Spot-Lit for October 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

Spot-Lit for September 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

Blondie, Hold the Dagwood

Please allow me to air my shame and make a confession: I saw the movie Little Darlings in a theatre! Yes, hard-earned money exited my sweaty pocket so that I could watch that 1980 blockbuster you’ve never heard of starring Tatum O’Neal, Kristy McNichol and Matt Dillon. Fortunately, the only memory I retain of this experience is that Blondie’s One Way or Another appeared in the soundtrack. Which surprised me at the time. Blondie was originally considered punk and punk rock did not often grace soundtracks in 1980. However, I now realize that they were not actually punk! Oh sure, the band exhibited new wave fashion flare, but the music itself was much more in a pop vein. Or a disco vein. Or a reggae vein. Depends on what song you’re talking about.

My present-day self became curious as to how often Blondie songs have been used in movie and TV soundtracks. Dredging through my overstuffed memory I concluded that the band didn’t have a huge legacy of popular tunes, so I presumed their songs did not often grace the silver or flat screens. But guess what sports fans? They appear frequently! Like not just here and there, but everywhere. And, Blondie has sold over 40 million albums! That’s nearly 6 million in dog albums! So I’ve had to reassess my idea of the group’s popularity. And now I know: Blondie is hot socks!

In 1978, Parallel Lines introduced me and most Americans to the music that was already well-known in the UK. Tune after tune of driving new wave, catchy pop and danceable disco filled its grooves. Hanging on the Telephone, One Way or Another, Heart of Glass, I’m Gonna Love You Too, Just Go Away and other gems pushed this listener to repeatedly spin said disc.

The list of movies that have used songs from Parallel Lines is quite amazing: Little Darlings, Mean Girls, Coyote Ugly, Cruella and Ready Player One are just the tip of the iceberg. Subsequent albums provided songs for Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo, Muriel’s Wedding, Bridesmaids, The Heartbreak Kid, Donnie Brasco, The Last American Virgin and Bend it Like Beckham. Pretty impressive. And the movies and TV soundtracks that I’ve not mentioned are much more plentiful than those that I have listed. In fact, IMDB credits the band with 265 soundtrack appearances!

Music for soundtracks is chosen largely for its appeal to a potential audience, so Blondie’s numerous appearances in soundtracks is a nod to their remarkable popularity. In my mind they’re still just the quasi-punk band that appealed to me and a small group of friends 40 years ago. But in reality, Blondie is beloved by the world. Not bad for a bunch of punks from New York city.

Did You Know? (Basket Edition)

Did you know baskets can be made from almost any flexible material?

In the book Art of the Basket by Bryan Sentance he talks about the different materials used in basket making: reeds, grasses, bark, rushes, rattan, bamboo etc. He also gives practical examples of some of the baskets that can be carried by hand or on the head or back. There are also good directions for some basket making techniques to use if you wanted to try it for yourself.

Basket weaving is probably one of the oldest arts in the world. I’m not even going to begin to try and figure out who did it first! I am amazed at all of the styles, colors and shapes baskets come in. Basketry in America by Kristin Schwain and Josephine Stealey starts out showing you traditional baskets and ends with a section on baskets as art which are truly spectacular!. Indian Baskets of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska by Alan Lobb shows the traditional baskets made and used for hundreds or thousands of years in the Pacific Northwest using local materials.

Tapestry Weaving Kristen Glasbrook by gives you step by step instructions for creating a tapestry. They include setting up the frame, winding the warp and all you need to know to weave the designs onto it. The weaving basics for tapestry also work for baskets.

You can go one step further and weave with beads and metal rings to make jewelry. Beadmaille by Cindy Thomas Pankopf makes it look easy. I know, I know – famous last words, but you won’t know unless you try!

Even birds’ nests are similar to a basket. Avian Architecture by Peter Goodfellow shows us how birds design, engineer and build their nests. Weaving techniques are used, and many nests look like baskets. There are many sketches of nests being built and kids will especially like seeing how the birds build their nests.

