Old Dogs New Tricks

Since the pandemic began, I’ve been watching a lot more television and I’ve been drawn to lighter shows with some comedy. After a year at home, it’s becoming harder and harder to find new TV shows with lots of episodes to watch.

Lately we’ve been watching a British crime series that we’ve been enjoying very much. We discovered it on streaming and I was delighted to notice that we have Season 7 on DVD at the library. It’s called New Tricks and stars four great English actors (Amanda Redman, James Bolam, Alun Armstrong and Dennis Waterman).

Three retired English police officers return to work to hunt bad guys in a new unit called UCOS (Unsolved Crimes and Open Cases squad), reporting to a much younger female officer. They use old-fashioned police work and their decades of contacts to solve cases that defeated other squads. The characters are fantastic:

Jack is the executive, suit-wearing type – who has his beloved late wife buried in his back garden! His nightly talks to his wife (with her headstone surrounded by candles) are intriguing.

Brian has a photographic memory and recalls details of every case and person he’s ever heard of, as well as being the team’s computer guy. He has a hard time socializing with actual people but has a devoted wife.

Jerry has been married and divorced three times and has a daughter with each wife – they have formed a close-knit family unit and all regularly have dinner together. He’s the ladies man of the group and has good contacts on the street.

The tone is light-hearted and loyal – and they always solve the case! There are 12 seasons of the show, but the first 8 seasons are the only ones that contain all of the original cast, and these seasons are by far the best.

Coming of Age

I guess I like to read coming-of-age novels because they describe a process that is something painfully beautiful and life changing and totally unlike my coming of age event. I don’t think I had a coming-of-age moment, at least not the kind you see in movies (Ahem, I’m looking at you, John Hughes.) And that’s why I love novels that do have wonderous coming of age stories.

In Ellie Eaton’s The Divines, we are thrown between the present day and a run-down all-girls school in England in the 1990’s. Josephine is newly married and on her honeymoon with her husband Jurgen. As they’re driving to their honeymoon destination, Jo decides to make a detour to her old school. The school did not survive a scandal in Jo’s last year there and went on to become a dentist’s office while other buildings on the grounds were torn down.

Jo is thrown back into memories of her days at the girls’ school and how the townies used to bully them, beat them up for being “posh” girls who went to a fancy school. But Jo’s memories begin to lead her down a dark path, many of the memories involving an unliked and unwanted classmate by the name of Daphne who had an unfortunate accident falling out of a window.

Told in turn by the Jo of now (married and with a child) and the Jo of the mid 90’s (first loves, first times, finding a best friend in a townie girl who adopted her) The Divines is a novel about who you think you were, versus how you really were at a certain age. It’s also about realizing how others saw you at a certain point in your life and how you saw yourself and reconciling the two halves.

Make no mistake, this is no ‘frilly girly’ coming of age story. The Divines has sharp teeth and will dig into the deepest part of you, searching for any and everything you’re feeling only to suck that part out of you. This was one of those rare books that when I finished the last page, I had to put the book down and stare at the wall for a few minutes and sort myself out.

Enjoy The Divines and stare at the wall for an hour afterward. I swear you won’t regret it.

Whisper Down The Lane

How many times does a lie need to be told before it becomes the truth? If more than one person tells it then it must be true, right? If it is a child and the lie is outrageous then it is has to be true because a child could never make something up like that would they?

Imagine a fib you told as a child. A little white lie. Now imagine it taking on a life of its own and you have no control over it. It consumes everyone around you.

This is what happened to Sean as a young boy in Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman. He told his mom a fib, she told the authorities, who then told the school, who then told the other parents. The parents then asked their kids questions in such a way that the fib was planted in their minds and confirmed. Kids being kids, they wanted to please adults and tell them what they think they wanted to hear. The next thing you know people believed the lie and lives were ruined!

Fast forward many years. Richard starts working at an elementary school. The kids in his class are great. They have a classroom routine. Study, read a story and after lunch they have “circle time” and everyone naps. The children are happy and all are doing well.

It isn’t long before the routine gets broken and things take a turn for the worse. Richard finds a threatening note written in a child’s scrawl. The schools pet rabbit is killed. There are rumors around town and in the school about “devil worship.”

