Best of 2015 Redux Pt. 2: Music and Graphic Novels

Music and graphic novels

Library staff have a unique, and I would say coveted, opportunity: we get to see stuff that might not be on your radar, just because it comes across our desks in the course of our workdays. Because of this, our 2015 staff favorites list was just too long to publish in one piece. So this week we’re bringing you even more goodies that we adored. To help cut down on your clicking (and our painstaking hyperlinking) we’ve provided one giant set for you to click through the music and graphic novels described below. Are you ready? Here comes the awesome!

MUSIC!

Ego Death by The Internet
Summary: Singer-songwriter Syd tha Kyd packs this album full of fun and sometimes blush-worthy lyrics taking you through the turmoil of love and sex, like the inner monologue of a turbulent relationship.
Why Lisa liked it: This release has plenty of jazzy, funky soul to go around.

House Masters: Frankie Knuckles by Frankie Knuckles
Summary: For anyone interested in the roots of today’s EDM, this retrospective of the late, great Frankie Knuckles is an absolute must.
Why Lisa liked it: This collection takes you on a trip back to the Warehouse days of Chicago, when house music was brand new, and had yet to become a global music phenomena that spawned countless genres of dance music.

In Another Life by Bilal
Summary: A solid soul album with a little bit of funk to make things more interesting.
Why Lisa liked it: Though Bilal is an established artist in his own right, you can appreciate the influence that iconic artists like Prince and Stevie Wonder have had on his music. This isn’t to say that Bilal is imitating anyone – his style is refreshingly original.

Angélique Kidjo Sings by Angélique Kidjo
Summary: This album is a delightful fusion of Kidjo’s bold and distinctive vocals with a full orchestral backing.
Why Lisa liked it: Listeners journey through a rich musical landscape that can be dramatic, dreamy, or festive depending on the track.

To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
Summary: Jazz, hip-hop, funk, spoken word, slam poetry – an entire spectrum of art forms are covered.
Why Lisa liked it: 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.

War on Women by War on Women
Summary: Loud, gritty, hardcore punk with a healthy dose of righteous feminist fury.
Why Lisa liked it: I love this album when I need a little extra energy for my run.

El Que Sabe, Sabe by Tego Calderón
Summary: El Que Sabe lives in our Latin Pop section, but listeners will find a mix of reggaeton, hip-hop, reggae, electronica, bomba, and more.
Why Lisa liked it: While the overall tone is dark but dancy, there are a couple lighter, more laid-back cuts. La Media was a standout track for me; it reminded me of mid-90s hip-hop, to be enjoyed in the sun.

Down on Deptford Broadway by Skinny Lister
Summary: Skinny Lister’s music features ethereal Celtic folk melodies melding gracefully with rollicking rock and roll. As a reference point think of Dexy’s Midnight Runners at their best, and then think a bit better.
Why Ron liked it: Fun, fun, fun and great musicianship.

Hollywood Vampires by Hollywood Vampires
Summary: Hard rocking covers played by Alice Cooper and a plethora of musical all-stars.
Why Ron liked it: This album surprised me. Covers can be boring or weird, but Hollywood Vampires found ways to make the songs their own.

Danger in the Club by Palma Violets
Summary: 60s garage rock re-imagined in the 21st century. Sloppy, familiar, well-done.
Why Ron liked it: My decade of origin is evoked in footstomping, gear-changing, up-tempo rock and roll. Yeah baby!

GRAPHIC NOVELS!

Doodle Diary of a New Mom: an Illustrated Journey Through One Mommy’s First Year by Lucy Scott
Summary: The title summarizes it well. All the ups and downs of a full year in that adventure we call parenting.
Why Alan liked it: Works even if you’ve never been a mom; very, very funny. Kind of disgusting. Filled with love. A fast read, deceptively overloaded with insight and charm.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: the (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua
Summary: Presents a rollicking alternate reality in which Lovelace and Babbage do build the Difference Engine and then use it to build runaway economic models, battle the scourge of spelling errors, explore the wilder realms of mathematics, and, fight crime.
Why Carol liked it: Alternate histories and science are married in this engrossing graphic novel. Includes footnotes and diagrams for the history buff in all of us.

