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Monday, April 14, 2014

Staff Review: 50 Children by Steven Pressman
We are all aware of what happened during World War II and how Hitler wanted to eradicate the entire Jewish population from the world, or at least from Europe.  However, did you know that before things got really serious that the Nazi party were allowing the Jewish people to leave Germany?  To find out more, pick up and read 50 Children written by Steven Pressman.  His wife is the grandchild of Gil and Eleanor Kraus, the focus of this book and the 2013 HBO documentary 50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus.

Gil Kraus has discovered that Jewish parents in Germany and Austria can legally send their children to America if there are relatives or sponsors that will care for the children until their parents arrive.  Mr. Kraus enlists his Jewish friends and political connections that will make this happen.  He wants to bring 50 unaccompanied children to America.  If he is successful, it will be the largest set of Jewish children to be brought over together at the same time. It is a long, legal process that Mrs. Kraus works through to ensure all of the proper procedures are occurring, although nothing is official.

Deemed too dangerous for Mrs. Kraus to travel to Germany, Mr. Kraus and his associate cross the ocean by boat to meet with all of the individuals to approve the travel of these children.  Mr. Kraus works very diligently to make sure that everything is completed legally, and so the visas that will be used by the children fit the requirements of America’s very rigid immigration laws.  There are hoops to jump through, interviews to be conducted, and dealing with government officials in every phase, so Mrs. Kraus joins her husband in Europe and leaves their own children behind.

It is extremely difficult to pick just 50 Jewish children out of the 1.5 million that are trying to save their lives.  Once the 50 are decided, still nothing is official that they can leave.  The children are strong in that they will be able to survive and be successful in America away from their parents, but it is the parents that are the strongest.  They are willingly sending their children to a new country while their own future remains unknown.

If you enjoy history, especially from this time period, 50 Children is the perfect choice.  It provides a personal tale of a Jewish couple from Philadelphia and their willingness to help others when so many would not.  This was a difficult time for all, and there are difficult parts to read, but the happy times make it all worthwhile.  Drawn from Mrs. Kraus’ unpublished memoir, rare documents, family photos, and interviews tell the story of “One ordinary American couple’s extraordinary journey into the heart of Nazi Germany.”  It will be published on April 28th to coincide with the Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

~Andrea, Circulation

Friday, April 11, 2014

Staff Review: The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt
I hesitated before writing this review. The Raven Prince, Elizabeth Hoyt's first novel, was originally published in 2006, so I feel like I'm a little late to the party. Plus, it's a romance novel. A very steamy romance novel. No really, I'm blushing a little bit as I type this. The chemistry between the main characters is intense, and things do eventually get rather graphic, after quite a lot of longing glances.

There's also some delightful banter, and some creative profanity, as the two misfits stumble their way towards Happily Ever After. Mrs. Anna Wren is an incredibly proper and respectable widow, whose finances are becoming increasingly desperate. Edward de Raaf, the Earl of Swartingham, is the explosive, pockmarked, long absent lord of Ravenhill Abbey. His unexpected return has the Little Battleford gossips whispering, and they only get louder when Anna takes a position as Swartingham's secretary, an unheard of career for a woman in 1760.

Add in a vividly drawn cast of supporting characters, a fast-paced plot that manages to be clever instead of contrived, and fun nods to other favorites, and it's easy to see how I found myself up until 3 a.m. so that I could finish this book in one sitting. A book that opens with a variation on the meeting of the scene where Jane meets Rochester in Jane Eyre was bound to be one I either loved or hated. I'm happy to say that The Raven Prince charmed me completely, and it's taking all my will power not to go on an immediate Elizabeth Hoyt reading binge.

~Sarah, Adult Services

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Staff Review: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

I don't read a lot of speculative fiction, I usually go for more urban fiction or fantasy.  I saw a plug for Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer on some review site I was reading (I honestly can't tell you which one at this point) and thought "hey, that looks interesting".  When I checked out the book I was excited to see that it is only 195 pages long.  From what I could tell this book takes place is some sort of dystopian future.  As with most dystopian stories, something happened that isn't really explained, causing weird things to occur. In this book, the weird thing is actually an area.

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the land and human civilization in Area X has disappeared. Expeditions have been sent to try and figure out what happened, and is continuing to happen. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Eden like landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition members turned on one another and died in a hail of gunfire; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

Annihilation is the story of the twelfth expedition.  This group is made up of four women, a psychologist, a surveyor, an anthropologist, and our narrator, a biologist.  Their mission is to the map the terrain, collect samples, and record all of their observations in journals. They are dispatched with what amounts to primitive tools, a camera, and a few guns for protection.  They have no way of communicating with anyone outside of Area X.  Even though they arrive expecting the unexpected, nothing could prepare them for the reality of Area X. 

This novel is based on the biologist first person account of the expedition.  Vandermeer never gives you the names of the expedition members. They are just referred to by their job titles.  Initially that was a little disconcerting,  I really wanted to know names.   By the end of the book, I didn't care.  Names weren't important.  The writing style is vivid with descriptions of colors and sounds.  But everything that happens seems so other-worldly, almost dream-like.  I couldn't put this book down!  I wanted to know what was going on.  What happened to to create Area X?  What happened to the other expeditions?  Why would people still volunteer to go on these expeditions when they all seem to end badly?  What is Southern Reach?  Some of these questions were answered, many more were not.  Be warned, this book is creepy.  Not bump-in-the-night creepy, but unsettling creepy. 

Annihilation is the first in the Southern Reach trilogy.  The second book, Authority, is due out in May, the third, Acceptance, in September.  I can't wait to read them both. If you want to dip your toe into speculative fiction give Annihilation a shot.  It is short, suspenseful, intriguing, and leaves you wanting more. 

~ Amy, Adult Services


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Little Wolves - 2014 All Iowa Reads selection

Founded in 2002, the Iowa Center for the Book established  the All Iowa Reads Program in 2003.  The purpose is to foster a sense of unity through reading.  Each year Iowans statewide are encouraged to come together in their communities to read and talk about a single book title.

The titles are chosen by a committee and are based on the following criteria:

  • Raise universal social issues relevant to Iowans
  • Lend itself to sustained, spirited, and in-depth discussion
  • Be accessible to adults and high school aged youth
  • Be available by January 1st of the selection year in paperback, unabridged audio, large print and/or downloadable eBook
The 2014 All Iowa Reads Selection is Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman.
Set on the Minnesota prairie in the late 1980s during a drought season that's pushing family farms to the brink, Little Wolves features the intertwining stories of of a father searching for answers after his son commits a heinous murder, and a pastor's wife (and washed-out scholar of early Anglo-Saxon literature) who has returned to the town for mysterious reasons of her own. A penetrating look at small-town America, Little Wolves weaves together elements of folklore and Norse mythology while being driven by a powerful murder mystery; a page-turning literary triumph. (from the publishers description)

Little Wolves is available for check-out at the Circulation desk. The Let's Talk Books: Book Discussion for Adults, will be held on May 13 at 7:00 p.m. in the 3rd floor Aigler Auditorium.

For more information on All Iowa Reads, including past titles, please click here

Carnegie-Stout Public Library has Books-In-A-Bag discussion sets for all the past All Iowa Reads selections.  If you are interested in using one for your book club, please contact the library at 563-589-4225 and ask for Inter-Library Loan. 

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