Sep 4, 2010

Legacy of a Vampire Hunter

Posted by Kirsten at 9/04/2010 01:42:00 PM 0 comments

 

What would you do if you had the same name as a legendary vampire hunter? Not much, other than be annoyed, especially when your father is adamant about the idea that all that supernatural stuff is fiction. Well now imagine that you’ve been sent away to boarding  school and you find out that not only was the legendary vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing real, but that you are his descendant, your father used to be a hunter and now the vampires know who you are and are determined to get you.  That’s what happens in Jason Henderson’s book “Alex Van Helsing”. alex-van-helsing

Alex Van Helsing is 14 when he is sent to a boarding school at the Glenarvon Academy in Switzerland near Lake Geneva.  Unfortunately for Alex, who doesn’t believe in the supernatural, he is very much a descendant of that  Van Helsing and his new school is not the only school located in close proximity to Lake Geneva. The Scholomance, a boarding school fro vampires, is hidden near the lake. A deadly vampire clan lord known only as Icemaker is at the Scholomance and has dangerous plans that will destr5oy Alex and his friends in the process.

Toss in a secret society of vampire hunters, that Alex’s father conveniently forgot to mention to him,  and a couple of friends for moral support and it’s up to Alex to stop The Icemaker and save the day. Using

Action, magic, vampires, and an abundance of clever modern gadgets are everywhere in this book. Its like reading Alex Rider mixed with the supernatural. The pace never lets up and I hope a sequel is in the works!

Jun 29, 2010

Great covers on Tuesday!

Posted by Kirsten at 6/29/2010 06:17:00 PM 0 comments

So I’m going to start a few new things this week. The first is going to be books with interesting covers. Each Tuesday I’m going to post two or three books whose covers I find interesting. Every Thursday I’m going to post books that my friends recommend.

Here are the books for today.

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#1

Sweet Misfortune

by Kevin Alan Milne

This cover caught my attention from the beginning. I don’t know if it was the color of the cover, or the Chocolate dipped fortune cookie that caught my attention but I do know that once I started reading the many misfortunes on the front and back cover I was hooked. I laughed and laughed and I haven’t even read the book yet! I can’t wait to give this one a read. The misfmisfortuneortune on the front says:

“Some people are lucky in love. You aren’t one of them.”

Here is the cover as well as a brief synopsis form the Goodreads website. I’d do my own review, but I haven’t read it yet!

“Sophie owns a chocolate shop where she sells Misfortune Cookies-dipped in bitter chocolate they contain messages she handwrites each day such as "Your car seems fine now, but just wait...it will eventually be a source of frustration and unexpected delay."What starts as a gimmick, turns into a surprise hit with customers. But when her ex-fiancée moves back to their small Washington town, he is surprised at how bitter and unhappy Sophie has become. He proposes a bet--she must place an ad in the paper that simply states "Wanted: Happiness." If at least 100 people respond, proving happiness isn't a myth, she agrees to a date with him. If not, he'll leave her alone forever. Sophie is convinced she'll win, but fate has other ideas when a reporter at the paper is intrigued by the ad as a story and posts it in newspapers across the country.”

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#2

Eyes Like Stars

by Kevin Alan Milne

My choice for cover number two is a teen book. There is just something ethereal about this covers. Everything works together to make it an interesting cover. I’m the first to admit that I’m a huge fantasy nut so it wasn’t a huge leap that I liked this cover. Her blue hair, the fairies with their glowing wings and the font all work together with the muted background to provide a seemingly otherworld quality, which is good eyeslikestarsconsidering that the story takes place in the Théâtre Illuminata. Here’s a synopsis of the book from the Théâtre Illuminata website.

“Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book--an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not one of them, but they are her family--and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.”

Apr 30, 2010

The Mystery of Crafting a Booklist About Crafting Mysteries!

Posted by Kirsten at 4/30/2010 12:15:00 PM 0 comments

For my lab I chose to create a booklist. My first step was to find a library to create a list for so I phoned the manager at one of the branches at home to see if she would I could create my list for her branch. Her answer, of course was “Sure, why not”. This, of course, was the easy part of the assignment.

The next step was to brainstorm a topic for the list. Of course, since the branch didn’t need a book list, but was willing to take one if I created it, the topic was really up to me. So I began thinking about what programs are offered for adults at the branch and what types of displays I had seen set up at the branch. They have a crafting circle that meets once a month but the numbers of attendees is not always very high. I decided to create a list of crafty fiction which I later narrowed down to crafting mysteries in order to create a cohesive handout.  Then I ran into a bit of an obstacle because I wanted to do something super creative like making a wiki or website that could be easily accessible through the internet and simple to update later. Unfortunately the branch manager pointed out  to me that if I used any of those formats then someone on staff would have to update them periodically and that they just did not have the man power/ time imageto regularly keep the list updated. She decided that what they really wanted was a list that they could keep behind their reference desk so that they could reference it when questions about the topic arose from their patrons.

I did create a basic list for them that they could keep behind the desk and made a point to color the copies that they are supposed to own within their branch a different color so that they would know what they are supposed to have and what would have to be on hold for a patron. Although she only wanted the “behind the desk list”,, for the purposes of this assignment I created a list that could be printed and put out for patrons anyway. Here’s the list I created for patrons to see. I used reviews from both Goodreads and Amazon in order to write my own annotations for each book. image

I began thinking of ways that the list could possibly be used in the library to increase attendance at the crafting circle program. There is a glass covered cabinet in the library’s entranceway that is used for displays as well as a bookshelf inside the library that is used to display books. the entrance hall cabinet has been used to display craft related books before so my idea is to create a crafting centered display for either one or both areas. The entrance hall display can include actual samples of items made while crafting. Then the list can be placed out as part of the display so that patrons who are looking for something to read and have an interest in various types of crafting can see what is available. The list can also be placed out for patrons when any display of mysteries is created. It can be given out to individual patrons who show an interest as well. hopefully, a display that promotes crafting of any type will interest more patrons in the crafting circle and in a roundabout way increase the numbers of patrons attending the crafting circle programs!

