ARRT GENRE STUDY WEBSITE

Click here for quick access to all of the materials for the 2014-15 Crime Fiction Genre Study. Please note, some information will be password protected for members only. Click here for information about joining ARRT.

RA FOR ALL...THE ROAD SHOW!

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.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More Audiobook Resources

Back in May, I posted about NoveLists’s brand new Audiobook resources.  In that post, I talked about a few other resources I use to help audiobook patrons, but I completely forgot one of my favorite audiobook discovery tools, Audiobook-Heaven.

Not only does Audiobook-Heaven have useful reviews, with a clear searching interface, and a wide variety of genres to choose from, but the story behind the site is almost as interesting as the reviews themselves. And the focus of these reviews is on how the books work in audio form.  It is the best site out there with reviews by someone who is a fan of the format.

Click here for details and to start using it yourself.

I think if you combine Audiobook-Heaven, NoveList, Audiofile, and Audible you can really train yourself to help audiobook patrons.  For further reading, I also highly suggest Joyce Sarick’s Read On... Audiobooks.

After I felt compelled to write this post, I got to thinking about why I have been so infatuated with posting about audiobooks recently, and then I realized, I have had an amazing streak of good audiobooks going for a while now.  Currently I am listening to Cuckoo’s Calling and LOVING IT and I am super stoked to get the new Deborah Harkness on audio really soon. [I listened to the first 2 in the trilogy already; reviews here and here]

If you know of another audiobook resource that I am not considering or you want more advice on RA for listeners, leave a comment.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Are You Ready For RA Summer Camp!

That's right, I said summer camp, and it is being presented by Neal Wyatt, readers' advisory expert and all around great person.  Here is the link to the official flyer from the ARRT webpage.

But here are the details:

RA Summer Camp: Developing Skills Through Play
Tuesday, August 12th @ 2 PM
Naperville Public Library, 95th Street Branch

MadLibs! Myers-Briggs! Jeopardy! Find come fun relief from the dog days of summer in this interactive and practical RA program.  Neal Wyatt, co-chair of ALA's RA Committee and Library Journal's RA contributing editor, will host a program focused on two key RA skills-- writing about books [everything from annotations to blog posts to published columns] and understanding appeal [Nancy Pearl's Doorways, Joyce Saricks's big six, and more].  Some participants will leave with prizes bur all will gain a deeper understanding of what they enjoy in the works they read, how other readers connect to titles, and how to write about the reading experience in ways that grab and audience.

And all of this is only $15 to attend.  Our library is sending as many people as we can spare to be away and who can fit in my van. You do not need to be an ARRT member to come.

I can't wait.  This is a RA program that will benefit anyone who works with readers, from the newbie to experts like me.

If you cannot make it, but are intrigued, let me know.  I can tell you how it went after and put you in touch with Neal to see if she can do this program in your location.

Finally, here is the flyer so you can see how snazzy it is whether or not you click here. Hope to see you there.




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Attention Chicago Area Librarians-- Event 7/24

Click here for details about an event I will be attending at Bucket O Blood, a fantastic independent book and record shop in Chicago this Thursday.

Library Reads: August 2014

I have been on vacation, which would also explain why my past week or so posts have all gone up in a timely fashion [yay, pre-programmed posting], so I missed being able to post the August list right when it came out.

Here it is today. Also, your friendly monthly reminder to use past lists to help a patron who can't tell you more than they just want a good read.  These are just that, good reads that are librarian approved.

Click here for my archive. There is now one full year of lists!! And I have already used these lists more than I ever used the NYT bestseller list to help a patron. I am serious, I have used the Library Reads List more times in 1 year to help  patron than I have used any best seller list to help a patron in 14 years!


August 2014 LibraryReads List

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One Kick: A Novel

by Chelsea Cain

Published: 8/19/2014
by Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781476749785
“Kick Lannigan survived being kidnapped as a child. Now, at twenty-one, determined never to be a victim again, she has reinvented herself. Martial arts and weapons handling are just a few of the skills she has learned over the years. Kick catches the attention of John Bishop, a mystery man with access to unlimited funds, and together they go after a cabal of child pornographers. A read-in-one-sitting, edge-of-your-seat thriller.”
Elizabeth Kanouse, Denville Public Library, Denville, NJ
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Lucky Us: A Novel

by Amy Bloom

Published: 7/29/2014 by Random House
ISBN: 9781400067244
“Is a family the people you are born to, or the people who you find along the way? That’s what Bloom explores in this novel set in pre- and post-WWII Ohio, Los Angeles, New York and Germany. The story follows resourceful Eva, who was abandoned by her mother at an early age, and her sister Iris, an aspiring actress who tries to find love at a time when her kind of love must be secretive. Every character is beautifully drawn, warm, and believable.”
Kathryn Hassert, Henrietta Hankin Branch Library, Chester Springs, PA

