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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: The Fairview Review
Blog URL: http://fveslibrary.blogspot.com
Your name: Suzanne Costner

A nice place to start is with your library origin story – how did become the school library media specialist at Fairview Elementary School? Can you briefly explain your role and your favorite aspect of your job?

I have always wanted to be a librarian, and after several years as a classroom teacher, I realized that my favorite activities all revolved around the books I used with my students. So I completed my LMS degree and moved into the library. I had a wonderful mentor in the school where I was teaching, and she helped me with the transition to the nearby school where I am now librarian. I teach a library class for each homeroom once a week, and also have classes schedule extra time to come in for research or other projects. My favorite part of the job is connecting my students with the right books and watching them become avid readers.

How is technology incorporated into your library, for your students but also for yourself and your staff? Do you have any goals for incorporating further technology into your library?

I began the blog as a way to incorporate more technology into the library program. I wanted to offer the students an authentic audience to share book reviews, rather than just writing a book report for the teacher to check off in the gradebook. I’ve had a few students take advantage of the platform, but most are more excited about reading the books rather than writing about them. I’ve slowly been adding MakerSpace activities to the library, and the most popular so far is the green screen. Our plan is to record student book talks, then attach QR codes to the covers of books for other students to access the videos.

I serve as a “tech teacher leader” for my school. Part of the role is to model technology integration for the other teachers, and to offer support as they try to implement new things. We have used the Quiver AR app and Plickers in guidance classes, robotics and computer coding in the library, and apps like Epic! ebooks and Quizlet in classrooms. The big focus lately has been the green screen. I’ve used it to record voter public service announcements with the 5th graders; the 4th grade has recorded math instructional videos on how to solve word problems and also infomercials starring the founding fathers of the original 13 colonies; the basketball teams even came in and made an appreciation video to show the coach at their banquet. I lead training sessions on using online resources, STEM lessons, and equipment like the green screen or document cameras.

Which book(s) would you suggest for a middle grade level reluctant reader?

There are so many great stories that are not thick, intimidating books, so I usually start with those. Series like The Zack Files, Eerie Elementary, or The Imaginary Veterinary are fast-paced and include lots of humor to up their appeal. I also reach for anything that is heavily illustrated or in graphic novel/manga format such as the Dragon Breath, Babymouse, and Amulet series or anything by Doug TenNapel (Cardboard is a big favorite). And then I look for topics that appeal to the students like the I Survived books. Once I find one book they enjoy, it is much easier to say, “If you liked that, then try this.”

How long have you been reviewing books online and why did you start? Do you find reviewing the books helps you better recommend them to students?

I began the blog in June 2013, as something to offer the students in place of writing book summaries or taking AR tests. I wrote out some reviews to show them a sample of what they might do, and became hooked on it. I have always read children’s and YA books to be able to find new titles to use in my classroom or to add to the library, so sharing my thoughts about them was a natural progression. Reviewing definitely helps me think of which student(s) a certain book would be perfect for. It has become a ritual when they come up to the circulation desk, they ask me which of the books in their stack I have already read. And there are several students who come in the door and call across the room, “What should I read next?”

Do you have a favorite moment when you provided someone with a book?

My first year in the library I had a family come in for the book fair on a Friday afternoon and the father asked me to help his son find a book. “He hasn’t found anything that he likes since he finished the Harry Potter series,” the dad said. So I showed them The Lightning Thief and told them to take it home and try it over the weekend, and if he didn’t enjoy it, I would exchange it for something else. Monday morning both parents came in and I asked if their son had started the book and did he think he would like it. The mother replied,” Start it! He read the whole thing in one sitting and we’re back for the rest of the series!” And I thought to myself, “The library is where I belong.”

Which upcoming Middle Grade book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending?

Oh, I’m glad you put that (s) on book, because there is no way to pick only one. For fantasy readers I would say Jen Calonita’s Tricked (Fairy Tale Reform School #3). For graphic novel lovers, Gene Luen Yang’s Secrets and Sequences from the Secret Coders series (coding, robots, and graphic novel format all together). If readers enjoy humorous fiction with action, then The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff. And for a bit of suspense/supernatural elements I would say Journey’s End by Rachel Hawkins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightning Round!

The last book that made you smile:

 

 

The Dragon Hunters by James Russell and Link Choi

 

 

Your favorite Storytime book to read:

Anything by Mo Willems. We Are in a Book (with Elephant and Piggie so excited to be the characters in a story), is a great one. My students also love Double Trouble in Walla Walla by Andrew Clements. I think they like listening to me try to read it without getting tongue-tied.

The most popular books in your library right now:

I Survived series, A Series of Unfortunate Events (thanks to the Netflix series), Secret Coders series, and spooky books by Mary Downing Hahn.

And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

I would love to have tea with Anne McCaffrey and talk dragons with her. I periodically go back and read through all the Pern books and remember when I found the first one while I was in middle school. She wrote such a wide range of science fiction/fantasy and I love all the various worlds she imagined and shared with us.

Thanks so much Suzanne, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out the The Fairview Review and more Middle Grade available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate someone to be featured in our Reader Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: Reading Reality
Blog URL: http://www.readingreality.net
Your name: Marlene Harris

Let’s start with your origin story - how long have you been blogging about Fiction, and why did you start?

Reading Reality’s sixth anniversary is coming up on April 4. I actually celebrate a Blogo-Birthday on April 4-5, as my own birthday is April 5. I’m a bit older than 6, though.

I began Reading Reality when we moved from Gainesville FL to Atlanta. We came for my husband’s job, but 2011 was still during the Great Recession. I wanted something to do that would still connect with books, and would keep me busy and intellectually stimulated. One of the things I enjoy about working in libraries is being able to help readers find books they will love, and Reading Reality is an extension of that.

The blog was originally called “Escape Reality, Read Fiction”. I got that from a t-shirt. But when I started doing library consulting, “Reading Reality” sounded a bit more like the name of a company, so that’s what stuck. Occasionally people still ask me about real estate in Pennsylvania.

Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?

My go-to genres are science fiction and fantasy, but I also read a lot of romance and a fair amount of mystery. I’m pretty eclectic. I particularly like the places where genres mingle, so things like science fiction romance and historical mystery always get me reading. When I’m in a reading slump, I turn to urban fantasy and that brings me right back to the joy of reading.

As far as trends go, I’m kind of sorry to see steampunk fading a bit. I loved that blend of historical, SF, fantasy and often romance. The best of the breed were generally terrific and terrifically inventive.

Do you find your background as a librarian influences which books you choose and how you review them? And, are you still involved in the library community?

I am still very involved in the library community. I am currently the librarian at TAPPI, the Technical Association for the Pulp and Paper Industry. They have a small but significant collection of materials in the industry, and I answer research requests and provide document delivery.

I’m also a member of the American Library Association Notable Books Council, a committee that has picked the best literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry every year since 1944. And I review for Library Journal.

Some of the books I choose to review are for my library interests, but most I pick just because they look either intriguing, fun, or both. Being a librarian, having done readers’ advisory work, does influence the way I review. If there are “read-alikes” for the book I’m reviewing, I make sure to give them a mention, no matter when they were published. And if I’m reviewing a book in a series, I always tell readers whether or not they really need to have read the rest of that series, of if they can just jump in anywhere. Discovering that you are reading book 5 of a series and are completely lost is a VERY disappointing experience.

Aside from your reviews, you have a variety of different features on your blog – which is your current favorite?

I like different features for very different reasons. Blog Hops are terrific for getting traffic. I do Stacking the Shelves and the Sunday Post because they help me stay organized. I hope people enjoy those features, but they do serve a function for me as the blogger.

My favorite features have been Amy Daltry’s semi-regular guest reviews. She picks interesting books, including a lot of genre classics, and she writes a terrific review, whether the book is terrific or not. She’s clear and honest about what she likes and doesn’t like in a book, and it is great to have the opportunity to feature a reviewer whose perspectives are different from my own.

