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


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.


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!


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 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.


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!


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!

image imageimage

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!


Apr 1, 2010

Annotation #5: Mystery

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


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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