So, today I’m cataloging retro titles. I came upon this book, Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat and after reading the NLS annotation my reaction was:
“Oh jeez, what?” and then, “Where is the ‘good lord, what the hell’” subject heading when you really need it?”
Then I looked up the title online to compare descriptions. This really does come down to the original purpose of this blog: NLS’s crazy, mixed up, misguided, and occasionally, FAR OUT annotations.
Until age twelve, Sophie is raised by her aunt in Haiti. Her mother then sends for her to come to New York and explains that Sophie is the product of rape. When a grown Sophie is befriended by an older musician, her mother tests her virginity. Sophie rebels by violently deflowering herself, an act that caused her to seek sexual phobia therapy. She marries the musician and tries to come to terms with her past as her mother does the same. Some violence.
Oh jeez, what the what? Pretty much the end of every sentence of this annotation is cringe-worthy. Rape. Virginity. Sexual phobia therapy. Haiti. And…only some violence? This is a book that contains, by description, a violent self deflowering and the best we can do is “some violence” but no, not even a little bit of “descriptions of sex,” explicit or otherwise? Uhhhhh.
So, like I said, I visited the internet to find out if its just me, or is this book weird (?). Turns out, it’s been an Oprah’s Book Club selection. I was like, “sensational, much?” But then I read the Amazon description from July 2003. Turns out, it’s not JUST a book about virginity verification and violent deflowering after all. Yay?
At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from her impoverished village of Croix-des-Rosets to New York, to be reunited with a mother she barely remembers. There she discovers secrets that no child should ever know, and a legacy of shame that can be healed only when she returns to Haiti–to the women who first reared her. What ensues is a passionate journey through a landscape charged with the supernatural and scarred by political violence, in a novel that bears witness to the traditions, suffering, and wisdom of an entire people.
When presented from this angle, the book seems downright interesting, engrossing, enlightening, and, dare I say, worth a read?
NLS, I realize that this is a very old annotation…1994 to be semi-exact. So, I’m not going to rail too hard. Let’s assume this annotation writer has moved on to other tasks at the NLS…director, deputy director, collection development…something innocuous that doesn’t put them in direct access to the books, or the humans, or writing PR copy. Uh oh.
Anyway, that is all. Now back to cataloging this backlog of 4 months and 2,000 titles.
Edited to say: Make that 3,000 and change.
Welcome to the April 2014 of WRT’s What’s Coming Up. Someday soon I hope to be caught up. But for now…
Details the plot to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln in Baltimor while he was en route to Washington, D.C., for his inauguration in February 1861. Profiles Allan Pinkerton, founder of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and widow Kate Warne, America’s first female private investigator. Some violence. 2013.
The New York Times called The Hour of Peril “swift and detailed” but neglects to tell us how many stars it’s worth! Overall though, it’s clear that the reviewer enjoys this non-fiction account of Lincoln and Pinkerton’s story. The Barnes & Noble site features several reviews, but the overview, provided by bestselling suspense writer, Harlan Coben, calls the book “…history that reads like a race-against-the-clock thriller.” Overall B&N readers and reviewers have given The Hour of Peril 4 out of 5 stars and note that the book has received several honors in 2013 and 2014 for notable non-fiction and tru-crime. Overall the Goodreads readers have given the book 3.67 out of 5 stars. They love it just like everyone, were surprised by the swift way the book reads, and only a few found the details daunting.
In 1955 London newlywed Grace Munroe learns that her husband cheated on her and that she has inherited a fortune from an unknown Parisian woman. Grace travels to France to investigate her relationship to her deceased benefactor, Eva d’Orsey, and asserts her newfound independence. 2013.
The Goodreads readers REALLY love The Perfume Collector and show that devotion with 3.95 out of 5 stars. They’ve read it in audio and print and they feel like it transcends both media. They call it a great story of love and loss and an interesting picture of 1920’s Europe. They do say, however, that it was horribly edited—lots of grammatical and word use errors in the print book which make me curious about the NLS narrator’s handling of these problems…it will be interesting to see what our readers think. Publishers Weekly used words such as “contrived banter,” “mildly clichéd,” and calls the main character’s love interest choice predicable. PW neglects to give any kind of star rating which begs the question, “How will we know what to think about what you think if you don’t use stars?” I’m going out on a limb though to say that PW wasn’t all that wild about The Perfume Collector. The Historical Novel Society found the story “enticing” and says that it’s a “refreshing read that combines a bit of mystery, love, nostalgia and self discovery.” HNS says the history and locations are well described and worth the read.
Locke Lamora, who as an orphan was sold to crooks, grows up to be a con artist impresario and leads a band of fellow thieves. When a coup throws their country of Camorr into chaos, Lock must become a hero. Violence and strong language. 2006.
