Best of 2015 Redux Pt. 2: Music and Graphic Novels

Music and graphic novels

Library staff have a unique, and I would say coveted, opportunity: we get to see stuff that might not be on your radar, just because it comes across our desks in the course of our workdays. Because of this, our 2015 staff favorites list was just too long to publish in one piece. So this week we’re bringing you even more goodies that we adored. To help cut down on your clicking (and our painstaking hyperlinking) we’ve provided one giant set for you to click through the music and graphic novels described below. Are you ready? Here comes the awesome!

MUSIC!

Ego Death by The Internet
Summary: Singer-songwriter Syd tha Kyd packs this album full of fun and sometimes blush-worthy lyrics taking you through the turmoil of love and sex, like the inner monologue of a turbulent relationship.
Why Lisa liked it: This release has plenty of jazzy, funky soul to go around.

House Masters: Frankie Knuckles by Frankie Knuckles
Summary: For anyone interested in the roots of today’s EDM, this retrospective of the late, great Frankie Knuckles is an absolute must.
Why Lisa liked it: This collection takes you on a trip back to the Warehouse days of Chicago, when house music was brand new, and had yet to become a global music phenomena that spawned countless genres of dance music.

In Another Life by Bilal
Summary: A solid soul album with a little bit of funk to make things more interesting.
Why Lisa liked it: Though Bilal is an established artist in his own right, you can appreciate the influence that iconic artists like Prince and Stevie Wonder have had on his music. This isn’t to say that Bilal is imitating anyone – his style is refreshingly original.

Angélique Kidjo Sings by Angélique Kidjo
Summary: This album is a delightful fusion of Kidjo’s bold and distinctive vocals with a full orchestral backing.
Why Lisa liked it: Listeners journey through a rich musical landscape that can be dramatic, dreamy, or festive depending on the track.

To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
Summary: Jazz, hip-hop, funk, spoken word, slam poetry – an entire spectrum of art forms are covered.
Why Lisa liked it: At times thought-provoking and at others just entertaining; To Pimp a Butterfly is packed full of powerful tracks and is sure to become a classic.

War on Women by War on Women
Summary: Loud, gritty, hardcore punk with a healthy dose of righteous feminist fury.
Why Lisa liked it: I love this album when I need a little extra energy for my run.

El Que Sabe, Sabe by Tego Calderón
Summary: El Que Sabe lives in our Latin Pop section, but listeners will find a mix of reggaeton, hip-hop, reggae, electronica, bomba, and more.
Why Lisa liked it: While the overall tone is dark but dancy, there are a couple lighter, more laid-back cuts. La Media was a standout track for me; it reminded me of mid-90s hip-hop, to be enjoyed in the sun.

Down on Deptford Broadway by Skinny Lister
Summary: Skinny Lister’s music features ethereal Celtic folk melodies melding gracefully with rollicking rock and roll. As a reference point think of Dexy’s Midnight Runners at their best, and then think a bit better.
Why Ron liked it: Fun, fun, fun and great musicianship.

Hollywood Vampires by Hollywood Vampires
Summary: Hard rocking covers played by Alice Cooper and a plethora of musical all-stars.
Why Ron liked it: This album surprised me. Covers can be boring or weird, but Hollywood Vampires found ways to make the songs their own.

Danger in the Club by Palma Violets
Summary: 60s garage rock re-imagined in the 21st century. Sloppy, familiar, well-done.
Why Ron liked it: My decade of origin is evoked in footstomping, gear-changing, up-tempo rock and roll. Yeah baby!

GRAPHIC NOVELS!

Doodle Diary of a New Mom: an Illustrated Journey Through One Mommy’s First Year by Lucy Scott
Summary: The title summarizes it well. All the ups and downs of a full year in that adventure we call parenting.
Why Alan liked it: Works even if you’ve never been a mom; very, very funny. Kind of disgusting. Filled with love. A fast read, deceptively overloaded with insight and charm.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: the (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua
Summary: Presents a rollicking alternate reality in which Lovelace and Babbage do build the Difference Engine and then use it to build runaway economic models, battle the scourge of spelling errors, explore the wilder realms of mathematics, and, fight crime.
Why Carol liked it: Alternate histories and science are married in this engrossing graphic novel. Includes footnotes and diagrams for the history buff in all of us.

