Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another Guest Review

THE TIGER: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival
By John Valliant
Review by George Pasley

This book is a true account of a tiger killing near the village of Sobolonye in the Russian Far East in December,  1997. As such it is a gripping narrative, describing how the Tiger seems to have stalked and killed a man who had earlier tried to kill the tiger, how the Tiger went on to kill one more man and to terrorize a village, and how authorities tracked down and killed the tiger at risk to their own lives.
But it is more than a true story, and that is the genius of the book. Each of the characters in the story came from somewhere else far away, for reasons other than choice, and stayed because for the most part they had no choice. Instead, they were compelled both to come and to stay for reasons of history, politics and economy. Valliant weaves those reasons into the narrative.
Even more, Valliant gives vivid description to the exceptionally unique ecology of the region known as Primorye, to the evolution of tigers, to the history of interaction between men and predatory beasts (including a vivid and chilling description of baboons hiding in caves by nighttime), the environmental predicaments posed by perestroika, the economic depravity in which the current residents of Primorye live, and finally, efforts to save the Siberian Tiger from extinction.
I found the book holding tight grip on my interest, and loved the way the author helped us to see both the larger environmental, economic and political pictures as well as the intimate picture of a life and death struggle in the winter forest, and yet held the larger picture and the intimate picture in balance.
The Tiger is educational reading and compelling narrative. I would read it again, and read anything else Valliant has written.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

MARATHON: How One Battle Changed Western Civilization

Marathon: How One Battle Changed Western Civilization, by Richard A Billows
Review by George Pasley
Marathon is a newly written history book that doesn’t get bogged down in details (as so many history books do). Billows, a professor of Greek and Roman History at Columbia, takes the reader through an accounting of the famous battle of Marathon between armies of the city-state of Athens and the Persian Empire in August, 490 B.C.E.. His account includes a summary of how it has been viewed through the centuries since, a summary of the progress of Greek culture up to that time, a brief history of the Persian Empire, a history of conflict between Persia and the cities of Greece, a history of Greek democracy, a closer look at Sparta, the history of the battle, and a chapter devoted to explaining an assortment of things likely to have been ‘lost’ to western culture if Athens had lost the battle.
Having said that the book does not bog the reader down in details, I do need to say that the unavoidable use of large numbers of Greek and Persian names is a difficulty. They don’t need to be pronounced, but their strangeness to American readers makes it difficult to remember and distinguish them form one another.
The aside on Sparta was very insightful. The Spartans had a very deserved reputation as soldiers, a reputation that survives to this day, and use of the word “Spartan” to describe meager rations and lifestyle has its roots in fact- the Spartans ate their evening meal at ‘mess” and it was not much more than beans. But enlightened modern readers will be dismayed to know that the entire Spartan military complex was devised as away of keeping slaves in check, so that Spartan citizens would never have to work. In terms of military matters, that meant Sparta was very reluctant to send their soldiers out of their immediate region, for fear of not being able to put down a slave revolt back home.
It is especially helpful to know the exact nature of Athenian Democracy, its origin in issues of property ownership, its principle authors (Solon and Kleisthenes), and its layered features. In light of current American politics, I found it fascinating to know that the Athenians did not trust elections. Instead, they chose office holders by lottery- and had a process for sending citizens into exile if they seemed to be gaining too much influence. Billows makes the argument that the way that Athens knit military service to citizenry made their citizen soldiers more willing to fight to the death, as they were fighting for THEIR freedom.
Billows explains the Athenian strategy that won the battle for Athens, and then makes his case as to why the battle affected the flow of history. Unlike many other events, he argues that we do know what would have happened had Persia won: the surviving citizens of Athens would have been led into exile on the Persian Gulf, meaning that they would not have remained free in Greece, later to create drama, perfectionist art, and philosophy. Most importantly, the victory of Athens meant the survival of democracy (less than two decades old at the time of the battle). But Athens won, democracy survived, and millions enjoy its privileges today.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Library Building Committee meeting tonight

There will be a meeting of the Library Building Committee tonight at the Ted Ferry Civic Center at 4 pm.  The public are welcome to attend the meeting.  Hope to see you there!

Friday, December 3, 2010

New Christmas Books

'Tis the season....for new holiday novels and craft books!
How to Build a Gingerbread House: a step-by-step guide to sweet results by Christina Banner.  One of the nicest things about this book is that in addition to patterns for different holiday houses (St. Patrick's day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas), she offers ideas for each aspect of a gingerbread house.  You can pick and choose different elements and create an entirely new look.
Big Book of Thread Ornaments: over 100 crochet designs by Leisure Arts.  Angels, snowflakes, bells and balls, all with a delicate lace-like texture.  If you know how to crochet, you must make a snowflake ornament at least once in your life.
Fa La La La Felt: 45 handmade holiday decorations by Amanda Carestio.  I'm a sucker for felt, and these pretty little projects all use felt fabric (quick and easy to sew), instead of felted wool (adorable, but very time-consuming).  Stockings, garlands and ornaments in bright, happy colors.
A Very Beaded Christmas: 46 projects that glitter, twinkle and shine by Terry Taylor.  Projects range from adding a little festive dash to gift wrapping to elaborate beaded ornaments. If you can sew, bend wire, crochet or even glue, you can find a project here.
Christmas Eve in Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas.  A modern romance set in Washington, with an orphaned little girl, a lonely uncle and a grieving widow.
Christmas Mourning by Margaret Maron.  The latest mystery featuring Judge Deborah Knott and her husband, Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant.
A Christmas Odyssey by Anne Perry.  It wouldn't be Christmas without a new holiday novel from acclaimed mystery author Perry.  This is her eighth novel that mixes the Victorian Christmas season with crime and suspense.
A Christmas Journey by Donna VanLiere.  This is a retelling of the Nativity story, complete with charming little watercolor illustrations by Michael Storrings.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Graphic adaptations

Looking for a new take on old classics?  Try one of these three graphic novels that we've just added to the collection:
The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds, based on the epic poem by Homer.  Hinds took a little artistic liberty with some of the illustrations, opting for an overall fell of ancient Greece, rather than historically accurate costumes and weaponry.  His watercolors are very nice, and get the point across well.  He also combined the efforts of a variety of translators for the narration, but needed to adapt a great deal of the text to fit the graphic novel format.  This is a good introduction to a classic story for those who don't feel up to diving into Robert Fagles' 541-page translation.
Dante's Divine Comedy adapted by Seymour Chwast, including Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise.  Chwast's black-and-white illustrations look very Art Deco, reminiscent of magazine illustrations from the 1920's.  Most of Dante's text is gone, leaving the bare bones of the afterlife he envisioned.  This is actually Chwast's first graphic novel; he is famous as an award-winning graphic artist and designer of fonts.  As much as I loved Robert Pinsky's translation, this new version is very entertaining.
Dawn Land by Will Davis and Joseph Bruchac.  Bruchac is a prolific Abenaki children's author who has made his reputation as a storyteller incorporating Native American myths and oral traditions.  His 1993 novel Dawn Land is a coming-of-age story set 10,000 years ago.  Will Davis has taken this story and retold it with crisp black-and-white pencil sketches.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Who do you love?

