Librarian Ashley Weaver’s debut novel is the kind of cozy mystery I really enjoy. Set in 1930′s England, wealthy Amory and Milo Ames have been married five years and Amory’s charming playboy husband is still acting like he’s a bachelor. He’s just returned from the French Riviera when her old fiance, Gil Trent, looks Amory up and asks her to join him at a seaside resort to hopefully dissuade his sister, Emmeline, from marrying a cad, Rupert Howe. On the second day at the posh Brightwell Hotel, Emory finds Howe’s body, apparently pushed over a railing onto a terrace below. Lots of friends and acquaintances staying for the week are possible suspects, but Gil is the primary target of the investigation. Then Milo appears on the scene and things get complicated as Amory wants to clear Gil’s name and figure out if her marriage to Milo is worth saving. Another murder takes place and the group of secondary characters each have their own secrets and reasons not to be trusted. Red herrings abound and Milo’s reluctant assistance in helping Amory find the killer keeps the readers’ interest. The sarcastic repartee between Amory and Milo is amusing and the the reader will keep wondering who Amory will end up with, Milo or Gil. The clues start adding up for the detective, but will the mystery be solved before another murder is committed? The romance aspect of the story adds to a fun light read set in a lavish location and time period. I recommend this engaging mystery to fans of Agatha Christie’s books. This first novel would make a great series with Amory Ames as the amateur sleuth.
The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin is a fictionalized account of Mary, mother of Jesus, in her old age. This well-reviewed novella was published in 2012 and shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize. I did not read it at the time, but recently checked out the audio version read by Meryl Streep. It is a fantastic reading, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys listening to books on disc.
Toibin’s novella has Mary being coaxed by the disciples to share the story of her son’s rise in popularity and power, and then his crucifixion. The disciples have a larger message they want to impart to the world and facts that do not fit that message are conveniently ignored; Mary’s memories are those of a mother who has no agenda other than to raise and love her son. The clash between the two purposes creates impatience in the disciples and anger in Mary.
Meryl Streep brilliantly expresses the confusion, anger and grief Mary feels as she watches the sacrifice of her son’s life and the manipulation of the story in the years that followed. Streep delivers Mary’s short and clipped sentences, and bits of sarcasm directed at the disciples, in a way that is fitting to a woman who has little time left to tell her side of the story to an unsympathetic audience. Streep captures the weariness of the old Mary, still trying to make sense of what happened.
This story is not the Mary in popularly-known Christian theology. But if you are open to a different interpretation of her, Meryl Streep brings to life an intelligent, strong, flawed and believable Mary whose grief at the loss of her son is inconsolable.
Not only do wild flowers emerge in the spring, but wild animal young do, too. We’ve had questions about what to do when someone has found a nest of baby bunnies or a young robin on the ground or even a fawn without a doe nearby. Our natural inclination to think the young animal has been abandoned, but that may not be the case at all. Books on animal rescue and rehabilitation as well as websites devoted to wildlife suggest that the first step you take is determining whether the young animal is orphaned, injured or just fine.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) posted the article Leave Wildlife Babies in the Wild . “If you find an animal baby that appears to be on its own, don’t worry. Generally, one of its parents is nearby, watching. They’re teaching their offspring to be independent, and in the case of danger, some animal parents will take off in order to create a distraction away from their young,” suggests the DNR.
The Humane Society of the United States cautions that “unless the animal appears injured or in distress, there may be no need to rescue them.” They do suggest you follow up if -a cat or dog presents the wild animal to you; there is evidence of bleeding; there is an apparent or obvious broken limb; there is a featherless or nearly featherless bird on the ground or the baby animal is shivering or there is a dead parent nearby.
The next step, according to the DNR is to contact a certified wildlife rehabilitator. The DNR maintains a list on its website. If you cannot reach a rehabilitator, you should contact your conservation officer or animal control officer. If you would like to learn more about what an wildlife rehabilitator does, Talk of Iowa, an Iowa Public Radio program, recently hosted several rehabilitators and they shared their stories of helping return the young back into the wild.
I love the Iowa City Farmer’s Market. I grew up in Iowa City, so I have happy memories of going to the Market when I was young. My children have also grown up going to the Farmer’s Market and one of their favorite Saturday morning activities is breakfast at the Market.
We typically bring our coffee cups and stop at Cafe del Sol for a refill, and then take in the Market. Once we’ve checked out all the booths we wander over to Washington Street and scope out all the different choices for breakfast food.
Our final decision for what to order is typically based on what looks good and where the shortest lines are. My personal favorite is the breakfast burritos while my kids like the breakfast sandwiches that use pancakes as the outer layer and yummy eggs and other fillings in the middle.
Once we have our food, we typically pull up a seat on the curb and people watch. We always see lots of friends so it turns into a social occasion too.
