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Romance Unashamed

by Anessa on January 23rd, 2013
Romance Unashamed Cover Image

It’s easy to dismiss the genre of romance as one filled with shoddy writing and salacious goings-on. The truth of the matter is that there is more to the story. As with any genre, there is a great deal of variation. There are many different flavors of romance. Some are spicy and exciting, others are thrilling and suspenseful, still others are sweet and charming. And yes, some are more well written than others, but isn’t that true of every genre? The settings vary from medieval castles to alien space ships to modern-day New York. One of the things that make romance unique is that it, more than any other genre, borrows from and combines elements from other genres. A romance may have all the elements of a good mystery, or a fantasy novel, or a political thriller, and still have that little pink sticker on the spine. So no matter what your taste in literature, chances are that there is a romance out there, somewhere, that appeals to you.

So now it’s time for me to make a confession: I actually do like romances. It took me a long time to admit it, and even longer to stop feeling like I had to apologize for it. The renowned library educator, Dr. Betty Rosenberg, had a motto, “Never apologize for your reading tastes.” But all too many of us do anyway, whether we like romances, or science fiction tales of aliens and robots, or even People magazine. It’s far too easy to feel ashamed of something that brings us pleasure, if it isn’t ‘cultured’ or ‘sophisticated’ or ‘educational’ or ‘great literature’ or even ‘bestselling.’ The truth of the matter is that personal taste is a highly varied thing, and something that brings joy and satisfaction is always worthwhile. So here are a few romance authors I would recommend, a sampling of the genre. I invite you to set aside any scruples about the sticker on the spine, explore a little, relax, and have fun.

Lisa Kleypas has written a number of books that are set in nineteenth century England, though she has recently begun a new series that is set in the modern day, in a small town not far from Seattle. Her books are whimsical and charming, with realistic characters and elegant prose. Many of her characters are overcoming various emotional problems, and find comfort and solace with each other. Her heroines in particular are strong and vivid, without feeling anachronistic for their time period. There is tension, even heartbreak, followed by satisfyingly happy endings. Kleypas’s books generally include one or two fairly explicit sex scenes, but are not erotic marathons. Nor is there a sense that all the couple’s problems can be worked out in bed. Particularly fine examples of Kleypas’s work include Love in the Afternoon and Someone to Watch Over Me.

Julia Quinn is another author who writes about nineteenth century England. Her books are effervescent comedies, bubbling over with wry good humor and ridiculous situations. Her books generally contain less emotional tension than Kleypas’s, and are rollicking good fun. Particularly entertaining are Ten things I Love about You and An Offer from a Gentleman. Again, these books contain one or two explicit scenes, but are not erotica.

Angela Knight has two series, set in two completely different universes. One is science fiction, involving time travel and genetic engineering. The other is urban fantasy, set in our own time, involving vampires, werewolves, and the Knights of the Round Table. Her stories are fast paced and exciting, often with an element of mystery heavily flavored with magic or fantastic technology. Her books contain more sex than the other two authors I’ve mentioned, and are more graphic. I particularly enjoyed Master of Swords.

For those who enjoy suspense, Pamela Clare has a series of books that involve men, usually with military backgrounds, helping women in life threatening situations. Despite the ‘damsel in distress’ set up, her heroines are fully developed and interesting people. The plots are complex and thrilling, with elements of mystery and horror. Her novel Breaking Point involves a U.S. Marshall who was captured by narcotics traffickers in Mexico and must escape with the help of a beautiful, kidnapped journalist. The tale is tense and sexy, with some fascinating twists and turns that will leave the reader on the edge of their seat.

These are just a few of the many romance authors out there. There is an almost infinite variety, with something to suit every taste. Genreflecting by Dr. Rosenberg, has a chapter dedicated to romance, with reading suggestions that cover much of the romance spectrum. So whether you are an experienced romance reader or someone just trying out the genre, it’s time to stop apologizing and enjoy!