We frequently get asked by our patrons to recommend a new author.  And, of course, we try to figure out what types of fiction the patron usually likes.  There's no sense recommending Jane Austen to someone who likes hardboiled detective fiction, and a fan of Christian fiction is probably not going to like Chuck Palahniuk.  But if you're looking for a real quick answer - you just want to grab a hot author and go - then here's a list of the 14 most popular authors in Ketchikan during this past year:
  1. James Patterson -  112 checkouts
  2. Janet Evanovich -  111 checkouts
  3. Charlaine Harris -  98 checkouts
  4. Robert Parker -  95 checkouts
  5. Jennifer Chiaverini -  92 checkouts
  6. Nicholas Sparks -  84 checkouts
  7. Jim Butcher -  78 checkouts
  8. Clive Cussler -  78 checkouts
  9. Nora Roberts -  64 checkouts
  10. Anne McCaffrey -  62 checkouts
  11. Dana Stabenow -  62 checkouts
  12. Bernard Cornwell - 59 checkouts
  13. Patrick O'Brian -  59 checkouts
  14. Michael Connelly -  58 checkouts

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The boss of me

I don't usually blog about children's books - partly because they don't come across my desk very often, and partly because they're usually aimed at a much younger audience than my blog.   But I'm making an exception for a new picture book that I think every new parent (and every old parent) should read.
The Boss Baby by Marla Frazee perfectly depicts what it is like to have a baby in the house.  Likening the new arrival to a Donald Trump-style tyrant, she summarizes the power shift in a few well-chosen words and some truly delightful illustrations.  A cross between an infant and a short, balding executive, Frazee's little baby will be instantly recognized by anyone who has tried to quiet a crying baby at 2 in the morning.  She does a wonderful job with the facial expressions, the sense of lightning-quick moves, and the overall metaphor of her story.
Even though this is a picture book, I think only adults will truly appreciate its worth.  I read the story to both my kids (4 and 9), and although they picked up on the humor in the illustrations, neither one of them really understood what the book was about (not being familiar with terms such as 'executive gym').  Parents, however.....parents will totally get this book.   And if you know someone who has just welcomed a new little boss into their life, you should get this book for them.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Investor murders

If you've lived in Southeast for very long, you've probably heard about the Investor murders.  In September of 1982, eight people on the Washington-based fishing boat Investor were murdered while the boat sat anchored just outside Craig (Prince of Wales Island).  When an attempt to scuttle the boat went awry, the murderer set fire to the vessel.  Although a suspect was eventually arrested, both trials ended without a conviction- and the Investor case is still the largest unsolved murder in Alaska state history.
Addiction counselor Michael McGuire has written a book about the Investor murders, based on his conversations with Larry Demmert Jr., who was a key trial witness.  Angels to Ashes: largest unsolved mass murder in Alaska history recounts some of the events leading up to the murder, and presents a fair amount of information that came up during the trials.  If you remember this case - or if you're intrigued by Alaskan crime in general - you might find this an interesting book.
NOTE:  I have not read this book, but I have gotten feedback from a couple of people who did read the book, including a journalist who is familiar with the background of the Investor case.  Apparently, this is not a well-written book.  It is chock full of typos and grammatical errors, it meanders around from subject to subject.  Other than Larry Demmert, it's difficult to tell who McGuire actually interviewed for this book, and what sources he used.  He doesn't pull any punches when it comes to his opinions, however, and he ends the book with a direct accusation of an Anchorage drug dealer. 
Journalistically, this book is more National Enquirer than New York Times, but if you're willing to make do until something more substantial comes along, then have at it.....

Saturday, October 9, 2010


David Sedaris has just published his latest book of essays, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, and it's a little bit of a departure from his previous works.  Instead of funny, questionably autobiographical recollections of his childhood with his bizarre family, this new book is a collection of fables.  Like Aesop, Sedaris uses animal protagonists to reflect on human vices and virtues.  All resemblance to Aesop's fables pretty much ends there.
For one thing, Sedaris' vices are a little more low-key but a lot more widespread:  pomposity, self-absorption, smugness, bigotry and ignorance.  These are the kinds of behaviors that are becoming more socially tolerated and therefore more proudly displayed.  This pervasiveness makes these traits harder to ignore.
The other difference between Sedaris and Aesop is the characters themselves.  They're foul-mouthed, coolly violent, devoid of empathy, and obnoxious.  They are made even creepier by the wonderful illustrations of Ian Falconer (creator of the clever Olivia books, featuring a young pig with a grandiose imagination - like Eloise of the animal set).  His pictures of the flayed mink, the dying lab rat, and the abused bear aren't necessarily graphic, but they get the point across.
I hope I haven't turned any Sedaris fans off this book, but it's not going to provoke tears of laughter.  The stories are witty and well-written, with a macabre sense of humor.  The lessons aren't that subtle, yet here's enough truth in them that you can automatically transform the animal characters into people you've seen on T.V., overheard in airports, or know from the gym.  Who knows, you might even recognize yourself.....

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wow, what a week!

It's high winds and driving rain outside, but it's all sunshine and smiles inside the library this week:
The Friends of the Library annual booksale brought in $8,296.59!  (just to put this in context, the sale usually brings in about $5,200).  We here at the public library would like to say a huge "Thank You" to Teresa Chenhall for chairing the book sale and getting everything organized.  We would also like to thank all the people who volunteered their time to lug books, set up the tables, and staff the sale itself.  Thank you to the management and merchants of the Plaza Mall for sharing their space with us for the weekend.  And thanks to all the book-loving folks who spent their money!
The other wonderful news this week was the voter approval of municipal bonds for a new library!!!  We are chugging ahead with the building process, and we are going to be ready for the 2011 legislative session.  We would like to give a huge "Thank You" to Heidi Ekstrand, the President of the Friends, for her hours and hours and hours of time and effort getting this project moving forward and drumming up community awareness and support.  Thanks also to all the voters who braved the terrible weather to go to the polling stations and exercise their voting rights. 
And as an extra bonus this week, the torrential rainfall is scouring Ketchikan Creek clean of dead fish, and the library smells fresh as a daisy again!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New music

The John Butler Trio is an Australian band which has made a name for itself with strong blues/roots music.  Their latest CD - April Uprising - was just released a few months ago.  We've just added one of their most critically-acclaimed and popular albums to our collection:  Sunrise Over Sea.  The band has been compared to the Dave Matthews Band, and has opened for them, as well as appearing at the South By Southwest music festival.
Los Lobos, the East L.A. band that shot to fame recording some Ritchie Valens covers for the movie La Bamba, has just released their 19th album - Tin Can Trust.  A great mixture of blues, rock, Tex-Mex, country and Mexican sounds which will please listeners looking for a good, solid rock album.
Canadian indie band The New Pornographers have just released their 5th album. Together has been much better received than their previous release (Challengers), and lead vocalists Neko Case and A.C. Newman give the band a strong, energetic sound.  They are back on form, and pleasing fans again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back on track!

The votes were counted this morning, and the unofficial results are that Proposition #1 (authorizing the City Council to select a library site anywhere within city limits) garnered 816 Yes votes and 500 No, while Proposition #2 (restricting construction of a new library to city-owned property downtown) had 524 Yes votes and 795 No.
There are still about 100 absentee and question ballots to be counted, but it's clear that the voters have told the City Council to go ahead with the project.  We will soon be on our way to meeting the deadline for State matching funds for the construction of a new, accessible, user-friendly library!
We want to thank everyone who devoted their time and attention to this issue, especially the Borough residents who - even though they weren't able to vote - wanted to give their support.  The whole political upheaval has been a little surprising to us librarians, since we normally lead such uncontroversial lives.  It's put the library project in the forefront of people's minds, however, and spurred some really interesting discussions.
If you want to know more about the library project, the history of the library, and the upcoming steps along the path to a new facility, please visit

Saturday, August 21, 2010


School starts next week, as you can tell from the aisles of school supplies at the local stores.  My son is starting preschool this year (yea!) and to him, going to school means you have to have a backpack.  He's spent the last couple of weeks packing and repacking his backpack and practicing wearing it around the house. 
There are kids in Ketchikan who can't afford to buy new backpacks in addition to all the other school supplies they have to purchase.  Dawn Rauwolf, of PATCHWorks, is collecting new or gently used backpacks to give to children in need.  The Ketchikan Public Library is a drop-off site for these, and there is a short donor form that you can fill out so Dawn knows who to thank (if you want to remain anonymous, that's fine too).
This backpack drive is a wonderful idea, and we're very happy to be able to see the donations arriving.  In fact, yesterday someone dropped off two new backpacks - 1 for a boy, 1 for a girl - that were not only brand new, they were stuffed with school supplies!  Brand new pencils, erasers, tissues, calculator, ruler, pencil box, 3-ring binder....what a sweet gift for a child at a time of the year when people don't ordinarily think of donating to others (unlike traditional giving times such as Thanksgiving and Christmas).
Thank you so much to all the people who have dropped off donations so far, and a huge thank you to Dawn and PATCHWorks for coming up with this idea.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cookbooks galore!

