I’ll Give You $3.50 For Your Soul

One of the drawbacks of being an avid reader is that I sometimes don’t retain much of a book in my head. I might remember specific scenes or characters. I might not remember the entire book, but I do remember if I liked the book or hated it.

I read Peter Staub’s The Hellfire Club over 20 years ago. I had already read the two books he collaborated on with Stephen King: The Talisman and it’s follow up Black House. Already a King reader, those two books urged me to seek out more Peter Straub books. And I did, starting with The Hellfire Club.

Nora Chancel is married to Davey Chancel, the son of a man whose father built a publishing house in the early 1900s. Nora, a former combat nurse in Vietnam, is haunted by her service in the war. Her sleep is often broken by nightmares that send her digging under her pillow for a gun she used to keep there.

Someone is murdering women in the small Connecticut town where Nora and Davey live. The killer’s latest victim is the real estate agent who sold the Chancels their home. Like many women in town terrified of being the next victim, Nora has had an alarm system put in.

Meanwhile, her husband, who has always been obsessed with an author published by his family’s publishing house, seems to have become almost unhinged in his obsession. His father is a blowhard who likes to keep Davey under his thumb. Davey’s mother is a more often than not drunk who spends her days in her study ‘writing.’ Davey’s father has always thought that Nora (10 years older than Davey) was too old for his son and likes to insult her under the guise of flirting.

One day on the drive home from a tense lunch with Davey’s parents, he and Nora drive by their real estate agent’s house. Crime scene tape still scars the front door. Police roam the house. Davey and Nora go to the front door where they’re met by a detective who asks them to come inside since they knew the missing woman and might have answers to his questions. He observes them as they walk through the house.

The woman’s bedroom is a blood bath, blood spatter on the walls, the bed soaked. Nora doesn’t think the real estate agent is dead, but with all the blood in her bedroom it’d be a miracle if the woman was alive. When they get home, Nora sees that Davey is almost manic about something. He stole a couple of paperbacks from the real estate agent’s bedroom, books published by his family and written by the author Davey is obsessed with. He begins to tell her a bizarre story about a woman from his past who was equally obsessed with the writer. She introduced him to The Hellfire Club, an unusual place where time and memory seem to be skewed.

He gives Nora a couple of paperbacks with a scribbled message inside. The same paperbacks the missing and presumed dead real estate agent had on her shelf in her bedroom. But it turns out that Nora was right, the woman is not dead and has been found. The police want Nora and Davey to positively ID the woman.

It is indeed the real estate agent, but she explodes into hysterics when she sees Nora. The killer is caught: a man identified as one of Davey’s former classmates as well as a lawyer for the publishing house. And this is where Nora’s nightmare begins as she becomes accused of heinous crimes and tries to outrun a killer who is actually on the loose.

Peter Straub is a master storyteller, weaving tales both supernatural and steeped in reality. The Hellfire Club is a fast page-turner and if my heart wasn’t a shriveled up black lotus flower, I’m sure it would have been pounding in terror.

Family of Origin

What do you want?

For some of us, that can be a terrifying question to answer. For Nolan and Elsa Grey, it’s almost impossible. But these two siblings have to grapple with that very question in CJ Hauser’s Family of Origin when their father mysteriously dies.

Ian Grey was a natural biologist who prescribed to the theory of ‘reversalism,’ the seemingly absurd idea that evolution is moving backwards, predicated on the study of a rare bird called the ‘undowny bufflehead.’ So, the siblings embark to a remote island to delve further into their father’s research and discover if he was delusional or maybe right all along.

I have to say it: this is a weird book. If the plot summary didn’t give you that sense already, the absence of any quotation marks throughout the book solidifies it. But there’s skilled purpose and beauty in that strangeness. Hauser immediately establishes that the two siblings are living both in the present and in the past. The Greys are “fondlers of old grudges,” “rescripters of ancient fights,” “relitigators of the past,” “dead-horse-beaters and wallowers of the first order.” Narrations switches back and forth between flashbacks and present events with enough frequency that the timeline becomes blurred, so the reader has no choice but to live in the same past/present confusion as the characters.

