Library Closed for New Years

The Davenport Library will be closed on December 31 and January 1 in observance of the New Year holiday. All of our locations will reopen on Wednesday January 2 with regular business hours, Main (321 Main Street) 9:00am to 8:00pm, Fairmount (3000 Fairmount Street) 9:00am to 5:30pm and Eastern (6000 Eastern Avenue) noon to 8:00pm.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Adventures in Crafting

First, a confession: I am not a crafter. Not in any sense of the word. If you need help with technologya website built, or something really neat printed on our 3D printer, I’m your librarian. But crafting? Allow me to introduce you to literally anyone else.

However, every month our library holds a craft program called Craft Cafe at our Fairmount branch, and this month it was my turn.  And I do not do things halfway. The first craft idea – a DIY hanging notepad – was ruled out due to it being far too complicated. So, what next? After to some intense Pinterest and craft blog research, I found what seemed to be an easy, cute craft: mason jar snow globes.  Glue some little trees on the lid, fill the jar with water, glycerin (to make the water thicker) and glitter, screw the lid on, and ta-da! Instant winter craft success!

Eh, not so much.

First, the supplies. Glycerin apparently comes in many forms – you’ve got your blocks of solid glycerin for soap making, tiny bottles for icing, vegetable glycerin, glycerin that’s sold in drugstores, and on and on. I settled on the icing glycerin because that was the only one I could find.  Then, on to glue. Did you know there’s a lot of glue out there? Well, there is. Walls and walls of glue. You say you just want crazy glue? Ha! Here are 147 varieties! Choose wisely, young crafter.

Then glitter, which I was not surprised to find that there were so many different choices. “But glitter is glitter, right?”  I thought, not hearing the faint but haunting laughter of all the crafters that had come before me.

One of the craft blogs I had read suggested that the trees be treated with Mod Podge before putting them in water to hold their color. No problem there, I already had some of that.

Now, with all my supplies, I sat down to make my first snow globe. Everything went smoothly. Pasting the trees with Mod Podge was tricky and weird, but I always follow the directions. I had two types of glitter, and after taking a vote from other librarians present, I settled on a mix of silver and iridescent glitter. None of the blogs gave an exact amount of glycerin to add, so I guessed, which made me very nervous as an always-follow-the-directions person.  The glue held strongly and it turned out well. Crafting success!

Happy little trees!

Until the next day.

Not so happy little trees

What once was a happy green pine tree in crystal clear water had become a sickly yellow. And the water looked like, well, use your imagination. I also detected a small leak.

I was panicked. There was no way I could do this craft, and time was running out! After even more research, I found that 1) I had used the the wrong kind of Mod Podge (there’s an aerosol, apparently) and 2) this is a common problem as the mini trees are often not colorfast. As for the leak, it turned out the thin iridescent glitter had worked its way into the seal of the jar lid.

Back to the craft store! I picked up a can of the correct sealant and found a kind of tree that was plastic and, in theory, would not lose color. I also found another kind of glitter that would hopefully not break the jar’s seal.

My second attempt did not go as smoothly as the first. Because the trees were plastic, they did not adhere to the jar lid as quickly as the first trees, which had a wooden base.  So, as soon as I turned the jar over, the trees floated freely. But, at least they didn’t loose any color.

Zero-g trees?

I tried a different glue, which seemed to work, but smelled horribly and needed 20 minutes to cure. Thinking that I would have to use the trees with the wooden bases, I sprayed them all with the aerosol Mod Podge a little too enthusiastically, causing great concern about the odor.  The smell did not dissipate from the trees, so I became worried about using them at all.

I mentioned that I am not a crafter, right?

At this point my eternally patient coworker, Ann, concerned for my sanity, suggested another, much easier craft (she’s a very talented artist, by the way.) But I am a very, very stubborn person and I had invested too much time in this craft to just give up. After recounting my tale to my brother, he suggested a kind of glue that is both water activated and water resistant. Could something like that actually exist?!

So I settled in for one more try.  Plastic trees, water activated glue, glycerin, chunky glitter and water.  You could cut the tension with an X-ACTO knife.


As they say on Pinterest, NAILED IT!

It is with great relief that I can say that December’s Craft Cafe was a success, and I emerged mostly unscathed and a little wiser to the ways of the crafter. If you’d like to make your own mason jar snow globe, check below for how we did ours! And if you like to join us for our next Craft Cafe in January, click here to register. They’re doing pinecone flowers – I hear they are far more relaxing!


