Spot-Lit for January 2021

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2021 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction | 2021 Debuts

What’s New in our eLibrary?

This past year a major goal for the library has been to improve and increase our online offerings. Take a look at some of the new content we have available now.

Overdrive/Libby – New Genre Collections
We’ve added some great genre collections! Browse them all from our Overdrive home page or peruse them individually from the links below:

ComicPlus
If you love graphic novels, manga, and comics, be sure to check out ComicsPlus! There are no limits, and no need to place holds – these titles are always available. Get the app here, or sign in and read online. This incredible collection was made possible through a partnership between Comics Plus and cloudLibrary.

Magazines from Overdrive
Overdrive just dramatically increased the magazine titles available to us, and they are making more improvements to streamline finding issues of your favorites magazines in one place. They will also be adding back issues. See the whole collection here.

Don’t forget cloudLibrary
cloudLibrary is another ebook platform that has a lot of great content and much shorter holds queues. (Okay, it’s not new, but it needs more promotion!) Get the app here, and browse the whole collection on our website.

There’s so much more to explore, and new resources will be coming very soon! From Hoopla and Kanopy for streaming movies and music, to numerous online learning options, and research resources, well, there’s too much to mention here, so to see it all in one place, explore our eLibrary page.

And Then There Were Three

From time to time I like to surprise myself by reading something that doesn’t involve monsters or ghosts or the seamier side of humanity or teenagers in a flux of crisis. I’ll pick out a book normally labeled as Chick Lit but what I like to call “just a nice read about friendship.” Because even monster lovers like to read about the bonds of enduring friendship every once and awhile.

Jane Green’s The Friends We Keep studies a friendship between three people that spans 30 years. Evvie, Maggie, and Topher meet at college in England during the 80s. They form a fast friendship, forging their separate paths together into adulthood and the real world. Evvie, American born and raised, constantly starves herself and becomes a super model. Maggie marries college sweetheart Ben, whom she hates at first (isn’t that how most love stories start?). Topher becomes a well-known actor while keeping on the down low that he enjoys the company of men.

Like all friendships and the phases of the moon, the relationship between the three waxes and wanes over the years. They lose touch only to reconnect again and then lose touch once more. But each of them is hiding a dark secret, a secret they would normally share with each other but feel so shameful about that they keep them hidden and let them fester like a wounded limb going gangrenous.

Evvie’s modeling career is stopped in its tracks after an affair with a married man results in pregnancy. Topher has a childhood trauma that keeps him from fully loving someone and accepting love in return. Maggie’s marriage to Ben hasn’t been the perfect wedded bliss she pretends it is. Their marriage is on the brink of oblivion from Ben’s chronic alcoholism.

The three best friends get together close to the 30th anniversary of their friendship and move into a house where their secrets slowly trickle out and begin to poison the well. Will their enduring friendship survive such well-kept, yet insidious, secrets?

I think anyone with a soul can relate to this novel and see themselves in one, if not all, of the characters. We’ve all had friendships that have lasted for what seems like an eternity as well as friendships that seem to be over before they even get started. The true test is who we come out as on the other side.

If you want to read a novel with unforgettable characters (I’m still wondering how Maggie’s doing, living the second half of her life and hope she’s okay) pick up The Friends We Keep and take a ride in the ‘way back when machine’ to your own childhood friendships. If nothing else, you’ll begin to wonder what so-and-so’s up to.

Did You Know? (Brick Edition)

That the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway is nicknamed the Brickyard?

The Speedway was originally paved with more than 3 million bricks in 1909. I found this in the DK Smithsonian book Drive on page 63. It says on the cover “the definitive history of driving,” and that pretty much says it all. There are pictures of every car imaginable, the making and racing of automobiles, early advertisements and even renditions of possible future cars. We even learn that the first speed limit was 4 mph, and some of the first vehicles had a whopping 12hp engine!

Assuming the bricks were 6-inch in length, 3,000,000 million bricks laid end to end would reach 284.09 miles or the equivalent of the distance from Newark, NJ to Buffalo, NY. With the Indianapolis speedway being 2.5 miles long, this would be about 113 ½ laps altogether.

