Author Archives: virginiamcc

Apps for your reading life

Here are some reading-related apps for all of us book nerds:

Litsy

litsyLitsy is basically Instagram for those of us who only care about book photos. In addition to the book cover galore, you can use Litsy as a way to track your reading. Search for a title, add to your reading stack, and when you are done, share your rating, short review, blurb or quote. I am especially fond of the “bail” rating. Thank you for giving me the permission to just close the book and say, “that’s enough of that.”

If you like hanging out with other book lovers, give Litsy a try. There is always good old Goodreads too of course. It’s June already. How are you doing on your annual reading challenge?

 

 

Ambient Mixer

I first heard about Ambient Mixer from this Lifehacker post, and it sounds like a fun way to add to the atmosphere while you are reading, and help you get immersed in the scenes. The website provides a wide variety of themed music loops and mixes so you can create the appropriate background soundtrack to match whatever you are reading. Jon Snow could be walking to the sounds of a “mysterious walk in snow storm”  beyond the wall. Transport yourself to Waystone Inn with the fantasy inn/pub/tavern loop. Or, how about some crowd noise for Ned Stark? (Umm, no thanks!)

 

Forest

forestSure, there are books that completely capture my attention, but alas, my phone has too much power over me, and I find myself reaching for it when I am supposed to be reading. There are lots of apps out there that can help you maintain focus. I chose Forest because of its genius use of guilt. And I love the UI.

When you are ready to start a task, set a timer of how long you want to read, and the app will plant a tree for you. The idea is to not navigate away from the Forest app to go check your email, or watch that owl pooping and fleeing the scene video for the nth time.  If you try, a warning will come up, asking you if you are really prepared to live the life of a tree killer. Not just any trees, as you can see, cute, little trees!

 

Libib

Libib is a super quick way to catalogue your personal book collection. The app is very easy to use. Just scan the barcode on the back of the book, and the book will be added to your collection. Because my husband and I are both SFF readers, we often stand at the bookstore wondering if we own a particular volume in the series or not. Libib solves that problem for us, well, as long as we add our purchases religiously.

What apps have you found useful in your reading life? Share your favourites in the comment section.

Virginia from the Port Moody Public Library

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What Are My Co-Workers Reading (and why are they trying to avoid me?)

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Who better to provide you with your next great read than one of your colleagues? That is what I innocently thought, not expecting that my query of “Hey, what are you reading right now?” would result in a skinny-eyed look followed by a very wary ”whyyy?” Not sure what they thought I was going to do with this information. Publish it online? Hah.

So once they are coerced into providing a title…really people: stop trying to think up some onerous academic tome to tell me you really enjoyed, when actually you are reading book #4 of the 50 Shades series. I am not here to judge; just share! Oh, maybe that’s the problem. Never mind, I’m sharing anyway.

LN is getting into the spirit of the season with Our First Christmas by Lisa Jackson. She says it’s a fun, light read.

NM is enjoying Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella. This one is another winner in the popular series. Yes, Becky is a nutcase.

AO is reading The Shallows: what the Internet is doing to our brain by Nicholas Carr. This one is not what you might think it’s about by reading the title. It is an amazing insight into how our brains are adapting in a new age.

WParoundCB is reading Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson. An older one, but a great, humorous favourite as Bryson dons backpack to recreate the trip he took in his twenties.

CR is also reading a travel tale. Around the World in 50 Years: my adventure to every country on earth by Albert Podell. Apparently this guy actually did go everywhere!!

Now onto something a tad darker…CMB is reading We Believe the Children: a moral panic in the 80’s by Richard Beck. This is one scary book. In the 1980’s daycare workers all across the United States were being arrested and sentenced to prison terms for horrifying child abuse, bordering on satanic ritual. The real crime: none of it was true. Based on a true account of allegations of child abuse in daycare facilities in the United States.

SM was amazed to find that the sequel After You by Jojo Moyes is as good as its predecessor Me Before You. The characters are so very likable, and nice to see them again.

9780316246620_p0_v6_s192x300MA says “I loved Ancillary Justice (series) by Ann Leckie and Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. Both Sci Fi, because why would you read anything about the life you’re already living in?”

Then we have the staff member who is reading 4 books at one time. I know there are more of you out there. VM just happened to be the only one to ‘fess up.

Demon Road by Derek Landy. Amber discovered that she is actually a demon (the kind with black horns and red skin) after biting a guy’s finger off, and her parents are overjoyed because that means she is ripe and ready to be killed and eaten so they can power up.

