About Carol

Carol likes to read for fun. Her reading material tends to be fluffy, funny, and/or frivolous. If she were stranded on an island with only one author's books she would take Dave Barry. She obsessively records what she reads and what she wants to read on GoodReads.

Catastrophic Happiness

catastrophic happiness catherine newmanWant to hear something weird? I love reading parenting books, but I’m not a parent. How-tos, essays, memoirs, cartoons, pretty much everything except those photographic encyclopedias that help you diagnose your baby’s latest rash. No. Thanks!

Seriously though, it doesn’t take a parent to appreciate these books and I think reading some of the how-to books makes me a better aunt. The memoirs, however, are what I pick up when I want to see the world through my own mother’s eyes and imagine how different my life would be with littles. I usually go for funny, but I can also handle cute and heartwarming. And I found all of that and more in Catastrophic Happiness by Catherine Newman.

If you read Real Simple magazine you probably recognize the author’s name. Newman is the etiquette columnist and always handles readers’ questions with grace and verve. Yup, sometimes the answer is that you have to stand your ground and be firm with your mother-in-law/child/spouse/co-worker/florist. The same holds true for parenting, which makes me still hold out hope that the editorial staff will eventually let Catherine write a parenting advice column.

Catastrophic Happiness isn’t like most parenting memoirs I’ve read–and trust me, I’ve read a bunch. Most focus on what it’s like to start parenting life with your newborn. Babies and toddlers can provide endless entertainment and joy, so the plethora of anecdotes usually proves meaty enough for a book. Or several.

This is exactly why Catastrophic Happiness is so incredibly awesome. We get to share in the trials and tribulations of the not-so-cute phase of raising kids. The book starts out with Catherine’s son Ben and daughter Birdie already starting school and it follows them up into the start of their teenage years. These are the years that can get messy, or distant, or strained, or just plain…blah? I’m not really sure, but for some reason they aren’t usually the focus of a book. But this is definitely a mistake, as Catherine proves chapter after chapter.

I laughed. I cried. I read so many passages out loud to my husband that I should have contacted the publisher to see if they would let me record the audiobook. Catherine Newman has a particular way with words that will have you writing down quote after quote. She turns a phrase like no other. I wanted to include a passage to illustrate what I mean, but publishers get a little bit Genghis Khan about comparing quotes from an advance reader copy to the finished product, and our finished copy hasn’t yet arrived. You’ll just have to wait and see for yourself!

Catastrophic Happiness hits bookshelves on April 5th, so there’s plenty of time to get a copy for your mom/sister/wife/cousin/friend for Mother’s Day. Regardless of whether or not you’re a parent you should read this one, to yourself or out loud to someone you love.

A Study in Charlotte

a study in charlotte brittany cavallaro cropped

I am notoriously bad at straight-up book reviews, but I’m going to try my darndest with this one, dear Reader, because it’s so far the best book I’ve read all year.

No joke.

First of all, you need to know a little secret about the publishing world. Publishers sometimes provide advance copies (read: still need some editing and might differ slightly from the final published version) to reviewers in exchange for generating some buzz about that title. Their hopes are that if you like the book, you’ll write about it or tell your friends, and that will increase sales. And while it’s true that we’re just barely beating the publication date on this one–it’s out in libraries and bookstores everywhere tomorrow–I knew you would appreciate hearing about it before your friends.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro is another spin on Sherlock Holmes, but one that is both a unique and fresh turn from all the others in recent memory. This YA book takes place in a world where Holmes had a child, who then went on to start a line of Holmeses that eventually gives birth to our Charlotte. Watson’s great-great-grandson, James (please don’t call him Jamie) follows in his ancestor’s footsteps as the narrator of this story. He’s an aspiring writer who happens to be good enough at rugby to get a scholarship to the Connecticut boarding school where Charlotte Holmes attends.

James has been kept apart from Charlotte his whole life, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming somewhat obsessed with the idea of her. After all, their predecessors were world-famous detectives who were also best friends and flatmates, made household names thanks to a novelist by the name of Arthur Conan Doyle. But their families don’t always see eye-to-eye, so James has been left to his imagination when it comes to Charlotte. All that changes when he starts the new term at Sherringford and immediately comes face-to-face with the girl of legend…who doesn’t really seem to want anything to do with him. In fact, she is livid when he punches a classmate in the guise of defending her honor. She can defend herself, thank you very much. And it turns out punching the guy wasn’t such a smart move, anyway, when he’s found dead the next day and all eyes are on James.

