Prose Bowl Finals

We made it!

The decision of Sno-Isle’s Prose Bowl 2017 is imminent. Below you will find the final poll that will determine the champion title. We’re down to the top two from the original sixteen! In the semi-final round your votes knocked out This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! and The Summer Before the War. And the vote that pushed When Breath Becomes Air through was SO CLOSE! Just one vote separated its win from a This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! win.

Vote now or forever hold your peace. The poll will close at noon on Tuesday, March 28th. The winner will be announced on March 29th. With much fanfare! Or, at least, another blog post. Stay tuned . . . .

Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Feel Good, Easy Reads AKA Gentle Reads

by Jocelyn

Looking for a book where sex, violence, and excessive profanity is left off the page? Look no further, we’ve got a category for you. It’s called Gentle Reads. These novels tend to be described with terms like “heart-warming,” “wholesome” or “hopeful,” and are entertaining stories full of encouragement and warmth. Often humorous, they typically revolve around a small town or community, portray characters wrestling with life’s ordinary joys and problems, and focus on relationships and character development.

Gentle reads can be found in many genres – general, historical, literary or women’s fiction, cozy mystery, romance, and inspirational or Christian fiction. To find gentle reads, look at these resources or check out this list.

Novelist (you’ll need your library card number and password) – Using the Recommended Reads list on the left side, go to Fiction A-Z and click on Gentle Reads. Alternately, do an Advanced Search for Genre with the term “gentle reads”.

Agatha Awards – These are awarded to a traditional mystery with no explicit sex, excessive gore or gratuitous violence.

Christy Awards – A group of books awards presented annually in the U.S. to recognize novels of excellence written from a Christian worldview.

Harlequin Heartwarming and Harlequin Inspired – Take a look at these two Harlequin lines and check the catalog for titles that sound appealing. The Heartwarming line “celebrates wholesome, heartfelt relationships imbued with the traditional values so important to you: home, family, community and love.” Harlequin Inspired novels “show that faith, forgiveness and hope have the power to lift spirits and change lives.”

Stop, You’re Killing Me! – Organized by genre and author, this website lists information about each author’s novels and series. Browse through the cozy mysteries and if any appeal, search our catalog for the title or author.

Are you ready for a hopeful, upbeat story? Check out some of these gentle reads.

The Shop on Blossom Street – Debbie Macomber
When Lydia Hoffman, a cancer survivor and owner of A Good Yarn, starts a knitting class for her patrons, she forms a special friendship and bond with three extraordinary women–Jacqueline, Carol, and Alix. Debbie Macomber is a prolific northwest author known for her women’s fiction and romance novels.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – Helen Simonson
Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) leads a quiet life in the village of St. Mary, England, until his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But will their relationship survive in a society that considers Ali a foreigner?

Her Royal Spyness – Rhys Bowen
The first novel in the Royal Spyness mystery series, this book is set in 1930s London and features a penniless twenty-something member of the extended royal family. Lady Victoria (or Georgie) puts her sleuthing talents to work when an arrogant Frenchman, who is determined to gain control of her family’s eight-hundred-year-old estate for himself, ends up dead in her bathtub.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – Gabrielle Zevin
When his most prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, is stolen, bookstore owner A. J. Fikry begins isolating himself from his friends, family and associates before receiving a mysterious package that compels him to remake his life.

Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Urban Fantasy Spotlight: Cal Leandros

by KP

Big city life with a side of the supernatural.

Have you ever been curious about urban fantasy? Exactly what is it? In general, urban fantasy novels are set in contemporary times, and contain supernatural elements. One Friday out of each month, I’ll highlight an urban fantasy book for the interested.

Lady Liberty: Give me your tired, your poor, your things that go bump in the night.

After a brief layover in Philly, we’ve finally arrived to our destination, the City-That-Never-Sleeps. The Big Apple. Home to the Empire State Building, the New York Yankees, and various bridge trolls.

All Caliban’s life he’s known he was different, a monster.

For the last four years, he’s been running from his father and his wicked relatives, a nightmarish clan of creatures known as the Auphe. Reveling in violence and destruction, the Auphe want nothing more than to find Caliban and use him for their own dark ambitions.

