Friday, December 21, 2018

A Busy Creatures's Day Eating by Mo Willems

ABC books are one of my favorite books to read during story times.  Whether it is Moose trying to wait patiently for his turn in Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham or the occupations of the little green peas in LMNO Peas by Keith Baker.  However my new favorite is A Busy Creature’s Day Eating by Mo Willems.  Creature starts eating normal things; apples, berries, cereal, donuts, eggs but then finds other things around the house like furniture!  As you might imagine things like furniture and jackets don’t settle well in a stomach no matter what you may be.  This simple book is funny for kids and adults. 
Take a stop at the picture books, I bet you will find a laugh-out-loud book too!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Susan Orlean's The Library Book is an amazing book in so many ways. It is indeed a library book in a way that all of the other books we offer here in the library are. It is also a book about a library, or rather a library system, for the City of Los Angeles. It covers history, personality profiles, library statistics and serves as a "whodunnit" trying to solve the mystery of the destructive Los Angeles library fire of 1986. Orlean covers all of these elements in a very informative and entertaining fashion.
As Los Angeles erupted out of nothingness in the early 1900s as Hollywood exploded on the scene, so the the Los Angeles Library. Orleans talks about the growth of the building  and details the lifestyles and eccentricities of its first library directors - a quite diverse cast of characters. Along with the history, the author works in the numbers detailing the current circulation, staff size, and community programs of today's LA library. Some of these are mind-blowing numbers, especially when you consider that the LA system is not even the largest in existence.
Another aspect of the book is Orlean's look into the arson fire that destroyed a large section inside the library's main branch in 1986. A primary suspect would emerge, but would not be convicted.Orlean interviews the suspect's family members as well as people within the fire department who worked on the case. It all makes for a fascinating side story.
The Library Book contains a lot of history, and, a lot of statistics. It also contains many entertaining personality profiles. It is definitely a book worth "checking out".

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Electric State by Simon Stålenhag

A teenager and her yellow companion robot travel the western United States in this graphic dystopian story about a consumerist culture addicted to a virtual reality device which is in decline and collapsing in on itself.  The images are by turns darkly comical and horrifying, and in any event are thinly veiled metaphors for the way that our own Internet has taken over our lives and created addictions to our online devices.  The pair do make it to their destination, but beyond that you’ll have to read the book and look at the very moving pictures and make your own determination.  To me, this book is its own genre.  It’s dystopian, yes, but it is also a unique presentation—it’s the closest thing to a picture book for adults that I’ve ever seen, combining pictures designed to create emotion with truly moving text and very adult subject matter.  Bottom line:  You can’t miss this one.  Read the book, and then turn your smartphone off.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Lyddie by Katherine Paterson

Set in the 1800's in New England, this novel offers a picture of what life was like for a young female working in a factory on the looms.  The noise, long hours and health issues are very difficult. The  menacing overseer strikes fear in the girls. Lyddie is determined to continue and make enough money to pay her family's debts and return to the farm she was forced to leave. Living in a boarding house with many other females who work at the factory she makes friends and learns of women who want to fight for their rights though she does not join with them. Though this is a young peoples book I would recommend it for adults also and experience the struggles in this young girl's life and relationships.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Lies by T. M. Logan

Joe Lynch thought he had a perfect life until his 4-year-old son spotted his wife's car on a freeway when they were driving back home.  Out of curiosity, he followed her car to a hotel and discovered her meeting with Ben, her best friend's husband.  Joe confronted Ben after Mel left.  Then Ben vanishes, and the police are after Joe.  Searching for the truth, Joe realizes Mel's deceit in their marriage.  Things are not what they appear.  This psychological mystery has a lot of unbelievable twists and turns.  It has a gripping beginning, but it gets blogged down and the ending is a surprise. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Reckoning by John Grisham

In the first part of this book, Pete Banning, a decorated WWII veteran, now a cotton farmer, goes into town and murders the Methodist preacher, Dexter Bell.  He offers no defense, saying only "I have nothing to say". 
The next part of the book focuses on Banning's earlier life and his time in the Philippines during WWII.  The third part deals with the aftermath of his actions.

