Spot-Lit for July 2015

Spot-Lit

Many a popular author is back with a new book this July, including To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee! You’ll also find a handful of excellent first novels, and a lively mix of mysteries, suspense, science fiction and fantasy.

Click the book cover montage below and then the Full Display button beside each title to read summaries or reviews or to place titles on hold.

Notable New Fiction in the Everett Public Library catalog

Notable New Fiction 2015 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction.

Jeepers Creepers Where’d You Get Those Peepers?

I once saw something that almost made me go crazy. I was in the ladies changing room at the public pool. I was putting my socks on (I dress and undress in a bathroom stall because like a normal woman, I hate my body) and all of a sudden the room turned into an 80 year old’s version of Girls Gone Wild. Boobs and nether regions flapping around, sagging butts, sagging fronts. Sagging everything. I didn’t know my eyes could snap so fast to the ceiling so I wouldn’t see anything.

Then again, this was from a 17 year old’s view. Now almost 38, I admire the comfort and ease with which these woman glide around the locker room naked, talking in groups like they’re having a cocktail on someone’s back porch. Will I ever reach that ease? God no. I‘d change my clothes in the trunk of my car before getting undressed in front of anyone.

birdboxJosh Malerman’s dystopian novel Bird Box centers on Malorie who seems utterly unflappable. She moves into an apartment with her sister Shannon and then goes out on a date and gets knocked up. Oh yeah, also the world is coming to an end and in the most horrific way possible. There are news reports out of Russia of people going insane, killing themselves or violently killing anyone around them. But that’s okay with Malorie because it’s happening far away. Over There. It’s not happening Here. Plus, she’s pregnant so that kind of gets in the way of thinking about some bizarre plague happening worlds away.

But IT begins to move across Canada and into the United states. People start hanging themselves from trees, entire families killing themselves or being killed by a loved one. No one is positive about what is happening. The consensus is that a person sees something so horrible that the only thing to do is kill themselves or anyone near them. The sisters haven’t heard from their parents in days so you know that’s not good. They stop leaving the house, even for groceries. Shannon stays glued to the television watching the mess unfold. Malorie isn’t paying attention because she’s knocked up, hasn’t told the father yet and you know, generally busy creating life and trying not to think too much about the future.

She barely notices her sister covering all of the mirrors and windows, getting spooked and paranoid. Soon, there are rumors that people are seeing “creatures” ( a less panic-inducing word than monsters) as in “There’s something in my backyard, something not found in any episode of National Geographic.” But nobody knows what these creatures look like because they’re all busy boarding up windows, putting up heavy curtains and keeping their eyes squeezed shut. Malorie sees an ad in a newspaper that says a group of people have gotten together in a safe place to ride this thing out. Sounds good. Sounds bad. It could be a house of serial killers but by this time, the world’s gone to hell and she’s pregnant and trying not to think about giving birth in a world where one look at a ‘creature’ can send you stark raving mad. I think I would ignore my pregnancy: “Oh that? That’s a nacho gut. I love nachos.”

So she figures “Screw it, I don’t want to be alone at the end of the world.  Let me go find these people and hopefully they won’t try to kill or eat me or eat me and kill me.  Whatever.”

While she’s heavy with both pregnancy (or nacho gut) and dread she’s pretty cool-headed. She goes to this house in an abandoned neighborhood. She gets to the door and knocks. Someone on the other side asks if she’s alone and tells her to close her eyes. The door opens, she scurries in, and the door is slammed behind her. She opens her eyes and sees some very terrified but normal people in the room. At least they don’t look like cannibals. Yet. They look like what they are: scared people who have no idea what’s going to happen to them.

This small group lives the next few months as a tight-knit group. They all have their chores: like walking down a path in the backyard to the well to get clean water but doing it while their eyes are clapped shut. There is a cellar stocked with canned goods but that will last them only so long. Some of the men go out to gather more supplies. This takes days because it’s kind of hard to find a can of soup in a neighbor’s cupboard when your eyes are shut tight.

Malorie is getting huge, beginning to wonder how on earth is she going to give birth when there are no staffed hospitals. It seems like a whole lot of nothing is happening because there’s this group of scared people hanging out in a house where nobody can look out the window or go get a pail of water with their eyes open. But there’s this thick tension, the kind of tension that makes you want to jump out a window. The group can’t stay there forever. Food is going to run out and someone’s going to open their eyes while getting water (it’s kind of like when someone says “Don’t touch that wall because I just painted it.” What’s the first thing you do? Reach out and touch it.)

