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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween! Have a Side of Laughs With Your Scares

I am taking a breather today.  After 31 Days of Horror over on RA for All: Horror, an early morning radio appearance (link up soon), an elementary school parade in a few hours, and a class to teach tonight, I am taking a small break from the blog.

But for now, here is a book trailer for the new comic horror novel by David Wong, This Book is Full of Spiders.  Get on the hold list now, or check out the equally as funny prequel John Dies at the End. (both currently checked out at the BPL).

In my book, I had this to say about John Dies at the End:

Wong and John try a drug called “soy sauce” which seems cool and psychedelic, until they realize they are not hallucinating.  The drug has actually opened up a portal to Hell which allows a number of murderous monsters to break free.  John and Wong have to stop them from destroying the world.  John Dies at the End is a horrifying spoof, that will have you alternating smiling and cringing.

I am happy to see Wong's funny and scary books getting the attention they deserve.  I think they they set the right tone for a fun holiday too.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What I'm Reading: More Horror

I am busy wrapping up 31 Days of Horror over on RA for All: Horror.  And while over here on RA for All it may seem like I haven't been reading, over on RA for All: Horror, the reviews keep coming.

Just this week, I posted two new reviews:

I also want to remind people that as you see an uptake in people coming into the library looking for horror, please keep your horror displays up for a few days after Halloween.  We always get people coming in a few days after the holiday who meant to read a scary book but never got around to it.  Be ready for them.  At the BPL, our display is staying up until election day.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Discussion: What Literary Charcater Would You Be for Halloween?

Today's Monday Discussion is all about Halloween costumes.  There has been a great Twitter conversation using the has tag, #LitMajorHalloweenCostumes going around with book inspired costume idea.  If you don't want to sift through the thousands of tweets, Book Riot has this list of their favorites.

Although I have not planned a literary themed costume this year, this got me to thinking: Who would I be if I could dress up as any character from literature?

Since I am on the shorter side, I think it would be fun to be a hobbit.  Actually my husband isn't so tall either.  With the 2 kids, we would make a cute hobbit family.  I would also love to be something a little more edgy like Honor Harrington the lead in David Weber's Military SF series. Man, she is one tough cookie, but I am not sure me and my freckles could pull it off.

What about you?

For today's Monday Discussion, in a perfect world, what literary costume would you most want to wear for Halloween?

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Having Fun With the Unsettling Random House-Penguin Possible Merger

So of course you have already heard that Penguin and Random House, 2 of the Big 6 publishers, had to respond to rumors that they are in talks to merge.  Click here, here, or here for news.

Read the articles to see all of the concerns expressed, but among my biggest is that if the merger happened today, 7 of the top 15 NYT Best sellers would be published by this company (as I saw here).

But hey, this is only talk among two big publishers.  US and EU antitrust people would have a say too. This is by no means it is a done deal.  So, why not have fun with the news instead of fretting over something that would never happen.

Today at the BPL we were debating the new name.  In my informal poll, Random Penguin is narrowly beating Penguin House. Both are too fun and funny for me to think such venerable companies would use either.  Although, seriously, Random Penguin is memorable.

GalleyCat has found people creating hilarious Random Penguin images and is posting the conversation here.  My favorite is the one I have embedded which makes fun of another popular meme.

Here's to keeping the conversation light and fun. We will have plenty of time to freak out about how terrible this will be for authors, book sellers, and librarians IF it actually happens.

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Book Of Maps for World of Game of Thrones and Death Bracket Just About Ready

Next week, the first ever official and complete set of maps for George R. R. Martin's complex fantasy world will be released in the book, The Lands of Ice and Fire.

This is a must buy book for every library.  If you add up the fans of the books with those of the TV series, you have a huge number of patrons who will want to check out this book.

Click here to see some sneak peeks by the artist as posted on io9.  This article also has links to a wide variety of the fan created maps which were the only place people could turn to see Westeros cartography up to this point.

The release of this title is also serving as a reminder that I am supposed to be working on a Games of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire readalike list.

Coming first though, the BPL Author Death Bracket (discussed at length here) just in time for the Presidential Election.  We have narrowed the display down to 32 authors in only 4 categories.  The brackets positions have been assigned and the winner decided.  You can follow the story here on the blog or in the library to find out who survives... It all begins on Election Day-- 11/6.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

6 Book Giveaway on RA for All:Horror

I know not all readers of RA for All follow RA for All:Horror too, but this is your 1 week until Halloween warning.  I have had many posts to help your horror seeking readers.

The focus this year has been on why horror authors love to write dark fiction.  This month long discussion of appeal, will help you to understand why your patrons enjoy it better.

Also, I have my biggest giveaway of the season running this week.  You can enter for a chance to win 6 books donated by popular horror author Joe McKinney right now!  These would be great for a library trying to build their horror collection.  He is a must have author for all public library collections.

Click through to read about McKinney and see how to enter.

The deadline for entries is this Saturday at 5 pm central.

Young Adults Are Still Reading...Shocking?

As reporter everywhere yesterday, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report about the reading habits of 16 to 29 year olds.  Click here for the full report.

One of the the things that the mainstream media has found "shocking" in this report is that these 16-29 year olds are using the library in large numbers.

However, those of us who work in public libraries were not "shocked" by this data.  We know young people are coming to our libraries and our websites.  They are hooked on their smart phones and tablets and cannot afford to keep buying books.  They turn to us for content they can borrow.

We also know that since they are always looking at their smart phones that they have more time to read.  I see it with our patrons and staff in this age bracket.  They load books on their phones so that they can read whenever they have some downtime.

