A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

A classic story of love and friendship, sacrifice and resilience, A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers also just happens to be located in a fantasical world of distant planets, casual space travel and aliens of every variety.

Lovelace is an artificial intelligence (AI) that has been transferred into a humaniod form (a “kit”) by an alien named Pepper. At first confused and disoriented (her previous work had been within the walls of a spaceship) she names herself Sidra. She quickly gains intelligence, but struggles to live in chaotic world without walls.

Jane 23 is an enhanced human bred to work in a factory sorting scrap. Her life is strictly regulated and anything outside of the factory is completely unknown to her. One day an explosion blows a hole in one of the walls and she sees sky for the first time. Consumed by curiosity, she goes back to see it again. Nearly caught by one of the Mothers (robot caretakers) she runs blindly, is chased by wild animals and is almost caught until a small shuttle in the massive scrap pile opens a door and helps her escape. The shuttle is run by Owl, an AI that lives in the ship.

Many years later Jane, with Owl’s help, escapes the planet and arrives in Port Cortisol, a busy international space port where she changes her name to Pepper and blends into the world around her. However she is haunted by the loss of the shuttle and her beloved Owl who had raised her as a true mother would and for whom she is always searching.

I would categorize this as a “cozy sci-fi”. There are no space battles or massive alien invasions wiping out civilizations. Bad things happen – witness the factory planet of enslaved girls – but there is a lot of good too. Many diverse aliens with many diverse forms co-exist, mostly peacefully and respectfully.  These stories quickly connect in interesting and satisfying ways. Friendships are formed, adventures are shared and the line between AI and humanoid blurs. The world building is intricate and well developed but never intrusive. A lovely and heartwarming novel.

Announcing: the Online Reading Challenge 2022!

Welcome to the 2022 Online Reading Challenge!

Get ready for another year (our 7th!) of reading recommendations with our super-casual, low-stress reading club!

Our theme for 2022 is Book Flights! A Book Flight, similar to a wine or beer flight, is a series of books with similar themes. Sometimes the themes are obvious, sometimes they’re a little deeper. I’ve chosen a critically acclaimed titles plus 3-4 complementary books for each month. I’ll briefly describe each book and pick one to read myself. You can choose to read the main book or one of the accompanying titles or even something else completely! At the end of the month I’ll write about what I read and pose some questions about the themes from that month’s books and invite you to comment with your observations.

Of course, as always, you may do as you please – there are no Library Police! So if you wish to skip a month, or read more than one book in that month or read a book from a different month – go for it! No one will drag you off to Library Jail if you choose your own path!

Ok, let’s get started!

The theme for January is belonging, connection and found family and our main title is The Orphan Train by Christina Kline.

Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to ‘aging out’ out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance. Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life–answers that will ultimately free them both. Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

You can find more information about this book and the author as well as sample discussion questions in our Book Club Lib Guide.

Books that round out January’s Book Flight are:

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano.

One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Halfway across the country, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor. Edward’s story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a part of himself has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark. But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world – until the unthinkable happens.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

A curmudgeon hides a terrible personal loss beneath a cranky and short-tempered exterior while clashing with new neighbors, a boisterous family whose chattiness and habits lead to unexpected friendship.


I’ll be reading this month’s main title, The Orphan Train. I’ve read the other three titles in the book flight in the past; they are all excellent and I highly recommend all of them.

Be sure to check back at the end of the month when we’ll open up a discussion!

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – December Wrap-Up

We’ve reached the end of the year! How did your reading go this month?

December is always a busy month and sometimes it’s hard to fit in reading but a quick, engaging book makes it a lot easier. I found this to be true with my December choice when I read Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner, our spotlight author.

Frankie Elkin is not a police officer or a private detective. She doesn’t have any special training and doesn’t carry a gun. What she does have is a need to go to an AA meeting every day and a burning desire to find the missing. Especially those who have been missing and forgotten.

