Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check-In

Hello Challenge Participants! How is your November challenge going? Have you found something wonderful? Please share!

I admit that I haven’t gotten very far with my book choice (The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn). It’s just not compelling me to read it – although when I do pick it up, I find it interesting. Hmmm. Well, I haven’t given up on it yet!

However, I have fulfilled the November challenge – I’ve been watching Outlander. It’s quite possible I’m one of the last people to do so, but this way I can binge watch it (as time permits) I’m halfway through the first season and, while I haven’t gone completely head over heels for it, I do like it a lot.

Outlander is about an English Army nurse in 1945 who, while on vacation in Scotland with her husband, steps through a stone circle and is transported to 1743 Scotland, It’s a dangerous and volatile time period when the Clans of the Highlands are in constant conflict with the English. Even more so when you’re an Englishwoman alone and lost and confused. Watching Claire navigate this slippery path (and making several missteps) is fascinating. It’s also an in-depth introduction to Scotland during this time period, far beyond what a history book can teach, and of a way of life that was nearly wiped out. The costuming and scenery are spectacular (although, good heavens, it rains a lot!) and the story lines are interesting and often very suspenseful. I’m looking forward to watching more of the series!

Here are a few more movie recommendations for Alternate History.

Groundhog Day starring Billy Murray and Andie McDowell. OK, who hasn’t seen this? And who doesn’t love watching it again and again? It never gets old with comedic genius Murray playing arrogant TV weatherman Phil who is doomed to repeat the same day over and over until he gets it right. Spoiler alert: it takes awhile.

Big starring Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins. An encounter with a mysterious carnival fortune-telling machine grants Josh his greatest wish – to be big. Suddenly forced to navigate the world as an adult but with his teenage personality intact is both hilarious and poignant.

Back to the Future starring Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd. Wow, one classic after another, right? Grab that DeLorean and head back to 1955 with Marty McFly and watch how he fixes the future while trying to avoid wiping out his own existence.

Let us know what you’re reading or watching this month!

Library Closed for Veteran’s Day

The Davenport Library will be closed on Monday, November 12 in observance of Veteran’s Day. All of our locations will reopen on Tuesday, November 13 with their regular business hours – Main (321 Main Street) will be open 9am to 8pm, Eastern (6000 Eastern Avenue) will be open 9am to 5:30pm and Fairmount (3000 Fairmount Street) will be open noon to 8pm.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Online Reading Challenge – November

Hello Fellow Readers!

It’s November and that means it’s time for reading – Alternate Histories!

Alternate Histories are kind of like brain teasers for the reader by asking the unanswerable What If? question. They fall mostly into two categories:

General. What If Lincoln had lived? Or JFK? What If the Nazi’s had won World War II? What If Rome had not fallen? How would the world be different now? Better? Worse? Some titles that fall into this category include 11/22/63 by Stephen King (about preventing the assisination of John F Kennedy), Fatherland by Robert Harris (if the Nazi’s had won WWII), and multiple titles by Harry Turtledove. Or perhaps you believe history could use some spicing up – try Naomi Novik’s excellent His Majesty’s Dragon where the Napoleonic Wars are fought with the help of dragons (it’s quite good – really!).

Personal. What If you could go back and make different choices in your own life? How would your life be different? Some examples would include The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Greer about a woman who finds herself transported to other lives she might have  lived: Replay by Ken Grimwood is about a man who dies repeatedly, only to wake as his younger self again and again, each time with a chance to reclaim a lost love, make a fortune on the stock market or correct a wrong; or If I Could Turn Back Time by Beth Harbison about a successful but unhappy 38-year-old who, after a knock on her head, wakes up just before her 18th birthday.

A kind of “sub-category” would be the Time Travel novels (remember, there are no Library Police! Read what interests you! Plus, I just made up this genre and I get to make the rules!) These would include Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and it’s many sequels and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

Be sure to stop by any Davenport Library location and check out the Online Reading Challenge displays for lots more ideas and suggested titles.

