southern ritesSouthern Rites is a documentary that takes place in Montgomery County, Georgia. Gillian Laub, a photographer, first visited Montgomery County to photograph the town’s racially divided proms, gaining an insight into community tension. After photographing this, Laub’s story is published in the New York Times Magazine, which inadvertently gives the town unwanted notoriety and ends up forcing them to integrate their proms. Heading back one year later, Laub is not allowed to film the integrated proms and instead stumbles upon another story.

Laub ends up following two main events unfolding in Mount Vernon, GA: 1) an election campaign that the town hopes will lead to its first African-American sheriff and 2) the trial of white resident who is charged with murdering a young black man. Tension is high throughout the community and this documentary really gets to the heart of the problems. As Laub continues to investigate, multiple stories unfold surrounding the murder and each person affected by this tragedy shares their own personal feelings. Southern Rites travels along well-established racial lines in the community and shows how complex emotions and complicated truths are so well entangled. This documentary simultaneously highlights for readers how far we as a society have come, but also how far we still have to go in terms of racial understanding.

landlineLandline is Rainbow Rowell’s second trip into adult relationships, following the release of Attachments. Having read two of her young adult books, I decided to give Landline a try, not knowing what I was getting myself into.

Landline begins by introducing readers to Georgie McCool. Georgie is a writer for a popular television sitcom. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Neal, and their two young daughters. On the outside, it looks like she has it all, but inside, Georgie knows that her marriage is in trouble. It’s not recent trouble, but something that seems to have been brewing under the surface for a long time.

Two days before she is supposed to leave with Neal and the kids to head to Omaha for Christmas, Georgie and her writing partner find themselves under a pile of work that has to be completed as soon as possible. As a result, she is unable to head to Omaha for Christmas, something she knows will anger Neal. He is upset, but instead of the family staying in Los Angeles with her, Neal packs up the kids and heads to Omaha anyway. This makes Georgie worry if she has finally done the one thing that will make her marriage break apart. Is her marriage broken? Has she ruined it?

Desperate to fix things, Georgie begins calling Neal. She never seems to be able to get a hold of him on his cell phone and her phone is always dead. Georgie digs a rotary phone out of her childhood bedroom’s closet and uses it to call Neal at his parents’ house. Their conversation is slightly off-kilter though and bothers Georgie. When she realizes why, she just can’t believe it. Georgie has found a way to talk to a past Neal. What she chooses to do with this will determine what happens in all of their lives.

This book is available in the following formats:

mathews menOne of the indelible images of World War II is of an explosion at sea – a U-boat attack, a ship in flames and an ocean full of men swimming for their lives through oil and debris. The Mathews Men tells the story of what it was like to be on those ships in an almost unknown epic sea battle that took place just off the coast of America. Its heroes were the men of the U.S. Merchant Marine, celebrated at long last in William Geroux’s unforgettable new book.

Mathews County, Virginia, is a remote outpost on the Chesapeake Bay with little to offer except unspoiled scenery. Its men had gone to sea for generations, but in 1942, Mathews mariners suddenly found themselves in the crosshairs of a lethal fleet of U-boats bearing down across the Atlantic. The Germans were determined to sink every American merchant ship they could, to strangle the flow of fuel, arms, and supplies to the Allies. The U.S. Navy initially lacked the inclination and resources to protect the unarmed vessels, and the carnage was staggering. Ships were sometimes torpedoed before the eyes of tourists on American beaches.

Nearly every family in tiny Mathews had a personal stake in the U-boat war, and none had a greater one than that of Captain Jesse and Henrietta Hodges and their seven sons. The Hodges family would experience the war in all its horrors and triumphs around the world, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Indian Ocean to the Arctic Circle. Drawing on interviews with the last living Mathews mariners, family records, diaries, letters, and official documents, Geroux describes how men survived torpedo explosions, flaming oil slicks, storms, shark attacks, and harrowing lifeboat odysseys – only to ship out again as soon as they’d returned to safety. Merchant mariners often died terrible deaths, and suffered a higher casualty rate than any branch of the U.S. military except the Marines, but were denied veterans benefits for decades.

This is a story of valor without glory, of the men who made sure no Allied invasion force was ever thrown back from a beachhead into the sea for want of supplies or weaponry. Merchant mariners landed at D-Day and delivered the crew of the Enola Gay to the Pacific, and when the war was over, it was Merchant Marine ships that brought the troops home. Geroux evokes in vivid, human detail a war beyond the familiar battlefields and its toll on the families back home. Unrecognized by the government, unheralded in the history books, the achievements and sacrifices of the Merchant Marine have been largely ignored – until now. (description from publisher)

american-flagThe Davenport Public Library will be closed on Monday September 5th in observance of the Labor Day holiday. All of our buildings will reopen on Tuesday, September 6th with their regular business hours – Main and Eastern 9am to 5:30pm and Fairmount noon to 8pm.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

fresh fishCooking fish and other seafood at home is much easier than you think!