Nowadays, when you say ‘bricks’ the first thing people think of is Lego bricks. The eBook A Million Little Bricks by Sarah Herman talks about the Lego company’s history and the phenomenon of this amazing and popular toy. She reminisces about old Lego sets and talks about the new sets available. Beautiful Lego by Mike Doyle has some of the most amazing Lego figures, buildings and characters I have ever seen! This is definitely art, and worth checking out just to see the creativity.

The Taj Mahal is a building complex that is truly artistic. Construction started in 1632 and was completed over an 11-year period. They used white and black marble (bricks and blocks) with inlays of precious stones and intricately carved marble flowers. The book The Taj Mahal by Lesley Dutemple is part of the series Great Building Feats that shows a variety of different structures and the building techniques used to make them.

The feature film The Last Brickmaker in America shows what the art of brickmaking used to be. In this heartwarming movie, starring Sidney Poitier, he teaches a young troubled boy his craft, and the pride of making something worthwhile. You don’t have to make your own bricks, but you can do your own building with bricks with the assistance of the book Masonry Homeowner Survival Guide. It shows how to prep an area, measure what supplies you need, and shows the techniques that will make you look like a master.

Lastly, one thing I always think of when thinking ‘bricks’ is the Pink Floyd song “Brick in the wall”. We have this on CD so “brick on!” OK, that doesn’t have the same ring to it as “rock on”, but you get the idea.

An Easy Accomplishment or Two

Do you enjoy that sense of accomplishment you get from finishing a book, but don’t have the time to dig into a 500 page saga? Also, do you like reading books in translation and exploring a different culture and country?  If, like me, you seek out these types of books, I’ve got two great works of fiction to recommend that satisfy both criteria at once. They are novellas, coming in at the 100 page mark, and are written by authors that hail from Japan and South Korea respectively. Most importantly, they are excellent and intriguing books well worth your, perhaps limited, reading time. Read on to learn more.  

The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada 

The plot seems innocuous enough. Asa’s husband has received a promotion and is transferred to a small country town, that happens to be where he grew up. She has only been doing unsatisfying temporary work in the city, so doesn’t mind going with him and starting a new life in the country. But soon her lack of employment and growing isolation, coupled with an unbearable summer heat wave, combine to make things, well… a little weird. Not only in her day to day life, but in the natural world around her. 

Oyamada has a unique writing style that is elegant, yet deceptively simple and straightforward. Reason is never abandoned, even when events become a bit surreal. I appreciate this. It allows for multiple interpretations and trusts the reader to decide whether events are actually happening, or are in the protagonist’s head. The author, as in her previous work The Factory, also effectively shows the bizarre and often isolating effects of corporate culture on the individual. Especially for those having to deal with the current economic reality.   

Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah 

Told in a series of reflections, the unnamed narrator of this work goes back and forth through time, but mostly tells the tale of her life in 1988 when she was in her early twenties. She is supporting her family by working two temporary dead end jobs and dealing with an alcoholic mother, a distant brother and an absentee father. She is also expected to eventually marry her high school boyfriend, who seems to need as much support as everyone else in her life. The narrator is not a conformist, however. Much of the novel deals with her inability to understand others’ acquiescence; eventually leading to her deviation from and rejection of the role set aside for her.  

Suah’s writing style is sparse and at times matter of fact, but still comes of as a stream of consciousness narrative. The characters innermost thoughts pile one on top of the other, reflecting her ambivalence: not only about the world she finds herself in, but also her own mental state. Her descriptions of the surroundings she inhabits reflect this as well. Whether in a crowded urban street or a desolate country field all is cold, stark and easy to get lost in.  

What’s Happening at the Library?

“Life has come to a stand-still”, my coworker said to me the other day as we talked about how quiet things are right now in the library and elsewhere. But library programs and events have not stopped; in fact we in the midst of planning and scheduling a great lineup of online program for the next few months, as well as creating and distributing activity kits for all ages. We have also been busy providing curbside and phone service. Here are the details.

Upcoming events

Heating Up: The Ethics of Climate Change
What if we could tell ourselves a new story about climate change—and, in doing, so, alter our relationship to our planet?