I am planning on reading The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn about two researchers that go back in time to recover a suspected unpublished Jane Austen novel. Wouldn’t that be fabulous?

Now, what about you? What you be reading this month?

 

Online Reading Challenge – October Wrap-Up

Hello All!

Well, that’s another month finished in our 2018 Online Reading Challenge! How was your month? What did you read (or watch)?

I read – and enjoyed – Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen which is about Elizabeth Woodville who was married to King Edward IV. It might help you to place who she was when you realize she was the mother of the Princes in the Tower, the two young boys who disappeared from the Tower of London and were never found. Her story takes place toward the bitter end of the War of the Roses – the York family vs the Lancasters. Often called the Cousins War, it raged for more than 30 years pitting families against each other.

Elizabeth is a young widow from a Lancaster family whose lands have been confiscated by the Yorks, currently in power. She goes to the new king, Edward IV to beg for her inheritance and she and the King fall in love. She refuses to become his mistress and so he marries her in secret. Because she has no political influence, the marriage is opposed and even challenged by Edward’s advisors but Edward stands by his vows. Gregory depicts the marriage as a love match at a time when most if not all royal marriages were for political gain or to strengthen diplomatic ties. Edward and Elizabeth had ten children and their reign was prosperous and encouraged the advancement of science and the arts. Edward was a popular with the people, but he constantly had to go to battle to put down uprisings from other claimants to the crown including his best friend and former adviser and even his own brother. When Edward died suddenly after a short illness, the battle for the crown became even more intense despite his having left two male heirs.

Throughout all this bloodshed, the women wait. They keep the households running and the children educated and they grieve. But they also plot and influence and sometimes turn the tide of battle. Gregory characterizes Elizabeth and her mother as witches (both were accused and her mother arrested for being witches) who are able to whistle up a storm or commune with Melusine, a water spirit. The magic is incidental and well within the framework of historical record, but shows Elizabeth as powerful in her own right. A brilliant strategist with a spine of steel, she commands respect. The book ends before Elizabeth’s story is finished; I may read the next in the series, The White Princess, to see what happens when her daughter becomes Queen.

I like history and very much enjoyed seeing this distant time through the eyes of a woman. Of course, we can’t know exactly what was said in conversation, or understand what influenced and swayed decisions, but Gregory creates plausible scenarios and speculates on several mysteries especially what might have happened to the Princes in the Tower. All of the fighting and disloyalty does become tiresome though – people changed allegiances constantly, turncoats (sometimes in the midst of battle) and backstabbers. And the English really need to branch out with the names – so many Richards and Edwards and Henrys – it’s difficult to keep them straight!

Now it’s your turn – what did you read in October?

 

Kedi on DVD

Guest post by Laura V

Legend has it that ships sailing from far and wide, docking at Constantinople in the Ottoman Empire carried cats for mouse control and the cats disembarked and stayed there. Today, hundreds of thousands of cats wander the streets of Istanbul, Turkey (formerly Constantinople). Over thousands of years these felines have carved a permanent niche in the fabric of the city. According to the website promoting Kedi, “Claiming no owners, the cats of Istanbul live between two worlds, neither wild nor tame — and they bring joy and purpose to those people they choose to adopt. In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to the people, allowing them to reflect on their lives in ways nothing else could.”

After losing my initial and anxious gut reaction that all of these cats should be spayed or neutered that persisted for a good 20 minutes, I was able to relax into the film. The stories of the relationships between these cats, who have very distinct personalities, and the people who befriend them are beautiful. People named the cats, fed them, let them in their houses, and even took them to the vet, sometimes multiple times but the cats were ultimately ownerless and lived their own lives as they pleased. I was struck by the diversity and attractiveness of the kitties since it would appear that they have come from all over the world and have interbred freely.

If you’re a cat lover, you’ll love this film.

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check In

Hello Readers!

How is your October going, reading-wise? Have you found something to read yet? Or are you still looking? Maybe a movie will be your choice this month. Here are a few suggestions.

