Cleaning Nabokov’s House by Leslie Daniels

The pleasure in reading a book like Cleaning Nabokov’s House is to enjoy vicariously the survival and ultimate triumph of an average (well, maybe not so average) person.

Barb Barrett is a wife and mother in a small town who loses what she loves most (her father, cousin and children) in relatively quick succession. When she is at her lowest point, she is unemployed and more or less homeless – living out of her car and reduced to watching her children from afar. She lost custody because the judge, lawyers, and social workers in the small, upstate New York town is allied with her husband, a hometown boy. A meal may consist of boiled lettuce; she has one pair of good pants.

Her luck begins to change when she buys a house formerly occupied by Vladimir Nabokov. She finds a manuscript presumably written by the author of Lolita. The reader picks up bits about Nabokov’s life and works and, I, at least, wanted to read more of his actual novels.

Leslie Daniels, in her first novel, creates a character who is endearingly quirky and self-reliant. We root for her success and hope for her former husband’s (the ex-person’s) downfall.

DVDs for April

April 5

Little Fockers – Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro

Greg Focker has finally begun to earn the respect of his ex-CIA father-in-law, Jack Byrnes, but one important test still lies ahead. Will Greg prove that he has what it takes to be the family’s next ‘Godfocker’ or will the circle of trust be broken for good?

Tron Legacy – Jeff Bridges,  Olivia Wilde

When Flynn, the world’s greatest video game creator, sends out a secret signal from an amazing digital realm, his son discovers the clue and embarks on a personal journey to save his long-lost father. With the help of the fearless female warrior Quorra, father and son venture through an incredible cyber universe and wage the ultimate battle of good versus evil.

April 8

Chronicles of Narnia – Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Ben Barnes

When Lucy and Edmund Pevensie, along with their cousin Eustace, are swallowed into a painting and transported back to Narnia, they join King Caspian and a noble mouse named Reepicheep aboard the magnificent ship the Dawn Treader. The courageous voyagers travel to mysterious islands, confront mystical creatures, and reunite with the Great Lion Aslan and a mission that will determine the fate of Narnia itself!

April 15

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 – Daniel Ratcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint

Part 1 begins as Harry, Ron, and Hermione set out on their perilous mission to track down and destroy the secret to Voldemort’s immortality and destruction – the Horcruxes. On their own, without the guidance of their professors or the protection of Professor Dumbledore, the three friends must now rely on one another more than ever. But there are dark forces in their midst that threaten to tear them apart. Harry’s only hope is to find the Horcruxes before Voldemort finds him.

April 18

King’s Speech – Colin Firth, Helen Bonham Carter, Geoffry Rush

The story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it.

Following Polly by Karen Bergreen

Alice Teakle grows on you. In the beginning of Following Polly by Karen Bergreen, I thought Alice was pathetic and weird; I wasn’t sure I liked her. Her preoccupation, not to say, hobby, is following an old school mate, who is now a major celebrity. She seems particularly adept at sabotaging herself and any success she might achieve in work or family life.

As Alice’s  life starts to fall apart and she is the prime suspect in first one then another murder, I really began to respect her resourcefulness. Alice turns out to be amazingly adept at hiding from the police, and surviving on the streets.

No matter how bad things ge, Alice is funny and smart (she also has a photographic memory). She is definitely not a stereotypical heroine and the plot’s trajectory is not predictable.

America the Beautiful: a Film by Darryl Roberts

At the beginning of his award-winning documentary, America the Beautiful, Darryl Roberts explains that he had once broken up with a wonderful woman because he had believed he would find someone more attractive than her. Later, when she was happily married to another, he realized his mistake and set-off to make this documentary about what it really means to be one of the beautiful people and how much the beauty industry influences our desires and opinions. Much of the film includes what has been seen before: the truth in image retouching, sex in advertising, too-thin models, etc, yet the film keeps the material engaging by presenting it from the viewpoint of a man who once felt responsible for making women feel unattractive, but is baffled to how and why.

