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It’s the weekend!

by Kara Logsden on October 17th, 2014

2014 10 17 read all dayIt’s the weekend and I’m reading two great books … and I can’t wait to get back to them.  I know there are soccer games, football games, house chores, and other activities, but I really would prefer to just read all weekend.  Who wants to join me?

A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable is based on true events and tells the story of two women in Paris.  One is a modern-day Sotheby’s furniture specialist (April Vogt) and the other is renowned courtesan during the Belle Époque period in Paris just before World War I (Marthe de Florian).  April is summoned to Paris and jumps at a chance to escape her crumbling life in the United States.  In Paris she discovers an apartment that has been shuttered for more than 70 years and full of priceless furniture and paintings collected by Marthe but abandoned by her family.  April also meets a solicitor who agrees to share Marthe’s journals.  Through these journals, April learns about the woman behind the collections.

I’m also reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.  This historical fiction novel is set in occupied France during World War II and is the story of Marie-Laure, a young French girl who lost her eyesight when she was six and lives with her father who is a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris.  It is also the story of Werner, a young German boy who has a special talent for building and fixing radios.  As the war rages, Marie-Laure and Werner cross paths.  Doerr recently received a National Book Award nomination for this book.  The writing is lyrical and foreboding and I can’t wait to start reading again.

If you are looking for a good book this weekend, head to the Library.  And remember …. You can’t read all day if you don’t start in the morning!

 

Cats! Cats! Cats! and some kittens.

by Candice Smith on October 16th, 2014
Cats! Cats! Cats! and some kittens. Cover Image

Breaking news: Lots of people who work at ICPL have cats. Crazy, right?? Librarians and bookish people and cats??!!

It’s true, and right now we have a lovely little display of some of our cats on the second floor…well, photos of our cats, not the actual cats. I would NEVER bring a cat to work. No.

Also, today is National Feral Cat Day. This is a day to bring attention to the situation of cats living wild in the outdoors, and a method of controlling cat populations with trap-neuter-return. If you’re interested in learning more about it, check out Alley Cat Allies. You can also learn how to build a nifty outdoor shelter for cats, which I did, and not only was it useful and sturdy, it was also a really nice father-daughter bonding experience — this is something my love for cats does not usually produce. Many of my cats were born feral and socialized at a young age, and became wonderful, loving, (large) indoor cats. It happens.

So, come in to the Library, check out some books on picking out a cat, on understanding your cat, or grab the latest, wonderful addition to our section of poetry by cats, I Knead My Mommy. This is the sequel to the well-reviewed I Could Pee On This, and coincidentally, dedicated to “…all the stray cats that need a loving home.”

Meow.

National Book Award Finalists Announced

by Maeve Clark on October 15th, 2014

nba_winner_medallionThe National Book Foundation announced the National Book Award Finalists this morning.  Our own Iowa City author, Marilynne Robinson, is on the shortlist for Lila, her third novel about the fictional Iowa town of Gilead.   The winners will be announced on November 19, you’d best get started now.

What Is the National Book Award? and

Who Are the Judges?

The National Book Awards were established in 1950 by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization. Each year, the Foundation selects a total of twenty Judges, including five in each of the four Award categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature. Historically, Judges are published writers who are known to be doing great work in their genre or field, and in some cases, are past NBA Finalists or Winners. As of 2013, judging panels will no longer be limited to writers, but now may also include other experts in the field such as literary critics, librarians, and booksellers. One of the five Judges on each panel is selected as the panel chair. This person acts as the voice of the panel and the liaison to the Foundation. The Foundation staff takes no part in the Judges’ deliberations, except to verify a submission’s eligibility.

Who Can Submit Books?

Each April, the Foundation sends the official National Book Awards guidelines and entry forms to the publishers in its master database.

In order to be eligible for the Award, a book must be written by an American citizen and published by an American publisher between December 1 of the previous year and November 30 of the current year. Self-published books are only eligible if the author/publisher publishes the work of other authors in addition to his own. Books published through services such as iUniverse are not eligible for the Award.

