Northwest author Jo Dereske creates a ‘loving sendup’ to librarians in Miss Zukas mysteries

photo of author jo dereskeTurns out my favorite librarian in the universe will be making an appearance at our very own Green Lake Library this week. Okay, make that my favorite fictional librarian, created by Northwest author Jo Dereske, who will be reading from her popular Miss Zukas mystery series and discussing writing mysteries (she has a new series in the works) on Thursday, March 13, from 6 to 7:45 p.m.

Wilhelmina (Helma) Zukas’ independent spirit, intelligence and resourcefulness make it impossible for this librarian/sleuth to resist solving murders and setting things straightcatalogue of death book cover in her beloved Bellehaven (think Bellingham/Fairhaven). I love the local setting, witty style and crisp writing that comes through in each of the ten Miss Zukas mysteries (which the New York Times called “a loving sendup” to the librarian stereotype). I was delighted when Miss Zukas returned, after a three-year break, in Bookmarked to Die and Catalogue of Death. The 11th title in the series comes out in April.

Author Jo Dereske (who is also a librarian) gives us a bit of insight into Helma Zukas — as well as some excellent reading suggestions — in part one of a two-part interview:

How does this amateur detective benefit from her librarian background?

Well, as everyone knows, library folk are sharply observant, and relentless researchers. Miss Zukas understands patterns and anomalies and she does not give up. She has a book and she knows how to use it.

Those who don’t yet know Miss Zukas may have some preconceived notions based on her profession. What do you wish people knew about Helma Zukas?

When I began writing the series I wanted to respond to two things. I’d been told: “Nobody would ever publish a book about a librarian.” The other was the way librarians were viewed as dull stereotypes by the Continue reading “Northwest author Jo Dereske creates a ‘loving sendup’ to librarians in Miss Zukas mysteries”

The War in Fiction, part 2: The Home Front

prisoners.bmpA War is not one story, but many.

Here is the second of three lists of fiction that views the war through many eyes, reflecting the diverse experiences of civilians and soldiers around the world whose lives were drawn into the Second World War.

As the war draws to its close, the lives of men and women in a rural Kentucky town are indelibly changed whether they are returning from the front lines or waiting back at home.

Humor and pathos punctuate this coming-of-age novel in which Josh, a witty 17-year-old, navigates Continue reading “The War in Fiction, part 2: The Home Front”

Books About Autism

Why are there so many good books about autism? Sadly, maybe it’s because there are so many families dealing with this very difficult diagnosis. I love to read “my problem and how I solved it books” (think Ladies Home Journal’s long-running “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” series). Unfortunately many of the family members with autism in their lives do not have solvable problems. Nevertheless, the novels mentioned here show sensitivity, intelligence and often the dark humor needed to survive.
In Daniel Isn’t Talking by Marti Leimbach, Melanie Marsh, an American living in London, tries to keep her marriage going after she and her husband learn that their two-year-old son is autistic. Lots of humor and a white knight of a therapist.

Another mother, Rachel, battles fiercely for her young son’s emotional health and the health of the rest of her family in Ann Bauer’s Wild Ride Up the Cupboards. In the compelling mystery Eye Contact, by Cammie McGovern, an autistic child is found next to the body of a murdered child. Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time by Mark Haddon is a gently humorous exemplary first novel in which a 15-year-old autistic boy, falsely accused of murdering a dog, sets out to find the real killer. Family Pictures by Sue Miller is a timeless saga by the master novelist about how an autistic son directly affects the whole family.

What’s Up with Autism? is the title of a free lecture tonight at the Central Library, as part of the Medical Series of lectures sponsored by The Seattle Public Library and the University of Washington School of Medicine. Topics covered will include the increase of autism diagnoses, current understanding of autism and approaches to treatment. ~ Susan

Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore

Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore. When Jody becomes a vampire, she realizes that even though being young and beautiful forever is kind of cool, there are a few serious draw backs — like blood thirst, dropping dead at dawn, and the problem of finding suitable employment. So what’s a girl to do when she can’t hold a job, eat a bagel, or buy new shoes? Enter Tommy Flood, a wanna-be-writer working the night shift at the local Safeway. With Tommy’s help Jody can become the creature of the night she was reborn to be. That is if Elijah, her maker, and the Animals, Tommy’s vampire-hunting buddies, don’t kill her first. Bloodsucking Fiends is by turns goofy and quick witted, a combination that will make you laugh out loud in public places. If that’s not your thing, you might want to skip it and its sequel, titled You Suck.

You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore. As far as Tommy Flood’s concerned, being a vampire isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There’s the blood drinking, the sunburns, and the teenage goth-girl who wants to be his ‘minion.’ As if that wasn’t bad enough, he and his girlfriend (also undead) are being hunted by a centuries old vampire as well as a group of vampire-hunter-wannabes who know exactly how Tommy thinks. After all, he used to be their leader. It’s a race for survival, and a comedy of errors that will make you laugh until your funny bone hurts.

~posted by Lindsay S.

Gaiman gives it away!

And we like it. To celebrate the seventh birthday of his blog, the wildly inventive Neil Gaiman asked his fans to vote on which of his titles they’d like a free electronic copy of. Now that the voting is over, American Gods is available for online readers at the Harpercollins site for the month of March. Gaiman’s fourth novel tells of an epic struggle between a pantheon of dieties such as Odin, Anansi and Thoth, long thought dead but actually just lying low and doing menial jobs, and an upstart race of New American Gods – gods of television and the credit card, the Internet and the internal combustion engine.

Gaiman is not the first hugely talented author of speculative fiction to offer their work gratis. Kelly Link, Charles Stross, and Cory Doctorow are among a growing group of forward-thinking writers giving away their work via creative commons licensing. And there are other visionary organizations that have been giving books away for over a century! As Gaiman put it in a recent post on his blog: “Libraries are good things: you shouldn’t have to pay for every book you read.” Amen.