There's quite a range of new cookbooks on the shelf this week here at the public library:
Stir-frying to the Sky's Edge: the ultimate guide to mastery, with authentic recipes and stories by Grace Young.  Wok cooking is an art, and award-winning author Young starts her book off with a lengthy section about selecting, seasoning and heating a wok, as well as tips on how to prepare the garlic and ginger that are ubiquitous in Oriental cooking.  Her recipes are varied in both taste and ease of preparation, and she includes some interesting side stories about the history of wok cooking.  Try "Stir-fried salmon with wine sauce"....yum!
Just Five Ingredients: over 120 fast, fuss-free recipes by Ainsley Harriott, is a great book for cooks who are looking for simplicity and elegance.  You're probably not going to have some of these ingredients lying around your kitchen (pancetta, smoked chicken breast, duck fat, buffalo mozzarella), but you can either splurge or substitute.  No fresh swordfish?  Use halibut.  No Puy lentils?  Use green.  No harissa?  Don't know what harissa is? (I didn't).  It's a spicy paste of garlic, chilies, cumin, oil and coriander - easy to make.  Add an exotic touch to your table with a minimum of fuss.
Quesadillas by Donna Kelly offers a huge variety of fillings grilled between tortillas. Shrimp & fontina, gorgonzola & spicy beans, provolone & prosciutto, or cherries, cream cheese & coconut streusel.  If you have kids that love quesadillas (and I do), but you want to expand beyond taco meat and shredded cheddar, this is a good way to stretch their taste buds without pouting.
Recipes From the Root Cellar: 270 fresh ways to enjoy winter vegetables by Andrea Chesman is a fabulous book to get you through the winter.  When inexpensive fresh produce becomes limited, the staples of potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas, carrots and squashes can help you eat well during cold months.  Teamed up with slow-cooked meats or served by themselves with savory spices or nutty grains, these veggies epitomize Autumn .
River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin shows you how to save all those berries you picked and vegetables you grew and herbs you nursed all summer long.  Pickles, jellies, sauces, jams, chutneys, cordials, vinegars.....this book is from the U.K., and may have some ingredients that you won't get here in Alaska, but you can always improvise!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The home stretch

It's just a little over a week until school starts, and your kids have probably hit their boredom threshold.  They're tired of riding bikes, playing with the other kids in the neighborhood, going to the playground, even (with the glorious weather we've had lately) tired of going to the beach.  How to keep the little nippers entertained until the end of August?
Make it Wild! 101 things to make and do outdoors by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield have plenty of ideas for idle hands.  If you would still like to spend some more time at the beach, have them make elaborate pebble patterns, or rows of little stone towers (pg. 21).  Make rafts out of driftwood, feathers and leaves and hold your own regatta (pgs. 56-57).  A trip to Ward Lake can provide the opportunity to make leaf bowls (pgs 140-141), natural mobiles (pgs. 152-153) or leaf art (pgs 26-31). 
Some of the projects are a little more elaborate - smoke decorated pots, tissue paper kites, twig furniture, felt making - but most of them just require a few suggestions and directions to fire up the kids' imagination and they can get immersed in the design themselves.  I do not recommend the balloons that you set on fire, especially with the dry spell we've had lately.  (The authors think that tethering the balloon down with string so it doesn't fly off into the trees sufficient enough caution, but I can't agree with that).
If you don't have time to do these fun activities this summer, don't worry.  Some of the coolest ideas require ice and snow.  The giant snow sculptures dotted with tea lights (you really have to see the photos) are fabulous, as are the ice lanterns and ice windows.  This book is full of creative, artistic fun your kids can experience in the waning days of any school vacation.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Do you SLED?

Have you ever used the Statewide Library Electronic Doorway (SLED) to find the website of a tribal agency, State office, or Alaska Region department of the federal government?  Have you used SLED to find websites about tidal currents, meteor showers, volcano updates, or marine weather?  Have you ever used SLED to find Alaska-related facts for your students, your homework, your family down South, tourists or a local trivia contest?

If you have used SLED and you value this Alaska State Library & UA libraries resource, please let us know.  It takes money to maintain this site, and the Alaska State Legislature, the Rasmuson Foundation, the Institute of Museums and Library Services and the federal government have been very supportive in the past.  However, it really helps if they know that this service is being used and being appreciated.  A website hit counter can provide the numbers, but it's so much more interesting to hear real people relate their own experiences with SLED, so please let us know!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A must for Patrick O'Brian fans

Do you know the difference between a stuns'l and a sprits'l?  Can you explain "the weather gage"?  Are you an ardent fan of Patrick O'Brian's nautical adventure series featuring Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin?  Then you would probably enjoy our new biography of the first American naval officer John Barry.
John Barry: an American hero in the age of sail, by Tim McGrath examines the life of someone who expressed many of the qualities that we've come to associate as 'American'.  The son of an Irish farmer, Barry escaped to sea to avoid the barbaric penal laws of 18th century Britain.  In the American colonies, he quickly worked his way up from an ordinary seaman to the skipper of a schooner, and by the time he was 30 he was the captain of the impressive new merchant ship The Black Prince.  A powerfully-built, 6' 4" man with a strong temper and a good knowledge of seamanship, Barry earned a reputation for himself.  While captain of The Black Prince, Barry set the record for the fastest day of sail in the 18th century.
But it was his exploits during the Revolutionary War that cemented his place in history.  His was the first Continental vessel to capture an enemy warship, his 36-gun frigate Alliance defeated the British warships Atalanta and Trepassey simultaneously, and he fought (and won) the last battle of the American Revolution.  When the infant republic founded an official Navy, Barry was selected by George Washington to be the First Captain of the United States Navy.
Beat that, Jack Aubrey.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A fitness book for real people

A year after I had my daughter, I had an epiphany.  I was sluggish, everything took an effort, and I was still wearing maternity clothes because I couldn't fit into any of my pre-pregnancy wardrobe.  Not good.  But when I started looking for a exercise book or video (we have an absolute slew of them here at the library), I came up against a problem.  Perhaps you've had this problem too.
Most exercise guides seem to be aimed at people who are already fit.  Frankly, if I could do 50 sit-ups in 10 minutes, I wouldn't need an exercise guide.  When you're just starting out on the path to fitness, you need a guide that assumes you can't do any sit-ups, pushups or roundhouse kicks.  A guide that accommodates your stiff joints, tight muscles and spare tire.
Big Yoga: a simple guide for bigger bodies by Meera Patricia Kerr does just this.  She gives you a brief history of yoga, the simple equipment and clothing that will make things more comfortable, advice on how to get around the "stumbling blocks" and excuses people use to avoid exercise, and proper breathing techniques.  But the meat of the book is the section on Hatha Yoga poses.  Each pose is illustrated with a clear photograph, a description of the techniques and benefits, and - most importantly - considerations and adaptations.  For instance, with the Easy Sitting Pose (#38) she advises that if you have a bra with an underwire, you'll want to adjust the position of your arms so you don't feel pinched.  When you do the Triangle Pose (#33), you can rest your hand on your thigh if you can't reach all the way to the floor.
This book is informative, supporting, and reassuring for anyone who is new to exercise and looking for a way to gently ease into a healthier, fitter lifestyle that will alleviate aches, stiffness and fatigue. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Indiana Jones

You may have heard the recent interview on KRBD (courtesy of Shady Grove Oliver from KCAW - a CoastAlaska station in Sitka) with Dr. Donald P. Ryan.  This archaeologist talked about his work, and the excitement of finding the long-sought tomb KV 60 a mere half-hour after beginning the search.  You may have been intrigued at the way in which the well-preserved mummy he found was matched to the known remains of the famous Hatshepsut, the fifth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt.  You may have been drawn in by his obvious enthusiasm for his life's work and the field of archaeology altogether.  You may have said to yourself "by golly, that man should write a book about this".
Well, he has.  Beneath the Sands of Egypt: adventures of an unconventional archaeologist was recently added to our new book shelves (as I was listening to the radio interview, I thought his account seemed very familiar - when I hopped on our online catalog, I realized why).  Learn more about this real-life Indiana Jones and the combination of tedium and serendipity that make archaeology such an amazing career.  And if you want to listen to Oliver's interview with Dr. Ryan, you may.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

And the winners are....

We held our Playaway drawing today, and the following people have won free lanyards for their Playaways.  Congratulations!

  • Patricia Booth
  • Cindy Craig
  • Barbara Guenther
  • Chad Martin
  • Janet Mason
  • Renee Meacham
  • Megan Mix
  • Judy Peihl
  • Brooke Ratzat
  • Robert St. Clair


For your viewing pleasure

I will start off with the disclaimer that I haven't seen this movie, and I haven't read the books.  But I would have to have been working with a bag over my head to have not noticed that Stieg Larsson's Milennium trilogy isn't the hottest thing since sliced bread.  For those of you who have eagerly devoured the final book - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - and are feeling bereft (the author died in 2004, before the publication of his wildly popular books) we have something to offer.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is now available on DVD, starring Michael Nyqvist as disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Noomi Rapace as the goth computer hacker Lisbeth Salander.  This Swedish production was Europe's highest grossing film of 2009, and the critics have raved about the performances.  If you have read the books, you know that the subject material is very dark and disturbing....this film does not pull any punches as far as unsettling content and images go, and it is rated R (read the label on the back for particulars).

Friday, July 30, 2010

Codeine Velvet Club

It actually took me 3-4 rounds with the new CD from Codeine Velvet Club before I took to it's overproduced sound.  It's not like I'm a big devotee of acoustic music, but there's a certain blurry feel to some of the tracks in this self-titled album.  Once I got used to it, though, I really fell in love with the fun retro sound which has a late '60s British feel to it (no surprise, since the band comes from Glasgow).  My favorite track - 'Little Sister' - has a rockin' grind to it, and an explosive sound that begs to be played in the car with the windows rolled down ('The Black Roses' has got a pounding beat also).  'Vanity Kills', which was the first single they released from the album, is a more laid-back, boozier sound.
All in all, this is an enjoyable album.  Too bad the duo of Jon Fratelli and Lou Hickey is breaking up already.  Grab this CD while you can.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Diplomacy? Fuhgeddaboudit!

How many times have you heard news about the stalled Mideast peace process, failed talks in Northern Ireland, or increasing tensions and thought to yourself "If we could only get these mealy-mouthed diplomats out of the way and sit down and talk like real people!".  Well, that's what Robert Egan thought, and in his new book Eating With the Enemy: how I waged peace with North Korea from my bbq shack in Hackensack, he explains how we went from being an ex-druggie high-school dropout to accompanying Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-PA) on a trip to North Korea to negotiate for the recovery of the captured Navy ship the U.S.S. Pueblo.
Egan's initial interest was in finding MIAs and POWs still in Vietnam, and during the early 1980's he began inviting the Vietnamese delegation to the U.N. over to eat at his restaurant, '"Cubby's".  He helped a Vietnamese official defect.  He testified before a Senate Select Committee about missing POWs.  The FBI began asking him questions.  And in 1993, when North Korea wanted to establish a back-door diplomatic channel to the White House, the phone rang at Cubby's.
This book reads a little like Tony Soprano meets Kim Jong Il, only without anyone getting whacked in an Italian restaurant.  On the one hand you can't help agreeing with Egan's idea that "why can't an ordinary guy have a solution to an extraordinary problem?".  But you also can't help feeling that he is in way over his head, and you won't be a bit surprised to find out that the U.S.S. Pueblo is still docked in the Taedong River.  This book is just crying out to be made into a movie, but as far as changing the way we deal with foreign countries?  Fuhgeddaboudit.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Leggo my LEGO

I never realized I was a LEGO geek (or an AFOL - Adult Fan Of LEGO) until I picked up Jonathan Bender's book LEGO: a love story.  I'm not hard-core about it.  I've never been to a LEGO convention or to LEGOLAND, and I don't have a separate room in my house where I build and store models.
But I never got rid of the sets I had as a kid, and I continued to keep buying small sets even before I had kids of my own (and therefore a socially acceptable excuse for buying plastic blocks).  And after reading through Bender's book and his interviews with AFOLs, I realize that I share some of their basic tenents:
  1. For a while, LEGO became much too focused on specialized sets whose blocks weren't useful for anything else.
  2. The true beauty of LEGO lies in making your own creations, not following a rigid set of construction diagrams.
  3. MEGA Blox suck.
So if you can remember spending hours of your childhood sitting on your bedroom floor with a multi-hued assortment of little plastic blocks spread out around you as you built houses, cars, planes, boats, cities and worlds.....then you will feel a fond glow as you read LEGO: a love story.  And chances are, you'll probably feel compelled to go out and pick up a new set of blocks.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More from Heather Lende

Haines author Heather Lende has just released a follow-up to her very successful book If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: news from small-town Alaska.  Just before the publication of that first book, just as she was about to launch her book tour, just as her daughter was about to graduate from college, she was hit by a truck and medevaced to Seattle.
Her second book - Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs: family, friendships and faith in small-town Alaska - deals with the aftermath of that tragedy.  She looks back at all the ways that her friends and neighbors helped her through that difficult period and what it means to live in a small community where tragedies and success are not anonymous; events affect real people with names your know and faces you recognize.
We can understand that in Ketchikan, even though we're about 5x bigger than Lende's hometown of Haines.  We see the donation cans in grocery stores and restaurants, helping out someone who's been diagnosed with cancer.  We hold spaghetti feeds to raise money for people who have been burned out of their home.  We donate money to kids whose father died in a boating accident. 
It's one of the things I think about when tourists ask "Do you live here all year long?"

Friday, July 16, 2010

A grown-up romance

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, is a lovely, sweet story.  Widowed Major Pettigrew (retired) is still trying to absorb the news that his brother has just died when shopkeeper Mrs. Jasmina Ali - also widowed - comes by to pick up the newspaper money.  The unlikely pair strike up a friendship bolstered by a mutual love of literature and a mutual sympathy about dealing with relatives.  In the Major's case, it's a shallow son and a materialistic sister-in-law.  In Mrs. Ali's case, it is the conservative members of her late husband's family and their assumption that she will hand over control of the shop to her nephew and go back to Pakistan.
As we watch the Major struggle with his instinct to hide his new friendship from the judgmental residents of Edgecombe St. Mary, Simonson lightens up the serious thread of racism and class prejudice with a lot of dry humor.  The Major and Mrs. Ali are such sympathetic characters - even with their faults - that you can't help keeping your fingers crossed that they will be able to rise above the petty expectations of their families and neighbors.
In fact, many of the characters seem to be struggling against other people's expectations.  An illegitimate child, a woman on the brink of spinsterhood, a career woman who wants a family, and a young man caught between piety and love; all these people flesh out the story and make Major Pettigrew's Last Stand a very enjoyable romantic tale about starting over.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

True tales of the sea

Nautical nonfiction is always popular in Ketchikan, and we have three new books about exciting true adventures on the waves.
Seaworthy: a swordboat captain returns to the sea is by Linda Greenlaw, who featured prominently in Sebastian Junger's fabulous book The Perfect Storm.  Greenlaw has become a well-received author herself, with 2 novels, a cookbook and 3 nonfiction books about commercial fishing under her belt.  Her latest tells about her experiences returning to swordboat fishing, her run-in with the Canadian coast guard and her subsequent prosecution for illegal fishing off the Grand Banks.  Mostly, it's a tale familiar to all commercial fisherman:  barely breaking even at the end of the day.
Seized: a sea captain's adventures battling scoundrels and pirates while recovering stolen ships in the world's most troubled waters is by Max Hardberger.  If you like Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels, you will really enjoy this account of real-life covert operations, bribery, smuggling, terrorists and hostile governments.  Each time Hardberger goes on a mission to recover a seized ship, he faces the potential of injury, imprisonment or death.  Beat that, Dirk
War Beneath the Waves: a true story of courage and leadership aboard a World War II submarine by Don Keith follows the struggles of the USS Billfish as it is subjected to a 15-hour Japanese depth charge attack off the coast of Borneo.  With both the captain and two senior officers incapacitated, diving officer Charlie Rush takes command of the sub and helps to extricate the sub and crew from a perilous situation.  Rush was eventually awarded the Navy Cross for his actions - read why.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

You think that's tough?

So, if someone were to say to you that they were going to take a bike trip around the world, you would probably be pretty impressed.  That's a big trip, with rough conditions and remote locations.  But what if they were going to do that trip without a GPS?   Or a cell phone?  Or a VISA card?  What if they were riding a 40-pound, 1890's-era Singer Safety bike?
In 1892, cycling pioneer and amateur photographer Frank Lenz began a 20,000 mile journey around the world that he would chronicle for Outing magazine.  Two years later, as he approached the 'home stretch' through Europe, he disappeared in Turkey.  Outing sent William Sachtleben and Thomas Allen on his trail.  In 344 days, they completed their historic trip around the globe, and helped bring to light Lenz's tragic fate.
David Herlihy recounts these amazing adventures and captures the excitement of the early years of cycling in his new book The Lost Cyclist: the epic tale of an American adventurer and his mysterious disappearance.  And we thought cycling the Al-Can highway was a huge trek.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A darn good story

I don't usually blog about Reference books, because you can't check them out and take them home, so why tempt you?   But I'm making an exception here, since the book in question is so interesting and useful it's a shame not to let everyone know about it.
Exploring Alaska & British Columbia by Stephen E. Hilson is actually a reprint of a 1997 follow-up to his first historical reference atlas: Exploring Puget Sound & British Columbia (which we've had in the Reference collection since it's publication in 1975).  These are NOT nautical atlases for navigation purposes, although Hilson did use actual 1970's-era NOAA and CHS charts as the 'backdrop' for his information.  Instead, these pages are full of little historical tidbits:  old gold mines, village sites, plane crashes, shipwrecks, canneries, etc.
Looking over this atlas is a little like sailing around Southeast with your old grandfather, as he points out things that used to be.  'On Oct. 26, 1947 a Pan Am DC-4 crashed on Tamgas Mt and all 18 people aboard died' .   Or, 'There's a natural soda spring just at the head of Ella Creek that gets exposed at half tide'.  Or 'Over there is where Scotty Johnstone had his fox farm. His boats all sank in the winter of '29, and he had to eat Christmas candy and fox food to survive until someone from Ketchikan came over to check on him'.
So if you're looking for a little historical information about the area, if you're in search of old mines or canneries, if you had a relative who had a fox farm but you're not sure where (apparently, our area was just awash in fox farms), or if you're just planning on taking the boat out to do a little exploring and you're looking for points of interest....then copy off a couple of pages and take them along on your trip.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Beautiful covers

I really like cover albums, because it's one way to judge the quality of a song.  Does it stand up to reinterpretation, new instruments, new tempo, a new generation?  Stardust is a timeless song; I'm a Barbie Girl, not so much.
Of course, this test relies on the cover version being an actual reinterpretation and not some tired rehash of the same arrangement that ends up sounding almost exactly like the original.  We have two new examples of really excellent cover albums:  Dark Hope by opera star Renee Fleming and Interpretations: the British rock songbook by blues artist Bettye LaVette.
Fleming avoids the mistake of turning rock songs into arias.  Her voice is rich and brilliant, but she doesn't overshadow the lyrics on songs from bands such as Muse, Death Cab for Cutie, Tears for Fears and Band of Horses.  Her cover of Leonard Cohen's ubiquitous song Hallelujah is beautiful (although I still prefer Jeff Buckley's version).  This is a very enjoyable album.
LaVette's album really demonstrates how much a song can be stretched, as she brings a bluesy feel to classic songs from The Beatles, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin.  This isn't that dramatic a concept, as the British Invasion got much of it's inspiration from American rock and blues of the 1950's.....but she still makes it sound fabulous.  The first track alone - a totally funky rendition of The Word by The Beatles - sells this album.  And unlike many CDs, I actually found the liner notes for this one quite interesting.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What the.....?

I won't lie to you; I do not understand the current fascination with taking classic works of 19th century literature and "invigorating" them with supernatural gore.  Have you missed this trend?   Deliberately avoided it?  Well, like any literary phenomenom (i.e. Harry Potter), there's a slew of authors out there that are willing to ride the coattails of a winning formula.  Here's some examples:
  • Mummies and Mansfield Park by Vera Nazarian
  • Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters
  • Jane Slayre by Sherri Browning Erwin
  • The Undead World of Oz by Ryan C. Thomas
  • Emma and the Werewolves by Adam Rann
  • Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim by W. Bill Czolgosz
  • Vampire Darcy's Desire by Regina Jeffers
  • Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie killers by Paul A. Freeman
  • The War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies by Eric S. Brown
  • Alice in Zombieland by Nickolas Cook
If you lean more toward a nonfiction take on the flesh-eating walking dead, perhaps you might prefer a biography:
  • Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter by A.E. Moorat
  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
Seth Grahame-Smith started this whole thing with his mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which proved so wildly successfully that it not only spawned this mass of imitators, it was made into a graphic novel (of course!).  We've just added this to the collection, along with the prequel Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith.  You know, if you're into that sort of thing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Murder City

    Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the global economy's new killing fields, by Charles Bowden, is not your standard investigative journalism piece about Mexican drug cartels and violence at the U.S.-Mexican border.  Rather than a dry litany of dates, times and interviews with policy makers, Bowen's book is more narrative.  It comes across almost like a novel: a litany of anecdotes tied together with the thread of violence.  The fact that it is told in the present tense adds to the sense of immediacy, and allows the reader to follow through a year of escalating criminal activity as though you are there in Juarez. 
      In January of 2008, the murders begin with 5 policemen.  By the end of the year there were 1,652 recorded murders and by the summer of 2009 the murder rate was over 300 victims a month.  Policemen, drug peddlers, teachers, students, shopkeepers, housewives and addicts become statistics in a city where violence becomes the norm and dead bodies show up in every neighborhood.
The constant stream of stories overwhelms the reader by the end of the book and demonstrates how you can become numb to violence.  Very powerful, very compelling, very depressing.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What do I do with all those fabric scraps?

If you're a quilter or sewer, then you probably have bags of fabric scraps collecting in your closets: beautiful colors, patterns or textures that you hate to part with because you're sure you can find a use for them.  Well, we have two new books at the public library that may help you display your fabric finds to their best advantage.
Keepsake Baby Quilts From Scraps presents 9 different baby quilt patters specially designed to use small amounts of fabric.  Designer Julie Higgins focuses on simple repeating patterns that are great for beginning quilters (or even advanced quilters who are working 'under the gun' to prepare for a baby shower).
Inchies: create miniature works of art using textiles and mixed media techniques is a collection of great ideas for sewers, felters, painters, beaders and textile artists.  Edited by Peggy Donda-Kobert, the projects in this book include silk, Tyvek, angelina fibers, and yarns but the basic building block for these concepts is a simple square of fabric cunningly detailed with beads, thread, paint and jewels.  Your end result can be as elaborate or as minimalist as you want.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Graphic history

We have a fascinating new book on the shelves that presents the waste and brutality of World War I in a graphic novel format.  It was the war of the trenches is the work of French artist Jacques Tardi.  Pulling in recollections from his grandfather (a WWI vet to whom this book is dedicated) and various books and films about the war (there is a nice bibliography in the back), Tardi leaves the 'facts' of the war to other writers and instead focuses on the 'feel' of war.  This is a collection of memories, instances, and anecdotes that convey the reality of trench warfare.  Although it is told from the perspective of the French footsoldier, Tardi points out in his introduction that the experience was universally brutal for all sides.
This is not our only graphic novel that deals with historical events.  If you are moved by Tardi's work, try these other graphic novels:
  • The Vietnam War : a graphic history by Dwight Zimmerman, art by Wayne Vansant
  • Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco
  • The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefèvre, & Frédéric Lemercier
  • Che: a graphic biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón
  • Nelson Mandela : the authorized comic book by the Nelson Mandela Foundation

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Leonard Cohen

Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen (2006).  Cohen is a Montreal native who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.  As anyone who has listened to his albums can tell you, he has built his reputation on his songwriting skills, rather than his vocal abilities.  In fact, Cohen began his career as a poet, publishing his first collection - Let Us Compare Mythologies - in 1956, while he was an undergraduate at McGill University.  By the time he moved to New York in 1967 to pursue music, he had already established himself as a gifted poet in Canada.
Book of Longing is his most recent book of poetry, and it is the only poetry book to make it to the top of the bestseller list in Canada (as compiled by Maclean's magazine).  The pieces in this collection cover a lot of territory, and they are interspersed with Cohen's own line drawings and quick sketches.  Lyrics, free verse, epigrams, short poems and communications to the reader fill the pages.

Friday, April 16, 2010

John Ashbery

A Worldly Country: new poems by John Ashbery (2007).  The son of a farmer and a biology teacher, Ashbery was born and raised in upstate New York.  He graduated from Harvard University in 1949 and received his Master's at Columbia University just a couple of years before publishing his first collection of poems, the chapbook Turandot and Other Poems. 
He worked as a magazine editor and poet for years, continuing to publish his work with mixed success until 1975, when his book Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror won the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize.
In the succeeding decades, he has gone on to garner numerous awards, including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Poetry Society of America's Robert Frost Medal, the American Academy of Arts and Letters's Gold Medal for Poetry and many fellowships and awards. 
Ashbery has published more than twenty collections of poems, and he is currently the Charles P. Stevenson, Jr. Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College at Annandale-on Hudson, New York.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Kay Ryan

The Best of It: new and selected poems by Kay Ryan.  Ryan is currently in her second year as Poet Laureate of the United States.  Born and raised in Southern California, she was educated at UCLA and she now teaches part-time at the College of Marin in Kentfield.  This is her first retrospective collection of poetry, and she includes previously published work as well as new pieces.  Her poems are very short and compressed, but there is a certain rhythm and rhyme to her poems that give them an air of musicality....almost like a chant. 
In addition to her two-year tenure as Poet Laureate, Ryan has also been awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Maurice English Poetry Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Union League Poetry Prize, an Ingram Merrill Award, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stephen Dunn

Everything Else in the World by Stephen Dunn (2006).  Dunn was born in New York City in 1939 (apparently, if you want to be a poet, it helps to be born in NYC).  After graduating from Hofstra University, he spent a year as a professional basketball player with the Williamsport, Pennsylvania Billies.  He's had considerably more success and longevity as a poet.
He has published 14 collections of poems, winning the Pulitzer Prize for his book Different Hours (2000) and the National Poetry Series award for Local Time (1986).  He has also been awarded the James Wright Prize, the Academy Award for Literature, three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Theodore Roethke Prize, the Levinson Prize, and the Oscar Blumenthal Prize.
He is currently the Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey (I wonder how he fits that title on his business card). 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Marge Piercy

Colors Passing Through Us by Marge Piercy (2003).  Piercy draws on a number of different influences in this book:  the life of her maternal grandmother, who emigrated from a Lithuanian stetl; her love of gardening; her strong sense of political activism; her experiences with marriage and divorce; and her own sexuality.
Piercy, who has lived on Cape Cod for decades, was born and raised in Detroit during the Great Depression, and was the first member of her family to attend college.  She rebelled against the traditional roles of the 1950's, however, becoming involved with both the civil rights movement and the feminist movement. She published her first book of poems - Breaking Camp - in 1968, after completing an M.A. at Northwestern University.  She has since published 16 collections of poetry, the most recent being The Crooked Inheritance.  Many of her prose and poetical works deal with feminism, Judaism, cats and gardening.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Charles Wright

Buffalo Yoga by Charles Wright (2004).  Tennessee-born Wright is currently the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and teaches at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  A prolific poet who published his first volume of poems - The Grave of the Right Hand - in 1970, Wright has recently published his 19th book.  Sestets is a collection of six-line poems that are "a masterpiece of formal rigor and a profound meditation on nature and mortality" - from the book description.
Charles Wright is a well-respected poet who has won the Pulitzer Prize (Black Zodiac), the National Book Award (Country Music) and the Griffin Poetry Prize (Scar Tissue).  In 1979 he won the PEN Translation Prize for his work in translating the Italian poet Eugenio Montale (The Storm and Other Things).  Being stationed in Italy while enlisted in the U.S. Army and his later experiences teaching in Italy surely helped him get a feel for Italian culture.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Louise Glück

Writer-in-residence at Yale University, Louise Glück received the Pulitzer Prize for her collection of poems The Wild Iris in 1992.  The poems in this collection alternate between conversations with God and communication between flowers and their gardener (who could be seen as the Supreme Being of the garden). 
Born in New York City and educated at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University, Glück published her first collection of poems - Firstborn - in 1968.  She was appointed Poet Laureate in 2003, and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry in 2006 for her collection Averno.  She has also received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Bollingen Prize, and the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets
Her eleventh collection - A Village Life - was published last year, and is a collection of poems set in the hills overlooking the Mediterranean.  She received a great deal of critical praise for this book, although it was seen as a departure from her previous works.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

They're here! They're here! Ebooks are here!

Well, we've had many inquiries about the possibility of getting ebooks for our patrons here in Ketchikan, and I'm happy to say that - thanks to our ListenAlaska consortium - we can now offer over 700 different titles for your enjoyment.  James Patterson, Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Margaret Atwood and Barbara Kingsolver are some of the popular authors to choose from, as well as a variety of nonfiction titles like Knitting for Dummies, The Evolution of God.....even the FAA's Airplane Flying Handbook!!
When you go to our ListenAlaska site, you can browse through the newest ebook titles right there at the top of the page.  Most of the ebook titles are in the reader-friendly Adobe ePub format, and they can all be read directly on your PC or Mac, or can be transferred to selected portable handheld readers.  The system works with the Nook (from Barnes & Noble) and with Sony eReaders...but unfortunately is not compatible with Amazon Kindle or the new iPad. 
To see a complete list of our ebook offerings, go to Advanced Search and select either ePub or PDF as your format.  You can also narrow your search by genre, language, award-winners.  Once you've checked out your title, you'll just need to download the Adobe Digital Editions file management software.  The link is at the bottom of the ListenAlaska page, and there are step-by-step instructions for downloading and installing this software.
We will be continuing to add to the ebook selections in the future, so be sure to keep checking for new titles!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

John Straley

The Rising and the Rain by John Straley.  Straley is a well-known name in Southeast Alaska (and among mystery fans everywhere) for his Cecil Younger mystery series.  Setting his novels in Sitka, Juneau and Ketchikan, Straley is a completely authentic voice of Southeast.  He gets us....he's one of us.  This same innate empathy comes across in his poems.  The damp cold, grey mist fingers working down into the trees, the detritus and rot, long periods of contemplation out alone in the woods or on the's all there with a good dollop of dry humor.
A long-time Sitka resident and criminal defense investigator for the Alaska Public Defender Agency, Straley was named Alaska's 12th Writer Laureate in 2006 (during his tenure, he came to Ketchikan to do a reading here at the public library).  His first novel - The Woman Who Married a Bear - won a Shamus Award for Best First Mystery in 1993.  The Rising and the Rain is Straley's first book of poetry.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

The library is closed on Sundays...feel free to rhyme amongst yourselves until we reopen on Monday, at 10 am

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Billy Collins

The Trouble with Poetry, and other poems by Billy Collins (2005).  Writing about the previous occupants of his old farmhouse, the symbolism of statues, or the artificial friendship intimated by nametags on workers, Collins writes with poems with a vein of humor and a way of shifting perspective that forces the reader to look at the familiar in new ways.  He has a wonderful spoken delivery, as well (check out Billy Collins Live on our ListenAlaska audiobook service).
Collins is a New York poet, born and bred, who has taught at Lehman College in the Bronx for decades.  He was named U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2003) as well as the New York State Poet Laureate (2004-2006).  During his tenure as America's Poet Laureate, he introduced the program Poetry 180, which encouraged high schools to read one poem a day for the entire school year.  The poems selected for this program where collected in Poetry 180: a turning back to poetry (2003), and a follow-up volume 180 more: extraordinary poems for every day (2005).  The public library has both of these volumes, as well as other collections of Mr. Collins' work.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Philip Levine

News of the World by Philip Levine is a slim collection of semi-autobiographical poems dealing with war, blue-collar workers, the gritty side of America and an extremely unflattering portrayal of a librarian ("Library Days", pg. 32). This is Levine's 16th collection of poetry.

Born in 1928, Detroit native Levine has been the poet-in-residence at New York University for the past 14 years, as well as the recepient of the National Book Award for his 1980 collection Ashes and the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for The Simple Truth. The son of immigrants, Levine grew up doing a variety of industrial jobs, and eventually went to night school while working at an auto plant. He has a real understanding of working-class life and the fleeting nature of the American dream when one is living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

One poet a day won't kill you

It's April, which is National Poetry Month, and I'm going to totally steal a wonderful concept from KRBD : "One Poem a Day Won't Kill You".  Twice a day, every day, during the month of April one of your friends and neighbors from Ketchikan reads a favorite poem.  30 days = 30 poems.
Since we're big on books here at the public library, we will be showcasing a volume of poems from a different poet each day, including a short bio of the poet.  Let's start with the newest poetry book in the collection:  Breakwater by Catharine Savage Brosman. 
Brosman is emerita professor of French at Tulane University, honorary research professor at the University of Sheffield (England), and is currently the poetry editor for Chronicles: a magazine of American Culture.  She published her first book of poetry in 1972 (Watering), and this latest book is her 7th collection of poems.  A native of Colorado and currently a resident of Texas, she has a real feel for the beauty of the American West in her poetry. 
Breakwater begins with an autobiographical tone, as the poems deal with rediscovered and reunited love (she recently remarried her first husband after decades of being apart).  She goes on to write of the experiences of other women in their lives and loves, and the poems at the end of the collection focus on the nature and landscapes of the bayou and the southwest.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New films from the Philippines

We have over 70 Tagalog films in the library (as well as Tagalog-language books and music CDs), but it's been a little while since we've added any new movies to this collection.  Here are 3 brand-new feature films from the Philippines:
Dobol Trobol starring Vic Sotto and Dolphy.  "Dobol Trobo is a hilarious comedy about a passionate cook named Mac (Dolphy) who strikes up a very unlikely and riotous friendship with his happy go lucky co-worker Arthur (Vic Sotto). As both hit the bumpy road of their misadventures, the side-splitting companionship they've found might be what matters the most." - from the publisher.
My Bestfriend's Girlfriend starring Richard Gutierrez and Marian Rivera.  "After an awkward yet memorable encounter at a stag party, Evo (Richard Gutierrez) and Grace (Marian Rivera) thought they would never see each other again. Little did they know that Grace is actually the girlfriend of Evo's best friend, Mark (JC De Vera). As the arrogant player that he is, Evo takes advantage of what happened at the party to make Grace agree to his demands. He forces Grace to pretend as his girlfriend to make Isabel (Ehra Madrigal), his ex-girlfriend jealous. But as the game of love ensues, Evo and Grace find themselves trapped in their own love spell." - from the publisher.
When I Met U starring Richard Gutierrez and KC Concepcion.  "Jenny (KC Concepcion), a mall promodizer (sic), hitches a ride on a seaplane with stuggling pilot, Benjie (Richard Gutierrez), to attend a wedding in Palawan. On the way to the wedding, Benjie and Jenny find themselves not getting along. But when the aircraft crashes into an isolated island, the two are forced to deal with each other... As their friendship deepens despite their romantic trappins (sic), the two are confronted with their growing love for each other." - from the publisher

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The lost books of the Odyssey

When reading Zachary Mason's debut novel The Lost Books of the Odyssey, don't try too hard; much like swimming in a strong current, it's best to just relax and let the words take you where they will. Don't look for a chronological story line or consistency from chapter to chapter, just enjoy the prose.
Mason has taken the bare skeleton of Homer's Odyssey - Odysseus, king of tiny Ithaca; overbearing Agamemnon; a pointless war; a wife and son left behind - and crafted dozens of fragmented stories that reimagine the way in which Troy fell, how Odysseus found his way back to Ithaca and what happened when he arrived.
The most interesting of these tales are the ones that play with the motivations and behavior of the characters: Penelope becomes a half-feral queen who drags the palace into licentiousness during Odysseus' absence; Paris is actually Death, and the goddess Athena contrives with Odysseus to destroy the kingdom of Death on earth; Odysseus is not a clever warrior, but is instead a wily coward who sneaks off the battlefield and disguises himself as a wandering bard who eventually creates the legend of Odysseus through his songs.
Each chapter is a little tale onto itself, and the language is almost hypnotic. Fortunately, we also have this as an audiobook, and the narrator - Simon Vance - has a wonderful, expressive voice (you may know him from the Patrick O'Brian series, or The Girl Who Played With Fire). This book can be nibbled at in small pieces, as each chapter gives you something to think about. And you don't even have to be a scholar of Homer to appreciate the stories....

Saturday, March 13, 2010

You're the coolest parent ever!

We're all about helping people at the library, and with our latest book we can help you:

1. Spend quality time with your child

2. Make a toy that is free of cadmium, lead and pthalates

3. Save a whole bunch of money

Build Your Own Paper Robots: 100s of mecha model designs on CD to print out and assemble, by Julius Perdana and Josh Buczynski, is like paper dolls on steroids. My sister used to collect paper dolls when she was young, and I remember helping her cut out tiny little purses, feathered hats and high-heel shoes. After about an hour, you would find yourself going cross-eyed. So my advice about this new book is: pace yourself.

That being said, Paper Robots is really cool. The simple way to build these robots is to pop the CD into your computer, pick a template and print out the pieces on a color printer. Cut them out, follow assembly instructions, and you've got a 3-D robot model.

If you're really creative (and you have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements), you can actually color the different pieces of the robots in your computer and print out a completely custom product. You can even paint your own camouflage robots! Some card-stock paper, a little white glue, some rubber bands and coffee stirrers, and you've got yourself a bot.

The authors have even included a file for a cyberport and a cool urban backdrop for your new toys. If you remember many happy days in your childhood putting together little airplane or battleship models, then you can pass that fun onto your kids and grandkids. You might need their young eyes and nimble fingers to put these things together, anyway.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More resources available through the Hobbies & Crafts database!

