About Lisa

Lisa is a Northwest Historian at the Everett Public Library. To find out what she is reading, check out her GoodReads feed at http://www.goodreads.com/LisaLab

April New Music Picks

Peru Bravo coverSpring has been a busy time for new releases and reissues. We’ve been keeping busy with great patron requests and staff discoveries alike. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the new arrival highlights from this month. Place your holds now!

Peru Bravo: Funk, Soul, & Psych from Peru’s Radical Decade (Tiger’s Milk Records). Basically what it says on the tin: almost an hour of awesomely funky psychedelic rock. My favorite track on the CD by far is the Jeriko cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe.” Dim the lights, don some paisley and velvet (or velvet paisley if you can manage), and have yourselves a dance party.

sings-kidjo2Angélique Kidjo Sings (SLC LLC). This album is a delightful fusion of Kidjo’s bold and distinctive vocals with a full orchestral backing. Listeners journey through a rich musical landscape that can be dramatic, dreamy, or festively dancy depending on the track.

Pimp a Butterfly coverKendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (Aftermath Entertainment). Jazz, hip-hop, funk, spoken word, slam poetry – an entire spectrum of art forms are covered. At times thought-provoking and at others just entertaining; To Pimp a Butterfly is packed full of powerful tracks and is sure to become a classic.

Viet Cong CoverViet Cong – Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar). A solid post-punk release that grabs you from the first track and holds your attention all the way through the epic 11-minute long final cut, “Death.”

War on Women – War on Women (Bridge Nine) Loud, gritty, hardcore punk with a healthy dose of righteous feminist fury.

2ne1 crush cover2NE1 – Crush (YG Entertainment) K-Pop girl group 2NE1 blends hip-hop, reggae, RnB, and EDM to come up with a great mix of dancefloor-friendly tracks and slowjams.

The Skints FM coverThe Skints – FM (Easy Star Records) Laid out like a day at a London pirate radio station, the Skints make good use of their ska, reggae, ragga, hip hop, dub, and grime roots. FM proudly represents the musical melting pot that thrives on the underground airwaves of the UK.

March New Music: a Horse of a Different Color Edition

Photo from wikipedia.

Photo from wikipedia.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite scenes in The Wizard of Oz was when Dorothy, wide-eyed and full of wonder, was pulled through Emerald City by the Horse of a Different Color. Not one to bow its shaggy mane to conventional horse ways, this amazing beast would periodically change its color to various vibrant shades to suit its fancy. I see a similarity between Dorothy’s rainbow-hued guide and some of the music we purchase for the library. While it is in the librarian’s nature to try to classify the things she buys in order to make them more findable for our users, sometimes that task feels impossible. We are constantly working on the language we use to make sure that we keep up with changes in music and literature, but it can often be hard to be as accurate as we’d like to be and still remain organized. So this month, I wanted to highlight some of our latest Arrivals of a Different Color to pique your interest. They may defy our ability to apply just one golden label, and might not be placed where you’d expect them (not for lack of trying!), but that doesn’t make them any harder to enjoy. Be sure to place your holds now!

tracker cover imageMark Knopfler – Tracker (Verve). Knopfler, of Dire Straits fame, has returned with his ninth solo album. While this will be placed in the Rock section, it could easily appeal to fans of old-school country, Irish folk music, jazz, and bluegrass. I like to think of this one as sea shanties and ballads for the urban cowboy.

Tego Calderón – El Que Sabe, Sabehttp://wpac.epls.org/polaris/search/title.aspx?ctx=1.1033.0.0.7&cn=550071 (Universal Music Latin Entertainment). El Que Sabe will wind up in our Latin Pop section, but listeners will find a mix of reggaeton, hip-hop, reggae, electronica, bomba, and more. While the overall tone is dark but dancy, there are a couple lighter, more laid-back cuts. ‘La Media’ was a standout track for me; it reminded me of mid-90s hip-hop, to be enjoyed in the sun.

Just Kids Cover ImageMat Kearney – Just Kids (Republic Records). Also bound for our Rock section, Just Kids speaks to a few different interests. At first blush this sounds almost like a Coldplay album, but then Kearney starts rhyming, a little like Macklemore, but with vaguely Christian Contemporary lyrics. Did I mention he has bluegrass overtones but also likes to play around with synths? Christian folk-hop? Sounds about right, and it works.

Panda Bear Cover ImagePanda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (Domino Recording Co.). If we were going to indulge in smaller musical genre sections at the library, I’d place this in ‘chillwave’ – basically synthpop’s grandbaby – but I do not want our catalogers to start hating me. For simplicity’s sake, this album rocks out, so it belongs under that heading. Panda Bear’s sound is psychedelic, synth-driven, and sample heavy, but layered over with vocal harmonies that have often been compared to the Beach Boys.

