Online Reading Challenge – December

Here we go Challenge Readers! It’s the final month of the 2019 Online Reading Challenge! Are you ready for a strong finish to the year?

I think this month will be fun. And kind of a free-for-all because the topic is Friends and Family and well, that means the number of books that would qualify is nearly unlimited. Whether you define family as blood relations, step-, blended or the family you choose, these people are important and influence your life past, present and future. Here are a few titles to get you started thinking about what to read.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – A placid, planned neighborhood in suburban Cleveland is disrupted and changed forever when an enigmatic single mother and her daughter move in, drawing the other families to them and sparking controversy and conflict.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – A Vietnam War vet moves his family to Alaska where he hopes the wide open spaces will calm his increasingly erratic behavior. Woefully unprepared for an Alaskan winter, the family soon learns that the real danger is from within.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – Falling under the category of “the family you choose” this lovely book shows how an oddball collection of neighbors from wildly varying backgrounds come together to support and celebrate each other through the multiple milestones of life. Highly recommended.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – Twin brothers who are orphaned at birth when their mother dies and their father abandons them, Marion and Shiva share a love of medicine but their love for the same woman tears them apart. When the past threatens Marion, he must turn to the father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – be sure to check the displays at each of the Davenport Library locations for lots more choices!

I’m planning on reading The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. This is an older book that is listed as a favorite by many (I know someone who re-reads it every year!) Set in Cornwall, England, it is described as “a sweeping family drama” that centers around the fate of a beloved painting. I hope it lives up to all the great reviews!

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

 

Online Reading Challenge – November Wrap-Up

Hello Readers!

How did your November reading go? Did you find a great book to read or movie to watch?

I struggled a bit this month. “Education” turned out to be a tougher subject to find interesting books than I had expected. That’s not to say there aren’t any books worth reading, just that I had trouble finding one that I wanted to read. I ended up choosing Looking for Alaska by John Green and, what can I say, I had some issues with it.

Looking for Alaska takes place in an exclusive boarding school in Alabama. Miles has never quite fit in at public school back home in Florida (his favorite hobby is collecting the last words of famous people), so he transfers to Culver Creek to seek “the great perhaps”. What he finds there is a collection of eccentric and independent thinkers that push his boundaries and sometimes endanger his life. Alaska Young – brilliant, beautiful, free-spirited, troubled – becomes the center of his world and her moods and flights of fancy dictate how Miles and the circle of friends around Alaska will experience each day. When tragedy strikes the consequences are far reaching and long lasting.

I think I may be too old and too cynical to have really enjoyed this book. It reminds me a bit of the experience of reading Catcher in the Rye; if you read it at the right point in your life, it’s mind blowing. If you read it too late, it seems self-indulgent and shallow. I wouldn’t call Looking for Alaska either self-indulgent or shallow (it deals with serious issues teens face today), but I had a hard time relating to the teens. Of course, I was never part of a “cool crowd” (more the “super-quiet-book-nerd never-do-anything-against-the-rules” crowd!) I found much of their behavior to be dangerous and was disturbed by their disregard for the privileges they had access to. Of course, there were several serious, underlying issues that at least in part explained their behavior but mostly I wanted to shake them and tell them to stop making stupid choices. (It’s tough to get old!!)

The writing, as to be expected from John Green, was beautiful and kept me reading when I might have given up. He can turn a phrase or describe an emotion with such care and skill with no extraneous clutter that it’s breathtaking. I found myself skimming chunks of the book but also repeatedly diving into passages that I would re-read again and again. My recommendation is to go read The Fault in Our Stars, also by John Green, and pass on Looking for Alaska, but your mileage my vary.

What about you? What was your November reading experience like?

Online Reading Club – Mid-Month Check In

Hello Readers!

How is your reading going this month? Have you found something good, or are you still searching? If you’re short on time, here are a couple of movie suggestions that fit into our Education theme!

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark with Harrison Ford and Karen Allen. Remember? Indiana is a professor of archaeology! Granted, there aren’t a lot of classroom/professor scenes but nevertheless, beyond the bullwhip and fedora and deathly fear of snakes, he was a teacher. It does beg the question though – how come none of my college professors looked like Harrison Ford?

