Best of 2017: Videos and Music

We finish up our list of the Best of 2017 with our recommendations from the audiovisual world. Enjoy these video and music titles that tickled our fancy in 2017. And remember to check out the full listing of the Best of 2017 on the Library Newsletter.

Video

Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie

Two overly imaginative pranksters, George and Harold, hypnotize their principal so that he thinks he’s a ridiculously enthusiastic, incredibly dimwitted superhero named Captain Underpants.

Tra-la-laaa! The funniest of kids’ book series leaps to the screen! The adaptation is visually and thematically faithful, and quite hilarious. If naively crude humor is your thing, this is your movie.  –Alan

Paterson

Paterson is a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. His daily routine: driving his route, observing the city and overhearing fragments of conversation; writing poetry in a notebook; drinking one beer at his bar. And he loves his wife.

Paterson is a celebration of life. The creative impulses of the title character and his wife rest in us all. Jarmusch’s style delights in the minutiae as well. A love story of man, his wife, art, city, and humanity in general. Utterly satisfying.  –Alan

Moana

A young girl sails across the ocean to return the Heart of Te Fiti and save her island.

I loved Moana because it showed that girls do not have to wait around for someone to rescue them. The musical numbers were amazing and heart-wrenching. Moana also told the story of a young girl following her heart.  –Feylin

Moonlight

A young black man struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.

This surprise best picture winner at the Academy Awards deserves all accolades and more. With sensitivity and sumptuous style, director Barry Jenkins explores issues of race, gender, class, and the difficult business of maturing.  –-Alan

La La Land

A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. This original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing dreams.

Ignore the haters, La La Land‘s blend of hyper expressive routines (for when emotion becomes too big for mere words) and follow-your-dream plotline is not only a perfect merging of form and content, but also absolutely exhilarating.  –Alan

Gimme Danger

An in-depth look at the legendary punk band, The Stooges.

Jim Jarmusch doesn’t usually make documentaries, and there’s never been a good film on the band that started punk. So while this is not a perfect film, it’s a long-overdue tribute to one of the greats, by a master filmmaker.  –Alan

The Eagle Huntress

A 13yr old Mongolian girl becomes the first female Golden Eagle huntress following 12 generations of male relatives before her.

A truly amazing and gorgeous documentary of the strong and brave Aisholpan, the 13yr old daughter in a family who have hunted small mammals using golden eagles for many generations. She is remarkable as the first female to become a huntress among her people.  –Margaret

Chasing Shadows

Follow professional photographer Geoff Sims as he tracks and photographs solar eclipses.

I can’t say it compares to the “real deal” like many experienced this past summer, but for those of us who missed it or didn’t snag a photo, this film could be the next best thing.  –Zac

Fire at Sea

Set on the once peaceful Lampedusa Island in the Mediterranean youthful innocence is portrayed through the life of an average 12 year old boy, while just off its coast African refugee’s in overcrowded boats float under a scorching sun awaiting their fate.

This documentary’s stark contrast was thought provoking and gave me a greater empathy for the refugee crisis.  –Margo

Music

Last Place by Grandaddy

Lo-fi analog synth-fuzz space group returns after a ten year hiatus with gorgeous tunes of protest and despair.

Jason Lytle plays and produces the entirety of Last Place, and alongside his plaintive vocals, creates such sonic beauty and complexity that lines like “I just moved here, and / I don’t want to live here anymore” go down easy.  –Alan 

Lifer by MercyMe

Lifer, by MercyMe, is a variety of upbeat songs, like “Lifer” and “Happy Dance” mixed with hauntingly beautiful songs such as “Hello Beautiful” and “Ghost,” and the hit song “Even If.”

The tempo, harmonies, and affirming lyrics had me playing this CD over and over.  –Margo

Sleep Well Beast by The National

This is The National’s seventh album and it is one of their best. The songs touch on the challenges of existence in our daily lives and how we endure.

The lyrics, the sounds and the voice of lead singer Matt Berninger draw me to this album again and again.  –Serena

Northern Passages by The Sadies

Recorded in a home basement in Toronto over the winter of 2015, the familiar surroundings and lack of distractions resulted in an album with a consistent feel from the Sadies. Kurt Vile also makes an appearance.

The Good brothers have been cranking out Byrds-tinged garage alt-country rock for over 20 years in backing Neko Case, Jon Langford, and others, but this solo recording is the pure magic of their live performance captured. True lightning in a bottle!  –Alan

Robyn Hitchcock by Robyn Hitchcock

Masterful psychedelic pop/rock gems from the master himself.

Infectious, clever, catchy and amusing.  –Ron

Dreamcar by Dreamcar

80s New Wave synth pop from the present!

It’s nice to see synth pop making a comeback.  –Ron

Life Is Good by Flogging Molly

Celtic punk at its best.

Nice combination of aggressive and catchy music.  –Ron

Best of 2017: Books for Children

Today we share with you all of our picks for the best in Children’s Fiction, Non-Fiction, Picture Books and Graphic Novels from 2017. Place your holds now! Also, remember to check out the Library Newsletter for all of the library staff’s recommendations.

Children’s Fiction

The Princess and the Page by Christina Farley

Keira used a magic pen to write a story and win a trip. Keira was mad at her mom, and wrote an “unhappily ever after” story. Now she has to try to change the story to save herself, her friend Bella, and her mom.

I really like fantasies and fairy tales, so this was a fun book. It had just enough twists and turns to keep me wondering what would happen next.  –Linda

The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

Charlie is a boy with autism and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder who loves birds and struggles with life. He must leave the comforts of home on a road trip to see his father, a journalist who suffered brain injuries while on assignment in Afghanistan. Charlie, his siblings, and their caregiver set off on a mission in this road trip story about war, peace, birds, family, loss, and hope.

