Here There Be Monsters

I have a bedtime ritual. I go to bed, do a little reading, maybe do a little writing (because some stupid part of me, no matter how old I get, still wants to be a writer but I can’t say it out loud because for me, it’s right up there with saying “I want to be a space cowboy when I grow up!”). Then I have to watch a horror movie. I have to.

I told someone my ritual and they nodded knowingly when I said I did a little reading because that’s what normal people do and then their eyes bugged out when I said I watch a horror movie every evening before falling asleep. They screeched “I’d get nightmares! Don’t you get nightmares?” The answer is no. I don’t get nightmares from horror movies or from reading horror books. If I watched a romantic comedy before falling asleep I’m positive I would have nightmares. But hey, that’s just the way my brain is built.

boywhodrewmonstersKeith Donohue is in my top 10 list of writers who I read and think “Damn, I wish I had written that book!” Donohue’s horror writing is subtle, sneaky and cleverly disguised as literature until something monstrous skitters across the road in front a car or something in a desk drawer starts to move around. I recently finished his latest book: The Boy Who Drew Monsters.  

The Keenans live in their dream house by the sea in a coastal town in Maine. Holly Keenan, a tightly wound mother and wife, is a lawyer who works part-time in town. Tim Keenan is a stay at home dad and also the caretaker of the many lavish homes that are only occupied during the summer in their community. Jack Peter, their 10-year-old son, never leaves the house. Both parents know that Jack has been different from birth but what parent wants to believe there’s something ‘wrong’ with their child? Jack shows all the signs of being autistic. He doesn’t like to be touched, hugged, surprised, or looked at. His mom wakes him up one morning and startles him and he hits her in the face. She starts thinking that it might be time to do something more drastic with Jack, that he’s already uncontrollable with his fits of rage. He’s only going to get bigger and stronger and what will they do then? Tim takes a more hands on approach and believes that if they work harder with Jack they’ll be able to manage him and he might become a functioning member of society. This divides them and sends them onto separate paths.

Holly starts going to the town’s little Catholic church. I thought maybe she was looking for an exorcist for the kid because hey, couldn’t hurt. But she’s seeking comfort. The priest serves her cake and tea and talks about God stuff, most of it not really helpful to Holly. There’s a painting of a ship wreck on his wall that Holly becomes obsessed with. After seeing the painting Holly begins to hear strange noises coming from the ocean: children crying, people screaming. The priest’s Japanese maid ends up helping Holly the most, telling her ghost stories and stating that as a child she was considered ‘strange’ like Jack.

Jack’s best and only friend Nick knows to go along with Jack’s fixations. Like most boys, Jack and Nick go through the normal boyhood obsessions: trains, putting together models, marbles. But Jack has moved on to an obsession with drawing elaborate and terrifyingly real monsters. Nick’s parents are a couple of drunks, the kind you have to make sure pass out on their stomachs so they don’t choke on their own vomit. They’re  going away on a cruise for Christmas and dump Nick off at Jack’s house.

The days slowly unwind for the 10-year-olds, like days during Christmas break should. Tim makes them breakfast and lunch and then leaves them to go check on the summer houses of the wealthy. While driving, Tim sees something white and long limbed scuttle across the road. He thinks it was a man but the damn thing was impossibly white (I’m pretty white and I can run across a street very fast if there’s a Ding-Dong waiting for me on the other side). Tim thinks he’s going crazy, especially after he sees the same white long limbed man roaming the sand dunes outside the house.

Meanwhile, Nick is getting frightened by Jack’s macabre preoccupation with drawing monsters. There is something to Jack that wasn’t there before, something sly and cunning. Nick doesn’t want to play with him anymore, doesn’t want him to draw any more monsters because the monsters are coming to life. He can hear them outside the house and sometimes inside the house.

