Piles of Links

Here, have a tour of different awesome things to read on the internet. Links and how to wear them!

From Tamara: The NY Times and others are reporting that several libraries in the US, including one in California that wasn’t in too bad of shape, have been taken over by a private company. The outcry is vaguely reported, and the article makes it seem like the major cripping factor is the pensions of the library employees. How much would that suck, by the way? One day you’re a state or city employee with a pension and retirement fund, and the next you’re a potential employee of a private company offering a (401)k and no pension? Ouch.

Do you live in one of the towns with a privately-managed library system? What do you think?

Moving on to other private enterprises: Danielle Steel has fallen out of love with romance novels. That’s nice. She didn’t write them to begin with.

“They’re not really about romance … I really write more about the human condition,” she said. “[Romance] is an element in life but I think of romance novels as more of a category and I write about the situations we all deal with – loss and war and illness and jobs and careers, good things, bad things, crimes, whatever.”

Steel is the point of reference for so many people outside the genre when they ask me about romance novels. Fact is, most people think she’s romance. So it’s actually rather useful for her to declaim the romance connection because my response to the “Oh, like Danielle Steel?” comment is usually, “Oh, no, she doesn’t write romance. Romance is actually better than Steel, and uses far fewer ellipses.”

Thanks to Rebecca for the link.

Speaking of breaking yourself to avoid the romance cooties, Maureen Johnson’s recent essay is so entirely awesome, particularly in her discussion of genre type and gender. Thanks to JD and Christine and many others for the link.

And finally, Kathy sent this article that totally has me running for the shelf of Romance That Shalt Not Be Touched: the 99 page test is, according to this person’s report, is a better evaluative technique for a book than reading the first page. This has worked for me with a few of Nora Roberts’ books, but I haven’t tried it on the rest of the library yet. Does this test work for you? What’s your 99th page test result?



The Link-O-Lator

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Mary says:

    Hi Sarah:

    Am a bit confused as to why you state Danielle Steel is not romance.  How so?  I’ve read a few of them myself and while they are all the same, I’d definitly say they were romance.  Her novels always revolve around a fortyish -fiftyish woman who finds love for the second or third time.  With your comment of “That’s nice. She didn’t write them to begin with.”, I thought you meant she was just a “brand” name with a team of writer slaves pumping out her novels, (ala Tom Clancy) thus not really writing them.  But I don’t think this is what you meant. 

    Just because she’s a crappy romance writer doesn’t mean she doesn’t write romance.  :)

    So tell me, (I really an interested in your response!) how is Danielle Steel not romance?

  2. 2
    Carin says:

    I don’t know if Danielle Steel writes romance or not, but holy cow I can’t stand her books!  I don’t need to have my heroine dragged through the gutter of life before getting her HEA!  I have enough crap in my own life, so I prefer not to spend my entertainment time suffering with someone else!

    I’m going to try the 99th page test on some of my keepers and my TBRs.  Maybe that’s how I can decided which ones I’ll make time to read.

  3. 3
    Kim says:

    Thanks for mentioning the library story. Librarians have been upset by the recent statements of the CEO of LSSI, the private equity owned company which is the main player in the for profit running of public libraries. He accuses librarians of sitting around, doing nothing for 30+ years and walking away with large pensions. I, for one, am happy that LSSI has finally come out with what they really think of libraries and the people who work in them.  The LSSI comments feed into the current popularity of bashing the tax funded worker. I didn’t become a librarian to get rich, and with 30 years of work ahead of me (at least), have no anticipation of a cushy retirement. I’m a librarian because I believe in the power of having an institution in the community whose purpose is intellectual enrichment, however that gets defined by those who use us. Libraries should shoulder some of the service decreases that every public agency is facing at this time, but handing tax money to a private firm that fires all the employees, hires some of them back at reduced wages and benefits and then crows about their profits is just wrong.

  4. 4

    My first introduction to a sex scene in a book was a DS my friend Connie swiped from her mom.  I remember sitting in Connie’s closet all agog at the whole thing, but at the end!  MAKING BREAKFAST WHILE NAKED WHAT WAS THIS NEW WORLD.

    But I’ve never actually read any of her other stuff, and really am not interested in doing so.  She always seemed like an author for middle aged, grown up people, and I want my fabulous clothing, dammit. 

