WA Secretary of State Blogs

Mercy Thompson Series

March 28th, 2014 Kim Smeenk Posted in For the Public, State Library Collections, Washington Reads Comments Off on Mercy Thompson Series


From the desk of Kim Smeenk

Frost Burned

Frost Burned

There is a bestselling fantasy series about werewolves and vampires
in Washington State, and it isn’t the one you’re thinking of.


Instead of the rain, mountains and misty forests that most people think of when they picture Washington State, Patricia Briggs has set her Mercy Thompson series where she herself lives.  The dry and sunny Tri Cities region in Eastern Washington.  More desert than forest, more farmland than mountains.

Tri Cities Region

Mercy Thompson is a young Volkswagen mechanic, who also has the ability to shift into a coyote.   This is why she can count amongst her family, friends, acquaintances and enemies, werewolves, witches, vampires, trolls, various other shape-shifters and members of the Fey.

Mercy isn’t a superhero.  Most of the time, she is the weakest supernatural creature in the room.   When we first meet her in Moon Called, she is driving an old VW Rabbit, and lives in an old single wide trailer outside of town with her cat Medea.

You just enjoy spending time with her in these books.  She faces life with humor, loyalty and grit.  There is the actual grit that comes from working on cars all day, but Mercy is also full up on the grit required to face all of those creatures who are stronger than her.  Facing them in her daily life – her neighbors happen to be werewolves – and facing them in battles she often doesn’t expect to win.   She fights those battles because friends are in trouble, or sometimes, it’s her enemies who are in trouble.

Life is complicated, but really, really interesting, in Mercy Thompson’s Tri Cities.

Iron Kissed

Iron Kissed

#1 Moon Called
#2 Blood Bound
#3 Iron Kissed
#4 Bone Crossed
#5 Silver Borne
#6 River Marked
#7 Frost Burned
#8 Night Broken

If your local library doesn’t have these titles, you can borrow them from the Washington State Library through interlibrary loan.


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Border Songs, by Jim Lynch

March 5th, 2014 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Washington Reads Comments Off on Border Songs, by Jim Lynch

U.S. Hardback Knopf - CoverBorder Songs. By Jim Lynch (New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. 291 pp.)

Recommendation submitted by:
Will Stuivenga, Cooperative Projects Manager, Washington State Library, Tumwater, WA.

Jim Lynch’s second novel, Border Songs (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009), follows his enormously popular debut novel, The Highest Tide. In Border Songs, we follow the adventures of a zany and seemingly dysfunctional cast of characters, of which the foremost is Brandon Vanderkool, a dyslexic, six-foot-eight U.S. Border Control guard who keeps a running daily bird watch count in his head, while intuitively ending up in exactly the right spot at the right time to repeatedly catch people crossing the border illegally.

Another unlikely character is Brandon’s barely competent dairy cow farmer father, Norm, who is building a yacht in his garage, but spends most of his time up to his knees in mud , manure, and mastitis, worrying about his wife’s memory loss (it it Alzheimer’s?) while suffering the daily taunts of his Canadian neighbor across the border.

Brandon harbors a crush on the neighbor’s daughter, Madeline, who herself is becoming increasingly caught up in a major marijuana kingpin’s smuggling and growing operations. This naturally makes us (the haplessly amused readers) wonder if Brandon’s border sensitivity and his wished-for girlfriend’s smuggling activities aren’t headed for a catastrophic confrontation of some sort. Will it be a romantic conclusion, or the seemingly inevitable police action?

This seriocomic novel truly takes us to the ultimate Northwest, both in physical location (the NW corner of the NW region of the U.S. lower 48) and its cultural implications. The book is a highly entertaining must-read for anyone even remotely interested in the contemporary NW literary scene.

ISBN: 9-780-30727117-4

Available at the Washington State Library, NW 813.6 LYNCH 2009
Available as an eBook, as a Braille edition, and as a talking book.
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Go Huskies! The Boys in the Boat

February 14th, 2014 mschaff Posted in For the Public, Washington Reads Comments Off on Go Huskies! The Boys in the Boat


The Boys in the Boat.  By Daniel James Brown. (New York : Viking Adult, 2013. 416pp.)

