Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Staff Review: The Girl on the Train & Finding Jake

I've read two really great books lately, so I've decided to share about both of them for your to be read lists.  The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, published in January, and Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon, published in February, are full of suspense and will keep you guessing until the very end.  Both stories keep moving back and forth, either between characters or time periods, to give the reader multiple perspectives and give glimpses of the complete story.  They also provide shock and awe with a wide variety of emotions.  Prepare to spend a long amount of uninterrupted time for reading because neither book will not leave your hands until the end.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has three main characters whose stories are all connected.  The main character, Rachel, tells most of the story. Her life is on a rapid downward spiral and she wants to find her purpose in the world.  She still commutes daily on the train to a job she no longer has just to pretend that she can still function in the world.  On one of the stops, she starts to see the same people day after day.  I’m sure we've all done it – see the same people through work or just passing by, or maybe it’s just a onetime thing, but we imagine these different people and give a life to them to forget about our own for a brief moment.  Rachel starts to do this and creates this elaborate back story for the perfect couple she observes.  Next the story introduces Anna and Megan.  They begin to tell us about their own lives and about their local neighborhood.  Soon they all realize how they fit into each others' lives and who can be trusted.

To make this story even better, there is disappearance of a local woman and everyone becomes a suspect.  People turn against each other in order to prove their own innocence.  I am reminded that “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return.”*  This seems all fine and dandy, but these three women get more than just love.  There’s a missing person, drunken blackouts, liars, cheaters, and strangers laced throughout their lives and the goal is to just figure out what happened on a Saturday night.

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon tells the exact story described in the title.  Jake is missing and his father is desperately trying to find him.  This suspenseful book is a bit darker and more disturbing because it’s centered on something that happens in our society more often than we want.  There has been a school shooting with multiple fatalities and Jake goes from “Missing” to “Suspect and Accomplice.”  People draw their own conclusions based on reports that Jake has become responsible for this tragedy, therefore his own family is to blame because he’s not part of “the popular crowd” and hangs out with just a few close friends.

Jake’s father looks back on his life as a stay-at-home dad trying to raise two kids while his wife climbs the corporate ladder at her law firm.  He recalls events that have formed Jake’s life and if he became the person that his dad thinks he is, or if he became the person that the rest of the world believes he is.  All of these thoughts are weighing down the family and the news and media outlets are bombarding them with questions instead of focusing on the main goal.  Again, we all just want to love and be loved in return.  Yet sometimes love just isn't enough to get the answers to the most important question of all - Where is Jake?

Both of these novels provide confusion with plot twists and anticipation for what will happen next.  They also give a unique perspective on family dynamics because of the differences in the two stories.  Sometimes not everything comes out the way we want it to, but we just have to keep living (and reading) to see whatever happens next.

*eden abhez, by way of “Moulin Rouge”

~Andrea, Circulation

Monday, March 9, 2015

Staff Review: Shinju by Laura Joh Rowland

I’m a big fan of historical fiction, the more medieval the better, and I’ve always been a little intrigued by Japanese culture, so I was thrilled to find Shinju, by Laura Joh Rowland. It’s the first of a series, so if you like it, there are lots more to read. It's worth noting that early books in this series, including Shinju, are only available as eBooks.

The novels are murder mysteries set in feudal Japan when the samurai are the noble class, and the first one starts us off in 1689. This world is governed by Bushido, the ancient warrior code of conduct, which is known for being very harsh. It might seem hard to imagine a character you could relate to from this severe culture, but the author manages to pull it off with the honorable samurai Sano Ichiro.

Sano is a great sword fighter, an educated scholar, and an honest man who guards the rights of the unfortunate. And he’s good-looking too. He’s got it all, but there’s a catch – these traits don’t get you very far in his world (except the sword-fighting). Sano may be very likable and reasonable (to the reader), but his integrity tends to get him into trouble. Obedience to one’s superiors is critical in Bushido, and very often Sano’s personal code of honor, the pursuit of truth and justice, is at odds with his superiors’ orders. Shinju begins with an apparent double suicide that Sano is ordered to investigate as a police commander. Anyone else in his position would probably close the case right away, but something about it doesn't sit right with him, and he must find out the truth, even at great cost to himself.

I’ve learned a lot about Japanese culture and history reading this series, and it doesn't seem strange or distant. The main character is a samurai born and bred into Bushido, but still enough like us that I felt like I could understand him. This is a great series that will draw you into a whole different world.

~Laura, Circulation

Monday, March 2, 2015

Staff Review: Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

There are many sports I find enjoyable. The TV is always on during the Olympics; all my years in marching band and pep band created a love of football and basketball; watching some college sports live (Clarke men’s volleyball!) is fun. However, in many cases I would rather read or watch a movie about certain sports than see the actual event either live or on TV. For example I have always been fascinated by the 1919 “Black Sox” scandal, but really do not like watching a baseball game. Give me a summary in a book or a movie with a game montage and I’m a happy camper.

Perhaps that is why I was drawn to Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales. It is an oral history of the rise of the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. The detailed story of the network from conception to its current standing as a worldwide source of sports on TV, in print and online is told by the people who lived it. Many sports are touched on in relation to how they came to be shown on ESPN such as football and basketball (both pro and college), baseball, hockey, soccer, NASCAR, the X games, and the Olympics. Of course there is much discussion of “behind the scenes” at the network providing a peek into contract negotiations with both individuals and companies as well as descriptions of the ESPN culture in Bristol, Connecticut.

An oral history is the perfect format for a story like this because it is presented only via direct quotes. There is some explanatory text but the story is told directly from the mouths of the speakers themselves. This format provides both sides of an argument – and there are many – or all aspects of a scandal – there are a few of those, too – without giving the authors editorial opinion. Note that because the title or description of each person speaking is only listed the first time they appear in the book, it can be challenging to keep everyone straight at the beginning.

Other oral histories include Live From New York about the development and rise of Saturday Night Live also by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller and The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts by Tom Farley and Colby Tanner.

 ~Emily, Adult Services

Monday, February 23, 2015

Staff Review: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Even if you are not a native of Wisconsin you will find so much to like about Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler. The story told through 5 narrators, all of whom grew up together in a small town outside of Eau Claire, WI.

I loved reading a book about men's friendships from the male perspective. These friends love each other like brothers but their relationships develop cracks as they mature and life wears them down. Lee becomes a famous rock star but always comes back to Little Wing to find his center. Ronny left to become a Rodeo cowboy and was a rising star when he was derailed by alcoholism and an accident that ended his career and landed him back home. Kip took off for Chicago and made a bundle in the financial field, and decided to invest in his hometown by buying and renovating an old grain mill. Henry is the hometown kid who marries Beth, the girl next door--they stay to farm and raise a family.

Each chapter alternates between these five narrators and you see the same story unfold from different perspectives. Some of the descriptions of nature and wildlife are so beautiful and harsh they actually made me catch my breath. Midwestern themes and landscape have been portrayed in a way anyone from anywhere will be able to appreciate. This novel is a quick read drawn on a wonderful canvas with a big heart.

~Michelle, Circulation

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

February Magazines of the Month

Chicago magazine is a publication of the Chicago Tribune Media Group and offers news, reviews, and all things Chicago. Whether you're a transplant who misses home, or you're planning a weekend getaway, it's worth checking out! More information and features are available on their website:

Dwell is a magazine for edgy, contemporary home architecture and interior design. You can check out a print copy from the library or borrow a digital copy through Zinio. More information and features are available on their website:

Saturday, February 7, 2015

FY16 Library Budget Presentation Video

Carnegie-Stout Public Library Director Susan Henricks gave a presentation to the Dubuque City Council this week about the Library's Fiscal Year 2016 budget recommendations. Here's the video:

For more information, see the City of Dubuque's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget.

Copies of Carnegie-Stout Public Library's Annual Report are available for free at the library. This year's report is in the form of an attractive calendar with historical photos, facts and figures, and upcoming library events.