Friday, October 30, 2009

Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak is an author and illustrator who keeps popping up in my life. I grew up with In the Night Kitchen, and when I was in high school I went on a field trip to watch the Pacific Northwest Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker, for which Sendak designed the sets and costumes. I have read my daughter all of the Little Bear books, and the film version of his iconic book Where the Wild Things Are is currently playing at the theater.
So how fitting, how comfortable to pick up a beautiful tribute to Sendak, lush with his drawings and illustrations. Making Mischief: a Maurice Sendak appreciation is by another fantastical author, Gregory Maguire (Wicked). He has a talent for looking at Sendak's work and pulling out the inspirations, the common threads, the allusions. He understands the layers of fantasy and imagination that go into Sendak's illustrations and how inspiring those layers are to young minds.
The text in certain points reads like stream-of-consciousness (Maguire originally presented this appreciation as a slideshow at MIT, and you can easily imagine this as a narrative accompanying the warm hum of a slide projector in a darkened auditorium, with each new slide stirring a murmur of recognition and approval from the audience).
If you love Sendak, you will love this book. (A note to parents: not all of Sendak's illustrations have been for children's books, so be prepared for a little nudity and a passionate embrace).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thank goodness for gummies!

Their gustatory merits might be arguable, but you have to admit that gummy worms & gummy insects are a lifesaver (I toyed with making this whole post full of candy puns, but I restrained myself). Schoolkids all over town will be having Halloween parties tomorrow, and parents have been scrambling to think of cool thematic treats. Gummy worms are the perfect accessory, and Ghoulish Goodies: creature feature cupcakes, monster eyeballs, bat wings, funny bones, witches' knuckles, and much more by Sharon Bowers will show you how.

  • Create a repulsive worm pie by mixing Jello and gummy worms in a clear dish (the recipe calls for using lemon Jello, but I found that if you mix up lemon, lime and orange Jello powder together, the resulting color is a nice puke-green).
  • Roll your gummy worms in cocoa powder to give them a more realistic dullness, and plop them in pots of 'dirt' (clear cups of chocolate pudding covered with ground-up Oreos).
  • Fill a little goodie bag with ground Oreos, and hide a couple of gummy insects inside for the kids to discover.
  • Gummy fruit slices, dotted with chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, make great monster eyes for decorating cupcakes and cakes (Bowers' example is a fabulous tentacled green sea monster cake).
  • You can really jazz up simple chocolate-frosted cupcakes by decorating them with gummy worms (try to make the worms look like they're poking up through the frosting 'ground').

Quick and simple prep, ingredients that are easy to get (you might even have the cake mixes and Jello boxes sitting in your pantry), and a fun Halloween look make these treats perfect for school parties. There are plenty of other recipes - including dishes that would appeal to grown-ups - in Ghoulish Goodies. The hard part is choosing which ones to make.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Doesn't anyone want to watch this video?

I usually have pretty positive feelings about things I purchase for the collection (many times, I can match a new book, CD or video to a particular patron in my mind). But occasionally I put things in the collection that I think will fly off the shelves, only for them to remain untouched.
When I saw the review for our new video Halloween face painting I figured it would be a best-seller this month. This DVD features over an hour of tips and techniques for creating scary or cute costume faces, from animals and fantastic creatures to scars, wounds and cuts. Learn which types of paint are best for face-painting, and what kind of brushes you should choose. You can even learn how to create ears, hats, and other accessories for your costume.
And yet, Halloween face painting has been sitting out on display at the front desk for almost two weeks now, and no one has touched it.
Perhaps people are waiting until the last minute to put together their costumes. Or maybe people are purchasing their entire costume, instead of making it from scratch. Whatever the reason, I just hate to think of such a helpful video sitting on the shelf, gathering dust and feeling unloved. Won't someone check it out?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Quirky films

