I grew up in a small town where beauty pageants happened every summer. Moving away to college, I discovered that spending your summer watching beauty pageants was not the norm. I honestly had not thought much of the pageant life again until recently when I discovered The Accidental Beauty Queen sitting on the new shelf at work. The premise was intriguing, so I decided to give it a try!
The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson tells the story of two identical twins. Charlotte and Ginny Gorman look alike, but that is where their similarities end. Charlotte is an elementary school librarian who absolutely loves her job. Being a librarian allows her to spend her day around books and help her students. Her twin sister Ginny is a beauty pageant contestant. Building her brand through various social media platforms, mainly Instagram, Ginny works hard to fill their mother’s beauty pageant shoes(not literally). Their mother died when both Ginny and Charlotte were young and Ginny chose to honor her by competing in the same pageant she had competed in before.
Ginny is a repeat beauty pageant contestant, someone who has been after a crown for as long as Charlotte came remember. Her ultimate goal? Being crowned Miss American Treasure. Charlotte may begrudgingly support her sister, but she still doesn’t understand the appeal. Charlotte accompanies Ginny to her latest beauty pageant because she’s promised a week of vacation with Harry Potter World close at hand. Staying in the same room with Ginny, Charlotte is privy to some behind the scenes looks as Ginny prepares. Ginny is pretty sure she has this pageant in the bag.
It all comes crashing down when Ginny has a severe allergic reaction to the dinner she shares with Charlotte the night before the competition begins. After Charlotte rushes Ginny to an urgent care (under cover and in secret, of course), they both realize that Ginny will not be back to her normal beauty queen self for at least three days. Those three days are the bulk of the pageant! At her wit’s end, Ginny begs Charlotte to fill in for her for those three days. Her doing so would allow Ginny the time she needs to heal, but she would be able to swoop in at the end for the finals. Reluctantly agreeing to help, Charlotte soon finds herself thrown headfirst into full-blown pageant life. Ginny gives Charlotte a makeover full of push-up bras, glittery pageant gowns, hair extensions, false eyelashes, and full faces of makeup. As Ginny tries to prepare Charlotte for everything that goes into a pageant, Charlotte quickly finds out that there is way more to this way of life than crowns and gowns.
B.A. Paris has yet to disappoint me with her novels. Since her first was published in 2016, I’ve been a devoted reader. I know when I pick up her books that I will be transported to a dark, twisty world where I’ll be gripped by thrilling escapades of all characters presented. Her latest, Bring Me Back, drops readers right in the middle of a mystery and doesn’t solve it until the very end.
Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris tells the tale of a complicated and mysterious love. Finn and Layla are madly in love and on vacation. On their way back, Finn stops at a rest stop to go to the bathroom. Layla stays in the car, wanting to wait to use the restroom until they stop at a well lit service station instead. When Finn returns to the car, Layla is nowhere in sight. Not thinking much of it, Finn pulls the car closer to the restrooms waiting for Layla to come out. She never does. She’s disappeared without a trace. The above is the story that Finn told the police, but it’s not the whole story.
Flash forward twelve years. Layla is still missing. Finn has moved on. He’s now in a relationship with Layla’s sister, Ellen. In fact, they’re now engaged! This relationship has garnered them negative attention in the media, but thankfully most of it seems to have died down. Bonded over their shared grief over Layla’s disappearance, both Ellen and Finn have settled into a routine in a place where they are no longer seen as relatives of the missing woman. Everything is working out.
No it’s not. That’s not the whole truth either. Not long before Finn and Ellen are to be married, the policeman who worked Layla’s disappearance phones Finn with some startling news: their old neighbor swears he saw Layla standing outside their old house, but she ran away before he could check for sure. Chalking that sighting up to the witness’s old age and diminished eyesight, Finn moves on with his life. Other strange things keep happening though that seemed designed to test Finn and Ellen’s relationship and maybe tear them apart. Emails from strangers who know intimate details of Finn and Layla’s life together. Lost items from Ellen and Layla’s past suddenly appearing out of nowhere. Messages sent through the mail, strange gifts showing up around town, and clues to Layla’s disappearance keep popping up. Finn finds himself wondering if Layla is back. Is she behind these strange happenings? What does she know? What does she want? How far is she willing to go to get back what she believes is hers? I found myself constantly guessing about the strange person behind the gifts and their motive for harassing a seemingly normal couple. Readers will be questioning everything and everyone they thought they knew throughout this novel.