But there is a larger problem here, one I have been warning people about for years, and the mainstream media simply underscored it with their "shock."  The fact that those who create the mainstream media reports (who happen to be more in the 35-55 age group) were shocked that young people still use the library shows me that they are NOT using it.

Why should you care?  Well, these people are the leaders in our communities.  Those who run for election and, more importantly, those who vote.  I will be running for reelection to my local library board this Spring and have already turned in my candidate data sheet.  One of the areas of concern I identified is exactly this age group.  We need to get them to the library more than just to drop off their kids.  They need to understand the library is still relevant in their lives.

These media reports simply prove that, unfortunately, I am correct.  This age group does not visit the library for themselves.  If they did, the shock at the 16-29 year olds visiting would not be reported. As a member of this age group myself, I see this proven all too often.  I am constantly working to convince my friends that the library is useful to them.  When I succeed, and they actually go for themselves (not just for a kids' program), they also express "shock" at how "great" the library is.

Arrrrgh. It has happened more times than I can count.  It gets very frustrating.  I feel like I am making no headway.

The good news here is that we have only lost one generation.  The one behind them is loving the library.  But this also means that while the great work libraries have been doing building strong YA collections and services over the last 10 years has worked, it is now time to shift focus and get those 35-55 year olds back before they strike down more ballot initiatives.

Trivia Night at the Garv-Inn run by the RA Department of the BPL is one of those things we do to capture this age group. Our largest age group representation at these monthly events is in this 35-55 age range.  Trivia Night is fun, involves drinking, but is close to home.  It also makes the library look like we get them.  Low key hanging out with friend, a little bit of competition, and a whole lot of laughing.  I think it helps that Kathy and I are at the low end of this age group.  We are just the right age to be "cool" (to them at least), but not so young to be threatening.

We tried another yesterday.  In celebration of National Friends of the Library Week, the Friends opened a "Take A Book, Leave A Book" shelf at the commuter train station.  Pictured on the right, this shelf is there to offer free books, but more importantly, to remind adults that the library is there if they need it.  You can take a book for free at the train station, but if you want more, our address is there.  It is like a welcome wagon from the Friends to the community, saying, "It's okay to come to the library; but if you can't make it, we have brought a tiny bit of it to you."  I will be hanging signs about our upcoming ebook reader programs on the shelf too.

The point here, I am glad the Pew study came out.  It validates the money and effort libraries have been putting into our service to teens for the last decade.  It has worked; we got them hooked on us for life.  But now it is time to shift gears and work on the 35-55 year olds we have lost along the way.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chris Ware Building Stories Is Hot Right Now

To the left is a picture of the newest Chris Ware graphic novel, Building Stories.  This picture shows the box and the 14 pieces which make up the story.  Building Stories is the tale of one apartment building and the 14 different families that live in it.  Ware tells each story in 14 distinct booklets, posters, leaflets, etc...

In its complex design, it is a simple story about being human.

A few weeks ago, Entertainment Weekly gave the book an A+.  On Sunday, it was the cover review in the New York Times. Neal Wyatt  featured it as her RA Crossroads in Library Journal this month.

Many libraries have ordered it, especially in the Chicago Area where Ware lives, but very few have figured out a way to catalog and prepare this unique tome for circulation.  Even our neighbor, the Oak Park Public Library, home library to Ware, hasn't gotten it on the shelf yet.

At the BPL we have our copy, sitting in the RA office.  I brought in my personal opened copy of the book for us to root through with our head of Circulation.  I think we have it figured out.  We are going to barcode the box and marked the items 1 of 14, 2 of 14, etc...

This will be one of the best books of the year, but with a list price of $50, people are going to need access to it through the public library.  So my plea to libraries out there is to get over the fact that the book is non-traditional and difficult to catalog.  Get over the fact that pieces might walk off.  Get over your ownership issues about it and your worries about patrons not treating it right.  It is the patrons' book.  You used their tax dollars to buy it.  Get it on the shelf! Let people read it.

Personally, I have been a fan of Ware for many years, but I hope this book and all of the love it is getting across the entire landscape of the book press will expose more people to his genius.  But even more importantly, I hope it will highlight the format of the graphic novel and make it okay for adult readers.

Coincidentally, it is the graphic novel class this week too, so tomorrow you can look for new graphic novel annotations by the students on the class blog.  ARRT is also offering a program which includes information about Graphic Novels on Thursday at the Oak Park Public Library. (It is only $15 and you can still sign-up.)

Finally, don't forget my Graphic Novels for GrownUps list on the Browsers Corner which features another Ware book.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Discussion: National Friends of the Library Week

I wear two hats at the BPL.  The first is as a Readers' Advisory librarian.  But I also have the important responsibility of being the library's liaison to the Friends of the Berwyn Library.

This week is National Friends of the Library Week.  To celebrate, the staff at the BPL is spending the week thanking the Friends for all they do.  Each department has created a thank you sign to post at their desks, and I have a large wipe board out near the entrance of the library asking patrons to leave their thanks to the Friends.

The Friends themselves have a few things planned including a program on Saturday, and the grand opening of their "Take a Book, Leave a Book" shelf at one of the commuter train stations, on Tuesday morning.

But from the library's perspective, we are spending our time this week by thanking them.  So for today's Monday Discussion, take a moment to thank the Friends group from your library.  These volunteers spend their time to make their communities' libraries better and stronger purely out of the goodness of their hearts.

I will begin.  I want to thank the Friends for their dedication to the BPL.  But specifically, I want to thank them for making Kathy's and my dream of a monthly Trivia Night a reality.  We could never afford to run this event more than once or twice a year without them.  And being able to bring the library to a bar once a month, raising our exposure, and showing the community that the library can be fun, is a huge boon for the Library.  Thank you so much for believing in us enough to give us $1,000 of the money you raise to sponsor a year's worth of Trivia Nights.

