Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Elizabeth Wein first introduced a new generation to World War II in her historical young adult novel, Code Name Verity, one of my top books of 2012. We meet “Verity” after her plane has crashed and she’s being held hostage in a hotel by the Nazis during the German occupation of France during World War II. To save herself, she’s willing to give up wireless codes.

Maddie, the pilot of the plane that crashed, is presumed dead from the photos that the Nazis have shown “Verity.” Through “Verity’s” confession, we learn more about how she came to be a hostage, we learn of the women who were part of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and her unlikely friendship with Maddie.

With so many plot twists and turns, giving a full description of the story would give too much away. I dare not reveal too much for fear of ruining the surprises for others. (The audiobook is also worth seeking out.)

Rose Under Fire, published on September 10, 2013, picks up a year after Code Name Verity leaves off. It's August 1944, Rose Justice grew up in Pennsylvania flying planes from a young age. She is now an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot and is flying Allied planes from Britain to points in Europe during the War.

The men and women at the airfield exchange stories of pilots who were able to tip flying bombs as known as "toppling Doodlebugs." When a woman pilot is killed others suspect her of trying to tip a flying bomb away from its target.

Rose loves flying and she takes her job very seriously. On a mission to France to transport an Allied plane back to England her fate is forever changed when she encounters a flying bomb and disappears.

Six months later she is in a Paris Ritz hotel room unable to leave the room, get dressed or eat, able only to write of her whereabouts for those long months. Through her journal, she writes of her days at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp in Germany. After a nauseating ride in the back of a truck to the camp, Rose meets Elodie Fabert, a member of the French Resistance who has been transferred from another camp. In those first hours, Elodie and Rose bond and though physically separated at the camp they manage to communicate through their own unique ways.

As Rose is transferred to different blocks at the camp, she meets a number of remarkable fellow prisoners: Róża, one of the many women known as Rabbits who were subjected to Nazi medical experiments; Irena, a former Soviet pilot; and Lisette, a popular French novelist whose husband was Jewish. Her entire family had been shot. During the long, horrific days at the camp, Rose is assigned to such jobs as making bomb parts and clearing corpses. She copes by writing poems and songs, and is determined to learn the name and tell the story of every Rabbit.

About the Author

Erica Voell

Erica Voell is the Youth Collection Development Librarian at the Kansas City Public Library. She enjoys gardening, sewing, knitting, seeking out gluten-free vegetarian cuisine around the city - and yes, being a good librarian, she is owned by a cat.

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Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey

Unlike the other biographies we’ve looked at this year (Roper’s Life of More, Cavendish’s Life of Cardinal Wolsey, and Boswell’s Life of Johnson), Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians is a work marked by distance seen through the fresh eyes of a new generation. Roper, Cavendish and Boswell were all writing of their contemporaries, and of contemporaries for whom they cared deeply. Strachey’s examination of four major figures from the Victorian era is quite different.

Writing in 1918, knowing the depredations of WWI, and with the skepticism the war inspired in a whole generation of authors, Strachey looked with a critical eye upon the figures many English had lionized (and still lionized in Strachey’s day) as among the best of England, during the Golden Era they imagined took place under Queen Victoria.

In this volume, Strachey wrote short biographies of four figures: Cardinal Henry Manning, Miss Florence Nightingale, Dr. Thomas Arnold and General Charles Gordon. In the case of Manning, he saw a man whose actions belied the great reputation he had among Anglo-Catholics. In the case of Florence Nightingale, he saw a tireless reformer who almost single-handedly reformed medical practice in British army hospitals, but whose zeal was too often tough on those around her. In the case of Dr. Arnold, he saw a man who was able to change the tone of English Public Schools, but who was unable and unwilling to move the education in them past the Latin and Greek classics that had long been the basis of Public School education. And in the case of Gen. Gordon, he saw a man of contrary aspects in one person, a man of great personal piety, but also a man with a great ego, convinced of his own destiny, a conviction that led to his death at Khartoum and the fame that came with that end.

Manning was one of the great Anglican churchmen who made up the Oxford Movement and who, after some time as a clergyman in the Anglican Church converted to Roman Catholicism. During much of his life, he stood in the shadow of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the leading scholar of the Oxford Movement (we looked at Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua in January, a shadow to which he is once again relegated. Unlike Newman, Manning had greater influence in Rome, where it was felt that Newman was too intellectual. Manning was a close ally of Pope Pius IX (Pio Nino), who called the First Vatican Council in 1868, at which council the matter of papal infallibility was discussed. Strachey sees Manning as motivated by jealousy of Newman, taking steps to ensure that Newman’s advancement in the Church was delayed and his initiatives blocked. While not doubting Manning’s sincerity, or ability, Strachey saw this jealousy and politicking unbecoming in a churchman. He does admit that Manning saw his drive for advancement as problematic, quoting him: “I do feel pleasure … in honour, precedence, elevation, the society of great people, and all this is shameful and mean.”

In the case of Florence Nightingale, the founding mother of modern nursing, who worked tirelessly for more professional behavior on the part of nurses and doctors in the military hospitals, and for greater hygiene in those establishments, Strachey sees someone whose story is much more nuanced than the hagiographic image the Victorians and later generations had of her as a medical angel. In telling her story, Strachey often contrasts her own vigor and strict sense of professional ethics with those of the doctors and politicians with whom she had to deal. Given Victorian mores, it was impossible for her to make her views known and acted upon without the help of a sympathetic man. While finding that sexism abhorrent, Strachey also notes that, in her zeal for reform, she managed to drive her chief ally, Sidney Herbert, into an early grave.

