Saturday, December 29, 2007

Update on Genre Challenge

I can't believe that three months has gone by since I last posted. I am ashamed!! Well, I have been doing a lot of reading. September thru December was a whirlwind of reading books for reviews. I reviewed a few books for Library Journal Xpress and a few for the Historical Novel Society.

I have been trying to stick with my goal of reading different genres. Here is a quick update on how this has been going:

Children's book- Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
Science Fiction- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
2 Biographies- The Glass Castle and If I am Missing or Dead
Young Adult- Uprising
Romance(Regency)- The Viscount Who Loved Me
Classic- A Christmas Carol
Modern Classic- The House on Mango Street
Mystery- Plum Lovin'

All of the above books were good. At first I wasn't so sure about The Viscount Who Loved Me but after thinking about it, I did enjoy it. I had to reread Dickens' A Christmas Carol because of the season. What a great story. I finally can now say that I know what people are talking about when they say that Janet Evanovich is such a great author. I loved Plum Lovin' and have already reserved a copy of her new one, Plum Lucky that is due out soon. She has recruited a new fan!

I am going to do some better planning so that I read some different genres and don't double up on anything in 2008. Happy Reading!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Color Purple

The Color Purple is the story of two African American sisters growing up in Georgia. Celie has not had an easy life- she is abused and taken advantage of by her father, and her two children are taken away. She is then forced to marry a man who abuses her as well. Her younger sister, Nettie, flees, and is able to escape the life that Celie must endure. Nettie promises to write to her sister, but Celie never hears from her.

As Celie gets older, she meets other black women and begins to build relationships with them. Her life takes on new meaning, and she begins to open up and find a power within herself that she didn’t know she had. The Color Purple is a story of survival, the story of a person who is up against seemingly insurmountable odds and perseveres. This powerful story won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983 and should not be missed.

The movie The Color Purple starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey is a classic as well and should not be missed!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

ALA: Future Friends Generation X

Future Friends: Marketing Reference and User Services to Generation X

This was another fantastic program that had some really great ideas on programming for Generation X. The panel started out with giving some statistics about Generation X which were very interesting. The next set of speakers talked about their successful programming for this generation at their library. See handout for TnT- Twenties and Thirties at the St. Charles Public Library. Some of these types of events would be cool to try out here.

The next group presenting was from Kansas City Public Library. They talked about a group they formed called Young Friends aka BookEnds for young professionals to socialize and network. This group provides unique events in which adults aged 21-40 can participate. You have to pay an annual fee of $40, but most of the patrons have been fine with the fee and feel its money well-spent.

ALA: He Reads...She Reads

He Reads…She Reads: The Booklist Adult Books Reader’s Advisory Forum

This one was another excellent Reader’s Advisory program. Again, David Wright from Seattle was one of the speakers along with Kaite Mediatore Stover from Kansas City (MO) Public Library. The two of them write a column called He Reads...She Reads in Booklinks. List of titles they recommended will be coming soon.

ALA: Off the Chain

Off the Chain: Reader’s Advisory for Exploding Genres

This program was a panel of speakers. Highlights were the author Zane talking about her fiction and David Wright from Seattle Public Library (moderator). The purpose of this program was to talk about new genres, especially those popular among twentysomethings, the library’s “lost generation.” Edgy fiction, cult authors, urban fiction and graphic novels were the main genres discussed. The following is a list of popular authors that, according to the panel, libraries should have:

Charles Bukowski
Mark Danielewski
Haruki Marakami
Kelly Link
Douglas Coupland
Bret Easton Ellis
Chuck Palahniuk
Iceberg Slim
David Goines
Vickie Stringer

A magazine that was mentioned that more libraries should own in order to be in touch with emerging literature is Believer. An RA book that would be extremely helpful is The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction.
It was interesting to hear Zane talk about her life, writing, and publishing career. All I really knew about her was that her books were extremely popular when I worked at Phoenix Public Library. They were always either checked out or stolen. Years ago she started writing stories and emailing them to family and friends. Word got around that she was a good writer and then she started putting her work on the web. Eventually, she started her own small press. Her work is mainly popular erotic fiction geared toward women.

