Talking with Dogs and Cats by Tim LinkI don’t know what I expected when I started reading Talking with Dogs and Cats, but it wasn’t what I got. I’ve read quite a few of the animal behavior books we have in the library, and this one is unique.  It was actually pretty gratifying to know that, instinctively, I’ve been doing a lot of things the author, Tim Link, suggests. For example, he encourages us to talk to our pets – not just a lot of orders and instructions, but greet them in the morning and when you come home from work. When they go to the window and bark madly, walk over and try to see what set them off. Acknowledge the squirrel or UPS man, and thank them for bringing it to your attention. Tell them when to stop and reward them for stopping.

Pets need to feel that they have a job, and that job may be watching out that window and letting you know what’s going on in the wide world. Yelling at them to be quiet is likely to be ineffective, and, actually, counterproductive.

When you have multiple pets, it’s hard not to have a favorite, but you still need to spend time and pay focused attention to the others. You’ll be rewarded with a better understanding of the animal and a better relationship. I can attest to this. Since reading the book, I’ve made a point of communing with the dog who is not my favorite – an dachshund whose single-minded dedication to finding any edible object and barking about it, does not usually make one want to spend discretionary time with him. His sister, on the other hand, is incredibly loveable and has many interests other than seeking out and swallowing things before she’s quite clear about what they are.

Anyway, Mini Mutt and I have been having one-on-one conversations and I really feel that we have been connecting. When we run out of things to talk about, we sit companionably together. It’s very nice to have these calm times to balance  other times where we’re both shouting in our own ways.

You may not agree with every bit of advice in this book, but any book that causes you to look at things from another’s point of view is always valuable.

Life and Other Near DeathLibby Miller finds out (on the same day) that her husband is not at all who she thought he was, and their marriage was not what she thought it was. And that she has terminal illness.  The internal monologues make you wonder how you, too, would cope with a day like that. For me, the first half of the book was most interesting, as Libby struggles to cope with seismic shifts in every aspect of her life – her job, her home, her health, and her family.  She begins to realize that nothing at all in her life will ever be the same.  This Camille Pagan novel is written in the first-person, so we are privy to her wildly swinging emotions. Her reaction to her husband’s news is both horrifying and funny.

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences  is an odd amalgam of standard fiction and chick-lit. Some of the latter’s conventions are apparent – the tone is self-effacing and self-mocking, the main character is young (ish) and attractive, and good at her professional job – though she is a PA to a horrible boss. There is a spirit of re-invention, and, inevitably, a romance with a man who is a soul-mate, rather than someone she has stayed with, out of habit.

However, the reader (or this reader, anyway) had certain expectations about the illness that were not met, so it didn’t follow a typical airport fiction trajectory.(No spoilers here).  The tone often veers into pretty dark territory – the illness and death of Libby’s mother is a driving factor in how Libby deals with her diagnosis. The result is that the reader is thrown off balance, and isn’t quite sure where the story is going. It’s a novel with a high-concept plot that delves deeper than expected.

 

 

Happy Leap Day! (And Happy Birthday Christie who is 8 years old today!)

So, how did you do with the first month of the Reading Challenge? Did you discover a great new book? Or did the Journeys theme fall flat for you? Please let us know in the comments – tell us what you read and how you liked it!

I really enjoyed this months’ theme – in fact, as I was preparing book lists and setting out displays, I kept running across more titles I’d like to read! The idea of embarking on a journey, whether by physically traveling or through emotional growth, is a powerful one. Humans are blessed with great curiosity  – what’s around the bend in the trail, what are my limits and how can I move past them, how can I build a better mousetrap? It is one of our best characteristics, and following someone on their journey – and thinking about how we would have done – is one of the best ways to feed this curiosity. After all, I’m never going to climb Mt Everest – and have no desire to – but reading about someone’s trek is still eye-opening and mind-expanding.

road to little dribblingThis month I read The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson. A treat for Anglophiles or fans of dry humor or anyone curious about England both past and present, will enjoy this book. Bryson is very funny, poking fun at silly conventions and laws (which England seems to have in abundance!), despairing at the of encroachment of modern “improvements”, liberally shot through with fondness and love for his adopted country.

This is not a straight line march from south to north and, in fact, Bryson doesn’t walk the entire way (although he loves tramping through the countryside and does so frequently); this is more of a meander, from Britain’s southernmost point to the far north. Bryson and Great Britain are well suited to each other – their love for and indulgence of the eccentric mesh nicely. Bryson is an expert at digging up interesting tidbits of history and trivia and making them fascinating. He is also very, very funny in a very dry, British way.

