Read 2016

It is a new year and the perfect time to start a reading challenge. I struggle at times with what to choose, because there is so much out there to read, and my time is limited. A reading challenge consists of following a set of specific reading guidelines over a certain period of time. The reading criteria all depends on the kind of reading challenge it is. You can usually find a local summer or winter reading challenge at your public library where you can read for prizes. But there are other reading challenges that you do for fun or to broaden your reading repertoire. There may be a requirement on your reading challenge for a type of book you would have never picked up on your own, but for the sake of the challenge you give it a try. It could be the best or worst thing you ever read, but that is the fun of the challenge. You just never know what you will have to pick up. In this blog are a list of reading challenges that span the entire year. They are different so you can pick out one that appeals to your style or current interest.

Committing to a year long challenge is great for keeping you reading, and for guiding you on what to read next. I’m not quite sure which one I will pick, but I will be participating in one of these challenges. I hope your year in reading is a good one!

Bustle Reads Challenge 2016 Read books by women and writers of color. Includes 20 book categories to complete.

Modern Mrs Darcy 2016 Reading Challenge Read one book a month. Categories are broad and leave room for you stay in your comfort zone if you want to.

The 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge  Challenge consists of 24 books and includes a downloadable chart to keep track. A wide range of books are covered including read a play and read a food memoir. Definitely a challenge that will get you out of your comfort zone.

Popsugar Ultimate  2016 Reading Challenge  If you read a lot, this may be the challenge for you! This list includes 40 different categories and you won’t find any books that you can read in a day. Unless you read very fast! But there are a slew of fun topics like read a book written by a celebrity. 

Challies 2016 Reading Challenge This challenge is pretty cool because it has a challenge for every reader! The Light Reader challenge is the first of four different challenges and consists of 13 books for about 1 book every 4 weeks. The Obsessed Reader is the fourth and most difficult, with 104 books! That’s 2 books a week folks. There are two other challenges that fall somewhere in between light and obsessed.

Daring to Live Fully Reading Challenge I liked this challenge because it gives you book suggestions under each category to get you started. There are 12 books on list which makes it very doable.

Back to the Classics Reading Challenge As the name suggests, all the books in this challenge are considered “classics”. Site gives detailed explanation of each category and one book recommendation.

2016 Diversity Reading Challenge  These are books either written by or about a person of diversity. Two categories include a book in which a character suffers from a mental illness and a book with a LGBT main character. There are 12 categories.

Intrigued? The Davenport Public Library is about to launch their own online reading challenge! It will be a low-stress, no obligation way to expand your reading horizons and maybe help you find your next great read! Watch this space for details coming next week!

 

 

star-wars-the-force-awakens-book-coverWhile the movie is still in theaters, the novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens written by SF veteran Alan Dean Foster, has arrived at DPL!

Set years after Return of the Jedi, this new action-packed adventure rockets us back into the world of Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Luke Skywalker, while introducing a host of exciting new characters. Darth Vader may have been redeemed and the Emperor vanquished, but peace can be fleeting, and evil does not easily relent. Yet the simple belief in good can still empower ordinary individuals to rise and meet the greatest challenges.

So return to that galaxy far, far away, and prepare yourself for what happens when the Force awakens…

miles morales ultimate spidermanMiles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man is a graphic novel that introduces the world to a brand new Spider-Man. In this world, Peter Parker has been killed in a major superhero-villain brawl and everyone is left in the lurch, mourning the loss of Spider-Man, dealing with the fall-out of learning his identity, and coming to terms with the fact that they don’t have a hero anymore. Along this same storyline, runs the story of junior high student, Miles Morales, and the various happenings of him and his family.

Miles lives with his parents and has his name entered in the lottery to go to a charter school, instead of a public school. After learning his school fate, Miles heads to his Uncle Aaron’s apartment, his dad’s brother, the one person that he is constantly told to stay away from. Once there, Miles is bitten by a spider with a number written on its back, a spider that escaped from Norman Osborn’s laboratory in Uncle Aaron’s bag while he was robbing the place. Everything seems normal until Miles runs out of the apartment and discovers that he can turn invisible. With that one discovery, his life is turned completely upside-down.

