Thursday, June 30, 2011

When in the throes

Teenagers are often faced with bewildering challenges that leave them and their families wondering which way to turn for help. Some teens struggle with eating disorders, while others may worry about a friend who is using drugs or is suicidal.

We recently added several titles to our reference ebook collection which offer a starting point for people needing information about sensitive health issues. These include the Eating Disorders Sourcebook, Drug Information for Teens, Mental Health Disorders Sourcebook, Suicide Information for Teens, Domestic Violence Sourcebook, and Child Abuse Sourcebook. These ebooks are identical to the print versions, but can be viewed in privacy at any time, whether or not the library is open.

You can find these books in our catalog or in the Gale Virtual Reference Library. To find direct links to all of our eReference books, go to our Database page and click on the eReference Books link. Select a book and enter your Newport library card number. You can browse through its table of contents or index, or search for a particular word in the book to find where you want to start reading.

Sections of each book can be downloaded to your computer, printed, or emailed. You can transfer pages to an ebook reader, or save them to compatible mobile devices such as iPads, iPhones, and Androids.

If you have questions about how to use these eReference books, come in to the library or call us at 541.265.2153.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Miles to go before I sleep

Christine wakes up, confused and frightened. She does not know where she is; the man in bed with her is a stranger. Patiently and kindly, he explains: he is her husband, Ben, and he loves her. She suffers from a brain injury that prevents her from remembering more than one day's events. Whenever she goes to sleep, she forgets everything. Ben shows her pictures of their life together.

How long ago? she asks. When she was twenty-seven, he tells her. They've been having this conversation every morning for twenty years.

That's the setup of Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson. At first it seems like a heartwarming tale of a loving marriage that's endured in spite Christine's disabling short-term memory problem. Then things get sinister: Christine finds a journal, written by herself, headed with these words: "DON'T TRUST BEN."

Christine depends upon Ben utterly for everything she knows about herself and her life. But for some reason, at some point, she began to doubt him - and to write the journal, cataloging what she knows, and what Ben isn't telling her.

Watson's narrative cleverly tantalizes the reader - With no memories to base her conclusions on, how can Christine know anything for sure? Is Ben a villain? Is Christine just a raging paranoiac? And how can she find out the truth before she forgets everything again?

The narrative technique isn't flawless. Christine must have lots of time alone every day to secretly read her journal, and then to write down each day's discoveries. As the journal gets longer and longer, the setup gets a little improbable - sometimes the husband seems to go away specifically so that she can update the journal.

Still, it's an exciting and suspenseful book, full of poignant moments and shocking surprises, and it's satisfying the way the puzzles introduced in the first confusing pages are solved one by one. If you like psychological thrillers, give Before I Go To Sleep a try.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Two great books to add to the kids' summer reading lists-- and your own!

In Savvy, Mibs (short for Mississippi) is coming up on her 13th birthday, an exciting milestone in a family that develops a special magical talent at age 13. Mibs’ mother’s talent is being perfect (imagine living up to that!) and her older brother Rocket has influence over storms and electricity. Mibs can’t wait to find out what her savvy will be—but when her dad is in a car accident that lands him in a coma, she knows exactly what she wishes it will be! Her need to help her father propels her into an adventure full of surprises and tough lessons. Savvy was a Newbery Honor Book in 2009.

Scumble chronicles the 13th year of Mibs’ cousin Ledger 9 years later. Ledger’s savvy seems to be too much to handle, so he’s sent to live at the family ranch until he can learn to scumble, which means to balance out his talent so it doesn’t overpower his life. His older cousin Rocket, who’s still frightened of his own potential danger to others, stays in an electricity-free sod cabin at the ranch, and Ledger lives in fear of him and also of being like him; too dangerous to live in the wider world. Ledger meets Sarah Jane, the 13-year old daughter of a banker who’s threatening to foreclose on the ranch. She’s an aspiring tabloid writer, single-handedly ferreting out peculiarities and oddities and serving them up in lurid headlines in her home-made newspaper. When Sarah Jane sniffs out the strange goings-on at the ranch, Ledger makes it his mission to keep her from learning about his family’s secrets, but his efforts keep backfiring.

These books will capture the imagination of all the kids who fantasized about getting an invitation to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on their eleventh birthday. Getting your savvy—and learning to scumble it--are great metaphors for the tumultuous magic of adolescent development. Savvy and Scumble are intended for the 9-12 crowd, but would be fun and satisfying for anyone who loves good children’s fantasy writing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Good Apprentice

Edward Baltram is looking for redemption. After a practical joke on his best friend goes horribly awry causing the friend’s suicide, Edward seeks refuge in the dilapidated country mansion of the father who’d abandoned him, the famous painter Jesse Baltram. Among extended family within the cloister-like confines of his father’s house, Edward is determined to pare his life down to a monkish simplicity.