Mason Jar Snow Globes

What You’ll Need:

  • An 8 or 16 oz mason jar meant for canning.  My final snow globe was made in an 8 oz jar.
  • Some plastic trees or other small plastic decorative items that will fit on the jar lid. Pick something that appears to be water-resistant.
  • Water activated/water resistant glue – we used clear Gorilla Glue.
  • Liquid glycerin – we used glycerin meant to be used in icing, so look in the cake decorating section. It comes in small 2 oz bottles.
  • Glitter – find one that’s a mix of small and medium sized glitter
  • Twine or ribbon

What To Do:

  • Disassemble the mason jar.
  • Glue the trees to the underside of the lid.
  • Sprinkle a small amount of water onto the surface to activate the glue. Set it aside for about 5 minutes.
  • Fill the mason jar with water almost to the top.
  • For an 8 oz jar, add 4 caps of glycerin. Double that for a 16 oz jar.
  • Add as much glitter as you want, stirring periodically to mix. If the glitter is falling too quickly, add more glycerin.
  • Check on your trees. If the glue is tacky, slowly place the lid on to the jar and screw the collar on tightly.
  • Flip the jar over slowly. If your trees stay put, hooray! If they come loose, turn the jar back over and take the lid off. Add more glue to the trees and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Make sure the seal on the lid is clear of glitter before putting it back on.
  • Tie some twine or ribbon around the lid for a “I know exactly what I’m doing” look!

Online Reading Challenge – Wrapping Up 2018

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

How did your reading go in December? “Present Time” proved to be a little tricky, didn’t it? The topic was pretty general and the time of year was busy, not an ideal formula. I hope you found and enjoyed something good to round out our Challenge year.

I did well – I read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. If you are a fan of quick-moving, amusing yet thoughtful books, or if you’re a fan of “The Big Bang Theory”, you’re going to like this book.

Don Tillman lives his life by precise, strict rules and schedules. Any deviation can lead to anxiety and panic and he has trouble reading social cues and emotions. He has found a niche where he’s comfortable – a professor of genetics at a prestigious university – and a group of friends (well, two friends) who accept him as he is.

Although Don is perfectly happy, he decides that he would like a wife and thus begins the Wife Project. Don creates an impossibly detailed questionnaire with the intention of weeding out undesirable candidates. Of course, no one can meet Don’s impossible standards. As a joke, one of Don’s friends (it’s questionable how good a friend this person is!) sends Rosie his way without telling either that a) Don is looking for the impossibly perfect wife and b) Rosie is not looking for a date. A great deal of amusing chaos ensues, which ultimately forces Don to look at his life and his choices.

I found that Don strongly reminded me of Sheldon on the television series “The Big Band Theory”. A somewhat lovable genius but good heavens, he can be annoying. The book is also surprisingly thoughtful. It is framed as a comedy about one man’s peculiar personality, but while doing so, it also examines how we observe others and how we think about ourselves. Are we always honest with ourselves, or do we hide behind excuses and stories? A fun book with lots to say.

That wraps up the 2018 Online Reading Challenge. I hope you enjoyed our reading year! And I hope you’ll join us next year for the 2019 edition for another year of exploring a variety of subjects through books. Be sure to visit again on January 2 for all of the details and a list of Challenge topics. It’s going to be another great year!

Until then, have a great holiday! See you in 2019!

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai’s latest novel, The Great Believers  is one the New York Time’s 10 Best Books of 2018. Recently, I heard speak Makkai when she gave a reading at Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City.

Her novel explores a time in Chicago’s history that is little documented, according to the author.  A native of Chicago, she spoke of the difficulty of finding primary and secondary sources about the AIDS crisis in her hometown. New York and San Francisco were much more likely to be  the subjects and settings of the print and film record of the time. So, of necessity,  she ended up interviewing survivors, healthcare workers, caregivers, residents of Boystown, as well as doing other research for several years. She attributes the emotional resonance of the book to the fact that she was forced to seek out and talk to people, getting the telling detail and anecdote, rather than just reading about the crisis.

The book’s thread is Fiona, the sister of an early victim of AIDS – before it even had a name. As a young girl, she appears in both the eighties portion of the book as well as the sections dealing with the more immediate past. These chapters are set in 2015 when Fiona goes to Paris to try to connect with an estranged daughter, now involved in a cult. Makkai weaves Fiona through the lives of the principal characters of the book; for example, when she’s in Paris, Fiona stays with a now-famous photographer who chronicled the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

I found the chapters set in the eighties by far the most compelling. The main character here is Yale Tishman, who is a development director for an art gallery. His personal story is shadowed by  the fear he feels about every cough or fever – every possible sign of illness.  He and his friends try to deal with the mysterious and little understood disease in different ways. Told from Yale’s point of view, you get a small inkling of the paranoia and confusion of the time.

