Old Dogs and New Tricks

Graphic novels have always been a tough sell for me. It’s not that I think the format is less worthy than novels; it’s just the simple fact that my aging brain has trouble figuring out what’s going on. I find myself puzzling over which panel I’m supposed to look at next, which seriously breaks the spell of the narrative. Luckily though, I have found a genre of graphic novel that works for me: the memoir. It is probably the linear storytelling, plus the fact that they are often text heavy, that makes it easier for me to digest and understand. I’ve recently read two excellent examples that I would highly recommend. Both for those who are, like me, Graphic Novel ‘challenged’ as well as the aficionado.

On the surface, Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld is about the author’s recollections of her summer visits with relatives in Australia during her childhood. Lurking underneath, however, is Wyld’s obsession with sharks; a trait she first developed in Australia and brought back to her family home in England. Her unending fascination with their power, ruthlessness and seeming indifference, blend with her first realizations concerning family relationships and her place in the world. The illustrator, Joe Sumner, effectively conveys the shark’s influence on the author’s feelings with his illustrations. The humans are drawn in a simple and straightforward way. The sharks, however, are drawn in an almost photorealistic style that makes them jump off the page, conveying their importance and danger. Wyld is an excellent novelist, All the Birds Singing is superb, and her hypnotic and disturbing use of language is on display here with every panel.

Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug is also a memoir about understanding your past, but in this case, it concerns family history and national identity. Far removed from the wartime generation of her grandparents, Krug grew up in 1970s West Germany. While developing a love for her country and a fond sense of Germanness, she always felt there was a piece of the puzzle missing. Mainly, her family’s wartime past. After moving to New York and marrying a man of Jewish heritage, this need to know becomes a burning issue and she begins to investigate. In addition to writing the story, Krug also illustrates this work. The result looks very much like a family scrapbook, complete with photos and relevant documents. While this graphic memoir definitely deals with some heavy issues, Krug also peppers it throughout with interesting and entertaining digressions on what she misses from the land of her birth. Surprising examples include mushroom picking, hot water bottles and bandages.

So unlike an old dog, it seems I have learned a new trick: an appreciation for graphic novels.

Best of 2017: Books for Adults

With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas on the near horizon, it is time for the ‘Best of 2017’ lists to begin. We here at the library are not immune to wanting to get all of our favorites from the year listed and out to you. And you can bet we have a lot to share. So much so that we will be dividing up our recommendations into four posts, starting with our recommendations for 2017’s best in Adult Fiction, Non-Fiction and Graphic novels. If you want to check out the whole list, definitely take a look at the Library Newsletter.

Adult Fiction

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Kate, whose lifelong anxiety is compounded by a traumatic event, bravely switches apartments with her cousin– he moves to London and she to Boston. Right away a neighbor disappears, and this time Kate is right when she imagines the worst.

While not my usual fare, I really enjoyed flying through this page-turner of a story. With its suspenseful elements of “Rear Window” and a strong visual sense of place, I’d love to see this made into a movie!  –Elizabeth

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

When elderly author Gil thinks he sees his presumed-dead wife Ingrid, he falls and injures himself. The action takes off when Gil’s daughters arrive to take care of him, alternating between Ingrid’s story and the present-day family dynamics.

I loved Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days. While not as intense, this new work proves the author’s ability. The gradual reveal of the mystery of Ingrid’s disappearance kept me guessing to the end and beyond. Loved the setting, too!  –Elizabeth

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

Emma and Jane each rent a home from an enigmatic and stringent architect whose rules and designs are meant to transform the tenants. Their stories unfold through suspenseful, short chapters alternating between the two women—one alive, and the other dead.

I like a fast-paced whodunit. Some sections were a bit graphic for my taste, but I couldn’t put it down!  –Margo

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Less is more, unless your name is Arthur Less, and then less is never enough! He travels all over the world trying to change his luck and forget his past. But fate has other plans for Arthur.

