The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman is a series of narratives by different people affiliated with a newspaper in Rome.  Each odd-numbered chapter is told by a different character, like struggling freelance writer Lloyd, hated CFO Abbey, and longtime reader Ornella.  The even-numbered chapters are devoted to the history of the newspaper, starting with its founding by millionaire Cyrus Ott and ending with its downfall in the current Internet age due to declining readership.

My big complaint about the book is that because it is subtitled “A Novel”, I was expecting a novel.  But what we get is individual chapters that tell the stories of different characters, and those characters’ lives don’t really intersect except that they all happen to work at the same newspaper.  Because of this, it feels much more like a collection of short stories, which I’m not uaually a fan of.  That’s not to say that this book isn’t well done, it just wasn’t what I was expecting.  If you’re interested in the topic and like short stories, you should give it a try.  There are aspects of it that I really did enjoy, especially seeing the history of the paper unfold throughout the book.  At its heart, The Imperfectionists is a book about people trying to get by despite the fact that their careers seem doomed.  It seems especially relevant when we hear so much today about print journalism going by the wayside in favor of getting our information online.

February 1

Conviction – Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell

Betty Anne Waters is a young woman whose world is shattered when her beloved brother Kenny is convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Steadfastly convinced of his innocence, Betty Anne embarks on an 18-year journey to set Kenny free, using state-of-the-art forensic technology. The unshakable bond between a brother and sister at the heart of this real-life drama will stir your emotions and inspire you.

Never Let Me Go – Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightly

Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are best friends who grow up together at an English boarding school with a chilling secret. When they learn the shocking truth that they are genetically engineered clones raised to be organ donors, they embrace their fleeting chance to live and love.

February 8

You Again – Signourny Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis

For Marnie, high school was a horror movie, and her brother’s wedding is the sequel when her archrival comes back to haunt her as his bride. It’s nice girl versus mean girl in this hysterical reunion with the one person Marnie would really like to forget. And if that weren’t enough, Marnie’s mom reunites with her own high school nemesis.

Life As We Know It – Josh Durhamel, Katherine Heigl

Holly is an up-and-coming caterer and Messer is a promising network sports director. After a disastrous first date, all they have in common is their dislike for each other and their love for their goddaughter Sophie. But when they suddenly become all Sophie has in this world, Holly and Messer must set their differences aside. Juggling career ambitions and competing social calendars, they’ll have to find common ground while living under the same roof.

For Colored Girls – Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton

A vibrant world where friends and strangers dream, fear, cry, love, and laugh out loud in an attempt to find their true selves. Adapted by writer/director Tyler Perry from Ntozake Shange’s acclaimed choreopoem, this gripping film paints an unforgettable portrait of what it means to be a woman of color in the modern world.

February 15

Waiting for Superman

An engaging and inspiring look at public education in the United States. This documentary has helped launch a movement to achieve a real and lasting change through the compelling stories of five unforgettable students such as Emily, a Silicon Valley eighth grader who is afraid of being labeled as unfit for college, and Francisco, a Bronx first grader whose mom will do anything to give him a shot at a better life.

Unstoppable – Denzel Washington, Chris Pine

A runaway train, transporting deadly, toxic chemicals, is barreling down on Scranton, Pennsylvania, and only two men can stop it: a veteran engineer and a young conductor. Thousands of lives hang in the balance as these ordinary heroes attempt to chase down one million tons of hurtling steel and prevent an epic disaster.

February 22

Due Date – Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis

Expectant first-time father Peter Highman looks forward to his new child’s due date five days away. As Peter hurries to catch a flight home from Atlanta to be at his wife’s side for the birth, his best intentions go completely awry. An encounter with aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay forces Peter to hitch a ride with Ethan on a cross-country trip that will ultimately destroy several cars, many friendships, and Peter’s last nerve.

Weeds Season 6 – Mary Louise Parker

Season 6 of this highly acclaimed series turns over a new leaf when pot-selling soccer mom Nancy Botwin tries to leave behind her illegal operations. Includes the complete Season 6 with all 13 episodes.

