Is winter getting you down? Do you find yourself curling into blankets and wanting to hide from the outside world? I admit winter is not my favorite time of year, so when I stumbled upon The Book of Awesome: Snow Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Other Simple, Brilliant Things, I knew I had found my much needed winter pick-me-up. Pasricha, the author of 1000awesomethings.com, developed this book as a way for him to find the good things that surrounded his boring 9-to-5 job. Follow along as he describes those simple pleasures and little moments that have just enough power to make us happy : sleeping in new sheets, fixing electronics by smacking them, pushing the elevator button and discovering it’s already there, the smell and sounds of a campfire, popping bubblewrap, the day you first realize you can drive, etc. Each good thing brings out warm and funny observations from the author describing just why those pleasures or unexpected moments are AWESOME! Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to relate to Pasricha’s moment of joy when a cashier opens up a new checkout line at the grocery store, when all your socks match up from the dryer perfectly, and when someone offers to throw your dirty laundry in a load with their own, thus saving you from having to leave the couch! Join Pasricha as he finds all the good in the little moments that surround him.
Are you interested in finding out more about Downton Abbey? Do the characters intrigue you? The surroundings? If the answer is yes to any of those questions, check out Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle.
Lady Almina tells the story of Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration for the hit PBS show, Downton Abbey. This book follows the life of Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon, who just happens to be the basis for the Lady Cora Crawley on PBS’s Downton Abbey. The author of this book, the current Countess of Carnarvon, intersperses actual pictures and documents from the Highclere archive with the family’s passed down memories to map out the story of the castle and its inhabitants on the brink of World War I. The marriage of Lady Almina and the Earl of Carnarvon was seen by some as a way to keep the castle afloat monetarily, given the scandal surrounding Lady Almina’s birth, her biological father’s vast wealth, and the Earl of Carnarvon’s many expensive trips around the world. Lady Almina’s will to always get her way, the support of her rich industrialist father Alfred de Rothschild(who just never could tell her no), her husband’s desire to never see her upset, combined with her large body of charity work, led her to transform the high society atmosphere of Highclere Castle into a hospital for wounded soldiers during World War I. Take a look into this book to gain a better understanding of life in England during World War I, as well as life of the real people of Downton Abbey.
Last summer TV Guide released an article titled America’s Most Watched: The Top 50 Shows of the 2013-2014 TV Season, and as you may have guessed it included a list of the 50 most watched TV shows last year. I thought it would be interesting to weigh the DPL video collection against what America is watching. Are we keeping our finger on the remote of the Nation?
As a rule I do not believe in suspense, so we are going straight to the top! The Big Bang Theory was named the top TV show of the 2013/2014 season based on number of viewers per episode according to TV Guide. At this point I have to ask myself, how have I never watched this show!? Honestly settling in to a Big Bang marathon has been in the back of my mind for quite some time. But I just keep putting it off because it isn’t on Netflix yet. Well guess what? It is season eight and it is still not available on Netflix yet it continues to be one of the most talked about shows on television. So I am taking matters into my own hands and utilizing the best free source of entertainment in the Quad Cities!
The Davenport Library did not disappoint me. There is a copy of the first season of The Big Bang Theory available at each library location. Further yet, Eastern and Main have complete seasons on the shelves! Perhaps that is a bit deceiving, since this show is incredibly popular you will likely need to place a hold as I did, but the wait on older seasons is usually a short one.
Enough about Big Bang, let’s look at the rest. Out of the 50 titles the Davenport Libraries carry 34 titles. You may be wondering why we don’t have them all. TV Guide rated all television programs, which includes live events and reality TV. However out of the 36 purchasable titles, we do own 34. While I won’t list all 34 of them, I will review some of my favorites.
The Walking Dead on AMC is ranked 4th on the TV Guide list and that is a well deserved place mark. About a year ago, I decided it was about time I get on The Walking Dead bandwagon and see what all the fuss was about. Zombies have never really appealed to me, but when a show hits a certain level of popularity you just have to watch at least one episode. While some fans may tune in for guts and gore, most of us have found ourselves relating to the show on a human level. The writers of this show excel at getting the audience to feel exactly what these characters are feeling. We all know zombies aren’t real, but we can understand and identify with the intense emotions of love, friendship, triumph, and loss. This show oozes all of those with every episode. There have been many times that I found myself at a loss for words as my heart breaks and soars for these characters. Full seasons available at Eastern and Main.
Downton Abbey from PBS came out of nowhere and has exploded in popularity in the U.S. I’ll admit when this show jumped on my radar, I was quick to check out the first two seasons of this show because I have a deep love of historical fiction and period pieces. Downton is a world of it’s own. Each week we are transported back in time to the days of servants and masters, carriage rides and afternoon tea. What really makes this show a hit, is the strength of it’s characters. There are so many different personalities and story lines there seems to be someone for everyone. At the very least you will feel smarter each week as you learn a little more about upper class England in the early 1900’s. Sound like something you would like? All three libraries have multiple copies of each season, with the current airing season available soon.
