online colorHow’s your summer going? And how’s your June Reading Challenge – Summer Reads – coming along? Find anything especially good, or are you still trying to decide what to read?

I’m working on Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen. It’s going well, in fact, I would have finished it by now except for other distractions (like the garden). So far it’s been charming, lighthearted and funny, perfect for summer. I’m looking forward to carving out some time to finish it soon!

If you’re still looking for a Summer Read, here are some more suggestions.

Mysteries by Nevada Barr. Each of Barr’s 18 mysteries is set in a National Park and, while they don’t all take place in the summertime, they do take place in favorite vacation sites as we follow Ranger Anna Pigeon on her various postings (Although, really – who would hire this woman? Someone is always getting killed when she’s around! Wouldn’t people get a little suspicious – or nervous – about having her come to their park?) The mysteries are engaging and suspenseful, the main character is gritty and real and very likable and the settings – various National Parks, Monuments and historic sites across the country – are vividly described. I haven’t read all of her books but my favorite Barr mystery is Firestorm. It takes place in Lassen Volcanic National Park in California and takes place during a terrible fire that Rangers and National Guard from across the country are fighting. I could barely set the book down the suspense was so great, as Anna uncovers a murderer in their midst.

Again, not always set in the summer, but often during hot and sunny weather – the mysteries of Tony Hillerman. These beautifully written, atmospheric mysteries set in the Four Corners area of the American Southwest follow the cases of Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, their uneasy partnership, the clash of old and new, of ancient rivalries and always, the unrelenting desert, both beautiful and terrible. I don’t have a favorite Hillerman mystery simply because I love all of them. Do yourself a treat and pick one up.

Still looking? All of these classics are set during the hot summer months including To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, A Midsummer’s Night Dream by William Shakespeare, and Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Or try some more recent summer scorchers such as Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters which jumps between two summers, one on the Italian coast and one in Hollywood, or The Vacationers by Emma Straub where a beautiful beach rental in Spain does not magically fix a dysfunctional family.

Now, if only summer lasted a lot longer, just so I could get to all these books!

online colorHey look! Suddenly it’s summer! And what does summer bring to mind? Relaxing by the pool or on the beach, epic family road trips, hot, sunny days and warm, humid nights, outdoor festivals and campfires and enjoying life. Preferably with a good book nearby.

June’s Reading Challenge theme is Summer Reads, but we’re going to interpret that pretty loosely. There are lots of books that take place in the summer at the beach, but there are also lots of books set by the lake, or the campfire, or even a comfy porch. Mostly they’re fun books that recall the lazy days of summer. That’s a pretty broad guideline so make this month something you want to read!

If you are looking for a great reads with a summer feeling, here are a few suggestions.

The Guest Cottage by Nancy Thayer. When her husband announces that he’s leaving her for another woman, Sophie Anderson realizes she has no idea what’s next. Impulsively renting a guest cottage on Nantucket from her friend Susie Swenson, Sophie rounds up her kids, Jonah and Lacey, and leaves Boston for a quiet family vacation, minus one. Thayer has several popular books, all set on beautiful Nantucket Island.

Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen. Our very own blogging librarian Lynn wrote about this book recently and gave it a rave review.

Outer Banks by Anne River Siddons. Four young women bound by rare, blinding, early friendship—they spend two idyllic spring breaks at Nag’s Head, North Carolina, the isolated strip of barrier islands where grand old weatherbeaten houses perch defiantly on the edge of a storm-tossed sea. Now thirty years later, they are coming back to recapture the exquisite magic of those early years…to experience again the love, the enthusiasm, the passion, pain, and cruel-betrayal that shaped the four young girls into women and set them all adrift. Siddons has several other popular books, most set in North or South Carolina.

A Lowcountry Wedding by Mary Alice Monroe. Nothing could be more enchanting than a summer wedding–or two!–in Charleston’s fabled lowcountry. A centuries-old plantation, an avenue of ancient oaks dripping moss, a storied ballroom, a sand dune at sunset. Yet when a stranger arrives, a long held family secret could silence the bells ringing for the Muir sisters. Scandals surface, family bonds are questioned, and promises are broken and renewed. In A Lowcountry Wedding Monroe delves into the heart of marriage, commitment, and family ties. Part of the Lowcountry Summer series, Monroe has written lots of books set in the South.

Martha’s Vineyard mysteries by Philip R Craig. Set on the quintessential summer vacation destination, Craig’s mysteries are set on the beautiful and quirky island of Martha’s Vineyard, told by  year-round resident and unofficial private detective, JW Jackson. Bonus – the books include lots of delicious recipes that take advantage of fresh seafood. Yummm!