Because Yale is involved in obtaining an art collection owned by an expat living in  Paris of the twenties, the novel finds parallels with that time and place. The book’s title refers to a line by F. Scott Fitzgerald about the generation that was decimated by World War I and the flu epidemic that followed. After this time period, artists and others who didn’t necessarily fit into mainstream society gravitated to Paris of the twenties:  “We were the great believers. I have never cared for any men as much as for these who felt the first springs when I did, and saw death ahead, and were reprieved—and who now walk the long stormy summer.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, “My Generation”

Library Closed for Christmas Holiday

The Davenport Library will be closed on December 24 and 25 in observance of the Christmas holiday. All of our locations will reopen on Wednesday December 26 with regular business hours, Main (321 Main Street) 9:00am to 8:00pm, Fairmount (3000 Fairmount Street) 9:00am to 5:30pm and Eastern (6000 Eastern Avenue) noon to 8:00pm.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Have Yourself a Hygge Holiday

Winter is the highpoint of hygge-ness. Not surprisingly, the Nordic countries really know how to embrace the cold weather and to actively celebrate it.  Appreciating nature in all its discomfort, cold, and beauty is an integral part of the concept. After all, we’re feathering our indoor nest because it’s so cold and dark outside.  In the last few years, the English-language publishing world has embraced books about hygge (the warmth of simple pleasures), lagom (a balance of not too little, not too much), lykke (happiness)  and all things Scandinavian. Cooking, baking, snuggling into knitted afghans and sweaters, and reading books about hygge are all elements of creating  a world of coziness in your own home.

A related concept is fika, the Swedish tradition of coffee and carbs. Hot drinks and baked goods are especially relevant during the cold winter months, This exemplifies the Scandinavian enjoyment of life’s small pleasures and an easy way to socialize and connect with co-workers, friends and family.

To  get inspiration and just for the pure relaxation of browsing beautiful books, try Making Winter: A Hygge-Inspired Guide for Surviving the Winter Months, The Book of Hygge: the Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort and Connection How to Hygge: the Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life,   and The Joy of Hygge: How to Bring Everyday Pleasure and Danish Coziness into Your Life.

Even if you’re not totally on board with this particular movement, it sure is fun to peek into the lives of those who do!



An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

What would you do if you were stuck in a remote lodge in the middle of winter for a long weekend? This lodge has hiking trails, a library, fireplaces, and other outside activities. Sounds pretty idyllic, right? I thought so! Author Shari Lapena takes every bookworm’s dream weekend getaway and turns it into a nightmare in her newest novel, An Unwanted Guest. Fans of murder mysteries will want to read this book as Lapena crafts a book with descriptions similar to an Agatha Christie novel.

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena tells the story of a group of people headed to a cozy mountain lodge named Mitchell’s Inn in the Catskills for a perfect weekend retreat. Things start to turn dicey on the drive to the lodge as a winter storm starts to barrel down on the area. Once everyone is settled at the lodge, they all settle in for various romantic, relaxing weekend activities. As events unfold, it becomes obvious that each person is not what they seem. When planned activities come to a screeching halt as the weather increasingly becomes worse and worse, the guests are forced to rely on each other for companionship.

As more and more guests arrive at the inn, they greet each other with interest, wondering about their reasonings for being there, but not wanting to get involved. The weather keeps guests and limited hotel staff stuck inside the Mitchell Inn without any hope of rescue from the outside. Waking up to a horrifying scream the next day, guests discover a dead body laying at the foot of the stairs. As the weekend progresses, the situation further deteriorates out of control with a frightening new truth coming to light. There’s a killer in their midst. None of them can escape. There is nowhere to run. They’re trapped, desperate for help, and finding that their trust in others is quickly slipping away. Searching for the truth, tensions run high as they all try to find out who is the killer and, most importantly, stay alive!

This book is also available in the following formats:

The Witch Elm by Tana French

I have always wanted to read a book by Tana French. For ten years, French exclusively wrote the Dublin Murder Squad series. I don’t like reading series out of order, so I filed French down to the bottom of my to-read list until I could find all the books in the series. When I realized that her newest book was a stand-alone, I was excited! I could finally fulfill my desire to read Tana French. (And yes, I know I could have found her series and read them, but it’s much easier to find (and read) a standalone.)

The Witch Elm by Tana French is her latest novel released in the beginning of October 2018. This standalone mystery is separate from French’s Dublin Murder Squad series(I can’t stress that enough!). Based on the reviews that I read, The Witch Elm is a prime example of why you should check out what a book is actually about about before you pick it up. Most reviewers were excited that Tana French had put out a new book and decided to immediately read it. As I progressed through different reviews and websites, I saw that most had assumed this was a continuation of her Dublin Murder Squad series or had assumed that her newest would be a detective-centric story. It’s not! Having not read her others, I’m not sure how this one stacked up to her previous works, but I enjoyed the twists and turns of this novel a great deal.

In The Witch Elm , readers are introduced to happy-go-lucky Toby. Everything always seems to work out for Toby.  From his job to his girlfriend and his apartment, Toby seems to have it all. At the very beginning, Toby steps outside of the storyline of the book to inform readers that things have taken a turn for him. Through this novel, Toby says he will lay out the ways that his life has taken a turn. One night Toby is out having drinks with his friends, telling the story of how he has managed to come out of a touchy work situation in a positive manner. Hoping things will turn around, Toby drunkenly heads back to his apartment where he is surprised in the middle of the night by two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Not able to recover or live on his own, Toby finds himself living back at the Ivy House, his family’s ancestral home, taking care of his sick uncle.

Left damaged and traumatized after his attack, Toby struggles to take care of himself and his sick Uncle Hugo. Luckily for both men, Toby’s girlfriend moves into Ivy House to help care for them. This brutal attack has forever altered Toby and he isn’t sure how to adjust to his new normal. Uncle Hugo’s illness has left the family in doubt as to what will happen to Ivy House after he dies, which may happen sooner than they all think. All together for lunch one day, Hugo begins to broach this topic. Before they get very far, a scream is heard from the garden. The children have found a skull, tucked into the old witch elm at the foot of the garden.

With this discovery, Toby’s life will spiral even more out of control. Detectives, crime scene investigators, and the media descend in droves on Ivy House. Everyone in the family is on edge with Toby confused in the center. The aftereffects of Toby’s attack has addled his brain, making it hard for him to keep events straight. Constantly confusing the past and present and forgetting what is false and true rocket Toby to the top of the detectives’ suspect list. Through the course of their investigation, Toby is forced to look back on the idyllic childhood he lived and his perfect recent past. What he believed to be the truth may not actually be what happened. This novel takes a deep look at how what we believe to be true may not actually be how others remember what happened. While I enjoyed the suspenseful storytelling weaved throughout this novel, Toby was a character I had to work to love. Tana French crafted Toby’s character this way in order to force readers to really look at what we would do when forced to change ourselves into someone new. I encourage you to read this book and let me know what you thought in the comments below!

This book is also available in the following formats:

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello Fellow Readers!

How is your December reading going? This can be a difficult month to squeeze in some reading time with so many holiday obligations taking up our time and attention. Think of reading as your “me time”, a way to take a break from the stress and chaos that often accompanies the fun stuff.

I am zooming right along with my December pick, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It’s been a fun read so far and I have should have no problem finishing it soon (thus avoiding another Epic Fail!).

Still looking for something to complete the December challenge? Remember, movies are allowed too which opens up a huge variety of choices. Grab a favorite rom-com – While You Were Sleeping, You’ve Got Mail or Love, Actually. Or go for an action movie like Bourne Identity or Ocean’s Eleven. And many current and recent television series are set in the present – check through the library’s collection for titles like Friends and Law and Order and many more.

Just remember – indoor plumbing? Yes. Flying cars? No.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle

Always Looks on the Bright Side of Life is a sort of biography by Eric Idle – famous actor, writer, performer, comedian and singer-songwriter and famous along with the other Python comedian-writer British gents John Cleese, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, and Michael Palin, for the cult classics Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python’s the Life of Brian, and Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life to name a few. Eric Idle’s jet-setter lifestyle is a story of the rich and famous Brit rockers and British comedians spanning nearly five decades.

Can’t help but being a big Monty Python fan! So if you are interested in a bit of the Pythons back history from the viewpoint of one its members then you will enjoy Eric Idle’s personal story –  part memoir, part autobiography in this quick interesting read. Much of Idle’s stardom and famous relationships are unique….being friends with the likes of George Harrison, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, Robin Williams, and Steve Martin to name a mere few, putting it in the readers face that he really “lived” a rock n’ roll lifestyle. His comedic writing is famous, his many songs and lyrics – especially “Always look on the Bright Side of Life” has become a legendary song as it is ironically the number one song played at British funerals making him a legend in his own lifetime…which Idle perhaps seemly discontent with the legend status seems to dislike and perhaps inadvertently fears a bit, being, no pun intended, idolized.

In his concluding chapters the true meaning of the book begins to emerge towards the end as to why he wrote the book in the first place. Eric Idle painstaking goes over the deaths of many of his actor/comedian/singer-songwriter friends that have recently died, especially David Bowie, Robin Williams, and Carrie Fisher, all of which he was very close to and the question of their mortality and his own mortality and legendary status seems to have been what spurred the writing on the account of his own life, mixed with a bit of personal history and the life and death of his close friends. Good read even with the bit of fluff about the lives of the rich famous intertwined throughout. He has really lived a glamorized and full life. Highly recommend.