The Best Under-seen Films of 2015

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

We’re knee-deep in awards season. The Oscar nominations have been announced. We will showcase 3 of those films at our Oscar Fest just one day before the big event. We love spectacle as much as the next library.

But we celebrate the underdog, the minor key, the off beat…those the big awards neglect. What follows are films that Oscar is not going to hip you to. In other words, great movies that have a bit of an independent feel — much like our Sunday Films we show at 2 p. m. at the Main Library every month. Or what we delve deep into the last Wednesday of every month at 1:30 p. m. in our Independent Spirits Film Series.

Drum roll, please: some of the best under-seen under-awarded films of 2015. All available from your library (suggested award category precedes title in bold):

Love & MercyBest Picture, Acting: Love & Mercy
In 1966, Brian Wilson broke away from the Beach Boys surfin’ image to create one of the true masterpieces of recorded music, the deeply-personal Pet Sounds. How this album came to be as well as Wilson’s struggles with mental illness are explored in perhaps the best film of the year. John Cusak’s work as the older recluse Wilson is every bit as compelling as Paul Dano’s portrayal of the sensitive genius in his youth. Paul Giamatti plays the hiss-worthy psychiatrist that tried to lock Wilson away while Elizabeth Banks plays his savior. All handled with sensitivity and class, you don’t see the Mansons, nor do you see Brian gutturally screaming as he hurls tape against the wall. One masterpiece deserves another. Love & Mercy is it. If you want to delve deeper, listen to my podcast on the subject.

me-earl-dying-girlBest Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Editing: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Adapted from the book of the same name, this punchy, stylish film retains the humor of the book while wisely excising the self-deprecating “this book sucks” self-referentiality. A high school senior has learned to survive under the radar and get along with everyone by becoming friends with no one, aside from his “colleague” Earl, with whom he makes hilarious remakes of classic films…all until his mother tasks him with befriending a dying girl. The authenticity of the teen voice is dead-on. The soundtrack is carefully chosen and deployed (mostly Brian Eno’s 70’s work). The cinematography is breathtaking and expressive. The editing is sharp and fun. A thriller in a much different way than 7 Minutes is, this is the kind of movie that crackles with such energy that it reminds you what you like about the movies. And why you love them.

D TrainBest Original Screenplay: D Train
James Marsden and Jack Black star in this bizarro buddy comedy whose sweetness handily sets off its few disturbing scenes. Black plays a lovable loser in a quiet, frustrated life whose existence seems to hang on collecting RSVP’s at his high school reunion. If he can bag Marsden, the former class king….who is a comparative big-shot (in his eyes anyway) due to a Banana Boat ad, the rest of the class will be there. The lengths Black goes to do this are sad, sweet, and disturbing. All leading to believable, relatable character development, very human comedy, and an extremely satisfying ending.

mississippi_grindBest Acting: Mississippi Grind
In a very different buddy movie, Ryan Reynolds plays a young, charismatic gambler to Ben Mendelsohn’s desperate, haggard gambling addict. Both performances are surprisingly deep in an old-fashioned film (think 70’s buddy pictures) filled with as many twists and turns as the trip down the Mississippi River they take to try and change their luck.

 

End of the TourAdapted screenplay, acting: The End of the Tour
Yet another buddy movie, but a real meeting of the minds. Jason Segal deserves recognition as disturbed genius author David Foster Wallace. Jesse Eisenberg is very solid as the aspiring novelist interviewing him for Rolling Stone. Similar to The Clouds of Sils Maria, we see Eisenberg and Segal merge and separate in fascinating (and very believable) ways. The film offers few clichés and many genuine, tender, and troubling moments. James Ponsoldt is a director with a soft, evocative touch. And he’s one to watch; Ponsoldt also directed Smashed, a compelling film about alcoholism. And one of the best films of 2013, in The Spectacular Now.