51bos7fhq2l-_sx328_bo1204203200_Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong. Everyone is after Zoey when her estranged father leaves her everything, including a mysterious vault that can only be opened by scanning Zoey’s head. Oh, and there is cat named Stench Machine. (I think I have a Labrador that could be renamed…)

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow. Kids of all world leaders are now kept in the same school as collaterals, and if one of their parents declares war on another country, their kid gets it. Nice.

Hotels of North America by Rick Moody. Get to know Reginald Morse through his hotel reviews at rateyourlodging.com

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch intriqued RA because it was rather like Oliver Twist with a Sci Fi flavor. Lots of canals, waterways and an intriguing main character!

IJ loved Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Who doesn’t love books and bookstores? This one is definitely not a standard cozy. If you are willing to try a book that is combo mystery, adventure and geekish computer fun, I say grab this one!

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So you can see that we came up with a mix of fictional fun and thought-provoking non-fiction topics. I love my library and all those people who come to work with me every day. Why wouldn’t I trust them to pick my next read? I’ve trusted them to introduce me to vegetarian dishes, fruit-flavoured tea and probably the best peanut brittle ever.  I say read on comrades!
I will follow.

Irene J, Port Moody Public Library

One funny book cover with a mustache

We at Port Moody are a little late to the merchandising game, but this year, we finally got a set of display units for our entrance area to showcase our new books. That leaves us a nice feature book wall, plus a couple units to do some rotating displays.  

Verdict from staff: Book displays are awesome.

Made you talk

Movember Display at Port Moody Library

Starting a random chat with a stranger is hard, but not when you get to talk about books. We can talk about books forever, right? 

Book displays make it easier to engage a customer (and vice versa) and strike up a conversation. For example, ever since our Movember display went up, almost every desk shift I would have someone come up to me and say, “I was looking at your display over there and thought, ‘what a funny book cover. It’s got a mustache on it’, and then I looked over at the other books, and I realized, ‘wait a second, they all have mustaches on them. How fun!’”

The kids who walked by would make their parents wait until they finished touching every single mustache, giving me the chance to say, “Hey kids, want me to find some mustache books for you to take home?”

Make you look

Library stacks rarely change, so walking into the library can feel pretty routine sometimes. You know exactly where your “stuff” is and you head straight there.

Book displays offer something different, breaking people’s patterns and make them stop to see what’s new or changed at your library.  It is also delightful to see your favourite books highlighted. I know I feel like the library was personalized for me that day when I did saw this horror display for Halloween. Finally, something for me!

Horror Display at Halloween

Made you laugh

They laughed at this corny joke. I saw it. Well worth the effort making people smile, or roll their eyes in some cases.

I like Big Books and I cannot lie display

This display was an idea found on Pinterest (a treasure trove of merchandising ideas). “Big” was interpreted by some as “big” as in oversized and “big” as in War and Peace big by others.

By the way, according to our Twitter follower, the next line of the song is “Your other readers can’t deny”.

Yes, book displays also make excellent social media posts. 

Made you…confused?

Displays don’t always have to be logical, or restricted to a certain genre or topic. At least that’s our theory here. The funnest ones we have done are definitely random, but the advantage of “random” is that you can gather books from across the whole spectrum of your collection, highlighting all sorts of backlist titles. Something for everyone on your display: checked!

“I don’t know the name of the book but it’s [insert colour]” is an easy random display to do, also pretty to look at. Plus, you can mobilize the whole staff to find you books with that colour as they shelve or check books in.

Another one of our favourite is “Judge the book by its title”. 

Some Like it Hot Some Like It Cold

This display was inspired by a staff debate of whether the office was too cold or too hot. Remember this past summer with the unrelenting heat? (you know which side of that debate I was on) Well, the office’s AC was adjusted constantly, fans were turned on and off on a daily basis, people complained and others countered. So our verdict: Let’s agree to disagree.

See more blog posts on displays, and don’t miss your library’s Black Friday deals, extended all week just for you.

Black Friday display

Virginia McCreedy
Port Moody Public Library

 

 

Port Moody’s Adult Summer Reading Club a Blast!

AdultSRCIt all started with the question: why should kids have all the fun? A question our comrades in Surrey libraries obviously thought as well by running a successful club with their staff.

