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Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’


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!

How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz

by Kara Logsden on May 9th, 2015
How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz Cover Image

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.

 

Color-Based Societies – Literally

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.

  1. Shades of Grey (2009)
  2. Painting by Numbers (expected publication 2016)
  3. 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.

  1. Red Rising (2014)
  2. Golden Son (2015)
  3. Morning Star (05 January 2016)

 

A Corner of White.phpThe 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.

  1. A Corner of White (2013)
  2. The Cracks in the Kingdom (2014)
  3. 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.

 

 

 

Driveway Moments and Talking to my Disc Player

by Kara Logsden on April 21st, 2015
Driveway Moments and Talking to my Disc Player Cover Image

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.

 

So I’m rereading Harry Potter…

by Ella Von Holtum on April 9th, 2015

hpThe 15th anniversary has come and gone, and I myself haven’t read a word of Harry Potter since I finished The Deathly Hallows in 2007. The teens in Iowa City’s Home School Assistance Program have a monthly book club in the library, and we’ve been discussing Harry Potter books every other month. A lot of small things have accreted to plant the seed. Last weekend I got a cold and I decided it was finally time to reread Harry Potter.

We have all the books (and Ebooks!) here at ICPL, so after work on Friday I grabbed the first two. I’m on book three, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s great how little time it’s taken me to get this far – the books are an effortless read, and hours zip by as chapters unfold. Admittedly, the books are about to get long, so I’m savoring these fast reads while I can.

hp4Part of what makes them an easy read for me is the ways they are so familiar.I came to Harry Potter a little late, starting in 2003, and was too old to have grown up with them. I was an adult living in Scotland, and after some P.G. Wodehouse and Stephen Fry it felt like a logical leap. Winter in Glasgow was really the perfect moment for the story to take root in me, but it’s been awhile since I started and finished the series. So I was less surprised at how many details and plot points I’ve forgotten. Things as major as who opened the Chamber of Secrets or as small as the name of the Weasleys’ perpetually exhausted owl were all new to me this time through. I can’t wait to see what surprises await me as I continue reading!

It’s funny, too, how many conversations I’ve had in the last week about my re-read, entirely with people in their 20′s, who grew up with the books. One friend is rereading them for the first time too, and loving it. Another friend had been pondering a reread and posed an interesting question: “how do you think HP’s gonna age?” Not the character, but the series. How will it weather in the cannon?Will it be for kids in the next few generations and beyond like The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia were for me? Will children get excited when they are finally tall enough to reach the shelf where the books live on their parents’ shelves? Will people read them to their young ones as they fall asleep, maybe skipping over the real nightmare material? Or will they fade away, another momentous but momentary cultural phenomenon, something that people who were kids at a certain time remember so well, and everyone else just doesn’t get -what’s all this fuss about Quidditch and Wingardium Leviosa?

hp2I gave my copies away the last time I moved – they were just so much book to haul around from apartment to apartment – so I won’t be loaning them off my shelves. And I wonder too how appealing the series would be to a hesitant young reader when they can clearly see just how long the last four books really are. Maybe only the most dedicated will undertake the quest. On the other hand, they are still so ubiquitous, and so much has been made of Harry Potter’s role in introducing reading to so many kids of a certain generation. And the series still circulates in all the libraries I’ve visited. These marks are indelible for now, and I do wonder, how indeed will HP age?

An Irish Doctor in Peace and at War

by Kara Logsden on April 8th, 2015
An Irish Doctor in Peace and at War Cover Image

Patrick Taylor’s newest installment in the Irish Country Doctor series provides background information about many of the beloved characters in the stories. An Irish Doctor in Peace and at War moves between Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly’s service on the HMS Warspite battleship during WWII and two decades later in the iconic Irish village of Ballybucklebo.

