Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson

Focusing on a part of World War II that is less explored, Jennifer Robson transports us to Italy under German occupation in Our Darkest Night.

Antonina has lived in Venice her whole life; her family have been residents for several generations. Her father is a renowned and well-respected doctor, with people from all over Europe and from all walks of life seeking him out. But none of this matters after the Nazi occupation of Italy. By 1943, daily life for the Jews of Venice has become nearly unbearable and increasingly dangerous.

As the danger looms, Antonina’s father refuses to leave his invalid wife, but insists that Antonina escape, posing as the wife of a man she’s never met, Nico, a former seminary student. Nico takes her to his family farm in the countryside, several days travel from  Venice, in the hopes that she will be safe hiding with a Christian family in a remote location.

Antonina (now known as Nina) finds her new life grueling and lonely, and she misses and fears for her parents desperately.  But even as she finds a place in her new family and falls in love with Nico, the German threat is not far away. Can she and Nico survive the horrors that are to come?

This is a quick read with characters that you will care about. The relentless cruelty of the Nazi’s can be difficult to read, but the strength of the Italian people will give you hope. For more books about Italy during the German occupation in World War II, be sure to check out A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell and Blame the Dead by Ed Ruggero.

Online Reading Challenge – April

Hello Challenge Readers!

New month, new author for our Online Reading Challenge! This month we’re reading books by and similar to Jojo Moyes.

Jojo Moyes writes about women, friendship and community. Many of her novels are classified as romance, but her newer titles are catalogued as fiction. Her break-out novel was Me Before You, followed by After You and Still Me. In addition she’s written favorites such as The Girl You Left Behind and The Giver of Stars.

If you’ve read everything by Moyes, or would like to try similar authors, take a look at these titles:

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Landline by Ranbow Rowell

One Day by David Nicholls

The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

You Me Everything by Catherine Issac

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Welcome to Pine Away Motel and Cabins by Katarina Bivald

The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Lots of great choices, right? I’m planning to read The Giver of Stars which picked up a lot of interest when Reese Witherspoon chose it for her book club. It’s also garnered some controversy and mixed reviews since it was released a few months after another book on the same topic, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Richardson was published (which I have read and it is excellent) The topic is fascinating – the horseback librarians of rural Appalachia during the Great Depression – and I’m looking forward to seeing how this compares to Book Woman.

What about you – what will you be reading this month?

 

The Main Library is Open Again!

Hey! Have you had a chance to stop by the Main library lately to see the renovations? If you haven’t yet you’re in for a treat!

The renovation has created a fresh, open look while preserving the mid-Century modern aesthetic from when the building first opened. You’ll find a greatly expanded Children’s area, a separate area for Young Adult readers as well as lots of room for public computers, books, video games and DVDs and a new Maker’s Space which will have equipment such as 3-D printers for the public to use.

As typical with any renovation, not everything is completely in place yet. We are still waiting for the arrival of equipment for the Maker’s Space and for delivery of the lemurs for the Zoological Habitat . Never fear, it will all come together eventually!

Speaking of the Zoological Habitat, be sure to be careful when walking through the Tiger Exhibit. Since you have to walk right through the midst of their habitat, you’ll want to be sure to wear good running shoes. Those tigers are fast. And usually hungry. But no worries, there’s a first aid kit right next to the exit door! We’ve also discovered that it pays to be alert when walking through the Grizzly Bear Exhibit; they’ve been grumpy ever since we took away their honey tree. Whatever you do, don’t make eye contact!

As always, our goal at the Library is to provide an educational, inspiring and comfortable environment (but don’t get too comfortable in the Reptile House! Those slithery dudes love to nip at your heels!) We look forward to seeing you soon!


Haha! April Fool! Well, not the part about the Main Library being open again after the renovation – all of that is true! But the bits about the Zoological Habitat, not so much. Of course, we have lots of books about animals, but so far, no actual tigers. Or grizzly bears. Or snakes. Whew!

