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.

Did You Know? (Spider Web Edition)

spiders secretsThat a spider web strand reaching all the way around the world would only weigh 12 ounces?

I found this information on page 9 in the book Spiders’ Secrets. Their silk is twice as strong as a steel cable of the same thickness!

There are more than 35,000 kinds of spiders. Spiders and their Web Sites by Margery Facklam shows us fishing spiders, spitting spiders, jumping spiders and more. This book has very nice artwork of some of the spiders, and excellent diagrams of the body parts. Spiders Spin Silk by Elaine Pascoe shows us what kind of web each of them spins.

webdesignWeb sites are more than where the spider put its web…  Today, a good web site can make or break a business. Teach yourself Visually Web Design by Rob Huddleston is an excellent resource for anyone needing to make a web site for any reason. We have other books, such as Design Accessible Web Sites by Jeremy J. Sydik, that are a little more technical if you need to fine tune your new or existing web site.

silkOf course we all know that spiders spin their webs with silk, but it is not used for making clothes. This is because long strands are needed to make clothing, and spiders spin only short ones. Spider silk is used to make various items such as sewing thread, kite string and fishing line. You can read more about the history and process of making silk in the book Silk by Adele Richardson.

spidermanAnd lastly, spiders spinning webs makes me think of Spider-man! Spider-Man the Ultimate Guide by Tom DeFalco tells you all about the way Spider-Man shoots the web and goes flying from building to building high above the city… what a way to travel!

Memoirs, Old and New

My father loved to tell a good story and what made a story good for him was if it was about someone’s life: where it started, what happened, how the person reacted and how it all ended. It was so interesting to hear these stories as a child around the dinner table, but what is equally fascinating is to read someone else’s story of their life in their own words- in their memoir.

indexMany people interchangeably use the terms ‘autobiography’ and ‘memoir,’ but they’re different.  An autobiography is factual and is typically written by famous people. The thing that sets a top memoir apart from other literary works such as biographies or autobiographies is that it includes the personal experiences and first-hand accounts of the author. It feels more personal and can be written by anyone. For example, Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl only discusses key experiences she lived through during the Holocaust, and the effects it had on her as a child.

Some of my favorite books have been memoirs. To me they seem to be divided into two categories: the really funny and the sad, but meaningful. Let’s look at both groups and also some of the latest memoirs published just this year.

index (8)A very gritty but ultimately uplifting memoir written by Liz Murray is Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homelessness to Harvard. This is the story of a young girl born to loving but addicted parents who finds herself homeless in New York City. She somehow manages to complete high school even though she must ride the subway at night for a safe, dry place to sleep–thus the title: ‘breaking night’.

index (9)I loved Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood  by Alexandra Fuller. She was just three when her parents moved from England to what was then Rhodesia. They bought a farm and fought to eke out a living in an environment hostile in more ways than one.
Her prose is simple and compelling, addressing with equal clarity the richness of growing up in Africa and the instability brought on by having hard-drinking, openly racist parents who were fighting on the losing side of Zimbabwe’s war of independence. She gives us a unique view into a moment in history, made accessible and almost normal-seeming from the perspective of a child.

index (12)The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby is a beautiful book. Letter by letter, the Editor-in-Chief of French Elle, dictated his life story with winks despite being totally incapacitated by ‘locked in syndrome’ following a stroke. The diving bell and the butterfly are powerful metaphors that bespeak the triumph of the human will over physical disability of the highest order.

index (13)The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a widely read story that illustrates the resilience of children. In the beginning I truly loved the way her parents looked at life, and how the family dynamics were endearing even if life was tough. Later on, when both the father’s alcoholism and mother’s obvious mental illness progressed, things went from bad to intolerable. The sheer tenacity of the kids is amazing. It’s hard to understand the hardships others may have endured, yet reading about it puts you into their shoes. This is an incredible read and I loved it.

