Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check-in

Hello Online Reading Challengers!

How is your March reading going? Are you still scrunching up your nose at the idea of science fiction? Try a movie! They’re like an adventure story, only with lots more makeup! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Mad Max: Fury Road starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy is a non-stop action, can’t-catch-your-breath, edge-of-your-seat survival story. But beyond all that sand and all those crazy people, there’s a lot of humanity.

Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049. Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) is a “blade runner”, stalking genetically replicated criminal replicants in a chaotic society that is nearly impossible to tell what’s real. The new film takes place 30 years further into the future and a new blade runner (Ryan Gosling) and his search for the former blade runner.

Her. Starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. Is it possible to fall in love with an Artificial Intelligence? What happens when the AI believes it has outgrown you and wants to “break up”? It’s a question that hits closer to home in this age of Alexa. Quirky, touching and cautionary.

Tired of all the scarey, dystopian visions of the future? Then go for Star Trek, which presents a future that, while we’re still not perfect, at least we haven’t blown up the Earth (yet) and have managed to live among the stars. You have lots to choose from – television series, movies, original, spinoffs, alternate universes.

Online Reading Challenge – March

Hello Readers! Here we go with month #3 of the Online Reading Challenge. This month we’re traveling to the future!

Now, don’t pull that face at me. You know, the face where you scrunch up your nose and say “I don’t like science fiction”. You just haven’t found the right science fiction book yet. PLUS – not everything on the list is science fiction! There’s plenty for everyone to enjoy! Here’s sampling.

Dystopian fiction is in its heyday right now (although there are signs that this is beginning to taper off) and there are dozens of titles to choose. The Hunger Games series (both books and movies) by Suzanne Collins has been very popular for a reason. It’s horrifying without being too graphic and really makes you think about what you would do if you were in the same position as Katniss. It takes place in a world where scarce natural resources are held by the wealthy, keep control through an annual televised event that pits children from different districts in a fight to the death. When Katniss steps in for her sister, she must use her skills to survive and to put an end to the madness.

If you’d prefer something classic, go for The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, a chilling novel set in a world where birth rates have declined dramatically and any woman who has had a child is forced to serve powerful men in an attempt to give them children. Women have no rights, no access to knowledge, property or money and live in slavery. Now also a popular Hulu series.

For something futuristic but a bit less depressing, try The Martian by Andy Weir. It’s the future but not so distant that the technology is beyond comprehension. A mission to Mars goes horribly wrong when a dust storm forces the group to evacuate. They believe that one of their members, Mark, has died but in fact he has survived. He is now tasked with living alone, with few provisions, until the next scheduled Mars mission – in four years. A survival story, a tribute to ingenuity and perseverance, The Martian is a great read (and an excellent movie)

You might also try some JD Robb books, shelved in the Mystery section. A pseudonym for the popular author Nora Roberts, this series is set in a relatable future where the technology is advanced but human emotions and actions continue to create suspense and mystery. Great can’t-put-down books.

I’m going to read Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. Twenty years after a flu epidemic has wiped out most of civilization, a small traveling troupe of actors attempts to keep art and culture alive. Here’s hoping it’s not too dystopian!

For lots more suggestions, be sure to stop by any of our Davenport locations for displays of books and movies. And be sure to pick up a bookmark/reading log while you’re there!

Now it’s your turn – what are you going to read this month?

 

2018 Online Reading Challenge – February Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Readers!

How did the month of February treat you reading-wise? Did you discover something great to read (or watch)? I had another good month, reading The Midwife by Jennifer Worth which I loved.

The Midwife is about young Jenny Worth’s experiences as a midwife in one of the poorest areas of London. The time is the early to mid 1950s and the setting is the East End of London, an area that is still feeling the effects of being heavily damaged in WWII.There is a lot of sadness and suffering in these stories, but there is also joy and laughter, community and life.

Jenny’s comfortable upbringing doesn’t prepare her for the hardships she encounters in the slums, but her compassion and understanding grows quickly. Some of the stories are very funny and some are heartbreaking. As you would expect from a book set in England, there are many eccentric characters and lots of “stiff-upper-lip”. I choose this book because it was about nursing and although I never entertained the idea of pursuing that career myself, my Mom was a nurse in the 1940s (she retired after serving in the US Army during World War II to become a farm wife and raise her family). Although The Midwife takes place 5-10 years after she practiced, I gained a lot of insight into medicine and health practices similar to what my Mom worked under and found it fascinating.