Holly is beginning to see and hear things as well and visits the priest again so she can talk to the maid. This doesn’t sit well with the priest because he wants to throw Bible quotes at her and fill her with the comfort of Catholicism. The last thing he wants is Holly sitting around listening to his maid telling ghost stories. Holy Ghost, yes. Booga, booga ghosts, no. Each person is in their own insular world of terror made worse by a big snow storm moving in.

I read the last few pages and then went back and re-read them again. I did not see the end coming. And I liked it. Because it wasn’t pretty and neatly wrapped up and satisfying.  Do the monsters win? I don’t know. Okay, I do know but can’t tell you because then you wouldn’t read the book.

End of story.

Favorite 65X Series: Plot-Your-Own Stories Edition

Don’t even ask. I know what you’re wondering. “Carol, what the heck is a 65X? And why should I care?” In cataloger-speak, that’s how we code subject headings and genre terms. Generally, 650s are subject headings and 655s are genres. Relax, though. You’re not getting a lesson in cataloging, though I’d be happy to talk your ear off about MARC, RDA, and FRBR.

Wait, come back! I said I wouldn’t be talking about those things, and I intend to prove it. Welcome to a new series I’m trying out here on the blog, where I will explore some of my most favorite headings. Today we’re going to shine a spotlight on the subject heading Plot-your-own stories.

If you grew up in the 80s like I did, you may remember a wonderful series created by the late, great R.A. Montgomery called Choose Your Own Adventure. For me, I remember spending time in the stacks at the Bethalto Public Library exploring life as a ninja, a millionaire, and even an astronaut. I discovered those books when I was twelve and immediately decided that this was the element that my beloved Nancy Drew books were missing: the ability to influence the outcome of the story by making a series of seemingly small decisions.

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I still have a few tattered copies of this awesome series, and yes, I do pull them out occasionally to see if I still remember the correct series of decisions that allow me to keep the $1 million I found after playing baseball in my neighborhood instead of being killed for it. Spoiler alert: I do not remember this perfect sequence, but I do have fun figuring it out all over again. In fact, when I was writing this post I pulled out all my old Choose Your Own Adventure books and discovered my husband’s stash of GI Joe-themed Plot-your-own stories books as well. Even when we were kids we apparently thought alike!

Girl Walks Into a BarRecently I ran across A Girl Walks Into a Bar by Helena S. Paige. It looked like a standard contemporary romance novel with a fun cover. Then I sat down to read it and discovered two fun facts about this book:

  • It’s less a romance and more an erotica.
  • It’s a Plot-your-own stories book, aka Choose Your Own Adventure style.

Does anything get better than that? If you’re me, the answer is definitely, “No. No, it does not get better than that!”

The book begins with you walking into a bar and immediately getting a message from your best friend, standing you up on your girls’ night out. Since you’re already dressed up, why not stay at the bar and see what happens? Not only are there dozens of choices throughout the story, there are several choices of guys to initially approach. With each decision your night changes quite drastically. Don’t like the ending? Then start over and choose again. And again. And again! My favorite part of romances are when the heroine and hero meet for the first time. With books like this you can read a variety of “meet cutes” without having to put down the book and pick up another.

Sure, it’s a frivolous read, but I like to read for enjoyment and, to me, there’s nothing more relaxing than making a life-changing decision simply by turning the page.

Science Fiction – No Longer Just For Nerds

I’m in a rut, in a rut, in a rut rut rut root, rutabaga!

Ah, blessed escape.

As much as I enjoy pulp mysteries, I feel that 2015 needs to be a year of expanded reading interests. Books written in 2015, non-fiction, plots or genres I don’t typically pursue – these will be my (alleged) focus for the year. But for the moment I am returning to my sordid past. You see, I am a recovering science fiction nerd.

