Night Train

Parts of Night Train by David Quantick really scared me… in that “this-has-got-to-be-a-dream-why-can’t-I-wake-up” kind of way. Other times I just felt claustrophobic. Maybe that’s because it’s how the main character feels when she wakes up alone in a moving train car.

Her name is Garland – according to the name tag on her jumpsuit. But she doesn’t remember anything. There is no way off the train, it just keeps speeding along. The windows won’t break, and there are no escape hatches.

After Garland travels through a few cars she meets Banks, a different kind of ‘person.’ Banks has no memory of his life before the train either, but he’s been there for quite a while. Garland convinces him they must get to the front of the train and stop it. As they travel together from car to car to car, they find that each one is completely different, and surprising.

I found myself holding my breath as they opened each door, especially since some of the doors locked behind them. Sometimes Banks and Garland come across a situation that brings a glimmer of remembrance about their actual selves, and we realize that their trip to the front of the train is a fight with their own personal issues.

This is a must read because there are moments in our lives when we realize that things are perceived differently from what they really are. I kept thinking “what would I do if this were me?” So, come join the adventure as Garland and Banks make their way to the front of the train, and see for yourself how it ends!

O Canada

Yes, it is Canada Day! A perfect time to learn more about our neighbors to the north and their many great accomplishments.

A good place to start in your Canadian appreciation journey is by learning a little bit about their history. We have lots of books on the history of the nation, individual provinces and territories, first nations, and the many peoples that make up Canada today.

On the cultural front, Canada is no bit player. From artists, to authors, to the many productions of ‘Hollywood north,’ Canadian contributions are many and varied. And, of course, don’t forget the hockey and, yes, cuisine.

While, understandably but sadly, the border between the US and Canada is closed for travelers at this time, that just gives you more time to research your next trip. We have many travel books on all regions of Canada for you to explore.

For many of us in Washington, Canada means beautiful British Columbia. Appropriately, Everett Public Library has many books on that great province.

So, take a little time today to celebrate Canada and get to know our fellow North Americans a little better.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

I do not usually read scary books nor books about people having psychological crises. And yet…

Southern Book Club

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix is a scary book about a woman facing a mental breakdown. Initially I expected humor, and there is indeed a bit. Early on Patricia (the main character) encounters the inexplicable when an elderly neighbor, who’s found eating a mangled raccoon, attacks her and bites off her ear. We don’t know why the old woman acts this way, but the book’s title does include the word vampire so… assumptions could be made. This situation struck me as humorous (which might reflect more on me than on the author’s intent). You know, old woman in night clothes eating raccoon intestines and attacking a much younger woman. Ha. Ha ha ha.

What attracted me to the book, aside from my misassumption that it was a funny story, was the prose; it got good words. And the setting is an idyllic southern community in the 1990s, a place where people know their neighbors, help each other and don’t lock their doors. Mythical America. As a child of the 1970s suburbs, I’ve always found small town bonhomie an appealing concept. Patricia’s Charleston neighborhood is as good as it gets. Yet just under the veneer of perfection, housewives struggle with boredom, lack of appreciation, second-class status.

Patricia is especially susceptible to these issues. Her husband is seldom home leaving her to raise the kids, keep the household going and take care of her dementia-ridden mother-in-law. She is not happy with her lot in life. The arrival of James Harris, great-nephew of the elderly ear biter, is a happy distraction for her. He treats her nicely, seems genuinely interested in who she is. But, just so things don’t get too normal, the mother-in-law starts rambling incoherently about Harris having a different name and killing her father some 60 years earlier. While looking exactly the same as he does now.

Say it with me: Vampire.

But one of the things I loved about this book is that we’re never entirely sure if Harris is a vampire or if Patricia is losing touch with reality. Author Hendrix does an excellent job of leaving both possibilities viable. Until the end where we find out… well, you’ll just have to read the book.

