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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

“The Genres that Scare Me”: A Report and Reading Plan by John the Librarian

Earlier this month, I had this Call to Action post where I was challenging all of you to really think about the genres you enjoy the least and make a plan to learn more about them.  Again details here if you need a refresher.

I had a lot of positive feedback from this post with many library workers contacting me, asking for help, and sharing some of their informal plans, but John the Librarian, a blogger and a Digital Librarian for the Digital Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, took it one step further.  He wrote this blog post entitled, The Genres that Scare Me where he took inspiration from myself and a Book Riot post by colleague Molly Wetta, assessed his reading, made a plan of action and then shared it for the benefit of all.

I asked John for his permission to share this post with all of my readers because I truly hope it inspires others to take my Call to Action seriously. As you can see in his post, once he took the time to reflect on his own reading and identified what genres he needed to know more about, figuring out what to read was easy.

I have included the opening of John’s post below, but it is simply the recap. Click through to see how he analyzed his own reading and how he plans to attack those genres he is frightened of. 

Thank you John. And good luck. Let us all know how the reading went and if you were able to conquer your fears.


The Genres that Scare Me

I spend a fair amount of time talking about the importance of diversity in our stories and reading culture. I fully support the #WeNeedDiverseBooksmovement. I’ve made a commitment to increase the diversity of my own reading, both in terms of authors and characters.
I read two posts over the past couple of weeks which spin the idea of diverse reading in a slightly different direction:
I Can’t Even with Librarians Who Don’t Read Diversely by Molly Wetta (posted on Bookriot, August 12, 2016)
Call to Action: Get Out There and Read Something You Are “Afraid” Of by Becky Spratford (posted on RA for All, August 22, 2016)
Normally, we talk about diverse books in terms of the ethnicity and cultures of characters, authors, and story traditions. What speaks to me about the two articles linked above is the call to increase the diversity of the genres I read. The call to “read outside [my] own taste and interest” (from Bookriot), to read things I dislike or that scare me to try (as per the RA for All post).
I considered my lifetime reading history, looked through the books on my shelves at home, reviewed my Goodreads account, etc., and discovered something that makes me proud:
My reading is already very diverse. There’s very little out there that doesn’t interest me enough for me to have spent time looking into it, both fiction and nonfiction.
Nonetheless, I identified four fiction genres that I rarely, or never, read:
  • Romance
  • Urban Fiction
  • Inspirational / Christian / Faith Fiction (for Pete’s sake, I don’t even know what the preferred nomenclature is for this one!)
  • Westerns (I’ve read True Grit by Charles Portis, a title or two by Joe Lansdale, and The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Who's Doing Video Book Talks?

Today I have question that pertains to a few future projects I am working on. I cannot reveal the details yet, but I want to begin by identifying who out there is doing video book talks for their library.

If you recall, last month I featured Sonia and her You Tube book talks. I have also been giving my program on book talking to many libraries over the last few months, with even more coming up soon. Every time I give this talk, people come up to me to let me know what they are doing or planning to do with regards to book talks. It is an old skill that is getting hot again.

I need to start formally compiling a list of all of the great things happening all over the country in our libraries-- big and small. I love that I get to hear about these things because I travel to you. But, I also need to be more proactive in formally sharing this information with a wider audience. That is why I have this blog, to help all of you help your leisure readers better.

I am beginning by reaching out to those of you recording book talks [audio or video] because as I mentioned above, I have a larger project in mind for this information. But at the very least, I want to know who you all are so we can get some more examples up here on the blog.

Please contact me via email [info here] and put Book Talk in the subject heading.

Monday, August 29, 2016

RA for All: Call to Action-- Match Everything to Books and Books to Everything

Today’s Call to Action is something I take for granted but as I visit libraries and talk to library workers from all over the country I find it needs repeating....

When I talk about matching readers with books, by “books” I mean everything that you could possibly check out at your library which someone would consume for fun. This includes but is not limited to:
  • novels
  • nonfiction
  • graphic novels
  • audiobooks
  • movies
  • TV shows
  • eBooks
  • music
  • kids books
  • YA books
  • plays
  • magazine articles
  • videogames
Matching readers with “books” is an easy and quick way to say it, but what we actually do as we work with adult leisure readers is match their likes and their preferences to something that they will enjoy. WHAT that something is, is not, and has ever been, limited to only books.

Books are simply where we started our advisory conversation with readers, hence the name of what we do-- Readers’ Advisory. But today, our work cannot and should not be further limited by forced format matches. 

Yes we most often match books to books as leisure “reading” options. But we also can match books to movies, or movies to TV Shows, or TV Shows to magazine articles, etc... The possibilities are endless.

While on the surface this post and my point may scare you just as you are beginning to get a handle on the whole book to book suggestion thing. “Endless possibilities?!?!?,” some of you are thinking.  