 

The finished handout is available to the class on Oncourse.

Apr 21, 2010

Reading YA Fiction is OK!

Posted by Kirsten at 4/21/2010 02:20:00 AM 3 comments

I say all of the time that YA fiction is not just for teens. If it was, half of my reading material would be gone. Granted, I read YA fiction for two reasons.

1. I work with teens and it only make sense to understand and know about what they are reading. If I don’t, then I can’t do my job very well. It’s important to know your collection and, for reader’s advisory purposes, to be able to recommend books.

2. Like many other adults, I just like it, which is probably the biggest reason that I read so much YA fiction. It’s entertaining and when it has a message or moral, it generally doesn’t try shove it down my throat. It has the pacing that you expect to find in a children’s book, but the details and types of descriptions and often times topics that you would find in adult fiction. I call it the best of both worlds. YA fiction has not always been popular with adult readers. It has been labeled as “for kids” or “juvenile”. Many adults would not have been caught dead reading YA fiction. Many who did only did so when no one would see it. What happened to change the idea YA fiction was only for teens? Well, Tina Kapinos, in her article Teen Fiction Not Just for Teens Anymore" calls it the “Harry Potter Phenomena”.

The Harry Potter books -- with their complex plots and hefty size -- made it more acceptable for adults to read children's books, said Gail Wetta of Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville. And the advent of these books influenced other writers, said Amy Alessio, teen coordinator for the Schaumburg Township District Library.

More and more often you will find that writer’s who previously only wrote adult fiction are venturing into the YA genre and loving it. For example:

After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away Daniel X image

Witch & Wizard Hoot image

As with adult fiction, many of the adult reader’s of YA fiction tend to be women. That’s not to say that men don’t read fiction, the trend and numbers just tend to lean towards women. Adult women are reading YA fiction for many reasons, not the least of which is that they read what their children are reading.  Some read for their jobs and some just pick up the books because they look interesting.  Of course, many read YA fiction just because they like them, because they’re fun.

The first thought that comes to mind when many people think of teen fiction is the type with the angsty main character that whines through the entire book. At one time this may have been the case. But, as the definition of YA fiction and YA needs has grown, so has the literature in the genre. The writing has matured and expanded until you can find mysteries, science fiction, romance, fantasy,  historical fiction, realistic fiction and humor. The issues dealt with in the realistic fiction sub-genre don’t deal solely with fluffy materials that sugar coat topics and issues.

The quality of writing overall has “upped” it’s game. Both publishers and the intended audience expect quality for their money and writer’s have responded.  This response is reflected in the sales totals. According to Susan Carpenter’s article Young adult lit comes of ageadult hardcover sales were down 17.8% for the first half of 2009 versus the same period in 2008, children's/young adult hardcovers were up 30.7%.”  The numbers speak for themselves.  Just take a look at USA Today’s Best-Selling Books: The top 100 for 2009 where the top four books on the list belong to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. So, if you haven’t been a fan of YA fiction in the past I suggest you give it a try. I’ll even give you a couple of starting points.

    • This list of teen book lists offers four pages of lists. The lists range in topic from The Best YA books and The Best Teen Vampire Fiction to  Best Teen Books About Real Problems, Best Series and

Apr 14, 2010

Urban Fiction: Worthwhile or Waste of Time

Posted by Kirsten at 4/14/2010 01:40:00 PM 2 comments

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There was a time that, when I heard the words “Urban Fiction” I would cringe and think to myself “why in the world would anyone want to read this stuff?” I  would look at books such as Deja King’s Bitch, or Bitch Reloaded  and Noire’s Thong On Fire and I would cringe. From the covers to the subject matter in many of them I would just shake my head and think “There has to be something better for people to spend their time reading”. Seriously, how many times do I have to hear about the hooker with a heart of gold, or someone’s addiction to imagedrugs or stint in a gang? How often do I personally need to hear about the person who is in an unhealthy relationship?  Even worse, how often do I need to watch a mother hand her twelve or thirteen year old daughter a book such as Tanika Lynch’s Whore and say “Ooh girl, this book was good you have to read this!” Really? Is this what parents should be encouraging their children to read? To me that is something you say to friends, not your impressionable child. 

imageWhat bother’s me even more is being pigeon-holed and having people assume that just because I’m African-American, that I automatically do everything and love everything in the world that is considered to be “BLACK”. I’m black, therefore I must love rap music and hip-hop and urban fiction, must have a closet full of clothing from Rocawear and the House of Deréon and must change weave like I wash my hands. In reality, I like country music,  read more fantasy than any other genre of book, could care less what brand I wear as long as it looks good and never worn a hair weave in my life.

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Back to the main topic of the post though. On a personal note, I don’t like the way that urban fiction represents African-American females in general and I specifically don’t like the way that the few professional women are represented. I’m not saying that urban fiction doesn’t have it’s place, because it does. I’d just like to know, as an educated black woman, where are the books with the educated black women? All the women I’ve seen represented in these books, even the ones who are supposed to be educated, leave work and are suddenly ghetto girls.

 

imageThey go from well spoken women with great jobs to scantily clad party girls who couldn’t speak proper English if they had to in the time it takes them to walk out of the building. Realistic? I think not.  Those are just the opinions I’ve formed during my time working in a library and as I’ve been exposed to the genre.

