ReadingChallengeBWHere it is, the end of March and the finish of another month in our Online Reading Challenge. So, how’d you do? Did you read anything amazing? Or was this month just kind of “meh”?

My March book was The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern. This is a lovely, magical story with many layers and, at its heart, a love story.

A circus, consisting of multiple black and white striped tents, mysteriously appears in the night. It stays for a few days, performing only at night, delighting the locals with various fantastic and magical acts, then disappears again as if it never existed. There is no schedule for when or where it will appear again, but it draws a loyal following wherever it opens.

What most people don’t realize is that the circus is actually a stage for a duel being played out by two fierce competitors, each pitting one of their students against the other. The students, Celia and Marco, have been trained since childhood. The purpose of the duel is never explained to them nor is the fact that the duel is to the death until long after they have fallen in love with each other. What would you do to save the one you love? Would you sacrifice yourself? Or allow them to sacrifice themselves to save you? What would you do to spare the innocent people caught in this mad game, one you never asked to be a part of?

Beautifully written with a large supporting cast of unique and interesting characters, The Night Circus is by turns charming and fun, serious and suspenseful. I especially loved the stories of Poppet and Widget and their performing kittens, but there are many characters to love. The story jumps back and forth through time, and changes viewpoint multiple times which can make it difficult to keep track of what is happening, but also adds to the secretive and not-knowing-all-the-answers of the action. I recommend it highly, but be prepared for a sometimes wild ride!

So, what is your opinion of Magical Realism?  What is the appeal of magical realism in fiction? I think it has something to do with the fact that, no matter how sophisticated we become, or how much we tie ourselves to technology, there is a basic need for joy and delight and the unexpected. I think we also wish for the impossible sometimes, for an outcome that can only happen with the aid of something inexpiable.

Let me know in the comments what you thought of this month’s reading choices and any recommendations that you might have!

ReadingChallengeBWHello Fellow Book Lovers!

Here we are at the mid-point of the first month of the Online Reading Challenge. How are you doing? Have you picked out a book to read yet? Have you started reading, or maybe you’re already finished – let us know in the comments!

As I mentioned before, I’m reading The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson. It’s going well, although I do have a problem – it’s very difficult to read it in public since I am constantly chuckling, snorting, and laughing out loud. Bryson has not lost his edge, with many pointed, on-the-mark observations, but his humor has been softened (well, a bit) with time and is often aimed at himself. It is easy to tell that he truly loves his adopted country and, while he might sometimes despair, he also delights in it’s beauty and endless variety.

I should be able to finish this book in a couple days; for (completely unrequired) extra credit, I think I will try to finish Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I actually bought a copy of this book (something that, as a librarian I don’t do all that often) to take on a trip, but only read a couple of chapters even though I was enjoying it. Does that ever happen to you? An interesting book comes to you, but, for one reason or another, it doesn’t get read. Sometimes I come across a “to read someday” book several times before it either drops off the list or I finally read it. This time I’m going to try Wild again and see if it sticks.

In other news, the promised Reading Challenge bookmarks are now available! They’re great for keeping your place in your book of course, but these also list the theme for each month with space for you to write in the title you read. A fun way to keep track of your progress! You can find the bookmarks at each of the Davenport Library buildings in the literature displays and with the Challenge book displays.

Finally, are you still looking for the perfect Journeys title? Here are a couple more ideas to consider.

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel Follow along with Pi when finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. Patchett is easily by favorite contemporary author, but I hesitated to read this when it first came out and it became one of those “someday” books. When I did finally read it, I found I could hardly put it down again. It has mystery, action, love stories, medical mysteries, the ties of family and a heroine in the darkest Amazon rain forest. Highly recommended.

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. A modern classic of the ultimate American journey, follow along as Lewis and Clark open up the great American frontier, treking where no white man had ever been.

Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian. I am a huge fan of the entire Master and Commander series (20 volumes) and as a result probably know a lot more about early 19th century British naval practice than one might expect from a 21st century American woman. If you like Jane Austin, adventure, action, humor, historical fiction, and interesting characters you’ll like this epic tale of the improbable friendship of Jack and Stephen, all taking place against the backdrop of  the beautiful tall ships of the Napoleonic era. It’s brilliant.

So, you’re in a book club.

Did you know that the Davenport libraries have just what you need?  Not only have we gathered multiple copies of the same title (and same edition) together into one convenient check-out box, but we’ve added lots of extras.  There’s biograhpical information about the author plus thought-provoking discussion questions.  Many of these questions have been pre-tested by various book groups here at the library. Each kit also has useful tips for starting and maintaining a successful book club.  So, you see, we’ve done the hard part for you!  All you have to do is choose from 37 different kits. We have a whole list for your selection, but here’s a few examples:  The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.