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Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

Hopping on the Express Shelf Express

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on October 6th, 2015

I am reading Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies. I’m enjoying it immensely, but unfortunately it’s due on Friday and I still have 200 pages to go.ExpressShelf-SocialMedia

Did I mention that there are 23 holds on the Library’s eight copies?

I may finish by Friday, but what if I don’t? Do I keep the book over the weekend and pay a late fine? Do I return it and hope I remember where I left off when my hold comes up and I check it out again? Do I break down and buy a copy of my own?

The correct answer is none of the above.

I found a copy on the Library’s Express Shelf. I returned my copy of the book and checked out the Express book. Now I have 14 days to finish my book, while freeing another copy for someone on the holds list. Everyone is happy.

Be sure to check our Express Shelves, located on the first floor for fiction, second floor for non-fiction. The book you’re waiting for might be there waiting for you!

Oh, and if you do check out an Express Shelf copy and know you’ll finish it in two weeks, go ahead and take your name off of the holds list for that title. You’ll make tons of strangers happy!


Reading another person’s letters …

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on October 1st, 2015

An upcoming episode of On Air: The ICPL podcast will feature a Favorite Book segment.

Not books.


It isn’t easy choosing a favorite book. I have tons of favorites from various stages in life, but there is one title that remains my hands-down favorite: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.

84, Charing Cross Road details the 20-year friendship between Hanff, a writer living in New York City, and Frank Doel, chief buyer of Marks & Co., antiquarian booksellers in London. This lovely non-fiction book is an epistolary book, written entirely in the pair’s letters. (It was later turned into a stage play, TV play and a movie, starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins.)

I love epistolary novels – books written as a series of documents, such as letters and journal entries. There’s realness with this genre, even in fiction works. Reading something private instantly makes the reader part of the character’s personal life.

Some of my favorite epistolary titles include Stephen Chboksky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (bonus: it’s also a banned 0504_i-will-always-write-backbook; perfect for Banned Books Week reading); Attachments: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell; and Where Rainbows End (previously published as Rosie Dunne) by Cecelia Ahern. Now, I have a new title to add to the list: I Will Always Write Back by Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka.

I Will Always Write Back is the true story of two lives changed by a letter. Caitlin wrote to Martin as part of an English assignment, choosing Zimbabwe because she liked the name of the country. Her letter arrived with nine others, at a poor school with 50 students. Martin was lucky enough to receive one because he was the top student.

Caitlin and Martin had very little in common, but somehow they struck up a friendship that transcended their differences, eventually changing both of their lives. I Will Always Write Back is a great story of generosity, inner strength, and friendship. I could not put it down, finishing it in one afternoon.

I Will Always Write Back is cataloged as for ages 12 and up, but I see it as one of those books everyone should read, no matter if you are 15 or 50. It will make you smile, make you cry, and make you better for having experienced how truly amazing people can be.

God Save the Queen

by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on September 16th, 2015

QE2 Longest ReignA standard interview question is “Who would you like to meet and why?”  My answer for years has been Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – she has experienced many changes, both good and bad, and has conducted herself with dignity and aplomb.  On 09 September 2015, Queen Elizabeth surpassed the previous record set by Queen Victoria as the longest reigning monarch with 63 years and 217 days.  Like Queen Victoria, she is the only other sovereign to celebrate her 60th Diamond Jubilee.  This occurred in 2012 and many books and documentaries were released to celebrate that auspicious occasion.

Coronation cover.phpThe Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (2012) is an hour-long documentary that details everything from the planning stage through to the ceremony.  Since it was televised to the nation at that time, it is comprised of landmark footage plus interviews with actual participants.

Princess Elizabeth's Spy cover.phpShe is fictionalized in Princess Elizabeth’s Spy (2012) as a 14-year-old girl stashed away for safety, along with her sister, in Windsor Castle during World War II.  This book by Susan Elia MacNeal is the second in the Maggie Hope Mystery series.  Maggie is not happy to be posted as a tutor/babysitter, but when one of their group dies under mysterious circumstances, they discover a much larger threat.  “Lilibet” assists immensely in foiling the plot.

The Queen and I cover.phpIn The Queen and I (1992) by Sue Townsend, Queen Elizabeth’s “annus horribilis” becomes much more awful.  Due to a change in government, she and her family are forced to move into a council estate, basically a group of downtrodden duplexes.  The story chronicles their attempts to be “ordinary” people with poignancy and humor.

Mrs Queen Takes the Train cover.phpAlthough Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn was published in 2012, the events in the novel take place “several years ago”.  In a fit of nostalgia, the Queen decides to visit her old yacht Britannia, now retired to a berth in Leith, Scotland.  When members of staff discover she’s scarpered, they set off to retrieve her before the tabloids discover Queen Elizabeth’s disappearance.  It is a character study not only of the Queen but Britons of all sorts.

The Diamond Queen cover.phpLastly, I recommend The Diamond Queen (2012) for an intense, yet intimate, look at Queen Elizabeth’s life.  This three-part documentary follows her activities over a year and a half culminating in the 60th Jubilee festivities.  It also includes personal interviews with many other members of the royal family.

Like Halley’s Comet, take a moment to savour [sic] this once-in-a-lifetime event!

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!

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.

2015 07 flw cut

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 :)



Twice as Nice!

by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on July 21st, 2015

Often in my civilian life I am recognized and greeted by patrons, whether at HyVee, the bus stop, even on the plane home at Christmas.  Sometimes it isn’t me though – it’s my identical twin sister who also lives in Iowa City.  Instead of regaling you with anecdotes of a twin’s life, I’ll let these authors enlighten you about these special siblings.

Separated @ Birth cover.phpIn Separated @ Birth: A True Love Story of Twin Sisters Reunited (2014) by Anais Bordier and Samantha Futerman, two sisters discover each other’s existence because of a video on YouTube.  Told from alternating viewpoints, this book chronicles that beginning of their relationship, their first face-to-face meeting, and other milestones.  Even if you are not adopted, nor a twin, this heartwarming memoir will make you smile.

There are two related items:  one is a companion documentary “Twinsters” released in 2015; the other is an article in the 12 July 2015 New York Times Magazine titled “The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogata” about two sets of twins switched at birth and raised as fraternal twins.

Trading Faces cover.phpTrading Faces (2009) is the first book in a series written by identical twin sisters Julia De Villers and Jennifer Roy.  It introduces Payton, the “pretty” one, and Emma, the “smart” one.  Because of a wardrobe malfunction, they must switch clothes and identities for the day.  Needless to say, that becomes not the only time; however, they learn that it’s okay not to adhere so rigidly to labels and how to use their individual skills to help each other as well as others.

The Third Twin cover.phpThis final suggestion is a fascinating novel; I have read it multiple times.  The Third Twin (1996) by Ken Follett features Dr. Jeannie Ferrami who is studying nature versus nurture.  She is raped but the suspect claims his innocence.  Further investigation uncovers another man with identical DNA.  And, as the title indicates, there emerges a third character.  Part mystery and part thriller, the plot is quite intricate and intriguing.

Nowadays, multiple births are common.  Even if you are not lucky enough to have congenital buddies, you can experience some of the joy here.

Shelves of Memories

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on July 20th, 2015

My family recently celebrated seven years in our house. That might not seem like a big deal, but it’s the longest we’ve ever lived at one address.

The only downside of establishing roots is the stuff that tends to multiply when you aren’t moving every year or so. I realized when I opened the linen closet with an armful of clean towels that couldn’t fit on the shelf that it was time to purge.

I started in the kitchen, emptying the drawers of multiple utensils (no one needs three pizza cutters) before tackling the unfiled filing drawers stuffed with bank statements, health insurance claims and the passport I thought I lost in 1997. (If you aren’t sure where to start, the Library’s collection of de-cluttering and home organization books can be found on the second floor.)

I coordinated the “our-house-is-too-full-of-stuff” cleansing with my children’s changing of their rooms. Now that they are in their teens, we no longer need to use the fourth bedroom as a toy room. My son moved into that one and my daughter gave up her tiny room for his former bedroom.bookshelf

Before this could happen, though, they had a decade’s worth of toys to sort through. That took about a week and in the end I was surprised with how much they were willing to relinquish. Except for books.

The books on the shelves in the toy room when stories long-since outgrown, but too beloved to part with. Amelia Bedelia, George and Martha, Arthur and D.W., and Captain Underpants are part of their childhood, just like Anastasia Krupnik, Karana and Rontu, and Harriet M. Welsch were part of mine.

We reached a compromise, moving the dollhouse bookshelf to my daughter’s old bedroom, now the office, filling it with the books they don’t want to keep on their bedroom bookshelves. Later, I went through the storage tub of books I held on to after moving out of my parents’ house, adding them to the collection.

What books from your childhood do you hold close to your heart?

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

by Kara Logsden on July 15th, 2015

Kent Haruf’s beautiful, lyrical final novel was a bit of serendipity I recently discovered on the Fiction Express shelf. I love Haruf’s novels. They are set in Eastern Colorado and have a strong sense of place. Haruf develops his characters in a way that brings them alive on the page and he has a gift of writing beautifully about the complexities of human relationships. Haruf is a 1973 graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop who died late last year at age 71.

According to a New York Times article, “Kent Haruf pulled a wool cap over his eyes when he sat down at his manual typewriter each morning so he could “write blind,” fully immersing himself in the fictitious small town in eastern Colorado where he set a series of quiet, acclaimed novels, including “Plainsong,” a 1999 best seller.”

