Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bingeworthy TV: The Good Place

When I saw the previews for The Good Place I figured it would last five or six episodes and then be cancelled. A show about people dying and then waking up in a utopia doesn't sound very exciting or funny.  But, I love Kristen Bell so I thought I would give it a chance.

Wow, this show is just a fantastic way to spend 30 minutes.  The cast is incredible, especially Kristen Bell as "Eleanor" and D'Arcy Carden as "Janet."

Eleanor Shellstrop wakes up in the The Good Place and is so confused.  She wasn't a good person, why is she in The Good Place? Michael, the architect of The Good Place (essentially an angel), has her confused with another Eleanor Shellstrop, one who should be in The Good Place.  He introduces her to Chidi, Tahani, and Jianyu, other recent additions. They all seem to have been wonderful people when alive, or were they?  Then there is Janet. Janet is basically the computer that runs The Good Place.  In The Good Place, everything is wonderful, you find your soulmate, you live in your dream house, everything is coming up sunshine, roses, and unicorns.

Except it isn't. The Good Place seems to be broken so Eleanor and crew try to figure out how to
fix the problem.  To that end, Eleanor decides that she has to learn to be a better person, with Chidi as her teacher.  The alternative to The Good Place is The Bad Place and nobody wants to end up there.  I'm so glad this show was picked up for a second season, because season two has been every bit as fantastic as season one. 

As a side note, one of the things that makes this show so amazing is that nobody can swear in The Good Place.  Eleanor, in particular, likes to swear and the words don't come out as she intends (e.g., mother forking shirt balls). It seems so effortless for Kristin Bell that I find myself wondering if the swearing system from The Good Place has seeped into her real life. 

~Amy, Adult Services

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Lazy Day Reading

What do I do when it is really cold out and I have some free time? I hang out with my cat, Gizmo, and read cozy mysteries by the fire. Lately I’ve been on a library mystery kick and here are three that I’d recommend for some lazy day reading.  

Blue Ridge Library Mystery Series by Victoria Gilbert 

A Murder for the Books is the first book (and only book to date) in this series.  Librarian Amy Gilbert moves in with her aunt in a quiet, historic town in Virginia.  Amy left her previous job at an academic library under embarrassing circumstances and running a small town public library is new for her.  She uses her research skills and some logic to dig into the library archives to solve a murder.  

I enjoyed Gilbert’s writing.  The mystery was interesting and honestly I didn’t figure out who the villain was or the reason for the murder before the conclusion of the book.  Unlike the other two series, there isn’t a dog or cat involved with any of the characters.  Props to Victoria Gilbert for staying away from that cozy mystery trope. 

Lighthouse Library Series by Eva Gates

This series currently has three books -- start with By Book or by Crook.  Librarian Lucy Richardson works and lives in the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library with her roommate and library cat Charles.  After leaving her job at Harvard Library, she is thrilled to find a job in this small Outer Banks library.  Then a priceless first edition of a Jane Austen novel disappears and the chair of the library board is murdered. Lucy suddenly finds herself involved in a murder investigation.  

Of the three series, this one was probably my least favorite.  However, I love the idea of a library in a lighthouse. How amazing would it be to work and live there?  There is, of course, a bit of a love triangle and your typical cozy mystery quirky characters make appearances.  I thought the series had concluded after the third book; it looks like a fourth book will be published in June 2018. 

Library Lovers Mystery Series by Jenn McKinlay

This is the most robust series on the list.  There are eight books to date and the series starts with Books Can Be Deceiving.  Lindsay Norris is the new director of the Briar Creek Public Library and is enjoying working with her best friend Beth, the children’s librarian.  She faces a bit of an uphill battle with her library board and one particularly bitter employee.  Things get a little bit more exciting when Beth’s boyfriend, a famous author, is found murdered and Beth is the main suspect.  

