Destiny 2 Video Game

Many people give the Borderlands franchise credit for the creation of the “Looter Shooter” genre as we now know it, but I think credit should be given to Destiny for how Bungie has been able to perfect it. Destiny 2 is going free-to-play on September 17th of this year. That means that you won’t have to purchase or check out the game to play the base game on your console of choice. Swing by the Davenport Library and check out the game before that date to get a head start on your friends!

Destiny 2 is a Looter shooter, that means you are going to be shooting a lot of aliens, robots and alien robots. As you are blowing up those bad guys, you are going to level up and get newer and shinier equipment and weapons so that you can continue to blow up aliens, robots and alien robots. This grind is made even more fun if you have a few friends to tag along with. Co op in Destiny 2 consists of 3 total players (or 6 if you are trying to tackle Raid content) and I think the game is the most fun when tackled by a full party.

There is also the competitive crucible mode that pits players against each other in a variety of modes that cap out at 6 v 6 competition. Being that Bungie are the initial developers of the Halo series, the gunplay is quick, smooth and very well executed.  There is something for everyone’s playstyle in Destiny 2 and it is a great game if you are looking for something to sink a lot of time into. There is always something to do in Destiny 2 and it is constantly being updated with new DLC expansions.

If grindy loot quests are your cup of tea, then look no further than Destiny 2.

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke

Do you read your star signs? Do you follow what your stars tell you? I’ll admit I sometimes check my star sign (Gemini over here), but it’s not something I do every day. None of my friends really live by their astrological signs either, so when I read Minnie Darke’s debut novel, Star-Crossed, I was pleased to see that I was going to be learning more about horoscopes throughout this novel.

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke tells the story of childhood sweethearts Justine and Nick. Justine is a major skeptic and a Sagittarius, while Nick is an Aquarius  and an astrological devotee. Specifically Nick is a true believer and follower of the horoscopes by his favorite astrologer in a local magazine. After bumping into each other, Justine realizes that Nick’s favorite astrologer works for the same paper that she works for! Moving up as a coffee runner, Justine finds herself with more responsibilities at the newspaper. One of those responsibilities: inputting in the horoscopes for each issue.

Justine and Nick continuously run into each other, leading Justine to believe that the two will eventually fall in love with each other. Nick’s actions continuously prove otherwise. He IS NOT falling in love with Justine. Feeling torn up about this, Justine decides to tweak his horoscope in order to lean Nick more towards her loving arms. By changing Aquarius, Justine is changing fate. What Justine fails to realize is that Nick is not the only astrological devotee of her newspaper. Other Aquarius are making very important life decisions and changes based on Justine’s new horoscopes.

This novel takes fate and destiny and turns them upside down by charting Justine’s meddling throughout months of the newspaper’s horoscopes. By discussing horoscopes, Darke shows readers how going through life on your own is overwhelming, so finding friendship and help through the stars helps people make choices that are hard to figure out when it feels like you are alone.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello Fellow Readers!

How is August treating you? Have you found something great to read for the month of Art? I’ve already finished my book (Stolen Beauty by Laurie Albanese) which I’ll talk more about at the end of the month, but if you’re still looking, I recommend you take a look at this title.

If you haven’t found anything yet for August and are looking for something relatively quick, I have some movie suggestions for you.

Monuments Men with George Clooney and Matt Damon (and many other famous names) follows the World War II platoon that went into Germany to try and save and recover some of the thousands of art and artifacts stolen by the Nazi’s. Not the greatest film ever made, but the history of this real life group of men (based on fact) is riveting.

Mr Turner stars Timothy Spall as J.M.W. Turner, Britain’s most famous and revered landscape painter. Turner wasn’t exactly the most pleasant fellow, and this film doesn’t gloss that over.

Pollock with Ed Harris depicts the story of Jackson Pollock, the first great American modern painter. With success comes fame and fortune, but a volatile temper and emotional instability brings self-doubt and threatens his life’s work.

Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 10 – “Vincent and the Doctor”. OK, this one is not a movie, but an episode from the television series Doctor Who and even if you’re not a Doctor Who fan (Really? Come on!), this is well worth tracking down. The Doctor and his companion Amy travel back in time and try to help Vincent Van Gogh. He is plagued by terrible visions (which turn out to be a terrible monster from another planet only he can see, but just go with it) While the story is science fiction, the human elements – Van Gogh’s suffering, the Doctor and Amy’s compassion, the impact of Van Gogh’s legacy is brilliant, beautiful and ultimately, heartbreaking. Highly recommended.