index (14)Now for the Funny! I loved The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson because it is, after all, Bryson! He is hilarious! He tells of his childhood growing up in the middle of the American century (1951) in the middle of the United States (Des Moines, Iowa) in the middle of the largest generation in American history (the baby boomers). As one of the funniest writers alive, he is perfectly positioned to mine his all-American childhood for memoir gold and here he strikes it rich with this memoir.

index (15)Have you read A Girl Named Zippy: Growing up Small in Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel? I read it years ago and still smile when I see the cover. I love the narrator’s clear-eyed child’s view of the people around her, and the fact that her memoir tells the story of a different world than most of us know: the mostly idyllic small town of many years ago. Serious issues are hinted at, not avoided, but neither are they dwelled upon. I loved the characterization of Zippy’s family, particularly her father, and also that of her friends, since friends are such a huge part of the universe to a kid in grade school. This book is laugh-out-loud funny and sweet, just like Zippy herself.

index (16)I recently listened to Amy Poehler read her funny memoir called Yes, Please! and that’s the way to ‘read’ this one if you ask me. She is just so funny and hearing it in her voice makes it all the more delightful. If you’re feeling blue and need a lift, or want some good life advice delivered with humor, this’ll do it. This is one of the best comedian-bios I’ve read/listened to yet. Yes, please!

index (1)Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys is by Viv Albertine who was in the British punk rock band The Slits. Not only is this a great reflection on an influential moment in time, but there are so many great bits about being a woman, artistic inspiration, and how to keep your identity intact while having a family. My heart was kind of breaking for girls in the first part – the expectations heaped upon them, and the boxes they are expected to stay in. It was a real delight to see her break out of that and bust some stereotypes. When she comes to the realization that she doesn’t need a man to believe in her but rather can inspire herself, it is just a real delight. Read it.

index (19)A fellow librarian recommended Bettyville by George Hodgman who writes about taking care of his 90-year-old mother, Betty, in his hometown of Paris, MO. Hodgman grew up in middle America during a time when the word gay was never spoken aloud. The message he received from everyone but his parents was that he was wrong. His parents avoided the subject altogether. As an adult, he escaped to New York City where he began his career as an editor. But now, years after his father has passed, his mother needs 24/7 care. This book would foster a good discussion in a book club and will be of interest to even those without aging parents.

index (20)Leaving Before the Rains Come is the new one by Alexandra Fuller and has already been highly acclaimed. She writes of her marriage and divorce from Charlie, an American rafting guide. Filled with wise gems like: “The problem with most people is that they want to be alive for as long as possible without any idea how to live,” and “There are no bad words, only bad ways to use good words,” this memoir was powerfully written and inspiring. Alexandra Fuller, both as a woman and as a writer, is a force to be reckoned with.

For these and other great stories to tell around your dinner table, come visit the Everett Public Library!

A Serious Vocational Error

One of the great things about reading fiction is the way you can visit a person’s, admittedly fictional, life and experience the world from a different angle. I’ve always found stories to be much more helpful in dealing with the trials and tribulations of everyday existence than the numerous self-help and motivation works out there. Perhaps this is delusional and a tad unhealthy (you don’t want to pattern your life too closely on Mr. Kurtz after all ) but hey, it is the way I roll. I recently read three novels that let me examine different career paths and made me feel good about my own career choice. Ah the power of negative reinforcement.

The job: Middle school teacher
The book: Confessions by Kanae Minato

confessionsThis novel opens with Yuko Moriguchi’s farewell address to her middle school science class upon her early retirement. The reason she is leaving is the recent accidental death of her 4-year-old daughter on school grounds. As the address continues, however, it becomes clear that Yuko believes some of her students are responsible.  She also doesn’t believe the criminal justice system is up to the job of punishing them due to their young age. This is no simple tale of revenge, however.  The narrative shifts, with each chapter being from a different character’s point of view. This keeps you guessing as to what actually happened and who is really to blame until the very end. Even then, what is right and what is wrong isn’t entirely clear. A good book for testing your moral compass. It will also make you happy not to have chosen a career in secondary education.