The film’s most emotional scenes are those which follow a 12 year old girl as she is pulled into the world of modeling, treated like a queen, and then called fat and put of a job before she turns 16. We see her sexily strutting down the runway and attending lavish after-parties, crying when her mom won’t allow her to wear a push-up bra to school, treated harshly by her school’s principal who disapproves of the fashion industry, and sadly watch her fall into a depression as she loses her career and her confidence. The film is harsh on the fashion industry, and although I still plan to continue enjoying the newest issues of Vogue, Elle, & Glamour each month, I was surprised and horribly disappointed in the lack of sensitivity displayed from the magazine representatives during their interviews.

Overall, I would recommend this documentary to women and girls of all ages (and men and boys as well) as everyone can benefit from America the Beautiful‘s message that each person’s beauty should be celebrated.

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

In Still Missing, the debut novel by Chevy Stevens, Realtor Annie O’Sullivan had only a few things on her mind the afternoon she finished her latest open house.  She was late to meet her boyfriend, she was still reeling from a fight with her mother and she really wanted to sell a house.  Annie was thrilled when a last minute, prospective buyer pulls up asking to see the house and introduced himself as David. 

Hope for a house buyer turns to horror when, after climbing the home’s stairs, David forces a knife in Annie’s back.  He coerces her into his van and into a nightmare of epic proportions.  Before driving away from the house he drugs her and then takes her to a remote wilderness cabin intending on holding her captive for the rest of her life.  Annie’s kidnapper, who she refers to as “The Freak” has a twisted scheme to make her the perfect submissive wife – or else.  Eventually, Annie reaches her breaking point with her captor and the outcome is deadly. 

Told in alternating chapters between past and present, Still Missing is a suspenseful journey that holds unbelievable twists and turns  culminating at its shocking end.  Chevy Stevens is definitely an author to watch – her second novel will be released this July.


A Spider on the Stairs

A Spider on the Stairs is a “contemporary reimagining of the classic English mystery.”  It is refreshingly old-fashioned in its absence of gore and forensic razzle-dazzle.

This is part of a series featuring Scotland Yard Sergeant Jack Gibbons and his best friend, Phillip Bethancourt. Bethancourt is an upper-class dilettante who tags along with Gibbons while he investigates first one, then several murders around the beautiful, yet tourist-clogged town of York. Chan does a marvelous job of evoking the cozy atmosphere of the bookshop, York’s warren of streets and the countryside during a particularly rainy spell.

Phillip’s social connections  provide Jack with  insider knowledge that help to solve the case. Because he doesn’t have to work and has no real family obligations, Bethancourt can devote whatever time and energy he has left over- after  socializing late into the evening and romancing women.

The book begins with a murder in Mittlesdon, a charming old bookshop. There is a feeling of calm, unhurried serenity  as the bodies stack up – even the bad guys remain polite and civilized.

Take a look at the Budget!

It is that time of year when newspapers and discussions of full of budgets, budgets, budgets! Want to look them over? Here are the links to the governmental recommended budgets currently being discussed and voted on by our elected representatives:

United States of America
Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2012

State of Iowa
Summary of FY2010 and FY2013 Budget and Governor’s Recommendations

Scott County of Iowa
Scott County, IA Budget & Financials for 2012

City of Davenport
City Administrator of Davenport’s Recommended Budget FY2012
Print copies available for viewing at all three Davenport Public Library Locations

Need contact information for your local governmental officials? Call, email or text the Davenport Public Library Reference Department:

Phone: (563)326-7832
Text: Start a text message with DPLKNOWS and send it to 66746.

or In-person: the reference desk is staffed during all library hours

Spring is Here!

Spring arrived officially last night at 6:21pm and after the winter (and snowfall) we’ve been through this year, it didn’t come a minute too soon. OK, this is Iowa, we can’t just pull a switch and have green grass and blooming flowers again, but they’re on their way. And that means it’s just about time to get out into the garden again! That’s where the library comes in – here’s a selection of some of our newly arrived gardening books, guaranteed to spark your imagination and help you plan your best garden yet!

