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This Week at the Library

Our holiday wishes for you: May all the joys of the season be yours.

We look forward to sharing more story times, more book discussions and more incredible programs like the annual Writers Conference in the coming year.

The Johnson County Library locations are closed Sunday, Dec. 24 and Monday, Dec. 25 for Christmas.

Libraries will also be closed Sunday, Dec. 31 and Monday, Jan. 1, for New Year’s observance.  

Johnson County Libraries will re-open for regular service hours Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024.

Rain or snow, sleet or dark of night: our eLibrary and Library OnDemand are always open and available anytime you like. 


Cookbooks at the Library: Holiday Favorites and Year-Round Resources

While we all might celebrate holidays a little differently, there are a few things most of us share. At the top of that list is food. It’s no surprise then that librarians and library users alike have a soft spot for the Library’s collection of cookbooks.  

There's something for everyone: favorite series like those from Smitten Kitchen, Ottolenghi, Martha Stewart and Half Baked Harvest. There are cookbooks for types of cuisine and types of appliances, various diets and holidays. And Diana Spencer knows most of them.  
Spencer, a Youth Information Specialist at Corinth Library, sometimes spends time in the nonfiction stacks so she can scope out new cookbooks. A pretty cover catches her attention, she says, but what she cares about most is what’s inside. 

She tends to gravitate to cookbooks that can give her patrons the same things she values in a cookbook: “Something that draws out their creativity, something that they find confidence in doing. I think cooking is a form of expression. When I’m cooking, I know that I'm taking care of other people and nurturing them, and I hope that maybe somebody else might find that same joy in cooking,” she said.   
She’s right. Patrons Tonia Hites Hartzell and Anita Kendall also spend time looking for new cookbooks at the Library, particularly during the holidays.  
Hartzell says she currently has 13 cookbooks checked out, including a variety of vegetarian and vegan books to consult as she plans an unconventional Christmas and New Year's menu, as well as two of Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen cookbooks.  
Kendall says she used to check out cookbooks for the holidays often when she and her wife were first married; over the years they’ve perfected their favorite recipes and don’t tend to check out as many holiday-themed cookbooks. But in January, she says, when the winter doldrums hit, they often find themselves “looking for cookbooks for meals for 2, soups, and other ways to liven things up!” 
Something Spencer, Hartzell and Kendall share is that no matter how many they’ve already read, they always find new cookbooks that seem interesting. “I never get bored reading a cookbook, even if it's not what I'm going to make,” Spencer said. “I still like to sit and read about the history of the recipes and where they originated and things like that.” 
Hartzell has gifted her children cookbooks as they’ve become adults. “My daughter will be receiving Martha Stewart’s 'Hors D’oeuvres Handbook,' Martha Stewart Pies and Tarts and The Book on Pie by Erin Jeanne McDowell this year,” she says.  
Kendall has asked for several cookbooks as gifts after checking them out. A few of the cookbooks first checked out from the Library and now in her home library include “Warm Bread and Honey Cake,” Comfort and Joy, Cookies to Die For!, and various Instant Pot cookbooks.  
As for favorites, each cookbook lover has said that’s the hardest question. Still, Kendall says, “'Warm Bread and Honey Cake' is just a gorgeous one I'd recommend. It's got sweet, cozy reminiscences, beautiful pictures and a huge variety of interesting recipes. It's wonderful to leaf through for 5 minutes, read deeply for hours, or just cook from.” (You can reserve this title through Interlibrary Loan.) 
Hartzell recommends the Smitten Kitchen series, 100 Cookies by Sarah Kieffer (especially the Neapolitan cookies) and “almost all of the books from the Milk Street by Christopher Kimball collection.” 
Spencer, who has developed an interest in baking challah (the traditional bread Jewish people eat on Shabbat) and makes it about three times a week using different braided designs, made a list of newer and older titles, which reflects her love of both experimentation and tradition. 
Though Spencer observes Hanukkah as an adult, she has many memories of Christmas as a child with her family, which include great memories of their holiday food traditions growing up: “We try to keep a lot of those recipes still going today because we don't have the same family members with us anymore. Carrying a lot of those recipes forward is important to everybody in my family. All three of my sisters cook, my mom cooks and my two nieces love to be in the kitchen too. It runs in the family.”


Tasty History

Do you recognize any of the restaurants in these photos?

Time travel through Johnson County's history on this beautiful throwback Thursday at Expand your sense of community through understanding Johnson County's history and its place in American society. Sometimes a fun way to learn about the history of this little part of the world is to explore photos on a subject as simple as restaurants. How will you time travel through JoCoHistory?



No Wait Wednesday: Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas

Hello and welcome to another edition of No Wait Wednesday, where we take a look at a book on a New Release shelf at one of our branch Libraries that's available right now for lucky patrons to check out. There's nothing quite as disappointing than hearing about a good book from someone and then discovering that you'll have to wait weeks before it is available from the library. It's far better to skip the lines and try something that's available now and ready to go for you to enjoy. Today we'll be looking at Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas, also the author of 2022's word-of-mouth hit, The Hacienda.

The novel begins in the 1830s on a ranch in rural Mexico where tensions are high between the local ranchers and the Anglo settlers who keep crossing the boundary from Texas in the north who are in search for more territory. We're introduced to two young teenagers, who, despite their class differences, are fast friends: Nestor is the son of vaqueros, working as an apprentice of sorts on a local ranch. He is best friends with Nena, the headstrong daughter of the ranch owner, until a innocent nighttime hunt for treasure goes disastrously wrong when they're attacked by a fanged monster. Nestor, thinking Nena is dead and that he and his family will get the blame, flees into the night. Flash forward years later, and Nestor returns to the area as an adult to help defend the locals against the Northerners and he rediscovers Nena, who has not only survived the attack but grown up to adopt the role of healer, trained by her grandmother in the use of herbs to tend to the local militia. However, she blames Nestor - not for the attack, but for leaving her behind and never offering any sort of explanation.

The tension mounts as the two need to overcome their flawed recollection of that terrible night years ago and learn to work together to defend the locals against the American army as well as the mysterious monsters from the north. These vampires, incidentally, are not the ones that most readers will be familiar with from movies and novels, but a strikingly original creation based on the folklore of the region. (And no, they aren't sparkly.) Will Nestor and Nena rekindle their connection from long ago? Will Nena be forced to choose between saving the ranch that her family has held for generations and her new love? If you need an answer to that question, then you don't know what genre that you're reading.

So what genre is this novel, exactly? The 1800s setting with its lush, detailed descriptions of the lives of the ranchers would seem to indicate historical fiction, but the will-they-or-won't-they slow burn attraction between Nora and Nestor is the real star of the novel. Even though vampires are mentioned in the title, it's not technically horror, even though Isabel Cañas includes some of the trappings of the genre. (We'll call those horror trappings "atmospheric" rather than "scary.") The goal of the novel isn't to terrify or shock, it's to follow these star-crossed characters through their emotional journey together, so it's more properly classified as a historical gothic romance, then, more closer to Daphne duMaurier and Victoria Holt than Stephen King. So don't let the vampires in the title scare (ha) you away - this is a rich, detailed, lushly written novel that should belong on many holds lists. Give it a try, and thanks for reading! We'll see you next year.