I loved this book because Arthur was so hopelessly loveable, even though he’s convinced that he’s unlovable.  –Linda

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

A publisher and editor are reading the newest submission from famous author Alan Conway in his “Atticus Pünd” series. Then they realize the last chapter is missing. Before they have a chance to ask him where it is, Alan commits suicide. Or does he?

What a fun book! Magpie Murders is a mystery within a mystery—a really challenging whodunit!  –Linda

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

A mother’s hurried choice of a nanny for her toddler results in multiple complications. Art, privilege, motherhood, love, and seriously dysfunctional relationships thrive in Lepucki’s second novel, which is nothing like her first, California.

Having gone to art school myself, I enjoyed the bizarre art project that the nanny contrives to undertake right under the nose of the mother. The added touches of Twitter addiction, selective mutism, and reckless behavior make this an entertaining read.  –Elizabeth

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

Samuel Hawley, scarred from 12 bullet wounds, has lived a life of crime about which his daughter, Loo, knows nothing. Gradually, the story behind each of those bullets is revealed, along with the truth about Loo’s mother’s death.

Despite the violence of Hawley’s former life he fiercely loves and protects Loo. This dichotomy between despicable behavior and tenderhearted parenting makes this an endlessly intriguing story, full of intensity and complexity. I loved it!  –Elizabeth

Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato

Edgar is a quirky 8-year-old struggling to find his place. His dad is dead, his mother is a messed up partier, and his loving grandmother just died. When a strange man treats Edgar with kindness, he makes the grave mistake of getting pulled under his spell.

Seriously flawed characters galore here, but you can’t help but empathize with each one and even understand their crazy actions. Suspenseful, full of twists and turns—it keeps you guessing!  –Elizabeth

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Seven tales of middle-aged guys and the women they’ve known, loved, used, and lost. One is starving from unrequited love. Another hears about his lover’s former life as an eel. One wakes up as a Gregor Samsa, a man after having been a cockroach.

It’s hard to put into words why I love Murakami’s work. It’s a sort of intense introspective wonder about people, relationships, and the world in general. I loved the incredible details of these stories, and didn’t want any of them to end.  –Elizabeth

The Echo of Twilight by Judith Kinghorn

Pearl Gibson works her way up to becoming the head maid for the wealthy and strong-willed Lady Ottoline Campbell. The two ladies’ lives intertwine over the years as they deal with love, loss, and secrets.

The Echo of Twilight is a sweeping story that is reminiscent of Downton Abbey. The descriptions of lush scenery, opulent surroundings, and interesting relationships between characters made for a fantastic read.  –Liz

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

This is the last installment in the Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy. Feyre learns how to use her powers and become a leader in order to try save those in the human realm as well as those in the Faerie realm.

I would describe this book as “Twilight for grown-ups.” It’s filled with action, romance, magic, and the supernatural.  –Liz

Amatka by Karin Tidbeck

In a world where nothing holds its shape unless labeled and named by humans over and over, Vanja travels to cold, dreary Amatka to study hygiene products for the government. Initially, she is a loyal servant but soon discovers all is not what it seems.

Amatka kept me fascinated from bizarre beginning to ambiguous end, which I hope hints at more to come from this debut Swedish author.  –Elizabeth


How to be Human
by Paula Cocozza

Mary, newly separated, barely keeping her head above water, with a tedious job and a ramshackle house, becomes enamored with a splendidly gorgeous wild fox. To Mary’s horror, the neighbors want to bring in an exterminator.

This strange storyline made me a bit worried at times, wondering what might happen. But I loved the buildup of tension and claustrophobia, and finally, Mary’s transformation.  –Elizabeth

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

A strange Victorian tale of small village fears and superstitions. Is there a monster lurking in the fog and mist of Colchester? Add in a forbidden love story, a tragic case of consumption, religion, science, and feminism, and the result is intriguing.

My son called this audiobook “overwrought,” but I loved performer Juanita McMahon’s voice. Plus, the main character Cora, who wears men’s clothes and tromps around in the bog studying nature, is certainly a woman ahead of her time.  –Elizabeth

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

Told from a variety of perspectives, Mrs. Fletcher follows the misadventures of a 46-year-old divorcee and her son, as the son adapts to college and the mom adapts to an empty nest.

