The Fairmount Gardening Club

Have you noticed the garden in front of the Fairmount Library lately? You really should take some time to walk through it the next time you stop by – it’s beautiful! And there’s a lot to admire and appreciate – it’s filled in with a lots of perennials and annuals and attracts and supports a variety of important pollinators, especially butterflies. There’s even a bench where you can sit and relax.

Here’s something you may not know about the Fairmount Garden – it is dedicated to the memory of a former Davenport Library Reference Librarian. Margaret Z Henry (we called her MZH) was the epitome of a professional librarian – meticulous with her research (long before the internet and google!), open and helpful to all no matter the request and generous with her knowledge and support, Margaret also had a wicked sense of humor and never hesitated to lend a helping hand to her friends and colleagues. When she died, far too young, the money collected for her memorial was given to the library to help establish the Fairmount garden. A stone engraved with a Jane Austen quote near the front entrance of the garden is dedicated to her memory.

The garden wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of our Garden Volunteers, headed up by Mary Davidsaver who has done an incredible job! Here’s her story:

I volunteered for gardening duty at Fairmount Library last year because I had a two-pronged mission. First, I wanted things to look nicer. Second, I wanted to save the milkweed for Monarch butterflies and their annual migration. Sometimes when you want something it’s up to you to step forward and make it happen.

So, I and two others volunteered our time to weed, plant, and water. We made progress through last summer’s hot, dry spell, but our numbers diminished. One of us had to relocate. One lost the extra time to volunteer due to a shift in her work schedule. By the end of the growing season, I was it.

Sadly, a lot of our efforts were erased by a winter with subzero temps and a wet spring that set its own records. But the plantings of the main flower beds came through and offered hope. And isn’t that what keeps a gardener going: New hope for a better year?

Inspiration for me was the return of the milkweed and the Monarchs. For other gardeners the calling could be tending to the roses, or to planting herbs and vegetables outside the children’s area. The grounds of Fairmount Library offer opportunity as well as need and volunteering is time well spent.

Mary also sent along some pictures of butterflies in the Fairmount garden. And you can follow more of Mary’s adventures at her blog.

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Special thank you to Mary for this great write-up as well as her dedication to the Fairmount garden (and butterflies!) If you’d like to lend Mary a hand and volunteer with the Fairmount Garden Club, just stop by the customer service desk at Fairmount to sign up.

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?

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What are your feelings about fiction that reads like a documentary or a piece of nonfiction? I wasn’t sure how I felt about this until I picked up Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest book, Daisy Jones & the Six.

I had previously read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by the same author, so when I saw that Jenkins Reid was putting out a new book, I was excited. While I was waiting for my hold to come in, I carefully looked at reviews while avoiding the spoilers. What I read mentioned that if you have the chance, listen to this book on audiobook first. I took this advice and I’m glad I did! Doing so added a level of closeness to each character and depth to their lives that I felt like I would have missed if I had read the print book only. To each their own though! I will tell you that this audiobook is read by a cast of 21 different narrators, so telling each character apart was fairly easy and very entertaining.

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid tells the story of the iconic 1970s rock band, Daisy Jones & the Six. This book will grab you by the heart(and ears) while keeping you invested in the rise and fall of Daisy Jones & the Six. Told as an oral history of this band’s journey, readers are privy to behind-the-scenes insiders knowledge as to the reason behind their split when the band was at the height of their popularity.

The Six and Daisy were initially two separate groups. The Six is a rock band of their own accord, led by Billy Dunne. While the group is getting ready for their first tour, the habits that Billy has picked up over the years start to come to a head when his girlfriend Camila tells him that she is pregnant. Reeling from this news, Billy goes even more off the rails, leading different members of the band to deal with his actions.