A trip to the Market would also not be complete without our beloved kolaches. I grew up with a Czech grandmother who made the best kolaches in the world, so finding a good kolache is a real treat. My favorites are poppy seed while my family prefers apricot, cherry, and peach. We all agree the prune kolaches are to be avoided.
Writing this blog post inspired me to investigate the books about Czech cooking at the Library. I found many awesome selections at the call number 641.59437. One book has recipes for poppy seed and cheese filling as well as the dreaded prune filling.
It’s so exciting to welcome the Iowa City Farmer’s Markets back into our weekly routine. I look forward to the food, fun and meeting friends. See you at the Market!
Lisa Lutz’s new novel is different from her previous novels, and yet the same. Lutz is known for her quirky characters, fast moving pace, and unanticipated plot twists. The difference with this novel is the characters – the characters are more developed and real. Half way through the book I realized I cared about the characters and their story.
How to Start a Fire is about three college friends and the paths their lives take. The story develops by revealing events between 1993 and 2014. Reading the book is like river rafting. Sometimes there are rapids and the rafter has to pay attention while other times the river meanders and the rafter can relax and enjoy the scenery. Ultimately the book is about friendship, loyalty, choices, forgiveness, accountability and expectations about life.
I thoroughly enjoyed the new Lisa Lutz novel and think it will be a popular summer title.
Erik Larson knows how to tell a story. In The Devil in the White City, he masterfully intertwines the story of the 1893 World’s Fair with that of H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who thrived in the growing city of Chicago. In the Garden of Beasts follows the diplomatically unexperienced William Dodd, a professor assigned to the post of American Ambassador to Germany as the National Socialist Party rose to power. Larson’s latest book, Dead Wake: the last crossing of the Lusitania is another fascinating story told well.
There are many ways to tell this one. There’s the conspiracy angle. Did Britain let the Lusitania come along a German submarine because it believed this type of sinking would push the United States to enter World War I? There’s the negligence angle. Did Captain Turner ignore crucial information about active submarines off the Irish coast and not respond appropriately to the threat? Larson’s angle is that this story is about people. He makes individuals’ experience come alive on the page, whether it is the Lusitania’s passengers, U-20’s Captain Schweiger, or President Wilson in his courtship with Edith Bolling Galt. All of these stories are expertly woven to create a compelling and tense narrative that was hard to put down but just as hard to read. The Lusitania’s sinking was a terrible event. It sank it eighteen minutes. Almost two thousand people perished. As I began to know more and more about these individuals, the weight of their fate became heavier and heavier.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the Lusitania’s sinking.
The first season of the Daredevil TV show was released on Netflix last month. For the uninitiated, Daredevil is a street-level superhero who was blinded as a boy when a radioactive isotope was splashed in his eyes. His other senses were super-heightened and gave him a sort of radar sense. Comics, everybody! He became a lawyer (after he grew up, not some Doogie Howser nonsense), and also became a ninja. Yeah. He wears all red, but is basically Marvel’s Batman.
I inhaled the first season and was soon forcing it on others with a zeal. But it was over for me, and I had a Daredevil shaped hole in my heart. That hole was filled with comics. Brian Michael Bendis had a 55 issue, Eisner Award-winning run on Daredevil in the 2000s, and it has been collected into three Ultimate Collection volumes. Volume 1 is an excellent place to start if you’re looking for more about the Man Without Fear.
“Wake Up” is the first story in the volume, and it’s surprisingly low key. Matt Murdoch or Daredevil are not in it much. Instead the focus is on Ben Urich, the journalist who is heavily featured in the show. He’s investigating a young boy who’s catatonic after his father, a low-level Daredevil villain named Leap Frog, goes missing. Urich is sure that Daredevil has something to do with the boy’s current state and seeks him out. David Mack provides beautiful painted art for the story.
“Underboss” and “Out” make up the rest of this volume. “Underboss” has a new player in town trying to take out the Kingpin. “Out” deals with the fallout of that story, and the fact that the FBI learns that Matt Murdoch is Daredevil. The writing in all of these stories is top notch, and it’s complimented nicely by the fantastic noir influenced artwork of Alex Maleev. Seriously, the art is great. Check this out:
I highly recommend Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis Ultimate Collection Volume 1 and the rest of the volumes to anyone who is suffering from a Daredevil hangover.
Were you among the hundreds of people to converge downtown Saturday morning for the first Downtown Iowa City Farmers Market of the season? I lost track of the number of people I said hello to, including the Library’s AV Specialist who attended the market with her four-week-old daughter, as I browsed the stalls with a smile on my face.
It’s farmers market season once more.
