Saturday, December 12, 2015

"Barbara the Slut" and Other Favorite Fiction of 2015

This year I got back into reading fiction. I took a break for a while because I was trying to seem sophisticated and knowledgeable by only reading biographies and critically acclaimed nonfiction. Needless to say that got really boring really quickly.   

Packer's splintered narrative style and rich characters made The Children's Crusade one of my favorite titles to hit shelves this year. Families, by definition, are dysfunctional. Mine is, and my best friend’s is, and you’d be lying if you said yours isn't. And that's the ugly truth. In Packer’s latest family saga, Bill Blair’s four children (one unwanted) navigate their way through a precarious childhood in an attempt to keep their misguided mother, Penny, from falling off the deep end. Set in what is now Silicon Valley, The Children's Crusade jumps around in time and point-of-view — not in a needlessly confounding way, but as a way to intensify another one of its themes: that the four Blair children (like all children) each came fully loaded at birth with their own idiosyncratic temperaments. 

While we’re on the topic of dysfunction, let’s talk about my group of friends: and yours, too, for that matter. Separately, we’re messy people each leading very different lives. Together, we’re still messy people leading very different lives who just happen to appreciate each other’s quirks. Lisa Lutz explores the dynamics of friendship in her 2015 novel How to Start a Fire which follows three college friends through the treacherous territory that is adulthood. Kate Smirnoff (like the vodka), Anna Fury, and George Leoni met in 1993, when all three were students at UC Santa Cruz. Freshman roommates Kate and Anna found George passed out on the lawn outside a party they had all attended. The girls quickly become friends and are bound together for life after a traumatic experience in their mid-20s.  

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh 
It’s rare to find a novel that’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Letty Espinosa is suddenly handed responsibility for her two children, 6 year-old Luna and 15 year-old Alex, after her parents (the children's former caregivers) return to their childhood home in Mexico. At first, Letty struggles with the inevitable challenges that motherhood presents, fumbling her way through a series of bad decisions before she gains her footing. Diffenbaugh paints an eye-opening picture of modern day San Francisco for readers; she introduces us to the immigrant families who are hoping to build a life for themselves by working three jobs and living in devastating poverty, simultaneously holding their families together.     

Act of God by Jill Ciment 
A mysterious, luminescent mold infestation spreads through Brooklyn in the summer of 2015, sparing no New Yorker in its path. The ‘supermold’ is first discovered in the apartments of a rowhouse, entwining the lives of its residents: the elderly twin sisters, Edie and Kat, one a retired librarian, the other a failed bohemian; Vida, a middle-aged actress; and Ashley, an 18-year-old Russian au pair discovered hiding in Vida’s closet. The narrative shifts between the four women as they’re evacuated from their homes, until Edie eventually dies from spore inhalation and Kat is left to face the entire bizarre situation alone with only the company of a crazy cat lady and the unbearable grief that came with the loss of her twin sister. The novel is in some ways a character study and, in others, a play on science fiction in its entirety. Ultimately, it’s weird and that’s what I liked about it. Plus--the cover is really pretty.  


Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes 
Living can be a distressingly solitary activity and Holmes explores this hard truth with unexpected poignancy, subtlety and humor. Her characters are students and urbanites and rule-breakers and quarter-life-crisis-havers, some of whom own dogs or want to. Holmes is so skillful at characterization — weaving in specific details that illustrate everyday desires, failures and striving — that I was suddenly skeptical when I came to "My Humans," the third-to-last story in the book, which is told from the point of view of a dog. “My Humans", however, is every bit as moving as the other stories in the collection and while not perfect it tells us just as much, if not more, about human nature than the stories actually narrated by people. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

For Karen Kingsbury fans

Is Karen Kingsbury one of your favorite authors? Did you know that a Hallmark Channel movie was based on her book The Bridge? Part one will air again on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 8 pm. To learn more go to :

Thursday, October 29, 2015

New Non-Fiction Hitting the Shelves

Here is a selection of new non-fiction titles that have recently hit our shelves:

The Homemade Kitchen: Recipes for Cooking With Pleasure by Alana Chernila. Beautifully photographed cookbook that encompasses from scratch pantry items to dinner dishes.

Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We "Catch" Mental Illness by Harriet A. Washington. Examines the connection between our bodies' affect on our brain and mental health.

My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts by Laura T.
Coffey. First off, how can you resist this book cover? You can't. And the inside is just as sweet. If you love animals, not just dogs, you'll enjoy this quick read.

Near and Distant Neighbors: A New History of Soviet Intelligence by Jonathan Haslam. "A uniquely comprehensive and rich account of the Soviet intelligence services," according to the book jacket. For the Russian history or spy enthusiasts among us.

Works Well with Others: An Outsider's Guide to Shaking Hands, Shutting Up, Handling Jerks, and Other Crucial Skills in Business That No One Ever Teaches You by Ross McCammon. Who couldn't use help with deciphering others?

Write Back Soon!: Adventures in Letter Writing by Karen Benke. This book celebrates hand-written letters with trivia, ways to help you begin anew with this lost art, tips and more.

Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Packed with photos (including some how-to photos) this cookbook would help you expand your ethnic dish repertoire.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Stress Less

The library has the ability to create a space that is comfortable and safe and provides great resources to help connect people and ideas within the community. Enhancing the Fox River Valley Public Library District's community is one of the library's most important functions.How does our library do this? I have come to the conclusion, after my few short years as a professional librarian, this quest comes from within. The love and self-care we do each day contribute to how we take care the people around us. Especially, in today’s world we focus on flat screens, books, and other devices that only stimulate a portion of our brains and bodies in this vast wide world. We tend to forget to take care of ourselves by enticing our senses, meditating, stretching and moving our bodies, and relish in not only the joy but experience the ways in which we learn. 

What are ways you do self-care or self-nurturing on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis?
Would your self-care improve if you were involved in a group to come up with ideas, share tips, and create an environment where self-care is something that is valued and emphasized?

Here are some things to do on a daily basis:

Cup of Tea
Express yourself
Vision Boards

For more self-care tips here is a website with more information:

Fox River Valley Public Library District is hosting a few free classes coming up in December, January, February focusing on self-care. Please register online or by phone. Space is limited. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Celebrate Family History Month @ Your Library with Try-It! Illinois

Via Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches

October is Family History Month, don’t ya know, and starting your genealogy journey has never been easier thanks to Try-It! Illinois. The Illinois State Library, in collaboration with multiple e-resource providers, launched Try-It! Illinois in 2001 to give Illinois residents the opportunity to explore an extensive list of resources that aren’t always available to them otherwise. This year, the trial will run from October 1, 2015 through November 30, 2015. The trial includes a variety of genealogy and family history research tools including MyHeritage Library Edition and FOLD3 Library Edition. For more information on how to access the trial, stop by the Information Desk. Heck, you can even give us a call at (847) 428-3661.

In addition to resources already offered to Library patrons free of charge, access to these additional databases can make a world of difference for genealogists. For example, FOLD3 is a subscription-based service that provides users with access to US military records, including the stories, photos, and personal documents of men and women who served. During the trial, these military records are available to view free of charge. 

Getting Started on Your Family Tree

The easiest way to start researching your family history is by writing down what you already know on a pedigree chart. Start with yourself and work backwards. Fill in your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents and so on. Use a pencil so you can erase. When you are finished, it will be easy to tell which ancestors are missing. Record birthplaces and birth dates too as you will need these to locate records.
Brothers, sisters, parents, and other family members are valuable research tools. They might have new information to add to your chart, or at least be able to confirm what you’ve gathered so far. Again, keep in mind the importance of gathering dates and locations as you will need these in your future research. You will want to fill in a family group chart to keep track of who was married to whom and how many children they had. Family group charts and other useful forms, like the pedigree chart I mentioned above, can be found on Ancestry.
When you're ready to begin searching for vital and census records online, Ancestry is the best place to start. You can access Ancestry for free from the Library. Happy researching!

Via Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

National Novel Writing Month: To Infinity and Beyond!

This November, the Fox River Valley Public Library District will celebrate NaNoWriMo and its brave participants with a series of Write Ins to be hosted at the Dundee Library. The idea of crafting a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days time seems crazy-and that's because it is. So join us to meet other local authors, gain inspiration, and learn from published author Edward Herdrich. You can register to attend any of the Write Ins using our online events calendar or by calling the Information Desk. 