Now it's your turn.  Leave your thanks in the comments below.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What I'm Reading: Lots of Horror

Just a reminder that I am posting lots of reviews over on RA for All Horror's 31 Days of Horror.  I am not cross posting them all here, so you need to click over to see them.  So far I have reviewed:

I am also reading non-horror titles, but except for a report on last week's book discussion, coming this week, I will remain behind on non-horror book reviews for the time being.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Horror Suggestions in Library Journal

I was very honored to be asked to take over Neal Wyatt's popular Reader's Shelf column in the October 15, 2012 issue of Library Journal.  My piece, entitled, "New Horror for the Haunting Season" highlights some new horror titles that might appeal to nontraditional horror readers who are looking to sample the scary this Halloween.

I will also be featuring guest posts by 3 of the authors included in the column on the blog.  But you will have to keep following 31 Days of Horror to find out who and what they have to say.  One of them has even offered a collection of books for giveaway.  Oooh, the suspense is killing me.

Here is the direct link, but you can also find the entire column posted below.  It's like I wrote a guest post on my own blog.


Halloween is coming, and so are many readers who do not normally enjoy the horror genre but who want to give it a try. Of course, there are the “old standby” authors like Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Peter Straub and new best sellers like Joe Hill and Jonathan Maberry. But if you are only relying on these writers to help your once-a-year horror readers, you may be missing a better match for their specific tastes. Consider these six 2012 titles that illustrate how easily horror can cross over into other popular genres.
talley New Horror for Haunting Season | The Readers Shelf | October 15, 2012Brett J. Talley’s The Void (JournalStone. 2012. ISBN 9781936564439. pap. $16.95) harkens back to the sf-tinged horror of H.P. Lovecraft. Enter a world where people easily travel through space while sleeping. There is a catch: travelers are held hostage to their nightmares while in flight. When six travelers encounter an abandoned aircraft, bad things begin to happen, but is it a dream, paranoia, or a monster? Talley creates a creeping sense of unease from the start, an anxiety that continuously builds, leaving readers to look over their shoulders while frantically turning the pages to the end.
For literary horror, Victor LaValle’s The Devil in Silver(Spiegel & Grau. 2012. ISBN 9781400069866. $27) might be described as Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Frank Peretti’s Monster. Unjustly committed to a mental hospital, Pepper quickly realizes that not only are the inmates more sane than the staff but that an animal-headed monster is killing the patients at night. Character is king here as the action comes in quick spurts between Pepper’s interactions with others and his internal struggles. This novel is terrifying, but it also asks you to ponder larger societal questions of race, class, and madness; just keep the lights on while thinking about it all.
lambertson New Horror for Haunting Season | The Readers Shelf | October 15, 2012What about mystery lovers? Steer them directly to Gregory Lamberson and his “Jake Helman Files” series about a New York City police officer–turned–PI specializing in supernatural crimes. These are gory and horrific novels, but they are also imaginative and original, with a strong investigative story line. InTortured Spirits (Medallion. 2012. ISBN 9781605424064. pap. $14.95), Jake’s quest to save a colleague who has been turned into a raven by a witch doctor leads him south, where he uncovers an army of zombie slaves harvesting drugs for evil mastermind Malvado.
Speaking of zombies, readers remain hungry for the shambling undead. Joe McKinney has successfully parlayed his experience as a police detective and disaster migration specialist into his terrifyingly realistic and award-winning zombie plague novels. InMutated (Pinnacle: Kensington. 2012. ISBN 9780786029297. pap. $7.99), Ben has survived in a zombie-infected world by staying alert and avoiding trouble. When a nasty leader begins to gather the living, Ben decides to trade his solitude for refuge on an abandoned farm. Things are tough, but manageable, until Ben notices that the zombies are getting smarter and faster. How can this be? McKinney fills his thriller with realistic details of how the plague spreads, convincing dialog, superior characterization, and, of course, awesome zombie battle scenes.
lindqvist New Horror for Haunting Season | The Readers Shelf | October 15, 2012Almost as popular as zombies these days are novels by Nordic authors. Not to be left out is John Ajvide Lindqvist, also known as Sweden’s Stephen King.Little Star (Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. 2012. ISBN 9780312620516. $27.99) begins with a family raising a young girl they found abandoned in the woods, until horrible circumstances lead her brother to take her to Stockholm. After he enters her in a TV show similar toAmerican Idol and another young girl sees her performance, a frighteningly evil team is born. As in his previous novels (Let the Right One In), Lindqvist uses compelling YA characters to portray the horrors that lurk in the shadows of the everyday world. It is scarier because it seems so normal.
Finally, for nonfiction fans, Lisa Morton’s Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween (Reaktion, dist. by Univ. of Chicago. 2012. ISBN 9781780230474. $29) covers the history of Halloween from its ancient Celtic roots to its stunning growth in global popularity in the 21st century. Morton is an accomplished horror short story writer, and her ability to draw readers in quickly and keep them turning the pages shines through in her nonfiction as well. Lavishly illustrated, this solidly researched and concise work is fun to read and a great choice for readers who want to know why we seek out the scary each October.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

J K Rowling Live in New York-- A Recap

I have not talked about J K Rowling's new novel Casual Vacancy here for a few reasons.
  1. I didn't feel the need since everyone else was writing about it. I mean you had to be living under a rock to miss its release.
  2. I am still mad at the publisher for gouging us by charging $35 list for it.  Libraries get a small discount, but we need multiple copies of the book. 
  3. Finally, I was equally upset by the fact that I had to pay $35 for a book that would not be reviewed before I ordered it.  I was going to get it despite the reviews since it was going to be a #1 best seller and we always buy those.  Case in point, we did not buy 50 Shades of Grey at first because it got bad reviews, but once it was #1, we bought it (7 copies to be exact).  Click here for more on that. Back to Casual Vacancy though, just because I had to buy it doesn't mean I don't deserve to know what I am getting. That was just rude.
Please note, most of these reasons have nothing to do with Ms. Rowling and everything to do with her publishers.  