The potential vampire is plugged into modern society brilliantly. No fangs, no death by sunlight, no fear of holy water. He charms people not with mental abilities but by helping them gain money and power. He insinuates himself into the close-knit society until his own position is one of power. While Patricia does witness some events that make her think Harris is a vampire, friends and family mercilessly mock her and attack her sanity, leading Patricia to question her own memories and perceptions.

Horrorstor

After completing this disturbing story I discovered that the author also wrote Horrorstör, another vaguely funny largely troubling book I read some years back, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. So I’m declaring Grady Hendrix an author you might well enjoy. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is hitting the shelves any day now. Don’t be the last kid on your block to scream in terror when… well, you’ll just have to read the book.

The Question isn’t What’s in Your Closet but Why?

Earlier this year I decided to clear out the guestroom closet that had become a free for all. I pulled everything out and was dismayed by the 4 years accumulation of stuff that I found and did my best to sort and shift.

Recently, I also attempted to organize years’ worth of loose photos. A few weeks into this heroic endeavor, multiple stacks, and several wastebasket loads of photos…. I gave up. Organizing closets and photos, or any area out of order, can loom large, making us feel defeated before we even begin.

Luckily I came across a new approach and way to view my stuff in Gretchen Rubin’s new book Outer Order Inner Calm: Declutter and Organize to Make More Room for Happiness.

The concepts of decluttering and organizing are hugely popular and there are a ton of books on the subject. In addition to Rubin’s book I found Martha Stewart’s latest Martha Stewart’s Organizing, Kyle Chayka’s The Longing for Less, and several books by Japanese sensation Marie Kondo, best known for coining the phrase ‘Does it Spark Joy?’

What is different in Rubin’s book is the ‘how’ of adopting change to fit lifestyle as opposed to a methodology. It reads like a guidebook balancing practicality with real life.

Here are a couple of her thoughts to consider: “there is not a best way to create a better life” and “for some people what looks like disorder works just fine.’” Isn’t that freeing! I took copious notes but a lot of it is common sense for example: “If you don’t own it you don’t have to organize it.” The book is broken up into 5 short chapters.

Here’s a snippet from the introduction:

  • Outer order saves time, money, space, energy, and patience
  • Outer order creates a feeling of sanctuary
  • Outer order reduces guilt and
  • Outer order creates a sense of possibility

Making choices: Do I need it? Do I love it? Do I use it? These questions are not an end in themselves. Rubin unpacks a mini psychology lesson, not a one size fits all approach.

The author explains “Outer order isn’t a matter of having less or having more; it’s a matter of wanting what we have.” This can serve as a launching point, making space to step back and assess what you have and lead to the process of deciding: do I need it, use it, or want it.

In addition to examining our stuff, Rubin’s approach tells us to ask ourselves what the purpose of doing a task is. If you set out without a clear purpose for cleaning your garage, you may get distracted and not finish. But if your purpose is to clean the garage so you have a place to park your car in the winter, chances are you’ll succeed.

Doing the simplest of task such as making your bed each morning, can set the tone for the day. Rubin admits some will disagree and take delight in not making their beds “Everyone’s happiness looks different.”

Tips: Don’t stockpile unless you plan on using it. Beware of fake work — spending a lot of time on a project. Perfecting something can become time consuming with little results. Beware of the Endowment Effect — freebies, giveaways, collecting for collecting sake.

The author sites an observation by David Ekerdt, a professor of sociology and gerontology: After age fifty chances that a person will divest himself or herself of possessions diminishes with each decade.

Gretchen says our identity plays into our reasoning, keeping too much stuff can keep us stuck. If you have a box full of mementos, sort through them and save a few to display. I encourage everyone wanting to make a fresh start to dive into this book for a deeper explanation and exploration of how to create order and find the happiness of inner harmony.

So often in life, I’ll be learning something new in one area only to find lessons reasserting themselves elsewhere. That place happened to be in Anne Tyler’s latest book The Redhead by the Side of the Road about a quirky, doggedly determined, yet endearing character named Micah. Micah is a neat freak but it’s not working out too well for him. For Anne Tyler Fans this is CLASSIC Tyler style.

