Prose Bowl 2019: The Final Round

by Craig B.

Welcome to the final round of Prose Bowl 2019!

Here we are in the final round of voting! Competition has been fierce. These contenders have fought their way to the top of the bracket. Three challengers remain from a fighting field of sixty. Only one finalist can win. It’s like Thunderdome for book worms! Three books enter, one book leaves. Which title has the mettle to be this year’s Prose Bowl champion? 

Of Blood and Bone

In the first bracket, we had a head-to-head bout between speculative fiction and graphic novels. Of Blood and Bone beat out Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker, so graphic novels will have to wait another year before they prove they can swing with the heavyweights. In the meantime, Nora Robert’s second installment of the Chronicles of the One series secures an opportunity to vie for the crown. The third installment is slated to be released in November. Will her novel win this year’s crown? Will we see her again in 2020?


Kingdom of the Blind

They say that crime never pays. Tell that to Louise Penny’s Kingdom of the Blind. It whooped Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water in the second bracket, which pitted crime fiction vs. romance. Before you lament the death of romance, however, remember that love pays too; del Toro’s movie, which was conceived and written at the same time as the novel, managed to grab $195 million at the box office. Oh, it also won four Oscars, including Best Picture. So love does triumph over all, just not in the Prose Bowl.



In the third bracket, fiction and nonfiction squared up for a rumpus. I have to admit, I thought fiction was going to take this one…primarily because…well, it’s fiction. It’s the Muhammad Ali of genres. Yet, despite the valiant efforts of Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone, it lost to Michelle Obama’s fleet-footed Becoming. Being an ardent reader of nonfiction, I was pleasantly surprised by this unexpected outcome. But does nonfiction have the moxie to take it all?



And those are our three finalists! Who will be crowned 2019’s Prose Bowl champion? Vote for your favorite!

Voting will be open until noon next Thursday, March 28.

On March 29, the winner will be announced.

Prose Bowl 2019

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Hidden Gems of 2018

by Craig B.

The Oscars have come and gone and left me in a reflective mood. Every year, I see movies that I think should get more attention than they receive from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Sometimes, I’m downright baffled by their choices. Unfortunately, I’ve never been invited to join their ranks. I’ve also never directed a movie, acted in a film, or written a script that’s survived longer than 30 pages before expiring from inattention, so I suppose I’ll cut the Academy a little slack. Anyway, if they were to ask me which movies should have received a little more love from Tinseltown’s glitterati, I might have suggested some of the following titles.

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Table for One

by Julie T.

Meal Ideas for Individuals & Double Dining

When I find myself foraging solo, I’m not necessarily motivated to cook. Growing up, my mom was a master of whipping up large quantities of food for our sizeable family. My siblings and I had our own, assembly-line role to play, from nuking a can of green beans to setting the table. A Sunday pot roast or mid-week casserole is more food and more effort than I’m willing to exert for a two person household. Thankfully, the library catalog has an armload of recipe books aimed at delivering smaller, tasty meals for solo and duo diners.


Healthy Meals for One (or Two) Cookbook by Katie Walker

Preparing nutritionally balanced and flavorful meals can be a daunting prospect. I often fall back on the same old breakfast and lunch when I’m pressed for time or tired (or, I’ll admit, just don’t feel like putting in the effort to come up with new ideas).  Walker lays the groundwork for creating a balanced cupboard and planning ahead. She even includes a mini “Kitchen Reps While You Prep” workout. Talk about multi-tasking! Included are recipes that address dietary concerns.

Vegan Slow Cooking for Two –or– Just for You by Kathy Hester

Hester sets you up for success with slow cooker best practices, whether you’re a pro or a relative newcomer to this type of cooking. Meatless alternatives abound for popular classics like breakfast burritos and even an All-in-One Thanksgiving dinner! Bubbling over with more than 100 recipes, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your palate. Slow cookers allow you to prep meals ahead of time, filling your home with delightful aromas. Many recipes include variations to prevent your cuisine from becoming tiresome.

Mug It! Easy & Delicious Meals for One by Pam McElroy

Arguably the pinnacle of single serving cuisine, mug meals offer delicious savory and sweet options for all hours of the day. I find them appealing for a variety of reasons, one being that aside from the obvious dynamic duo of microwave & mug, the only implements you need are measuring cups and a stirring spoon. They’re also super portable for plunking down on the couch with streaming videos and make it easy to track portions.