That’s what brings Frankie to a poor Haitian neighborhood in Boston where Angelique Bodeau, a quiet, hardworking high school student disappeared ten months earlier. The case is still open, but the police have no new leads and, with limited resources and a steady stream of new cases, Angelique’s disappearance has become low priority. This is where Frankie’s talent shines – she talks to the family, asks questions of friends and acquaintances, sticks her nose in where it shouldn’t be, and tries to put herself in the shoes of the missing. With this case, Frankie begins to unravel a plot much more complicated than a girl who simply ran away – Angelique was trying to protect those she loved, but is it enough? And will Frankie find her before she becomes another statistic?

This was a gripping novel with lots of twists and turns. At times I found the reasons behind Angelique’s disappearance convoluted and too complicated, but I was invested on finding out what happened. Frankie is tough and independent with multiple demons of her own and Angelique is smart and courageous, characters that are easy to root for. A quick, exciting read.

That wraps up the Online Reading Challenge for 2021. Did you find something good to read this month? How was your reading this year? Did you find anything that became a favorite?

Stay tuned for information on the Online Reading Challenge for 2022 which will begins next month. More details will be on the blog on Monday, January 3rd!

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske is set in Edwardian England, with all of it’s rigid formality and strict social rules intact but with one difference – magic exists. However, only a few people know this and fewer still possess magical abilities.

Sir Robin Blyth comes from a noble family but due to his parent’s frivolous ways, he and his sister are left with little money and he must work to keep them afloat. An administrative error assigns him the job of civil service liaison to a hidden magical world, something he had no idea even existed before his first day at work.

Edwin Courcey is a member of a very old magical family, although he has only a small amount of magic himself. He is horrified to find Robin in the Magical Liason office and astonished to discover that he doesn’t even know magic exists. Edwin and Robin take an instant dislike to each other and part ways. However, on his way to resign, Robin is accosted by three strangers wearing mysterious masks, asking him “where is it?”. When he can’t answer (he has no idea what they’re talking about), one of the men places a painful curse on his arm and tells him the curse will only get worse until he gives them what they want.

Well, thinks Robin, this isn’t good. He seeks out Edwin (the only magical person he knows) and Edwin, who has made a study of magic, is intrigued by the curse which appears in intricate curls and patterns on Robin’s arm. At first reluctant, Edwin can’t pass on this intriguing puzzle and thus begins a search for answers that includes murder, foresight, a very dangerous hedge, family drama, secret rooms and magical objects of all kinds including a very protective mansion.

The enemies become friends and then much more over the course of their adventures. The magical world that Marske creates is imaginative and intricate and the characters – good guys and bad – are compelling. You will root for Robin and Edwin both as a couple and as individuals as they stumble their way to solutions. There are elements of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Red, White and Royal Blue and even a touch of Lord of the Rings that combine into something unique and delightful.

 

How Lucky by Will Leitch

Here is a little under-the-radar gem that you might not have found yet. Funny, thoughtful and heartfelt with a good dose of suspense. How Lucky by Will Leitch will inspire you.

Daniel lives in Athens, Georgia. He works as am online customer service representative for a small regional airline. His neighborhood borders the University of Georgia campus, which gives Daniel plenty of opportunity to people watch from his porch.

One morning he watches as a young woman walks by – someone he has seen pass by regularly. She smiles and waves at him. A car pulls up to her, she gets in the car and Daniel doesn’t think anything more about it until the next day when the news reports that a college student is missing. It doesn’t take Daniel long to figure out that the missing student is the woman he saw get into a car, and that he’s probably the last person to see her before she disappeared.

This is great, right? Daniel can tell the police about the color and make of the car which may help them find the woman. One problem. Daniel has SMA (spinal muscular atrophy), is confined to a wheelchair and cannot talk. His communication is limited to using his left hand to spell out words on his computer. Daniel has worked very hard for his independence and is proud of what he’s achieved – he graduated from college, holds a job, owns a house and has created a good life. But the truth is, SMA is a progressive disease and there is no cure. His strength and abilities weaken every day – sometimes incrementally, sometimes in big leaps. He does have help – his caretaker Marjani comes twice a day to bathe and feed him, his best friend Travis stops by every day, he video chats with his Mom frequently but essentially he lives on his own.

