Friday, March 31, 2017

YA Annotation: The Duff

Image result for the duff bookBook Information: Keplinger, K. (2010). The Duff. New York, NY. Little Brown.

ISBN: 978-0316084246

Bianca Piper is a regular girl with two awesome best friends. Bianca is not much of the social/party type, but tags along and hangs out in the sidelines while her friends tear it up on the dance floor. One night she's approached by the one guy from school who she deems to be the biggest playboy man-whore on Earth (she's not wrong): Wesley Rush.  He tries to hit on her two friends by insulting Bianca and referring to her as their Duff, or Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Bianca blows him off and tries to move on. However, trouble at home leaves Bianca finding herself turning to the one person she usually never wants to even be in the same room with to deal with her feelings. Bianca finds out that there may even be more to that jerk than meets the eye.  

Characteristics of YA:

  • Main Characters are within an adolescent age range (approximately 14-21).
    In The Duff Bianca and her friends are high school seniors.
  • The protagonist has a sort of coming-of-age experience
    In the story, Bianca learns that it's not the best idea to keep everything bottled up and escaping from her problems by having lots of meaningless sex (mostly fade-to-black stuff but there's still a ton of sex in this book for a YA). She also has to adjust to and help her dad through an inevitable divorce.
  • Setting, genre, and style can vary
    I've read a lot of YA. YA encompasses every genre under the sun that adults read, only it features a different target audience, so the protagonist is typically within the adolescent age range and deal with typical teenage problems, even in a high fantasy setting. 
  • The story tackles certain issue(s) that many adolescents experience (i.e. love, sex, parental divorce, LGBTQ, identity, friendship drama, moving, suicide etc.) 

    In The Duff, Bianca's mother surprises everyone by mailing signed divorce papers. The marriage wasn't exactly a happy one but it came out of the blue for Bianca and her father (the reader can kinda see it coming). This led to Bianca's father turning to alcohol to cope and instead of reaching out to her friends for help (these friends have also had experience dealing with divorce) she uses her worst enemy as a way to escape. Bianca also fights with her own self-image (due to Wesley being an asshole and calling her Duffy all the time - making her aware that she doesn't exactly fit the norm for what's hot).
  • Can be fiction and nonfiction
    This goes along with one of the previous points that setting, genre, and style can vary in YA. The Duff is realistic fiction. What's also interesting about this book is that the author of the book is really young and actually wrote The Duff at age 17, when she was also likely a high school senior. As an aspiring YA writer myself, I'm very jealous and if I had known that before reading it, it would've made the book appeal more to me. I think the author being at an age that the target audience can relate to would definitely appeal to another teen. 

As a personal note, I didn't think I'd like this book, but I did. The writing itself is really quirky and funny and sticks true-to-character point of view: Bianca doesn't mess around, so neither does the writing. The character development and dialogue are winners here. Don't watch the movie. After finishing the book, I went ahead and watched it and it tells a completely different story (and it's awful). The book is really about how Bianca handles her parents divorce and her other friendship/social problems - the movie focuses on what Bianca can do to "be pretty" and "not be the Duff anymore" and turns her parents divorce into a joke. The book = depth, character development, meaning. The movie = the screenwriters had to basically change the whole thing to get it rated PG-13.  

Read - A- Likes: 

The Earth, my butt, and other big round things by Carolyn Macker
Love and other Theories by Alexis Bass
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
The Queen of Everything by Deb Caletti

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Week Twelve Prompt Response: NF Matrix

Image result for rise how a house built a family

Title: Rise: How a House Built a Family
Author: Cara Brookins
Publication Date: January 2017
Number of Pages: 320
Geographic Setting: Arkansas, USA.
Time Period: Present day
Subject Headings: American Authors, 21st Century, Women Authors, Biography, Divorced mothers, House Construction
Book Summary: After escaping an abusive marriage, Cara Brookins had four children to provide for and no one to turn to but herself. In desperate need of a home but without the means to buy one, she did something unbelievable. Equipped only with YouTube instructional videos, a small bank loan, a mile-wide stubborn streak, Cara built her own house from the foundation up with a work crew made up of her four children. Through building a house together, Cara and her family could finally move on.

1. Where is the book on the narrative continuum?

Highly narrative (reads like fiction)

2. What is the subject of the book? This book is about overcoming a terrible situation by completing a task that is near impossible. It's about a family growing stronger after getting away from abusive husbands through building a house together.