7 minutesEditing, Visual Effects: 7 Minutes
Shot right here in Everett, featuring many local residents (including some police as themselves) and local sights — including the neighborhood around both library locations, civic pride is not the only reason to see this movie. Loaded with likable character actors, a creative flashback structure, and dripping with style, 7 Minutes is a tense, thrilling, heist-gone-bad film that will keep you guessing until the very end. For more on 7 Minutes, listen to my recent podcast.

Mistress AmericaScreenplay, Actress:     Mistress America
In 2005, Noah Baumbach won dozens of awards for his breakout film The Squid and the WhaleChecking in with him ten years later, Baumbach has been quietly and consistently making some of the most affecting portrayals of modern, young thinking people. Last year’s While We’re Young pondered that aging process via two couples at different ends of the spectrum. This year’s entry is just as warm and witty an adventure into the thoughts of striving, thinking people. Since Baumbach connected with screenwriter, actress, and muse Greta Gerwig (above left), he’s been cranking out stories like this sweetly sensitive coming-of-age tale centering around a young woman (above right) and her desire to become somebody…perhaps even the person to her right.

Call Me LuckyDocumentary: Call Me Lucky
A very compellingly crafted documentary about angry political stand-up comic Barry Crimmins carries a whiplash twist. We begin with great contemporary comics from David Cross to Margaret Cho lionizing Crimmins for not only his quality of material, but for also helping them get a start in the business. This amusing portrait of a great funny man then develops to the not-so-funny. Exploring Crimmins’ anger at the Catholic church, we also come to learn his impact on outlawing online child pornography. A funny, fascinating, disturbing portrait of a film, Call Me Lucky should be recognized widely, but won’t. But that’s what this list is all about, isn’t it?

And the obligatory it-was-new-to-me / very close to 2015 / they had me fooled, in ascending silliness of award order: Production Design, Kids’ Movie Adults Could Enjoy: Paddington, Acting, Extreme Twisty-ness: The Guest, Screenplay, Utter Creepiness: Ex Machina, Acting, Perhaps Creepier: Prisoners, Local: Laggies, Best use of James Franco: True Story, Peerless Brilliance: Mr. Turner, Best use of Bill Murray: St. Vincent

Your turn: what are some of your recent favorites?

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!

Best of 2015 Redux Pt. 1: Fiction and Nonfiction for Adults

Fiction

Did you get a chance to read our 2015 staff favorites? Turns out there’s more! All this week we’re bringing you the books and music we loved–but had to be cut due to space limitations. To save us time linking (and save you time endlessly clicking) we’ve compiled all of these gems into one giant list for you to pick through. Today we’ll start with fiction and nonfiction for grownups like you & (sometimes) me.

FICTION!

Lucky Alan by Jonathan Lethem
Summary: Major literary fiction figure (Motherless Brooklyn, Fortress of Solitude) Jonathan Lethem returns with a collection of 9 short stories.
Why Alan liked it: Ranging from almost unreadably quirky to painfully awkward and bizarre, Lethem writes with precision and insight about each of these microcosms. Like Raymond Carver, Lethem has an eye for tragedy and an ear to the human in a dehumanizing world.

Green Hell by Ken Bruen
Summary: Another dark novel following Irish anti-hero Jack Taylor. In this one, he befriends a Rhodes scholar who changes his thesis from Beckett to Taylor and begins to help him try and take down a criminal passing as a respected professor.
Why Alan liked it: The dark side of human nature is there; I like to experience it vicariously through art. The winner of many awards, Bruen’s writing is sharp, funny, insightful, and the book is ironic to the tone and subject matter, a heck of a lot of fun to read.

Boo by Neil Smith
Summary: Thirteen year old Oliver Dalrymple, aka “Boo” due to his pasty white complexion and fragile health, dies in front of his school locker under mysterious circumstances, goes to heaven, investigates his own death, and learns the meaning of forgiveness.
Why Elizabeth liked it: Neil Smith’s Heaven is not at all the typical vision of pearly gates and puffy clouds! The residents of “Town” are all 13 and from the U.S., there’s a group called Gommers (Getting Over Murder), and the supplies are second hand. Very original and funny!

