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, March 30, 2015

RA for All Vacation

I am taking a much needed blogging break starting today.

RA for All will return on Wednesday, April 8th.

But although there will be no new posts, there are still over 1900 posts here on the blog, not to mention the close to 400 posts on the horror blog.

Sometimes I peruse old posts myself and find some great tips buried in the archives.

So, while I am gone, I am giving you, my loyal readers, who are looking for ways to better their RA skills, an assignment. [Yes, I am giving you homework for my blogging vacation.] Use the tags listed in the right gutter (toward the bottom) or the use the blog archive to poke around on the blog.

I know most of you simply read what I have posted that day, but in truth, this blog is more than just what I am posting in the moment. I truly view this blog as a depository of RA knowledge, tips, tools, and issues.

That's why I put in the time and effort to run this blog because of the compound interest I am building with each and every post. It is the entirety of everything I have posted over the last 7.5 years, put together, that makes this blog such a valuable resource to those of us who serve leisure readers-- myself included.

This blogging vacation will give me a chance to refuel and come back better than ever, but it will also give all of you the chance to use the archives to learn something that is new to you.

Enjoy and "see" you soon.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Browser's Corner Massive Updates

I have spent all morning updating the Browser's Corner, our BPL blog where you can discover great backlist reading suggestions.

I have been a little bit behind in updating it since having to take it over due to staffing shortages...BUT, your patience is paying off.

I have set the Browser's Corner to run new staff reading recommendations starting back on Wednesday pretty much every week day until April 28th! That's over 20 new posts!

Woo Hoo!

Please remember that there are hundreds of posts, each one a great reading recommendation from one of our staff members. We have contributors from many different departments, with a wide variety of reading tastes, so there truly is something for every reader there.

The site also lists some of our "If you like..." reading lists and the notes from past Book Lover's Club meetings [which means the site has patron recommendations too!].

So thanks for standing-by, but now it is time to go back and visit us at The Browser's Corner.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ready Player One Movie News and Display Ideas

Readers of this blog know that I am a HUGE fan of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Click here for all of the times it has been mentioned on RA for All. Not only did I love the book personally, but I dedicated months of my life to working on the 2013 Berwyn Reads which featured the book.

Normally, I go out of my way to avoid the movie versions of books I have loved, but yesterday the movie got a director...Steven Spielberg! Not only can Spielberg make a great SF movie, but he also owned the 1980s and the novel is a love letter to the decade [among many other things; read my review for more]. There is no better choice!

I am so excited and elated that I am scared.  Am I willing to hope that for once, a favorite book will not disappoint me as a movie?  Could this be a To Kill A Mocking Bird moment? We will have to see.

This is all good timing for the fact that I just proofread Betty’s great books to movie annotated list for the new display on the topic that John is preparing for the BPL. In general “book to movie” displays are a great idea to have at your library.  I have readers who come in to read the books before they see the movie and others who come in for the book after.

I am sure you already know this and do it though. Don’t worry, I am not simply writing a post that states the obvious. Keep reading...

Now we happen to have a large books to movie display planned to go up in a few days, but when there is big movie news like this, you can still capitalize on the buzz by putting up a quick display to show your patrons that you are paying attention to the wider book world and anticipating their needs.

So you could use the extensive list of readalike options we prepared for Berwyn Reads and make a Ready Player One movie news quick display, or simply grab a few books off the shelf that are among the better book to movie options, make a quick sign, and display those books on any open space in the library.

The point I am trying to make here is that you don’t need a lot of time or preparation to take advantage of a book related news story that is capturing a large audience. Don’t miss your chance to insert yourselves, the community book experts, into the larger conversation.  Your patrons will notice that you are relevant, on top of the latest news, and that you want to help them find their next good read.  Everybody wins.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

April NoveList RA News is Up

The topic this month is History Writing-- both fiction and nonfiction.

You can click here to read the entire newsletter, but here is the editor's note and a few of the highlights that you will find inside.

Editor's Desk

I love history writing. I scour the library's new book shelves -- ready to snatch up titles on favorite topics.  I'm delighted when an unfamiliar topic comes to my attention. I want to learn about the real people and events touched upon in the historical fiction I read. World War II theatres of operation, ancient Egypt, natural and man-made disasters, queens of England, true crime and travel stories are some of the topics I've enjoyed in the last few years.

What's next? (Here is where one of the dangers of being a librarian comes into play.) I recently selected a variety of fiction and nonfiction titles on India; today there are two histories of India on my to-be-read pile. What are some of your favorite subjects?
Keep reading,

Top Trends in History Writing by Barry Trott

Reading trends rise and fall and rise again in both fiction and nonfiction. This continuous cycle requires that readers' advisors be on the alert for not only what is popular now, but also what will be coming to our readers' attention next. In nonfiction such as history writing, these trends are often driven by...Continue Reading

Crime Through Time: A Brief Exploration of Historical True Crime by Jennifer Brannen

The Mystery and Thriller genres thrive because of our fascination with crime but some of our most enthralling mysteries are factual rather than fictional. True crime is not a modern phenomenon, and there are crimes every bit as gruesome and baffling...Continue Reading

Sesquicentennial: The American Civil War in Fiction by Bethany Latham

Two thousand fifteen marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the U.S. Civil War, when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. The recent anniversaries of other events, such as the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic in 2012 and of the beginning of the First World War in 2014, have resulted in a visible surge of novels about these events. This has not been the case with the sesquicentennial of the Civil War...Continue Reading

This is a great issue. Click through to read it all.  And look for articles by me in both the May 2015 and June 2015 issues, coming to an inbox near you soon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Crime Fiction Authors Tomorrow: Why You Need to Be There [I am Holding Seats for You!]

