CLICK HERE for quick access to the materials for the 2016-17 Speculative Fiction Genre Study.
The website now features UNRESTRICTED access, including notes from our meetings; however, in order to attend the meetings in person, you must be a member of ARRT. Click here for information about how you can join.


I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information.

Friday, January 19, 2018

What I’m Reading: Three New Booklist Reviews

The final reviews I wrote for Booklist in 2017 were quite varied and two of the three were excellent. This is also a reminder that I publish my draft reviews, so the review you see in the magazine will vary from this post. My posts usually have more words and I add extra RA content to help you help readers better.

Let’s start with a 2 volume reference set which surprised me with how well done it was, and apparently, I am not alone because earlier this week it was on the preliminary ballot for the Stoker Awards. Phew! I always feel better when I love something and others do too. Weirdly, I am not as worried that when I dislike something that others will like it.

Horror Literature through History: An Encyclopedia of the Stories That Speak to Our Deepest Fears. 2v.  Cardin, Matt (editor). Oct. 2017. 967p. ABC-CLIO, hardcover, $189  (9781440842016); e-book (9781440842023). 809.3. First published January 1, 2018 (Booklist).
Horror literature is not only reaching heights of popularity not seen since the 1980s when King, Koontz, and Rice reigned atop the bestseller lists, but it is also beginning to be taken more seriously by academics. Those two audiences, the fan and the scholar, collide in this well organized and fun two volume reference set. Cardin, a critically acclaimed editor of paranormal themed reference works, has looked at horror literature with the broadest lense possible, considering not just its history but also, its influence on new media, other genres, and more, organizing it all into three distinct and meticulously researched sections. Part One, “Horror Through History” consists of eight essays chronologically addressing the history of horror. Part Two, “Themes, Topics, and Genres,” is made up of 23 essays discussing larger issues and academic topics about the genre and how both the literature and the study of it has evolved over time. Part Three is a traditional encyclopedia of almost 400 entries about authors, topics, and seminal works, listed alphabetically. Scattered throughout are interviews and sidebars from experts. Common Core Standards were also considered when Cardin constructed this book, seen most notably in his inclusion of excerpts from works of horror so that students can read them critically after encountering the corresponding entry. Extremely informative in its content, easy to use, engaging in its writing style, Cardin’s comprehensive and inclusive reference work not only solidly makes the case for horror’s endurance and importance in our lives, as humans, throughout history but also presents it in a package that is a pleasure to read. 
Further Appeal: With the increased interest in horror literature as a topic academic study, this set makes a great addition to most public libraries. It is easy to use and affordable. The common core additions will make it valuable to students.

Fans will also enjoy reading about their favorite authors as this set includes up to date information about currently popular authors.

I should note, I have turned down reviewing horror reference books in the past for Booklist because I didn’t think they were worth it for libraries to buy. Since this one was useful both to fans and students, and is a very good deal for what you get, I was excited to review it for all of your consideration.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Informative, Engaging, Fun

Now another star review, this time for a well known author and library crowd pleaser, but even I was surprised at how good this one was.

The Listener.

McCammon, Robert (author).Feb. 2018. 380p. Cemetery Dance, hardcover, $25  (9781587676130)
REVIEW.  First published January 1, 2018 (Booklist).

Life in America in 1934 is not easy. Everyone has to do what they can to get by, but some make better choices than others. John and Ginger are a couple of cons who come together in rural Texas to hatch a dangerous and evil get-rich-quick scheme; they are going to kidnap the children of a rich, New Orleans businessman. Meanwhile, Curtis is a black, redcap at Union Station in New Orleans with a special gift; he is “listener,” one who can communicate telepathically with other “listeners” near him, but this skill has left him living as an outsider in his already marginalized community of the Treme. To be black, poor, and special in Depression era New Orleans is no gift, but circumstances conspire to bring Curtis and his unique powers to the aid of the endangered children. McCammon, already an established master of historical thrillers and supernatural horror combines the two in a compelling and suspenseful tale of race, class, and family. The intricate and satisfying crime plot is enhanced by superior character development, an authentic and richly detailed historical setting, a tense dread that begins in the opening scene and continues to intensify throughout, especially after the storylines merge, and an omniscient narration that lets the reader know exactly how bad things really are. This is a violent and gritty tale. There is no sugar coating the real life difficulties explored in this supernatural thriller, and while happy endings are for fairy tales, redemption is always a possibility. The Listener will be popular with fans of occult thrillers like those by Dean Koontz or F. Paul Wilson, but also consider suggesting to readers who enjoy the thought provoking, speculative fiction of Victor LaValle.
Further Appeal: This one is a great genre blend- historical fiction and horror. It is equally as good at both. Although I am not surprised by this since McCammon has been blending the two seamless for many years. Most recently, I reviewed [and enjoyed] Last Train from Perdition [I Travel By Night, Book Two] which is a great vampire story and a wonderful western.

Here we have New Orleans in the 1930s, richly rendered. There is also a compelling race and class issues frame. The characters are well developed, the suspense is palpable, and the dark fantasy/horror elements enhance all parts of the storytelling. Seriously, every appeal mentioned in this paragraph is improved by the speculative elements. That’s not only a sign at how well constructed the book it, but it is also a signifier that this is a genre blended book that will appeal widely.

Three Words That Describe This Book: intricate plot, class/race issues, character-centered

Readalikes: McCammon is a writer that many people who say I don’t read horror, but...” like, much like the three readalike authors I recommended above. People who enjoy Stephen King will also like McCammon.

But I also think that some more literary titles with strong historical and speculative elements will also be great readalikes here such as Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, Delicious Foods by James Hannaham, and Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

Frankenstein: How a Monster Became an Icon; The Science and Enduring Allure of Mary Shelley’s Creation.

Perkowitz, Sidney (editor) and Eddy Von Mueller (editor).
 Jan. 2018. 256p. Pegasus, hardcover, $28.95  (9781681776293). 823.7. 
REVIEW.  First published December 15, 2017 (Booklist).

2018 marks the Bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a book that has never been out of print, but even more remarkably, its central themes, issues, and concerns are still as relevant today as they were when it was first conceived. How and why Shelley’s creation has transcended its place as merely a story and wound its way into the very fabric of our lives is the central question co-editors Sidney Perkowitz, a physicist, and Eddie von Mueller, a film expert, have posed to a variety of scholars, organizing their responses into three sections, “The Roots and Themes of Frankenstein,” “The Monster, the Media, and the Marketplace,” and “The Challenges of Frankenstein: Science and Ethics,” and presented them in a single volume aimed at all Frankenstein fans-- from casual to cosplay. Readers will encounter essays from as wide a range of angles as traditional literary criticism, to discussions of Frankenstein based toys and their effect on childhood development, to an essay by scientists about their government funded work on the molecular basis of life. The overall effect is a multi-faceted read that is thought provoking and spreads the influence of the original text into corners that most readers have never thought to go. And, with an extensive bibliography, it can also be a guide to those who want to delve deeper. For maximum impact, consider pairing it with 2017’s excellent The New Annotated Frankenstein, edited by Leslie S. Klinger.
Further Appeal: This book was fine. It provides an interesting range of angles to look at why the idea and image of “Frankenstein” the monster has endured for so long. It should be added to library collections because of that breadth. My problem with it is only that it is very short, so that you are introduced to an idea and then you move on to another. But, paired with other books about the topic and in this year of the 200th Anniversary of this seminal work’s publication, I think many readers will find something interesting here.

Three Words That Describe This Book: original, thought provoking, essays

Readalikes: I mention Klinger’s excellent new annotated edition of the original Shelly novel above. I gave it a star review.

There are many books about Frankenstein out there to choose from, but the newest titles [like this one] look at the STEM implications of the novel as well as the fact that it was written by a teenage girl. You could spend hours searching GoodReads for titles if you wanted.

But, one of the best new novels to take on Frankenstein as inspiration is Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi [comes out on 1/23/18]. Daniel Kraus gave it a star review in Booklist and it is garnering a ton of praise. I cannot wait to read it myself.  

Thursday, January 18, 2018

RA for All Virtual Roadshow: Trends for RAILS

What’s To Come in 2018?: Assessing and Staying On Top of Adult Leisure Reading and Collection Development Trends 
For library workers who work assist leisure readers, whether it is from the front desk, the reference desk, or as you roam the stacks, staying on top of the latest trends is imperative. Our patrons expect us to know what’s hot before they do. They expect us to have the items ready and waiting for them as soon as they request them. And with all of the other job duties we have to worry about, sometimes we are not a responsive to the most current trends as we could be. But assessing trends in leisure reading and collection development is an essential job duty, and it is not nearly as difficult as you may think. Join noted Readers’ Advisory expert Becky Spratford for a webinar that will be fun and useful. She will walk you through the current trends in adult leisure collections and teach you the tips and tricks you can use to stay in the know all year long. Before you know it, your library will be trending in your community.
The slides are filled with trends, how to respond to them, and tons of links. Most of the links are to content that has appeared here on the blog.

I had a lot of fun putting this one together. I know there are a lot of registrants too, so we will have a nice crowd.

Click here for the slides both if you are attending and if you are not. I have included my notes too, so there is a lot of content there even if you can’t attend.

Click here to access slides

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What I’m Reading: Indie Picks January Column

Here are my reviews for the January 2018 issue of IndiePicks with added content.  Enjoy.
The flip of the calendar to another year is the perfect time to try something new. Why not start by diversifying your reading choices and give a new genre a try? This month I have some recent collections that offer a horror smorgaboard where readers can pick and chose the terrifying tale that is right for them, whether they are new to horror or long time fans.

How to Sculpt the Scares

Authors ranging from best-selling household names like Stephen King, Loe R. Lansdale and Clive Barker to genre mainstays like Richard Thomas, Lisa Morton and Jonathan Maberry and exciting up and comers like Silvia Moreno-Garcia contribute their advice on writing horror in WHERE NIGHTMARES COME FROM: THE ART OF STORYTELLING IN THE HORROR GENRE. In 28 articles, interviews, and essays, over 30 writers share the secret to their craft- how and why they take harmless words and masterfully string them together into sentences, that build the stories that scare the stuffing out of readers. While some pieces are more technical with advice on topics such as adapting your story to a visual medium or how to create better characters, others are more personal, like award-winning horror poet Stephanie M. Wytovich’s lyrical memoir pondering why she became the writer she is today or Mark Alan Miller’s “Why Horror?” a persuasive argument for the genre’s importance in all of our lives. This book is a must read for writers of any genre because the advice is from authors who have proven their chops both in the number of awards they have garnered and the millions of fans who read their every word. But for readers, fans and newbies alike, there is an even better reason to dive in as these essays and interviews break open the scary shell of horror and reveal its tantalizing secrets, demonstrating exactly why the genre has captivated readers since the dawn of storytelling. WHERE NIGHTMARES COME FROM will keep readers up for many nights to come as they will be frantically searching for more-- a book, two, or 10 by the authors who have contributed here.

Three Words That Describe This Book: genre secrets, essays, writers on writing

Readalikes: As I mentioned above, you can read the works of the authors included here, but there is an entire body of literature of writers on writing if that is something you are interested in. Here is a crowd sourced list of those books [in all areas] via Goodreads and for horror, here is a link to my posts on the horrorblog catgeorized as “Why I Love Horror” which features authors and library workers sharing their love for the genre.

Female Voiced Fears

Women writers, once noticeably left out of the horror conversation, are no longer lukring in the genre shadows, rather they are front and center, writing some of the most interesting and enjoyable tales of terror, tales that use the horrors, torment, and violence faced by women as they navigate a male driven world as their inspiration and emotional center. Damien Angelica Walters’ second story collection CRY YOUR WAY HOME is the perfect example. Featuring 17 stories like “Tongue, Tooth, Claw” which take fairy tales and twist them, blatantly acknowledging the violence towards women at the center of these “children's’” fables and deliver a satisfyingly dark twist at the end, and the engrossing and timely comment on rape culture in, “The Floating Girls: a Documentary” which looks back on an evening, twelve years before when 300,000 girls between 11 and 17 vanished- all over the world. This is a collection that is beautifully written, hauntingly realistic, and terrifyingly thought provoking. However, not to be outdone, newcomer
Kristi DeMeester’s first story collection EVERYTHING THAT’S UNDERNEATH takes the darkness and the weird a few steps beyond what Walter’s provides crafting nightmarish scenarios that draw readers in-- often so far as to feel like they are involved in the action, even somehow responsible for its horrifying twists, and then abruptly drop them at the tale’s conclusion, reeling, disoriented, and frightened, but also, reaching to turn the page to do it all over again. These are intense stories of body horror, abuse, and terrifying violence that will universally resonante with a wide range of readers despite their genre preferences. Either collection would make a wonderful suggestion to readers who found Carmen Maria Muchado’s stories in HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES after her National Book Award nomination and are now hungry for more raw, feminist driven horror.

Further Appeal: The hottest trend in horror right now is how awesome the work is by female horror authors. Best showcased in a National Book Award Nomination for Muchado mentioned above, but it is more than just her. I talked about this trend at more length here.

Also, both are from Apex Publications. I highly recommend their catalog of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Most of their titles seem to blur genre lines which is PERFECT for library collections. Also they put together a solid product that can stand up to multiple checkouts.

Three Words That Describe These Books: feminist horror, disorienting, twists

Readalikes: Other books I would suggest as similar to Walters and DeMeester [besides Muchado] are Emily Canteneo, Seanan McGuire, and Kelly Link.
Hardboiled Horror

Horror has never been a stagnant genre. It’s speculative tropes and terrifying tone have been blended with every genre, and in the anthology, HARDBOILED HORROR, New York Times best-selling author and editor Jonathan Maberry illustrates how the traditional PI novel can be livened up when you add a dash of monsters, mayhem, and even a little life after death to the mystery. The 15 authors included are veterans of both the horror and crime genres, such as Josh Malerman, Seanan Maguire, Max Allan Collins and Heather Graham. While their stories have a range of fears from merely creepy to hide your book in the freezer, they are all firmly grounded within the rules of the mystery presenting an investigator, a murder, and the puzzle of whodunnit. Readers may be familiar with the characters in Lois H. Gresh’s “Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Pin-Pricked Corpse,” in which the famed detective may have met his supernatural match; or Kevin J Anderson’s “Head Case,” which features his popular zombie PI, Dan Shamble. Other entries include“Sleep Debt,” by novelist Jacopo della Quercia, featuring a PI who solves crimes in his sleep, and “GasLight: Tampa Bay” by Nancy Holder an incredibly creepy and atmospheric tale set in Ybor City, the Cuban community in Tampa with a its own rich history and monsters. HARDBOILED HORROR is a great introduction to the chills and thrills of horror wrapped up in a well-tread PI package, making it a good starting place for those brave enough to give horror a try in 2018.

Further Appeal: I cannot stress enough now much this collection must be added to most public libraries. Not only are there hugely popular authors included, but these stories are good and so much fun. JournalStone is a larger small press so you can order this book easily through regular channels. And it is so easy to book talk- the title alone does it for you. Library patrons will LOVE this book.

Three Words That Describe This Book: mystery-horror blend, fun, surprising

Readalikes: This is done for you-- 15 authors to explore further if you are interested.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Call to Action: Shake Up Your Continuing Education Routine

For today’s Call to Action I am asking you to rethink something you already do but probably not with the enthusiasm and gusto you should-- Continuing Education.

Now I know I have some invested interest in this post, but hear me out. One of the reasons I dedicate my professional career to training library workers is that I know, from personal experience, how much better training could be. I have sat through plenty of boring and useless training sessions myself.

I want all of you to stop accepting bad, boring, and useless CE. I want you all to come away from the training sessions you do attend with more excitement and skills to serve your patrons better. I want to inspire you to keep signing up for more training even when you feel like you have suffered too many bad ones in a row. But, I also know that I cannot be the one providing training to every single one of you. You have to take some active role here.

And that is where I come in to help.

Your first step is to attack the same-old, same-old training you attend with a new determination to take away at least one thing from that session and try it at your library. I know it might be hard, but you can do it if you try hard enough, even if it is a how NOT to do things take away.

Second, fill out evaluation forms for every training you attend. As both an organizer of larger programs and the presenter for a myriad of sessions, I can tell you I always look at every evaluation and consider every comment, good and bad and I have made adjustments because of comments. As for programs I plan with ARRT, we always use the evaluations to make small and large programming decisions.

You cannot complain about lackluster CE options if you don’t take the time to fill out the evaluations.

Okay those first two steps are easy. They don’t really “shake up” anything like I promised in the title.  Ah, but we haven’t gotten to my third step.

Third, Reconsider where you get your CE from. Why do you only look at the library world for options? If you want to shake things up, stop going to only library world programs. You can learn from local business associations, digital conferences, consumer electronics shows, even attending a training for book stores is something new.

Looking at a program that is outside of your field forces you to see what you do from a new angle because the content isn’t promising to be for you. Rather it is NOT for you, but you will instinctively make parallels to your work. Trust me, I have done this. It is amazing.

Why not go to a different conference this year? Use this post to help you argue why to your administrators.

Here is another suggestion based on a past Call to Action. Go to a Con for a writers group. Back in April of 2017 I had this Call to Action asking you to “Get Involved with a Writers Group.” Go read it all, but in it I write about all that I learned by going to StokerCon 2017.

As a direct result of that experience, I signed on to plan the entire Librarians’ Day this year. Go on over to the horror blog to see all of the details. Those who haven’t clicked, you should. It’s 3/1 in Providence, only $65 and includes lunch, free books, and hanging out with me! Go, click. I’ll wait.

You can go to Librarians’ Day at many writers’ conferences. Or just go to an entire writers' conference. There are thousands from huge national one to small, regional ones. Writers would love to have you there. But, I can only vouch for how great the one I am co-corrdinating will be. I have planned panels that I would want. I have made sure the the topics and presenters will be useful and interesting.

So let’s commit to shaking up our CE routines in 2018. The best way to commit to learning something new is to take on something new. But you may need more ideas than I have listed in this post. Solution: ask your local library system HQ for help. Mine, RAILS, always posts CE opportunities from all over the region. It’s only a few clicks away, but if yours is not that easy, call. They are there to help you. That’s their mission. Reach out.

And finally, if nothing here will work for you, organize something at your library. Here are some ideas: get a group genre study going or a staff book club, start a training program where people take turns teaching something they do everyday in their departments, or even take a poll on unique skills or interest the staff have a find a way for those to be shared with everyone.

The point is there are NO excuses to do nothing here. Stop being passive and expecting great CE to be brought to you. Take a hold of your professional development, shake it up, and come out energized  on the other side. You and your patrons will both be pleased with the results.

For past Call to Action posts, click here.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Guest Post-- Dunneback's Two Rules of RA

As many of you knowI have Ten Rules of Basic RA Service which I use to train ALL library workers, no matter what department they work in, on how to provide this essential library service.

You may also know, especially from reading my Call to Action posts, that I don’t mince words about what is right and what is wrong when it comes to serving leisure readers.

And, despite my tireless efforts of trying to remind library workers of the correct and the wrong ways to help leisure readers, there are some very bad RA interactions happening everywhere, all of the time. I know this, and it saddens me, angers me, but also makes me work harder.

Well, while I was on vacation, one of these instances happened on Twitter. Thankfully, my friend and awesome librarian, champion of the right way to do RA, Katie Dunneback, addressed the situation immediately. And like me, she does not mince words.

With Katie’s permission I am reposting her blog post, indexing the conversation and her conclusions. Click here for the full post, but at the end of this post I did include the first paragraph to entice you to read on.

The post is instructive and hilarious; plus, she made a T-Shirt of her rules that you can buy. Please don’t be the person Katie describes. Please stop others from being this person, as Katie did. Remember, one bad RA interaction at one library, speaks poorly about all of us. From Katie’s post:
Earlier today, I saw some tweets. A good friend was trying to clarify the meaning of parameters that had been set for a discussion of “what’s the best X book”. Let’s just say the person’s responses were not the best. Especially as the person purports to be a librarian. I get wanting to be snarky and flippant. I certainly can be. But when you’re trying to have a discussion about books and start by saying (my paraphrasing here) “but you can’t include Y title AND THE LIKE because it’s shit” and then compound it by refusing to clarify what you mean by “and the like”, well, you lost me. And if you recognize this little exchange as being you, seriously rethink your role in this profession and discussing books. You pissed off a lot of readers, many of whom don’t think that book is the best example of X either.
Click through to keep reading, and to buy your own Dunneback’s Two Rules of RA T-Shirt! 

And thanks Katie for carrying the banner for excellent RA Service and calling out those who still don’t get it.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Library Reads: February 2018

It’s Library Reads day! That means three things here on RA for All:
  1. I post the list and tag it “Library Reads” so that you can easily pull up every single list with one click.
  2. I can remind you that even though the newest list is always fun to see, it is the older lists where you can find AWESOME, sure bet suggestions for patrons that will be on your shelf to actually hand to them right now. The best thing about Library Reads is the compound interest it is earning. We now have hundreds and hundreds of titles worth suggesting right at our fingertips.
  3. You have no excuse not to hand sell any Library Reads titles because there is a book talk right there in the list in the form of the annotation one of your colleagues wrote for you. All you have to say to your patron is, “such and such library worker in blank state thought this was a great read,” and then you read what he or she said.
So get out there and suggest a good read to someone today. I don’t care what list or resource you use to find the suggestion, just start suggesting books. 

Before we get to the current list, here are a couple of notes about the February 2018 list specifically. 

First, props to my friend and multiple time contributor to the blog, Alissa Williams for getting the lead review! 

Second, I was an early reader and promoter of An American Marriage. This book is absolutely amazing! I already loved Tayari Jones’s Silver Sparrow and use it as one of my sure bet backlist titles frequently, but An American Marriage exceeded my already high expectations. All my feelings are in this post which was a companion to my Read N Rave appearance at ALA Annual back in June and includes readalikes. 

February 2018 LibraryReads List

The Great Alone: A Novel

by Kristin Hannah

Published:2/6/2018 by St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 9780312577230
“Leni and her troubled family embark on a new way of life in Alaska’s wilderness in 1974 – hoping this is finally the solution for her troubled, POW father. In Alaska, Leni and her family are tested and when change comes to their small community her father’s anger threatens to explode and divide the town. This is a beautifully written novel, descriptive and engaging with well-developed characters and a strong sense of place.”
Alissa Williams, Morton Public Library, Morton, IL

An American Marriage

by Tayari Jones

Published: 2/6/2018 by Algonquin Books
ISBN: 9781616201340
“Celestial and Roy are newly married professionals leaning in to a bright future when Roy is convicted of a crime he did not commit. This is not a heroes vs. villains tale with a tidy resolution. It is a complicated, messy, moving, and thought-provoking story about love, family, and the wide-reaching effects of incarceration. Book clubs get ready!”
Jennifer Alexander, St. Louis County Library, St. Louis, MO

The French Girl

by Lexie Elliott

Published: 2/20/2018 by Berkley
ISBN: 9780399586934
“Six friends from Oxford University spend an idyllic week in the French countryside that ends with a missing neighbor, the enigmatic Severine. Fast forward ten years and Severine turns up. Or rather her skeleton does in a well on the property. All six friends are suspects. Will the loyalties hold and who put Severine in the well? This is a fun, taut thriller.”
Jennifer Dayton, Darien Library, Darien, CT 

Force of Nature: A Novel

by Jane Harper

Published: 2/6/2018 by Flatiron Books
ISBN: 9781250105639
“When Detective Falk learns that an informant went missing during a corporate team building exercise in the bush, he realizes that she tried to call him in the middle of the night. Harper once again creates a compelling, fast-paced, and atmospheric mystery set in a remote wilderness area of Australia. Perfect for fans of Nevada Barr and Paul Doiron. Highly recommended.”
Vicki Nesting, St.Charles Parish Library, Destrehan, LA

Surprise Me: A Novel

by Sophie Kinsella

Published: 2/13/2018 by The Dial Press
ISBN: 9780399592881
“Kinsella’s newest heroine has met and married Mr. Right – now how to spend the next 68 years? When Sylvie launches Project Surprise Me, she just might find that there’s always more to learn about the ones you love. Told in Kinsella’s trademark charming, relatable style.”
Ariel Kurst, Great River Regional Library, St. Cloud, MN

Tarnished City

by Vic James

Published: 2/6/2018 by Del Rey
ISBN: 9780425284124
Tarnished City, a contemporary fantasy with a healthy dose of world-building, is just as disturbing as its predecessor, Gilded Cage. I couldn’t resist diving deeper into the dark world of Equals and Slaves. James has pushed the characters in new ways, which makes the story riveting, intense, dark, and completely entrancing.”
Monicah Fraterna, La Porte Public Library, La Porte, IN 

As Bright As Heaven

by Susan Meissner

Published: 2/6/2018 by Berkley
ISBN: 9780399585968
“Beautifully written, heartbreaking story of four women in Philadelphia in 1918 during the Spanish Flu. I loved this book, as I have other books by Meissner and would highly recommend to anyone who loves historical fiction.”
Cathy Branciforte, Ramsey Free Public Library, Ramsey, NJ

How to Stop Time

by Matt Haig
Published: 2/6/2018 by Viking
ISBN: 9780525522874

“Even though there is something extraordinary about Tom Hazard and his aging process the problems and insights he experiences as he goes through life, are universal. Love, memory, and time play tricks on us all as this novel illustrates so exquisitely. This is an engaging,sweeping love story with all the elements of a great historical/time travel novel. For fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Life After Life.” 
Mary Coe, Fairfield Woods Branch Library, Fairfield, CT 

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library: A Novel

by Sue Halpern

Published: 2/27/2018 by Harper Perennial
ISBN: 9780062678966
“Kit is a librarian who closes herself off from emotions and people until she meets Sunny, assigned to the library for community service. Add in a group of regulars in the library and the result is an absorbing story of developing friendships and the unveiling of secrets. Kit’s story unfolds as we meet many quirky characters in this story of love, loss, and hope.”
Ellen Firer, Merrick Library, Merrick, NY 

Educated: A Memoir

by Tara Westover

Published: 2/20/2018 by Random House
ISBN: 9780399590504
“In her memoir, Westover recounts her childhood growing up in a strict Mormon family, ruled by an erratic father, and living off the grid in Idaho. Westover compellingly sketches her years growing up, her relationships with siblings, encounters in the town nearby, and the events that eventually drove her to leave and pursue formal education. For fans of Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle.”
Andrea Gough, Seattle Public Library, Seattle, WA

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Publisher to Keep an Eye On-- Inkshares: Also Featuring Cari Dubiel

Today I have a guest post by a returning guest, Cari Dubiel who was the Library Liaison for Sisters in Crime for many years and is currently a librarian in Ohio. You can read more about Cari on her website here.
You may remember Cari’s past appearances on the blog, if not, you should and you can use this link to find them.
Recently, Cari and I were chatting about books and she asked if I had heard of Inkshares. Interestingly, I just had heard of them and had a wonderful experience with their marketing people. I was altered to the debut horror title, Kill Creek by Scott Thomas which Inkshares published in October [shout out to past guest poster and friend- Daryl from LAPL for telling me about this one]. 
I got a copy for review from Inkshares [review coming very soon to the blog] and loved it. I had never heard of this publisher so I had been looking into it. 
Inkshares is a publisher that provides a bridge between self-publishing and a more traditional publisher. Here is the link to their “How It Works” page with details, but basically authors can use Inksahres to promote and crowd fund their book. Inkshares takes pre-orders and if you reach a certain level, they edit, print and distribute the book. It makes it so much easier for self-published authors to promote their work, attract the attention of readers, and put out a well edited, and very well bound product.
I can attest to the final product because I own Kill Creek, but I acquired that after it had reached the level where it was being distributed already.
How could this work for libraries though? Well for books that are already at the level where Inkshares is distributing them, you can order them your usual way, but Cari and I would like to argue today for supporting books before the have reached their goal. And we are both speaking from a place where we have collection development responsibilities.
Back to Cari for a moment. The reason she asked me about Inkshares was because she was starting a campaign to get her book published this way. She was excited to use Inkshares because she had read and loved some of their books already but had only bought them from the usual distribution methods for her library.
Cari’s most recent novel, How to Remember had just won the Hugh Holton Award from the Mystery Writers of America and she wanted to get the book out and figured she would give Inkshares a try. Why not? She had not only read and loved some of their titles, but she had also seen how they held up to multiple circs.
So Cari took the plunge and put her book up [you can read more from her here about that process] and as a result learned about another tool from Inkshares that is super helpful-- the syndicates. There are a few of them, but basically they are people who work for Inkshares who have read the books which have not yet reached their goal and want to give the best of them a boost. It is equivalent to when the major publishers love a book and present it to us at a book buzz. Well, Cari got multiple syndicates to pick her up. 
But I have done some more research and there are different syndicates which recommend titles in different genres, so you can use the syndicates as a tool to identify titles your patrons might like.
With this proven company behind it, libraries could easily help crowd fund a novel. Pre-order a few the syndicates suggest [like Cari’s] because those are like a star review. And if they don’t reach their goal- no harm, no foul, you get your money back. All of this can be done with a credit card very easily and it is to a proven publishing company not an individual. This could be a very solid bridge between independent authors and libraries, the most solid one we have ever had.
Below Cari has a few other Inkshares recommendations for all of us to consider. And after you have read what Cari has to say, go pre-order her book for your library. I already ordered a copy for myself.

Heres Cari......
My book, HOW TO REMEMBER, follows neuroscientist Dr. Miranda Underwood as she tries to figure out what happened to her lost memories. When she wakes up in 2017, it takes her a little while to discover that it’s not actually 2016 anymore. An entire year is gone. She works for MindTech, a company that deals in cutting-edge developments in brain science – or at least, she did before the memory loss. Miranda needs to piece the puzzle together using whatever clues she can find. Secondary protagonist Ben Baker, a computer programmer, narrates from 2016, helps to fill in the gaps. His mission is to find out what happened to his mother – she has recently died, but her death seems suspicious.
Set in suburban Ohio, the story is a little bit mystery, a little bit sci-fi, and a little bit domestic suspense. The stakes are not save-the-world high. But for our characters, whether they find these answers will define the rest of their lives.
I am pursuing a publishing deal with Inkshares, which allows authors to post their works and sell pre-orders. Once an author meets specific goals, Inkshares will publish the title. There are two levels of publishing: Quill is a “light publishing” deal, which includes printing, distribution, and a copy edit, and authors who sell 250 copies receive it. The full package includes marketing, cover design, and a developmental edit as well. Authors can make the full deal by selling 750 copies, or they can place in an Inkshares contest.
How did I find Inkshares? Well, I’m a librarian, so you can bet it was in the library. My co-worker recommended The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein, since she knows I’m a fan of sci-fi with great character development. I thought I’d see who published it, because they might like my book… and that’s where I landed.
I love talking about books other than my own, so here are a few of my recommendations for Inkshares titles that you can purchase now for your collections.
The Punch Escrow is one of the best-selling books on Inkshares, and it is now in development for a film treatment. Remember that Star Trek episode where Kirk got split into two by the transporter? That happens to Joel Byram, our lovable protagonist, and suddenly we have two Joels to care about. I loved the interplay among Joel, Joel 2, and his wife Sylvia, as well as the worldbuilding of a future America where teleportation is real and common. Great for fans of Ready Player One and Dark Matter.

I discovered this next gem,  The Last Machine in the Solar System by Matthew Isaac Sobin, on my library shelves – one of my staff members had ordered it for our paperback collection. It’s a slim volume, only 80 pages, and a fast read – a philosophical meditation on the end of the universe. Jonathan, a robot, has survived and witnessed the end of humanity, and he must decide what to do as he waits for his turn to end. Sobin’s writing is lush, and fans of literary sci-fi will want more.
Now I knew Inkshares was a resource to find good reads so I went to the site and I found Tahani Nelson’s The Last Faoii on Inkshares. I purchased it both personally and for my library. This fast-paced, action-packed story follows Kaiya, a young warrior in training. The all-female Faoii are the protectors of villages around the land, living in monasteries in the mountains. But when Kaiya’s monastery is invaded by the Croeli, a raging band of men, she is the only survivor. She must venture out to find the evil driving the rage and save her world. There is a lot of blood and violence in this one, so it’s not for the faint-hearted. This story brings a fresh perspective on race, gender, and LGBTQ identities, as well as the strength within us all. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Becky’s 2018 Reading Resolutions

As promised yesterday in this post where I assessed my 2017 Reading Resolutions, here are my 2018 Reading and Professional Resolutions.

2018 Resolution: I will read more romance and bestselling authors with who I am not familiar.

In my assessment of my 2017 resolutions I noticed that I was a bit too broad in my resolutions last year. I did not assign myself a specific genre. As a result, I read almost everything EXCEPT romance last year and that is because romance is my least favorite personally. Heck I read 5 westerns for goodness sakes. The ARRT 2018-19 genre study will be on romance and although I know that I will not be able to make every meeting, I would like to try to at least speed read a romance book every 2 months using the genre study as my guide. I already know I will be reading one romance for the April  meeting of the ARRT Book Club Study. Click here for details. This I can do, and it will help me. I will attend the meetings which I can, and I will follow the notes.

This assessment process also had me look harder at my other reading areas where I am falling behind and I realized that while I have a handle on the most popular authors from a few years ago, new ones have popped up in my time since I left work at the library. I have fewer chances to just pick up those books and page through them and talk to patrons about them. As a result, I am less familiar with the current most popular authors. I will look to learn more about those authors and their titles this year.

2018 Resolution: I will continue to build on the progress of my new non-paid blog review strategy.

As I mentioned here, I completely changed up how I record my non-paid reviews. Now that I have worked out the kinks, I have started getting basic info into Goodreads immediately after finishing a book as you can see here with Sing Unburied Sing. Every few weeks, I will go in and clean up those rough reviews and post an update here on the blog, but I am sure I will continue to refine the entire process. This change has both allowed me to be less stressed and write more useful reviews for you to use as you help readers.

I only started this half way through the year, so I am committing to using this strategy and constantly improving it. By the end of 2018, I am sure I will have plenty of things to say about this one.

2018 Resolution: The backlist is the librarians' best friend, and I need to keep reading older titles at a higher rate

I tell all of you this all of the time. I live it when I am giving out reading suggestions. I encourage all of you to do this too, but I cannot only rely on the books I read when they were new a few years ago to use as my backlist suggestions. I need to keep discovering backlist gems now, in 2018. Last year I resolved to read more backlist titles, but when push came to shove, those titles were few and far between. I gave my reasons and excuses yesterday, but honestly, I could have done better.

This year I am giving myself a second chance to make this right by leaving this note for future Becky-- No excuses allowed when I come back to this post at the end of 2018 and do my annual assessment.

2018 Resolution: Time for some transitions

Last year was my second full year of working for myself as a trainer. I definitely built my business up to a level I am conformable with. I had more training sessions, library visits, and paid writing assignments this year than last. I am plenty busy, any more would be too much. So I think it is time to move from growing my business to plotting my next professional moves. I have talked with a few of my trusted colleagues about where I want to head in the future, but those plans are longer term. This year I am going to sit down and really think about where I want my professional life to be in the next 2-4 years. Once I have more concrete plans I will share them on the blog, but creating meaningful and attainable professional goals is a process.

The first part of that process is to transition from a few of the things I have been doing for years so that there is time and energy to move forward on to new things. Some of this I have already started doing. For example, while I have committed to staying on the ARRT Steering Committee for a few more years, I have transitioned off the Genre Study team completely, and have stepped back to the number 2 position for the Book Club Study. I even have plans to step back further from this position during 2018. I should note I have been actively training my replacements in all situations.

With those responsibilities that I have shedded, I have already filled in with s few new ones. I have begun to be much more involved with the Horror Writers Association as a volunteer. I was on two Stoker Award Committees for the 2018 awards banquet and am coordinating the entire Librarians’ Day coming in March.

Again though, on all fronts this is just a start. I am committed to change and 2018 needs to be a transitional year if I am going to move forward professionally.

So, that’s the list for 2018. I will check back on this post throughout the year privately [as I always do] but I will also revisit it publicly at the start of 2019.

I hope the last two days have inspired you to take your reading resolutions more seriously. Back tomorrow with a guest post.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Call to Action: Before You Make Reading Resolutions for 2018, Assess Your 2017 Reading

[Editors note: After a refreshing “family first” winter break, RA for All is back to a regular schedule.]

I am all for making reading resolutions. I make them every year. But, making reading resolutions is only part of what makes the process worthwhile. You need to go back and asses how you did on the goals you made at the start of last year before you go ahead and make resolutions for the coming year.

Contrary to what you may assume, assessing past resolutions is not all about making yourself feel bad about what you did not get to, rather it is about spending the time to see what you did read, thinking about why, and seeing how it matched your prediction for the year. Then, you can use this information to improve your resolutions for the next year. Sometimes, we learn more when we “fail” than when we succeed.

Also, and this is just a general statement and completely just my personal opinion, but I do not see much value is setting a “goal” to read a certain number of books. First, it is so arbitrary. Second, it really doesn’t matter how many books you “read” in a year. More does not make you better at your job just like fewer does not make you worse. Third, how do we measure “read” books? I speed read plenty of books that I often do not record on Goodreads as officially read [as long as they are in NoveList I know I can get the info I need], but I know a lot about these books, maybe even more than some people know about books they have read cover to cover. That counts for a lot in our jobs. And finally, fourth, all it does is stress people out and make them worry about a number instead of focusing about the feel of the book and who it would be a good suggestion for-- you know the purpose of us reading them in the first place.

So, even if you have already proclaimed reading resolutions for 2018, I am calling you to action. Please spend some time this week going back to your 2017 resolutions. Assess what you read. Applaud your triumphs. Acknowledge, contemplate, and explain where you fell short of your goals [and why]. Then either make your 2018 goals OR go back and revise them.

Below I will get the ball rolling with my 2017 reading resolutions post here [which also happens to include my 2016 assessment]. That post not only has the resolutions you will see below in bold, but also, a larger narrative about the reasoning behind each.

Becky’s 2017 Reading Resolutions:

  • Taking what I learned this year, I will continue to use the pre-created 2017 reading challenges from Book Riot and Squad Goals as a guideline when I am looking for something to read or use in a book discussion, with a strong focus on backlist titles.
Okay, the reason I wanted to do this was to one, read outside of my comfort zone, two, read more diversely, and three, to get back to more reading more backlist titles. Looking back on my reading I unfortunately got a lot more busy reviewing new titles for Booklist and Indie Picks, so I was required to read many new titles. However, when I didn’t HAVE to read something, I did go out of my way to do all three things- read out of my comfort zone, looked for a diverse option, and sought out backlist options. And I did like having the premade reading challenges to help me find something to read when I was looking for an idea. I helped me to not just defer to my go-to preferences. I read outside my comfort zone and found some great reads, some, like River of Teeth, ended up among my favorites of the year.
  • I will actively create a better balance between my HAVE to reads and my WANT to Reads, including not forgetting my love of audiobooks and nonfiction.
I did try to create a better balance here, but again, I was assigned more books to read for reviews this year than ever before. But, when I did have time to read books for fun, I did seek out nonfiction and audio because of this resolution. I even combined the two frequently. I was saddened in 2016 that I read so few nonfiction, but this year, I got back to making sure I made time for both. I am very glad about that. And although I had fewer want to read titles than ever before, I did carve out time between have to reads to make sure I got a few want to reads in there. I didnt let the deadlines and assigned reading overwhelm me or keep me from getting enjoyment out of my reading. It seems weird that I had to resolve to do that, but I really did need that as the impetus. I would literally schedule myself time to read a book or two between assigned reading. If I had kept working myself like I did on 2016, I would have quit reviewing; it was getting that bad. Instead, I made this resolution and actually was able to fit in more books that I had to read and that I wanted to read. The mindset and the planning made all of the difference. I am in one of the best places I have ever been in mentally in regards to this resolution.

I also took some time out to assess one aspect of this feeling a few weeks ago when I wrote up this post on how I was able to manage my TBR anxiety. I have heard back from dozens of people who said that this post really helped them too. 
  • I will spend more physical time at my local library, browsing the shelves, looking at the return carts and grabbing piles of books in genres I am less apt to read-- and record at least three appeal words about some of them on Goodreads.
I am at my local library at least once a week, but this year I made an effort to do more than place holds and pick them up. I wanted to get back to using the library like a patron, not an expert. I browsed the shelves, especially our “Lucky Day” collection which has the most popular [at our library] titles available for 1 week checkout [in all ages levels and formats all in one location]. I made sure to also go upstairs to the adult department and look at the displays and stacks for ideas, often bringing home a stack of books. However, while I did spend time with many of these books I did not put appeal terms about them on Goodreads. 

But here is what this resolution did make me do which I think is even better and is also an example of why doing these assessments on the resolutions you think you failed at is so valuable-- I completely revised the way I write reviews for this blog. 

In 2017, as I mentioned above, I wrote more official reviews for publications than ever before. It meant I was less inspired to write reviews of the books I read for fun, but I knew I had to get something down about them. So....I moved to using Goodreads as the place where I would record less formal comments about those books making sure to always have my “Three Words” and readalikes in these less formal reviews. Then I would periodically have a post directing you to those updated reviews. This allowed me to keep these titles searchable on the blog without having to write up something formal. The result, I had much less trouble keeping up with reviews and I had more content to help all of you help readers.

Finally, my overall assessment of my 2017 reading resolutions themselves is that I made them way too general last year. While I read more widely overall which was my ultimate goal, to be fair, I usually read more widely. 2016 was a aberration due to it being my first full year as my own boss and my 2017 resolutions reflect the assessment of my reading in 2016. So I think in 2018, I will go back to being more specific.

I will be using today's post as well as a few other observations which I made here in my post about my favorite reads of the year to help build my 2018 reading resolutions. I will post those tomorrow.

Now it’s your turn. Get to work on assessing your 2017 reading resolutions even if you have already made your 2018 ones. As I have demonstrated, it really helps you to understand your reading, the choices of titles you made, and it can even help you feel better about yourself-- not worse.

For past Call to Action posts, click here.