The most fun feature I have is one that I wish I was able to do more often, and that’s joint reviews with either Cass or Amy. It is particularly fun and frequently hilarious when we are able to write together in real time.

Which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about reading and recommending to your followers? And are there any covers on NetGalley that you’re loving?

Cass and I have a joint review for Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop coming in March that made both of us ROFL. It’s not that the book is funny, it isn’t and it’s not intended to be. But we love to out-snark each other.

I’m very excited to read In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen. I’ve heard such marvelous things about her work, but this is my chance to get in at the beginning of one of her series.

My favorite upcoming cover is Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James. The joke going around Facebook among librarians is, “What, only 12?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

Evidence of a life either misspent or well spent with books, by someone who can’t resist sharing.

Your favorite character in a book or series:

Sherlock Holmes. I have an absolute weakness for Holmes pastiches, and I love Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series.

Your favorite 2 authors for Fiction titles:

Only 2? Inconceivable!

Science fiction: John Scalzi
Fantasy: L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Mystery: Louise Penny
Historical Mystery: Charles Todd
Science Fiction Romance: Anna Hackett
Fantasy Romance: Jeffe Kennedy
Romance: Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

John Scalzi, hands down. And conveniently, he is still alive. I would love to go on a book tour, or even part of one, with him. I’ve heard him perform at several, and he’s always both thoughtful and funny, as he is on his blog at Whatever, although the ratio of thoughtful to funny there is slightly different. And I’d get to quiz him about his upcoming books. And possibly meet his current cats, the Scamperbeasts.

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Reader Spotlight

We’re excited to be spotlighting Charmaine Atrooshi, who works in the Homebound Services department of the Ottawa Public Library. She is passionate about social justice, and providing equitable library services in order to build strong communities. She has been in her current role for the past seven years, and spends most of her days providing readers’ advisory services to her homebound customers. She believes robust readers’ advisory skills and services are important in public libraries as they help to connect people, and provide access to library materials that help us relax, learn and escape….. Charmaine holds a Master of Arts in Legal Studies (Carleton University), Bachelor of Arts Honours in Law (Carleton) and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology (Carleton). She is currently pursuing an MLIS online with the University of Alberta, and is looking forward to fusing her legal background with librarianship.

A nice place to start is with your library origin story – how did you become involved with the Ottawa Public Library (OPL)?

I started working for OPL as a summer student while I was completing my first undergraduate degree. My role was to provide children’s programming in rural library branches. I later applied for a paging position, was hired on permanently, and here we are now, 11 years (and several different roles and degrees) later! Public libraries are a dynamic place to work—they are constantly changing, innovating, and creating new ways to reach out to their communities in order to construct services and programming that are relevant to their needs. Every day brings something new and exciting!

Can you describe what Homebound Services does, those who use it, and why it’s essential to your community?

Homebound services is a department that selects and delivers library materials to OPL customers who have difficulty accessing a library branch on a regular basis due to age, illness or disability. The majority of our customers are older adults and seniors. We offer two types of services; one is a home delivery service where library materials are selected monthly by staff and delivered to their door, and the other is a mini library service where we bring a selection of library materials to various retirement residents for the residents to peruse and select from. We have around 500 customers that we select for monthly, as well as approximately 150 mini library customers. OttawaHomeboundServices

Services like these are really important in our community as they help to remove barriers to access, provide equitable library service, promote information literacy, and are a means of connecting customers with the resources, materials and services they require. We encourage our customers to contact us with feedback on their selections, and to request titles/authors they enjoy.

Has having access to digital galleys/proofs impacted your collection development strategy? Has it also affected the types of titles you recommend to your customers/patrons?

