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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Happy Halloween: Welcome Clay McLeod Chapman As Summer Scares Spokesperson


Please note, the knife has been removed from our logo by request of 
a few schools who use the program with their students 


The Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, Booklist, and NoveList®, a division of EBSCO Information Services (EBSCO), is proud to announce the fifth annual Summer Scares Reading Program. Summer Scares is a reading program that provides libraries and schools with an annual list of recommended horror titles for adult, young adult (teen), and middle grade readers. It introduces readers and librarians to new authors and helps start conversations extending beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come.

Summer Scares is proud to announce the 2024 spokesperson, author Clay McLeod Chapman:

"To this day, I still have vivid memories of my grandmother escorting six-year-old me through our local library -- Go, Bon Air! -- and striking a deal: Pick two books, any two books, one for her to read to me and one for me to read to myself. When we both finished our individual reads, we could always come back and pick another pair. I can still list off practically every book I selected -- beginning with "Monsters of North America" by William A. Wise -- returning to the library to replenish our endless reservoir of reading every week of my childhood. Now I feel as if I'm returning to the library all over again, thanks to Summer Scares, where the deal this time is to pick those books that continue to make an impact on me and share them with as many readers as humanly possible."

Chapman is joined by a committee of six library workers who, together, will select three recommended fiction titles in each reading level, totaling nine Summer Scares selections. The goal of the program is to encourage a national conversation about the horror genre, across all age levels, at libraries around the world, and ultimately attract more adults, teens, and children interested in reading. Official Summer Scares designated authors will also make themselves available at public and school libraries.

The committee’s final selections will be announced on February 14, 2024, Library Lover’s Day. Chapman, along with some of the selected authors, will kick off Summer Scares at the 8th Annual HWA Librarians’ Day, Friday, May 31st, during StokerCon® 2024 at the San Diego Mission Bay Marriott.

Additional content, including podcast appearances, free webinar with Booklist, and lists of suggested titles for further reading, will be made available by the committee and its partners between the announcement of the Summer Scares 2024 titles and the kickoff event.

Of special note is the annual Summer Scares Programming Guide, courtesy of HWA Library Committee Co-Chair Konrad Stump and the Springfield-Greene County Library, which provides creative ideas to engage horror readers. Centered around the official Summer Scares titles, the guide offers tips and examples for readers’ advisory, book discussion guides, and sample programs, enabling librarians, even those who don’t read or especially enjoy the horror genre themselves, to connect their communities with Summer Scares. To see past year’s Summer Scares titles, spokespeople, and programming guides, please visit the program archive: http://raforallhorror.blogspot.com/p/summer-scares-archive.html.

This year, Summer Scares is once again excited to partner with iRead and all ages Summer Reading Program developed by librarians for libraries. iRead is used by libraries across the United States and around the world through their partnership with the US Department of Defense, bringing Summer Scares to our military families deployed all over the world.

2024 also brings NoveList as an official partner after a few years of providing program support.

“The goal of connecting readers with their next favorite book shapes everything we do at NoveList. We know reading can transform and delight, including being delightfully frightened,” said Danielle Borasky, Vice President of NoveList. “The dedication of the Summer Scares program to connecting readers of all ages with horror aligns with our passion for matching every reader with their next book,” she added. “Our team includes devoted genre readers, including die-hard horror fans, so we understand the importance of genre fiction. We're thrilled to support a program that highlights how enriching horror can be for readers.”

“I've been unofficially involved in parts of the Summer Scares program for the last couple of years and have worked to spotlight the selections in the NoveList databases. While collaborating with Summer Scares, I've also become an HWA member and a more active member of the horror community, which has been a wonderful gift,” said Yaika Sabat, MLS, Manager of Reader’s Services for NoveList. “I am fortunate to channel my lifelong love of horror into helping readers discover the genre in my work, both in NoveList and beyond,” she added. “As someone who began reading horror as a child and considers every season the right time to read horror, I'm thrilled to join the Summer Scares selection committee.”

Keep your eyes peeled for more updates coming soon from Booklist, Book Riot, NoveList and United for Libraries, as well as at the HWA’s website: www.horror.org and RA for All Horror: http://raforallhorror.blogspot.com/p/summer-scares.html.

Questions? Reach out to HWA Library Committee Chairs Becky Spratford and Konrad Stump via email: libraries@horror.org.

