ARRT GENRE STUDY WEBSITE

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.

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.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day Off

It's my birthday tomorrow, so as a gift to myself, I am taking today off for all work related things.

I will be back to business as usual on Monday.  Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Trending: Fan Fiction Comes Out of the Shadows

Fan Fiction has been around for a long time, but it has been consigned to the shadows.  However, with the breakout bestselling success of Fifty Shades of Grey, originally written as Twilight Fan Fiction, fan fiction is having a world-wide coming out party.

Before this year all I knew about fan fiction I had learned from the most recent Thursday Next book (click here for a review), but since then I not only have learned more about the world of fan fiction, but I have also figured out that I know someone who writes it.

More on that in a minute. But first an editorial statement.

It is easy to make fun of fan fiction, but it is also extremely unfair.  Many writers got their start by imitating the  work of others.  It is a great way for writers to hone their craft.  Take this article that recently appeared in The Wall St Journal.  In the article entitled "The Weird World of Fan Fiction," journalist Alexandra Alter takes a serious look at fan fiction, even interviewing current bestselling authors, like Naomi Novik, who got their start writing fan fiction.

Give the article a read, you will learn a lot about this popular subculture that is having its moment in the sun.  No matter how you feel about Fifty Shades of Grey, it should not be the only thing you know about fan fiction.

Now back to that fan fiction author I know.

Shaynie, who was previously featured in this post about Flash Fiction, and is a Technical Services Librarian at the BPL, is also an avid fan fiction writer.  I asked her to write a short piece explaining why she writes "fan fic."  I will end this post with her words.  Thanks for sharing your personal story with us Shaynie.

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“Why Do I Write Fanfic?”

I write short stories and poetryin the mainstream, and also in fan fiction (or -- as the writers and readersthereof call it – fanfic, or simply fic). No one asks me why I write theformer; for whatever reason, I am often asked why I write the latter.
There is no monetary reason involvedin the desire to write fanfic…in fact, fic writers know that monetary gain fromfic would actually be illegal, as it would constitute copyright infringement(without the involvement of money, it can come under the heading of what isknown as “transformative works” allowed under certain circumstances by the U.S.“Fair Use Doctrine” and the Canadian “Fair Dealings Doctrine”). The reasons Iwrite fic have to do with gains of a non-monetary nature : the pleasure ofgiving an ongoing existence to specific much-loved characters of a television showor movie, the lively interactive readership, the supportive community of fellowfic writers and fic vidders (I do also make fanvids), and the arena for polishingwriterly skills. Another very great gain, one which with the passage of timebecomes evident, is how writing fic may lead to some deep and lastingfriendships, including international friendships, between people who otherwisewould never have known each other : I have daily correspondence and standinginvitations to visit fic writers from around the world who are in my fandom.
There are, then, a number ofconnected reasons why I write fanfic…and there is the overarching reason thatconnects them all. That reason is summed up in a famous line from thepenultimate scene of a movie in my fandom (my primary fandom being the CanadianTV show “due South” [sic lower-case “d”] and my secondary fandom being thatwhich radiates out from “due South,” variously called either “Canadian SixDegrees,” “Six Degrees of due South,” or simply “C6D”) : in the “C6D” movie“Hard Core Logo,” there is famously the line “and in the end, it’s love”. So,why do I write fanfic, and why does any writer write fanfic : there are a numberof reasons, and in the end, it’s love.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What I'm Reading: Series Roundup Trail of the Spellmans and Blackout

In the spring I read two new books in some series I enjoy, so I thought I would do brief reviews with readalike updates in one post.

First up is the 5th installment of Lisa Lutz's hilarious San Francisco set PI series featuring the Spellman family, but narrated by Izzy, the middle child and a partner in the family own PI business.  I was so excited for Trail of the Spellmans to come out because Lutz had hinted that the 4th book (click here for my review) would be the last.

As in the "previous documents" (Lutz's running gag), Izzy is not only trying to solve a few mysteries, but she is also trying to get a handle on her eccentric family and friends.  The book evolves like the others in the series in that the Spellmans are investigating a few different individuals, except this time, many of the cases overlap, so the different investigators in the family are hilariously trying to keep information from each other so that no breaches of confidentiality happen.  But of course, as PIs they all want to know and begin trying to investigate each other instead.

New characters added to the mix this time are Izzy's boyfriend Henry's Mom, grumpy Grandma Spellman, and a new non-relative employee/resident in the Spellman household.

As a fan of this light series, I continue to enjoy Izzy's evolution into a full fledged grown-up.  Trail of the Spellmans deals with her relationship with Henry, but more importantly, she grows in her place in the business.  And this time there is an ending which resolves the mysteries but leaves a big surprise at the end; a surprise which will start a new chapter in the series.

Cheers to Lutz for keeping the series fresh and continuing to move the story forward.  Just know that with Lutz, you are in for more humor than mystery, more character than plot, tons of wit and irony, and lots of laughs.  Serious reading this is not; but it is a fun way to pass 8-10 hours.

Three Words That Describe This Book: humorous, private investigations, character centered

Readalikes:  In the past I have suggested readalikes for Lutz often.  Use this link to access them.

Some series I think are also humorous, smart, and character centered are The Ethelred and Elsie series by L. C. Tyler and the Mama series by Deborah Sharp.  Both have a family angle too.

My next series roundup review is of a last book in the Newsflesh Zombie Thriller trilogy, Blackout by Mira Grant.  Click here for the reviews of the first two books in the series.