Once Upon a Time broadcast on ABC is something the entire family can watch and enjoy. This year it seems I haven’t had much time for live TV, and this show was starting to pile up on my DVR. With more free time over the holidays, I started watching this season’s episodes with my six year old daughter and eight year old son. They are hooked! Now whenever we have a free hour together, we pile on the couch and play the episodes from this season. While my children are just tuning in, I have been a Once Upon a Time fan from the beginning, finding the pretense genius. All of your favorite fairy tale characters and their perspective stories weaved together with a present day twist. Each week brings something new to the stories we have all heard time and time again. What I like best about this show is that a traditional fairy tale villain can be a hero, and well known heroes can be villains. You never know who is going to be good and who will be bad when a new character is introduced. What you can always count on from this show is that good will always win in the end and true love conquers all.
I’m pretty sure that if a cute stranger offered to take me to a romantic European city for the day, I would probably say “No, but thank you. I’m just too awkward for that.” And I wouldn’t even fret about possibly missing out on an experience of a lifetime because, luckily, there are plenty of young adult romances that can satisfy my “but what would have happened?!” curiosity. Just One Day by Gayle Forman (and its companion book, Just One Year) is the perfect choice for armchair travel because the heroine just happens to be quite introverted herself, and thus, very relatable to us classic Librarian-types
Just One Day begins with sensible, quiet Allyson feeling ready for her graduation trip around Europe with a teen tour group to be over so she can go home to the States. Yeah, that whining-about-being-in-Europe part isn’t that relatable to me, but granted her best friend has gotten a little bit wild/annoying, and the tour skipped over Paris–the one city Allyson wanted to see on the tour. But then she runs into a cute street actor who had flirted with her during his performance the night before…AND HE OFFERS TO TAKE HER TO PARIS! YES! YES! YES! So Allyson tells him her name is Lulu and hops on the train to Paris with him (and then promptly has several panic attacks on the train about him leaving her, killing her, making a fool of her, etc–this is actually the moment where I went from liking the book to LOVING the book). Lulu/Allyson and Willem spend an amazing day running around Paris and then live happily ever after. Swooooooon.
Well, until the next morning when Allyson wakes up alone in an empty Paris art studio.
With lots of tears and panic, Allyson finds her way back to London and her tour group and then back home to the United States. We then follow her through her first year of college as she learns to overcome her broken heart and embarrassment. After a long self-inflicted isolation, new friends help Allyson discover that she needs to revisit Paris and find Willem–partly because she believes that there is a mystery surrounding the morning Willem left her and partly because she needs to prove to herself that she is in control of her life.
Sorry, I can’t tell you if she finds Willem…BUT I will tell you that the companion book Just One Year tells the story of what happened to Willem during his year apart from Lulu. He does quite a bit more traveling…that is all I will say.
These two books are a must read for fans of Stephanie Perkins, John Green and Maureen Johnson and anyone else who likes a little independence and a little travel with their romances.
In 1984 photographer and University of Iowa art professor Peter Feldstein set out to photograph all 676 residents in his town of Oxford, Iowa. Over the course of the summer he succeeded in photographing 670 individuals “as they were”: in street clothes, some lugging shopping bags or carrying pets or children. Peter returned in 2005 to re-photograph as many of the original residents as he could, this time bringing along University of Iowa journalism professor Stephen Bloom to interview residents. The Oxford Project compiles the photos and interviews to provide a case study of small town life in America.
The biographies are concisely written and give you a glimpse into the lives of the residents: their personal triumphs and tragedies, their accomplishments and regrets. This book highlights the differences 20 years brings but also the striking similarities in dress, posture, and overall demeanor that people tend to maintain throughout their lives. Like any good book, The Oxford Project encourages the reader to reflect on their own life. In 20 years, what will you look back with satisfaction or regret the chances you didn’t take?
In Rutu Modan’s The Property, Mica and her grandmother, Regina are traveling from Israel to Warsaw, Poland. Just before World War II Regina had married and moved to Israel. Years later, as the only surviving member of her family, she was contacted and inform that she was entitled to reclaim her family’s property. For twenty years she left the property unclaimed, but following the death of her son and Mica’s father, Reuben, she decided to make the trip.
Returning to Warsaw, Regina is overwhelmed with the guilt and shame of a long hidden family secrets. Modan beautifully illustrates how our perceptions of ourselves and our world are shaped by cultural and personal histories, and The Property successfully (and subtly) exposes the generational divide in a family and in a city. With charming illustrations reminiscent of Hergé’s Tintin and a witty sense of humor, The Property is a graphic novel sure to win over some skeptics of the genre. I would recommend to fans of Maus by Art Spiegelman, Unterzakhn by Leela Corman, or Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi.