Snowden by Ted Rall
Summary: Rall delves into Snowden’s early life and work experience, his personality, and the larger issues of privacy, new surveillance technologies, and the recent history of government intrusion.
Why Carol liked it: If you ever wanted to learn more about Edward Snowden but didn’t think you had the time to read a lengthy biography, here’s your chance to get the skinny in a short time frame.

Stay tuned as we wrap up our absolute final best-of list in the next post!

Best of 2015: Fiction & Graphic Novels for Adults

Another day, another great selection from our Best of 2015 list. Today we look at adult fiction and graphic novels hand picked by the Everett Public Library staff.

Fiction for Adults:

F1

West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan

This historical novel follows the last four years in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life.

Stewart O’Nan writes literary, sensitive, character-driven tragedy, but usually about the everyday. Here, we get to see him flex his style and sympathy on a truly fascinating and heartbreaking story of the great writer’s last years in Hollywood. -Alan’s pick

The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle

Set in contemporary Northern California, Boyle’s latest explores the connections between three damaged people — an aging Vietnam veteran, his psychologically unstable son, and the son’s paranoid, older lover — as they careen toward explosive confrontation.

T.C. Boyle has been weaving his gorgeous character-driven and insight-rich literary style into works that speak volumes about contemporary issues. Written in Boyle’s sheer lyrical style,. this thriller should please anyone. -Alan’s pick

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

Eight-year-old Peggy is living in London with her concert pianist mother and survivalist father when an issue between the parents causes her dad to steal away with Peggy into the mountains of Germany where they live for years in “die Hutte.”

Stories about surviving in the wild always appeal to me, but this book had so many subtle twists, so smoothly done in fact that I missed them, that at the surprising end I wanted to go back and see what really happened. Excellent! -Elizabeth’s pick

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Parched and ruined California has turned into a series of giant sand dunes, but Luz and Ray are surviving in a long-gone starlet’s mansion. At an outdoor party, they encounter an abused and neglected toddler and begin to dream of a better life.

I can’t seem to get enough of really good dystopian fiction, and this is one of the best since last year’s Station Eleven.   Brutal, sweet, hopeful, and devastating, it is also quite plausible considering the current droughts we are experiencing. -Elizabeth’s pick

F2

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

Journey across Canada and across the decades.

Magical realism in a journey of self-discovery similar to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. -Julie’s pick

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy : A Novel by Rachel Joyce

Queenie’s side of the story of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

While Harold was walking to Queenie, readers knew all about him, but not much about Queenie. Now that has been remedied with this new novel, letting us in on what Queenie remembers about Harold. -Julie’s pick

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah

This novel is the story of two sisters living in Nazi-occupied France during WWII. It is well written and a good companion book to All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

The setting and characters were very well done. I was sad when it ended. -Leslie’s pick

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

This is the backstory of Beryl Markham, the first woman to make a solo transatlantic crossing from east to west. She was raised by her father in Africa and became that continent’s first woman horse trainer.

This book has it all—beautiful and descriptive writing, an interesting story of a woman trailblazer, and the lovely land of Kenya. I could not recommend it more highly. -Leslie’s pick

F3

A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor

This is an historical novel about two orphaned sisters who are flower sellers barely surviving in the streets of London in the 1800s and what happens after they are separated. .

The story is realistic, heartbreaking, bittersweet, and, thankfully, has a mostly happy ending. I enjoyed this story immensely. -Margaret’s pick

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

In an attempt to stave off loneliness after losing their spouses, Addie and Louis start spending the night together for companionship. Addie’s son disapproves, but her grandson comes to spend time with Addie and develops a strong bond with Louis.

A beautiful relationship story, told with grace and touching calmness. I am very sad that Kent Haruf passed away last year; he is one of my favorite authors. This is a quick read you can finish in a few hours, but it’s good to read it slow, so it lasts longer. -Sarah’s pick

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

This collection of posthumous short stories by Lucia Berlin is something else. The two writers who introduce her gush and rave about her work; you wonder why it wasn’t published years ago.

Berlin injects bits of her own history, incorporating alcoholism, pink-collar work, and years of hard living into her characters. Her vibrant landscapes (Oakland, Mexico, Chile, and beyond) are packed with individuals dealing with harsh circumstances. -Sarah’s pick

Graphic Novels for Adults:

AGN1

Ms. Marvel Volumes 2 & 3 by G. Willow Wilson

Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager?  Muslim?  Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm!

