Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz dvdA classical English village becomes the unlikely setting for this hilarious buddy cop movie. Nicholas Angel is too good at his job; he’s making the rest of the London police force look bad. So he’s shuttled off to a quiet country village, far from any action. Or is it? Angel puts his big city training to use and soon discovers that all is not as it seems in this idyllic setting. Hampered by bumbling local cops, a cast of eccentric characters and brick walls at every turn, Angel persists in doing his job.

Loaded with cultural references and poking fun at films of all genres including westerns, action and cop movies (the subtitles on the dvd will clue you in on a lot of them), you don’t need to “get” any of them to enjoy Hot Fuzz which stands on it’s own as fresh, surprising and funny. (Please note that this film has an R rating for language and some violence)

The Davenport library has movies – and television shows – of all kinds available for checkout. Be sure to stop by and browse through our dvd section soon!

Knitalong by Larissa Brown

Knitalong by Larissa BrownMost everyone that knits learned the skill from someone – a grandmother or beloved aunt, a friend or a helpful clerk at the local yarn store. Knitting seems to invite gathering together. Knitalong: celebrating the tradition of knitting together by Larissa Brown shows the many ways that knitters (and crocheters and spinners) connect from meeting at a local coffee shop for an hour to creating lively online communities.

(And by the way, if you’re a knitter (or crocheter or spinner) and you’re not on Ravelry yet, why? Stop whatever you’re doing right now and get your name on the invitation list. It’s an amazing database/community/resource for fiber enthusiasts. If you’re already a member, you understand my enthusiasm)

Some of the wide-ranging examples of community knitting shown in Knitalong include the Knitting Olympics, an online knitting challenge held during the Winter Olympics, knit cafes (cafes that encourage people to bring their knitting), Stitch n’ Pitch, where knitters knit during major league baseball games (the White Sox host knitters on August 6, the Cardinals on May 28), World Wide Knit in Public Day which is just what it sounds like (and is on June 14 this year) and knitting for charities (afghans for Afghans is just one example). Knitalongs also take the form of a group of people knitting the same pattern (called KALs); everyone shares tips and progress reports and cheer you along. The internet has been a boon to this simple craft; besides the phenomenon of Ravelry, there has been an explosion of knitting blogs where people share their craft and develop friendships from around the world.

Interested in joining other knitters for camaraderie and encouragement? Local knitters meet every Tuesday evening at 6:30pm at the Fairmount Street Library, next to the fireplace. Newcomers are always welcome!

On the Wing by Alan Tennant

On the Wing by Alan TennantPart naturalist exploration, part adventure story, On the Wing follows Alan Tennant in his pursuit of the peregrine falcon. One falcon in particular, to be precise, named Amelia. Teaming up with George, a World War II vet and his beat up Cessna, Alan follows Amelia via radio signal from the Texas barrier islands, north to the Arctic and back south again through Mexico, Belize and the Caribbean. Alan and George run into their fair share of trouble and excitement, both moving and funny in a story that will quickly make you part of the experience.

Peregrine falcons can travel faster than any other animal on earth, reaching speeds of up to 200 mph when making steep dives. They are prodigious migrators (the subject of Alan’s research) sometimes traveling thousands of miles, and can be found on every continent on earth except for Antarctica or in deserts, high mountaintops, polar regions and, interestingly, New Zealand.

The most common prey for falcons is small birds such as pigeons and ducks, caught by disabling their victim in mid-flight (that speedy dive aims for a wing of the bird they’re pursuing). Mating for life, they nest on steep cliffs and, fairly commonly now, on skyscrapers. Peregrine falcons nearly disappeared from North America in the 50s and 60s because of pesticide use, but have made a strong recovery with the help of protections provided by the Endangered Species Act.

You can see these incredible birds right here in the Quad Cities; a nesting pair – Scorpio and P/D – are occupying a specially built nesting box located on the Mid American building in downtown Davenport (our own version of a skyscraper) If you’re not lucky enough to spot them in flight, check out WQAD-TV’s Falcon Cam for some live, up-close shots of the happy couple as well as links to more information about peregrine falcons and this pair in particular.

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World by Dan Koeppel

BananaThe banana is the perfect food! A snack with it’s own handle that comes in a biodegradable wrapper, it’s the ultimate convenience food. This unassuming, soft, sweet fruit has a fascinating and treacherous history. In Banana: the fate of the fruit that changed the world, Koeppel sets out to explore the scientific, economic, political, and historical aspects of the lowly banana. For good measure he even throws in a dose of banana humor.

While the history of how the banana spanned the globe makes for good reading, the real drama begins when the fruit was domesticated by shrewd American businessmen in the late 1800s. They realized the economic potential of the tropical fruit and set out to make it available to the masses. Through marketing and advertising, U.S. banana importers were able to make a product grown thousands of miles away cheap enough that it became a daily snack for many Americans. This was not without cost though to the fruit itself and those directly involved with production and harvest.

It’s not exaggeration to say that the banana has shaped and toppled nations. In Central and South America, workers who attempted to unionize were squelched by the influential banana industry which was backed by the U.S. government. Thousands of workers died in these insurrections.

The human toll in the banana industry parallels the destruction of the fruit itself. Only one variety of banana was commercially cultivated because it was transportable and long-lasting. This proved to be fatal when in the 1950s it was wiped out by a soil fungus. A replacement species was introduced, but it too is susceptible to the same fungus. Every banana we buy is a genetic duplicate of the next, and this lack of biodiversity is threatening to totally eradicate the fruit.

While the book can be very somber, it also provides many fun facts that you can use at your next party. Did you know:

  • some scholars believe the “forbidden fruit” in Genesis was a banana, not an apple?
  • the banana split MAY have been invented in Davenport, Iowa? (see page 65)?
  • the song “Yes, We Have No Bananas” originated in 1950 when Panama Disease wiped out an earlier variety of banana?
  • the first bananas sold in the U.S. came peeled, sliced, and wrapped in foil to prevent the fruit’s suggestive shape from offending Victorian sensibilities?

The Armchair Traveler – Life (and death) in the Twin Cities

Mary Richards

Minneapolis is the site of the Public Library Association’s national conference this week. Hope those librarians can stay out of trouble…

Pretty Girl Gone by David Housewright

Ex St. Paul cop Rushmore McKenzie spends time doing favors for friends and getting drawn into messy murder cases. In the third book in the series, he ventures into rural Minnesota. It’s a chilling look at small towns in the Midwest where racism and methamphetamine use are prevalent. McKenzie is a self-deprecating and funny narrator – often too out-spoken for his own good.

Snow-Blind by P.J. Tracy

The story begins in the Cities (with the murder of two policemen) It moves to a fictional northern Minnesota county, when two Minneapolis detectives help a newbie female sheriff with a murder that may be connected to their case. This is part of the Monkeewrench gang series which features a group of computer geeks for hire.

Eyes of Prey by John Sandford

IMHO, this is the best of the “Prey” series which star a tough, Porsche-driving Minneapolis cop. In this book, Lucas Davenport is suffering from depression brought on by a previous case, while he investigates the brutal murder of a doctor’s wife. The ending really was a surprise – to me, anyway.

Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen mysteries

These cozy mysteries always have excellent dessert recipes and a cast of wacky characters. The reader can exercise some wish fulfillment through Hannah and her coffee shop/bakery in small town Minnesota. Can you resist the Cherry Cheesecake, Fudge Cupcake, or Sugar Cookie Murders?

Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan’s LabyrinthVisually stunning, chillingly frightening yet finishing with a ray of hope, the memory of this Spanish foreign language film will linger with you long after you’ve seen it.

Set after the bloody Spanish Civil War in 1944, Spain is being decimated by Fascists who brutally crush the Resistance. A particularly cruel and ruthless General brings his heavily pregnant wife and step-daughter Ofelia to the countryside to await the birth of his son. Left on her own, Ofelia explores the area surrounding the old farmhouse and explores a walled garden where a labyrinth leads her to Pan. This mysterious figure promises her that if she completes three difficult tasks she will save her mother and her problems will end. Suddenly Ofelia is caught in a battle between good and evil and the line between reality and fantasy blurs.

Beautiful, horrific, brutal, sometimes terrifying, this is a fairytale for adults about the power of the imagination and hope for the hero in each of us.

The library has many foreign language films available for check-out as well as many “independent” films that may not have shown locally. Be sure to browse our collection for amazing films from around the world.

Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart

Flower ConfidentialFor all their beauty and association with romance, flowers are part of a huge business, generating world-wide sales of more than $40 billion yearly. Yet the industry barely registers with most consumers beyond picking up the occasional bouquet or arrangement. Stewart’s fascinating book takes a look at many aspects of the industry including:

-The quest for new and “improved” flowers that will last longer in the vase, or bloom in unusual colors or shapes. However, this has come at a cost as fragrance is often sacrificed (most notably in roses)

-How large quantities of flowers are grown in greenhouses which allow the grower to control weather, insects and diseases and stretch or completely alter the natural growing season. Many flowers never touch soil, but are grown hydroponically.

-How flowers are sold. The majority of flowers for sale in the United States are grown in South America and funneled through the Miami airport for inspection. Before a flower reaches your vase it may have been out of water and traveling for 5 to 7 days.

