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.  

Online Reading Challenge – February

Hello Challenge Readers!

New month, new author – this month’s Read Alike is: Neil Gaiman!

I have not read anything by Neil Gaiman, although he has been on my “to read” list for a long time, so I am especially happy to have the extra push to read one of his books. Gaiman is quite popular, with an avid following but his books are far from mainstream – they’re a mix of myth, magical realism and fantasy. Now is the perfect time to try one of his popular titles such as American Gods, Norse Mythology, Neverwhere or Good Omens or his graphic novel series The Sandman.

Or try a book with a bit of the unexplainable. Here are some to consider.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

The Color of Magic by Terry Prachett

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

The Infernals by John Connolly

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce

The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The White Forest by Adam McOmber

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

Lots of mysterious circumstances and hidden secrets to choose from! Clicking on any of the titles will take you to our catalog and a brief description of the book.

I am planning on reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane which might be a bit scarier than I generally prefer. Hmmmm. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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

 

Online Reading Challenge – January Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

How did your reading go this month? Did you find a great Kristin Hannah book or something similar?

I read The Great Alone, a title that had gotten a lot of buzz when it came out and a lot of very good reviews. However, I was warned by a couple friends that the book was pretty dark and sad so I was a little worried.

Well, my friends were right – it is dark and very sad in parts – but the reviewers were right too. Hannah is an excellent writer, able to draw you into another world quickly and able to keep the tension of “what happens!” rolling throughout the book. It might not be my favorite book of all time, but I couldn’t put it down and I haven’t stopped thinking about the themes in the book and what happened.

Set mostly in the mid-to-late 70s, The Great Alone is about a family that moves north to Alaska. Ernt Allbright has been nearly destroyed by the Vietnam War where he spent six years as a prisoner of war. Haunted by nightmares and unable to fit in, he takes his wife Cora and daughter Leni to Alaska to establish a homestead in a remote cabin far from the pressures of modern life.

Cora is ill-suited to the harsh work required to survive, but she loves Ernt deeply and follows willingly. At 13, Leni has no choice but to go with them but finds that there is a terrible beauty to Alaska that appeals to her and shapes her into the woman she will become.

At first, Ernt seems better. The family arrives in Alaska in the early summer, the neighbors and small town welcome them and they start to build a life. However, they are woefully unprepared for an Alaskan winter and the pressure builds in Ernt. He begins drinking too much, becomes convinced the government is coming to kill them all and then becomes abusive, beating Cora and punishing Leni for any mistake, real or imagined. Isolated and far from any help, Leni and her Mother must band together to survive not only the harsh conditions, but the danger from within.

This is a fascinating look at family dynamics, the strength of character and adaptability of people, and the devastating, long-term effects of war and PTSD. Throughout it all, Alaska looms large with it’s incredible beauty and unforgiving landscapes, a central character in it’s own right.

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

 

Introducing the 2021 Online Reading Challenge!

Welcome to the 2021 Online Reading Challenge!

We’re back for another year (our 6th!) of reading recommendations with our super-casual, low-stress reading club. Each month I’ll introduce a new subject, suggest several reading choices and pick a title for myself. At the end of the month I’ll report back with what I read and encourage you to share what you read. And that’s it – no pressure, no being forced to read a book you’re not interested in, no obligation to host a bunch of strangers!

Our theme for 2021 is Read-Alikes! I’ve chosen 12 popular and critically acclaimed authors, one for each month. During that month you can read books by that author (especially if you haven’t yet but have been meaning to) or books by authors with similar writing styles (so if you’ve read everything by the author-of-the-month, this will give you a chance to explore more authors!) 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 chose your own path!

Here is the schedule of Read-Alikes:

January – Kristin Hannah

February – Neil Gaiman

March – C.J. Box

April – Jojo Moyes

May – Toni Morrison

June – Alice Hoffman

July – Jodi Picoult

August – David Baldacci

September – Ann Patchett

October – Philippa Gregory

November – Chimamanda Adichie

December – Lisa Gardner

OK, let’s get started! January’s author is Kristin Hannah, who writes fiction highlighting strong female characters. She’s written a number of books that have been very popular including The Nightingale and The Great Alone which is quite a range! Here are a few suggestions.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Island House by Nancy Thayer

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

White Houses by Amy Bloom

That’s a great list of both contemporary and historical fiction, all centered on strong women. Clicking on any of the titles will take you to our catalog and a brief description of the book.

I haven’t read very many books by Hannah (just The Nightingale which is excellent) so I’m going to try The Great Alone which comes with lots of great reviews.

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

Online Reading Challenge – December Wrap-Up

Hello Readers!

We’ve made it through another year! Hurrah! I hope you’ve enjoyed our reading explorations!

This month’s inspiration film was The Maltese Falcon, a classic detective film starring Humphrey Bogart. It’s the quintessential private detective movie with a twisty plot, a mysterious woman and a jaded detective.

The book I read this month was The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (he also wrote The Maltese Falcon which the film is based on), which checks many of the same points including a twisty plot and a mysterious woman (or two). This one is set apart by the detectives though – in The Thin Man they are Nick and Nora Charles, a crazy-rich couple who solve crimes when their social calendar of cocktails and banter allows.

