Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check In

Hello All!

Are you enjoying the June Reading Challenge? Have you found something fun to read? Or are you still looking for the right title?

I’ve started reading my book (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle). I’m still trying to keep all the “mrs’s” straight, but I’m quickly getting caught up in the story. What I’ve found interesting is how other people react when I ask if they’ve read this book. I heard a lot of enthusiastic yeses; everyone seemed to love it. Best response, though, was from a co-worker who told me that A Wrinkle in Time was the book made her a library patron. When the teacher at school that was reading it to her class wasn’t reading fast enough for Shelley, she asked her Mom to take her to the library so that she could check out a copy. Thus began a lifelong love affair with reading (and, I hope, libraries!)

Another great story came from a Challenge reader that commented she is going to read a book written in 1898 that had been a childhood favorite of her mother. I love this idea! It shows how books are a bridge – to the past, to the future, to knowledge, to entertainment and that they can also be a connection to the people in our lives. Books (stories) are magic.

Let us know what you’re reading and, maybe, why you chose what you did!

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – June

Hello Fellow Readers!

It’s a new month and that means it’s time for our next Online Reading Challenge! This month it’s – Childhood.

I’ve got to admit, I’ve been looking forward to this month’s challenge. It’s pretty wide open to interpretation, so there are lots of possibilities. Let’s look at some suggestions.

Read a Children’s Classic You Missed.These are the books that tend to stay with us always and that have a big impact on how we view the world. Also, to be considered a classic, they have to be good enough to be read by multiple generations of children. You can’t go wrong with A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, any title by Beverly Cleary, the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder or my favorite, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (I still remember laying on the couch in my grandparent’s farmhouse, sobbing at the ending).

Revisit a Childhood Favorite. Did you read lots of Nancy Drew growing up? Try re-reading one and see how it holds up. Or, if you read the more recent titles (the “re-boot”), try reading one of the original titles. The same goes for the Babysitter’s Club or the Boxcar Children series. Or dig up that title that was so amazing when you read it as a kid – is it still amazing or has it lost some of its magic?

Read What Your Children/Grandchildren Are Reading. Find out what’s so awesome about Harry Potter (lots) or Percy Jackson or the Wimpy Kid. Pick a title that he or she is reading right now and read along – think what fun it’ll be to discuss it later and learn what they think of the book!

Try Something New. Children’s literature is pretty amazing and not just for kids. I highly recommend Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Smile by Rainia Telgemeier, Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson as well as many others. These books deal with difficult subjects in thoughtful and sometimes humorous ways and never talk down to their audience. You’ll also find lots of great books on the Newbery shelf (the Newbery is the award given annually for excellence in children’s literature)

Adult Books with a Child Narrator. Although somewhat uncommon, there are some excellent adult fiction books told from the point-of-view of a child including Room by Emma Donoghue, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon, and the Flavia de Luce mystery series by C. Alan Bradley.

I am planning on reading A Wrinkle in Time, a classic I somehow missed. I’m assured it’s very good, so I’m very much looking forward to reading it!

As always, we’ll have displays at each of our buildings with lots more great titles to choose from. Some of these books are pretty slim – maybe you’ll have time to read more than one! So what about it, what are you reading this month?

Online Reading Challenge – May Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Fans of Reading!

How was your May reading? Did you find something incredible that was set in Ancient times? Or was this month a pass for you?

May was almost a pass for me – I rarely read anything set in this time period. I wasn’t coming across anything that grabbed my attention until I picked up the new book by Madeline Miller and just like that, May turned into another winner for me! (so far I’m five out of five this year!)

Circe is about the Greek goddess of sorcery. She is often depicted as cruel and evil, turning people who displease her into animals or monsters. But Circe is told from her point-of-view and, while she isn’t exactly a kind and gentle spirit, there is a lot more to her story than pure evil.

