Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

by Robert Louis Stevenson

New York, NY: Viking

ISBN: 0670888656

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is not quite as gruesome as the horror stories that I am used to.  Anymore, many of my favorite horror stories are full of blood and guts.  Organs spill, heads explode, eyeballs are freed from their sockets and grossness abounds.  The question is then, in this environment, is the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde still scary?

I must say that I think it is.  In its own way this tale is still dark and depraved.  Who cares that one of the men in this story pretty much up and dies from seeing something gross?  Also, only two people actually die in this story, and one of them is the bad guy. The thing is that this tale’s real darkness comes more from the subject matter.  This story is about the evil within all of us, the conscienceless villain that we all wish we could unleash.

Dr. Jekyll is an upright, honest, well-regarded citizen. His friend, Mr. Utterson, is mystified when he learns of Dr. Jekyll’s relationship with a young, somewhat deformed, and detestable Mr. Hyde.  After Mr. Hyde tramples a young girl, Dr. Jekyll suspiciously wills all his property away to him.  Mr. Utterson gets more than he bargained for when he begins to uncover everything about the mysterious connection between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 

Stevenson’s story is less guts and gore scary than it is psychologically frightening.  He paints a picture of high society. The men are proper and upstanding. They dare not even speak of bad things.  Yet at first, Dr. Jekyll clearly enjoys allowing his own evil inner-self free.  The characters and scenes are dreary and mysterious.  The most frightening parts of the story have nothing to do with murder or assault.  The descriptions of Dr. Jekyll’s transformations are the most graphic scenes in the book.  So what becomes frightening then is not so much the relationship between the villain and the victim, it’s the implication of the evil that is within everyone.  Within everyone is the secret desire to just be evil, to do harm, just because we can.  That’s why this story is still as frightening as ever.    

Reader’s Advisor Case Files

I have been learning all semester about how to link readers to their next great book.  Recently I was given an assignment where my learning was really put to the test.  I had to provide five readers with book titles that they would be interested in. This task was much more difficult that I could have imagined.  The following post includes information on the people I helped, their interests, my search strategy and the results of each.

Reader #1

Hal is a 28 year old lover of adult comic books, graphic novels and is also a Batman devotee. He likes anything written by Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Brian Azzarello, Allen Moore, Bill Willingham and his favorite illustrators are Jim Lee, Jae Lee, or Brian Bolland. 

Strategy: I began by asking Hal a number of questions, including, “What type of characters do you enjoy reading about?” and, “What type of stories are you interested in?” For Hal these questions were too daunting and he could only say that he liked well written characters and stories. I felt as if I was getting no where and had to adapt my questions.  Finally I asked him, “What do you look for in a great graphic novel?” and he began listing off a slew of authors and illustrators that he enjoyed. I was happy to be getting somewhere and went to the computer to search those authors for him.  I used Novelist, Amazon, and Reader’s Advisor Online to find works similar to what he was interested in.

Results: I found several Batman comic books and graphic novels that Hal might enjoy, only to learn that he already owned each of them. As he told me, “It’s very hard for someone to show a nerd something they don’t already know when it’s something they love.” As I understood it, I wouldn’t be able to introduce him to anything Batman related that he hadn’t already discovered himself. I was able to recommend for him a Garth Ennis book that he hadn’t heard of called, Adventures in the Rifle Brigade that seemed to pique his interest. He also seemed interested in Transmetropolitan and Loveless, two series that he had already heard of but he had forgotten that he had wanted to read. Hal was also interested in the House of Mystery series because it was written by one of his favorite authors.  I also asked Hal if he would be interested in exploring novels, but he said that he no longer enjoyed reading novels and is interested in the artwork of graphic novels as much as he is the content. He seemed happy to come away with the few suggestions that I offered.  Currently Hal is reading the Preacher series based on our discussion.

Reader #2

Sophia enjoys reading works by Charles de Lint, Phillip Pullman and Neil Gaiman and Roger Zelazny.  She is interested in dark to light fantasy and was in the mood for “feel good” books.

Strategy: In searching for Sophia I used a number of resources.  I relied heavily on Novelist and also used Reader’s Advisor Online and some materials that we reviewed in class in order to find recommendations.  My reading advice for Hal was all in person and we reviewed my recommendations together, while Sophia and I communicated by email only, making it easier in some ways and more difficult in others.  I asked her a number of questions, which were:

1. What is the last great book that you read?
2. Do you have any favorite authors?
3. What type of book (s) are you in the mood for?
4. What genre's do you like most, i.e. suspense, historical fiction, urban fiction, horror, non-fiction, etc.?
5. What are the qualities (if any) that you do not like in a book, i.e. sex, violence, romance, etc.?

For Sophia I made her a list of recommended titles and summaries of those titles.

Results:  For Sophia I recommended works by Terri Pratchett, Hilari Bell, Peter S. Beagle, and the House of Mystery series, and a few other titles as well.  Sophia stated that I did an excellent job and that she had heard good things about Peter S. Beagle, and would read Hilari Bell’s book based on my suggestions.  She stated that my recommendations all seemed like they were things that would interest her and she even owned one of them already.

Reader #3

Kayla is a  33 year old mother of three.  She loves Sylvia Browne, The Secret Language of Birthdays, and books about Buddhism, astrology, and/or with a spiritual slant.  She told me that she was not really looking for fiction but was more interested in non-fiction books that she could read in pieces or flip through quickly.

Strategy:  Initially I spoke with Kayla on the telephone, asked her the same questions that I asked Sophia and wrote down her responses. In searching for Kayla I relied most on  The reason for this is because I found it more difficult finding things on spiritual subjects in many of the other resources that were available to me.  I also used Reader’s Advisor Online for a few of my searches but only found a few things that seemed to fit her interests. Finding quick, easy reads was my main difficulty and wanted to be sure to serve her individual reading needs. 

Results:  For Kayla I suggested Buddha in a Teacup by Todd Walton. It is a collection of short and spiritual stories.  I also suggested Personology by Gary Goldschneider, the author of her favorite book, and How to Meditate: A Practical Guide by Kathleen McDonald.  Each of these titles seemed to be the kind that you could easily browse through for information.  I also suggested a few novels for Kayla, even though I wasn’t sure if she would have the time or the desire to read them.  I supposed that it wouldn’t hurt and I suggested Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and almost anything by Elizabeth Berg.  Kayla said that many of the books I recommended seemed interesting and she would check them out the next time she was browsing through the library.

Reader #4

Some of Reily’s favorite authors include, Zane, Maya Angelou, Eric Jerome Dickey, and Sister Souljah. She enjoys fast paced books that have a lot of drama and suspense.

Strategy:  I found Novelist to be a great help when searching for books similar to Zane’s.  It had a long listing of similar titles, including summaries and qualities.  I also used Novelist to find works similar to those of her other favorite authors. 

Results:  From the list of Zane read-alikes, I selected three titles that met Reily’s criteria for unusual characters, fast pacing and lots of drama. Because Reily also loved Maya Angelou’s poetry I recommended Nikki Giovanni, a poet with similar style and subject matter and a collection of short stories and poems by African American female writers that I thought might also be of interest to Reily.  Reily was most interested in reading my recommendation of,  Let That Be a Reason by Vicki M. Stringer. I’m still waiting to learn if she is enjoying it. 

Reader #5

Staci’s favorite authors are Marianne Williamson, Eckhart Tolle and Aristotle. She enjoyed reading Aristotle and the Secrets of Life by Margaret Doody and Glenn Beck’s Common Sense.

Strategy: I searched Novelist to find suggestions similar to Margaret Doody’s Aristotle mysteries and looked to Amazon for some of the more current non-fiction works similar to Glenn Beck, Marianne Williamson, and Eckhart Tolle, who are both authors of self-help type works.  The self-help genre was difficult for me to search, I must admit and I was only able to find her one good recommendation in this area.

Results: For Staci’s self-help interest I found her Miracles by Stuart Wilde. I chose this due to its similarity to Marianne Williamson’s works.  I had less trouble finding books along the historical mysteries that Staci seems to enjoy.  I suggested a few things along these lines and even found a series, A Mystery of Alexander the Great by P.C. Doherty. I have received little feedback from Staci other than, “Thank you”. I am still waiting to hear if she liked/ disliked any of my recommendations.

Overall, I must say that I learned a great deal about how to ask the right questions and to search within someone’s interests and a little bit outside of them.  A few of the people that I questioned regarding their reading interests were confused or overwhelmed with my questions.  In person I was able to adapt my questions in order to provide more specific recommendations, however through email it was much more challenging.  Also, for each person that I helped I was able to provide them a list of recommendations that were based on some of the authors that they stated they were interested in and a, “You also may try” list if they would like to branch out.  Sophia seemed to find some things on that list that she really liked.  So, while sometimes people know exactly what they like and stick to it, other times they may appreciate something a little different. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010


image In class the other day some students were talking about a  possible connection between shyness and bad customer service. As a shy person I felt as if I had to stick up for my kind. I’m sure that there are some shy people that are terrible at customer service but most that I know are actually quite personable on the job.  This is probably because, as I have been told continuously throughout my customer service career and even more this semester in class, the job isn’t about me.  It’s about the customer.  My real personality doesn’t matter. What matters is how easily I adapt myself to suit them.  Inside I may be nervous as all heck but outside I am smiling and trying to make sure that they are served with patience and politeness.  Sure, at first it was tough to force confidence but after a while I became a pro. 

Customer service may actually be the perfect job for shy people. We can be expert at detecting the moods of others and have wonderful listening skills.  I find for myself, that my self-consciousness keeps me constantly trying to do a better job and when I make a mistake I will rarely make it twice because I hate embarrassment.     

In the end, there is no excuse for bad customer service.  Someone either cares about what they do, or they don’t and when they don’t care it shows.  Shy people can care immensely or not at all, just like everyone else.  But if it’s any consolation, at least shy people may be a little more self-conscious about it.             

