Archive for February, 2009

The Parable of the Sower

February 25, 2009

Author: Butler, Octavia E.

Title: Parable of the Sower

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1993

Number of Pages: 345

Geographical Setting: Fictional town of Robledo, California, 20 miles from LA; California; Oregon

Time Period: 2024-2027

Series: Parable books, 1 (Also referred to as the Earthseed series)

Plot Summary: It’s 2024 and 15-year-old African-American Lauren Olamina, who narrates the novel in the form of a diary, lives in a gated community outside LA. Poverty, homelessness, addiction and violence are rampant, especially in California; the environment is a mess, clean water is at a premium, and pyromania is commonplace. All this is encroaching on the walls that protect Lauren, her family, and their small community (“We’re a rope, breaking a single strand at a time”). But Lauren, an exceptionally resourceful and questioning teenager, is prescient and preparing for the worst. When the worst arrives and Lauren flees the destruction of Robledo for the dangerous world outside the walls, she is determined to survive and begins a physical, spiritual, and emotional journey that leads to the founding of a belief system and community (“God is change” and we can shape change) on her way to a hoped-for better life up north. Although the book contains violence and there are descriptions of corpses including a dead child, Butler doesn’t linger in her descriptions of violence: she is instead interested in the moral, ethical and spiritual questions raised by Lauren’s struggle to survive and to trust. (She has a secret that endangers herself and others.) Although there are elements of adventure, this is a character-driven story of survival and growth that also touches on issues of race, gender and selfhood in an accessible style.

Subject Headings: African-americans–Fiction; Bildungsromans; California—Fiction; California, Southern—Fiction; Coming of age—Fiction; Diaries—Fiction; Dystopias; Environmental Protection—Fiction; Religion—Fiction; Science fiction; Twenty-first Century–Fiction; Young Women—Fiction;

Appeal: diary narrative, intimate, complex and sympathetic characterizations, character-driven, evocative, engaging, insightful, realistic, philosophical, ruminative; plot builds deliberately, engrossing, episodic; spiritual and emotional journey, coming of age, thought-provoking; graceful prose, unaffected, expressive, accessible; menacing atmosphere, foreboding, dark, introspective, violent, bleak, chaotic.

Relevant Fiction Authors and Works: Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale. Also a futurist, dystopian, bleak and insightful novel of ideas featuring a strong female heroine. Slightly more issue-driven. Starhawk, The Fifth Sacred Thing. Also set in dystopian California in the 21st century and concerned with environmental and spiritual issues, it features strong heroines (witches) who have created their own safe haven community. A more strongly feminist slant than Butler. Jack Womack, Random Acts of Senseless Violence. Also features a teenage protagonist in a dystopian and violent future, this time New York City, and also written in the form of a diary, but less philosophical and less hopeful.

Relevant Nonfiction Authors and Works: Al Gore, Earth in Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. Also a reflective and thought-provoking look at how man has damaged the planet and the implications for its future. Baszile, Jennifer. The Black Girl Next Door: A Memoir. Also set in southern California and a coming of age story featuring a trail-blazing African-American heroine (the first black history professor at Yale) and written in graceful, accessible prose that illuminates multicultural life.

Clinton, Catherine. Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom. Also about a black woman who rescued others on perilous and dangerous journeys in hope of a better life up north.

One of the Money

February 25, 2009

Title: One for the Money
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 1994
Page Numbers: 320
Geographic Setting: Trenton, New Jersey
Time Period: Modern, c late 1990s
Series: Stephanie Plum Mysteries #1

Plot Summary:
Recently unemployed Stephanie Plum is down on her luck but her luck is about to change when she stops into her cousin’s bail bonding company. Enter Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter. If she can turn in bail jumper and murderer Joe Morelli, an ex cop from her past, she could become $10,000 richer. But it proves to be harder than it looks when Morelli slips out of her grip time and time again. But when she gains unwanted attention from crazed boxer Bentino Ramirez, she is no longer fighting just for the money; she is fighting for her life.

Subject Headings: women bounty hunters -Trenton, New Jersey; women detectives – Trenton, New Jersey; women bail bond agent-detectives; mystery stories, American; humorous stories, American.
Appeal: quirky, character centered, mystery series, series characters, action-oriented, strong secondary characters, romantic situations, quick paced, strong language, sexually explicit, humorous, eccentric characters, plot twists, urban, engaging

Similar Authors:
Sierra Lavotini mysteries by Nancy Bartholomew. Stripper/detective Sierra Lavotini solves crimes with the help of a quirky cast of characters. Features the same type of fast pace, action and snappy dialogue you’ve come to expect from the Plum series.

Bubbles Yablonsky mysteries by Sarah Strohmeyer. Fashionable Bubbles Yablonsky investigates crimes in the urban neighborhoods. Action packed and fast paced and don’t forget the smart-mouthed remarks.

Perfectly Plum: An Unauthorized Celebration of the Life, Loves and Other Disasters of Stephanie Plum, Trenton Bounty Hunter by Leah Wilson. A collection of essays on the life, loves, and crazy adventures of Stephanie Plum.

Non Fiction
Modern Bounty Hunting: A Real-Life Guide for the Bail Fugitive Recovery Agent by Rex Venator: Find out what it takes to be a modern bounty hunter. Full of textbook instruction and real lessons that show that even if you do everything right, things could go wrong.

The Huntress: The True Saga of Dottie and Brandi Thorson, Modern-Day Bounty Hunters
by Christopher Keane and Dottie Thorson. After the death of famed bounty hunter Ralph Thorson, his widow and daughter stove to take over the family business. Read as these two courageous women prevail in a profession of men and work their way to the top.

Bail Enforcer: The Advanced Bounty Hunter by Bob Burton: “America’s most successful bounty hunter reveals advanced details and tricks of hunting and capturing humans. Learn how to obtain an arrest contract, surveillance tips, what to wear during a bust, how to work with the police, hazards of the use of deadly force, how to avoid your own arrest, legal precedents of the trade and more.”

Michelle B.

At Risk

February 25, 2009

Author: Patricia Cornwell

Title: At Risk

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 212

Geographical Setting: Boston, MA and Knoxville, TN

Time Period: 2006

Series: Win Garano series (only 2 books as of 2008, the other title is The Front)

Plot Summary: Winston “Win” Garano, an investigator for the Massachusetts District Attorney’s office, has just been called back to Boston from Knoxville, Tennessee. The D.A., Monique Lamont, is assigning him to a twenty-year-old cold case in Knoxville in a bid to gain publicity for her forensics laboratory. It is all part of her “At Risk” program that aims to reduce violent crime in Boston while improving chances of becoming governor in an upcoming election. Win refuses to take the case, especially after receiving threats from a mysterious man in red. However, everything changes when he discovers Lamont has been violently assaulted in her own home. He convinces a colleague to start pursuing the case in Knoxville while he investigates Lamont’s attack in Boston. He must now investigate both crimes to determine whether the two cases are linked.

Subject Headings: Forensic Pathology – Fiction; Massachusetts – Fiction; Public Prosecutors – Massachusetts – Fiction; DNA Fingerprinting – Fiction; Criminal Investigation – Fiction; Tennessee – Fiction; Mystery Fiction; Cold Cases (Criminal Investigation) – Tennessee – Fiction; Murder – Investigation – Tennessee – Knoxville – Fiction; Forensic Sciences – Fiction; DNA – Fiction;

Appeal: fast-paced, distant, eccentric, interior, multiple points of view, realistic, strong secondary characters, action-oriented, cinematic, conclusive, investigative, layered, linear, multiple plot lines, plot-centered, plot twists, resolved ending, contemporary, political, rural, small-town, urban, austere, dramatic, moody, sophisticated, unaffected, uneasy, accessible, candid, concise, conversational, dialect, direct, jargon, natural, spare, unembellished, details of forensic investigation, explicit, violent

Red Flags: Graphic descriptions of death, autopsy, and human decomposition. Descriptions of violence and rape are less graphic but may disturb sensitive readers.

Similar Authors and Works (Fiction):

Echo Park by Michael Connelly. Connelly’s 12th Harry Bosch novel, in which Bosch solves a cold case mired in political conspiracy.

Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs. A forensic scientist suspects a recent murder may be the work of a serial killer.

Shadows by Edna Buchanan. The Cold Case squad of detectives must solve a 1961 murder before the crime scene is demolished to make way for new condominiums.

Similar Authors and Works (Non-Fiction):

Cracking Cases: the Science of Solving Crimes by Henry C. Lee. This title focuses on the forensics used to investigate murder cases.