Grisham fans will read this book anyway, but I'd recommend it to those who like historical fiction, for its portrayals of life in the South in the 1940s, and the Philippines during the war.  Plus, it keeps you guessing on certain plot points right up until the very end, making it a compelling read!

if the creek don't rise by Leah Weiss

A story of people living in the 1970's. Each chapter is told in first person by the character the chapter is about. Some characters get two chapters, but Sadie Blue gets three. She begins it, has a chapter in the middle, and ends it. You will receive real insight into what life is like for these people hidden away in the Appalachian Mountains. The hardness and the richness (in their poverty) of everyday life. Very interesting.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mercy Watson (series) by Kate DiCamillo

Mercy is a pig that lives with Mr. and Mrs. Watson, who loves toast with a great deal of butter on top!  She dreams about it, smells it wafting from the neighbors’ homes, and eats popcorn with enormous amounts of butter.  She also has great adventures with those that live on Deckawoo Drive.

There are five Mercy Watson books in the series, along with four in the Tales from Deckawoo Drive series about her neighbors.  Children of all ages including parents (or really anyone!) will love this beginning chapter book series.

After reading about Mercy, move on to DiCamillo’s other stand alone titles!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook by Jessamyn Rodriguez

I tried out this book's method for making lean breads more flavorful by using smaller amounts of yeast and longer rising times.  It worked great, and I think I've found my method for making that type of bread.

The Hot Bread Kitchen Bakery in NYC employs immigrant women, who bake the breads from their home countries, and the cookbook has recipes for many different breads, both raised and flat -- naan, tortillas, bialys, plus many more.  There are also more familiar recipes for baguettes, Parker House rolls, and multi-grain sandwich bread.

If you're looking for clear instructions on making many different types of bread, this is a terrific cookbook.  I can't wait to try some more of the recipes!

Friday, November 9, 2018

No Good Asking by Fran Kimmel

I enjoyed this book about a family and a young girl. The family has problems like many of us do, The family has a hard working dad, a mom struggling with a young son who is sensitive to many things, as well as a 14 year old boy going through puberty. The mother has the added burden of having gone through several miscarriages (all girls).
So unbeknownst to them, an eleven year old girl is living across the road from them. While it all started out okay, things began to deteriorate after her mom died. Her caretaker becomes more and more morose, taking it out on her. Now her world is not a safe place.
One day the father comes upon her walking on the road in a bad winter storm. From this point the story begins to slowly turn around. The young girl brings a kind of healing to the family, not without troubles, but a brighter future for all.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Becoming Mrs. Lewis is based on the true life love story of Christian author C.S. Lewis and American writer Joy Davidman.  What began in the early 1950s as a pen pal relationship to discuss their shared Christian faith, became a deep friendship after Joy traveled to England to visit C.S. Lewis (Jack) and his brother Warren (Warnie).  A few years later, when Joy was faced with having to start a new life for herself, she decided to move to England.  Joy continued to write, often collaborating with Jack, Warnie and others, and eventually Joy and Jack were married.  Told from Joy's perspective, their story is bittersweet throughout, but the depth of the love between Jack and Joy makes this book a feel-good read.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

**Warning**  Roz, the Wild Robot, will catch you by surprise!  This is an unlikely story of automation meeting Mother Nature.  Roz, the Wild Robot becomes "activated" for the first time on a remote island and does not know her purpose.  She is shunned by the island animals and viciously attacked by bears!  Can Roz become part of the natural order?  When Roz becomes a surrogate mother for an orphaned gosling the animals slowly begin to accept her.  She forges a bond with Brightbill, her gosling, and begins to find her purpose.  As a reader we feel her fear and sadness as Brightbill flies south, knowing the dangers that lie ahead.  The island quickly turns into turmoil when Roz's past comes looking for her.  Whatever you think you know about automation, Brown turns upside down with The Wild Robot.  I expect you'll want to read the sequel, The Wild Robot Escapes, too!  You won't be disappointed.  I recommend this book for 3rd grade and above.