Check out the full booklist for bonus menu ideas. Or at the very least, tantalizing photo spreads to salivate over. Bon Appétit!

Table for One: Meal Ideas for Individuals & Couples

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Prose Bowl 2019: Round 3

by Lois H.

Welcome back to Prose Bowl 2019!

At the beginning of March, we started with 60 of the best books from the past year. After two weeks of voting, we narrowed our competitors down to the top title of each genre. Now it’s time for a genre showdown!

For some, this may be a simple challenge. Maybe you’re a romance novel enthusiast but dislike crime fiction. Easy choice! However, if you’re like me, putting two favorite genres head to head can be difficult. Graphic novels versus speculative fiction? A devastating decision.

Here are your Round 3 competitors:

Speculative Fiction vs. Graphic Novel


Nora Robert’s Of Blood and Bone beat out Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, securing its place in the top six contenders. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang took the crown in the Graphic Novel category, defeating Neil Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald. Maybe this will be the year a graphic novel makes it into the Final Round!

Crime Fiction vs. Romance Novel


Last year’s Prose Bowl champion, Louise Penny, maintains her strong appeal with Kingdom of the Blind, beating A. J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window in Crime Fiction. How will she fare against Guillermo del Toro’s fantastical romance, The Shape of Water, which bested Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks?

Fiction vs. Non-Fiction


It was a super tight race but The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah finally triumphed over Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen. Michelle Obama’s Becoming also advanced to the third round, leaving behind Educated by Tara Westover. I have a feeling it’s going to be a tight race between these two genre winners.

Time to make those tough decisions!

Voting will be open until noon next Thursday, March 21.

Friday, March 22 – Final Round: Top three titles

Friday, March 29 – Winner Announced!

Prose Bowl 2019

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New Book Group Kits for Spring!

by Jackie P.

It feels a little bit like I’m cheating to say spring when there was snow last week, but since the earliest these titles will go out is April, it isn’t entirely inaccurate… We’ve kept it a select, non-fiction heavy, purchase for our first order of the year, and there are definitely titles to be excited about! Trevor Noah’s blockbuster, award-winning, Born a Crime is finally available in paperback. The Soul of an Octopus has been popular for an unexpected amount of time, and now joins the kit collection. I’m positive The Tattooist of Auschwitz & The Alice Network will be book club hits. I think The Newcomers will spark timely debate in groups, and reading Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s My Words will offer primary sources for a figure who sparked TWO movies in the last year. Whether you belong to a private club, a Sno-Isle Library book club, or you want to start your own, these kits make it easy to connect with your community and spark discussion about big questions.

Registered kit users get first notification of new titles – it’s free to sign up and free to use!


I’d also like to point out a new/returned feature: IF we have digital editions of the title, it will now be indicated directly under the cover image. (I say if because publishers have wildly different policies and price structures for libraries; some won’t sell digital to us at all – others will but only if we buy their exclusive platform. Canada is rebelling.) You can click through to the ebook or digital audiobook. We don’t have special club access to our digital offerings, but we hope this will make it easier to select titles that are accessible to all of your members. Please let us know if there is anything else we can do to help your club be successful. You can always email me at jparker [at] sno-isle [dot] org.

On that note, we’re looking to do some focus groups and surveys with book clubs to find out how the library can better serve you!

We’re looking for a balance of library clubs, private clubs and clubs that do and do not use our kits. We know there are hundreds of book clubs in Snohomish & Island Counties – we’ll only need about a few groups to participate. Talk it over with your club, and if you are interested participating in a focus group, fill out our Focus Group Interest Form by March 20. For the survey we’re hoping to reach as many of you possible, so keep an eye here on The BiblioFiles. We’ll post the survey here when it launches in late Spring. If you have any questions at all, please feel welcome to reach out to me, jparker [at] sno-isle [dot] org.

This Book Discussion Kit collection is funded by the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation and individual donations given for this purpose. Book Discussion Kits can be sponsored for a $200 donation to the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation. Contact the Foundation to donate. Thank you to the ELC Book Club for sponsoring Born a Crime by Trevor Noah!

