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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Links to Gillian Flynn Interview

While I was on vacation, the editing of my Q and A session with Gillian Flynn was completed.  We have the videos up on You Tube, but they are unlisted, meaning you need to link to view them.  It is in 4 parts. In order to make sure that there are no technical glitches, please find the direct links below.

Enjoy.  And thanks to Gillian (who really is as nice as she comes off in the video) for allowing us to tape her and share the session with the world.

Links:
Part 1:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2t4O2EE-ys
Part 2:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyUrtBewLPU
Part 3:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qD282c1qnFQ
Part 4:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJ2TtLpeVDY

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Discussion: Death Bracket Preparation-- Crime Fiction

I'm back from vacation and ready to begin posting daily again.

It's Monday and I am raring to go with another Monday Discussion, but this one is pretty huge.  Today I want to do Crime Fiction.  Again, I want popular, living and still publishing authors to consider adding to the mix for our Death Bracket,  Click here for the full explanation.

Crime Fiction encompasses many genres.  Here is the definition I have written and will be using:
A crime story is defined by its plot. These are novels in which a crime is committed, someone investigates the crime, and some resolution to the investigation is reached by novel’s end. Not all crime fiction ends with the criminal coming to justice, but the reader will always finish a crime novel knowing whodunit. The crime genres are for readers who enjoy compellingly paced stories with investigative elements and protagonists with whom they can identify. While not all crime fiction is overtly violent, the general trend is toward grittier and more graphic descriptions. Crime fiction includes the genres of Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, and Psychological Suspense.
Okay, here I go.

Of course here at the BPL we love Gillian Flynn (the video of her appearance will be up tomorrow).

I also want to mention Alan Bradley and Louise Penny in traditional  mystery, Kate Atkinson and Tana French in suspense, and James Rollins, Iris Johansen and Daniel Silva in Thriller.

So have at it.  Start throwing out authors.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Discussion: Death Bracket Preparation--Romance

Click here for previous death bracket prep posts if you have not seen them before you proceed to today's discussion.

Now for today.  We are moving forward with gathering names.  Today it is Romance's turn.

I am going to offer up Eloisa James for her funny Regencies and Susan Elizabeth Phillips for her fun and sassy heroines.

Please leave your comments with romance authors you think should battle it out this Fall in the BPL's death match of popular authors.

Click here for past Monday Discussions

Thursday, July 19, 2012

RA Links Round-Up: Vacation Edition

RA for All will be on vacation starting tomorrow.  There will still be a Monday Discussion on 7/23, but after that probably a whole lot of nothing.  I have also updated my "I am reading" shelf which you can see in the Shelfari widget in the right gutter with my vacation reads. I hope to get through 4 books and a bunch of trashy magazine.

But before I go, here are some interesting links I wanted to share.  If you want, you can space them out over next 10 days to make it feel like I am around.
I'll be back on 7/30.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Student Annotations Are Back

Although I am not teaching this summer semester, Joyce has the class 2x a week.  They began posting new annotations to the class blog this week.  So remember to check it out.  This week they covered the landscape genres (fantasy, historical fiction, western) and adrenaline (thriller, suspense, romantic suspense, and adventure).

Remember to check it every Monday and Wednesday for the next few weeks for great reading suggestions and readalike options.

BPL Book Discussion: Language of Flowers

On Monday we met for another great book discussion.  This time we tackled a current book club best seller, the debut novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, The Language of Flowers.