With larger, longer wildfire seasons, accelerating species extinction, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise, it’s increasingly clear that climate change isn’t something that’s about to happen—it’s here. But while the laundry list of problems wrought by climate change is well-known, few talk about how our moral beliefs about nature have led us to the brink.

In this presentation, ethicist Brian G. Henning discusses how global warming itself is not the only problem—it’s a symptom of a larger issue concerning how we conceive of ourselves and our relationship to the natural world.

Brian G. Henning is a professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies at Gonzaga University and has earned a PhD in philosophy. Henning has served as the inaugural faculty fellow for sustainability for three years, is the chair of the Environmental Studies department, and has delivered nearly 100 community presentations to general and academic audiences. Henning lives in Spokane.

Sign up here.

Writers Live: Every Penguin in the World with Charles Bergman
Every Penguin in the World combines narratives and photos to tell the story of the author and his wife Susan as they go on a quest to see all the world’s penguin species in the wild. The larger narrative is developed in three parts, each with its own stories: A journey of adventure, a quest for knowledge and conservation, a pilgrimage for something sacred and transformative. The penguins may need to be saved, and yet, unlike us, they do not need to be redeemed.

Join us for an amazing visual presentation about the book and the quest that inspired it! 

Charles Bergman is a writer, photographer, and speaker. He is a professor at Pacific Lutheran University.

Sign up here.

Storytimes and Youth Events

Be sure to keep an eye on our youth events calendar and storytime page as we add events and recorded storytimes!

Free Kits

Take and Make Kits – no signup required
Arrive during curbside hours and ask for the kit(s) of your choice.

Suncatcher Window Stars
Brighten up your life a little! Starting on January 5th, pick up a free kit with supplies to make four different window stars from colorful ‘kite paper’ that lets the light shine through. Follow along at your convenience with a how-to video which will be posted on that same morning on the library’s Facebook page, as well as on our YouTube page, and the Create@Home web page. Kits will be available for curbside pickup, and are first come, first served. Supplies are limited; one per household please. This project is recommended for ages 10 and up.

Kits for Preschoolers
Play and Learn Kits (a partnership with Everett Public Schools), January kit available starting 01/02/21, for ages 3 to 5 – Activities and free book to practice early math and literacy skills (for ages 3+). Online video lessons available.
Preschool Craft Kits, available starting 01/02/21, for ages 3 and up – A new DIY craft each month with materials for young children to develop fine motor skills and creativity.

Kits to reserve
Little Science Lab Kit – Register for waitlist through the Imagine Children’s Museum. Reserved only for registrants who received confirmation from the Imagine Children’s Museum.

Ongoing: Curbside service & phone and email reference

Curbside Service
We are happy to bring the library outside to you through a curbside pickup service. How does it work?
– Place holds/requests for library materials through your account at www.epls.org or by calling the Main Library at 425-257-8000 or the Evergreen Branch at 425-257-8250.
– You will be notified when your items are available to pick up. You will have 10 days to pick up your items.
– Arrive at the Library during curbside service hours. For the Main Library, call 425-257-7617.  For the Evergreen Branch, call 425-257-8260. Library staff will check out materials to your account and deliver them to your vehicle.

Phone and email reference service
Ask us! Call the reference librarians at the Main Library at 425-257-8000 or the Evergreen Branch at 425-257-8250. We can place holds for you, look up information, choose your next read, and print documents for you. Email us at libref@everettwa.gov if you prefer, or fill out this form, and we will respond as soon as possible.

We have more engaging, thought-provoking, and interactive events scheduled for February and March. Keep your eye on our calendar and be ready to sign up!

Did You Know? (Doll Edition)

Raggedy Ann and Andy were first made in 1915, and their creator then went on to write 25 books about them starting in 1918?

I found this information in the Warman’s Companion Collectible Dolls by Dawn Herlocher. Johnny Gruelle was the original creator and his family made the dolls. They eventually sold the rights, and the dolls have been made by many other companies since then, but they are still around.

We have quite a few of the Raggedy Ann and Andy books by Johnny Gruelle. Hooray for Reading, Old Friends, New Friends and School Day Adventure are just a few of them.  My Raggedy Ann doll and I enjoyed these books when I was little.

