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Console Wars by Blake J. Harris

by Brian Visser on June 16th, 2014
Console Wars by Blake J. Harris Cover Image

Console Wars by Blake J. Harris is a narrative account of the rivalry between Sega and Nintendo, the two video game behemoths of the nineties.  The book mainly focuses on the meteoric rise of Sega and the man behind it: Tom Kalinske.  Tom became the CEO of Sega of America in the late eighties, and turned Sega and its 16-bit console the Genesis from underdogs to market leaders.  Console Wars details how he pulled this off.  The history of Nintendo is also delved into, but, for the most part, they’re portrayed as the enemy.  As someone who owned a Genesis, I was surprised and interested in the inner workings of the video game industry.  I highly recommend Console Wars to gamers and anyone who grew up during the nineties.

The Stories Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

by Kara Logsden on June 9th, 2014
The Stories Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin Cover Image

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.

 

 

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

by Anne Mangano on June 3rd, 2014
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin Cover Image

Set in Washington State during the turn of the century, Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist gently unfolds the consequences of trying to make up for the past. Two teenage girls, both pregnant, appear on William Talmadge’s apricot and apple orchard looking for food. The girls remind Talmadge, a middle-aged, lonely, withdrawn man, of his sister, who disappeared as a teenager while foraging in the forest. The loss and love of his sister pushes him to provide for the girls, Della and Jane, and they take the help as long as it is provided from a distance. As Della, Jane, and Talmadge slowly become more at ease with each other and find themselves somewhat dependent on one another, armed men from the girls’ shared past show up at the orchard looking to collect the girls. Their appearance sets in motion another tragedy for William Talmadge. The majority of The Orchardist is how Talmadge, and those around him, cope with the consequences of what happens on that day.

It is a beautiful book, well-written with interesting characters. And  the narration and the setting allow you to get really lost in the story–a perfect book for the start of the summer. However, if you want to start reading The Orchardist now (and you should!), I recommend reading inside.  The gnats are horrible this time of year and they bite!

Making Music and Memories – Twenty Feet From Stardom and Muscle Shoals

by Maeve Clark on May 28th, 2014

I really like to watch documentaries. Independent Lens, American Masters, POV are some of my favorite programs on PBS and the documentary track at film festivals is what I find myself not wanting to miss.  I don’t know that I can even explain why I like them so much, but I do and when I watch ones that are really good, I like to talk about them.  And I just watched two that were exceptional.

twenty feetThe first, “Twenty Feet From Stardom”, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2014.  Director Morgan Neville takes us inside the world of backup singers and gives voice to those who sing behind the stars.  Neville  interviews  backup singers Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Claudia Lennear,  Tata Vega and Lisa Fischer about what it was like to sing with artists such as Joe Cocker, David Bowie, Tina Turner and the Rolling Stones. The singers tell their stories through interviews and clips from five decades of recording history.

The second, “Muscle Shoals“,  explores the creative genius of Rick Hall, the founder of FAMEMuscle-Shoals11 Studios, one of two competing recording studios, (Muscle Shoals Sound is the other), in the small Alabama town of Muscle Shoals.  Songs recorded at FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound include “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Mustang Sally,” “Tell Mama,” “I’ll Take You There,” “Patches,” “I Never Loved A Man the Way That I Loved You,” “Brown Sugar,” “Kodachrome,” “Freebird,” “Mainstreet.”  Hall brought black and white musicians together in the segregated south beginning in 1961.  Through interviews with Hall and recording greats, first-time director Greg Camalier chronicles the sound that formed the backdrop of much of the last half-century.  Camalier weaves the beauty of the region with the magic of music made in this remote southern locale.

The Iowa City Public Library has a fantastic collection of documentaries. There are documentaries that will make you laugh, some that will make you weep, others that will make you angry. “Muscle Shoals” and “Twenty Feet from Stardom” made me sing out loud.

 

For the Twi-Hards and other lovers of bloodsuckers

by Melody Dworak on May 27th, 2014
For the Twi-Hards and other lovers of bloodsuckers Cover Image

True Blood fans waiting for the final season to start on June 22 have lots of other vampire works they can explore. The recent spate of popular vampire stories has a rich past, and the curious can learn all about it in How to Kill a Vampire: Fangs in Folklore, Film, and Fiction by Liisa Ladouceur. Read the rest of this entry »

Who was Klondike Bill?

by Maeve Clark on May 17th, 2014

The Iowa City Puklondike bill3blic Library just added a fantastic new collection to the Digital History Project. Post Cards from Early Iowa City is a collection of 94 postcards from Bob Hibbs, one of Iowa City’s citizen historians.  One of my favorite postcards from the collection is from 1910 and is of Klondike Bill and his team of eight dogs and a cart in front of the Pentacrest.  Why was Klondike Bill in Iowa City with a team of dogs and where were they going?

