Sunday, September 18, 2016

Staff Review: Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith

Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith is a fine tale, though not one I would normally patronize. In this book, there were no ghastly hauntings, no demonic possessions, no black blood trickling down macabre halls, no gallivanting knights riding down dissidents, no rampaging Vikings, and there was certainly a marked absence of marauding mercenaries, bloodthirsty space pirates, and buxom maidens awaiting a daring rescue. That being said, this story piqued my interest. I think it was the cover. Despite what you may have learned in school, one can sometimes judge a book by its cover. Take a peek at the screenshot of the cover that I assume is portrayed right next to this missive. You can see thick, leafy foliage providing shelter to what appears to be a dry creek bed scattered with leaves and with an air of tranquility descending over all of the above. In fact the whole narrative is infused with picturesque scenery that makes one yearn for a virgin forest and an open schedule. But I digress.
 Free Men unfurls shortly after our great nation won its independence and tells the story of an escaped slave, a white simpleton, and an American Indian seeking allies who stumble upon one another while on their individual paths to freedom. Upon meeting on their separate roads to redemption, this unlikely trio forges an instantaneous bond that transcends each of their individual prejudices and throws them into a situation where they are faced with a difficult decision. When an opportunity to seize an unimaginable amount of wealth from men who are certainly affluent enough presents itself, these men struggle to ascertain whether the ends justify the means. Is it a sin for these wronged individuals to seize what has long been denied to them or do they tread the dark path toward both their damnation and their salvation? 
The three protagonists’ journey is stalked from its inauguration by a bloodhound of a Frenchman with a sense of justice as well as an encompassing need to understand the motivations of these three disparate men. His need to bring a group of wrongdoers to justice becomes increasingly sidetracked by his fascination with his prey and his need to scrutinize the spirit of freedom these men present.  

This novel was an unexpected treat that, as I unwrapped it, presented layer after layer of depth and complexity. From the point of view of either the predator or the prey, this story vividly portrays the grey areas of life and makes the reader ponder what it truly means to be free.   

~Ryan, Circulation Department 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Nine Self Help Advice Books

We've gathered together nine of our newer self-help books below. Check them out!

Hope, Make, Heal: 20 crafts to mend the heart by Maya Pagan Donenfeld
(745.5 DON) For maker and artist Maya Donenfeld, when faced with the trauma of a sudden and unexpected ending to her marriage of sixteen years, she yearned to find something that would allow her to focus and channel her powerful flood of emotions into something she could see and touch. Knowing that busy hands can profoundly nurture the heart and quiet the mind, she began making beautiful and expressive objects that were simple, intentional, and most of all, meaningful.

F**k It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way by John Parkin
(158.1 PAR)  In this inspiring and humorous book, John C. Parkin suggests that saying F**k It is the perfect Western expression of the Eastern spiritual ideas of letting go, giving up, and finding real freedom by realizing that things don't matter so much (if at all). It's a spiritual way that doesn't require chanting, meditating, or wearing sandals. And it's the very power of this profanity that makes it perfect for shaking us Westerners out of the stress and anxiety that dominate our daily lives.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
(158.1 DUC) Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, MacArthur "genius" Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments.

Stop Caring What Others Think: How to Stop Worrying About What People Think of You by James Umber
(158.2 UMB) Do you constantly find yourself worrying about how other people see you? In this book, life coach James Umber asks the question "Why do we let other people's opinions have so much power and control over us?" He will not only tell you an incredibly simple and hugely effective tip that you can implement from day one, he also looks at the reasoning hidden behind our thought processes.

Feel the Fear-- and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers
(152.46 JEF) Are you afraid of making decisions? Whatever your fear, here is your chance to push through it once and for all. In this enduring guide to self-empowerment, Dr. Susan Jeffers inspires us with dynamic techniques and profound concepts that have helped countless people grab hold of their fears and move forward with their lives.

Level Up Your Life: How to Unlock Adventure and Happiness by Becoming the Hero of Your Own Story by Steve Kamb
(158.1 KAM) For the past 5 years, Steve Kamb has transformed himself from wanna-be daydreamer into a real-life superhero and actually turned his life into a gigantic video game: flying stunt planes in New Zealand, gambling in a tuxedo at the Casino de Monte-Carlo, and even finding Nemo on the GreatBarrier Reef. To help him accomplish all of these goals, he built a system that allowed him to complete quests, take on boss battles, earn experience points, and literally level up his life.

