Kingslayer, one of the last survivors of a religious order that existed to bring a very final sort of justice to those too powerful for the law to touch. Of course, said powerful and corrupt went to great lengths to bring down the holy avengers of the weak and wronged. The series opens with Aral living in despair, addicted to drugs and selling his services for his next fix.  He hates himself and what he has become and still grieves for his dead comrades and goddess.  The one thing keeping him going is his familiar, a shadow dragon named Triss, but then he's contacted for another job....

The Money Tip$ video series concludes with a brief discussion of credit.  Your credit score can affect everything from insurance rates to employment opportunities, as well as the cost (and ability) to borrow money when needed.  This episode presents the main elements of your credit score, helping identify ways to improve your credit situation to save money in the future.  We hope you've found the Money Tip$ video series to be helpful in learning new ways to manage your money.  Click the video below to view our fifth, and final, installment:

 


The Money Tip$ video series was produced by Multnomah County Library in collaboration with Innovative Changes, a Portland non-profit organization that exists to help low-income individuals and families manage short-term financial needs in order to achieve and maintain household stability.  Made possible by The Library Foundation with a grant from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation through Smart Investing @ your library ®, a partnership with the American Library Association.


 

We the animals bookjacketLet's face it - books you remember long after you've read them, the ones that make you turn your clock to the wall so you won't know that dawn is approaching and you've stayed up all night reading - those books are few and far between. That's why I am so excited to tell you about We the Animals by Justin Torres.

Having grown up with two brothers, I was sure the author was capturing the chaos, fearfulness and bravado of boyhood. And as a child surrounded by boys and living in a place where we had the autonomy to come up with haphazard schemes that often put us in real danger, I felt a real sense of returning to childhood, a world that many adults have forgotten or idealized into a safe, sweet and carefree world. 

From the very beginning, Torres establishes the feral nature of childhood:

"WE WANTED MORE. We knocked the butt ends of our forks against the table, tapped our spoons aginast our empty bowls; we were hungry. We wanted more volume, more riots. We turned up the knob on the TV until our ears ached with the shouts of angry men. We we wanted beats; we wanted rock. We wanted muscles on our skinny arms. We had bird bones, hollow and light, and we wanted more density, more weight. We were six snatching hands, six stomping fee; we were brothers, boys, three little kings locked in a feud for more."

The language in We the Animals is perfect for reading aloud; and it's short - short enough that maybe you won't have to stay up all night reading, but instead will go to sleep and dream of that half-remembered world of childhood.

My absolute new favorite show is Broad City. Hilarious! Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are hysterically funny. They started out as an online phenomenon and then Amy Poehler plucked them from the internet and splat, they're now on Comedy Central. Ilana and Abbi play 2 women in their 20's living in New York. Somehow the most innocent endeavors become hysterical and surreal when Ilana and Abbi are involved.

One episode had Abbi waiting on a package to be delivered to her cute neighbor. Unfortunately she misses the delivery so she heads out to the warehouse to pick it up for him (she really wants to hook up with her neighbor!). As we all know, UPS warehouses are always far, far away in super inconvenient areas and thus, on one leg of her journey, she has to travel in a rowboat filled with twins. It's totally weird and wholly funny.

One of the things I like about Abbi and Ilana is that they're truly relatable.  How many of us still feel that we've never outgrown our awkward phase? Watching Abbi and Ilana makes me feel better about myself while I chortle loudly.David Cross bookjacet

While I'm waiting for season 2 of Broad City to begin, I'll just have to while away my time with some of my other favorite comedians.

stack of books next to bedWe're all book lovers here, right? I mean, why would you be here if you weren't? My theory is that we come in two basic types. Type one (not me) checks out a few books at a time, reads them all, or at least gives them all a try, before returning and checking out more. Type two (me), takes books home all the time, because you have to get 'em when you see 'em. I want to read them all, but there's no way that'll happen. The rule is that I do have to at least open them. There are stacks in most rooms of my tiny house, except the bathroom--never in the bathroom.

This is a pic of my most important stack, the stack of honor, the one by the bed. That way these books are always close at hand for those times when I need an Amazonian jungle tale, for example. Or something to coach me through a dishwasher repair.

If a few of my friends aren't too shy--(they're not)--I'll get them to take a picture of their stack by the bed and we'll have little stack peep show. Stay tuned.

I know, I’ve been there. At times basic tasks like getting dressed and eating can seem overwhelming, and reading can fall away completely. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t break up with books altogether! If your concentration balks at fiction, try non-fiction, poetry, or even a different format like audiobooks.

How to Be An Adult in Relationships

My own personal experience was that fiction could not hold my attention, so absorbed was I in my own story, but non-fiction was able to break through and perform a particular brand of magic. Self-help titles helped me! I clung to How to Be an Adult in Relationships by David Richo like it was a life raft (it was) and I was going over some very turbulent water. As I progressed, so did my appreciation for what came out of others’ break ups.  Sharon Olds took fifteen years to publish her most recent collection of poetry Stag’s Leap after her divorce, while Josh Ritter knocked his divorce album Beast in the Tracks out in just a year. Both are poignant, intimate glances at the demise of a relationship and prove that good things can come of these trying times. 