If you are a sports fan, perhaps your favorite basket is a basketball net. Balls! By Michael J Rosen is a very fun book with trivia about all kinds of sports balls, and some basic history to go with it. Basketball started in 1891 in a gymnasium in winter because it was too cold to play soccer or lacrosse. The bored boys used a peach basket and the game evolved from there.

I still think my favorite basket is an Easter basket with a chocolate bunny, but no matter what you want to carry, there is probably a basket designed for that!

Spot-Lit for August 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

My Best Friend’s Exorcism

There’s nothing quite like a childhood friend. They’ve seen you puke weird blue stuff while getting off the school bus, they’ve watched you go through that weird religious phase you went through when you were ten and spent the summer with a very Catholic grandma (spoiler alert: the religious mania didn’t hit me when I was 10. We all know that if I step inside a church I will immediately burst into flames). And if you’re fortunate enough to keep your childhood friend through your teens, they even help exorcise a demon from your body.

Because that’s what best friends do.

In My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix, Abby and Gretchen meet when they’re in the fifth grade and they become inseparable. When they get to high school it seems like nothing can stop the duo from graduating high school and getting out of town to do bigger and better things. But something happens to Gretchen one night when a group of girls goes exploring.

Gretchen goes into a dilapidated house in the woods and disappears for hours. The person who returns is not Gretchen and Abby seems to be the only one who realizes it. Gone is her perky sweet friend and in her place is a cruel girl, a faded ghost who seems to get pleasure from cruel jokes that have life altering outcomes. Not only will no one believe Abby, but since she comes from a poor(ish) family, teachers and parents decide that she’s pulling pranks to get attention.

Gretchen’s family forbids her from being friends with Abby. Whatever the demon is inside Gretchen, it shows itself to Abby and tells her there’s nothing she can do to stop her. The demon’s objective is to use up Gretchen’s body until there’s nothing left and to wreck so much havoc that it can bathe in the river of horror and sorrow it leaves behind.

What’s a girl who wants to save her best friend’s life to do?

Abby recruits the help of a religious zealot body builder who has watched his preacher father do many exorcisms and believes he can exorcise the demon from Gretchen’s body and save her soul. What follows is a sort of a dark night of the soul for both Abby and Gretchen. Will Abby lose her best friend to the demon or will the power of friendship save Gretchen?

True to form, Grady Hendrix has written a hilariously moving novel about what good human beings are capable of and the lengths friends will go to to save one another’s souls. If you like your horror novels to be on the comical (and yet still terrifying) side, pick up this book right now or I swear to God I will cross the threshold of a Catholic church and become engulfed in flames. Or, you know, I’ll read another Grady Hendrix book. Depends on my mood.

Seattle has Both Kinds Of Music

“You can take a lad out of Seattle but you can’t take a fish out of the country.”
Ron Averill

As I read posts in the various PNW music groups I belong to, I get the creeping feeling that Seattle = grunge in the minds of many. End of story. But the truth is that Seattle music is a hot mix of many styles. One can find a thriving surf rock community, unlimited punk bands, and enough dream pop to fill your nightmares. But today we look towards the past and see just what the heck is up in the country music scene.

One of the earlier NW practitioners of both kinds of music, country & western, Bonnie Guitar is somewhat forgotten these days. Her biggest hit, Dark Moon, was released in 1957, which is a while back. But here in 2021 Dark Moon will soon be hitting the airwaves in the soundtrack of Loki! The song is a haunting pop/country crossover and is sure to please a new generation of listeners. If you like old-fashioned country music, give Bonnie a listen.

Christy McWilson is a country performer who is ubiquitous in the Puget Sound area. Over the years she’s been in a variety of local bands including the Dynette Set and The Picketts. Additionally, she has sung with national recording acts, including Dave Alvin and Mudhoney. McWilson’s voice is that of a classic country crooner, strong and expressive, ready to raise a barn or stop a stampede at the flick of a whip. We are fortunate to have this talent in the PNW, so check her out via Hoopla.