If you like unusual films with great acting, interesting plotlines and good dialogue, try some of our new DVDs.
Julia is a British film featuring a powerful performance by Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton, Burn After Reading). She portrays an alcoholic who is on a downward spiral of lousy jobs, tawdry relationships and mental deterioration. She gets involved in a kidnapping scheme that quickly gets out of control - much like her life.
Rudo y Cursi stars Diego Luna (Milk) and Gael Garcia Bernal (Babel) as soccer-playing brothers whose talent takes them from a small Mexican town to the bright lights - and multiple distractions - of Mexico City. Lifelong friends, the actors have great chemistry on screen. This film is in Spanish, with English subtitles.
Goodbye Solo is from director Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart), and like his other films, it deals with the immigrant experience in America. A Senegalese cab driver and an unhappy old man bent on suicide come together in this touching story. This film has won very positive reviews, as well as the International Critics Prize at the Venice film festival.
Sunshine Cleaning is from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine, and the feel of the two movies is very similar: low-key comedies that feature offbeat characters and unusual situations. In Sunshine, sisters Amy Adams and Emily Blunt put aside their personal differences to start up a business cleaning up after crime scenes and suicides. Alan Arkin makes an appearance as their unsuccessful salesman father, and the whole film oozes heartwarming relationship building.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Last little bit

The final three craft books I want to highlight are lumped together only because they didn't really go with anything else.
The Artist's Guide: how to make a living doing what you love by Jackie Battenfield. "Starving artist" is such a cliche, although there is a certain romantic aura to struggling and under-appreciated artists such as Van Gogh (until you get to the whole ear thing). But if you're an artist who likes the idea of being able to eat, keep a roof over your head, and afford an occasional vacation, try Battenfield's book. She explains grants, awards, residencies and legal matters. She offers advice on peer networking, self-promotion and establishing professional relationships with galleries. She also talks about the organizational skills required to deal with deadlines and bookkeeping, and how to stay socially connected.
Compendium of Celtic Crafts is by Judy Balchin, Courtney Davis, Vivien Lunniss and Suzen Millodot. They cover jewellery, glass painting, paper crafts, calligraphy and illumination. Not only do the authors provide you with numerous patterns, there is also a nice section about designing your own Celtic motifs. The instructions on braiding for jewellery are nice, since some of the knot patterns are quite complex. Although all the sections in this book offer start-to-finish instructions, if you're new to the technique (if you've never done glass painting, for example), you might want to start off with guides aimed more towards beginners, and save this compendium for pattern ideas for later projects.
Penny Haren's Pieced Appliqué: more blocks & projects provides quilters with the technique for creating beautiful quilt squares from simple foundation blocks, all by using appliqué. Haren shows you how to eliminate puckers, create beautiful curves and nice sharp points, achieve perfect placement and produce complicated blocks very quickly. (I'll be honest, I'm not a quilter, so even making the foundation blocks looks like a lot of effort. But I'm assured that this is a much faster, simpler technique than trying to cut and piece together the entire block in the traditional way).

Friday, October 23, 2009

The canvas

If the blank canvas calls to you, here are some new books you might enjoy:
Colored Pencil Painting Bible: techniques for achieving luminous color and ultrarealistic effects by Alyona Nickelsen. Make your colors pop off the page, bring more light and shadow into your work and deepen the level of detail by using Nickelsen's techniques. She provides step-by-step instructions, along with many illustrations and examples, of how to blend, fuse, layer and burnish your colors. Clever application of mineral spirits, masking fluid and mounting putty, as well as techniques such as sgraffito, powder brushing and negative painting can really elevate your work.
Creative Paint Workshop for Mixed-Media Artists: experimental techniques for composition, layering, texture, imagery and encaustic by Ann Baldwin will show you how to create textures in your paint using spattering, rock salt washes, and found objects. You can layer materials for color, texture or collage. You can learn stamping, stenciling and block printing. Baldwin also includes instructions on doing encaustic painting and adding digital photographs to your canvas. There's a wide range of creative techniques and inspiring ideas in this book.
Watercolor Essentials: hands-on techniques for exploring watercolor in motion is by Birgit O'Connor, and it comes with a very handy DVD that further illustrates each lesson. O'Connor takes you through choosing your brushes, paint and palettes into mixing colors, blending and laying in washes. She also explores ways to create shadows, movement and depth in your watercolors, as well as various techniques for masking, spattering, staining and marbling. The accompanying DVD makes it much easier to apply the skills yourself.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