But then someone comes to the door. A man with a briefcase. Do they let him in or send him on his way? He gives off a bad vibe. His smile is too shiny and he holds onto that briefcase like it has the last set of shiny teeth trapped inside and only he can be their keeper. The group begins to whisper and fight amongst one another. Do they ask him to leave? Demand to see what’s in the case? The guy is obviously trying to divide them and set them fighting and it works.

A big bad happens. I wish I could write these reviews and be coyly mysterious without giving anything away but I’m incapable of that. It’s more likely that I’ll end up confusing everyone. And myself. Which happens a lot. Let’s just say there’s a lot of blood, confusion, the birth of twins, the world is still at an end and people are still going around blind-folded.

Told alternately (and with mega skill) between pregnant Malorie surviving the breakdown of the world and Malorie five years later as she takes her children away from the only safe place they know because it is no longer safe, Bird Box is more than a tale about the end of the world. It’s about finding people to ride out the end of the world with. And about monsters that may or may not exist and damn it, open your eyes so you can see them even if it drives you into murderous madness.

Stranger Than, er… , Non-fiction!

As I search for non-fiction books to read, I come across many titles that, while not of interest to me, are unusual, surprising or outlandish. Welcome to the world of: Stranger than, er…, non-fiction!

HairSome titles are certain to raise an eyebrow, pique the interest, even if the topic is not compelling enough to warrant reading the book. Such is the case for Plucked: A History of Hair Removal by Rebecca M. Herzig. Firstly, it never occurred to me that there is a history of hair removal! Reviews tell of clamshell razors (that would mean an actual clamshell, not something shaped like a clamshell) and lye depilatories, leaving me to speculate what other horrific devices and potions have been applied to bodies in pursuitity of less hirsuitity. Also examined are the changes in American culture, moving from the perception of hair removal as savagery, to the perception of female body hair as signs of political extremism, sexual deviance or even mental illness. Heck, I just might be interested enough to pluck this book off the shelf.

WhittlingThe Art of Whittling: Classic Woodworking Projects for Beginners and Hobbyists by Walter L. Faurot
One thing we simply don’t hear enough about these days is whittling. This book, originally published in 1930, contains projects (and here I might note that I never would have conceived that there are whittling projects) such as continuous wooden chains and ships inside bottles. Hey, there are also instructions for making working wooden scissors and entwined hearts! Beards are back, maybe whittling could become the next hipster hobby!

BeanieThe Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute by Zac Bissonette
I must confess, I never could understand the soaring values of Beanie Babies. The creator of these plush animals became a billionaire, not so much through anything he did as through the feeding frenzy of collectors who saw the toys as their ticket to Easy Street. Stories of people buying tens of thousands of Beanie Babies, and even killing for them, fill this tale of what’s been called the “strangest speculative mania of all time.”

VietNamEating Viet Nam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table by Graham Holliday
When I lived in Malaysia, hawker stalls (food carts sitting along the roadside) became my favorite places to eat. Most foreigners avoided such places, fearing disease or bad food, but I discovered a world of cheap tasty delicacies that define many of my Malaysian memories. In Eating Viet Nam I find a kindred spirit in Graham Holliday, a Brit who moved to Vietnam to teach English but ended up searching for the best street food. The writing is humorous, and I was sold by the line, “As the pig’s uterus landed on the blue plastic table in front of me, I knew I’d made a mistake.”

CowedCowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment by Dennis Hayes and Gail Boyer Hayes
This book takes the interesting concept of examining whether cows, which are an extremely important currency in the U.S., actually make sense economically. We get cow history, usage, treatment and sustainability. I was hoping for a discussion of methane, but apparently this will have to wait.

In retrospect, I might enjoy reading some or all of these books. I ran across them by perusing the on-order non-fiction titles on the library’s website, and I must say I was amazed at the variety of topics people find worthy of book status. If you’re not a non-fiction reader, challenge yourself to find one title that looks interesting. Oh, and read it. Perhaps you’ll soon find yourself whittling a tool for hair removal that will sell by the billions until you’re rich and can travel to Viet Nam. With your cow. Stranger things have happened.

A Dream Come True

January meeting  Boys in the Boat Everett Reads

My dream to start a book club ignited about 6 years ago when my husband and I stepped into a coffee shop in downtown Yakima: the smell of fresh roasted coffee, the inviting ambient atmosphere, the comfortable seating, the ample space to play chess or cribbage OR, as I imagined, ‘have a book discussion.’ As I sat there sipping a good brew my wheels began to spin.

