Tuesday, April 27, 2010

RA Interview Lab: Person 5


This person is a good friend of mine from high school with whom I share many of the same reading interests. Like me, she primarily reads literary fiction and YA crossovers, and we often borrow from each other’s book collections. When I asked for a few of her favorite authors or titles, she immediately said Jack Kerouac. She loves anything that deals with the 1950s time period, the Beatniks, etc. So I started with that.

Oddly enough, Jack Kerouac doesn’t show up on RA Online at all. So I turned to NoveList and searched for read-alikes for her favorite of his titles, On the Road. Interestingly, I quickly found a fiction title called The Rebel: An Imagined Life of James Dean, by Jack Dann. I laughed out loud at this, because my friend has always been obsessed with James Dean. It’s basically a speculative story about what might have happened had James Dean survived his fatal car crash. My friend was excited with how perfect it seemed for her, and I marveled at how lucky I was to find it so quickly.

I asked if she was interested in finding another title based on some of her other interests. She said that she has noticed that lately she gravitates toward science fiction and fantasy, but that she isn’t into the hardcore stuff. She looks for books that feature complicated situations she can relate to that are made more interesting by the sci-fi/fantasy frame. It sounded to me like she prefers books in which the sci-fi/fantasy elements are not the main focus, but rather complement the main plot. She admitted to being a part of the vampire bandwagon, and named Stephenie Meyer and Laurell K. Hamilton as two of her favorites. Like me, she loves YA novels, and when I asked what about YA she personally enjoyed, she commented that so many YA books are incredibly well-written—some even better than adult books, and that she is still young enough to relate to the young characters featured in such books. She named Libba Bray as one of her favorite recent YA authors.

I started by searching for Bray in NoveList, but I wasn’t coming up with anything that appealed to my friend. Because of our tendency to enjoy the same YA books, I decided that in this case, it was appropriate to use my personal experiences to suggest some read-alikes. I asked if she had heard about Libba Bray’s new title, Going Bovine, which I myself have sought but not yet procured. She hadn’t known about the book, so I added it to her list. I had just finished reading Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, which blew me away; feeling that my friend would appreciate the science fiction aspects and the compelling story, I felt comfortable suggesting it to her. I also suggested Orson Scott Card and Neil Gaiman as two more excellent science fiction and fantasy authors.

She admitted to being an extremely slow reader, so I decided to stop there. I offered to look for the books in her local library, but she told me she wouldn't have time to go get them for a while anyway, so she wanted to wait on that.  This was her final list:

The Rebel: An Imagined Life of James Dean by Jack Dann
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

Orson Scott Card
Neil Gaiman

RA Online (attempted)

She told me she's been working and traveling a lot lately, so she hasn't gotten around to reading any of the books I suggested.  She also wants to finish her Jasper Fforde book she's been reading for a month or so, and then she plans to look at the library or bookstore for the James Dean book.

Monday, April 26, 2010

RA Interview Lab: Person 4


This is another nonfiction reader, but his interests lie outside of politics. His favorite hobbies are golf, acoustic guitar, and classic rock music, and he loves to read all he can about them. He is also mildly interested in learning to play card games like poker and black jack. He mentioned that the last book he bought, other than books of guitar tablatures, was an encyclopedia of body-building.

I decided to first look for something that fits his interests within his comfort zone—namely, nonfiction books. I recalled that RA Online includes some nonfiction, so I went and browsed the topics there first. I looked for “guitar” and found nothing, but I did find “Music—rock.” However, there was no nonfiction listed under this topic, so I browsed in "Golf" instead. I found John Daly’s autobiography, My Life In and Out of the Rough: The Truth Behind All the Bullshit You Think You Know About Me—a title which made me laugh out loud. I shared this with Person 4, who also laughed and said he was interested. Just to be certain, I asked if he thought he would enjoy an autobiography that might more closely resemble a fiction story than some of the guides and handbooks to which he was accustomed, and he replied that he was willing to give it a try.

I asked him if he would be interested at all in reading fiction, and he confirmed that he would, but he had no idea what he would like since he never enjoyed reading the assigned material in high school. He entrusted me to give him a good starting point. I asked him a few questions about the kinds of movies or television shows he enjoys, and he gave me vague answers that told me he dabbled a little in every genre. I asked if he liked science fiction or fantasy, and he said yes. He then mentioned the Harry Potter movies and how he had heard repeatedly that the books were even better, and he asked me if they were easy books to get into. I confirmed this, telling him that I knew many people who didn’t particularly enjoy reading, with the single exception of Harry Potter. So I went ahead and lent him my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

RA Online


He started reading the first Harry Potter, but was finding it “childish” and a bit tedious, as he already knew what was going to happen. But he was still interested in finishing the series, so I told him it would probably be okay for him to skip to the third or fourth book, which I have found contain a lot more details that were left out of the films. I encouraged him to try to get to the seventh book before the next film came out, because there is nothing quite like reading a new Harry Potter book before being spoiled by the film versions. I lent him my copies of the third and fourth books, and he told me that he would try to get through Harry Potter before moving on to the John Daly title.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

RA Interview Lab: Person 3


Outside of my parents, it wasn't easy to find readers in my family. Thankfully, my grandma reads and has been looking for new books to pick up. I am not quite as close to my grandma as I am with my parents, so I had to work harder to get a feel for what she was looking for. She made it clear to me from the very beginning that she is primarily interested in “no-brainers”—she reads solely for entertainment and has a difficult time enjoying books that require her to concentrate or ponder things too deeply. I asked for an example of an author she enjoys and why she enjoys his or her work. She first mentioned Nicholas Sparks, and she explained that she loves him because she feels that though his love stories are often sad in tone, they are also heartwarming and make her “appreciate the human spirit.” I asked her which of his titles she likes best, and she told me that she could relate better to the ones that featured older characters like herself.

This time, I went straight to RA Online. I looked at the author read-alikes for Sparks’ The Choice and, using the faceted search, found Elizabeth Berg, so I asked Grandma if she was interested in her. She told me that she has heard good things about Berg. I read her some of the summaries for Berg’s more recent works and together we selected Dream When You’re Feeling Blue.