February 25

Megamind – Will Ferrell, Tina Fey

Over the years, Megamind has tried to conquer Metro City in every imaginable way. Each attempt is a colossal failure thanks to the caped superhero known as ‘Metro Man,’ until the day Megamind actually defeats him in the throes of one of his botched evil plans. Suddenly, the fate of Metro City is threatened when a new villain arrives and chaos runs rampant, leaving everyone to wonder if the world’s biggest ‘mind’ can actually be the one to save the day.

The real challenge for this blog post is how to go about describing the plot of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro without spoiling the plot twist.  Because really, I can’t even say what the book is about without spoiling a surprising fact that you’ll discover about a quarter of the way into it.  So  I’ll do this as cryptically as possible.

The story is being told by Kathy, who is now in her 30s and is reflecting on her childhood at an English boarding school called Hailsham.  The students, completely isolated from the outside world, are all….special.  All I will say is that they have a unique origin and purpose, and they are constantly told that their well-being is very important.  After reconnecting with her two best friends  from Hailsham, Ruth and Tommy, Kathy looks back on her time at the school and how it prepared her (and didn’t prepare her) for what was to come in her future.

I know, that’s very cryptic.  I will say that it’s a dystopian novel with some sci-fi elements, but don’t let that turn you off if you’re not a sci-fi fan.  It’s really an interesting and thought-provoking story about friendship and what it means to grow up knowing your future is set in a certain way.  Kazuo Ishiguro writes in a very conversational tone, which I enjoyed because I felt as though I was having a conversation with Kathy, personally hearing all her old tales from Hailsham.  It is particularly a good book for a book club, because it opens up a lot of discussion possibilities on a controversial subject matter.

The Iowa Library Association has announced the All Iowa Reads title for 2011 – it’s  Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos. Be sure to watch the Davenport Public Library newsletter for the announcement of programs and discussions of this book throughout the year.

In 1978, Hope Jones, mother of three, is swept away during a tornado. Her body is never found. Twenty-five years later her children – Larkin, Gaelan and Bonnie – still struggle to understand their loss and to find their place in the world. The sudden death of their father brings them all home again, forcing them to come to terms with their history and each other.

Set on the open plains of southwest Nebraska, the writing and atmosphere evoke the rural Midwest effortlessly – open skies, violent weather, the restrictions and freedoms of small towns. This is a complex story of grief, love and healing with touches of magical realism and characters that you come to care about.

American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson isn’t really a celebrity memoir about the Hollywood life.  It’s the story of a young man, struggling with addiction, who wants nothing more than to get to America.  Beginning with his childhood in Glasgow, Scotland, Ferguson describes the events of his life that made him who he is today, including dropping out of school at age 16, working in construction, becoming a drummer in various bands, and finally making his mark in the acting and comedy worlds.  It was through his career as a drummer that Ferguson first developed a problem with alcohol, which he recounts with much painful detail.

This book is a powerful story about overcoming addiction and working hard to make your dreams come true.  Since he was a child and visited the States with his uncle, all Ferguson wanted to do was move to the United States, and anyone who has seen The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson knows that he did indeed make this happen.  Though he tells a serious story, the book of course has lots of humor and funny moments in it.  I would recommend this book not just for people who enjoy celebrity memoirs, but also for anyone looking for an inspiring story about overcoming the odds and making a better life for yourself.

Right about now, in the frigid frost of  a typical Midwestern mid-winter, a nice hot beach read can come to the rescue.   Fortunately, Dorothea Benton Frank’s Lowcountry Summer fills the bill.  Previous fans will find familiar ground in this sequel to her bestselling novel, Plantation. Though Frank resides in New York, she was born and raised on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, and her knowledge of the area and it’s cultural customs certainly seem to authenticate the already colorful characters.

For some reason, I don’t know why, maybe it was all the references to the mouth-watering food they were eating , but the narrator kept reminding me of Paula Deen.  But then she’d reinvent herself when describing her laugh-out-loud love-life, and yet again when trying to deal with a drunken sister-in-law or comfort her grief-stricken brother.  So there’s more than just sass and sex  — there’s all the dynamics of complicated family relationships with some unexpected and poignant outcomes thrown in along the way.

I think the thing I enjoyed most was how she used dialog for the narrator, Caroline.  For example, Caroline might respond verbally one way (to her 19 year old son in college who’s shacking up with an older single mom) but she also lets the reader know her real thoughts, as shown here:

“But it’s nothing really.  I just go over to her place for dinner, that’s all”

Oh. My. God.  He was having sex.  My son was having sex!

“Oh, Is she a good cook?”  She had better not be a good cook.

See what I mean?  So, come to the library,  pick up a copy and than pretend you’re on vacation on a beach near Charleston.

Whether or not you think it’s a big deal, it kind of is. Halas versus Lombardi.
For 180 minutes this weekend, typical genteel Midwestern politeness will be suspended and (gasp!) unpleasantries may be exchanged as the Bears host the Packers for the NFC championship.

The last time these two storied rivals tussled for the big one? One week after Pearl Harbor on a frosty day back in ’41. Chicago won and though they are 3.5pt underdogs heading into Sunday, they’ll find a way to extend that tradition an additional 70 years.

Be sure to stop in to the downtown reference desk during the game and feed Bill scores.

How do you define family? Is it just the people you’re related to by blood or by marriage? Or does it include the friends that stand by you through thick and thin? What about the people that leave but come back? And what about those that live on only in your memory? In a world that is constantly redefining itself, who do you call your family?

Despite their differences Janey, Jill and Katie become best friends, bound together by the common stresses of working as post-grad students in Seattle in The Atlas of Love. When Jill becomes pregnant and then is abandoned by the baby’s father, the three form a makeshift family and come together to raise Atlas themselves. Juggling teaching schedules, classes and child care at first seems just possible if everything goes smoothly, but of course, life is not smooth or predictable. Katie falls in love and decides to marry, Jill becomes depressed and begins to drift away and Janey struggles to hold everything together by herself. Then Atlas’ absent father returns and the little family is thrown into chaos. The resulting turmoil of anger, fear, concern and yes, love means that while almost everything is different, one thing stays the same – family. Family that is no longer defined by rigid rules, but is flexible enough to encompass all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds, all drawn to one common goal – to love and support each other no matter what.

Narrated in Janey’s wry voice, this book moves from laugh-out-loud funny to infuriating to sweet and sad as these young women define and redefine their own improvised family.

Did this Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony leave you interested in checking out some of the winners?  We have a lot of them at our three locations!

Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical:  The Kids Are All Right

Best Animated Feature:  Toy Story 3

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture Made for Television:  Claire Danes in Temple Grandin

Best Television Series – Comedy or Musical:  Glee (also honored were Supporting Actor Chris Colfer and Supporting Actress Jane Lynch)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical:  Jim Parsons for The Big Bang Theory

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama:  Katey Sagal for Sons of Anarchy

Lots of the other winners haven’t been released on DVD yet, so keep checking back to see if we have them!

Sherlock Holmes comes to the 21st century in the new BBC series Sherlock. Consulted reluctantly by the police, Holmes is brilliant, sarcastic and socially awkward. Watson, a military doctor that has just returned from Afghanistan after being wounded, is not the bumbling fool so often portrayed in film but is an equal partner in the detective work and also serves as a moral compass for Holmes.

The familiar framework remains, just tweaked in places for the modern setting. Thus, the deerstalker becomes a scarf, Watson keeps a blog rather than a journal, London atmosphere comes from a skyline that includes the Millenium Wheel and the Gherkin building rather than foggy, cobblestone streets and Holmes finds his informants among the homeless rather than street children. What doesn’t change, however, is the brilliant Holmes – socially misfit, actively disliked by many, hyper intelligent.

As you would expect from the BBC, the production values are excellent. Filming on location in London lends authentic atmosphere; the writing is sharp and witty with many homages to the Arthur Conan Doyle originals; and the acting is outstanding. The only negative? There are only three episodes. However, the series proved to be so popular in England that they are currently filming three more episodes – watch for them on PBS in the fall.

Whether you’re new to Sherlock Holmes, or longtime fan you’re sure to enjoy this fun new series.