Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Unusual Detectives

Revelations of a Lady Detective. Revelations of a Lady Detective. Image taken from Revelations of a Lady Detective. Originally published/produced in George Vickers: London, 1864. George Vickers: London, 1864. . Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/163_2964167/1/163_2964167/cite. Accessed 4 Aug 2017.
It seems like from the beginning of detective fiction, authors tried to give their detectives a hook - making them unusual, and therefore memorable. Generally regarded as the first detective in fiction, Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin is a gentleman detective who solves cases to amuse himself. Sherlock Holmes plays the violin and boxes; he is a master of disguise and a habitual user of cocaine. Agatha Christie seems to use her fictional author character, Ariadne Oliver, to bemoan the folly of creating a detective that is too unusual - Oliver's detective, Sven Hjerson, is Finnish and a vegetarian, and Oliver is often at her wit's end plotting her novels with those traits, which she knows little about, in mind.

Authors still like to put their detectives in unusual milieus. For every gritty police procedural out there, you can find many titles and series (particularly cozies) featuring detectives and detecting teams from every walk of life - coffeehouses managers, tea shop owners, herbalists, crossword creators, knitters, and beyond.

Here's a handful of unusual detectives to pique your interest:

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie
1950s vicar

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C. Alan Bradley
11-year-old sleuth and aspiring chemist

The Hearse You Came In On by Tim Cockey
Maryland morticians

Deception on All Accounts by Sara Sue Hoklotubbe
Cherokee banker

Celine by Peter Heller
elegant, aristocratic private eye

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
Chet the dog, companion of an Arizona private investigator

Wine of Violence by Priscilla Royal
11th century prioress

Top o' the Mournin' by Maddy Hunter
tour guide

Summer of the Big Bachi by Naomi Hirahara
Japanese-American Hiroshima survivor and gardener in Los Angeles

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
private eye and Sixties music fan 

Gun With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem
hard-boiled detective in the near future - mystery has elements of sci fi

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
detective who investigates based on the fundamental interconnectedness of all things

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
Jewish refugee and detective in the Alaska panhandle

The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov
science fiction detective

Whiskey on the Rocks by Nina Wright
real estate broker

My Heart May Be Broken, But My Hair Still Looks Great by Dixie Cash
The Domestic Equalizers, hairdressers

Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts
customer relations representative in mega-casino

Eight of Swords by David Skibbins
tarot card reader and former activist

The Disciple of Las Vegas by Ian Hamilton
forensic accountant

Want more unusual detective choices? Check out the Job of Series Character list on the website Stop, You're Killing Me, "a resource for lovers of mystery, crime, thriller, spy, and suspense books...listing over 4,900 authors, with chronological lists of their books (over 57,000 titles), both series (5,800+) and non-series. Use the alphabetical author and character links or the special indexes." It's a favorite resource of ours! You can also search our Books & Literature guide, which provides you with links to booklists on various topics and our own literary research eResource NoveList (free with your valid library card!).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Unreliable Narrators

Used with permission of Powell's Books, Inc.
If you follow Powell's Books, a Portland, OR independent bookseller since 1971 (their flagship store is called Powell's City of Books), on Facebook, you will often find them posting pictures of in-house displays and asking you what you're reading this weekend. We were particularly intrigued by their "Unreliable Narrator" display.

We're not going to tell you in what way each of these narrators are unreliable, but don't read this post if you don't like spoilers, because all of these narrators are misleading you in one way or another - they may be the guilty party; they may be insane; they may just have personal bias. But none of these books will end up exactly where you thought they might.

Why are we writing about them, you might add, if it's  a possible spoiler situation? Well, as the web site TV Tropes attests, "As an author, this is a difficult trick to pull off. It is a lot easier to tell a straight story than it is to deliberately mislead the audience." They also list a couple of techniques - "Framing Device, ""Literary Agent Hypothesis," and "Rashomon-style," to give you specific examples. Let's give the authors credit for coming up with such inventive plots that turned their stories upside-down!

We don't really think about it normally, but when you pick up a book, "there's an element of trust that the person telling you the story is telling the truth, at least as far as they know it." That's why Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, one of our favorite unreliable narrator titles, was so startling and mystery-convention-breaking back in 1926. The reader expects to have to figure out whodunnit, but also expects to be given the facts, the truth, to work with.