The ARRT and Sister's in Crime joint author event is tomorrow at 2 pm in Deerfield. Click through for details.

I have heard from many of you that you want to come but did not pre-register.  GREAT NEWS-- You can let me know with a quick email bspratford [at] hotmail [dot] com and I will make sure there is room for you.  Then please just bring your $15 to the event to pay at the door.

But here is why you should drop everything and join us.  This is a librarian centric event.  Cari Dubiel, Sisters in Crime's Library Liaison will be joining to moderate the event spotlighting: Lori Rader-Day (The Black Hour), Susanna Calkins (A Murder at Rosamund's Gate and From the Charred Remains), and Clare O'Donohue (Missing PersonsLife Without Parole, and The Double Wedding Ring).

Cari will be there to ask the authors questions about how they write.  These are 3 popular authors who our patrons already enjoy.  If we can understand how these authors craft their stories, we will have a better understanding as to why our patrons like reading them.  This leads us to better RA interactions, as we will be more prepared to ask the correct questions as we help leisure readers. 

I for one am excited to hear how they work with the concept of genre within their works.  How much do they think about the genre conventions of mystery, suspense, thriller, and psychological suspense as they write? Between the 3 of them, they hit at all of the crime genres at some point. I am the most interested in hearing Lori Rader-Day whose first novel exploded onto the scene. I think she really captures this trend to move from traditional mystery into more amorphous "crime fiction" style. Readers are eating it up, but do writer realize they are blending more?

See what I mean. There are great questions and issues to be addressed here; things that don't come up at a more traditional author event. This is why I am saving seats for you last minute procrastinators. And if you can't make it, send a staff member.

Plus, there will be plenty of time for you to ask anything you want AND there will be books for sale. The authors have not only agreed to appear for a low fee because they love libraries, but also, they will stay and sign books for as long as it takes.

So, let me know if you did not pre-register ASAP so I can save you a seat. We would like to allow some Deerfield patrons the opportunity to come as a thank you for the free use of their meeting room, but only if there are seats available, so please let me know if you can make it.

Hey, I'm driving all the way from my desk shift at Berwyn (which doesn't end until 1) to be there. You can make it too. 

Seriously though, this will really help to increase your personal knowledge of crime fiction AND it will lead to tangible improvement in your work with leisure readers. Plus, it is going to be fun!

If you do come and we have never met, I'll be the one introducing Cari to kick it all off. Stop over and say hi after the presentation.

$15 Don't miss it!
3/25/15 @ 2 pm Deerfield Public Library'

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Discussion: Bait and Swtich

Today is March 23rd and here in the Chicago area we have gotten at least 5 inches of snow. That is a case of bait and switch if I ever heard of one. Spring? What spring?!?

Rather than wallow in the slush, I got to thinking about books that gave me the bait and switch. What do I mean by that? Well, a book that on paper, or in the review should have been a perfect read for me, but in reality, when I actually read it, I did not enjoy it.

I went back and looked at some of the high profile, well reviewed books that I was surprised not to enjoy. Click through to read the reviews where I do write about why the book was ultimately unsuccessful for me as a reader, but I have to say, I have given these books out to many a satisfied patron over the years.  There truly is a book for every reader, and for every a reader, a book.

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The City and the City by China Mieville

For today's Monday Discussion, share your bait and switch books.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Friday, March 20, 2015

BPL Book Discussion: The Hundred-Foot Journey

On Monday, the book group met to discuss Richard Morais' The Hundred-Foot Journey.

Here is the publisher's summary:
That skinny Indian teenager has that mysterious something that comes along once a generation. He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born. He is an artist. 
And so begins the rise of Hassan Haji, the unlikely gourmand who recounts his life’s journey in Richard Morais’s charming novel,The Hundred-Foot Journey. Lively and brimming with the colors, flavors, and scents of the kitchen, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a succulent treat about family, nationality, and the mysteries of good taste. 
Born above his grandfather’s modest restaurant in Mumbai, Hassan first experienced life through intoxicating whiffs of spicy fish curry, trips to the local markets, and gourmet outings with his mother. But when tragedy pushes the family out of India, they console themselves by eating their way around the world, eventually settling in Lumière, a small village in the French Alps. 
The boisterous Haji family takes Lumière by storm. They open an inexpensive Indian restaurant opposite an esteemed French relais—that of the famous chef Madame Mallory—and infuse the sleepy town with the spices of India, transforming the lives of its eccentric villagers and infuriating their celebrated neighbor. Only after Madame Mallory wages culinary war with the immigrant family, does she finally agree to mentor young Hassan, leading him to Paris, the launch of his own restaurant, and a slew of new adventures. 
The Hundred-Foot Journey is about how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian kitchen and a traditional French one can represent the gulf between different cultures and desires. A testament to the inevitability of destiny, this is a fable for the ages—charming, endearing, and compulsively readable.
Now on to the discussion.

