Unladylike: The Way of the Uncooperative Woman

By Emily Z.

This all started with a book about female serial killers. I don’t quite remember how, but that book led to a book about being a single lady before it was cool. From there I discovered books about or by remarkable, multifarious women who were all very different in their approach to being womanly. What precisely makes these women/books remarkable varies and not all are glowing examples of feminism or even virtue, but that is kind of the idea. Women are people and people are complicated. For some of these women, their power is apparent in their words and worldviews. With others, it is found in the way they lived their lives (and when).

A woman does not need to be Eleanor Roosevelt, Frida Kahlo, or Malala Yousafzai to be significant and worthy of consideration. It helps, but we already expect quite a bit from women, even if we don’t always say it in actual words. Be sexy, but not too sexy. Be responsible, but not a nag. Anticipate the needs of others, but don’t expect praise for doing so. Find salads hilarious. Never age. Be forever attractive, smart, modest, helpful, fashionable, an earner, a mother (even if you don’t have kids), a partner, an interior decorator, meal-planner, maid, and more, regardless of your individual interests and skill set. Adding “revolutionary activist and cultural icon” on top of all that is … a lot.

The discussion about what makes a woman a woman and what makes that woman palatable and proper has been writhing, and evolving for centuries. Proper lady behavior is traditionally defined by one’s dominant culture, but as cultures shift with time, geography, the waxing and waning influence of different generations, the economy, etc that doesn’t narrow the field of debate by much. In different ways, these books add their voices to this deliberation. In pictures and prose, each nudges us to question what it means to be female.


Questioning Definitions:

You Play the Girl by Carina Chocano

This is a hard book to pin down, but in the best way. It’s a series of essays examining the way women, girls, princesses, female celebrities, and even cross-dressing cartoon rabbits are presented in popular culture and what that does to our minds. As someone with a young daughter, Chocano is understandably curious about the influence of media on the next generation of women. Her writing engages because it often starts from unexpected places and goes in equally surprising directions. “Let It Go” starts out talking about the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister of Ukraine, and ends up in the land of Disney princesses. Chocano’s humor, skill at painting a scene with words, and anecdotes about her adorable daughter don’t hurt either. Continue reading »

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Whidbey Reads Presents: An Interview with Jim Lynch

By Kaley C.

Jim sailing with his mother at age 11. Photo from his website.

Jim Lynch’s Before the Wind features an unmoored family that lived and breathed sailing only to fall into dysfunction. His rich descriptions of our local waters and boats transport you to the marina. You’re left sympathizing with Josh, who is bewildered after his family seems to have fallen apart.

Sailing is something Jim is all too familiar with as his family has sailed the waters of the Puget Sound since he was a child. The bonds of the Lynch family are much stronger than those of the family he created for his book, though. Jim fondly remembers sailing with his father in a plywood boat they built in their driveway.

Join me as I ask Jim a few questions about his book and life as a sailor.

Kaley: Which character from Before the Wind would you spend time with and what would you do?

Jim: To be honest, I’d like to hang out with all those characters both in the family and in the boatyard. But if I could do just one thing with one of them, that’s easy. I’d go sailing with Ruby. I’ve always been enamored with people who seem to have borderline magical intuition when it comes to understanding the subtleties of sailing well. They’re like wizards to me. They possess superpowers that I wish I had.

 K: I know sailing has been a part of your family for a long time. How did that impact Before the Wind?

J: I don’t think a non-sailor would’ve considered writing a book like that. And even a sailor who’d learned it on his own would probably not write that book. No, the fingerprints of somebody who grew up in a sailing family are all over that novel. It’s not that the Johannssen family mirrors mine, but the seeds for those characters grew out of my own family, starting with my sailing fanatic father, my scientific mother and my freakishly athletic sister.

K: Did you learn something new about sailing while researching for this book?

J: Actually I learned a lot about sailing because of the obsessive way I research. I interviewed world-class sailors. I learned about the physics of sailing. I crewed on race boats that I would normally not be on so that I could make competitive sailing even more real. I learned while racing two-man Star boats that you need to make sure to secure at least one foot beneath the hiking strap or you may flip overboard into the frigid Puget Sound like I did during one race.

K: Was there something that you wanted to include in the book but couldn’t make it fit?

J: I’m sure there was, but I can’t remember it now. That’s the way these books go. It all feels like a work in progress until it suddenly starts to firm up and then the paint dries and it all feels inevitable, as if this obviously is the full story in its entirety, and other ideas are washed away.

K: You’ve been away from these characters for awhile, what do you miss about them and the world you’ve built?