ALA: Programming Not Just for Boomers

Programming Not Just for Boomers: Programming and Services

This program was a panel of three speakers, one of them being Marshall Shore from the Maricopa County Library District in Arizona. He spoke first and mentioned some of the programs the district is doing now:

Knit One, Read, Too! at SERL and the Crochet and Knitting Club at NWRL
Marshall is trying to get involved with national organizations such as Church of Craft and Craft Mafia to create and sponsor programs.

He then began talking about ideas and programs for the future. These included:

Film Movement
Independent and foreign films
Will be at 5 branches
Sponsored by Recorded Books
Library gets to show a film

ASU MFA Theater Play Writing
This is a program where patrons will read a short story and then develop it into a play. It sounded like it might be a contest and the winner gets to have help developing their story into a play and then actually getting to perform it.

University of Phoenix workshops on:
Going back to school (college)
Writing essays
How to apply for scholarships

Big Read
Book is To Kill a Mockingbird
Library will get to create a podcast and video for YouTube
There were a few other things he mentioned, but I couldn’t get them all written down. This group of speakers did not supply a handout.

Next he talked about the Perry Branch and its Deweyless system. The taxonomy is from the Book Industry Study Group.

The next speaker was Allan Kleiman from Old Bridge Public Library, NJ. He talked about programming for seniors. He is doing some amazing things at their library. He talked about how the typical 70 year old is much more active, mobile, and engaged than a 70 year old from 10 or 20 years ago. He said there are 35 million people age 65 and older in the U.S.

Some ideas for senior programming include:

Technology training
Basic computer training
Intro to the Internet
Safety & security on the Internet
Medicare Part D
How to buy tickets online (airfare, concerts)
Email children and grandchildren
Gaming- Wii for seniors (good for maintaining hand-eye coordination)
iPods, ebooks
film/book discussions
cultural programs
movement- basic exercise, dance
financial security, recently retired
2nd career- resumes for 70+
Consumer health
Local history
The Teaching Company courses
Coping with loss
Nostalgic programming on decades, events, persons, places
Creative writing, poetry- turn it into a blog. Can do an open house for the community to read seniors poetry and other writings. Can also link with a classroom of students at school to write on a theme together. Can listen/watch streaming video of a poet reading his/her work.

some ideas for how to teach seniors include:

peer to peer
intergenerational classes
boomers teaching parents
teach in a nursing home
social networking sites for seniors

All programs should:
Allow people to share, discuss, and reminisce
Have refreshments
Get people involved
Use their mental capabilities
Make program into an event

Here’s one example he gave about making a program into an event (this would be a cool idea for us to use!)

Show the recent award winning movie The Queen starring Helen Mirren
Display royal memorabilia (print, commemoratives)
Book display @ program of royal fiction, biographies, nonfiction
Have English music playing
Show movie (introduce and ask questions at the beginning & end)
Red carpet leading into room
Serve theme refreshments- tea and scones, etc.

Check out this library’s senior blog at

ALA program: More Shining Stars

I went to the 2007 American Library Association Conference in Washington, D.C. from June 21- 24. The next few posts will be my comments about the programs that I attended. I went mainly to Reader's Advisory programs and Programming programs!

More Shining Stars: Award-Winning Programs for Small and Medium Sized Public Libraries

I thought that this program would be a little better than it was. Only two of the speakers on the panel had any ideas that we could possibly use for for my library where I work, but both of these library’s programs were for teens.

Bloomingdale Public Library
One program that was discussed was having Dance Dance Revolution competitions. Teens were invited by being given a little 2x3 card advertising the event. They hold the event once a month for an hour and a half and provide snacks and drinks. They usually have 30+ teens at each event. It is something that was very inexpensive. They just had to buy the game, have a TV screen, and then purchase refreshments. Lots of libraries across the county are doing this, including Phoenix Public library here locally.

