Monday, February 27, 2017

Week 7 Prompt

Well, no one likes being lied to...

I particularly can't stand being lied to when it involves a book. When you start reading a book, in reality you're starting a relationship. At least for me, books take time. Books take more effort. It's not as easy as sitting in front of a television and having a movie or TV series show you exactly what they want you to see. There's no suspenseful music to let you know that the bad guy is coming from around the corner, or romantic swells before two characters kiss. All of this is crafted by the writer's words and your imagination. It's what makes a book such a magical object. It can be seen a million different ways by a million different people based on what's meaningful to them.

And that's why situations like embellishing and flat out lying in a personal memoir like A Million Little Pieces feels like a violation. If this is the story that Frey wanted to tell, then that's fine - but label it as "inspired by real life events". To lie and dupe millions of readers (even our beloved Oprah!), seems like a risky gamble and one that ultimately didn't pay off for Frey. Duping people seems to be in Frey's blood. He's since gone on to create a YA publishing company that lures MFA students into signing a contract where he will own their work and may or may not give them credit for it based on the contract posted on the New York Magazine website. 

It shouldn't really come as a complete shock that Frey would like and make things up for personal gain. Addicts manipulate. He even says so himself in the memoir -- "Lying became a part of my life. I lied if I needed to lie to get something or get out of something." At least we can all take comfort in knowing that it is possible for James Frey to tell the truth about something.


"Read the Brutal Contract from James Frey's Fiction Factory – Daily Intel". New York. Retrieved June 18, 2011.

Mozes, Suzanne (November 12, 2010). "Inside Full Fathom Five, James Frey's Young-Adult-Novel Assembly Line". New York. Retrieved June 18, 2011.

Smoking Gun. (2006). A Million Little Lies: Exposing James Frey’s fiction addiction.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Romance Annotation

Covalent Bonds edited by Trysh Thompson


Covalent Bonds is a collection of short stories that feature geeks of all kinds in romantic scenarios. From an FBI consultant trying to woo a world-famous hacker to comic book convention attendees sneaking away for a quick rendezvous, this anthology has something for every flavor of geek. There's a live-streamer who finds love in her own home, horror movie buffs who fall for each other after a chance encounter at a Walgreens, a gamer and game writer who find love as they drive for hours across the several states to save a convention release of a hot new RPG, D&D character swapping with seductive results, a divorced game tester who bonds with her boos while on a work trip, and a poet who argues over sentence diagramming. Stories range from a few pages to a few chapters. Some are gentle romances while others turn up the heat. Characters are as diverse as their geeky interests with different races, disability status and counties of origin are represented. This anthology celebrates individuals in all their geeky glory and electricity is guaranteed.

Romance Characteristics

  • Love story dominates the plot - In all of these stories the love story is the dominating plot. 
  • Happy ending is assured - Some of the stories start out where the protagonists don't get along, but there's always a happy ending. 
  • Writing allows the reader to experience the emotions vicariously - The writers in this anthology definitely describe emotions and sensations like chills, goosebumps, and butterflies in the tummy for the reader to experience. If you've had romantic experiences yourself, it's very easy to recall what that feels like as you read. 
  • Tone can vary - Tone varies from sharp and witty to dreamy and romantic and everything in between.
  • Characters grow and develop into their romance - This is particularly true of the stories where the protagonists don't get along and then grow to love each other. 
  • Characters are often archetypes - The only real archetypes at play here are geeks and the guys are definitely the too good to be true types (or maybe I've just had really bad boyfriends in the past. Ha!) 
  • Often get the view of both protagonists - Usually you hear from the female point of view with the male perspective peppered in. There are a few stories (usually the shorter ones), where you only hear from one gender. 
  • Lovers are always together at the end of a real romance - Check! All happy endings here, from relationships to marriages. 
  • Fairly fast pace - Being that these are all short stories, they move along at a good clip. 

Read alikes 

Hard Day's Knight  One Con Glory
Gaming for Keeps (Agents of TRAIT #1) Love Kinection

Hard Day's Knight by Katie MacAlister  - Renaissance Faire!
One Con Glory by Sarah Kuhn - Comic Con!
Gaming for Keeps by Seleste deLaney - MMORPGs and conventions!
Love Kinection by Jennifer James - Girl gamer, Xbox and Tech Hottie!
  ** I chose to read this for this annotation because I won an advance reading copy off of LibraryThing. This book was released on Valentine's Day this year, so the timing felt right. Also, since I'm a romance genre virgin (pun intended) and a huge nerd, short stories about geeks felt really relatable to me. A beautiful damsel I am not. I am a nerdy t-shirt wearing, comic book reading, d20 rolling, convention attending geek. These stories featured people like me, and that was really appreciated.** 

Week 6 Prompt - Promoting Romance

Prior to taking this course, I had never read a romance novel. The biggest reason for this is that the genre as a whole is very intimidating to me. There are as many different types of romance novels as there are other genres in the library - historical romance, romantic suspense, contemporary romance, gentle romance, hot and steamy romance/erotica, paranormal romance, and on and on. Using the concept of integrated readers' advisory can help librarians recommend appropriate types of romance novels to readers new and experienced alike.

