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 including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Friday, August 16, 2019

RA for All Roadshow Visits SWANx19

Today I am doing a brand new version of my signature program for my local catalog consortium's annual conference-- SWANx2019.

They asked me what I could do in their 45 minute slots and here is what I came up with:
11:00AM - 11:45AM​ Readers Advisory Rethink: Flip the Script and Think Like A Reader Classroom 4 (2nd Floor)Presented by Becky Spratford, Readers’ Advisory Specialist, Illinois Library LuminaryReaders Advisory belongs in every library, no matter its budget. Using her “Ten Rules of Basic RA Service,” Becky Spratford of Illinois Library Luminary will show you how to use your love of books to help any patron find their next great read. Quit worrying about finding the perfect book for your patrons and recover the joy of sharing books with readers instead!
What I am trying here today is a shortened version of my signature program that focuses on the hands on aspects of my training. I will be going over rules 1-6 of my Ten Rules of Basic RA Service. The idea is to have the library workers in attendance spend their time connecting with a book they love, sharing it, and then giving them some direction on how to spread that love to others.

To be honest, when I was first approached to present tat this conference, I was a little miffed that I only got 45 minutes, but now, I am actually excited. This could become a useful program for these shorter time frames.

I do love SWAN too. We have one of the largest shared catalogs in the country. Our resource sharing is amazing, easy for staff and patrons, and a model for libraries throughout the country. Seriously, we are that awesome. I have never been available to present at this conference before, but this year, they asked me far enough in advance that I could block the day.

Click here for the full schedule of events and see below for the direct link to my slides. After the event the website will have handouts too.

Click here for live slides

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Library Reads: September 2019

Today is Library Reads day and that means four things here on RA for All:
  1. I post the list and tag it “Library Reads” so that you can easily pull up every single list with one click.
  2. I can remind you that even though the newest list is always fun to see, it is the older lists where you can find AWESOME, sure bet suggestions for patrons that will be on your shelf to actually hand to them right now. The best thing about Library Reads is the compound interest it is earning. We now have hundreds and hundreds of titles worth suggesting right at our fingertips.
  3. You have no excuse not to hand sell any Library Reads titles because there is a book talk right there in the list in the form of the annotation one of your colleagues wrote for you. All you have to say to your patron is, “such and such library worker in blank state thought this was a great read,” and then you read what he or she said.
  4. Every book now has at least 1 readalike that is available to hand out RIGHT NOW. Book talk the upcoming book, place a hold for it, and then hand out that readalike title for while they wait. If they need more titles  before their hold comes in, use the readalike title to identify more readalike titles. And then keep repeating. Seriously, it is that easy to have happy, satisfied readers.
    Also, the Library Reads Board has also started another great book discovery and suggestion tool for you, a monthly What We're Reading column. This means there are even more library worker approved titles, new and old, for you to choose from. 

    So get out there and suggest a good read to someone today. I don’t care what list or resource you use to find the suggestion, just start suggesting books.

    Also, please remember to click here for my Library Reads 101 recap for everything you need to know about how to participate. And click here to see a database of eligible diverse titles sorted by month. 

    September 2019 LibraryReads

    Don’t miss the September 2019 Hall of Fame Winner! Scroll down or visit the Hall of Fame page.





    Red at the Bone: A Novel

    by Jacqueline Woodson

    Published: 9/17/2019 by Riverhead Books
    ISBN: 9780525535270
    “A rich, multigenerational weaving of two families, starting at Melody’s coming-of-age party. She wears the dress her mother didn’t get to wear because she was pregnant with Melody at the time. Alternating narration moves forward and backward in time, reflecting on family, desire, identity, and parenthood. For fans of Jesmyn Ward and Brit Bennett.”
    Julie Graham, Yakima Valley Libraries, Yakima Valley, WA
    NoveList Read-alike: Third Girl from the Left by Martha Southgate

    Bringing Down the Duke

    by Evie Dunmore

    Published: 9/3/2019 by Berkley Jove
    ISBN: 9781984805683
    “Oxford student Annabelle is knee deep in the suffragette movement. The Duke is wary of supporting a cause not in the crown’s best interest, but can’t deny his attraction to Annabelle. A well-done version of the enemies-to-friends-to-lovers story. Perfect for fans of Juliana Gray and Amanda Quick.”
    Amanda Brill, Rowan Public Library, Salisbury, NC 
    Novelist Read-alike: Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner

    Don’t You Forget About Me

    by Mhairi McFarlane

    Published: 9/10/2019 by William Morrow Paperbacks
    ISBN: 9780062958464
    “Aspiring writer Georgina, broke and a mess, gets a job at a bar owned by Lucas, whose heart she broke in high school. This fresh, funny story has just the right amount of sexual tension, and well-developed, relatable characters. A must-read for rom-com fans of Jane Green and Mary Kay Andrews.”
    Theresa Bond, Middlesex Public Library, Middlesex, NJ 
    NoveList Read-alike: One Day in December by Josie Silver

    The Dutch House

    by Ann Patchett

    Published: 9/24/2019 by Harper
    ISBN: 9780062963673
    “For siblings Danny and Maeve, the Dutch house is much more than a structure. It is the bones of their family, a symbol connected to love, loss, achievement, and abandonment. They are connected to this house all their lives, even after being flung out of it. For fans of Anne Tyler and Anna Quindlen.”
    Kelly Currie, Delphi Public Library, Delphi, IN
    NoveList Read-alike: The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

    The Long Call

    by Ann Cleeves

    Published: 9/3/2019 by Minotaur Books
    ISBN: 9781250204448
    “In this new series, the introspective detective Matthew Venn of Devon and his team search for an itinerant worker’s murderer. Connections emerge to Venn’s estranged parents’ religious community and his partner’s workplace. A solid, almost cozy British mystery for fans of Kate Atkinson and Elly Griffiths.”
    Carol Melichar, Seminole County Public Library, Casselberry, FL
    NoveList Read-alike: Reverend Clare Fergusson mysteries by Julia Spencer-Fleming

    No Judgments

    by Meg Cabot

    Published: 9/24/2019 by William Morrow Paperbacks
    ISBN: 9780062890047
    “Bree moves to the Florida Keys after a devastating breakup. When a hurricane threatens to wipe out the town, she refuses to evacuate and scrambles to protect the pets her neighbors were forced to leave behind. I don’t know if Little Bridge Island is a real place or not but it officially has a place in my heart. For contemporary romance fans like Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren and The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.”
    Amber Greenwood, Edgewood Public Library, Edgewood, MD 
    NoveList Read-alike: First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan

    The Secrets We Kept: A Novel

    by Lara Prescott

    Published: 9/3/2019 by Knopf
    ISBN: 9780525656159
    “Inspired by a true story of Dr. Zhivago. Pasternak had finished his controversial novel and needed to get it out of Russia to be published. A CIA agent posing as a typist is trained by another female operative and the two work to save the Cold War masterpiece. For readers who enjoyed The Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews andSweet Tooth by Ian McEwan.”
    Mamie Ney, Auburn Public Library, Auburn, MA 
    NoveList Read-alike: The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn and Petra Couvee

    This Tender Land

    by William Kent Krueger

    Published: 9/3/2019 by Atria Books
    ISBN: 9781476749297
    “Odie and company escape a sadistic boarding school and travel through Depression-era America, meeting angels, devils– and everyone in between–along the way. It’s like Huck Finn and friends meet the Odyssey. For fans of Wiley Cash’s This Dark Road to Mercyand Louise Erdrich’s The Round House.
    Lori Hench, Baltimore County Public Library, Baltimore, MD
    NoveList Read-alike: 99 Nights in Logar by Jamil Jan Kochai

    The Water Dancer: A Novel

    by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Published: 9/24/2019 by One World
    ISBN: 9780399590597
    “A gorgeous novel blending historical fiction and magical realism to create a powerful portrait of the people who made up the Underground Railroad. For readers who enjoyed Beloved by Toni Morrison and She Would Be King by Wayetu Moore.”
    Mara Bandy-Fass, Champaign Public Library, Champaign, IL
    NoveList Read-alike: Kindred by Octavia Butler

    Well Met

    by Jen DeLuca

    Published: 9/3/2019 by Berkley Jove
    ISBN: 9781984805386
    “Emily has been through a rough patch and needs a new start. Where better to start than a small town that puts on a Ren Faire every year. At first she thinks it’s silly, but a handsome pirate soon changes her mind. For fans of Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston.”
    Michelle Herring, Naperville Public Library, Naperville, IL 
    NoveList Read-alike: Hard Day’s Knight by Katie Macalister
    _______________________________________________________________

    Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?

    by Caitlin Doughty

    Published: 9/10/2019
    by W.W. Norton & Company
    ISBN: 9780393652703
    “Mortician Doughty’s latest explores everything you always wanted to know about death but were afraid to ask. From learning why corpses change color to whether you could preserve yourself in amber, readers who enjoy asking weird and wild questions will love this book.”