Soon Richard is under suspicion for something so terrible he can’t believe anyone would think of him, or anyone, doing such things. He especially can’t believe that the rest of the school staff are even considering he could have any part in it.

This book is a gripping story that could have been torn from the headlines. It filled me with fear to see how easily lies could be spread and that any one of us could bear the brunt of it. You’ll be reading late into the night to see what happens and how it will all end. Get your fingers in shape to turn these pages as fast as you can!

A Network Effect

If you need an example of something positive in this world, look no further than the recently announced Nebula Awards. If you aren’t aware, the Nebula Awards are the premier awards for science fiction and fantasy and this year Martha Wells has won for her novel, Network Effect.

I’ve reviewed Network Effect before, but it bears repeating how smart, creative, snarky and downright fun her whole Murderbot diaries series can be. Yes, I did just write Murderbot diaries. A tad dubious about taking up a series with a title like that? Here is a little intro to the character to ease your mind… somewhat.

Murderbot, the name it uses for itself but never shares, is a semi-organic sentient android known as a SecUnit. SecUnits are created and controlled by big corporations to do their bidding. This usually entails long hours of guarding corporate assets, with a little lethal force thrown in. Murderbot has hacked its Governor Module, however, and is now completely independent from its corporate overlords.

So, what does it do with this newfound freedom? Go on a murderous rampage perhaps or take over the world? No, Murderbot just wants to watch as many video serials as possible, especially its favorite space soap opera, Sanctuary Moon. Sadly, events force Murderbot to not only interact with humans, who it doesn’t understand and wants to avoid at all costs, but also engage with a world far different from its beloved fictional programs.

Network Effect is the first novel length book in the series and can definitely be read on its own. I would highly recommend starting from the beginning, however. All of the other entries, including the most recent (Fugitive Telemetry) are novellas so no need to worry about getting bogged down in lengthy tomes.

Be warned though, once you get hooked, you will probably be wishing for more. With a brand-new Nebula award in her pocket, fingers crossed that Martha Wells will be encouraged to add even more entries to this outstanding series.

T. Rex (Not The Dinosaur)

Tribute albums are often, simply put, horrible. While I get excited to hear new and exciting versions of songs I already love, the bands covering these tunes frequently play them exactly the same as the originals, except worse. So, I approached Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan & T. Rex with some trepidation.

Now, you may not know who Marc Bolan and T. Rex were, but that would be your bad, as the kids say. Granted, the reign of T. Rex really occurred 50 years ago, but as the pioneers of glam rock these lads were HUGE in the UK, at one point as popular as the Beatles. The U.S. did not embrace them quite as warmly, but Bang a Gong (Get it On) still enjoyed heavy rotation AM radio airplay in 1971.

The group started out as Tyrannosaurs Rex in 1967, playing psychedelic folk music sporting titles such as Frowning Atahuallpa (My Inca Love). But in 1970 their sound began to change to something new. Songs were simple, repetitive and catchy. Vocals still had a bit of a sweet folk ambiance. And the mood in general was happy, happy, happy. I think of T. Rex as providing the perfect soundtrack for the flower children. After 1973 the band’s popularity began to fade, and in 1977 singer and songwriter Marc Bolan died in an automobile accident. And though people may not have known it at the time, the group’s influence was just beginning to be felt on the shoulders and elbows of the music world. Flash forward to 2021, Angelheaded Hipster showcases an impressive catalog of hits with 2 discs of T. Rex songs, generally interpreted with great respect and more than a modicum of originality.

While comparing the original songs to the covers, I realized that T. Rex frequently employed orchestral strings in their music, often using them more than guitar. One example of this is found in Cosmic Dancer, which is covered here by Nick Cave. Anyone familiar with Mr. Cave is aware that he can interpret a tune, and interpret he does with piano and voice dominating this poignant rendering. The original assaults all that is holy with monstrously rocking drums, but Cave’s version remains sedate. Well worth checking out.

Metal Guru is covered by Nena on this compilation. Where T. Rex had a happy tune with heavy and huge instrumentation, Nena takes the same feel but makes it into a sixties Motown event. A most excellent example of an artist taking someone else’s song and making it their own.

Speaking of making something one’s own, Todd Rundgren takes the simple and straightforward Planet Queen and creates a swingful lounge feel that I found amusing and superb. A kinetic surge of psychedelic big band assaults the ears and caresses this listener’s pleasure centers.