Recommendation by Mary Paynton Schaff, Reference Librarian at the Washington State Library.

Once again the world’s best athletes have gathered to compete in the Olympic games, and television viewers can’t get enough.  Standout personalities shine in the individual competitions like speed skating, skiing, and snowboarding.  American broadcasts indulge in extended biographical features about our favorite competitors and their hometowns.  It’s clear our society loves to celebrate individual accomplishment, and no wonder.  To stand on the gold medal podium in triumph is no small feat.

But despite the celebrity of our individual winners, it’s the Olympic team sports that have the capacity to draw us in and capture the nationalistic pride like nothing else.  For every Michelle Kwan, there’s a “Miracle on Ice.”  For every Jesse Owens, there a University of Washington’s Eight Man Rowing Team.

You might be forgiven if in contemplating the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, your thoughts immediately go to Hitler’s Germany and the accomplishments of Owens.  But after reading Daniel Brown’s “The Boys in the Boat,” your view will be considerably widened.  1936 was more than the dawn of the Third Reich and slide toward world war.  It was the slogging end of the Great Depression, where thousands of young American men struggled to find work, put themselves through school, and hold their desperate families together.  The Olympics were more than the city of Berlin, with its systematic white washing of Germany’s anti-Semitic laws.  The Olympic story included rough and tumble logging towns like Sequim and Montesano, Depression-era boom towns like Grand Coulee, and gritty Northwest cities coming of age like Seattle.  And Olympic athletes were more than solitary figures standing on a podium.  They were teams of boys in boats.

Part of what makes Brown’s book so compelling is the exploration of what it means to be part of a rowing team.  Who creates the team?  Husky coaching icon Al Ulbrickson.  Who makes the team? Joe Rantz, for one.  Who inspires the team? Legendary boat builder George Pocock.  What does it take to make a successful team?  A comingling of found talent, hours of practice on Lake Washington in the pouring rain, healthy competition from your rival school the Cal Bears, and inspired leadership from your coach and brilliant coxswain Bobby Moch.  And what does it feel like to be part of a winning team?  The perfectly described notion of “swing,” which, when once accomplished with your fellow oarsman, allows you to fly across the water in perfect synchronicity.

“The Boys in the Boat” captures more than a moment in time.  It paints the picture of the Northwest on the brink, balancing between the old-fashioned notion of the Wild West and the boom times of the 1940s.  It depicts the ambition of the US Olympic committee members, who were determined to participate in the Olympics whether Jews were being persecuted in Germany or not (an attitude that may seem familiar even today).  But more than anything, Brown’s book emphasizes the importance of teams and teamwork.  For while all the boys felt like only a set of random circumstances landed them in that boat on the Langer See, their efforts not only defined them as adults, but also defined the Northwest as a center for athleticism, culture, and all-American can-do attitude.

Watch the 1936 Gold Medal Rowing race here.

ISBN: 978-0670025817

Available at the Washington State Library NW 979.123 Brown 2013
Audio book available through the publisher.

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The Drifter by Susan Wiggs

January 22nd, 2014 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Washington Reads Comments Off on The Drifter by Susan Wiggs


The Drifter. By Susan Wiggs (Don Mills, Ont. : Mira, 2003?. 376 pp. Reprint Ed.)

Recommendation by:
Carolyn Petersen, Assistant Program Manager, Library Development, Tumwater, WA.

The town of Coupeville on Whidbey Island in 1894 is the setting for this historical romance.  Coupeville residents have reluctantly accepted female physician Leah Mundy as they don’t have many other options.  Leah guards her reputation and her heart until she wakes up to find a gun barrel in her face.  On the other end of the gun is Jackson Underhill who drags her to his sailboat to heal his female companion.  Both Leah and Jackson have secrets which complicate a budding romance. Susan Wiggs is a capable author who provides a good mix of historical detail, attractive characters and a strong plot to produce a sensual romantic read to enjoy on a cold winter evening.

