Belfast on DVD

Buddy, a 9-year-old boy living in Belfast, Ireland in 1969 enjoys simple things – playing in the streets with his cousins, walking to school and working on his maths (homework) and going to the cinema and being dazzled by the films. He is loved and watched over by his older brother, his parents and his Pop and Granny (grandparents) as well as all of the people living in their tight-knit neighborhood where everyone knows everyone.

This safety and peace is shattered when “the troubles” explode on their street. A gang attacks the neighborhood, breaking windows, setting cars on fire and creating havoc, demanding that Catholics must leave. While Buddy and his family are Protestant and have no problems living next to Catholics, his father is pressured to either join the gangs or pay them, money that the family can’t afford.

They must now all face a terrible choice – stay in the place that they’ve always known and loved but which has become deadly dangerous, or move away for better opportunities but in a place where they know no one and no one knows them?

Directed and written (for which he received an Oscar) by Kenneth Branagh, Belfast features a collection of some of the finest actors alive today including Dame Judi Dench, Ciaran Hinds, Jamie Dornan and Catriona Balfe. Jude Hill, who plays Buddy is mesmerizing. Based on Kenneth Branagh’s own life story, this movie is by turns funny, heartbreaking and suspenseful but most of all, it’s about family love and the sacrifices one will make for them.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

For many years, this was my go-to title when someone asked me for a book recommendation. When it was published in 1987 not everyone had heard about it (this was long before celebrity book clubs and relentless social media attention). Recommending books can be tricky. Reading preferences, mood, previous mis-conceptions – all can affect how a person will feel about a book. And just because you thought a book was the best ever written, doesn’t mean someone else will feel the same. But this book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, never failed me. Not once. Everyone loved it.

And why not? It has a little bit of everything – family and friendship, an epic love story, a murder mystery, some grief and heartbreak and lots of joy. Also – food. Lots of great food.

Moving between two time periods – the 1930s and the 1980s – this book centers on a small town in Alabama and the Whistle Stop Cafe. In the 1930s the cafe serves excellent Southern-style home cooking, especially fried green tomatoes. It’s also the center of town activities, gossip and news. The people that frequent the cafe form a bond that supports one another through terrible tragedies and protect their own. Flash forward to the late 1980s where we meet Evelyn who is struggling with mid-life depression. Through her friendship with elderly Mrs Threadgoode and her stories about the Whistle Stop Cafe and the people around it, Evelyn begins to see her way through her own tragedies.

After the movie came out in 1991, the book became less of a sure-fire winning book recommendation. Many thought that if they’d seen the movie they didn’t need to read the book. But, as is usually the case, the book is much better than the movie with more background, more stories and a deeper understanding of the characters and their motives. So once again, I wholeheartedly recommend reading Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe – you’ll love it.

If you are taking part in the Online Reading Challenge this year, this book is a perfect choice for our June theme of food and friendship.

Online Reading Challenge – June

Hello Fellow Readers!

Welcome to the June Reading Challenge Book Flight! This month our theme is food and fellowship. Yum!

Our main title is Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. This is a graphic novel and it’s an amazing one. If you have any hesitancy about reading a graphic novel, or have never read one, this is a great one to start with, with charming illustrations and a great story.

Lucy Knisley loves food. The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, this talented young cartoonist comes by her obsession honestly. In her forthright, thoughtful, and funny memoir, Lucy traces key episodes in her life thus far, framed by what she was eating at the time and lessons learned about food, cooking, and life. Each chapter is bookended with an illustrated recipe– many of them treasured family dishes, and a few of them Lucy’s original inventions

Other titles in this month’s Book Flight are:

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J Rayan Stradal. When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine–and a dashing sommelier–he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter–starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flag. Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a now-classic novel about two women: Evelyn, who’s in the sad slump of middle age, and gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode, who’s telling her life story. Her tale includes two more women—the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth—who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, offering good coffee, southern barbecue, and all kinds of love and laughter—even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present will never be quite the same again.