The idea percolated in my head for a year or so, but I couldn’t get past my imagined ‘ideal’ setting. I finally decided to just step out and give it a shot. First I contacted my local Everett Public Library which was extremely handy since I work and live nearby. Anita manages the library’s Book group collection. She walked me through the process of borrowing and loaning out books. Each book set provides the borrower with discussion questions and a sign out sheet to keep track of who borrows which book. Generally a book club will meet every month or so, returning the finished book and picking up the next one.

snowflowerFeeling a boost of confidence and equipped with a set of 10 books, I invited girlfriends to meet at my home. Five showed up and I made the 6th. A good number for starting out. That first auspicious evening I felt nervous; preparing light refreshments was the easy part selling my dream seemed a bit more daunting. My guests arrived. Introductions were made followed by discussion and explanations of how we would work our group. Filled with anticipation and excitement I passed out Lisa See’s, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan a book I’d selected for our first discussion.

We reconvened a month or so later to discuss the story of Lily and Snow Flower set in rural China during the 19th century. I thought this was an exquisite story and was certain everyone would agree, but unfortunately some members were quite disturbed by the traditional practice of foot binding. Sadly within the first year one, then two, then three and four gals dropped out and the book club died. I didn’t count it as a loss. I chalked it up to a learning experience and was able to see the value for what it was at the time. The spark of a dream continued to flicker and I made a few less energetic attempts but eventually shelved the idea.

Then a couple of years ago the thoughts of having a book club here at work surfaced; my manager showed genuine interest and enthusiasm. This new book club idea was flavored with the concept of making food the central theme for discussion. I researched food themed book clubs but decided I wasn’t brave enough to try a strangers cooking. Meantime Alan, our branch manager, had gained a vision for the south Everett library to have a book club and was not quick to give it up.

bookclubbooks

Long story short, with support, encouragement, and the help of co-workers the Southside Book Club launched a year ago. The book club has been dubbed: ‘Terrific books, substantial discussions, and light refreshments!’ Over the last year the library has weathered a year with cut backs and schedule changes, but the Southside Book Club survived! The Southside Book Club is open to the public. Books are made available at the Evergreen Branch reference desk a month in advance or you can check out any available copies from the library collection. Last week we enjoyed a lively discussion of Melanie Benjamin’s The Aviator’s Wife. The remaining books and discussions for 2015 are: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand August 25th, The Cove on October 13th, and on December 8th The Rosie Project.

Upon reflection I had to let go of my cozy coffee shop with mood lighting ideal and realize the opportunity and potential staring me right in the face. This past year has been exciting: meeting new people, listening and sharing thoughts and ideas and making new friends. A dream come true! In preparing for our last discussion I discovered this great quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

It takes as much courage to have tried and failed as it does to have tried and succeeded.

Go the Distance with Audiobooks

Yes Please coverFor those of you who don’t keep up with obscure monthly observances, June happens to be National Audiobook Month. This, in my opinion, is excellent timing. What better month to celebrate a form of reading that allows us to enjoy the best of summer? We can safely read while we run, garden, hike, or embark on long road trips. It should come as no surprise that our library employees are avid consumers of the audiobook in its many forms. In order to help you choose your next ear-read (I’m making that a word), we’ve asked our staff to review some of their favorite audiobooks. Place your holds now!

Leslie

Harold Fry coverThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel  Joyce (CD and eAudio).  This novel is about a man who is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old love in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance. I enjoyed listening to it partly because of the narrator’s British accent but mostly because of the well written and compelling story.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is also by Rachel Joyce (CD) and it is the story told from the perspective of the woman who Harold Fry is walking to visit. It features another charming British accent and there’s a surprise at the end.

Short Nights coverShort Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan (CD and eAudio) is the story of photographer Edward S. Curtis and his passionate project of documenting the remaining Native American tribes in stunning photographs. An incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, Egan’s book tells the remarkable untold story behind Curtis’s iconic photographs. You obviously don’t see the photos while listening to this book, but the images created by this author are still vivid in my memory. I associate it with painting our basement as that’s what I did while ‘reading’ this fabulous story. Now if I could just have a Curtis photograph for my basement walls…

These Few Precious Days by Christopher Andersen (CD) will amaze you with the whole story of Jack and Jackie’s final year together. This book is a glimpse into the twilight days of Camelot.