The haunting mistakes of the past are a persistent thread and might be the driving force behind why Elsa hopes to move to Mars…no, that’s not a joke. A clean slate, no worrying about politics or climate change or dying bees, just a new planet on which to make new mistakes. It’s a strange solution to an understandable and familiar feeling: the urge to flee your problems.

Nolan doesn’t even know how to articulate what he wants. Desires and needs have blurred into something unspeakable, something too terrifying to explore. The absence of quotation marks in the book makes thoughts and spoken words blur into indistinguishable masses, which makes for an unsettling tension; the feeling that deep dark thoughts are so close to being spoken aloud.

ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATION © DANIEL GRAY-BARNETT

I didn’t pick up this book because I was interested in sordid family dramas or outlandish scientific theories. I actually sought it out after reading CJ Hauser’s essay in The Paris Review, called “The Crane Wife.” The essay explores how Hauser immersed herself in ecological studies while researching this book and she embarked on this writing adventure after the messy and life-altering event of breaking off her engagement to her long-time fiancé. This, by the way, is not at all related to the plot of Family of Origin, and you can read the book without the context of the essay. But for the sake of this post, I’ll draw your attention to a line from that essay:

There is nothing more humiliating to me than my own desires. Nothing that makes me hate myself more than being burdensome and less than self-sufficient.

I think giving voice to wants and needs can make people feel deeply vulnerable and some take drastic steps to avoid vulnerability, whether it’s distancing themselves from other people or, in Elsa’s case, trying to leave the planet. Family of Origin is an impressive novel, but I wouldn’t exactly call it enjoyable. Witnessing the Grey children stumble through communicating their desires made me feel uncomfortable, and sometimes exposed. Maybe that was the point.

Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

I really enjoyed Tidelands by Philippa Gregory. While technically a work of fiction, it is a compelling story and feels true to the time period. Philippa is such a fabulous writer and her research is impeccable.

In the year 1648 people were very superstitious. Alinor is descended from a long line of wise women and has attended the births of most of the women on Sealsea Island, off the coast of the county of Sussex, England. Knowing the craft of healing and herbs is considered akin to being a witch. Alinor’s abusive husband has disappeared (not that she misses him!) and the townsfolk wonder if she had a part in his disappearance. Alinor’s daughter Alys and son Rob know they must be very careful and help promote a wholesome image to protect her reputation.

Sealsea Island is very small and when the tide comes in or out, the whole island can change, becoming murky, swampy and very unsafe and unstable in places…

There is a war going on in England and King Charles I is being held prisoner. Later, he is tried for treason. Alinor meets James, a priest trying to help King Charles, and a secret, forbidden romance begins. In the meantime, Alys becomes engaged to a boy who is considered above her station, much to the boy’s parents chagrin.

I was enraptured with the characters of Tidelands and couldn’t wait to find out how the dramas all worked out. Of course, one hopes for happy endings all around, but there are some twists that make for a denouement you will not be expecting!

The Best Literary Critics in the World

I think all of the youth services librarians I know would agree – we get some of the best recommendations from the enthusiastic young readers we chat with every day. The feedback we receive is not only invaluable in helping us choose our next reads, but also shapes the suggestions we make to patrons and informs the decisions we make when building our collections.

This year we introduced a new opportunity during our summer reading program. We invited youths to fill out book review forms, telling us why they loved, disliked, or were excited about the books that they read over the summer. We received over fifty incredible reviews from budding critics between third and ninth grade. They were all incredible, and you can check them all out in our Teen Zone, but I’ve chosen a few to share here. I will warn that there are spoilers in some of these delightful and thoughtful reviews. Enjoy, and leave a comment telling us about the books you’ve read this summer!

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Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

I liked the book very much. Lily/Timmothy is transgender. Her father does not want her to be. Dunkin/Norbert meets lily. Then Dunkin makes friends with the kids who are mean to lily. Dunkin tells lily about his bipolar disorder and lily tells Dunkin about being lily. While trying to save Bob. I likes how it was an example of how individuality no matter how differen makes everyone normal and extrordinary.

Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

Jasmine is an immigrant senior in her last year of high school. She tries her best to get great grades and to make her parents proud of her. It’s helping her to get scholarships to get into college. But all of that turns upside down when she learns the truth about their family: their illegal. This could mean deportation and scholarships that cannot happen anymore. But she also has met Royce Blakely who she’s looking for but may lose him at any possible moment. This book is a great read and could connect us to the real world. It has so many details and connects to people that might need to do the same thing. I would recommend this book because it’s a novel like no other.

Max and the Midknights by Lincoln Peirce

the main charakters are max, millie, simon, and kevyn. max is a girl who looks a lot like a boy. the story is about max’s uncle, who is a troubedor and he and max enter the kingdom of byjovia. it used to be ruled by conrad the kind until he “died.” they realized everything is nasty! they live several adventures together. in the end they find…if you want to know, read the book! I highly recamend this book.

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The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

I love the book series the land of stories because it is all about a different dimension where fare tales come from and after you read the first couple of paragraphs you learn that “happily Ever After” is just the begginning of the story! Example.

Red Riding Hood isn’t a 8 year-old-girl giving treat to her grandmother, she’s a woman in her twenties and Queen of the Center Kingdom. It is a brilliant page-turner that you Have to read!

Echo’s Sister by Paul Mosier

Echo’s Sister is about a girl named Laughter, but like to be called El. El has a little sister named Echo. On El’s first day at a new school her dad picks her up. She knows something is wrong because she was supposed to walk home herself. Her dad takes her to her favorite restaurant and tells her horrible news. Her little sister Echo has cancer.

After I read the book I wanted to help real kids with cancer.

The book is awesome.

The only bad thing is its only 20 chapters long. 😦

P.S. Echo survives

Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst

Fire & Heist is about Sky Hawkins, a wyvern (human capable of turning into a dragon) who’s mother recently went missing. As she leads her first heist to steal a jewel from her ex-boyfriend’s father, it could either restore her family’s rank in society or get them all banished forever.

I like the characters and the plot twists. Its funny, charming, and all in all a great story!

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Refugee by Alan Gratz

This book is about 3 Different Storys of refugs. The first story is a Jewish Boy fleing nazi germany on The Ship The St. Lois going to Cuba But gets Dinid entry. His father go’s insane and jumps off The Boat…, IziBel lives in cuba in 1994. The goverment has crashed and people are starving ween her father Lead a revilotion and fales. her family and friend’s family must flee to florida…, Mahalia live’s in Seria But wen his home is Disstrod in a Boming rade he and his famliy flee, yoo will lernd more ween you read This Book.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict Society is an exiting novel keeps you hooked on every word. The story starts out in the city of Stonetown, near Stonetown harbor. The story follows 11-year-old Raynard “Renie” Muldoon and opens when a strange ad leads Renie into danger. Following the ad, Renie takes a test, and winds up having to save the entire world.

This book is my all time favorite, and that’s saying something. I have often looked over at my clock, and wondered where the time went while reading this book. In my opinion, there is nothing not to like about the Mysterious Benedict Society.

READ IT, I INSIST!!!

Cleopatra in Space 05, Fallen Empires by Mike Maihack

I like these books because the graphics are nice and how sometimes there are pages where it’s only pictures. What I Also like about this series it has the past and some of the future (There is probably no modern time because it is kind of boring). I like the difference between the newer and older ones! Because the older are not as scary and the newer ones are suspensful and nail biting. And finally I like this series because of its awesome cliffhangers. Somethings I dislike about these books is that sometimes it is a little rushed and sometimes it is kind of confusing! It is about Cleopatra the 1st when she was a teenager. The other 4 books describe how how she came to the future to lead to her one on one battler with her former best fried to worst enemy Xaius Octavain. I recomend this book for ages 8 and up.

Unhappy Comedies

I’ve noticed a recent trend in sitcoms. Perhaps it’s nothing new, but an extra twist of lime has been added to the mix, metaphorically speaking. Here’s the 411 on the down low: Most of the characters in these comedies are not likable and the overall feeling generated by the shows is discomfort. Please, come with me to THE LAND OF UNHAPPY COMEDIES.

