Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling is successful in Hollywood for being authentic to herself  She was the talented writer of the TV hit show The Office and created and stars in her own show The Mindy Project.  In her second book she reveals more of a Hollywood insider scoop, musing on fame, body image, relationships and working hard late into the night for her career.  She comes across as a friend; her anecdotes and irreverent take on life's situations made me chuckle and laugh out loud.  It is an entertaining read.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

     Decide, then don't decide.  Rubin says, "Habits require no decision from me, because I've already decided.  Am I going to brush my teeth tonight?  This freedom from decision making is crucial, because when I have to decide -- which often involves resisting temptation or postponing gratification -- I tax my self-control."  Putting much of our everyday lives on automatic allows us to use our daily limit of self-control & decision making where it's really needed, instead of wasting it on mundane things.
     Rubin presents very practical strategies for habit formation, the main one being:  Work with yourself and your personality!  Do you need outside accountability or a good reason for doing (whatever behavior) before a habit sticks?  If you decide to quit or cut back on (x), are you personally more likely to be successful going cold turkey forever, or indulging in moderation?
     Written with plenty of humor, research, and personal examples, "Better Than Before" might just help you make your New Year's resolutions into habits that stick.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Christmas Ideas

I love the Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications at Christmas time. They are chock full of new and pretty ideas to experiment with. Found at the call number 745.5941, you will find a treasure trove of books on the subject. This year's issue is found on the "NEW" shelves. I used ideas from pages 10 and 11 for the display in the library, on the bulletin board, in the children's non-fiction area. The three trees are made form string, snowflakes, and handmade ornaments. What fun to try something new! If you have a creative bent, or.....just like looking, try out these books.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM by Robert C. O'Brien

     Mrs. Frisby and her children move each spring from their winter home in the garden to their summer home by the creek.  But before they can move Timothy catches pneumonia.  Timothy has always been a sickly mouse and doesn’t recover as fast as the other children.  Mrs. Frisby is desperate for help.  The wise owl tells her to ask the rats.  The rats on the farm keep to themselves and help no one, but she needs help, so off to the rats she goes.  Mrs. Frisby soon finds out that these are not normal rats and that her husband had helped them in the past.  It is because of the kindness and help her husband had given them, they decide to help her. 
     I first fell in love with this book in the 4th grade when our teacher read it aloud.  It is now one of my favorites as an adult and I invite you to pick up this oldie but goodie! 

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

     Another great story delivered by Heather Gudenkauf. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. The fact the Calli Clark is a selective mute caught my interest right away. I kept on reading to find out exactly why she did stop talking., and I wanted find out what happened to her best friend, Petra Gregory as well.
     I love Gudenkauf's way of having each chapter written from the view of one of the characters. This means you see the way Calli feels about things and them the next chapter will be her brother speaking, then her mother, the sheriff and so forth. She rotates through the characters, building the story to it's finish. Very good.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Others Had It Worse by Vetra Melrose Padget Covert and Chris D. Baker

I picked it up because the cover and title peeked my interest in the human condition. How do people survive adverse times? How is it that some people enjoy life even in the worst of times? I saw that the book was a true account of a family living in Davis County, Iowa. So I checked it out.
Not a big book- but fascinating. A grandson decides to try and collect information from his grandmother before her death. She begins to writer her earliest memories and goes from there. The book is compiled of her writings. Short snippets offering a glimpse into the life of another human being. Not an easy life - poor, and a father who made moonshine for money and also consumed the fruits of his labor. (Not such a good thing for the family.) As the title implies, the girl survives, and manages to have happy memories as well. They actually had fun. Maybe when you have nothing, even the smallest of events can bring great happiness. The pros and cons of having money. What's the perfect balance of living comfortably, but still having joy in little things? Maybe by studying the lives of those who have gone before us, we can gain insight.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Barbarian Days - A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

