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.

Picking Up Your Dropped Haikus

JUNE-JULY 2014

April is National Poetry Month and this year to celebrate we asked you to create a haiku. We shared some on our social media, and had a virtual poetry slam on April 30th. Now comes the best part: seeing all your hard work in one place.

Before I present the list, I wanted to thank you all who sent us a haiku. Some of you sent more than one–how awesome is that?! Not everyone included a title, but if you did I bolded it.

I do need to disclose that a couple aren’t posted here because they did not meet the 5-7-5 syllable arrangement of a proper haiku. So if you don’t see yours here, I do apologize. Perhaps you’d consider sending us a revised haiku? I will post adjusted haikus at a later date, so please do send them in!

I made a few haikus into graphics because it’s easier to share them on social media that way. It doesn’t mean that those haikus were better than the others. It just means I had a readily available image template that fit that particular haiku theme. And when it comes to social media, the easiest path is the one most traveled.

One final note about the haikus: with the exception of the haikus I turned into graphics, which I am spreading evenly throughout this post, I am posting the rest in the order that they were received. If I had to rank them by how much I love them they would all be on one line together because they are all equally awesome.

Okay. On with the show!

There is Nothing Like a Book:
Hanging by a hook
There is nothing like a book
Nothing in the world
–Gerry Provencher

Air smells sweet

Your File:
Your file was so big
It might be very useful
But now it is gone
–Chris

Windows Crashed:
Windows Seven crashed
I am the blue screen of death
No one hears your screams
–Chris

Untitled:
Discover new worlds
In the pages of a book
Adventure awaits
–Rachel Wallis

Books:
From my books flow words.
In paragraphs and chapters
I immerse myself
–Liz Hawkins

Spring Fever:
Spring makes my blood rush
With the need to read and read
And then maybe nap.
–Kathleen Komos

Apartment Life:
Cockroaches frolic
In cubpoards filled with goodies
They touch all my stuff
–Ron Averill

100 Years After the Everett Massacre:
How I’m trespassing?
All I’m doing is sleeping?
Unlawful camping.
–Ti Burtzloff

Haiku Day is April 17

A Good Book:
The words draw me in
Time and space are forgotten
Even chores must wait
–June Carriere

May I help you?
Sitting at the desk
Ready to help you. But still
You walk by. Self serve?
–Alan

Untitled:
I want to do this
Keep calm and drop everything
And read a good book
–Leslie M.

Haiku posted to Twitter

Untitled:
The sun shines brightly
Yet I am inside today
Reading a good book
–L. M.

Untitled:
Do you like to read?
I love reading and writing.
You should ALWAYS read.
–Summer Bailey

Untitled:
Butterflies are great.
Watching them flutter around.
Butterflies are cool.
–Nicole DeSoto

View From My Window:
A Spring green sea of
Trees, accented by splashes
Of milky white blooms.
–Orion Lyonesse

skeins of cirrus clouds

ABCs:
One slim vapor trail,
Like God’s own finger, letters
Across azure skies.
–Orion Lyonesse

Above It All:
Pigeons, crows, and gulls
Wheel and bank upon the breeze,
Reaching for the clouds.
–Orion Lyonesse

Grind:
Daily grind, coffee
Only partially offsets
Daily grind, endless
–Ronnie Maier

Unrequited:
Plaintive meowing,
Desperate for attention.
My cat ignores me.
–Ronnie Maier

Untitled:
The Morrigan comes
To show more of herself through
Reading and learning
–N. Harrison

Untitled:
I like to eat pie
Pie is really delicious
Do you like pie too?
–Ava Baker Olsen

Untitled:
The news is in haikus
My personal gift to you
Thank you for the views
–Kaisen

Summer sun

Untitled:
Imagine a world
Write it down for us to read
Forever a book
–Thomas Rubatino

Haiku:
Haiku Day is fun
If you can count to seven
Haiku fabulous!
–Gloria H.

Piggy:
My love, my anguish
Miss Piggy with attitude
Green envy and pride
–Kermit Frog (Gloria H.)

Spike:
Spikel-un-feickel
Un-ween-dog-eickel, my heart
Original weens
–Gloria H.

Yoga:
Downward dog, bend stretch
Namaste, Shavasana
Pigeon pose, creek, crick
–Gloria H.

Buddy:
Farrah hair, nose job
Best rescue I got for free,
Black and tan Dachshund.
–Gloria H.

Untitled:
Among all the books
I close my eyes and whisper
A new adventure
–Susan Hile

sending all my love

I Didn’t Sign Up For This:
Enveloped in pain,
I lay limp and contorted…
Yoga, boot camp style
–Maryanne Giolitti

Tick Tock:
Writer tapping nose
No song, poetry or prose
Tick tock, writer’s block
–Maryanne Giolitti

Virtual Walk on Hoyt:
Cool, gray asphalt roads
Traffic noises would be mild
Online, indoors–dry!
–Frank T. Morgan

Untitled:
By hook or by crook
Go to the stacks and just look
To find a great book
–Chuck B.

Untitled:
Just starting this job
Tomorrow is a big day
Hope I make it through
–Regina

Untitled:
Oh my mighty moon
Let me bask in your glory
For you are divine
–Lavanya

Passage:
Green shading deeper
Blue, faint now vivid, from gray
Winter wanes, spring gains
–Ed

Untitled:
That paperback smell-
Adolescent memories
Disguised as a book
–Karin Larsen

Untitled:
All symmetrical
Legos at the library
So satisfying
–Lindsay Steele

Untitled:
Help, I can’t find it
Let me look that up for you
It won’t take me long
–Maryanne Giolitti

Untitled:
Open the blank page
Imagination fills page
Magical story
–Lauren H.