Although the plot of Iris Murdoch’s 22nd novel, The Good Apprentice, sounds straightforward enough, be prepared for a complex and compelling ride across 1980’s upper-crust England.

Edward’s step-brother Stuart is seeking a turn-around of his own. Leaving his university studies, Stuart decides to pursue a life of the mind and a shocking affair with the son of his father’s mistress, Midge.

And what of Midge? She falls unexpectedly in love with Stuart and turns to Edward for support. Getting a little complicated, isn’t it?

Like all of Murdoch’s 20-plus novels, The Good Apprentice is filled with witty, overly-educated characters spending the weekends getting into all sorts of mischief at friends' country houses. Her books are densely plotted and deceptively philosophical for all their sensual shenanigans. There was a time when I eagerly awaited her next book. Alas, her death in 1999 from Alzheimers at the age of 79 left me bereft. And so? I may just start reading them all over again.

Click here if you’d like to reserve The Good Apprentice.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Towers

Allisa and Eduardo were expecting their first child when Eduardo lost his job with a Manhattan brokerage firm. Pressure to pay bills overshadowed the joy of the upcoming birth, and Allisa sometimes fantasized a new life, far away without her husband. A job offer from Cantor Fitzgerald promised an end to their worries, and Eduardo started work on September 10, 2001 at the World Trade Center.

American Widow by Allisa Torres is an unflinchingly honest account of one woman’s experiences in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Presented as a graphic memoir, the book follows Alissa from the evening she and Eduardo met, to the nightmare of his loss, through the labyrinth of bureaucratic paperwork she had to navigate as a 9/11 widow.

Much of the text is brief, beginning a thought that is complemented and completed by the artwork. Sungyoon Choi’s illustrations ably capture the nuances of emotion throughout the book—love at first sight, petulant anger, numb grief, and Allisa’s slow journey to healing.

The few, longer blocks of text are powerful and poetic. Not having allowed herself the time or energy to grieve, Allisa finally does so during labor:

“I welcomed the grief in the screams of my hard-earned labor. I invited you into each one, mourning you each time as I had not done previously. So badly, I now wanted these moments of unfettered noise that I didn’t have to explain….As my body was torn apart in the rhythmic convulsions, so too was my heart, in the sudden full realization of my loss. The shock had parted during these moments of contraction, as a sun of reality peered in and I was still alive and this being bearing the name of tragedy would never know you except as I built you in his memory.”

Allisa struggles throughout the book to claim the benefits promised to her, but Eduardo is never far from her thoughts. Sprinkled throughout the book are telling vignettes: how Eduardo worked his way up from toiling in a sweatshop to brokering Latin American currencies; how as a boy he fended off bullies; and how a parachuting lesson presaged his leap from the Second Tower. In American Widow, Torres shares a grief both private and public, and creates a beautiful gift for her son.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cowboy Buck & Elizabeth Bring Comedy, Music and Ventriloquism to the County

One World, Many Stories, Newport Public Library's summer reading program, features Cowboy Buck & Elizabeth this week at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 22. All children and families are invited to attend this free program.

Cowboy Buck & Elizabeth promise to put on high energy shows that include interactive musical comedy with dancing, singing and ventriloquism. Cowboy Buck spent many years as a manager, singer and songwriter for the New Christie Minstrels. When he settled in the Pacific Northwest, he and his wife, Elizabeth, developed music education programs that let children write, sing and record their own songs. Their shows engage audiences, letting everyone sing, make jokes and wonder at Elizabeth's ventriloquist magic. Click here for a medley of their tunes.

Wednesday, June 22, the music, comedy and ventriloquism show will be at Waldport Public Library (10 a.m.), Newport Public Library (1 p.m.), and Driftwood Public Library in Lincoln City (6:30 p.m.). On Thursday, June 23, they will be at Toledo Public Library (11 a.m.) and Siletz Public Library (1 p.m.).

Their Lincoln County shows are funded by Ready to Read grants from the Oregon State Library and the Lincoln County Library District. Their lodging is provided by the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport and the D Sands Condominium Motel in Lincoln City.

For more information about Cowboy Buck and Elizabeth’s performances or other summer reading presentations, please contact your local library.

The Devil Went Down to Austin by Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan is famous for his best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, but prior to that, he was just a very respectable mystery author whom I had never read. (The guy won the Edgar, Anthony, and Shamus awards for his mysteries, but I didn’t know that at the time!) My dad passed one of his books on to me lately and I thought, “Nah, this guy’s a children’s fantasy book writer, no way can he write gritty grown-up mysteries.” Then, of course, I ran out of things to read and boom—had to pick up the story of professor/private investigator Tres Navarre.

