Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Do you ever get tired of reading traditional novels or non-fiction? Sometimes it seems like you just get into the story when some minor disaster steals you away from your book. Or maybe you’re the type of person that only has 5-10 minute spurts to devote to reading. Perhaps you enjoy a quick bathroom read (gasp!) or are just plain sick and tired of reading ‘regular’ books. In between non-fiction (which I really do love) and fiction (ok, I love that too…), I had the pleasure of reading two books that were a little bit quirky, entertaining and different.

First, Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony

I can’t take credit for finding this young adult novel, one of my classmates brought it to my attention this spring, but it was worth the time I spent “reading” it. The story follows Glory and Frank’s high school love story with a few twists. Glory is a piano prodigy and is taken to Europe to perform concerts and slowly begins developing mental health issues which become clear as she starts playing chopsticks at her concerts instead of her traditional classical pieces. The catch is that the story is primarily told through pictures. There are pictures of Glory and Frank together, pictures of gifts they send each other, pictures of moments and the occasional picture of their IM conversations, and all of it comes together to tell their story. It opens a lot up to interpretation and really makes you question what is happening to the two of them. It’s likely that you’ll fly through their story but want to go through again and search for hidden bits and pieces you may have missed the first time.

The second “different” book that I thoroughly enjoyed was The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan. I must admit that I have enjoyed quite a few books by David Levithan, so I figured this book was a safe bet (check out Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Boy Meets Boy if you enjoy YA fiction!). It also kept showing up on my Goodreads recommendations and the cover jumped out at me (yes, I’m a book cover judger). The entire story of a couple is told through dictionary entries. Each word in the dictionary is described through a moment, thought or conversation between the couple and the story plays out definition by definition. One of the most intriguing things about this story is that it does not only describe the happy pieces of this couple’s relationship—it brings the angry parts of the relationship in too, but it describes the exhilaration of new love so well that the negative pieces are not overwhelming. This, like Chopsticks, could be a very short read if one were to sit down and spend time on it, but it is also a fabulous book if you don’t have the time to devote to reading, and it’s likely that you’ll spend your non-reading time pondering what has and will happen to them.

What is the best non-traditional book you've read? Any recommendations? 

Click to learn more about Chopsticks and David Levithan 

And just in case you're a book cover judger too...

The Lover's Dictionary


Thursday, April 12, 2012

"The Choir Director" - Carl Weber

Weber, Carl. (2011). The Choir Director. Kensington. 

First Jamaica Ministries is no stranger to scandal; the mega church congregation is still trying to survive the news that its beloved choir director had been involved in many gay affairs with congregants over the past few years. Unfortunately, things are only going to get worse. On the brink of financial ruin after the choir director scandal, Bishop T.K. Wilson brings in a new music leader, Aaron Mackie, hoping to revive the congregation and escape bankruptcy. With his delicious physique and playboy attitude, Mackie brings a whole new set of problems. The story races with passionate moments, revenge and deceit around every corner. Readers quickly realize that it may not be possible for First Jamaica Ministries to continue, especially since everyone has something to hide.

Click here for a book preview!

  • flawed characters
  • fast pacing
  • passionate, dark mood

Other Carl Weber Titles
Similar Authors*
*located through Reader's Advisor Online

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Denial" -Stuart Kaminsky

Kaminsky, Stuart M. (2005). Denial. Forge.

Lew Fonesca is an unlikely detective. Hoping to escape his wife’s hit and run death, Lew hides out in an office (used as an apartment), drowning his sorrows in old movies and Dairy Queen. Though his primary occupation is a process server, word has gotten around town that Lew is very adept at finding people. With his sidekick/bodyguard Ames at his side, Mr. Fonesca takes on two deadly cases; one involving the hit and run of a high school boy, the other a murder at a retirement home—absent a body. In an effort to solve these mysteries, both men encounter deception and hatred, as well as one person’s unrelenting desire to protect. The fourth in a six book series, Denial is sure to capture the attention of seasoned Kaminsky veterans, as well as those jumping head first into the series. 