The Broken Road by Richard Paul Evans

Charles James grew up poor with an abusive father. After he leaves home he marries a wonderful woman but his desires for fame and fortune take over. The power of his personality causes people to give up their money thinking they will obtain wealth also. As Charles becomes very rich he starts to question his achievements and what they have cost him personally and the suicide of one of his customers shakes him.  Bad dreams plague him and he is broken.  Perhaps he has a second chance.  This book is the first in a trilogy. I read the second book also titled The Forgotten Road which I enjoyed more than this one as the story becomes more developed.  I am anxious to read the third book when it is released.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

19 Minutes to Live by Lew Jennings

As much as the Vietnam War was considered by historians to be a "helicopter war", many people are not familiar with, or been exposed to, what it was like to fly helicopters in combat in Vietnam. If you would like to explore that part of our history, Lew Jennings has published an excellent book that will do just that - 19 Minutes to Live.
The title comes from the fact that the life expectancy of a helicopter pilot in combat, in Vietnam, was 19 minutes. Still, even with those odds, Jennings' only hope to fly and serve his country in combat was behind the stick of a helicopter. He flew in two Air Cavalry units from 1969 to 1970. Escorting troops to and from the front in a Cobra Gunship, Jennings racked up over 700 missions, received three Distinguished Flying Crosses and 36 Air Medals.
Jennings' book takes the reader through his experience with flight prior to joining the army and then spans his training days and combat career during Vietnam. Jennings also takes a detailed look at how the Air Cavalry was formed and how it fit into the army's chain of command - very informative extra information.
Both the terror and the dangers are real in 19 Minutes to Live. Jennings has written a very informative and personal memoir of his combat experiences in Vietnam. Another point of interest, Jennings opens this book talking about being back behind the stick and flying missions in Iraq in 2008. He notes that several helicopter pilots serving there are in their 60s and 70s when it comes to age. Here is hoping that Jennings will be able to record those experiences in the not to distant future.

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella

“Is this Heaven?  No, it is Iowa” is a saying everyone growing up in Iowa in the last 25 years has heard at least once.  I have been to the “Field of Dreams” at least twice, and watched the movie in the early 90’s, but I had never read the book the movie and baseball fields are based on.  When looking for a book to listen to  while on a trip, I came across this and decided to give it a try.  I am glad I did!
It is a great story of relationships, following a dream or your heart.  Of course it is different from the movie, but still shares the same motto of “build it and they will come”.  If you are looking for a good story, give it a try and then go back and watch the movie again too.  You will be glad you did!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

RBG produced by Betsy West and Julie Cohen

This movie profiles Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  I'm familiar with her on the High Court, but didn't know her history.  What a trailblazer!  The documentary, while telling her life story, also tells about the cases that she argues before the Supreme Court in the 1970s.  There are several interviews with the plaintiffs in those cases.  It's hard to remember how differently women were treated then in workplace and governmental policies.  She also argues a case where policy discriminated against a man. She's a true champion of equal rights for all.

I'd highly recommend watching the movie if you want a profile of an important person as well as an interesting history lesson.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories by Penelope Lively

I enjoy Penelope Lively's short story collection.  In the title story an animated purple swamp hen in a Pompeian village observes the daily follies of its people and their cruelty towards slaves while Mount Vesuvius was about to erupt.  Abroad tells the disastrous adventure of a couple's European road trip from bad to worse in a remote farm house.  Lively delves into relationships in The Third Wife where the woman outsmarts her con artist husband in a house hunting trip.  All 15 stories are filled with wisdom, humor and surprises.  It is a good read!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O'Neill

     I picked this book off the special themes cart we have here at the library. We picked a lot of books about colors to put on the cart for the month. It was during that time when we were celebrating National Coloring Day, which we decide to turn into Coloring Month here at the Pella Public Library. So this book was written for children, but can be enjoyed by any reflective adult as well. The author picks a color and writes a poem about it. She tries to think of all the things she knows that are that color and feelings and places that are often described by that color. The title of the book comes form the poem titled What Is White? The illustrator does a lovely job of creating dreamy pictures that coincide and compliment the words of the poetry. I really enjoyed it.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly by Matt McCarthy

Dr. Matt McCarthy: straight out of medical school, fresh face with little hands-on experience, and new Resident at a New York hospital.  This darkly comic tale follows McCarthy during his first year as he gains experience, wisdom, perspective, and also and a not-so-healthy appreciation for Wendy’s Frostys. The book deals with the question of, “how do you learn to save lives when there are no mulligans?”  McCarthy struggles at times whether to even stay with the 30-hour-a-shift residency and become a doctor.  Through a few near misses, a lot of heartfelt conversation and a series of life-changing interactions with both mentors and patients, McCarthy pulls through to his second year and becomes—dare he say it, a competent physician.    Recommendation: Black comedy, but makes some excellent philosophical points.  Funny in a teetering-on-the-edge-of-destruction way.  Give it a try.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

 Ada has never been outside.  She has never left their flat in London.  She waves to people outside from her chair but if her mother catches her, she will be punished.  Ada and her brother, Jamie, are evacuated from London just as England enters WWII.  They are placed in the country in the care of Susan, a woman who is grieving the loss of her friend.
Although the books are set during WWII, and the casualties of war do play a role but the books are more about the importance of family and healing physically and mentally.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

An Autobiography by Bill Peet

Something a little different this month. Even though this book is found in the juvenile biography section of our library, Bill Peet's An Autobiography is one adults will also enjoy, probably more than children will. It is a pleasing look back at Midwestern history, the birth of the Walt Disney animation empire, and, the beginnings of a successful children's author and illustrator. As you would expect, Peet also handles all the artwork for his life story.
Peet's work is familiar to many parents, and the Pella Library has several of his books including Ella, Smokey, Capyboppy, Cock-a-doodle Dudley and many, many more. Peet details an entertaining, but restless youth in Indiana and how his growing love of art led to a career choice.
This choice would eventually lead him to Walt Disney and the Disney Studios. Peet recalls the inner-workings of Disney and how many of its early classics came about. Movies that Peet worked on included: Dumbo, Fantasia, Song of the South, Cinderella and many others. He takes the reader behind the curtain and discusses the hierarchy of Disney illustrators, how he worked his way to the top, and what it was like dealing with Walt Disney. All of this information is very enlightening, but I think adults will actually get more out it than younger children.
While at Disney, Peet began writing and illustrating his own children's books and would make this his full-time calling. An Autobiography is a lot of fun to read and look at. A nice piece of animation history.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Our Little Secret by Roz Nay

Taken in for questioning, Angela recounts her history with HP, her high school love, for Detective Novak.  For Angela, the question of what happened to HP’s wife, Saskia, requires her to share the whole history of their relationship.  This psychological thriller takes us along with the character as she is presently considered a person of interest in the disappearance, all the while sharing her perspective of the past.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone

In the vein of “Hidden Figures”, Fagone tells the story of Elizebeth Friedman and her husband William, who together invented modern cryptology.  During Prohibition, Elizebeth used her talents to pursue rum smugglers.  During WWII, she tracked down covert Nazi spy rings in South America.  Elizebeth herself broke several versions of the German Enigma machine, while her husband broke the Japanese “Purple” code machine without ever laying eyes on one.
These two remarkable people were brought together by Elizebeth’s chance encounter with a librarian, right before she was going to leave Chicago and go back home to Indiana.  Instead, she ended up on the estate of a millionaire, searching for hidden messages in Shakespeare’s writings.  That began her journey, which ended with amazing advances in codebreaking strategies, and the beginnings of what would become the NSA. 
And who has ever heard of her, until this book?

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside by Susan Branch

Part love story, part travel guide, and all completely charming, A Fine Romance by Susan Branch is a must-read for every Anglophile. This book is a memoir/travel diary that details the author’s dream trip to England in 2012. After crossing the Atlantic on the luxury cruise ship, the Queen Mary 2, the author and her husband spent nearly two months touring the English countryside. They visited castles, famous homes (most notably those of Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth, and Jane Austen), small villages, lakes, gardens, and even a few friends along the way. All handwritten and filled with photos, recipes, quotes, travel tips, and Branch’s watercolor sketches, this book is as beautiful as it is informative. There is also an appendix on the author’s website with additional information about many of the things mentioned in the book. So, I hope that you’ll make yourself a cup of tea, curl up in a cozy chair, and enjoy this delightful book as much I did!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Clening by Margareta Magnusson

     Having an interest in decluttering, I picked up this book on the subject. While it has been a Swedish tradition to "put your house in order" prior to or after a death, the information is pertinent to any age or life stage when you want to simplify.
     It was interesting that the author, who describes herself as between 80 and 100, encourages people to begin earlier than she did.I also liked her comments of how our planet may perich "under the wight of our consumrism." We have too much stuff. Peace of mind comes when you can reduce the items you no longer need, as well as relieving those who have to clean up after you when you're gone.
     The author sees death as a natural part of life; so why not prepare for it as you would any other event? Prepare financially and materially. Funny how her last paragraph said that once she was all done with her death cleaning and she is still living, she will "probably go shopping, Again!" What a gem.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Daybreak by Shelley Shepard Gray

Working in a retirement home Viola becomes friends with an elderly resident who loves to read letters from his son, Edward. A missionary in Nicaragua, Edward doesn't visit often and Viola feels he shouldn't live so far away; this is not the Amish way of taking care of family. When Edward does return she realizes that her criticisms are unfounded. Turmoil in her heart over her feelings for this man mix with trials at home with her grandparent's secrets and her father's secrets too.  Viola's grandmother has always been highly critical of her children which has caused many hurt feelings and climax when her secret is found out. How will this family deal with the secrets and how will Edward's future in the missionary field affect Viola? I enjoyed the likable characters in this novel and how they find solutions to their problems.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer is best known for her bestselling series The Lunar Chronicles. I have never read that series. Meyer has also published Renegades; this I HAVE read and I was thoroughly entertained. Be warned however - Renegades is just the first in a continuing series, of which, volume two will be out this November.
This first volume deals with the rise of the Renegades and the society they have helped develop. The world had been swept up in the Age of Anarchy, where crime and all things evil run rampant. The Renegades are a collection of people with special powers that have banded together to overcome the Anarchists and bring society back to its feet. The Anarchists have been defeated, but they have not been wiped-out. In the shadows lurk many Anarchists waiting for a chance to get even with the Renegades.
Nova is an Anarchist whose family was murdered during the Age of Anarchy. She was raised by an uncle who was an Anarchist leader and eventually defeated by the Renegades. She has sworn to take her revenge on them. The best way to do this is to go undercover and join the Renegades, hoping to learn enough so she and her fellow Anarchists can bring an end to them. Much of the book deals with Nova's life among both side of this conflict - her identity as an Anarchist is Nightmare while she is known to the Renegades as Insomnia.
I think Meyer does a nice job of developing and working with the main characters. You learn their past and get inside their heads to see how they function in present day. Renegades has plenty of action, mystery, and a couple of plot/character twists that will have you impatiently waiting for part two to come out this fall.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow

Gertie is a strong, self-reliant wife and mother living comfortably in Kentucky at the start of World War II.  When her husband moves the family to Detroit seeking higher wages, Gertie is thrust into an unfamiliar and difficult new reality. How she copes and holds her family together is a beautiful, though heart-breaking, story.  This is one of my favorite books of all time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky

Judith Schalansky has turned her lifelong interest in maps, atlases, and geography into a quick-read book about fifty of the remotest (and often most useless) islands on Earth.  Dancing just this side of tongue-in-cheek, the author describes islands whose descendants can trace directly back to the HMS Bounty mutineers, islands whose only purpose is for radio communications, islands so impossible to land on that they were discovered but not occupied until the late 20th century, and islands with deep and complex mysteries that have yet to be solved.  Don’t let the text fool you however, as all of it is impeccably researched. The story is accompanied by beautiful, full-color maps of each island, and statistical data about each island such as the land area and population.  For the armchair traveler in all of us, this one goes quickly but is an excellent read.  Recommendation: A great non-fiction read.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

The Ensemble centers around four friends forming the Van Ness Quartet.  The leader is first violinist Jana, Brit is the second violinist, Daniel plays the cello and Henry is the violinist prodigy.  Each chapter alternates from the individual perspectives of the members of the string quartet.  Through the years as each member grows and changes from success and disappointment, their friendship remains bonded by their love of music and commitment to the quartet.  It is a good summer read!

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman

    My book pick this time reads like someone's personal nature journal. It is filled with hand drawings and handwritten notes about everything in the natural world. From moon phases to the layers of the earth, plants and animals, trees and mushrooms, leaves and insects, to mountains and rivers and sea sides. Just a lovely book of all things earth.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

DiCamillo crafts a heart-warming tale of Flora, a skeptical young girl who rescues a hapless squirrel after he is accidentally sucked up by a runaway vacuum cleaner, aptly named Ulysses 2000X.  Flora resuscitates the squirrel only to discover he has acquired special powers! Intrigued, she names him Ulysses and takes him home with her, carefully sneaking by her mother who is busy working on her latest romance novel.  During the night, Ulysses sneaks downstairs for a snack (because squirrels are ALWAYS hungry) and discovers a typewriter on the kitchen table.  Slowly he taps on the letters and discovers he has yet another special power!  To find out more, check out this fast-paced Newberry Medal winner, full of quirky characters you won’t soon forget.  You won’t be disappointed!