But rest assured, I am not doing this to freak you out. I am simply giving you permission you to think as broadly as possible. This actually makes things easier for you. I am allowing you to think of anything in your library that may appeal to the patron in front of you. You are not limited by the books in front of you. You can showcase all the library has to offer to the patrons. And, ultimately. you will make for more satisfied patrons who use the library more often.

Here is an example, if you think that a reader of a Sarah Vowell book (snarky and fun way to learn American history) would also love reading Mental Floss magazine, you should feel free to suggest a magazine as a readalike to a book reader. This suggestion works on many levels despite their different formats.

NPR is trying to help stimulate this type of thinking too with their new Read, Watch, Binge series.  Back in June I talked about the first list they made here, but now they have two more and are planning to create even more.  Click here for the archive where they match “THINGS” to books and TV shows. 

This post is meant to get you to question the status quo; I don’t expect you to start a full scale multi-format recommendation program tomorrow. Just keep it in mind. Use this way of thinking to help a few patrons. See how it goes and stop being afraid to match leisure items from different formats. The leash is off. Go for it!

For more Call to Action posts, click here.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Personalized RA Service

Yesterday, I spent the day with Polli Kenn, Readers' Services Coordinator for the Lawrence [KS] Public Library. She was one of the presenters at our Adult Reading Round Table  Becoming the Face of RA program. She did a wonderful job, but selfishly, I was also glad I got to spend the entire day "squiring" her around.

She was part of this wonderful program which I will quickly recap here. Because we partnered with Booklist and NoveList as a part of their Live Events series, this entire program was videotaped and will be sent out to subscribers to The Corner Shelf newsletter on Septemeber 12th [free if you click here] complete with links and slide access.

While you wait for the video and resource links here are a few links and a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT:

  • We always use #arrtreads to live Tweet our programs.  You can click here [Twitter user or not] to access that conversation. It will serve as a preview for what you will get by watching the 2 hour video.
  • Book Squad page for Lawrence Public Library.
  • Downers Grove Public Library's Bookology page.
  • Signup for NoveList's Book Squad emails here.
More on September 12th, but this should hold you over.

Oh wait....

I bet you thought I forgot about the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT.  I didn't, I am just building suspense. Also, if you clicked on the #arrtreads link above, you have already seen it:

You can see me make the announcement at the end of the video.

ARRT has been working on creating more lists from our collective brain of Northern Illinois RA library workers so that the titles we talk about in our meetings can be saved for future use as we work with readers. We have been gathering titles at every meeting and event.  We have also been revamping our newsletter to be more frequent and more useful to you as you help leisure readers. Basically, in 2016 we have focused on harnessing the energy and information from our programs and meetings so we can share them with as many people as possible.

One of the new things we tried is to use the LibraryAware account for the Naperville [IL] Public Library to create some lists in the notes for our genre study.  The more we were doing these LibraryAware lists, the more popular they became. We decided we should probably get an ARRT branded LibraryAware account.

So, I will be taking my personal LibraryAware account and turning it over to ARRT. We will work with the Library Aware team to create dynamic and helpful lists.  They will be available on our site and as part of our newsletter, which anyone can sign up for-- member or not. Just go here and enter you email address in the right gutter.

Then, look for ARRT LibraryAware materials to also appear on many NoveList platforms.  At ARRT we are "dedicated to developing readers’ advisory skills and promoting reading for pleasure through public libraries." So expect these lists to not only help you serve your patrons, but to also serve as a training tool for using Library Aware.

We will begin to have LibraryAware lists on our site in the next few weeks, but the partnership will begin in earnest in January. We are excited to begin this new venture, adding another way to help all of you help your readers.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Other People’s RA Rules

Obviously everything I do is about training all of you to be better at suggesting books to readers. I have my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service. I teach them, I want you to use them, I live by them, but that doesn’t mean I don’t learn from others.

Here are 2 other people’s rules that I like and refer to in my own work. You should look at them too.

Cindy Orr’s Golden Rules of RA

Amanda Nelson from Book Riot lists her 5 Tips for Being Great At Reading Recommendations

Different perspectives help us to stay fresh in our service to patrons.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Resource Reminder: All Readers for SEX and VIOLENCE

I often take for granted that just because I know that I mention something in many of my programs AND it is linked on my popular 10 Rules of Basic RA page that everyone is aware of it. But based on the questions I have received in my email recently, I am quite wrong to do this.

So today I want to point you all to my favorite resource for frank and easy to use info on SEX and VIOLENCE-- All Readers.

Let me begin with this warning, however. All Readers is a messy and imperfect site. I never use it except for this one reason-- SEX and VIOLENCE. Again, let me stress I am NOT recommending you use their reviews, only the box at the very bottom of each entry that is titled, “Chapter analysis.”