My boxes of photos have not gone anywhere, while the closet is growing stuff inside it again. But I’m energized knowing I can start small and keep consistent: one day at a time.

Did You Know? (Wagon Edition)

The ‘little red wagon’ was invented in 1917?

I found this information in the book Radio Flyer by Robert Pasin. New to America in 1914, Anthony Pasin studied English and worked many jobs. His struggle reminded me of this quote:

Before I came to America, I thought the streets were paved with gold. When I came here, I learned three things: The streets were not paved in gold, the streets weren’t paved at all, and I was expected to pave them.

attributed to an anonymous emigrant, Immigration Museum at Ellis Island

Anthony worked hard and in 1917 made his first wagon from wood to haul his tools to his job. Soon, he had orders from neighbors and friends. Inevitably he was not able to keep up with the demand. Soon he began pressing them out of steel, and eventually was making scooters, tricycles and wheelbarrows as well. There were more little red wagons built than station wagons!

Yesterday’s station wagons were like the minivans of today. Everyone had one. They were just the ticket for a family road trip vacation. You load up the car, kids and a cooler full of sandwiches and Viola! Perfect family vacation!

But there are always exceptions as Diary of a Wimpy Kid the Long Haul by Jeff Kinney shows us.

Catalog summary: Their journey starts off full of promise, then quickly takes several wrong turns. Gas station bathrooms, crazed seagulls, a fender bender, and a runaway pig—not exactly Greg Heffley’s idea of a good time. But even the worst road trip can turn into an adventure—and this is one the Heffleys won’t soon forget.

Another good story about a road trip is American Road Trip by Patrick Flores-Scott.

Catalog summary: With a strong family, the best friend a guy could ask for, and a budding romance with the girl of his dreams, life shows promise for Teodoro “T” Avila. But he takes some hard hits the summer before senior year when his nearly perfect brother, Manny, returns from a tour in Iraq with a devastating case of PTSD. In a desperate effort to save Manny from himself and pull their family back together, T’s fiery sister, Xochitl, hoodwinks her brothers into a cathartic road trip. Told through T’s honest voice, this is a candid exploration of mental illness, socioeconomic pressures, and the many inescapable highs and lows that come with growing up—including falling in love.

The inspiration behind Anthony’s small wagons created to pull tools were the wagons that crossed the prairies. Wagon trains began making their way west in the 1820’s. Obviously the wagons were much bigger than the little red ones, but this was where his vision began.

Woman on the American Frontier by William Worthington Fowler talks about the early days of pioneers and wagon trains. It was certainly an exciting time in history. You could also read Custer’s Trials: a Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles. This book gives us an inside look at the time period and the things that happened in the new ‘wild west.’

No matter what you read, I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I hope it brought back memories of your own escapades with your, or the neighbor kid’s, little red wagon, as well as your own family vacation road trip horror stories.

Not That Kind of Party

I was once standing in line in a bookshop (remember those, the humming thrum of all those captured words waiting to be freed from the shelves so they could release their stories?) when the couple in front of me began talking about one of my obsessions: the Donner Party.

A little back story: The Donner Party is one of the most well-known ‘wagons west survival stories.’ Many people think they were just unlucky, unprepared or downright cursed. I believe all three had a hand in what happened to the wagon party of several families who set out to forge a new life in the West, got caught in the Sierra Nevada mountains in a brutal snowstorm, and ended up resorting to cannibalism to survive.

The Donner party set out with hope for a new life in California and put their trust in a man by the name of Lansford Hastings who said he had “worked out a new and better road to California.” The Hastings Cutoff ended up being a disaster, with the wagons and animals barely able to make it through.

The party pushed on, crossing into Truckee Lake (now known as Donner Lake because hey, after having to eat a few of your traveling companions to survive, you should get a lake named after you). The Donner party decided to camp 3 miles from the summit near a cabin that had been built by previous pilgrims. Then 5-10-foot snow drifts trapped the party and the food ran out…

You get the picture: a big wagon party forging westward gets stuck and the living must eat the dead to survive.

