No Wait Wednesday: The Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward

With the climax of the spooky season just around the corner, we thought it might be fun to spotlight a spooky read here at #NoWaitWednesday. For that, there were some recent horror novels that were excellent contenders for the spotlight, but Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward really jumped off the shelf, primarily because it isn't, technically, a horror novel - it's more of a dark, atmospheric psychological thriller with some horror elements lurking around the edges. Which makes it a great gateway read for those patrons who might like the idea of a horror novel this time of year but are scared away (ha!) by the more grisly or extreme elements that the genre can offer. Ward is a bit more thoughtful, a bit more old-school, focused on twisty plots and disquieting tension between interesting and flawed characters. If that sounds more like your jam, then allow me to introduce you to Catriona Ward, one of the most dynamic and critically acclaimed novelists working in this space in recent years. She won the Shirley Jackson Award in 2019 with Little Eve, and 2021's breakout hit The Last House on Needless Street was praised by everyone from Sarah Pinborough to the New York Times to Stephen King himself. With all those voices - and more - praising her novels, you know you're in for a spooky ride. 

With her latest, Looking Glass Sound, the novel begins in a remote seaside cottage off the coast of Maine with a young boy, Wilder, who's uncle has recently passed away and left the cottage to Wilder's parents, who are in the middle of a very shaky marriage. Wilder finds some local friends, Nathaniel and Harper, and they explore the local area and become obsessed with the whispers of a figure, called the Dagger Man, allegedly responsible for leaving Polaroid photos of sleeping children near his victims that the police are still puzzled by. Is the Dagger Man still at large? Is he connected with one of Wilder's friends? This coming-of-age story then switches gears to Wilder's college years where he meets an outlandish aspiring author who is constantly questioning Wilder about those Maine summers long ago, and eventually publishes a novel based on Wilder's memories.

Ward's delightfully unsettling novel is almost origami-like in its ability to fold a plot twist into another plot twist into still yet another plot twist that readers will never see coming. While at the same time, she excels at character work that turns her characters on the page into fully three-dimensional beings, each with their hopes, dreams, and (sometimes eerie) desires lurking underneath. All of Ward's novels are worth a look, of course, but be sure to check out Looking Glass Sound for an excellent example of what she can bring to the table - and a novel that fits neatly (if unsettlingly) into the spooky season. Place your holds, and we hope you enjoy!

This Week at the Library

This week at the Library, you can join us at: 

Family Storytime – Monday, Oct. 23, 10:30 – 11 a.m.

The whole family will enjoy this flexible Storytime at the Monticello Library. Hearing stories is a great way to spend time with your kids and help them foster a love of reading. Stories, songs, fingerplays and movement activities foster pre-reading skills. Fun for the whole family. Space is limited. Pick up a free ticket at the Questions Desk when you arrive.

Live Your Healthiest Life Fall Class – Tuesday, Oct. 24, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Fall into some healthy habits at Central Resource Library! Take four hours and feel better in 2023. This week's topic is: Quitting tobacco and changing behaviors.

The Future of Language with Alexej Savreux and Dr. Mary Kohn– Tuesday, Oct. 24, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

How will language evolve with the passage of time? Join us at the Blue Valley Library for a fascinating discussion and debate between two linguists, Alexej Savreux and Dr. Mary Kohn. You’ll be left with a better appreciation of language and ideas to ponder about the future and your place in it.

Homework Help – Wednesday, Oct. 25, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

School is challenging for many students, and pandemic learning loss is an additional reality facing today’s youth. The Central Resource Library is thrilled to announce the return of Homework Help coaches to support student learning and academic achievement. Homework Help will focus specifically on literacy support for grades 2-5. Students are encouraged to bring specific homework assignments from school, such as book reports, writing projects, vocabulary, spelling, science or social studies reading, or any other work related to their specific literacy needs. English Language Learners (ELL) are welcome. Students will be served on a first-come, first-served basis, and busy times may require a wait. Additional online tutoring resources are available at on our website and include BrainFuse, Lightbox, and Khan Academy among others.

Generative AI and the future of Literature with Alexej Savreux– Wednesday, Oct. 25, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Even if you think you can’t understand AI, this novice-friendly session at the Blue Valley Library will focus on a broader philosophical discussion to improve your understanding. In this broad lecture, autodidact and linguist Alexej Savreux will deliver a focused philosophical and technical discussion on AI systems such as Grammarly, QuillBot, and ChatGPT, with examples of methodologies, societal implications, ethical and economic concerns, and technical analyses for a general audience. As AI proliferates across industry and geography, bring your questions and your coffee!

Redefining Literary Criticism Workshop with Alexej Savreux– Saturday, Oct. 28, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Join us at the Blue Valley Library and learn a new method of literary criticism, analysis, theory, and craftsmanship with GPT-3 and ChatGPT project linguist, writer, and humorist Alexej Savreux. The technique will draw upon advances in machine learning with particular attention to the philosophical concerns involved. Please bring a short poem or essay for critique, rewrite, and feedback. Alexej will share an overview of his career in linguistics, tech, and literature, complete with extended readings of selected pieces and leaving ample time for Q&A.

