Friday, December 30, 2011

Not just about a tiger

John Vaillant’s book The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival is a fascinating read. The underlying story is about a man-killing Amur tiger (also known as a Siberian tiger) in far eastern Russia.

Local authorities set out to find the tiger – an incredibly dangerous hunt through dense woods, tracking a fierce predator that can see and hear them long before they detect it.

Vaillant obviously spent a lot of time researching the incident. He also researched the geography of the area, the history of the place and the people, the ecology of the boreal forest, and the attempts of Russians to save the Amur tiger from extinction. He presents a remarkable portrait of this remote region.

One of the aspects of The Tiger that I enjoyed the most was Vaillant’s references to other sources dealing with the region and Amur tigers. The book’s bibliography has provided me with dozens of titles for future reads.

When the author mentioned Akira Kurosawa’s 1975 film Dersu Uzala, I immediately checked out the DVD from our library and watched it. The film deals with the Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev, who spent years in the early twentieth century exploring the area where The Tiger takes place. Most of Dersu Uzala was filmed in the Siberian boreal forest, and it gave me an accurate sense of the Amur tiger’s habitat.

If you only want to read gory details of tigers eating people, this book will probably be disappointing. But if you are interested in learning about the political, social and conservation issues in a very remote and largely unknown part of the world, I highly recommend this book.

--Posted by Kay

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Annual Magazine Giveaway

The first Thursday of the new year is coming soon and that means we will make outdated magazines available for anyone who wants to come pick them up. Thursday, January 5, the McEntee Room will be filled, at least to start the day, with the old magazines that we are discarding to make room for the new. This is a first come, first served event and folks are asked to bring their own bags to carry home their loot.

What can you do with old magazines? I found some of the items on this list from the website useful:

• Old magazines make fantastic boot trees. Roll up two thick issues and stuff them in your tall boots to help keep the leather from slouching.

• Cut out a favorite photo story and frame the pages. Hang the pictures in a series on your wall for inexpensive art.

• Use photos of beauty products to customize your makeup organizers. Pick up some inexpensive storage boxes (these ones from IKEA would work well) and attach pictures of lipsticks, eye shadows and powders to keep track of your cosmetics.

• Explore your kids' or your artistic side by using magazine pages for decoupage and collage projects. Simply cut out images, glue them on an object such as a pencil box, canvas, or trash bin, and seal with varnish for a one-of-a-kind decorative piece.

• Tear out interesting images, words or articles and create an “inspiration” bulletin board for your office or work space.

• Use the pages as stylish and eco-friendly wrapping paper.

• Shred the pages to use as protective filler for packages or moving boxes.

• Make your own, customized mailing envelopes. Use a utility knife to cut out a page, fold in half horizontally (leave a flap at the top) and glue the edges shut. Place a letter inside then fold the top flap over and seal.

Happy re-purposing!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Darkside by Belinda Bauer

You’ve seen this monster before, but you won’t recognize it until it’s right on top of you. That’s the beauty of Darkside, Belinda Bauer’s new English village mystery, which is most definitely NOT a cozy read.

Jonas Holly is the local bobby, the embodiment of community policing in his rural area. He walks the streets of several villages each day to keep the peace, checking on shut-ins, giving rowdy partiers a talking-to, and fielding complaints about the neighbor’s dog. Once, he’d meant to be something more, but when his wife Lucy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he knew he had to choose a less ambitious path, one that would let him care for her.

Now the uneasy balance he’s kept, walking his beat and helping his wife fight the progression of her MS, has been disturbed. In an area that’s suffered very few major crimes in the past 20 years, a paralyzed woman is murdered in her bed, and Jonas is suddenly at the center of an investigation.

Bauer’s characters are exceptionally clear and sympathetic, and her writing style sparse with occasional, usually dark, lyricism. This book is related to her previous book, Blacklands, by setting and with a few overlapping characters. Blacklands won the Crime Writer’s Association Gold Dagger Award in 2010, although I gave it only three out of five stars in my Goodreads account. (Shows what I know!)  Darkside, on the other hand, gets my much coveted five star rating.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fuzzy Nation: a book based on . . . a book?