Also available in large print, and as in ebook on Libby.

Master Butcher’s Singing Club by Louise Erdrich. Having survived World War I, Fidelis Waldvogel returns to his quiet German village and marries the pregnant widow of his best friend, killed in action. With a suitcase full of sausages and a master butcher’s precious knife set, Fidelis sets out for America. In Argus, North Dakota, he builds a business, a home for his family—which includes Eva and four sons—and a singing club consisting of the best voices in town. When the Old World meets the New—in the person of Delphine Watzka—the great adventure of Fidelis’s life begins. Delphine meets Eva and is enchanted. She meets Fidelis, and the ground trembles. These momentous encounters will determine the course of Delphine’s life, and the trajectory of this brilliant novel.

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan. A World War II-set story of four women on the home front competing for a spot hosting a BBC wartime cookery program and a chance to better their lives. Two years into World War II, Britain is feeling her losses; the Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio program called The Kitchen Front is putting on a cooking contest–and the grand prize is a job as the program’s first-ever female co-host. For four very different women, winning the contest presents a crucial chance to change their lives. But with so much at stake, will the contest that aims to bring the community together serve only to break it apart?

Also available in large print and as an ebook on Libby.

These titles and others related to the theme will be on display at each of our locations!

Online Reading Challenge – May Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Challengers!

How did your reading go in May? Did you read any of the books from our Book Flight, or did you find something else to read for this month’s theme of racial justice, advocacy and civil rights?

I read the main title, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I had braced myself for lots of dry, stuffy legalese but instead found a lively, beautifully written, completely engaging book filled with compassion and heartbreak and hope. Stevenson is a master at weaving together multiple stories, presenting each with a clear voice. I quickly found that it was a book that I couldn’t put down.

Bryan Stevenson is fresh out of law school when he heads to Alabama to create the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned and women and children trapped in the labyrinth rules and laws of the criminal justice system.

Early on Stevenson takes on the case of Walter McMillian, a young black man who was convicted of killing a white woman, a murder he did not commit but for which he’s been sentenced to die. In the months and years that Stevenson works on McMillian’s case he comes up against not only racial prejudice but also conspiracy, political corruption and legal challenges. Despite this, Stevenson never gives up. He visits  McMillian and other men on Death Row, most of whom have been tossed aside and forgotten by society. He goes to the homes of their families to offer comfort and advice. He works relentlessly to find answers and to correct mistakes not just for McMillian, but for dozens of other cases as well.  Slowly the Equal Justice Initiative grows and makes inroads against a broken system.

While the many stories of injustice are horrible, it’s the fact that these stories happened not just a hundred years ago, or even fifty years ago, but that many injustices continue to this day is chilling. That someone like Bryan Stevenson (and many others), continue to fight and educate on these injustices does give me hope.

How did you feel after reading a book from this month’s “Book Flight”? Did you feel anger or frustration? Did you learn anything about what has happened in our recent past, and what continues to happen in our criminal justice system? Did it give you a better understanding of why people may fear the police rather than trust them?

Be sure to share your thoughts on this month’s Book Flight in the comments below.

Online Reading Challenge – May

Hello again Fellow Readers!

Today we launch a new month of the Online Reading Challenge with books that focus on racial injustice, advocacy and civil rights. These aren’t necessarily “fun” reads, but they’re powerful, moving and important reads.

Our main title is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time. Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever. Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Also available as an e-book and an e-audiobook.

Also in this month’s Book Flight:

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

Also available in Large Print, as an e-book and an e-audiobook.

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy Tyson. In 1955, white men in the Mississippi Delta lynched a fourteen-year-old from Chicago named Emmett Till. His murder was part of a wave of white terrorism in the wake of the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared public school segregation unconstitutional. The national coalition organized to protest the Till lynching became the foundation of the modern civil rights movement. Only weeks later, Rosa Parks thought about young Emmett as she refused to move to the back of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Five years later, the Emmett Till generation, forever marked by the vicious killing of a boy their own age, launched sit-in campaigns that turned the struggle into a mass movement. But what actually happened to Emmett Till — not the icon of injustice but the flesh-and-blood boy? Part detective story, part political history, cultural scholar Timothy Tyson draws on a wealth of new evidence, including the only interview ever given by Carolyn Bryant, the white woman in whose name Till was killed.

