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


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

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

ALA Wrap Up Notes, Links, and Resources

After a very long but fun and productive 4 days at ALA Annual, I of course have many things to share.  Today I am going to try to do direct you to other places you can find wrap ups, notes and resources as well as report on a few smaller things I did.

I still have at least 2 more posts coming, but for one, I am waiting for the recording to be posted. That one is on Diversity in Publishing but in the meantime, please, please read this, "Post-ALA Race Fatigue." by April, a librarian, lawyer and blogger. Seriously, go now. I'll still be here when you get back.

Okay, first, I want to remind everyone clamoring for conference news from those of us who did attend, you can always get news about any conference or our industry in general from three places: American Libraries, Library Journal, or Publihsers' Weekly archive of all Library News

Also, Steve Thomas, the host of the excellent interview podcast, Circulating Ideas, did 4 mini-podcasts during the conference. You can click here to listen. Yes, I am one of the people he interviewed, but what I liked most about these mini-episodes was that Steve also did a recap on the programs he went to and what he learned. [For those of you who encounter this post in the future, they are Episodes 111.1-111.4].

Many people, including myself, Tweeted from the conference. You can see all of the Tweets, even if you don't use Twitter by searching the official hashtag- #alaac17.

One of the best programs I went to was Librarians Go To Juvie. Working with teens in jail is a personal interest and career goal. This program was on the last full day at 4:30, but boy am I glad I stuck it out and went. I have Storified my Tweets here so you can all learn about this wonderful program run by the Kalamazoo Public Library.

My friend and Read N Rave co-panelist Stephen Sposato from Chicago Public Library also wanted to share something he learned with everyone: "Someone (whose name I didn't catch) shared a great tip: use Bookshots for Hi-Lo readers (high-interest books for adults of low-literacy). Some libraries have special sections devoted to this need, but books specifically published for this market can be hard to come by."

This is so true. In fact, if anyone out there works with Hi-Lo collections for adults, please contact me. I want to talk to you about writing a post for me.

I also took my own advice and met a few interesting people by just starting up a conversation with the person who happend to be next to me by chance. 90% of them were happy to engage. I will share some of those stories in future posts. I also touched base with a few people I sorta knew and am working with them to create some useful guests posts here on the blog.

Also many of you came up to me and introduced yourself. Thank you for doing that. I never would have met you otherwise and I love meeting library people everywhere and anywhere, but especially at library conferences.

This is enough for a day after round up. I will be back with the full Read N Rave list of everything the entire panel talked about yesterday, but remember you can read more about the books I raved in this post. Plus I will have that audio recording of the Diversity in Publishing panel as soon as it is available.

Monday, June 26, 2017

RA for All Roadshow Hits ALA: Read N Rave Panel

Today from 10:30-11:30 I was a part of Rebecca Vnuk’s Booklist Read N Rave panel.  For all of the titles that were Raved and by whom, you can go to this post from Booklist Reader [link available soon]. Together we gave you some great books.

Each panelist had 10 minutes to Rave to the audience about the books from the conference which we are most excited about. Below are nine titles and that I Raved with way more information about them than I gave in my 10 minutes.

My nine titles break down nicely into three distinct categories. 5 books getting a full rave, 3 teasers on upcoming titles which I will be reviewing in Booklist, and 1 book that is already out, but I am still talking about it. I wanted to talk about it so much, I orchestrated a giveaway with the publisher so the book would be on the floor and therefore eligible to be Raved.

Also, in true Becky fashion, all 9 of my books are dark and have complicated protagonists [yes even the NF as I will explain], but you know what, some of us love that. Give me steadily building dread, oppressive atmosphere, and total devastation over rainbows and sparkles any day. Don’t judge me and I won’t judge you. Besides, we’ve all got our quirks.

Enough preamble, let’s do this.

Five Books That I Gave the Full Rave Treatment:

The City of Brass

Hardcover528 pages
Expected publication: November 14th 2017 by Harper Voyager

The City of Brass is a debut, historical, epic fantasy novel. I was drawn to this title because- well look at the gorgeous cover, but also because it was offered as a good choice for fans of The Golem and the Jinni, and as that link shows, I love that book. 

The set up-- Nahri is a young woman, con artist, making her living on the crowded streets of 18th Century Cairo by providing “magic” to her rich customers-- fortune telling, healing, etc... Except one day, while performing an “exorcism” she accidentally summons a djinn warrior. And so begins a story you think you know-- disadvantaged young adult stumbles into a magical world where they have so much more power than they ever knew and are the key to saving that fantasy world.  

That’s what I thought at least, but what followed was a spellbinding story, with beautiful prose, adventure, magic, political intrigue, and even some romance. Yes, it has the requisite world building, and the frame, based on the mythology and fairy tales of the djinn from Arab culture [which by the way was well research and authentic; I checked into it], but it was a story that simply grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Seriously, watch out if you start it, it is not a short book, but you may not be able to stop reading it. Clear your schedules.