Summer Scares Committee Members:

Clay McLeod Chapman writes books, comic books, children's books, as well as for film and television. His most recent novels include What Kind of Mother and Ghost Eaters. You can find him at www.claymcleodchapman.com.

Becky Spratford is a library consultant and the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, third edition. She reviews horror for Booklist Magazine, is the horror columnist for Library Journal and runs the Readers’ Advisory Horror blog, RA for All: Horror. Becky is also a member of United for Libraries and is currently serving as Secretary for the Horror Writers’ Association.

Konrad Stump is a Local History Associate for the Springfield-Greene County (MO) Library, where he co-coordinates Springfield-Greene's popular “Oh, the Horror!” series, which attracts hundreds of patrons during October. He created the Donuts & Death horror book discussion group, featured in Book Club Reboot: 71 Creative Twists (ALA), and co-created the Summer Scares Programming Guide. Library workers who are interested in cultivating horror programming can contact him at konrads@thelibrary.org for free assistance.

Carolyn Ciesla is an academic library director in the Chicago suburbs. She has worked as a teen librarian and reference librarian, and reviews horror titles for Booklist Magazine. She’s currently enjoying providing all the scary books to her teen daughter, and revisiting a few along the way. You can find her all over the internet as @papersquared.

Kelly Jensen is an editor at Book Riot, the largest independent book website in North America. She covers all things young adult literature and has written about censorship for nearly ten years. She is the author of three critically-acclaimed and award-winning anthologies for young adults on the topics of feminism, mental health, and the body. She was named a person of the year in 2022 by Publishers Weekly and a Chicagoan of the year in 2022 by the Chicago Tribune for her anti-censorship work. She has also earned commendation from the American Association of School Librarians for her censorship coverage. Prior to her work at Book Riot, she was a public librarian for children, teens, and adults in several libraries in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. She is currently enrolled in a clinical mental health counseling master's program to bolster her work with mental health.

Yaika Sabat (MLS) comes from a background in public libraries of various sizes. She nowworks at NoveList as the Manager of Reader Services, where she trains library staff nationwide on readers’ advisory, creates genre-focused content, and works on reader-focused products and services. As a Horror Writers Association’s Library Advisory Council member, she works to help librarians understand and embrace the horror genre. Her other passions include writing, graphic novels, film (the scarier, the better), and folklore.

Julia Smith joined the Books for Youth team at Booklist in 2015, where she is now a senior editor. Her love of middle-grade literature and all things unsettling and strange draws her to creepy children's stories. You can follow her at @JuliaKate32 on Twitter. 

Monday, October 30, 2023

Attack of the Best Lists 2023: It All Begins With PW's Best Books

This post is part of my year end "Attack of the Best Lists" coverage. To see every post in my "Attack of the Best Lists 2023" coverage [and more backlist best of the year options] you can click here.

It begins earlier and earlier every year. The annual "Attack of the Best Lists." I used to be surprised when "Best Lists" started showing up on November 1, but here we are, it's not even Halloween and a major year endif the yea "best list" went live last week. I will say I am not surprised this one came first because not only is it the most useful of the best lists, but it is also updated and available year round w/ super easy backlist access. In other words, the Publishers Weekly Best Books portal is not only the first list but probably the most useful of the bunch. 

Look at that screen shot. From the Best Books of 2023 page on PW you can access by all ages and genres as well as single click access going back to 2010! And it includes their Summer Reads picks and overall Best titles in one place

This inclusion of Summer Reads access is key because often, those books are better general reads options but they don't always make the year end lists. This allows the PW Best Books portal to be a one stop shop for great reads.

Nowhere will you find a resource that puts this many "sure bet" options in front of you so easily. There are literally hundreds of titles here, at your fingertips, both old and new, that you can confidently suggest to readers immediately. And for so many readers. Readers who read across all age levels [down to infants] and in just about every genre. 

And, since every title is annotated, you also have a book talk [or annotation] for each title right there. You don't have to have read the book to suggest it. [Reminder: Use the Words of Others.]

I could keep gushing about how much I love this resource but I would rather you played around with it yourself.

Click through, check out the 2023 titles, but also look back at older titles, read the annotations, check genres you love and those you don't normally read, especially those you don't normally read because you will learn much about the current state of that genre [trends, popular authors] this year and going back a few years. You can both get access to some great sure bet suggestions AND brush up on your genre knowledge all in one place.

Spend some time really getting to know this resource. And then use it-- all of it including past years and both summer and year end lists-- to make your own lists for your readers. Make displays [digital displays too], make suggested reading lists by genre, by year, by whatever you want. Just embrace the wealth of information available to you with one click and help readers in ways they would not think to help themselves.