If you haven’t read this reboot of Marvel standby Ms. Marvel (Vol. 1 came out in 2014), you are seriously missing out. Kamala Khan is not just a superhero–she’s a teenager learning to trust herself and figure out just who she is. -Carol’s pick

Not Funny Ha-Ha: A Handbook for Something Hard by Leah Hayes

Demystifies the process of abortion by following the story of two women who have decided to have abortions, from making their initial decision, choosing a clinic and method (surgical and medical), reaching out to loved ones, and the having procedure.

The subject matter may be controversial, but this book can and will help someone making a thoroughly difficult decision. -Carol’s pick

Step Aside, Pops : A Hark! A Vagrant Collection by Kate Beaton

Kate Beaton’s second Drawn & Quarterly. book brings her hysterically funny gaze to bear on historical, literary, and contemporary figures. Irreverently funny and carefully researched, no target is safe from Beaton’s incisive wit!

This was my intro into Kate Beaton and D+Q. When I cataloged it, the book fell open to a satirical strip of Nancy Drew, and I knew this was for me! -Carol’s pick

AGN2

The Story of My Tits by Jennifer Hayden

When Jennifer Hayden was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 43, she realized that her breasts told a story. Across a lifetime, they’d held so many meanings: hope and fear, pride and embarrassment, life and death. And then they were gone.

If you’ve never read an autobiographical comic strip or graphic novel, take a chance on this one. If your goal this year was to read difficult stuff, pick this up. If you know anyone touched by breast cancer, check this out. -Carol’s pick

Displacement: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley

Graphic novelist Lucy is in the prime of her life when she accompanies her rapidly aging grandparents on a Caribbean cruise. She has always been close to them, and when no one else can go along, and she is at loose ends, she offers to help.

Knisley really captures the sweet and rewarding aspects of helping the very old, but we also feel strongly the frustration, sadness, and feelings of being trapped that come with the job. The drawing style, while simple, is expressive and charming. -Elizabeth’s pick

Best of 2015: Teen Fiction & Graphic Novels

We continue our Best of 2015 list today with the ever popular category of fiction and graphic novels for teens. Don’t let the teen label throw you. Plenty of adults love these titles as well.

Fiction for Teens:

TF1

Madly by Amy Alward

When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure!

Magic, mystery, romance–what’s not to love? The world has magical rules that are vague enough to be believable, and I loved meeting another strong female heroine. Sam Kemi will be back in book 2–can’t wait to see what happens next! -Carol’s pick

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

After her parents’ divorce, Zoe Webster moves from Brooklyn to upstate New York where she meets the weirdly compelling misfit, Philip Digby, and soon finds herself in a series of hilarious and dangerous situations as he pulls her into his investigations.

The fast-paced adventure was only surpassed by the quick wit. And I haven’t looked it up yet, but reading the ending makes it obvious that a sequel demands to be written. Or at least I am demanding one. I picked this book up on a whim, and I’m so glad I did. -Carol’s pick

Reawakened by Colleen Houck

A visit to an Egyptian exhibit brings teen Lilliana Young face to face with a recently awakened mummy-turned-handsome-sun-god as she gets caught up in an adventure with more twists and turns than the Nile itself.

This book brings ancient Egyptian mythology into the modern age in an engrossing way. Liliana’s journey, both around the world and inside her heart, is a fast-paced adventure that kept me on the edge of my seat. -Carol’s pick

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Fifteen-year-old Caden Bosch is traveling against his will on a ship bound for the deepest part of the ocean with an evil captain and trickster parrot. Or is it that he’s slipping from his typical teenage life into the depths of madness?

By switching back and forth between the real and imagined stories, Shusterman expertly propels the reader into Caden’s mind and its swirling, confusing, and terrifying thoughts. Brendan Shusterman’s drawings add greatly to the chaos. -Elizabeth’s pick

TF2

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Messy, earthy Agnieszka expects to lose her friend to “The Dragon”, a wizard who periodically takes a village girl for unknown purposes, only to be taken herself. She quickly becomes involved fighting the evil Wood, and learns to trust her budding powers.

This Polish fairy tale is at times very dark and the quest seems hopeless, but there are enough bright and funny parts to keep hope alive. I loved the totally creepy feeling to the Wood and all of its bizarre creatures brimming with evil intentions. -Elizabeth’s pick

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

Claire and Ella have been best friends since elementary school, and Ella has become intensely important to Claire. During a campout at the beach the group meets mysterious Orpheus, whose hypnotic music draws them all in, especially Ella.

