Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie

Welcome to 2017 and our new updated blog! As our wonderful librarian Ann mentioned last week, we’re changing how we’re blogging and what we’re blogging about. I’m so excited to dig deeper into my reading and watching interests with you all! Let’s dive right in!

I had an epiphany moment with the last book I was listening to, Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie. I listened to Bad Country through the library’s Rivershare OverDrive app which I have downloaded on my phone (a FANTASTIC way to both listen to and read books, btw). Anyway, as soon as I started listening to this book, my brain seemed to revolt. It took me about five minutes to realize why. It was a male narrator! And only a male narrator! Every other audiobook I’ve listened to has been a female narrator or a combination of female and male narrators (with the female narrator having more to say). As a result, I’ve decided to actively search out more books with male narrators, so next time I stumble upon an audiobook with a male narrator, I won’t be so surprised.

Mark Bramhall narrates Bad Country and does a wonderful job. He does different voices and accents for each character (and there are TONS of different characters), which allowed me to easily separate and tell who was who. Bad Country is a mystery set in the Southwest. Rodeo Grace Garnett is a former rodeo cowboy turned private investigator. He lives alone with his old dog in a very remote part of Arizona called the Hole. One day, Rodeo returns home to find a dead body near his home. Based on how the victim is dressed, Rodeo can tell he is not one of the many illegal immigrants who cross over just south of where he lives. The victim is instead a member of one of the local Indian tribes. He is also not the first Indian murdered in this county and town recently.

Rodeo is desperately looking for work. When his buddy offers him a job working for an elderly Indian woman who wants to know who murdered her grandson, he takes it. The woman has strange reactions to hiring him though, her behavior is slightly off, reactions that Rodeo begins to understand the more he digs into the case. Hatred swirls around this case, as well as the cases of the many murdered Indians in Rodeo’s area. Mystery, intrigue, death, and good old fashioned suspicion run rampant throughout this book with readers left wondering until the very end just who committed what crime.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. The narrator’s ability to provide different voices for each character really pulled me in. Towards the end, the plot seemed a little rushed, but I was able to keep up and found myself hoping that the author would turn this one book into a series. Here’s to hoping!

Do You Hygge?

And no, that wasn’t a rude question! But what exactly is hygge and how does one participate?

The word hygge has been showing up on social media and blogs a lot lately. It’s a funny looking word to those of us unfamiliar with it, but it describes a concept that is common in the Nordic countries. A Danish/Norwegian word, hygge (pronounce “hoo-ga”) roughly translates as “a feeling of coziness” and includes connecting with friends and family in meaningful ways, finding pleasure in simple things and embracing the outdoors. Maybe because countries like Finland and Norway and Sweden endure long, cold winters and brief summers, the people living there have learned to find the beautiful in everything.

How to Hygge : the Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life by Signe Johansen is a lovely book that will inspire you to pare down, embrace nature and paint all of your furniture white. OK, maybe not the last one so much (although I’m tempted…), but the calm, harmonious atmosphere presented here is the stuff of dreams. So can Americans, with our loud, boisterous ways, find a way to hygge? It might not be for everyone, but How to Hygge will give you a reasonable chance to succeed.

A big chunk of the book is taken up with recipes and although I’m not much of a cook, most of them seem straightforward and simple with a strong emphasis on seafood and fish (to be expected from a part of the world so closely associated with the sea) Meals are healthy and emphasize fresh ingredients, but there are no calorie counts or grams of fat written out – the idea is to enjoy thoughtfully prepared, delicious food, especially with friends and there is no guilt in enjoying treats. There’s also a nice selection of drinks and cocktails and a section of muffins and cakes for “fika” – break time during the work day similar to English tea time or German “kaffe and kuchen” (a tradition I think we need to get started here in America – who’s with me?) There are also chapters on being physically active, preferably outdoors no matter what the weather (“there is no bad weather, only poor clothing choices”) and home design that is clean and simple and calm.

Surround yourself with beauty, with ease, with simplicity, with nature and with good food shared between family and friends. And candles. Lots and lots of candles. Sounds like a pretty good formula for a life well lived, doesn’t it?

If the idea of paring down and simplifying your life appeals to you (and it’s been a hot topic the past couple of years), you might want to take a look at some of these titles:

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and her follow-up title Spark Joy. These books have had their share of controversy caused by the extreme example of tidiness that is presented. Believers swear by how effective the program is; skeptics just want to take a nap on the couch.

The Curated Closet: a Simple System for Discovering your Personal Style and Building your Dream Wardrobe by Anuschka Rees. Inspired by the movement to build a capsule wardrobe (where you have a set number of clothes – usually 30-35 – to wear for the season), this book helps you save money and reduce stress (time for an extra cup of coffee in the morning when you don’t have to try on three outfits each morning. Or is that just me?!)