Each book kit contains ten paperback copies of a single title and can be checked out for any book group. Currently, there are 392 book kits in this collection. If there’s a book you absolutely love as a book group pick and want to share with others, let us know in the comments! 

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Happiness Guaranteed: Love in Lit, Part 2

by Lisa C.

If you read last month’s post, Happiness Not Guaranteed: Love in Lit Part 1, you may have assumed that I’d never met a happy love story I liked. Sure, I said great love stories are tragic and agonizing. Well, that was only partly true. To quote Cordelia from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “What? I can’t have layers?”

I’m not all doom and gloom and after drinking Romeo’s poison, even I need an antidote. The fix? A beautifully written love story that makes you swoon and invites you to read it again and again. A story that preferably still has depth and complexity, that may or may not include obstacles and heartbreaking moments, but that ultimately ends happily (or hopefully) and leaves you sighing in satisfaction.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever.”

If I am being completely honest, I share my very favorite love story with a gazillion other people. I am speaking of the epitome of enemies-to-lovers romance depicted in Pride and Prejudice.  However, virtually every Jane Austen novel is a fine pick for this category and I recommend binge reading them all. As far as the romance goes though, Persuasion is my next favorite. This second chance love story is full of Austen’s signature wit, sparkling dialogue, and keen social observations.

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

If you’ve read and reread all of Austen’s books and desperately wish she had written more, you could try one of the many modern updates that are perpetually being published. I have high hopes for this newly released Pride and Prejudice reinterpretation. Set in Pakistan, it follows Alys Binat – a woman determined never to marry. This quote from an NPR review has me eagerly awaiting my copy:

“…Unmarriageable succeeds in being both a deliciously readable romantic comedy and a commentary on class in post-colonial, post-partition Pakistan, where the effects of the British Empire still reverberate.”

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

“He has always understood me better, without words. So I laid my hand on my heart, held it there for a moment, and then moved it over and touched my palm against his breast. My heart. Your heart.”

One of my favorite retold fairy tales, based on the Celtic “Swans” legend, Daughter of the Forest is the first in the Sevenwaters trilogy. Sorcha, the youngest in her family, shares a fierce bond with her six devoted older brothers. Her father marries an evil sorceress who casts a terrible spell on the beloved brothers, a spell that can only be broken if Sorcha completes a difficult quest and only if she remains silent for however long that takes…  Sigh. This one hurts, but also heals. The storytelling is beautiful and absorbing and moving – you will lose yourself in Sevenwaters.

Princess Bride by William Goldman

“Enough about my beauty.” Buttercup said. “Everybody always talks about how beautiful I am. I’ve got a mind, Westley. Talk about that.”

The oft-quoted movie version of this book is so well-loved and well-known you may not feel the need to read William Goldman’s original text, but you’d be missing out – there is even more adventure, true love, and treachery to be had! Plus, the movie couldn’t fit even half of the book’s hilarious and frequently insightful quotes.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

“We were born to be the best of friends, Anne. You’ve thwarted destiny long enough.” 

Everyone’s favorite red-headed orphan, (not her), loquacious Anne Shirley, beguiles in L.M. Montgomery’s ode to childhood precociousness. This classic children’s series IS love and your heart will grow two sizes or more after reading it. Also, it has one of the best slow burn romances ever.  Gilbert and Anne are thankfully the couple I used as a model for real life relationships (sorry not sorry Heathcliff & Cathy), one built on friendship, respect, and admiration. Admittedly, it takes Anne a while to get there…

 “Gilbert took from his desk a little pink candy heart with a gold motto on it, “You are sweet,” and slipped it under the curve of Anne’s arm. Whereupon Anne arose, took the pink heart gingerly between the tips of her fingers, dropped it on the floor, ground it to powder beneath her heel, and resumed her position without deigning to bestow a glance on Gilbert.”

Oh Anne, you fool!

Find even more HEAs (happily ever after) on the full list. Share your favorite happy love stories in the comments.

Happiness Is Guaranteed: Love in Lit Part 2

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Prose Bowl 2019: Round 2


By Julie T.