But back to the bookshop. The man was saying to the woman beside him something about the anniversary of the Donner Party coming up. The woman shuddered like she felt one of the cannibal’s frozen hands slip down her back and hissed that she didn’t think she could ever resort to cannibalism, even if it was to survive. I’m not the kind of person to join in on strangers’ conversations, but I pushed a thought at the shivering woman: you have no idea what you would do when push came to shove in a matter of survival, even if it meant slicing a chunk of flesh out of a body half buried in the snow, face down so you can’t see who it is.

Well, that was lovely. I went dark there for a minute, didn’t I? I’m not sorry. It’s what I do.

Alma Katsu’s novel The Hunger follows the Donner party as they make the trek westward. The families start out excited and happy to be beginning this new part of their lives, but soon the journey becomes exhausting, things go wrong, and supplies run out. A child goes missing one evening and is found torn open by some beast. Tamsin Donner, on her second husband and maybe a little bit on the witchy side (making potions and concoctions and collecting herbs), begins to sense that something is not right. Something more than the normal peril of crossing America has attached itself to them.

One of her stepdaughters, who is thought to be a bit touched in the head, hears the voices of the dead. Some of them are full of madness while others are trying to warn her. Strange beings seem to be following them, appearing in the dark, watching them and waiting to catch them off guard. Up close, these things are barely human, more monster than man. More members of the wagon party disappear and some begin to get sick. Is it one of their own who is summoning these beings and passing a disease around the families or is there a reasonable explanation.?

I’ll tell you right now, no, there is no reasonable explanation. What is happening is beyond the realm of the known and defies explanation and…..you know what? No. I’m not going to tell you the rest. If you want to read an adventure story based on historical record dive on into Alma Katsu’s The Hunger. You may think you know the full story of the Donner Party, but Katsu turns it on its ear and sets it off down paths of the supernatural and unexpected. You’ll devour this book. And if you don’t like it, eat me.

Happy Songs for your Zeitgeist

There are certain songs that can change my mood for the better. On the bleakest of days I can turn to one of these gems and be assured that relief is on the way.

So what is it about these songs, what magic be released from their very first sounds? Let’s find out, shall we?

Song: A Message to You Rudy (1979) Album: Encore (2019)
Artist: Specials

Why I like the song: it has a happy vibe, the lyrics are quirky, I enjoy the band’s appearance, happy memories 

Song: We’re All Happy (1993)
Album: Possum Dixon
Artist: Possum Dixon

Why I like the song: the bizarre introduction, the energetic tempo, its happy vibe, fab guitar playing

Song: Travels in Nihilon (1980)
Album: Black Sea
Artist: XTC

Why I like the song: the huge sound, its power and complexity, the drone and repetition, drums drums drums

Song: Sonic Reducer (1977)
Album: Young, Loud and Snotty
Artist: Dead Boys

Why I like the song: it has a raw edginess, tremendous power and high energy, gritty guitar, happy memories

Song: I Feel Beautiful (1999)
Album: Jewels for Sophia
Artist: Robyn Hitchcock

Why I like the song: the words resonate personally, it had tremendous beauty, the unusual instrumentation including marimba and dulcimer

Song: O Death (1916?)
Album: Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (1988)
Artist: Camper Van Beethoven

Why I like the song: lyrics are interesting, nice growth from tiny to enormous, inclusion of brass and strings

Song: Watching the Detectives (1977) Album: Live at Hollywood High (2010) Artist: Elvis Costello

Why I like the song: lyrics tell a good story, instrumental parts are complex, music has an engaging feel

Song: Hell (1996)
Album: Hot
Artist: Squirrel Nut Zippers

Why I like the song: great songwriting, happy memories, lyrics are funny, energy and anarchy rule the song

Song: Go Wild in the Country (1981)
Album: Live in Japan (1997)
Artist: Bow Wow Wow

Why I like the song: powerful vocals, titanic drums, I enjoy the band’s appearance, happy memories

Song: Screaming Skull (1983)
Album: Hexbreaker
Artist: Fleshtones

Why I like the song: spooky mood, fuzz guitar and wicked pipe organ, guitar solo, it’s party time!