Travel Talk – Iowa, Part 3

Hello again! Here we are with our third installment of exploring Iowa for Travel Talk. This month Michelle and I are talking about some great museums. I love museums – art, history, science I love it all. In my experience, museums are beautiful places filled with endlessly interesting and inspiring displays. Guess what – the museums in Iowa are no different. Bonus – these are all within in an easy day trip of Davenport!

Here are Michelle’s picks:

The University of Iowa Natural History Museum in downtown Iowa City is a free and fascinating look at Iowa’s history.  The museum offers an up-close look at hundreds animals from around Iowa and the world.  The Hall of Birds and the Hall of Mammals are especially worth a visit. When visiting the Hall of Birds, visitors can view over 1,000 birds, many who make their permanent or seasonal residence in Iowa.  These specimens were collected throughout the years by University of Iowa professors. Make sure you find the Laysan Island Cyclorama which replicates a 1914 bird sanctuary in Laysan, an outpost of the Hawaiian atoll.  In 1914, the sanctuary was the home to over 8 million birds of 22 different species.  Across the museum is the Hall of Mammals which displays animals from around the world.  Among the highlights is the skeleton of a 47 foot Atlantic Right Whale.  A final stop should be Iowa Hall, which allows visitors to travel through Iowa’s 500 million year geological, cultural and ecological history.

The Des Moines Art Center is a gem both inside and outside, with noteworthy art on its walls along with the architects who designed the structure in three parts.  The building is designed by world famous architects Eliel Saarinen (portion built in 1948), I.M. Pei (structure completed in 1968), and Richard Meier finishing the museum in 1985.  Inside, the Art Center has a stellar permanent collection which includes works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper and Alexander Calder along with rotating special exhibitions.  A second part of the Art Center is the Pappajohn Sculpture Park located in downtown Des Moines.  Admission is free for both!

And here are my recommendations.

National Czech and Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids. Completely rebuilt after the devastating 1993 flood, the Czech Museum is a gorgeous tribute to the craftsmanship and beauty (don’t miss the crystal chandelier in the lobby) of Czech art. There are also extensive displays of the history of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. These include full size reproductions of a Communist watch tower and steerage rooms that immigrants would have stayed in on their voyage to America. There are also stunning examples of crystal, porcelain and needlework on display.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch. His Presidency might not have been a success, but Herbert Hoover was a great statesman. He was instrumental in providing food relief to Europe and Russia during and after World War I and later after World War II, saving millions of lives. He and his wife Lou traveled extensively and many of the things they collected on these travels are on display. There is also a lot of information about Lou who was brilliant in her own right (to this day, she is the only First Lady to speak an Asian language – in this case Mandarin Chinese)

This is just the tip of the iceberg – there are loads of great museums throughout the state – and in Davenport itself! (the Figge, the German American Heritage Center and the Putnam, to get you started) Here’s a tip for you – keep an eye on the website of any museum you might be interested in – most of them have exhibits that run for a short period of time as well as their permanent displays. These can be a great opportunity to see art and artifacts from far-flung museums, right in your own backyard!

Now what about you – what museums in Iowa would you recommend?

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Tiffy needs a place to live, now, but her low-paying editorial assistant job doesn’t exactly allow for posh digs. Or anyplace that’s habitable really. So, against the advice of friends, she takes a flatshare. It’s a nice apartment in a great location in central London and she can actually afford the rent, what’s not to like? Ok, her new flatmate is a guy and there’s, um, only one bed but! He works nights as a pallative care nurse and spends the weekends at his girlfriends’ place so they’ll never see each other. Right? Great! Problem solved!

Leon needs some extra cash. He loves his job but it takes most of his energy and time so a second job isn’t the answer. He’s almost never at his flat except to sleep during the day so why not share the space? It’s a great plan! Leon’s girlfriend shows the potential roomie the flat and assures Leon that Tiffy is dull and unattractive. Perfect! Leon doesn’t even have to meet the flatmate, it’s all tidy and anonymous and great! Except, Tiffy brings some of her things to the flat – which, ok, to be expected – but they’re bright and girly and the opposite of dull. Huh.

Then the post-it notes begin. At first it’s formal and impersonal – “Help yourself to the leftover cookies!” – but pretty soon their notes become friendlier and bits of their personalities shine through. Tiffy is bright and funny and optimistic and Leon is kind and patient. Of course, inevitably, they run into each other, in the flesh. Literally. Sparks fly. Tiffy is not dull and unattractive. Leon has recently broken up with his girlfriend. Can Tiffy and Leon move from flatmates to friends to something more?

