Book Blog – Likely Stories, from Booklist Online
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Book Blog - Likely Stories, by Keir Graff - Booklist Online

Likely Stories

A Booklist Blog
Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

Thursday, July 3, 2014 10:27 am
Walter Dean Myers, 1937-2014
Posted by: Gillian Engberg

Walter Dean Myers

Booklist columnist Michael Cart shared the following tribute to the late National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature:

A giant of young adult literature has left us. Walter Dean Myers, prolific author of more than 100 books in a variety of forms and genres, was 76 at the time of his death, following a short illness, on July 1, 2014. The enduring excellence of his writing was evidenced by the many awards and honors he received during the course of his 45-year career. Perhaps most prominent among them was the Michael L. Printz Award. Walter was the first recipient of this prestigious prize when his memorable book Monster copped the honor in 2000. At the time, I remember thinking that YALSA could not have chosen a better first recipient, for his paradigmatic work epitomized the very best in young adult literature.

I first met Walter in the mid-1980s, when I interviewed him for “In Print,” the cable television book program I was then hosting and co-producing. I found him to be soft-spoken and wonderfully eloquent when we talked about the body of his work. I would meet him many times over the years and always found him to be gracious and approachable, qualities he always brought to his meetings with teens, too, including those who were incarcerated. In a time when diversity is an essential constituent of young adult literature, Walter was notable for giving faces to young people of color, celebrating their lives and his beloved 145th street in Harlem. “If we do not write about all of our children,” Walter said in his 2008 Margaret A. Edwards Award acceptance speech, “write about them with hard truths and a harder compassion, then we have, in a very significant way, failed our own futures.”

Reflecting on his career, on the future and on his legacy, Walter wrote in Don Gallo’s Speaking for Ourselves, “I would like to be remembered as giving something back to the world.”

There is absolutely no question that he will be.

Thursday, July 3, 2014 7:13 am
Book Trailer Thursday: Afterworlds
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

Booklist reviewer Cindy Welch says Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds (Simon Pulse), today’s BTT, will have librarians grinning in delight, and not just because they can’t keep the book-within-a-book on shelves. Read Cindy’s starred, high-demand review to find out why, and watch and share the slick trailer, below.

Thursday, June 26, 2014 3:30 pm
Macavity Award Nominees 2014
Posted by: Chris Francis

Mystery readers may like to stay in the dark, guessing until the gripping climax, but now it’s time to reveal the Macavity Award nominees! The nominees are determined by Mystery Readers Journal subscribers and members of Mystery Readers International, who vote for their favorite mysteries of the year. The winners will be announced at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Long Beach, California, on November 13th. Find the nominees below along with links to Booklist reviews.

Best Novel

Sandrine’s Case, by Thomas H. Cook
Dead Lions, by Mick HerronHow the Light Gets in
Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger
The Wicked Girls, by Alex Marwood
How the Light Gets In, by Louise Penny
Standing in Another Man’s Grave, by Ian Rankin

Best First Novel

Yesterday’s Echo, by Matt Coyle
Rage Against the Dying, by Becky Masterman
Cover of Snow, by Jenny Milchman
Norwegian by Night, by Derek Miller
A Killing at Cotton Hill, by Terry Shames

Best Short Story 

“The Terminal”, by Reed Farrel Coleman
“The Caxton Private Lending Library Book Depository”, by John Connolly
“The Dragon’s Tail”, by Martin Limon
“The Hindi Houdini”, by Gigi Pandian
“Incident on the 405”, by Travis Richardson
“The Care and Feeding of Houseplants”, by Art Taylor

Best Nonfiction

The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley’s Masterpiece, by Roseanne Montillomuder_as_a_fine_art_cover
Being Cool: The Work of Elmore Leonard, by Charles J. Rzepka
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War, by Daniel Stashower

Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award 

A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, by Susanna Calkins
Saving Lincoln, by Robert Kresge
Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses, by Catriona McPherson
Murder as a Fine Art, by David Morrell
Ratlines, by Stuart Neville

Thursday, June 26, 2014 9:40 am
Book Trailer Thursday: Journey
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

Heading to ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas? Let this trailer for Aaron Becker’s Journey (Candlewick Press), a 2014 Caldecott Honor title, see you on your way! (And, look for a Booklist review of Journey‘s sequel, Quest, next week–in the July issue and on Booklist Online.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014 1:00 am
Simon & Schuster Expands Library E-book Lending
Posted by: Keir Graff

As ALA’s Annual Conference gets under way in Las Vegas, ALA President Barbara Stripling welcomed the news that Simon & Schuster will convert its pilot library ebook lending program to serve all U.S. libraries:

“Today represents an important milestone for improving the ability of libraries to serve the public in the digital age. America’s libraries are the quintessential institution in connecting authors and readers. We have always known that library lending encourages patrons to experiment by sampling new authors, topics and genres. This experimentation stimulates the market for books—with the library serving as a critical de facto discovery, promotion and awareness service for authors and publishers.”

Click here for Stripling’s full statement.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 1:52 pm
See You in Las Vegas?
Posted by: Sarah Grant

PrintBooklisters are packing their bags for ALA’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas. Are you going, too? We hope you’ll make time for some of the following events!

Michael L. Printz Program and Reception

This year’s program honors Marcus Sedgwick, 2014 Michael L. Printz winner for Midwinterblood, and Printz Honor Book authors Rainbow Rowell, Susann Cokal, Sally Gardner, and Clare Vanderpool.

Friday, June 27, 8–10 p.m., Paris Las Vegas Hotel, Versailles Ballroom.

She Reads . . . Tarot!

Stop by to have Booklist columnist Kaite Mediatore Stover read your tarot and see if the cards hold 50% off a new subscription for you!

Saturday, June 28, 1–3 p.m., Booklist booth #617.

Nancy Pearl, chair of the Carnegie committee

Nancy Pearl, chair of the Carnegie committee

Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Award Ceremony

Join bestselling author Karin Slaughter, committee chair Nancy Pearl, and the 2014 winners for the big announcement! Drinks, dessert, and a drawing for signed books will follow.

Saturday, June 28, 8–10 p.m., Caesars Palace, Octavius 5-8.

Discovery: the New Name for Readers’ Advisory?

Readers’ advisory expert Kaite Mediatore Stover, Bibliocommons CEO Beth Jefferson, and Collection Management editor Rebecca Vnuk discuss both new and tried-and-true methods of leading your patrons to their next great read.

Monday, June 30, 10:30–11:30 a.m. Las Vegas Conference Center, room S219.

Beth Jefferson, CEO of Bibliocommons

Beth Jefferson, CEO of Bibliocommons

Odyssey Awards Presentation.

The free program will celebrate this year’s winner—Scowler, written by Daniel Kraus, narrated by Kirby Heyborne, and produced by Listening Library—as well as the 2014 Honor titles.

Monday, June 30, 3:30–5:30 p.m., Las Vegas Convention Center, room N256.

 Love FREE stuff? Enter a raffle to win tickets to the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence award ceremony; pick up complimentary issues of the June Booklist and April Book Links print magazines; get a tour of Booklist Online—all this and more from your friends at Booklist!

See you at booth #617!

Monday, June 23, 2014 2:18 pm
Pictures from an Investigation: The Images That Inspired My Book, “Black Current”
Posted by: Karen Keskinen

Black Current by Karen KeskinenKaren Keskinen’s Black Current, the second mystery to feature private investigator Jaymie Zarlin, opens with an arresting scene: Zarlin sees the lifeless body of a teenager, wrapped in the tentacles of the deadly jellyfish he was feeding at the Santa Barbara Aquarium. In this blog post, Keskinen discusses the images that informed the creation of her latest novel.

Wasps of the Sea

Sometimes a single image, even an image that dwells only in the mind, sparks a novel. Black Current was engendered that way.

Chironex fleckeri

Where do life guards wear pantyhose and store bottles of vinegar in their stashes of surfboard wax? If you’ve spent time in Australia, as I have, you know the answer. Down Under, nets surrounding popular beaches aren’t just there to keep out the sharks. Perhaps even more fearsome than a Great White is Chironex fleckeri, a species of box jelly. Commonly known as the Sea Wasp, its tentacles can reach ten feet long, deliver stings resulting in excruciating pain, and cause death in under three minutes.

Which brings me back to the image that sparked in my mind: the body of a handsome, athletic young man floating in an aquarium tank. Skye Rasmussen was wrapped in the arms of a blue box jelly, and the two swayed together in a macabre dance. How did Skye end up in that tank? A mystery was born.

The Camino Formerly Known as “Blue Boy”

El Camino

PI Jaymie Zarlin is a fit woman not all that keen on the collections of squirrel cages commonly called gyms. She relies on the jogging and biking she does around town to help her stay strong. Even so, her favorite mode of locomotion was always Blue Boy, her brother Brodie’s El Camino. In a fit of funk she doesn’t like to remember, Jaymie donated Blue Boy to a local charity, which spun around and sold the El Cam to an aging boomer down in L.A.

Now she wants Blue Boy back. But the boomer has renamed the Camino Dudette, and Jaymie knows she needs to let go—and locomote on.

The Santa Barbara Aquarium


We may not have a facility called the Santa Barbara Aquarium here in our town, but we do have the Ty Warner Sea Center, perched jauntily on a spur pier just off Stearns Wharf. The Sea Center sells Beanie Babies in the gift shop, boasts a collection of glow-in-the-dark jellies, and possesses a wet deck. I’ve monkeyed around with the dimensions and layout to suit my own nefarious purposes, but trust me in this: the Sea Center is remarkably similar to the Santa Barbara Aquarium in Black Current.

Seven-pointed Piñata


Dale, dale, dale: hit, hit, hit. If the image of Skye embraced in Cruella’s arms suggested the book to me, it was the image of a traditional piñata that suggested the theme.

For once, the high-schoolers were paying attention in their ethnic studies class: their attention was piqued when they learned that the seven points of a traditional piñata represent the seven deadly sins. The piñata, which may have been carried by Marco Polo from China to Europe, was brought on to Mexico by the Spanish missionaries. The Mayans already had a similar custom, and the enterprising friars bound the two customs together to teach Christian lessons. The one with the stick, blind-folded, represents Faith: she and the onlookers are rewarded with a shower of goodies when she vanquishes those deadly sins.

The kids in Black Current have a bright idea. They’ll stage their own version of a piñata party. The goodies themselves will actually represent the deadly sins—and the yummy rewards will be no virtues. Dale, dale, dale: who else but Gabi Gutierrez, Jaymie’s sidekick, will have the fortitude to set these wayward kids on the straight and narrow path?

A Rare Flower Indeed

Flower tattoo

Much of Santa Barbara is frost-free, and plumerias do grow here. The waxy fragrant blooms tend to be cream, yellow, or white. An orange-and-blue plumeria bloom is rare, so rare that it may only exist in the imagination of a tattoo artist—or a writer.

Even so, Jaymie Zarlin finds one of those rarities, squashed and imprinted with the pattern of the sole of a shoe. Where does she find it? And from whence did it come? That would be telling!

Rain Dance

Rain danceSanta Barbarians came together this past spring to hold a rain dance up at the mission. Their antics found no favor with the gods, however: we remain dead center in the red bull’s-eye of California’s drought map. Locals are busy ripping out any remaining lawns, coyotes are chewing at the drip irrigation lines, and the city mothers and fathers are dusting off the abandoned desalinization plant.

Black Current is a story about thirst in a dry land. The characters thirst for love, and for their loved ones who’ve died or moved on. They drown in a dry climate, but even then, they can’t quench their thirst.

The people in Black Current desire one thing above all, and that’s rain: the rain that turns the grasses green overnight, the rain that pours down and sluices the ash from the leaves, cleansing and cooling the hot dry air. But some things don’t come by wishing, or trying, or even praying: they come only through grace.

Karen KeskinenKaren Keskinen was born in Salinas, California. She has also lived in California’s San Joaquin Valley and in Wellington, New Zealand. She now resides in Santa Barbara where she is a full-time writer. Keskinen is the author of Blood Orange (2013) and Black Current (2014).

Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:14 am
Book Trailer Thursday: I Am Having So Much Fun Here without You
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

According to Booklist reviewer Kate Soto, Courtney Maum’s debut I Am Having So Much Fun Here without You (Touchstone) “deftly captures a thirtysomething’s sense of grief for the lost passion of youth.” The book’s trailer strikes me as capturing that very same mood; what do you think? Watch and decide.

Monday, June 16, 2014 10:03 am
True Confessions: V.C. Andrews Made Me the Librarian I am Today
Posted by: Rebecca

doll_attic_1This year, Lifetime Television began producing movie versions of V.C. Andrews’ “classic” tales in the Dollanganger series, starting with Flowers in the Attic. I don’t have cable, but was lucky enough to be on a business trip at the time, which meant, yay, hotel cable! (My unfortunate husband was roped into watching it with me, on our anniversary, no less.) For the second installment, Petals on the Wind, I was once again traveling (hm, I wonder if If There Be Thorns will come out in time for Midwinter 2015?), and had the chance to savor every over-the-top moment.

Anyone who watches the movies without the (dubious) benefit of reading the books first will likely turn them off after just a few minutes—the dialogue is awful, the acting even worse, and if you don’t already know the plot, you’ll never understand what’s going on. The basic outline is this: Man marries cousin. Incredibly wealthy parents outraged, cut couple out of inheritance. Couple has four lovely children, father dies in a tragic accident, mother is forced to crawl back to family asking for forgiveness and acceptance. Wicked and batshit crazy grandmother agrees to let mother and children back into palatial family home, but locks kids in attic. All kinds of over-the-top drama ensues, including religious mania, incest, and arsenic poisoning. Cut to book two, where kids (now young adults) escape attic, are taken in by kindly doctor and his mute housekeeper. Chris, the older boy, is still obsessed with his sister, Cathy, who is obsessed with moving to New York to become a ballerina. She does so, only after rejecting the doctor’s marriage proposal after discovering his own melodramatic past. Younger sister Carrie, still in high school, meets a terrible fate after not being able to drown out the years of berating by the grandmother, convinced that she is “devil’s spawn” and should have never been born. If you want the most clever and hilarious take on the series possible, check out the book reports on Forever Young Adult.doll_attic_2

Any time I talk to people about their experiences with this series—and I find myself talking about it a lot lately, thanks to the movies—no one can quite put their finger on why we liked them so much. But there is no doubt that women who came of age in the 1970s and ’80s hold a special place in their hearts for these books. The common refrain is usually that they were passed around at slumber parties, or at school, or maybe swiped from our moms, if they were young and cool enough. Everyone remembers the black covers with the peek-a-boo frames, and we compare notes on which scenes have stayed in our heads longer than anything we might have read in our seventh grade English class. Most of us were not savvy about sex, and likely skimmed right over those scenes—they aren’t at all graphic, and we just knew they were dirty. But there’s a lot more to these novels than just the sex.

A January 2014 Slate article on the series goes as far as to draw parallels between the outrageous plot and the need for girls to assert their independence, as well as the fear of turning into one’s mother. That may be stretching things a bit, but where the article really gets it right is summed up with this: “The novel addressed the disconnect between feelings that were hard for us to acknowledge and fiction that we were supposed to like. Despite its excesses, it conveyed a sadness about being robbed of normalcy that felt authentic to teens that were experiencing varying degrees of their own family dysfunction.”

doll_petals_1The vast catalog of V.C. Andrews books usually strikes fear in the hearts of librarians. After all, they are mass-market paperbacks, likely to go missing or fall apart (those stepback covers don’t hold up well), and worse, there are 77 titles in 20 different series (not surprisingly, they all feature young adult women, and a host of horrors awaits for every heroine.) When Andrews died in 1986, ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman took over and is still churning out the beauties. Patrons keep requesting them, and librarians valiantly try to keep track of them, even while wrinkling their noses—and veteran librarians know that Fifty Shades of Grey had nothing on Andrews’ oeuvre.

While most lovers of literature scorn the purplest of purple prose that is found within those black covers—not to mention their utter disgust with the forbidden sexuality, outrageous plot holes, obsession with religion, and psychotic characters—I talk about the books with near reverence, and I proudly declare my love for them. At the base level, I read for entertainment. I read to be taken out of my pleasant little regular old life, and nothing’s better than a book that sweeps me up in a fascinating story, no matter how crude or unrealistic it may be. And you know what? I have come to the realization that these novels played a role in my success as a reader’s advisory librarian. Every RA librarian has Betty Rosenberg’s quote inscribed upon their hearts: “Never apologize for your reading tastes.” Some give lip service to that, but I live it. Every book can be judged as good, if someone enjoys it. If I am willing to gleefully pick up and re-read a V.C. Andrews novel, who am I to look down on any other reader?

I find it pretty amusing that there’s a big hubbub right now about people having to defend their reading choices, with articles on why adults shouldn’t read YA or why a celebrated (and decidedly literary) novel isn’t highbrow enough to warrant accolades. Why is this even an issue? (As Cathy would say, “Golly-lolly!”) My reading has a wide range. In fact, my copy of Flowers in the Attic sits nicely on the shelf next to my dog-eared college copy of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil (interesting juxtaposition, dontcha’ think?). I encourage everyone to get outside of your reading comfort zone and pick up something you normally sneer at. (Andrews’ My Sweet Audrina is a doozy. . .) You might just find yourself enjoying it. And there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.


Thursday, June 12, 2014 12:44 pm
Book Trailer Thursday: Animal Madness
Posted by: Annie Bostrom

It’s been a few weeks without an animal-themed post at BTT, and we are beginning to feel short of breath. To the rescue is Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves, by Laurel Braitman (Simon & Schuster). Reviewer Nancy Bent calls Braitman’s findings fascinating, and the trailer alone delivers lots of food for thought. Let’s watch, read, and be kind to our occasionially neurotic feathered and four-legged friends (and, I think Braitman would add, ourselves, too).

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Quoted material should be attributed to:
Keir Graff, Likely Stories (Booklist Online).

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