This book is also available in the following formats:
Headed to London for the Olympics? First of all : jealous! Second : I hope you have tickets/hotel/transportation already arranged – the grand old city is bound to be bursting at the seams. Still looking for some tips on how to occupy your time between watching the handball semi-finals and the whitewater rafting qualifying? Here are some books that will give you lots of ideas, whether you’re in town for the Games or just dreaming of visiting someday.
DK Eyewitness Travel London – Offers maps, history, and general features, detailed guides through the various areas of the city. and suggestions for specific walks. Also provides a street finder and hints on shops and markets, entertainment, children’s interests, transportation. Colorful photographs adorn every page.
Britain and Ireland’s Best Wild Places by Christopher Somerville – Storm-battered headlands, hidden waterfalls, tumbledown cottages, the ruins of haunted chapels deep in forgotten woods, medieval Green Men, old mines and quarries being recaptured by nature, rusting sea-forts tottering on sandbanks. Britain and Ireland are full of wild places, some remote, many often astonishingly close to civilization.
Berlitz Handbook of Great Britain – What sets this guide apart is the illuminating Unique Experiences section which are packed full of practical advice on how to make the most of all the opportunities unique to Britain – from visiting royal residences to watching a soccer match, or exploring Brontë country in Yorkshire.
Frommer’s 24 Great Walks in London– Features walking tours of London including the Royal Parks, Jack the Ripper’s trail in the East End, a walk along the Thames, literary themed walks that feature the inspirational settings ranging from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol to Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.
Summer is here at last and it’s a great time to get out there and explore a new part of the world. The library has lots of great new travel books – here is just a sampling.
One of the best ways to explore is on foot and many of the great cities of the world are perfect for walking. National Geographic’s new series Walking shows you the highlights of Paris, New York, London and Rome.
Also from National Geographic, 100 Best Affordable Vacations offers advice on out of the ordinary vacation opportunities, from the Texas state fair to “unknown” national parks.
Embrace your American heritage and hit the road with Reader’s Digest The Most Scenic Drives in America, and discover the most beautiful road every time from Florida’s Road to Flamingo to Hawaii’s Oahu Coastal Lo; from British Columbia’s Sea to Sky Highway to Cape Cod’s Sandy Shore.
We have lots of new travel books arriving every day for destinations all over the world. Whether you’re planning a trip-of-a-lifetime, or indulging in some armchair travel, you’ll find plenty of ideas for adventure at the library!
If you’re lucky enough to be going to London sometime and you’re a Beatles fan, be sure and pick up The Beatles’ London: A Guide to 467 Beatles Sites in and Around London. Here you’ll find a detailed and meticulous listing of every significant (and some not-so-significant) site associated with the Fab Four. Heavily illustrated and carefully mapped (including listing nearby Tube stations), you’ll soon be able to immerse yourself in Beatlemania. The book is divided geographically so that you can make the most of your time, and includes a special “Fast Fab Excursion”, an outlined walking tour that encompasses the most essential Beatle sites (allow about five hours), and a section on the filming of “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Help” and “Magical Mystery Tour”. While a lot has changed about London since the Beatles were in town, it won’t be hard to find yourself following in the footsteps of Paul, John, Ringo and George. And even if your travel plans don’t include London, any Beatles fan will be in trivia heaven with this book.
Congratulations to KarenW, the winner of our first ever Davenport Library Info Cafe blog contest! Karen’s excellent comment recommended not one but several wonderful places to visit, all arranged in a handy driving tour and includes great places to stop for a meal along the way. Her tour will appeal to many interests including families, and really showcases the beauty and history of eastern Iowa. Be sure to check out her comment!