The Flatshare is a fun romance. The final outcome is pretty much inevitable but the path these two take is interesting and adds a lot to the story. There is the shadow of domestic abuse (NOT between Tiffy and Leon) and the long term damage it causes, staying loyal to someone when everyone else has doubts, taking a risk and walking through that door, opening yourself up to love again. Leon and Tiffy are great characters that you’ll root for, and their supporting cast are fun and interesting. Plus, it’s set in London. Blimey! What’s not to like?

State of Decay 2 Video Game

I remember playing the original State of Decay on my Xbox 360 and I loved it. Scavenging, surviving and strategizing with my own group of survivors gave so much freedom and options for how to play without it being too overwhelming. The one glaring issue that I had with the first game was that I couldn’t play it with friends. It was single player only. This is an issue that developer Undead Labs aimed to remedy with the sequel.  Multiplayer play is the biggest feature added to State of Decay 2 and it works beautifully.

State of Decay 2 is an RPG mixed with some strategy game elements  like community and base management. You play as any of the survivors that you have recruited into your community and establish bases, outposts and form alliances (and conflict) with other communities that you come into contact with in the open world, all while having to fight off the hordes of the undead. State of Decay 2 has a feature that is unique for current games. Permadeath. If one of your survivors dies when going on a scavenging expedition, they stay dead, no respawn, no returning to the last game save. This creates a sense of tension and intrigue even on the most mundane of errands that takes the player outside of their base.

If you played the original State of Decay, then this sequel gives you everything from the original but a lot more of it. With three full fleshed-out maps to build your community of survivors in, you can put hours and hours into just going through each of the areas and clearing out zombie infestations and blood plague areas. There is also a story mode that follows the quest to create a cure for the zombie plague. Once you complete the story missions on one of the three maps, you are given the option to relocate your community onto one of the other two maps and continue playing through the story there.

I recommend State of Decay 2 for anyone that is a fan of RPGs or the zombie horror genre, and I doubly recommend it if you are someone like me who is a fan of both. It has a ton of replay value, just enough depth to keep the player intrigued and the multiplayer options make the game a million times more fun to play.

State of Decay 2 is an Xbox One exclusive available at the Davenport Public Library.

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

Have you ever recognized someone on the street or in a picture online, but you just can’t place where they’re from? Alice Feeney uses that as a piece of her main character’s development in her latest novel, I Know Who You Are.

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney is twisty thriller following an actress working to make a name for herself. Aimee Sinclair has the face of someone that most people recognize, but they can’t remember where she is from. Even Aimee has trouble keeping her past life and present life separate. You see, Aimee has a past that she has never shared with anyone and with that past comes a devastating secret that, if uncovered, would have the power to destroy the life she has carefully crafted for herself. There is just one problem: Someone knows Aimee very well. They know her past, what she did, and who she really is.

Aimee seems to have everything going for her, but bubbling just under the surface of her life, things are preparing to destroy everything. Coming home one night, Aimee finds her husband missing. She is at a loss of what to do since his cell phone and wallet are still sitting on the dining room table alongside a giant bouquet of apology flowers. While she is worried, she isn’t in a full-on panic because the night before they had gotten into a heated argument where they both exchanged words that they did not mean and he did things that she will never be able to forget.

Thinking that he will eventually come home, Aimee gets up the next morning for a run and a trip to her favorite coffee shop, only to discover her card has been denied. Calling the bank, Aimee finds out her account has been emptied, theoretically by her. This unnerves her. After reporting her husband missing, detectives show up at her door to question her. Telling them what happened, detectives begin to believe that she is hiding something. They aren’t wrong. Unwilling to divulge everything she knows, Aimee unwillingly sends the police in the wrong direction while the police work to prove that Aimee is behind her husband’s disappearance. Actions come to a head when both sides come up against a wall regarding Aimee’s husband’s disappearance. Aimee’s past has finally come back to haunt her and demands acknowledgment in such a dangerous way that has the power to destroy everything around her.

This novel takes everything that we think we know about ourselves, actors and actresses, the police, and disappearance cases and turns it all on its head. I’ll admit that I thought I had the plot twist figured out pretty early on, but the ending of this book quickly caught me off guard. Check out this book and let me know what you think in the comments below!