Raggedy Ann and Andy are great dolls for younger children, with their soft bodies and candy hearts. You can make your own soft dolls using the patterns in Topsy-Turvy Knitted Dolls by Sarah Keen. They have a doll on one end, flip the dress up and there is a different doll on the other. One of them is Red Riding Hood/Big Bad Wolf. They are so cute!

I think after these, young children progress to Barbie dolls. The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: a Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us by Tanya Lee Stone tells how Ruth Handler and her husband Elliot started the company Mattel. They first made jewelry and furniture, then made doll house furniture with scraps before moving on to making Barbie Dolls and marketing other toys.

Older children enjoy doll houses and miniature furniture. Making Dolls’ House Furniture by Patricia King is full of hundreds of small miniatures and complete directions for making the pieces using things that are upcycled and probably just laying around your house. Making Doll’s House Miniatures with Polymer Clay shows how to shape clay into many pieces that would be great furnishings. Both of these would work for dioramas as well.

Another very popular ‘rag doll’ is the breed of ragdoll cat. The Encyclopedia of Cat Breeds by J. Anne Helgren tells an interesting story of how the breed was created and genetically altered in a secret government experiment. If you are looking for a pet cat, this would be a great reference book as it tells about each cat breeds’ activity levels, docility, health, compatibility and other pertinent information.

My mother used to dress her cat up in baby clothes and push it up and down the street in her little doll stroller! Whether you are playing with a doll or your cat, you can rest assured there have been generations of children, and some adults, doing this for centuries. The oldest doll discovered is from 4500 years ago. This rare discovery of pre-historic toys was made at the Itkol II burial ground in the Republic of Khakassia, southern Siberia.

Best of List Bonanza

As this strange, at times chaotic, and unprecedented year comes to an end, take heart (or not) in one constant that cannot be altered: The best of (insert year here) book list. 2020 has produced a bumper crop of these lists, maybe because many of us have had more time at home to read this year.  

Whatever the reason, wading through them all can be daunting. If you want to dip your toe in the ‘best reads of 2020’ waters, here is a selection of the major lists that have come out so far. And never forget, almost all of these titles are available from the Everett Public Library

First and foremost, and admittedly we could be a little biased here, you need to check out our very own Spot-Lit posts on A Reading Life. Every month, Spot-Lit highlights some of the most anticipated new fiction releases based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm. You can access all of the 2020 recommendations, complete with links to the catalog, from the Notable New Fiction 2020 list. 

Newspapers and news outlets are the mainstay of the Best of Lists, and this year is no exception: 

New York Times 100 Most Notable Books 

Washington Post Best Fiction and Best Nonfiction 

Los Angeles Times 10 Best Books of 2020 

USA Today Best Books of 2020 

NPR Staff Picks of 2020 

Magazines and media figures have also been busy compiling: 

Oprah Magazine Best Books of 2020 

Time Magazine 100 Must-Read Books of 2020 

Vanity Fair 15 Best Books of 2020 

Bill Gates 5 Good Books for a Lousy Year 

New Yorker The Best Books We Read in 2020 

And, of course, the literary & book world outlets have plenty of lists to peruse: 

Publishers Weekly Best Books 2020 

Library Journal Best Books 2020 

Literary Hub Our 65 Favorite Books of the Year 

Book Riot Best Books of 2020 

Pacific Northwest Booksellers 2021 Book Awards Shortlist (all published in 2020) 

Finally, it can be fun to view Best of Lists from other countries to gain a different perspective: 

The Guardian Best Books of 2020 

Canadian Broadcast Company Best Canadian Fiction of 2020 

BBC The Best Books of the Year 2020

So can anything good be said of this wretched outgoing year? Perhaps not. But at least it produced some great books for us to read as we move onward and upward. 

Heartwood 10:4 – Return Trip Ticket by David C. Hall

As Donald Westlake’s introduction notes, David C. Hall’s 1992 novel, Return Trip Ticket, is grounded in the pulp style first introduced by such writers as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, but the character of the classic PI is updated and extended here in the figure of Wilson who is both more worldly and more self-critical than his predecessors. So instead of the hardball patter of Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade, in Wilson we get a man who is frequently fatigued and put-upon by his work, but who is also resourceful, diligent and a keen observer. Indeed, it is the detached descriptions of the world around him that first drew me in, and kept me there even as the plot began to grow in complexity and intrigue toward the end of the book.