Death’s Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales by Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson. This is the memoir of a forensic anthropologist and his work at the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee.

The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City’s Cold Case Squad by Stacy Horn. This title examines how Cold Case detectives investigate four unsolved murders.

Name: Tori

The Widow’s Tale

February 25, 2009

Author: Frazer, Margaret
Title: The Widow’s Tale
Genre: Mystery
Publication Date: 2005
Number of Pages: 266 p.
Geographical Setting: Rural England
Time Period: 15th century
Dame Frevisse medieval mysteries

Plot Summary: Set in rural England in the mid 1400’s, The Widow’s Tale is an engrossing domestic mystery rich with period details and careful characterization. When her devoted husband dies, Cristiana Helyngton finds herself overrun by his scheming siblings in a calculated plot to seize control of his land and property—and daughters’ inheritances. Kidnapped, declared insane, and shut away in a distant convent, Cristiana’s only thoughts are of escape, finding her children, and seeking justice against her villainous in-laws. Fortunately for Cristiana, St. Frideswide’s nunnery, the convent where she’s been stashed is home to Dame Frevisse, a nun with keen powers of observation and a knack for eliciting answers. When more information about the widow arises and she is ordered home, Frevisse and her superior return with Cristiana and find themselves in the midst of the struggle among her family and friends, as well as their own. Full of well researched and accessible details of life in medieval England—both in manors and convents—as well as a fascinating exploration of the politics of the time, The Widow’s Tale is a moderately paced but engaging mystery as well as a character-driven, historical family drama. Its narration shifts unobtrusively between Cristiana and Frevisse’s points of view, and there is very little “onscreen” violence.

Subject Headings: Frevisse, Sister; Women detectives — England; Nun-detectives — England; Land tenure; Catholics; Widows; Nuns; Nobility — England; Family relationships — England; Family secrets; Inheritance and succession — England; Mother and daughter; Malicious accusation; Separated friends, relatives, etc; Greed in men; Brothers and sisters; Rescues
Fifteenth century; The Forties (15th century); Great Britain — History — Lancaster and York, 1399-1485; Great Britain — History — Henry VI, 1422-1461; England — History — 15th century; England — Social life and customs — Medieval period, 1066-1485; Oxfordshire, England — Social life and customs; Letters; Historical mystery stories, American; Medieval mystery stories; Historical fiction, American; Mystery stories, American

Appeal: accurate, character-centered, complex, contemplative, deliberate, detailed, detailed setting, details of 15th century Catholicism, details of 15th century convent life, details of 15th century England, details of 15th century English manor life, details of 15th century English politics, details of Hundred Years’ War, domestic, engaging, event-oriented, evocative, faithful characterizations, gentle, graceful, historical details, insightful, intimate, intriguing, investigative, linear, measured, mild violence, multiple points of view, plot-centered, political, resolved ending, rural, series characters, steady, strong secondary characters, sympathetic characters, thoughtful, vivid, well-developed characters, well-drawn characters

Similar Fiction Authors and Works:

· Fortune Like the Moon, Alys Clare (Medieval mystery set in England and involving a nun detective)

· A Morbid Taste for Bones, Ellis Peters (First in a Medieval mystery series set in England, involving a monk detective)

· Chaucer and the House of Fame, Philippa Morgan (Murder mystery involving Geoffrey Chaucer as investigating a murder while on a diplomatic mission from England to France during the Hundred Years’ War)

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

· The Reign of Henry VI, Ralph A. Griffiths (biography of King Henry VI of England [and France], details of his court, politics of the time, and the ongoing war with France—all background details crucial to The Widow’s Tale)

Name: Cynthia

Fahrenheit 451

February 25, 2009

Author: Bradbury, Ray

Title: Fahrenheit 451

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: original publication date 1953

Number of Pages: 179 pp. (1996 Del Ray edition)

Geographical Setting: United States

Time Period: the future (post 1990)

