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Badlands by C.J. Box

by Kara Logsden on August 12th, 2015
Badlands by C.J. Box Cover Image

OK … I’m ready to forgive C.J. Box. I thoroughly enjoy his Joe Pickett series and enjoyed Back of Beyond, the beginning of a new series featuring who I thought was a recurring character, Sheriff Detective Cody Hoyt. In Box’s next Cody Hoyt book, The Highway, (awesome book, set in Yellowstone, scared the bejeebers out of me) Hoyt is conquering his demons and mentoring a new Sheriff’s Detective, Cassie Dewell. But something goes wrong and suddenly readers are left hanging.

I was mad at C.J. Box after that book. I loved Cody Hoyt and I didn’t like how the book ended. For me, C.J. Box has redeemed himself in his new book, The Badlands. Cassie Dewell emerges as a strong protagonist who can hold her own. I guess maybe Box had to give her a chance and needed a couple good novels to write his way there. Time for me to move on …

In The Badlands, Detective Cassie Dewell takes a new job in Grimstad, the petroleum capitol of North Dakota. Life is tough there. The economy is booming but crime follows money and Cassie is tasked by the Sheriff to do some internal investigating. She is also haunted by her past and the criminal who got away and is still lurking “out there.” She’s also drawn to a young boy who may be invisible, but knows a lot more than the world is willing to acknowledge. The book is fast paced, the characters are great, and readers are left wanting more from this new protagonist. I think we have a lot to look forward to from C.J. Box and his Joe Pickett and Cassie Dewell series!

Mystery at the Farmer’s Market

by Heidi Lauritzen on August 4th, 2015
Mystery at the Farmer’s Market Cover Image

I have been enjoying a new cookbook from the Library’s collection, and when I finally settled on a recipe to try, a trip to the Iowa City Farmer’s Market was in order.

The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook features recipes contributed by more than one hundred mystery authors.  Some of my favorites are included–Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Louise Penny–and you will recognize so many others:  Lee Child, Sara Paretsky, Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins, Sue Grafton, Scott Turow, and James Patterson to name a few.  In addition to the authors’ introductions to their recipes, the editor has added several other short essays, one of which answers the question “What exactly is a red herring?”

Many of the recipes are for foods served in the mysteries.  I chose Louise Penny’s “Madame Benoit’s Tourtiere,” a dish mentioned inLois Pavelka photo A Fatal Grace.  Penny’s mysteries are set in Quebec, and tourtiere is a regional dish from that province.  It is essentially a meat pie, with onion and garlic, and it provided me with a chance to visit with Lois Pavelka of Pavelka’s Point Meats to get some ground pork and beef.  Lois and her husband raise livestock on their farm north of Solon, and she is a regular at the Market with all kinds of delicious choices for pork, beef and lamb.  Their picnic bacon is especially good!

Grinnell farmer photogreen beansNext, I went to Grinnell Heritage Farm’s table to get some fresh garlic, and decided that potatoes and green beans would be good side dishes to the meat pie.

The resulting savory pie was a tasty example of comfort food, and would be a good dish to bring to a potluck or family gathering.  In her introduction to the recipe, Penny says that tourtiere can be eaten all year long, but is particularly associated with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve celebrations.Pie photo



The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand

by Katherine Habley on August 4th, 2015
The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand Cover Image

Summer reading for me tends to be less worthy of book group discussions and more about just being lost in a good story that doesn’t tax my brain.  The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand was a light fun read set on Nantucket that satisfied my curiosity about the title and cover of the book.  Definitely chic lit., where gossip is paramount, best friends Madeline and Grace are the envy of the island with their perfect husbands and children.  But rumor has it that Grace has been having an affair with her gorgeous landscape architect, Benton; that her husband, “Fast Eddie” Pancik is in over his head with a new real estate development; that Grace’s daughter, Allegra, and Madeline’s son, Brick, are not the storybook young couple everyone thinks they are; and that Madeline is struggling with writer’s block and isn’t meeting her editor’s deadlines.  These story lines are explored along with the relationship between twin sisters, Allegra and Hope.  Rumors and realities converge when Madeline starts writing a novel based on what’s happening to the people on the island.  Things escalate and the denouement isn’t a perfect ending for the lives involved.   Strong female friendship wins out in the end and what would a good summer read be without a little sex to spice things up?  Too bad I’ll be missing my Book Group’s August selection, H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, when I’m vacationing with my family in Estes Park for ten days.  Now what shall I take with me to read?  Hmmm….

