Monday, March 27, 2017

Week 12 Prompt

Where is the book on the narrative continuum?
Mixed (combines highly narrative moments with periods of fact-based prose)

What is the subject of the book?
The book focuses on the decline and fall of the Romanov family, both from the viewpoint of the Romanov family and their poverty-stricken people, all while somehow being able to make you connect with both vastly different sides.

What type of book is it?
This book is kind of a mixture of a biography of the Romanov family and a historical look at Russia's people during that time period. Maybe historical isn't the right word. It describes the experience of various civilians during the Romanov rule and its demise. They are typically from someone's point of view; like an individual, mini-biography of different Russian citizens.

Articulate Appeal
What is the pacing of the book?
I would consider this book to have a measured pace. I like that there were breaks between where the book switched back and forth between the Romanov family and the people of Russia. I think that this made it easier to read and kept it from feeling slow.

Describe the characters of the book.
Of the Romanov family, the book focuses on Nicholas and Alexandra,the tsar and his wife. We see the circumstances that they went through, how that influenced their decisions, some glimpses of their personality through outside sources, and a bit into their emotions. There are also several short stories of different Russian peasants. Each of these tells a set of difficult circumstances that the peasant encountered. The author writes in a way that allows us to connect with all of the characters, whether royalty or peasant.

How does the story feel?
This book definitely has a dark and grim feel. The time period was not an easy one and the author makes sure that you understand that.

What is the focus of the story?
The focus is the experiences of both the royalty and the peasants leading up to and during the fall of the Romanov family.

Does the language matter?
I think that the language used makes it feel less like nonfiction. The author uses adjectives well. There is not a dense vocabulary (though it does include some Russian words). There are quotes from other people. This all makes it an easier nonfiction read.

Is the setting important and well-described?
The setting in a typical sense is not essential, other than it happened in Russia during the late 1800s and early 1900s. What is important here is the time period and what the people experience rather than it takes place in such-and-such city.

Are there details and, if so, what?
There are dates listed when important. Most of the details are narrative in nature. They describe the daily life or important events in people's lives. There are quotes throughout.

Are there sufficient charts and other graphic materials?
There is a family tree and a map at the beginning of the book and pictures throughout.

Are they useful and clear?
Yes. I flipped back to re-examine the family tree and map multiple times. This helped me to keep track of the people and the geography that were being discussed. The pictures help to give you a feel of what the people were like and dealing with during this time period.

Does the book stress moments of learning, understanding, or experience?
I think that this book is meant to stress experience. We are looking at the collapse of the Romanov family. We are meant to see why it collapsed and experience the life that the different people involved experienced in order to help us understand why it happened.

Why would a reader enjoy this book?

  1. Experience driven
  2. Dark and grim feel
  3. Easy-to-read language

Literary Annotation: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Details -
  • Title: Station Eleven
  • Author: Emily St. John Mandel
  • Publication Date: June 2, 2015
  • Genre: Literary Fiction
  • # of Pages: 352
  • Setting: mainly Canada and U.S., before and after a pandemic
Synopsis -
Station Eleven follows the lives of five individuals before and after the pandemic of the Georgia Flu. Each of their journeys are connected. We get to see how the world looks differently to each individual character and their reflections. During their lifetime, a flu like no other has hit the world, taking countless people with it. The survivors are left with little more than their own skills and what they can scavenge. Will they be able to start over? How will this effect their lives? What is important in the world anyway? Follow an aging actor, a paramedic-in-training, an artist, a dear friend, and a traveling Shakespearean actress to find out what drives them and how they cope. 

Fantasy Characteristics -
  • Typically award-winning (while this did not win, it was nominated for two awards)
  • Character-centered (story focuses on how the individuals cope with their lives rather than specifically what caused these conditions)
  • Thought-provoking (characters reflect on the important aspects of life and how it has affected them rather than their emotions)
  • Story is layered and includes background details (all characters have some important connection to the character Arthur, also focuses on past and present situations and making sense of them both, isn't really a straight storyline and jumps between moments in their lives)
  • Characters are very introspective
  • Darker tone (post-apocalyptic world)

Read-a-Likes -

Awards or Lists -
National Book Award Finalist
PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist

My Thoughts -
I enjoyed this book. I love to see things from different characters' perspectives, especially while trying to see the connection between each one. I liked seeing the different points in each character's life. I wasn't sure about it when I first started, but the last line of chapter two had me hooked. It reads, "Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city." At this point, I had forgotten that it was based around a pandemic. I was very much intrigued and loved the style of writing. The bluntness of it after these characters had been sitting around talking just appealed to me. It is definitely a very thought-provoking book. There are a few things that frustrated me, but only because I like to have things wrapped up somewhat at the end. One of the characters, Kirsten, cannot remember the first year of her life on the road after the pandemic. We never get to see that part of her life. There also isn't really any conclusion. The people go on as they were, trying to build a life. We don't get to see what the world ends up like or see any connection outside of North America. These things were slightly irritating, but I was okay with it because it doesn't really fit in with this genre anyway. Bottom line: If you are looking for a book that will leave you thinking afterwards, read this. If you like plot-driven stories with tidy endings, don't read it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Week 11 Prompt

