'Tis the Season...

’Tis the Season…

Now that I am merely weeks away from winter break at school, I want nothing more than to settle under a throw blanket, sip some hot chocolate, and crack open a good book.  Scratch that.  I want to crank up the Christmas music, bake cookies, and wrap gifts.  And then I’ll resign to the couch with my cat and a pile of books.'Tis the Season...

While I’m in school, I like to daydream and plan for all the fun things I will do during the holidays and winter break.  Sites such as tumblr and Pinterest help me visualize various festive things and come up with good ideas.  Other sites such as DIY Cozy Home and Better Homes and Gardens offer tutorials and plenty of ideas for creating crafts, home décor, and holiday baking.

Once I am on break and have cooled down from my holiday mode, I like to catch up on a bit of recreational reading.  For those of you that prefer to get
cozy with a good mystery, you may be interested in cozy mysteries, which usually run in themed series and are a bit gentler in nature.  Popular authors include Lilian Jackson Braun, Alexander McCall Smith, M. C. Beaton, Donna Andrews, and Sophie Kelly.  Other writers, such as Joanne Fluke and Diane Mott Davidson, specialize in culinary themed cozy mysteries, which include recipes for baked goods and savory dishes.  If you have read one of these books and tried the recipe out for yourself, I’d love to know how it went.  Because honestly, what’s cozier than curling up with a good book and something to munch on?

The Unromantic Romance Writer

A decade ago, I did not like romance novels, unless you count Jane Austen as a romance writer, which I didn’t. Then one day some friends childishly double-dog dared me to read The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer, and bet that I couldn’t resist her. I lost the bet, but I won countless hours of blissfully absorbing reading. Much like a heroine in one of Heyer’s own  romances, I fell in love against my initial inclination, but got a happy ending anyway. I devoured every one of her more than 50 books that I could get my hands on, and I’ve re-read my favorites an embarrassing number of times.Georgette_Heyer

 Georgette Heyer (1902–1974) was a British novelist who wrote in many different genres including historical fiction, contemporary fiction and thrillers, but she is best known and loved for her Georgian and Regency romances. So, how did she win me over? I‘ve always had a preference for escapist fiction: books that take me to places, times or worlds that I haven’t experienced. Heyer was almost obsessive in her attention to the details of every period she set a book in, and was determined to be as accurate as her source materials would allow. Her Regency world, especially, feels completely alive and convincing as a result. Even her slang, much of which she had to invent, just feels right as you read it. Both her imagined characters and her fictionalized historical characters are nuanced, well-rounded people. Once you factor in her never-failing wit, compelling (even when implausible) plotting and keen observation of human nature she is impossible for someone like me to resist.

This past year I read Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester, which I highly recommend to any Heyer fan. It was published in 2010, and the biographer had access to previously unknown and unavailable source material. When I try to describe Heyer’s romances, I often have difficulty summing up what makes them so compelling. I’m indebted to Kloester for her choice of words in describing Heyer’s book Black Sheep as “one of her satisfyingly unromantic romances.” Like all genre fiction, romance sometimes gets a bad rap for being formulaic. Are Heyer’s books based on a formula? No. Well, yes. But still no. Each book has its own internal master plan of character types and plot points, but that’s not formulaic, that’s just well-crafted writing. Heyer herself was a deeply practical sort of person, and though her heroes are sometimes knights or earls, they never seem like they should be wearing shining armor. Her plots are too intricate to be predictable. Even the mood of her books varies from title to title. Two of my favorites are good examples of this: the funny and frothy Cotillion, and the poignant, sedately paced A Civil Contract. To top it off, Heyer can make a romance sizzle without even ripping a single bodice.