Cal’s had nightmares about what would happen if his “family” ever got their claws on him. His nightmares offer no preparation for the Auphe reality.

One of the most appealing factors of this series for me is the relationship between Caliban and his older half-brother Niko. Their devotion to one another reminds me of Sam and Dean Winchester from the Supernatural television series. Both sets of brothers have wildly different personalities, battle monsters, and constantly bicker but you cannot deny the unshakable bond they share. In Nightlife that bond is tested to the breaking point.

Gritty writing, violence, and a dark atmosphere made this series one I couldn’t pass up, especially as I hungered for the next Dresden Files novel. While I admit I (like most the women in Cal’s life) have a huge crush on his brother Niko, Cal’s struggle to overcome his evil impulses kept me intrigued and Thurman’s world building is full of delightful and darkly delicious surprises.

Could the Cal Leandros series be up your alley? Read a couple sample chapters.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Urban Fantasy Spotlight where we visit Brooklyn, a borough haunted by ghosts no longer content to observe the living . . . .

Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Prose Bowl 2017 – Semi-Finals

Welcome to the Prose Bowl 2017 Semi-Finals!

The competition is heating up! We started with 16, but eliminated 12 titles in the previous rounds. In Round 2 we lost Isabelle Allende, Anne Tyler, James Lee Burke, and Elizabeth Strout. Only 4 remain.

Now it is time for the Semi-Finals! Did your favorite make the cut? Are you surprised by what made it through to this round? Who do you think will emerge as the victor?

The Semi-Finals close on Tuesday, March 21 at 12pm. Let’s vote!


Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Whidbey Reads 2017: A Darker Side to Island Life

By Kaley

The 100 Year Miracle by Ashley Ream.

It’s official! You have likely seen or heard from our Island library staff that we have chosen Ashley Ream’s​ The 100 Year Miracle​ as our title for Whidbey Reads 2017. If you’ve never participated or heard of it before, a team of staff and community members pore over books for weeks until one is selected. Then it’s read across the island and celebrated with programs that delve into the many subjects it encompasses. Finally, it culminates in an event with the author.

The 100 Year Miracle is the story of Dr. Rachel Bell who is tasked with studying the bio-luminescent creatures that appear on the shores of a remote island off Washington’s coast every hundred years. She suffers terribly from chronic pain and in a desperate effort to save herself, she investigates a Native American legend that suggests these creatures could help her. This book explores the possibility of life-saving miracles, obsessions and secrets, as well as my favorite aspect: life on an island in the Pacific Northwest.

My dog, Shavo, enjoying one of the beaches on Whidbey.

Ream was heavily inspired by our cozy island, and who can blame her? Whidbey Island boasts some of the most spectacular views of the Puget Sound and the mountains that cradle it. Though the author had some compelling darker twists to island life, we do have our own little miracles. My personal favorites include: porpoise and whale sightings, the way the Cascades light up when the sun sets, dog friendly beaches, and the amount of coffee roasters we can boast in a small stretch of land.
​We’re really excited about this newest addition to the Whidbey Reads family. Keep an eye out for the author events on 4p.m. June 7  in Freeland and  2 p.m. June 8 in Oak Harbor as well as fun adjunct programming in the months before the author visit. You’ll also find some related reads below compiled by staff and community members who  make up the Whidbey Reads team.

Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Golden Oldies II: Dance Music

by David

I’m referring to dance music that’s hundreds of years old (like you might see on Ye Olde European Bandstande). Many of these tunes come to us from sheet music collections that give the musicians quite a bit of leeway in how the songs are performed. Such is the case with “A L’Estampida: Medieval Dance Music“, performed by the Dufay Collective. Despite the title, these are pieces often performed in church, and as befits church music, the instrumental pieces are more courtly than raucous.

Lo Splendore D’Italia” by The Whole Noyse is instrumental music from the late 15th century through the early 17th century. Mostly recorder music (with a few sackbuts and cornets for good measure), it follows the Renaissance principles of counterpoint, so you won’t be working up much of a sweat to these pieces.