Personal Preferences
I typically go with what is the most convenient. I have no problem with eBooks. I like that they are much lighter in my purse. I don't go anywhere without a book, so this can make a big difference. I like the immediacy of eBooks. I do not like the long wait lists that come with the more popular eBooks through my library's lending system. (They use OverDrive.) If it is a book that I am going to permanently add to my collection or read over and over, though, I want the physical book. There are times where I just want something familiar. For those books, I want the physical copy. I love seeing them placed on my shelf. If it something that I don't know I will love yet or am impatient to read (and the library doesn't have it available in any format and waiting 2-3 days to get it from Amazon is unbearable and I can't go to my local bookstore because it is completely unorganized and half an hour away), I am okay with purchasing an eBook. While permanent collection is compromised of more physical books, I wouldn't put myself in Camp Anti-eBook.

I can definitely say that I am in Camp Don't-Even-Suggest-An-Audio-Book. I understand their merits for other people, but they are definitely not my cup of tea. I am very much a visual learner. Pretty much my only experience with audio books dates back to elementary school. The teacher would occasionally make us follow to a recording of a book that the class was reading. I hated it. I always finished reading before the narrator. I despised the chiming sound that mean you had to turn the page or that the chapter was finished. I felt like the background noises meant to coincide with the text's descriptions just completely threw me out of the experience. Not everyone shares my preferences, though. I get that and in no way do I think that they are useless.

Initial Thoughts
With my personal preferences, I did not at first realize the implication that format could have in this case. They are still the same book after all, right? The only things that I could come up with are the advantages for people with disabilities. For the most part, there is a lot that you can alter about an eBook. If you have trouble reading small print, you can make the font larger. If some colors are harder to read, there is the option to alter that. If the font itself is unbearable, you can change that. Don't have a reliable way to get to the library? Check out an eBook. Do you rely on a transportation service due to mobility issues? Check out an eBook. Will you end up pulling your hair out if you try to go to the library with your crazy children who have to touch everything and need your undivided attention or will run around? (I've totally been there.) Check out an eBook. Work during the hours that the library is open? Check out an eBook. There are so many advantages to this format.

After the Readings
I never thought about the fact that you can't see how much is left could make a difference. I am afraid that is all I will think about from now on. (Thanks a lot, Dunnebeck.) I can definitely see how that could be an important appeal factor. If your excitement (or dread) builds up as you see the end of the book approaching, then the eBook format probably isn't for you. I have run into the problem of trying to find a specific part in a book for reference. If you need to remember exactly which character they are talking about, for example. Skimming back through to find that spot is definitely much harder in an eBook. On the flip-side though, attaching notes and highlighting is much easier. EBooks allow you to look at a list of the notes and highlights that you have made and go back to those spots specifically. This could be an advantage for someone who takes extensive notes during a book. (I occasionally do this if I am reading for an assignment or trying to find out who the murderer is in a mystery. Have you ever read The Westing Game? It is one of my favorites from middle school and definitely one that could require note-taking depending upon your style.) You also have to consider how easy it is to physically read an eBook. Reading an eBook makes it much easier to read at night because you don't need as much light, but at the same time it can be very hard on people with sensitive eyes to read on a back-lit screen. I never really thought about how all of these factors could relate to reader's advisory until this week's reading.

Audio Books
Initial Thoughts
I honestly don't know much about audio books. I am overwhelmingly a visual learner, so I haven't had an personal experience with them myself. I can understand their value for people who learn or pay attention better when presented with things in an audio format. I also hear a lot about people who travel a lot or are taking a long road trip using audio books. Audio books could also be beneficial for those patrons who have a visual impairment.

After the Readings
I knew nothing about audio books before reading this week's article and blog post. I never even put any thought into the narrator; I assumed that the book was narrated by the author. Are the narrators featured just as highly (or more so) than the author on the case? Do certain narrators stick to certain genres? Just from the different descriptions of narrators I can understand the importance of choosing the right one. It needs to match both the tone and mood of the book while also appealing to the listener. Patrons can have preferences between male and female characters, reading pace, and voicing characteristics. I assume that there are narrators with different accents as well. This could have an effect on whether or not a listener enjoys the audio book. Then there is the format of the audio book. You have tapes, CDs, and streaming. I know that you can get audio books through Amazon's Audible and that OverDrive provides streaming audio books. It seems that a lot of people use audio books in a vehicle though. Would it be practical or even accessible to use these in the car? They would need to consider what they would be using it on. How are audio books formatted? Is there a track for each chapter or does it just go from beginning to end? Do they all have cues at the end of each chapter? Are there some that use multiple narrators in order to voice different viewpoints? I didn't realize just how much I didn't know about audio books. This reading left me with a lot of questions. I can definitely understand how their is more to reader's advisory of this format than simply whether or not you like to listen to a story rather than read it.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Fantasy Annotation: King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard

Details -
  • Title: King's Cage
  • Author: Victoria Aveyard
  • Publication Date: February 7,2017
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • # of Pages: 528
  • Setting: future North America, new countries: Norta, Piedmont
Synopsis -
Background: In this future world, the population has become split between two groups: red bloods and silver bloods. The silver bloods have special abilities based upon their familial ties, such as control over fire, water, or plants. The silvers have risen to power and nobility, now ruling over the different countries that make up what used to be North America. The main country in focus is Norta. Reds are not so fortunate. They face poverty, hunger, and conscription into a never-ending war with the neighboring country of Lakeland. There is no chance at changing; you are either a wealthy silver or a poverty-stricken red. Or so the world thought until Mare Barrow came along...

King's Cage is the third installment in Victoria Aveyard's best-selling series, Red Queen. Mare Barrow has just surrendered herself to the terrifying and cruel king Maven in order to save her friends and family. She finds herself as Maven's prisoner, isolated within his castle. Thanks to his unhealthy obsession with her, Mare learns more and more about how Maven became the kind of person he is while also trying to pick up hints at what advances the Scarlet Guard is making. Through Cameron, a newblood character introduced in the second book in the series, we get the inside scoop on the Scarlet Guard's movements. Will they be able to rescue Mare? Is that even their focus? Where do their true loyalties lie? What are Maven's ultimate plans for Mare? Will be able to face down the uprising that the Scarlet Guard has started? Through the multiple perspectives of Mare, Cameron, and later the silver Evangeline, we see the story told from the viewpoints of three strong, female characters and the impact that each has on the fate of Norta.

Fantasy Characteristics -
  • Includes elements of magic (silvers' and newbloods' special abilities)
  • Focus on relationships and emotions (We learn a lot about how Mare feels and see how that affects her actions.)
  • Setting is focused on reality, but altered through a great time advance in the future
  • Contains romantic interest without that being the focus
  • Battle of Good vs. Evil told over a series of books
  • Follows the same storyline throughout the series, rather than focusing on different adventures in an installment
  • Optimistic for victory, but not accomplished without loss (Mare loses people who are important to her throughout the series in a variety of different ways.

Read-a-Likes -

Awards or Lists -
This book has high reviews from many reputable sources, such as Publisher's Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. It is much too new of a book to have won any awards. The Red Queen series has been on the best-sellers lists and each book has received praise.

My Thoughts -
This is my jam. YA dystopia/fantasy books with strong females characters that struggle with their emotions and flaws are one of my favorite types of books. I have read every single read-a-like on the list for this annotation (The Maze Runner is the only one without a female protaganist.). I have devoured each of those series just like I have the Red Queen series. I really liked that this time around we got to see into Cameron's and Evangeline's thoughts. It allowed the reader to see the same story from multiple perspectives and learn more about the characters. For some reason, I was under the impression that this was the last book. (Maybe because it seems like there are soooooo many trilogies lately.) Because I was in that mindset, I kept looking at how many pages I had left thinking that things would never be wrapped up nicely. It ended in a way, though, that sets itself up for a good transition. The war has not ended, but there is a plan and new alliance in place. Mare is left dealing with a difficult personal situation at the end of the book. It left me very impatient for the fourth book in the series. I feel like everything is at a tipping point and the characters are going to have to make some hard decisions in the next installment. Bottom line: if you like fast-paced, character driven, fantasy novels, then read this series.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Book Club Experience

The book club that I am focusing on was held at a local public library near the end of February. The book that was featured was A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman. Having not read this book myself, I played the role of observer.

Before attending this book club, I tried to do some research on the book club itself. Other than where it is held and what the current month's book was, I couldn't really find any information on their website or in their newsletter. From attending, I didn't glean much more information of exactly how the book club works. At the end of the meeting, the next book's title a reminder was shared for the next month's meeting and book. How they chose the books or dates, I have no idea. I assume that the dates are chosen on a schedule. The dates for both February and March were on Monday evenings about three fourths of the way into the book. Unfortunately, the calendar on the library's website did not give much information beyond March. I was hoping to see if the date was on a particular day each month and what their upcoming books were, but that information was not provided. I very much got the sense that the attendees were regulars and knew the ins and outs of how the book club worked. As a new face, I would have liked a little more explanation on what exactly the plans were.

The two book choices that I was able to find were A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman for February and Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser for March. I decided to read the synopsis for each of these books to see if there was a particular type of book that this club leans towards. February's pick is a New York Time's best selling book about a man who is more than he seems. From first observation, the main character is a cranky old man with an unfriendly attitude. Upon further investigation by a new neighboring family, the reader learns more about his sad and endearing history. The book is described as heart-warming. In comparison, March's book seems to have a much grittier and darker feel. It follows a sixteen-year-old, independent, and courageous girl in her journey to save a baby from a criminal home. While the setting and tone seem much different than A Man Called Ove, both seem to have strong characters with deep personalities in settings that are not ideal. Having only two books to go by, I would say that this book club most likely prefers books that focus on characters rather than plot.

The book club was held in the meeting room of the public library. There was a staff member who seemed to be the facilitator. She greeted each member as they entered and began the discussion. She started with a synopsis of the book and then opened up a question to the rest of the members. The members were all middle-aged to seniors with a good mixture of men and women. They took turns politely answering the questions and starting their own discussion. The library staff member did not answer or respond to any question directly unless the discussion was at a low point. When this happened, the staff member would share her opinion or open up the discussion with a new question. While all members participated, there were a few that were more vocal than others. While they each brought their own ideas to the discussion, I got the impression that they all typically carried similar views. The library that I participated at is in a small, rural area. The fact that the members seemed to share views did not surprise me very much. They all are from similar backgrounds and of similar ages. Overall, the discussion happened very smoothly without many pauses. The members were polite. The atmosphere was friendly. The only off-putting factor was that, as a new-comer, the familiarity between members and lack of inclusion for me. If I had read the book, this may not have been the case. I think I would like to participate in this book club in the future to see if it feels different being an active participant.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Special Topic: Graphic Novels

What are graphic novels?
Merriam-Webster defines a graphic novel as "a story that is presented in comic-strip format and published as a book". Graphic novels utilize a series of panels that typically include graphics, speech bubbles, and thought bubbles in order to tell a story. Graphic novels require the reader to not only read the text, but also to read the illustrations. Graphic novels can come in both fiction and nonfiction formats, as well as a variety of genres. Graphic novels are seen as a format rather than a genre. ("GET GRAPHIC: The World in Words and Pictures". n.d.)

Common Types of Graphic Novels
  • Manga - a Japanese form of comics that are read from top to bottom and right to left
  • Superhero - think Marvel and DC
  • Nonfiction - comes in a variety of topics though autobiographies, biographies, and historical events are most common
  • Adaptations - popular novels converted to a graphic novel format (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Hobbit)
Since Graphic novels are a format rather than a genre, the genre appeals apply here too. Does the reader want somethign that is face paced and has a hero like those found in the action genre? Superhero graphic novels or Seinen manga graphic novels may be up his or her alley. Does the reader want a thought-provoking story line, like in literary fiction? An adapataion of a classic nove, such as A Wrinkle in Time, may fill that need. Does the reader want a book that focuses on relationships and romance with easily identifiable characters? A Josei manga novel may be what he or she is looking for. (Saricks, 2009) The same is true of all other genres. These different characteristics can  all be found in graphic novel format. The reader, though, must show in interest in that format.

Visual Focus
Graphic novels have a way of showing, rather than telling, a story that is better suited for some readers. Rather than having to try to picture the scenario or setting in their head, graphic novel readers are able to see allof the details on the page. This allows the reader to focus their visual skills in concluding what is happening rather than their reading comprehension and abstract thinking. (Kukkonen, 2013) Graphic novels leave visual clues that lead the reader toward a certain point. These visual clues help to keep the reader in suspense and anticipate what might come next. (Kukkonen, 2013) This means that a reader who has an eye for these type of visual dtails would be more likely to enjoy a graphic novel than a person who sweeps over the illustrations quickly.

Struggling Readers
Struggling readers may find typical novels intimidating. The speed at which a graphic novel can be finished can help to boost students' confidence levels. (Alverson, 2014) For these readers, graphic novels can serve as a bridge or stepping stone into the typical novel. ("GET GRAPHIC: The World in Words and Pictures", n.d.)

Graphic novels also provide ample teaching benefits. If you would like to know more about the benefits of using graphic novels in an educational setting, check out the resources listed below by Alverson and GET GRAPHIC: The World in Words and Pictures.

Alverson, B. (2014, September 08). Teaching With Graphic Novels. Retrieved March 08, 2017, from
GET GRAPHIC: The World In Words and Pictures. (n.d.). Retrieved March 08, 2017, from
Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved March 8, 2017, from 
Kukkonen, K. (2013). Studying comics and graphic novels. West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.
Lee, S. (2013, November 17). Stan Lee on what is a superhero. Retrieved March 08, 2017, from
L. (n.d.). LibGuides: Graphic Novels and Manga: Manga. Retrieved March 08, 2017, from
Saricks, J. G. (2009). The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction (Second ed.). American Library Association.