Monday, May 31, 2010

Authors, Awards and Holidays, Oh My!

I had my first author visit here at Time Out - very exciting for me! David Lubar, author of Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie and Goop Soup, stopped by one of my armchair BEA posts. How cool is that?

Lisa at Bibliophiliac has given me an award! This weekend just keeps getting better!

If you are given this award you must first accept it by leaving a comment on the post you were nominated on. Then copy and paste the post and add it to your own blog. Make a list of the last 5 books you read and pass the award on to 5 other bloggers (no backsies!). Please also identify the blog from which you got the award and don't forget to tell your picks that they have a blog award!

My past five reads are: Smile, Incarceron, The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To, This Book is Overdue!, and Tithe.

I am passing this award on to, in alphabetical order...
Community Bookstop - I found this blog through the Book Hop last Friday and I enjoy the short tid bits and book reviews found here. So far I've seen paranormal type books and a few movie related posts.
Emily's Reading Room - Mostly a YA reader, Emily does great reviews and is a very active blogger. She even helped with the armchair BEA which was a lot of fun for those of us who could not go to BEA.
The Glittering Burn - With an affinity for Tea, there's definately a British vibe here (though I'm not certain where she's from), the Glittering Burn has a great sense of humor and posts on Books, music, movies and more.
Lions and Men - I've been enjoying Nick's posts on science fiction, fantasy and horror. He recently posted on his adventures at Book Expo America with some great pictures of the event.
You've GOTTA Read This - Sandy's blogs is one of the first book blogs I found and I have been following her ever since.

Happy Memorial Day everybody! I'm chillin with my veteran husband today, playing video games and eating lots of yummies! Remember our fallen heroes and give your veteran loved one a kiss!

Smile by Raina Telgemeier: Another Great Graphic Novel

I am usually a read-one-book-at-a-time type of reader. But I could not resist that cover. It begs to be picked up. I ended up reading the book straight through.

When twelve year old Raina loses her two front teeth – her permanent teeth – it seems like the end of the world. Through years of braces, headgear, retainers, middle school and high school Raina learns who her true friends are and how to be happy with herself.
I’ve yet to read a graphic novel I haven’t liked. And Smile by Raina Telgemeier is no exception. It has such an uplifting message for young girls and is an enjoyable read. Telgemeier is not only a great writer but a great artist. The pictures are all in color and do a nice job of capturing the emotion of each moment. There were some funny moments when I chuckled and some tender ones when I teared up. From experiencing your first crush to worrying about pimples, there’s something in this book for every girl. In a time of life when girls feel pressured to mature quickly, I appreciated how Smile portrays an innocent who’s happy to be that way. Raina realizes she doesn’t have to follow her friends into makeup and kissing if she’s not ready. As you likely noticed, the character and author’s name are the same. That’s because this is a true story which makes it even better!
Publisher: Scholastic, 2010     Pages: 218
Rating: 5 Stars     Recommended Age: 10 and up     Source: IC Public Library

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Marketing Your Blog: Post Two on Visibility

PART TWO: This post is intended to give ideas to book bloggers who want to increase their readership using methods of marketing. I will be writing from my personal experience. Although I am not an expert, I figure I can pass along some things I wish I had known a while back. Much will be obvious but some maybe not so much. Use what helps you, forget what doesn’t! This is post two of three.

Making Your Blog Visible: Marketing involves actively pursuing your audience. The key idea here is being active. A little extra effort can go a long ways towards gaining readership.

Post frequently – especially if you want to increase your readership. Once you’ve established the readership you want, then slowing down your publishing rate isn’t a terrible thing. But posting frequently keeps you visible to search engines and your followers/subscribers’ blog reader. At the very least you won’t lose readers because you don’t post often enough to maintain their interest.