The Little Book of Big Change: The No-Willpower Approach to Breaking Any Habit by Amy Johnson
(153.85 JOH) It's not you--it's just the way you're wired. That's the message psychologist Amy Johnson tells readers with bad habits in her unique guide, The Little Book of Big Change. Drawing on a powerful combination of neuroscience and spirituality, this book shows readers that they are not their habits. Rather, their habits and addictions are the result of simple brain wiring that is easily reversed. By learning to stop bad habits at the source, readers will take charge of their habits and addictions--once and for all

Fighting Mad: Practical Solutions for Conquering Anger by Ray Guarendi
(152.47 GUA) We all struggle with situations where we experience feelings of anger. Most of the time anger and its causes are well within our control; conquering those angry impulses are in our control, too. Guarendi cuts through psychobabble to present a realistic picture of anger and other emotional issues, and then offers practical solutions for overcoming them. Most of the time anger and its causes are well within our control; conquering those angry impulses are in our control, too.

The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by James Loehr & Tony Schwartz
(158.1 LOE) We live in digital time. Our pace is rushed, rapid-fire, and relentless. Facing crushing workloads, we try to cram as much as possible into every day. We're wired up, but we're melting down. Time management is no longer a viable solution. As bestselling authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz demonstrate in this groundbreaking book, managing energy, not time, is the key to enduring high performance as well as to health, happiness, and life balance.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Binge Worthy TV Shows

Sometimes I think the DVR is the best and worst invention ever.  The best because I can record shows when I'm not home and watch them whenever.  The worst because I record a lot of TV shows and then I end up watching an entire season over the course of a day or two. For a television junkie, the DVR is a big old enabler. 
Here are a few of my favorite binge worthy shows: 

Angie Tribeca on TBS

From the mind of Steve Carell and his wife, Nancy Walls Carell, Angie Tribeca is a police procedural satire in the spirit of Police Squad.  Rashida Jones plays the titular detective who gets a new partner in the pilot episode. TBS aired the first season of 10 episodes as a 25-hour marathon, so this show was truly made for binge watching.  The humor is very reminiscent of the movies Airplane! and The Naked Gun. Surely (don't call me Shirley) you will want to give this show a try. 

Killjoys on Syfy

Killjoys follows a trio of bounty hunters, Dutch, Dav and Johnny as they work in a four planet system called The Quad. Hello, space bounty hunters!  What isn't to love about this show?  Killjoys, especially in the second season is a great mix of humor, drama and action.  The leader of this rag-tag trio is Dutch, and she is a woman who knows how to take care of herself.  You wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley.  The best part of this show is her relationship (strictly platonic) with Johnny.  Also Pree, every episode with Pree is automatically my favorite episode. 

Dark Matter on Syfy

Dark Matter is a bit darker (ha) in tone than Killjoys.  A group of six people wake up on the space ship Raza, with no memory of who they are.  They name themselves One through Six based on the order in which they woke up.  Dark Matter was created by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie based upon their comic book of the same name.  Both men at one time or another were writers and executive producers on the Stargate TV shows. If you are a fan of the Stargate shows, you will see some familiar faces pop up now and then. Even without their memories, it becomes clear that the leader of the Raza crew is "Two" and she is a kick-butt, take names later (if they are still alive) kind of woman.   

The 100 on the CW

This post-apocalyptic drama follows a group of teens (100 of them in all) as they become the first humans to return to Earth, 97 years after a devastating nuclear apocalypse.  The twist here is that the teens are all technically criminals and Earth isn't quite as uninhabited as those still living in space think.  Also, the colony of space ships is failing so returning to Earth is pretty much their only chance of survival.  The CW is famous for dramas with very pretty people, and The 100 does deliver on that front. However, they don't stay so pretty (yes they actually get dirty and the dirt sticks) and life on planet Earth is BRUTAL.  Think Lord of the Flies, Game of Thrones brutal.  I record this show because sometimes I just need to stop my DVR, walk away and decompress.  Fair warning, this show will bring about emotions.

 UnREAL on the Lifetime channel.

I did a review of this show that you can read here.  Basically this is a show about the making of a fictional reality dating show and it is CRAZY.  Plus each season (season 2 just ended) is only 10 episodes long so you could easily watch a season in one day.

~Amy, Adult Services

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Staff Review: Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by Rowling, Thorne and Tiffany

Where do I begin? To review something that you have undying affection for is harder than you might think. I suspect I need to delve a bit deeper than: I ♥ Harry Potter ♥ always.