And we do look forward to seeing you soon, in our newly renovated, wild-animal-free Main Library!

Online Reading Challenge – March Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

How did your reading go this month? I hope you found something that grabbed your interest!

I read Dana Stabenow’s The Singing of the Dead, one of the Kate Shugak mysteries set in Alaska. It took me a bit to get into the book and in fact, I thought I might not be able to finish it. I was confused by the large cast of characters (it probably didn’t help that I didn’t start with the first book in the series!) and at first I wasn’t sure about Kate herself. But I stuck with it and pretty soon I got caught up in the story and came to really like Kate (and Mutt).

Kate Shugak, a private investigator in Alaska, is hired to act as security for one of the candidates running for state senate who has received threatening notes. Kate is a Native and knows and understands the people, their concerns and how they live in such a unique and isolated part of the world. As she tags along with the candidate on the political trail, she sees little evidence of any threats, but she does discover a lot of corruption and betrayal within the campaign itself. When first one and then another person connected to the candidate is shot and killed, Kate joins forces with police detective Jim Chopin to find the killer.

Parts of the novel are set in the earliest days of the state, when the gold rush brought people of all kinds to the territory including “ladies of the evening”. I enjoyed this look at  the rough-and-tumble history and the guts and determination required to survive. I thought the ties between the sins of the past and the present-day murders were a little shaky, but I tend to read mysteries for the characters and the setting which, in this case, did not disappoint!

Now it’s your turn – what did you read this month?

Therese Anne Fowler’s Historical Women in Fiction

guest post by Mary

I like to read a good historical fiction novel, but I love to read historical fiction novels with a female protagonist. Two of my favorites are Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald and A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts, both by Therese Anne Fowler. The women portrayed in these novels lived in different periods, but I found similarities between the two. The most prominent: they were two women living in a world that was not made for them.

“Won’t we be quite the pair?—you with your bad heart, me with my bad head. Together, though, we might have something worthwhile.”

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, focuses on the life of Southern Belle, Zelda Sayre, and her marriage to the up and coming writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was not the marriage prospect Zelda was looking for, but after his first success as a writer they marry and enter a life of fame during the Jazz Age. Zelda finds herself amidst Fitzgerald’s success and soon realizes her role as Jazz Age Princess does not protect her from the cruelty she will ultimately endure. Touching on the themes of marriage, mental health, family and love, Fowler illuminates Zelda’s life in a way never done before.

“Once there was a desperate young woman whose mother was dead and whose father was dying almost as quickly as his money was running out. It was 1874. Summertime. She was twenty-one years old, ripened unpicked fruit rotting on the branch.”

Also available in Large Print.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts, dives into the affluent world of Gilded Age New York City. Alva Smith must find a suitable husband in order to save her family from financial ruin. She meets William Vanderbilt, whose family is in trouble with high society. The two marry and Alva finds herself on a journey to make her mark, no matter the conventions the world wants her to form to. Touching on themes of woman’s suffrage, family, love and betrayal, Fowler brings Alva Smith to life through the page.

Also available in Large Print.

In both novels, Fowlers use of dialogue drives the narrative and creates a personal connection to the story. After reading both novels, I found Alva and Zelda to be similar. Both women married men in the hopes to better their lives. They both experienced the ups and downs of being in the spotlight of high society, as well as the struggles of keeping a happy and healthy marriage. Finally, Alva and Zelda struggled with being a woman in a culture that valued their lives less than their husbands.

I recommend these novels for lovers of historical fiction and those interested in the roles of wives during the Gilded Age and Jazz Age.

Prey Video Game

guest post by Anthony

2017’s Prey is a game I’ve been meaning to get around to playing for quite a while now. Thankfully, I finally got it this winter and I’m glad to report that it exceeded all my expectations.