The police are called, and James’s estranged father tries to get himself involved in both the case and James’s life. Neither effort is appreciated. But it’s just the impetus our heroine Charlotte needs to join forces with James and discover who the real killer is.

Charlotte mirrors some of her great-great-grandfather’s mannerisms and habits. She has her own chemistry lab in a storage closet, a condition of her attendance at Sherringford. She is seriously antisocial, only mingling with peers during the weekly underground high-stakes poker games she runs out of her dorm’s basement. She doesn’t appear to process regular emotions the same way most of us do, forcing bystanders to sometimes suspect her of being aloof, snobby, or uncaring.

And just like her predecessor, Charlotte occasionally turns to drugs for the heightened senses that can help her focus, though she’s since traded in the heroin for prescription pain pills. The darker side of our heroine was well-written, portraying an addict who hasn’t quite kicked the habit but does rub her healed track marks reflexively whenever she’s faced with something particularly challenging. There was a lot of effort put into her backstory, showing us how she dealt with working with Scotland Yard from a very young age and how that’s shaped her development.

I won’t give it all away. You’ll have to pick up a copy and read for yourself what I am calling a totally rad retelling of the world’s most favorite detective. It’s a story of secrets, betrayal, and friendship you won’t soon forget.

We’re hoping to start reviewing more books in advance of their publication dates, so stay tuned for more book buzz from your favorite bloggers here on A Reading Life.

My Love-Hate Relationship with Valentine’s Day

my love-hate relationship with valentines day

When I was a little girl, Valentine’s Day was a special time. The green and grey corridors of my school would be awash in reds, pinks, and whites. It was an intense pop of color among all the grey plaid jumpers the girls wore and blue shirts and pants the boys wore. The teacher would lead us in crafting a box where classmates would dutifully deliver Valentines designed with She-Ra, He-Man, Rainbow Brite, or G.I. Joe. It was fun to pick out what I’d give my classmates, and even more fun to read through them all at the end of the day and see if I could read anything into the one I got from my secret crush.

Oh, to be 8 again!

As I grew older, the appeal of the day lost its luster. Don’t get me wrong: I still enjoyed putting out Red Hots candies and Sweetarts, but it seemed that there was a ton of pressure on adults to get it right, and it all boiled down to the bottom line. How much money did you spend on your honey? Did you upend both of your lives for the entire day to make ‘A Grand Gesture?’ No? Well, then you’re obviously not in love like you thought.

Ahem. BS!

All of these feelings were reaffirmed when I met the man whom I now call my husband. “Valentine’s Day is just a commercial holiday manufactured to sell greeting cards, flowers, and chocolates,” he said as he handed me all three of those things on our first Valentine’s Day together. In a bold move that later solidified our mutual affection and everlasting bond, I asked why he bought me stuff if he thought it was all bull. He did it all because it was expected. Once we compared notes and realized we both would rather celebrate milestone dates in our relationship (first date, wedding anniversary, etc.) we ditched the Valentines and never looked back.

Whether you’re like my husband and me and eschew this holiday, or if you count down the days until you can surprise your honey with the biggest box of chocolates imaginable, I have some books that will appeal to your Valentines sensibilities.

be mine sally j shimBe Mine
by Sally J. Shim
Guys, you really need to stop buying us ladies those giant red heart boxes of assorted chocolates. They’re never as good as we think they’ll be, and there’s always at least one variety that makes us gag. Why not make something instead? From adorable greeting cards to eye-catching garlands, this book will become your go-to resource for everything Valentine’s Day. Your sweetie will be impressed and amazed when you present him/her with an in-your-face pop-up card or a personalized message in a (tiny) bottle, complete with confetti hearts and an honest-to-goodness cork sealing the deal. The supplies are easy to acquire (you crafty people may already have a lot of them already) and the instructions are clear and easy to read. Just a little bit of time with some scissors and glue will impress your Valentine more than some random card you grabbed at the market on the way home from work. The thoughtfulness and effort you put into any of these projects will show your love in a way a store-bought something can’t.