A modern day retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Ella Grey is likely to make you seek out other versions of the story and other books by Almond. Beautifully written, atmospheric, and full of teen angst and passion. Tragic and lovely! -Elizabeth’s pick

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

The much-anticipated sequel to Seraphina (2012). In a world where dragons can assume human form, there are children who are half human and half dragon. Seraphina can communicate with others of her kind by diving deep into her subconscious mind.

While this tale is inspired by other fantasy series about dragons, the characters are endearing and the pacing keeps those pages flying. -Emily’s pick

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

She could bear the beatings, but she couldn’t bear life on the farm without books. After her father forbids her to attend school, 14-year-old Joan runs away to Baltimore. After all, it’s 1911! A modern girl should be able to make it on her own, right?

There is no shortage of historical fiction about girls running away from home to seek their fortunes. This story portrays the tensions between Jews and Gentiles in the early 20th century from the point of view of a young “Goy” working in a Jewish home. -Emily’s pick

Graphic Novels for Teens:

TGN

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

In this printing of the popular, award-winning web comic, a villain adopts a sidekick with incredible powers and a mysterious past.

Colorful, intelligent, and insightful to human behavior and relationships, Nimona is everything you want a graphic novel to be: at once impactful, complex, and accessible. Iconographic and character-driven, this graphic novel is terrific for all ages. -Alan’s pick

Batgirl Volume 1: Batgirl of Burnside by Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher

It’s Batgirl as you’ve never seen her before! Big changes are here for Barbara Gordon as she moves across Gotham City to begin a new chapter in her ongoing fight against crime as Batgirl.

Who doesn’t love Batgirl? This collects volumes #35-40 of the Batgirl comics, which have been my re-introduction to DC and one that was a random selection at Everett Comics! -Carol’s pick

Bob’s Burgers Volume 1 by Various

The compilation of Bob’s Burgers comics #1-5. Read about the Belcher family (parents Bob and Linda, and their children Tina, Gene, and Louise) with brand-new in-canon stories created by the TV show’s producers, writers, animators, and  the series creator.

I hop and skip for joy every time I pick up the newest issue of Bob’s Burgers at Everett Comics. Jennifer H. got me to take a chance on the TV show a year ago, and the comics totally live up to the show’s quality humor. -Carol’s pick

Captain Marvel Volume 2. Stay Fly by Kelly Sue DeConnick

A compilation of stories that originally were published as the Captain Marvel comics #7-11.

Carol Danvers isn’t just cool because of her awesome first name. She’s a woman setting her own course, even if that means leaving everyone she loves behind and going on an intergalactic adventure with the Guardians of the Galaxy. -Carol’s pick

Best of 2015: Children’s Fiction & Graphic Novels

Tis the season for best of the year lists. These lists always come in handy for finding great gifts for yourself and others. The only problem? There sure are a lot of them. To help you avoid ‘best of year list fatigue’ let us humbly suggest you look no further than our Best of 2015 list.

Our list is put together by the dedicated staff of the Everett Public Library who know a thing or two about all the great books, movies and music that have come out in 2015. Not only do we select these materials for the library collection, but we are avid consumers ourselves. As you might suspect, our list is a tad long so we will be publishing our selections a day at a time for a week here on A Reading Life. If you want to see the complete list in all its glory, take a look at the December Newsletter to get the PDF.

So, without further ado, let’s get this list started. Today we will be taking a look at all the great fiction and graphic novels for children that came out in 2015.

CFGN1

Waiting by Kevin Henkes

An owl, puppy, bear, bunny, and pig wait for marvelous things to happen.

Kevin Henkes has the soul of a poet and the precision of a scientist. His books are warm, lovely, and philosophical. The twist in this one, involving a nesting doll, is breathtaking…and the lesson is patience and gratitude in minutiae.  -Alan’s pick

How to Grow a Friend by Sara Gillingham

In bold, adorable wood block prints, the author describes in toddler-friendly detail (very few words) how friendship works.

Gillingham analogizes growing a friend to how things grow in nature with ample talking points for the storyteller (“don’t let your friend get stuck in the weeds”). -Alan’s pick

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

With spare text and breathtaking oil paintings, If You Plant a Seed demonstrates not only the process of planting and growing for young children but also how a seed of kindness can bear sweet fruit.

