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Read-a-Romance Month: Romance for Newbies

August 12, 2016

There once was a time that I scoffed at romance books, and I certainly wouldn’t be caught dead reading one. “They’re not literary,” I would say, high on my horse. Maybe my mind started to change when I read the genre-defying “Outlander,” or maybe I matured a little and realized I was being judgmental. I just know that at some point I found myself checking out “The Duchess War” by Courtney Milan, complete with a young woman in a poofy ball gown on the cover. And, guys? I loved it! The book was smart, well-written, had great dialogue and believable development of the romantic relationship — basically all the things I like in any book. And it’s not alone; there are a ton of great romances out there! In honor of August being Read-a-Romance Month, here’s a short list of books to help ease you into the waters of romance novels.

Knight in Shining Armor coverA Knight in Shining Armor” by Jude Deveraux

A distraught, modern woman, abandoned by her lover, suddenly meets a real knight, complete with clanking armor, in a cemetery. Also, according to the gravestone next to her, he died in 1564. This classic romance, by the legendary Jude Deveraux, includes time travel, grand adventure and, of course, excellent romance.

For My Lady's Heart coverFor My Lady’s Heart” by Laura Kinsale

A medieval romance with a complex heroine and dashing English knight (I promise not all romance novels feature knights . . .). Dialogue is written in Middle English and it has an intricate plot. “For My Lady’s Heart” has been compared, by some readers, to literary giants George R.R. Martin and Tolkien in terms of its world building.

The Grand Sophy coverThe Grand Sophy” by Georgette Heyer

Many romance readers consider this book to be one of the best Regency romances by one of the greatest Regency authors. Sophy is the independent heroine of this story, which is lighter on the romance scenes. “The Grand Sophy” is sure to appeal to fans of Jane Austen.

Iron Duke coverThe Iron Duke” by Meljean Brook

Zombies, airships, kraken, pirates — oh, and romance, too. This steampunk romance follows Rhys, who finds a dead body dumped from an airship at his front door. He and Detective Mina Wentworth uncover a conspiracy that threatens the whole of England. This adventurous, fast-paced and very steamy novel is great for those readers who want to get lost in another world.

Natrual Born Charmer coverNatural Born Charmer” by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

The story starts with Blue (our heroine) walking on the side of the road in a beaver costume. Hunky quarterback, Dean, spots her and pulls his car over. What comes next is a hilarious and sweet romance. This book is great for rom-com lovers.

Secret History of the Pink Carnation coverThe Secret History of the Pink Carnation” by Lauren Willig

This one has a story within a story. Eloise is working on her dissertation on English spies (the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian) and learns of the Pink Carnation: a spy who nearly single-handedly saved England from Napoleon. The story of the Pink Carnation is full of adventure and sensual romance.

If none of these titles tickle your fancy, check out the full Romance for Newbies list in our catalog.

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Reader Review: Cutting for Stone

August 11, 2016

book cover for cutting for stoneCutting for Stone” is about doctors of mostly Indian heritage working in a mission hospital in Africa. The main characters are endearing, though sometimes we become saddened or frustrated with them. Most of the doctors are surgeons, and we are privy to the intricate details of some of the surgeries. I liked this book because I found the characters heart-warming, and I learned quite a bit of what goes on in the operating room. Interesting surgical details, without disturbing the story line.

Three words that describe this book: heartbreaking, bittersweet, medical

You might want to pick this book up if:

…you wish to spend some book time in Africa or India
…you would like to know exactly how to transplant a liver, sewing up the veins, and all
…you can take having your heart broken and put together again.


