Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mystery Annotation: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Image result for the girl with the dragon tattoo bookBook Information: Larrson, S. (2008). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. New York. Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 9780307949486

Summary: Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who is facing conviction from a libel case is hired by one of Sweden's wealthiest, Henrik Vanger. Vanger offers to provide Blomkvist with evidence to take down the man who Blomkvist lost his libel case against if he solves a missing persons case that has remained unsolved for over thirty years. The missing person is Harriet Vanger, Henrik's grand niece. Blomkvist is aided by Lisbeth Salander, a pierced and tattooed computer hacking prodigy. Together they discover that their case is much more corrupt and goes deeper than their one missing girl.

Characteristics of Mystery: 

  • Plot is driven by the solving of a crime. The detective (main protagonist) and the reader analyze clues and uncover the solution by the end of the book. Throughout the book Blomkvist and Salander examine the missing persons case of Harriet Vanger, who disappeared off of her family island when the bridge was closed temporarily. It's much more difficult to talk about a mystery without giving away spoilers! Let's just say that it gives the reader just enough to follow along and it's almost as if you are there side by side with the characters as you fit the pieces together.
  • Focus on the investigator and/or team with secondary characters playing an important role and can be occurring characters in a series. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book in a trilogy (I guess there are four books now, but the fourth book was published by a different author since, unfortunately, Mr. Larsson passed away after publishing the third book). The books focus between the perspectives of Blomkvist and Salander.
  • Setting/Background details play a crucial role and can vary. The book takes place in Sweden, mostly on Hedeby Island (although other locations in Sweden make appearances in the book) where the Vanger estate resides. The details of the island and the layout of the property are crucial to the results of the case. In a lot of mysteries that I've read they tend to take place in a variety of locations - big major cities as well as small rural areas where there's hardly any technology.
  • Mood/tone can vary - sometimes witty and funny, or dark and gritty. There are books, like The Dresden Files that are dark and hilarious, filled with dry and witty humor. In the case of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, it is definitely dark and corrupt. Really heavy book that does a fantastic job showing the reader the horrors of assault and abuse of women.
  • Broad scope - can take place or revolve around periods in history/culture, various social classes, and various language styles. The author is Swedish, so it's no surprise the book takes place in Sweden. Since the case is so old, there is a lot of detail about life on Hedeby Island in 1966. However, a mystery can take place anywhere because in real life, crime can be committed anywhere. There is a lot of flexibility with this genre.
  • Pacing is compelling and always moving. Larsson gets the reader hooked into the book through Lisbeth Salander. We can sympathize with Blomkvist a bit, however, there's not a lot of reader buy-in for wanting to solve the case until Salander gets involved. It kept the pace ebbing and flowing at a good pace, slowing down when needed, but it was hard to put the book down. It's not a quick, overnight read because it's a thicker book, but I also really wanted to digest everything that was happening as a reader.


The Girl Who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson (because after that, I want to read the next one).

Accused by Lisa Scottoline

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Snow Angels by James Thompson

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Prompt Response Seven: Andrew Luck Book Club

When thinking about celebrity book clubs, I remember last year when Indianapolis Colts quarterback, Andrew Luck announced that he was starting a book club.

I remember talking about this in a room full of other librarians and we were so surprised. Pretty much our team's MVP is taking the time to start a book club? There was no way he was actually in charge of it - maybe it was a PR thing. What kind of books does the guy read? All sports? We chuckled about it.

Boy were we a little judgmental when we should've been ecstatic. Reading the study about Oprah's book club got me thinking about something valuable that I had taken for granted. I got on google and found the official website for Andrew Luck's book club.

Andrew Luck Book Club

The first think you see are two book recommendations for February. I was surprised to see the first book was Number the Stars by Lois Lowery. Just underneath the books is a short video from Andrew explaining how the club worked. Each month he posts two books, one for 'Rookies' - books that he loved as a child, and one for 'Veterans' - what he's currently reading. To participate, all you need to do is read the book(s) and post on social media using his hashtag. The twitter feed is pretty active on the page, - people are reading and Andrew seems to follow along and participate as well.

I'd recommend watching the interview that Andrew says inspired him to start the club here. It starts talking about his love of reading around 3:30. You can see that the interviewers are making a big deal of his love of reading and making some misconceptions about the type of books that he could get his team to read and Andrew immediately jumps to their defense: "Not just sports books, don't sell the locker room short. There's a bunch of good guys in there."

