All posts by rgray

HRCN: Any Nonfiction

Review #3 is inspired by my love of the Middle Ages. I pulled Medieval Life and Leisure in the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries by Linda Wooley off a shelf in my personal library. I have been meaning to read it for over a year, and am glad I took advantage of the Nonfiction box on my Hot Reads Bingo to do so!

Tapestries in medieval times were decorative draft barriers in the castles & manor houses of the royal and wealthy. The four that are known as the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries are no different. These very expensive and huge wool wallhangings are windows into the leisure lives of the richest of the rich. You can get a hint of the scale and complexity of them on the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) website.

I am in awe of the time and talent it took to create these tapestries. They show us a lot of detail of a 15th century royal court as they participate or observe in the hunt of Deer, Boar & Bear, Otter & Swan, and Falconry. In this book, Woolley lays out the history of these tapestries, both what is know and the conjecture behind their origins. They vary in age and quality, and appear to be from different tapestry workshops.

One of the best things about the book, is how it is laid out. There are five chapters in this book, and they cover not only the history of the tapestries themselves, but also the content of them. I learned a bit about how hunting in the 15th Century worked, courtly fashion and even a bit about the mores of the time (and I felt sorry for the Miller in the Deer Hunt). I also loved how many closeups there are – each page has one or more full color pictures of some piece of the wall hangings. The last four pages are pull-outs of each tapestry. The scale still boggles my mind!

One of the weakest things about this book is the lack of other material. The reader gets to see pretty much every square inch of these four tapestries in good detail, but there are very few pictures of anything else to compare them with. For example, the text mentions a different falconry tapestry held by the Minneapolis Institute of Art more than once, but it does not have any pictures of it. It would have been nice to have it for reference here instead of having to look for it on the MIA website.


HRCN: VHPL Book Club Book

I’ve read a handful of selections for our local book club now, & I want to tell you a bit about The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. (Incidently, this is the book for Wednesday’s meeting at Better Brew Coffeeshop – we’d love more people to come & talk books!)

This classic novel takes place during the French Revolution. An English nobleman is rescuing French aristocrats from the gallows under the noses of those who want to take them to the gallows. He is known for his realistic disguises and for the small red flower, a scarlet pimpernel, left as a signature after of his rescues. The Englishman behind the flower appears to all to be a fop, dandy and fool. His name is Sir Percy Blackeney. His wife, Marguerite, was a famous actress on the French stage. She is accosted by the French Envoy to help him unmask the Pimpernel – if she does not help him, her brother faces the guillotine. After doing so, she realizes who the Scarlet Pimpernel is, and she sails to France to warn Sir Percy before he is snared in a neck-severing trap.

I had never read this book before reading it for the Book Club. I really enjoyed the action, adventure and intrigue it provided. While The Scarlet Pimpernel is full of the twists and turns as you would expect a spy novel to have, it has wonderful character arcs. Most of the characters are fully formed and rounded – only the villian is not. My favorite thing about the book was Orczy’s descriptions – I could see the settings and costumes in my mind’s eye but she didn’t go on and on in them.


HRCN: One Word Title

To kick off Hot Reads for Cold Nights, today I am sharing my first book review. Over the weekend I read Dollhouse by Kourtney, Kim, and Khloé Kardashian to take care of the box “One Word Title”.

I ran across this book as I was cleaning shelves in the library last week, and was curious enough to bring it home & give it a shot over the weekend. It is the fictionalized story of a family similar enough to the Kardashians’ that even someone not very familiar with them could see bits of their public personas in it.  Kamille, Kass, and Kyle are all sisters who are dealing with the death of their father 5 years ago in very different ways. Kass copes by burying herself in her university studies and being the perfect daughter. Kyle, 16, is your stereotypical rebellious teen into drinking vodka, watching porn and going to parties and doing drugs. Kass attaches herself to whatever man she dates – she doesn’t listen when friends and family tell her that he is up to no good, instead it’s all roses and champagne in her mind.

These three girls’ lives change practically overnight when Kass, the pretty sister, is discovered at a coffee shop by a high power model agent. She is launched into the Hollywood celebrity scene and the book revolves around the way this fame impacts her whole family’s lives.

The most unfortunate thing about this book is the fact that it isn’t very long, only 288 pages, and it tries to have too much happening in it. There are a couple storylines that are simply dropped near the end of the book, leaving the reader just hanging there. Apparently, they were hoping for a sequel, but this hasn’t come to fruition.

The best thing about this book is the enjoyment factor in that it is 110% fluff. It doesn’t even try to pretend to be anything other an a retelling of the Kardashian’s lives through an only slightly fictional lens. It let me turn off my brain for a couple hours and relax.

There is nothing earthshattering about this book. It is not the next best thing, or even all that well written. It does make a good beach or airport read, as long as you’re not too embarrassed to be seen in public reading it.


Getting ready…

Hot Reads Bingo will be taking place from January 3 – March 2, 2017. Are you ready to run the gauntlet and read, read, read? Topics range from books with:

  • Tropical Setting
  • Award Winner
  • Book by an Author who Shares Your First Name.

There are cool prizes for the first five folks who register, biweekly random drawings and two grand prizes for those who turn in the most completed bingos. We hope you join us!

Suggest a Title

Did you know that you can request that the Van Horn Public Library purchase a specific book, movie or CD? You can do it directly from our catalog’s homepage! Click on the “Suggest a Title” link about the search box, then fill out the short form. It’s that easy!header

Make sure you choose Pine Island Van Horn Public Library from the pull down menu so we get the request! We look at requests on a monthly basis and when we get the item in, we make sure the requester is on the list to check it out.

Let us know what you want us to purchase for the library!

Opening on the Board of Trustees

The Van Horn Public Library Board of Trustees is seeking one new member.

This person may represent the City of Pine Island, Dodge, Goodhue or Olmsted County to serve a 3 year term going from November 2016 to December 2020.  The Board meets bi-monthly on the 3rd Monday of the month at 7 pm at the Van Horn Public Library.

Interested parties may pick up an application at the library or download it here: PDF or word doc. Applications are due Friday, October 21.

Please contact Director Rachel Gray with any questions via phone (356-8558) or e-mail (