Tag Archive for: jgockley

Congratulations to JPL Staff!

Joplin Public Library (JPL) was recently announced as the winner of multiple Missouri Library Association’s Awards and a Grant at the 2023 Awards Gala held in Columbia, Missouri.  The Missouri Library Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization operating to promote library service, the profession of librarianship, and cooperation among all types of libraries and organizations concerned with library service in the State of Missouri.

Beth Snow, JPL Teen Services Librarian, was awarded the Community Partnership Award, alongside Lisa Nelson from Landmark Builds, for their Iconic Joplin collaboration. This award recognizes a Missouri library and one or more community organizations for developing a partnership that benefits members of their shared community. As part of Joplin’s 150 year birthday celebration, Iconic Joplin engaged youth ages 12 to 16 in local history by building landmarks out of LEGO elements.

Snow was also awarded the Show Me Youth Services Award, which recognizes a library employee, Friend, or Trustee who serves as and/or advocates for children or young adults and who demonstrates notable and outstanding performance in planning, developing, and promoting programs, services, collections, reading activities or advocating for children and/or teenagers in their libraries and communities.  Snow has worked as the Teen Services Librarian at the Library since 2015. In addition to being an advocate for the teens in her community, she works to foster a space where all teens can be who they are.

Carolyn Trout, retired JPL Director, received the Meritorious Achievement Award, which recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to

Beth Snow (Teen Librarian), Lisa Nelson (Landmark Builds), Carolyn Trout (former JPL Director), Jeana Gockley (JPL Director, on behalf of Justin Kelly)

libraries in Missouri. A recipient must be either an individual outside of the library profession or a retired librarian. Nominees must reside in Missouri and should have made either a contribution to libraries that gained recognition beyond the local level or have made an innovative contribution in the decisive factors in library development. During her time as JPL Director, from 1988 until 2006, Trout was a part of some very important projects for Missouri libraries. She served on a committee that created the first standards Missouri ever had for public libraries; she was instrumental in her work with the Missouri State Library on a program created to train non-library degreed public library staff; she was a connector of information and people using her passion for reference and history to introduce many to libraries; and library advocacy was important to Trout, and it is still something she is doing in retirement.

Justin Kelly, JPL Systems Administrator, was awarded a $3,000 Access and Innovation Grant, which aims to enhance, support, and develop library technologies and innovation that improve patrons’ access to library services.  The grant will be used to upgrade internal wireless access points to offer WiFi6e protocol to accommodate more users at higher internet speeds.  This is part of an ongoing effort to keep in step with national “broadband” standards. It will also bring a higher level of wireless security, along with new network monitoring tools.

“We are honored to be recognized by the Missouri Library Association for our efforts in patron services, community collaboration, and a commitment to ongoing improvement,” said Joplin Public Library Director Jeana Gockley. “Our staff is our greatest resource and these awards shine a light on the talent, dedication, and excellence present in this community’s local library.”

Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See

The setting for Lisa See’s latest New York Times bestselling novel, LADY TAN’S CIRCLE OF WOMEN, is fifteenth century China.  A place where women are encouraged to follow a traditional path, usually one dictated by their father or husband. 

Tan Yunxian, the novel’s narrator, is reminded of this by her mother as the book opens.  Respectful Lady imparts, “Whether animal or woman, we are a man’s possessions. We women exist to give him heirs and feed, clothe and amuse him. Never forget that.” Her mother offers this advice as she and Yunxian are both trying to manage the pain of footbinding. 

Education is usually not part of the path set forth by men for the women in their lives, and the idea is reinforced by Confucius who is quoted as saying, “an educated woman is a worthless woman.”  However, Yunxian is different from most women in China. She has led a life of great privilege, thanks to the wealth of her family, and is surrounded by educated people, including her grandmother, who is one of a few female doctors. 

Yunxian’s path to medicine starts early, due to her ailing mother. During this time period, male doctors were not allowed to see or touch a female patient.  They needed another person, usually the husband, to serve as a go-between, to ask questions and provide the recommended treatment, but when Respectful Lady falls ill, Yunxian is chosen to carry out this task.  Despite Yunxian’s attention and care, her mother ultimately succumbs to an infection and the eight year old cannot help but feel like there should have been more she could have done to help. 

After her mother’s death Yunxian’s father must depart Laizhou for Beijing to take his next level imperial exams, so she is sent to live at her paternal grandparents’ compound in Wuxi. Medicine has been in her family for generations and both her grandparents are doctors.

After settling in, Yunxian’s grandmother begins to teach her medicine, specifically medicine to help women. Being a female doctor allows Yunxian’s grandmother the opportunity to properly examine women and treat them, unlike how it works for male doctors.

In addition to Confucius teachings not valuing women, midwives are considered less than doctors because they soil their hands with blood during labor and delivery, so it is necessary for a doctor to work closely with a midwife. Yunxian’s grandmother values the help of midwives and works closely with a woman named Midwife Shi. The midwife’s daughter, Meiling, is apprenticing for her, and she and Yunxian become best friends as they help with the medical work. 

For seven years, Yunxian learns alongside her grandmother and Midwife Shi. While Yunxian is learning medicine, her bride price is also being negotiated, so at fifteen she marries the son of a wealthy merchant. 

After her wedding, Yunxian goes to live with her husband’s family. Her mother-in-law, who is in charge of the household, forbids Yunxian from not only treating women in the compound, but from corresponding and being friends with Meiling. Yunxian is left feeling isolated and alone.  

 The remainder of the book reflects on the struggle that Yunxian faces in reconciling her education and upbringing with her married life. As the book title suggests, it is only possible due to her “circle of women.” 

Lisa See’s newest offering is phenomenal! I love how she based the book on the true story of Tan Yunxian. The characters are well drawn and Yunxian felt like a living, breathing person to me.  Not only does See’s research and the history she incorporated shine throughout, but the plot is compelling and relatable. I could not stop reading this novel. Readers will feel like they are part of the Ming dynasty thanks to See’s descriptions of daily life – the food, the culture, the traditions and the scenery. Also, note that Lisa See’s headshot for the book was taken in front of the marriage bed that has been in her family for generations. I highly recommend this one.

Find the book in the catalog. 

Review written by: Jeana Gockley, Joplin Public Library Director. 

The Celebrants by Steven Rowley

In April, the Library hosted bestselling author Shelby Van Pelt.  Following her presentation, during the Q&A, an audience member asked what she was currently reading.  She shared that she had just finished a new book by Steven Rowley called The Celebrants. She loved it and thought that it was a powerful, thought-provoking read. 

I am a Rowley fan, so I knew I had to read his latest and immediately added myself to the Library’s hold list.  Several weeks later, the book was ready for me and I could hardly wait to start reading it.  

It is the story of five long-time friends – Jordan, Jordy, Craig, Marielle, and Naomi.  A pack that used to be six, but a few weeks before the group’s graduation from Berkeley, their friend Alec died. His death, right on the cusp of their group entering the adult world, without each other, left them shaken and questioning what their lives and connections would look like after graduation.  

After Alec’s funeral, the friends gather at Naomi’s parent’s house in Big Sur, and spend the time comforting each other and rehashing Alec’s death. During the visit, Marielle suggests the remaining friends make a pact. The rules of the pact being, they will drop everything and get together when one of them calls and requests it. They will throw the requestor a living “funeral.” A group celebration to stop and remind themselves that life can be hard, but worth it, especially with one’s friends in their corner. During times of need these gatherings will be pockets of time where they share their love for one another.  

During the next 28 years, the five friends meet up for “funerals” on three occasions, but the newest call to action is different. Jordan has something he has been keeping from the group and it will not be an easy secret to share, and for the group, not something easy to process.  

Rowley has crafted a beautiful composition to the power and beauty of friendship and what lifelong support looks like. This is not a sappy story, more of the matter-of-fact, read between the lines, style that Rowley is known for, but the elements combined to make an emotional (grab the tissues) and heartfelt offering that reminds readers to not leave anything unsaid. 

Full disclosure, I did not love this book when I first started reading it.  Some, if not all, of the characters are not very likable, at least not from the beginning of the book. They are flawed, and Rowley’s writing style and the way the book jumps between points of time, make this more challenging. But I am so glad I stuck with and finished it. 

At one point, it all just clicked and I was able to realize why he had written it to move from present day to past events in the uneven manner that he did.  The story and the friendships really resonated with me. Friends are there to provide hope, encouragement, and to remind you why this life is worth living. Kudos, Steven Rowley, you have crafted another winner. 

Find the book in the catalog. 

Review written by: Jeana Gockley, Joplin Public Library Director

Happy Place by Emily Henry

With summer on the way, it is a good time to start thinking about what books to take on vacation. To me, vacation reading has become synonymous with a category of fiction called Beach Reads.  These are some of my favorite books to read while sitting at the beach enjoying the sand, surf and summer vibes or even on a staycation where I am nowhere near the beach. 

Beach Reads, according to Book Riot, are “light, fluffy, or compulsively readable novels that are perfect to take on vacation.”  One of my favorite authors, Emily Henry, has a brand new addition to the Beach Read genre, just in time for summer, and it is my pleasure to share about it. 

In Henry’s latest offering, Harriet, Sabrina and Cleo have been inseparable friends since they were assigned to room together their freshman year of college. Years later, the trio have grown up and added partners Wyn, Parth and Kimmy to their group, but they still meet yearly, at Sabrina’s family’s house in a small coastal Maine town for the annual lobster festival.  This is one of Harriet’s happy places and she is excited to see her friends again. 

Currently, Harriet is a determined surgical resident who tries to keep the peace wherever she goes. If her friends argue, she provides a distraction.  This has been one of her key life skills since childhood when her parents and her older sister would get into giant fights.  Harriet is the peacemaker and it has served her well over the years.  She is always trying to make others happy.  So much so that in her own life she is not sure what actually makes her happy.  

This, and a combination of other events, have led to Harriet and Wyn splitting up, however; her friends are unaware because neither of the pair have told anyone.  Wyn agreed he would not attend the trip, making up an excuse so their friends would not find out, so Harriet is shocked to arrive at the cottage and find Wyn in the kitchen. After a big announcement from Sabrina, the pair have to quickly figure out how to handle the situation and what they will do for a full week in the presence of their closest friends. 

Soon they are rooming in one of the primary bedrooms, which offers no privacy, all the while trying to avoid each other at all costs.  What could possibly go wrong? 

Emily Henry is one of my favorite authors.  Her books always have strong, flawed characters that are struggling to figure out life. Her writing is witty and I like how she draws the story out. The reader never gets the full story during the introductory part.  She leaves clues and hints and parcels it out a bit at a time. It keeps readers turning the pages and guessing what will happen next. While this newest title reads a little predictably, I loved the themes of connection, growth and soul searching that were included.

Happy Beach Reading this summer! 

Find the book in the catalog. 

Review written by: Jeana Gockley, Joplin Public Library Director

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Sam Mazur and Sadie Green first met, at age 11, in a hospital game room in California.  Sadie was at the hospital visiting her older sister, Alice, who was fighting cancer, and Sam was recovering from a horrific car accident that left his foot crushed. Sadie had upset her sister and been banished from the hospital room and a nurse noticed her and told her of the hospital’s game room. It was a quiet first meeting; unbeknownst to Sadie, Sam had hardly spoken to anyone since the car accident. While they did not speak much, they had a great time trading the Nintendo controller back and forth playing Super Mario Brothers, while discussing Oregon Trail and the woes of dying from dysentery.

When hospital staff learn Sam not only spoke to Sadie, but also engaged with her by playing video games for hours, they encourage her to continue to visit the hospital. Her mother even mentions that it could count toward her community service goal that she is working on for her Bat Mitzvah. Sadie continues to visit Sam and the two are fast friends, however, Sadie does not tell Sam that she is receiving community service credit for all the time she spends playing with him. Nor, that she would have continued their visits without the community service credit. She loves their time together and Sam is the best friend she has ever had. Eventually, Sam learns of Sadie’s deception, and believes that her actions were purely motivated by the service project. After fourteen months of friendship, fun and games their weekly visits end.

While they sometimes see each other at high school functions, the two do not speak again until a chance encounter takes place in Massachusetts, on a subway platform.  Sadie is attending MIT, and is running late for a class, and Sam who is attending Harvard has just exited the subway when he passes Sadie, recognizes her and calls out.  They make small talk, and then upon departing Sadie asks Sam if he still plays games. He says he does and Sadie shares a disc containing a game she has created for one of her classes. 

Later that night, Sam and his roommate Marx play the game together and are both impressed with Sadie’s work. Sam is soon brainstorming ways to get Sadie to work with him during summer break to create a game of their own. When approached with the idea Sadie is interested and what follows is the first in a series of collaborations that will span a lifetime.

The remainder of the novel shares their adventures in gaming, and while many others enter the story, Sam and Sadie remain the central focus. Theirs is one of friendship and love, but also distrust, and at times, heartbreak.  

Author Gabrielle Zevin is a master storyteller and her character development is brilliant. Each one is so completely developed it is hard to stop thinking about them even after finishing the novel. Zevin’s work is breathtaking and should not be missed. I loved this book! It has a backdrop of 90s style gaming that combines with well-rounded, yet flawed characters to tell a compelling story of love, distrust, hope, hurt and healing. It is a love story, but not in the traditional sense. Sam says it best, “To play requires love and trust.” I feel this about reading, too. It requires trust of the author and Zevin does not disappoint.

Find the book in the catalog.

Review written by: Jeana Gockley, Joplin Public Library Director

Jeana’s Favorite Reads of 2022

Welcome to 2023! As we kick off a brand new year, I like to reflect on what I have read during the previous year. And 2022 was a good one, reading-wise for me. I love writing each title down and keeping track of the total I read; with this year’s grand total being 44. That is a big number for me, and symbolic in a few ways, plus, way up from my 30-something number from 2021. I am thrilled to have read the books I did. I hope you are as happy with your 2022 books, too. If not, do not fret, I am sure 2023 is going to be your year!

Of those forty-four titles I read, I would like to tell you about a few of my favorites.  Below are my top ten picks, in no particular order:

BOOK LOVERS by Emily Henry
Nora Stephens is focused, dedicated, loyal, and at times, ruthless. She is a fantastic literary agent who works hard for her clients and does not take no for an answer.  She loves what she does, but her personal life suffers for it.  She is okay with this, especially since she seems doomed to live the same plotline again and again – boyfriend leaves town on what is supposed to be a short trip, boyfriend falls in love with cute, perky small town sweetheart, boyfriend decides to stay in small town, and Nora is left single once again. 

So when Libby, her pregnant younger sister, asks her to take a trip to Sunshine Falls, the setting of one of her favorite books, Nora has nothing tying her to NYC, so she agrees to join her. The pair set off and soon they are quite immersed in the small town culture.

Nora is the star of the show here and I enjoyed getting to figure out what made her tick. At first glance, she is an ice queen who could care less about anyone else, but readers slowly get to unravel the “real” Nora. Emily Henry is becoming one of my favorite authors. Her uniquely drawn characters are the heartbeat of every story and while her stories are being marketed as romances, this book reads more like contemporary fiction, with just a sprinkling of romance.  

While reading BOOK LOVERS I kept thinking of Renee Zellweger’s character in the movie NEW IN TOWN.  It’s one of my favorite movies because of her icy, all business character.  Much like Nora’s character. I adore Nora, Emily Henry, and this book! 

RED RISING SAGA (BOOKS 1, 2 &3) by Pierce Brown
I selected book one, Red Rising, at one of the Library’s Book Swap events. The person who traded it in, described it as a face-paced, science fiction space odyssey. An accurate description, but this saga has so much happening, it is hard to describe it without giving away too much.   

Set in the future, where class divisions are by color, Darrow and his loved ones are considered Reds. Their lives consist of mostly hard, physical labor focused on readying the surface of Mars for future generations. But things are not all they seem and soon Darrow must decide the part he will play in obtaining justice for his people. 

Darrow is a complicated character, as are many of the story’s secondary characters.  And there are a lot of supporting characters, with most drawn so well readers might often wonder who they are supposed to root for.

One note, this series is violent. It occurs almost immediately and continues throughout. While central to the plot, I remember initially being surprised at how cruelly some of the characters were treated.  Please do not let that deter you. I highly recommend the three books I have read so far. 

Debut author Garmus’ main character Elizabeth Zott has a lot going on.  First and foremost, she wants to be a scientist, but getting taken seriously, as a woman chemist at the university level in the 1960s is not an easy feat.  Add on top of this a non-traditional relationship, a pregnancy, the  death of a loved one, a potential new job and a dog and you have got quite the compelling story. 

Thanks to everyone who recommended this book to me. I loved it so much! While considered a historical fiction title, it also contains humor, romance and one of the best supporting casts of characters I have had the pleasure of reading this year. Truly, this book has it all.  It is a gem.

Katy Silver’s mother was her everything – her best friend, her mentor, her guide to figuring out her life – so when Carol gets sick and later dies, Katy is at a loss. She is unsure how to move forward and what her life looks like without her mother. Yes, she is married, but her husband Eric seems like the farthest thing from comforting. She and her mother had planned to take a trip to Italy together, to revisit some of her mother’s favorite places along the Amalfi Coast, so after her mother’s death Katy decides to go alone. While staying in Positano at the Poseidon Hotel she meets a young woman that reminds her of Carol. 

In fact, it is Carol, but a much younger version.  Katy is shocked, but also elated.  She spends time with Carol, but this new one knows very little and Katy is left trying to understand how her mother, who seemed to know everything, could be so clueless about life when she was thirty years old.  This revelation, and other elements of the story eventually help Katy get the closure she needs to move forward with her life.   

Serle has created a nontraditional love story, one between mother and daughter. I loved the description of the Amalfi Coast and getting to “see” all the beauty through the author’s eyes.

A KNOCK AT MIDNIGHT by Brittany K Barnett
I wrote a full review for this one in July, but could not pass up a chance to mention this book again. As I mentioned in that review, I had the pleasure of getting to hear author Brittany K. Barnett speak at a library conference.  Her talk was moving and memorable, as is her book. She uses her debut memoir to not only tell her story, but that of others who have greatly impacted her life.   

Her book details how she has used her passion and expertise to help people who had been harshly, or wrongly, convicted of drug-related offenses. All of which involve sentencing disparities between those individuals sentenced for crack cocaine and powder cocaine drug offenses. The individuals that Barnett works with become more than names on a page or numbers assigned to a prison system. They become someone’s parent, someone’s child, or someone’s friend. While the subject matter can be difficult to hear at times, this book is a must read.

MEET ME IN THE MARGINS by Melissa Ferguson
Savannah Cade dreams of being a published writer, but for now her day job is working with published writers. She is an assistant acquisitions editor for Pennington Publishing.  She likes her job, but her aspirations are higher, and thanks to a chance meeting with Claire Donovan, an editor from a rival publishing house, she just might get her manuscript published.  Savannah is secretly working on changes to her manuscript during a staff meeting and accidentally drops all of her pages on the floor.  While scrambling to pick them up, she misplaces one and the company’s new publisher, who happens to be the son of the company’s CEO, reads a page before handing it back.  

Savannah immediately escapes to a secret nook within the office, and leaves her rumpled manuscript.  When she comes back later that day to retrieve it, someone has organized it and scribbled notes in the margins. Savannah and the mystery editor are soon chatting through notes and her novel is soon ready to send off to Claire.  To complicate matters, Savannah starts falling for the mystery editor as they exchange notes.  This was a fun romance novel, with a hint of mystery.  Plus, it is on the chaste side, for those who enjoy romance, but not the bodice-ripping variety. 

ANSWERS IN THE PAGES by David Levithan
This fictional children’s chapter book gives voice to what a book challenge can look like and how it can affect individuals, families and an entire community. In Levithan’s latest book, a school-assigned reading book is deemed inappropriate by one fifth grader’s mom and soon the whole town is involved.  

Levithan is a master of writing from multiple viewpoints (DASH & LILY’S BOOK OF DARES, EVERYDAY, NICK & NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST) and this book is no exception. He beautifully tells the story through three narrators – Duncan – a fifth grader whose mom mounts the challenge, Rick and Oliver – the main characters of the challenged book, and Gideon and Roberto – two fifth graders who develop a new friendship as they work on a class assignment together. He takes a timely, hot button topic and makes it about so much more than a story about a challenged book. There is something for everyone here; not to be missed.

COUNTERFEIT by Kirstin Chen
I know you are not supposed to choose a book based on its cover, but that is exactly how I selected this one. I saw it at several different bookstores, while traveling, and thought the cover was so interesting.  It features what appears to be a wealthy Asian-looking woman on the cover wearing a large gold necklace and sunglasses reflecting designer handbags; with bright pops of bright blue and bold red making up the background and her clothing. 

This book is written as a confessional, by Ava Wong, a Chinese-American lawyer, who has always been a rule follower. Things in Ava’s life look perfect to outsiders. She is married to a successful transplant surgeon, lives in a beautiful home, stays home with their young son; however, it is all a facade. In reality,  her marriage is not a happy one, she is bored out of her mind and feels bad about not using her expensive law degree, and her young son is so prone to tantrums she would be lost without her nanny’s help.  

So when Winnie Fang, a former college roommate, shows up unannounced one day, Ava is curious. This Winnie shows little resemblance to the shy, bookish college student who left school under mysterious circumstances their freshman year.  She is now fashionable and beautiful.  And if her designer handbag and accessories are any indication, wealthy, too. Ava learns that Winnie is involved in the international business of buying and selling designer handbags, though her dealings are on the criminal side. Initially, Ava claims she does not want anything to do with Winnie’s business dealings, but the temptation is too great, and she is soon working alongside her.

Chen focuses on high fashion, white-collar crime, and the power of friendship and connection as she tells the story.  Plus, the element of deceit is a major player. Readers will have to ultimately decide Ava’s intentions and who is telling the “true” version of events. This is a fun, fast read.

THE MEASURE by Nikki Erlick
One morning the world wakes up to find small wooden boxes have been delivered to every adult, worldwide. Inside each box is a string, some short, others long, and on the outside of the box the phrase “ The measure of your life lies within,” is printed. Quickly, people start to speculate on what the strings mean and why they are different lengths. Many struggle with whether to open the box at all. Soon society has to deal with the repercussions of what they find the strings to mean and how it affects everyday life. 

This book has such a clever, thought-provoking premise. While reading it, I started telling my friends and family about the book, and asking, “Would you open the box?”  It is such a fun conversation starter. I loved how the book unfolded and how debut author Erlick focuses on eight individuals and then weaves their lives together in a way that creates a beautiful, and at times heartbreaking, narrative. Book club members should add this one to the top of their to-read list. I highly recommend it. 

I wrote a full review for this one in November, but could not pass up a chance to mention this book again.  While the setup takes some time, it is worth sticking with it.  

Alice Stern wakes up the morning after her fortieth birthday in her sixteen year old body, on the day of her sixteenth birthday.  Soon she is having to make important, possibly life-altering decisions, without any guidance or help.  At the top of the list is what to do that day. Should she live it as she did originally or mix it up?  Should she simply enjoy the time she has with her healthy and vibrant father or try to alter the events of the day and her birthday party, so she, and possibly her father, can have a different future? 

Straub uses elements of contemporary fiction combined with science fiction to create a beautiful ode to the parent/child relationship. If readers like Rebecca Serle’s IN FIVE YEARS and ONE ITALIAN SUMMER or Jodi Picoult’s WISH YOU WERE HERE they should definitely give this one a try. 


Thanks for taking the time to share in my reflection and reading about my favorites.  I wish you a wonderful new year of reading! 

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

As Alice Stern approaches her fortieth birthday she feels unsatisfied with her life and is at a point where she is not sure why or how it happened. Her father, who she is immensely close with, is in the hospital with an unknown illness; her work keeps her busy, but the job does not utilize her education or training and makes her feel embarrassed; her relationship is at the point of moving to the next step, her boyfriend is preparing to propose, but she realizes their relationship is not destined for anything long term; and she adores her best friend, Sam, but rarely sees her because Sam lives an hour away and is a busy working mother of three.

On the night of her birthday, Alice meets Sam for dinner, but due to a family emergency Sam departs mid-way through the meal, leaving Alice solo for the evening. She ends up visiting a bar, and thanks to the generosity of the bartender, drinks too much. To finish the night she ends up in her old neighborhood, and due to her level of intoxication, passes out in a storage building on her father’s property.  When she awakes the following morning she is in her childhood bed and things are not quite right.  She quickly realizes that she is sixteen and today is her birthday. 

What a shock her sixteen year old self is to her upon her waking. She wonders how her younger self could not have noticed how flawless her skin was and how glowing and alive she felt. And most importantly, when was her dad ever that young and healthy?  

Soon she is having to make important, possibly life-altering decisions, without any guidance or help.  At the top of the list is what to do during the day. Should she live it as she did originally or mix it up?  Should she simply enjoy the time she has with her healthy and vibrant father or try to alter the events of the day and her birthday party, so she, and possibly her father, can have a different future? 

While the beginning of the book takes a bit of setup, and might feel slow to some readers, my advice is to stick with it. This ended up being one of my favorite books of the year. New York Times bestselling author Emma Straub has created something special. Straub effortlessly uses her skills with the pen to weave the element of time travel into what I originally thought would be a run-of-time-mill contemporary fiction book. It is clever and compelling. Fans of Rebecca Serle’s IN FIVE YEARS and ONE ITALIAN SUMMER or Jodi Picoult’s WISH YOU WERE HERE should definitely give this one a try!  

Find the book in the catalog.

Review written by: Jeana Gockley, Joplin Public Library Director

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Diana O’Toole has her life completely mapped out – educational aspirations, career goals, engagement and marriage plans, timeline for kids, when to move out of the city to the suburbs – but when the COVID-19 pandemic hits things start to become unpredictable and move far beyond Diana’s control. 

First, her new high-profile client decides to postpone a big art sale, one that would have earned Diana a big promotion at Sotheby’s, the large auction house where she works.  Second, her boyfriend Finn, a surgical resident at a hospital in New York, is unable to go on a pre-planned trip to the Galapagos with Diana because all medical personnel are needed at the hospital.  Since it is very early days in the 2020 pandemic timeline, the couple have no idea how bad things will soon get, but Finn encourages Diana to go ahead with the trip, solo.  

Apprehensively she does, but things continue to be unpredictable.  First, her luggage is lost, then as soon as she arrives at the island, it is placed under a quarantine order, and will close for two week.  All other tourists are leaving the island, trying to catch flights home, but Diana, committed to taking this once in a lifetime trip, gets off the ferry only to quickly discover that her hotel is closed and she has no place to stay.  

Fortunately for Diana, a local woman named Abuelita, takes pity on her and puts her up in a small apartment, but Diana’s stay continues to be a difficult one.  She has to navigate an unfamiliar town, where most everything is closed, lack of cell phone or internet service, and a language barrier.  She is forced to abandon all her pre-made plans, and not only try new things, but create some local connections. These connections turn out to be life changing for Diana and she is soon evaluating her former life with a more critical eye and wondering how things will be when she returns home.

Since reading Jodi Picoult’s mega hit MY SISTER’S KEEPER, I have been a big fan. This newest addition to her extensive title list is excellent. It is the only title that I have read so far that is written in the present day, with the pandemic as a central focus of the plot. Plus, readers are sure to appreciate the author’s attention to detail and the amount of time she must have spent researching the various topics to create a cohesive, believable tale. 

Find in the Library.

A Knock at Midnight by Brittany K Barnett

I had the pleasure of getting to hear lawyer, criminal justice reform advocate, and author Brittany K. Barnett speak at the 2022 Public Library Association Conference in Portland, Oregon, in March.  She was one of the conference’s “Big Ideas” speakers.  Speakers that were invited to share information and ideas that would take the 4,000+ conference members outside of their comfort zones.  

I had not heard of Barnett before, but after her noteworthy, moving speech, I will not soon forget her.  I was so inspired by the content of her talk that I just finished reading her book, A KNOCK AT MIDNIGHT

A KNOCK AT MIDNIGHT is Barnett’s story, but also one of others who have greatly impacted her life. Barnett grew up in Texas, the daughter of a loving mother, but one that struggled with addiction. Struggled so much that she ended up going to prison because of it.  Barnett uses the first part of the book to share this deeply personal story and the lasting effect that it has had on her and her family.   

Despite her mother’s addiction, or maybe because of the trials associated with it, Barnett had big dreams. Since childhood she dreamed of being a lawyer, like Clair Huxtable, the only lawyer she “knew” who looked like her, but her path took her to the world of banking and finance first, but eventually, she attended law school.  