And once you’ve fallen in love with Christy McWilson’s music, you can move on to The Picketts. This wonderful band, which included two members of The Young Fresh Fellows, strayed from the standard country music formula by interspersing elements of Americana, rockabilly and pop music into the mix. The result is accessible, charming songs that are sure to inspire repeated listenings.

Looking for contemporary country? Look no further than Seattle’s own Western Centuries. A touch of nasal twang, a dash of pop/rock sensibilities and a wide-brimmed cowboy hat combine to give the PNW country music that can hang with the best of current popular C&W. Get out your snakeskin boots and prepare to boogie. Or at least line dance.

But if it’s the old timey country that floats your wagon wheels, Seattle has that covered too with Ranch Romance. This band of ladies and a fella had no end of chops, harmonies, pickin’ and grinnin’. Why, they could even yodel (except in Georgia where it’s illegal). With bows and fingers a-flying, Ranch Romance provided virtuosic music for a passel of dudes and dudettes.

As we end our rapid tour, obscurity is the watchword. The Western Front, led by Fred Cole of Dead Moon, left us with only six recorded songs. Their brand of alt-country is gritty, desolate, filled with gravelly vocals and lonesome trails. If you appreciate the croonings of Wilco or Lydia Loveless then you should definitely check these fellows out.

Mama mia, that’s a lot of country music! And you thought the Northwest started and ended with Nirvana. Well, get out your musical amplification unit and think again, Buster. And while you’re up, please turn off that lamp in the hallway.

The Periodical Tableaux v1 i2

Let’s make some money…or at least read something about money. The latter, of course, always free at Everett Public Library.

All e-magazines are readily available through OverDrive/Libby via your Library account. For assistance, call the Reference Desk @ 425-257-8000.

EPL, a long-time Coin World print subscriber, now boasts even more numismatic titles in e-magazine format – a doubling down if you will:

  • Banknote Reporter
  • Coin Collector
  • Coins
  • Numismatic News
  • World Coin News

We also have numerous titles on finance, business, and economics with many in both print and digital formats, for example:

  • Inc (print & dig)
  • Fast Company (print & dig)
  • Kiplinger (print & dig)
  • Entrepreneur (print & dig)
  • The Economist (print & dig)

With all this print & digital money talk, one might be forgiven for making the leap, however ponderous, to the difference between traditional metal coins , e.g. gold specie standard , vs digital currency , e.g. Bitcoin .

From a recent Numismatic News, there is a fascinating article about the minting of the 1857 one cent piece. Due to increasing copper prices (attributable to the discovery of gold in California and the subsequent impact on other precious metals, namely silver) pennies were, suddenly, too expensive…

“…The weight of the copper cent had remained unchanged since 1795, when it had been fixed at 168 grains (10.89 grams), but on several occasions in the early 1850s the cost of making a cent piece had come close to face value…In the spring of 1852, the cost of prepared planchets [the respective metal discs struck into coins]…actually hit the 42-cent level…an absolute loss even if other expenses were not added…”  “From Copper to Copper-Nickel”, Numismatic News, 06/22/2021, R.W. Julian

The new one cent would be very different…

“…The proposed coin also marked a radical departure from the past. From 1793 it had been government policy to make the cent in such a way as to contain nearly full value in copper but still light enough to show a profit. In 1856, however, the Mint was suggesting that the intrinsic value be lowered drastically…” “From Copper to Copper-Nickel”, Numismatic News, 06/22/2021, R.W. Julian

