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A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear

by Katherine Habley on June 14th, 2015
A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear Cover Image

Jaqueline Winspear’s latest Maisie Dobbs novel is an intriguing mystery sure to engage readers even if not familiar with the popular series.  The title comes from a quote by Albert Einstein, “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”  Set in 1937 at the precipice of World War II, the psychologist/private investigator’s life has been turned upside down with the untimely death of her husband and subsequent miscarriage four years earlier.  After a trip to India to find solace, Maisie is still grieving and just not ready to return to London and her concerned father and stepmother.  She disembarks in Gibraltar where the Spanish civil war is happening just across the border.  There she comes across the body of a man, Sebastian Babayoff, while out walking one night.  He was a photographer and Sephardic Jew, and the circumstances surrounding his murder cause Maisie to want to find out the truth about his death. Having something meaningful to sink her teeth into helps lift Maisie out of her depression and suicidal thoughts. She begins her investigation in the British garrison town full of refugees trying to piece together the bits of information she gathers from Babayoff’s family and the Jewish community.  Complications arise when she herself comes under scrutiny and she finds herself being investigated by the British Secret Service.  The period detail is descriptive and accurate about life and times on “the Rock.” This novel will be appealing to readers of historical fiction and followers of the intrepid protagonist.

 

Is July imaginary road trip month?

by Ella Von Holtum on July 2nd, 2015

We’ve got a new display up in the Teen Center, seven books about road trips of all kinds. July seems like the perfect time of year to dream about road trips, even if you don’t drive. I didn’t drive until after high school, and I spent the years before my first vehicle planning the road trips I would take if I could.

The library is always a great place to work out these hypothetical travels. Come up to the second floor, head left to the main nonfiction collection, and you’ll find a wealth of potential adventures.

All the way down by the windows are a great place to start: aisle 29 has books about US states in case you need some historical inspiration, and aisles 26 and 27 have plenty of books about US Travel.  Call number 917.305 is all road trip books – they’re big and full of pictures and routes and ideas. For my imaginary road trip I’d pick Road Trip USA to start. From there, books are organized East Coast to West Coast. We, of course, are somewhere in the middle. I’ll probably grab the Compass Guide to Maine, because that seems like a perfect and far-flung summer escape.infi I’ve been to Maine already, but my imaginary road trip will take me there again. If you were dreaming of New York City or Florida beaches, those books are here too. ICPL of course has a bunch of books about Iowa travels, found in 917.7704. Nearby is Chicago – a totally feasible roadtrip and one I make regularly! But back to the far-fetched: the Infinite City atlas is an intriguing book of San Francisco. That was a city that was always at the top of my road trip list in high school, so I’d add this to my pile. Move along the aisle and I’m definitely imagining the World Famous Alaska Highway. That would be a long drive, but since it’s all in my head, why not?

Okay, since it’s all in my head, I should probably wander a little farther. A Map of the World: according to illustrators and storytellers is full of pictures to pore over. Or how about the Atlas of Exploration? Historical maps are so cool, and it’s fun to imagine wandering roads long gone. If you’re looking for even more flights of fancy, try the catalog search for a few relevant subjects: Atlases or Cartography yield lots of possibilities.

What I’d do next, now that I have my stack of books, is find a little table space, maybe over near the Teen Center. I’d spread out and start opening books. Now, I’m definitely a person who opens a bunch of tabs when I’m using the internet, but there is really no substitute for a pile of books all open to the most interesting pages. Maybe that’s why I always liked planning these imaginary road trips, even after I got a car. Plus, a wander through the library shelves is its own kind of fun.

 

cadPostscript: the road trip-related books on display in the Teen Center right now (for inspiration, perhaps?)

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray, Blood Red Road by Moira Young, Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, Cadillac Chronicles by Brett Hartman, The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour, The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski, and In a Handful of Dust by Mandi McGinnis

An Iowa Tale

by Mary Estle-Smith on July 1st, 2015

I have long been a fan of Jane Smiley’s work. While I haven’t read everything she has written, as I am sometimes not too interested in the  subject matter, she does tell a good story.

I am particularly fond of her titles with a horse theme including a recent series targeted to older children, and her Iowa based titles.