Snowden by Ted Rall
Summary: Rall delves into Snowden’s early life and work experience, his personality, and the larger issues of privacy, new surveillance technologies, and the recent history of government intrusion.
Why Carol liked it: If you ever wanted to learn more about Edward Snowden but didn’t think you had the time to read a lengthy biography, here’s your chance to get the skinny in a short time frame.

Stay tuned as we wrap up our absolute final best-of list in the next post!

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

Fiction

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

FICTION!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NONFICTION!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned for more all week long!

Best of 2015: Film & Music

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

Film:

FM1

While We’re Young

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

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

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

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

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

The Wolfpack

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

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

FM2

Life Itself

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

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

What We Do In the Shadows

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

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

Antarctica: A year on ice

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

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

FM3

Nightcrawler

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

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

The Flash: Season One

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

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

Mad Max: Fury Road

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

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

Music:

FM4

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

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

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

Choose your Weapon by Hiatus Kaiyote

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

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

Ratchet by Shamir

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

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

FM5

Cheers to the Fall by Andra Day

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

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

This is The Sonics by The Sonics

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

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

Before the World was Big by Girlpool

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

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

FM6

So Delicious by Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band

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

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

All Hands by Doomtree

Doomtree is a Minneapolis indie hip-hop super group.

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

Best of 2015: Nonfiction for Children and Adults

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

Children’s Nonfiction:

CNF1

Counting Lions by Katie Cotton

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

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

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

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

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

Ultimate Weird but True! 3 by National Geographic Kids

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

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

CNF2

Who Is Malala Yousafzai? by Dinah Brown

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

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

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

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

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

Adult Nonfiction:

ANF1

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

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

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

Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey

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

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

The Perfection of the Paper Clip by James Ward

A history of office/school supplies!

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

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

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

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

ANF2

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

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

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

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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

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

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

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

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

Best of 2015: Fiction & Graphic Novels for Adults

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

Fiction for Adults:

F1

West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan

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

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

The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle

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

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

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

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

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

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

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

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

F2

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

Journey across Canada and across the decades.

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

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

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

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

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah

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

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

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

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

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

F3

A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor

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

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

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

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

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

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

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

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

Graphic Novels for Adults:

AGN1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Story of My Tits by Jennifer Hayden

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

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

Displacement: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley

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

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

Best of 2015: Teen Fiction & Graphic Novels

We continue our Best of 2015 list today with the ever popular category of fiction and graphic novels for teens. Don’t let the teen label throw you. Plenty of adults love these titles as well.

Fiction for Teens:

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Madly by Amy Alward

When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure!

Magic, mystery, romance–what’s not to love? The world has magical rules that are vague enough to be believable, and I loved meeting another strong female heroine. Sam Kemi will be back in book 2–can’t wait to see what happens next! -Carol’s pick

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

After her parents’ divorce, Zoe Webster moves from Brooklyn to upstate New York where she meets the weirdly compelling misfit, Philip Digby, and soon finds herself in a series of hilarious and dangerous situations as he pulls her into his investigations.

The fast-paced adventure was only surpassed by the quick wit. And I haven’t looked it up yet, but reading the ending makes it obvious that a sequel demands to be written. Or at least I am demanding one. I picked this book up on a whim, and I’m so glad I did. -Carol’s pick

Reawakened by Colleen Houck

A visit to an Egyptian exhibit brings teen Lilliana Young face to face with a recently awakened mummy-turned-handsome-sun-god as she gets caught up in an adventure with more twists and turns than the Nile itself.

This book brings ancient Egyptian mythology into the modern age in an engrossing way. Liliana’s journey, both around the world and inside her heart, is a fast-paced adventure that kept me on the edge of my seat. -Carol’s pick

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Fifteen-year-old Caden Bosch is traveling against his will on a ship bound for the deepest part of the ocean with an evil captain and trickster parrot. Or is it that he’s slipping from his typical teenage life into the depths of madness?

By switching back and forth between the real and imagined stories, Shusterman expertly propels the reader into Caden’s mind and its swirling, confusing, and terrifying thoughts. Brendan Shusterman’s drawings add greatly to the chaos. -Elizabeth’s pick

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Messy, earthy Agnieszka expects to lose her friend to “The Dragon”, a wizard who periodically takes a village girl for unknown purposes, only to be taken herself. She quickly becomes involved fighting the evil Wood, and learns to trust her budding powers.

