Friday, February 24, 2017

Week 7 Prompt

I did not realize that fake memoirs were a thing, but I can't say that I am surprised. So many movies have the description "Based on a true story." It is a selling point. People like the idea that what they are reading or seeing is true. From the marketing stand point, I get it.

I do not understand how someone can morally make the decision to sell works of fiction as nonfiction, though. That is simply lying to every person who reads your book. It is making up stories about people you have come into contact with for your gain only. It is disrespectful to people who have actually been in those situations, especially the title listed on the Wikipedia website where someone fabricated Holocaust experiences. That's just despicable. No one should wish themselves into those situations.

Last semester I took S672 Seminar in Literature for Youth. The focus of this particular seminar was nonfiction. We talked a lot about authenticity. There are things to look for in nonfiction to further support their claims. There should be citations. Direct quotes are good to include. Primary documents help to support the text. These are all things, both as librarians and as readers, we should look for in a nonfiction book. While a memoir isn't quite the same, I do think that they could include specific dates, photographs, quotes from other people, and, in some cases, supporting documentation for the events that they claim have occurred. When it comes to emotions and thoughts, of course, we will have to take the author at his or her word.

That got me thinking: Who should be in charge of ensuring that a memoir is truthful? Obviously, I would hope that the author would only include facts, but we see that this isn't always the case. Does that job fall to the publishers? The readers? The booksellers and librarians? Who should be held responsible?

For myself, I think that the publishers should at least be our first line of defense. They should provide enough fact checking in order to be reasonably sure that the majority of the memoir isn't false. Publishers, though, are in the business to make money. Do they fact check and ignore the findings if they think that a book will sell well? Do they simply not fact check and take the author at his or her word? Simply from reading The Smoking Gun's article about A Million Little Lies, we see that one of these scenarios has to fit as least some publishing companies.

The job of fact checking seems to fall to the reader. Not everyone is going to have the skills or tools necessary to do this. We typically rely upon authority figures, such as libraries and reviews. With libraries, that can be tricky. It is our job to provide books that patrons want to read as much as it is to provide accurate information. If a book is listed on best sellers lists, praised by experts, and requested often, do we order it despite the lack of supporting evidence that it is true?

I am peeved that Oprah Winfrey endorsed this book without someone having fact checked it. Her book club has a huge following. Her choices are influential. It should have been her administration's responsibility to ensure that a nonfiction is actually true before endorsing it. Just from reading The Smoking Gun's article, there are several portions of this book that seem outlandish. Did no one stop to think that it might be better to fact check this book before promoting it? Or was it a matter of money at play again? People with this much influence should take their responsibility more seriously.

This whole topic upset me. I suppose that the best thing for us to do is try our best to provide our patrons with accurate materials and opportunities to show our patrons how to examine materials themselves.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mystery Annotation: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley

Details -
  • Title: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd
  • Author: Alan Bradley
  • Publication Date: September 20, 2016
  • Genre: Mystery
  • # of Pages: 326
  • Setting: 1950's Bishop's Lacey, England
Synopsis -
In the eighth installment of Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce novels, Flavia has made her way back after being kicked out of a Canadian boarding school. Upon arrival, she finds that her father has contracted a serious case of pneumonia and is in the hospital, her sisters are as unwelcoming as ever, her live-in cousin is just as insufferable, and her poor pet chicken has been butchered. This is not the reception for which she has been hoping. She immediately wishes to set out to see her father, but is delayed time and again by the matron's insistence that he receive no visitors. She instead sets out to on an errand for the vicar's wife and stumbles upon the corpse of an old man. With the use of her budding deductive skills and affinity for chemistry, this young and spunky heroine sets out to solve the mystery of his death, all while dealing with her own dysfunctional family dynamics. 

