EPL’s Virtual Book Club says Bah! Humbug! to 2020!

Books with a general winter theme are the focus of discussion at our next meeting of the library’s virtual book club (Stay Home, Stay Reading) December 28 from 6-7pm. Read any title–fiction or nonfiction–of your choosing inspired by winter. Nary a sprig of new spring growth takes center stage this month! On Monday, Dec. 28, join us when you like, and leave when you like during our open discussion.  

If it’s possible to love and hate a season, then winter is it for me. I detest this dark season; yet, I enjoy hibernating and reading (or listening to) stories with a wintertime setting–the genre doesn’t matter. Still I grew up in Las Vegas, and grabbing a heavy sweater if you went out was about it for outside winter prep. The past years, starting around the Winter Solstice, even the cat knows now to look for me on the couch under a blanket, book in hand. In terms of daylight, Winter Solstice (December 21 this year) in Everett is 7 hours, 34 minutes shorter than on the longest day of the year, June Solstice. Las Vegas is a mere 4 hours, 55 minutes shorter than its longest day. I continue to adapt. 

A book with a chilly setting seems to be more haunting, or it can add a layer of mystery–which sends shivers down my spine. Maybe it’s the short days? If you’re looking for a great winter read, consider that much of Russian literature takes place where there is often snowfall, from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy to Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. Back in America, check out the snowy scenes in Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell and an iceberg-cold lake in Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Also known to fill an icy wintery vibe and be slow to unfold are those Scandinavian crime novels from authors such as Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbø. Snow muffles sound, I’ve noticed, and books set in snow settings are a bit quieter. Whenever it’s snowy, too quiet and I’m alone reading Stieg Larsson, I check to make sure the doors and windows are locked. 

This season it seems appropriate to read or re-read, watch or rewatch A Christmas Carol, the beloved 1843 novella by Charles Dickens. Since it’s Dickens, you can expect that living circumstances are squalid. With few exceptions, there is great difficulty getting by in life, including for Tiny Tim, a child who uses a crutch. He is seen as being symbolic of the consequences of the protagonist’s choices. Our protagonist and well-off miser, Ebenezer Scrooge of Bah! Humbug! fame, scorns openly those who have less:

Merry Christmas! What right have you for being merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.

It is Christmas Eve, and what happens to Scrooge that night is among the greatest stories set in winter. A Christmas Carol is not about a holiday as much as it is about redemption, being for the light and against darkness, and being a good person. It is an inner dialogue you can have with yourself at any time of year. 

This year has a lot in common with Scrooge, who is described by Dickens as:

….squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; a frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

Scrooge and 2020 both give off a stench of sourpuss right up until the end when Scrooge has a reckoning, and one of 2020’s few bright spots is that a Covid vaccine has arrived or will soon. As I write this, today the first person in the Western world has received the vaccine–a 90-year-old British grandmother. In 2021, we can hope for a smooth, efficient roll out of the vaccine in the U.S. 

If you’re looking for A Christmas Carol, the library has a lot to offer. Whether you listen to the audiobook, read it digitally or in the physical book format; or watch one of its many adaptations for television and film over the years, it’s a delight to step away from 2020. Check out physical materials such as these television and film DVDs also.

Many versions have emerged as the story of saving Scrooge’s soul is re-imagined. For example: Scrooged starring Bill Murray, the 1938 film A Christmas Carol (100% on Rotten Tomatoes), the 1970 musical film Scrooge, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, the 1984 A Christmas Carol starring George C Scott, the 1992 The Muppet Christmas Carol, and on Hoopla, the 1951 B&W classic A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim.

This season I plan to re-watch the 1951 film version of A Christmas Carol that I have enjoyed many times, and I’ll read A Christmas Carol using, for the first time, a book I recently came across on a shelf at my apartment. It belonged to my mother, who died 25 years ago this Thanksgiving. The title was long gone from the spine, it was so worn. Her signature was on the inside page in pencil, Erna Mae Lueder. For the season, these two will be a good winter combo for me. What special title–winter or not–will you be reading or watching? 

If you need a few more December books to choose from, perhaps consider these titles: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld, We Met in December by Rosie Curtis, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy, The Call of the Wild by Jack London.

At the book club meeting, we will discuss whatever winter books you’ve been reading or read in the past: Dec. 28 at 6pm. 