    Erin Manning, Westlake Porter Public Library, Westlake, OH 
    Read-alikes:

    Stiff by Mary Roach
    What If? by Randall Munroe
    True or Poo? by Nick Caruso
    Quackery by Lydia Kang


    Wednesday, August 14, 2019

    BBC Announces Year Long Celebration of Literature

    Well this looks interesting:

    BBC announces year-long celebration of literature


    BBC Arts announces a year-long celebration of literature, with new programming across BBC TV, radio and online, as well as a festival in partnership with libraries and reading groups around the UK.
    Cementing the BBC’s commitment to in-depth exploration of literature, the programming reflects the breadth of the art form, from classics to contemporary fiction, from celebrated authors to the less well-known.
    This new content will also feature specials of many of the BBC’s regular books programmes including; The Radio 2 Book Club with Jo Whiley, The Verb on Radio 3, World Book Club on the World Service, Book Club and Open Book, both on Radio 4. Plus, there will be further literature content announcements made in the coming months.
    Spearheading the celebration of literature is the landmark BBC Two three-part series The Novels That Shaped Our World this autumn with an accompanying festival of programming. The series coincides with what is widely acknowledged to be the birth of the popular English language novel 300 years ago with Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. The series will examine the novel from three unique perspectives: Empire and slavery, women’s voices and working class experiences. These unique films will argue that the novel has always been a revolutionary agent of social change, spearheading shifts in both colonial and post-colonial attitudes, female equality and social mobility.


    Obviously this is across the pond, but the series looks fascinating. It also seems to be inspired by PBS's Great American Read, although they have broadened the scope.

    At this link you can see all of the programming, but specifically, this series interested me a lot.

    The Novels That Shaped Our World 
    The series looks at how the novel changed the world. Using three unique and surprising perspectives: empire and slavery, women’s voices and class experience, these films will look at how, across 300 years, the novel has been at the heart of debate about society, and has often spearheaded social change. The Novels That Shaped Our World will reflect on how the power of the novel in English effected change here and abroad through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With key moments from novels brought to life with dramatic performances and readings, British and international novelists will talk about the novels that have meant most to them, as the series follows the story of how the novel has reflected our historic social struggles and been instrumental in effecting change. 
    Episode one will examine the response to race and empire, from Robinson Crusoe and Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Things Fall Apart and Wide Sargasso Sea, as well as lesser known but ground-breaking work such as Aphra Benn’s Orinooko to Sam Selvon’s Lonely Londoners. The programme comes up to date with titles such as Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses and Paul Beatty’s The Sell Out. 
    Episode two discusses the story of women and the novel - both as characters and authors. With Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale capturing global audiences, the programme will show how the plight of women is a theme that reaches right back to the earliest novels. From Richardson’s Pamela to Austen, the Brontës through to Mary Shelley and Virginia Woolf, and to the post-war publishing boom where a new generation of global writers such as Zadie Smith, Toni Morrison and Arundhati Roy have continued to speak out for women to a new generation of readers. 
    In the final episode, how the novel has embraced the class struggle is explored. From Dickens, Gaskell, and Hardy to Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, to the group of working class writers that began to write their own stories in post war Britain. Looking abroad, class struggles in India and the US are also discussed, and the programme will also look at the growth of the crime novel in the 20th Century was a way of playing on the gulf between haves and have-nots.
    For now, keep an eye out for the press about BBC's celebration and even if our patrons aren't watching or listening to the programming, much of what they are planning can easily be turned into book discussions, lists, or programs at your library. 

