Monthly Archives: October 2013

Halloween-looking sideways

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, because its a chance when everyone can play openly with their imaginations. For the past ten years, my costume has been simple but I’ve found rather effective:

As you can see, I’ve painted the top half of my face to look like a red fox, which was a skill I learned how to do when I took a theatrical make up class at a local theater in middle school. That was one of my favorite theater classes because I find it fascinating how it doesn’t take much to shift the character of your face and body.

Halloween is full of people who understand that and a chance for everyone to share various sides of themselves. Since the explosion of YA lit and cosplay becoming more widely recognized, costumes based on what someone loves are easier to spot as we share our inspirations. When I was in elementary school, I had two costumes that were my favorites and both of them grew out of my love of books. One was Glinda the Good Witch from the Oz books, I based my costume on illustrations in the original hardcovers that my parents had and my mother and I found all the makings at a craft store. The other favorite was Will Scarlett/Stuteley from Paul Creswick’s Robin Hood, I made myself a felt hat and my father cut me a quarter staff which I carried to school. For most of my life until my parents moved out of that house, the staff rested in the corner and the hat perched on my desk chair, because Robin Hood is a story that I happen to love. As I grew older I got involved in theater and Live Action Role Play which gave me chances to try on various guises and learn more about how to make someone see me differently. When I try on another identity through a costume, writing, roleplay or another avenue, I find myself examining things from more angles.

Now my costumes are simpler but I’ve found that this face paint gets everyone to look twice at me. Today when I went to pick up something, a woman meowed at me and other people smiled in surprise when they noticed that no, I wasn’t looking normal. I think my favorite reactions to this face paint are the quick smiles as that person has had a little bit of weird in their life.

I hope everyone who does something for Halloween enjoys it and remember to look at the world a little sideways sometimes to see that nothing’s ever quite what it seems. As in Celtic mythology, Samhain and the turning of the seasons means today is when the walls between the worlds are thinner. Also its a time to celebrate the harvest of the summer and prepare for the cold of winter. Brew a hot drink and keep your eyes open. Happy Halloween!

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Why would you read that?-preference vs quality

The area I’m living in at the moment has an older and mainly retired population, younger families are around but they’re not the majority. As my current social life connects to my parents who are retired and active in this small town, I’ve been having conversations that I haven’t expected. Most of the media that I consume is young adult, fantasy or variation or combination of these two, among my friends we might not all like the same works but share a common vocabulary. So its surprising for me to be talking about books I recently read and have someone say, “Why would you read that?” in terms of fantasy, because the characters aren’t human or real enough. My explanation is that I will read anything if I find the characters compelling. This has led to some good discussions in terms of what attracts someone to want to read a book.

It seems like every few months, an article will appear about why adults read YA or how guilty pleasure books can be okay, which starts the conversation up again. A lot of it seems stuck on the idea of what has value and who gets to decide the value for various works. I think this lies at the heart of it and is an important aspect of consuming books to discuss. There are books that jump out from others in terms of their quality across the genres but due to there being all these genres, what matters most is personal preference. In another conversation I have, we talked about the idea of genres and its key to remember that the genres as divined by a literature professor won’t be the same as those picked by a publishing executive and that genres shift over time. As a librarian, part of my job is to find how best to get these books to those who will like them and people who might not think of trying them. In this way genres can be unhelpful when someone says, “Oh, I don’t read fantasy or science fiction or young adult.” The next step is to talk to them for me is to find out what makes them not want to read those books. I find the idea isn’t to convince them to try something, that comes later. Its best to begin by understanding was there a book they didn’t like, why didn’t they like it and was there another they did like. Our personal preferences are built from our experiences and when looking into unfamiliar genre, a difficult but enlightening step is to try. If you’re thinking about wanting something new to read outside your comfort zone, ask someone who prefers a genre you normally don’t read for advice to where to begin. That’s how I got started reading Romance, I read two great book blogs, and and one day I won a book and discovered I actually quite enjoyed Historical Romance.

All these thoughts have been going through my head as I move back and forth from a world where book clubs tend to read the bestsellers, a children’s section of the library and my online world that focuses on fantasy and young adult literature. As a librarian, I feel part of what I do is to help patrons find books they’ll enjoy and a few that will surprise them.

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Too many books to review

I recently spent an afternoon reviewing books I had recently finished and ones I had finished in September. Reviewing books is something that is important to me as a reader and a librarian, because I know that I read other people’s thoughts on blogs and Goodreads, so I want to make certain that mine are available as well.

What got me behind was that I kept on reading without taking the time to stop and make certain I had written up about the books. I know that when I went to review, a few of the books got shorter reviews than they might have if I’d reviewed them soon after finishing them. Its an interesting problem to have as I know I’m a fast reader who tends to read multiple books at the same time. That makes it easy for my unreviewed books to go from two to five before I notice and so this last time, I ended up with eight, two of them were novellas but still needed to be written about. Goodreads makes it easy for me to go back through time and look at what I’ve read and to easily add reviews, but its still up to me to write them.

One thing I’ve been considering as I spend more time thinking about what parts of being a librarian I prioritize is volunteering to do reviews for one of the trade magazines. For me, a major part of being a good youth librarian involves everyday reading a few book sites to get a sense of what’s coming out and what might work as well as doing my own reading. Yet I know that my personal reading preferences can be limited and if I’m going to go a good job for my community, I need to be aware of as much as possible. In this way being a fast reader does help me, because I can read a few books at once, but I’m still working on how best to be a reader and a librarian.

For those of you that do a lot of reviewing and writing about what you read, what are your strategies? Is there a greater pull to do a review when its an ARC or is that less important? How often do you read outside of your comfort zone for the purposes of fulfilling other needs?

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