I’ve recently been working on a project and attempting to find Teen fiction that is representative of the African American experience and my research for that project has caused me to take a closer look at its adult counterpart.  According to WikipediaUrban fiction, also known as Street lit, is a literary genre set, as the name implies, in a city landscape; however, the genre imageis as much defined by the race and culture of its characters as the urban setting.” “Typical elements include a rags-to-riches theme, references to the hip-hop music industry, profanity, urban slang, erotic sex scenes, criminal activity, or violence that escalates to murder … Loyalty to one’s friends and neighborhood … the characters often forge bonding relationships during their adolescence that become key to survival. But most important, the story must connect to the "hood," or the streets. The action may move among various lifestyles, but the core value always reverts back to harsh lessons learned in the ghetto.” (1)

imageUrban Fiction is not a new phenomenon. It has been around for the last fifty years. Authors such as Iceberg Slim, Donald Goines and Claude Brown are just a few of the authors who wrote in the genre before before it was even recognized as a genre.

 

 

My conclusions, after learning more about the origins of urban fiction as well as reading the articles that we were given in class, have changed my opinions completely. While I will probably not become a huge reader and fan of urban fiction myself, I can now understand that there is a place for it in society. I see that “even the most unrepentantly fabulous ghetto crime capers are intensely moral, suffused with the code of the street and the dire consequences of hubris and offering much the same perp's-eye view of life as noir fiction and gangster films.”(2) I’ve often said when dealing with teens and children that as long as they’re reading, it doesn't matter the type of material. The point is that they are reading. I realized that I had placed a double standard. If it’s OK for the kids to read varying materials, it should be the same for adults. As long as they’re reading, who am I too complain about the topic and subject.

Urban fiction has become hugely popular and the demand for books within the genre is growing daily. Most libraries cannot keep them on their shelves. I’ve seen the popularity with my own eyes. If we want to bring patrons into our libraries, it’s common knowledge that we need to provide materials that appeal to them. Urban fiction is one of the types of materials that appeal to them so when I ask myself whether urban fiction is worthwhile or  a waste of time I have to take into account the changing attitudes of the readers and the reasons that as a librarian, part of my job is to encourage reading. My answer? I have decided that, while urban fiction may not be for everyone, it is definitely a worthwhile addition to a collection.

 

(1)Library Journal’s eNewsletter, BookSmack’s column, The World on Street Lit. Vol 1: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6530172.html?nid=3294

(2)Wright, D. (2006, July 15). Collection development “urban fiction”: Streetwise urban fiction.Library Journal, http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6349018.html?q=streetwise+urban+fiction.

Annotation #6: Fantasy

Posted by Kirsten at 4/14/2010 01:12:00 PM 0 comments

I’m gonna start this out with a little background before I talk about the book.

Somewhere out in the universe  there are four elephants riding on the back of The Great A’Tuin, a giant turtle. On the back of these elephants is the flat disc that is THE DISCWORLD.  The Discworld

Ankh-Morpork, a city located halfway between the rim and the hub of the Discworld, is a city that is so corrupt that even the criminals Lord Vetinariworry about being robbed and murdered. It is run by Lord Havelock Vetinari, who essentially has power over the entire city (and if anybody says any different you’ll never find out because this graduate of the Assassins' Guild will gladly have them killed). The city is located on the  River Ankh which is reported to be so polluted you can actually walk on it without sinking.

 

 Unseen University, home and school to the Discworld’s wizards, is located in Ankh-Morpork. Younger wizards experiment with magic and the older wizards try not to do actual magic at all. They’d rather spend their time trying to assassinate their brethren in the hope that they may become archancellor of the university. The official motto of the university is The official motto of Unseen University is "Nunc Id Vides, Nunc Ne Vides", which basically means "Now you see it, now you don't". Of course The unofficial motto is "η β π", or "Eta Beta Pi" (Eat A Better Pie).  The university is steeped in so much magic that the building and its furnishings seem alive and the creatures living in it and on it such as the  gargoylesand pigeons have a human like The Colour Of Magicintelligence. It’s not uncommon, during a crises, to see the ants evacuating the building in an orderly fashion.

A fixture at the university is The Librarian. He used to be a wizard but a magical accident turned him into an orangutan and he rather likes the change. Just don’t call him a monkey or he might have to hurt you. He is in charge of the University’s library which contains the biggest collection of magical texts known on the Disc.  It is actually possible that  every book ever written and even those may have been, weren’t and even have yet to be written are located somewhere amongst the endles shelves of living books in the library.

OK, enough of the background. On to the book!

Sourcery-coverSOURCERY

by Terry Pratchett

Our story (the fifth novel in the Discworld series) begins with Ipslore The Red, a wizard who was thrown out of Unseen University because he fell in love, got married and had children (not necessarily in that order). Wizards in the DiscWorld are forbidden to reproduce because reproduction leads to (insert whispering voice here)”SOURCERY”. (return to regular volume) Ipslore himself is the 8th son of an 8th son and has just had his latest son who he has named “Coin”. This makes Coin the 8th son of an 8th son of an 8th son (or a wizard squared) which makes him a sorcerer or a source of magic which is not good.  Ipslore, still more than a little upset at being kicked out of the university, makes a prophecy just before his death, stating that Coin will not only go to the university, but that he will wear the Archancellor’s hat and rule over all wizards.

DEATH

 

Death forces Ipslore to place a loophole in the prophecy, but you’ll have to read to find out what it is. 

 

Ten years later (at of course the age of ten) Coin shows up at the university an he wields the most powerful magic any of the wizards have ever seen. In fact, the last time sorcery such as his was seen there was a massive war and the magical fallout affected the entire Discworld. He immediately begins making changes to not only the university, but to the wizards thought process forcing them to question why they are content to live in the university rather than ruling the Disc. He will change the fate of the Discworld forever. And not for the better. According to “THE LORE” (of the wizards that is) the last war between wizards almost destroyed the Disc and it it just cannot sustain the amount of magic and sorcery being brought into the world by the impending war between Coin and the Wizards who will oppose him.

