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?

 

 

 

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!

Online Reading Challenge – Mid Month Check

Hello! How is your reading going with this month’s Reading Challenge subject, Fashion? Have you found something you’re enjoying, or have you hit a dead end? If you’re still looking, here are a couple of movie s to consider.

Phantom Thread with Daniel Day Lewis in his final role before retiring from acting about an exclusive London fashion house in the 1950s.

Coco avant Chanel starring Audrey Tautou about the early life of Coco Chanel and how it influenced and affected her life and career.

McQueen a documentary about the extraordinary life, career and artistry of fashion designer Alexander McQueen.

Dior and I is another documentary, an extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at Raf Simon’s first haute couture collection as artistic director of the House of Dior.

Online Reading Challenge – May

Hello Again Challenge Readers!

It’s a new month and time for a new topic. This month our topic is: Fashion!

One of the first books I ever bought for myself, through a program at my elementary school was The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter. I am still enchanted by the beautiful language and imagery of the mice sewing an exquisite vest at night to help the elderly tailor. I love the language of fashion – “twists of thread” and “cherry-coloured silk” and “gold-laced waistcoats” and buttonholes with stitches so tiny “they looked as if they had been made by little mice!” I’m sure Beatrix Potter inspired my love of words and details and encouraged a great respect for craftsmanship. And so this month we celebrate the world of fashion in its many forms.

For historical fiction, try The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott about a young seamstress to a fashion designer who survives the sinking of the Titanic. I loved The Gown by Jennifer Robson which details the lives of the women who embroidered Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth’s wedding dress. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini is based on the true story of Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, a woman who was born a slave, bought her freedom and became Mary Todd Lincoln’s seamstress.

For contemporary fiction, you can’t beat the snark in The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger about the cut-throat world of fashion magazines. For something a little less ruthless, go for The Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff about a woman running a shop that specializes in vintage dresses.

The high cost of fashion can be found in books such as Triangle: the Fire that Changed America by Dave Von Drehle which recounts the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, one of the worst industrial accidents in US history that led to laws requiring safer working conditions. Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline looks at “the high price of cheap fashion”. If you’d like to step away from “fast fashion” The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees helps you build a wardrobe of clothes you love and want to wear. And Mending Matters by Katrina Rodabaugh teaches visible mending and just how beautiful it can be.

I’m going to read Nine Women, One Dress by Jane Rosen about one perfect little black dress and how it affects the lives of nine different women.

Do you see something you’d like to read? Be sure to stop at any of the Davenport Library locations and check out our displays for even more ideas!

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – April Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Readers!

How did your reading about reading go this month? I have just one word for how mine went – fail! Argh! I had every intention of reading a book this month, in fact I had three titles as possibilities. I also thought I would have lots of down time this month but in fact I did not. Everything came together (in a bad way) to keep me from getting much reading done.

Has this ever happened to you, where you go through a period of not having time to read, or nothing catches your attention? While I don’t think I’m in a full-blown reading slump (I’ve already read a book for next month!), I have struggled in the past with reading inertia. If this dread syndrome ever happens to you, here are some ideas to  get yourself back on the reading train.

How to Break Out of a Reading Slump from Bookish

19 Ways to Beat a Reading Slump from Book Cave

Bookish Things to Do While in a Reading Slump from Book Riot

And for a bit of humor: 10 Stages of a Reading Slump from Odyssey

Now it’s your turn – what did you read for April? Have you ever been in a reading slump and if so, how did you get yourself out of it?