Staycations and Day Tripping

The biggest factor in a successful vacation is achieving a change of perspective, and in these times of rising costs many people are choosing to “get away from it all” while staying close to home. The Quad Cities have a lot to offer – we’re a vacation destination for many. In fact, in an April, 2008 article entitled “Great River Road Trip” the National Geographic Traveler magazine recommends Davenport, Iowa, as the “most rewarding stop.” A family could have more than enough activities to fill a week’s worth of vacation right here at home.

The Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau has a wealth of recommendations and ideas for vacationing close to home. And if you’d like to explore surrounding areas, the site also has some great Day Tripping suggestions.

The Davenport Library recommends these titles for Iowa travel:

The Great Iowa Touring Book: 27 Spectacular Auto Tours by Mike Whye

Great Iowa Walks: 50 Strolls, Rambles, Hikes and Treks by Lynn L. Walters

Country Roads of Iowa by Loralee Wenger

Perhaps your family would enjoy a day trip, or longer, to one of the many beautiful Iowa State Parks. And, of course, there are many beautiful state parks across the river in Illinois.

Whatever you do, where ever you go in the QC region, have a great summer!

All Iowa Reads 2008 Selection

written by Angela

Have you read the “All Iowa Reads” selection for 2008, Digging to America, by Anne Tyler?

Unfamiliar with All Iowa Reads? Each year the Iowa Center for the Book, a program of the State Library of Iowa and an affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, chooses one book that they feel all Iowans statewide should read and talk about in a single year. Criteria used to select the All Iowa Reads title includes:

The book must:

* Be available in paperback, large print and unabridged audio

* Lend itself to in-depth discussion and raise universal social issues relevant to Iowans

* Be accessible to adults and high school age youth

It is desirable, but not required, that the book:

* Have an Iowa or Midwest connection

* Is a recent publication that has not been widely read

On June 11, the Library held a one-time-only book discussion of this modern literary tale of overseas adoption, friendship, and what it means to “be American.” The attendees had mixed emotions about this book, but all agreed that it was worth reading. The book averaged a “B” rating, and fueled a great discussion. For die-hard Anne Tyler fans, this book does not follow her traditional formula of writing. Although slightly humorous and satirical, the biggest criticism of the book was that Tyler did not explore characters as deeply as with past works like A Patchwork Planet and The Accidental Tourist. With that said, it’s still a great summer read!

Here’s a list of past All Iowa Reads titles that could help bulk up your reading list:

2007. Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio by Jeffrey Kluger

2006. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

2005. The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich

2004. Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken

2003. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

For more information about the Iowa Center for the Book, visit their website at: www.iowacenterforthebook.org.

Asian Vegetarian Feast by Ken Hom

written by Samantha

Asian Vegetarian FeastIf you’re a fan of Asian cuisine, you will definitely want to check out Ken Hom’s delightful cookbook Asian Vegetarian Feast: Tempting Vegetable and Pasta Recipes from the East. Hom is the author of more than 25 Asian cookbooks, and Asian Vegetarian Feast is one of his greats. While not strictly vegetarian (he frequently uses oyster sauce, chicken stock, and fish sauce in his recipes), the cookbook offers up an assortment of utterly delicious recipes which can generally be adapted for either a strict vegetarian diet or a meat-eater’s palate. Some favorties include Vietnamese-Style Vegetarian Spring Rolls (easier than you might think!), Corn and Ginger Soup, Cantonese-Style Bean Curd with Chinese Greens, and his Hot and Sour Noodles recipe, a nod to the beginning of his career when he taught people to make homemade pasta while studying art history at Berkeley. For the most part, the recipes are simple and clear, though a few may require a special trip to your local Asian grocery store. It’s well worth the trip, though, as the end results are fantastic. And don’t miss his incredibly informative sections on ingredients and techniques, as they are filled with advice on topics such as picking out good soy sauce and properly stir-frying vegetables. Great Asian recipes from one of the leading authorities on Asian cuisine.

Liquid lunch

Okay, it’s not the best for the ol’ waistline, but it sure helps get the lawn mowed. Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione is a useful tool for novice zymurgists. Pssst…that’s geek speak for folks that make their own beer.

While The Complete Joy of Homebewing by Charlie Papazian is considered the de facto standard for homebrew instruction, I find Calagione’s book a much more pleasurable read. It is practical, gives hints for cutting corners, and suggests ways to kick recipes up a notch.

Unlike most homebrew books, this guide is loaded with attractive full color photos which makes it especially useful. Also, Mr. Calagione is the owner and founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, so you know he knows what he’s talking about.

And if you screw up, you’ve got 5 gallons of bratwurst marinade.

Bend-the-Rules Sewing by Amy Karol

After fading as a home craft for awhile, sewing is popular again. Fresh new fabric designs, the embracing of retro styles (aprons are super popular) and the desire for handcrafted items have fueled the new interest. Bend-the-Rules Sewing by Amy Karol fits right in with this new wave of sewing. She offers simple, practical designs that are both sophisticated and innovative. Her instructions are straightforward and encouraging; even a beginner can quickly – and successfully – get started. Projects range from tote bags to pillows to bibs to a lap quilt and are easily adaptable to your skills and interests. The hard part will be picking out the perfect fabric!