The Shell Seekers by Rosamund Pilcher. Although this isn’t exactly a “summer” read, it’s one of those big, engrossing books that draws you in immediately and, despite it’s size, doesn’t last long enough, perfect for the lazy days of summer. I know people that re-read this title regularly they love it so much. And while it might not be set during a summer heat wave, at its center is a valuable painting of children searching for shells on the beach. (It also takes place on an island – England!)

What about you – anything on this list or in this theme appeal to you? Have you thought about what you might read this month? (And, have you noticed – most of these books take place in the South or on the East coast – any suggestions for a summer book visit to another part of the country?!) I’m going to go with Lynn’s recommendation and read Enchanted August – it seems just right with humor and great location. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Let us know in the comments – what are you reading? And what would you recommend to the rest of us?

Happy reading!

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers! How was your May? Did you read something new and wonderful? Or did you pass on this month’s challenge?

I have to admit, this was not my favorite theme. Nor did it turn me into an avid Graphic Novel fan. However, it did encourage me try something that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, and I did enjoy the books I read. And while I’m unlikely to pick up another Graphic Novel unless someone recommends it highly (I still find the pictures to be distracting), I did learn a bit about the whole genre and gain a greater appreciation for them. Win win!

nimonaI read two books this month. The first was Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. Sharp and witty with surprising depth and heart, Nimona is about a young girl (we think) who appoints herself as Ballister Blackheart’s sidekick. Blackheart is the designated villain of their country (after his former friend Ambrosius Goldenloin accidentally cut off Blackheart’s hand during a duel when they were in school training to be heroes) and spends his time terrorizing the peasants, with Goldenloin in hot pursuit. Nimona comes up with many nefarious, clever plans to reign down terror, but Blackheart (who really isn’t terribly evil) insists on conservative actions that actually harm no one. Nimona gets frustrated with Blackheart, but remains loyal and always has his back. When true evil arrives, it is the teamwork – and unlikely friendship – of Blackheart and Nimona that stand against it.

As expected, I found the illustrations distracting, but less so as I kept reading. It helps that the illustrations are clever and drawn in an interesting style. It’s the story that I really liked, drawing me into the lives (and snark) of the characters. A great read with a satisfying, although somewhat bittersweet, ending.

relishThe second Graphic Novel that I read was Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. This is Lucy’s story of growing up, shown through her experiences with food.

Somewhat unusually, Lucy grew up with two parents who were enthusiastic foodies. She was never a picky eater and learned to try to appreciate most foods. A new culture (such as her visit to Japan) was an opportunity to learn more about the country via the meals and food related customs she experienced. Her life is influenced and improved by her relationship with food and the opportunities it brings – jobs, friends, culture, unique experiences. This book is often very funny and always interesting, and bonus!, includes several (illustrated) recipes.

Once again, I found the illustrations to be distracting at first – they add a lot to the book, both humor and detail, but I didn’t always know where to start, or I’d accidentally miss a section. However, I did enjoy the style of the drawings and found myself looking for quirky, humorous asides tucked into them.

Yes, I would recommend both of these books, whether that person was a Graphic Novel fan or a newbie. And I might even try another Graphic Novel someday!

What about you – what did you read this month? Did you find something you really liked, or was this month a loss? What about any Graphic Novel fans out there – what did you read? And what would you recommend for someone that still new (and a bit hesitant) with Graphic Novels – what should they read next?

Thanks all for reading along! See you next month with Summer Reads!

american-flagThe Davenport Public Library will be closed on Monday May 30th in observance of Memorial Day. All of our branches will reopen on Tuesday May 31st with their regular hours: Main and Eastern 9:00am to5:30pm and Fairmount noon to 8:00pm.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

complete book of chalk letteringUbiquitous at boutiques and cafés, on Etsy and Pinterest, in stationery and home decor, the art of chalk lettering is hotter than ever. Valerie McKeehan, an Etsy standout whose work has been featured in magazines and websites from Good Housekeeping to RealSimple.com to Martha Stewart Living, teaches us everything we need to know to create gorgeous hand-drawn chalk designs in The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering.

In over 60 lessons, learn the ABCs of lettering (literally) and basic styles: serif, sans serif, and script. Next, how to lay out a design, combine various styles into one cohesive piece, add shadows and dimension. Master more advanced letter styles, from faceted to ribbon to “vintage circus.” Use banners, borders, flourishes. And finally, 12 projects to show off your newfound skills: including a Winter Wonderland Snow Globe; a smartphone-themed birthday card to text friends and family; a one-of-a-kind party invitation to create, photograph, and mail; and a bake sale sign guaranteed to put everyone who sees it in the mood for a cupcake! (description from publisher)

fermentedIncorporate fermented foods into everyday eating with delicious recipes that are easily achievable at home with Fermented by Charlotte Pike.