For those of you who would like some less-complicated notable new arrivals, I also really enjoyed these two:

One-derful Cover ImageVarious Performers – The One-derful! Collection (Secret Stash Records). An outstanding collection of soul and funk classics recorded at One-derful! in Chicago between 1962 and 1971. I can’t recommend this compilation enough. It’s the first of six that will be released over the next few years.

Vestiges and Claws Cover ImageJosé González – Vestiges & Claws (Mute). Straight-up, no-nonsense indie-folk music. This is a really enjoyable album, with beautiful guitar melodies, intriguing lyrics, and dreamy vocals.

New Music Picks for February

Tetsuo & Young album coverWe get a lot of great new music in every week at the EPL, so sometimes it’s hard to keep up. I got the chance to peek through the latest stack of new arrivals down in the cataloging department and wanted to give you a preview of what’s about to hit the shelves.

Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo & Youth (Atlantic) This release has a spring feel to it. For the most part comprised of laid-back, jazzy, atmospheric beats, the production mainly takes a back seat to Lupe’s thought-provoking wordplay. The tone of the tracks takes a turn near the end of the album, when the sound and content becomes a bit darker and harder; the change isn’t a bad one, but it almost feels like the tracks were added on from a different project.

Imagine Dragons – Smoke + Mirrors (KIDinaKorner/Interscope) The second studio release from Imagine Dragons, Smoke + Mirrors provides the listener with a poppy, more rock-driven sound than their earlier work. That being said, the album is a lively mashup of different sounds and influences, from electronic to world music to R&B.

The Pale Emperor album coverMarilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor (Hell, Etc.) Iconic industrial metal act Marilyn Manson returns with a different sound to critical acclaim. The band’s new material fuses electronic and industrial elements with a predominantly bluesy backbone. Manson’s lyrics and subject matter still flirt with religion, war, violence, and mythology, continuing the tradition of courting controversy with some listeners. The overall effect is a dark but pretty catchy album that strays away from the more niche industrial/goth sound of earlier releases.

Future Islands – Singles (4AD) Singles feels like a synthpop trip to the beach, with an airy, sunny, slightly melodramatic vibe to the melodies and vocals. I could see throwing this album on some rainy afternoon for an impromptu new wave dance party in my kitchen.

These albums will be available for checkout soon, so place your holds now at www.epls.org.

Mexico: The Cookbook

Mexico the cookbookEvery once in a while a book comes along that you just fall in love with. Right now I have stars in my eyes, and they only shine for Mexico: The Cookbook by chef Margarita Carrillo Arronte. Here is a book that speaks to almost all of my interests. At the very base level, it’s a beautiful volume. The hot pink dust jacket is decorated in traditional Mexican papel picado style, with intricate cutouts of sugar skulls and cross-stitch-like patterns. The covers of the book are a vibrant, glossy, neon orange – peeking through the cut-away artwork. The book has heft; a silky blue ribbon book mark drapes from the middle of 700+ pages of good quality paper stock.

All book nerd rhapsodizing aside about the loveliness of this bible of Mexican cuisine, the contents inside are equally delightful. Arronte, a well-respected advocate of traditional Mexican cooking, has compiled a cookbook that is a delightful blend of ethnography, culinary history, recipes, photography, and dictionary. The first section of the book is devoted to talking about traditional ingredients found in Mexican cooking, their significance, and the different regional variations. From there the book is broken down into sections dealing with different kinds of dishes: street food, salads and snacks, eggs (yes, there does need to be a whole section on eggs), soups, seafood, meat, vegetables, sauces, baked goods, drinks and desserts, and recipes from guest chefs.

Each recipe is listed first by its Spanish name, and then an English translation. Before getting into the process of cooking the dish, cooks are provided with the region that the dish is from, the ingredients list, the prep time, the cooking time, and how many servings the recipe prepares (all that’s lacking is a calorie estimate, but nobody is perfect). Sprinkled in among the many pages of recipes are a collection of gorgeous full color photos of selected dishes; there are also some wonderful shots of street scenes, ingredients, and people throughout the book. The instructional writing is very easy to follow. Aside from the challenge of sourcing some of the more obscure ingredients listed for some of the dishes, this book doesn’t require the user to be a very adventurous cook. That being said, this cook book probably isn’t a good fit for someone looking for quick meal ideas – many traditional Mexican recipes involve a lot of simmering, marinading, and letting flavors develop.

Mexico: The Cookbook concludes with a couple sections that will be dear to the hearts of librarians, foodies, and seekers of knowledge out there. There is a bibliography that allows the reader to dig deeper into the sources that the author used to craft her volume. There is a fantastic glossary to help cooks learn more about ingredients that are unfamiliar to them. Finally, there is a large index to help you find yummy goodness more easily.

