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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

ALA Annual

Just an FYI.  I am retweeting some of the ALA Annual stuff all day as I go through it.  If you aren't on Twitter, you can simply use my Twitter widget on the right gutter of this blog and scroll through what I have retweeted to see some of the highlights.

Since I was at sleep away camp pick up over the weekend (see Monday Discussion) I have not read through everything yet.  Playing catch up today.

If you have links from ALA to pass on, please leave a comment on this post. Or, if you went to Vegas and feel like you saw a fantastic RA related program and want to write a guest post for me, please contact me-- zombiegrl75 at gmail dot com.

Monday Discussion: Best Camp/Boarding School Books

You will have to appease me if you want to participate in the Monday Discussion today.  Over the weekend I picked my daughter up from her very first sleep away camp.  She had a fantastic time.

While we were there watching the camp's closing ceremonies, they gave the final tally of the week long competition between the purple team campers and the gold team campers.  There were 3 categories and the camp director announced the total points for each.  As they were doing this, my son [with us in the audience] said, "This is just like Hogwarts!"

He was correct, it was just like the tallies at the end of each Harry Potter novel to see which house was the champion for that school year.  [For the record, my daughter was "gold" and they won 2 out of the three competitions.]

Now my brain kicked into high trying to match books to the situation we were in, and I immediately thought of last year's well received The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer which is set at a summer camp. [Which I have been meaning to read for a while now.]

And then, in my Friday email box, I had the weekly PW Tips email with this great list of the best boarding school novels, which by the way has Never Let You Go at the top of the list.  Click here for my book group report on this novel. [This is one of my all time favorite books, but there is a HUGE twist that if the reader knows about it ahead of time, will ruin the entire novel.]

So it all came together, summer camp pick up led to conversations about Harry Potter led to more summer camp books led to the best boarding school books.  I love living a book-centric life!

So what about you?  You should join in on the book suggestion fun. For today's Monday discussion, share some of you favorite books set in a location where children are at sleep away camp or boarding school. There are plenty to choose from.

For past Monday Discussions click here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Come Discuss One of Last Year’s Best Books

One of the member benefits of joining ARRT, is that you get to attend our quarterly book discussions for free.  These are a fabulous opportunity for those of us who normally only lead book discussions to get to be just a regular  participant.

Our next discussion is on July 9th.

Here is the official announcement:
Join us for a discussion of A Constellation of Vital Penomena  at the summer meeting of the ARRT Quarterly Book Discussion.
Wednesday, July 9, 2:00 PM  RAILS Burr Ridge, Conference Room B 125 Tower Drive, Burr Ridge 
A Constellation of Vital Penomena  by Anthony Marra In rural Checnya, a young girl watches as her father is taken in the night by Russian soldiers. At a nearby hospital, a world-class surgeon tends to soldiers and rebels injured by landmines. In A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, readers slip in and out of their lives and back and forth in time as author Anthony Marra explores what it means to survive in a time of war.  
To register, please email rebecca.malinowski@railslibraries.info
But here is why I am making it a priority to be there:

  1. Rebecca was one of my co-presenters at the hugely successful ARRT Reboot Your Book Club program in May.  Click here for details and access to slides.  Rebecca is an excellent and experienced book discussion leader.  I am excited to see her in action and learn some new leader tricks.
  2. Speaking of new tricks, I cannot even remember the last time I was a participant in a book club. I cannot stress enough how important it is for book club leaders to take time to see things from the other side of the discussion.
  3. The book: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. I have been meaning to read this book since last October at the ARRT Unconference when our speaker and the owner of my favorite Independent book store, Jason Smith [The Book Table] talked at length about this novel.  On their site he has this quote: "This is an incredibly impressive debut novel which takes place during the Chechen conflict of the 1990s. Both beautiful and harrowing, it is by far the best novel I have read this year. At the Unconference he talked about how this book is hard to hand sell, as you can probably see from his quote and the book description I included above, but, Jason told us, if you can convince someone to read the book they will thank you. So, when Rebecca picked this novel for her discussion, I took it as a sign that I need to read it.
So what are you waiting for?  Time to sign up.  If you aren’t an ARRT member, no worries.  You can join when you come to the discussion. It’s only $10!

I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Getting Ready for ALA Annual: Andrew Carnegie Medals Readalike Options

ALA 2014 is about to begin in Vegas.  I will not be there this year, but you can relive last year’s conference with my extensive coverage here.  And click here to follow everything as it happens this year with #alaaac14

One of my favorite events at ALA Annual is the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction announcement which will take place this Sunday evening (6/29). Its the Newbery for adult books!

