Friday, April 24, 2009

Review: Infinite Crisis

Infinite Crisis - Part 2 (Audiobook) Infinite Crisis - Part 2 by Greg Cox

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Yeah, I can't see any reason to review the parts individually. Both parts of this are awesome, although I haven't read the original graphic novel so I don't have much to compare it to. This isn't just a reading of the novelization, however. It is a full production with cast and effects and it sounds much like it would if you were watching it on tv, but with the added descriptions because you are listening and not watching. The hits and the violence can sound almost brutal, which, I suppose, they really are when you think about it.

The "not seeing" can be a problem if you, like me, have a very limited familiarity with DC comics. There is a very large cast in the Infinite Crisis and it was sometimes hard to tell who was good and who wasn't just by hearing the names. It took some effort, but I'm sure that wouldn't be the case for people who were better versed in the DC Universe. That really was the only downside to this audio. Run right out and get it.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Review: I Love a Man in Uniform

I Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other Battles I Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other Battles by Lily Burana

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
You all know how I feel about memoirs: don't trust 'em. Not my fault, I've been hurt before. BUT, I found this book absolutely charming, brutally honest (sometimes more than I think I needed to know) and very entertaining. It starts off strong, giving you a picture of the "perfect" Army Wife and then Burana tells you she is not that woman. Usually, the best compliment I can give to a memoir is that it "reads like fiction". This, to me, means that it isn't slow or overly detailed or dry like some memoirs, but is fast paced with snappy dialogue like the best fiction books. This book is fast paced with snappy dialogue, but you never get the feeling that it isn't real. There is always something there, lingering in the background, that tethers you to the reality that this is someone's life.

The Iraq War looms large over this book. First in anticipation of Major Mike going, then while he is gone, and then when he comes back. Burana was mostly very respectful of the Army, both as an institution and the political leadership thereof, so if you're looking for a book that bad talks the military, or something along those lines, best to move along. It doesn't happen here. What you get here is a wonderful insight into her life as an Officer's wife, and the adjustments she had to make. The chapters on West Point were fascinating and informative, but there was also plenty of humor to be found in the book. I'd always wondered what real Army wives think of the show Army Wives for instance. (She is an addict. Like me.) And calling the military "Uncle Sugar" cracks me up for a reason I still cannot identify.

One of my favorite parts came near the end where Burana, sick about the atrocities at Abu Ghraib, came face to face with Donald Rumsfeld at the Army-Navy football game.

"Shifting back and forth, I weighed the possible outcome of saying something to her husband, and no matter how angry I was over the hell that Rumsfeld and his crw had wrought, all I could envision were my words casting a long, dark shadow over my husband. For all my fury and indignation I would not win this war with a personal attack, and by Rumsfeld on the spot, I would be serving no one but myself. What he did to our contry might be unforgiveable, but so, too, would be turning a football game into my own personal bully pulpit. My husband committed to a vocation of selfless service and sacrifice. I would match his sacrifice with discretion. For the first time in my loudmouth life, I chose impassioned silence."

I'm glad she chose to break that silence to write this book. Very well done.

View all my reviews.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday dump!

Ever wondered how books are ordered for a library? I was cleaning out my email today and found this lurking there. Someone in the system asked for a brief (ha) description of how we decide what to buy. This was my reply. Enjoy.

Well, I guess the first thing to say is that all fiction titles are eligible for purchase. There used to be an unwritten policy that we didn’t buy certain types of romance fiction (mostly the series romance books) but that is no longer the case. I don’t immediately reject something just because it was published by a certain company (like Harlequin) or because it is romance or whatever. If it is fiction, we consider it. But, just because everything is considered doesn’t mean everything is purchased.

Reviews are less helpful in fiction than in non-fiction because, unlike with non-fiction, there isn’t a blatant wrong answer. In NF, you can reject a book because it gives out bad information. (Like saying, for instance, that AIDS is spread by sharing water fountains.) That is just completely wrong, and we wouldn’t buy a book that gives out bad information. With fiction, reviews are just what people think about the book. They can like the story, or not. They can like the writing, or not. They can like the author, or the genre, or not. That doesn’t mean that any given reader will agree. So, it is difficult to rely strictly on reviews. Plus, there are a lot of fiction books that don’t even get reviewed and some that are, in genre specific magazines, may or may not be anything more than “I hated this book.” Not helpful. That said, I do READ reviews. Sometimes.

So, if not reviews then what? Well, the aforementioned genre magazines. Mystery News, Mystery Scene, Romantic Times, Locus, The Bulletin of the SFWA and Starlog are the main ones. Lots of web sites. Overbooked. ( Early Word ( GalleyCat ( CoaIM ( are the best ones. Plus a handful of fiction listservs.

When I first started here, I had SS make me a list of branches with all kinds of neat demographic info. But, with floating, none of that matters. You just put a number in and that’s how many we have. They start out in certain places, but who knows where they will end up. Most things end up just fine, but there are some collections we haven’t been able to get right. African American fiction is the one that immediately comes to mind. The others are classics and science fiction/fantasy. I have found things in the Booksale, discards, that still have holds because people think that just because a SF/F book is not going at their branch, they should throw it away…..without checking Horizon. Floating is a partnership and I really rely on public service staff to make sure we are keeping things we need to have. They have to know who the big authors are, who has a high re-read rate, or a large number of new readers (Nora Roberts comes to mind) and who is just a flash in the pan. They need to know multiple genres and authors in those genres, an they need to do all of this without their own personal biases entering into it. For the most part, public service librarians do an awesome job. But, as with anything else, there are some areas that need work. Without them, though, this system won’t work. I only buy the books, and if they’re discarded, then we’re right back where we started.

Keeping up with new trends is essential. We buy erotic fiction, which is pretty much standard in the romance genre now. No more holding hands and then ending with a smooch. J We buy urban fiction. We buy books with werewolves, and were-lions, and…, I’m not kidding! Vamps, and ghosts, and whatever it is. We have a ratio of number of copies to holds, but that is flexible. I rely heavily on previously purchased works by the author to determine the number of copies. If their most recent books have done well, I’ll increase the number of copies. If I look on Horizon and see that the author’s last book has 5 copies, with 5 circ between all of them, then I’ll probably buy fewer. If those 5 copies all have double digit circs or a current hold list, then I’ll probably increase the number of the next title. If the author changes styles, or genres (for instance they go from historical mystery to paranormal romance) then I’ll increase if the new area is more popular, and decrease if not. I NEVER BUY ONE COPY OF ANYTHING. NEVER. There is no place in a 24 branch system for one copy of a new book. The fewest I’ve bought is 3 copies and even that makes me feel like I’m not giving it a chance to succeed. The most copies I’ll buy is 300. Anything over that requires more fortitude than I have. We rarely have anything go over 900 holds, so 300 is sufficient. For the bestsellers, I’ll start out with 200 (James Patterson, John Grisham, hardcover Nora Roberts) and then go from there. Strangely enough, paperback Nora Roberts titles don’t gather as many holds, even when they aren’t re-issues. Don’t know why, that’s just how it is.

Audiobooks: Because we are getting them at a much more reasonable price, I buy more copies and I buy more titles. More titles are coming out in audio format, and it is everything from the huge bestsellers to paperback originals. If it is available, I’ll try anything once. I’ve found that until you put it out there, you don’t know if people will like it. GraphicAudio specializes in paperback original authors and they make audiobooks that are like big budget action movies. People find them entertaining. They circ pretty well, and they’re only $19.95, so it’s a win-win situation.

Downloadable audio: the same basic rules apply. Because they have a mandatory 3 week loan period, I’m likely to buy more copies than I ordinarily would so people don’t have to wait so long.