by Kara Logsden on July 23rd, 2015
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.
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
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.
In 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 (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.
This 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
The 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.
Each 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.
Lastly, 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!
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.
When 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.
The 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.
At 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.
Lastly, 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!
by Kara Logsden on May 9th, 2015
Lisa Lutz’s new novel is different from her previous novels, and yet the same. Lutz is known for her quirky characters, fast moving pace, and unanticipated plot twists. The difference with this novel is the characters – the characters are more developed and real. Half way through the book I realized I cared about the characters and their story.
How to Start a Fire is about three college friends and the paths their lives take. The story develops by revealing events between 1993 and 2014. Reading the book is like river rafting. Sometimes there are rapids and the rafter has to pay attention while other times the river meanders and the rafter can relax and enjoy the scenery. Ultimately the book is about friendship, loyalty, choices, forgiveness, accountability and expectations about life.
I thoroughly enjoyed the new Lisa Lutz novel and think it will be a popular summer title.
by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on April 28th, 2015
What if Colors were nouns instead of adjectives? These three trilogies explore the wondrous possibilities. In the first two listed below, colors are used as rankings in a social hierarchy. The last one has colors manifest as weather events affecting moods.
In 2009, Jasper Fforde stepped away from his Thursday Next series to write Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron. Eddie Russet is a lowly Red who can only see color in that spectrum, reminiscent of the Kim Anderson photographs so popular a while back. On the other end of the spectrum are the Purples, a royal color that surely means they are “destined to lead”.
I thought this book was outstanding as it was the first one I’d read to treat the rainbow in such a fashion. Every year I’ve anxiously awaited a sequel and, according to Goodreads, the next book in the Shades of Grey trilogy [AKA the Chromatacia novels] will be published next year.
- Shades of Grey (2009)
- Painting by Numbers (expected publication 2016)
- Gordini Protocols (2017)
The Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown also uses colors to define a person’s place in the universe, primarily through occupations. It follows Darrow, a Red miner on Mars, who discovers that he and others are being suppressed. Upon his “transmutation” into Gold, he realizes it is even more brutal at the top.
- Red Rising (2014)
- Golden Son (2015)
- Morning Star (05 January 2016)
The Colours of Madeleine trilogy by Jaclyn Moriarty treats colors a little differently. In these refreshing books, colors are whimsical but still have a material effect. The plot bounces back and forth between two separate realities: Elliott Baranski in Bonfire, the Farms, the Kingdom of Cello and Madeleine Tully in Cambridge, England, the World.
- A Corner of White (2013)
- The Cracks in the Kingdom (2014)
- Unknown as not yet listed on either Goodreads or her website
I invite you to enter these fantastic worlds where color means much more than just what shirt you wear. In them, you can imagine what color you’d like to be and discover which one you really are.
by Kara Logsden on April 21st, 2015
I love listening to recorded books. I often listen in my car and the stories sweep me away. Too often I arrive at my destination and don’t remember the drive there because I’m so wrapped up in listening to a great story. It reminds me of my childhood and my love of being read to.
Currently I’m listening to what I’d typically characterize as a “page turner” – although I don’t think I can call it that when I’m listening. C.J. Box’s new book, Endangered, is set in Wyoming and centers on a crime committed against Joe Pickett’s adopted daughter, April. I’m finding myself talking back to my car’s disc player (“JOE – That’s a clue. Pay attention!”) or sitting in my driveway not wanting to turn the car off without knowing what happens next. The narrator of the story, David Chandler, is perfect and his performance enhances the story.
As you plan your summer road trip vacations, remember to include a trip in to the Library to find a great book for your family to listen to. Library staff are happy to recommend good stories for road trips. And if you see me sitting in my driveway or talking to my car’s disc player, just smile and wave … and remember to ask me which book I was listening to.