|May 2015 Staff Favorites, Travel, Readings, and More!
We've got new staff reviews for you! Plus, read about gift ideas for Grads & Dads, author events, and the latest Travel books.
New Staff Reviews
|New reviews for you!
The Last Bookaneer
by Matthew Pearl
review by Sharon
In Pearl's latest novel, we are treated to a glimpse of the hidden world of the bookaneer. These days, we often think of the term "pirating" as the theft of digital content, but in The Last Bookaneer, the theft of intellectual property takes on a much more tangible and exciting form. It is the late 1800s, a golden age for literature when classics such as Frankenstein and Treasure Island are being written. The lack of international copyright laws creates a group of opportunists, known as bookaneers, who take it upon themselves to nefariously obtain manuscripts and provide them to overseas publishers for great financial gain (and glory amongst themselves). With new copyright laws on the horizon, the hourglass is turned and the race is on to find one last great masterpiece. Rumor has it that Robert Louis Stevenson is writing his final novel at his estate in Samoa. Mr. Fergins, a humble London bookseller, is drawn into adventure and intrigue in the South Seas when one of his bookaneer associates, Pen Davenport, decides to go after it. Davenport's rival, Belial, has also taken on the mission. The bookaneers' motives are ambiguous... money and notoriety, most certainly. But they are also lovers of literature, and take a certain pride in their work. And, as Mr. Fergins finds out, their rivalry is also quite personal. Are they con artists and thieves or literary Robin Hoods? It's hard to decide, but trying to figure it out is just part of what makes this a delightful story!
A Fearless Heart
by Thupten Jinpa, PhD
reviewed by Andy
The lovely refrain of A Fearless Heart is: just like me, everyone desires happiness and wishes to avoid suffering. This elementary observation is the basis from which "compassion cultivation training" begins. Compassion is not something new we must learn or add to ourselves, it is always within us but may require refining. "Through training...we can make compassion our basic stance, the very outlook with which we perceive ourselves and the world around us, so that we engage with the world from that place." Eminently practical, the text is full of meditative exercises to help make compassion the basis for all of our interactions. The book contains a deeply insightful diagnosis of the detriments of putting a premium on individual glory; the most poignant chapters were those diagnosing our endemic lack of self-compassion and the exercises to alleviate this unnecessary suffering. Though its roots are in Tibetan Buddhist contemplative practice, "the exercises are spiritual practice[s] that can be embraced by everyone, those of different faiths as well as of no faith." Many Western studies of meditation are cited to underscore the utility of the practices. Both East and West agree on the paradoxical result: being kind to someone else will make you happy, too.
Baby's on Fire
by Liz Prato
reviewed by Curt
It is rare to find stories combining pathos and humor effectively, but Prato does so consistently with subtlety and delicacy. I found myself laughing out loud at one paragraph and near tears in the next. From the siblings in the title story, to the washed up big-league prospect in "Minor League Lessons," to the neighbors in "A Proportional Response," these characters are real people portrayed with empathy. An outstanding debut collection by a local author (and friend!).
Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design
by Charles Montgomery
reviewed by Mary
Don't be put off by the goofy title. I was lucky enough to hear the author speak and was so impressed that I bought the book from him that day. Montgomery combines an encyclopedic knowledge of urban design with extensive research on what makes people happy. Portlanders won't be surprised to find support for transportation choice, shorter commutes, green spaces, and the human connections that accompany them. Well-documented research combines with enlightening anecdotes to create this readable book by an award-winning Canadian journalist.
Upcoming Readings & Events
Readings and Independent Bookstore Day
Mark Armour & Steve Steinberg
Wednesday, May 20, 7pm
Mark Armour is the co-author of In Pursuit of Pennants, an investigation into why some baseball teams win while others don't. While there is no recipe for guaranteed success in a competitive, ever-changing environment, these teams demonstrate how creatively thinking about one's circumstances can often lead to a competitive advantage. Steve Steinberg is the co-author of The Colonel and Hug. This book tells the story of how owner Jacob Ruppert and manager Miller Huggins transformed the Yankees. It also tells the larger story about baseball primarily in the tumultuous period from 1918 to 1929.