-The impact this industry has on countries such as Ecuador and Columbia. Rainforests have been destroyed to make room for greenhouses, pesticide regulations are lax and workers rarely have the same protections and benefits as in the United States.

-The emergence and growth of the organic flower market. Still relatively difficult to find, the popularity of organic flowers is increasing.

Filled with interesting stories and great insights, Stewart’s book will open your eyes to the work behind the beauty.

Armchair Traveler – Florida

FloridaSkin Tight by Carl Hiaasen

The author is the father of the eccentric Floridian mystery, with overtones of environmental rage – and no one does it better. Skin Tight is classic Hiaasen – an incompetent plastic surgeon, an equally inept hitman and a tv reporter who is prone to getting beat up populate the novel. Together, they produce moments so bizarre yet acceptable within the logic of the novel, that they make perfect sense. If these scenes don’t make you laugh, nothing will.

Skinny-Dipping by Claire Matturro

Now a series, this mystery introduces Lily Cleary, who is a Sarasota-based lawyer, specializing in medical malpractice. She has odd and likable sidekicks, family members and colleagues; she herself has plenty of quirks of her own (she has many obsessions involving cleanliness and food). Through it all, Lily maintains a wickedly funny sense of humor.

The Britt Montero series by Edna Buchanan

A police beat reporter herself, Buchanan writes with authenticity about her lead character, Britt Montero, who also covers the police department for a Miami newspaper. Through hurricanes, riots, sweltering humidity and Cuban-American politics, the reader is immersed in the culture and heat of Miami. Through nine novels, we see Britt’s work and romantic life go through many ups and downs.

Solomon Vs Lord by Paul Levine

Both lawyers, Steve Solomon is the wisecracking, risk taking, fast talking rule breaker and Victoria Lord is his patrician, by-the-book adversary. Their relationship and that of Steve’s autisic savant nephew provide plenty of room for sparks and emotion. Florida is once portrayed once again as a haven for peculiar, yet charming characters.

Bloody Waters by Carolina Garcia -Aquilera

Lupe Solano is a private investigator from a privileged Cuban-American background – giving the reader a glimpse of both worlds. She struggles with her family’s expectations and her own love of the good life, while she navigates in a hardboiled seamy underworld.

Next time, the Armchair Traveler explores our northern neighbor Minnesota, site of the Public Library Association convention later this month. Watch for a series of reports about the convention from our dude with the ‘tude, DPL’s own reporter/guy-brarian extraordinaire -Bill.

Too many books, too little time? No problem…

Tin Roof Blowdown audio bookValue added activities, isn’t that the current cliche? Well, this one works for me. I listen to books. I admit it, I’m practically obsessed with it. It doesn’t feel right if I turn on my car and there’s not someone telling me a story. Right now I’m listening to a Tami Hoag romance, Straight From the Heart. It’s one of those windows-closed books, you know, the steamy parts always seem to happen at stoplights. People look at you funny when they hear some of the things that come out of books. It’s one of the duties that comes with being a responsible listener, pay attention to what’s going on around you. Including who may be listening in.

I use audio books to broaden my reading list. I enjoy listening to my favorite authors being read, but I also will listen to a book that I would never take the time to read. Like a new title that everyone’s talking about but that is outside my usual choice. This has led me to find things I would have skipped over. I tried to read Wicked (by Gregory Maquire) twice and just couldn’t do it. I listened to it and loved it. It’s probably one of my favorite stories. I would have missed out on it if not for the Book on CD.

I especially like it when an audio book adds to the depth of a book. The reader’s are so important in this aspect of the genre. I have stopped listening because I just didn’t like the reader. But when they get it right, it’s magic. Jim Dale has become famous for his presentation of the Harry Potter books. C.J. Critt really nails Stephanie Plum’s character in the Janet Evanovich mysteries. But my favorites to listen to are James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux mysteries. Most are read by Will Patton, but all of the readers really set the mood for the sultry Louisiana scenes.

I listen other times, too, like while painting my living room. There’s no chore or long drive that an audio book can’t make better!

Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann

Three Bags Full by Leonie SwannWhen George doesn’t appear as usual, Miss Maple knows something is wrong. It’s not long before George is found dead with a spade in his chest and it’s left to Miss Maple and her collegues to find his killer. The problem is, Miss Maple and friends are sheep and George was their shepherd. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Miss Maple (considered the smartest sheep in Glennkill, Ireland) works on solving the mystery using observation and a keen understanding of human nature to track and find the killer. Laugh-out-loud funny, the flock never loses their sheepy personalities. This brilliant first novel will keep you laughing and might make you look at sheep a little differently.