2014 Staff Picks: Children’s Favorites, pt. 1

Continuing on from last week, we are still featuring some thoughts on our favorite titles from 2014.  This week we will be focusing on the youth with three days of books that are for the under-18 set. But adults, these books are for you too – especially if you enjoy reading with your children!  

And remember, if you want the full 2014 Staff Picks list, you can visit any of our library locations or check out it out online in two parts: 2014 Staff Picks for Adults and 2014 Staff Picks for Children.

Here are our favorite children’s chapter books of 2014:

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

The BoundlessWill lives a pretty low-key life.  His father works on the new railroad in the Canadian mountains, and his family barely scrapes by.  All of that changes suddenly after Will drives the final golden railroad stake, gets swept up in a terrifying avalanche, and survives a Sasquatch attack.  Fast forward a few years to the inaugural voyage of the Boundless:  the largest and longest train in the world which Will’s father is responsible for.  The Boundless carries people, freight, and a very valuable secret to which Will is privy.  Again, Will finds himself fighting for his life, trying to escape a villain willing to kill Will for the secret he holds.  Add Will unintentionally joining the circus on the train to seek asylum and you get a wonderfully fast-paced adventure taking place at 40 miles per hour across the Canadian wilderness.  – Bethany


The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm

The Fourteenth GoldfishEverything changes for 11 year old Ellie when her mom brings her grandfather home to live with them. And he isn’t your average grandfather! This is a funny story that includes science and a little bit of magic. Believe in the possible!
– Lesley




Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter MotorFrank Einstein is determined to win the Midville Science Competition with plans to use the prize money to save his grandfather’s repair shop. His nemesis, T. Edison has other plans. – Mandee




The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

The Great Greene HeistJackson Greene, the Robin Hood of middle school con men, sets out on his most ambitious mission yet; rigging the school election. Join him and his team as they outsmart the competition in style. – Jeff




Loot: How to Steal a Fortune by Jude Watson

LootMarch is reunited with his long lost twin sister when his father, a master jewel thief, falls to his death. The twins must work together to pull off the heist of a lifetime to reverse the curse on their family. – Bernice




The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

The Misadventures of the Family FletcherWhat do two dads, plus four brothers, plus a handful of pets, plus one grouchy neighbor equal?  Lots of loud, crazy, hilarious fun with the Fletcher family!  This would make a fun family read-aloud or a great selection to listen to on a road trip. – Bethany



Navigating Early by Claire Vanderpool

Navigating EarlyAt the end of WWII, Jack Baker’s father, a captain in the Navy returns home to Kansas after the unexpected death of Jack’s mother. Over a school break, Jack joins “the strangest of boys” Early Aulden on his quest on the Appalachian Trail. Early is determined to find the Great Appalachian Bear which he believes will lead him to his older brother Fisher, who is believed to have died in the war. Readers who enjoy stories of adventure, mystery, and friendship will love Navigating Early! There is also “a story within a story” and seeing how the two narratives parallel each other and become interwoven makes the book twice as fun! Recommended for ages 10 and up. – Mandee


Under the Egg by Laura Fitzgerald

Under the EggThere are often more to paintings than meet the eye. This is especially true for Theo whose grandfather left her a mystery to “unhatch” after his death. With the help of her neighbors Theo follows the clues discovering every painting has a story to tell. Best for older readers with a love for art, history and mystery. – Jeff



Join us on Friday when we discuss our favorite children’s picture books!

2014 Staff Picks: Graphic Novel and Media Favorites

We are featuring our thoughts on our 2014 Staff Picks for the week here at Read More! But, if you have impatient streak (like me!) and want the list immediately, please check our our online list in two parts, 2014 Staff Picks for Adults and 2014 Staff Picks for Children . Or you can visit any of our library locations for a handy paper list!