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Heroes Are My Weakness: A Novel

by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Published: 8/26/2014 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062106070
“Any Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel is going to make it onto my must-read list, but this one is particularly wonderful, and here’s why: she creates, then cheerfully destroys, the romance cliche of the brooding hero with a dark secret who lives in a crumbling mansion and captivates a plucky heroine. The hero is a horror novelist, and the heroine a failed actress-turned-puppeteer. This warm, witty, comedy-drama is a perfect summer read.”
Donna Matturri, Pickerington Public Library, Pickerington, OH

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Lock In

by John Scalzi

Published: 8/26/2014 by Tor
ISBN: 9780765375865
“There’s been a good run of fantasy and science fiction books this year. Joining the list of great fantastical reads is John Scalzi’s Lock In. Scalzi is best known for his military SF (especially the Old Man’s War series), so his latest is a change of pace. A blending of SF and police procedural that hits every note just right.”
Jane Jorgenson, Madison Public Library, Madison, WI

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The Miniaturist: A Novel

by Jessie Burton

Published: 8/26/2014 by Ecco
ISBN: 9780062306814
“A dollhouse whose figures and furnishings foretell life events, mysterious notes, family secrets and the powerful guild and church of 1686 Amsterdam. All these elements combine for an engaging story of a young bride’s struggle to be the ‘architect of her own fortune.’”
Elizabeth Angelastro, Manlius Library, Manlius, NY

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Big Little Lies

by Liane Moriarty

Published: 7/29/2014 by Amy Einhorn/Putnam
ISBN: 9780399167065
“A horrible act of violence occurs at the Pirriwee Public School’s trivia night fundraiser for parents, but what happened and who was involved? The novel begins six months before that fateful evening and lets us in on the lives of single mother Jane, divorcee Madeline, and Celeste, who secretly suffers from domestic abuse. Big Little Lies is another page-turning read from Moriarty that had me gasping with surprise at the end.”
Lora Bruggeman, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL

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The Truth about Leo

by Katie MacAlister

Published: 8/5/2014 by Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN: 9781402294457
“I always adore Katie MacAlister! Her sense of humor is outstanding, and her heroines have real bodies. This is another installment in the delightful historical Noble series, and it doesn’t disappoint. Fans of humor with their romance are sure to enjoy this regency romp.”
Jessica C. Williams, Westlake Porter Public Library, Westlake, OH

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An Unwilling Accomplice

by Charles Todd

Published: 8/12/2014 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062237194
“Bess Crawford, a courageous World War I battlefield nurse, is faced with another complex mystery. A patient about to receive a high honor from the King manages to disappear on Bess’s watch, sending her life into a tailspin. In order to clear her name, she must find the missing patient and find out why he is now accused of murder. Intelligent and fantastic, just like the others in this series!”
Monicah Fratena, La Porte County Public Library, La Porte, IN

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The Magician’s Land: A Novel

by Lev Grossman

Published: 8/5/2014 by Viking Adult
ISBN: 9780670015672
“Even if you haven’t read the first two books in the wonderful Magicians Trilogy, you will enjoy the escapades of Quentin Coldwater. Now 30 years old, Quentin finds himself back at Brakebills, experiencing school from the teacher’s side of the desk. But his adventures are far from over! Although I’m not generally a fantasy reader, I’ve been rooting for Quentin ever since I first picked up this series and am sad to see it end.”
Kelly Currie, Delphi Public Library, Delphi, IN

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The Story Hour: A Novel

by Thrity Umrigar

Published: 8/19/2014 by Harper
ISBN: 9780062259301
“Another beautifully written novel by Thrity Umrigar. A relationship develops between Maggie, a psychologist, and Lakshmi, a troubled Indian woman. As their stories develop, it is hard to figure out which woman does more to impact the other’s life. Highly recommended.”
Ellen Firer, Merrick Library, Merrick, NY

Monday, July 21, 2014

Staff Recommendations 24 Hours a Day on The Browsers Corner

I haven’t written about our fantastically amazing permanent staff recommendations blog The Browser’s Corner in a while, so that’s what I’m going to do today.

