I like a well-researched book. Books keep my attention when they have a smooth running narrative and when the reading feels engaging. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain fulfilled these requirements and the author shared many new ideas that changed how I view the people around me. As I rotated between thinking I was an extrovert to thinking I was an introvert, I found that I ultimately resonated with the concept of the Situationist–or idea that suggests people can be a little of both depending on the situation. I also really enjoyed the chapter about what parents and teachers can do if they are interacting with introverted children and how to help them in the classroom. It was interesting and a unique way of viewing learning. I also loved that the author, a self-described introvert, put herself through seminars and conferences as a way of testing out the material of current experts on how to be more extroverted. This book is a good read for anyone who wants something to chat about with their friends, spends time with an introvert or wants to read about the always interesting human social culture
May 21, 2013
May 20, 2013
Let’s mentally time travel to the not-so-distant date of April 2, 2013. Are you there? Yeah, it doesn’t seem like it was a special day, does it? In fact I bet I couldn’t pick April 2 out of a line up, if all my recent days were paraded out in front of me. However, three very important things happened that day. Okay, enough suspense. Three of the bands in which I am currently most interested in released new albums on April 2! That’s right Alkaline Trio, Telekinesis, and The Black Angels, all with new albums, all on one day! Now you see why I felt such a build-up was necessary, right? No? Let me elaborate.
At first listen my reaction was “Meh” and a shrug. I thought, “Yeah, sounds like more Alkaline Trio.” However, more Alkaline Trio is a good thing. So I continued to listen to this new album and I’ve had a hard time stopping. Like all Alkaline Trio the complexity of the music is easily overlooked in the catchy pop punk songs with their totally sing-along-able choruses. (See: “Balanced on a Shelf”) This album is filled with desperate lovesick love songs like all their others. (See: “Until Death Do Us Part”) The album is slick, polished, produced; but one can easily appreciate the efforts to make punk rock sound good, and clean, and forget the rawness of Alkaline Trio that exists only in albums made over a decade ago.
Telekinesis is one of those groups whose worst effort surpasses the best efforts of most bands. This is a great album, but I admit I didn’t get too excited by any one track. Nothing really jumped out at me. I enjoy the whole album and find it easy to listen to repeatedly, just not on repeat. Telekinesis’ main (or only) problem, in my opinion, is that their second album, 12 Desperate Straight Lines, is near perfection. Every song jumps out at you, hooks you. Every song from that album should be a hit single. So listening to anything else by the group just makes you yearn for 12 Desperate Straight Lines. Resist that urge and listen to this new album. Eventually (I have no doubt) something is really going to resonate. Even if I never get to the point where I’m listening to Dormarion on repeat, I still know I can play it and never be disappointed.
Of all the greatness that occurred on April 2, this album does the most for me. The Black Angels are one of those bands that make you wonder if you are listening to something made decades ago or something that sounds like it was made decades ago. My favorite thing about Indigo Meadow is that this album sounds like it was made in the 21st century. Sure they still sound like a psychedelic, ‘60s, rock band, but with this fourth studio album the Angels have really developed their own sound, too. Indigo Meadow is a little more fun, a little more upbeat, a little bit lighter, than the earlier albums. I’m not sure that they were going for a “fun,” “upbeat,” “lighter” album, but if you listen to the record (and their back catalogue) I think you’ll find those terms are relative.
There was also an album titled 10 by a band named The New Kids on the Block released April 2, if that is more your style. However, if you’re looking for something with perhaps a little more substance and plenty more rock, check out one of these other albums that made April 2, 2013 special.
May 17, 2013
Some time ago, I wrote about my epic quest to read Isaac Asimov’s most notable works, as well as the first part of what I consider a three part history: the Robot Novels. This week, I would like to move along to the second part of the history, beginning thousands of years after the events of Robots and Empire and continuing for nearly twenty thousand years after that. The conflict between the Spacers and the Earthmen is long over, humanity has spread throughout the stars, and efforts are being made to convert the disorganized smatterings of human civilization into a cohesive Galactic Empire.
As with the Robot Novels, half of the Empire novels are among Asimov’s earliest works, and the other half are among his last. This week, I am writing about the early novels – the next part will feature the newer ones. Although you may, like myself, choose to read these novels in sequence, Asimov was adamant throughout his life that all his novels stand on their own. As I provide my brief summaries of each novel, you may pick and choose from the titles which seem most interesting to you, and the result will still be enjoyable. To understand the grander scheme, though, I encourage you to take the long path.