Finally, the band’s biggest American hit, Bang a Gong (Get It On) is tackled by David Johansen, a former glamster with the New York Dolls. This cover plays almost like a comedy routine with crowd sounds from a fictitious night club accompanying the lounge lizard delivery of Johansen. While the original is essentially a rock and roll anthem, this new version is strictly the cat’s pajamas.

Conclusion? Angelheaded Hipster is a well-done tribute album to a group that we could all benefit from hearing. Check it out, check out other T. Rex releases. But most of all, have a glamorous experience.

Spot-Lit for June 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

Did You Know? (Toilet Edition)

The flush toilet was invented in 1595 by John Harrington?

Without running water, his system wasn’t very popular. People have given plumber and engineer Thomas Crapper the credit, but it was Alexander Cummings who created the “s-bend” and modern flushing in 1775.

I found this information on pages 8 & 9 in The Technology Behind Everyday Appliances by Nicolas Brasch. This was a fun book, and I also learned that the screw as a fastener was invented about 300 years before the screwdriver!

You never know when you will have to do a little home repair on your toilet. Ultimate Guide: Plumbing by Merle Henkenius gives you step by step instructions for working on your toilet, sink, dishwasher, garbage disposal and much more. There are lots of ‘smart tips’ offered which can save you lots of money, trouble and even help you avoid calling a plumber.

Poop Happened! A History of the World from the Bottom Up by Sarah Able tells us that even the bible talks about excrement. In the book of Deuteronomy, God, through Moses, tells the Hebrews to carry a paddle (shovel) “and cover that what comest from thee.” The Romans were the first to build sewer systems and aqueducts and some of them are still in use today. Another interesting fact I learned is that the “powder room” really was a room for powdering wigs in the eighteenth century. There are lots of other very amusing facts in this book as well.

One of the most important issues involving toilets is the process of becoming potty trained! We have a large selection of books in our parenting section about this. The Complete Guide to Potty Training by Michelle D Swaney gives step by step techniques and ideas that will make the process much easier. We also have many other books to read to your child and DVD’s such as Potty Time that they can watch.

Kids especially love any kind of bathroom humor. It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane, it’s Toiletman! by Nancy Krulik is a very exciting tale that kids will love. You can read about another bathroom superhero in Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. There are many different adventures that the kids will laugh about as they read, and some very nasty archenemies such as the purple potty people and bionic booger boy!

I’m always amazed to see the selection of reading material in people’s bathrooms. I know I do a good part of my reading there! It would be kind of ironic to read this in your lavatory: The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman. This work is an autobiography of Silverman’s life, and the adversities she overcame as a child being a bedwetter. I personally applaud her bravery for admitting such a thing. It cannot have been an easy secret to share with the world!

While working on this blog, I realized there is no shortage of material about this subject. I guess when ya gotta go, ya gotta go!  Just keep in mind the lovely indoor plumbing we have today, and how our ancestors had a much more difficult time getting their business done.

More Than One Bite

We couldn’t stop with just one bite!

Our librarians are back and ready to share book titles that they are excited about with you virtually. Join two enthusiastic Everett Public Library librarians this Tuesday May 25th at 12 pm on our Crowdcast channel for a second instalment of our Book Bites series. Always remember, if you can’t attend on the day, you can view this discussion at your convenience on our Crowdcast channel after the event.

While they will have lots of great titles to recommend, we would love to hear about what you have been reading as well. Feel free to participate and talk about books that you have been read (or are looking forward to reading) with our virtual community.

Just to give you a little preview, and so you don’t have to hastily write down titles, here are a few of the books that will be discussed:

Against Civility: The Hidden Racism with Our Obsession with Civility by Alex Zamalin

Rumors from Shanghai by Amy Sommers

Eartheater by Dolores Reyes

Spirits Abroad and Other Stories by Zen Cho

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told? by Jenny Diski

Broken (in the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson

So join us on Tuesday and get inspired to get reading!

The Periodical Tableaux, V.1

With the Library re-opened, you, dear Patron, may have noticed our magazine shelves look a bit different, denuded even! Indeed, there may be fewer print magazines (thanks, 2020!) but we have oh so many more e-magazines. All are readily available through OverDrive/Libby via your library account.