Candidate Meet and Greet – Saturday, Oct. 28, 10 – 11:30 a.m.

Interested in learning more about the school board candidates of the Gardner Edgerton Board of Education on your ballot? Join us at the Gardner Library for a meet and greet with the candidates. You'll have the opportunity to introduce yourself, ask questions, and learn more about their stances on the issues impacting your local schools over coffee and donuts.

And there’s much more happening this week … 

Already have a busy week? Remember, you can watch recordings of many of our programs at your convenience with Library OnDemand

JoCoLibrary Is Improving Its Website

JoCoLibrary is improving its website and needs your help! We need volunteers who are able to answer a few short questions via email. If you're interested, please sign up with your contact information and we'll be in touch! If you're willing to have a longer chat with us about your experiences using our website, mention that when you sign up.

New Curation Arrangement Could Increase Library’s Arts Programming

Bookshelves in an art gallery might detract from the experience, but on the other hand, art can enhance a visit to the library.

With that thought in mind, the Johnson County Library has gallery space in 10 of its branches. Art showcases creativity and tells stories just like the books, music, and movies in the Library’s collection, said Local Arts Librarian Bryan Voell.

“Art is a way to inspire people,” he said. “It provides the start of a conversation in the library. It becomes a way to reflect on our community.”

The Library changes the exhibits during spring, summer, and fall trimesters, and managing the rotation of artists is a heavy lift for the staff who serve on the local arts team in addition to working their main Library jobs. Voell, for instance, is an adult services librarian. So the Library has hired InterUrban ArtHouse to curate the exhibits in all the gallery spaces, except for the one at the Central Resource Library, which the Library will continue to manage. InterUrban ArtHouse, a nonprofit located in downtown Overland Park, is expected to take over in January.

As an organization that rents out studio space and offers arts programming, Voell said InterUrban ArtHouse is a perfect partner for the Library. “We see them as the experts,” he said. “This is what they do best.”

With its exhibits, the Library has brought in artists ranging from neophytes to mid-career. From that perspective, Voell said Library users should not notice the switch to InterUrban ArtHouse.

Patrons might, however, notice an uptick in arts programming at the Library now that Voell and his team are freed up from most of the curation duties. Voell said his arts position is an unusual one for a library, and he considers himself fortunate to be working for an organization that places such a high value on art.

The exhibits highlight the work of artists from throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area and around the region, and a central coordinator helps make that experience a positive one for the artists and the staff.

“And in the end,” Voell said, “it's the patrons who end up enjoying the art, getting inspired by the art, and there's an educational component as well.”

He was reminded how much the exhibitions can mean to patrons when he recently encountered a woman with a mobility scooter looking at the art at the Central Resource Library. Her limited mobility made it difficult for her to get to art galleries and museums, she told Voell, so the Central gallery was an important resource. “This is where she comes to enjoy the art and learn about the artists,” Voell said.

The fact that the Library serves a “huge cross-section of people, including people who otherwise would never have an opportunity to see contemporary, local art,” is one reason InterUrban ArtHouse is happy to take on curation duties, said CEO Angi Hejduk said in an email.

“We are excited to facilitate the relationship between artists and public art space,” she said, “creating opportunities for artists representing diverse communities and backgrounds to have their work on display.”

InterUrban ArtHouse will help artists pick items to display from their body of work and make digital catalogs of each exhibit, Hejduk said. The organization also assists with installation and marketing. “Each artist is elevated through their experience,” she said.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway in Kenya, 1953. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

For Whom the Blog Tolls

New JoCoHistory Blog Entry

Ernest Hemingway’s Kansas City Connections

Ernest Hemingway, known for such literary classics as The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, and A Farewell to Arms, stood out as one of the 20th century’s most prolific authors. He famously spent much of his life traveling, living in places like Paris, Cuba, and the Florida Keys. His time spent in Kansas City, first as a young cub reporter for The Kansas City Star and later in a brief but significant stays in the Johnson County area that remains less widely known.  Read the full article on the JoCoHistory Blog.

No Wait Wednesday: Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman

Hello and welcome to this week's edition of #NoWaitWednesday, where we take a look at a title from our adult New Release shelf that's just waiting for a lucky patron to discover it. Fantasy, science fiction, mystery, thriller, horror - we look at all kinds of books here at #NoWaitWednesday, however it's been a while since we've looked at romance in this space. It seems all of Kansas City is buzzing about the relationship between Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs and Taylor Swift, one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. Even though Kelce is a star in his own right, Swift is several degrees of magnitude larger, and I'm sure there's something about dating someone like that that comes with its own difficulties. Let's dive in to a novel about a romance between a rock star and a regular guy and the obstacles that just might come from it: Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman. (Maybe we can give Travis some tips!) (While we're on the topic of romance - have you listened to our latest JoCoLibrary Uncovered podcast about some of our favorite romance novels?)  