The Marauders by Tom Cooper
Summary: In alternating chapters we follow the eventually colliding stories of shrimpers dealing with oil spill tainted waters, an obsessive treasure hunter, community service workers gone awry, and violent brothers growing marijuana in the Louisiana bayou.
Why Elizabeth liked it: I loved this book despite the lack of female protagonists. Funny, sad, suspenseful, and masterful, I really did not want it to end. Each flawed character was an original and had me alternating between cheering them on and wishing for their demise!

Aquarium by David Vann
Summary: Caitlyn visits the Seattle Aquarium every day after school while her mother works long hours. There she meets a friendly older man who seems unusually interested in her life and thoughts. His attention propels Caitlyn’s life into an unexpected direction.
Why Elizabeth liked it: The dreamy, magical aquarium life, protected yet trapped, provide a striking contrast to the sequence of events that unfold and threaten to unravel lives completely. Seattle in the drear of winter adds to the claustrophobic tension.

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh
Summary: In 1989 a 15 year old girl named Lindy is raped at dusk in a quiet Baton Rouge neighborhood. There are several suspects, including our teen narrator, who idolizes Lindy to the point of obsession. Years pass and the crime remains unsolved.
Why Elizabeth liked it: This is an engrossing and thoughtful book that examines what it means to be young, inexperienced, and in love (or in lust). We are reminded that the mistakes we make while trying to figure out who we are can have lasting consequences.

The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter
Summary: William Avery, a young soldier in the East India Company, is stagnating and in debt when he accepts an assignment to accompany knowledgeable but rebellious Jem Blake in a search to find missing and much maligned author Xavier Mountstuart.
Why Elizabeth liked it: Full of excitement, vivid scenery, lots of fighting, and suspense, this is not my usual fare but I sure enjoyed it. Tigers, thugs, sweltering heat, monsoon rains, and deep dark jungle set the scene. It’s a downright swashbuckling adventure!

Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link
Summary: This collection of short stories all have an element of fantasy, yet are told in such an ordinary way, that the fantastical comes as a total surprise until you get in sync with Link’s wild imagination. Each story is read masterfully by a different actor.
Why Elizabeth liked it: These wonderfully quirky stories have a lasting quality and real depth. My favorite, Secret Identity, is about a teen girl who sneaks off to a NYC hotel to meet her 32-year-old online boyfriend amidst a superhero convention.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
Summary: A companion piece (as Atkinson states in the afterword) to Life After Life (2013), A God in Ruins follows Ursula’s brother Teddy’s story through his various roles as RAF pilot, father, and spouse, and travels through his young adulthood to old age.
Why Elizabeth liked it: I listened to the audiobook and thought Alex Jennings, with his lovely accent, did excellent job capturing Teddy and setting the mood. At 16 hours, this is a lot of listening, but like Life After Life I never tired of Atkinson’s superb storytelling.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
Summary: Residents of Elizabeth, New Jersey are devastated by a plane crash right in the town, which kills several residents. Little do they know, it is only the beginning. Fifteen year old Miri and her extended family and friends struggle to regain their lives.
Why Elizabeth liked it: Real people, a variety of problems, family love and warmth, tragedy, and a rather unusual series of events made for a really engaging book. The short sections told in alternating voices make this a quick read which you won’t want to end.

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
Summary: Bride, whose very dark skin made her mother unable to truly love her, reinvents herself into a striking beauty with a prestigious career. Things start to go wrong for her when a woman she helped convict is released from prison.
Why Elizabeth liked it: The story is intense, original, and engrossing but even if it weren’t, Toni Morrison’s wondrous voice could carry it along. No one could have read it better. Without being overly dramatic she can express such feeling, depth, and truth.