Each publisher must submit a completed entry form to the Foundation by May 15. They must then mail one copy of each entered book to the Foundation, as well as one copy to each of the five Judges in the appropriate category, by July 1. The entry fee is $135 per book.

How Are the Finalists Chosen?

Each panel reads all of the books submitted in their category over the course of the summer. This number typically ranges from 150 titles (Poetry) to upwards of 500 titles (Nonfiction). As of 2013, each panel will now compile a “longlist” of ten titles, to be announced in mid-September. They will then narrow down that list to five Finalists, to be announced in mid-October. They may arrive at these choices using whatever criteria they deem appropriate, as long as they do not conflict with the official Award guidelines.

The Finalists Announcement has taken place at various literary sites around the country, from William Faulkner’s front yard in Oxford, Mississippi (2005) to the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home in Savannah, Georgia (2010). In 2011, the Finalists Announcement was made on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s morning radio program “Think Out Loud,” and in 2012, the announcement was made on TV for the first time, on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” This year the finalists were announced on NPR’s Morning Edition.

How Are the Winners Chosen?

No one, not even the Foundation staff, learns who the Winners are until the day of the National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner, which takes place in mid-November in New York City. That afternoon, over lunch, each panel collectively decides who the Winner in their category will be. Often, this decision has been made ahead of time, but occasionally the panel works to come to a consensus until the very last minute. The panel chair announces the Winner at the Ceremony that evening.

What Does the Award Entail?

The night before the Awards, each Finalist receives a prize of $1,000, a medal, and a citation from the panel at a private Medal Ceremony. Immediately following the Medal Ceremony, all twenty Finalists read from their nominated books at the Finalists Reading. The four Winners in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature are announced the following evening at the National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner, where each Winner receives $10,000 and a bronze sculpture.

Then What?

Once an author has been a National Book Award Finalist or Winner, he or she becomes a permanent member of the National Book Foundation family. We do our best to keep in touch with both the authors and publishers, promote the authors’ new books and upcoming readings, and invite them to future National Book Award-related events. (nationalbookaward.com)

 

The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell

by Jason Paulios on October 2nd, 2014
The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell Cover Image

David Mitchell is my favorite writer and I was so excited for this book to arrive.  Like many of his earlier books (Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas) this is another novel broken up into novellas/chapters focusing on different characters that are interwoven to create a more nuanced tale. This changing point of view can be tricky because just as you find yourself settling in with a character it ends and you’re shuttled off a decade in the future and a different setting.  I thought it worked so well in Cloud Atlas, possibly because he brought us back to the characters through the second half of the book but probably more that it read like an audacious novel puzzle.  In The Bone Clocks I thought at least three of the stories either weren’t necessary or just lacked the payoff he meant them to have.

The story mostly follows a path around the life of Holly Sykes, beginning with her angsty teenage years living above a pub with her raucous family and ending in a all-too-believable post-climate change crash Ireland.  Her brother vanishes early-on and she finds out it is probably a supernatural kidnapping. She soon encounters various people that are sort of immortal, they are being reborn into new bodies but retain prior knowledge.  They are secretly battling another form of predatory immortals who have devised a way to harvest innocent souls in a special ancient church to grant extended life.

Despite my reservations about some of the chapters, Mitchell remains a master of language and character building.  There are many positive reviews out there for this novel (and a 2014 Man Booker Prize longlist nod) so it’s probably one to try if you’re a fan of Mitchell’s earlier books.  If you’re new to him, I would instead recommend the classic Cloud Atlas.

Not that Kind of Book

by Melody Dworak on September 26th, 2014
Not that Kind of Book Cover Image

Lena Dunham’s book, Not That Kind of Girl, was just published, and the Library is getting ready to put it on the shelves. If you are a fan of the HBO show Girls or have a ticket to her event at the Englert on October 7 but can’t wait till then to start reading it, place a hold on a copy today.

I have had the chance to flip through parts of the essays while cataloging it, and it’s been quite a treat. She’s like the even-more-feminist David Sedaris.