Having access to digital galleys assists greatly when it comes to recommending and selecting titles for our Homebound customers. Many want to hear what the next ‘big thing’ is, and to find read-alikes for their favorite authors, and they look to us for feedback. Reading the blurbs on NetGalley and having the opportunity to access some of these materials ahead of time is great, as it helps me keep my finger on the pulse of publishing trends—so when someone asks me for the next “Girl on the Train” I can provide some great suggestions for new thrillers!

OPL has a centralized content services department that is responsible for the materials selection for all 33 Ottawa Public Library branches (plus Homebound and Bookmobile Services). They do a great job of providing us with materials that are relevant to the needs of our Homebound customers, and are always open to suggestions for items we think our customers would enjoy.

Do you have a favorite moment when you provided someone with a book?

Years ago, I read a book from NetGalley called Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler. Calling Me Home
I loved it so much—Kibler painted such a vivid, incredible (slightly heartbreaking) story and I knew that this was something that many of our Homebound customers (and colleagues) would enjoy. I sent this title to many of our historical fiction/family sagas customers in hopes they would enjoy as much as I had—and I was right. A few people who we rarely heard from contacted us to say how much they enjoyed this—and would like more by this author (unfortunately, she hasn’t published anything else yet – but we found some read-alikes in the interim). One customer at a mini library enjoyed it so much, she gave a mini book talk to the other residents in the room- encouraging them to read it as she enjoyed it so much! It was a great feeling!

Which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending?

Jojo Moyes- Paris for One & Other stories (as we have a big Moyes following) and Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter. I don’t read a lot in the science fiction/fantasy type of genre, but Crouch had this way of sucking you in right from the first chapter. I couldn’t put it down—it was a refreshing shift from what I normally read and I think many others would also find this book captivating! Mini libraries are excellent opportunities for recommending titles and having readers’ advisory conversations—these chats help us all to expand our reading horizons and try new titles/authors/genres that we may not have picked up otherwise.

Paris for One     Dark Matter

What is the most requested title in your library?

We have had a lot of requests recently from our homebound customers for Jojo Moyes and Louise Penny titles as well as Giller Prize winning authors.

And to finish up, what is the last book that made you smile?

I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster
I Regret Nothing  

Thanks so much Charmaine, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out the Ottawa Public Library and their Homebound Services

Would you like to nominate someone to be featured in our Reader Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: Stacy Alesi’s BookBitch.com
Blog URL: http://stacyalesi.com
Your name: Stacy Alesi

Can you explain the different features of BookBitch.com and what genres you primarily focus on?

There are two primary features; reviews and giveaways. I personally review mostly crime fiction, romance, books that appeal to book clubs, and cookbooks. I also cover food writing, occasional memoirs, sci-fi, fantasy, and graphic novels. I have other reviewers who contribute reviews of dystopian fiction, Young Adult, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, horror and pretty much anything else that they want.

Each month I do a giveaway of autographed thrillers in conjunction with the International Thriller Writers organization. One lucky winner gets anywhere from 8-12 books or so, all signed by the authors, and what’s even more special about this giveaway is that it is open to anyone over the age of 18 anywhere in the world. I’ve had winners from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and of course North America. I also do other giveaways sporadically throughout the month, and occasionally feature guest bloggers.

How long have you been blogging about books and why did you start?

I am one of the original book bloggers, I’ve been online since 1998! I originally started the site as a way to keep track of books I had read, way before LibraryThing or Goodreads, and it just sort of grew from there. About a year after I started, I was contacted by a publisher (who has since been swallowed up by ever bigger publishers) and asked if I would give away their books on my website and the rest, as they say, is history. I wish I would have kept better track of how many books I’ve given away over the years, but it is easily in the thousands.

Since you’ve been blogging for such a substantial amount of time, how has the book blogging landscape changed over the last 15 years?

The biggest change is how many people are blogging about books now. When I started I had never even heard of a book blog, and truth be told, the closest thing to a “blog” was probably called a “weblog” back then. According to dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, the first known use of the word “blog” appeared in 1999 (that’s my inner geek librarian peeking out.) My first website was a free site on Geocities.

Now there are what seems like hundreds of book blogs. There are blogs for every type of reader, every genre, for ebooks, for librarians, booksellers and well, anything and everything to do with books. A lot of blogs are very commercial, with tons of ads, and that’s something I’ve kept away from. I never wanted to feel beholden to anyone or any company for a review, much less a positive review, so I just keep my head down and do what I do without any interference. I’ve also mentored some book bloggers – Lesa Holstine started out reviewing for my site and now has a very successful blog of her own, and Becky LeJeune still submits reviews for my site, but her own blog is growing as well.

For other book bloggers who have contributors, or are thinking of adding contributors, can you offer some insight into how you manage multiple Reviewers and how books are assigned?

For the most part, my reviewers read whatever they want and submit their reviews as they can. I do receive many review requests every day, and when something looks like it may appeal to one of my reviewers, I will ask if they are interested. It is their decision, even after receiving a book, whether or not they want to review it. It took me many, many years to finally be able to put a book down without finishing it (and I never review a book I haven’t read completely) so I don’t impart a different standard on my reviewers. Ideally, I would like enough content to post something new every day, so having contributing reviewers helps meet that goal.

Which review that you recently submitted via NetGalley is your favorite?

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah was a terrific surprise, it was very different from her previous books. I have enjoyed all of her books, but this one was truly special. In a lighter vein, I also really enjoyed The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, and will be submitting a review shortly.

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Read Stacy’s Review!

What title on NetGalley are you excited to read next?

I just requested Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay, he’s one of my favorite thriller writers. I have a couple on my immediate to-be-read list though, Memory Man by David Baldacci and The President’s Shadow by Brad Meltzer, and they are already on my Kindle. I’ve even been reading on my iPhone – I never mind having to wait in line anywhere!

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How has being a NetGalley member and having access to digital galleys impacted your blogging and reviewing?

It just makes it so much more convenient! Publishers can email me a widget for a book they’d like reviewed and a couple of clicks later, I’m reading. Plus it saves time; I can hear about a book, find it on NetGalley, read it and review it all in the same day. It’s immediate gratification that I have come to take for granted.

How do you feel your additional librarian and bookseller experience has helped shape your blog and your reviews?

I’ve been working with the reading public for almost twenty years now, and reviewing professionally for about 15 years. I reviewed for Library Journal for over ten years, and for Booklist for the past several years, and all those book are assigned. So for my blog, I try to read and review titles that I feel my readers and my library patrons will want to know about. Recently that happened with The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. It was wonderful to hear about a book that was garnering so much buzz, find it on NetGalley, download it and read it. I was ready for my patrons when it hit the NY Times bestseller list. On the other end of the spectrum, I love finding those books that may be under the radar, like The Organ Broker by Stu Strumwasser or Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge, both debut novels that I can recommend to those ravenous readers that constantly need to find new authors.

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If you were going on a long journey and could bring no books or devices, but you had time to commit just one book to memory, which would it be?

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, because frankly, that was the point of that book and I thought Ray Bradbury was a genius. I much prefer being asked which one book I would bring to a desert island, and that would be À La Recherche du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust, in the original French. I studied French all through school and have forgotten most of it, but I think if I had nothing to do but read Proust, I would eventually be able to get through it. It would keep me busy for sure!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our members?

I have been an avid reader all my life, and to be able to share books that I love with readers is a dream come true. It’s also an honor and a responsibility that I take very seriously. Nothing makes me happier than when someone reads a book on my recommendation and then shoots me an email to tell me how much they enjoyed it. I even cherish those comments from readers who hate a book I recommended – at least they are reading! Anyone who is passionate about what they read, even if they don’t agree with me, is a person I would be honored to know, and my blog is a great vehicle for meeting new readers.

Thanks so much for spending some time with us and answering our questions Stacy!

Please make sure to check out Stacy Alesi’s BookBitch.com and stay tuned for our next Blogger Spotlight.

Would you like to nominate your blog, or a blog you admire, to be featured in our Blogger Spotlight series?
Fill out this form.

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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