To summarize though, here is what I said about the series at the Public Library Association Conference this past March (contact me for the full handout on "Trends in Horror Series"):

When Mira Grant began her Newsflesh series, people took notice immediately.  The series is best described as David Baldacci meets Dawn of the DeadIt is set in a near future in which the cure for the common cold, mixed with the cure for cancer has caused a small zombie problem. The world is full of zombies and they are not nice. Another speculative feature of this world is that when the dead started rising, the traditional news outlets ignored the story, but not bloggers.  Bloggers saved the day by working together to figure out what was going on and pass on information on how to properly kill a zombie and protect yourself.  In the first novel, our three heroes run a blogger network and uncover a deadly political conspiracy.  By the second, the bloggers are starting to realize the conspiracy’s roots go back to the start of the zombie plague.
As I have said many times about this series, while there are zombies here, it is not HORROR.  The appeal in these books is in the thriller, conspiracy, and the average Joe taking down the corrupt government story lines.  The zombie angle adds frame (and some fun zombie attack scenes).

That being said, Blackout, as the conclusion of this well plotted and entertaining trilogy, did not disappoint.  The conspiracy is revealed in its entirety, old characters from the first book return, and the good guys win (but with some casualties). This is an important point.  The series reveals itself to be true thriller in how it ends--happily ever after for Shaun and Georgia.  As someone who prefers horror, I could have done with a more realistic ending (ie, tragic), but I understood the series was more Baldacci than Maberry, so I was fine with it.

In terms of appeal, this is a fast paced book with 2 alternating points of view, with two separate story lines that converge about halfway through. At times the story is all about explaining the conspiracies or the movements of characters and then just as it begins to slow down, BAM!, zombie attack and everyone is on the run.

The action sequences are very well done, and unfold in a cinematic manner.  There is a fabulous one at the end inside the White House!  If Grant's prose cannot get your heart pumping, than you may need to check if you still have a pulse.

Three Words That Describe This Book: political conspiracies, zombies, fast paced

Readalikes: You can use this link for the readalike authors I suggested when I read the first book, Feed.

I would also suggest the Bourne series by Ludlum and others for those who want more conspiracy, and the Daniel Silva Gabriel Allon series for those who want a well plotted, smart, action packed thriller.

Finally, for darker suspense which crosses over well with horror readers, try John Sandford's Prey Series or anything by Dean Koontz.

More backlog of reviews coming out soon...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Financial Web Site Plugs the Library

My husband and I follow the blog The Simple Dollar, a website with financial advice for everyday people.  Trent Hamm runs the site and you can read about him and his work here.

Trent has always been a big proponent of the public library as a great value for entertainment.  On Sunday, he featured the library.

I have posted his article here today.

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Check Out the Library--Not Just For Books

The public library is my single favorite “free” resource in my community. In fact, I value it so much that I actually posted a visual tour of the local library I use the most on this site a few years ago.

(It’s worth noting that libraries aren’t truly free. While you don’t have to pay any money immediately to use the resources, libraries are usually funded by a mix of taxpayer dollars, grants, and donations. However, the value that most people get out of the library, if they choose to use it, far exceeds what goes into the library.)

A good library isn’t some unique resource that you’ll just find in certain towns. Most towns have a library, even small ones like the one depicted below.

Check Out the Library - Not Just for Books (175/365)
What value can you get out of your local library? I’m going to reiterate some of the items mentioned in my “tour” post above, along with some other value that libraries contribute.

Books Yes, libraries are a warehouse of books that you can check out for free. You can also find magazines, newspapers, tax documents, and other such printed material at the library, too. Beyond that, most librarians are quite happy to share their expertise in helping you find the right book for your needs and interests.

Music Most libraries have a collection of CDs that you can check out for your own enjoyment. Larger libraries even have musical discovery programs to help introduce you to new kinds of music that you may never have known about before.

Films Many libraries have DVDs that you can check out. Some libraries carry this further and show films at the library. Larger libraries even have a small auditorium which goes a long way toward creating a theater-like experience for free.

Cultural events Libraries often host muscial groups, speakers, and presenters of all kinds for the public to enjoy. At my own library, I’ve heard authors speak and bands perform. I’ve seen jugglers juggle and movie directors present their work.

Audiobooks Going on a trip? Your library likely has a good collection of audiobooks to check out that will make your travel a lot more enjoyable.

Meeting places Many libraries have rooms that can be used for meetings of community groups. I’ve participated in gaming groups and book clubs at libraries, and I’ve seen everything from gardening clubs to jester training (yes, jester training) at libraries.

Children’s resources Libraries often have abundant children’s resources. For example, right now my children are involved in a robust reading program that rewards them for summer reading with new books and other items, plus there’s a weekly storytime and other activities at the library for them.

Internet access Almost every library today offers computer use with internet access for those who do not have access to the internet at home. Many libraries offer wi-fi access for people who bring in their laptops and other devices.

Teen resources Many larger libraries offer teen programs, including rooms where teens can hang out together in a safe yet private environment. They also offer book clubs targeting teenagers.

Additional community resources Some libraries offer additional services beyond these. For example, some local libraries offer battery recycling. One local library near us offers free paper recycling for people who don’t have home pick-up.

Your local library has a wealth of resources right there for you to take advantage of. All you have to do is walk in the door.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday Discussion: Sporty Reads

With the Euro Cup moving to the semi-finals, baseball creeping up to its midpoint, and the Olympic Trials, Tour de France. and Wimbledon all beginning this week, I have sporting events on the brain.

I do love the Olympics though.  Every time they come around, winter or summer, our whole family gathers around the TV to watch even the most obscure events.  (Team Handball is one of my husband's favorites).

Anyway, to get ready I thought we could spend today's Monday Discussion talking about our favorite "sports books."  I put the term in quotes because I want you to define what fits.  It can have sports as the main plot, or a sport can simply play a memorable role.  You choose.

Here is a list of some of the books I have reviewed (and enjoyed) which featured sports:

Another one of my all time favorites, which I have read many times, is The Iowa Baseball Confederacy by W.P. Kinsella.

Here are a few other sports related posts I have done on RA for All in the past:
All of these posts include more sports related reading options.  I am sure we will be seeing a lot more lists from other resources once the Olympics get going.

Now it is your turn.  For today's Monday Discussion, let me know your favorite "Sporty Reads."

Click here for past Monday Discussion.