Need some more ideas for your next Staycation? Here are some thoughts from a couple of our blogging librarians:
Lynn: I, for one, can’t wait to get on the road and try out Karen’s ideas. (it’s very useful to know how to gauge your coffee consumption when you’re in (relatively) unknown territory).
One of my favorite staycations follows the river on the Illinois side. It starts with an early morning hike at Mississippi Palisades State Park in Savanna (fortified by a thermos full of good strong coffee). Trails along the cliffs and ravines provide just enough challenge to make ice cream, popcorn and/or an elegant Italian meal in Galena seem totally justifed. To me, it’s a great combination of natural beauty, physical exercise and (sort of) sophisticated indulgence.
Ann: Don’t pass up a visit to the Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Grinnell (about a 2 hour drive west of the Quad Cities, just off Interstate 80) where you can experience Iowa the way it was when the pioneers arrived. Less than one tenth of one percent of the tall grass prairie that once covered Iowa remains; at Neil Smith they are hard at work preserving and restoring authentic prairie. They have an excellent visitor’s center with educational displays and a introductory film, walking paths of various lengths (some are perfect for children) and a driving tour where you will have a very good chance of spotting the buffalo or elk herds. The Refuge is free but you’ll want to pack a picnic lunch. Don’t miss visiting this rare and beautiful land.
Congratulations again Karen and thanks for the great Staycation ideas! Your IMAX tickets are in the mail!
Hey Blog Readers! Don’t forget to comment on last Friday’s blog for a chance to win two free tickets to the Putnam Museum and IMAX Theater movie, Kilamanjaro: to the Roof of Africa. This breathtakingly beautiful movie will transport you to the exotic world of Africa as it follows a group of seven people who are climbing the largest free-standing mountain in the world. All that beauty and adventure can be yours – and you won’t even have to pack a bag or buy an airplane ticket!
To enter, simply tell us about your favorite local vacation spot – anyplace within a day’s drive (round trip) of the Quad Cities that is a favorite with you and your family. Maybe a mountain climbing excursion on a far continent isn’t in your budget, but a day’s getaway at a less exotic – but still fun – location could be just the ticket. (Also, less chance of getting eaten by a lion)
Be sure to leave your comment by midnight tonight. We’ll announce the winner on Tuesday, August 25.
Here we are – already getting to the end of vacation season. Many fellow library workers and customers are talking about all the fun trips they have planned before school starts (the New Windsor rodeo, Tabor Home Vineyards & Winery, the windmill in Fulton, Illinois, the Iowa State Fair) or the fun things they’ve done on their days off. If you’re one of them, we’d like to hear from you; the best ideas will win a prize. The following rules apply:
The destination must be within a 1-day drive (round-trip) of the Quad-Cities.
Ok, there’s only the one rule.
Submit a comment to this post by August 21st , and you may be a winner! The Putnam Museum and IMAX Theatre have generously donated 2 tickets to Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa (showing through October). A perfect choice for all you travelers, armchair and otherwise. The winner will be announced August 25 – good luck!
Or explore a historic house. Or visit one of the natural wonders of this country. Celebrate National Parks Week (April 18-26) and discover some of the special places of America.
The United States established the first national park in the world in 1872 with Yellowstone National Park. Since then, the National Park service has developed hundreds of parks, recreation areas, historic sites, monuments and memorials throughout the country. Everyone’s familiar with the famous sites, like the Grand Canyon or Yosemite but there are many more worth visiting ranging from the seashores of North Carolina to Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home in Kentucky to the volcanoes of Hawaii. The National Parks offers tons of services including ranger talks and ranger-led walks, preservation of the natural and historic treasures and multiple recreational opportunities, almost all of which are free or very low cost.
While it might be a little late to visit a park this week, now is the perfect time to plan your summer vacation or your next weekend getaway. Be sure to check out the books available at the library including:
National Parks of the American West for Dummies
Haunted Hikes: Spine Tingling Tales and Trails from North America’s National Parks by Andrea Lankford
Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks by Lonely Planet
National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States
Great Lodges of the National Parks by Christine Barnes
Yellowstone: a Natural and Human History by David Wallace