Lisa See’s new novel, China Dolls, brings to life an element of the 1930′s and 1940′s entertainment world I was not aware of, the Chop-Suey Circuit. Three unlikely Asian friends, Ruby, Helen & Grace, gravitate to the newly introduced Chinese revues in San Francisco for different reasons. Although they are from diverse backgrounds, they form a strong bond and the book follows their lives through happiness and heartache. Woven with a backdrop of the attack on Pearl Harbor, World War II and happier times in the 1940′s, the story brings alive not only the glitz and glamor of the stage, but the personal coming-of-age stories of three women whose lives are, for better or worse, intertwined.
Author Archive for Kara Logsden
Ten years ago I fell in love with Julia Glass’ writing. It was a rainy day and I was in Positano, Italy, looking out over the aquamarine Mediterranean and delighted to have survived a white-knuckle drive along the Amalfi Coast. I curled up with Three Junes, a book I’d been meaning to read for a long time, and fell in love with the writing. Most notably I was pulled into the stories, loved the characters, and grieved for the one of the main characters, Malachy Burns (who was dying of AIDS) and his beloved friend, Fenno McLeod (who lovingly cared for him). I look forward to each new Julia Glass book and enjoy her storytelling and how she weaves stories, characters, and places together. It’s like canoeing down a meandering stream, encountering interesting people along the way, and enjoying the journey as much as the moment.
I was delighted when Malachy and Fenno popped up in Glass’ new book, And the Dark Sacred Night. Once again readers are taken on a journey and details are not shared until Glass is ready to share them. The book begins with the main protagonist, Kit Noonan, and a view into his stalled life. Kit is an unemployed art professor who is struggling in his roles as husband, father, and (not by choice) person designated to manage his household. When it’s obvious he must be jarred from his rut, his wife’s wish for a separation serves as the catalyst to send him on a journey of personal discovery. The journey begins in Vermont at the home of Kit’s Stepfather. From there readers are propelled through time and memories in a story woven together in classic Julia Glass style. I was sad when the story ended, but enjoyed the journey and always appreciate a great story!
The newest installment of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, Top Secret 21, is out and it’s a page-turner. While I thought the last couple Plum books were not up to Janet Evanovich standards, I though with this book she was back on target with quirky characters, humor, and more adventures for bounty-hunter, Stephanie Plum. If you are looking for a quick summer chick-lit read, this is a great option.
If you haven’t read the Stephanie Plum series, we have many of the earlier books in multiple formats including regular print, large print, spoken word, eBook and eAudiobook. The plot is easy to follow and it’s not necessary to start at the beginning.
If you are a Janet Evanovich fan and looking for similar authors, there are quite a few I would recommend including Lisa Lutz (Spellman Files), Mary Kay Andrews, and Diane Mott Davidson. These authors have books that are fast paced, funny and perfect for summer reading. If you need help finding a good book, Library staff are always happy to help. Happy Summer Reading!
Recently a friend suggested we meet at Prairie Lights for a book reading. We have a monthly meet-up to knit and chat, but thought we might mix it up a bit and go to a book reading. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the Live from Prairie Lights schedule, so I was delighted when I discovered Iowa City native, Leah Eskin was reading from her new book, Slices of Life.
Leah and I were in 4-H together many years ago. She was a few years older than me and someone who I looked up to. It was fun to hear her read, and learn about her ‘slices of life’ – mother of teenagers, writer, cancer survivor, and much more. When she was signing my book afterwards, my friend mentioned our 4-H connection. Leah wondered if I remembered the goats she showed at the fair. I didn’t, but our conversation conjured happy memories for me of showing my rabbits and dog at the Johnson County Fair.
I’ve enjoyed Leah Eskin’s Slices of Life and how she connects her slices of life with her experiences. One entry that jumped out at me was an ode to her dog, Theo, as an introduction to the “Summer Couscous” recipe. After losing our dog to old age and illness last week, I still have a raw emotion when I think about the human-dog bond. Eskin writes, “At dinnertime we come. We sit. We stay for something delicious, something that fetches memories of meals past. Happily gnawing on a stick of grilled lamb, hunched over a jackpot of couscous, we know that in our family, we all speak the same language.”
I also appreciate the index to the book and the suggestions Eskin weaves into the list. For example, “BRUNCH: I always make Onion Tart (page 153). Other good ideas: Tortilla Espanola (page 185), Sparkling Salad (page 64), and Crab Cakes (page 111).”
Slices of Life is a wonderful tribute to love, cooking, connections and life. And the recipes are yummy too …
I discovered this wonderful book when someone described it as being similar to Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society and The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I don’t think I would compare it to those books (which I’d highly recommend) but I’m also not sure how I would describe it. Is it a love story? Is it a coming of age story? Is it a mystery? Is it a book with strong characters? Does it have a strong sense of place? I could answer yes to all of the above.
A quick look at the subject headings reveals these entries:
|Booksellers and bookselling — Fiction.|
|Bookstores — Fiction.|
|Widowers — Fiction.|
|Abandoned children — Fiction.|
|Man-woman relationships — Fiction.|
Indeed, this is a book about all of these things. But it is also so much more. A.J. Fikry owns a book store and he loves books. He’s not just any bookseller, though. He is picky, contrite, a wee bit arrogant, and has poor customer service skills. Despite all these faults, he has a passion for books. A.J. Fikry also has a capacity to love. When his life takes turns he never imagined, and A.J. Fikry finds himself in the depths of despair, his redemption is his capacity to love. And love is what makes this book so wonderful. A love for people, community, literature, and most of all, a love of family.
If you are looking for a great summer read, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is recommended.
Jacqueline Winspear, the author of the popular Maisie Dobbs mystery series, is set to release a standalone historical fiction novel on July 1. I had the privilege of reading an advanced reader copy. The Library has five copies on order, so place your hold soon so you will be at the front of the hold queue.
The Care and Management of Lies is set in rural England in 1914 and on the battlefields of France during World War I. Young bride, Kezia Brissenden, is left to manage the family farm as her husband (Tom) and his sister (Thea), who is Kezia’s best friend, head to fight in France. Tom feels honor-bound to serve while Thea, who was a teacher and suffragette in London, volunteered to serve as an ambulance driver in order to escape incarceration for her political work. Kezia transforms from an educated city-girl to an experienced farmer who expertly manages her land and livestock.
Winspear is an expert storyteller who captures the personal anguish and struggles with a backdrop that contrasts agrarian life with the life experienced by soldiers on the battlefront in France. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and especially enjoyed reading the commentary from Jacqueline Winspear on her webpage. I look forward to more novels from Jacqueline Winspear and the historical fiction stories she weaves.
The Fez is a 15-piece Steely Dan jazz/rock-fusion tribute band composed of many awesome local musicians. Bring your lawnchair and head Downtown to the Weatherdance Fountain Stage to enjoy summer sounds from 6:30-9:30 PM. If there’s a chance of bad weather, check the Summer of the Arts webpage for schedule and location updates.
Can’t wait until Friday night for some local music? Check out the Library’s Local Music Project at http://music.icpl.org/ or click here to listen to Fez musician Saul Lubaroff and his quartet play “Blues for Zane and Will.”
For a full Summer of the Arts schedule, navigate to: http://www.summerofthearts.org
We’ll see you Downtown this summer!
P.S. Don’t forget the Library is open until 8:00 PM on Fridays
Library staff members are diligently working to make sure students have Library Cards and are ready for summer! Staff traveled to Robert Lucas and Grant Wood elementary recently to sign students up for Library Cards. Staff will be at Mark Twain Elementary’s Family Night on May 29 to sign students and family members up for Library Cards.