one pan two plates carla snyderOne Pan, Two Plates by Carla Snyder
Sure, for Valentine’s Day you could make a reservation at a favorite restaurant, and wait before and throughout the meal for your food to arrive because you are eating out on one of the busiest nights in the restaurant industry. It’ll probably cost a pretty penny (more, if you’re going the valet route with the car) and depending on where you go, the atmosphere might not be quite as intimate as you’d hoped. Instead, why not cook at home? You can cook together, which is an activity that can actually be fun and bring you closer together. Or you can surprise your lovey with a home-cooked meal that will be just the perfect amount for the two of you. Most, if not all, of the recipes in One Pan, Two Plates are so quick and easy to make you’ll probably want to keep making these recipes all year long. All recipes include a beverage pairing and ways to make the meal more filling. Sauteed pork chops with sweet potato, apple, and mustard sauce is tart and flavorful and takes 40 minutes. Balsamic turkey with artichokes and eggplant caponata marries some really complex flavors and is ready in just 30 minutes. You get the idea. So tie on that apron and get cooking!

tinder nightmares unspirationalTinder Nightmares
In the grand tradition of Richard Benson’s F in Exams and F This Test comes Tinder Nightmares. Benson compiled some of the most outrageous and ridiculous answers college students used on tests and exams. Now the infamous Unspirational shows us the absolutely absurd side to the dating app Tinder. I mean, assuming there’s a side to Tinder that isn’t absurd. Granted, I’ve never had the need to swipe right since I was married years before Tinder was invented. But it doesn’t take a seasoned Tinder user to appreciate the cluster of stupid in this book. It’s full of bad pickup lines like “Hey, did you fall from the sky? Cuz you look like a dead bird.” You’ll also find bizarre date ideas like “I would take you on a date to Popeye’s for some light appetizers. Then, I would bring you back to my place for some TV dinners, grape soda, and two hours straight of Full House!” I like to think these are trolling texts, but I’ve met enough people to know that sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

This year I decided we shouldn’t let Valentine’s Day slip by unnoticed. That’s why my husband and I have plans to see the Deadpool movie on February 14th. We’re going to pig out on movie theater popcorn and puns courtesy of Mr. Sir Deadpool, Esq. Then we’re going to go back to our place for a jointly-prepared, mutually agreed upon home cooked meal, and we’ll follow it up with binge-watching old episodes of The League. Because that’s what romance means to me.❤

Resolutions, Library-Style

Resolutions at Your LibraryEveryone makes them, even if we don’t always admit to it. Resolutions are as ingrained in most people’s New Year’s activities as lasagna and movies at home champagne and midnight kisses. If you made some resolutions you’re not sure you can stick with, you should really take another look at your local library. Here’s a handy guide to some of the big ones:

I want to lose weight. Browsing the stacks in the 613.25 (diet), 613.7 (exercise), and 641.5635 (cooking for weight loss) areas will give you a plethora of support and ideas to help you shed the pounds. Unfortunately, just reading the books isn’t enough (wah wah). You actually have to follow through. Luckily we also have workout DVDs to keep you moving through our gloomy winter days. You can also learn about the obesity epidemic in Snohomish County at the Evergreen Branch Library on January 13th and at the downtown library on January 19th.

I want to read more/differently/with others. If you feel like you’re stuck in a reading rut, I think the best thing to do is to talk to other people about what they read, and joining a book club is a great way to branch out right away. You get to meet new people who also love books, and you get an added bonus of having a shared reading experience. Who could ask for more? Thankfully here at EPL more is what you’ll get. Our Main Library discussion group meets monthly. Their January pick, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, will be discussed January 25th. On the other end of town, the Southside Book Club meets every other month at the Evergreen Branch. Their next selection, Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, will be discussed February 9th. And if you want to delve into Northwest history you should check out the NW Room’s quarterly book group. They’ll be meeting March 28th at the Main Library and discussing Skull Wars by David Hurst Thomas. Can’t make a book club commitment but still want to discover great books? If this blog isn’t enough for you, check out Novelist. You can easily slip down this rabbit hole of book recommendations, read-alikes, and more.

I want to start a new hobby. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to knit or crochet, my girl Linda has got you covered! She hosts regular meetings of the Crochet & Knit Club at the Evergreen Branch Library a couple of times a month. Beginners just need to bring a ball or skein of plain 3 or 4-ply yarn (not the fuzzy stuff) and a J or H crochet hook size 8, 9, or 10 knitting needles. I have no idea what any of that means, but Linda is a pro and has the patience of a saint. You’ll find in her a fabulous instructor as you learn your knits from your perls.