Next, I ask her what other authors she enjoys, and she initially had trouble coming up with one name. She says that she used to read Danielle Steel and Jackie Collins religiously, and she might like to read something akin to their work. Although NoveList isn’t one of my favorite RA tools, I decided to try it to look for read-alikes for Danielle Steel. Interestingly, I found a detailed list of author read-alikes compiled by Joyce Saricks, who described each of the appeals of Steel’s worked and what other authors shared these characteristics. Sarick’s recommended titles with a focus more on women’s lives and may feature a hint of romance. Barbara Delinsky’s A Woman’s Place seemed like a suitable choice for my grandma, who prefers books that are contemporary, but that don’t rely too much on modern technology or fads as plot devices. After I read the summary for her, Grandma expressed interest, and we had a second title.

She seemed satisfied with these two books, so I searched and found them in her local library catalog and told her they were ready for her to pick up. I also went ahead and quickly wrote up a list of more author read-alikes from literature-map.com for future possibilities. My grandma does not have internet access, and would have no idea how to operate it if she did, so she was especially appreciative of this list:

Nicholas Sparks read-alikes
Wally Lamb
Richard Paul Evans
Mitch Albom
Luanne Rice

Danielle Steel read-alikes
Barbara Taylor Bradford
Kathleen Woodiwiss
Kristin Hannah
Eileen Goudge

Jackie Collins read-alikes
Nelson De Mille
Jilly Cooper
Brock Cole
Jacqueline Susann

RA Online


Grandma read Elizabeth Berg’s novel, and really enjoyed it. She said that the author did a good job of portraying the WWII era, and she could relate somewhat to the characters because of their Irish heritage and because she also grew up in a time of war. She thinks she might look into reading more of Berg’s work before moving on to the other titles and authors I suggested.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

RA Interview Lab: Person 2


For my second person, I chose to interview my dad. I purposely chose him to challenge myself, as he is an avid nonfiction reader. He can’t even remember the last time he read a fiction book after high school, with the one exception of The Da Vinci Code a few years back. His favorites are autobiographies and memoirs, particularly of politicians or of famous people (comedians, athletes, film stars) interested in politics. He is staunchly conservative and Republican in every way, but he enjoys reading about both sides of the issues and so does not object to reading about a Democrat.

I asked him to name the last few books he has read and enjoyed. He mentioned Sarah Palin, Ted Kennedy, and Craig Ferguson. He explained that whenever he hears about a new nonfiction title by someone of prominence or about a topic that interests him, he buys it without even looking at reviews. He doesn’t particularly care how “good” a book supposedly is—he just want to be informed and to learn more about the issues he cares about. I ask him whether he wants to continue to read more about politicians or if he might like to read about another kind of celebrity. He thinks for a moment and then replies that he will read about anyone as long as they are current and relevant to what’s going on in the world in the present.

Based on his descriptions of the kinds of books he enjoys, it seemed to me that for him, the appeal of nonfiction lies primarily in the learning aspect of the experience. His preference of autobiographies and memoirs led me to believe that he probably appreciates nonfiction with a narrative structure, but his interest in certain topics led me to believe it is not required for him to enjoy a title. I asked him if he might be interested in a speculative nonfiction work, but he informed me that story isn’t what he really looks for in books—he is more interested in real people, how they live their lives, and why they think the way they do.

I initially did not know where to start for nonfiction advisory. I decided that because my dad is interested in current issues and events, checking out the nonfiction bestseller lists could be beneficial. I looked at the New York Times bestsellers and realized that I would need more specific information on what topics he was in the mood for. I asked if he was interested in the financial crisis or the stock market, as the top spot was occupied by Michael Lewis’ The Big Short, which covered those topics. He smirked at me, because we both know how much he loves arguing about money. So I read him the summary, he went for it, and we had our first title.
I went down the nonfiction list and found in the #4 spot the autobiography of President George W. Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove, called Courage and Consequence. Dad said that he had heard of the title and had thought about buying it. I let him read the NY Times review of the book, and he decided that he would go ahead and check that out as well.

My dad didn’t seem interested in any of the other titles on the NY Times lists, and I figured that two political titles were enough, so I thought I would try to find something that would appeal to one of his other interests. I asked him what he was in the mood for reading, and he replied that he might like to read something about entertainment or celebrities. On a whim, I went to Amazon and looked under nonfiction, which was helpfully divided into topics. I clicked on “Entertainment” and scrolled down, searching for something new he might like. I came upon When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead—the biography of Jerry Weintraub, who I knew to be a famous producer who is friendly with several politicians and celebrities. Dad knew this as well, and decided that he would like to read it.

I now had three titles for him to try, but I wanted to give him more titles in case those ones didn’t work out, so I quickly scanned Amazon’s nonfiction bestseller list and jotted down the titles that matched Dad’s interests (especially his conservative leanings). This is what I came up with:

Jonathan Alter – The Promise: President Obama, Year One
Datyn Perry – Reggie Jackson (biography)
Eric Pooley – The Climate War (skepticism of climate change)
Roger Lowenstein – The End of Wall Street
Sean Hannity – Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama’s Radical Agenda
Dick Morris – 2010: Take Back America
Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers: The Story of Success
Jane White – America, Welcome to the Poorhouse

I accessed his local library OPAC and searched for the first three titles I had offered him. I only found the Michael Lewis title, so I helped him place a hold on it. Dad told me he would either wait for the library to acquire the other two titles or he would just ask for my mom to buy them for him for Fathers’ Day. I suggested that in the meantime, he could check out some of the other titles from the bestseller list.

New York Times Bestseller List – Nonfiction
Amazon (new in nonfiction)


He has read the Michael Lewis book and he enjoyed it. That’s pretty much all he would tell me. He’s a man of few words, and while he does read a lot, there are very few books (or movies… or TV shows… or anything really) that he gets really passionate about. He hopes to read Karl Rove’s book next, and he has already asked for Jerry Weintraub’s autobiography as a Fathers’ Day gift from my mom.

Friday, April 23, 2010

RA Interview Lab: Person 1


The first person I interviewed was my mom. She and I are very close, and we are both avid readers, but our tastes are usually quite different. Mom tends to stick with the same authors—every time Jodi Picoult, Harlan Coben, or Nora Roberts releases a new title, she immediately shows up at the book store to pick it up. Since she knows exactly what authors she likes and obviously didn’t need recommendations of other titles by those authors, I decided to try and expand her reading horizons by finding new authors for her to explore based on her preferences.

Because she is so loyal to those three specific authors, I felt that looking for author read-alikes would be the most helpful in her case. I first went to literature-map.com, having had success with this site for author read-alikes in the past. The search cloud is a fast and useful tool for getting a general idea of what authors share certain characteristics and how closely related some authors are. I created a short list for each of her favorite authors:

Jodi Picoult Read-alikes
Sue Monk Kidd
Alice Sebold
Anita Shreve
Elizabeth Berg
Audrey Niffenegger

Harlan Coben Read-alikes
Jonathan Kellerman
Stuart Woods
Walter Mosley
Dennis Lehane
Michael Connelly

Nora Roberts Read-alikes
Janet Evanovich
Jayne Ann Krentz
Mary Higgins Clark
Diana Gabaldon
Karen Robards

I then repeated these names to my mom and asked if she had already read any of them. She read The Lovely Bones and didn’t particularly enjoy it, so Alice Sebold is out. She also doesn’t didn’t enjoy Mary Higgins Clark. I know very well that my mom isn’t too interested in “unrealistic” books that deal with fantasy or time travel, so I went ahead and eliminated Diana Gabaldon. She also mentioned that she didn’t want to read Evanovich, as she has never been able to get into series of books, so Janet’s off as well.  We went down the lists and eliminated a few more authors based mostly on what my mom didn't want to read.

Next, I asked her what aspects of each author’s writing she most enjoys so that I could look for similar aspects when I researched the new authors. She enjoys Jodi Picoult because she “explores the human condition, really picks her characters apart, and always has a deeper meaning.” I used the Reader’s Advisor Online to research each favorite author and to explore some of the appeals shared with other authors and titles. For Jodi Picoult, I found Anita Shreve on the read-alike list and found that the two authors’ appeals are often their characters and their storylines with multiple points-of-view. I read my mom the summary of Shreve’s Testimony, and she thought it sounded worth checking out, so I wrote down that title for her.

My mom loves mysteries, and she loves that Harlan Coben always keeps her guessing until the end. According to RA Online, just about all of Jonathan Kellerman’s recent books are part of his Alex Delaware series, so I eliminated him from the list. I found this to be the case with most of the other author read-alikes, so I abandoned Harlan Coben and took a different approach. I asked my mom what she liked best in her favorite mysteries, and she replied that she enjoys murder stories, and loves when a smart woman is involved, whether she’s the investigator or the villain. So, I browsed RA Online’s “Related Theme List,” where I found a list of recommendations for “Women of a Certain Age, and the Crimes They Solve.” There I found a few titles featuring women who solve crimes in their communities. I read the summary of Josephine Carr’s My Very Own Murder to my mom, and she said it sounded perfect, so I recorded the title.

Mom claimed that she likes Nora Roberts for her mysteries that feature juicy romance. In RA Online, I found that Jayne Ann Krentz shares with Roberts the appeals of “engaging characters and smart storylines,” which is exactly what my mom looks for in every book she reads. I looked through some of Krentz’ most recent titles until I came upon the romantic suspense title All Night Long, which Mom said sounded great for her.

Thus, I found three new titles for my mom to seek out—each a read-alike of a different one of her favorite authors. After the whole process was finished, I realized that I probably should not have bothered using literature-map.com at all—Reader’s Advisory Online was quite sufficient for my purposes and going straight to that site would have saved me some time. But I went ahead and gave my mom the list of author read-alikes from literature-map, so she now has a long list of authors to explore in the future. I also showed her how easy it was to use that site so that she could look up more of her favorite authors on her own if she wanted to. She’s not very skilled with the internet and has trouble navigating complicated websites, so she appreciated the simplicity of the tool.

I checked her local library’s catalog for some of the titles, and I found that the Shreve title was available, but the other two were not at the library. I offered to see if I could help her borrow the books through interlibrary loan, but she said that she will probably start with the Shreve book and go from there.

Here is the final list I gave her.

Testimony by Anita Shreve
My Very Own Murder by Josephine Carr
All Night Long by Jayne Ann Krentz

Sue Monk Kidd
Audrey Niffenegger
Stuart Woods
Walter Mosley
Michael Connelly
Karen Robards

Readers’ Advisor Online


She is still working on the Anita Shreve title.  She gets most of her reading done at the beach, and there just hasn't been beach weather lately.  But she says is enjoying it, although it's been a little slow-paced for her tastes.  She's excited to try out some of the Harlan Coben read-alikes for more of a page-turner experience.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Digital Services: The Future of RA?

For my birthday, my friend bought me the perfect book: the timely This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson. I’ve only read the first two chapters, and I’ve already encountered several issues that relate to Readers’ Advisory and other class topics. Johnson uses real-life examples to demonstrate how librarians are stepping up to the challenges presented in today’s digital environment and saving the world from what she dubs “information sickness.”

The most thought-provoking idea introduced by the author so far deals with the importance of innovation in the ever-changing world of libraries. She describes a recently developed digital library that uses the virtual world known as “Second Life” to serve its community. This library appears on screen as a ramshackle wooden building that evokes an atmosphere of the late 1800s Wild West. People around the world with Internet access can take the form of avatars, whose appearance they can alter as they please as long as it fits in with the West theme. Virtual cowboys, saloon keepers, and barmaids can walk around the library and browse the “collection” (a list of links to dime novels and other old-time books in digital form). They can also type reference questions in a chat box, which are answered by the librarian Lena Kjellar, who appears on the screen as a woman in a bustle skirt. Interestingly, Lena Kjellar is actually a retired male electrical engineer who has been trained in reference, and who feels that taking on a female form in the virtual world makes him more approachable.

This struck me as a perfect example of librarians adapting to the Digital Age by using technology to their advantage. What a fun, innovative way to offer reference services to patrons! I think Second Life would be equally ideal for Readers’ Advisory, if not more so. I would think that most people who seek RA service have a passion for reading and immersing themselves in alternate worlds, and I think fiction readers would especially appreciate the fantasy of visiting a library in such an imaginative setting. The younger generations of patrons are technology-savvy and many possess an appreciation for video games and similar virtual playgrounds, so it seems to me that this Second Life idea may prove to be an important part of the future of libraries.

Another example of a Second Life library.  Apparently, these are gradually becoming more popular.

Such innovations makes me excited for the future of the profession. I hope that through effective dissemination of such inspired ideas, librarians will prove their worth to the world and people will realize that they need libraries (in whatever form) more than ever. Obviously, we all have to do our part to share information and ideas with the professional community--word-of-mouth is the first step to transforming new innovations into widely-practiced customs.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ophelia, by Lisa Klein (YA Crossover)

The YA crossover is consistently the genre that brings me the most pleasure, which might have something to do with my maturity level lagging in that stage between teenager and adulthood. I personally can more easily relate to young protagonists than I can to the older and more experienced characters in much of adult fiction. I was actually hard-pressed to find a crossover I haven’t yet read at my local library, as I’ve sought out and read so many of them in the past. I was essentially forced to browse the teen fiction shelves, scan the pages of books, and try to determine whether a title could appeal to adult readers. Lisa Klein’s Ophelia was the result of that search, and it proved an enjoyable read for this adult-with-a-teenager’s-sensibilities.

Like Klein, I have always been dismayed at the weak portrayals of most of the female characters in Shakespeare’s plays. Hamlet is one of the foremost offenders, depicting Ophelia as a fragile damsel prone to madness and Gertrude as a dishonest shrew of a queen. Klein has taken it upon herself to re-imagine the story from a woman’s point of view. Young Ophelia grows up in the village of Elsinore with her father Polonius and her brother Laertes. Though girls at the time typically were not educated, she is allowed to sit in on her brother’s lessons with his tutor, and so she is rather educated for a woman.

Ophelia’s lifestyle changes drastically when her father earns employment in the king’s court and the family moves to Elsinore castle. Upon meeting the Prince Hamlet, Ophelia is smitten, but he initially sees her only as Laertes’ goofy little sister. As Ophelia matures, however, Queen Gertrude invites her to join her ladies-in-waiting and provides feminine and educational guidance. She becomes Gertrude’s favorite, and the two form a close bond based on their shared love of books. Prince Hamlet begins to take notice of Ophelia’s developing beauty, and he is even more impressed by her sharp wit. Because she is below him in status, they must keep their relationship secret, and they accomplish this by dressing as peasants and meeting outside of the castle in an abandoned cottage. However, their happiness is only temporary, because of course it is. This is Shakespearean tragedy, after all. A murderous plot is brewing in the court, one that will shape the fate of the star-crossed lovers.

The remainder of the plot more or less falls in line with Shakespeare’s play, but we get Klein’s interpretation of what was going on behind the scenes. Truly, the strongest points of this book are the unexpected twists that Klein manages to add the original play without changing any aspect of the play’s plot. Does Ophelia actually go mad with despair and drown herself, as characters in the play claim? Is Hamlet’s ultimate goal accomplishing revenge, or is there something deeper going on? Let’s just say that things aren’t what they seem on the surface.

Another reason I chose this book is because I’m an avid lover of the historical fiction genre. A successful author in this genre will skillfully bring the characters and lifestyles of a past time period to life, and Klein excels at immersing her readers in the lives of the characters we all know so well (or at least, we think we know). She paints the landscape through her detailed descriptions of the castle and village life, and she really tries to let the reader see through the characters’ eyes. Klein is also successful at presenting Shakespeare in a way that doesn’t require intense study or repeated readings; she directly takes some of the play’s more simple quotes, and the rest of the dialogue is kind of a hybrid of Shakespearean and “normal, conversational” language. This makes the book accessible for teens and adults alike. Some of Klein’s original dialogue is even in iambic pentameter, which was a nice touch.

I appreciated Klein’s take on Hamlet and the opportunity to see such famous characters in a different light. I have much more respect for Klein’s version of Ophelia and Gertrude than I did for Shakespeare’s limited portrayal of the two women. However, this book in no way detracts from my affection for the original play; in fact, I think it has enhanced my understanding of the characters and has expanded the play’s potential depth. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Shakespeare, particularly girls and women who, like me, have often felt slighted by the bard’s seeming disregard for some of his female characters. Since Ophelia, Lisa Klein has published a couple more young adult historical fiction novels, including another Shakespeare-themed title called Lady Macbeth’s Daughter.

Book information:

Title: Ophelia
Author: Lisa Klein
Publication date: 2006
Number of pages: 336
Setting: Denmark
Time period: Late 1500s to early 1600s

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Night Bird, by Catherine Asaro (Fantasy)

Joyce Saricks describes Fantasy genre books as “world-building,” emphasizing the author’s ability to let the reader experience the worlds they create through vivid descriptions of sights, sounds, and feelings. Catherine Asaro accomplishes this and more with her romantic fantasy The Night Bird.

Fantasy and romance are both genres with which I have little experience, so I decided to try to explore both genres by choosing an author who blends the two together. Catherine Asaro is known for her science fiction, but lately it seems she has been more interested in writing fantastic tales of love set in magical lands. Her Lost Continent series, in which this book is chronologically placed fifth, features a magical land made up of diverse kingdoms, cultures, and climates. There is the golden paradise of Aronsdale, filled with waterfalls and a beautiful, gentle race of people. Contrastingly, there is Jazid, a barren and war-torn desert run by aggressive nomads with no respect for women. Other kingdoms are mentioned, but not explored in as much detail in this particular title.

Asaro’s protagonist is Allegra, a young and beautiful mage from Aronsdale whose magical gifts have resulted in her being chosen to visit the palace. Allegra is kidnapped on her journey to the palace by ruthless nomads from the barren land of Jazid and sold to the gruff but well-meaning prince regent, Markus Onyx. Despite his role as her owner, as well as his culture’s utter lack of respect for women, Allegra gradually comes to see his gentle side. Markus swiftly falls in love with her and through a marriage proposal, offers to raise her status from a lowly “pleasure girl.” Allegra in turn begins to develop feelings for him, and she struggles throughout the book to discover what exactly these feelings are.

In this world, magic is produced through shapes and colors, creating light and healing that can transform people’s moods and emotions. Allegra begins with minimal abilities, but throughout her captivity she discovers a peculiar power which may allow her to save her homeland, and Markus’ land, from impending war. When coupled with magic, Allegra’s singing voice has the power to put all those in the vicinity to sleep. I won’t give away any more of the plot, which becomes increasingly layered with political intrigue and fascinating characters, but you can probably tell that Allegra’s power will prove instrumental in the unfolding events. “Night Bird,” by the way, is Markus’ endearing nickname for Allegra, referring to her beautiful, sleep-inducing voice.

In my opinion, the author’s strongest point is her ability to explore issues of cultural tensions in a fantasy setting. The kingdoms of Aronsdale and Jazid are as diverse as their contrasting landscapes; in fact, they are quite reminiscent of Athens and Sparta of ancient Greece. The people of Aronsdale value art and beauty and avoid any violence, while the Jazid nomads prize strength and are bent on conquering their enemies. Women are highly esteemed in Aronsdale for their magical abilities, and Allegra experiences intense culture shock when she witnesses the misogynistic cruelty that Jazid men routinely commit against their women. Jazid women are considered lower than horses, and about on par with cattle. Because their cultures are so at odds with each other, it’s truly fascinating to see the relationship between Allegra and Markus develop.