Mystery Characteristics -
  • The plot focuses around a crime; in this case (and most mystery books) the focus is on a murder.
  • The story focuses on our young (12 years old) investigator, Flavia.
  • Contains interesting supporting characters in the form of both suspects and series characters.
  • One in a series, containing both enticing mysteries and interesting character life, which keeps the reader returning to learn more.
  • The investigator genuinely enjoys solving crimes (in Flavia's case, she particularly enjoys happening upon dead bodies and is intrigued by the chemistry that takes place there).
  • The author sets the frame and setting to attract readers.
Characteristics of Amateur Detective Subgenre
  • The main character "falls into" the case when she attempts to deliver a letter and find a corpse instead.
  • The main character has a contact with the police department. Flavia frequently shares her findings with Inspector Hewitt and looks up to him. She wants to impress him.
  • Plot has a gentler tone.
  • The investigator is not formally trained since she is a 12-year-old girl.
Read-a-Likes -

Awards or Lists -
This book has high reviews from many reputable sources, such as Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews. For his Flavia de Luce series, Alan Bradly has won numerous awards, including:
  • Debut Dagger Award of the Crime Writers Association in the UK
  • Agatha Award for Best First Novel
  • 2010 Dilys, awarded by the International Mystery Booksellers Association
  • Spotted Owl award, given by the Friends of Mystery
  • 2010 Arthur Ellis Award, given by the Crime Writers of Canada for Best First Novel
  • titles on ALA's best books lists and New York Times Best Sellers lists

My Thoughts -
This is one of the series that I follow. I would definitely call it a "cozy" mystery. It is leisurely paced and is about more than just the murder, though that is the main story line. The main character, Flavia, is also dealing with a lot in regards to her family. The entire series is told from her perspective, which gives you a really good view into her personality. It is easy to fall in love with her wit and humor and somewhat sad to see her family dynamic. The way that she handles various situations is endearing. The series also gives some insight into the personalities of her family members and neighbors as well. Her love of chemistry and age definitely make her a unique heroine. The murders in each book are complicated enough that I never guess how all of the pieces fit together, but I do make some correct guesses. The murder mystery part of it is fun, but Flavia is definitely why I keep returning to this series. I fall in love with her character again during each book. In order to really enjoy it, though, you need to be in the mood for something a little bit slower. Don't read this when you are in the mood for a fast-paced, action packed novel; you won't do it justice.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Week 6 Prompt

This is totally late, but hopefully someone will enjoy it anyway!

For Week 6's prompt, I have chosen to focus on Gentle Reads. I really like the initial description used in our textbook: Warm Milk. When I think of Gentle Reads, I think of books that are meant to help you relax. Nothing is rushed. Everything works out in the end. They may even be a bit funny.

Two times of year come to my mind when I think of Gentle Reads: summer vacation (beach reads) and winter break (cozy up with a blanket and hot chocolate reads). Both are times of year that people most wish to relax and take it easy. I think that a display during each of these times of year would do best. You wouldn't necessarily name your display Gentle Reads. I am thinking more something along the lines of "Relax on the beach or by the pool with...." and "Snuggle up with your blanket, hot chocolate, and one of these cozy titles." I would set up a reading corner near these displays meant to show that same scenario. You could use beach chairs, sunglasses, and sand toys for the summer reading. For the winter display, you could set out blankets, pillows, slippers, snow globes, and even hot chocolate. You could give a short description of each suggested book and why it would be perfect for these take-it-easy times of year. Making the displays / reading corner eye-catching would draw more patrons in to read the blurbs.

I also think that it would be a good idea to incorporate one of the suggested titles in with the monthly book club. You could start with these lists to choose a book and then make it into a display for the entire season. This will give automatic recommendations to your book club members who enjoyed the book you chose to focus one.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Week 5 Prompt

Romantic Suspense Novel Reviews
These reviews are not professionally written. They contain numerous typographical errors. Both reviews state their opinions without really giving supporting evidence from the book. They both give a pretty good summary, but I don't really trust their reviews. The Amazon review gushes without giving supporting details. The blog review is wishy-washy. He or she says that they enjoyed the book, yet thought the plot was odd. Other than it was focused on Christmas, the blog poster doesn't really say what made it odd. There is not enough supporting details in order for me to take these reviews seriously.