The Joy of Less: a Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize and Simplify by Francine Jay. The title says it all and you’ve probably heard it all before, but this book presents it beautifully with a clean, simple layout and lots of encouragement.

And if you really want to get into minimalism or are simply fascinated by the extremes that other people will go to – similar to watching the Ironman on tv (again, is that just me?!), I suggest watching YouTube videos by Light by Coco (who is Danish btw) and Jenny Mustard (who is Swedish). They both seem like really cool people and it’s always interesting to see what color eye shadow Jenny will wear next.

Go now people, and simplify. Skol!

 

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

I have a pretty long commute to work and as a result, I have been listening to audiobooks through OverDrive and One Click Digital in my car. (If you don’t know what either of those resources are, come in and ask a librarian or give us a call. They’re fabulous!) Anyway, I’ve been finishing an audiobook at least once a week and I have discovered I have a type. I LOVE gruesome mysteries, the more complicated a plot the better. Add in strong women who can defend themselves and I’m hooked. My latest audiobook listen fit into that plot perfectly and I couldn’t get enough.

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens is a piece of riveting suspense fiction that covers many years in the lives of the Campbell sisters: Jess, Courtney, and Dani. Their life has never been easy with their mother dying when the girls were young and their father away for weeks at a time working. The three girls live on a remote ranch and must provide for themselves when their father is gone. When he is home, they struggle to stay out of his way, as he is very abusive and has an explosive temper. One night, he comes home in a particularly foul mood and a fight gets out of hand. The sisters have to leave their home and go on the run.

On their way to a new city, their truck breaks down and the girls find themselves facing a new nightmare. What seems to be two good Samaritans offering help devolves quickly into a worst-case scenario with the girls struggling to survive. Jess, Courtney, and Dani don’t know if they will ever be able to escape this new problem or even if they will be able to come back from what has happened to them. Starting completely over in a new town with new names and new lives is their only chance at redemption, revenge, and escape from both the fight with their father and this new terror.

While this book can be a bit of a downer at times, the sisters have an extremely close bond that pulled me in and had me rooting for them to finally get what they wanted. I’ll admit that I had to start this book over twice because I found the beginning to be a little slow, but once the action picked up and I had listened to it for about 15 minutes without stopping, I was hooked. Jess, Courtney, and Dani live a horrifying, depressing, and nightmarish life, but through it all, they stick together and they know that the others will always have their back no matter what.


These books are also available in the following format:

Greetings From Utopia Park by Claire Hoffman

I have always been curious about Fairfield, Iowa. I remember my parents would listen to the local AM radio station in Southeast Iowa and I would hear the Maharishi school mentioned.  It seemed that Fairfield and the Maharishi campus were always shrouded in mystery. No one seemed to know a lot about what was going on in Fairfield and there were whispers that it was a cult. When I was in high school, the Maharishi tennis team was very good. Members of my school’s tennis team told us about playing in Fairfield against the Maharishi school and that it just seemed “weird”.

In Greetings from Utopia Park, Claire Hoffman tells the story of her and her family moving to Fairfield, Iowa when she was in Kindergarten. The family had just moved to Iowa after her parents split up due to her father’s alcohol problem.  Her mother was looking for a fresh start and had already been involved in the Transcendent Meditation movement. Fairfield, Iowa was now the place to be if you were a follower of Maharishi. Claire and her older brother, Stacey, already meditated and chanted their Word of Wisdom. They were looking forward to meeting other kids that were like themselves. Unfortunately, their mother did not have the tuition money that was required to be a student at the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment.  So Claire and Stacey had to go to the local Fairfield Elementary School. Claire was warned by a classmate not to let kids know that she was a ‘ru (short for guru). Children at the public school did not welcome kids that were part of the TM movement. (Transcendent Movement).

Soon, an anonymous benefactor paid for the school tuition so Claire and Stacey could attend the Maharishi School. Life was better for Claire. She was surrounded by children that were a lot like herself. Children that meditated and that were vegetarians. The Transcendent Movement felt very important to her and she felt like a part of something big. Hoffman tells stories of what is was like to go to school; what her classes entailed, lunches at the cafeteria and meditations. There was even a special math course.

But as the years passed, life in Utopia Park became more and more expensive. Courses on learning how to “fly” while meditating became more expensive. Tuition at the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment more than doubled. Stacey was pulled out of school and went to the public high school. Later, Claire joined him. The “townie” kids were not always kind. Claire had mixed feelings about Maharishi, which is quite understandable. If you read the book, you will understand why.