ISBN-13: 978-0778300038

Available at the Washington State Library, NW 813.6 WIGGS 2003?
Available as an eReader edition.
Not available as an talking book, or as a Braille edition.
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Hunters Kiss Series

August 20th, 2013 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Washington Reads Comments Off on Hunters Kiss Series

Carl Beu-Demon_large_thumbHunter Kiss (Series). By Marjorie Liu

  1. The Iron Hunt (New York: Ace Books, 2008. 305 p.)
  2. Darkness Calls (New York: Ace Books, 2009. 303 p.)
  3. A Wild Light (New York: Ace Books, 2010. 308 p.)
  4. The Mortal Bone (New York: Ace Books, 2012. 287 p.)
Recommendation by:
Carolyn Petersen, CLRS Project Manager, Tumwater, WA.

If paranormal romance that happens in an action packed setting appeals to you, then you will enjoy the Hunter Kiss series.  Set in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, Maxine Kiss hunts demons with a particular ferocity.  Maxine is greatly aided by the fact the tattoos of demons which cover her skin make her largely invulnerable.  At night the tattoos come off her skin to become her own personal bodyguards.  In each book of the series Maxine discovers a bit more about her family background.  Fast paced fantasy reading

Available at the Washington State Library, NW 813.6 LIU 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012
Available as an eReader edition.
Not available as an talking book, or as a Braille edition.
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Bonanzas & Borrascas

April 23rd, 2013 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Washington Reads 1 Comment »

AR-28001001-ph000429_coalminetunnelBonanzas & Borrascas. By Richard E. Lingenfelter. (Norman, Okla. : Arthur H. Clark Co., 2012. 2 vols., 1056pp.)

Recommendation submitted by Gordon Russ, Volunteer, Washington State Library, Tumwater, WA

Bonanzas & Borrascas is a well written two-volume set on mining and mineral investing in the West. The first book is “Gold Lust and Silver Sharks, 1848-1884”, the second book is “Copper Kings and Stock Frenzies, 1885-1918”.  Mining is a very expensive operation requiring large amounts of cash with little or no certainly of making money or even getting your investment back.  To raise the cash mine owners sold stocks or shares offset expenses.  In its simplest form, you’re buying a share in the mine you were eligible to share in its profits.  To develop a mine thousands even millions of dollars were and still is required to place it into operation.  Even then there is a high risk the mine would never have any value.  All these factors played into the hands of disreputable people selling stocks and greedy people buying stocks.  Mr. Lingenfelter does an excellent job of weaving the story of these miners and stock manipulators together. Some are humors, some are heart rendering and most are fools having a good time.  He starts with the 49ers moving into California during the 1849 gold rush and the development of gold and silver mines throughout the west.  The second book is about the corporate movement into the mining business developing names like ASARCO, Kennecott, Phillips Dodge and others developing copper mines.

The Author presents an interesting tightly written story of the people and circumstances that developed the mining industry of the west. He is aided along the way with the audacity of mine owners, and stock brokers and willing buyers participating in any schemes or scams that looked to make unbelievable wealth.  In the world of big money and a few successful players the attraction of money and possible wealth is uncontrollable.  As one Idaho mine owner stated when ask how could he lose a newly made $100,000 so quickly.   He replied,

“A man with good sound judgment and reasonable-sized head does not lose it”, but “A man who begins to feel poor when he gets his first $50,000, a man who constantly and willfully…getting in over his head in the confusing water of speculation, who belittles the size of his pile as he associates with millionaires, joins their schemes, and buys their stock…he it is who loses a hundred thousand dollars”.

At first you start think the sharks are the miners and brokers feeding on the unassuming public then as the stories develop I began to feel the sharks are the public on a feeding frenzy of the tidbits of possibilities provide by the stock brokers.  These people are not ignorant of what they are doing, but guided by the greed of desire for wealth.  As one unscrupulous scoundrel said, “Never appeal to the intelligence of fools….., turn your batteries on the thinking ones and convince them…the unthinking ones will follow.”  This was the case time after time.  In some cases, the craze for mining stocks is so high that stock brokers just registered a mines name and printed stock certificates then sold them in hours without buyers questioning its backing.  The old adage “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” the “me” people were in the great majority.