This gorgeous, fully photographed cookbook includes chapters covering fruit and vegetables, milk, pulses, baking and drinks that will introduce you to unique new flavors as well as traditional fermented vegetables such as German Sauerkraut and Korean Kimchi. Use fermented ingredients in dishes such as Kraut-slaw, Bacon and Potato Soup, Kimchi and Pork Salad and Smoky Grilled Tempeh. Learn how to make sweet and savory yogurts such as Coconut Yogurt or Cardamom and Rose Yogurt Cream to go with your perfected Sourdough Chocolate Cake.

Create essential pickles, sauces and chutneys with fermentation that will have endless uses, fully stock any kitchen cupboard or make an excellent homemade gift. (description from publisher)

knot outdoor weddingsThe romance of an outdoor wedding is undeniable. In any outdoor setting – beach or backyard, vineyard or mountaintop – the couple has unlimited opportunity to personalize their day and create unforgettable ambience. The 50 real weddings featured in The Knot Outdoor Weddings were inspired by twinkling lights and cityscapes, fresh herbs and countryside farmers’ markets, shells and the sea, mountain peaks and endless vistas. . . .

These gorgeous celebrations reveal the keys to making the most of your setting’s natural beauty, while infusing it with special, meaningful touches that are all your own. The Knot Outdoor Weddings also includes location-specific planning advice for the details of your event, such as attire, color palettes, stationery, menu, and favors, as well as considerations for perfecting your plan B and keeping guests comfortable in any weather. (description from publisher)

grandbaby cakesAs a child, Adams and her family would routinely embark on the ten-hour journey from their home in Chicago to Winona, Mississippi. There, she would watch her grandmother, affectionately nicknamed Big Mama, bake and develop delicious, melt-in-your-mouth desserts. From blooming tree-picked fruit to farm-raised eggs and fresh-churned butter, Big Mama used what was readily available to invent completely original treats. Adams treasured the moments when her mother, aunt, and Big Mama would bring her into the kitchen to let her dabble in the process as a rite of passage. Big Mama’s recipes became the fabric of their family heritage. Grandbaby Cakes is Adams’s love note to her family, thanking those who came before and passing on this touching tradition with 50 brilliant cakes.

Grandbaby Cakes pairs charming stories of Big Mama’s kitchen with recipes ranging from classic standbys to exciting adventures—helpfully marked by degree of difficulty—that will inspire your own family for years to come. Adams creates sophisticated flavor combinations based on Big Mama’s gorgeous centerpiece cakes, giving each recipe something familiar mixed with something new. From pound cakes and layer cakes to sheet cakes and “baby” cakes (cupcakes and cakelettes), Grandbaby Cakes delivers fun, hip recipes perfect for any celebration.

Readers will love this cookbook for its eclectic and bold recipes steeped in equal parts warm Southern charm and fresh Midwestern flavors. Not only will home bakers be able to make staples like yellow cake and icebox cake exactly how their grandmothers did, but they’ll also be preparing impressive innovations, like the Pineapple Upside-Down Hummingbird Pound Cake and the Fig-Brown Sugar Cake. Grandbaby Cakes is a collection for both new-aged and traditional bakers, but mostly it’s for anyone who wants a fresh, modern take on classic recipes as well as cakes full of heart and soul. (description from publisher)

spoonflowerDesigning fabric, wallpaper, and gift wrap used to be the stuff of dreams. Only a few select creatives got to do it, and it required formal training and significant financial investment. But times have changed, and today anyone with a computer, Internet connection, and idea can upload a file and order their own fabric or paper, printed affordably one yard or more at a time.

At the forefront of this revolutionary DIY movement is Spoonflower, a North Carolina startup that produces designs for hundreds of thousands of users worldwide–24 hours a day/seven days a week to keep up with demand. With step-by-step tutorials and projects that span a wide spectrum of skills, The Spoonflower Handbook  by Stephen Fraser is written for both new and experienced users of this print-on-demand technology. Covering everything from equipment to software to working with photos, scans, repeats, vector files, and more, it is an essential guide to a booming new creative outlet. (description from publisher)

flower chefThe Flower Chef by Carly Cylinder is a modern, comprehensive guide to floral design that caters to all readers–from beginners who have never worked with flowers before and are looking for a new creative outlet, to decorators, party planners and photographers looking to liven up their spaces. Even professionals will find ways to update their techniques!

This book teaches you everything you need to know about flower arranging including tips on how to buy and care for flowers, how to cut and prepare them, and how to use floral foam, vases, and various other decorative elements in your arrangements. Filled with beautiful photographs and easy-to-follow instructions on how to create over 80 different arrangements, this is the go-to guide to floral design that every flower lover will want to add to their collection. (description from publisher)