Solstice Musings

by Denise D. 

A Year in Reading

Settling into the short days and long nights of late December, one often reflects on the year nearing its end. For me, that meant looking at My Completed Shelf in Bibliocommons. What did I read in 2017? What did I love?

Other Worlds

Turns out, I spent a lot of 2017 in other worlds. Character-rich tales set in well-drawn fantasy, dystopian and historical settings held my attention. I traveled to Greek islands, the North Pole, magical Nigeria and otherworldly Middle East.

False Starts

2017 was also a year in which I started a lot of books, but tossed them aside before the final page. (Contrary to a frequent misconception that librarians “get to read all day,” we don’t. Like all readers, we are prey to the rule of “so many books, so little time.”) If a book didn’t immediately transport me to another world, I didn’t finish it.

Growing up Girl

 

I also read a number of books about the difficulties of growing up female— a timeless theme that rang even more true in 2017.

What were your favorite books this year? What’s on your list for next year?

 

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Historical Teens

by Lindsey A.

Recently I was talking with someone about youth lit. She told me she prefers middle grade to young adult because YA is “all about vampires.” That is so not true! I could tell this was someone who hasn’t looked at the genre in a while, because she’s about a decade late in terms of publishing trends. YA contains a vast range of subgenres, and is in fact one of the most dynamic and diverse genres being published today.

I’ll admit I don’t read as much YA as I used to. I’m 35 now and I better identify with adult characters. However, I still keep up with YA releases and have a great appreciation for the genre. Some of my favorite books for young adults are – surprise, surprise – historical fiction. One of the best books I read this year was The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. I’ve already gushed about it elsewhere so I’ll spare you, but it got me thinking about other historical YA books.

Historical fiction as a genre is a little different for young people. The 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall happened before they were born, so it isn’t surprising to find historical fiction based in the 1980s… whereas I was born in 1982, so that’s mind-boggling to me! It’s the way of the world, though. What’s new will eventually become old.

I’ve found that YA writers are really adept at making teens relatable no matter when they lived. Maybe it’s slightly anachronistic at times (which is certainly the case with The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, with its contemporary dialogue and brand of humor making it more accessible), but I don’t see the harm in that. There’s something universal about the experience of growing up, and writers of historical fiction for teens understand this so well.

I have many recommendations if you like historicals, but here are some of my recent favorites.

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Genre Movie Challenge: Part Two

by Michelle C. & Grant P.

A couple weeks ago, your Sno-Isle Libraries’ Movie Critics, Michelle C. and Grant P., listed our top movie in each of the library’s movie genres (ex. Action, Comedy, Television, etc.). We each have very different tastes in movies and some fun was had in the comments about which list was better. To further the torture of one another, we promised that we would each watch three movies from the other person’s list and share our commentary on those movies.

Each of us put off watching the movies until the very last second. But we have come through for you, dear readers, and are now delivering on our promise.

Grant’s Picks, Michelle’s Commentary

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: I know it’s a classic and therefore I should love this movie. Parts of it, I did like. The bromance (before bromance was a thing) between Paul Newman and Robert Redford was fun. Their back-and-forth witticisms were great. I liked the inclusion of still photographs to show the passing of time. I also enjoyed the desert cinematography. But there were also long moments of boredom for me in this movie. I found myself playing Candy Crush in between the dialogue. I also wanted to know more about the character Etta Place. She seemed like the most interesting character to me but we did not find out much about her. Overall, I am glad I watched it, but I doubt I would ever rewatch it.