From these reviews, I also do not get the feeling of a romantic suspense novel. There are no elements of suspense noted.

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
These reviews are much more professionally written. There are no "I" statements. The different aspects of the text, such as the focus on humor, are backed up by examples from the text. The reviews focus on the aspects of the text rather than the reviewers feelings about the book. Because of this, it feels much more like a recommendation than simply someone's opinion. The reviewers weaved a summary into explaining the feeling of the book. I would be much more likely to add Angela's Ashes  to my library than The Billionaire's First Christmas. In fact, I think that I will check my catalog now to see if we have a copy.

Book Review Bias
It definitely seems that there are biases when it comes to choosing books to review professionally. The books that you see reviewed are typically either literary fiction, popular authors, or more socially accepted genres. You don't see many reviews of romance or romantic suspense featured in Kirkus. I think that this may come from the idea that all romance and romantic suspense novels are is fluff. I assume that reviewers typically review genres that they enjoy and not many reviwers prefer these genres.

As far as how it affects my book ordering, though, I am not sure that it does. Honestly, our patrons read romance, cozy mysteries, and Christian fiction more than any other genres. Because we know this, we have an automatic order set up with book vendors for these genres. Do I specifically go looking for these types of titles to add? No. We already get new ones in regularly. I focus my efforts on finding reviews for those genres that we do not have on automatic order.

Negative Reviews
I am not quite sure exactly how I feel about negative reviews. I think that they are important. A review should be honest. I do not think that it is okay to pay someone to only say nice things about a book if they don't have only nice things to say. That much I know. When it comes to whether or not to publish those negative views is where I am on the fence. Personally, I want to read honest reviews whether they are good or bad. It is frustrating not to be able to find a review for a book. If the company's sole focus is only to recommend books, though, I am not sure that it is necessary to publish negative reviews. If a book has an overwhelmingly negative review, the company will obviously not want to recommend it. I do think that it is important for people to know this about a company, however. They should be forthright with what you expect to get from their reviews. If they don't post negative ones, it should be common knowledge.

My Use of Reviews
I use reviews both when ordering books for my library and my own personal use. I stick to the big names: Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. I also check the Amazon description for the book. Sometimes reviews from other magazines, newspapers, and authors are listed there. The more good reviews that the book can brag about, the better.

When ordering for the library, I am more professional when it comes to book reviews. I look at the big names and see if it has won any awards. When looking for myself, I do these things, too. I also, however, look at personal comments in Amazon and Goodreads. I don't read through them thoroughly. You are more likely to find spoilers that way. I glance over the top few reviews to kind of get a feel for how the book was received.

Kirkus Style Review - A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin follows a series of characters in the fight for the throne of the kingdom before the oncoming winter.

With winter comes great despair and hardships. Throughout the realm of the Seven Kingdoms, various parties have different views of who would best rule for this oncoming time. Throughout multiple perspectives, we see that the fight for the thrones is fought with more than simple swords and shields. Secret battles, attempted murder, political intrigue, back-stabbing actions, and many other attacks are used to gain the advantage. Stuck in the middle of this complicated situation is the Stark family of Winterfell. George R. R. Martin weaves the various members of the Stark family, among many others, into the thick of the struggle for the throne. Every member of the Stark family plays an important role in this struggle, from 7-year-old Bran to head-of-the-household Ned. Even with a multitude of different characters, each one is well-developed. The various story plots interconnect between key figures and help to develop a complex and real story. The depth that Martin produces in both the plot and the characters provides for a world that the reader can immerse themselves into, as long as they can keep track of who is doing what.

This book, while creating an in depth and complicated world, is not for light readers. Serious focus is required in order to fully enjoy and understand this first novel in the series A Song of Fire and Ice.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Secret Shopper

The library that I went to serves a single town. It has one branch and only had one desk. All queries are answered at this one desk. While there was no signage promoting reader's advisory, the librarian was very friendly and willing to help.