Dead Poet’s Society with Robin Williams. When a new English professor shakes up the established teaching curriculum at a strict boarding school he changes the lives of his students forever. A homage to the beloved teachers that do so much to inspire and motivate us.

Mr Hollands Opus starring Richard Dreyfuss. A frustrated composer learns that his true calling is teaching others and his legacy becomes not a piece of music but the generations of students he has taught.

Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon. Blonde and beautiful does not equal dumb and unmotivated. When El is dumped by her boyfriend, she follows him to law school where she finds out that she has a brilliant legal mind and that she doesn’t need a loser boyfriend to succeed. Fun and light.

Online Reading Challenge – November

Readers! It’s November! That means it’s time for our new topic for the Online Reading Challenge and this month it’s – Education!

Education is a topic that affects all of us, whether we barely made it through high school or have several advanced degrees. Plus, I’m a big believer in “never stop learning” – exploring and finding out about new interests and topics should never stop.

When I was putting together this month’s list of books, I found a lot fewer books on education and schooling than I expected, so I’ve supplemented with books about books (some of which you may remember from our month of Reading!) Of course, you’re free to read whatever you’d like. Maybe you’ll picked up a new hobby and would like to learn more about it or you’re suddenly fascinated with the economic growth of Iceland. Dive in! Enjoy! Here are a few more standard titles to get you started.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I loved this book, not only for the setting (Paris!) but for the way Anna grew from a self-conscious, frightened girl into a confident young woman. When her parents send her to Paris for her final year of high school, Anna is angry and defiant but gradually her reluctance changes to acceptance and happiness as she learns how to rely on herself. A fun and charming book.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. One small miscalculation, wholly accidental and unintentional, changes the lives of two college baseball players and those around them forever. Lots of baseball and heartbreak.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Richardson. Based on true stories, this book follows Cussy Mary Carter as she travels by horseback in the Appalachian Mountains delivering books to isolated farms on her route during the Great Depression. She encounters danger (not everyone approves of the books she delivers), prejudice (Cussy’s unusual skin color causes many to fear and shun her) and hazardous conditions but remains resolute. Cussy is a great character – brave, determined and moral.

I’m planning on reading Looking for Alaska by John Green which takes place at a prep school in Alabama. It is described as wrenching and joyful coming-of-age story. As a huge fan of Green’s A Fault in Their Stars, I have high hopes for this one!

Now it’s your turn. What will read in November?

 

Online Reading Challenge – October Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Reading Fans!

How did your October Challenge reading go this month? The topic of Nature gave us a lot of options – I hope you found one you liked!

I had a good month; I read (and am now hooked on) the Joe Pickett mystery series by C.J. Box. I’ve actually read several in the series (there are 19 so far with number 20 coming out early next year), but I’ll just talk about the first in the series, Open Season.

Joe Pickett is the new game warden in Twelve Sleep, Wyoming near the Bighorn Mountains. It’s beautiful country, teeming with wildlife and natural resources, but it also seems to attract some people who prefer to live outside the law. Unlike his predecessor, Joe refuses to look the other way or accept bribes and that makes him unpopular with the hunters and fishermen who don’t follow the rules. When two outfitters are murdered and a third man dies in Joe’s backyard, the local sheriff decides that the third man killed the first two, them committed suicide and declares the case closed.

However, this just doesn’t add up for Joe and he begins poking around, looking for clues. The secrets and conspiracies he begins to unravel could be catastrophic for some – including himself and his family. Box navigates the various political issues that are part of modern Wyoming (economic, ecological, environmental) with a delicate touch, showing that each viewpoint has valid concerns, but also has radicals that won’t allow compromise. Joe is a man of few words and often gets himself in trouble by his refusal to back down or look away. He adores his wife and daughters and loves the beauty and wildness of the countryside. He isn’t bigger-than-life heroic, but is determined and observant and able to find solutions that others don’t – or won’t – see.