To join the meeting, you’ll need a phone or a computer with internet access and a browser. No special software is required. Use this link: https://tinyurl.com/y5mhq3bk or call 425-616-3920 and use conference ID 919 910 778#

She Lies Close

A lot is going on for Grace in the novel She Lies Close by Sharon Doering.

After her husband has an affair, Grace buys a house in a new neighborhood with her two young children Wyatt and Chloe. As they are getting settled in and starting to meet people, she begins to hear rumors that her new neighbor Leland is suspected in the disappearance of a young girl. Is she really living next door to a kidnapper and murderer?

Grace can barely sleep, and becomes obsessed with the case of sweet, missing Ava. In the wee hours of the night she repeatedly watches a video that was posted of Ava singing and dancing, desperately looking for clues to her disappearance..

After she discovers that Chloe has a pocket full of tootsie rolls that she got from Leland while she was playing in their adjoining back yards, Grace begins having nightmares and sleepwalking, with reality and dreams blurring the fine line of sanity.

The police have no leads in Ava’s disappearance, and Grace continues to talk to the neighbors, asking questions to try and find the truth of what happened. Then, a body is found, and everything changes. Grace finds herself on the other end of the investigation.

I got to the last 60 pages and could NOT put the book down.

If you like a good page turner, you will really enjoy this book!

Rakes, Rogues, and Ruination

Welcome to the world of the British Regency, the era from approximately 1795-1837. Everett Public Library has added over 100 Regency Romance novels to our eBook collection. Don’t let the time period fool you, within the constraints they must follow, these ladies are strong, fierce, and independent. From the darkest gaming hell to the most glittering ballroom, discover the lives and loves of Lords and Ladies, Dukes and Duchesses, governesses, wallflowers, and Bow Street Runners.

The Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn is not to be missed. Eight siblings alphabetically named, Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth, each have a novel featuring their story. The mysterious Lady Whistledown and the Smythe-Smith Quartet add a touch of humor you won’t forget.

The highly-anticipated T.V. series based on these novels, Bridgerton, narrated by Julie Andrews as Lady Whistledown is expected to air this year on Netflix starting on December 25! Read more about the series here.

Any mention of Regency Romance must include best-selling author, Lisa Kleypas. Four young ladies meet at the side of the dance floor in the Wallflowers series and make a pact to help each other find husbands. Each has her reason, Annabelle is beautiful but has no dowry, Sisters Lillian and Daisy are new-money brash Americans, and shy Evie must escape her unscrupulous relatives who are after her wealth. Be sure to check out the Ravenels for a glimpse of the Wallflowers 20+ years later.

Welcome to Spindle Cove, where the ladies with delicate constitutions come for the sea air, and men in their prime are… nowhere to be found. Or are they? Also known as “Spinster Cove,” due to the number of unmarried ladies living there, these are a series of laugh-out-loud funny books by Tessa Dare.

Three friends are expelled from a young ladies’ academy for unbecoming conduct. Since the ton will be sure to close their doors on these disgraced debutantes, they determine that unconventional means need to be employed in the husband-hunting market. Rakehells—the beau monde’s wickedest members—might be the only men willing to overlook a young lady’s besmirched reputation.

But how does one catch a rake? Find out in the Disreputable Debutantes series by Amy Rose Bennett.

The grown half-brothers and sister of a thrice-widowed dowager duchess and some cousins to boot manage to find love amidst an on-going murder mystery, kidnapping, blackmail, explosions, and a London debut. There are more books to come in this series featuring three unmarried Dukes in one family. Three!

For more scandals, house parties, Bluestockings, masquerade balls, fake engagements, London Seasons, marriages of convenience, guardians, wards, highwaymen, and spies, be sure to explore other titles and authors in our Regency Romance eBook Collection.

Schooled at Home? Week 2

This will be a school year unlike any other. It will be embedded in the mind of your youngsters for probably the rest of their lives, for better and worse. Some miss the joy of reuniting with friends and meeting new teachers. Others miss routines that ground them. Some are content staying home and love getting time with family.

These new experiences are bound to bring up a wide range of emotions, even if kids don’t articulate them. Just dealing with technology issues alone requires extreme patience, resilience, and understanding.

Helping your kids develop emotional skills, along with the ability to roll with a sense of humor, will smooth out future bumps in the road before you even get there.

