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Author Archive for Brian Visser



Tales of a Budding Bicyclist

by Brian Visser on June 11th, 2015

Wanna go for a rideI’ve been commuting to work on my bike for the last three years.  I started because my doctor said that I wasn’t exercising enough.  My grandma has Type 2 diabetes and my dad is pre-diabetic, and my doctor said I was traveling down that same path.  It shook me up enough to do something about it.  Riding my bike to work seemed like a good solution.  I got some exercise, and I didn’t have to sacrifice any of my precious free time.  At first, I was a little anxious to ride on the road.  The Iowa DOT has great resources for bicyclists including safety information for both motorists and bicyclists

Bike Safety

I’ve internalized the safety tips for bicyclists, especially this one–Make eye contact with motorists.
Never assume a motorist sees you or that you have the right-of-way. Expect the unexpected such as: parked vehicles pulling into traffic; vehicle doors opening into your path; and debris on the road

I can’t count how many times I’ve thought, “They see me, right?  Nope, they totally don’t see me.”  Also, motorists, I feel your pain, because you read that “Obey traffic signs and signals” in the bicyclists column and thought, “Yeah, they totally don’t do that.”  I do!  I wish more of my fellow bicyclists did too.

I didn’t expect to like riding my bike so much.  Now I go on longer rides.  I even bought some bike shorts.  Not the super tight spandex kind, but the baggy kind (this Amazon review that said they were like “wearing a fully loaded diaper” is what won me over).   I recently took a ride to North Liberty and back.  Again, the DOT website is great for planning rides like that, because they have an interactive bike map.  I know what you’re thinking, “Brian, I use Google Maps!”  Google Maps is the best, but have you ever used it to plan a bike ride?  It’s awful for that!  If you plug in the ride I just went on, this is the route it tells you to take:

You don't need to know where I live

For some reason it doesn’t want you to use the awesome Clear Creek Trail, which makes for a prettier and safer ride.  That trail is easily found on the DOT map.  Also, Google Maps considers Mormon Trek a “bicycle-friendly road” which is completely bonkers.

I’m going to make an effort to take part in more local bike events and rides.  ThinkBicyles.org has a good page listing the cycling events in Johnson County, and Bike Iowa has a comprehensive and searchable list of events across the state.  The big one, of course, is RAGBRAI.  I’ve never gone on it before, but this year I’m riding the last day from Coralville to Davenport.  I’m really excited!

Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis Ultimate Collection Volume 1

by Brian Visser on May 5th, 2015
Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis Ultimate Collection Volume 1 Cover Image

The first season of the Daredevil TV show was released on Netflix last month.  For the uninitiated, Daredevil is a street-level superhero who was blinded as a boy when a radioactive isotope was splashed in his eyes.  His other senses were super-heightened and gave him a sort of radar sense.  Comics, everybody!  He became a lawyer (after he grew up, not some Doogie Howser nonsense), and also became a ninja.  Yeah.  He wears all red, but is basically Marvel’s Batman.

I inhaled the first season and was soon forcing it on others with a zeal.  But it was over for me, and I had a Daredevil shaped hole in my heart.  That hole was filled with comics.  Brian Michael Bendis had a 55 issue, Eisner Award-winning run on Daredevil in the 2000s, and it has been collected into three Ultimate Collection volumes.  Volume 1 is an excellent place to start if you’re looking for more about the Man Without Fear.

 “Wake Up” is the first story in the volume, and it’s surprisingly low key.  Matt Murdoch or Daredevil are not in it much.  Instead the focus is on Ben Urich, the journalist who is heavily featured in the show.  He’s investigating a young boy who’s catatonic after his father, a low-level Daredevil villain named Leap Frog, goes missing.  Urich is sure that Daredevil has something to do with the boy’s current state and seeks him out.  David Mack provides beautiful painted art for the story.

“Underboss” and “Out” make up the rest of this volume.  “Underboss” has a new player in town trying to take out the Kingpin.  “Out” deals with the fallout of that story, and the fact that the FBI learns that Matt Murdoch is Daredevil.  The writing in all of these stories is top notch, and it’s complimented nicely by the fantastic noir influenced artwork of Alex Maleev.  Seriously, the art is great.  Check this out:

maleev

I highly recommend Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis Ultimate Collection Volume 1 and the rest of the volumes to anyone who is suffering from a Daredevil hangover.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

by Brian Visser on April 8th, 2015
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Cover Image

I’ve been pretty excited for the movie adaptation of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews since it debuted to universally positive reviews at the Sundance Fim Festival this year.  It won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize, which are the two big awards at Sundance.  The first trailer just hit.  You can watch it here (warning: There’s a little colorful language).  The buzz is that it will be the next The Fault in Our Stars, and the book commonly came up as a TFiOS read-alike.  You can beat the rush and read the book (or eBooknow!