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

by Katherine Habley on August 3rd, 2015
At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen Cover Image

I really enjoyed Gruen’s New York Times Bestselling book, Water for Elephants, so when I saw At the Water’s Edge on the New books list at ICPL, I put a hold on it.  When a copy arrived I started reading and quickly got caught up with the characters and the story.  Maddie Hyde, a Philadelphia socialite, her husband Ellis, and his best friend, Hank, travel to Scotland on a lark in search of the Loch Ness monster.  Ellis’s father purportedly took photographs of Nessie years earlier, and Ellis wants to get back into his father’s good graces and fortune by confirming the monster’s existence.  The Colonel has never forgiven his son for not joining the fighting overseas even though Ellis’s reason is that he was turned away because he is color-blind.  Once the three are ensconced in a nearby small village, the men go adventuring with their gear leaving Maddie to fend for herself for days on end.  She gets to know the locals and breaks out of her isolation exploring the beautiful Scottish Highlands.  Set in 1945 toward the end of WWII, Maddie and the others deal with the air raids while they are sequestered at the inn with the brooding big innkeeper, Angus.  Soon Maddie becomes disgusted with Ellis and Hank’s drunken behavior each time they return; she finds friendship with the staff at the inn and ultimately, romance with Angus.  At the Water’s Edge is a compelling novel, even with its flaws, about the reawakening of a beautiful privileged young woman set against the backdrop of war.

ICPL is on Goodreads

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on July 29th, 2015

Did you ever wonder what ICPL employees read in their spare time? Or perhaps you saw a patron with an armful of books and wanted to know what they were reading, but couldn’t think of a this-isn’t-strange-at-all  way to ask.recommendations

Our ICPL recommendation boxes have you covered!

We have four boxes located throughout the Library (first floor book return, Children’s Room self-checkout area, new nonfiction shelf on the second floor, and the Koza Family Teen Center) for you to share your book, movie and music recommendations. We go through the boxes regularly (sometimes people leave us drawings or notes that say how much the love the Library; we love those!) and post the recommendations on our patrons-suggestions bookshelf on Goodreads.

We also have bookshelves with ICPL employee recommendations and reviews on the popular reading site, so friend us, follow us, and let’s get reading!

Food and the Midwestern landscape

by Susan Craig on July 28th, 2015

Years ago, as I got too busy with work and children to maintain a large vegetable garden and be able to pick that perfect tomato exactly when it was perfect, I put my gardening efforts into flowers (they do have that perfect moment too, but you don’t have to pick them and, hopefully, others will enjoy them if you can’t!) and started buying vegetables at Farmers’ Market. Over time I came not only to appreciate the fresh local produce, but the people who grow it. Many with a ready smile, some more taciturn, all with a connection to the Iowa

I recently checked out a book at the Library that made me think of these local farmers. New Prairie Kitchen by Summer (Honest!) Miller, photographs by Dana Damewood. The subtitle of the book is, “Stories and seasonal recipes from chefs, farmers, and artisans of the Great Plains.”

The recipes are great, but the book is far more than a collection of recipes. The author has visited the people and places where the food is grown and where it is prepared, and she tells their stories. She is from Nebraska and there are more Nebraska stories than elsewhere, but Iowa is represented. The photographs — of the people, the food, and the landscape, are simply marvelous.

This is a book to savor in many ways. I can see some of my regular Farmers’ Market vendors in the next edition.

The Residence; Inside the Private World of the White House

by Katherine Habley on July 27th, 2015
The Residence; Inside the Private World of the White House Cover Image

Kate Anderson Brower spent four years covering the Obama White House for Bloomberg News and is a former CBS News staff member and Fox News producer.  In her well-researched book of stories, conversations, and secrets about the presidents and their families from Kennedy through Obama, I found details shared by the people who keep the White House running smoothly a fascinating look behind the scenes of the famous people who have lived there.  Though I rarely read the gossip magazines unless I’m waiting in a doctor’s office, I did feel like the gossip shared in Brower’s book was an interesting and intimate look at White House occupants in my lifetime.  I’m old enough to remember exactly where I was when I learned the news that John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas.  The author shares details of Kennedy’s philandering and Jackie’s chain smoking, of their closeness in the loss of a son, Patrick, and the directions for JFK’s funeral that Jackie gave so stoically.  Brower describes the work the White House staff do to ready the residence for the next family to move in with less than a day to do so.  LBJ comes across as the bawdy, loud bully married to Lady Bird who acquiesced to his every mood.  His angry criticisms of his bathroom shower and the fun his daughters and other president’s children had in the White House entertaining their friends are all fair game for the author’s reporting.  Covering the resignation of Richard Nixon and his stiff and formal presence in the residence, we learn about a few of his more private thoughts and conversations with staff.  I chuckled when the Fords made it clear that they didn’t want separate bedrooms. Clearly Ronald Reagan is portrayed as a friendly gold ol’ boy but Nancy is shown to be a rigid perfectionist and a very difficult person to work for who dominated her husband. I particularly enjoyed hearing about the affable George Bush and wife, Barbara, who was completely down to earth and popular with the staff. The author shared stories about the Clintons including Bill’s fall from grace and Hillary’s reaction in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky affair.  Shouting matches and things being thrown unsettled the residence staff.  All the workers commented about what a sweet girl Chelsea was how carefully the Clintons protected her from the press. George W. Bush is discussed in light of 9/11 and learning about how Laura Bush spent the hours after the attack was surprising.  Finally, Barack Obama and Michelle are giving their space in the book in mostly flattering stories.  Michelle’s insistence about their daughters not being spoiled and having a relatively ‘normal’ life while living in the White House is shared.  So are the lavish state dinners for foreign dignitaries described and feuds between the chefs are mentioned. Found on the New Non-Fiction Book shelf, The Residence; Inside the Private World of the White House was a quirky and interesting summer read.