The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos
Summary: Half-sisters Taisy and Willow have had no contact due to a long ago falling out between the first and second families. When their father becomes ill, they finally meet. Neither understands the other’s past or current struggles.
Why Elizabeth liked it: I loved listening to this book. Two readers do an excellent job portraying the two sisters in alternating chapters. I especially enjoyed Taisy’s voice. Funny, heartfelt, and very entertaining, it made me want to read more by the author.

The Tuner House by Angela Flournoy
Summary: The Turner family lived on Yarrow Street in Detroit long enough for 13 children plus multiple grandchildren to grow up. Now the sad old empty house is worth much less than is owed, and the adult children must decide what to do with it.
Why Elizabeth liked it: Through the varied experienced of the Turner children, I learned about devastated Detroit, gambling addiction, and even southern ”haints”, but what stayed with me was the story of a family pulling together despite decades of hardship.

Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb
Summary: Todd is autistic and now in his 50s. At the Payton Living Center where he’s been living for the past 40 years, he’s a respected citizen and comfortable, but when a sinister new aide starts working at Payton, painful memories start to invade Todd’s life.
Why Elizabeth liked it: I have read several books about autism but never fiction told from the viewpoint of an autistic person. Gottlieb really seems to grasp the complexities of being autistic, and Todd is completely believable. Simply written but hard to put down!

Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos
Summary: Charles teaches English at a prestigious, private, Seattle school. His wife and he have divorced, after difficulties raising their autistic son, Cody.
Why Sarah liked it: Charles’s life is focused on language and prose, and yet he can’t communicate with his son. A dramatic plot twist at the end cements the story, and unites the characters together.

NONFICTION!

Simple Sabotage: a Modern Field Manual for Detecting and Rooting Out Everyday Behaviors that Undermine Your Workplace by Robert M. Galford, Bob Frisch, and Cary Greene
Summary: Inspired by the Simple Sabotage Field Manual released by the Office of Strategic Services in 1944 to train European resistors, this is the essential handbook to help stamp out unintentional sabotage in any working group.
Why Carol liked it: Don’t let the quirk fool you; there are some serious communication tips in here to help you work better. I’m already applying what I’ve learned!

The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today by The Gang (writers and cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)
Summary: The Gang from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia attempts its most ill-conceived, get-rich-quick scheme yet: publishing a self-help book to hilarious, sometimes dangerous, and often revolting, results.
Why Carol liked it: Ever since I stumbled upon this raunchy and hilarious TV show I have been obsessed with The Gang. There’s a good variety of formats (open letters, a therapy session, guidebook, etc.) to keep you interested–in case the raunch wasn’t enough on its own!

Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld and the Truth Beyond Blackfish by John Hargrove
Summary: A firsthand account of the lives of captive killer whales by one of SeaWorld’s most experienced orca trainers.
Why Leslie liked it: This is an interesting memoir about a controversial subject.

Dead Wake: the Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
Summary: This book presents a chronicle of the sinking of the Lusitania and discusses the factors that led to the tragedy.
Why Leslie liked it: Larson is one of the few authors who can make history positively come alive.

The Oregon Trail: a New American Journey by Rinker Buck
Summary: Buck tells the story of making a modern-day 2,500 mile trip with a mule driven covered wagon along the path of the Oregon Trail. He relates: the history of the Oregon Trail, Mormons in the West, and of mules. Fascinating!
Why Leslie liked it: This is currently my favorite book! This book is hilarious while being thoughtful and packed full of history.
Editor’s note: Leslie wrote a full blog post about this earlier in the year. Check it out!

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl
Summary: Good News! Ruth Reichl has a new memoir chock full of recipes. It chronicles her difficult time after Gourmet magazine folded and she found herself again through cooking.
Why Leslie liked it: This is a beautiful cookbook with ideas to change the way you cook and celebrate.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
Summary: Krakauer examined years of mishandling of rape cases at the University of Montana. The university is home to a beloved football team, and when some of its players were accused of rape, the community was split.
Why Sarah liked it: Krakauer does an excellent job looking at the root causes of what went wrong, and sheds light on the victim’s predictaments, as their cases are dismissed.

