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V is for Villain by Peter Moore

by Brian Visser on April 16th, 2014
V is for Villain by Peter Moore Cover Image

Superheros and villains exist in Peter Moore’s “V is for Villain.”  Brad Baron comes from a family of superheroes, but he’s a bit of a disappointment because he’s only super-intelligent.  He’s jealous of his older brother, Blake, who has super-strength, speed and flight, and is a member of the Justice Force.  Brad attends the Academy, a school for super-powered students, but he’s soon transferred to the alternative program since he can’t keep up with his super-strong classmates.  There he finds a kindred spirit in Layla, who doesn’t think that heroes are that great either.  Soon, Brad, Layla and their friends decide that they should give villainy a try.

My favorite part of “V is for Villain” is Brad’s believable descent into becoming a “bad” guy.  He has good intentions at first, but he ends up doing questionable and downright evil things.  But, honestly, I thought most of his actions were justified responses to what had been done to him.  I also really enjoyed the teens exploring their powers.  Not to spoil it, but Brad does have another power, and the book really takes off when he masters it.  “V is for Villain” is a fast, fun read.  I recommend it to comic book readers who like Young Adult books.


by Beth Fisher on April 16th, 2014
Memoirs Cover Image

Memoir is an area of non-fiction that often get lost in Library collections.   Memoirs are similar to biographies and autobiographies, but with one significant difference that sets them apart.

A Biography tells the true story of a person’s entire life.  Written by someone other than the subject, a biography tells a life story of from birth to death (or the present time) and all the events and facts in the story are verifiable.

An Autobiography is a biography written about the author’s own life.  They tell their own story.  Just as in a biography all the events and facts are verifiable, and they tell their complete life story – from birth to the current time.

A Memoir is most similar to an autobiography except its about a much smaller segment of time.  It tells the story of a specific event, story arc, or time period in the author’s life.   This is what makes memoirs so unique.  Its the true story story of how a person dealt with an event in their own life, and lived to tell the tale.  Memoirs can be found in just about anyplace in the Library’s collection, and on any topic.

We put up a new display of Memoirs on the 2nd floor today. Some of the titles include:

banishedBanished: surviving my years in the Westboro Baptist Church. by Lauren Drain with Lisa Pulitzer.

dan minivanDan gets a minivan: life at the intersection of dude and dad  by Dan Zevin.  Bring on the two kids, overweight pooch, and a wife with a great full time job and Dan morphs into one great stay at home dad.

escapeEscape by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer.  How a young woman, raised in an FLDS community, and married as a teenager to a man 32 years her senior eventually gets strong and finds a way out of the FLDS for herself and her 8 children.

family in parisA Family in Paris: stories of food, life and adventure by Jane Paech.  Stories from the six years this Australian family spent living in Paris.

it suckedIt sucked and then I cried:  how I had a baby, a breakdown, and a much needed margarita   by Heather B. Armstrong.


king peggyKing Peggy: an American secretary, her royal destiny, and the inspiring story of how she changed and African Village by Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman.   How she went from a secretary in DC to King of a fishing village in Africa.

on the outsideOn the outside looking Indian: how my second childhood changed my life  by Rupinder Gill.   Describes Gill’s descision at the age of 30 to have the childhood she couldn’t growing up in a restrictive, traditional Indian household.

talking to girlsTalking to girls about Duran Duran: one young man’s quest for true love and a cooler haircut  by Rob Sheffield.  Being a teen ager in the 80′s meant the birth of MTV, John Hughes teen angst movies, and marking every step you took toward adulthood with pop culture references.





Beatrix Potter, Gardener

by Heidi Lauritzen on April 15th, 2014
Beatrix Potter, Gardener Cover Image

Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life is a pleasure in three parts:  a biographical summary of Potter’s life; a look at her gardens by season, through her writings, paintings and period photographs; and finally, detailed lists of all the plants that appeared in her children’s books and in her gardens.  If you want to create Mr. McGregor’s garden in your own backyard, this book will tell you what to plant.

The book’s greatest strength is the illustrations that appear on almost every page.  There are contemporary photos of Hilltop, Potter’s home in England’s Lake District, as well as many black-and-white period photographs of her childhood in London and her later farming life in the Lake Country.  Many of her watercolors and ink drawings are included, from her early botanical drawings of fungi to the illustrations she created for her books for children to the later sketches of her farm animals and countryside around her.

The story of Beatrix Potter’s life is briefly told, but the notable events are all here.  Author Marta McDowell does a nice job of including enough information about the social mores and historical events of the time to show us just how extraordinary Potter was as an author, landowner, preservationist, wife and farmer.

