Friday, June 29, 2012

Move for your life

I was a bookworm as a kid, not an athlete, and at the time it seemed like you could only be one or the other—geek or jock, but not both. According to Reynolds’ new book, The First 20 Minutes, it’s very fortunate for my projected lifespan that I eventually realized that was silly. It can be fun to run a mile or two, or bike, or even Zumba between chapters. The studies are persuasive and the statistics are incredible: movement is a key to healthy aging, both physical and mental. And it may not take as much as you think.

Reynolds, an exercise columnist for the New York Times, combines the latest scientific information with a realistic perspective and a sense of humor. In each chapter, she covers a different topic, from stretching to nutrition to weight control to brain fitness. Drawing from many studies and expert opinions, she discusses the latest findings, then boils them down to tips at the end of the chapter. Unfortunately, there are no footnotes or bibliography to help you find further information on the cited studies. On the plus side, there is at least an index.

 The links between body and mind and between exercise and longevity are amazing and fascinating. And some of the studies and suggestions are rather surprising. My “take home” tip; improve your balance by standing on one foot while you brush your teeth. As Reynolds points out, this is not only good for preventing future injuries, it will also amuse your spouse. And once you get he or she to read the book, you can both stand on one foot while brushing together, like a couple of really athletic geeks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It's a big enough umbrella


Alexia Tarabotti, heroine of Soulless, is not your typical English rose. Cursed with Mediterranean skin like her Italian father, an ample figure, a large appetite and... er...nose, she is resigned to spinsterhood.

Miss Tarabotti goes to a ball and is chagrined to find that there is nothing to eat but watercress! Really, how cheap can a host be? Never one to suffer, Alexia orders a treacle tart in the library, where to her irritation she is interrupted by an ill-mannered and ill-informed vampire. He is not properly introduced when he attempts to dine on Miss Tarabotti; nor is he conversant with her special talent.

Miss Tarabotti, in a world of normal people and supernatural people (those who have excess soul), is unique: she has no soul at all. When she touches a supernatural, they become normal.

In her attempt to discourage this ignoramus with her trusty umbrella, Miss Tarbotti accidentally kills him. She is soon enmeshed in a mystery of unknown proportions. Hive Queens, mad scientists, disappearing vampires, rogue vampires, werewolves, and that paragon of imperial power herself, Queen Victoria, all whirl in a merry-go-round of plot twists and surprises.

This first novel by Gail Carriger was a delight to read. Soulless is a wild combination of comedy of manners, paranormal romance, alternative history, urban fantasy, and steampunk. I loved the comic tone of this book. With all the ponderous, ominous paranormal novels out there, this one stood out for sheer fun!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Leather Maiden by Joe R. Lansdale

In Leather Maiden, journalist and Pulitzer-nominee Cason Statler returns to his small Texas hometown after a stint in Iraq, and takes a job at the local paper. Why would a Pulitzer-nominee do such a thing? Statler can’t seem to keep his relationships in order, and slept with the wife—oh, and the (grown-up) daughter—of his previous paper’s owner. He was fired in disgrace, of course. Home in Camp Rapture, bored with writing fluff pieces, and trying to distract himself from stalking his ex-girlfriend, he starts digging into a cold case: the disappearance of a young history student almost a year ago.

Stirring things up has unforeseen consequences, including another murder, and Cason finds that his brother, a history professor at the local college, had unseemly ties with the missing student. Not only does that make big brother a murder suspect, it also makes him ripe for blackmail. How far will Cason go to protect his brother? And who is really behind the increasingly numerous and grotesque killings?

Joe Lansdale is the author of the Hap and Leonard mystery series, in which two sort of hang-dog, not-so-bright, true-to-their-own-code type of ol’ boys tend to stumble in and out of violent situations, in the process solving a mystery and/or bringing on justice. Cason Statler appeared in at least one of the Hap and Leonard books—I think it was Devil Red—but Hap and Leonard aren’t in Statler’s book.

The tone is dark, gritty, sometimes lyrical, just what Lansdale does best. I tend to like hardcore serial murder mysteries, as long as the characterization can carry the body count—and I did like Leather Maiden, but with reservations. There were too many coincidences and convenient friends, a plot twist with no real underpinnings, and seriously gruesome dead bodies without good reason. Crazed killers do crazy things by definition—but these bodies really seemed gratuitous, going for shock value without any apparent link to the killers’ psychology. Nevertheless, if you like noir, if you like grit and murder mysteries with lots of action, if you like Joe Lansdale’s other books or the writing of Andrew Vachss—definitely check this out.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Computer Classes

We are back to offering computer classes, and have added a class on how to use our new catalog, Oceanbooks! If you or someone you know would like to work on your computer skills this summer, give us a call!