This is a great book to dip into to quickly read a chapter or two and easy to come back to later. It’s also great for adding many more places to visit when I travel to England! Highly recommended.

wildAs a (completely unnecessary) bonus, I also worked on reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This is one of those books that I had started but hadn’t finished even though I liked it. As of this writing, I’m not quite done – I still have about a third of the book to go – but I am enjoying it a great deal.

This book is a very different kind of journey, involving both physical travel and emotional growth. After the death of her beloved mother, Cheryl finds herself floundering, repeatedly making poor choices (infidelity, heroin use, pushing away people she loves). Desperate to break out of this cycle, she latches onto the idea of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, an arduous, long distance hike that would include desert heat, mountain snow, encounters with bears and rattlesnakes, food and water shortages and days and days without seeing another human.

Throughout the course of the book (and the hike), Cheryl thinks about her past and how it has shaped her, how the choices in her life have set her on this path (literal and metaphysical), how her grief has paralyzed her from moving forward with life. There are some cringe-worthy moments – the emotion is very real and very raw. She is also a complete hiking novice, making some terrible decisions (pack too heavy, shoes too small, the wrong fuel for her camp stove, etc etc) But the trail and the vast wilderness hone her skills; she becomes stronger with each step (both physically and emotionally), smarter and more confident. She grows into the person she is meant to be and she is eventually able to put the past aside and move on.

This all sounds very dreary and deep, but the book also has a lot of humor and light. Strayed comes to love the wilderness and describes it beautifully, she often pokes fun at herself and she meets many kind and helpful people in her journey. Her writing is fluid and natural and a joy to read. For anyone that has lost a loved one and wondered how to move on without them, this book will help make sense of that most difficult of journeys.

Those are my Journey books – what about yours? Please add a comment to this post and let us know!

Tomorrow we start with a new theme – Magical Realism! It’s going to be awesome – be sure to check back tomorrow for more information and reading suggestions.

Washington 2I am a lover of American History, but I must admit that my presidential knowledge is limited. Somehow, I don’t think I’m alone in needing to brush up on my presidential repertoire. To start, we have to see what you already know. There were two different quizzes I plucked from the internet that will test your knowledge of the 43 presidents. The first one gives you five minutes to input as many president’s names as you can remember. Thankfully you do not have to know when they served, but you do need a first and last named, spelled correctly. I found that it took me about three minutes to input all the names I knew for sure, which was little more than half. Then I just sat there willing my brain to dig a little deeper, feeling oh so tempted to steal a hint from the internet. Seem a little tough? Well the second quiz tests your knowledge of what the presidents looked like when they were in office. As an added bonus, it is a multiple choice. Unfortunately I somehow did a little worse on this one. Sound like fun? Give them a try.

Can You Name the Presidents Quiz 1

Can You Name the Presidents Quiz 2

How did you do? Well if you find that naming presidents is your expertise then I congratulate you! If you are interested on how to get your score up, check out these resources.

Book Resources

 

The History Buff’s Guide to the Presidents by Thomas Flagel

The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents by William A. DeGregorio

U.S. Presidents for Dummies by Marcus A. Stadelmann

 

On DVD

the ultimate guide to the presidents

The Ultimate Guide to the Presidents by The History Channel

 

Websites

Tips and Tricks for Memorizing the Presidents of the United States

Order the Presidents

4 Fun Ways to Memorize the U.S. Presidents

 

Apps

Memorize U.S. Presidents for iPhone

U.S. Presidents for Android

the 5th waveA brand new movie to hit the theaters recently is The 5th Wave. This movie is one of many young adult books that have been made into movies with producers and directors hoping to score big with both young adult readers and fans of somewhat dystopic literature. In order to fully prepare myself for the movie, I decided to dive into the book to see if I liked it.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey is the first book in a trilogy (the second book is The Infinite Sea, but the third book, The Last Star, won’t be released until May 24, 2016!). The 5th Wave concentrates on the life of Cassie Sullivan, a teenage girl living with her mother, father, and brother when things start to change. While she’s in school, everything goes dark. All the lights go out and everything electronic stops working. Looking up into the sky, they see a giant ship. An alien invasion has begun.