    But I am a completeist and a glutton for punishment.  There have been a few books where I had to work at finishing them.  Mostly, I finish what I’ve started.  Sometimes for longer books it takes multiple tries (Shogun is something I’m going to need a third try, Mists of Avalon took four before I finished it, Les Miserables took more times than I care to admit BUT IT WAS UNABRIDGED YO). 

    I kind of take a similar approach to new TV shows- I’m VERY forgiving of pilots, and will give things that I think are terrible a few more episodes to see what happened between shooting the pilot and the actual pick up (Outlaw being a notable case- but then, Jimmy Smits), but if I hate everyone on the screen but the baby (I’m looking at you, Raising Hope) than 20 minutes is all you’re going to get out of me.

  5. 5

    Moving on to other private enterprises: Danielle Steel has fallen out of love with romance novels. That’s nice. She didn’t write them to begin with.

      “They’re not really about romance … I really write more about the human condition,” she said. “[Romance] is an element in life but I think of romance novels as more of a category and I write about the situations we all deal with – loss and war and illness and jobs and careers, good things, bad things, crimes, whatever.”

    THANK YOU!!!  I agree… I’m definitely one of the people who don’t see DS as a romance writer.  I think some of her earlier stuff could qualify, and yeah, there might be romantic elements, but that doesn’t make it romance.

  6. 6
    Joy says:

    Maureen Johnson’s article is interesting.  I see where she’s going (works by male authors dominate the canon), but as the mother of a boy who is smart but doesn’t like to read, I think she’s kind of missing the point of the “boys reading” issue.

    I wish my brilliant son shared my love of reading. I wish he would read something other than Pokemon, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, and nonfiction about space.  Books I enjoyed as a kid (Alcott, L.M. Montgomery, Twain, Lewis, Eager) don’t appeal to him.  I don’t think making him study female authors in school is going to help that—a lot of the time required reading in grade school is implemented so badly by the teachers that it ends up souring the kids on the works studied.  I’d be happy enough for him to read Twain or Stephenson or Hardy Boys or any classic “boy” books but as it is I’m off to get him a Guinness Book of World Records because I know he will read it and that’s something.

    When it comes to reading, I don’t think my son is all that unusual.

  7. 7
    Cris says:

    I always thought Danielle Steel wrote romances, but bad, painful ones.  About 20 years ago after reading horrifying description of childbirth in one of her books, I have never picked another of hers up again.  Honestly, now that I’m thinking about it, all I can remember is that her heroines had tons of kids (hate that) and …. actually that’s it.  And the horrifying childbirth.  Bleh.

    As for privatizing libraries… can’t comment.  Too infuriated.

  8. 8
    Hannah says:

    So for those of us who read ebooks the equivalent to the 99-page test would be to go to around 30% into the book, I guess.

  9. 9

    @ Joy:  Things that are worth a shot:  Jack London, Walter Farley, possibly the Misty of Chicoteague books by Marguerite Henry.  Rick Riordan (especaially if he has any interest in Greek or Egyptian mythology) is AWESOME and I LOVE HIM (and the movie is crap), Harry Potter, of course.

    I work at Borders to put myself through school, and this is a question that comes up a lot- what do boys read?  There’s a bunch of series (Redwall, Rangers Apprentice, the Warriors with the owls or whatever) that I haven’t read, but seem to move pretty well.

  10. 10
    SB Sarah says:

    So tell me, (I really an interested in your response!) how is Danielle Steel not romance?

    Hi Mary!

    I am of the opinion that Steel does not write romance for a few reasons:

    1. Not always a happy ending. The love story she spends the majority of a book building, particularly in her last 10-15 novels, is going to end, and likely end badly.

    2. More attention to the historical setting and the heroine than the romance/courtship. See above also re: happy ending. There’s an ending for one of them, usually him, and it’s usually death.

    I loved some of her earlier books, especially Star and Zoya – I still think about the trainwreck of omgwtf that was Zoya – but I do not at all consider her romance, and if you read one of her novels and followed with a historical romance like “The Spymaster’s Lady” or “Seven Nights to Forever” you’d notice a marked difference in the emphasis and focus on the protagonists and focus on the courtship/emotional journey.