What stands between the residents of the Discworld and the end of existence as they know it?

image The main defense is Rincewind, the most cowardly wizard in the history of the disc. He knows in his heart of hearts that he is a wizard but doesn’t have the talent to back it up. When it comes to danger, his philosophy revolves around run, hide and then run some more. Which is probably a good thing considering that danger and bad things follow him around like a puppy follows it’s owner. Wherever Rincewind is, you can be sure that danger and strange situations are never far behind. He is never seen without his wizard hat that spells out “WIZZARD” in rhinestones that are forever falling off. As long as he has his hat, no one can tell him that he isn’t a wizard, no matter how little magical talent he has. For Rincewind,the important part of running is not where he’s running to, but who or what he’s running from. He believes in preemptive karma. That if anything even remotely good looks like its going to happen to him, his karma throws something bad at him so that the good thing never happens.

 

Along with Rincewind, comes The Luggage The Luggage(Yes, Capital T and L.) Its a giant trunk made out of Sapient-Pearwood which means that it’s intelligent and alive and no one really knows quite how. You never know what’s going to be inside the luggage.  (When it’s ticked it likes to impersonate an inanimate trunk full of gold with its lid open and then when whoever made it angry reaches for the gold it gobbles them up!) In fact many residents of the Discworld have become quite creeped out when they’ve realized that The Luggage, which has no face whatsoever, is staring at them.

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In his efforts to run away from danger Rincewind meets up with Conina, the daughter of Cohen the Barbarian. (he’s a famous hero of the Discworld). She has the incredible skill of a barbarian hero and the looks of her mother, the concubine. She dreams of having a normal life and becoming a hairdresser. Unfortunately, those barbarian hero reflexes she inherited form her father make her more likely to slice and dice her customers than to trim their hair.image

The final member of our world saving crew is Nijel the Destroyer, son of Harebut the Provision Merchant. He used to be a clerk, but three days before his introduction he found a manual, Inne Juste 7 Dayes I Wille Make You a Barbearian Hero! and left home. The classic barbarian hero is muscular, tall, and has a tendency to wear boots a loincloth, his weapons and not much else. Nijel, however, is described as a six foot tall pile of skin and bones and looks like dictionary definition of emaciated personified  and “as though a toast rack and deckchairs figured in his ancestry”. (pg. 129) Then of course, unlike your normal (if you can call them that) barbarian hero, he wears a pair of wooly underwear with his barbarian gear. He promised his mother after all!

These are the people responsible for the fate of the Discworld. Rincewind, Conina, Nijel and The Luggage are the only thing standing between utter destruction and life as it has been know on the Disc. Come find out whether they manage to overcome Rincewind’s survival instinct and save the Disc or if the Disc is doomed!

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I love this series, all 37 of Terry Pratchett’s novels.! The best part of his novels is that you run into his characters in multiple novels. even when they aren’t the main characters or focus in a book, you still tend to hear about them. Some of the characters, such as Rincewind, play an integral part in several of his novels. Reading each of Pratchett’s novels is, in a sense, like coming home. after you’ve read a couple, you know the Discworld and how it works and what to expect from it and Pratchett never disappoints. Pratchett’s novels fall into the comedic fantasy category and his humor is chock full of parody and situations that fill the reader’s need for laughter. Where else would you find three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse sitting around a table getting drunk and forgetting that they were supposed to be at, as Pratchett calls it, THE APOCRALYPSE. Death would have been their too, but his horse, Binky was not stolen, so he was on time for the end of the world.

At 288 pages, Sourcery, like the others in the series, is a quick read and provides plenty of entertainment. I highly recommend that anyone who enjoys a little humor reads this or another book in the Discworld series. Here are a couple other of my favorites, Monstrous Regiment, Going Postal and Thud!

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And lets not forget nine-year-old Tiffany Aching and the Nac Mac Feegle (aka  Pictsies, The Wee Free Men, the Little Men,  'Person or Persons Unknown, Believed to be Armed', and occasionally 'The Defendants'), While this is written more for a younger audience, it still one of my and many other adult’s favorites!

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Apr 1, 2010

Annotation #5: Mystery

Posted by Kirsten at 4/01/2010 10:41:00 PM 0 comments

12

Size 12 is Not Fat

by Meg Cabot

Heather Wells was a teenage pop star (think Debbie Gibson crossed with an early Brittany Spears). She had everything, family, fortune a recording contract and a hot, boy band member fiancé named Jordan. Then it all changes practically overnight. She loses everything. Her fiancé cheats on her.  Her mother (and only relative) runs off to Argentina with both Heather’s manager and her money and to top it all off; she’s dropped from her record contract because she wants to record her own music.

Now she’s the Assistant Resident Hall Director in a top college in New York and she’s waiting for the last three months of her six month probationary period to be over so she can take advantage of the free tuition that comes with her job and begin working on her BA. She may not be a size 8 anymore, but as she’ll tell you “Size 12 is NOT fat. It’s average” and she’s cool with it.

Her perfectly happy existence is thrown out the window when a freshman is found at the bottom of the elevator shaft. No one, not the cops, her colleagues, the college president or Heather’s private investigator landlord (who also happens to be the brother of her ex, Jordan) will listen when she tells them her suspicions that it was no accident because she knows teenage girls and they just don’t do things like elevator surf. It’s more of an activity participated in by drunk college guys. When more students begin to turn up dead, it’s up to Heather to play detective and prove that its no accident and that indeed its the size of your brain rather than the size of your butt that makes the difference.

      __________________________________________________________

This is definitely one of those books I would consider to be a beach read. However the characters sucked me in. Even the peripheral characters were compelling. There’s Magda, the dorm cafeteria cashier, “wears enough makeup to make Christina Aguilera look as if she’s going au naturel” and calls all of the residents her" “little movie stars” because a scene from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was once filmed at the dorm. Then you have her landlord  (Cooper) who is the black sheep of his family because, rather than going into the recording industry like the rest of his family, he chose to go to college and eventually become a become a private detective. Even the background information, such as how  Cooper came to own the pink stucco brownstone he and Heather live in is entertaining. I won’t tell you how but I will say that it really made me laugh.

As a larger than size 8 woman, I found the fact that Cabot repeatedly emphasizes the title of her book throughout her writing a refreshing change from the propaganda that abounds surrounding what is found to be beautiful in America. I was also thankful that she did not overdue her references to the title. While it was made clear in conjunction with he storyline, it was not the main focus of the book.

All of the characters that Cabot created were interesting. No matter how major or minor the character , even if you didn’t hear much from them, they add to the value of the book. From Heather, who believes that if she adds together her daily walks to the deli and coffee shop that she gets her recommended daily amount of exercise, to Pete, the security guard who has worked at the college for 20 years and only does the job for the benefits and so his four kids can get a free college education, all of the characters give an added depth and realness to the story.

Whether you wear a size 0 or a size 24, whether you’re super thin or big boned, you’ll enjoy this book about a young woman trying to figure out who she is while trying to solve a multiple murder case. 

While your at it, go ahead and take a look at the next two books in the Heather Wells Mystery series!

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Mar 9, 2010

Adventures in Secret Shopping!

Posted by Kirsten at 3/09/2010 02:25:00 PM 2 comments

I decided to kill two birds with one stone for this assignment. I had to go to a library that I’d never been to as a field trip for another class so I figured, why not get there early and do my “secret shopping”. I have to say that the experience was very satisfying.

When I arrived at the library, I had to figure out where the adult area was because the place was huge and I figured out that the adult area was on the second floor. Stepping off the elevator, my first instinct was to head to the reference desk that was directly in front of me. While glancing around however, I noticed that there was a separate reader’s advisory desk so I headed up to the desk.

The desk was just above waist height and had only one person working. Right away she asked if she could help me and I asked the question. “Could you help me find a good book”. Her first response was to rephrase my question and to ask me what I normally read. i explained that I normally read Sci-Fi and Fantasy but that I wanted to branch out and read something different. She proceeded to question me not only about what I liked and didn’t like about the books I normally read, but what books I’d read that I really liked. She then pulled out this handy folder, which the four employees that work at the Reader’s Advisory Desk have created, with a list from each person with good books that they’d read in different genres. After combing through the lists and looking at the staff picks displays she took me to the shelves to see if a particular book was in. (Of course it wasn’t. But she didn’t miss a beat and moved right on to another option) Then she asked me if I’d ever read any suspense like Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code.  I had read it and enjoyed it so she recommended that I try a bit of Steve Berry, a similar author. Rather than send me ot look for his books, she took me to them and pulled multiple books off of the shelf and looked at them and then handed me The Templar Legacy and told me to “Try this one, because its a good one to start with.”

 

Her reader’s advisory didn’t stop there however. I thanked her for her help and was ready to walk away when she said it’s too bad I wasn’t looking for fantasy, because she had thought of one that i might like. Of course, never one to turn away a good fantasy novel, I was quick to tell her I wouldn’t turn one away! We walked over to the Sci-Fi/Fantasy shelves and pulled out Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. Before handing me the book she gave me a brief synopsis of the book and then suggested i take a look at the cover  and read the full It sounded as good as the Steve Berry book so I again thanked her. i actually had to stop her from continuing to recommend books!

It was great, a wonderful experience in reader’s advisory.  I even noticed our textbook sitting on the advisory desk complete with papers marking various portions of the text. Even if someone was looking for books and didn’t want to speak to an actual person there were plenty of bookmarks with lists of authors such as the ones for “Fantasy Myth and Legend” or the list of authors that would “Tickle Your Funny Bone”. There was also a large bookmark with “The Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels” They even have a service for individuals where they can submit a form answering questions such as the genres they normally read, books and authors that they've liked or disliked and elements that they would lprefer or like to avoid such as sexual content, objectionable language and violence. Even the preferred setting is asked about. The librarians then use the information provided to create a reading list of 5-10 titles that the reader might enjoy! how cool is that!  The same service is also provided for book groups!

I have to say,this was an enjoyable experience and that this might be the model that I set for myself when I do reader’s advisory in the future.

And yes, I definitely must read the books she suggested too!

Mar 4, 2010

Annotation #4 Women’s Lives

Posted by Kirsten at 3/04/2010 04:13:00 PM 0 comments

 blossom

The Shop on Blossom Street

By Debbie Macomber

Lydia Hoffman is a two time survivor of cancer. She’s been living her life afraid to experience life since her first diagnosis at the age of 16. When other girls were out dating boys and worrying about prom, she was worrying about brain surgery and chemotherapy. Knitting was one of the only things she could control. It brought her a sense of peace and accomplishment that could be accomplished even from her hospital bed.

Now, its been ten years since Lydia’s last battle with cancer and in an attempt to embrace life, she has opened "A GOOD YARN”, a small yarn shop located in Seattle. Lydia’s yarn shop, located on Blossom Street is the central location for this tale featuring Lydia and her very first class. Lydia has decided to teach others “How to make a baby blanket”.  Between her new shop, her adversarial sister and the “Hot” UPS guy Lydia has a lot on her plate. Three very different women, each with their own set of problems sign up for Lydia’s class.

There’s Jacqueline Donovan, the rich family matriarch, wants to make peace with her daughter-in-law. Of course, she’ll have to get past the idea that she’s some hillbilly her son picked up on a trip if that’s ever to happen. Jacqueline is also positive that her husband has been cheating on her for years and doesn’t think she can handle it anymore. She joins Lydia's class to make a baby blanket for her soon to be grandchild in the hopes that she can make peace with her daughter-in–law.

Carol Girard was a business woman. She brought home the majority of the bacon in her marriage. More than anything else, she wants to have a child. So after gladly quitting her job she and her husband are doing everything they can to make their dreams a reality. She joins Lydia’s class to make a blanket for the child she hopes to have.

Then there's Alix Townsend,  a fairly young, tough chick, who is only knitting her blanket to fulfill court ordered community service. When she meets up with the guy she had a crush on in 6th grade se can’t help but wonder if she’s good enough for him.

Each of these four ladies, brought together by a common purpose, bring changes and teach each other, through love and hate, that there's more to people than what appears on the surface. The question that has to be asked however, is whether or not their newfound friendships and self-awareness will help them when they each encounter hardship and troubles of their own.

I really enjoyed reading the first of Debbie Macomber’s five Blossom Street books. She does a really good job of drawing her readers into the lives of the characters. I felt, while reading, that I actually new all of the characters and became invested in the outcome of each of their storylines. I laughed, cried and rejoiced along with each of the characters.  While I haven’t had some of the issues faced by each of the characters it was easy to relate to their problems and for me to walk a mile in their shoes.

Adding to the value of this book, at least to me, was the fact that the baby blanket pattern being made by the characters was included in the book so that the reader, if inclined to do so, could, in effect, participate in Lydia’s class along with the characters.

While it was not a difficult or even remotely complex read, I would recommend that anyone searching for a book about real women with real problems and real solutions pick this book up and give it a chance. I would even recommend it to reader’s jumping into this genre of fiction for the first time. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series…again!

Just for those who want to know, here are the books in the rest of the series. Take a look!

A good yarn

Back on Blossom Street

Twenty wishes

Summer on Blossom Street

Go Ahead, Judge a Book By It’s Cover!

Posted by Kirsten at 3/04/2010 03:32:00 AM 2 comments

We’ve all heard the old saying “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover”. I can even understand why its such a prolific saying. I would even apply it to life in general, but when it comes to choosing actual books to read I say go ahead and choose your book by the cover. Publishers spend lots of time and money trying to come up with just the right cover to represent a book.  There are people who’s entire job is just to create covers for books. Why shouldn’t we trust in those people to accurately represent the books we read?

We have become a very visual society and choose many of our possessions, from our clothing to our homes and hairstyles by surface looks. Why should we choose the books we read any differently. We expect that the covers are representative of the content. Just look at the anger that was aroused when Bloomsbury USA Children's Books published Liar by Justine Larbalestier with the original cover portraying a Caucasian girl rather than an African American girl which the book describes it’s main character as being. 

Liar

We have basic expectations when it comes to what the covers of the books we read look like and if the cover  doesn’t represent the contents well, it most likely will be overlooked. Meghan Dietsche Goel, children’s book buyer for BookPeople in Austin, Texas said in an article in Publishers Weekly that  “Covers matter. No matter how much we’re behind the book, if the cover isn’t appealing it isn’t going to do well.” In other words, if the audience doesn’t like the book cover, then they’re not going to buy the book. 

When I walk into my local bookstore or library, I know that its the titles and cover art that I’m drawn to. Interesting titles such as Don't Talk Back To Your Vampire, The Crepes of Wrath, We'll Always Have Parrots, Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon or Jackie Collin’s new book Poor Little Bitch Girl catch my interest just a much as interesting cover art. But even the title won’t entice me to read a book who’s cover art doesn’t interest me. On a recent trip to the bookstore a variety of books caught my eye.

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None of them are really the same, but each one has its own appeal. Of course, what appeals to me may not appeal to you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. However there are some universal elements to a book cover that you can look at that will give you a better idea as to the quality of a book. There is more to a book cover than the artwork.

According to Rose Halas and her tips for How To Choose a Good Book To Read “The front typically offers a visible lure with a titillating graphic, compelling statistics, or an editor's blurb that will prompt readers to start reading. On the back you may find author information, reviewers' excerpts, and a brief summary of the book's contents. Sometimes sales information is included.”(2)

According to Jessa Crispin from the Bookslut Blog says there are six areas to look at when you examine a book cover.

  • The cover art
  • The cover font
  • Back Blurbs
  • The Description
  • The Spine
  • Author photo (if there is one)

Each area offers information about the book that can be valuable when choosing a book. Good cover art can give you an idea of the theme, sub-genre and mood of a book. We know, just from looking, that a book with a dark cover will most likely have a dark theme. If there are dragons and wizards, we know that it is more than likely a fantasy novel.  The Font can serve a similar purpose. Font style can indicate information such as book genre or even popularity of the author with its size and type of font.

Blurbs and the description of the book can provide you with a good description of the books contents and an idea as to whether you might be interested in reading it. Take a good look at who wrote the blurb and whether they write blurbs for just anything or have written blurbs for other books that you have enjoyed. Don’t forget to read that description though. If the description doesn’t sound interesting, chances are the book won’t be either.

The books spine can hold important information such as the publisher. It’s possible that a particular publisher has a history of publishing books that you’ve enjoyed and you can look to see if they’ve published other books you might enjoy. As for the author’s photo. Many books don’t have them anymore and even if they do, the author’s photo doesn’t necessarily indicate the quality of the book. I can’t tell you how many times I was surprised by an author looking nothing like what I’d imagined them to be. So, I personally don’t look at the author’s photo’s when I make my decisions.

Taken together, the various bits and pieces that make up a book cover offer up plenty of information to help with your reading choices. Use what you’re given and learn all of the many ways that a book cover can be used to determine whether a book will fit your own personal definition of good. Go ahead. Choose your book by it’s cover!