This Polish fairy tale is at times very dark and the quest seems hopeless, but there are enough bright and funny parts to keep hope alive. I loved the totally creepy feeling to the Wood and all of its bizarre creatures brimming with evil intentions. -Elizabeth’s pick

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

Claire and Ella have been best friends since elementary school, and Ella has become intensely important to Claire. During a campout at the beach the group meets mysterious Orpheus, whose hypnotic music draws them all in, especially Ella.

A modern day retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Ella Grey is likely to make you seek out other versions of the story and other books by Almond. Beautifully written, atmospheric, and full of teen angst and passion. Tragic and lovely! -Elizabeth’s pick

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

The much-anticipated sequel to Seraphina (2012). In a world where dragons can assume human form, there are children who are half human and half dragon. Seraphina can communicate with others of her kind by diving deep into her subconscious mind.

While this tale is inspired by other fantasy series about dragons, the characters are endearing and the pacing keeps those pages flying. -Emily’s pick

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

She could bear the beatings, but she couldn’t bear life on the farm without books. After her father forbids her to attend school, 14-year-old Joan runs away to Baltimore. After all, it’s 1911! A modern girl should be able to make it on her own, right?

There is no shortage of historical fiction about girls running away from home to seek their fortunes. This story portrays the tensions between Jews and Gentiles in the early 20th century from the point of view of a young “Goy” working in a Jewish home. -Emily’s pick

Graphic Novels for Teens:

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Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

In this printing of the popular, award-winning web comic, a villain adopts a sidekick with incredible powers and a mysterious past.

Colorful, intelligent, and insightful to human behavior and relationships, Nimona is everything you want a graphic novel to be: at once impactful, complex, and accessible. Iconographic and character-driven, this graphic novel is terrific for all ages. -Alan’s pick

Batgirl Volume 1: Batgirl of Burnside by Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher

It’s Batgirl as you’ve never seen her before! Big changes are here for Barbara Gordon as she moves across Gotham City to begin a new chapter in her ongoing fight against crime as Batgirl.

Who doesn’t love Batgirl? This collects volumes #35-40 of the Batgirl comics, which have been my re-introduction to DC and one that was a random selection at Everett Comics! -Carol’s pick

Bob’s Burgers Volume 1 by Various

The compilation of Bob’s Burgers comics #1-5. Read about the Belcher family (parents Bob and Linda, and their children Tina, Gene, and Louise) with brand-new in-canon stories created by the TV show’s producers, writers, animators, and  the series creator.

I hop and skip for joy every time I pick up the newest issue of Bob’s Burgers at Everett Comics. Jennifer H. got me to take a chance on the TV show a year ago, and the comics totally live up to the show’s quality humor. -Carol’s pick

Captain Marvel Volume 2. Stay Fly by Kelly Sue DeConnick

A compilation of stories that originally were published as the Captain Marvel comics #7-11.

Carol Danvers isn’t just cool because of her awesome first name. She’s a woman setting her own course, even if that means leaving everyone she loves behind and going on an intergalactic adventure with the Guardians of the Galaxy. -Carol’s pick

Best of 2015: Children’s Fiction & Graphic Novels

Tis the season for best of the year lists. These lists always come in handy for finding great gifts for yourself and others. The only problem? There sure are a lot of them. To help you avoid ‘best of year list fatigue’ let us humbly suggest you look no further than our Best of 2015 list.

Our list is put together by the dedicated staff of the Everett Public Library who know a thing or two about all the great books, movies and music that have come out in 2015. Not only do we select these materials for the library collection, but we are avid consumers ourselves. As you might suspect, our list is a tad long so we will be publishing our selections a day at a time for a week here on A Reading Life. If you want to see the complete list in all its glory, take a look at the December Newsletter to get the PDF.

So, without further ado, let’s get this list started. Today we will be taking a look at all the great fiction and graphic novels for children that came out in 2015.

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Waiting by Kevin Henkes

An owl, puppy, bear, bunny, and pig wait for marvelous things to happen.

Kevin Henkes has the soul of a poet and the precision of a scientist. His books are warm, lovely, and philosophical. The twist in this one, involving a nesting doll, is breathtaking…and the lesson is patience and gratitude in minutiae.  -Alan’s pick

How to Grow a Friend by Sara Gillingham

In bold, adorable wood block prints, the author describes in toddler-friendly detail (very few words) how friendship works.

