Sunday, February 19, 2017

It came from the library!

I tend to believe that the most effective way to promote a particular genre is through displays. While programming is fun and necessary when building a community of readers, I don't think it's going to be as effective in getting people to check out a specific novel or genre. It's the same reason bookstores put together eye-catching displays: it draws people in. There's also an aspect of impulse buying to displays. Readers might think "why not?" and check out an item if a display catches their eye.

For Teen Read Week in 2012, the theme was "It Came From the Library." The idea was to promote horror and thrillers, and I think this would be equally effective for adult marketing. Here's a sample of the promotional material put out by YALSA.

This could be adjusted to accommodate an older crowd. So many older readers have a fondness for (or at least remember) classic horror movies, so I think this phrase would play well to such a crowd. A display could be created using this theme, promoting classic horror novels and new authors like Justin Cronin and his Passage series. It would be no trouble to use integrated advisory here. The library could promote classic horror films alongside the fiction titles, as well as including any spooky non-fiction available. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, Spook by Mary Roach, and Death's Acre by William Bass and Jon Jefferson would all be excellent non-fiction additions to such a display. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Romance Annotation: Undone

Banks, M., & 3M Company. (2014). Undone. New York: Harlequin.

Synopsis: Pippa Laingley is a driven career woman, a caring friend, and has an unfortunate crush on Cameron Hollingsworth. Cam drives her crazy with his pompous attitude and know-it-all demeanor, but she can’t stop staring at his handsome face. When he offers to help her at a busy catering event, Pippa can’t believe her ears. Cam Hollingsworth? Sullying his hands with physical labor? As the evening progresses, the tension between the two finally reaches its breaking point in the most unexpected way: Cam proposes a night of no-strings-attached passion. Pippa agrees--she can’t imagine ever wanting to spend more than one night with Cam. But when Pippa discovers their evening together has left her pregnant, Cam’s tragic past comes back to haunt him. Can he learn to love again? Or will he push Pippa away as she offers him the one thing he wants and is terrified of in equal measure: the love of a family.

Romance characteristics: Love-driven plot: the characters are constantly battling their underlying feelings of love and commitment in this novel.
Fast-paced: Things heat up quickly within the story, and the relationship escalates at a rapid pace. Reader emotions: The story allows readers to experience a wide range of emotions through the protagonists. Character growth: Both characters change and grow as a result of their relationship throughout the novel. Archetype characters: Cam’s a roguish businessman hell-bent on the single life, Pippa is a tough as nails business woman with a heart of gold. True romances end in love: No trouble finding a love filled ending here. Read-alikes: The Manning Brides by Debbie Macomber
Married for the Italian’s Heir by Rachael Thomas
Bachelor Unforgiving by Brenda Jackson
Her Little Secret, His Hidden Heir by Heidi Betts
Nobody’s Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips Personal Reaction: I had no idea this novel was actually the 4th in a series by Maya Banks called Pregnancy & Passion until I had already started reading. While I did not feel that it hindered my enjoyment of the novel to have missed the first three, I do think I would have better appreciated the portrayal of Pippa's friends had I known their back stories as well.

Horror Annotation: Hater

Moody, D. (2009). Hater. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press.

Synopsis:  What makes a monster, and how we decide what’s real and perceived; what’s right and wrong? Hater introduces the reader to Danny McCoyne, an everyday working class man as he moves through his day. Danny is disgruntled at work, disgruntled at home, disgruntled at everything. He complains and is generally unpleasant, even when it seems that his life isn’t so bad. When people begin attacking those around them with little to no warning, it’s an odd story for his day and a new burden for the put upon Danny to bear. But, as these brutal attacks rise in frequency, Danny is forced to realize that the world is changing. It appears that an unknown catalyst is causing people to rapidly and randomly change into vicious killing machines. One moment you are yourself, the next, you are a rage filled monster--a Hater.  No one knows what causes the creation of a Hater, a person can change anywhere at anytime. Danny must protect his family even if he doesn’t know how. Do they lock themselves away? Stay off the streets? Through his panic, Danny must survive. But, as the danger escalates, he begins to ask himself, “Who’s next?” Horror Characteristics: Foreboding tone: The novel builds a strong sense of foreboding and fear by introducing an unexplainable threat that may strike anyone at anytime. No one is safe. Monsters: There are no shortage of monsters here. In Hater, it is other people that we must fear. Everyone is suspect. Pace: Slow build, then frantic and action packed. Flawed Protagonist: Danny exudes a generally put upon demeanor. He’s critical, but not in a constructive way. Often says unkind things about his own family. Graphic violence: Descriptive passages of brutal physical attacks are the norm in this novel. Uncertain character fate: Uncertainty and the unknown are common themes in this novel. Read-alikes: The Fireman by Joe Hill
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Red Hill by Jamie McGuire
I am Legend by Richard Matheson
The Fall by Guillermo del Toro Personal Reaction: This was a fun novel. A twist on all the zombie novels that are so popular. I should be clear, zombies are in no way involved in this novel. However, zombie fans will recognize themes and situations similar to most post-apocalyptic zombie novels. Would recommend.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Week 5 Prompt