Here is my pictorial coverage of this exciting, live event from last year.  That night was perfect for many reasons: I was with two of my favorite library friends [Rebecca from Booklist and Magan from Forest Park Public Library], it was on my birthday, and one of my all time favorite authors, Richard Ford was there AND he won for Canada, a book I adored.

Who knows what will happen this year. It will be Vegas baby. Anything is possible. 

Whether you are at ALA Annual yourself or not, why not play up the announcement to help your patrons find a good read?  To help, RUSA CODES made a list of readalikes for each of the finalists.

You can use this link to go to their blog, or just scroll down below where I have reposted the list.  

Now all you have to do is put up a quick sign with the finalists-- even better, click here and use this graphic. Then next to the print out pull some of these great backlist readalikes.  It’s easy, fun, and responsive to patrons.

Scroll down to view similar titles for the Fiction and Nonfiction finalists. 
2014 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction shortlist:
 Carngie Nonfiction Finalists 2014

This masterful study examines the complex relationship between two presidents, Roosevelt and Taft, who played major roles in the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century. Acclaimed historian Goodwin offers a superb re-creation of a period when many politicians, journalists, and citizens of differing political affiliations viewed government as a force for public good.
Suggested readalikes:
Doris Kearns Goodwin’s research results are consistently educational and entertaining. Her other works on Abraham Lincoln, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the Kennedys are companion works.Also suggested is the series, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, by Robert A CaroThese are, in chronological order, Path to Power, Means of Ascent, Master of the Senateand Passage of Power
River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, and Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and The Murder of a President, by Candace Millard
Lives and experiences of U.S. presidents are bound to make history and affect the events of their time. We embrace these stories that bring these men into living focus. Millard does just this with Theodore Roosevelt’s 1914 trip down the Amazon River, and with James A. Garfield’s dark horse candidacy, and his fatal meeting with Charles Guiteau, the madman who shot him.
Personal Historyby Katharine Graham
For those as interested in the role of journalism in politics, one cannot forget the history of Katharine Graham and The Washington Post.
All the Presidents Men, by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
In a case where there was no overt cooperation between politicians and journalists, this is the story investigation into government, the Watergate affair, for the sake of the public’s right to know.
Truman, by David McCullough
Another biographer of consistent quality, McCullough’s Trumanis a study of character in a time of brutal politics.

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, By Sheri Fink. Published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
As the floodwaters rose after Hurricane Katrina, patients, staff, and families who sheltered in New Orleans’ Memorial Hospital faced a crisis far worse than the storm itself. Fink’s breathtaking account of the storm and what happened at Memorial offers a fascinating look at how people behave in times of crisis.
Suggested Readalikes: 
Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers 
Post Katrina New Orleans is a topic, a state of heroism and geography that has cultivated many stories of danger, decisions, and death.
Trapped Under the Sea: One engineering marvel, five men, and a disaster ten miles into the darkness, by Neil Swidey
The Boston Deer Island Waste Treatment Plant tunnel construction is a story of death on the job, failed emergency back-ups, disaster and survival.
Into Thin Air: A personal account of the Mount Everest Disaster, by Jon Krakauer
Adreneline fueled story of survival in inhospitable situation and human bravery and error.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The path to a better way of deathby Katy Butler
Life and death decisions had to be made at Memorial Hospital in an emergency situation. How does one make those decisions when considering quality of life, intervention, and who gets to decide about the end, in the end.
War Hospital: A True Story of Surgery and Survival, by Sheri Fink
The author confronts other situations where doctors make moral decisions in wartime Bosnia-Herzegovina.

On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History, By Nicholas A. Basbanes. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
Combining crisp technical explanations with vivid historical and contemporary profiles, Basbanes unfolds the two-thousand-year story of paper, revealing in the process that paper is nothing less than an embodiment of humanity.
Suggested readalikes
The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood, by James Gleick
Information science and theory are discussed by way of the medium, from cave drawings to the internet. A huge tome that conveys the sense that after reading one knows all there is to know about the topic.
Salt: A World History, by Mark Kurlansky 
Salt, a “divine substance” is an ingredient that shaped civilization from pre-historic China to today’s Birdseye frozen food.
The Case for Books: Past, Present, Future, by Robert Darnton
One cannot read about paper without further considering the fate of the book. Will it survive Google and its ilk?