Here are our favorite graphic novels:

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Can't We Talk About Something More PleasantThis graphic novel memoir is the author’s tale of navigating some pretty tricky and hilarious waters as she attempts to help her aging parents cope with illness and the subsequent upheaval of life as they’ve known it. Although faced with exasperating circumstances, and confusion and sadness abound, author Roz Chast faces the realities of this life transition with humor and gutsy honesty. – Jenni


Seconds by Brian Lee O’Malley

SecondsThis moving, wry graphic novel by the creator of Scott Pilgrim deftly explores the messy, frustrating process of accepting adulthood – whether you want to or not. Vengeful house spirits, good food, dreams deferred, bridges burned, and magic mushrooms abound in this tale about Katie and her quest to avoid what comes next.  This novel resonated with me on several levels – as adult navigating the often-contradictory nature of adulthood, as a friend to those at their own crossroads, and as a Katie that often wishes that I could hold on to my own mythic past.  Plus, the artwork is pretty spectacular. This book is highly recommended to graphic novel aficionados and those that love coming-of-age tales.  – Katie


The Wicked + the Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

The Wicked + the Divine“Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. ” The Wicked and the Divine is Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s (of Phonogram fame) new series about teenage gods who are going to inspire (or destroy) the world with pop music. The gods themselves are part diety, part pure angst, and all rock-and-roll swagger which makes this graphic novel the literary equivalent of three-day rave: you aren’t sure what exactly happened, but you know you had fun. It is also infectious, hip, and whip-smart.   If you love music as much as you love mythology – this the graphic novel is for you. – Katie


And here is our favorite media:

The Dance of Reality (DVD) by Alejandro Jodorowsky

The Dance of RealityIn this film, director Alejandro Jodorowsky interprets his own childhood and the life of his father. The Dance of Reality is full of unique images: a young Alejandro stands on the beach and a large wave washes over him, leaving the beach covered in fish and leading to a battle between the local townsfolk and seagulls to grab hold of the beached fish. The film is occasionally a bit meandering in its plot, but the consistently unpredictable images in the film makes it one you will not forget. – Woody

Check back next Monday when we reveal our favorite 2014 teen novels!


2014 Staff Picks: Nonfiction Favorites

We are featuring our thoughts on all of our 2014 Staff Picks for the next two weeks here at Read More!  But, if you have impatient streak (like me!) and want the list immediately, please check out our online list in two parts, 2014 Staff Picks for Adults and 2014 Staff Picks for Children list. Or you can visit any of our library locations for a handy paper list!

Here are our favorite nonfiction selections for 2014:

Animal Architecture by Ingo Arndt

Animal ArchitectureFilled with beautiful photographs of all sorts of creatures’ homes, this book further cements my long-held belief that the natural world is a strange and wondrous place, magical even. Close-up shots and cut-a-ways reveal hidden detail and repeating patterns. The photos are simply and dramatically spotlighted through the use of stark background and minimal writing. – Jenni


Assassination! The Brick Chronicle of Attempts on the Lives of Twelve US Presidents by Brendan Powell Smith

Assassination! The Brick Chronicle of Attempts on the Lives of Twelve US PresidentsThis odd, but fascinating, album of photographs features Lego tableaus of famous assassination attempts on United States presidents. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher as to how the idea for Assassination came about. Even in these days of “Lego” everything, it’s still surprising subject matter and may be the first history book which relies on classic children’s toys as teaching tools. I’d say this book holds more appeal for the adult history buff than for the typical Lego fan, but it certainly makes for interesting conversation no matter what the audience. – Jenni


Dead Mountain: The Untold Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident
by Donnie Eichar

Dead MountainIn 1959, nine young Russian hikers died mysteriously while hiking in the Ural Mountains. Author Donnie Eichar details his quest to find answers that make sense, bringing to life the lives of college students in cold war-era Russia, as well as his own obsession to find real answers among almost 50 years of speculation. – Jennifer



Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson

Lawrence in ArabiaLively book about the fascinating life of T.E. Lawrence and the Middle East during WWI.  Very accessible reading for those unfamiliar with the history and it’s helpful in understanding current issues in the region. – Christy




Not that Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Not that kind of girlI was not sure how I would feel about this book because I have a love/hate relationship with Dunham’s HBO series “Girls”.  I loved this book! It is an honest, painful, brash, warm and funny. If you like Caitlin Moran or Jenny Lawson, this is the book for you. – Lesley



The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

The Reason I JumpConnecting with others requires communication, both verbal and nonverbal. What would happen if you couldn’t reliably speak or gesture in a way that made sense to the people around you? Naoki Higashida shares his unique perspective as a young person living with autism. Thirteen at the time this book was published, it is Naoki’s plea to be seen, heard, and valued as a human being. His writing exposes the raw vulnerability of a child struggling to connect with others and himself. There were times when I lost Naoki’s train of thought, but this only increased my interest. David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas, and his wife, KA Yoshida, translated the book. Overall, The Reason I Jump was a fast, informative, and moving read. – Suzanne


Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen

Scandals of Classic HollywoodAnne Helen Petersen has a deep love and appreciation of Golden Age Hollywood that borders on obsessive, but it makes this collection of essays on the glitzy, messy lives of silver screen stars even more enjoyable for its readers.  Each chapter is both a glimpse into a world long past and an exploration on how media spin can make or break a star.  The tone of the book is chatty and casual – like you are reading an email from an extremely knowledgeable friend.  I highly recommend reading this book, then going and reading all of Peterson’s earlier essays online at The Hairpin so you don’t miss any of these entrancing, well-researched essays.  – Katie


Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan

Short Nights of the Shadow CatcherI wanted to read this because the Bellingham Public Library is collaborating with the Whatcom Museum to bring Timothy Egan to Bellingham in 2015; his appearance complements a display of Curtis’ photographs at the Museum, and Egan will speak about this book.  In addition to this upcoming program, Curtis’ photographs have been fascinating and mysterious to me so I was interested to learn more about him and how he did his work.  Curtis’ goal was to document as many Native American tribes as was possible before they were gone forever.  Egan details Curtis’ struggles to find funding to support his life’s work and the publication of his photographs into a twenty volume series.  This is both an adventure story and a biography about one of America’s most determined, famous photographers. – Pam

Stop by on Friday for our favorite graphic novels and dvds!

2014 Staff Picks: Fiction Favorites

2014 was a great year for books and the Bellingham Public Library staff had an amazing time reading, discussing, and debating their favorite titles of the year.  We sincerely hope that you enjoy what you see here in the next couple of weeks and use it to find a book for you or for a loved one during this winter season.

We will be featuring our thoughts on all of our selections for the next two weeks here at Read More!  But, if you have impatient streak (like me!) and want the list immediately, please check out our online list in two parts, 2014 Staff Picks for Adults and 2014 Staff Picks for Children. Or you can visit any of our library locations for a handy paper list!

Now, without further ado, here are our favorite fiction titles:

California by Edan Lepucki

CaliforniaA couple leaves Los Angeles to live off the grid in a post-decline America. This survivalist, end of the world novel, has an interesting plot and gives insight into the unraveling of civilization. – Madeline




Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Fourth of July CreekPushcart Prize-Winner, Smith Henderson, has written a spectacular first novel.  Social worker, Pete Snow, serves the working poor of rural Montana; overworked and underpaid, Pete struggles with his client’s desperate lives while dealing with his own troubles.  He’s left his adulterous wife and angry teenage daughter to live in a remote cabin with no electricity.  His dedication to his job helps him ignore his own unraveling life.  “I take kids away from people like us,” he tells his ex one drunken night. Pete’s life intersects one day with an eleven year old boy whose father is a tyrannical survivalist awaiting the “End Times”; whose harsh life and treatment of his son reels Pete into their world. Full of complicated, sympathetic and realistic characters, Fourth of July Creek is a home run.  More please, Mr. Henderson. – Linda


Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Goblin EmperorLooking for a fantasy title free of horrifying bloodshed, vampires, or zombies?  The Goblin Emperor is the story of a half-goblin, half-elven prince; the result of a political marriage of the Elven Emperor to his despised fourth wife, a goblin princess.  Raised in seclusion away from the byzantine elvish court, Maia suddenly ascends the Emperor’s throne after an ‘accident’ kills the emperor and existing heirs.  Maia struggles to retain his crown in a hostile court where everyone wants something from him (no matter how formal and politely they may ask). Written from Maia’s perspective, I found him to be utterly likeable and charming.  And while there is some bloodshed, there is also a thread of hope throughout the book. – Deborah


If Not for This by Pete Fromm

If Not for ThisIf Not for This by Montana author, Pete Fromm, is an amazing, heartfelt love story filled with characters you cheer, laugh, and cry with. Maddy and Dalt meet as rafting guides on the Snake River, fall in love, marry, and lead and adventurous, active life together.  Economic realities force them to leave their beloved river and move to the suburbs of Ashland, Oregon.  There, Maddy’s dizzy spells and weakness morph in a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis – at the same time she learns that she is pregnant.  Written in Maddy’s voice, If Not for This, is filled with wit, poignancy and heart-breaking sadness.  Have the Kleenex handy. – Linda