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Our first stop is Bakersfield, CA. After flunking out of a prestigious French clown college, Chip Baskets is determined to fulfill his clowning dream. So, Baskets moves in with his less-than-supportive mother (played somewhat disturbingly by Louie Anderson) and takes a job as a rodeo clown. Chip’s only friend is Martha, an insurance agent who tolerates the poor treatment he heaps on her liberally. His twin brother Dale (mom’s favorite) is another source of irritation in Chip’s demoralizing life. And it’s a comedy! Don’t get me wrong, Baskets is a crazy good television program. It’s just not a happy viewing experience. Did I mention that it’s a comedy?

GettingOn

Moving approximately 135 miles to Long Beach, CA, we come to the Mount Palms Memorial Hospital where the dysfunctional denizens of Getting On help people who are ready to move on to their final reward. Meet head nurse Dawn Forchette, a woman who freely mixes her love life and job, failing miserably at both; nurse Didi Ortley, a compassionate and humane caregiver; Dr. Jenna James, who cares about nothing but her research, often at the patients’ cost; and supervising nurse Patsy De La Serda, a sexually ambiguous emotional wreck who puts a face on unhappiness. What better premise for a comedy? These characters frequently act with disregard for those around them, driven only by their own needs and desires. In Didi we have a reasonable person that most of us can relate to but the others are all toxic. The result is an uncomfortable but hilarious viewing experience.

LastMan

Our journey concludes in Tuscon and other ports of call. Humanity has been wiped out by a virus and Phil Miller is The Last Man On Earth. He travels the North American continent for two years looking for others but finds no one. As he sits in Tuscon contemplating ending it all, other survivors begin to arrive and we soon find out that Phil (who goes by his middle name, Tandy) is a real jerk with few redeeming qualities. After finding out that Carol will not have sex with him unless they get married, he (wait for it) marries her. But the bonds of wedlock do not keep him from flagrantly lusting after Melissa, who gradually falls in love with Todd, a shy and husky man who Tandy tries to kill in order to be with Melissa. Did I mention that it’s a comedy? The format of the show makes it simple for adventures to occur, with other survivors occasionally finding the group, some with evil intent, others not. As the show progresses, the group moves hither and yon, allowing for more variety in the storylines. No question, this is a great show, but the overall vibe is one of discomfort and shuddering. And it’s a comedy!

I enjoy all of these shows, but they leave me feeling a little bit dirty, a little disillusioned with humankind. Still, if you want to see superior writing, most excellent acting and clever plot twists, you could do worse than these unhappy comedies. Come on down to Everett Public Library and take one for a test drive. Mileage may vary.

Percy Jackson: Books to Movie

Let me just start this by saying Percy Jackson was my Harry Potter growing up. So when I heard that a movie was being made. I. Was. Elated. Before I go on, I do want to say that this is only my opinion and I would recommend you watch the movie with an open mind. After all, I’ve heard a lot of good reviews for the movie from people who haven’t read the book. So it can’t be all bad, even from my jaded mind.

So spoilers ahead for the books and the movie Percy Jackson & the Olympians.

First up in this review are the Things They got Wrong.

The directors of the movie seems to have looked at “The Prophesy” and then tossed it out the window. It is not mentioned at all throughout the movie nor is the Oracle of Delphi. To add insult to injury, the actors are way too old to be twelve like they were in the books.

Then comes the big Minotaur scene. Book Percy is devastated when his mom disappears believing her dead. It is referenced multiple times in the next couple of chapters about how sad he is. Movie Percy seems largely unaffected by his mom’s death.

Another thing that really bugged me in that scene was that the Minotaur didn’t return to dust. It was just a dead body. Never mentioned again, luckily, we don’t even get to see another monster die, aside from Auntie Em and that’s just another whole thing.

The next big scene that they royally messed up was the Capture the Flag Stream Fight. Clarisse doesn’t exist in the movie, so instead Annabeth fights Percy. She hurts him and then gloats about it. He doesn’t even get the floating Trident above his head. He was told that in like the first 15 minutes of being in Camp Half Blood by Chiron. Therefore ruining another great scene.