  • An Introduction to the Library Catalog will be offered 4 times. Friday, June 29 at 9:00 a.m. and at 10:00 a.m., Friday July 6 at 10:00 a.m., and Friday, July 20 at 9:00 a.m. This class will cover how to create a PIN and log in to your account, how to search for items, placing holds, and renewing items. 
  • On Friday, July 6 at 9:00 a.m., Introduction to Computers will be taught. This class will teach the basics of turning on a computer, using the mouse, and saving files. 
  • Beginning Word (2007) will be taught on July 13 at 9:00 a.m. This class introduces people to the basic commands to create a word processing document. Intermediate Word will be taught at 10:00 a.m. This class builds on the previous one, and teaches how to insert photographs, create lists using bullets and numbers, and set margins, tabs, and line spacing. 
  • On Friday, July 20 at 10:00 a.m., Beginning Internet will teach how to use a web browser, click on links, and search the internet. 
  • Beginning Excel will be taught on July 27 at 9:00 a.m. This class teaches the basics of creating a spreadsheet and adding rows and columns. Intermediate Excel will be offered at 10:00 a.m. This class teaches how to balance a checkbook, use multiple worksheets, and create charts. 
All classes are free and last one hour. Registration is required. For more information, please call (541)265-2153 or check the library website, http://newportoregon.gov/dept/lib/class.asp.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pure Noir


Cornell Woolrich is regarded as one of the great authors of noir fiction. This weekend I picked up his 1948 thriller I Married A Dead Man, just to see how I would like it. Although I had some problems with it, I was up reading it all night.

I Married a Dead Man tells the tale of a young woman, pregnant and abandoned by her baby's father, broke and alone in the world.  By chance, she meets Patrice and Hugh, a happy young couple who are also expecting a baby. Patrice tells our heroine that she is nervous about meeting her husband's parents, whom she has never seen.

When Patrice and Hugh are shockingly killed, the young woman of our story impersonates Patrice and allows Hugh's mother and father to take her and her baby in. The setup is ideal. Hugh's grieving parents are comfortably well off. They don’t question the woman who calls herself Patrice; they’re just grateful to have their daughter-in-law and grandchild in their lives. Then the first blackmail letter arrives.

Where do I start with this maddening book? Woolrich's writing is highly stylized. It has its admirers, but I admit I eventually found it terrifically annoying:

"She took a slow step away. Then another. Her head was down now more than ever. She moved slowly away from there, and left the door behind. Her shadow was the last part of her to go. It trailed slowly after her, upright against the wall, Its head was down a little, too; it too was too thin, it too was unwanted. It stayed on a moment, after she herself was already gone. Then it slipped off the wall after her, and it was gone, too." 

Then there's the ambiguous ending. Noir fiction developed as a reaction against the cozy mysteries of the 1930s, in which all the clues add up flawlessly, and the world returns to order after the triumphant solution. Noir doesn't have to wrap up all the threads, and the solution to a mystery often only goes to demonstrate that the world is irredeemably corrupt.

So the fact that I Married A Dead Man's ending isn't exactly tidy shouldn't bother me. But still, I found I had a lot of questions at the end: So who--? So why did she--?

Despite its weaknesses, the fact remains that there I was at 2 a.m., devouring the pages and unable to get to sleep until I got to the end. The book is perfectly paced to keep you from putting it down. Just as you think you’ve gotten to a stopping point, another plot twist grips you. What will happen next?

I Married A Dead Man is not a perfect book, but it’s certainly a page-turner, and I’ve rarely read a book that more effectively creates a mood of awful, paranoid tension. It’s pure noir.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Absolute Monarchies

The Papacy is a unique and extraordinary institution, one that’s been around, more or less uninterrupted, for nearly two thousand years. John Julius Norwich’s book Absolute Monarchs: A History of The Papacy explores the amazing story of the popes, from Saint Peter (the legends about whose life and martyrdom in Rome may have been greatly exaggerated) to our own Pope Benedict XVI, who ascended the Apostolic Throne in 2005.

Benedict is the 265th pope, if you only count the ones the Vatican now recognizes as legitimately elected and consecrated. One of the interesting things about Norwich’s book is that he describes several of the antipopes - the many, many popes who were not legitimately elected or consecrated, although undoubtedly most of them thought they were.