Go check out this database of "sure bet" reads for any season, and keep it bookmarked for use anytime you need a solid suggestion [especially for those hard to satisfy readers].

And keep an eye out here on the blog for more "Attack of the Best Lists" posts coming as they are announced. And they will be announced at a fast clip from today onward until the end of the year.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

RA for All at ILA Annual

Hello from Springfield, IL where I am currently attending and working at the Illinois Library Association Annual Conference. As a presenter and a member of the ILA Board, I will be very busy, but busy in a GREAT way because all of it is about helping and working with my Illinois Library people. 

I will be off from posting on the regular blog here during the conference, although I will be taking notes throughout the 3-day conference and at some point after the eventI will have a post or 2 with comments.

However, for fresh content, remember, I do have plenty happening on 31 Days of Horror throughout ILA Annual, including a giveaway on Thursday. 

I also have pens and stickers. You can acquire some at my 2 presentations (along with LibraryReads swag) or by stopping me and asking for them as I am wandering around the conference. 

In terms of specific things I am presenting at or hosting, here is a list:

  • Tuesday morning your coffee and tea is brought to you by....me... RA for All. You're welcome.
  • Panel: Connect, Collaborate, Thrill, and Chill with the HWA and Their Not-So-Scary Friends
  • Trustee Day: I will be checking in all of the Trustees at Breakfast and Lunch and assisting with both events.
  • Program: Cultivate Belonging: How We Moved EDI Initiatives from Training to Action

I will also be at Tuesday morning's, keynote, the awards luncheon, Wednesday's ILA member meeting w/ the President's Program Speaker, Trivia night, and the Ghost Walk. This list is NOT comprehensive.

Everything else anyone, anywhere wants to know about ILA Annual is here.

I hope to see you there if you are an IL library person. But if you are not, as you can see, I did make he slides for everyone on the panels I organized available to view. Please take advantage of those links.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Resource Alert: How to Read A Review (Instead of The Book) and the Final Issue of The Corner Shelf for 2023

The last issue of Booklist's Corner Shelf newsletter for 2023 is upend can be read here. 

While all the content in this newsletter is useful, I want to draw your attention, in particular, to Susan's article, Booklist Better:How to Read a Review (Instead of Reading the Book). This is a skill I spent time on with the students when I taught the RA class at the graduate school. And I always used Booklist reviews as my examples.Why? Because Booklist reviews are always written to the best possible reader of the book. They do not waste your time with reviews for a book no one you are serving would like. That focus on writing to the best reader also means that the reviewers (myself included) focus on the appeal of the book and what the author does best. 

I now mention using reviews to help readers without reading a book in all  my programs, but I don't have the time to get into it in depth anymore. Thanks to Susan for breaking it down in detail.

Below is Susan's editor's note for the entire issue with links as well or you can just click here for the whole thing at once.

You can also click here for previous issues as well. Most of the information in this newsletter is evergreen. 

Editor's Note

Hello Shelfers,

It's spooky season, sweater weather, pumpkin spice season, and time to start thinking about the best books of the year. I know! Already!

This is the last issue of Corner Shelf for 2023 (don't be sad! We'll be back in February), and as is tradition, I'm going to share some of my fave reads of the year. There were so many good ones! But if I had to narrow it down, I would put The Hotel of Secrets, by Diana Biller, near the top. It perfectly captures a competent heroine, a delightfully repressed hero, and glittering nineteenth-century Vienna with humor and emotion. But there are others that I can't stop thinking about: Uzma Jalaluddin's effervescent Much Ado about Nada, a Persuasion retelling set in Toronto; Lush Lives, by J. Vanessa Lyon, a hot, perceptive novel about art and authenticity; and the intense, compulsively paced locked-room thriller, There Should Have Been Eight, by Nalini Singh.

If you haven't read any of these, fear not: in a new edition of Booklist Better, I walk you through how to read a review, looking for clues to the appeal of a book so you can talk about it without reading the book. It's not cheating! It's readers' advisory!

Also in this issue of Corner Shelf, we've got a preview of some great forthcoming documentaries from Audio Editor Heather Booth, the top 10 romance novels of 2023, and Excerpt from the Experts about building a manga collection (you know you have patrons who love manga . . . ), and a link to the latest Shelf Care: The Podcast, all about creative ways folks are raising awareness of the rising tide of book challenges and bans.