Quiet by Susan Cain

by Kara on January 12th, 2013
Quiet by Susan Cain Cover Image

QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is a fascinating book that explores introversion. The author, Harvard Law School graduate Susan Cain, practiced corporate law for seven years and teaches negotiation skills at corporations, law firms, and universities. Cain uses her personal experience, as well as the experiences of others, to introduce the many skills of introverts. I rarely read Nonfiction but I found this book fascinating.

QUIET is well researched and demonstrates although introverts appear to be “quiet” they have a skill set that is invaluable but often undervalued. More than 33% of people are introverts. Through research in psychology and neuroscience, along with personal interviews and anecdotes, Cain demonstrates the difference between introverts and extroverts and our country’s perception of the “Extroverted Ideal.”  From her research and interviews, the author turns her focus to the power of introversion and shows ways introverts have successfully coped with living in an extroverted world. She also provides suggestions for how introverts can harness this power while still remaining true to themselves.

While reading this book, I kept thinking about my personal understanding of personality traits and where I land on the continuum between introversion and extroversion based on the most common personality type test, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I’ve had an opportunity to take this test many times at different jobs, in graduate school, and (after finishing this book) on my own for fun. I have an equal number of tests that suggest introversion (ISTJ) and extroversion (ESTJ). Cain’s book helped me understand some of my personal coping strategies.

Whether you are introverted or extroverted, I highly recommend QUIET. I listened to this book and Kathe Mazur’s narration is excellent. ~Enjoy~

ICPL Best of 2012-Fiction

by Kara on December 23rd, 2012
ICPL Best of 2012-Fiction Cover Image

Drum roll please. Which Fiction books do Library staff recommend?

Spy stories, thrillers, historical fiction, families, suspense, drama, and even a mystery that somehow escaped from that list.  Hippies, baseball, horse racing, mercenaries, journeys, friendship, and J.K. Rowling sans Harry Potter.

These books also represent many formats including regular print, large print, spoken word, eBook and eAudio. A great book in the format of your choice. There is something for everyone here.

A Hundred Flowers Gail Tsukiyama
Afterwards Rosamund Lupton
Alys, Always Harriet Lane
Arcadia Lauren Groff
Art of Fielding Chad Harbach
Bloodland Alan Glynn
Casual Vacancy J K Rowling
Confession Charles Todd
Derby Day D J Taylor
Double Game Dan Fesperman
Expats Chris Pavone
Flight of Gemma Hardy Margot Livesey
Heading out to Wonderful Robert Goolrick
HHhH Laurent Binet
Home Toni Morrison
House I Loved Tatiana De Rosnay
Mirage Matt Ruff
One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared Jonas Jonasson
Red Book Deborah Copaken Kogan
Round House Louise Erdrich
St. Zita Society Ruth Rendell
Telegraph Avenue Michael Chabon
Tell the Wolves I’m Home Carol Rifka Brunt
Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Rachel Joyce
Up Jumps the Devil Michael Poore


ICPL Best of 2012-Books for Children

by Kara on December 22nd, 2012
ICPL Best of 2012-Books for Children Cover Image

Which Childens’s books do ICPL staff recommend? Check out this great list for kids of all ages. From Darth Vader to Goldilocks with a few fairy tales and astronauts  in-between, there’s something for everyone. Find your favorite child(ren) and curl up with a fun book.

jEasy Darth Vader and Son Jeffrey Brown
jEasy Eight Days Gone Linda McReynolds
jNonfiction Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version Philip Pullman, Editor
jFiction Fire Chronicle John Stephens
jEasy Frank Show David Mackintosh
jEasy Goldilocks and Just One Bear Leigh Hodgkinson
jEasy Gyo Fujikawa’s A to Z Picture Book Gyo Fujikawa
jNonfiction s Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity Elizabeth Rusch
jEasy Plant a Kiss Amy Krouse Rosenthal
jFiction Starry River of the Sky Grace Lin
jEasy Zoe Gets Ready Bethanie Murquia


ICPL Best of 2012-Mystery and SciFi

by Kara on December 21st, 2012
ICPL Best of 2012-Mystery and SciFi Cover Image

Are you looking for some great books for long winter nights?  These books, recommended by ICPL staff as the Best of 2012 Mysteries and Science Fiction, will provide hours of enjoyment.