Thursday, May 21, 7pm
Paige harbors a painful memory. Three years ago, she witnessed her best friend Robin's abduction from a sleepover the girls were attending. Two weeks later, Robin's body was found abandoned. The effects of this gruesome crime continue to ripple through the community, family, and especially Paige's life three years later. Struggling with debilitating flashbacks and immense guilt, Paige must continue to reconcile with her memories of the past and attempt to overcome the loss of innocence, her best friend, and her faith in the universe.
Thursday, May 28, 7pm
From Portland young adult author Kate Ristau comes Shadowgirl. Áine may live in the light, but she is haunted by darkness, and when her fey powers blaze out of control, she escapes into the Shadowlands. But she cannot outrun her past. Fire fey and a rising darkness threaten the light, burning a path across the veil. Her fiery dreams come to life, and with the help of Hennessy, an uninhibited Irish girl, Áine dives into the flames to discover who she truly is. Her mother burned to keep her secret safe, and now Áine wields the deadly Eta. She must learn to fight in the shadows--or die in the flames. This is not a fairy tale.
Steven Blair Wheeler
Behind Enemy Lines
Thursday, June 4, 7pm
Behind Enemy Lines is the second novel in Portland author Steven Wheeler's World War II trilogy. In the first entry, Fight to Survive, First Lieutenant Arthur Hill begins to gather survivors intending to hold out in the Belgian forest. Meanwhile, German SS Colonel Karl Grabner and his security battalion moves into a village near the woods. Behind Enemy Lines continues the story of Arthur forming a unit of men who refused to surrender. Grabner knows Germany cannot win the war, and he is determined to die in battle. He comes to see the Americans operating in the woods as his last chance to do so.
Kirsten and Christopher Stuckey
Monday, June 8, 7pm
What you can do with a jar, a bit of salt, and a sense of adventure? Become an culinary artist, or if you prefer a mad scientist, of vegetable fermentation. The Shockeys will demonstrate how to create delicious nutrient dense fermented vegetables. This demonstration will focus on simple vegetable fermentation techniques beyond cabbage. Learn how to turn great fresh vegetables into fermented relishes, salsas and concentrated herb pastes.
Tuesday, June 9, 7pm
Calorie Accounting is a fun and funny, cool and creative, visual and vibrant lifestyle how-to that delivers the skinny on the arithmetic of weight loss. Typically, there's nothing less enjoyable than being fat and preferring not to be, but Calorie Accounting finally allows us to cut the crap and face this thing head on--with jokes, puns, humiliating photos, and self-deprecation. Because after all, in the all-too-heavy world of health and fitness, can't we afford to lighten up a bit?
Love in the Elephant Tent
Tuesday, June 16, 7pm
"If you live life without a net, what happens when you fall?" Kathleen Cremonesi knew early on she wanted to be different. Determined to avoid following in her mother's footsteps to an ill-fated marriage, Kathleen left Oregon in her early 20s to travel across Europe. On a whim, this former administrative assistant with wanderlust took a job as a dancer in an Italian circus and, working her way up, became an ostrich-riding, shark-taming showgirl. Kathleen bonds with the exotic animals that could strike and kill at any moment, but instead bring her a peace she has never known. And when she stumbles into the arms of Stefano, the sexy elephant keeper, she finds a man who understands her wild spirit.
Thursday, June 18, 7pm
The Portland author joins us for the paperback release of her novel Juliet's Nurse. In Verona, a city ravaged by plague and political rivalries, a mother mourning the death of her day-old infant enters the household of the powerful Cappelletti family to become the wet-nurse to their newborn baby. As she serves her beloved Juliet over the next fourteen years, the nurse learns the Cappellettis' darkest secrets. Those secrets--and the nurse's deep personal grief--erupt across five momentous days of love and loss that destroy a daughter, and a family.