Much legislation was proposed and put into law trying to protect people from themselves not everyone was in agreement it should be done.  Future U.S. President Herbert Hoover, who was a mining engineer, said, “if a mine should fail…” it “is in and of itself not an economic loss.  It simply means …national wealth was transferred from one individual into another…”and “often invested to more reproductive purpose than if it had remained in the hands of the idiots who parted with it.”  In many ways, he is right.  Much wealth that built America in to the country it is today came from these mines and the people who owned or invested in their future wealth.  I would encourage you to give the books a try.  It is very entertaining on many levels from the humors stock broker “Corduroy Bill”  in Baker City, Oregon selling stock on a worthless mine to acquaintances in his home town of Des Moines, Iowa to the  fortunes made by the Guggenheim family and many others.

ISBN: 978-0870629501

Available at the Washington State Library, NW 338.2097 LINGENF 2012
Not available as an eBook, talking book, or Braille edition.
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The Hamlet Trap

April 9th, 2013 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Washington Reads Comments Off on The Hamlet Trap

HamletThe Hamlet Trap. By Kate Wilhelm. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987.)

Recommendation submitted by:
Will Stuivenga, Cooperative Projects Manager, Washington State Library, Tumwater, WA.

For the mystery fan who is also a theater buff, this is the perfect book! Set in Ashland, Oregon, not in the famous Shakespeare Festival proper, but in another nearby theater that specializes in anything other than the Bard, two people end up dead, and police suspicion falls on Ginnie, the talented set designer, who also just happens to be the theater’s owner/producer/impresario’s niece. A retired New York City detective and his Ph.D. psychologist wife are sent in to find the true culprit, and save the day. Well written, with great character development, as per usual with author Kate Wilhelm, this NW mystery is just the ticket for anyone who might have overlooked it back when it first came out.

ISBN: 0-312-94000-9

Available at the Washington State Library, NW 813.6 WILWELM 1987
Available as an eBook, or as a Braille edition.
Not available as a talking book.
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Examine the development of the PNW literary tradition with this WA Read

March 20th, 2013 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Washington Reads Comments Off on Examine the development of the PNW literary tradition with this WA Read

The Pacific Northwest: Growth of a Regional Identity By Raymond Gastil and Banett Singer. (Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2010. 221 p.)

The Pacific Northwest: Growth of a Regional Identity attempts to distill and define the major themes and players in the Pacific Northwestern literature as they trace the development of both the style and substance of the writing represented in our regional literary tradition.  The book is not a comprehensive review, but does touch upon major ideas such as the importance of the geography and climate on author identity, the balancing tension of early 20th century radicalism against pioneer tradition and historical irony as essential thematic elements in the writing.  The authors of this book blend a serious academic commitment to the subject with a conversational tone, which brightens and propels the reading experience. This analysis of the regional literature makes a valuable contribution to Pacific Northwest literary criticism.

Many acknowledge that this analysis began with the salty rant Status Rerum (1927) written by two renegades named Harold Lenoir Davis and James Stevens. At the time, Davis and Stevens were still struggling writers dismayed with what they deemed an insipid regional literary scene.  They set out to skewer florid, sentimental, and sensationalistic writing that permeated the local writing, attempting to spur on better craft and a more honest representation of life in this land.  Later on, both the authors went on to regional and national acclaim.  H. L. Davis’ Honey in the Horn (1935) remains the only Pulitzer recipient for literature awarded to a Pacific Northwesterner, while Stevens’ Paul Bunyan (1925) help to transform an outlandish lumberjack tale into a beloved piece of American folklore.

Gastil and Singer’s analysis reaches back to place the Lewis and Clark Expedition Journals, The Hudson Bay Company, missionary journalism and correspondence, and Native American oral tradition as precursors to the literary tradition.  They discuss the problems and the merits of apocryphal interpretations of the Chief Seattle “ecology speech” and Col. Charles Erskine Scott Wood’s transcription/embellishment of Chief Joseph’s famous “fight no more” speech.  It also makes a chapter-long case for the appointment of V. L. Parrington, Progressive Historian and founder of the “American Studies” movement, to the University of Washington English Department in 1908 as a catalyst for a Pacific Northwest Literary Tradition.