One Summer coverYes, Please! By Amy Poehler (CD) is simply hilarious and made even better by being read by the author herself. Listen to this one if you need a good laugh, and who doesn’t? (Lisa here – I have to second this choice – it’s fantastic!)


One Summer: America 1927
by Bill Bryson (CD and Playaway) is about just that: America in the summer of 1927. This is a big story about the big personalities of the day: Babe Ruth, Calvin Coolidge, Charles Lindbergh, Al Jolson and more. Do yourself a favor and let someone else read it to you! It’s fascinating.

Alan

Grapes of Wrath coverThe Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (CD)
I had always meant to read this and once I had a long commute, I was able to find the time. The book about the plight of American farmers who were forced off their farms by drought and foreclosure during the 1930’s is everything you’d expect. But the narration adds so much to the story. When you finish the audiobook, cue up Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads, which the library also owns.

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B. J. Novak (CD and eAudio)
Very funny, well worth hearing B. J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman, Mindy Kaling, and many, many others perform the occasionally brilliant, sometimes underdeveloped, always funny pieces on the audiobook version of this short story collection from a writer of the American version of “The Office.”

Fighting Chance coverA Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren (CD and eAudio)
Elizabeth Warren’s story of her bumpy rise to fame and political power not only sets the stage for (likely) a higher office, but serves to inspire and make her as relatable as she appears in interviews and speeches. Read by the author/politician, Warren has a wonderfully rich voice, elevating the telling nicely.

Joyce

Born Standing Up coverBorn Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, written and read by Steve Martin (CD). Listening to the long-time writer/producer/actor/musician/comic’s audiobook gave me a jolt of intimacy and pleasure that his book—no matter how well written—could not have delivered on. Born Standing Up had me marveling at not just the words, but his voice: the tone and timbre, and timing, and Martin’s is impeccable. Martin’s memoir about growing up in southern California, working and learning magic at Disneyland, playing banjo in coffeehouses, his unusual, breakthrough comedy routines and becoming hugely popular on Saturday Night Live was a funny, enthralling life story.

Eileen

I have become an audiobook fanatic since acquiring an MP3 player several years ago. I listen when I’m gardening, walking, cooking (sometimes this is not a good thing), ironing—in other words whenever I’m doing something that doesn’t take a lot of concentration.

I have several favorites. Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking (CD and Playaway) is one I heard early in my career as a book listener, and it still comes back to haunt me. The reader’s voice was perfect for conveying Didion’s sense of loss and hopelessness as first her husband then her daughter die in the same year.

Bringing Up the Bodies coverI listened to both of Hilary Mantel’s books about the life of Thomas Cromwell and his association with Henry VIII.  Several people had told me that they found it difficult to track who was who when they attempted to read Wolf Hall (CD and eAudio), the first book in what is expected to be a trilogy. Listening to it there was no such difficulty. The right reader is critical to my enjoyment of an audiobook, and Simon Slater was the perfect choice for my ears. But then I also enjoyed hearing Simon Vance read Bring up the Bodies (CD and eAudio), Mantel’s sequel.

Dance with Dragons coverLastly I thoroughly enjoyed all of the George R. R. Martin series, Song of Ice and Fire (CD and eAudio).  I didn’t expect this to be true because I don’t normally read fantasy or science fiction, but I was hearing rave reviews from library patrons, and thought listening to the audio version would be easier than reading all 694 pages of A Game of Thrones. Many hours later—and I mean many hours since each of the books in the series so far run more than 30 hours—I came to the end of the fifth book,  A Dance with Dragons, and all I could think of was when would he finish writing the next book so I could find out what happened!

Julie

Misty imageMy all-time favorite audio book has to be Misty of Chincoteague read by Edward Hermann (Playaway). His voice is so great and friendly, making me feel like a grandpa is reading it. I also like that it is a playaway so I can walk around with it. My commute is only 1.5 miles, so a book on disc would take me ages!

Me

I blogged a little while back about some excellent non-fiction audiobooks that I really enjoyed; you can find that post here. More recent favorites include:

The Road coverThe Road by Cormac McCarthy (CD). Imagine the Walking Dead, sans walkers. The world as we know it has been obliterated by an unspecified disaster. Father and son find themselves on a furtive journey to the sea. What they hope to find there is unclear, but it has to be better than where they’ve come from. Doesn’t it? Haunting, anxiety-ridden, but strangely beautiful at times.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (CD). Young love is rough and often prone to failure. What happens if it never truly dies? Love in the Time of Cholera is a fairly humorous and slightly dark look at one man’s 1/2-a-century struggle to overcome his first heartbreak. It may leave you asking: does love ever truly die?