  • We had 8 liked, 0 disliked, and 4 so-so. I should also note, this was the first book in a while which I can remember everyone chiming in during these opening minutes. All 12 of us wanted to have a chance to speak right off the top. That was nice.
  • Liked were effusive in their praise
    • This book was fun, funny and refreshing
    • The characters were GREAT!
    • Yes, I agree. I wanted to hang out with them.
    • I liked how the tone was down to earth even though crazy things were happening.
    • I loved the theme of the mixing of cultures.
    • I liked how it was written. It was not fast, but it was compelling. The story moved.
    • I also liked how it was written, but for a different reason-- it was like a memoir but fiction. I like memoir style.
    • It had serious issues [like anti-immigrant sentiment and persecution] but it still felt gentle. The story dealt with hard issues but with an overall kindness that let you think about the issues without wallowing in the hopelessness of it,.
    • I love food, so I loved the theme of the power of food to bridge gaps and ease tensions.
  • The so-so voters (which included me) chimed in.
    • It was a nice easy read and it was pleasant, but it felt very contrived.
    • I must have changed my "vote" 5 times as I was reading it, from so-so, to disliked, to liked [this person even changed her vote again at the meeting.] In the end, I went with so-so. I do have to say though, the ending was tender and beautiful and made me cry. She then read from some of the final lines of the book.
    • I am so-so because I wanted more of the story, more from some of the characters who had minor roles, and less detail about the elaborate meals and food.
    • Becky's turn. I don't always share my personal thoughts, often I try to just play devil's advocate if it is necessary, but no one expressed my so-so thought-- for me it did not have enough sensory descriptions of the food and smells.  I found I could not taste and smell the food as much as I wanted to. 
  • We talked about the settings:
    • London was their time of mourning. It was grey, they were living in exile.
    • They couldn't start to fully live again until they left London
    • The contrast between the vibrancy of life in Mumbai and the greyness of London was well done.
    • And all of it is contrasted with Lumiere, the place where, ironically, they most fit in.  It was between the other 2.
    • We loved the scenes in India and wish we had more. They remember it with fondness despite the fact that their mother was viciously murdered there, but we agree. Morais is able to make this seeming contradiction clear.
    • Paris was important as a place, but the setting did not become a character as it did for the other locations.
  • This led to us talking about the issue of racism and prejudice in this seemingly light novel.
    • Hassan's mother is burned to death early in the novel because they are Muslim in the majority Hindu India soon after partition [when most Muslim's went to Pakistan].
    • But then the intense anti-foreigner sentiments that come up in Lumiere were more vicious than I anticipated.
    • But there was so much more than the obvious, he's Indian in world of haute cuisine issues. There were so many different levels of prejudice here.
    • Yes, the chefs had prejudices against different types of cooking
    • Hassan's father had his own prejudices.
    • We read a few of Madame Mallory's quotes about "snobs" and related them to this larger issue also.
  • Let's talk title-- The Hundred Foot Journey
    • There are many journeys in this novel. Of course the "hundred-foot" refers to the walk across the street in Lumiere from the Indian restaurant to learning french cooking.
    • Those first 100 feet were the most pivotal because it was Hassan's first apprenticeship in french cooking, but there are many journeys in this novel big and small.
    • We talked about the obvious large journeys-- to London, to Lumiere, to Paris. From poor to rich, etc... 
    • But we decided that the title choice of "hundred-foot" journey forces us to think about how sometimes the smallest journeys can be the most meaningful.  Like the one time Hassan and his mom stop at a French restaurant in India.
    • Small journeys are huge. Mallory's short journey across the street led to her large journey to learn about and trust Hassan's talent.
    • Also, look at Margaret.  She wouldn't go to Paris with Hassan because she didn't want to make a longer journey.  She wanted to stay in Lumiere, but that choice did not work out well for her.
  • Food?-- I just introduced the word as question and let them go. [Sometimes, less really is more]:
    • Food is a character here. Specifically, I loved the "partridge in mourning."
    • The names of the different restaurants added to the food becoming a character.  [I had translated the french restaurant names for them]
    • I loved the description of how Hassan's dad ate food. It was one of the best descriptions in the book.
    • This book made me realize for the first time that French cuisine really is and art. I appreciate it much more now.
    • Yes, I now see haute cuisine as an art form. Like any artist the chefs have to make sacrifices. So much of it though is about power and if that power goes to your head you lose the purity of why you even started doing it.  
  • Hassan:
    • Seeing most of the book through Hassan's eyes was good.  He is an outsider and makes us understand all of the issues.
    • This was a coming of age story for Hassan, but it was coming of age in middle age and moving into mature life.  I enjoyed that.  Too often coming of age stories only feature young people.
    • Yes, it makes the point, a good one I think, that "coming of age" is a life journey.
    • Toward the end, Hassan is looking for ways to bring the simple, the "home," back into his haute cuisine. He is growing still, but coming home while doing it.  That tension is interesting-- growing while looking back.
    • The ending is closed but another journey is about to begin for Hassan.  Now that he has 3 stars he has to keep growing, or he will die [literally and career wise, like his Chef friend].
  • Women in this novel?
    • There are many women in this novel, and most of them bring dignity to the story.
    • This is a male author, writing about a male chef, but it is the women here who see what Hassan can become. The women are the ones who encourage him, and Hassan knows, the women are the one upon whom his success lies.
    • Mom, Mallory, Margaret, Sister.
    • I wanted more about his sister. She was so interesting but we didn't get enough of her.
  • The Movie--a bunch of people had also seen the movie.
    • I didn't see the movie, but I knew Helene Mirren played Mallory and I was annoyed that I could not stop picturing Mirren each time Mallory was described.
    • That is interesting because I did not see the movie or know about it and the descriptions of the character were "un-Mirren" like.
    • We then had a general discussion about whether or not we like to see the movies of books we have enjoyed and how we feel about movies made from books in general. This was a fun and interesting conversation in and of itself.
  • Words that describe this book:
    • fairy tale
    • delicious
    • nourishing
    • picaresque
    • journey
    • engaging
    • likable characters
    • beautiful
    • moving
    • cinematic
    • funny
    • compelling
    • sensual
    • family
    • haute cuisine
    • home
    • believable fictional memoir
Readalikes: There are many directions you could go to offer readalikes here.  I am going to suggest a few.