In Thomas Arnold, another reformer, Strachey emphasizes opportunity missed. Dr. Arnold is most famous as the headmaster of Rugby school, lionized as such in Thomas Hughes’ novel, Tom Brown’s Schooldays. His accomplishment was truly tremendous. The British Public School at the turn of the 19th c. was nothing as we imagine it today. The masters ran the schools in a tyrannical manner, and the boys exhibited a wildness that seemed to justify that tyranny. Dr. Arnold normalized a system, whereby the elder boys in the school served as models and correctors of the younger boys, and the headmaster, removed from much contact with the lower grades, worked with the school leaders to set and maintain a high tone in behavior and morals. In almost single-handedly transforming English public school governance, Arnold is a figure to be admired, but Strachey is quite emphatic that Arnold failed to see the greater revolution in education he might have led. The course of studies at Arnold’s school remained quite conservative, relying almost entirely on the Greek and Roman classics and the Bible, which meant that the young men who would become Britain’s leaders in the late 19th c. would remain ignorant in many areas – this is the same failing that American Henry Adams found in his own schooling in Massachusetts at the same time, as discussed in The Education of Henry Adams.

Charles Gordon, the last subject in this collection, offered a strange dichotomy. Here was a man of strong Christian faith, who could often be seen reading or studying the Bible, but he was also a man whose big ego and conviction of personal destiny put him at odds with his superiors and ended in his death at Khartoum. In writing about Gordon’s life, Strachey is quick to point out that Gordon was a much more principled and intelligent man than many of the men in government commanding him; Strachey concludes the narrative of Gordon’s life by noting that the superior whom Gordon despised, won a knighthood. But he is also quick to point out that Gordon was very difficult to work with, and that his own uncompromising attitude may have contributed to the worsening situation in Sudan that led to his death at Khartoum. Strachey finds it strangely ironic that public opinion got Gordon his position in Sudan, and gave him the sense that he could ignore policy decisions by the government, and that, after his death, the same public opinion lionized the heroic Gordon who died at Khartoum. It is clear that Strachey feels that much of the suffering in the Sudan might have been avoided, and that Gordon might not have died at Khartoum, had this perfect storm of public adulation and personal ego not created the image of Gordon the hero, whose tragic death helped solidify that image.

About the Author

Bernard Norcott-Mahany, a library technical assistant at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, is our resident connoisseur of classic literature. He is also the leader of the Black Classics and In the Heat of the Night book groups.

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Staff Reading Picks for September

September is upon us and fall is fast approaching, even if it doesn't feel like it outside. And being September, it means that we are overdue for another Staff Picks blog!

We have a little bit of everything with our picks this time around — Award-winning Science Fiction, True Crime, Modern Classics, and even Picture Books for our younger readers out there. These titles were all enjoyed by our staff, so why not give one a try?

Have you read something else lately you'd like to recommend to others? Feel free to add your own picks in the comments below!

 
 

True Grit by Charles Portis

We'd be remiss if we didn't include True Grit in our list of Staff Picks this month. Why? Because it's the focus of our Big Read campaign this September & October! This iconic 1968 Western novel tells the story of 14-year-old Mattie Ross as she seeks retribution for the murder of her father with the assistance of U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf. Join the rest of Kansas City in reading this novel and discover why it is considered a modern classic.
 

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi

“I read Redshirts when it came out last year, but given that it just won the Hugo, I figure it’s appropriate. A lot of people think that it won simply because it was so popular – but I believe it won because it truly was the best Science Fiction novel of the year (being popular doesn’t automatically mean that isn’t also an amazing book!) Yes, it's hysterically funny! Yes, it's astoundingly clever and brilliantly satirical! It's all kinds of laudable comedic things! But it amazed me because it's also much more than that. It's very, very smart, genuinely thoughtful, and thought-provoking. It's a no-kidding, real Big Idea story (that's also hilarious satire). I suspect I'm going to re-read this book many more times over the years, and it will always delight!” - John, Digital Branch
 

Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan

“Brautigan's book—a perennial bestseller of the hippie era—manages to weave together a novel (well, sort of) from seemingly-unrelated chapters, all incorporating the phrase ‘Trout Fishing in America’ in very different ways. Unfolding both in Brautigan’s childhood and in his adult life in mid-60s San Francisco, this ‘cult’ hit is worth another look.” - Bob, Public Affairs.

 
 

Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum

“A group of teenagers fall in and out of love with each other, rebel against their elders, and make plans for their adult lives. Except these teens don’t live with their parents, they live in an institution for juveniles with disabilities. An honest, heartwarming, and humorous look at one of society’s most well-hidden groups.”
- Kaite, Reader's Services
 
 

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker

“Journalist Robert Kolker delves into to the serial murders of of several online prostitutes on Long Island—murders that have yet to be solved. An engrossing narrative, this true-crime book ultimately highlights that even with all the changes that the Internet has brought to the underground world of prostitution, increased safety is not among them, and that victims from this industry still suffer from a lack of attention from investigators.” - Liesl, Public Affairs
 

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloan

A laid-off tech worker takes a graveyard-shift job at an old bookstore, only to discover that there are secrets hidden in its tomes.

“Interesting and thought provoking but still enjoyable. I especially liked the ending. It reminded me of the conclusion of The Rule of Four: disarming for the simple, true human emotion.” – Jill, Customer Service
 

Little Chicken's Big Day by Katie & Jerry Davis

“Like many parents, Big Chicken is ALWAYS telling Little Chicken what to do. Like many kids, Little Chicken forgets to pay attention sometimes. Little Chicken's day out with his mama takes a scary turn in this sweet, simple picture book that's perfect for the preschool set.” - Melissa, Children's Associate, Plaza Branch

 
 

About the Author

Liesl Christman

Liesl Christman is the Digital Content Specialist for The Kansas City Public Library, managing content for the Library's blogs and social media accounts. She is an unabashed enthusiast of comic books, roller derby, and all things food.

