low v1Low, Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender blew all of my science fiction/fantasy/graphic novel expectations out of the water. Even though the woman on the cover, Stel Caine, the matriarch of the Caine family, is wearing heels, she is an incredibly strong and powerful leader who leads her family and community through despair. Her belief that human consciousness can change your reality pushes her through dark times, leading her to believe deeply that hope can change anything, no matter what the people around her may say or do or what her current circumstances are.

In this first volume, Low begins by introducing you to the Caine family, mom Stel, dad Johl, and their three kids. Many millennia in the future, humanity was forced to abandon the earth’s surface and take refuge underwater because of the sun’s intense radiation. They knew that living underwater would only prove to be a temporary solution as the sun’s radiation would reach them eventually. As a result, the first batch of mankind to live under the waves sent probes into the galaxy to look for inhabitable worlds, knowing their great-great grandchildren would be the only ones who would benefit from the results. Generations later, the Caine family is in control, fighting off invaders and trying to keep their lives together. A great disaster alters their family forever and the Caines are forced to reach deep within themselves to try to find the strength to survive. Grief cannot be given control leading Stel to work to find a solution to both the loss of her family and the necessity of finding a new inhabitable world quickly.

Tocchini’s artwork grew on me. His work is sketch-like with colors that are rich, but also at the same time, muted. His style of drawing really leads you into the different scenes and the different places underwater that the characters find themselves traveling to. I recommend you check this out! (I’m currently deep in the second volume, so stay tuned for a review of that one!)

whyknotDid you hear about the high-wire artist named Philippe Petit who walked between the twin towers in New York City in 1974? A documentary, a movie and several stories have been written about him, including the Caldecott award-winning children’s book by Mordecai Gerstein entitled The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. All of these are fascinating and captivating and I recommend them to you wholeheartedly.

This book is different in that it is written by him. It is called Why Knot? How to Tie More Than Sixty Ingenious, Useful, Beautiful, Lifesaving, and Secure Knots! It isn’t about Petit’s high wire walk between the World Trade Center towers – or any other of his wire walks, for that matter – though he does mention them. Petit reveres the two hundred knots he has mastered (of the four thousand purported to be in existence) as his “guardian angels.” And as the subtitle suggests, he teaches his readers a knot for every occasion. Have an upcoming wedding to attend? There’s a knot for that!

His enthusiasm for the topic is contagious. Whether you are into boating, rock climbing, quilting, animal husbandry or you don’t have time to engage in any of these pastimes because you find yourself constantly chasing around children whose shoelaces always seem to come untied, this book will be useful to you!

 

bizarro

Everyone loves a good superhero, right? They swoop in and save the day, leaving the public stunned at their magnificent feats of strength and good will. Not all superheroes are worshipped though. Enter in Bizarro. Bizarro is Superman’s opposite in every way. From the way he speaks to the way he flies, Bizarro is truly Superman’s mirror opposite.

In this first volume of Bizarro by Heath Corson, Jimmy Olsen, one of Superman’s friends, finds himself on a roadtrip with Bizarro from Metropolis to Bizarro America, aka Canada. Jimmy has an ulterior motive: he wants to create a coffee table book of their adventures, something that will hopefully make him lots of money. Road-tripping with Bizarro turns a little crazy when he introduces Jimmy to Colin, his pet chupacabra, and when Bizarro takes the two of them off on strange and funny adventures. This graphic novel allows readers to follow Bizarro’s mixed-up life and the messes both Jimmy and Bizarro inevitably end up entangled in. I hope future volumes will give readers more of a look into Bizarro’s back story.

Corson is giving new life to Bizarro in this first volume, highlighting all the differences between Superman and Bizarro and even giving the superstars of Metropolis multiple cameos in this book, a shout-out fans of Superman are sure to enjoy. This addition of familiar people to Bizarro’s world helped me ground and better understand this book. (The way Bizarro speaks may push you out of this book, but I encourage you to stick with it and just remember that he always means the opposite of what he is actually saying.) Happy reading!

eligible2Eligible is Iowa Writer’s Workshop graduate Curtis Sittenfeld’s fifth novel.  It is a hilarious modern version of the classic story Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

In Eligible, we find that the Bennet family lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.  All five of the Bennet women are currently living at their parent’s home after their father’s recent heart attack.  Jane and Elizabeth have both been living in New York City.  Jane is a yoga instructor and lives on the Upper East Side.  Lizzie has been writing for feminist fashion magazine and lives in Brooklyn.  Mary has never left home and is working on her third online master’s degree.  Kitty and Lydia also live at home and spend most of their time at CrossFit workouts.  Mrs. Bennet is consumed with her ladies’ clubs and galas.

