Saturday, August 31, 2013

Beyond Miss Maisie Dobbs

Recently I’ve found myself recommending Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series when someone is interested in historical mysteries. For those of you not familiar with these books, the story begins in 1910 when thirteen-year-old Maisie Dobbs enters service as a maid for Lady Rowan Compton. When she is discovered trying to learn Latin in the wee hours of the morning, she is taken under the wing of Lady Compton’s friend, Dr. Maurice Blanche, who becomes her tutor, mentor, and friend. The Great War begins while she is at university, which she leaves to become a nurse in France.

Without giving too much away, I can safely share that she eventually becomes a private investigator, and the plot of each novel addresses controversial social and political issues of her time.

I’m on the next-to-the-last book in the series, so what will I read when I’ve finished them all? I looked up Maisie Dobbs in our Novelist Plus database, and discovered there is a wealth of titles with similar literary appeals. The following is a list of series recommended by Novelist which are available through our catalog:
Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers
Reason: The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries and the Maisie Dobbs Novels are mysteries set in Great Britain between the World Wars. Both protagonists are strong women. The Maisie Dobbs Novels have a darker tone, but both have elegant writing and highlight the social class division in Great Britain.

Bess Crawford mysteries by Charles Todd
Reason: Bess Crawford and Maisie Dobbs were nurses in World War I. Maisie became a detective after the war, and Bess solves mysteries during it. Both series vividly portray Great Britain and feature strong, interesting characters, complex, gradually unfolding plots, and self-sufficient women.

Cordelia Gray mysteries by P.D. James
Reason: Both of these series feature young, independent female private investigators in Great Britain. They are very detailed, character-centered series that also share a slightly darker tone. While set in different periods, both women share a determination of spirit and a sense of justice.

Laetitia Talbot mysteries by Barbara Cleverly
Reason: Fans of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series will want to check out Barbara Cleverly's Laetitia Talbot novels, since both feature a 1920s setting and a plucky female detective as protagonist.

Molly Murphy mysteries by Rhys Bowen
Reason: The Molly Murphy and Maisie Dobbs historical mysteries feature feisty young women who become private detectives. The women are likeable and fight to be respected as professionals. These cozy stories paint a realistic historical picture of their time periods.

Flavia De Luce mysteries by Alan C. Bradley
Reason: Despite the age difference between these two sleuths, who investigate during different historical periods, readers who enjoy intelligent characters, well-depicted British settings, and strong, resourceful female protagonists may enjoy both the 11-year-old Flavia and the slightly older Maisie Dobbs.

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Laurie King
Reason: These popular, historical mystery series based in England around WWI feature young women apprenticed to a Private Investigator; each learns their trade and grows emotionally as the series progress. Intelligent, resourceful, and talented, while they work with men, they do not play second fiddle to anyone. 

If you haven't used Novelist Plus, give it a try!  You never know what new protagonist you'll fall in love with!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Evernote or Twitter - are they right for you?

It's almost September, and that means that the Newport Public Library is once again offering free computer classes.

On Friday, September 6, the topic of our free workshops will be two very different
social media applications.

From 9-10, we will be talking about a free online organizational tool called Evernote. You can sync Evernote to your home computer, work computer, and your mobile device, and use it to keep track of notes, schedules, and things you need to get done, no matter where you are.

From 10-11, we’ll discuss Twitter, the popular and mysterious microblogging site. Is Twitter fun? An exciting conduit for news and information? A great way to advertise your business? A perfect way to have a private conversation? (Answers: Yes, yes, maybe, and NO.)

Are Evernote and Twitter right for you? Call us at 541-265-2153 to sign up for these free classes, or to ask about the other computer classes we have scheduled.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Freddy The Detective by Walter Brooks

Most book lovers are familiar with the classic animal characters of children’s literature: Winnie the Pooh, the Velveteen Rabbit and Babar to name but three. But have you ever heard of Freddy the Pig? Between 1927 until his death in 1958, Walter Brooks wrote 25 Freddy books beginning with Freddy Goes to Florida. It took Brooks a book or two to fully develop his talking animals' personalities, and to my mind, he really hit his stride in the second book, Freddy The Detective. I read the entire series a few years ago and I can recommend them to both children and adults alike.

Freddy the pig lives on the Bean family farm in upstate New York along with the usual barnyard menagerie. Freddy is a poet, a Sherlock Holmes-obsessed detective, and editor of the Bean Home Newspaper. Earnest and self-assured, Freddy has a big heart and an even greater thirst for adventure. His friends Jinx the cat and Mrs. WIggins the cow can always be relied on to provide the common sense Freddy may lack. And they frequently get him out of self-inflicted jams.

