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Judging a book by its opening sentence

by Stacey McKim on September 22nd, 2015

Trying to decide which events to attend at the Iowa City Book Festival next week? Check out our display featuring the first lines of many festival books, located on the 1st floor of the library. Here are some of my favorites:

  • BookFest2015display2In the face of calamity, the Colliers’ first impulse was to overspend at the bookstore.
    Tracy ManasterYou Could Be Home By Now

  • The happiest moment of my father’s life was finding his name on President Richard M. Nixon’s enemies list.
    Charles HavertyExcommunicados

  • Her name was Caitlin, she was eighteen, and her own heart would sometimes wake her – flying away in that dream-race where finish lines grew farther away not nearer, where knees turned to taffy, or feet to stones.
    Tim JohnstonDescent

  • If the rocks in this place could talk, they’d tell you to ask the trees.
    Tom JanikowskiThe Crawford County Sketchbook

Pretty enticing, right?  Most of the books that will be featured in the festival are currently checked out, though, so look on this display for earlier works by the authors who are presenting this year.

Toy Collection at ICPL

by Heidi Lauritzen on September 21st, 2015

puzzle It’s been a long time since I’ve had a toddler at my house, so when I got news that my three-year-old great niece was coming for a visit I knew I had to get my hands on some children’s books and toys.  The Children’s Room came to my rescue, with age-appropriate reading suggestions from Nancy and a rack full of toys in bags that I could browse.

I checked out four toys and six books, and everything got a once-over by my visitor as she unpacked the book bag and took the toys our of their plastic bags.   Alas, we didn’t actually read any of the books–I think we needed to get more settled than their short visit allowed–but the toys were a hit.

My selections were the Alphabet Balloons Puzzle, the Palace Pals Hand Puppets, Otis the Tractor Doll, and the Kidnoculars.  The puppets got a little bit of play and the puzzle was taken apart and put back together again with some help, but it was the Kidnoculars that were the big hit.  The plastic binoculars have 2x magnification and do not require focusing.  They are light, easy to use, and were perfect for scouting the yard for birds.  They also had to come along on a short walk we took down the alley.binoculars

The bags of toys in the Children’s Room are all listed in the catalog and check out for three weeks.  The labels on the bags give the suggested age range to help you pick out appropriate materials for the children you are playing with. The labels also contain a description of the contents, so you can be sure you have all the parts back in the bags before returning them to the Library.

The toy collection is great for someone like me, who needs toys only occasionally.  It also can be helpful for families with children and toys already at home by providing a way to try out new kinds of entertainment.  The toys are a popular collection so what’s available will be different each time you come in and browse the shelf.

Thanks to the Children’s Room staff for the great resources and help–youKimber with binoculars equipped a new young explorer and made this aunt look good!

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

by Katherine Habley on September 16th, 2015
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy:  Four Women Undercover in the Civil War Cover Image

The New York Times best-selling author, Karen Abbott, who wrote Sin in the Second City and American Rose, published another book that readers will love.  My Book Group read Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy for our September gathering.  It was a great evening because we got to Skype with Abbott for about 30 minutes and she was just so funny and personable.  We felt like she was right there with us having a great evening drinking a glass of wine and talking about her work of non-fiction that reads like a novel.  The four heroines in the story, two Union supporters and two Confederate sympathizers, each made a unique contribution to the war effort.  Young Belle Boyd shot a Union soldier in her home and became a spy for the Confederacy by using her feminine charm with soldiers on both sides of the war.  Emma Edmonds disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the Union army as Frank Thompson while infiltrating enemy lines. The widow, Rose O’Neal Greenhow, had affairs with powerful politicians and then sent information she learned through her daughter to assist the rebel cause.  And Elizabeth Van Lew, a rich spinster lady from Richmond who supported the Abolitionists, organized a spy ring with successful results.  Each of their narratives is a true story based on the author’s meticulous research using primary source materials and interviews with the spies’ descendants.  These four courageous women risked everything by becoming involved in espionage during the Civil War and yet we’ve never heard of them!  For an unconventional angle to further understanding of this bloodiest of wars, take a look at Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War.  The black and white photos and 3 maps add to the reader’s enjoyment of the text.  For more information, go to Karen Abbott’s website:  She would be a great addition to the 2016 Festival of Books authors.

