When You Live in Iowa and a Hurricane Arrives on a Monday Afternoon…

I don’t even know where to begin this post. Some of you may be aware of the bizarre and destructive weather we had in Iowa on Monday, August 11th. Known as a derecho, it was an inland hurricane. Iowa is a landlocked state, and we’ve always been super sure a hurricane would never touch us. Well, Monday that all changed. What we all thought was going to be a severe thunderstorm turned out to be straight-line winds clocked at 100-115 MPH for 45 minutes straight. Add in some rain, thunder and lightning. The aftermath is appalling and so heartbreaking I think my whole city of Cedar Rapids and surrounding communities are still in shock. When I called my insurance agent, I cried on the phone. She was the first person I’d talked to outside of this area since the storm. 

There is not one block, one house, one business, one apartment building, one park or street that is not damaged in some way in Cedar Rapids, which is 75 square miles. A population of approximately 130,000 people. We’ve been without power since Monday when the storm hit. Sirens went off, and most people had a chance to take cover for what we thought would be a quick storm. Many people were caught in cars, businesses, and out for lunch. Folks usually have days to prepare for a hurricane-we did not even have 10 minutes. 

For the first few days, there was no phone service; couldn’t even call 911. Gas stations were closed; when a few did open, the lines to get gas for cars, chain saws, and generators were blocks long. My boyfriend and I drove 40 minutes south of CR to find a gas station. We borrowed a generator from a friend after his smaller, older generator fried his deep freezer. We have a freezer full of meat, cheese, and fish that we have to bag up and toss. Easily over $500 in food. Food we’d been steadily buying and freezing during the ongoing pandemic. 
You can’t find a chainsaw, chains, oil for sale in Iowa. They’re all gone, or people are price gouging online. The National Guard arrived a few nights ago to help with tree debris clean up. There are parts of Cedar Rapids that won’t have power until Tuesday, 9 days after the derecho. I’m on day 7 with no power, as is my boyfriend. Luckily, water is working fine and we have water to drink, flushing toilets, and showers! 

Now our days and nights are filled with the sounds of chain saws, generators, and yes, sirens. Every day gets a little better. More and more power is being restored to parts of the city, along with more gas stations up and running. Grocery stores are open, too. There are even some restaurants that are operating. 

I’ve taken photos and they do not even begin to show the magnitude of the destruction. Our local newspaper said 50% of our tree canopy in Cedar Rapids is gone. We are known as a tree city; our city symbol is a tree. So many houses and businesses damaged by trees and wind. Block after block of tree debris along the streets, waiting for city crews to reach us. 

My library took a big hit, and had extensive water damage. The Marion Public Library building is not a place staff or patrons can return to–it is beyond repairing. I still can’t wrap my head around that. We are moving forward, and already had a new building planned and will be breaking ground in October. Until that building is finished (2022), we will be operating out of other spaces, providing library services to our patrons. 

I will be taking a bit of a break from the blog while I work through this enormous life event. Iowans are strong, tough people, for sure. Giving and generous. However, we are all just a bit broken right now. Recovery will be months; school buildings were so damaged we have no idea when school will start, and what that will look like. Businesses that were just hanging on through the pandemic will probably close for good. Farmers lost so many corn crops it will create a ripple effect around the world. 

My family members are safe and doing well. My friends are okay, too. Some are dealing with a lot of damage to their homes; others are struggling with the additional stress this all brings to us. I can’t say I’ve slept more than 4 hours a night this past week. My boyfriend has worked so hard all week; working himself to exhaustion. His belt needs more notches cause he’s lost so much weight. But we will get through this, one day at a time. 

Here are some links to stories that may help give you perspective on where Iowa stands: 

https://www.thegazette.com   (our local newspaper)



Take care, stay safe. I will have updates! 

The Bookalicious Babe 💗💗💗

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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