Yes you can suggest this for fans of "Arabian Nights”-esque stories like Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, but if you limit your hand selling of this title to those readers only, you will miss a lot of readers who will LOVE this book. 

This is a book for people who want to get caught up in a detailed fantasy world based in established fairy tales, like those who loved Uprooted by Novik. 

But beyond the fairy tale frame, The City of Brass will also bring readers back to other magical titles that caught them up in their webs and held them breathlessly captive while reading, and then longing for more after they finished, like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and The Night Circus [which as a side note, is still one of the most popular posts on my blog- itaccessed multiple times each month.]

The only reason you wouldnpick this book up is because it appears to be the first in a series and waiting for another book would make you angry. 

Three Words That Describe This Book: Captivating, Fairy Tale Frame, Great Characters 

My Absolute Darling

Hardcover432 pages
Expected publication: August 29th 2017 by Riverhead Books 

Keeping with the debut theme and also with a very strong sense of place, but decidedly NOT fantasy in any way is My Absolute Darling. In fact, I was given this book as the answer to this questions I asked PRH rep Robert, Whats the darkest book you are going to have at ALA?” He brought the question to the entire team.

So t everyone at PRH I say, “Touché. Job well done.” Let me start with a warning here-- this book is DARK, like seriously, realistically dark. But, it is also beautiful.

Here is the quick set up, Turtle is 14 and lives with her survivalist father in Northern CA. Her mother is dead. Her father, may love her, but he is brutal. I cannot stress this enough. There is physical and emotional abuse here. Turtle spends much of her time roaming the miles of unspoiled wilderness of the woods, creeks, and islands near her home. She knows no other way of life. She lives under the rules and oppressive world views of her father. Her only interactions with people are in school, and well, you know how middle school can be, so that’s not the best either.

But, when Turtle befriends Jacob, a high school boy who lives a fairly normal life, she begins to see that she has a choice to live differently. Thus begins Turtle’s journey. Using the survival skills her father has been teaching her for her entire life, Turtle goes on a journey to save herself. It is gripping, dangerous, and harrowing. The story is suspenseful as we are intimately engaged in Turtle’s struggle. But she is 14, so all her choices are not the ones we would make.

This book is as close as you are going to get to a horror novel without ANY supernatural interference [like a super intense horror novel],  but what sets it apart from other brutal stories of terrible childhoods is the beauty of the writing. The passages describing the natural world are worth the price of admission. And, Turtle is an inspiration.

I will admit right now, this book is not for everyone. There are many trigger warning here, and Tallent pulls no punches. He does not use metaphors when it comes to the brutality and terror of Turtle’s life. However, if you are a reader that can move past that, I promise you that at its core, this is a beautiful and inspirational story that will stay with you for years to come.

Readalikes would include A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. If you don’t mind a little bit of speculative, I also think The Road by Cormac McCarthy or Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro would workAll have a disturbing tone, a character centered storyline and lyrical language.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Coming of Age, Strong Sense of Place, Heartbreakingly Beautiful

The Last Ballad: A Novel

384 pages
Expected publication: October 3rd 2017 by William Morrow
Speaking of Wiley Cash, his third book is coming out in October and it is a departure from the southern Gothic influenced psychological suspense he has written before it. Now, I know Cash is a no brainer add for public libraries at this point, but I wanted to include it today because while it is excellent you are going to need to let patrons know how it is different from his other novels.

In fact, I was considering not Raving it today because he is so popular and you don’t need me to tell you to buy it, but here is what pushed me over the edge....Wiley Cash left me a voice mail. He saw on Goodreads that I had already read The Last Ballad and given it 5 stars. He followed the links to my blog [I’m a Goodreads author], saw that I was a librarian, found my cell number [it’s listed here so libraries can contact me to hire me], and called me.

Yes that’s right, Wiley Cash was stalking me. But to be fair, he both admitted to it and apologized for it in the first seconds of the almost 2 minute voicemail he left me. Well, of course I called him back. He wanted me to know that he wrote most of this book in a library because he and his wife had moved in with her parents while they were looking for a new house. He couldn’t write there and went to the library. He is also very worried about this novel because it is so different and he really hopes people like it.

Well, after chatting for a few minutes I told him that he just won himself a spot on my limited list because he was so sweet. I also told him librarians will love his story! And, the few I have told already do.

But back to the book- The Last Ballad. This is seemingly the story, set in 1929, of one poor, uneducated, 28 year old woman- Ella May Wiggins- who works the night shift at American Mill No. 2 in North Carolina. We know from the very early pages that Ella May is not going to live for much longer because Ella May is a real person. She joined the organizer trying to unite the poor white workers; in fact, Ella May was not only fighting those in power to try to unionize the white factory workers, she was also involved in trying to make the poor white workers accept the poor black workers into the unions too.  