There aren't too many of us land-bound Pellans who are actively surfing the waves these days. Don't let that stop you, however, from reading William Finnegan's Barbarian Days - A Surfing Life. It is a quest for the ultimate wave; a quest for finding oneself; and, a quest for seeing just what the world has to offer.
Finnegan started surfing as a child, but his family's move to Hawaii kicked his surfing bug into gear. His adventures span the 1960s through today, with a large part of his life spent bumming around the world, searching for the ultimate waves. During that time he was holding up odd jobs; living on little to no income; and, encountering new sections of the world, its people and their customs.
You don't have to know one thing about surfing to enjoy this book. Finnegan's vivid descriptions have you right there with him, out on the waves. His details of those he encounters are just as descriptive and thought provoking. For me, there was also this feel of loneliness and uncertainty to the tale as the author looked to figure out both the world, and himself.
If you are a reader of the New Yorker, you have encountered some of Finnegan's work before as he is on staff and a regular contributor to the magazine.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

I learned about the father of Impressionism, Camille Pissarro, in Hoffman's latest historical fiction.  Pissarro's talent is obvious in Hoffman's portrayal.  Yet, it is Rachel, his mother and her determination to follow her heart and defy all conventions after her first husband dies that is most indelible. 
Set in the island of St. Thomas in the 1800s of a Jewish refugees community where Rachel grows up fulfilling her father's request to marry a widower in order to save the family's business.  I am transported to a tropical paradise but am reminded of the inequality, slavery and racism on the island that is supposedly outlawed by Danish rule.  Hoffman weaves in many layers and family secrets in the novel, with Rachel's dream of being in Paris someday because of her ancestry, the relationships with her parents, her children, the friendship with her childhood friend Justine and her courage and need to be validated despite her scandalous second marriage to her true love Frederick.  It is a good read.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

This is the second book by this author that I have read. She is from Iowa, by the way, and some of the passages describe Iowa so accurately I feel we grew up together. This story is centered around two sisters, Allison and Brynn. Allison is the 'golden child' while Brynn is not so accomplished. The sisters are close. When Allison messes up she asks Brynn to help her. This is where the whole story gets complicated. I was surprised by plot twisters in the middle of the story and at the end. The author writes her books around traumatic experiences. When I read Little Mercies I felt all ended well. In this story however, if does not end up well for everyone. This probably is more true to life, but ends up leaving you feel bereft.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Swansong 1945 by Walter Kempowski

It is fitting with the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II occurring this year, the stirring work of Walter Kempowski, Swansong 1945, be translated into English and distributed for all to read. It is a powerful book composed of the thoughts, ideas and writings of people from around the world during the finals days of Hitler's Third Reich.
The vast majority of the book is made up of writings from people who found themselves actually in Germany in the late days of April and early May of 1945. The country was awash in the flotsam and jetsam of the chaos it had created when it took on what became the Second World War. Kempowski provides accounts from Americans, British, French, Russians, and primarily Germans as they describe the horror and destruction that are uncovered in the final days of the war in Europe.
There are accounts from soldiers, politicians, writers, prisoners of war and concentration camp survivors all woven together to give you a feel of the uncertainty the world was about to face with the close of the war.
The strength of this book is in its first-person accounts and its varying viewpoints from the participants. Many of us had read about the battles that comprised the end of the war, but we are not as familiar when the specific people themselves - Swansong 1945 takes us down that path.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot

This Civil War novel explores the horror that was Andersonville prison by concentrating on the stories of a few individuals: a prisoner, a guard, and the daughter of a local doctor.  Although the truly appalling conditions of the prison are not glossed over, the real focus of the novel is on individuals wrestling with their consciences, deciding (or not deciding) to act on their principles, and the consequences of their actions.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade

     It's 1954, and Rachel Rabinowitz is a nurse in the hospice wing of the Old Hebrews Home in NYC.  When a bed opens up, a new patient named Mildred Solomon comes under Rachel's care.  Solomon's insistence at being called "Doctor" leads Rachel to wonder if this is the same Dr. Solomon that performed numerous X-rays on her when she was at the Hebrew Infant Home in the early 1920s, leading to Rachel's permanent baldness.  It is.
     This leads Rachel to attempt to learn more about Dr. Solomon and her X-ray treatments.  What Rachel thought were treatments for an illness turn out to be X-rays done on healthy children for medical research purposes.  Alternating chapters present snapshots of her earlier life alongside her current one, so we understand how she perceived events when they happened to her, as well as how she feels about them now, when she has more facts.  As Rachel's understanding unfolds, her anger at what she was subjected to rises, and she debates exacting revenge on Dr. Solomon.  
    I enjoyed reading this book, especially the added chapter in the back where the author shares some of her family history (complete with photos), which was inspiration for much of the book.  Although I didn't always like how Rachel reacted to events, I felt that she was portrayed realistically, and struggled with tough emotions like we all do at times.

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

      Rose, a high functioning tween on the autism spectrum, loves homonyms, rules, and routines.  Her own name is a homonym. So, when her father brings her a dog one rainy night, it only makes sense to name her something that is also a homonym, Rain.        In the book, we learn about Rose’s struggles relating to kids in her class; the frustration she feels with someone who doesn’t follow the rules; and the relationships with her father, her Uncle Weldon and Rain.
        Her father didn’t follow the rules and let Rain out alone after a major inland hurricane has hit their community.  Rain has now been lost and Rose’s world is turned upside down.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson

One nice thing about Robert Kurson's Pirate Hunters is that it fills several of your "reading needs" all at once - especially if you are into non-fiction pieces. The book is a mystery, a history tale, a biography and an adventure book all rolled into one.
Pirate Hunters explores the lives of two modern day treasure hunters, John Chatterton and John Mattera, as they search for the remains of the Golden Fleece - a treasure ship from the Golden Age of pirating. With that general purpose in mind, the book takes you through the lives of Chatterton and Mattera; through their search for the Golden Fleece; through the history of Golden Age piracy; it looks at many modern day treasure hunters, their successes and failures; it explores the life of the captain of the Golden Fleece and how the wreck came to be; and it covers the frustrations of Chatterton and Mattera as they conduct an exhaustive search for the Golden Fleece.
With all of these things going on in the same book, it makes for a very fast read - especially if you are wanting to get to the end to find out if the Golden Fleece exists, or not. I found the book to be very informative and enjoyable. I will let you decide if the end is a fulfilling one or not - that all depends on the type of ending you are looking for.

The Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier

With September and October on their way, apple season is upon us! I understand the harvest of apples this year is plentiful. So, I picked up this book with "125 Freshly Picked Recipes". The donuts on the cover were my first temptation. I checked to see if there was a recipe for apple fritters and there were two. Next, I noticed how they incorporated apples into meat dishes and main courses. Lastly, I saw the section on preserving the apple harvest. So if you have apples coming out of your ears, pick up this book for some new ideas.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

In 1952, 3 plane crashes devastated the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey.  The community mourns for the lost but moves forward.  Having lived in Elizabeth at the time, Blume channeled her firsthand experience into Miri Ammerman, a wise and eccentric teenager coping with peer pressure and first love.  The novel begins with Miri flying back to her hometown for the 35th memorial of the victims and ends in the '80s, following up on how the characters develop.  We traveled back in time where Blume painted a vivid depiction of the '50s.  The story has many subplots, besides the mother and daughter relationship of Miri and Rusty, Blume weaves in a host of characters, exploring the non-traditional themes of love and family, philosophical and existential queries and the nuances of living day-to-day.  As Miri points out, "Life is a series of unlikely events... adding up to a rich and complicated whole."

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss

When I was a lad, Dr. Seuss was the fad
and  I learned to read at his hand. 
But then he passed on,
and the new books were gone,
and darkness fell over the land.

But deep in his study lay
a box which he had,
stuffed with his manuscripts
both good and bad. 
His projects and riddles,
his drawings and musings,
his thoughts and his trials.
What the world might be losing!

But a few fine new folks
out at Random House Books,
convinced his wife Audrey
to take a fresh look. 