Here is the synopsis from Reading Group Guides:
A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.
The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.
Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.
Now on to the discussion:
  • We started as usual with our overall opinion of the book.  We had 10 liked, 3 so-so, and 0 disliked.  This is a huge testament to Diffenbaugh since this is her first novel.  But a few of us questioned if she can pull off another novel.  This one was so personal since she is a foster parent herself.
  • Initial so-so comments included:
    • When I began I loved it but lost interest in the final section.  I was disgusted in how she reacted to becoming a mother, especially since she was so nurturing to others making them bouquets with specific flowers.
    • I am tired about reading about troubled teens all of the time; all teens are troubled, but I did find her story interesting.
  •  Initial liked comments included:
    • I thought I wouldn't like it, but I got caught up in the drama and couldn't put it down.
    • I had to read it in bits because it was so heart wrenching, but I loved how skilled the author was at layering the story and holding back information.  The secrets and unknowns built a high level suspense that I got caught up in.
  • These comments led us right into a discussion on the unique story telling style of the novel.  Diffenbaugh unravels the story of Victoria in pieces by alternating chapters (but not always every other one) between the past (the year she turned 10 and moved in with Elizabeth) and the present (from her 18th birthday and liberation from the "system").  One person said it was hard to keep track at first, but the author set up an easy rhythm and she got used to it.  Another person added that while there are no notations as to which time frame a new chapter is in, the author gave clues to orient you right away.  We all agreed that alternating time frames was an excellent way to tell the story.  It gave the novel more suspense because we didn't know the culminating reason as to why Elizabeth and Victoria are separated until 3/4 of the way through the story. It also gave us a better perspective on Victoria's intense rage; for example, the shock of finding out what happened on what was supposed to be the day Elizabeth adopted Victoria made Victoria's anger seem more understandable.
  • We talked for a bit about the foster care system.  We get snippets of Victoria telling us about foster parents who take kids in for the wrong reasons, yet Elizabeth who is troubled but only has love for Victoria, gets her rights to be with Victoria taken away.  We found it refreshing that Meredith, Victoria's case worker, was portrayed well.  Too often you get the bad case worker who doesn't care about the kid. Meredith was always there for Victoria.  Overall we felt the novel provided a fair depiction of the American foster care system.  It had good and bad points to make.
  • By the way, we all were happy that this book never turned into a Victoria searches for her real mother book. In her mind, Elizabeth is that real mother.
  • I asked the group, "What potential do Elizabeth, Renata, and Grant see in Victoria that she has a hard time seeing in herself?"  She is intelligent and has a photographic memory.  She was labelled dumb by traditional schools mostly because of her anger, but she has a gift with flowers that these other people can see in her.  As an outsider in her own family, Renata understood how hard it is when you don't fit in; she excused the outside prickliness of Victoria and was willing to delve deeper.
  • This led someone to ask why Victoria is so empathetic to the needs of others and is able to pick them the perfect flowers to express their feelings, but she has no sense of love or empathy for herself?  The group jumped on this question.  Here are some comments:
    • The flowers were beautiful and made her forget the ugliness of her life.  
    • They can give a message so clearly, without causing pain.  
    • Working with the language of flowers reminded Victoria of her happiest childhood days with Elizabeth.
    • The flowers were easy to understand; Victoria could look them up and catalog their messages.  People, are much harder for her.  She has had very few positive human interactions.
    • Flowers were easier for her to use to express herself than words.
    • Victoria has a deep personal understanding of what most people would call sadness; she realizes sadness has many layers and intricacies.
    • We were worried that when she and Grant discovered there were sometimes 2 meanings for a flower that this would crush her, but her love of the language of flowers prevailed and she showed her strength by working to create her own personal standardization of the language creating a file box of photographs and flower meanings.
  • The final section of the book is titled "Moss."  This is the section where Victoria has her daughter, struggles to care for her, and leaves her with Grant (the baby's father).  Moss not only means "Maternal Love," but it also can grow without roots, something life long orphan Victoria can appreciate. Here are some notes on our discussion of that entire section:
    •  The baby is named Hazel by Grant and Elizabeth because the plant means "reconciliation;" which is exactly what Hazel is able to do--reconcile the family (or at least begin the process of reconciliation).
    • Although Victoria makes awful choices when she gets overwhelmed with the baby, even abandoning her overnight, she is able to pull it together enough to know that the baby needed more than she could give.  By leaving her with Grant (the father) she knows the baby will get what it needs.
    • Victoria wrapping the baby in moss also told Grant that she was leaving the baby because she loved her--maternal love.
  •  We of course talked at length about the language of flowers itself.
    • One person was upset to find out that some of her favorite flowers have terrible meanings.
    • I asked if there was someone in their lives who they would want to test to see if the language worked on.  If so, who and what message would you try to send to them without words, only flowers.  People shared some personal stories.
    • We discussed how in the beginning, before Victoria was able to educate her customers on using flowers to send a message, they didn't know the meanings she was trying to convey, yet the messages still seemed to get through.  So I asked if people believed in the language of flowers.  Is it magic?  We decided that if you believe in it, it will help you.
    • This led us to discussing how Victoria grew her business.  We loved how her business cards were an iris which meant message; how she made a dictionary of flowers for customers to use, and how watching her work allowed us, the readers, to get to understand and know Victoria better, without the author having to explain her.
    • Someone said that entrepreneurs should read this novel for advice on starting a business.
  • We moved the discussion over to Elizabeth.  Why did it take her so long to patch things up with her sister, Catherine.  Victoria made her realize the importance of family, but by then it was too late; Catherine had dementia.  We also felt Elizabeth's unreasonable behavior of not talking to a sister who lived next door also was a foreshadowing of her deeper flaws as a person.  When she is unable to go through with adopting Victoria, we were initially shocked, but ultimately not surprised.  We know she is a damaged person already.
  • The ending is very open.  Victoria comes for Thanksgiving dinner with Grant, Elizabeth, and baby Hazel, but Victoria also tells the reader that she will not stay for long.  She wants to grow her business and learn to be Hazel's mother.  She hopes in time that she can become a more traditional mother, but she is confident that no matter what happens, this baby will have roots, family, and love.  A few people felt like they were sure that Victoria would eventually come around and be a more traditional mother.  But most of us were not sure.  We loved the open ending for this reason.  We were happy not to be forced into an ending.  What we have is a snap shot in the process of an ongoing evolution. How Victoria will evolve is not something anyone can know for sure.
  • This led us to a side discussion on the question of what makes a family?  We decided that one of the things we liked about this book is how the novel gives you lots of example of what a family can be.  We threw out some words that define family: love, connectedness, to be cared for, belonging, to disappoint yet be there for each other, love despite it all, commitment, loss, acceptance without wanting change, unconditional love.  We thought that flowers were also a great symbol for "family."  They need dirt to grow beautiful; they also need nurturing, and when flowers come together they speak the loudest, just as when the people in families come together they are stronger.
  • One participant pointed out the meanings of the main characters' names:
    • Renata means fox and she is smart like a fox
    • Victoria-- victory for herself
    • Grant-- a gift
    • Hazel-- reconciliation (already mentioned)
  • Finally we ended like usual with words or phrases to describe the book as a whole:
    • love
    • family
    • forgiveness
    • second chances
    • growth
    • connectedness
    • belonging
    • maternal love
    • flowers
    • message
    • layered
    • unconditional love
    • non-traditional
    • what connects women
    • foster care system
    • nourishment
    • wounds
    • entrepreneurship
This is a short novel packed full of discussable topics.  I was one of the so-so people (the book was fine but not great, in my opinion), but I loved the discussion.
Readalikes: For people who want more books on the language of flowers and what it all means, click here.  For readers who want more books fiction or nonfiction about the foster care system in America, click here.  Bestselling author, Paula McClain also has a memoir about her childhood in the foster care system called Like Family.