Teen Homework Help

by Brian Visser on March 18th, 2015

Homework Help

Stuck with your homework?  The Library can help!

The Iowa City Public Library has teamed-up with Envision Tutoring to provide free weekly tutoring sessions in all subjects for students in grades 7 through 12.  The tutors are volunteers–both university students and former educators–qualified to teach all subjects. Each tutor undergoes a background check and training to ensure students get the most benefit from the sessions, and tutoring sessions are confidential.

All tutoring will take place within the Koza Family Teen Center on the Library’s second floor. To sign up for your session, visit http://sites.google.com/site/tutorschedulingicpl/

Once you have chosen a slot that works for you, use the form at the bottom of the page to schedule that slot. We will get back to you within two weekdays to confirm your tutor reservation.

Iowa House and Senate Bill Tracking

by Brian Visser on March 5th, 2015

billThere have been some big issues discussed recently by the Iowa House and Senate including when schools must start or the recent gas tax increase.  The Iowa Legislature page is a great tool to help follow a bill’s progress.  If you know the bill’s number, such as HF13 for the school start date bill, just enter it into the “Bills Quick Search” on the right side.  You’ll be shown the bill in its entirety.  You can click on “Current Bill History” on the left, and it will tell you when the bill was introduced or if it has passed.  There’s also a link on the left to track versions of the bill.

It’s very possible that you won’t know the bill’s number.  If that’s the case, you can use the “Bill Keyword Quick Search.”  I did a search for “school” and HF13 was the sixth result.  But searching that way can be frustrating.  To take the guess work out of it, consider searching the Des Moines Register (you’ll have to scroll down a bit to get to DMR).  They do excellent statehouse reporting and often mention the bill number in their articles.

Want to contact your state representative or senator about a bill?  We have a handy page with that information right here.

Best in Books for Teens

by Brian Visser on February 5th, 2015

printz award

Earlier this week, the  winner of the 2015 Michael L. Printz Award was announced.  The award honors the best book in young adult literature each year as decided by the Printz Committee.  They also name honor books, which are the close, but no cigar books of the year.  Personally, I usually like the honor books more than the book that wins each year.  Here are this year’s books:

2015 Winner

I’ll Give You the SunI'll Give You the Sun

By Jandy Nelson

Published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group, (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company Once inseparable, twins Noah and Jude are torn apart by a family tragedy that transforms their intense love for each other into intense anger. Timelines twist and turn around each other in beautifully orchestrated stories of love and longing.

2015 Honor Books

And WAnd We Staye Stay

By Jenny Hubbard

Published by Delacorte, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., a Penguin Random House Company.

Reeling from her boyfriend’s dramatic suicide, Emily hides her anguish at a new boarding school, where she finds healing through poetry. Hubbard’s gem-like prose beautifully balances Emily’s poetry.

 

The Carnival at BrayCarnival at Bray

By Jessie Ann Foley

Published by Elephant Rock Books.

In 1993, Maggie is dismayed to leave Chicago and her beloved Uncle Kevin behind when she moves to a small Irish town. Yet it is within this evocative setting that Foley unwinds Maggie’s exceptional coming-of-age tale, where Maggie discovers music and forgiveness as antidotes for grief.

 

GrGrasshopper Jungleasshopper Jungle

By Andrew Smith

Published by Dutton Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.

Historian Austin Szerba is in love with his best girl friend, Shann. He is also in love with his best boy friend, Robby. Mastermind Smith takes these tender facts and swirls them into a whirlwind tale of carnivorous praying mantises, the history of the world, the role of the individual, and the end of all we know.

 

This One SummerThis One Summer

By Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Published by First Second

Adolescence in its precarious first bloom is the subject of this sensitive graphic novel. The team of Mariko and Jillian Tamaki show and tell us of one special summer in Rose’s life, in a brilliant flow of pictures and text.

Join our Teen Activity Group

by Brian Visser on December 31st, 2014

Small TAG

Calling all people in grades 7-12!  The Iowa City Public Library’s Teen Activity Group is looking for new members!

The Teen Activity Group (TAG) is designed to energize teen programming and services and give teens a greater voice at the Library.  We meet monthly to discuss books, plan upcoming events, and hang out.

Want to make a difference in your Library? Maybe you just love reading or want to make new friends? We’d love to hear from you! TAG meets each month during the school year.  Our next meeting is Saturday, March 21 from 1-2 in the Koza Family Teen Center.

If you’re interested in joining TAG, please drop by and find out what we’re about!

Letters About Literature

by Brian Visser on November 28th, 2014

Browne,_Henriette_-_A_Girl_Writing;_The_Pet_Goldfinch_-_Google_Art_ProjectHave you ever loved a book so much that you had to let the author know?  That they were the only person who would understand how you felt?  Letters About Literature is a program where students in grades 4 through 12 write a letter to an author explaining how that author’s work impacted them.

The Letters can be written about works from any genre, fiction or nonfiction by authors from the present or the past. Students can write about a book, short story, poem, or speech.

The program is sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.  The Iowa Center for the Book is the Iowa sponsor.

Iowa first place winners win $75. Second and third place winners win $50.  Honorable Mention winners win $25.

The deadline for high school students is December 15, 2014. The deadline for elementary and middle school students is January 15, 2015. You can learn more at the Iowa Center for the Book website and read last year’s winning entries at http://www.iowacenterforthebook.org/letters

But maybe you don’t want to enter the contest and just want to write a letter to your favorite author.  We have a database that can help with that.  To access it, go to http://www.icpl.org/resources/ scroll down and click on “Contemporary Authors.”  Contemporary Authors has a lot of interesting information about more than 120,000 U.S. and international authors.  For example, you can search “Lowry, Lois,” and it will list info about awards she has won, her bibliography and personal information including a home address.  So, you could write a letter about how The Giver is your absolute favorite book of all time.  Wouldn’t that be awesome?

My True Love Gave to Me

by Brian Visser on November 17th, 2014
My True Love Gave to Me Cover Image

My True Love Gave to Me is a collection of twelve holiday stories by popular young adult authors.  I was initially drawn to it because Rainbow Rowell supplied a story.  Rainbow’s story–”Midnights”–is great!  It’s about two friends who over the course of four New Year’s Eves decide if they want to be more than friends.  I hope we see the characters again!

Another plus for this collection is the chance to sample authors that you’ve been curious about.  I’ve never read anything by Matt de la Peña or Stephanie Perkins, who also edited the collection, and I loved both of their stories.  It made me want to read all of their books.  Holly Black has a great story–called “Krampuslauf”–about a group of friends who want to throw the perfect New Year’s Eve party and get revenge on a cheating ex.  An unexpected guest makes the party even more memorable.

A lot of the stories fall into the “meet-cute during the holidays” category, but they’re well done (except for a couple stinkers).  It’s a great book to read as a break from reading another book.  If you like holiday stories, you won’t go wrong with My True Love Gave to Me.

Beware My Power – Teen Comic Book Club

by Brian Visser on October 14th, 2014

green-lantern

The next meeting of ICPL’s Teen Comic Book Club will be on Thursday, October 30 from 4-5 in the Teen Center.  We’re discussing all things Green Lantern related.  Pick any Green Lantern comic to read and we’ll geek out about it at the meeting.  Need some ideas?  Here are a few comics about the emerald knights:

Green Lantern : RebirthHal Jordan was considered the greatest Green Lantern of them all. But Jordan lost control, allowed himself to be corrupted and transformed into the villainous Parallax. Later, Jordan reappeared and made the ultimate sacrifice —and became the Spectre, the Wrath of God.  See how a man born without fear and seeking to rebuild his life, puts cosmic forces into motion that will have repercussions not only on Earth but across the universe.

Green Lantern : Secret OriginWhile Hal Jordan is inducted into the Green Lantern Corps, the Green Lantern called Sinestro investigates the death of Hal’s predecessor, Abin Sur. Who–or what– could have killed this Lantern? And what does it all have to do with the “Blackest Night”?

Green Lantern Vol. 1 : SinestroIn the aftermath of a deadly showdown between the Green Lantern Corps and a mysterious foe from the past, Hal Jordan has been stripped of his ring. Left standing is an unexpected new Green Lantern in town: Sinestro! And now, this renegade GL has set a course for Korugar with one purpose: To free his homeworld from the scourge of his own Sinestro Corps, with the not-so-willing help of Hal Jordan!

Green Lantern Corps Vol. 1 : FearsomeWhen a new menace, The Keepers, begins to march across the space sectors and devouring not only their natural resources but their entire populations, it is up to The Corps, severely outnumbered, to stop them. The Corps soon find one of their own held by the ruthless Keepers and must figure out a way to save their comrade and defeat the Keepers without the Green Lantern’s most powerful weapon, their power rings.

 




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