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Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’


Michelle Hoover’s Bottomland is the 2017 All Iowa Reads selection

by Beth Fisher on April 6th, 2017
Michelle Hoover’s <em>Bottomland</em> is the 2017 All Iowa Reads selection Cover Image

There’s no short way to describe Bottomland – there are just too many sides to this story. Based on the life of the author’s grandmother, this fictionalized story begins in Iowa in the years after World War I. It is a story of rural farm life in the 1900’s, an immigrants story, a story about racism, a story about a WWI soldier who comes home with invisible yet life-changing wounds, and the story of a daughter who becomes the caretaker of her father and siblings. At its heart Bottomland is a family saga you won’t want to stop reading.

Rural life was not easy at the turn of the last century, especially for German immigrants like the Hess family. Julius and Margrit Hess were raising their six American-born children on a small farm in Iowa. As anti-German sentiment grew in the years before WWI, suspicions grew and neighbors began turning on neighbors. Margrit’s unexpected death, a brutal farm accident and WWI effect them all. But the Hess family stayed close, still living together on the 140 acre farm their parents staked on arriving in America. Until the night the two youngest daughters, 14  and 16 years old, vanish in the middle of the night without a trace.  Did they run away?  Were they abducted?  You’ll have to read it to find out.

The story is told through the voices of 5 main characters, but in a very nonlinear way that requires careful reading – or for me re-reading, as each of the narrators have their own view of the events as they occur, and may or may not actually be reliable.

A June 10th discussion of Bottomland will be part of the 2017 Adult Summer Reading program.  The discussion will be led by Glenn Ehrstine, UI Associate Professor of German and International Studies. Susan Craig, ICPL Director and member of the All Iowa Reads book selection committee, will give us a glimpse of how the All Iowa Reads books are selected each year.

For more information on All Iowa Reads go to the Iowa Center For The Book website.

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

by Kara Logsden on April 4th, 2017
Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout Cover Image

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout’s newest book is a heartwarming story of family, redemption and love. Strout’s writing is known to be complex-she takes a simple story and weaves in layers of emotion, reconciliation, self-discovery and human interaction. I first fell in love with Strout’s writing with her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Olive Kitteridge. Anything is Possible is a continuation of Strout writing at her best and features a return of the beloved character, Lucy Barton from Strout’s 2016 book, My Name is Lucy Barton.

I was fortunate and scored an advance reader copy of this book. Anything is Possible will be released April 25th. The Library has copies on order in many formats. If you are an Elizabeth Strout fan, you won’t want to miss this wonderful new story.

Spotlight on Short Stories

by Heidi Kuchta on March 23rd, 2017

civilwarlandI love short stories! They’re a fun way to try out a writer’s work without a 300 page commitment. If you don’t like one of the stories, you can pick another at random or put the whole collection aside.

2017 has been a great year for new short story collections, but my all time favorite is from twenty years ago, Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders. “Set in a dystopian near-future…these stories constitute a searching and bitterly humorous commentary on the current state of the American Dream (Goodreads).” Upon re-reading, this book is still very relevant and very funny. Civilwarland, the brilliant setting for one of the stories, is a Civil War reenactment theme park staffed by hilarious and doleful characters. A side note: check out Saunder’s first novel that just came out, Lincoln in the Bardo (2017).

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This Won’t End Well: Tragic Middle-Grade Reads

by Anne Wilmoth on March 17th, 2017

If, like me, you don’t mind wallowing in despair, as long as a good story has led you there, try one of these new works of juvenile literature.  Eye-opening and morally challenging for middle-grade readers, and equally moving for adults, these two novels and one biography will be read through tears.

Thumbnail   The Dog, Ray by Linda Coggin

Dog books are notoriously sad, and this one is no exception.  However, instead of doggie death coming at the end of the story, in this book tragedy occurs right at the beginning – 12-year-old girl Daisy is killed in a car crash, and her soul returns to Earth in the body of a dog.  A mistake has been made, though, that allows her to recall her previous life as a girl while living her new life as a dog.  Daisy’s one goal is to find her former home and return to living with her parents, but as their dog.

This intriguing concept plays out in a story that is heartbreaking but also sweet and humorous at times.  Daisy finds that “the responsibilities of a dog are enormous” and though her life may be heading in a completely new direction she can’t control, there is meaning and love and hope in store for her.

 

Thumbnail   The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero by Patricia A. McCormick

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German minister who conspired with others to assassinate Hitler at the height of the Holocaust.  Long a crusader for social justice, Bonhoeffer was one of the earliest critics of the Nazi regime.  At first, he sought the support of other church leaders in condemning Nazism – few did.  Later, Bonhoeffer graduated to espionage, traveling widely outside Germany to share news of the horrors being leveled against Jews – almost no one believed him.  Finally, Bonhoeffer determined that he had no choice but to take part in a daring scheme to end Hitler’s life.

This juvenile biography raises fascinating moral and ethical questions; through reading, we are privy to Bonhoeffer’s decision to turn to violence, despite his religious convictions and commitment to pacifism and nonviolent social change.  Bonhoeffer’s courage and willingness to stand alone is breathtaking; readers will relish this page-turning volume that exposes little-known history.

 

Thumbnail   The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz

To escape gang violence in their small Guatemalan village, 12-year-old Jaime and his cousin Angela embark on a risky journey north, through Mexico and across the border to Texas and safety.  The drug-trafficking gang that controls their town has killed their cousin and promises they’ll be next; their impoverished family, terrified, scrapes together the money needed to finance their escape.  Along the way, Jaime and Angela are locked in a sweltering boxcar for days, dodge murderous gangs as well as the police, endure hunger, and put their lives in the hands of strangers.

This morally complex book is an important read at a moment when immigration is a hot topic around the world. As USA Today reported, in the first 11 months of the 2016 fiscal year, 54,052 unaccompanied minors made the trek from Central America into the United States.  Based on true events, this novel is the tense, heartfelt story of two of these children, for whom an incredibly dangerous journey is their only hope for the future.

 

 

 

2017 Book Madness: Time to vote for the Sweet Sixteen

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on March 13th, 2017

The Book Madness brackets have been updated to show titles advancing to the Second Round.

2017 BOOK MADNESS – CHILDREN’S BRACKET

Banned Books

  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

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Modern Reads for Women’s History Month

by Bond Drager on March 6th, 2017

I recently wondered how March came to be National Women’s History Month. Luckily National Women’s History Project had some great information.

If you’re like me and you like to celebrate holidays by nerding out on information overload, here’s a great list of book titles to pick up from ICPL. For this list, I’m choosing to focus on more recent choices that highlight great feminist literature and nonfiction.

My Real Children by Jo Walton

I won’t go into too much detail about this book because I don’t want to give this wonderful book away. If you’re a fan of realistic fiction like John Green and Rainbow Rowell, but you’re willing to read something written for and about adults, you’d like this book. This is a story about what it means to have choices in life, and ultimately how women function and age within society.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This book has won a zillion awards for its powerful story of race and identity. Bonus: North Liberty Community Library has selected it for its Bring Your Own Book Club on March 31 at Beer Burger – you’ve still got time to participate.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

There’s a reason the City of Literature recently awarded Roxane Gay with the 2016 Paul Engle prize. She’s a tremendous writer doing important work across media and genre. This book of essays is a great introduction to her writing, and it’s also really fun to read.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

So much of the story of 90s music in the pacific northwest comes from the perspective by and about men, that it’s particularly interesting to read this story of a young woman finding her calling as part of that scene.

Not only is this story riveting, but Brownstein is a just a fantastic writer and I often recommend this as one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. She not only chronicles her turbulent journey but is impressively self-aware, finding deeper meaning as she looks at her story in hindsight.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This debut novel from Angie Thomas just came out in February and is already proving very popular. It’s a YA book that everyone should read. The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books describes it as follows: “Ultimately the book emphasizes the need to speak up about injustice. That’s a message that will resonate with all young people concerned with fairness, and Starr’s experience will speak to readers who know Starr’s life like their own and provide perspective for others.”