Daisy is a club girl growing up and coming of age in LA in the late sixties. With parents who take a hands-off approach to parenting, Daisy leaves their house to pursue her dream of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. She begins sneaking into clubs, sleeping with rock stars, and getting high off of all the drugs, alcohol, and sex she can get her hands on. While she loves the party scene, nothing holds a candle to her love of rock and roll. By the time Daisy hits twenty, Daisy’s intriguing voice is pulling in attention from people all over the city and her beauty begins to make her even more alluring.

When a music producer who works with and knows both Billy and Daisy begins toying with the idea of having them work together, he quickly realizes that he is on to something. While they are famous in their own right without each other, he begins to see that combining Daisy Jones & the Six has the ability to raise their stardom to unspeakable new heights.

Merging the two groups together proves messy, disheartening, challenging, and immensely rewarding as both Daisy and Billy have egos that refuse to be ignored. Taylor Jenkins Reid follows the group as they work on merging together, creating hits that rocket them to the top of the charts, and ultimately breaking apart at the peak of their popularity.


This book is available in the following formats:

Forza Motorsport 7 Video Game

Forza Motorsport 7 is a racing simulator developed by Turn 10 Studios for the Xbox One. This Xbox exclusive is the latest in a long line of games that date back to the original Xbox console. Forza Motorsport 7 is one of the most robust racing games on the market with a plethora of ways to play and have fun for all experience levels.

The single player campaign follows the Forza Driver’s Cup, a series of 6 championships that are further broken down by divisions and once you beat enough divisions in each championship, you unlock the next one. Throughout this process, the player is continually unlocking new things. Cars, upgrades and even driver suits. Hours of racing can be spent in this mode alone.

Customization another mode that players can sink their time into and that doesn’t even involve racing. Like Forza games before it, Forza Motorsport 7 has deep and robust customization features, you can create practically any paint scheme you can think of or create new ones. Hours can be spent tuning your car and making it look as cool as it can be and that is all before you even hit the race track.

Online multiplayer is still receiving regular updates with new hoppers and modes being added every month with new competitive features being added in June. This game is constantly receiving new content that keeps the racing fresh for players looking to battle it out with racers from around the world.

If this sounds like a fun time, we have Forza Motorsport 7 available for check out on the Xbox One at the Davenport Public library.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Richardson

In 1936 Cussy Mary Carter is the “Book Woman”, working as a librarian with the Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project. She brings books, friendship and news of the outside world to isolated families in remote parts of the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky. Cussy is also one of the last of the blue people of Kentucky, people who’s skin appears blue, a trait that makes her stand out when she wants to blend in.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Richardson follows Cussy as she makes her way through a difficult life. It is books and the love of reading that keeps her going and bringing books to her patrons that makes her happy. Her work with the Kentucky Pack Horse Library brings her a lot of satisfaction, but it is a difficult and often dangerous job, especially for a woman alone in the wilderness. The trails are rough and often unpassable, many of the country people distrust anything to do with the government and actively discourage her or turn her away. Some refuse to talk to her because of her color (having her leave their books on the porch). The Pack Library has to make-do with cast-offs from other libraries with sadly worn and out-dated material. Yet Cussy treats everyone with kindness and compassion and slowly (some) people begin to accept her.

Now, if you read “people with blue skin” and thought “science fiction” or “Avatar” and think this book isn’t for you, think again! The blue-skinned people of Kentucky are real, their skin color caused by a very rare genetic condition called methemoglobinemia that causes their skin to appear blue. They are descended from a man who moved to the Troublesome Creek area of Kentucky in 1820. Because of the remoteness and isolation, the people often intermarried, passing the blue color on to their children. Today it is easy to mask the blue skin color (they are perfectly healthy otherwise) but in 1936, superstition against anyone with blue skin causes them to isolate themselves. They are considered “coloreds” and in some ways face even worse discrimination than the African Americans. Some believe that the blue is an indication that they are possessed by the devil and try to “baptize” them (that is, drown them in the creek) to save them. Others are afraid to touch or be touched by a blue-skinned person, thinking that they will turn blue too.