Piffaro the Renaissance Band hails from Philadelphia, and their albums “Chansons et Danceries: French Renaissance Wind Music” and “Canzoni e Danze: Wind Music from Renaissance Italy” still focuses more on the 16th century, but the wider variety of instrumentation (hurdy gurdy, crumhorns, shawms, even bagpipes plus the usual sackbuts and recorders) makes for a more festive sound.

Here’s a clip from a recent Piffaro concert. Note the lack of a mosh pit or stage-diving.

By the time of the 17th century as portrayed on “English Country Dances” and “John Playford’s Popular Tunes” by Jeremy Barlow and the Broadside Band, dancers have loosened their whalebone corsets and are dancing up a proper storm. Many of the songs on these two albums may be familiar to you if you enjoy films set in the time of Dickens (“Packington’s Pound” and “Greensleeves” were in the 17th century’s version of the Top Ten.)



Tagged | Leave a comment

Families, Separated — New Takes

by Denise

Lately, I’ve hit the jackpot. Every book I’ve opened has lured me in from the first page. Reads too good not to share. The problem? Spanning genres, audiences, and themes, these good reads don’t easily fit into one category. However, with a little pondering, I realized they all touch upon a common theme: families separated by circumstances outside their control. So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite recent reads:

Historical Fiction

The Patriots by Sana Krasikov  A young American woman flees Depression-era Brooklyn in pursuit of her lover and what she thinks will be a better life in the Soviet Union. Seven decades later, her middle-aged Russian-American son returns to Moscow to negotiate an oil deal, rein in an errant son, and dig up his parents’ secret police files. A century of political, social and personal upheaval marks the time between. I second Yann Martel’s touting of this kaleidoscopic family saga as a Dr. Zhivago for our time. The Patriots is a debut novel from Sana Krasikov. Pair it with a viewing of A Bridge of Spies.

… for Children

The history of the Native American residential school system is rarely told. Native American children, removed from their families and forced into boarding schools, were often too ashamed to tell their stories. Fortunately for us, Jenny Kay Dupuis shares the story of her grandmother in I Am Not a Number. Somberly colored illustrations by Gillian Newland add a powerful depth.

Fantasy Fiction

As I warned in my last post, I have a weakness for trilogies. Or I find an alluring book, fall under its spell and then learn it’s the start of a trilogy. Gilded Cage, a dark mashup of Downton Abbey and An Ember in the Ashes, is the first volume in a planned trilogy, with the next book expected in September. In a darkly dystopian Great Britain, Skilled (magical) aristocrats rule and non-magical commoners must serve a decade in slavery. Teenagers Abi and Luke’s parents decide to serve their decade together as a family, as slaves to the nation’s most powerful Skilled family. The Labor Allocation Bureau has a different plan, however. The family goes to a mansion in the country. Luke goes to an Orwellian slavetown.

Literary Fiction


Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West enchanted me from its first sentence. “In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.” A love story in a time of violence. Achingly gorgeous prose begging the reader to slow down and savor while the slowly escalating tension urges us to read faster. How did I read it? Twice.

… For Teens


American Street opens in JFK Airport. Teenager Fabiola Touissant is on one side of sliding glass doors in Customs; her mother is detained on the other. American by birth, Fabiola, continues onto Detroit, where her aunt and cousins await her. Her mother held in a New Jersey detention facility, Fabioloa negotiates the streets of Detroit, the corridors of high school, and the complexities of relationships. When a chance arises to get her mother out of detention, will she take it?

Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Narrator Spotlight: Read by the Author

by Marina

Combating the Commute

I have a bit of a commute. Not a long one. But twenty-five minutes, give or take, each way. You know, depending on traffic. Or the weather. (Can’t call myself a Washingtonian without adding those conditions. You know how it is.) So, rather than besiege myself with the repetitive nature of public radio I turn to audiobooks. Mostly downloadable audiobooks from OverDrive these days but I’ve been known to check out a book on CD now and again.

I’m quite eclectic in my audiobook subjects, even though I stick mainly with nonfiction titles. So, if I had to pick a favorite narrator in that genre it would be those read by the author. I know. That’s probably a cheater answer. But I’ll own it. And stick with that answer. For these reasons: They’ve got the inside scoop on the inflection and passion they intended. They have the right pronunciations. And sometimes they’ll even crack up in their narration.

