Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Have you ever wanted to be a librarian? What about a rebel librarian? Sarah Gailey’s Upright Women Wanted is a twisted dystopic pulp western where librarians are the only way to get approved information, but things are never as they seem.

Before we get to the librarians, we need to start with Esther. Esther is a stowaway. After seeing her best friend executed at the hands of her father for being in possession of resistance propaganda, Esther has run away and hidden herself in the book wagon the librarians are taking across country. In this future American Southwest full of bandits and fascists, librarians trek to small towns to deliver materials approved by the government. Desperate to escape the marriage that her dad has arranged(to a man who was previously engaged to her now dead best friend), the librarians are Esther’s quickest way to escape and to be her truest self. Maybe she will start to heal her broken heart. Her best friend wasn’t just her best friend. Esther was in love with her.

Discovered by the librarians, Esther is introduced to a life she never thought possible. The more she learns about the librarians, the more she realizes that they are not as straight-laced as they appear. Instead they are queer librarian spies working with a secret network to spread resistance materials and supplies to those in need. The librarians are trying to do the right thing, but putting up a front of normalcy is the only way that they can survive.

Cris Tales for the Nintendo Switch

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience the past, present, and future all at the same time? Do you like games filled with adventure, fantasy, and cute animal side kicks? Cris Tales might be the game for you!

This Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) follows the story of orphan, Crisbell. Crisbell is an ordinary girl, until one day she discovers she is a Time Mage. With her new found abilities to jump from the present to the future or the past, the fate of the Four Kingdoms lies in her hands. She must defeat the fear mongering Time Empress! However, Crisbell isn’t alone in her fight; allies from around the kingdom Christopher, Willhelm, and more band together. She also relies on her animal sidekick, Matias, who guides Crisbell through this brand new world of being a Time Mage.

Cris Tales is surely to be a new favorite JRPG. Right off the bat, the player is immersed in the drama surrounding the Four Kingdom’s fight against the Time Empress. The player learns a lot of the important skills at the beginning of the game. Cris Tales also allows you to venture off and explore. You can talk to multiple townsfolk and learn more. The plot is fun and easy to follow.

The turn based fighting style, allows the player to think through the moves they want to make. I liked this concept for the game. Some traditional RPG’s can get intense with the fight scenes, and by the time you think about what to do, you have to start over. The turn based element keeps the fight scenes simple and kid friendly.

Cris Tales is available on the Nintendo Switch and the Xbox One/Series X.

Get Graphic Series: Audubon: On the Wings of the World by Fabien Grolleau

Up next in our Get Graphic Series is a non fiction title by Fabien Grolleau. Audubon: On the Wings of the World, takes the reader on a journey through 19th century rural America. John James Audubon was an ornithologist with a goal to create a pictorial record of the all the birds in North America. Traveling with only his drawing materials, an assistant and a gun, Audubon encounters dangerous animals, wild storms, and some not so friendly people.

Audubon: On the Wings of the World highlights not only the beauty of birds in America, but how Audubon’s life revolves around them. As he travels the US, he meets with prominent scientists in the hopes of publishing his book of bird paintings. But, the scientist believe his paintings are more “artistic” than “scientific”- which is something Audubon does not want to hear. This fuels his desire to prove the scientists wrong. He soon becomes obsessed with painting the animals and begins to disregard his family, friends, and even his health. An unlikely stranger meets with Audubon and pulls him from his fascination, changing the course of his career and life forever.

One of the things I love about nonfiction graphic novels is the chance to learn about something or someone I would have glanced over in the biography section. I wouldn’t have picked up a 300 page biography on John James Audubon, but Audubon: On the Wings of the World was just long enough to give me the facts and keep me engaged. Graphic novels are great starting points if you find yourself interested in a nonfiction topic.

Illustrations are key for nonfiction graphic novels. Some might find nonfiction “boring,” but the illustrations create a fun environment for the facts to live. Audubon: On the Wings of the World has wonderful illustrations of not only the story, but of the birds Audubon loved.