New Crafting Books at ICPL.

by Beth Fisher on September 25th, 2014
New Crafting Books at ICPL. Cover Image

ICPL’s 3rd Annual Arts and Crafts Bazaar is coming up in December, and we’re taking donations now.   If you’d like to make something to donate to the bazaar, but need some suggestions, there are a lot of great new crafting books on the New Book shelves on the 2nd floor.  The books below were on the shelf this morning:

DIY Mason Jars – 35 Creative Crafts & Projects for the Classic Container by Melissa Averinos.  This book actually contains two types of crafts – things you do TO or WITH  a Mason Jar, and novel uses FOR a Mason Jar. From creating a vintage looking ceiling light to planting plants in them, Melisaa Averinos 35 craft ideas will fuel your imagination and your creativity.

beer craftsBeer Crafts: Making the Most of Your Cans, Bottle Caps, and Lables by Shawn Gascoyne-Bowman.   With eight pages of hints on how to work safely with cans and bottle caps, followed by 39 surprise craft projects, this is the book for you if you’re into both crafting and beer.   None of the projects look very complicated – from a string of beer can lights, to bottle cap jewelry, a bird house, fishing lures, and a cowboy hat made from a 12pack box – but they all look like fun.

duct tape discoveryDuct Tape Discovery Workshop by Tonia Jenny.  Duct tape crafts are all the rage, and not just with boys.  Duct tape is now available in all sorts of colors and designs, and crafters have come up with lots of great new ways to use it. From versions of the obligatory wallet, to shopping bags, lunch sacks,  coasters, luggage tags, and paint brush or knitting needle cases this book as lots of great ideas for using one of America’s most popular products.

never been stitchedNever Been Stitched: 45 No-Sew & Low-Sew projects by Amanda Carestio.  Not all fabric or fiber craft projects require owning a sewing machine.  Carestio has put together a collection of fun projects that, if they require sewing at all its a simple and can be done with a needle and thread.  One of her secrets is using fabrics with raw edges that don’t ravel like felt, fleece or vinyl.  And if you combine that with fusing, gluing, braiding, knotting or  tying you’ll have some cute craft projects good for both adults and kids (with some assistance).

 

 

 

Why am I excited about the Iowa City Book Festival?

by Kara Logsden on September 25th, 2014
Why am I excited about the Iowa City Book Festival? Cover Image

Recently I was in a meeting and someone asked, “Who was the first author you heard speak in person?”  Suddenly I was swept back to my junior high years and listening to Madeleine L’Engle.  I know there were author readings before that (I grew up in Iowa City and we had the amazing experiences of authors visiting our schools) but it was my memory of listening to L’Engle speak that conjured such a strong memory for me.  Not only was L’Engle the author of my favorite books (A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet) but she was an amazing speaker.  I didn’t want the program to end, and really wished I could have found a rocking chair, curled my teenage body up in her lap, and had her read A Wrinkle in Time to me … cover to cover.

I’ve had strong reactions to listening to other authors read since then, but nothing as powerful for me as that experience.  I love listening to authors because I always learn something new.  A couple years ago, at the Iowa City Book Festival, I had the opportunity to ask Robert Goolrick why he chose a story theme for one of his characters in A Reliable Wife.  His explanation was logical but sparked a reaction for me because I didn’t agree with him.  At an outreach program for the Library, I saw a person with dementia brighten up and connect with author Carol Bodensteiner over a story from Bodensteiner’s childhood about ironing.  Who would have guessed a story about ironing would awaken such a strong response?

Each year the Iowa City Book Festival brings an amazing group of authors to town and we have the opportunity to listen to them speak … and it’s free.  I can’t guarantee the programs will be as transformational as my experience with Madeleine L’Engle, but you never know :)  The Festival is a couple weeks away so there’s plenty of time to read a book or two written by one of the authors who will be speaking.  Here’s the list to help you get started:   2014 FESTIVAL READING LIST.

 

In Search of the Perfect Loaf

by Anne Mangano on September 24th, 2014
In Search of the Perfect Loaf Cover Image

In a job interview at a travel magazine, Samuel Fromartz was asked to describe his dream assignment. As an amateur bread baker and someone struggling to make a good loaf at home, he stated that he wanted to travel to Paris, work in a boulangerie, and learn how to make the perfect baguette. The result of that answer is this piece in Afar magazine, the title of “Best Baquette of D.C.” (Fromartz won this contest over many professional bakers in the city), and the first chapter of In Search of the Perfect Loaf.