First Annual ALA Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence

The ALA Annual Conference has been going on all weekend in Anaheim, CA.  The biggest news in adult leisure reading if the conference is the awarding of the first ever Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Adult Fiction and Nonfiction. Here is the link to the press release from RUSA which I have also re-posted below:

For Immediate Release 
Mon, 06/25/2012 - 19:40
Contact: Macey Morales
RUSA, Conference Services (cs), Publishing (pub)
Anaheim, Calif. – The American Library Association (ALA) is proud to announce the first recipients of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, funded through a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Anne Enright’s "The Forgotten Waltz" received the medal for fiction and Robert K. Massie’s "Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman" received the nonfiction prize. The medals recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published the previous year in the United States. The selections were unveiled during the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif. 
This is the first time that the ALA, which sponsors the prestigious Youth Media Awards, including the John Newbery and Randolph Caldecott Medals for children’s literature, is offering single-book awards for adult trade fiction and nonfiction. Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction winners and finalists were selected based on the expert judgment and insight of library professionals who work closely with adult readers.  This is a departure from most major book awards, which are judged by writers and critics.
In Enright’s "The Forgotten Waltz," published by W. W. Norton & Company, the vicissitudes of extramarital love and the obstructions to its smooth flow—including spouses, children, and the necessary secrecy surrounding an affair—are charted in sharp yet supple prose. In a year without a Pulitzer Prize in fiction, this award becomes even more meaningful for the literary community.
Massie’s "Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman," published by Random House, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, is a compulsively readable biography of the fascinating woman who, through a combination of luck, personality, and a fine mind, rose from her birth as a minor German princess to become the Empress of all the Russias. 
“Congratulations to Anne Enright, Robert K. Massie and our finalists,” said Nancy Pearl, high-profile librarian, NPR commentator and chair of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction selection committee. “We are so excited to have such a talented and deserving group of authors for our inaugural awards.”
The medals are made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and are co-sponsored by ALA’s Booklist magazine and the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA).
“In many ways, librarians are the first book critics many readers come into contact with, and hence we are deeply thankful for their insight and guidance,” said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York and a former president of the New York Public Library. “The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction take that notion one step further and place the librarians’ seal of approval on these wonderful books.”
Enright and Massie each receive a medal and $5,000, and each finalist receives $1,500.
Nonfiction finalists include "The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood," by James Gleick, published by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc., and "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention," by the late Manning Marable, published by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA).
Fiction finalists include "Lost Memory of Skin," by Russell Banks, published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers and "Swamplandia!," by Karen Russell, published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
For annotations and more information on the winners, finalists and the awards please visit http://www.ala.org/carnegieadult.
Members of the 2012 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction inaugural selection committee include: Chair, Nancy Pearl; Brad Hooper, editor, Adult Books, Booklist, Chicago; Danise Hoover, associate librarian, Public Services, Hunter College Library, New York; A. Issac Pulver, director, Saratoga Springs (N.Y.) Public Library; Nonny Schlotzhauer, librarian, Collection Development/Social Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.;  Donna Seaman, senior editor, Adult Books, Booklist, Chicago; and Rebecca Vnuk, editor, Reference and Collection Management, Booklist, Chicago.
About Carnegie Corporation of New YorkCarnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation's work focuses on the issues that Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy.
About BooklistBooklist is the book review magazine of the American Library Association, considered an essential collection development and readers' advisory tool by thousands of librarians for more than 100 years. Booklist Online includes a growing archive of 135,000+ reviews available to subscribers as well as a wealth of free content offering the latest news and views on books and media.
About Reference and User Services Association (RUSA)The Reference and User Services Association is responsible for stimulating and supporting excellence in the delivery of general library services and materials, and the provision of reference and information services, collection development, readers' advisory, and resource sharing for adults, in every type of library.
About the ALAEstablished in 1876, the American Library Association (ALA) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization created to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

Friday, June 22, 2012

BPL Book Discussion: Sense and Sensibility

Well, I have to say, when the BPL book club met this past Monday, I was quite surprised by how dynamic and interesting our discussion of Sense and Sensiblity was. I was worried that this book club standby would lead to a boring discussion. Boy, was I wrong.

First, let's get the plot out of the way...

For a change of pace, Reading Group Guides did something different with the summary section of the guide.  This time, they offered a summary of S and S , fittingly from the novel The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Jay Fowler:

Sense and Sensibility was written in the late 1790s but much revised before publication in 1811. It is primarily the story of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. The death of their father has left them, with their mother and younger sister, financially pressed. Both women fall in love, each in her own characteristic way --- Marianne is extravagant and public with her emotions, Elinor restrained and decorous.
The object of Elinor's interest is Edward Ferrars, brother to Fanny Dashwood, her odious, stingy sister-in-law. Elinor learns that Edward has been for some time secretly, unhappily, and inextricably engaged to a young woman named Lucy Steele. She learns this from Lucy, who, aware of Elinor's interest though pretending not to be, chooses Elinor as her special confidante.
Marianne hopes to marry John Willoughby, the book's only sexy man. He deserts her for a financially advantageous match. The Surprise and disappointment of this sends Marianne into a dangerous decline.
When Lucy Steele jilts Edward for his brother Robert, Edward is finally free to marry Elinor. Edward seems quite dull but at least her own choice. Marianne marries Colonel Brandon, the dull man Elinor and her mother have picked out for her.
And that is really everything that happens in the novel, but most of you knew that already, I am sure.  But what happened is not why you are here reading this post.  What we discussed is the point here. Let's go.

