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Dubuque, IA 52001
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Staff Review: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Robert Jackson Bennett’s earlier books combined elements from the horror, fantasy, and mystery genres to create a creepy, bleak alternate early 20th century small town America. In City of Stairs, he presents a more straightforward fantasy novel, complete with imaginative world-building, while still incorporating elements from the pages of spy thrillers and mysteries. The use of a suspenseful mystery plot and a cast of very colorful characters makes this book a great choice for readers who are relatively new to fantasy.

The story is set in a world dominated by the island nation of Saypur, whose technological advancements (on par with the early 20th century) have completely upended the former world order. Saypur used their science to overthrow their former conquerors, the Continentals. The Continent was once gifted with divine magic, until those gods were killed by the Saypuri. Bennett explores the lasting impacts of colonialism and the ways that we define our cultural identities, while still maintaining an action-packed plot.

Shara has spent most of her adult life in exile on the Continent as an employee of the Saypuri Ministry of Foreign Affairs, specifically, as a spy for the Ministry. She is accompanied by Sigrud, her imposing and violent “secretary” with a mysterious past. Shara and Sigrud come to city of Bulikov to solve the murder of Effrem Pangyui, a Saypuri historian whose controversial research earned him no shortage of enemies. Bulikov was once a city of wonders, the cultural and religious center of the Continent, but now wallows in poverty and disease.

At 450 pages, this is not a short book, though the plot moves along so quickly I found it difficult to put down. Another point in City of Stairs’s favor is that it is not part of a larger series, so readers aren’t being asked to commit to three or more books that may or may not have been written yet. By the last pages, most of the plot threads are wrapped up more or less neatly, but between the imaginative setting and the interesting characters (the foul-mouthed female military commander, Mulaghesh, was probably my favorite), I would be perfectly happy if Bennett did write a sequel some day.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, you might also enjoy:

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone: Gladstone’s debut is a mix of fantasy and steampunk with a fast-paced mystery plot. Tara, a first-year necromancer, is assigned to revive a dead god, but discovers a murder.

The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg: First in a series set around the Collegia Magica, the last college of magic in a world where science has gradually gained supremacy. Portier de Savin-Duplais, a Collegia librarian, is asked to investigate an attempted murder that quickly becomes more complicated.

Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara: A gritty work of fantasy, and the first in a series of mysteries. Hawks are the equivalent to police in the City of Elantra, and Kaylin is a new patrol officer out to find a serial murderer of children.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

9 Library Books to Help You With Last Minute Gifts

What better way to show your friends and family how much they mean to you than with a handmade gift? If nothing else, it's guaranteed to be unique! Carnegie-Stout Public Library has a large and varied collection of craft books, which we've narrowed down to the nine suggestions below.

Crafts From Your Microwave by Alison Jenkins & Kate Morris
(745.5 JEN)
This title offers a variety of crafting options from dried flowers to salt dough, and even some edible treats!

100 Snowflakes to Crochet by Caitlin Sainio
(746.434 SAI)
If you're looking for quick project and you already know how to crochet, this is your ticket. Your aunt, grandmother, or coworker is sure to appreciate a handmade snowflake they can hang from the tree, or use as a coaster. The book is organized with the simpler projects right in the front.

(745.5 WIL)
Now that duct tape is sold in a seemingly endless variety of patterns, colors, and even scents, a duct tape wallet or apron can be customized for anyone on your list.

Socks Appeal by Brenna Maloney
(745.5924 MAL)
Have you ever lost a sock in the washing machine? Of course you have! What do you do with the leftover socks? Don't throw them out! Instead you can turn socks into adorable stuffed animals. Check out Sarah's staff review of the second volume, Sockology.

Crafting with Cat Hair by Kaori Tsutaya
(745.5 TSU)
And what does one do with all of the hair your kitty companions donate to your couches, carpets, sweaters, and slacks? Tsutaya has the answer: make crafts. If you're planning to make a gift, it might mean more if you use cat hair from your friend's cat, though we're not sure how you could collect it and keep things a surprise.

Austentatious Crochet by Melissa Horozewski
(746.432 HOR)
To avoid those awkward "why are you putting cat hair in a plastic baggy" conversations, it might be better to make something inspired by your friend's favorite fandom. We all know someone who just loves, loves, loves Mr. Darcy, so break out that crochet hook!

Star Trek Craft Book by Angie Pedersen
(745.5 PED)
Or maybe your friends are more into Star Trek? Whether their favorite captain is Kirk or Picard, this book has a craft project that will have them saying "'IwlIj jachjaj!" Features crafts from The Original Series through Enterprise (fans of the J.J. Abrams reboot are out of luck). Staff favorites include the Star Fleet uniform for dogs and the make your own tribble.

Animal Hats by Vanessa Mooncie
(746.432 MOO)
Everyone has a favorite animal, or at least an answer to the question, "What's your favorite animal?" While these hats aren't for novice knitters, they are incredibly adorable. Especially cute animal hats include: elephant, lion, and pig.