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New DVD List: Angie Tribeca, House of Cards & More

August 10, 2016

angie tribeca one

Here is a new DVD list highlighting various titles recently added to the library’s collection.

angie tribecaAngie Tribeca
Season 1
Website / Reviews
Rashida Jones plays Angie Tribeca, a 10-year veteran of LAPD’S RHCU: Really Heinous Crimes Unit. The show is a hilarious spoof of police procedurals in the spirit of “The Naked Gun” and was created and executive produced by Steve and Nancy Carrell.

house of cards s4House of Cards
Season 4
Website / Reviews
Season four opens with Frank and Claire still at odds with each other. Claire’s determination to be a political figure puts Frank’s campaign and marriage in jeopardy. Meanwhile, Frank battles for the Democratic Party nomination and seeks a suitable running mate.

babushkas of chernobylThe Babushkas of Chernobyl
Website / Reviews / Trailer
For nearly 30 years a community of unlikely heroines has lived in Chernobyl’s post-nuclear disaster “dead zone.” Stylish and stubborn, these fascinating women have survived, and even thrived, on some of the most toxic land on Earth, refusing to leave their ancestral homes after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

rick and mortyRick and Morty
Season 1, Season 2
Website / Reviews
From comedic masterminds Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland comes Adult Swim’s newest series. It follows the adventures of mad scientist Rick Sanchez, who returns after twenty years to live with his daughter, her husband, and their children Morty and Summer.

king georgesKing Georges” 
Website / Reviews / Trailer
Georges Perrier owns Le Bec-Fin, one of the finest French restaurants in the country. Over a three-year period, this film captures this mercurial, passionate, quixotic force of nature as he struggles to preserve his sumptuous Gallic dishes in an era where casual attitudes and lighter fare are taking hold.

the 100The 100
Season 3
Website / Reviews
Reunited with the survivors of the space-station Ark that fell to Earth, Clarke Griffin and her band of juvenile delinquents have faced death at every turn. The challenges continue as they not only determine what kind of lives they will build, but also what it will ultimately cost them.

Other notable releases:
Above and Beyond” –  Website / Reviews / Trailer
Colony” – Season 1  Website / Reviews
Family Matters” –  Season 1  Website / Reviews
Gilligan’s Island” –  Season 1, Season 2  Website / Reviews
The Magicians” –  Season 1  Website / Reviews
Mama’s Family” –  Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, Season 6  Website / Reviews
Scarecrow and Mrs. King” –  Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4  Website / Reviews

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Ninth Summer Reading Gift Card Winner!

August 9, 2016

TrophyCongratulations to Linda, a Callaway County Public Library patron, for winning our ninth Adult Summer Reading prize drawing of the summer. She is the recipient of a $25 gift card from Well Read Books.

There is only one drawing left to go this summer, but you can still submit book reviews to increase your chances of winning. Good luck and happy reading!

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Reader Review: Cake Pops

August 9, 2016

cake pops cookbookCake Pops” by Bakerella is a wonderfully inspirational book that definitely inspired me to be more adventurous and creative in the kitchen. The author shares her baking passion with the reader in a way that is fun and easy to relate to. The book runs through different cake pop methods, tools you need, and lays out step-by-step how to create the perfect cake balls. The author then goes through a number of tutorials for different designs — pandas, froggies, pumpkins, etc. What I liked about this book is that it gave me so many new ideas and tricks. I can’t wait to try some of the recipes and practice in my own kitchen. My only dislike, the reason it was given four stars instead of five, is that I would have preferred more step-by-step photos. I learn best from reading instructions and seeing a photo of the step. If you are an individual who learns best by simply reading the instructions, then this will not be a problem for you.

Three words that describe this book: creative, inspirational, enjoyable

You might want to pick this book up if: you feel inspired to have fun making little treats that are fun, popular and customizable to any occasion. If you’re interested in cake-pop decorating, then this is a book you should read.


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Classics for Everyone: To Canterbury and Beyond

August 8, 2016

book cover for Canterbury TalesIf you’re reading this in English, thank Geoffrey Chaucer. His “Canterbury Tales”, published in 1400, was the first book of poetry written in English, rather than Latin or Italian. By using the common language, he made literature accessible to the common person. Having opened the way for everyone from William Shakespeare to Janet Evanovich, Chaucer can rightly be called the father of English literature.