Our collection is full of books about that support, this emotional muscle building and self-care for kids, teens and adults. September Sunday Night stories also features books on the topic throughout September.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you are a positive role model for your kids, which includes accepting yourself and your kids as is, with all the struggles.

For parents, check out our Parenting During COVID Booklist for support navigating this season. Topics cover practical strategies for navigating technology with kids to strategies for developing emotional resilience.

Our Emotional Growth for Young Readers list focuses on picture books with characters and plots that expand reader’s emotional and interpersonal awareness. When Sadness Is At Your Door by Eva Eland and What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada can be used to start discussions with kids about how challenges can teach us about hope and resilience. What Should Danny Do? is a choose your own adventure book focusing on the outcomes of choices the character makes throughout the day.

Looking for a chapter book that falls under that category? Read a book from our Emotional Development Read Alouds list, like Stella Diaz Never Gives Up by Angela Dominguez or Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate.

Books for Emotional Resilience (recommended for ages 10+) includes great read aloud novels with characters who develop and/or demonstrate emotional resilience in complex situations and non-fiction guides. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Hunt and Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper offer narratives about students building their confidence at school.Ghost by Jason Reynolds and One for the Murphys by Lynda Hunt provide models for kids overcoming significant in interpersonal relationships. Mindful Me: Mindfulness and Meditation for Kids provides practical guidance for those looking for straight forward emotional and mental health strategies.

The De-stress for Success Teen Booklist features practical guides and non-fiction stories about individuals overcoming stress to find hope and resilience. From confidence building strategies in The Self-Esteem Habit for Teens: 50 Simple Ways to Build Your Confidence Every Day by Lisa Schab to advice on re-wiring stress responses in Be Mindful and Stress Less: 50 Ways to Deal with Your (Crazy) Life by Gina Biegel, this booklist offers resources for teens looking to strengthen their mental health in this season.

In all of this, remember that at any age, caregiver and other adult engagement around the reading of these books will make their impact even more powerful. And don’t forget to take care of yourself.

School at Home: Week 1

Whew! I’m sweating just thinking about this school year, and I don’t even have kids. As a former teacher, I know the breadth of the responsibilities you now shoulder if you have kids at home doing online learning, plus you know, navigating family life during a pandemic.

Without a physical classroom, children will lean on caregivers for the emotional support and structure that are key to learning.

Here’s a teacher hack: Use the first week to set the stage for a year of learning. Teachers spend it identifying student needs, learning and practicing healthy routines/habits, setting and communicating expectations, and building relationships. Academic learning comes second.

You can apply these teacher hacks at home as well.

  • Center on Needs: What habits or routines can your family develop that will meet your children’s needs? Needs of you and other family members? Remember access to food, safety, and shelter, and minimizing stress are foundations of learning.

  • Set a Schedule: When do you have lunch/snacks, play breaks, reading time, homework time, social time, etc? What break time activities will be most beneficial? You may need to consider your own work schedules while doing this as well. Write it down and post it somewhere central. Use pictures for pre-readers.

  • Keep It Positive: What is your child doing well? Tell them frequently. What makes your child feel successful and positive, and how can you help create that state of mind? Do it regularly.

One routine that offers structure (and improves academic performance) is independent reading. Reading before online class starts may help transition into school mode. Consider establishing a habit of reading a fun book while while waiting for the next thing to begin or the teacher (you) to be available.

Your student doesn’t read independently yet? Set up the Tumblebooks website or app, listen to audiobooks on Libby or Hoopla, or check out an audiobook on playaway or CD. Or, have siblings read aloud together. Looking at pictures also counts as reading.

You can also request a book collection tailored to your readers through Books for You program and use them as your home classroom library.

Want to further support your children’s literacy beyond what’s being taught? Common Sense Media offers discussion questions for books and in depth reviews. Check out additional educational resources on our A-Z List of Resources for kids.

Explore our eLibrary

Most local libraries offer a good selection of digital books, movies, and music, as well as research and other databases for learning, business, auto repair, etc. Everett Public Library is no exception. We spend a lot of time, and frankly, money, subscribing to these quality resources for the community to use. Unfortunately, this library collection can sometimes be one of the least visible.

Here’s a short video to show you how to navigate to EPL’s eLibrary and full list of databases.

If you watched the video you may have noticed that there was much more in the A-Z list that was not mentioned, so make sure to check out the whole list here. Below are a few highlights of the many resources to which the library provides access, both research and entertainment focused.