There’s a lot going on in this book – the Pack Horse Library, the devastation that the Great Depression is causing, the local mine and its iron hold on its workers and the plight of the blue-skinned people of Kentucky, all based on fact. There’s almost too much going on toward the end which feels a little rushed, but that is a minor quibble. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a treasure trove of nearly forgotten historical facts, the power of books and friendship and the beauty of these wild, remote mountains. Highly recommended.

The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey

The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey is a standalone dark fantasy novel that takes place in the dystopian eastern-European inspired steampunk city of Proszawa.  This novel follows the escapades of Largo, a drug-addicted bike messenger from the slums of Lower Proszawa as he tries to ascend out of the slums and into the ranks of the elite of Upper Proszawa. Kadrey is a master at worldbuilding, with every delivery and errand that Largo goes on, the reader is given clues and information about the world of Proszawa. As Largo attempts to ascend the socioeconomic ranks of his world, he begins to discover a plot that could unravel the very fabric of the city and plunge his world into another Great War.

The city of Proszawa is dark and gritty. Drugs, sex and hedonism run rampant. The city parties as robots called Mara take the jobs of the working class. The world is one that is recovering from the effects of a massive industrialized Great War. This setting seems one that is vaguely reminiscent of the German Weimar Republic after the First World War except with Stempunk Androids and genetically engineered creatures littering the streets. The plot is an engaging one but my opinion is the strength of this novel is the world that Kadrey builds. Proszawa has a lot of the trappings that we have come to expect from Urban Dark Fantasy but it is utterly unique in execution. The discovery of the world is almost just as important as the progression of the plot.

Another huge strength of this story is the romance between Largo and the actress Remy.  Remy is an actress for the Grand Dark, a theater in Lower Proszawa that serves as the home for Remy and Largo. The Grand Dark theater is also  where the mysterious antagonist of the book Una Herzog is a regular patron who plays a key role in unraveling the fabric of Proszawa and laying the groundwork for war. Kadrey’s excellent world building can be seen in the portrayal of the Grand Dark theater as well. The pacing of this novel is a slow burn, this serves another level to the character development and world building. We as the reader get to experience Largo’s world through his eyes.

This story is one that gives a very particular view of a dystopian society, starting from Largo’s street-level perspective and eventually elevating it so that we get glimpses of the entire city. Kadrey does a fantastic job of having the reader experience his world through the eyes of his protagonist and I highly recommend The Grand Dark for any reader looking for a dark fantasy world to plunge in to.  Though the pacing of this book can be slow, especially in the first third of the novel, I would argue that this pacing adds to the story, and doesn’t take away from it.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

I spend a lot of time in the car either driving to work or driving to explore. This means that I have so many hours to fill that the music on the radio starts to repeat itself. I have learned to spend this time listening to podcasts and audiobooks instead. Looking at award-winning book lists, I found Sadie by Courtney Summers: a book that is presented like a true crime podcast. This sounded perfect to me.

Sadie by Courtney Summers highlights the story of Sadie and her sister Mattie. When thirteen-year-old Mattie goes missing from her small Colorado town and is eventually found murdered, her nineteen-year-old sister Sadie is devastated. Sadie has been raising Mattie by herself for years ever since their mother left. While she had some help from her surrogate grandma, Sadie took on the bulk of the responsibilities associated with her and Mattie’s welfare. When Sadie all of a sudden disappears about a year after Mattie is found, her surrogate grandma reaches out for help.

West McCray is a radio personality who has been slowly making his way across the country to work on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America. While stopped in one such town, he overhears a local talking about Sadie’s disappearance. Shortly after, West is contacted by Sadie’s surrogate grandma and finds himself drawn into the case. West decides to turn his examination into the disappearance of Sadie and the murder of Mattie into a true crime podcast called ‘The Girls’.

When Sadie runs away, rumors abound about why she left and where she’s going. Told in the alternating perspectives of both Sadie as she runs away and West’s podcast about her disappearance, readers are able to follow this story from both points of view. While Sadie has run away in order to track down her younger sister Mattie’s killer, West and the rest of her family don’t have access to that information and struggle to find out why she’s gone, where she is, and what has happened to her.

I enjoyed this book as it combines three of my favorite things: true crime, podcasts, and audiobooks. After looking at different reviews, flipping through the print book, and listening to the audiobook, I agree with others when they say that, if given the option, you should listen to the audiobook. By doing so, you are privy to the little audio clues present in the podcast sections that you would miss out on if you only read the book. Give it a try and let me know what you think!


This book is also available in the following format:

Just Cause 4 Video Game

Have you ever wished that you were a star in an action movie where the normal laws of physics don’t apply to you? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to grappling hook yourself to a plane as it gets thrown around in a tornado and then use your wingsuit to fly safely to the ground, fighting bad guys as you do it? If you said yes to any of that, then Just Cause 4  might be the game for you.

In Just Cause 4 you play as Rico Rodriguez, as he looks into Project Illapa, a program aimed at controlling weather patterns in the fictional South American country of Solis. This action-adventure game has you fighting against the Black Hand, a private army tasked on seizing control of Project Illapa and using its powers for nefarious means. While the story is a continuation of the story from previous games, it isn’t necessary to have played the previous entries to enjoy the frantic and chaotic gameplay of this most recent addition to the franchise.

This game features new advances in developer Avalanche’s Apex game engine that allows for extreme weather patterns such as sandstorms, thunderstorms, tornadoes, blizzards and more to feature prominently in the open world gameplay. The open world also features a range of diverse locations and biomes to traverse such as ancient ruins, thick tropical jungles and as well as cityscapes.

The advanced physics systems also makes combat far more interesting and fun. You are able to use the grappling hook in even more crazy ways than in previous games. You can use the grappling hook to hook together a helicopter and a tank and watch the chaos that ensues when you do. You can even use the grappling hook to latch on to a rocket and shoot yourself across the map that way. Your imagination is the limit in this sandbox of a game. The new weather features and upgraded physics engine make this a fun game to check out if you want to live out fantasies of being an action hero.

This game is available on both the Xbox One and PS4 at the Davenport Public Library.

 

Those People by Louise Candlish

Those People  is another standout suspense / thriller novel from Louise Candlish, who expertly crafts domestic  thrillers with neighbors who are not exactly who they seem.  The narrative it told in alternating chapters of past and present, so the reader knows that some future tragedy has taken place but the who, what, where and why has yet to be uncovered.

Candlish’s latest novel takes place just south of London in a tiny enclave which encompasses the picturesque street of Lowland Way.  Comprised of upper class, professional couples whose homes are impeccable and whose children play harmoniously together, the neighborhood is shocked when “outsiders” Darren and Jodie take up residence in an inherited house.  Couples Ant and Em, Ralph and Naomi, Finn and Tess make up the neighborhood, along with recent widow Sissy.

Darren and Jodie are polar opposites of their neighbors.  They play their music loudly at all hours of the night, begin renovations without proper equipment and have a variety of abandoned vehicles on the property.  The residents of Lowland Way quickly lose patience with the new residents and emotions run high on both sides.  The neighbors are plotting among themselves all the different ways they can rid themselves of the new eyesores in the neighborhood.  Within the cluster of friends, alliances begin to form and betrayals begin.  Are they willing to do whatever it takes to bring “their” neighborhood back?

Events take a tragic turn when someone loses their life in the middle of the night.  Accusations fly and neighbors begin to undermine each other wondering who is to blame.  Then, another tragedy occurs and the rumors and speculation intensifies.  Candlish crafts a suspenseful tale where red herrings abound and the group of neighbors wonder who they can trust. Those People  has a tendency to build slowly with careful character development.  Even though the pace can move a little slowly, I recommend Those People as a domestic thriller with a unique twist.

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