Her plan was to become a corporate lawyer; however, while in law school she took a class where she studied legal injustices, and became familiar with the Sharanda Jones case.

Sharanda Jones was a young entrepreneur, in her early twenties, when she became a casualty of America’s War on Drugs campaign and sentencing disparities. In what she and her attorney, thought was an easily won case, due to a lack of evidence, she was convicted to serve life in prison without parole. 

In researching Jones’ case, Barnett saw herself in the young woman. In fact, if circumstances were different, she thought she could have been Jones.  It soon became her mission to do everything she could to get Jones released from prison.  So in addition to working as a busy corporate lawyer during the day, she started working tirelessly on Jones’ case, pro bono, in her limited free time.

And soon, it was not only Jones that Barnett was trying to help; she had a group of people who had been harshly or wrongly convicted of drug-related offenses. All of which involved sentencing disparities. 

Barnett’s book is a powerful work. Devastating and difficult to read, because it is told in such a manner that readers get to intimately know Barnett and the individuals that she works with so closely. These individuals become just more than names on a page or numbers assigned to a prison system. They become someone’s parent, someone’s child, or someone’s friend.  And if like me,  readers will be shocked upon understanding the sentencing disparity between those individuals sentenced for crack cocaine and powder cocaine drug offenses. Barnett’s debut memoir is a must read.

Find in the Library.

Ready, Set, Cook: How to Make Good Food with What’s on Hand by Dawn Perry

I usually leave reviewing cookbooks to the talented Lisa Brown, who has a much more worldly palate than I, but I have checked out “READY, SET, COOK: HOW TO MAKE GOOD FOOD WITH WHAT’S ON HAND” at least once a month since we added it to the collection in December, so I just had to share my enthusiasm for it.

DAWN PERRY, the creator of this cookbook, is a genius. Simple, delicious foods that you can make with items you have on hand. I have found only one other cookbook that I think accomplishes this well. I am sure there are more, but my pantry and refrigerator staples are usually pretty limited. I hate finding a new recipe I want to try, but I need to buy two new sauces and five new ingredients, all of which will sit in my pantry or in my refrigerator after I have made the new dish and just take up space. Not the case with “Ready, Set, Cook.”

Easily laid out and not overwhelming to new or less than enthusiastic cooks like me, the book has three sections. Part One: What to Buy; Part Two: What to Make; and Part Three: What to Cook. They are each colorful, with many pictures and large clear fonts that help draw the reader in. Perry has a casual way of writing that includes loads of tips and tricks.

In part one, she talks about where to start, what to stock and how to organize it. I had most of the items that she recommends as cupboard staples — oils, rice, onions, garlic, pasta, beans, dried spices and honey — and all but a couple of the refrigerator staples. She finishes the chapter talking about organization and equipment.

In part two, her focus is building a collection of homemade staples for your pantry and refrigerator. This includes how to make meatballs, flatbreads, pie dough, sauces and cooked vegetables.

I did not spend much time here — just read through quickly, as I wanted to move on to part three to see what I could manage to whip up for breakfast or dinner.

Part three is mapped out in this order: breakfast, salads and veggies, starchy sides (my favorite kind), main things, afterthoughts, snacks and a couple of drinks, and sweets. I love the versatility of Perry’s recipes. She gives you a recipe for things such as muffins, yogurt parfaits, salad, bread and boiled potatoes, but then provides five variations for each one to easily mix it up.

The Afterthoughts section is devoted to lessening food waste. According to Perry, “leftovers need to be made over.” I love this idea. I made the “Office Bowls” from this section. They are, at their simplest, grain or rice bowls with a few veggies and dressing, but so easy to put together that most anyone can handle it using leftovers and pantry or refrigerator items. Plus, there are six variations and the photographs are so helpful in visualizing what you are making.

Speaking of the photographs, this is my favorite element of the book. Large, colorful images that showcase the food. But unlike some cookbooks they do not feel overly staged or complicated. A simple white plate with food on it, sometimes arranged less than neatly, is the highlight.

I highly recommend this cookbook. Especially to anyone who is busy but still wants to put together a home-cooked meal. Perry has done much of the heavy lifting here. She has created and shared 125 recipes that will hopefully make your mealtime more streamlined and your palette happier.

Find in the Library’s Catalog.