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Top Secret 21

by Kara Logsden on July 21st, 2014
Top Secret 21 Cover Image

The newest installment of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, Top Secret 21, is out and it’s a page-turner.  While I thought the last couple Plum books were not up to Janet Evanovich standards, I though with this book she was back on target with quirky characters, humor, and more adventures for bounty-hunter, Stephanie Plum.  If you are looking for a quick summer chick-lit read, this is a great option.

If you haven’t read the Stephanie Plum series, we have many of the earlier books in multiple formats including regular print, large print, spoken word, eBook and eAudiobook.  The plot is easy to follow and it’s not necessary to start at the beginning.

If you are a Janet Evanovich fan and looking for similar authors, there are quite a few I would recommend including Lisa Lutz (Spellman Files), Mary Kay Andrews, and Diane Mott Davidson.  These authors have books that are fast paced, funny and perfect for summer reading.  If you need help finding a good book, Library staff are always happy to help.  Happy Summer Reading!

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

by Anne Mangano on July 14th, 2014
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Cover Image

Europe during World War II is the setting of many novels and it’s really no surprise. Such horror, fear, and devastation create an environment ripe for personal conflicts, long odysseys, and overcoming trials on an unimaginable scale. And, as with anything, there are novels that use this setting to their advantage and others that fall flat. Anthony Doerr’s latest work, All the Light We Cannot See, works with the period very well and you would do well to check it out.

For the most part, the novel intertwines the stories of two young individuals from different sides of the conflict. There is Marie-Louise, the visually-impaired daughter of the locksmith and keeper of keys for the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Her father’s position aides in her curiosity about the natural sciences and she loves to read Jules Verne. Before the occupation of Paris, she is forced to flee with her father to Saint-Malo and there is the possibility that they are carrying one of the Museum’s most prized possessions. Or is it a decoy? Marie-Louise’s story is paired with Werner’s, a German orphan with an innate understanding of radios and radio frequency. His ability opens the door for him to attend an elite military school to work on special radio projects and prepare for working with radio units in the field. Of course, this leads him to Saint-Malo on a mission to find French resistance fighters using radio transmissions, right before the allies began a bombing campaign on the port city.

There are many surprising links between Marie-Louise and Werner before this Saint-Malo connection and Doerr reveals them skillfully. I also appreciated how Doerr played with time in the narrative, starting with the bombing of Saint-Malo and weaving in the back story steadily. Many novels work this way, but his was well-paced and structured.

I recommend placing a hold on All the Light We Cannot See, but if you need something to read right now, check out some other solid World War II fiction: Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise, Hans Fallada’s Every Man Dies Alone, Julie Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge or David Benioff’s City of Thieves.

Video Staff Picks – British TV and Getting the Body of a Werewolf

by Bond Drager on July 10th, 2014

Jason talks about a British mystery series you may have missed, and Melody shows that the library can teach you how to have the body of a werewolf.

True Detective

by Brian Visser on June 28th, 2014
True Detective Cover Image

Anchored by terrific performances and beautifully shot, True Detective is so much more than your typical police procedural.  The story follows Louisiana State Police Detectives Rust Cohle and Martin Hart–played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson– as they are asked to recollect a bizarre homicide that they solved in 1995.  As they get deeper into the questioning, it becomes obvious that the investigation wasn’t as open-and-shut as it appeared.

The show has a deliberate pace that may turn off some viewers, but stick with it!  Give it until the fourth episode which has a six-minute tracking shot that will blow your mind.  Personally, I was hooked right away by McConaughey’s perfectly delivered nihilistic musings.  There are very few television shows like this.  I cannot recommend it enough.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

by Maeve Clark on June 19th, 2014

How do you select the next bcant weook to read?  For me it is often from reviews or blogs or when a cover catches my eye as I walk by or put a book out for display, but I think the best suggestions come from friends.  I just finished Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant because a friend recommended it and it is one of the best books I have read in a long time.  I was hesitant at first; Chast is the brilliant cartoonist for the New Yorker, but illustrated novels or memoirs are not my cup of tea.