Untitled:
Writers and readers
Use books and libraries to
Keep each other sane
–Staci B.

Untitled:
Reading classic books
New releases are out now
There’s something for all
–Lydia

Untitled:
April celebrates
National Poetry Month
This is a haiku
–Leslie M.

To Read:
To read is to be
Inside the pages, I see,
Hear, touch, taste and smell.
–Liz Hawkins

Untitled:
I love a good book!
When the words come together,
Then it all makes sense
–Eden

Are they truly real-Glorious colors livingin Skagit tulips (1)

Untitled:
Wandering through shelves
Many book choices for me
Like a candy store
–Kyle Vold

Untitled:
You don’t want to know
Pottawatamie Hippo
He’s a wanna be!
–Margaret Remick

Smart Heart Start:
Reading makes you smart
Also less alone of heart
That’s just for a start…
–A. Ward

Reading:
Reading, so active
My imagination needs
A gym membership
–Tessa Borrego

Surrounded:
Surrounded by shelves
Words fill the pages of books
Lost in the story
–Lydia

My Grandmother, Elle:
Smart, classy, lady
Exceptional character
Values good coffee.
–Alicia MacDougall

The Slow (and Indeterminable) Demise of Seattle Windshield Wipers: A Tale of Friday Rush Hour:
Rubber drags on drop
-spritzed glass like teeth scraping tin.
When will your death come?
–Chelsey Slattum

For My Librarians:
Haiku just for you
Who shelve the books I adore
How can I thank you
–Larry Maass

Pacific NorthWet:
Does it ever stop
I said when I first came here
Referencing the RAIN
–Larry Maass

Banned:
The dog stands outside
Denied access to knowledge
Just for eating books
–Larry Maass

Untitled:
What do you see when
Your eyes are closed by your mind
Is open to all
–Larry Maass

Under F for Flight:
Dropsy popsy do
Read a little birdy book
Celebration flight
–Yvonne Davis

Untitled:
Do you like to read
Reading is so important
You should ALWAYS read
–Summer Bailey

Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone

warlock holmes a study in brimstone by denning

Oh em gee, this cover is gorgeous! Here’s another straight-up book review all thanks to the power of advance reader copies from our publishers. Thanks, publishers!

Let me just start this review by saying that Warlock Holmes: a Study in Brimstone by G.S. Denning is one of those books that Sherlockians will either love or hate. Spoiler alert: I completely loved it!

Our story begins in a way that will seem familiar to most Sherlock fans: Watson is back in London after being injured during the war in Afghanistan and is desperate to find a place to live. Through a chance meeting with one of his old connections he learns about a man who needs a roommate. His name is Warlock Holmes and he is a consulting detective who sometimes works with Scotland Yard. Thus the literary world is gifted with another first meeting of Watson and Holmes.

Things start out pretty normal for Dr. John Watson. He feels lucky to have landed a roommate who only asks for a one-time payment of just one sovereign for the rent. Things get even better for Watson when Holmes chooses the smaller of the two bedrooms as his own. So now we have a war veteran staying with a successful, if eccentric, consulting detective. Their companionship slowly evolves into a friendship, but even so, Watson is initially clueless as to what he’s gotten himself into by handing over that sovereign.

From the beginning though, it’s clear to the reader that this Holmes is unlike any other Holmes we’ve met before. It’s not just the fact that his name is Warlock and we highly suspect (especially after reading the blurb on the book cover) that magic flows through this Holmes. It’s more like we’re realizing for the first time in literary history that Watson is the one well-versed in deductive reasoning and investigative expertise, especially when it comes to handling evidence correctly at a crime scene. Holmes, on the other hand, seems a bit…distracted. Easily distracted by things that Watson cannot or will not notice, things that seem to have very little if anything to do with the crime being investigated.

Soon enough Watson discovers Holmes’s not-so-well-kept secret: he’s got the magic touch. The spirit of Holmes’s nemesis, Moriarty, is trapped inside his head. And Holmes can command demons to do his bidding. This would normally be a shocking scandal worthy of the penny dreadfuls, but in this Victorian society there are certain creatures that, though not embraced by society, live among them. For example, here’s our cast of characters:

warlock holmes character blurb

Yup! Inspector Lestrade is a vampire, aided by an ogre. Most of Scotland Yard is uncomfortable around Lestrade and Grogsson, if not downright terrified of them. But their record for closing cases (with Holmes’s help, of course) keeps them on the payroll despite others’ misgivings.

I’m laying all this out there to illustrate a point. While this could easily be some weird standalone parody of one of the most famous friendships in literary history, it is instead a faithful retelling of Sherlock Holmes–just a little twisted. And sometimes smoking. Because, ya know, brimstone and stuff.

True to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original format, Warlock Holmes: a Study in Brimstone is composed of several short stories. The first is the longest by far, but it kind of needs to be since it’s setting up the world and the characters. Despite the length, that story flew by for me, as did the others. I actually pouted when I was finished, and was a little bummed out to leave that world behind. Luckily for me this is just the first book in what I hope is a very long series, with Warlock Holmes: the Battle of Baskerville Hall  heading our way in May 2017.

So take a chance on something new! Let me know if you want to read this or not, and definitely get back to me if you end up actually reading the whole thing. I am desperate for people to talk to about this book that will be published May 17th.

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!