 

See Me by Nicholas Sparks

It’s time for me to be honest. I have not read a Nicholas Sparks book since high school. The movies never caught my interest either, so I just steered clear. In order to become a more well-read librarian, I have decided to expand my comfort zone and read books I normally wouldn’t. See Me by Nicholas Sparks is my latest outside-my-comfort-zone read. I started reading See Me thoroughly expecting a flowery romance with some kind of damsel in distress scenario and a dashing male hero coming to the rescue. I. Was. So. Wrong. Well sort of.

Maria Sanchez and Colin Hancock are the two main characters in this book and while they fit into some stereotypes, in other ways they completely break them. Maria is a lawyer and daughter of two Mexican immigrants who came to the US with nothing and now own a thriving restaurant. She has worked very hard to better her career with the end result being that her social life and friend circle is rather lacking. She does have a very close relationship with her parents and her younger sister though. Maria’s life is not all perfect. She is haunted by events in her past, events that ultimately led her to leave her previous job and move to a totally new town.

Colin is a 28 year old college student who is struggling to get his life back on track. He works out religiously and is avoiding all the people and places that led him to destroy his life before. Colin has spent most of his life tangled up in the legal system, as a result of a major anger problem and a myriad of other issues. He worked out a deal at his last court appearance, a deal that says that if he stays out of trouble, his criminal record will be completely expunged, his felonies erased, allowing him to become a teacher. However, if Colin gets back into trouble, he will go to jail for ten years and his record will not be cleared. Colin has stayed out of trouble with help from his best friend, Evan, and Evan’s fiancée Lily.

Colin and Maria have a chance encounter one rainy night on a highway in North Carolina. Maria tells her younger sister, Serena, about the man who changed her tire and Serena realizes that Colin is one of her fellow students. She arranges a meetup between Colin and Maria, hoping sparks will begin to fly. They do. Opposites obviously attract. Everything is going swimmingly between the two until a person from Maria’s past pops up who may ruin it all. Their budding relationship is put to the test as Maria struggles to figure out who is doing these horrible things to her. Colin also has to work through his anger issues and his protective instincts to put Maria’s wishes and well-being first.

Despite my reticence, I actually enjoyed this book. The story pulled me in and I found myself rooting for the characters. I also was not able to predict how the story would end, which is a major positive in my book.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Now Departing for: Rome

Hello and Welcome to the first month of the 2017 Online Reading Challenge!

This year we’re going to travel the world, “visiting” a new country or city each month, giving us a chance to experience a little of other cultures without the annoying airport security lines! Grab your passport (library card) and let’s take off!

Our first stop is Rome, a city that wears it’s ancient history proudly. Once the center of the known world, it remains a favorite for travelers and adventurers alike.

There is no shortage of books set in or about ancient Rome. Mystery lovers should take a look at the popular murder mysteries by Lindsey Davis or John Maddox Roberts. For fiction, try any of several titles by Colleen McCullough or Robert Harris.

If you’re looking for a travel guide, go to 914.563 where you’ll find information on Rome and Italy. For Roman history (and there’s lots of it!) look in 937.

There are lots of DVDs to try too – the HBO series Rome (caution: mature themes!) is spectacular or look for Gladiator or Ben Hur. I, Claudius, an older PBS series has minimal production values (in sharp contrast to modern films) but the acting and story lines are amazing and you’ll be hooked immediately.

For more contemporary setting, try Stuart Woods Foreign Affairs or The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. You might also check out the movie When in Rome, a romantic comedy. And there’s always Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code (and yes, I know it’s mostly set in the Vatican but I’m still counting it). Remember, there are no Library Police! If you would prefer to read something set in Italy, or only a bit in Rome, go for it; it still counts!

As for me, I’m going to start by watching Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. I’ve never seen this movie and figure it’s high time I fixed that. I’m also going to see about reading a book set in Rome – I’ll let you know how that goes.

Now, what about you? What are you going to read (or watch or listen to) this month?

Ciao!

Welcome to 2017!

Hello Readers and welcome to the New Year! The library is Closed today, but the Info Cafe blog is here with a little refresh for the new year. We’re also looking forward to some new features for 2017 including:

  • More in-depth stories and reviews from our bloggers. We’re going to talk more about what we love to read about and share that with you. In addition, we’ll talk about topics such publishing trends, how to use to technology to benefit your reading choices, some photo essays and maybe one or two book related crafts!
  • Soon (within the next few days) you’ll be able to sign up for our Newsletter! About once a month we’ll send a few highlights from the blog, updates on the Online Reading Challenge and any bookish news we think you might enjoy (such as forthcoming books). The first newsletter will arrive in early February – watch the blog for an announcement when sign-ups open.
  • The Online Reading Challenge is back for 2017 and launches tomorrow (January 3rd). This year we’re going global, “visiting” different countries and cities around the world through the magic of books. Click on the “DPL Online Reading Challenge – 2017”  above for more information and a complete list of locations.