  • Today I asked more than my standard opening question.  First, we had 6 likes, 3 so-so (me included), and 3 dislikes.  I also asked who had read it before--6 and who had seen a movie version--7.  Of those 7 only 1 prefers the book to the movie.  A lot of this has to do with Austen's writing style.  As one participant put it, reading S and S is like "running through quicksand."  Austen always uses more words than are necessary but here it is quite noticeable.  There are entire sections where many of us were asking Austen to just spit it out already.
  • We then moved into a discussion of Austen in general.  One participant said she likes to read Austen when she is feeling overwhelmed by modern life.  Another person agreed; she likes how it is a different world with different problems. Although, someone chimed in that while re-reading S and S, she stepped back and thought, "What are the Jane Austen moments in my life." She realized that the older teens in her life went through a lot of conversations very similar to those of Elinor and Marianne, but she even noticed it with the adults around her.  It put the book in perspective for her.  It seems like a different time and place, but it is not.  This is why it is so enduring; S and S deals with basic human relationships.
  • People love how Austen is politely mean in the novel as she comments on those she disagrees with by using her biting wit. We spent some time pointing out our favorite moments.
  • Of course, the entire novel hinges on the fact that Elinor has sense and Austen believes all women should be like her--cool, rational, collected.  While Marianne is the poster girl for sensibility--inappropriately emotional, hopelessly romantic, and easily excitable.  They conflict, yet they love each other so much.  Nothing will ever come between them.
  • This led to a comment by someone that the novel is really a pre-Freudian, intense psychological study of Marianne and her road to adulthood.  This led to a longer discussion about how the entire book is a psychological study on the people who populate Austen's world.  Each character is a stereotype of the types of people in her world.  Austen focuses on their personalities, faults, and good sides with an intense gaze.  I have to say that I found this line of discussion very enlightening.  As I have said before, I am not a huge Austen fan, but maybe, looking at the novel in this light, I could become a fan.
  • The role of letters is huge in the novel.  In fact, as I informed the group, originally, S and S was Austen's first novel and it was epistolary, written completely in letters.  After the popularity of P and P, she reworked the older novel into S and S.  But the role of letters remained since it was a huge part of a woman's life at this time.  Sending a receiving letters was often the only way women could communicate with each other.  They could not travel without a letter inviting them somewhere.  Men could come and go as they pleased, but women had a lot of free time.  Interestingly, someone pointed out how odd it was that a woman at the time could not even write to an unrelated man unless the two were engaged.
  • This leads us to the point of most of Austen's books. Women need to be married to ensure they get money and property.  They cannot get it alone.  And here Austen also makes a clear statement.  Elinor, the sense, marries Edward who shows signs of sensibility in his dealings with Lucy.  They balance each other.  But they cannot get married until Edward shows more sense and Elinor lets out a little emotion.  Conversely, Marianne, an emotional wreck, must grow up a bit and gather more sense.  She is still the sensibility part of the equation, but she is now able to marry the bastion of sense, Colonel Brandon (who learned to move from sensibility to sense years before).
  • Speaking of Marianne's change.  One participant noted how it comes after her illness.  It was as if she were reborn as a new person when she recovered.
  • That led us further into talking about the ending of the novel.  Some people argue that the resolution comes too quickly and neatly.  But our group disagreed.  We felt that since Marianne recovers and Elinor final admits to Marianne her intense love of Edward, the obstacles to their happiness are now gone and the story can move to its conclusion.
  • We spent some time talking about specific secondary characters.  Here is a summary:
    • Fanny: manipulative; in order to have power and money as a woman in this society though, she must be mean and selfish.
    • John: is weak in contrast to his sister Elinor who is strong.
    • Mrs Jennings: one of our favorites.  She is the busy-body.  She is the comic relief at times; she allows us to laugh off a little tension.  But she is also extremely good hearted and positive.
    • Lucy: low rent and a gold digger; she purposely strung Elinor along by sharing her secret engagement with Edward, but as soon as Edward's money was gone, Lucy ran to the next guy with money, Edward's brother.
    • Willoughby:  cassanova who redeems himself at the end; but he has done too much damage to have his own happy ending.
  • Mrs Jennings role as matchmaker in the story got us talking about how young people meet today.  Someone said she thought today's online dating is much more like the time of S and S than we may think.  Just like back then, when you meet online, you usually take more time to feel each other out, write back and forth over email, go to coffee or out with a group.  This gives you a chance to see what others think too.  Not too different than S and S.  I have to say, this was a very insightful comment.
  • One participant ended the discussion by saying she only had brothers and this book made her wish she had had a sister.  These sisters complete each other, understand each other, and will always be there for each other, even living together with their new husbands.
  • Finally, I got the group to throw out words or phrases to describe the novel:
    • character development
    • kindness
    • sense
    • sensibility
    • secrets
    • sickness
    • property
    • hypocrisy
    • selfishness
    • vanity
    • loyalty
    • letters
    • sisters
    • betrayal
    • money
    • relationships
    • love
    • attachments
    • reality
    • boundaries
    • happy ending
Readalikes: Well since there is an entire cottage industry of Jane Austen fan fiction and just plain fanatics, I will try to give you some different readalike options, but feel free to use that link to find all the Austen and Austen-esque books you want.

Don't forget when our group recently read I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.  Here we have sisters who are without a proper income, one who has more sense and the other more sensibility, who look for love.  Click through to see moire similarities.

One of the reasons Jane Austen's works have hung around is because she was able to capture in words, what it is like to fall in love.  Her characters were well rounded and her stories compelling and universal.  The closest thing we have to that kind of storytelling today is Nora Roberts.  If you like Austen, try Roberts.  I am not a huge romance fan myself, but I do appreciate Ms. Roberts' skill at telling a story.

Above, you saw how a few people mentioned how they like to read Austen when life gets a little hectic.  It makes them slow down.  Another series that creates a similar experience is The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.  Precious, will spend many pages relaxing, drinking tea, and looking out over the Botswana landscape, contemplating life.  Years ago, before this blog began, we discussed this book and this appeal factor came up repeatedly.