    Tuesday, August 13, 2019

    Discussing Reading Slumps Honestly via Bellwether Friends

    Recently I have been talking to a few library folks about their anxiety surrounding their own personal reading slumps. I have passed on my "Handling TBR Anxiety" post to them, and while they have told me it is helpful, it isn't exactly right for the "slump" problem.

    But to the rescue come three awesome library people who were apparently reading my mind [which actually doesn't surprise me because I know them IRL too]. Anna and Alene, who host the awesome Bellwether Friends podcast [which I love because it is a podcast where librarianship- mostly public and with an RA focus- overlaps with popular culture] interviewed Kelly Jensen from Book Riot to discuss her article "7 Tips for Reading With Mental Health Challenges."

    It was Episode 109 and you can listen and see all of the show notes [with links] here.

    What I enjoyed about this podcast was how openly all three participants talked about their personal reading slumps, how they have changed over time, why we have them, how we handle the anxiety surrounding these slumps when it is supposed to be our job to read, and how we can "break out" of them.

    Please listen, whether you are in a current reading slump, you have even been in one, or even if you can relate to anxiety around how much you read. We all deal with this. Sometimes it is worse than others. I also especially appreciated Alene's honesty about how much the number of books she reads in a year has gone down but how she manages to not let it to effect her job as a readers' advisor. And I can tell you 100% and from personal experience that she is still one of the best at RA. I know her story will help many of you. Please listen.

    The podcast episode, Kelly's article, and my post all taken together can help a lot of you feel better about your reading, both personally and professionally.

    Monday, August 12, 2019

    RA for All Roadshow Visits Portage County [WI] Public Library

    Today is the first day of my busy travel season. For a variety of reasons, libraries tend to the majority of their in person staff training between August and November which means, I will be bouncing around quite a bit over the next 4 months. For example, this week begins and ends with an in person presentation by me.
    Currently, I am in Stevens Point, WI to provide a full day of training for the staff of the Portage County [WI] Public Library. This is a library that is very excited to start serving it's leisure readers better and I am so excited to help them take the next step.
    Below is the schedule of today's events with links to the slides for all to access.
    9:30-10:50: RA for All: Readers Advisory belongs in every library, no matter its budget. The implementation of this vital service is the responsibility of every staff member-- from pages to directors, from those behind the scenes to the ones on the front lines. This program will remove the mystery behind providing great RA service. Using her “Ten Rules of Basic RA Service” as a guide, Becky Spratford will use your own love of your favorite books to show you how to help any patron find their next great read. It's not as hard as you think. But more importantly, you will learn why a staff that can harness the power of sharing a great read will become a stronger team and improve service to all patrons, especially the hardest to reach ones.

    11:00- 12: Booktalking Your Way to the Friendliest Library in Town: Booktalking is at the heart of what we do with patrons each and every day at the public library. Whether we are sharing books informally at the services desk, presenting a prepared list of books, or posting information online, talking about books is something we do each and every day. It is a core service, but it is also hard to teach. Booktalking is more of an art than a skill, but with the right guidance and some practice, it can go a long way toward engaging your patrons and re-energizing your staff. Join experienced Readers’ Advisory Becky Spratford as she shares the secret behind delivering great book talks, giving you tips and tricks you can begin using right away to hone your own skills. Rediscover the power and joy that comes from sharing books with patrons.

    Lunch 12-1 with Booktalking Examples

    1-2: Demystifying Genre: Nothing is scarier than trying to help a fan of a genre you yourself don’t enjoy. You want to help that, for example, Romance reader find the perfect book, but you are having trouble knowing where to begin because...eek!... you don’t read Romance. You are afraid they will find out you are a fraud. How can YOU possibly help THEM?!? Never fear, in this program, Readers’ Advisory expert, Becky Spratford, will teach you the basic appeals of the major genres, give you the inside track on what a fan of that genre is most drawn to, and provide you with talking points to get your genres readers to tell you what they want. This program focuses on providing you with a diverse and inclusive list of up to date authors with at least 40% of the example titles representing own voices. You will leave this session with the confidence and skill to help fans of every genre, regardless of whether or not you have ever read a book in that genre yourself. And that will leave a trail of happy patrons in your wake.