For those of you who like to ply a needle, we have a couple of unique new books.
Arts & Crafts Needlepoint: 25 patterns & projects, by Beth Russell. This book is full of beautiful designs that have either been adapted from, or inspired by, the work of William Morris, William de Morgan and Louis Comfort Tiffany. Subtle colors, organic lines and intricate patterns characterize the look of the Arts & Crafts movement, and Russell has done a wonderful job of capturing that in her designs. Her instructions tell you where to begin on the canvas, and she includes the color numbers for the yarn. Being a British author, she has used Appleton yarns, which you could order (she provides a list of American suppliers in the appendix) or you could eyeball the colors and try to match with a locally-available yarn. And if you're not a needlepoint person, these designs could easily be adapted to cross-stitch.
Stitch Alchemy: combining fabric + paper for mixed-media art by Kelli Perkins. This book takes the various techniques of collage, watercolor, stamping, sewing, quilting, and papier-mache and melds them all together to create a really intriguing medium. Perkins instructs you on how to create the base papercloth, and then she offers you a wide range of options for coloring, texturing and embellishing the papercloth. From something as simple as a bookmark to creating papercloth beads for jewelry or an entire papercloth quilt, the book provides ideas that will inspire your creativity.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's all about the craft

Last week I spent a few days focusing on our new music; for the rest of this week I'll be looking at all our new craft resources. Fall is a perfect time to crank up your crafting activity or dive into a totally new medium. Not only is the weather conducive to indoor tasks, but Christmas is right around the corner!
Sewing Green: 25 projects made with repurposed & organic materials by Beth White caught the eye of one of my co-workers. "What is environmentally-friendly sewing?" As White points out, don't throw away that frayed sweater, those faded curtains, or that stained shirt. With her clever suggestions (and a handy section of pattern sheets), you can save those prints, colors and textures you love. Make lounge pants, coasters, slippers, aprons, scarves and shopping totes. The color photos showcase her examples - skirts made of pillowcases, baby toys from old sweaters - and she offers tips for those who are new to sewing. She also promotes the idea of fabric swaps, using cloth napkins and making your own laundry detergent.
Contemporary Loom Beading: a new look at a traditional stitch is by Sharon Bateman. This book can actually be used two ways. You can use her dimensions and construction techniques to build various projects (leashes, cell-phone holders, switch plate covers, guitar straps, bracelets and chokers). Or you can adapt the beautiful patterns to your own uses and embellishment projects. She has over 75 different patterns in the appendix to choose from. Bateman begins the book with tips on beads, tools and techniques, as well as clear instructions on how to do the weaving, finishing and embellishment. The end of the book has instructions on building your own bead loom. The projects themselves do not, unfortunately, indicate their difficulty level. Novice may want to start with Beading on a loom : a beadwork how-to book by Don Pierce, or our video Bead woven necklaces: loom beading techniques by John Santich.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Who am I?

Like biographies? Try some of these:

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: an American life, by Lori Ginzberg. This is a straight-up biography of one of the early pioneers of women's rights.

The Last of His Kind: the life and adventures of Bradford Washburn, America's boldest mountaineer, by David Roberts. Washburn had nine 'first ascents' of North American peaks under his belt when he died in 2006. He made numerous trips to Alaska, and in 1935 led a 3-month expedition into the then-unexplored vastness of the St. Elias Range.

Long Past Stopping, by Oran Canfield is actually a memoir, not a biography. But as the son of 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' guru Jack Canfield, he's got a bit of name recognition. He also has one messed-up childhood. If you're a fan of the Chicken Soup books, Oran's memoir might be a bit of an eye-opener.