Stay tuned for more all week long!

Best of 2015: Film & Music

We wrap up our Best of 2015 list today with the world of film and music. So many choices, so little viewing/listening time.

Film:

FM1

While We’re Young

Cornelia and Josh get their lives turned upside down when a young couple enters their lives.

On the surface, it’s a comedy about the difference between youth and age. Looked at properly, it’s a deep examination of the road not travelled and what it takes to be an artist. A great film works on many levels; While We’re Young is a great film. -Alan’s pick

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

The innovative HBO documentary miniseries unearthed damning information about three murders long connected to Robert Durst, the American real estate heir.

Interviewed by the show for over 20 hours, Durst  was arrested one day before the finale. This gripping show, now on DVD, gave me the goose bumps. Binge watched it in a day.-Joyce’s pick

The Wolfpack

This true story follows six brothers who grow up locked in a Manhattan housing project.

With little access to the real world but lots of access to film, they pass time acting out revered movies (Reservoir Dogs) using elaborate props they create. It was fascinating, puzzling, and kind of strange–I loved it! -Joyce’s pick

FM2

Life Itself

This review is for the DVD — I would *not* recommend the audiobook.

The fascinating life of film critic Roger Ebert is affectionately presented in this compelling film, an adaptation of Ebert’s autobiography. An excellent journalistic writer, Ebert, endured a painful year-long journey with cancer. -Kate’s pick

What We Do In the Shadows

A mock documentary about vampires and all the horrors involved in being one.

This film is packed with sight gags and comedic situations that will keep you laughing for almost all 85 minutes. Have you ever considered what would happen to your teeth if you lived 700 years? How you would get dressed without a mirror? -Kate’s pick

Antarctica: A year on ice

This fascinating documentary captures a snapshot of life in one of the most remote places on the planet, home to an international community of scientists and workers.

I was intrigued and spellbound as residents shared their frustrations and the attraction that led them to the rugged beauty that characterizes Antarctica. Highly recommended. -Margo’s pick

FM3

Nightcrawler

A low-level con artist in L.A. falls into the “big time” in the freelance video news business.

Simply put, this movie gives me the creeps (for me, this is a desirable feature in a film). In retrospect, the plot is a bit over the top, but Gyllenhaal’s performance kept my belief thoroughly suspended for the full 1 hour and 58 minutes. -Zac’s pick

The Flash: Season One

A CSI lab worker gets struck by lightning and obtains super powers. This incarnation of the Flash is molded after Geoff Johns’ New 52 DC Comic series.

This series falls somewhere between awesome and awesomely bad. Wentworth Miller, of Prison Break fame, also brings a lot to the series playing the hilariously evil villain Captain Cold. There’re even Arrow Season 3 crossover episodes to boot! -Zac’s pick

Mad Max: Fury Road

This film delivers a long-awaited update to the Mad Max franchise.

I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic anything, but this film will appeal to anyone that enjoys a good action movie (and a lot of people that don’t go for either genre). The movie’s evil Immortan Joe and the War Boys are glorious. -Zac’s pick

Music:

FM4

Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett

Raw, acerbic, personal, yet intellectual garage/folk rock from a young Australian.

Barnett’s smarts and energy come through on her fun, wry, and accessible debut LP, a sample lyric: “Give me all your money and I’ll make some origami, honey / I think you’re a joke, but I don’t find you very funny.” -Alan’s pick

Choose your Weapon by Hiatus Kaiyote

From start to finish this album is a joyride of blended styles: RnB, Soul, Drum and Bass, Hip-Hop, Funk, Jazz, and much more. It’s really impossible to sum up.

