Tag Archive for: family

Coming Soon: Summer Reading 2024

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

I first stumbled upon author Sabaa Tahir when her fantasy series An Ember in the Ashes was suggested to me. While this book review does not cover that series it was fabulous and I have since suggested it to those interested in the fantasy genre. So when Tahir released a standalone book in 2022 I knew I had to read it, and I am so glad that I did. Something that has drawn me to Tahir is her prose. Tahir is an author that can invoke in readers the emotions that her characters are experiencing, possessing a talent for bringing to life emotions that typically can only be felt. That being said, Tahir’s writing might not be for every reader as she does not shy away from “negative” emotions or topics; on the contrary, she explores them, putting them right in your face, and makes you listen. All My Rage follows two Pakistani American high school students as they navigate trauma and healing, and how to do so together.

Misbah is from Lahore, Pakistan, where she married as a young woman before her and her new husband immigrated to California to experience the American Dream. Misbah’s dream comes to life when they become owners of a motel, which she names The Cloud’s Rest Motel. Misbah takes care of the motel and the finances as her husband struggles with alcoholism. Misbah’s passions are the motel and her son, Salahudin, and Salahudin’s best friend, Noor. 

Salahudin (Sal) has never entirely fit in with his fellow students until, in elementary school, a new student walks into his class: Noor. Noor is like him, a Pakistani American struggling to make friends and find a place in the world. This instantly draws the two together and they become as close as family until high school when they have The Fight. Now they aren’t talking and everything is going wrong. When tragedy strikes Sal is faced with an impossible situation that brings Noor back into his life. 

Noor moved to America when she was 6 years old following a tragedy that put her in the care of her uncle, who owns a liquor store in California. Noor finds kinship with Sal, a fellow outsider, and Misbah, who is like a mother to her. Despite this Noor struggles to both be accepted and fit into the culture around her, yearning for the culture she never got to fully experience in Pakistan. Noor’s uncle is impossibly strict, and when Sal and Noor get into The Fight, Noor is left feeling completely alone, even cutting communication with Misbah. When Sal attempts to save The Cloud’s Rest Motel Noor is caught in the backlash, forcing both of them to discover what friendship is worth.

All My Rage is narrated by these three complex characters, jumping to the past for Misbah’s narration, and the present for Sal and Noor’s. All three characters are simultaneously reeling from the tragedies of their past while facing down the tragedies of their present. Intermixed they are also finding love and friendship. Sal and Noor have a friendship that, even in the wake of The Fight, runs deep, providing moments of hope and laughter within the novel. The novel highlights, among many other things, the struggles individuals who immigrate and their children can go through, and how dark life can be. Yet within that darkness Tahir also provides light, layering devastation with a story that is truly moving.

Note: If you are considering reading All My Rage I suggest looking at the content warnings before reading. 

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Review by Sarah Turner-Hill, Adult Programming Coordinator

In Her Boots by KJ Dell’Antonia

In Her Boots by KJ Dell’Antonia is a warm-hearted novel about friendship, broken families, and how someone can be incredibly strong and full of self-doubt at the same time.

Rhett Smith has worked her way around the globe doing all manner of jobs. In high school, with the help of her best friend Jasmine, she created a superhero persona – Modern Pioneer Girl. When Rhett left college to travel, it was Modern Pioneer Girl (MPG) who stepped up when her money ran out and she needed a job. For MPG, when in a tough spot, all that was needed was a plan, two strong arms, and pluck.

With Jasmine’s encouragement she shared her experiences abroad on Instagram. Her following at first was small and she used the postings for self-affirmation when in tight spots. Her followers grew and she was approached to turn those posts and her adventures into a book. Published under the pen name Maggie Strong, The Modern Pioneer Girl’s Guide to Life, has made Rhett famous. Well she would be famous if anyone other than Jasmine knew that Rhett was Maggie Strong.

After twenty years, a bad breakup, and the death of her grandmother, Rhett is coming home. Home is a farm right outside Bowford, New Hampshire. She grew up on the farm with her father and Grandma Bee. With Grandma Bee’s death Rhett expects to inherit the farm and restore it to what it was when she was growing up.

After her arrival in New York City she stops to visit Jasmine before heading on to Bowford. Of course Jasmine posts that MPG is in New York and Rhett immediately gets an invitation to be on the Today show the next morning. Her automatic response is no but somehow Jasmine talks her into saying yes.

Dressed very un-Rhett-like in a skirt and Jasmine’s cowboy boots they arrive at the studio. She is resigned to appearing until she finds out she’ll be on with another author, her estranged mother. Rhett hasn’t seen her mother, Margaret Gallagher, in twenty years and in a panic she identifies Jasmine as Maggie Strong. Jasmine agrees to appear and the segment ends abruptly when disaster strikes Margaret.

Upon arrival in Bowford, Rhett finds the farm is in worse shape than she expected. The next hit comes when an old flame, Mike, appears along with her mother. They have plans to sell the farm to the adjacent university where Margaret is president and build a welcome center. Rhett of course is not selling but what she wants may not matter. The farm wasn’t her grandmother’s. Upon her death it goes jointly to Margaret and Rhett, and Margaret is the controlling trustee.

To save her inheritance Rhett must get the farm in working order ASAP and find $250,000.00 to buy her mother’s half. When Jasmine shows up to help, things get even more complicated. Because the Today show incident went viral everyone thinks Jasmine is MPG. But Jasmine knows next to nothing about farming and possesses none of the skills MPG posted about as she worked her various jobs while traveling the world. Skills that are needed to restore a rundown farm.

Rhett needs to tell everyone the true identity of MPG but can she? All of Modern Pioneer Girls’ adventures and accomplishments over the last twenty years Rhett sees as separate from herself. The bravery and pluck are not Rhett, it’s her alter ego’s. Emotionally she is the child her mother abandoned. She hides behind her alter ego and reacts to her mother and others with the resentment and insecurity of that abandoned child.

Rhett wants to keep the farm and her secret but in doing so she risks losing all that matters most. Can she reconcile the two parts of herself and forgive before it’s too late?

With likeable characters and some quirky animals this title is recommended for fans of The Pioneer Woman and Eat, Love, Pray. The library has it in both regular and large print editions.

Review written by Patty Crane, Reference Librarian

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Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Hello, fellow reader. Before going too far I must confess something to you: I had ulterior motives when deciding which book my review would focus upon. Nothing nefarious, but with you in mind. My motive is Remarkably Bright Creatures is the book selection for Joplin Reads Together, the library’s premier community read. Common at public libraries across the country, a community read encourages participants from the community to all read one book, and the library provides programs that coincide with the selected book. Through the month of April Joplin Public Library will have a multitude of programs that relate to themes within Remarkably Bright Creatures. There is no cost to participate in Joplin Reads Together or any of the related programs, AND I’m not done with the awesomeness yet – Shelby Van Pelt is visiting the library April 27th to discuss her book. Another plus to the community read is participation is whatever you’d like it to be; you can read the book and come to all the programs in April, or simply read the book and come just to the author visit (or don’t, that’s an option, too!). However one is inclined to participate, Joplin Reads Together offers a shared experience with the library and readers in the community.

In a small tourist town in northern Washington septuagenarian Tova Sullivan works at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, cleaning the outside of aquariums and mopping the floors after closing. As she makes her way from aquarium to aquarium she talks to the sea creatures inside. While Tova acknowledges the animals don’t know what she’s saying and don’t respond (or so she initially thinks), this characteristic made Tova instantly likable to me for her kind, calm manner. A widow, Tova’s husband recently passed away, a sorrow she carries with her along with grief for her son, who died under mysterious circumstances 30 years prior. At the Aquarium Tova seems to find some solace for her loneliness.

Also at the Sowell Bay Aquarium is Marcellus McSquiddles, an irritable giant pacific octopus that vehemently rejects, among other things, his mortifying last name (he is an octopus after all, NOT a squid). Marcellus has a lot of opinions; he spends his days observing the people that come to the Aquarium, perplexed by their human ways and possessing an uncanny ability to pinpoint facts about them just by observation. In Marcellus, Van Pelt creates an entertaining and funny character that pulled me in. I found myself looking forward to the chapters told from his perspective. Also in Marcellus Van Pelt creates a friend for Tova; Marcellus listens to all Tova has to say as she cleans, and finds his own way to communicate back. As a result of this friendship and the grief Marcellus sees within Tova he is determined to assist her in uncovering what happened to her son all those years ago.

In addition to Tova and Marcellus the novel is full of characters from around the town that are friends to Tova and invested in her life. There’s grocer Ethan who has a crush on Tova, the Knit-Wits who are Tova’s closest friend group, and new-to-town traveler Cameron who is searching for his family. Many of the novel’s characters seem to be on the verge of a new start, driven by their unique searches for that certain something missing in their life. Tova especially is haunted by her past and how to move forward with her future. Can Marcellus help her?

Within Remarkably Bright Creatures Shelby Van Pelt creates a realistic fiction that pulls at the heartstrings. Van Pelt manages to address the heavy burden of loss and grief in a relatable manner, all while maintaining a gentle, often humorous narrative. Tova’s struggle with how to leave the past in the past, while also bringing its memories to the future, is something I think many readers could identify with, especially those that have lost a loved one. While I myself am not 70 years old like Tova is, I found her additional struggle with aging, particularly after losing those closest to her, a necessary conversation that should be examined by a community often and purposefully. How can we assist those in our community that are, day to day, alone? What is the difference between the community we live in, and the community we choose to make for ourselves? If this is a book you pick up to read I hope it brings you the entertainment and thought provoking questions it brought to me. And if Joplin Reads Together is something that interests you I hope to see you at one of the library’s April programs to hear what you thought of Tova and Marcellus.

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Review by Sarah Turner-Hill, Adult Programming Coordinator

A Trio of Oceanic Fun for All Ages

The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs by Kate Messner, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe

Kraken Me Up by Jeffrey Ebbeler

Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating, illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens

This year’s summer reading theme is “Oceans of Possibilities”, and it is loads of fun! Whether it’s the great activities or whimsical decor or the nifty reading challenges, there’s something for everyone here at the Joplin Public Library!

As a longtime fan of seafaring novels and fly fishing nonfiction (L.A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series, the Master and Commander series by Patrick O’Brian, ocean fishing accounts by Thomas McGuane and Randy Wayne White, to name a few), I’ve loved this summer’s deep dive into books about waterways, sea life, and boat travel. I’m excited to share a trio of gorgeously illustrated children’s books with all-ages appeal that tie into the summer reading theme. I accessed electronic versions of these titles through the Libby app offered by the Library.

First up is the hilarious Kraken Me Up by Jeffrey Ebbeler. A graphic novel for early readers, it employs expanded visual supports to strengthen reading comprehension. With a mix of traditional comics panels and two-page spreads, the layout invites readers into the charming story of a little girl and her pet sea monster. There’s a pet show at the county fair, and you can see where that’s headed…

Kraken Me Up is a story of acceptance and understanding peppered with visual jokes in squid ink. Our mackintosh-clad heroine convinces her fellow contestants that there is more to each of us than assumptions based on outward appearances. The kraken’s huge eyes reflect its equally large emotions, including devotion to its tiny friend and sorrow at being misunderstood. Author/illustrator Ebbeler uses digital art to great effect adding nuance to accessible vocabulary for budding readers. Kraken Me Up is also available at the Library in print format.

Next up is a picture book biography of an unsung zoologist and shark specialist. Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist, written by Jess Keating and illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens, also tells a story of understanding as well as persistence. At a time when few women entered STEM fields, Eugenie Clark followed her lifelong interest in sharks (a misunderstood species in her opinion) to a career as research scientist advocating for them. She was the first to train sharks as well as to study caves of still, resting sharks (debunking the myth that they must keep moving to stay alive). Clark was a prolific author who also developed a shark repellent and explored the ocean through scuba and submersible dives.

Jess Keating conveys the facts of Clark’s life and highlights her tenacity with language that is accessible to young readers while creating vivid imagery, “Eugenie’s notebooks filled with sharks. They swam in her daydreams and on the margins of her pages.” Keating adds engaging, helpful sections after the main story. “Shark Bites” introduces nifty facts about the creatures in a colorful, two-page spread sprinkled with accent illustrations while “Eugenie Clark Timeline” offers a similar treatment of the scientist’s career. Throughout the book, Marta Alvarez Miguens masterfully uses color to create a little girl’s dream come true. From young Eugenie at an aquarium imagining herself to be one of the fish to adult Professor Clark studying sharks in their natural habitat, Alvarez Miguens brings them alive with vibrant hues conveying both motion and emotion as clearly as if readers were inside the pictures. Shark Lady is also available at the Library as an animated story on DVD.

A book that I would love to see as an animated story is The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World’s Coral Reefs, written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe. A nonfiction title that looks and reads like a picture book, it packages information about coral reef restoration in absolutely stunning artwork.

Ken Nedimyer’s love of the ocean began as a child watching Jacques Cousteau on TV and snorkeling along the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. He studied biology and, as an adult, worked in aquaculture operating a live rock farm where rocks are placed on the ocean floor to provide habitat for mollusks, algae, sponges, and other invertebrates. While working with the live rocks, he noticed that portions of the coral were bleached and devoid of fish and sea urchins. A coral colony near the live rock farm spawned, leading to a growth of coral on it. Ken attached pieces of the new coral to various rocks producing more coral colonies. He eventually started a volunteer group, the Coral Restoration Foundation, to plant the new colonies on reefs around the Keys. The foundation now has an international scope.

Author Kate Messner’s concise, straightforward language incorporates relatable concepts such as describing attaching coral “with a careful dab of epoxy–just the size of a Hershey’s Kiss” or sea urchins as “the gardeners of the reef, tiny groundskeepers who control the algae”. Messner concludes her book with useful resources about coral reef death and restoration plus an immensely helpful illustrated glossary of coral reef structures. Messner’s text creates mental images that are the foundation for the gorgeous art of Matthew Forsythe who opens The Brilliant Deep with a mind-blowing two-page spread of pink and turquoise sea turtles, fishes, and sea stars swimming toward a tiny coral in the distance, haloed by white, resting underneath the words, “It starts with one.” Each page that follows is a treat of color and composition. Deep green ocean flanked with schools of fish and a crab peeking out in the foreground sparkles with a stream of multicolored gametes floating from a reef. A young Nedimyer glows green in the light of rows of fish tanks so lively you can almost hear their hum. Volunteer divers swirl upward through shifting blue as they hang coral on underwater “trees” of metal bars; Forsythe expertly uses texture to create their motion along with that of the water and fish surrounding them. The closing spread ends with the same words as the first, this time printed out on the bay where an older Ken Nedimyer looks out with hope to a yellow-pink sea and sky. Grab this book now and see the brilliant art for yourself!

I hope you have a chance to find these and other amazing ocean titles at the Joplin Public Library this summer!  Happy reading!

PAL Holiday Tea to feature The Opus 76 Quartet

This year, we’ve partnered with Post Art Library and Pro Musica to bring The Opus 76 Quartet to the library for the annual PAL Holiday Tea!

Join us on Saturday, December 4, 2021 for one of two performances:

  • 10-10:45AM: Enjoy a delightful morning Bach-a-Bye Baby performance featuring author/narrator Leia Barrett in a new musical take on the classic tale of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”
  • 2-3:00PM: Enjoy an afternoon performance of classical string quartet favorites. Specifically, A. Dvorak: Quartet No.12 in F Major, “American,” Op.96 and The Danish String Quartet: Selections from Woodworks. At the end of this performance, PAL will give away their take-home Holiday Tea kits while supplies last.

From its hometown of Kansas City, The Opus 76 Quartet has become recognized in journals worldwide for its entertaining and energetic interpretations of the classics. Which is to say we are very excited to welcome them to our library!

These programs are free and open to the public. Registration not necessary.

PLEASE NOTE: in an effort to offer safe programming, masks will be required for all attendees ages 2 and older (per CDC guidelines), regardless of vaccination status.

The 2021 PAL Holiday Tea is a partnership between Post Art Library, Pro Musica, and Joplin Public Library. For more information about this event, contact PAL Director Jill Halbach at 417-623-7953 x1041 or jhalbac@postartlibrary.org.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Have you ever gotten a book recommendation that was so good you could not wait to tell everyone else about the book? This is that book! This epic multigenerational story draws you in and pretty soon the characters feel like your family and friends.

I love multigenerational tales – The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi are two of my favorites. While reading Pachinko, I joked with the person who recommended it to me, that I could barely live my life. All I wanted to do was read the book. It was so compelling that I could not wait to see what happened next.

The novel, set in Korea, starts in 1910, and focuses on a family who runs a boarding house in a small village by the ocean. This couple has only one son, Hoonie, who was born with a cleft palate and twisted leg, but manages to survive childhood and grow into a dependable son who makes his parents proud. Hoonie eventually takes over the boarding house with the help of his wife, Yangjin, and the couple have a daughter named Sunja.

As a naïve, sheltered teenager, Sunja makes a mistake. She meets and falls in love with a much older, Korean man. Unbeknownst to her, he is already married to a Japanese woman and when Sunja becomes pregnant, he offers to take care of her as his Korean mistress. Sunja refuses, and thus, starts a family-centered tale that readers will be unable to put down.

After Sunja’s rejection of Hansu, an unusual and timely solution is provided for her situation, and soon she is on her way to Japan to start a new life. Over the course of the next several years she deals with many struggles. She and her children and grandchildren endure harsh discrimination, financial troubles and have their lives impacted by world events, but despite the hardships, Sunja’s life has love and friendship, and raising her children brings her much joy.

I am not sure how I missed this captivating book when it was first released four years ago, but if you have not read it, I highly recommend it. Min Jin Lee has created a beautiful, enthralling tale of family. The characters are well written, flaws and all, and the setting and use of world events creates a strong, thought provoking novel.

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The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

This book spoke to me. Like, I’m not kidding, it legit spoke to me. I know, I know, this type of statement typically implies the use of overtly figurative language. Not this time, however. Well, maybe a little. Since this book doesn’t have vocal cords, there’s a bit of anthropomorphic musing taking place here. Still, in terms of one entity addressing another, this book spoke to me. In case you haven’t picked up on my word play just yet, “The Book” is the narrator. Well, The Book is one of the narrators.

Utilizing a multi-narrative perspective, Ruth Ozeki creates a literary tapestry of sorts, threading the similar yet dissimilar voices of The Book and a young boy named Benny into an amalgamation of experiences both lived and perceived. To clarify, Benny does most of the living here, while The Book gladly assumes responsibilities aligned with perception. That’s not to say that Benny isn’t perceptive, just that The Book takes the cake–acting as a wise sage to Benny’s explorative youth. Speaking of “cake”, it talks too.

Shortly after the untimely death of his father, Benny begins to hear voices. At first, he merely hears the voice of Kenji, his uncompromisingly dead dad. Yet, by the first anniversary of Kenji’s death, the number of voices has grown exponentially. Be it the food in his fridge (cake) or his sneakers, Benny is inundated with the whispers of inanimate objects and the personalities they espouse. As his story progresses, so do the voices, more specifically, so do the voices’ motives and intentions. Soon after his fourteenth birthday, these voices entice Benny to perform less than reputable behaviors. That is to say, the objects around him are tempting Benny to behave rather poorly. These bizarre circumstances eventually lead to Benny’s admittance into a psychiatric facility.

As Benny’s narrative unfolds, The Book reveals another tale. Annabelle is a shy, yet driven young woman working her way through library school when she meets Kenji, a new-to-America, Japanese born jazz clarinetist. Taking The Book’s narrative at face value, Annabelle has a propensity toward dating musicians. In fact, when she first meets Kenji, she is dating the less than chivalrous jazz pianist, Joe. After a botched attempt at embarrassing her on stage, Annabelle’s piano-playing boyfriend becomes the foil of his own sinister plot. Knowing that Annabelle is reluctant to sing in front of an audience, Mr. Piano Man (but not of the Billy Joel persuasion) forces the first-time performer on stage for a vocal solo, thus allowing his narcissism to seemingly “put her in her place.” As a reader, I’m still uncertain as to why she needed to be put into any place (let alone her own “place”). Regardless, his motives seemed harm-ridden at best. Having assumed the mantle of “villain” in this unraveling plot, Joe relishes the ensuing events about to unfold

Ozeki masterfully mixes a cocktail of human emotions and their coinciding actions. Furthermore, her wordsmithing is hard to beat. In the scene mentioned above, she describes an intricate portrait of Kenji’s first impressions regarding Annabelle, as well as his attempts to help guide her beyond the initial trepidation she endures throughout her forced performance.

“[Her] faltering phrasing made Kenji ache with loneliness. Only two lines in and she was dying up there. No one could save her. He jiggled his foot and licked his reed again, waiting for his entrance and feeling like his heart was going to burst, and just then, as though she sensed him watching, she turned her head and looked straight at him. Her impossible lavender eyes were brimming with tears.

“No one could save her, but Kenji had to try. He closed his eyes, raised his clarinet, and blew a sinuous line of notes that rose like a rope, twinning through the trumpets and up around the bass, subduing the snare drum and looping past the sax, until finally it reached her. She caught hold of his riff and let it lift her.

He was playing it for her, carrying her through the second verse and then on, boldly into the chorus.

She was singing it now, and as her voice soared, the loud-talking hipsters fell silent. Beards turned toward the stage, boots began to tap and fingers to snap as the song built to its final, brassy crescendo, and then it was over.

She tossed her blond curls and turned to face the audience. The applause rose and fell as she clasped her hands together and made an awkward bow. Joe joined her in the spotlight and put his arm around her waist, but she gave a little wriggle, slipped out of his grasp, and teetered back to her table.”

Annabelle and Kenzi’s relationship flourishes from here. Employing a candid realism to marital bliss, Ozeki briefly explores the years leading to Benny’s birth and then Kenji’s sudden death, not forsaking the human components associated with love, family, and growth in general (i.e., it’s not all “sunshine and rainbows”). She rarely glosses over the flawed elements of human existence, but instead allows individual depravity to highlight one’s need for others–especially within the context of family. Let me say that again, “family.” This is the heart of Ozeki’s story. As Annabelle’s household dynamics take on a new shape in the wake of Kenji’s death, she begins to look for something to fill the void of her husband’s absence. She puts on weight. She ceases daily maintenance of household chores. Most interestingly, she begins to collect things. It starts out innocently, then quickly grows into an obsession of sorts–the obsession of hoarding.

It is within this reality of circumstance that Ozeki’s words truly captivate. As Benji struggles to make sense of the fact that inanimate objects are talking to him, Annabelle gathers more and more objects to add to her repertoire of possessions. This story is about the power of possessing. Yet, it is also about the power that possessions have over us as humans. This story is about loss. Yet, it is also about finding something new in the midst of absence derived from tragedy. This story is about mental illness. Yet, it is also about the beauty of creativity, imagination, and the profound mysteries of this world. This story is about a young boy who greatly misses his dad. It is about a young mother who desperately longs for her husband’s protective guidance once again. Yet, it is also about a family learning to love one another anew, even amid heartache and its ever-present companion, change.

If you’re looking for a book that “speaks to you,” both anthropomorphically and figuratively, then this might be what you’re looking for. Be warned, this isn’t a light reading. This book is heavy (again, both literally and figuratively—as it’s a whopping 548 pages). At times, it is humorous, especially when Kenji leans into the playfulness of a solid “dad-joke” (when speaking to his son of his namesake, Kenji says, “Benny Goodman was the King of Swing…[b]est jazz clarinetist in the world. I gave you his name so you will be a good man”). At other times, it is mysticism at its best (as made evident when Benny and The Book both explain the differences between the voice inflections of “made-things” and “unmade-things”–or things of nature). Still yet, there are times when this book is heart wrenching, provoking powerful emotions both in its characters and from its readers. I won’t underestimate the power of subjectivity. This book isn’t for everyone. Yet, if you’re in the mood for a well-crafted, emotion-driven story that does well to grow and develop its characters along the way, then you might want to give this book a chance. If you do, you can pick it up in the New-Fiction section of the Joplin Public Library.

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Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

As the title implies, MEXICAN GOTHIC by SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA is an homage to the gothic fiction novels of the 20th century, but one set deep in the mountains of Mexico rather than the English countryside.

Noemí Taboada is the strong-willed, somewhat-spoiled daughter of a wealthy family. She spends her free time reveling in the glamor and decadence of 1950’s Mexico City – dating men her father doesn’t approve of, and enjoying life.

As the book opens, Noemí has been summoned home from a costume party by her father. Expecting to be reprimanded for her choice of date, Noemí is surprised that her father instead wants to talk about her cousin Catalina.