Northwest Room digital content can help you find historic photos, research property history, or even reminisce over photos of your old classmates in Everett High’s “Nesika” yearbooks. Some of the photography collections, such as the Juleen studio collection, are amazing records of Everett’s history, both in terms of the places and the people. Staff adds new material to these online collections regularly; check out Northwest Room Historian Lisa’s recent video tour of the Juleen panoramas, which are in the process of being digitized.

Brue Building school with children, 3410 Everett Avenue, Everett, Washington, 1892. From the King and Baskerville Collection. Building still stands today.

Online learning
Lynda.com offers a wide variety of expert-taught courses on topics including photography, business/management training, web design, graphic design, computer coding, and much more! Learning Express, GCF Free Learn, and Khan Academy are other good sources for tests, training, and skills development.

Genealogy Research
Did you know Ancestry.com is currently available from home? In normal times this popular genealogy resource is only accessible at the library, so if you’ve been thinking about starting to research your family roots, now is a great time to try it out.

In Novelist Plus, you can search among hundreds of thousands of popular fiction and readable nonfiction titles, and also retrieve author read-alikes, book lists, book discussion guides, and more. All of this rich editorial content is crafted by librarians and reading authorities who are experts in the field.Learn more in this Reading Life blog post, Know About Novelist?


Magazines through Overdrive/Libby
Many of our patrons know and love the Libby (by Overdrive) app for e-books and e-audiobooks, but did you know there are magazines available as well? Check out this video made for us by Overdrive staff, to show you how to find magazines from the app. Speaking of apps for library content and resources, you can find all of them here.

Music: http://www.bensound.com

Ebooks and e-audiobooks are available from both Overdrive and cloudLibrary. Each collection has different titles available, so make sure to search both, or use the catalog and limit to ebooks to see all in one place. CloudLibrary often has fewer holds on popular items, probably because people are used to only searching in the Libby app, so do check it out and give it a try. The app is easy to use!

Creativebug, has been featured in a few blogs posts: Summer Sewing and Homemade relief for your dry hands? Yes, please!. It’s a great place to look for arts and crafts classes and projects from quick crafts to month-long series.

Creativebug’s Make Tissue Paper Pompoms is an easy project that brings so much festivity, color, and joy to a room, and all you need is tissue paper, wire, scissors, and string.

Movies and Music: Hoopla and Kanopy

Hoopla offers movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows to enjoy on your computer, tablet, or phone – and even your TV! With no waiting, titles can be streamed immediately, or downloaded to phones or tablets for offline enjoyment later.

Kanopy streams thoughtful entertainment to your preferred device with no fees and no commercials by partnering with public libraries. Everyone from film scholars to casual viewers will discover remarkable and enriching films on Kanopy. Log in with your library membership and enjoy the diverse catalog with new titles added every month.

Until we can open our doors again and welcome back our patrons, we hope you find entertainment and education in EPL’s eLibrary.


Shell Scott Mysteries

Be it because my brain is so focused on various worries or because I use up all my reading neurons on news, I currently have very little interest in perusing for pleasure. Add to this that I typically don’t like serious stuff or conflict or stress or Nazis or the earth moving closer to the sun but wait it was a dream and it’s actually moving farther from the sun, well, there ain’t a whole lotta words I wanna interact with right now.

But one genre that has stood by me throughout good times and bad is the less-than-hardboiled detective book. And my favorite purveyor of said genre is Richard S. Prather.

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Shell Scott is everything you could want in a detective: physically imposing, young yet experienced, able to outfight your average thug, possessing a tendency to do what’s right and sporting a flair for the fairer s-e-x. He drinks hard, lusts freely and displays a wide streak of goofiness. And while many fictional detectives have an antagonistic relationship with local police, Shell often works with the law.

Prather wrote most of the Shell Scott mysteries in the 1950s and 60s, overlapping James Bond, Mike Hammer and many other spies and detectives. As one might expect, the morés and attitudes of the day permeate the prose, so there’s something to offend everyone I reckon. However, it’s the prose that makes this series stand out.

According to thrillingdetective.com, the Scott stories were “…smirky, outlandish, innuendo-laden, occasionally alcohol-fueled, off-the-wall tours-de-farce that, depending on your point of view, were either a real hoot, or a lot of adolescent, sexist swill and hackwork.” And I am in total agreement with this viewpoint. Fortunately for me, I frequent the adolescent section of the maturity scale, making me the target audience for Prather’s wordsmithing.

But what better way to see what Shell Scott is about than reading a few pithy quotes? First up is a taste of grit:

“The sudden sight of the girl so messily dead had shocked me, and I guess I let my guard down. The hiss of the slug near my head and the crack of the gun seemed simultaneous.”
      ~ from The Kubla Khan Caper

Characters we have previously met frequently die in these tales. Try not to become too attached. Yet the tone is often silly. Scott does not think highly of thugs and he lets the audience know it:

“He had the look of a cat who would wear monogrammed shorts. Or even silk underwear with his whole name printed on it. And maybe his picture. A picture of him in his shorts.” 
     ~ from The Meandering Corpse

 But the floweriest prose generally focuses on descriptions of women:

“She smiled like a woman getting chewed on the neck by Pan. It was a nice smile. I liked it. It went in my eyes and reamed out my arteries and steamed my blood and opened up half a dozen glands like cooked lotus blossoms.”
     ~ from Kill Me Tomorrow

And those descriptions can become downright bizarre:

 “… she didn’t wear one of those bosom contraptions, either – like lifters, expanders, separators, elevators, pushers, poochers, upmashers, tiptilters, squeezers, and aprilfoolers – that have come along since plain old brassieres went out of style, and that are so adorable you almost want to leave the gal home and take her contraption out dancing.”
     ~ from The Meandering Corpse

I guarantee you won’t find that particular sentence anywhere else in literature.

Everett Public Library has a variety of Shell Scott mysteries available as electronic downloads. Perhaps they are just the thing to warm the cockles of your heart in difficult times. I know I’m going to get back to reading one as soon as I do some research on bosom contraptions.

Night Train

Parts of Night Train by David Quantick really scared me… in that “this-has-got-to-be-a-dream-why-can’t-I-wake-up” kind of way. Other times I just felt claustrophobic. Maybe that’s because it’s how the main character feels when she wakes up alone in a moving train car.

Her name is Garland – according to the name tag on her jumpsuit. But she doesn’t remember anything. There is no way off the train, it just keeps speeding along. The windows won’t break, and there are no escape hatches.

After Garland travels through a few cars she meets Banks, a different kind of ‘person.’ Banks has no memory of his life before the train either, but he’s been there for quite a while. Garland convinces him they must get to the front of the train and stop it. As they travel together from car to car to car, they find that each one is completely different, and surprising.

I found myself holding my breath as they opened each door, especially since some of the doors locked behind them. Sometimes Banks and Garland come across a situation that brings a glimmer of remembrance about their actual selves, and we realize that their trip to the front of the train is a fight with their own personal issues.

This is a must read because there are moments in our lives when we realize that things are perceived differently from what they really are. I kept thinking “what would I do if this were me?” So, come join the adventure as Garland and Banks make their way to the front of the train, and see for yourself how it ends!

Did You Know? (Wagon Edition)

The ‘little red wagon’ was invented in 1917?

I found this information in the book Radio Flyer by Robert Pasin. New to America in 1914, Anthony Pasin studied English and worked many jobs. His struggle reminded me of this quote:

Before I came to America, I thought the streets were paved with gold. When I came here, I learned three things: The streets were not paved in gold, the streets weren’t paved at all, and I was expected to pave them.

attributed to an anonymous emigrant, Immigration Museum at Ellis Island

Anthony worked hard and in 1917 made his first wagon from wood to haul his tools to his job. Soon, he had orders from neighbors and friends. Inevitably he was not able to keep up with the demand. Soon he began pressing them out of steel, and eventually was making scooters, tricycles and wheelbarrows as well. There were more little red wagons built than station wagons!

Yesterday’s station wagons were like the minivans of today. Everyone had one. They were just the ticket for a family road trip vacation. You load up the car, kids and a cooler full of sandwiches and Viola! Perfect family vacation!

But there are always exceptions as Diary of a Wimpy Kid the Long Haul by Jeff Kinney shows us.

Catalog summary: Their journey starts off full of promise, then quickly takes several wrong turns. Gas station bathrooms, crazed seagulls, a fender bender, and a runaway pig—not exactly Greg Heffley’s idea of a good time. But even the worst road trip can turn into an adventure—and this is one the Heffleys won’t soon forget.