Wilson is an overweight, balding, forty-something, Vietnam-vet now working as a private detective on a case involving the disappearance in Spain of a wealthy Denver businessman’s daughter. The story is set in both Barcelona and the American desert southwest in that distant past (1988) just before the era of web browsers and cellphone ubiquity. Wilson interacts with an interesting variety of individualized characters as he attempts to track down the young woman, plays cassettes of Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman in his drably oppressive hotel rooms, and looks forward to reading Dickens or Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire when he had a bit of time to himself.

Return Trip Ticket is a quick read that has a fine balance of characters, plot, language, and setting. The ending struck me as a little anticlimactic but also realistic in its insinuation of the all too common corruption of those who hold power.

I don’t want to say much more about what happens in the book (that’s what you read a mystery to find out), but maybe this sample passage, in which the detective and his quarry stop at a southwestern 24-hour pancake house, will give you a bit of its flavor:

            The waitress came over and said, “Good morning,” without a trace of sarcasm, poured them some coffee and went away.  She was wearing a short, pleated uniform with a little white apron and a lot of strawberry lipstick, and she had a frazzled smile that she turned off and on.  A couple of old men in cowboy hats were drinking coffee in another booth and yelling at each other in slow dry voices, and a drunk was sitting at the counter with his chin sinking slowly toward the dish of apple pie in front of him.  It was the kind of place Wilson remembered sitting in all night when he was a kid, getting high on cup after cup of lousy coffee and listening to the piped-in music.  It made you feel grown up, for some reason.

Pulp detective stories are in no short supply. Based on limited online reviews, I don’t see that David C. Hall has been able to achieve widespread popularity (though he has won some crime fiction awards). But that is neither here nor there. I’d say, if you’re in the mood for a finely written chase novel, and like your noir with a dose of attention to detail and humility, this will certainly do the trick.

The Christmas Zone

Christmas is a time of cheer, family, sharing, snow and small-town comradery. At least it is in most movies. But today we cross the line into that dimension of time and space known simply as… The Christmas Zone!

Case in point: the Firpo brothers.

Trapped in Paradise spins the tale of three, um, less-than-genius brothers who decide to rob a small-town bank at Christmas time. The robbery goes without a hitch, but the trio finds themselves trapped in the town of Paradise courtesy of a snowstorm. Hilarity ensues. While I recognize the borderline quality of this film, and I typically do not enjoy Nicolas Cage or Dana Carvey, somehow I am tremendously amused by this offbeat Christmas story.

Office Christmas Party features an excellent cast that should fill me with delight. But Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon and T.J. Miller cannot save this vehicle from itself. Once again it’s Christmas time, and the Chicago Zenotek branch is facing massive layoffs. Most of the movie is devoted to a, wait for it, office Christmas party which reaches new levels of decadence every few moments. Then, just as the mayhem hits dizzying heights and comes crashing down, a happy ending descends upon Chicago and there is peace and decked halls for all. Not a great movie, but it is filled with charming performances. If you’re looking for something outside of the typical Christmas fare, this just might be the ticket.

Yes Virginia, there are Christmas horror movies. Gremlins combines the cuteness of furry little critters with the unquenchable bloodlust of monsters. What could possibly go wrong? Without giving the story away too much, the town of Kingston Falls is attacked by gremlins on Christmas Eve. Chaos ensues, people die, and an effort is made to stop the gremlin threat in its tracks. The movie also sports an element of black comedy to take a bit of the people-dying-in-the-streets edge off. Will there be a Christmas miracle? Tune in to find out.

Perhaps you long for a Christmas zombie musical? Anna and the Apocalypse is a difficult movie to describe without giving it all away. Picture a typical zombie movie, but with fun little pop songs and happy teens who are somewhat oblivious to what’s going on around them. Add a touch of carnage, a soupcon of choreography and a dash of holiday celebration to the mix and you have one of the stranger Christmas movies to hit the bricks in some time. As always, don’t forget your towel.

So if you find yourself unable to view Santa Claus Conquers the Martians this holiday season, take a look at what’s available at Everett Public Library. You just might start a new and awkward tradition.