    15 min break

    2:15-3: RA Rethink: Merchandising and Upselling Edition: If someone told you there’s a practical and easy way to increase circulation, patron visits, program attendance and the job satisfaction of your staff, would you do it? Of course you would. Librarian Becky Spratford has developed a method you can use to accomplish all of this and it plays off of the skills, talents, and interests you already possess. She’ll explain how to deepen staff involvement in readers’ advisory in a way that gets everyone from staff to patrons excited. You are spending a lot of effort and money on cultivating good collections, but are you giving those collections a fair chance to shine? Are you linking your work with patrons as you find them items to your programming and other services? Do your patrons even know the full breadth of what you offer them? And how are you measuring results? With just a few simple tweaks to how you already market your collections, services, programs and even staff, Becky will help you leave a trail of happier and more engaged patrons in your wake. 

    Friday, August 9, 2019

    Happy Friday with the BEST Issue of Booklist All Year

    So I may be biased since I am a speculative fiction reviewer for Booklist, but I look forward to August every year because it is when Booklist Magazine does their Spotlight on Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.

    This year, the cover of the issue [left] is from the cover of Paul Tremblay's most recent release, the collection which I gave a STAR in the May15th issue and which Susan Maguire added to her top 10 SF/F/H of the year [see below].

    The speculative genres are very popular right now. Not only are some of the best books being written in these genres, but also, there is a lot of growth in terms of the new types of stories that the authors are bringing. The originality, depth, and breath of speculative fiction is vast and exciting.

    For the past 18 months I have been entrenched in world of all three of these genres as I have been leading the "Speculative Fiction team as ARRT has been updating our Popular Fiction List, a product we sell to NoveList [link to the old edition]. We are in the final draft of the process [you can expect to see it available by the end of this year] and one of the biggest changes to the organizational structure of the Speculative Fiction section is that we added another category in addition to SF, Fantasy, and Horror. We call it "Further Explorations of the Unreal." I will talk more about that product and all of the changes when the entire product is ready, but the reason I am bringing it up here is that Booklist is doing something similar with their coverage too.

    Usually I get upset when a top 10 list for all three genres is lumped together, but in this case, it makes total sense. Susan and I were discussing it recently and so many of the very best titles that came out this year have aspects of at least 2, if not all 3 of the genres in them. How can you separate them out into separate lists then? And if you do, are some great books left out because they can't be pigeoned holed into one genre or the other?

    The solution to pick the very best and understand that they include tropes and instances of more than 1 genre. Here is the link to that list Susan compiled of the top 10 Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror from August 2018 to July 2019.

    There is also a combined list for Audio here and the best SF/F/H debuts here.

    Booklist Reader will also have content on the speculative genres all month long.

    Make sure you use this month to get up to speed on all of the speculative genres. Check your collections to make sure you own all of these titles, make some displays top highlight what you have, and use the lists and their annotations to book talk these titles to potential readers, whether you have read the book or not. Booklist's Top 10 lists are an excellent and trusted resource for sure bet picks all year long.

    Thursday, August 8, 2019

    What I'm Reading: Booklist's Spotlight on SF/F/H Issue

    This month I have 3 reviews in the annual spotlight on Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror issue of Booklist.

    The first is STAR review of a high demand title that you probably already have on order, but let me tell you, it more than delivers.

    The second is a STAR review of a lesser known title but one you MUST ORDER. This is going to be a huge hit with a wide audience.

    The third is a review of a book that was 20 years in the making and will have a lot of buzz for the author alone.

    As always, these posts are of my draft reviews which are longer than the publisher review, and I also include more specific appeal info and extra readalikes. All of this is to make your job easier.



    Full Throttle

    Hill, Joe (author).
    Oct. 2019. 496p. Morrow, $27.99 (9780062200679); e-book (9780062200686)
    First published August, 2019 (Booklist).

