lucybartonIf you have not read a book by Elizabeth Strout, you need to change that right now. Her latest novel, My Name is Lucy Barton will be sure to please. Strout’s writing is honest and beautiful as she writes about a mother and her daughter.

We find Lucy Barton in a hospital room in New York City recovering from complications after her surgery. Lucy’s husband does not like hospitals, and he knows that she is lonely in the hospital, so he asks her mother to come and visit. Lucy’s mother lives in a small rural town in Illinois, about an hour south of Rock Island. Lucy and her mother have not seen each other for quite a few years since Lucy moved to New York. But mother and daughter are happy to be reunited. Her mother refuses to leave her daughter alone and she sits in the chair in the hospital room during her entire visit. The reader learns more about Lucy through the women’s conversations. For a time, their family was so poor that they lived in a relative’s garage. We learn of Lucy’s struggle to become a writer. The women discuss their family and people from home. Throughout theses conversations, it is often what is not said that speaks volumes about the women’s relationship. Pieces of a story are not revealed and the reader is often left wondering what really happened.

I enjoy listening to audiobooks and My Name is Lucy Barton was a superb audiobook. The narrator, Kimberly Farr, has such a pleasant voice to listen to that I did not want to shut off my car stereo. What made My Name is Lucy Barton such a memorable book was the way that the story made you feel. It is difficult to describe what My Name is Lucy Barton is about. It is not a murder mystery and it is not a romantic love story. And yet, this books feels more real than most because it is an honest portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship. It is about two women that love each other even though they do not always have an easy relationship.

My Name is Lucy Barton is the fifth novel by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Elizabeth Strout.

Winter is over and the weather is warming! It’s time to get started on the list of projects piling up around the house. Turning disorder into order is at the top of my list for a fun Friday night. But for most people, decluttering the home can be a daunting task. However the truth of  the matter is that a messy house causes stress. According to an online survey conducted by Huffington Post, eighty-seven percent of Americans are worried that their home isn’t clean or organized enough. If this sounds like you, the library has just the right materials to get you started!

Love the Home You Have by Melissa Michaels: A 31 day love your home challenge . Declutter, organize and decorate. Melissa also has a popular blog: The Inspired Room.

Secrets of an Organized Mom by Barbara Reich: In this book, you will find four easy steps to tackling any organizational project. From cluttered closets to over booked personal obligations, this method can be applied to it all.

Organize for a Fresh Start by Susan Fay West: As life changes, so does your home. Learn how to make your home reflect your current interests while honoring your past too.

Simple Matters by Erin Boyle: This book is all about simplifying your home. A great book for those interested in making do with less. Also beneficial for  those living in small spaces.

The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss: This book focuses on the the most important room in the house, your kitchen! Maximize your time, energy, and effort with this guide to modern homemaking.

The Complete Book of Home Organization by Toni Hammersley: Purge, sort, and store items to attractively organize your home.


Want to Read in eBook?

the life changing magic

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kodo: This NY Times best selling guide to decluttering your home is available in eBook or eAudio Book through Rivershare Overdrive. Kondo boasts that once you organize your home, you will never have to do it again. The KonMari Method takes a room by room or little by little approach to organizing your home.



girlwithgunThe year is 1914 and three sisters find themselves involved in an accident.  The sisters were driving in their buggy when a motor vehicle plowed into them.  Men came to the women’s aid and lifted the damaged buggy off of them.  The oldest woman, Constance Kopp, is outraged.  The driver, Henry Kaufman, is disrespectful but Constance informs him that she will be sending him a bill.  Miss Kopp makes Mr. Kaufman look quite ridiculous.  She is six feet tall and towers over this petty little man.  Her sister Norma warns Constance to drop the matter but she will do no such thing.  To Constance, it is the principle of the matter.  And so, she sends Henry Kaufman a bill.

After receiving no response, Constance decides to go down to Mr. Kaufman’s silk dying factory.  Once she is there, she meets with Mr. Kaufman’s sister who is not at all surprised by the story.  Constance and Henry have another meeting.  At this time, he threatens the youngest sister, Fleurette.  Without thinking, Constance goes into a blind rage and finds herself smashing Henry Kaufman’s head against the wall.  Unfortunately, she did this in front of his low life friends.

Constance realizes that she has made an enemy.  Bricks with threatening notes attached break through windows.  Cars drive past the farm house with men yelling for Fleurette.  Norma is upset with Constance for pursuing the matter.  Constance ends up confiding in the sheriff.  He posts deputies at her house and gives each woman a gun and teaches them how to shoot.  The sheriff instructs them on what to do in order to collect evidence.  Eventually Henry Kaufman slips up and the sheriff is able to arrest him.