3. What type of book is it? This is a memoir in narrative form.

4. Articulate appeal

  • What is the pacing of the book? It's a leisure pace and Brookins does a good job spacing out the good things with the tough challenges she faced so the reader doesn't get bogged down with depressing things.
  • Describe the characters of the book. This book is about the author, Cara and her four children as they build a house from the ground up. Cara is a computer programmer and aspiring writer who is trying to pick up the pieces after three failed marriages.
  • How does the story feel? Inspiring, shocking, thoughtful.
  • What is the intent of the author? To tell her story about how building a house strengthened her relationship with her kids and moving past the bad times.
  • What is the focus of the story? The focus of the story is on Cara and how she had to navigate through escaping her marriages, keeping her kids safe, and all in all how they went from a broken and scared family to one that has learned to be free and have fun together.
  • Does the language matter? Yes. Cara uses it pretty cleverly to distinguish chapters from building the house to flashbacks from her marriages. chapters labeled "Rise" are about the house, and chapters labeled "Fall" are flashbacks.
  • Is the setting important and well described? The setting is important because it led to Cara making the decision to build a house despite all odds as well as the description of how they built it and the work that needed to be accomplished is needed for the reader to grasp how daunting this task is for a mother and four children (one child being only two years old, so really it was a house building crew of four, not five).
  • Are there details and, if so, of what? Lots of details about the construction work, and detailed descriptions of her husbands and the expressions on her kid's faces.
  • Are there sufficient charts and other graphic materials? Are they useful and clear? None. None needed.
  • Does the book stress moments of learning, understanding or experience? Absolutely. They made many mistakes especially in the early stages of building the house, and Cara reflects a lot about why she stayed with certain husbands for so long, what held her back etc. 

5. Why would a reader enjoy this book? 

1. The experience (how does one go about building a house without any experience!?) 2. Details 3. Conversational tone

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Week 11 Prompt Response

I'm a big fan of ebooks and audiobooks. What may be one of the more difficult things to adjust to when analyzing and ebook versus a physical book is the length. The number of ebook pages can vary greatly whereas a physical book has a set number of pages. Ebook pages can vary for several reasons and almost always have more pages than the physical version. The biggest reason being it depends on the screen size of the device you are using. I read ebooks on everything, my computer, a tablet device, or even my little tiny phone screen. If I want to know my actual progress through the book I have to look at the percentage of the book that I've read so far. Physical books aren't measured by percentages. The books are of course, the same length no matter what medium you choose to read it by, however, depending on the type of person you are, you may find the pacing faster with an ebook because you get to turn pages sooner or get daunted if you are looking at the 'pages' you've read and still have several hundred to go. Since I still haven't mastered the science of ebook pages to figure out how long the book will be there are other factors I look at. I often look up the physical book to see what the page count is to get an idea of how long the book actually is. I also look at the table of contents in the ebook which can also help me evaluate how long it may take me to read the book. Finally, you just have to turn to reviews to see what the consensus is about pacing. At that point, how long it actually takes me to get through the book just depends on how good it is and how busy I am which I can't measure. Pacing and length are sometimes a big concern for readers so finding information about how many pages long the physical book is may help give readers a better idea of  how 'long' it is before they get intimidated by how many 'pages' are in the ebook version.

Being able to change the font, color, and spacing of the text something that I think helps pace. If you are able to read comfortably it puts less strain on the eyes and can make it easier to read. Making the font bigger or adjusting the spacing will add more ebook 'pages' so it may seem like your progress slows down, however if making those adjustments helps you get more immersed in the story it doesn't matter in my opinion. I usually change the colors at night when I'm reading in bed so that it helps my eyes adjust to the dark.  I love this about ebooks because I can read lying down without having to prop the book up in weird ways and not have to keep lights on so that way I'm not keeping anyone else up!

One thing we should consider when recommending and showing our patrons ebooks is formats available for reading. My library system uses Overdrive for ebooks which is compatible with the Overdrive app, any browser, and the Kindle app. It can be tricky because occasionally all three formats aren't available for a particular title (Kindle usually is the one left out if this is the case). If you have a patron who wants to use a Kindle format specifically, you got to watch out for that. This is most definitely a common problem for audiobooks on Overdrive. Certain ebook reading apps/systems have different checkout rules. For overdrive, I can always read the book in a browser whenever I want since it's not downloaded and my overdrive account always holds my place where I left off in the browser version. Overdrive will also usually let you choose between Kindle or Overdrive for downloading. You can only pick one of these, but even after you download it, you can still access the read-in-browser version. I often switch between the downloaded version and the browser version depending on where I want to read. The browser and downloaded versions aren't synced up, so if you switch between the two often you'll have to manually find your place because it will only bookmark where you last read in that particular version. Despite that small set back, I love that I can check out an ebook and literally read it anywhere I've got a device (and wifi depending on if I saved the book to a device or not).