Her newest books are parts one and two of a trilogy.  I think of them as multi-generational family sagas.  The first book,  Some Luck,  begins in 1920 on a small family farm in Denby Iowa.  The story follows a couple, Walter and Roseanna Langdon, their children and extended family through World War II and into the early 1950′s.

some luck               early warning

 

The second of the series, Early Warning,  picks up in the early 1950′s and goes on through 1986 with a third generation of the Langdon family coming into adulthood.

Smiley draws characters who are multifaceted and just like real people,  sometimes you really like them and sometimes you don’t.  These stories can be read as a “light” history of the economy and evolution of  life on a family farm as well as the social and political climate of the times.

I feel like this family could have lived down the road from me growing up.  I can’t wait to see how they all end up in the next volume!

Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt

by Katherine Habley on June 30th, 2015
Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt Cover Image

Eleven-year-old Tate P. Ellerbee needs to write to a pen pal for the school year and her teacher wants her class to choose a child from a school in Japan so they will get to know someone from a different country.  Some kids hesitate because this story is set in 1949 and World War II is still fresh in the minds of all.  Glimpses of the prejudice and anti-communist feelings are obvious.  Tate decides she wants to write to Hank Williams, an up-and-coming country and Western singer she’s heard on a Saturday night radio program each week with her family.  Although the story is told entirely via letters Tate writes to Mr. Williams (and his only response is sending autographed photographs), she is not deterred because he never writes back.  Once you get past the idea that Tate never gets any letters in return from the singer (I would have found a different pen pal who wanted to correspond with me!), the reader will enjoy the narrative. Her letters are almost journal entries as she tells about her day-to-day life practicing her singing for a talent show, laughing with uncle Jolly’s girlfriend, and cuddling with her dog.  Tate’s parents are absent and she lives with Aunt Patty Cake and her Uncle Jolly.  We later learn that her actress mother is serving time in prison because of a bad choice she made and her father is off supposedly taking photographs all over the world for his job. Tate has not been dealt a fair hand in life but she is still a positive and upbeat character who loves her caring aunt, funny uncle, and especially her dog, Lovie.  Her annoying brother, Frog, adds an important element to the story, especially in the surprise ending to the book.  As Tate continues writing to a complete stranger, her personality and outlook on life unfold revealing a very real character with spunk, humor, and hope for the future.  I love historical fiction and have enjoyed other books by Kimberly Willis Holt so this story was a great choice for me to read and be able to recommend to 4th-6th grade readers this summer.  A tender, and at times heartbreaking story, this book will surely take the reader on a memorable ride in a by-gone time.

My post-vacation reading list

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on June 29th, 2015

A week ago at this time, I was … I’m not quite sure where I was. I know was somewhere on the East Coast, but after two weeks on the road, the days and states start to blend together.schulz

Vermont played the biggest role in my summer vacation. My family and I spent six days in White River Junction so our two teens could attend a week-long Create Comics summer workshop at the Center for Cartoon Studies.

(It was strange to wave goodbye to the kids as they left the hotel for class every morning while my husband and I got to explore. We tried to make up for it by bringing them back trinkets from our day trips, but our daughter has yet to forgive us going on the Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour without her.)

We used travel guides when planning our trip, but the quest for knowledge doesn’t end simply because the suitcases are unpacked. Now I’m browsing the Library’s collection for books to supplement the vacation experience, beginning with our graphic novel collection.

schulz2The Center for Cartoon Studies is home to the Schulz Library. Named after Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, the library is home to more than 9,000 zines, graphic novels, cartoon collections, etc. My kids visited the library to make lists of graphic novels they want to read, many of which can be found at ICPL. We also have several books in our collection by CCS alums, including Adventures in Cartooning by James Strum, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost; Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert; and French Milk by Lucy Knisley.

The tour of the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury left me with new-found appreciation for the company that started with a home study ice cream course. Ben & Jerry’s Double-Dip: Lead with Your Values and Make Money, Too by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield is now on my reading list. As you might expect, we bought a lot of maple syrup, so The Maple Syrup Book by Janet Eagleson and Rosemary Hasner will come in handy, too.

What books have you picked up after traveling?