If you want to learn more about John James Audubon, give this graphic novel a try!

 

 

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Full disclosure: The Martian is my favorite book, maybe ever, so I’m coming into this review with a fair bit of bias. That said, in my opinion Project Hail Mary is a worthy follow-up to The Martian, with the same kind of humor, heart, high stakes, and rock-solid science.

Here’s the gist (without spoilers): Dr. Ryland Grace wakes up alone and confused in a spaceship (the eponymous Hail Mary) VERY far from Earth. He’s lost his memory, and his two crewmates died in suspended animation. It’s up to him to figure out exactly who he is, how he got there, what the ship’s mission is, and how he can complete it on his own. And he’d better hurry, because all of life on Earth is at stake.

If that sounds intense, it is – but Grace also makes jokes and laughs as much as he can, while not shying away from the huge responsibility, sacrifice, and loss he’s facing. I really thought this book was effective for several reasons: first, the science. As in The Martian, this book’s science reads to me like plausible and real explanations and solutions. It felt like a book that Weir had a lot of fun writing, with a ton of research to back him up. Second, the character of Ryland Grace was very well done; his emotions, backstory, and feelings of being overwhelmed, repeatedly, make him a relatable narrator that you root for to succeed, while his humor and determination keep the action moving forward at an addictive pace. Third, the narrative structure worked really well. If you’ve ever seen the DC TV show Arrow, you might recognize the strategic use of flashbacks to reveal key information at just the right time. Weir moves carefully and explicitly between Grace’s struggle in the present and all the events in the past that culminated in his being on the ship. It all works together brilliantly to create a story you’ll laugh your way through and won’t want to put down, right up to the very unexpected final pages.

Highly recommended for those who loved The Martian, Cast Away, and other lone-survivor stories of sci-fi or adventure, this is a book which will tug at your heartstrings and stretch your imagination to dazzling new heights.

RingFit Adventure for Nintendo Switch

When I bought myself a copy of Nintendo’s hot new game Ring Fit Adventure, I had no idea what a smart investment it would be. Since my purchase in January 2019, the promise of dynamic in-home exercise has become understandably appealing, and copies of the game available for purchase are nearly impossible to find. I’m proud to announce that I officially finished the game’s “adventure” portion this fall, and so I can now officially recommend the game – which I do, whole-heartedly.

The game’s main portion is structured like a pretty typical action-adventure RPG – your customized character finds themself in a strange world of villagers, animals and monsters, which is threatened by a power-mad bodybuilding dragon addicted to the dark side of exercising. It’s up to you and your trusty sidekick Ring to chase down the dragon and defeat him and his minions with the power of healthy, balanced exercise. The game is driven by your actions in the real world: a leg strap and ring accessory record your jogging, squatting, pushing and pulling and use them to move through environments and fight monsters. The more you play, the higher levels you achieve, which unlock new skills, clothing, abilities, and boosters that help you in battle. Everything is on the fitness theme – your boosters are smoothies with real-world ingredients, the skills are various fitness moves, and all the monsters have punny fitness names (yoga mat monsters are Matta Rays, kettlebells are Belldogs, water bottles are Protein Shakers, etc.)

I’ve had a great experience playing this game. The adventure portion of the game makes exercising fun, and it also has other modes that let me fit exercising into my schedule on my own terms. It has a “custom” mode where you can make your own list of your favorite exercises or jogging routes, it has mini-games that you can play outside the adventure for quick workouts, it has a rhythm game that lets you focus on moving to the music, and it even has a “multitask” mode so you can push or pull on the ring accessory while the system’s turned off, and earn points for the game.

Even better, the game makes a real effort to portray healthy, balanced exercise that is personalized to the individual user. Its included warmup and cooldown routines include easy stretches and lots of tips on living a healthier life, and it has an alarm function to help you stay accountable for playing regularly. It even includes lots of accessibility options, including a “silent mode” for simulating jogging (which is excellent if you share walls or floors with neighbors), various settings to adjust, and calibrating the accessories to your own body and strength.

If you’re looking to stay active during cold, quarantined winter months, AND you’d like to try before you buy, I recommend checking out Ring Fit for a family-friendly exercise option.

Travel Talk – Worst Travel Experience

If you’ve done any amount of traveling, it’s happened to you – a missed flight, lost luggage, a cancelled tour (anyone book a Thomas Cook tour recently?!) The key, of course, is to not let it ruin your trip; consider it a challenge to develop your coping skills! Sometimes the alternative turns out better than you planned!

Fortunately (so far) my travel experiences have been fairly straightforward – lost luggage (found and returned to me the next day), food poisoning (spent a day sick in bed – in Paris! – willing my insides to stop revolting against me), getting lost (I do this All. The. Time. You’d think I’d learn.) Maybe the worst was when my plane caught on fire which sounds terribly dramatic, but the plane was still at the gate and I think it was a fire in the galley, not the airplane itself. It did mean we had to disembark and wait four hours for another plane which meant I missed my connection in Detroit where I had to stay overnight (the airline paid) and got home a day late. Fortunately, everything was fine in the end and it didn’t ruin the trip and look, it makes a great story!

Here’s Michelle’s epic travel nightmare!

Travel delays are par for the course, but in May of 2011, my husband and I had an epic tale of a return flight.  The trip that should have been hours, but turned into days – all because of the eruption of an Icelandic volcano named Grimsvotn.

Our plane departed a little late from Copenhagen, Denmark, which delayed us when we reached Manchester, England.  We made it in time for the flight but since we arrived less than an hour from takeoff to Chicago, we were told we could not board (even though the plane was about 50 feet away from us).  We had to go through customs, get our luggage and hope we could find a flight quickly.  This would not be ideal, since many airports were starting to cancel flights because of the volcano’s ash that was approached the UK, we knew we had to get out or risk being stuck in Manchester, which could likely be days, not hours.

After a couple of hours, we were booked on a flight to Chicago via London.  We quickly realized that making this flight would land us in Chicago at nearly 8:30 in the evening and we did not have a flight or hotel booked for that night.  Once we made it to Chicago, my sister-in-law picked us up and we went back to her house in the Chicago suburbs.  It would be a short visit before we headed back to O’Hare in the morning. In the morning, we rode the Metra train to O’Hare only to find out that our flight to Moline was canceled.  We made a spit decision to rent a car one-way (not the cheapest option) and finally made it home that night!  As Ann mentioned in her post, it does make for a great story!

Now it’s your turn – what has been your worst Travel Experience? Let us know in the comments! And please, only stories that end well!

Sea of Thieves Video Game

Sea of Thieves is a truly unique game in terms of scope and execution. It is a game best played with friends and honestly baffled me when I first played it on release. There is no grand goal at the end of the adventure, the goal is what you make it to be.

Sea of Thieves is an open-world adventure game that tasks the player as part of a crew of pirates going on quests on the high seas. While the game can be played solo where the game matches the player with random players via matchmaking, I have to say that this is not the ideal way to enjoy this game. Playing with friends online creates the most fun scenarios and is how the game was meant to be enjoyed.

Players work together taking on different roles on the ship. One person can steer, one can man the sails and another can navigate. Sea of Thieves really captures the feel of being a pirate, especially when your ship gets close to another group’s ship.

Nothing can compare to the rush of exhilaration that you feel as a player when someone notices another ship on the horizon. “will they attack us? should we pursue them? are they going to be friendly?” all of these questions are made more exciting by knowing that these conversations are also being played out by the other players on the other ship. Maybe you are returning from a quest with a ton of loot on your ship so you don’t want to risk fighting other pirates, or maybe you are on your way to a quest so you have nothing to lose but attack the other players.

I have never experienced an encounter like these until I played Sea of Thieves. Balancing between manning the cannons, plugging up holes from enemy cannon fire, steering the ship, and managing the sails is such a frantic process that the game can go from tranquil enjoyment of sailing, to intense frantic combat in an instant. There is more to the game beyond that too, players can band together and work to take down massive threats like the Megaladon that requires coordination between multiple ships to take down.

