Thursday, June 11, 2015

Review: Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

I promise I'll get back to posting more reviews here, but I've had a tough time getting out of my reading rut. Yes, STILL. Sigh.

However, I just finished Katherine Center's newest and loved it, so I wanted to share.

In Happiness For Beginners, Helen is on unsteady footing after her divorce, so she decides to shake up her life and take a wilderness survival course, even though she's not the least bit outdoorsy. From the Booklist review:

The camaraderie of the shared experience and the difficult physical and mental challenges of back-country hiking bring Helen new wisdom. The quiet allows Helen to reach deep inside herself, to face difficult questions and answer them truthfully. Center has written a wonderful story, a fast-paced read with sharp, perfectly written dialogue. Her newest does exactly what we want a good novel to do, introduce us to characters who engage us and take us on a journey. 


I have to admit, I was unsure about this one, because if you had a list of all the things I'd be interested in doing...hiking and/or taking a wilderness survival course would be near the very bottom of that list. So I was afraid that I might not be able to get into the book. Well. Knowing how much I've enjoyed Center's sense of humor and realistic characters in her other novels, I should have realized that it wouldn't matter. Center writes in a way that lets you really connect with the characters and feel like you're right there in the story. As I always say, the main reason I love WF is because I like to read about familiar people and situations. And Center captures real life so well, I have to wonder if she really just takes things that have actually happened to her. (Example: when Helen's high school ex-boyfriend exclaims, upon seeing her again 15 years later, "You got better looking!" and then repeats it a few minutes later...I swear I could picture that actually happening.) And the scene where Helen "teaches" Jake to kiss is, frankly, marvelous.

Heck, I laughed, I cried, etc. Good stuff.



Monday, June 1, 2015

Not Women's Fiction, but.. a new book for librarians!

Since this site also serves as my personal online presence, I'm going to tell you about my latest book even though it has nothing to do with women's fiction!




From the press release:
“No! We can’t rid of that!” Rebecca Vnuk, author of the popular “Weeding Tips” column on Booklist Online, is here to show you that yes, you can. A library is an ever-changing organism; when done the right way, weeding helps a library thrive by focusing its resources on those parts of the collection that are the most useful to its users. “The Weeding Handbook: A Shelf-by-Shelf Guide,” published by ALA Editions, takes the guesswork out of this delicate but necessary process, giving public and school library staff the knowledge and the confidence to effectively weed any collection, of any size. Going through the proverbial stacks shelf by shelf, Vnuk:
  • explains why weeding is important for a healthy library, demonstrating that a vibrant collection leads to robust circulation, which in turn affects library budgets;
  • walks readers through a library’s shelves by Dewey area, with recommended weeding criteria and call-outs in each area for the different considerations of large collections and smaller collections;
  • features a chapter addressing reference, media, magazines and newspapers, e-books and other special materials;
  • shows how a solid collection development plan uses weeding as an ongoing process, making it less stressful and more productive;
  • offers guidance for determining how to delegate responsibility for weeding, plus pointers for getting experienced staff on board;
  • gives advice for educating the community about the process, how to head off PR disasters, and what to do with weeded materials;
  • includes a dozen sample collection development plans, easily adaptable to suit a library’s individual needs.
Vnuk is currently best known as editor, Reference and Collection Management, at Booklist, and as the co-creator of the popular blog Shelf Renewal. In 2008, she was Library Journal’s Fiction Reviewer of the Year, and in 2010 she received the Public Library Association’s Allie Beth Martin Award for excellence in Readers’ Advisory and was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker. She is the author of “Read On . . . Women’s Fiction” and “Women’s Fiction Authors: A Research Guide,” and co-author (with Nanette Donohue) of “Women’s Fiction: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests.” She has spoken at conferences and presented workshops extensively.
If you work in a library...chances are, you'll be weeding at some point. Consider my guide as a good primer on weeding! Thanks!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ensemble Women's Fiction

When I do workshops on women's fiction, I always discuss the kinds of books that make up the genre. One of the most popular is "Ensemble Fiction." I recently wrote about it in the March 15, 2015 issue of Booklist, take a look to learn more and to get some GREAT reading suggestions.

Core Collection: Ensemble Women’s Fiction.
By Rebecca Vnuk.

First published March 15, 2015 (Booklist).

When it comes to women’s fiction, one of the tricky things about offering read-alikes is that because it’s such a broad reading interest, the appeal of one title might not translate to another title. It can be helpful to break down different types of women’s fiction into subcategories. The top three that always come to my mind are ensemble fiction (featuring groups of women), chick lit (the younger crowd), and issue-driven novels (think any Oprah Book Club title).

The category with the widest appeal is ensemble fiction. These stories feature a cast of characters—there may or may not be one main character—all sharing starring roles. Readers enjoy these ensemble stories because they can easily find a character within the group that they identify with, or they can see their friends in one character or another. As a devoted reader of the genre, I can attest that when I read women’s fiction, I want to see myself or the people I know on the pages of these books—and if not that, then a character leading the life I’d like to have!

In the past 10 years or so, there has been a huge influx of women’s fiction books with large casts of characters—books about sisters, books about college friends, books about reading groups, books about coworkers (I’m waiting patiently for the book about librarians . . .).

To read more, and get the annotated list, head to the feature, "Core Collection: Ensemble Women's Fiction" on Booklist Online!