Wacky Baby Knits by Alison Jenkins
(746.432 JEN)
Really pressed for time? Maybe make some adorable monster booties for a baby. Babies are small, so these projects might go a little faster. Your friend or daughter doesn't have a baby? That's okay, they won't assume it's a subtle hint for grandchildren if you say the booties are for their cat.

Monday, December 1, 2014

December Magazines of the Month

Our December Magazines of the Month are The Card Player and Fine Cooking.

Fine Cooking has tips, techniques, and recipes for cooking and entertaining. A great resource for anyone who will be hosting a get together or celebration this December. More information is available on their website:

The Card Player is the magazine for poker, with news, strategies, and more. The magazine is part of their larger website with even more information and videos related to poker:

You can check these magazines out from our periodical collection on the library's second floor, behind the Reference Desk.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Beginning Writing for Publication with Mary Potter Kenyon

Mary Potter Kenyon graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a B.A. in Psychology. She lives in Manchester, Iowa, and is the Director of the Winthrop Public library. Her writing has been widely published in magazines, newspapers and anthologies. She has had several books published, including Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings and the Stories Behind America’s Extreme Obsession, which she wrote during a past NaNoWriMo. More information can be found on her website:

She is presenting a two-part workshop at Carnegie-Stout Public Library for NaNoWriMo with helpful tips on how to prepare your writing for publication and navigate the world of publishing. The next session will be on Monday, November 17th at 6:30 p.m. If you missed the first session, we’ve put together a brief summary of her presentation for you!

Beginning Writing for Publication with Mary Potter Kenyon
Carnegie-Stout Public Library, November 3rd, 2014

Before You Write
  • Why do you want to write?
  • What interests you about writing?
  • What type or types of writing could you imagine yourself doing?
Ms. Kenyon also broke down the familiar advice to “write what you know” into a few categories for easier brainstorming:
  • Relatable life events: life experiences many people share
  • Less relatable/common life events: life experiences unique to you
  • Your passions
  • Your passionate dislikes
  • Learning opportunities: situations that gave you an opportunity for growth and understanding
Advice for Writers and Wrimos
  • The first paragraph of your writing  should catch your readers’ interest and grab their attention, which is described as the “hook” in writing terms.
  • Consider your audience how can you shape your story to their taste and interests? Reading the sorts of things you want to write will help you to learn about your reading audience.
  • If you plan to submit a piece of your writing for publication be sure to follow the submission guidelines exactly!
  • Write every day. It takes time to hone your craft. Bring a notepad with you everywhere you go to take advantage of every free moment. Keep a notebook by your bed. With practice, your skills will inevitably improve.
  • Learn to revise. Remember that you can’t edit nothing. Get something down on paper. That is one of the main objectives in participating in NaNoWriMo. You have to write a first draft before you can polish a final draft. Don’t get too attached to your first draft. After editing it will probably look very different.
  • If you have an emotional reaction as you write, that is a good sign that your readers will too.
  • Be stubborn. Be determined.
Build Your Platform
  • Make yourself and your writing visible. Writing shorter pieces for magazines, anthologies, newspapers, and newsletters is a great starting point with a lower time commitment than a full manuscript.
  • Build your reputation: demonstrate your skills, abilities, and that there is an audience for what you create.
  • Even if it’s a small piece, having your name in print can be a real confidence boost.
  • Have a social media presence.
  • Be persistent the only way to avoid rejection is to never send anything out. Rejection doesn’t mean your writing is horrible, it just means it isn’t what that publisher was looking for. Remember it is their opinion, but your story.
  • Writing is a craft, but publishing is a business. Know how to pitch your work: can you describe it in 2-4 sentences? Do you have your hook? Convey your enthusiasm about your topic or story!
Ms. Kenyon’s next session on Monday, November 17th will cover the nuts and bolts of approaching agents and publishers, including information on query letters, the basics of a book proposal, and information on marketing and promotion. She will provide concrete examples of a book proposal and a marketing sheet her publisher uses, and tips on how to utilize social media as an author.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November Magazines of the Month

Our November magazines of the month are Aviation Week and Space Technology and Adoptive Families. November is both Aviation History Month and national Adoption Awareness Month. We've put together a display of materials related to aviation and adoption on the 2nd floor of the library for you to browse. You can check out print copies of both magazines from our collection, or a digital copy of Aviation Week from our Zinio collection.

You can also learn more about each magazine, and explore online exclusives through their websites.

Aviation Week and Space


Monday, October 13, 2014

What's your next read?

Like most people, staff at Carnegie-Stout enjoy taking the occasional online quiz that promises to tell us which Game of Thrones character we're most like or whether or not we'd survive in The Hunger Games. Then we thought, why not make our own book quiz? So we made two!


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