Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Messing with my Feedburner Account

A month or so ago, when Google bought (acquired, whatever) Feedburner, several new "perks" were added to free accounts. Free is good, and despite the oft quoted "you get what you pay for," I have been relatively pleased with the upgrade to feedburner pro. You get to see more fun statistical "stuff" with feed usage. But I have to ask, what's up with the site tracks options? I have to check the box beside "exclude visits from this computer" every day in order to make this work. Yes, I'm clicking on save and have tried changing the script, but inevitably I get hits from my own computer and/or my computer at work. This is especially annoying when I have issues with a post and have to publish more than once to fix things. Sheesh, it inflates the visitor stats like crazy.

And another thing, lately when attempting to access feedburner from home I get kicked out after my login in is accepted, circling the wagons back to my username and password again and again. This makes it difficult to check mark the box and stop counting visits from this computer; that did not happen before the acquisition (shame). But on the plus side, a few weeks ago both the official blogger blog and feedburner blog introduced a way to mash all the feeds together and provide a single feed with a better view of subscriber statistics. In the post, Feedburner Integration for Blogspot Blogs, they explained:

"Why is redirecting so important? We're glad you asked. By redirecting your feed, you can get a true picture of how many subscribers you have. Some of you might even see a few more subscribers magically appear, though results will most certainly vary. Why so? Sometimes, publishers inadvertently fragment their feed audience by offering more than one feed address on the blog itself or within their autodiscovery tags (the method by which feed readers automatically detect the address of your feed for syndication purposes). This results in some subscribers not being counted, and no one wants that in a world where everyone should count for something. By redirecting your feed, you can consolidate any straggler subscribers and greatly improve your ability to effectively measure your audience." (Feedburner Blog, 7/11/07)

This tool has worked as advertised with my total number of subscribers almost tripling when everyone is being fed the same feed. And aside from my issues last week, inadvertantly messing with what appears in feed readers (full version verses short), it was as simple as advertised. I have also noticed the feedburner stats and the statscounter stats producing similar statistics after the feed mash. Time will tell. Especially since I do not forsee a lessening of interest in blog statistics.

On another note, there were two posts published earlier this afternoon intersperced amongst the existing posts. Why? I had previously worked on these, forgot about finishing, and finally decided I better get them out of draft format. They did break up the Harry Potter all the time posts.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

It's my Saturday and I'll whine if I want to

Ever the busy bee, I go caught up in my current project and managed to work through my lunch break. Not worth the time and effort, I'm having a snack and blogging in lieu of lunch. Today is the last Saturday the library is open during summer term; classes are finished middle of next week and we move to summer hours (M-F, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm). I was lucky enough to pull today as my requisite summer weekend. With the resource center closed, I'm reference, it's possible to work on a couple of projects - slides and the juvenile collection.

Slides? You might ask. Yes, we have a small collection of slides covering a wide array of educational topics. The collection itself is dated, mostly from the early and middle 1970's, and was never officially cataloged when the library moved from cards. And similar the fate befalling the laser disk collection two summer's ago, there is not technology on campus to utilize the collection. I have a single projector in the resource center, but it is wonky at best. Two hours of my day was spent documenting the slide titles, number of parts, and publication dates. We'll send the information out to faculty offering opportunity for anyone who wishes to rescue them from their planned fate -- trash and recycling. All I will say about the dust and dead critters in the bookcase is, ewwww.

As to the juvenile collection project, simply put a finite space housing a growing collection causes a myriad of issues. We need more room. There is no room. Really, we need more room. Solutions to this problem include making more room, weeding the collection, or to quit buying children's literature. I have no desire to week the collection and there is no way I will quit buying children's literature, so I found a way to increase shelf space without adding to the overall stacks space. To protect the books from dust above and dirt below, when this collection was moved (prior to my arrival) decisions were made to not use the very top and very bottom shelves. That luxury no longer exists. I am in the process of removing the top shelf, replacing it with a flat shelf, and shifting all of the books within each section up a shelf to then utilize the bottom shelf. Instead of five shelves in a section, this will create six and free up room on every shelf for new books.

I have managed to adjust seven sections today (and will do two more before leaving) for a total of nine. A drop in the bucket considering the size of the collection, but it is possible to have the project completed before school begins if we have enough flat shelves ... and time. Further complicating the move is height; patrons have to be able to reach the books (go figure). Luckily I'm average height, 5'5" and figure if I can reach most patrons will be able to do so as well. Just in case I will be purchasing two library stools to place within the juvenile collection.

Back to work.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

I am Not Joey Pigza

In the latest Joey Pigza novel, I am Not Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos, things are going well for sixth grader Joey Pigza. He has a new dog named Pablita, he likes his new teacher Mr. Turner “because he takes me less seriously than he has to, even though he once asked me if my mouth had a tiny mind all of its own” (p. 9), his ADHD meds are helping him take control and his mom is happy. Actually, his mom is suspiciously happy. One afternoon Joey opens the door to his dad, crazy Carter Pigza, and his ordered world changes in the blink of an eye. His dad won the lottery, invested in a diner, changed his name to Charles Heinz, and is ready to complete the transformation with a new family – Joey’s. As Joey, aka Freddy Heinz, struggles to cope with a new school and new life, he vows to remember who he is now and worries about losing his “old” self. While this latest installment of Joey Pigza races to an inevitable conclusion, one hilarious and heartwarming chapter after another, readers may wonder how Joey’s mom was drawn into this web, especially after his father’s actions in the previous book. Though suspiciously contrived, the presence of new baby Pigza will undoubtedly provide fodder for several new books for Joey.

Gantos is also authors the Rotten Ralph and Jack Henry series of children's books as well as several young adult titles.

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A best seller?

A post on the LM_Net list serv mentioned the follwoing article by Michael Giltz of the Huffington Post, Why Harry Potter Won't be a Bestseller. Due to the simple matter of children's books not being included in the NYT best seller list, Harry Potter will not be a NYT best seller.

