Online Reading Challenge – Young Adult Books

online colorIt’s October and we’re starting on a new genre for our Online Reading Challenge – Young Adult!

Feeling a little unsure about reading a Young Adult book? Not sure that there will be anything in this area that you’d enjoy? Think again! Young Adult books have come a long way in the last couple of decades – you will find compelling stories and stellar writing, the kind of books anyone will want to read.

Still need some convincing? Listen to our own Young Adult Librarian, Amber. A huge fan of the genre, Amber also buys the books for this area for the Davenport Library, so she knows Young Adult books, inside and out. Here’s some words of wisdom from her:

–if you are new to YA, start where you are familiar! YA covers all genres and types of literature so if you like historical fiction, read a book like Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly or Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. If you like science fiction, read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card or Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. If you like romance, read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins or To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. Or start with an author you already enjoy; many “adult” authors have also written Young Adult books including James Patterson, Jasper Fforde, Jodi Picoult and Sophie Kinsella.

–Part of what makes Young Adult literature so appealing and universal is that authors are able to explore complicated and emotional topics through narrators who are dealing with these topics for the first time and are able to be more honest, more passionate, more open than many adult characters are able to be. When asked why she chose to write young adult romances at a YA Lit conference in 2012, Stephanie Perkins replied that it was because she had such an intense romantic experience as a teen. People often remember every little detail of their first kiss, their first dance, their first heartbreak, and yet sometimes can barely remember the name of a person they dated in their thirties. We remember every time we were bullied in high school, the first time someone close to us passes away, and the confusion of a national tragedy happening.

Amber’s listed a bunch of great suggestions and believe me, you can trust Amber’s recommendations! I’m going to read Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, historical fiction set in France. What about you? What are you going to try this month?

Online Reading Challenge – September Wrap-Up

September was a fun month, wasn’t it? What better topic for book lovers to read about than books and bookstores and libraries? It’s win-win. And there are a lot of great titles to choose from – makes it hard to pick just one!

The title I settled on for Books About Books was The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. With elements of a Gothic ghost story, secrets from the past and conflicting, tangled stories, this reads more like a mystery than straight fiction.

When Margaret Lea, an unremarkable biographer that helped her father in his bookstore, received a letter from thirteenth-talereclusive author Vida Winter requesting that Margaret write her biography, she is understandably skeptical. Winter is infamous for weaving one fantastic tale about her life after another, stories that conflict and confuse. Where does the fiction stop and the truth begin? It is now up to Margaret to untangle the stories and present them, cohesive and whole, or as close to the truth as possible.

This is an engrossing read, with imaginative leaps and unexpected twists that challenges you again and again – what exactly is the truth?

What about you – what brilliant book did you discover this month? Or did you pass on this month’s reading challenge? Remember, the challenge is to help you find great titles that you might not have tried before – have fun with it! And stop by Monday for information on the next Online Reading Challenge!

Online Book Challenge or Changing Horses in the Middle of the Stream

online colorHello Fellow Readers!

Here’s your mid-month check up for this month’s Online Reading Challenge! How’s it going – have you found something to read this month that gets you excited?

I had every intention of reading The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, but it just didn’t grab me. I wasn’t liking any of the characters and the portrayal of Iowa was not sitting well with me. Maybe I should have stuck with it a little longer; maybe it would have grown on me. But, you know what – life’s too short to read books you don’t like, no matter how highly recommended they come. (And lots of people like this book – check out our own blogger Rachel’s review – so don’t take my word for it!)

So, I’m changing horses in the middle of the stream and reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield instead. This is another title that has been highly recommended to me, about a writer who is hired to help a mysterious author write their biography. Lots of intrigue and secrets and research. I’m hoping this one grabs – and keeps! – my attention.

If you’re still looking for that great Book About Books, I’d steer you towards The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, a quick read that is by turns sweet and sharp and often very funny, about a bookseller on a remote island that unexpectedly finds love.

Let us know what you’re reading – everyone likes a good recommendation (whether we end up reading the book or not!)

