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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.

Open Book on phone

eNewsletters like The Open Book, Kids & Family and Career & Finance keep you informed about the Library and services we have for you. Signing up is easy!

Introducing Toolkit Tuesdays

What is Toolkit Tuesday?

How often have you heard someone exclaim, “I didn’t know the Library had that!” We get the enthusiasm. We also understand why it can be an epiphany—the Library has so much to offer, but sometimes it’s hard to be in-the-know. With our Tuesday Toolkit, we share Library tools that you might not know about that make your life so much better.

Whether it's a Library hack, a tip or trick, or even a can't-miss resource, come back each Tuesday for a new tool to add to your toolkit.

This week’s tool: eNewsletters

Stay informed about all that’s happening at Johnson County Library. We’ve created a few monthly newsletters to help meet your specific needs. Sign up today! 

  • The Open Book—updates on Library buildings, upcoming events and programs, service highlights and how the Library is evolving to meet your needs.
  • Career & Finance—Bringing you up-to-date and valuable career and finance information to help you make progress on your goals.
  • Kids & Family—Connecting you with fun and engaging programs and resources for you and your children, from infants to teens.

eNewsletters! A great tool for your toolkit!


This Week at the Library

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

Tabletop Games – Monday, Dec. 18, 6 – 7:45 p.m.

Join us at the Gardner Library for a fun-filled event with family and friends and become a part of the Johnson County tabletop gaming community. Discover new games from our collection or bring your personal favorite to share – you might get creative with a round of Dixit, collaborate to escape the Forbidden Island or strategize your way to victory as King of Tokyo! Come and go as you please. Refreshments are provided.

American Girl Book Club – Tuesday, Dec. 19, 6 – 7 p.m.

Kids love to read and this book club at the Cedar Roe Library helps kids learn more about important moments in American history. American Girl offers many character stories exploring historical perspectives from a girl’s point of view. Join this group to read and craft with some new friends. Participants will get a free book while supplies last. Stop by the desk to pick-up your book. Best for ages 8-12; all kids are welcome. Tonight’s feature is American Girl Book Tasting.

Open Mic – Friday, Dec. 22, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Johnson County Library is teaming up with Bear Necessities Coffee Bar (9609 W 87th St, Overland Park, KS 66212) to bring you an Open Mic from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on the fourth Friday of every month. Bring poems, short stories, essays and excerpts to share on the stage, or come just to listen. We’ll feature readings from our contest winners and the rest of the time is for you. Sign up at the event; three-minute limit.

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


Great Source for Science

Today's Science

“There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.” 
– Hippocrates

We get introduced to so many facts on any given day. What is based in science and what is fiction? Today’s Science bridges the gap between the science taught in classrooms and real-world discoveries by leading scientists, giving comprehensive and in-depth explanations of some of the most important advances in biology, chemistry, environmental science, space, physics and technology. You most certainly do not have to be a student to explore what's behind article headlines like:

  • Wildfires and the Air We Breathe
  • Genetically Engineered Bacteria Detects Colorectal Cancer in Mice
  • A Mind-Blowing Discovery: The Brainless Caribbean Box Jellyfish is Capable of Associative Learning

Library Branches Provide Safe Havens for County Mental Health Staff

The hush of a branch is often what makes it an inviting space for patrons, and as it turns out, the setting is also beneficial for Johnson County mental health workers. 

As a Johnson County Mental Health case manager, Brian Young said many of the young adults he sees are nervous in busy social settings. 

But at the Library, he said, “It’s not fast-paced. It's not overwhelming. It's calming. Plus, it gets (the clients) out of the house.” 

Young and his case manager colleague, Amy Pixton, said meeting at the Library also allows their clients to take advantage of the collection. Pixton has one client who checks out video games — she is a fan of the fine-free policy — and another one who reads as a coping mechanism. And while they are at the Library, Pixton can introduce them to Library programming. 

