longbournParodies, continuations and alternate universe settings of Jane Austin’s books have become very popular – mysteries, vampire hunters, etc. – with a greater or (more often) lesser degree of success. Now there is a new version using the world and characters Austin’s Pride and Prejudice and it is delightful and beautiful and very much a great success.

Longbourn by Jo Baker follows the story of Pride and Prejudice from the the servants point-of-view. As were good servants in real life, the servants in Austin are mostly silent and unseen. Here they take center stage. They have their own dramas and crisis, joy and heartbreak and a unique, decidedly  unglamorous view of the family. The Bennett girls, both thoughtful and frivolous, only rarely acknowledge the servants and the extra work they often unnecessarily create for them (except for sweet Jane who is always undemanding and kind), and offhandedly change the servants lives without consulting what they might wish. Although they are the center around which the servants orbit, the Bennets are regulated to the periphery here and the world of the servant is foremost. The work is physically hard and mind numbing dull, yet for most of the servants their place in the household gives them shelter, both physical and emotional, from a cruel world.

Sarah, orphaned at a young age, is grateful to have a place at Longbourn, yet wonders if she can again find the happiness she remembers before her parents died. Her suspicions of James the new footman gradually change and when she discovers his secret, they become bound by love and a common understanding of those who are alone.

Longbourn is beautifully written – you may find yourself stopping frequently to reread favorite passages – and full of compassion and secrets. James’ story is especially heartbreaking and suspenseful. At heart a love story,  Longbourn is also about the restrictions imposed by society and class structure, about what we are willing to sacrifice for those we love, about the power of waiting and standing firm, about finding your own path no matter the obstacles.

great balls of cheeseRemember the nut-covered, pink-colored cheese balls served at grandma’s house for the holidays? Well, these are not your grandma’s cheese balls. Find out just how different and inventive they can be in Great Balls of Cheese.

Updated for contemporary tastes, Michelle Buffardi’s cheese balls come in both savory and sweet flavors, like cheddar, blue cheese, and Buffalo wing sauce, or Bing cherry, rum, and pecan. And cheese balls are just part of the story. Many of the recipes are in adorable shapes for all kinds of occasions, such as an Easter egg, Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas ornament, or a football for a Super Bowl party. Other designs are just plain fun, like the Nacho Cat, a Wise and Cheesy Owl, or one that looks like a pizza fresh from the oven. There is so much interest in bringing old-fashioned foods back into style, and this is no exception.

Perfect for food lovers with crafty flair or anyone who loves to entertain, this book, with more than fifty inventive recipes and designs, is sure to be turned to again and again. (description from publisher)

Here at the Davenport Public Library, we are celebrating our freedom to read during Banned Books Week by reading frequently challenged and banned books.  From September 22nd until the 28th, we encourage you to stop by one of the DPL locations and pick up one of the books that have been banned or challenged at libraries across the country.  We will have many of the books on display, and as always, stop by the reference desk and we’ll help you find the book you need.  You might be surprised to find one of your favorites on the list.

The 10 most frequently challenged books of 2012:

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Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Scary Stories Series by Alvin Schwartz, The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, Beloved by Toni Morrison

nappily ever afterIn Nappily Ever After, the first book in Trisha Thomas’ Nappily series, introduces readers to Venus Johnson.  Venus seems to have it all — a beautiful house, a great job, a loving doctor boyfriend, and “good” straight, shiny hair — but she feels like something is missing.  When her boyfriend, Clint, once again brushes off her desire to get married, Venus decides that she needs to start making changes in her life.

The first change she makes is cutting off all of her hair.  After spending most of her life in the solon having her hair chemically relaxed, she is sick of what she now sees as a painful, expensive waste.  This symbolic move of independence is important for Venus, who has always worked hard to reach the goals set by society.  She now has to fight against other’s expectations and make her own way.

Featuring love triangles, misunderstandings, and sabotage, Venus’ life is a ever changing soap opera.  Fans of Kimberla Lawson Roby and Benilde Little will want to pick up book.

sleepwalkwithmeIn 2008, comedian Mike Birbiglia wrote a one-man off-broadway play about his experiences with rapid eye movement behavior disorder, which causes him to act out his dreams and sleepwalk.  His symptoms are exacerbated the longer he goes without expressing himself and dealing with his stress, resulting in him performing increasingly dangerous acts in his sleep.  Including a time when he ran out of a second-story window of a Walla Walla, Washington hotel room, resulting in 33 stitches in his leg.

Birbiglia’s one man show Sleepwalk with Me, has become the defining story of his career and has been translated to a segment on the NPR show This American Life, a book, a stand-up cd, and a movie staring Birbiglia as himself and Lauren Ambrose as his girlfriend. Birbiglia isn’t a big personality and could best be described as a sad sack, but his wit and honesty make this absurd story feel relatable.   The film, book, and stand-up cd all have similar content and are all available at the Davenport Public Library.  I would recommend any of the three, but the film is especially fantastic. Any fans of comedians Patton Oslwalt and Marc Maron and the show This American Life that somehow haven’t heard Birbiglia’s story need to check it out asap.

soul foodSoul Food is an insightful and eclectic history,  where Adrian Miller delves into the influences, ingredients, and innovations that make up the soul food tradition.