Gillingham analogizes growing a friend to how things grow in nature with ample talking points for the storyteller (“don’t let your friend get stuck in the weeds”). -Alan’s pick

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

With spare text and breathtaking oil paintings, If You Plant a Seed demonstrates not only the process of planting and growing for young children but also how a seed of kindness can bear sweet fruit.

The illustrations of this simple tale are whimsical and beautiful. The animals are so very expressive. -Andrea’s pick

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Such a Little Mouse by Alice Schertle

Every season a little mouse pops out of his hole in the meadow and explores his world, gathering the food and supplies he will need when winter comes.

This charming story is told in rhymes and is a delight. -Leslie’s pick

Smick! by Doreen Cronin

Smick is a very minimally drawn dog in a children’s book. He retrieves a stick (done with a photo) and  meets Chick (made from a photo of a petal and drawn upon).

With very simple line drawings, Smick is portrayed as being very lively, cute, and good. He plays well with Chick, and he stole my heart. A charming book for ages 2 and up, Smick uses simple rhyming text to tell the story. -Margaret’s pick

Superworm byJulia Donaldson

Our super hero is a worm! “Superworm is super long! Superworm is super strong! Watch him wiggle! Watch him squirm! Hip Hip Hooray for Superworm!”

I love all of Julia Donaldson’s books (The Gruffalo is awesome), and this one doesn’t disappoint. -Leslie’s pick

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Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens

At an English boarding school in the 1930s, crime-solving friends Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells struggle to find an exciting mystery to investigate. They hit pay-dirt when Hazel discovers the dead body of Miss Bell, the science teacher.

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong speak to the large portion of my soul still in love with all the Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew stories. We have a bit of a delay getting the U.S. versions (book 4 is already out in the UK), but it’s going to be worth the wait! -Carol’s pick

Auggie and Me: Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio

These stories are an extra peek at Auggie before he started at Beecher Prep and during his first year there. Readers get to see him through the eyes of Julian, the bully; Christopher, Auggie’s oldest friend; and Charlotte, Auggie’s new friend at school.

This book is a companion to Palacio’s Wonder. These chapters were not included in the original book, because Wonder was Auggie Pullman’s story. This is a glimpse of the lives of three more people whose paths crossed with Auggie’s. -Andrea’s pick

A Boy and His Horse by Nate Cosby

Story of a young bounty hunter determined to send his entire outlaw family to jail. He travels the Old West on a horse that ain’t his, and won’t stop til every one’a his kin’s in the clink.

From the Old West slang and drawl to the adorable illustrations, this graphic novel aimed at a younger audience will have adults like you and me enthralled as well. -Carol’s pick

Lumberjanes Volume 1: Beware the Kitten Holy & Lumberjanes Volume 2: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen

At Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hardcore lady-types, things are not what they seem.

Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves.  Anagrams. The Lumberjanes are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer.

I picked up issue 1 of this comic book series at Everett Comics on a whim. Little did I know how quickly I would fall in love with this magical series. Get caught up on these hardcore lady-types before the movie comes out (yep, film optioned!). -Carol’s pick

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Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock: Journey to the Everspring by Kate Leth

When the water supply of Fraggle Rock mysteriously runs dry, the Fraggles will have to journey deep in the caves of Fraggle Rock to find the fabled Everspring where adventure awaits and no Fraggle has ever gone before! Dance your cares away!

I was raised on Fraggle Rock and have come to be completely obsessed with Kate Leth. This is a match made in heaven, perfect for the young and young-at-heart. -Carol’s pick

Punky Brewster Volume 1 by Joelle Sellner

Punky Brewster has been abandoned by her mother and lives on the streets of Chicago with her puppy sidekick, Brandon. Punky thinks she doesn’t need help, but after getting picked up by the police, she enters a foster home and searches for a new family.

When I was growing up, Punky Brewster was the one TV show my friends and I all watched religiously (well, as religious as a small child can). She was the friend we all wanted, and this comic brings me back to those days of wonder. -Carol’s pick

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Astrid becomes infatuated with roller derby after attending a bout with her mom and best friend, Nicole. The girls sign up for a roller derby boot camp, and Astrid soon realizes she’s in over her head.

Fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile will eat this up. -Sarah’s pick