Of course, as in the original novel, Mrs. Bennet is very concerned with her daughters being married. The Bennet family goes to a Fourth of July picnic, where they meet Chip Bingley.  Mr. Bingley was recently the star on the television show, Eligible which is a dating show where 25 women try to convince the star to marry her.  Also at the picnic, is Fitzwilliam Darcy whom Lizzie does not find charming.  But first impressions can be wrong.

An updated and hilarious version of the classic Pride and Prejudice.  You will find yourself laughing out loud while reading this book.  Available in print, large print and audiobook.

 

If you enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, you might also like these other adaptations:

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american-flagThe Davenport Public Library will be closed on Monday July 4th in observance of the Independence Day holiday. All of our locations will reopen on Tuesday, July 5 with their regular business hours – Main and Eastern 9am to 5:30pm and Fairmount noon to 8pm.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

online colorHello Fellow Avid Readers! July has arrived – time for fireworks, backyard barbeques, Bix and best of all, our next Online Reading Challenge!

July’s theme is Time Travel, a fascinating and intriguing type of fiction that attempts to answer the question, what if? What if you could go back in time, what would you do? Would you make a different decision that would change the course of your life? Would you be able to change the course of history? Prevent terrible disasters? Play the stock market? What if Hitler had won the war? What if JFK hadn’t been assassinated? How would the world be different?

There are lots of great books that fall into this category and while all of them have at least some elements of science fiction (time travel!) many of these titles are far more interested in how the past has shaped us and how changing the past might make us into a different person. They tend to fall into two board categories – changing world history or changing personal history. Here are some great titles to get you started.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This one doesn’t easily fall into one of the above categories but more about how the very act of involuntary time travel affects one person (the traveler mostly but also the people around him) both physically and emotionally. Coping with disappearing suddenly (most employers probably wouldn’t take kindly to that) and reappearing in some unknown location and time – without clothes – can be, understandably, stressful. Finding someone to love and building a life with them seems nearly impossible and yet Henry and Clare manage to create their own version of a happy life. I loved this book – funny and suspenseful with a sweet/sad ending. I could barely put it down and cried and cried at the end (but read it anyway) My best advice for reading this is – go with the flow. Don’t try to make sense of the intertwining timelines or you’ll make yourself crazy, just trust the author. And skip the movie.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Well, I hardly need to introduce this book – who hasn’t heard of it and its many sequels and popular television adaptation? It’s popular for a reason – lots of action and angst and romance (not to mention a fair amount of sex!) this adventure tale of a 1940s era nurse finding herself in the Scottish Highlands during the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie has got it all. Be careful, once this story has grabbed you, you’re not likely to return the 21st century Iowa for some time. Besides the sequels and television adaptation, there are companion books to help you keep track of what’s going on and yes, even a cookbook (The Outlander Kitchen). Yum – haggis!

Books by Connie Willis. Willis seems to specialize in books about time travel and most of them are serious and dark. Lincoln’s Dreams returns us to the bloody battlefields of the Civil War, The Doomsday Book takes us to England in 1438 and the Black Death and Blackout goes to England’s darkest hours of World War II. All of these books are beautifully written, with characters that you care about and the ability to transport you to another era. However, they are all rather grim. My recommendation would be to search out To Say Nothing of the Dog, an unexpectedly light and funny return to the Victorian past, loosely based on Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, this is a delightful romp, perfect for summertime reading.

Other titles well worth considering include Replay by Ken Grimwood,  with a theme similar to Bill Murray/Groundhog Day; The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes where a woman gets to go back and marry a different man; Kindred by Octavia Butler where a modern black woman is transported to the antebellum South; and The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer with a woman thrust into two pasts, one in 1914 and one in 1941.

And what am I planning to read this month? Before I tell you, I have to make a confession. I’ve never read a Stephen King book. Ever. Mostly because I’m a wimp that is easily scared. But I’m going to change that this month and read 11/22/63. A high school English teacher finds a portal that allows him to step back in time and leads him to attempt to prevent the assassination of JFK. It’s gotten excellent reviews and looks like a real page-turner – I’ll let you know how it goes.