For years, the only books I read were sci-fi. I have a couple of theories as to the why of this, but one definite appeal of the genre is that literally anything can happen. Not so in most fiction. Your average book about a lawyer suing the greedy corporations that are destroying her home in Alaska is not going to feature the Loch Ness Monster as a key witness (although that would be way cool and probably improve the story). There are laws of reality that most stories need to obey. Sci-fi, however, creates its own laws.

chalkerThe Well of Lost Souls series, written by Jack L. Chalker, is one of my favorite examples of what science fiction can be. Chalker was not an outstanding writer, but he was incredibly imaginative. For this series he created the Well World, a planet which serves as a testing ground for potential species, sort of a cosmic petri dish. Each species has its own hexagonal region (1,560 regions total) that serves the needs of its inhabitants – temperature, atmosphere and so on. As the main characters travel the planet they pass through many regions and the reader is introduced to a stunning array of unique creatures and environments. No other book or series I’ve encountered is packed full of such diversity.

dhalgrenDhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
Dhalgren is on my soon-to-be-read list. As far as I can recall, I’ve never read anything by Delany, but he is one of the names uttered with a hint of reverence in the sci-fi field. This book’s description is mesmerizing, and I’ve read several reviews that refer to it as one of the most important science fiction novels. How can one resist this summary?

In Bellona, dead centre of the US, something has happened. The population has fled; madmen and criminals wander the streets. Strange portents appear in the cloud-covered sky. Into this disaster zone comes a young poet, lover and adventurer, known only as the Kid.

He had me at “centre”.

man in the high castleThe Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick is probably best known for writing Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, the novel that Blade Runner is based upon. While this movie might be complex, his books are beyond difficult to describe. Perhaps visualize a mix of reality and fantasy and hallucinogenic drugs, and then throw this psyonic kaleidoscope into a hyperbole tornado, replete with fevered visions and tapioca (the tapioca is for me; I like it), swirling at the speed of sound through an uncertainty transmogrifier. Dick’s books are challenging, even bizarre, but extremely rewarding. The Man in the High Castle features an alternate history wherein the Allies lost WWII. Germany controls most of the United States, but Japan runs the west coast. These two superpowers, though allies in war, do not trust each other, so espionage, intrigue and budding conflict become part of everyday life. While this description sounds fairly straightforward, the story is anything but. Ultimately, it’s a tale of day-to-day life in a United States that never existed and an examination of the eternal what’s-it-all-about. From a local interest standpoint, Amazon recently created a pilot for a series based on the book, and most of the filming was done in Seattle, Monroe and Roslyn (home of Northern Exposure).

City of Truthcity of truth by James Morrow
You can read about this classic in a previous blog. I’m finally getting around to reading it, and it’s even better than expected!

Like any genre, sci-fi can be trite, repetitive and boring. But its cream is amongst the best literature flung from a pen. So stroll the Science Fiction aisles at EPL and prepare to BLOW YOUR MIND (mind-blowing clean up gear not included).

Spot-Lit for March 2015

Spot-Lit

Get the jump on these highly anticipated new releases coming out in March.
Click the book cover montage below to read more or to place titles on hold.

Gallery View

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

Stranger Than Fiction: After Dark in the Library

stf-alice_0What does happen at the library when the doors have closed and the people have left? Do all the characters contained in our many volumes come out to talk amongst themselves? Is it o.k. to skate through the stacks? You can answer these questions and many more by attending our after hours gala: Stranger Than Fiction: After Dark in the Library.

On Saturday, March 7, 2015  from 6:30pm to 9:30pm at the Main Library you have the opportunity to be entertained by the Book-It Repertory Theatre performing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and enjoy food provided by some of Everett’s best restaurants.Tickets are $15 and may be purchased online or at the door on the night of the event. 

friendsAttendees are encouraged to wear a costume representing their favorite author, character, or book–but costumes are not required, and we hope you’ll have fun however you choose to dress.

All proceeds will go to the Friends of the Everett Public Library, and will benefit the library’s annual summer reading programs for children and adults.

So what are you waiting for? Purchase a ticket today and find out what really happens in the library after dark.