Interested in more Lew Fonesca mysteries? Click here!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"The Coldest Winter Ever" -Sister Souljah

Souljah, Sister. (1999). The Coldest Winter Ever. Pocket Books.

As Dr. Tania Nadeem points out in her review of The Coldest Winter Ever, “once you get over your unease with this unfamiliar way of life…you realize that this book, in its own way, is a touching coming-of-age story about a misguided adolescent who has taken up money, beauty and power as her identity.” Common topics in this novel include drug dealing, drug addiction, teen drinking, casual sex, and murder. The variety of content that may be deemed inappropriate is extensive and layered throughout the entirety of the novel. However, the issues that are dealt with in The Coldest Winter Ever are very real issues that many children, adolescents, and adults deal with on a daily basis, and sweeping them under the rug will not erase them.

Winter deals with quite a few issues that many adolescents are familiar with; she wants to be with her family, she isn’t sure if she can trust her friends, she is exploring her sexuality in a time when hormones are raging, and there is a disconnect between the lifestyle she wants and what she can reasonably attain. There are also quite a few issues that adolescents may not have encountered; extensive drug use and drug dealing, casual sex, the use of guns and razors as weapons, having parents in prison. Winter and her friends act as many other adolescents at this age, as if there are no consequences for their actions:

“If I wasn’t pregnant,” Simone said, “I’d have your back. But I gotta look out for this one here,” pointing to her belly. Me and Simone stayed up drinking the rest of the night.(pg. 161)

The consequences for actions like this, such as drinking while pregnant, become apparent throughout the end of the story, when Simone loses her baby and Winter ends up in jail for her relationship with Bullet.  Winter’s life does not turn out as she expected, and it is likely that adolescents will see this story as a cautionary tale, rather than a “how-to” guide.

Interested in learning more about this book? Click here to see a sample!


Nadeem, T. (2010). “The coldest winter ever” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 49(1), accessed through Wilson Web Book Reviews Digest Plus.

Souljah, S. (1999). The Coldest Winter Ever. New York, NY: Pocket Books. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Erotica in Public Libraries

The decision to purchase erotic novels in public libraries is often quite controversial. Institutions opposed to purchasing such titles use a variety of reasons (such as budgetary concerns) to justify their decision. Libraries in favor of purchasing erotic novels often argue against censorship in libraries to rationalize their choice. Ultimately, the decision to include such titles within a library’s collection is based on a variety of factors: the library’s collection development policy and budget, library views on censorship, and the community in which the library is situated. In addition to these factors comes the most important issue to be addressed: is public access to erotic novels what our patrons need and want?

Research on the addition of more erotic titles into libraries began decades ago. A 1970’s study found that the majority (76%) of Americans polled felt that librarians should keep erotic titles out of the public library setting (White, 1981). However, it is important to note that the term used when questioning individuals in this study was “objectionable material”, which has negative connotations and may have encouraged respondents toward a more conservative viewpoint toward censorship (White, 1981). Not surprisingly, the minority of survey respondents (those in favor of allowing what could be considered “objectionable material” on the shelves) reported themselves as college-educated males that did not regularly attend church and possessed stronger liberal viewpoints than conservative (White, 1981). Clearly this representative sample of the American public did not support the inclusion of more suggestive titles into the collection, but that does not mean that views are still the same, more than 40 years later.

If the sales of erotic novels are any clue as to the public’s support, it is safe to say that they are well received. Even if the public as a whole tends to be against erotica, it must be determined if what the public says and what is actually done by the public reflect one another accurately. Previously, the majority of individuals may have opposed libraries purchasing erotic novels and providing access to them on library shelves, but their current private purchasing habits suggest a stronger interest in literature of this genre. For example, online erotica retailer Ellora’s Cave increased sales by 20% between the years 2005 and 2006 (Patrick, 2006). This dramatic increase in sales suggests that readers are interested in purchasing these titles and hungry for more. Though reports over the past few years admit a bit of a plateau in erotica sales, there is still a strong market for these titles (Bond, 2009).