But there is more to the story.  Throughout the book, the reader is given clues to Constance’s past.  We learn why these women moved from Brooklyn, New York to live on a farm in New Jersey.  And there is the case of the missing baby that Constance solves.  Girl Waits With Gun is the story of a unique woman that stood up to a bully and protected her sisters.  And, Miss Constance Kopp was one of America’s first female deputy sheriffs.  This book is based off of true events.  You can find it in print and audiobook.

To learn more about Constance Kopp, visit the author’s website.

True Story starring James Franco and Jonah Hill

True Story starring James Franco and Jonah Hill

December 19, 2001.  Waldport, Oregon.  The body of a young boy was discovered floating in a pond.  No one knew who the boy was and there were no missing persons reports for a child.  Three days later, divers searched the pond, looking for clues on the boy’s identity.  There was a highway bridge over the pond, and it was suspected that a car with the child’s family may be in the pond.  Divers found the body of a girl with a rock tied around her ankle.  The media ran the story asking for help finding the children’s parents.  A babysitter stepped forward and identified the children.  From there, the authorities searched the children’s residence.  It was evident that someone had packed up the personal belongings.  But the father, mother, and younger sister of the children were missing.  Divers searched the water nearby and found two suitcases.  Inside were the bodies of the mother and the baby girl.  Four out of the five members of the Longo family were dead.  Mary-Jane and her children Zachary, Sadie and Madison had been murdered.  Christian Longo was no where to be found.

The story of the Longo family is truly horrific.  Stories such as these remind us all that there are dangerous people in the world.  Even a person that you love and trust could be the person that ends that your life.  But True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa is not just about the murdered Longo family.

Michael Finkel lives in Montana and is a writer for the New York Times.  He had recently written a story that was not entirely true and was terminated for it.  So when he gets a call from a journalist at The Oregonian, Finkel expects the call to be about his disgrace.  Instead, the newspaper writer asks him about his reaction to Christian Longo being arrested after claiming to be Michael Finkel from the New York Times.

And so begins the bizarre relationship between the accused murderer and the disgraced journalist.  Longo calls Finkel from prison on a weekly basis.  They exchange letters.  Finkel even drives to Oregon to visit him a few times.  And Michael Finkel is in the court room during Longo’s trial.

True Crime: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel

True Crime: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel

An interesting story of murder, deceit and redemption.  True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa is a must read for true crime fans and for those interested in human behavior.  It is available in print and in audiobook.

There is also a movie based off of the book.  True Story was released in 2015.  It stars James Franco as Christian Longo and Jonah Hill as Michael Finkel.  True Story is available on DVD from the library.

Everyone has a story to tell. I enjoy reading biographies in general, but I find the life stories of musicians especially captivating. The wild and crazy lifestyles of some musicians (especially rock n’ rollers) can make very interesting stories. You’ve probably heard the expression about truth sometimes being stranger than fiction. Nowhere can this idiom be more true than between the pages of a book about a musician.

Reading autobiographies (books written by the subject) and biographies (books about people written by someone else) can be illuminating. I encourage you to read both kinds and see if you have a preference. You might even take a walk on the wild side and read about musicians whose genre of music you don’t typically enjoy. Who knows? It might motivate you to expand your repertoire and start listening to a new genre of music once in a while. I find that the better I understand the motivations and perspectives of the people behind the music, the more I tend to enjoy the music.

One such autobiography I especially enjoyed is Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis. You may not have known that this lead singer of The Red Hot Chili Peppers started his career as an actor before he was a musician. He landed his first major role in the 1978 film F.I.S.T. as Sylvester Stallone’s son. He went on to enjoy roles ranging from television (ABC Afterschool Specials, The Simpsons) to movies (Jokes My Folks Never Told Me, Point Break, The Chase). He has also been a writer and producer. His literary and musical influences include Charles Bukowski, Neil Young, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and Prince.

Kiedis grew up in Grand Rapids, MI where he lived with his mother, stepfather and two stepsisters. He spent two weeks every summer visiting his father in Hollywood. At twelve years old he moved in with his father and began a struggle with addiction to drugs. While attending Fairfax High School in L.A. he met Michael Peter Balzary (better known today under the stage name Flea). Despite a rocky start these two became close friends who enjoyed making mischief at every opportunity, including jumping off rooftops. Once, Kiedis attempted jumping into a pool from five stories up. He missed. Fortunately, he lived to tell his story. Read more about it in Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis.

“What doesn’t kill you only makes your book longer.”  -Anthony Kiedis

Here are some more books about musicians that you can check out through the Davenport Public Library.

u2Girl in a band    hunger makes me a modern girl    stevie nicksM trainelvis costello







love may fail2I was looking for an audiobook to listen to in the car when I came across Love May Fail by Matthew Quick.  I really enjoyed reading his previous novel, Silver Linings Playbook (and watching the movie adaptation) so I checked it out without bothering to look at what this book was about.  If you have kids in the car with you, then you do not want to listen to this book.  Read it instead.