"It happened in 2000. The Harry Potter books -- a once in a lifetime publishing phenomenon -- were dominating the bestseller lists, with three titles ensconced in the Top 15 at the same time. It just wasn't fair, moaned publishers of more "serious" fiction. It kept more deserving titles off the list, titles that people would never hear about, said bookstore owners. And so in a rash, indefensible decision, the New York Times decided to banish children's books solely to their own separate list." (Giltz, HP, 7/20/07)

Looks as if there may be a grass roots effort in the making.

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AL Direct: Harry Potter link

American Libraries Direct is an email newsletter from American Libraries, the official magazine of the American Library Association. Yesterday's issue, arriving in my mailbox after I left for the day, includes a link to a Booklist article by Ilene Cooper (who also penned Booklists Deathly Hallows review). Posted online and in the June 1st issue of Booklist, Cooper discusses Harry Potter, the cultural phenomenon; Writer's and Readers: The Trouble with Harry. The article concludes with:

"Time will tell whether knowing if Harry dies will significantly taint the experience of reading the series, but one thing is certain: with all the attention and accolades Harry Potter has garnered, his biggest claim to fame is the way he has charmed children back into reading. The deliciously detailed books possess that rare ability to transport readers to another place, one where they are happy to linger, and that pleasure will remain, even for those who know how it all comes out. So while we can expect the books to lose a bit of their luster for a while, I suspect that ultimately they will make a comeback, especially after Harry’s original fans grow up and want to share him with children of their own."

"But, finally, there is one irrefutable point. In literature, as in love, there can only be one first time. Aren’t you glad you were there for it?" (Cooper, Booklist, 7/25/07)

My introduction to Harry came during my library science coursework in the fall of 1999. Fulfilling a book-talk assignment for a children's literature course, one of my classmates book-talked Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. In closing, she mentioned a student had recommended the book and that they were excited about the story presented.

While I missed the Beatles introduction to America, I did indeed have the chance to participate in this particular cultural phenomenon. I have enjoyed it immensely.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

In Gabrielle Zevin's latest novel, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, teenager Naomi Porter is in an ambulance on the way to the hospital with a concussion. Popular with her classmates, a great boyfriend, member of the tennis team, and co-editor of the high school yearbook with her best friend Will Landsman, Naomi's high school life is a blank slate. Unable to remember anything that has transpired during the last four years of her life Memoirs is told in three eloquent vignettes titled I was, I am, and I will. Naomi's voice is refreshingly honest as she learns about herself from "friends" and family, adjusts to what she learns, and struggles to integrate who she was with who she would like to be.

That's what I'm talking about ...

Alison Morris at the Publishers Weekly blog Shelftalker posted this great story from Harry Potter Day at Titcomb's Bookshop in Sandwich, Massachusetts: Celebrating Harry in Sandwich.

"I think the town of Sandwich deserves a special prize for being so willing to share their resources, talents and genuine enthusiasm for the celebration of a book!" (Alison Morris, PW blog, 7/24/07)

Even better, the story goes on to say:

"Every penny raised from the trip will support the high school library, which recently learned that their book and materials budget for next year is $0!!" (Alison Morris, PW blog, 7/24/07)

How cool is that?

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Hypothetical Musings: Good, obsessed, inappropriate

And the week started out so well ...

Good, actually really good: Monday morning began with the library director's wife stopping by to tell me about a complement paid to the library in general, and me specifically, concerning the "outstanding" job I am doing with the resource center. Next a faculty member, one who recently has taken a job out of state, stopped in to say "hi" and tell me how much she appreciated working with me during her tenure here and enjoyed my "positive and friendly attitude." Shortly afterwards I had an I.T. person call me gorgeous (flirt) and offer to move a printer for me. No, I do not really need help moving a small printer three floors in the library, but the offer was duly appreciated.

High on the very cool meter, and also happening on Monday, was an email from an editor inquiring whether or not I would be interested in writing about my poster ALA poster sessions for their peer-reviewed journal (it's international, no less). I'm under few illusions that like emails went out to other poster presenters, but it was still a highlight of my day. We are exploring the topic and I hope to be able to submit in September.

Oddly Obsessed, but worthwhile: Yesterday I continued to work on updating the resource center student handbook. We have been using a handbook for three years now and even though I periodically update tutorials, procedures, and policy, this is the first year for a major overhaul; it even has a new binder and updated photos. But obsession? One of the pages detailing laminating instructions included a photograph of the laminating bulletin board; it is directly above the machines to facilitate use. Due mostly to resource center lighting, and somewhat from sunshine, many boards need refreshing to get rid of faded construction paper and prints. It's one of the reasons I use white lettering for the boards, but I digress. Before taking anew picture for the manual, I had to take the time to update the board so the picture truly reflected both the update date posted on the form and the new board. That's just sad. However, on the plus side, the board looks great and I hope to finish manual revisions this week.

Definitely inappropriate: That would be reflective on an incident this morning. During summer sessions I refresh the resource center computers once a week to get rid of any residual "stuff" loaded by students. This requires me to login to each computer and activate the software. Complicating the issue, I have a limited number of logins and the computers take an inordinate length of time to load the network. In the midst of refreshing, a student sat down to use a computer I had logged into. Since login makes users personal files available, I politely asked her to not use that computer. She was a bit taken aback, offered a somewhat insincere murmur and said, "I thought since you were just a librarian it would be okay."

Here is the inappropriate part - from me no less. I mentioned I wasn't "just" a librarian but also a faculty member who would never dream of calling her "just" a student. I offered information concerning which computers loaded faster so she could log in more quickly and complete her work in a timely manner. Later I verified her computer was in working order and we parted on friendly terms, though I am relatively certain she went to class and discussed the episode with her peers. Libraries are dependent on customer satisfaction for large parts of their campus reputation, this behavior really is intolerable. I definitely handled the episode incorrectly, opting to smile and move on with the task at hand would have been the higher and professional road to travel.

And naturally, I have been beating myself up about it since then ....

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

From Paper Cuts

The New York Times blog Paper Cuts: A Blog About Books, had a post this afternoon called The Harry Index. It contains a live RSS feed from Amazon listing the top 100 books, best sellers, today. As of 3:00 pm, eleven of the top twenty-five best sellers were Harry Potter related (that's 44%, I checked).