Rest assured that all of these songs, as well as countless others, can be streamed through Hoopla. Just go to epls.org for more details.

So feel isolated no longer. Check out Hoopla and find your happy songs.

Better Living Through Stitching Together

World Wide Knit in Public Day is Saturday, June 13, 2020. This largest knitter-run event in the world started in 2005 and is now celebrated in at least 57 countries. Volunteers all over the world host events to bring knitters together to socialize, learn new skills, and share the joy of knit and crochet with the general public.

Our library celebration couldn’t take place this year, so I thought it would be fun to look back at past events.

Yarn bombing is a type of knit and crochet graffiti or street art and we’ve had some exceptional examples at the library.

All ages are welcome to participate in the activities. There is a lot of talking and laughter while working on a current project for all to see.

Knitting competitions can be fierce with trophies for the winners!

Library staff enjoy knitting displays for the Children’s Department and Circulation Office.

I’m looking forward to World Wide Knit in Public Day 2021 when we can all get together again. In the meantime, check out these ebooks and magazines on OverDrive/Libby for inspiration and to improve your skills.

Hope to see you next year!

Me and My Shadow(s)

As a child, my family moved around quite a bit. My mom always framed it as an adventure. Sometimes I didn’t even consider the idea that we were not coming back to a neighborhood until we were actually driving away, and the place we were leaving became smaller and smaller through the back window. What made these transitions so much easier was that we always brought my best friends, my younger sisters. Of course there were times where we bickered and fought. But more often we were partners in our imaginary play world, sharers of secrets, and protectors of each other.

Today’s book list focuses on siblings. From a sweet sibling bond in Lola Reads to Leo to adventures and mystery in Mission Unstoppable, these titles are all available as downloadable books. The descriptions are from our library’s catalog.

Picture Books

Tea Rex by Molly Idle
Some tea parties are for grown-ups. Some are for girls. But this tea party is for a very special guest. And it is important to follow some rules, like providing comfortable chairs,
and good conversation, and yummy food. But sometimes that is not enough for special guests, especially when their manners are more Cretaceous than gracious. Introducing Tea Rex, a guest that just about any child would love to have to tea!

Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan
Rubina has been invited to her first birthday party, and her mother, Ami, insists that she bring her little sister along. Rubina is mortified, but she can’t convince Ami that you just don’t bring your younger sister to your friend’s party. So both girls go, and not only does Sana demand to win every game, but after the party she steals Rubina’s prized party favor, a red lollipop. What’s a fed-up big sister to do? Rukhsana Khan’s clever story and Sophie Blackall’s irresistible illustrations make for a powerful combination in this fresh and surprising picture book.

Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn
Join Lola as she learns what it means to be a big sister, in the third installment in the loveable Lola series. We all know how much Lola loves books, so it is no surprise that she can’t wait to share her love of reading with her new baby brother, Leo. Lola gets ready for little Leo’s arrival by reading books about brothers and sisters and picking out the perfect stories that she just knows her little brother will love. When the baby is finally here, Lola takes on the role of big sister—she helps her mommy and daddy around the house and tells Leo stories to cheer him up when he cries. Simple text and bright and charming illustrations celebrate family, reading, and what it means to be a big sister.

Mabel and Sam at Home by Linda Urban
This playful and endearing book celebrates imaginative play as Mable and Sam move into a new house and make it their own. They sail the high seas of their new home, tour the intriguing museum of their living room, journey through outer space to the safety of their own beds, and discover how far afield—and how close to home—imagination can take them. Funny and engaging, this celebration of moving in and settling in is both heart-warming and house-warming.

Early Chapter Books

Ivy + Bean by Annie Barrows
When seven-year old Bean plays a mean trick on her sister, she finds unepected support for her antics from Ivy, the new neighbor, who is less boring than Bean first suspected.

Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder
Join Charlie and Mouse as they talk to lumps, take the neighborhood to a party, sell some rocks, and invent the bedtime banana. With imagination and humor, Laurel Snyder and Emily Hughes paint a lively picture of brotherhood that children will relish in a beginning chapter book format; making this a perfect book for young readers graduating from picture books.