Why do I love this resource so much? Again, I need to say it-- SEX and VIOLENCE. How much does the reader in front of you want? Where is their tipping point? And most importantly, how do you bring up this sensitive [but necessary] RA question with a compete stranger?

The answer to all of these questions is All Readers.

Let me show you with a couple of examples.

It is not going out on a limb to say that James Patterson is one of the most popular authors in terms of library checkouts. I often had patrons come in and say, I don’t like too much violence in my suspense. Okay, I would say, who is your favorite author then? Answer: James Patterson.

Now, in case you don’t know, Patterson’s books are VERY VIOLENT, more violent than average. They have always been violent and have only gotten more so over the years.

Look at the Chapter Analysis entry for one of Patterson’s earliest books in All Readers if you don’t believe me:

As you can clearly see, the patron who says they don’t like violence but loves Patterson, is not giving you the information you need to help him or her. This is not malicious. It is just that for this particular reader, Patterson is not violent because it is not too violent for him or her. It is all relative and highly specific to the patron in front of you at that moment.

Whenever someone brings up a book that you know has some kind of violence, it is important to see if All Readers has an entry so you can get an impartial picture of the violence found between the covers.

But SEX, that is even harder to talk about at the service desk.  Complicating matters is the fact that there are many Romance authors who have been very popular in our libraries for years, but whose level of heat we were not as intimately [pun intended] aware of pre- 50 Shades of Grey. Here is a great example.  Below you can see the EXACT same Susan Elizabeth Philips’ book, but on the left is the pre-50 Shades cover and on the right is the post-50 Shades cover:

Again, this is the SAME book. Before 50 Shades of Grey came out, you would not have thought twice about handing this very mainstream title to any reader. Look at that sweet cover.  Well, I hate to break it to all of you, but the cover on the right is a MUCH BETTER representation of the content.

If you had gone to the All Readers entry for the book, you would have seen this:

Now, I am probably more willing to talk about sex and violence with a patron than most of you, but even I don’t want to ask a patron, “How are you with Weiner talk?”

But thankfully, I don’t have to. Rather, I ask those looking for romance titles about a favorite book, look it up in All Readers and then I can get a better sense of exactly what type of romance they are looking for-- all without making you or the patron uncomfortable.

One final note, I wrote this post because I am often asked, “what’s that sex and violence resource again?” So if there is something you remember me mentioning on the blog or when I presented for you but you just can’t recall it, leave a comment or contact me. I am sure you aren’t the only one. I can do more of these posts as you want them.

Now get out there and search for SEX and VIOLENCE with confidence. [A statement I never pictured myself saying when I became a librarian, by the way.]

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Resources for the "Best" Genre Books: A Follow Up To Yesterday's Post

Well I am happy to say that many of you are taking yesterday's Call to Action seriously. How do I know? I have been inundated with requests to help people pick a good book in their "fear" zone because NoveList and Goodreads have been a little bit overwhelming.

So, for the benefit of all here is what I have been telling people who have contacted me:

  • Click here for my 2015 Attack of the "Best" Lists slides from the webinar I did for PLA members last December. In it I break down last year's best books by genre and I even threw in a few backlist readalikes.
  • If your ILS allows you to sort your stats by genre, filter out last year's most popular books in your chosen genre and read one of those.  Why last year's? Well if you do the current hottest books they probably won't be on the shelf and that will make you procrastinate on doing this exercise even more. I want to harness this energy and get you all going. So last year's favorites are good enough.
  • "Oh, I can't do that with my ILS," you say.  Nice try, but I have that covered too. Goodreads has their Reader's Choice lists neatly separated out into genres. Let a fan choose a title for you. Don't just look at the winners, you can see all of the finalists in each category if you click on the genre name.
  • Still not convinced...Ask someone for a recommendation, a real live person, patron or staff, someone you know likes a genre you do not. If you ask a patron, you will go a long way toward earning their trust for future RA transactions. 
Now I know some of you may still drag your feet, so here is a testimonial email I received from a regular reader to the blog, Carol Ann from the Merrick [NY] Library, to help inspire you:
In the past you've written how we should get out of our comfort zone and read something we would never read or have a fear of reading.
I read horror/sci/fantasy/historical fiction/literary fiction...  the one thing I am terrified of? Romance, chick lit, and "women's lit" (whatever that means). Yikes!
So. Okay, challenge accepted!  
I took your advice a few months back and read, "Leave Me" by Gayle Forman. And lo and behold, my review was the #1 pick for September's Library Reads. Now if THAT isn't a success story, I don't know WHAT is! 
So, thank you!
She took my advice already and now she is reaping the benefits. What are you waiting for?

Monday, August 22, 2016

RA for All: Call to Action: Get Out There and Read Something You Are “Afraid” Of

It’s back to school time here in Illinois, and as library workers, we all know that this is a time for fresh starts. What a perfect time for me to shake you out of your complacency.