Needless to say it was hard for me to part with this book once I got my hands on it, but I had to set it free with the arrival of the assertive FIRST NOTICE email from the library. It may be that I’ll have to source my own copy to join my little niche of church-published Polish recipe books my grandma passed along to me. It seems like an appropriate mixing of traditions.

2014: My Year in Short Stories

Vampires in the Lemon Grove cover imageEvery year I like to set some reading goals for myself; it’s about the closest thing I come to making New Year’s resolutions. This year I set out to read 75 books (I just barely made it!), start reading graphic novels, and start reading short story collections. I managed to do all three, and have compiled a list of my favorite short reads (graphic novel or otherwise).

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. This haunting collection of short stories was probably my favorite surprise of 2014. I picked up the audio book because I was drawn to the cover. The stories in this collection range from science fiction to supernatural storytelling, almost always with a bittersweet, romantic undertone. I think fans of Neil Gaiman’s brand of writing would enjoy this book.

The Buddha in the Attic cover imageThe Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. It might be a stretch to call this book a collection of short stories – it doesn’t unfold in the same way you’d expect such a collection to. Instead, it’s more of a mosaic of ‘micro stories,’ with each chapter piecing together the rapid-fire memories of countless women to create a picture of what it was like for Japanese mail-order brides to arrive in America, try to fit in, and live their lives. It was a wonderful listen as an audio book, but I’m sure it would be just as powerful if you were reading it on your own.

Saga, volume 1 cover image

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Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples. This was one of the first graphic novels I’d ever read, and I took to it very quickly. Staples’s artistic style was lush and dramatic. It added a lot of visual interest to an already action-packed story of escape and forbidden love. The plot is a satisfying mix of fantasy and science fiction for readers whose tastes happen to straddle that line, as mine tend to.

 

Transplant in a WA Winter Wonderland

Cross Country Ski Tours coverSomehow we’ve managed to stumble into December and the full-blown beginning of winter. As I write this, there’s a rare crust of snow covering the skylight in the Northwest History Room, and I’ve got the space heater going at my desk. This time of year turns my thoughts to home; not my relatively new home out here in the PacNW, but the home and family I left behind in Chicago. This year will be the first year I don’t return for any of the holidays, so my efforts have been aimed at bringing a little bit of home to myself.

What comes first? Well of course the answer is food. Despite my best efforts, I’ve yet to find a source for Polish food out here. I’ve had tasty Russian and Hungarian food, but nothing that tastes like Grandma’s kitchen. On the days when I’m not feeling lazy, I’ve begun trying to make some of my favorites at home. I’ve perfected my fresh Polish sausage recipe and several versions of gołąbki, but have yet to tackle the pierogi. I’m thinking with all this leftover turkey, mushrooms, assorted berries, potatoes, and stuffing, I might have some great fillings to give it a try this week. To help me along the way, I’ve grabbed two great Polish cookbooks from the stacks:

From a Polish Country House Kitchen coverFrom a Polish Country House Kitchen by Anne Applebaum & Danielle Crittenden is a very posh take on Polish cooking. There is a lot of emphasis on fresh, high-quality, farm-raised ingredients. This book is full of lush photographs of caviar canapes, fruit soups, and rich desserts, perfect for helping you select a menu for a dinner party. There are several pierogi recipes to play with and dozens of other dishes to try.

Polish Classic Recipes coverPolish Classic Recipes, by Laura & Peter Zeranski is a humble little book that looks more like something you’d find in grandma’s kitchen. The photos are no less enticing but the presentation is more down-to-earth. It’s comforting to see foods I love being served in the same kinds of Polish crockery that I inherited from my Mom.

I’m looking forward to taking both home to do some heavy winter meal planning.

Another great way of bringing a bit of home out here is getting outside and playing in the cold. Right now I can do that in my own backyard but once the temperatures rise a bit and the snow goes away, I’ll be heading up into the mountains to enjoy the winter wonderland. At home my winter activity of choice was always pond hockey; with the relative lack of safe and reliable natural ice here, I’ve had to pick up some new hobbies. This year there will be a lot of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The EPL has a great variety of books on these sports and where to enjoy them locally. Here are some of my favorites from Mountaineer Books:

CrossCountry Skiing coverCross-Country Skiing, by Steve Hindman. As a book buyer for the EPL, I’ve come to recognize that there are certain publishers that reliably release high-quality books. Mountaineers Books is a great example. This title is a well-respected guide for beginner and more experienced Cross-Country or Nordic skiers. Readers learn about the different kinds of equipment available, as well as different techniques that will come in handy on the trail. The author includes step-by-step photos to help illustrate the different topics being discussed.