Meet Everett’s Boy in the Boat

If you’re like me, you accepted the challenge of reading this year’s Everett Reads! selection, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. If you’re like me, you became emotionally involved in the story that unfolded during a bleak time in our country’s history. And, if you’re like me, you were surprised to discover that learning about this sport was both exciting and refreshing.

Since we’re so alike, you will be thrilled to read about another boy in the boat. Clinton Seal, teacher at Olivia Park Elementary, heard we were going to ask the community to read a book about his favorite sport. Clinton generously contributed his own memorabilia to be displayed at the Evergreen Branch Library, where his friend Margaret works.

Clinton Seal display

Clinton was kind enough to let me ask him a boatload of questions about rowing and how reading The Boys in the Boat brought him back to the sport he loved after a short hiatus. Everett, meet Clinton Seal.

When did you start rowing?
I started rowing back in the spring of 2001 at Everett Community College. I did track and field at Cascade High School (I was a graduate of the class of 2000) and always thought rowing would be a great sport to try, but both sports overlapped so I never had the chance to row. At the time, there wasn’t a Track and Field team at EvCC, so I joined the crew team. After I graduated, I joined the Everett Rowing Association’s adult masters team and rowed with them for another 8 years before I took a break from rowing in 2011.

What got you into rowing in the first place?
I was walking around the campus at EvCC one spring day and saw a sign on one of the doors that said “We need you on EvCC Crew!” I really wanted to give it a try and had high school friends who rowed, so I thought I’d join the crew team. It was a very small team, and wasn’t even considered a sports team; we were a club. In fact, we didn’t have our own boats or our own boat house. All we had were our own set of 8 oars, which we bought through some fundraising and local car washes. EvCC rented boats from the local Everett Rowing Association located on the Snohomish River and Langus Riverfront Park.

I rowed with the college for two years. I was able to compete in local regattas at Seattle’s Green Lake and Tacoma’s American Lake, as well as Lake Stevens. We also traveled to Dexter Lake near Eugene, Oregon, and I was able to travel to the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships in Sacramento, CA on Lake Natoma while I rowed at EvCC. We won a few races, but rowing with EvCC crew wasn’t about winning, it was more about the camaraderie and friendships made while belonging to the same team and working towards the same goals.

After I graduated from EvCC in the spring of 2002, I still wanted to row so I joined the Everett Rowing Association’s Master’s crew team. This adult team ranges in ages 21 and above. I rowed with ERA masters for another 8 years, rowing in local and regional regattas, traveling to Boston for the Head of the Charles Regatta, and the highlight of my time with ERA, winning 2 gold medals at the 2006 US Rowing Master’s National Championships at Seattle’s Green Lake. Our mens 8+ won both the Club 8+ and A 8+ races that year.

What seat did you have, and with whom did you row?
The EvCC team was a pretty small team. I think at the most we had about 10 rowers. We were lucky to get out in an 8+ on those foggy spring mornings. Mostly we were in 4+s.

When sweep rowing, I’m a starboard, so I usually rowed seat 7 if I was in an 8+ and seat 3 if I was in a 4+.  As I continued on with my rowing career with the ERA masters, most of the time I was in the bow. I’m a skinny guy and have decent technique, so my coaches put me in the bow (seat 1) of our mens 4+ and our mens 8+. You want a lighter rower to be in the bow so it can sit up and slice through the water.

Did it change over time, like it did for Joe Rantz?
I’ve seen a few changes in rowing over the years. The boats I rowed in at the college were nice, but heavy. As the years went by, Everett Rowing Association got some amazingly light and beautiful Pocock racing shells. With their carbon fiber winged riggers, they were modern and fast! As I continued in crew I also picked up sculling. I rowed sweep probably 4 years before I was introduced to sculling with 2 oars. It’s a completely different style and feeling, but I really do enjoy it..