Plot Summary: Guy Montag enjoys his job as a fireman. He has a lovely wife and a modest home. He thinks of himself as a happy person. Until Clarisse, a teenage girl from the neighborhood, asks him that much. Through their newfound friendship, Montag realizes that she and her family are more interested in what happens around them rather than what happens on television. They appreciate depth and content; books and nature. And as he begins to question this, a series of events begin to unravel Montag’s life. His lovely wife attempts suicide to end a life of artificiality and sentimental distance. His station chief, Captain Beatty, questions Guy’s national commitment to burning books and homes. Clarisse and her family vanish. These episodes spark Guy’s temptation to read a cache of books he had stolen. He seeks out Faber, a retired English professor, whom he once met some time ago, to help sort out his thoughts. Beatty’s questioning becomes suspicion. Even the mechanical hound at the station dislikes him. Montag finds himself a fugitive after his wife turns him in and Beatty burns his home down. He struggles to flee civilization and find safety with a group of outsiders that have voluntarily fallen off the grid and have happily rediscovered books and literature. Fahrenheit 451 is Bradbury’s tale of anti-censorship and the ominous result if technology is misused. It is a tale of beware and forewarning with a pace that is swift and storyline that is detailed but not overwhelming.

Subject Headings: fire, burning, kerosene, fireman, banned books, censorship, government oppression, conformity, non-conformity, technology, digital media, robot, dystopia, future, science fiction, totalitarianism, fascism, tyranny, outcasts, and alternate realities

Appeal: Orwellian, stark, dark, dim, moody, plot-centered, individual point-of-view, murder, evenly-paced, political, dramatic, thought provoking, violent, vivid, paranoia, comparative, symbolic, persistent, foreboding, and contemporary lessons

Similar Authors & Works: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is the author’s portrait of a possible future world that is sterile and conformed, without individuality and thoughtfulness. 1984 by George Orwell is another take on a dystopian world where freedom has died and Big Brother controls the population through constant surveillance and Thought Police. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore is a graphic novel that depicts a world where Germany has won the Second World War and a totalitarian existence has bloomed and fascism has run amok throughout.

Relevant Non-Fiction Authors & Works: 100 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature by Nicholas J. Karolides is a frank portrait of 25 different titles that have been banned at one time or another by several countries, especially the United States. Not in Front of the Children: Indecency, Censorship, and the Innocence of Youth by Marjorie Heins is a detailed retelling of historical movements, laws, and efforts to shield the youth from corrupting influences and how that movement has become more perverse and pervasive. It’s Not the Media: the Truth about Pop Culture’s Influence on Children by Karen Sternheimer is a case study into why the media and pop culture always tend to be the main reasons why there is a dissent of values and ethics in children.


Blueberry Muffin Murder

February 25, 2009

Author: Joanne Fluke


Title: Blueberry Muffin Murder


Genre: Mystery


Publication Date: 2002


Number of Pages: 319


Geographical Setting: Lake Eden, Minnesota


Time Period: Present


Series: Hannah Swenson Series #3


Plot Summary: Hannah Swenson is looking forward to this year’s Winter Carnival.  Lake Eden’s annual event means more business for Hannah’s bakery, she’ll get to visit with some old friends, and she’ll be able to meet cooking celebrity, Connie Mac, who will be visiting as well!  However, when Connie Mac turns out to be a terror and not the “Cookie Sweetheart” everyone thinks she is, the whole town cannot wait to get rid of her.  But, when Connie Mac is found murdered in Hannah’s bakery, the mystery becomes, who wanted to get rid of her the most?  Hannah decides to solve the mystery herself when she finds out her bakery is a crime scene and must remain closed during the busiest time of the year.  Now Hannah must track down the suspects and find Connie Mac’s killer!  Was it Connie Mac’s husband, her publicist, or her chauffeur?  Or, was it Hannah’s high school friend or even her love interest?  Only Hannah Swenson can solve the case!



Subject Headings: Women private investigators–Minnesota—Fiction, Swensen, Hannah (Fictitious character)–Fiction.


Appeal:  slow paced, light hearted, quirky, character centered, details of recipes, details of baking, serial characters, recognizable characters, strong secondary characters, realistic characters, smalltown, mystery series, romantic situations, mother-daughter relationship, sister relationship, fun


Similar Authors and Works:


Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:


Appetite for Murder: A Mystery Lover’s Cookbook, by Kathy Borich.  Enjoy some fine cooking with this cookbook, which is full of recipes that relate to English murder mysteries.


Murder in Hollywood: Solving a Silent Screen Mystery, by Charles Higham.  Since the Roaring Twenties, the murder of legendary film director William Desmond Taylor has gone unsolved due to a major cover-up.  Now, as the clues are revealed, the reader will be shocked to discover that a famous actor was the murderer!  