The job: Office drone
The book: The Room by Jonas Karlsson

theroomBjorn, yes this book is a Swedish translation, shares a desk in an open office plan in a government ministry simply titled ‘the Authority.’ One day, while looking for the bathroom, he stumbles upon a room which is spacious and well appointed. To get away from the office hubbub and concentrate on his work, he frequently visits this room. The problem? No one else can see it. Even worse, when he enters the room, all that his fellow officer workers see is Bjorn staring at the wall and mumbling. It doesn’t take very long for objections to be raised, meetings to be held, and threats of termination to be bandied about. The entire novel is from Bjorn’s perspective, so there are definitely surreal elements that will have you questioning what exactly is going on. Primarily though, it is a funny and biting office satire that will leave you chuckling as well as scratching your head.

The job: Estate agent
The book: A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan

apleasureandacallingWilliam Hemming does not suffer from job dissatisfaction. He loves showing people new homes to buy or rent in the small English town where he owns an estate agency. His job allows him to indulge in a rather odd hobby. Mr. Hemming keeps a key from every property he sells and likes to make return visits, unbeknownst to the owners. He is obsessed with viewing the minutiae of his clients’ everyday activities (making breakfast, doing laundry) but as a detached observer who never gets involved in their lives. The novel is entirely from Mr. Hemming’s point of view and you find yourself chuckling at his observations of small town life. When his darker side is slowly revealed, and his detachment turns into involvement with deadly consequences, you may feel guilty for laughing along. At the very least, it will make you consider having your locks changed at home.

So is using fiction to choose a career a sound policy? Perhaps not, but it sure beats going to a guidance counselor.

A Stroll Through the Pun Forest or Crime and Pun-ishment

BullwinkleHello poetry lovers. Today’s poem is a pun of stunning disregard for human frailties. It is titled, Names of Hair Salons:

Bangs For The Memories,
     Shear Hostility,
          The Best Little Hair House,
                                             Come Hair;
                              Hairway To Heaven
                                   Babalouise, Bang, Headonizm,
                                        Hair Today,
                                            Curl Up and Dye,
                                                 The Bobshed

But I jest.

It’s been called the lowest form of humor, which is a compliment in this case. Puns are illegal in 37 states (I made that up, but it’s an idea whose time has come), they are frequently annoying, and the people who regale others with punnage seldom bathe (also made up) [it’s TRUE!]. Yet puns are standard fare in the names of both hair salons and cozy mysteries. Why? Is it sadism run amok?

We may never know.

Pun also risesPerhaps you’d like to start your voyage with a thorough understanding of just what a pun is all about. Wellsir, I would recommend The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More than Some Antics by John Pollack. Penned by a former Clinton speech writer, the author not only explores the definitions and history of puns, but makes a case that they are significant to the rise of modern culture.

Next we’ll stroll over to the cozy mystery section and discover that puns in titles are completely out of control. There are puns on classic book titles (The Cakes of Wrath; Grapes of Death; Grape Expectations; Grey Expectations), movies  (Nightshade on Elm Street; Bell, Book, and Scandal; Arsenic and Old Puzzles; The Silence of the Llamas), Plays (End me a Tenor), Poems (Murder had a Little Lamb), songs (Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti), television (Ghouls Gone Wild), magazines (Deader Homes and Gardens) and musicals (A Little Night Murder).

Mysteries1

Had enough? Too bad. The most egregious offenders are puns based on common phrases. Choose your favorite from the following (the last one being my fave):

Three’s a Shroud          Thread on Arrival                 If Books Could Kill
Meet your Baker        Kill ‘em with Cayenne          Book, Line and Sinker
Hiss and Hers         Going, Going, Ganache      Animal, Vegetable, Murder
Read and Buried           Wined and Died                To Brie or Not to Brie
Skein of the Crime        Mallets Aforethought             Assaulted Pretzel

Mysteries2Cozy mysteries often have a hobby or interest associated with them, like archery or fan dancing. In these examples we have food (The Cakes of Wrath, Grape Expectations, and Kill ‘em with Cayenne to name just a few), bookstores (Book, Line and Sinker and If Books Could Kill), and needlecraft, knitting, crocheting (Skein of the Crime and Thread on Arrival) among others.  Cozies, rather than police procedurals, thrillers or uncozy mysteries, tend to be the books that have bepunned titles.