More favorite books from our bloggers!
Lynn votes for The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman. “I love Lipman’s writing style, her characters and the world they inhabit. This time it’s a penthouse in Manhattan, where Gwen and her sister Margot live in genteel poverty. In order to make ends meet, the tenants begin to multiply and become involved in each other’s lives and romances”.
Amanda chooses a non-fiction title. “I have an obsession with cookbooks and graphic novels, and Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley combines the two in an entertaining and informative way. While the novelty of a graphic cookbook is what appealed to me at first, it was Knisley’s hilarious voice and effective story telling that won me over. I’m crossing my fingers that another book is on it’s way”.
Ann goes with a classic re-imagined. “Longbourn by Jo Baker was my favorite this year. It’s a sly, witty and compassionate interpretation of Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, seen through the eyes of the servants. Usually faceless and unnamed, here they inhabit real lives with complications and joys and heartbreak just as interesting (if not more so) than the homeowners they serve”.
There you have it – an eclectic collection of best books. What about you – what was your favorite book in 2013?
Favorite books read in 2013 by our Info Cafe bloggers continues.
Rita is a big fan of audio books and choose one author as her favorite to listen to. “I have read and listened to Kathy Reich’s Temperence Brennan from the beginning, 15 titles and counting. It is a wonderful series about Temperence being a forensic anthropologist holding two positions, one in North Carolina and one in Quebec, Ontario. Her cases are based on real cases in Kathy Reich’s experience as a forensic anthropologist. Temeperence has adventures and misadventures most people wouldn’t live through. What I like best about her writing is that her writing has stayed the finest quality through all 15 books. Some series I read, you can tell when it has become a chore for the writer to continue the series. Her newest book, Bones of the Lost, continues with that quality”.
Bill’s favorite (and most read) title is the children’s classic The Hat by Jan Brett. With beautiful illustrations reminiscent of Nordic folk art, Brett weaves a fun and charming story about animals discovering warm winter headgear. This book is especially great when you do different voices for each animal, much to the delight of the littlest reader.
There’s still more to come! Stop back on Monday for our final installment of 2013 favorites!
It’s that time again – the end-of-the-year recap time! Here at Info Cafe we’re going to take a look back at our favorite books of the past year. Not all of these books were published in 2013, but were read and enjoyed in 2013. Enjoy!
Lexie gets us started with a YA title that several of us liked, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. “This is a beautiful story of two misfit teens who against all odds find each other and find happiness. their friendship begins over a shared love of comic books and music, and over time is grows very naturally into first love. I’ve read a lot of YA love stories, and I can easily say that this is one of the most realistic I’ve read. It is genuine, moving, and very charming, and I would recommend it to just about anyone”.
Amber’s up next. “Although I may have felt slightly lonely in my praise of J.K. Rowling’s first post-Potter-publication, The Casual Vacancy (compare Maggie’s full review of ithere to my quick end-of-year review here), there is almost universal adoration for Rowling’s second offering, The Cuckoo’ Calling, about a rough detective named Cormoran Strike who tries to prove the suicide of a London It-Girl was really a premeditated murder (Once again, you can see Maggie’s full, eloquent review here). Ms Rowling released The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, and much to her dismay (and my delight) it only took several months for her secret to leak into the press. I have long been a fan of mysteries, but usually of the cozier or historical sort, and I probably would have bypassed The Cuckoo’s Calling due to the gritty, contemporary setting and missed out on Rowling’s amazing storytelling and beautifully crafted characters. According to Robert Galbraith’s website, we can expect another Cormoran Strike mystery in 2014 – Hurrah”!
Check back tomorrow for more of our picks for 2013!
If you’re anything like me, packing a healthy, flavorful lunch day after day is a surprisingly difficult task. So I was pretty excited when I found Beating the Lunch Box Blues: Fresh Ideas for Lunches on the Go! by J.M. Hirsch. Utilizing a combination of leftovers and fresh ingredients, Beating the Lunch Box Blues was created not only to provide recipes, but to give inspiration.
This book gives very simple, practical advice. As I perused the pages, I had a lot of a-ha moments. Why had I never thought that I should cook a little extra couscous to save for lunch that week? Why did I bring leftovers exactly as they had been cooked the night before? Why couldn’t I bring the leftover chicken from dinner as part of a salad for lunch? (I’m clearly not a creative lunch maker.) And why do I never plan lunches, but just toss them together as I’m running out the door?
Hirsch’s recipes focus on creating variety in your meals and planning ahead. This will save time in the end and might prevent you from buying that bag of chips from the vending machine. If you’re looking for additional ideas check out Hirsch’s blog: www.lunchboxblues.com or these other lunch box cookbooks from DPL: Best Lunch Box Ever by Kate Sullivan Morford and Vegan Lunch Box by Jennifer McCann.