Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ebooks and Audiobooks

While I do love the aesthetic of the traditional physical book, I am a passionate devotee of ebooks forever.

I was so excited to get my first e-reader very soon after they were widely available for purchase. This was before I had a smart phone, and I purchased a Nook from Barnes and Noble. I had not been reading as much as I like to, and there were several factors as to why that was the case. As a busy mom, the time I had to read was often at night in bed and I have always hated the bulk and clumsiness of book lights. A backlit e-reader solved that problem for me.

The local library may have our family on a blacklist because of the sheer number of books we have had to pay for due to damages and loss. Not only am I scattered at times, but I've got a dog and a gaggle of kiddos. My best efforts couldn't protect those fragile hunks of paper. My ebooks can't get destroyed and the library automatically retrieves my borrowed titles when they are due! Win-win!

Another issue for me is that I have a visual impairment. Sometimes it is hard to find the title I want  in large print or I may have to wait a long time. With an ebook, I can adjust the font so that I can see what I am reading without needing a "special" text. I can even adjust the contrast when that is helpful. I also can't drive so checking out and returning books via overdrive is way more convenient for me and allows me to move through titles much more quickly.

Another advantage of the ebook is privacy. One of the class readings this week discussed how romance readers love ebooks. Sometimes readers of romance or erotica might like to read their juicy titles without everyone around knowing what they are reading. It's not out of embarrassment necessarily, and there are many reasons a person might want privacy regarding what they are reading. I know for me, I might not have had the courage to explore steamier titles if it weren't for the privacy afforded by ebooks. I like that my choices, regardless of genre, are just between me and the librarians. Political or religious titles that might be controversial may also be appealing in a discreet format such as ebook.

I do not personally have experience with audiobooks. I usually am surrounded by little ears who may not need to hear what I would be listening to or they may just be distracting. I find it very hard to listen to podcasts or someone speaking for long periods of time without zoning out so there isn't a ton of appeal for me. I do think I will check out Amy Poehler's book on audio though. I can see myself enjoying that.  I have a friend who has a long commute and loves audiobooks for that reason. My grandmother is blind and audiobooks are the only accessible form of reading for her, so she is also a voracious consumer of that format. As librarians it is so important for us to help our patrons find the format that is preferable and most accessible to them!

I would love to hear your opinions and experiences regarding ebooks and audiobooks!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Fantasy Genre

The Songweaver’s Vow
by Laura Van Arendonk Baugh
Paperback: 302 pages
Publisher: Æclipse Press (February 14, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1631650041
ISBN-13: 978-1631650048

Euthalia finds herself betrayed in the most inhumane of ways by her own father, then arrives in an unfamiliar land promised to a strange husband. Steeped in Norse mythology, this adventure snowballs a series of events that could lead to a disastrous conclusion. Hard to put down, the reader will be eager to find out how Euthalia’s story plays out.

Characteristics consistent with Fantasy (with help from Saricks Reader’s Advisory text)
  1. Detailed Settings that depict another world (in this case, the land of Asgard from Norse mythology)
  2. The storyline features elements of Good vs. Evil
  3. The mood of the book is overall optimistic but melancholy/dark through a lot of the action
  4. Contains mythical creatures and elements of magic
  5. Driven by language and detailed description

Suggested Read-a-likes
The Paper Magician Series by Charlie N. Holmberg
The Thirteenth Tale  by Dianne Setterfield 
Norse Code by Greg Van Eeckhout
The Heroes of Olympus Series by Rick Riordan
The Goddess Summoning Series by P.C. Cast

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Book Clubs!

I have always, always wanted to be in a book club. Nerd goals.

I joined a book club through my church's mom group. The assigned book was Little Bee by Chris Cleve. I was so excited to be in the club. I dove into the book. If you haven't read Little Bee it is very emotionally intense and there is a lot to unpack. I was eager to dig in and really analyze the meaning of the story and the author's intent. Well... no one else read it and I was disappointed. Then they decided not to meet for that month. There was another book choice and again I read it, but no one else did. After that the book club was no more. I was sad, but I still hoped my dreams of being a part of a book club would come to fruition.