A lot of libraries also have the game Guitar Hero that teens can play. If you’ve never played this, you have to try it. Best Buy has a display set up so people can play around with it. It’s really fun! Libraries just have to buy the game and then have a TV. Relatively inexpensive in the long run.

Linebaugh Public Library
The program from this library sounded really cool and very intellectual. It’s called Café Symposium. It is an after school discussion group that encourages the development of critical thinking. The handout for this program was very thorough. The speaker said that everything a library needs to start up this program at their own branch is included on the handout. The facilitator that they use is an Honors philosophy student at their local university. She is their facilitator for free (it will look good on her resume).

In order to generate interest in the program, a library staff member and the facilitator go to high schools around the area to recruit students. They target AP English students who are Juniors and Seniors.

They usually start each session with a focus piece such as a poem, TV episode, etc that ties in with the topic in order to get the students comfortable and talking. They limit the event to six weeks with one session each week. A key to the success is that the facilitator never gives his/her opinion no matter how much the students beg!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Favorite Historial Novels 1997-2007

Historical Novels Review is putting together a list of readers' favorite historical novels of the past 10 years for their 10th Anniversary issue. These are my favorites that I sent in:

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier
The Innocent by Posie Graeme Evans
The Exiled by Posie Graeme Evans
The Uncrowned Queen by Posie Graeme Evans
Queen of Shadows: a Novel of Isabella, Wife of King Edward II by Edith Felber
The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory
The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund

Favorite Books

This is a quiz that I got off of Sarah Johnson's blog, so I thought I'd post my answers here. It really made me think!

A book that made you cry: There are lots of these! I would say that one of the books that touched me the most was The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I was sobbing within the first few pages.

A book that scared you: It by Stephen King. I started it and could only read a few pages. I hate clowns.

A book that made you laugh: Grosse Pointe Girl by Sarah Grace McCandless. Very sarcastic. Very true to life in the 80’s.

A book that disgusted you: The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl. Horrible descriptions of murder scenes. Made my stomach turn.

A book you loved in elementary school: Without a doubt it’s Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. I have read this book at least 13 times over the years, and my friend and I used to reenact the scenes from the book. I have the first paragraph memorized.

A book you loved in middle school: I would have to say Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. I read it for the first time in sixth grade, and this is another one that I have read multiple times over the years and have multiple copies of. I still love it to this day.

A book you loved in high school: This is a hard one! I don’t really remember reading anything for fun in high school. I did like Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

A book you hated in high school: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I loathed this book in high school and haven’t read it since, though I may try again someday. It’s the only book my mom ever had to force me to read and grounded me until I finished it and wrote my 10th grade essay.

A book you loved in college: I really didn’t read any books for pleasure in college. I was too busy with schoolwork and nonfiction books. One that stands out that I loved and wasn’t tortuous to read was Life in a Medieval Castle by Joseph Gies.

A book that challenged your identity: The Short Life of Sophie Scholl. A very moving book about Sophie Scholl and the Nazi resistance movement The White Rose. It made me think about right and wrong and standing up for what you believe in.

A series that you love: The “Ann” series by Posie Graeme-Evans. It’s historical fiction set in the time of Edward IV (a favorite). The titles are: The Innocent; The Exiled; The Uncrowned Queen.

Your favorite horror book: The Shining by Stephen King. Also my favorite horror movie. You can’t beat Jack Nicholson.

Your favorite science fiction book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I liked the humor, though I can’t stand science fiction.

Your favorite fantasy book: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I’m not a big fan of fantasy either, but these are great. I like the moral lessons.

Your favorite mystery book: Another difficult one, because I don’t read mysteries either! I can’t think of one I’ve liked. I tried to read Nancy Drew as a kid, but I was completely bored. I never even got through one of them.