 

Hard Boiled: First, I have to say that I love foreign language films. They combine my love of reading and my love of movies. Win, win. This movie was fast-paced and enjoyable. It has lots of over-the-top action sequences where upwards of fifty people are fighting at a time. The main character, Tequila, a police officer, is reminiscent of Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon; he does not care that millions of dollars worth of damage was just done to the city–as long as the bad guy gets caught. Like most action movies, there are some tropes here that get a little old. There is only one female and her main purpose is as Tequila’s love interest. Which is super irritating. Tequila is able to do death defying feats that no mortal man could do. There is a sequence where he is able to jump out of a building, several stories up, holding onto a live electrical wire, while his leg is on fire, and he is holding a baby. Of course he has a perfect landing. Overall, I liked this movie, but it didn’t really have anything in it that would make it better than any other action movie. In fact, one review I read said that it was a great action movie because it was ninety percent action and had a paper thin plot. If that is what you like, this is the movie for you!

Hoop Dreams: This was the movie that I was not looking forward to watching the most (and if you knew how I felt about Westerns, you would know that’s saying a lot!). A three hour movie about two high school boys who want to make it to the NBA. I can’t think of a synopsis that I would be less interested in watching. That’s why it made it all the worse when I had to tell Grant that this movie was amazing. It really was. The three hours went by quickly. I was completely engrossed in the lives of these two boys and their families living in inner-city Chicago. I was even on the edge of my seat during their basketball games; and I do not like sports! Although a documentary, this movie feels more like fiction in that it has a story arch and action that keeps the story going. The filmmakers follow these boys for five years of their lives. Although both boys are scouted early and start their Freshman year at a prestigious Catholic high school in suburbia, only one of the boys is able to continue at the school. The film focuses on the diverging and parallel lives of the boys as one is sent back to an inner-city high school that lacks the funds to truly help the students, and the other is given opportunities and scholarships with the heavy weight of carrying the basketball team to glory. Overall, this movie was fantastic. There is also an overlay at the end which tells you what happened to each of the boys and their families.

Michelle’s Picks, Grant’s Commentary

Two Mules for Sister Sara: I will start with the one that I liked the most; this movie was fine. Clint Eastwood played the same character that he was in about twenty-five other westerns. Shirley MacLaine was good; but it was weird that the twist of the movie was called out in the synopsis. The score was fantastic and there were some entertaining (and funny?) action sequences at the end (at one point an arm just comes flying off.) I don’t usually care that much for westerns as they are just the same movie told over and over again, this didn’t disprove that point.

 

Mansfield Park: My wife and I watched the movie last weekend, and after about an hour she turned and asked me, “I thought this movie was supposed to be funny and entertaining?” Alas it was neither. I don’t remember the book all that well, but it seems like they made some major changes from the novel. Was the aunt always an opium addict? And I seem to remember a younger brother of Fanny. Anyway, the movie was boring, and some of the sets seemed to completely lack furniture and decorations which was just odd. This movie should have been called “Worse Pride and Prejudice”. Also spoiler, she marries her cousin, apparently that was OK then?

 

Bedknobs and Broomsticks: Oh boy, I decided to watch this movie with my two year old, who will watch pretty much anything that has music, dancing, animation, or joy.  This movie had three of those things. Multiple times during the movie he told me “Daddy all done TV.” Not a good sign. The film starts in England during WWII with three orphans  (I can only assume they are orphans because Disney movies must have dead parents, but the movie never explicitly states it, nor do the child seem bothered by their lacking parents), being put in the home of a witch in training. It was not clear if witchcraft is commonplace in this world. Anyway, nothing much happens outside of an actually entertaining eight minute dance number in which none of the main characters are involved. Did I mention this movie was two hours and twenty minutes long? Then the children, the witch, and a conman go off to an animated land for the next forty minutes, there is an underwater ballad that isn’t bad and some other weird stuff, but it just ends and serves no actual point to the movie. After that we are treated to a war scene (in a children’s G movie) with actual Nazis. Thanks, Walt! This movie was terrible.

The Verdict

It looks like we were unable to convince each other 100%. It doesn’t look like we will ever be able to see eye-to-eye when it comes to movies. Have you ever watched a movie that a friend suggested and been underwhelmed? Do you have any differing opinions on these movies? Let us know what you think in the comments section!

 

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Continuing Edutainment

by Marina M.