Juvenile Fiction

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures. The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will–won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget. Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day.

Mission Unstoppable: the Genius Files Series, Book 1 by Dan Gutman
The most exciting road trip in history begins! In this action-packed, New York Times bestselling adventure, twelve-year-old twins Coke and Pepsi McDonald embark on a family vacation you’ll have to read to believe.With the real-kid humor that has earned Dan Gutman millions of fans around the world, and featuring weird-but-true American tourist destinations, The Genius Files is a one-of-a-kind mix of geography and fun. As Coke and Pepsi dodge nefarious villains from the Pez museum in California all the way to the Infinity Room in Wisconsin, black-and-white photographs and maps put young readers right into the action. And don’t miss the next leg of the journey in The Genius Files: Never Say Genius!Supports the Common Core State Standards

The Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd
With a dash of Lemony Snicket, a dollop of the Addams Family, and a hearty dose of adventure, kaboom, the seven siblings—each born on a different day of the week—have to move into their grandpa’s bizarre old mansion in Lost Cove. No problem! For the Problim children, every problem is a gift! But rumors about their family run rampant in the small town: tales of a bitter feud, a hidden treasure, and a certain kind of magic lingering in the halls of #7 Main Street. Their neighbors, the O’Pinions, will do anything to find the secrets lurking inside the Problim household—including sending the seven children to seven different houses on seven different continents!

Fairest of All by Sarah Mlynowski.
Mirror, mirror, on the basement wall… Once upon a time my brother and I were normal kids. The next minute? The mirror in our basement slurped us up and magically transported us inside Snow White’s fairytale. I know it sounds crazy but it’s true. But hey-we’re heroes! We stopped Snow White from eating the poisoned apple. Hooray! Or not. If Snow White doesn’t die, she won’t get to meet her prince. And then she won’t get her happy ending. Oops. Now it’s up to us to: avoid getting poisoned, sneak into a castle, fix Snow White’s story. And then, fingers crossed, find our way home.

Gone crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia.
Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are off to Alabama to visit their grandmother, Big Ma, and her mother, Ma Charles. Across the way lives Ma Charles’s half sister, Miss Trotter. The two half sisters haven’t spoken in years. As Delphine hears about her family history, she uncovers the surprising truth that’s been keeping the sisters apart. But when tragedy strikes, Delphine discovers that the bonds of family run deeper than she ever knew possible.

Graphic Novel

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Raina can’t wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren’t quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she’s also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn’t improve much over the years, but when a baby brother enters the picture and later, something doesn’t seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all. Raina uses her signature humor and charm in both present-day narrative and perfectly placed flashbacks to tell the story of her relationship with her sister, which unfolds during the course of a road trip from their home in San Francisco to a family reunion in Colorado.

The Bookshop on Film and Page

At the start of the film The Bookshop it is 1959 and a young widow living in a small English town decides to open a bookshop. After six months of negotiations, she is able to purchase an old building that has been vacant for years. That’s when the town grande dame decides that she wants that building for an arts center and tells the young woman that she will have to find another building for her bookshop.

The grande dame is accustomed to the villagers simply acceding to all her demands, no matter how unreasonable. This time, the young woman decides to fight for her dream of opening a bookshop in that building. Big mistake. The grande dame and her husband, a former general, begin an all-out campaign to destroy the young woman who dared to defy them.

This independent British film is available on Kanopy, one of the library’s free video apps. It stars Emily Mortimer as Florence Green, the young widow; Patricia Clarkson as the village grande dame; and Bill Nighy as a reclusive, book-loving widower (who isn’t actually a widower at all).

This is a beautifully made film with a superb cast – the stars all turn in exceptional performances and so do the supporting actors.

If you like British films, you might enjoy The Bookshop.

This film is based on the novel The Bookshop by British author Penelope Fitzgerald, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. We have the novel available in our digital collection as an e-book and also as an audiobook.