I picked up this book because I am a birder, and I love road trips. I stayed because the characters are all so real and human.  –Julie

Patina by Jason Reynolds

As a newbie to the track team, Patina “Patty” Jones must learn to rely on her family and teammates as she tries to outrun her personal demons.

Last year I recommended Ghost, about a boy trying to outrun his troubles. Patina is the second book in this series, and it focuses on his teammate. With too heavy a burden for any person, Patty’s story is heartfelt and well-written. Teamwork, trust, and friendship are key.  –Andrea

My Kite is Stuck! and Other Stories by Salina Yoon

Loud and in-charge Big Duck, quiet and clever Little Duck, and friendly and gentle Porcupine are back in another charming trio of stories.

This is a collection of stories for early readers , focusing on friendship and cooperation. The three characters’ personalities shine brighter than ever. I found myself laughing out loud while reading!  –Andrea

Restart by Gordon Korman

Chase does not remember falling and hitting his head, in fact he does not remember anything about himself. He begins to learn who he was through the reactions of the others–trouble is, he really is not sure he likes the Chase that is being revealed.

This book shows that it may not be too late to define who you are and who you will become. Korman does a beautiful job of creating plausible characters and laugh-out-loud scenes while dealing with the serious subject of bullying.  –Andrea

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This is the sequel to The War That Saved My Life. Eleven-year-old Ada is still adapting to her new life during World War II.

These books would make a wonderful movie or television series, in the style of Downton Abbey or Homefires–Julie

The Good For Nothing Button! by Charise Harper

Yellow Bird has found a button and wants to share it with Red Bird and Blue Bird. This is just an ordinary button. It does not do anything when you press it. But, yes it does!

From the Elephant and Piggie Love Reading series, this easy reader is funny and fun.  –Leslie

Children’s Non-Fiction

Penguin Day: A Family Story by Nic Bishop

A story in photographs featuring a family of three Rockhopper penguins. The penguins are followed through a day in their life.

Beautifully photographed and accompanied by brief, concise text explaining how the mother penguin gets food for the baby and how the father penguin saves the baby from danger.  –Margaret 

Botanicum by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis

This book showcases dozens of full-color plants from around the world in a gallery format. Images are complemented by identifying information and brief descriptions.

This is a fascinating and gorgeous book.  –Leslie

Two Truths and a Lie: it’s Alive! by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson

Each chapter presents three stories of truly bizarre and befuddling natural phenomena. The catch is: two stories are true and one is (mostly) make believe. Readers must use critical thinking skills to figure out the truth.

My son and I loved reading this together. We learned about many weird and intriguing things, and we enjoyed talking about why we thought each story was true or false.  –Mindy

That is my dream! : a picture book of Langston Hughes’s “Dream variation” by Langston Hughes & Daniel Miyares

This picture book is an illustrated version of Langston Hughes’s poem “Dream Variation.” A young boy lives the words written by Hughes, contrasting the boy’s day in a segregated town with a day of true freedom from oppression.

This beautifully illustrated book does a masterful job presenting Hughes’s vision. The message is delivered with subtlety, allowing discussion with a young reader to develop as the reader grows. –Jesse

Children’s Picture Books

Emma and the Whale by Julie Chase

Emma, a young girl with an affinity for the ocean, finds a baby whale beached on the shore and tries to save her.

Absolutely beautiful painted illustrations adorn a touching tale of conservation and empowerment. Highly recommended.  –Alan

A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins

A groundhog and a greyhound meet each other and decide to be friends as they play and run around together.

The words are slightly tongue twisty, and the unlikely friendship between these animals grabbed my attention. The illustrations are cute and simple and tell the story well.  –Margaret

If I Had a Little Dream by Nina Laden

Children and parents alike will delight in the simple cadence of this whimsical book depicting a young child’s dream wishes.

The swirly blue cover art and gold embossed lettering instantly attracted me. This wonderful story of a young child gives voice to universal dreams full of hope, joy, and contented relationships. I guarantee you will smile the whole way through!  –Margo

Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins

A silly and fun picture book, with cartoonish mice discussing and writing a wordless book with funny dialog.

Such creativity and silliness, it made me giggle and laugh out loud. Another favorite to add to my list of special kids’ books.  –Margaret

The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt

From the Kingdom of the Backyard, Rock searches for an adversary that might best him, meanwhile Paper and Scissors set off on their own quests for competitors.

This hilarious picture book is from the author of The Day the Crayons Quit.  It will entertain young ones and even elementary school age kids.  –Leslie

Hooray for Birds by Lucy Cousins

In an exuberant display of color, Lucy Cousins invites little ones to imagine themselves as brilliant birds. Birds of all feathers flock together in a fun, rhyme-filled offering by the creator of Maisy.

I love the artwork and the rhythm of the text. A wonderful picture book.  –Leslie

The Alphabet from the Sky by Benedikt Groß, Joey Lee

The whole family will be totally fascinated by this book! Using aerial photography, the authors ask you to identify accidentally or naturally occurring letters of the alphabet. Each photo is labeled with its location including latitude and longitude.

It’s like a real life “Where’s Waldo” with letters. Awesome! — Mona

The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson

There’s something in Rabbit’s burrow and all of his friends try to help him get it out.

I love this new picture book. It has everything going for it: animals, rhymes and a surprise ending.  –Leslie

Reach for the Moon, Little Lion by Hildegard Muller

A little lion is teased by animals who tell him that real lions are so big that they can touch the moon with their paws, a claim that saddens the little lion until a wise raven helps him fool his tormentors.

Beautiful painted faux-naive art that appeals to young eyes, a message of perseverance and pride, and minimalist poetry for the text. What’s not to love?  –Alan

Now by Antoinette Portis

With words and art that are simple, yet eloquent, this book shows the way children feel their favorite thing is whatever they have or are doing at that exact moment. Or, in other words, now.