The illustrations of this simple tale are whimsical and beautiful. The animals are so very expressive. -Andrea’s pick

CFGN2

Such a Little Mouse by Alice Schertle

Every season a little mouse pops out of his hole in the meadow and explores his world, gathering the food and supplies he will need when winter comes.

This charming story is told in rhymes and is a delight. -Leslie’s pick

Smick! by Doreen Cronin

Smick is a very minimally drawn dog in a children’s book. He retrieves a stick (done with a photo) and  meets Chick (made from a photo of a petal and drawn upon).

With very simple line drawings, Smick is portrayed as being very lively, cute, and good. He plays well with Chick, and he stole my heart. A charming book for ages 2 and up, Smick uses simple rhyming text to tell the story. -Margaret’s pick

Superworm byJulia Donaldson

Our super hero is a worm! “Superworm is super long! Superworm is super strong! Watch him wiggle! Watch him squirm! Hip Hip Hooray for Superworm!”

I love all of Julia Donaldson’s books (The Gruffalo is awesome), and this one doesn’t disappoint. -Leslie’s pick

CFGN3

Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens

At an English boarding school in the 1930s, crime-solving friends Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells struggle to find an exciting mystery to investigate. They hit pay-dirt when Hazel discovers the dead body of Miss Bell, the science teacher.

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong speak to the large portion of my soul still in love with all the Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew stories. We have a bit of a delay getting the U.S. versions (book 4 is already out in the UK), but it’s going to be worth the wait! -Carol’s pick

Auggie and Me: Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio

These stories are an extra peek at Auggie before he started at Beecher Prep and during his first year there. Readers get to see him through the eyes of Julian, the bully; Christopher, Auggie’s oldest friend; and Charlotte, Auggie’s new friend at school.

This book is a companion to Palacio’s Wonder. These chapters were not included in the original book, because Wonder was Auggie Pullman’s story. This is a glimpse of the lives of three more people whose paths crossed with Auggie’s. -Andrea’s pick

A Boy and His Horse by Nate Cosby

Story of a young bounty hunter determined to send his entire outlaw family to jail. He travels the Old West on a horse that ain’t his, and won’t stop til every one’a his kin’s in the clink.

From the Old West slang and drawl to the adorable illustrations, this graphic novel aimed at a younger audience will have adults like you and me enthralled as well. -Carol’s pick

Lumberjanes Volume 1: Beware the Kitten Holy & Lumberjanes Volume 2: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen

At Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hardcore lady-types, things are not what they seem.

Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves.  Anagrams. The Lumberjanes are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer.

I picked up issue 1 of this comic book series at Everett Comics on a whim. Little did I know how quickly I would fall in love with this magical series. Get caught up on these hardcore lady-types before the movie comes out (yep, film optioned!). -Carol’s pick

CFGN4

Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock: Journey to the Everspring by Kate Leth

When the water supply of Fraggle Rock mysteriously runs dry, the Fraggles will have to journey deep in the caves of Fraggle Rock to find the fabled Everspring where adventure awaits and no Fraggle has ever gone before! Dance your cares away!

I was raised on Fraggle Rock and have come to be completely obsessed with Kate Leth. This is a match made in heaven, perfect for the young and young-at-heart. -Carol’s pick

Punky Brewster Volume 1 by Joelle Sellner

Punky Brewster has been abandoned by her mother and lives on the streets of Chicago with her puppy sidekick, Brandon. Punky thinks she doesn’t need help, but after getting picked up by the police, she enters a foster home and searches for a new family.

When I was growing up, Punky Brewster was the one TV show my friends and I all watched religiously (well, as religious as a small child can). She was the friend we all wanted, and this comic brings me back to those days of wonder. -Carol’s pick

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Astrid becomes infatuated with roller derby after attending a bout with her mom and best friend, Nicole. The girls sign up for a roller derby boot camp, and Astrid soon realizes she’s in over her head.

Fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile will eat this up. -Sarah’s pick

Crazy Fall Publishing Part 2: September 8th

Welcome to part 2 in the Crazy Fall Publishing series! If you’re just joining us, here’s the skinny: I’m highlighting the books being released each week that I am most excited to read. The list is totally subjective, but gives you an idea of what kind of ginormous TBR I have going on.