Among all the papers and drawings and creatures,
was the plans for this book, an unfinished feature! 
The problem is simple, What Pet Should I Get? 
The answer is tough, Seuss surprises us yet! 

So set back, my dear reader,
grab kids if you have them,
and share this new book! 

Here, now delivered, what children are needing,
a new book from Seuss, 

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

     This book follows the lives of two people. The first one is Ellen Moore, who is married with three children. She works as a social worker and is dedicated to her job. The second one is Jenny Briard, a ten year old girl who has been living with her father. He tries to take are of Jenny, but can't keep a job, likes, women, and tends to drink too much.
     Each character has an event happern to them that is bound to change their lives. A devastating accident involving Ellen's youngest child puts that child at death's door and threatens to imprison Ellen. At the same time, Jenny finds herself on her own and has to find the strenght to survive.
     As their paths cross, events keep rolling along and you don't know if things are going to work out or not. I found the story very intriguing and was able to read it quickly because I found the subject matter so interesting. I will for more books written by this author.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Catalyst by Helena Coggan

I was first drawn to The Catalyst when I learned that its author, Helena Coggan, wrote the first draft for the book at the age of 13. Now 15, she has seen her work published and has moved on to writing its follow-up. Written for young adults, The Catalyst is one of those books that will be enjoyed by adults as well as young readers. It fits into the dystopian society/fantasy genre that has been so popular in recent years.
The story takes place in London, 18 years after scientists cracked open the sky and released souls from beyond which then inhabited the bodies of those here on earth. Society was divided into two factions - the Gifted which have magic powers; and, the Ashkind, which have no powers. These sides battled it out in a world war call the Angelic Wars.
The Catalyst's main character, Rose, is 15-years-old and living in a world that has an uneasy peace. Her father works in a police-type division called the Department, and they are in charge of keeping the world safe. There are many secrets among the characters of the book, including between Rose and her father. There are groups trying to start another world war, and there are groups called Demons and Hybrids that inter-twine with the Ashkind and the Gifted that cause many stresses and strains.
The book is a quick read, but pay attention to where everyone's loyalties lie - there are many twists and turns as the story plays out. It comes to a tidy conclusion, but it also leaves itself open for the volume that Coggan is currently at work on.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Wright Brothers by David McCollough

If you need a good, detailed refresher on the world’s first mechanical flight, then this is the book for you.
For me, however, the neatest thing about David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers is the fact that the author has the brothers in the air and flying at Kill Devil Hill at about the one-third mark of the book. He spends the remaining two-thirds of the pages following the Wrights in their post first-flight days; covering the testing, and marketing, of the world’s first mechanically powered airplane.
For two years after their success in North Carolina, the Wrights worked on their airplane in Ohio, logging numerous flights. From there, Wilbur headed to France to present their efforts and hopefully sell the technology. Orville remained in America, and nearly lost his life in a flying accident. McCullough covers all of this in great detail—due to both his great skill as an author, and the fact that the Wright family was very diligent in writing and documenting every aspect of their lives. It is a very detailed look at the lives of these famous aviators.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Rook by Sharon Cameron

An homage to The Scarlet Pimpernel, this story is set in a future where technology no longer exists.  The action centers around a feisty heroine who is more that what she seems.  There is romance, political intrigue, lots of action, and quirky characters.  Great fun!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

All There Is by Dave Isay

     This little book is compiled of many little stories collected by a facilitator who first set up a booth in Grand Central Station in New York City. Two people face each other and for forty minutes they ask each other questions and listen. People often say it was the most important forty minutes of their lives.
      This book was devoted to stories about romantic love. It is divided into three sections: falling in love, remembering a loved one, and finding love unexpectedly after deciding it was never going to happen.
     I really enjoyed this quick read because it came from real people and the stories are all true. They made me feel like not everything in life is phony, and that love still abounds, giving us a desire to live and making our spirits strong. Several of the stories brought tears to my eyes. I loved it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir by Roz Chast