Prey primarily takes place aboard Talos 1, a research space station run by the TranStar Corporation that orbits Earth. The station is an expansive environment that includes the various labs, offices, and community spaces that the hundreds of scientists and other workers stationed aboard the station need. It turns out that TranStar has been secretly studying alien life aboard the station until they break containment and infiltrate the station leading to the deaths of the majority of the population aboard the station (shocking how these types of things anyways happen to mega-corporations who secretly find alien life in sci-fi stories). You play as Morgan Yu, Vice-President and head of Research for Transtar. You explore the now near deserted station trying to find a way to stop the aliens from reaching Earth while also trying to save the few remaining humans left on board.

Prey does an excellent job building a very interesting setting aboard Talos 1. The different areas of the station are full of interesting details about the world of the game, the work that was done in each of the locations, and the people who worked there. Prey also gives the player a variety of interesting tools to explore and interact with these spaces. There is an upgrade system that depending on which options you choose will change how the aliens, the surviving humans, and the security systems aboard the station react to you. The system also gives you different options on how to approach each problem in the game and gives plenty of opportunities to fight through encounters, sneaking through them, or talk your way through them. While the initial set up for the plot is a little cliché the game does a really good job with a few key plot twists and some interesting details to make the world feel very unique. I really enjoyed playing through Prey and would highly recommend it to any action or adventure game fans out there.

This game is available in XBOX ONE and PS4 formats.

Online Reading Challenge – March

Hello Challenge Readers!

Welcome to a new month of Challenge Reading! This month’s author is: C.J. Box!

C.J. Box has written a couple of mystery series, some stand alone titles and several short stories, all set in the Western United States. He is best known for his Joe Pickett mystery series, set in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming where Joe is a game warden who often tangles with less savory people.

I’ve just recently discovered C.J. Box and quickly became a fan, reading all of his Joe Pickett series in just a few months. A blog post I wrote about one of his newest titles, Long Range, will give you a good idea of the characters and stories. I strongly recommend any of his books – interesting, complex characters, tense, exciting storylines and over it all, a stunning, untamed landscape.

For C.J. Box read-alikes, I went with titles and authors that feature the outdoors as a major element to the story. Most of these are mysteries and many are part of a series, so if you find one you like, you’re set for what-to-read-next for awhile! Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Nevada Barr writes the National Park series featuring park ranger Anna Pigeon.

Randy Wayne White has two series, both set in Florida. Hannah Smith is a fishing guide and Doc Ford is a marine biologist.

Steve Hamilton sets his PI Alex McNight series in the Upper Penisula of Michigan.

Craig Johnson writes the Longmire series about a sheriff in Wyoming.

Patricia Skalka writes about Sheriff Dave Cubiak who works in Door County, Wisconsin.

For some individual titles, check out Crazy Mountain Kiss by Keith McCafferty which follows PI Sean Stranahan, a private investigator in Montana; The Precipice by Paul Doiron about game warden Mike Bowditch searching for two hikers missing in Maine; and The Wild Inside by Christine Carbo, a novel of suspense set in Glacier National Park.

I am planning to read The Singing of the Dead by Dana Stabenow from her Kate Shugak series. I’ve heard a lot of good things about these mysteries which are set in Alaska, but haven’t read one yet. Now’s the time!

What about you? What will you be reading this month?

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – February Wrap-Up

Hello Readers!

How did your February reading go? What wonderful, magical, mind-twisting book did you discover this month? Or was it the opposite and nothing caught your fancy?

I’m afraid I fell into the second category, somewhat. I failed to finish The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – it just wasn’t working for me. It felt very dark and very sad to me and I just couldn’t finish it (it doesn’t help that a kitten was killed early in the book) Harm/abuse of children or animals will keep me away from any book, no matter how good it’s supposed to be. I also have no trouble not finishing a book if it’s making me unhappy – there are too many good books out there that add value than to continue to read just for the sake of finishing!

