I’m just a week into the 2016 Summer Reading Program, but I am happy (actually, quite pleased with myself!) to say that I’ve got four activities in the works. Doing so many at once might not be the norm, but I’m confident I’ll finish all of them soon. Here’s what I’m reading:
Revival by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton. The story spans several days in Wausau, Wisconsin, where some of the town’s deceased residents come back to life. It has a dark, somewhat gothic feel to it, and it’s beautifully illustrated. This book meets activity ‘V,’ read a graphic novel or comic book
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. Bone Gap is a dull, small, midwestern town with some very mysterious places, if you know where and how to look. Finn and Sean are two brothers living on their own there, Finn a 17-year-old somewhat awkward kid with a couple good friends, Sean is his older brother who tries to hold down the home. When their friend Roza disappears one day, all of their worlds are turned upside-down in a multitude of ways. There’s an element of magical realism that gives a bit of a fantasy feel, but it’s a pretty serious YA book, with some violence and mature themes. This meets activity ‘T,’ read a young adult book.
True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray by James Renner. I first heard of Maura Murray from the Missing Maura Murray podcast: a student at UMass who has a car accident on a dark road, tells someone she doesn’t need help because AAA is on the way, and within minutes is gone, never to be seen again. James Renner comes upon the story while looking for something to focus on after losing his job at a newspaper, and gets sucked into the mysteries that surround the case. This book meets activity ‘Z,’ read a book only during your lunch hour.
Where are you in your summer reading?? If you haven’t signed up yet, there’s still time…stop by the Library and get ready to read!
Summer is here and for me that means time for reading and relaxation. At the Help Desk our patrons often ask, “What have you read recently that you really liked?” I love these questions because it helps me think about books and why I liked them. I thought I’d share my recent list in case you are looking for a good book for your relaxing summer reading.
I also discovered there’s a new name for one of my favorite genres: Biographical Fiction. I’ve always thought of these books as “Historical Fiction” but recently I’ve been seeing the term “Biographic Fiction” more and it makes sense. These are books with stories based on real people, but often the dialogue and other details are created by the author to move the story. Melanie Benjamin includes an interesting commentary about how she approaches writing Biographical Fiction in the Author’s Note at the end of The Swans of Fifth Avenue.
DC Comic’s The New 52 publishing initiative has come to an end. Grayson by Tom King and Tim Seeley was easily the best thing to come out of it. It follows the former Robin, Dick Grayson, after he was outed as Nightwing, killed (he got better) and recruited to become a spy for the organization Spyral. Comics! I’d describe Grayson as a crazy sci-fi, spy-thriller. King and Seeley took a lot of Grant Morrizon’s bizarre ideas from his tenure on Batman and ran with them. Dick is working as a double-agent for Batman in Spyral. Spyral has been keeping tabs on the superhero community and slowly figuring out everyone’s secret identities. Batman wants to know what Spyral knows and wants the once Boy Wonder to undermine their operations. This puts Dick–now known as Agent 37–in morally compromising situations. The book also has a sense of humor: I think of Dick Grayson as the Spider-man of the DC Universe–he’s a quipper. He knows everyone, and he’s fun. Even though The New 52 is done, Rebirth isn’t steamrolling everything that came before. Grayson is still relevant to the DC Universe going forward. Plus, it’s a great story with great art. I don’t know how newbie friendly it is. Batman Incorporated would be a good place to start if you want the background of Grant Morrison’s influence. Otherwise, you can start with The New 52 Nightwing then Forever Evil.
If you’re like me, you’re waiting patiently for PBS to air another season of The Great British Baking Show(or The Great British Bake Off as it is known across the pond). And if you’re like me, you’re baking your way through the wait. The show has inspired me to venture out of my baking comfort zone, exploring the shelves of the Iowa City Public Library for new and interesting recipes to try. The library even has a number of cookbooks by your favorite Bake Off personalities. So, on your mark, get set, bake!
Perhaps the best place to start is a baking book by one of the show’s judges. Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake acts as a primer on technique. The recipes here are pretty detailed, offering the how and why to each Read the rest of this entry »
Henry Cole has written and illustrated over 50 books for children including Big Bug, andUnspoken. His most recent delves into the realm of eye spy. Spot, The Cat is a wonderful wordless romp through a quaint urban setting. Readers follow and find a cat appropriately named Spot as he weaves his way through town. Parents and children will have a delightfully difficult time discovering the errant Spot and his pursuant owner.