At the Port Moody Library, two fantabulous circulation staff had been harbouring thoughts of an adult summer reading club for some years. Well, “some day” happened this summer. Annette & Renelle used their creative powers for good not evil, and this is their story. I have included the 6 secrets of success to help you plan a successful adult summer reading club next year.

Secret #1 Keep it simple. Not just for staff, but for the adult club members

  • no formal registration
  • easy instructions on bookmark telling how the club worked
  • read a book, magazine, ebook
  • rate it, drop entry in super fancy box

Secret #2 Advertise

This was easy as we had a number of processes in place. The club was advertised with in- house posters, press releases to local papers, website and Twitter feed. The entry forms themselves were tucked into every adult fiction book placed on our hold shelf!

Secret #3 Give ‘em good RA

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They kept everyone’s energy up with their weekly change of display. None of us knew what was coming! No boring old “read a mystery” or stacks of books sitting in a pile. Some examples of the weekly themes consisted of Sunglasses at Night, I Get Around and Girls Just Want to Have Fun. The themes were tied to Bibliocommons booklists which are accessible anywhere our people traveled this summer.

Secret #4 – Give Prizes!

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Everyone loves to win. Our club members could rate what they read and enter as many times as they liked. We had a small budget and staff added other goodies. Our baskets had themes as well.

Secret #5 – Likely victims are everywhere

CrossingtheroadWe encouraged everyone who walked into the library to rate a book and win a prize. It was a lot of fun for those of us registering kids for the regular SRC, as we could bully, I mean encourage, adults to set a good example for the kiddies with the “I’m sure mommy/daddy reads every day too, right mommy/daddy? Then with sleight of hand, we had them taking entry forms and walking towards the display of the week before they knew what hit them.

At the circulation desk, staff were even sneakier. “How would you like to give that book a little rating when you’re done? You could win a FABULOUS gift basket, just for entering”

The benefits were huge. The Adult Summer Reading club created great conversations between all staff with our customers, not just information desk librarians. We watched circulation of the recommended titles rise. There was an increased use of Bibliocommons and perhaps best: Renelle & Annette, who do not normally run library programs, created, planned and implemented the club. Their enthusiasm encouraged all library staff to take part and encourage others to read great stuff. If there was something they needed, we all gave it willingly.

Secret #6 End on a High Note

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We received 425 ratings from our customers. Over 40 people dropped by for the wrap up held outside on August 26th and enjoyed iced tea, watermelon, snacks, a sneak peak at new arrivals and a chance to play with our photo booth. Everyone left refreshed, happy and looking forward to seeing what we have to offer them in the Fall.

Irene J.
Port Moody Public Library

Storytelling in Video Games

Continuing on Corene’s idea of expanding your reading horizon, how about introducing book readers to stories in other media formats?

At the heart of any good book, regardless of what genre it is, is a story that resonates with readers, and it is no different in the video game format. First I must confess: I am not a gamer. My husband does enough gaming around the house for the two of us. As a spectator though, I have learned to appreciate the great storytelling found in video games. And if something has a good story, why wouldn’t we want to tell readers about it?
(Yes, there are certainly video games that are just fun for no reason. I can, for example, watch the ridiculousness in Saints Row all day long, but that’s another story for another day.)

Fantasy + Political Intrigue = Witcher
The first time I was captivated by a narrative in a video game was watching The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Witchers are genetically modified, given magical powers, and trained to become monster slayers from a young age. The story in this video game series follows one particular witcher, Geralt of Rivia. Accused of murdering the King of Temeria, Geralt is caught in the middle of political unrest and imminent rebellion, and a few key decisions you make as a gamer will lead Geralt and the story on to completely different paths.

This role-playing game was adapted from a Polish fantasy novel series by Andrzej Sapkowski (English translation available!), and it is perfect for anyone who enjoy more mature and intricately plotted fantasy tales with politics taking a centre stage, such as The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie, The Dagger and the Coin series by Daniel Abraham, or The Prince of Nothing series by R. Scott Bakker.

Witcher 3 is scheduled to come out next February and is one of the most anticipated games in 2015.

Red Dead Redemption: “Folks Talk About Morality Like It’s Black and White”
If you like your protagonists flawed, your stories with blurry morality, your characters caught between a rock and a hard place, give Red Dead Redemption a try. This game is probably my husband’s favourite, and is an ideal introduction to video games for any gritty western fan. The story will appeal to readers of Charles Portis’ True Grit, Michael McGarrity’s Hard Country, or the Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy.

Set in 1911, when Old West meets New West, people embrace, reconcile or fight the new changes civilization and technology brings to their town. John Marston is trying to leave his outlaw life behind, but with his family’s lives at the mercy of the government, he will not be allowed to settle down until he travels across the Wild West and captures all his old fellow gang members. There are no clear cut answers to anything in this story, and Marston realizes that he can never escape his past.

Now For Something Completely Different: Portal
“The Enrichment Center reminds you that the Companion Cube will never threaten to stab you and, in fact, cannot speak. In the event that the Companion Cube does speak, the Enrichment Center urges you to disregard its advice.”

If you have readers who enjoy British humour and books like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and authors like Terry Pratchett and Tom Holt, recommend the puzzle-solving game Portal to them.

You find yourself in a research facility that used to manufacture shower curtains for the military. You are some sort of test subject, and are promised cake (and grief counseling), if you manage to create portals to safely teleport yourself from place in place in different test chambers. You are only guided by GlaDOS, an artificial intelligence and the darling of the game. GlaDOS may sound like the usual helpful tutorial guide at first, but she is no Microsoft Clippy. More of a passive aggressive type that provides dubious advice that will lead to your demise.

The Last Of Us: I Will Survive
Zombies and other infected types are featured in a lot of books, and you bet they show up in a lot of video games too. I prefer my zombie novels to have as much feeding and gnawing action as possible, but for those who like more character-driven apocalyptic fiction, The Last of Us may just fit the bill. This game has won over many gamers (and many game awards) because of the emotional engagement players experience with the story and their attachment to the characters, which make this game superior to others.

Joel, who lost her daughter years ago when the outbreak started, now works as a smuggler in the quarantine zones. He and his partner agree to take on a job to get Ellie, a teenage girl whose body may provide a clue to a cure, to a rebel group. When his partner sacrifices herself to save Joel, he is stuck with the 14-year-old, and the two must learn to rely on each other to survive in a world full of the infected I have renamed the Barnacle Men.

Speaking of zombies, I need to give a shout out to Telltale’s Walking Dead games, one I have actually played. Having experienced the different formats of the franchise, I enjoyed the comics and novels, I desperately want to and pretend to like the show, but the games are something else. They are intense. The game is structured a way that every single choice you make, whom you choose to talk to, what you say, which way you run when the walkers comes knocking on the door, all have consequences. No, there are no such thing as the right choice, and as you play the games, you will fully experience the desperation, the danger, and the dire situations in the Walking Dead universe.

Assassin’s Creed: What a View!
Imagine being able to perch atop the tallest structure in Florence so you can survey the city. You can with the Made in Canada Assassin’s Creed series, with its breathtaking, richly detailed and hyper-realistic recreations of Italian cities.

For any historical fiction fans, this game will give you the chance meet key historical figures and immerse yourself in the culture of Renaissance Italy.  The free running and the parkour-like moves you can do to explore the streets are probably the best part of the game, but let’s talk about the story.

Ezio Auditore knows that a betrayal has led to the death of his father and brothers, and he vows to avenge their deaths and becomes an Assassin. As he travels through Italy to find the culprits, he gets just a little too close to a bigger conspiracy that puts his life in grave danger.  This game is all about stealth (you are an assassin afterall), and the people on the street will let you know if you are not discreet enough, which is quite fun to watch.

But wait, there is more! The story is also about Desmond, a descendent of Ezio, who has been captured by the modern day Templars. They hope to tap into Desmond’s memories in order to locate secret artifacts, and Desmond is trying to escape their clutches.

After visiting Italy, travel to the Holy Land, Rome, Constantinople and Colonial Boston and New York in the other Assassin’s Creed games.

There are many more stories waiting to be shared in video games, so next time you have a chance, pick up that controller, sit back and enjoy the storytelling.

Never Fail Titles

When you think summer at the library, you often picture hordes of kids coming in for summer reading club, and chances are, you will be asked the infamous “do you have a good book” question.

Our recent battle to win over this girl with our different recommendations for a scary ghost story reminds us that sometimes, we are pretty hopeless against a friend’s suggestion, so a “which book have you heard about?” or a “what are your friends reading?” question can be a helpful starting point.

However, we have put together a list of titles that we have great success rate in convincing kids to take home and read. These books’ premises are made for quick booktalking and we hope that there will be a few here you can use.

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
For fans of: Grown-up Thomas the Tank engine junkies, adventure, yeti-hunters
The quick pitch:
The Boundless is the greatest train ever built – 900 cars long with a circus, dining cars and a priceless treasure. Only Will has the key to that treasure and there are some bad people who will stop at nothing to get it. And sasquatches are about to attack.

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix
For fans of: Mystery, time travel, kids too young for the plane in del Toro’s The Strain, kids who want to read/watch The Langoliers but are too young to know about The Langoliers
The quick pitch:
When an unscheduled plane just appears at the airport terminal, and no crew or passenger comes out for the longest time, Angela goes in and takes a peek. There doesn’t seem to be anyone inside the dark plane, but she hears a whimper as she is leaving. She walks down the aisle and that’s when she discovers that in every seat, all 36 of them, there is a baby.

Loki’s Wolves by Kelley Armstrong and M.A. Marr
For fans of: Action, fantasy, sword-slinging, Percy Jackson, Percy Jackson, Percy Jackson
The quick pitch:
It’s like Percy Jackson but with Norse mythology – like Loki and Thor from The Avengers movie.

The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda
For fans of: High-octane action, high body count, orphans on the run
The quick pitch:
It’s like Percy Jackson but set in India with monsters and demons.

London Eye Mystery by Siohban Dowd
For fans of: disappearing acts, puzzle solvers, British invasion
The quick pitch:
At 11:32 a.m., Monday May 24, Salim waves at his cousins Ted and Kat, and then steps into one of the pods of the London Eye, the giant Ferris Wheel. It takes 30 minutes for the wheel to go around. At 12:02 p.m., Ted and Kat waits at the exit for Salim. People start coming out, but Salim didn’t. He has disappeared.

The Big Dip by Melanie Jackson
For fans of: Local connections, thrillseekers, very thin books
The quick pitch:
You know the PNE wooden coaster? The unsettling old rickety one, with that tiny crossbar which doesn’t seem capable of securing anything? Well, Joe and Skip love that coaster. They love riding in the front, but today, some old guy has already snatched that seat up. As the coaster climbs and prepares for the first dip, Joe hears a popping sound, like someone just opened a can of pop. But it is no can opening. It’s a gun shot, and the old guy is bleeding badly.

Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack
For fans of: Zita the Spacegirl, science fiction, fierce lady protagonists
The quick pitch:
The young Queen Cleopatra is enjoying life in Ancient Egypt when she is kidnapped by time-traveling alien cats from the future who take her to their planet to save it from destruction. And she gets a ray gun.

0.4 by Mike Lancaster
For fans of: Twilight Zone, eerie sci-fi, suspicious minds
The quick pitch:
Kyle thinks it’ll be fun to get hypnotized, but when he wakes up, everyone is frozen in mid-action. Only the four people who have been hypnotized can move. TVs, computers, cellphones are all not working. Are they still under hypnosis? Did something happen while they’re unconscious? Either way, it is creepy, but nothing compares to when the townsfolk wakes up…in an hour.

Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
For fans of: Funny books, kids who wish that Greg Heffley from Diary of a Wimpy Kid was a little more motivated
The quick pitch:
Some kids like to play baseball. Some like to write stories or play video games. Jackson Greene plans heists. And this year, he is going to plan to greatest heist the school has ever seen – he is going to steal a school election right from under the nose of the principal.

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald
For fans of: anything but books, Wimpy Kid middle school stories
The quick pitch:
You think you don’t like reading? Well, meet Charlie Joe Jackson. He doesn’t like reading. He would do anything, and I mean anything, to avoid reading. Here’s his story of how he manages to not read a single book one year in middle school.

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies
For fans of: realistic fiction, making money, lemonade, sibling stories, series
The quick pitch:
This is a story of unbridled capitalism, of sibling rivalry, of brother pitted against sister. This is a story of greed that threatens to tear a family apart. This is a story of the brutality of war… and of lemonade.

pureevil

The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein
For fans of: vengeful spirits, creepy trees, pure evil
The quick pitch:
In a town, there is a crossroad.
At the crossroad, there is a house.
In the house, there is a yard.
In the yard, there is a tree.
In the tree, there is a ghost of a serial killer, and he is not done with his killings yet.
Zack just moved into that house.

We’d love to hear your never-fail kids’ titles. Share them in the comments.

Corene and Virginia
from the Port Moody Public Library