And then there were…

I hope your favorite books made it through the first round of voting! Now that we’re underway in week 2, the voting gets tougher.  You rallied behind your choices with nearly a thousand votes total!


Crime Fiction

Kingdom of the Blind, from last year’s winner Louise Penny, scored enough votes to advance to genre winner take all Round 3. Will the suspense prove too much for the bestselling thriller The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn? Only your votes can solve the mystery of the Round 2 champion!


Every Breath The Shape of Water

Award-winning fantasist Guillermo del Toro and perennial tearjerker Nicholas Sparks stole your hearts (and Round 1) with The Shape of Water and Every Breath, respectively.



You certainly made Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone feel less lonely, catapulting it into Round 2, along with Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdads Sing.

Nonfiction & Biography


Memoirs dominated the nonfiction category, with Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Tara Westover’s Educated advancing.

Speculative Fiction


Nora Robert’s Of Blood and Bone and Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik took top honors in the Speculative Fiction category. Which titles will advance to Round 3? I’ll let you speculate (and vote) on that!

Graphic Novels


The Graphic Novel category boasts Neil Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald and Jenny Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. How many votes will they inspire next week?

May the book odds be ever in your favor! Each round will begin on a Friday and voting will be open for that round until noon the following Thursday. Stay tuned next week to see how your favorite books fared!

Prose Bowl schedule

Friday, March 15 – Round 3: Top contenders in each genre are pitted against each other.
Friday, March 22 – Final Round face-off…
Friday, March 29 – The champion revealed!


Prose Bowl 2019

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Celebrating Women’s History Month

by Lois H.

March is Women’s History Month! I believe that we should celebrate the many accomplishments of women every day of the year. However, I also appreciate the designation of a month as a reminder to celebrate, educate, and think about the future. This March, I have decided to try to only consume books, music, and movies created by women. I want to be more thoughtful about the media I choose to seek out and continually work toward expanding my worldview.

With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the titles I will (or have been) enjoying this March:

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Whidbey Reads… a Mystery!

by Marie B

What would you do if someone you barely knew left you all their worldly possessions following their death by suicide?  That’s just what happens to Lydia, the deceased’s favorite clerk at the local bookstore, one of his favorite haunts.  As Lydia peels back the layers of Joey’s life, she realizes there was more to him than anyone knew, and something from her own dark past connects her to him.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan is the 2019 Whidbey Reads selection.   Now in its 17th year, Whidbey Reads brings the community together to read one book and delve deeper into standout topics of the selected title through programs. Continue reading »

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Prose Bowl 2019: Round 1

by Marina M

It’s March Madness Time!

And we all know what that means . . . lots and lots of bracket-based elimination competition. And while the most well known bracket competitions are athletic in nature we here at Sno-Isle are continuing our tradition of a book based bracket. Welcome to Prose Bowl 2019!

In this online competition you, the reading community, will decide the favorite read of 2018. We, your trusty Readers’ Services Team, have narrowed it down to 60 titles. It’s up to you to narrow it down to the final one.

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!

I know. I’m mixing sports metaphors here but this is a book bracket. Only the words matter, right? And maybe some cover judgement thrown in because pretty things are nice. So, who are the contenders this year? Find our full list here.

Prose Bowl 2019

In rounds one and two you will vote for your favorite book in each genre, with round two consisting of just the top two titles from the previous round’s vote. In round three it’ll be genre vs genre! There’s fiction pitted against nonfiction. Speculative fiction against graphic novels. And the always classic pairing of romance versus crime fiction.

The Ground Rules

We’re doing this a bit different than in previous years. We heard what you were asking for and have extended the Prose Bowl from three to four voting rounds.

In Round 1 (this round, right now!) vote for your favorite in each of the six categories. That jolly green giant “Round 1 Vote Here” button up above is where you start.

This is what the rest of the voting schedule will look like:

Friday, March 8 – Round 2 in which you vote for one of the top two vote-getters in each genre
Friday, March 15 – Round 3 in which the top contenders in each genre are pitted against each other
Friday, March 22 – Final Round in which the top three contenders face off in a battle to the death
Friday, March 29 – in which the winner will be announced!

As noted above, each round will begin on a Friday and voting will be open for that round until noon the following Thursday.

Ready, set, vote!

Will your favorite win?

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