I’ve since learned that The Lies of Locke Lamora is from the Gentleman Bastard series, but as it’s the first book in the series, adding it to the What’s Coming Up list isn’t a bad idea. BestFantasyBooks.com reviewed Lies almost three years ago as it’s a few years old. Their review is quite detailed and worth the full read if you are thinking of recommending this book to a sci-fi reader. They praise the author’s resourcefulness in solving plot conflict, the rich and well written characters, and the “startlingly impressive” finale. It is noted that this is the author’s debut novel. Goodreaders have given it 4.27 out of 5 stars and repeatedly draw it’s similarities to Ocean’s Eleven. One Goodreader artfully pastes images that suggest it’s as if Ocean’s Eleven and the Godfather had a love child. Another Goodreader posits that Ocean’s Eleven would have been perfect if it had taken place in a fantasy version of the Renaissance…oh wait…we have it now and it’s called The Lies of Locke Lamora. Either way, I’m adding it to my list mainly because I’ve gotten caught up in the fervor of a bunch of four-year-old reviews!
In a distant future, Native American girl Lozen hunts genetically modified monsters for the tyrants who are holding her mother, sister Ana, and little brother Victor hostage. With each kill Lozen’s unique powers grow. Violence and some strong language. For senior high and older readers. 2013.
The first review I’ve selected is by a blog called Rich in Color; a blog “dedicated to reading, reviewing, talking about, and otherwise promoting young adult fiction starring people of color or written by people of color.” Lozen is an Apache hunter in a post apocalyptic world in which technology has failed, monsters are loose, and we’re living in a new “steam” age. The overall recommendation from Rich in Color says get the book now and read it fast because it’s a “fun, quick read, and…a distinctive addition to the dystopian genre.” Sounds like, if you enjoyed the Hunger Games series, you’ll like Killer of Enemies. Good Reads readers give it 3.7 out of 5 stars and say that they are happy to see a protagonist of color, a book where the “Indians aren’t poor,” and has excellent action. Hilariously enough though, one reviewer was happy that the “heroine didn’t shame her name sack…” and is “…tall (above 6”).” Six whole inches tall. Wow. Now I’m even more interested in this book than I was already! In August 2013 Kirkus Reviews called Killer of Enemies a “good bet for fans of superhero fiction and graphic novels and readers in search of superpowered female warriors. Done.
Louise Beeston misses her seven-year-old son, who is required to board at Saviour College School to perform with the school’s choir. Meanwhile, her neighbor keeps her awake playing loud pop and rock music and –more recently—choral singing. Strong language. 2013.
The UK Independent’s reviewer likes the The Orphan Choir and is familiar with the author’s previous work. Apparently this is Sophie Hannah’s first attempt at ghost, or supernatural fiction; she normally writes psychological suspense. Of the book, the reviewer says “…innovative score and an eerie twist.” The Goodreads readers have only given Orphan 2.71 out of 5 stars though. They use words like “infuriated,” “disappointed,” “extraordinarily bad novel,” and say that the main character is “unlikeable.” Ouch. I guess that most of the book is exposition and that the supernatural ghosty stuff doesn’t even take place until the last 50 pages or so. As a person who recently spent six months reading nothing but haunted house fiction, this book would have gotten a toss across my living room in no time flat. Just kidding, throwing a book, even a bad book, is rude. The rest of the reviews are mostly independent review blogs and they seem split. Half of them “really enjoyed” it and the other half basically say, “meh.” So, take that to the RA desk and do what you will.
Plagued by malevolent spirits, London turns to ghost-hunting agencies staffed with you sensitive to paranormal activities. Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins, and Lucy Carlyle join together to become Lockwood and Co. –but after bungling a job, their only chance at redemption is clearing a dangerous haunted house. For grades 6-9, 2013.
The Screaming Staircase is book one in the Lockwood & Co. series. The blog Fantasy Book Critic loves the book and calls it “interesting, captivating, and just all out amazing.” He notes that even though it’s a YA novel it will work for adult readers…but due to the graphic descriptions of the ghosts, avoid readers who are too young. In late 2013 the New York Times reviewed this book and another called The Clockwork Scarab. The reviewer enjoyed both but particularly liked The Screaming Staircase for its lightheartedness, thrills, and themes of friendship and friends at the right time. I’d like to find a review by a young reader again as in an early book featured on What’s Coming Up…but we’ll have to settle for Goodreads and assume that at least a few of the reviewers were actually YA readers. Turns out they really like The Screaming Staircase and give it 4.23 out of 5 stars…wowser. “Reccomendation of the month…this book is awesome…brilliantly written,” and even “BEST. CHARACTERS. EVER!” An underlying theme in the reviews is that most readers thought it was going to be something else, either boring or another re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes with paranormal overtones and ended up really really…really enjoying this book. Get thee to BARD or the library ASAP and read this book!
