Know About Novelist?

There are many ways we at Everett Public Library try to to help you find your next great read. Normally, we offer book clubs, Everett Reads!, book displays all over the library, and author talks, plus you can ask us for recommendations in person. Right now the options are more limited since we are closed, but you can still check out our book reviews and Notable New Fiction book lists on our blog, A Reading Life. We have staff picks collections that show up in our catalog. You can email us at libref@everettwa.gov, call us Monday-Friday from 10-5 (425-257-8000), or ask us for recommendations on Facebook. If none of those appeal to you read on.

Novelist is one of many research databases that the library subscribes to for our patrons to use, but it happens to be one that a lot of librarians use on occasion as well. It’s a fast way for busy librarians to find a list of books similar to a one a patron just finished. It has a variety of ways to find your next read by genre, appeal, themes, and award winners. I recently used it myself to discover how I might describe a certain type of book that I love reading.

Since we’ve been been staying home basically all the time due to the Stay Home, Stay Healthy emergency order, I’ve been listening to more audiobooks on weekends. I finished one I really enjoyed called After Me Comes the Flood, by Sarah Perry, and realized how much I have liked the other books I’ve read by her, The Essex Serpent and Melmoth (for a fascinating look at what was happening medically in her life when she wrote that one, check out this Guardian article “Out of my mind: Sarah Perry on writing under the influence of drugs“).

Since there wasn’t another book by her I could listen to, I decided to see how NoveList categorized or described After Me Comes the Flood.
Genre: First person narratives; Psychological suspense
Storyline: Character-driven
Pace: Leisurely paced
Tone: Atmospheric; Creepy

Okay, so I like creepy, psychological books that take place in eerie, atmospheric settings. I always knew I was weird. So how to find more? When searching by title, scroll past the reviews to find a Search for More option where you can choose from those descriptors and more to find similar books. For me it was the creepiness, atmosphere, and psychological suspense that were most appealing, so I can check those boxes to find similar titles, 66 of them in this case.


Searching by author gives the option for author read-alikes and title read-alikes lists. This is one of the most useful functions of NoveList for librarians, because you will get a printable list to be able to hand to patrons for future reading ideas.

You will often find NoveList recommendations right in our catalog without having to navigate to NoveList. Look up the title of the book you loved, click on the link to fully open the information about the title, scroll down a bit, and often you will find Read-alikes right there.

NoveList is not just for novels – there are nonfiction categories to search through – and it isn’t just for adult books. You can find books for ages 0-8, 9-12, and teens. There are many genres to choose from for each age range; for instance Ages 9-12 brings up a real variety such as Adventure Stories, Horror, If you Like…, and Mysteries.

We also subscribe to NoveList K-12, which is similar but focused on books for kids and teens. By doing an advanced search you can find books in the right reading level (Accelerated Reader and Lexile), publish date, and even limit by gender and cultural identity of the author. You can also look for titles that received starred reviews.

Another nice thing about NoveList is that it connects with our catalog; by clicking on Check Availability and then Go to Catalog, you can place a hold on the book. What NoveList doesn’t do so well is find our ebooks – it seems to only be able to connect with our print copies of titles. Still, you may find it useful to find a list of titles to read now or in the future.

May you find something good to read in whatever way suits you best. We are still here, ready to help.

Happy reading!

Patty the Vampire Slayer

In The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix, Campbell loves her husband and children, but she thought she’d be living a bigger life than running errands all day, cleaning the entire house, doing loads of laundry, and cooking gourmet meals for her less than appreciative family every night. Oh, and on top of all that, her elderly mother-in-law, in the grips of dementia (the poor soul has almost forgotten how to eat) moves in and Patricia has another person to look after.

Campbell has given up her career as a nurse, married a very ambitious (and now often distant) doctor, and makes herself nearly insane by being part of a book club where execution is the preferred method of shaming if you haven’t read the assigned book. It’s at one of these horrible book club meetings that a smaller faction of women who don’t want to read ‘Books of the Western World’ come together to form their own book club. The new book club includes four other Southern housewives: Slick, Kitty, Maryellen, and Grace.