We are also working with Teacher Librarians and Student & Family Advocates to help students at other schools sign-up for Library Cards. In these cases, school staff collect applications and forward them to Library staff. Library staff issue the Library Cards and mail them to the student’s home.
We are also working with Johnson County Extension’s 4-H on Wheels summer program to extend Library services to students who will participate in 4-H on Wheels in Lone Tree this summer. Library staff will travel to Lone Tree once a week to check out Library materials to students based on the weekly 4-H on Wheels theme. The themes are generally STEM based and including information about nutrition, science, and other interesting topics.
Since the beginning of February, Library Staff have issued 144 Library Cards though our outreach efforts with local schools. We appreciate the wonderful staff at our schools and their dedication to help students continue to read over the summer.
Here’s a rundown of the numbers. Three Cheers for Library Cards!
|School||# Cards Issued|
We received a wonderful letter today from Kirkwood Community College’s English Language Learner program following a tour for their students last month. Students enrolled in Kirkwood’s program who were on this tour were from Sudan, Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo, China, El Salvador, Guinea, Laos, Vietnam, Mexico and Algeria. They were a fun group and even enjoyed some of my jokes (which building downtown has the most stories?).
Library staff enjoy welcoming everyone to the Library and especially people who are new to our community. It is fun to see the Library through new eyes, and to see patron making connections with how they may utilize Library resources in their own lives.
The letter from Kirkwood’s staff says, “The students were frankly amazed about the size, services, comfort, and approachability of the library … Thank you for teaching these Iowa City newcomers from around the world about your library services and for making them comfortable with and eager to visit the library.”
We extend our thanks to Kirkwood for introducing the Library to their students and for working with us to host the English Conversation Group on Friday mornings. For more information about Kirkwood’s program for English language learners, navigate to http://www.kirkwood.edu/esl.
Recently the Iowa City City Council appointed an ad-hoc Senior Services committee that will begin meeting in May. In preparation for these meetings, the Library provided information about collections, programs and services of interest to people over age 55. I thought I’d share some of the interesting tidbits from the Library’s report.
Library Cards: As of April 24, 2014, 7,491 people over age 55 had active Library cards with 8,089 items checked out. Of those, 4,938 people live in Iowa City and they have 5,567 items checked out. 995 live in rural Johnson County and they have 1,091 items checked out.
At Home Services: The Library’s At Home service provides traditional Library collections by mail to residents of the Library’s service area (Iowa City, rural Johnson County, Hills, University Heights and Lone Tree) for those who are unable to come to the Library because of a physical disability. Most people enrolled in At Home Services are over age 55. Currently 128 patrons are enrolled in At Home services and in FY13, an average of 39 patrons were served each month. In FY13, the Library loaned 2,888 items to and the Library’s Switchboard answered 255 calls from At Home patrons.
Community Outreach Collections: The Library maintains community outreach collections at many retirement residences and other community organizations that serve people over age 55. These sites include the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center, Oaknoll, Melrose Meadows, Walden Place, Capitol House Apartments, Chatham Oaks, Hope Lodge, and MECCA. Some sites utilize books checked out from the Library’s collection, while others accept donated materials. In FY13, 660 items were loaned to community organizations from the Library’s collection and 2,242 items, culled from donations to the Library and withdrawn materials, were sent for members of the community to use.
Volunteer Program: The Library connects with many community members through our Volunteer Program. In FY13, 364 people volunteered at the Library. Of those, 83 volunteers were over age 55 and they volunteered 4,154 hours.
Technology Support: For the first nine months of FY14, the Library assisted 358 patrons in our Drop-In Tech Help sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Staff estimates 50% of the people who seek assistance at these sessions are age 55 and over. There is a also special Senior Tech Zone weekly on Thursdays, from 10:30 AM-12:30 PM, staffed by volunteers from the Johnson County Livable Community project.
The Library serves people over age 55 in many ways. The information above represents a snapshot of some of the collections, programs and services available at the Library. If you have questions, please give us a call.