Any library that considers purchasing erotica (or other rather steamy titles) must prepare for the inevitable issue involving an offended community member. For every patron delighted by the availability of these stories in the collection, there will be (at least) one that may be disturbed by the content. Unfortunately for libraries, individuals offended by one choice out of a catalog filled with 341,109 other materials are likely to yell louder than the individuals who had no issues with any library materials. Even more unfortunately for libraries, offended persons are likely to be upset over materials much milder than erotica. The American Library Association compiles a list of materials that have been challenged across the country and some of the titles appear to be quite trivial compared to the potential issues that could arise from purchasing erotica. The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye and The Grapes of Wrath are some classic materials known to offend (American Library Association, 2012). Librarians choosing to indulge in an erotica collection must be aware of their library’s policies regarding material collection in order to properly address any issues that may arise with disgruntled patrons.

Fortunately for librarians in the midst of encountering an offended patron, there are a variety of materials available that can help explain the library’s policies and hopefully neutralize the situation. First, librarians should be aware of the collection development policies in place at their particular institution. Many libraries provide statements to justify virtually any purchasing decision, similar to this “[A goal of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library is] to provide materials in the areas of opposing viewpoints and controversy, representing all sides of these areas, that as citizens we may develop logical, critical thinking, and evaluation” (Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library, 2012). Essentially, libraries are able to collect whatever items they feel are necessary, even if the items may offend some individuals. Librarians are able to use these collection development policies as established, written proof of the library’s purchasing procedures. Secondly, many public libraries support the ALA’s Freedom to Read Statement, which passionately states:

“there is no place in our society for efforts to coerce the taste of others, to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents, or to inhibit the efforts of writers to achieve artistic expression” (American Library Association, Freedom to Read Statement, 2012).

Librarians are given many tools to argue against the removal of objectionable material from the library, and should be prepared to use them when necessary.

One argument made by librarians which supports the non-collection of erotic materials in libraries is that the writing in such titles is not very well developed, and that the portion of the budget used to purchase such materials would be best suited for more literary items. Though it is likely that the newest Zane novel will not compare with a classic like Anna Karenina, many libraries will serve a greater number of patrons through the former than the latter. Yes, part of the mission of public libraries is to educate community members, but how can that happen if community members see the library as a stuffy place with snooty books? Sometimes it is necessary for libraries to buy slightly less developed materials to bait hesitant community members, and perhaps use this interaction to provide them with supplemental materials.

However, is this what public libraries are all about? Sure, we want to educate our patrons and encourage them to grow, but we do not want that encouragement to come at the price of alienation. Many librarians were known a century ago for being anti-fiction, feeling that such rubbish was a waste of time and encouraged idleness. It is likely that in a century librarians will feel similarly about current librarians that do not recognize the importance of erotica within the library. It is not our place to judge what the reader chooses, after all, “The Five Laws of Librarian Science” according to Ranganathan states “every reader his (or her) book, and every book its reader” (Wikipedia, 2012). There is a time and a place for erotica and it should not be the librarian’s decision to determine which materials are more suitable in terms of literary value for individuals.

Literary value has a time and a place in libraries, but it should not necessarily be at the expense of use. As many libraries are now realizing, classic literature is not necessarily highly consumed by their communities. Some libraries in Virginia are pulling and removing “classic” titles, such as For Whom the Bell Tolls, from their shelves because they haven’t been checked out in at least two years (Miller, 2007). Libraries absolutely must be aware of their community’s unique needs and adjust their collection development policy to suit what is most beneficial to patrons. What is the point of having a large collection of materials that no one wants to use? Libraries are not simply archives. While it is important to have a diverse collection of materials available to the public, some materials will clearly need to take precedence over others. Many public libraries would serve their patrons and communities better were they to provide access to an entire set of World Books rather than a large collection of erotica novels. However, if the budget is available and community members are actively seeking titles from the erotica genre, it is important that public libraries are able to provide access to a collection of such materials.