Comment Frequently: 
  • Fellow book bloggers are a valuable resource. They can give you ideas and answer questions you may have about blogging. In order for them to get to know you, leave a thoughtful comment on their blog. Engaging in conversation increases your visibility. Finding book blogs with similar tastes as your own and leaving comments there increases the chances that their readers will become your readers. We all like comments so, give some to get some. 
  • No matter where you comment on the Web, leave your blog’s URL attached if the commenting system asks for it. Leaving an unsolicited URL in a comment is a bit tacky. And I freely admit I’ve done so. But now I know better. It especially looks disingenuous when you do it on several blogs. Bloggers and readers will notice copy-and-paste tendencies! We are a community and read many of the same posts and comments. So, be good to each other by giving the kind of attention you want to receive. 
  • Participate in Memes and Challenges: A great way to advertise your blog is by participating in the Book Blogger Hop on Fridays hosted by Crazy-for-Books. Again, you give in order to get. With the Hop, the more blogs you visit and comment on the more visits you are likely to get than if you remained silent or didn’t visit any of the participants.
  • Social Networking Sites – like Facebook and Twitter can help you get going and maintain readership. By clicking the “share” button at the top of Blogger you can make an announcement to, for example, Facebook friends, telling them you have written something. I highly encourage you to open such an account if you don’t have one and start following, fanning and tweeting away. Blogging is a part of who you are now and you should share it with people you care about and vice versa. Other sites to consider: Goodreads, Shelfari, Library Thing, My Space, Book Blogs.
  • Utilize Key Words to attract search engine results – Understanding a little about key words can help increase your visibility. For instance, I find it’s not always effective to simply use a book title and author name in the post title. Use the book title and author name within the body of your post. For whatever reason, Google picks up on this and makes it easier for people to find your post through  search engines. Check your Google Analytics to see which key words searchers are using that are the most effective (i.e. they remain on your site for more than 2 seconds). Try to determine why a keyword is/is not effective and use that knowledge to your advantage. See, I told you Google Analytics is useful!
  • Ping the Old Fashioned Way – if you can’t find yourself through search engines. Try manually adding your blog URL to Google’s index and sites like BlogBuzzer. A ping is sort of like leaving a message for search engines that says “I’m here!” Participating search engines will then add you to their inventory of searchable blogs. You may need to do this for each post (or at least the ones important to you).
  • Giveaways and Contests– Even if you’re not a fan of the “must be a follower to enter” idea about giveaways, let’s face it, it works. Also, giving extra entries for those who post on social networking sites or their blogs about your giveaway can also generate traffic. Not every giveaway needs be run this way, for sure, but it does help your stats if you feel your blog is being neglected. Understand that many readers will not enter because of the contingencies. And just because a person follows you for a prize doesn’t mean they intend to read your posts. But many will participate if the giveaway is generous or interesting to them. Even without contingencies, you can still snag readers with a good freebie. Post giveaways on websites like Book Blogs in addition to your blog.
So, you’ve targeted your audience and actively pursued them. What’s left? Creating your own brand is hugely important and keeps your blog from falling into bloggy oblivion. Stay tuned to Time Out for Part Three!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Books, Blogs, and Lots of Hopping

It's Friday and time to check out all the other book  bloggers participating in this week's Book Blogger Hop over at Crazy-for-Books! Add your link to the list and get hopping! Here's a few blogs I've found last week (or two) that I enjoyed: The Mother/Daughter Book Nook, Book Love, and Reader Reads. If you're hopping by say hello!

Remember to check out what's going on at Armchair BEA! Lots of great posts!

Armchair BEA/BBC Post on Marketing Your Blog

PART ONE: This post is intended to give ideas to book bloggers who want to increase their readership using methods of marketing. I will be writing from my personal experience. Although I am not an expert, I figure I can pass along some things I wish I had known a while back. Much will be obvious but some maybe not so much. Use what helps you, forget what doesn’t! This post is part one of three. For "the gist" of a paragraph read the bold and  italicized portion.

Understanding Your Visitors: If you haven’t already, begin using Google Analytics as soon as possible. There are other free analytic applications (that a Google search will bring up) but I will focus on Google’s since I use it and am happy with it. A key to successful marketing is understanding your audience. Using Analytics is a good step towards gaining that knowledge.