I'm less familiar with audiobooks but have started to develop a love for them because I can also use Overdrive for audiobooks. I almost always download these to my phone so that way I don't use data when listening in my car, which is one of the ways I treat audiobooks differently than ebooks. I found the Reading with Your Ears article by Kaite Mediatore very informative because I know a lot of people listen to audiobooks more frequently and differently than I do so there are some major appeal factors that I didn't really think about. Abrdiged or unabridged? Favorite narrator? Music? CD or cassette (and now smart device compatible)? Is the patron using the audiobook for driving or reading alongside? I really think the good narrator and length really applies with the driving scenario. From personal experience, no one wants a dull narrator during a long drive. I use audiobooks in the car to calm the road rage and keep me awake, not put me to sleep!  Length is an appeal factor that I think applies a lot for a long road trip because I want the book to be long enough to cover the whole trip (with some extra length  to account for bad traffic), and hopefully finish or be nearly finished with the book by the time the trip is over. Since I'm still not very well versed in the audiobook world and don't know who all the best narrators are yet (I have had the pleasure of listening to a James Marsters audiobook and would love to listen to more like him) I will definitely be seeking as much information as I can out of my patrons to learn more about why they like particular audiobooks.

Mediatore, K. (2003). Reading with Your Ears: Readers' Advisory and Audio Books. Reference and User Services Quarterly, 42(4), 318-23. Retrieved from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Historical Fiction Annotation: The Fortune Hunter

Image result for the fortune hunterBook Information:
Goodwin, D. (2014). The Fortune Hunter. New York, NY. St. Martin's Press.

ISBN: 978-1-250-04389-4

Summary: The Fortune Hunter is the story of a Victorian love triangle in 1875. Elizabeth or "Sisi" is the illustrious Empress of Austria who is famed for her mystery and goddess-like looks. She is bored and in an unhappy marriage with Emperor Franz Joseph and seeks to lift her spirits by visiting England for hunting season. Enter Captain Bay Middleton, one of England's finest horsemen, although he bears the reputation of being a penniless ladies' man, a "Fortune hunter". Bay finds himself falling for the lovely and quirky heiress, Charlotte Baird and they soon become engaged. Sisi enlists Bay to be her pilot and guide her during the hunting season and he becomes absolutely enthralled by her beauty and their shared passion for riding and horses. Will Bay pursue a woman who is leagues beyond his reach and jeopardize his engagement?

Characteristics of Historical Fiction: 

  • Plenty of accurate historical detail relating to the setting, characters and/or events. 
    The Fortune Hunter should not be looked to as a source for history in chronological order, however Goodwin based her story on the life of many real people. Nearly all of the characters in this book were real and what was unknown about some of those characters, Goodwin supplied her own twist to their personalities to suit the story. Historical events that happened to Sisi in particular did happen, but not in the order that's described in the book.
  • Storyline focuses on a particular historical event or time period, or follow the life of a character (real or fictional). 

    This book follows the life of many real people during the Victorian Era, although their personalities may not follow the behaviors of who that person actually was - the most the author knew about was the life of Sisi.
  • Characters, regardless of real or fiction are depicted to fit the times, and their actions are shaped by the time period. 
    Since Goodwin didn't know much about many of the other characters outside of Sisi and Bay Middleton, she had to give some other key characters in their life, such as Bay's fiance, Charlotte Baird, traits and hobbies to fit the time period. Photography was becoming a new hobby, and so Charlotte is very passionate about photography and art.
  • Thick book, leisure pace. These take time to read. 
    This book is 475 pages and the pace was pretty slow. It wasn't a completely bad read, but if I'm honest, I preferred other historical fictions over this one. The plot is purely character driven and some of the characters weren't strong enough to hold everything together.
  • Language, dialect, and style may take favor over grammatically correct for a more 'authentic' style. 
    Since this is Victorian England the dialog and writing style is definitely more refined and fitting for the time period and shouldn't bother most readers. There are some books that I've read before where the dialect and misspelling of words for authenticity got in the way of enjoying the read for me.