Fresh Fish offers simple step-by-step instructions for all of the essential cooking methods, including baking, pan-frying, braising, broiling, steaming, poaching, roasting, marinating, and grilling – along with 175 mouthwatering recipes that bring out the best in everything from fish fillets and whole fish to shrimp, mussels, lobster, clams, calamari, and more. You’ll also learn how to buy fish (even whole fish) with confidence, how to serve fish raw, how to clean freshly dug clams, and much more.

Beautiful photography celebrates both the food and the lazy charm of summers at the beach; this is a delightful read as well as the cookbook you need to easily enjoy your favorite seafood at home. (description from publisher)

online colorIt’s September and time for a new Online Reading Challenge! This month, with school swinging back in session and autumn weather (hopefully) approaching, what could be more inviting than books about books?

As you might guess, there are a number of books written about books, or books that center around bookish things. And, there is a book about books for every reader!  Here are a few suggestions to get you started:


ReadersOfBroken-655The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald – The town of Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist–even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory. All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town.

811wT2-uD8LMr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Slone  – The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone – and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore. Bonus glow-in-the-dark cover!

bad ass librariansThe Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer – Seen earlier on this blog, this book tells the incredible story of how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu, later became one of the world’s greatest and most brazen smugglers. In 2012, thousands of Al Qaeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali, including Timbuktu. They imposed Sharia law and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts. As the militants tightened their control over Timbuktu, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali.

8d83dc82-129c-4706-9755-83179562904aThe Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde – Beginning with the Eyre Affair, this alternate history  – surreal and hilariously funny – will appeal to lovers of zany genre work and lovers of classic literature alike. The scene: Great Britain circa 1985, but a Great Britain where literature has a prominent place in everyday life.  In this world where high lit matters, Special Operative Thursday Next (literary detective) seeks to retrieve the stolen manuscript of Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit. The evil Acheron Hades has plans for it: after kidnapping Next’s mad-scientist uncle, Mycroft, and commandeering Mycroft’s invention, the Prose Portal, which enables people to cross into a literary text, he sends a minion into Chuzzlewit to seize and kill a minor character, thus forever changing the novel. Worse is to come. When the manuscript of Jane Eyre, Next’s favorite novel, disappears, and Jane herself is spirited out of the book, Next must pursue Hades inside Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece. The cartoonish characters are either all good or all bad, but the villain’s comeuppance is still satisfying. Witty and clever, this literate romp heralds a fun new series set in a wonderfully original world.

91r-TwAl-eLThe Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler – Simon Watson, a young librarian on the verge of losing his job, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home – a house, perched on the edge of a bluff, that is slowly crumbling toward the sea. His younger sister, Enola, works for a traveling carnival reading tarot cards, and seldom calls. On a day in late June, Simon receives a mysterious package from an antiquarian bookseller. The book tells the story of Amos and Evangeline, doomed lovers who lived and worked in a traveling circus more than two hundred years ago. The paper crackles with age as Simon turns the yellowed pages filled with notes, sketches, and whimsical flourishes; and his best friend and fellow librarian, Alice, looks on in increasing alarm. Why does his grandmother’s name, Verona Bonn, appear in this book? Why do so many women in his family drown on July 24? Could there possibly be some kind of curse on his family – and could Enola, who has suddenly turned up at home for the first time in six years, risk the same fate in just a few weeks? In order to save her – and perhaps himself – Simon must try urgently to decode his family history while moving on from the past. Enthusiastically recommended by our Customer Service Supervisor!

genevievecogman-theinvisiblelibraryThe Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman – Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author. One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction. Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option – because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself.

Ann (your regularly scheduled host) reports that her choice for this month is The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. She and I have very different tastes, so I’m going with the comic book series Rex Libris by James Turner and I’ll also be paying another visit to Mr. Penumbra.

What about you? What are you going to read this September? Let us know in the comments!

A few more suggestions:
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabielle Zevin
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Fowler
Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting and Living With Books by Michael Dirda
A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
A Likely Story: A Library Lover’s Mystery by Jenn McKinlay
The Forgers by Bradford Morro
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

the-art-of-fieldingHello Fellow Book Lovers! How did your August reading adventure go? Did you find a great sports themed book? Were you inspired by the Olympics to try something different? Or did you finish off the podium this month?