What does Google Analytics Do? It tracks daily visits, visitors, average time spent on your site, unique (new) visitors, bounce rate and more. And it puts this info in a snazzy chart that is easy to read at a glance. Google Analytics also tells you, percentage wise, the type of web browsers your readers use, the country/state/city they are reading from and the pages/posts getting the most hits. It tells you key words used to find your blog as well as how many hits are generated by referrals, search engines and direct traffic. There’s more but for the sake of time, I’ll move on. This application is free and easy to copy and paste into the html of your blog. Don’t worry. There are lots of instructions on how to do this! Here's a guy's homemade video I found very helpful should you need more help.

Why bother with an analytic application? The numbers generated give you a precise understanding of how many people are reading your blog. It also tells you which days have more hits. This is invaluable info. With this knowledge you can infer what posts are popular and when a good time to publish your content is. For instance, my highest hit day is Saturday. So, if I’ve worked really hard on a post that I want the most readers to see, my best day to publish is Saturday. Ever make a change on your blog and wonder if it’s helping? Google Analytics can help answer this question. For instance, I just changed the layout of my blog. I will check my analytics’ stats to see if this change makes any difference in hits in the coming weeks. Also, if you plan to solicit ARC’s, publishers often like to know your blog’s number of absolute unique visitors. So, you will want to get this number counting up ASAP by implementing an analytic program.

Google Friend Connect (Followers) is an easy way for readers to “bookmark” you and get highlights about your posts. Even if you are not using Blogger, I know the application works for Wordpress and likely works for others. You can get to know your public followers by clicking on them, visiting their blogs, and saying hello. Having Friend Connect is a great way to build community. I don’t revisit many blogs which don’t offer Google Friend Connect. I’m sure there are others like me so take advantage of this free widget.

Taking Aim: Targeting Your Audience – People like to compartmentalize and put things into categories. It’s just the way most of us are wired to think. If your blog is all over the place in terms of content, your readership may falter. If you want to blog mostly about books, keep a blog just for that. If you like to blog about your daily life quite a bit, too, keep a separate blog for that. Getting the drift? You can advertise your posts on your different blogs, no problem. But I highly recommend specializing each blog so it has a distinct feel. You can go further by choosing a particular genre to review. Highly specialized blogs, say ones that focus just on historical fiction or predominately YA, tend to do very well in terms of followers. Personally, I want to target readers with vast interests which is why I post on several genres. But my readership remains small as a result. I understand I may not get many readers right away because of this decision but I’m OK with that. Take a moment to decide who your audience is and what you’re willing to do to get their attention.

Speaking of attention getting, tomorrow’s post, Part II, will be about Making Your Blog Visible. Stay tuned for more tips on marketing your blog! This post is part of the Armchair BEA Book Blogger Convention Roundtable.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Signed Books: An Armchair BEA Post

In the spirit of Armchair BEA I am posting my favorite signed books and telling who I'd make a bee-line for if I was actually at the Book Expo.

First off is Last Man Out, a biography of Glenn McDole, by Bob Wilbanks. McDole is a survivor of WWII and was a prisoner of war in the Pacific Arena. This is a great story about survival. McDole retired in my  hometown and passed away recently and so I treasure my copy that he signed. For a video of McDole check out Iowa Public Television's website.

Next, is A Season On the Mat, a bio about Dan Gable, by Nolan Zavoral. Dan Gable, another Iowan, won the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in 1972 in wreslting. He coached wrestling for many years at my school, The University of Iowa. I've heard him speak and met him. He's incredibly inspirational. He signed the book to my husband.

Here is my signed copy of The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I loved this book (check my review page) and was thrilled to go to her book signing a few weeks ago.

Now, if I was at BEA I would want to visit David Lubar. His new book is called Goop Soup which I have not read though I did read Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie last year and really enjoyed it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

In the Works: Upcoming Events and Posts

This week is the Book Expo of America (BEA) and the first Book Blogger Convention (BBC). I and many others are participating from home via the Armchair BEA/BBC. When I’m not reading the excellent posts by other bloggers, I’ll be doing some posting of my own. Topics I may cover this week are: marketing your blog, writing great content and my favorite signed books. I encourage you to check out the Armchair BEA event as there are a lot of giveaways and great topics. It’s going to be fun!

