Readers Advisory

I’m a librarian and I can’t find a good book to read.  I’m re-reading all of the Dublin Murder Squad books and Moby-Dick at the moment because I’m in between new reads.  I’ve been in between new reads for what feels like forever.

I’ve hit that same wall a lot of readers do: I just don’t know what I’m in the mood for.

The central idea of Readers Advisory is to connect the right person with the right book at the right time.  I’ve got an enormous to-read list (which you can peruse on my Goodreads page), but nothing I’ve pulled from it lately has clicked.  The characters annoy me, the writing is too pedestrian, the pace is too slow, the story is uninspired, et cetera.  And these are books I’m sure I would have liked had I been in a different mood.

So in looking over that list of complaints, what am I after?  Interesting, complex characters.  Lyrical or at least engaging writing.  A quick pace.  A good, original idea for a story.

There’s a great tool on NoveList (check with your local library to see if you can access this great resource with your library card) called The Appeal Mixer.  It can’t judge your mood, but it can pull titles for you that match key appeal terms which you plug in.  You get to pick three.

Okay!  I will tell NoveList that I am in the mood for books that: are fast-paced, have an engaging writing style, and complex characters.

…I got 14 hits and 12 of them are Charlaine Harris’s Lily Bard mysteries.  Okay.  Let’s try a different mix.  How about lyrical writing, an intensifying pace, and unreliable narrators?

Only three hits?  One intrigues me: The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni.  Here’s what NoveList has to say about it:

Description:Traveling to a dangerous archipelago off the coast of California for a one-year residency, photographer Miranda is assaulted by a local who is later found dead, an event that leaves Miranda speculating about the region’s wild beauty and the natures of her companions.
Character: Introspective; Unreliable narrator
Storyline: Intricately plotted
Pace: Intensifying
Tone: Menacing; Strong sense of place
Writing Style: Compelling; Lyrical

Sounds about right!  I’ll give it a shot and will let you know.

If you’re in the same boat as I am, give searching by appeal factors a try.  You can ask a librarian or someone at the bookstore, read a few book blogs, or use a resource like NoveList or WhichBook.

And if you find anything good, let me know.  I’ve got some time before The Lightkeepers comes in through interlibrary loan.







Marie’s Reading: “Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books” by Cara Nicoletti ; illustrations by Marion Bolognesi

VoraciousIsn’t it great when you find an author who’s a kindred spirit?  Cara Nicoletti is the same age as me, loves food, loves to read, and loves to write about both.  After reading her book Voracious (as well as her blog, Yummy Books), I  feel like we’d be friends.

Nicoletti’s work is charming, warm, funny, and intelligent.  She’s an astute reader who clearly has a lot of passion and a depth and breadth of reading behind her.  She’s just the type of person you’d want to talk about books with as you cook a meal together.  Her book grew out of her blog, which in turn grew out of her book/cooking club.  Really, what an utterly amazing idea, a literary supper club.  I wish I’d thought of it.  (My idea was to read and drink my way through Tequila Mockingbird.  Nicoletti’s idea is a lot classier.)

As I mentioned, Nicoletti and I are the same age, so I got a real kick out of hearing what books she liked when she was a kid.  That was my favorite section of her book, and I enjoyed the piece about Little House in the Big Woods in particular.  In looking over her blog I got embarrassingly excited when I saw “Stacey’s EmergencyBrown Butter Pecan Brownies.    Along with everything else we’ve got in common, we felt the same way about the Babysitters Club.  This is one paragraph among many that made me laugh:

Recently, on a particularly overwhelming day, I impulse-bought Babysitter’s Club Book #43: “Stacey’s Emergency” at a used book store. The dilemma in the book is this: Stacey loves chocolate, but Stacey has diabetes so she cannot eat chocolate. Ignoring her diagnosis, Stacey steals Ring Dings from Claudia’s house and stuffs them in her purse, she eats chocolate bars in the privacy of her bedroom, foams like a rabid animal while making fudge at a babysitting job, and (ROCK BOTTOM), even shoves M&M’s in her mouth in the bathroom of a commuter train. Eventually, Stacey gets really really sick because, you know, cause and effect.

“Charming” is the word I keep coming back to when I think about Voracious.  I was charmed, by the sheer passion, by the fun, by the love of reading, by the love of food.

Howards End Is On the Landing: A Year of Reading From Home by Susan Hill, My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss, Classics for Pleasure by Michael Dirda, and the lovely lyrical novel Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer would all be wonderful choices, both for tone and content, to pick up after Voracious.  Or after an afternoon of reading Nicoletti’s blog.