The art and the story are touching and sweet.  –Mona

Children’s Graphic Novels

Hilo 2: Saving the Whole Wide World by Judd Winick

The extraterrestrial robot boy is back, with his human friends by his side. As usual, the adults have no clue Earth is about to be wiped out by beings from another dimension.

Funny dialog, running gags, puns, and visual humor will appeal to fans of Captain Underpants. Adults may appreciate that there is less potty talk than in Dav Pilkey’s books.  –Emily

Swing it, Sunny by Jennifer Holm

Sunny is back, adjusting to life with her brother away at a strict military school. Letters and calls to her cool grandpa in Florida don’t tell the entire truth. Her new neighbor is a great mentor who teaches her more than just flag twirling.

Set in the 1970s, Sunny and I have a shared past and present. But she is way cooler than I ever was.  –Julie

Real Friends by Shannon Hale

Calling all Raina Telgemeier fans! A young Shannon traverses the difficult friendships she has at school and home. Shannon learns about true friendship and what it means to be a friend.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons: the honest depiction of friendship between girls, the poignant yet imperfect relationships Shannon has at home and the integration of her Mormon upbringing.  –Serena

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

Imogene has always been homeschooled, but this year she will go to middle school. Not only has she been homeschooled, but her family actively participates in the town’s local Renaissance faire and refers to themselves as Rennies.

This story perfectly captures the difficulties of navigating friendship, bullying and popularity during the middle school years.  –Serena

Best of 2017: Books for Young Adults

We continue our list of the Best of 2017 as recommended by library staff today with a bunch of great titles from the world of Young Adult Fiction, Non-Fiction and Graphic Novels. Enjoy and make sure to check out the Library Newsletter for all of our recommendations.

Young Adult Fiction

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

Princess Anya is an orphan and second in line to the throne. Her stepstepfather is an evil wizard, the frog population in the moat is growing, and visiting princes keep vanishing. The royal dogs send Anya on a quest for a potion to reverse her stepstepfather’s spells.

A bitingly funny fractured fairy tale that doesn’t take itself too seriously and even pokes gentle fun at the genre.  –Emily

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

After learning that her deep voice is keeping her from being cast in plays at her exclusive performing arts school, Jordan Sun, junior, disguises herself as a boy and auditions for an all-male octet hoping for a chance to perform internationally.

What I thought would be a quick romp or just a comedy of errors was surprisingly insightful and at times a total gut-punch. As they discovered and explored new truths about themselves, these characters kept me up all night reading.  –Carol

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel meet at a Stanford University summer program, Dimple is avoiding her parents’ obsession with “marriage prospects,” but Rishi hopes to woo her into accepting arranged marriage with him.

The best romantic comedy of the summer, and also a book I want to read over and over again. Adorable, quirky, and full of heart: this book will have you cheering out loud, and maybe swooning. Fantastic debut from a talented new Indian-American voice.  –Carol

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

A historical action/adventure/comedy/romance. When a reckless decision turns his Grand Tour of Europe into a harrowing manhunt, it calls into question everything Monty knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Spoiler: Monty is completely horrible for the first couple hundred pages (the vice). Get through it and be rewarded with his redemption story (the virtue)! Monty’s struggle with being bisexual in a time that doesn’t allow for it made me cry and cheer.  –Carol

The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

Ariel’s mother abandoned her when she was still a toddler, and she’s been on the move with her hard-drinking, hard-loving father for as long as she can remember. When they finally settle in California, she begins to discover home, love, and, eventually, answers.

Plenty of drama and dysfunction, along with strong characters, keep readers engrossed. A parallel story of a woman and her troubled marriage sometimes seemed out of place until the stories intertwine.  –Elizabeth

The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

A summer house is carefully shared by a bitterly divided family, assuring the two groups never meet. Although they’ve never met, Ray and Sasha, both children of second marriages, share a room, and for many years have wondered about each other.

You know they are going to meet up, you can’t wait for it to happen, but how and when, and what will they think of each other? The anticipation coupled with a compelling story of family love, hate, and the possibility of healing make for a great read.  –Elizabeth

The Art of Starving by Sam Miller

Sixteen- year-old Matt is gay and friendless in a small, backward town. To add to that misery, his beloved sister has just left mysteriously, his mom may lose her job, and he has a serious eating disorder. He believes starving enhances his perceptions.

While things are looking pretty bad for Matt, he finds love in the most unexpected place. Despite major struggles, I felt strangely hopeful for his outcome.  –Elizabeth

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Before Adri launches on a one-way trip to the experimental Mars colony, she’s told to say her goodbyes and find closure. As an orphan who never knew her family, she assumes this won’t be necessary. She is wrong.

This story combines two of my favorite genres in one book: sci-fi and historical fiction. Adri meets a long-lost cousin and discovers letters and diaries from pioneering young women in the early 1900s.  –Emily

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Six teenagers from a small town in Ireland are having a typical summer. Drunken parties. Hooking up. Breaking up. The discovery of a spell book and mysterious pages from a stranger’s journal turns everything upside down.

Untwisting this story is like unraveling a tangled mass of yarn. The middle must be unknotted to figure out the end and the beginning.  –Emily

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

On a desolate ranch, there lives a saint. It’s a strange place, where pilgrims receive the miracle they deserve, not necessarily the miracle they want. The teens growing up on the ranch start a pirate radio station, hoping for a miracle of their own.

Set in the early 1960s, the author weaves together strands of folklore, fable, legend, and historical fiction. The language and imagery is reminiscent of authors such as Clive Barker, Tom Robbins, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.  –Emily

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

When the creator of a high school gossip app mysteriously dies in front of four high-profile students, all four become suspects. It’s up to them to solve the case.

Part Breakfast Club, part Agatha Christie, part Gossip Girl, this ridiculously entertaining whodunit will keep you guessing to the end. The audiobook is especially well-performed by an ensemble cast.  –Alan

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

It begins like a traditional “orphan sent to grand manor house, discovers mystery” story. But this one has five endings. Did one ending actually happen? Or did all of them?