Growing up in on the other side of the state (shout out to anyone from Webster County!), I had no experience with farmers markets until I moved to Iowa City in mid-1990s. My college roommates and I would visit the market after classes every Wednesday, during which each one of us would purchase something to contribute to our weekly roommate dinner. This is how I learned to cook using ingredients that weren’t prepackaged.
The Library wants to help you make your farmers market experience even better, which is why we created recipe cards promoting two things: ICPL’s cooking resources and the Digital History Project.
Did you know the number of cookbooks in our collection numbers somewhere in the thousands? With that many choices — not to mention our collection of food-related magazines and children’s cookbooks — you are bound to find a recipe to help you utilize the foods you purchase at the farmers market.
For those of you who love local history, we have access to some treasured family recipes thanks to the Digital History Project. Take time to explore what’s available and look through your own collection of photos. You may have something to add!
You can find the recipe cards on the Iowa City Farmers Market table. In addition, Library staff will be blogging about their farmers market experiences all summer long. Feel free to share your stories with us!
We’ll see you at the market!
Have you ever watched a video on Youtube, which then led you to another and another. Then you realize you have fallen down the rabbit hole. I sometimes do that with books. I will be reading a book which references a person, a subject or another book. So I will run out to the stacks to see what we have on that. This leads to having multiple partially read books, which I may or may not ever finish.
It started when I saw this author on one of the morning talk shows and ads for it kept popping up on websites. He suffered from PTSD, drug abuse and a lot of bad choices, leading to an on-air panic attack during a live news broadcast. The book is about his search for a way get his head on straight. Along the way he meets people like Eckhart Tolle, Depak Chopra, and Ted Haggart.
Full Catastrophe living
This is one of the authors and books mentioned in the previous title. Kabat-Zinn started the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, to help people dealing physical and mental traumas. I made it about half way through this book before…
The Obstacle is the way
While reading, online either about Kabat-Zinn or meditation in general, I found this title on the Tim Ferris book club list. It is a collection of stories about a lot of successful historical figures and they would turn losses into wins. It leans heavily on the stoic philosophy of Seneca and Marcus Aruelius. I actually didn’t read this, I listened to it in the car. I feel like I miss things because I am not entirely focused on listening while I am driving.
Meditations and The stoic philosophy of Seneca
A guide to the good life
Since I wasn’t going to read the previous two I thought I would at least try to find something else which would summarize their works. The cover looks sort of depressing but it really isn’t. It starts with a brief history of Stoicism, followed by general psychological techniques such as negative visualization and meditation. It also gives advice on specific problems like handling anger, dealing with insults, and death.
The Nerdist way
Reading through all of the above books I saw a lot of things which I thought would be helpful for teens, I have two of them. But I knew mine would not have any interest in investing the time in those books. I stumbled across this one which seemed like it might be a little more appealing to them. I don’t know if I would put them in the nerdist category, but they are both gamers so I thought that aspect might draw them in. Plus the Body section has illustrations of a bear with a headband doing exercises! It is divided into three sections Mind, Body and Time. I made it through most of the Mind section before I passed the book on to my son. He seemed interested in at least looking at it.
What if Colors were nouns instead of adjectives? These three trilogies explore the wondrous possibilities. In the first two listed below, colors are used as rankings in a social hierarchy. The last one has colors manifest as weather events affecting moods.
In 2009, Jasper Fforde stepped away from his Thursday Next series to write Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron. Eddie Russet is a lowly Red who can only see color in that spectrum, reminiscent of the Kim Anderson photographs so popular a while back. On the other end of the spectrum are the Purples, a royal color that surely means they are “destined to lead”.
I thought this book was outstanding as it was the first one I’d read to treat the rainbow in such a fashion. Every year I’ve anxiously awaited a sequel and, according to Goodreads, the next book in the Shades of Grey trilogy [AKA the Chromatacia novels] will be published next year.
- Shades of Grey (2009)
- Painting by Numbers (expected publication 2016)
- Gordini Protocols (2017)
The Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown also uses colors to define a person’s place in the universe, primarily through occupations. It follows Darrow, a Red miner on Mars, who discovers that he and others are being suppressed. Upon his “transmutation” into Gold, he realizes it is even more brutal at the top.
- Red Rising (2014)
- Golden Son (2015)
- Morning Star (05 January 2016)
The Colours of Madeleine trilogy by Jaclyn Moriarty treats colors a little differently. In these refreshing books, colors are whimsical but still have a material effect. The plot bounces back and forth between two separate realities: Elliott Baranski in Bonfire, the Farms, the Kingdom of Cello and Madeleine Tully in Cambridge, England, the World.
- A Corner of White (2013)
- The Cracks in the Kingdom (2014)
- Unknown as not yet listed on either Goodreads or her website
I invite you to enter these fantastic worlds where color means much more than just what shirt you wear. In them, you can imagine what color you’d like to be and discover which one you really are.