Cross-Country Ski Tours: Washington’s North Cascades. This one is an oldie but a goodie. If you’re looking for good recommendations on local trails, this is an excellent resource.

Backcountry Ski and Snowboard coverBackcountry Ski & Snowboard Routes by Martin Volken. While this book probably won’t be in my bag at the end of the day, I thought I’d offer up something for the more-seasoned local readers out there. The routes in this book were vetted and compiled by a seasoned team of backcountry ski and snowboard guides. Routes vary in difficulty from beginner to expert skiers and snowboarders, so be cautious and honest about your skill level if you decide to try some out. Readers are treated to information about elevation, permits needed, directions to the trails, and detailed trail descriptions.

So that’s the plan for this winter – eating great food and getting outside to explore the winter wonderlands of Washington State. A PacNW spin on home away from home.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Warmth of Other Suns coverThe other day I was walking out with an armload of books on CD, and Richard our audio book selector got all excited because he thought I was getting non-fiction (something he’d like to see checked out more). Shamefacedly I had to admit that it was all fiction, and that I had been slacking a bit on listening to anything factual. His enthusiasm for promoting our non-fiction audio books inspired me to put some of my selections back and browse the other shelves.

I’ve always been a big non-fiction reader, but for some reason this passion hasn’t translated well to audio books. I have a long commute and like to pass the time listening to stories. I’ve found them to be easier to listen to in the little 35 minute drives I have to do throughout the week because I don’t have to pay too close attention to make sure I’m not missing any important points. It’s also easier to pick up where I left off if I haven’t listened in a while because we’ve been using the other car; often with non-fiction audio books I have to rewind a bit to refresh my memory. The only things that combat these issues for me when listening to non-fiction books is to find ones that are written in a very narrative style and have great readers.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of non-fiction audio books that I’ve listened to recently that have kept me enthralled from start to finish.

The Warmth of Other Suns: the Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson (read by Robin Miles). I guess if you need a place to start, choosing a Pulitzer Prize winning book generally isn’t a bad idea. Wilkerson tells the story of the Great Migration by tracing the paths of four African-Americans who migrated north and west to escape the Jim Crow world of the South. Because the author interviewed all four individuals, the book is rich with dialogue and personal stories. Miles does an excellent job of reading Wilkerson’s work, making each individual’s personality shine through, and adding appropriate emphasis and emotion to some of the more difficult passages.

Mushroom Hunters coverThe Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America, by Langdon Cook (read by Kevin R. Free). Foodie, traveler, hiker, lover of the Pacific Northwest – no matter what you consider yourself to be, you’ll probably find something to enjoy about this title. Mushroom Hunters reads like investigative journalism mixed with Food Network programming (in the best way possible). Cook tells the story of his quest to learn about the secret not-always-legal world of commercial mushroom harvesting in the Pacific Northwest. I really enjoyed driving back and forth on Highway 2 as Free described the kinds of lush rainy mountains that surrounded me, and all the secret things that may be happening in them.

Detroit cover imageDetroit: an American Autopsy, by Charlie LeDuff (read by Eric Martin). This is a book that I would have loved even if Mickey Mouse was reading it, but Eric Martin’s narration took it from good to perfection for me.  Martin’s gravelly no-nonsense delivery perfectly matches the tone of LeDuff’s vignettes of the rough, hard-working, beautiful, disturbing, hopeful, and troubled City of Detroit. This book isn’t another work of ruin porn aimed at exploiting what befell Detroit after the decline of its industrial might. It’s the honest collected experiences of a journalist who has spent his entire career covering every side of a city that seems to be almost universally hated and feared by the rest of America. No predictions are made about the future. No excuses are made for the past. It’s just the facts as he saw them happen, and it’s dark, light, and magnificent.

Naked coverNaked, by David Sedaris (read by the author and his sister, comedian/actress Amy Sedaris). Ending on a lighter note, I just have to say I’m a sucker for David Sedaris in any format, but I think experiencing his writing performed by himself is always the best. Whether it be appearances on This American Life, or full-length readings of one of his many titles, you’d be hard-pressed to not be entertained. Well, at least you would be if you and I share a similar sense of humor. In Naked, Sedaris tells stories about his upbringing; considering that his family spawned two comedians, you know things had to be unorthodox.  Even though he may be describing something completely ridiculous, his sense of humor remains dry and ironic. This tone is amplified when you hear him perform his work. His readings are so well-timed and pitch perfect that it’s almost impossible to later read something of his without hearing his voice in your head.

I hope some of these recommendations inspire you to treat yourself to some of the many excellent non-fiction audio titles we have in our collections. I know I’ll continue exploring!