This book is also available in the following formats:

Racing to the Finish by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Racing to the Finish by Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn’t just about racing, it is about learning when it is time to quit. Wanting to go out on your own terms is something that every competitor in every sport discipline can identify with. After years of physical punishment and concussions, it was time for Jr. to retire from his #88 ride at the end of his 2017 season, in this book, Dale explains why.

Concussions have long been a specter in motorsports, no amount of safer barriers and HANS devices can fully cushion the blow of an impact when you smack into the wall at 200+ mph. Dale goes over how his injuries have affected him throughout his racing career, experiencing concussion symptoms after a wreck, then shrugging them off to get into the car the next week. Concussions and the lack of understanding around them affect sports of all shapes and sizes and Dale Jr. does a phenomenal job of going over how the concussions presented themselves from within the car and in his personal life.

Dale also goes over the recovery process after his final concussion at Michigan International Speedway in 2016 and how he decided after that crash that, if he recovered, he would only race one more season in NASCAR. This story not only goes over Jr’s history of concussions but also goes over his drive to recover in those months leading up to his final season. A great insight into a legendary driver with a very personable voice. The narration feels like Dale is right there talking to you about his struggles. It truly is an insightful book that I recommend to anyone that is a fan of motorsports or sports in general. This book does a great job of bringing attention to the problem of concussions in sports and how little they are talked about or understood.

 

One Day in December by Josie Silver

This book caught my eye when it popped up as a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick. Seeing that there was a wait list, I decided to hold out and wait until it came out on OverDrive. Just this last week, I stumbled upon this title again as available. I hurriedly checked it out and started reading. I devoured this title in less than two days!

One Day in December by Josie Silver may be in the fiction section, but it definitely is full of romance as two of the main characters feel the constant push and pull of attraction throughout their lives over a ten year history.

Laurie is on her way home when she spots a mysterious man at a bus stop. Through the foggy and misty window on the blustery snowy December day, Laurie is floored by the instant attraction that courses through her. When he lifts his head up and their eyes meet, something jolts through her body and she knows that he is the one for her. Stymied by indecision, Laurie is at a loss of what to do. Just as she’s gathering her courage, her bus drives away.

Thoroughly believing that she and bus boy are fated to find each other again, Laurie and her best friend Sarah spend the next year scouring every conceivable place in London looking for him. She becomes even more obsessed thinking that she sees him in crowds, in cafes, at different bus stops, anywhere and everywhere. Her journey to find bus boy comes to a screeching halt at their annual Christmas party when Sarah finally brings her new boyfriend to show off for Laurie. As they are introduced, Laurie feels that jolt pass through her again. The man that Sarah has been gushing about for months is Jack. Jack is bus boy. Laurie is understandably devastated.

Not wanting to destroy Sarah’s happiness, Laurie and Jack enter into an unspeaking pact to never tell Sarah that the two have met before. As a result, Laurie, Sarah, and Jack live the next ten years somewhat normally. They go through heartbreaks, intense friendships, new romances, family troubles, and new careers, all while fate works behind the scenes to guide them where they need to be.

Told through snippets of different days throughout the ten years that pass after Laurie first saw Jack, One Day in December tells the story of how love changes and morphs as we grow older. While Laurie may not believe in love at first sight, this novel works to prove that fate has a hand in every decision that we make and ultimately will lead us towards happiness in many different forms.


This book is also available in the following format:

Crash Team Racing Video Game

Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled is a remake of an original Playstation Kart racing game called Crash Team Racing. However, this remake has much more content than what was included in the original. This game includes all of the race tracks from the original Crash Team Racing as well as every track from Crash Team Racing’s sequel for the Playstation 2 Crash Nitro Kart.

In Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled, the player plays as a character from the world of Crash Bandicoot. Whether that be a giant tiger named Tiny, or an mad scientist with a rocket lodged into his head named Dr. N. Gin, there is a wide variety of cartoon racers to pick from and even more customization when it comes to the kart that the character drives.

This game is a ton of fun for anyone looking for an arcade karting game that isn’t Mario Kart from Nintendo. It looks beautiful, this remake really shows how far graphics have come in the 20 years since the release of the original Crash Team Racing.

Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled includes the Adventure single player mode from the original game, an online multiplayer mode as well as split screen support so you can bring a whole bunch of friends into your living room and race against each other there.

There is a ton to do in this arcade kart racer and even more fun if you have friends to tag along and do it with you. I highly recommend this game to fans of the original or fans of kart racing games in general. Even though it is a remake, it also serves as a reminder of why this game got a remake in the first place. This game holds up even after 20 years.

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