Book Reviews

Motorcycles, Sushi & One Strange Book by Nancy Rue

Have you ever enjoyed sushi overlooking the pristine beaches of St. Augustine, Florida? If the answer is no, you should definitely check out the upbeat young adult novel Motorcycles, Sushi & One Strange Book by Nancy Rue.

Jessie Hatcher's personal life is chaotic, and "normalcy" is never in her vocabulary. The 15-year-old redhead takes care of her depressed mother, who has bipolar disorder. Jessie runs household chores, chats on the cellphone with boy-crazy Chelsea, her best friend, and watches "I Love Lucy" reruns on TV Land — all at the same time. Despite her ADHD, she tries to act like her "normal" friends, who have "normal" family life.

Jessie has a tendency to babble her thoughts and blurt out the first things that come to her mind. It's hard for her to concentrate and stay still. It's harder to organize her own bedroom, follow instructions, or study. According to her mother, she has the emotional skills of an eight-year-old.

In the tradition of Hemingway, Adam Gopnik found himself an American in Paris in 1995, raising a baby and writing dispatches for The New Yorker. In her review of Winter Reading selection Paris to the Moon, Plaza Branch librarian Melissa Carle talks about Gopnik's "coming of age in the City of Light."

The Good Earth

Pearl S. Buck drew from her life as the child of missionaries in pre-Revolutionary China in framing her 1931 Pulitzer Prize winner The Good Earth. In this video, Westport Branch librarian Sukalaya Kenworthy reviews Buck's masterpiece, an official selection in the Adult Winter Reading Program.

Smilla's Sense of Snow

Fans of Stieg Larsson would do well to check out Peter Høeg’s atmospheric thriller Smilla’s Sense of Snow. In his Winter Reading Book Review Video, L.H. Bluford Branch librarian Bernie Norcott-Mahany takes us to frozen Denmark, where a trained glaciologist investigates the death of a young boy.

The Underground Railroad book cover

William Still had a very busy life. He was a prominent figure in the Underground Railroad as head of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee. When the work of the UGRR was done, he put together an account of the slaves escaping to the North.

It’s a jungle out there, and you need to be prepared. What are you going to do if you run out of food, and all you have are houseplants? Suppose you’re on a road trip and you need to heat up a convenience-store hot dog?

What if you need to start a fire and all you have is a Coke and a Hershey bar?

You’re at the Starbucks and you want to know if it’s going to rain – now what?

These are all jobs for the urban bushman. That would be Matthew Cole, confirmed city dweller with a dad who taught him how to “rig something up, son.”

His latest book is a cosmopolitan DIY guide for better living in overpopulated areas, whether it’s managing a stressful bus commute or entertaining yourself and a buddy at the consumer-soul-eating mall.

How to Predict the Weather with a Cup of Coffee and Other Techniques for Surviving the 9-5 Jungle may save your life after the great world-ending tsunami hits and recedes, leaving you all by your lonesome in Sheboygan, WI.

The Mermaid's Mirror book cover

In my mind, mermaids are cartoon characters with fishy tales who have a tendency to sing about everything. The Mermaid’s Mirror by L.K. Madigan is a great departure from these children’s tales...although there is a little singing.

The Flame Alphabet

Each week on KC Unbound, we hit the new books section at the Central Library and round up an omnivorous sampling of what’s new on the shelves.

If you see something you like, click the title and place a hold to have it delivered to your nearest branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

And let us know: What are you excited to read? Share what new books are on your radar in the comments.


Most of us think that our consumer decisions; the deodorant we use, the shoes we wear, the car we drive, are based on logic and reason.  Martin Lindstrom, a highly successful consumer product marketing consultant, disagrees. 

Blood, Bones, & Butter

January 20-29 is Restaurant Week in Kansas City, a time when area foodies line up to taste off-menu offerings at dozens of local eateries. We’ve rounded up recent culinary memoirs that have arrived at a Kansas City Public Library near you.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices Into Fearless Home Cooks
Kathleen Flinn
After persuading a stranger in a grocery store to swap her cartful of ultra-processed foods for fresher stuff, recent Le Cordon Bleu grad Kathleen Flinn began a crusade to teach nine women from different backgrounds the basics of simple, healthy cooking. The reality-TV-esque narrative interweaves 20 recipes.

Nothing to Envy - Barbara Demick

World events can trigger curiosity on a particular subject. With the recent death of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, a well-written book on the country is timely.

In Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, Barbara Demick provides a rare book into this closed, repressive society through several citizens who left the austere conditions of the country. The author weaves the nation’s history into the stories of the individuals she profiles, who are all defectors from North Korea.

The narrative focuses on the controlled existence that North Koreans endure, in which their daily lives center on their work sites, people are expected to report suspicious activity of their neighbors, and citizens are kept in the dark about advances in other countries as they are taught that nations such as South Korea and the United States cannot be trusted.

Odyssey by Homer

For all of human existence, at least since humans gained language, stories have been a part of our world and they affect our perception of the world around us. In many ways, the Odyssey is Homer’s portfolio, a defense and a demonstration of the art of telling stories.

Comfort Food Fix book cover

The holidays are over, and you’ve just made a serious New Year’s resolution to eat healthier. You don’t really want to sacrifice flavor or give up all of your high-calorie favorites, so what’s the answer? Comfort Food Fix: Feel-Good Favorites Made Healthy by Ellie Krieger.

New Books Section at Central

Wondering what’s new at your Library? Each week on KC Unbound, we’ll round up a few of the more interesting titles that have arrived on our shelves in the New Books section here at Central.

If you see something you like, click the title and place a hold to have it delivered to your nearest branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

And let us know: what are you excited to read? Share what new books are on your radar in the comments.

This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement
Sarah van Gelder, editor
Beginning in the pages of Adbusters and spreading to cities around the U.S. – and spawning hilarious and bizarre viral memes along the way – Occupy Wall Street occupied the national focus in the latter half of 2011. This slender volume compiles nonprofit, left-leaning activist zine Yes! Magazine’s coverage of the movement.

Night Circus Erin Morgenstern

As we ring in a new year of adventures in reading, Kansas City Public Library staff members look back on their favorite books from the past year – not all of which were published in the past year.

From 19th century classics to modern experimental westerns – nothing was off limits for our staff readers in 2011. Check out 17 picks from our KC Unbound book review bloggers below, and share your favorites from the past year in the comments!

Absalom, Absalom - William Faulkner 
More than anything, I am captivated by the nature of narrative and memory, and Faulkner, perhaps better than any other American author, explores this subject deeply and profoundly, coming ultimately to the conclusion (in Requiem for a Nun), ‘The past is never dead.  It's not even past.’" – Bernard Norcott-Mahany