Perrotta (Little children, Election, and The Leftovers) returns with his first amusing, thought-provoking, character-driven novel in six years. As raunchy as it may be, it is far sweeter… and harder to put down.  –Alan

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The latest from the British mystery author of In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10—this is another terrific thriller regarding teen best friends who carry a deadly secret into adulthood.

Chock full of twists and stunningly styled, The Lying Game is thrillingly engaging, especially as an audiobook performed by the incomparable Imogen Church.  –Alan

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

In 1940s Italy, teenager Pino Lella joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps and falls for a beautiful widow. He also becomes the personal driver of one of the Third Reich’s most powerful commanders.

This is a “can’t put it down” book based on a true story. Totally loved it!  –Leslie

Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith

A paean both to the public library and the book, Scottish novelist Ali Smith’s latest book blends true words from library lovers with short stories suffused with her trademark magical realism.

This book serves as a kind of literary activism. While it is known that Smith writes so beautifully, her reading of the audiobook is what really recommends this inspiring work.  –Alan

Adult Non-Fiction

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

This book has recipes, decorating tips, and lifestyle advice about how the Danes incorporate hygge—meaning comfort or well-being—into their everyday lives, making them some of the happiest people in the world.

I really love all the information about making your home more comfortable and your lifestyle more relaxed in order to fully appreciate the important things in life such as family and friends.  –Liz

Driving Miss Norma: One Family’s Journey Saying Yes to Living by Tim Bauerschmidt

Recently widowed nonagenerian Norma opts out of cancer treatment and goes on an adventure of a lifetime in an RV with her son, daughter-in-law, and a large poodle. This book chronicles their journey and shares the warmth, wisdom, and kindness they encountered every step of the way.

Driving Miss Norma teaches us to embrace life and adventure. We are never too old to try new things.  –Julie

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

A husband and wife team shares their personal story, from humble beginnings to their current careers as home improvement experts and television personalities.

These two have a remarkably strong relationship, four kids, work really hard in all aspects of life, and are amazing at home remodel and design. This is a fascinating story that reveals the couple behind the popular TV show, Fixer Upper–Margaret

Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

Osage Indians in Oklahoma were among the wealthiest people in America in the 1920s, thanks to the discovery of oil beneath their land. And then, one by one, dozens of tribal members were murdered, as were the local law enforcement officials who dared investigate the killings. The fledgling FBI picked up the case and bungled it badly.

This is one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history and a very good read.  –Leslie

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? Acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson guides readers through these questions in this compact and contemplative guide to the cosmos.

Tyson brings the universe down to earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.  –Leslie

The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage by Jared Yates Sexton

Featuring in-the-field reports as well as deep analysis, Sexton’s book is a sobering chronicle of our polarization and a firsthand account of the 2016 presidential election and the cultural forces that powered Trump’s victory.

Sexton grapples with the lies, news, ugly debate, social media echo chambers…and tells us how we got here. One critic called it “A leftist counterweight to Hillbilly Elegy with shots of Hunter S. Thompson.”– Alan

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay delves into one of the most painful and deeply personal aspects of herself: her body. This is her story of how a major trauma from her adolescence played out and manifested itself through her body.

This book touches on an issue that almost every woman can relate to in our country. Gay’s honesty and vulnerability show the interrelatedness of trauma and disordered eating.  –Serena

‘Twas the Nightcap before Christmas by Katie Blackburn & Sholto Walker

A new version of an old tale—absolutely adorable and relatable! Any parents who have been up until the wee hours of Christmas Eve will wonder why it took until now for someone to write this. I loved it, and can’t wait to buy my own copy!

The story and artwork were both fun!  –Linda

Adult Graphic Novels

Motor Crush 01 by Brenden Fletcher

Domino Swift might be the best motorcycle racer alive, but her activity on the underground racing circuit is jeopardizing her official career. Domino’s real trouble begins when she finds herself battling a gang over a mysterious illegal engine stimulant.