A great album to throw on while you’re working in the kitchen or entertaining guests, it’s just a feel-good listen that provides a little of everything. -Lisa’s pick

Ratchet by Shamir

A dancy, fun, sassy, intelligent electronic album with a sense of humor.

For pop listeners interested in expanding their horizons into electronic music, this might be a nice crossover album. -Lisa’s pick

FM5

Cheers to the Fall by Andra Day

Day may incorporate some vintage vibes, but she possesses the vision and creativity to avoid being pigeon-holed as a throwback artist.

Day possesses a beautiful, powerful voice that fills up the room with neo-soul melodies. Her style has hints of doo-wop, soul, and Motown, with a timeless sound similar to Nikki Jean, Amy Winehouse, and Adele. -Lisa’s pick

This is The Sonics by The Sonics

The godfathers of garage rock show that 50 years later they are still the kings of garage rock.

Strong singing and playing, fast tempos, rocking songs. As good as it gets. -Ron’s pick

Before the World was Big by Girlpool

Simple, quiet, sometimes out-of-tune, charming.

This post-punk-in-spirit band surprised me with their childlike simplicity and sparse music. Excellent listen. -Ron’s pick

FM6

So Delicious by Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band

Blues, swamp rock, music that mountain men wish they were tough enough to listen to.

Hard-edged yet filled with fun, leaves me expecting a jug solo at any moment. -Ron’s pick

All Hands by Doomtree

Doomtree is a Minneapolis indie hip-hop super group.

Nerdy lyrical references and the high-tempo sound drew me in to this album. Those aspects made it worth listening to, but it was Doomtree’s effective use of multiple MCs that pushed me to give it repeat listening.

Best of 2015: Nonfiction for Children and Adults

Today the Best of 2015 list continues with all things nonfiction for children and adults.

Children’s Nonfiction:

CNF1

Counting Lions by Katie Cotton

Larger-than-life black and white drawings are paired with poetic texts that reveal the ways in which endangered creatures- – including lions, elephants, giraffes, tigers, gorillas, penguins, Ethiopian wolves, macaws, turtles, and zebras- – live on Earth.

The drawn pictures are so realistic you believe they are photographs, and the words are mournful but with hope. This stunning book provides  information about 10 beautiful wild animals. -Andrea’s pick

The Lego Adventure Book. Vol. 3 Robots, Planes, Cities & More by Megan Rothrock

Unleash your imagination as you journey through the wide-ranging world of LEGO building. It is filled with bright visuals, step-by-step breakdowns of 40 models, and nearly 150 example models from the world’s best builders.

Whether you’re brand-new to LEGO or have been building for years, this book is sure to spark your imagination and motivate you to keep creating! -Leslie’s pick

Ultimate Weird but True! 3 by National Geographic Kids

A book with the latest discoveries, internet gems, urban legends, wacky myths, and tantalizing tidbits that are really true.

This is an amazing-looking book that’s so much fun kids can’t put it down. -Leslie’s pick

CNF2

Who Is Malala Yousafzai? by Dinah Brown

This book is part of the wildly popular biography series Who Is?, and now there are What Was? books also!

Kids like these books because they are good reads, and they are Accelerated Reader Books. -Leslie’s pick

Sally Ride: a Photobiography of America’s Pioneering Woman in Space by Tam E. O’Shaughnessy

A biography of the famous astronaut drawing on personal and family photographs from her childhood, school days, college, life in the astronaut corps, and afterward.

This is an excellent primer, filled with rarely seen photographs and personal family stories of one of my personal heroes. -Carol’s pick

Adult Nonfiction:

ANF1

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

A collection of humorous essays on what it’s like to be unabashedly awkward in a world that regards introverts as hapless misfits, and Black as cool.

I feel like Issa and I are at times the same person. She had a much more interesting childhood and upbringing, but we’re both total nerds who have just learned to finally own it and flaunt it! -Carol’s pick

Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey

Young and bright civil servant Anna is gradually becoming sensitive to light and finally has to retreat to a room of complete darkness. The fact that she has so much to offer and such interest in life makes her situation all the more difficult to accept.