Twain's End by Lynn Cullen
The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh
A Triple Knot by Emma Campion
The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn
Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

Book Club Experience

I attended a book club at one of the branches of my local library. It happens every first Monday in the evenings at 6:30PM and lasts about an hour. It wasn't difficult for me to find as they were meeting in the community room at the library. I hadn't read the book they were discussing, The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett, but I was still welcomed into the group and given opportunity to talk if I wanted. It was a small group, about 8 of us total counting myself and the lady leading it.

We each had a little paper name tag in front of our seat at the table to help learn names as they started the discussion. First they went around in the circle so that everyone who wished to had a chance to talk about their general thoughts about the book. This took about the first fifteen minutes or so, and it seemed like there were mixed reviews about the book. A few had a hard time getting into it at first, some liked the book, however it seemed that the common feeling here was that no one liked the main character. The discussion naturally seemed to continue on it's own, many of the readers had questions of their own that they'd like the group to discuss although it seemed that the lady facilitating had also prepared some questions just in case the discussion needed any encouraging.

For this book, however, there seemed to be plenty to discuss. They spoke about the characters as if they were real people and seemed to complete a character analysis on at least half the characters in the book to try to figure out their motivations. Two people seemed pretty riled up about how much they hated the protagonist and wondered why they were reading the book in the first place and they used plenty of examples from the book to back up their feelings. The people that enjoyed the book weren't able to defend the protagonist - the consensus was she wasn't a good person - but instead of disliking it they took it as more of an intrigue because the character clearly had a lot of issues. Even though I hadn't read the book it didn't take long for me to be able to follow along and not be lost in the conversation. This book seemed to have been the idea of the facilitator to read because she talked about having read the book years ago and had so many questions, so it seemed like a good title meant for deep discussion.

As the conversation started to dwindle down they facilitator passed around a sheet of paper so that everyone could write down book titles and authors they'd like the book club to discuss. Then later the club would vote from that list to assign books to later months this year. Next month the club will be reading a nonfiction book, so it looks like they are pretty open to a variety of titles and don't stick to a genre or type of book.

I haven't attended a book club since I was probably a kid. Going to one as an adult was nice and welcoming, although it did remind me a lot of a literature class (the book club was much more enjoyable).

Monday, March 6, 2017

Special Topics Paper: Reader's Advisory for Parents

I work with kids on a daily basis and so to tie that in with this class I chose to write about conducting Reader's Advisory with Parents. Working with parents can be very tricky and they often come up asking for books to give to their kids - especially teens. Teens can be so busy that they don't have time to come into the library, and sometimes they don't really want to read so parents are trying to make an effort to find a book that will get their teen to enjoy reading. Parents don't always have a great idea about this, and may not understand that their child might be really into graphic novels (as an example) and doesn't see the literary merit in them. Those are the parents who may be like "I want my son to read quality literature, like the Great Gatsby." It's difficult to find a way to please the parent but also find a book that the child will actually read and enjoy reading. I found an article from YALSA that addressed this topic really well. Who is the real patron in this situation? The parent? The Child? Both? What do you do when your patron isn't in front of you at the reference desk but by proxy (the parent)?

The YALSA article reminds the reader that parents are our allies in connecting kids with books and seeing the library in a positive light. That being said, it's top priority that despite how difficult it may be sometimes we need to make sure we provide our parents with excellent readers advisory service. We can steer our reader's advisory interview towards asking the parent questions about the child. What have they read recently? What books have they liked in the past? Does the parent know what the child read recently that they didn't like? Is there a particular reason why a parent is looking for a specific type of book or what about The Great Gatsby makes it a 'quality' book in their eyes? Understanding the parents rationale and as much information about the child's personality and preferences will help greatly with the search for book suggestions that will make both parent and child happy. I also found a great reader's advisory form online from a library that has great questions that could be asked in an in-person interview or a great way for the parent or even the teen to fill out and turn in if they have the time for the librarian to search thoroughly for book suggestions.

You can see the form here:

I also wrote a little bit about Reader's advisory for parents that are seeking materials on parenting advice and how uncomfortable it might be for a librarian who isn't also a parent. I delved into that topic as well because from my own interactions with parents in a library I can sometimes be automatically seen as an expert based on the fact that I represent the library. I'll have parents asking me all sorts of parenting questions and I have no real experience. What I learned for that is to make sure to weed and build a strong collection for parenting that embodies many parenting styles and cultures since it is so different.

Booth, H. (2006). Reader's Advisory by Proxy: Connecting Teens and Books through Positive Interactions with Parents and Caregivers. Young Adult Library Services, 5(1), 14-15.