The new club reads true-crime novels with titles like Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs and Buried Dreams: Inside the Mind of John Wayne Gacy. They also choose more well known titles like The Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, and the oddly chosen Bridges of Madison County because one of the club members thinks the main character is a serial killer who drifts around the country killing housewives. The book club is the only exciting thing in Patricia’s dull life of driving her two children to after school events, packing lunches, and getting no support from a husband who spends most of his days at the office.

One evening, with the thrill of a book club meeting still fizzling through her, Patricia sees that her son Blue hasn’t taken the garbage bins to the end of the driveway. She can’t really blame him since the cans are stored at the side of the house and it’s pitch black and a little scary there once night falls. So she heaves a sigh only a mother can sigh and begins to drag the garbage bins down the driveway. But a noise catches her attention: the slurping, gulping, crunching sound of something being eaten.

In the shadows she sees her neighbor from down the block, Mrs. Savage, a mean old biddy not much beloved by the neighbors. Mrs. Savage is down on her haunches behind the cans with a raccoon stuffed in her mouth. She disembowels the dead animal while growling at Patricia who is backing away from the old lady and is about to make a run for it when the old woman pounces and tears off Patricia’s ear lobe. The cops and an ambulance come and take both Patricia and the old lady to the hospital.

Patricia is patched up and sent home. The next day she hears that Mrs. Savage has died from some sort of blood poisoning. There’s evidence of intravenous drug use on the on woman’s inner thighs, injection holes that have pierced her skin. Patricia knows that Mrs. Savage has a nephew living with her and acting as her caretaker. Like any Southern woman worth her weight would do, Patricia decides she needs to take a consolation casserole over to the grieving man.

When she gets to Mrs. Savage’s house, she sees it’s completely closed up and the blinds are drawn even though it’s a scorching hot day. When no one answers the door, Patricia lets herself in and begins to search the house for the nephew. She finds him lying in a bedroom. She can tell he’s not breathing. Her old nursing skills kick in and she immediately begins to give him CPR. His skin is cold and dry and she’s positive he’s dead until he sits up with a gasp.

This is her introduction to James Harris, a seemingly shy and artistic man with a hint of appealing strangeness to him. The sunlight hurts him and makes him fatigued. He seems helpless in both his grief over his aunt and whatever ailment haunts him. She decides James Harris is going to be her friend (perhaps more?) and helps him get settled as a real resident of the town: setting up a bank account and going to pay his power and water bills because he can’t bear to be out in the light. He drives a white van (the kind that you expect to see ‘Free Candy Inside’ written on the side) with windows that are heavily tinted to dim any light from getting in.

One evening, James comes over to Patricia’s house while the family is having dinner. Patricia’s mother-in-law, Mary, is having a particularly bad night and takes one look at James and starts babbling about a picture she has of him. Her behavior is excused because of her waning mental faculties. Soon, however, Patricia begins to think James Harris is something sinister with his cagey, secretive ways, the fact that he doesn’t go out during the day much, and his creepy van.

She starts to hear stories about children in town disappearing only to return as ghosts of themselves and eventually committing suicide. Not much has been done about it because it’s in the ‘bad part of town’ where most of the people of color live (remember, this is the early 90s in the South). Mrs. Greene who lives in that part of town and who is Mary’s nurse, tells Patricia about the missing children and how they come back.

Curious, Patricia decides to go there and investigate. She finds a very familiar creepy white van in the woods and what she sees happening in the back is something she can’t explain to herself, let alone to anyone else: James Harris with a monster’s face leaning over the prone body of a little girl. Patricia thought he might have been a serial killer but what she sees in the van is a creature from the depths of myth and folklore.

Patricia tries to tell her book club all about it, but they think she’s nuts and let her know they won’t put up with her crazy stories and theories about James Harris, who has become an upstanding citizen and businessman in town. So Patricia decides to go it alone, to get proof that he is indeed a monster that needs to be destroyed. But even crippling James Harris on her own is more than she’s capable of and in the end, it seems like he will continue snatching small children while charming the town and the book club members husbands. That is, until another book club member witnesses something and they band together to take this creature down.