“It’s nice because the schedule and everything is there. So you can just grab it and say, ‘Hey, this is going on. Is there anything here you’d like to participate in?’” 

The branches are also convenient waystations as the case managers shuttle between appointments. Usual stops include Central Resource, Cedar Roe, Gardner, Monticello and Spring Hill. Antioch is convenient for Pixton because she has a client who can come from their job at a nearby restaurant. 

Each case manager said it’s not unusual for them to stop off at branches upwards of four or more times a day. It’s not uncommon for them to bump into one of their colleagues coming or going. Pixton and Young also said the meeting rooms allow them to work on sensitive client material and make calls to physician offices if need be. 

One technological benefit is that they can connect quickly to the county computer network without the time-consuming workarounds needed at other public spots. Young and Pixton also said that at the Library, they avoid the pressure of having to buy something every time they pop in. 

Branches also offer a respite during a busy day. 

“Sometimes I just go and drink my coffee and stare at my phone and take a break — just to disconnect for a little bit,” Young said. 

Young is especially partial to the Monticello branch; at his suggestion, the whole young adult team had a retreat there a couple of summers ago. They reserved a back room and had a potluck breakfast before embarking on a morning of activities. It was easy to book the space, he said. 

Plus, he said, “It was not in the office, which is essentially where you don’t want to be when you’re trying to do a fun outing with your teammates. It doesn’t even feel like you’re at a library, to be honest.” 

Three young boys in winter clothing

Three young boys wearing winter clothing standing on a wooden cart. 1910-1915.

Heartwarming History

Time travel through Johnson County's history on this beautiful throwback Thursday. Did you know is the best place to explore historical photographs and documents about the people, places and organizations of Johnson County, Kansas, from the 19th century to the present? JoCoHistory is a collaborative presentation of the history from the Johnson County Museum, Johnson County Library and many JoCoHistory partners.

It’s cold outside. So, spend some time in JoCoHistory. It may just warm your heart!


An Inheritance of Magic

 An Inheritance of Magic by Benedict Jacka.

No Wait Wednesday: An Inheritance of Magic

Hello and welcome to NoWaitWednesday, where we take a peek at a great book that's on the shelves at one of our local Library branches just waiting for a patron to come along and check it out. Why be number 342 in line for the newest celebrity-endorsed bestseller when there's all sorts of great new books available, on the shelf, right now?

This week's pick is An Inheritance of Magic by Benedict Jacka. This first in a promising new fantasy series is set in modern-day London where magic is real, however it's tightly controlled and available only to a lucky and powerful few, as wielding magic in this world is an expensive proposition, affordable only to elite families and mega corporations. Regular people are all but shut out of the process. However, there are some folks who can practice magic who exist on the margins. Take Stephen Oakwood, for example. He's a poor orphan from East London who lacks formal magic education, however he does have a few advantages up his sleeve: he does have a rudimentary ability to use magic at lower levels, taught to him by his missing father, and he also has a mysterious link to one of the larger magical families in London, a connection left from his mother. That, and his cat, Hobbes, who is definitely more than he seems.

When his fledgling ability attracts the attention of some powerful enemies, Stephen (and Hobbes) must spring into action, using what little resource he has into gaining education and some insight into this very exclusive world that he finds himself in the middle of. Combining a coming-of-age story with magical training featuring a plucky orphan who uses a bit of luck to scrape by, Jacka has laid the foundations for an altogether enjoyable urban fantasy series that readers should love. Jacka's writing style, by the way, straddles the line between mainstream and YA, so this series would be ideal for those who are looking for a fun, inventive, fast-moving crossover book set in a world filled with the wealthy and corrupt that's just itching for a character to come along and start the dominoes falling.

Place a hold and give this title a shot, especially if you like V.E. Schwab's Shades of Magic series or Naomi Novik's Scholomance novels.

