May 22, 2019

What do you think of when you imagine Scotland? Do you picture the rolling, verdant fields of the Highlands? Maybe you think of the craggy, stony mountains or the foggy moors filled with sheep. How about 6,000 miles of windswept coastline? Scotland sounds like a dream but what should I really expect? The perfect way to discover a place is through reading!

There are so many resources at the library to help prepare for my trip. It’s always nice to feel like you know a place before you get there. I need to have great theme music wherever I go. There are so many amazing CDs in the library

Music Writing Contest Winner

By Timothy Tankard
Rated by Helen H.
Oct 10, 2018

Johnson County Library and The Writers Place are pleased to announce that Timothy Tankard has won the open category of our writing contest on the theme of MUSIC with "The Crawdad Song".

Tankard grew up in Kansas City and lives here now. His jobs over the years have included teaching high school and junior college English, newspaper reporting and editing, and computer programming. (That's what has paid the bills!) He's had a few stories published in literary journals, including Kansas City's New Letters magazine. He likes to play music with his wife Valerie. They have two grown kids, Frank

Music Writing Contest Winner

By Kayla Wiltfong
Rated by Helen H.
Sep 6, 2018

Johnson County Library and The Writers Place are pleased to announce that Kayla Wiltfong has won the open category of our writing contest on the theme of MUSIC with "From the Joint".

Kayla Wiltfong is a student in the undergraduate English program at the University of Missouri - Kansas City, with an emphasis in creative writing. She had two poems published in the 2016 edition of Elementia and three in Shawnee Mission East's 2016 Free Lancer literary magazine. In 2017, she won a contest held by the Johnson County Library for her poem "Politics," as well as having an essay published in the

Music Writing Contest Winner

By Rebecca Schier-Akamelu
Rated by Helen H.
Jul 7, 2018

Johnson County Library and The Writers Place are pleased to announce that Rebecca Schier-Akamelu has won the short story category of our writing contest on the theme of MUSIC with "From One to the Next".

Rebecca writes from Overland Park and has previously been published in A Long Story Short and The Kansas City Star. She is also a voiceover artist and a proud wife and mom.


From One to the Next

Steph took a deep breath and plunged her foot into the muddy stream. It was icy cold; she curled her toes into the mud. She took a moment to let the cold rush through her, chilled to

Jun 22, 2018

Johnson County Library and The Writers Place are pleased to announce that Michael Harty has won the poetry category of our writing contest on the theme of MUSIC with "Ralna's Song".

Harty has been practicing psychology and psychoanalysis in the Kansas City area for a long time, and publishing poetry for a fairly small percentage of that time. So far he's had poems in Kansas City Voices, I-70 Review, New Letters, Coal City Review, and other magazines, and he's published a chapbook, The Statue Game.

Ralna’s Song

Nobody on the Lawrence Welk show
knew her the way I knew her,


By Pam Muñoz Ryan
Rated by Emily D.
Nov 29, 2017

Echo follows the stories of Otto, Friedrich, Mike, Ivy, and the mysterious harmonica that ties them together! The magical thread of music carries you through this wonderful tale. Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California are all dealing with the wrath of a war that tore countries and families apart. Friedrich is living with a birthmark that Hitler deems unsuitable, Mike will do anything to keep him and his brother together, and Ivy is learning that prejudice in America affects even the innocent. But they all find solace in music. With the help of the harmonica, someone

Sep 5, 2017

This is the greatest album released in my lifetime. OK Computer changed the sound, quality, and art of music. Radiohead’s work spreads beyond alternative rock to inspire a new generation of musicians in multiple genres. As a critically acclaimed and culturally beloved piece of art, OK Computer’s rerelease is necessary to celebrate this intensely great album. OK Computer is so perfect the Library of Congress archived it as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” to the musical canon in 2014.

This is one of many masterpieces created by Radiohead. Beautiful and perfection are

Love & Mercy DVD

By Paul Dano
Rated by Brent W.
Aug 26, 2017

In portraying Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame, Love & Mercy perfectly evokes the Southern California of 1967. I left the theater deeply affected by the sweep of Wilson’s tumultuous life. Paul Dano is superb as the young Brian, and John Cusack is very moving as the deeply troubled middle-aged Brian. In fact, all the actors are superb. While I wasn’t a fan of either the man or the group before, I am now. This is a great movie and I’ve watched it at least five times.

My favorite scenes depict the recording of Brian's masterpiece, Pet Sounds. Highly recommended.

Miss Sharon Jones! (DVD)

By Sharon Jones
Rated by Brent W.
Aug 10, 2017

Miss Sharon Jones! is worth seeing for Jones' performance in a little country church of "His Eye is on the Sparrow" alone. Her grit, power and will to sing are amazing. The film covers a critical period in her life with her band, the Dap Kings, when she is dealing with intense cancer treatments and, at the same time, trying to keep the group together. Her humor, bravery and explosive talent fill the screen.  

Having seen Sharon and the Dap Kings at the 2016 New Orleans Jazzfest, I wanted to see more performance footage, but recognize we are lucky to have any at all. The film is equally

Kubo and the Two Strings

By Laika
Rated by Rachel C.
Jun 20, 2017

"If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see and hear, no matter how unusual it may seem. And please be warned, if you fidget, if you look away, if you forget any part of what I tell you, even for an instant, then our hero will surely perish."

Thus begins the saga of Kubo.

I don't want to give away plot details, so I'll talk about themes. There is exploration of family, both good and bad. Well-meaning relatives can want what they feel is best for you, but still be hurting you. But the ones who shelter you, no matter how flawed, will do their best by you

Dec 16, 2016

In his introduction to Forever Words, Paul Muldoon says, “So ingrained in our collective unconscious is the voice of Johnny Cash that we can all but hear the boom-chicka boom-chicka of his guitar accompaniment, at once reassuring and disquieting in its very familiarity.” That was absolutely true for me as I was reading through this collection. 

Some of these poems are familiar songs by Cash, like “Don’t Take Your Gun to Town,” but the poetry expands the story beyond the recorded song, and reading it brings a new appreciation to the familiar lyrics. Others were previously unpublished works

Jul 21, 2016

Rockumentaries can be pretentious, but not this one. The first thing you’ll discover in Andrew Horn’s documentary We are Twisted ­­­­­­­­F***ing Sister is that the band members are great guys: hardworking, kind, mostly sober. They’re also good storytellers. Who among us wouldn’t be charmed to hear how Dee Snider discovered the perfect garish shade of red lipstick, or how guitarist Jay Jay French and the rest of the band politely asked Dee’s wife, Suzette, to make them stretchy girly glam costumes? 

The film covers the band's early years when Twisted Sister worked a suburban bar circuit in

May 1, 2016

Viewers might think Les Blank's film A Poem is a Naked Person is solely about legendary piano player Leon Russell as he is featured prominently in the title and cover design. But the documentary is more an artifact capturing Oklahoma folk culture in the early 1970s. More specifically, it captures the hot hypnotic mess of hippie blues and booze that orbits Leon Russell, which may have caused Russell and Blank to argue about its release. Only recently has the film been distributed to a wide audience.

Fans of either the filmmaker or musician will enjoy this documentary, and I hope viewers new

The Game of Love and Death

By Martha Brockenbrough
Rated by Dawna O.
Mar 22, 2016

It’s just a simple game of dice between Love and Death. Love is personified as a man and Death is personified by a woman. They each pick a player and roll the dice, the players have to choose each other over everything else or Death will take her player. Death has always won the game, since the beginning.

The Players: Henry, who is white, is an orphan who lives with a rich family, attends a private school on a scholarship, and plans to go to college when he graduates. Flora, an African American, is also an orphan who lives with her grandmother, sings at a nightclub, and dreams of becoming a

Montage of Heck

By Brett Morgen
Rated by Michelle H.
Jan 29, 2016

In Montage of Heck, filmmaker Brett Morgen uses personal sketchbooks and videos of Kurt Cobain's, and combines them with animation that matches Cobain’s own aesthetic. There’s also footage of Nirvana and interviews with family, but what carries the film is the access it gives viewers to Cobain’s tumultuous life and unique genius.