Jon Scalzi’s book, Fuzzy Nation, is based on H. Beam Piper’s 1962 novel, Little Fuzzy, which was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1963. Scalzi calls it a reboot, which he talks about on his blog Whatever. (Careful—his blog is addictively amusing. It’s hard to read just one post.) He’s modernized the story a bit, tuning it to our 21st century sensibilities. Fellow science fiction author Paul di Filippo has an interesting discussion of the differences between the original and the reboot here.

Provenance aside, Fuzzy Nation turns out to be quite a fun scifi read. If you enjoyed Dream Park, which I recommended a couple months ago, you’ll probably like Fuzzy Nation too. The main character, Jack Holloway, is a disbarred lawyer/prospector drawn along the lines of Han Solo from Star Wars—a selfish smartass with a personal code of honor and a deeply buried heart of gold. Holloway’s smarter than Solo, however, and quicker with the wit. He loves animals, as evidenced by his relationship with his dog Carl, who blows stuff up. When Holloway and Carl discover a new animal on the planet they’re prospecting, Holloway quickly welcomes it into his home—only to start wondering if it might be more than just an animal.

The little guy vs. Evil Corporation, compassion vs. greed, and man vs. himself most of all—this is not so much a book about humans meeting aliens as it is a book about humanity trying to control its own worst impulses. Sound heavy? It’s not—it’s action-packed with fist-fights, skimmer crashes, zararaptor attacks, sabotage, and banter. Good fun all around.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Beggarman, thief

I'm excited about the new Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy movie.

If you haven't already read the 1974 novel by John Le Carre this movie's based upon, let me tell you: it's fantastic.

Brilliant operative George Smiley was sacked in a scandal that took down most of MI6's old guard. The new leadership has reorganized the bureaucracy and updated all the procedures. Smiley is on the outside.

That makes him the only trustworthy person to find the mole who’s been spying from within the most trusted ranks of British Intelligence. He has the bitter duty of investigating his friends and former comrades, to find out which of them is a traitor.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is all about betrayal: betrayal of one's country, friends, marriage, self. Le Carre never tells you what conclusions to draw; he lays out the evidence as Smiley discovers or remembers it, and lets you figure out for yourself what's going on.

I'm not one of those people who thinks the book is always better than the movie based upon it. But I knew that I wanted to reread that book before seeing the movie, and I enjoyed it as much this year as I did when I first picked it up decades ago. If you haven't read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy since 1974 - or if you haven't ever read it - I recommend it highly.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Top Ten Things You Can Do on our Website—besides read our blog!

If you’re reading this, you must have located our website—welcome! For future reference, you can get to our site in different ways—typing “” will do it, or going to the City of Newport website and clicking on “Library” in the departments menu, or typing

So now that you’re here, what can you do on our homepage besides finding book reviews and more on Salmagundi?

1. Jump to the library catalog! You can go to the catalog directly at, but you can also get there from the library home page. And once in the catalog, you can renew items and manage holds by signing into your account. Simply enter your library card barcode where it says User ID in the upper right hand corner of the page. Then enter your PIN number, which consists of the last four digits of your telephone number. Click on “My Account” to work with your holds and renewals, browse our New Titles, or search the catalog.

2. Check out our Facebook page. If you “Like” us, you can receive Newport Library updates on your Facebook page!

3. Learn a language! Really. Rocket Languages offers computer tutorials in eleven different languages, including Korean, Hindi, Spanish, and English. Simply click on the Rocket Languages link and create a new account with your library card number and email address. You can work through as many lessons as you like, and your work will be saved for next time you return to your account. The lessons include grammar, vocabulary, and audio so you can perfect your accent and pronunciation!

4. Find book recommendations. Novelist is a database that collates information on thousands of fiction books for kids and adults. You can look for readalikes (for example, if you like Janet Evanovich, you might also like Kristan Higgins or Sarah Strohmeyer), browse by genre, or put in specific requirements (example: historical fiction about Ireland.)