Eats shootsOf course, many books sport punny titles. One of the best, in my inflated opinion, is Eats, Shoots & Leaves, a book on the importance of punctuation (no commas would be a story about a panda, commas tells of a character involved in specific activities)

CalahanSpider Robinson, a most excellent author of science fiction tales, has created a series of stories set in a bar called Callahan’s Place. Its denizens, including extraterrestrials, a talking dog and time travelers, listen to visitor’s stories, offer comments, and generally pollute the atmosphere heavily with puns. I think this series of stories truly gave me an appreciation for the gross art of punnery. Nowadays I find myself engaging in it, often against my will, and I fear that it’s just a short step to miming my incarceration in an invisible cube.

I apologize for this blog, but just like with any disease, it’s good to know your enemy in order to best defeat it. Please don’t judge me.

A Serial Killer in Love

normalI read somewhere that the average person will walk by a serial killer 36 times in their life. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s another reason not to leave the house. Just to be safe. I found this hilarious postcard a few years ago. The scene on the front is a gorgeous blue purple pink sunset and ocean waves lapping the shore. Then off to the other side of the picture someone had written “I’ve seen enough crime shows to know that I don’t want to meet the love of my life while walking along the beach because he might be a serial killer.”

The killer in Graeme Cameron’s Normal is never named and the story is told from the first person point of view. The one thing I hated about this novel? I really started to like this guy. I felt the same way about the TV show Dexter. Dexter was a serial killer but he went after other serial killers so it was okay to like him. But the serial killer in Normal has a cage built in a secret basement underneath his garage. He keeps carefully selected women in there. When he goes grocery shopping and is the handsome man picking up apples or chicken and chit-chatting with other customers no one suspects there is a woman trapped in a cage far below his garage. And the dude doesn’t mind picking up a box of tampons! Okay, so the tampons are for the girls he kidnaps and eventually kills but any man who doesn’t mind picking up a box of sanitary items for a girl gets gold stars from me.

But something unexpected happens. The serial killer falls in love with the check-out girl at the grocery store. She falls in love with him too. With all that lovin’ he doesn’t feel the need to murder women. Except for one last girl that makes him feel like he’s the one trapped in a cage. Erica is a pretty girl who’s had it rough in life. She doesn’t trust men (especially when they lock her in cages). Her home life sucked so much that she hints she murdered her abusive stepfather. Now, I’m no psychiatrist but I’m willing to bet there are some daddy issues going on there plus a good old case of mush brain.

Erica is psychotic and she turns the tables on the unnamed serial killer. She’s not a terrified victim locked up in a cage. She is the thing in the dark water that rises up to take a taste of you. She scared me more than the serial killer himself. There were many times she could have escaped and the killer was hoping she would because she is freaking him out. Ever since falling in love with that grocery store clerk, he has no inclination to kill at all. He thinks about killing Erica because she puts her psychotic nose into his love life but can’t bring himself to do it.

The police are certain he’s the killer. His van has been seen on cctv (England has cameras everywhere) and other questions about the man himself have started popping up. The police visit his house, ask him a million questions and then leave because he’s a serial killer and it’s not like he’s going to blurt out “I chopped up a woman’s body because I got bored with her and then there’s my psychotic doppelgänger who won’t leave me alone and probably wants to spend the rest of her life with me. But not down in the cage.” By the end of the book, I found myself rooting for the killer and quietly chanting “Kill her!  Kill her!”