The five scenarios touch on just about every genre: contemporary realism, romance, mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. But with a twist or two.  –Emily

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Starr Carter lives in two worlds: the underserved neighborhood she lives in and the affluent prep school she attends. These worlds clash when Starr is the sole witness to the death of an old friend, an unarmed young black man shot by the police.

Thomas has written a book that is both timely and compelling. Starr Carter’s narrative gives the reader an important view into the life of a young black woman navigating a treacherous world.  –Jesse

Young Adult Graphic Novels

One-Punch Man Vols 10, 11, 12 by ONE

The mis-adventures of the “hero for fun” keep getting better with each volume, and the overall story arc across volumes is finally starting build beyond Saitama questing for recognition as the world’s greatest hero.

I can’t stop giggling at the contrast of unassuming Saitama’s appearance and his overwhelming strength. The development of top-level nemeses in these later volumes rewards returning readers and makes now the best time to start this series!  –Zac

The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks

In this new expanded edition based off of a web series, this comic follows Superhero Girl, a young woman with extraordinary powers and extraordinarily annoying problems, from her all-too-perfect brother to incompetent nemeses AND BEYOND!

Superhero Girl’s adventures are clever, hilarious, and delightfully illustrated. This book does an incredible job of capturing both the wonderful silliness of many superhero stories and the crippling angst of teenage life.  –Jesse

Young Adult Non-Fiction

Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager

This book is a collection of 23 mini-biographies of LGBTQ people throughout history, including a Roman Emperor, a First Lady, artists, actors, and many more. Perfect for activist, allies, and anyone curious about hidden history.

Many of these stories are inspiring accounts of public figures who were out and helped shape their time, but I was even more delighted to learn more about the surprising private lives of well-known individuals  –Jesse

Undefeated : Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football team by Steve Sheinkin

Jim Thorpe and Pop Warner are two towering figures of the sports world. This book finds them before they were household names, when Thorpe, a young Native American, and Warner revolutionized football and humbled the sport’s powerhouse teams.

Sheinkin manages to weave an incredible underdog sports story together with an account of the unforgivably shameful ways Native Americans have been maltreated by the United States. — Jesse

Because I was a Girl: True Stories for Girls of All Ages edited by Melissa De La Cruz

This volume features nearly forty stories told by successful women between the ages of 10 and 87. By taking the reader on their journeys, these incredible figures reveal their thoughts as they overcame obstacles to achieve great things.

These accounts are fascinating, inspiring and include impactful figures with lesser known stories. I also love the presentation of this volume, with full page quotes, beautiful photos, and decade by decade summaries of important achievements by women.
— Jesse

A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg

Frydenborg dives deep into the thousand plus year relationship between canines and humans, exploring not just how humans have influenced the evolution of the dog, but also how dogs have slowly changed us.

As a dog lover, it was fascinating to gain insight into our shared history with canines. Frydenborg also does a masterful job connecting the distant past to our current dynamic with these animals, showing how our relationship evolved along with us. — Jesse

Best of 2016 Redux

It’ll probably come as no surprise to you that those of us who work in libraries tend to be voracious readers. We consume information, words, articles, books, and series as fast as we can manage. Part of it is a personal interest and part of it is professional: we can do a better job recommending things to you if we’ve read a variety of things ourselves. That’s a very long-winded way of saying we had more recommendations for 2016 than we could fit in our previous posts. So without further ado I present to you everything else we loved to bits this year.

Adult Fiction
adult-fiction

A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin
Summary: Milo Andret, a strange but uniquely talented loner who develops into a brilliant mathematician, is plagued by alternating feelings of grandiosity and utter failure. Milo’s son Hans, similarly brilliant and troubled, tells the second half of Milo’s story.
Why Elizabeth liked it: This book opened my eyes to the intensely grueling, emotionally devastating world of academic competition. Milo’s self-destructive tendencies are painful indeed, but what lingers is amazement at the transformative power of family.

The Man Without a Shadow by Joyce Carol Oates
Summary: After a life threatening brain infection robbed Elihu Hoopes of his short term memory he endures decades of testing at the hands of neuroscientists. Margot Sharpe develops her whole career from these studies but also develops feelings for her subject.
Why Elizabeth liked it: If you like psychology, brain science, bizarre human relationships, and hints of a dark and mysterious past, you will eat this up! Oates exposes the ruthless nature of scientific study in this suspenseful and disturbing tale.

The Nest by Cynthia D’aprix Sweeney
Summary: The Plumb siblings have always expected a large inheritance as soon as the youngest, Melody, turned 40. That day is nearing when Beatrice, Jack and Melody are devastated to discover that Leo’s wild ways have resulted in a loss of most of the Nest.
Why Elizabeth liked it: Dysfunctional family drama galore! The siblings are flawed, funny, and (mostly) financially doomed. I found myself thinking why is this so entertaining? Because the writing, the family, the setting (NYC) all add up to a really engrossing page turner.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Summary: Two middle school friends learn of their special powers.  Laurence is able to tweak the time continuum, and Patricia has the ability to talk to animals.  Earth is doomed, and their relationship may restore humanity, or their opposing views may collide.
Why Sarah liked it: This is a quirky fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian romance, with superb technological innovations, and lots of spunk.

Georgia by Dawn Tripp
Summary: Georgia O’Keeffe‘s artistic focus and determination was helped and sometimes hurt by her decades-long relationship with photographer Alfred Stieglitz. While this is fiction, Tripp’s research and skill at imagining Georgia’s thoughts give it the ring of truth.
Why Elizabeth liked it: I have really enjoyed the handful of historical fiction books about artists that I have read, and this one may be the best yet. At the end I was newly, and greatly, impressed with O’Keeffe and had to seek out books about her art.