Love May Fail starts by introducing us to Portia Kane, who is currently sitting in her clothes closet, drunk, waiting for her husband and his lover to arrive.  After a hilarious confrontation, Portia decides to leave and gets on a plane.  While she is intoxicated.  She stumbles to her seat and finds herself sitting next to a nun.  Sister Maeve is kind and listens to Portia tell her tale of woe.  Before they part, Sister Maeve gives her a note and her address, in case Portia would ever want to write to her in the future.  And it is a good thing that Portia writes to her.  It turns out that they are looking for the same thing.

The plane lands in Philadelphia, Portia’s hometown.  We quickly realize why Portia would want to escape this place after the first encounter with her mother.  Her mother is kind but clearly mentally unstable.  After dragging her mother to a nearby diner, Portia runs into a former classmate and learns that a beloved high school English teacher was forced to retire after a brutal attack.  This teacher was the only decent man that Portia Kane ever had in her life.  Determined to find him and bring him back to the classroom, Portia begins her quest.

Some people believe that God has a master plan that brings people together.  Other people call it destiny.  Whatever you call it, in Love May Fail, you will see how one chance encounter can lead you to the person that you are looking for.  Matthew Quick brings multiple characters together through chance encounters that lead Portia to her former teacher, Mr. Vernon.  But just because you find the person that you are looking for, it does not mean that there is always a happy ending.  Mr. Vernon is a broken man when Portia finds him.  Will she be able to convince him that life is worth living?

Love May Fail is full of dark subject matter, but it is a very funny book.  Portia Kane is a believable flawed middle aged woman that is trying to find the one person that she believes has goodness inside him.  Along her journey, Portia encounters other characters that help her on her quest.  And she may find that there are other people that are good along the way.


AtlantisMeet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City by Mark Adams

The Lost City of Atlantis.  One of the Western World’s most famous tales.  Many people dismiss the story as a myth.  But what is interesting about the story of Atlantis is that it was recorded by the great philosopher Plato and that he is the only written source on this story.  The debate over whether or not Atlantis is real or fiction stretches back to Plato’s death back in 347 BC!  Plato claimed that the story was true and the he heard the story from reputable sources.  However, even Plato’s famous student Aristotle expressed doubts about Atlantis being a real place with the quote, “He who invented Atlantis also destroyed it”.

Follow Mark Adams around the world as he interviews people that have studied the lost city of Atlantis.  Some people insist that Atlantis is a legitimate place and that they know the precise location of it.  Other people that speak with Mark Adams are scholars and are less inclined to believe that Atlantis was a real location.  Whether you personally believe in Atlantis or not, you cannot help but be fascinated by the theories that people come up with.

Mark Adams travels to various locations, being shown evidence and possibly proof, that Atlantis existed.  You may think this sounds tedious, but Adams is able to make his journey sound like an exciting adventure.  Much more exciting than Indiana Jones!  One of the first places that he visits is Ireland, home of the Atlantipedia.  The Atlantipedia is similar to Wikipedia, except in this case, the entire web site is devoted to information on Atlantis.  Of course, Mark eventually travels to the Mediterranean and to Greece, home of Plato.  On the way to Greece, he stops at the Straits of Gibraltar.  Many people believe that this is Plato’s site for the Pillars of Heracles.  And yet, some have placed the Pillars of Heracles in North America!

Even if the Lost City of Atlantis is not something that usually captures your attention, you will find yourself engrossed in this story.  After all, the city of Troy has been discovered.  PerhAtlantis2aps Atlantis really existed.  Maybe someone will uncover it.  Or, perhaps it has already been found but we need to find the evidence that links it to Plato’s story.  Anyone that loves the Classics, Greek Mythology, Archaeology, and/or adventure will enjoy this book.

Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City is available in print and in audiobook.


the girls in the spiders webThe Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth and latest installment in the Swedish Millennium series. Fans assumed that the series was finished as the series’ author, Stieg Larsson, had passed away with only writing the three books. But alas, the series has been revived by Swedish journalist and author David Lagercrantz. Let us rejoice!

Langercrantz does a fantastic job on many levels. He keeps the focus on Salander and her past, but develops the story into a plausible continuation for the series. Salander shines, finally living up to her full potential. She is a true heroine. More characters, unique in their own right, are introduced, and a slew of old ones are weaved in. Blomkvist is constantly on his game and devoted more than ever to helping Lisbeth. The story is fast paced and contains plenty of suspense, intrigue, computer hacking, and mathematical equations that only a handful of people in the world can understand. The best part is that it is clear that Langercrantz will not stop here. The door has been left wide open for the next Lisbeth Salander adventure.