Although written primarily for children, the Freddy books reflect much of what was happening at the time the books were written. Sophisticated off-hand asides and allusions to political and economic conditions, including suspiciously Nazi-like rats in the books written during World War Two, give the books an added depth that keep the adult reader interested. Outrageous plot lines, as in Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars, as well as likeable and comically flawed characters can capture the heart and attention span of most children.

The Freddy books are the perfect read-aloud series: entertaining and wryly humorous. Although Freddy Goes To Florida is the first in the series, I recommend you start with Freddy The Detective. And you can reserve it here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Do you enjoy short stories?

Have you ever heard of a short story called “Isabelle” by George Saunders? A friend told me that it was wonderful, dark and uplifting and challenging and beautiful, and I wanted to read it.

But as people who love short fiction know, it’s not always easy to find a specific story. I didn’t know the name of the collection “Isabelle” was published in, and I also didn’t know what magazine it originally appeared in, or how long ago.

So I went to the Newport Library's catalog, entered in the search term “Isabelle George Saunders,” and clicked the search icon. And up popped the short story, full-text, ready to be read right there on my computer screen.

 You see, the Newport Library catalog doesn’t just show you the books that are in the library. It also accesses thousands of full-text magazine articles. And since many short stories were originally published in magazines, the library catalog is a treasure-trove of short stories. If you know how to look for them, you can find and read hundreds of wonderful short stories if you start at our catalog page. They’re free to all Newport library patrons.

 Give it a try. Say you want to read “The Half-Skinned Steer” by Annie Proulx. Type the title of the story into the catalog search box. Here’s the result.

 The first result, Close Range: Wyoming Stories, is the name of the book that the story appears in. So you can put that book on hold, and check it out, if that’s what you prefer. Or, if you scroll down to “Top Results for Articles,” you can see that the story is available right there. Click and start reading.

Not every short story is available this way, and you really need to know the exact title and author for it to work. Sometimes you’ll get a hit on the story you want, but if it doesn’t have a “Full Text” icon it isn’t available.  Still, if you like short fiction, give it a try.

(Also, right now, the Library is featuring a display of dozens of short story collections and anthologies. If you don’t want to mess with the catalog, come on in and grab a book of short stories today!)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Clamming on the Yaquina Bay

Since returning to Newport, I have rediscovered the joy of abundant, fresh, and local seafood. I especially like the kind of seafood that only requires a reasonably-priced shellfish permit from ODFW to pluck my daily limit out from the bay. Wanting to hone my clam grabbing skills, I picked up Clam Digging & Crabbing in Oregon by J.A. Johnson (local author alert!) and set to it. I have yet to bag a razor clam (fast little buggers), and I have had some unfortunate luck trying to combine kayaking, clamming, and crabbing in one trip out on the bay (it is really, really difficult to pull up a crab pot from the bottom of the bay in an outgoing tide in a kayak filled to the brim with shovels and a big sack of horseneck clams), but I can hardly blame Johnson.

So I truck my limit of clams (or if I’m really lucky, crab) home, wash off the bay mud facial I’ve managed to give myself, and pull out my trusty seafood cooking companion, The Fishermen’s Wives Cookbook, and get going.

We have a number of resources here at the library to help you in your seafood adventures—just ask! And remember to carry your license and watch the tide.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Across the western ocean

At first, TransAtlantic by Colum McCann reads like a book of unconnected historical stories - beautifully written, but seemingly having little to do with each other. But have patience: the deep and curious connections will be revealed.

Two traumatized World War I veterans, Teddie Brown and John Alcock, plan to fly across the Atlantic Ocean from Newfoundland to Ireland. It's 1919, and the flight had never been made nonstop before. The first story tells of their preparations, the ordeal of the flight, and the letter they are given to take with them.

In the second story, we've gone back to 1845, and an escaped slave named Frederick Douglass tours Ireland to raise money for abolition. He loves the sensation of freedom Ireland gives him - slavery is illegal in Ireland, and he cannot be seized and returned to his owners here - but he also glimpses the fearsome famine that grips the countryside.

In the third story, the year is 1998. Senator George Mitchell has reluctantly left his wife and child in New York and gone to Belfast to try and establish some sort of peace protocol in violence-torn Northern Ireland.

These stories are all based on historical events, but they seem to have little in common, aside from the theme of crossing the Atlantic, from west to east, from North America to Ireland.

Then comes the second half of the book - the stories of the women behind the men, the wives, mothers, and daughters, the servants, the lovers, the chance acquaintances. Their relationships weave these different historical moments into a rich tapestry.

TransAtlantic is not a fast book, but it unfolds like a flower into something beautiful. It rewards your time.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Still time for young readers to finish their reading contracts!

Newport Library's summer reading shows in Literacy Park are over for another year, but young readers still have time to reach their reading goals and collect a Dig Into Reading t-shirt.

Do you have a young reader in your home who's been working on a summer reading contract and is almost there?  Did your young reader set a goal of 75 books for the summer then became hooked on reading really thick chapter books and is on book #14?  If you answered yes to either question, your child can still collect her Dream Big, Read! t-shirt.

For the reader who is almost finished, perhaps a bit more daily reading time will get do the trick.  It's also just fine if to read a few shorter books or graphic novels to finish off that summer list before the August 31 deadline.

If your child fits the latter profile, please urge him to come in and talk to us. We are quite willing to discuss modifying his reading contract because what is most important is that he has been reading all summer. After all, that is the goal of our summer reading programs, keeping children reading, using their skills and retaining what they learned in school last year.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

River Thieves by Michael Crummey

Have you been devastated by a book? Has reading a good story about emotionally complex characters ever left you limp and wrung out like an old sponge? River Thieves by Canadian author Michael Crummey is such a powerful novel that it creates its own emotional momentum. It draws you in and doesn’t let go. And then it devastates you.

It is early 1800’s and the native Beothuk tribe of Newfoundland, Canada is on the verge of extinction. In fact they have become virtual people. They are fleeting shadows glimpsed out of the corner of the eye of John Peyton, a young white settler who lives with his father and their housekeeper, Cassie, at the edge of the Bay of Exploits where the sea and forest meet. 

Things in the Bay are torn and broken. The island is torn between the dying world of the Beothuk and the harsh, new exploitative economy of the white settlers. John is torn between the base existence of his father and the seductive but unreachable world of ideas and culture that Cassie represents. And David Buchan of the Royal Navy is torn between honestly investigating a massacre of settlers and his own role in a similar massacre of Beothuk people eight years earlier.

With a painstaking attention to detail about life in colonial Canada and an unblinking emotional honesty, River Thieves drags you along with the inevitability of a glacier grinding down rock along its path to the sea. Try River Thieves and you might be carried along too, and eventually devastated, as I was.

You can reserve River Thieves here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The jazz baroness

“He was a good-looking cat,” said Toot Monk. “She was a hotty.”

He was talking about his father, Thelonious Monk, and Pannonica de Koenigswarter. Her nickname was Nica, and her maiden name was Rothschild. She was white, British, Jewish, rich, and married, and she was the great jazzman’s closest companion for the last half of his life.

I learned about the fascinating Nica and her relationship with Monk in The Baroness: The Search for Nica, the Rebellious Rothschild. This biography was written by Nica’s great-niece, Hannah Rothschild, who (like Nica) struggled against the expectations that come along with that illustrious name.

Nica and her sisters, Miriam and Liberty, were raised in surroundings of extraordinary wealth, rigid rules, and emotional neglect.  Their educations were limited and their expectations severely circumscribed. As women, they would never, ever, work at the Rothschild family business. So what would they do? No one really seemed to know or care.

Miriam became a brilliant and influential entomologist, and Liberty suffered from mental illness. Nica, the beautiful youngest, married a European jet-setter, as rich beautiful young ladies did.

But by the mid-1960s, Nica had left her husband and children, and was hanging out in the Five Spot Cafe and the Village Vanguard, listening to live jazz in her fur coat and pearls.  By the mid-1970s, she was living with Thelonius Monk and two hundred cats in Weehawken, New Jersey.

The Baroness is full of amazing characters, from saxophonist Charlie Parker, who died in Nica’s apartment, to Nica’s brilliant and steely sister Miriam. It’s really one of the most interesting biographies I’ve ever read.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Recycled Fairy Tale

Marissa Meyer’s Cinder is a recycled fairy tale that adds a dash of light science fiction and a whole lot of intrigue to the classic rags-to-riches love story. Most of the time-honored elements are here:

  • Wicked stepmother: check. Audrey’s a small-minded, bitter, prejudiced woman who spoils her own daughters while sending Cinder out to support the family. 
  • Wicked stepsisters: almost. One wicked stepsister and one who’s Cinder’s only human friend.
  • Wicked queen: check. Oh, wait, that’s from another fairy tale—but it’s true nonetheless. The Lunar Queen who rules over the strange mutant population on the moon is truly evil, and she has her sights on charming Prince Kai, who is heir to one of the most powerful empires on Earth. 
  • Pumpkin coach: check, seemingly courtesy of Volkswagen.
Half the fun of this read lies in identifying the fairytale elements—the other half is in finding the twists. The most obvious twist is Cinder herself: not just an unloved orphan with undersized feet, she’s also a cyborg. And only one of her feet is undersized—the child-sized prosthetic one that her wicked stepmother was too cheap to replace. Cinder’s not just a cleaning wench, either—she’s a mechanic, skilled in fixing everything from portscreens to magbelts to medbots. And fortunately, she’s not insufferably perfect-- Cinder’s got completely justifiable anger issues, and she’s not afraid to share.

Full of snappy dialogue and inter-satellite intrigue, Cinder is an amusing rehash of the old tale. It’s the first book of Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles:

  •  Cinder, based on Cinderella 
  •  Scarlet, based on Little Red Riding Hood
  •  Cress, based on Rapunzel (not yet published)
  •  Winter, based on Snow White (not yet published)

I enjoyed Cinder a lot, and recommend it to readers who like recycled fairy tales, and readers of young adult fiction. It did leave me with some questions—most notably, why does the populace dislike cyborgs so much? In Cinder’s world, so-called cyborgs are such second class citizens that they’re used for medical experiments, and it’s hard to imagine any society condoning such a thing when all it takes to be a cyborg is an accidental loss of limb. I hope there’s more background on this in the later books.

Looking for more recycled fairy tales? One of my favorites is Deerskin by Robin McKinley.  Or anything by Charles de Lint, (some based on fairy tales, all excellent.)  Or try Alex Flinn's Towering, a new take on Rapunzel.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

W. Somerset Maugham--Through a Veil Darkly

August's Literary Flick is The Painted Veil, starring Naomi Watts, Ed Norton, and Liev Schreiber. Filmed in 2006, the movie is based on W. Somerset Maugham's 1925 novel.

British socialite Kitty (Watts) marries Walter Fane (Norton), a bacteriologist. They move to Shanghai where they soon learn they have nothing in common; Kitty is vain, vivacious, and fond of parties, while Walter is shy and studious. Kitty begins an affair with Charles Townsend (Schreiber), a married British vice consul.

Learning of his wife’s infidelity, Walter volunteers to work in a Chinese village stricken with a major cholera epidemic. As a backdrop to the story, revolution is brewing in China. While Walter's actions are meant to punish Kitty rather than reflect his own benevolence, the daily trials of living in a community in crisis have a striking impact on the couple, giving them a new and deeper perspective on their relationship.

The Painted Veil moves slowly, lyrically, luxuriantly along, its breathtaking scenery juxtaposing vividly with the misery of illness and war.

The movie will be shown on Tuesday, August 13, at 6:30 p.m.  For more information, call the library at 541-265-2153 or go to the Literary Flicks website.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Puppet Show at Newport Library

Dragon Theater Puppets perform at Newport Public Library's Literacy Park 1:00 pm Wednesday, August 7th. This is the last Dig Into Reading show for the summer but young readers have until August 31st to finish their reading contracts and receive their T-shirt. All children and families are invited to attend this free program. 

“Jason Ropp and his company of puppets are a staple of our summer reading shows,” says Rebecca Cohen of Newport Library. “This summer they are once again performing an original show written specifically for libraries, I Dig Dinosaurs. Jason is a very talented performer who writes the scripts, makes all his puppets and performs all the roles. Something all the librarians appreciate about him is that he takes time after his shows to talk with the children and show them how things work behind the scenes. If folks have young visitors in town, this is a great show to bring them to.” 

To see more about the puppets, check out their website, .  This is a Youtube promo for one of their previous shows:

Wednesday, August 7th, the puppets will also be visiting Waldport Public Library (10 a.m.) and Driftwood Public Library in Lincoln City (6:30 p.m.). On Thursday, August 8th, they will be at Toledo Public Library (11 a.m.) and Siletz Public Library (1:00 p.m.).

For more information about the puppet performances or other library programs, please call (541) 265-2153.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Little House Nostalgia

I was studying in Canada when I checked this book out from the public library. Canada is great and all that, but I was really needing some Americana, and what, after all, is more American than the Little House franchise? Wendy McClure is a woman after my own heart, one who completely delves into a topic and is not afraid of going the distance, including driving across Minnesota in search of the Ingalls’ mud house, churning her own butter just like Ma did, and, on one memorable occasion, finding herself making jam with homesteaders in anticipation of the apocalypse.

McClure has a great sense of humor, but never goes so far as to alienate her fellow Laura-Lovers. Her affection for Laura Ingalls Wilder is deep, as is her analysis of the enduring impact the Little House books has had on her life. This is a fun read, perfect for a plane trip or a rainy day. Little House forever! (Oh, and no one will judge you if you just want to go back to the source material.)