So, here's our list of some unreliable narrators you might not have heard of (we're going to assume you all know about Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train) or may have forgotten about (we hope you haven't forgotten Rebecca, another of our favorites). But, if you're interested in twisting your brain around more titles like these, Goodreads has a pretty comprehensive list. Just know, someone in the book is probably lying to you... ūüė≤

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal by Zo√ę Heller

Fall by Colin McAdam

Atonement by Ian McEwan

How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman

John Dies at the End by David Wong

Where the Moon Isn't by Nathan Filer

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

New & Novel: Audiobooks

Portrait of Middle Eastern woman wearing headphones. Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/154_2879588/1/154_2879588/cite. Accessed 7 Jul 2017.
Audiobooks continue their meteoric rise. The Audio Publishers Association’s (APA) annual survey reports that audiobook sales in 2015 totaled more than $1.77 billion, an increase of more than 20 percent over 2014. It was the second consecutive year that audiobook sales have expanded by 20 percent, growth the APA chalks up to increasing awareness of the format and the popularity of digital downloads. The number of available titles expanded as well, from 25,944 in 2014 to 35,574 in 2015, an increase of 9,630, and the industry shows no sign of slowing down. So it’s no surprise that the tail end of 2016 and the first part of 2017 offer a dizzying array of options for audiobook fans. Some dearly departed authors will still have their voices heard in the coming months, and there’s a healthy mix of new talent and established masters in the audiobook arena.  
~Jason Puckett, "Listen & Yearn"

Whether you are looking for non-fiction crime or self-help, true stories of the famous and not-so-famous, fiction ranging from sci-fi to horror to young adult,the library system has a wide range of audiobook titles in a variety of formats! Don't limit yourself to a book on CD - you can also try a Playaway, or download an audiobook from Overdrive, hoopla, or RBDigital. Check out some of the library's more recent acquisitions, as recommended by Library Journal and BookPage (pick up a free copy of BookPage at your local library every month, while supplies last!).


The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden [eAudio]

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle [eAudio]

The Final Day by William Forstchen [eAudio]

Caraval by Stephanie Garber [YA - Playaway, eAudio]

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey [eAudio]

The Night Ocean by Paul Lafarge [eAudio]

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai [eAudio]

Recluce Tales by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. [eAudio]

The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner by Terry Pratchett [eAudio]

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth [eAudio]

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran [eAudio]

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers [eAudio]

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz [J]

The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne [eAudio]

Wolf on a String by Benjamin Black [eAudio]

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce [eAudio]

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore [YA - eAudio]

Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin [Playaway]

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney [eAudio]


Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman [eAudio]

My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King [Playaway]

Own It: The Power of Women at Work by Sallie Krawcheck [eAudio]

How To Be a Bawse by Lilly Singh [eAudio]

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson [eAudio]

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Midlife On Life's Terms

Fork In The Road , . Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.  
- Max Ehrman The Desiderata

At some point in our lives, if we are lucky, we will make it to forty years old....and beyond. There are unmistakable mild aches and pains and our metabolism goes out for cigarettes and never comes back. You find yourself saying insufferable things like, "What a nice young man" regarding someone in his thirties. Worst of all, the day comes when you're standing in the supermarket and the 1990s grunge music that defined the prime of your youth plays over the loud speakers as muzak while you contemplate a selection of calcium chews. The positive moments comes with deciding to take adult ballet classes, enroll in graduate school, and hearing yourself say assertive things like "no" that your people-pleasing younger self would have been unable to utter.

Stereotypes abound over the specter of aging hipsters growing older gracelessly. However, midlife can also give us an opportunity to hit a reset button on our creativity, ambitions, and relationships. The new responsibilities we are entrusted with provide growth and foster deep connections with our family and friends. We are held in the center of no longer being young, but old enough to see how we need to fearlessly prepare for old age and accept our mortality. It becomes possible to mellow out, forgive ourselves and others, and prepare for the next chapter of life, equipped with abundant knowledge about the creative, emotional, and spiritual possibilities for living midlife abundantly .

Crossing to Avalon: A Woman's Midlife Pilgrimage by Jean Shinoda Bolen 

Crossroads At Midlife: Your Aging Parents, Your Emotions, and Your Self  by Frances Cohen Praver

It's Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond by Julia Cameron

Life Reimagined : The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty

Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning by Claire Dederer

Menopause Confidential: A Doctor Reveals the Secrets to Thriving Through Midlife by Tara Allmen, MD

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

What's Your Cleaning Personality?

Cleaning. Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/132_1255602/1/132_1255602/cite. Accessed 29 Jul 2017.
Not to suggest that there are only three ways to clean, but we happened to be reading 3 housekeeping books recently (you can imagine what prompted our excursion through this subject) and were intrigued by their different takes on orderliness.

Do you just need to get organized?
If your house is clean but cluttered, try Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of  Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

KonMari (as the author is nicknamed in her native Japan) put this out as a follow-up to her bestselling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We almost feel she's mellowed - we don't remember any talk of a "gray zone" in the first book, or suggestions that you can save items for indoor cosplay, and a statement like "the act of discarding things on its own will never bring joy to your life" smacks faintly of blasphemy. Helpful, though, is her definition of  tidying up - "tidying up means confronting yourself" - as opposed to cleaning, which is "confronting nature." Spark Joy is definitely about tidying. How to place things, hang things, fold items (there's a lot of folding methods, who knew?) and pack drawers, suggestions for parting with and discarding items. KonMari does touch on different areas of the house, but it's all about how to store all the items you've kept because they spark joy.

Maybe you want to be more organized about cleaning.
Your house needs cleaning. You don't have time and you feel overwhelmed. How do you start? Maybe you'd like charts to help you stay on track. Perhaps you'd like to deep clean using less toxic cleaners that you can make yourself. You need Simply Clean: The Proven Method for Keeping Your Home Organized, Clean, and Beautiful in Just 10 Minutes a Day by Becky Rapinchuk.

We had heard of Becky Rapinchuk before, because people had shared some of her Clean Mama charts on Facebook. Simply Clean wants to be your cleaning bible. Rapinchuk offers a down-and-dirty take on establishing your cleanliness goals ("Just Start Somewhere: Every Day a Little Something") and puts you immediately on  a weekly cleaning schedule -Wednesday is vacuuming day, Thursday is floor washing day, etc. She recommends putting together "a cute cleaning caddy that makes you actually want to clean," suggests a 7-day kick start and a 28-day challenge for those who need a boost, and then moves into monthly and yearly cleaning schedules. There are checklists of tasks for you to fill in, recipes for cleaning products, and a section called "how to clean anything." She touches on organizing and decluttering, but her focus is cleaning, so expect to use elbow grease. Rapinchuk remains upbeat and down-to-earth in her presentation - you've got this! She did it, and so can you, in just 10 minutes a day.

You are a slob. You live with a slob. You need emergency action.
My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag...And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha by Jolie Kerr begins, "If you're here it means that you've got a cleaning disaster on your hands." You're not thinking about organizing - you have a mess on your hands. Maybe you don't even know how much of a mess!

We were first introduced to Jolie Kerr by her online column, "Ask a Clean Person." Kerr tackles the nitty-gritty of cleaning your kitchen, your bathroom, your laundry, your wedding regalia and gifts, your car, and "the things you really can't ask Martha (or Mom, for that matter)" - there really is advice for cleaning barf out of a purse, goo out of your pocket, and more intimate messes. You will learn how to clean your hairbrush, your hot rollers, your forced heat radiators, your greasy vent hood, your washer and dryer. You will learn how to tackle an assortment of stains using different methods (although the author admits she is obsessed with OxiClean). And throughout, Jolie Kerr will not mollycoddle you. The world is a a disgusting place, and there is mess everywhere. She is plain-spoken and reassuring ("Now, then, that wasn't too bad, was it? I bet you thought our discussion of bathroom cleaning would be far more scarring!") and not afraid to touch on the rude details - a mushroom could grow in your house, your laundry could mildew, you have to clean your pumice stone because you are rubbing it on your "gross feet," and that pee smell in your bathroom might be the floor or the walls around the toilet, particularly if you have men and children in the house. Less of the natural solutions to your cleaning dilemma, but touches on cleaning issues you've never heard of or might be embarrassed to discuss, many of them taken from real-life scenarios that she received letters about.

Which is closer to your cleaning personality? We got the information we were looking for (about carpet-cleaning) from Simply Clean, but now that we read My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag we will be cleaning our radiators. We're still working on tidying up.