God Save the Queen

by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on September 16th, 2015

QE2 Longest ReignA standard interview question is “Who would you like to meet and why?”  My answer for years has been Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – she has experienced many changes, both good and bad, and has conducted herself with dignity and aplomb.  On 09 September 2015, Queen Elizabeth surpassed the previous record set by Queen Victoria as the longest reigning monarch with 63 years and 217 days.  Like Queen Victoria, she is the only other sovereign to celebrate her 60th Diamond Jubilee.  This occurred in 2012 and many books and documentaries were released to celebrate that auspicious occasion.

Coronation cover.phpThe Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (2012) is an hour-long documentary that details everything from the planning stage through to the ceremony.  Since it was televised to the nation at that time, it is comprised of landmark footage plus interviews with actual participants.

Princess Elizabeth's Spy cover.phpShe is fictionalized in Princess Elizabeth’s Spy (2012) as a 14-year-old girl stashed away for safety, along with her sister, in Windsor Castle during World War II.  This book by Susan Elia MacNeal is the second in the Maggie Hope Mystery series.  Maggie is not happy to be posted as a tutor/babysitter, but when one of their group dies under mysterious circumstances, they discover a much larger threat.  “Lilibet” assists immensely in foiling the plot.

The Queen and I cover.phpIn The Queen and I (1992) by Sue Townsend, Queen Elizabeth’s “annus horribilis” becomes much more awful.  Due to a change in government, she and her family are forced to move into a council estate, basically a group of downtrodden duplexes.  The story chronicles their attempts to be “ordinary” people with poignancy and humor.

Mrs Queen Takes the Train cover.phpAlthough Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn was published in 2012, the events in the novel take place “several years ago”.  In a fit of nostalgia, the Queen decides to visit her old yacht Britannia, now retired to a berth in Leith, Scotland.  When members of staff discover she’s scarpered, they set off to retrieve her before the tabloids discover Queen Elizabeth’s disappearance.  It is a character study not only of the Queen but Britons of all sorts.

The Diamond Queen cover.phpLastly, I recommend The Diamond Queen (2012) for an intense, yet intimate, look at Queen Elizabeth’s life.  This three-part documentary follows her activities over a year and a half culminating in the 60th Jubilee festivities.  It also includes personal interviews with many other members of the royal family.

Like Halley’s Comet, take a moment to savour [sic] this once-in-a-lifetime event!

All the Single Ladies by Dorothea Benton Frank

by Katherine Habley on September 10th, 2015
All the Single Ladies by Dorothea Benton Frank Cover Image

Okay, I admit it, I picked up another quick “summer read” over Labor Day weekend….nothing too taxing for my brain.  I found All the Single Ladies on the adult New Book shelves and the cover image of the red and white life saver on a sea blue background caught my eye.  I’ve read a couple of Frank’s other books and really enjoyed them, so I thought I’d indulge in one more chick lit title.  Because I’ve been to the South Carolina low country and walked the beaches, I can easily picture the setting in my mind.  The characters are also interesting, funny, and somewhat eccentric.  The story is about three middle-aged women who form a bond after a friend dies of cancer.  Lisa St. Clair is a caring nurse who struggles financially, is lonely socially, and worries about her grown daughter’s marijuana business venture in Colorado.  She lovingly takes special care of her patient, Kathy Harper, and after she dies, Lisa becomes good friends with the two girlfriends always by Kathy’s bedside.  Carrie is one sassy beautiful woman always flirting and looking for a new husband.  Suzanne has inherited Kathy’s possessions and a mystery is involved as the three try and discover more about Kathy’s past.  Supporting characters include the elderly, indomitable Miss Trudie and whose beach house where Suzanne lives provides a temporary home for Lisa who is booted out of her apartment by a greedy property owner.  This ninety-nine year old lady is a hoot and dearly loved by her granddaughter, Suzanne.  Lisa’s surprising new love interest, Paul, is a wonderful guy who gives Lisa a better perspective on dealing with her daughter, Marianne.  And Harry is the director of the senior care facility where Lisa works.  The lives of the characters intersect and the reader is left pondering friendship, marriage, loss of a child, and aging, just as the women in the novel are struggling with the same issues.  This novel was an easy read that went down smoothly like a good mint julep enjoyed outside on the porch.