I think celebrity book clubs can do a lot of good at building a community of readers and give fans a chance to connect with their role models through reading. I feel a little bad for not thinking too seriously about Andrew Luck's book club before because I think it's a phenomenal thing he's doing. People don't really consider sports players and fans very literary - it's a common stereotype and it's not good. The fact that a professional NFL quarterback is taking so much time to promote reading to not just kids- but to everyone is awesome and I think that kind of influence would encourage hesitant readers to read more.

The books that Luck recommends are impressive. I definitely had a fan girl moment when I saw one of the previous 'rookie' books he recommended was Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. He read that book as a kid? Me too! I loved that book!

Andrew Luck Book Club still seems pretty small scale- no where near the hype that Oprah's book club ever had. However, I know how much Indy loves the Colts so I see it making an impact here. Imagine if Lebron James started a book club and managed to put as much into it as Andrew Luck does. I think the reception would be insane. I did look this up to make sure he didn't already have one and that  "all the cool sports athletes have book clubs, DUH!" He doesn't, but I did see that he reads a lot as well and at least tells new outlets what he's been reading if asked.

(I know I didn't talk much about the article itself, but this was really where my thoughts were carrying me. I think I kind of mashed the two prompt choices together as this is more of a personal response.)

Butler, R. Cowen, B., & Nilsson, S. (2005). From Obscurity to Bestseller: Examining the Impact of Oprah's Book Club Selections. Publishing Research Quarterly, 20(4), 23-34. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Romance Annotation: Heroes Are My Weakness

Image result for heroes are my weakness Book Information: 

Philips, S. E. (2014). Heroes are My Weakness. New York, NY. HarperCollins.
ISBN: 978-0-06-210607-0


Annie was burnt out and out of options. Swimming in debt and not making decent work as a struggling actress and ventriloquist, she ventures to her late mother's cottage in the middle of winter on an island in Maine. To her disgust, she discovers that her neighbor for the next two months is none other than Theo Harp, a best selling horror novelist who she used to know... and he was the cause of very real terror in her life. Someone wants Annie off the island and while the answer should be obvious, Annie can't help but start to question her judgement about Theo. Is he the villain of her childhood? Or was her perception all wrong?

Characteristics of Romance:

  • Evocative, emotional tone
    This book has a surprising balance between following and breaking the stereotypes of romance. While there is a lot of emotional writing in this book that details the expected intense back stories of the characters and sexual tension, there are a lot of funny, childish tones as well. This has to do with Annie's current profession as a ventriloquist for children. She uses puppets to teach kids not to bully or do drugs and she's a excellent puppeteer. She converses with her puppets, who all have labeled personalities: her alter-ego, her hero, the villain, and the diva. She also brings out her puppets to communicate with a mute four-year-old. Some readers may find this weird for a romance, but I personally loved it.

  • Easily identifiable character types
    While Annie isn't described as strikingly beautiful, she's more of a Jane Eyre/Hermione Granger plain/unruly type: she is strong willed, funny, and smart, albeit taking a blow in her confidence due to her financial situation. Theo is tall, handsome, brooding, dangerous, and sometimes borderline creepy. I actually hated him at first, I had no idea how Phillips could possibly make this guy a character worthy of Annie because I really liked Annie. I will say, Phillips pulled it off and payed homage to classic Gothic romance novels (i.e. Wuthering Heights).

  • A misunderstanding between the protagonists or outside circumstances that force them apart. Followed by a satisfactory resolution 
    I can't say much without giving away spoilers, but this book contains a bit of both of these situations. There's definitely a massive misunderstanding between Annie and Theo, but it was completely intentional.

  • Engaging details of time and place
    The story takes place on Peregrine Island where the residents are all lobster fisherman. Everyone knows everyone's business on this island. While this island is beautiful and full of tourists in the summer, it is essentially cut off from the rest of the world in the winter, which makes it lonely, miserable, and dangerous.

  • Quick read, fast pace, but can be stopped and started easily
    I couldn't put this book down for a few reasons. Initially, I was just flabbergasted at what was going on. I had so many questions and was confused. If it weren't for the fact that I liked Annie and her puppets and that Phillips is incredibly good at weaving in suspense with her writing this book could've been terrible. The story is weird enough that I believe I could put it down and leave it for a week and pick it right back up and know what was going on. The pacing is a tad slow at first but picks up quickly after a quarter of the way through. I wouldn't say it's a quick read, unless you are very dedicated and willing to stay up into the wee hours of the morning like I was.

