Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann

Three Bags Full by Leonie SwannWhen George doesn’t appear as usual, Miss Maple knows something is wrong. It’s not long before George is found dead with a spade in his chest and it’s left to Miss Maple and her collegues to find his killer. The problem is, Miss Maple and friends are sheep and George was their shepherd. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Miss Maple (considered the smartest sheep in Glennkill, Ireland) works on solving the mystery using observation and a keen understanding of human nature to track and find the killer. Laugh-out-loud funny, the flock never loses their sheepy personalities. This brilliant first novel will keep you laughing and might make you look at sheep a little differently.

The Armchair Traveler – New York Stories

New York storiesNew Yorkers by Cathleen Schine

The novel centers around the inhabitants of a block in New York. Dogs connect the protagonists and are nearly as well realized characters as their owners. You get real insight into urban, yet small town neighborhood life. Sad and funny and poignant.

Quality of Life Report by Meghan Daum

New York City tv producer moves to a midwest town to do a story and ends up staying. A reversal of the usual Midwesterner comes to New York theme.

Smith and Wetzon” mystery series by Annette Meyers

New York is a vital part of these books – the shops, neighborhoods and characters that make up the city, as well as the culture of Wall Street, where the two partners work as headhunters.

Gone to New York by Ian Frazier

Essays about leaving the Midwest and living in New York. “Out of Ohio” will resonate with Iowans, and “In the Stacks” will speak to library users. Stories about bags in trees, the history of typewriters and the Holland tunnel are fascinating in their accessible research.

Through the Children’s Gate by Adam Gopnik

Bittersweet and philosophical essays about how the city has changed and how it is adapting to families and children who make New York their home.

Tolstoy Lied by Rachel Kadish

Tracy is a professor at a New York university, working on a thesis that the literary establishment rejects positive themes. Academic politics and trends in literature are vividly brought to life. Elements of mystery and romance enliven what sounds like a dry plot.

Next time, The Armchair Traveler visits Florida.

Davenport Public Library Podcast #2

030708.jpgI may never be able to personally relate to the miracle of childbirth, but I think I can say with some confidence that not many area women have had to contend with Nazis sprinkling the neighborhood with TNT at the time of giving birth.

Enjoy the personal anecdotes of being an Englishwoman married to an American GI after a whirlwind courtship.

Meet area veteran Joan McAdams in this week’s Davenport Public Library Podcast episode #2.

Appetizing Displays

Cup of coffeeNeed a perk-me-up? Check out our current “Coffee” display at the Main Library. Just walking by will get those taste buds revved up and ready for some java. Well, okay, you can’t really taste it, but you can almost smell that familiar, flavorful aroma.

Learn how to roast your own coffee beans, how Starbucks got its start, or even how you can open up your own coffee bar.

Or, perhaps you’d be interested in these caffeinated titles? Let it Rain Coffee by Angie Cruz is a light fiction read, while Uncommon Grounds is a “history of coffee and how it transformed our world.”

And there’s more! We change our displays every month and often even more frequently then that. There’s always something new “brewing” at the library!

The Return of Jonah Gray by Heather Cochran

The Return of Jonah GrayEven tax auditors need love. Sasha Gardener has always been good at her job – strictly professional and attentive to detail, she has been an exemplary IRS employee. But then the unthinkable happens – she falls in love with one of the people she is scheduled to audit. From the strange phone calls at work to her “slightly OCD” boyfriend to her father’s terminal illness, this story is by turns funny, sad and poignant and is filled with quirky, likable characters. You’ll root for Sasha as she struggles with changes in her family and gathers the courage to make some changes in her own life.

Lie Down and Be Counted!

Cat napDid losing that hour of sleep leave you feeling like you could use a nap today? Well, you’re in luck because the first Monday after the return of light saving time is officially National Napping Day. This observance is designed to make people aware of the health and productivity benefits of napping, especially at the workplace.

To help convince your boss that workplace napping is a great idea, check out The Art of Napping at Work by Camille and William Anthony (154.6 Ant) The authors present everything from nap management to ideas for converting the napaphobics among us.

When presenting your case for the necessity of nap time at work, don’t be afraid to drop the names of famous nappers like JFK, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, “Nap-olean” Bonaparte, Johannes Brahms, Jim Lehrer, and Bill Clinton. If these highly effective people napped, shouldn’t we all be able to catch a few winks at work?

As National Napping Day is observed let’s also remember that on March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, and nap time has never been the same since.

What about you, do love naps as much as me?

The Book or the Movie?

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa GregoryIt’s a question without a simple answer – which is better, the book or the movie? With so many movies adapted from or “inspired by” a book, it’s a question that comes up often. I think it’s important to remember that books and movies are two very different experiences and it’s not reasonable to expect a movie to be an exact replica of a book. The best movie adaptations recreate the same impressions as the book did while offering a visual treat and sometimes a new perspective to the story.