J: I do miss them but I’ve revisited them plenty during the past year while I’ve been writing the screenplay for what I hope will become the Before the Wind movie. I’ve written the script with a playwright friend, Bryan Willis. Now some Hollywood producers are shopping our script to directors to see if they can’t put together a team to get the movie made. So during this process, I’ve been able to hang out with most of the characters again, and that’s been somewhat surreal.


Jim’s author visits are right around the corner. He will be visiting us Wednesday, April 18 in Freeland, and Thursday April 19, in Oak Harbor.

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Beyond Bestsellers: Is the Suspense Entertaining You?

by Denise D. 

Ides of March

Happy Ides of March, Beyond Bestsellers! (Hopefully the day is treating you better than it did Julius Caesar and the only thing making you wary is the suspense in your novel!)

Did our quiz lead you to a good match? Have you read enough suspense to create a list? If so, we’d love to see it!

As I confessed in my first blog, I’m a fan of psychological suspense. Give me a couple of unreliable narrators telling the same story– with very different interpretations– and I’m a happy camper. Add in an historical period, an international city that screams intrigue, and a Hitchcockian noir atmosphere, then I’m liable to gush rave reviews.

My selection this month, Tangerine, is hitting the mark. Since it’s a LibraryReads selection for March, you can rely on it being hot.

Tangier, Morocco. 1958. A newlywed with some mysterious trauma in her past holes up in her apartment while her husband experiences the city’s intrigues. And then the newlywed’s Bennington College roommate shows up. It’s the first time they have seen each other since “the accident.”

I love everything about this book: the alluringly mysterious characters, the vibrant setting, the way the author gives the two alternating narrators their own authentic voices, the hint of Patricia Highsmith, and the mounting suspense.

If you’re intrigued, be sure to place your holds now!


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Prose Bowl 2018: Round 2

by Grant P.

Welcome back to Prose Bowl 2018. We started with twenty-four worthy contenders last week, and after tallying the nearly 1,700 votes using only an abacus, we have our winners from each of their genre brackets. Now the real battle begins, ROUND 2! The Hunger Games has nothing on us.


Continue reading »

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Meet the WA Authors of the 3rd Grade Reading Challenge

by Karin T.

This month, Washington authors Patrick Jennings and Kelly Jones have even more third-grade fans than usual. Patrick and Kelly visited schools in Snohomish and Island counties as part of the Sno-Isle Libraries Mega-Fun, Biblio-Trivia, Rockem-Sockem Third Grade Reading Challenge. The Reading Challenge is a literary trivia program. Third graders work together to develop teamwork skills and master details about six books. We offer this program to help kids develop and nurture a lifelong love of reading.

As a member of the Reading Challenge team, I asked the authors a few questions about their visits to schools, their books, and what they love to read.

 Interview with Patrick JenningsAuthor of Guinea Dog 


What’s your favorite thing about visiting schools?

I love getting to meet readers, hear what they think of my stories, and other stories, and to listen to them talk about reading and writing and, really, just about anything.

I not only love talking to kids, but it also helps me develop characters and come up with ideas for stories. My book Hissy Fitz, for example, is based on an idea workshopped by a class in Michigan.

Animals are featured characters in many of your books. Do you have any pets or a favorite animal? 

I’ve been a longtime cat person, though at the moment my home is petless. I find animals, including humans, endlessly fascinating.

I’ve studied wolves, bats, owls, ferrets, guinea pigs, rabbits, snakes, and, of course, dogs and cats for my stories, and have lately researched tigers, narwhals, beetles, and goats for future stories. Luckily, my readers love animals as much as I do.

I’m reading Out Standing in My Field, with Lucky Cap next on my list. Do you think you’ll write more baseball stories or other sports stories someday? Do you have a favorite team in real life?  Continue reading »

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If you liked Black Panther …

By Grant P.

If you are one of the billion people (not fact checked) who have already enjoyed Black Panther in the theaters and are looking for something similar, it is your lucky day because I have created a multimedia list just for all one billion of you. And if you haven’t seen it yet … don’t worry it will be in the catalog soon for hold requests.

Director Ryan Coogler’s previous film showcased some of the action filming techniques he would utilize in Black Panther. Creed is the 14th Rocky film, but in reality it stands on it’s own. Having a cursory knowledge of the Rocky universe is helpful but not necessary. The scene where Adonis runs up the hill with motorcycles revving around him with Meek Mill blaring could get me to run through a wall.



This film has no real plot, no Attenborough voiceover to guide you in what you are seeing. Instead, it just immerses you in a world that you probably haven’t experienced and then whisks you off to another. Shot in 24 countries and on 6 continents, Baraka is an experience. Coogler wanted to create a world that felt lived in and real for Black Panther, so he watched Baraka for inspiration.