Despite the fact that we know she will die before the book is done, and make no mistake that darkness and sadness penetrates the book, as I read, I couldn’t stop turning the pages and hoping that somehow she would make it through. That the poverty and oppression would end-- I know it does not, it still has not, but I still hoped as I read. Such is the brilliance of Cash’s writing.

So the publisher suggests Ron Rash’ Serena, Denis Lehane’s The Given Day, and films like Norma Rae and Silkwood as read/watch alike. I agree but I would also like to add the Pulitzer Prize winning, linked story collection, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout to the list. The Last Ballad is told in a  similar fashion to Olive Kitteridge, with Ella May only having the POV for a few of the chapters. In most of the  chapters the story is told from those who have come into contact with Ella May. Some only for a moment, but that encounter effects them greatly. This stylistic storytelling choice is what elevates this novel from a good story about an ordinary woman who made her mark on history [a popular subgenre today] to an excellent book about the fight for equality and dignity for all.

I would also suggest this to people who have enjoyed recent books like, Hillbilly Elegy or White Trash. Here we have historical fiction, well researched but fiction, on the same topic. Speaking of, Cash also told me that the finished copy of the book will include an appendix essay about the real Ella May.

This book may be set in 1929 but it shows us the roots of our current social turmoil and upheaval. It illustrates issues and concerns of right now, from racism to workers rights to police brutality to the 1% vs the 99%- all by telling the story of one forgotten woman’s life through her eyes yes, but also those around her, in one compelling, emotional, and fascinating book.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Multiple POVs, Historical but Timely, Character Centered

An American Marriage

Hardcover320 pages
Expected publication: February 6th 2018 by Algonquin Books
Jones’ last novel, Silver Sparrow is one of my all time favorites. I still regularly hand sell it to readers, and it came out 6 years ago! When I saw she finally was going to have a new book, I knew I needed to get my hands on it as early as possible. 

Like Silver Sparrow, An American Marriage is set in Atlanta and like Silver Sparrow it has a provocative setup-- Celestial and Roy are a couple in love and on the rise, but soon after they are married, Roy is convicted and sent to prison for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit-- for 12 years. How does your life and love continue from there.

Celestial turns to Andre, Roy’s best friend for help. After 5 years, Roy’s conviction is overturned and poof...he is free and ready to join his old life. But can he? Is that life still there? 

But seriously, what would you do if this happened to you? That question alone and how these characters deal with it would make this a good book. But what makes it great are the characters and the fact that Jones allows them each a chance to tell the story. She writes eloquently but through the characters. We watch their lives unfold with a truth and complication that feels real and without the melodrama that would creep in if Jodi Picoult or Nicholas Sparks told this story. And by the way, that is not a judgmental statement. Melodrama is a style of storytelling that has its place for the right reader, but this is not the kind of book that is, even though if you just knew the story line it may sound that way.

This book reminded me more of The Mothers by Britt Bennett. Both are character- centered novels that deal with serious issues in an honest way [The Mothers takes on abortion] set in African American communities. But as I said above about The City of Brass, you do the biggest disservice to your patrons if you only suggest “black books” as readalikes because this a book about characters, issues and relationships, period.

To that end I would also highly suggest Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka or The Round House by Louise Erdrich- neither of which is a “black book.”

Three Words That Describe This Book: Multiple POVs, Character Centered, Honest

Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s

Paperback256 pages
Expected publication: September 19th 2017 by Quirk Books

Paperbacks From Hell: A History of Horror Fiction From The 70s and 80s is exactly what the title says it is, but it is also so much more. 

Like Hendrix’s fiction, this nonfiction book has the snarky humor, but you can also not deny his true, undead love for these books.

Broken up into categories based on subgenre [similar to ones I use in my book], Hendrix looks at the best paperback books and authors from this era in chapters on, for example vampires, demonic possession, and deadly animals. Yes he provides the crazy covers but he also gives biographies of authors from the still well known to the barely known ever. There are discussions of the books, their appeal and summaries. There is a huge index. It is exhaustive. But it is so fun to read.

Anyone who has ever read a horror paperback will find something here to enjoy. Like Hendrix, who openly shares his younger self’s obsession with these books, books he only first opened because of their covers, many of us have read a book or two [or in my case a hundred] found within these pages and we loved it! The affection Hendrix has for the topic-- the “trashy” books that turned him into a critically acclaimed novelist-- bleeds through [pun intended]. In fact, after you read this book, you too will accept that these books are no less worthy because they blatantly intended to scare readers- or at least that’s what Hendrix [and I] hopes.

This book pairs nicely with Stephen King’s 1980s nonfiction masterpiece advocating for the importance and the universal appeal of horror- Danse Macabre, a book all of your libraries own. Of course any of the hundreds of books mentioned within the pages of Paperbacks from Hell could be sought out by your patrons.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Fun, Books About Books, Eye-Opening

Three Titles I Teased About Upcoming Raves:

In the Fall, I will have full reviews of these three books in Booklist. I didn’t want to waste my limited Rave time talking about them, since you can read my “Raves” in the magazine soon, but just a quick heads up about why you need to pre-order these titles ASAP.

Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer [November 2017]. John Joseph Adams Books from HMH. From the imprint’s landing page:
Led by John Joseph Adams, the acclaimed short fiction editor and series editor of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, John Joseph Adams Books is dedicated to publishing best-selling and award-winning science fiction and fantasy from a diverse range of voices, both new and established—fiction that is literary and accessible, sometimes experimental, and always full of a sense of wonder.
In this one fencing, demons, and upper crust Victorian society collide. I am very excited to dive into this one after the conference. Horror authors in particular have been buzzing about it already.

Strange Weather by Joe Hill is coming out in October. It is a collection of 4 novellas. So already we have two reasons to love this book-- Joe Hill and novellas.  As I mentioned back in April, novellas are hot right now, and Joe Hill well, he is great. Just preorder it. My full review will be in the August 1st issue of Booklist which is the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror Spotlight issues.

Speaking of that issue, I will also have a review of The New Annotated Frankenstein and an interview with the editor, Leslie Klinger. You may think this book is the least “sexy” of the ones I mentioned today, but you are wrong. I will let you read the review and interview to see why, but for now, you need to know that this is a book to order because 2018 marks the 200th Anniversary of this novel, written by a teenage girl, which birthed both the horror and science fiction genres. For more information, visit Arizona State University’s Frankenstein Bicentennial Project.

One Title That is Already Out and I Have Already Raved:

In The Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson is a book that I loved. You can read my full review but here are my-- Three Words That Describe This Book: lyrical, haunting, atmospheric.

I wanted to Rave this book even though it came out in early June because it is THAT good, but its is from from a smaller press so I want to make sure I give it all the attention it deserves. The rules to mention something in this presentation were that the book much be on the exhibit floor. So.....I talked to Skyhorse and they have not only put the book out on the floor, but they also made 25 hardcover copies available to folks who came to this program. I handed out tickets, and the first 25 who turned them in at booth 3131 got a copy...for FREE!

Buy this book. It is amazing. You will thank me later.

And now, time for a breath. [Exhales]

Of course I did not say all of this in my ten minutes during the program. This post has a lot more detail. Also you can go to Booklist Reader for a list of all of the titles [link when available].

Finally, I “Raved 15 more titles that were at the conference in this post on Friday. So in total that’s 24 titles coming soon that I think are worth your time.

I will be back tomorrow with more ALA Annual wrap up posts including wrap ups by others.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Buzz Chicago Summary and Recap

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at Chicago Public Library Harold Washington Center for the Association of American Publishers Pre-ALA Annual Book Buzz.

I was only there for the Adult portion of the buzzing. I tweeted almost every book, although I will admit that by the end I got tired. If you click here you can pull up the #bookbuzzcpl hashtag (whether you are a Twitter user or not) and see every book and something about each. It will be in reverse chronological order and will have me and others who Tweeted.

When CPL librarian, and my friend, Stephen Sposato welcomed us to the Buzz he asked us each to find at least one book from today’s presentation to Buzz about- to our colleagues, to Library Reads, to our patrons.

So Stephen, challenge accepted. I will Buzz about 1 book from each presenter here below. Please note, I will NOT be promoting any of the big author's titles because you don’t need me to do that for you. You know about those books; they are on automatic order. My job is to help you learn about the books you might miss. I know you aren’t a moron. The publishers, however, some of them think we are. *sigh*

I will also include links to the Library Marketing Team’s page. Titles link to Goodreads. But again, go to the hashtag and the links to the  publishers’ pages for all of the books. I am doing only 1 per publisher.

Here they are in the order in which the publishers appeared.