Viewing an intimate record of a brilliant person whose life spun wildly out of control comes at a price, however. Morgen’s animated additions give the film artistic vision, but they don’t muffle the looming wonder we may have as we witness something that isn’t

Playing With Fire

By Tess Gerritsen
Rated by Lisa J.
Nov 15, 2015

In a total departure from her usual fare of FBI profilers, Gerritsen takes the reader on a journey that starts in WWII Italy to present day Boston where Julia Ansdell lives with her husband and daughter.  While in Rome, Julia, a professional violinist, purchases a book of gypsy sheet music for her collection. Tucked inside the pages is a single sheet of hand written music, a waltz. Julia is immediately intrigued by the passion and complexity of the music. Upon returning to Boston, Julia sets out to master the haunting and difficult piece, titled Incendio, setting into motion something strange

The Midnight Special (DVD)

By StarVista Entertainment
Rated by LeeAnn B.
Nov 9, 2015

If you remember (or have heard anyone talk about) LPs, 8-tracks, bell bottoms and the time when disc jockey Wolfman Jack ruled the FM radio waves; watch this to relive it or to see what it was like.  The 6-disc set compiles some of the best performances from the NBC Friday night variety show.  The program premiered in 1972 and was regularly broadcast from 1973 through 1981; it was a time before MTV and music videos brought rock music stars regularly into our homes.  Be sure to catch Episode 81 hosted by 1950s icon, Little Richard who introduces a younger but largely unchanged Steven Tyler and

May 8, 2015

20th anniversary editions of indie-pop albums stuffed with previously unheard tracks. Reunions of bands who swore they’d never again play together. Japanese retro-punk. Mass-produced faux-vintage t-shirts. Hollywood remakes. Nostalgia for a previous golden age of nostalgia.  

These are only the tip of the cultural icebergs author Simon Reynolds investigates in his eminently readable Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past. It’s easy to overlook how much of today’s pop culture is based on ideas and interpretations about the (mostly recent) past. Reynolds argues that the 2000s

Parker Millsap

By Parker Millsap
Rated by Sarah A.
May 30, 2014

If you haven’t yet heard of Parker Millsap, and are a fan of folk music,  I'll bet that in the near future you will. I have pretty much been listening nonstop to this 21 year olds debut album, titled Parker Millsap.

It’s shelved under CD-Folk music, but it is also equal parts country and blues. His voice can sound rough, wild and raucous on some songs, (Truck Stop Gospel and Quite Contrary), and can also sound soft and soulful on others (The Villain). But it’s his lyrics that really impressed me, especially for someone so young and for a debut performance.  He has been nominated by the

Wild Tales: a Rock & Roll Life

By Graham Nash
Rated by Vincent S.
Apr 14, 2014

Graham Nash’s autobiography captures the inner workings of three significant bands of the Sixties and Seventies: The Hollies; Crosby, Stills, & Nash; and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. It’s well worth the read.

Musical harmony was a trademark of the three groups. Nash may have named his first group after Buddy Holly, but his major influence came from the distinctive harmonies of the Everly Brothers, a 1950s and early Sixties Nashville duo that is mentioned several times in the course of the book. Crosby, Stills, and Nash astonished themselves when rehearsing Suite Judy Blue Eyes for the

Nov 7, 2013

David Rothenberg's Bug Music is a highly readable  and eccentric investigation into an aspect of nature too easily taken for granted. Bugs produce very mathematical sounds based on natural cycles. What human ears are able to delineate is really only the tip of a very large iceberg connected to other icebergs. Delving deeply into the sounds of cicadas, crickets and katydids, Rothenberg is not afraid to suddenly go big-picture on his readers. He aims for nothing less than a direct connection between  a cricket’s chirp and jazz band’s rhythm section. There is a philosophical nature to Rothenberg