Now it’s your turn – what are you going to read this month? Let us know in the comments!

 

online colorWe had some sizzling hot temperatures this month – just right for some indulgent Summer Reads! How did you do? Did you find something wonderful, or did the month slip by too fast?

I read Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen and it certainly put me in a summer vacation mood – four strangers rent an idyllic cottage on a quiet island on the coast of Maine for a month and something magical happens – relationships are repaired, spirits lifted, strangers become friends. Based on the beloved classic Enchanted April (which takes place in 1920s Italy), Enchanted August is a modern retelling that is charming, fun and relaxing to read. I recommend it highly!

For totally unnecessary extra credit, I started reading Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard because who wouldn’t want a summer escape to Provence? A follow-up to her popular Lunch in Paris, this follows her growing family and their move to Provence. It’s lovely, full of evocative descriptions of the gorgeous countryside, the layers of history and, especially, the incredible food. Mostly, when I’m reading this I feel hungry (and a bit envious because – Provence!) I haven’t finished yet, but it’s been a lovely read so far. (I also recommend her previous book because – Paris!)

Now it’s over to you – what did you read this month? And don’t forget to come back tomorrow when we introduce the next topic in our year of Online Reading Challenges!

Books mentioned in this post:

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all the bright placesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven handles difficult topics for teens, from emotional problems and mental illness to death and suicide, but in such a way that everything is written eloquently and seriously, showing the consequences of all actions, no matter how big or small. Niven’s characters are beautifully written. The story really captures the heartbreaking yearning for everything to end up alright by showcasing a compelling search for hope when all seems lost.

All the Bright Places is told from the points of view of two high school students, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. Theodore and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at their school. Finch is fascinated with death, chronicling ways to kill himself. Something good stops him from hurting himself every time. Violet has a countdown until graduation, when she can finally leave Indiana and start a new life away from the aftermath of her older sister’s death.

That first meeting is the start of a very unlikely relationship between the freak, outcast boy, Finch, and the popular, yet damaged girl, Violet. This book weaves an exhilarating and  charming, yet simultaneously heartbreaking, love story between the two that immediately draws you in. When Violet and Finch then pair up on a class project to discover the natural wonders of their state, they learn more about each other than they initially thought. Death-fascinated Finch and future-focused Violet find hope and help by working with each other. Their lives will be forever changed.

This book is also available as an audiobook. If you use RiverShare OverDrive, our e-book and audiobook service, you can check out All the Bright Places as an e-book, as well as an audiobook.

Yellow wallpaperIt isn’t a new book by any means, but I found the themes and the writing of the short stories in The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings so timeless that it could be.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote her stories about a hundred years ago. If you think of authors who lived at the turn of the 20th century to be stodgy, you may be as surprised as I was by Gilman’s candor and (sometimes) humor about gender identity, mental health and social norms. These themes are very much hot-button issues today.

“Herland” is the story that most made me want to check out the book, but I enjoyed all of them. In this utopian fantasy, a group of three male explorers set out to find a secret, all-female civilization rumored to exist in the seclusion of the forest. Their tantalizing visions of what they hope to encounter is not exactly what they actually find!

For a different -but no less interesting- take on the all-female society theme, you may want to check out the graphic novel Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan.

road mangler

Phil Kaufman is an American record producer, tour manager and author.  He began his career as an actor and had small parts in Spartacus, Pork Chop Hill and Riot in Juvenile Prison.  His acting career ended when he was arrested for marijuana smuggling.  While he was in jail, he met the infamous Charles Manson.  After Kaufman was released from prison, he got a job driving for Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull.  At the time, Jagger was living in Los Angeles mixing the album Beggars Banquet.  This was the beginning of Phil’s career in music.  Mick Jagger referred to Kaufman as his “executive nanny”.

In Legend of the Road Mangler, Kaufman (who narrates the audiobook) talks about his adventures while he was on the road with the Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa, Gram Parsons, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Joe Cocker, Etta James, Emmylou Harris, Rosanne Cash, Marty Stuart, Nanci Griffith, and others.  Phil Kaufman is well known for stealing the body of Gram Parsons and burning it in Joshua Tree National Monument.  Phil tells the story as only he can tell it.  Included are the voices of the artists that know him best.

This audiobook is four hours long and it is great for a road trip!  Music fans will love the stories about what goes on behind the scenes with their favorite bands and artists.