If you like funny horror novels that are just a damn pleasure to read from beginning to end, pick up Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. You’ll laugh, get scared sh**less, laugh again, and find yourself cheering on a group of somewhat cliched Southern belles whose only worries up until that point had been packing lunches every day and making sure their kids make it to swimming practice on time. Much like blood on the lips of a vampire’s mouth, this book will stick with you for a long time. For God sake, go download it and get to reading!!

Romancing the Lockdown

In hard times, I tend to gravitate toward books with happy endings. This used to mean a stack of traditional mystery novels, but with the current trend of lots of graphic violence in mystery/thriller novels, I’m increasingly turning to romance novels when I want a happy ending. I’m excited to report that we have LOTS of titles by one of my favorite romance writers, Lisa Kleypas, in our digital collection.

I’m a fan of historical romance novels, and we have one of my favorite historicals, Devil in Winter, available as an e-book. The heroine, Evie Jenner, is in great danger from her deceased mother’s family, who plan to marry her to a cousin and then kill her to obtain the fortune she will inherit when her father dies in a few weeks. The only way Evie can escape these evil people is to marry – and marry a man smart and ruthless enough to protect her.

Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, is a duke’s heir with no business or income of his own and a father who has recently run through all the dukedom’s money. He needs to marry an heiress and soon. Evie appears at Lord St. Vincent’s house one evening and proposes a marriage of convenience. They are slightly acquainted but St. Vincent had no idea of her family situation. He can’t afford to refuse her offer.

They rush to Scotland and marry in an anvil wedding. When they return to England, St. Vincent takes over Evie’s father’s business and her protection – and rises to meet both challenges with bravery and integrity, something no one ever expected of him. And he’s as smart and ruthless as they come. Evie has saved herself through very unconventional means, which appeals to me.

Devil in Winter is one of four novels in the author’s Wallflowers series, and we have all three of the other books in that series, Secrets of a Summer Night, It Happened One Autumn and Scandal in Spring, also available as e-books. If you like to read series in order, Secrets of a Summer Night is the first book in the Wallflowers series, It Happened One Autumn is second, Devil in Winter is third and Scandal in Spring is fourth.

If you like Evie as much as I do, the author has also written a wonderful novel featuring Evie’s daughter, Phoebe, Devil’s Daughter, which we have as an e-book and as an audiobook, and a novel featuring Evie’s son, Gabriel, Devil in Spring, which we also have as an e-book. We also have several other novels by Ms. Kleypas available as e-books, both historical romance and contemporary romance.

Lolita Does Boarding School

God, I haven’t thought of Glenn in years. Or was his name Carl? No, his name was Glenn. Glenn with two n’s, not just the one. It was about 25 years ago. I worked as a grocery bagger (I know they call them courtesy clerks now but the main thing I did day in and day out was to bag grocery’s and make sure not to put the watermelon on top of the eggs) and there was this older man, a sometime cashier who mostly worked in the back stocking the shelves. He wasn’t particularly good looking. In fact, he reminded me a lot of Dorothy’s sleazy ex-husband on the Golden Girls, Stanley Zbornak. But there was something about Glenn with two n’s that made me notice him. And made me want to be noticed by him in return.

In Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa, it’s the year 2000 and 15 year old Vanessa Wye is at a Maine boarding school called Browick. She’s going through the motions of being a teenager, not really interested in classes until her English teacher, Mr. Strane, seems to take an interest in her. He seems to be the first person who really looks at her, really notices her and she likes that feeling.

It begins with him loaning her his favorite books. One of those books is Lolita, the story of an older man grooming a teenage girl to become his lover. One day while the rest of the class is busy, Vanessa is at the front of the class partially blocked by Mr. Strane’s desk. He touches her knee as they discuss something. It is a brief touch but filled with more meaning than the actual brevity of the act.

Mr. Strane, 42, confesses his deep love to Vanessa and begins to gaslight her. He trots out all the familiar lines of “I’ve never felt this way before, I’ve never been this deeply in love.” And of course, Vanessa, at 15, soaks the attention up even though a part of her knows how wrong it is. Their relationship becomes more intimate. She sneaks out of her dorm room to spend the night at his house. He gives her a skimpy pair of pajamas almost exactly like those given to Lolita by the pedophile Humbert Humbert in the novel Lolita.