Looking at the reviews for the romance title, I have to say, I don’t really trust either of them. While I have no reason to disbelieve their reviews, they are both fairly informal and the blog review even goes so far as to use text abbreviations such as “lol.” Again though, that’s pretty commonplace dialogue these days and it is a blog after all, their very nature is relatively informal.

I think this directly speaks to how confusing a genre like romance can be for collection development. For a while, I was in charge of purchasing digital audiobooks for a library system. I distinctly remember receiving the advice to “just buy the romance” because it’s what the people want. Basically, it was heavily implied that it didn’t matter how ridiculous the title may look, it makes no difference when it comes to collection development. That advice always sat wrong in my brain, but I think it speaks directly to the conundrum of these titles. While I agree that the titles should be purchased, the suggestion that I not even bother trying to find “good” titles seemed wrong.

By comparison, the reviews for Angela’s Ashes seem incredibly reliable. They are all from respected sources and include more formal reviews and information. Setting aside my personal aversion to depressing literature (which I highly suspect to be applicable to Angela’s Ashes,) I would be very likely to add this title not only to a personal reading list, but I’d have no trouble adding it to a library collection as well.

I have to assume that many people like to “shame” romance readers. It’s not seen as worthwhile, perhaps, or it’s viewed as lowbrow. I say, who are we to judge? That said, I still do some selection for collection development and reviews are my lifeline. While I’d love to buy everything, that’s just not possible. The reviews help me decide when a decision needs to happen.

To that end, I don’t approve of review sources that steer clear of negative content. I understand not wanting to be brutal to an author, but how can we take the reviews seriously if the scale starts at “good” and only goes up from there? Surely, not every published book deserves these accolades. And that’s okay. By staying honest, the review source gains reliability, reinforcing all the positive reviews they’ve supplied over time.

For collection development, I prefer to use Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist. However, for personal reading recommendations, I hardly ever consult these resources. For personal reads, I stick to more informal sources like Good Reads or bloggers and social media users. Both types of reviews have their place. Being able to read between the lines and glean the kernel of truth the author was after is simply good reading comprehension. While I have no reason to believe romance novels will be taken seriously any time soon, just as I doubt a horror film will ever win a “Best Picture” Oscar, I still think they are both worthwhile and deserving of respect.

Kirkus Style Review: The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield


An homage to classic gothic literature, Setterfield’s first published work weaves a delightfully suspenseful tale that examines the beauty in both truth and lies.

Vida Winter is a beloved, but fiercely reclusive, English novelist. For years she has been plagued by one phrase, “Tell me the truth.” But how do you tell the truth when the world is in love with stories? Endless streams of journalists have sought to uncover the “real” Vida Winter through interviews and--increasingly over the decades--trickery, but Winter’s notorious mystique remains. Setterfield’s novel opens as the protagonist, Margaret Lea, receives an invitation from Winter to visit her home on the English moors. What’s more, she is granting Lea an interview. Winter, suffering from a terminal illness, has decided to record her life story before it is too late. Lea, an amateur writer passing time as a clerk in her father’s rare book store, is surprised and confused at the once in a lifetime proposition, as she has never read a single book by Vida Winter nor been frequently published as an author herself. As Lea decides whether to take on such a task, she reads and becomes entranced by Winter’s novel, Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. The mysteries quickly pile up for the pragmatic Lea, as she discovers this title is a rare find, having been pulled from circulation years ago. The twist? Winter’s book only contains twelve stories. Short on action and long on suspense, Setterfield’s novel beautifully encapsulates a world of secrets, lies, and the profound truths they keep hidden. Readers may be put off by the slow build of information, but will be rewarded through carefully crafted storytelling as the novel unfolds.

Hauntingly and thoughtfully written, fans of gothic literature, such as Henry James’ Turn of the Screw will find success with Setterfield’s debut novel. Those seeking quick thrills and action may wish to look elsewhere, as they will be left wanting here.

Pub. date: Oct. 9, 2007
ISBN: 978-0743298032
Page Count: 432pp
Publisher: Washington Square Press

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Week 3 Prompt

1. I am looking for a book by Laurell K. Hamilton. I just read the third book in the Anita Blake series and I can’t figure out which one comes next!