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

by Katherine Habley on June 25th, 2015
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler Cover Image

Consummate storyteller Anne Tyler has written her 20th novel to great reviews. This is the story of four generations of Whitshanks who lived in a house in Baltimore beginning in the 1920′s.  Recounting her romance with Red that began on a glorious “yellow-and-green afternoon” in July of 1959, the matriarch, Abby, relates all their complicated lives full of love, jealousy, and secrecy.  The author touches on her insights into assumptions about class, gender, race and age and the story is told with humor and great dialogue.  Her family is now trying to figure out how best to care for Abby and Red in their old age and some wish to sell the old homestead.  The novel switches back and forth in time as it unfolds the family’s history and this may be a bit confusing for some readers.  The conversations, the stream of consciousness, the wisdom and wit all make for a great choice for Book Group discussion.  The three-dimensional characters are memorable such as Linnie Mae, Junior’s wife; Stem, Red and Abby’s adopted son who still feels like he plays second fiddle; Denny, who can’t be counted on and comes in and out of everyone’s lives bringing his young daughter into the mix; and sharp-tongued Amanda.  A Spool of Blue Thread is a story about family–the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Tyler’s prose is as touching and truthful as ever when dealing with a family in all its complexity–something most of us can surely relate to in our own families, especially those of use in the sandwich generation. Bravo, Anne Tyler, you’ve done it again.

When Good is So Very, Very Good!

by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on June 23rd, 2015

It’s officially summer and that means lovely weather and longer days!  Such conditions are favorable for reading these enthralling books.  “Just one more page” actually translates into missing my bus stop and an unexpected hike home.

Ready Player One cover.phpThe first culprit was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline in the summer of 2011.  To escape his awful Real Life, Wade Watts spends a lot of his time immersed in an online world called OASIS.  His goal is to locate an Easter Egg, an object much like Charlie’s Golden Ticket, that upon redemption will make him the heir to the eccentric founder’s estate.  After discovering the first key he must battle enemies, real and virtual, to claim the prize.  Although this novel is written by a self-proclaimed gamer geek, the pop culture references and intense action appeals to a diverse readership.

Scarlet cover.phpEach book in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer feature a well-known fairy tale character with a science fiction twist.  For example, Cinder (2012) is a 16-year-old girl with an evil stepmother and a life of drudgery. . . and part cyborg.  She lives in New Beijing where she meets Prince Kai when he patronizes her mechanical repairs stall.  The second book introduces Scarlet (2013) who lives on the other side of the world.  How do their stories intertwine?  When will they meet?  How do I get to my house from here?  Needless to say, the third installment Cress (2014) was read safely at home.

Loop cover.phpLastly, Loop (2014) by Karen Akins is not a run-of-the-mill time travel book.  In the 23rd century, the ability to move through time is biological and regulated.  Bree Bennis is a clumsy 16-year-old Shifter who, during an ordinary mid-term exam, accidentally takes a 14-year-old boy hostage.  When she goes back to try to fix the blunder, she doesn’t go far enough.  Finn is now 17 and “totally hot”.  To compound the situation, he then follows her back into the future.  Naturally, this messes up the time-space continuum and they must work together to save their worlds.

I suggest reading these addicting novels featuring debut authors and imaginative stories tucked away in a cozy place; if not, the friendly bus drivers give excellent girl directions!

Why I love Wednesdays in the Summer

by Maeve Clark on June 23rd, 2015
Why I love Wednesdays in the Summer Cover Image

I love Wednesdays in the summer because I know that when I get off work I can walk a little more than one block to the Farmers Market and find the garden of earthly eating delights.  I will not have to make dinner, not that I make dinner much anyway, (though I must confess that I love to read cookbooks and I do very much enjoy when others use cookbooks and share their delicious dishes with me, I just cannot get enthused about cooking).  Early in the market season I rely on the vendors who make food ready for me to consume on the spot.  Nothing requires a plate and can I pair my handheld tasty meal with a beverage made fresh at the market too.  There is always music playing, with chairs set up or a table if one might have purchased several items for dinner.

As the season progresses more and more vegetable are available.  And with vegetables like tomatoes and cumbers and basil I can make a pretty mean sandwich.  In fact, I think I excel at sandwich making.  But not everyone does, and if you are looking for help in the sandwich making area, the library is here for you.  In fact we have 25 books on how to make sandwiches. In The big summer cookbook : 300 fresh, flavorful recipes for those lazy, hazy days by Jeff Cox devotes a chapter to farmers market picks.  I would be willing, however, to offer a free tutorial.  And once you have your sandwich, (chock full of veggies so you don’t need a salad) and a beverage and maybe a dessert or two – you are ready to do one of my other favorite summer activities – picnic.  And guess what?  Yep, the library has books on how to picnic too.  saul

 

YA Displays help you sort out Summer Reading

by Ella Von Holtum on June 18th, 2015

We’ve got so many good books in the Young Adult collection that sometimes it can be overwhelming to pick something. Have you noticed the displays around our space on the second floor? These are a good place to start if you just can’t decide what to read next.