I know, it sounds scary, but it isn’t because first I am going to let you complain.


Real quick, say your least favorite type of book to read. Don’t think about it, just blurt it out. Yes, I am asking you to talk to your computer screen. Just go with it.

It can be a genre, a format, a very specific subgenre, whatever you dislike reading the most. It can be a few things. All I am asking is that you are brutal honest with yourself.

Okay, now, jot those down somewhere.

Now, again be very honest with yourself, how do you feel when readers of your least favorite things  come up to the desk and ask for help?

The most common answer I have found is-- AFRAID. Afraid you cannot help that person because you don’t have any positive feelings about what they are asking for. But that fear translates into us not helping those readers as well and that is not good.

Guess what? I have a way to solve that problem. Take that list you just made of your least favorites and...are you ready for this.... read one of them! Why? Because fear comes from ignorance. Not knowing about something makes us afraid of it.

Arm yourself with a little knowledge by heading over to Goodreads or NoveList and looking up your least favorite areas and find out what the best new books are in that world. And then, put something on hold.

I am not asking you to love it. I’m not even asking you to read it cover to cover. Give it a good skim. But give it a chance. Then read reviews, look at the appeals on NoveList and read the 5 star reviews on Goodreads. The whole process can take you under an hour if you focus, but give yourself a few days.

While you are doing this, I also want you to think about your favorite things to read. Why are they your favorites? Now go and look those books’ appeal and five star reviews.

When you pair your least favorite type of reads [with a focus on those who would like them] with your own personal loves, you get a better understanding of why people enjoy the books they enjoy. You move beyond the fear and into a place of understanding.

You will realize that you can still help someone who likes your least favorite books if you simply take the plunge and expose yourself to something you are “afraid" of. In fact, you may find (as I have over the years) that it is often easier to help people who like the things you dislike more than it is to help those with similar tastes. When you already like something, your personal feelings and biases get in the way of your suggestions. When you have less feelings about the genre, you can be more empirical and impartial with your suggestions.

I promise you, no one will get hurt. In fact, quite the opposite, many more patrons will find their next good read.

For the Call to Action Archive, click here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Where Becky Begins Her Quest to Create Book Discussion Leader Networking/Support Groups One Region At A Time

I am asked to help lead book discussions all the time; seriously, like once a week. Although leading book discussions is one of my most favorite professional activities, the nature of my work as a library consultant means I cannot commit to a regular, monthly book club.

Never one to simply say no and walk away though, I have come up with a solution--training as many leaders as possible.

You have probably already looked at the work I have done with ARRT revamping our long standing Quarterly Literary Book Discussion program to include a conscious leadership training component, but just in case:
We give library book discussion leaders the chance to sit back and enjoy being discussion participants while also offering a forum for sharing questions and practical solutions to the problems and concerns of book group leaders. This “nuts and bolts” training session is offered at the end of each discussion.
You can go to the website and see what we are up to, including full access to our notes from past discussions and information about our final discussion of 2016 in a few weeks.

Besides training leaders, the ARRT program has had another useful outcome-- it has provided a networking opportunity for book discussion leaders in our area to support each other. You can read more about that in this article I wrote in Booklist's Spotlight on Book Clubs Issues from December 2015.

It is this outcome, the support group result of leading book discussion training, that has me excited these days, but the ARRT meetings are only in Chicagoland and for members only. In order to help create more localized networking groups, in more far flung locales, I turned to our library system for all of Northern IL, RAILS to help. Together, myself and a RAILS representative, will be appearing in three areas in Northern Illinois a bit further away from the city next month. Here are the details with signup information:
RAILS will offer three identical “Book Discussion Leadership Training” workshops with Becky Spratford in September at the Galena Public Library (September 13), Peotone Public Library (September 15) and DeKalb Public Library (September 20). 
In this workshop, Becky Spratford will offer a shortened version of her "Recharge Your Book Club" training and then Becky will lead a discussion of The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Please arrange a copy of the book for your own use. There will also be time to address questions and concerns about your book clubs. 
Please click the links below for more information and to register.
Galena Public Library District
Tuesday, September 13, 2016 (9:00 AM - 12:00 PM)
Peotone Public Library District
Thursday, September 15, 2016 (9:30 AM - 12:30 PM)
DeKalb Public Library
Tuesday, September 20, 2016 (9:30 AM - 12:30 PM)

I love being able to do the recharge training AND then have a book discussion all together. We can discuss things in theory and then watch them unfold in practice.  It is always hilarious how some of the “problem patron” issues we just discussed as a group then pop up in the discussion itself.  It is very instructive for the book discussion leaders to see that even they aren’t immune to getting a little carried away in the heat of the discussion.

But most importantly, I believe in what I am doing here. Leading a book discussion group is both rewarding and challenging. Often the work is done by only 1 or 2 people at a specific library meaning sometimes you feel like you are doing it in a vacuum. We need to rely on each other. We need our colleagues to bounce ideas and problems off of. And sometimes, we just need to be a participant in a book club ourselves, to see things from the other side and rekindle our love for the activity.

A representative from RAILS will be there to help keep the networking going after I leave. This is their strength, helping all of our libraries work together to serve all of our residents better. I will bring you together and inspire you, but it is RAILS who will gather your names and contact info and encourage you to keep meeting without me there.

So, I begin closer to home, but in the coming months I already have plans to replicate this program in Indiana and Kansas. Slowly but surely, I will make my way across the country, helping book club leaders everywhere to connect and work together.

If you work near one of the libraries above, click on the link to register. There is still plenty of time to read the book. And if you live somewhere else, contact me and let's see what I can do to help the library workers in your area recharge their book groups.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

RA for All Roadshow: Peoria Area RA Training and Networking

Thanks to a collaboration between Alissa Williams, the Director of Morton Public Library and a grant from RAILS, I am spending all morning at Pekin Public Library. Alissa and I worked to put together a program that will freshen up skills for the area library workers who are most responsible for RA Service. This is going to be a highly interactive training where I not only work with the people in front of me, but also, I am giving them skills and tips to bring back to train their staff.
After I leave at lunchtime, this group is going to keep working-- brainstorming ideas and collaboration opportunities so that they can keep helping each other to serve their leisure readers better. I can’t wait to see what they are able to come up with in the coming months. Oh, but I am getting ahead of myself. Here is the plan for today with links:
August 18, 2016 from 9am-Noon at the Pekin Public Library:
9-10:50 am: RA for All: Readers Advisory belongs in every library, no matter its budget. The implementation of this vital service is the responsibility of every staff member-- from pages to directors, from those behind the scenes to the ones on the front lines. This program will remove the mystery behind providing great RA service. Using her “Ten Rules of Basic RA Service” as a guide, Becky Spratford will use your own love of your favorite books to show you how to help any patron find their next great read. It's not as hard as you think. But more importantly, you will learn why a staff that can harness the power of sharing a great read will become a stronger team and improve service to all patrons. Program follows Becky’s 10 Rules of Basic RA Service
10 Minute Break
11-11:40am: Booktalking: Harnessing the Power of Sharing Books with Patrons: Booktalking is at the heart of what we do with patrons each and every day at the public library. Whether we are sharing books informally at the services desk, presenting a prepared list of books, or posting information online, talking about books is something we do each and every day. It is a core service, but it is also hard to teach. Booktalking is more of an art than a skill, but with the right guidance and some practice, it can go a long way toward engaging your patrons and re-energizing your staff. Join experienced Readers’ Advisory Becky Spratford as she shares the secret behind delivering great book talks, giving you tips and tricks you can begin using right away to hone your own skills. Rediscover the power and joy that comes from sharing books with patrons. SLIDES

11:40-Noon: Wrap Up: Creating Your Own Reader Profile and Brainstorming Session: Becky will help you take what you have learned to craft your own personal reader profile and start you on your first RA journey-- suggesting a good book to a fellow staff member. Becky will also get you started talking to each other about how you can all work together to share the load. Link to form and description of exercise.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

NEW RESOURCE!!! Loan Stars-- The Canadian Library Reads

So one of the things I love to do is scan the internet to see what other libraries are doing to help their leisure readers. Yes I know that sounds creepy, but here me out. I do it for two reasons. One, because it is my job to help you to stay as aware and up to date as possible when it comes to RA Service, so I do the creepy work for you. And two, because I just love learning from other people’s good ideas.

Well, in one of my recent forays lurking around the RA centric web, I found Loan Stars which for lack of a better way to describe it is the Canadian version of Library Reads.

From their site:
It has only been going for a few months, and some of it is similar to our American Library Reads. But there are many differences too.

This is a great way to discover new books and authors that our neighbors to the North really enjoy that we may not even know about. For example, the list highlights Canadian authors with a flag next to their names. These are books we can get in America, but that we may not know about. I already found a few interesting titles I am going to look into on the current September list. Click here for more on one in particular.

This is a fantastic resource for us to use on our voracious and/or picky readers who want to read all the hot new books. And soon, there will be a significant back list to mine for more ideas.

And don’t forget, just like Library Reads, Lone Stars has built in book talks for each title that you can use to hand sell the title to patrons.

Okay, not back to snooping on everyone [not so surreptitiously anymore].

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bookshots [Not the Patterson Ones] As A Quick RA Tool

Thanks to my friend and colleague Stephen Sposato from Chicago Public Library, I was alerted to this awesome, quick, and extremely useful reviewing resource-- Bookshots from LitReactor.

LitReactor is one of those sites I love when I remember to check it. It is one of many bookish websites worth your time, but what makes LitReactor different is that it is driven by and for aspiring writers who are all also big time readers.  From their “take a tour” page:

But back to Bookshots specifically, which I love! What are they? Well as the each review says at the top: “Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review.” And that they do.  These are not your mother’s reviews.

Let me explain with an example. Here is the text of the entry for a new book, Bite by K.S. Merbeth, but also click through for the much better web version:


Title: Bite

Who wrote it? K.S. Merbeth

Plot in a Box: A young girl runs away from home in the middle of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. She is taken in by a crew of “sharks” (cannibal raiders) who teach her to survive in a harsh world whilst hunted by the various factions that inhabit it.

Invent a new title for this book: Kid Shark

Read this if you like(d): Fallout and Mad Max

Meet the books lead(s): Kid, a young girl born in a bomb shelter after the nukes fell. Although she begins the book dangerously naive, she is quite clever, has a powerful will to live, and learns very fast. She is unsettled by the more extreme behavior of her cannibal comrades, but reserves judgement and realizes that they are her best chance at surviving the wastelands.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by: Oleysa Rulin, who is currently playing Retro Girl on Powers.

Setting: Would you want to live there? A desolate radioactive wasteland populated almost entirely by paranoid townsfolk, heavily-armed sociopaths and would-be dictators. The kind of place where you can meet a gang of a cannibals and think “These guys are all right.” I wouldn’t even want to visit.

What was your favorite sentence? "There’s nothing but empty desert and the ruins of old cities in every direction. Nuclear war can do that to a place, I guess."

The Verdict: Bite is an impressive and fun debut novel, an interesting twist on the traditional “babe in the woods” tale. Kid begins the story as a wide-eyed innocent, who seems to have survived on luck alone thus far. But instead of resisting the depredations of the wasteland to remain true and pure, she joins a band of cannibals who teach her to be the thing people run from rather than the person running. Wolf and Dolly would be just another pair of faceless villains in the typical post-apocalyptic fable, but through Kid’s eyes, uncolored by pre-war notions of morality, we get to see them as complex characters, who actually have real motivations and sympathetic backstories. Although they have done terrible things, they are the only people who don’t immediately try to kill, rape or exploit Kid upon meeting her. The wasteland is a nasty place full of ruthless people, but Kid comes to learn that none of them are monsters by choice. When a would-be ruler of the rubble puts a bounty on their heads, Wolf and Dolly teach Kid survival skills by handing her a knife and throwing her into the deep-end. They can’t seem to go anywhere without kicking off a Miller-esque action set piece that destroys what little was left standing. Bite is certainly never boring, moments of metaphysical contemplation and morbid humor punctuating explosions of insane violence and slapstick carnage.


Every review is like this. Short and pithy with key information about why someone would read this using the same categories so that there is a standardization to the information despite the rotating cast of reviewers.

Bite by K.S. Merbeth
Aug. 2016. 304p. Orbit, paperback, $9.99 (9780316308700)
REVIEW.  First published July, 2016 (Booklist).
Merbeth’s action driven debut introduces us to Kid a, skinny, teenage girl who has known no world other than this post-nuclear apocalyptic one. Barely surviving alone after the death of her father, knowing she should not trust strangers offering a ride, but too tired and hungry to care, Kid gets in the car with two ominous figures-- the large, dreadlocked Wolf and the bright blue haired Dolly. And so begins a fast paced ride through a barren world where food and water are scarce, “Raiders” and “Sharks” rule the trade routes, and cannibalism is a real survival option. Kid’s first person narration grabs the reader immediately and we hang on her every word as she falls in with Wolf and his gang. The first battle scene comes immediately and is closely followed by another, and then another, strung together and constantly escalating. But in between the fighting there is equally as compelling character development. Wolf’s crew, villains all, but lovable and principled ones, come to be known and loved by Kid- and us. She watches and learns from each, and as a result, comes through the story stronger, both because she now has a “family” and has finally taken control of her own survival. Filled with dark humor, wit, and a realistic post-nuclear setting, Bite plays off the idea of who are the “good guys” in such a harsh world. Think Carl Hiaasen thriller set in a Mad Max world and you have an idea of what to expect.
YA: Yes this story contains some violence (and cannibalism), but Kid’s transformation from young victim of the post nuclear bomb apocalypse to active player in her own survival will greatly appeal to older teens.
You should click through to my full post where I shared more on this title than I could fit in the review.

The information within both reviews isn’t that different, but the delivery most certainly is. My review is written to an audience of library workers. Although you can and should use these reviews to help readers, the audience for Bookshots is the reader. The main goal of Bookshots is for writers to think like a reader and spit out the key info a reader would need to decide if he or she should try the book out.

It is about the nitty gritty, the truth about the book and why someone would love it or hate it-- quickly, but it is shared in a fun way. You could easily use Bookshots in tandem with a patron. Look it over together for a book they ask about or one they have already read.  It will easily kickstart a back and forth conversation about what kind of book that patron in front of you is looking for. The colloquial but still useful information in these reviews will get the RA conversation going right away.

I am going to try this out with a patron tomorrow. I know just the one to ask. What about you?

Monday, August 15, 2016

RA for All: Call to Action-- Serving Seniors

Today's call to action is one you can all start doing tomorrow... the brand new RUSA CODES conversation is all about serving seniors and their leisure needs.
Those who have followed this blog for awhile know how much I loved my 15 years as the leader of a book group of dedicated, "mature" women. [Here is the link to our final meeting last June.]
Because I also worked mostly mornings at the library AND ran the Friends of the Library, I became the favorite staff member for many of our senior power users. I loved serving them too; however, I often had complaints from fellow employees when I was away that they were "difficult to serve."  
I disagree completely, but I can see why serving seniors is tricky for staff who are not used to seniors, their unique needs, and perspectives.
Below, you will find the literal Call to Action-- how to sign up for the conversation and participate [or just lurk]. After the conversation is done and the notes are compiled, I will have another post sharing my opinions on what was said and adding my two cents on anything that was missed, but for now, I want to sit back and spend the next two days learning from my peers.
I think you should too.
[Don't forget you can follow past Calls to Action here or here.
CODES Conversation, Readers' Advisory Services to Seniors, Aug 16-17
Many parts of the country are looking at aging populations, and should be considering how these patrons are being served now, and how they may be better served in the future. Readers' advisory may be one of the most important services public libraries can provide to patrons in the so-called "third act" - as explained by Jane Fonda in a 2011 TED Talk - generally those adults ages 60-90. Call it what you will - Silver Sneakers, The Olds, Seniors, Grey Hairs - this is a special population which is rarely discussed.
Readers' Advisory Services to Seniors is the subject of the next CODES Conversations, a listserv-based discussion hosted by the Reference and User Services Association’s Collection Development and Evaluation Section (RUSA CODES), the home for adult readers' advisory within ALA.
On August 16-17, 20169:00 AM/ET - 8:00 PM/ET readers' advisory experts from CODES will facilitate a focused online conversation entitled Readers Advisory Services to Seniors. All adult services librarians are welcome to join and follow the conversation and contribute ideas or just listen in.
To support the conversation, CODES has prepared a short list of documents to consider for this discussion:

The conversation is open to all; membership is not required in order to participate. To participate, subscribe to theCODES Conversation email list located at http://lists.ala.org/sympa/subscribe/codes-convos. Questions or concerns with the listserv should be sent to RUSA Web Manager Andrea Hill at ahill@ala.org.
The Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers’ advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need.  Not a member, but interested in discounted registration rates on conference, preconferences and other events? Join, renew or add RUSA to your ALA membership at www.ala.org/membership. Learn more about the association at www.ala.org/rusa.

Friday, August 12, 2016

What I'm Reading: Booklist's Horror Spotlight Issue

In the August 2016 issue of Booklist I had three reviews and 1 online only review. I know there are still three more turned in reviews in the pipeline for the September issues and I have another stack piled up here at home to read.

The haunting season is coming fast. Time to get ordering. Also a quick note, I will not add extra readalikes to these reviews because I have a ton in the review, but I will pull out my three words and I have added links to authors and such.

A Long December
By Richard Chizmar
Oct. 2016. 520p. Subterranean, hardcover, $40  (9781596067936)
First published August, 2016 (Booklist).

Chizmar may not be a name readers know, but they certainly know the names of those he has published in his 27 year career running the award-winning Cemetery Dance Publications- Stephen King, Justin Cronin, Joe R Lansdale and Gillian Flynn to name only a few. This huge collection of 35 tales spans Chizmar’s entire career offering a wide range of genres from crime to dark fantasy to horror. Some pieces, published previously are included as is, while others have been reworked, and still others were never available before now, but all are subtly terrifying tales of normal lives that are completely upended by circumstance beyond anyone’s control. Chizmar’s stories are united by the feelings they produce, dread, anxiety, and suspense, but more remarkable is how they are presented with a poignancy and underlying sweetness that cannot be ignore like in the eponymous novella where the protagonist wakes up to police surrounding his neighbor and best friend’s home because that man is a serial killer. How can you process that? It’s well past time to let the man behind so many other great stories have a chance to wow readers with his own chilling words. This is a must read for fans of intense tales where psychological suspense and horror overlap like in the novels of Peter Straub, Scott Smith, or Adam Nevill.

Three Words That Describe This Book: suspense, stories, chilling

The Motion of Puppets
by Keith Donohue
Oct. 2016. 272p. illus. Picador, hardcover, $26  (9781250057181); e-book (9781250057211)
First published August, 2016 (Booklist).

Donohue [The Stolen Child, The Boy Who Drew Monsters] has written a masterpiece of psychological horror that will change the way you look at puppets forever. Kay, a performer in the cirque and her new husband, Theo, a French professor in New York, are spending the summer in the old portion of Quebec City while Kay performs and Theo translates the biography of the artist and pioneering photographer of motion, Eadweard Muybridge [whose macabre yet intriguing life adds wonderful depth to the novel]. After a late post-show dinner, Kay walking home alone, frightened and disoriented, enters an old toy store which was surprisingly unlocked, only to find herself transformed into a puppet and held prisoner in the back of the shop, where all the puppets can come alive between midnight and dawn. What follows is each of their tales, told in alternating points of view. Theo desperately searching for his vanished beloved begins to find connections to the old toy shop but is having trouble believing those who say the puppets may be alive; meanwhile Kay is slowly forgetting the human world she came from and is embracing her life as a puppet with her new friends. Time may be running out for Theo to locate Kay and convince her to come back to him. Intricately plotted, absorbing, dark, and suspenseful, this is a moving, modern story set in what could feel like a fairy tale world, but is actually terrifyingly realistic. It is a tale of true love, missing persons, and the beauty of the mechanics of motion all wrapped up in one awesome creeptastic package. Give this to readers who love creepy doll stories like those in Ellen Datlow’s award winning The Doll Collection, as well as any fans of Neil Gaiman, Steven Millhauser, or Elizabeth McCracken.

Three Words That Describe This Book: askew, macabre, compelling

Last Train from Perdition [I Travel By Night, Book Two]
by Robert McCammon
Oct. 2016. 184p. Subterranean, hardcover, $35  (9781596067387)
First published August, 2016 (Booklist).

Horror legend Robert McCammon is back with book two in his highly entertaining, vampire western series. Trevor Lawson, a reluctant vampire and his human sidekick, sharpshooter Ann Remington, are still on the hunt for LaRouge, the woman who turned Lawson into a vampire during the Civil War and kidnapped Ann’s father and sister, in the hopes that killing her will allow Lawson to become human again. While they search, Lawson takes discreet, dangerous jobs with the business motto, “All Matters Handled.” It’s now 1886 and a new job takes the pair from New Orleans to the frontier town of Perdition, MT to rescue a wealthy young man from a band of outlaws. Lawson tries to extricate the man without violence, but between the outlaws and the vampire Dark Society, it appears a peaceful getaway is not going to be an option. This thrilling story culminates with a fantastic battle scene on a train where unlikely alliances are formed, adding a new wrinkle to Lawson’s quest for freedom from his vampiric curse. No need to have read the first book as the necessary details are supplied without sacrificing the pace. Clear a couple hours because you will want to devour this in one sitting. And while there are no new additions to vampire lore here, you will be having too much fun to care. This is perfect for fans of the TV series Deadwood and the award winning American Vampire graphic novel series by Scott Snyder.

Genre Note: This is clearly equal parts western and horror. That is a huge appeal that cannot be underestimated. It does both genres VERY well.

Three Words That Describe This Book: vampires, plot driven, the old west

Zombie Gold
by John L. Lansdale
Aug. 2016. 202p. Short Scary Tales, hardcover, $29.95  (9781909640641)
First published July 21, 2016 (Booklist Online).

Chris and Will are your average, modern day 20-somethings. Chirs’ family has owned the Flying G Ranch for generations and Will is a college student and Civil War history buff who is working the ranch for the summer. The boys strike-out alone, to the local mountain, named for Ernest Kaman  a Civil War soldier turned gold robber, whose band of thieves is said to still haunt the isolated area. But they aren’t ghosts...they’re zombies, stuck on the mountain, protecting their plunder. Chris and Will escape the zombies but end up being transported to 1863, only miles away from the impending battle of Gettysburg. Chris and Will are thrown into a much bigger adventure than they bargained for trying to explain themselves, avoid being forced to enlist in the army, and dodging the constant bloodshed. Their only hope to return to the 21st Century is to find Kaman and follow him back to the mountain as he steals the gold. Can they make it back in time and will it be before the zombies wreak havoc on those searching for the missing boys? Zombie Gold is an entertaining, well paced science fiction-historical-horror blend with resourceful protagonists and a solid cast of secondary characters. While this will obviously appeal to fans of the weird western, Hell’s Bounty that Lansdale co-wrote with his brother, bestselling author Joe R. Lansdale, fans of Jonathan Maberry should also give this a try.

YA: Teens will love watching Chris and Will make their way through time, struggling to survive in the 1860s and battling the zombies who have crossed into the 21st Century.

Genre Note: More time travel/historical fiction blend than horror so will still be a great suggestion for Civil War era fans.

Three Words That Describe This Book: time travel, coming of age, Civil War