I asked specifically for a literary fiction recommendation. (That is the only genre annotation for which  don't have a book picked out.) She gave me a puzzled look at consulted her computer. I told her that it was for an assignment. She seemed to consult Google and then switch to Goodreads. Google gave her fairy tales and fables. Through Goodreads she was able to find some actual titles that would fall under that category. She did consult a decent tool in searching Goodreads, but did not have ask the necessary questions in order to narrow down the choices for me. She gave me a list of titles. After it seemed that was all she was going to do, I told her thank you and that I would review the titles and come back. During the reader's advisory interview, she did ask me what I liked to read. There was no follow up, however, and she did not learn much about my reading tastes.

While I wouldn't exactly call this experience unsuccessful, it was not what it should have been. I walked away with a list of titles to look into, but I still don't have a book lined up for that category. Knowing the community that this library serves and its size, I believe that this transaction was not very successful due to lack of experience. I doubt that they get many reader's advisory questions in general, and probably even fewer asking for literary fiction. Lack of knowledge and training is most likely what made this transaction less successful than it could have been.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Romance Annotation: The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Details -
  • Title: The Notebook
  • Author: Nicholas Sparks
  • Publication Date: January 5, 2000
  • Genre: Romance
  • # of Pages: 206 (Kindle edition)
  • Setting: 1946 & present-day-ish New Berne, North Carolina
Synopsis -
The story begins with an elderly man in a nursing home. He finds his way to a woman's room who has Alzheimer's. Throughout the day, he reads to her from a notebook about the love between Noah and Allie. They fall in love as teenagers, are separated, and think each has forgotten the other. Through this story, we learn of their timeless love. Later on, we learn more about the elderly gentleman and lady that we meet at the beginning of the story. We reminisce with him through his life's memories. This couple shows the reader the possibilities that an enduring and passionate love can have on a life.

Romance Characteristics -
  • Contains the tone and mood of a romance in that it focuses on emotions, feelings, and thoughts of the characters.
  • The characters exhibit qualities of easily identifiable types: Noah is strong and rugged while Allie is beautiful, strong, and bright.
  • The story contains both outside circumstances that force them to part (Allie is forced to move with her parents at the end of the summer) and a misunderstanding between protagonists (Allie never receives the letters that Noah sends).
  • The language is that of a typical romance novel. There is a lot of poetry and descriptive language.
  • The focus is on the characters and their emotions rather than the plot.
  • The focus is on the romantic relationship.
  • Fast-paced in that it was an easy book to read through quickly.
  • Results in a "happy" ending; Allie remembers Noah on their anniversary night. They spend that night together like they used to be.

Read-a-Likes -
*Disclaimer* Since I do not have much experience with this genre, these read-a-likes were gathered through reader's advisory resources.

Awards or Lists -
While this book has not won any awards (to my knowledge), it was turned into a major motion pictures. The movie was nominated for and won many different awards.

My Thoughts -
I have mixed feelings about this one. The initial portion of the book that goes through Allie and Noah's past was not for me. I found it all too neat and cliche. There was some eye-rolling involved. I had a hard time relating to it. It was all love and understanding. Where was the anger? Where was the frustration? Why was everyone so understanding? No one would be that understanding in real life. The second half of the book, however, got to me a bit more. The second portion was told from Noah's point of view in the present day. He thought back through memories with his children and with Allie. He reread letters that they had written to each other. He dealt with the difficult feelings that come with a loved one with Alzheimer's. This I found much more touching. To imagine the pain that someone must go through in that situation was heartbreaking. Overall, I thought it too idealistic. I am not a big romantic, though. I don't believe in love at first sight; I believe that love takes work and sweat. This book made love sound like something that easily and naturally came to two people. I know Nicholas Sparks is a popular author, but I don't think he is the author for me or that romance is the genre for me.