I enjoy the Patrick Taylor books on many levels. The very basic level involves storytelling. I listen to these audiobooks and the narrator, John Keating, is awesome. His Irish brogue adds an element to the story that makes it come alive. There are many layers to the stories and Patrick Taylor weaves plots, details, and resolutions through chapters and decades.

The stories also have a strong sense of place and great character development. In my mind I know what Ballybucklebo looks like and, if I could visit, I would expect to find the publican, the town counselor, and the other assorted characters just as they are described in the books. Although the village is a bit iconic, it adds to the enjoyment of the story.

And finally, I like these stories for the pure enjoyment of the experience. I listen, I laugh, and I think about traveling to Ireland someday. I affectionately tell my son he’s a “buck eejit” and he smiles because he’s listened to the stories and also enjoys them.

We have our Book Madness winners!

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on April 7th, 2015

It was extremely close, but J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings edged out Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale to be named ICPL’s 2015 Book Madness champion in the Teens & Adults bracket.

The Children’s bracket winner was the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. The demigod beat out Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie series.BookMadness

Nearly 100 patrons turned in completed brackets, but only 14 had the winning title in their bracket — seven in the Teens & Adults bracket, and seven in the Children’s bracket. We moved to a point system to determine our winner (one point for every correct title moving on to Round 2, two points for every correct title in the Sweet 16, three points for every correct title in the Elite 8, etc.).

The winner of the Children’s bracket racked up 72 points, while the winner in the Teens & Adults bracket earned 81 points. We will contact them this week.

Library staff also participated in the competition, though none had Percy Jackson winning the Children’s bracket and only one staff member picked Lord of the Rings to win the Teens & Adults bracket.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s Book Madness! Remember, you can find a list of all 2015 titles here.

 

Book Madness: The Final Round

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on April 4th, 2015

At the beginning of March, 128 books (64 titles in two brackets: Children’s, and Teens & Adults) were vying for ICPL’s 2015 Book Madness champion title.BookMadness

Your votes have narrowed that vast field of classic literature, childhood favorites, and pop culture must-reads to four books: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale; The Lord of the Rings by J.R. R. Tolkien; Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series; and the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems.

Now it is time to choose which books will be named the 2015 Book Madness Champion in their bracket.

2015 BOOK MADNESS: ADULTS & TEENS

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

vs.

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

2015 BOOK MADNESS: CHILDREN’S

Percy Jackson (series by Rick Riordan)

vs.

Elephant and Piggie (series by Mo Willems)

Voting begins now and will continue until we close Monday night. We will announce our winning Book Madness titles Tuesday and will contact our contest winners soon after. Remember, you can vote by visiting the Library. You can also vote online on our Facebook page or send a tweet to @ICPL using the #ICPLBookMadness hashtag! We’ll accept social media votes until 9 p.m. Monday.

You can find the list of all books in this year’s Book Madness literary competition here.

A Big Book Worth the Effort

by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on March 31st, 2015
Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Since this is my very first blog ever, I’d like to recommend my most favorite book of all time:  The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.  This epic novel is not in our Book Madness bracket, most likely because I forgot to submit it.  Because it was originally serialized, each chapter is full of action and the book reads more like modern-day authors David Baldacci and Brad Thor.

Before he became The Count, Edmond Dantes was a naive merchant sailor with a life full of happiness.  That changes when he is sent to the foreboding Chateau d’If for reasons unknown to him.  After his “release”, he methodically wreaks vengeance on those he deems responsible, but also helps others he believes are worthy.

If you don’t have the time for 117 chapters or are just a bit daunted, we have a 4-part TV mini-series (starring Gerard Depardieu; 1998) and the 2002 theatrical version (starring Jim Caviezel).  There are also many revamped versions including:

Since I am a fervent fan, I’ve also read The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss.  This is a biography of Alexandre Dumas’s father who served as an inspiration for the novel.

Edmond Dantes is a complex character and the plot is quite intricate – with every re-reading I discover something new.  The Count of Monte Cristo is a classic because its themes still resonate today.




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