Soup for Syria

soup for syriaAcclaimed chefs and cookbook authors the world over have come together to help food relief efforts to alleviate the suffering of Syrian refugees in Soup for Syria. Each has contributed a recipe to this beautifully illustrated cookbook of delicious soups from around the world. Contributors include: Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi, Anthony Bourdain, Alice Waters, Paula Wolfert, Claudia Roden, Chef Greg Malouf, Chef Alexis Coquelet, Chef Chris Borunda, Chef Alexandra Stratou, Necibe Dogru, Aglaia Kremenzi, and many others.

– Celebrity chefs contribute favorite recipes to help feed Syrian refugees

– Fabulous soups from around the world-from hearty winter warmers to chilled summer soups

– Easy-to-follow instructions with stunning color photos throughout

– Recipes made with no-fuss ingredients found in your local supermarket

All profits from the sales of the cookbook will be donated to help fund food relief efforts through various nonprofit organizations. Most Syrians hope that one day they will be able to return to their country and rebuild their lives. (description from publisher)

The Mathews Men by William Geroux

mathews menOne of the indelible images of World War II is of an explosion at sea – a U-boat attack, a ship in flames and an ocean full of men swimming for their lives through oil and debris. The Mathews Men tells the story of what it was like to be on those ships in an almost unknown epic sea battle that took place just off the coast of America. Its heroes were the men of the U.S. Merchant Marine, celebrated at long last in William Geroux’s unforgettable new book.

Mathews County, Virginia, is a remote outpost on the Chesapeake Bay with little to offer except unspoiled scenery. Its men had gone to sea for generations, but in 1942, Mathews mariners suddenly found themselves in the crosshairs of a lethal fleet of U-boats bearing down across the Atlantic. The Germans were determined to sink every American merchant ship they could, to strangle the flow of fuel, arms, and supplies to the Allies. The U.S. Navy initially lacked the inclination and resources to protect the unarmed vessels, and the carnage was staggering. Ships were sometimes torpedoed before the eyes of tourists on American beaches.

Nearly every family in tiny Mathews had a personal stake in the U-boat war, and none had a greater one than that of Captain Jesse and Henrietta Hodges and their seven sons. The Hodges family would experience the war in all its horrors and triumphs around the world, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Indian Ocean to the Arctic Circle. Drawing on interviews with the last living Mathews mariners, family records, diaries, letters, and official documents, Geroux describes how men survived torpedo explosions, flaming oil slicks, storms, shark attacks, and harrowing lifeboat odysseys – only to ship out again as soon as they’d returned to safety. Merchant mariners often died terrible deaths, and suffered a higher casualty rate than any branch of the U.S. military except the Marines, but were denied veterans benefits for decades.

This is a story of valor without glory, of the men who made sure no Allied invasion force was ever thrown back from a beachhead into the sea for want of supplies or weaponry. Merchant mariners landed at D-Day and delivered the crew of the Enola Gay to the Pacific, and when the war was over, it was Merchant Marine ships that brought the troops home. Geroux evokes in vivid, human detail a war beyond the familiar battlefields and its toll on the families back home. Unrecognized by the government, unheralded in the history books, the achievements and sacrifices of the Merchant Marine have been largely ignored – until now. (description from publisher)

Fresh Fish by Jennifer Thompson

fresh fishCooking fish and other seafood at home is much easier than you think!

Fresh Fish offers simple step-by-step instructions for all of the essential cooking methods, including baking, pan-frying, braising, broiling, steaming, poaching, roasting, marinating, and grilling – along with 175 mouthwatering recipes that bring out the best in everything from fish fillets and whole fish to shrimp, mussels, lobster, clams, calamari, and more. You’ll also learn how to buy fish (even whole fish) with confidence, how to serve fish raw, how to clean freshly dug clams, and much more.

Beautiful photography celebrates both the food and the lazy charm of summers at the beach; this is a delightful read as well as the cookbook you need to easily enjoy your favorite seafood at home. (description from publisher)

Online Reading Challenge – August Wrap-Up

the-art-of-fieldingHello Fellow Book Lovers! How did your August reading adventure go? Did you find a great sports themed book? Were you inspired by the Olympics to try something different? Or did you finish off the podium this month?