The Vampire Cookbook: Ghoulish Recipes for Monster Appetites, by Kilmore Daily.  Humorously titled recipes that make cooking items fun.  The author provides tongue-in-cheek commentary to each recipe such as, “…for producing pleasant but unusual death.” 



Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:


A Peach of a Murder: A Fresh Baked Mystery, by Livia J. Washburn.  When Phyllis Newsom enters her peach pie in her town’s Peach Festival her only hope is to finally win first prize.  But she gets more than her slice of the action when one of the judges is found dead and Phyllis is a prime suspect.  Now she must prove her innocence and find the real murderer. 


Chocolate Dipped Death, by Sammi Carter.  When one of the townspeople is murdered and the murder weapon was sweets, Abby Shaw, the local candy shop owner is viewed as a suspect.  There is no way to sugarcoat it, Abby needs to solve this crime! 


The Chocolate Snowman Murders, by JoAnna Carl.  Specialty chocolate maker Lee McKinney Woodyard is serving as the treasurer for this year’s WinterFest, which isn’t as easy as it seems.  Between the egos and arguments, it is enough to drive someone to drink, literally.  Then when one of the guest judges shows up drunk, Lee must drive him to a hotel so he can sleep it off.  The next day, when the guest judge is found dead, Lee finds that she is a suspect.  Now she must hope that there is some magic in her detective skills so that she can solve the case!      



Name: Mike





The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

February 25, 2009

Author: Chabon, Michael

Title: Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1988

Number of Pages: 297

Geographical Setting: Pittburgh, PA, it’s neighborhoods, and its academic institutions

Time Period: modern, c. early-mid 1980’s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Mysteries of Pittsbugh is Michael Chabon’s debut novel. In this story, Art Beckstein is the son of Joe “the Egg” Beckstein, a loan shark and money launderer for Pittburgh’s Jewish mob. Beckstein has just finished his senior year at the University of Pittsburgh, and at the beginning of his first summer as a college graduate, he takes a futureless job at small bookstore, which is run by his oversexed, eccentric girlfriend, Phlox. It is not long onto the summer that he also develops a homosexual relationship with her gay friend, Arthur. As if this bisexual love triangle was not enough a departure from the wishes of his authoritarian, criminal father, Beckstein befriends free spirit, Jane, and her biker/petty thief/aspiring racketeer boyfriend, Cleveland, who wishes to use his budding friendship as an inroad into the upper echelon of Pittsbugh’s crime syndicate. Mysteries of Pittsburgh chronicles this unlikely group’s summer of misadventure and exploits in various hangouts throughout the Steel/Iron City. Pittsburgh, is known as the ‘Burgh—a dingy Industrial city in the heart of the Rustbelt. However, in the company of his newfound friends, a new, exciting side of Pittsburgh life is revealed to Beckstein during the course of this summer, as are previously latent aspects of his own identity. The story is multilayered, at times, whimsical, and, as tensions rise between friends, lovers, and family, Mysteries of Pittsburgh takes a somewhat ominous turn before summer’s end.

Subject headings: City and town life – Fiction; College students – Fiction; Young men – Fiction; Crime and Criminals; Family Problems; Father and son; Summer; Coming-of-age-stories; Sexuality; Desire; Bisexual men; Organized crime; Jewish fiction

 Appeal: leisurely-paced, eccentric, quirky, engaging, vivid, well-developed, complex, layered, sexually explicit, urban, humorous, thoughtful, sophisticated [writing], literary

 3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Bummy Davis vs. Murder, Inc.: The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Mafia and an Ill-fated Prizefighter—by Ross, Ron; This is real life story of a Jewish mobster, his successful prizefighter brother, and their plight to distance the latter from an association with the mob.

Pittsburgh Will Steel Your Heart: 250 Reasons to Love Pittsburgh—by Joanne G. Sujansky. This book attempts to set aside the city’s dingy, industrial identity, and instead espouses all there is to love about exciting, romantic city of Pittsburgh.

Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life—by Marjorie Garber. Doing away with the idea of self-narrative and everyday understanding of sexual orientation as set, fixed categories, Garber discusses bisexulality as a universal, everyday phenomenon experienced by both sexes.

 3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

High Fidelity—by Nick Hornby. An introspective young man preoccupied with big life questions cultivates friendships with a couple of eccentrics, and all three work at a futureless music store.

