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Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

Inspiration for your fiction

by Melody Dworak on November 17th, 2015
Inspiration for your fiction Cover Image

NaNoWriMo is more than halfway over. Looking for inspiration to get you past writer’s block? Consider consulting dictionaries and encyclopedias on specific subjects.

Last week, someone stumbled upon our encyclopedias on the short Reference shelves on the second floor. He wondered if we had anything like that for sci fi/fantasy mythology. He was curious as to where storytellers got their information about the strengths and weaknesses of monsters.

Lucky for him, he was talking with someone who’s been reading a ton of fantasy fiction this year. I have read the accounts of countless vampires, ghosts, werewolves, fae, demons, witches, trolls, shape-shifters—you name it!

I got him the book How to Kill a Vampire as a place to start. As we were talking about what his goals were for finding books like this, it struck me that he had a great idea: use these kinds of books to inspire and research your fiction writing.  Read the rest of this entry »

What it’s like to read Janet Evanovich for the first time

by Melody Dworak on October 30th, 2015
What it’s like to read Janet Evanovich for the first time Cover Image

Okay, I’m using the term “read” here liberally as I’m really listening to her audiobooks. But the sentiment is the same: after a long aversion to mainstream romance and mystery, what do Janet Evanovich’s stories have for me?

Caving in to one of OverDrive’s auto-generated recommendation that I should try out Wicked Business, I listened to a sample of the book and discovered a familiar voice. Lorelei King, talented performer of my beloved Mercy Thompson series, reads Evanovich’s Wicked books too. I have really enjoyed King’s tender interpretation of the Mercy Thompson books–she has whisked me up in wistfulness before–so I was tickled to find that her voice narrates more stories in our collection. (You never think to search by reader, do you?)  Read the rest of this entry »

Haunting Tales

by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on October 29th, 2015

Nowadays, it seems like horror equals gratuitous gore, especially in movies.  These stories, to me, are the ones that are truly horrible.  They strike to the primal core and are remembered decades after reading.

Cask cover.phpLet’s start with my favorite from the master of macabre, Edgar Allan Poe:  The Cask of Amontillado (1846).  It’s a short story of revenge mixed with wine – one that rarely ends well.  It’s told from the viewpoint of the “villain” who is specific with many details except for a definitive reason for his grievance.  The ending is not nice but what really gives me the chills are the false displays of friendship.

Beach cover.phpI first read on On the Beach (1957) by Nevil Shute when I was a teenager.  It was still the Cold War and as a fan of Tom Clancy, I thought “Aha!  Here’s what happens if Jack Ryan does not save the day.”  After World War III, the radioactive fallout has not yet reached Australia but it’s on the way.  The survivors know they only have months to live and act accordingly.  I highly recommend this book as own it and have read it multiple times since then.

Lottery cover.phpThe Lottery (1948) by Shirley Jackson takes place in the center of a tiny village.  It’s small enough that everyone knows each other’s name and most of their business as well, very much like where I grew up.  This short story develops quickly, interspersing character introduction with descriptions how the lottery works.  By the time the winner is revealed, it’s completely different from the idyllic beginning.

Algernon cover.phpI read Flowers for Algernon (1959) by Daniel Keyes once long ago and never again.  That’s not because the novel is awful (it’s brilliant!) – it’s because the story line is so plausible and that is terrifying.  It’s written in diary form by Charlie Gordon, a man with low IQ, as progress reports for Dr. Strauss.  The doctor performs an experimental operation on Charlie to increase his intelligence like Algernon, the lab mouse.  The changes are gradual, yet noticeable, and Charlie shares them all with the reader.

Game cover.phpLastly, you know that short story about that guy on an island that hunts other guys?  Most people say yes but can’t remember the title or author.  Thanks to the magic of the internet, I plugged the above phrase into a search engine and voila:  The Most Dangerous Game (1924) by Richard Connell.  That plot may not seem like much but consider that it was written almost 100 years ago and is still a popular basis for both books and movies.

Thanks for letting me share some scary stories with you.  Happy Halloween!

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?