Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello Challengers!

How’s is your June reading going?  Still looking for something related to the movies? You could always just watch a movie. You could watch a movie adapted from a book – even though the book is better 99% of the time, a well-done movie adaptation can add a lot of visual depth to a favorite story (I recommend watching one of the many Jane Austen adaptations) Or you could watch a movie about the movies. Here are a few suggestions.

Sunset Boulevard.  Pursued by creditors, Joe swerves into a driveway of a seemingly abandoned Sunset Boulevard mansion where he finds Norma Desmond, an ex-screen queen dreaming of a dramatic comeback.

The Artist. In 1927, George Valentin is a silent movie superstar. However, the advent of the talkies will kill his career and he will sink into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller, it seems the sky’s the limit as major movie stardom awaits. Though their careers are taking different paths their destinies will become entwined.

La La Land. A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. This original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing dreams.

Ed Wood.  A stranger-than-fiction true story of the early career of Edward D. Wood, Jr., the once voted worst movie director of all time.

The Aviator. Follows the life of Howard Hughes who comes to Hollywood with an interest in getting into the picture business. It doesn’t take long for Hughes to jump from producer to director of his first major film project, a World War I air epic.

Online Reading Challenge – June

Challengers! It’s a new month! That means it’s a new subject for our Reading Challenge and this month it’s: Movies!

In many ways, this will be the easiest Challenge month ever – technically, you can simply watch a movie or television show and BAM! you’ve completed the month of June. Remember, there are no Library Police – no one will come knocking on your door and drag you off to Library Jail if you fail to read something heavy and serious! Read/watch something that interests you and enjoy!

That said, if you’d like to explore the world of movies (I’m including television as well), here are a few suggestions for interesting books.

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict is a novel about Hedy Lamarr who, in addition to being a great actress and famous beauty, was a brilliant scientist. Another novelization of a famous actress is Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates, about Marilyn Monroe.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter moves between 1960s Italy and present-day Hollywood and a romance lost and found again.

Black Dahlia by James Ellroy is a tense and atmospheric exploration of one of Hollywood’s most famous murders.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel follows a ragtag group of musicians and actors traveling through a not-too-distant dystopian future (I loved this book!)

As always, stop by any Davenport Library location for lots more suggestions on our displays!

I am planning on reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid in which an aging actress tells the story of her career (and all those husbands) It’s getting rave reviews and I have high hopes for a great read.

What about you? What are you planning to read this month?

 

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – Wrap-Up

Hello Friends and Readers!

Time to wrap-up the Reading Challenge for May. How did you do? Did you find something fun and intriguing? Or was this month a miss for you?

I read Nine Women, One Dress by Jane Rosen and it was a delight. The story centers on one perfect little black dress and the nine different women who wear it. With a little bit of sly help from the Bloomingdale’s sales people, the dress gets into the hands of the woman who most needs it each time. Simple and elegant, it makes every woman who wears it feel special and confident. Not every woman who wears it has a “happily ever after” story, but each gets what they deserve or need.

I’ve been reading a lot of books set during World Wars I and II lately and, while I enjoy reading about that time period, the change of pace to something lighter was great. The book was quick to read, with lots of characters to root for. Highly recommended.

I found it interesting how fashion, which many may consider frivolous in world with so many problems, can transform a person, how the right clothes can give you armor to make it through the day or express your personality or improve your mood. Actors use costumes to create and inhabit a character, the rest of us can use clothes to express ourselves and shape our day.

Now it’s your turn. What did you read (or watch) this month? Let us know in the comments!

Online Reading Challenge – Mid Month Check

Hello! How is your reading going with this month’s Reading Challenge subject, Fashion? Have you found something you’re enjoying, or have you hit a dead end? If you’re still looking, here are a couple of movie s to consider.

Phantom Thread with Daniel Day Lewis in his final role before retiring from acting about an exclusive London fashion house in the 1950s.

Coco avant Chanel starring Audrey Tautou about the early life of Coco Chanel and how it influenced and affected her life and career.

McQueen a documentary about the extraordinary life, career and artistry of fashion designer Alexander McQueen.

Dior and I is another documentary, an extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at Raf Simon’s first haute couture collection as artistic director of the House of Dior.

Online Reading Challenge – May

Hello Again Challenge Readers!

It’s a new month and time for a new topic. This month our topic is: Fashion!

One of the first books I ever bought for myself, through a program at my elementary school was The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter. I am still enchanted by the beautiful language and imagery of the mice sewing an exquisite vest at night to help the elderly tailor. I love the language of fashion – “twists of thread” and “cherry-coloured silk” and “gold-laced waistcoats” and buttonholes with stitches so tiny “they looked as if they had been made by little mice!” I’m sure Beatrix Potter inspired my love of words and details and encouraged a great respect for craftsmanship. And so this month we celebrate the world of fashion in its many forms.