Roz Chast chronicles her parents’ decline, both in their 90’s, from living independently in their Brooklyn apartment to assisted living, nursing home and finally hospice.  It is filled with honest and raw emotions, yet with a humorous touch.  As she is the only child, all the legal and financial planning and caring for her parents’ end-of life fall on her.  While she has deep affection for her father George, Chast has conflicted feelings towards her mother Elizabeth but eventually comes to terms with it.  Her combination of cartoon drawings, photos and writings makes this an original read about death in our culture, a subject that we often don't talk about.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sophia by Paula Kremser

In this Regency romance novel, Sophia, a small town girl, visits London where she finds she is to receive an unexpected inheritance. She stays in London with her aunt who takes her to many social events.  Her aunt wants to trick Sophia out of her inheritance and sets Sophia up to be found resting in a gentleman's room and when this gentleman (Alex) enters the room, they are caught together.  Because her reputation will be ruined she needs to marry Alex, a man she doesn't even know. Sophia rebels and decides she doesn't care about being "ruined" but Alex wants to save her reputation and his.  Why does a marriage cause Sophia to lose her inheritance and why is Alex showing so much interest in her? This is an enjoyable and at times humorous story written by an author who is a former Pella resident.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson

Taking a moment for self reflection this month, I thought I would journey through  Robert Dawson’s photographic essay that celebrates the institution of the public library in all of its many forms.   Full-color photographs of libraries large and small , open and closed, are interspersed with essays from names like Dr. Seuss and Amy Tan on the meaning and value of public libraries.  Does the book come to a conclusion?  Only that the story of the public library continues to unfold even today, and that it represents a common man’s revolution; the equity of knowledge across any and all barriers.  It’s a dream that has been fully realized in the public library and now chronicled in this book, one which Toni Morrison herself calls “profound and heartbreakingly beautiful.”  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

What Plant Where by Roy Lancaster

Here is a book for people who love to garden. This handy guide gives you suggestions for all the different spots in your garden; shady, sunny, dry, wet, clay, sandy, you name it. It is divided into five main sections, beginning with perennials and progressing to trees. It has a picture for each specimen. It talks about color and texture for every season and provides zoning charts so you know what works for Iowa.  It also tells how big the plant will get and if it would be better in front or in the back. I have used this book to identify plants, and it has a wonderful index as well. I have picked it up on several occasions to just look at learn about plants. An older book, but one I always enjoy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

One Summer: America 1927, by Bill Bryson

     Just as the title indicates, Bryson chronicles the events of the summer of 1927.  What a summer it was!  You’ll read about Jack Dempsey, Henry Ford, Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, and Robert Byrd.  You’ll read about “The Jazz Singer”, the creation of television, crazy tabloid murder trials, record flooding, flagpole sitting, and Mount Rushmore.  This is a very enjoyable, readable book, that gave detail to the general knowledge that most of us have about the major events of that time.  

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

High school student Alice Hatmaker has an amazing voice.  She is delighted that her twin brother, bassoonist Bert, gets to attend the annual statewide music conference in the grand Bellweather Hotel with her.  Full of confidence and anticipation, little did Alice know what the weekend has in store for her.
Alice is staying in the same room that had a murder-suicide 15 years earlier witnessed by the young bridesmaid Minnie Grave.  Could a murder happen in the same room again?  Alice and Minnie cross paths and their lives are impacted, as with the other characters in this multi-plot story, including the concierge Harold Hastings, the abrasive conductor Fisher Brodie and the chaperone Natalie Wilson.
I enjoyed this novel and was surprised by the ending.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Intrigued by tidying consultant Marie Kondo's method of uncluttering and organizing - she has a 3 month waiting period in Japan - I was looking forward to learning more about the KonMari Method.  Accordingly, we should only keep belongings that we really need and most importantly, an item should "sparks joy."  Since our living environment affects us both emotionally and physically, it is beneficial to unclutter our space and keep only belongings that we relish.
Kondo advises readers to organize by category, starting with clothes, then books, paper and move to mementos last as we tend to attach feelings to sentimental items and linger in deciding to keep them or not.  Don't worry; there is a section on letting go.  Kondo claims that the conventional way of tidying room by room is faulty.  Her method involves lots of purging and simplifying and that we should do it quickly and get it done.  I learned a new way to fold clothes and store them upright in a drawer!  It was interesting to have a different perspective on tidying.