I want to learn to appreciate a wide range of cinema. You’re in luck, my friend! We screen two different films each month, one downtown and one in South Everett. The downtown library has a monthly screening and the focus is usually an indie or foreign film, usually ones I have never heard of but once I see the promotional materials I get really excited to see them. January 24th we’ll screen the 2013 Italian film Salvo. And our Evergreen Branch is still rolling strong with the Evergreen Cinema Society film series the last Wednesday of the month. Each year has a new theme, and there’s always a lively discussion. They’ve shown comedies, Hitchcock films, and more. This year it’s a lot of love for indie films, starting January 27th with The Squid and the Whale.

I want to learn a new language. What do ESL/ELL, Mandarin Chinese, and Pirate have in common? You can learn all of these languages and more than 60 others with Mango. Access is free, navigation is intuitive, and there’s even a mobile app to take your language learning with you on the go. So really what I’m saying is there’s no excuse to start learning, like, right now.

I want to research my roots. You’ve probably heard of Ancestry.com, but did you know that through the library you can access it for free? This always makes me giddy, telling people that this fascinating, yet typically pricey, resource is ours for the taking. When you’re logged in you have access to over 4,000 databases and 1.5 billion names. One caveat: you can only access Ancestry.com while inside the library. But once you’re here you’re going to want to find a cozy seat so you can get lost in the journey of building your family tree. Did you find some new fourth cousins? Then click over to ReferenceUSA and search out those addresses!

I want to start using this new e-reader/tablet. Through services like 3M Cloud Library and OverDrive you have access to literally thousands of eBooks and eAudiobooks, including some of the biggest bestsellers. If the queue for the print book is overly long, chances are the digital holds list is much shorter, and possibly nonexistent. You also have access to free digital magazines, too, through Flipster. Whether you’re stuck in a waiting room or taking a vacation, you can load up reading material 24/7 with just a few clicks.

I want to learn new tech skills. Microsoft Imagine (formerly Microsoft IT Academy) is where it’s at. Once you create an account you’ll have access to all kinds of classes and resources to improve your computing prowess. Courses cover all sorts of skills and levels of tech-savviness on the user’s part. You can learn the ins and outs of the Windows 10 operating system and Microsoft Office 2010, 2013, or 2016. Or for the more advanced, there are courses for learning HTML5 app development and SQL Server database fundamentals. So really what I’m saying is there’s something for everyone, and who knows? Maybe you’ll impress your boss, get a raise, and be a corporate star. It’s the New Year, baby, and when it comes to dreams the sky’s the limit!

EPL staff aren’t immune to change, either. We’ve come up with our own resolutions specifically related to the library. If you click a photo below you’ll be taken to their original resolution posts on Facebook. I’m the scared-looking one sitting next to a couple of giant stacks of books. That I own. And have never actually read…yet.

sarahs library resolutionlisas library resolutionleslies library resolutionmichelles library resolutioncarols library resolutioneileens library resolution

There’s no denying the appeal of a fresh start in the new year. No matter your resolutions, there’s help among the stacks and servers at your local library. As for me, holy cow. I have a lot of reading to do!

Imagine a Blogger’s Holiday

books for bloggers‘Tis the season for giving, and as you may have seen here on A Reading Life, we love the idea of giving friends and family books, books, and more books for the holidays. Leslie wrote about book-gifting traditions in her family, and we bombarded you with our staff members’ favorite books, music, and movies of 2015.

I’m here today to offer a different perspective. I’d like you to close your eyes (well, after you read this part first!) and imagine a holiday made especially for bloggers, specifically those here on A Reading Life. Do you hear each blogger’s distinctive voice? The types of books or music they usually enjoy? Okay, somehow you need to know to open your eyes now, even if you’re not reading this because I told you to close your eyes and you’re obviously an excellent listener. Are you back? Great! I’ve been thinking a lot about my fellow bloggers and have decided to share with you and with them the books I would give them if I had a pile of cash at the ready. The good news is that all of these books are available at the library, and I happen to know they all frequent it.

Heartwood
Heartwood, you post about books that may have skipped our radar the first go-round and new translations of epic reads. You have a firm grasp of worldwide literary fiction, but I have something more localized in mind. I offer you Writing America: Literary Landmarks from Walden Pond to Wounded Knee by Shelley Fisher Fishkin. This book straddles the line between fiction and nonfiction–those good ole 800s. It takes the reader on a journey throughout the lower 48 and offers deep insight into the places that birthed America’s greatest words, from The Paul Laurence Dunbar House in Dayton, Ohio to Angel Island in San Francisco. There’s even a chapter featuring the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library, where the Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture resides. You will love this book about books featuring a library!

Jennifer
Girl, you read all the books I am too afraid to even pick up, let alone read! But I finally found something we can both agree on: Charles Bukowski on Cats edited by Abel Debritto. Sure, there’s a black cat on the cover, its back arched and ready to pounce. But what else could this book shelved in the poetry section have to offer? I’ll tell you: filthy, hilarious poems about cats and their undermining ways, and excerpts of prose that tell you just what is going on in those feline minds. At 3 am. In the alley below. Nonstop. There are also some very heavy words, but I know you’re good for it.

Leslie
If there’s one thing I learned early on in my career it’s this: never recommend a picture book to a children’s librarian. Either they’ve already read it and loved it, or they’ve already read it and hated it. This goes doubly true for you, the librarian who buys those picture books for the library! But I’m going out on a limb here to bring you How the Library (Not the Prince) Saved Rapunzel by Wendy Meddour and illustrated by Rebecca Ashdown. The message is solid: you don’t need a man to get things done for you. But it’s delivered in a way that is compelling for storytelling purposes. The text is conversational, and the illustrations are humorous and action-packed. If you can’t use it for preschool storytime, you could totally read it with your granddaughters at home!

Linda
You write these amazing Did You Know? posts for the blog, and I always learn something new! But you also run the successful and fun Crochet & Knit Club at the Evergreen Branch, so this book speaks to those creative fiber urges I know you have. Knitless: 50 No-Knit, Stash-Busting Yarn Projects by Laura McFadden has a plethora of ideas for you to use up those remnants I know every crafty lady has. There’s a huge range of project difficulty, as well as different uses–wearables, home goods, gifts, and more. No matter what color or type of yarn you have leftover from a project, there’s something in here that will speak to you!

Lisa
Although you’ve been focused on blogging about music this year, I know you have an adventurous palate and love to cook. I confess I couldn’t pick just one book for you, so you are getting two! My Life on a Plate: Recipes from Around the World by Kelis marries a little bit of musical memoir with recipes and an obvious talent for cooking. I had no idea that Kelis became a chef via Le Cordon Bleu, but paging through this cookbook made it obvious that girl is talented no matter what she does. And if you want to get a little more focused in your culinary adventures, Fermented by Charlotte Pike is just what you need. It covers kimchi, yogurt, labneh, miso soup, and more. You can also learn to make drinks like mead, kombucha, and lassi, though I know you will still prefer Priscilla’s lassi the best!

Margo
Not only have you founded and successfully run the overwhelmingly awesome Southside Book Club, but you also have a love of food and cooking. Therefore I give to you the gift of Simply Scratch: 120 Wholesome Homemade Recipes Made Easy by Laurie McNamara. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Laurie’s blog, but the Simply Scratch book follows in the footsteps of the Simply Scratch blog. Laurie doesn’t take premade shortcuts, preferring instead whole food options I know you’ll appreciate. I think you’ll find a lot to love about Simply Scratch, and maybe even find a recipe to bring to the next Southside Book Club meeting in February.

Richard
Science is your thing, and it’s definitely an area where you know more than I do! However, I know you really liked 2014’s What If?, so I now give to you Randall Munroe’s newest tome of amazingness, Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words. Munroe is a genius, this we know. He proves it yet again with this book, where he uses only the “ten hundred most common words” to explain very complicated processes. Everything from toilets to car engines, microwaves to space exploration. Of course Mr. xkcd illustrates throughout, so we get simple words and basic pictures to help us along. This book is also ginormously tall, so it can be used for other things besides reading: flattening posters, shooing the dog off the couch, or knocking something off a tall shelf.

Ron
Like Lisa, this year you dedicated a lot of blogging to music. I’m really happy you both do this, as I am no good at explaining what music sounds like and why it would appeal to anyone other than me! You’re also into some out-there fiction, a lot of it touching on Science Fiction. Therefore you get Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong. Down below I’m going to post a quote from the dust jacket and you’re going to see why I might think this would appeal to the guy who can dig into Science Fiction and loves seeing an absurd plot travel along at light speed.

From the disturbed imagination of New York Times bestselling author David Wong, and all-new darkly hilarious adventure. Nightmarish villains with superhuman enhancements. An all-seeing social network that tracks your every move. Mysterious, smooth-talking power players who lurk behind the scenes. A young woman from the trailer park. And her very smelly cat. Together, they will decide the future of mankind.

In case that doesn’t hook you, on the back cover there’s also a life-size photograph of a cyborg hand (I assume–it has metal joints sticking through the skin) flipping you the bird. And did I mention the sidekick slash familiar c-a-t? You need this book in your life!

Just in case Santa is reading this, here are some books I wouldn’t mind finding under the tree:

carol wants

Nerdy Nummies: Sweet Treats for the Geek in All of Us by Rosanna Pansino
I am a nerd! I am a geek! And I love to make and eat sugary treats! Rosanna is behind the incredibly popular web series Nerdy Nummies and all of her talents translate perfectly into this book. The book starts off with teaching you the basic building blocks for the recipes that follow. And OMG, the things I could make with this book! D20 cookies! Motherboard cake! Mana and health potions! Can we just call this the gift that keeps on giving? Because it totally will be.

Notorious RBG: the Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I am awed and inspired by this woman, and this book goes deep into her life while still being entertaining. The Tumblr of the same name is simply incredible, but if I had this book on my shelf I could get my RBG fix even when the power is out and I’m forced to read by candlelight.

Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy by Vesa Lehtimäki
I love LEGOs. I love Star Wars. And I love a great mash-up! Vesa originally created this book as a birthday gift to his son. Using the snowy scenes inspired both by his native Finland and the planet Hoth, Vesa composed photographs that became a sort of retelling of the space saga I love. Not only are the photos incredibly detailed and fun to look at, but I could get some serious macro photography inspiration, too.

So there you have it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a bucket of money to buy you bloggers these incredible books, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

Happy holidays!

Best of 2015 Redux Pt. 3: YA and Children’s

YA and kids

If you’ve been following the blog this week you know we’ve been topping off our 2015 staff picks list with all the gems that didn’t make it into the printed booklet we’ve had out at both libraries.Today we have reached the end of our journey, but these are by no means our least favorite. In fact, depending on your literary persuasion, today’s chunk of awesomeness might be what you’ve been looking forward to all week. To save you tons of clicking (and save ourselves all that hyperlinking) we’ve compiled today’s goodies into one giant list.

YA!

The Nightmare Charade by Mindee Arnett
Summary: Dusty is a magical being who feeds on human dreams. She’s the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and with an old foe back to seek revenge, she’ll need all her strength to defeat him and save her friends.
Why Carol liked it: This wrapped up the trilogy I’ve been loving for the past few years. While I’m sad to leave Dusty & Eli behind, I am completely satisfied with this ending.

One by Sarah Crossan
Summary: Grace and Tippi are sisters of a very rare kind: they are conjoined twins. For their first 16 years of life they have been home schooled and kept away from curious and cruel gawkers. Now they must attend school, make friends, and face a huge life change.
Why Elizabeth liked it: A fascinating topic (I felt guilty for being one of the gawkers at times!) which was handled with great care. I read One every chance I could – I had to know what happened! Crossan gives information at the book’s end about her research on conjoined twins.

Infandous by Elana Arnold
Summary: Artistic Sephora lives with her beautiful but distracted mother in a run-down neighborhood of Venice Beach filled with ugly apartments and lacking in opportunities. Something very dark is gnawing at Sephora and she uses her art to express her pain.
Why Elizabeth liked it: Sephora is not the usual teen novel character nor is this a typical story. I especially liked the scenes in which she is composing her art. The addition of troubling ‘fairy tales’ interspersed with the chapters, increase the mystery.

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brokenbrough
Summary: It is 1937 in Seattle. Henry loves forbidden Flora; Ethan is struggling with being in love with forbidden Love. Death wears the identity of a young cousin, and Love the local homeless shanty town mayor as they struggle over whether Flora will live or die.
Why Elizabeth liked it: Highly original and compelling, this book portrays love and death as characters that have fought over individuals’ fate for eternity. In the end you are left asking whether you are making the utmost of your precious life, an important question for all.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Summary: Spacy, dreamy Finn, a high school senior living in small town Bone Gap, is troubled by bullies, a difficult relationship with his brother, and the disappearance of a young woman. Meanwhile, Roza’s story of immigration and abduction is slowly revealed.
Why Elizabeth liked it: Original characters, a touch of magic realism, a love story, and a growing sense of foreboding about Roza all make for an exciting read. I also liked the spare but dynamic writing style and atmospheric imagery that worked perfectly with Finn’s story.

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
Summary: Fifteen year old Aza Ray Boyle has been gasping for air as long as she can remember due to a very rare disease which has impaired her lungs badly. Things get suddenly worse and Aza tragically succumbs in an ambulance … or does she?
Why Elizabeth liked it: This is a highly original and somewhat bizarre book filled with ships in the sky, bird-like shape shifters, singing that can win wars, and birds that inhabit human lungs. I could never guess what was coming next!

One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart
Summary: Nadia and family are staying in Florence, Italy so her father can write a book, when Nadia begins to experience problems communicating: It’s as though the words won’t come to her. She also begins to steal objects and enters into a creative frenzy.
Why Elizabeth liked it: Beautifully written, with wonderful imagery of Florence, this is a quick read that you won’t want to put down. Nadia’s spare, poetic voice works well to describe the terror of losing her mind. Luckily, a glimmer of hope illuminates the ambiguous ending.

No Such Person by Caroline B. Cooney
Summary: Sisters Lander and Miranda have lived privileged and active lives. Relaxing summers at their rustic beloved cottage on the lake have been a high point, but when Lander meets Jason, her carefully constructed world implodes.
Why Elizabeth liked it: I’ve enjoyed other books by Cooney and No Such Person may be my favorite yet. It is suspenseful, surprising, and fast paced. The striking difference between the sisters and the history between them, adds to the tension.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Summary: Madeline has been housebound for all of her 18 years due to a life-threatening allergy to everything. Olly moves in next door with his dysfunctional family and immediately catches her eye. Her carefully constructed contentment begins to crumble.
Why Elizabeth liked it: A fast read that is interspersed with David Yoon’s charming illustrations which you will not want to put down. Madeline is used to being obedient and following her doctor mother’s rules, but when Olly is added to the mix she finds her wings.

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Summary: Sixth grader Jack has grown up on a farm with two loving parents when Joseph enters his life as a foster brother. Joseph is 14, has been in trouble, and has a 3 month old daughter who he has never seen. He is also deeply scarred by past events.
Why Elizabeth liked it: I have been a fan of Gary D. Schmidt since I heard him speak very eloquently about writing, the state of the world for kids today, and how to reach out to them. This is a short, quick read but packs a powerful punch. You won’t forget it.

CHILDREN’S!

The Boy & the Book: a Wordless Story by David Michael Slater
Summary: In this cautionary tale a young boy carelessly mishandles a library book, while the other increasingly distressed books try to rescue their friend.
Why Alan liked it: A natural for library staff, this will also teach children (of any age) how to properly handle a book. And, truly, what’s cuter than a stressed-out book with glasses?

What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss
Summary: A boy wants all of the pets in a pet store but he and his sister can choose only one. End notes discuss Dr. Seuss’s pets, his creative process, and the discovery of the manuscript and illustrations for What Pet Should I Get?
Why Alan liked it: It’s Dr. Seuss. Unfinished Seuss is still Seuss. And while it’s not one of his masterpieces, it’s still very pleasing. And a literary event we can proudly promote.

The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt
Summary: One day, Duncan is happily coloring with his crayons when a stack of postcards arrives in the mail from his former crayons, each of which has run away or been left behind, and all of which want to come home.
Why Alan liked it: The sequel to the wildly popular The Day the Crayons Quit, which involved anthropomorphized crayons writing letters of complaint is almost too cute; we now see those rascals issuing a series of (often hilariously ironic) postcards detailing their travels.

I Will Take a Nap! by Mo Willems
Summary: Gerald is tired and cranky and wants to take a nap, but Piggie is not helping.
Why Alan liked it: Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books are not only as enjoyable to parents as they are to kids, but teach great lessons in a toddler’s voice.

Marvels by Brian Selznick
Summary: In Selznick’s most recent masterpiece, we follow the tale of a shipwrecked boy who spawned a theatrical legacy. 100 years later, his distant offspring tries to piece together the story.
Why Alan liked it: Much like Selznick’s prior works The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, Marvels’ gorgeous black and white illustration mirrors the detail, insight, and precise prose of the factually-based story.

So there you have it. Another fab year in books and music, all wrapped up for you with one giant metaphorical bow. I don’t know about you, but my TBR is now taller than I am–and I couldn’t be happier.

Happy holidays from all of us at the Everett Public Library!

Best of 2015 Redux Pt. 2: Music and Graphic Novels

Music and graphic novels

Library staff have a unique, and I would say coveted, opportunity: we get to see stuff that might not be on your radar, just because it comes across our desks in the course of our workdays. Because of this, our 2015 staff favorites list was just too long to publish in one piece. So this week we’re bringing you even more goodies that we adored. To help cut down on your clicking (and our painstaking hyperlinking) we’ve provided one giant set for you to click through the music and graphic novels described below. Are you ready? Here comes the awesome!