For historical fiction, try The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott about a young seamstress to a fashion designer who survives the sinking of the Titanic. I loved The Gown by Jennifer Robson which details the lives of the women who embroidered Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth’s wedding dress. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini is based on the true story of Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, a woman who was born a slave, bought her freedom and became Mary Todd Lincoln’s seamstress.

For contemporary fiction, you can’t beat the snark in The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger about the cut-throat world of fashion magazines. For something a little less ruthless, go for The Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff about a woman running a shop that specializes in vintage dresses.

The high cost of fashion can be found in books such as Triangle: the Fire that Changed America by Dave Von Drehle which recounts the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, one of the worst industrial accidents in US history that led to laws requiring safer working conditions. Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline looks at “the high price of cheap fashion”. If you’d like to step away from “fast fashion” The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees helps you build a wardrobe of clothes you love and want to wear. And Mending Matters by Katrina Rodabaugh teaches visible mending and just how beautiful it can be.

I’m going to read Nine Women, One Dress by Jane Rosen about one perfect little black dress and how it affects the lives of nine different women.

Do you see something you’d like to read? Be sure to stop at any of the Davenport Library locations and check out our displays for even more ideas!

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – April Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Readers!

How did your reading about reading go this month? I have just one word for how mine went – fail! Argh! I had every intention of reading a book this month, in fact I had three titles as possibilities. I also thought I would have lots of down time this month but in fact I did not. Everything came together (in a bad way) to keep me from getting much reading done.

Has this ever happened to you, where you go through a period of not having time to read, or nothing catches your attention? While I don’t think I’m in a full-blown reading slump (I’ve already read a book for next month!), I have struggled in the past with reading inertia. If this dread syndrome ever happens to you, here are some ideas to  get yourself back on the reading train.

How to Break Out of a Reading Slump from Bookish

19 Ways to Beat a Reading Slump from Book Cave

Bookish Things to Do While in a Reading Slump from Book Riot

And for a bit of humor: 10 Stages of a Reading Slump from Odyssey

Now it’s your turn – what did you read for April? Have you ever been in a reading slump and if so, how did you get yourself out of it?

Online Reading Challenge – Mid Month Check In

Hello Challenge Readers!

How is your month of Books about Books going? Have you found something you just can’t put down? Please let us know if you have!

If you’re still struggling to find something for the April Challenge, how about trying a movie? There are some fun ones!

Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Ah, the classic rom-com. A famous actress stumbles into a tiny, quaint bookstore in London, meets the charming and diffident owner and the rest, after the resiquite obstacles are overcome, is history. Lovely.

You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Another classic, this time set in New York City. A major bookstore chain moves into the neighborhood and pushes out the tiny children’s bookstore. It’s a blast-from-the-past with aol and dial-up (and big bookstore chains aren’t doing so well now) but still sweet and funny.

The Princess Bride with Cary Elwes and Robin Wright. It’s a storybook brought to life! One of the best films ever, with lots of scene-stealing funny bits and and an endless supply of great lines.

The Bookshop with Emily Mortimer. In 1959 England, a young widow follows her dream and opens a bookshop in a small, conservative coastal town.

And you can always watch a movie made from/inspired by a book! (The book is almost always better, but that doesn’t mean the movie can’t be fun too) My favorites are some of the many adaptations of Jane Austen’s books, but there is almost a limitless list to choose from!

Online Reading Challenge – Wrap Up

Challengers! How did your reading go this month? Did you find a gem? Or was the month a clunker for you?

I read A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell. It is quite good, a can’t-put-down, I’m-still-thinking-about-it that follows a lesser-known part of World War II. It’s also pretty grim and includes some gruesome scenes. It’s not a light read, but it is well worth the effort.

It’s 1943. Mussolini has been defeated and Italy has broken with Germany and made peace with the Allies. Thousands of Jewish refugees struggle over the Alps, away from Eastern Europe toward what they believe will be a safe place to wait out the war. Instead, they discover that the war is still very much present in Italy with the Nazis’ arrival, the Resistance battling them, Jews forced to flee or go into hiding again and ordinary citizens simply trying to survive. The Nazi rule is harsh and unrelenting – anytime a German soldier is killed by a Resistance fighter, 20 (or more) citizens are killed in retaliation. Sweeps are enacted regularly searching for hidden Jews or Resistance fighters; any that are found are killed or deported (to death camps) as are those that hid or aided them. Food and fuel are scarce. And then the Allies begin bombing the tiny villages and towns in an effort to break the weakening German Army.

A Thread of Grace follows a variety of people living in this Italian valley including a priest, a Resistance leader, an Italian Jewish family, a German doctor, Eastern European Jews who have fled to Italy, an Italian soldier and several Catholic nuns. Each has suffered great losses and struggle to continue against impossible odds. There is despair and sorrow and anger, but there is also fellowship and kindness. The Italians, whether Jewish, Catholic or atheist, open their homes to the Jewish refugees without hesitation, often risking their own lives, hiding, feeding and clothing them with no expectation of repayment.