The Earth is quickly decimated by the alien invasion. Cassie realizes that everything is happening in waves, the largest of which is when a plague is unleashed killing the majority of the world’s population, including her mother. Leaving their home, Cassie, her brother, and father are forced to rely on each other. When further tragedy strikes, Cassie is left to rescue her brother and to keep her promise. The problem is, she has no idea where he might be, only a vague idea that he could be at an army base. On her way to rescue him, Cassie is forced to confront the idea that the aliens may have been living amongst the human population for years and that the very person she has come to trust most could actually be an alien.

I found this book to be extremely intriguing because alongside Cassie’s story, Yancey designates different sections to other characters, so you are able to see how the invasion affects people besides Cassie as well. This adds depth to the book, which I really enjoyed. Check out this book or see the movie and let me know what you think!

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.

 

lady killerSometimes you just need to take a break from the superhero comics and step into something completely different. If you happen to be in that mood, join me and check out Lady Killer. This graphic novel will be a refreshing break from those men in tights comics who insist on saving the damsel in distress. (Be sure to read the introduction – It’s something you definitely don’t want to miss!)

In Lady Killer, readers are introduced to Josie Schuller, a 1950s housewife who seems to have everything: a fantastic husband, two adorable daughters, and perfect domestic bliss. She does have all that, plus much more! Josie also works outside the home without her husband even realizing what she really does. She isn’t just a lady who goes door-to-door selling Avon though. Josie is a killer.

Yes, I said that right. She’s a killer, an assassin to be specific. Josie doesn’t kill people the way you would expect a lady killer to either. She’s not afraid to get dirty, even though she may seem a little bit delicate with her perfectly done makeup and outfits. Josie is ruthless and has been with the agency for 15 years, performing assassinations whenever asked. Now that she has a family and is working to keep up her picture-perfect life at home, her employers are starting to worry that maybe her priorities are no longer “correctly” in order the way they wish. As a result, Josie soon finds her life to be under attack and she is forced to decide how she really wants her life to be, while hopefully keeping her family blissfully unaware of what mommy really does all day long.


miss meadowsIf this description caught your attention and you’re looking for something similar, check out Miss MeadowsThis movie stars Katie Holmes as Miss Meadows, a perfect, prim, and proper school teacher who under the surface is a vigilante who seeks to right all the wrongs in the world however she can and with any means necessary, like a vigilante Mary Poppins. Right on par with Lady Killer.

 

ant-man movieAnt-Man is a Marvel creation that most recently came out as a movie starring Paul Rudd as Scott Lang and Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym. Dr. Pym was the original Ant-Man, the one who discovered the Pym Particle, a substance that had the ability to shrink items, most importantly a suit. He became Ant-Man and his wife became the Wasp. After a devastating accident, Dr. Pym hid away the formula and the process to find the Pym Particle, locking the suit away.

Flash forward to the present and viewers are introduced to Scott Lang, a burglar who has just been released from jail and is trying to turn his life around so that he can be in his daughter’s life. His roommate and a few friends approach him with the chance of a lifetime: they heard about a rich man who has a safe in his basement and if Scott can crack it, then they will be set financially for a long time. This heist changes Scott’s life and puts him in the sightline of a very powerful man, former Ant-Man Dr. Pym. Giving Scott a chance to reform his life and atone for his past crimes, Dr. Pym presents him with the opportunity to protect the Ant-Man suit and the formula from a group of scientists who wish to harness the power for dubious reasons. Dr. Pym mentors Scott in the ways to use the suit and how to harness all of its powers, while Scott works to change his life for the better. This movie is an excellent introduction to the background of Ant-Man and provides viewers with some pretty spectacular effects, while also keeping the mood light yet fill of action and adventure.


ant-man bookMoving further down the timeline is Nick Spencer’s Ant-Man. In this volume, Ant-Man is older, somewhat more mature, and has worked with a variety of other superheroes. Just because he’s older doesn’t mean he has become a better superhero though. Throughout this graphic novel, it’s pointed out to Scott that he isn’t even the best Ant-Man and that some people still think he’s dead.

Scott is still trying to better his life and provide for his daughter, something that this graphic novel shows has not been without some significant difficulty. Scott thinks he has it made when Iron Man calls and offers him a job, but quickly realizes that he’s only one of many candidates and just because he’s worked with Iron Man before doesn’t mean he is going to get the job. The realization that his ex-wife is moving with his daughter to Florida and a rumble with an old foe throws Scott off-balance, leaving him to try a new business venture that takes Scott and his family down a dangerous path where he is forced to see that what he thinks is right for his family and what is actually right for his family are two very different things.