Girl Underwater A Novel by Claire Kells

     I really enjoyed this book. It's all about Avery, a young college girl who has always loved swimming. She is attending college in California and is traveling home to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving. Two of her swim team mates are on the same flight.
     Suddenly the plane is in trouble. It goes down in a lake in the Rockies. Avery is one of five survivors, along with Colin Shea and three young boys. Colin is swimmer she admires but has avoided since the first day of school. This is due to the fact that he challenges her to push for her dreams and instead she has just settled for whatever the coach wanted her to do.
     She and Colin are forced to use their survival skills to brave the elements and provide for Tim, Liam, and Aayu. For five days they meet various dangers and trials, nearly dying. After rescue, Avery struggles to return to normal. She now has trouble surviving everyday life.
     As you read about Avery's slow emotional recovery, you are encouraged that even when we are in the depths of human misery and failure, we can, with help, enjoy the beauties of life once more.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

     On May 1, 1915, the Cunard’s flagship oceanliner, the Lusitania, set off from New York, bound for Liverpool.  WWI was 10 months old, but America was still neutral.  Gentlemanly warfare rules dictated that passenger vessels were safe from attack, but Germany was about to change that.  Circumstances—a dense fog, mandated slower speeds for Cunard liners, lack of an expected military escort, and more—resulted in the Lusitania being sunk by 1 torpedo from a German U-boat.  Larson is an adept historical writer, drawing you into life aboard the Lusitania, the U-20, the British military machine, and the White House.  This is a fascinating read!

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

To change things up a bit, this month I thought I would try a graphic novel, one which is specifically intended for adults.  Graphic novelists write in a “comic book” style, however the illustrations tend to be even more detailed and are specifically designed to advance the plot along with the text.  This novel revolves around David Smith, a down-on-his-luck sculptor who makes a deal with the devil to become a world-famous artist.  However, as part of the agreement, David has only 200 days in which to use his gift before he dies.  David thinks all will be according to plan until, quite by accident, he falls in love and begins to regret his choice. This graphic novel covers adult themes and is definitely NOT a book for children or teens.  However, with that said, it’s an excellent example of what can be done when the traditional definitions of the novel are broken.  I recommend it if you want something different.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lost and Found by Brooke Davis

This untraditional look at grief peeked my curiosity. There are three main characters in the story; Millie Bird, age 7, Agatha Pantha, 82, and Karl the touch typist, 87. Each character has lost someone very close to them. They all react in their own individual ways. I think most people would easily accept Millie's way of grieving, after all she is only a child. But Agatha, still shouting at passersby after seven years, and Karl typing into the air with his fingers would find less social acceptance these days, I fear. They really do seem rather crazy. In the end the characters in the story do find a sort of peace, that only comes from their experience of being together. The book does lead one to think about grief. Is there a right way to grieve? Is there a right amount of time to do it? Are the stages of denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance what all people experience? The article at the end by the author is very enlightening. After all, everyone dies. This book was definitely not a fun read, but very thought provoking it was.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Pogue's Basics by David Pogue

          When I first purchased my “smart phone”, my youngest sister asked me if I was smart enough to use a “smart phone”!  My first response was, “YES”.  However, as the time went on and I now have my second “smart phone”, I am still learning. 

Technology can be intimidating but Pogue’s book gave tips that anyone of any age or ability would be able to follow.  I was able to find some different ideas on how to save my battery life and learn a few shortcuts for my specific phone I was also able to learn about some new apps and shortcuts for using Google.

Although I didn’t read the entire book I now know there is an easy to follow guide that will offer me the help I need, if I am not smart enough for my phone!