LaRose by Louise Erdrich
Summary: Imagine you accidentally shot your best friend’s son, and the custom forced you to give your own child to the bereaved family? LaRose, one of many with that name in his family of healers, is the child who is given away.
Why Elizabeth liked it: The incredibly richly imagined cast of characters makes for a very engrossing read. Since this is the 15th of Erdrich’s North Dakota Cycle I am looking forward to reading a lot more about this community.

Young Adult Fiction
ya fiction

I Woke Up Dead at the Mall by Judy Sheehan
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Sarah wakes up dead at the Mall of America only to find she was murdered, and she must work with a group of dead teenagers to finish up the unresolved business of their former lives while preventing her murderer from killing again.
Why Carol liked it: Despite the serious subject matter of, ya know, waking up dead and knowing someone killed you, this book was quirky good fun! I really wanted a sequel, but I think this book will stand alone.

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
Summary: In 1882 England when her sister Rose vanishes, Evelyn, bored with society and its expectations, embarks on a search for Rose, encountering the reclusive Sebastian Braddock, who is also looking for Rose and claiming that both sisters have healing powers.
Why Carol liked it: I read this in April and my memory is struggling with specifics here in December. So here’s my Goodreads review from April: Witty as hell and so fast-paced my neck almost snapped. Can’t wait for book 2!

Adult Nonfiction
adult-nonfiction

French Country Cooking: Meals and Moments from a Village in the Vineyards by Mimi Thorisson
Summary: A captivating journey to off-the-beaten-path French wine country with 100 simple yet exquisite recipes, 150 sumptuous photographs, and stories inspired by life in a small village.
Why Leslie liked it: This beautiful cookbook has approachable recipes, especially the “staff meals.” I love the vichyssoise! So simple and good.

The Aleppo Cookbook: Celebrating the Legendary Cuisine of Syria by Marlene Matar
Summary: Wonderful full-color photographs of the food, people, and markets of Aleppo make this a stunning cookbook and fitting tribute to a beautiful city and the suffering its people continue to endure.
Why Pat liked it: Tempting recipes, culturally informative text, great illustrations, and a message of hope of rebuilding this ancient city yet one more time– everything you can want in a cookbook and more–a beautiful, meaningful book.

Superbetter by Jane McGonigal
Summary: Self-help with a twist! McGonigal studies game theory so this method of getting better from illness, depression or other situations is full of quests, power ups, superhero identities, etc. By making your life “gameful” you can battle your “bad guys” and win.
Why Elizabeth liked it: I am not much of a self-help reader but the methods in this book feel like they would actually work while being fun rather than tedious. It could make a real difference in helping people develop resilience, and improve mental health and happiness.

Graphic Novels for Kids
graphic-novels-for-kids

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey
Summary: George and Harold, protagonists from the Captain Underpants series, create a new comic called Dog Man. It’s just as silly and irreverent as you would expect Dav Pilkey to be.
Why Emily liked it: For fans of Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, Captain Underpants, Bad Kitty, and other humorous, illustrated fiction.

Poptropica 1: Mystery of the Map by Jack Chabert
Summary: Oliver, Mya, and Jorge take a ride in a hot-air balloon, only to crash-land on an unknown island filled with extinct animals and a horde of angry Vikings.
Why Andrea liked it: This graphic novel is a great introduction to the worlds of Poptropica (a gaming website for children 6 to 10 years old). It is filled with exciting chase scenes, hilarious dodo birds, and a daring prison break.

Listen Up! August New Music Arrivals

New Music Arrivals Collage

August seems to be the month for the rowdy and the thought-provoking; most of my picks this month deliver some pretty strong messages. Get involved – place your holds now!

Laura Mvula – The Dreaming Room (Sony Music Entertainment) – A strong follow-up to Mvula’s highly-acclaimed debut, Sing to the Moon. Enjoy rich vocals backed by a delightful mix of orchestral accompaniment, neo-soul rhythms, and a range of powerfully-moving songwriting.

Anohni – Hopelessness (Secretly Canadian) – Down-tempo alt rock/electronic pop with strong political themes. Vocals that shift from dreamlike to a hypnotic drone at times, even lilting.

Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate (Interscope) –  First and foremost a soul album, but with hints of rock, blues, gospel, and even a kind of classic rock feel at times. Very beautiful, grand, and political. I loved this album.

Audion –Alpha (The Ghostly International Company; !k7 Records) – The kind of club-friendly techno you’ve come to expect from Matthew Dear’s more driving and gritty alter ego.

Fantasia – The Definition Of… (RCA Records) – RnB with a little bit of rock, soul, and electronic influence. This is a great pick for anyone looking to dance around to some great harmonizing with the occasional dose of humor. It has a throwback feel that makes me think of a lot of early 90s RnB.

Mitski – Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans) – Gritty, beautiful, and packed with raw emotion. Mitski Miyawaki explores love, loss, anxiety, and depression in her 5th wonderfully-complex and vibrant indie rock offering.

White Lung – Paradise (Domino Recording Co.) – Vancouver punk trio dips a toe into new songwriting territory in their 4th release. The album remains unflinchingly confrontational and provocative, but they have embraced a hint of new pop sensibility that makes this release perhaps a little more accessible to a wider audience without much compromise.

Xenia Rubinos – Black Terry Cat (Anti) – A deeply-satisfying mix of funk, rock, electronic, RnB, jazz, and hip hop styles that explores how women of color move through today’s social landscape.

Listen Up! 2016 Grammy Winners

grammy collage

Votes have been cast, the red carpet has been strutted, and the results have been revealed: the 2016 Grammy Award winners are here! You may be familiar with many of the awardees, but there are other names that perhaps are still to be discovered. Here’s a short list of the best of the best; we have a carousel of even more winners currently in the EPL collection on our catalog site. If you don’t see a title you’re looking for in our catalog, check back because we’ve made some additional purchases (though some titles are not available because they are only out as digital releases). Place your holds now! Many are checked out, but amazingly some are currently in.