The earliest book in the chronology, The Stars, Like Dust, takes place in the long period of chaos between the initial settlement of the galaxy and the formation of the Empire. For me, beginning this novel was a bit of a shock – to leave the glittering, high tech settings of the Spacer worlds in the Robot Novels and instead enter a setting full of cattle ranching, agriculture, and feudalism… I’ll be honest, it took me a few pages to readjust myself to the new reality. The central plot of the story, revolving around an exiled nobleman on the run from assassins sent by a rival kingdom, seems inconsequential when compared to the sweeping strokes of his greater novels, and Asimov himself has admitted that he feels this novel to be “his weakest book”. Despite this admission, the plot is engaging enough to carry the reader forward, and it remains the only novel of his which really characterizes and describes the transition period between the time of Earth/Spacers and the time of Galactic Empire. You may groan at the ending (indeed, Asimov groaned at it himself, in later years), but it’s worth the read simply to see the immense transition one society can make, given just a few generations. It makes the significance of Foundation that much greater, when you see what happened in the last Dark Age before that one!
The second novel, called “The Currents of Space”, was my personal favorite of the early Empire Novels. Right from the start, you know that something twisted and conspiratorial has happened, and it’s up to the rest of the book to try and reveal the details. The setting of this novel is a pair of planets – Florina, a beautiful agricultural world which produces “kyrt”, a luxurious fabric which may only be grown on this world, and its tyrannical ruling world, called Sark. On Florina, a man wakes up with no memory of who he is, but gradually gains this feeling of foreboding that something horrible is going to happen… a tragedy only he can prevent, if only he could remember what it was- and who HE is! I loved this one more than the others because, although it is early Asimov, it is one of the earliest of his novels to feature many of the plot elements and tropes I have grown to love in his work. He manages to put mystery, suspense, some serious paranoia, and (my favorite) one of his signature reveal monologues – but not until the very end! It also portrays the Empire right on the cusp of being a true Galactic Empire – it is at a point in history which shows Trantor as a powerful force, but not quite all-powerful, to the extent that a serious crisis could push its entire destiny toward glory or ruin.
Following that, “Pebble in the Sky” (which is actually Asimov’s very first full published novel!) stars Joseph Schwartz, a man shot forward in time due to a laboratory accident, to a dying, radioactive Earth whose people are feeling the generations of neglect tossed upon them by the rest of the Galactic Empire… and perhaps even plotting to lash out in response. Although you can feel the occasional amateur-ness, and it never quite disguises how dated and campy it is, the book is solid, and provides an insight into Asimov’s ability and technique even this early in his career. At this point, Trantor has cemented its control of the galaxy, and Earth has become so inconsequential that almost nobody even remembers (or cares) that it was the original planet of all humanity. Humans started on Earth, but it is Trantor now which is the center of culture and civilization.
If you intend to read the chronology from start to finish, pay attention to these novels! Although Asimov does not return to them in a major way, the Second Foundation Trilogy (there’s another one?! stay tuned, I’ll explain later!) DOES return to it, in delightfully unexpected ways. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s previews, and I encourage you to come along with me again soon, as I cover the next part of this epic series.
May 16, 2013
Frog always looks on the bright side, Toad … not so much. But they are the very best of friends. The Oregon Children’s Theater is presenting “A Year with Frog and Toad,” May 11 through June 2, 2013. The production is a “vaudeville style variety show starring those famous amphibians as song-and-dance men”. Arnold Lobel is the creator of the four “Frog and Toad” tales. These stories have been delighting children of all ages since the 1970s, when they were first published.
Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
Frog and Toad’s adventures involve thinking of a story, lost buttons and going for a swim.
Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel
Five further adventures of two best friends as they share cookies, plant a garden, and test their bravery.
Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel
The two friends share experiences in each season of the year.
Days with Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
Frog and Toad spend their days together, but find sometimes it’s nice to be alone.
Ginny W., Youth Services
May 15, 2013
The weather has been playing tricks on us lately, big storms and flooding in some parts of US, snow in May in other parts. The sun finally came out in the Northwest and it’s time to have a look at our backyards. Not knowing much about gardening I was happy to see the new book Kitchen gardening for beginners: a simple guide to growing fruit and vegetables, by Simon Akeroyd. It takes you through all the steps from preparing your plot to enjoying your harvest.
