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.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Give Them What They Want: Reader Focused Collection Development

Almost exactly a year ago I moderated a live event for Booklist and NoveList at the Chicago Public Library [click here for those details and slides or go here to see the recording]. Before we went live, Karen Toonen [from Naperville Public Library, also on ARRT SC and a panelist that day] and Stephen Sposato [see below] and I were chatting about ideas for the 2018 slate of ARRT programs. I threw out the idea of building a program off of CPL’s success with Patron Driven Acquisitions and between the three of us we brainstormed an awesome idea for a program.

Flash forward to today and I can finally announce that program. Karen and I are organizing it [along with ARRT SC members Mike and Nicole; click here to see the full list of all SC members] and we have recruited Stephen to be on the panel. We are also very thankful for the Chicago Public Library and specifically the Archer Heights branch for allowing us to use their space for free.

All of this volunteer effort means we can offer you an amazing program [with snacks!] for only $25 or $15 if you are already an ARRT member.

You can find all of the details below including the link to register [you can prepay with credit card, send a check, or pay at the door, whatever is easiest for your library or you if you have to pay for yourself]. As one of the organizers, I have also added a bit more detail on the content of each panelist’s talk in order to give you even more reason to attend.

Click here to register right now!

Readers are flocking to library’s leisure collections. To make smart collection choices, we must look further than circulation statistics and learn what our entire community desires. Our presenters are using methods suitable at libraries of any size to incorporate patron wishes into collection development, making readers integral to the whole process. From complex patron-driven acquisitions plans at large library systems, to bite-size surveys at the smallest libraries, to prioritizing patron requests, to canny materials displays, all of these librarians are finding innovative ways to put what readers want front and center, and to ferret out even the hardest-to-discover reading desires.
Join us Tuesday, September 25, 2:00- 4:00 PM, at the Archer Heights branch of the Chicago Public Library, for “Give Them What They Want: Reader-Focused Collection Development.”
  • Robin Bradford, Collection Development Librarian, Timberland Regional Library (WA)
  • Stephen Sposato, Content Curation Manager, Chicago Public Library
  • Nicole Steeves, Director, Fox River Grove Memorial Library
  • Rebecca Bartlett, Collection Services Manager, La Grange Public Library

$15 for ARRT members, $20 for non-members 
Register here 

Since I am one of the organizers of this event, I can give you a little more detail on exactly what each speaker will be focusing on.

Robin, will be appearing virtually and she will set the stage by explaining the philosophy behind reader driven collection development and give concrete examples of how she puts this phliophy into action across a region.

Stephen and Nicole are going to present together about the very specific process of instituting Patron Driven Acquisitions [PDA] through your catalog, but the interesting thing here is that Stephen implemented PDA at Chicago Public while Nicole does it at a small more rural library. They are going to show us all how size doesn’t matter when you put the patron first.

And then Rebecca will round out the program with information about the La Grange Public Library’s Lucky Day program. While many libraries have a program similar to theirs, very few crunch the data and cross reference it with strategic plan goals as closely. Also, the Lucky Day program at LGPL puts all formats and age levels of lucky day materials together, right as you enter the library. Also a unique decision. Rebecca will give both the nitty gritty details of how to craft a “Luck Day” collection and why how you display that collection matters. [Hint LGPL uses it to make the library more welcoming to all. Seriously how many libraries have you been to where James Patterson's and Jason Reynolds’ latest books are the first thing you see...on the same shelf...next to each other!]

If you cannot join us, all of the slides and handouts will be available on the ARRT Programs page [go there to see past programs’ slides and handouts] and many of us will be Live Tweeting the event.

Unfortunately, we cannot offer this event virtually. There are many reasons but the biggest one is that ARRT is powered 100% by volunteers. We have no paid Executive Director. Our individual employers are already very gracious about giving us each time to fulfill our ARRT duties including time off to help plan and  stage events. We put on 3-4 programs a year [this year the 4th is at the ILA Annual Conference], an every other year, all day RA conference, 4 Book Club Study meetings, and 6 Genre Study meetings each year. In 2018 will also have a presence at 2 local library conferences. We really want to offer our programs virtually, but we have decided that we are not willing to sacrifice the high level of our in person programming to provide virtual too.