What cool readers' advisory and collection development stuff are you doing at your library? Share with me and you could be featured in an upcoming Corner Shelf newsletter!

Happy reading, friends.

—Susan Maguire 
Senior Editor, Collection Development and Library Outreach, Booklist 

Friday, October 20, 2023

Becky's Most Popular Program Descriptions

I order to make it easier to book me, I have created a document with my most popular programs and their descriptions.

You can access that page directly here.

You can also  access it on my Recent and Upcoming Presentations page. That page also includes my rates, which will go up for those booking after 12/31/24. 

The Recent and Upcoming Presentations page is also a good place to go to see how other libraries use my programs to build larger training plans. 

I am currently fielding training requests at about 3 a week right now, so even if you are just thinking about having me at your library in 2024 (I have a few December 2023 virtual openings), contact me ASAP to lock in 2023 pricing. Contact info at the end of the program description page.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Using Awards Lists As a RA Tool: Carnegie Medal Edition

This is part of my ongoing series on using Awards Lists as a RA tool. Click here for all posts in the series in reverse chronological order. Click here for the first post which outlines the details how to use awards lists as a RA tool.  

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Carnegie Medal Selection Committee because last year, I was a part of that group.

Unfamiliar with this award? From the website:

The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, established in 2012, recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the U.S. in the previous year and serve as a guide to help adults select quality reading material. They are the first single-book awards for adult books given by the American Library Association and reflect the expert judgment and insight of library professionals who work closely with adult readers. The winners (one for fiction, one for nonfiction) are announced at an event at the ALA Midwinter Meeting; winning authors receive a $5,000 cash award. For more information on award seals, please visit the ALA store.

A longlist comprised of no more than 50 titles is released in the fall. Six finalists, three fiction and three nonfiction, are announced in November.  The winners are announced at the RUSA Book and Media Awards Ceremony in January.  All honored titles are nominated by the members of the selection committee. The awards do not accept submissions.

Part one of the selection committee's assignment is to select a long list of no more than 50 titles. 

Here is that official long list announcement:

Forty-five books (21 fiction, 24 nonfiction) have been selected for the longlist for the 2024 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. The six-title shortlist—three each for the fiction and nonfiction medals—will be chosen from longlist titles and announced on November 14, 2023. The two medal winners will be announced by 2024 selection committee chair Aryssa Damron at the Reference and User Services Association’s Book and Media Awards livestreaming event, premiered during LibLearnX in Baltimore on Saturday, January 20th at 9:45 a.m. Eastern time. A celebratory event, including presentations by the winners and a featured speaker, will take place at the 2024 ALA Annual Conference in June 2024 in San Diego. Carnegie Medal winners each receive $5,000.

Share your favorite Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence longlist titles on social media using the #ALA_Carnegie hashtag!

Click here to see all of the titles.

Now the hard part begins for the committee as they must whittle down these 20+ titles in fiction and nonfiction to 6 titles-- 3 fiction and 3 nonfiction. That announcement will be on November 14th as noted above.

And finally, like all of my awards lists post, I need to remind you about the backlist. The Carnegie Medal homepage has access to the winners, short list, and long list titles going all the way back to 2012 and up to the present all with one click. All of these titles make for excellent suggestions and the 6 annual short list titles all have an annotations for you to use to suggest them to readers immediately. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

What I'm Reading: Candy Cain Kills by Brian McAuley in Booklist

After having 4 reviews in the 10/1/23 issue of Booklist, I have just 1 in the 10/15/23 issue, but it is a good one. Below is my draft review With bonus appeal info.

by Brian McAuley
Nov. 2023. 172p. Shortwave, paper, $13.99  (9781959565192)
First published October 15, 2023 (Booklist). 

Shortwave Publishing’s series of novellas entitled, “Killer VHS, '' feature characters finding an old VHS tape that summons a monster. Film professor and screenwriter, McAuley, sleighs it with the second book in the series. It's Christmas Eve 2005 and teens Austin and Fiona are headed from LA to a remote cabin in the mountains, with their parents. But little do they know, that this house was the site of a grisly disaster 10 years previously, when an entire family died on Christmas morning. With great characters, including authentic LGBTQ and disability representation, multiple points of view, original, bloody, and cinematic kills, a fresh and twisty story with just the right amount of nostalgia, and a perfect dose of dark humor, this book is exactly what it claims to be, “Goosebumps for Grown ups,” and oh, what fun that is for Horror readers. An early holiday gift for fans of slashers in any format but specifically The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones, Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare, and Ten by Gretchen McNeil

YA Statement: With its teen protagonists and tongue in cheek dark humor, this bloody slasher is a great choice for older teens who have graduated from Goosebumps and love the slasher subgenre either to read or view.