Unfortunately, the likelihood that patrons will actively search for and request such titles is a bit questionable. Many community members may be embarrassed to request erotic materials or to be seen reading them, and may therefore hide their interest in accessing them through public libraries. Fortunately, recent technological advancements are likely to help combat this shyness, as erotica e-books are becoming increasingly popular. Between 2006 and 2007 there was a 20% increase in e-book sales from Wild Rose Press, and it is likely that a significant portion of the increase was from erotica titles, as they are 10 times more successful than any other releases (Robbins, 2008). Providing these titles in a variety of formats is likely to appeal to a larger number of library users. However, it is still important that librarians are able to welcome patrons that may show apprehension for requesting more risqué literature, because that interaction has the ability to make or break the patron’s trust.

Public libraries have a duty to provide their communities with access to a variety of materials, and that may include erotica. If erotica sales are any clue as to their popularity, it is clear that the general public is interested in pursuing these titles. Librarians must be tuned in to the needs of their community members and potentially be able to provide these materials in a variety of formats while tactfully discussing them with interested patrons. In the cases of opposition to such materials, librarians should be well versed in their library’s collection development policy and the ALA’s Freedom to Read Statement, which demands a variety of viewpoints be made available. Most importantly, librarians need to realize what is truly utilized by their community and attempt to somewhat meet their needs, because an unused library is a wasted library, and dangling the appealing fruit of erotic novels at tentative or doubtful users may open up a whole new literary world to them.


American Library Association. (2012). Freedom to read statement.

American Library Association. (2012). Reasons for challenges to classics.

Bond, G. (2009). Selling sex in a recession. Publishers Weekly, 256(31), 16-20. Retrieved from Library Literature & Information Full Text March 3, 2012

Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library. (2012). Library materials selection policy: Statement of policy.

Miller, J. (2007). Should libraries’ target audience be cheapskates with mass-market tastes? Wall Street Journal

Patrick, B. K. (2006). It’s not just you- it really is hot in here. Publisher’s Weekly, 253(29), 23-26. Retrieved from Library Literature & Information Full Text March 3, 2012

Robbins, S. J. (2008). The new e- in erotica. Publishers weekly, 255(5), 25-32. Retrieved from Library Literature & Information Full Text March 3, 2012

White, H. D. (1981). Library censorship and the permissive minority. The Library Quarterly, 51(2), 192-207. Retrieved from JSTORE March 2, 2012.

Wikipedia. (2012). Five laws of library science.

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Interview with the Vampire" -Anne Rice

Rice, Anne. (1995). Interview with the Vampire. Random House.

In the year 1791, Louis becomes a vampire. Unfortunately, Louis’ maker, Lestat, is the complete opposite of Louis and the epitome of everything he despises. Their dislike of one another intensifies until Lestat decides to make another vampire child, Claudia, who is literally quite young when she is ‘changed’. Louis is momentarily mollified through his growing love for Claudia, who begins to become frustrated with her permanent child-like state. An intense battle between Claudia, Lestat and Louis leads to Louis and Claudia escaping to Europe to seek more vampires like themselves, filled with dangerous experiences that prove fatal for a number of those involved.

Click here for more information on Anne Rice 


  • dark tone
  • flawed character 
  • rich detail

Read alike books*:

Read alike authors*:

*information located through NoveList database

"Contest" -Matthew Reilly

Reilly, Matthew. (2003). Contest. Thomas Dunne Books.

Stephen Swain is about to encounter six extra-terrestrials with the same goal: to end his life. Swain is teleported into the New York Public Library for the Seventh Presidian, a contest in which intelligent life from a variety of planets fight to the death. With no prior knowledge of even the existence of extra-terrestrials, Swain is a bit behind and is brought up to speed through the knowledge of his guide, Selexin, whose survival depends on Swain’s ability to outsmart and kill his rivals. Not only must Swain battle these other worldly creatures, many of whom have special powers, he must also protect his young daughter Holly, who was accidentally teleported with him. Danger escalates when men from the NSA attempt to enter the library and encounter these beings, without proper knowledge what is occurring. Incredibly fast-paced and well developed, Matthew Reilly’s Contest will have readers on the edge of their seats until the last page. 

Searching for more books by Matthew Reilly? Click here!