Feb 16, 2010

Annotation #3 Romance

Posted by Kirsten at 2/16/2010 06:35:00 PM 4 comments

nixie

Biting Nixie

by Mary Hughes

Take 1 pint sized  twenty-five year old, responsibility avoiding,  German American punk rockin’ polka player and add 1 straight-laced 1000+  year old, expensive three-piece suit wearing, vampire lawyer. Stir in Vampire Gangsters and top it all off with a garnish of vampire war and you get Biting Nixie.

The town of Meiers Corners is home to town lawyer Denny Crane (not to be confused with William Shatner’s character from Boston Legal), a geriatric stripper named Granny Butt (who strips out of a girdle and support hose) one full time hooker (who may or may not be more than she seems). A group called the Coterie is working for its annexation by Chicago who’s suburbs surround Meiers Corners. The town hires attorney Julian Emerson to defend against the annexation but in order to pay, as Nixie puts it "HDTV-an-hour lawyer” the town is throwing a town wide three day festival. Who should they put in charge of this highly important festival but Dietlinde Nixie Schmeling but, whatever you do, don’t call her Deitlinde.

Nixie doesn’t want to run the festival. She only wants to keep playing gigs with her band Guns and Polkas. She’d rather die than have someone see her as a responsible 25 year old and she believes that buying insurance is the last step before death. When Nixie and Julian meet it’s like a forest fire, of course, you have to ask yourself “Who’s the forest and who is the fire?”  In the midst of the romance between Julian and Nixie, they have to find a way to not only stop the annexation of Meiers Corners but to defeat the bloodthirsty vampire gangs that are attacking the town and seeking to sabotage the festival. Those vampires and lawyers better look out. Nobody, and I mean nobody messes with Nixie Schmeling, except maybe her mother, and gets away with it!

I love a little humor in my fiction and Mary Hughes did not disappoint. From the geriatric stripper references and Nixie’s almost indecipherable language containing words from TV, Manga and even sound effects, to referencing William the Bloody (a vampire made famous on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as the reason for Julian being so conservative I just laughed and laughed.  The pop culture references that Julian didn’t get for most of the book were refreshing and I loved the fact that when he finally figured out Nixies speech Hughes explained it so that the reader would understand too. However the best description of Biting Nixie was the warning on the back cover. I picked this book up because I liked the cover. Once I read the book jacket, which included the following warning I just had to read it.

“Warning: Contains more eye-popping sex, ear-popping language and gut popping laughs than can possibly be good for you. And Vampires. Not sippy-neck wimps, but burning beacons of raw sexuality – this means passionate blood-heating, violent bloodletting, and fangy blood-sucking. Oh, and cheese balls. Those things are just scary.”

I love a good paranormal romance novel and Mary Hughes has written a very unique one rather than your everyday version. Its humorous without being corny, vampirey (yes I made that word up)  without turning vampires into sappy sparkly angst ridden fools and overall entertaining throughout.  I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the Biting Love Series. With titles like this, how could I not.

Feb 12, 2010

Annotation # 2 Classic Adventure

Posted by Kirsten at 2/12/2010 05:01:00 PM 2 comments
tarzan

The Beasts of Tarzan

by Edgar Rice Burroughs

In this 3rd out of the 24 novels that Burroughs wrote about Tarzan we find that Tarzan, also known as John Clayton, Lord of Greystoke, has returned (along with his wife Jane and infant son Jack) once again to London to avoid the rainy season on his Africa estate in the land of the savage Waziri warriors.

Unfortunately for his family, two of his former (I’d say not so former) enemies, the Russian criminal Nikolas Rokoff and his minion Alexis Paulvitch have escaped from prison and the only thing on their minds is revenge against the ape man. Poor baby Jack is kidnapped and John Clayton is led into a ambush while Jane, realizing his peril, follows only to be caught in the same trap. With neither knowing the fate of the other or their precious son, John is left high and dry with only the equipment he was born into the world with and must push away the civilized man he has become and embrace the the beast that is always within him in order to rescue both Jane and Jack.

From fights with wild animals such as Numa and Sheeta (the lion and panther) to battles with African tribesmen and the evil sailors hired by Rokoff you are kept on the edge of your seat wondering if Tarzan will survive his banishment in an unknown jungle. Will Jane end up dead or will she escape or be rescued? Most important to Tarzan, will his infant son be raised by cannibals instead of in the family that has become Tarzan’s world?

image

Everyone knows the basic story of Tarzan “Lord of the Apes”. It has been adapted into multiple movies, on radio, in comics, graphic novels, cartoons and has been rewritten (both authorized and illegally) and adapted from its original tale so many times that it permeates our culture. From films, both live action and animated to video games Tarzan has permeated American culture in a way that would probably surprise its creator, hopefully pleasantly so. I doubt that Edgar Rice Burroughs could have foreseen how much his character would pervade society becoming present in everything from the Tarzan Yell to Disney’s representation are well known.

image However, This also means that the original works may not be as highly read as in the past. I remember reading as many of the Tarzan series as I could get my hands on as a child, but then i was also the kid who would rather read than watch television. When looking for a classic adventure novel my thoughts went to the Tarzan series and I had to find out if they were as good as I remembered them being. I have to say that after rereading the 3rd book in the series, that not only was it as good a read as I remembered it was better!!! Some of the adult themes that I had breezed pass as a child.

image

I would recommend this book for both new adventure readers and established readers of the genre. The fast pace keeps you involved in the story and every time you think that triumph is at hand, Burroughs throws in another twist that keeps you yearning for more. So if you haven’t picked up one of the original Tarzan novels before, get to it people!

Really…

Right now…

Go!