Angélique Kidjo – Sings (SLC LLC) – World-renowned Beninese-born vocalist Angélique Kidjo returns to the Grammy stage once again for her third award in the World Music category (she’s been nominated several times). We loved her bold, dreamy, festive, and orchestral sound when the album debuted at the EPL in April. Hopefully many new listeners will discover it due to its latest success.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (Aftermath Entertainment) – Hip-hop MC Kendrick Lamar was the biggest winner of the night, taking home five awards though missing the coveted Album of the Year and song of the year titles (hard to believe after earning 11 nominations!). Not a surprising result for an album that has so much to offer. It’s definitely not one to be missed. More about To Pimp a Butterfly can also be found in our April picks post.

Mavis Staples – Your Good Fortune (Anti) – This album was the product of a collaboration between two generations of Anti artists: the legendary Mavis Staples and rapidly-rising star, Son Little. Hard work and unbridled creativity paid off because one of the resulting tracks, “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” was declared the Best American Roots Performance. The rest of the album provides an equally-gratifying listen.

D’Angelo – Black Messiah (RCA Records) – Clearly his 14-year recording hiatus was fruitful, because veteran R&B singer D’Angelo used the time to write some amazing material. Track “Really Love” received a nomination for record of the year, and won the Grammy for Best R&B Song. Black Messiah as a whole won the award for Best R&B Album.

Cecile McLorin Salvant – For One to Love (Mack Avenue Records) – Salvant’s third release and second Grammy nomination netted her the award for the Best Jazz Vocal Album. On a far smaller stage, this album was recently featured on our February new music arrivals blog. It’s a delightful listen.

Hamilton: original Broadway cast recording (Atlantic Recording Corporation) – Even if you’re not into musical theater, you’d be hard-pressed to have not heard all the buzz about Hamilton at this point. Ticket sales have been through the roof, and album sales have followed. It’s no surprise that the original cast recording took home this year’s award for Best Musical Theater Album. The production goes on tour in 2017, so hopefully we’ll all have the chance to see Hamilton live in the near(ish) future; in the meantime you can at least enjoy this CD.

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color (ATO Records) – I’m not going to lie, this one is another personal favorite of mine. I knew when I wound up in the double-digits in the EPL holds queue to get my first listen that it was going to be something special. I wasn’t disappointed, and Sound & Color has remained in heavy rotation in my car ever since. Apparently the powers that be agreed, and Alabama Shakes got to take home Grammys for Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song, and Best Alternative Music Album.

All of these and more can be found at epls.org – happy listening!

Listen Up! New Music Arrivals for November

Pentatonix

Fall in love with some of our latest arrivals (see what I did there?).

Pentatonix – Pentatonix (RCA Records) – Sometimes you have to take the word of an enthusiastic teenager to find new music. When one teen patron saw this disc on my desk for review she was so excited that I couldn’t resist giving it a listen. This album is fun and a bit amazing, considering it’s all acapella. Beats are made via vocals, beatboxing, and body percussion, so there were many moments where I had to turn things way up to realize I wasn’t listening to something mechanically produced. Aside from the ‘wow, how did they do that?’ factor, the tracks are refreshingly upbeat and dangerously prone to becoming ear-worms.

City and ColourCity and Colour – If I Should Go Before You (Dine Alone Music) – Sometimes an album shows up when you most need it; that was the case with this one. It came across my desk after a busy, stressful morning, and this set the mellow vibe I needed to get through the afternoon. I think fans of Jeff Buckley and You Me & Apollo would like this release. Think low-key rock with a great vocalist and dreamy guitar jams.

Melanie MartinezMelanie Martinez – Crybaby (Atlantic) – Super-saccharine pop melodies with fun, often eye-brow-raising lyrics. Martinez confronts listeners like a foul-mouthed Lesley Gore. It’s a catchy collection of bubblegum that strays from the usual themes of boys and partying for more challenging subject matter such as modern beauty standards, sexual consent, and mental illness. Sounds like an odd combination? It is, but that’s what makes it stand out.

Andra DayAndra Day – Cheers to the Fall (Warner Bros./Buskin) – Day possesses a beautiful, powerful voice that fills up the room with neo-soul melodies. Her style has hints of doo-wop, soul, and mo-town, with a throwback sound similar to Nikki Jean, Amy Winehouse, and Adele.

Dornik Cover ImageDornik – Dornik (PMR Records) – This self-titled debut album is packed with a full lineup of beautifully-produced slowjams and RnB cuts. Dornik seems to possess the kind of musical perfectionism that helped rocket Michael Jackson and Prince to critical acclaim. His sound is airy, jazzy, and immensely enjoyable.

Banda do Mar Cover ImageBanda do Mar – Banda do Mar – These Latin Grammy nominees have a great ‘bossa nova meets surf rock’ sound. Check them out if you’re in the mood to kick back to some smooth vocals and sleepy melodies.

Daptone IIVarious – Daptone Gold Volume II – A deeply satisfying compilation of hits and deep RnB cuts from Daptone.

Place your holds now!

Best of 2014: Audiovisual

We end our Best of 2014 list with all things vision and sound. Enjoy our staff selected list of the best in film and music for the year.

Film & Television

F1

Cutie and the Boxer
Artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara have been in a challenging marriage for 40 years. For starters, Noriko states she is not Ushio’s assistant, while Ushio claims she is.

It’s fascinating to watch these artists create. The scenes of Ushio boxing his canvases with dripping gloves contrast nicely with Noriko’s careful drawing style. -Elizabeth

Guardians of the Galaxy
Brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe.