In Charm City Rocks, Billy Perkins is a single dad deep in his 40s whose life hasn't turned out exactly the way he thought. However, on the main he's doing pretty okay for himself: he's a music teacher who lives in an apartment above a local Baltimore record store, Charm City Rocks, and the most important thing in his life is his teenage son, Caleb, who's a high school student looking ahead to college. While Billy is divorced, he has a great relationship with his ex, and he enjoys nothing more than hanging out and watch music documentaries with Caleb. When the topic of an all-female indie rock band that became the hottest thing on the charts for a short minute back in the day comes up, Billy mentions that he had an immense crush on the band's drummer, Margot Hammer, who retreated from the limelight after a famous - and disastrous - performance on the national stage. She then married a famous actor after the breakup of the band, and, while currently separated, lives a quiet life in New York City.

Caleb goes to the internet and arranges a meet-cute between his dad and Margot, who travels down to Baltimore, and after meeting Billy, does an impromptu sit-in playing drums with local bar band. She thought she had put her music career behind her, but caught up in the moment, her electrifying performance goes viral, reminding the world of her talent and igniting a long-dormant interest from her record company. While in Baltimore, Margot not only strikes up a relationship with Billy and meets a charming, eccentric cast of locals, but she also starts wondering what a second chance at a music career might look like - and who she might want to spend that career with.

Smart, warm, and comfy, and more sweet than spicy, this feel-good Generation X romance novel is all about second chances, perfect for fans of Linda Holmes or Annabel Monaghan. As adult characters with almost-grown children approaching middle age, Billy and Margot both bring a lot of baggage to their relationship, and the novel takes care to portray their passions and obstacles with care: Billy is a centered nice guy but has a lack of ambition and can't help but be a bit star-struck in his crush's presence, while Margot's previous fame-driven relationships, a parasitic music industry, and a fear of betrayal continue to haunt her. I love that Norman's novel looks at the realistic difficulties that a more mature relationship brings - bodies don't work exactly like they did in their 20s, for example, and both characters have children who need to be prioritized in whatever future they create. But with time and a bit of work, these two might just make it. Norman also uses the charm of the old-town neighborhoods of Baltimore as a perfect backdrop to this romance novel that deserves to be on your hold list. Check it out!

This Week at the Library

This week at the Library, you can join us at: 

Bilingual Storytime – Monday, Oct. 16, 10:30 – 11 a.m.

The whole family will enjoy stories, songs, fingerplays and movement activities in both English and another language at Central Resource Library. Exposure to other languages can help develop early language learning and boost pre-reading skills. Fun for the whole family.

Toda la familia podrá disfrutar tanto en inglés como en otros idiomas: historias, canciones, juegos de manos y dedos, y actividades para trabajar el movimiento con los niños. El contacto con otros idiomas en los niños ayuda a desarrollar el aprendizaje temprano y a mejorar las habilidades de prelectura. Habrá diversión para toda la familia.

READ to A Dog with Pets For Life – Tuesday, Oct. 17 & Nov. 21, 3:30 – 5 p.m.

Join us at Central Resource Library for the Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program that improves children’s reading and communication skills by employing a powerful method: reading to a registered therapy dog or cat! These animals volunteer with their owner/handlers as a team. Please note: space is limited for this program; kids will get a ticket at arrival and wait their turn to read to one of several animals.

Permission to Withdraw: Enjoying Your Retirement Savings Without Outliving Them – Wednesday, Oct. 18, 10 – 11 a.m.

Come to this featured event at the Central Resource Library. Once you have accumulated retirement funds during your working years, it is time to retire and to start withdrawing from those funds and enjoying your retirement years. But the key question is: Just how much can I afford to withdraw each year without incurring the risk of running out of money? The answer depends in large part upon how those funds are invested, and so your investment strategy may be the key to answering that question. Emerson Hartzler, retired finance executive, will address that key question. You may be surprised by the answer!

Candidate Forum: Overland Park City Council Candidates (Wards 5-6) – Wednesday, Oct. 18, 6 – 7 p.m.

The Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley Post will be hosting 11 nights of local candidate forums ahead of the Nov. 7 general election, giving Johnson County voters a chance to hear directly from the candidates who want to represent them in city government and on school boards. This forum will be held at the Blue Valley Library. The full list of events is here.

Caregiver Workshop: Music Matters – Wednesday, Oct. 18, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Discover how music can have a positive effect on your child’s development. Kristi Hanson, music therapist and owner of Stepping Stones KC, will share practical ways music can affect behavior, emotional regulation, and keep early learning fun! Designed for caregivers of children ages 0-6. All caregivers welcome.

And there’s much more happening this week … 

Already have a busy week?  Remember, you can watch recordings of many of our programs at your convenience with Library OnDemand