The Road Rash-style motorcycle racing would have been enough to get my interest, but the futuristic setting along with a slight Overdrive vibe to the artwork adds a layer of depth to the storytelling and completes the experience.  –Zac

Savage Town by Declan Shalvey

Jimmy Savage is a small time gangster in Ireland struggling to keep his small empire together with threats from outside, as well as from within.

The authentic-sounding dialogue brings this story to life and makes it more than just another gangster story.  –Zac

Best of 2016: Adult Fiction & Graphic Novels

Another year is coming to a close and here at the library that means just one thing: the annual staff favorites list! Our dedicated staff have picked their favorite books, music and film of 2016 and presented it to you in a handy list, tailor made for getting great gift ideas this holiday season. Here at the blog, we will be publishing a different part of the list Monday through Friday this week so you can see it in all its glory. For a full listing, definitely check out the Library Newsletter.

Today we bring you the staff picks for Adult Fiction and Graphic Novels. Enjoy!

Adult Fiction

afgn1

Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers
Josie is on the run with her children. She’s left her husband, her failing dental practice, and the rest of her Ohio town to explore Alaska in a rickety RV.

With his trademark insight, humor, and pathos, Dave Eggers explores this woman’s truly heroic adventure, all the while exploring the concept of heroism in general. Brilliant, unpretentious, and highly readable. -Alan’s pick

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
When travel journalist Lo Blacklock is invited on a boutique luxury cruise around the Norwegian fjords, it seems like a dream job. But the trip takes a nightmarish turn when she wakes in the middle of the night to hear a body being thrown overboard.

Brit Ruth Ware has crafted her second gripping, dark thriller in the Christie tradition. This page-turner toys with the classic plot of “the woman no one would believe” with incredible language and fun twists. Also a terrific, unabridged audiobook. -Alan’s pick

They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine
When Joy Bergman’s husband dies, her children are shocked that she doesn’t agree with their ideas for her. The book’s title is from a Philip Larkin poem, and this funny and compassionate look at the Bergman family brings Larkin’s poem to life.

Schine captures the reality of aging, as well as how difficult it is for families to communicate–even when they love each other. -Eileen’s pick

Barkskins by Annie Proulx
Spanning hundreds of years, this ambitious work tells the often brutal story of the Canadian and New England lumber industry and all those whom it enriched or displaced.

Annie Proulx’s writing never ceases to thrill me. The weaving together of the stories of multiple characters and the reader’s gradual realization of the impact one person’s fate can have on future generations is simply amazing. -Elizabeth’s pick

afgn2

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett
Very hard to describe, Pond is made up of connected short stories: musings on both the beauty and the hassles of everyday things, the tiresomeness of town life and the meddling of neighbors, laziness, broken things, and the gorgeousness of fruit.

Why is this so good? It’s just beautifully written and I couldn’t put it down. I felt like I was completely in the narrator’s mind, and her observations on life, nature, never failed to keep me entertained. -Elizabeth’s pick

An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel
After a 300-year slumber, vampire Yuric Bile wakes to a world where the modern undead are beautiful, young and hiding in plain sight on TV shows. With help from two humans, he decides to track down and show the glamorous undead how a real monster behaves.

Mingling darkness and humor, this debut fantasy fiction is original, mighty in its depiction of cultural differences, and mostly very funny. -Joyce’s pick

Before the Wind by Jim Lynch
Growing up on the Puget Sound, the Johannssen family has sailing in their blood, but the oldest brother, Josh, is left puzzling over what caused his siblings to flee, one to Africa, the other to points unknown as a fugitive and pirate.

If you love the Puget Sound or sailing, you’ll love Lynch’s latest novel. -Leslie’s pick

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Set during WWII, we have the stories of three very different women in separate locations being told simultaneously.

The characters were very endearing. -Linda’s pick

afgn3

What was Mine by Helen Klein Ross
One lie leads to another until 20 years later when the truth comes out and carefully guarded secrets are unraveled. In one impulsive moment multiple lives become altered. When shock and tragedy strike people manage to move on with their lives others choose to live in the lie all of which takes a toll.