Last year I got to chat with a lovely young woman I met through one of my Library Science courses. We hit it off and enjoyed chatting with one another. She told me she was in a couple of book clubs and I told her of my book club dream! She kindly invited me to be a part of the book club she started with some people she knew and I was tentative (because...introvert) but thrilled! I did three meetings with the book club which was a private book club by invitation only. We met virtually, which prior to the meeting I thought meant we would chat over Facebook messenger or something similar, but instead we met on Google Hangouts. A virtual bookclub is perfect for readers like me who have transportation issues or logistical issues, or even if the group just contains people from all different locations, which is the case for this book club! I was nervous at first because I felt more comfortable thinking I would be typing, rather than video chatting. I felt like video chatting with people I didn't know very well required me to have makeup on and brushed hair.

Most of the members of this particular book club are female. In the meetings I joined, there was only one guy who chatted with us. All the members were well spoken and intelligent and normally they had all read the book or at least started it. The meetings all stayed on topic and though they were social, the focus was definitely on what we had read, not just shooting the breeze. I preferred that because discussing the books was the main reason I wanted to join.

The first book I read with the book club was Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I had absolutely no interest in this book or graphic novels at all. I loved the fact that everyone in the book club was able to see likable and less likable aspects of the book. We all felt it was a little indulgent but we varied in our willingness to accept the author's self-indulgence. We all were able to see the merits of the writing, the creativity of the presentation, and the poignancy of the story.

The second book I read with the book club was Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison. This book was especially meaningful to me because it is a memoir about living on the Autism Spectrum, and I have two sons on the Autism Spectrum. Through the course of the discussion, one of the group members disclosed that he was Autistic also and we had a really great chat about some aspects of living with Autism.

The structure of the book club was neat. The facilitator was the young woman who started the book club. Each month a different member would choose the book and that person would sort of guide the discussion during the book club. No one was particularly dominant and the discussion was allowed to meander of its own accord. I really enjoyed the vibe of this book club and chatting with the people involved. If someone hadn't read the book they would either not be present for the discussion or they would say upfront that they had read only part or not read the book, and then they would either observe or chime in if they had something relevant to add.

I would love to still be a part of this book club, but I haven't had much time to do the extra reading at this time. Hopefully there will be a spot waiting for me when I am ready, and maybe someday i can try another (or several more) book clubs. I know, for me though, it is important that a book club revolves at least to a large extent around discussing the book or else I would feel like I was wasting my time.

What are your thoughts on book clubs? How do you find and join them? What is your preferred format?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Midterm Special Topics Paper

I wrote my special topics paper on the concept of body positivity in women's fiction. I tried to write it considering the quote in the Saricks text regarding fiction in certain categories such as African-American fiction or Inspirational fiction. To paraphrase, Saricks argues that those categories are best described in terms of their actual genres, that the mystery part of Inspirational Mystery is more significant, or that the Romance in the African-American Romance is the true nature of the novel. I tried to approach body positive fiction in the same way, that the body positive aspect of a story was a contributor to the book as a whole, not the focus of a novel. 

I acknowledged that body positivity can encompass a variety of attributes, including but not limited to transgender issues, eating disorders, disabilities, and racial concerns. For the purpose of my paper I focused on body positivity as related to the "size positive" or "fat positive" movement in which people of a larger size strive to practice an appreciation of their bodies instead of self loathing. I found some research to support the idea that body positivity is a strong contributor to mental well being in young women, which I included in my paper.

In women's fiction, those who are interested in reading books with plus-size heroines can find them between the pages of mysteries, romances, chick-lit, and erotica. The focus should be on filling the tastes of the reader, not pushing a body positive agenda, but it is important for librarians to be aware of the size positive movement and books which reflect those ideals.

Some suggestions:
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA but enjoyable for adults as well)
Good In Bed by Jennifer Weiner 
The Savannah Reid Mysteries by G.A. McKevett
The Ellie Haskell Series by Dorothy Cannell
Blame the Wine by Imogene Nix

Do you have any suggestions in this category? I'd love to hear them!