Well-known authors, like New York Times bestselling Sara Gruen, have completed the challenge in the past and gone on to publish their work with great success. Other past participants include Marissa Meyer, Rainbow Rowell, and Erin Morgenstern.  

Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project 

That being said, you too can complete the challenge. And you too can win an award! Maybe! The Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project is an annual contest that showcases local, self-published authors. The 2016 application will open on October 12, 2015 and close on January 4, 2016. More information on the Project can be found on their website

Past Winners

Joanne Zienty was chosen as the first winner of the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project in 2014. She has since spoken at dozens of Illinois libraries on top of giving several interviews to local newspapers, radio stations, and magazines. Her book, titled The Things We Save, explores the ways families fall apart and ultimately fall back together again in a lyrical, well-written manner. Zienty has a descriptive style that's evident from page one. And although the main character proved rather unlikable, the imagery and emotion surrounding her struggle made The Things We Save worth the read.  

Michael Alan Peck was chosen as the second winner of the Project for his novel The Commons Book 1: The JourneymanThe Commons is an afterlife unlike anything I could have dreamed up on my own. The book itself is fast-paced with short chapters that straddle the line between urban and young adult fantasy. Peck’s characters possess a certain realness that make the book hard to resist, even for readers who tend to shy from the genre. Michael Alan Peck will appear at the Dundee Library on February 2 at 7:00 p.m. to discuss his series and read an excerpt from The Journeyman. Please register for this event. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Memoirs You May Have Missed (But Should Really Check Out)

Via Buzzfeed

Kelly Oxford is an Internet-famous housewife turned author who published her first book in 2013. Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar is a hilarious collection of essays that chronicles her life from her misadventures growing up in Edmonton all the way to motherhood. Oxford’s writing is marked by the same wry voice that’s made her a social media sensation. She’s known for her sarcasm and in-your-face sense of humor; one of my favorite tweets by her to this day reads, “The worst thing you could do to someone is call them on the phone.” The stories included in her memoir range from downright outrageous to almost sentimental and I highly recommend it to any comedy fan. Her second book, reportedly titled I Can’t Believe I Forgot to Tell You This, is due out in the near future.

The title of this book is what initially prompted me to check it out because, hell, I wish I would have thought of it first. Kaling’s career has really taken off since her start as a college intern on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. She’s since appeared as Ben Affleck in an off Broadway play, done stand-up in New York City, written more than 20 episodes of the popular NBC sitcom The Office, and written and produced four seasons of her own series The Mindy Project. Her memoir, published in 2011, begins with her addressing the inevitable “Sure, you’re a woman in comedy but you’re no Tina Fey” comparison head on. She writes, “I know, man. Tina’s awesome.” That line had me hooked. The book as a whole is a somewhat messy collection of stories from her childhood that sometimes provides an inside look into Hollywood culture. The book takes a lot of sharp turns that may have done more harm than good in the context of readability, but it genuinely made me smile. My favorite recollections were those from her time spent working with Steve Carell on The Office. Her follow-up to Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? will be published in September and I plan to check it out if not for the literary value, but the unavoidable entertainment value.

Via Buzzfeed

Ansari totally nailed dating in the 21st century in his new book Modern Romance. Perhaps the reason I enjoyed this title so much is because the content really rings true to my life. Seriously, you guys have no idea how much time I’ve wasted stressing out over how to respond to a 2 A.M. text message from a guy who’s only communication with me after three days of silence reads, “yo”. Or how awful I’ve made myself feel after crafting the perfect, witty response to said text message and receiving nothing in return but a “lol”…like, I know you’re not really laughing, okay? Ansari took the time with this book to address these issues in a humorous light that made me realize how ridiculous my problems are. He teamed up with New York University Professor of Sociology Eric Klinenberg to incorporate research the pair conducted involving various cultural groups and their dating habits/woes. The book is more of a sociological study than anything else, but it ultimately held my interest as a Millennial who's just as confused by love as I am by my credit score.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

New Non-Fiction

The Art of the Con: The Most Notorious Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries in the Art World by Anthony M. Amore. Sometimes the book cover just says it best: "The untold stories of some of history's most notorious art cons - and the secret history of fakes, frauds, and forgeries in the art world."

Diane Von Furstenberg: A Life Unwrapped
by Gioia Diliberto. Biography of the fashion designer that made the wrap-dress famous. Includes a handful of
DVF photos throughout the years.

Japan Journeys: Famous Woodblock Prints of Cultural Sights in Japan by Andreas Marks. Smaller art book, packed with photos of prints spanning a couple centuries.

Made in America: A Modern Collection of Classic Recipes by Colby & Megan Garrelts. Old-school, American cookin'. A sampling of the sections include "Cast Iron and Dutch Ovens," "From the Grill," and "From the Fryer." Includes a plenty of photos.

The New Bohemians: Cool & Collected Homes by Justina Blakeney. As the title would suggest, this decorating guide focuses on colorful and eclectic tastes.

Putinism: Russia and its Future With the West by Walter Laqueur. A look at the implications of Putin's reign.

The Spiral Notebook: The Aurora Theater Shooter and the Epidemic of Mass Violence Committed by American Youth by Stephen and Joyce Singular. From the book jacket: "... is an examination of the dynamics driving the violence committed by their [Millennials] peers."

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Recommendations from summer reading

Bum Rap by Paul Leving
"A procedural trial book, Bum Rap remains fresh by fleshing out the engaging lawyer, his client, and the client's fiance, all the while pledging total honesty for all concerned as they gently twist the law to achieve justice. Very satisfying."

-- Rhonda

A Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe
"It's a fascinating look at a family in the late 1950s in Minnesota. It is both dark and encouraging, addressing love, marriage, death, prejudice, and views of women at the time. A compelling read!"

-- Sue

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma
"Amazing and eye opening. This book helped me put my life into perspective and gave me the perfect way to break down my thought process for every situation I am able to pick out the positivity and change the negative."

-- Kimberly

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery
"If you enjoy Austen, you will like this book! A glib commentary of English manners and customs during Napoleonic Era. Witty descriptions, good dialogue--just a fun read, BUT LONG. I like that it is a 'Novel Without a Hero.'"

-- Liz

Persuasion by Jane Austen
"Out of all of Austen's novels, this one is the most poignant of them all. Instead of writing about teens and young adults, this is more about mature love, regret, and redemption."

-- Sabaah

The Raft by S.A. Bodeen
"For a YA book it blew me out of the water. As a mom the 'attitude' of a teenager shone right through. But the plot was so wrenching. You were rooting for Robie and Max to survive. And yelling at the adult to help more. Just an amazing journey."

-- Ronda

A History of the World in 12 Maps by Jerry Broton
"It is very detailed and historically well-researched. Not a light read but very interesting to see how the world was seen by different cultures/peoples."

-- Rose

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
"An intense memoir that is suspenseful and gripping from the first page. A personal look into a medical mystery that appears to be a behavioral disorder, and how doctors and family didn't give up on her."

-- Patty

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
"Excellent Holmes story. Good pacing. Great mystery and spooky elements. Enjoyable read!"

-- Debbie

The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn
"A personal account of attending Le Cordon Bleu is a fun read as Flinn describes the lessons and dynamics of the culinary legend. Recipes are also included."

-- Patty

Paris Red by Maureen Gibbon
"It's interesting insight into turn-of-the-century artists, their inspirations, their muses. The wickedly disturbing approach they take to their craft. Great spin on lovers, friends, mother-daughter love… GREAT BOOK!"

-- Margaret

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Recommended reads from adult summer reading program

The Quilter's Kitchen by Jennifer Chiaverini
Find it in the catalog!
"One of the Elm Creek Quilter books (number 13 in a series of 20). Has lots of recipes. In fact ordered this book from book store to keep recipes forever. Good way to pick a book to buy."

-- Pat

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
by Michael Chabon
Find it in the catalog!
"It is a gripping page-turner, immersive and very well-written. One of my favorite novels ever!"

-- Katie

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
Find it in the catalog!
"As a period piece it is a fascinating read, as an examination of the west's disdain for 'alien' cultures it is a challenge. The prose is eerie and unsettling, in the best possible way!"

-- Todd

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Galbadon
Find it in the catalog!
"The second installement of the Outlander series continues to thread more storylines that crop up around the main characters Jamie and Claire. A very long book and very long series -- like 10 books. Great author!"

-- Cinde

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
Find it in the catalog!
"Genova writes a clever book about the development of character through struggles and obstacles. The main character, a wife and mom, deals with a brain injury resulting in a book I couldn't stop reading. I felt as though I was learning about the inner workings of the human brain as well as heart."

-- Patty

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Find it in the catalog!
"It was very engaging from the beginning to the end. You read this story from three strangers perspectives and watch how their lives become connected. Author did a good job of keeping the story plot a mystery throughout book!"

-- Tanya

Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee
Find it in the catalog!
"As I read, I sat and smiled like a loon in some parts. Met my husband vis internet, so 'email moments' did remind me of our courtship. A romance for today's modern age."

-- Ronda

Every Day by David Levithan
Find it in the catalog!
"Even though it is a teen book, it addresses stereotypes, the idea of love and how we define who we are as humans. It was a quick read with a surprising ending."

-- Marissa

The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber
Find it in the catalog!
"It gives great financial advice that we should be teaching our children. Very useful. Great tips."

-- Karen

Sweetgrass by Mary Alice Monroe
Find it in the catalog!
"A book based in South Carolina about the struggle and love rooted in a Southern family and the love of their home. It is a wonderful story of hope, acceptance, love and forgiveness."

-- Abigail

Obsession in Death by J.D. Robb
Find it in the catalog!
"I am a fan of Eve Dallas, Roarke and supporting cast. Reading these books is like putting on a robe and slippers. The characters are familiar and the bad guy always loses."

-- Maureen

The Grantchester Mysteries: Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins by James Runcie
Find it in the catalog!
"It reminds me of the Father Brown series on PBS. As with any mystery series, one wonders why the community members continue to live in such a mystery-ridden town! But the characters are amusing and nothing is too far-fetched-- perfect summer read."

-- Sue

The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman
Find it in the catalog!
"It is very relatable for most people. As teenagers, we have dreams and aspirations. Sometimes we forget what is important to us as adults."

-- Ofelia

The Choice by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Find it in the catalog!
"It is a great book. It tells of the Amish life, love, and forgiveness."

-- Stacy

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Staff recommended reads for summer reading


Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations
by Peter Evans and Ava Garder
Find it in the catalog!

"It's  a very candid side of Ava. It's beautifully written and the flow is fast paced and jam-packed. You can hear Ava's voice throughout as though you are listening in on the conversations."

-- Samantha, Randall Oaks Library

When Books Went to War
by Molly Guptill Manning
Find it in the catalog!

"A little bit of history during WWII -- facts everyone will find to be interesting. A must read."

-- Carrie, Account Services


Where They Found Her 
by Kimberly McCreight
Find it in the catalog!

"You never see the ending coming. I didn't want to put this book down. I also recommend this author's other book too-- Reconstructing Amelia."

-- Katie, Children's Services

by Diana Gabaldon
Find it in the catalog!

"Daring sword, fights, magic stones, a Highlander in a kilt! Historical fiction + romance + political intrigue = a dramatic adventure through 1700s Scotland with one of the most exciting female leads I know."

-- Samantha, Children's Services

The Blood Red Indian Summer
by David Handler
Find it in the catalog!

"This caught my attention because it was a mystery about athletes who behave badly and the fools who admire them anyway."

-- Gemma, Security Monitor

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces
by Isabel Quintero
Find it in the catalog! 

"You can related so much to this teenage girl. I love the fact that she's your typical Hispanic teenage girl, she loves to write, especially poetry, finds love and loves to eat. The cover stood out to me, it looked weird and I fell in love with the character Gabi!"

-- Elizabeth, Children's Services
I'll Give You the Sun
by Jandy Nelson
Find it in the catalog!

"It was a sad but interesting read. The subject is more appropriate with teens (older) and adults."

-- Mary, Children's Services

by Marie Lu
Find it in the catalog!

"It is the second book in a great trilogy and the end has an interesting twist!"

-- Rosana, Children's Services

by Norihiro Yagi
Find it in the catalog!

"It's a graphic novel with great cinematic qualities. I have to applaud the artist! I found the secret identities compelling and became suspicious of every character in the best possible way."

-- Kristen, Information Services