An intriguing read and expose of the human psyche. -Margo’s pick

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Lucy doesn’t come from much; growing up poor has left scars and caused division. Lucy is lonely and vulnerable, missing her family, confined to the hospital for nine weeks, and then her mother unexpectedly shows up.

The genuineness with which Strout writes is familiar and comforting. I find myself coming to care deeply for her characters. The past catches up with the present in this tender heartfelt story of life and death, pain and sorrow. -Margo’s pick

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
This book is set against the backdrop of the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. Sunil Yapa invokes empathy and consideration for all sides involved.

Yapa’s plot builds substantially, as the violence in the protests escalates, and his characters’ flaws are revealed with superb timing. -Sarah’s pick

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
A fellow slave encourages Cora to run away, and they head north on a functional underground railroad, complete with tracks and cars.

Whitehead details the terrors of slavery and recounts this brutal piece of American history. -Sarah’s pick

An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao
In 1947, the Indian subcontinent was partitioned into two countries, India and Pakistan. This collection of stories examines how this political decision forces a mass migration of humanity and how little control a person may have over his/her own destiny.

Months after finishing this collection of short stories, I found myself thinking about the characters and how they managed to survive and adapt to their new circumstances. The characters are well developed and often connected from story to story. -Teri’s pick

Adult Graphic Novels

afgn4

Faith 01: Hollywood and Vine by Jody Houser
When she’s not typing up listicles about cat videos, Faith makes a secret transformation to patrol the night as the City of Angels’ own leading superhero– the sky-soaring Zephyr.

A superhero comic series for people who hate superhero comics, Faith is a body-positive series where size is never mentioned, but we can see our large heroine wear normal clothes and live a life free of fat-shaming. And she kicks-butt! -Carol’s pick

Adulthood is a Myth: a “Sarah Scribbles” Collection by Sarah Andersen
Confronts head-on the horrors, anxiety, and awkwardness of modern adult life.

I hadn’t heard of Sarah Andersen until I cataloged this book. Now I can’t stop reading everything she’s ever written. Her comics are highly relatable to any millennial, woman, or person in the world. It’s also a fast read. -Carol’s pick

Hip Hop Family Tree Volume 4 by Ed Piskor
Piskor continues his work telling the “origin stories” of hip hop’s most important artists and of the genre itself. This book covers 1984-1985 and has a large focus on the Def Jam record label.

The large format, rough paper, and muted colors make reading about 80s hip hop feel closer than the 30 years that separate it from the present. Every book in this series is worth a read, yet each stands on its own equally well. -Zac’s pick

Faster than Light by Brian Haberlin
Human beings have finally discovered how to travel faster than the speed of light. This book, with the help of an iOS/Android companion app, tells the story of the first crew to venture deep into our universe.

Unlike what you might see on Star Trek, the technology in this sci-fi title feels a little clunky, which adds a layer of suspense to the storytelling. -Zac’s pick

afgn5

Dark Night: a True Batman Story by Paul Dini
Author Paul Dini tells his personal story of physical and psychological recovery after being seriously beaten while walking home.

I grew up watching the animated Batman cartoons that Dini created in the 90s. It’s fascinating to see how those fictional characters became very real players in the author’s personal struggles. -Zac’s pick

Goodnight Punpun by Inio Asano
This manga centers around Onodera Punpun (drawn as a mostly formless bird to project a neutral character) as he grows up in a very dysfunctional family.

There’s much complexity in Punpun’s family situation, and this manga does not hesitate to show the darker side of life and dabble in very serious topics. It is at once a heavy and delightful read. -Zac’s pick

We Stand on Guard by Brian K. Vaughan
In a dystopian future, Canada has been attacked by its aggressive neighbors to the south. One group of Canadian citizens dares to defy the American invaders.

The book’s premise drew me in, and it works really well in this short, one-volume format. Overall, it was the gritty art style (a little reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Robocop) that kept me fully engaged to the end. -Zac’s pick