However, I did finish a book that fits very neatly into the Neil Gaiman magical-realism read-alike category – my reserve for The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab came in and I couldn’t put it down. Thoughtful, intriguing and surprising with a twisting storyline that keeps you guessing (and hoping). One of our librarians, Stephanie, wrote a blog post about it last month with an excellent summary and examination of it’s appeal. Go read it for more details!

So, while I might not have read what I had planned to, I still finished this month’s challenge!

What about you – did you finish this month’s challenge? (Remember, no judgement if you didn’t – there are no Library Police!)

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Guest post by Anthony

I love horror and suspense stories but I tend to be a little bit of chicken when it comes to movies or TV shows. Because of that books are where I usually go for my creepy or suspenseful tales. A recent novel that I read that falls into that category is The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling.

The Luminous Dead is a young adult book that follows the story of a cave diver named Gyre who lives on an alien world and takes on a mysterious but lucrative new job in order to get enough money to leave the planet. The job that Gyre is assignment will have her explore a cave system by herself with a radio connection to her handler Em stationed on the surface as her only means of communication. Gyre lied about herself in order to get the job offer so when odd circumstances such as a lack of briefing on the mission until after she starts down the cave system and a lack of contact with other members of the organization pop up she doesn’t raise any concerns in order to avoid her lie being discovered. As Gyre climbs farther down from the surface of the planet these concerns pile up until it becomes clear that the job was far different and more dangerous than she was led to believe and that Em has been lying about herself and her past as much as Gyre has.

The Luminous Dead does a great job describing and escalating the tension of exploring a cave system. For the mission Gyre wears a caving suit that completely encases her body, recycles her oxygen, and has a shunt implanted directly into her stomach for food. After many days of caving this lack of ability to feel herself with her own hands or breath any fresh air extracts quite a mental toll on Gyre. In addition to this what Gyre sees and hears is also played for her by the suit, there are no windows or other openings to the outside. Early on in the mission it is revealed that both of these feeds can be remotely monitored and changed by Em which adds further stress on Grye as she has to decide if what she believes that she is seeing or hearing is real or not. 

I really enjoyed the The Luminous Dead. It did a great job building up the suspense while riding the fine line of keeping the reader unsure of whether something truly supernatural was happening or not. Both Gyre and Em are really well-developed characters with flaws and perspectives that are fully explored. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good suspense story with a sci-fi twist.

Mobituaries: Great Lives Worth Reliving by Mo Rocca

guest post by Kim

There’s just something about unsung heroes and forgotten landmark events that have always fascinated me. Perhaps it has something to do with my love for trivia contests, or my love for winning said contests!  Whatever the reason, I was intrigued last year when I began listening to the podcast Mobituaries. Hosted by Mo Rocca, a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning and frequent panelist on NPR’s quiz show Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, this podcast has provided me with many hours of enjoyment and discovery. 

As described on the website (Mobituaries.com) “Mo Rocca’s long love of obituaries has led him to create Mobituaries, an irreverent but deeply researched appreciation of the people (and things) of the past who have long intrigued him—from an unsung Founding Father to the first Chinese-American superstar, from Neanderthals to the station wagon.” My introduction to this podcast was the episode entitled The Forgotten Forerunners. In it, we are introduced to three individuals who broke boundaries of race and gender years before more well-known pioneers. For example, did you know that Rosa Parks was not the first African-American woman to challenge the racist policies of  public transportation? Elizabeth Jennings Graham fought for (and won!) the right to use New York City’s available streetcars in 1854!  

There are two seasons and 16 more episodes with similarly interesting stories focusing not only on people but also on things like TV sitcom characters or a college football rivalry. No matter the subject matter, the stories are very compelling and thoroughly presented. So it was a wonderful surprise to learn that Mo Rocca was also publishing a Mobituaries book with even more intriguing stories including one on the afterlife of Einstein’s brain.  The book was published in November 2019 and is now available through the Davenport Public Library in regular, Large Print, ebook, and CD formats.  The podcast can be found on the Mobituaries website, or through your preferred podcast app.