Chast tells the story of her parents George and Elizabeth’s final years with drawings and photos.  It is funny,  laugh out loud funny – so funny that you want to find someone and read them the passage or show them the cartoon and have them laugh with you.  It is also heartbreakingly poignant.  Her parents have no desire to leave their Brooklyn apartment; their home since marriage. The home that Chast discovered  had become through benign neglect a hoarders paradise and more and more unfit for her aged parents. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant is about escape and return, avoidance and confrontation, about coming face to face with the reality we are all growing older and that our parents will not live forever.  And I really want to talk about it.  Please read it and let’s chat.

Baking with books

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on June 19th, 2014

I went a little crazy at the farmers market the other day. I bought the first container of strawberries I spotted and snacked on them while strolling the other tables.

I ended up purchasing two more pints to replace the ones I ate.Sallys-Baking-Addiction-Cookbook-on-sale

It seemed like a great idea at the time — strawberry season is never long enough — but then I had a pile of strawberries I needed to use before they went bad. I also forgot about the two pints of blueberries already in the refrigerator.

I didn’t panic. Instead, I visited the Library’s cookbook collection, checking out Sally McKenney’s Sally’s Baking Addiction: Irresistible Cookies, Cupcakes & Desserts for Your Sweet-Tooth Fix. I’ve been a fan of McKenney’s blog, also called Sally’s Baking Addiction, for years, so I was thrilled to find out which of her amazing recipes she chose to feature in her first cookbook.

Flipping through the colorful pages, my stomach rumbling the whole time, I found the perfect recipe for my strawberry and blueberry situation: Jumbo Blueberry Streusel Muffins. I added strawberries to the list of ingredients and ended up with a grab-and-go breakfast that made me and my family happy for several days.

I posted a picture of the muffins on the Library’s Instagram account. If you are on Instagram or twitter, please share photos of the great recipes you’ve made because of ICPL’s cookbook collection using the with the #cookingwithicpl hashtag. It’s the next best thing to a city-wide potluck!

Slices of Life

by Kara Logsden on June 18th, 2014
Slices of Life Cover Image

Recently a friend suggested we meet at Prairie Lights for a book reading.  We have a monthly meet-up to knit and chat, but thought we might mix it up a bit and go to a book reading.  I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the Live from Prairie Lights schedule, so I was delighted when I discovered Iowa City native, Leah Eskin was reading from her new book, Slices of Life.

Leah and I were in 4-H together many years ago.  She was a few years older than me and someone who I looked up to.  It was fun to hear her read, and learn about her ‘slices of life’ – mother of teenagers, writer, cancer survivor, and mu1977 07 Kara Rabbitch more.  When she was signing my book afterwards, my friend mentioned our 4-H connection.  Leah wondered if I remembered the goats she showed at the fair. I didn’t, but our conversation conjured happy memories for me of showing my rabbits and dog at the Johnson County Fair.

I’ve enjoyed Leah Eskin’s Slices of Life and how she connects her slices of life with her experiences.  One entry that jumped out at me was an ode to her dog, Theo, as an introduction to the “Summer Couscous” recipe.  After losing our dog to old age and illness last week, I still have a raw emotion when I think about the human-dog bond.  Eskin writes, “At dinnertime we come. We sit. We stay for something delicious, something that fetches memories of meals past.  Happily gnawing on a stick of grilled lamb, hunched over a jackpot of couscous, we know that in our family, we all speak the same language.”

I also appreciate the index to the book and the suggestions Eskin weaves into the list.  For example, “BRUNCH: I always make Onion Tart (page 153). Other good ideas: Tortilla Espanola (page 185), Sparkling Salad (page 64), and Crab Cakes (page 111).”

Slices of Life is a wonderful tribute to love, cooking, connections and life.  And the recipes are yummy too …

 

 

Stories from the National September 11 Memorial Museum

by Heidi Lauritzen on June 17th, 2014
Stories from the National September 11 Memorial Museum Cover Image

I believe most of us remember where we were on September 11, 2001, when four planes were turned into weapons and crashed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania countryside.  I was already at work here at the Library when I became aware of a group of staff clustered around a television in our audiovisual services area.  When we realized the magnitude of what was happening we opened our big meeting room to the public, showing the ongoing news coverage on the big screen there.  In the Library’s annual report for that year, Director Susan Craig described what it was like:  “It was incredible to sit in the darkened room and watch the news with strangers, some in small groups, most just individuals.  When I was there no one actually spoke, but I felt a connection with everyone in the room.”

The Stories They Tell:  Artifacts from the National September 11 Memorial Museum reconnects us to the events that day and the long recovery process that followed.  The Museum is part of the September 11 memorial site where the Twin Towers once stood.  The pictures in this book are simple but evocative.  The essays which accompany them—more like letters to the reader—are written by staff members of the Museum.

Many of the artifacts in the Museum are from the crash sites; others include the transcripts from phone calls from people on the planes, missing-person posters that blanketed New York City, and the Memorial Urn, with the names of the 2,977 victims on it, created by ceramicist Tom Lane.

It is difficult to choose just one or two examples to tell you more about.  Should it be the recording of flight attendant Betty Ong’s hijack report?  Or Karyn’s flight attendant wings, or the Last Column at Ground Zero, or patrol dog Sirius’s leash, or the wreckage of Engine 21 of the Fire Department of New York?

Each story brought goose bumps or tears, and often both.  The professionalism of the flight attendants on the planes and the emergency responders on the ground, the many expressions of compassion and generosity during the tragedy and in its aftermath are unforgettable reminders of the prevailing goodness in humanity.  If you are unable to visit the Museum in person, this book is the next best way to witness that.

Console Wars by Blake J. Harris

by Brian Visser on June 16th, 2014
Console Wars by Blake J. Harris Cover Image

Console Wars by Blake J. Harris is a narrative account of the rivalry between Sega and Nintendo, the two video game behemoths of the nineties.  The book mainly focuses on the meteoric rise of Sega and the man behind it: Tom Kalinske.  Tom became the CEO of Sega of America in the late eighties, and turned Sega and its 16-bit console the Genesis from underdogs to market leaders.  Console Wars details how he pulled this off.  The history of Nintendo is also delved into, but, for the most part, they’re portrayed as the enemy.  As someone who owned a Genesis, I was surprised and interested in the inner workings of the video game industry.  I highly recommend Console Wars to gamers and anyone who grew up during the nineties.

The Stories Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

by Kara Logsden on June 9th, 2014
The Stories Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin Cover Image

I discovered this wonderful book when someone described it as being similar to Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society and The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry.  I don’t think I would compare it to those books (which I’d highly recommend) but I’m also not sure how I would describe it.  Is it a love story?  Is it a coming of age story?  Is it a mystery?  Is it a book with strong characters?  Does it have a strong sense of place?  I could answer yes to all of the above.

A quick look at the subject headings reveals these entries:

Booksellers and bookselling — Fiction.
Bookstores — Fiction.
Widowers — Fiction.
Abandoned children — Fiction.
Man-woman relationships — Fiction.

Indeed, this is a book about all of these things.  But it is also so much more.  A.J. Fikry owns a book store and he loves books.  He’s not just any bookseller, though. He is picky, contrite, a wee bit arrogant, and has poor customer service skills.  Despite all these faults, he has a passion for books.  A.J. Fikry also has a capacity to love.  When his life takes turns he never imagined, and A.J. Fikry finds himself in the depths of despair, his redemption is his capacity to love.  And love is what makes this book so wonderful.  A love for people, community, literature, and most of all, a love of family.

If you are looking for a great summer read, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is recommended.

 

 




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