If you are looking for more mystery titles, call us or stop in and we’d be happy to give some suggestions.  Or browse through the Staff Picks Blog for other great suggestions.

Sit back, relax, put another log on the fire, and enjoy a great book!  Happy New Year!


Beautiful Mystery Louise Penny
Brenner and God Wolf Haas
Broken Harbor Tana French
Gods of Gotham Lyndsay Faye
I am Half-Sick of Shadows Alan Bradley
Impossible Dead Ian Rankin
Kings of Midnight Wallace Stroby
Phantom Jo Nesbo


Science Fiction

Night Circus Erin Morgenstern
Roadside Picnic Arkady & Boris Strugatsky


ICPL Best of 2012-Biography

by Kara on December 20th, 2012
ICPL Best of 2012-Biography Cover Image

Kick back, relax, maybe move a bit closer the the fireplace.  What could be better during an Iowa snowstorm but some great biographies recommended by Iowa City Public Library staff? You’ll be so engrossed in these books you’ll forget about the snow!

2012 was a great book year. Yesterday we released our “Best of 2012-Nonfiction” list. Keep an eye out for upcoming recommendations for Fiction, Mystery and Books for Children.

A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father Sargent Shriver Mark Shriver
After Camelot: A Personal History of the Kennedy Family 1968-To the Present J. Randy Taraborrelli
Cronkite Douglas Brinkley
Kurt Vonnegut: Letters Dan Wakefield, Editor
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) Jenny Lawson
Letter: My Journey Through Life, Love, and Loss
Marie Tillman
Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury Lesley-Ann Jones
Passage of Power: The Times of Lyndon Johnson Robert Caro
Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy David Nasaw
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail  Cheryl Strayed


ICPL Best of 2012-Nonfiction

by Kara on December 19th, 2012
ICPL Best of 2012-Nonfiction Cover Image

ICPL Staff Selections for “Best Books of 2012″ – Nonfiction Titles

This is a fun list that includes two graphic novels and a book of poetry as well as books about art, family, famous people, arts & crafts and much more.  Click on each title below to search the Library’s catalog for availability.  And remember, if it is checked in, you can click on “Place a Hold” and Library staff will retrieve it for you.  Just head to the Library to pick it up once you’ve received your Hold Notice.

Happy Reading & Happy Learning :)

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace Tamar Adler
Circular Knitting Workshop Margaret Radcliffe
Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West Blaine Harden
First 20 Minutes Gretchen Reynolds
Going Home: Finding Peace When a Pet Dies Jon Katz
How Music Works David Byrne
Idea Factory Jon Gertner
Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now – As Told By Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long For It Craig Taylor
Louvre: All the Paintings Erich Lessing & Vincent Pomarede
Makers: The New Industrial Revolution Chris Anderson
Memoir of a Debulked Woman: Enduring Ovarian Cancer Susan Gubar
Mrs. Kennedy and Me Clint Hill with Lisa McCubbin
Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady Kate Summerscale
 My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family Zach Wahls
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are Ann Voskamp
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl Ree Drummond
Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures (Graphic Novel) Caroline Preston
Showdown at Shepherd’s Bush: The 1908 Olympic Marathon and the Three Runners Who Launched a Sporting Craze David Davis
Thinking, Fast and Slow Daniel Kahneman
Underwater Welder (Graphic Novel)  Jeff Lemire
Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness  Scott Jurek

ICPL Best of 2012

by Kara on December 17th, 2012
ICPL Best of 2012 Cover Image

Library staff love to read and share their favorite books. As 2012 comes to a close, we thought others would enjoy knowing our favorites for the year.  We had a lot of fun putting together this list of ICPL Favorite Books of 2012. Watch the Staff Picks Blog this week for lists of books within individual genres. Today’s list is our “Best of the Best” list. These books received nominations from more than one staff person.