If you limit that list to children's books, after all Harry Potter is children's literature, the number changes to twenty-one of the top twenty-five best sellers being Harry related (yes, 84%). As the NYT blog poster mentioned, those numbers are bound to shift significantly as the week progresses and, generally speaking, everyone who wanted a Potter book has one. However, as the hoopla surrounding book seven continues in libraries and book stores, new readers may discover Harry and start back at the beginning. In our library each time a new Harry Potter movie or book is released the circulation of the entire series increases significantly (we have movies, books, and audio tapes to offer).

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More Hallows reviews & info

Yesterday Roger Sutton, author of the Read Roger blog, posted a link to Horn Book magazine's review of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. Sutton noted this review will be included in the October/November issue of Horn Book Magazine.

This morning Likely Stories, BookList's blog, has linked to their online review of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. No specifics are in place regarding it's publication date for the journal, but the reviewer has given the book a starred review.

Publisher's Weekly has an interesting blurb, That 8.3 Million Copies Sold Was Just the Beginning, detailing specifics concerning the books sold in the first 24 hours. There seems to have been a few problems with a print run and copies missing pages:

"There were also a few reports from booksellers of some misprinted copies, with pages missing toward the end, or duplicate copies of the same pages. 'It adds to the excitement of Harry Potter,' said Alan Fowler, co-owner of Village Square Booksellers in Bellows Falls, Vt., philosophizing about the missing signature (pages 643-674) at the end of at least 26 of the store's copies. The mix-up was first uncovered early Saturday morning when a high school student who helped the store with its Potter party was just finishing the book. Because the printing error is so deep into the book, Fowler said, he's expecting to hear from more customers early this week." (PW, Roback and Milliot, 7/23/07)

I'm finding a number of people who read the epilogue before reading the book so they would know who lived. A known end-of-book reader, after finishing the book I was glad I had refrained from that particular act.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Mum's the word

There is still a member on staff who has not finished reading Deathly Hallows (her daughter is currently "hogging" the book), so discussion regarding the conclusion has been limited to bits and pieces of conversation occurring when she is not in the room. I have found reviews and comments from other newspapers this morning and in lieu of gossip, I will share links:

And about those SALES!

Update: 7/23/07, later that same day ...

Roger Sutton, Horn Book Magazine editor and author of Read Roger, has posted a link to Horn Book's review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Additionally, he noted the review will be part of the October/November issue of Horn Book Magazine.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

I finished it!

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows a short time ago ago; it would have been sooner but the weekend intruded on my reading plans. I find myself elated with the journey's ultimate conclusion and a bit bereft that it is over. If I were to hazard a guess there will be many discussions forthcoming regarding the appropriateness of the ending, the writing within book seven, and a continuation of it's place in children's literature. Instead, here are a few comments and reflections, in no particular order, regarding my reading experience.

I had a few qualms regarding my decision not to reread The Half-Blood Prince before Deathly Hallows was published, especially after talking to a co-worker on Friday and realized how much of the book I had forgotten. By then it was too late, the lure of Deathly Hallows was too great to take time for a refresher course. Rowling's did a good job with the first quarter of the book reminding me who was who, what was what, and detailing the quest being undertaken by Harry, Hermione, and Ron. By the end of the sixth chapter, less than 100 pages, I was up to speed and anxious to travel with old friends. The book opened with a rousing chase complete with Death Eaters, the reading of Dumbledore's last will and testament, and charmingly enough, a wedding. But once the quest began, there were a few rough patches.

All of the story/character/plot elements uncovered by Harry, Ron, and Hermione were well-planned (and neatly tidied at the end). The early life of Dumbledore, Snape, and Harry's parents was thoughtfully explored. But for me, the middle lagged, bogged down by Harry's continued musings regarding Dumbledore's secrecy and transgressions (they were, to a certain degree, annoying). I would have enjoyed more emotional maturity displayed by this almost eighteen year wizard. That by and of itself was easily overlooked as things picked up again, but I did not quite grasp the mid-book melt-down Ron suffered. While Harry and Ron had their differences, Goblet of Fire comes to mind, Ron's defection during their quest felt contrived.

Yes, an argument could be made that Dumbledore had foreseen this event hence Ron's bequeathment actually an interesting foreshadow to the event - or - the locket horcrux being bandied about by the three added significant pressure to each individuals internal strife. However, with his burgeoning personal feelings for Hermione and friendship with Harry, not to mention this was his chance to participate as opposed to being a bystander, the abrupt departure, nee abandonment, did not ring true to Ron's character. I kept waiting for hidden motives to be revealed; he was charmed, it was all a ruse, or failing that it wasn't the "real" Ron. And even though Ron eventually returned to the fold and all was forgiven, it still was a bit of a blemish on the character.

The last part of Deathly Hallows moved along a a brisk pace, rushing towards the final showdown held appropriately at Hogwarts. Here there were many shades of gray as readers learned the truth behind Dumbledore's demise, Snape's previously unfathomable near hatred of Harry, the Malfoy's, and the almost casual evil of Voldemort. More importantly, here readers were treated to depth of character from Neville, Aberforth, McGonnegall, and the Weasley family (Mrs. Weasley was incomparable!). Extenuating and harrowing circumstances bring strength of character to the forefront, often results in loss of life, and renewal of hope. The Hogwarts war and aftermath did not disappoint.

Much discussion was held regarding which character's died in this final installment. I was a bit concerned with the blithe dismissal characters in the beginning (it was almost careless in nature), but in my opinion Rowling's took care not to insult her reader's intelligence by having every known character survive. Since the final book was the ultimate fight of good against evil, it was inevitable instances of death would be addressed.

I was pleasantly, yet oddly, surprised to see an epilogue. More happily ever after in nature than I expected, it laid to rest many "wonder what happened to...." questions. Generally speaking, I think most readers will be happy with the outcome of the seventh and final Harry Potter novel.

I was.

Now I will have to dodge my Dad's phone calls and continual questions regarding the end and if Hermione survived.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ssshhhh ....

It's here. Really, I have seen and touched it.

There is excited whispering amongst the recipients here on staff.

It's lovely, a veritable vision of beauty and joy to behold, and pretty darn hefty in size (both length and weight).

Two of them are currently being cataloged, they will be added to the shelves tomorrow when we open at 10:00 a.m.

I am slightly peeved I can not take it to lunch with me (dang).

I now have plans for the evening and no more to say on this subject until tomorrow.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Cranky musings

With respect to Bill Cosby’s HBO special Himself, I was going to title this post Sick and Tired (remember, and tired always follows sick), but decided cranky was probably more appropriate. Today, though not the first time, I found myself appalled with the continuous media hype concerning the embargo period, the overwrought musings of Rowling’s work as literature, the childish race to have the first review in print, and the elitist attitude of some who do not care about the Harry Potter release countdown and festivities. The following paragraphs are my cranky musings; one might even say rants, on those topics.

No, I am not attending any Harry Potter book readings. No, I will not be standing in line at 12:01 am to get my copy of the book. No, I will not be dressing in Harry Potter-esque regalia and touting the wonders of magic to my family and friends. No, I will not stay up all night to read the book in its entirety. No, I do not need to have any more children’s literature and/or other experts to impose on me their comments concerning the intrinsic value of this book. And lastly, no I do not feel the need to defend myself for enjoying the Harry Potter series of books.

Yes, I do have two copies of the book ordered through the library and have high hopes of their arrival before leaving work tomorrow. Yes, I have an opaque bag at the ready so it may be taken from the building with little or no fanfare, issue, or ruckus. Yes, I will discuss the book with co-workers who are reading the book; though I am sure we will wait until everyone is finished to even the playing field (so to speak). Yes, I do wonder if Harry will live or die with good defeating evil in the end. Yes, I know this is a work of popular culture and fiction and it may not stand the test of time as a classic; I do not have that particular expectation. And lastly, yes, I do expect to enjoy the time I spend reading this book.

What caused this particularly whiny, cranky rant? That would be the result of several blog posts I have read over the last few days. My particular favorite (insert extremely appropriate sarcasm on my behalf here) was a quote found in the Booklist online blog that originated in Guardian Unlimited: Art's Blog: Harry Potter's Big Con is the Prose. In it the author is discussing his dismay regarding the language IQ of those who enjoy reading Harry Potter and the lack of quality writing displayed by Rowlings:

"... You’re one of the many adults who don't have a problem with the retreat into infantilism that your willing immersion in the Potter books represents. It doesn't make you a bad or silly person. But if you have the patience to read it without noticing how plodding it is, then you are self-evidently someone on whom the possibilities of the English language are largely lost."

"This is the kind of prose that reasonably intelligent nine-year-olds consider pretty hot stuff, if they're producing it themselves; for a highly-educated woman like Rowling to knock out the same kind of material is, shall we say, somewhat disappointing." (Guardian Unlimited, Nicholas Lezard, 7/07)

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and since I buy books for a living I am very familiar with the significance of critical literature reviews, especially as they pertain to children’s literature, the bulk of my collection development responsibilities. But there is a difference between critically reviewing a title and bashing the very readers who enjoy the work. The first is important; the second stresses said reviewer’s self-importance.

And today, under the “someone just had to be first” category, was the New York Times with a book review two days before the book’s release date.

I did not read either review beyond the first paragraph, as I want to experience the book myself, the early reviews were meaningless. There was a bit of chatter regarding the rights of the fourth estate to present the particulars to their readers and other such drivel. Printing those reviews early was not about the public’s right to know. It was all about who outperformed everyone else and posted the first review. Of course there were the necessary rebuttals regarding the breach of faith/embargo by the American press…

As much as I am looking forward to receiving my copy and reading, I am simply sick … and tired … of all the folderol and subsequent foolishness surrounding the event. But then, what do you expect from someone "on whom the possibilities of the English language are largely lost?"

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Predicting the unpredictable

Will Harry live or die? Is Voldemort evil personified? Is Dumbledore really dead? Is Snape truly a bad guy? And what about Ron, Hermoine, and Ginny? Every day there is another article and one more prediction about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I am a Harry Potter fan, not fanatic - just a muggle born fan - and eagerly await the arrival of my copy (I ordered it through the library's book jobber) this week. It seems the only thing that can authentically be predicted is that people will invariably have predictons about the end!

Here are just a few "predictions" I found today:

I also found a very cool interactive prediction resource, Ultimate Deathly Hallow Prediction Exam from The Leaky Cauldron. Not for the faint of heart, this multi-part exam covers a plethora of possibilities for Harry. Users need only to enter a name and email address to become part of the fracas. Plus, you get a cool blog widget to let other people see your predictions. Alas I made it through only four of the quiz pages before my lunch hour was finished, but I will be able to return and finish at my leisure.

Hmmm, wonder if J.K. Rowling has taken the quiz? If so, she's messed up the curve for the rest of us seeing she's the only one who knows for sure how things end (okay, there are those editors and her husband, but still).

Update: 7/18/07

A Good Morning America Harry Potter teaser claiming to know the "secret" caught my attention this morning before work. I checked online and found Final Harry Potter Now in "Hollows" of Internet (shouldn't that be "hallows"?).

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Monday, July 16, 2007

High Noon

High Noon, by Nora Roberts introduces Phoebe McNamara, a lieutenant with Savannah PD, specializing in hostage negotiations and Duncan Swift, an entrepreneur, and self-made millionaire with business interests throughout the city. They meet during a hostage situation at one of Duncan’s building’s; Phoebe is talking down a potential jumper, a recently fired employee and inevitable attraction sparks. Phoebe is the glue holding her family, a precocious seven-year-old daughter and agoraphobic mother, together after a traumatic incident during her youth. Duncan is charming, patient, and determined to win Phoebe’s affections. When Phoebe is attacked by a co-worker, Duncan’s understanding and support lays a firm foundation for their relationship, forming an unwavering bond the two will need when a shadow from Phoebe’s past begins taunting her. Attacks begin slowly with dead animals and subversive messages, but soon escalate to murder and the ultimate hostage situation. An intriguing mystery, well-developed characters, and a charismatic (and hot) romance make High Noon one of Roberts’ best books to date.

