The appearance of cherry blossoms marks the arrival of spring in Japan, sending revelers of all ages outdoors to enjoy wine and picnic lunches under flowery pink canopies in the nation’s parks and orchards. One cannot delay cherry blossom viewing, or “hanami,” because the cherry blossom is like life: beautiful and tragically fleeting.
In Seattle, consumption of alcohol on public land may not fly as it does in Japan, but the beauty and fragrance of the cherry blossom is just as sweet! The year the Seattle Center will be holding its annual Cherry Blossom and Japanese Culture Festival on April 18 – 20, providing folks in our area with a chance to welcome the spring in this centuries-old tradition.
If the beauty and barbarism, poetry and mysticism of medieval Japan have captured your imagination this season, you may be interested in these books and movies available at The Seattle Public Library.
A fantasy set in a world that closely resembles medieval Japan, this first book in the series Tales of the Otori provides an engrossing blend of history and magic that will leave readers anxious for the sequel. Our hero, Takeo, begins this story as a young man whose village was destroyed by an evil warlord. Tests of loyalty, romantic intrigue, secret cults, assassins, Continue reading “Cherry blossoms bloom herald the spring”
Every so often, someone will approach me at the library and ask for information about Nikola Tesla, often in the kind of knowing way that people ask about Bigfoot or aliens, rather than a scientist and inventor. Occasionally they’ll bend close and add in hushed tones that they want the straight dope about his death ray, earthquake machine or some other wildly fantastical top secret gadget. So just who is this mythic modern Prometheus whose wild inventions, preternatural genius and poignant life have proved so fascinating to so many?
Tesla in Fiction:
Authors such as Isabel Allende and Gabriel García Márquez are well known for their wonderful stories rich in metaphor and infused with a sense of magic. The titles below are similar in style, but are written by authors from cultures other than those of Central and South America.
The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan. Louis Belk remembers his bomb disposal assignment in Alaska during World War II and the ethereal Japanese balloon bombs he was sent to find and disable. He finds instead a lovely and mysterious landscape rich with culture and impossible to leave.
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. Marco Polo converses with and elderly Kublai Khan about the essential natures of each of the cities in his magnificent empire, describing each in metaphor and poetry to capture Continue reading “Magical Realism, beyond Latin America.”
The one thing these mysteries have in common: smart, independent, funny and resourceful women. These are today’s detectives — a little younger and a lot hipper than many of the sleuths you’ve met in long-running mystery series (you know, those series that have initials or numbers in their titles). If you’re looking for romantic suspense, look elsewhere. These women have crimes to solve.
Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
P.I. Izzy Spellman’s newest obsession is unraveling the secrets of her next door neighbor (a.k.a. Subject) whose landscape business is certainly a cover for darker intrigue. Witty and oh-so-cool in San Francisco. Get to know Izzy in The Spellman Files, the first book in the series.
Christietown by Susan Kandel
Cece Caruso, an L.A. biographer of famous mystery authors, stages a Miss Marple play that brings down the house — and the leading lady. Great authentic tie-ins to Agatha Christie (and her real-life 11-day disappearance), just like Kandel wove Dashiell Hammett and Nancy Drew’s legacy into her earlier mysteries.
Dead Ex by Harley Jane Kozak
Artist Wollie Shellie takes a silly job on a TV talk show called SoapDirt, and soon gets tangled in Continue reading “Cool women, hot mysteries”
If you find secret corridors and hemlock poison more interesting than gunfire, you may enjoy this collection of mysteries set in medieval England, Scotland and Ireland. Each of the books listed below is one of a series that revolves around a particularly engaging sleuth for whom the plagues, politics, and superstitions of the medieval world are normal facts of life and the best tools available for solving crimes are a keen intellect and a strong understanding of human nature.
Absolution by Murder by Peter Tremayne
The 17 books in the Sister Fidelma mystery series begin with this tale of murder investigated by our heroine Fidelma, who is both a nun and a “dlaigh,” or “advocate,” permitted to practice law in the Irish courts. The religious divisions, political climate and surprising degree of gender equality found in seventh-century Ireland shine in the background as our clever and diplomatic detective unlocks secrets and saves the day.
Monk’s Hood: The Third Chronicle of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters
Much-loved sleuth Brother Cadfael brings his skills as an herbalist to bear when a visitor to Shrewsbury Abbey exhibits symptoms of a dangerous poison. Though this third Brother Cadfael mystery is set in a monastery, others take place in exotic settings and in the days before Cadfael took his vows. Nearly two dozen books lie in store for the Cadfael fan.
The Prioress’ Tale by Margaret Frazer
Misery sweeps the abbey in the wake of domineering Domina Alys’s ascension to Prioress, as her unfair rules and unwise decisions threaten ruin to the nuns and their beloved home. When a family feud leads to murder, Continue reading “Medieval Mysteries of Britain.”