So, if you’re already a Georgette Heyer fan, I’d love to hear from you. What are your favorites? Any good recommendations for a like-minded reader? If, on the other hand, you are feeling skeptical and stubborn about romances, you leave me no choice. Pick any Georgette Heyer romance and start reading. Just 25 pages and I bet you’re hooked. Go on. I double-dog dare you!

holding flowers in hand

Genre Alert: Women’s Fiction

For as long as I can remember I have been a romance novel lover.  I used to sneak them out of my mom’s stash in the basement and stay up late reading them under the covers with a flashlight.  Over the years I have also read other genres, mystery books for example, but romance has always been my one true love.  However over the past few years (as I inch towards and into my 40’s I am afraid) another genre has been competing for my preferred genre – Women’s Fiction.

index (1)What is Women’s Fiction you ask?  Women’s Fiction shares some characteristics with romance novels.  Both feature mostly women authors with a female being the center of the story, and like romance women’s fiction often has a romantic story line.  However, womeindex (2)n’s fiction books are more character driven, focusing on the female lead of the story, and if there is a romantic story line it’s in the background.  Women’s fiction novels feature more mature women, who are married index (3)already and have children or who are going through a major life change.  Their character’s challenges might be career related or involving their grown children or an ongoing marital issue. Their plot often features groups of women, sisters, best friends or co-workers and the focus is on those friendships and family groups.  Luckily for those of us who prefer a happy ending, women’s fiction almost always gives you that satisfaction.  You might shed a tear or two before you get there though!

Intrigued?  Here are a few go to fiction authors to get started with!

Mary Kay Andrews
Jodi Picoult
Jennifer Weiner
Barbara Delinsky
Emily Giffin

index (4)On a final note I wanted to mention my favorite new author, Stephanie Evanovich.  Technically her books probably lean a little more towards romance or chick-lit (which might be the subject of another post!) than women’s fiction, but her first two novels were funny, sexy and very satisfying!  Start with her first novel Big Girl Panties.

Let me know what your favorite Women’s Fiction authors or novels are!  I love finding a new author!

If it’s Nordic, it must be noir

Nordic (or Scandinavian) Noir didn’t begin with Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and it certainly didn’t end with the author’s death at age 50 in 2004.  This mystery sub-genre is more popular than ever today, thanks to an ever-expanding smorgasbord of crime fiction fare.  On these fictional pages, police detectives are world-weary, worn down by the seeming futility of fighting against a host of social ills. What’s not to love, right?  But what I like best about Nordic Noir is location, location, location.  Not only does this genre rely on a well-developed sense of place, but climate and landscape frequently become so important to the story that they are more like characters than merely backdrops.

Tell me more, you say?  As a starting point, l would like to direct you to Nordic noir : the Pocket Essential guide to Scandinavian crime fiction, film & TV by Barry Forshaw, available from the library as an e-book.  Now you’re ready for Scandinavian Crime Fiction in English Translation, a one-stop website announcing new books (and e-books) which may be coming to your library soon.   Don’t forget to check out an interview with my favorite Swedish author, Henning Mankell, known to readers and PBS viewers alike for his Wallander series. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that more than two dozen of the best Nordic Noir authors have e-books available for loan through Wisconsin’s Digital Library.

Now, here are just a few of my favorite Nordic Noir authors, all of whom may be found on the MORE catalog Nordic Crime Fiction Quick List or by searching the catalog by author.

Jussi Adler-Olsen
Arnaldur Indridason
Kjell Eriksson
Karin Fossum
Anne Holt
Jorn Lier Horst
Asa Larsson
Henning Mankell
Liza Marklund
Jo Nesbo
Hakan Nesser
Helene Tursten
Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Who is your favorite Nordic Noir author?

Beach Reads

Beach Reads

Summer is in full swing!  I admit I love summer, it’s my favorite season.  I don’t even mind the heat or the humidity as much as I hate the cold and the snow in winter. Besides our annual summer trip, one of my favorite things to do in the summer is take my boys to the beach or the pool. My idea of a perfect day is reading while watching the boys swim or while relaxing in a camp chair in the woods.

Of course, I The Matchmakerneed a very specific type of book for this kind of summer reading. Most of my choices in the summer are romance or women’s lit books. I love a happy ending. Also love it when characters find their true love or overcome a crisis with the support of family and friends. Many of my choices also take place in great summer locations, and usually on a beach!

Each year there are some standout “summer reads” that hit the shelves. One of my favorites from last summer was The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.Beach Town

The first “beach read” I chose for this summer is Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews. This title is strong in the romance department and takes place in Florida.  Both Hilderbrand and Andrews seem to have a new summer read out each year, so check their older titles too!

Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky is also on my list to read this summer.  This one features a mother/daughter relationship, who are co-hosts on a home decorating show.

Blueprints

This year’s book by Elin Hilderbrand is The Rumor. This one takes place on the beach in Nantucket, and focuses on strong female friendships, the beach, a garden and a handsome landscape architect. I always love it when there are several different components to look forward too. This is the

The Rumorbook I am taking with me on my vacation this summer…I can’t wait to read it while relaxing in the Redwood National Forest or while sitting on the beach along the California coast.

What are some of your favorite “beach reads”?

Sonic Youth

Enhanced Reading

We all have a favorite chair, a preferred beverage to sip upon, or a perfect pet companion to lie nearby while reading. These are some of the traditional ways we enjoy the practice of reading; some things that make it even more pleasurable.

While reading Kim Gordon’s memoir Girl in a Band recently, I noticed that I was doing a number of things that expanded my experience while reading her book. Gordon was a founding member of the alternative band Sonic Youth, so as she was relating stories about how a particular album was created I gravitated to our catalog and began requesting Sonic Youth CDs to listen to while reading. I now had these as my soundtrack to read on. Sonic Youth is also known for their ground-breaking music videos, so it was natural for me to search YouTube and take breaks to watch the music videos she references in her memoir.

This experience helped me to realize that it’s become an organic part of my reading practice to turn on my laptop, look into other books, CDs, or DVDs within the MORE catalog, watch videos online, or do some extra research that expands on my overall reading experience and enjoyment of a book I’m reading. Sort of like Reading 2.0 perhaps?

For example, The Friends of the Library Evening Book Group recently read For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History by Sarah Rose. The book concerns the British East India Company using Robert Fortune, a Scottish Gardener, botanist, and plant hunter to make clandestine trips deep into the interior of forbidden parts of Chinese territory to steal their deeply guarded secrets of tea manufacturing and horticulture. Fortune encounters many dangerous predicaments as he commits brazen acts of corporate espionage. The book makes reference to Robert Fortune’s travelogue published in 1847. My interest was piqued so I did some research and found that The Google Books Library Project has made available an eBook copy of the travelogue Three Years’ Wanderings in the Northern Provinces of China. So as I read one book, I was able to simultaneously browse and read his first hand and clearly embellished accounts of heroic feats, and consider the many maps and illustrations to enhance my reading.

Another way reading can be enlivened is through “Reading Maps.”  Neil Gaiman’s American Gods has a great example of one the American Gods Reading Map.  As much of the story takes place throughout the Midwest and Wisconsin (in particular House on the Rock in Spring Green, WI), it’s natural to want to explore these locations. This companion site contains suggestions for further reading on American Gods thematically tied in topics like road trips, gods and goddesses, and tourist traps. Your appreciation for the text can further be augmented with links to reviews, a Reading Guide for the Book, images of Gaiman’s notebooks for American Gods (he wrote the book in longhand) or listen to a sample excerpt of the audiobook. So if you were inspired you could plan out a road trip to explore the locales described in the novel. Someone has even mapped out your route for you if you’re ambitious this Summer.

Thanks for allowing me to share some ways I’ve noticed our reading can be enhanced. I’m curious, what have you done to enhance your own reading experience? Leave a comment below.

 

 

 

New Adult Fiction

Crossover Into New Adult Fiction!

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking” – Haruki Murakami

This may come as a surprise to many people, but since I started reading Young Adult literature in high school, I’ve never truly crossed over to reading Adult fiction in my early 20’s. After my failed attempts to dive into the Adult fiction, I came to the conclusion that my heart must just lie with Young Adult literature. And why not? Young adult literature has a lot to offer adult readers: exciting, action-packed and fast-paced plot lines; amazing writers; an escape from adult responsibilities by reliving your youth; and of course, vampire romance stories!

If you’d like to delve deeper into the world of young adult novels, the following website offers a great place to start: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/best-fiction-young-adults. However, if you are in the same boat as I am and don’t know where to start in Adult fiction, then the category of “New Adult fiction” may be for you! New Adult fiction is the hot new genre in the book world. USA Today columnist, Deirdre Donahue, described it as “mix the high-octane emotions of youth with the freedom of leaving home and you’ve brewed up a potent new book category.” The themes that you will find in these novels will be a mixture of young adult themes (identity, sexuality, race, addictions, bullying, family problems) and issues facing adults ages 18-25 like leaving home for the first time, facing military deployment, college life, and marriage.

You can find a list of New Adult fiction books at the following website: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/new-adult-fiction.
Another great list to look at is the Alex Award winners. These novels were written for adults but have special appeal to Young Adults: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/booklists/alex
Some New Adult titles can be found in the MORE catalog: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie Maguire; Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell; and The Edge of Never by J.A. Redmerski.

 

Planning your Perfect Summer Vacation

One of the highlights in my family’s year is our summer vacation. We have always done something in the summer since our boys have been babies, sometimes a simple camping trip for a weekend or a week up north in a cabin, but some years we branch out a bit and plan something bigger. We have taken several big road trips, toured many national parks and visited Disney World. This year we are headed to the Redwood National Forest, and I am already counting the days.

If you are anredwoodsything like me the planning of the trip is almost as fun as the trip itself. Especially during these long, dreary, cold winters and wet, cold springs. I use a variety of things to plan our family trips including sending for brochures and maps and checking out many websites. However, I also always use library resources. I request the most recent travel books for our destination and pour over every detail. Travel guides always are available in book format, but I have noticed over the last year that you can also get the most recent editions through Overdrive as well.  I think this will be useful as we head out for California as I can put it on my iPad and not have to lug a big travel book around. Some of you may not know that we also carry travel brochures and maps from various parts of the U.S., many donated from patrons after their own trips. These are available to check out as brochures to help you with your own planning.

Wherever you are headed in the next year be sure to use the library as part of your planning process and Bon Voyage!

Will it Waffle?

We’re always helping people looking for information on canning and cooking, including our own staff. We have tailgate parties and potlucks here in the staff lounge. Dieting is NOT on the menu at this time. Everywhere I have worked, librarians have been great cooks, and L.E. Phillips is not the exception.

I like to read cookbooks and try recipes I have never tried before.  There is practical advantage to cooking for other library staff. That way, if it is good, I won’t eat it all myself, or if it is not so good, I will have others to help me eat it. I consider this a win-win.

We have some great cookbooks in our collection; in fact, we have one of the largest cookbook collections in our consortium.

One of my favorites is;
Will it waffle? : 53 unexpected and irresistible recipes to make in a waffle  iron by Daniel Shumski.

As a librarian I need to give you the call number as well: “641.3  Sh928w” in the Non-Fiction area. I love waffles, I have two waffle irons, one for regular waffles and one for Belgian waffles. The idea of using a waffle iron for other items intrigued me. Cookies and cakes? Yum!  I enjoyed the chocolate chip cookie recipe as I love cookies right out of the oven.  Daniel Shumski also has a blog at http://www.willitwaffle.com/will-it-waffle  with other waffle ideas and waffle wisdom.

Sometimes a person just needs a waffle.