Further Appeal: You will be able to read this book and single setting which is good because you will not be able to stop once you start. It is way too much fun for how bloody it is. Do not miss this, or the entire series. A Holiday treat for all slasher fans from YA and up.

I loved the early internet and cell phone stuff. 1995 home movies. All the nostalgia. Authentic and fun.

A bit campy but on purpose. Lacks the social commentary of a Clown in the Cornfield but that is not the point of his book. It is what is sets out to be and that is a GREAT THING.

And LOOK AT THAT COVER!!! Sells itself.

Three Words That Describe This Book: slasher, well drawn characters, bloody fun

Readalikes: So many great slasher readalikes (some listed above). This one also reminded me of Brian Keene's Castaways. Very violent and yet you have so much fun reading it. A lot of that has to do with the excellent characterization and perfectly rendered setting.

Since reading this novella, I also read and reviewed Midnight on Beacon Street by Emily Ruth Verona. This is also a great readalike. 

And then there are all the Christmas season Horror readalikes, like I discussed in my review of Ellen Datlow's anthology, Christmas and Other Horrors earlier this month.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

LibraryReads: November 2023

Editors note: I know this is one day late. 31 Days of Horror comes first in October, but I am also presenting at the New England Library Association Conference this morning, my 3rd of 3 talks (Horror RA) and it is sponsored by LibraryReads, so all is not lost. Also, as I told Rebecca Vnuk, LR Executive Director, to be fair, LR was also one day late this month (due to the 15th being on a Sunday). But I digress. Back to the LR regular programming.

  It's LibraryReads day and that means four things here on RA for All

  1. I post the list and tag it “Library Reads” so that you can easily pull up every single list with one click.
  2. I can remind you that even though the newest list is always fun to see, it is the older lists where you can find AWESOME, sure bet suggestions for patrons that will be on your shelf to actually hand to them right now. The best thing about LibraryReads is the compound interest it is earning. We now have hundreds and hundreds of titles worth suggesting right at our fingertips through this archive OR the sortable master list allowing you to mix and match however you want.
  3. You have no excuse not to hand sell any LibraryReads titles because there is a book talk right there in the list in the form of the annotation one of your colleagues wrote for you. All you have to say to your patron is, “such and such library worker in blank state thought this was a great read,” and then you read what he or she said.
  4. Every upcoming book now has at least 1 readalike that is available to hand out RIGHT NOW. Book talk the upcoming book, place a hold for it, and then hand out that readalike title for while they wait. If they need more titles before their hold comes in, use the readalike title to identify more readalike titles. And then keep repeating. Seriously, it is that easy to have happy, satisfied readers.
So get out there and suggest a good read to someone today. I don’t care what list or resource you use to find the suggestion, just start suggesting books.

Please remember to click here for everything you need to know about how to participate. Click here to see a database of eligible diverse titles sorted by month.

And finally, here is LibraryReads' extremely helpful Resources page.

New in February 2023-- a bonus pick with an annotation by a LibraryReads Board member. See this month's pick at the end of this post. It also appears on the PDF list for printing and displaying at your library.

Now let's get to the November 2023 list.... 

Bookshops & Bonedust
Travis Baldree
(Tor Books)

In this worthy prequel to Legends & Lattes, a young Viv is laid up in the quiet town of Murk after her enthusiastic inexperience leads to a serious injury. She gradually assembles a group of friends including a swear-happy bookshop owner, a mercenary turned baker, and an irrepressible Gallina, eager to join Rackham’s Raiders. Murk doesn’t stay quiet for long with Viv around, and there’s plenty of coziness in the bookshop, eating delicious baked goods, and flirting with a new friend.

—Lauren Abner, KY Dept for Libraries & Archives, KY
 NoveList read-alike: Under the Whispering Door  by TJ Klune

And now, the rest of the list:

The Future: A Novel
Naomi Alderman
(Simon & Schuster)

What would happen if three companies (think Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter), were removed from the world and their money put to saving the planet and all of the people on it? Alderman once again places the reader in a world that is falling apart, run by greedy billionaires who don't care what damage they do as long as they keep making more money. Look into The Future and get an idea of how that might go.