The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook by Jennifer Bartley – This book has it all – design plans, seasonal checklists, recipes, information on plants, growing tips, even flowers for the table. Bright and colorful.

City Farmer : Adventures in Urban Food Growing by Lorraine Johnson – A series of thoughtful essays on the growing popularity of urban food production from homeowners growing tomatoes in the front yard to guerrilla gardeners taking over abandoned city lots.

The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible : How to Grow a Bounty of Food in Pots, Tubs and other Containers by Edward Smith – Discover how easy it is to grow a backyard garden even without a backyard.

Growing at the Speed of Life: A Year in the Life of My First Kitchen Garden by Graham Kerr – Television’s Galloping Gourmet discovers the joy and advantages of growing your own food. Part part cookbook, part gardening book, it’s all lighthearted fun.



St. Punktrick’s Day

We’ve gotten a taste of springtime.  That’s when mother nature melts away winter’s desolation to reveal your pets’ nasty lawn-offerings,  and the creepy crawlies that have been festering in wait come alive.

PUNKS!  Lots of them!  This many in a month can not be a coincidence!   Artistic relevance optional…

1) Blink 182’s drummer has a promising solo effort with various hip-hop artists
Travis Barker – Give the Drummer Some

2) Dropkick Murphys let their Boston-baked punk effort loose for proper staggering just days before custodians mop up half-digested Guiness stout at your local corporate Irish-themed pub.
Dropkick Murphys – Going Out in Style

3) Garage rock dressed like the Ramones for hipsters:
The Strokes – Angles

4) I guess?
Avril Lavigne – Goodbye Lullaby

5) As if it wasn’t destined for multiplatinum status, Billie Joe and Co. have impishly included  half of a swear word on the cover for maximum fifth-grade shock value.  Here’s crossing fingers that he tilts at the windmills of perceived authority and administers a remedial civics lesson over someone else’s obligatory three chords.  I find that in his matured efforts he uses this hands-free specialization to focus his efforts on gesticulating, standing on speakers, and wearing eyeliner.

It worked on me 16 years ago, and he’ll do it for your high-schoolers today.  Wait, that means they’re old enough to be my….. and that makes me……..  AWW MAN!!!!

Green Day – Awesome as F**K

6 and 7) I’m not familiar, but hey, let’s milk this for all we’ve got…

Rise Against – Endgame
Yellowcard – When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes

8)  Their lead singer just got divorced from the gal in #4.   My money is on lyrical combinations of  life’s unfairness, pain, and unrequited love.

SUM 41 – Screaming Bloody

Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Four close friends, Tracy, Olivia, Holly and Janis who met years earlier at St. Ursula’s High School, decide to reunite by taking a relaxing trip to the Caribbean in Jacquelyn Mitchard’s Still Summer.   At the last minute Janis cancels due to the health of her husband, so Tracy invites her nineteen year old daughter, Cammie, in the hope to salvage their fragile relationship.  After boarding a private yacht, complete with the two person crew of Lenny and Michel to navigate the waters, they set sail on their journey upon the Opus.

In the early days of their journey, Cammie develops a relationship with the young and handsome co-captain, Michel, much to the chagrin of her mother, Tracy.  When Michel and Cammie set off for a secluded part of the beach, they are discovered and head back to Opus to suffer the consequences.  When trying to dock with the boat a tragic accident ensues with both Lenny and Michel falling overboard and the women don’t know if they are dead or alive.  Quickly the foursome realize they are alone on the boat – now without a working engine.

Soon thereafter, they are discovered by a trio of modern day pirates – with deadly results.  Still Summer captures some of the turmoil between these women held over from their youth  as well as the desperation of trying to survive on the open sea.  I listened to the audiobook version of Still Summer, which made for a suspenseful and emotional journey of survival and what it means to live a fulfilling life.