What I love about this blog is that we have staff from all over the library [not just the RA Dream Team] suggesting books.  It is regularly updated with new recommendations, but now that we have been at it for awhile, there are hundreds of staff approved books ready for any reader with an Internet connection to peruse.

We try very hard to focus on the appeal of each title, not the plot.  As a result, the blog also serves as a great RA tool because you can search by appeal factors as well as authors and titles. Either use the tags to search or use the search box and type in an adjective to see what you get.

If you visit the physical building of the BPL, you can also see our Browser’s Corner shelf [which is in an actual corner] with some of the suggested titles and the recommendation shelf talkers in person.

So no matter where you are, feel free to use the BPL’s staff recommendations to help your patrons find their next good read.

I know I use it all of the time, and it makes me look so smart.  So thanks to my fellow staff for all of their work.  The Browser’s Corner is the perfect example of a team effort.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Backlist Not to Miss: The Housekeeper and the Professor

Today I am taking a break from new reviews and posting the links to the 2x I read The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa.

I have been giving this book out to many people this summer.  Why?  Well, one, it is part of our popular book discussion collection so I have multiple, paperback copies.  Two, it is a quick, compelling read suitable to a wide audience.  And, three, it has this killer soundbite I use to book talk it:
A housekeeper is assigned by the agency she works for to take care of the a former mathematics professor's home and make his meals. She is the 9th housekeeper assigned to the professor. This is because the professor has a brain injury. He can remember everything that happened before his accident (1970s), but since, his memory is on a 80 minute loop. That's right, his memory only lasts 80 minutes. Intriguing, huh?
The ensuing story is about her time working for the Professor and the bond they form. It is about her son's relationship with her and the Professor. It is about the loss of a genius; we still see sparks of the old Professor as he works on complicated math problems. And finally, it is a story about living, no matter the obstacles; about living a life with meaning even if you cannot remember what happened 81 minutes ago.
So click here to see my initial review and here to see the book discussion report. And please don’t forget to push older titles.  There are more good books in your stacks than there are on your new shelf.  And that’s not a dig at the new books, it’s simple mathematical truth!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What I’m Reading: Wolf Hall

Today I have my review of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. But first an editor’s note.  I am not sure why it took me this long to think of posting the audiobook cover and linking to the audible.com record of the book when I have listened to it.  Oh well, better late than never.

Now here’s why you need to read my review, even though I am probably the millionth person to read this popular and critically acclaimed book.  I am not a Tudors lover. I am not a Tudor hater either; I am indifferent.  However, I do love  well researched and compelling historical fiction novels.  But it is important to note here that we all encounter many readers that love everything and anything if it features a Tudor.  Fiction-Nonficion-Magazine articles- TV shows.  Those people will find this book on their own.  This review will be helpful for you to identify other readers who may also enjoy this novel.

[By the way, reading this book made me think of pitting all my Tudor Lovers vs the legions of Jane Austen fans.  What a great display idea.  Literary Smack-Down: Tudors vs Austen!  But I digress.]

In case you don’t know, the plot of this 650 page, first of a trilogy, is easy to explain.  The entire series follows the life of Thomas Cromwell, through his eyes (but in an omniscient third person) beginning, in Wolf Hall, with his service to the Cardinal, leading up to Henry VIII divorce of Catherine, marriage to Anne Boleyn, and ending with the execution of Thomas Moore. So the 1520s and 30s.

Because I do not know all of the intricate details and timelines for the drama that was Henry VIII, I did go to some resources to get a sketch of Cromwell’s life before reading this novel.  I don’t normally do that, but since this was such a leisurely paced journey through the era and names were thrown around willy nilly, I wanted to have a way to listen up for the key moments.  Huge fans of the era would notice more foreshadowing on their own.

So if not the Tudors, what did I enjoy.  I read  for the politics, the sweeping picture of life in the 1520s, the characters from all walks of life, the rich details, the intricate plot, and the wonderfully rounded out historical characters.

Specifically I was intrigued by the research Mantel did to uncover how much of a bigger role Cromwell actually played in the events that led up to the marriage of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII.  This novel also made me appreciate how this was a turning point for English history.  Without the intervention of Cromwell, I don’t think Henry would have broken away from Rome and married Anne.  Without that marriage there is no Queen Elizabeth.  And, without Elizabeth maybe no Shakespeare.  Ahh, the horror. It is interesting to see how different things could be without Cromwell.

Also because of Cromwell’s position as a business person who started in the gutter and rose to be the right hand man of a King, we see all walks of life in this novel.  You get a wonderful panoramic view of what life was like in the 1520s. I loved hearing details about his household.  The side jaunts where Mantel goes away from the characters in the Court and looks at the lives of the regular people were among my favorite scenes. Wolf Hall placed me firmly in the time and place while I was reading the novel.  This is a huge accomplishment by Mantel, and one of the main reasons she won the Booker Prize for this work.

So that’s how a non-Tudor fan could enjoy this novel.  I am glad I read it; however, I know what is going to happen.  We all do.  Lots of heads will be lost, Cromwell’s included, and eventually, Elizabeth, the daughter of Anne and Henry will rise to be Queen, the first female to inherit the crown.  So that’s all for me in the trilogy.  I liked it plenty, but want to find another sweeping historical novel about a new place a time.  One where I can be similarly caught up in the people, places, and events, but in a new frame. I’m good on the Tudors for a while.

Notes on the audio: The narrator Simon Slater did a good job, but I don’t think he improved upon the book at all. But, I do know that I never would have made it through reading this book.  I definitely would have given up, but the audio kept me going.  I prefer a straight up first person narration for my audiobooks, so the third person omniscient with the focus on Cromwell took a little getting used to.  There were a lot of characters and Slater could have differentiated his voice a bit more for some of them, but the big characters had distinct voices. He did not do female voices particularly well and being that there were a few key female players, this did get a little confusing at times.  Though part of that is on me as I did not know the history as well going in.

Three Words That Describe This Book: sweeping, extremely detailed, historically accurate

Readalikes: As I mentioned, anything Tudors works here.  There is so so so so much.  Click here to begin your journey through the literary world of Tudor England.

Recently, my book group read The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, and Wolf Hall came up during out discussion. Click here for details.

In NoveList, Katherine Johnson suggests Mistress in the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin:
"Like Wolf Hall, Mistress of the Art of Death has a strong, accurate historical sense of place and time, and portrays a maligned figure, Henry II, sympathetically. Unlike Wolf Hall, it's a mystery with less focus on historical characters, but will still enthrall discerning readers."
But in my opinion, for people who like the details of life in England’s  pre-indutrial age, readers who don’t need the Tudors to be part of the story but love the epic sweeping details, the back stabbing, and the drama of life in that era, I highly suggest Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.  Click here for my full review including more readalike options.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What I’m Reading: Thunderstruck and Other Stories

I recently devoured Elizabeth McCracken’s new short story collection, Thunderstruck.  Looking back on what I have read this year, it is definitely in the top 2.  Now, this needs some clarification.  First, I love Elizabeth McCracken. As I mentioned recently in this post, The Giant’s House is one of my all-time favorite books.  Also, over on the Browser’s Corner, I have praised the excellence of her backlist gem of a novel, Niagara Falls All Over Again.

Second, McCracken is up there in my personal list of all time favorite, slightly askew authors [you can go to the readalikes section for a list of the others]. This designation [which I made up] is my favorite type of book.  I can’t get enough of it.  I have created my own personal genre of these type of books.

Third, McCracken, has not has a work of fiction in many years. When McCracken was at the top of her success, she had a terrible miscarriage [in her 9th month of pregnancy].  From that experience she wrote a harrowing but amazing memoir of how she dealt with it all.  Now, McCracken is a mother, wife, and a college professor, oh and she is forever a librarian.


But through it all, she has never lost her touch.  Everything I love about McCracken, can be seen in her logo on her website, here on the right.  Its funny, macabre, and beautiful all rolled into one.

So with all of this love, you can imagine I did not need to know what the stories were about in order to dive into this collection head first, but for those of you who arent McCracken groupies like myself, here is an excellent, succinct run down by Lori L in her Goodreads review:

  • Something Amazing - one mother grieves the loss of her daughter years before while another has two delinquent sons
  • Property - a man moves into a rented house thinking it was furnished with the owner's discarded possessions.
  • Some Terpsichore - an abusive former lover is recalled with nostalgia and pain.
  • Juliet - librarians react to the murder of one of their patrons
  • The House of Two Three-Legged Dogs - a man learns his son has broken his trust
  • Hungry - a woman cares for her granddaughter while her son lies in the hospital
  • The Lost & Found Department of Greater Boston - deals with how a memory can be viewed differently by different people
  • Peter Elroy: A Documentary by Ian Casey - a dying man visits a former friend
  • Thunderstruck - a father and mother struggle to be good parents for their daughter only to then have to deal with the brain injury resulting from her actions

“Thunderstruck" is the show piece story here.  After reading the entire collection, and enjoying each and every story, encountering the best story at the end was fantastic.  But it was also a bit sad because I still wanted more.  However, this was very fitting as the entire mood of this collection could be described as bittersweet, so putting the best story last, helped to sum up the entire collection.

This is the type of book I regularly describe on my blog as “slightly askew.”  Below, in the readalike section you can see all of the books I have described this way, but it happens to be my favorite type of book.  Interestingly, after I read the book, I looked at some professional reviews, and a few used “askew” to also describe these stories. This means her view of the world is a bit macabre, but still realistic.  There is no magical realism here, but it is by no means a straight realistic look at the world you are getting here either.

Like most short stories, these are character centered.  Each story is a small snippet into the lives of her characters.  But what is so amazing about how McCracken writes characters is that even in the shorter format, she is able to create complex characters into whose lives you are completely immersed.   As a result, you are moved by the people and their plights, even when the characters are diametrically opposed to one and other (like the parents in “Thunderstruck”), you are moved by both of them.

These are also briskly paced stories.  Yes, the focus is on character, but the plots and situations are compelling.  No matter their page length, all are quick reads.  The entire collection only took me 3 sittings to read.

Finally, I think that the publisher’s marketing of these stories as all “navigating the space between love and loneliness” is well put.  It captures the bittersweet mood, the odd, in-between space her character are in, and the moving nature of these thought provoking stories which probe the most intimate spaces within our psyches.

Three Words That Describe This Book: slightly askew, character-centered, bittersweet

Readalikes:  The closest collection to this one is Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove which I reviewed here. Although a generation apart, these two women write very similarly.  The only difference is that Russell relies on magical realism to create her slightly askew mood.

Every author or book I have ever described as "slightly askew" fits as a readalike here too. Click here for every instance where I have described a book this way [warning: there are a lot!].  The grandfather of this group [and a mentor of McCracken’s] is Steven Millhauser.  My other top favorites are Kevin Brockmeier and Keith Donohue.

Finally, the fiction of Dan Chaon is also a good readalike. In particular try his short stories collection Stay Awake as a readalike, but anything by him is a good choice.  Here is my review of Await Your Reply [also a Becky all-time favorite].

Monday, July 14, 2014

What I'm Reading: The Goldfinch

On June 29th at ALA Annual, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt won the 2014 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction this is in addition to the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction it had already won.

I listened to this novel way back in the early days of 2014, and have been putting off a review since so many others have written so much about it. Also, I am still figuring out who to suggest this book to and in which format-- beyond the obvious patrons who love to read the best reviewed books of the year and/or major award winners. But those readers are easy to appease with lists of nominees and winners. So, in this review I am going to work through how you suggest this book and to whom.

The first thing I have to say about this book is that you should NOT read it for the plot.  Here is that official plot summary:
It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.
As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher's calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.
First off, this summary does not tell you one of the most important aspects of this novel-- how the story is told.  Theo is telling this story as an adult who has made it through a very difficult childhood.  The entire novel is Theo talking directly to you, the reader, and recounting it all with the benefit of hindsight.  This means that there are MANY moments [some of them lightening fast] of foreshadowing. If you pay close attention, Tartt’s pay off is worth it.  You remember a small aside and then 200 pages later, you get your “ah-ha” moment. The novel opens with Theo in a hotel room in Amsterdam, obviously hiding from law enforcement and in some kind of distress, but it takes 600+ pages for the reader to get to Theo’s present and know why he is there and what is happening.

Which brings me to my second point.  This is a 771 page book.  Although parts of it move at the “stay-up-all-night” pace that is referred to by the publisher above, other long sections are deliberately slowed down.  For example, the summary does not mention Theo’s high school years in Las Vegas living with his father and where he meets a key friend who proves vital to the novel’s crazy, thriller-esque conclusion. This vast middle of the novel is frustratingly slow, even monotonous at times. You want Theo to get out of this bad situation and figure out what matters.  But, brilliantly, that is Tartt’s point here.  This is a bad time for Theo too. His life is monotonous and going down a terrible path, but it is all necessary to get Theo to where Tartt is moving him.  The development of foreclosed upon homes in the middle of the desert, the absent, to the point of criminal neglect, parents, the loss of moral center, and the overall melancholy of Theo’s life needs to creep by at an unbearably slow pace for the reader to even experience a portion of Theo’s internal pain and struggles.  Because if we can't grasp the depth of his sorrow and turmoil, the rest of the book doesn’t make any sense.

Now, having explained that, you can better understand why this novel may not be for every reader. However, I do think that the audio greatly improves enjoyment here. loved listening to this book.  I would have HATED reading it though; in fact, I am pretty sure I would have given up.  This dichotomy needs to be explored.

The Goldfinch fits neatly into the category of the type of audiobook I most enjoy [click here for that info], but it is not just me who enjoyed the narration.  David Pittunarration won two Audies.  One for Best Solo Narration-Male and one for Best Literary Fiction. Pittu made this slower, intricately plotted novel compelling and engaging.  Pittu became Theo.  I was always longing to return to Theo and hear his story because of Pittu’s brilliance in bringing Theo to life.

Other appeal factors to note: this is a true character driven novel and Theo is not always a likable character.  He is sympathetic, but makes bad choices all of the time.  In the end, he has learned his lesson and is taking responsibility for some of his actions. But if you do note care for Theo’s plight you will not like this book.

The tone was a favorite of mine-- haunting and melancholy with an oppressive atmosphere that never lets up.  But again, we are talking 800 pages of this.  Some readers will be overwhelmed by the oppressiveness for that long.  While the ending is positive, it is not joyous or celebratory.  So you get this heavy atmosphere, for a marathon amount of time, and in the end all you really feel is a sigh of relief. Now me, I loved it, but I know I am not the norm here.

As you can also tell from the plot summary and my additions, this is a richly detailed and intricately plotted novel.  It has a detailed frame set around art, art crimes, and the antiques world.  Many people who enjoy these frames will be drawn to The Goldfinch. In fact, I found this frame fascinating. The picture itself, the one titled The Goldfinch, is the link that connects everything that happens in the novel.  If you are not interested in the painting, its meaning to the characters, and its fate, you will not like this book.

Overall The Goldfinch is impressive.  It is intricately plotted, lyrical at times, extremely thought provoking, and technically masterful.  It probably deserves all of its awards; however, and despite the fact that I enjoyed reading it personally, I do not think it will stand up over time as a classic work of American literature.

My advice is to suggest it to audiobook fans who want a literary fiction story that they can spend time with.  If someone is looking to read the book, warn them that it will be heavy and take time.  Maybe show them this review so they can decide for themselves.

Three Words That Describe This Book: atmospheric, coming of age, psychological

Readalikes: Click here for the readalikes that RUSA provided for all of the Carnegie Medal finalists.
Of these I have read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer and I completely agree. The two novels share quite a bit.  Click here for mentions of ELaIC on this blog including many readalikes.

NoveList also had a great suggestion of Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka which I read and reviewed here.  Said Kim Burton, "Although The Goldfinch is more leisurely and literary than Tell the Wolves, both are atmospheric, lyrical coming-of-age novels that follow the experiences of a grieving teen who receives an unexpected gift from among their lost loved one's belongings.” I especially second this suggestion if you liked the idea of The Goldfinch but felt it needed some editing for a swifter pace.

For people who like novels about missing works of art, crime, and the art world would also enjoy The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte.

Authors who are very similar to Tartt (and ironically also take forever to write books, but when they finish them, they are always worth your time, if not the best book you read that year) are Marisha Pessl and Nicole Krauss.  Links go to the times I have written reviews or mentioned these authors. But for specific matches to The Goldfinch, I would suggest Special Topics in Calamity Physics and The History of Love.  Both are literary coming-of-age stories with misfit main characters who have to find their way through loss without traditional adult assistance.

Finally, for a totally outside of the box recommendation, if you enjoyed The Goldfinch for its atmospheric, haunting and melancholy tone, but wanted this experience in a more condensed and lyrical package, I highly suggest The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell.  Click through and read my review for details.  There are zombies in this suggestion, but it is NOT a horror book.  Trust me. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful coming-of-age stories I have ever read.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

All the ALA Annual 2014 RA Programs in One Place

I know I already posted today, but I have been waiting for the ALA people to get back and update all of the handouts that were added by presenters after they returned home.

So if you missed ALA and want a quick guide to all of the RA programs [with handouts where available], use this link.

Also, here is the direct link for the ALA CogNotes with the highlights of the conference.