That being said, Rowling's only live appearance in the US happened on Tuesday night in Lincoln Center when she had a conversation on stage with Ann Patchett.  So today I include two reports on the event. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Booker Award or How They Made One of My Favorite Awards Boring

Manbooker official logoReally.  I get it.  The Booker people like Hilary Mantel.  But did she really need to win again?

Not only has no woman ever won twice, but never has a sequel won after the first one also won.

I don't know about you, but I usually love this award because it exposes me to authors who are very good but maybe not well known all over the world.  I also enjoyed how they usually do not repeat authors.  Once Mantel won, she is always a Booker award winning author.  She doesn't need another one. Give me someone new, please.

Also, enough with the Tudors already people.

But that's juts me being crabby.


I am not the only one irked about this.

Take Ten: Suggestion for a Book Club

Today's Take Ten list comes from my student Ellen who used her midterm assignment to help an actual book group pick their titles for 2013.  She was able to interview the members of the group before compiling her list, and she is scheduled to present this list to them in December.  From her paper:
The book club I chose to study meets once a month from 7-9 pm at the Berkeley Public Library. The club consists of 6 to 8 middle aged white women, all middle class. The community where they live (all but one reside in Berkeley) is diverse, with a strong Hispanic community and a large elderly population as well. The town has a population of approximately 2000, and is a suburb of Chicago. 
When asking the book club members what type of literature they liked, the consensus seemed to be historical fiction, or stories about women’s lives and relationships, particularly with strong female characters. Some of the favorite titles they have read over the years include The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, The Glass Castle by Jeanette Wall, Lottery by Patricia Wood, When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka, and Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shores When asked what they enjoyed, they mainly mentioned that they enjoyed “real life” stories, with not too much romance, but a touch of romance was fine as long as it did not dominate the novel. One member did mention that in her free reading time she enjoyed reading more typical romance novels, but she also mentioned that her favorite book was Beneath a Marble Sky which is definitely historical fiction.
Some books that the club expressly did not like included The Lord is my Shepherd: Psalm 23 Murders #1 by Debbie Viguie, In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Skipping Christmas by John Grisham.  They expressly disliked The Lord is my Shepherd because there was “too much God stuff” and not enough mystery. They also seemed very standoffish towards reading non-fiction. They did not enjoy Eat Pray Love generally, although some liked particular segments of the book there was too much “God stuff” and romance for them. They read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as another non-fiction title, and while they found this story a bit interesting they were not thrilled and said they would probably pass on another similar title. The Jennifer Weiner title was not a hit because the members felt that they had already heard this same type of story by other authors, and there was nothing to keep them guessing or intrigued. They had read another title by Jennifer Weiner previous to this one, and felt that it was almost the same book with a slight change in characters. 

Overall, while this group has some specific likes and dislikes, they seem to be pretty typical of a white, middle class, female book group.  Ellen's research process (described in her midterm paper) was also very thurough.  And, I just love how she efficiently and effectively gets the appeal of each book into her annotations while still including a bit of plot.

While her annotated list geared to this group specifically, I think many book discussion groups out there could use this list to help them to pick their new titles, which is why I asked for her permission to post it here.  Feel free to use Ellen's list with your group, but please cite this url.

And I just want to say, I am always so happy to see my students using the work they produce for this class to help real life patrons.

Here is Ellen's list.

Berkeley Book Club Suggested Reads List

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Jamie Ford. 301 pages

Soon after losing his wife, Henry Lee discovers a cache of artifacts from the time of Japanese internment in the United States. The story, which toggles between 1986 with Lee’s personal grief and exploration of the artifacts, and the 1940’s with a budding friendship between a Japanese American and a Chinese American, explores the vast beauty and pain that characterizes human relationships. 

The Last Brother. Nathacha Appanah. 164 pages

On the island of Maritus in 1944, nine year old Raji is all but unaware of any unrest in the world, until he stumbles upon a young boy who, he learns, is a Jewish detainee being held for an indeterminate amount of time on the island. As the boys’ friendship progresses, they hatch a plan for a harrowing escape and are faced with a desperate mission to survive.

The Magician’s Assistant. Ann Patchett.  357 pages

Ever since becoming Parsifal’s assistant, Sabine had vied for a love she knew she could never have. After Parsifal’s male lover’s death, and then his own death, Sabine finds out a series of secrets and uncovers the part of her love’s life that she never knew existed, and comes to terms with her loss in a haunting but hopeful tale of love, grief, and understanding. 

Reading Lolita in Tehran. Azar Nafisi. 343 pages

This memoir of Azar Nafisi, an Iranian woman and teacher of English and American literature, tells her brave tale of silent rebellion. Every Thursday for many years during the Iranian revolution, Nafisi and a group of forward thinking young women would meet to read and discuss the classic tales of American and English literature, and through these tales, would craft an amazing story of their own.