Vanessa sees how their relationship mirrors the novel, the secrecy, the forbidden meet ups. All the while Strane is telling her how much trouble she could get him into, how he could be fired from his teaching position and even go to jail for statutory rape. It’s all about the trouble he could get into and never about the mental toll the affair is having on Vanessa.

By her junior year, rumors begin traveling around that she’s having an affair with Strane. Her once best friend, Jenny, thinks she sees something in the way Strane grab’s Vanessa’s arm during a fieldtrip and reports him. Vanessa – with a lot of manipulating from Strane – takes a bullet and sacrifices her life at the boarding school, telling the higher ups and a group of students that she lied about the affair because she liked the attention. Strane, for his part (which Vanessa doesn’t find out about until years later) tells his colleagues how Vanessa had been a pesky student who had an obvious crush on him and he was trying to nip it in the bud.

Vanessa is kicked out of school but her relationship with Strane never really ends. Well groomed and slightly mentally abused slave that she already is, Vanessa spends years obsessed with Strane, constantly worried that her life isn’t up to snuff for him, that she’s somehow disappointed him. She doesn’t even get into any other relationships because she’s so mindlessly devoted to him.

The novel bounces back and forth through time, telling the story of 15-year-old Vanessa and then jumping to 32-year-old Vanessa working at a hotel and barely living her life while still under the thrall of her former English teacher Jacob Strane. She finds an article about Browick, her old boarding school, telling the story of a female student who was assaulted by a teacher there. When she confronts Strane, he brushes the assault off as a young girl who misconstrued his patting her knee which was meant a comforting gesture.

Vanessa’s world, already crumbling from the unfaced disaster that began with her teenage affair, begins to rapidly break apart. She realizes she wasn’t the only one Strane mentally waterboarded; she wasn’t the only one who got the line “I’ve never felt this way about someone.” Soon, she begins the work of digging around within herself and asking why she always defended Strane, refusing to see what he did to her as sexual and mental abuse.

At turns horrifying and relatable, My Dark Vanessa is a book that won’t be put down until the last page is soaked up and the story of Vanessa and the almost 20 years under the shadow of a powerful man comes to an end. Whether you have daddy issues and have been in a relationship with an older man who was only flattered by your attention without giving you love in return or you want to read a novel touching on a subject gaining strength and attention throughout the world, My Dark Vanessa will not disappoint you.

Hmmmm…I wonder what Glenn with two n’s is up to these days. Or was it Carl? I really need to write these things down when they happen.

Amazing Alaska Mystery

I’m delighted to report that the new book in the Kate Shugak mystery series by Dana Stabenow, No Fixed Line, was recently published and is now available in the library’s digital collection as an Overdrive MP3 audiobook. This is one of my favorite mystery series – I love the Alaska setting and Kate Shugak is a totally original and absolutely fascinating heroine!

In this book, a major snowstorm has occurred and caused a private plane to crash. Some friends of Kate’s are nearby and rush to the plane to help out before the snow buries it. The only survivors are two small children who don’t speak English. It quickly becomes apparent that the children were kidnapped and have been abused. Who were the adults on this plane and why were they flying in such terrible weather conditions? As always, one thing leads to another and we follow along with Kate on another fascinating investigation.

There’s also a second plot in this book. A very wealthy (and evil) man Kate helped send to prison has died and left her in charge of a foundation he set up. Did he have some sort of personality change and become a completely different person because of his prison time? Or is this an elaborate plan to destroy Kate (who he really, really hated)? Kate chooses to believe the second option and begins investigating this foundation to figure out how she is being set up.

This is an exceptional series. Not only are the books set in Alaska, but Kate Shugak is an Aleut who lives on a 160-acre homestead in a generic national Park in Alaska so these books reveal an Alaska that most people never get to see (even if we visit Alaska as tourists). The supporting cast of characters is also wonderful, especially Kate’s dog, Mutt. At some point in every book, someone asks “Is that a wolf?” Kate replies, “Only half”. She’s completely serious. A lot of bad guys have Mutt’s teeth marks somewhere on their person. Did I mention that Mutt is female?

The author, Dana Stabenow, grew up in Alaska. Her author bio says she “was born in Alaska and raised on a 75-foot fish tender. She knew there was a warmer, drier job out there somewhere and found it in writing”. How cool is that?!

We also have two more books in this mystery series available as e-books if you prefer reading to listening:

Bad Blood and Restless in the Grave

Saint X

Family. Sisters. An undying bond. We all think we know our families, but do we? Do we really?

I found myself asking these questions and more after reading Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin.

Seven-year-old Claire and her big sister Alison are on a family vacation with their parents to a beautiful Caribbean island resort. Alison is on break during her first year of college.

Of course, Claire idolizes her sister but doesn’t understand her aloofness and flirty behavior. Alison sneaks out at night and asks Claire to cover for her. She would do anything for her sister.

When Alison goes missing the family’s last night of vacation, Claire is put in a tough spot… continue to deny she knows anything or tell them she’s been covering for Alison all along. And when Alison is found dead, she is terrified to admit knowledge of anything.

As the mystery of Alison’s death unfolds, we find out about the people she had contact with: Edwin and Clive (Gogo to his friends) working at the resort, the blond boy from the beach on vacation with his family, the locals at Paulette’s bar where she had sneaked off to almost every night.

Fast forward years in the future, and Claire, now going by Emily, is living and working in New York. One-night, Clive (no longer Gogo) is her taxi driver. This opens a flood of memories for Emily and she decides one way or another that she will learn the truth of Alison’s death.

During her journey she realizes she didn’t really know her sister after all. After months of following and then getting to know Clive, she wonders if she wants to get the answers she was looking for, and if it will change anything.

Saint X is a beautifully written story of sisterly love and abandonment. I really enjoyed the path of Claire’s enlightenment and her realizations concerning herself and her sister.

The Stand in a New Light

I’m surprised I’ve never written a post about Stephen King’s The Stand before. I read it about once a year. Maybe its massive size (just over 1,000 pages) has deterred me from trying to write about it. But there’s no better time than now to write about a book depicting a super flu that wipes out most of the world’s population; leaving behind both good and evil who then must battle it out to save what is left of humanity.

The Stand begins at a government base where a man-made flu breaches a medical lab. In the days following, people begin to come down with the flu. It’s not unusual to hear coughing and sniffling in a movie theater and in the streets. People begin to stay off the streets, quarantining themselves in their homes. What starts off as a seemingly simple flu becomes a pandemic nicknamed Captain Trips. The human population is reduced to almost nothing and the streets and freeways are littered with cars and the bodies of people who tried to flee the cities. The world becomes a wasteland.

But there are pockets of people who are immune to the flu, people who pack a few belongings and set out to find other survivors. As decent people search for each other, people filled with darkness also seek out their kind. Randall Flagg, also known as The Walking Dude, is a god to some, but a demon to others. He gathers the evil ones to him and has a plan for what’s left of the population. The heels of his cowboy boots can be heard clicking down the roads of America as he searches for those with evil tucked away in them. Side note: Randall Flagg pops up in King’s Dark Tower series as well. It’s a cross-over event, like when two of your favorite shows merge.

Stu Redman becomes the reluctant leader of a group of good people who find a new place to settle and begin life again. But Randall Flagg has appeared to many of them, showing them nightmare visions of the world he wants to create. On the flip side, there’s Mother Abigail, a 108-year-old woman who is tasked with saving the rest of humankind. She needs to gather the good of humanity to her to give them a chance to overcome Randall Flagg. Along the way, a couple of Flagg’s spies have embedded themselves in Stu’s group and wreak havoc. In the end, there can only be an ultimate sacrifice to bring about a new beginning.

With a brilliant and memorable cast of characters, Stephen King’s The Stand is about more than just Good vs. Evil. It’s about the human condition when presented with the end of the world and the luck of an immune system that bucks disease. The Stand is about being alone at the end of the world and then finding people to create a new life. To quote another King book, Doctor Sleep:  We go on, even in the dark. Even when the darkness seems unending. We go on.

Now look, I know this new disease is terrifying and something like The Stand doesn’t seem like fiction right now, but remember this: wash your hands while singing Happy Birthday all the way through twice, stay away from large gatherings, and if you hear the clip-clop of dusty cowboy boots, run the other way. The Walking Dude has found you.