Dead Wake : The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

by Katherine Habley on August 31st, 2015
Dead Wake : The Last Crossing of the Lusitania Cover Image

Erik Larson, best-selling author of In the Garden of Beasts and The Devil in the White City, has written a new book of narrative non-fiction about the luxury ocean liner sunk by a German U-boat in May, 1915, off the coast of Ireland.  I knew a lot about the sinking of the Titanic, but realized that I really didn’t know that much about the Lusitania.  Larson’s unfolding of the maritime disaster that took 1195 lives at the beginning of World War I is chronological and from various points of view.  He draws on primary sources such as letters, log books, memoirs, telegrams and other documents to present a very detailed account of the fastest liner then in service and its captain, William Thomas Turner.  We also learn about the calculating German captain of Unterseeboot-20, Walther Schwieger, who gave the order to fire a torpedo at the Lusitania that ultimately caused such a devastating tragedy.  The ship left New York for it’s home port of Liverpool with many famous people aboard and the captain never imagined the danger that lay ahead.  The passengers heard about traveling through a war zone near England, but they made light of it as they enjoyed their first class passage on such a magnificent cruise liner.  We learn the stories about passengers such as Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat, female architect Theodate Pope Riddle, and suffragette Margaret Mackworth.  Larson also writes about such figures as President Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, and Kaiser Wilhelm and their roles during this critical time in history.  What I found most interesting were the stories of the people involved in the catastrophe; what I found tedious were the parts of the text that discussed submarine technology and other maritime facts that slowed the narrative down for me.  So many factors played a part in this epic tragedy that you close the book wondering, “What if…?”  Enjoy this 100th–anniversary chronicle of the sinking of the Lusitania.

Top 10 Reads

by Beth Fisher on August 27th, 2015
Top 10 Reads Cover Image

You told us what you read as part of the 2015 Summer Reading Program, and we kept track.

Click on the title to place a copy on hold.

The most popular book in this year’s Adult Summer Reading Program is also one of the most popular books of the year:  The Girl on the Train  by Paula Hawkins.   Three unreliable narrators set the tone for this Hitchcockian thriller. You’ll be drawn into the story not knowing who to believe or trust, just like the characters themselves. Rachel takes the train into London every day, watching the same scenery pass day after day, the same houses, the same strangers.  But are they really strangers? Is Rachel really just watching the story unfold?  Or is she hiding from something. Full of twists, turns and lies, The Girl on The Train will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

all the light we cannot seeWinner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize, All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr begins with the stories of a young blind French girl, Marie-Laure and a gadget-obsessed German boy, Werner, and how their lives evolve as World War 11 takes hold in Europe.  When their lives collide during the occupation of France, their stories intertwine for a time, and we see how the War led them down separate but converging paths.


paper towns Paper Towns, written by John Green (author of The Fault In Our Stars). This young adult novel was one of the top Teen Reads for this summer too.   Quentin “Q” grew up next door to  Margo Roth Spiegelman, but the older they got the more distant their lives became.  Shortly before high school graduation, Margo talks Quentin into being her partner-in-crime for one night of practical jokes and hijinks.  Three days later Margo disappears.   Quentin and two of his friends hit the road in search of Margo, following the clues she has left for them to find.  This road trip mystery rescue adventure became a motion picture starring Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne.


husbands secret The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty.   “For my wife, Cecilia Fitzpatrick.  To be opened only in the event of my death.”  says the 15 year old letter Cecilia found mixed in with her old tax documents.  She opens and reads it, expecting a sentimental message from her husband as it is dated just after the birth of their first child.  Little did she expect its contents to blow her world – and the worlds of two others – apart at the seams.



gone girlGone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.  This psychological thriller is the story of the marriage of Nick and Amy Dune. Both newly unemployed writers, Nick and Amy leave New York City and return to Nick’s home town in Missouri to care for Nick’s dying mother.  On their 5th anniversary, Amy disappears and soon people begin to suspect Nick in her disappearance.   The deeper into the story the reader gets the more we come to realize that both Amy and Nick aren’t who or what they appear to be.



tidying upThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Japanese cleaning and organizing consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again.  Following her simple idea of only keeping things that bring you joy.



longest rideThe Longest Ride, by Nicholas Sparks.   Two love stories – one a new love, and one that lasted more than 5 decades – intertwine in unexpected ways. 90 year old Ira Levinson is stranded in his car after an accident. His late wife Ruth appears to him and helps him stay conscious by recounting the stories of their 50 years together as Ira waits to be rescued.  Luke and Sophia meet at a rodeo, and the connection is instant. After four months together they realize their lives might be heading in opposite directions.  Returning from a long weekend together,  Luke and Sophia discover Ira and the accident, and stay with him until the ambulance arrives.  Talking to Ira about his 50 year romance with Ruth, Luke and Sophia look at their lives differently.


the martianThe Martian, by Andy Weir.   Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.  Now everyone thinks he was the first person to have died there.  But he’s not dead.  After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.



HP sorcerer's stonePublished in 1997, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling is the first in the series of 7 children’s/young adult novels chronicling the adventures of a young wizard Harry Potter and his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  H.P & The Sorcerer’s Stone covers 11- year old Harry’s discovery of his wizardly gifts and his first year at Hogwarts.



unbrokenUnbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand, is a biography of WWII hero Louis Zamperini, a former American Olympic track star who spent 47 days drifting at sea after a plane crash in the South Pacific, and then survived more than 2 years as a Japanese prisoner of war.

Moving Season

by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on August 18th, 2015

This one is for you, Mom.  As Iowa City residents know, it’s that time of year and, this time, I was going to be part of the chaos.  As I was talking about how stressful things were, my mom said, “You should write about this in your blog.”  At that time I thought, “Ugh!  I’m calling you as a procrastination or avoidance technique.”  But now that I have “settled” into my new place, I realized she was right so here you are.


39 Apartments cover.phpMoving Day cover.phpAccording to Jonah Winter, Beethoven had to change his address 39 times, including 5 pianos.  This picture book (2006) is filled with interesting facts and whimsical illustrations.  Reading it will make most moves seem quite easy in comparison.  The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day (1981) by Stan and Jan Berenstain depicts a more realistic undertaking.


Bromeliad Trilogy cover.phpThe Bromeliad Trilogy (1998) by Terry Pratchett features 4-inch tall creatures called nomes who originated from another planet; consider them to be alien Littles or Borrowers.  In the beginning, they live Outside but too many predators and a scarcity of food convince them to migrate to the Store.  Other nomes already reside there and allow the immigrants to stay.  Soon, through a “great and powerful” object dubbed the Thing, they discover the Store is to be demolished and they must all move again.  This trilogy consists of Truckers (1989), Diggers (1990), and Wings (1990).


From the Mixed Up Files cover.phpIn the classic book From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1967) by E. L. Konigsburg, Claudia Kincaid is bored with her life and decides to run away from home and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  She recruits her brother Jamie, primarily as a roommate to help with expenses.  They quickly settle into a routine when, one day, a mysterious marble statue of an angel arrives.  Jamie is ready to return home but Claudia is intrigued and refuses until she resolves the enigma.


How to Survive cover.phpHow to Survive a Move (2005) is an advice book that I had not actually read before my relocation, but should have done.  It is comprised of recommendations from everyday people who have already undergone that experience.  Some are amusing and some are “what not to do” but most are beneficial.  Keep this book in mind for the residence reshuffle next year.


Whether you are already established in your home or still unpacking boxes, take a break to read about various moves.  Finally, a humongous thank you to all my friends and family who helped me change my residence so I would still have enough sanity to write this blog.

Jalapenos @ the IC Farmer’s Market

by Kara Logsden on August 18th, 2015

Jalapeno Poppers are a family favorite and the Iowa City Farmer’s Market is the best place to purchase fresh jalapenos this time of year. Often these morsels serve as a meal at our house. Baked Poppers can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple days (although they rarely last that long at our house) and are delicious cold as well as reheated.