I first discovered Haruf’s writing when I read his 1999 novel, Plainsong. I was drawn into the beautiful writing and the compelling story. I vividly remember the characters in that book – two bachelor brothers who took in a pregnant teenager, creating an unlikely but loving family. Equally memorable are the two main characters in this novel. Addie Moore is a lonely widow who takes a big chance in her life. Louis Waters is also lonely but rediscovers a purpose for his life through a new relationship and responsibility.

Our Souls at Night is a quick read, but one that will make the reader smile and appreciate human relationships and love.

When Good is So Very, Very Good!

by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on June 23rd, 2015

It’s officially summer and that means lovely weather and longer days!  Such conditions are favorable for reading these enthralling books.  “Just one more page” actually translates into missing my bus stop and an unexpected hike home.

Ready Player One cover.phpThe first culprit was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline in the summer of 2011.  To escape his awful Real Life, Wade Watts spends a lot of his time immersed in an online world called OASIS.  His goal is to locate an Easter Egg, an object much like Charlie’s Golden Ticket, that upon redemption will make him the heir to the eccentric founder’s estate.  After discovering the first key he must battle enemies, real and virtual, to claim the prize.  Although this novel is written by a self-proclaimed gamer geek, the pop culture references and intense action appeals to a diverse readership.

Scarlet cover.phpEach book in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer feature a well-known fairy tale character with a science fiction twist.  For example, Cinder (2012) is a 16-year-old girl with an evil stepmother and a life of drudgery. . . and part cyborg.  She lives in New Beijing where she meets Prince Kai when he patronizes her mechanical repairs stall.  The second book introduces Scarlet (2013) who lives on the other side of the world.  How do their stories intertwine?  When will they meet?  How do I get to my house from here?  Needless to say, the third installment Cress (2014) was read safely at home.

Loop cover.phpLastly, Loop (2014) by Karen Akins is not a run-of-the-mill time travel book.  In the 23rd century, the ability to move through time is biological and regulated.  Bree Bennis is a clumsy 16-year-old Shifter who, during an ordinary mid-term exam, accidentally takes a 14-year-old boy hostage.  When she goes back to try to fix the blunder, she doesn’t go far enough.  Finn is now 17 and “totally hot”.  To compound the situation, he then follows her back into the future.  Naturally, this messes up the time-space continuum and they must work together to save their worlds.

I suggest reading these addicting novels featuring debut authors and imaginative stories tucked away in a cozy place; if not, the friendly bus drivers give excellent girl directions!

Sometimes It’s Good to be Bad

by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on May 26th, 2015

Underneath my mild-mannered librarian persona, I must be a covert criminal.  Not only do I revel in action movies where lots of things get blown up, I also read a fair amount of fiction from the “Dark Side” point of view.  Therefore, contrary to our Summer Reading Program‘s superhero theme, these books offer a fun way to be a felon vicariously.

Good Thief's Guide.phpWhen a title begins with “A Good Thief’s Guide to. . .”, a certain plot is expected:  something will be stolen and complications will occur.  After all Charlie Howard, whose day job is writing novels about a burglar, is only a good thief, not an excellent one.  What is unexpected is the wry humor that Chris Ewan uses to navigate the various circumstances in each specific location.

Heist Society.phpThe Heist Society series by Ally Carter also mixes humor and action with criminality.  After 15 years of a larcenous lifestyle with her family, Kat Bishop uses her skills to escape to an elite boarding school where she believes she can have a normal life.  Very shortly thereafter, her best friend Hale arrives with the news that her father has been framed for a theft, allegedly one only he has the skills to commit.  Can Kat and her crew make things right and save the day?  Most likely.  But it’s the daring escapades used to accomplish this that will keep the pages turning and make you wish you could join the team.

Artemis Fowl.phpAt age 12, Artemis Fowl II is already a master villain, definitively overshadowing his father’s modest criminal enterprises and earning millions in the process.  He uses his ill-gotten gains to fund his obsession with fairies.  When he tries to and succeeds in kidnapping one in order to prove their existence, mayhem ensues.  Artemis must use his formidable intellect to outwit the magical realm and gain his heart’s desire.  This initial book in the eponymous series by Eoin Colfer caused me to check out the next one immediately for more shenanigans.  The first four are also available as graphic novels.

Fast and Furious.phpLastly, this blog would not be complete without a mention of the Fast and Furious movie franchise.  The story begins with Paul Walker as an undercover police officer tasked with locating a gang of high-speed thieves.  After acquiring a tricked-out car, he successfully infiltrates the street racing scene and “the family”.  The action accelerates from there and into each subsequent film.  Fueled by fast cars filled with pretty people, this series is a joyride.

Check these out to see how the other “evil” half lives!