5. Download audiobooks and eBooks from Library2Go! Library2Go offers free downloads for many devices. Click on the Library2Go button and then “First Time User” to get started. Once you’re in, check out the Library2Go FAQ’s or the MyHELP! option for further instructions.

6. Search the Web. Tired of “Googling” everything? Click on "Search the Web" for a list of search engines and directories. Maybe there’s a better way to find what you need.

7. Library Calendar. Not sure what time Storytime is on Tuesdays? Forget the name of the book for the next Reading Circle? See the link to "Library Calendar" on the short list of link on the right side of the page? Check there!

8. LNet. Working on a paper at home, and just can’t find the information you need? You can try clicking on LNet for research help. LNet is staffed by librarians all over the state—they can’t renew your library books for you, but they may be able to find you a great online algebra tutorial or an authoritative web resource on the Crimean War. If you have questions about your library account rather than a reference question, it’s best to call the library directly at 541 265 2153.

9. Library Photos. See our collection of photos on Flickr—this can be especially fun if you’ve attended a library event! The link is in the short list on the right side of the page, under the LNet icon.

10. Last but MOST! The Databases link, (just above the Novelist icon), brings you to a veritable GOLDMINE of resources, all of which you can access from home with your Newport Library card. There are literally too many fine databases here to list them all, but I’ll touch on a few. Learning Express offers a collection of courses, practice tests, and eBooks for students of all ages and many professions—everything from PSAT and GRE practice to resume design to studying for the Postal Worker exam. Consumer Reports offers information, ratings and advice on Cars, Appliances, Electronics, Home & Garden, and even Health. Heritage Quest is for genealogical research, and includes Census records from 1790 to 1930. Reference USA is a directory of 14 million US businesses, WorldCat allows you to see the collections of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide, and Gale databases contain many full-text resources such as reference books, academic journals, and health, history, and business information, among others! Phew! We can and do hold entire classes on how to use some of these databases—if you’re interested, give us a call at 541 265 2153 in late December to learn about our upcoming offerings.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Katey and Evie are young, good-looking, independent, and broke. They spend New Year's Eve, 1937, at a jazz bar in Greenwich Village, seeing how far they can stretch three dollars. When a wealthy and obviously naive young man comes in, naturally Katey and Evie pick him up.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles follows our narrator, Katey, on her winding path through New York City in the year 1938. Katey is a secretary, a second-generation immigrant who lives in a cold water walkup with her books and her father's easy-chair. But she's smart and ambitious, and she has her eye on more. Over an extravagant dinner at a French restaurant, Katey muses,

If my father had made a million dollars, he wouldn't have eaten at La Belle Époque. To him, restaurants were the ultimate expression of ungodly waste. A fur coat could at least be worn in winter to fend off the cold, and a silver spoon could be melted down and sold ... Asparagus? My father would sooner have carried a twenty-dollar bill to his grave than spent it on some glamorous weed coated in cheese. But for me, dinner at a fine restaurant was the ultimate luxury. So removed from daily life was the whole experience that when all was rotten to the core, a fine dinner could revive the spirits. If and when I had twenty dollars left to my name, I was going to invest it right here in an elegant hour that couldn't be hocked.

Rules of Civility moves as briskly as Katey does, from good pals to temporary boyfriends to ever more interesting jobs. It dwells lingeringly on conversations, observations, and meaningful details - what shoes Katey chose, what she ate, the color of a character's necktie. I was riveted, admittedly because Katey's life is so glamorously metropolitan. If you can resist vicariously following along with Katey as she samples jazz and martinis in Harlem, champagne and oysters at the 21 Club, Italian coffee with shaved chocolate in the East Village, and burgers and bourbon at the Ritz -- well, you're made of sterner stuff than I.

As the months of 1938 go by, what will happen to Katie next? A dinner party at the Beresford? Shopping and a new hairdo at Bendel's? Will she find love, or friendship, or a better job? Or will it all be stenography, phonies, and hangovers?