Remember your Boy Band obsession?

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on February 25th, 2017
Remember your Boy Band obsession? Cover Image

Mine was New Kids on the Block. Theirs were the first concert I attended (Hilton Colosseum in 1988) and, if I’m being honest, the last one, too. (My friends and I attended one of their reunion shows in Minneapolis in 2015. Nelly and TLC were the opening acts. It was the 90s all over again and it was awesome!)

My point is, you never forget your first boy band obsession. Or, if you’re Stella Samuel in Ali Novak’s The Heartbreakers, you never stop mocking your sister for her boy band obsession, also called The Heartbreakers. Stella is more indie music, not the pseudo-punk her sister loves, yet she’s on a mission to secure autographs of the hottest band around for her sister’s birthday present.

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The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton

by Kara Logsden on January 30th, 2017
The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton Cover Image

Wednesday Sisters author, Meg Waite Clayton’s, newest novel, The Race for Paris, captures the fictionalized story of two women who served as journalists during World War II. Clayton layers the story between the brutality of war, determination of the women, and the personal toll a war takes on the human spirit. Her research about women journalists in WWII brings their spirit to life and tells a lesser-known story about WWII heroes.

Liv is an Associated Press photographer who is determined to be the first photo journalist in a liberated Paris. She joins forces with Jane, a reporter who is unsure about this challenge but reluctant to abandon her friend. Together they disobey orders, barter for gasoline and supplies, and stay on the outskirts of the press camps as they make their way across France.

I listened to this story and Jennifer Ikeda’s narration is excellent. I was sad when the novel came to an end. It’s always a pleasure to find a book with excellent storytelling, a compelling plot, and solid characters who the reader cares about.

ICPL Top Staff Picks 2016: Fiction

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 23rd, 2016

ICPL staff combed through their 2016 reading logs to select the books they loved for our annual end-of-the-year Staff Top Picks lists.

The nominations were divided into eight categories: fiction; young adult; children’s; mystery; science fiction/fantasy; biography/memoir; nonfiction; and graphic novels. The only rule was that the book had to be released in 2016; books released in hardback in 2014 and paperback in 2015 were disqualified. Any book that was nominated by more than one staff member made our 2016 Best of the Best list.

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Fresh Picks: Middle Grade Fiction

by Morgan Reeves on December 20th, 2016
Fresh Picks: Middle Grade Fiction Cover Image

Take a break from the winter cold and enjoy these new titles aimed at kids in 4th-7th grades. Mostly realistic fiction with some hints of mystery and speculative science themes, these will appeal to readers who relate best to real world issues.

First, check out The Best Man by Richard Peck. What do you want to be when you grow up? Archer isn’t quite sure, but he has a pretty good idea of who he wants to be. He’s picked out some role models to emulate in his family; his grandfather, father and favorite uncle. He’s even found a fantastic teacher to look up to. As middle school starts, Archer tackles all of the surprises and changes that come his way with humor and a love for the Chicago Cubs.

 

Check out The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz  for an eye-opening look at the hardships refugees and immigrants face as they look for a safer future. Jaime lives in Guatemalan village with his close-knit family. Life would be fine if it weren’t for the violent gang that controls the whole town. When his cousin is killed and a target placed on Jaime’s back, his family sends him on the dangerous and illegal journey through Mexico to the United States.

 

 

Take a look at The Wolf Keepers by Elise Broach for fast-paced adventure for animal lovers. Lizzie has grown up with a love for all animals, as her father is a zookeeper. She often accompanies him to work and considers the John Muir Wildlife Park a second home. Her life takes a turn for the adventurous when she meets Tyler, runaway who has been living in the zoo. He’s sure something strange is going on at the zoo after dark, and asks Lizzie for help figuring out the mystery. Soon they end up running for their lives in the wilderness of Yosemite National Park.




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