WW Norton & Co

  • Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A. by Danielle Allen [NF]: This book looks amazing. It starts as a personal memoir about Ms. Allen helping a young cousin get back on his feet after spending 11 years in jail. Things are going well, but three years later he is murdered. The book then also becomes a work about reforming the system we use to deal with juveniles who commit crimes. I think it would be a great readalike for The Other Wes Moore.
  • See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt [Fic]: Written by an Australian librarian who was doing research on another topic but facts about Lizzie Borden kept coming up. Lizzie was haunting her in nightmares, so she had to write a novel about her life. This is a story about the entire family told from Lizzie’s point of view.
  • The Green Hand and Other Stories by Nicole Claveloux [GN]: French comics master’s stories gathered in English for the first time! Originally published in 1970s, this book is a great introduction to a neglected artist. Daniel Clowes loves her. Give this to his fans.
  • The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker [Fic]: Robert McCammon blurbed it, so that should be enough, but here are some details. Edgar is not a good Dad, but he is separated from his family when an asteroid hits the Earth, he races back across the wasteland to reunite with his family. For fans of Station Eleven and The Martian. Was a bestseller in Europe.
  • Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly [NF]: The unflinching and honest memoir by Kelly about his record breaking stays in space, but also his life growing up and how he came to be an astronaut. This will be a great read for anyone. We need more real life science heroes in our lives. I think my whole family will enjoy this one.
  • Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda [Fic]: Okay, this one sounds creeptastic. Paul is a perfect husband and father. He whisks his wife away for a couples weekend at their lake house, promising it will be the “best day ever,” except....things are not as perfect as they appear. A page-turner, that spirals out of control quickly. For fans of Big Little Lies. Should be a huge library hit.
  • A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa [NF] by Alexis Okeowo: A New Yorker writer and one of the best young journalists out there today looks at the regular people, mostly women, fighting to stop fundamentalism from taking over the continent. This books looks amazing but I wish she gave it moe time. Michael Connelly and James Patterson [!] did not need to be buzzed.
Quirk Books
  • Cinemaps: An Atlas of 25 Great Movies by Andrew DeGraff [NF]: Detailed, handprinted maps from classic films like The Shining, The Princess Bride, The Breakfast Club and Jaws!!!! [I am doing a different Quirk Books title from the presentation for my Read N Rave panel.] 
  • The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison [Fic]: Yup, its what it sounds like. It’s the 1960s and a group of women read dirty books for their book club. The story is about how the club changes their lives. Harrison is a YA author. This is her first adult title. This seems like a great pick for book clubs.
  • The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey [Fic]: This is the first in a brand new mystery series set in Bombay in 1921 and featuring a female, lawyer sleuth who fights to protect women’s rights. 
  • The Twelve-Mile Straight by Eleanor Henderson [Fic]: 1930s, Georgia. In a white sharecropping family, the daughter gives birth to twins: 1 white, 1 black. A black farm hand is accused of rape and lynched. That is where the story begins. So many issues to consider here. Compelling read too.
  • The Floating World by C. Morgan Babst [Fic]: A Katrina set debut novel by a NO native. Deals with the aftermath, both overall and personally for one specific family. Dazzling, piercing, unforgettable.
  • Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker [Fic]: 2 sisters disappear. Three years later one comes back. It’s a twisted, family, psychological suspense, but what got me was when Anne said that this book “sets a new standard for the unreliable narrator.”
Now it’s you turn. If you attend any book buzz programs either this weekend or in the future, take a moment to promote at least one title out in the world.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Most of My ALA Schedule So That You Can Say Hi To Me If You Want

Many people have been asking me where I will be during ALA so they can say hi. This I encourage. In fact. even if you have never met me but read the blog regularly, please come find me and introduce yourself.  I am very friendly.

My problem at these large events is that you know an awful lot about me from reading the blog and you have my picture. I know nothing about you- including how you look- so unfortunately it is up to you to say hi to me first.

Since I am a huge extrovert and many of my readers are introverts I realize this can cause problems. But please, I would rather meet you than not, so stop me. You will not be the first or the last to do so.

To make it easier, below are places and times I plan to be where I will also have time to chat. But if you see me anywhere, feel free to stop me. I will also try to remember to take a selfie each morning and post it on Twitter so you know what I am wearing. That will show up in the Twitter feed in the right gutter of the blog, so even if you don’t use Twitter, you can come here to the blog and scroll to find my daily selfie.

My ALAing begins a day early- this afternoon actually for Book Buzz Chicago 2017:

I will be at lunch and then the Books for Adults Buzz.

Saturday, June 24:

Sunday, June 25

Monday, June 26 

10:30–11:30 a.m. Booklist's Read N’ Rave- Featuring ME!
Collection-development specialists rave about their favorite titles found on the exhibit floor. Moderated by Rebecca Vnuk, Booklist's Reference and Collection Management editor. (McCormick Place, W179a)
  • Yes, I am one of those specialists. Don’t miss this event! We are going to have fun. I even have a story about an author stalking me and then apologizing for it, but not denying it. And, I have orchestrated a giveaway of a book that is already out-- a hard cover copy of a finished book for the first 25 people who come to see this program, receive a ticket from me, and then head over to the correct booth. And this is a book you NEED to read. See I wasn’t kidding about you not missing this event.
  • Booklist Reader will have all of the Rave’d books up right after our presentation and I will have a post with more details about what I specifically said in my part on Monday or Tuesday [depending on how tired I am].
This is not my complete schedule, but it is a list of the places I know I will be AND when I would have time to chat.

So again, please come up to me if you want. I’d love to meet you.

See some of you in a few hours at CPL...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Not Your Average ALA Annual Advice

As I am gearing up to attend ALA Annual, I wanted to do a quick post of nontraditional advice about attending the conference. The things I am writing about go beyond the basics like wear comfortable shoes and layers and bring some high protein snacks to keep you going. While those are good pieces of advice, what I have to say is for newbies and veterans alike.