Finally, if you want a similar writing style and feel in a story all about honor and duty (which is one of Austens' biggest themes) but are willing to try a male protagonist, you should try Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander novels.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Booklist Online Article Featuring BPL RA Fearless Leader

Kudos to Kathy, our fearless leader, who is featured in the latest issue of Booklist Online's newsletter The Corner Shelf: Where Readers' Advisory Meets Collection Development

She is part of the Readers' Advisory Reality column in which librarians from all over the country talk about the current state of RA.  Also featured is my friend and fellow ARRT Steering Committee member Magan who also happens to be an unofficial member of the BPL RA Dream Team.

Click through to read the entire newsletter with articles about weeding, and interview with Katie Mediatore Stover Director of Readers' Services at the Kansas City (MO) Public Library, and an article about using Pintrest.

There is lots of valuable, hands-on information in this newsletter for anyone working with leisure readers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How to Make Your Own Reading Map

As I have promised in past posts, today is the day that I unveil a simple how-to guide to creating your own reading map.

The article that Christi and I co-wrote for NoveLists' RA News came out yesterday.  Called "Reading Maps Made Easy", this article takes the work Christi did last semester, and turned it into an article with examples.  Click through to read it and link through to the examples.

I keep the link to all Novelist Newsletters in the right gutter under "Other Sites Featuring Me" since I write about 6 a year, but you can also access it directly here.

All Berwyn Public Library reading maps can be accessed here.

If you want to learn more about Reading Maps, I can come to your library and walk you through it.  Contact me for more info.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Salem Library Blog Winners

I did not win, but thank you all for your support.  The blog that did win my category, Librarian by Day, came close to winning last year.  So cheers to her for keeping up the very good work.

Maybe next year...

Click here for all of the winners.  They, and all of the nominees, are worth a look.

Help Me Interview Gillian Flynn and Gone Girl Literary References

We are down to a handful of spots to see Gillian Flynn at the Berwyn Library.  I will be interviewing her.  I am working on a list of questions, as is the head of the BPL's writer's group, but I would love to hear what you want me to ask Flynn on July 11th at 7pm.

So now is your chance.  For the rest of the week I will be collecting your questions.  I hope to include readers' questions in my interview as long as they are appropriate.  If I use your question, I will note you in the interview.

You can leave questions in the comments, or email me.

In the mean time we are so happy to see that Gone Girl debuted at #2 on The New York Times Best Seller List.

In all the Gone Girl love, including my review, I found something fun to share.  Galley Cat ran a post of book references in the novel. Here is the link and below I have copied the list.  Enjoy.

We’ve rounded up our five favorite book references in the thriller, building a spoiler-free library for anybody who wishes they could keep reading Gone Girl
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Gone Girlquote: “My dating life seems to rotate around three types of men: preppy Ivy Leaguers who believe they’re characters in a Fitzgerald novel; slick Wall Streeters with money signs in their eyes, their ears, their mouths; and sensitive smart-boys who are so self-aware that everything feels like a joke.”
2. Tom Sawyer (free eBook link) by Mark TwainGone Girl quote: “He talks to me in his river-wavy Missouri accent; he was born and raised outside of Hannibal, the boyhood home of Mark Twain, the inspiration for Tom Sawyer.”
3. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki MurakamiGone Girl quote: “She’d made a grim figure on the Fiji beach during our two-week honeymoon, battling her way through a million mystical pages of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, casting pissy glances at me as I devoured thriller after thriller.”
4. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury Gone Girl quote: “She is reading The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. A sci-fi girl … ‘Good book,’ I toss over to her, a harmless conversational beach ball.”
5. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury: ‘Guess what [he found] for me?’ [she] says. ‘Another book by the Martian Chronicle guy.’ ‘Ray Bradburrow,’ [he] says. Bradbury, I think. ‘Yeah, right. Something Wicked This Way Comes,’ [she] says. ‘It’s good.’

Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday Discussion: Classics Revisited

Later this afternoon, my book group is meeting to discuss Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.  I am not a huge Austen fan, but I do enjoy periodically going back to read "classic" titles especially if I am going to have a chance to discuss them with others.

I like thinking about the book's place in its time.  What was going on when it was written?  What was the author trying to say about his or her time?

I then like to think about the book's relevance today.  Why do we still read it? Does it still apply to me and my time? What would today's reader get out of reading it now?

Now, please remember, I am not talking about historical fiction here.  I am talking about books that were written in the past and are still being read today.

Personally, I like reading classic titles from 18th Century America and on into the early years of the 20th Century.  I most enjoy if they were written as a contemporary novel of their time, so like Little Women for example.

I also have enjoyed revisiting classic titles that I was assigned in school and rereading them at a different, more mature point in my life.

One of my favorite classics is To Kill a Mockingbird.  I have read it about 4 times now, and have discussed it with my group.  Every time I read it, I find something new in it.  Something new about the era in which it was written, something new about how much we have changed as a society, yet how much we have stayed the same too, and something new about myself.

As I mentioned above, I am not a huge Austen fan, but I haven't read Sense and Sensibility since I was in high school.  Rereading it and preparing for the discussion has been a positive experience.  I have come to appreciate the novel as more than the fluff about idle women with little to do but gossip and worry about boys, which is how I saw it then.  It still is not my "cup of tea," (and it is still how I described it in the previous sentence) but I better understand and appreciate why and  how it is written the way it is.

You can look for my full book discussion report later this week.

So what abut you? Do you enjoy revisiting classics? What can you share about your experiences?

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stop the Presses...I Finally Start Reading The Hunger Games and BIG News about BPL RA

First, let me set the stage here.  In my job as a RA librarian for mostly adult patrons, I do not have to read everything, I just need to know about the possible appeal factors of everything.  It is a big distinction.  One that makes my job possible.  Having to have read everything in order to do Readers' Advisory would lead to certain failure.

When this comes to extremely popular books, I often do not want to take a copy of that book away from a patron in order to read it myself.  All I need to do is know who it would appeal to and why.  Often with runaway hits this is quite easy.  I can read customer comments on Amazon or GoodReads to get that "loved it" and "hated it" information from actual readers.  These books also have many articles and reviews available, as well as materials in the professional library journals meant to help in this exact situation.