The poems in his book relate the stories shared by travelers in a group heading from London to Canterbury. The members of the group come from disparate backgrounds, and their tales run the gamut from bawdy comedy to sober religious parables. Pieced together, they provide a picture of life in Medieval England. The larger story, about the trip itself, serves as a frame for this picture.

Though this story-within-a-story framing wasn’t new with Chaucer, his use of it influenced later writers. “Canterbury Tales” is well worth reading, but the Middle English requires some effort. If you want a Chaucer-like read without as many trips to the footnotes, I can recommend a few titles with layered narratives.

  • The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood is about two sisters, one of whom is an author and has died a mysterious death. Her novella, which might provide clues to her demise, is contained within the pages of the larger story. Within the inner novel, readers will find another complete short story – “The Blind Assassin.”
  • Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell, contains six stories set in different time periods, past and future. The first half of the book provides the beginning of each story, while the second half gives their conclusions, in reverse order. So the sixth story is sandwiched between the pages of the fifth, which is nested within the fourth, etc. All of the narratives connect – the diary of one character falls into the hands of a character in a different story, who writes about it in letters to a friend who ends up with his own tale.
  • A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd merits its own category as a novel started by one author (Dowd) and, after her death, completed by another (Ness.) 13-year-old Connor lives with his mother, who has cancer. He has been abandoned by his father and is a target of bullies. A monster appears in his dreams and tells him three fables in return for hearing Connor’s own story.

Chaucer understood that each language is worthy of a cultural heritage, even though it takes all languages to make up the world of human communication. All of these authors help us remember that each individual’s story is complete and worthy to be told on its own but is also only one part of the larger picture of humanity.

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Road Trip! Apps for Your Summer Travel

August 5, 2016

My original idea for this article was to list some of the best travel apps available. However, as I got into researching apps, I quickly realized how ludicrous that idea was. There are a ton of travel apps to choose from, and most specialize in just a specific part of traveling. So, instead of telling you which travel apps are the best, let me introduce you to a variety of apps that may help you with different aspects of your summer travels.


Cover artWaze
Waze touts itself as a “community-based” traffic and navigation app. One of its most popular features shows road construction and how long it is taking other Waze users to get through it. You can report hazards in the road, cars on the shoulder or accidents so others can be aware of their locations and avoid them. The app can also display gas prices for finding the cheapest price, and users can submit updates if that price has changed.

Cover artRoadTrippers
This app lets you put in start and finish points, then shows you points of interest or businesses along the way. You can filter what you are looking for, like restaurants or historical sites, based on different categories. This app also shows places to visit a little out of your way and helps you navigate to them.


Cover artTripsee
TripSee is an app to set up your trip itinerary. Put in a destination, and it provides suggestions. You can then organize each day with points of interests, lodging, restaurants and anything else you’d like to see on your trip.

Cover artTripAdvisor
You can sort through reviews, photos, opinions and videos to plan and book your travel. Hotels, airfare and restaurants are featured. Many praise the app for having honest opinions by actual travelers.

Cover artDogFriendly
Is your four-legged buddy coming on vacation too? DogFriendly lets you find pet-friendly lodging, restaurants, attractions and more.


Cover artKayak
Kayak is an app to research and book flights, hotels and rental cars. It also has real-time flight status updates and has won multiple awards for best travel apps.

Cover artBooking.com
Booking.com’s app lets you research and book from over 800,000 properties. They offer paperless booking and reservations. Changes to your trip can also be made through the app.


Cover artYelp
Yelp is a great way to research and read reviews on restaurants and other local services in cities you’re traveling through or visiting. You can filter offerings by ratings, price or how close it it to you. You can make reservations, view photos, and leave your own comments as well.

Cover artZomato
This app lets you find restaurants near you and also access some menus. Reviews, ratings and photos are also available.

There are a lot of options to choose from when it comes to travel apps, but I’m hopeful this list gets you pointed in the right direction. Just remember that most of these apps will be using your location and data plans, so plan accordingly. Happy road-tripping!

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Reader Review: A Box of Matches

August 4, 2016

box of matchesFor the most part, the chapters in “A Box of Matches” are glorious little nuggets of observation. Even if I can’t specifically relate to every idea that is brought up (for example, the notion of needing to think suicidal thoughts in order to fall asleep), the process by which these thoughts arise feels universal. AND so many of these ponderings are exactly in line with things I’ve considered — such as deciding to sit down to pee in the middle of the night or the excruciating loveliness of watching your own children grow up.

I do feel like the book loses a little of its momentum by the end. Plus, the simple nature of this style of writing (without a real plot) makes it so that some of the passages will resonate more than others. But on the whole, Baker has crafted another (“The Mezzanine” and “Room Temperature“) fantastic little book of pensiveness.

Three words that describe this book: thoughtful, insightful, quick

You might want to pick this book up if: you appreciate rather stream-of-consciousness writing that touches on those small moments in life we all share but don’t usually take the time to contemplate.


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A Reading Slump: Pick My Next Read

August 3, 2016

Have you ever been in a reading slump? Your to-be-read pile can be bursting with books you’ve been meaning to read, but nothing sounds good, or, once you start to read one, it just doesn’t stick. A slump happens to me occasionally, and I’m in one now. I’ve tried reading books from various genres, I’ve tried new authors, and I’ve even tried revisiting old favorites, but to no avail! So now I turn to you, fellow readers. I’ve gathered a few books that look promising and want your feedback so I can decide what to try next.

Man Called Ove book coverA Man Called Ove” has been receiving praise as a New York Times bestseller. It’s quite popular here at DBRL, with a long holds list and more copies on order. This debut novel by Swedish author Fredrik Backman tells the story of a cranky old man whose wife has recently died. His depression leads him to consider ending his own life, but when a young family moves in next door and runs over his mailbox, a comical string of interactions begins. This book is promised to be witty and heartwarming.

Small Blessings book coverMartha Woodroof’s first novel, “Small Blessings,” is touted as a book for bookish people. Sign me up! The story follows Tom Putnam, an English professor with a wife who, because of an affair between Tom and a poetess a decade earlier, is a complete shut-in. When the two take part in a social engagement for the first time in a long while, Tom hopes that things are changing. However, when they return home, he finds a letter from the poetess telling him that he fathered a son, and the 10-year-old is on a train heading his way. The vibrant, quirky cast of characters carries this sweet tale of life and the unexpected. 

Marriage of Opposites book coverOne of my favorite authors is Alice Hoffman, so it’s surprising that I haven’t read this one yet: “The Marriage of Opposites” is an historical fiction novel about the mother of Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. Hoffman provides the readers with a slightly dysfunctional family saga taking place on the tropical island of St. Thomas. The main character, Rachel, is forced to marry an older man to save her father’s business. When she becomes a widow, she starts a scandalous, passionate affair with her late husband’s nephew. Their relationship affects her entire family, including her son, who would become known as the father of Impressionism.

Have you read any of these titles? Maybe you’ve been wanting to read one of the books I’m considering, but want another opinion on it before you take the plunge. I’ll write a review of whichever book you folks pick for me. Leave a comment so I can decide which book to read next!

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Reader Review: The Flicker Men

August 2, 2016

flicker menThe Flicker Men” is about a troubled research physicist who stumbles on a surprising truth about the universe and the hidden mechanisms that run our everyday lives. In doing so he uncovers the invisible world of the Flicker Men and their influence on everything. I liked this book because it was real world science fiction with a lot of physics thrown in and because the author wasn’t afraid to go down some very deep physical and metaphysical tunnels.

Three words that describe this book: adventure, quantum physics, sci-fi

You might want to pick this book up if: You enjoy reading the works of Einstein or Asimov with a touch of Ludlum.


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Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The August 2016 List

August 1, 2016

Book cover for Arrowood by Laura McHughIt’s my favorite LibraryReads list yet! Why, you may ask? Because this month’s list of forthcoming titles that librarians across the country recommend includes “Arrowood,” the latest from local author Laura McHugh. The novel follows Arden Arrowood as she returns to her declining Iowa hometown and her childhood home after a failed attempt at graduate school. She is haunted by the memory of her twin sisters, kidnapped from the front yard while they were in her care. McHugh is masterful when it comes to vividly rendering place and setting, as well as the psychology of her main characters. This novel is moody, atmospheric and melancholy with a delicious undercurrent of suspense. Place your hold now, and enjoy this month’s other recommendations!

Book cover for A Great ReckoningA Great Reckoning” by Lousie Penny
“Armand Gamache is back, and it was worth the wait. As the new leader of the Surete academy, Gamche is working to stop corruption at its source and ensure the best start for the cadets. When a copy of an old map is found near the body of a dead professor, Gamache and Beauvoir race against the clock to find the killer before another person dies. A terrific novel that blends Penny’s amazing lyrical prose with characters that resonate long after the book ends. Highly recommended.” – David Singleton, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Charlotte, NC

Book cover for The Couple Next DoorThe Couple Next Door” by Shari Lapena
“This book is so full of twists and turns that my head was swiveling. Who took baby Cora? Marco and Anne decide to leave their baby home alone. After all, they share a wall with their neighbors, with whom they are partying. They would take turns checking in on her baby monitor. But when they return to their flat, the first thing they find is an open door and no Cora. Who’s to blame? Could it be an unlikely suspect that you won’t see coming? If you like a book that keeps you guessing until the very end, you won’t be disappointed.” – Debbie Frizzell, Johnson County Library, Roeland Park, KS

Book cover for Watching EdieWatching Edie” by Camilla Way
“Twisty psychological banter makes this book a thrill ride. Edie was the girl in high school who had it all. Heather was the awkward girl who wanted so badly to be accepted. That was high school, and now Edie is a single mom caught in a dead end job. She is about to lose it when Heather comes to her rescue. While Edie loves being able to get her life back, the hold that Heather has on her and the baby is disconcerting. The story jumps back and forth between past and present, and you will change your mind about their friendship right up to the last page.” – Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX

And here’s the rest of the list for your holds-placing pleasure!

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Eighth Summer Reading Gift Card Winner!

July 29, 2016

TrophyCongratulations to Naidra, a Southern Boone County Public Library patron, for winning our eighth Adult Summer Reading prize drawing of the summer. She is the recipient of a $25 gift card from Barnes & Noble.

Adult Summer Reading is winding down, but you can still submit book reviews to increase your chances of winning one of our final drawings. Good luck and happy reading!

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An Adult’s Guide to the Pokémon Go Craze

July 29, 2016

Pokémon Go is the latest app craze taking over the country. And while the game is gluing kids (of all ages) to their phones, this app has added a twist; it is used outside.

(For reference, outside is a magical place with a giant ball of energy in the sky and other life forms. It’s cool.)

Before we get into what the app does and how it works, let’s start by asking a question: what is a Pokémon?

Pokémon began as a video game back in the 1990s for the Nintendo Game Boy. From there it grew into a collectible card game, cartoons, toys and more. Pokémon are creatures in the wild that can be caught, trained and evolved. Trainers can also battle with their Pokémon against other trainers.

Now, here is how the app works:

You walk around a map of your area and use your device (typically a smartphone) to look for Pokémon. They appear, and your device vibrates to let you know.
Pokemon Go screenshot

Tapping on the Pokémon will bring up an interface where you throw balls to try and capture them.
Pidgey Pokemon

If you are successful, then that Pokémon is registered to you. There are common Pokémon that will pop frequently, and some that will be uncommon or rare. Each Pokémon will have a CP, or Combat Power. The more powerful CP a Pokémon has, the tougher it could be to catch.

Powering up:
When you catch a Pokémon, you get candy for that particular type of Pokémon. This candy can be used to power up Pokémon to a higher CP and better health.

If you have several of the same type of Pokémon, you can Transfer them. This gives you more candy. After you gather enough of that candy, you can use it to to evolve Pokémon into bigger, stronger or more magical versions.

A Pokéstop is a landmark that has been designated by the game. Visiting a Pokéstop and spinning the picture will drop items you can use for catching and training your Pokémon.

A Gym in Pokémon Go is a place you can battle your Pokémon against others. Having a Pokémon at a gym will let you claim coins that can be used to buy items for the game.

There are 3 teams in Pokémon Go, Team Instinct (Yellow), Team Mystic (Blue) and Team Valor (Red). When you reach Level 5 in the game and visit a gym, you can decide which team you would like to join.

Gyms that are owned by another team can be battled and overtaken. You can put six of your Pokémon up against the gym and battle by attacking each of the Pokémon occupying the gym.

If a gym is owned by your team, you can train there. Training is the same as battling except you fight with only one Pokémon. If you successfully defeat enough of the Pokémon occupying the gym you can add one of yours to the gym and raise that gym’s level, making it harder for another team to take it over.

Eggs can be collected from Pokéstops, and these can be hatched into Pokémon by using an incubator and walking a certain distance. There are eggs that hatch at 2 km, 5 km and 10 km.

The game has an Augmented Reality (or AR) function that allows virtual elements of the game to appear in the real world using your device’s camera. This allows the trainer to experience trying to catch Pokémon in reality.
Pokemon at the library

The game has been out less than a month, so be patient with glitches and server issues the creators are working on. Keep in mind that this game uses your devices’s data and location. It also uses a lot of your battery, so be prepared to charge often. Please be aware of your surroundings, and never, ever play Pokémon Go while driving.

This app is extremely fun, very addictive and a great way to increase your activity level, so get out there and try to catch them all!

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Reader Review: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

July 28, 2016

why be happy when you could be normalAnyone familiar with Jeanette Winterson (“Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit“) has heard some of her story before. “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” is a memoir of a rough time with her family that leads to a level of hope and resilience that is inspirational and satisfying to read. I knew much of the author’s story from other books of hers, but it was compelling to hear her tell her own story in her own voice. I loved her description of wanting to be a big writer and her development as a feminist.

While Winterson ultimately leaves the fundamentalist Christian faith of her family, she doesn’t look back on it with complete harshness or despair. Instead, she describes religion and religious community as infusing life with something larger than mundane daily existence and providing a forum for discussion of philosophy, ethics and politics. Has religion moved away from these goals today?

I’m so glad to have had the chance to read this one.

Three words that describe this book: inspiring, heart-breaking, literary

You might want to pick this book up if: you want to read about the power of literature to bring redemption, you want to know more about this fabulous author, or you want to listen to an author read her own memoir.


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Racing Forward: Docs About Runners

July 27, 2016

spirit of the marathonRunning is a sport that attracts many people young and old. What drives them to run, and how has it transformed them as people? Check out these documentaries that give insight into different kinds of runners.

spirit of the marathonSpirit of the Marathon” (2008)

A look at the Chicago Marathon, which stretches 26.2 miles, and the runners who participate from all walks of life, each with their own story. The film is an inspirational journey of perseverance and personal triumph — a spectacle that will be embraced by runners and non-runners alike.

desert runnersDesert Runners” (2013)

A diverse group of non-professional runners attempt to complete the most difficult desert ultra-marathon series on Earth. Their intense journey takes them to the driest, windiest, hottest and coldest deserts in the world: the Atacama in Chile, the Gobi in China, the Sahara in Egypt and finally, Antarctica.

my runMy Run” (2011)

After losing his wife to breast cancer and struggling to raise his children, Terry Hitchcock had an idea. He wanted to accomplish the impossible by running 75 consecutive marathons in 75 consecutive days to bring attention to the incredibly difficult lives of single-parent families.