There are two tables within the collection that feature nine different themed bookmarks as well as book picks from each of them. Here are some of the books I’ve picked out for my own summer reading that I found on our bookmarks:

 

riotRiot by Walter Dean Myers: It’s been years since I’ve read one of Myers’ books, but this summer would be a great time to explore some of his titles in our collection. Riot centers around Claire, the daughter of an Irish mother and a black father, who faces some harsh realities in Civil War era New York City. This book can be found on our Historical Fiction bookmark.

 

shipbreakerShip Breaker by Paulo Bacigalupi: Bacigalupi is an amazing speculative fiction writer. I am looking forward to diving into this book about a teenaged scavenger in a futuristic world who has to decide whether or not to rescue a girl he finds in a ship’s wreckage. Find this and other titles on our Adventure and Survival bookmark.

 

girl geniusGirl Genius: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank by Phil and Kaja Foglio: This graphic novel, about a girl genius descended from mad scientists, sounds like a fun summer read. Find it on our Bio/Gear/Steampunk bookmark, and at  741.593/Foglio/Girl in the main 2nd floor collection.

 

huntressHuntress by Malinda Lo: It’s hard for me to pick just one book from the Girl Warriors bookmark. I’ve been eager to read this one since it came out. Summer is a great time for catching up on reading, and this story about two seventeen year olds on a dangerous journey to the city of the Fairy Queen is way up on my list.

 

terrierTerrier by Tamora Pierce: I’m a fan of Pierce, and I have been since fifth grade. I loved this first book in the Provost’s Dog series – Beka is a tough and smart hero, and she uses her police training to help the people in the lower city where she grew up. Despite its place on our Nomance bookmark (books that feature little or no romantic elements), there are so many rich human and animal relationships in this book that it’s utterly satisfying. It would be a great summer re-read.

 

pegasusPegasus by Robin McKinley: I’ve recently begun reading McKinley’s books, and am looking forward to this one, from the Here Be Dragons bookmark, about a world where human-pegasi bonds are the norm, but an intense one may threaten the world.

Honorable mention from theunlundun Here Be Dragons bookmark is Un Lun Dun by China Mieville – Deeba goes on a beautiful and frightening journey through an alternate London-verse and finds herself becoming a hero.

 

You’ll also see LOL: Humorous Books, Mystery/Thriller, and Contemporary bookmarks. We have an upright shelf which currently features some of the amazing books that have come out over the last year – both the Iowa Teen Award and Iowa High School Book Award have their own bookmarks so you can catch up on the good new stuff. And don’t forget to stop in the Teen Center – right by the magazines we have a display that changes monthly based on feedback from our Teen Advisory Group.

 

You may be stumped about what to read next, but we’ve got some places you can look!

Brassicas and the Wednesday Farmer’s Market

by rcarlson on June 17th, 2015

BrassicasI ♥ the Wednesday Farmer’s Market. There are fewer vendors and fewer shoppers so you can take your time and talk to the farmers. Or if you’re in a hurry, you can get in find what you need and get out all in a few minutes. Wednesday trips to the Farmer’s Market are super convenient for me because I am able to pick up my CSA box and deliver the produce that is donated from the Library Children’s Garden to Table to Table.

This time of year you can get a lot of lovely leafy veggies like kale and collards at the market. These kinds of vegetables are called brassicas and they are NUTRITIONAL POWERHOUSES. Not a fan? Give ‘em another try with fun recipes and cooking techniques featured in Laura B. Russell’s new book, Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables: Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More. This book will show you how to bring out the flavors of these brassicas without the usual boiling or burial under a blanket of cheese.

My new favorite go-to recipe for kale (or collards) is called Brazilian Kale. It’s simple: take a pile of kale or collards, de-stem the leaves and roll them up like a cigar. Next slice the rolls into thin strips. Mince a couple garlic cloves, then heat olive oil or coconut oil in a frying pan. Once it’s at a medium heat add the garlic for a few minutes (don’t burn it!), then add the sliced up kale. Stir-fry everything for a few minutes, then add a pinch of salt. So delish and so healthy! What’s your favorite brassica recipe?




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