    This is my favorite Steel review. Enjoy.

  11. 11
    becca says:

    For boys reading: if they’ve outgrown Rick Riordan and Redwall, I recommend Terry Pratchett, either his juvies or the Night Watch series, starting with Guards! Guards!  (I work at Borders too!)

  12. 12
    hapax says:

    I’m surprised that more people haven’t heard of the 99 page test, although I personally think that’s too far into the book, and potentially spoilery (especially if we’re talking about a 200 page category)

    As a librarian (when not sitting around waiting for my pension), I have for decades told patrons to “Double your age.  Now read that page of the book.  Do you want to keep reading?”  This nicely accounts for the different lengths of books aimed (roughly) at different audiences, and also gives people the feeling that the “rule” was designed “just for me.”

    And I was taught this trick by a librarian who was probably using it back when books were chiselled on clay tablets, so…

  13. 13
    Smokey says:

    99 pages is as good a number as any to trial a book.  Now where is that 99th page in my e-book?  Perhaps it is location 1000-1200?  Of course I will have to buy the e-book to do this readability test for non-print items.

    About contracting out library work, well that just ruins any idea of long-term collection plans.  Any schemes to develop grants to bolster puny budgets are gone with the dedicated library staff as well.  Which is really a shame.

  14. 14
    Rebecca says:

    Hi, Joy,

    Keeping boys reading for pleasure is one of the great challenges of the English teacher.  How old is your son?  Is he more or less at grade level for his age?

    If he’s a high-schooler reading non-fiction about space, and you think he could stretch into more adult material, why not consider some popular non-fiction about science and math, like James Gleick’s CHAOS, or J.E. Gordon’s STRUCTURES; OR WHY THINGS DON’T FALL DOWN?  If he tends to read more at the DIARY OF A WIMPY KID level, I’d definitely check out the work of Walter Dean Myers, especially MONSTER and FALLEN ANGELS.  If you don’t object to profanity and sexual activity (well, I assume you don’t object to sex in books, since you’re on this blog, but just in case), I liked Coe Booth’s novel TYRELL, and it entranced a number of my reluctant readers last year.  It’s first person, written in a very true idiom (hence the cursing), and the title character strikes me as a modern update of Huck Finn – someone who is forced to calibrate his own moral compass, because he is essentially an outcast.

    I hope you find something your son enjoys.  Why not ask his teachers as well?  They probably have a good idea of the juvenile or YA fiction published around their grade level.


    Spamword: report27 – I squirm 27 different ways when I hear that elementary school students are made to write reports as “punishment.”  Way to kill a love of reading and writing.

  15. 15
    Quercus says:

    Danielle Steel, honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a worse writer.  I’ve picked her books up hoping for another Judith Krantz…. tried her audiobooks on several occasions when I wanted something light to listen to on a long drive.  Her work reads like she accidentally published the bland outline of a book instead of the actual finished book.

    I think the only one I managed to get all the way through was Amazing Grace as an audiobook.  The plot had promise, but the characters, the dialogue – ug! – a perfect storm of syrupy, wooden, cliche, banal, and ridiculous wish-fulfillment.  I wanted them all to die horribly in an aftershock (the book took place after an earthquake).

    So, keep her out of the romance genre; it deserves better.  While we’re at it, can we remove her oeuvre from English letters altogether?  At least Bulwer-Lytton could come up with a catchy phrase!

    Sorry for the rant… returning to lurkerhood now.

  16. 16
    KTG says:

    Re: The Times Article
    “Somehow they have been put in the category of a sacred organization.” Yes, they have!

    This scares me, once libraries are run by private companies what’s to stop them from deciding what books to carry?

    These are frightening times.

  17. 17
    Joy says:

    Thanks for the suggestions.  My son is 9 and reads above grade-level in terms of ability, but he’s still very much a kid in his approach to things. I think we’ll be avoiding the sexy books for a few years yet—I don’t have objections to cursing/sex in general but it’s not age-appropriate for him at this point.