Potter the gardener is quite recognizable.  She liked to share plants with neighbors and friends, and occasionally was guilty of taking a snip of something without express permission.  She planted vegetables and flowers, and tended fruit trees too.  When she was a child, Beatrix Potter had many animals as companions and her love for animals was evident throughout her life, but Potter the gardener did despair over the damage that rabbits and birds could do to her gardens.

It is arguable which is Beatrix Potter’s greater legacy:  her Tales of Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Jemima Puddle-Duck and all the others, or her gift of over 4,000 acres of Lake District farms and hills to the National Trust.  Her gift to the Trust allows us to still see the landscapes and plants and creatures that are so captivating in her children’s books written more than a century ago.  Check out Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, enjoy the wonderful photos and watercolors, and see how many ways there are to admire this amazing woman.

Happy birthday Beverly Cleary!

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on April 12th, 2014

I grew up with Ramona Quimby, devouring her adventures as fast as Beverly Cleary could write them – or so I thought.

I didn’t know then that five of the books in Cleary’s beloved series were published before I was born. This is a testament to Cleary’s talent as a writer; that characters who were so part of their time in the 1950s and 1960s were just as relevant to me in the 1980s.

Doesn't he remind you of Willa Jean's bear, Woger? Before she cut off his leg?

Doesn’t he remind you of Willa Jean’s bear, Woger? Before she cut off his leg?

Ramona Forever was released in 1984. I still remember sitting on my family’s porch, listening to my mother’s bridge club in the dining room, as I devoured what was then considered the final book in the series (Ramona’s World was published 15 years later). It was a moment of joy – Yay! A new Ramona book! – and of sadness.

Ramona was growing up. I was, too.

While I made sure to read Ramona’s World years later, I had long since moved on to new books, new series and new authors. Still, I never forgot Ramona or any of the other memorable characters Cleary created. Being able to share Ramona, Henry, Beezus and Ralph with my own children is one of the joys of parenting. Passing my well-loved copy of Ramona and Her Mother on to my daughter was an emotional moment – one that got a little too emotional when she recreated the toothpaste in the sink scene.

Today, Beverly Cleary celebrate her 98th birthday. All month long, the Library has honored Cleary – and Drop Everything and Read Month – by showcasing photos of our staff taking a break from work to read. I can’t think of a better way to show a beloved author how much her stories have touched us.

Happy Birthday Beverly Cleary from all of us at ICPL!

Iowa Author New Novel

by Kara Logsden on April 9th, 2014

2014 04 go away homeCarol Bodensteiner’s debut novel, Go Away Home, is due out in July. I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy and thoroughly enjoyed it. Bodensteiner is best known for her series of essays, Growing Up Country, that capture life in rural Iowa.  Her stories resonate with our patrons, and most especially with people who participate in our collaborative program with Iowa City Hospice that sends readers to local care centers for reading programs.

Go Away Home is set in rural northeast Iowa and focuses on the life of teenager Liddie Treadway.  Liddie is a talented seamstress with dreams of moving to the big city of Maquoketa and leaving the farm behind her.  Despite personal challenges, she does not lose sight of her dreams and eventually convinces her family to let her go.  What Liddie learns in the big city surprises her and helps as she is forced to make decisions that affect the path her life takes.

Set against the backdrop of agrarian life, changes with the introduction of the automobile and gas-powered engines, changing roles of women, and foreboding before WWI, Go Away Home is a coming of age novel that is well-written, compelling, and endearing.  Themes include family, friendship, choices, love and loss.  There is a strong sense of place, excellent character development, and an engaging plot line.  The story is well researched and I learned a lot about Iowa in the early 1900′s.  I also thought a lot about my grandparents and what their lives must have been like at this time.

I highly recommend Carol Bodensteiner’s new novel. The Library has not placed an order for this book yet, but watch the catalog and place your hold.  I anticipate it will be a popular novel with local readers and book groups.


And the winners are …

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on April 8th, 2014

Expelliarmus!march book

Harry Potter was able to disarm Mo Willem’s pigeon, taking the top spot in the 2014 ICPL Book Madness Children’s Bracket. It was a close race between The Chosen One and the mischievous bird, but the final round of voting had a clear winner.

We will give the pigeon a cookie, with nuts, as a consolation prize.

In the Teens and Adults bracket, Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, defeated Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Several weeks ago, we asked our Facebook friends to name a book they had to read in school and ended up loving, and most responses listed To Kill a Mockingbird. Take heart, English teachers. Your students still love that book.

Thank you so much for participating in our first ever Book Madness! We can’t wait to do it again next year!

The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese

by Beth Fisher on April 6th, 2014
The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese Cover Image

Rarely do I read a nonfiction book and wish the author would write more.  Not necessarily more about the topic, just MORE because they are such an entertaining writer.  This book is definitely one of them.