Without further ado, here are the hot new releases coming out this week I am just dying to dig into:

a is for arsenicA is for Arsenic: the Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup
Summary: Agatha Christie used poison to kill her characters more often than any other crime fiction writer. Poison was a central part of her stories, and her choice of deadly substance was far from random; the chemical and physiological characteristics of each poison provided vital clues to the discovery of the murderer. Christie demonstrated her extensive chemical knowledge (much of it gleaned by working in a pharmacy during both world wars) in many of her novels, but this is rarely appreciated by the reader. Written by a former research chemist, each chapter takes a different novel and investigates the poison used by the murderer.
Why I’m stoked: I was actually required to read a Christie novel in high school, And Then There Were None. Ever since then I was totally hooked on mysteries, especially Christie, since she’s one of my mom’s favorites. As an adult I watched every single episode of Poirot with David Suchet that I could get my hands on. Since I can’t read any new Agatha Christie stories, reading the science behind her favorite plot device is the next best thing.

autobiography of james t kirkThe Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman er, Captain Kirk
Summary: This book chronicles the greatest Starfleet captain’s life (2233–2371), in his own words. From his birth on the U.S.S. Kelvin, his youth spent on Tarsus IV, his time in the Starfleet Academy, his meteoric rise through the ranks of Starfleet, and his illustrious career at the helm of the Enterprise, this in-world memoir reveals Captain Kirk in a way Star Trek fans have never seen. Kirk’s singular voice rings throughout the text, giving insight into his convictions, his bravery, and his commitment to life—in all forms—throughout this Galaxy and beyond. Excerpts from his personal correspondence, captain’s logs, and more give Kirk’s personal narrative further depth.
Why I’m stoked: To this day every time I see William Shatner, dressed as Captain Kirk or not, I hear my friend Jenny’s mom telling our 8-year-old slumber party, “He’s so sexy.” Not only was the first time I’d ever heard the word “sexy,” but it was also my introduction to the world of Starfleet and that dreamy Captain. I can’t think of anything better than reading this obviously true autobiography of the greatest man who hasn’t yet lived (give it a couple of thousand years).

the one thingThe One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis
Summary: Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie’s rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal. Now Maggie has a probation officer. But she isn’t interested in rehabilitation, not when she’s still mourning the loss of her professional-soccer dreams, and furious at her so-called friends, who lost interest in her as soon as she could no longer lead the team to victory. Then suddenly somehow, incredibly, she can see again. But only one person: Ben, a precocious ten-year-old unlike anyone she’s ever met. Ben’s life isn’t easy, but he doesn’t see limits, only possibilities. After a while, Maggie starts to realize that losing her sight doesn’t have to mean losing everything she dreamed of. Even if what she’s currently dreaming of is Mason Milton, the infuriatingly attractive lead singer of Maggie’s new favorite band, who just happens to be Ben’s brother. But when she learns the real reason she can see Ben, Maggie must find the courage to face a once-unimaginable future… before she loses everything she has grown to love
Why I’m stoked: Terrible loss that is somehow reversed with a paranormal slant, and probably peppered with some romance that’ll give me all the feels? How could I pass this one up?

southern cookA Real Southern Cook: In her Savannah Kitchen by Dora Charles
Summary: In her first cookbook, a revered former cook at Savannah’s most renowned restaurant divulges her locally famous Savannah recipes—many of them never written down before—and those of her family and friends
Why I’m stoked: Ever since my husband and I pulled the plug on our cable TV two years ago, I have been mourning the loss of my access to The Food Network. I’ve been making up for my lack of visual cooking inspiration by devouring the cookbooks my boss buys for the library (um, not literally, weirdo!). In all my travels I can confidently say the best meals I’ve eaten were found in the South. I’m looking forward to trying my hand at recreating some of my favorite down-home meals in the comfort of my own home, where I can make a giant mess and Instagram the results.

sherlock holmes versus harry houdiniSherlock Holmes vs. Harry Houdini by Carlos Furuzono, et. al.
Summary: The world’s most famous detective meets the world’s most famous magician…and death ensues! Famed sleuth Sherlock Holmes and brash showman Harry Houdini must combine forces to defeat a mysterious mystic dedicated to destroying Houdini’s career and killing anyone who gets in his way.
Why I’m stoked: I’ve really gotten into comics and graphic novels in the last year or so, and I’ve always been a fan of both Sherlock Holmes and Harry Houdini. So really this just seems like a no-brainer, a natural progression of sorts. In fact, I’d go so far to say that it’s elementary, my dear Watson.