Sarai Walker (with Robin Romm)
Wednesday, June 24, 7pm
Walker will discuss her novel with Portland writer Romm. Plum Kettle does her best not to be noticed, because when you're fat, to be noticed is to be judged. Or mocked. Or worse. With her job answering fan mail for a popular teen girls' magazine, she is biding her time until her weight-loss surgery. Only then can her true life as a thin person finally begin. Then, when a mysterious woman starts following her, Plum finds herself falling down a rabbit hole and into an underground community of women who live life on their own terms. As Plum grapples with her personal struggles, she becomes entangled in a sinister plot. The consequences are explosive.
Tuesday, June 30, 7pm
The new novel from the author of Broken for You spins the stories of a dedicated teacher, his enigmatic son, and a wartime survivor into an affecting tale of love, loss, and handwriting. High school English teacher Charles Marlow is at the end of a road he's traveled on autopilot for years when a series of events forces him to think back on the lifetime of decisions and indecisions that have brought him to this point. With the help of an ambitious art student, an Italian-speaking nun, and the memory of a boy in a white suit who inscribed his childhood with both solace and sorrow, Charles may finally be able to rewrite the script of his life. Sometimes the most powerful words are the ones you're still searching for.
New Travel Books
Check out these great new titles from our Travel section:
by John Waters
John Waters is putting his life on the line. Armed with wit, a pencil-thin mustache, and a cardboard sign that reads "I'm Not Psycho," he hitchhikes across America from Baltimore to San Francisco, braving lonely roads and treacherous drivers. But who should we be more worried about, the delicate film director with genteel manners or the unsuspecting travelers transporting the Pope of Trash? Laced with subversive humor and warm intelligence, Carsick is an unforgettable vacation with a wickedly funny companion--and a celebration of America's weird, astonishing, and generous citizenry. Now out in paperback!
by John Hooper
How did a nation that spawned the Renaissance also produce the Mafia? And why does Italian have twelve words for coat hanger but none for hangover? Hooper's entertaining and perceptive new book is the ideal companion for anyone seeking to understand contemporary Italy and the unique character of the Italians. Fifteen years as a foreign correspondent based in Rome have sharpened Hooper's observations, and he looks at the facts that lie behind the stereotypes, shedding new light on everything from the Italians' bewildering politics to their love of life and beauty. Hooper persuasively demonstrates the impact of geography, history, and tradition on many aspects of Italian life, including football and Freemasonry, sex, food, and opera. Brimming with the kind of fascinating--and often hilarious--insights unavailable in guidebooks, The Italians will surprise even the most die-hard Italophile.
After the Dance
by Edwidge Danticat
Danticat was terrified by Carnival festivities until 2002, when she returned home to Haiti determined to understand the lure of this famed event. Here she chronicles her journey to the coastal town of Jacmel, where she met with the performers, artists, and organizers who re-create the myths and legends that bring the festival to life. In the process, Danticat traces the heroic and tragic history of the island, from French colonists and Haitian revolutionaries to American invaders and home-grown dictators. Part travelogue, part memoir, part historical analysis, this is the deeply personal story of a writer rediscovering her country, along with a part of herself and a wonderful introduction to Haiti's southern coast and to the beauty and passions of Carnival.
by Toby Wilkinson
The renowned Egyptologist leads us through space as much as time: from the river's mystical sources (the Blue Nile which rises in Ethiopia, and the White Nile coursing from majestic Lake Victoria); to Thebes, with its Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, and Luxor Temple; the fertile Delta; Giza, home of the Great Pyramid, the sole surviving Wonder of the Ancient World; and finally, to the pulsating capital city of Cairo, where the Arab Spring erupted on the bridges over the Nile. Along the way, he introduces us to mysterious and fabled characters--the gods, godlike pharaohs, emperors and empresses, who joined their fate to the Nile and gained immortality; the adventurers, archaeologists, and historians who have all fallen under its spell. With matchless erudition and storytelling skill, through a lens equal to both panoramas and close-ups, Wilkinson brings millennia of history into view.