Detroit News Finance Editor, and creator of the Funny Money blog, Brian O’Connor uses wit and self-deprecating humor to turn a book about personal finance into a fun read.  And not just basic personal finance, but “how to survive when times get really tough” budgeting.

“The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese”  started as a proposal from O’Connor to the editors at the Detroit News.  In 2009, as the economy in Michigan was tanking, O’Connor proposed a series of weekly articles on how to save $100 a week, and he offered to use his own family budget as the source for the story.

Budgeting is not a new concept, but O’Connor approached it with humor and honesty. He started where every budget program does,  by taking a serious look at how his family actually spent money. I’m not sure he was really shocked at where their money was going, but to lay it out for all of the world to see had to be a bit nerve-wracking.   He broke their budget for the former year down into categories and focused on the 10 that cost them the most each month, intent on saving $100 in each category.  He took on a new category each week, and at the end of the week wrote about his successes or failures in his newspaper column, which he turned into this book.

In the book he also approaches each category on three levels  – based on the three types of people he thought might need or want a book on budgeting: 1) “People who need to free up cash” so that they can increase their savings in case something bad happens,  2) “People who are having a hard time making ends meet” from pay check to pay check and  3) People who are “pinching pennies so hard that Lincoln is getting a headache.”

Seeing how O’Connor tackled each category in his own family’s budget, especially the challenges he encountered, turned what could have been a painfully dry subjects into a pretty fun read full of good information.


And then there were two

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on April 5th, 2014


Well, technically, there are four book titles (and two brackets), but let’s not get in a debate about semantics and just announce ICPL’s 2014 Book Madness Championship Game titles.

Children’s Bracket

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series vs. Pigeon books by Mo Willems

Teens & Adults Bracket

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams vs. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Voting in final round ends Monday, with the winners announced Tuesday morning. Make sure to cast your ballot before then, either by visiting the Library or leaving your choice in the comments.

Ermahgerd kittens!

by Candice Smith on April 4th, 2014
Ermahgerd kittens! Cover Image

There’s really not a whole lot to say about this little book, it speaks for itself. It’s a tiny morsel of complete happiness, wrapped up in a flurry of pictures of ridiculously cute kittens doing kittenish things. Kittens sleeping, kittens learning to walk, kittens eating, kittens playing. Several different breeds are showcased, including Russian Blues, Toygers, Persians and Munchkins (Munchkins?? I know, I didn’t even know there was such thing as a Munchkin cat, but now I need three or four).

Personally, I’m not one of those people who sees cute little kids and feels the pangs of motherhood, but this book made my ovaries ache. If you’re a total cat mama or papa, you’ll want this book. If you’ve got kids that love cats, they’ll enjoy this book. If you’re thinking about taking that plunge into cat-ownership and want to be pushed right off that cliff into the deep end, you should take a look at this book.

You’re not going to learn a whole lot from this book, but you’ll have a few moments of pure bliss and appreciation of the amazingly cute things that can exist in this world, and that is more than worth the ten minutes it would take you to leaf through its pages.

The secret behind the Horsehair Stopper

by Brent Palmer on March 31st, 2014
The secret behind the Horsehair Stopper Cover Image

I’m always looking for good bedtime reading to share with my son. You know, something that we both can enjoy. Something that doesn’t involve bvd-clad superheroes farting their nemesis into submission or snide protagonists complaining about their lame teachers(yes, Big Nate, I’m lookin’ at you). Well you all know Roald Dahl has several good books that have been perennial favorites. But one that had escaped my notice until recently is Danny the Champion of the World. This one is a bit more realistic. No flying peaches or rivers of chocolate, but it is a very sweet story (BFG does make a cameo by the way).

Danny lives with his widower dad in a run-down camper. He has always idolized his dad who is an ace car mechanic, but discovers that he is sneaking off at night and for what is obviously illegal activity. Danny eventually gets drawn into the scheme and realizes that his Dad is in some very real danger. Danny is put to the test and is terrified that he might lose him.

Fundamentally, it’s a story about emerging from child-like innocence and beginning to see the world differently. For Danny, the transition is scary and difficult and it turns out that his dad is not who he thought he was. He has to adjust to this new person, but in the end he loves him all the more for it. And his father must take a leap and let Danny in on his deep dark secret. This story really can be enjoyed from both perspectives. It’s also one of those stories where the condescending rich guy gets what’s coming to him. Spectacularly. Who wouldn’t love that? And even if you don’t have a little one to read it to, it’s good enough to read to yourself. Check it out to learn the secret of the horsehair stopper and how Danny becomes Champion of the World.