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Reader Review: David and Goliath

July 26, 2016

david and goliathIn his book “David and Goliath,” Gladwell outlines tales of the underdog and challenges the reader to view being the underdog as not always undesirable! There are advantages to being the underdog. He discusses examples of people rising from the loss of parents, dyslexia, mediocre colleges, persecution and political oppression. He uses a series of stories to outline his points. While not a scientific work, the stories are challenging to a typical worldview. Small is not always weak. Large is not always strong.

My favorite part of the book was the portion that described stories from famous and less famous black civil rights activists. We played this portion out loud to my teenage son, and it struck his interest as well. “Are these people real?” Wyatt Walker was described in the book as the Brer Rabbit of civil rights. He staged protests and riots with hopes of tricking authorities into arresting and causing a national scene to draw attention to racism and inequality. His strategies were very carefully thought out and enacted. In all ways he was an underdog, but he used that to his advantage.

Overall this was a fun read – full of anecdotes of unlikely successes. It will change how you view “the underdog.”

Three words that describe this book: underdog, nonfiction, hope

You might want to pick this book up if: If you enjoy critically thinking about your own world, this will be a fun read. It will help change your view of the underdog or facing life with disabilities, difficult upbringing, racism and a number of challenges.


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Seventh Adult Summer Reading Gift Card Winner!

July 26, 2016

winnerCongratulations to Beth D. of Columbia on winning our seventh Adult Summer Reading 2016 prize drawing. She is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.

We have only two drawings remaining this summer, so make sure you turn in any last minute book reviews to increase your chance of winning and keep your fingers crossed.

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Bone-Chilling Reads for the Dog Days of Summer

July 25, 2016

Book cover for Winter PeopleThe dog days of summer are upon us. Long stretches of 90 degrees-plus temperatures are the norm. And this being Missouri, it’s not the heat but the humidity that makes it so uncomfortable, right?

Finding a nice place in the shade with a good book is a great way to keep cool. And if that book happens to be set during the dead of winter, that’s even better. Here are some books that will chill you to your core on these hot days!

If a dark and icy-cold New England winter sounds perfect right about now, you should try Jennifer McMahon’s “The Winter People.” Set in a small town in Vermont, the novel recounts the mysterious murder of Sara Harrison Shea outside her home in 1908. A hundred years later, Ruthie, Fawn and their mother move into Sara’s old house. The girls find Sara’s diary hidden under the floor, revealing what may have actually happened to her. This sets into motion a series of horrific events that threaten to destroy their family. McMahon’s writing is spell-binding in this unique approach to the typical ghost story. You won’t want to put this one down!

Book cover for AbominableMount Everest is definitely colder than Missouri right now, making for an awesome book setting. In the 1920s, the world’s tallest peak still had not been summitted. The race to reach the top always ended at best in disappointment and at worst in tragedy, as in the case of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine who disappeared during a climb. In “The Abominable,” Dan Simmons tells the story of a group of adventurers in the late 1920s who set out against nearly impossible odds to reach the top the mountain. Their journey is fraught with difficulties — the cold and snow is expected, but the mysterious person or creature who seems to be pursuing them in the night is not. The book is tense and action-packed, full of nail-biting scenes as the climbers face off against unbelievable terrors. Simmons presents the tale as a “found manuscript,” intricately weaving historical figures and events into a fictional tale that will chill you to the bone.