For The Hunger Games this was easy.  I am very well versed in dystopian novels; they have always been one of my favorite subgenres of books, and I read plenty about the series.

Usually, when the holds die down, I will give the book a try for myself if I have time and/or think I would like it.  However, in this case, since my focus is on adult readers, I did not go out of my way to read this YA novel for myself.

But two circumstances have come up, like planets colliding, that has made right now the perfect time for me to begin reading The Hunger Games.

The first is quite innocuous.  My 10 yearr old, advanced reading daughter has been begging me to read The Hunger Games as all of her friends in the advanced reading class had been all year.  I agreed if we both read it and she answered questions after each chapter, verbally and wrote out answers to essays questions when she was done.  She agreed.  She is very excited.

But until yesterday. I had not yet given in to her desire to read it.  I was still on the fence.  And then...here comes the BIG NEWS part of today's post...our fearless leader, Kathy announced yesterday that after over a year of behind the scenes wrangling the BPL RA Department was given the official word that we will now be in charge of the Library's Teen collection!

These new responsibilities begin behind the scenes on October 1 with an unveiling in January.  We want time to work with our teen patrons so they can have a say in remaking their space and crafting their collection.  But it will be a mostly leisure reading collection and patrons from teen readers to adults will now all have their leisure reading needs served at one desk.

So, step one...Hunger Games here I come.  I will report on my experience of reading it with my daughter in a few weeks.  We will be taking it slow so that she can fully understand it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

First BPL RA Dream Team Created Reading Maps Are Live!!!

Back in April, I posted here about Christi's internship with the BPL RA Dream Team.  Her job was to create a beginning collection of reading maps for us, and to teach the staff how to make a reading map of their own.

We posted our starter collection of maps on the Browsers Corner with the understanding that each member of the RA Dream Team would do one of their own by the end of the summer.

While my reading map is not quite done, I did give the okay yesterday on the first two maps.  I have been working with students as they create reading maps for 5 years now, and I have to say, these first two attempts are excellent and I am proud to unveil them today.

Here is the direct link to John's map of The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice.  And here is the direct link to Betty's map of A Test of Wills by Charles Todd.

Both Betty and John did an excellent job of capturing the feel of the book in the style of their map, and included quite a bit of background information as well as readalikes.  I would also like to note, that Betty in particular had little to no web page building skills before she attempted her map, and she did a great job in a surprisingly short amount of time.

We will be adding to our collection all summer (2 down 4 to go), so check back here frequently.

If you or your library have been working on reading maps, please let me know and I can add them to my general reading map archive here.  This also contains the maps that got a grade of A- or higher from my students over the past few years.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Small Demons

I have been meaning to check out Small Demons for quite awhile, so I put it on the summer to-do list.  Today I got to it.  I was quite intrigued by this introductory video.




Here is some information from their website:
It all begins here. Suppose someone took every meaningful detail from all the books you love. Every song mentioned, every person, every food or place or movie title. And what if they did that for all the books everyone else loves, too. The ones you’ve never heard of. Suddenly you’ve got a whole world of seemingly random people, places and things, all gathered in one place.
Together they create something vast, wonderful and entirely new. A Storyverse. A place where details touch, overlap and lead you further. To new music to listen to. New movies to watch. Places to visit. People to know. And of course, new books to read. Getting started is simple. Just choose a book. See where it takes you.
I have signed up and have started exploring.  I have a few initial comments.  What Small Demons most reminds me of are reading maps.  Readers of this blog know that I have had quite a bit to say about reading maps.  I will not rehash it here since there is an entire permanent page  I have created on reading maps.  [Also, coming soon, NoveList will be publishing an article I co-wrote about Reading Maps.]

But basically, it appears that Small Demons takes all of the people, places and things mentioned in a book and pulls them out and regroups them.  As the video says, you can find books grouped by what movie or music is mentioned in them.

Again, like a reading map this all works best when you are dealing with books with a lot of frame--all the details, setting, etc...

Small Demons is fairly new so the list of books included is limited.  However, a few books which are there that I think are perfectly suited to this type of database are Ready Player One and A Visit From the Goon Squad. Use the links to see their Small Demons entries

I also think I have some patrons for whom a resource like Small Demons could be a reading life-saver. These are readers who like to read everything that mentions a specific place or features a specific time, or like my friend Joyce, everything with even a passing note about Faberge eggs.

I am going to play around some more on Small Demons.  Currently I am building my personal storyboard by marking books I have enjoyed.  I will get back to you with more impressions later, but for now let me know if you have used Small Demons or if you even think it would be something that would interest you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Booklist Online's Hostile Questions for Authors is Tons of Fun

One of my favorite features on Booklist Online's Likely Stories blog is when Daniel Kraus is let loose to ask famous authors some very hostile questions.

These short interviews, made up of the same hostile but rhetorical questions, really give the authors a chance to show their skill.  They have to be funny AND articulate, interesting AND entertaining, intelligent AND down to earth.  This is hard.  Some of them do better than others, but from all, I feel like I learn something more about them and their work.  Plus most of these interviews make me smile, which is a nice outcome to get from some hostile questions.

Use this link to bring up all of the interviews, but below is the most recent with nonfiction author Mary Roach.

******************************************
Sure, Mary Roach looks like a formidable foe. She got up close and personal with decomposing flesh in Stiff, got intimate with death inSpook, got just plain intimate in Bonk, and then went cosmic, man, with Packing for Mars. But I have an edge: If there’s one thing I know about the nonfiction publishing industry, it’s the ceaseless GLITZ and GLAMOR. I’ll wait until she lifts her glass of Dom Pérignon… and then I strike!