Your favorite historical novel: This is hard, there are too many. I would have to say my favorite is Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. It’s the second historical fiction novel I read as an adult. I love the descriptions, the language she uses, and the way Chevalier takes you back to the time period.

Your favorite biography: Royal Panoply by Carolly Erickson. Each chapter is short and focused on one of the kings or queens of England. Great introduction to English history.

Your favorite “coming-of-age” book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is great. We had to read parts of it in 8th grade, and I didn’t really get it. I read it a few months ago and fell in love with it. Now I know why it was voted the best novel of the 20th century.

Your favorite classic: I really like Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. It’s short and sad, very moving. Listen to it on audio, read by Gary Sinese- amazing!

Your favorite romance book: I don’t read romances either! My favorites are Wuthering Heights by Bronte and Pride & Prejudice by Austen. Both are great movies, too.

Your favorite book not on this list: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Another book that I’ve read multiple times. It’s an amazing coming of age story.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Genre Challenge Update

I haven't been potsing very much lately...but that doesn't mean I haven't been reading! I've been keeping true to my word and doing a genre challenge. So far I've posted about reading a Romance and a Mystery. I've also tackled the genres of Romantic Suspense, Women's Lives & Relationships (2), Horror, and a Legal Thriller. So far nothing has been extremely wonderful. My favorites were from the Women's Lives & Relationships genre, a Barbara Delinsky novel and one by Debbie Macomber. I really enjoyed the Barbara Delinksy one. The Debbie Macomber was twofold- for my genre challenge and for my knitting book discussion group that I run at the library.

I really enjoyed reading Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I listened to it on audio. It was read by Gary Sinese, and he does a fantastic job. I highly recommended it. I also really liked listening to the audio version of A Raisin in the Sun.

This week I will be attending the American Library Association conference in Washington, D.C., so I will have plenty to write about!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Chapter A Day Email

I recently signed up for an Email Book Club. The way that it works is that you receive a five minutes portion of a book in your Inbox each day. By the end of the week, if you like what you've read, you can get the book from the library. A new book starts every Monday. There are many new clubs that you can pick from, for example Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction, Romance, Pre-Pub, and Teen. I joined the fiction club. Today I received in my Inbox the first portion of a new book entitled City of Glory by Beverly Swerling.

This service is offered by library where I work and by thousands of other libraries around the country. The service is provided by It's a good way to see if you're going to like a particular book without investing too much time into it. I used to finish every book I started whether or not I even liked it. I've decided now that there are too many things out there that I really want to read, so why waste my time with something I don't even like? For example, last week I started listening to Sidhartha by Herman Hesse on audio CD. I got 2/3 of the way through the first disc and decided I couldn't stand it. I know it's a classic, but I just couldn't do it.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Genre Challenge: Mystery

For the month of March I read The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl. I started out reading it for a project at work and then decided to count it as my mystery book for my monthly genre challenge.

The book was okay. I started out by reading the novel and got through the second chapter. It hadn’t really piqued my interest, so I thought maybe that listening to it on audio might help liven things up. I’m glad I switched to audio, because I don’t think I could have finished it otherwise.

The story takes place just after the Civil War in Boston. The primary characters are the literary giants of the day: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James T. Fields, from the Ticknor & Fields publishing company. This core group of men form the Dante Club. They are working on an English translation of Dante’s Inferno for the American public. All of the men are Dante fanatics, and they are met with resistance from the Harvard Corporation. Things start to get weird when several prominent men in Boston are murdered “Dante style.” The members of the Dante Club pick up on this because of their intimate knowledge of Inferno. Pretty soon Boston’s literary elite are investigating alongside the Boston police.