This is my favorite series of the three.  The depiction of library life is pretty realistic and as a librarian I appreciate that.  Lindsay has a Crafternoon group that meets once a week at the library to talk about a book and work on a craft.  The group is made up of mostly women and they discuss pretty much everything including the book of the month.  McKinlay includes recipes at the end of her book along with discussion questions for the Crafternoon monthly book.  There are also instructions for some of the craft projects.  I highly recommend McKinlay’s other book series, The Cupcake Bakery mysteries, and the Hat Shop mysteries.  McKinlay’s writing is full of humor and likeable protagonists. 

Pick up one of these mysteries, get yourself a cat, and enjoy an afternoon of reading books about books.  

(cat not available for check-out)

~ Amy, Adult Services

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Bingeworthy TV: iZombie

iZombie, a zombie series for people who do not really like the zombie genre.  I am not a fan of The Walking Dead and I do not generally appreciate zombie guts and gore, but if you can make me laugh its all good.  My daughters recommended iZombie to me and after about 3 episodes I was hooked.
The premise is that there are zombies among us but if they are well fed, spray tanned and properly coifed you would never recognize them as the un-dead.  The main character is Liv, a newly minted doctor who had her life all figured out. Surgeon, check; hot fiance, check; awesome best friend, check.  Perfect life, not so fast.  One night at a yacht party there were some funky drugs being passed around and before you know the ship is blowing up and zombies are making a mess of things.  Liv gets scratched and when she wakes up on the beach she is deathly pale, has a white streak in her hair and is oddly starving for brains.  So her saga begins.
She ends up getting a job in the coroner's office because of the steady supply of brains and her co-worker quickly catches her having a snack.  But he's on board in keeping her secret and even begins trying to come up with a cure for zombism.  Liv discovers that she takes on the personality of the person whose brain she has eaten and suddenly she's a magician, a gambler or a dominatrix. Whoever she is channeling is usually very different than her true self.  With the visions she has while on each brain she is spurred to  begin helping a local detective solve crimes.  
The dialog is clever and often funny.  Watching Liv come up with new brain recipes is one of my favorite little bits of each show.  The show isn't all fun and games and there are some tense moments but overall this is more Zombieland than Night Of The Living Dead. I must say I have binged the whole series and am anxiously awaiting the new season!

~Michelle, Circulation

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Staff Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is approaching its one-year anniversary on the New York Times bestseller list. Having just finished it, I can attest that it deserves every week it has spent there.

For the crime of being an aristocrat after the 1917 Russian Revolution, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is placed under life-long house arrest. The "house" to which he is confined, however, is vast: Moscow's majestic Metropol Hotel, where he is sentenced to a 100-foot attic room though he's free to move about the hotel.

Rostov is in his early thirties as the novel opens and through the course of its 480 pages we inhabit thirty-plus years of house arrest with him. And what a time we have of it. Within the space of one building Towles has created a very full world, peopling it with an extensive cast that pivots around the appealing Count and includes international hotel guests, an unctuously evil hotel manager, a beautiful actress, a former Red Army colonel, a prodigious young child, a temperamental chef, a revolutionary friend, an orphan, and many others. The cast is delightful, with most characters assisting the Count in providing this enchanting book with its large heart.

The Count himself is the epitome of grace under pressure. Without ever surrendering his gentility or his humor, he accommodates himself to his newly restricted life, which he manages to lead to the fullest, even embracing a new career as headwaiter at the hotel's premiere restaurant (the Bolsheviks allow the hotel to function in its grand old style to impress foreign visitors who stay there).

The novel often reminded me of a fable or tale and as such it's very much in the Russian tradition. There are table legs filled with gold coins, a clock that tolls but two times a day, a key that opens all doors, a shadowy cat, fine wines by the hundreds, brandy snifters by the score, sumptuous meals and exquisite pastries galore. Yet amidst all these trappings of the old aristocratic life, we are also given a clear view of the new Soviet regime with its endless bureaucracies and Siberian gulags, its negation of the individual in favor of the collective, its privations and Orwellian turns of phrase.