I especially enjoyed Box’s writing style. Descriptive without being flowery, the harsh but beautiful landscape, unforgiving weather and wildlife of Wyoming comes to life vividly – you can almost smell the sagebrush or see the flow of a pronghorn herd racing across the plateau. This ability to put the reader into the physical story reminds me a lot of Tony Hillerman and his mysteries set in the Southwest. I highly recommend the Joe Pickett mystery series – but be careful, you’ll likely get hooked!

Now it’s your turn – what did you read this month? Let us know in the comments!

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check-In

Hello Challengers!

How is your month of reading about Nature going? I hope you have found something good! I’ve already finished my book for the month and it was great (I’ll talk about some more at the end of the month)

If you’re still struggling to find something that fits with this month’s theme, why not try a movie? Here are a few ideas.

The Impossible starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts follows a family of four that struggle to survive after the devastating tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004. Based on a true story, it is one of the most white-knuckle movies I’ve ever watched.

March of the Penguins, a documentary about the epic journey Emperor penguins take to mate and raise new chicks in one of the harshest climates on Earth – Antarctica.

Planet Earth, narrated by David Attenborough is a visual smorgesbord filled with stunning photgraphy and fascinating descriptions of the planet and the animals we share it with.

Wild with Reese Witherspoon. The book is better (which is almost always the case) but the advantage of a film over a book really shines with this movie because you can enjoy the stunning scenery of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Online Reading Challenge – October

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

It’s time for a new topic in our Online Reading Challenge! This month our focus is on: Nature! There are lots of great choices and a couple of different ways you can approach this topic – here are a few ideas.

Books from an animal’s point-of-view. These would include classics like Watership Down by Richard Adams or the more recently published The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (a book I recommend very highly).

Books about animals. From wild creatures (such as H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald and Life of Pi by Yann Martel) to domestic (like The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski or Marley and Me by John Grogan) there are a lot of titles to choose from. I love the country vet stories by James Herriot, set in the Yorkshire Dales of 1930s England.

Books about the environment. Another classic, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, is as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1962. One of the best books I’ve ever read is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (although we still have a waiting list – I recommend that you read it whenever you can get a copy), which evokes the wilderness of the low country of North Carolina beautifully. For more evocative landscapes, reach for Tony Hillerman’s southwestern mysteries or Dana Stabenow’s Alaska mysteries.

Books about Man and Nature. Lots to choose from here, when man (or woman) venture out into the wilderness. Cheryl Strayed’s Wild takes you along the Pacific Crest Trail, while Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder travels to the Amazon. If you’ve never read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, do yourself a favor and do so immediately (It’s very funny but will also put the fear of bears into you for good!) Jon Krakauer has two great titles that fit into this category – Into the Wild about a young man attempting to live off the land in Alaska and Into Thin Air about a doomed excursion to Mt Everest. Both are gripping and thought provoking.

I’m planning on reading Open Season by C.J. Box, the first of his Joe Pickett mysteries. They are set in the Bighorn Mountain area of Wyoming where Joe is a Game Warden. Box’s mysteries get consistently good reviews so I’m looking forward to reading this!

Now it’s your turn? What will you be reading in October?

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Challengers!

How was your month of Science reading? Did you find something interesting to read?

I hope you have better luck than I did – this month was a no-go for me. Everything I picked up was too “science-y” for me and yes, I know that was the whole point of this month’s challenge! I don’t think it was necessarily the fault of the books or that they had too much science in them, I think it’s a case of just not finding anything appealing. I think most readers go through reading slumps, when you can’t find the right book. Sometimes other things in your life take priority and you don’t have much time to read. Or, you just finished something fantastic and you’re spoiled.

Fortunately, I didn’t give up on reading altogether. I kept reading books, they just weren’t “science-y”! I will, however, admit to having watched a lot of Big Bang Theory re-runs – does that count?

As I always say, there are no Library Police. I may have missed this month, but I’m going to pick up again starting tomorrow with the next challenge!

OK, now it’s your turn – what did you read for September?

Online Reading Challenge – September

Hey Reading Friends! It’s September! Time for a new topic in the Online Reading Challenge! This month our topic is: Science!

