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The Story of a Crime

by Brent Palmer on July 24th, 2014
The Story of a Crime Cover Image

Many of you are fans of Scandinavian crime fiction such as Mankell’s Wallander, Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole and the girl with the dragon tattoo.  But if you haven’t discovered Martin Beck, it’s time.  There is a series of ten crime fiction written in the 60′s and early 70′s by a team of writers named Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö that are arguably the origin of modern police procedurals.  The side stories for the characters evolve over time, so it is best to read these in order. The books are well written and have a certain melancholy timbre that a lot of these Scandinavian crime stories seem to have.  They also have their own sense of time.  The stories will slow down to a crawl and you feel the long agonizing wait for some clue to surface.  Taking place in the 60′s, there is a Madmen-esque nature to the scenes as well.  LOTS of suits and smoking.  And being written in the 60′s, there is also an interesting leftist political thread that runs through the novels.  If you don’t happen to be a Marxist, that’s OK, the politics don’t get in the way of the stories.

The story behind the series is also intriguing.  [See this Guardian Article].   Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö were lovers and formed a family though they never married.  They planned and wrote all the stories together. They would trade chapters or sometimes take different characters. There were ten books over ten years, each book having thirty chapters.  They envisioned the ten novels as a cohesive set that together would tell the story of a larger crime: the decay of Swedish society.  The end of the series also coincided with the end of their relationship.  Per Wahlöö became terminally ill and died before the final book was published.

ICPL has the entire series in print, ebook and e-audio.

And the Dark Sacred Night

by Kara Logsden on July 23rd, 2014
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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!

Take the 5-in-10 Challenge!

by Melody Dworak on July 22nd, 2014

Think you can’t read 5 books in 10 days? If more than 2.7 million people can attempt the 30-day Ab Challenge, then a goal that only challenges you to find leisure time rather than workout time should be no sweat.

ICPL’s Adult Summer Reading Program asks you to either read 5 books between June and August or read 3 books and attend 2 SRP events. Why take this challenge? Not only can you meet the first SRP goal and get a free book and lunch on us, you can experience books you never would have thought to read otherwise. And you can mix and match!

Find the 5-in-10 crib sheet that follows. The idea is that you books in each category shouldn’t take you longer than a day or two to read. These books are also easy to pick up and jump right in whenever, so if you have downtime with coffee in the morning, or a 10-minute bus ride home, you can squeeze some reading time in. Read the rest of this entry »

Top Secret 21

by Kara Logsden on July 21st, 2014
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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!

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

by Anne Mangano on July 14th, 2014
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Cover Image

Europe during World War II is the setting of many novels and it’s really no surprise. Such horror, fear, and devastation create an environment ripe for personal conflicts, long odysseys, and overcoming trials on an unimaginable scale. And, as with anything, there are novels that use this setting to their advantage and others that fall flat. Anthony Doerr’s latest work, All the Light We Cannot See, works with the period very well and you would do well to check it out.

For the most part, the novel intertwines the stories of two young individuals from different sides of the conflict. There is Marie-Louise, the visually-impaired daughter of the locksmith and keeper of keys for the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Her father’s position aides in her curiosity about the natural sciences and she loves to read Jules Verne. Before the occupation of Paris, she is forced to flee with her father to Saint-Malo and there is the possibility that they are carrying one of the Museum’s most prized possessions. Or is it a decoy? Marie-Louise’s story is paired with Werner’s, a German orphan with an innate understanding of radios and radio frequency. His ability opens the door for him to attend an elite military school to work on special radio projects and prepare for working with radio units in the field. Of course, this leads him to Saint-Malo on a mission to find French resistance fighters using radio transmissions, right before the allies began a bombing campaign on the port city.

There are many surprising links between Marie-Louise and Werner before this Saint-Malo connection and Doerr reveals them skillfully. I also appreciated how Doerr played with time in the narrative, starting with the bombing of Saint-Malo and weaving in the back story steadily. Many novels work this way, but his was well-paced and structured.

I recommend placing a hold on All the Light We Cannot See, but if you need something to read right now, check out some other solid World War II fiction: Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise, Hans Fallada’s Every Man Dies Alone, Julie Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge or David Benioff’s City of Thieves.

Video Staff Picks – British TV and Getting the Body of a Werewolf

by Bond Drager on July 10th, 2014

Jason talks about a British mystery series you may have missed, and Melody shows that the library can teach you how to have the body of a werewolf.

True Detective

by Brian Visser on June 28th, 2014
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Anchored by terrific performances and beautifully shot, True Detective is so much more than your typical police procedural.  The story follows Louisiana State Police Detectives Rust Cohle and Martin Hart–played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson– as they are asked to recollect a bizarre homicide that they solved in 1995.  As they get deeper into the questioning, it becomes obvious that the investigation wasn’t as open-and-shut as it appeared.

The show has a deliberate pace that may turn off some viewers, but stick with it!  Give it until the fourth episode which has a six-minute tracking shot that will blow your mind.  Personally, I was hooked right away by McConaughey’s perfectly delivered nihilistic musings.  There are very few television shows like this.  I cannot recommend it enough.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

by Maeve Clark on June 19th, 2014

How do you select the next bcant weook to read?  For me it is often from reviews or blogs or when a cover catches my eye as I walk by or put a book out for display, but I think the best suggestions come from friends.  I just finished Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant because a friend recommended it and it is one of the best books I have read in a long time.  I was hesitant at first; Chast is the brilliant cartoonist for the New Yorker, but illustrated novels or memoirs are not my cup of tea.

Chast tells the story of her parents George and Elizabeth’s final years with drawings and photos.  It is funny,  laugh out loud funny – so funny that you want to find someone and read them the passage or show them the cartoon and have them laugh with you.  It is also heartbreakingly poignant.  Her parents have no desire to leave their Brooklyn apartment; their home since marriage. The home that Chast discovered  had become through benign neglect a hoarders paradise and more and more unfit for her aged parents. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant is about escape and return, avoidance and confrontation, about coming face to face with the reality we are all growing older and that our parents will not live forever.  And I really want to talk about it.  Please read it and let’s chat.

Baking with books

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on June 19th, 2014

I went a little crazy at the farmers market the other day. I bought the first container of strawberries I spotted and snacked on them while strolling the other tables.

I ended up purchasing two more pints to replace the ones I ate.Sallys-Baking-Addiction-Cookbook-on-sale

It seemed like a great idea at the time — strawberry season is never long enough — but then I had a pile of strawberries I needed to use before they went bad. I also forgot about the two pints of blueberries already in the refrigerator.

I didn’t panic. Instead, I visited the Library’s cookbook collection, checking out Sally McKenney’s Sally’s Baking Addiction: Irresistible Cookies, Cupcakes & Desserts for Your Sweet-Tooth Fix. I’ve been a fan of McKenney’s blog, also called Sally’s Baking Addiction, for years, so I was thrilled to find out which of her amazing recipes she chose to feature in her first cookbook.

Flipping through the colorful pages, my stomach rumbling the whole time, I found the perfect recipe for my strawberry and blueberry situation: Jumbo Blueberry Streusel Muffins. I added strawberries to the list of ingredients and ended up with a grab-and-go breakfast that made me and my family happy for several days.

I posted a picture of the muffins on the Library’s Instagram account. If you are on Instagram or twitter, please share photos of the great recipes you’ve made because of ICPL’s cookbook collection using the with the #cookingwithicpl hashtag. It’s the next best thing to a city-wide potluck!

Slices of Life

by Kara Logsden on June 18th, 2014
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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 mu1977 07 Kara Rabbitch 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 …