Rules of Civility is a cocktail, with a big splash of prewar Manhattan romanticism mixed in with the gin and vermouth. I drank it right up, and held out my glass for more. - Posted by Jennifer

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Killer’s Essence by Dave Zeltserman

Stan Green is a New York City cop, a hard-boiled workaholic whose wife left him and took his two kids out of state, whose partner just got hit by a car, whose firefighter brother lost half of a lung and 2/3 of his squad during 9-11. In short, his life sucks, and working in homicide doesn’t exactly add rainbows, lollipops, and kittens. The newest case seems worse than usual—a vicious killing that reeks of savage joy, the work of a real psycho. Stan is determined to find the creep, knowing someone who likes killing that much will do it again, and again, but every lead hits a dead end.

When a security camera reveals that someone witnessed the murder, Stan tracks the witness down, only to find that this lead too is jinxed. Zachary Lynch has brain damage; to him, the population is salted with monsters. He can’t process human faces, but instead sees hallucinations that are often frightening and bizarre. However, the hallucinations are stable; each person appears the same each time he sees them. Stan must figure out how to use Zachary to find the killer before the body count goes up.

A Killer's Essence is a noir police procedural with just a touch of scifi/supernatural, and it works pretty well, aside from some choppy bits and an ongoing preoccupation the Yankees and the Red Sox. (Probably an added bonus if you’re a baseball fan.) It’s a quick, quirky, fresh read, noir yet with a hopeful ending, and to me, the best part is, this Zeltserman guy has 5 previous books in our library system. How great to discover an author that I had somehow overlooked, with a vein of books to mine!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Nya is a young Nuer girl who spends most of her day fetching and carrying water to her home from a muddy pond. She lives in the Sudan, where for five months of the year the pond that her family relies upon dries up. Three days away is a lake that is also dry; but with a lot of digging and waiting Nya can collect enough muddy water to take to her family.

Salva Dut is a boy whose story takes place twenty-three years before the story of Nya, during the Second Sudanese Civil War. Salva is separated from his parents during an attack by government forces. He flees from his school to begin a long trek across the Sudan, to refugee camps in Ethiopia and later Kenya. Salva endures the privations and dangers of refugee life, and must also avoid people of the Nuer tribe, for Salva is a Dinka, and the Dinka and the Nuer have been enemies for centuries.

Linda Sue Park's novel A Long Walk to Water is based on the lives of two real Sudanese people. The book switches viewpoints between the two stories, which eventually intersect in an unexpected way. Although the book is written for junior level readers, I found it exciting enough to keep my interest.

Salva Dut is one of the famous Lost Boys of Sudan; you can learn more about his fascinating and heartbreaking story here. A Long Walk to Water opens a window into a world few of us know.

Monday, December 5, 2011

In Search of the Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault

Rose disappeared in 1990: sixteen years old, a small town babysitter with big dreams whose teenaged preoccupations were fascinating to her two eleven-year-old charges, Charlotte and Nora. They were also fascinated with all things supernatural as embodied in the Time/Life Mysteries of the Unknown series, and when Rose went away, they tried everything they could think of to find out where she’d gone—runes, hypnosis, the audio-taping of empty rooms to listen for ghosts. But nothing ever came of it, or of the police investigation, and Rose’s disappearance has remained a mystery, until now.

Now, Charlotte is a high school teacher in that same small town, and Nora is a potter and community college teacher who lives in a distant city with her husband. When Rose’s body is discovered after all these years, Nora is drawn back to visit—drawn back into long abandoned relationships and memories of what really happened back then. What drove Nora first into silence, then into a suicide attempt, and then far from home?

Emily Arsenault’s In Search of the Rose Notes is narrated by Nora, whose point of view shifts back and forth from adulthood to childhood. I really enjoyed Nora’s voice, which expresses her emotional development from a shy child to a messed-up frozen adolescent to a stronger adult ready to turn over the rocks of the past, all with subtlety. As for what happened to Rose . . . I don’t want to give anything away. You’ll have to read it yourself.