If you would like another first person narration with a strong sense of place try The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

If you want a culinary read that is light but not without some serious issues try the White House Chef Mysteries by Julie Hyzy.

If you want more Indian set stories with all of the antics but still some underlying serious issues, try the Vish Puri Mysteries by Tarquin Hall.

If you want the  real, no holds barred, look behind the scenes in the world's most famous kitchens try Kitchen Confidential or A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain.

If you want more books that talk about the Michelin process and history try The Michelin Men: Driving and Empire by Herbert Lottman or Burgundy Stars: A Year in the Life of a Great French Restaurant by William Echikson or The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine by Rudolph Chelminski.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Booktalking For MA Library System

Good morning Massachusetts Library System! I lived in Western Mass from 1993-1997, so this feels like a small homecoming.

We are going to be doing the 1 hour version of my booktalking presentation today at 11 am Eastern which includes an actual brand new book talk.

Click here for the slides.

You can also find them archived later on the "Recent Presentations" page, in the right gutter sandwiched between my logo and my "creepy cool" book cover.

I'll also be back in a few weeks as part of the MLS's monthly "Genre Overview" programming to talk to you all about Historical Fiction and then again in May to Recharge Your Book Clubs.

Click here for all of the MLS's continuing education options [not just the ones I am doing].

Click the slide to access the entire presentation

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Genre Crossover Suggestions and Resources from the Expert

Megan McArdle, author of the new Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Blends, and force behind the very fun and infinitely useful Gentrify Blender [which I featured perviously here], just had a feature article on genre blending and collection development for Library Journal.  Click here to read the article, but since I think it is so important and don’t trust you to click through on your own, I have also reposted it below.

Before I leave it to Megan’s article though, please understand that genre blending is the biggest trend in all adult fiction. Understanding this and learning how to incorporate this new reality into both your collection development and your work with leisure readers is one of the most important issues in popular materials service today. I cannot stress this enough.

Enough of me though. Here is Megan’s article.


Perfect Pairings | Collection Development: Genre Crossovers

LIBRARIANS LOVE TO categorize things. Mentally (and physically) we adore putting things into neat boxes, so that when we need to find them again they are labeled, tagged, and ready to hand over to a patron. But how do we handle books that don’t fit into those neat little boxes? There seems to be an increasing number of books described in reviews as “genre-bending” or “genre-defying.” Sometimes these titles travel so far outside our usual understanding of genre that we have to stop talking about what category to put them in and let them be their own unique reading experience.
Another boom in publishing today is that books fall not simply into one genre but two, three, or more. From popular literary titles that resist genre categorization, such as the works of Haruki Murakami and Nick Harkaway, to quirky experimental mixes that may only attract a niche audience, the blending trend is growing. One reason these books are gaining in popularity is that publishing seems less obsessed by how a book can be marketed to bookstores. In the past, if it wouldn’t be obvious where to shelve and how to promote a book, publishers were less likely to take a chance on it. With online discovery, the problem of where to shelve a genre-blended book is suddenly less of an ­issue. Books can have multiple niches as part of the metadata, providing alternate paths to discovery. Virtually, a book is shelved nowhere and everywhere, a huge boon for the blended.
When collecting books that merge or cross genre boundaries, think beyond the small annoyances of where your library will shelve the book or what label will go on the cover. Think about the various audiences that this work might bring together. Every genre has certain appeal characteristics that are associated with it: thrillers are fast-paced, romances are emotional stories with an emphasis on character, historical fiction is all about the setting, etc. When you merge genres, you can gain from those multiple appeal points, combining them in one book and potentially gaining new readers who normally wouldn’t pick up that title. If a book features multiple genres and integrates them in a skillful way, you can promote it to a number of potential audiences. If a title is not moving well in one genre, consider displaying it with another, giving it a second chance to move before weeding it from your collections.
In my recent book The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Blends (ALA Editions; see below, Resources), I walk through the possible combinations and the reasons why they appeal. In this article, I focus on just a few of the most popular blends in publishing right now. No stars (redstar) are noted because there is so much to choose from that I’ve selected just a few of the very best books, new and classic, of each blend, plus a few examples of how blends are used in other formats.
Megan M. McArdle has worked in collection development in public libraries for more than ten years and is currently a collection specialist at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. Her book The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Blends was published by ALA Editions in October 2014. She operates a companion website devoted to genre and genre blends at www.genrify.com
From almost the beginning of mystery as a genre, there were those authors who thought solving crimes must have been more interesting in the past, and historical mysteries remain hugely popular.
Franklin, Ariana & Samantha Norman. Winter Siege. Bantam. 2014. 359p. ISBN 9780593070611. $25.99; pap. ISBN 9780593070628. $19.99.
The author of the marvelous medieval mysteries about Adelia Aguilar died a few years ago, but here is one final gift from her, a novel completed by her daughter. Although this stand-alone gives readers a detailed look at the political world of the 12th century, the mystery thread of young girl who witnessed the actions of a depraved monk keeps the pages turning.
Harris, C.S. What Angels Fear. Signet. 2006. 432p. ISBN 9780451219718. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101210789.
In Regency England, a young woman is killed on the steps of a church and evidence points to the Viscount Sebastian St. Cyr. The young nobleman will need to draw on skills he learned in the Napoleonic Wars to clear his name and find the real killer. This series will be adored by those who love the Regency period, but the mysteries are always tightly plotted, and there is a romance layer as well. ( LJ 7/05)
One perennially popular combination is the plot and structure of a mystery with the magical landscape of a fantasy. The crimes here can happen on real-world streets or in epic fantasy landscapes.
Bennett, Robert Jackson. City of Stairs. Crown. 2014. 464p. ISBN 9780804137171. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780804137188.
In the city of Bulikov, the gods are dead and the conquered populace forbidden from talking or writing about their past. Saypuri master spy Shara Thivani comes to Bulikov to investigate the death of a historian and discovers the city’s god might not be as dead as everyone thinks. Complex politics and characters—as well a great puzzler of a mystery—make this an amazing series opener. ( LJ 8/14)
Butcher, Jim. Skin Game. Roc. (Dresden Files, Bk. 15). 2014. 464p. ISBN 9780451464392. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698157897.
The latest in this long-running series gets back to its crime fiction roots when series hero Harry Dresden is trapped into helping with a heist. Butcher finds a way for readers to root for Harry and the crew of criminals he is working with to get away with their caper, as that success seems to be the only way forward for Harry, who has been struggling to adapt to the many recent changes in his life. ( LJ 4/15/14)
You can find these in your fiction aisles and on your romance spinners. Adding the complication of a historical setting to a romance gives you lots of good reasons that the hero and heroine can’t be together.
Gabaldon, Diana. Outlander. Random. (Outlander, Bk. 1). 1991. 640p. ISBN 9780385302302. $35; pap. ISBN 9780440212560. $9.99; ebk. ISBN 9780440335160.
Claire Randall is vacationing in the Scottish Highlands with her husband when she somehow travels through time to the 17th century. Rescued from British troops by a clan of Highlanders, Claire is forced to create a life in the past—a task made easier by attractive Scotsman Jamie Fraser. Brilliantly rendered details of the time and place for historical fiction fans plus swoon-worthy chemistry are two reasons this has also made an excellent TV adaptation is in its first season on STARZ. ( LJ 8/96)
MacLean, Sarah. Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover. Avon. (Rule of Scoundrels, Bk. 4). 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780062068514. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062065414.
Georgiana has always exploited society’s secrets and kept her own, but when she decides she must wed to give her illegitimate daughter a chance at a different life, she turns to newspaperman Duncan West for help. Although there are rewards for longtime readers of MacLean’s historical romance series, this could easily be enjoyed by anyone who loves watching a woman succeed despite the restrictions of her gender. ( LJ 12/14)
Horror is alive and well but often lurks in other categories, sneaking in monsters and unearthly forces by pairing them with page-turning action and suspense and calling these books supernatural thrillers.
Beukes, Lauren. Broken Monsters. Little, Brown. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780316216821. $26; pap. ISBN 9780316216814. $16ebk. ISBN 9780316216838.
Against the decaying backdrop of present-day Detroit, a series of horrific crimes appear to be the work of a twisted serial killer. But layered onto the story is a cynical look at the future of journalism and a big dollop of the supernatural. Beukes is a hugely inventive author, never afraid to borrow from whatever genre gets the job done. ( LJ 7/14)
Wellington, David. Positive. Harper Voyager. Apr. 2015. 448p. ISBN 9780062315373. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062315380.
In a world set years after an epidemic wiped out the population and turned millions into zombies, 19-year-old Finn is suspected of carrying the virus. Exiled from his community, he is tattooed as a “Positive” and must make his way in a hostile landscape. His fellow humans are far more dangerous than the zombies in this dark tale that shows there are still interesting stories to tell in the zombie genre.
Future-loving sf and past-worshipping historical fiction seem unlikely to combine, but where they intersect most often is alternative history, a genre that asks the sf question, “What if?” while basking in the landscape of the past. Steampunk is an especially robust segment of this genre blend.
Bear, Elizabeth. Karen Memory. Tor. Feb. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780765375247. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466846340.
Life in Madame Damnable’s isn’t bad for a working girl in a frontier town, or it wasn’t until Karen got on the wrong side of Peter Bantle—pimp, politician, and possibly murderer. Bear has created a vivid Old West landscape that teems with vice and violence, with marvelous steampunk touches. ( LJ 12/14)
Tregillis, Ian. The Mechanical. Orbit. Mar. 2015. 480p. ISBN 9780316248006. pap. $17; ebk. ISBN 9780316247993.
How might the world have been different if Dutch alchemists had discovered the secret to creating mechanical servants bound to do the bidding of humanity? Berenice is a French spy who believes she can overthrow the Dutch if she can find and control a rogue Clakker. But the mechanical man won’t give up his newly won freedom easily in this fascinating alt-history. ( LJ 12/14)
Both sf and mysteries appeal to the intellect, asking questions about what the future might bring and why people commit crimes. But no matter how technology or the future changes things, the one constant seems to be murder.
Scalzi, John. Lock In. Tor. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780765375865. $24.99; pap. ISBN 9780765381323. $8.99ebk. ISBN 9781466849358.
After a pandemic sweeps the globe, there are millions of survivors left “locked in” to their bodies—fully aware but unable to control their physical selves. Technologies have been developed to help those sufferers, but it looks like someone used that technology to commit murder. As fascinating for its look at how a near-future society might deal with disability as for its twisty crime investigation. ( LJ 7/14)
Winters, Ben H. The Last Policeman. Quirk. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781594746741. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781594745775.
If an asteroid were hurtling toward Earth, guaranteed to destroy everyone on the planet in a few months, what would happen to the concept of law and order? Det. Hank Palace is determined to keep doing his job in a world counting down the days. ( LJ 7/12)
The future can be a scary place and technology almost always has a dark side. That makes the combination of sf and adrenaline genres like thrillers and suspense a natural fit.
Bacigalupi, Paolo. The Water Knife. Knopf. May 2015. 384p. ISBN 9780385352871. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385352895.
Drought and climate change mean that water knives like Angel keep busy protecting the interests of those who want to control the water supply. Angel winds up in parched and dying Phoenix, where his path intersects with that of a journalist and a refugee as they all search for documents that could change the balance of power for the region. ( LJ 2/15/15)
Barry, Max. Lexicon. Penguin. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9781594205385. $26.95; pap. ISBN 9780143125426. $16ebk. ISBN 9781101604908.
Words have power, and in this pulse-pounding thriller special people called Poets have trained to be able to use words to control others. As the book opens, Wil Parke is kidnapped by two Poets who believe he is the only one who can stop a cataclysmic disaster. ( LJ 5/1/13)
Layman, John (text) & Rob Guillory (illus.). Chew. Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice. Image. 2009. 128p. ISBN 9781607061595. pap. $9.99.
In this ongoing comics series, Tony Chu is a detective who can get psychic impressions from what he eats (including people). Set in a future where poultry is illegal after a pandemic of bird flu, the series opens with Tony becoming an investigating agent for the FDA. The truly bizarre premise is executed brilliantly; hilarious and gross in equal measure. ( LJ 3/15/10)
Vaughan, Brian K. (text) & Fiona Staples (illus.). Saga. Vol. 1. Image. 2012. 160p. ISBN 9781607066019. pap. $9.99.
Alana and Marko are two soldiers from opposite sides of a galactic war who fall in love and go on the run in this first volume of an ongoing series. While the book works as a poignant love story and an indictment of prejudice, trippy visuals and clever dialog make this Romeo and Juliet space opera a lot of fun as well.
McArdle, Megan M. Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Blends. ALA Editions. 2014. 232p. ISBN 9780838912560. pap. $55; ebk. ISBN 9780838912560.
This recent entry in the ALA Editions “Readers’ Advisory Guide” series focuses on books that blend genres. The book discusses the nature of blended books and the challenges they pose for libraries, includes chapters on all the major genres with examples of blends, and focuses on RA tips for blended books. A companion website with an interactive database of genre blends can be found at blender.genrify.com. (Professional Media, LJ 1/15)
Novelist; www.ebscohost.com/novelist
EBSCO’s invaluable database can help answer readers’ advisory questions. For the reader interested in books that blend genres, the advanced search function can be a wonderful tool, as it includes a genre search field (GN). Simultaneously searching multiple genres can help yield more unusual mixes, and some of the more common (such as historical mystery) get their own designation. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Support A Great Librarian Focused Project

Readers of this blog know I am a big fan of Steve Thomas' librarian interview podcast, Circulating Ideas. Yes I have been a guest (1.5 times), but I have also been a believer in his mission to find a way to capture the very different voices in our profession and bring them together in one place. His podcast has created a nurturing community where we can all learn from one and other.
You can click here to see more detailed posts where I talk about Circulating Ideas. But did you know I have put my money where my mouth is?  Steve had a Kickstarter a few years ago so he could upgrade his equipment and go to ALA to do more interviews, and I contributed.
Now, he is interested in creating professional transcriptions of the audio podcasts so that those with impediments to listening can access the information, but even more exciting to me, so that the content within these interviews can also be searchable on the web!  I think this is a fantastic idea that will help the entirety of librarianship and then, as a direct result, help those that we serve. We can more easily retrieve actual comments, suggestions, and ideas that come up in these podcasts with just a few clicks. So, again, I have put my money where my mouth is and have supported his second, Recirculated, Kickstarter.
I urge you to consider supporting Steve too.  If you like and read this blog, Steve's podcast is done in a similar spirit. I know Steve and can assure you, he has no other goals than enhancing the learning opportunities from this podacast which he does on his own time, for no money.
So that is my personal plea, but here is the story in Steve's words with links to his new  Kickstarter campaign and an embedded video where he pleads his own case.
Take it away Steve...
Perhaps the greatest task of a librarian is to bring communities together to improve their lives, whether that community is the citizenry, students, faculty, or any number of other specialized groups. This improvement most often manifests as literacy in some form or other, whether teaching search strategies, creating in a makerspace, or expanding access to the written word. Now I would like to bring the librarian community together to help increase the accessibility of my librarian interview podcast, Circulating Ideas.
I've launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund transcripts of the show, which would then be made freely available on the web, and as a DRM-free ebook for backers of the campaign (along with a host of other reward options). Why do a Kickstarter? Because transcription is a skilled task, and I want to pay someone a fair wage to do a quality job, and I want to harness the power of the community so that we all feel ownership and pride in the final product.
Since 2011, I have interviewed more than 100 librarians and library supporters, everyone from front line children’s librarians to ALA Presidential candidates to authors and journalists, but these interviews are locked into audio which can be difficult and time-consuming to search, notate and cite. The podcast medium also excludes those with hearing difficulties and those who simply do not learn well from receiving knowledge aurally.
I believe in the power of communities, and I believe in the power of librarians to make great things happen, so I hope you’ll join me and help me make this project happen to unlock and free the innovative ideas and present them to a wider world.
Let’s go circulate some ideas!
– Steve Thomas