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

     Remember the Chilean mine rescue in 2010?  You know that all 33 men came out alive, but this is the whole story.  The men made a pact not to reveal what happened underground for the first 18 days (before a small hole was bored 2000 feet down to provide them with food & communication), until they were ready. 

      This book makes you really understand the trials the trapped men were facing, and the difficulties the rescuers and families were experiencing.  Also fascinating is how the men felt about becoming instant celebrities.  It wraps up with a “where are they now” update.  I highly recommend this book!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Descent by Tim Johnston

A young girl disappears while out for a morning run while on vacation.  The father, mother, and brother left behind struggle to cope with the loss and the mystery of what happened to her. When do they stop searching?  This book is a page-turner that offers psychological as well as plot suspense.  Johnston is a former Iowan.

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Rachel rides the commuter train to and from London every day.  The train stops in roughly the same spot each day and Rachel enjoys watching the people who live near the stop. She lives vicariously through their seemingly perfect lives, even as her own life spirals out of control. Her observations from the train lead her to involvement in a missing persons case.  Unfortunately, Rachel has a drinking problem and can’t always remember what she has done.  No one is quite what they seem in this psychological thriller.  There are plenty of plot twists to keep the pages turning. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hell's Angels by Jay A. Stout

It’s about bombers—not bikers. Author Jay Stout takes you into the lives of those who were members of the 303rd Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force in World War Two. The “Mighty Eighth”, as they have become to be known, flew missions out of England over Nazi-held Europe from 1942-1945. Stout takes the readers behind the scenes of all aspects of a bomb group. From the pilots, the bomber crews, the ground crews, the commanders and all other positions that comprise a group, the authors has compiled some wonderful first-person accounts.

Stout covers the group from start to finish, looking at not only the missions, but life on leave, on base, and behind prison camp wire. By this point in history (2015),  the Eighth Air Force has been covered in many books; but with “Hell’s Angels”, Stout has given us a fresh account that keeps the pages turning. Once you start his book you will find it difficult to put down.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

9 year old Madeleine Altimari loves to sing, but at school and in church Clare Kelly is taking all the spotlight.  Singing makes Madeleine happy, especially after her mom died.  This is an entertaining novel with several subplots:  Madeleine is chasing her dream to sing on stage and coping with a depressed dysfunctional father, a bully at school and the mean principal. Meanwhile her divorced teacher Sarina Greene may have a second chance with a former crush.  There is also the father and son relationship with the Cat's Pajamas jazz club owner Lorca and his son Alex.  Will the lives of these troubled souls breakthrough within a 24 hour time frame on Christmas Eve in Philadelphia?  This is an off-beat, original read.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons

     This is the story of four women who decided to do a beach vacation while their husbands and boyfriends continued their residency. After the first year they began to make a tradition of it. Each year they would choose a new house. The only two requirements were that it be on a beach and that it be isolated. For many years they carry on this ritual and are able to rekindle and strengthen their friendships. All is well until one of the four tragically dies in a car accident. They drift apart and no longer go on their vacation.
    After a number of years a new marriage brings "Baby". In the opinion of the remaining friends, Baby has a long way to go to fill the shoes of the lost friend. So develops a beach vacation that brings out several discoveries, both pleasant and unpleasant. The women find the testing of their friendship changes them in many ways they never expected. The story is true to how life delivers us both good and bad things. Every person is touched by others and how we relate to each other can make all the difference.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan

   Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty, detectives who handle minority sensitive cases, are asked to investigate the death of Christopher Drayton, who fell to his death from the Bluffs. 
   He was soon to marry gold-digger Melanie, who stood to inherit everything.  Was he more valuable to her dead than alive?  Or, Drayton may have been the assumed identity of a Bosnian war criminal, which is why Khattak and Getty are on the case.  Did his past come back to haunt him?  Or, did a man simply fall to his death?
   I learned quite a bit about the Bosnian war of the 1990s, and parts of this book graphically described atrocities committed during the war.    If you don’t mind war details, this debut novel is an OK murder mystery.  The author leaves a few story threads untied (that I wished were neatly tied up), obviously in preparation for future books.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Pella Vertical Files by Various

