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Litchfield MN 55355

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Riding the Range

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Readers of Westerns are always looking for something new.  The popularity of this genre peaked in the 1960s along with Western television shows.  Unfortunately for some of our regular library users, not as many Western novels are being published these days.  But there are still some good Western novels coming out. 

Minnesota author Lin Enger has a novel coming out later in September called The High Divide.  Amazon has named it one of its best books of the month, and it has gotten fantastic reviews.  Publishers Weekly magazine called it a “Western reinvention of Homer’s Odyssey” and says it will also remind readers of the book and movie The Searchers.  Lin, a professor in Moorhead, is the author of Undiscovered Country.  His brother Leif wrote the modern classic novel Peace Like a River.  I worked with Lin’s wife Kathy at the Augsburg College library back when the brothers were writing and publishing the Gun Pedersen mystery series together as L.L. Enger, so it’s exciting for me to see the national buzz about Lin’s new book.

Backlands: A Novel of the American West is the 2014 sequel to Hard Country by Michael McGarrity.  These novels are set at the end of the frontier West, in the Twenties through World War II.  They are actually a prequel series to the Kevin Kearney mystery novels.  In Backlands, eight-year-old Matthew takes on adult responsibilities to try to save the drought-stricken family ranch in New Mexico during the Depression.  Reviews are good, with the novel compared to the style of Lonesome Dove.

Glorious: A Novel of the American West is the first in a planned trilogy from Jeff Guinn.  The main character is Cash McLendon, a St. Louis street urchin who climbed his way to riches and connections without worrying about what it took to get there.  When he loses it all, he flees to the mining town Glorious in the Arizona territory. Can he hide there from the powerful father-in-law who’s out to get him?  Reviewers say it’s a good old-fashioned Western.

Larry McMurtry has a new book out: The Last Kind Words Saloon.  McMurtry tells his version of the Wyatt Earp/Doc Holliday story.  It’s not a romanticized or historically accurate version.  Reviewers describe it as darkly humorous, almost parody.  If you’re a fan of Lonesome Dove, this may not be your cup of tea.

Candace Simar’s Abercrombie Trail series has been locally popular because it’s about Scandinavian immigrants in Minnesota during the Dakota Conflict.  The series was published by North Star Press of St. Cloud and was recently picked up by a national large-print publisher.  The book titles are Abercrombie Trail, Pomme de Terre, Birdie, and Blooming Prairie.

We continue to get the Ralph Cotton and Ralph Compton paperback novels (even though Ralph Compton is dead and other authors are writing his books), as well as the Wagons West series.  We also get two new large print Westerns every month at Litchfield.  Most of them are re-releases of vintage titles, like The Brass Man by Max Brand and A Bullet for Billy the Kid by Will Henry.  Our patrons still check them out as though they were newly published.  If they’re new to you, it doesn’t matter, right?


 I know we have a demand for Westerns from our patrons here in Litchfield, so even though the choices are thin in the publishing world, I add them to the collection whenever I can.  I hope that some of the nontraditional Westerns that are coming out will make our traditional Western fans happy, too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Five New Young Adult Titles - Check Them Out!

Some of the best new young adult fiction is piled on my desk.  Here are some highlights - check these out!


Sometimes true stories are more interesting than anything an author could invent.  One example of this is the new book by Katherine Paterson, Stories of My Life.  Ms. Paterson is a writer I’ve recommended for years. She has received many awards, and each one is richly deserved.  Her life has gone from being the child of missionary parents in China, interrupted by the Second World War, to being a missionary in Japan by herself.  Her writing is not preachy or didactic, but her faith infuses her books.  I am inspired by what she says about faith and writing:

Self-consciously Christian (or Jewish or Muslim) writing will be sectarian and tend to propaganda and therefore have very little to say to persons outside that particular faith community. The challenge for those of us who care about our faith and about a hurting world is to tell stories which will carry the words of grace and hope in their bones and sinews and not wear them like fancy dress.”  (From Ms. Paterson’s website, www.terebithia.com)

James Patterson continues his “Confessions” series with Confessions: The Paris Mysteries.  This series centers on a wealthy family whose parents have been murdered. The only suspects are the four orphaned children.  The other books in the series are Confessions of a Murder Suspect and Confessions: The Private School Murders.

Sara Shepard has begun a new series, The Perfectionists.  We meet four girls who are all driven to be perfect, no matter what.    When their common enemy turns up dead, they have a mystery to solve because they are definitely murder suspects. Reviews compare this book to Ms. Shepard’s “Pretty Little Liars” series, which has been hugely popular.
 
The third book in the “BZRK” series, BZRK Apocalpyse, has just come out.  Michael Grant wrote the very popular “Gone” series, but “BZRK” is something else.  Like other popular series, the story  is about a group of teenagers facing impossible odds to survive, fighting against mind control both in the real world and in the nano world.   Reviews are very positive for this somewhat dark series.

 
Blackbird begins a new series by Anna Carey.     Her heroine wakes up on subway tracks with no idea of who she is, what she is doing there, or why someone wants to kill her.  Much of the book is written in the second person,an unusual choice of point of view.  Reviews are mixed for this one.


These are all found in the Young Adult section, but many adult readers enjoy young adult novels.  Stop by the library and check out a book! (Pun intended.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What is a New Adult book?

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

There’s a new category of books in the publishing world called “New Adult”.  You’ve probably heard of young adult books, a term which really means books for teens.  We’re in a golden age of young adult literature.  Many books come out in this category now, selling well and getting checked out in stacks at libraries.  Teens aren’t the only ones reading them; many adults do, too, and I’m one of them. 

So what happens when a teen reader of YA fiction turns into a college student or twenty-something adult?  Of course, they can read any adult fiction.  But YA fiction can be enjoyable to read for its plot-driven writing and intense emotion, qualities that can be absent in quite a bit of general adult fiction.  And young adults may enjoy reading about people going through some of the same life changes as they are.  Enter New Adult, a genre featuring characters in the eighteen to thirty age range.

I attended a session on NA fiction at the Minnesota Library Association conference earlier this month.  I have to thank the presenter, Samantha TerBeest, for getting me up to speed on this new kind of book.  Samantha is a librarian at the Winona Public Library, formerly of the Willmar Public Library.  She was a source for a recent article on the NA fiction phenomenon in Library Journal, a prominent national publication for librarians.  I have her to credit for most of what I can share with you about the new genre.

The marks of the genre are the age of the characters and the topics of the books.  The protagonists are between the ages of eighteen and 25, with the other characters mostly falling between the ages of eighteen and thirty.  The books are about first times, such as going off to college, getting a first job, falling in love for the first time, and sex; and about social issues such as sexual harassment, rape, and cyberbullying.  Like other coming-of-age novels, these books cover a formative stage of life.  The content of these books is more mature, and as such they are considered adult novels. 

In 2009, St. Martin’s Press held a writing contest for “new adult” novels featuring twenty-something protagonists.  Nothing ever came of that contest, but the term was coined.  In 2012, this genre took off in self-publishing, almost entirely in e-books.  At this stage, it was mostly Fifty Shades of Grey for the college set.  But now the mainstream publishers have caught on to the trend, producing books of all kinds that fit into this niche.

One reason this is an interesting growth area is because the 18-29 demographic is the most likely to read but least likely to use a library, according to a new study from the Pew Research Internet Project, just released in September (Zickuhr & Rainie, Younger Americans and Public Libraries). 

Even though NA fiction is only a couple of years old, books that meet the criteria have been around as long as the novel has.  I think Jane Austen’s novels could be put in this category!  Samantha says that The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada could be considered NA.  Even The Help could be, with Skeeter falling into the right age group and facing the challenge of launching her career as a writer. 

Some titles that have come out recently as New Adult fiction are Easy, Wait for You, and Maybe Someday, which has a soundtrack you can listen to while you read the book.  The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit is unusual in having a male protagonist.  And Mambo in Chinatown is a literary New Adult title.


Our library system doesn’t have many new adult titles at this point, but I expect it will be a growth area if it continues to be in the world at large, especially in e-books.  If you’re in that age group or young at heart, keep an eye out for these New Adult books that bring to life those first steps of adulthood.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What's in Your Book Pile?


My coworkers at the library are an interesting group of women.  We all have different interests, talents, and strengths.  One thing that we have in common is that we all love to read. 

I have been reading The Taming of the Shrew for book club. I just finished John Sandford’s Field of Prey, and I’m in the middle of Elliott James' Daring, kind of an unusual assortment.  I began to wonder what other library staff might be reading, and it was so interesting that I just had to share it with you.

Beth C. is reading Atonement, by Ian McEwan.  This is the book for adult book club this month. She said she isn’t really enjoying it.  Oddly enough, I think this is a good reason to be in a book club, because it encourages you to read out of your comfort zone.  Beth enjoyed Erak’s Ransom, book 7 in the Ranger’s Apprentice series, by John Flanagan.

Mary just finished The Wednesday Letters, by Jason F. Wright.   She says it’s a good read, and she enjoyed it.  It sounds like a wonderful family story that spans a lifetime of letters that a husband writes to his wife. 



Rebecca has been reading Dying to Be Me, by Anita Moorjani.  This memoir tells the story of a woman who survived an overwhelming near-death experience and cancer, who now devotes herself to sharing her insights with others.  Rebecca also has been reading The Sound of Paper, by Julia 
Cameron, personal essays about how  spiritual life affects one’s artistic work.  Rebecca also has enjoyed reading children’s books.

Elizabeth K. has been sharing Jane Smiley’s books with one of her daughters.  She also has recently read  Sparkly Green Earrings and The Antelope in the Living Room, both by Melanie Shankle.  Motherhood and marriage can be emotional subjects, but Ms. Shankle finds the humor in life’s situations.


Elizabeth S. is home with a brand new baby.  She says that when she can keep her eyes open, she’s reading The Far Pavilions, by M. M. Kaye. 


Judy H. said that she’s been reading The Taming of the Shrew (same book club).  She has been enjoying All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr.  This story is set during the second world war, but it is much more than a war story.  Judy says it is fabulous.  She has also enjoyed Lisette’s List, by Susan Vreeland.  This is a  novel set during the occupation of France in the 1940’s.

Margaret W.  said, “In a flurry of self-discovery my recent reads were Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner by Linda Kreger Silverman and Visual-Spatial Learners by Alexandra Golon. The first was authored by a Ph.D. in  in educational psychology and special education who discovered some interesting patterns related to spacial intelligence/visual thinking in the gifted children she was working with. Her subsequent research and investigation led her to develop techniques, identification methods and teaching techniques for the kids she dubbed 'visual-spatial learners'. These are the kids who predominately learn by 'seeing' instead of traditional auditory sequential methods. The book was well-written, fun and practical. It left me feeling validated, with a better understanding of why it had been so hard for me to learn to read in grade school.  The second book describes useful and practical classroom teaching strategies which I found applicable to story time, teen programming and adult instruction in the library!”  Margaret has also enjoyed reading Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” graphic novels.

 Kristin C. said that she has enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith.   This book created a lot of buzz when it was revealed that Harry Potter’s creator was writing mysteries. 

Finally, Elisabeth K. has very young children at home, so her response was “I read board books!”   I missed talking to Adele, Linda, and Kate, but I’m sure that they are each reading something interesting.  See you at the library!