Catalina was recently married following a whirlwind romance. She kept her relationship with Virgil Doyle a secret from everyone, and the two went back to Virgil’s ancestral home as soon as they were wed.

Noemí’s father has received a frantic, confused letter from Catalina claiming that the Doyles are poisoning her and mentioning ghosts. Fearing that either Catalina is in real danger, or that she may need some psychological help that her new husband refuses to provide, Mr. Taboada asks Noemí to visit her cousin and report back about the situation.

Arriving at the crumbling mansion known as High Place, Noemí is immediately at odds with the Doyle family. Virgil is brusque, dismissive, and unhelpful. Virgil’s aunt, Florence, keeps Noemí from visiting Catalina, who she claims has tuberculosis. And the Doyle patriarch, Howard, talks almost exclusively about eugenics.

Now a sickly, bedridden old man, Howard also tells Noemí about his deceased wives. They were a pair of sisters, both wards of Howard when he came to Mexico. He married the elder sister initially, but she died within the year, leaving Howard to marry the younger sister.

From one of the local people in town, Noemí learns about the fate of Howard’s children. Years ago, Howard’s daughter Ruth had fallen in love with a local young man. When the young man went missing following her father’s disapproval of the match, Ruth took a shotgun into the house and shot every member of her family, including herself.

Howard survived his gunshot wound, Florence and young Virgil were not in the house at the time; the three of them were the only remaining members of the Doyle family.

Noemí’s only ally at High Place is Florence’s son, Francis. It is through him that she learns much of the history of the mansion and the Doyle family.  He tells Noemí about his family’s mining business that built their fortune, which has since dried up, and the English cemetery that Howard had constructed – with dirt brought over from Europe – where the deceased Doyles have been laid to rest.

When Noemí is finally allowed to see her cousin, Catalina seems relatively normal. She does seem weak and tired, but more coherent than she was in her letter. Until Catalina tells Noemí that the Doyles can hear her through the walls.

Concerned for her cousin, but unable to convince Virgil to get help for her, Noemí resolves to leave High Place and get help. Up to this point, the Doyles have been creepy and off-putting, but as Noemí attempts to leave the mansion, things begin to get a lot more supernatural.

Moreno-Garcia borrows elements from the classics of gothic fiction, from Flowers in the Attic to Dracula. MEXICAN GOTHIC is a creepy, atmospheric novel. The reader feels a growing dread as the history of the Doyle family is revealed, and as they – along with Noemí – come to understand just how much danger the Taboada cousins are in.

Noemí herself is not a traditional amateur detective. She is focused, driven, and stubborn. But while she has the fashion sense and charisma of a teenage sleuth like Nancy Drew, she has no real interest in solving the case. Her whole focus is on helping her cousin, not piecing together any mysteries.

It is an unusual book, and there is more going on below the surface than I can convey. Once you finish the novel, I recommend seeking out interviews with the author – she has a lot to say about this book, and about the real mining town in central Mexico that inspired the novel.

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Storywalk at JPL! “Just in Case you Want to Fly”

Joplin Public Library’s Rosemary Titus Reynold’s Children’s Department staff are excited to announce a new interactive outdoor activity just in time for Summer Reading at Joplin Public Library – A StoryWalk®!

A StoryWalk® is an innovative way for families to enjoy reading and being outdoors at the same time. Laminated pages from a children’s book are attached to stakes, which are installed along an outdoor path. As you stroll along the path, you’re directed to the next page in the story. There are also fun action prompts on each sign to keep children engaged and enhance enjoyment.

The StoryWalk features, Just in Case you Want to Fly by Julie Fogliano and Christian Robinson. It is a fun (and sometimes silly!) book about dreaming big and the importance of friends and family. The activity is located in JPL’s “Outdoor Classroom” area, which is at the Northwest corner of the library building.

The Storywalk will remain up throughout the month of June. The activity is completely self-guided, free, and fun for all families. You may enjoy the activity at any time, but if you wish to also enjoy the library, the open hours are Monday-Friday: 9 am to 6 pm, Saturday: 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday: 1 pm to 5 pm.

Since 1902, JPL has been fulfilling the information needs of citizens of Joplin and the surrounding community. JPL opens tomorrow’s doors today through diverse opportunities to learn, create, explore, and have fun.