Reading the north

Coming Into the City

Elise Sereni Patkotak (Precious Cargo Ltd., $16.95)

The blurb: After spending 28 years living in a small Inupiat Eskimo village, Elise Patkotak decided it was time to return to the big city. Since New York City, the place she'd left so long ago, seemed a bit scary after living in a state with a population smaller than Brooklyn's, she chose to move to Anchorage and gently get back into life amid coffee stands, malls, fresh produce and highways. The transition was not always easy.

Excerpt: Generally speaking, Alaskans are a mixed bag of somewhat odd characters who have more or less come together to form a loosely cohesive, if slightly bizarre, society. One thing is for sure: If you are an Alaskan of the tried-and-true duct tape, Carhartts, blue tarp variety, no one will ever mistake you for someone from New York City. Or Portland, Oregon. Or Podunk, Iowa.

My sister brought that home to me on her last visit when she said that she knows she's getting close to Alaska when the composition of the people on the plane starts to change. I think it has something to do with the fact that they tend to dress more like me than her. She does not necessarily view that as a good thing.

What Alaskans call "dressed up" is apparently viewed in some parts of the world as barely a step above barefoot-picnic-at-the-lake attire.

The Shadows of Owls

John Keeble (University of Washington Press, $28.95)

The blurb: When a marine biologist crosses an international petroleum conglomerate set on building a pipeline in the Chukchi Sea, her husband and son are called on to rescue her in a literary thriller about science and power.

Excerpt: Jack stepped into the kitchen. His eyes went to the top of the refrigerator, where he'd left his pistol. He couldn't see it, though a loaf of bread still sat there. He moved around the cooking island. Pans were strewn across the floor, and dishes, apparently swept out of the overhead cupboards and allowed to shatter on the counter. Jack's boots crunched on glass as he walked. Carefully, he picked his way to the refrigerator and stood up on his tiptoes. The pistol wasn't there. He saw that a piece of the telephone line still sprouted from the jack above the counter, near the sink. The line had indeed been clipped. Then he spotted the telephone near the bottom of a heap on the floor...what had been emptied there from the drawers: knives and forks, screwdrivers, electrical tape, bundles of wire, a bottle of nails, hammer, poaching cups, spare batteries, broken-down flashlights, old canning lids, cooking tongs, crayons, a card of thumbtacks, photographs, a chisel, a garlic press, a pizza cutter... things that had been allowed to gather in the drawers over the years, a mixed collection of still-used things and items that had assumed the quality of family artifacts together with the telephone. Jack felt a wave of outrage, and then, suddenly spooked by an absence, he glanced over at the entryway. Travis wasn't there. He wheeled around, the debris at his feet clattering, and he called: "Travis?"

Alpaca Relaxation Guide

By Gypsy and Canela with help from Nina Faust (Self-published, $9.95)

The blurb: This little book, chock-full of wonderful color photos, is inspired by Faust's alpacas, Gypsy, Canela and Indigo. Let them advise you on the fine art of relaxation, meditation and chilling out.

Excerpt: Gypsy Prince: We are Alpaca Relaxation Consultants, specializing in Type-A personalities who need to learn to relax. Our owner, Nina Faust, was one of those, so we have been perfecting our techniques with her.

Canela (Golden Boy, aka "Mr. Lala"): We started by teaching her to hang out in the barn with us to learn how to "chill out" alpaca-style. You can do this in your own home on a big rug instead of hay!"

Gypsy: Occasionally dress up, but nothing too fancy. It can make you uptight.

Canela: I prefer "au naturel," total comfort!

Gypsy and Canela: Play with your toys! You are never too old for toys. They keep you young, engage your mind and make you smile.

Indigo (2003-2007): Love your friends and family. You never know what the future holds.

Compiled by Kathleen Macknicki, Anchorage Daily News.