  • Descriptive Language/romantic/sexual interludes
    Phillips made the story seem very realistic. She paints a gruesome picture of the setting that I could easily imagine the misery of this island in the winter. There is also a lot of descriptive language in the romance/sexual department as well. Sometimes it's traditional and steamy, and in some cases it may get interrupted by the thoughts of a snarky puppet, which just makes the whole thing funny. 


Solsbury Hill by Susan M. Wyler
Inn at Last Chance by Hope Ramsay
The Billionaire Takes All by Jan S. Scott
The Night Remembers by Kathleen Eagle
The Girl from Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux

Saricks, J. G. (2009). The Reader's Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction. Chicago, IL. American Library Association.

Week Six Prompt Response

Promoting Romance

I've seen a lot of the "Blind Date" book displays before where the librarians wrap books up in paper so that way no one can "Judge a book by it's cover". Then the readers pick books by only seeing descriptive words written about the book that gives the basics and enough to entice a reader. I actually want to take a similar "Speed Dating" approach to supplement this idea. I think it would be fun to do in February as a little program where librarian's or volunteers 'act' like the book to convince someone they would be a good read in an elevator pitch style and it would be a fun way for a reader to have a 'conversation' with a book. Readers could then pick their top choices and the books would be revealed at the end. I think there are many different ways readers can "speed date" with their books depending on the library and if we would want to make it a one time program or a come-and-go situation i.e. a display with wrapped books and instead of a few descriptive words, like the Blind Date idea, it's actually a conversational 'pick up line' describing the book. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Kirkus-Like Review: Matched

Image result for matched summary
Matched by Ally Condie

Matched is a story that combines the stereo-typical YA love-triangle story with an intriguing Utopian setting.

Imagine what it would be like if the government was in charge of arranging your marriage. Not only that, but the government also arranges every single aspect of your life, including the exact day when you die. 17-year-old Cassia Reyes lives in this type of "Society" where her entire life is planned out for her based on data the government collects on her and her family by constant surveillance. Once every child turns 17 they become "matched" with someone to be their future spouse when they turn 21. To her delight, Cassia learns that her match is her best friend, Xander Carrow, however, she gets suspicious when she sees another face flash on her screen that may indicate that someone else should be her match instead. This person is later discovered to be Ky Markham, who is an outcast in the Society due to a crime his parents committed. Therefore, he is not eligible to be matched with anyone. Sparks fly, and Cassia soon discovers that maybe this Society isn't so perfect after all. This story had so much potential. The setting is captivating because the government strives to keep the world devoid of all culture. Literature, history, art, and any other creative outlet has mostly been destroyed and paper is outlawed. The fact that you could get arrested for learning how to hand write on paper is so crazy that it's amazing. How does one even get their hands on paper? The mysteries about the Society and the government are what will keep one reading - it's definitely not the love-triangle.

Despite the characters being a dull drag, the real pull to this story is the too-perfect world.

Week Five Prompt Response

Romantic Suspense eBook: The Billionaire's First Christmas

I'm unsure about this book. Since it's so short, maybe if I read it for myself I would consider it, but the summary of the book and the reviews didn't have me fully convinced it was worth it. I felt the blog review was slightly more reliable than the amazon review, however I received helpful information from both. From the amazon review, it was clear that this book reads like a Hallmark Christmas movie and gives the reader some feel-good warm fuzzies. It was also helpful to learn that it's told in the POV of both characters and that there is a sequel. If I were to consider buying this I would likely want to see if I can locate the sequel and purchase it as well if a patron were to ask for it.

The blog review didn't mention the sequel, but it was a more critical review and confirmed the feelings that I had about this book. Reading the summary of the book told me that it has a very cliche premise - although given that it's a Christmas story this can usually be forgiven. Most Christmas romances are very cheesy and I'm actually a fan of a lot of them. As someone who would enjoy this kind of thing, I wasn't really too invested in the premise of this story so that's a big red flag if I were looking to buy. Just my opinion- I'm sure that some people would really like this book, and I'd at least be willing to pick it up and give it a try. I wish the blog reviewer would have gone into more detail about why the plot was "Odd". I can see why people would like this story based on these reviews, and may consider purchasing it because even though my personal opinion wouldn't go for it, I do think that based on these reviews that a lot of patrons would enjoy it as a quick read for the holidays.