The Secret Wife of Louis XIV: Francoise D'Aubigne, Madame de Maintenon by Veronica Buckley. Born in a prison, reduced to begging in the streets, Francoise marries a poet crippled by rheumatism. After his death, she becomes governess to the illegitimate children of the Sun King and soon catches his eye. A book full of social mores, political chicanery, opulence and history. Her life would make a great movie.

Where Men Win Glory: the odyssey of Pat Tillman, by Jon Krakauer. Bestselling author Krakauer turns his attention to a former NFL player he turned in his jersey to enlist following 9/11. His death in Afghanistan was a patriotic rallying point, until it was discovered that he had been killed by friendly fire. The Army cover-up was a huge scandal, which Krakauer picks apart.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Will somebody buy Gregg Hurwitz a map?

I hate watching movies with people who nit-pick all the details, especially in historical flicks ("You know, that version of the flag wasn't adopted until the fall of 1792. It couldn't have been flying over the fort in June"). But sometimes people are so off-base it's just silly.
Take Gregg Hurwitz. This L.A.-based author has a new book on our shelves, a couple of pages of which take place in Alaska. It is obvious that not only hasn't Mr. Hurwitz ever been to the state, he hasn't even looked at a map. He has his protagonist get off a plane in Anchorage and take a bus to Ketchikan - "the end of the line". Wow, that's one halacious, wet bus ride to Ketchikan, what with us being on an island and all.
And while the hero spends his days working in a salmon cannery (with "all those felons in Alaska, everyone on the run from something. Deadbeat dads and bail skippers."), he spends his off-time hanging out on the tundra, or watching his co-worker (one of our town's many felons, I guess) shoot up the Moose Crossing sign across from the bar.
My favorite part? While his co-worker is busy firing off rounds in middle of town, the local police force has "wisely parked at a good distance and sat smoking on the curb, waiting for him to pass out.....The cops waved as we passed". Thank God I apparently live in a town where anyone can get blotto and blaze away at downtown traffic signs with impunity. That's why I live in Alaska. That, and my need to avoid the long arm of the law.

Traveling oddities

We have a slew of guidebooks that cover pretty much every continent (there is actually a Lonely Planet guide to Antarctica out there, but we don't own it). Interspersed with all those Frommer's, Fodor's, Lonely Planets and Eyewitness guides are some other travel books that can actually be read purely for pleasure. Here's some new ones:
Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves. Steves is a travel guru, having written his first guidebook almost 30 years ago; he has also produced a very successful PBS series (Rick Steves' Europe). In this book, however, he muses on one of the hidden benefits of travel: acting as an ambassador for your country. He talks about visiting the former Yugoslavia after the war, of the hospitality of Iranians, and the attitude of Europeans towards Americans. He advocates choosing travel destinations that allow you to truly learn about a nation and her people, rather than just shopping for cheap curios and lying on the beach. He promises you a more rewarding vacation experience, and I think he's right on the mark.
60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Seattle by Andrew Weber and Bryce Stevens. Since I live in Alaska, I generally view my forays to Seattle as an opportunity to suck up a little urban living: good food, funky architecture, artistic events and lots of shopping. But if you're planning on an extended stay in the Puget Sound area and you need to knock the urban grime off a bit, then you might enjoy sampling some of the beautiful day hikes near Seattle. There are plenty of large city parks to choose from, or you could head all the way out to Mount Rainer National Park or the Snoqualmie Pass area.
Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne. You're biking through various cities around the world with Talking Heads-frontman Bryne. Need I say more?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Classical music, too