2014 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence
Fiction shortlist:
 Carngie Fiction Finalists 2014

AmericanahBy Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
To the women in the hair-braiding salon, Ifemelu seems to have everything a Nigerian immigrant in America could desire, but the culture shock, hardships, and racism she’s endured have left her feeling like she has “cement in her soul.” Americanah is a courageous novel of independence, integrity, community, and love.
Suggested readalikes
On Beauty, by Zadie Smith 
Another title exploring color, culture and country with attention to domestic issues and written in literary voice.
Petropolis, by Anya Ulinich 
A Jewish-Siberian immigration story explores class from an outsider point of view, much like Adichie’s Nigerian-American perspective.
Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
In this story of family and diaspora, the politics of Ethiopia and the experiences of its expats in America are explored.
What Is the What, by Dave Eggers
A “lost boy of Sudan” is a darker story, but told with humor and humanity, in another tale of sub-continent and new world.
Brick Lane, by Monica Ali (KP)
Bangladeshi sisters in London make different choices about relationships and culture.
The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
This exploration of immigrant experience takes a whole different approach as Diaz describes the coming of age of a Dominican boy in New Jersey.

Claire of the Sea Light, By Edwidge Danticat. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
In interlocking stories moving back and forth in time, Danticat weaves a beautifully rendered portrait of longing in the small fishing town of Ville Rose in Haiti. The stories flow seamlessly one into another and are distinguished by Danticat’s luminous prose.
Suggested readalikes:
Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones
Coming of age on a tropical island is an obvious shared similarity, including a strong sense of place and strong characters in the face of adversity.
Brother, I’m Dying, by Edwidge Danticat 
Haiti is as much a character as Danticat’s father and brother in this, her personal memoir.
The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography, by Sidney Poitier 
The Bahamas, “a place of purity” provide a visual backdrop to Poitier’s boyhood stories.
Salvage the Bones, by Jessmyn Ward
If we care about the future of powerless young girls we’ll want to take care of Esch in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi before and after the hurricane hits.Rainbow Troops, by Andrea Hirata
Growing up in a poor village in Indonesia, Ikal writes of the importance of the school and the struggles of the teachers who made the world a larger place for him.

The Goldfinch, By Donna Tartt. Published by Little, Brown & Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
In the wake of his nefarious father’s abandonment, Theo, a smart, 13-year-old Manhattanite, is extremely close to his vivacious mother—until an act of terrorism catapults him into a dizzying world bereft of gravity, certainty, or love. Tartt writes from Theo’s point of view with fierce exactitude and magnetic emotion.
Suggested readalikes:
Theft, by Peter Carey
Butcher Bones is a painter who is taking care of his brother in the Australian outback. Mixed-up, made-up family, art, and displacement are themes in both these books.
The Hour I First Believed, by Wally Lamb
As with Theo, life seems to really begin after a horrific experience, in this case, the Columbine shootings in Littleton, Colorado. Travel is wide and the past is explored.
The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, by Kristopher Jansma
Just as Theo travels the world to unexpected places, our unnamed narrator  is tossed, or tosses himself, from a narrow life left in an airport, into a very large world that he tries to navigate as a writer.
Maya’s Notebook, by Isabelle Allende
Another world travel theme takes Maya’s coming of age story from California, to Las Vegas, and finally to the southern coast of Chile.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer 
A story of disaster, a father dies in the World Trade Center bombing, a young boy searches for meaning and redemption.
Follow the conversation #alaac14  #ala_carnegie

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What I’m Reading: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

I was first alerted to The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin in the April 2014 Library Reads list, as this novel was the #1 Librarian pick for the month.  Here is the quote chosen to book talk the novel:
“A middle-aged bookseller mourning his lost wife, a feisty publisher’s rep, and a charmingly precocious abandoned child come together on a small island off the New England coast in this utterly delightful novel of love and second chances.” 
Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY
Since it is about books, book selling, and book lovers, I was intrigued.  And while I enjoyed the book while I was reading it, it was not all that I expected going in.  This is not a “literary” novel.  It is a gentle, non-religious inspirational read (unless you consider book loving a religion, which some readers may).

I can actually best describe why you would enjoy it by saying it is Nicholas Sparks meets The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This book is all about its highly inspirational message with books and a love of reading providing the inspiration, but it also has the Sparks-esque love lost and then found but with bittersweet results storyline in there too. (Note the past tense of “storied” in the title).

Think this captures who will love this book and what you can expect from it, but here is a bit more appeal detail.

This is a character centered story, with most, but not all, of the focus on Fikry. It is a short novel that is well paced.  Each chapter begins with a note from Fikry to his daughter about a specific book and why it has meaning to him. This not only frames each chapter, but keeps the book moving at a compelling pace as you want to see how this excerpt from Fikry’s journals fits into what we will read next.

The small town setting with a fun cast of supporting characters makes this an engaging read too. But beyond some discussions on the merits of different books or writers, and an interesting side story about how marketing affects the book’s reception this is not meant to be a “deep” book.  Zevin’s novel is a fun, beach read for the book loving set.

I think the marketing on this book unfairly gave it more “depth” and too much of a literary fiction vibe.  If I had not read Zevin’s novel for myself, I would have handed it to my literary fiction fans, when really it should go to Nicholas Sparks fans who want a book frame-- a huge audience who will love this novel, by the way.