In terms of fiction readalikes there are 2 books we read previously in book club which had similar themes of secrets, family, and forgiveness and were also told with an alternating past and present storyline: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jaime Ford and Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (use links to access those discussion recap posts).  Although the plots of these 3 books are widely different, the style, themes and tones are strikingly similar. To help more readers, I also entered these readalike options into NoveList,

A few more specific readalikes about troubled teens, mother daughter-relationships, and foster care that are also popular book discussion titles include:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Crime in the City on NPR

NPR is running this fascinating summer series about fictional detectives and the cities where they live.  They are calling it Crime in the City, and if you click here they have all of the entries with a nice map. For each entry they interview the author but the focus is on how the city is captured in the novels.  For many of these series, the city in which they are set becomes a character in the books itself.  It can become a huge draw for bringing readers back again and again to many a long running series.

Setting is a huge appeal factor for many readers. I know for me it is key.  Look at all these books I have read and loved precisely because of the amazing sense of place.

When you talk about crime fiction, it becomes even more important to a wide range of readers.  You can see this in the popular website Stop You're Killing Me's Location index (a weekly stop for me as I help readers) and the popularity of our Around the World in 80 Murders last year.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Comic Con and Thriller Fest Wrap-Ups with Award Winners

Yes, all the talk was about Comic Con in the media and you can read wrap-ups and coverage here and the best coverage here.  Also here is the link to the long list of Eisner Winners for the best work in comics and graphic novels.

Across the country in NYC there was also Thriller Fest this weekend. Click here for the official website and here for PW's article which lists all of the winners.  Congrats to Stephen King for winning best hardcover novel for 11/22/63; he is continuing to prove that no matter the genre, he is one of America's greatest storytellers. It is next up in my audio cue after I finish the massive but wonderful 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.

And remember my advice on how to use awards lists as an RA suggestion tool. 

Now stop reading this and go ask someone if they need help finding something to read.

Monday Discussion: Death Bracket Preparation--Historical Fiction

First, for those who missed last week, click here for an explanation of what I will be doing with the Monday Discussion for the next several weeks. Also, feel free to go back any week and add more authors to the pool of candidates.  Now back to today's discussion.

On my upcoming vacation I will be visiting some Revolutionary War sites so I thought, why not bring Historical Fiction up for discussion today.

Again, like last week, I will offer one male and one female author.

The very first female historical fiction writer who came to my mind is Jacqueline Winspear.  Here is the author blurb I wrote for her on NoveList:
Jacqueline Winspear and her enchanting protagonist, Maisie Dobbs, rise to the top among Historical British Mysteries. Maisie is a plucky and intelligent young woman who began as a servant and now runs her own private investigation firm. While these are technically cozy mysteries with their well-drawn characters and setting, the plots are complex and well-crafted, and the series has a darker tone due to Maisie's experiences as a nurse during World War I, described through flashbacks. These are well plotted and compelling mysteries that also highlight the human costs of war. Start with: Maisie Dobbs.
In terms of men, I can think of many, but I want to point out the work of Edward Rutherfurd.  Again, from NoveList (but this time not written by me):
Edward Rutherfurd's multi-period Historical Fiction/Family Sagas strive to capture an entire culture's story through its individuals and their ancestral connections to place (often the British Isles). A typical novel may span two millennia (and 500+ pages), following characters' descendants from pre-history to present day. A smooth writing style speeds these detail-laden stories along quite briskly; the larger story remains easy to follow, although multiple plot strands are interwoven. Characters are often "types" (ambitious Russian peasants, humble merchants, fierce Irish revolutionaries, etc.), yet with sufficient personality to engage readers. Start with: Sarum.
Rutherfurd's very long novels read surprisingly fast. You get wrapped up in the characters and the place and are compulsively turning the pages to see what happens next.  Also the long time frame gives you a wonderful perspective of a place over time.  He is a modern day Michener; also good for fans of Follet's Century Trilogy.

Okay, now it is your turn.  For today's Monday Discussion, help up out and give me some of your favorite Historical Fiction authors.

Click here for past Monday Discussions.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

I figured there is no better day than Friday the 13th for me to combine the blogs and showcase Friday the 13th coverage.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Post Gillian Flynn Haze

We had a very successful night with a full house at the BPL.  We will have the video of Flynn's Q&A up soon, but everyone thought it went well, including the author herself.

I am happy to report that she is very nice and funny.  She was more than gracious answering questions from me (which she had a chance to preview) and random questions from the audience.  And then this morning, I opened my Google Reader to this news-- Gillian Flynn Inks a Movie Deal for Gone Girl.

She talked a bit in our Q&A about the movie version of Dark Places (in production) and Sharp Objects (rights sold).

As I am recovering from the weeks of preparation and have another meeting today, but here are a few other things I wanted to pass on:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Countdown to Gillian Flynn

The room is all set up, the microphones have been sound checked, and the video camera is charging.  Gillian Flynn will begin in less than 3 hours.

We are trying very hard to let everyone in.  There is still a wait list, but we'll figure it out.

Meanwhile the praise for Flynn's newest novel Gone Girl keeps rolling in.  Here is an extremely glowing review published just today.