With his roommate, Ganke, being the only person who knows he has spider-like powers, Miles wrestles with what to do. Was he given these powers for a reason? Should he become a new Spider-man since the old one is deceased? What will his dad, a vocal non-supporter of any kind of mutant activity, think of him? How will he balance fighting crime and being a normal every-day junior high student? These questions and more are answered in this collection as Miles begins to fight crime, is introduced to Nick Fury and various members of the Avengers, and as he struggles to deal with balancing family, school, and his brand new superhero life. The author has added in some twists that are guaranteed to make you question everything that you think you’ve learned about the old Spider-Man and the new Spider-Man.

apocalyptigirlA theme that seems to be present in most of the materials I have been reading recently is the apocalypse and the end of the world. ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times is no exception. Aria is stuck alone on the planet at the end of the world with only a cat named Jelly Beans as her companion. She discovered tunnels under this overgrown city and has transformed them into her living chambers. Although Aria is by herself, she has a mission to complete and one important part of this is to find working parts to transform Gus, a giant robot machine, back into working order.

Aria’s main mission? To find an ancient relic with immeasurable power called the Grand Photon. This gift from above is perfect energy because of its ability and power to transform an entire planet into a veritable Garden of Eden. History says, though, that the inhabitants of this planet had used the Grand Photon for evil, harnessing its power and weaponizing it, which eventually led to the scorching of the planet and the killing of almost every living thing. Aria was sent to this planet for what she thought would be three months, armed with a tracking device on her arm, to find the Grand Photon. Those three months turned into six years.

Andrew MacLean has put together a beautifully illustrated story about a young woman’s struggle in an action-packed adventure comic about the extremes of humanity and how even in a world that has been completely ravaged by war, we still long for a place to call our home. The artwork is bright and reminiscent of manga with woodblock art and a very-detailed, almost old American comic feel to it. Through the first few pages, it definitely becomes apparent that this story takes place not in this time period, but the art has you wanting to pay close attention to the vividness of each color and the different story lines. This graphic novel is not overly filled with back story; MacLean chooses instead to give us glimpses of history through Aria’s streaming consciousness, in essence she is talking to herself and through this talking, readers are privy to a much-needed-to-know history. With no one to talk to on this planet, Aria would naturally keep a running commentary in her head and also with her cat, Jelly Beans. This graphic novel was both serious and humorous; two things that if done right, work perfectly together.

izombiebook2What would you do if you couldn’t remember who you are? If when you tried to remember your past experiences, you froze and realized you couldn’t remember anything? This problem happens to Gwen on a daily basis, but luckily she’s found a way to sort of fix this problem: she eats the brains of the recently deceased. Did I forget to mention Gwen is a zombie? She is…

In iZombie: Dead to the World, readers are introduced to the undead life of Gwen Dylan, a zombie who works as a gravedigger at an eco-friendly cemetery and who also lives in one of the vaults at said cemetery. Gwen keeps company with a were-terrier that she’s nicknamed Spot and a ghost best friend who has been dead since the 1960s. If her life sounds weird already, Gwen has to eat a human brain about once a month, so she doesn’t turn full zombie and also so she can keep her memories intact. Interesting little tidbit about that brain eating: Gwen is flooded by the dead person’s memories and thoughts right after she eats their brains and as a result, she feels the urge to help them fill their last requests: be it through finding their killer or delivering a message to their mourning families. Gwen has a lot on her plate, but she soon discovers that there are visitors to her town who are there to kill any paranormal creature who is existing when they should really be dead. Throw in Halloween, a full moon, a pack of blood-thirsty female vampires, and a mysterious mummy man who wants Gwen to join him in his killing of not-so-innocent people, and Gwen soon realizes her peaceful life is about to go crazy.

If this first volume sounds interesting to you, keep your eyes on our shelves for the release of the next three volumes. You can also check out the television show, iZombie, whose first season is available for check out at all three Davenport Public Library locations.

graysonI’ve been reading tons of graphic novels lately. The main reason? I can usually get through a whole graphic novel in one sitting, usually even multiple ones in a day! It’s fabulous. Throw in a flashy cover and a high-paced story and I’m hooked. Grayson: Volume 1, Agents of Spyral fits all of my necessary graphic novel markers and BONUS: It’s about Robin/Nightwing, a thoroughly over-looked DC character if you ask me.

You need to understand some basic Robin/Nightwing backstory in order to not get confused, though Seeley and King do a very good job explaining his past life. Grayson: Volume 1, Agents of Spyral covers the story of Dick Grayson, a former circus acrobat, who after his parents were tragically killed in a trapeze accident(YES, I know this sounds ridiculous, but come on, as a superhero/spy, being an acrobat comes in SUPER handy), eventually comes to live with Bruce Wayne, aka Batman. Once Grayson figures out that Wayne is actually Batman, Grayson becomes his partner, Robin. They exist in peace, fighting crime in Gotham City, but once Grayson gets older, he decides to become Nightwing and continues to fight crime. Nightwing eventually is captured and killed by the Criminal Syndicate. Or is he?

