Tara Parker-Pope decided to gather all the science and research about marriage and relationships into one book. Her impetus was the failure of her own marriage; she wanted to know if she could have done anything to prevent her divorce.
This self-help book is unusual in that the author isn’t spinning conjecture; her “advice” is all based on research. Some of the most interesting studies were about arguments; turns out the subject matter and frequency is less important than the level of scorn. She also warns that the first three minutes of an argument are critical. The outcome can be less damaging, the more open and less explosive you are.
For Better is full of practical advice about how differences in financial style, child rearing and household chores affect a relationship.
Often, commonly held wisdom was not found to be the case in real life. Very useful for long-married and newly married couples.
The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson is the memoir of a young woman who makes the life-changing decision to abandon atheism and convert to Islam. After being offered a teaching position at the Language School, Wilson moves to Cairo, Egypt, where she experiences what it is really like to be a Muslim woman in a Middle Eastern country. Here she quickly discovers that she must learn all over again how to do simple things like greet someone and shop for groceries. Her life takes an unexpected turn when she meets Omar, who defies the stereotypes of Muslim men she has always heard about. As Omar teaches Willow how to get by in this new environment, the two fall in love and embark upon a new journey where two cultures come together and learn to relate to one another.
I absolutely loved this book. I was a Religion major in college, so I had a little background knowledge of Islam, but I learned so much more about it from reading an actual Muslim woman’s perspective. It was incredibly enlightening to learn about what it’s like for a real Muslim woman in the Middle East, rather than just focusing on the often sad images we see on the news. Despite being in a place so different from where we live, the story is still relatable, and the author takes care to always explain Arabic words and cultural concepts to the reader. If you’re interested in learning about about Islam but want something that reads like a novel rather than a textbook, I highly recommend The Butterfly Mosque.
Hey – here’s an idea! Let’s combine two great party ingredients – alcohol and cake – into one! The result is the fun-filled Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked with Spirits, Wine and Beer by Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone and a guaranteed good time for everyone.
Cakes range from the traditional that your grandmother might have made (well, your grandmother maybe, not, unfortunately, mine) such as English Trifle and Black Forest Cake, to cakes based on cocktails. The emphasis here is on fun – cake shots! – and tasty. Recipes are easy to follow and most include 2-3 variations. Also, each cake includes information on how much alcohol remains after baking – lightweight, feeling it and totally tipsy – as well as suggestions for appropriate special occasions and accompanying cocktails.
Of course, you will need to bake responsibly when including alcohol – you’d have to eat a lot of cake to get tipsy (although I suppose it’s within the realm of possibility) but you should be considerate of teetotalers and those with alcohol issues. The real goal here is to have fun, in the kitchen and with friends.
Oprah was on to something – book clubs are a great way to expand your appreciation and understanding of a book. Of course, books groups and sharing favorite titles has been around almost as long as the printed word, but thanks to Oprah there’s been a huge ressurgance in their popularity the past few years. The Women’s National Book Association celebrates book groups during the month of October, promoting the sharing of great books with the National Reading Club Month program.
Be sure to check out their 2010 selection of Great Group Reads – even if you don’t belong to a book group, lists like this can often point you toward that next great book. Book club books are usually timely, well-written, thoughtful and provocative, all of which add up to a great read. Just take a look at this list – anything on there you haven’t tried yet?
Blame by Michelle Huneven
The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle
Cheap Cabernet: A Friendship by Cathie Beck
Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deirdre Madden
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin
Room by Emma Donoghue
Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye
Up from the Blue by Susan Henderson
Filled with beautiful photos, The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking by Jane Brocket is not just for quilters – anyone will be able to find ample inspiration in the designs, colors and presentation of these glorious quilts.
Ideal for beginners as well as more experience quilters, instructions are given for 15 quilts and emphasize simplicity. Descriptions are clear and written in a chatty and encouraging tone. These quilts are more European in style; many take full advantage of the lovely large floral fabrics that are becoming more popular, and have a softer, less defined overall look and feel than many traditional American patchwork quilts. They are undeniably lovely.
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this book though, is the design and inspiration process that Brocket takes us through for each quilt. The author shows us what has inspired a particular quilt – a favorite summer dress, flowers from the garden, a backyard hammock, tiles from Lisbon or a shawl from Russia – and then demonstrates how she translates this starting point into a quilt. Besides the usual section on how to make a quilt, Brocket lists favorite inspirations – books, shops, blogs, museums – and gives valuable insight on how to translate your vision into a finished object to be loved and cherished.
The Davenport Public Library has a great resource available for the do it yourself weekend project – and you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home! The Home Improvement Reference Center database is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. A few of the options that are available:
*The ability to search by home improvement topic is simple (decorating, electrical, outdoor projects, plumbing, and woodworking, as a few examples) and also allows you read the full magazine articles, allowing you complete a project from start to finish.
*For inspirational ideas click on the “Project Spotlight.”
*Tips are included for working with contractors successfully.
*The Home Improvement Reference Center offers a full video library with helpful explanations.
To access this database and a number of others go to www.davenportlibrary.com and follow the links on the left hand side of the page to “Do Research Online!”