It’s an amazing history, and Norwich tells it well, with interest but without reverence. He does not delve into the Papacy’s religious powers or the theological controversies that have always surrounded it. Instead, he looks at the popes as monarchs, focusing upon the worldly place of the Papacy and its often-contentious relationship with other secular powers.

The story of the Papacy is huge, and I admit the parade of Bonifaces, Urbans and Clements gets a little dizzying after a while. But if you’re interested in history, and especially in the history of the struggle between church and state, this opinionated, chatty book will fascinate you.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Couch Potato Makeover

A.J. Jacobs was a couch potato with “the physique of a python who swallowed a goat” when he caught pneumonia and became certain he would die. Many people might react by swearing to eat less red meat, or by getting a gym membership—not A.J. Jacobs. A.J. Jacobs reacted by swearing to become MAXIMALLY healthy—and he meant it.

In Drop Dead Healthy, Jacobs chronicles his efforts to wade through acres of conflicting information, misinterpreted studies, and just plain quackery to find out what he really should, can, and will do to maximize his chances for a long healthy life. He doesn’t just read about it—he does it. Not the crazy things like trepanning (drilling a hole in one’s skull). Just the crazy things like IntenSati, a workout combining aerobics with shouted affirmations. And arguing, to keep his mind sharp (his wife loves that one.) And lowering stress by going to a laughing club.

One of my favorite things about the book is that he spends his book advance on health-related expenses like high-powered juicers and brain-wave monitors and DNA testing I could never afford, so I get to learn about their efficacy vicariously without blowing a thousand bucks.

This is the same A.J. Jacobs who’s the editor-at-large of Esquire magazine. He wrote The Know-It-All, in which he read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and summarized the best parts, and The Year of Living Biblically, in which he attempted to follow ALL the tenets of the Bible for a year, not just the socially acceptable ones. He’s just compulsive and wacky enough to make the pursuit of health both amusing and interesting. This is a quick and funny read, and who knows, you might be inspired to open your mind to new ways of being healthy.  (PS-- He did lose the goat, by the end of the book!)

Friday, June 8, 2012

NEW ITEM LISTS NOW AVAILABLE

The Oceanbooks Libraries are continually enriching their collections with new books and DVD's for adults, teens, and children, and we know you'll want to see what's new, not only at Newport, but at Driftwood and Tillamook County Libraries!  Many patrons enjoy finding exciting new items to place on hold.  Here's how:

          1. Go to newportlibrary.org and click on New Items.  (You might want to bookmark that if you plan to make it a habit.)
          2. Skim our New Item lists for titles that catch your fancy.
          3. Find them in our catalog and place them on hold, or ask a librarian to place the holds for you.

We'll give you a call or send you an email as soon anything comes in with your name on it.  New Item lists will be updated weekly, so come back soon!




Tuesday, June 5, 2012

In praise of Summer Reading and Mrs. Frisby

On June 1, Summer Reading signups began here at the Newport Library. That means kids of all ages can sign up to earn prizes for reading. It’s a no-pressure situation: children are rewarded for reading how much and whatever they want.

It’s a fun time, and the enthusiasm of the young participants is always exciting to see. It’s also a reminder of how wonderful children’s books can be.

One of my favorites, when I was a girl, was Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O’Brien, a book that I surely read a dozen times. I recently picked up Mrs. Frisby and read it again, and it’s just as good now as when I was ten.

 It’s the story of a field mouse, Mrs. Frisby, who lives with her children in Farmer Fitzgibbon’s garden. (Quick - how many other kids’ books can you think of with a mother as the protagonist? Zero? Me too.)

The story starts out with a very simple problem: one of Mrs. Frisby’s children is sick. In a seemingly unrelated incident, Mrs. Frisby rescues a crow from a cat, and gets a ride on the crow’s back. The crow advises her to seek advice from an owl about her sick son. The owl tells her about the rats of NIMH, who are strange beyond anything that Mrs. Frisby has ever known - or are they? Mrs. Frisby learns that she and her family have a hidden connection to the rats.

I love the way this book unfolds, starting simply and expanding to encompass new insights and realizations. Every time the book’s scope changes, the reader gets a whole new perspective, just as Mrs. Frisby gains a new perspective on her garden patch when she first rides on the back of a flying crow.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is a great story for readers of all ages - good for reading aloud to little ones, and good to curl up with on a sunny afternoon by yourself, too. (I do not particularly recommend the cartoon movie, The Secret of NIMH, by the way.)

And if you know any kids who like to read and want to earn loot for doing so, send them along to the library for the Summer Reading Program.