Best of JoCoLibrary Uncovered 2023 graphic

Thanks from Dave and Charles to everyone who listened, subscribed and shared their love and support!

Best of JoCoLibrary Uncovered 2024

2023 JoCoLibrary Uncovered Podcast Year in Review

What a year! Compared to last year, our average number of listeners per month tripled and our number of total listens doubled. Our average number of listens per episode rose by 34%, and our podcast was downloaded 20,000 times! To date, we have created more than 100 Library podcast episodes.

Over 40 staff members contributed their talents to the podcast in 2023. Here are just a few of the many people we have to thank:

  • Library Administration, for their support of Librarians sharing their knowledge and passions with a broader audience in this medium
  • MakerSpace facilitator Brian, who voiced our announcer narration segments, our photographer Lydia and our social media guru Lisa
  • Learning and Development Manager Laura, who recorded more than 20 “eResource of the episode” spots
  • Readers Advisory Librarian Gregg and his team for their wonderful collection deep-dive contributions
  • You! Thank you so very much for listening!

Top Subject-focused episodes of 2023:

  1. KC True Crime
  2. Library Kids on Library Books
  3. Incarcerated

Top Collection Deep Dives of 2023:

  1. Hopepunk
  2. Thrillers
  3. Books About Book Lovers

This Week at the Library

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

Tabletop Games – Tuesday, Dec. 12, 6 – 7:45 p.m.

Join us for a fun-filled event at the Central Resource Library with family and friends and become a part of the Johnson County tabletop gaming community. Discover new games from our collection or bring your personal favorite to share – you might get creative with a round of Dixit, collaborate to escape the Forbidden Island or strategize your way to victory as King of Tokyo! Come and go as you please. Refreshments are provided.

Tween Book Club – Wednesday, Dec. 13, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.

If you’re age 9-13 and enjoy reading, this program is for you! Let’s get together at the Monticello Library to read new books, discuss ideas and characters, and meet other book lovers. Each session we read a different book, and staff will lead the group in a discussion about the book. Participants will get a free book while supplies last. Stop by the Youth Services desk to pick up your book. The December title is Where The Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.

Writing Your Award-Winning Children’s Book – Friday, Dec. 15, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Join us at the Antioch Library for this Writers Conference redux. Writing a children’s book can be an enlightening experience, and one for which most writers are very qualified. Surely most people have read hundreds, if not thousands, of children’s books to little loved ones. Most could absolutely write one. Participants will be encouraged to think back to their own childhood, to the childhood of their children, to examine the components within their favorite children’s books. The goal is for participants to leave not only with an understanding of the components to layer a great children’s book, but also with several ideas so they can soon begin writing great children’s books of their own.

Goals but Different: Building a Writing Practice with Self-Compassion– Friday, Dec. 15, noon – 2 p.m.

Join us at the Antioch Library for this Writer’s Conference redux. Writers tend to have a loud inner critic, which can get louder when we don’t meet our writing goals. Research shows that self-compassion is way more motivating than self-criticism. In this workshop, we’ll explore different ways to create writing goals and how to work toward them with self-compassion. You’ll have tools and resources to build your writing practice when you leave.

Submitting Your Work for Publication – Friday, Dec. 15, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Join us at the Antioch Library for this Writer’s Conference redux. This workshop is designed to provide aspiring writers with practical tips and advice on how to submit their work for publication. Participants should bring a work they are considering publishing: the workshop will cover essential topics such as preparing your work for submission, finding the right publication, considering methods of self-publishing, and much more. By the end of the workshop, participants will have gained the knowledge and confidence to take the first steps towards getting their work published, including in JCL’s writing contests and the JoCoWrites blog.

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


Coming Soon: Spring 2024 Guide!

Our spring Guide will hit Library locations on Monday, Dec. 11! Stop by any one of our 14 locations next week to pick one up.

Can't wait to check out all the updates, news and events for this spring? You can browse the Guide online right away!