The Risk Pool—by Richard Russo. An authoritarian, war-veteran father and son are at odds, as the latter is struggling for familial acceptance while simultaneously repudiating his father’s life choices.

A Stone Boat—by Andrew Solomon. A young bisexual man is accused by his mother of being the cause of her terminal cancer, and he strives to reconcile who he is in regard to his family.

Name: Patrick



Knots and Crosses

February 25, 2009

Author: Ian Rankin

Title: Knots and Crosses

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: 1987

Number of Pages: 256

Geographical Setting: Edinburgh, Scotland.

Time Period: c. 1980’s

Series: First of the Inspector Rebus novels

Plot Summary: Knots and Crosses is the first installment in Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novel series. In fact, at the time the story takes place, Rebus has not yet reached the rank of Inspector, as he’s still a detective. Rebus is a forty-something, hard drinking, irreverant, often disheveled in appearance Edinburgh police investigator and military veteran. When young girls begin disappearing in Edinburgh only to be found later, dead from strangulation, Rebus rounds up the usual group of local sex offenders. However, the plot takes an increasingly ominous turn when the police realize that the murdered girls have not been raped or sexually violated. With uncertainty in the air and the citizens of Edinburgh in a state of panic, the suspense skyrockets as Detective Rebus’ only daughter Samantha is abducted. Interstingly, Rebus’ subconscious and memories of his past have been haunting him throughout the investigation. Upon his daughter’s abduction, he is excused from duty because the case now involves him personally, and he briefly sojourns to the country home of his brother, a stage hypnotist. After a few drinks and undergoing hypnosis, Rebus realizes that the disappearences and murders of the children are directly linked to a traumatizing episode from his own past. With time running out, and with Samantha in captivity, Rebus frantically attempts to rescue his daughter and find the child killer.

Subject headings: Hardboiled fiction; Police — Edinburgh, Scotland; Scottish detectives; Edinburgh, Scotland; Mystery stories, Scottish; Murder; Murder investigation; Hypnotisim; Kidnapping; Hypnotists; Family secrets; Serial murders – Edinburgh; Abuse Survivors; Recovered memory

Appeal: compelling, recognizable, series [characters], flashback, plot twists, sexually explicit, tragic, urban, atmospheric, darker, edgy, menacing atmosphere, psychological, suspenseful, accessible

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Beyond Belief: A Chronicle of Murder and its Detection—by Emlyn Williams. This book chronicles the events of the Manchester Moors Murders that occurred in the late 1960’s when Ian Brady and Myra Hindley kidnapped and murdered unattended children and teenagers who were unattended/unsupervised on the moor in the English countryside.

Edinburgh—Picturesque Notes—by Robert Lewis Stevenson. This book examines the national and cultural identities of Edinburgh, the Jekyll and Hide duality of the city, and the idea of Edinburgh as a character.

Bloody Business: An Anecdotal History of Scotland Yard—by H. Paul Jeffers. This book chronicles the macabre history of Scotland Yard through recounting numerous notorious cases, such as Jack the Ripper, and Reg Christie, who murdered six women.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

A Small Death in Lisbon—by Robert Wilson. This book features Inspector Ze Coelho as he investigates the murder of a young girl and discovers that the crime is possibly linked to past misdeeds involving the Nazis.  (engrossing,

Skinner’s Round—by Quintin Jardine. A legendary golf tournament is scheduled to take place in Edinburgh on the heels of a string of gruesome murders, and police chief Robert Skinner works to determine whether or not there is a otherworldly motive for the killings.

The Guards—by Ken Bruen. A mysterious woman who has heard rumor of his talents hires Jack Taylor, grieving for his deceased father and recently discharged from the Irish police force due to alcoholism.

Name: Patrick

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

February 24, 2009

Title: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Author: Doctorow, Cory

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 208

Genre: Science Fiction

Geographical Setting: Walt Disney World, Florida

Time Period: Distant Future

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: In the “Bitchun” society in the distant future, Jules lives in a world without death or money and individuals have back up files or clones of their lives ready at a moment’s notice. To escape the new reality in which he finds himself and hoping to recall a simpler time, Jules retreats to the Magic Kingdom amusement park in Walt Disney World, Florida where he works as a cast member at the infamous Haunted Mansion attraction. When Jules is “murdered” by those who want to seize control of the Haunted Mansion and other Liberty Square attractions, including the Hall of Presidents, Jules sets out to find his murderer and protect that which he holds most dear.  What Jules discovers is a new group of cast members who want to replace the current animatronics in the Hall of Presidents with virtual reality simulations or “direct-to-brain” interfaces that allow guests the ability to believe that they are one of the former United States Presidents, forever changing the guest’s experience.  The pressure mounts as this discovery leads Jules to fear that his beloved Haunted Mansion will soon fall prey to the same “direct-to-brain” simulations. With his fellow “ad-hocs,” those working to preserve the Magic Kingdom, Jules sets out to protect the Mansion at all costs, even his sanity.  