Bee Season. Myla Goldberg. 274 pages

In a family that seems to be holding together by the slightest threads, Eliza is anything but exceptional. She is in the class for slow learners, and her brother, Saul, is much more the pet of her family since he hopes someday to be a rabbi, which puts him in their father’s best graces. Yet when Eliza suddenly beings winning a series of spelling bees and garners national attention, the entire family dynamic changes and she has to use her own strength to try to maintain sanity as her family spirals into darkness.

The Monsters of Templeton. Laura Groff.  361 pages

After being asked to leave school in the midst of a scandalous affair with her married archeology professor, Willie Upton arrives home shamed, and is greeted with the death of a giant lake monster. While the monster certainly brings national scientific attention, the main story lies in Willie’s search for the truth about her family, her father, her past, and ultimately herself. 

The Time Traveler’s Wife. Audrey Niffenegger.  536 pages

This compelling novel chronicles the beautiful but unconventional love between Claire, a normal woman, and the love of her life and eventual husband Henry. Their love story is a genuine one, but with a twist: Henry is sometimes suddenly transported in time and has no control over where or when this will happen. While the time travel certainly is a key aspect of this novel, many other complex ideas, such as love, marriage, friendship, and loss are examined in this masterfully written novel.

Girl in Translation. Jean Kwok.  303 pages

After emigrating from Hong Kong to Brooklyn, only to find desperation and squalor, Kimberly Chang makes an important decision to better her life. So she begins her double life: smart conscientious student by day, Chinatown sweatshop worker by night. Through the course of her story, Kimberly learns many amazing lessons about herself, her family, and her culture. 

The Paris Wife. Paula McLain.  314 pages

The Paris Wife tells the mostly true story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Peterson, and their early relationship, the hardships of his up and coming fame, and the eventual downfall of their relationship. This beautifully written tale is a masterpiece of fiction, describing both literary bombshells like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, alongside an evocative story of love, heartbreak, and betrayal.

Sarah’s Key. Tatiana de Rosnay. 316 pages

In 1942, a young girl named Sarah hastily locks her four year old brother Michel in a cabinet during a round up of French Jews at Velodrome d’Hiver, with the promise that she would let him out when it was safe. In modern times, Julia Jarmond, an American journalist, becomes deeply interested in Velodrome d’Hiver and the experiences of Jewish people during both the Holocaust and the German occupation, and begins to unravel many secrets of the past. This masterfully written work uses an excellent contrast between the past and the present to keeps the reader engrossed to the end. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New Student Reading Maps and One Take 10 List

I have 4 midterms I want to share with you today.  The last three are excellent reading maps done by students in the RA class for their midterms.

But first, those who follow this blog know that some students choose to do a 10 book book talk that I then post as a "Take Ten" list on a certain topic. You can click here to pull up all past lists.  Normally, the students make an annotated list on paper to share with the class, and, in fact, I will have some of those to share with you in the coming days, but this semester, Shira did something that what I am calling a hybrid of a book list/reading map.  Her audience was Young Stroke Survivors and her list is enitlted "Books to Recover With."  Click on through to see her digital annotated list of 10 books.

I also had three very good reading maps turned in.  I will post them below and add them to the permanent reading map archive, found here.
Great work guys.  As I mentioned above, I will have more student work to highlight in the coming days.

And don't forget about their weekly assignments which show up on the class blog each Wednesday by 6pm.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Discussion: What's the Scariest Book You Ever Read?

The Monday Discussion is back after a short hiatus.  Today's discussion is in conjuction with 31 Days of Horror over on RA for All: Horror.

Today marks the middle of October.  We are smack dab in the middle of the time of year when even the timid try out a scary book.  Today I want to know what the scariest book you ever read was.  I would also like to know about any movies or tv shows that freaked you out too.

Feel free to share an experience from when you were a kid too.  I have found that those "scary" memories from horror books or movies that we encountered as children stay with us longer.  In fact, last night, my sister-in-law was sharing a story about how even remembering watching Amityville Horror (the movie) at a birthday party stills scares her. 

In 2010, I went on the record over on Shelf Renewal answering the question this way:
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. It feels so real, like it could actually happen, and even though I do not believe in possession, I can’t shake the feeling that it could be true. That is terrifying. A close second would be Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. This one is scary because of the sense of dread that permeates the book from the start. The tension never lifts and you are in a permanent state of fear and anxiety while reading it, and even long after you finish.”

Last year I also asked this question in a series of Monday Discussions. These links include my answer to each question and the full comments with your responses.
This year I have condensed the multi-week discussion into one.  Even if you particiapted last year, add to this year's discussion.

Here are my new additions to scary stories:
  • Book: The zombie novels of Joe McKinney are terrifyingly realistic, mostly due to the fact that McKinney is a law enforcement officer and disater migration specialist.  He knows exactly how a zombie plagues could spread and destroy civilazation.  I talked about his linked zombie novels at PLA; here is a link.
  • Movies: The Final Destination movies are the most scary I have seen in a long time.  People, you cannot cheat death.  If death wants you, it will get you.  Another thing I have learned form these movies, death is creative.
  • TV Series: Last year's American Horror Story was so great because of how unsettling it was.  Click here to see more about what I had to say last year.  I cannot wait for the new season to begin on Wednesday.
Now it is your turn.  Let me know your favorite scary stories in any format.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Erin Morgenstern--The Day After