Born to the sun god Helios, Circe grows up in her father’s vast palace and wants for nothing. However, she is different than the nymphs and naiads of her family and is treated with derision. When she defies the gods once too often (turning a nymph she is jealous of into a monster) her father exiles her to a remote island. Here she must live alone and it is here that she hones her skills as a witch.

Although she is in exile, the world comes to her again and again. We see her encounters with Prometheus, with Daedelus and Icarus, with Odysseus and Penelope and her confrontation with Scylla (the monster she created). Circe grows and changes with her exile, regrets past mistakes and tries to atone for them. She is complicated and multi-layered, neither entirely good or bad, much like us mere mortals.

This book is incredibly well written. There is lots of beautiful imagery, but this does not drag down or slow the flow of the story. The stories of the gods themselves, as it has been for centuries, are compelling. Miller’s twist, to see it from Circe’s point-of-view, creates lots of new insights into these beings – they are selfish, egotistical, dysfunctional, vain and cruel (many of the mortal heroes are no better, especially Odysseus). That Circe has her eyes opened to these faults and tries to rise above them makes her unique and interesting. Highly recommended.

Now it’s your turn – what did you read in May?

Darkest Hour on DVD

Darkest Hour follows Winston Churchill’s early days as England’s Prime Minister, as he battles doubts (his own, those of the politicians and even the King) and leads England into it’s great trial yet.

Europe has fallen to the Nazi invasion, nearly the entirety of the British Army is trapped at Dunkirk and America remains neutral. England stands alone. Should Churchill sue for peace and try to come to terms with Hitler, or fight what seems an impossible war? The politicians around him want to negotiate, feeling that they are in a better position now than if England falls. To fight German will come at great cost – is Churchill willing to shoulder that burden?

Gary Oldman, as Churchill, is masterful. He delivers some of Churchill’s best lines (“We will fight on the beaches. We will fight on the landing grounds….We shall never surrender.” and “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”) with assurance and drama that matches the serious situations. Physically, Oldman does not particularly look like Churchilll, but he captures his quirks, gestures, mannerisms and voice unerringly.

The film does take a few liberties, and fudges a couple of dates, but the overall atmosphere – of England united against a great evil – feels very real. A great choice for fans of World War II history.

The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel

After falling in love with and marrying a Frenchman, California girl Ruby moves to Paris despite her parents’ concerns. It’s 1938 and Europe is on the verge of war. Ruby insists on staying, even after war is declared and soon finds herself involved in the French Resistance, facing great danger and heartbreak.

The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel takes a look at the homefront in Paris, the deprivations, the very real danger and the fear. At first, the French residents have difficulty believing that anything awful will happen to them, that the French government will protect them. The reality is that the French government flees before the invading Germans, food becomes scarce and citizens turn a blind eye to the rounding up and deportation of Jews.

Ruby, however, cannot look away; she agrees to shelter a Jewish child and begins helping the Resistance smuggle downed Allied pilots out of the country. Along with the stress and struggles of daily life, she and her husband grow apart, watches neighbors and friends fall to Nazi aggression, suffers personal loss and falls in love.

As expected, I enjoyed the setting and the time period and found the glimpse of the French home front to be very interesting. However, I never really connected with the heroine – she seemed very detached and almost untouched by the events surrounding her. I think that descriptions of conditions and hardships were minimized which made everything somewhat distant. But maybe that’s just my interpretation. Did any of you read this book? And if so, what did you think?

If you’re looking for other books about the homefront in France during World War II, I’d highly recommend All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (one of my very favorite books), The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah or Sarah’s Key by Tatiana Rosnay.

Phantom Thread on DVD

Set in 1954 London, Phantom Thread   is about the couture fashion of the House of Woodcock. Led by master dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock, they dress royalty, movie stars and heiresses and rub shoulders with glittering high society.

I’m not sure what to say about this movie – after a promising start, it left me confused and a bit uncomfortable. There’s a abrupt change of focus about halfway through that completely altered the tone of the movie.

