Alias by Brian Michael Bendis

The final season of Jessica Jones is about to be released on Netflix on June 14th. If you have an interest in reading the graphic novels that inspired the show, Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Alias is a great place to start. You will be able to check out the full run of Bendis’ take on Jessica Jones at the Davenport Public Library.

Alias follows Jessica Jones, an ex-superhero as she works as a private investigator in New York city. When she is given a suspicious case from a shady client, she falls down a rabbit-hole of controversy and intrigue that implicates some of the biggest heroes in the Marvel universe.

Brian Michael Bendis does a phenomenal job of making the dialogue feel real and giving each of the characters a distinct voice and personality. Bendis has been known for writing a wide range of characters, from Moon Knight and Miles Morales to Superman, he is one of the leading writers of super hero comic books from the past decade.

Alias is a great book to get started if you are unfamiliar with the Marvel universe too, it doesn’t require any background reading and the reader can just jump in and enjoy Jessica and her many adventures as a PI with super powers. If you are also interested in catching up on the Jessica Jones TV show that was based on this graphic novel, the Davenport Public Library is also a place where you can check out the show as well.

 

Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

Two women from very different worlds form an unbreakable friendship, a friendship that will give them strength during the worst circumstances, even when they are far apart. Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly brings their story vividly to life.

Eliza Ferriday, American and Sofya Streshnayva, a Russian related to the ruling Romanovs, become fast friends when they meet in Paris. Both women are wealthy and lead priviledged lives, but are also kind and compassionate. In 1914 Eliza travels to Russia to visit Sofya, but war breaks out in Europe and Eliza must cut her visit short and return to America. Sofya and her family flee to their country estate outside of St Petersburg, hoping to ride out the war undisturbed. Russia, however, is in turmoil as revolutionaries take up arms against the Tsar and anyone associated with him. The Reds take over the Streshnayva estate, imprisoning the occupants and looting the lavish furnishings.

Sofya manages to escape their captors, but is forced to leave her young son behind in the care of a trusted servant. Now on her own, she must find new depths within herself to survive, learning to gather food in the forest, evade capture from both the Revolutionaries and the invading German army and defend herself as she makes her way across the war ravaged countryside to Paris.

Meanwhile, back in America, Eliza is frantic with worry for her friend, especially as stories from Russian emigres begin to filter in – the violence, the bloodshed and the huge loss of life. Eliza channels her worries into helping the “White Russians” who have escaped the revolution by creating an American relief organization to help them with finding jobs, housing and other aid.

By depicting World War I from within Russia, Lost Roses delivers a new facet of the time period with the addition of the chaos and cruelty that accompanied the Russian Revolution. The huge gap between the very rich, who flaunted their wealth, and majority of people who were desperately poor, is astonishing as is the way the privileged seemed to be blind to the growing danger. As shown here, the Revolution appears out-of-control with vicious in-fighting and random violence leading to little or no improvement for the working class. Lost Roses is the kind of book that is hard to put down and even harder to forget.

Lost Roses is a prequel to the bestselling Lilac Girls, which takes place during and after World War II. Caroline Ferriday, who is a main character in Lilac Girls, is shown as a young woman in Lost Roses. Author Martha Hall Kelly has announced that she is working on another prequel which will be set during the Civil War and will follow Eliza Ferriday’s grandmother.

 

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

Guest post by Wesley B.

In the author’s postscript to The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu writes about his special talent: “Scales and existences that far exceeded the bounds of human sensory perception – both macro and micro – and that seemed to be only abstract numbers to others, could take on concrete forms in my mind.” As an English major who struggled just to get through the entry level math and science requirements in school, I find this talent special indeed. However, I think Liu is selling himself short. What’s truly remarkable is his ability to use this talent to write a hard sci-fi novel that not only appeals to a numerically-illiterate person like me, but to get me to share the “ineffable, religious feeling of awe and shock” he experiences.

Of course, as impressive as these talents are, they would not alone be sufficient to hold my interest for 400 pages. Fortunately, Liu has a good grip on plot and character as well. In fact, the way the book begins – with the riotous, bloody “struggle session” of a physicist during China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution – you could be forgiven for thinking we had made a mistake shelving it in the sci-fi section and you were reading an historical thriller instead. It actually takes quite a while for the book to build up to its primary interstellar conflict. For those of you who are hardcore sci-fi fans, this may seem like a bummer, but rest assured, it’s worth the wait – Liu didn’t become the first Asian to win a Hugo Award for Best Novel for no reason.

And anyway, there’s plenty of value in the lengthy build-up. The book alternates between the perspectives of Ye Wenjie, daughter of the physicist killed in the opening scene and herself a renowned astrophysicist, and Wang Miao, a nanomaterials researcher. Ye’s scenes take part mostly in the past, and although they serve primarily as exposition and world-building, I still greatly enjoyed them. The Cultural Revolution is a fascinating period in history rife with political intrigue, and seeing how it affects Ye – in terms of both her external circumstances and her inner life – is truly compelling.

Wang’s scenes, meanwhile, take place exclusively in the present, and have a lot more of a narrative drive to them. His sections have an almost Stephen King-like quality to them, both in their unsettling strangeness as well as their power to leave me unable to put the book down. After receiving an unexpected visit from a joint military-police task force (led by Shi Qiang, a vulgar police officer whose gruff exterior belies his Sherlockian powers of observation and detection, and easily my favorite side character in the book), peculiar things begin to happen to him. Soon he’s embroiled in a plot involving numerous shadowy organizations and a truly bizarre virtual reality video game. Eventually, of course, Wang and Ye’s stories converge, leading to a final act that is truly a tour-de-force of storytelling.

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!

Red Dead Redemption 2 Video Game

Guest post by Wesley B

In the first Red Dead Redemption, the protagonist John Marston is coerced by the feds into hunting down and killing his former gang leader and surrogate father, Dutch van der Linde. After a long and bloody search, John finally catches up to Dutch in the mountains. “Our time is passed, John,” he says, before stepping off a cliff to his death.

He’s right of course; the only problem is he realizes it about a decade too late.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel set 12 years before the first game. It shows the final days of the Van der Linde Gang through the eyes of Arthur Morgan. It is the finest expression of the video game medium I have played to date.

The game opens in media res, as the gang deals with the fallout of a botched robbery job. They’ve fled into the mountains, where they’re beset by a brutal blizzard. Their caravan trudges through the already deep snow as it continues to pile up. Members are missing, dying, already dead. Folks are cold, tired, exhausted. They finally reach an abandoned mining village where they can set up camp. Dutch gives the group a pep talk before setting off with Arthur to meet up with the scouts that had been sent ahead.

It’s at this point that the game switches from cutscene to gameplay, and upon assuming control of Arthur it becomes apparent that this isn’t going to be your typical video game experience. Ludonarrative dissonance is a concept that refers to the conflict between a game’s story elements and gameplay mechanics. A common example is the Uncharted series of games, whose protagonist Nathan Drake is portrayed narratively as a lovable rogue with a heart of gold, while over the course of the game the player controls him as he kills hundreds of enemies without thinking twice. There is no such disconnect in RDR2. The caravan’s slow movement through the snow wasn’t simply an atmospheric affect; Arthur moves just as slowly under your control, and if you have controller vibration turned on, you can practically feel the horse struggling through the snowdrifts.

Before too long, Arthur and Dutch meet up with one of the scouts, Micah, who says he spotted a house with people in it. Micah leads the way, with Arthur bringing up the rear. Here again we see – or rather, hear – the game’s dedication to realism. The wind is howling, so Arthur and Micah can’t hear each other, relying instead on Dutch in the middle to mediate their conversation. When the trio reaches the house, Arthur and Micah hide while Dutch knocks on the door to ask the occupants for any supplies they could spare. As it turns out, a rival gang has gotten to the house first, and a firefight soon breaks out, giving you the first taste of the game’s cover-based shooting system. Like Nathan Drake, Arthur will drop hundreds of bodies before his journey is done; however, the game’s story makes it clear that Arthur is a hardened criminal. While he is likable at times, even charming, the game never lets you forget he is a thief and a stone-cold killer. Even Arthur himself is well aware of this fact. After all, he wouldn’t need to seek the titular redemption if he was already a good man. As for if he actually does redeem himself, well – that’s up to you. The story has four possible endings based on the choices you make throughout the game.

Can’t Get Enough Game of Thrones?

The final season of HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones has finally concluded. The ending of this show has left some craving for more from this universe. If you are one of those people, fear not! Your Davenport Public Library has just the thing for you no matter what your desired method for consuming entertainment is. If you have not read the books that the show is based on, I recommend starting there. The Davenport Public Library offers a number of ways to read the books.

You can check them out as ebooks through the Overdrive app here. If reading on a device isn’t your thing, we also have all of the A Song of Ice and Fire books available in their physical forms as well. If reading over 5,000 pages doesn’t sound like your idea of a fun leisurely time, fret not, we also offer the books in the form of audiobooks that you can also find in our catalog. These audiobooks come in both a CD format that you can come to the library and check out or on the Overdrive app where you just download the file to listen to on your device.

If you have already read the books and are looking for something else to read that satiates your love for Westeros and beyond, there are also books that Martin has published that tell  stories beyond the scope of what is covered in the books and the show. Fire and Blood follows the story of the Targaryen house centuries before the events of Game of Thrones. This story informs on the beginnings of house Targaryen and what Westeros looked like years before we get to experience it with the books and show.

Finally, if you just cancelled your HBO subscription at the end of the season and are feeling the itch to rewatch it, we have you covered there as well. All seven seasons that are currently available to commercially purchase are available to check out at the library as well. We have all of these resources and more to check out to get more from your favorite fantasy epic.Just because the show has ended doesn’t mean that your watch has to!

The Tiny Journalist by Naomi Shihab Nye

The daughter of a Palestinian immigrant to the US, Naomi Shihab Nye, latest collection of poetry delves into the heavy topic of the the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the real disparage of land, power, culture, and control. The poems can each stand on their own but as an inter-woven tapestry are reminding the reader of the brutality of borders, walls, occupied lands and conflict.

In one of her poems from the collection:

“Losing as Its Own Flower,”

“Truth unfolds in the gardens,

massive cabbages, succulent tomatoes,

orange petals billowing,

even when the drought is long. . . .

In a way, we did lose. Where is everybody?

Scattered around the world like pollen.”

The reader is reminded of the beauty of life and the simplicity of the earth’s nourishment in contrast to boundaries – mental, physical, emotional, and the tragedies of war, death and fighting created by man.

The Tiny Journalist focuses on the struggles for all humans not just those in Palestine or Israel, but more on the elements of the disparities of war and the nonjudgmental hand of destruction.

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Some sacrifices are never known. Lives are saved, missions completed because of anonymous acts of courage. The deeds slip into forgotten history, yet the bravery and the actions may have made all the difference.

1946. New York City. Grace Healey is rushing to work, when a car accident snarls traffic and forces her to make a detour through Grand Central Station. There she finds a small, abandoned suitcase wedged under a bench. Inside the suitcase she finds a dozen photos of ordinary young women, each of whom stare into the camera with determination. Grace is intrigued and begins searching for the missing owner and, she hopes, the mystery of the photographs.

Soon Grace is pulled into a story of intrigue and secrecy as she learns about the owner of the suitcase, a woman named Eleanor Trigg who lead a network of women acting as secret agents in Occupied Europe. Their assignments ranged from couriers to radio operators in aid of the resistance in the weeks leading up to D-Day and the invasion of France. Twelve women – the young women in the photographs – never returned, their fate a mystery.

Based on true events, The Lost Girls of Paris crackles with tension. The women are resourceful and brave, but face many obstacles and difficulties. Their contribution to the war effort is mostly forgotten now, but brought vividly to life again here. Author Pam Jenoff focuses on a few key members of the unit, creating a story that is intimate and real. It is an incredible story of friendship, bravery and betrayal and the strength to carry on.

This story of World War II was new to me, but it hasn’t been forgotten. A new non-fiction book about these brave women has just been published:  The D-Day Girls: the Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis and Helped Win World War II by Sarah Rose which you can find at the Davenport Library.

California Girls by Susan Mallery

Have you ever heard the saying that bad things happen in threes? Susan Mallery takes that saying and expands upon it in her newest book, California Girls. Three sisters have their lives together until one fateful week when everything for each of them begins to fall apart. Finola, Zennie, and Ali all live in California with their mother close by. The sisters may live in a sunny state, but their lives have definitely taken a darker turn.

California Girls by Susan Mallery tells the story of Finola, Zennie, and Ali at defining moments in each of their lives. Oldest sister Finola is a popular LA morning show host. She has been married to her husband Nigel for the last four years. Finola loves her job as well as the publicity, fame, and clout the position gives her. She lives a happy and successful life. The couple is set to go to Hawaii for a weeklong vacation when she plans on telling him that she is ready for them to have a child. At her last day of work before her vacation begins, Finola is blindsided when her husband announces (right before she’s supposed to go on air) that he’s been having an affair. Finola decides to deal with this by pretending everything is fine and that Nigel will come back to her when he’s grown tired of his mistress. She hides from the tabloids and continues to believe all will go back to normal.

Middle sister Zennie has also gone through a breakup. However she’s not heartbroken because she never really wanted to be in a relationship anyway. Zennie would rather be doing literally anything else: surfing, running, working out, etc. When her best friend asks her to be the surrogate for her and her husband, Zennie instantly agrees. She would do anything for her best friend and it’s not like she has a pressing desire to pair up and have kids anytime soon(if at all). When she announces this news to her family and friends, almost all of them think she is making a huge mistake. With no way out, Zennie discovers that this surrogate pregnancy is going to be much harder than she initially thought it was going to be.

The youngest sister Ali has always lived in her older sisters’ shadows. Finola is their mother’s favorite, while Zennie is the apple of their father’s eye. Of the three, Ali isn’t the thinnest or the prettiest or the tallest. She’s just Ali. As a result when she first met her fiancé, Ali thought she had found her forever. That forever is destroyed when her fiancé decides to call off the wedding SEVEN WEEKS before they are supposed to get married. To make things worse, he is too cowardly to do it himself and sends his brother Daniel to break things off instead. Ali is drowning in everything she has to do to cancel the wedding, but Daniel keeps showing up and offering to help. His constant support leads Ali to believe that Daniel may end up being more than a friend.

All three sisters are forced to start over their lives, but the good thing is that they have each other to rely on. As this story progresses, readers follow each sisters’ life journey as they rebuild their relationships with each other and with the other people around them. Read this book and let me know what you think in the comments!


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