2017 already looks pretty promising, doesn’t it? Join us again tomorrow when we begin our Reading Challenge for the year!

P.S. Ever have trouble finding the blog? Try bookmarking it in your favorites or adding it to your favorite RSS reader!

Online Reading Challenge – Year End Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Readers!

We’ve come to the end of another year and the end of the 2016 Online Reading Challenge. I hope you tried something new and found and enjoyed books you might not have otherwise. The main goal of our Reading Challenge is to have fun while expanding our horizons.

Did you read any Holiday themed books this month? I have to confess, I didn’t succeed this month. I tried a couple of titles, but found them dreadful (nothing really wrong with them, just not my cup of tea) and, with all of the other activities going on in December, I didn’t have a lot of time for leisurely reading (I did manage to read – and loved – A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman which I blogged about earlier this month, so it wasn’t a complete wash) Some months are like that though and now that the holidays are (nearly) over, I’m looking forward to lots more reading time.

Speaking of more time to read, have you seen the news about the 2017 Reading Challenge? We’re going to travel the world, reading about a different location each month. This time I encourage you to read any genre you’d like including non-fiction, and to watch movies or listen to music. It’s a chance to not only find great new authors and titles, but an opportunity to get a taste of a different culture. Bookmarks listing the lineup for the year will be available at each Davenport Library location beginning January 3rd and I’ll have updates on the blog each month with suggestions and ideas. Also beginning in January you’ll have a chance to sign up for a great new feature, the Info Cafe newsletter! Every few weeks we’ll send out a short newsletter that will highlight some of the most interesting recent blog posts and keep you updated on the Reading Challenge. Watch for more information next week!

Happy New Year from the bloggers at the Info Cafe! May your 2017 be filled with lots of great reading!

 

Favorite Books of 2016, Part 3

OK folks, here’s the last installment of our bloggers favorite reads in 2016.

As mentioned earlier, Stephanie cheated and sent me a list of nine favorite titles. I picked two that looked especially interesting. The first is Love Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey. Stephanie says “This young adult book takes place in the 19th century, but what appealed to me was that the main character, Juliana Telford, is not your typical “bow to the men and let them control my life” type of person. She is determined to get her scientific research published and if that meant she has to suffer through the London season, she’ll suck it up, but not form any attachments. Enter in Spencer Northam, a spy for the War Office and a gentleman who stumbles into Juliana’s company. He is more worried about his first mission than he is about meeting ladies to find a wife. This book cracked me up and had me wondering how Juliana and Spencer’s relationship with each other and their surrounding family and friends would really turn out.” 

Stephanie’s second choice is The Worrier’s Guide to Life by Gemma Correll which she blogged about earlier this year. Stephanie found that this book really hit home with her and did it with a lot of humor. “I am a perpetual worrier. If there’s a thing happening around me, I’m worrying about it. Gemma Correll’s graphic novel gave me advice and information (most-to-all of it ridiculous and frustrating, but incredibly funny) on how to deal with the many situations that leave me up all night worrying. Check this out to laugh your way through any horrifying situation.” Both titles sound intriguing, don’t they?

Finally, my 2016 pick is News of the World by Paulette Jiles which I blogged about last month. A compelling story line, dramatic landscape and vivid characters made this a story that is hard to forget. I loved Captain Kidd, his hard won wisdom, his unwavering belief in sticking to his principals and his compassion. I also loved the emphasis on education and knowledge. The books is based on real people and I found this slice of relatively unknown Western history fascinating.

So there you have it – some really excellent books, verified by our own in-house experts! What about you? What book did you read this year that stood above the rest? Please share in the comments – everyone loves a good book recommendation!

Favorite Books of 2016, Part 2

Here are more favorite books from our bloggers!

Brenda’s favorite has a great title: The Joy of Leaving your Sh*t All Over the Place: the Art of Being Messy by Jennifer McCartney. Brenda comments: I found this a hilarious answer to Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy. I almost breathed a sigh of relief to know that there are others out there who fail at de-cluttering and still manage to do all right at this thing called life.”

Lynn has chosen the fiction book We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Lynn explains “Rosemary tells the story of how she was raised to consider a chimpanzee her sister till there were both 5 years old and how it affected herself and her brother for the rest of their lives. The book is dense with insights into animal and human behavior and the protocols of scientific studies. Fowler causes you to feel such empathy for Fern, the sister who was a chimpanzee, that you’ll never look at non-human primates the same way again.”

There’s one more best books installment, heading your way tomorrow!