Next week I will be reviewing A Room with a View which is set in Italy during the early 1900s. This week marks the one year anniversary of my five-year delayed honeymoon to Italy (my husband was in the Army when we married and quickly shipped to Iraq). But was it ever worth the wait! I'm feeling nostalgic so, I’ll be posting pictures of our trip to the Italian Alps and Rome along with my thoughts on E.M. Forster’s novel.

Currently my mom and I are visiting local libraries, admiring their architecture, chatting with librarians and finding out how each library meets its patron’s needs. We call it our “library tour.” We saw four today and it was very interesting and plan to visit more tomorrow. So, expect a post and some pictures on that at some point.

Phew that’s a lot but I wanted to let you know what’s going on here at Time Out. Is anyone else keeping up with Armchair BEA or posting about the BBC? Well, I hope you’re all enjoying the last of spring! Ninety degrees here today. I thought I was going to melt.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

It’s hard for me to believe this book took three years before it emerged in the U.S. market. But I’m glad it’s here now. I hope it gets popular because I enjoyed this story and want to hear more about what other readers thought.

Claudia has prepared all her life to marry the prince. But as the wedding day approaches, the aloofness of her father, the Warden, and certain rumors spur Claudia to action. Questions must be answered. Finn, a cell-born without father or mother, scared and alone, is released into the world of Incarceron – a vast prison system, dark and dangerous, a great experiment gone wrong.

I totally read for plot. It usually can’t be helped but this time I became engrossed by the all the elements of plot. The exposition, setting and intro material about characters, etc, pulled me in. This is hard to accomplish. I usually can’t wait to get to the middle of a story and become worried that I’m wasting my time. There’s a lot of action and intrigue in the first few pages so I had no problem getting into it. The raising climax was nail biting. Where is the prison? How is it controlled? How is it that no one gets in or out? The climax is fairly predictable. We’re set up to know what to expect. And then, for the most part, it happens. But the resolution was great. I wasn’t sure about the prison’s location but at least one of my theories was in the ball-park. And I didn’t see the last bit coming (I don’t want to give anything away but it was a gasp moment). I am so excited I won a copy of the sequel, Sapphique (available this Dec. in the U.S.), because I am really intrigued by the futuristic society and the prison. I want to see how Claudia and Finn attempt to achieve their goals.

Let’s talk prose. Fisher uses third person narration in Incarceron and it works very well as she alternates between the two worlds. I enjoyed the “quotes” at the beginning of each chapter that were bits of Incarceron legend or the gossipy private letters between characters that are full of intrigue. This story is set in a technologically repressed future (creating a "high fantasy" feel) and a couple times I found the dialog sounds a bit too “today.” But it’s not a big deal and is probably just me being picky. However, there were some times I got lost. The descriptions can be hard to interpret. With a re-read I usually got what was going on. This is the only real drawback to this book. Nonetheless, I didn’t find they stopped me from wanting to continue. Incarceron is a fast read that reminded me of The Hunger Games. Both are fantasy set in the future, they feature a good dose of violence and action but, oddly, remain very innocent. The swearing is infrequent (mostly “bitch” and “hell”) and there are no sex scenes. I think this is a book you can give your young adult and not worry so much about content. I think the story is ok for younger readers but they may have difficulty with some of the tricky descriptions. But that doesn’t mean younger  kids (or adults) wouldn’t enjoy Incarceron. I sure did!
Publisher: Dial, 2010 (originally in G.B. in 2007)     Pages: 442
Rating: 4.5 Stars     Recommended Age: 13 and up    Source: IC Public Library

Monday, May 17, 2010

Signed copy of The Giver by Lois Lowry

Win a signed copy of The Giver (my review) by Lois Lowry from the Super Librarian! I really liked this book. It is a Newberry Medal recipient as well. So hopefully you will sign up for a chance to win, too!

From the Super Librarian: "To enter:
Leave a comment here with your e-mail address.
You will receive an extra entry if you mention the contest on your blog - leave a link in your comment. (Edited to add: Tweeting will earn you an extra entry too. I forget about Twitter sometimes because I have not yet signed up!) ..." Contest ends May 23, 2010.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To by D.C. Pierson

If you never had to sleep just think of all the things you could do. If you didn’t get tired but could stay up all night to do whatever you wanted, what would you do? Oh the possibilities. Think of all those things you’ve wanted to do but didn’t because you were just too exhausted. Well, 15 year old Eric Lederer has lived one consecutive day, never sleeping, always conscious, for as long as he can remember. But someone dangerously mysterious comes looking for him.

Pierson’s novel is hilarious. I laughed. My husband laughed at the quotes I read him. Written from Darren’s perspective (Eric’s best friend) the novel captures the daily lives of two nerdy, sci-fi loving teenagers. I enjoyed Darren’s reactions to Eric’s secret ranging from disbelief to awe. This novel felt really present to me. Pierson is able to capture suburban culture very well perhaps, I think, because he is such a young writer. It’s like he speaks my language (culturally speaking). The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep explores all the aspects of an average young adults’ life as well as some unusual ones. I could relate to the Red Bull chugging, video-game playing, suburban existence of these kids. Ultimately, I think Pierson’s novel is a coming of age story about friendship.

This is a very 21st-century novel. The text is graphic at least twice about sex. The language is very colorful. And drugs are involved in their attempts to test Eric’s sleepless limits. I’ll have to say that I am usually pretty turned off by these elements. And the text would have been great without the raciness because there is a good story to tell. But Pierson is a great writer and doesn’t use language and sex in a merely gratuitous way. It feels like a natural part of these boys’ lives, like what many teenagers do and witness, as they stumble along the growing up cycle. This is not a YA book, isn’t marked as one, and so I don’t recommend it for young teens lest you hand it to yours and become shocked by what your kids start saying. It makes me sad because this book is so funny. But there you have it.

My favorite part of this book (besides the humor) is the creative story-line. This kid really never sleeps and it leads to a whole lot of wild and bizarre adventures across the Arizona desert. My least favorite part was the ending. It wasn’t bad just not what I wanted/expected. It reminds me of the end of an X-files episode where Agent Scully effectively debunks the abnormal happening but Agent Moulder finds the wiggle room to still believe. That’s an inadequate analogy but the best I can do without spoiling anything!
Publisher: Vintage Books, 2010     Pages: 227
Rating: 3.5 Stars     Source: IC Public Library     Recommended Age: 18 and up

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hoppin' Around

Take some time this fabulous Friday to check out other book blogs. Head over to Crazy for Books where you can add your book blog link to the list or simply peruse the blogs already listed. The Hop is a great way to find some interesting readers and writers. If you're hopping by, thanks! And be sure to say hello!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson

In case you didn’t know, I begin classes this fall in Information and Library Science. So, the title of this book caught my attention right away. Johnson’s book gave me a nice overview of the changes in the field. She talks about the transformation from the card catalog to the digital age, from shushing librarian to reference activists providing 24 hour service. It’s a quickly changing field and Johnson captures the excitement as one who embraces the opportunities change brings.

My favorite chapters were: “On the Ground” in which Johnson discusses what the process of keeping up with current technology is like for librarians and IT specialists (who often butt heads); “The Blog People” because, obviously, I like blogging. Here are a couple librarian blogs which Johnson mentions and I found interesting: Miss Information (anecdotes and personal stories) and Tame the Web (with a current events and tech focus). And last but not least, I really liked “Gotham City” that explores the massive New York Public Library – its branches and services, changes and adaptations to budget cuts and community needs. If I ever make it to NYC the library is on my “to see” list.

The video is one I’ve seen before on another review about This Book is Overdue! by a fellow blogger. Believe it or not, each year the ALA holds a drill cart competition. Johnson attended one in 2007 and reported it was hilarious. The video is of the 2009 winners’ drill. Enjoy.