A Lucky Life Interrupted

by Katherine Habley on July 27th, 2015
A Lucky Life Interrupted Cover Image

A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope by Tom Brokaw was a quick read that I enjoyed.  I remember watching Brokaw as the anchor of the NBC Nightly News for years and also appreciating his thoughtful coverage of Presidential elections.  To me, he was always intelligent, articulate, and reassuring in reporting the news.  Then I got to hear him in person at the University of Iowa a few years ago after his book, The Greatest Generation, was published.  Once again, his presence was so warm and familiar, his sense of humor very apparent, and his Midwestern values obvious.  In his latest book, quite different from his others, Brokaw talks about the 2013–2014 year he spent battling multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable blood cancer.  After the diagnosis, Brokaw the journalist decided to keep a diary of his time dealing with the ups and downs of cancer treatment.  His journal recounts his frustrations with the medical team in not communicating with each other well enough in coordinating his treatment.  He talks about the importance of patients taking an active role in their own treatment, and the critical role of caretakers, nurses, and rehabilitation specialists. But he also takes a broader look at health care and aging in America and how fortunate he was to have the financial resources to pursue the best doctors at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere.  The question I ask myself frequently, “what do other people do who don’t have health insurance?” is one posed by the author as well.  His memories of important world events and interviews he’s done with famous world leaders are scattered throughout his memoir.  For someone with a very charmed life to talk about his illness and ultimately offer hope to others facing devastating news about their own mortality, his book says a lot about the man himself who counts each day reading, writing, fishing, and time spent with his beloved family and friends, a precious gift.

The 25 Greatest American Films

by Brian Visser on July 24th, 2015

1125019024_356243621e_oI love movie lists.  They’re a lot of fun and usually spark some good-natured debates.  The BBC recently asked a group of international film critics–which included critics from magazines, newspapers, television and online–to create lists of the 10 movies they felt were the greatest in American cinema.  They then used those to create a list of 100 films using a point system giving 10 points for a #1 pick down to 1 point for a #10 pick.  Here are the top 25 with links to our catalog:

25. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
24. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
23. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
22. Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)
21. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
20. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
19. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
18. City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
17. The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925)
16. McCabe & Mrs Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
15. The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
14. Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975)
13. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
12. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
11. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)
10. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
9. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
8. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
7. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)
6. Sunrise (FW Murnau, 1927)
5. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
3. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
2. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

A few of the movies are out-of-print or just not available on DVD.  Here’s the page where they break-down the top 25, and this page has the whole top 100 list.  The list has already generated talk online for notable omissions like no films by the Coen Brothers or Wes Anderson.  What do you think?  How many of these films have you watched?  Any of your favorites not make the cut?

A Day with Frank Lloyd Wright

by Kara Logsden on July 23rd, 2015
A Day with Frank Lloyd Wright Cover Image
2015 07 FLW Column

Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio

Recently I celebrated a birthday that ended in a ZERO and my husband gave me a “day away.” I chose a day in Oak Park, Illinois touring the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio followed by a walking tour of his neighborhood.

I really enjoy historical fiction novels based on the lives of real people. A few years ago the book Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland inspired a Spring Break trip to New York City to see Tiffany Glass. After reading Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank and T.C. Boyle’s The Women, I’ve wanted to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park as well as Taliesin in Spring Green, WI.

The tour in Oak Park was wonderful. The volunteer guide was very knowledgeable and I learned a lot about Wright’s architecture, style and philosophy. The tour was light on personal details but that was OK. Books can fill in the details there. It was amazing to see Wright’s experimentation through the many homes we walked by in the neighborhood and the evolution of his style.

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If you are looking for a getaway, I’d recommend reading the two historical fiction novels about Frank Lloyd Wright and then heading to Oak Park for a day.

If you are looking for more adventures in Oak Park, the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home and Museum is just a couple blocks from the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. We didn’t get a chance to tour the Hemingway Museum, but if you are interested, you might consider reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain before you go. Enjoy :)