MUSIC!

Ego Death by The Internet
Summary: Singer-songwriter Syd tha Kyd packs this album full of fun and sometimes blush-worthy lyrics taking you through the turmoil of love and sex, like the inner monologue of a turbulent relationship.
Why Lisa liked it: This release has plenty of jazzy, funky soul to go around.

House Masters: Frankie Knuckles by Frankie Knuckles
Summary: For anyone interested in the roots of today’s EDM, this retrospective of the late, great Frankie Knuckles is an absolute must.
Why Lisa liked it: This collection takes you on a trip back to the Warehouse days of Chicago, when house music was brand new, and had yet to become a global music phenomena that spawned countless genres of dance music.

In Another Life by Bilal
Summary: A solid soul album with a little bit of funk to make things more interesting.
Why Lisa liked it: Though Bilal is an established artist in his own right, you can appreciate the influence that iconic artists like Prince and Stevie Wonder have had on his music. This isn’t to say that Bilal is imitating anyone – his style is refreshingly original.

Angélique Kidjo Sings by Angélique Kidjo
Summary: This album is a delightful fusion of Kidjo’s bold and distinctive vocals with a full orchestral backing.
Why Lisa liked it: Listeners journey through a rich musical landscape that can be dramatic, dreamy, or festive depending on the track.

To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
Summary: Jazz, hip-hop, funk, spoken word, slam poetry – an entire spectrum of art forms are covered.
Why Lisa liked it: At times thought-provoking and at others just entertaining; To Pimp a Butterfly is packed full of powerful tracks and is sure to become a classic.

War on Women by War on Women
Summary: Loud, gritty, hardcore punk with a healthy dose of righteous feminist fury.
Why Lisa liked it: I love this album when I need a little extra energy for my run.

El Que Sabe, Sabe by Tego Calderón
Summary: El Que Sabe lives in our Latin Pop section, but listeners will find a mix of reggaeton, hip-hop, reggae, electronica, bomba, and more.
Why Lisa liked it: While the overall tone is dark but dancy, there are a couple lighter, more laid-back cuts. La Media was a standout track for me; it reminded me of mid-90s hip-hop, to be enjoyed in the sun.

Down on Deptford Broadway by Skinny Lister
Summary: Skinny Lister’s music features ethereal Celtic folk melodies melding gracefully with rollicking rock and roll. As a reference point think of Dexy’s Midnight Runners at their best, and then think a bit better.
Why Ron liked it: Fun, fun, fun and great musicianship.

Hollywood Vampires by Hollywood Vampires
Summary: Hard rocking covers played by Alice Cooper and a plethora of musical all-stars.
Why Ron liked it: This album surprised me. Covers can be boring or weird, but Hollywood Vampires found ways to make the songs their own.

Danger in the Club by Palma Violets
Summary: 60s garage rock re-imagined in the 21st century. Sloppy, familiar, well-done.
Why Ron liked it: My decade of origin is evoked in footstomping, gear-changing, up-tempo rock and roll. Yeah baby!

GRAPHIC NOVELS!

Doodle Diary of a New Mom: an Illustrated Journey Through One Mommy’s First Year by Lucy Scott
Summary: The title summarizes it well. All the ups and downs of a full year in that adventure we call parenting.
Why Alan liked it: Works even if you’ve never been a mom; very, very funny. Kind of disgusting. Filled with love. A fast read, deceptively overloaded with insight and charm.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: the (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua
Summary: Presents a rollicking alternate reality in which Lovelace and Babbage do build the Difference Engine and then use it to build runaway economic models, battle the scourge of spelling errors, explore the wilder realms of mathematics, and, fight crime.
Why Carol liked it: Alternate histories and science are married in this engrossing graphic novel. Includes footnotes and diagrams for the history buff in all of us.

Snowden by Ted Rall
Summary: Rall delves into Snowden’s early life and work experience, his personality, and the larger issues of privacy, new surveillance technologies, and the recent history of government intrusion.
Why Carol liked it: If you ever wanted to learn more about Edward Snowden but didn’t think you had the time to read a lengthy biography, here’s your chance to get the skinny in a short time frame.

Stay tuned as we wrap up our absolute final best-of list in the next post!