The fourth installment of the Anita Blake series is The Lunatic Cafe. Using NoveList, I did a search for Anita Blake series, and it lists the titles in publishing order. I could also use Fantastic Fiction, an excellent website for tracking down series installments.

2. What have I read recently? Well, I just finished this great book by Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer. I really liked the way it was written, you know, the way she used language. I wouldn't mind something a bit faster paced though.

I did a search for the Kingsolver novel in NoveList and checked out the read-alikes. In the end, I’d probably recommend Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult because, while it is among the first hits in the read-alikes, NoveList describes the writing style as “compelling,” leading me to believe it’d be a bit faster paced than Prodigal Summer.

3. I like reading books set in different countries. I just read one set in China, could you help me find one set in Japan? No, not modern – historical. I like it when the author describes it so much it feels like I was there!

I did a search for historical Japan, limiting the results to fiction and richly detailed. Based on the results of this search, I’d recommend The Iris Fan by Laura Joh Rowland or Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.

4. I read this great mystery by Elizabeth George called Well-Schooled in Murder and I loved it. Then my dentist said that if I liked mysteries I would probably like John Sandford, but boy was he creepy I couldn't finish it! Do you have any suggestions?

I’d first ask what this reader found creepy about John Sandford because, from perusing the description of Well-Schooled in Murder, it seemed to have a graphic component. After hearing what aspect they didn’t really like, I’d probably move on the read-alikes listed for the George books and suggest Still Life by Louise Penny. This novel is described as leisurely paced by NoveList, so maybe it’d provide enough mystery without the same creepy factor as Sandford.

5. My husband has really gotten into zombies lately. He’s already read The Walking Dead and World War Z, is there anything else you can recommend?

This is probably my ideal question, as I love zombie books intensely and unapologetically. I’d first recommend Max Brooks’ other book, The Zombie Survival Guide since the reader’s husband enjoyed his first book so much. Then, I’d scope out the read-alikes in NoveList to try to make an informed choice. NoveList recommends the Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant, and I’d definitely recommend that series, both personally and professionally. Many of the recommendations are more apocalypse based, and not necessarily focused on zombies, so I’d be wary of suggesting them to this patron. A keyword search for zombies yields better results. I might also recommend The Rising by Brian Keene, based on the results of this search.

6. I love books that get turned into movies, especially literary ones. Can you recommend some? Nothing too old, maybe just those from the last 5 years or so.

Under Quick Links I found a Books to Movies option, which then further led me to the Books to Movies genre within NoveList. Here I was able to limit the results to the last 5 years and peruse the options. I further limited the results to Literary Fiction, but found that limited the choices a bit too much. Based on the results, I might recommend Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain or The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

7. I love thrillers but I hate foul language and sex scenes. I want something clean and fast paced.

I found NoveList a bit unhelpful in this search. There is an option for Christian Thrillers, which are likely to be clean with few to no sex scenes, but it’s also not what the patron asked for. I ultimately ended up doing a genre search for thrillers, with the limiter of chaste to locate the title Fool Me Twice by Stephanie Black. Realistically, I’d probably use another tool for a request like this, probably checking GoodReads for a reading list based on this type of book.

When it comes to finding reads for myself, I tend to utilize a combination of resources. I often heavily rely on in-person recommendations from friends and coworkers, but this can also get you into a spiral of books you know nothing about and don't really care for. However, I also am a big fan of suggested reading lists. GoodReads has so many user-generated reading lists, and I really like to read the feedback people leave on books when making my selection. I also tend to pay attention to end of the year “Best of” lists.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Reading Profile

I've always been a reader. I have a distinct memory of perusing my father's bookshelf while I was in middle school and, incredibly optimistically, picking up The Grapes of Wrath. Now, I have to be honest. I never finished The Grapes of Wrath. Matter of fact, I don't believe I made it much past page 5, but what I like best about this memory is that I absolutely thought I could do it. The size of the book presented a fun challenge to my mind, and I felt confident it was within my reading ability. I have loved reading and will continue to love reading for as long as I have access to books. Even without them, I imagine I'd happily read the backs of cereal boxes until my golden years.

My most favorite genres to read are Young Adult and Science Fiction. Better yet, Young Adult Science Fiction. I do on occasion like to read Non-Fiction, but it's usually a book that has a humorous slant. If you think you don't like non-fiction and you've never read The Year of Living Biblically or The Know It All by A.J. Jacobs, I highly recommend you do so.

I love to have book discussions with friends and colleagues. I find that this is the best way to find my next great read. The passion people feel when talking about a really great book is unmistakable and infectious.

Some of my all-time favorite books are as follows (but in no particular if I could choose!):

A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin
World War Z by Max Brooks
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Graceling Trilogy by Kristin Cashore
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams