copperCopper tells the story of an Irish-American boxer turned cop named Kevin Corcoran, who after returning from the Civil War finds his wife missing and his young daughter murdered in their home. Corcoran keeps in contact with two of his soldier friends: the son of a rich industrialist and an African-American physician. These three are linked together by a secret that happened on the battlefireld, one that changed the future of their lives forever.

Right off the bat, Copper is fast-paced and running you through the streets of Five Points, the immigrant neighborhood in New York full of lawlessness, deceit, and murder. Kevin Corcoran, or Corcy as his friends call him, frequently finds himself having to solve the many murders that happen in Five Points. Corcoran never lets a case close without finding the true killer and getting vengeance for the families left behind. The entire time he is solving crimes for the police department, he is also looking for any clues into his wife’s disappearance and his daughter’s murder, asking people in the streets and looking for anyone who saw them before they died.

This television show hits every aspect of tv that I love: romance, murder, mayhem, secrets, espionage, politics, etc. This is 1864, so Copper deals with slavery, Lincoln’s election, spies for the Confederacy and the Union, lynchings, upper and lower class struggles, immigration, murder. Just when I thought I had this show figured out, I realized that the characters had far more depth and far more secrets than I ever realized.

the fade outThe Fade Out: Vol. 1, Act One by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips is a gripping journey into the film industry in the 1940s. This dark graphic novel takes place in Hollywood in 1948, beginning with Charlie Parish, one of the writers for a film studio, waking up to find Valeria, the up-and-coming lead actress of his current film lying dead, sprawled on the floor in the room next door, obviously murdered with ligature marks around her neck. The noir film he’s working on has been stuck in endless reshoots with the cantankerous German director barreling down on everyone to do what he wants perfectly or they will have to face the consequences.

Charlie finds himself struggling to write, plagued with writer’s block, troubled at keeping the secret of Val’s death, and turning for help from Gil Mason, an ex-screenwriter who has been blacklisted by the studios for being a suspected Communist. Gil and Charlie have worked out a Everyone involved on-set and off-set, from the head of the studio to the press office to the head of security seems to be hiding something and Charlie is left to wonder just what is true and just what he can tell to the people he thinks would never betray him.

This graphic novel is full of suspense, leading readers down dark hallways and dimly-lit streets with Charlie as he tries to figure out what really happened to Val and why the studio is covering up how she died. The film noir feel is shown through the dark coloring within each panel and the accent colors that pop on each page. The colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser, really bumps up the impact the story has on the reader by adding in color that boosts the intriguing, dark, and mysterious nature of this book. Brubaker and Phillips even add in real movie stars to the book, something that I noticed when I saw that a couple of the characters looked familiar! (There is also a cast of characters at the front of the graphic novel for you to refer back to if you become confused.) The Fade out: Vol 1: Act One is a wonderful read and I highly encourage you to check it out!

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217th General Hospital posting in Swindon, England, 1944

Hello and welcome to the April Online Reading Challenge! This month’s theme is The Good War – World War II in Fiction. There are lots of amazing titles this month – it’s going to be hard to pick just one!

First off, no war is “good” – terrible things happen during every war. But World War II is sometimes called the “good” war because we (the Allies) were fighting true evil (the Nazis) and the only way to stop them was through force. On the surface, at least, it was a war fought for noble reasons. It’s also a war when ordinary people took on an extraordinary task, fought by a generation (the “greatest generation”) that faced this challenge with the same grim determination that got them through the Great Depression. It is a time period that has been romanticized, but we should always remember that there was great pain and suffering as well.

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Orderlies from the 217th General Hospital unit, Paris France 1945

World War II has long been one of the most popular subjects in the library, both in fiction and non-fiction. While many of the people who actually lived during that time period (1939-1945) are now gone, many of us have heard stories from our parents and grandparents, so it is still vivid in our memories.

There is no shortage of excellent books set during World War II; the problem is narrowing the list to manageable proportions! Here are a few of my favorites to get you started.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Set primarily in France and Germany, it moves between two main characters, one a blind French girl living in a small town along the Normandy coast, the other a young German soldier who is recruited into Hitler’s army as the lesser of two evils. These two very different lives are, with the imminent invasion of the Allies, about to intersect in unforeseen ways. I love this book – the beautiful, evocative writing, the examination and contrast of opposite sides, the almost unbearable suspense – come together to create a truly memorable experience.

City of Thieves by David Benioff. Most of the World War II fiction that we see is set in England, France or Germany (I don’t have scientific proof of this, just observation as a librarian) This novel brings focus to the home front in Russia, specifically the siege of Leningrad. A young man jailed for theft and an army officer convicted of deserting are given a choice – find a dozen eggs within the next week, or be executed. In a city where many have been reduced to cannibalism and many more have died of starvation, it is a nearly impossible choice. That these reluctant partners find kindness, friendship and even some joy, elevates this book above the usual war novel. Another excellent book set during this time is The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean, focusing on the docents and art historians of the Hermitage and their efforts to protect its priceless art.

Other books that shed light on forgotten or little known incidents of World War II include Sarah’s Key by Tiatiana de Rosnay which focuses on the deportment of Jews from Paris, Corelli’s Mandolin about the occupation of the Greek islands, first by the Italians and then by the Germans, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer about Guernsey Island, the only part of England that was invaded by the Germans during the war. For a look at the war in the Pacific, try A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute or Tales of the South Pacific by James Michner. For a look at a dark period of American history, try Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, set during and after the internment of Japanese-Americans during the war.

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The Arc ‘d Triumph, Paris, France, May 8, 1945 (VE Day)

My choice for this month is The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. This has long been on my “to read someday” list. Narrated by Death, it is set in Germany at the start of the war and focuses on ordinary citizens trying to survive day by day. It sounds grim, but also hopeful (which I need!) as one of the main characters finds and shares books as a way of coping. If I have time I may try to read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein which is about a young woman that has been shot down behind enemy lines. It comes highly recommended.

What about you – what book or books are you planning to read this month? Do you have any favorites set during World War II that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments! And if you haven’t already, don’t forget to stop by the library and pick up a Reading Challenge bookmark!

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nflconfidentialBackup O-line player “Johnny Anonymous” gives us an opportunity to step behind the scenes of the 2014 – 2015 NFL season in NFL Confidential.   He writes in candid detail about the infractions, machinations, and politics of the League.

As you’ll recall, the tumultuous 2014-2015 season featured the Ray Rice domestic battery scandal.   Johnny Anonymous considers the league’s knee-jerk sensitivity education a half-hearted exercise in futility.

My personal favorite was how teams habitually pick up older knowledgeable free agents on short notice from their rivals.  They’ll make them ride the pine on the active roster the rest of the season just to poach the entire defensive scheme for that one game.

Enjoy tedious appearances of the F word, which some consider gritty realism.  On the whole, Johnny is a nice guy and this book will give you a great place to focus your attention in this downtime between the Superbowl and the Draft.

letter 44 vol 2Previously I reviewed Letter 44, Volume 1: Escape Velocity and was instantly intrigued. As a result, I decided that I needed to find the second volume to figure out how the story progressed. Letter 44, Volume 2: Redshift goes further into the extraterrestrial life the astronauts on the space ship, Clarke, discovered in the first volume.

With President Blades struggling to deal with if and when he should alert the public to the existence of the aliens, he finds himself having to deal with other people in the government who are calling for him to tell the truth and if not, risk being impeached. This alien presence is becoming more than he think he can deal with and instead of following the plan laid out for him by the previous administration, he decides to go his own way and ends up thinking more short-term than long-term. That decision ends up costing the American people dearly.

While Blades deals with threats from inside his administration and tries to balance everything happening outside, the people on spaceship Clarke are struggling just to live day-to-day. Losing one of their own on the asteroid and with a newborn baby on board, they are trying to figure out what the aliens want and what their device is actually for. Learning what the aliens plan to do throws the crew into a state of panic, especially when it is discovered that one of their own has the ability to communicate with the aliens. This second volume is jam-packed with action, sabotage, danger, and the struggle to survive. Personally, I cannot wait for the third volume, so I can catch up the crew of the Clarke and see how Blades is doing as President.

eleanor and parkHave you ever read a book that immediately piqued your interest? One that you just couldn’t put down? My latest “must finish quickly” book was Eleanor & Park, and what hooked me, besides the immediately engaging story line, was that I listened to it as an audiobook and was therefore able to listen to it while I was doing other things. (The version I listened to was through OverDrive, but this title is also available as a print book and a book on cd – same narrators too!)

Eleanor & Park tells the story of the two title characters: Eleanor, a red-haired chubby high school student starting at a new school, who runs into Park, a kid right on the cusp of the cool crowd, but not firmly implanted there. Eleanor feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere, especially at her new school or at home. and Park feels like she doesn’t belong at their school either. Despite himself, Park finds himself falling for Eleanor, a situation that she has trouble with since she can’t possibly believe or see why this perfect Asian boy with the perfect family would ever fall for a mess like her, living with her mother, abusive step-father, and four siblings in a tiny house. This book is set over the course of one school year in 1986 with readers getting an intense look into Eleanor and Park’s budding relationship and daily lives as they struggle with trying to fit in and the strange sweetness and intense hold that first love has on them. This book pulled at my heart strings, making me pull for Eleanor and Park to beat the odds.

What really hooked me about this book was the narrators. Their voices perfectly matched the characters that I envisioned in my head with earnest emotion shining through both voices. Their inflections as both narrators mimicked the different people in both Eleanor and Park’s lives had me present, immediately in the story with them: sitting on the top bunk in Eleanor’s room while she read the comic books and listened to the tapes that Park gave her, and watching Park as he only asked for batteries for Christmas, so he could continue to give Eleanor music to listen to. I couldn’t get enough and finished this audiobook in two days. Check this book out, either in print or audio, and let me know what you think!

strong female protagonistThis is a superhero comic book, but not your typical one. While there is a significant amount of crime fighting and struggling with inner demons, writer Brennan Lee Mulligan and artist Molly Ostertag have incorporated necessary humanity into the lives of their superheroes and villains, allowing readers to become more attached to their daily lives outside of being more than normal.

Strong Female Protagonist dives into the life of Alison Green. Alison used to be an active superhero. When she was younger, it was discovered that she was one of many teenagers who had “biodynamic anomalies,” in essence they were different than normal people. These anomalies allowed her to become Mega Girl, her superhero alter ego with super strength and invulnerability to injury, heat, cold, and many other things. Alison and other heroes went about life fighting crime on a day-to-day basis until she had an interaction with her nemesis, the villain Menace, who has the ability to read minds. This encounter forces Alison to take a close look at her life fighting crime and decide whether or not she wants to continue being Mega Girl. Flash forward and now Alison is going to college and trying to balance her superhero side with the normalcies of college life. She still wants to save the world, but does not necessarily want to be forced to do so while hiding behind a mask. She shouldn’t need a mask to be a hero. After all, everyone has different opinions on what really constitutes being a hero.

While this book follows a fairly straight storyline, there are some flashbacks, as well as a running commentary at the bottom of each page that allows readers to break away from the seriousness of the comic to revel in the writer’s witty commentary. I felt like those sentences added to the events happening within the book and even allowed me to garner a little insight into the writing and artistic processes that went into creating this book. Check this out if you want a break from the traditional superhero graphic novel, but still want to see some battles alongside a “normal” life.

letter 44 v1What would you do if you were thrust into a situation that you initially thought you could control, but then you found out that everyone who had prepared you had either lied to you or had been unaware of a certain MAJOR event? Would you panic? Would you want to tell everyone about the secret you just learned about? This is the predicament that newly-elected President Stephen Blades finds himself in on his very first day in office in Letter 44, Volume 1: Escape Velocity.

In this first volume, President Blades is ushered into the oval office to find a letter for him from the previous President. Opening the letter and expecting to have to dive headfirst into fixing the critical issues facing the nation caused by President Carroll, Blades instead discovers the one singular event and reason behind the country’s involvement in two major wars, the economy collapsing, and the healthcare system to be failing. It’s a national and world secret that only a handful of people are aware of: seven years ago, NASA discovered an alien presence in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, one that was able to cloak itself somehow and had the potential to be dangerous. In order to learn more about this, a team of 9 astronauts made up of both military members and scientists was sent into space to discover what is really going on.