    Hill arguably having supplanted his father as this century’s great American horror writer, returns to short stories, where his terrifying genius most brightly shines, in this new collection containing 13 stories, 11 of which have been scattered across various collections over the years, including one that was only released on LP.* Opening the collection with a heartfelt introduction writing candidly about his adoration for his father and his love of his craft, Hill then presents tales that incorporate tropes from psychological suspense, science fiction, dark fantasy, and of course straight up horror. Every piece is driven at its core by anxiety and unease, from the very first sentence or stylistic choices**, and feature Hill’s trademark of well developed characters, character who draw the reader in and feel absolutely real, without sacrificing the pacing or wasting a word. But in this collection it is also the sense of place that dazzles. Whether we are in a sinister version of Narnia in “Fauna”, on a pier at the shore in “Dark Carousel,” going down an Italian staircase in “The Devil on the Staircase,” or stuck on a plane as WWIII breaks out in “You Are Released,” Hill creates the sense that the reader is right there, alongside the characters, experiencing it all. He lulls you into enjoying the story, even though you know the most terrifying bits are coming, just around the corner of the next page. Yet you keep reading, even as the terror becomes so palpable that you have to close the book and walk away for a few moments. Hill rounds this superb collection out with insightful story notes and a surprise 14th story hiding in the “About the Author” section, but the tale that will be the biggest hit with library workers and patrons is the beautiful and elegiac “Late Returns,” featuring a grieving bookmobile driver who sometimes delivers books to ghosts. This is a collection of single serve, immerse horror at its very best similar to collections by Paul Tremblay, Stephen Graham Jones, Samanta Schweblin and anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow.
    High Demand Note: “In the Tall Grass” co-written with King is the basis of an upcoming Netflix feature film, “By the Silver Waters of Lake Champlain” will be made into an episode of Shudder TVs new “Creepshow” series, and the rights to “Faun” were just won by Netflix ina  three studio bidding war.
    *Dark Carousel was released on audio-- LP limited edition-- ONLY before this.
    **Two stories are not straight prose. The staircase one, the text is written in paragraphs that mimic steps going down, while another one is told in Tweets. I needed to figure out a way to mention that without giving up so many words.
    Further Appeal: There is a lot of appeal in the review; statements you can use to book talk this collection ASAP. However, what I want to make clear to everyone is that I was very hard on this collection. I know you will buy Joe Hill no matter what, but even with my high level of judgment this collection over delivered.

    I cannot stress enough how brilliantly unsettling the stories are. The fact that you know they will make you squirm and bring the dread and unease from the get go, and yet, they still come through is nothing short of masterful.

    I think this is a great "Start With" option for new fans of horror or Hill in general because of the range of stories, and not just the range in horror, which is there, but in the range of speculative genres presented. There is a straight up suspense story, multiple dark fantasies, and a few darker SF. But all have the well developed characters, sense of unease, and prose that keeps you turning the pages for the way the words themselves come together as much as to see what will happen next.

    And if nothing else, everyone read "Late Returns." It is sweet and unsettling at the same time. And it is about a bookmobile driver and the power of the right book suggestion to the right person at the right time. Seriously, he wrote this for us!

    Three Words That Describe This Book: genre blending, fully realized characters, intense unease

    Readalikes: I gave many in the review, but they are all on the horror side. A few other writers who blend the speculative genres but still keep the unease at the forefront and are excellent at the short story format who I would also suggest trying are C. Robert Cargill, Karen Russell, and Jeffrey Ford.


    Violet


    Thomas, Scott (author).
    Sept. 2019. 446p. Inkshares, paper, $17.99  (9781947848368)
    First published August, 2019 (Booklist).
    Thomas burst on the scene in 2017 with his debut, Kill Creek, receiving praise from Joyce Carol Oates and the RUSA CODES Reading List Horror honor. Now back with his second novel, Thomas has taken a completely different route toward filling the page with fear and unease, and the result is an even better reading experience. Kris has brought her 8 year old daughter, Sadie, back to the Kansas vacation town where she spent a few summers as a kid, including the summer her mother died of cancer, hoping to help Sadie heal after the tragic death of her father. But this is no idyllic vacation town. Even the lake at its center has an eerie provenance. And in the years since Kris last visited, the demon she left in her wake of sadness and anger has clung to the town, placed roots in the house, and is not too patiently waiting for her to return. Kris, dealing with her own traumas, is an unreliable narrator, yet it is through her eyes, almost exclusively, that readers are introduced to this well built world, adding yet another layer of dread. The terror builds slowly, as otherworldly monsters and real life tragedies are investigated. The deeper Kris dives into the mysteries of the town and her life, the more the unease burrows its way into her, and the reader, with a grip that refuses to let go. Every detail matters in this character centered, psychological suspense story of mothers, daughters, and the lies and secrets we all harbor deep within. This is a title that fans of best sellers Sarah Pinborough and Jennifer McMahon will love. Violet also stands as proof that Thomas is a horror novelist who will be camping out on your shelves for years to come.  
    Further Appeal: Kill Creek  was a more in your face novel, Violet is more nuanced, with a slowly building dread. I like both, but Violet is more impressive, and will bring Thomas legions of new fans.