This phenomenon has terms, brassage and seigniorage

“…By the late 13th century, all mints within a given political entity were under direct control of the sovereign. The mints were run as businesses by private entrepreneurs, who leased the physical plant and capital equipment for fixed terms. Individuals…could…deliver their metal…and they would be paid back, within a few weeks, in newly minted coins of the same metal they brought in. They always received back less fine metal than they brought in. Part of what was withheld by the mint paid for production costs and was called brassage. The rest was sent to the sovereign as profit, or tax, and was called seigniorage. For convenience, we will use gross seigniorage for the sum of brassage and seigniorage…”  “The Debasement Puzzle: An Essay on Medieval Monetary History”, Quarterly Review of the Federal Reserve Back of Minneapolis, Vol 21, No 4, Fall 1997, Arthur Rolnick, et al

In the case of the U.S. Mint, gross seigniorage for the copper penny was trending toward loss, as opposed to profit, unless the amount of copper per coin was substantially reduced.

Now to Bitcoin and its minting or, more accurately, Bitcoin Mining

“For years, Chinese [Bitcoin] miners…were enabled by the glut of cheap…electricity in China….At their height in 2018, China’s bitcoin prospectors accounted for 74% of the world’s bitcoin production.” “Bitcoin Miners Exit China, Beat A Path to The U.S. As Crypto Climate Shifts”, The Washington Post / Seattle Times, 06/21/2021, Gerry Shih

The price of that electricity was considerably cheaper just one year ago…

“…[at] $0.04/kwh, miners based in China said that the breakeven cost to mine Bitcoin hovers in the $5,000 to $6,000 range…” “Why the Actual Cost of Mining Bitcoin Can Leave It Vulnerable to a Deep Correction”, Forbes, 07/07/2020, Joseph Young

From the below graphics, one can see the dramatic difference (especially “Profit per year”) with only disparate electricity costs factored in – something akin to the rise in copper prices in the late 1850s.

In this example, Sichuan, China’s 4-cents / KWh vs Boston, MA’s 22-cents / KWh with a price of $33,488 for a single Bitcoin.

CryptoCompare data from 7/01/2021 w/2019 Seattle City Light KWh price listings

As can be readily seen, migrating mining operations from a cheap electricity location to a more expensive electricity location easily threatens the “Profit per year” – ultimately, the gross seigniorage – of any Bitcoin mining operation.

And it is not just the mining of Bitcoin that is so costly, but the spending as well… 

“…In periods of high activity, as witnessed during much of 2021, bitcoin burns more energy than the whole of Argentina. The glaring inefficiencies of that process also explain why payments in bitcoin are slow and costly, and thus a rarity…” “Can Bitcoin Be Bettered?”, The Economist, 06/24/2021

Indeed, even the new 1857 one cent piece experienced something similar…

“As early as the spring 1858, so many of the new coins were in daily use that merchants bean to complain about the excess number of them to be found in their tills. These coins were not legal tender and those with large accumulations still had to use a broker to change them into gold or silver. Banks would not do this except for small amounts.” “From Copper to Copper-Nickel”, Numismatic News, 06/22/2021, R.W. Julian

So, in many ways, it appears the rules of money, at least in its minting, are slow to change, if at all. Indeed, running with Bitcoin no less a burden than gold itself.

To put it more poetically…

Everybody needs money. That’s why they call it money.”

Mickey Bergman (Danny DeVito’s character from David Mamet’s 2001 movie “Heist”)

With a that in mind, I might well recommend another of our medium-of-exchange, if not medium-heat, themed titles…

XTC: It’s Not Just for Raves!

It was a freezing winter day, something like 5 a.m., and I was spinning the hits as I know them on KWCW, the pride of Whitman College. But this was to be a day like no other! As it became abundantly clear that the stylus on one of the turntables was broken, a fine sheen of panic seized my brain. You see, CDs had not been invented yet and you needed two, two, two turntables in one to run a radio show. Sadly, I was down to my last turntable. In an attempt to salvage the situation and save humankind for another day I threw on an entire side of Black Sea by XTC until the damaged stylus was replaced. And thus began a love affair that will continue until the gates of time come crashing down on baby New Year.