My idea for promoting the romance genre in the library is basically to compare romance books to movies and TV. For example --

"If you like Grey's Anatomy, try ________,"
"If you like 50 Shades of Grey, try these books..."
"If you like Outlander, try these..."

and so on and so forth.

I found some really neat ideas on Pinterest that I would present to my boss to show how I would construct a display for the library. Why reinvent the wheel, right?

This one is my favorite, even though it's geared more towards teens and children.

Shelf Mouse: Lights, Camera, Action!:

It would be fun to combine the theater style booth option with this one --

Pinned here partly for the great idea of a huge array of individual "If You Like" bookmarks, partly for the thought-provoking post it illustrates. Designer Librarian blogs about using readers advisory in academic libraries to close the college reading gap. I want to combine & adapt these ideas for use in the public library. (photo: Reader's Advisory Bookmarks by anthonylibrarian, via Flickr):

Instead of having the bookmarks on the wall, I would put them in the booth.

Budget could be problematic, as well as finding appropriate supplies to make a cool theater style booth (or simply, lack of craft skills). If I met with too much resistance, I would pitch a display like the one below --

Match Your Mood Book Display:

Instead of moods, I would have movie posters/covers and TV show pics.

One other idea that I found on Pinterest that I feel am in love with is the book truck/book mobile. A local bookstore here (Parnassus Books) has their own rolling bookstore and it is quite magical to visit. This is definitely a pipe dream for most (if not all) libraries, but it would be so cool to do up a bookmobile with romance books. It could be the Romance-mobile. You could also change the genre based on the season, a Horror-mobile, Mystery-mobile (and if you don't call it the Mystery Machine that's a real missed opportunity), etc. Instead of ringing customers, you could just check out the books. Oh what fun! This is not at all a possibility, but I wanted to keep it here in my blog so that I don't forget about it. It's fun to daydream, right?

Love this!:

Also, this is completely unrelated to the romance promotion pitch above, but I just wanted to share this here because it's so pretty -

Tiered dress made of pages from romance novels.  From Texas Woman's University Women's Collection, on display at the Denton campus library for the summer.:

It's a dress made from the pages of romance novels!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Kirkus Style Review - Stardust by Neil Gaiman

What magic waits for you just over the wall? That’s what Tristan Thorn is about to discover as he embarks on a journey to bring back a fallen star for his beloved.

Tristan Thorn is living a normal life in the town of Wall, working in a shop and being smitten by the beautiful young Victoria. Victoria doesn’t return Tristan’s affection, but to let him down easy she promises that if he brings her a fallen star (which she’s convinced is impossible) that she will give him a kiss and may even marry him. As luck would have it, Tristan sees a falling star -- and with help from his father he sets out on his journey into the Faerie lands, over the guarded wall that surrounds the town, to retrieve the fallen star for his beloved.  Tristan wasn’t the only person to see the star fall. At the same time Tristan is on his quest to find the star, three sons of the Lord of Stormhold are seeking the star for their own power as is an ancient with named Madame Semele who wants to use the heart of the star to restore her youth. Once he reaches the fallen star, Tristan is surprised to learn that it’s actually a woman named Yvain who has broken her leg in the fall. He captures her with a silver chain and is intent on bringing her back to Victoria. But nothing really goes smoothly in the Faerie realm, does it?  The sons of Stormhold and Madame Semele are in hot pursuit, causing complications for Tristan and Yvain. Who will ultimately end up with the fallen star? Will Tristan win Victoria’s heart, or will he follow a different path?

Stardust is a highly enjoyable fantasy story about learning who you really are and who you really love. Gaiman masterfully blends elements of fantasy and romance into a captivating story with plenty of magical surprises that are sure to delight readers. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Week 5 Prompt

1. I appreciate the reasoning behind Booklist posting only positive reviews, but that doesn't seem to be very helpful. Likewise, I think posting a crushingly negative review isn't that helpful either. I think it's important to express your honest opinion, but also to find a balance between criticism and positive aspects. Critical thinking is key. As for ebook only books - without reviews of these materials, it will be quite difficult to add them to your collection because you may not be aware of their existence, and if you are -- you have no idea what you're dealing with. You run the risk of adding inappropriate materials to your collection, or missing really valuable items that your patrons would love to read. Knowledge is power! 