Even if you know nothing about the comic books (I certainly didn’t) you’ll be cheering on our anti-hero outlaws as they band together to save the universe. Almost stealing the show from our actors: the retro soundtrack (aka Awesome Mix Vol. 1) -Carol

In a World
An unsuccessful vocal coach competes against her arrogant father in the movie trailer voice-over business.

Starring in and directing her first movie, Lake Bell delivers a quirky, sophisticated, personal, and compulsively watchable comedy that champions the underdog. It’s also nice that funnymen Demetri Martin and Ken Marino are given a chance to act. -Alan

F2

The Spectacular Now
While Aimee dreams of the future, Sutter lives in the now, and yet somehow, they’re drawn together. What starts as an unlikely romance becomes a sharp-eyed, straight-up snapshot of the heady confusion and haunting passion of youth.

An authentic portrait of teen life and family relationships tempered with humor, relatable characters, and a nice edge. A smart, wise film that made me want to seek out the director’s “Smashed.” -Alan

The White Queen
Love and lust, seduction and deception, betrayal and murder in one of the most turbulent times in English history highlight Philippa Gregory novels set in 1464 and adapted for TV…all through 3 women who scheme and seduce their way to the throne.

For fans of Game of Thrones and British period pieces and those wonderful costumes. It’s also thrilling to witness the deceptions, plot twists and treacheries all to get and keep the throne. -Linda

Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Season One.
Jake Peralta is a Brooklyn detective with a gift for closing cases and little respect for authority. When no-nonsense commanding officer Raymond Holt joins the 99th precinct with something to prove, the two go head-to-head.

Starring both comedians and serious actors, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is guaranteed to make you laugh. Seriously: I bet a friend she’d laugh and she did! I’ve discovered I think like Rosa and dress like Gina, but follow the rules like Amy and speak like Jake! -Carol

Music

M1Indie Cindy | The Pixies
Although not as blisteringly sonically dense as the Pixies of old, Indie Cindy brings about a new chapter for the band. They’re still not in a happy, friendly, hug-filled place, just perhaps 3 inches closer.

Not many bands can create delight out of pain. -Ron

Kudos to You! | Presidents of the United States of America
Quirky rockers return with more songs of everyday life. Energetic as always, distinctive yet fresh, rocking, clever, silly. Perfect.

There ain’t nobody like them. Such simple ideas but never tiresome. Most of all, fun! -Ron

Metamodern Sounds in Country Music | Sturgill Simpson
Sturgill Simpson’s sophomore album. While the album’s sound feels like it was made in 2014, it has more in common with Merle Haggard than Florida Georgia Line.

I wouldn’t classify myself a “country music” listener (especially if you include anything produced after the 1970s), but this album stands out from almost everything else I’ve heard this year. -Zac

M2

Rockabilly Riot! : All Original | Brian Setzer
35 years later, Setzer is still cranking out authentic, exciting rockabilly, songs destined to be the classics of the future.

Virtuoso guitar, classic riffs, outstanding originals. How can he do so much with so few chords? -Ron

Tribal | Imelda May
Imelda May is rockabilly’s premier female singer,and her latest album has been eagerly anticipated. It is more contemplative than earlier stuff, slower paced, but still features Imelda’s knockout voice.

Imelda Imelda Imelda. -Ron

Best of 2014: Young Adult Fiction and Graphic Novels

We continue our Best of 2014 staff picked list today with two very popular categories that people of all ages enjoy: young adult books and graphic novels.

Young Adult Fiction

YA1

Blue Lily, Lily Blue | Maggie Stiefvater
Blue and her Raven Boy cohorts, continue to search for the Welsh king Glendower — but now they are also looking for Blue’s mother who has gone missing, leaving only a note saying she’s underground.

Stiefvater is a multitalented writer, artist and musician. Listen to the Raven Cycle series on audio to hear some of her music between chapters. -Elizabeth

The Girl from the Well | Rin Chupeco
A teen boy haunted by a malevolent spirit, a 300 year old ghost who tracks down and kills murderers of children, a seemingly evil mother, and a trip to Japan for an exorcism – all make for a story infused with an eerie atmosphere and writing style.

This is my kind of horror: not too horrifying. Instead of grisly details, there is mood aplenty – somber, dark, and foreboding – and the bit of background on Japanese ghost stories made me want to seek out other related material. -Elizabeth

In a Handful of Dust | Mindy McGinnis
Lynn and Lucy have fought hard to survive in a world with very little water, when a deadly polio strain sweeps into the camp. Lucy is forced to flee with Lynn and her journey to find a safe place is fraught with danger.

Simply written yet always building momentum and tension, these books are quick reads that are hard to put down. I appreciated the tough, resourceful female characters in the first book, and the second further illustrates their powerful will to survive. -Elizabeth

Young Adult Graphic Novels

YA2

Through the Woods | Emily Carrol
Canadian artist Emily Carrol presents five gorgeously illustrated and deliciously creepy ghost stories; each will chill your bones.

Not only are Carrol’s full color drawings exceptionally well designed and saturated with mood and movement, but her storytelling is perfectly paced to build the horror through each story and as the book progresses. -Elizabeth

Tomboy | Liz Prince
From the age of two, Liz hates anything ‘girly’. As she grows up she is teased, bullied, ridiculed and even beaten up, all the while scorning the typical roles for girls and women.

As a tomboy of sorts myself, I really enjoyed Liz’s story. She describes so perfectly the complete awkwardness and emotional turmoil of middle school years, yet she has always remained true to her own convictions about who she is. -Elizabeth

Graphic Novels & Memoirs

GN1

Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? | Roz Chast
In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, it delivers comfort and comic relief.

It’s touching, well-wrought, and really conveys what it’s like to care for aging parents in a very different way. -Alan

Ms. Marvel Volume 1, No Normal | 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!