Nick and Nora are the kind of wealthy people that could quickly become super annoying but instead, this pair is funny and charming, madly in love with each other and kind and generous to those in need.  Quite frankly, the mystery – which I found a little hard to follow – was secondary for me (I’m  not a big mystery reader so that’s not a surprise) Instead I enjoyed the characters and the atmospheric setting – I could almost hear the clinking of martini glasses and see the sharp clothes. This book is an enduring classic for good reason!

How about you? How did your reading go this month? Let us know in the comments!

We may be done with the Online Reading Challenge for this year, but the 2021 Challenge begins on January 2! Be sure to check back for all the details!

Online Reading Challenge – December

Hello Challenge Readers!

Here we are with the last Challenge of the year (what a year, right?) This month our inspiration film is the classic, The Maltese Falcon starring Humphrey Bogart. For me, the film is nearly incomprehensible – I still don’t understand the fuss over the statue – but it’s still a great film, with several famous character actors, an incredibly stylish black-and-white film noir feel and Bogart at his charismatic best. So what kind of books does this film inspire?

Of course, you can read books by Dashiell Hammett who wrote the book our film is based on as well as classics such as The Thin Man and The Red Harvest.  One of his contemporaries, Raymond Chandler, wrote several outstanding detective novels including The Big Sleep and Farewell My Lovely. 

Others to consider include James Ellroy (The Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential), Ross MacDonald (the Lew Archer series) and James Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce). Newer authors include Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train), Robert B Parker (the Spencer series), Lawrence Block (the Matthew Scudder series) and Mickey Spillane (the Mike Hammer series).

I am planning on reading The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett about married private detectives Nick and Nora Charles and their dog Asta. It’s supposed to have lots of fun. snappy dialogue and has inspired a radio show, a television series, movies and even a Broadway play.

What about you – what will you be reading in December? Let us know in the comments!

Online Reading Challenge – November Wrap-Up

Greetings Challengers!

I hope you have safely returned from your time travel adventure by now. Time travel can be exciting, but also a little dangerous – one misstep and you put the whole future in jeopardy! Fortunately, at this time (as far as I know), time travel only exists in books and movies. Did you read something great this month? Please let us know in the comments!

My time travel adventure never took off – I failed to find anything that kept my interest. Of course, I threw this month open to any science fiction title, but I still came up short. This month (and year!) has been somewhat distracting!

If you too are still looking for something time-travel-y, check out some Doctor Who episodes (we have both classic and reboot series) which are loads of fun. C, one of our librarians, recommends Stephen King’s 11/22/63 about a man that goes back in time to try and prevent the assissination of John F Kennedy. They also suggest H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, an early classic in the genre.

So, now it’s up to you – what can you recommend for time-traveling/science fiction fun?

Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey by Kathleen Rooney

Even in the midst of a brutal, horrific war, the story of the Lost Battalion – a US Army regiment that, following orders, advanced on German strongholds, outpacing their support and became trapped behind enemy lines – stands out as one of the bloodiest, most worthless engagements of the war. Two unlikely heroes emerge from this nightmare, their lives forever altered in unforeseen ways.

Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey by Kathleen Rooney tells the story, in alternating chapters, of Major Whittlesey, the scholarly, solitary lawyer that led the doomed 77th Division and Cher Ami, the messenger pigeon that is credited with saving those that managed to stay alive.

Cher Ami, born and bred in England and lovingly trained in the proud tradition of messenger pigeons, now resides in the Smithsonian, a taxidermied observer of the humans that pass through the great museum, musing on the changing times and attitudes. The museum goers look on Cher Ami with pity or sorrow, having little knowledge of the breadth of what she saw and experienced, from her bucolic home in England to the war-torn fields of France, the freedom and joy of flight and the mysterious “voice” that brings her home to roost again and again.

Major Whittlesey is also mostly unknown, by his commanders, by the men he leads, by his family and all but his closest friend. Quiet by nature, he is a homosexual at a time in history when it would be dangerous to admit to, so he keeps to himself and his books. At first glance he is completely unsuited to lead soldiers into war, and yet he takes the job seriously, with intelligence and compassion and is loved by his men. When the orders that will doom his division arrive, he knows it will be a disaster, but his objections are overruled. When the battalion is trapped, without food or water for days, surrounded by Germans and running out of ammunition, Whittlesey works tirelessly to encourage his men, offer comfort and support where he can and never backs down.

Just when it seems it couldn’t get any worse, friendly fire begins to rain down on the 77th Division’s trenches – misguided bombs from the Americans. Desperate to end the bombardment, Major Whittlesey sends one messenger pigeon after another (all telephone lines have been cut and  runners have been killed or captured) German snipers target and kill each pigeon as it takes flight until only one remains. Even though she is badly wounded, Cher Ami manages to survive and deliver her message, helping to save the remaining soldiers of the 77th.

Based on true events and people (and pigeon) Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey is a gripping, sober look at a terrible war and the price it demanded. The long, proud history of homing pigeons, which were used to deliver messages through World War II, was fascinating and a bright counterpoint to the mud and trenches of battle. This is book covers a dark and difficult period of history but Cher Ami’s thoughtful musings and Whittlesey’s dry humor keeps the reader engaged and anxious to find out what happens next. Highly recommended.