Guess what? Grit galore. The Devil Went Down to Austin starts something like this: Tres’s big brother Garrett lost his legs in a train-hopping accident as a teenager. Now he’s a grizzled, foul-mouthed, heavy-drinking software engineer who bitterly resents the up-and-comers who’ve made millions on startup companies; he wants a piece of the pie, and may finally have created a program that will do it. He may also resent Jimmy, best friend, business partner, and possible cause of that train-hopping accident—oh, and husband of the woman Garrett loved before he lost his legs. When Jimmy turns up dead, the police don’t feel the need to look much farther than Garrett for a suspect. But Tres knows things aren’t that simple. Garrett and his business partners have been getting threats from Matthew Pena, a man they refused to sell out to—a man with a trail of very unfriendly takeovers and coincidentally dead bodies behind him. Would Pena have gone so far as to set Garrett up for murder? Or is there something more under the surface?

The Devil Went Down to Austin is a Texas-flavored mystery/thriller with really nice moves. Tres Navarre is a little unpredictable, a little edgy with his martial arts skill and his inability to back down from a fight—but he’s also a fairly smart guy, a professor who’s as comfortable deconstructing Beowulf for college classes and matching wits with CEO’s as he is drinking beer with Parrotheads (otherwise known as obsessive Jimmy Buffet fans.) Riordan has an enviable way with imagery—his descriptions take you by surprise even as the character or scene snaps into perfect clarity.

The novel dips into the worlds of scuba-diving, software engineering, and biker bars for added color, and of course Tres has a love interest, hard-hitting lawyer and martial artist Maia Lee. If you missed out on the Tres Navarre books like I did, never fear—we’ve got you covered.

The books in order:
Big Red Tequila
The Widower’s Two Step
The Last King of Texas
The Devil Went Down to Austin
Mission Road
Rebel Island

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Time is a goon.

So says Bosco, an aging punk guitarist once known for his athletic stage antics. His body is so wracked with disease and hard living that if he attempted to perform like that now, it would almost certainly kill him - and that's what he's banking on. He plans a Suicide Tour, in which he courts death by playing with all his customary verve. Audiences will flock to every show, hoping to catch his last night.

Bosco is one of an interconnected web of characters in Jennifer Egan's novel A Visit From the Goon Squad.

The book does not have a straightforward narrative arc. Each chapter presents us with a little portrait of someone in the music industry. Benny, the record producer; Sasha, his assistant; Rob, Sasha's best friend. Lou, Benny's mentor; Joscelyn, Lou's girlfriend; Rhea, Joscelyn's friend, who thinks Lou's a jerk and is in love with Benny. Stephanie, Benny's wife; Jules, Stephanie's brother; Dolly, Stephanie's boss; Kitty, Dolly's client, who was once almost raped by Jules.

As this novel darts unexpectedly from character to character, it also jumps around in time and space, from San Francisco punk clubs in 1979, to suffocatingly conformist mid-eighties country clubs, to a paranoid, hyperconnected New York of the near future. One person's actions create ripples that spread outward, affecting people he's never heard of nor imagined, reverberating through the years. These people all get savaged by the goon.

Bosco comes out comparatively well - physically wrecked, but still dedicated to the rock-and-roll adage that it's better to burn out than fade away. Many of the characters we meet throw away their dreams; they impulsively betray the things they most care about. They tell themselves that they have grown up, but they are tormented by regret.

This sounds pretty sad, and Egan is merciless at exposing the weaknesses and self-deceptions of her characters. But their stories are very interesting and often darkly funny; and there's a tenderness too, in Egan's depictions of these flawed people, and how they struggle for transformation.

There really aren't very many good rock-and-roll novels. A Visit From the Goon Squad is like an ambitious concept album, the kind no one records any more: the tracks wouldn't work on their own, but taken together they make something transcendent.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A summer visit with an old friend

Ah, summertime, when the evening skies remain light, and evening reading is a pleasure. Every few summers I return to an old favorite, which I first read when I was about fourteen. Watership Down by Richard Adams is almost forty years old, but it remains, for me, the best summertime novel ever written.

It is the tremendously exciting tale of a band of adventurers who leave their home when they become convinced that it is not safe. They embark upon an odyssey filled with dangers both familiar and strange. They succeed in outwitting all their enemies before finding their peaceful home at last.

During their quest we become familiar with the personalities of the individual members of the band - the visionary, the doughty friend, the swift storyteller, the clever one. We learn of their culture, their language, their lore, the things that are important to them. They are not quite like us; they live closer to death by violence than we do, and both accept this and challenge it constantly.

They are rabbits. This, I know, is a problem for some people, who just cannot get around the fact that they're reading a 400-page book about talking, storytelling rabbits.

I have heard some people try to justify this book by calling it an allegory for human society or the quest for freedom, or something; I don't know. I don’t really buy it. Watership Down is just a marvelous story. I believe that if you give it a chance, you will find yourself reading long after the summer skies have finally darkened, because you will need to know what happens next to those rabbits.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Meaty, intricate, full of twists and twisted too - Jo Nesbo's new book, The Snowman, goes on my "Dark Favorites" shelf.

Harry is a familiar character-that brilliant, slouchy, melancholy detective with the kind of insight that solves crimes and the kind of personality that rubs the brass the wrong way. In this novel, he's helplessly drawn back into an affair with his ex-lover Rakel, who’s living with a genial, handsome doctor lacking all of Harry’s negative qualities. At the same time, Harry’s involved in a disturbing investigation, a series of murders that seem to be linked by a snowman at or near the scene of the crime. Harry is Norway’s only investigator trained by the FBI in serial killer hunting, and at first his coworkers think he’s like the man holding a hammer who sees only nails. However, as the bodies pile up, Harry is both vindicated and horrified, especially since every time he thinks he understands what’s going on, someone dies to prove him wrong.

The book has some flashbacks whose significance is a little confusing at first—especially if you skim over chapter headings and don’t notice that they’re supposed to take place a good twenty years before the main plot line. But all the pieces eventually come together, and the writing and characterization is good enough that it’s well worth being in the dark for a while. Nesbo does a great job of seeing the crime scenes through Harry’s eyes—he doesn’t salaciously dwell on the gore, but notes it and moves on.

Nesbo’s writing has been translated from the Norwegian, and has received the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel. Previous Harry Hole books are The Devil’s Star, Nemesis, and The Redbreast.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

First show of the 2011 Summer Reading program

Newport Public Library's One World, Many Stories summer reading program features the Puckett Family Magic show on Wednesday, June 15 at 1:00. All children and families are invited to attend this free program in Literacy Park.

Puckett Family Magic provides a dynamic family illusion show for multigenerational audiences. Working together as a family, the Pucketts' award-winning talent combines flashy illusion, classy effects and humor for an unforgettable event. They have been featured on three continents and across the United States providing fun, family-friendly entertainment.

The Puckett Family’s Lincoln County shows are funded by Ready to Read grants from the Oregon State Library and the Lincoln County Library District. Their lodging is provided by La Quinta Inn and Suites in Newport and the D Sands Condominium Hotel in Lincoln City.

For more information about the Puckett Family performances or other summer reading presentations, please contact us at 541.265.2153.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A wooly mystery

I did not expect to love Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann.

Three Bags Full is the story of a flock of Irish sheep whose shepherd, George, was murdered. George was found in the meadow with a spade through his chest, and once the sheep come to understand that George could not have accidentally fallen upon the spade - that the spade was put there, by someone - they are determined to find out who. After all, George was their shepherd. He read fairy tales and romance novels to them. They owe it to him.

These sheep, however, are not particularly smart. They know a lot; they are extremely observant, and people talk freely in front of them. But they are forgetful and timorous, and it's hard for them to recognize the significance of what they learn, or to put clues together into a cohesive theory. Nevertheless they try, actually launching an investigation, and occasionally getting distracted by geraniums along the way.

Doesn't that seem unnecessarily whimsical? Just a little too cute? I thought so, too, until I found myself laughing out loud at the adventures of these sheep. You get to know them as individuals, and I soon discovered that I was quite involved. Where was George's sheepdog? Why is everyone afraid of the reading of George's will? What was the wolf-ghost that the lamb had seen? I really wanted to know.

It helps that the author knows how to salt the sweetness of her tale with moments of true darkness, and that sometimes, in the midst of their amusing befuddlement, the sheep have gratifying and unexpected flashes of brilliance:

Cordelia loved knowing words that belonged to things she'd never seen, even to things you couldn't see at all. She remembered those words carefully. "Magic," George had said, "is something that doesn't really exist. If I snap my fingers and Othello suddenly turns white, that's magic. If I fetch a bucket of paint and paint him white, it isn't. Everything that looks like magic is really a trick." Cordelia grazed with relish. "Magic" was her favorite word - for something that didn't exist at all. Then she thought about George's death. That was like magic, too. Someone had stuck a spade through the shepherd's body in the middle of their meadow. George must have screamed horribly, but none of his sheep in the hay barn, quite close, had heard anything, and then a lamb had seen a ghost. Cordelia shook her head. "It's really a trick," she whispered.

She's right, of course.

Well, Three Bags Full is cute and whimsical. It's also strange and original and pretty darn good.