    This is that cross over horror/psychological suspense book librarian patrons love. Give this to psychological suspense fans who don't mind a bit of supernatural explanations. They will love it.

    Kris is a fantastic character who is so deliciously unreliable and yet, we completely sympathize with her. Thomas has built this character so well that we watch and understand her spiral, but we also fall into her reasoning.

    The story itself is so utterly original, especially the way the town-- every detail of it-- enhances the story.

    It is not a short book, but everything in there is necessary. And it moves at a good clip. You are turning the pages with dread and excitement. I love how small details come back to play a big part in the story. Thomas also unveils' the truth Kris is hiding from us, and herself, in a satisfying way.

    And the ending scenes on the "mermaid house" roof are just screaming to be filmed.

    This is a book you probably didn't know about before today, but that you have to order and promote this Fall.

    Three Words That Describe This Book: awesome world building, steadily building terror, character centered
    Readalikes: This is a perfect read alike for Jennifer McMahon's hugely popular horror/psychological suspense hybrids. Also if you could combine Sarah Pinborough's two most recent and best selling psychological suspense titles [Cross Her Heart and Behind Her Eyes] into one novel, that would be the feel of Violet.

    Other readalikes- classic Stephen King, especially those set in Castle Rock and Derry, for sure. Also those who want to delve further into parent-child relationships with a horror lens, try The Changeling by Victor LaValle.

    This also reminded me of Haven by Tom Deady [review by me here]. It's a lesser known title, but it had much of the same feel and a great lake town setting, family relationships, and a sinister monster from the past returning. Haven won the Stoker Award for Best First Novel and Thomas was a finalists for that award the next year with Kill Creek.

    Imaginary Friend.

    Chbosky, Stephen (author).
    Oct. 2019. 720p. Grand Central, $30 (9781538731338); e-book, $15.99 (9781538731345)
    First published August, 2019 (Booklist).
    Twenty years after the publication of the beloved teen classic Perks of Being a Wallflower, Chbosky finally releases his sophomore novel , but this one is more reminiscent of the epic novels of Stephen King, like The Talisman, than the YA fare fans might be expecting. Kate, a widow, and her 7 year old son Christopher are fleeing her abusive boyfriend, seemingly finding a soft landing in a small Western PA town. However, it quickly becomes apparent that they have been drawn here on purpose, by forces both loving and malevolent, to stop a portal to hell from opening up, and Christopher’s connection to an imaginary friend who led him out of the woods, after being missing for six days soon after their arrival, holds the key to the terrors that begin to plague the entire town. With multiple points of view, that probe into the thoughts and nightmares of characters from all over town, and strong world building, this is an immersive read that walks the line between dark fantasy and horror. While the highly precocious 7 year old hero is a bit unrealistic, the novel reads like an entire season of Stranger Things, and this book will find fans far beyond readers simply excited by a new title from its author. While this one will sell itself you should also suggest to readers who enjoyed Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay or anything by Amy Lukavics. 
    YA Statement: Because Perks of Being a Wallflower is still read and beloved by today’s teens, there will be much interest in this adult novel. Reminiscent of Stepehen King’s best coming of age, epic in scope, horror novels, and Stranger Things, all of which are already very popular with a YA audience, and strong child and teen characters, Imaginary Friend is a great choice for teens looking for a big, scary book that they can also relate to.
    Further Appeal: I know this book will be popular, but as a horror fan, I was not impressed. I left all of the appeal info you need in the review above. This book will pretty much sell itself though.

    Three Words That Describe This Book: precocious hero, multiple points of view, immersive

    Readalikes: All of the book I mentioned above plus Children of the Dark by Jonathan Janz do what Chbosky is trying to do here, but better. However, people will want to read this book because of the author. If they want to try something similar, but shorter and better as horror, suggest my readalike options. But I suspect, most of the readers will simply be Chbosky fans hungry to finally have another book.