This book, and Anna’s anguish, jumped out and grabbed me the moment I started it. Her ability to make us feel what it is like to live in the dark, unable to experience life is exceptional, while her resourcefulness, strength and intelligence shine. -Elizabeth’s pick

The Perfection of the Paper Clip by James Ward

A history of office/school supplies!

I have a weakness for school supplies, and I have even been to the Pencil Museum in Keswick, England. The scent of the Pink Pearl eraser brings back fond memories for me as it does for the author of this fascinating look at stationary through the ages. -Julie’s pick

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

This is an impeccably researched and brilliantly written book about “two of the workingist boys” of turn of the century America.

It was fascinating to learn about the invention of motorized flight. -Leslie’s pick

ANF2

Fight Back with Joy: Celebrate More, Regret less. by Margaret Feinberg

Fighting back with Joy is not about having a good attitude or enough faith. Margaret candidly describes her battle with breast cancer and concludes that ”fighting with joy is without beginning or end” and “flows out of unsuspecting places.“

This was a refreshing read—, transparent, and encouraging. -Margo’s pick

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

It’s a heartfelt letter to Coates’ son, depicting what it’s like to be black in America. He outlines the history of slavery and how the country is still experiencing a major racial divide.

II now understand my white privilege better and realize some of the challenges of parenting black children in a society that can still be filled with hate. Toni Morrison raved about this book, calling it required reading. -Sarah’s pick

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Ronson explores how social media and the Internet have brought about something of a public shaming renaissance, and he explores the history of public shaming to show how it has changed with technology.

This book takes a more empathetic stance than you will find in the media channels it critiques. It’s a must read for Twitter users yet still approachable for non-tech users just interested in human behavior. -Zac’s pick

Best of 2015: Fiction & Graphic Novels for Adults

Another day, another great selection from our Best of 2015 list. Today we look at adult fiction and graphic novels hand picked by the Everett Public Library staff.

Fiction for Adults:

F1

West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan

This historical novel follows the last four years in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life.

Stewart O’Nan writes literary, sensitive, character-driven tragedy, but usually about the everyday. Here, we get to see him flex his style and sympathy on a truly fascinating and heartbreaking story of the great writer’s last years in Hollywood. -Alan’s pick

The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle

Set in contemporary Northern California, Boyle’s latest explores the connections between three damaged people — an aging Vietnam veteran, his psychologically unstable son, and the son’s paranoid, older lover — as they careen toward explosive confrontation.

T.C. Boyle has been weaving his gorgeous character-driven and insight-rich literary style into works that speak volumes about contemporary issues. Written in Boyle’s sheer lyrical style,. this thriller should please anyone. -Alan’s pick

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

Eight-year-old Peggy is living in London with her concert pianist mother and survivalist father when an issue between the parents causes her dad to steal away with Peggy into the mountains of Germany where they live for years in “die Hutte.”

Stories about surviving in the wild always appeal to me, but this book had so many subtle twists, so smoothly done in fact that I missed them, that at the surprising end I wanted to go back and see what really happened. Excellent! -Elizabeth’s pick

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Parched and ruined California has turned into a series of giant sand dunes, but Luz and Ray are surviving in a long-gone starlet’s mansion. At an outdoor party, they encounter an abused and neglected toddler and begin to dream of a better life.

I can’t seem to get enough of really good dystopian fiction, and this is one of the best since last year’s Station Eleven.   Brutal, sweet, hopeful, and devastating, it is also quite plausible considering the current droughts we are experiencing. -Elizabeth’s pick

F2

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

Journey across Canada and across the decades.