This is a short read that someone could curl up with in a hammock or by the pool and finish in a  sitting or two.  It is satisfying and nice.  It will inspire you to live your life to the fullest. But all of its “meaning” is clearly up front which is not a bad thing to throw into the mix now and again.

Three Words That Describe This Book: books about book, bittersweet, non-religious inspirational

Readalikes: The first 2 books I thought of as perfect readalikes for The Storied Life of AJ Fikry were The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (mentioned above) and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, both of which I have read (links go to longer reviews).  And, when I went to Novelist to look for more readalike ideas, I was heartened to see these are 2 of the first 3 suggested titles there too. Click on the links for each title above to see more readalike options.

Another title NoveList suggests, but I think is a bit more on the literary side, is The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai.  Here you will find a relationship based on a shared love of books between a librarian and a ten-year old boy who is living in a strict fundamentalist household. I would suggest The Borrower if you thought Zevin’s novel was nice but wanted a bit more substance.

I also mentioned Nicholas Sparks above and I think if you are a fan of his work, you will love this story (even though ironically, Fikry himself would hate to see me comparing his life story to Sparks as he was a bit of a literary snob). But the overwhelming tone of this book is moving and bittersweet. With the storyline of a widower, paralyzed by depression, finding happiness again by adopting a child and finding new love plus a very Sparks friendly resolution (again focus on the bittersweet here), you have the makings of a book centric Sparks-esque novel. And I am not disparaging Sparks here at all.  The man is a brilliant story teller who has managed to capture the attention of millions of readers.  He is one of the few authors whose books are often all checked out at once at my library-- all by different readers from all ages and walks of life.  That is an amazing feat.

Finally, I found similarities here to The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (link goes to my review).  Again we have a bittersweet story with a book about books frame.  Green’s story is a YA books that can be enjoyed by adults, while Zevin’s novel is for adults but could also be enjoyed by older teens.  There is nothing inappropriate in the book at all, but I question if younger teens would have interest in a story about a 30 year old widower who adopts an abandoned baby.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Oldies But Goodies: Genre Backlist Titles Make For Cool Summer Reads

I am very far behind on my Library Journals, but I am not afraid to own up to it.  Today, as I am frantically catching up, I came across the article referred to in the title in the May 15, 2014 issue.  Compiled by the ALA RUSA-CODES Reading List Council Members, it was too good not to pass on.  Plus, it meshed well with today's Monday Discussion.  And, since we are talking backlist titles, it's not like being 6 weeks late on re-posting it will hurt any. And, and it is all genre titles!

Seriously, its a great list for all librarians who work with leisure readers. These are good reads that should be on the shelf right now.

Here is the link, and I re-posted the list below.  [And now all of you who are just as far behind (if not further) don't have to own up to it.]


Oldies but Goodies: Genre Backlists for Cool Summer Reads

Summer is the perfect time to dive into genre fiction, but the hottest titles often have long waiting lists before they even hit library shelves. However, who is to say summer reading has to be hot off the presses? Past and present members of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Reading List Council, which annually presents its picks for the best in genre fiction, are happy to share some of their favorite summer reading choices. The eight genres the council currently considers include adrenaline titles (suspense, thrillers, and action adventure), fantasy, historical fiction, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction, and women’s fiction. So join the queue for the big summer books, but while you’re waiting, try these cool summer backlist favorites.
This summer promises to deliver exciting new thrillers from Tom Robb Smith (The Farm), James Lee Burke (Wayfaring Stranger), Daniel Silva (The Heist), Gregg Hurwitz (Don’t Look Back), and a stand-alone from Chelsea Cain (One Kick). While you let these blockbusters cool off, why not try one of these picks?
Laukkanen, Owen. Criminal Enterprise. Putnam. 2013. 406p. ISBN 9780399157905. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101609286. F
Carter Tomlin was living the American dream: a successful career, a beautiful wife, and two kids. But after he loses his job and the bills start piling up, Carter impulsively holds up a bank with a simple note. Soon the thrill of robbing banks becomes a drug for Carter and as the money stacks up, the heists become more dangerous and his sense of morality crumbles.VERDICT Fans of Breaking Bad will love this good–man–turned–bad story that has all the pacing of a car careening out of a control and enough stomach-twisting carnage to satisfy adrenaline junkies. (LJ 3/1/13)
Whether you are in line for the latest entry in the popular urban fantasy series by Ilona Andrews (Magic Breaks), the long-awaited latest Outlander novel by Diana Gabaldon (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood), the conclusion of the Magician trilogy from Lev Grossman (The Magician’s Land), or the much-buzzed debut of Erika Johansen (The Queen of the Tearling), don’t forget there are some other great fantasy novels waiting on the shelf.
Morgan, Richard K. The Steel Remains. Del Rey: Ballantine. 2010. ISBN 9780345493040. pap. $13; ebk. ISBN 9780345513441. FANTASY
steelremains051714 Oldies but Goodies: Genre Backlists for Cool Summer Reads
When fallen mercenary Ringil Eskiath’s estranged mother asks him to track down a missing family member, he uncovers a conspiracy involving the beautiful demon race, the Aldrain. It’s going to take every dirty trick Ringil knows and the help of his colorful friends from his days during the great war to uncover the truth and bring justice to the damned. ­VERDICT Unforgettable antiheroes revel in equal amounts of backstabbing, bloodshed, and political intrigue to make this a perfect read-alike for fans of George R.R. ­Martin’s Game of Thrones. (LJ12/08)
Wallowing in a nice thick historical fiction novel can be the perfect summer escape, and many will be putting holds on new titles by Lisa See (China Dolls), Sally ­Beauman (The Visitors), ­Jacqueline Winspear (The Care and Management of Lies), and a hot debut by ­Lauren Owen (The Quick). These two titles below are just as good, and you won’t have to wait as long.
Giffith, NicolaHild. Farrar. 2013. 546p. ISBN 9780374280871. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374711016. F
hild051714 Oldies but Goodies: Genre Backlists for Cool Summer Reads This is the epic coming-of-age story of Hilda of Whitby, considered to be one of the patron saints of learning and culture. Set in seventh-century Britain, the beautifully written tale brings light to the everyday world of the Dark Ages while exploring a treacherous time. Richly detailed and centered on the friendship of women, Griffith’s tale is fraught with mysticism, battles, and political peril. The use of medieval English helps transport readers into another place and time. VERDICTThe author’s meticulous research, worldbuilding, and passion for history shine in this vast and vastly entertaining book that should appeal to fans of Hilary Mantel and T.H. White. (LJ 8/13)
Nothing cools you off in summer like the chills of a good horror novel. Savvy library users are already putting requests in for the new Stephen King (Mr. ­Mercedes; see review, p. 72) and the latest in Richard Kadrey’s “Sandman Slim” series (The Getaway God), but if you don’t want to wait for your horror fix, try these.
Barron, Laird. The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All and Other Stories. Night Shade: Skyhorse. 2013. 276p. ISBN 9781597804677. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781597804684. HORROR
Rendered in haunting, elegant prose, the nine interlinked tales in Barron’s latest collection are intricate gems of cosmic horror that gleam with menace. Set in the eerie environs of Olympia, WA, each story presents an intimate character study of a deeply flawed yet strangely sympathetic protagonist whose ­­(mis)adventures instill a mounting sense of dread in the reader before culminating in a shocking, often gruesome denouement. VERDICT Intricate, subtly interconnected tales of terror will delight fans of H.P. Lovecraft.
For some readers a good mystery and a hammock are the perfect recipe for summer relaxation. The upcoming publishing season promises some big names such as Kathy Reichs (Bones Never Lie), Karin Slaughter (Cop Town), Charles Todd (An Unwilling Accomplice), Marcia Muller (The Night Searchers), or Martha Grimes (Vertigo 42). Don’t want to wait? Try one of these.
turnofmind051714 Oldies but Goodies: Genre Backlists for Cool Summer Reads LaPlante, Alice. Turn of Mind. Atlantic Monthly. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780802119773. $24; pap. ISBN 9780802145901. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780802195562. M
Amanda O’Toole has been murdered and four of her fingers were surgically removed. The police suspect the victim’s best friend, Dr. Jennifer White, but Jennifer is suffering from Alzheimer’s and has no idea whether or not she committed the murder. Most of the time she doesn’t even realize her friend is dead. VERDICT This is an ingenious mystery with a highly unreliable narrator. Full of twists and turns, it will keep fans of Before I Go To Sleep and Gone Girlguessing right up to the end. (LJ 3/1/11)
Kicking back with an emotionally satisfying romance is a great way to unwind, and there are some great new ones by favorite authors—Jude Deveraux (For All Time), Mary Balogh (The Escape), Loretta Chase (Vixen in Velvet), and Nalini Singh (Shield of Winter) coming out this summer. But romance fans can’t get enough of their favorite genre, so make sure these older titles are available.
Dare, Tessa. Romancing the Duke. Avon. (Castles Ever After, Bk. 1). 2014. 370p. ISBN 9780062240194. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062240163. ROMANCE
romancing the duke051714 Oldies but Goodies: Genre Backlists for Cool Summer Reads Isolde (Izzy) Goodnight is a self-proclaimed ugly duckling even though she is beloved as a charming character in her father’s famous storybooks. Left destitute after her father’s death, Izzy is surprised by her godfather’s unexpected bequest of Gostley Castle. Unfortunately, the castle is a wreck inhabited by the rakish Ransom, Duke of Rothbury. Wounded and almost blind, Ransom has secluded himself in the castle and refuses to accept Izzy’s claim of ownership. The road to passionately happily-ever-after is never easy, but of course Izzy and Ransom’s true love prevails. ­VERDICT A perfect start to a new series, this spicy Regency lovefest offers an appealing story, witty dialog, and an engagingly quirky cast of characters. (LJ 2/15/14)
Science fiction can be both intellectually challenging and fantastically escapist. Sf fans will have their choice of both types with summer releases from John Scalzi (Lock In), Orson Scott Card (Earth Awakens), and M.D. Waters (Archetype). Rocket past those long waiting lists by picking up one of these great alternatives.
jackglass051714 Oldies but Goodies: Genre Backlists for Cool Summer Reads Roberts, Adam. Jack Glass: The Story of a Murderer. Gollanz. 2013. 374p. ISBN 9780575127623. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9780575127647. $14.95. SF
The tropes of Golden Age mysteries and sf are referenced in this British Science Fiction Award (BSFA) award winner for best novel. Jack Glass is a celebrated and infamous murderer whose crimes unfold across space in three connected stories. Jack’s guilt is clearly established, but the stories are surprising “howdunits” raising universal questions. VERDICT This is genre-bending, entertaining, slyly thought-provoking, occasionally bloody, and intellectually challenging space opera.
Readers will be filling their beach tote bags this summer with new titles from the fantastic Rainbow Rowell (Landline), Stephanie Evanovich (The Sweet Spot), Jojo Moyes (One Plus One), and Jean Kwok (Mambo in Chinatown). But you can skip the holds if you’re willing to try these great backlist options.
Ratner, Vaddey. In the Shadow of the Banyan. S. & S. 2013. 332p. ISBN 9781451657715. pap. $14.95. F
intheshadowofthebanyan051714 Oldies but Goodies: Genre Backlists for Cool Summer Reads Poetic, evocative, and beautifully written, this is a novel written in lieu of a memoir because the author was too young to remember details regarding her traumatic past. Raami awakens to find the world has completely changed. She is no longer a daughter of privilege but a hated undesirable, forced to flee with her mother after her father is killed. She crosses a landscape of poverty, surviving on bugs and grass in the killing fields of Cambodia. But Raami remains a child of empathy amid the carnage and brutality, seeking reconciliation with her past. VERDICT Gorgeous, lush, and so tragic. (LJ 4/15/12)

Monday Discussion: Favorite Place to Discover "New" Reads

Locating tools for discovery of new authors and titles is a huge issue in library land.  One of my new favorite resources has been the Library Reads list, especially when the monthly list includes a new voice, like when I was altered to and then read The Bees by Laline Paull, a wonderfully entertaining debut.

But sometimes "new" authors can be discovered in old authors or books.  The key when working with public library patrons is to remind them that the gem of the local library is our backlist where they can find plenty of "new to them" books.  Click here for my official post on the power of the backlist and here for anything I have ever tagged backlist.

One of my favorite backlist discovery tools that I use at least 2 times a week but haven't talked about in a while is Blogging for a Good Book from the Williamsburg Regional Library. From their "About" page:
Read a new review every day, Monday through Friday! The staff of theWilliamsburg Regional Library in Virginia bring you short reviews of books, movies, and more!
Launched in April of 2007, Blogging for a Good Book is the newest facet of the Looking for a Good Book readers’ service. A different staff member picks favorite reviews for each different week. Subscribe to our RSS feed to find good reviews, or click on the categories on the righthand side to see everything in your favorite area.

After 7 years BFGB has thousands of reviews.  What I love about the site is that they allow all departments in the library to take over for a week at a time.  You get a diverse selection of staff picks for every kind of reader or viewer.  You can sort through by using their categories or do a natural language search in the search box.  I have NEVER not been able to find a suggestion from BFGB.  If I am stumped for a brilliant suggestion idea, BFGB is my first stop. If you can't find an interesting backlist recommendation there, you are not even trying.

Now it is your turn.  Where do you go to get ideas on "new" titles to suggest to your readers?

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

BPL Book Discussion: The Daughter of Time

On Monday we gathered to discuss Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time.  From the publisher:
Voted greatest mystery novel of all time by the Crime Writers’ Association in 1990, Josephine Tey recreates one of history’s most famous—and vicious—crimes in her classic bestselling novel, a must read for connoisseurs of fiction, now with a new introduction by Robert Barnard. 
Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world’s most heinous villains—a venomous hunchback who may have killed his brother’s children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the usurpers of England’s throne? Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard Plantagenet really was and who killed the Little Princes in the Tower.  
The Daughter of Time is an ingeniously plotted, beautifully written, and suspenseful tale, a supreme achievement from one of mystery writing’s most gifted masters.
Originally published in 1951, and set during its present, this is a unique type of mystery. The detective is flat on his back in the hospital in mid-20th Century England and with the help of an American researcher, Brent Carradine, Grant tries to solve a centuries’ old murder mystery by using a mixture of detective work and historical documents.

Before we begin, I need to make it clear that this is a book that is beloved to many readers, especially Brits and those who have an interest in the War of the Roses or the Tudors.  If you are unfamiliar with this novel’s place in the pantheon of crime fiction, I highly suggest you read this excellent essay by J. Kingston Pierce on his highly respected Crime Blog, The Rap Sheet.  It is part of his “The Book You Have to Read” series and he gives a very well balance analysis of the book and its place in the cannon.

Read it and then come back to our discussion here because I referenced this essay and a piece by author Jo Walton on Tor.com entitled “How Can This Be So Gripping? Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time” [2013] later in this post.

Now it’s discussion notes time:
  • The votes were all over the place here [which I greatly appreciated since we have had a few “liked” majority votes in a row]— 3 straight up liked, 5 disliked, and 4 so-sos, but 3 of them were leaning toward liked.
  • The disliked comments were:
    • I disliked it because I don’t particularly like English History
    • I was very confused with all of the characters.
  • The so-so comments were:
    • I didn’t care who killed the princes but I found the investigative work interesting
    • Yes, once the researcher got there, I was hooked, but up to that, I was confused and disinterested.
  • The liked comments were:
    • I like English History in general, so I enjoyed this.
    • I loved the idea of thinking about what if the Tudors never got to take over the monarchy so fascinating.  I like revisionist history in general.
    • I loved that Tey used a fiction genre to sort out fact from fiction in a historical mystery.  She played with the genre and played with the notion of the authority of history brilliantly.
    • I loved all of the research parts.  They were so interesting.
  • Question: What did you know about Richard III and the murders of the princes ahead of time?
    • Most of the group had heard the story that Richard had murdered the boys to capture the throne.  Also, most remembered that he was “disfigured.”  Finally, all of us remembered that a few years ago, Richard’s bones were found and positively identified.
    • After reading this book we all wanted to believe Grant’s conclusion that Richard was a good guy and had had his character ruined by the rival Tudors who took over after killing him in battle.
    • He could gain nothing by killing the boys, as Grant noted, so why would he have?  What a simple statement with so much truth.  Why had no one else thought of this?
    • Shakespeare writing 100 years later has really shaped the Richard III that everyone since has seen.
    • I like how Grant approached his research like he would a crime.  He looked at other people’s reaction to the things around them to see if there were breaks in regular patterns of behaviors and actions.  He looked at day-to-day documents, not just big moments.
  • Question: What about the title? What does it say about history and the truth
    • The full quote by Francis Bacon is “Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.”
    • Truth can only come with time and distance.  Grant has both.  Centuries of distance and all of the time in the world. He spends the entire book confined to bed, mostly flat on his back.
    • Someone noted how important Tey sees “time” in this equation of finding the truth because the novel ends with the nurse saying to Grant about the portrait of Richard III, “When you look at it for a little it’s really quite a nice face, isn’t it?.”
    • Taking time to look at history can change what is perceived as “the truth.”
    • Becky then presented a quote from the author Jo Walton [see link mentioned in the introduction to this post] where she says of this novel, “But you can’t help thinking about it when you read The Daughter of Time because the subject of The Daughter of Time is how a lot of recorded history is bunk.  At the very least it causes the reader to interrogate history instead of accepting it.”
    • The group talked about how the book makes you question history.  We talked about how hard it is to write history without being influenced by your present, and how history always depends on who is writing it?
    • How do you determine what a fact is? Grant won’t make a conclusion of fact until he has a large enough collection of information, but then still has to make some assumptions based on the data.
    • Becky asked if everyone is going to “interrogate history” more after reading this novel? What resources can you trust? Can we trust anything? This was a productive line of questioning as we all shared our experiences with history and fact.  We talked a lot about changes in how much history people trust before 1951 when the novel was written vs. now.  A few people mentioned the Kennedy assassination and Nixon as huge turning points how we interact with the “facts” of history.
    • We wrapped up this line of discussion when someone said that it reminded her of how which news channel you watch can give you a completely different spin on the facts of the news.
  • Question: But can we distrust too much?
    • If we go overboard on questioning every fact, we attract things that are inaccurate too.  Think about conspiracy theorists.
    • I appreciate when a nonfiction author clearly states their assumptions or point of view at the outset of a book.  Then I know their slant and can take that into consideration when I am deciding for myself.
    • Tudor history is a great example here. There is a lot of work on both sides, the Traditional vs the Revisionist. It is important to know the slant going in.
  • Question: But we keep talking about nonfiction and History, but here, Tey chose to use fiction. let’s talk about that choice, because she obviously did a lot of research.
    • I loved how the historical fiction book Grant is reading and quotes from extensively to use as character witness for Richard is actually a fake novel. Tey made it all up.
    • Tey plays with the idea of history and the mystery genre a lot here.  I appreciated that as a reader.
    • This book is as much about the inquiry process—how to solve a mystery— as it is about finding THE TRUTH.
    • I was intrigued by the fact that from a police pov there is no case against Richard at all.
  • Question: What about Grant’s theory of faces which he is famous for using as an investigator?
    • Grant judges every person he sees as “Bench” [good guy] or “Dock” [bad guy]— basically placing them on one side of a criminal proceeding or the other.
    • One participant shared that she has judged most people she meets throughout her life by their eyes. “I have been well led by those assumptions.”
    • Be careful though.  When we look at people we bring our own biases with our sight.
    • In terms of the portrait Grant uses, who painted it matters too.  What were the painters biases?  Interestingly, one paperback copy is the one you see above and uses the portrait Grant looks at, but others in the group had a different paperback copy and it had a different portrait.  We compared how different they were.  Interesting. You can use the link in the readalikes section below to go to the Richard III Society’s page and see many portraits of Richard.
    • I think the theory of faces has value, said one participant who took a creative writing class once where they were shown portraits (like Grant is) and asked to write a story about the person portrayed.  Then, the teacher told them the true story of the person.  It was amazing how close to reality the class got just by looking at a portrait.
  • Question: Let’s talk about this as a historical mystery
    • Becky began by explaining that technically, this is NOT a historical mystery.  It is a mystery, contemporary to its time (1950s) that looks back into the past.
    • This was written just post WWII.  Churchill’s time as a huge hero.  He comes up 2 key times in the story.  Once as a big Richard III hater [this made someone interrupt with an “OH NO” since she loves Churchill and because of this book was now a Richard III lover too] and again as involved with the Tonypandy incident that is used as an example of history getting things completely wrong multiple times through the story.
    • Was Tey a Churchill hater?  Well, all fiction is a mirror to look at the present of when it is written, so what is she saying about her time?
    • I think she is making readers question their present and the history of their time as it is being written with this novel. She does not want to accept anyone as all good or all bad.  Time will judge them.
    • Someone said this made her think about Twitter or Comments sections on the Internet where unknown people can say anything and other people believe it is “truth.” The person commenting could be an idiot or a murderer.  We don’t know.
  • Question: This one comes from the Rap Sheet essay referred to in the introduction of this post.  Pierce ends it by asking, is this a great novel of its time, or a great novel for all time?
    • Before our discussion I would have said only for its time, but look at all the discussion we had.  It is better than I thought when reading it.
    • It made us talk about cable news and Twitter.  That makes it great for all time.
  • Word or phrase to describe the book:
    • truth telling
    • interrogate history
    • plodding
    • confusing
    • History
    • interrogative strategies
    • multilayered
    • fascinating
    • TRUTH
Readalikes: There are many ways to go here, but most people will be craving more info about Richard III.

For nonfiction options, there is a well respect book by Allison Weir, The Princes in the Tower, that actively argues against the conclusions Grant draws (or should be say Tey draws).

There is also an excellent book edited by Paul Kendall Murray, Richard the III, the Great Debate, that gives a broad picture of how unclear the true picture of who Richard was has been and remains.

And there is always the very well respected Richard III Society who have been promoting researching ton his life since 1924.  Even they are undecided.  Their recommended bibliography can be accessed here.

For more historical fiction set during a similar time period I would suggest the following titles, all by award winning historical fiction authors whose works promise a mixture of solid research and compelling storytelling:
For another excellent murder mystery with a Richard III frame, try The Murders of Richard III by Elizabeth Peters which is centered around a gathering of Richard III enthusiasts.

A few people in the group also mentioned the Japanese film Rashomon (1950) and it’s Hollywood remake The Outrage (1964).  Both deal with a murder and the witnesses who were all there but when asked have completely different stories of what happened.

Finally, for readers who could care less about all the Richard III stuff but were very intrigued by the incapacitated detective solving a mystery, try The Wench Is Dead by Colin Dexter.

One short editors note before I go.  Due to my vacation the Monday Book Club will be meeting on the 4th Monday in July to discuss Remarkable Creatures by Tracey Chevalier.