    The best reaction he’s had to any fiction I’ve recommended for him is that he didn’t MIND reading it too much.  He just seems to have little interest for 95% of fiction. And in the remaining 5%, he seems to prefer tie-ins to his favorite computer games and TV shows (Pokemon, Club Penguin, Ben 10, etc.).  I know some people just aren’t cut out to be readers…but he’s MY KID ::cry::  I just want to recommend a book to him and have him say that he enjoyed it.

  18. 18
    Laura (in PA) says:

    I read a few Danielle Steele books years and years ago – we’re talking 20 years ago. Then one time I was reading one, and was so tired of the tragedy after tragedy, and read my 15th run-on sentence that went on for lines and lines and lines, and I threw the book down and never picked up another one.

    I’m glad she has fans – I don’t see the draw myself, but then, I don’t have to. Just please, God, don’t make me read one.

  19. 19
    Eva_baby says:

    My son is 11 years old and finding books for him is a process which I am committed to.  Thank god for Harry Potter. 

    But after Harry I still had issues.  He loves Diary of a Wimpy kid and Captain Underpants (when he was much younger).  He, luckily, had a 4th grade teacher who was mad about graphic novels and got him into the Bone series by Jeff Smith which is really quite a well done fantasy epic over eight volumes. 

    It was a great jumping off point for him to get into some fantasy.  She also intro’d him to a prose/graphic hybrid Malice by Chris Wooding (this book has the COOLEST 3-d cover). We are venturing out and we are finding a nice mix of longer form novels and graphic/prose hybrids.  yeah, they are not the classics but many of them are very well done and keep him interested and reading.

  20. 20
    Sarah Mae says:

    @Joy I might be wrong but it sounds like you are equating reading with reading fiction. If your son enjoys non-fiction and not novels, then I don’t think pushing novels is the best idea. Actually a lot of males prefer non-fiction, magazines and newspapers to novels. For more challenging non-fiction, try the Sibert award: http://ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/sibertmedal/index.cfm

  21. 21
    JodyS says:

    @ Joy – I’m chiming in with Sarah Mae…
    Reading is reading – its all good. You might like to take a look at:
    It is a website put together by Jon Scieszka and friends, and there are some terrific suggestions.

  22. 22
    beggar1015 says:

    I’ve never called it the 99 page test (or really called it anything) but for years if I’m looking for a book to read I’ll flip a prospective tome open to about a third or so in to see how well it reads. Of course this has hidden dangers as this might reveal an important plot twist before I’ve even started to find out who’s who and what’s what.

    Naturally, when it came to Zebra hysterical romances, I would immediatly to go the middle/post card section because that area always guaranteed a love scene and I could judge whether this was worth my time or not.

    But yeah, how are we supposed to do this test for ebooks?

  23. 23
    beggar1015 says:

    Man, I’m just full of typos today.

  24. 24
    Dana says:

    @ Joy et al.  I just wanted to add my two cents- my husband is one of the smartest and most well rounded people I’ve ever met, but he never read any fiction as a child. In fact, he mainly played video games, with some non-fiction, instructional reading. His mother is a rabid reader, as is his older brother (so some boys do read, apparently), and she was at her wits end to try to get him interested, but nothing worked.  Even now, he only sometimes reads fiction (almost exclusively fantasy or science fiction), and does tend to read things like physics textbooks for pleasure.  However, despite this lack of reading, he is an excellent writer (non-fiction), and extremely knowledgeable about most things not involving fiction.  He is also very creative (paints, plays multiple musical instruments, sews, creates truffles).  Therefore, I have concluded that reading books as a child is not that important as long as the child can read/write well. 

    Despite this, I, as someone who read non-stop as a child, am sad that my 3 year old son appears to be completely uninterested in books or being read to.  He is already outstanding with computers and video games, so, clearly, that’s his thing.  Meanwhile, my 1 year old daughter can’t toddle past a book without plopping down, picking it up, and riffling through the pages.  Sigh.

  25. 25
    Lynnd says:

    @Joy.  I agree with Sarah Mae and JodyS – if he likes non-fiction or tie-in books, thats great – at least he’s reading.  If you want to try to get him interested in fiction, you might want to try graphic novels – a friend of mine’s boys who are roughly the same age as your son love them.  If you want to keep trying chapter fiction books, you might want to suggest he try Kenneth Oppel’s books – great adventure stories.