So last night Erin Morgenstern and I had a very fun conversation in front of about 300 library patrons from the Fox Valley.  As promised, I have a short report on how it went.
  • I am happy to say Erin is a delightful person.  She is engaging, interesting, and fun.  She truly loves answering questions and interacting with fans.  She mentioned multiple times how crazy her life has become, but was so happy to be in the position she is.  She was also a good sport, pulling 6 winners of a free copy of the book on stage.
  • Her mom is a school librarian! 
  • The Night Circus won the Alex Award from the ALA.  This is an award given out to books which were written for adults but have "special appeal" to teens. When we were back stage waiting to go on, I told her it was my favorite award.  She said, "Oh, I have a good story about that. Ask me when we are out there."  So I did.  She said, when she began writing seriously, she thought she wanted to write to a YA audience but was having trouble doing it.  Then she read John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things and loved it.  She noticed in the back that it won the Alex Award.  After reading a description of the award she said to herself, "That's what I want to do."  With the Alex Award in the back of her mind, she wrote The Night Circus. I found her story about the influence the award had on her as an author very uplifting, but also, it was an affirmation of all of the hard work the ALA award committees do (on a volunteer basis).  Authors pay attention.  Thanks for the nod of support Erin.
  • She shared that she writes in bursts.  She does not sit down every day and write.  She will work on her larger pieces for days or weeks at a time, writing constantly.  She then puts it away and goes back to what she wrote with fresh eyes a bit later.  She does however, regularly write short flash fiction pieces to go with the photographs a Chicago based friend of hers takes. You can see the pictures and read the pieces on her blog here
  • The movie version of The Night Circus is moving along. The executive producer of the Harry Potter movies has been hired to oversee it, Erin will be seeing a screen play soon, and the people involved want to honor the book and her wishes.  She is optimistic it will go well.
  • An audience member who had listened to The Night Circus wanted her to talk about that a bit.  Jim Dale, narrator of the entire Harry Potter series and famous Broadway actor, did the audio version.  Erin was there one of the days of taping and watched in disbelief as the famous Jim Dale was reading her book.  At this point, she noted, the book had not come out yet, and she was still finding it hard to believe anyone was going to read it.  She reported that Dale basically records the book in one take, reading 3 pages at a time.  They then go back and fix any lines that were not perfect to drop in later, and then he moves to the next 3 pages.  As he was reading, he stumbled over a character name, turned to Erin and said, jokingly, "Why did you name her Tsukiko? It is so hard to say"  She felt so bad.  She told him she never dreamed he would have to say it.
  • People ask her all the time if she thinks magic exists.  To this she says, magic exists if you believe that magic is when the extraordinary happens.  "How can I not believe in that?  Look it my life now."
  • She shared that she is currently working on a project that (as of now) is best described as a "Noir version of Alice in Wonderland." Sounds like a great book to me.
On a side note, the readers' advisor in me could not let her go without giving her a reading suggestion.  I told her I thought she would love the Locke and Key series by Joe Hill.  She told me it was in her to-read pile, and now, after I book talked it to her, she would move it to the top of the list.  Her hesitation came from the fact that she likes to wait until a series is complete before beginning it.  I told her Locke and Key will be done in a year, so if she started now, she would not be left hanging for long. 

As I said last night, those of us in libraries greatly appreciate when authors come to support us.  It means a lot.  Thanks to Erin Morgenstern for agreeing to be interviewed and for staying late to sign a ton of books.  And thanks to Fox Valley Reads for asking me to be a part of a wonderful night.

National Library PAC

I am sure everyone out there is sick of all the Political Action Committees (PACs) and their negative ads, but PACs are not all evil.  Case in point, current President of the BPL board and former Director of Membership Development for the ALA, John Chrastka, has create EveryLibrary.  Instead of raising money for candidates, EveryLibrary will raise fund nationallt to spend on local library ballot initiatives like  tax rates, bonds, and other referenda.

What a great idea.  In the current political climate, people have lost track of all the good a PAC could do, but not John.  He is out there reminding us all that libraries and politics are already intertwined, so why not use the polticial fund raising tools to help us.
  • Click here to visit EveryLibrary's homepage and pledge your support before November 7th.
  • Click here to read an interview with John in American Libraries
  • Click here to read an article about EveryLibrary in Library Journal.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Free Horror Novel Giveaway

Head on over to RA for All: Horror between today and Sunday to enter yourself into a free drawing for The Donors by Jeffrey Wilson.

I have a review of the novel posted there as well.

No more here on RA for All today as I am preparing for Erin Morgenstern tonight.

I will be back with a report on how that went tomorrow.

Nobel Prize In Literature....

was not Haruki Murakami.  It was Mo Yan, a Chinese writer.  Click here for details.

Maybe next year.  It took a few years for the committee to catch up with me when I was saying Orhan Pamuk would win.  Until then, I will wait.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

National Book Award Finalists Announced

Click here for the details from PW.  For the first time in a few years, the books are all well known.

And I am holding my breath for the Nobel Prize in Literature announcement tomorrow.  I am hoping it is finally Haruki Murakami's turn.  I'll post the link and my opinion on the winner, tomorrow.

RA for All Roadshow: Me Interviewing Erin Morgenstern Tomorrow!

Today I am putting the final touches on my interview questions for Erin Morgenstern.  There is still time to register for this free event at Oswego High School tomorrow night at 7 pm as part of Fox Valley Reads by clicking here.

If you have any questions for Ms Morgenstern, there is still time to get them in to me.  Just leave a comment.

I also wanted to pass on this link to her fabulous website, and this one to a great interview she did with GoodReads.

Finally, below is a re-post of my initial review of The Night Circus, which I wrote last December, way before I was asked to interview her.

I hope to see you there tomorrow night at 7pm.



What I'm Reading: The Night Circus

It is always refreshing to read a book with heavy hype and find it simply charming.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern fit this bill for me when I read it this fall.  Before I get into the details, I want to say that while I was reading this book I was utterly captivated.  This was by no means the best written book I read this year (it has some first novel issues and could have used cutting in some places and beefing up in others); however, I cannot remember the last time I read a book which sucked me into its world and refused to let me go.  Maybe it was when I read Harry Potter for the first time.