Just who do you think you are?
A friend of mine was a production guy on the set ofNash Bridges. One day Don Johnson walks by one of the carpenters, a big guy named Tiny, and sneers, “What are YOU lookin’ at?” Tiny, without missing a beat and knowing full well he’ll be fired, says, “Third-rate actor with a drinking problem.” I’ll let Tiny answer this one for me: Overpaid hack with the mind of a 12-year-old boy.
Where do you get off?
The stop where no one else gets off, because it’s disgusting and it smells really bad.
What’s the big idea?
Truth! What happened to truth? Lies and lazy thinking are getting the upper hand on critical thought and solid, hard reporting. Ignorance and self-promotion are unseating reason and good. Me no like.
What is your problem, man?
Running out of body parts to write about.
Haven’t you done enough?
Enough to what? Drag the reputation of W.W. Norton and Company all the way down into the gutter? Yes. Embarrass my stepchildren? Yes. Stop global warming? I could maybe do a little more there.

BEA Wrap Up With Hottest Up Coming Books

For the last few days, and well into this week I am sure, many of those who attended BEA are helping out those of us who couldn't make it with their reports on what they saw, over-heard, and learned.  Thanks by the way.  BEA always overlaps with the final days of school here in IL, and those are moments I don't want to miss, even for books.

Early Word ran this post with links to other reports on the "hottest books" from the conference.  But what I found even more useful is how Early Word took what they heard at this year's event and tried to match it up with what they heard last year about books that ended up becoming THE BEST of 2011; or as they called it "Handicapping the Books of BEA."

Click through and check your on-order status.  These are books your patrons will want in a few months.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday Discussion: Do You Need to Read a Book By An Author Before You Go See Her?

As I have mentioned already, The Berwyn Library is hosting bestselling author Gillian Flynn on Wednesday, July 11th at 7pm.  Yesterday the Chicago Sun Times had the event listed with their review of Gone Girl.

Registration for the event opened to the public today.  We only have 20 spots left, so email ra[at]berwynlibrary[dot]org to hold your place ASAP.

One of the questions we have had from people is, "Well, I haven't read any of her books. Can I still come?"  Our answer is: OF COURSE!  If you like reading, come see an actual author.  But I got this question enough that I thought I would turn it into today's Monday Discussion. 

If you had asked me this question 10 years ago, I would have said that there was no way I would go to see an author whose books I hadn't read.  What would have been the point?  However, after 12 years as a professional Readers' Advisor I have a completely different answer.

I have been at many author events for work over the last dozen years and often I had never read the author's work, but still enjoyed these talks. In 1997, I saw Sherman Alexie at the Printers Row Book Fair back when he was listed in Granta as a "Best Young American Novelist" and I saw Karin Slaughter here at the BPL last year.  Even though at the time, I had read nothing by either author, I learned quite a bit about their process from listening to them speak.  Both are huge best sellers today.

I think if you love reading and books, seeing any author speak about their writing is a worth while experience.  However, I can totally understand wanting to be familiar with an author's "style" before seeing them (literally seconds ago a patron just told me this is why she is reading Dark Places even though it is, as she said, "not my genre").

So for today's Monday Discussion, let me know about you.  Do you need to have read an author's work before you will see them speak?  Let me know.

Click here for past Monday Discussions.

Vote For RA for All!

Thanks to some awesome library friends, I am happy to announce that RA for All is a finalist for the Salem Press Library Blog Awards in the Independent--Public Category.

Click here to vote for me.

And thanks to everyone who reads this blog for their support.

And for those of you patiently waiting, the Monday Discussion will post shortly.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The RA for All Road Show Hits Palos Heights

Today I will be talking to the Zone 7+ librarians at the Palos Heights Public Library.  I am presenting my very popular RA for All program in which I lay out my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service.

This is one of my favorite programs to give because it is all about spreading the joy of Readers' Advisory.  There are no slides or long lectures.  It is just me teaching front line library staff how to help their patrons find their next good read.

If you are interested in having me come to your library, click here.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Haruki Murakami Bingo


We have hung this up at work, and then someone mentioned that I should post it for those of you who missed it.

This was in the NY Times Book Review over the weekend.

I am currently reading 1Q84 and working on an update to my Read Alike article on Murakami on NoveList, so I found this particularly amusing.

RIP Ray Bradbury

Of course it was inevitable.  The great science fiction writer, Bradbury was in his 90s, so while I was not surprised that he passed away on Tuesday, I was saddened.

Bradbury is a writer I have always admired.  He wrote fantastical but accessible stories.  I felt a kinship with his world view.  And I adored how he loved the public library with all of his heart.

Fahrenheit 451 is one of my all time favorite books.  I have read it at least 10 times, but I refuse to own a copy.  Bradbury wrote the book by feeding dimes in the pay typewriters at the LA Public Library.  As a book all about the importance of books and reading, I feel like I show solidarity with his message by reading public library copies of this book.

Also, back in April, I wrote this "Back List Not to Miss" post about Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Many people have argued that Bradbury is responsible for moving science fiction into the mainstream. He was one of the first genre writers who transcended genre and was simply considered...a writer.  Current authors like Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, and Michael Chabon would not be held up as writers of great literary fiction without Bradbury first paving the way.  They might still be confined to the fringes as "genre writers."

As readers, lovers of great story telling, and, for me at least, librarians, we all owe so much to Bradbury, his vision, his imagination, and his talent. All I want to say is "Thank You."

Already planned before his death, a new collection of stories inspired by Bradbury entitled, Shadow Show, featuring new stories by authors as varied as Margaret Atwood, Joe Hill, and Jacquelyn Mitchard, is coming out in July.  What a fitting tribute to such an amazingly talented man.

Click here for Bradbury's official website.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

National Audiobook Month--Coupon Included

June is National Audiobook month.  To get ready last week, I posted here about the appeal of audiobooks.
My friend and colleague, Joyce Saricks, has researched the appeal of audiobooks extensively.  Last year, she released what she claims is her final book, Read On...Audiobooks.