Not sure what to do, Daniel posts what he saw on Reddit after Travis and Marjani have no luck with contacting the police for him. This is when things get tense – the person who abducted the woman sees the message and realizes someone saw him. He doesn’t know who Daniel is, but he’s determined to find out. And so a cat-and-mouse game begins between Daniel and the kidnapper.

How Lucky is a little bit Rear Window, a little bit The Fault in Our Stars and a little bit Wait Until Dark, but it is also full of heart and courage and humor. Even though his life may seem sad to others,  Daniel doesn’t dwell on the restrictions but grabs onto what he can do and takes full advantage of it. He makes a difference.

Highly recommended.

Online Reading Challenge – December

It’s December! That means it’s time for our final 2020 spotlight author. This month it’s: Lisa Gardner!

Lisa Gardner is quite popular, writing crime novels and psychological thrillers. These are the kind of books that keep you up past your bedtime because you can’t go to sleep until you know what happened! Some of her popular series include ones about Boston homicide detective D.D. Warren, FBI Profilier Pierce Quincy and Tess Leoni, a private detective in New England, as well as several stand alone titles.

There are quite a few authors that are similar to Gardner so if you have already read all of her titles, or would like to try some else, here are a few suggestions.

You Don’t Want to Know by Lisa Jackson

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

Suspect by Robert Crais

Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay

Roadside Crosses by Jeffrey Deaver

Lie to Me by JT Ellison

There are lots more titles and authors to choose from. Be sure to stop by one of our locations for more ideas on display.

I am planning on reading  Before She Disappeared by Gardner. It’s the first in a relatively new series by Gardner that follows the cases of a woman who searched for missing persons.

Now it’s your turn – what will you be reading this month?

 

Online Reading Challenge – November Wrap-Up

Hello Challenge Readers!

How did you do with our November spotlight author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? Did you read one of her books, or one similar?

I had mixed results this month. I had planned to read Americanah, but I just couldn’t connect with it. That doesn’t mean I won’t someday pick it up again and find it delightful and inspiring, but that wasn’t happening at this time for me so, instead of forcing interest, I set it aside and picked up another book by Adichie – Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions.

It’s a little bit of a cheat – this book is short and a very quick read (less than an hour), kind of a taster of Adichie’s writing and philosophy. Still, it is gracefully written and packs a punch.

Asked by a friend on how to raise her newborn daughter to be a feminist, Adichie sends a letter with fifteen suggestions. Her advice ranges from straightforward – teach her to read and to love to read, make sure both parents are involved in her upbringing – to more thought provoking ideals such as teaching her that gender roles are nonsense, that differences among people are okay, to reject the idea of conditional female equality. I was especially struck by the importance of language and what a difference words and how they’re phrased can make in our outlook and how we treat ourselves and others. “Language is the repository of our prejudices, our beliefs, our assumptions.”

Of course, the values described in this slim volume apply to anyone, young or old, male or female. Enlightening and valuable lessons.

Now it’s your turn – how was your November reading?

 

Our Library Social Worker Can Help

 

Please welcome Quinn O’Brian to the Davenport Library. Quinn will be filling the new Social Worker position at the library.

The Davenport Public Library now has a licensed Social Worker that is available as a resource to our patrons. With this new service, patrons will be able to receive personalized attention and assistance with their social service needs. A few of the ways our Library Social Worker can be of assistance to you is by making referrals and connecting you to community resources and organizations that can address your specific need. Your Library Social Worker will provide support and advocate on your behalf.