Touch of a butterfly: wildlife gardening with kids, by April Pulley Sayre is a gardening book about attraction. With your child invite birds, butterflies, toads, and more into your garden.
Have a look at Shamanic gardening : timeless techniques for the modern sustainable garden, by Melinda Joy Miller. This practical guide has information about gardening in ancient cultures and using Feng Shui in your Northwest garden.
If you just want to read about gardens choose James Barilla’s book My backyard jungle and see how he turns his yard into wildlife habitat.
Other recent purchases include Western garden book: the 20-minute gardener, a new edition of the classic All new square foot gardening: the revolutionary way to grow more in less space and Garden rescue: first aid for plants and flowers, by Jo Whittingham. — Renata
May 14, 2013
I love discovering new authors, even when it’s someone I’ve known about for years. Charles de Lint has been on my radar for as long as I can remember but I hadn’t read any of his books until recently. I was initially interested in his newest book, The Cats of Tanglewood Forest—a juvenile fiction book that’s rumored to be the first in a new series—because it is a team effort with artist Charles Vess, who I love. (That and I can’t resist a story about magical felines.) I really wasn’t too concerned about the writing. Once I got reading, however, I couldn’t put the book down. Honestly, this is the best book I’ve read in a while. It’s about a girl named Lillian who is turned into a kitten by a group of wild cats who are trying to save her from a deadly snake bite, and everything that happens to her after. Reading this book gave me that same indescribable feeling I used to get as a kid reading one of my favorite stories. Sort of warm and magical, like I’ve been let in on some wonderful secret that no one else in the world knows. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen often anymore now that I’m an adult, and I love it when it does. I wish I could thank de Lint in person for this rare gift he’s given me. I loved this book so much, I went out and bought it. Since then, I have already read two more books by de Lint and I can’t wait to read more!
May 13, 2013
Check out these books that inspired current feature films:
Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz – A Princeton University admissions officer must come to terms with her past.
The Company You Keep by Neil Gordon - Isabel Montgomery starts to receive emails from her father, a man who had abandoned her in a hotel room ten years ago when his past finally caught up with him. Isabel discovers that her father adopted a false identity in the hope of avoiding murder charges for a robbery gone wrong in 1974. Now, tracked down by a young newspaper reporter in search of a story, he must abandon years of safe underground life in an attempt to exonerate himself.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Jay Gatsby had once loved beautiful, spoiled Daisy Buchanan, then lost her to a rich boy. Now, mysteriously wealthy, he is ready to risk everything to woo her back.
Coming to theaters in June:
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare – Depicts the humorous mishaps which follow when young Claudio is duped into believing his fiancee has been unfaithful.
World War Z: An oral history of the zombie war by Max Brooks – An account of the decade-long conflict between humankind and hordes of the predatory undead is told from the perspective of dozens of survivors who describe in their own words the epic human battle for survival.
May 10, 2013
May 9, 2013
May 8, 2013
Among my close circle of friends, I am known for saying a particular phrase often. You could ask any one of them and they would tell you I say, ”I’m reading the most AMAZING book right now!” all the time. And it’s true. Cataloging hundreds of titles each week , I take home books that spark my curiosity almost every day. Some I skim for new information – reading the introduction and the conclusion but skipping all the references and arguments in the middle. But then there are books that are so rich in detail, so lush and full of things totally new to me, that I relish reading every word.
I found one of those books this week, and I just have to share it with you. Brand new to our library is A Fort of Nine Towers: an Afghan Family Story, by Qais Akbar Omar. Honestly, Afghanistan has never really been an interest of mine, despite our war there. I’ve only read one other book about it, Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil, by Deborah Rodriguez (also good). But A Fort of Nine Towers has me entranced.
While it is a memoir about one family trying to survive the civil war that errupts after the Russians were driven out, Omar fills it with stories that explain the history of the country, the subcultures of the various ethnic groups, growing up in Kabul before it was destroyed by civil war and more, and the incredibly warm and generous people who helped his family over and over again.
His story, and the things his family endured, is horrifying at times but I am glad he has told it. He puts a human face on a part of the world I’ve only known thru the skewed lens of the nightly news. I am not done with the book so I don’t know what ultimately happens to them, but I am totally attached to them, thinking about them as I do my work, and hoping that in the end they all survive. It is a gift to find a book like this, and so I pass it on to you. — Erin