From the Shelves

New Urban Fantasy on OverDrive/Libby

by Melody Dworak on February 26th, 2018
New Urban Fantasy on OverDrive/Libby Cover Image

Those of us who use Libby regularly may have noticed that there have been some new fantasy books on the “just added” list. I’m happy to spread the news that our fiction buyer has gotten us several Helen Harper books. Helen Harper is an independent author from the UK who writes excellent series books in the urban fantasy genre. I first learned of her through the podcast Smart Podcast Trashy Books, which is hosted by a popular blog that reviews romance books.

Keeping with urban fantasy tradition, Harper’s books have strong female protagonists, as well as more alpha males than you can shake a stick at. I have yet to read her Blood Destiny series but I have made it through the 3 audiobooks for the Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic series. I will warn you that she likes bad jokes and puns, and for me that makes the series more lighthearted and fun. Read the rest of this entry »

Books About Fathers

by Heidi Lauritzen on February 21st, 2018

I have just finished two special books about fathers and highly recommend both. I took them home because of the titles: “An Odyssey” (I was a Classics major), and “The Wine Lover’s Daughter” (I do enjoy a glass of wine). While I learned much about Odysseus, and about Clifton Fadiman and wine, mostly I was touched by the relationships between the adult children and their fathers who are the subjects of these memoirs.

Author Daniel Mendelsohn is a classicist who teaches literature at Bard College. “An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and An Epic” is about the semester his 81-year-old research scientist father joins his seminar on Homer’s Odyssey.  The elder Mendelsohn provides commentary in class that often is in stark contrast to that of the young undergraduates–and frequently in opposition to his son’s professorial ideas as well.  After the seminar, the father and son decide to join an educational Mediterranean cruise that traces Odysseus’s homeward journey. The book blends the telling of these two experiences as it takes us through the Odyssey, and is rich in emotion and humor. Their adventure will remind sons and daughters that there likely are many facets of their parents’ lives that are unknown to them, until the circumstances are right to hear the stories. You need not have read the tale of Odysseus to enjoy this book, although if you have studied the Odyssey you will probably come away with some fresh insights about it.

In the book’s introductory chapter, Mendelsohn says “it is a story, after all, about strange and complicated families…about a husband who travels far and a wife who stays behind…about a son who for a long time is unrecognized by and unrecognizable to his father, until late, very late, when they join together for a great adventure…a story, in its final moments, about a man in the middle of his life, who at the end of this story falls down and weeps because he has confronted the spectacle of his father’s old age, the specter of his inevitable passing…”  He is speaking of Odysseus, and his son and father, but we also will learn that it is about something much closer to home.

Anne Fadiman is the wine lover’s daughter, and this is a book about her relationship with her father Clifton Fadiman. Although she is the well-known author of Ex Libris and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, her father perhaps was even more famous in his time: an editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster, book critic for The New Yorker, a Book of the Month Club judge for forty years, and emcee of the NBC radio quiz show Information Please. And from an early age, he also educated himself about wine and began creating a wine cellar that ultimately reflected his extensive knowledge and savvy acquisitions. He co-authored two editions of The Joys of Wine.

Clifton Fadiman came to all of this through relentless hard work, and a quest for self improvement that would raise him above his humble beginnings in Brooklyn, New York and life with his parents, recent immigrants. He studied how to speak without an accent, how to dress, how to eat, and what to drink. Despite his successes, he never felt entirely comfortable that he had achieved the level of society that he wished for.

The love he showed his children is evident however:  he nurtures the talents in his children, and generously teaches them about wine.  Anne Fadiman’s burden is that she doesn’t really enjoy wine, although she desperately wants to in order to please her father. A fun thread of the book describes her efforts to determine scientifically why she doesn’t like wine. And while there is an element of competition with him in her early writing career, it seems primarily self-imposed and she always credits him with influencing her to be a reader and writer.