In case you haven't had a chance to browse through our Hobbies & Crafts Reference Center, you might want to give it a try. There are hundreds of topics listed, with diagrams, full-colored pictures, and patterns. So if you're interested in knitting, quilting, fly-tying, beading, woodworking, cross-stitch or sewing, you can find lots of great ideas. The editors of this resource recently announced that they are adding a large number of books to the database. Looking over this list of titles will give you a really good picture of just how varied and useful this service is:
  • Advanced Fly Fishing: Freshwater & Saltwater Strategies
    Art of Fly Tying: More Than 200 Classic & New Patterns
    Baby Quilts: 15 Original Designs for Every Nursery Decor
    BabyKnits Hats & Booties: 15 Matching Sets for Noggins & Tootsies
    Bead Knitted Bags: 10 Projects for Beaders & Knitters
    Bedrooms for Cool Kids
    Bowhunter's Guide to Accurate Shooting
    Button Jewelry & Accessories
    Catching Panfish: Tactics for Sunfish, Crappies, Yellow Perch & White Bass
    Complete Guide to Freshwater Fishing
    Complete Photo Guide to Curtains & Draperies: Do-It-Yourself Window Treatments
    Complete Photo Guide to Fly Fishing: 300 Strategies, Techniques & Insights
    Complete Photo Guide to Fly Tying: 300 Tips, Techniques & Methods
    Complete Photo Guide to Sewing
    Complete Photo Guide to Slipcovers
    Complete Photo Guide to Window Top Treatments
    Complete Photo Guide to Window Treatments
    Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Cake Decorating
    Contemporary Papier Mache: Colorful Sculpture, Jewelry & Home Accessories
    Craft the Perfect Frame
    Crafting With Copper: 25 Creative Projects for Home & Garden
    Crafting Wood Logic Puzzles: 18 Three-Dimensional Games for the Hands & Mind
    Creating Crystal Jewelry with Swarovski: 65 Sparkling Designs with Crystal Beads & Stones
    Creative Bows Made Easy: Perfect Bows for All Your Crafts & Giftwrap
    Creative Costumes & Halloween Décor: 50 Projects to Sew & Craft
    Creative Floral Arranging: How to Decorate with Fresh, Dried & Silk Flowers
    Creative Window Treatments
    Crochet Kid Stuff: 20 Fun Projects
    Designer Bead Embroidery
    Dog Training: Retrievers & Pointing Dogs
    Easy Singer Style Pattern-Free Fashions & Accessories
    Easy Singer Style Pattern-Free Home Accents
    Easy Wood Furniture Projects
    Embellished Applique for Artful Accessories
    Embroidery to Embellish Everything: 30 New Hand-Stitched Designs
    Exploring Textile Arts
    Fabric Art Workshop: Exploring Techniques & Materials for Fabric Artists & Quilters
    Fabulous Faux Florals: 50 Easy, Extraordinary Projects with Silk Flowers & Permanent Botanicals
    Fashion T-Shirts: Easy-Sew Projects for Fun Fashion
    Faux Florals for All Occasions: 35 Faux Floral Arrangements for Contemporary Living
    Faux Florals for Your Wedding
    Favors with Flair: 75 Easy Designs for Weddings, Parties & Events
    Felt Inlays: Making Textured & Patterned Felt for 23 Creative Projects
    Fishing North America
    Fly Fishing for Beginners
    Greeting Cards in Stitches
    Handcrafted Pillows
    Handcrafted Weddings
    Handmade Photo Albums: Complete Instructions for Making 18 Fun & Creative Designs
    Home Decor Sewing 101: A Beginner's Guide to Sewing for the Home
    Hooked Bags: 20 Easy Crochet Projects
    Hooked for Toddlers: 20 Easy Crochet Projects
    Hooked Hats: 15 Easy Crochet Projects
    Hooked Scarves: 20 Easy Crochet Projects
    Hooked Throws: 20 Easy Crochet Projects
    Hooking Mats & Rugs: 33 New Designs from an Old Tradition
    How to Think Like a Survivor: A Guide for Wilderness Emergencies
    Inshore Salt Water Fishing
    Jewelry & Accessories from Everyday Objects
    Kids Gone Campin': The Young Camper's Guide to Having More Fun Outdoors
    Kids Gone Fishin'
    Knits for Men: 20 Sweaters, Vests & Accessories
    Knitting Cuff to Cuff: A Dozen Designs for Sideways-Knit Garments
    Knitting Saddle Style: A Dozen Designs for Saddle-Shoulder Garments
    Largemouth Bass
    Little Bead Boxes: 12 Miniature Boxes Built with Beads
    Making Mosaics
    Memory Quilts: 20 Heartwarming Projects with Special Techniques
    New Punchneedle Embroidery: Basics & Finishing Techniques Plus 20 Original Designs
    New Quilting by Machine
    New Sewing Essentials
    New Step-by-Step Home Decorating Projects
    No-Sew Fabric Decor: Transform Your Home without Sewing a Stitch
    Offshore Salt Water Fishing
    Orvis Beginner's Guide to Birdwatching
    Outdoor Guide to Using Your GPS
    Perfect Fit: The Classic Guide to Altering Patterns
    Plus Size Crochet: Fashions That Fit & Flatter
    Quick & Clever Fleece: 20 Easy-Sew Projects
    Quick & Easy Sewing with Your Serger
    Quick & Easy Window Treatments
    Quilting Bible: The Complete Photo Guide to Machine Quilting
    Quilts in Bloom: A Garden of Inspiring Quilts & Techniques with Floral Designs
    Ready, Set, Bead: Learn to Bead with 20 Hot Projects
    Ready, Set, Knit: Learn to Knit with 20 Hot Projects
    Scarves & Shawls for Yarn Lovers: Knitting with Simple Patterns & Amazing Yarns
    Sew Gifty: 25 Easy Projects for All Occasions
    Sewing from Square One: Turn Simple Fabric Squares into 20 Projects
    Singer Simple Decorative Machine Stitching
    Singer Simple Home Decor Handbook: Essential Machine-Side Tips & Techniques
    Singer Simple Mending & Repair: Essential Machine-Side Tips & Techniques
    Singer Simple Sewing Guide: Essential Machine-Side Tips & Techniques
    Singer Upholstery Basics Plus: Complete Step-by-Step Photo Guide
    Small Loom & Freeform Weaving: Five Ways to Weave
    Start to Quilt: All the Basics Plus Learn-to-Quilt Projects
    Start to Sew: All the Basics Plus Learn-to-Sew Projects
    Successful Walleye Fishing
    Suddenly a Centerpiece: Assemble These Clever Table Designs in No Time at All
    Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket
    Ultralight Fishing
    Veiled in Beauty: Creating Headpieces & Veils for the Bride
    Waterfowl Hunting: Ducks & Geese of North America
    When Quilt Designers Think Small: Innovative Quilt Projects to Wear, Give or Decorate Your Home
    Whitetail Hunting
    Wild & Wonderful Fleece Animals: With Full Size Patterns for 20 Cuddly Critters
    Windows With Style: Do-It-Yourself Window Treatments
    Wool Pets: Making 20 Figures with Wool Roving & a Barbed Needle
    Wreaths & Wall Flowers

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Happy B-day, Dr. Seuss!

Today is the 106th birthday of the king of children's books: Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel). School libraries and Children's libraries all over the country are hosting giggling crowds of pajama-wearing kids for story times and meals of green eggs and ham.
The libraries for grown-ups don't usually get to join in the fun, but in honor of his birthday (and the fact that the only poetry I can recite from memory comes from Dr. Seuss books), I would like to draw your attention to The Seuss, the Whole Seuss, and Nothing but the Seuss: a visual biography of Theodor Seuss Geisel, by Charles D. Cohen.
Long before he penned his first children's book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, Dr. Seuss worked as a cartoonist for popular magazines and advertising agencies. He had a long-standing relationship with the weekly magazine Judge, and his ad campaigns for Flit and Standard Oil made him well known.
Like any adult, however, there are aspects of his life that are somewhat controversial. His editorial cartoons frequently reflect the racial stereotypes of the time, with quite unflattering portrayals of blacks, Jews and Japanese-Americans. Did his attitudes change in later years? Did he redeem himself with his later books about bigotry (The Sneetches) and ecological consciousness (The Lorax)? You'll have to read the book to find out........

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ain't we swell.....

Would you like to sell a lot of books? Well, here's a great strategy - write a book all about how wonderful librarians are, and how they are the last guardians of civilization, wisdom and intellectual freedom as we know it. According to the American Library Association, there are over 122,000 libraries in this country. So right away, you've sold 122,000 books to eager collection development librarians. And then, of course, there are Christmas and birthday gifts for the librarians in your life, as well as ardent bibliophiles.
But what to say in a book like that? Well, Marilyn Johnson found plenty to say in her new book This Book is Overdue: how librarians and cybrarians can save us all. She talks to librarian bloggers, who dish the real dirt on what it's like to work in a library (fortunately, I've never had to deal with patrons who deposit feces in the bookstacks). She looks at the repercussions of the Patriot Act, and the way librarians have tried to protect the privacy of their patrons while staying within the boundaries of the law. There are academic librarians whose new role is teaching students how to sift through a tidal wave of digital information, as well as assisting some students who have never used a computer before. Meet archivists who - literally - preserve and protect the intellectual history of mankind, as well as children's librarians who keep their tattoos covered during story hour.
Mostly, however, Johnson's book is a response to the oft-sounded death knell of librarians, the constant prediction that computers and ubiquitous digital information will eventually wipe libraries and librarians from the face of the Earth. Ever tried to do a Google search for information about vaccine safety? Or the name of an 18th-century Polish composer who is buried in Gdansk? Or a phone number for the VA office in Worcester, Mass.?
Yeah, I'm not worried.....

Friday, February 19, 2010

A fab new book

Austin Powers jokes aside, there is something so fun about the whole Mod scene from the 1960's. The rockin' music coming from bands with pencil-thin ties and cute little suits...the geometric fashions of Mary Quant and Dougie Millings...the pixie faces of Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton. The British Invasion was so darn light-hearted that even though it all looks a little silly now, you can't help but wish things were still so carefree.
You can relive those times (or learn more about them, if you were born after the baby-boomers had all their fun) in our new book The British Invasion: the music, the times, the era by Barry Miles. Full of photos, quotes and fan magazine excerpts, this book is an enjoyable browse. Miles deals mostly with the music - the Beatles, of course - and their numerous imitators. He also tracks the change from happy pop tunes to the edgier, more electric music of Led Zeppelin, Cream and Pink Floyd. It was the fashion section, however, that brought a little cluster of coworkers to my desk to reminisce about the dresses and miniskirts they had in high school. And just in case you doubt the lasting influence of the time, just look around town at number of miniskirts and leather boots women are sporting (the guys, thankfully, have left off the ruffles and brocades of the Edwardian Look).
A fun book for any age, and sure to get people digging out their old photo albums to show their kids.