This graphic novel divides focus between Blades and the group of astronauts who are almost to their destination. As the astronauts prepare to reach their destination, you learn their ship, the Clarke, is becoming increasingly damaged and should not have been sent on this mission so quickly. Secrets abound both in the air and on the ground, leaving readers to wonder what really is the truth and showing that President Stephen Blades has the ultimate power in his hands. All that’s left is for him to decide what to do with it.

Stay tuned for a review from Volume 2 (and be on the lookout for Volume 3)!

How to be a grown-upCo-written by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin, How to Be a Grown-Up is a fascinating peek into upper class New York and the world of start-up websites – in this case, one for upper class babies and their parents. More than a little absurd, this world of over-consumption and ambitious, yet inexperienced, young bosses is the one in which Rory finds herself – after her husband, an  aspiring actor, dumps her.

Kraus and McLaughlin are the authors of The Nanny Diaries,and there are definite similarities – in the dynamic between the very rich and those struggling to get by. Some of the scenes do seem to be written filmically; we can almost see a  Scarlett Johansson or Anne Hathaway-type breaking her foot as she juggles the impossible demands of her tyrannical bosses and the equally formidable demands of her two children, while teetering on five-inch heels.

The most successful part of the book is the satire of the workplace – the two young entrepreneurs in charge of the start-up dress in the skimpiest of outfits no matter how cold they are, and regard “things” such as wastebaskets and a work space as unnecessarily retro. It’s satisfying to see the tables turned, and  Rory’s experience and know-how are acknowledged as valuable.

If the authors had focused more on the work aspect of the book and less on the inexplicable choices Rory makes in her personal life, the book would have, in my opinion, been better for it. Still, it’s a revealing and interesting look into a very fast-paced world, not well-known in Iowa – even in the metro Quad-Cities.

Internet Safety BlogIn 2014 I found a Black Friday deal for tablets. I could purchase an RCA 7in screen tablet for $30. It seemed like a logical purchase for my two grade school children who were now old enough to operate this type of device. At the time I was thinking that they could download games and watch Netflix. For the first year they had tablets that is exactly what they did. Honestly the last thing I was thinking about was teaching them how to be safe on the internet.

It is has been a year since our tablet purchase and much has changed. While my daughter is content with watching her shows and playing games, my son is starting to watch videos on YouTube. What he really likes to do is watch sports clips such as All Time Best NBA dunks. It is only a matter of time before he starts communicating with other friends online. For the first time I find myself thinking about how to let my children have the freedom to find all the wonderful information the internet has to offer, yet still be safe. I decided to look at some of the newer materials the library has on about internet safety. I also came across some great websites as well.

 

internet safetyThis video gets real about the dangers children encounter on the internet. It is an Emmy winning four part series hosted by Donna Rice Hughes. Testimonials and advice are given from clinicians, law officers, psychologists, parents, teens, victims and more. This DVD will be available in early May, but you can be make a reserve on this item now. Click on Internet Safety 101

 

 

 

online safetyOnline Safety is a juvenile non fiction book available in English or Spanish text. This book explores how to use the internet safely. It discusses social networking, online gaming and cyber bullying.  Text is age appropriate for grade school students and includes colored photographs and glossary.

 

 

online etiquetteAnother juvenile non fiction book combines both how to act appropriately online and also how to be safe using the internet. Both information and activities are presented to help students think critically and work with other students. Online Etiquette and Safety is a hands on approach to learning about good mannered internet use.

 

 

 

Internet Safety Websites

Kids Health Internet Safety: For parents, kids, and teens. Articles available in text or audio.

NetSmartz Workshop: For parents, educators, law enforcement, Teens, Tweens, and Kids.

FBI: A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety: For parents.

Safe Kids: Kid’s rules for online safety.

 

How good is your internet safety? Take the quiz. Kidzworld Online Safety Quiz