Jalapeno Peppers from the Iowa City Farmer's Market

Jalapeno Peppers from the Iowa City Farmer’s Market

We have many variations of our Jalapeno Popper recipe and often the final product is contingent on what’s in the refrigerator. Crumbled crispy bacon, goat cheese, and artichoke dip can all be substituted into the basic recipe for delicious results.

One word of caution: Make sure you remove all the seeds from the jalapenos. In general, Jalapeno Poppers are only a bit “warm” – especially with the delicious cheese to cool down the palate. Forgotten seeds can surprise the person eating the popper, though, so caution is needed if consumers are wary of hot food.

Here’s our basic recipe:

Logsden Jalapeno Poppers

Select fresh, large Jalapenos.

Cut off the top and split in half lengthwise.

Remove all seeds.

Fill with cream cheese.

Wrap with Prosciutto (we prefer Iowa-made La Quercia)

Logsden Jalapeno Poppers

Logsden Jalapeno Poppers

Arrange on cooking pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Check after 15.

If you are looking for summer recipe inspiration, browse our catalog or check out the many awesome books at the Library. 641 is the call number to get you started.

Let us know which delicious dishes you are creating from the fresh ingredients you find at the Iowa City Farmer’s Market.

See you at the Market!


Essential Oil Resources at ICPL

by Heidi Kuchta on August 17th, 2015

Essential oils have many uses to promote health, lift your mood, and act as helpful additives to household cleaners, body care products, cosmetics, and more. I’ve noticed some newer books about their uses here at the library, and have also noticed growing curiosity about them in my personal circles and in the world around me. Here, I highlight a few of my favorite resources from the stacks at ICPL. (To browse our large selection of books on essential oils and herbal medicine, go to the nonfiction section at 615.321).

Essential Oils for Health is a brand new book at a short length for the curious beginner who wants some basic info and easy recipes. The book is organized by health, emotional well-being, and beauty ailments. If you have a particular problem you would like to address with essential oils, you can easily find a quick and simple recipe in this book. (Dandruff? Cellulite? Bad mood? Low energy? Flatulence? Tobacco withdrawal? To name a few.)

Complete aromatherapy

The Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils also came out within the last year. It is organized well for the beginner, but acts as a quick and easy reference book for the seasoned essential oil user. Also, unlike many resources, this book contains an entire section on essential oils for the home. One of my first uses for essential oils was to scent cleaning vinegar after I jumped on the environmentally-safe cleaners bandwagon. My solution to vinegar stink has always been to add at least 20 drops of lavender oil to the bottle – as a bonus, lavender is naturally antibacterial and antiseptic. (Tea tree oil is great for showers and damp places since it is anti-fungal.)

Aromatherapy - Kathi Keville

While not the most recent in a spate of books about essential oils, Kathi Keville and Mindy Green’s Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art is my favorite. This book has a distinctly scientific approach. The newer edition came out in 2009 and is a simply fantastic resource – whether you are a complete novice or a seasoned essential oil enthusiast. The best thing about Keville and Green’s resource? Charts!!! There are some great charts that cover which oils are best for your skin type, for example.

Most important is the “suggested dilution” chart on page 44, because essential oils MUST be diluted before applied to the body. If you’ve ever gotten peppermint oil on your fingers and then accidentally touched your eyes later, you know what I’m talking about. If not, take it from me – essential oils can wreck havoc on the skin and mucus membranes if you don’t apply a little know-how to your applications, so be careful! 

National Geo

In closing, I would like to share National Geographic’s Guide to Medicinal Herbs. I love all things botanical, and enjoyed NatGeo’s wonderful full color photographs. While this book is not specifically about essential oils, most essential oils are made from medicinal herbs. Each herb in this book is introduced within a section that groups together herbs with similar uses (heart & circulation, digestive system, etc.) Aside from the great pictures, my favorite part about this book was the way it incorporated tidbits about each plant’s historical uses.

If you already enjoy using essential oils, feel free to leave a comment telling us your favorite book on the topic or favorite use for an essential oil or herb!