Throughout the work the authors critique, praise, and set into context all manner of thinkers, novelists, and poets within the canon – individuals such as Zola Ross, Richard Hugo, Frederick Homer Balch, Ella Higginson, Theodore Roethke, Gary Snyder, Louise Bryant, William Stafford, Abigail Scott Duniway, Nard Jones, Ken Kesey, Joaquin Miller, and the aforementioned Stevens and Davis.  Any reader looking for a better sense of the literary tradition, or just looking for a new read, could benefit from reading this engaging book.

ISBN: 978-0786445400

Available at the Washington State Library, NW 979.5 GASTIL 2010
Available as an eBook,
Not available as a talking book, or as a Braille edition.
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Poetry, anyone?

February 14th, 2013 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Washington Reads Comments Off on Poetry, anyone?

poetryToday being Valentine’s Day, your thoughts might float off on wings of poesy.  You might even wish you had a good line or two of local poetry to quote.  Well, the Pacific Northwest has long been renowned for its lyric lineage, from Ella Higginson (whose ‘The Opal Sea’ appears below) through celebrity poets, such as Theodore Roethke and Carolyn Kizer, to our current Washington State Poet Laureate, Kathleen Flenniken.

To help you in your quest, the Washington State Library collects a great amount of Pacific Northwest poetry to whet your bardic blade (okay, I promise to stop alliterating now), whether you wish to glean inspiration or just get lost in the play of words.  Perhaps you will even recite one aloud to your loved ones.

To browse away just begin searching in the Washington State Library Catalog by the Poet’s name (last, then first name) or by the subject “Poetry” within the Northwest Collection.  In the meantime, enjoy this classic by one of Washington State’s earliest poets.


‘The Opal Sea’

By Ella Higginson

An inland sea – blue as a sapphire – set
   Within a sparkling, emerald mountain chain
   Where day and night fir-needles sift like rain
Thro’ the voluptuous air. The soft winds fret
The waves, and beat them wantonly to foam.
   The golden distances across the sea
   Are shot with rose and purple. Languorously
The silver seabirds in wide circles roam.
The sun drops slowly down the flaming West
   And flings its rays across to set aglow
   The islands rocking on the cool waves’ crest
And the great glistening domes of snow on snow.
   And thro’ the mist the Olympics flash and float
   Like opals linked around a beating throat.


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Intrigue and Adventure in the Cave of Secrets

December 12th, 2012 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Washington Reads 1 Comment »

Cave of Secrets. By Hal Burton. Lilliwaup, Washington: Hal Burton Publishing, 2002. 224 p.

Recommendation submitted by:
Will Stuivenga, Cooperative Projects Manager, Washington State Library, Tumwater, WA.

Place, specifically the Olympic coast “north of Grays Harbor County, where US Highway 101 turns inland and most of the coastal region along the shores of the Pacific is accessible only by old logging roads and hiking trails” plays a major role in this regional novel. According to the book’s Prologue:

It is speculated, though never proven, that the first explorers to the coastal region of Washington were monks from China. Several accounts have been found in Chinese court records that tell of missionary trips to the Aleutian Islands and as far south as Baja, California.

And on one of those mythical accounts, dating from 499 AD, hangs this tale of adventure and treasure. First off, the story briefly recreates the actual expedition, and what it might have been like for those early intrepid travelers from another continent. Then we shift rapidly to 1981, as Chuck Coolridge, UW PhD student in ancient Chinese history, having found some tantalizing historical records in Taiwan, mounts an expedition to try and locate any possible remnants of the original expedition these many hundreds of years later.

Further complicating the story is the mystery, never solved, of a young man who went missing on the very same stretch of Olympic Peninsula coastline back in the late 60’s. Two of his friends from the time, being familiar with the area, are recruited to help with the current search. Throw in a nosy Seattle newspaper reporter, and a spy working for the current Chinese government (!), and these disparate factors combine for a fast-paced adventure story.

Libraries and librarians often tend to look down their collective noses at self-published books such as this one, and not entirely without justification. While the writing in this book does not always measure up to sophisticated reader’s expectations, the intriguing nature of the story line soon draws the reader in, and the action and suspense carry you on through.

ISBN: 0-9725707-0-5

Available at the Washington State Library, NW 813.6 BURTON 2002.
Available in an eBook edition
Not available as a talking book, or as a Braille edition.
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