You get a real sense of what the war meant in this Italian valley – the desperation, the randomness, the cruelty. The kindness of strangers is breathtaking – Italian soldiers helping the refugees over the mountains by carrying their luggage or a tired child, nuns hiding orphan refugee children among their other charges, helping a sick German doctor, a deserter, even though he has caused thousands of deaths, and confusing and distracting soldiers at checkpoints to smuggle someone past.  Although this is fiction, Russell spent several years researching this part of the Italian campaign. It has often been overlooked once the Allied invasion began and attention shifted to Normandy and France. In fact, the war continued in Italy, with a devastating toll, until May 1945.

I did have some trouble keeping the large cast of characters, hailing from various families and nationalities, straight but there is a list of the major players at the beginning of the book. This book is often difficult to read, but it is well worth the effort, an eye-opening look at both the worst and the best of humans.

Now it’s your turn. What did you read this month?

Online Reading Challenge -March

Hello Challenge Readers!

It’s a new month and that means it’s a new theme for the Online Reading Challenge! Will the excitement ever end?

This month our theme is Religion.  Religion can be controversial, but it can also be fascinating. Religion has shaped cultures, history, art and philosophy. Religion influences all of our lives, whether we’re a devoted practitioner or not. You might take this month to read a book that describes a religion you’re unfamiliar with, or a historical perspective of one you are familiar with. Or read something fun and cozy – the choice is yours! You don’t have to choose a book that is strictly about religion (although you can if you want) but look for something where religion informs the story.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

One of my all-time favorite books is The Chosen by Chaim Potok. I grew up in a small, rural Iowa town where 90% of the population was Protestant. Even Catholics were “exotic” to my childish mind and Jewish people simply unknown. The Chosen opened my eyes and my imagination, not just to different religions (both Orthodox Hasidic and Modern Orthodox Jews are part of the story), but to a different world – 1940s Brooklyn, intellectual curiosity and dedicated faith. Beautifully written, this now classic story of two boys and their fathers is a don’t miss. Its universal themes of family, faith, love and loyalty will resonate with everyone.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver follows the harrowing story of an over-enthusiastic Evangelical Baptist missionary and his quest to convert (“save” in his opinion) the native people of Belgian Congo in 1959. Told from the point-of-view of his wife and four daughters, this polarizing book will cause you to question many entrenched beliefs. The storyline is gripping, bittersweet and can’t-put-down.

I thoroughly enjoyed Charles Lovett’s The Lost Book of the Grail, about a couple’s search for a lost treasure. The book juxtaposes the timelines of what actually happened at the English abbey to what Arthur and Bethany are discovering in the present. For fans of The DaVinci Code (which would also qualify for this month’s reading challenge) but with much less torture and bloodshed.

There are several classics worth picking up now if you haven’t yet such as Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin and The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

Prefer something light? Try the Mitford series by Jan Karon about a pastor in an idyllic country town. Other modern favorites include The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving or Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat.

Be sure to check out the book displays at each Davenport library building for lots more suggestions.

I’m planning to read A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell which is about a family of Jews escaping over the Alps to Italy in 1943. It promises to be a multi-faceted look at the Italian front during World War II.

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

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – Wrap-Up

Hello Reading Fans!

We’ve finished up another month of the Reading Challenge. How did your month go reading-wise? Did you find something wonderful or was this an off month for you?

I read – and enjoyed – Delicious! by Ruth Reichl which follows the adventures of Billie Breslin. Billie has fled California and moved to New York City, taking a job as an assistant at the beloved food magazine Delicious. At first hesitant and lonely, she soon makes friends from among the colorful characters working at the magazine. They in turn introduce her to the hidden gems of food shops and markets that populate the neighborhood. Out from under the shadow of her sister, Billie begins to blossom and thrive.

However, all is not well at Delicious. One day the “suits” crunch the numbers and decide to shutter the magazine, leaving everyone out of a job except Billie, who agrees to stay on and answer any incoming correspondence for the next few months. Alone in the old mansion that served as the offices and kitchens for Delicious, Billie stumbles across a secret. A secret that might save the mansion and open new opportunities for herself.

Reichl was the last editor-in-chief of the now defunct Gourmet magazine and is a well-known food writer, including having published several critically acclaimed memoirs. Her writing about food and the rituals and joys of eating and sharing food are exquisite. I must have gained five pounds just reading her descriptions! Reichl’s ability to evoke not only the flavor of the food, but the ambiance of where and how it was created is astonishing. Food is shown as a form of love and fellowship, bringing people of diverse backgrounds together.

While I enjoyed Delicious! a lot, I felt that the characters weren’t always well-developed. In addition, there seemed to be an awful lot of mysteries – 6 or 7 at least – which made the book feel choppy. (And, quite frankly, her idea of how libraries work is bizarre!) However, the mysteries were intriguing and I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened! Instead read this book for its evocative descriptions of food and New York City neighborhoods.

How did your reading go this month? Did you find something wonderful? When I was pulling books for the displays this month I noticed that many food themed titles also had a lot to do with family and crossing cultural barriers. Food, good food prepared with care, has a way of uniting us. What did you discover this month’s?