I highly recommend this game to any friend group that is looking for a new co op experience to tackle. Blare the “Pirates of the Caribbean” soundtrack loud and proud as you tackle the high seas, fight off skeletons, krakens and of course, other pirates.

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.

 

Travel Talk – Going Solo

I’ve just returned from a holiday in London, England. The weather was lovely, the cherry trees were in bloom and the museums and landmarks were magnificent. I ate some excellent food (scones with clotted cream! fish and chips!), wandered through gorgeous neighborhoods such as Notting Hill and Belgravia and visited some of the finest museums in the world including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Gallery and the Tate Britain. I indulged in my love of gardens by visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (although, this is England, there are gardens everywhere!) and my love of photography by taking pictures of, well, everything! It was, in short, a wonderful trip.

And I did it all solo. No travel companion, no tour group. Just me.

Traveling solo can be hard and I certainly experienced a few bumps and mishaps. Apparently I have no sense of direction and inevitably, when I exited an Underground station (the public transportation system in London), I would go in the exact opposite direction that I needed. Every. Time. And I had to make every decision – where to go, when to go, where to eat, how to get somewhere. There is no one to point out and share any of the many new things you come across, or laugh with over any of the absurdities.

But it can also be incredibly rewarding. I may have always started going the wrong direction, but I also eventually figured it out – on my own – and got to my various destinations. I’m very proud of how I mastered the Underground with barely a blip, from Heathrow airport to central London and then all around London. If I wanted to sleep late or turn in early, I could and if I ate scones with clotted cream every day (which I did), there was no one to question my life choices. There was also no one wondering why the heck I was holding up progress by spending 10 minutes taking pictures of the same tree (I was experimenting with light settings and angles!) There is a huge amount of freedom when you travel solo, and a lot of valuable learning about yourself and what you’re capable of.

A fully solo international trip like this one isn’t for everyone of course, or for every trip. But I encourage you to try it someday if you haven’t already. Even going off on your own for a day or an afternoon can be very rewarding, especially if your interests are different from the people you’re traveling with; for instance, they want to go golfing but you’d really like to visit a museum. A lot of tour groups have built-in free time which would be perfect to venture somewhere on your own. If you need help (or get lost like I tend to), ask someone. I have found that most people are friendly and happy to help, especially when you are polite and respectful of local customs.

Need a little more encouragement? Here are a few books to check out.

The Solo Travel Handbook: Practical Tips and Inspiration for a Safe, Fun and Fearless Trip by Sarah Reid for lots of practical advice.

Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities and the Pleasures of Solitude by Stephanie Rosenbloom for inspiration.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed for an epic solo adventure.

What about you? Have you ever traveled solo? Where did you go? And how did you like traveling on your own? Tell us in the comments!

In the Midst of Winter : a novel / Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende’s newest novel In the Midst of Winter is a page turner filled with suspense. Part love story, part history, part current immigration issues where baby boomers learn to love again while covering up a crime scene and dealing with their own histories of violence, love lost, and innocence begot.

A story about three separate individuals, Evelyn, Lucia, and Richard whose previous lives become intertwined in a series of flashbacks and unfortunate events including military overthrow, drug escapades in Rio, and gangs in Guatemala. Richard a college professor living and working in New York, Lucia, Richard’s colleague who he has helped obtain a year professorship in New York who also happens to be Richard’s tenant living in the freezing basement of his Brooklyn brownstone, and Evelyn a DACA refugee turned illegal alien come together in Allende’s imaginative fictional concoction of romance, murder, suspense, and drama. The three characters are brought together by a harrowing snow storm in New York when Richard hits Evelyn’s car, embarking all three of them on a journey none would have ever expected.

The reader will enjoy reading this fictional tale where boomers despite their trials of hurt and loss learn that there is still life left in them to live and love left within them to give.