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?

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello Fellow Readers!

How is August treating you? Have you found something great to read for the month of Art? I’ve already finished my book (Stolen Beauty by Laurie Albanese) which I’ll talk more about at the end of the month, but if you’re still looking, I recommend you take a look at this title.

If you haven’t found anything yet for August and are looking for something relatively quick, I have some movie suggestions for you.

Monuments Men with George Clooney and Matt Damon (and many other famous names) follows the World War II platoon that went into Germany to try and save and recover some of the thousands of art and artifacts stolen by the Nazi’s. Not the greatest film ever made, but the history of this real life group of men (based on fact) is riveting.

Mr Turner stars Timothy Spall as J.M.W. Turner, Britain’s most famous and revered landscape painter. Turner wasn’t exactly the most pleasant fellow, and this film doesn’t gloss that over.

Pollock with Ed Harris depicts the story of Jackson Pollock, the first great American modern painter. With success comes fame and fortune, but a volatile temper and emotional instability brings self-doubt and threatens his life’s work.

Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 10 – “Vincent and the Doctor”. OK, this one is not a movie, but an episode from the television series Doctor Who and even if you’re not a Doctor Who fan (Really? Come on!), this is well worth tracking down. The Doctor and his companion Amy travel back in time and try to help Vincent Van Gogh. He is plagued by terrible visions (which turn out to be a terrible monster from another planet only he can see, but just go with it) While the story is science fiction, the human elements – Van Gogh’s suffering, the Doctor and Amy’s compassion, the impact of Van Gogh’s legacy is brilliant, beautiful and ultimately, heartbreaking. Highly recommended.

Online Reading Challenge – August

Hello Readers! It’s August 1 and that means it’s time for our newest Online Reading Challenge topic! Hurrah! This month we’re reading about – Art!

There is no shortage of interesting books about art and artists. I also include architects, craftsmen (and women), musicians and writers. That’s a pretty wide range of subjects! Here are some suggestions to get you started.

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean. This slim volume really packs a punch. It takes place during the siege of Leningrad of World War II, a grim time when literally thousands of people starve to death. Marina is a docent at the Hermitage Museum and assists with the protection and hiding of the museum’s priceless art while struggling to survive. Fascinating and heartbreaking.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. As measured and reserved as a Dutch Masters painting, this book imagines the life of one of Vermeer’s most famous models, a young girl working as a maid in his household. Gorgeous imagery and a fascinating look at life in 1600s Delft.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Wow. This book is so good! Like, can’t-put-down good. Combine the volatile world of rock-and-rock, sudden celebrity brought on by record-breaking music and complicated relationships (think Fleetwood Mac) and put it in the hands of a talented writer and you get this gem. (Be sure to read Stephanie’s review in yesterday’s blog post!)

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This Pulitzer Prize winning book (soon to be released as a movie) is a literary gem. Theo is 13 when he survives a bombing that kills his mother; abandoned by his father, he is raised by wealthy friends. Now, as an adult, he moves easily between the world of the rich and the dark underground of the art world.

That’s just a tiny sample. Be sure to stop by any of the Davenport Library locations for displays with lots more suggestions.

As for me, I’m going to read Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese which is a novelization about one of Gustav Klimt’s most famous paintings, “The Woman in Gold” and what happened to it during and after World War II. It should be a great combination of history and art.

Now it’s your turn – what you be reading in August?

Online Reading Challenge – July Wrap-Up

Hello Fans of Reading!

How did July treat you, reading-wise? What book about crime did you read? Or was this month a miss for you?

July was almost a miss for me –  I rarely pick up books that are mostly about crime, whether they’re mysteries or true crime. So it was a bit of a struggle finding something that grabbed my interest this month. I did find a good book though and, while it isn’t my favorite book ever, it was quite interesting and I’m glad I picked it up.

Two years ago, emergency room nurse Amelia Winn was seriously injured when she’s hit by a car near the hospital she worked at, resulting in her becoming profoundly deaf. Deeply depressed, she began drinking heavily and loses nearly everything – her career, her husband and her friends. Struggling to get back on her feet, Amelia works hard to not slip back into depression and drinking while looking for meaningful work and purpose. She lives in the country with her hearing assistance dog, Stitch, isolated from neighbors and the nearby town.