For assistance with your Libby account, call the Reference Desk @ 425-257-8000 (tue-sat | 10-6).

In this and forthcoming posts, we shall delve into our newly acquired e-magazines ecosystem – as well as our legacy print – and tease out the nuggets and, hopefully, discover some new favorites.

Firstly, we might recall what we lost…unfortunately, about 130 print titles we could not replace; fortunately, we were able to replace 76 lost print tiles with their digital equivalent.

As for the 130 lost print titles, future posts will look at which new e-magazines might work best for mitigating their absence.  

For example, let’s look at the very first magazine in our catalog’s strict alpha-numeric ordering and, by coincidence, the first cut from our renewal list…425 Magazine, a celebration of King County’s Eastside. One might simply swap with our print version of Seattle Metropolitan Magazine, but that might be just a bit 206 for y’all.

So, does EPL possess any subject-equivalent e-magazines within our new holdings? Unfortunately, not yet. However, if one simply must have a magazine with the numeral “4” in the title, we do have you covered.

Our first contender might be 0024 Horloges, fancy watches, fancy prices, written in fancy French, a oui, indeed.

No time for watches? Then, how about 4×4 Magazine Australia? Plenty of intriguing articles, insightful reviews, and written in plain ol’ Australian.

All that wheelin’ making you hungry? Try 400 Calories or Less: Easy Italian, the Spaghetti Pie w/ prosciutto and peas (pg. 27) is particularly intriguing.

Or, J-14 (a lost print-mag now in e-mag format) for youth enthralled with youth celebrity, youth fashion, youth music, youth etc.…

Of course, not all celebrity is for the kids, Victoria: Fabulous at 40 lists as a one-off devoted to the most famous Spice Girl married to a former soccer great.

Speaking of footing the ball, the new collection also boasts many other historical editions, e.g. World Cup Guide 2014 & The Complete Guide to World Cup 2014. While the 2014 teams’ rosters are a bit dated, these issues also highlight Cups gone by with results and standout performances. Lest we forget, Team USA placed 3rd in the 1930 competition.

Until next time, keep browsing…

Read in a Sitting

If the idea of blowing through a 500-lb book is as appealing as running a marathon in a parrot costume, read on. Maybe it’s all the heavy slogging we’ve done this past year, but I find myself shying away from longer reads. I reach for thinner books, and I often have success browsing the library for leaner literature.

Quick reads or fast reads are generally 200 pages or less, and it’s gratifying to knock out a couple in an afternoon. I can still read a meaningful book–whether it’s being “well read” with a short classic, or tackling more contemporary novels, generally considered to be titles published 1970 and after.

Try your hand at a fast read. I’ve collected a pile of quick read suggestions to assist in your slide to the shorter side, available from the Everett Public Library! Ask a librarian for even more suggestions.

God-level Knowledge Darts : Life Lessons from the Bronx By Desus Nice & The Kid Mero. Nonfiction. Full of irreverent, witty humor writing, this book is a bright light. 

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. Fiction. Uncommonly funny, this little fable offers pleasures no book lover should forego. Starring Queen Elizabeth II!

A Month in the Country by  J. L. Carr. Fiction. A divorced, WWI veteran’s own reconstructing of his faith in life coincides with his restoration of a mural.

We Love Anderson Cooper by R. L. Maizes. Fiction. The characters in this humorous and deeply human short story collection remind us that even in our most isolated moments, we are never truly alone.

The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada, Translated by David Boyd. Fiction. Asa moves with her new husband to a rural area close to where his family lived. On an errand for her mother-in-law one day, she came upon a hole perfect for her. This is the first of many bizarre happenings, and she begins to wonder if she is losing her mind. 

The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada. Fiction. The story follows three workers at a sprawling industrial factory. With hints of Kafka and unexpected moments of creeping humor, it casts a vivid–and sometimes surreal–portrait of the absurdity and meaninglessness of the modern workplace.