How did you hear about The Boys in the Boat?
I’ve known about The Boys in the Boat for years. I’ve seen its cover on rowing websites, heard fellow rowers talking about it, and recently, my mom read the book last year for her book club. She shared with me a little bit about it and how she thought I would love it and how inspiring it was. To be honest, I don’t do very much reading at all. I’m so active and usually riding my bike in my spare time, that I can’t honestly remember, beside the Bible, what the last entire book I read was. Then, last year, a wonderful family friend, Margaret Remick, gave me a copy of the book and I knew that I needed to finally sit down and read it. The first day I opened the pages last July, I sat in my back yard reading for 7 hours straight! That’s a record for me…I’ve never been so passionate about reading a book as I was “The Boys in the Boat.”

When you read The Boys in the Boat what particularly inspired you to get back into rowing?
Being able to go on this trip with Joe and the rest of those Husky rowers and hear their stories helped me relive my own career as a rower. As they suffered through the pain, the weather, and the mental battle that you face in a rowing race, I instantly thought back to all of my rowing experiences over the last decade, and it reminded me how proud I was of those experiences and the people I shared them with. Some of the best moments of my life were spent in a racing shell. Some of my fondest memories of accomplishment were when I was up on a podium with my crew, accepting our medals.

I really appreciated Mr. Brown’s attention to the art and technique of rowing. It’s such a unique sport, incorporating, strength, skill and artistry; there’s nothing like gliding over water and feeling that connection with your oars and then the run of the boat beneath you. The Boys in the Boat reminded me how special rowing is. It’s hard to describe what it feels like when you and your crew row as one, if you’re describing it to someone who doesn’t row. For those of us who have, it’s a feeling that fills you with wonder and makes you want it even more.  Through Joe’s story and his crewmates’, I remembered what that feeling was like and it inspired me to want it again by returning to crew.

What was your favorite part of the book?
I loved the whole book, especially the history of the era and Seattle at the time, the information about each rower’s family, but I really enjoyed seeing how the Huskies were able to pull through to win the gold medal in Berlin.  A rowing race isn’t over until you cross the finish line. There’s so much that can happen from the time that you start, settle, and then begin your sprint to the finish.  Just because another crew is ahead of you doesn’t mean that they are going to win. Joe’s crew showed how through incredible determination, strength, and focus, sometimes even the improbable can be possible.

Who in the book did you best identify with?
I identified best with Joe. I didn’t have his upbringing, but I felt that I could relate to his spirit of hard work, dedication, and persistence. Whether it was high school track and field, rowing, or cyclocross, I never have felt that any of the sports or activities I’ve chosen to do ever came easily to me. I really could identify with Joe in that I’ve had to work hard to make my reality what I wanted it to be. There’s been periods in my athletic career where I wasn’t the fastest or strongest athlete or the one with the best technique, but after years of dedication and persistence I was able to make my way to the top.

Are you currently rowing?
Yes, I just started back rowing with the Everett Rowing Association this February.

What seat do you have, and with whom do you row?
Now that I’m back at crew with ERA, I row in all sorts of seats. We do a lot of sculling, so the seat numbers don’t relate to starboard or port sides because you have two oars. We’ve done a lot of sculling in a quad and I alternate being in the stern and in the bow.

While rowing with the Everett Community College, my coach was Holly Odell. When I joined the Everett Rowing Association, I was coached by Matt Lacey, Ben Tweedy, Corrie McGrath, Carol Stern, and now recently, Scott Holmgren.

My 2006 National’s Mens A 8+ and Club 8+ crew were (from stern to bow): Al Erickson, Colin McKenna, Adam Van Winkle, Ben Tweedy, Alex Mazick, Aaron, Haack, Dan Morken, myself, and coxswain Michael Welly.