I wouldn't want our classical music fans to feel they've been left out (we covered a lot of new music last week). Here are some beautiful new CDs featuring piano, violin, and choral pieces.
Pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy plays the Diabeli variations of Beethoven. 33 variations in C major on a waltz by Anton Diabelli, op. 120 and 12 variations in A major on the Russian Dance from Paul Wranitzky's Ballet Das Waldmädchen, WoO 71.
Violinst James Ehnes - Homage. Hear a selection of pieces played on 12 of the most valuable stringed instruments in the world, including violins by Antonio Stradivari & Pietro Guarneri and violas by Gasparo Da Salo & Andrea Guarneri. For true aficionados of the instrument.
Josquin des Pres masses. Performed by the Tallis Scholars, these masses - Malheur me bat and Fortuna desperata - were composed in the 15th century. Lovely music.
Pianist Christof Keymer performs the complete piano transcriptions of Moritz Moszkowski. Moszkowski reworked pieces from composers such as Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Bizet and Handel to highlight the talent of the pianist. This disc also includes a selection of 'musical parodies'.
Tchaikovsky and Glazunov: Violin Concertos. Interpreting two Russian greats, Ukrainian-born Vadim Gluzman plays Glazunov's Violin Concerto in A Minor, op. 82 as well as two pieces by Tchaikovsky: Souvenir D'un Lieu Cher, op. 42 and Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 35. He is accompanied by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Andrew Litton.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Here are three new cookbooks that do a good job of representing the wide range of recipes we have available here at the Public Library.
The New Portuguese Table: exciting flavors from Europe's Western coast by David Leite. Portugal always seems to be one of the overlooked countries in Europe (perhaps not as bad as Andorra, but close). So how exotic it will sound to invite your friends over for an authentic Portuguese supper. Befitting a country bordering the ocean, this cookbook has lots of seafood recipes, including a lovely "Skate with leeks in a saffron broth" that would work well with halibut or cod instead of skate. "Pumpkin soup with spicy seeds" is a nice choice for fall, and the classic Portuguese dessert "Baked custard tarts" will round off the meal nicely.
Rustic fruit desserts by Corey Schreiber and Julie Richardson is invaluable - if for no other reason - because it actually defines the differences between pie, tart, galette, cobbler, grunt, slump, crisp, crumble, betty, pandowdy, buckle, teacake, fool and trifle. So if you have fond memories of some kind of fruit-based dessert that your grandmother used to whip up when you were a kid, it's a good bet you'll find something similar here. "Ginger Pear and Raspberry Pandowdy", anyone?
The Sauce Book: 300 world sauces made simple is by London chef Paul Gayler. This is more of a reference than a cookbook, since the majority of the recipes are for straight sauces, not the entire dish. Gayer does include some examples of how to use a few sauces, though ("Provencale toasts with sea bass and tapenade", "pork strips in adobo"). Organized geographically, this book is a way of stirring your creative juices. Pick a place (I think I feel like Mediterranean food tonight), then pick a sauce ("avgolemono", a classic Greek lemon sauce), and then consider Gayler's suggestions ("baked cod steaks with butter beans and avgolemono"). Or you might prefer to come up with your own use (drizzle over wild rice, perhaps...or grilled chicken breasts). The world's your oyster.....perhaps with a Japanese citrus ponzu marinade.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


If you need proof of just how bleak a place Central Europe was between the World Wars, just take a look at some of their cinema. In 1930, director Fritz Lang brought a completely creepy Peter Lorre to the big screen in M, in which he plays a child murderer. A few years earlier, the first 'Dracula' movie had been filmed. Titled Nosferatu, the film starred Max Schreck in a powerful performance as the blood-sucking Count Orlock. In fact, Schreck's role and his off-screen behavior are so legendary that a loose bio-pic was made a few years ago, starring Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire).
We've just added yet another atmosphere-heavy Gothic horror film to our collection. Vampyr, filmed in 1932, showcases Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer's brilliant use of shadows, fogs and camera tricks to create a sense of the eerie. The film is a vampire tale that is based on a 1872 short story by the Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu ("Carmilla"). This special DVD edition from the Criterion Collection folk features a nicely restored original German film, an alternate version with English text, a 1966 documentary that looks at the career of director Dryer, and some additional information.
Best of all, it comes with a copy of "Carmilla". You can read the story upon which the film was based and decide yourself whether Dreyer's pared-down version is a chilling adaptation true to the tone of the story, or if Dreyer's film should almost be considered a work of its own. Either way, this is the perfect movie to watch during October.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rock on

Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood Live From Madison Square Garden. A dream combination of Winwood's vocals and Clapton's guitar, this album includes versions of some of their most famous songs ("Cocaine" and "Can't find my way home"). Guaranteed to please anyone who knows what 'LP' means.
Bob Dylan Together Through Life. Featuring 10 new compositions from the master songwriter, this is a collection of love songs with an edge. C'mon, it's Dylan.
Gomez A New Tide. British band Gomez is an indie-rock band that has been featured on World Cafe, and their latest album has been getting good reviews.
Paper Route Absence. It's electronica-based rock, but the true beauty on this album lies in the lyrics and the ethereal vocals.
Shearwater Rook. "Rook meditates on man's intersection with the natural world; the world after human beings are gone. A dark fairy tale encased in a cycle of songs." - from the product description. Complex indie-folk music with delicate vocals from Jonathan Meiburg.
Viva Voce Rose City. Portland, Or.-based husband and wife team combine smooth vocals and percussive guitar playing in a nice, stripped-down album.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sounds of jazz

  • Ann Hampton Callaway At Last. This is an album of love songs, including old standards (Cole Porter), newer songs (Joni Mitchell), and original compositions from Callaway herself.
  • Big Bad Voodoo Daddy The Music of Cab Calloway. A spirited tribute to a legendary band leader, from a modern swing band with a big sound.
  • Sean Jones The Search Within. A young trumpeter who has made a name for himself, Jones is joined on this album by Orrin Evans, Brian Hogans, Walter Smith, Luques Curtis and Obed Calvaire, as well as other special guests.
  • Julian Lage Sounding Point. Lage emerged on the music scene at the tender age of 7, and now this guitar prodigy celebrates his coming-of-age with an album of improvisation, interpretation, and original composition.
  • Miles Okazaki Generations. This album of progressive jazz was recorded in one take, and serious jazz fans will want to set aside time to experience the album as a whole set piece.
  • Nina Sheldon Harvest. Jazz vocalist and pianist Sheldon recorded this album of standards with David "Fathead" Newman in what would turn out to be one of his last studio appearances.
  • Allen Toussaint The Bright Mississippi. Legendary pianist Toussaint covers standards from blues and jazz greats Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, Thelonious Monk, Django Reinhardt and Duke Ellington, among others.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A little world beat

We've got a flush of new music on the shelves, so for the next few days I'll be focusing on our different collections. Today, I'll be taking an international approach by looking at our new Global Music.
African: Introducing Mamane Barka is an album of traditional songs from the Lake Chad region of Niger. Played on a boat-shaped instrument called the biram, these tracks represent an historical preservation of the Boudouma tribe's music by Mamane Barka, one of the last remaining biram players.
Celtic: Double Play features the Irish fiddle of Liz Carroll and the guitar of John Doyle, and is a collection of beautiful original pieces and new arrangements of older songs, all of which evoke the memory of traditional Irish music.
European: The Rough Guide to Gypsy Music highlights the music of the Romany people. Their nomadic tradition is reflected in their variety of musical influences. However, the tracks on this CD are definitely contemporary in feel: blues, swing, jazz, ska and hip-hop are all here.
Cafe Musette: the most beautiful French melodies preformed on a solo accordion. This CD doesn't need much explanation. Just put it on, and feel yourself transported into every Hollywood movie that's ever been set in Paris.
Latin: La Luz del Ritmo by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs is one rockin' CD that's heavy on the brass. Mariachi music on steroids, this album also shows influences of funk, rap, punk, and electronica. Crank it up!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Outdoorsy folk