The novel concludes very satisfactorily in 1954 and about that I will say nothing more. From start to finish this book is an impressive piece of architecture; many years of planning went into its construction.To my mind, the novel's two greatest pleasures are the sublime delight Rostov takes in literature, from Montaigne to Russia's great literary masters, and the consistent intelligence and civility of the prose (Towles's debut novel, by the way, published in 2011, was titled Rules of Civility). No small part of this new book's success may be due to its timing. With public discourse these days tending to the divisive and vulgar, A Gentleman in Moscow transports us to a far more charming world.

Ann, Adult Services

Monday, December 18, 2017

Tax Forms and Free Filing Sites in Dubuque

Updated: December 18, 2017

The Iowa Department of Revenue is not distributing paper tax instruction booklets through Carnegie-Stout Public Library this year, and the selection from the IRS is very limited. Library staff can help you find tax forms and instructions on the Internet and print them for ten cents per page. For more info call Carnegie-Stout Public Library at 563-589-4225.

Federal tax forms and instructions are available online at https://www.irs.gov/forms-instructions. You can order free forms to be delivered to you by mail at https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/forms-and-publications-by-us-mail or by calling 1-800-829-3676. Tax help is available by calling 1-800-829-1040.

Iowa tax forms are available online at https://tax.iowa.gov. You can order free forms to be delivered to you by mail by calling 515-281-7239 or 1-800-532-1531 (in Iowa only). Tax help is available by calling 515-281-3114 or 1-800-367-3388 (in Iowa, Omaha, Rock Island, and Moline).

Operation: New View is providing free and confidential tax preparation at several free filing sites in Dubuque to individuals with low to moderate incomes. For more information visit http://www.operationnewview.org/programs/vita/ or call 563-556-5130 or dial 211 on your phone.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Staff Review: "Love, Hate & Other Filters" by Samira Ahmed

What do librarians do all day? Well, it depends on the day, but one of my favorite tasks is picking out new books for the library's collection. A side benefit to buying books for the library is that publishers offer us advance access to review books that they hope will be popular. Which is how I recently had the chance to review Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed, a book that will be published on January 16.

This is Ahmed's first, or debut, novel, and like the publisher, I hope that it will be popular. The book is written for a teen audience, but I imagine many adult readers will enjoy it as much as I did. One element that Dubuque readers might find particularly appealing is the book's Illinois setting.

Maya Aziz is a high school senior who dreams of going to school in New York to become a documentary filmmaker. Her parents left India for America for a chance at a better life for themselves and their daughter, a life they've found in their rural suburb of Chicago where they have built a successful dental practice. However their dreams for Maya's success are more along the lines of attending college close to home, a career as a doctor or a lawyer, and a marriage with a nice Muslim boy.

Maya wants to be a good daughter and make her parents happy, but part of growing up is learning what is important to you. The tension between parents, especially immigrant parents, and their children as they become adults is a common story in literature, and it's handled very well here. Readers who read and loved When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon are likely to also enjoy Love, Hate & Other Filters.

What sets Ahmed's book apart, however, is a larger focus on the Aziz family's identity as Muslim Americans and how that shapes their experience. Ahmed doesn't shy away from the impacts of racism and Islamophobia, both subtle and overt, that exist in our country.


Maya is the narrator for most of the  novel, but in between chapters there are short pieces, a page or two at most, from other people's perspectives. Readers will quickly come to suspect that the people in these short pieces are tied to some terrible event. An event that, even though Maya will never have met any of the people involved, will have a profound effect on her life.

Many readers are likely to quickly share my suspicion that the story being told in these short pieces is a tragedy, specifically a terrorist attack. The tension that Ahmed created by interjecting these hints of something awful in a story that is otherwise charming kept me reading late into the night. The joy of watching Maya learn to stand up for her dreams and the warmth of first love paired with the seasick dread and tension of a coming tragedy created a book more impactful and human than either story might have been on its own.

~Sarah, Adult Services