So that’s it for me this week. 5 books to add to my ever-growing TBR, my reading to-do list that will absolutely never end. What books are you excited for this week?

Brief Reads

Brief ReadsSummer is almost here and soon people in Library Land will start buzzing about beach reads. I say forget the beach reads and pick up some brief reads! Nope, I’m not talking about underpants. I mean books that won’t take you very long to read. And if you’re like me and have been experiencing a series of disappointments, be it books that let you down or ones that were too terrible to finish (looking at you, Ron!), I suggest picking a couple of gems from my list and watch your “books read” page on GoodReads fill up faster than me on margarita night. Pro tip: margarita night can be any night when you’re mixing them at home.

oneI was an Awesomer Kid by Brad Getty
Step back in time and relive life through your eyes. Your childhood eyes, that is. Generously peppered with vintage childhood photographs, Getty brings forth universal truths from our totally awesome childhoods: we wore whatever we wanted, we didn’t hide our emotions, we got paid to do chores, and our prime mode of transportation were Big Wheels. Reading this book won’t take you very long, but be prepared for the inevitable detours that this jaunt down memory lane may cause.

Terrible Estate Agent Photos by Andy Donaldson
Based on the popular Tumblr of the same name, this book is meant to be shared. Bring a loved one in on the reading and spend time laughing together at the absurdity of just how unprepared some homes are to have their photo taken when they’re being put on the market. Trends include toilets in the kitchen (not to be confused with toilet kitchens, ala The League), the Garden Chair of Solitude (that lone patio chair inexplicably left alone in the corner of a backyard photograph), and mysterious and disgusting stains and smears left on walls and floors. I remember when we sold my childhood home. I was 9 and I had to shove all my kid crap under my bed before the real estate agents arrived to show the house. The people who own the properties in this book? Please. They don’t see the need to stage an attractive shot of their home! People will want to buy it based on its location alone. Right? Right?

fourRad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz
If there’s one thing I wish I could buckle down and read more often, it’s biographies and memoirs. There’s nothing quite like delving into a historical figure’s life and learning all sorts of new tidbits about them, and possibly seeing them in a new light. For some reason, though, I’m never quite in the mood to read a 500 page biography, no matter how fascinating I may find the subject. Thankfully there’s a brief read to satisfy this need of mine. This book gives you exactly one page of information for each of the 26 women featured. Reading these brief bios (how meta: brief in a brief read!) may whet your appetite for more, but if not you can at least say you now have heard of these awesome ladies. Plus, your new-found knowledge may aid you at a future trivia night.

That Should Be a Word by Lizzie Skurnick
Build your vocabulary and knock out yet another book by picking up this one. Amaze your friends and be on the cutting edge of a language revolution with such words as dramaneering (maintaining control by seeming to be in crisis), stardy (setting off late), sharanoia (fear of what people are thinking of your posts), and oughty (guilty but lazy anyhow). These words frequently describe my behavior in procrastinating writing for this blog, so I found the book extremely helpful.

fiveCoffee Gives Me Superpowers by Ryoko Iwata
I honestly don’t think you need me to talk this book up to you. Either you thrive on coffee like yours truly, or you never touch that dark, bitter liquid. The latter may skip this one, but if drinking your morning cuppa sprouts a metaphorical cape onto your back, you’re going to want to carve out the 30 minutes required for this book. Filled with facts and infographics, there is humor peppered throughout and those who read this book shall find a bonus comic in the back illustrated by Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal called If Coffee Were My Boyfriend.

No need to thank me, kids. I know we’re all rushed. Just be sure to credit me back when you publicly eschew beach reads for brief reads. And if you can confuse someone regarding the meaning of briefs (“Not underpants, silly!”) all the better.

Best of the (Half) Decade

Today I saw a list of the top 100 books written in the past half-decade. We were not amused. Items chosen were limited almost exclusively to adult fiction, and the fiction itself seemed to be fairly narrow in scope. So quite obviously it’s time for a better list. Created by me.

Books chosen have all been read by yours truly, which skews the list’s contents, confining it to items I find attractive. Obviously some wonderful books will be absent. But of the 80 or so books written since 2010 that I’ve read, diverse genres including autobiographies, humor, YA, juvenile, graphic novels, mystery, supernatural fiction, travel, historical fiction, and true crime have been explored. Allowing for a potentially well-rounded list.