One day, in the woods behind her cabin, Amelia makes a terrible discovery – the body of Gwen, a former friend and colleague, who has been murdered. It soon becomes apparent that the police have no leads on who the murderer might be – Gwen was well-known and well-liked. Amelia, feeling that she had let her friend down, now takes on the task of bringing her justice. But Amelia is impulsive and sometimes makes rash decisions – will her inquires get her into trouble, the same trouble that killed Gwen?

Not a Sound has several interesting components that make it a compelling read: the main character is deaf (as is author Heather Gudenkauf) – seeing Amelia struggle to survive and participate in a hearing world is fascinating and eye-opening; Amelia’s relationship with her hearing assistance dog Stitch is also fascinating and sometimes humorous (and critical to the story); and the setting. Although the specific location and town is fictional, Not a Sound takes place in northeast Iowa, somewhere to the west of Dubuque (where the author lives). I really appreciated the realistic and evocative descriptions of Iowa landscape (we’re not all cornfields!) and weather and the casual (but accurate) references to uniquely Iowa characteristics (such as watching the Hawkeyes on tv). The book feels “midwestern” without being a cartoon. Nice! While I found the red herrings to be a bit obvious and I wanted to shake Amelia a few times for her stubbornness and questionable choices, the ending is tense and exciting. Overall, a great read.

Now it’s your turn – what did you read for the July Challenge?

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello Challengers!

How is your Reading Challenge month going? Have you found a great crime novel, or are you still searching? July can be a crazy busy month so if you find yourself short of reading time, or would just like something quick and relaxing, why don’t you try a movie? There are some great options.

The Sting with Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Maybe the perfect movie with a nuanced plot, a clever scam, amazing acting and great atmosphere (and ragtime music!), this one is hard (impossible!) to beat.

Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio. The ultimate crime – mind theft – comes to life in this amazing, twisty, stylish film. I find it best to just sit back and enjoy the show and not worry too much about all of the plot twists. It’s very much worth the ride!

Catch Me if You Can with Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. Based on the true story of a con man and the FBI agent who pursues him, Frank W. Abagnale, Jr. passed himself off as a pilot, a lawyer, and a doctor all before his 21st birthday.

White Collar. This charming television series stars Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay about a con man and an FBI agent that team up to solve white collar crimes. Except, just who’s side is the con man on?

Of course, there are several hundred (ok, I exaggerate!) Law and Order seasons and spin-offs and multiple series about detectives from Miss Marple to Sherlock Holmes. Your choices are almost endless!

 

Online Reading Challenge – July

Hello! Welcome to the July edition of the Online Reading Challenge!

We’re going over to the dark side this month, since July’s subject is: Crime!

Crime is actually a pretty popular subject at the library, between True Crime books (lots of serial killers and murderers in the 364.1523 Dewey section) and Mysteries (the majority of which involve a murder). There are (sadly) plenty of other crimes to consider, some that don’t even involve bloodshed! Here are some suggestions.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. A classic murder story that, even many years after it came out, will give you chills and make sleep difficult. Based on an actual murder, Capote delves into the background of the Clutter family and the two men who killed them. A masterpiece.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones follows the devastation and long-term consequences to a man and his family when he is wrongly accused of rape and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Kevin has been convicted of killing nine students when he went on a shooting spree at his high school. Kevin’s parents are devastated and try to come to terms with what their son did.

Prefer something a little less grim? Try Lawerence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr series about a burgler based in New York City. Bernie takes great pride in a well-executed burglary and is offended when a dead body intrudes. Much lighter than Block’s Matthew Scudder PI series (which is excellent if you’re looking for something hard-hitting).

As always, check out the displays at each Davenport Library location for lots more suggestions!

I don’t usually read crime novels and only a few mysteries so it took me awhile to settle on a title. I finally decided to read Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf. It caught my attention for several reasons including that it’s set in Iowa and that the protagonist is deaf. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Now, what about you? What will you be reading in July?