  26. 26
    Samanthadelayed says:

    I used to read Danielle Steele when I was a teenager back when I didn’t know any better ;-)

    However, I always put her books in the Romance section of our UBS. That is where her readers look for them. No point putting them anywhere else.

    I am really going to have to try this 99 page thing. Mind you I don’t think it will work with category romances. Maybe page 49 for those.

  27. 27
    JamiSings says:

    I’ve read exactly one Steele book and will never read another. It was Big Girl – her “fat girl romance.”

    First off, I never saw the book as a romance as it focused too much on her childhood with her verbally abusive parents. The love came at the end of the book with no real character development. I hated how she just ups and lets her sister marry a guy who cheats on her instead of doing the right thing and denouncing him at the wedding as a cheating SOB – with evidence. I totally would’ve hired a PI to follow him and show video and photographic evidence of him cheating humiliating him in front of the entire wedding party, then said to the sister, “If you still marry him don’t come crying to me when he gives you HIV.”

    Most of all, the biggest size she ever is in the entire book – a 16. In America the average size now is 12. 16 is NOT fat. I’m a 22/24. I’M fat. She’s just ordinary.

  28. 28

    I’ve used a lot of modern media to hook my son into reading. After the movie, we went through the series of How to Train Your Dragon. Same reading level as Wimpy Kid, I think. My son is a huge fan of classic Beverley Cleary – the Henry Huggins series and the Motorcycle Mouse guy – and he’s even reading the “girl” ones with Ramona b/c he got hooked by the books on tape in the car. Stockard Channing reads all the Ramona books, and she’s awesome – inspires me to be a better mother – I ask “What would Ramona’s mom do?” when I’m losing it. Now my son reads Ramona during free read at school (his little sister IS Ramona).

    Nonfiction: David Macaulay, all of them (except we weren’t huge fans of the human body one). Underground was fascinating for a city kid obsessed with transit. He and his non-fiction loving dad spent many nights together with The New Way Things Work. The series has cute videos we checked out of our local library to hook into the book. Also try The Works: Anatomy of a City by Kate Ascher. Spent some of the summer scouting out the port, the sewage facility, etc after reading that.

    And – it might sound morbid – but many boys of a certain age are deeply intrigued by the Titanic. We have quite a collection of books, including ones aimed at adults, that my son loves. DVR the classic 1958 movie “A Night to Remember” – no Leo schmaltz, just the facts and really focused on the crew’s experiences. We branched out to various Andrea Doria books and The Terrible Hours (SS Squalus – submarine rescue). If he’s at the computer age, the Titanic can also be really fun family internet research. There are many great shipwreck sites and ocean liner sites, and of course fabulous old folk music to listen to – anyone else remember singing the Guthrie “When that Great Ship went Down” in Girl Scouts? Not to mention the zillion people who build Titanics out of everything from Legos to milk cartons and sink them in swimming pools and put it on youtube – again something your son might really like to do. (Oh geez – I sound like a freak. Just don’t get me started on Kikkoman!) There’s a Magic Treehouse Titanic book and some others, but my son prefers the Walter Lord classic. (no annoying kids)

    (Full disclosure: my next novel has an immortal hero who had the rotten luck to be on the Titanic and the Lusitania, so he’s now an immortal Viking who won’t get on a boat). 

    “The56”: don’t get me started on the OTHER 56 sunken ships…

  29. 29

    “Oh it was sad! (so sad!)
    It was sad (too bad!)
    Sad when the great ship went down
    to the bottom of sea
    (Uncles and aunts all the counselors lost their pants!)
    It was sad when the great ship went down!”

    Anna, that sounds like awesome. I need to read it!

  30. 30
    Poodlebug says:

    Books for boys suggestions from a woman who read everything under the sun when she was a girl, and it didn’t matter if they were for boys or not…and who still reads a lot of YA fantasy and SF:  Alfred Hitchock & the 3 Investigators (the originals) were great.  I so wanted to be friends with these guys and have my own color of chalk!  I second the Artemis Fowl suggestions, and I also really like Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series.  The movie was kind of meh, but the books are great fun.  The Young Bond series is good, too.  It’s 007 before he was 007 in the original series time frame, as a boy at Eton in the 1930s.

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