With this review I want to draw attention to a little-known resource in the Pella Public Library.  The library’s vertical files are located between the genre fiction section and the aviary.  After many years, we are sorting through and cataloging the material that’s contained within these files.  The “Pella” drawer contains maps of Pella including an 1864 map, historical brochures from a variety of different clubs and organizations, and general information about the history of Pella.  There’s also a file on the Opera House, the Klokkenspel, and information on various Pella landmarks, such as the fountain in Central Park and the stone dogs on Main Street in front of old City Hall.  An incredible wealth of information is now available at your fingertips, and the best part is, the files are available to check out!  Please see library staff for more details on using this amazing resource!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

  One of my favorite movies as a child and as an adult is Mary Poppins.  After watching the movie, Saving Mr. Banks, I decided I needed to read the story that inspired two wonderful movies.
   The book starts out similar to the movie with the narrator looking for Cherry Tree Lane.  Inside 17 Cherry Tree Lane Katie Nana is leaving, and Mr. and Mrs. Banks are upset with Jane and Michael for running yet another nanny out the door.  The story continues with Mary coming from the sky with her umbrella and carpet bag.
   The adventures that take place in the book are similar to those in the movie, but are combined or changed.  The movie combines the first four books in the series.  If you watch Saving Mr. Banks, you see how Walt Disney fought with Travers to make changes from the book for the movie - Mr. Disney won!  One noticeable difference (and most difficult difference for me) was Mary Poppins was kinder in the movie. 
    I am glad I read the book but as for me, I like the movie better!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rebel Yell by S.C. Gwynne

One of the “big names” when it comes to Civil War generals is Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.  Gaining national recognition and the nickname Stonewall at the Battle of First Manassas in 1861, Jackson’s rise to the top of the command structure of the Confederacy was fast, and short, ending with his death in 1863. J.C. Gwynne capture’s Jackson’s life in all of its brilliance, and quirkiness.  Gwynne writes the book with great thought and detail, but does so in a very engaging manner. The pages and chapters zip by as you learn more and more about what made Jackson, well, Jackson.  All of the phases of Jackson’s life are covered, from youth, to marriages, as well as all of his military experiences— Jackson fought a heroic and skilled campaign in the war with Mexico in 1848 that not too many people are familiar with. Gwynne presents some new thoughts when it comes to Jackson, but he also retells the General’s story with zeal and the skills of an accomplished storyteller. Rebel Yell is a very good read.



Thursday, January 8, 2015

Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life by Marta McDowell

This was a delightful biography about the children's author and illustrator of such books as "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" and "Benjamin Bunny", those little white books that you've see as a child or read to your children. The book shows how Beatrix Potter had an interest in plants from her earliest childhood and how she developed as an artist, estate farmer, and naturalist. You learn what she liked to grow from season to season - many of the flowers and old fashioned cottage plants appear in her many drawings and books. The little animals you might see in your garden are developed into the characters of her stories. This study of her life helps you to appreciate the nuances of her experiences that molded and shaped who she became as a person. The book is also filled with numerous photos and drawings. Being a person who loves gardening and children's books, I found this biography very interesting.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

Elfrieda and Yolandi are very close sisters who grew up in a Mennonite community near Winnipeg with eccentric parents.  While Elf becomes a successful concert pianist with a loving husband, Yoli is twice divorced and struggles to raise two children and write a novel.  Despite her success, Elf is suicidal and determines to end her life.  Yoli tries her best to help her sister, but what can you do when someone is clinically depressed?  Most of all, can Yoli prevent this same tragedy repeating in her family?
AMPS is filled with endearing dialogues and is heart-wrenching.  I enjoyed the Coleridge and Wordsworth poems in the context and simply couldn't put this book down, hoping that Elf would be OK in the end.