I immediately googled Klondike Bill and found several of the Iowa City cards for sale on eBay, one for $99.  The next hit was to a book by Iowa City author, Lyell Henry,  Was This Heaven: A Self-Portrait of Iowa on Early Postcard. Henry writes that “When Klondike Bill, a colorful transcontinental itinerant, and his dog team reached Iowa City, a photographer snapped them standing next to the University of Iowa campus.”  Well that was a start.  I continued my search and found other postcards of Klondike Bill in other cities.  One in Ortonville, Minnesota and another at the McKinley Monument in Colorado and another in Sioux Falls, South Dakota all with his team of dogs and a cart.

The next step of my search tklondike bill 2ook me to newspapers of that time period.  There were many stories of Klondike Bill passing through towns on his way east, but few with specifics.  One article in the Escanaba Daily Press from January 12, 1912 in what must have been a wire story, tells of Klondike Bill arriving in Chicago on January 11, 1912 “with a combination of wagon and sleigh and seven dogs traveling from Nome, Alaska to Washington, D.C., on a wager… “Klondike Bill” refused to tell much of his trip, but said he would win considerable money if he reached the capital by a certain date, and added that he was several days ahead of his schedule.  Another article from the El Paso Herald  from January 26, 1912 sheds more light on Klondike Bill.  We  see Klondike Bill with what looks to be a very unhappy dog and learn that his name was William Buchanan and that the wager was for $100,000.00, a mighty sum for 1912. Also included is a photograph of his possible fiance, Miss Rose Maegerin.

But there the trail grew cold, at least for now.

Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

by Kara Logsden on May 15th, 2014
Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear Cover Image

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.

Friday Night Concerts Begin THIS WEEK!

by Kara Logsden on May 13th, 2014

2014 05 FezLet the SUMMER begin in Downtown Iowa City! Summer of the Arts’ “Friday Night Concert Series” kicks off this Friday May 16 with The Fez.

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 :)

Time to show our teachers some love!

by Candice Smith on May 6th, 2014
Time to show our teachers some love! Cover Image

Cinco de Mayo has come and gone, but don’t worry, there is still reason to celebrate this week…today is National Teacher Day! The National Education Association urges folks to take the time to thank a teacher today, and I think it’s a great idea! Of course, I might be a little biased due to the fact that I  am married to a teacher, but I am also wise enough to recognize that I wouldn’t be here today, with a great job and an active mind, if I hadn’t had the support of dedicated teachers through all my years of schooling (or, as my Mother is fond of saying, my many, many years of schooling). This is something to be thankful for.

I think it’s especially important now, when there is so much talk about what is wrong with the education system, and long lists of ‘schools in need of assistance,’ to remember what our individual teachers do. They put in a great deal of effort to provide students with life skills and reasoning capabilities, and they prepare their students to go out into the world. It can be a stressful and very time-consuming job, but teachers keep teaching because they find value in it, and because they care.

I think many people who go into teaching do it because they had a teacher who made a great impact in their life. Maybe there is a teacher in your past who made a difference, or maybe your child has a teacher right now who does their job really well…thank them if you can!

If you want to take a look at what some of our teachers are doing in their classrooms to make a difference, check out American Teacher: Heroes In the Classroom. It’s a beautiful book, and very inspiring.

inFamous: Second Son

by Brian Visser on May 1st, 2014

secondsonps4jpg-88473fOne of the first things that you’re asked to do in inFamous: Second Son is hold the controller sideways, shake it and create street art on a billboard.  The speaker on the PS4 controller even produces the click-clack sound of a spray paint can.  Little details like this are found throughout inFamous: Second Son, a third-person, open world action game for the Playstation 4.

You play as Delsin Rowe, a likable jerk, who discovers that he is a “Conduit,” a superhuman capable of controlling certain elements and materials.  Delsin’s first power is over smoke, which might not sound cool, but imagine being able change into smoke, enter a vent and quickly travel to the top of a building.  Delsin is on a mission to take down Brooke Augustine, the director of the Department of Unified Protection (D.U.P).  The D.U.P. has taken over Seattle, and it’s up to you to systematically clear them out.  You do this by destroying their mobile control posts.  The combat is fun and fast-paced.  

As you progress through the story, you acquire new powers including neon and video.  Each power has its own feel and skill set.  Neon is all about precision, while video is brute force.  The separate powers have different styles of locomotion too.  With smoke you dash from place to place, neon is super speed and video is short distance teleportation.  Getting around is one of the best parts of the game.  inFamous: Second Son is all about empowering the player and choosing whether to be good or evil.  I chose to be good.  I wonder what you’ll choose?