But, I am already exploring how I can get this program or something similar presented in other locations in the coming year. That’s the ideal situation; helping other regional RA groups to offer programming to their area with advice from their local practitioners. It is not only cheaper, but it is also going to be able to be offered more often and the information will be tied to the needs of that area. But that is something I am taking on, not ARRT.

As always, if you stay tuned to the blog you will know about it as soon as there is something to announce.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

RA for All Flashback Post: Handling TBR Anxiety

I have seen a few posts on other sites recently where people are beginning to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of new releases as the publishing schedule speeds up during the final months of the year. So, I thought today would be a great time to repost my Handling TBR Anxiety post from last Fall.

Look, we have enough to be anxious about in our work and personal lives, don’t let all the books you haven’t read add to it. Seriously, it’s not worth it. And, as I discuss below, you don’t have to read all the books to know enough about them to match them to their perfect reader. And honestly, in the end, that is more important than whether or not you read and enjoyed the title yourself.

I hope this post helps you to ditch at least a portion of your anxiety.


Handling TBR Anxiety

Today I am going to tackle a topic that probably causes library workers the most personal anxiety-- the "To Be Read" [TBR] list.

For some of you there is a TBR list in the hundreds [or even thousands] on Goodreads or in a spreadsheet. For others the virtual list is also accompanied by a teetering pile of precariously stacked physical books, a pile that can collapse at any moment, tall enough to possibly cause physical injury.

Library workers talk all the time about their anxiety over how many books are on their TBR or about how they keeping meaning to read a book but can’t get it it or something about never getting to all the books they want to read. It is a never ending cycle, but it’s also a job hazard. We know about all of the books that we would love personally; we know about all of the books we would want to read; and we know backlist gems are still great reads. While our patrons might forget about the newest, hottest, shiniest books after a few months, we never forget. We brood over it. We feel actual pain that the book will not be read by us.

I know this is not an exaggeration because I have been this person, I have felt these feelings. I have had an actual panic attack and anxiety dreams over the books I wanted to read but couldn’t get to.  This is not a joke. This time of year it is even worse. With all the best lists coming out, the number of books on your TBR will grow and grow. All those best books you never got to.

Well, I have a treatment for TBR anxiety that has worked for me and today I am going to share it with you. And while what follows may sound a bit snarky, I assure you I am totally serious. It’s funny, yes, but the humor is there to help conquer the true and real anxiety.

The first step begins with some tough love/an intervention by me. Brace yourself though, because it is harsh....

YOU WILL NEVER READ ALL OF THE BOOKS! Not all the ones on your TBR pile, not all the books you want to read, not all the books in the world. It is impossible; you cannot and will not do it.

Take some breaths and let that sink in. Seriously telling myself this- out loud- in ALL CAPS was my first step toward tackling my book problem.

Now this is the first step toward acceptance that the TBR itself, the list or pile or both, needs to be addressed.

Step two is to take your TBR and sort it into a few categories.

  • “Read About”-- Books you could take off the shelf and leaf through- read the summary, the first chapter or so to get a feel for how it is written. Also look those titles up on NoveList or Goodreads while you are physically holding them and read about them. Read reviews- both professional and reader reviews. On NoveList click around and look at the readalikes, other books with similar appeal, etc... Take your TBR and mark 4-5 books in this new “Read About” category. Now make an effort to do those 4-5 in a month. Set up a Goodreads shelf just for your “Read About” books so you can even take some notes on appeal and readalikes; if you take them directly from NoveList note that. Once you get through the 4-5 you designated and have now removed from the list, go back to your TBR and pick 4-5 more. You may not get to read these books cover to cover, but you will know a lot more about them.
  • “Suggestion to a Patron”-- These are books that you want to read but you can also think of a few patrons who might like them too. Mark these as “Suggest to Patrons” in your TBR list. Give them out to patrons and tell them that you don’t have time to read it, but you think they will like it. Encourage that patron to come back and tell you all about it. This is my favorite category because not only does it allow someone to have the joy of reading the book, but in also creates a situation where patrons are giving me feedback. And bonus-- I get to hear a patron book talk a book. Hearing someone else opinion is fun and a great training tool. You can now remove this book from your TBR because it has been read (just not by you). 
    • You can get a lot of books off of your TBR this way. This is my biggest TBR thinning trick. Handing them out to readers who could love these books is sometimes more enjoyable than reading them myself. Seriously. When someone comes back and tells me they loved a book I suggested but didn’t get to read myself, I feel like a proud momma. It is an all encompassing joy and pride that literally warms you from the inside. Again, I am not being snarky. I have truly felt this MANY times and it feels a whole lot better than the anxiety I get from staring at the book title on my TBR.
  • “Read over the Holidays”-- Every year for the last 3 years I have taken two of the “Best” books from that year, books I know I won’t get to but really want to read, and I read them over the holiday break. So last year, I read Underground Railroad and News of the World to start 2017. Both made many top lists by both critics and readers to end 2016. I gave myself the holiday present of reading them to start 2017. This year I have chosen The Leavers and Sing, Unburied, Sing. I have no anxiety as they keep being mentioned as among the year’s best because I know I will get to them, and I am looking forward to reading them when I have more time.