OK, maybe right off the bat the idea of reading about Science is not particularly appealing. But hang in there! There are some fascinating titles – fiction and non-fiction – that just might change your mind. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier is a novel based on fact about an ordinary, working class girl, and a spinster gentlewoman that make one of the great scientific discoveries of the 19th century when they uncover fossils along the coast of Lyme Regis, England. Chevalier weaves the story of the friendship between the woman and the many restrictions women of the early 1800s faced with actual history into a fascinating novel.

More exploration of women in the sciences can be found in The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict (about Albert Einstein’s wife, a brilliant physicist in her own right) and Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini, a novel about Ada Lovelace a brilliant mathematician that many consider the inventor of the earliest computer. If you like mysteries, check out the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters about an intrepid lady archaeologist and her Egyptologist husband as they explore pyramids and solve murders in Victorian-era Egypt. For science fiction lovers, you can’t beat The Martian by Andy Weir about an astronaut mistakenly left behind on Mars during an exploratory mission.

Even fiction-only readers will find something fascinating among the non-fiction books. Take a look at Longitude by Dana Sobel about the search for how to calculate longitude (crucial for sailing ships) and how it was discovered. David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers will take you to that windswept North Carolina beach at Kitty Hawk and the breakthroughs that led to flight. Go inside the early days of NASA and the making of the space program with The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (now being made into a mini-series)

I am planning on reading Light from Other Stars by Erica Swyler, set in the near future about astronauts, the altering of time and family. Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Also, the cover of the book is really pretty! I’ll let you know how it goes!

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

August Online Reading Challenge – Wrap Up

Hello!

August has come to an end! How did your Reading Challenge reading work out this month? There are a lot of great books about art and artists, so I hope you were able to find something you enjoyed.

I had a good reading month. I read Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese. It focuses on women from two different time periods, Adele Bloch-Bauer from the 1900s through the 1920s and her niece, Maria Altmann in the 1940s. Both women live through turbulent times and their stories are heavily influenced by one of Gustav Klimt’s most iconic paintings.

Adele Bloch-Bauer comes from a wealthy family and marries a wealthy, influential man. Despite her many privileges, she longs for more – more freedom, more intellectual stimulation, more passion. Vienna before World War I was second only to Paris for artists and intellectuals and the avant garde movement. Adele became a part of their social circle and, with her husband, became a patron of the arts. Through these circles she met Gustav Klimt who was already creating a stir with his modern paintings. Gustav asked Adele to pose for him and she sat for what became “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer”, a painting rich with symbolism and painstakingly embellished with gold leaf.

Maria was a newlywed when the Nazi’s invaded Austria in 1938. Almost immediately restrictions were imposed on the Jews. Maria and her family debate whether to stay or leave. They were non-practicing Jews and had served Austria loyally for generations, but it didn’t matter; their homes were confiscated, their possessions seized and their rights denied. Bit by bit Maria and her extended family flee, some to England, some to America, some to Canada, leaving everything behind. Not everyone survives – Maria’s parents refuse to leave Vienna – but those that do build new lives far from what they knew before.

One day, decades later, Maria learns that Austria is offering reparations for the art and valuables that were seized during the war to anyone who can prove that they are the rightful owner. Maria realizes she has a claim to the famous portrait of her aunt and begins the uphill battle to have it returned to her family.

You may have seen the movie The Woman in Gold starring Helen Mirren that came out a few years ago and is adapted from this book. The focus of the movie was on Maria’s political battle over the painting, but Stolen Beauty focuses more on Adele’s story and her relationship with Klimt, about Klimt and his various projects plus there is a lot more information about the modern movement in art and architecture which was shaking up the establishment at that time. Maria’s chapters are tense and vivid as the mounting pressure on the Jews becomes unbearable but Adele is the real star of the book. As usual, the book was better than the movie except for one thing – the movie allows you to actually see the painting, it’s size and its remarkable intricacy and detail. And the gold – breathtaking!

Stolen Beauty makes me want to visit Vienna and New York City (where Adele’s portrait now hangs) to see Klimt’s work in person! Highly recommended.

How did you do this month? What did you read for August?