Book cover for SnowblindOf course, on hot days like we’ve been experiencing, a blizzard doesn’t sound all that bad. Christopher Golden delivers not one, but two blizzards in his terrifying novel  “Snowblind.” Several folks mysteriously die during the worst snowstorm the town of Coventry has seen in years. 12 years later, a new storm is blowing in and the ghosts of those lost seem to be returning. The story is told ensemble-style, which allows readers to fully immerse themselves into the horrors the townsfolk are experiencing, not only from the endless snowfall, but also from the evil the snow has brought with it. This is honestly one of the scariest books I’ve read in a long time.

Happy (and cool) reading!

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On Your Mark, Get Set, Exercise Your Brain!

July 22, 2016

Quietly by woodleywonderworks via FlickrThe brain is not really a muscle, but there’s a lot of advice out there to treat it like one and exercise it. A huge industry has been built around this concept. But this post comes with a disclaimer: I recently read an article stating that “brain-training effects might be nothing more than placebo effects” and questioning how long those positive effects last. So you might think twice about spending a lot of money on brain-training programs and gurus, but there’s a lot you can find for free at the library to boost your brain power. What could it hurt to do a little mental calisthenics?

Now might be a good time to brush up on logic, fallacy and argument with the elections coming up and the pitches flying. It’s always nice to know when someone is making a deceptive, misleading or unsound argument, whether it’s a “straw-man” argument or “begging the question.” Jamie Whyte takes you on a humorous journey through various logical fallacies in “Crimes Against Logic: Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders.”

Book cover for The Immortal GameBrain teasers, puzzles, riddles and games are some of the most recommended ways of exercising your brain. Of course, chess has been touted pretty much forever as a brain changer, so you could try a general chess book or check out “The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, or How 32 Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science, and the Human Brain.” And there is one name that seems to stand out when it comes to games and puzzles — Will Shortz. Look for 150 of his favorite word puzzles in “Games Magazine Presents Will Shortz’s Best Brain Busters.”

If you would like to just boost your creativity a bit, Nick Bantock of the beautiful Griffin & Sabine books can guide you with creative exercises in “The Trickster’s Hat: A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity.” Bantock’s 49 exercises include a materials list and the time required. They are designed to “encourage you to forget your destination while you meander through the wondrous world that awaits you in the periphery of your mind’s eye.”

Book cover for Moonwalking With EinsteinMemory boosting books have the best titles! How can you resist a title like “A Sheep Falls Out of a Tree“? My favorite is “Moonwalking With Einstein” by Joshua Foer  I don’t know that this book will help me remember where I put my car keys, but it certainly gave me a lot to think about as far as the role of memory in culture and our relationships with others. Foer also provided a few fun tricks that really do work to remember random things. My favorite quote: “Our ability to find humor in the world, to make connections between previously unconnected notions, to create new ideas, to share in a common culture: All these essentially human acts depend on memory. Now more than ever, as the role of memory in our culture erodes at a faster pace than ever before, we need to cultivate our ability to remember. Our memories make us who we are. They are the seat of our values and source of our character.”

From my experience, if you want to keep your mind active, just read. Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” And to quote Neil Gaiman, “Read. Read anything. Read the things they say are good for you and the things they claim are junk. You’ll find what you need to find. Just read.” I couldn’t agree more.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

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Reader Review: Kindred Spirits

July 21, 2016

book cover for Kindred Spirits by Sarah StrohmeyerKindred Spirits” is about a group of women who become the best of friends and establish their own society as a result of a failed Parent Teacher Association meeting. Their society (The Society for the Conservation of Martinis!) is based on their friendship and having fun together. The story follows the women through the quick death of one and a journey by her best friends to find the secret she never shared. Sarah Strohmeyer’s characters are “real women” I related to. Their journey together shows the true meaning of friendship.

Three words that describe this book: friendship, love, understanding

You might want to pick this book up if: You might want to read this book if you enjoy Sarah Strohmeyer’s writing. She has created another group of wonderful characters who are fun-loving and know the true meaning of being friends to the end.


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