What’s your favorite part about rowing?
I think the best part of rowing is that it is the ultimate team sport. When you are rowing with your pair partner or your whole crew, you have to do everything in unison; your technique needs to be in sync and you need to even think the same way. I really enjoy working together with other people to make a goal possible. While rowing with your crew, you can push yourself to achieve goals you might not be able to push yourself to achieve. Knowing someone is counting on you makes a big difference; you never want to let them down.

Have you ever rowed in the same areas as The Boys?
Yes, I’ve rowed many regattas on Lake Washington and Lake Union. I always feel a sense of pride rowing down on those waters. There’s so much history and prestige associated with that area. It’s special to row through the cut and know all of the crews who have rowed through there over the years.

If you could give a piece of advice to anyone curious about taking up rowing, what would it be?
My advice would be to keep at it even if it’s physically and mentally challenging. There are so many aspects of rowing that even after years in the sport, there’s always more you can learn, more endurance you can gain, and better strokes you can take. It took me years of rowing until I finally got together with a crew of 8 guys to win a National Championship. Not everyone will go to Nationals, but whatever goal you have, whatever race you want to compete in, keep your eye on that goal. It may take a while to achieve, but rowing is a sport that takes total commitment.

What keeps you motivated when you are working so hard out on the water?
If I’m rowing in a single shell, I only have myself to think about: my own technique and my own power application. It will be my fault if I don’t do what I’m capable of and my own celebration if I achieve my goal with a win. But when you row in any other boat, you have your pair partner or your crew to think about. Knowing that other people are counting on me to help the boat go fast is what motivates me to work hard. I never want to let my crew down.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Thank you for your interest. I’m just so honored to have this opportunity to share some of my experience about rowing with the community. I never rowed for the UW, Cornell, Harvard, or any prestigious college back east. I’m just a local guy who happened to find a crew club at Everett Community College which led to me joining ERA, learning more about this amazing sport, and taking it to the National level.

Nationals2006

Thanks, Clinton, for taking the time to answer my multitude of questions, and for letting me feature you on the blog! As for me, I’m still an armchair rower (that’s like an armchair traveler, right?) but I do enjoy taking the kayak out occasionally. What kind of commitment can I make? How about saying I’ll see you all on Silver Lake, though don’t be upset if it’s just me waving at you from Emory’s.

New Music Picks for February

Tetsuo & Young album coverWe get a lot of great new music in every week at the EPL, so sometimes it’s hard to keep up. I got the chance to peek through the latest stack of new arrivals down in the cataloging department and wanted to give you a preview of what’s about to hit the shelves.

Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo & Youth (Atlantic) This release has a spring feel to it. For the most part comprised of laid-back, jazzy, atmospheric beats, the production mainly takes a back seat to Lupe’s thought-provoking wordplay. The tone of the tracks takes a turn near the end of the album, when the sound and content becomes a bit darker and harder; the change isn’t a bad one, but it almost feels like the tracks were added on from a different project.

Imagine Dragons – Smoke + Mirrors (KIDinaKorner/Interscope) The second studio release from Imagine Dragons, Smoke + Mirrors provides the listener with a poppy, more rock-driven sound than their earlier work. That being said, the album is a lively mashup of different sounds and influences, from electronic to world music to R&B.

The Pale Emperor album coverMarilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor (Hell, Etc.) Iconic industrial metal act Marilyn Manson returns with a different sound to critical acclaim. The band’s new material fuses electronic and industrial elements with a predominantly bluesy backbone. Manson’s lyrics and subject matter still flirt with religion, war, violence, and mythology, continuing the tradition of courting controversy with some listeners. The overall effect is a dark but pretty catchy album that strays away from the more niche industrial/goth sound of earlier releases.

Future Islands – Singles (4AD) Singles feels like a synthpop trip to the beach, with an airy, sunny, slightly melodramatic vibe to the melodies and vocals. I could see throwing this album on some rainy afternoon for an impromptu new wave dance party in my kitchen.

These albums will be available for checkout soon, so place your holds now at www.epls.org.