Also, there's no way this is a romantic suspense...there's no talk of secrecy other than maybe the CEO's reason for why he hates Christmas? I don't get that impression, neither review mentions any element of unpredictability or leaving the reader lingering on a "will they? won't they?" thought. Maybe there is a little suspense here, but I don't think enough that would likely deem it a romantic suspense. Amazon even categorizes it as "Contemporary romance".

Angela's Ashes

I would love to add Angela's Ashes to my collection after reading those reviews. It's clear from reading the reviews that the author is capable of telling an account of real and gruesome circumstances while incorporating humor. I think the first review from Kirkus almost told me too much because I usually want to read the best bone-chilling moments for myself, but the information that the Kirkus review shared definitely made me want to read it. The end of the Library journal review did confuse me a little bit because it said the book was appropriate for 'any age'. Really? Kirkus and Booklist both mention that McCourt talks about sex a little bit in the book. I know it's nothing graphic, and maybe uses special wording to refer to those instances, but the contrast here between these reviews makes me unsure if this could be a juvenile (it was written in the POV of a child) or teen/adult book. I know that this book definitely falls in the YA/adult category, but for someone who previously didn't know that it may come across a little misleading.

I don't think that it's fair that more books are reviewed more so than others. I personally read a pretty narrow scope out of all of the books in the world so if I was purchasing for my library, I would want my collection to have a broader scope to serve a diverse public. I would need to rely on quality, honest reviews to make purchases so if I can't find enough reviews on certain genres that would certainly make my job more difficult. 

I think that positive reviews are a good thing, however I wouldn't trust a perfectly positive review alone. I would look for others that may share a more critical review. When I'm looking at a book I need to see the good (or fantastic!) the bad, and the ugly. I like Good Reads for this because I can usually find some thoughtful reviews from readers who either loved, hate or were indifferent about a book all in one place. I also like Kirkus because they are pretty honest as well. Sometimes those "positive only" reviews are nice because it means that at least someone saw some merit in a book, but if there's too much negative out there, it still might not be enough to sway my decision to purchase it. 

I do not buy for my library but I do evaluate books for programming and story times so I sometimes look for reviews. I use reviews a lot for personal reading especially with genres that I'm not familiar with. I mostly stick to Good Reads for personal use as well as some YouTube reviewers that I know share a similar taste with me.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Secret Shopper Summary

I had a satisfactory experience during my secret shopper assignment, however it definitely could've gone a lot better. The librarian at the reference desk was friendly and I got the impression that she genuinely cared that I found what I was looking for, however, I could tell she was inexperienced with Reader's Advisory. I wasn't asked any open ended questions, so I ended up subtly supplying useful information such as that I was looking for historical fiction similar to Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. It took the librarian a long time to locate a read-a-like list from Barnes and Noble and determining which books on that list were in the library's collection. Then she asked me if there were any that I liked out of those. Most of the books looked interesting but instead of being historical a lot of them focused on the time-travel aspect of the books and some were even a fantasy genre. I wanted something that took place somewhere in history and had some of the love story similar to Outlander. I did pick out two books on the list that she made a hold request for me.

Luckily, another librarian came to the desk and the librarian who was working with me (let's call her Jane) asked if she had any suggestions as well. The new librarian, I'll call her Sarah, asked if Jane had tried using Novelist. Jane hadn't heard of it and so Sarah took the time to show Jane how to use Novelist and came up with more read-a-like lists for Outlander. Unfortunately, neither librarian thought to ask me about why I liked Outlander to help them recommend books for me. I eventually did supply the information that I wanted a romance that took place in a historical era - but I wasn't sure if they took that information into account. Ultimately the books and authors that were recommended to me through Novelist I did find interesting and had hold requests put in for them as well. The librarians gave printed copies of the lists for me to have to reference and made sure that they had completely answered my questions before I left. I now have two books checked out from those recommendations and maybe I'll read one for the historical fiction genre annotation for this class. I wish they had actually 'interviewed' me, I think I caught them off guard with an RA question. However, they provided generally good service and I could tell they cared about me as a patron.