And what can be better than books and wine? Fadiman writes “My father had long associated books and wine: they both sparked conversation, they were both a lifetime project, they were both pleasurable to shelve, they were the only things he collected. The Joys of Wine called wine cellars ‘wine libraries’.”

Like Mendelsohn’s book, this also is about an adult child coming to terms with an aging father, learning that father’s full story, and sharing much love and warmth along the way.

 

Fantastic Embroidery Projects and Where to Find Them

by Mari Redington on February 15th, 2018

I have always been a craft dabbler. In high school I learned how to sew when I made Juliet’s dress for my final project during Romeo & Juliet. It was the one of the dresses in the class that looked “mom interference-free.” Collaging in college. I’ve made exactly 1 quilt. I learned how to knit but for me it was not the relaxing pastime advertised.  My latest craft dabble has been embroidery, which was a past hobby revived after I attended embroidery classes offered at the library this past fall. This hobby has seemed to stick longer than most, and I thought I would share some great resources I’ve come across over the past few months. Hand embroidery has recently become modernized and popular again. It translates really well from drawings and paintings and offers lots of options to express sentiments and pop culture references. If it can be drawn or traced, it can be embroidered. Supplies are inexpensive and easy to obtain at craft stores and even second-hand stores. I hand embroidered personalized gift for friends and family for the holidays. Since I’ve started posting pictures of works-in-progress and finished pieces on Instagram, a lot of my friends have told me that I have inspired them to pick up the hobby.

Getting Started:

There are over 200 different kinds of embroidery stitches, but most projects only require knowledge of the basics. Craftsy has a great tutorial offering instructions with pictures of the top ten most commonly used stitches.

My favorite way to learn a new stitch is to watch a YouTube video and stitch along. That way I can pause, start over, and repeat until I have the stitch mastered. The YouTube channel I frequent the most is Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘n Thread. Her videos show the stitch clearly, at a good pace, and she offers tips as she goes. 

 

 

 

 

A great place to start for patterns is DMC.com. They offer over 250 free patterns with tutorials ranging from beginner to advanced. DMC is a popular thread company, so you can easily “Buy the Kit” to order the thread needed to complete the pattern. DMC patterns are made from collaborations with artists, and new patterns are added every week. I have close to a dozen patterns saved that I hope to create eventually! Read the rest of this entry »

A Murder of Crows

by Beth Fisher on February 11th, 2018
A Murder of Crows Cover Image

One thing I like most about Facebook is how one comment can lead to a great discussion.  A few days ago a friend commented that she loved seeing “wheeling flocks of birds in the sky.”  Someone then mentioned seeing a murmuration of Starlings on a recent drive from Muscatine to Iowa City. Another friend then asked if a murmuration refers only to Starlings (it does) and what a group of Pigeons would be called?  (Pigeons can be a flight, a flock or a kit.)

British artist, illustrator and author Matt Sewell’s newest book A Charm of Goldfinches And Other Wild Gatherings is a wonderfully illustrated guide to many of the group names humans give to members of the animal kingdom.

In the introduction, Sewell states that many of the phrases he has included in his book are hundreds of years old or older,  many found in The Book of Saint Albans (The Boke of Seynt Albans.) Printed originally in 1486, versions of The Book of Saint Albans were reprinted many times, under many names, over the next 400 years.  The original was reproduced as The Boke of St Albans, with an introduction by William Blades, in 1881.

A Charm of Goldfinches contains more than 50 animal groups, each with Sewell’s beautiful watercolor illustrations and a half-page discussion of how the names came to be.  Sewell lives in Great Britain, so a few of the species listed, such as Lapwings, are not found in North America.

There are some groups that most people are familiar with – a pod of dolphins, a pride of lions, or a murder of crows.  Here are few to test your knowledge:

 

A shiver of ________.

A _______ of crocodiles.

A parliament of ______.

A ________ of foxes.

A cloud of ________.

 

To find the answers you’ll have to check out the book!