I’ve been laid up this month (fully on the mend now and returning soon!) and expected to read multiple books – I had stockpiled a lovely stack of enticing titles. But the truth is, I was often just too tired to do much beyond my physical therapy exercises other than stare at the tv (or nap!) Thank goodness for the Olympics! I am not a fan of daytime tv but the Olympics proved to be a great source of inspiration and drama. Because I was home during the day I was able to watch many of the “obscure” sports that I only see during the Olympics such as flat water canoeing and equestrian and badminton and lacrosse and trampoline (!). I was especially intrigued by the rowing contests, having loved Dan Brown’s brilliant The Boys in the Boat; I felt I had at least an inkling of what those athletes went through to reach the pinnacle of their sport and also now knew a bit of the sports’ history and background. It was a prefect example of books enriching your life.

I did manage to read a sports themed book this month, although it’s the non-Olympic sport of baseball. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach may center on college baseball, but it’s real heart is the lives of the characters and the long-reaching consequences of one random mistake. Henry Skrimshander is spotted playing during a summer baseball tournament by Mike Schwartz, the catcher of Westish College, who sees Henry’s potential  – Henry is an artist on the field, snagging every ball that comes his way and throwing with precision and accuracy. Schwartz manages to get Henry a scholarship to Westish and helps him train and practice. Suddenly Westish has a bona fide pro prospect playing for them and baseball scouts begin showing interest. Henry flourishes as his skills improve and he becomes a student of the game. The future opens before him, bright and promising.

Until one day Henry throws a ball that goes wildly off course, hitting his friend and roommate Owen, sitting in the dugout, in the face. It wasn’t out of malice, it was simply a slip with a wet ball on a windy and rainy day. Except for an impressive shiner, Owen is fine and never blames Henry, but Henry loses his nerve and suddenly, the magic that was his fielding is gone; he simply cannot play the game anymore. The consequences of this one slip and it’s effect on Henry and his friends and teammates make up the bulk of the book – how Henry struggles with and copes (not always constructively) with his panic, how his friends and teammates rally around him, how people are brought together that might never have met, of learning to find purpose again when your life suddenly changes course. A warmhearted, thoughtful book; highly recommended.

How about you – what did you read this month? Let us know in the comments!

And a quick note – many thanks to my guest editors Allison and Stephanie who have been keeping the blog afloat for me! See you next month!

Sage Living by Anne Sage

sage livingPerfectly named style maven and City Sage blogger Anne Sage knows a wise truth: decorating our living spaces for our goals is the first step in making them happen.

In Sage Living, she opens the door to covetable dwellings designed to boost the dreams of their occupants, from the sunny, open-air kitchen of a holistic nutritionist to the eclectic living room of a world traveler ready to put down roots.

With page after page of stunning interiors, engagingly written home stories, and hundreds of design tips for every room, Sage Living goes beneath the stylized surface to help readers decorate for the lives they truly want. (description from publisher)

The Boys in the Bunkhouse by Dan Barry

boys in the bunkhouseWith this Dickensian tale from America’s heartland, New York Times writer and columnist Dan Barry tells the harrowing yet uplifting story of the exploitation and abuse of a resilient group of men with intellectual disability, and the heroic efforts of those who helped them to find justice and reclaim their lives.

In the tiny Iowa farm town of Atalissa, dozens of men, all with intellectual disability and all from Texas, lived in an old schoolhouse. Before dawn each morning, they were bussed to a nearby processing plant, where they eviscerated turkeys in return for food, lodging, and $65 a month. They lived in near servitude for more than thirty years, enduring increasing neglect, exploitation, and physical and emotional abuse – until state social workers, local journalists, and one tenacious labor lawyer helped these men achieve freedom.

Drawing on exhaustive interviews, Dan Barry dives deeply into the lives of the men, recording their memories of suffering, loneliness and fleeting joy, as well as the undying hope they maintained despite their traumatic circumstances. Barry explores how a small Iowa town remained oblivious to the plight of these men, analyzes the many causes for such profound and chronic negligence, and lays out the impact of the men’s dramatic court case, which has spurred advocates–including President Obama – to push for just pay and improved working conditions for people living with disabilities.

A luminous work of social justice, told with compassion and compelling detail, The Boys in the Bunkhouse is more than just inspired storytelling. It is a clarion call for a vigilance that ensures inclusion and dignity for all. (description from publisher)