A Knight’s Tale starring Heath Ledger. The rousing story of lowborn William Thatcher’s quest to change his stars, win the heart of an exceedingly fair maiden and rock his medieval world. Follow this fearless squire and his band of medieval misfits as they careen their way toward impossible glory that’s part romance, part road trip and part exuberant swashbuckling.

Kingdom of Heaven starring Orlando Bloom and Eva Green. Balian, a young Frenchman in Medieval Jerusalem during the Crusades, having lost everything, finds redemption in a heroic fight against overwhelming forces to save his people and fulfill his destiny as a knight.

The White Queen produced by the BBC and based on the novel by Phillipa Gregory. A riveting portrayal of one of the most dramatic and turbulent times in English history. A story of love and lust, seduction and deception, betrayal and murder, it is uniquely told through the perspective of three different, yet equally relentless women – Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville. In their quest for power, they will scheme, manipulate and seduce their way onto the English throne.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail. OK, admittedly, this one is somewhat lacking in historical accuracy. But! So funny! So British! “It’s just a flesh wound”! “Your mother was a hamster and your father smells of elderberries”! The quest for the Holy Grail by King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table is retold in the inimitable Python fashion. Enjoy.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” – Aldo Leopold

First of all, you might want to stop reading for a minute and put a hold on this book right away. This book is that good. Just click on the book title or cover picture in this post and you’ll be taken directly to the catalog. ‘Cause you’re gonna want to read this book.

Set in marshes of North Carolina between dry land and the sea, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is transporting. It is by turns heartbreaking, joyful and inspiring and an ode to nature and its beauty. Part survival story, part murder mystery, part romance. 100% impossible to put down.

This novel shifts between the early 50s through the 60s and 1969-1970, opening in 1952 in the marshes on the North Carolina coast. Long unclaimed and unmapped, the marshes have for centuries been the refuge of drifters, the poor, those escaping their past or the law and runaway slaves. With few roads, the main transport is by small boats navigating a labyrinth of estuaries, creeks, lagoons and rivers known only to those who live there.

A woman, dressed in her best clothes, walks away from a rundown shack. She leaves behind her abusive husband, five children and unrelenting isolation. One by one the children also leave until only 6-year-old Kya is left. Mostly, her father leaves her to fend for herself. When he’s not drinking he teaches her the ways of the marsh and how to survive but eventually, one day, he leaves too. And thus the foundation of Kya’s life is set – she cannot trust that anyone will stay and learns to depend only on herself.

Kya becomes a student of the marsh, it’s birds and insects and plant life. She figures out how to keep herself alive, how to earn a small amount of money to buy gas for the boat and basic supplies, She evades Social Services again and again until they give up. Although most of the people in the nearby village ridicule and despise her, some reach out with small kindnesses and a boy who knew her brother teaches her to read. It is a lonely life, but she survives and even thrives.

And then Chase Andrews, former star high school quarterback, is murdered in the marsh and everything changes.

The 1969-1970 sections of the book follow the discovery of the body, the murder investigation and the trial, written in counterpoint to Kya’s life. There is no grandiose courtroom scenes, or sensationalized confrontations or revelations, but the trial is nerve-racking tense and suspenseful. Who murdered Chase? Was it the wild girl living in the marsh? Why would Chase, a “good” boy from a “good’ family get involved with marsh trash? Would anyone stand up for Kya?

This novel is a lyrical celebration of the quiet and unassuming in nature and in humankind. Of the connections we make – need to make – to nature, to community, to family, to another person. What happens when those connections are broken and how they can be regained. How past experiences shape us, mold our personalities and our outlook and how we react to those experiences that create us again and again.

Highly recommended.

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – October

Hello Online Reading Challenge Readers! Welcome to October!

This month we’re going to explore the Medieval (or Middle Ages) time period which lasted roughly from 600 to 1500. In Europe, it is generally considered to end with the fall of  King Richard III in 1485 when the Tudors came to power but there was no general announcement declaring the start of the Renaissance. A lot of the books from our suggestions will bleed into the Renaissance but remember, there are no Library Police! Read what interests you!