 

Help for those suffering gardening withdrawal: Houseplants

by Beth Fisher on February 8th, 2018
Help for those suffering gardening withdrawal: Houseplants Cover Image

February. Even the word is cold. Winter can seem awfully long in the Midwest.  Especially when we get teased by a January thaw.  But there’s no getting around it – it’s still winter, and I’m starting to go through gardening withdrawal.  I’m ready for spring. After 25 years in Iowa however,  I’ve finally learned not to jump the season and just ignore the January thaw. I know I have to wait until at least April or early May for spring and gardening season.  But my hands are still itching to get back in the dirt.

Thankfully there is a way I can curb that itch: Houseplants.  Caring for my indoor plants – including dividing or repotting gives me a little taste of gardening to hold me over.  ICPL has quite a few new houseplant books to help me (and others) get through the winter.  So many in fact, that I’m going to break this into two posts:  Houseplants and Cacti & Succulents.

Houseplants: the complete guide to choosing, growing, and caring for indoor plants by Lisa Eldred Steinkopf.   This is a great book for anyone with houseplants. A well written easy to follow guide, it begins with a section on the basics of houseplant care.  What I liked most about this book is how the 150+ plant profiles in the second half of the book. She has grouped them into 3 categories: Easy to Grow Moderately Easy and Challenging. Each category starts with multiple pages of thumbnail images to help you figure out what plant you have.  Each plant profile has the common as well as botanical Latin name, a description, the plant’s light and water requirements, propagation methods and cultivars.

 

Happy Houseplants: 30 lovely varieties to brighten up your home written and illustrated by Angela Staehling.  Combining her love of houseplants and illustration, Staehling has created a great beginners guide to 30  of her favorite easy to find and easy-to-grow houseplants. She starts with the tools and materials you’ll need to work with houseplants and follows with plant profiles. From African Violets to Zebra Cactus the 30 plants she as included give beginners a great place to start.

 

 

 

 

 

How Not To Kill Your Houseplant: Survival Tips for the Horticulturally Challenged by Vernoica Peerless. The title is not just a hook – Peerless has written a great guide for those of us who for one reason or another have no luck with houseplants.  Too much of the wrong kind of love or not enough of the right kind of light – there are many things that lead to plant demise. This book is helpful even If you’re not sure what type of plant you have.  The book begins with close to 200 plant thumbnails to help you figure out what you have.  But what if you’re thinking about buying your first plant?  Read the first few pages of this book first.  She’ll give you things to look for in your potential new plant – plant size, soil and root condition, pests – all the things you should consider before buying a plant.  Then you’ll find quick information about the basics: water, food, light, repotting and pests to watch out for.  Then you get to the wonderful main section of the book – the plant profiles  She breaks it down into the basic care “How Not to Kill It” things to watch out for, and what she calls “Share the Care:” suggestions for one or two other houseplants that have very similar requirements.

 

 

Shot through the [symbol of courtly love and religious devotion] heart…

by Candice Smith on February 6th, 2018
Shot through the [symbol of courtly love and religious devotion] heart… Cover Image

and you’re to blame. Yes, you.

Valentine’s Day is coming up, when we remember and give thanks for two early Christians in Rome, both named Valentine, both martyred for their beliefs. You don’t do that? Maybe you write saccharine poetry to the object of your unrequited love? No? Perhaps you buy a card and some candy, make reservations somewhere fancy or make a nice meal, and use the day to test the waters or reaffirm your love. And all of it–the cards, the candy, the poems, the napkins and candles, the ill-advised matching tattoos–is covered in little red hearts. Why?

