Friday, February 26, 2010

Just a sidenote...

With our discussion on fake memoirs, I was reminded of a movie I saw a few days ago. World's Greatest Dad. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's a really funny storyline... good soundtrack, too!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Vanishing…

The Vanishing by Bentley Little

Signet, New York, 2007

386 pages.

ISBN: 978-0-451-22185-8

The Vanishing by Bentley Little is a horror novel about strange happenings in California, such as serial killings and creature-children. Throughout the book, Carrie, a social worker, and Brian, a reporter, venture out to determine what exactly is happening… and why.

The book begins by describing seemingly different and unrelated characters and events. Brian, a reporter, is involved in the storyline of wealthy CEOs apparently going off the deep end and brutally killing their families and loved ones. Carrie, a social worker, is involved in the storyline of deformed children in California who are also being killed, such as a Rhino-Boy and a Llama-Boy. There is a line in the book that says "He has the face of a llama." He really does. He is part llama, part boy. Little doesn't let in on why this is happening until the middle of the book, when he introduces a new storyline, starring James Marshall, which is set in the 1840s during the California gold rush.

Brian discovers that his father, who abandoned his family, is a part of the wealthy serial killers. He also discovers that each killer exhibits similar physical qualities, which resemble some sort of animal. He receives a letter that he assumes is from his father that is written in a hieroglyphic-like code. While he attempts to decipher this code, he meets Carrie, who is also attempting to put pieces of this mysterious puzzle together while being haunted with nightmares of the creature-children in her cases.

Horror fans will most likely enjoy this book as it displays the classic characteristics of the Horror genre, such as monsters and creatures framing the story, rich descriptions of settings and characters, and the protagonists' (Brian and Carrie) being haunted, shattered individuals.

For me, the title of the book was appropriate after reading the book… I returned it to the library and felt good to have it "vanish" into the book drop. There is an abundance of graphic language, violence, and sex in this novel. I'm not sensitive to these characteristics, but much of the time, the graphic descriptions were unnecessary, adding little to the actual story.

If you're a horror fan, if you enjoy …unique stories, and if you can follow multiple storylines until the middle to the end of a novel, this book is for you.

"Graphic Grown Up"

I'm still chewing on the topic of quality vs. demand. Until I can (if I can) coherently gather my thoughts on that topic, I wanted to discuss another topic of interest.

A coworker recently recommended for me to read a graphic novel Blankets by Craig Thompson. She had picked it for her "Staff Picks," and just raved about it. I loved it. While I will admit that I read an awful lot of Young Adult Fiction, I had never before read a graphic novel. By no means am I now an avid graphic novel reader, but I do keep them in mind when choosing a book to read.

I came across an article by Ann Kim, "Graphic Grown up," that discusses these questions. Kim states that what we, as Reader's Advisors, take into consideration when recommending any other book is similar to what we should take into consideration when recommending graphic novels. However, she reminds us that "applying what a reader likes in prose to GNs can pose difficulties; pacing, tone, and atmosphere in a graphic novel are strongly affected by the artwork, so there's an additional visual/aesthetic aspect to consider in recommendations." Kim also provides an annotated list of graphic novels for adults who are new to reading such books. PLCMC's "Reader's Club" also contains a list of graphic novels... for adults.

This topic also stems out to adults reading Young Adult Fiction (like me :)). I work in a youth department of a public library, and more often than not, I get adults visiting our department for YA books. When I was a junior in college, I had a Children's Literature professor who thought this was simply preposterous. Is it odd for adults to read YA books? I don't think so. Some of the best books I have read are YA fiction.

I guess the point of this blog is to ask the question: "Are adults reading graphic novels?"

If they are, what are they reading? Are librarians recommending graphic novels to adults? Are graphic novels included in readalike lists? If so, which titles are included? If not, why aren't they included? Many graphic novels exhibit the same likable qualities of other novels, such as fast-pacing, suspense, romance, character development, rich descriptions of the setting, etc. These qualities exist in graphic novels, and are enhanced by the visual aspects from the artist.

While I understand that graphic novels do not appeal to many people, I still think it's worth a shot for us librarians to shine some more light on them. Some adult readers may not be aware of this format, and we can introduce them to a new way of reading.