The reason that made the book just okay was that there seemed to be little distinction between the characters of Holmes, Longfellow, and Lowell. The ending was a bit convoluted as well. We are taken into the world of the killer for two chapters and then brought back into the Dante Club, and a character the reader hasn’t heard from since the middle of the book reappears, so in my opinion the ending was a bit jarring. I appreciate the idea of the book- wrapping literary giants around a murder and having them try to solve it. I’m happy that I gave it a try, but I can’t say that I’d read a Matthew Pearl novel again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Philippa Gregory: The Boleyn Inheritance

The stories of Lady Jane Rochford, Anne of Cleves, and Katherine Howard are told in Philippa Gregory’s latest tale of the Tudor court, The Boleyn Inheritance.

Anne of Cleves is Henry’s Bavarian born fourth wife, Catherine Howard, an English teenager that catches Henry’s eye, is his fifth wife, and Jane Boleyn (Lady Rochford) is a lady of Henry’s court whose testimony sent her husband and her sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn, to the scaffold just a few years before.

These three women’s lives are bound together as they all try to survive in a court that is ruled by a man who changes his mind almost by the hour. The novel is full of court intrigue and politics told from each of the three women’s point of view. The change in narrators will keep readers interested in the plight of each woman, even though most will already know the story of who was divorced, beheaded, or survived.

Philippa Gregory is a fantastic writer of historical fiction. If you are a stickler for reading historical fiction in order by time period/chain of events, then read her Tudor novels in this order:

The Constant Princess
The Other Boleyn Girl
The Boleyn Inheritance
The Queen's Fool
The Virgin's Lover

The first one of Gregory's that I read was The Other Boleyn Girl. It is a great introduction to her writing style- lots of historical detail, politics, and some romance thrown in for good measure. Another favoite is The Virgin's Lover because I love anything about Elizabeth I. Check out her website at

Monday, March 5, 2007

Library Thing

One of the things that I have been working on the last two weeks is inputting all of my fiction collection at home into Library Thing. If you've never heard of Library Thing or used it before, you have to check it out. It is an amazing tool for organizing your books and connecting with others and getting suggestions to read. Check out Library Thing so you can see what's on my fiction shelves at home.

I have to warn you though, there's not a whole lot on my shelves at home. I guess you can say I'm a good library user- most of my reading material I get from the libraries I visit. I only buy a book for a couple of reasons-

1. The book had a profound effect on me
2. I'll read it more than once
3. It's something I will use for research
4. It was a gift
5. I couldn't get it at the library and really wanted to read it right away

I'm more apt to buy nonfiction, because I like to look at it again and again and study it. This is the case with my collection of Rolling Stones books, history books, Sex Pistols and punk books, and books on The Doors. I guess you can say I'm a music fan!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Genre Challenge: Romance

I finished the first book in my Genre Challenge. I read Crazy for You by Jennifer Crusie to count as a Romance novel. Let me tell you, it was quite a challenge to get through the book. I must say, it was one of the worst books I have ever read. I thought that the characters were very flat and stereotypical. At first it was difficult to keep all the characters straight because none really stood out to me. Plus they all had one syllable names- Bill, Joe, Max, Nick. The first couple of times that the characters Max and Nick were mentioned, I thought they were the same person because they were so similar. I later found out after further reading that they were brothers. I even reread a couple of pages to see if I had missed something.

I found the dialogue between the characters to be pretty awkward and found myself asking several times- do people really talk that way to each other? Because in none of my relationships or friendships has anyone ever talked to each other so one dimensionally and clichéd.

I feel really bad that I didn’t like this book. I know that Jennifer Crusie is a very popular author in the chick lit arena and her books do well. I have also heard that her books are very funny. Not once did I laugh out loud or even chuckle to myself. Perhaps her later work is better. This one was written in 1999. The only thing that I liked remotely was the story between Bill and Quinn. He was the stalker ex-boyfriend who just couldn’t get the fact that Quinn had broken up with him.

Another problem that I had with the book was the small town mentality. Everyone in the town thought that the coach, Bill, was the be all and end all of the town. I have never lived in a small town, so I have no reference to this, but it was difficult for me to think that people may actually behave like this.

So needless to say, my foray into the romance genre was not a success. I would stick to Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown, even though their later novels are classified more as romantic suspense. Better yet- I’ll stick with a classic Bronte the next time I want to read a true romance.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Snow Falling on Cedars

The novel Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson is a literary novel that takes place on the fictional island of San Piedro in the Puget Sound area in 1954. The novel explores how events that happened in the past play such a vital role in the future. The novel’s distinguishing features are the author’s descriptions of island life and the portrayal of the prejudice that exists toward Japanese Americans during and after World War Two.

The story begins with Kabuo Miyamoto on trial for the murder of a fellow fisherman, Carl Heine, Jr. Carl was found tangled up in his own fishing net with a wound to his head. It turns out that Kabuo may have a motive for murdering Carl Heine.
Two major conflicts exist in this novel that makes for a riveting read. One of the conflicts as stated by the defense attorney Nels Gudmundsson is whether Kabuo Miyamoto will be found guilty of a crime just because he is Japanese. Another conflict that exists is between local island news reporter, Ishmael Chambers, and Kabuo’s wife, Hatsue. Ishmael has never been able to get over his pre-war relationship with Hatsue, whereas she has moved on, married and had children.

Over the course of the next several chapters, the relationship of Ishmael and Hatsue is revealed in a series of flashbacks. The two were childhood friends, spending a great deal of time together, though they never acknowledged each other at school because of the unspoken rules of prejudice. The two met in secret in a hollowed out cedar tree where their love began to blossom. Eventually, Hatsue begins to feel that their relationship is wrong and tells Ishmael that they need to stop seeing each other, though they never really make any effort to do this. What eventually pulls them apart is the fact that all Japanese Americans are deported to internment camps. It is from there that Hatsue writes to Ishmael, breaking off their relationship.

The novel continues in revealing the past in flashbacks and alternating to the present to cover the trial of Hatsue’s husband, Kabuo Miyamoto. Throughout the course of the trial, several pieces of evidence are introduced that are not in Kabuo’s favor. After the jury begins its deliberation, Ishmael goes home to reflect in his father’s study. He rereads the letter that Hatsue had written to him years before, ending their relationship. He goes to their cedar tree and realizes that his past is over and that he must move on. Finally, Ishmael makes a decision that will change the lives of everyone involved in the trial.

This novel had everything that a reader could ask for: romance, a gripping plot, and a mystery to solve. Snow Falling on Cedars is an excellent example of a novel that shows prejudice will exist everywhere, even in quiet little island towns, and the only way to overcome it is by one person at a time listening to their heart and doing what is just and right.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Short Life of Sophie Scholl

The Short Life of Sophie Scholl by Hermann Vinke is by far one of my favorite history books. I first discovered it when I was a child visiting my local public library. I spent hours there during the long, scorching hot Phoenix summers, selecting each book carefully. I came across it by chance as I was flipping through the worn yellowed entry cards in the old card catalog. There it was, something about the title caught by eye, and I read on- a short description about the White Rose followed the bibliographic information which I quickly jotted down on a scrap of paper. The White Rose? I questioned. I had never heard of this before, so my interest was piqued. I hurried over to the stacks and scanned the shelves until I located the book. I held it in my hands and was immediately intrigued by its cover. Starring back at me was a black and white photo of a young woman with intense eyes and a commanding look. At that moment I felt as if I had just uncovered a great treasure that no one else knew about. As soon as I got home, I curled up on couch and stayed up far into the night. Her story compelled me, and I could not stop reading until I was done. I closed the book and felt a sense of satisfaction come over me. I truly had discovered a great book that had affected me as none ever had before.