Johnson’s writing style is informal giving the text a personal quality as she focuses on individual librarians and their accomplishments. Some places were a bit dry. Personal descriptions tended to be long-winded. I wasn’t interested in a librarian’s mustache or glasses frame but his/her achievements. Otherwise, the text was very readable. Anyone working in a library or similar setting will likely enjoy this book. I’m glad I read it. I feel like I have a better idea of what I’m getting myself into! I can’t wait.
Publisher: Harper, 2010     Pages: 272
Rating: 4 Stars                     Source: Bought on Amazon

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tome's 500 Page Challenge

Over at Tome's Devotee, Paula is challenging readers to finish a 500 page book this month. My selection is Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. At 541 pages, I've been putting it off because of the size of this thing. But I've heard a lot of buzz and want to read it. So, I'll be diving into it soon to get it done by June! If you want to join the challenge and share what you're reading, head over to Paula's post to sign up! On an aside, I hope everyone had a great Mother's Day! Also, thanks to Beverly for the heads up on this challenge.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black

Let me begin by saying Tithe has some really strong points as well as some really low points. This is perhaps why I am having difficulty writing a review.

A part of me enjoyed the story. Kaye, a sixteen-year-old girl, finds out she is really a changeling – a pixie that looks human – and is thrown into the middle of a courtly feud in this new world. But I wasn’t really interested in Kaye or most of the characters. The human characters smoke, drink, swear, shoplift and ditch school a little more than most normal kids. It was pretty impossible for me to identify with them. I felt sorry for Kaye (her mom is a transient rock star wannabe who has no interest in parenting) but by the tone of the text the reader isn’t meant to feel pity for her. Kaye’s best friend is very childish and jealous. The boys are very touchy feely with the girls. The only reason I did not dislike Kaye is because of the lack of guidance she has and the fact that she is young and trying to figure herself out. In stark contrast to the humans, Roiben, the “dark knight” faerie, is a complex character offering mystery and a better romantic figure. I liked Roiben and he was probably the only reason I kept reading.

It took about a hundred pages before I became interested in the story. I felt the text lingered too long on Kaye’s crappy human life and I was antsy to get to the faerie tale part which was good. Black doled out just enough of the good stuff to keep me reading. The text is a fast read. I would have quit otherwise. Some of the sentences just didn’t make sense. I was re-reading many, trying to get the meaning out of them without success. The “f” word set in right away but tapered off to my relief because the dialogue was just too high school for me, if that makes sense. As the story focused more on the faerie tale part, my reading experience improved. I feel Black’s writing style in Tithe is very conflicted. It seemed as though she wanted to write as Kaye in first person. I think that would have worked so much better. The third person POV was cramping Black’s style.

If you like faeires, kelpies, and pixies crossing from weird other worlds to ours, you may enjoy Tithe. If you like urban-fantasy, I suspect this text is for you. Although marked as YA, parents should be aware of the issues, most of which I mentioned earlier. Without parental guidance, I do not recommend letting very young teens read this. Like I said, I did like the story. I’ll be reading Ironside in the future with hopes that Black will have worked out the kinks.
Publisher: Simon Pulse, 2004 (originally published 2002)     Pages: 331
Rating: 2.5 Stars     Recommended Age: 16 and up                   Source: IC Public Library

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Giveaway Winner!

The winner of my first giveaway is


Congratulations, you have won a copy of The House On Mango Street!
I have sent you an email.

Thanks to everyone for participating and sharing the meaning of your names. It's been fun reading them.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

By now, what has not been said about this number one, top selling novel? That’s more of a statement than a question. I doubt I can say anything that hasn’t been said before. My hope is that if you haven’t read The Help you’ll beg it off your friend, get in the hold line at your library or break down and purchase it because why? Because it is worth it. I know some people have a few complaints that run along the lines of: the ending was anti-climatic or the dialect bothered them. Some more serious complaints are that it’s just one more bash on Mississippi. Even if you finish and wonder what all the fuss is about I promise you won’t be disappointed that you read it.

I wasn’t sure what this book was about when I decided to buy it. I knew it was set in the Southern U.S. during the 1960s and there was something about a lot of women afraid to follow after whatever it was they wanted. And that there would be racial issues thrown in there. This is a terrible summary. However, not knowing what I was in for left me deliciously and delightfully surprised. I didn’t expect to become engrossed by a maid’s daily life. I didn’t expect to laugh out loud on several occasions. I didn’t expect to learn and this novel enlightened me about how complicated the civil rights movement was for many different (but not so different) people.

This book was a pleasure to read. As a rule, I don’t mind dialect but I find it slows my pace down. Truly though, I savored every page. The story alternates between three women’s point of view: one young white woman, one middle-aged black maid and one not-quite-old black maid. I adored all the voices but Aibileen’s (the eldest’s) was my favorite. There is so much tension, anxiety and fear in these women’s lives because of their desire to tell the truth. I felt nervous for them and kept hoping they’d find a way to iron out the wrinkles (hehe. Aibileen hates ironing pleats). I feel this book is a must read for those living in the U.S., perhaps especially my 20-something generation who have grown up in a different era and have little understanding of what daily life was like in the South during the 1960s.

So, I have this great thing called a public library. And mine hosted the author, Kathryn Stockett, who stopped by on her way to the Windy City to speak, read and sign our books! Hearing her speak was a blast. If you have the opportunity to see her, do it! She spoke a bit about her anxieties being a white woman writing in the voice of black women. Stockett had a black maid growing up and this book is her way of expressing many of the things she has learned about what life was like for the help. In case you’re curious, she said two of her favorite authors are Lee Smith and Kaye Gibbons (among many others). She has an awesome southern accent! And in response to a question said that no, she is not Skeeter (the young white protagonist), that she was never as brave as Skeeter or able to ask those kinds of difficult questions when she was a child. I think she was rather brave to write this story, though. Ms. Stockett was gracious enough to let me take my picture with her so, there we are. Now, go get yourself a copy of The Help and settle in for a good read.
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books, 2009     Pages: 451
Rating: 5 Stars                                             Source: Purchased on Amazon

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Giveaway Ends Tomorrow!

Be sure to sign up for a used copy of The House on Mango Street! The giveaway ends tomorrow! I am looking forward to tomorrow because it marks my one month anniversary of drinking no soda pop. Nada drop. It's been hard! There have been a few intense cravings for Mt. Dew. But I have managed to make it to my goal. I feel I've conquered my addiction so that's good! I hope every one's week is going well. I'll be posting a review soon for The Help. I am loving this book. I even got to "meet" the author and get my book signed! So, stay tuned for a review and pictures coming soon!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Circulation Workers, Beware!

Americans like to think we are a very independent people. As such, we often like to do things for ourselves rather than rely on a middle man. But does the expediency of self-serve programs really make our lives better? When did the self-serve wave begin? The elevator assistant has long been banished. Except for a few gas stations on the west coast, everyone pumps their own gas. We pay at the pump. We wash our own cars. Fifty percent of the time, I scan and bag my own groceries. If I want a cashier I have to wait in a longer and slower line. I can get lunch out of a vending machine. I get money out of an ATM. I do all my banking on-line. I can easily go through an entire day without speaking to another human about any of my needs. Is this good quality service? I don’t know. I like having options - the option to get in the cashier line, the option of speaking to a bank teller. I like knowing who to speak to if I have questions or problems. So, why am I talking about this?

In the spring edition of American Libraries by the American Library Association, an article entitled "A Circulation Renovation Cuts Expsenses" praises a public library for implementing technology that replaces the need for circulation workers thereby cutting costs significantly. This machine checks books out, in and sorts the returned materials into appropriate bins. Kudos to the engineer of this thing. I understand the economy has caused many libraries to cut budgets, cut jobs and look for ways to serve their communities without cutting programs. But honestly, as a circulation worker myself, this article scares me. I have worked at my college’s circ. department and plan to work there this summer. I’m the first person most people go to for any and all questions – not the librarians’ reference desk. As a student, I am often able to answer patron questions that the librarians don’t know how to answer. Not that I’m dissing the librarians. They know more in general than I do. I guess I don’t feel appreciated knowing a machine can replace me. It makes me uneasy every time technology puts more people out of a job. And I feel like my options are being limited.

What do you all think? Am I being paranoid? What are the up-sides to self-serve check out?