Did You Know? (Piggy Bank Edition)

ceramicsforkidsThat piggy banks are named for the clay material pygg that money jars were originally made from?

I found this information on page 36 in the book Ceramics for Kids by Mary Ellis. Eventually the shape of the jar became a pig, since for most hardworking peasants their most valuable asset was the family pig. Kids will also enjoy doing some of the projects in this book. Also look at Mudworks by Mary Ann F. Kohl which has recipes for making all kinds of unusual modeling materials. You can use sawdust or cotton balls or even make some edible dough!

teenmoneymanualIf you have a piggy bank, you’ll need something to put into it. The Teen Money Manual by Kara McGuire is a young adult book that is a guide to cash, credit, spending, saving, work, wealth and more. I loved that it really simplified the concepts of interest, credit scores, insurance premiums and other financial terms making them easier to understand.

babeYou can learn the basics about pigs in the book Pigs by Sharon Dalgleish. One famous pig is Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith. Babe decides he is going to be a ‘sheepdog’ and ends up winning the Grand Challenge Sheepdog trials. A cute story with a happy ending!

Another popular pig is the peppermint Christmas pig. The tradition of the famous Peppermint Pig started ages ago in the 1880’s with candy makers in Saratoga Springs, NY. It’s a festive way to celebrate the holidays. When families gathered together at Christmas for the holiday meal, the tradition was to break the Peppermint Pig after dinner (inside a small cloth pouch) using a miniature hammer. All family members would then share in eating the sweet candy pieces, hoping for good fortune in the coming year.

guineapigsAnd then there are guinea pigs, which aren’t really pigs at all. They most likely got the name pig because of the squealing noise they make. They make excellent pets and you can read all about them in Animal Planet’s Guinea Pigs by Julie Mancini.

Lastly, let’s not forget the ever popular children’s song “This little piggy went to market.” We have this on the children’s CD Banana Ram Sam interactive by Johnny Only.

What’s Old is New: Swap Your Music

SwapFlyerDoes your music collection need some refreshing? Tired of listening to the same old tunes? Just feel like listening to some great live music? Well we have just the free event for you!

On July 11th at the Main Library we will be hosting a music swap featuring a live set by Everett’s own Fauna Shade. While you don’t have to be participating in the swap to attend the show, we highly recommend taking advantage; it’s a fun, free, green way to get some new music in your life.

To participate, bring your gently-used CDs, vinyl, or cassette tapes to one of our drop-off dates. In exchange, you’ll be given color-coded tickets that can be used on the day of the swap to ‘buy’ the swapped albums of your choice (so if you trade in CDs, you’ll be going home with other CDs). We ask that you only bring original albums, so that means nothing that has been copied, dubbed, or burned. We’ve already had our first drop-off weekend, but the remaining dates are as follows:

June 20-21st at the Evergreen Branch – ask for Zac

July 5th at the Main Library – ask for Lisa

On the day of the swap (Saturday, July 11th) we’re hoping for good weather, because that means we can enjoy hunting for just the right album and listening to live tunes out on our lovely west balcony. If things happen to be a bit soggier outside, no worries – we’ve got our historic basement auditorium booked and ready to rock.

Confused? That’s not a problem. Just hit me up at 425.257.8005 or llabovitch@everettwa.gov if you have any questions about the swap and how it works.

Not able to make the swap but still interested in getting some new music? Here are my quick picks of new music arrivals at the library. Place your holds now!

Shamir CoverShamir – Ratchet (XL Recordings) = dancey, sassy, fun, intelligent, with a sense of humor. It definitely lives up to all the hype it’s been getting.

THEESatisfaction – EarthEE (Sub Pop) = chillout mix of electronic, r&b, hip hop, with a heavy dose of synths. Smooth and poetic.

Special Request coverSpecial Request – Soul Music (Houndstooth) = this one’s for all the oldschool ravers, bringing back the Amen break with a slight twist. Some great remixes as well.

Jamie XX – In Colour (Young Turks/XL Recordings) = deep, melodious, sample-heavy, and hard to define. Jamie XX spans many different styles or electronic and pop music.

Indigo Girls coverIndigo Girls – One Lost Day (Vanguard) = all the melodious and emotional storytelling you’ve come to expect from the band. It’s a great listen from start to finish with a creative array of sounds.