Troy Library's Book Burning Party to Save the Library

Don't ask.  Just watch the embedded video and see one of the best campaigns to save a library, ever.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Great New Jersey Novel

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a proud Jersey Girl.  Although I have lived in the Chicago area for the last 15 years, and have begun to feel more Midwestern as the mother of Illinois born and bred children, I will always be a Jersey girl at heart.

In the past, I have had posts like this one, where I have listed my favorite NJ novels.  I vaguely wrapped this self serving post in a discussion of considering people's personal peculiarities when finding books for them to legitimize my indulgence.

But today, when I went into my Google Reader, I was happy to see I am not the only one talking about great New Jersey novels.  The Millions, an extremely reputable online literary magazine, had this essay talking about the best NJ novels ever!

On a different note, tomorrow is Gillian Flynn, so expect all Flynn, all the time.  The event is "sold out" but we will be video taping it.  It will be posted, probably on the BPL website, sometime next week.  Of course, I will let you know.

And after the Flynn event, I will have more big news about another best selling author who I have been booked to interview this coming Fall.

The Pulitzer Committee Explains Themselves

Yesterday and today, The New Yorker's book blog Page Turner posted this 2 part letter by Pulitzer Prize Winning novelist and 2012 Pulitzer jury member Michael Cunningham explaining what really happened behind closed doors of the finalist selection process.

Click here for part 1.  I was holding this post while I waited for part 2, but it is not up yet.  The link to Part 1 should send you to part 2 once it is up.

I am interested to see how this resolves.Cunningham has thrown down the gauntlet.  The jury is obviously not at fault here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Discussion: Death Bracket Preparation--General Fiction

Over the next few weeks I am going to be gathering people's favorite authors in specific genres here on the blog.  I will then combine this information with the data we are compiling during summer reading and with the work I am doing as part of the Adult Reading Round Table's popular fiction list.

Once I have a solid list of popular authors, John and I are going to make a truly unique election time display.

We realize that in just a few weeks (let's say, the hour after the closing ceremony of the Olympics), we will begin to be bombarded with Presidential Election coverage everywhere.  And, let's be realistic, here in Illinois, we got nothing going on.  We have our hometown President running for re-election, and no other big statewide races.  There is not much suspense in our neck of the woods.

So, John and I had an idea.  Rather than simply do a display on political fiction, we are going to run a "Death Bracket" display pitting the BPL's most popular authors against one and other.  Our display is based on this. 

The goal here is to highlight patrons' favorites, get out a little election season frustration, and have a chuckle. And now for your part.

We will have broad categories in which we will nominate 10-12 authors for the battles. For the next few Mondays, I will be soliciting your favorite authors in these areas.  I will include them in the overall consideration for the display.  As the next few months progress, you can follow the preparation here on RA for All.  Once the brackets begin, John and I will have the final say, writing out a paragraph each as to who won that battle and why.  In the end, only one can survive as the BPL's favorite author.

One more caveat.  We are going to keep this to author's who are alive and currently publshing.

Enough rules.  Let's begin with general fiction.  Who are your favorite contemporary authors.  From book discussion favorites to literary fiction.  Those authors you can't really put in a genre.

I will begin.  I am being very strict with myself here and limiting my picks to one woman and one man.  Michael Chabon and Margaret Atwood.

Now it's your turn.  You can give me as many as you want.  And start brainstorming for upcoming weeks.

Click here for past Monday Discussions.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

OMG! Gone Girl Moves Up To #1

I cannot believe our luck here at the BPL, but after being out for a month, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn moves up to Number 1 on The New York Times Best Seller List.

Email ra[at]berwynlibrary[dot]org to get on the wait list while you still have a chance to see the Number 1 best selling author in an intimate setting at 7pm on 7/11.

Oh, and you can meet me. Exciting, I know.

I will be the one asking the famous, talented author questions.  I will also have my book for sale and will be signing them, but I totally understand if you pass on the librarian textbook and instead buy Flynn's fabulous psychological suspense novels.

Either way, The Book Table will be there selling them all.

Friday, July 6, 2012

What I'm Reading: The Fault In Our Stars

Ahh, John Green.  I think if the BPL RA desk could choose a mascot, we would pick John Green.  He embodies everything about us.  We are all proud nerds (come on, we choose to work as librarians for adult leisure readers; we know we are nerds) and he is one of the founders of the nerdfighters.  He loves reading and writing, and, hey, have you read this blog before; I shouldn't need to elaborate that one.  And he is from the Midwest.  Indy to our Chicago, but he shares our Midwest sensibility (everyone in the Dream Team but me is native to the area).  Finally, he LOVES libraries, and me and my fellow Dream Teamers...well, we are not in it for the money.

Remember this post about John and his brother Hank Green's vlog?  I subscribe and watch every video (2 per week).

But with the big news last month that the BPL RA Dream Team is taking over the Teen collection this fall, reading and talking about John Green incessantly is now considered part of our job.  We are still a bit too stalkerish, but hey, its for the teens of Berwyn.  (Or so we tell ourselves).

Way back in April, I read The Fault in our Stars, which is already showing up on just about every Best of the Year... So Far list.  It deserves to be there.

The plot sounds sappy, but the book is anything but.  This is why critics and readers love it.

Our protagonist is Hazel, a girl who is only alive because the last chance. experimental drug for her aggressive thyroid cancer seems to be working.  She should be dead, but somehow she keeps living.  Hazel is a color between green and brown and she is a girl between life and death.

Hazel took the GED a few years ago, but she is only 16.  She takes community college courses, but her only social outings are to the cancer support group she attends weekly.  There she has one real friend Isaac, who is going blind (but will live) because of his cancer.  Isaac in turn introduces Hazel to Augustus another cancer kid.  The two share a love of books and become close quickly.

Together they go on a journey, both existential (will I be remembered when I die?) and physical (to Amsterdam, but I won't give away why and how).  They fall in love, but when you have cancer, life is short.

This is a poignant story that forces the reader to contemplate big questions about the meaning of life, why we are here on earth, and the power of love.  But again, Green's talent is that he does this with a believable voice.  It is not sappy or schmaltzy.  It is real and rings true.

Hazel is sarcastic, but lovable.  Her mom is her best friend because, as she explains, when you are sick, who else is around.  She is level headed and smart.  She understands that she could get sick and die at any moment, but does not attack life in a cliche way.  She simply lives like a regular teenager.

Hazel and Augustus have some hysterical conversation about his favorite SF adventure series of books, but they also have some serious and some tender conversations.  They talk about life, death, love, and books.  There is lots of talk about books.  And a memorable trip to the Anne Frank house by kids who know they days are numbered.  The parallels between the 2 stories are clear.

And, I have to say this serious, tragic book also contains one of the funniest scenes ever in any book-- a newly blind Isaac playing a video game with Augustus and complaining that Augustus is playing badly.  That also summarizes a lot of the humor in this book.  If you find the humor in a sick blind kid playing video games, as Green does, you will love this book, as I did too.

Three Words That Describe This Book: sarcastic, poignant, existential

Readalikes:  John Green is the best example out there of an author who is a sure bet cross over from YA to Adult.  So, I will break up my read alike options into YA and Adult.  But please note, all are good for both audiences.

Adult Suggestions:

  • I just finished The Age of Miracles by Karen Thomason Walker. Even though the main character there, Julia, is not sick, the world she is living in is.  She narrates the book as a 23 year old looking back on when she was 12 and the earth's rotation started slowing, changing the world forever.  The ideas of living in the moment are very similar here.  Also the young love in a time of crisis is poignant and has a eerily similar ending.
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is also a great read alike here.  The narrator here is a young boy who has lost his father to the 9/11 attacks.  There is an existential journey in both books and the forging of a deep relationship that is destined to end badly, but be worth it all the same.
  • I also think City of Thieves by David Bennioff will appeal here.  Bear with me.  Although it is set in Russia during WWI, the young protagonist, his friend, their journey, and the tragic ending resonate here.  On paper these books look very different, but I have read read both and I can tell you the feel, the writing, the protagonists, the sense of awe when you read them, are the same.  Click here for my full review of City of Thieves.
YA Suggestions: I am less well read in the YA field but I will do what I can here.
As Green always says: DFTBA (Don't forget to be awesome).

Vacation Reading: Your Suggestions Wanted

I plan to have a review up before I go to bed tonight, although that may be tricky since my daughter is having 4 friends sleep over for her birthday party. But that's the plan for now.

Anyway, I am beginning to get ready for my vacation later this month which means I am picking out the books to bring.  I already have the ARCs I got of Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead and The Red House by Mark Haddon, both which I have saved because they involve family vacations.  And even though they are brand new titles, since I have the ARCs, they are paperbacks and great for travel with a husband, 2 kids, and lots of beach gear.

But I have room for two more books.  So, start the suggestions coming.  I will take any and all suggestions but please note, I have read quite a few new books recently and I would really love a backlist suggestion.  Also, I could use some good nonfiction suggestions.

Leave your suggestions in the comments, or if you are shy, email me.  And thanks in advance.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

RA Links Round-Up

It's a holiday week and I am off the desk until Monday, home with the kids, and preparing for a 10th Birthday sleepover party, which all adds up to the fact that I have lots of interesting things piling up in my various inboxes and not enough time to write a post on each.  So....here is the short version.  Click on what you want, ignore what you don't.  And, feel free to add your own links to the comments.

  • First a gentle reminder that I have a horror blog too.  I post on RA for All: Horror at least 2x a week.  Recently, I have had this post on Hug a Monster Day and this one on an upcoming Horror Writers Association Roundtable discussion about Ray Bradbury.
  • Try as I might, I do not like the fiction of Lev Grossman.  On paper I should, but in reality I do not.  However, I do enjoy following his posts as a Time Magazine entertainment blogger.  Take this one where he reviews 7 books, speed dating style.  I can relate, I am months behind on my book reviews.
  • Still looking for a book to read on your summer vacation? Readers Advisor Online is still compiling a list of summer reading lists.
  • It's old news now, but as I said, I am behind on the links I wanted to post about.  The first Will Eisner Award for libraries was given out at ALA.  Click here for Graphic Novel Reporters coverage.
  • Check out this closed Wal-Mart that was turned into a public library.
  • Sue Polanka posted her report on the E-Books collection development panel that she was part of at ALA.  It includes their slides.
  • Because I am probably the only blogger in the word who has not linked to J.K. Rowling's new book cover.
  • Amazon's Best Books of the Year So Far is out.  Even better there are editors picks by genre.  Even even better, Gone Girl is on the list.  Did I mention Gillian Flynn will be that the BPL on 7/11?  Technically, all slots are filled, but you can email me to get on the wait list.  We will fill the room, so if someone doesn't show, there is at least a chance that you can get in.  Also, we will allow people who show up the chance to get their books signed as people begin to filter out.
Stay cool.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

More Reading America Lists

To keep the theme of yesterday's Monday Discussion going.  Here are a few lists I found around the Net that will help to put you in the Independence Day spirit:

Click here for the posts I have done over the past couple of years in honor of Independence Day.

Stay cool.  We have a heat advisory here in Chicagoland. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday Discussion: Let Freedom Read

This week marks the 236th birthday of our independent nation, so today, let's talk about books that make you think about America.

I was an American Studies major so I have a lot of opinions on this topic, but for today, I am going to leave you with a few of my favorite books that scream "America" to me.

First of all, no one has captured the American experience with all of its contradictions, successes and failures like Ken Burns.  Use this link to see all of his books, and this one to see his movies.

Yesterday, I loaned my sister-in-law my copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (a personal, all-time favorite), which got me thinking of my Great American Novels With a Twist list, which I compiled a few years ago.  As I said in that post:
The following 10 novels tackle large issues of recent American history as their stories unfold.  What makes these books different is the twist, or hook, which the author uses to provide a unique glimpse at the American Experience.  These books offer a little something for everyone and all are critically acclaimed.
 Click here for the full list.

In terms of more nonfiction, my absolute favorite writer of narrative nonfiction that focuses on American History is David McCullough (who also appears in a few Burns movies).  There are many others, but he is my undisputed #1.

And finally, for some history, a chuckle, and supernatural action, you could always read this.

Now what about you?  In honor of Independence Day, let me know the books or authors that make you think of America (for better or worse).

For past Monday Discussions, click here.