What I liked best about this graphic novel is that if you are confused about something that is happening, the writers have written in explanations and have also provided you with the issue numbers of the different graphic novels that will help you to fill in the holes. Plus Scott does a lot of reflective thinking, so that helps. It’s brilliant! Check out this graphic novel for a more sarcastic and humanized approach to a superhero who is just trying to get his life together.

amazing fantastic incredibleIf you think of Marvel, chances are the first name you think of is Stan Lee. He has become the face and name most closely affiliated with Marvel and rightfully so. Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir is Stan Lee’s memoir and it’s not like your traditional memoir. This book is a fabulously illustrated graphic memoir done in full color that gives you a birth until present glimpse into the life of Stan Lee.

With Marvel just recently celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary, the release of this graphic novel comes at a high point when Marvel is once again at the center of awareness. Stan Lee is the most legendary name in the history of comic books and this graphic memoir will answer questions about his life and work history that anyone from comic newbie to comic guru may have.

Following Lee’s life from a small boy in an apartment to his current venture of traveling and speaking in venues around the world, this book gives readers a glimpse into the life of the comic legend and co-creator of Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, and many, many other superheroes. Stan Lee changed the superhero game by insisting his superheroes/villains/other characters were complex characters, dealt with personal issues and used wit in order to give readers more relatable superheroes. He read other characters as flat portrayals of the age-old story of good vs. evil and wanted to bring out the human qualities of these superhuman heroes. This graphic memoir illustrates the life and times as Stan Lee as he first broke into the comic industry and effectively changed comics as the world knows them today.

This book is chock full of advice for writers, readers, illustrators, and anyone else who has a dream that they want to follow, despite what other people may be saying to them. Believing in yourself and not giving up are two of the main themes that are consistent throughout this memoir, reminding readers this through speeches and also through the stories of the superheroes that he created and was able to successfully launch into the mainstream public. Whether you’re a comic fan, love Marvel, or are wanting to learn more, I highly recommend this graphic novel as a look into Stan Lee’s past and the overall history of both Marvel and the cast of superheroes that he created.

 

ReadingChallengeBWHello Fellow Book Lovers!

Here we are at the mid-point of the first month of the Online Reading Challenge. How are you doing? Have you picked out a book to read yet? Have you started reading, or maybe you’re already finished – let us know in the comments!

As I mentioned before, I’m reading The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson. It’s going well, although I do have a problem – it’s very difficult to read it in public since I am constantly chuckling, snorting, and laughing out loud. Bryson has not lost his edge, with many pointed, on-the-mark observations, but his humor has been softened (well, a bit) with time and is often aimed at himself. It is easy to tell that he truly loves his adopted country and, while he might sometimes despair, he also delights in it’s beauty and endless variety.

I should be able to finish this book in a couple days; for (completely unrequired) extra credit, I think I will try to finish Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I actually bought a copy of this book (something that, as a librarian I don’t do all that often) to take on a trip, but only read a couple of chapters even though I was enjoying it. Does that ever happen to you? An interesting book comes to you, but, for one reason or another, it doesn’t get read. Sometimes I come across a “to read someday” book several times before it either drops off the list or I finally read it. This time I’m going to try Wild again and see if it sticks.

In other news, the promised Reading Challenge bookmarks are now available! They’re great for keeping your place in your book of course, but these also list the theme for each month with space for you to write in the title you read. A fun way to keep track of your progress! You can find the bookmarks at each of the Davenport Library buildings in the literature displays and with the Challenge book displays.

Finally, are you still looking for the perfect Journeys title? Here are a couple more ideas to consider.

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel Follow along with Pi when finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Patchett is easily by favorite contemporary author, but I hesitated to read this when it first came out and it became one of those “someday” books. When I did finally read it, I found I could hardly put it down again. It has mystery, action, love stories, medical mysteries, the ties of family and a heroine in the darkest Amazon rain forest. Highly recommended.

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. A modern classic of the ultimate American journey, follow along as Lewis and Clark open up the great American frontier, treking where no white man had ever been.

Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian. I am a huge fan of the entire Master and Commander series (20 volumes) and as a result probably know a lot more about early 19th century British naval practice than one might expect from a 21st century American woman. If you like Jane Austin, adventure, action, humor, historical fiction, and interesting characters you’ll like this epic tale of the improbable friendship of Jack and Stephen, all taking place against the backdrop of  the beautiful tall ships of the Napoleonic era. It’s brilliant.