The Armchair Traveler Goes to Russia

Russia, that great giant that straddles both the West and the East, has a long and often bloody history, a unique culture and a diverse people. Many great classics have been written by Russians but what to read after War and Peace? (You have read War and Peace, right?!) Try these for more insight (and a decidedly quicker read) into the Russian soul.

The Dog Who Bit a Policeman by Stuart Kaminsky

Twelfth in the series, this follows one-legged Moscow cop Porfiry Rostnikov in a post-Soviet Russia that is rife with corruption. Among other things, Porfiry deals with an illegal dogfighting ring, the Moscow Mafia, murders, and various personal problems. This is engrossing storytelling at its best.

Russka by Edward Rutherford

Presenting a sweeping historical overview of Russia in the style of James Michener, Rutherford delivers an epic story focusing on how historical events affect the common person through the generations.

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander

A fictional retelling of the final days of Czar Nicholas II and his family as witnessed by a young kitchen boy who has kept what he saw secret. Now an old man and about to die, he’s ready to tell the truth. Filled with historically accurate details, this is a beautifully written novel with a surprise ending.

The Industry of Souls by Martin Booth

Mistaken for a spy, British citizen Alexander Bayliss spends 25 years in a Soviet gulag and the next 20 in a Russian village. When his family discovers he is still alive, he must decide whether to stay or return to England. This amazing novel reveals the human side of gulag life, how the collapse of the Soviet Union affected her people and the strength of the common man.

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

Introducing Inspector Arkady Renko, this modern classic is the must read novel of Soviet Russia. Cynical, honest, brilliant, Renko investigates a triple murder where the victims fingers and faces are missing. Intelligent writing, complex mysteries, dark humor and real tension combine to make this one of the best mysteries ever written. Future installments, which follow Renko thru post-Soviet Union turmoil, are also highly recommended.

Did Poirot Get it Horribly Wrong?

Agatha Christie’s mystery, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a beloved classic; however, critics have said that Christie broke a fundamental rule of mystery writing when she revealed her murderer. How could this author, so renowned for her puzzle-making ability, have have made such a mistake? And, of course, no one thought to question detective Hercule Poirot’s conclusions. Until now.

Pierre Bayard has written a delightfully enjoyable mystery about Christie’s book. (Spoiler alert: if you intend to read Christie’s book first, then don’t click on the Bayard link because the murderer [as revealed by Christie] is revealed in the book’s description.) In his book, Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? Bayard questions Poirot’s conclusions and makes a very strong case for his argument that the famed detective is wrong!

If it’s been a while since you’ve read the original, you might want to read that first and then pick up Bayard’s book (although Bayard’s book stands up perfectly well on its own). If you’re a fan of mysteries (and even if you don’t particularly like Agatha Christie) you won’t be disappointed.


The Steel Wave by Jeff Shaara

64 years ago today, the Allies successfully launched the largest single-day military invasion ever and turned the tide of World War II. Known as Operation Overlord, it involved more than 130,000 troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and marked the beginning of the end of the war.

Joining the long list of books and movies that have covered this event, The Steel Wave by Jeff Shaara brings this day vividly to life. Many different viewpoints are shown, from historical figures (Eisenhower, Churchill, Rommel) to the foot soldiers on the beach. They are shown as real people, with doubts, fears, faults and great courage. The horrors of war are not sugar-coated – blood is shed, mistakes are made, people die. Both an overview of the event and it’s long-term impact and an intimate portrait of the cost of this day, this is an epic page-turner that is impossible to put down.

This is the second volume in a planned trilogy; The Rising Tide covers the German invasion of Europe and the Allied invasion of North Africa.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

One of the fun things about being a librarian is that sometimes publishers will send us “advance reader’s editions.” These are books that have not yet been published and often times they have not even been reviewed. Usually when we read a book, we’ve already read upteen reviews for it or at least heard about it from Oprah. So it’s very refreshing to pick up a book without having any preconceived ideas about it. Well, okay, in this case Stephen King had written a blurb recommending it, so I did have some idea. And no, it’s not a horror book. It’s called The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski.

Edgar, born mute and communicating through sign, is a boy growing up on a farm in Wisconsin, a farm on which they raise and train the special (and fictional) Sawtelle breed of dogs. Life is pretty peaceful for the family until his uncle Claude returns and decides to stay. Later, when Edgar’s father dies unexpectedly, Edgar tries to prove that Claude had something to do with it. Unfortunately, his plan backfires, and Edgar is forced to flee into the nearby Chequamegon wilderness. Struggling to survive and provide for the three yearling dogs that accompany him, Edgar grows up quickly.

The ending may not be what you hope for or expect, but it is precisely because of it that I predict this book will become excellent fodder for future book discussion groups. Look for it when it comes out!

The Savage Garden by Mark Mills

The Savage GardenLinked murders 400 years apart create the suspense and intrigue in this literate novel of family secrets, loyalty, and betrayal. Adam Strickland goes to Tuscany to write about a famous memorial garden, but the garden hides secrets – was Flora Docci actually murdered and why? As Adam delves into the mysteries of the garden he is also drawn into a more recent wartime murder involving the son of the matriarch of the villa, putting his own life in danger.

If you liked The DaVinci Code with it’s mysteries wrapped in ancient texts, or are intrigued by twists and turns of wartime loyalties, you’ll love The Savage Garden.