  1. This is something I said at the ARRT program last week, but it bears repeating to a larger audience-- when you are at ALA, go to your current vendors and let them know what you like about their services and then start telling them what they could do better. Don’t feel badly about complaining. They work for you. We need to let them know what we want and need for our patrons. We are the ones in the trenches using their products on actual customers. We know what works and what doesn’t in a real world setting better than they do. Guys, we don’t do this enough. How do I know? Vendors have called me multiple times to find out what the word is on the front line. What have I seen and or been told in the course of my travels? Why are they asking me? IT is because you are not telling them. So please get out there. Here is a short list of what I will be discussing with a few of the vendors I work with but you should make your own list too:
    • Please keep making audio books on CD. Even though new cars don’t have CD players, not everyone likes downloadable. I am one of those people. I like getting the CDs, loading them on my computer, and then listening when I am ready. [I delete after I listen so copyright law is followed.] I do not always get to an audiobook within the 3 weeks from when I downloaded it. When it disappears I don’t get it back, I have forgotten about it. Also, libraries are very limited by what we can add to our downloadable audio collections both in choices and because of money. Furthermore, it stinks for a patron when a series is in CD for the first 3 books and then it switches to downloadable. When this happens, more often than not, the patron stops reading that series. I know the publishers don’t want that to happen.
    • We need better cataloging and tags on our ebook collections so that we can pull more useful stats. So more than just Romance, for example. Why can’t every book have 5-10 tags? Things about it’s appeal, diversity tags, subgenres, etc... We need to be able to see what people are reading beyond- Mystery or Historical or Fantasy. Those are too broad to help us develop our collections.
    • I am in the market for furniture and fixtures as part of my local library’s remodel project. Having been on the board for 16 years, through a new building project, I have many durability questions that I will be asking specific vendors. I have a list! If you sell furniture, watch out, I’m coming.
  2. Speaking of vendors- please visit vendors you have never heard of and know nothing about. Seriously. I do this at every conference. I promise you will learn something new. I am honest as I approach and ask the vendor, who are you, what do you do for libraries, and why should I care? I ask it in a fun way. Re-reading that last sentence, it sounds mean. But I am honest and tell them that I am trying to learn something new. I hear them out and ask more questions if I can. Many times, the vendor does not provide a service that is relevant to me, so I let them know that, thank them for their time, and tell them that I will pass their information on to anyone I know who does need their services. I also always thank them for coming and buying a booth. I have done this too many times to count over the years and I always learn something new because of it.
  3. Staying in the exhibit hall with the advice, here’s some tough love-- YOU DO NOT NEED ALL OF THOSE BOOKS YOU ARE GATHERING. I know it is exciting to see all of the free ARCs everywhere, but seriously, you don’t need them. [Click here for a longer post on this issue from last year.] What you do need though are the flyers about the up coming books. Your time is also better spent at Book Buzz events for your specific area so that you can hear the publishers book talk the titles and give you readalikes. That is way more helpful than collecting armfuls of books. Also it’s much better for your back. But seriously, you will never read them all. You may want to, but you won’t. Take some. Limit yourself to a bag full day. Then, when your bag is full and you see more good titles, you have to make a choice on what stays and what goes; to put a new one in, something must come out. If you really don’t want to forget about the title, take a picture of the cover-- front and back.  Finally, when you get home, do something with the ARCs to help promote the books like I did here and here when I got a bunch at once last year. 
  4. Or maybe 3a-- You don’t need all that swag either. Just say no to the 50th pen. Again, 1 tote bag per day. You fill it, you are done. Trust me, none of these choices will be life altering, I promise. And you will have a better conference because you are only carrying 1 bag, not 5. 
  5. Talk to someone you don’t know. We all have name tags. When you are in a line or just sitting near a plug to recharge, introduce yourself to the person near you. I look at their name tag to stat the conversation. For example, if they came from somewhere I have never been, I say, “Utah, wow that’s far. I’ve always wanted to go there. What do you do at your library?” Ask what kind of library work they do. I learn so much more about our profession by meeting different versions of “library workers.” ALA is the best place to meet the full range of our profession. Sure you may never talk that person again, but I promise, you will have an interesting conversation. It’s that unplanned networking that revives us and allows us to think outside the box. So please consider talking to at least 1 person you meet randomly. Who knows, you might find yourself striking up a conversation with me.
  6. Finally, it is tempting to fill every minute of your schedule with meetings, parties, and programs, but please don’t forget to leave time to wander. Serendipity will present new people and situations. Be open to unscheduled time, even if it means saying no to free food or books. Also, it will do wonders for your sanity.
I hope this helps.  Please add anything you’d like in the comments to help others.

Tomorrow, I will be posting a few of the programs I will be attending so that you can “bump into me,” if you want.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

ALA Galley Guide Now Available

Click here for the guide
Just like I did for Book Expo, I am posting the Galley Guide for ALA compiled by Barbara Hoffert of Library Journal.

As I further explained in this [different] post, whether or not you are present at the conference in question, these galley guides can help you immensely.  I will not repeat myself as to why; go here and learn.

You don’t even need to sign up for the galley guide because I have provided you access with this link.

Today’s post is also a reminder that starting Thursday, the blog schedule might be wonky because of the conference and other events. So expect posts at weird times and more than once a day. I will try to get some reviews out before the conference begins but I am not promising anything.

For now, take a look at the galley guide and especially this post by me on how to use it to help patrons right away. Seriously, even though many of these books aren’t coming out for a while, I have proven tips and tricks on how to make this preview work for you today!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Recap of ARRT Dealing in Diversity and Announcement of Part 2 With a Bestselling Author!

To start off the week I wanted to recap the ARRT program that I helped to coordinate this past Friday and promote Part 2 of the program coming this October.

Friday morning, we had over 60 library workers join us for a very honest and blunt conversation about diversity in our libraries, but unlike many of these types of programs we went beyond service to children, we focused on serving our adult patrons AND dealing with creating a welcoming atmosphere for all-- including staff. 

All four presenters not only shared their expertise in the world of libraries and writing- of which they have A LOT- but each was also very honest about being a POC themselves and how that complicates the issue. 

Below, and at this link, ARRT has made some resources available, including a Storify I compiled of all of the Tweets during the presentation, slides from Skokie, and documents from the other presenters. The links for the Tweets does NOT require you log into Twitter and serves as extensive notes of what was said during the 2 hour program. Please take some time to look through those if you work with adults in any library...anywhere.

June 2017: Dealing in Diversity: Proactively Serving Communities Through Authentic Representation  
Thank you to Robin Bradford, Mikki Kendall, Annabelle Mortensen and Mimosa Shah for presenting and to Skokie Public Library for hosting this event. 
Program live tweets from Becky Spratford (@RAforAll) 
Robin Bradford’s Librarians in the 21st Century: The Power of Our Choices 
Mikki Kendall’s How to Write About Black Women 
Skokie Public Library EDI: Equity Diversity and Inclusion 
Resources and links from 2016 RUSA CODES Convo on Diversity
And ARRT is also happy to announce that we will be presenting PART TWO of this frank discussion at the ILA Annual Conference in Tinley Park, IL on 10/12/17. 
The conversation, moderated by Heather Booth and myself will feature:
  • Annabelle Mortensen giving an update on how things are progressing with the EDI committee at Skokie. She will talk about successes, failures, obstacles, and goals
  • Todd Stocke, VP and Editorial Director at Sourcebooks who will talk about how the publisher has seen financial success by looking to diverse authors and audiences
  • And... bestselling romance author, and crowd pleasing presenter Sonali Dev talking about her insanely popular stories with a decidedly Bollywood Beat. Ms Dev will stay after to sign books. We will have some for purchase, but she will also sign your personal or library copies.

This is a not to miss program. It is at 1:45 on the final day of the conference, so don’t leave early or you will miss it. If you are a fan of Ms. Dev you must register for the entire day of the conference if you would like to see her.
ARRT is happy to provide these links to you for free. Please consider signing up for our newsletter in the right gutter of our homepage. You do not need to live in Northern IL to follow us. We provide notes for all of our programming, especially our popular Genre Study and Book Club Study, for free. Click here for more details.

Friday, June 16, 2017

What I’m Reading: Nights of the Living Dead and Killing is My Business

In the latest issue of Booklist, I have two reviews. I gave the first one a star.

Nights of the Living Dead.

Maberry, Jonathan (editor) and George A. Romero (editor). 

July 2017. 400p. St. Martin’s/Griffin, paperback, $17.99  (9781250112248); e-book (9781250112255)First published June 1, 2017 (Booklist).
George A. Romero made a small film in 1968 that changed pop culture forever. As editor and bestselling author, Jonathan Maberry explains in the introduction to this stellar collection, “No one who saw Night of the Living Dead without prior warning was ready. Not in 1968. No sir. Anyone who came to zombie flicks later….they just don’t know how it felt.” Romero never called his shambling hordes of the undead, wreaking havoc and eating everyone in their path, zombies. Why would he? Up until that point zombies were a specific supernatural creature from the Voodoo culture, but not any more. An entire generation of authors took the newly reimagine zombie of Romero’s film and began to write. Now, almost 50 years later, Romero and Maberry asked the best and most successful writers of 21st Century zombie literature to write a brand new story, set within the world of Romero’s film series. Authors like Brian Keene, Mira Grant, Mike Carey, Carrie Ryan, and David Wellington, to name only a few, jumped at this chance. While all of the stories are good, of particular note is Maberry’s own entry, “Lone Gunman,” which Romero asked Maberry to write as a way to officially connect his existing books to the movies. Taken as a whole this is a breathtaking book showcasing the breadth of zombie literature from the weird, disturbing and gross out to the touching, thought provoking, and even funny. This is a collection by masters, at the top of their games but it is also a tribute by fans to the man who inspired them to become writers who chased their own nightmares. Order this volume immediately, if only to protect yourself from the hordes of readers who will be shambling in to request it.

Further Appeal: These stories are excellent. All of them. These are the top people in the world of zombie lit. Their affection for the source material shines through, but so too does their own skill at writing great stories. Each story is unique and different. Each is also a great example of the author’s other works- whether that work has zombies in it or not.

But they are also good stories even if you don’t like zombies because they are just good stories. This is a good time to encourage you to move outside the genre box with your suggestions to patrons. These stories will be enjoyed by more than just horror fans. Think about it, people who aren’t horror fans love the movie source material, right? So, treat these stories the same way. There will be people who don’t think of themselves as horror fans who will eat these stories up [pun intended].

I also want to elaborate a bit on the part in the review about the Maberry story. I actually had this ARC with me when I was at StokerCon and I talked to Maberry about the collection. His story in this collection is a great bridge between all his other work and the Romero universe. I know he is working to connect everything he has written-- yes even Joe Ledger characters show up in the Rot and Ruin world. But specifically, if you like “Lone Gunman,” go out and read Dead of Night [link to my review]- this is advice from Maberry himself. It all fits nicely together and now also links back to Romero’s world.

Every public library needs to buy this book. I know for a fact that there are a handful of readers in every town in America who would want to read this. How do I know? I am the library world’s horror expert-- I have my ways. [cue evil laugh]

Three Words That Describe This Book: stories, zombies, fandom

Readalikes: This one is easy: if someone likes this book they should seek out the numerous works by everyone in the collection. That should keep them busy for awhile.

But also, as I alluded to in my “three words” above, this is also a great book for people who enjoy fandoms- especially those centered on the world of a movie. Another new book that does this in the horror genre is Aliens: Bug Hunt [also edited by Maberry].

Killing Is My Business.

Christopher, Adam (author).

 July 2017. 288p. Tor, hardcover, $25.99 (9780765379207); e-book, $12.99 (9781466867161) First published June 1, 2017 (Booklist).
All the genre blending, wit, and fun of an alternative 1960s LA is back with Christopher’s second Raymond Electromatic, robot PI, hardboiled mystery. To catch you up, Ray is still the last robot in the world, but he is also a licensed PI who has been reprogrammed to be a contract killer [it pays better]. Not to worry if you missed the first book, however, because so did Ray; his memory tape is only 24 hours long, so while this is technically the second book in the series, it can be easily read as a standalone since Ray has to be reminded each morning of everything that has happened before. The plot has a little of everything for fans of classic science fiction and mysteries- corrupt city officials, shady real-estate moguls, the mafia, foreign-born evil scientists, and of course ROBOTS! But while the fast-paced story will grab readers’ attention, what they will stay for is Ray, whose unique perspective and personality shine as bright as his metal exterior. While this is an easy title to hand sell to fans of the “golden age” when science fiction and hardboiled PIs overlapped, it will also appeal to readers of contemporary, thoughtful genre mashups with compelling and unique narrators like Ben Winter’s The Last Policeman trilogy or Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn.

Further Appeal: I reviewed the first book in this series, Made to Kill, in 2015 here. I gave that one a star because it was so original and fun that I was giddy. This one is just as good, but this time, I was not as surprised that it was so good; hence, no star.

The best thing about this series, as I mention in the review, is that it doesn’t have to be read in order. So it’s a companion novel, not a sequel. This is very helpful as we work with readers. Like Tana French, we can give this series out in any order and don’t need book 1 to be on the shelf in order to suggest it.

And Ray. Oh Ray. He is so endearing. I worried about him at times. People and his boss [a computer] are always taking advantage of him, but always he manages to overcome and save the day. He is happy go lucky, yet he also carries an underlying sadness with him, sadness about his origins and the way his world used to be, yet he cannot quite remember enough of it to be full on depressed about it.

This book is best enjoyed by readers who are fans of hardboiled PI novels OR classic, pulp SF. The pure affection and deep knowledge Christopher has for both genres is what makes this book work. He is not trying too hard to be cute-- I know it may sound like he is, but I promise you, he is not. The story’s period setting, characters and plot all feel right for the pulp style. This is a fun and thought provoking read for genre fans by a genre fan.

Three Words That Describe This Book: genre blend, alternative history, fun

Readalikes: Besides the two I mention in the review above, there are more suggestions in my review of Made to Kill.

Also, what about some classic, robot, pulp SF. Here is the entry on “robots”from the Science Fiction Encyclopedia which lists many reading options and puts them in context. Here is a link to images of classic covers of “pulp robot science fiction.” They are awesome. I want to read them all now.

Finally, the Dan Shamble, Zombie PI series by Kevin J Anderson which begins with Death Warmed Over [link to my review], is very similar to this series- the humor, the genre mashup, the wink-wink, but still loving stabs at the genre conventions- it’s all here except instead of robots we have zombies [and other supernatural creatures].

And with that I bring it all back around to zombies. Well, that is what zombies do best-- they come back.

Enough bad humor. Both books reviewed here come out next month. You still have time to get your orders in. Have a nice weekend.