We hope you enjoy these lists and would love to hear which books were your favorites in 2012.

The #1 ICPL Staff recommendation for 2012 is  John Green’s Young Adult book, “The Fault in our Stars

There was a tie for the #2 book between Gillian Flynn’s Fiction book, “Gone Girl” and Katherine Boo’s Nonfiction book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity”

Honorable Mention Titles: (in alphabetic order by title)

Fiction Beautiful Ruins Jess Walter
Fiction Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
Fiction Dog Stars Peter Heller
Nonfiction Mortality Christopher Hitchens
jEasy Olivia and the Fairy Princesses Ian Falconer
Nonfiction Paris: A Love Story Kati Morton
Nonfiction Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking Susan Cain
Science Fiction Redshirts John Scalzi
jEasy Sleep Like a Tiger Mary Logue
Fiction Train Dreams Denis Johnson
Fiction The Year We Left Home (2013 All Iowa Reads Book Selection) Jean Thompson


Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

by Kara on November 27th, 2012
Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich Cover Image

Just in time for a hectic holiday, Janet Evanovich’s new book provided comic relief to balance out my obsession with Martha Stewart’s list of favorite pies (Rum Raisin recommended, Shaker Lemon … not so much).

People are disappearing from a local hospital and Lingerie Buyer-turned Bounty Hunter Stephanie Plum, along with her zany cast of characters, is on the case.  Stephanie’s love interest, Officer Joe Morelli, is also working on the case.  Based on past experience, things don’t go well when Stephanie and Morelli work together and this is no exception.  Also, because the bounty hunting business is slow, Stephanie must take on another job working with her other love interest, Ranger, on security detail for a high profile wedding.  Ranger and the groom are retired from military Special Forces and someone wants to torture and kill them.

Throw in an obnoxious pink bridesmaid dress, a couple of blown-up cars, Grandma Mazur working undercover, a possessed Tiki doll, and Evanovich’s predictable formula for comedy and the outcome is a fun read that distracted me from thinking about pie and the serious book I was reading.  ~Enjoy~~

2013 All Iowa Reads

by Kara on November 20th, 2012
2013 All Iowa Reads Cover Image

The Year We Left Home by National Book Award author Jean Thompson has been selected as the 2013 All Iowa Reads book.  As we approach 2013, think about setting a New Year’s Resolution to read this wonderful book and then plan a discussion with family, friends or neighbors.  Or – watch the Iowa Center for the Book’s All Iowa Reads webpage and plan to attend one of the many book discussions planned throughout the State.

Thompson’s The Year We Left Home begins in 1973 when the Erickson Family of Grenada, Iowa (near Ames) gathers for a family wedding.  The story unfolds over the next 30 years through the eyes of the main characters.  Ryan Erickson plans to escape small town life and begins his escape with studies in the “big city” at the University of Iowa.  Newlywed Anita hopes for a fairytale life in her hometown, Blake dreams of a different life, and younger sister Torrie plans for her own escape.  Cousin Chip, a war-damaged Vietnam Veteran, fluctuates between a need for freedom and the strong draw of home.

I believe this is my favorite All Iowa Reads book so far.  I was a third-grader in Iowa in 1973 and many of the events described in the book are memories from my childhood.  Lyrical writing helps me remember my experiences of cold Iowa winter days and the joy of an Iowa spring or fall.  Memories such as the end of the Vietnam War, Farm Crisis, and Farah Fawcett hair represented my coming-of-age years and personal vacillation between wanting to “escape” from Iowa, love I have for my community, and ultimate decision to make a life here.

After you read this book, please let me know what you think. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  If not, I’d like to know what you thought about it.  Happy Holidays!

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