Not a spoiler: He isn’t killed or this graphic novel would be over before it even began. Instead he goes on his merry way dispensing out justice across the globe and is eventually recruited into Spyral, a top-secret spy ring that is hunting for pieces of the Paragon, a God who was killed and who had his body parts distributed all over the world. Oh yeah, those body parts all just happen to be individual weapons of mass destruction. No biggie. So to recap, Grayson is now a spy for Spyral and is hunting down weapons disguised as body parts. Oh also, he’s actually a secret agent spying on Spyral and reporting to Batman because Spyral is actually looking to discover the secret identity of every superhero on the globe. (Turns out each superhero bestowed something special on each body part, hence how they became weapons of mass destruction). This plotline is fantastic! So many twists and turns that left me eagerly flipping the pages to find out what happened next. I also really enjoyed the bright pops of color and the way the artist decided to give such a lifelike feel to each character. Be on the lookout for the next Grayson volume!

worrier's guide to lifeI love webcomics, but I have a horrid problem with keeping up with them on a daily basis. I’ll go a few weeks giving them all of my attention and then completely get distracted by something else. This binge-and-ignore pattern is on a self-repeating cycle, so when I realize that there is a print BOOK of a webcomic or a comic that I can only find online, I get really excited! I’ll actually be able to read all of it!

The Worrier’s Guide to Life is my latest online-comic-to-print discovery that can be found in the nonfiction 800s section. Gemma Correll, the author and illustrator, has a website that highlights her sketches, lets us see into her studio where she creates all of her magic drawings, and my favorite part: she even illustrated whole days of her life and posted them! (If you’re looking to stay up-to-date with Correll’s life and drawings, she’s moved almost exclusively to her Tumblr page where she posts things she finds funny and also where she will be doing events! Yay!)

The Worrier’s Guide to Life is a collection of illustrations that Correll has put together highlighting the daily struggles of any and every over-thinker. They’re all so relatable! If you’re on social media a lot, like I am, you may even notice that some of her illustrations have been posted all over Facebook and Tumblr. She covers anything and everything you could possibly over-think about: health, fashion, food, love, traveling, holidays, modern problems, and there’s even an extra special section for all those grown-up worries we find ourselves obsessing about. One of my favorite parts of this book is that Gemma creates lists of advice and information about life to help us all feel better by showing us that things could always be worse. Lists of “Reward Stickers for Grown-Ups”, some non-committal Valentine’s cards if you’re just not sure about the relationship that you are in, and a new list of what the different kind of flowers you could be receiving or giving really mean! Check out this book to laugh about all the crazy advice Gemma has gathered for you in one tiny package.

thor god butcherI have always found Thor to be very intriguing. An immortal God growing up in his father Odin’s shadow, listening to tales of war and the defeating of enemies and subsequently struggling to lift Mjolnir, his magic hammer, when he was younger because he wasn’t worthy yet. In the Marvel movies, viewers get some flashbacks of Thor’s life, but not as much as I was looking for. Instead of digging into Norse mythology, I decided to look at the graphic novels available at the library to see what background they could provide me. That was where I found Jason Aaron’s run of Thor.

Thor: God Of Thunder, Volume 1: The God Butcher is the first volume in Aaron’s run that gives readers an insight into Marvel NOW!’s interpretation of Thor. I found this graphic novel to be confusing, yet ultimately rewarding because it filled in many of the wholes that I had about Thor’s upbringing and his motivations for behaving the way that he does.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty: The reason I found this graphic novel to be confusing is because of the story line. In this first volume, Thor is on the hunt for the God Butcher after discovering floating body parts of a God in a river after a fight. The horror in the eyes of the deceased God catapults Thor on a hunt that defines his actions for the entirety of his life. This graphic novel is a prime example of why you MUST pay attention to the artwork in order to follow the storyline. This volume is essentially three Thor stories being told at once: past Thor, present Thor, and future Thor, all on a quest to hunt down and kill the God Butcher who has made it HIS mission to kill all of the Gods across all of the worlds. Differentiating between past Thor and present Thor is a little difficult, but there are wardrobe and art style clues that will help key you in to what Thor you are actually looking at. This first volume of Thor is perfect to set up the rest of the series’ run because it introduces a villain that even Thor has trouble defeating, the idea that gods are vanishing and no one is aware or really even cares, and that this is a problem that has taken thousands of years to solve, yet still hasn’t been fixed. (Bonus: There is a Lord Librarian who has WINGS and who Thor goes to for help!) The back stories of both Thor and the God Butcher are exquisitely thought through and Ribic’s artistic descriptions of Thor’s struggles really show the darkness of this seemingly eternal fight. Check this out and let me know what you think!