The worst scene in the entire movie is when Percy has to decide who gets a pearl. In the book he decides to save his friends, there by showing his fatal flaw, something every demigod has. Percy is cursed/blessed with how he will do anything to save his loved ones. This scene showed how hard it was to choose between his friends or his mom. In the movie, he leaves Grover behind in favor of saving his mom. Completely going against the book and undercutting what was a major decision.

On a personal note as well as the last con, there is no playing with Cerberus scene. Arguably one of the best scenes in the book.  So that’s a huge mark against the movie.

Now on to the Positives.

The visuals they did for dyslexia as well as for Olympus are quite nice. Olympus looks quite pretty actually.

One of the First scenes in the movie is a new one. It’s a conversation between Zeus and Poseidon talking. Zeus threatens Poseidon. Poseidon denies the theft. It’s kind of nice to have this little family discussion.

Riptide is handed over to Percy with the accompany lines “This will help protect you” “This is a pen… A pen”. Given in this scene he doesn’t know that it’s a sword, it is quite hilarious.

In the Lotus Flower Casino and Hotel, Movie Percy and pals are given some candy shaped like lotus blossoms. We are then treated to what looks like a drug swirly light show. Which is better than the book where they just get sucked into the magic video games.

Another great thing is that you don’t have to risk your money on a movie you might not like because it’s free at the Library!

All in all, from a book to movie standpoint, it didn’t do well.  I’ll probably never see it in a good light, but I hold the books close to my heart. It’s probably better if you watch the movie while having zero knowledge of the books, you will likely enjoy it more

I Want You to Read What They Don’t Want Us to Read

Holy cats, how did it get to be September already? Don’t ask me how, but we are definitely here! The good news is that we find ourselves looking at a new reading challenge. Read the book, post a photo of it with #everettreads, and be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card courtesy of the Friends of the Everett Public Library. Thanks, Friends! This month we’re going to read a book that was banned or challenged.

What is book banning, and what is the difference between banning a book and challenging one? I’ll let the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom explain:

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

Have you heard me say lately that librarians and library staff are fierce protectors of intellectual freedom and your right to choose what you read? Because it’s true, and nowhere is this more obvious than when we talk about challenges to library materials in the attempt to prevent others from accessing them. You know–censorship.

Reasons for book challenges in 2018.

These are actual reasons why folks tried to have books banned last year.

Banned Books Week is September 22-28, 2019. However, we can get a jump start on this month’s EPL reading challenge by checking out the list of the most challenged books of 2018:

George by Alex Gino
Reasons: banned, challenged, and relocated because it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning “dirty magazines,” describing male anatomy, “creating confusion,” and including a transgender character.

 

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints.

 

 

Captain Underpants series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: series was challenged because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior, while Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot was challenged for including a same-sex couple.

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons: banned and challenged because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references.

 

 

 

Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes.

 

 

 

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Reasons: banned, challenged, and restricted for addressing teen suicide.

 

 

 

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Reasons: banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and certain illustrations.

 

 

Skippyjon Jones series written and illustrated by Judy Schachner
Reason: challenged for depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture.

 

 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint.

 

 

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content.

 

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content.

 

 

 

You’ll notice that the final two books on the list, This Day in June and Two Boys Kissing, were also burned. BURNED. It’s the twenty-first century and some folks are still so threatened by certain ideas that they will light books on FIRE. I’d say it’s unbelievable but I remember all too well this report of a 2018 book burning. This Day in June and Two Boys Kissing, in addition to Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne & Max Lang and Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino were checked out from an Iowa public library and burned. The person responsible recorded it all on video and posted it online as a “protest.”

Stories like that make my skin crawl.

If you tell me the “problems” with a book you’re just going to make me want to read it even more; double that if you tell me that certain illustrations are why you’re trying to prevent folks from reading it. I am absolutely going to read This One Summer.

What banned or challenged book are you going to read? You can tell me in the comments, or you can take it one step further and participate in the Dear Banned Author postcard writing campaign. Write a postcard (author mailing addresses listed here) or tweet an author of a banned/challenged/burned book. Let them know what the stories you read mean to you and show your support.

To all you authors of challenged, banned, and burned books: thank you.