—Linda Quinn, LibraryReads Ambassador
NoveList read-alike: Stay This Day and Night With Me by Belén Gopegui

Day: A Novel
Michael Cunningham
(Random House)

This intimate and almost claustrophobic book follows a family on the same day in three different years: April 5th of 2019, 2020, and 2021. The story is about endings, beginnings, aging, relationships, and the impact of Covid-19. A lyrical novel, with deft prose and a focus on the internal lives of the characters. Cunningham has a gift of providing just enough detail to engage readers without weighing the prose down.

—Chad Cunningham, Monroe County Library System, NY
NoveList read-alike: Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

Good Girls Don't Die
Christina Henry

Celia finds herself trapped in someone else’s life. Allie’s birthday trip turns into a slasher fest in a cabin in the woods. Maggie is kidnapped and made to play a dangerous dystopian maze game. All three women find themselves in situations reminiscent of their favorite horror fiction, and are fighting to survive. What is really happening, and is it possible to make it out alive? A thrilling page turner.

— Candice Machata, North Kingstown Free Library, RI
NoveList read-alike: My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

Plot Twist
Erin La Rosa
(Canary Street Press)

Romance writer Sophie has the hots for her landlord, former indie movie star Dash. He's stand-offish, but that's because he's harboring a secret crush on her. Their paths collide when, hungover, she barfs on him. Readers will be charmed by this sexy, low- stakes romance as the the relatable characters slowly build themselves up to reach for each other.

—Jennifer Rusche, William Jeanes Memorial Library, PA
NoveList read-alike: Exes and O's by Amy Lea

Class: A Memoir of Motherhood, Hunger, and Higher Education
Stephanie Land
(Atria/One Signal)

Life after Maid is where Class begins, and takes us to the heart of systemic inequity that exists in this country. Unflinchingly honest and gripping, this is a memoir that is either relatable, pivotal, and/or eye opening. It will change readers.

— Jesica Sweedler DeHart, Neill Public Library, WA
NoveList read-alike: How Far to the Promised Land by Esau McCaulley

The Manor House
Gilly Macmillan
(William Morrow)

Childhood sweethearts Nicole and Tom win the lottery and are thrust into a life of splendor, including a dreamy glass mansion. When Tom turns up dead in the pool, Nicole doesn't know whom she can trust—was Tom’s death a tragic accident or is someone trying to get a piece of the winnings? Macmillan's latest is perfectly paced suspense.

—Kaite Stover, Kansas City Public Library, MO
NoveList read-alike: The Last Party by Claire Mackintosh

A Grandmother Begins the Story: A Novel

Michelle Porter

A young Métis woman seeks to learn about her heritage as her mother tries to reconcile their lost years while protecting her daughter from what she perceives as the sins of her own mother. Told from the point of view of five generations of women, this is a beautiful and affecting debut.

—Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, NJ
NoveList read-alike: Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

The Mystery Guest: A Maid Novel

Nita Prose
(Ballantine Books)

When a famous author dies before he can make an important announcement about his career, Molly can't help but insert herself into the investigation. Molly and her friend Angela work to prove the author was murdered, but solving the case is not easy. Fans of the first book in this series will not be disappointed, and the ending may mean another sequel.

—Cari Dubiel, Twinsburg Public Library, OH
NoveList read-alike: How Lucky by Will Leitch

The Other Half
Charlotte Vassell
(Anchor Books)

There's something about the sleaze hidden beneath a thick veneer of lucre that is always compelling. The posh characters here are in and out of each others' pockets (and beds). When one winds up dead beneath a hedge, a trio of outsider detectives seek out who is responsible. The mystery is tidied up nicely, with enough hanging threads to leave readers excited for more.

—Krista Feick, Columbus Metropolitan Library, OH
NoveList read-alike: The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Board Bonus pick:

Constance Fay

Notable Nonfiction: 

Dolls of Our Lives: Why We Can't Quit American Girl
Mary Mahoney and Allison Horrocks
(Feiwel & Friends)

See our social media for annotations of the bonus picks

The LibraryReads Hall of Fame designation honors authors who have had multiple titles appear on the monthly LibraryReads list since 2013. When their third title places on the list via library staff votes, the author moves into the Hall of Fame. Click here to see the Hall of Fame authors organized in alpha order.