indestructibleNow that winter seems to have finally arrived, the Iowa gardener is forced indoors. How does the avid gardener get their quota of poking around in the dirt and watching green things grow? Houseplants of course! It may not be quite the same as a perennial border or a vegetable patch of edibles, but houseplants can get you through the darkest months and have their own charms and rewards any time of the year.

The Indestructible Houseplant by Tovah Martin will set you on the path to a lifelong happy obsession with indoor plants. Martin lists dozens of tough, easy-to-grow houseplants by family, giving lots of tips and growing advice and pointers to the best varieties. Each plant family has a simple-to-consult growing basics charts, but the real value of this book is Martin’s charming, fun-to-read detailed descriptions. The acknowledged current leader in houseplant cultivation, Martin is not afraid to admit to failures or less-than-spectacular results (although I doubt those happen to her very often!)

The photographs in the book are spectacular and prove that “indestructible” is not synonymous with plain or boring. Most of the plants are grown strictly for their foliage (often very colorful foliage such as with the bromliads and begonias) but there are several flowering varieties – geraniums, kalanchoes, African violets – as well. Most of the plants are easy to find (check the local nurseries – we have several excellent ones in the area and winter is when they have the best variety of houseplants); some are common outdoor container plants (such as geraniums and ferns) that enjoy a summer vacation outdoors, decorating your porch in the summer and your living room in the winter (I’ve done this with geraniums and begonias for several years – it’s a great way to keep your favorites and also save a few dollars in the spring)

Martin finishes the book with good, practical advice on how to care for and display your houseplants. I love the variety of containers she uses – colanders, trays, cast off metal dishes, unique and beautiful pots – all of which enhance but do not overwhelm the plants. She even discusses how she trained her cat Einstein to stay away from plants (he shows up in several of the photos). This book is the best combination of eye-candy, inspiration and practical advice. Highly recommended!

 

batgirlIn 2011, DC relaunched their comic lines as the “New 52” after the “Flashpoint incident” when the Flash went back in time to try to alter the events of the present. This changed the storylines of other DC characters, resulting in DC discontinuing some titles, starting new ones, starting the old series over at #1, but also keeping the continuity of some of the more popular series. All in all, DC debuted 52 new titles, hence the name: the “New 52”. (A lot of other things have changed with DC since the New 52 was released, but that’s for another day and another blog post..)

Batgirl was one of these reboots. Before the Flashpoint event, Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, had been shot and paralyzed by the Joker as revenge against Batman. She goes on to be the Oracle, becoming the information access queen for the entire DC superhero community, and further joins forces with the Huntress and Dinah to become the Birds of Prey. The important thing to remember about pre-New 52 Batgirl is that she remains paralyzed.

In Batgirl: Volume 1: Batgirl of Burnside, Barbara is no longer paralyzed. She has moved to Burnside, considered the trendiest neighborhood in Gotham City, to go to college and work on the algorithm she designed after she was horribly injured. Right after she moves in, her friend Dinah, aka the Black Canary, comes and lives with her after a fire destroys all of her belongings, PLUS all of Barbara’s Batgirl gear. This gives Barbara the opportunity to reinvent her costume, but also forces her to get creative to find new weapons sources.

What really hooked me into this graphic novel is that the content and the art style are made to hook into a newer generation. Barbara lives in the hip neighborhood, is going to college, has friends that are working with new computer tech, and is able to attend a wide variety of new concerts and events. Barbara and her friends are all over social media and the majority of the characters in this book are either all in college or in that young up-start community. With hashtags galore and an imposter Batgirl popping up all over various social media platforms, Barbara is forced to “re-brand” the Batgirl image in order to prove that Batgirl is not a nuisance, while also struggling to figure out where the lines are between what she should do as a super hero and what she should let the police handle. Barbara clearly struggles with a lot of the issues that young adults face when they are going away to college and the fact that she is a superhero doesn’t detract from her problems, it instead adds a necessary level of perspective and understanding that people of all ages can benefit from.