This was my gateway into the Marvel Universe. This year I’ve finally gotten on the comic/graphic novel bandwagon and this has everything: action, adventure, sci-fi, and a kick-butt heroine! If you love strong female characters you NEED this book! -Carol

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances | Matthew Inman
Matthew Inman, author of the incredibly popular webcomic “The Oatmeal,” gives us a compilation of comics, focused on his love/hate relationship with running.

I’m a long-time fan of “The Oatmeal,” and I’m drawn to Inman’s quirky, snarky, sense of humor. -Zac

Best of 2014: Children’s Books

We continue our Best of 2014 list today with books for the younger set. From picture books to graphic novels, take a look at our staff selected titles.

Picture Books and Easy Readers

Childrens1

Breaking News: Bear Alert | David Biedrzycki
In this story (told in the form of a television broadcast with up to the minute updates along the bottom of each page), bears emerge from hibernation demanding to be fed.

This picture book is a comical on-the-scene news story of two bears creating chaos by simply going to town. -Andrea

Little Green Peas: a Big Book of Colors | Keith Baker
Little green peas make their way into collections of objects of many different colors, from blue boats, seas, and flags, to orange balloons, umbrellas, and fizzy drinks.

Lovely art — each page could hang on your wall. Expressive, cute, and (because a kid’s book needs to teach) teaches colors. Concept books aren’t usually this good. The total package. -Alan

The Midnight Library | Kazuno Kohara
The Little Librarian works at night with her three assistant owls. It all happens at this library: patrons who don’t want to leave at closing and noisy patrons who are shown to the quiet room.

The little librarian knows how to turn a little trouble into a lot of fun. -Leslie

Childrens2

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild | Peter Brown
Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were. Everyone but Mr. Tiger. Mr. Tiger was bored with always being so proper. He wanted to loosen up. He wanted to have fun. He wanted to be…wild.

I loved how Mr. Tiger felt free to be himself. -Leslie

My New Friend is So Fun! | Mo Willems
Mo Willems’ popular Elephant & Piggie characters each make new friends.

As a parent of very young kids trying to navigate the friendship frontier, this book was a conversation-starter, one that teaches a lesson about possessiveness with Willems’ trademark style and humor boosting the story beautifully. -Alan

My Teacher is a Monster (No, I Am Not) | Peter Brown
Bobby thinks his teacher, Ms. Kirby, is horrible, but when he sees her outside of school and they spend a day in the park together, he discovers she might not be so bad after all.

I love everything by Peter “Children Make Terrible Pets” Brown. His books are funny, smart, and creepy (in the right way). This one gets across that teachers are people too. -Alan

Stella’s Starliner | Rosemary Wells
Stella and her Mama and Daddy have everything they need in their silver home called the Starliner until some mean weasels say mean things about the Starliner. Stella finds new friends in a new place and is once again proud of her silver home.

“Later all the boys and girls cheered when the bookmobile came. Stella and her mama read their books until they knew them by heart. Stella didn’t have a worry in the world.” -Leslie

Children’s Fiction and Graphic Novels

Childrens3

The Boundless | Kenneth Oppel
Will and his father join 6000 other passengers on the first journey of Boundless, an extravagantly outfitted train pulling nearly 1000 cars.

Boundless is a fun, action packed adventure with lovable and despicable characters. The setting is original and the scenes are brilliantly drawn. I could almost feel myself jumping between cars with Will and Maren. -Elizabeth

Sisters | Raina Telgemeier
Fourteen year old Raina is on a summer road trip from California to Colorado with her mother, 9 year old sister, and 6 year old brother. Sibling rivalry, teasing, taunting, and sweltering heat conspire to make for a bumpy ride.

Sisters, as in Smile (2010), shows us a portrait of a real family, at times laughing and playful, struggling and arguing, slipping and falling, but all along caring for each other and making the best of what they have together. -Elizabeth

Children’s Nonfiction

101 Dog Tricks, Kids Edition : Fun and Easy Activities, Games, and Crafts | Kyra Sundance
In addition to step-by-step instructions for teaching tricks such as jumping through hoops and opening doors, this book has simple projects for children to do for and with their dog.

The illustrations are colorful and the instructions are broken down so that they are easy to follow. -Theresa

Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet | Chris Barton
In this ironic, vividly illustrated guide the most common gaming terminology is easy to understand and fun to explore.

The perfect gift for everyone on your list who loves picture books and video games. It’s a subtle way to introduce coding lingo into your child’s vocabulary. Start them young! -Carol

Childrens4

Kitchen Science Lab for Kids : 52 Family-Friendly Experiments from Around the House | Liz Lee Heinecke
There’s a treasure-trove of science experiments hiding in your refrigerator, pantry, and junk drawer! This book invites you to explore science with simple projects and ingredients.

The illustrations make the instructions easy to follow, the science behind the project is explained, and they truly use (mostly) things commonly found in a household. -Theresa

Red madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat | Gail Jarrow
The early years of the 20th Century saw a mysterious deadly illness spreading in the American South. Pellagra first showed itself as a rash, then diarrhea, followed by dementia; death was the final result as there was no known cure.

This is a true-life mystery at its best with lots of false trails leading to dead ends but with the killer thwarted in the end through the determination of Dr. Joseph Goldberger, one of our country’s unsung heroes. -Theresa

Sniffer Dogs | Nancy Castaldo
A dog’s sense of smell is so keen, it’s the equivalent of a human being able to read an eye chart 5 miles away! A fascinating study of the multiple ways humans are taking advantage of dogs’ tremendous nose.

It’s so fascinating how dogs’ noses are being put to good use in so many ways. -Theresa

Super Human Encyclopedia: Discover the Amazing Things Your Body Can Do | Steve Parker
Great gift book for a budding scientist. Colorful illustrations of the human body reveal the truly amazing processes going on inside us. Open it to any page and find something interesting.

A color enlargement of a white blood cell devouring a group of tuberculosis bacteria grabbed me immediately when I opened this book. -Theresa