Feb 8, 2010

Annotation #1 Suspense

Posted by Kirsten at 2/08/2010 05:10:00 PM 1 comments

COLD FIRE

by Dean Koontzcold fire

Publisher: Berkley (December 7, 2004)

Imagine waking up suddenly and knowing that you have to go. You don’t know where, you don’t know how you only know that if you don’t, someone is going to die. So you drop whatever you’re doing and faster than someone can say Mississippi, you’re out the door with whatever the feeling inside you tells you you’ll need, only knowing that the what's and how's of the situation will be made clear to you on a need to know basis. Do you know WHO’s life you’re going to save? Not until seconds before you save it and you may never know why they are important, only that they are.

This is the situation that reporter Holly Thorne is drawn into when she witnesses Jim Ironheart rescue a child from death. Determined to get “The Story” she is drawn into an increasingly dangerous situation as she and Jim seek to find out who exactly is the “FRIEND” who sends Jim into these life threatening situations and who is the “ENEMY” that may very well end existence as they know it.

On a personal note, I thought the plot to Cold Fire was very well thought out. However, the execution seemed to be lacking to me. It was such a slow read, going on for pages with nothing happening. It seemed to me that it would never end. So while I’m sure there are people out there who would genuinely enjoy and love this book, I just cannot name myself as one of them. Elements of Cold Fire were just as expected from a suspense novel, but the pace was glacial.

Feb 4, 2010

A Favorite Book!

Posted by Kirsten at 2/04/2010 06:26:00 PM 1 comments

ONE FOR THE MONEYone for the money

Author: Evanovich, Janet

Review Date: JANUARY 29, 2010
Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition edition
Pages: 352
Price (mass market paperback): $7.99
Publication Date: Mar 27 2003 (originally 1995)


ISBN-10: 0061009059

ISBN-13: 978-0061009051
Category: FICTION

In One for the Money, the first book in a series that currently includes includes fifteen volumes and 5 shorter supplementary novels, Janet Evanovich introduces her readers to Stephanie Plum. Stephanie is a woman from the close-knit Chambersburg neighborhood of Trenton New Jersey which the locals call “The Burg” where every good hostess always has coffee cake for guests and dinner is served promptly at 6pm (God help anyone who isn’t there on time).

After being laid off from her job a a lingerie buyer, her mother suggests that she get a job filing at a family cousin’s bail bond agency. however when she arrives the position ahs been filled and Stephanie blackmails him into giving her a job as a Bail Enforcement Agent (Bounty Hunter). Her Job? To catch the neighborhood bad boy turned cop, Joseph Morelli, before she gets evicted from from her apartment and has to move back in with her mother father as well as her Grandma Mazur who is in her mid seventies and doesn’t look a day over ninety. Stephanie is a bounty hunter in a neighborhood where nearly everyone carries a gun but she keeps hers at home in the cookie jar next to her hamster Rex’s cage.

Stephanie’s lack of bounty hunting skills is made up for both by the humorous situations and captures that she attempts as well as her own personal Doctor Doolittle in the form of a good looking Cuban-American named Ranger who is described as having the stealth of batman and skills that make Rambo look like a novice.

If you enjoy your mystery with a generous dose of humor then the adventures of Stephanie Plum are for you!


Jan 14, 2010

So You Want To Know About … Me.

Posted by Kirsten at 1/14/2010 02:54:00 PM 1 comments

 

    Writing about myself is always the hardest assignment that I get. KirstenYou’d think, considering how many times I’ve had to do it, that it would be easy by now. It’s not. I think, like many people, I just would rather talk about anything but myself. However, here we go!

closeup     My name is Kirsten and I’m from Fort Wayne, but I’m living in Indianapolis until May. I started in the SLIS program last January and I’m going to be graduating in May. This is my last semester. (GO ME!!!) I’m also a part of Indiana's Librarians Leading in Diversity (I-LLID) Project. I’m not married. I have three brothers and we’re all addicted to action movies like Ninja Assassin! I blame them.  I don’t have any children (though I consider all of the children in my family mine :D )and I’m on leave from the library back home (The Allen County Public Library).

     Like most people in the program I enjoy reading. I’ve loved it ever sinceRaggedy Kirsten I figured out in Kindergarten that letters could be put together into words that meant something. When I would get in trouble my mother would make me pack up all of my books in this little suitcase I had and then she’d put it in her room and make me go outside and play as my punishment. It drove me crazy because all I wanted to do was be inside reading. That’s kind of been a theme in my life. Everyone has a place that makes them comfortable and is “The Place” that they go when they have a bad day, a sort of secret place. Mine is not really a secret. I love the library and find myself there without even realizing I’ve gone there at times.

new years     As for my reading world, I like to think that I read some of everything. I tend not to read much nonfiction however. I like my leisure reading to be as entertaining as the movies I like to watch so I tend to steer away from  nonfiction unless it is about a particular topic that has caught my interest. I plan to work with teens so the majority of the material that I read is teen oriented and I love it all. Teen books are like a combination of children and adult novels. You get all of the action and pace of a children’s book with the plot and detail of an adult book.

     I do read adult books too (not that you’d always be able to catnhattell just by looking in my bag). I have always been a huge Sci-Fi/Fantasy junkie. It doesn’t matter what age the book is written for. Some of my favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Terry Pratchett, Anne McCaffrey, Tamora Pierce, Elizabeth Moon. I’m also a huge fan of what I like to call Comedic Romance Novels such as those written by Janet Evanovich and Jennifer Crusie. If it makes me laugh it can’t possibly be bad! My reading tends to run in phases. There will be months where all I read is teenage spy fiction and months where all I read is strict adult sci-fi or romance novels. It all depends on what moods hit me when. I’m starting to enjoy more mysteries. 

Princess Kirsten    That is pretty much my reading world as of this moment. It is fluid and very much subject to change from day to day and moment to moment depending on what I’m feeling and what piques my interest.

 

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