This is the plan that worked for me. Look, it doesn’t magically get better overnight, but I can say after three years of consciously doing this- I have eliminated my TBR anxiety without eliminating the list.  In fact, you can keep freely adding to the list because as I have found, not keeping the list is the biggest anxiety maker. And in the end, I have actually learned much more about the books I will never get to read cover to cover than I would have by just keeping them on the list and being anxious about it

I have gotten even better at my job as a result of tackling my anxiety-- and my TBR list is now too short. I need to keep adding titles to it for the “Suggestion” category. I now actively seek out titles to add to my TBR so I can spread the joy of reading them to others. What a turn around.

Now since this is partly a psychological issue, I know my advice won’t work for every person out there reading this. All of our brains handle anxiety differently; however, I have shared this with a few dozen people and many have said it has helped them feel better about their TBR so I feel like it is worth passing on in the hopes that it will help others.

Give it a try. You have nothing to lose except a whole lot of unnecessary anxiety. And if it works for you, let me know.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Call to Action: Make Your Displays Less Fancy And More Inclusive

Today’s Call to Action is unique in that it is asking you to do LESS work. It is also one of those things I say in person all the time, but don’t reiterate here on the blog quite enough but I was reminded of the topic by this post from Teen Librarian Toolbox entitled, “Rethinking Book Displays-- Again.”

In this post Karen discusses and then tests the theory that if you make you displays too pretty, patrons   think they aren’t supposed to remove the books in them to check out.

I have heard this for years from library staff. When they make their displays super nice and beautiful nothing moves, yet when they just throw up a few books with a quickly made Word headline, the books fly off the shelves.

People are constantly upset that their hard work goes unnoticed, but as I have seen anecdotally and as Karen has shown at her specific location in the post, the problem is more nuanced than that.

For many year, things on display at the library were not able to be checked out. Today’s adults grew up being told not to touch things in the library. For example. as late as the early 2000s, a library near me ,super famous for its RA Service, used to keep all of their new books in a glass enclosed display for the first week they were out, meaning no one could actually read them the first week. You could only look at them longingly and place holds.

When patrons see a fancy display they don’t want to “mess it up.” In some cases they have been trained not to. As a profession we were so awful about people not touching things for so many years, people are not used to being put ahead of the books in our priority list. You think I am kidding but I still have to tell library workers to chill out; that the books are not theirs to protect, but rather, the books are there to be checked out, as easily as possible, by the public-- who are the ones that own them. We are not book police, yet some patrons still see us this way [and some library workers still act this way].

Patrons do appreciate the hard work you put into a gorgeous display and they don’t want to upset the beauty by checking a title out, or risk making us upset at them. On the other hand, if we just quickly put up some books with a title, more casually, they flock to the display and grab the books to take home. Why? Because it is clear to them that you want the books to move. Yes, the less effort you put in, the higher the chance the books will be checked out.

This is also why I advocate for using both display furniture for our displays and casually grouping books in less formal areas. The ones on a formal piece of furniture are great, but again, if taking a book will leave an empty space, I have literally had people ask me if it was okay to take that title; for that reason alone, that it would leave a hole in the display. Again, patrons think clearing a display will upset us. But on open desk tops, in the middle of shelves, at the ends of shelves...those books go. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with the topic of the display or even the specific titles, but rather how we put them physically on display that matters most.

Try it for yourself. Put up the same grouping of books in different locations and with differing amounts of props. Or follow what Karen did in her article.

Now, if you like making fancy displays, great. Don’t stop. Some of my colleagues love that crafty party of their job. Just make sure you add signage that says, “Please check me out to make room for another great title,” or something like that.

But, if you are like me, and hated the making things pretty part of your job, stop fretting about it. Just get some books from the stacks pull out and grouped together.

But now, use that extra time you have away from the glue gun to make the content of your displays more inclusive. Make sure you have books from multiple genres and from authors of all backgrounds in each and every display. In other words, LGBTQ books can be in every display, not just those about LGBTQ issues. This will take less time than making a fancy display AND it will also present a better representation of the range of titles available on your topic.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Library Reads: September 2018

Okay, so another month, and the Library Reads list-- which you need to remember is YOUR list-- is still not diverse enough.

The first thing I want to say about this is that the titles on the list have nothing to do with the organization of Library Reads. In fact, I know many of the people on the Steering Committee and they are also disappointed personally BUT, and this is huge and one of the reasons I am willing to stick this out and fight for improvements, they do not interfere with the voting process. 

Which leads to the second point, any disappointment any of us have about the lack of diversity on the list is 100% on us. Why do we-- as a group of library workers-- insist on voting for so many domestic suspense titles and books about books? They show up on every list. What about titles that are in other genres, let alone titles written by authors of color?

I need more of you to vote, but to also use your votes thoughtfully. Please look for books that could use the boost that Library Reads can give a title that your colleagues might not know about without that vote, especially more inclusive titles.

Here and here you can find links to databases by library professionals who are going through the digital ARCS and screening titles for you to choose from. Please consider staring here, not with the latest domestic suspense or book themed title. Seriously, if you want to help, start at those databases, start by reading those titles. Try something new and if you like it, vote for it.

Don’t start with a book you already know you are going to like. That is the worst thing you can do. We are trying to broaden everyone’s horizons-- patrons, yes, but also the publishers. We want to show them that more inclusive titles will resonate and sell. But, we need to start with ourselves first.

But again, we should not be angry at “Library Reads” for this. They are doing everything they can, without rigging the vote, to help change come. It’s us, the library workers, who collectively need to make changes.  I am willing to wait as we move forward together with baby steps, but we need to move forward, not backward.

That being said there was one very big, positive change thing this month that is worth mentioning. The #1 Library Reads pick is from a non-big 5 publisher-- Sourcebooks! Even more interesting, they had the #2 title last month. This is a big deal. This is a sign that we are making steps toward not just picking the big name titles. We can do this. We can make change. We just need to keep moving forward.

Now let’s get to my normal Library Reads preamble and this month’s list.

Yesterday  was  Library Reads day and 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.

    Also, please remember to click here for my Library Reads 101 recap for everything you need to know about how to participate. And click here and here to see databases of eligible diverse titles.

    September 2018 LibraryReads

    The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn

    by Stuart Turton

    Published: 9/18/2018 by Sourcebooks Landmark
    ISBN: 9781492657965
    “Imagine the movie Groundhog Day, except this time Aiden Bishop wakes up each day in a deteriorating manor house, as a different person, and must work out who he is and how he relates to everyone else at the party commemorating the long ago death of a child. If he can’t solve the murder that occurs at the party, he is doomed to continue the loop every eight days. A riveting page turner.”
    Becky Bowen, Kenton County Public Library, Erlanger, KY

    Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating

    by Christina Lauren

    Published: 9/4/2018 by Gallery Books
    ISBN: 9781501165856
    “Hazel is the eccentric, exuberant friend who’ll make you fall in love with her, and she’s not interested in being ‘dateable.’ Josh is busy being a workaholic, trying to make a long distance relationship work, and not pursuing romance with anyone else. But when his sister’s best friend Hazel blows back into his life, he is powerless to resist her genuine joie de vivre. If you’re looking for your next perfect read after The Kiss Quotient, look no further! A lovely slow burn.”
    Elizabeth Gabriel, Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee, WI


    by T.M. Logan

    Published: 9/11/2018 by St. Martin’s Press
    ISBN: 9781250182265
    “When Joe unwittingly discovers that his wife has been having an affair with her friend’s husband, his life starts to unravel. It seems that her lover now wants Joe out of the picture. Follow the cat-and-mouse plot as it explodes with a shocking finish! Great fun for those readers who love a good psychological thriller.”
    Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI

    Night and Silence

    by Seanan McGuire

    Published: 9/4/2018 by DAW
    ISBN: 9780756414764
    “Toby is back in this latest installment of the October Daye series. Still reeling and recovering from the events of the last book, Toby and company are laying low. When her human daughter goes missing (again), Toby embarks on a twisty-turny race against time to find her. A solid entry and good choice for libraries with a strong demand for fantasy and urban fantasy.”
    Mei-Ling Thomas, Rochester Hills Public Library, Rochester, MI

    Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen

    by Sarah Bird

    Published: 9/4/2018 by St. Martin’s Press
    ISBN: 9781250193162
    “A fascinating work of historical fiction about Cathay/Cathy Williams, a former slave turned Buffalo Soldier in post-Civil War America. Her raw and powerful story is sure to be popular with book clubs.”
    Sarah Fetterman, Upper St. Clair Township Library, Upper St. Clair, PA

    Lake Success: A Novel

    by Gary Shteyngart

    Published: 9/4/2018 by Random House
    ISBN: 9780812997415
    “Shteyngart delivers another painfully funny novel about ambition, disappointment, and the darker side of the American dream. For fans of witty, offbeat, satirical humor.”
    Jennifer Alexander, St. Louis County Public Library, St. Louis, MO 

    The Dinner List: A Novel

    by Rebecca Serle

    Published: 9/11/2018 by Flatiron Books
    ISBN: 9781250295187
    “If you could have dinner with any five people, living or dead, who would they be? On her thirtieth birthday, Sabrina finds herself at dinner with her best friend, her ex-fiance, her long lost father, her college mentor and Audrey Hepburn, all with something to say to her. A charming combination of magical realism and romance.”
    Tracy Babiasz, Chapel Hill Public Library, Chapel Hill, NC 

    Transcription: A Novel

    by Kate Atkinson

    Published: 9/25/2018 by Little, Brown and Company
    ISBN: 9780316176637
    “In WWII era London, Juliet Armstrong is working as an espionage monitor for MI5. Ten years later she suddenly finds herself targeted by dangerous individuals from her past. For fans of smart, witty, suspenseful, historical or spy fiction and authors like Tana French, Laurie R. King, and John Le Carre.”
    Janet Lockhart, Wake County Public Libraries, Cary, NC

    When the Lights Go Out

    by Mary Kubica

    Published: 9/4/2018 by Park Row Books
    ISBN: 9780778330783
    “After her mother’s death, Jessie is trying is trying to rebuild her life. In her way is her debilitating insomnia and a secret that shakes the core of her identity. Psychological suspense with an unreliable narrator. This one’s for you Gone Girl fans.”
    Diane Gring, Chester County Library & District Center, Exton, PA

    Hitting the Books

    by Jenn McKinlay

    Published: 9/11/2018 by Berkley Prime Crime
    ISBN: 9780451492678
    “McKinlay’s Lindsay Norris is back for another adventure in Briar Creek. As a fellow librarian, I appreciate her spot on observations of the library world. An upbeat cozy mystery with great characters and strong sense of place. For fans of the Aurora Teagarden mysteries and the Isabel Dalhousie mysteries.”
    Carly Budzynski, Salem Public Library, Salem, VA

    Wednesday, August 8, 2018

    Library Reads 2017 Annual Report

    It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Library Reads. It’s hard to believe it is approaching its 5th Anniversary. I know I am constantly challenging all of us to make the program even better, but that is because I love it so much and I want us all to do the best we can. [Click here to pull up all of my Library Reads posts for more info.]

    Click here to access from
    LibraryReads Page
    Yesterday, they released their Annual Report for 2017. You can click here to read it.

    I also wanted to remind everyone about my extensive post with links and slides from the ALA Annual Library Reads 101 Program.

    I seriously will not rest until every person who works in a library with adult readers participates in Library Reads. I know that is a goal I can never reach, but on the other hand, it means I won’t stop working toward it too.

    It’s sorta like the goal I tell people when I come to their libraries-- “You can always do more to promote your collections and engage patrons because until every single one of your items are checked out at the same time, you still have more work to do!”

    The point is, you can always do more, you can always be better-- every single person. Strive to be better everyday. It makes life more fun and keeps you engaged. The more we are engaged as public library workers, the better our service to our patrons and our communities.

    Tuesday, August 7, 2018

    What I’m Reading: Four [!] Booklist Reviews From August Horror Spotlight Issue

    I have four reviews in this current horror packed issue of Booklist including one edited by Stephen King! I will begin with the only one I gave a star; however, I want to say all four are excellent and perfect for all public library horror collections. It’s just that I could only give 1 a star and as you will see in my review, it contains a little something extra that pushed this one over the edge.

    As usual, I am giving you my draft reviews which are different from the ones that appear in the magazine, plus I add extra readalikes, appeal terms, and general comments that will help you to better figure out to whom you could suggest these titles. Although, some, like the King edited collection or the official Dracula prequel, sell themselves.

    The People’s Republic of Everything.


    Mamatas, Nick (author).


    Aug. 2018. 336p. Tachyon, paper, $15.95 (9781616963002); e-book (9781616963019)
    First published August, 2018 (Booklist).

    Mamatas [I Am Providence] has been writing critically acclaimed, politically charged, sardonic science fiction, dark fantasy and horror for years, but his voluminous output of short stories has been spread across the publishing landscape from small genre mags to literary reviews and everything in between. Now readers can discover 13 previously published stories, 1 brand new tale, and the author’s preferred text of his short novel, “Under My Roof,” a brilliant but overlooked tale based on Aristophanes’s Archanians, in which a Long Island family builds a nuclear bomb in their garden so that they can use it as leverage to secede from the US, all in one book. From the first story of the collection, “Walking with a Ghost,” an unsettling, yet intriguing tale about the creation of a Lovecraft AI that has achieved singularity and is not happy with being resurrected, readers get a sense of Mamatas’ expertise at both embracing and skewering the speculative genres to which he has dedicated his life. Each tale is entertaining on its surface, but they all also hold a deeper meaning that can be pondered for those who want to dig deeper. However, it is with the inclusion of Mamatas’ author notes appended for each story, revealing the history behind and business of speculative fiction as well as offering a peek into his own life and personal evolution, where this collection makes its mark. Taken together those notes create what reads like a 16th bonus story, one that both centers and elevates the book. This collection will be an easy sell to readers who enjoy genre-blending authors of thought provoking and topical tales such as Jeffrey Ford, China Mieville and Jeff VanderMeer.

    Further Appeal: I bolded the text above which explains why this collection got the star. Seriously every book in this post was great. It was a pleasure to read them all, but Mamatas’ author notes were fascinating, compelling, and just plain fun to read. They taught me about him as a writer and a person, but also the publishing industry and what it takes to be a working author these days.

    This collection is a genre blend as a whole, but even within stories, the genres can blend. I loved that. Not a single story takes you where you think you will go because no one writes like Mamatas. He is brilliant and original but he also knows how to tell a good compelling story filled with dark humor regardless of genre. He respects the genre tropes but also, refuses to let them define him or his work. It is refreshing.

    I know I mentioned the first story in the review. Not only did I love it, I think it sets the stage perfectly for the unsettling, thought provoking stories that will follow. Seriously, after reading the entire collection, it was the perfect choice to kick things off.

    Also, I had never read the seminal “Under My Roof” before this collection, and WOW, I missed a good one. If you have fans of dystopian fiction without or without a speculative element, give them this novella immediately.

    Three Words That Describe This Book: thought-provoking, genre blend, unsettling

    Readlikes: I mentioned three very good ones in the review, and linked them to other posts on my blog where these authors were mentioned. Those links will lead you to even more authors and titles. Specifically, I would also like to mention Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado as an excellent readalike suggestion.

    Mamatas’ is also works at Haikasoru a publisher of works in translation. From their homepage:
    Space Opera. Dark Fantasy. Hard Science.
    With a small, elite list of award-winners, classics, and new work by the hottest young writers, Haikasoru is the first imprint dedicated to bringing Japanese science fiction to America and beyond. Featuring the action of anime and the thoughtfulness of the best speculative fiction, Haikasoru aims to truly be the “high castle” of science fiction and fantasy.
    I reviewed and loved one of their titles A Small Charred Face by Kazuki Sakuraba and really enjoyed it. Like Mamatas’ work, this novel is an original and thought provoking genre blend that you might also want to check out.

    The Siren and the Specter.

    Janz, Jonathan (author).
    Sept. 2018. 288p. Flame Tree, paper, $14.95  (9781787580053)First published August, 2018 (Booklist).
    David Caine author, professor and famous paranormal skeptic is invited to spend a month in the most haunted house in America. Built in the 1700s the Alexander House has a gruesome history, one that has persisted over the centuries and now David has been asked to pass his expert judgment on the years of ghostly sightings and ghastly occurrences, except this job brings him dangerously close to the source of his own personal haunting, the death of his college sweetheart. As the reader can tell from the unsettling opening lines, this is no ordinary haunted house tale. Janz uses the tropes readers think they know- haunted house, lost love, cursed town, regrets- and takes them in an original and terrifying direction. The tension builds unrelentingly, the fear and repulsion are relayed through all five senses, as the fear begins to come at the reader from three different angles, enveloping readers in the terrifying world Janz has created, threatening to never let go. Quickly emerging as one of the most talented horror authors of his generation, Janz’s [Children of the Dark] newest novel will be eagerly scooped up by fans of all haunted house stories and is a great choice for those who enjoyed of The Handyman by Little, The Damned by Pyper or Hex by Heuvelt.
    Further Appeal:  I really like Janz as a horror author-- a lot. The way he writes draws you in. His main characters are flawed but you still want to root for them, plus they change and grow. He is liberal with the sex and violence but not more so than others and none of it is gratuitous; there is just enough to show repulsion-- not just fear or unsettling feelings of anxiety, but repulsion.  In the review I mention that he really takes advantage of all five of our senses and I cannot stress that enough. He articulates the fear in touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste very well. He is truly becoming a master at this. Many horror writers rely on the suggestions of the horror unfolding. Not Janz. He shows it on the page, but very eloquently. I don’t want you to think this is a gore-fest. It is not in anyway. This is a sophisticated and intricate horror story that is well executed in both the technique in the writing and how it plays out for the reader.

    The novel has two main story lines [which the title perfectly hints at] and it is layered with twists that bring the plots together.

    The themes-- haunted house, cursed land, famous skeptic, lost love and redemption are also all easy ways to booktalk and hand-sell this novel. Specifically I was extremely drawn to the detailed history that underlies the genre, a history that goes back to the early days of our country. I found it interesting and believable.

    Three Words That Describe This Book: haunted house, repulsion, unrelenting tension

    Readalikes: If you take the three readalikes I mentioned and combined them into 1 book, that would be this novel. I would also suggest the work of Nick Cutter or The Binding by Nicholas Wolff Finally, this novel is part of the launch of Flame Tree Press. To learn more about them and their upcoming titles, click here to read my interview with managing editor, Don D’Auria.



    Stoker, Dacre (author) and J. D. Barker (author).

    Oct. 2018. 512p. Putnam, $27 (9780735219342)
    First published August, 2018 (Booklist)

    What if there was more truth to Dracula than any of us ever imagined? In this official Stoker family sanctioned prequel to the classic that set the standard for all vampire stories since, Stoker’s great- grandnephew, Dacre Stoker, pairs years of research into family history with the skills of bestselling thriller writer J.D. Barker to tell the story behind the famous novel, from the point of view of Bram Stoker himself. Tense form the opening scene as readers encounter a young Stoker doing battle with an evil force, high in an abandoned tower, throughout the course of one terrible night, the story then moves back in time to Stoker’s childhood, the illness which almost killed him at age seven, and the odd, ethereal, and menacing nanny that saved him. The novel moves forward methodically, in a manner very similar to the source material, told with journal entries from Stoker, his brother, and sister as they piece together the truth behind Dracula, a truth Stoker always said grounded his novel, a truth the publisher refused to include in the final edits. Dracul would have been a good read even if it stopped at only shedding light on the original, its characters, and its author, but the novel rises above because of those recurring scenes in the tower, scenes that add just the right touch of the very best of the 21st Century’s suspense techniques, increasing the pace and ratcheting up the fear, leaving readers breathless, wondering what is coming next, and sending them back to the original immediately. While this is book with a huge built in audience, do not forget to also suggest to those who like menacing, supernatural novels about 19th Century writers like Drood by Dan Simmons or Victorian-esque vampire tales like The Quick by Lauren Owen.

    Further Appeal: This draft review contains most of the appeal of this novel that I wanted to point out, but I wanted to talk a bit more about the obviously easy appeal factors here-- wo Words: Dracula prequel. Duh. Thats a huge appeal. But is it enough? 

    As I mentioned here, I have heard Dacre Stoker speak about the research he has done into Brams life and publishing and I knew he had found out a lot of new information, but when this book came my way for review, I was nervous. I like Dacre and JD so much as people. What if the book was terrible?

    I am so happy to report that it was even better than it needed to be to draw readers in. I couldn’t put it down. This will not only satisfy Dracula fans, but I would bet that it will create new fans of the classic on its own. Between the excellent inclusion of an author’s note with tons of info, and the ending that leads directly into the beginning of the original, even I was running straight to Dracula to re-read a few sections after finishing Dracul.

    Read this book for yourself, even if you aren’t a Dracula fan and of course, order a copy or two. Also check your Dracula copies, you may need to refresh those too. This book and the next one really sell themselves. Just make sure you let readers know about it.

    Three Words That Describe This Book: epistolary, methodically paced, menacing

    Readalikes: You don’t need my help here. I gave you a few about that also link to even more, but any classic horror, Gothic horror, vampire stories, etc... 

    Flight or Fright: 17 Turbulent Tales.


    King, Stephen (editor) and Bev Vincent (editor).

    Sept. 2018. 336p. Cemetery Dance, $27.95  (9781587676796)
    First published August, 2018 (Booklist).

    Even for people who aren’t afraid of flying, modern, commercial air travel is not the most pleasant experience. But that is exactly what makes it the perfect frame for a anthology of horror stories, especially one co-edited by the most famous horror author in the world, King, who also has a lifelong fear of flying. As he notes in the introduction, “...you are entering what is basically a tube filled with oxygen and sitting atop tons of highly flammable jet fuel.” The terror often writes itself, a point that King and Vincent prove with this expertly compiled collection of tales that entertain and scare. Containing brand new, high demand stories by King and Joe Hill, readers will also find 15 reprinted surprises, tales of horror in the air from famous authors like Arthur Conan Doyle, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and Dan Simmons as well as a classic 1899 story by often forgotten horror legend Ambrose Bierce. Some will want enhance the terror by reading this volume on their next plane ride, while others will make sure to have their feet firmly planted on the ground before diving in, but either way, Flight or Fright delivers on its promised theme and will make your next plane ride a little more exciting. Pair this with other expertly edited and compiled themed, horror anthologies by Ellen Datlow and John Joseph Adams.

    Further Appeal: New stories by Stephen King and Joe Hill, the almost universal fear of flying trope, classic stories....this book really does sell itself. And sells it very well as the first printing is already sold out and it hasn’t shipped yet.

    But seriously, this is a great intro to horror collection. The mixture of classic authors with new masters and a common trope that is scary but not necessarily gory or based on a supernatural monster, will lure in readers, many of whom might not consider themselves horror readers.

    Three Words That Describe This Book: themed anthology, classic, frightening

    Readalikes: Besides what appears in the review, here is my updated lis of Stephen King readalikes, all the times I have mentioned Joe Hill, and you can click here for the anthology's table of contents to see all of the authors included as readers might want to try more by them.