There are a couple of go-to authors for this time period that have written multiple books. If one of them especially appeals to you, you’ll be set with great reading material for a long time.

Bernard Cornwell. Best known for his Sharpe series (set during the Napoleonic Wars), Cornwell has also written series set during the Middle Ages including The Warlord Chronicles (set during Arthurian Britain), The Grail Quest (set in 14th century Europe) and The Last Kingdom series (set in Saxon times of the 9th century)

Philippa Gregory. Well loved for her series of books about the Tudor queens, Gregory has also written extensively about the Plantagenets, the family that was overthrown by the Tudors. Titles set during the Middle Ages include The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter.

Sharon Kay Penman writes huge, extensive books about the Middle Ages. They are an investment in time but well worth it as you are swept into the story. Titles include The Sunne in Splendor and Lionheart. I especially recommend Here Be Dragons about the illegitimate daughter of King John of England who is forced to marry a minor Welsh lord.

Other interesting books from this time period include The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco and, for the classics, The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. I also recommend Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael mystery series. And it will take some tracking down but don’t miss Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. An older book, it follows a present-day police officer, laid up because of a broken leg, investigating the true story of Richard III (he might not have been the monster that Shakespeare presented). It’s intriguing and insightful and reminds us that the victors write the history books; there’s always another side to the story.

I am planning on reading Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen. I’m hoping the appeal of English historical fiction will get me back on the Challenge track! What about you? What are you reading this month?

Online Reading Challenge – September Wrap-Up

Hello Online Challenge Readers!

How did your month of September go, reading-wise? Did you find something wonderful, or did this month fall short for you? Make sure to share!

I’m afraid, after a string of 8 straight good-to-excellent reads, September fell short for me. I was all set to read Love and Ruin by Paula McLain, but it never caught my interest enough to stick with it. Maybe it was the subject matter – the main characters were often abrasive and made many poor decisions. Maybe it was my mood or the weather, or the fact that I had other things going on and taking up my time. Who knows why a book and reader fail to connect? Often it’s just timing – the right book at the right moment. And what doesn’t work at one time, might be perfect later. Fortunately, I know where there are hundreds of other books, all free for checking out! There’s always another great read waiting!

What about you – how did your reading go in September? And, have you ever picked up a book and found, no matter how badly you wanted to read it, it just wasn’t for you? What have been your epic book fails? Let us know your experiences in the comments!

Overboard on DVD

Guest post by Laura V

I remember seeing the original Overboard movie starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn when it was released. I thought it was entertaining but not remarkable enough for a reboot so I was surprised to learn it was remade. This version stars Eugenio Derbez as Leonardo Montenegro and Anna Faris as Kate Sullivan. As far as I remember, it was basically the same plot with reversal of roles, Derbez plays the rich guy and Sullivan plays the poor woman. Eva Longoria plays Kate’s best friend, Theresa, and Mel Rodriguez plays her husband, Bobby.

I recently watched How to be a Latin Lover starring Derbez and was disappointed. There was potential for that movie to make fun of stereotypes and it was squandered at every turn while reinforcing some negative stereotypes along the way. Overboard was better. While it had the predictability that everyone should expect from a remake of an original that wasn’t highbrow cinematography to begin with, it took a huge chance, culturally speaking. To me, that was enough to make it interesting.

We got to see the family to which Derbez’ character belongs speaking Spanish with English subtitles. Yes, they are millionaires who are basically the telenovela (soap opera) portion of the movie, but their over-the-top drama is what makes them absurdly entertaining, just like actual TV telenovelas. They couldn’t have been a more realistic wealthy family because then the story wouldn’t have had the material for the plot. I also enjoyed seeing the more authentic portrayal of Latinos with the banter among the construction workers on Bobby’s job site. The romance felt a bit forced. I felt the daughters developed more of a relationship with Derbez’ character than Faris’ character.

If you’re looking for a lighthearted romp with the courage to include characters of color with their culture still intact, I recommend this movie.