“Alys, Aways”

by Harriet Lane is a modern day story of a young woman living in London working in the publishing field. The book opens on her driving home after visiting her parents when she sees a car that’s gone off the road.  She pulls over and spends the last few minutes of the car accident victim’s life comforting her so the 50-something woman fatally injured in the car will not spend her last moments alone.  It turns out the victim was the wife of a well-respected author. The family of the victim reaches out to her to learn how their wife/mother spent her last few minutes and the woman becomes intertwined with them thereafter.  She inserts herself into the life of the daughter, a spoiled, charming young girl in a need of a replacement mother figure. The new contact with the literary family raises the young woman’s prospects in her job and opens up opportunities to her in other ways, as well.  A somewhat slow-moving, but enjoyable read.

“Hidden Women Are Drawn Out of the Shadows”

After recently finishing “The Aviator’s Wife,” I came across an article listing several new books dealing with women married to famous men, who were overshadowed by their husbands.

Author Paula McLain’s 2011 best seller “The Paris Wife” sold more than 1.2 million copies.  She says, “Book clubs like to have something to chew on.”  Her novel gives the reader an interesting picture of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson.  Paris in the 1920s, the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and wife No. 2 all made this a very successful book.  Carol Fitzgerald, president of The Book Report Network, says that women buy a lot of books, and they are especially interested in “books about hidden women.”

Besides “The Aviator’s Wife,”  three other novels set in 1920’s, will be on the shelves soon.  “Z” by Therese Anne Fowler and “Call Me Zelda” by Erika Rosbuck deal, of course, with Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald.  Widely written about, Zelda still fascinates readers.  Additional interest in these books may be generated by the release of yet another film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.”  “Above All Things” by Tanis Rideout centers on George Mallory and his wife Ruth.  Mallory was the British explorer who made three attempts to conquer Mt. Everest.  On his last attempt, in 1924, he disappeared.  The story examines Ruth’s struggle to deal with her husband’s obsession with the mountain.

All these books are love stories complicated by strong willed men who control and dominate the lives of their families.

“The Aviator’s Wife”

Charles Augustus Lindbergh was in the 1920s and 1930s one of the most famous and idolized man of the time.  In the late twenties, he married Anne Morrow, daughter of a diplomat and future US senator.  They were constantly pursued by an adoring public and relentless press. Everyone wanted to see the golden couple.  Their story is the subject of Melanie Benjamin’s newest historical fiction novel.

In her author’s note, she discusses the issue of truth versus fiction in this literary genre.  “It’s the emotional truths that I imagine.”  She believes that only in novels–not letters, or diaries–that the inner life can be explored.  With regard to the historical events,  they are as accurate as she could make them.  Not every detail is included, but she hopes that those who are truly interested will use her novel as a jumping off point.  “As a historical novelist, the most gratifying thing I hear is that the reader was inspired” to learn more.

These two fascinating figures are what moves this novel forward.  Lindbergh molded Anne into a woman that would be his co-pilot in the air as well as on the ground.  Her devotion and love of this iconic hero enabled her to learn to fly, become the first woman to be licensed to fly a glider, write several award winning books, and be the mother of six children.  But her devotion and love also led to a lonely life, filled with self-doubt.

The book begins with the first encounter between Charles and Anne and continues to his death in 1974.   This is definitely Anne’s story–her sacrifices, her sorrows, her heartbreaks.  She becomes the hero of this story; Charles is portrayed as a cold, driven, calculating  man,  who in the end betrays Anne and their children.

Benjamin has written a very revealing story of the marriage of two intriguing people set against the backdrop of the major events of the first half of the twentieth century.

Current purchasing trends in the library world

In a recent article in last month’s Publishers Weekly, Brian Kenney of the White Plains PL focuses on recent trends in purchasing by public libraries. He utilizes purchase alert reports to examine where patron popular interests lie, explaining that the WPPL buys at least one copy for every 4 holds, at times, for even three holds. He states that this is not unusual among larger libraries, even Brooklyn PL tries to buy one copy for every 5 patron holds, despite their recent budget cutbacks.

Kenney explains his findings that librarians focus on materials that give the “best return on investment”, what he calls “high-interest, frontlist fiction” as well as a few popular non-fic titles. According to the director of the Chattanooga PL, they only buy non-fiction if it’s on the NY Times best seller list. The head of Brooklyn’s collection development services calls herself  “very conservative” when it comes to NF titles, buying only as the demand warrants. In 2010, BPL cut reference & periodical budgets by 50%, reduced NF titles, and focused on buying high-demand fiction, world language collections & DVD’s and found that their circ counts increased 2.3 million over a period of 9 months,which amounted to a huge increase in their numbers.

Of course, the area with the least movement in purchasing is reference, with many libraries drastically cutting back when it comes to ordering reference titles.

Kenney mentions a “you ask, we buy” policy at White Plains which began last summer. Their aim is to respond to requests in 48 hours, and to have the material in-house within a week, which often amazes patrons when they discover this response.

On the digital front, a new product from Midwest Tapes has many librarians anxious to sample. Hoopla is a digital platform that will offer digital movies, tv shows, music & audiobooks. Given the current problem with E-book pricing and unavailability from certain publishers, Hoopla may give libraries a long- awaited edge when it comes to the digital world of collection development.


This is a popular request at my school library: especially from the boys.  John Kloepfer has a humorous zombie series (example: “Sludgment Day”). Darren Shan has “Zom-B” for a slightly older audience who likes their zombies creepier and less funny.   Carrie Harris has “Bad Taste in Boys”- a zombie book for teenage girls.  Kevin Bolger’s “Zombiekins” is humorous as is “Undead Ed” by Rotterly Ghoulstone.  Wondering why boys do not come into the library requesting zombie books often made me assume that if they ask for a zombie book perhaps their parents are so happy they want to read they just go out and buy the book for them?