I’ve been laid up this month (fully on the mend now and returning soon!) and expected to read multiple books – I had stockpiled a lovely stack of enticing titles. But the truth is, I was often just too tired to do much beyond my physical therapy exercises other than stare at the tv (or nap!) Thank goodness for the Olympics! I am not a fan of daytime tv but the Olympics proved to be a great source of inspiration and drama. Because I was home during the day I was able to watch many of the “obscure” sports that I only see during the Olympics such as flat water canoeing and equestrian and badminton and lacrosse and trampoline (!). I was especially intrigued by the rowing contests, having loved Dan Brown’s brilliant The Boys in the Boat; I felt I had at least an inkling of what those athletes went through to reach the pinnacle of their sport and also now knew a bit of the sports’ history and background. It was a prefect example of books enriching your life.

I did manage to read a sports themed book this month, although it’s the non-Olympic sport of baseball. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach may center on college baseball, but it’s real heart is the lives of the characters and the long-reaching consequences of one random mistake. Henry Skrimshander is spotted playing during a summer baseball tournament by Mike Schwartz, the catcher of Westish College, who sees Henry’s potential  – Henry is an artist on the field, snagging every ball that comes his way and throwing with precision and accuracy. Schwartz manages to get Henry a scholarship to Westish and helps him train and practice. Suddenly Westish has a bona fide pro prospect playing for them and baseball scouts begin showing interest. Henry flourishes as his skills improve and he becomes a student of the game. The future opens before him, bright and promising.

Until one day Henry throws a ball that goes wildly off course, hitting his friend and roommate Owen, sitting in the dugout, in the face. It wasn’t out of malice, it was simply a slip with a wet ball on a windy and rainy day. Except for an impressive shiner, Owen is fine and never blames Henry, but Henry loses his nerve and suddenly, the magic that was his fielding is gone; he simply cannot play the game anymore. The consequences of this one slip and it’s effect on Henry and his friends and teammates make up the bulk of the book – how Henry struggles with and copes (not always constructively) with his panic, how his friends and teammates rally around him, how people are brought together that might never have met, of learning to find purpose again when your life suddenly changes course. A warmhearted, thoughtful book; highly recommended.

How about you – what did you read this month? Let us know in the comments!

And a quick note – many thanks to my guest editors Allison and Stephanie who have been keeping the blog afloat for me! See you next month!

sage livingPerfectly named style maven and City Sage blogger Anne Sage knows a wise truth: decorating our living spaces for our goals is the first step in making them happen.

In Sage Living, she opens the door to covetable dwellings designed to boost the dreams of their occupants, from the sunny, open-air kitchen of a holistic nutritionist to the eclectic living room of a world traveler ready to put down roots.

With page after page of stunning interiors, engagingly written home stories, and hundreds of design tips for every room, Sage Living goes beneath the stylized surface to help readers decorate for the lives they truly want. (description from publisher)

boys in the bunkhouseWith this Dickensian tale from America’s heartland, New York Times writer and columnist Dan Barry tells the harrowing yet uplifting story of the exploitation and abuse of a resilient group of men with intellectual disability, and the heroic efforts of those who helped them to find justice and reclaim their lives.

In the tiny Iowa farm town of Atalissa, dozens of men, all with intellectual disability and all from Texas, lived in an old schoolhouse. Before dawn each morning, they were bussed to a nearby processing plant, where they eviscerated turkeys in return for food, lodging, and $65 a month. They lived in near servitude for more than thirty years, enduring increasing neglect, exploitation, and physical and emotional abuse – until state social workers, local journalists, and one tenacious labor lawyer helped these men achieve freedom.

Drawing on exhaustive interviews, Dan Barry dives deeply into the lives of the men, recording their memories of suffering, loneliness and fleeting joy, as well as the undying hope they maintained despite their traumatic circumstances. Barry explores how a small Iowa town remained oblivious to the plight of these men, analyzes the many causes for such profound and chronic negligence, and lays out the impact of the men’s dramatic court case, which has spurred advocates–including President Obama – to push for just pay and improved working conditions for people living with disabilities.

A luminous work of social justice, told with compassion and compelling detail, The Boys in the Bunkhouse is more than just inspired storytelling. It is a clarion call for a vigilance that ensures inclusion and dignity for all. (description from publisher)

diy artisanal soapsMaking your own luxurious and lovely soaps is easier than you think. With DIY Artisanal Soaps, you’ll find everything you need to make all-natural, custom-designed soaps using locally sourced ingredients and beautifully scented essential oils.

Featuring easy-to-follow instructions and tips for personalizing your designs, this book guides you through every step of soapmaking, allowing you to create unique bath and home products every time. Learn how to turn your garden or farmers’ market finds into beautiful, handcrafted soaps, with invigorating scents like peppermint and rosemary or the summer-inspired pairings of ginger and papaya. You can even customize the fragrances and textures in the recipes to create the perfect product for your skincare needs.

Complete with stunning photographs and unique ideas for gifting, packaging, and selling your creations, DIY Artisanal Soaps helps you bring the vibrant colors and scents of nature into your home. (description from publisher)