This may not be too "deep" of a topic, but it is definitely worth thinking about.

Kim, Ann. "Graphic Grown up." Library Journal (1976) 134, no. 13 (August 2009): 20-2. Library Lit & Inf Full Text, WilsonWeb (accessed February 20, 2010).

Friday, February 12, 2010

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

ISBN: 0743247531

Simon & Schuster, 2005

304 pages

Written by journalist Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle is a recollection of growing up poor with parents constantly on the move.

Walls writes about her rags-to-riches life, from her childhood neglect by her artsy and libertarian parents to her (and her siblings') escape to New York City. Her father, an "entrepreneur" and an alcoholic, is portrayed as a freedom-loving individual with distaste for authority (especially creditors). He dreams big, with his invention of a gold-digging tool, The Prospector, and his plans for an energy efficient home, The Glass Castle. This distaste for authority convinces him to "do the skedaddle," gathering his belongings, wife, and children and moving from town to town. Walls' mother is also a freedom-loving individual, who would rather paint than nurture her four children. Walls and her siblings are forced to fend for themselves throughout their lives, after being taught by their parents to con and shoplift. Walls even fashions her own braces to fix her buckteeth. After growing up watching their parents con their way out of and escape trouble, Walls and her siblings create a plan in which each of them, one by one, leave for New York City for a better life. Not long after Walls and her siblings move, Walls discovers her mother in New York City, sifting through a dumpster for food. Walls' mother tells her "Being homeless is an adventure." Walls and her siblings leave their parents to fend for themselves, since that is how their parents have lived and always will live. However, Walls' love and respect for her parents, despite their self-absorption, flows through the book.

This tell-it-like-it-is memoir of Walls' childhood neglect is a heartbreaking and heartwarming story in one. Sad and compassionate, yet empowering.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Truth Catcher, Suspense Annotation

Truth Catcher by Anna Salter combines suspense, love, and relationships all focusing on a central character, Breeze Copen. Breeze narrates the majority of the book, and introduces herself as a synesthete – a person who sees colors when someone speaks. This condition is a central theme in the book, as it helps her determine the truth (hence the title.) Her condition also adds to the suspense of the story, since nobody but a few close friends know Breeze sees colors when people speak. There are two main story lines throughout the book, one of which is suspenseful. Breeze is a forensic psychologist who interviews and evaluates sex offenders to determine if they should be allowed to leave prison, or be civilly committed for treatment. The book begins with Breeze interviewing Daryl Collins, a “common criminal” whose prison sentence was increased after raping and beating a previous therapist. His argument for release is strong, as he is “born again” and has committed no other crimes while in prison. However, Breeze can see what others cannot see. The colors surrounding his voice tell her that he is lying. On paper, he passes all evaluations and should be released. It isn’t until Breeze notices a figure of a young girl among Daryl’s colors that she decides he is hiding something. The young girl she sees sticks in Breeze’s mind, and she does whatever she can to find out who that little girl is.

While Breeze is attempting to figure out how she can find the true story of the little girl and Daryl Collins, she is encountered with a life-changing moment. Breeze finds out that a long-lost childhood friend is in an abusive relationship. Through quite a twist of events, Breeze ends up with her friend’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Lily. The majority of the book is about Breeze balancing Lily and chasing the truth about Collins. Breeze’s life is endangered after Collin’s brother, “Trash,” finds out about a psychologist snooping around their past. Trash’s name fits him, and he is a dangerous criminal who has an ability to escape being tied to and caught for his crimes.

While there are elements of suspense in this book, I wouldn’t recommend it to someone looking for that “on the edge of your seat” feeling. When I read this book, I was more involved in the storyline of Breeze’s friend and Lily. Salter also focuses a lot of attention on Breeze’s relationship with her own mother. The end of the book focused more on this situation, and very quickly summed up the outcome of Daryl Collins and his brother. However, it is a fast-paced read, and the disbursement of suspenseful scenarios kept me turning the pages.

Truth Catcher by Anna Salter (ISBN: 1-933648-25-2)

Published by Pegasus Books LLC, 2006.

Suspense Fiction, 281 pages