Magical realism in a journey of self-discovery similar to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. -Julie’s pick

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy : A Novel by Rachel Joyce

Queenie’s side of the story of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

While Harold was walking to Queenie, readers knew all about him, but not much about Queenie. Now that has been remedied with this new novel, letting us in on what Queenie remembers about Harold. -Julie’s pick

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah

This novel is the story of two sisters living in Nazi-occupied France during WWII. It is well written and a good companion book to All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

The setting and characters were very well done. I was sad when it ended. -Leslie’s pick

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

This is the backstory of Beryl Markham, the first woman to make a solo transatlantic crossing from east to west. She was raised by her father in Africa and became that continent’s first woman horse trainer.

This book has it all—beautiful and descriptive writing, an interesting story of a woman trailblazer, and the lovely land of Kenya. I could not recommend it more highly. -Leslie’s pick

F3

A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor

This is an historical novel about two orphaned sisters who are flower sellers barely surviving in the streets of London in the 1800s and what happens after they are separated. .

The story is realistic, heartbreaking, bittersweet, and, thankfully, has a mostly happy ending. I enjoyed this story immensely. -Margaret’s pick

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

In an attempt to stave off loneliness after losing their spouses, Addie and Louis start spending the night together for companionship. Addie’s son disapproves, but her grandson comes to spend time with Addie and develops a strong bond with Louis.

A beautiful relationship story, told with grace and touching calmness. I am very sad that Kent Haruf passed away last year; he is one of my favorite authors. This is a quick read you can finish in a few hours, but it’s good to read it slow, so it lasts longer. -Sarah’s pick

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

This collection of posthumous short stories by Lucia Berlin is something else. The two writers who introduce her gush and rave about her work; you wonder why it wasn’t published years ago.

Berlin injects bits of her own history, incorporating alcoholism, pink-collar work, and years of hard living into her characters. Her vibrant landscapes (Oakland, Mexico, Chile, and beyond) are packed with individuals dealing with harsh circumstances. -Sarah’s pick

Graphic Novels for Adults:

AGN1

Ms. Marvel Volumes 2 & 3 by G. Willow Wilson

Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager?  Muslim?  Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm!

If you haven’t read this reboot of Marvel standby Ms. Marvel (Vol. 1 came out in 2014), you are seriously missing out. Kamala Khan is not just a superhero–she’s a teenager learning to trust herself and figure out just who she is. -Carol’s pick

Not Funny Ha-Ha: A Handbook for Something Hard by Leah Hayes

Demystifies the process of abortion by following the story of two women who have decided to have abortions, from making their initial decision, choosing a clinic and method (surgical and medical), reaching out to loved ones, and the having procedure.

The subject matter may be controversial, but this book can and will help someone making a thoroughly difficult decision. -Carol’s pick

Step Aside, Pops : A Hark! A Vagrant Collection by Kate Beaton

Kate Beaton’s second Drawn & Quarterly. book brings her hysterically funny gaze to bear on historical, literary, and contemporary figures. Irreverently funny and carefully researched, no target is safe from Beaton’s incisive wit!

This was my intro into Kate Beaton and D+Q. When I cataloged it, the book fell open to a satirical strip of Nancy Drew, and I knew this was for me! -Carol’s pick

AGN2

The Story of My Tits by Jennifer Hayden

When Jennifer Hayden was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 43, she realized that her breasts told a story. Across a lifetime, they’d held so many meanings: hope and fear, pride and embarrassment, life and death. And then they were gone.

If you’ve never read an autobiographical comic strip or graphic novel, take a chance on this one. If your goal this year was to read difficult stuff, pick this up. If you know anyone touched by breast cancer, check this out. -Carol’s pick

Displacement: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley

Graphic novelist Lucy is in the prime of her life when she accompanies her rapidly aging grandparents on a Caribbean cruise. She has always been close to them, and when no one else can go along, and she is at loose ends, she offers to help.

Knisley really captures the sweet and rewarding aspects of helping the very old, but we also feel strongly the frustration, sadness, and feelings of being trapped that come with the job. The drawing style, while simple, is expressive and charming. -Elizabeth’s pick