The Vegetarian: a Novel by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith. It is “An unusual and mesmerizing novel, gracefully written and deeply disturbing… In her first novel to be published in English, South Korean writer Han divides a story about strange obsessions and metamorphosis into three parts, each with a distinct voice.” –Kirkus Reviews

Ethan Fromme by Edith Wharton. Fiction. Published in 1911, “Ethan Frome” is a perfect example of the way in which Wharton’s painstakingly detailed portrait of a community and its landscape proves that the environment decides an individual’s behavior, personality, and ultimate fate. 

The All of It by Jeanette Haien. Fiction. A priest stands fishing in a salmon stream, pondering the dark secret that “the death of a parishioner has revealed, and the astonishing tale the woman who survives the deceased has told him.” –“Publishers Weekly.” “The only book I know in which innocence follows experience. A truly amazing thing.”  – – Poet Mark Strand 

Train Dreams By Denis Johnson. Fiction. “The story of a turn-of-the-century logger and railroad laborer who loses his family to a wildfire and retreats deep into the woods of the Idaho panhandle as the country modernizes around him. Johnson’s spare, strange, elegiac prose conjures a world that feels both ancient and ephemeral, full of beauty and menace and deep sorrow. . . . A haunted and haunting reverie.” — LitHub 

Passing by Nella Larsen. Fiction. An upper middle-class woman reconnects with a lighter-skinned friend who has left the black community to pass as white.

The Small Hand: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill. Fiction. A bookseller is plagued by nightmares after stumbling across a derelict Edwardian house in this suspenseful quick read. 

The Book Shop by Penelope Fitzgerald. Fiction. On the heels of “The Blue Flower” (1997), here’s a slighter, equally charming, half as deep little novel—about snobbery and meanness in the provinces—that the immensely gifted Fitzgerald published in England in 1978. –Kirkus Reviews  

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten. Translated by Marlaine Delargy. Mystery. Five connected stories about a murderous old Swedish lady. Pure fun and irreverent as all get out.

We have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Jackson’s beloved gothic tale of a peculiar girl named Merricat and her family’s dark secret.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Comedy science fiction. In this, the first book in the series, we meet bemused human protagonist, Arthur Dent, who wanders the Universe after the destruction of Earth with alien travel writer Ford Prefect. The broadcast from which the book comes is so gleefully silly, I was immediately smitten. 

The Chemical History of a Candle by Michael Faraday. Nonfiction. This engaging special collection contains six demonstration lectures Faraday gave to young people at the Royal Institute in London in 1860. This mastermind could write simply and clearly and is best known for his contributions to our understanding of electricity.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Fiction. It has no spies, no world crises, no acts of Congress—only love, betrayal, and heartbreak, set against a Washington backdrop. Ephron’s first and only novel chronicles her marriage to real life Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein, who, along with Bob Woodward, won a Pulitzer Prize for their series of articles exposing President Nixon and the GOP staffers who broke into the Watergate. Ephron wrote many essays and screenplays, including the rom com hit, “When Harry Met Sally.”

Night by Elie Wiesel. Nonfiction. Hungary, 1944: a Jewish boy manages to survive the worst that man can do to man, only to wonder what in this life could be worth the cost of survival. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Fiction. Okonkwo’s greatest fear is not the forest, not savage beasts, not black magic, not even the white men who are taking over Nigeria. More than these, he fears himself. 

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro. Fiction. Set in postwar Japan after the country’s defeat in World War II, the debut novel of Ishiguro explores the country’s move towards Western ideals, and follows a family in the thick of it through various characters–conservative and liberal alike. The focus is largely on the oppression of women in traditional Japanese society.

The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam. Fiction. Orphaned by the Sri Lankan civil war, a young man hopes an arranged marriage might make his last days in a refugee camp more meaningful.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. Nonfiction. An exchange of letters, all through the ’40’s and ’50’s, between Miss Hanff and Marks & Co., Booksellers, 84 Charing Cross Road (London, of course). “No volume conveys the enduring and serendipitous charm of books as happily as this one.” — James Mustich, former editor of “A Common Reader”

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Mark your calendar! Tune in May 25th. Everett Public Library librarians will chat about books that made them drool with anticipation of their arrival as well as books that have been a source of pleasure–or pain. Book Bites is back this Month, May 25th from 12 to 12:30. Bring your lunch and let us know what you’re reading or looking forward to in the chat the day of the discussion. Register beforehand, and then join us on Crowdcast. It’s easy! See you at lunchtime!