Another good story about a road trip is American Road Trip by Patrick Flores-Scott.

Catalog summary: With a strong family, the best friend a guy could ask for, and a budding romance with the girl of his dreams, life shows promise for Teodoro “T” Avila. But he takes some hard hits the summer before senior year when his nearly perfect brother, Manny, returns from a tour in Iraq with a devastating case of PTSD. In a desperate effort to save Manny from himself and pull their family back together, T’s fiery sister, Xochitl, hoodwinks her brothers into a cathartic road trip. Told through T’s honest voice, this is a candid exploration of mental illness, socioeconomic pressures, and the many inescapable highs and lows that come with growing up—including falling in love.

The inspiration behind Anthony’s small wagons created to pull tools were the wagons that crossed the prairies. Wagon trains began making their way west in the 1820’s. Obviously the wagons were much bigger than the little red ones, but this was where his vision began.

Woman on the American Frontier by William Worthington Fowler talks about the early days of pioneers and wagon trains. It was certainly an exciting time in history. You could also read Custer’s Trials: a Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles. This book gives us an inside look at the time period and the things that happened in the new ‘wild west.’

No matter what you read, I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I hope it brought back memories of your own escapades with your, or the neighbor kid’s, little red wagon, as well as your own family vacation road trip horror stories.

Not That Kind of Party

I was once standing in line in a bookshop (remember those, the humming thrum of all those captured words waiting to be freed from the shelves so they could release their stories?) when the couple in front of me began talking about one of my obsessions: the Donner Party.

A little back story: The Donner Party is one of the most well-known ‘wagons west survival stories.’ Many people think they were just unlucky, unprepared or downright cursed. I believe all three had a hand in what happened to the wagon party of several families who set out to forge a new life in the West, got caught in the Sierra Nevada mountains in a brutal snowstorm, and ended up resorting to cannibalism to survive.

The Donner party set out with hope for a new life in California and put their trust in a man by the name of Lansford Hastings who said he had “worked out a new and better road to California.” The Hastings Cutoff ended up being a disaster, with the wagons and animals barely able to make it through.

The party pushed on, crossing into Truckee Lake (now known as Donner Lake because hey, after having to eat a few of your traveling companions to survive, you should get a lake named after you). The Donner party decided to camp 3 miles from the summit near a cabin that had been built by previous pilgrims. Then 5-10-foot snow drifts trapped the party and the food ran out…

You get the picture: a big wagon party forging westward gets stuck and the living must eat the dead to survive.

But back to the bookshop. The man was saying to the woman beside him something about the anniversary of the Donner Party coming up. The woman shuddered like she felt one of the cannibal’s frozen hands slip down her back and hissed that she didn’t think she could ever resort to cannibalism, even if it was to survive. I’m not the kind of person to join in on strangers’ conversations, but I pushed a thought at the shivering woman: you have no idea what you would do when push came to shove in a matter of survival, even if it meant slicing a chunk of flesh out of a body half buried in the snow, face down so you can’t see who it is.

Well, that was lovely. I went dark there for a minute, didn’t I? I’m not sorry. It’s what I do.

Alma Katsu’s novel The Hunger follows the Donner party as they make the trek westward. The families start out excited and happy to be beginning this new part of their lives, but soon the journey becomes exhausting, things go wrong, and supplies run out. A child goes missing one evening and is found torn open by some beast. Tamsin Donner, on her second husband and maybe a little bit on the witchy side (making potions and concoctions and collecting herbs), begins to sense that something is not right. Something more than the normal peril of crossing America has attached itself to them.

One of her stepdaughters, who is thought to be a bit touched in the head, hears the voices of the dead. Some of them are full of madness while others are trying to warn her. Strange beings seem to be following them, appearing in the dark, watching them and waiting to catch them off guard. Up close, these things are barely human, more monster than man. More members of the wagon party disappear and some begin to get sick. Is it one of their own who is summoning these beings and passing a disease around the families or is there a reasonable explanation.?

I’ll tell you right now, no, there is no reasonable explanation. What is happening is beyond the realm of the known and defies explanation and…..you know what? No. I’m not going to tell you the rest. If you want to read an adventure story based on historical record dive on into Alma Katsu’s The Hunger. You may think you know the full story of the Donner Party, but Katsu turns it on its ear and sets it off down paths of the supernatural and unexpected. You’ll devour this book. And if you don’t like it, eat me.