2. I think that both reviews are reliable in the sense that they express the opinion of the reader. I didn't think the blog review did a good job of explaining why the book was appealing. The synopsis of the story on the blog is nice, but I didn't enjoy reading statements like, "I wasn't hooked to core, but it's okay. I don't dislike it. It's just fine." What does that even mean? And the "I was reading this on New Year's Eve. lol" part really bugged me. Use quotes, give examples, and for god's sake make your review a little more polished and professional. That said -- the writer of this blog post is reading books and reviewing them because they love doing that and I don't mean to sound overly critical. It's just in the context of this course it's a very underdeveloped review. The Amazon review is pretty weak as well because it lacks a real synopsis, but I found the statements about why they liked the novel to be more reliable. I also appreciated that she mentioned that the novel was clean. I think since the romance novel in question is Christmas related and clean, I would definitely add this to my collection. After reading the reviews, I'm not convinced that the story is a romantic suspense novel.  

3. I have never read Angela's Ashes, but after reading the reviews it sounds like McCourt's life was so horrible it sounds almost like fiction. I also found myself getting a little angry and frustrated because the family was so destitute and I couldn't really figure out why they couldn't turn it around. Because the reviews I read sparked that emotional response in me, I would absolutely add this to my collection. It made me want to learn more about the story and Frank McCourt's life in general. Also, because this is a memoir that describes life in a different part of the world in a different time, I think it offers a really valuable point of view that is worthy of any library collection. 

4. It's definitely not fair that one type of book (or one title) is reviewed to death while others don't get as much (if any) coverage. This makes it seem like publishers with big marketing departments are the only ones who get coverage for their books. This makes a library's collection a little skewed to the biggest publishers and indie publishers may get left out. As mentioned above, I think review sources that won't print negative content aren't doing their readers any favors. I think posting savagely negative reviews are just as bad. Maybe I'm weird, but if you don't like a book you should absolutely tell people that in your review, but I appreciate reviews more if they're balanced. It seems more genuine to me that someone just ripping a book, movie or album to shreds. A music blog I read, Pitchfork, once posted a review of Jet album that was simply a video of a monkey peeing in its own mouth. That's just unnecessary and while some might find it humorous, I think it makes the site and the reviewer seem entirely unreliable. 

I don't buy anything for a library, so I'll answer the other question about reviews for personal reading. When I look for reviews I always check out Amazon and GoodReads. I kind of get the feeling that there are about a bajillion book snobs on GoodReads and I think that their reviews can be a little off putting, so I check Amazon too. 

Adventure Annotation

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer


A psychologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor and a biologist cross the border into the dangerous and mysterious Area X. Their mission is to explore but no one really knows what they're supposed to be looking for. They discover a tunnel (which the biologist calls a tower) and that's when the weirdness starts to occur. The biologist discovers that Area X is not what it seems... and worse, neither are her expedition mates. Not even the organization (Southern Reach) who sent them into Area X can be trusted, which the biologist finds out when she visits the lighthouse in Area X. Woven throughout the story of the biologist is the story of her husband, who was on a previous expedition who came back hollow and died of an aggressive cancer 6 month later. Her husband is partly why the biologist decides to volunteer for the expedition. The fact that tragedy struck nearly all 11 previous expeditions is another -- the mystery was too great for this biologist to turn ignore. There's something in that Tower that will change the biologist in ways that she will never be able to fully understand.

Adventure Characteristics

  • Individual or group overcoming a challenge for some moral purpose - the biologist and her expedition mates are charged with exploring the dangerous and mysterious Area X.
  • Brisk, action packed - The book is suspenseful and fast paced
  • Life and death situations - the biologist faces life or death situations several times and not all of the characters mentioned in the book survive. 
  • Hero with mad skills - all of the expedition members have specialized skills that make them suited for their exploration 
  • Foreboding, danger, dark and brooding - Danger abounds in this novel, from the environment to the expedition mates. There is a hypnosis component that really adds to the darkness and the danger. I don't think that it's a spoiler to say that the title Annihilation comes from the hypnosis suggestion that will make an expedition member commit instant suicide. Pretty sinister! 
  • Physical details of the setting - exotic and mysterious places - Area X is strange and exotic but also familiar. The Tower and it's description is very mysterious and otherworldly. 
  • Colorful conversational language that engages the reader in exploits - The story is told via the biologist's journal. It's very engaging to read of this first hand experience of the expedition.
  • Often characters in a series - This is the first in a trilogy called The Southern Reach trilogy which deals with Area X.