The Good Part: A Novel
Sophie Cousens
(G.P. Putnam's Sons)
NoveList read-alike: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

Do Your Worst
Rosie Danan 
NoveList read-alike: Well Met by Jen DeLuca

The Kingdom of Sweets: A Novel of the Nutcracker
Erika Johansen
NoveList read-alike: The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw

A Power Unbound
Freya Marsk
NoveList read-alike: Spellbreaker novels by Charlie N. Holmberg

Hunt on Dark Waters
Katee Robert
NoveList read-alike: Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward

Inheritance: The Lost Bride Trilogy
Nora Roberts
(St. Martin's Press)
NoveList read-alike: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

System Collapse
Martha Wells
NoveList read-alike: Imperial Radch series by Ann Leckie

Monday, October 16, 2023

Why I Love Horror by Horror Legend Gemma Files With Access to 6 Giveaways.

Over on 31 Days of Horror I have a 9 day series that began yesterday and features the clients of literary agent, Becky LeJeune. Click through (or see below) to read today's post featuring Horror Legend, Gemma Files and for the link to get in on the giveaways this week.

31 Days of Horror: Day 16-- Why I Love Horror Featuring Becky LeJeune Client and Horror Legend, Gemma Files

From October 15-23, I am bringing you 8 authors, and their agent as part of Why I Love Horror along with 6 giveaways all to be pulled on 10/20 after 5pm Eastern.

Now, longtime readers of this series know that each year I have spotlighted a small press during 31 Days. Well, this year I decided to try something different. I reached out to Becky LeJeune from Bond Literary Agency to see how we can work together to promote Horror authors. 

But why Becky LeJeune? That one is easy to answer. LeJeune has not only come to StokerCon the last few years, but also, she has made a point to come to Librarians' Day. I have gotten to know her over the last few years. I both trust her as a human and trust her to not represent a-holes.  

Look, I was honest with LeJeune and I will be honest with you, I have had pretty good luck with the small presses I have invited over the years (only one turned out to be shady), but with the number of bad actors out there and having exhausted the publishers I feel confident about, I am trying something new.

So for 9 days, we will meet a variety of authors from genre legends to up and comers and even a nonfiction writer. You will be exposed to a wide variety of horror practitioners, all of whom are great for your public library collections.

I know there are some aspiring writers who read this blog as well, so I also asked LeJeune to share what she is looking for in clients, and she said:

I am looking for authors who are passionate about their work but are also open to edits and discussions about how we can potentially improve the work for submission to editors.

I'll reopen to queries January 2024

Over the course of this series I will note which posts come with a chance to win a book. Please see the most recent giveaway for rules. Those rules apply here as well.

I will pull 6 separate winners over the weekend of 10/21. The winner of each book will be pulled in the order in which the titles are presented here on the blog. Also, note that the mailing of the titles will be orchestrated by LeJeune, so no RA for all pen and sticker for these 6 winners. But honestly, I would not have been able to give away this many books with my October schedule, so I think it is a fair tradeoff. More books, less RA of All swag. 

Today, it's Gemma Files, author of the modern Horror classic Experimental Film, and a brilliant multiple award winning author. I am not exaggerating when I say you should have everything she has written on your library shelves. 

Her latest release comes out in 2 days, Blood from the Air and Grimscribe, the publisher, is offer a copy to one of you as part of this series [see link above for giveaway rules]. 

I greatly appreciate Files agreeing to participate because I know she does not make many appearances. Her piece below, entitled, "Horror As Self Love" is a great example of the heart and emotion she puts into all of her work, her technical skill at telling a story, and her “Monster pride.”



By Gemma Files 

There was a time when I knew I was, at base, unlovable. The world around me had been pretty clear on this point, almost since I could remember—received wisdom at its finest, hard-learned from personal experience, a lifetime of blundering through and failing to be anything like “normal” enough to pass, let alone thrive. My interests were narrow and hyper-specific, my marks either extremely high or extremely low. I had trouble understanding why I needed to excel at things I wasn't interested in, or keep on trying if I wasn't immediately gifted in some area. I had serial BFFs, until I inevitably lost them. And I was just too much, for everybody, even myself: Too angry, too horny, too lonely, too excited, too sad, too weird, too off-putting, too apt to talk only in monologues and cut no one any slack, or share, or be “fun.”

Oh yeah, I could lie for a while, pretend to be something I wasn't, but they always figured it out, eventually. And then things went right on back to the way they'd always been—me, alone, trying to tell myself I didn't care but caring anyhow, deeply. Always wondering what was wrong with me, exactly, aside from...fucking everything, apparently.

There was a diagnosis for what I was, I eventually discovered, but it hadn't been invented yet and was rarely applied to girls even once it was, so I never actually got one. I had to re-engineer it from scratch when, after my son was placed on the autism spectrum, I ran across a list of symptoms for what used to be called Asperger's Syndrome and thought: Holy shit, that's me. Of course, I'd been masking socially for more than thirty years at that point, and though I don't think I ever became super-good at concealing my true self's parameters, I'd at least figured out some of the basics, like how to hold a conversation (listen to the other person, express interest, ask questions but don't volunteer), how to keep a job (find something you like enough to become an authority on, learn and set standards, try not to be an asshole), how to make a family.

It was that last part was the part that taught me so much more than any other, only starting with showing me how nothing was ever “wrong” with me—how I wasn't either too much or not enough, just different, exactly like the boy I gave birth to. That I could be kinder and more patient than I'd ever given myself credit for being, now I finally knew how much of my rage had really been fear, and could be let go of. That I was very definitely not unlovable, especially by the one person on earth who matters most.

Throughout all of this, meanwhile, horror somehow became my emotional and creative safe space, long before that particular phrase was ever coined. I'd been making up stories since before I could read, and almost all of them tended towards the darkest side of whatever genre first caught my attention: first myths and fairytales, then comics, then fantasy and science fiction, then finally horror itself, straight from the vein. Dracula led to vampires, vampires led (through 'Salem's Lot) to Stephen King, Stephen King led to Peter Straub, and so on. Around the 1990s, when I was already reviewing movies for money, I discovered a brave new world of (then) female-identified authors who really made my gears shift: Kathe Koja, Poppy Z. Brite, Caitlin R. Kiernan. I'd already started writing stories, but now I started selling them, then teaching other people how to write them. I won an award, had my stuff adapted for television, wrote books, sold them, won some more awards.

After a lifetime's internal struggle against the burden of pretending to be the person I thought the world was telling me I “should” be, I evolved into who I am...what I was always meant to be: A horror writer, and proud of it.

People have always argued a lot about what horror is “good for,” or if it's good for anything at all. Good for letting off steam; good for playing out our fears in controllable ways; good for highlighting the underside lurking beneath a light, bright, perpetually “happy,” virtue-signalling world. Recently, both during and in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, there's been a certain amount of recognition given to the thesis that in times of turmoil, threat and disturbance, horror provides confirmation that the illusion of universal safety was only ever that, so maybe we shouldn't spend so much time berating ourselves for our inability to simply buck up, keep calm and carry on in the face of immediate existential dread.

Another thing horror's always been good for, however, is for routinely skewing perspective away from the default towards the non-. As a genre founded by women, from stories of “raw-head and bloody bones” told by grandmothers over Christmas and Lady Cynthia Asquith's ghost story collections to the world-rocking narrative depth charge of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, its true roots have forever lain less in normativity than in derangement, in prising up the rock of received wisdom to watch what squirms out from beneath. Throughout cultural history, it's been consistently typified as abnormal, sick, Weird and queer and obsessed with things supposedly better left unexplored, unstated...and you know what? So it should be. So it should always be.

Partway through my own personal journey, creative and otherwise, I coined a phrase of my own that still means a lot to me: “Monster pride.” It means accepting the worst parts of yourself, all your most awful impulses, and choosing to love yourself anyways. To know who you are, right down to the blackest thoughts and bloodiest chunks of bone-marrow. To make a house for yourself out of those things, and call it home.

Because when your body and/or brain literally doesn't work the same way everyone else's seems to, you can absolutely grow up feeling like a freak, a weirdo, a monster. But then you start to find other monsters, ones you can identify with...monsters from myths and stories and songs, from books and TV and movies. And after a while, the similarities attract you as much as they scare you, so you become increasingly excited whenever something gives you that jolt, that sting, that electric shock of disgust and terror and existential dread, numinous awe, transportation. You start to want to break it down for parts and analyze them, learn how they work, how to use them, and be used by them—to become a shapeshifter, at least inside your own head. Become the thing that scares you most, speak with its voice, internalize its power. To make your own monsters.

And by “you,” of course, I mean me. But maybe you too, someday, if you're lucky.

Long story short: I love horror unabashedly, the same way I love my son, and for basically the same reasons. Because I never thought I could love myself, or be loved for myself, but I am. I always was.  

Horror taught me that.