One of the reasons why I love this book is because I can relate to Sophie Scholl. As a member of the Nazi resistance group the White Rose, she along with her brother and his friends, reached out to others, and she rebelled in her own quiet way by distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets against what had become the standard in Nazi Germany. She was doing what she believed in by pointing out the wrongs and injustices of the Nazi party. Here was a young woman risking her life and the lives of her family members because of something she believed in. It was worth it to her. I admired her strength, her will power, her love of nature, and her spirituality.

The writer, Hermann Vinke, conveys Sophie’s passion for life by including some of her diary entries, letters, and interviews with her surviving sister, Inge. One gets a true sense of who Sophie really was; a young girl trying to make the world a better place. This book might be obscure and not read as often as it should be, it can be easily obtained through your public library's InterLibrary Loan service. Nonetheless I recommend it because it is a powerful reminder that one is never too small or young or insignificant to stand up and make a difference. It is something that I have kept with me my whole life, and it has truly made a difference to me.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Year of Wonders

The way that I got hooked on historical fiction was that I was walking through the stacks at my library several years ago, looking for something to read. I had exhausted all my favorite authors, no one I liked was writing anything new, so I was on the hunt for something different. As I was going up and down the aisles, the spine of a book intrigued me. The book jumped out at me as being something that I thought I might like. I pulled the book from the shelf, looked at the front cover, and then read the back cover. The book was Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. I had never read any adult historical fiction before, though I love history, so I thought I would give it a try. From then on I have been completely hooked on historical fiction and have read in the genre voraciously. So in this case, it wasn’t the cover that intrigued me, it was the spine!

Review: Year of Wonders
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks is set in seventeenth century England during the time of the plague. The novel is based on the real village of Eyam, Derbyshire, in the Pennine Mountains. Members of the small village begin dying one by one as the plague seeps into their town in the year 1666. The living face a difficult choice that their survival depends upon- leave the village and find refuge in towns that the plague has not yet hit or stay behind and quarantine themselves to protect other innocent people? The young, charismatic town vicar, Michael Mompellion, convinces the villagers that they have a better chance of survival if the village seals itself off from the rest of the world. A few decide to risk it and leave, but the majority of the people prepare to stay in the village and combat the plague head-on.

The story is told from the point of view of 18-year-old Anna Firth, a widow with two young sons. Anna works as a maid for the vicar and his wife, Elinor. Anna and Elinor develop a close friendship, and Elinor teaches Anna to read. The vicar, his wife, and Anna come to the aid of those infected with the plague and care for them as best they can with herbal medicines and words of comfort. At the same time Anna is caring for others, she must also deal with the tragic loss of her two sons as they succumb to the disease. As the plague begins to decimate the population, many people turn against the vicar and believe that his advice was wrong. The villagers begin to mistrust friends and neighbors and start to turn against each other in their confinement. Some let their superstitions get the best of them and believe that there are witches among them that are responsible for the suffering.

The characters in this novel are well-developed. Brooks is able to accurately portray the range of emotions that people would exhibit in such a difficult time when faced with disease, death, and dwindling supplies. Her portrayal of how some members of the village are driven to madness and desperate measures are extremely accurate and convincing. Readers will identify with Anna as she copes with the loss of her children and with the suffering of the neighbors that she helps. Anna reacts to her situation in a believable way, by throwing herself into her work, hoping that soon the plague will pass and life will resume once more. Geraldine Brooks is a superb storyteller that skillfully portrays this tale of everyday people learning how to cope during an extraordinary time in history.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Welcome to my Blog!

My goal for this blog is two-fold. One is to update it weekly with an entry about a book or library related topic. The other is to review, suggest, and comment on books that I am currently reading or have read in the past that others may enjoy.

My main area of reading interest is historical fiction though I also enjoy biographies, history, teen fiction, and mainstream fiction. Usually I read between 2-5 books a month depending on how busy I am, and I alternate between reading adult fiction, teen fiction, the classics, and nonfiction. As a resolution for 2007, I have decided to read outside of my comfort zones and select one book from a different genre to read each month. This blog will serve as a chronicle to my efforts. Enjoy!