Do you need help navigating government benefits, affordable housing, or unemployment?  Or as a parent you may be wondering what resources are available for you and your family? Your Davenport Public Library Social Worker can work with you to navigate these challenges. Furthermore, your Library Social worker will collaborate and partner with community organizations to bring relevant training and learning opportunities to our patrons.

The Davenport Public Library has always been at the forefront of supporting and prioritizing services that can enrich the lives of our patrons. With the inclusion of a Library Social Worker we aim to serve as a community center for our patrons with a single point of contact for resources and information to meet daily challenges.

The addition of a Library Social Worker might be a unique one to our area but it is not a novel idea. Social Workers have been in Libraries in varying capacities since 2009.

When you come and visit with us at the Davenport Public Library, you can expect a safe, welcoming and compassionate atmosphere where we prioritize confidentiality when assisting our patrons. So, come check-in with your Library Social Worker today!

You can contact Quinn by call her office at (563) 888-3371, emailing her at qobrian@davenportlibrary.com or by scheduling an appointment through her contact page.

Online Reading Challenge – November

Hello Challenge Readers!

It’s time for our November spotlight author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie!

Adichie was born and raised in Nigeria. She came to the United States when she was 19 to attend Drexel University in Philadelphia. She has master’s degrees from John Hopkins and Yale universities and she has held fellowships at Harvard and Princeton. She is a vocal feminist both here and in her native Nigeria and a keen observer of race relations in the United States which is one of the main topics of her best known book Americanah. She now splits her time between the US and Nigeria.

When looking for books similar to Adichie’s work, I looked for titles that explore the immigrant experience in America, especially of people of African heritage. This look at America from an outsider’s view can often be uncomfortable to read, but they can also be enlightening and can open our eyes to issues we may not understand.

Besides Adichie’s books, look for titles by Yaa Gyasi (I highly recommend her book Homegoing) and Jhumpa Lahiri (stories told from the persepective of people from India). Other titles to look for include Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue, American Street by Ibi Zoboi and The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett (although that one is not strictly about immigrants, it is similar to Adichie’s writing).

As always, there will be displays at each of the Davenport Library locations with more titles to choose from.

I am planning on reading Americanah which is about two Nigerian students who fall in love. They are separated when the woman moves to the United States but the man cannot follow and goes to London instead. It has many glowing reviews and I’m looking forward to reading it!

Now it’s your turn, what will you be reading this month?

Online Reading Challenge – October Wrap-Up

Hello All!

How did your October reading go? Did you find a historical novel that was especially good?

I read A Perilous Alliance by Fiona Buckley, part of a series of Tudor mysteries featuring Lady Ursula Blanchard. I was a bit reluctant to get started – my To-Be-Read list is never ending and this would have to be squeezed in. However, once I got started, I really enjoyed it. It’s well written with a story that moves quickly and lots of interesting action. This is part of a series – I might just have to add other titles to my TBR list!

Lady Ursula is a widow of independent means and some influence – she is the illegitimate half-sister of Queen Elizabeth. In the past Ursula has assisted the Queen by acting as a spy for her against her enemies, but she has tired of the danger. Hoping to withdraw from public life, she has moved to her country home to raise her little boy and manage her estate. Unfortunately, the public life follows her, with a request from the Queen’s advisors that she marry a French count, strictly for political reasons. Ursula is not pleased with this major life change and only reluctantly agrees to meet the French count.

Almost immediately there are warning signs that the count is not a suitable husband. The Queen insists, saying that the political alliance from the marriage is vital to the safety and future of England and Ursula reluctantly accepts the count’s proposal. However, the entire household is thrown into disarray just hours before the wedding is to take place and Ursula finds herself in a perilous position. Will she be able to untangle the reasons behind the mysterious death of one of her staff? Will she need to return to spying to track down the enemies of the realm? Will she be forced into a loveless marriage that will seriously curtail her independence?

This is a quick and lively read, with lots of details of the lives of ordinary people (well-off but not royalty) during this time. Fun and interesting.

What about you – what did you read in October?