Kansas City and its surrounding lands have inspired – and starred in – some fine fiction. Some of the authors in this roundup of locally grown novels disguise their native habitat, while others name it outright. Still other authors call KC home and drop their characters in foreign lands or challenging moral situations.

Readers who dip into the works of our local literati will not be disappointed and will be proud to say, “I know this place!” or “This author lives HERE!”

Screwballs or doosras? Pitchers or bowlers? Hot dogs and beer or cucumber sandwiches and tea? The strangely parallel worlds of baseball and cricket needn’t be mutually exclusive.

Dust off your spurs, slap on your chaps and saddle up your favorite reading chair to enjoy Patrick deWitt’s gritty and darkly amusing new western, The Sisters Brothers.

Set in 1851 in Oregon and California, The Sisters Brothers tells the dusty, violent tale of Eli and Charlie Sisters, sibling henchmen for a mysterious and wealthy man known only as The Commodore. Their mission is to kill Hermann Kermit Warm, a strange little man who possesses a mysterious formula wanted by The Commodore, and who was last seen behaving bizarrely on his gold claim outside of Sacramento.  

From Oregon City, Eli and Charlie set out on an unexpectedly life-altering journey across the western frontier to find and dispose of Warm. Along the way, the outlaw brothers instigate shootouts, prowl saloons, meet unique characters, and put themselves in settings and situations common in traditional western stories. 

Whether you’ve got a Xoom tablet, Droid phone, or one of those myriad gadgets that begin with a lowercase “i,” downloading Library e-books onto your device is easy. All you need is the OverDrive Media Console app and, of course, a free Kansas City Public Library Card and PIN.

Blood and Wine

As Blood and Wine nears its final reel, Jack Nicholson pulls himself out of a hammock in a flailing effort notable for its lack of grace. It is obvious he is not ready for what is coming at him – an experience that an audience ill-prepared for this film might share.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

In this future everyone knows exactly when they die. Boys live to age 25 and girls live to age 20. In this future young girls are kidnapped to keep the human race from going extinct. When Rhine is 16 she is taken by the Gatherers and gets married in wealth and luxury. While it might sound great, to Rhine it's like prison. Yes her husband loves her genuinely and she has her sister wives, but she really wants to escape and find her twin brother to go home.

But escaping isn't as easy as it sounds...

Her father in law is hell bent on finding a cure for the virus that's infecting the people. Will Rhine escape or will she be stuck in this house for the last 4 years of her life?

Wither tells the story of escape and longing. DeStefano writes what it really means to live your lifetime to the fullest. Honestly I couldn't do what Rhine did. I totally would've stayed there. My brother would be fine by himself. But living until I'm 20? The only good thing about that is you'll look great in your casket. Maybe I'd rather get old and get wrinkled and pruny. Anyway, this is a good book. Look for the 2nd book in the Chemical Garden series.

At first glance, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen isn’t exactly a book that brings to mind toe-tapping, rollicking good fun. The cover portrays the skeleton of a dinosaur, and the margins of the book contain all types of diagrams, maps and charts that you must read to fully comprehend the story. 

The author has designed the book in a way that requires you to experience the world of his main character and narrator, T.S. Spivet, through his words and his science. This is a great concept, considering T.S. Spivet is an aspiring cartographer who synthesizes the world through the maps that he creates. However, while a great concept, it is an eccentric flair that often makes for an arduous reading experience.

Yet, surprisingly, I would not have removed any of the maps or sub-text. The maps and sub-texts do exactly what they are intended to do; they help you understand how Spivet sees and feels about the world around him. The maps also make you realize that there are limits to what science can explain. (For examples of what they look like, check out the book’s interactive website.)

John McDonald

We want to hear from you! What local business owner has inspired you, uplifted your community, or provided a model for doing business? The Kansas City Public Library is hosting a series of public conversations with entrepreneurs who have made KC a better place to do business – and to live. We want your input.

Wicked Girls

Many of us are familiar with the story of the Salem Witch Trials. In 1692, a group of young girls accused several men and women in Salem Village, Mass., of being witches. The girls appeared to be equipped with a special gift for identifying witches, but what were these teenagers really like? 

Were they really tortured by unseen witches and saving the town from the devil?  Or were they merely unhappy teenage girls thriving on attention? In Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials, Stephanie Hemphill presents a fictionalized account of the events in Salem from the perspective of the young girls who accused so many.

The girls in Salem Village are often treated with disregard, if paid any attention at all.  Ann, Mercy, Margaret, Abigail, Betty, Elizabeth, and Susannah, all have interesting relationships. Ann and Margaret are cousins, Mercy is a servant in Ann’s household, and Betty is the Reverend’s daughter. They range in age from 8 to 17 years old, yet they are all looking for new games to play, new things to learn, and interesting ways to pass the time. 

Every week here on the Teen Blog, we’ll be posting a roundup of the previous week’s Summer Reading book reviews submitted by our KCPL teens. To find out how you can get your reviews posted, check out the Teen Summer Reading page. And stay up with what’s going on this summer on our KC Library Teens Facebook page.

And without further ado, the latest batch of book reviews…

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
"A lost princess, a queendom in peril, a young man out for revenge. The Looking Glass Wars is an epic adventure for a young person's mind. This book keeps you in suspense, not wanting to put it down, you must read on." E.W. @Trails West Branch

The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group by Catherine Jinks
"I enjoyed the plot more than the characters. Some of the characters are really annoying at times, but besides that the book is pretty interesting." A.R. @Trails West Branch

The Lying Game by Sara Shepard
"Imagine having a long lost twin. Read this book and see what happens with them. Read about her journey, finding her twin and living two lives." C.J. @Trails West Branch

Eugene O'Neill by Alice Boughton, Library of Congress

Hooray for the Summer of 1912!  For that summer gave us two of the greatest tragedies written in English: The Iceman Cometh and Long Day’s Journey into Night, both by Eugene O’Neill. That said, O’Neill wrote neither play in 1912, nor was either produced in that year. 

Long Day’s Journey into Night wasn’t produced until 1956, three years after O’Neill’s death. O’Neill had requested that there be no staging of the play until he had been dead 25 years, but his wife had other ideas, and so the play opened on Broadway 22 years earlier than O’Neill had expected.

But what’s all this about 1912? The dramatic date of both plays is 1912 (Iceman is set sometime in that summer and Journey more specifically in August of that year). And that year is significant for O’Neill himself, for in the first half of ‘12, O’Neill hit bottom in a dive very much like the setting of The Iceman Cometh, and later that year, as he vacationed with his parents and elder brother in Connecticut, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and entered a sanatorium, which is exactly what happens to Edmund Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey

John McDonald

Last night a crowd of 538 gathered in Kirk Hall at the Central Library to hear the entrepreneurial story of Boulevard Brewing Co. founder John McDonald and drink his beer – 20 cases of Wheat, Pale Ale, and Pilsner, to be exact. In the words of Public Affairs Director Henry Fortunato, we effectively “put the pub in 'public library.'”

But we also learned a thing or two about the beer business.

The August 3, 2011, event was part of the Kansas City Public Library’s Cradle of Entrepreneurs program, a series of public conversations with prominent members of the Kansas City business community.

Boulevard at Night

If beer, as Benjamin Franklin is sometimes believed to have said, “is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” then it’s hard to think of a Kansas City entrepreneur who has made more people happy than John McDonald.

The founder of Boulevard Brewing Co., McDonald presides over the largest specialty brewery in the midwest and the second-largest brewery in Missouri. McDonald will visit the Kansas City Public Library tomorrow night, Wednesday August 3, for a public conversation with Crosby Kemper III. The event is part of our ongoing Cradle of Entrepreneurs series of talks with local business owners. The event is free; please RSVP online if you wish to attend.

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Calla Torr, the alpha of the Nightshades werewolf pack, is destined to marry Ren Laroche, the alpha of the Banes pack. But when she rescues a hiker that got attacked by a bear in the woods, the boy ends enrolling as a new kid at her school!

While he’s trying to get Calla alone to thank her for rescuing him she on the other hand tries her best to stay away from him. Because if the Keepers find out that she violated the law just to save him, she's going to be in BIG trouble. Guardians aren’t supposed to save humans or use their powers in front of humans. They are supposed to use it only for the Keepers.

The Keepers are sorcerers who created the werewolves to protect them, hence the name Guardians. And that's what all Guardians are sworn to do, to protect, obey and take command.

Calla and Ren are sworn to each other even before their births and now Calla is starting to have feelings for this new guy, Shay, but not in the same way she feels with Ren. The girl is so confused that she doesn’t know what to do so she just keeps breaking rules and breaking rules until all the lies and deceits catch up to her and literally threatens to rip her throat out.

It’s time to celebrate – Kansas City finally has its own Trader Joe’s. It was a long wait for many. Thousands of Kansas Citians signed petitions encouraging Trader Joe’s to locate here. Unwilling to wait, some local folks even paid others to make runs to Trader Joe’s in St. Louis.

For years devotees wondered why we were seemingly being ignored. All of that is in the past now, for we have not one but two Trader Joe’s to call our own.

Even though I have never stepped foot inside a Trader’s Joe or raised a glass of Two-Buck Chuck, I couldn’t help but to join in the countdown to July 15th.  As I listened again and again to the recitation of friends’ shopping lists, and as I overheard excited talk emanating from office cubicles about a store like no other store, I knew that something big, something really big, was about to happen to Kansas City.

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