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


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. 


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!


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