Learning: it’s not just for school

I like to know stuff. That’s probably why I chose librarianship as a profession. And what I learned while I was getting my degree is that I really enjoyed the research aspect of all those papers I had to write. For both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. So many papers!

The research process led me to uncover heretofore unknown pieces of information to incorporate into my final product. After the completion it was never the writing of the paper that I found myself missing. It was the actual process of digging up those tidbits of knowledge. Which is why I seem to find myself drawn to a wide variety of nonfiction books. If I examine the list of nonfiction titles I’ve read over the past several years I’ll probably find that the majority of them are audio memoirs. Read by the author, obviously. However, every now and again I’ll get on a tear and want to find something new about the past, present or future.

Read for your interests

With an undergraduate major in American Studies (yeah, I still don’t know how that applies to working in the real world) I do have a fondness for history and sociology. During the course of gathering my thoughts, books, and ideas for this post I was listening to Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. That book, which I (and the author) dubbed as Freakonomics 2.0, really gave me a peek into society and culture through the lens of Google Trends. Google doesn’t keep any secrets! (Although that data is anonymous. Mostly.)

Even before that, when I was brainstorming ideas to write about, I was listening to Dan Flores’ book American Serengeti. Which was preceded by my viewing of the documentary, Unbranded, about the wild mustangs of the American West. Looking back at my reading list, I tend to clump my favorite nonfiction topics when I read, watch or listen. For example, a few years ago I listened to Pit Bull: An American Icon by Bronwyn Dickey and The Dog Merchants by Kim Kavin back-to-back. (While both had uplifting stories included, the hardships of the animals from both books stuck with me.) Additionally, a few months later, I went to the dark side, uh, the cat side, and listened to The Lion in the Living Room by Abigail Tucker.

Learning outside the book

My main focus was to share a selection of entertaining books that also would expand your knowledge. I would be remiss to not also share some of the online research options that are accessible to you with just your Sno-Isle Libraries card. One of my favorite eLearning options is Lynda.com. When the Readers’ Services Team first started using WordPress for BiblioFiles to bring our love of books, movies, and music to life I took a crash course on the ins and outs from Lynda.com. There are even videos to help you understand Google Trends! Plus much, much more.

Another resource I find myself going back to again and again is Consumer Reports. Yes! Full access to their website with all the buyer guides and ratings with just your library card! Don’t stop with Lynda.com and Consumer Reports. Explore all of our online research options. And don’t hesitate to Ask Us for help if you get stuck.

So, how about you? Do you have a favorite nonfiction subject you find yourself going back to again and again?

 

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Sno-Isle Staff Favorites of 2017

by Kimberly P.

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot. . .

As the year winds down, it’s the customary time of “year-end” lists. Best movies of 2017, Best Books of 2017, Best Dressed of 2017. . . If you can think it, there’s probably a year-end list for it.

At Sno-Isle, we’ve put together a list of our own. An annual collection of staff favorites that we’ve loved throughout the year. As you can imagine, with such a diverse group of people, we read, watch, or listen to any and everything. Still, there were some favorites that were the most popular in their respective categories.

. . . and Auld Lang Syne!*

 

Representing the Favorite Movie category, DC triumphed over Marvel as Wonder Woman, a film exploring the superhero’s World War I origins, took home the Sno-Isle trophy for most popular movie. We couldn’t get enough of superheros as Logan, a dark, near future X-Men movie, came in second.

 

 

 

 

 

For our Favorite Audiobook category, it was a close one. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, a retelling of classic Norse stories and read by the author, turned out to be the auditory book of choice for several staff members. It also shares the spotlight with Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between) by Lauren Graham.

 

 

When it comes to Favorite Music, it was difficult to determine a clear winner. Staff liked what they liked, and with very little overlap–though we couldn’t seem to get enough movie soundtracks & musicals. That said, of the albums mentioned, Run the Jewels 3 by Run the Jewels cropped up again and again. Who knew socially conscious hip hop would find a home among library staff? Following in a close second is jazz album Robot by Caravan Palace.

 

 

Like our music category, it was almost as difficult to determine a winner for Favorite Children title. Staff’s taste run wide and deep. Nevertheless, out of the sea of children’s literature, there was only one title that surfaced more often than any other: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. It seems we have an avid interest in World War II children’s historical fiction, especially when told through the perspective of a disabled child longing to escape her life of abuse and neglect.

 

 

For Favorite Teen, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was a clear winner. Its clear-eyed examination of injustice touched the minds and hearts of several staff members. For others, what influenced them more was their sense of smell. Particularly, The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, which shares the second place spotlight with Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull.

 

 

We read a ton this year! (Did you expect anything different?) It seems for our Favorite Adult Fiction many staff whet their voracious appetites with Beartown by Fredrik Backman, a story of secrets, hockey, and how the actions of a few can destroy or make a rural town; we washed it down with Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.

 

 

 

In the Favorite Nonfiction category, it seems a local author captured the hearts of many a Sno-Isle staffer. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie wins the vote for most popular. We’re suckers for complex (and sometimes contentious!) maternal relationships. Rounding out the category are Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and Coach Wooden & Me by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar which tie for second.

 

 

What’s your favorite book for 2017? Have you discovered an as-yet-unread title you’re eager to sink your teeth into?

 

*= For those who, like me, had no idea what “auld lang syne” means–it roughly translates to “for the sake of old times”.

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So Long! Farewell!

by Liz K.

Welcome to my last blog post as a member of the Readers’ Services Team! Blog writing, book list making, and reading challenge planning…My three-year term has flown by! Busy and fun, with a dash of occasional stress, I am really going to miss being part of this group. So now what? What am I going to do with all my free time and free brain power? Petition an extension of my term? Nope! Read…The answer is read. Starting today, I am going to read without abandon again. Read without taking notes or worrying that my choices are getting stale! Read without worrying that the cover art is going to get me in trouble! It is going to be glorious.

Some highlights from my list:

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

My bestie lives across the country. Exactly 1,595.4 miles away according to Google Maps. We recently decided we should try reading the same book and then video messaging about it. Not a book group mind you, distance and time zones make set meetings hard after all. We’ve dubbed it “synchronized reading” instead. This is our first pick for our foray into SR. Not a new book, but a new author to me. I read Along the Infinite Sea over the summer and loved it! Connected, but not truly a prequel, I am hoping this title pulls us in the same way. 
 
 
Set against the backdrop of World War I, Deputy Constance Kopp takes on the socioeconomic and legal struggles of women in 1916 . I mean, she’s already taken on members of the Black Hand society and help catch an escaped prisoner so why not?! Based on the real life of the nation’s first female Deputy Sheriff, Stewart’s first two books were a perfect mix of historical fiction and mystery. If this one is anything like those two, I will not be disappointed. Sound like your cup of tea, too? I would highly recommend checking this series out!

 

Seventeen and pregnant, Sadie Blue is trapped in a horrific marriage to a moonshiner husband in 1970s Appalachia. With reviews calling it “tender but powerful,” I am hoping this makes a suitable fictional companion to my favorite non-fiction title of the year, Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance.

 

You can check out my full 2018 reading list here. Well…not quite the full list. Those with questionable covers have been omitted. Obviously.
Happy reading!

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Keeping Score

by Brian H.

San Francisco Symphony and MTT

The inner orchestra nerd is coming out in me for this BiblioFiles post. I have a favorite American symphony orchestra that I want share with you, The San Francisco Symphony. This orchestra is currently led by a favorite conductor of mine too, Michael Tilson Thomas (aka MTT). So as they say two birds with one blog post…I mean stone. The orchestra has been in existence for over 100 years, celebrating their centennial year in 2011. MTT is only the second American born conductor to lead this orchestra. He started his tenure with the group in 1985.

 

A hallmark of MTT’s tenure with the San Francisco Symphony is the work they have done to help audiences young and old learn about orchestra music, composers and performers. This work culminates in these educational DVDs, Keeping Score, available through hoopla. All you need is your library card to view. (Otherwise only available for rent from Spotify, YouTube, Amazon or iTunes.)

Here are three trailers to pique your interest.

 

 

 

Sno-Isle Libraries music services hoopla and Freegal offer a good deal of music by this amazing orchestra. I created this list of all the San Francisco recordings which includes CDs from the catalog too.

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Beyond Bestsellers: Graphic Novel Lists

By Kaley C

​As our month of celebrating and exploring graphic novels comes to an end, I thought we could take a peek at some of the lists people have made. Just in case you’d like to squeeze in a few more as our break in December begins. Even though we won’t be highlighting another genre or format this upcoming month, we would all love to see lists you might come up with if you would like to catch up with any of the months you may have missed. Particularly since the holiday season is approaching, lists would make fantastic suggestions for gifts! Not to mention we are officially entering the hibernation season where it’s the perfect temperature to stay inside and curl up with a new book.

I haven’t read a lot of mangas like Kim has, so I was so happy to see a list made by smozog000’s favorite mangas.

While ​therhiannamater showed us some popular works by Warren Ellis:

Warren Ellis is a powerful force in modern comics. His ability to create unique perspectives on beloved characters as well as entirely new series. Here’s a few of his most resonating works.

I’ve read a few of the graphic novels off of mercurious007’s list, but I was excited to see more suggestions than the few I had on my romance and relationships list. Plus it reminded me to snag Kate Leth’s Spell on Wheels!

Graphic novels starring LGBT characters are at libraries near you! These characters fight crime, solve mysteries, fall in love, embark on awesome adventures, develop strong friendships, and more! This is just a taste of what you can find in the Sno-Isle Libraries’ catalog. If your library doesn’t have the books you crave, ask them to purchase a copy or borrow (aka Interlibrary Loan​) one from another library system for you.

Edutcher has a pretty solid start to a few fantasy graphic novels you can place a hold on today:

Lesser known graphic novels with elements of magic, mad science, or a world that is not our own.

Reading graphic novels was something that just two years ago I wouldn’t have thought was for me. I sincerely hope I’ve been able to share a new title with you that you might’ve enjoyed, whether this format is new to you or an old favorite. Your lists have given me new suggestions to read and I am really enjoying them! Thanks, everyone, and see you for our next round in January!

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Beyond Bestsellers: Graphic Novels and the Value of Visuals

by Emily Z.

I will happily read all manner of graphic novels, from memoirs to tales of the fantastic, as long as I also like the illustrations. When a book is full of pictures, the pictures matter. If the images weren’t important to the graphic novel format, graphic novels could just be regular books—really short, perplexing books with text composed exclusively of dialogue.

In truth, I have some fairly profane opinions about a few exceedingly famous, beloved graphic novel series (that shall not be outed here) simply because the illustrations are not my style or are painfully dated. I don’t dislike all classic comic art of course, just almost everything created in the late 1980s. Rob Liefeld also has some explaining to do. Your experience may vary, so I’m including a mix of styles here. Graphic novels can be classically breathtaking or boldly stylized, after all. Every one of these titles is beautiful, just not in the same way.

We’re not simply here for the looks of these books, either. Each volume also has a remarkable tale to tell. There’s a little historical fiction, some whimsical fantasy, and a fair bit of drama. Quite a few of the graphic novel titles I happen to consider gorgeous are also ones I’ve already talked about but of course, there’s always more to see. Hopefully you’ll find something to suit both your visual and narrative tastes.

As always, if you have a book that you think is the full package—beauty and brains—let me know in the comments.