With some books it takes time to become involved, while with others it takes only a paragraph or two to before being firmly entrenched and invested in the characters. High Noon falls into the latter category providing a richly woven tale of two protagonists, Phoebe and Duncan, and a supporting cast that while interesting and fully developed, never overshadows the main characters. Several reviews commented on the similarities between High Noon and the J.D. Robb In Death Series. I agree there is a surface likeness, Phoebe and Eve are both police lieutenants and Duncan and Roarke are charming and rich, but this book definitely stands on it’s own merits. An unabashed fan of Roberts work, I would read the proverbial cereal box if she wrote it, High Noon brings to mind one of my all-time favorites, Hidden Riches (Jed and Dora are classics). Even with my books to read pile overflowing, I am ready to indulge with this book a second time.

For more information about High Noon:

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

New widget, old statistics

Blogger Buzz, news about Blogger, is strategically located directly below the blog dashboard after login. I do not pay close attention to everything posted there, sometimes it is simply part of the atmosphere, but lately there have been posts regarding Google, Feedburner, and Blogger in Draft that have snagged my attention - especially the new search box widget. Since the navigation bar at the top of each blog has a search box that allows users to search the web and/or search the displayed blog, I wondered what the widget would have to offer.

I logged into my account via Blogger in Draft and added the "beta" search box (it was simple, just follow the add a page element directions as if adding any other blog widget) to the sidebar below above the blog labels and did a sample search. What I like are the search result display properties; within the blog, above the most current post. It appears to actually be a "box" and includes the proverbial "X" to close it when finished and return to the basic blog layout. A more visually appealing option than the navigation bar as well as more efficient. What I don't particularly like is the specificity needed for the search. For example, I searched "cambridge whos who" and did not have a hit but searched a second time with cambridge who's who" and it retrieved the three posts pictured to the right. Overall I'm satisfied with the widget and may move it farther up in the sidebar for ease of use. This brings me to the second portion of this post, statistics.

While posts on children's literature, ALA, recreational reading, and dailing post information continue to be popular, far and away the most frequent search continues to be for Cambridge Who's Who. A quick look at my Statscounter account this evening reveals out of the last 100 search terms (keyword analysis, information rolls over and the log remains at 100), 48% of them are in some way, shape, or form looking for information on Cambridge. Sixty-six terms were used leading people to the blog, thirty-two of them were as follows:

  • 11 cambridge whos who scan
  • 6 whos who among executives
  • 5 whos who cambridge edition
  • 3 cambridge whos who
  • 2 cambridge whos who among
  • 2 cambridge whos who fee
  • 1 reviews cambridge whos who
  • 1 cambridge whos who among executives and professional women
  • 1 cambridge who's who
It is the topic that does not go away, a never-ending-story (if I may). If their mailing budget is any indication of profit, they must be doing well. But I would guess for every person who purchases the service, there are an equal number of potential customers searching the web for information.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Project 17

Project 17, by Laurie Faria Stolarz, is an edgy, character driven mystery featuring six high school seniors and an overnight excursion to Danvers State Hospital; a place where family’s sent their insane relatives and the lobotomy is purported to have been first practiced. Derik Lapointe is under pressure to take over running his parent’s diner after graduation. Unwilling to settle for this destiny, he plans to enter a television film contest and recruits five classmates to be in a documentary (a la The Blair Witch Project) of an overnight visit to the mental hospital. Each teen has a personal agenda for participating, Mimi’s grandmother was committed there and she yearns to learn her fate, Chet is escaping an alcoholic abusive father, Liza needs an extra-curricular activity to boost her Harvard application, and thespians Tony and Greta see the film as an opportunity for fame. However, once inside all bets are off. The night progresses and each corridor and room tells it’s own haunting tale of misery, abuse, and death. Compelled to learn the mystery of Christine Belle, they soon find themselves unable to leave until her spirit has been vanquished.

Characters are somewhat stereotypical, Derik is popular, Liza is smart, Mimi is somewhat Goth (they call her Halloween), Chet their class clown, and Tony and Greta constantly emote drama club. However, Stolarz moves beyond those constraints giving each distinct and individual voices within their own chapters throughout the book. The dialogue is seamless even when moving between chapters and voices is sometimes jarring. Ultimately this process allows readers to see the characters not only as they see themselves, but also through their classmate’s eyes. It’s a sure bet nothing will ever be the same for any of them as well-timed epilogues provide a satisfying closure steering clear of any systemic, unwanted, happily-ever-after. There is sure to be an audience for this suspenseful, disturbing tale.

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More collection development

Yesterday’s Collection Development post just begs for a follow-up, here are a few titles I selected for purchase using Booklist, School Library Journal, and PW Children’s Bookshelf as main review resources. Additionally, there were a few key books purchased from Horn Book Magazine’s listing of Bilingual Books and one title we did not have from the 2007 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards (it was 365 Penguins). I am going to link the titles to Amazon, but since two of the three issues I perused were the recent there is going to be lag time (yes, the dreaded embargo period) until they add the book reviews. This list is a sampling from the three carts of titles with notation of review resource when applicable and/or a brief reason why purchased:

It will be several weeks until these titles arrive. Luckily I will not have to wait until they are shelf ready before having the chance to browse. Collection development is an art, not a science, so I will cross my fingers that research, reviews, and common sense have resulted in good selections.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt tells the story of seventh grader Holling Hoodhood. It is a new school year in 1967, Holling is beginning seventh grade at Camillo Junior High School and his teacher, Mrs. Baker, hates him. Why? Every Wednesday afternoon half of Mrs. Baker’s class leaves early to attend Hebrew school; the other half departs for Catechism and only Holling remains, the only Presbyterian.

“That’s when I knew she hated me. This look came over her face like the sun had winked out and was not going to shine again until next June.” (The Wednesday Wars, p. 4)

After depleting an assortment of after school errands’, including the infamous chalk dust and cream puff incident, Mrs. Baker determines reading Shakespeare would be an ideal way for Hollings to spend Wednesday afternoon. Everyday life in seventh grade is a constant challenge for Hollings as he grapples with heir apparent expectations from his father, peer pressure from classmates, wearing yellow tights with feathers on his behind, and hopes to survive running track with the eighth graders.

Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, this coming of age story is especially poignant. Historic details such as the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy’s potential run for office (Holling’s sister is a campaign volunteer), soldiers missing in action (Mrs. Baker’s husband), and the plight Vietnamese refugees (Holling’s classmate Mai Thi), are of interwoven with the every day life of Hollings and his family. Though some might find Mrs. Baker a bit unbelievable, her initial harshness is oddly placed and her contacts with famous ball players a bit convenient, she is a wonderful foil, adversary, and confidant. This book is funny, touching, and a realistic slice of seventh grade life right down to the "410 ways to get a teacher to hate you."

When his dad asks, “So who are you, Holling?” the answer is appropriate, “I’ll let you know.”

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Collection development: Juvenile books

As previously posted, I have been working with a backlog of review journals preparing to select and process juvenile, education, and general title orders for the library and resource center. Even with journal selections whittled down to three basic publications, Booklist, School Library Journal, and PW Children's Bookshelf, the amount of reading time required to make quality selections is astounding. Quite simply the titles seem to blend together; both figuratively and realistically as there are a finite number of titles reviewed during any period of time and in some cases all three publications reviewed a given book. To that point, I honestly found the number of duplicate books I chose from three different resources slightly unnerving. Luckily, we use B & T Link Online for juvenile purchases and it has a duplicate check option enabling librarians verify if a title was previously ordered. After three days of scouring reviews three carts of primarily juvenile books (picture book, easy readers, graphic novels, and young adult), currently totaling 151 titles, are pending processing by the acquisitions librarian.

An editorial by Brian Kenney, editor-in-chief of School Library Journal, Sex, Drugs, and Reading Levels, discusses the significance of book reviewing and SLJ's stand on what is included in their reviews:

"What we do at SLJ is review literature for children and young adults. What we can't do is keep you safe by imagining how any number of adults, with any number of agendas, might construe a novel. Our reviewers consider the elements of good literature: pacing, plot, character development, mood, language, and style. We ask "is this a good book?" and "who is the likely reader?" (Kenney, SLJ, 6/1/07)

Kenney presents a valid point, especially with his article subtitle/talking points: "It's your collection, your community. You make the call." Minutes prior to reading this editorial I was discussing this topic with another librarian, specifically how we tend to read book reviews.

It is not possible to read every single review in a journal. There, I said it out loud. Shortcuts are taken; I read the first sentence and last two sentences in each review considered. Generally speaking that provides basic information regarding both book topic and the reviewer's final recommendation. If those elements are of interest, they contain specific topics I need for my collection (and make no mistake, right now it is my collection), I read the full review and make note of the ISBN for my list. Additionally, there are general things I look for when reading reviews. Broad topics include sport sciences and health, math, language arts, children's and young adult literature, and possibility to be used as a read-aloud. I look for topics specific to current course assignments requiring students to find picture books and children's literature for math, special education, music and art appreciation; juvenile and young adult titles featuring historical fiction; and growing genre of graphic novels. I will also be brave and admit sometimes the book just sounds fun - or has been written or illustrated by one of my personal favorites. Yes, I said that out loud as well.

Journals and their reviewers have specific readers, or audiences. Librarians have differing purposes for their selection agenda's, more appropriately termed collection development policy, when making juvenile selections for their collections. When those things successfully meld together, I get a great book for the library. And while no selection process is without an occasional poor choice, even these books serve purpose as teaching tools for the children's literature classes. Each time I fill a cart full of books I take the chance; with choices in hand I try to enhance the collection

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Eureka: A new season

Pragmatically placed to soften the blow of losing SG-1, last night season two of Eureka premiered on SciFi. Last season's cliff-hanger involved sheriff Jack Carter (makes me laugh every time, Jack O'Neill/Sam Carter) and Henry, a scientist devastated by the death of Kim in a shocking radiation accident at Global Dynamics. Henry traveled back to the incident, saved Kim, and changed history resulting in an alternate time line. Four years later the city of Eureka is suffering from a series of anomalies caused by a rift in the space time continuum.

"Henry can help Carter make a dangerous journey back in time to set things right. But if Carter succeeds in erasing the second timeline - essentially resetting the clock to 2006 - the family he's built with Allison will vanish and Kim's death will ravage Henry all over again. As the temporal anomalies grow more destructive, Carter, Henry, Kim, and Allison must choose between clinging a few moments longer to happiness - or saving the world." (Eureka, Once in a Lifetime, Episode synopsis)

Season two opens with Jack and Henry having saved Eureka, but with consequences to both of them as they alone remember the four years passed. Kim is dead, Jack and Ally's life together no longer exists, and citizens of Eureka who were working on the Section 5 project that caused the anomaly are spontaneously combusting. Henry and Jack work together to solve the mystery, but their friendship becomes strained as each remember how things were in the other reality. The closing scene of episode one, Phoenix Rising, is as unsettling as it is effective when Henry finds a way to resolve their long term memory problems.

Eureka is a great series combining science fiction, mystery, humor, and charmingly human and quirky characters in one big package. Where else will you find the town sheriff living in a transformed bunker, fully computerized, and named Sara?

Below is an excerpt from the Town History:

"Thus, the town of Eureka was born. But for all its familiar, small-town trappings, things in this secret hamlet are anything but ordinary. The stereotype of the absent-minded professor exists for a reason, and most of the quantum leaps in science and technology during the past 50 years were produced by Eureka's elite researchers. Unfortunately, scientific exploration is rarely what one expects, and years of experiments gone awry have yielded some peculiar by-products.From unrequited love to professional jealousy, from addiction to depression, the problems of Eureka's townsfolk stem from life's myriad of everyday challenges. But with the population's unique talents, troubled psyches and limitless resources, these small-town concerns have a way of becoming big-time problems. It is at that intersection, where human frailty and super-science collide, that Eureka begins.." (SciFi, About Eureka)

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Money for nothing

I attended an open call interview presentation this morning for a faculty reference librarian. Always interested in seeing what's new in bibiliographic instruction and/or general reference instruction I must confess this was the first time I was given money not to contribute! The candidate used Monopoly money as both reward and incentive for attendees to participate in the session, thus creating a more game-like, competetive atmosphere. I was amassing my fortune when he quietly stopped by my desk, dropped $50, and ask me to slow down so others could get up to speed.