Marie’s Excited to Be Reading!

I have come to the conclusion that I need a happier, more pro-active kind of meme/list-thing here at the Readers Corner.  Surprise Smekday is beginning to be a bit of a downer.  It makes me feel like a reading failure.  So I am very pleased to report that as of yesterday’s new book delivery I have a TBR pile that I’m super excited about!  And I am here to tell you about these titles!

With GIF’s!

christoph waltz excitement

First, Neil Gaiman’s new collection, Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances!   It promises fantasy and horror, Doctor Who and American Gods, and plenty of that Gaiman style we all love.

oh boy!

And then it’s a deliciously promising dystopian thriller from Sandra Newman, The Country of Ice Cream Star.  Check out the synopsis, courtesy of Goodreads:

In the ruins of a future America, fifteen-year-old Ice Cream Star and her nomadic tribe live off the detritus of a crumbled civilization. Theirs is a world of children; before reaching the age of twenty, they all die of a strange disease they call Posies–a plague that has killed for generations. There is no medicine, no treatment; only the mysterious rumor of a cure.

When her brother begins showing signs of the disease, Ice Cream Star sets off on a bold journey to find this cure. Led by a stranger, a captured prisoner named Pasha who becomes her devoted protector and friend, Ice Cream Star plunges into the unknown, risking her freedom and ultimately her life.


Since I took a sneak peek yesterday I can also tell you that this book is written in a dialect and with a vocabulary reflective of the setting, which is pretty darn cool.

too good!

Last but not least, a novel I previewed on Kindle and simply cannot wait to delve into: Her by Harriet Lane, which promises Patricia Highsmith levels of twisted expectations and suspense.  As the blurb puts it:

A seemingly innocent friendship slowly develops into a dangerous game of cat and mouse as Nina eases her way into Emma’s life. Soon, it becomes clear that Nina wants something from the unwitting Emma–something that might just destroy her.


I’m so excited to start reading!  Keep an eye out here on the blog for upcoming reviews.   I’m still happily working through Galapagos Regained by James Morrow and Main Street by Sinclair Lewis as well, so there’s a lot to come!




Happy International Day of Happiness!

Today, the 20th of March, is International Day of Happiness…day.  In case you missed it (as I certainly did) the United Nations adopted a resolution in July 2011 making happiness a global priority.  You can learn more at the official Day of Happiness Website.

Strictly speaking, the UN is talking about economic growth, and taking the official position that worldwide economic growth should not come at the cost of human well-being.  The 2012 article discussing the new economic paradigm can be found here, via the UN News Centre.

From the article:

“It is imperative that we build a new, creative guiding vision for sustainability and our future,” Mr. Al-Nasser [President of the General Assembly] said. “One that will bring a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach that will promote sustainability, eradicate poverty and enhance well-being and happiness.”

I think in honor of the spirit of the day we can stretch the definition past the economic, and perhaps focus on, oh, I dunno–maybe the books that make us happy?  Or promote our well-being in some way?

I know for me the act of reading itself promotes my well-being.  And I suppose that does come back to economics.  I’m thankful for my comfortable lifestyle and leisure time, both of which mean I have the idle time necessary to sit and read.   Not everyone in the world can say the same.

So!  Do something today that promotes your well-being.  If that something is reading, awesome!  If not, also awesome!  Here’s an article from Entrepreneur which offers a list of five books to make you smile.    Also of note: you can celebrate by recording your favorite happy poem!  Go here for more info!


Marie’s Reading: “Howards End Is On the Landing: A Year of Reading From Home” by Susan Hill

9781846682667I enjoyed every single moment of reading this book.  I’ve mentioned before how I love books about books and the reading life, and Hill’s collection of short pieces about her year of reading her way through her home collection is charming. Continue reading

Marie’s Reading: “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan

It’s a book about my people!  Smart, unemployed twenty-somethings during the Great Recession, torn between nostalgia for an easier, more sure past and the promising, if vague, hope of the future.

The story is a blend of realism and fantasy that hit really close to home.  I can honestly say I’ve never felt that with a contemporary novel before.  It’s about the way people my age are, by and large, and what we wish for and the things we need.

Also geeks, geeks of all stripes–book geeks, techno geeks, gaming geeks, Industrial Light and Magic geeks, knitting geeks, history geeks, all drawn with affection and humor.  Pretty cool.

Continue reading