I have a feeling that there are more than a few people in this community who - for some inexplicable reason - enjoy spending great amounts of time outdoors in the wilderness. It's probably something to do with living in Alaska. At any rate, we have a couple of new books that might appeal to the outdoorsy sort.
Geocaching: hike and seek with your GPS by Erik Sherman instructs readers on an activity that is hugely popular down south. This is an all-encompassing guide. He covers geocaching sites on the web (I did a quick check on, and there are 4 caches listed for the Ketchikan area). He also talks equipment: GPS, maps, compasses, cell phones, 2-way radio and altimeters. Learn how to prepare and stash a cache, how to find a cache, and some variations on geocaching. Scout camp, fitness group, family fun or for educational purposes, geocaching can be tweaked to many situations. In fact, you don't even have to go in the woods to have fun - you can cache in the city, with a GPS in one hand and a latte in the other.
The Happy Camper: an essential guide to life outdoors is by Kevin Callan, a canoeing expert from Ontario. He touches on all the aspects of camping outdoors: substitutes for toilet paper, how to de-skunk a dog, spooky songs for the campfire, and the definition of an F-stop (although, if you've got a nice enough camera that you're able to control the F-stop, shouldn't you know what that means?). There are recipes for camp cooking, essential knots you should know, what to include in a first-aid kit, how to use a compass, and an entire chapter on camping in the rain. I'm not sure he provides in-depth enough information for dealing with the Alaskan wilderness, which can be pretty dang harsh, but it's a fun overview that might be entertaining for Schoenbar students.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A smattering of genres

Here's a quick snapshot of the wide-ranging novels we've put out on the New Book shelves this week:
The Good Humor Man by Andrew Fox. Part science fiction, part satire on society's fascination with thinness, this novel comes from the author of the Fat White Vampire books. The year is 2041, fattening foods are against the law, liposuction addicts litter the country and everyone is hooked on 'fat-burning' nutritional supplements. Enter Dr. Louis Shmalzberg, an ex-plastic surgeon and one-time leader of the anti-fat movement. He has come to see the error of his ways, and his attempts to save civilization from becoming too thin lead to interesting consequences. For Douglas Adams and Ray Bradbury fans.
Never the Bride by Cheryl McKay and Reene Gutteridge is a Christian chick-lit novel. Jessie Stone is a classic "always a bridesmaid but never a bride" heroine who longs for a wedding (and a groom) of her own. She's so focused on her own plans and schemes that when God shows up in the flesh to help her, she has difficulty letting go and turning control of her life over to God.
Deadly Intent by Lynda La Plante is the fourth book featuring Detective Inspector Anna Travis. This story focuses on the hunt for a drug trafficker that may have been involved in the murder of an ex-colleague. What makes things more complicated for DI Travis is that she ends up working with DCI Langton not long after their breakup. If you are a fan of the PBS series Prime Suspect, you will enjoy this series (since they were both written by La Plante).
This is How by M. J. Hyland is a difficult book. Set on the coast of England in a drab boarding house (a difficult place to live), the narrator is a young man who has spent his entire life having difficulty being happy, difficulty maintaining relationships, and difficulty finding his place in the world. He has dropped out of college to become a mechanic, and finds the work soothing, but the tensions and unhappiness in his life mount and he ends up in prison (another difficult place to be). A good book for fans of character development and the pain of loneliness.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Historical fiction

Historical fiction is a nice crossover between fact and fiction; if you are fond of nonfiction titles dealing with a particular period in history, you might well enjoy novels set in that time period. For those of you who are English history buffs - especially her Golden Age - we have a couple of new novels that may appeal to you.
The Elephant Keeper, by Christopher Nicholson, is set in the late 1700's. A pair of young elephants, sickly after their long sea voyage from the East Indies, are purchased by aging Lord Bidborough. They are placed in the care of young stable boy, and as he learns to care for the strange beasts he develops a deep relationship and an understanding with them. Told as entries in his diary, the stable boy's story depicts the lives of masters and servants and the precarious grip we all have on life.
The Wet Nurse's Tale, by Erica Eisdorfer, is another servant's tale. In this novel, Victoria is Queen and motherhood is sacred. As long as you're married, that is (and it helps to be wealthy, of course). For kitchen maid Susan Rose, however, the stigma of giving birth to an illegitimate daughter is compensated for by her new career: a wet nurse for rich women. An appealing heroine with a fair amount of spirit and self-reliance, Susan brings the reader into the relationships and intrigues that go on both upstairs and downstairs in the Victorian home.