The start is lovely – exquisite dresses, beautiful music, a very 1950s vibe set in a fine London townhouse. It’s a fascinating peek behind the scenes of a fashion house – the draping of fabric, the sewing with antique lace and luscious satin, the fittings with wealthy women. It’s quickly obvious that Reynolds (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) is both talented and a tyrant whose fussy demands are met by his sister and his employees without question. All that changes when Woodcock brings home Alma, a young waitress and the woman that becomes his muse and his lover.

This is when the movie starts to veer into strange. Alma appears to be quiet and docile but this calm exterior hides an iron will. She begins to clash with Reynolds and when she realizes her place in the house may not be secure, she takes things into her own hands.

I’m not sure I’d recommend this movie. As I said before, the first half is lovely and interesting and Daniel Day-Lewis (which he claims is his last movie and is now retired) is as riveting as always, but the second half of the movie mostly left me puzzled. Have you seen this movie? And if so, what did you think?

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check-in!

Hello All!

How is your reading going this month? Have you found something set in the Ancient world to read, or are you taking a pass? I am about halfway through reading Circe by Madeline Miller which I am enjoying a lot. I’ll tell you more about it and have my final review at the end of the month.

If you’re still looking for ideas, be sure to check the comment from Lin on the May 1 blog post – they have given us a nice list of favorites from this time period!

If you’re running short on time, try a movie or documentary! Here are a few suggestions:

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Everything Old is New Again

Just like dress styles or design ideas, crafts go in and out of fashion. I order crafts/sewing/art books for the library and I’ve noticed a recent upswing in the popularity (reflected by the number of books being published) in some “old-fashioned” crafts. What’s fun about them is that a younger generation is taking these crafts and interpreting them with a modern twist. Here are some examples.

Embroidery. The somewhat fussy image of embroidery and hand stitching is giving way to a looser, more irreverent style that often borrows from mixed media artists.

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Macrame. Maybe it’s the “boho” movement in interior design, but macrame is back and it’s going far beyond plant hangers. Sleeker and more sophisticated, it’s enjoying an artistic resurgence.

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Sewing. Sewing is suddenly cool. Younger sewers have discovered the joy of creating clothing that really fits, made in the materials in colors they want. Movements such as Project 333 and Me Made May have fueled the desire for intentional clothing instead of mass-produced clothes from the mall.

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Crafts. Crafts in general are enjoying new popularity as people again discover the joy of working with your hands. “Offline is the new luxury” as we search for an antidote to the technology we’re surrounded with.

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Online Reading Challenge – May

Hello Readers! Welcome to the Online Reading Challenge, May edition! This month we’re going to explore books set in Ancient Times.

This is another fairly broad time period. “Ancient times” is roughly described as prehistoric/dawn of civilization to the fall of the Roman Empire. That’s a lot of history people! Let’s break it down into a few categories.Of course, this isn’t official and there’s a fair amount of overlap but remember – there are no Library Police! Read what you’d like!

Prehistoric/Early Civilization – The go-to authors for this time period are Jean Auel and Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear was a huge sensation when it came out and was very popular for many months. Be prepared for a thick, immersive read! The Gear’s, a husband and wife team, have written, together and separately, dozens of books about prehistoric North America, focusing on the Native American peoples, starting with People of the Wolf.

Egyptian – Delve into one of the earliest civilizations with Agatha Christie’s Death Comes as the End. A departure from her usual setting, this book is nevertheless a mystery masterpiece.

Roman – There is no shortage of books set during ancient Roman times. Check out Robert Harris for thrilling and action-packed titles including Pompeii and Imperium. A nice bridge between Egypt and Rome, Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran is the story of Cleopatra and Marc Antony’s children, left to the Roman conquerors after their parents committed suicide.

As for myself, this is not a time period that I’m particularly interested in and I’m still considering what to read. Anyone have any favorites they’d like to recommend?

Be sure to stop by any of the Davenport library locations for our Online Reading Challenge display – there will be lots of titles at each for you to browse through!