This Hugo winning novela (with sequels) is about a young woman who is offered the once in a lifetime chance to go to the most prestigious university in the universe (yep … universe). Unfortunately, her people do want her to go. It is similar to Black Panther with a focus on choice, family and responsibility.


Here is the full list, any other insights?

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Prose Bowl 2018: Round 1

by Kimberly P. 

Welcome folks to Prose Bowl 2018 where you’ll determine Sno-Isle’s favorite book for 2017! Round one is all about genres. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to decide the top favorite for each of the following categories: Crime Fiction, General/Historical Fiction, Graphic Novels, Nonfiction, Romance, and Speculative Fiction.

If you haven’t read the books, don’t worry! You can still vote. But before you do, here are our contenders:

Continue reading »

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LibraryReads List March 2018

By Emily Z.

In the land of LibraryReads, March appears to be a month for a little madness, or at least, some psychologically intriguing thrillers and realistic fictional dramas filled with twists and trials. The other thread that seems to be linking most of these titles together? Complex female protagonists with troubled pasts. Perhaps this is a subtle nod to National Women’s History Month? Although, not all of these women are paragons of virtue (two of these books even have “lie” in the title). In Sometimes I Lie, a woman trapped inside her own mind must piece together how she ended up in her coma. She has her suspicions, but she’s not entirely above suspicion herself.

Standing definitively apart from this pack is Patricia Briggs’ Burn Bright, the long awaited continuation of her Alpha and Omega series that centers around relationships between werewolf clans.

What new release(s) are you excited for this month? Did the Library Reads librarians miss anything?

I am personally quite curious about The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell. I am easily tempted by Victorian supernatural mysteries, especially when there’s a creepy doll.


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Beyond Bestsellers: Suspense

by Denise D. 

It’s March! That means daffodils, college basketball, and spring.  For those participating in our Beyond Bestsellers community reading challenge, March means a new theme. (Check out Jocelyn’s January blog if you need a refresher on how to participate in Beyond Bestsellers.) What’s our theme for March?


Wait! Who’s that reading over your shoulder?… 

No, your other shoulder….

Oh, is that just a shadow?…

Sorry, I could have sworn I saw something….

It’s probably all in my head….

Anyway, as I was saying…March is all about Suspense!

Roller Coaster Reads

What makes a suspense novel? At it’s most basic, suspense is all about a sense of unease and peril. The reader is glued to the book, quickly turning the pages to see if everything is going to be okay.

Why do we like suspense? Probably the same reason we flock to amusement parks and stand in long lines to ride roller coasters… the adrenaline of knowing danger is imminent, uncertainty about what twists are coming, breathless speed of action, all encased in the safety of a fictional world. Continue reading »

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Prose Bowl 2018

by Jocelyn R.

March is just around the corner, which means it’s once again time for Sno-Isle Libraries’ Prose Bowl. This online competition will decide our communities’ favorite read of 2017. We’ve narrowed it down to 24 of the most popular, recent books (AKA the contenders) and we’re looking for your help to find the winner. The competition begins on March 7.

Here’s how it works:

For three weeks in March, you can go online, look at the match-ups, and then vote for your favorites. Each bracket will be posted on a Wednesday, and be open for one week, closing Tuesdays at 12 pm. As with all such competitions, the contenders will be pared down until only one remains. We’ll announce the winning book on March 28.

Round 1 begins on March 7. In this round, you’ll be voting on your favorite book in six different genres:

  • Crime Fiction
  • General Fiction/Historical Fiction
  • Graphic Novels
  • Nonfiction
  • Romance
  • Speculative Fiction (fantasy & science fiction).

Then, Round 2 will pit the genre winners against each other in three battles:

  • Nonfiction vs. Crime Fiction
  • Romance vs. Fiction/Historical Fiction
  • Graphic Novels vs. Speculative Fiction.

The winners from this round will face off in Round 3.

Prose Bowl Schedule
Wednesday, March 7 – Round 1 – Voting closed
Wednesday, March 14 – Round 2 – Voting now open!
Wednesday, March 21 – Round 3 (Finals)
Wednesday, March 28 – Winner announced

Wondering how we chose the titles for the competition? Well, we considered about 750 books and whittled it down looking for a balance of gender, perspective, and audience. We included both name-brand authors and titles that are popular and recognizable, but might not have achieved mainstream success.

You don’t need a library card to vote, so feel free to share this with your family and friends. Voting begins next Wednesday, on March 7.

Will your favorite win?

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