And now I give you: The Top 13 Books Written Since 2010!

  1. Let’s Pretend this Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson (2012) Perhaps the funniest book I’ve ever read. Written by the Bloggess, a woman who recounts pant-wettingly hilarious scenarios whilst openly discussing her severe coping issues, this book is guaranteed to shock, perhaps revolt, and leave you aching from unquenchable laughter.
  1. Insane City by Dave Barry (2013)
    I have a soft spot for ridiculously complex, filled-with-coincidences plots. In a way, it doesn’t even matter what the story is about as long as the screwball comedy aspect is well done. Dave Barry is always enjoyable and this is perhaps his greatest effort. The plot is not even remotely describable in less than 10,000 words, so suffice to say: Florida, wedding, Russian gangsters, angry strippers, and pythons. Standard issue Dave Barry.
  1. At Home by Bill Bryson (2010)
    Bill Bryson has become my guru. Don’t understand science? Read Bryson. Need a better handle on the English language? Bryson. In At Home he explains how dwellings evolved and where names of house parts came from, all while imparting abundant information about western civilization. Funny, understandable, a compelling read.

Set 1

  1. The World’s Greatest Sleuth by Steve Hockensmith (2010)
    The Holmes on the Range mystery-solving series is durned brilliant. In this installment, the Amlingmeyer brothers travel from their usual Western climes to the 1893 Columbian Exposition and compete with famous detectives in the field of detecting. Murder, of course, ensues. Outstanding evocation of the Chicago fair.
  1. Yes Please by Amy Poehler (2014)
    Of all the autobiography/memoirs I’ve read, this was my favorite. Written in a personable, conversational yet well-crafted style, Ms. Poehler recounts life stories and shares bits of her wise personal philosophy, creating a sort of charming, amusing self-help manual.
  1. Bye Bye, Baby by Max Allan Collins (2011)
    Brilliant historical fiction that examines the circumstances of Marilyn Monroe’s death. Through Collins we get to know Marilyn, the powerful people she mingled with, and the potential truths behind her death. After reading this book I was moved to learn more about her life and death, which indicates to me that Collins did a superlative job.

Set 2

  1. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (2011)
    A plane crash, abundant death, struggles to survive, nefarious politicians and Miss Texas all mix poetically in this waggish disembowelment of the beauty pageant industry.
  1. Who Could That Be At This Hour? By Lemony Snicket (2012)
    For a fabulous description of this fabulous book, read Carol’s fabulous post here. I’m not a huge fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events, but I was blown away by this new mysterious series. Written for kids but equally intriguing for adults.
  1. The Rosie Effect by Graeme C. Simsion (2014)
    In this follow up to The Rosie Project, Don and Rosie are married and expecting. Don (who I suspect is on the extremely high-functioning end of the autism spectrum) approaches fatherhood as a problem to be solved, but Rosie is not sure if his lack of emotion will allow him to be a good father. Tension follows, communications break down, and the couple struggles to maintain their couplehood. A powerful, magical romance that shows how people of all kinds can enrich the lives of others.

Set 3

  1. The Yard by Alex Grecian (2012)
    Fascinating fictional look at the beginnings of Scotland Yard, the ridiculous caseload piled on the pitiful handful of detectives, and the ease with which murder could be successfully committed in the 19th century.
  1. The Dangerous Animals Club by Stephen Tobolowsky (2012)
    Stephen Tobolowsky is an incredibly versatile and prolific actor, perhaps most remembered as Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day. This memoir tells tales of his intriguing life, but is also filled with philosophical musings and complex ideas. Funny and thought provoking.
  1. Deep Creek by Dana Hand (2010)
    Historical fiction based on a true story. When Chinese gold miners are murdered along the Idaho-Oregon border, white settlers don’t really care. The Sam Yup Company, a powerful Chinese firm, hires a local man to solve the mystery. Elegant, descriptive writing clearly depicts an unjust time.
  1. Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel (2011)
    This is one of the few graphic novels that has truly engaged me, featuring beautiful charcoal drawings and a fantastical tale of love, riverboat travel, and mermaids. Memorable, alluring and ultimately disturbing.

Set 4

So there you have it, 13 books, one for each month of the year! Read, enjoy, enrich and prepare for the next half-decade.