So, here are my top three. No, four. Well, how about my top five titles that are read by the author. It’s hard to stop there but I’ll force myself. And you can discover some more on your own!

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver is one of the first audiobooks I remember listening to that the author read. Her daughter and husband were even part of the narration. Their passionate narration of the year they spent living on locally grown food really inspired me to try some of the things they did. Not grinding my own flour but I did get chickens. And really committed to my garden.

A favorite movie of mine–and probably yours–is The Princess Bride. When I first heard Cary Elwes was writing a book on the making of the movie I knew I’d go the audiobook route. And when I learned that he was including discussion from the rest of the cast I was even more excited. And when I found that the majority of them would be narrating their content? I was over the moon! Audio Billy Crystal is just as good as movie Billy Crystal. (You can get the best of both worlds with Monsters, Inc and Howl’s Moving Castle.)

Jenny Lawson’s blog is so funny. Her books are just as funny. And when she narrates her books it’s the perfect trifecta of humor, inspiration, and storytelling. Even when she’s talking about mental health.

A.J. Jacobs has written several books about immersing himself in one thing for a year–the bible, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and health fads–but this one is a collection of similar experiments taking place over a shorter period of time.

So, my fifth entry is a fiction title. I don’t think as many authors of fiction read their own works as compared to nonfiction authors. (I could be wrong–I tend to stick with reading fiction so I don’t miss out on an important plot point if I have to concentrate on my driving.) But this author, Lance Rubin, started out as an actor. His theatrical training really comes to light in his debut novel, Denton Little’s Deathdate. And the follow up, Denton Little’s Still Not Dead (which I just finished listening to).

So, do you have a favorite audiobook read by the author? Share your suggestions in the comments.

Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Reality TV: Hidden Treasures

by Michelle C.

Reality television often gets a bad rap.

It’s too dramatic. The situations are fake. People are painted as villains or heroes. But how can I mind that when those are the things I like about fiction! I like to slip into someone else’s world for an hour or two–even if it’s not entirely “real.” Some of my favorites are shows about antiques, hidden treasures, and unexpected finds.

When my entire family gets together for holidays, these are the shows that everyone can find something of interest in. I still remember the first time my family watched Pawn Stars together. My dad liked the tidbits about history. My mom liked the banter between the father and son. And I liked the humor. Normally we all tend to drift in and out of the living room depending on how irritated we are by whatever is on the TV; but this time we were able to spend quality time together.

Another show that has a great dynamic between the characters is Storage Wars. Groups bid against each other on forfeited storage units. While the premise sounds like it could be dull (and according to a friend I have who worked at a storage company, is dull in real life), it is actually very entertaining on screen. The people that bid all have their individual foibles and squabbles. Plus each group is sure to find at least one treasure hidden away beneath the junk.

A tried and true classic is Antiques Roadshow. This is the show that caused me to save all of my childhood stuffed animals and dime store baseball cards in the hopes of them being worth something someday. Hence the box full of Puffkins in my garage (worth $3.50 a piece now on eBay!). I can’t help but feel giddy when someone walks on the show with a painting that they bought for $5 at a flea market only to find out it is worth $50,000. Someday, I can only hope, there too will be my Puffkins.

Other shows focus more on the adventure and mystery of finding the artifacts like Jean-Michel Cousteau Ocean Adventures and The Curse of Oak Island. The Curse of Oak Island has a 200-year-old mystery, a hidden treasure, and a curse! These shows tend to bring out the six-year-old in me who still wants to become a pirate. Or a marine biologist (but really a pirate).

What favorite hidden treasure shows are your favorites?


Tagged , | Leave a comment

Prose Bowl – Round 2

The first cut is the deepest. You voted in Round 1. We tallied. 16 became 8. We lost Mary-Louise Parker, James Patterson, Anna Quindlen, and that wacky podcast turned novel, Welcome to Night Vale.

Now it is time for Round 2 of the Prose Bowl 2017! Are you ready? Is your favorite still in contention? Are you surprised by what made it through to Round 2?

Round 2 closes at noon on Tuesday, March 14th. Let’s vote!


Tagged | 2 Comments