Fromartz learned a great deal in the boulangieries of Paris, but it also prompted several questions. He wanted to know more about the history of bread, how leaven (sourdough culture) was developed, how flour was milled, how whole grain fell out of (and now back into) favor, and how wheat and other grains are grown. He explores all of these questions, traveling to France, Germany, California, Kansas, and small farms in the Northeast to gain information. In In Search of the Perfect Loaf, Fromartz turns these questions into an interesting exploration of the components that comprise bread. But this is only half of the story. Fromartz is on a quest to make great bread and he uses what he learns to adapt his baking techniques. The book is filled with several recipes of breads highlighting different types of wheat and whole grains. It is a fun book and might just help you bake the perfect loaf.

Waverley by Sir Walter Scott

by Heidi Lauritzen on September 18th, 2014
Waverley by Sir Walter Scott Cover Image

Until recently, the first thing that came to mind when Sir Walter Scott was mentioned is that he is one of the authors in my Game of Authors card deck.  When I heard about the exciting upcoming programs on Scott and his Waverley novels, though, I knew I had to read at least one of the novels, and I’m very glad I did.

Waverley; or, ‘Tis Sixty Years Since was published anonymously in 1814 to great acclaim; for the next thirteen years Scott continued publishing novels which were known as “by the author of Waverley” and he only officially claimed authorship of them in 1827.  Some of Scott’s better-known titles today are Rob Roy, Ivanhoe, and the long poem The Lady of the Lake.

Waverley often is called the first historical novel, and is about a young Englishman–Edward Waverley–who is posted to Scotland, and whose loyalties become torn between his English origins and the Scottish Highland clans in the Jacobite rising of 1745.  Scott is a terrific story-teller, bringing to life characters from all levels of 18th century society and painting beautiful pictures in my mind of the Highland lochs, stones and mountains.   I was prepared for the long, descriptive sentences but surprised—happily—by Scott’s dry sense of humor; I found myself smiling often as I read.  Reading Waverley now, as modern-day Scotland is voting on whether to separate from the United Kingdom, reinforces just how old and complex this quest for independence is.

Scott was a contemporary of Jane Austen and she had this to say about Scott and Waverley:  “Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones. – It is not fair. – He has Fame & Profit enough as a Poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths. – I do not like him, & do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but fear I must…”  I should have taken Austen’s word for it a long time ago.  And I will definitely read more of the Waverley novels.

Don’t miss learning more about Sir Walter Scott and the Waverley novels at ICPL’s program at noon on Friday, September 19th, and on October 5 at the Iowa City Book Festival.

Carcosa and The Yellow King

by Todd Brown on August 30th, 2014

King In Yellow

Fans of True Detective have heard of Carcosa and The Yellow King but might not know where they are originally from. I did not until Candice pointed it out to me.

Carcosa was first mentioned in the short story “An Inhabitant of Carcosa” by Ambrose Bierce in 1891. A few years later Robert W. Chambers used Carcosa, and a few other locations that Bierce mentions. It was in a collection of connected short gothic horror stories, “The King in Yellow”, published in 1895. Four of the stories are connected by references to a work of fiction also titled “The King in Yellow”. In the stories anyone who reads the this meta-book is purported to go completely insane.

The stories have a very gothic, Lovecraftian feel to them. They are tales of supernatural powers which are just out of sight and the madness that it brings. This little known book has influenced a lot of authors (as well as RPG game developers). Many authors have either mentioned Carcosa or expanded upon the Carcosa mythos. It has been used by H.P. Lovecraft and many writers of the Cthulhu  Mythos. Other writers like Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and George R. R. Martin have locations named Carcosa in their works.

Here is a short excerpt from the book within the book, hopefully it will not drive you mad. You may recognize it from the journal of Dora Lange, one of the characters from True Detective.

“Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.”

—”Cassilda’s Song” in The King in Yellow Act 1, Scene 2

 




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