Authority by Jeff Vandermeer (Southern Reach Trilogy Book 2)
Acceptance by Jeff Vandermeer (Southern Reach Trilogy Book 3)
The Martian by Andy Weir
Roadside Picnic by Arkadi Strugatskii
Contact by Carl Sagan

**I feel like I should mention that this book was classified as an Adventure story by my local library, so I decided to pick it up because it sounded interesting. The more I read, the more sci-fi it started to get, so I apologize if this isn't the 100% pure Adventure novel you were expecting.**

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Secret Shopper Experience

As I pulled up to the library, I had this nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach that kept nagging at me. "You're gonna mess this up, Laura!" Everyone has a particular skill set, but mine does not include acting. I stepped into the fiction section and saw two men working the desk and one of them was discussing something with another female librarian. I started to browse and waited to see if anyone would ask me if I needed any help. I felt so intimidated and I don't really know why. As if the library gods could feel my plight, within the first 2 minutes I after I walked into the Adult Fiction department the fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate. You can't make this stuff up! While I was standing on the sidewalk waiting to go back inside I formulated a plan. When I was allowed back into the Adult Fiction department, I approached the gentlemen on duty at the desk and asked him if he could help me find a good book to read because it was my New Year's resolution to read more books instead of graphic novels.

Just a small part of the fiction section. There are nice displays,
staff picks, and popular books showcased by genre.
Immediately, we hit it off. I hit the librarian jackpot because this guy was also a huge graphic novel fan. Perhaps because it felt like we understood each other, he didn't really conduct a textbook reference interview. The only question he asked me was about what sorts of graphic novels that I liked to read. He had several selections in his mind, so he never looked at any websites or used any other tools. He left the desk and led me to the stacks where he took me to the books he had in mind. He put them in my hand and let me look at the covers/read blurbs, etc. while he told me about them. He also made sure to let me know if he had or had not read a specific title.

He recommended the following books to me:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

This was recommended to me because it's about comic book creators. I've actually read this one and this is the only book that I didn't seem to fit for me. It's really more about the creators rather than the adventure and supernatural elements that I enjoy in graphic novels. That being said, I totally get why he would recommend this book to me and to be honest, if I were giving readers' advisory services to someone who liked graphic novels, I might recommend it too.

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

This isn't really about superheroes or comics, but he recommended it to me because it's a novel that includes a Dungeons and Dragons type of game and he thought I might like that as well. He hadn't read this book, but it was highly recommended to him by a fellow librarian.

A Once Crowded Sky by Tom King

If you judge a book by its cover, this one is the winner for me. He recommended this book to me because it's about superheroes/villains who lose their powers and have to live in the world like normal people.

Baltimore or the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire and Joe Golem and the Drowning City by Mike Mignola

His last "official" recommendations were two prose novels (although they do contain a few illustrations), by Mike Mignola, who is the creator of the Hellboy comics. He compared these to Lovecraft stories and thought I might enjoy them since I read The Walking Dead.

Although I had quite a stack of books in my hands, he continued to give me ideas and recommendations. He recommended Stephen King to me, and also mentioned the whole zombie novel genre. He also recommended that I check out Hoopla since they have a lot of comics since I enjoy them.

As for the environment of the fiction section, it didn't have any signs or handouts that indicated that they offered readers' advisory services. There were other papers at the desk, but they were mainly in reference to the computers that are also located in the department. There are displays as soon as you walk into the library that show bestseller lists from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, The New York Times, Indie Bound and Publisher's Weekly.

Some of the bestseller lists on display
The library also had really nice book displays set up. They had tables devoted to different themes, staff picks, and they also showcase popular books by genre on the a few shelves when you walk in (with covers facing out to the patron).

A nice display for Black History Month.

In spite of the lack of a real reference interview, I had an excellent experience at with the librarian I spoke with. He was personable and he seemed to be truly excited to get to recommend books to a patron. At the end of the transaction, he thanked me for asking him for help because he enjoyed being able to recommend books. He also mentioned that the library staff just had a meeting last week about recommending more books to patrons. He also let me know that if I didn't like the titles that he chose, he'd be more than happy to help me find others to read. I left the library feeling good about the transaction because it seemed to me like he finally got to act like a librarian, rather than the keeper of the computers.