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Book Review: Sister Queens by Julia Fox

One woman as queen had several children. Her sister only gave birth to a living daughter. Both lived sad lives. Katherine of Aragon and her sister Joanna (Juana) found themselves at the mercy of others.

Julia Fox in Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile examines the lives of these two women. They were daughters of Ferdinand and Isabella, rulers of Spain. As monarchs, they joined the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile to reign in Spain together. These powerful monarchs sought advantageous marriages for their daughters with the hope of gaining greater Spanish influence throughout Europe. Katherine and Joanna became pawns in the marriage game.

Joanna married Philip of Burgundy, ruler of what became the Netherlands. He would also become Holy Roman Emperor. No one thought Joanna would inherit her mother’s throne since she had an older brother and sister. Her marriage produced several children but could not be said to be a happy union. After the death of her brother, sister, and mother, Joanna found herself Queen of Castile. She and Philip traveled back to Spain with Philip planning on ruling Castile through his wife. Philip’s death left Joanna grief stricken and her father Ferdinand kept control of Castile. She went to live in a monastery where no one kept her informed of what was happening. The word went out that Joanna suffered from madness and could not be trusted to govern.

From then on, Joanna lived in seclusion until her death. She had little contact with the outside world and never ruled as Queen as should have been her right. Father, husband, and finally son kept hold on power never permitting Joanna to fulfill her role. Historians have debated for years as to her true mental state. Her family’s desire for power as well as the thought of a woman monarch left Joanna to live out a lonely existence.

Her better known sister, Katherine of Aragon, traveled to England to marry Prince Arthur, the son of Henry VII, to cement the Spanish-Anglo relationship. Arthur died soon after their marriage. For several years, Katherine waited to see if she would marry Prince Henry, younger brother of Arthur. After the death of Henry VII, Prince Henry who became Henry VIII married Katherine. She did not have any sons who survived infancy only a daughter who lived to be an adult. Her husband felt he had angered God by marrying his brother’s wife who could not bear sons and sought a divorce. Henry had also became enchanted by a lady in waiting, Anne Boleyn, and felt she could give him his desperately needed son. Katherine and the Church did not give in to Henry’s demands for a divorce. Henry broke with Rome, declared his marriage to Katherine invalid, and married Anne. Katherine, no longer welcome at court, spent her remaining days alone without her daughter for company until her death. Joanna and Katherine began their marriages with great hope of a bright future, but circumstances saw them at the end in lonely exile far away from their loved ones.

This book is a good summation of the lives of these two women. Daughters of famous parents, they had no real role except that of wife and mother to future monarchs. Those around them denied them their rights and both were at the end lonely and alone. I knew the story of Katherine, but her sister’s story is equally fraught with betrayal and deception. For a look at women in the fifteenth century and royal power, this is a good read for anyone interested in history and biography.

About the Author

Judy Klamm is a reference librarian in Central Reference. She has written book reviews for Library Journal and various Presbyterian publications.

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The Returned by Jason Mott

What would you do if suddenly one of your loved ones who had died 10, 20 or even 50 years ago stood at your door alive and well? That’s the premise of The Returned, the debut novel by Jason Mott.

In 1966, Lucille and Harold Hargrave lost their only son Jacob on his eighth birthday when he drowned in a lake not far from where his party had taken place. Harold and friends set off to find Jacob and Harold carried Jacob's limp, dead body out of the lake. Fifty years later, an eight-year-old Jacob appears at their door with an agent of the International Bureau of the Returned, the agency handling those who have been recently returning from the dead.

Lucille and Harold have learned to live their lives after losing Jacob. They obviously missed seeing their son grow-up, and their lives were not the same without him. They are fifty years older and must learn to be parents again to a young boy.

Lucille writes in a note to Harold, "I don't know how this child, this second Jacob, came to be. But honestly, I don't care. He's given us something we never thought we could have again: a chance to remember what love is... A chance to love without fear."

As the numbers of the Returned increase, people obviously have strong reactions to the Returned and some are strongly in favor of helping them return to their families and loved ones, while others consider themselves part of the True Living Movement, standing up for the rights of the Living.

The world begins to devolve into chaos, causing families to search for the strength to stay together through love and faith.

As I read this book, I thought a lot about the family members that have passed away whose voices I can still hear, who are missed at family gatherings, especially during holidays. I've considered what my reaction would be and I begin to wonder how long would they be here? Would their memories still be intact, would they have information about an afterlife, if there is one? Would they know what has been going on in our lives while they have been gone, when there have been times that their presence has been felt on occasion?

This is an unforgettable book about what it takes to keep a family together against all odds. Faith, love, responsibility and morality all play a strong role in what keeps families together. Mott explores what happens when people return while also exploring how people deal with the fact that other loved ones didn't return. Lucille's faith is tested but the book is not preachy or religious in any way. This is illustrated with one of my favorite quotes from the book: "Some folks locked the doors of their hearts when they lost someone. Others kept the doors and the windows open, letting memory and love pass through freely."

The author's notes states that the idea for the book came after having a dream where he sat down and spoke with his deceased mother about current things happening in his life. We've all wondered what we would say or do if we had one more moment with a loved one we've lost. Lucille and Harold had more time with their son. What would you do if you had one more day or even one more hour?

The book has been optioned for a series on ABC, retitled as The Resurrection debuting March 2014.



Quotes from the book are from an Advance Reader Copy and may be subject to change.

About the Author

Erica Voell

Erica Voell is the Youth Collection Development Librarian at the Kansas City Public Library. She enjoys gardening, sewing, knitting, seeking out gluten-free vegetarian cuisine around the city - and yes, being a good librarian, she is owned by a cat.

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Zinio for Libraries

Free subscriptions to your favorite magazines? It sounds too good to be true, but patrons of the Library now have full access to the “online newsstand” Zinio.

“Zinio provides free magazines in digital format to our patrons, either in the library on our PCs, or on their personal computers at home, or on their mobile devices,” explains Joel Jones, the Library’s director of branches and outreach services.

“This isn’t a text-only thing,” Jones says. “It’s the actual magazine as you buy it on the newsstand. You get the layouts, the photos … it’s as if you had a physical copy of the magazine in your hand.”

Among the 110 magazines currently available through Zinio is a broad selection of mainstream and special-interest publications like Forbes, Utne Reader, Rolling Stone, Seventeen, Us Weekly, Smithsonian, Newsweek, The Economist, Car and Driver, Billboard, Field & Stream, Mother Jones, and The Nation. Magazines in Spanish are offered as well, such as the Spanish-language versions of Seventeen and Cosmopolitan.

Magazines downloaded to an individual’s devices remain there until deleted.

“Almost anything you’ll find on a normal newsstand you’ll find on Zinio,” Jones says. “And we’re taking suggestions for additional publications to add to the service.”

To subscribe library patrons need only go to kclbrary.org/zinio and follow the instructions.

According to Jones: “This requires creating two accounts, one with the library and one with Zinio. If you’re doing this from outside the library you will need your library card number and PIN.”

Patrons who encounter a learning curve in subscribing to Zinio are encouraged to seek assistance at the service desk at their local branch library.

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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August Staff Reading Picks

We may have been busy with our Summer Reading Program the past few months, but your Library staff still found time to do their own reading!

Here are just a few books chosen by our staff. Whether they are new releases, old favorites, or just something unique that we have come across, it caught the attention of the employees here at the Kansas City Public Library, and we want you to be as excited about reading as we are!

For August, we have a little of everything for our selections including classic Hollywood nostalgia, children's fantasy, murderous gunslingers, and pirates in love. Enjoy!

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown

“Owen Wedgwood, the Caesar of Sauces, has been kidnapped by Mad Hannah Mabbot, she-pirate Captain of the Flying Rose. As long as Owen keep Hannah plied with an exquisite meal every Sunday, she will not kill him. A delicious tale of love and piracy on the high seas.” – Kaite, Reader's Services



The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

"In The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr, readers meet the teenage protagonist, Lucy, who was once a musical child-prodigy. Her younger brother, Gus, is still practicing to be competition-ready. In following her complex family dynamics, her friendships, and her crushes, readers come to care about the characters. As Lucy is beginning to define herself outside of her young musician persona, she has an opportunity to discover if, despite her leaving the pressure-filled life of the constant pursuit of perfection, she wants to return to the piano. Even people who do not read music can appreciate this book. They will leave thinking about the seemingly-real people in it and asking themselves, 'What do I love?'" – Anna, Library Outreach

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

"A new-wave western about two heartless hired killers laying waste to just about anyone or anything that crosses their paths. This story tells of how Charlie and Eli Sisters get mixed up in the gold rush with an unscrupulous money-man named 'The Commodore,' and how one of the Brothers decides that maybe their murderous ways might not be the most productive way to live out their days. Funny, violent, sad and sometimes surprising, The Sisters Brothers was a fun and interesting read." – David, Interlibrary Loan

Adventures of a Hollywood Secretary: Her Private Letters from Inside the Studios of the 1920s by Valeria Belletti

"A young Valeria Belletti moved to New York to Hollywood in the 1920s becoming Samuel Goldwyn's personal secretary. Her real-life letters reveal the inner workings of the silent and Golden eras of cinema, with humor and unvarnished insight.”
Liesl, Public Affairs


Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

"A dozen 12-year-old students have been invited to a lock in at Alexandriaville's new public library. This is not your typical library because it has been designed by Luigo Lemoncello - the world's most famous game maker. This library has game rooms, holograms, a dome with 10 huge video screens, and a secret exit. The students have 24 hours to solve several mysteries and find the secret exit. If you liked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Mysterious Benedict Society, or The Potato Chip Puzzles, you're sure to like this." – Ron, Plaza Children's Librarian

Say Nice Things About Detroit by Scott Lasser

"25 years after his high school graduation, David moves back to a home everyone else has fled, Detroit. David is looking for escape from the death of his son and the divorce that quickly followed. The double murder of his high school sweetheart and her brother makes David wonder if he can truly go home again, especially if home is Detroit.” – Kaite, Reader's Services



About the Author

Liesl Christman

Liesl Christman is the Digital Content Specialist for The Kansas City Public Library, managing content for the Library's blogs and social media accounts. She is an unabashed enthusiast of comic books, roller derby, and all things food.

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Quantrill in the Movies

Relatively few Kansans have gone on to be immortalized in the movies.

Salina’s Dwight David Eisenhower has popped up as a character in nearly 40 films, the first time in the 1962 D-Day epic The Longest Day, which was released four years before the former President’s death.

On the other hand, hatchet-wielding prohibitionist Carrie Nation has never been portrayed on the silver screen, at least not according to the Internet Movie Database.

A couple of transplants to Kansas have enjoyed a long cinematic history. Wyatt Earp, an Illinois native who first gained fame as a lawman taming Kansas’ wide-open cattle towns, has been depicted in 55 films.

Gen. George Armstrong Custer, who lived in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, during the Indian wars, has made at least 50 movies and TV appearances.

And William Clarke Quantrill, the Confederate guerrilla leader infamous for the August, 1863, sack of Lawrence, Kansas, has been depicted on screen numerous times.

And if you add to the mix all the films referencing the Border War between Kansas and Missouri, not to mention innumerable Westerns in which the characters were former bushwhackers (anything with Jesse James, True Grit’s Rooster Cogburn, a former guerrilla played by Dean Martin in Bandolero!, and Clint Eastwood’s turn as The Outlaw Josey Wales), you’ve got well over 100 titles springing at least in part from our local history.

KU’s John Tibbetts looks at this cinematic heritage in Quantrill in the Movies on Sunday, August 18, 2013, at 2 p.m. at the Central Library. Through film clips, analysis, and anecdotes, Tibbetts examines Quantrill through films as varied as Dark Command (1940), Quantrill’s Raiders (1958), and Ang Lee’s locally-filmed Ride With the Devil (1999).

[video:http://youtu.be/zxXLIsqD-6s?t=10s]

A broadcaster, journalist, artist, and scholar, Tibbetts has written and illustrated nine books, among them The Cinema of Tony Richardson, The American Theatrical Film, Dvorak in America, and His Majesty the American: The Films of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

His presentation is part of the Missouri Valley Sundays series, a program of the Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Central Library. The series is made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

As with all our events, admission is free, and Free parking is available at the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.

[video:http://youtu.be/v0dpuKULBQo]

On a related note, several of the films featured in Tibbett’s talk are being screened on Mondays this month in the Film Vault of the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St. The shows begin at 6:30 p.m.

The schedule:



These events are all part of our A Quantum of Quantrill series, marking the 150th anniversary of the sack of Lawrence, Kansas by Quantrill and his band of “bushwhackers.”

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was, during the last 40 years of his life, perhaps the best known man of letters in England. And in James Boswell (1740-1795), a lawyer from Scotland with a lot of free time, it seems, he found perhaps the most diligent chronicler in the field of biography.

Boswell’s Life of Johnson is probably the best known and most lauded biography in English. Most of the stories one hears about the eminent, but rather eccentric, Johnson come, sometimes accurately, sometimes muddled, from Boswell's account.

Johnson himself wrote biographies, but these were rather short affairs. His most famous effort in biography was his Lives of the English Poets, which consists of short biographies of the most famous English poets up until Johnson’s lifetime. Though Johnson was a voluminous reader, and a man with a tremendous memory for what he had read, his research into the poets was nothing compared to Boswell's own efforts on his behalf.

Boswell took time to contact Johnson's friends and family, as well as many of the most famous people of his generation (e.g. the actor David Garrick, the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds) and of the generation prior in constructing the first part of the biography, that of Johnson's life prior to Boswell’s meeting him in 1763. And he seems to have gotten hold of every piece of correspondence he could of Johnson's, and of a great deal of the correspondence written to him, as well as reading the books and articles Johnson wrote.

Much of Johnson's biography, though, is based on Boswell’s personal relationship with Johnson. Boswell spent a considerable amount of time with Johnson from 1763 until the end of Johnson's life. Even when the two were not together, Boswell kept tabs on Johnson's doings and maintained a voluminous correspondence with him. In the year following Johnson’s death, Boswell took care to compile and craft the final version of his biography.

Much of the biography is very engaging, but Boswell's approach is largely anecdotal. As such, though we get a very thorough treatment of Johnson's sayings, beliefs, and stories, we do not always get a critical view of the man. Boswell could be critical of Johnson's apparent rudeness and even of some of his pronouncements – he and Johnson did not always agree, and when reporting a difference, Boswell is quick to point out flaws in Johnson's thinking or argumentation. Still, he was a fervent admirer of the gentleman and, for the most part, served as something of an apologist.

Johnson was quite witty, and had something to say about almost any topic. Some quotes:

On the subject of knowledge:

"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it.”

On the laziness of people:

“Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it.”

On jingoism:

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

On writing for pleasure:

"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money."

On sailing the seas:

"No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned."

His attitude towards America and Americans was quite caustic. He once said to Boswell, who was defending the colonists,

“Sir, they are a race of convicts, and ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging."

Boswell’s thoroughness, and his anecdotal approach, while giving us a lot of information about Johnson (maybe too much), make it difficult to get a clear view of Johnson’s life. At times, there’s just too much information, and too much of the same kind of information strung together, and not enough editing. And at over 1300 pages, this is a lot to slog through. There are abridged editions of Boswell (such as that edited by Christopher Hibbert) that would get you a sense of the work in its entirety, and would give you enough of the book’s greatest asset – Boswell’s and Johnson’s literary style. The 18th c. may well be the high point of English prose style – on both sides of the pond (look at our own Declaration of Independence, Federalist Papers and Constitution) and Boswell and Johnson were both great craftsmen of the language. If you simply want a taste, get an abridged edition, but if you are so minded to take a great big bath in Johnsoniana, super-size your experience and read the whole work.

About the Author

Bernard Norcott-Mahany, a library technical assistant at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, is our resident connoisseur of classic literature. He is also the leader of the Black Classics and In the Heat of the Night book groups.

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Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck

Just released in May, Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck examines the turbulent, fascinating and ultimately tragic life of Zelda Fitzgerald through the eyes of a fictional psychiatric nurse.

Better known as the wife of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald’s presence was as wild and controversial as her husband’s. She was a Southern beauty, one of the original flappers of the 1920s, an accomplished writer, dancer and painter, and sadly, a victim of mental illness.

Call Me Zelda begins in February 1932 at the Phipps Psychiatric Clinic, part of Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, with Zelda’s admission for an emotional breakdown and her introduction to Anna Howard, the nurse assigned to care for her.

As the two women begin to bond, they each reveal heartbreaks and struggles in their personal lives. Zelda shares her feelings of anger and violation toward Scott for stealing her diaries, sharing them with friends, and using them in his fiction. She feels his actions are controlling and soul-stealing, and she answers back by publishing the semi-autobiographical novel, Save Me The Waltz, telling her side of the troubled and failing Fitzgerald marriage.

Eventually Zelda is released from Phipps, and Anna agrees to be her personal psychiatric nurse when she returns home. Before she realizes it, Anna is sucked into the destructive downward spiral that is the Fitzgerald’s world, and she must decide how much of her own life is she willing to sacrifice in order to try and save her patient and dear friend.

The novel overflows with themes of female friendship, motherly love, devotion, the dangers of using people, and the power of truth. It also gives you a small glimpse into psychiatric care in the 1920s and ‘30s, and effectively relies on music for symbolism.

Call Me Zelda does, however, leave its readers with one slight frustration. There are moments when you want to push Anna out of the way as the main character and get inside Zelda’s head, but you can’t because it is actually Anna’s narrative that drives the book.

Interestingly enough, part of Robuck’s inspiration for Call me Zelda was Ernest Hemingway’s hatred for Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, which she discovered when researching her prior book, Hemingway's Girl. This intense loathing of Zelda by such a dominant literary force drove Robuck to want to embrace and better understand her.

If you enjoy Call Me Zelda and would like to read more about the Fitzgeralds, there are some other great new additions to the library collection including, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, and Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald.

You might also enjoy watching Midnight In Paris, a charming Woody Allen movie featuring many past literary figures including Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston as Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

About the Author

Amy Morris

Amy Morris is a librarian technical assistant at the Westport Branch. She earned a B.A. in English, with an emphasis in creative writing, from Avila University. Besides reading and writing, Amy enjoys traveling, art, being creative, and spending time with her family. She also writes her own blog at livingkansascity.blogspot.com

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The Greater Journey by David McCullough

A new century brimmed with possibility. In the nineteenth century, many citizens of the United States sought education and culture in the Old World to enhance their knowledge of the New.

Historian David McCullough in The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris examines the lives of many Americans who sailed across the ocean to Paris to spend weeks, months, or years in the cultural capital of Europe. Paris and the French held a fascination for Americans in part for their help during the American Revolution. They also worshiped the Marquis de Lafayette for his leadership as well. Art, music, medicine, and other fields drew Americans to make the voyage for a stay in Paris. The city held another fascination for Americans as it had existed centuries before the discovery of America.

The author provides details of the various Americans during their stay. For those from the new United States, Paris provided the inspiration or education for them to succeed and enrich the cultural life of their country. He places special emphasis on the many American artists who studied in Paris during this time. The Louvre and its famous collection became the main attraction as well as various art schools in Paris. Samuel Morse, Mary Cassatt, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, George Healy, and others all lived, worked, and received inspiration in Paris.

Medical students also sought further education in France. Paris had several specialty hospitals which afforded students greater opportunity to study disease. Olive Wendell Holmes is better known than other doctors who studied in Paris. Two women Elizabeth Blackwell and Mary Putnam were among the medical students. Some young doctors gained valuable experience during a cholera epidemic during the 1830s while other provided care during times of crisis and war.

American diplomats left their mark on Paris. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts studied at the Sorbonne and gained new perspectives that later influenced his career. Diplomat Elihu Washburne served the United States during the Franco Prussian war and provided assistance to many to escape during that time. He won acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic for remaining in Paris while many of his colleagues fled.

Americans in Paris during the nineteenth century enjoyed a front row seat to French history. They witnessed the Franco Prussian War, the Second Empire of Napoleon III, the Commune, and the rise of the Eiffel Tower. Americans attended several world fairs held in Paris and many artists were able to showcase their work. The visitors enjoyed their time in the city, but remained Americans at heart. They may have left American shores, but kept the ideals of home. Paris meant visits and learning, but the United States represented home.

I enjoyed this work not the least for its glimpse of Paris during the nineteenth century. However, I learned more about my fellow Americans that I had never known. I have thought of Samuel Morse of the inventor of the telegraph, but never knew his work as an artist. For an interesting read into many American personalities of the nineteenth century, this is a good place to start.

About the Author

Judy Klamm is a reference librarian in Central Reference. She has written book reviews for Library Journal and various Presbyterian publications.

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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is one of the most famous autobiographies in English, certainly in America. Benjamin Franklin was not only a prominent figure in the US War of Independence, but also one of the most accomplished men of his day, well versed in several fields, and a self-made man to boot (call Central Casting – we have ourselves a Renaissance American).

In some respects, Franklin could be favorably compared to Samuel Johnson. Franklin was an auto-didact. His father, a chandler in Boston, needed his sons’ help in business, so that his sons did not receive the education in school and college for which they were all well-suited. Franklin received a lot of his education from reading material his brother James published (James had a printing press in Boston, and young Ben apprenticed there). Franklin would read the material coming to his brother’s print shop, which kept him apprised of current events. He learned the newspaper business as it was practiced at the time, and even created characters who would pen letters to the editor (taking on the persona of Silence Dogood, a God-fearing woman to comment on current events).

The biography, as we have it, was composed at four separate times (1771, 1784, 1788, and 1790) but only published posthumously by his grandson, William Temple Franklin, in 1818. There is evidence that Franklin himself planned on publishing it, so that the work we have is not simply a family document for family and friends. This autobiography has peculiar gaps, partly because of this scattered method of composition. In addition, Franklin originally conceived of this as written to his son, William, a son whom he greatly loved. The first part, written in 1771, was written for William, then Governor General of New Jersey.

When the relations between the colonies and England grew strained, Franklin found himself on the side of the colonists calling for independence, while William remained loyal to the Crown, and he and his father became estranged from one another. Because this was originally conceived of as something of an apologia to his son, who found himself on the opposite side of American Independence, Franklin remains curiously moot on the matter of the revolution, ending the first part of the book with a memo noting that much of the foregoing was for family (specifically William) and possibly not of much interest to the general public, and adding “The affairs of the Revolution occasion’d the interruption” from Part I to Part II, which he wrote in answer to requests from friends in Paris.

Part II cannot really be called autobiographical, as it deals with only two points – the establishment of a free library in Philadelphia, and Franklin’s method of moral improvement, complete with charts. It seems that Franklin felt there were 13 virtues he’d like to cultivate, and he kept a weekly chart in which he marked occurrences where he demonstrated those virtues, or failed to do so, focusing especially on one virtue each week. Franklin’s system for self-improvement was very methodical, as Franklin was in much that he did.

Parts III and IV continue the story up until the period prior to the Revolution, and contain some discussion of Franklin’s experiments with electricity. The work as we have it, then, does not discuss the Revolution or the matters leading up to it, the most important events in which Franklin took part. The focus rather is on Franklin’s rise in the world of business (Part I) and his efforts as a scholar, especially in the sciences (Parts II-IV). And the work shows Franklin to be a man of consequence, though it remains silent on the matter of most consequence in Franklin’s life.

There must have been something in the water in the 18th and 19th century, and especially in America, that it produced men such as Franklin, a person who could well be considered a Renaissance Man, and a self-taught one at that. Though he did not get much in the way of formal education, he was always reading, and often writing, developing ideas through conversation and debate. He immersed himself in the debates of his youth by reading the newspaper and pamphlets his brother published, and by reading letters of readers to the paper.

Working for his brother and then for other printers in Philadelphia, he learned the craft of printing and of managing a printing press operation, learning the craft and the business so well that he became the premier printer in Philadelphia.

Though this book does not deal so much with much of Franklin’s public life, it does make clear that he was one of the great minds of his generation, and considered himself so, no matter how humbly he presents his achievement. Stylistically, the work is written in a simple and approachable style, but always demonstrates that beautiful clarity that typifies much of 18th c. and 19th c. English (and American) prose.

The work is now considered a great classic of American autobiography, though Mark Twain referred to it as “Franklin’s pernicious book,” probably because of its emphasis on virtues of thrift and hard work, virtues Twain didn’t put much stock in. Even if you don’t wish to emulate Dr. Franklin – I read much of this while reclining with pugs in my recliner (and no one could call Franklin a lazy boy) – the work is a masterpiece of simple style and reading it is its own reward.

If you are looking for a more thorough treatment of Franklin’s life, you may want to read Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin: an American Life. And if you’d like to read more of Franklin’s writing on a variety of topics, you may want to pick up The Portable Benjamin Franklin edited by Larzer Ziff.

About the Author

Bernard Norcott-Mahany, a library technical assistant at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, is our resident connoisseur of classic literature. He is also the leader of the Black Classics and In the Heat of the Night book groups.

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Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

It is summer and that means Farmer’s Markets and more glorious produce than I almost know what to do with. At this time of year, there is a tried and tested book that I turn to make the most of all of the delicious things I bring home.

I discovered Deborah Madison’s book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone shortly after the 10th anniversary edition was released in 2007. Madison is well-known in the Slow Food movement and has been a long-time advocate of farm-fresh, seasonal produce and trying to reconnect people to fresh produce, the “pleasurable essential to the enjoyment of good health.”

Madison’s book is not a cookbook in the vein of a glossy, picture-filled treatise that has become de rigeur. Instead, it is a treatise along the lines of The Joy of Cooking or Jacques Pepin’s books. There is a brief, introductory section that sets the stage with suggestions for useful tools (a good knife is the most important tool in your kitchen), some explanations for basic cooking methods and cutting techniques, and a foundational chapters on seasoning and sauces.

I love that Madison pays as much attention in detailing how to make the things that can accompany great vegetables as she does in how to prepare the vegetables themselves. She includes amazing accompaniments like a Parsley-Caper Sauce (page 56) good for warm or cold vegetables, Fresh Dill and Lemon Mayonnaise (page 59) that can be used on anything from sandwiches, to eggs or potatoes, and a Goat Cheese Sauce (page 72) that can stand up to the hardiest of late summer and early fall vegetables.

But more than just easy ways to embellish good, seasonal produce, Madison introduces a way of cooking with vegetables that treats them not as a replacement for meat but as a way of taking pure joy in everything a vegetable has to offer to the eating experience. She marries grains and tomatoes in recipes like Polenta Gratin with Mushrooms and Tomato (page 289) and rice and beets in the most astoundingly, delightfully pink Beet Risotto with Greens that you will ever eat (page 553).

No vegetarian cookbook could be complete without a substantial chapter of vegetables, “the heart of the matter.” These 100+ pages provide a succinct overview of common and some not-so-common vegetables, detailing when to find them, how to store and prepare them, what flavors to partner them with, and some basics for cooking.

But these basics of preparation are not just brief tutorials on how best to steam vegetables, but also on what to accompany them with: Haricots Verts with Garlic Mayonnaise (page 337), Brussels Sprouts and Walnuts with Fennel and Red Pearl Onions (page 344), Chard Stems with Saffron and Tomatoes (page 358), Curried Parsnips with Yogurt and Chutney (page 398), Zucchini and Fresh Herb Fitters (page 424) perfect for the glut of fruit that will inundate the market in a few weeks, and Provençal Winter Squash Gratin (page 441) that should not be relegated to winter, but should be made and consumed the very first Saturday you see a butternut squash at the Farmer’s Market.

The book also has a complete index that is a useful place to start if you just found chicory or an abundance of mint in your farm share this week and you don’t know what to do with it next.

The section on vegetables is rounded out by chapters on grains, legumes, eggs, tarts (savory and sweet), pasta and noodles, soups, salads and sandwiches. In each section, Madison walks the reader through how to prepare dishes that simply highlight the best of what each ingredient has to offer. In her own words from her 10th anniversary edition: “It’s a book for those of us who like to eat, who care about what we eat, and who view cooking and eating together as one of life’s pleasures.”

If bringing home delicious, fresh food on a Saturday or Wednesday is your idea of a good time in the city in the Summer, than you need to swing by the Library on your way home from the Farmer’s Market and pick up Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

About the Author

Melissa Carle is a Support Specialist with the KC-LSP and thinks life is too short to read a book that doesn't excite you in the first 40 pages. She likes cooking, herb gardening, and, of course, reading and thinks all good books, fiction and non-fiction alike, share one thing in common: they're just a good yarn.

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Staff Reading Picks for July

It's time again for our Kansas City Public Library Staff Picks! Employees here at the Library have given us some of their favorite reads for the month, whether it be a new book coming out or an old favorite they've recently rediscovered. With our Summer Reading Program in full swing, we could all use some new reading material, children and adults alike. This month's selections are full of road trips, difficult families, and rebellious women, so you are bound to find your perfect summer read. Why not check out one of these titles, or if you have a favorite of your own list it in the comments below.

Here are our reading selections for July:

Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure, by Matthew Algeo

"About six months after leaving the White House and returning to Independence, Harry and Bess Truman decided to take a road trip to New York City. They just hopped in the car and drove - no Secret Service protection. Of course, they were recognized everywhere they went, a fact which made small town police forces rather nervous. Algeo retraces the Trumans' route and adventures, and illustrates how traveling in America (particularly when you're a former president) has changed since 1953."
Kate, Missouri Valley Special Collections


Bad Girls, by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple

"Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once said that 'Well-behaved women seldom make history.' In their juvenile book Bad girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves, & Other Female Villains mother-daughter authors Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, along with illustrator Rebecca Guay, present the stories of many historical women who were anything but well-behaved. Yolen and Stemple discuss the lives of Bonnie Parker, Cleopatra, Mata Hari, Catherine the Great, and many others, putting their lives and actions in context. Composed of short, engaging chapters that switch to a comic book format in sections where the authors debate whether or not these women were really 'bad,' the end result is cheeky, entertaining, and stealthily educational."
Liesl, Public Affairs

Brother, I’m Dying, by Edwidge Danticat

"Edwidge Danticat’s 2007 memoir Brother, I’m Dying chronicles the year in which her biological father passes away from lung disease, her 'second father' Uncle Joseph escapes from Haiti only to die in an immigration detention center, and she gives birth to her first child. Set against the backdrop of Haiti’s history between the dictatorships of Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier and the 2004 coup d’état, Danticat fascinatingly and emotionally explores her family’s experiences in both Haiti and the United States. Danticat’s memoir realizes more than a simple emotion appeal to readers; she achieves strong meditation exploring transnational identity, family dynamics, and geopolitics."
- Creighton, Big Read Intern

Big Ray, by Michael Kimball

"Daniel Todd Carrier, narrator of the book Big Ray by Michael Kimball, addresses a wide range of emotions associated with the death of his father, a man he did not admire, respect, or love. He expresses his emotions clearly and succinctly and makes no attempt to sugarcoat his statements. Big Ray is a short but very powerful novel."
- Andrea, Westport Branch



Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

"It’s August 1986. Eleanor and Park meet the first day Eleanor gets on the school bus. With no open seats, she sits next to Park. Eleanor is reserved and has her own off-beat style, which give the kids on the bus fodder but Park notices her intensely red hair. Neither one says anything to the other for days until Park realizes she’s reading his comic books over her shoulder. So begins their tumultuous relationship as they connect through mixtapes and comic books. As their relationship grows, we begin to learn more about Eleanor’s home life and how it affects her school life and relationship with Park. Rowell captures first love so perfectly when love seems so intense and as though it will last forever."
Erica, Collection Development


About the Author

Liesl Christman

Liesl Christman is the Digital Content Specialist for The Kansas City Public Library, managing content for the Library's blogs and social media accounts. She is an unabashed enthusiast of comic books, roller derby, and all things food.

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Don’t Go by Lisa Scottoline

In Lisa Scottoline’s new novel, Don’t Go, Mike Scanlon is an Army surgeon only a month away from finishing a dangerous tour in Afghanistan. Even this close to the end of his deployment, he worries about the toll his absence is taking on his young wife, Chloe, their infant daughter, Emily, and about their future if he doesn’t come home alive. Ironically, he never imagines that Chloe would be the one to die.

Her sudden death made no sense to Mike – a violent and mysterious accident in her own kitchen – and it made even less sense when he arrived home to suburban Philadelphia for the funeral. He wondered why didn’t Chloe call 911 immediately after she was injured, and why wasn’t anyone there to help her at that time of day?

Mike’s instincts tell him that something is off with his wife’s death, and he begins to investigate on his own. He learns that Chloe was keeping big secrets from him and that her death might not be an accident after all.

To strain things even more, Mike discovers that his medical practice is falling apart, his daughter doesn’t recognize him anymore, and Chloe’s sister and her husband want custody of his adorable Emily.

As the story continues, Mike begins to spiral downward and everything around him erodes until he finally realizes that the war he is fighting is not in Afghanistan, but in his own personal life.

Don’t Go was released on April 9, 2013, and is Lisa Scottoline’s 20th novel. It is different than some of her other fiction offerings because it is a stand-alone book (it is not part of a series), and it is written from a man’s point of view.

It contains a lot of surprises as you read along, and it is also more of a story-driven rather than a character-driven book. The only problem with Don’t Go is that it ends a little too neatly, and there are some loose ends that are not addressed.

Additionally, the story has a very contemporary feel and tackles issues that today’s soldiers, veterans and military families struggle with routinely.

If you read Don't Go and like Scottoline’s writing style, be aware that besides being a New York Times bestselling author and Edgar award-winning author, she writes a weekly column with her daughter Francesca Serritella for the Philadelphia Inquirer titled Chick Wit, which is a clever and fun take on life from a woman's perspective.

About the Author

Amy Morris

Amy Morris is a librarian technical assistant at the Westport Branch. She earned a B.A. in English, with an emphasis in creative writing, from Avila University. Besides reading and writing, Amy enjoys traveling, art, being creative, and spending time with her family. She also writes her own blog at livingkansascity.blogspot.com

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