I was excited when I checked OverDrive this month and saw new audiobooks in the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. I have listened to all of the urban fantasy audiobooks we have on OverDrive, so I was thrilled when I saw these books from a series I enjoyed show up when I was browsing the app.
Last week I burned through Shattered, book 7, and I’m currently listening to Staked, book 8. The series follows the adventures and blunders of 2,000-year-old druid Atticus O’Sullivan as he goes on different quests and fights epic battles. It takes place in modern times, and the author often entertains us with the story-within-a-story tactic. O’Sullivan is 2,000 years old, after all. He has tons of stories to tell. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve recently gotten into somewhat of a rut with cooking–but it’s a delicious, self-created rut. I am trying out different recipes for an Italian dish called cacio e pepe, which translates into ‘cheese and pepper.’ Simple, right? Yes, and no. Though recipes vary, the ingredients are generally the same: water, pasta, Pecorino Romano cheese, and pepper. You boil the pasta, grate the cheese, grind some pepper, then combine it all into a pan with a little bit of the pasta water. You end up with a well-coated plate of noodles. The not-so-simple part? First, deciding which recipe to use. I found at least five different ones in various cookbooks at the Library, all from well-known and respected chefs, several of them Italian, each one apparently saying that their recipe is the one to use. Some use the basic ingredients listed above, some add oil and/or butter. Some say that you should only use pecorino, while others also use Parmigiano-Reggiano or Cacio de Roma–all seem to use slightly different amounts. Some toss the pasta and cheese with a little oil or butter. Some sauté the pepper in some oil. Others toast the peppercorns in a pan before grinding. There is a lot of slight variation.
No problem, really, right? They’re probably all good, so just pick one and go with it. Then you get to the other tricky part, which is really the only thing you ‘do’ besides prep and boiling–the mixing. When it goes well, you get a nice sauce. When it doesn’t go well–and out of the four times I’ve made this, it hasn’t gone well twice–you get the dreaded clumpy cheese. The recipes also vary quite a bit here, with different ones saying what to mix the ingredients in (warm dish, warm pan, cold dish), when to add cooking water and how much, and how to add the cheese and how to toss the pasta with it. Seems trivial, until you try one way and your cheese turns into small bits of pepper-flaked goop. Luckily, it still tastes very good.
I made cacio e pepe a couple nights ago, and I think it was my best one yet. I used a recipe from Lidia Bastianich. It’s one of the simplest ones I’ve come across, so I wonder if I just got lucky. If you’d like to try your hand at mastering this deceptively simple dish, the Library has a wealth of Italian cookbooks for you to peruse to find a recipe. Let me know if you find a good one. Please.
But there was a chance that we would have never seen this film. The film angered a number of powerful and influential people, including media mogul and inspiration for the film, William Randolph Hearst, and film columnist Louella Parsons. Hearst put pressure on RKO, the production studio, refusing to allow advertising for any RKO films in Hearst papers and threatening to sue. When that didn’t work, he put pressure on other studio heads with negative press in exchange for those studios to put pressure on RKO. They even offered to purchase the film with the understanding that they would destroy the negative and all prints. Certain theaters wouldn’t show the movie. Hearst and Parsons printed any and all stories about Orson Welles. And no one caved. Hip hip hooray! To read more on this story, check out Harlan Lebo’s Citizen Kane: A Filmmaker’s Journeyor watch the American Experience documentary, the Battle Over Citizen Kane.
Yes, there is a lot of hype around this film and it turns some people off. Is it really as great as everyone says? Well, I love it. There are scenes in Citizen Kane that are works of art. It is almost unbelievable that they were conceived and executed so perfectly. If I was a director at the time, the film would have either made me want to quit or force me to be a better filmmaker. And, Orson Welles knows how to tell a story. So a good story, well-filmed and well-acted–you really can’t ask for anything more from a movie.
So Happy Birthday Citizen Kane! I am so glad we can celebrate, especially knowing that for $805,000 ($13 million today), the other studios would have been happy to take the film off RKO’s hands for it to suffer the same fate as Rosebud.
If you have any interest in world music and don’t yet know Orchestra Baobab, I encourage you to give this band a try. This Senegalese group has a spicy blend of musical styles that include Cuban rhythms, classic West African drumming, mbira-like guitar and a vocal style from the West-African griot storytellers. It’s really fun to listen to. Baobab is made up of musicians from all around West Africa including Mali, Togo, Guinea and the Casamance region of Senegal. They sing in many different languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, Wolof. We currently own only one album but it’s a really good one. If you enjoyed Buena Vista Social Club, it will be an easy transatlantic hop into this music. Request it right now.