The set up here is simple.  2 aging magicians meet to have another competition; one in a long line of competitions they have engaged in over the years.  They each find a young child to become their protege.  As the two children grow up, they are pitted against one and other in a test of their skills and imagination.  The venue of this battle is an amazing circus, but the two young people (a boy and a girl) do not know each other; they just know they must continue to act upon the circus to keep the battle going.  What the terms of engagement are, and the consequences of losing are not known, but it is clear that they are severe.

That is the plot, but it is not even close to the reason you would read this book.  This is a novel that needs to be discovered.

The Night Circus is all about the details and the characters.  The story bounces around between different character's points of view and even to different years (but the date is clearly marked at the start of each chapter).  We see how the competition affects dozens of people, changing the course of their lives.  These characters drive the narrative.  Their relationship to each other, but more importantly to the circus itself, is a joy to watch unfold.  Some grow and some crumble, but all are both interesting and thought provoking.

So, you need to be okay with a book that jumps between characters and subplots quickly.  All points of view and subplots add depth to the story.  It worked for me because it enhanced the power of the circus. I suggest you simply let Morgenstern take you along on her ride.  For some it may be too confusing, but for me, it was a joy to be so entertained in such an original and intricately built story.

I actually found the relationship that develops between the 2 magicians themselves the least satisfying part of the book, but it didn't really matter to me.  My enjoyment went back to the circus itself and the characters' places within it.

I loved the details of the circus itself.  The two magicians build new attractions and tents trying to up stage each other.  New sections begin with descriptions of these wondrous inventions.  These sections were the best part of the novel.  I read them over and over.  The language was lyrical, the descriptions captivating and enchanting.  I was left begging to go to the actual circus.

There is also a clock, the clock-maker himself,  and those who become groupies of the circus which I also enjoyed following.

Again, I am trying to be vague but still articulate the book's appeal.  I want readers to discover this book on their own.  Giving any of the wonder away would be unfair.  The wonder is why a reader will fall in love with this book.

I do have to say that while this novel is filled with beauty, there is also an underlying darkness that permeates the story from the first page on.  This intense magic has serious consequence for all involved.  Watching the characters come to terms with the price they have paid by being a part of this enchanting world is also a reason I  liked this book.  I did find the ultimate conclusion of the novel only partially satisfying, but to be fair, the book was so captivating that I think no ending would be perfect.  Readers will not want to leave the world Morgenstern created, so as a result, would not be happy with any ending.

If you want a book which will take you away to a magical world that will take a hold of you and threaten to never let you go, read The Night Circus.  It is a great option for a plane ride or vacation. It is not perfect, but it is mesmerizing.  I will put it on my sure bet list for years to come.

Three Words That Describe This Book:  captivating, magical, lyrical.

Readalikes: Neal Wyatt had this great list of Readalikes, Read Arounds, and Watchalikes.  Please use the link to see her suggestions.  I will not repeat any of them here.

If you like The Night Circus, run, do not walk, to the library and check out Steven Millhauser's Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer.  This novel won the Pulitzer in 1997, but has become largely forgotten.  I am telling you now though, fans of the descriptions of the circus itself and those who were caught up in the awe of its beauty need to read Martin Dressler too.

Two other lyrical, magical, and captivating books with interesting characters about whom you come to care deeply are The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier and Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen.

Although I do not personally like Lev Grossman's The Magicians series it should be a solid suggestion for most fans of The Night Circus.

For those who liked the more macabre aspects of The Night Circus, a better choice would be Mrs. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

For people looking for more books about or set in a circus, click here for some suggestions I have made in the past. ("the circus" is one of my personal favorite frames).

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

10 Essential Books for Book Nerds

Look you are reading this blog, so you fit the bill.  Sorry to break to you.

So now that the denial part is over, why not embrace your book nerdom and take a look at this list from Flavorwire of their 10 Essential Books for Book Nerds.

Since we did not have a Monday Discussion this week due to the Columbus Day holiday, I thought this could be the unofficial Monday Discussion.

Check out the list and leave me a comment adding to it.

I will start.  All proper book nerds need to read Jasper Fforder's Thrusday Next series beginning with The Eyre Affair. I also love Ian Sansom's Bookmobile Mysteries, but those are a double dose nerdom of book nerd and library nerd.

What about you?

Monday, October 8, 2012

What I'm Reading: Locke and Key 5-- Clockworks

This is a cross post with RA for All: Horror.  The BPL is closed today and I am hanging with the kids. Please enjoy.

I have great love for the Locke and Key series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez.  Click here to access my horror review index and read detailed reviews of the first four installments in the series.

I am all in on this series.  In fact, I went as far to proclaim national library conference back in March:
While there are physically more series, some of the best horror writing in general, series or not, is happening in the format of the graphic novel.  This has a bit to do with the fact that horror lends itself nicely to the visual form; you can say a lot with pictures in horror.  However, it is not only the fact that these works are illustrated that makes them better.  I have been finding that the most interesting characters and the richest story lines are coming out in the comic format.  I am not alone in this opinion.  Take for example the most recent Eisner Awards for the entire comics industry and click here to see that Joe Hill won for best overall writer of any comic, for his horror series, Locke and Key.  In my opinion, there really isn't a better horror series, in any format, right now than Locke and Key.
Now to Clockworks specifically.  This is the fifth installment in the series, and as Joe Hill announced, there will one more cycle of comics to be bound as the hardcover, Omega next year and then a 7th installment compiling all of the side, historical stories of the Locke family and their history with the keys (some of which I have bought on my own at my local comics store and read already).