House of Women by Sophie Goldstein

In bold and uncluttered black and white drawings, Goldstein recounts a familiar-feeling legend of well-intentioned missionaries tasked with civilizing a new world. In this case, the world is an alien planet and the missionaries are a handful of modest, dedicated nuns who want to teach the children they find literacy, chastity, and handicrafts. Most of this world’s natural elements—wood, water, grasses, and rocks—resemble swirling woodcuts and when paired with the habit-like costumes of the missionaries, this futuristic story becomes tinged with a curiously old-fashioned feeling. Regardless of the spaceships and aliens, this is an old tale–one of drama, men and women, monsters, lust, jealousy, and poisonous secrets.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

The Arrival is a story that needs no words. In fact, its wordless-ness is in an important component of the story. This is the tale of a refugee struggling to make his way in an outlandish new country and like him, we must infer what is happening without the aid of a common tongue. The world Tan has created for our hero appears to be an old one, already crammed with generations of curious people, buildings, symbols, art, and impossible creatures. There hardly seems to be room for new people, but our protagonist eventually finds that there is a place for him and that he too can add to the richness of this place.

You can take a look at some interior images at Shaun’s website.

The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects by Mike Mignola

Mike Mignola’s distinctive drawings are perpetually swathed in shadows and often resemble something carved from stone. Mignola’s usual fare trends toward dark topics (Hell, Hellboy, murders, murderous supernatural creatures, etc) and are often festooned with skulls, but the world of Screw-On Head is an opportunity to see more of his lighter side. Though still spooky, these short vignettes range from charmingly absurd to utterly goofy.

Tokyo Ghost vol 1

Tokyo Ghost by Rick Remender [art by Sean Murphy]

In Tokyo Ghost, everything you’re currently worried about happening to our society has happened. Rampant pollution, crime, a total collapse of morals and culture—all of it. Almost every human, at least in the West, is fully addicted to increasingly powerful and sophisticated technology. This graft-able, injectable tech is designed to make the violent stronger and the miserable distracted. What kind of person can survive in a world like this? You might think it’s bounty-hunter Led Dent, the hulking figure on the cover of this book. Instead, it is Dent’s loyal lover, Debbie, who is the hero we need. She’s no angel, but she’s going to get herself and her man Dent out of the nightmare that is LA if it’s the last thing they do.

A note on Sean Murphy:

Murphy’s line work is spectacular and his compositions consistently dynamic. There’s no situation he cannot render clearly and beautifully. I’m only highlighting one of the many books he’s worked on today, but please check out his other projects.

Take a gander at these other beauties too:

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Wonderful Dogs in Romance Novels

by Jocelyn R.

Dogs, lovable pets often named a person’s best friend, are wonderful characters who wiggle their way into our hearts. Just like their human counterparts, dogs have unique personalities and foibles that shine off the page. And since I absolutely adore dogs, it’s always a pleasure to read the heartwarming antics of these characters. Do you want to read some romance novels with lovable dogs? Read on…

Always on My Mind – Jill Shalvis
Great Dane Kevin is a bit wild and definitely lacks manners. The big goofball will eat anything, which leads to disastrous farts and other issues. Kevin may not be the star of this novel, but his page time will make you laugh.

Troublemaker – Linda Howard
Meet Tricks. A canine diva who has almost as much page time as the romantic suspense plot. She’s mischievous, stubborn, smart, holds grudges, and is definitely the troublemaker referenced in the title.

Run to Ground – Katie Ruggle
K-9 cop Viggy is sad, and a bit depressed, still trying to recover from the loss of his partner. But spending time with town newcomers, Jules and her family, is starting to perk him up, much to his new partner’s dismay.

The Search – Nora Roberts
While Fiona has three awesome search and rescue dogs of her own, it’s puppy Jaws who steals the show. How can you resist a puppy who eats the passenger seat headrest?

A Time for Home – Alexis Morgan
In this trilogy, Mooch offers comfort and unconditional love to three soldiers returning home from Afghanistan. His humorous antics and care help them with the transition from military to civilian life.

Looking for even more romance novels with wonderful dogs? Check out more works by Nora Roberts (i.e. Bert from The Witness and Moe from Key of Light) and Jill Shalvis (i.e. Cooper from Lost and Found Sisters, Thor from Sweet Little Lies).

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