As most of you know, the Harry Potter stories were published in seven books and through these books, we see the whole story arc of wizard Harry's teen years (the glorious triumphs and far too many tragedies) and the ultimate fight of good versus evil, love versus hate. The last book came out in July 2007. Nine years ago! For those of us who are super-fans, that is eons. My love for Harry Potter knows no bounds and I was beyond thrilled when I realized that there was to be "the eighth Harry Potter story" coming out.

What surprised so many people was that this eighth story is a written as a play. It is being performed this summer in London. So many of us will never get the chance to see this play across the pond, but we do get the script for it.

I knew it was going to be a play script. I knew it would be different. But what I didn't expect was how quickly the story jumps right into the action. But that makes sense, I realized, because a play is all dialogue. All the words need to count and they need to propel the action forward.

I can only hope that someday the play will come to Iowa. I'd even be happy with a DVD of the stage production in London. I think that there must be so much visual storytelling here that we miss a lot of the drama of the words in the script: all the meaningful looks, pregnant pauses, no-doubt gorgeous and magical set pieces. I miss J.K.'s ability to bring you into the story by her fantastic descriptions of magical locations, also the peeks into the minds of the characters and how they are feeling. All of these things are burned in my memory, but for someone who hasn't read these books *cough* so many times, they might not get it at all.

...Angie, may I hijack your review for a moment? This is Amy.  I'm also a huge Harry Potter fan, but nowhere near as obsessed as Angie.  Though I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I feel cheated.  I feel cheated because J.K. Rowling is a masterful story teller and I really want to return to the world of Harry Potter and see Hogwarts as it is now.  With Harry, Hermione, Ron and yes, even Malfoy's children attending school, learning spells, getting into shenanigans and forging their own path in the world.  But alas I don't think that will ever happen. So curse you J.K. Rowling for dangling this carrot and then just taking it away.  Okay, selfish rant over.  You may return to Angie's review now...

Thanks, Amy, for that insight. I will say that I always hold out hope that there will be more written about the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling. This seems to be the case on her website "Pottermore" After the heaviness of what happened in the last few books, however, I don't think we will be able to get our innocence back. Sigh. That doesn't mean I won't keep reading them however. These books are like family to us super-fans.

Update: Rumors are flying that some film producers want to make this play into one, or some say even three movies. Who knows if this is true, but we can always dream.

~Angie (and Amy), Adult Services

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Staff Review: Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

What fun this book was! We had a lovely and animated discussion of Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart for August's Book Club.

I chose this book in particular because it was a mystery and very much outside of my normal reading habits. I do like to stretch my reading boundaries and it also happens to fulfill the "Read a Mystery" challenge for the Great Reading Challenge! The premise seemed intriguing too: The year is 1915, the location: New Jersey, USA. There are three sisters living on a farm and taking care of themselves just fine, thank you very much. The story begins as the sisters are out shopping. Along comes a newfangled automobile which quite suddenly and rather rudely smashes into the ladies' horse-drawn buggy.

What starts as a simple quest to recoup the cost of a demolished buggy turns into an all-out war with the corrupt factory owner (and errant automobile driver) who refuses to pay and in fact, insists on harassing and taunting these ladies with threats and bullets until they feel they are trapped in their home and under siege. But even as we can feel their fear and worry, and the unfairness of the general treatment of women at this time, we also see their strength and fortitude.

Constance, Norma and Fleurette Kopp just wanted to go about their own business, but as they are thrust into an unwanted struggle, they grow to meet the challenge and then some. All three end up being a hero in their own way in this story. As we watch them take on the corrupt boss and his henchmen (as well as some of the gender norms expected during this era), we get to savor some sweet justice. The best part of the whole story, to me, is the fact that it is based on a true story. The Kopp sisters were real and they were actually involved in a story much like this one! It is great that this tale of three incredible women is finally being told.

This mystery isn't a whodunit, not really. But it does keep us on the edge of our seat wondering how all the pieces fit and how things happened the way they did. I recommend this for anyone who can appreciate sharp and capable main characters who are up against a society that doesn't really respect them, but who do what needs to be done regardless. There are some great one-liners in this book and a general sense of playfulness, even as there are some more serious and thoughtful elements that pin the story together. A great read overall! And it's a series too - Book 2 will be out in September and it is called Lady Cop Makes Trouble.

~Angie, Adult Services

Tuesday, August 23, 2016