If you are looking to start a new series, give this one a try. I have found it is more enjoyable and easier to follow the Swedish names and genius jargon when I listen to the audio books. Simon Vance is the reader of this series and really brings the story life. The first book in the series is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This book exploded and was even made into a movie in the United States in 2011 starring Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomvkist. Sweden has made the first three books into movies and those are all available on Netflix.

devil in the white cityA couple of months ago I heard on the radio that Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio were going to collaborate yet again on what will most definitely be another blockbuster hit. The two have previously collaborated on The Aviator, Shutter Island, Gangs of New York, The Departedand The Wolf of Wall StreetEach film was nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures for Arts and Sciences (aka the best award in film you can attain) for Best Film and Directing with DiCaprio getting the Best Actor nomination for 3 out of the 5 films. Scorsese won the Oscar for Best Director and Best Film of the Year for The Departed. When these two get together, everyone turns out to see what they have created, especially me! This film is 2 years away from its release, and I am already gearing up for it.

This time they are bringing you a film based on the 2003 book The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Erik Larson’s work is the story of the true events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. He tells this story in interweaving fashion, focusing on Architect Daniel Burnham and serial killer H.H. Holmes during the years leading up  to the World’s Fair. Both men shaped Chicago’s history in very different ways.

When I first heard about this novel, I wasn’t too excited to pick it up. My fear was that it would be too much about gruesome murders for me to enjoy. But it wasn’t. The book is about paramount history that happened just a few hours away from where we live. In fact, one of Holmes’ lovers and later victim was from Davenport, IA.

While there are a few murderous details, Holmes’ part of the book is more about how he was able to carry on his killings undetected for so long. Multiple accounts describe Holmes as an ideal individual that exuded charm and warmth. While I am eager to finish and read about Holmes’ inevitable demise, I have truly adored page after page of historical firsts. The World’s Fair was such a monumental occassion that everyone wanted to be part of it. Great inventions were first unveiled, historical figures rubbed elbows, heroes we have only read about preformed, and so..much..more.

I have no doubt that Scorsese will capture the essence of this time period and the innumerable historical particles sprinkled throughout the book. As for my all time favorite actor, Leonardo Dicaprio, I know he will deliver. It was a bit disheartening to learn that DiCaprio would encompass H. H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer, but then I realized one cannot always play the hero. And in fact, many actors do their best work when playing the villain. I wouldn’t be surprised if DiCaprio gives his best performance ever with this new film.

Photos from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

More about the World’s Columbian Exposition.

monopolistsThe Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game by Mary Pilon

Monopoly. Everyone is familiar with the board game.  The odd little tokens and the fight over who gets to be the racecar. Plastic green houses and plastic red hotels. The person that always insisted on being the banker. The seemingly endless trips around the board, passing “Go” and collecting $200. The agony of landing on Boardwalk when it had multiple hotels on it.

Surprisingly, the board game Monopoly has a long and interesting background.  According to the manufacturers of the game, Parker Brothers, the Monopoly game was created by Charles Darrow.  Parker Brothers even printed the story of how Charles Darrow had created the game Monopoly in 1935 in the instruction booklet for the game:

In 1934, Charles B. Darrow of Germantown, Pennsylvania, presented a game called MONOPOLY to the executives of Parker Brothers. Mr. Darrow, like many other Americans, was unemployed at the time and often played this game to amuse himself and pass the time. It was the game’s exciting promise of fame and fortune that initially prompted Darrow to produce this game on his own. With help from a friend who was a printer, Darrow sold 5,000 sets of the MONOPOLY game to a Philadelphia department store. As the demand for the game grew, Darrow could not keep up with the orders and arranged for Parker Brothers to take over the game. Since 1935, when Parker Brothers acquired the rights to the game, it has become the leading proprietary game not only in the United States but throughout the Western World”. 

However, this story of the creation of Monopoly is not true.  The Monopoly game can be traced back to the early 1900s.  In 1906, Lizzie Magie applied for a patent on a game that she invented called, The Landlord’s Game.  Lizzie Magie was a follower of Henry George and she created the game in order to help explain George’s single tax theory. She played The Landlord’s Game with her friends, who in turn, copied the board so they would have their own copy of the game. Her friends played the game with other friends who copied the game and in turn, shared it with other friends.  The game spread. In 1924, Lizzie Magie renewed her patent for The Landlord’s Game.

This audiobook goes into more detail about the origins of the Monopoly game and how it became the game we all recognize today. People might have always thought the game was created by Charles Darrow if it had not been for a lawsuit in 1973.  Ralph Anspach, an economic professor, created a game that he called, Anti-Monopoly and he was sued by Parker Brothers. The truth of the origins of the Monopoly game were revealed during this time. A fascinating look at America during the turn of the century and through the Great Depression, corporate greed, and the discovery of the truth, this audiobook is one that you don’t want to miss!