       Stag's Leap                                         

And for those David Richo fans out there, his new title How to Be an Adult in Love came out in paperback this year and I received my pre-ordered copy. I squealed when I saw it in hardback at the library, but then quickly realized I would be underlining the entirety of the book and I just prefer a paperback for self-help. It can be folded over onto itself and thrown around as needed...sort of like the state one comes to a self-help book in...

Breaking up is hard to do for the broken and the breaker. Find a getting through it guide, break up memoir, or break up art to help you here.

I think it's time to start an I Heart David Richo club.  Anyone with me?

 

Adam from Central is reading Beds are Burning by Mark Dodshon. 
"A book about a band so ferociously, fantastically exotic that no US library can contain it! Thanks Vancouver Public Library and MCL's ILL department!"

It's that time of year again to think about those wonderful women in our lives who have sacrificed so much for us: Time. Sanity. The last slice of pizza.
 
Our mothers.
 
It's time to think about and honor those mother figures in our lives. If we are mothers, it's also time to adorn ourselves with hand-painted necklaces made of macaroni, admire handmade cards and clean the kitchen after our offspring have endeavored to make us a "surprise" cake. It will look like a reenactment of a theater of war substituting kitchen utensils and food for soldiers and weaponry, but the real surprise is when you discover an entire thriving colony of ants a month later. They will be busily subsisting on a dripped mound of faintly familiar pink frosting. Try not to scream when you find this.
 
The Bad See dvd coverThis year I told my husband I wanted to celebrate with pizza and a movie. (And possibly a Dairy Queen run. I attribute part of my survival as a parent to Peanut Buster Parfaits.) The pizza, just this once, will not be ordered with my children in mind and, thus, will not involve pineapple. The movie will be The Bad Seed starring the inimitable Patty McCormack as everyone's favorite psychopathic child murderess, Rhoda Penmark. You can watch this movie instantly using the library's streaming service, Hoopla. If you have never seen this gem of a movie, you are in for a treat. (If you can define a treat as the escapades of a cold-blooded serial-killing eight-year-old in pigtails like I can.)
 
Another unconventional look at motherhood on film I recently enjoyed was Fill The Void, which provides a sensitive and riveting look Fill the Void dvd coverinside a Hasidic community and the dilemma of one young orthodox Israeli woman. Shira's older sister dies in childbirth, leaving a husband and brand-new baby boy. Does Shira continue on the traditional matchmaking path or step into the life and family her sister left behind? The last shot of the film made me want to watch the whole thing all over again. 
 
Mom's Who Drink and Swear book jacketWhatever Shira does or does not decide to do, we can be reasonably sure her choices will not involve alcohol consumption or inappropriate language. Or Dairy Queen. Which is the polar opposite of the parental musings of Nicole Knepper in Moms Who Drink and Swear: True Tales of Loving My Kids While Losing My Mind. This book is hilarious if you do not mind a potty-mouth or someone comparing the chore of preparing dinner to a sexually-transmitted disease (see the chapter "Dinner Is Like Herpes"). As she so eloquently puts it:
 
Like a turd hitting the fan, motherhood touches everything. Nothing in your life is the same after you become a mother. Not your marriage, your friendships, your career, your ass, your breasts, your mind or your heart.
 
And there's really only one thing left to say to that.
 
Thanks, Mom.

I don’t really know why, but I love singing in other languages.  In the last two years, with my choir and others, I have sung pieces is Xhosa, Hebrew, Latin, Ndebele & Zulu, German, Yoruba, Welsh, Hungarian, Spanish, Russian, and most recently in French.  While I can’t say that I always have as much fun as Benny the Irish Polyglot singing a German pop song, I also can’t think of how to have more fun practicing another language.

The first two of Benny Lewis’ “7 reasons to learn languages through singing,” are at the heart why I enjoy it so much.  I feel like I am building a bridge to another culture when I can master the words of a song well enough that they can be heard and understood in the language of that culture.

There is even evidence that singing can help you learn a language more easily. A University of Edinburgh study found that groups of adults who listened and repeated short phrases by singing them, performed better in tests than those who learned by speaking them.  Learning by listening and repeating phrases has been basis for popular audio courses such as Pimsleur language programs, as well as online resources like Mango Connect, and free web and mobile apps like Duolingo.

Once you get your foothold in a language, one of these books on diction in singing can help polish your pronunciation, or satisfy your inner perfectionist.

old times image od record plater

Reflecting on a recent birthday, there’s a sense and some science that my tastes are set.  Is there room for new things?  Of course.  However, looking back at my musical past there’s some defining records that helped cement what I love. Don’t worry. I’m not about to go all “Garden State”.  

Even though I may not listen to these albums often, they’re like old friends. You don’t see them much, but when you do, things pick up right where you left off.  Thanks to the new library service Hoopla, it’s even easier to visit them. Give it a try!

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