Now, some untangling of the title of this book. It was originally published with the title The Midwife: a Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times which is actually the first of three books (the other two are Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to the East End). The BBC created what became a very popular tv series based on these books, using the title Call the Midwife and the books have been republished with the new name. The beloved series is running on PBS here in the United States with DVDs available of the earlier seasons.

Now it’s your turn – what did you read for this month of the Online Reading Challenge?

 

Offal Good: Cooking from the Heart, with Guts by Chris Cosentino

Guest post by Laura

I visited Ireland a couple years ago and ate an Irish breakfast every morning. It consisted of black (blood) sausage, white sausage, an egg, bacon that seemed like plain ham, and a grilled tomato. I felt sorry and a bit embarrassed that the breakfast buffet at a hotel frequented by Americans was out of white sausage but had plenty of untouched black sausage. I hate wasting food.

Various cultures have utilized animals in nearly their entirety from snout to tail when preparing food throughout human history. That practice has been largely lost in the United States. I read Offal Good by Chris Cosnetino after seeing the intensely close-up photo of an animal organ and was intrigued. Cosentino is creative in his recipes and both smart and wicked with his humor beginning with the pun in the book title – offal is pronounced awful. One of his recipe titles requires a knowledge of Spanish slang for a body part to get the joke.

The recipes’ accompanying photos are beautiful and even a skeptic might admit they look delicious in their presentation. I appreciated his identification of the various parts of the animal as well as describing the differences in preparation among the same part of different animals. My interest in organ meats is twofold: they are rich in vitamins and minerals that muscle meat doesn’t provide and it seems more ethical to consume the entire animal rather than discarding parts deemed undesirable by some arbitrary cultural standard.

I decided to try one of the simpler recipes with an ingredient I’m somewhat familiar with, beef tongue. If you haven’t tried tacos de lengua at a local Mexican restaurant, give them a shot. I was squeamish at first and it took a couple of tries for me to adjust to the springy texture, but then again, I felt the same way about shrimp once upon a time. I found beef tongue at a local butcher shop.

I honestly had to quell a bit of revulsion at first but I quickly convinced myself I was just getting in touch with the origins of my food. I was finally being honest. Meat doesn’t spring from a neat Styrofoam-plastic-wrapped container as many of us would like to think. I quickly got in touch with my curious and hungry side and grilled superb thinly-sliced meat using the minimalist recipe provided. The taste was rich and deep. I give the recipe a thumbs up!

I will probably never try a few recipes because I can’t completely erase my cultural biases. This book is an interesting romp through some seriously amazing cuisine that Americans are overlooking. Perhaps millennials will latch onto the growing trend of cooking with offal and will nudge it into the mainstream.

Library Closed for President’s Day

The Davenport Public Library will be closed on Monday, February 19 in observance of President’s Day. All locations will reopen on Tuesday, February 20 with normal business hours – Main (321 Main Street) and Eastern (6000 Eastern Avenue) open 9:00am to 5:30pm and Fairmount (3000 Fairmount Street) open noon to 8:00pm.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Marta McDowell

Guest blog post by Laura

The seeds of my relatively new hobbies: gardening, landscaping with native plants, and what my friends call “pioneer” cooking, may have been planted long ago by my favorite childhood books. I would disappear into the Little House in the Big Woods or Little House on the Prairie both by Laura Ingalls Wilder for hours at a time. I also spent time with the Island of the Blue Dolphins, a fictional account of the true story of a Native American woman’s story of survival while stranded alone on an island, by Scott O’Dell.

In The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, McDowell aptly describes the various places Pa Ingalls’ wanderlust took his young family. They lived in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota. Some locations were still Indian Territory at the time the young Ingalls family built homesteads. Finally, Laura and her husband Almanzo settled permanently in Missouri.

I was absolutely amazed at the speed in which forest and prairie were decimated and towns emerged. Laura and Almanzo traveled from South Dakota to Missouri by covered wagon in 1894 and she went to visit her cosmopolitan daughter in San Francisco by train in 1915 and by Buick 1925! McDowell includes a section on Visiting Wilder Gardens and Growing a Wilder Garden for those interested in road-tripping or attracting pollinators.