Speaking of, that is what Clockworks focuses on--the history.  When we left the Locke family in the 4th volume: Keys to the Kingdom, Zack/Dodge has possessed the youngest Locke, Bode, although no one knows that; they all think they killed Zack/Dodge.  But Clockworks does not advance that story line at all.  Instead, Hill introduces a key that opens an old clock.  The clock takes the 2 older Locke children, Tyler and Kinsey, back to the past.  Interestingly, the clock only goes up to 1999, so the kids cannot see their future, which of course was their first instinct.

So as readers we not only go back with the kids to the start of it all, in the 1770s, but we also go back just one generation.  The story focuses on Ben and Miranda Locke (Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode's parents) in their own time.  The clockworks key allows all of us to see why Dodge turned bad, why Ben and Miranda ended up together, how the keys moved into the next generation, and why Tyler and Kinsey are running out of time to stop the insanity on and for all.

With Clockworks Locke and Key continues to be the very best horror series in any print format.  With this 5th book, Hill concentrates on character development.  By going into Ben and Miranda's story not only do we get valuable information about these key characters, but the story is advanced.  It takes a lot of discipline as a writer to hold off on many of the key details this long into a series.  But now, with only 6 chapters to go, the characters have all been given further depth AND the stage has been set for an epic showdown between the Locke kids and some seriously evil magic.

Locke and Key is also excellent because the story is not predictable.  Joe Hill is THE BEST horror writer today and this series solidifies that.  He adds things to his story lines that are unpredictable but not out of left field. Hill is able to honor the tropes of horror while adding his new spin. The main theme of the entire series is as old the horror genre--the seduction of evil magic.  Even though you want to use it for good, very bad comes when you unleash an evil power. We are used to this story line, but the way Hill executes it is unique and original.

Finally, as good as Hill's stories are, Rodriguez's art is amazing.  He is able to convey emotion in his drawings.  When you are dealing with supernatural elements, it is easy to go over the top, but his art is restrained, much like a good horror story.  We get enough to keep us unsettled throughout, and then he gives us the payoff at the big action moments with bright, complex drawings with enough gore to portray the horror, but nothing too gross.  I also love the way he has portrayed Kinsey's fear throughout the series.  These creatures come into play in this installment.  Which brings me back to Hill's awesome character development.  He is so good at writing complex characters, that even a main character's fear is a memorable character.

Three Words to Describe This Book:  compelling, complex characters, unsettling

Readalikes: You can use this link to see the numerous read alike options that I have given for this series in the past.  I have mostly given graphic novel suggestions, but today I want to offer suggestions for people who really like that the story is happening in both the present and the past.  So here are some other compelling, unsettling, and character centered novels that tell a story in 2 time periods.  All links are to reviews if available:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tomorrow Is Star Wars Reads Day!

Readers of all ages, celebrate one of the most enduring stories of our time and participate in the first annual Star Wars Reads Day, Saturday, October 6, 2012.

From the official Star Wars Reads Day FAQ:
What is Star Wars Reads Day?

Star Wars Reads Day is a national event that celebrates reading and Star Wars. It was created by Lucasfilm and its publishing partners--Abrams, Chronicle Books, Dark Horse, Del Rey, DK Publishing, Random House Audio, Scholastic, Titan Magazines and Workman.
Click here and zoom in on the map to find events at Libraries and Bookstores near you. (The closest event to the BPL is at Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park.)

You can also  go to the official Star Wars blog to read guest posts by many of the authors who have written books under the Star Wars umbrella.  It is amazing to see, but there are books at every reading level from baby to adult and titles from fiction to nonfiction included.  There really is something for everyone.

Also, check out this great piece on from NPR entitled, "How Star Wars Seduced Another Generation of Kids."

At our household, just about every day is a Star Wars Reads Day (see NPR link in the previous paragraph for reasons why), but we will be marking the day by looking through this book together.

May the force (of reading) be with you.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Celebrate Banned Books Week 2012

As I hope most of you know, those of us in the library world have been celebrating Banned Books Week this week.  I didn't want to let the week pass on RA for All without mentioning it.

I wear my "I read banned books," pin every single day at work, not just during this week.  Why? Because when you take a look at the crazy long list of books that are challenged each and every year, you should realize that pretty much every book has someone who wants to ban it out there somewhere.

Yes, even in 2012; yes, even in America, people want to tell you what you can and cannot read.  I have no sympathy for any person who wants to restrict anyone's freedom to read no matter the reason. I could care less if I find the book in question revolting, I would always protect our right to read whatever we want.

I have passed this belief on to my children.  I own the bracelet you see on the left. [My mom bought it here.] I also wear this all year long.  It has been a great conversation starter with my children, since they know many of the books on it.  We have had talks about why the books are banned and then longer talks about why this is wrong, and how in our family we support people's right to read whatever they want.

When we talked about Huckleberry Finn in particular, I told my then 9 year old daughter about how some people want to ban it because the words it uses to describe black people are considered very bad today.  I think she summed up the stupidity of this argument well by saying back to me, " But Mommy, people were mean to black people then.  We know they were wrong, but if the book is about then, it should be that way."

So Huck Finn banners, see kids do know that the N word is wrong, but historically accurate; trying to shield them from it is only making us deny our wrongs as a people, which is never a good idea.

If you want to know more about Banned Books Week, including a list of books that were challenged this past year and throughout history, click here.

To participate in the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out! on You Tube where you can upload a video of yourself reading from a banned book, click here.