Focusing each chapter on the culinary and social history of one dish – such as fried chicken, chitlins, yams, greens, and “red drinks” – Miller uncovers how it got on the soul food plate and what it means for African American culture and identity. Miller argues that the story is more complex and surprising than commonly thought. Four centuries in the making, and fusing European, Native American, and West African cuisines, soul food – in all its fried, pork-infused, and sugary glory – is but one aspect of African American culinary heritage. Miller discusses how soul food has become incorporated into American culture and explores its connections to identity politics, bad health raps, and healthier alternatives.

This refreshing look at one of America’s most celebrated, mythologized, and maligned cuisines is enriched by spirited sidebars, photographs, and 22 recipes. (description by publisher)

embellish meIf you’re anything like me, you spend an exorbitant amount of time on Pinterest pinning projects that you’ll never finish (who am I kidding, never even start).  Of course you have all the best intentions to create that mason jar vase or handmade soaps, but last time you created something it should have ended up on Pinterest Fail.  And while many of my own Pinterest mishaps are purely the result of my impatience or inability to follow directions correctly, some are simply because I’m following the directions of another novice that lacks an editor.

Austin-based fabric designer, Laurie Wisbrun‘s book Embellish Me removes that amateur obstacle.    A professional fabric designer, Wisbrun brings expertise to the world of DIY.  As a visual person, I found Wisbrun’s step-by-step photography easy to follow and the directions complete.  The instructions make clear the tools and materials that will be needed for each project, and the interviews with other professional fabric artists were interesting and it was a treat to see their lovely works.

With a mix of instruction, ideas, and artist introductions — this is a book for crafting rookies and experts alike.

march book 1In 1958, the pacifist organization Fellowship of Reconciliation released a comic book to help promote the bus boycott and recruit new activists called Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. The comic book introduced potential protesters to the Montgomery Method, a method of resistance that was adapted from the peaceful protest methods of Mahatma Gandhi and focused on taking the moral and spiritual high ground in every encounter.

With this important comic book as inspiration, U.S. Congressman John Lewis, along with congressional aide Andrew Aydin and illustrator Nate Powell (The Silence of Our Friends), has produced a stunning and important introduction to the civil rights movement and the Montgomery method. March Book One is the first book in a three part series that highlights the remarkable life of a man that was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington.

Powell’s black and white pen illustrations are fluid, easy to follow, and highlight the importance in the text.  Powell has a real talent in using light and shadow to convey mood, and his style feels modern while still hinting at the classic comic book style in  Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. The comic book format lends itself to Lewis’ talent for oral storytelling, and would make a great introduction to a civil rights movement icon for young people and adults.

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth ClineIn Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, writer Elizabeth Cline manages to educate the reader on the current state of the worldwide garment industry and to make it a page-turner. I COULD NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN. Cline covers the history of America’s Department Stores, the complicated ethics of a global garment industry, a trip to China’s factories for an experiment in fashion manufacturing, the effect of cheap clothes on the secondhand stores and charitable causes, and the role of social media in the “fast fashion” environment–all while unintentionally evolving herself into a “slow fashion” activist.

This is not a see-how-I’m-better-than-you-because-I-only-wear-handsewn-fair-trade-organic-cotton manifesto, but rather a conversation with a super smart friend who’s motto is I-used-to-shop-mostly-at-Forever-21-and-then-I-learned-some-stuff-and-now-prefer-not-to-shop-there. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the book is when Cline admits that only a few years before she began researching the book by sifting through her closet of cheap clothes from H&M, Target & Forever 21, she had participated in protests against her college for using sweatshops to produce their merch. If you were to ask me “Hey, are you against sweatshops and unfair labor practices?” I would say “Duh. Of course.” But then I would sheepishly look down at my clothing and have absolutley no idea how or where anything was made. It takes a lot of work not to buy cheap fasthion, and only Cline’s complete honesty, curiosity, and empathy could produce a book that could convince me to shop (a little bit) less at Target.

I highly recommend Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline to nonfiction readers, fashionistas, and fans of the slow lifestyle movement.

flying brownieWhether it is a family member that lives across the country, or a loved one away on business, attending college, or stationed abroad in the military, everyone loves to get a treat in the mail that says “thinking of you.” It would be even more meaningful if that treat could be homemade, or is a number of different snacks, sweets, and tastes of home to make someone living far away feel closer.

Shirley Fan’s The Flying Brownie is the first and only book devoted to making, packing, and adding creative, homemade touches for food gifts that can be shipped a long distance. It features 100 recipes for baked goods and other snacks and treats, each with precise storage instructions and storage times. The book also offers plenty of guidance in navigating the various rules and restrictions of postal services, customs, and even secure military installations.

Separate chapters are devoted to brownies and bars, cookies, candies and confections, breads and quick breads, extra-light items for inexpensive shipping, savory foods, and mixes to be assembled upon delivery. From a veteran of the Food Network Kitchens and a registered dietitian, this is a reliable and inspiring guide that is sure to bring those families and friends who live apart closer together through the very same thing that unites them when they live together: good food. (description from publisher)