It seems obvious, right? The heart is the physical seat of our emotions. It’s the tell-tale organ that gives lie to our calm composure, regardless of whether our heart is bursting with the excitement of love, or breaking under corrected expectations. The heart soars, it plummets, it races along, and it aches, all in time with our lives of love. The heart, as symbol of that love, is the OG emoji. How OG? Read the rest of this entry »

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra by Kieron Gillen

by Brian Visser on January 31st, 2018

I read a lot of Star Wars comics.  A lot.  I blogged in the past about my favorite title, Star Wars: Darth Vader, which ended in 2016.  Star Wars: Doctor Aphra is a sequel of sorts.  Doctor Aphra is a character who was introduced in Star Wars: Darth Vader, and Star Wars: Doctor Aphra takes place after the end of that series.

Doctor Aphra is an archaeologist who worked for Darth Vader (before he tried to kill her).  Aphra brings along the supporting cast from Star Wars: Darth Vader–two assassin droids, Beetee and Triple-Zero (my favorites!) and Black Krrsantan, a Wookiee bounty hunter.  In this first volume, we learn more about Aphra’s history and meet some people from her past.  Also, Aphra owes just about everyone money, and there’s a lot of double-crossing.  She’s just a woman trying to make her way in the galaxy, you know?

It’s hard to introduce an original character into the Star Wars universe and have them fit naturally, but writer Kieron Gillen did a phenomenal job of creating one in Aphra.  She’s anti-hero that you can’t help but love.  Seriously, give her a spin-off movie or something.  I really dig Kev Walker’s art in it too.  Star Wars: Doctor Aphra is an easy recommendation for someone who read and liked Star Wars: Darth Vader.  I’d recommend both titles to any Star Wars fan!

Talk About Something Pleasant, with B.Y.O.Book

by Candice Smith on January 17th, 2018
Talk About Something Pleasant, with B.Y.O.Book Cover Image

Like books? Like bars? Like good food and drink, and lively conversation? Then you might want to join us at our next BYOBook meet-up! We’re meeting on Tuesday, February 6, at Basta Pizzeria Ristorante, starting at 6:30 p.m.

We will be discussing Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, which was one of the New York Times Book Review’s top ten books of 2014. In it, Chast recounts the time spent caring for her ailing, elderly parents, and the NYT describes it as “a beautiful book, deeply felt…about what it feels like to love and care for a mother who has never loved you back…and achingly wistful about a gentle father who could never break free of his domineering wife and ride to his daughter’s rescue.” If that doesn’t convince you (and it might not, I know), the reviewer goes on to say that it “veers between being laugh-out-loud funny and so devastating I had to take periodic timeouts.”

Interested? We have multiple copies, both in our circulating collection and in our ebook collection, and more copies at the Info Desk on the second floor of the Library (stop in or call 319-356-5200 to check availability). You can register for the event in our calendar. If you can’t make it to this one, stay tuned…We’ve got Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters In the End on deck for March.

Rick Hall – Rest In Peace – Making Music and Memories – Twenty Feet From Stardom and Muscle Shoals

by Maeve Clark on January 3rd, 2018

I awoke to the news that Rick Hall had died yesterday. Rick Hall was the music producer and songwriter behind the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I learned about him while watching a fantastic documentary on Muscle Shoals,(see below), back in May of 2014.  If you haven’t seen Muscle Shoals, you should.  The library also owns the sound track to the documentary and many other cds produced by the FAME Studio.  And just like back in 2014 – 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.

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.

 

ICPL Top Staff Picks for 2017: Graphic Novels

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 30th, 2017

 

When you think of graphic novels, the mind often pictures superheroes. While individuals with extraordinary powers certainly are a familiar feature in these colorful tomes, graphic novels introduce us to real life heroes. They are inspirational, yet have the power to challenge how we think. The graphic novels released this year include bigger-than-life stories and illustrated versions of ordinary happenings that speak to everyone.

Our nominations for the Best Graphic Novels of the year include both children and adult titles. Children titles can be found in the Children’s Room.

ICPL’s BEST GRAPHIC NOVELS OF 2017

  • Pigs Might Fly by Nick Abadzis
  • Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
  • My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Volume 1 by Emil Ferris
  • One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale
  • Real Friends by Shannon Hale
  • I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina
  • Paper Girls, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughn