To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It’s where he was born, where he eats and sleeps, and where he plays for hours every day with his beloved Ma. To Ma, Room is an 11-by-11 square-foot prison where she has been confined and sexually abused for the last seven years.

Emma Donoghue’s ninth novel, Room, introduces us to Jack and Ma in a strangely uplifting story of survival, hope, and love. Completely told from the viewpoint of Jack, we learn that Ma was abducted when she was 19 years old by a man they call “Old Nick.” After kidnapping her, he threw her into a windowless, soundproof shed in his backyard and locked the door. Two years into her captivity, and after trying every possible way of escaping, she gave birth to Jack.  

If you glance through Room quickly, you might mistake it for a wannabe crime novel copied from today’s headlines. In actuality, Room focuses little on the crimes committed by “Old Nick.” Instead, it intricately examines the lives of Jack and Ma – how Ma protects Jack, and what they do to mentally and physically survive each day. Donoghue herself describes the story as being about, “the essence of confinement and captivity.”

Art is subjective. Yet when viewing a work, most of us are quick to formulate opinions that are either positive or negative, for or against. But how often do we stop ourselves in the midst of our own judgment and take time to consider the artist’s own point of view? How often do we try to climb inside their head and ask, “What is it they are trying to say with this piece?”

Many of us may dream about one day waking up, putting on a disguise, and completely walking away from life as we’ve known it. But take a quick second and consider the situation: could you actually do it? Could you throw on a wig and walk out the door without looking back? This is what Holly Hogan does in Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd.

 

Holly wakes up one day, decides she’s had enough, and hits the road in search of her old life.After spending some time in a home for troubled teens, Holly is sent to live in a foster home in England. Instead of embracing a new life in a new place, Holly is haunted by thoughts of her past. When she discovers a blond wig in the attic, Holly takes off in search of her mum in Ireland. A new wig means a new hairstyle, a new attitude, and a new life for Holly. She begins calling herself Solace and embarks on a journey with many ups and downs that almost cost Holly her life in the process.

As an outsider looking in on Holly’s situation, I started to wonder about Holly and why she so desperately wanted to find her “Mam” and return to her old life. If her life was so wonderful before, how did she end up in a place for troubled youth? The farther she treks on her journey, bits and pieces of Holly’s past life come to light, however, and soon we can see that everything wasn’t as wonderful as she remembers it, even if she can’t yet realize it herself.

Jasper Fforde

As the 2011 Adult Winter Reading program came to a close, the Kansas City Public Library found its collective cup neither full, nor empty. It was gone altogether. By the time best-selling author Jasper Fforde brought the yearly program to a smashing finish before a crowd of 190 in Truman Forum at the Plaza Branch on Thursday, March 17, the 750 custom bistro mugs that the Library had been giving away as awards were all but vanished.

In the preceding weeks, the mugs had flown off circ desks faster than anyone had anticipated. Even before Winter Reading officially ended on March 13 (it had begun on January 10), the Public Affairs team had begun working up IOU's to hand out until more mugs could be ordered.

What else were we to do? For one thing - celebrate!

The List

After 2010's mystery-centric "Readers in the Rue Morgue" theme, Readers' Services Manager Kaite Mediatore Stover and Public Affairs Communications Specialist Paul Smith decided to mix things up for 2011.

Derrick Barnes is aiming for a new audience with his latest book.

Derrick Barnes knows how to get guys to read. On a recent mid-February night, the lights of the midtown cityscape glimmered through the windows in the northwest corner of the Kansas City Public Library's Plaza Branch as Barnes, a local author, read for a small gathering of parents, teachers, librarians, and teens.

The story for the evening was a selection from Barnes' new novel, We Could Be Brothers, featuring two teenage boys, a father, and an errant pair of pants.

The protagonist, Robeson Battlefield, has brought his friend and classmate in the eighth grade, Pacino Clapton, home to meet his parents. Pacino has made the mistake of letting his jeans sag.

...Dad tapped Pacino on the chest twice. "No real man walks out of the house looking like a clown. You gotta know that. If for nobody else, wear the belt for you, Clapton."

Bam! Dad was laying it down hard.

Libraries have started grouping thrillers, action/adventure novels, and suspense together under one umbrella that we like to call “Adrenaline.” What do all these books share? The ability to get your blood pumping and to literally stop you from putting them down.

Here are some of the best adrenaline reads from the past year. Click the title links to see the items in our catalog, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, put one or two on hold.

They’re Watching by Gregg Hurwitz

What would you do if you found out you were being watched? When Patrick Davis starts to get DVD’s showing him inside his home, going about his day, he realizes that he is in serious trouble. And then he gets a phone call asking, “Are you ready to get started?” and that is when the fun really begins. This is one nonstop ride full of action and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the very end.

Clavinova

For this month’s Crafty Reads (a KC Unbound Blog series for people looking to take up new crafts and hobbies) we’ll be exploring the Kansas City Public Library’s resources for music performance and musical instruments. I’m pleased to report we have a good selection of materials! 

By the Book

Now, first things first – what if you don’t already play an instrument, or perhaps you’re helping your child find an instrument to learn? You might want to check out Which Musical Instrument Shall I Play, which describes string, woodwind, brass, percussion, and keyboard instruments, and outlines their importance in the production of various types of music. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments: From All Eras and Regions of the World might also be a good place to start. You might also want to browse shelves in the 784.19 call number area at any Library location for general books on musical instruments. 

Teen Tech Week

Book reviews came in at all hours of the day and night during Teen Tech Week! After you read some of them below, why not check out the book? We'll put up more soon. BTW - no need to stop just because TTW is over. Text in some more!

Beautiful Creatures By: kami garcia & margaret dtohl
A girl. A boy. A hidden family secret. And a love story. What more could you want in a good book?

Warriors Into the Wild by Erin Hunter: I like it because it tells how it all begins, the saga, the friendship, and the struggle to prove his worth. Try it soon.

Paul Smith by Lauren Hunt

The newest issue of Library Journal has a familiar face on its cover. Familiar, at least, to anyone who’s been to a film screening, book discussion group, or special event at the Kansas City Public Library anytime in the past four and a half years.

Paul Smith, communications specialist in the Library’s Public Affairs department, has just been named one of LJ’s 2011 Movers & Shakers. He is the first Kansas City Public Library employee to receive this award.

Each year, only 50 librarians from both public and academic library settings are named Movers & Shakers, defined as library professionals “who are doing extraordinary work to serve their users and to move libraries of all types and library services forward.”

Paul is definitely doing his part to shape the Library’s future.

Since joining the Public Affairs team in December of 2006, Smith has been a driving force in the Library’s citywide Big Read programs, the annual Adult Winter Reading program, and the Off-the-Wall Film Series (which returns to the Central Library’s Rooftop Terrace this summer with films chosen by Roger Ebert).

Do you think of Heaven as a place where disembodied spirits float in the clouds, listening to harp music for eternity? Many people stereotype life in Heaven as a church service that never ends.

In his thought-provoking new book, Randy Alcorn dispels all misconceptions about a believer’s eternal destination and presents a compelling case for one of the least-talked-about subjects in Christianity.

The founder of Eternal Perspective Ministries, a nonprofit organization that promotes an eternal viewpoint and helps underprivileged people around the world, Alcorn based his entire book on biblical study, research, and extensive reading on the subject of Heaven. The book is divided into three sections: “A Theology of Heaven,” “Questions and Answers about Heaven,” and “Living in Light of Heaven”.

In “A Theology of Heaven,” Alcorn explains that contrary to a popular belief, Heaven is a real, physical place where bodily resurrected people live and engage in various meaningful creative activities. Heaven will not be a foreign place for us but we will recognize it as home: “Too often we’ve been taught that Heaven is a non-physical realm, which cannot have real gardens, cities, kingdoms, buildings…So we fail to take seriously what Scripture tells us about Heaven as a familiar, physical, tangible place.”

In advance of bestselling author Jasper Fforde’s appearance at the Plaza Branch on March 17, 2011, the Kansas City Public Library is giving away two first-edition hardback copies of his new book, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, the latest installment in the Thursday Next series. The Library will give away both books via a random drawing facilitated by Twitter.

Move over Jane Austen, there are new “It Girls” in town. After getting their fill of the witty, drawing-room banter of impoverished spinsters with no prospects in the Regency period, readers and viewers are ready for the lusty power plays of spirited wealthy heiresses and socially manipulative dowager countesses and their secret sidekicks, butlers and ladies’ maids. In short – it's a whole new century!

Fans of reggae music in Kansas City know the name "Sista G" like their favorite Royals player or barbecue joint. She's the host of KKFI 90.1 FM's Sunset Reggae - at 16 years and change, the city's longest-running reggae radio show. But what many fans of her Sunday-night show don't realize is that when she's not spinning cool island sounds, this Sista is working with teens at the Southeast Branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

She may have dreadlocks, but Gabi Otto (as she's known around these parts), hails from a part of the world known more for producing Riesling wine than Rastafarianism. Raised on her family's farm near Frankfurt in Michelsbach, Germany, Otto grew up milking cows, growing vegetables, and reading books from the only library in town, which was inside a Catholic church.

Readers and Cineastes assemble! The Kansas City Public Library brings together a great read and its equally great film adaptation for one sprawling conversation when the Read It / Watch It Discussion Group tackles P.D. JamesThe Children of Men on Sunday, March 13, at 2 p.m. at the Plaza Branch.

The Children of Men is arguably the best book featured in the Suggested Reading list for our 2011 Adult Winter Reading Program – at least it’s my current favorite (which is saying something, because I also love The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell).

But the one thing that The Children of Men has that no other Altered States Suggest Reading can claim is a stunning film adaptation! (Though both Yiddish Policemen and Jonathan Strange are in the works…)

Now here is the really important part: the book and the film are completely different. Aside from the main character being named Theo Faron, the book and the film have little else in common – aside from the hopelessness of a world where humanity has become sterile.

Imagine an American Jane Austen writing about 19th century America, but more tragic than comic, and with a strangely helpless man at its center – and there you have Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. Like Ms. Austen’s novels, Ms. Wharton’s work is focused on the mores and manners of the aristocracy.

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