Recently, Real Simple polled it’s readers to find out which book made them in to a reader…whether it was as a child or as an adult. Over 4,000 Facebook fans answered the poll and these are the 50 titles that came up over and over again. A link to Real Simple’s list has been posted to our Facebook page and this is the breakdown of DB availability if you want a quick look.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Horton Hears a Who,
and The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
DB34056, DB31231, DB34058, and DB33062
East of Eden,
and The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
DB48515, DB49676, and DB34258
James and the Giant Peach,
and Big Friendly Giant by Roald Dahl
DB33498, DB31793, DB32548 and DB44101
This one almost writes itself. Usually I make funny (to me) jokes about how these books are turds, etc. etc. But the main character in this series of books is actually called “Deuce.” And she is a girl. Today’s offering, from the NLS’s magically awesome annotation generator:
Enclave, DB074167: In a post-apocalyptic future, Deuce, a loyal huntress, brings back meat while avoiding the deadly Freaks outside her underground enclave. But when she is partnered with outsider Fade, she begins to see that the ways of the elders may be horrifically wrong. Violence. For senior high and older readers. 2011.
Outpost, DB075532: Deuce and Fade struggle to fit in with the organized topside community called Salvation. An excellent fighter, Deuce volunteers her much-needed skills to patrol against the Freaks–but in Salvation, women do not use weapons. Sequel to Enclave (DB 74167). Violence. For senior high and older readers. 2012.
These books, together with any future “deuces” that Ann Aguirre decides to drop on us, make up the groundbreaking series: RAZORLAND.
Remind me never to go to “Razorland.” Please. I realize that I’m going to hurt feelings up in here, but truth be told, science fiction, fantasy, and most especially, post-apocalyptic fiction is not my cup of tea (that is putting it diplomatically). Now, that being said, I also know that it is a genre that is fiercely defended by it’s fans so I know I’m going to take some flack. But come on, re-read those annotations and pretty much every other annotation for the genre. They read like goulash for words. As in, here’s a bunch of stuff we had left-over, let us put it in this bowl and just mix it up, bake it in an oven and hope it comes out okay.
When cataloging any book from the science fiction or fantasy genre I usually have to read the annotations multiple times before I can even begin to figure out what the what they are talking about. Here are the hallmarks/problems with the genre’s annotations:
- words are used out of context/time/relevance; loyal huntress, brings back meat, enclave
- people are named after thoughts, emotions, nouns, adjectives…it’s chaos. In fact, I’m pretty sure that there are several “Chaos’s” out there between the pages.
- places are named by putting words in hats and drawing them out. Or, by Mad-Libs techniques.
- too many words; why can’t they say something like, This girl lives underground because there are zombies above ground. One day when she is above ground hunting she meets a dude and he makes her question her entire existence.” Why not?
- ridiculous premiss that nobody gives a crap about; “…[above ground], women don’t use weapons…” So what? I’ll bet they use their MINDS or something.
So you can see why I try to never share sci-fi/fantasy on this blog. It’s like not even fair and you’d get really tired of hearing me rant. At my desk each month you might overhear me muttering, “Oh barf, who cares?” So feel free to stop by sometime.
From the NLS annotation:
Since his father’s untimely death, seventeen-year-old Cas and his Wiccan mom have continued the family trade–hunting down vengeful, murdering spirits. But when Cas goes after ghostly Anna, an unexpected occurrence changes everything. Violence and some strong language. For senior high and older readers. 2011.
Let me guess…it’s LOVE isn’t it? The unexpected occurrence is that Cas has feelings for “ghostly” Anna. Is she GHOST-ly, I mean, is she sort of like a ghost, or is she an actual ghost? Wait wait don’t tell me. I’m sure that I’d rather be shocked when it’s all revealed 30 pages in to the 320 page book.
You know, if I were a teenager I would be super pissed that YA classified books almost exclusively have to do with either the supernatural or falling in love–typically both. I know the whys and the wherefores to writing supernatural for young adults; spare me the lecture. I’m just saying that as a reader of books and a librarian, I’m just wondering if somewhere teens are getting burned out on being constantly bombarded with the SSDD (same shit…).
Anyway, today’s offering is called Anna Dressed in Blood and it is the first book in the…wait for it…ANNA series by Kendare Blake. Yes, Kendare Blake. Let’s all make a little offering to the Goddess in hopes that Kendare is her pen-name. And “Blake?” Please. We get it, you’re material pays homage to both the Gothic and the Romantic periods.