FloridaSkin Tight by Carl Hiaasen

The author is the father of the eccentric Floridian mystery, with overtones of environmental rage – and no one does it better. Skin Tight is classic Hiaasen – an incompetent plastic surgeon, an equally inept hitman and a tv reporter who is prone to getting beat up populate the novel. Together, they produce moments so bizarre yet acceptable within the logic of the novel, that they make perfect sense. If these scenes don’t make you laugh, nothing will.

Skinny-Dipping by Claire Matturro

Now a series, this mystery introduces Lily Cleary, who is a Sarasota-based lawyer, specializing in medical malpractice. She has odd and likable sidekicks, family members and colleagues; she herself has plenty of quirks of her own (she has many obsessions involving cleanliness and food). Through it all, Lily maintains a wickedly funny sense of humor.

The Britt Montero series by Edna Buchanan

A police beat reporter herself, Buchanan writes with authenticity about her lead character, Britt Montero, who also covers the police department for a Miami newspaper. Through hurricanes, riots, sweltering humidity and Cuban-American politics, the reader is immersed in the culture and heat of Miami. Through nine novels, we see Britt’s work and romantic life go through many ups and downs.

Solomon Vs Lord by Paul Levine

Both lawyers, Steve Solomon is the wisecracking, risk taking, fast talking rule breaker and Victoria Lord is his patrician, by-the-book adversary. Their relationship and that of Steve’s autisic savant nephew provide plenty of room for sparks and emotion. Florida is once portrayed once again as a haven for peculiar, yet charming characters.

Bloody Waters by Carolina Garcia -Aquilera

Lupe Solano is a private investigator from a privileged Cuban-American background – giving the reader a glimpse of both worlds. She struggles with her family’s expectations and her own love of the good life, while she navigates in a hardboiled seamy underworld.

Next time, the Armchair Traveler explores our northern neighbor Minnesota, site of the Public Library Association convention later this month. Watch for a series of reports about the convention from our dude with the ‘tude, DPL’s own reporter/guy-brarian extraordinaire -Bill.

Tin Roof Blowdown audio bookValue added activities, isn’t that the current cliche? Well, this one works for me. I listen to books. I admit it, I’m practically obsessed with it. It doesn’t feel right if I turn on my car and there’s not someone telling me a story. Right now I’m listening to a Tami Hoag romance, Straight From the Heart. It’s one of those windows-closed books, you know, the steamy parts always seem to happen at stoplights. People look at you funny when they hear some of the things that come out of books. It’s one of the duties that comes with being a responsible listener, pay attention to what’s going on around you. Including who may be listening in.

I use audio books to broaden my reading list. I enjoy listening to my favorite authors being read, but I also will listen to a book that I would never take the time to read. Like a new title that everyone’s talking about but that is outside my usual choice. This has led me to find things I would have skipped over. I tried to read Wicked (by Gregory Maquire) twice and just couldn’t do it. I listened to it and loved it. It’s probably one of my favorite stories. I would have missed out on it if not for the Book on CD.

I especially like it when an audio book adds to the depth of a book. The reader’s are so important in this aspect of the genre. I have stopped listening because I just didn’t like the reader. But when they get it right, it’s magic. Jim Dale has become famous for his presentation of the Harry Potter books. C.J. Critt really nails Stephanie Plum’s character in the Janet Evanovich mysteries. But my favorites to listen to are James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux mysteries. Most are read by Will Patton, but all of the readers really set the mood for the sultry Louisiana scenes.

I listen other times, too, like while painting my living room. There’s no chore or long drive that an audio book can’t make better!

March Madness beginsWith yesterday’s announcement of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament brackets, March Madness can officially begin. Have you got your bracket filled out yet? Most newspaper sports sections print a bracket, but there are also many online sites that allow you to join or create a group. My nephew has created a group on Yahoo’s Basketball Tournament Pick’em for the family for several years; after the lineups are announced on Sunday, he sends an invitation to each of us with a password. We pick our winners by the deadline (tip-off of the first game on Thursday); Yahoo takes care of keeping track of points and who’s leading in the group (our family has been continually amused by the fact that my sister-in-law beats out her sports-loving husband and sons almost every year)

College basketball has inspired some excellent books that bring the color and drama of the game to you. John Feinstein has written some of the best including Season on the Brink about Indiana and coach Bobby Knight’s run through the Big Ten schedule, The Last Amateurs about Division I basketball and A March to Madness about the Atlantic Coast Conference. Other books worth reading include To Hate Like This is to be Happy Forever by Will Blyth about the Duke-North Carolina rivalry, Cinderella: inside the Rise of Mid-Major College Basketball by Michael Litos and The Men of March: a Season Inside the Lives of College Basketball Coaches by Brian Curtis.

And don’t forget, the womens NCAA Tournament is also being held beginning March 22 and concluding April 8. More information, including schedules and results for all collegiate championships can be found at NCAA.com.

Three Bags Full by Leonie SwannWhen George doesn’t appear as usual, Miss Maple knows something is wrong. It’s not long before George is found dead with a spade in his chest and it’s left to Miss Maple and her collegues to find his killer. The problem is, Miss Maple and friends are sheep and George was their shepherd. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Miss Maple (considered the smartest sheep in Glennkill, Ireland) works on solving the mystery using observation and a keen understanding of human nature to track and find the killer. Laugh-out-loud funny, the flock never loses their sheepy personalities. This brilliant first novel will keep you laughing and might make you look at sheep a little differently.

New York storiesNew Yorkers by Cathleen Schine

The novel centers around the inhabitants of a block in New York. Dogs connect the protagonists and are nearly as well realized characters as their owners. You get real insight into urban, yet small town neighborhood life. Sad and funny and poignant.

Quality of Life Report by Meghan Daum

New York City tv producer moves to a midwest town to do a story and ends up staying. A reversal of the usual Midwesterner comes to New York theme.

Smith and Wetzon” mystery series by Annette Meyers

New York is a vital part of these books – the shops, neighborhoods and characters that make up the city, as well as the culture of Wall Street, where the two partners work as headhunters.

Gone to New York by Ian Frazier

Essays about leaving the Midwest and living in New York. “Out of Ohio” will resonate with Iowans, and “In the Stacks” will speak to library users. Stories about bags in trees, the history of typewriters and the Holland tunnel are fascinating in their accessible research.

Through the Children’s Gate by Adam Gopnik

Bittersweet and philosophical essays about how the city has changed and how it is adapting to families and children who make New York their home.

Tolstoy Lied by Rachel Kadish

Tracy is a professor at a New York university, working on a thesis that the literary establishment rejects positive themes. Academic politics and trends in literature are vividly brought to life. Elements of mystery and romance enliven what sounds like a dry plot.

Next time, The Armchair Traveler visits Florida.

030708.jpgI may never be able to personally relate to the miracle of childbirth, but I think I can say with some confidence that not many area women have had to contend with Nazis sprinkling the neighborhood with TNT at the time of giving birth.

Enjoy the personal anecdotes of being an Englishwoman married to an American GI after a whirlwind courtship.

Meet area veteran Joan McAdams in this week’s Davenport Public Library Podcast episode #2.

Cup of coffeeNeed a perk-me-up? Check out our current “Coffee” display at the Main Library. Just walking by will get those taste buds revved up and ready for some java. Well, okay, you can’t really taste it, but you can almost smell that familiar, flavorful aroma.

Learn how to roast your own coffee beans, how Starbucks got its start, or even how you can open up your own coffee bar.

Or, perhaps you’d be interested in these caffeinated titles? Let it Rain Coffee by Angie Cruz is a light fiction read, while Uncommon Grounds is a “history of coffee and how it transformed our world.”

And there’s more! We change our displays every month and often even more frequently then that. There’s always something new “brewing” at the library!

The Return of Jonah GrayEven tax auditors need love. Sasha Gardener has always been good at her job – strictly professional and attentive to detail, she has been an exemplary IRS employee. But then the unthinkable happens – she falls in love with one of the people she is scheduled to audit. From the strange phone calls at work to her “slightly OCD” boyfriend to her father’s terminal illness, this story is by turns funny, sad and poignant and is filled with quirky, likable characters. You’ll root for Sasha as she struggles with changes in her family and gathers the courage to make some changes in her own life.

Cat napDid losing that hour of sleep leave you feeling like you could use a nap today? Well, you’re in luck because the first Monday after the return of light saving time is officially National Napping Day. This observance is designed to make people aware of the health and productivity benefits of napping, especially at the workplace.

To help convince your boss that workplace napping is a great idea, check out The Art of Napping at Work by Camille and William Anthony (154.6 Ant) The authors present everything from nap management to ideas for converting the napaphobics among us.

When presenting your case for the necessity of nap time at work, don’t be afraid to drop the names of famous nappers like JFK, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, “Nap-olean” Bonaparte, Johannes Brahms, Jim Lehrer, and Bill Clinton. If these highly effective people napped, shouldn’t we all be able to catch a few winks at work?

As National Napping Day is observed let’s also remember that on March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, and nap time has never been the same since.

What about you, do love naps as much as me?

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa GregoryIt’s a question without a simple answer – which is better, the book or the movie? With so many movies adapted from or “inspired by” a book, it’s a question that comes up often. I think it’s important to remember that books and movies are two very different experiences and it’s not reasonable to expect a movie to be an exact replica of a book. The best movie adaptations recreate the same impressions as the book did while offering a visual treat and sometimes a new perspective to the story.

The Other Boleyn Girl is now in theaters, starring Scarlet Johannsen, Natalie Portman and Eric Bana. It has been adapted from the book by the same title written by Philippa Gregory. This is the story of Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary and their lives in the court of King Henry VIII. The movie is beautifully photographed (the intricate costumes alone are worth seeing), but the timeline of the story has been compressed and many of the nuances found in the book – the discussions of power and ambition, the battle between politics and religion – which give the book so much richness and explain the motivations of so many of the characters is mostly lost. The book vividly recreates the grandeur and claustrophobia of court and is peopled with complex, believable characters that bring Tudor England to life. It is also can’t-put-down dramatic. Gregory has written a follow-up to this story called The Boleyn Inheritance which follows the fates of the rest of Henry’s queens. It is as good if not better than the first book.

In this case, although the movie is worth seeing, I think the book is better.

What do you think, what movies have you seen that were better than the book?