Based in part upon her own life experiences, author Jean Kwok has hit the mark in her debut novel, Girl in Translation. Much like her character, Kwok also emigrated from Hong Kong and starting working in a Chinese sweatshop at a young age. She and her family also lived in a roach and rat-infested apartment — without heat! Still, this story is not so much about deprivation, but more of a story about hope and about overcoming adversity — in short, it’s today’s version of the American dream.
Ah-Kim Chang (translated to Kimberly once they moved to New York) had always excelled in school. After her father died, she and her mother are indebted to Aunt Paula for financing their trip to America, so they both begin working long hours in a Chinatown clothing factory for much less than minimum wage. On top of this, they live in a condemned apartment (think roaches, no heat, and garbage bags covering the window) and Kimberly must also attend school, where language and cultural differences abound. As she begins to master English, she again begins to show academic promise, eventually earning admission to an elite private high school, and thereby paving the way for her ticket out of the slums.
The author sometimes spells out conversations phonetically — an effective technique –especially since she wanted the English-speaking reader to understand life on the “other side of the language barrier.” She also incorporates a few surprising plot twists at the end, which helps makes the story even more personable and endearing. Highly recommended.
With Caprica Season 1.0 about to be released on DVD, I think this is a great time to revisit its predecessor. It isn’t often that my husband and I can both sit down and enjoy the same TV series, but when I brought home Battlestar Galactica: Season 1 from the library, we were both instantly hooked.
The show starts off with a familiar concept: a few decades ago, humans created artificial intelligence called Cylons in order to make their lives easier, but the Cylons eventually waged war on their human masters. A truce was declared, and the Cylons weren’t heard from for 40 years. But just as the fleet’s oldest ship (the Battlestar Galactica) is about to be decomissioned, the Cylons return and attack the colonies, leaving only about 50,000 humans alive. All while being hunted by the Cylons, the last living humans must search the galaxy for their new home: a mythical place called Earth.
With a cast of compelling and complex characters (including Galactica’s Commander, his son the pilot, the newly sworn in President of the colonies, a pilot with a BIG secret, and a morally conflicted scientist), the show is not just another action-packed sci-fi adventure. It is also filled with drama, political strife, theological questions, and even some romance here and there. The twists and turns are shocking, and the plotlines really make you think about our society today. The way the seasons are packaged is a little annoying (it goes season 1, 2.0, 2.5, 3, 4.0, and 4.5) so it’s important to make sure you don’t accidentally skip a season. I could write pages and pages about this show, but I think I should stop now so that I don’t ruin any surprises. Trust me, you don’t want to be spoiled. Stop by the library to pick up a copy of Season 1. I can almost guarantee you’ll be coming back for Season 2.0 within days.
Idella and Avis are The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay; the girls learned early on to fend for themselves. In 1916, their family is barely scraping out a living on a rocky potato farm in New Brunswick, when their mother unexpectantly dies in childbirth. The girls, ages seven and five, are left in the care of an overwhelmed father who turns to alcohol for comfort. Though Dad tries to create a semblance of normalcy by hiring a series of French Canadian housegirls, none stay for long, and after a few years, he ships the girls across the border for a short stay at a boarding school in Maine.
Idella grows up to be the responsible older sister — always caring for someone. First, it’s for her father, after he is accidentally shot when hunting deer out of season; later, she cares for her very contrary mother-in-law. On the other hand, Avis is the wild one — a free spirit who likes to drink and who runs through men, but often pays painful consequences for her impulsive choices, including a stint in prison. Still, all is not heartbreak in this story of family ties and remarkable resilience — there are equal doses of humor and hilarity as well.
What I found most intriguing about this book is that the author, Beverly Jensen, died of pancreatic cancer in 2003, never having published a word of her writing. So how did this book come to be? Well, a group of supporters gathered around her work, initially getting one of the chapters of this book published as an award-winning short story. Amazingly, the stories all fit together with convicing continuity and the author’s voice comes through loud and clear, even beyond the grave. Every writer should have such friends.
Nearing the end of her life, prima ballerina Nina Revskaya is again haunted by memories of the past, memories that she had thought were safely hidden and forgotten in the poignant novel Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay.
Born and raised in Moscow during the Cold War, Nina’s talent and skill not only ensure her career at the Bolshoi Ballet, it insulates her from many of the harsh realities of life in Stalinist Russia. She falls in love with the poet Victor Elsin, develops a circle of friends that includes writers and composers and enjoys a life of relative comfort. The illusion is shattered when a close friend is arrested and sent to a labor camp, forcing Nina to confront the true nature of the corrupt and unforgiving government. Disillusionment, a shocking betrayal and a daring escape plan propel Nina into the West where her star continues to rise.
Now an old woman wracked with illness, Nina decides to sell her jewels with the proceeds going to charity. Most of the jewels are from her admirers, but a few, particularly a rare and valuable set of amber, are from Russia. Bringing them out into the public eye brings the return of painful memories, of lost love and rash decisions, decisions that reverberate across time and now confront Nina once again.
Moving between present-day Boston and 1950s Soviet Union creates fascinating contrasts in this novel, as well as ratcheting up the tension as separate stories build. From fine jewelry to the ballet to the living conditions of ordinary people in Stalinist Russia, Kalotay effortlessly crafts a bittersweet story of love and friendship and the righting of past wrongs.