What sets this book and others like it apart from the typical fantasy book, I think, is its equal treatment of the themes of magic and romance. Whereas most fantasy books focus more on the magical elements than any other aspect of the plot, Asaro devotes about the same amount of content to the intense and controversial romance developing between Allegra and Markus.

While their relationship is intriguing and sensual, it can also be uncomfortable at times—there’s definitely a little bit of Stockholm Syndrome going down here. Allegra is a feisty and humorous heroine, if a little weak in her ability to resist Markus’s often nonconsensual advances. I wouldn’t classify her a damsel, but her attraction to the strong and often distant man who could easily overpower her is a bit cliché.

Having said that, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I could not put this book down. I found myself turning the pages faster than anything I’ve read in a long time—I tore through this 571 pager faster than any of the others I’ve read this semester. Much like Twilight and other-worldly romances of the like, this book is definitely a guilty pleasure for me. The writing was mostly simple and direct, but there were some beautifully elaborate depictions of the world’s landscape—one of the vital characteristics of fantasy books. And though this book is part of a series, I had no trouble understanding the basic plot and keeping the characters straight, although my experience probably would have been enhanced if I had read the previous books. Though it’s probably not a masterpiece of fantasy literature, I would not hesitate to recommend this title to women looking for a juicy blend of romance and fantasy.

Book information:

Title: The Night Bird
Author: Catherine Asaro
Series: 5th in the Lost Continent series
Publication date: 2008
Number of pages: 571

Monday, March 22, 2010

Topic 2: Laura Bush on Education and Literacy

Over spring break, Laura Bush came to speak at the local college in my parents’ hometown in Michigan. My dad, ever the staunch Republican and Bush-supporter, bought two tickets to see her. My mom decided that watching American Idol was more important than seeing the former First Lady speak, so I went in her stead. It turned out to be lucky for me, because Mrs. Bush addressed many of the issues I care most about, and listening to her was an enlightening experience.

Laura Bush majored in education in college, and then went on to receive her Masters degree in Library Science. She took advantage of her role as First Lady to encourage reading among the masses, with an emphasis on children. Her speech demonstrated her passion for teaching children to read early in their development and her unwavering support for all educators. In addition to raising funds for literacy-related causes, Mrs. Bush founded the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries, which is of particular interest to anyone planning to work in school libraries, as it makes several grants to school libraries across the country to purchase books. More information on that is at www.laurabushfoundation.org/

She talked quite a bit about September 11th and what it was like in the White House during such a turbulent time, and then she connected the tragedy with her stance on reading when she described the National Book Festival that took place the same month. With the help of the Library of Congress, Mrs. Bush launched the festival as an attempt to share the joys of reading and to celebrate authors. I can get behind anyone who makes the effort to spread the word on books!

At the end of the speech, Mrs. Bush accepted questions from the audience. Many people asked about her views on specific education and literacy issues. One interesting point she made regarding adult literacy addressed the issue of vision health care and how many of those who cannot read at an acceptable level are also those who cannot afford regular visits to the eye doctor. Who would have thought that a problem as simple as poor eyesight could be one of the big contributors to illiteracy?

Mrs. Bush spoke only briefly about her controversial husband and their relationship, emphasizing that she supported his efforts even if she didn’t agree with them because, as she stated, she herself was not the president and had no place trying to influence his actions. She briefly mentioned President Obama’s decision to continue with the “No Child Left Behind Act,” which I can’t personally support because of the financial devastation my own high school suffered as a result of the program. But otherwise, I fully agree with her stance on the importance of teaching reading to children at an early age. I don’t even want to imagine how differently my life would have turned out had my parents not read to me from the beginning. If not for their encouragement, as well as the influence of my elementary school teachers, I could not have come nearly as far in my education as I have.

Hey, she's a fellow dog-lover.

Political alliances aside, Laura Bush is really a classy lady. Although she is seemingly reserved and doesn’t particularly stand out against the likes of Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama, her views and her efforts on behalf of education and literacy are definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Secret Shopper: Well, color me blown away

My local public library is extremely tiny and limited in its holdings. Thus, I entered the library anticipating the worst, but that’s far from what I received. My “Secret Shopper” experience proved to me that at least some librarians are heading in the right direction when it comes to readers’ advisory.

The librarian at the desk had my sympathy before I even spoke to her. A young, dour-looking boy in front of me addressed her in a horribly condescending tone: “You know your computers are slow?” She replied that she understood, but that several people used their FREE Internet service at once and there was nothing she could do to speed it up. The kid rudely ranted a little longer about the library needing to buy newer computers before he rudely abandoned the desk. Ah, the youth of today.

Then it was my turn. I hesitantly asked if she could help me find a good book to read. To my surprise, she agreed to help without any hesitation, as if she was accustomed to such a request. She asked what I was looking for in general. I replied that I wasn’t picky and didn’t have many favorite authors, but that I wanted something dark and heavy-handed, and that focused on characters.

She asked if I could give her an example of a book with these characteristics that I enjoyed, and I told her that I had recently read and loved Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I couldn’t see what tool she was using, but I saw her type the author’s name, and she indicated that she was searching for the title. Whatever tool she used recommended a Joyce Carol Oates book called We Were the Mulvaneys. She read me a summary that sounded intriguing, and then checked the catalog. When she found that the library didn’t carry it, she offered to put in a request on my account.

She kept looking for other recommended titles that the library did hold so I could take one home immediately. She found a few more titles that she herself had read, and she gave me a brief summary of each off the top of her head. She even enlisted the help of the other librarian sitting at the other computer, who listed off a couple of authors that I had read and a couple that I had only heard of. Suddenly, the librarian helping me jumped up from the desk and told me to follow her to the shelves to locate some of the titles.

When we reached the shelf, we launched into a discussion of some of our favorite books and found that our tastes are rather similar. She became more and more animated as she pointed out books that she had loved and ones that had circulated frequently. I soon forgot that I was supposed to be evaluating her, and I found myself relaxing and just enjoying the conversation.

Throughout the whole interaction, I was becoming more and more impressed by how much the librarian cared about finding the perfect book for me. We found a couple of titles for me to check out, and I wrote down a few more titles to check out in the future. I left the library feeling very satisfied with the service and excited to read the recommended titles.

The only criticism I could possibly come up with is the fact that the librarian asserted her personal opinion quite a bit—she told me what she likes to read instead of focusing completely on my interests. However, since we seem to have enjoyed so many of the same authors and books, I don’t really see it as a problem in this case. In my opinion, this librarian went above and beyond the call of duty with her enthusiasm and willingness to do whatever it took to find the right book for me.

Overall, a great success!

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Latest Grievance, by Elinor Lipman (Women's Lives and Relationships)

I must admit, I selected “Women’s Lives and Relationships” as one of my genres with a certain amount of trepidation and cynicism. I thoroughly enjoy female protagonists in historical fiction books, but I have always found it difficult to identify with women in contemporary settings. When I watch a movie or a television show, I most often choose male characters as my favorites and oftentimes develop an uncalled for feeling of scorn for the female characters. It’s difficult to explain; I suppose I just feel that female characters are usually weak in comparison with their male counterparts, and I tire of the same old stereotypes showing up in every woman character nowadays—they are always beautiful, without a blemish or hair out of place, they always have the “ideal” body and are highly fashionable, and they are often severely lacking in personality. Frankly, they just bore me. This is one of a few reasons I have avoided books about contemporary women.

Luckily for me, I spied Elinor Lipman’s name in our textbook and chose to read her fairly recent work My Latest Grievance, which features a young but highly intelligent female protagonist whom I grew to admire the more I glimpsed of her character and her life. Frederica Hatch was born and raised in a college dormitory at Dewing college, a small women’s college in Boston. The Hatches are what they call a “dorm family”—Frederica’s father and mother, David and Aviva, have served as “houseparents” of the dorm her entire life, saving themselves tremendous amounts in housing and food expenses. Frederica’s upbringing has been rather unique—her parents are politically correct to the point of obnoxiousness, and she lives among several older, surrogate “sisters” who change every year. Her life is so entrenched in the world of academia, it’s no wonder she sometimes finds herself yearning for the “normal” life she witnesses at her friends’ houses.

In 1976, when Frederica is sixteen years old, she accidentally learns of her father’s previous marriage to a woman named Laura Lee French, with whom she makes contact. Circumstances soon lead to Laura Lee becoming a housemother of another dorm on campus, and this is where the plot takes off. Laura Lee’s presence is initially refreshing and exciting to Frederica, who tires of her parents’ neutral attitudes toward everything. However, when Laura Lee involves herself in a scandalous affair with the college president (who is married with three children, I might add), Frederica sees firsthand the harm that Laura Lee selfishly causes others—and contemplates turning against her.

This is a small but incredibly dense book; Lipman is incredibly eloquent and detail-oriented, and she devotes much of the text developing her unique and quirky characters. Despite this, I would definitely classify this as a “light read,” especially in comparison with the heavy-handed literary fiction I’m used to. Lipman relies heavily on dialogue, and she plays on her strengths by focusing on characters over the plot, which works well in a story like this. The optimistic tone and witty humor was enjoyable and refreshing after the last book I read (namely, A Thousand Splendid Suns). All of the characteristics of the typical women’s lives genre are here: it is an intimate glimpse into the lives of the Frederica and her family, and the story is slowly paced yet still compelling.

This book gives me hope that there are more books in the “Women’s Lives” genre that will interest me—ones that are intelligently written and focus more on loyalty to family and friends than on careers and romance. I would recommend this book for women like me who perhaps have been avoiding this genre, but are interested in giving it a chance. I’m definitely glad I did.

Book information:

Title: My Latest Grievance
Author: Elinor Lipman
Publication date: 2006
Number of pages: 243
Setting: A small college in Boston, Massachusetts
Time period: 1960s-1970s
Subject headings: Teenage girls—Fiction, College teachers—Fiction

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini (Literary Fiction)

Firstly, I apologize for annotating the same book as Heather. I had desperately wanted to read Khaled Hosseini’s first bestseller The Kite Runner, but none of the three libraries I checked had it, much to my frustration. By the time she posted her annotation, I had already chosen this as my alternative and has already started reading it. I haven’t read her annotation yet in the hopes that mine is based solely on my own reading experiences.

Of all the genres, literary fiction is by far the one I read most often. I’ve always valued character over plot, although I think that engaging the emotions is just as important as engaging the mind. Also, the English major in me can’t help but be critical of an author’s writing style, so I gravitate toward literary fiction because I know I will be able to appreciate the writing and the themes explored. Likewise, the cynic in me has little patience for light-hearted material—I personally much prefer to read about serious issues and to be challenged by universal dilemmas.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is the story of two women of two different generations whose only connection initially is that they share their husband. The older wife is Mariam, born as the illegitimate child of her wealthy father Jalil and raised by her bitter, unwed mother in a tiny country house. When her mother dies, fifteen-year-old Mariam is all but sold to Rasheed, a portly shoemaker several years her senior. Laila, the younger wife, is contrastingly raised in a loving family in the bustling city of Kabul. Her brothers are killed in combat, and she becomes an orphan at age fourteen after one of the Taliban’s raids on Kabul. Laila is then taken in by her neighbor Rasheed, who is still unhappily married to the childless Mariam. He persuades Laila to become his second wife, and her youth and beauty, as well as her ability to bear him children, earns her Rasheed’s adoration and Mariam’s contempt.

However, it isn’t long before Laila also falls out of favor with their husband, starting with her unforgivable act of bearing him a daughter instead of a son. Rasheed reveals his true nature, and Mariam and Laila are both victims of his physical and mental abuse. Contempt and jealousy between the two women eventually give way to their shared sorrow and compassion, and the two form a bond that enables them to survive the violence inflicted on them by the war and by their husband.

A Thousand Splendid Suns has everything I typically look for in literary fiction. Hosseini’s prose is not particularly experimental in language or style; it is rather simple and accessible to readers of most ages and backgrounds. Yet he demonstrates eloquence throughout, especially in his descriptions of the landscape of today’s Afghanistan and the cultural practices of the people. One of the most fascinating aspects of the book are the details of daily life, depicted in both peaceful times and the days of turmoil that soon pervade the country when it is taken over by the Taliban.

Hosseini successfully establishes a strong emotional connection between the reader and his two female protagonists—so successfully, in fact, that if this book was written by a woman, I would not hesitate to classify it in the Women’s Lives and Relationships genre. As a female myself, Hosseini definitely moved me to reconsider my own trivial problems and to be thankful for the many privileges I have by merely being born in the United States. This book allows readers a glimpse into the lives of these suffering yet admirable women who live for nothing but each other and their children, and who are willing to sacrifice everything for their loved ones.

I would highly recommend this book to those who, like me, enjoy reading and learning about other cultures through the lens of a fictional yet realistic and structured plot with highly engaging characters. Hosseini confronts some of the most devastating realities faced by the Afghan people on a daily basis, focusing on the injustices committed against women regarding issues of marriage, religion, war, and education, among others.

Book information:
Title: A Thousand Splendid Suns (hardcover version)
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Publication date: 2007
Number of pages: 372
Setting: Afghanistan
Time period: 1960’s through 2003
Subject headings: Families—Fiction, Afghanistan—Fiction

Monday, February 8, 2010

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (Horror)

Regrettably, I have never had the pleasure of reading anything by Ray Bradbury; Fahrenheit 451 wasn’t assigned in any of my classes, and I have never delved comprehensively into the Science Fiction or Horror genres.  It turns out that this is my loss, for as his horror classic Something Wicked This Way Comes shows, Bradbury is considered among the most well-loved authors of our time for good reason.

When choosing genres, I decided early on that I wanted to read a classic horror.  Having already read a vampire book for my science fiction choice, Dracula was out, so I researched some of the other classics and came across the intriguingly titled Something Wicked This Way Comes, with an even more intriguing summary:

Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade are simultaneously best friends and polar opposites, one born just before and the other just after midnight of October 31st.  In the fall of their thirteenth year, a mysterious carnival arrives in their small town in Illinois, bringing with it a foreboding sense of darkness that unnerves most, but entices those vulnerable to its offerings—including the troubled and adventurous Jim, who yearns to escape childhood and quickly grow up.  As the boys soon discover, this is no ordinary, run-of-the-mill carnival, but rather a supernatural operation run by corrupted beings who feed off the fears of the townspeople.  Mr. Dark, the ringleader of this freakshow, is a truly terrifying, yet alluring villain; he expertly manipulates people’s emotions to gain power over them, and seems all-knowing and practically invincible.

The premise may sound like a Goosebumps book, but I found Bradbury's novel to be very adult-oriented and complex.  The prose is beautiful and poetic, using elaborate imagery to create a vividly imagined setting and creepy atmosphere.  Based on the plethora of themes Bradbury explores, I would go so far as to call this book profoundly philosophical.  Such themes include the loss of innocence, secret desires, the world’s constant state of corruption, and holding on to youth vs. longing for adulthood.  However, for those who don’t want to slog through the allegory and who are just looking for a good story, this is at its core a story about good triumphing over evil, and about the incredible strength of human bonds, which I think almost anyone can relate to.

One of the strongest points of this book are the characters, some realistic and well-developed, like the boys, and others imaginative and terrifying, like Mr. Dark and his crew of freaks.  The dark tone that characteristically pervades horror novels is present here, yet Bradbury still maintains a sense of optimism as well.  Beneath all of the doom and gloom exists a hope that good can defeat evil—that the demons and sins of humanity constantly corrupting the world can be overcome through the power of human love and compassion.

I would recommend this book, without hesitation, to anyone who is willing to wrestle with some cryptic language, metaphors, and thought-provoking ideas about the nature of evil.  I think just about anyone who enjoys horror and/or fantasy would find this classic an enjoyable read.

Book information:

Title: Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
Publication date: 1962 (original)
Number of pages: 293
Setting: Small town in Illinois
Time period: Not specified, but probably mid-twentieth century
Subject headings: Horror tales—Fiction, Male friendship—Fiction, Fathers and sons—Fiction.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Topic 1: What is a "good" book?

I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion in class on Thursday, as intense as it was at certain points. I was especially inspired by Andrea’s points about the individual patron’s experience and how it relates to Readers’ Advisory. I think it is vital that we as librarians—as advocates of literacy and oftentimes liaisions into the world of reading—take our jobs seriously and use caution with new or inexperienced readers. We cannot make judgments or assumptions. Because many of us are avid readers ourselves and gobble up all kinds of reading material every chance we get, I think we sometimes make the mistake of assuming that we know the difference between “good” read and a “bad” one.

The truth is that even books that are highly praised by literary critics or which are considered “classics” are not going to appeal to everyone. People want to read something that they will enjoy; some will desire something intellectually stimulating, while others are looking for entertainment that doesn’t require an analytical approach. As I have discovered myself, what people want to read depends heavily on their mood; sometimes I like to read material that will force me to think and apply skills I’ve gained through my education, while other times I just want something that will engage me without a whole lot of effort on my part.

I’ve noticed that when I sit down to write annotations, I tend to start out with a critical literary analysis. I evaluate the quality of writing, the plot’s originality, and the profundity of the book’s themes. That’s the English Literature major in me, I suppose. But then, about halfway through my feverous scrutiny of the material, I remember what Readers’ Advisory is about, and I have to erase everything I’ve written so far. Because it’s not about identifying a book’s faults, or comparing a book to literary “classics,” or expecting readers to appreciate the same qualities I appreciate in books. I can’t be pretentious and reject books that I don’t like for whatever reasons. There’s no room for my personal opinions. I have to remind myself to focus instead on the unique characteristics of the book and the appeal that it might have for others.  The last thing I want to do is act superior.

Like this guy.

That said, my goal as a librarian is to become someone who won’t make judgments or assumptions, or have expectations of people who simply want to find a “good” book. I don’t want to be the librarian who just recommends my favorite books without regard for the patron’s own experiences, interests, and tastes. With that kind of attitude, I think I can be more successful at pleasing the patron, and maybe eventually taking the next step and offering suggestions that will lead the reader to a new genre or type of book which might help expand their reading interests and experiences.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides ('Kirkus' Style Review)

Eugenides, Jeffrey

Review Date: FEBRUARY 01, 2010
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 529
Price (paperback): $13.95
Publication Date: 09/16/2003
ISBN: 978-0312422158
Classification: NOVEL

Jeffery Eugenides, critically acclaimed author of The Virgin Suicides, expertly weaves a modern story of epic proportions and creates a fascinatingly complex yet relatable character who transcends societal norms.

Cal, originally named Calliope by his parents, is an adult male who was once assumed to be a female at birth and raised as such by his Greek-American family. Cal spends the first half of the novel narrating the momentous story of his grandparents’ incestuous relationship and subsequent escape from war-torn Greece, as well as his parents’ early lives in the turbulent era of 1960’s Detroit. He then looks back on his former life as a young girl and the gender transition he made in his teens, which he believes is a direct result of a gene which existed within his grandparents and which, through a series of fateful events, was passed on to him. What ensues is a strange and psychologically complicated tale which Eugenides manages to successfully tie in with Greek history and myth. Cal is essentially a sexual outcast—he defies chemical, biological, sexual, and psychological norms. Cal’s gender confusion makes for a truly thought-provoking, stereotype-defying read, and his journey of self-discovery begs the reader to question the way that society conditions us to view gender classification. Perhaps the most significant achievement of this novel is the author’s ability to use a nearly genderless voice to express the same character in both male and female roles. Eugenides transcends the stereotypes of gender by enabling the reader to accept the narrator as both male and female.
Not intended for a narrow-minded audience, and not a light read by any means, this novel is provocative, intelligent, and humorous, featuring a narrator deserving of a place among the classic characters of literature. Highly recommended.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler (Science Fiction)

Science fiction, as I have come to understand the genre through the little experience I have with it, is often a creative outlet for social and political commentary. It allows authors to express their views on real-world issues in an imaginary world. Issues in science fiction literature are often metaphors or exaggerations of the issues we face on a daily basis.

Fledgling, by Octavia E. Butler, is no exception. It is deceivingly labeled “vampire fiction,” perhaps leading some (including myself) to initially believe that it is a work of horror or suspense. But at its core, this novel fits much more comfortably into the realm of science fiction, and it’s chock full of metaphors related to issues such as racism, scientific advancement, human free will, and irrational fears that induce violence in civil societies.

With the very first sentence of the novel, the reader is thrust into the action. The protagonist, suffering from amnesia, abruptly wakes up, starving and injured, in the burned ruins of a community. The violence starts immediately as the narrator launches after the closest living thing, killing and devouring without hesitation. The act is clearly instinctual, and part of a desperate fight for survival. Our narrator eventually discovers that she appears to be a ten-year-old African American girl, but her intelligence suggests otherwise, and she exhibits behaviors highly unusual for any kind of human being, much less a young girl. She also find out that she is named Shori, and that the past she has completely forgotten has not forgotten her.
I’ll stop there, as any more information on the plot would truly be a disservice to those interested in reading the book. This is definitely a page-turner, as Butler slowly reveals bits and pieces of Shori’s past, letting readers slowly sink into the imaginary, yet very consistent world of the mysterious “Ina.”

I’ve always been a fan of science fiction movies and television shows, but though I have read a few sci fi books in my time, I cannot accurately call myself a fan. I feel that Fledgling works as a successful introduction to the world of science fiction. By starting with something familiar – the myth of vampires – and expanding on that to create a world of her own, Butler eases the readers into the genre instead of thrusting them into the unknown.
Butler doesn’t shy away from the controversial, but confronts tough issues with a refreshing subtlety that shows the readers what’s going on without telling them what to believe. This is a morally challenging book, and the author doesn’t explicitly take a stand on any issue; she leaves many issues up to the readers’ individual interpretations.

If you’re looking for well-developed characters to connect with (which is what I always desire the most in books I read), this probably isn’t the best choice. Because there were so many characters constantly being introduced throughout the book, and almost none of them had any truly unique or memorable characteristics to speak of, I couldn’t keep them straight. However, the novel is undeniably valuable in its depiction of themes and issues that underlie society and have done so throughout history. I personally would have preferred that the author took more time to develop the characters and their relationships with each other, but I understand that this is not quite what science fiction is about and that this is not what all readers are looking for. What Butler succeeds most at, I believe, is the pacing: she expertly intersperses the action sequences with quiet, intimate scenes that really hold the story together.

Also important to note is the fact that this novel is definitely intended for an open-minded (dare I say liberal) audience. In addition to violence, the plot often indirectly involves such practices as homosexuality, bloodletting, and polygamy, among other things. I wouldn't hand this book to a Bible thumper!

Book information:

Title: Fledgling, by Octavia E. Butler
Publication date: 2005
Number of pages: 317
Setting: Various locations throughout the U.S.
Time period: present
Subject headings: Vampires--Fiction, Young women--Fiction.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Oh, hello there, gentle viewers...

"You caught me catching up on an old favorite.  It's wonderful to get lost in a story, isn't it?  Adventure and heroics and discovery: don't they just take you away?  Come with me now, if you will, gentle viewers.  Join me on a new voyage of the mind. "    --Andrew, from "Storyteller" in Season 7 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Hello, welcome to my Reader's Advisory blog.  I graduated last May with a BFA in Creative Writing and English Literature, so this is my second semester in the SLIS program.  I am extremely lacking in funds right now and without a job, so if anyone reading this knows a place that's hiring, PLEASE let me know!  I will do almost anything; heck, I once had a job cleaning dog kennels.

A little bit about me... I'm an introvert.  If you don't know who I am in class, I'm most likely the shy one, hunched over and wearing lots of layers.  I live 3.5 hours away from my family, and 3.5 hours away from my boyfriend in the opposite direction, so I require lots of visiting time.  I am known as "Negative Nancy" because I can be cynical and I enjoy sarcasm.  I love fiction in all its forms: books, TV shows, video games, movies, you name it.  I tend to get obsessed with fantasies from books and such in my attempts to escape from reality; it is often easier for me to understand and engage with fictional characters than real people.

You can probably guess why I chose to take this class; I imagine it's the same reason everyone else has.  I love to read.  My favorite books tend to fall into the literary and historical fiction categories, although I often find myself veering off into the Young Adult section, as I feel that a lot of popular adult fiction nowadays is generic, features the same plot elements, and severely lacks the depth that many YA authors exhibit in their ability to express emotions and abstract experiences.  Plus, I'm barely an adult myself, so mentally I suppose I'm still in teenager mode.

But I dislike Twilight.  Vampires are awesome, but they are evil and they do not sparkle.  Buffy forever!

Anyway... I think this class is a perfect opportunity for me to delve into areas of fiction in which I don't have much experience.  I'm still in disbelief that a class exists that allows me to read what I choose.  I think it's safe to say that I have never looked forward to a class as much as I have this one.

On a final note, here is a picture of my best friend Bailey.  Be careful, she will stare into your eyes and steal your soul.