Also available in Large Print.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father – a crusading local lawyer – risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

Be sure to stop by one of the Davenport library locations for displays with these and many more titles!

Online Reading Challenge – April Wrap-Up

Challengers! How was your month? Did you read one of the books from our April Book Flight?

The main title this month was The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.  I loved this book. I read it several years ago shortly after it was published and quickly became completely immersed in the historic setting and the work of these brave women.

This is a book about two wars, of the price paid both by those who died and those who survived, of sisterhood and loyalty and immeasurable bravery.

Before reading this I was unaware of the extent of the spy network whose work was instrumental in fighting World War I, and I had no idea that so many women sacrificed so much working behind enemy lines. There really was an “Alice Network” made up of women who worked in France, gathering information and passing it along to the Allies. This work was incredibly dangerous since they often had to pose as neutral and even supportive of the Germans, usually in close contact, posing as waitresses, store clerks and secretaries and sometimes becoming their lovers, all to gather information.

Although the scenes set during World War I were by far the most riveting, I also enjoyed the post-World War II storyline. The parallels between the wars, especially the brutality and suffering, were eerily similar. And again, it brought to light a true story from the Second World War that I had never heard, that of the lost village of Oradour-sur-Glane in France.

What did you think about the women that worked as spies from any of our Book Flight books? Were you, like me, astonished by their sheer courage, their ability to overcome the fear of torture and death to complete a mission and to stay cool under pressure? What do you think motivated them – was it loyalty to a family member or loved one, or was it patriotism for a country? And what about their enemies, were they simply pure evil, or were they more complex?

Be sure to share your thoughts on this month’s Book Flight in the comments below!

 

The Little Flower Recipe Book by Jill Rizzo

I’ve always been a fan of small bouquets. I have a pretty large flower garden and have the luxury of growing a lot of flowers that become large, dramatic displays – tulips, peonies, dahlias, lilies. But I have a great appreciation and love for tiny bouquets. And now there is a book that shares my love of these small delights – The Little Flower Recipe Book by Jill Rizzo.

Filled with 148 tiny arrangements that range from small to tiny to micro-mini, this book takes you through the seasons with suggestions for combining and creating delightful little bouquets. Half the fun is finding tiny containers – not just traditional vases in miniature, but unexpected things you may have already like a tiny teacup or jar.

So why go to all the trouble of making these tiny bouquets? Lots of reasons! They bring attention to often overlooked flowers that, when brought inside and up-close, reveal to be just as complex and interesting as showier flowers. Subtle color shades, markings and fragrance are easier to see and enjoy.  Also, I can guarantee that you’re not likely to find bouquets of pansies or nasturtiums or any other of these small flowers at the local florist!

More reasons to create small bouquets is that they can fit into small nooks and crannies, on a bedside table or next to the bathroom sink making them an easy way to fill your home with flowers. And well, there’s just something about miniatures that simply delights!

Seed Library Opening at 11:45am Today!

Tiger’s Eye beans. Swenson Swedish snowpeas. Dragon carrots. Wapsipinicon Peach tomatoes. Grandma Einck’s dill. Grandpa Ott’s morning glorys. French Breakfast radishes. These are all names of heirloom seeds and all of them – and many more! – are now available from the Davenport Library’s Seed Library!

There will be a brief ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, April 19 at 11:45am to kick off this new library program.

The Seed Library has 107 varieties of vegetables, 42 different flowers and 29 herbs. Currently, all of our seeds are from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa and all of them are heirloom varieties (some seeds were purchased and some are from a grant from Seed Savers). Many of these varieties have interesting stories about how they were handed down through different generations and how they were prized for their delicious flavors and ease of growing.

Sometime after World War II, the US population moved away from a largely agriculture background and to a more urban one. Farming and gardening habits faded away just as Madison Avenue advertising executives decided Americans only wanted to buy perfect, unblemished vegetables and only flowers suitable for bouquets. To meet these imagined desires, plants were bred to produce vegetables and flowers that were uniform in color and size and able to withstand long-distance shipping without damage. This meant that flavor (and in the case of flowers, fragrance) was sacrificed for uniformity and many heirloom seeds were in danger of disappearing altogether. Seed Savers is dedicated to preserving  unique varieties before they are lost. By growing some of these heirloom seeds in your own backyard you too are helping to keep them alive.

To participate in this program, stop by the Davenport Library Main library at 321 Main Street and browse our notebook which has entries for every seed that we carry, plus basic growing tips. Choose up to five varieties of seeds per family per month (we have checklists that you can use to mark your choices) Library staff will pull your seeds for you. Be sure to log your choices in the Seed Log – there will be a drawing for a garden gift basket on May 1 from the names listed in the log! Now the fun begins – growing your seeds! If you post about your seeds on social media, be sure to tag us @davenportlibrary and use #dplseeds.

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Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams

At the height of the Cold War, with fears running high and no one can be trusted, a woman must make a risky journey into the Soviet Union to save her sister in Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams.

Ruth Macallister hasn’t spoken to her sister Iris since 1940, when a serious disagreement forced them to part on difficult terms. Ruth leaves for the United States while Ruth remains in a Europe to stay with a US Embassy official, Sasha Digby, whom she has fallen in love with. Hurt feelings, the war and distance prevents reconciliation. When Iris, her husband and their children disappear in 1948 and it’s discovered that Sasha has been spying for the Soviet Union, Ruth doesn’t know if they’ve defected or been eliminated by the Soviets. With no word she carries on with her life as a successful career woman in New York and puts that part of her life behind her.

The past is brought back in full force when in 1952, out of the blue, Iris sends Ruth a postcard that appears to be a distress signal. Within days, Ruth has joined a daring plot to rescue her sister when she poses as the wife of Sumner Fox, an American counterintelligence agent. Together they fly to Moscow, where Ruth sees Iris again for the first time in 12 years.

What follows is a tense, emotional and dangerous flight from the Soviet Union in a precarious dash for freedom. There are plot twists, flashbacks to the past, the revealing of secrets all bound by the fierce love between sisters.

This is a great read full of intrigue and hold-your-breath moments. If you are following the Online Reading Challenge this year, this book is one of the alternate titles for the April Book Flight,  which explores women spies, intelligence work and sacrifice.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

This gem of a book is a compelling combination of hope and tragedy, of sacrifice and friendship, of loyalty and brilliant  intelligence and of trust and love in Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

Maddie is a working class girl who dreams of becoming a pilot. “Verity” is  casually wealthy and carefree. Despite their very different backgrounds, they become fast friends, creating  an unbreakable bond that strengthens and deepens as they train to be spies in World War II.

In 1943 the two women are to sent to war-torn France on a spy mission. However, their plane crashes behind enemy lines; “Verity” is captured by the Gestapo while the Maddie is left for dead. The French Resistance is able to help Maddie and she begins searching, against all hope, for “Verity”.

Meanwhile, “Verity” is being tortured by the Nazi’s for information. After horrible pain and suffering, she agrees to write out her confession which she promises will provide information on the Allies and their plans. This is where the book opens, with “Verity’s” confession except that she is taking her time, writing in detail about her friendship with Maddie and other stories unrelated to the war, with just enough information sprinkled throughout that the Germans allow her to continue.

This book is often heartbreaking, but it also has a lot of humor and even joy. The friendship gives both women, even when they’re apart, great strength and perseverance. And the ending holds a brilliant twist. Highly recommended.

If you are joining us for the 2022 Online Reading Challenge, this title works perfectly with our April theme of women spies, intelligence work and sacrifice.