It’s hard to recall exactly which XTC album I encountered first. Perhaps it was Drums and Wires, a quirky pop gem that came out in 1979 and featured unforgettable songs like Making Plans for Nigel and When You’re Near Me I Have Difficulty. Or it might just as easily have been Black Sea on that fateful winter morning. But by the release of English Settlement and the tight rotation of the single Senses Working Overtime on KZAM in the summer of 1982, I was eating XTC for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The band. Not the illicit drug.

The group is a bit steeped in mystery. Andy Partridge, their brilliant songwriter/guitarist/ singer has been plagued by a variety of health issues that led to the band’s cessation of touring. In fact, I was set to see them in 1982 when they cancelled due to jaundice. But the scope of their songs is far beyond the live performance capabilities of three or four lads, so I’ve always thought of them as a band that makes fabulous records but doesn’t perform live. And that’s okay.

Their songs are psychedelic, Beatlesque, poppy, sometimes huge, quirky, and incredibly perfect. From the punkish spasms of White Music and Go 2 to the pop perfection of Drums and Wires, the hugely orchestral rock of Black Sea, English Settlement, Mummer, The Big Express and Skylarking, these fellas have created some of the best music I’ve encountered. And now, through the magic of Hoopla, you too can experience XTC.

Starting with Drums and Wires, and I’m not at all certain this was done intentionally, most XTC albums contain one long, huge-in-scope song that generally grows from nothing, climaxes in a frothy release of decibels, and returns to nothing. These became my favorites. Complicated Game features Partridge rabidly shouting the song title. Travels in Nihilon creates an unending drone of tom toms and synthetic-sounding buzzsaw notes under chanted vocals. Jason and the Argonauts, Deliver us from the Elements, Train Running Low on Soul Coal, Dear God… all are songs of epic proportion.

So the moral of this story is: Listen to XTC! You can find most of their albums on Hoopla and, wait for it, it’s free and legal to hear them! And it’s filled with your daily requirement of niacin! In the immortal words of 17th century mathematician Robert Hooke as he reviewed Drums and Wires, “Hey, that’s acute angle.”

Falling by T.J. Newman

First, a piece of advice: do not read Falling by T.J. Newman if you’re planning to fly soon. Unless you have nerves of steel!

Carrie and Bill are your average couple with two kids, son Scott and baby Elise. Bill is a pilot who ended up pressured by his boss to pick up an extra flight. They are happily married except Carrie is not so happy with him right now because he will miss Scott’s last ball game and pizza party that he had promised to attend.

Bill goes off and catches his flight. Everything goes according to plan: preflight checks, boarding and take-off. Meanwhile at home, the internet has been acting up and Carrie has Sam, an internet repairman, there to work on it. Suddenly, Sam has a gun out and Carrie and the children are captives.

In the cockpit, Bill’s laptop pings and he opens it to see a facetime call. He sees Carrie and Scott wearing black hoods and vests with explosives, as Sam holds a detonator in the background. He is told that the only way to save his family is to gas the passengers and crash the plane when they tell him to, or they will be killed. He is directed not to tell anyone what is going on or they will be instantly disintegrated.

Bill takes a chance and tells the head flight attendant, Jo, the situation so she can prepare the cabin. She texts her nephew who works for the FBI, but they don’t believe him. THIS is where the story got really interesting! At this point you think “there is no way this can get worse.” But it can, and it does. Then it gets even worse still.

I was on pins and needles with the suspense of what was going on. I couldn’t wait to get to the next chapter and then the next as events kept unfolding. In the beginning Bill had told Sam “I’m not going to crash this plane, and you’re not going to kill my family.” Keep turning those pages to find out how it all plays out. I’m sure you’ll be as surprised as I was!

This is a new book by this author, and she did an excellent job. I look forward to seeing what she’ll write next!