There was nothing normal about Normal. The serial killer is just as baffled as the reader when he falls in love and decides to give up killing. I tried to picture the next 40 years of this guy’s life: marriage, children, jobs, grandchildren. And then, life winding down as it so often does, he and his wife settle into their golden years. I can see them sitting on a porch, the sunset long faded. He turns to her and says “I used to kill girls.”

Surfing the Purple Stickers (Ewoks Included)

What do Batman, Ms. Marvel, Constantine, and Hellboy have in common? We’ve recently rescued them from obscurity in the Dewey 741s and have given them a shiny new home in a fresh collection, aptly named Graphic Novels.

*Cue happy dance!*

GraphicNovelsNot only do these lovely books now have simplified labels and bright purple stickers, but we’ve also worked hard to put series together. We’re still working to get all the outliers together, but we’re getting somewhere and I truly believe this is a collection we can all be proud of.  We finally have a graphic novel collection for adults and older teens that compliments the collections we already have for children and young adults. I’m not sure I can aptly describe how happy this makes me, so instead I’ll just do another happy dance.

It just so happened that we debuted this shiny new collection the week before Emerald City Comicon at the end of March. It was my first time attending ECCC and I was completely overwhelmed with the number of artists, authors, celebrities, and vendors that were announced. There was no way I could go to everything, but I did download their convention app and created a schedule of best bets. In the end I got to meet some awesome people in the world of comics, got a sneak peek at what’s coming down the line from publishers, bought some awesome swag on the showroom floor, and got insight behind-the-scenes from various comic panel interviews. I even got to tell Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover ,the creators of Bandette, about our new graphic novel collection, an idea which they loved!

Oh, and I met some Ewoks. I’m nerd enough to say that I probably fangirled over the Ewoks just as much if not more than the real live people I got to meet.

Ewoks

The debut of this collection also capped off the year I first started reading comic books and graphic novels. As you may be able to tell from some of my previous posts, I’m a full-on nerd and totally own it. But I admit that I hadn’t really given graphic novels or comics a real fighting chance. All that changed when I read Bandette and I’ve been on the lookout for strong female characters in comics ever since. Here are some awesome ladies I’d like to introduce you to:

LumberjanesLumberjanes
Friendship to the max! Lumberjanes is the very first comic book I ever bought. The camping theme caught my eye in the aisle of Everett Comics and I bought it on sight. After reading it at home I was hooked! The story centers around a group of girls at summer camp who become fast friends over campfires and crafting. However, they soon discover that lurking in the woods is a whole other world of adventure, mythical creatures, and plot twists! This series is aimed at grades 5 & up, but don’t let that stop you from picking up the trade paperback (out later this month!) and getting caught up in the adventures of Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley.

ms marvelMs. Marvel
Kamala Khan is just your average girl from Jersey City dealing with typical teenage problems: hormones, strict parents, school stresses, and the like. Trapped one day in a dangerous situation, she wishes she could be like Captain Marvel and have her superpowers to get out of trouble. Through a twist of fate Kamala suddenly gains those superpowers and becomes Ms. Marvel! Join her as she discovers how to control her superpowers and learns just what it means to be a superhero–no matter your religion or skin color.

 

captain marvelCaptain Marvel
And speaking of Captain Marvel, she has her own comic books, written by superstar comic writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. I’m still making my way through Carol Danvers’s back-story so I can dive into her current adventures. She’s strong, witty, and compassionate, definitely my kind of superhero. The fact that her name is also Carol is just an added bonus. In the process of writing this post I happened to run into the graphic novel buyer in the hallway. I mentioned we didn’t have any of Kelly Sue’s Captain Marvel books yet and do you know what he did? He immediately purchased them for the library! They’ll soon be on the shelves, but if you can’t wait you can place your holds here.

Now it’s your turn. What comic books do you read? Graphic novels? Heroes and heroines who stand out? If you can’t think of any answers for my questions, I urge you to get to either branch of EPL and surf the purple stickers today.