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now With Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

by Jane Austen and Seth image Grahame-Smith

Quirk Books, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59474334-4

I love Pride and Prejudice and in my opinion,  re-made versions of it never quite measure up to the original.  With that in mind, I must say that I was surprised to like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  Sure, it sounds like a crazy idea but this book still mostly tells the original, complicated love story of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.  The zombies are a fun addition and work their way into the novel quite well.  I was surprised at the ease with which Seth Grahame-Smith weaved zombies into the already wonderful story.  Elizabeth is still headstrong and quite believable as a skilled zombie killer.  Also, her original distain for Mister Darcy is even more fierce  in this version.  It’s still got a healthy helping of Austen’s humor in combination with Seth Grahame-Smith’s quirky additions.  Overall, reading this has taught me you that cannot top the original but you can add zombies. 

If you are interested in this type of work I may recommend its prequel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, Seth Graham-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies graphic novel.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Until the Real Thing Comes Along

Until the Real Thing Comes Along

by Elizabeth Bergimage

Ballantine Books, 1999

ISBN: 0-345-43739-X

I don’t usually talk about myself in my blog posts but for some reason I think it may be important this time. Or maybe not but I’m doing it anyway. I’m at a place in my life where the idea of marriage and a family freak me out completely. Children are loud and fast and I never know what they are about to do. Shopping for friend’s baby showers can give me migraines. Those little shoes are creepy and why are diapers so expensive?! Marriage makes me just as uncomfortable and luckily my boyfriend and I have agreed to opt out.

That said, Until the Real Thing Comes Along is about a woman in her mid thirties who is desperate to get married and have babies. Lots of babies. She thinks about marriage and babies all the time. And I loved this book!

This story is about Patty who, as previously mentioned, has always wanted to get married and have lots of children. She falls in love with Ethan, they get engaged and right before her life gets too perfect, she learns that Ethan is gay.  On top of that, she is still pressured by her family and friends to get married, or at least figure out a way to have a baby, father or no. Unable to fall out of love with Ethan, Patty finds that she has to settle for a less than picture perfect life.

This book is a quick and easy read. Although there were a few places when the character would talk endlessly about tiny baby feet or something and I would think, “Yuck!” reading it was pleasant. On the jacket there is a quote from the New York Daily News, “Reading it is like eavesdropping on an intimate female chat.” I think that’s what I liked the most. Because even if I don’t have the desperate desire to marry and procreate, I love listening to other people’s problems. Even  though this book was at times outrageously silly, Berg still obviously takes her subject matter seriously and even in those silly moments there is a naturalness about her storytelling that makes it endearing. My advice is, pick up this book if you want to read something adorably sweet and silly. 


Stardust by Neil Gaimanimage

HarperCollins, 2001                                         

ISBN: 9780060934712

Stardust is about a seemingly ordinary young boy named Tristran who lives in a city of which borders a magical, faery world.  Young Tristran falls for a girl who is out of his league and promises her that he will bring back a fallen star. To retrieve the star he must crossover onto the other side of a wall and leave world he knows behind on an adventure into the mystical world beyond. Tristran soon learns that the star is no ordinary hunk of rock.  It is a woman that he must protect from an unusual band of foes.  Throughout his adventures Tristran learns the true meaning of love and belonging.     

This story is a fairy tale for adults and regardless of the sexual encounter in the beginning and a curse word or two, this could easily be an excellent choice for young adults, as well.  Gaiman’s writing is both quirky and beautiful.  There are many details and characters that will catch readers by surprise.  For example, a re-animated unicorn corpse makes an appearance in the book in what is both a grotesque and humorous scene.  Neil Gaiman’s writing is imaginative and engaging and Stardust is an excellent introduction to his work. After reading this I now know why Neil Gaiman is such a well loved and talked about writer.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Zombies in the Reading Room? No Problem.

Rex Libris, The Kickass Librarianrex_return

by James Turner

I was doing my readers’ advisory assignment, looking for graphic novels for a friend when I found a graphic novel about Rex Libris, “The world’s favorite ass-kicking, sesquipedalian Librarian.” The first issue is called, I, Librarian and begins with a samurai demon attempting to check out a book without a library card. He’s trying to check out, “Evil Made Easy”. When the samurai gets peeved because Rex won’t let him leave with the book, a battle ensues. The demon offers to spare Rex’s life if he assembles a library so that he can rule the cosmos. Rex replies, “Knowledge is not to be monopolized by tin-topped demons. It must be available for all people!” That’s all I could read on Amazon’s preview but it was most enjoyable. The beginning was especially funny, “Here you will find…the tumultuous tales of the public library system and its unending battle against the forces of evil. This struggle is not just confined to our terrestrial sphere but extends out into the farthest reaches of the cosmos…and beyond!” I also checked out the website for Rex Libris. Click here to go there yourself. It’s very funny. I love that the stereotype of an old-maid type librarian with a bun and glasses is actually a disguise for “femme fatale librarian agents who employ a variety of methods, from lethal martial arts to feminine wiles, to protect knowledge, retrieve books, and add to the library collection.” The website is also a lot of fun. In the Library History tab you can find a map of libraries that have cats. I had no idea that the Beech Grove Public Library was at one time home to two cats named Tigger and Pooh! So if you are bored or just wish to explore something entertaining I recommend checking these out.