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Discussion: Book That "Changed" Your Life

Okay, today we are getting a little metaphysical. Yesterday, I was being interviewed by a colleague who is working on an Independent Study to finish up her MLIS. Her topic is very interesting. She is trying to assess the current state of RA education in America (with a detailed look at its history). But in interviewing me, much of our conversation was about where I, as a RA educator, see the future of RA training.

I will have more on her findings to share with you in a few months, but the whole notion of looking at the broader picture, combined with the specific questions she was asking me, made me think back to why I decided to dedicate my career to helping leisure readers.

Until I took the RA class toward the end of library school, I was convinced I would work at an adult reference desk in a public library.  I knew that meant I would help leisure readers as well as answer many reference questions, but as we all know now, that changed.

I have dedicated my career to helping leisure readers and to training librarians to be better at providing this service to their patrons.  So how did this happen?  Well, in thinking about it a lot yesterday, I realized there is a book responsible for tipping the scales and making me seriously consider changing the focus of my entire career.

That book was not some serious tract on the philosophy of reading, nor was it a great classic. No, it was the critically acclaimed bestseller, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.

Why did this book change my professional life forever? The answer is actually quite simple. When I read this book for my RA class and was forced to figure out readalikes, I had an epiphany.  Cold Mountain was already a bestseller then. It had wide appeal. But when I was reading it with an eye to why people enjoyed it, I realized that there were so many different layers, reasons, and appeal factors that could lead someone in dozens of different directions for readalike options, and it all hit me.

Before that point I found RA interesting, and was excited to do it as part of my reference work, but after reading Cold Mountain, I realized there was enough "meat" to doing RA that I could be happy doing it for my entire career. And look at me now!

So I figured if there was a book that ended up changing the course of my life, there is probably a book for many of you that changed your life either professionally or personally. I mean you work in a library, so there is a probably book that is in some part responsible for this huge life choice.

For today's Monday Discussion, share that book that changed your life.

For past Monday Discussions click here.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Library Reads: April 2015

You know what to do.  Newest Library Reads. Check to make sure you have them ordered and promote these titles as "librarian approved." Remember to use past lists to help readers who are looking for a good read.