It was fun to see the Moline Wagon Company and John Deere mentioned. I learned I have planted some of the native plants Laura found on the landscapes of her youth. Some of the herbal remedies she used were familiar, but most were new to me. I also enjoyed seeing the names of familiar seed catalogs that regularly show up in my mailbox over a hundred years after Laura may have ordered from them: Stark Bros. & Gurney.

I was happy to get a second look, this time through mature eyes, at the literary heroine of my childhood. She was a remarkable, intelligent woman, and her daughter was an amazing character in her bold independence for a woman of her time. Laura clearly passed along the pioneer spirit to her.

This is my favorite passage from the book and sums up her view of the world: “Laura didn’t curtain its windows so she could see the changing pictures of the world outside. Depending on the time of day, the season of the year, and the weather, the scenes framed in the glass panes shifted, but were a constant draw. She appreciated ‘the forest trees in the wood lot, the little brook that wanders through the pasture, the hills and valleys, and the level fields of the farm lands.’ Living close to nature was a fundamental thing. Along with love and duty, work and rest, nature was a key ingredient in her formula for happy life.”

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-month Check In

Hello!

How is your reading going this month? There’s certainly a lot to choose from! I hope you’ve had a chance to stop by one of our locations for ideas on what to read.

If you’re still stumped, or pressed for time, how about a movie? All those great clothes (And hats! Everyone wore hats!) and classic cars – movies and television shows are a great way to immerse yourself in mid-century atmosphere. Here are some suggestions.

That Thing That You Do – Tom Hanks directed and starred in this charming story of a group of teens that are propelled into stardom in the early days of rock and roll.

L.A. Confidential – Gritty, complex and riveting, this look at a corrupt Los Angeles police department is chilling. Outstanding performances by Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce and Kim Basinger among others.

M*A*S*H – The classic television series starring Alan Alda. It’s a comedy (“Frank Burns eats worms!” still cracks me up) but it’s also a drama with an unflinching examination of the cost of war.

Mad Men – An inside look of the world of the glamorous and high-powered “Golden Age” of advertising, ruled by the men of Madison Avenue. A riveting examination of the times and how much things have (and haven’t) changed.

 

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

Guest post by Laura

I am interested in health in general and digestion in particular but was expecting a somewhat dry tour of the digestive system when I checked Gulp by Mary Roach out. After all, the alimentary canal is the route along which food passes through the body from entry to exit. How exciting can details about the esophagus, stomach, and intestines be, right? Wrong!

The author has a sharp wit and sense of humor that isn’t afraid to tackle taboos. She explores the scientific study of various digestive mechanisms from ancient to modern times. One of these ongoing science experiments was between Alexis St. Martin who was accidentally shot in the stomach with a musket and William Beaumont who would conduct experiments using the open hole left after the wound healed. Rather than reading like a school science textbook documenting the methods and findings, she goes into the human aspect of the drama of the sometimes strained relationship between the two men along with the scientific details biology geeks will eat up. Pun absolutely intended.

From the probable origins of the fire-breathing dragon legend to competitive eaters, this book has facts and stories that both entertain and inform. I usually read or listen to audiobooks during my lunch hour and it takes a lot to make me queasy but I have to admit I had to turn it off once because of the content. Overall, this was a gratifying romp through the alimentary canal with some fun, grossness, and enlightenment along the way.

The Trip to Spain on DVD

Guest post by Laura

I wish I had known there were two previous “Trip” movies because I would have watched those first. I feel I was watching the twilight of what was probably a great run for actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. My aspiration to visit Spain someday was the impetus behind my selection of The Trip to Spain. I certainly got what I was hoping to see in breathtaking scenic views and Spanish cuisine.

There were times I laughed so hard at the banter and celebrity impressions I couldn’t stop but about two-thirds of the way in it began to wear thin. I think this was by design since I could see that happening in real life to people with strong personalities after spending that much time together.

This film is a commentary about the fickle nature of success in Hollywood and coming to terms with becoming middle-aged men, all while lodging at gorgeous hotels and running for fitness on narrow cobblestone streets. Each man is in a different stage of life, Rob has an up-and-coming career, a wife and young children and Steve is facing a stalling career, has a twenty-year old son, and a complicated long-distance relationship with an American woman. I think there are enough issues between them for both to be relatable to many viewers.

Since our libraries have the previous two movies, The Trip, and The Trip to Italy available, I plan to watch them as well. I’ll view them as travelogues with a side of drama and humor.