Fifteen minutes later I got another $20 and was told I could talk again; see, money talks.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

That will teach me

No sooner do I blithely quip about the importance of ordering materials kits, book kits, activity books and the like than the circulation desk phones (well, actually someone at the circ desk called) from downstairs telling me abut a present soon to arrive in the elevator ... resource center materials to be shelved:

Just goes to show, I don't know what, but it just goes to show.

Bright, shiny, new fiscal year

This morning I began working my way through a two inch pile of book review resources, I had already processed online selections from Choice, to celebrate the new academic fiscal year. As noted here before, my purchasing responsibilities are two fold, resource center and education/academic. The college of education liaison, I am responsible for purchasing education titles and processing requests/recommendations from the department. I also have funds that allow me to buy books outside of my liaison responsibilities for the overall good of the library. However, the best part of the new fiscal year and its supporting budget is purchasing for the juvenile collection.

My budget is now neatly organized in Excel and brand new folders are prepared in the filing cabinet (a sickness for sure, but it has to be). It’s time to spend money on books! Therein lays one quandary accompanying book selection. At the end of each budget year there are always more book choices than money and I begin keeping a list; the pile of journals can become overwhelming and a folder of selections takes significantly less desk space. But as I cheerfully grabbed my selections there was a fleeting moment of angst, use the old list or begin again? After all, I have had recent meetings with literature instructors regarding purchases, attended children’s literature sessions at ALA, and maybe, just maybe, I know more now than I did two months ago and - then I had a virtual V-8 moment (no, I didn’t hurt myself).

Not to make light of an important topic, a good purchase two months ago is a good purchase today and quite frankly there is not time to ponder the obvious. I have three Booklists, two Book Links, two School Library Journals, a dated Library Journal, and a plethora of PW children’s book review e- newsletters, not to mention several Horn Book Magazine recommendations, beside my desk awaiting use. It is time to, metaphorically speaking, put up or shut up. Read the journals, make selections based on collection development policy and curriculum need, and spend the money wisely; because as much as I hate to admit it, there are other equally important purchases to be made beyond the juvenile collection.

Little things like textbooks, activity books, kits, software, reference titles and …

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes

The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes, better known in Salem’s Fork, West Virginia as Dee, Lizzie, and Mare, have lived seemingly normal, to some extent boring, lives as of late. But normal is not easy for three witches, especially when they have little control over their powers; oldest sibling Dee is a shape-shifter with an affinity for animals and predisposition to change at inopportune moments, middle sister Lizzie has imperfect transmutative powers that more often than not result in bunnies and shoes, and youngest sister Mare is a telekinetic who sees little use for her power beyond parlor tricks and stocking shelves at Value Video!! Xantippe Fortune, their aunt and quintessential she-who-should-not-be-named witch, has concocted a multifaceted scheme to bring Dee, Lizzie, and Mare each “one true love,” and steal their powers for herself. Things backfire for Xan when instead of becoming blindly besotted with her soul mate, each woman learns the depth of not only her given power, but also of the ultimate power, love. A tightly woven tale, this is a pleasingly smooth collaboration from three well-known authors of the romance genre.

As previously noted in the post Mail Call: Miss Fortunes, I received this novel in the mail last week after answering a post on Crusie’s web site for people interested in reading the book and subsequently discussing it on their blog.It is no great hardship to talk about a book, but after agreeing to do so I worried about not liking it (silly me). Why? I am not a big fan of collaborative novels (and I won’t get into my dislike of anthologies featuring favorite authors who always seem to have the shortest novella in the book). I invariably spend too much time trying to decide who wrote what and it ruins a great read. While I was able to pinpoint Crusie’s “Mare” and briefly perused a review on Amazon by a fan of Stuart’s work that was thrilled with Elric, the writing style of each author complemented the others. After the first few busy chapters of character introduction, there were a lot of people in this book; it was easy to enjoy it as a whole (though yes, I did wonder if they shared writing cheerfully evil Xan). Whether a fan of one, or all of the authors contributing to this collaboration, readers will not be disappointed.

Lastly, I would be remiss not to confirm this is indeed a novel, not an anthology as reported by an overworked and overwhelmed, as opposed to misinformed, professional reviewer.

Thanks for the book. It was a fun read.

Update: 7/10/07

For those interested in another professional review, the June 1-15 issue of Booklist (volume 103, number 19-20) features The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes as part of their Romance in Brief section on page 48:

"Earth-shaking sex and belly-shaking laughs abound."
(Diana Tixier Herald)

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Friday, July 06, 2007

More, more, more

I just realized I read the release date incorrectly for the newest Nora Roberts novel, High Noon. Instead of June 10th, it will be on sale July 10th. Naturally that explains why I have been unable to find it in any of the local stores (all together now, du-uh). Of course that did not stop me from picking up two paperbacks this afternoon:
And for those who are interested, here is information from Nora's web site about a new trilogy, an excerpt from High Noon, and a new J.D. Robb title, Creation in Death, due out in November. Really, when does the woman sleep? I think I'll go start a new book. Plenty to choose from ...

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Lean Mean Thirteen

Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum agrees to a favor and this simple act of human kindness results in mayhem, exploding taxidermy, and hilarity in Janet Evanovich's new novel, Lean Mean Thirteen. Stephanie’s ex-husband, Dickie Orr, is involved with his shady law firm partners to the tune of forty million dollars. Agreeing to plant a bug in Dickie’s office for the mysterious, alluring Ranger, Stephanie looses her temper (and grip on reality) with Dickie and consequently becomes Trenton Police’s number one suspect in his alleged death and disappearance. Determined to clear her name and disgusted with boyfriend Joe Morelli’s assurances that everything will be fine, Stephanie embarks on a wild adventure that ultimately includes money laundering lawyers, a grave robbing accountant, and her grandmother’s love life.

Hail, hail the gang’s all here! This thirteenth installment does not disappoint as readers are treated to the secret of Tank’s real name, a long running feud with the cable company, and the requisite flirtation between Stephanie and Ranger, though Stephanie remains loyal (in her own quirky fashion) to Joe. The appeal of the Stephanie Plum series is wide ranging as I learn each summer when her newest novel accompanies me to the ALA annual conference. In the airport, on the plane, in the hotel, or riding on the shuttle to the conference center, copies of Lean Mean Thirteen were present in D.C. with librarians willing to talk about their love of books, this one in particular!

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The Chicago Way

The Chicago Way is a debut mystery by Michael Harvey, co-creator and executive producer of the A & E show Cold Case Files.

Michael Kelly, a private investigator and disgraced Chicago police detective, is hired by his former partner, John Gibbons, to solve a nine year old rape case. After officially closing the case, Gibbons was ordered by his superiors to forget it happened; subsequently the case was buried, he was given commendation, and the evidence “filed.” When Gibbons is found dead the next day, Kelly goes from PI, to suspect, and determined to find the truth makes a deal with an ambitious television reporter to share information. As the case spirals out of control, Kelly is soon in the midst of a convicted murderer’s plot to escape death row, police conspiracy, and political cover-up where every player has his, or her, own agenda. Crisp, clean dialogue moves this novel quickly through personal triumph and tragedy, as well as a gripping and well plotted murder mystery.

One of the first books I picked up at the conference, I started The Chicago Way while still in DC and carted it around in my bag to read during lunch and session breaks. I have to admit having a typical girl reaction to some of the main characters decisions, issues with the consistent use of violent death as a plot device, and remember reading in another novel about a serial killer using the same means to escape the death penalty (it may have been a Linda Fairstein or Lisa Scottoline novel). However, with that said all of the elements worked well together making this a quick, and compelling read.

A professional review from Publisher Weekly is available on Amazon.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

ALA Conference: Children's & YA Literature Sessions

Due to poster presentations and scheduled ACRL and EBSS meetings I missed several of the author sessions scheduled during the course of the conference, most notably Judy Blume and Julie Andrews. I did attend three very good sessions, one on picture book collaboration, sponsored by the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), and two young adult literature presentations by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

Collaborative Techniques Between Authors & Artists: The Inside Story of How Picture Books Are Created (ALSC) took place Saturday morning, 8:00 am - 10:00 am in the Convention Center. This panel discussion was moderated by Catherine Balkin of Balkin Buddies and featured three sets of well-known picture book author and illustrator collaboration partners; Eloise Greenfield and Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Eric Kimmel and Leonard Everett Fisher, and Patrick O’Brien and Kevin O’Malley. Each author and illustrator “team” fielded questions from moderator Balkin and offered not only prepared remarks on their art and writing, but also samples of works in progress. The panel was delightfully engaging and forthcoming about their techniques and partnership history. It was especially interesting to listen to Jan Spivey Gilchrist after just adding the vibrant book she co-illustrated, My America, to the library juvenile collection.

The Alex Award Winners 2007 (YALSA) session was held Saturday afternoon from 4:00 - 5:30 p.m. One of my favorite sessions last summer, I made sure to get this one on my schedule early on in the decision-making process. I was slightly disappointed that half of the session consisted of panelists reading their book talks for the 2007 award winners (especially when they were given to us in handout form), but speakers Ron Rash, author of 2007 Alex Award winner The World Made Straight, and Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle (2006 winner) were definitely worth the wait.

Walls discussed how her life had changed since winning the Alex in 2006, specifically the acceptance and resiliency of young adults in regards to her memoir; where adults were horrified by her parents action in the books, teens were more understanding and willing to take the actions in stride. She recounted several touching moments where teens thanked her for writing the book and helping them understand they were not alone in dealing with this type of situation. I enjoyed hearing the update from Walls, especially after hearing her speak in NOLA last summer.

Rash began his portion of the program with an anecdote about his grandfather. As a child, he often went to his grandfather requesting a book to be read and the stories were fantastic, yet never the same. As he grew older, he realized the lack of story continuity was because his grandfather could not read, he was telling the story through pictures. Rash never forgot the magic of his grandfather’s storytelling. In this same manner, the afternoon session highlight was, when in storytelling tradition, Rash read a chapter from One Foot in Eden to the audience. It was a powerful rendition that held us enthralled with both the story and the author’s eloquence. You could have heard a pin drop in the room during the reading and when at the chapter’s conclusion he stopped, the collective sigh by a disappointed audience was indicative of being left wanting more. (This morning I requested a copy of the book so I could read it myself!) An extra perk for this session was a copy of the 2007 Alex Award winning title, The World Made Straight. It’s one more book that I have started reading.

The final children’s and/or young adult literature session I attended was Trend Setters in Teen Literature (YALSA), Sunday morning, 10:30 am to noon. This was a multi-pronged gathering featuring Holly Keolling, editor of the soon to be released (August) third edition of Best Books for Young Adults, and two separate panels of young adult authors and editors. I was most interested in Keolling’s portion of the session as she discussed different trends in YA literature and how they have changed since 2000. Specifically mentioned were the feminization of literature (even graphic novels), the maturation of teen readers and the topics they are attracted to reading, the current trend of adult authors writing specifically for the YA field, and the growing international flavor of YA literature. This morning I located an article Koelling mentioned during her presentation, “Ten Things that Tick Me Off!” by Peter D. Sieruta (Horn Book Magazine, March/April 2005). It’s an interesting statement regarding children’s literature trends from a reviewer’s point of view.

The window for conference posts is fast closing. I have one more ARC finished, ready to blog about, as well as Janet Evanovich’s Lean Mean Thirteen that I devoured on the plane (and finished in my hotel room Friday evening - before reading again). I’ll blather about the tech services session I attended on my other blog and post about ARC’s as I finish reading them over the next few weeks.

Books, books, and more books … isn’t life grand? It reminds me of a sweatshirt I have somewhere in the depths of my closet; so many books, so little time.

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