April 2015 Library Reads List


At the Water’s Edge:
A Novel

by Sara Gruen

Published: 3/31/2015 by Spiegel & Grau
ISBN: 9780385523233
“Set in Loch Ness, right in the middle of WWII, a foolish group of rich Americans arrive in search of the famous monster. Narrator Maddie must make sense of the circumstances that have brought her to this wild locale. Only then can she discover the strength she needs to make her own decisions. Enjoy a delightfully intriguing cast of characters and the engaging style of storytelling that has made Gruen so popular.”
Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI

The Royal We

by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Published: 4/7/2015 by Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 9781455557103
“This delightful spin on the story of Prince William and Kate Middleton is the perfect beachy, weekend read for anyone who loves love stories with a healthy dose of humor. Here, Will and Kate are replaced by Nick and Bex–he’s the heir to the British throne, she’s the American who effortlessly steals his heart. Can they weather many obstacles to find their Happily Ever After? Part fairy tale, part cautionary tale, the novel is pure fun from start to finish.”
Donna Matturri, Pickerington Public Library, Pickerington, OH


A Desperate Fortune

by Susanna Kearsley

Published: 4/7/2015 by Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 9781492602026
“While transcribing an old manuscript of a young girl’s diary, Sara decodes an account of Jacobite spies. Long before, Mary Dundas gets involved in a mission which makes her confidante to the King of Scotland in exile. And along the way, both women fall for men they know little about. Kearsley is a master at seamlessly blending stories from two time periods. Readers who enjoy a little puzzle solving with their historical fiction will be rewarded.”
Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX


The Dream Lover: A Novel

by Elizabeth Berg

Published: 4/14/2015 by Random House
ISBN: 9780812993158
“George Sand leaves her estranged husband and children to embark on a life of art in bohemian Paris. A talented writer who finds monetary and critical success, Sand adopts a man’s name, often dresses as a gentleman and smokes cigars. Through her writing, politics, sexual complexities and views on feminism, Sand is always seeking love. This novel has spurred me to learn more about George Sand, a woman truly ahead of her time.”
Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA


Still the One

by Jill Shalvis

Published: 4/7/2015 by Berkley
ISBN: 9780425270189
“Oh Jill Shalvis, how I love thee! Although all the books in this Animal Magnetism series have strong heroines, this one is the absolute best. And chemistry–wowza, it’s intense. The novel brings a focus on two important social issues: the lack of funding available for those who need physical therapy, and the fact that service dogs who do not pass their certification should not be thrown away. I fell in love and learned something at the same time. Instant classic.”
Amanda Brown, Roanoke Public Libraries, Roanoke, VA


Inside the O’Briens: A Novel

by Lisa Genova

Published: 4/7/2015 by Gallery Books
ISBN: 9781476717777
“The O’Briens are an Irish Catholic family living in Boston. Joe, the father, is a cop, and when he is diagnosed with Huntington’s, he must somehow tell his wife and four grown children and learn to live with the disease. I couldn’t put the book down for too long. Genova made me feel as if I was part of the family. I loved the way she developed her characters with style and warmth.”
Valerie Giambona, Secaucus Public Library, Secaucus, NJ


House of Echoes: A Novel

by Brendan Duffy

Published: 4/14/2015 by Ballantine Books
ISBN: 9780804178112
“Eager to get out of the big city, Ben and Caroline Tierney purchase a large, old house upstate hoping to renovate it into a hotel. However, their house, called The Crofts, has a dark, mysterious past, and terrifying secrets begin to threaten the family. This wonderfully eerie and atmospheric debut novel is a great recommendation for fans of Bohjalian’s The Night Strangers and McMahon’s The Winter People.”
Sara Kennedy, Delaware County District Library, Delaware, OH


The Precious One: A Novel

by Marisa de los Santos

Published: 3/24/2015 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780061670893
“Taisy hasn’t seen her father since he dumped her family and started another one 17 years ago. An unexpected invitation to write his biography returns her to her hometown, and gives her a rare chance to knit together a broken web of relationships. Like all de los Santos’ books,The Precious One features smart, funny characters who form an unconventional family. It’s luminous and heartwarming, without an ounce of sap.”
Heather Bistyga, Anderson County Library, Anderson, SC


The Bone Tree: A Novel

by Greg Iles

Published: 4/21/2015 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062311115
“Based on a real series of unsolved murders from the civil rights era in Louisiana, and the crusading journalist who uncovered the story, Iles’ novel shines a bright light of truth upon one of America’s darkest secrets. Iles’ compelling writing makes this complex tale of good versus evil a must-read for those who love thrillers, and those who want to learn a little bit of American history not normally taught in school.”
Ellen Jennings, Cook Memorial Public Library, Libertyville, IL


Where They Found Her: A Novel

by Kimberly McCreight

Published: 4/14/2015 by Harper
ISBN: 9780062225467
“Molly Sanderson is covering a feature for the Ridgedale Reader that not only stirs up her recent grief over a stillborn child, but secrets that have been kept hidden for over two decades in this northern New Jersey college town. As the stories of four different women unfold, a new piece of the puzzle is revealed. Chilling and gruesome at times, this is a novel with characters who will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned.”
Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