The Other Boleyn Girl is now in theaters, starring Scarlet Johannsen, Natalie Portman and Eric Bana. It has been adapted from the book by the same title written by Philippa Gregory. This is the story of Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary and their lives in the court of King Henry VIII. The movie is beautifully photographed (the intricate costumes alone are worth seeing), but the timeline of the story has been compressed and many of the nuances found in the book – the discussions of power and ambition, the battle between politics and religion – which give the book so much richness and explain the motivations of so many of the characters is mostly lost. The book vividly recreates the grandeur and claustrophobia of court and is peopled with complex, believable characters that bring Tudor England to life. It is also can’t-put-down dramatic. Gregory has written a follow-up to this story called The Boleyn Inheritance which follows the fates of the rest of Henry’s queens. It is as good if not better than the first book.

In this case, although the movie is worth seeing, I think the book is better.

What do you think, what movies have you seen that were better than the book?

It’s About Time! 7 Observations about Springing Ahead

clock1.jpgGet ready folks, Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 A.M. on March 9th. Here are some things to think about as we spring forward.

1. The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.

2. No daylight is actually saved. But who wants to say Daylight Shifting Time?

3. Daylight Saving Time is not observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rica, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Arizona. Notice all these locales are nice warm spots? They probably don’t care so much about shifting their sunny hours.

4. Change your smoke detector batteries.

5. The idea of Daylight Saving Time was first conceived by Benjamin Franklin.

6. The Energy Act of 2005 changed the starting and ending dates of DST. Lobbyists for this provision included the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Convenience Stores. Lobbyists against included the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Parent-Teacher Association.

7. Now the Easter Bunny will have more time before the sun rises to hide eggs.

Revenge of the Nerds

Picture of NerdsWhen thousands of computer guys and gals put their competitive spirit into an effort, you benefit and companies suffer. Here is a greatly abbreviated list of some excellent programs you can install on your computer for free, thanks to their efforts testing and writing code to one-up one another. Depending who you ask, some folks find them better than their paid equivalents.

1)Open Office – A knock off that is fully compatible with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc). Open Office is updated far more frequently, and does not cost several hundred dollars. It costs $0. I uninstalled Microsoft Office because I liked this one better.

2) AVG – Free antivirus program. Works pretty good. You can’t NOT have an antivirus program. That’s asking for trouble.

3) Comodo – There are a lot of creeps out there that would love to get into your computer through the Internet. Run Comodo Firewall and keep them out. Doesn’t make your system run like molasses like some of the so-called total protection programs you can buy.

4) Spybot – When the creeps get in your computer, how do you get rid of the junk they drop all over the place? Spybot Search and Destroy is an excellent spyware detection and removal program. Run it and see for yourself how much they’ve already dropped all over your computer without your permission.

5) Gimp – Would you like to edit your photos but don’t want to spend a few hundred on Photoshop? The GIMP doesn’t have as friendly of an interface, but it does let you do advanced editing beyond crop and resize for the low low cost of nothing.

See what happens when you can get techies to stop playing World of Warcraft for a few minutes?

The Armchair Traveler – Italy

Armchair TravelerEscape with the Armchair Traveler to beautiful Italy. These are not all “travel” books per se, but they will transport you from the frigid Midwest to warmer climes.

Without Reservations: the Travels of An Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach

Steinbach immerses herself in the neighborhoods and culture of European cities she travels to, but she is at her best when describing the thrills, hardships and annoyances of traveling alone.

As the Romans Do: The Delights, Dramas, and Daily Diversions of Life in the Eternal City by Alan Epstein

Again, Europe is seen through the eyes of an American, so the smallest of details of daily life are recorded and celebrated. Epstein describes the communal lifestyle of Rome (hanging out in the piazzas and raising children as a community) He revels in the elegant and beautiful art of conversation and sense of style that is particular to Romans.

Italian Journey by Jean GionoVenice

Written right after WWII, this is an elegant and elegiac view of northern Italy, and Venice, in particular.

An Italian Affair by Laura Fraser

Suddenly single, the author decides to take a trip to Italy where she begins a romance and a journey through Italy. An unsentimental but sensuous memoir.

The Fall of the Sparrow by Robert Hellenga

This novel merges the midwest and Italy, as a classics professor travels to Italy to attend the trial of terrorists responsible for his daughter’s death. (the author teaches at Knox College in Galesburg).

The Dark Heart of Italy by Tobias Jones

Jones balances his love for Italy with the realities of political corruption, Italy’s obsession with soccer and beauty, and Silvio Berlusconi

Next week: the Armchair Traveler visits New York City.

Bad Behavior has blocked 1022 access attempts in the last 7 days.