Maid’s Version
 by Daniel Woodrell

Maid's VersionFrom the author of Winter’s Bone this short novel reflects on a mysterious explosion at a dance hall in Missouri in 1929. The author paints a vivid scene and uses capturing language to tell this non-linear story. – Madeline




One Kick
 by Chelsea Cain

One KickThis is from the book description on Amazon: Meet Kick Lannigan. She’s twenty-one. She can pick any lock. She knows five ways to kill you with a jacket. Get ready to fall in love.” Five ways to kill you with a jacket? I’m in! One Kick is the first book in a new series written by local author Chelsea Cain. I really like the Archie Sheridan series by Cain and I really like this one too, though there are parts that are difficult to read. But Compelling storyline, characters, and lots of action will keep you riveted. Kick Lannigan has been through a horrific childhood and she gets caught up in solving a case similar to her own. Warning: this book is not for the faint of heart. – Lesley


The Painter
 by Peter Heller

The PainterA story of loss, injustice, and morality – with splashes of love and beauty – as seen through the eyes of renowned, yet reclusive, artist and fisherman Jim Stegner. After fully absorbing the shock of the death of his teenage daughter and sinking in a mire of self-recrimination, alcoholism and impetuous action, Jim is on a path back to life when he encounters Dell Siminoe brutally beating a horse on a back road. His actions, right or wrong, set the pace for the rest of this emotional suspense story. A highly compelling book – it had me shaking my head and exclaiming “no, no, no,” over and over again.  – Jenni


The Queen of the Tearling
 by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the TearlingThe Queen of the Tearling was my favorite discovery of 2014. The main character, Kelsea, is complex and relatable and the book is full of interesting characters. There is lots of action and adventure. If you like Game of Thrones you will like this book! – Lesley


Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Winter PeopleA haunting ghost story set in early 19th century and present day Vermont. Creepy characters and an exciting plot make this a novel a beautifully written page turner. – Madeline




Check back on Wednesday for our 2014 nonfiction selections!

Wild Revisted

Tomorrow, December 5, is the US premier of Wild, a highly anticipated movie based on Wild: Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.  The movie, starring Reese Witherspoon, has already receive a lot of Oscar buzz and many of us here in Whatcom County have being eagerly waiting to see it.  This eagerness comes from having read the book and listening to Strayed speak during this year’s Whatcom READS! event.  The book was interesting, a bit controversial, and a great book for discussion.  Strayed, meanwhile, was a fascinating and empathetic speaker – and surprisingly funny!  If you missed Strayed visit to Bellingham, you can see her being interviewed at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal courtesy of the City of Bellingham’s BTV-10 crew: http://youtu.be/27YNjvG3wb8.

Also don’t forget!  Whatcom READS! is gearing up for our 2015 season featuring Daniel James Brown’s book, Boys in the Boat.  For more information on his visit in February and a full calendar of events, please check out the Whatcom READS! website.


Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer

Southern Reach Trilogy

First Impressions
I love a good dystopian story, and that’s what drew me to the Southern Reach (Annihilation; Authority; Acceptance) trilogy initially. The writing is unlike any I’ve read before. Extremely descriptive, but intentionally void of any solid information – I found myself drawn in to a story that made no sense but that had wormed its way into my head and couldn’t be purged.

Drive-by Summary
Confusion, chaos, and collapse abound in this series about the exploration of “Area X”. No one knows exactly what’s happened within the boundaries of Area X, a lush tropical jungle filled with strange (imaginary?) flora and fauna. And though numerous expeditions have been sent across the border year after year to observe and record, very little information returns with the survivors who make it back out. It’s a strange tale of some sort of unidentified weirdness. Alien invasion; chemical leak and subsequent mutation; mass hallucination? It’s a dream/nightmare world of hallucinatory images and ideas, place history and geography, human behavior, creeping horror, superstition, religion and linguistics. Has everyone in this story gone insane?

My Favorite Character
The biologist. The way she relates to the natural world more easily than the human one resonates with me. She’s simultaneously a very curious person and a very guarded one. Intelligent, observant, and yet lonely and disconnected. Does this give her an advantage in Area X?

Words to Live By
“But there is a limit to thinking about even a small piece of something monumental. You still see the shadow of the whole rearing up behind you, and you become lost in your thoughts in part from the panic of realizing the size of that imagined leviathan.”

Recommended For
Anyone who can’t wait to fall asleep at night to dream and to wander the weird alleyways of the mind. Interested in human behavior, science, conspiracy theory, and religion as seen through a psychedelic lens? This book is for you!

Final Say
I can easily see the fantastic imagery of this series reinterpreted as a graphic novel. Reading it, I found myself under a strange spell, compelled to continue with the journey while growing exceedingly frustrated by the bizarre lack of information. What does it all mean? I don’t know, but the fact that I couldn’t put it down is a tribute to Jeff Vandermeer’s writing style and perhaps a little of my own relentless curiosity. In the end, I’m left wondering if a few spores from Area X might taint the pages of these books, as I’ve never found myself so strangely drawn to a story that provides so few answers about anything or anyone in it. It shifts, slides and slips away and leaves you finally with more questions than answers. If you make it through to the other side, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the adventure!

You can find all three books in the Southern Reach Trilogy at the Bellingham Public Library.

Great Winter Reads from the November LibraryReads List

LibraryReads is a nation-wide list is comprised of books read, reviewed, and voted on by librarians.  The November list is filled with some reads that are perfect for all-day reading sessions on cold, long weekends.  Here are some of my favorites from this month’s picks:

Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia MilletMermaids in Paradise
“This delightful book starts out as almost chick-lit, turns into a fantasy adventure, then leads into an underdog heist. The tone reminds me of Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens, with just enough absurdity in a tropical location to keep you on your toes. Protagonist Deb’s husband, Chip, is a total babe (in a nerdy way) and her BFF, Gina, is the best kind of snarky. A highly entertaining read!” – Amanda Monson, Bartow County Library System, Cartersville, GA

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie BarronJane and the Twelve Days of Christmas
“Jane, her sister Cassandra, and her mother are spending Christmas with her brother’s family at Steventon Parsonage. They’re invited to visit the Vyne, where the weather and then a murder (or two) keep them houseguests. Jane’s personality and all of those around her shine throughout this story. I’m now planning to start back at the beginning of the series.” – Kim Storbeck, Timberland Regional Library, Tumwater, WA

Us by David NichollsUS
“Every once in a while you stumble upon a book that makes you wish you could meet the characters in real life. This is the case with Us, the poignant story of a middle-of-the-road British family spiraling out of control, and one man’s attempt to win back their love. Quirky, delightful and unpredictable, the novel delves into what makes a marriage, and what tears it apart.” – Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX

In the Company of Sherlock Holmes In the Company of Sherlock Holmesedited by Leslie S. Klinger and
Laurie R. King
“A unique, engaging collection of short stories written in honor of Sherlock Holmes. It’s wonderful reading all of the different styles with twists on the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tales, such as a Facebook-type narrative and a story written from the point of view of a horse. Sherlock aficionados will appreciate the whispers of the great detective on every page.” – Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI

You can find the whole November list at the LibraryReads website!


The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Impossible Knife of MemoryFirst Impressions
I pay attention each year to teen books that have award “buzz”: books that others in the library and publishing world are talking about as exceptionally good and/or unique. This novel by the author of the teen classic Speak has been getting some very good reviews, so I gave it a listen.

Drive-By Summary
Hayley and her decorated, war-hero, war-damaged father have spent the last five years driving a semi around the country, avoiding the memories and demons chasing them. Trying to find a “normal” life, they settle into Andy’s childhood home and Hayley enrolls in high school. But the demons follow close on their heels: memories, delusions and alcohol-induced rages that threaten to destroy not only their normalcy, but their lives.

Sound Bite
Readers, Julia Whelan and Luke Daniels, make Hayley’s world come alive and Whelan, particularly, gives Hayley an air of authenticity.  You can listen to a brief audio preview here: https://www.brillianceaudio.com/product?i=10026

My Favorite Character
I really enjoyed Hayley’s love interest Finn, who is fascinated by her, but struggling with his own family issues.

Words to Live By
People who have to announce that they are trustworthy deserve to be lied to.

Recommended For
Adults and teens who like real-life fiction and character-driven tales of family conflict, struggle and perseverance.

Final Say
This book is a great choice for readers who are looking to delve into the dark reality of PTSD and its effects on children and relationships will find a moving, sometimes harrowing, occasionally wryly funny story of trying to keep a life fractured by war from falling completely apart.

You can pick up The Impossible Knife of Memory at your local Bellingham Public Library location!

- Jennifer