Wednesday, February 22, 2017

#ComicsWednesday: Lucky Penny by Ananth Hirsh & Yuko Ota

Penny Brighton has made some poor choices in her life (see tattoo of a snake on her neck); add in a string of terrible luck (fired on the same day her roommate moves out and Penny can't afford the rent on her own). Lucky Penny, written by Ananth Hirsh and illustrated by Yuko Ota, has a blend of optimism and dark humor that will appeal to anyone familiar with the struggle that is your twenties. I'm especially fond of Ota's art, which has an appealing balance of realistic detail and cartoony movement. It works especially well in the sections illustrating Penny's active imagination. The team behind this graphic novel scores bonus points for respecting the romance novel genre, even as they poke gentle fun (see alternate cover design below).

~Sarah, Adult Services

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Staff Review: Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan

Historical romance novels are my go-to escape reading. Whenever I'm stressed or burned out, they give me the pick-up I need. The reassurance that this story at least will end with Happily Ever After makes them a safe refuge in a world of books and TV shows that seem to relish killing off our favorite characters.

That said, the promise of a happy ending doesn't stop romance authors like Courtney Milan from exploring some of the darker parts of the human experience or confronting some of today's challenging issues through the lens of the past. While some of the romance I read is all fluff and happiness, the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan has a depth I really appreciate.

The series consists of 4 novels and 3 novellas, and while most of the stories stand well on their own, they do share characters and will be more rewarding if read in order. The series is set in the Victorian era, with the exception of the first novella, which is set 30 years earlier (a few years before Queen Victoria took the throne). That first novella, The Governess Affair, was one of only two books that I gave a 5-star rating to in 2014. I wish I'd realized then that it was the start of a larger series.

One warning: historical purists will find themselves annoyed by some of the author's choices, but Milan is very up front in her decisions to veer from historical fact. I don't want to spoil things too much here, but if you want to know which book to read for frank discussions of reproductive and sexual health, which books feature incredibly intelligent women who meet men who appreciate them for their intellectual accomplishments, or which book has the virgin hero, just ask in the comments!

The Governess Affair (novella)
The Duchess War
A Kiss for Midwinter (novella)
The Heiress Effect
The Countess Conspiracy
The Suffragette Scandal
Talk Sweetly to Me (novella)

~Sarah, Adult Services

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tax Forms and Free Filing Sites in Dubuque

Updated: February 14, 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 You can order free forms to be delivered to you by mail at or by calling 1-800-829-3676. Tax help is available by calling 1-800-829-1040.

Iowa tax forms are available online at 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 or call 563-556-5130 or dial 211 on your phone.

FY18 Library Budget Presentation Video

Carnegie-Stout Public Library Director Susan Henricks gave a presentation to the Dubuque City Council last evening about the Library's Fiscal Year 2018 budget recommendations. Here's the video:

For more information, see the City of Dubuque's Fiscal Year 2018 Budget.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Staff Review: Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance, now in its 28th week on the New York Times bestseller list, is a memoir written and published at just the right time, as Americans coast to coast struggle to figure out how we got ourselves into the violently polarized political mess we're in.

Vance, a self-described hillbilly who is now a Silicon Valley investment-firm lawyer, offers his take on the subject with this story of his upbringing. Originally from Kentucky, his family hit the Hillbilly Highway as part of the early-to-mid 20th century migration of Appalachians to northern Rust Belt cities. At the time those cities were thriving; now many are as hopeless as the hollers from which the migrants fled.

Vance's early life makes for fascinating, if heartbreaking, reading. There's lots of bad judgment on the part of his elders. Plenty of poor life decisions. Much substance abuse, violence, and bad grammar. But despite the dysfunction of his mother and most of her men, Vance grew to appreciate the value of effort and education. This was largely due to his grandmother, Mamaw, a firebrand who once doused her drunken husband with gasoline and dropped a lit match on his chest. (In her defense, she had warned him that she'd do it, he survived largely intact, and he was less inclined to get hammered ever after.) Mamaw also saw to it that Vance did his homework. Her house became his real home.

His academic diligence, followed by a stint in the Marines, paid off handsomely, winning him entry to Ohio State and Yale Law School. Depending upon your point of view, the pages that narrate the courting of Yale law-school students by the most powerful of the big corporate law firms may strike you as almost as nauseating as the hillbilly dysfunction. Vance himself seems OK with it, although he has a lot of proper-fork-for-the-course learning to do.

And that's my main problem with this book. While plenty of critical (and admittedly compelling) attention is paid to the degraded state of the shiftless "have-nots," not much is said about the culpability of the "haves," those on the privileged side of our Grand-Canyon-sized income gap, the side Vance fled to with the speed of a famished cheetah. But not everyone can become a Silicon Valley millionaire or a corporate CEO. I wish Vance had given more thought to what his influential new crowd might do to improve the lives of all those hillbillies back home.

~Ann, Adult Services

Tuesday, February 7, 2017