This book is really the only resource out there that can help you to assess which audiobooks would be best for readers who like to listen to books with, for example, a certain type of characterization, a specific frame, or an especially good evocation of a desired mood, just to name a few.

Our current RA resources assess these appeal factors based on the written text, but as those of us who enjoy audiobooks know, often, the audio version will enhance or detract from some of these factors.  For example, as I have mention many times before, I cannot read books with many foreign words, but I LOVE to listen to them.  Also, while reading the written page, I do not have a preference for point of view, but when I listen to an audiobook, I much prefer a first person narration.  For me, it is important that the character tell me his or her story when I listen to the book.  For many readers, fast paced books that they breeze through when reading, move too slow on audio, but for others, this down side is a huge plus because it draws out the suspense longer.

These are all things Joyce addresses in her book. There is no other resource that does this.
In celebration of National Audiobook Month, Libraries Unlimited wants you to receive a 20% discount on the book Read On...Audiobooks for the month of June. Use promo code 12LU189B to receive this special offer!
Click here for Libraries Unlimited's Facebook page or here to go directly to the product page to order  and use the code.

If you are looking for something to listen to, check out Joyce's book or look at this list of the 2012 Audie Nominees for the best work in audiobooks.
Don't forget you can also use #JIAM2012 on Twitter to follow any and all National Audiobook Month giveaways, info, and news.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

BEA is in Full Swing

I am not at BEA but I might as well be with the number of updates I am receiving.  Not that I mean to complain.  It is great.  The amount of information and resources that comes out of the event is enormous but very helpful.

So for the next few days rather than try to rehash it all for you, I want to point you to the direct link to Publishers Weekly's daily free coverage of the conference.  Simply use the link everyday to see what has been going on.

If some huge, groundbreaking news happens, I'll clue you in, but otherwise, you are all grownups. Check daily if you want, or ignore it completely.  It's up to you.  I am just here to provide the tools, what you choose to do with them is your business.

What I'm Reading: Gone Girl

Unless you are living under a rock, you know that Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn comes out today!  I was lucky enough to read it back in March as I was planning Flynn's visit here to the BPL.  

I knew right away that this book had something special. As I have mentioned in my past reviews of Flynn's first 2 novels (here and here) she is one of the current masters of psychological suspense in the tradition of such greats as Alfred Hitchcock, Patricia Highsmith, and Shirley Jackson.  For those unsure of what I mean by psychological suspense, here is how I  it for the forthcoming ARRT Popular Fiction Workbook (available in early 2013 on NoveList):
Psychological suspense refers to books which put an uneasy atmosphere at the forefront, producing a chill in the reader; however, as opposed to horror, the fear and anxiety comes from very real sources because the monsters in psychological suspense are flesh and blood individuals who are frighteningly real, not speculative. These are books filled with serial killers, stalkers, and evil masterminds. They play with the psyches of their victims and the reader. Tension in these novels builds, the atmosphere is nightmarish, the chills do not let up, and the plot resolutions are disturbing and unclear. These are fairly literary novels filled with darkness, plot twists, and obsession.
Flynn's new book stands as the perfect illustration of this definition.  Let me be clear here.  This book is suspenseful, but not in the traditional fast paced sense.  It is still highly literary, with a lot details that are necessary for the first 150 pages, but boy when that twist comes (and it is a big one) those details pay off.

I can't give you more than the set up though because it will ruin everything.

Nick and Amy are married.  They are going through a difficult time.  They both lost their jobs, and moved from NYC to rural Missouri, Nick's hometown, to help care for his ailing mother. But as the book opens it is their 5th anniversary.  Except, that day, Amy goes missing and Nick is the prime suspect.

The book is in three parts.  In part 1, the pov alternates between Nick in the present and Amy's diary.  After this first part, there is a huge twist.  The alternating povs continues throughout the novel.  It creates a great he said-she said banter as the suspense builds relentlessly in parts 2 and 3. 

The twists keep coming.  They are believable, but shocking.  This is an important point to make about the book.  There is no hero here.  Nick is an admittedly flawed narrator who does himself no favors.  Amy is...well I won't say...but she is not someone you would want to be friends with.   But for a book that is going to be mainstream, I was surprised by how dark and twisted it was.  Don't get me wrong, personally, I love that about it, but I have patrons who might be unnerved by it.  Again though, being unnerved is the entire point.

If you want to read a smart, thought provoking, dark look at a marriage gone terribly wrong, read Gone Girl.  It begins with a slow build, that pays off with a second half that left me up late turning the pages and gasping with surprise.

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Three Words That Describe This Book: twisted, shifting points of view, uneasy atmosphere

Readalikes:  First, go to my review of Dark Places to see a lengthy discussion of Flynn readalike options.

But specifically, as I mentioned above, this book really reminded me of a Hitchcock movie.  Also Amy is the closest character I have seen to the creepy, planned evil of Highsmith's Ripley character.

I also think Gone Girl is similar to Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie suspense stories.  Both are slower paced than their genre mates, filled with details that pay off in the end, and have a literary style.  Click here to bring up my posts which mention Atkison.

Congrats to Flynn on an amazing book. And don't forget to sign up to meet her at the BPL on 7/11.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Monday Discussion: Summer Reading Goals

Now that June is in full swing, I am hearing a lot of people talk about their summer reading goals.  It seems quite common [at least according to my unscientific survey or library patrons, friends and family] for people to make summer reading resolutions.

My Dad (who is currently visiting here in Chicago) makes a summer reading goal every summer.  In 2010 he did the entire Lord of the Rings, including The Hobbit.  In 2011 it was a George R R Maritn read-a-thon, and this summer it is the Caro LBJ biographies.

For me, I have a small but important goal this summer.  In honor of the 50th Anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time, I will be re-reading it alongside my about to turn 10 year old daughter as she reads it for the first time.  We will also be discussing it while we read.

So what about you? Do you have a summer reading goal?  Is it a number of books, a new genre to try, or something specific? Let us all know.  Who knows you may inspire someone else with your plans.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.