Subject Headings: Immortalism; Immortality; Twenty-first century; Clones and cloning; Virtual Reality; Amusement Parks; Amusement Park Rides; Bureaucracy; Dystopias; Disney World, Florida; Florida; Science Fiction, Canadian; Canadian Fiction

Appeal: Easy, fast paced, eccentric characters, quirky, character centered,  sometimes strong language, details about Walt Disney world, details about Walt Disney World rides and attractions,humorous, romantic, psychological, conversational, thoughtful, unusual, unpretentious

 Similar Authors and Works (Fiction): Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson) A humorous account of a  computer hacker as he tries to fight a computer virus that threatens virtual reality and a drug that threatens to turn humans into zombies. Ubik (Philip K. Dick) a dystopian account of Joe Chip’s journey to understand his existence, all the while receiving warnings from beyond the grave. Perfect Circle (Sean Stewart) a man with the ability to see dead people gets an odd  request from a distant cousin, which quickly becomes more than he bargained for.

 Similar Authors and Works (Non-Fiction): For those who are unfamiliar with Walt Disney World, try The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2009 (Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa) for details about the Magic Kingdom rides and attractions. A Clone of Your Own?: The Science and Ethics of Cloning (Arlene Judith Klotzko) discusses therapeutic and human cloning, including the ethical and legal debate. Lastly, Merchants of Immortality (Stephen S. Hall) examines the biotechnology of cloning and the new discovers in human life extension. 

Name: Joanna


Simple Genius

February 18, 2009

Author: Baldacci, David

Title: Simple Genius

Genre: Thriller/Suspense

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 407

Geographical Setting: Williamsburg, Virgina, Washington DC & Tennessee

Time Period: present day

Plot Summary: The latest in a series to feature former secret service agents turned private investigators Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. In this stand alone novel, both Sean and Michelle’s lives are falling apart. Michelle has admitted herself into a mental institution in an effort to escape some deeply buried personal demons. In order to foot the bill for Michelle’s psychiatric treatment and keep their PI business afloat, Sean takes on a job to investigate the murder of a scientist, Monk Turing, who lived in Babbage Town, where a secret enclave of scientific geniuses are working to surpass the capabilities of the most sophisticated microprocessor in the world. Michelle joins him and the two of them must wade through layers of lies that are shielding a world of elite mathematicians, physicists, war heroes and spies and get to the bottom of why and how Turing was killed. Sean and Michelle soon discover that they can trust no one but themselves, Michelle’s psychiatrist and Turning’s autistic genius daughter. Extremely engaging and fast-paced this book is a great choice for readers who enjoy thrillers with political conspiracy theories.

Subject Headings: secret service agents, murder investigations, man/woman relationships, emotionally disturbed women, conspiracies, political corruption, government investigators, think tanks, mathematical genius, code breaking, political suspense, mystery

Appeal: fast-paced, action-oriented, deliberate, engrossing, engaging, serial characters, recognizable characters, strong secondary characters, plot twists, dramatic, details of governmental agencies, investigative, realistic characters,  political, suspenseful

Similar Authors & Works:

First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader – political intrigue, missing child, political corruption

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown – Government murder, computer programs, code breaking

The Cove by Catherine Coulter – FBI agents and private investigators, serial characters, relationship between a man and a woman

Relevant Non-Fiction Authors & Works:

Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Code Breaking In WWII by Stephen Budiansky – In the author’s note, Baldacci mentions that he based events in the book on these true events. Deals with mathematical code breakers and WWII.

The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer by David Leavitt – A look into the life of the lonely genius Alan Turing who was filled with many secrets

FBI, CIA, the Mob, and Treachery by Rodney Stich – FBI and CIA cover-ups and corruptions exposed

Name: Sarah