Archive for September, 2009

The Ridgerunner

September 30, 2009

Author:  Ray Hogan

Title:  The Ridgerunner

Genre:  Western

Publication Date:  1960, 2009

Number of Pages:  183

Geographical Setting:  Western United States

Time Period:  The Old West

Series (If applicable): NA

Plot Summary:  John Locke is heading to Wyoming to get a job as a ramrod at the Walking W ranch.  He decides to stop in and visit his old hometown of Three Forks and his foster brothers Starr and Bert Whitcomb and also his old love Sally Dean.  Sally and Bert were to be married when John left Three Forks, but John still had some old feelings for her.  All is not the same in Three Forks when John arrives.  He is quickly arrested for what the marshal thinks is his involvement in a robbery and murder on this morning’s stage coach.  John is surprised to find Starr and Bert are the main suspects and he does not believe it.  He escapes from jail to find his brothers and find out just what has happened to them and prove their innocence.

Subject Headings: Western Stories, Outlaws – The West (United States), Gunfighters, Large Type Books

Appeal:  Fast-paced page turner with suspenseful story.  The main character is a man of integrity with a clear sense of right and wrong.  The story is told from the point of view of the main character.  The dialogue is simple and fun and reminiscent of the Old West.  There are some great shoot-outs and the story is resolved in the end.

3 Terms that best describes this book:  Quick, Western, Justice

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Non-fiction Works – True stories of the Old West which is when  the book took place.

Ridgerunner: Elusive Loner of the Wilderness by Richard Ripley

Wanted!: Wanted Posters of the Old West by Martin J. Kidston

True Tales and Amazing Legends of the Old West: From True West Magazine by Editors of True West magazine

3 Fiction Works – Stories with heroes that have integrity and a clear sense of right and wrong.

The Shopkeeper by James D. Best

Walk Proud, Stand Tall by Johnny D. Boggs

The Last Way Station by Kent Conwell

Name: Chris S.

Riders of the Purple Sage

September 30, 2009

Title: Riders of the Purple Sage

Author: Zane Grey

Publication Date: 1912

Number of Pages: 265

Genre: Western

Geographical Setting: South Utah

Time Period: 1871

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Jane Withersteen is a single wealthy Mormon woman living in the canyon country of southern Utah in 1871 managing the ranch and surrounding property, which includes valuable spring water, she has inherited from her late father. When Jane refuses to succumb to pressure and marry Tull, a church elder who practices polygamy, she comes under attack from the Mormon community. As punishment for her refusal to submit to the directives of the Church elders, Jane faces ever increasing persecution from her fellow Mormon brethren. Bern Venters, a Gentile rider whom Jane has befriended, is captured and about to be whipped because of her association with him when an infamous gunman and Mormon killer named Lassiter arrives and prevents the punishment. Lassiter who is searching for information about the mysterious death of his sister and the fate of her young daughter finds himself drawn to Jane and Fay, the Gentile child she has adopted, and decides to stay at Withersteen Ranch to help her defend it while Venters heads into the canyons to follow the trail of a gang of cattle rustlers and a masked rider who rides with them. Jane, grateful for Lassiter’s help, sees this as an opportunity to persuade Lassiter to turn away from his life of violence.  As Jane struggles to hold on to Fay and her property in the face of evil, secrecy, and escalating pressure, she finds herself questioning her Mormon faith and the beliefs she has always lived by.

Subject Headings: Texas Rangers; Outlaws — Texas; Women Ranchers; Gunfighters; Western Stories.

Appeal: deliberate, measured, compelling, introspective, reflective characters, inner struggle, strong women, heroic loners, complex storyline, multiple plot lines, action-oriented at times, resolution, redemption, American old west,  detailed settings of mountains and canyons in Utah, evocative descriptions of landscape, bittersweet, contemplative, darker, lyrical, cowboy jargon

Three terms that best describe this book: evocative descriptions of landscape, inner struggles, classic western

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Searchers by Alan Le May – Classic western about a Texas Ranger who searches for years for his niece taken prisoner by Comanche raiders. (American old west, searching for missing family members, inner struggles, resolution).

The Warriors Path by Louis L’ Amour – Two brothers in search of a sister-in-law who has been kidnapped travel from colonial America to Jamaica to find her and her kidnappers. White men, hoping to exploit tensions between settlers and the Indians are behind the kidnappings. (Searching for missing family members, action-oriented, villains using others as scapegoats- Mormons used cattle rustlers in Grey novel).

Trail to Cottonwood Falls:  A Ralph Compton Novel by Dusty Richards – Former ranger and cattle driver trying to redeem himself must contend with enemies as he drives a woman rancher’s cattle west. (Strong man fighting against determined enemies, woman ranchers, gunfighters, cattle drives).

Relevant Non-fiction Works and Authors:

The Sisterhood: Inside the Lives of Mormon Women by Dorothy Allred Solomon – History of Mormon women in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.

Painters of Utah’s Canyons and Deserts by Donna Poulton – Collection of 300 paintings and artists’ anecdotes that portray the visual beauty and majesty of Utah’s geography as well as the dangers of the Utah frontier.

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer – Two brothers believing they are acting under direct orders from God murder two family members. The story explores the beliefs and hidden world of Mormon fundamentalism.

Name: Maggie

Telegraph Days

September 30, 2009

Author: McMurtry, Larry
Title: Telegraph Days
Genre: Western
Publication Date: 2006
Number of Pages: 289
Geographical Setting: Rita Blanca, Oklahoma. North Platte, Nebraska. Beverly Hills, California.
Time Period: Late 1870’s-Early 1900’s
Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This novel follows the life of Nellie Courtright after her father’s suicide.  Nellie and her brother, Jackson, leave their families run-down estate and head to Rita Blanca.  Once there, Nellie takes on the role of the town telegrapher while her brother becomes the town deputy.   Shortly after taking on his new position, Jackson becomes the unlikely hero of the town when he shoots and kills 6 members of the Yazee gang as they invade the town.  This dramatic story quickly spreads across the west, drawing big names such as Wild Bill Cody to investigate the details.  Nellie, being an ambitious woman, takes advantage of every opportunity that presents itself.  These opportunities often include romantic proposals.  Nellie is easily seduced by most any man that pays her a bit of attention.  These romantic whims lead Nellie out of Rita Blanca to work for Wild Bill Cody and his Wild West Show.  Throughout her travels, Nellie encounters all of the biggest names of the Wild West including Jesse James and the Earp brothers.  Her intelligence and quick-wit allow her to make quite the impression on all of these strong men as well as the reader.

Appeal: Well-written, character-centered, fast-paced, realistic, conclusive, racy, historical details, rural, dramatic, humorous, accessible, candid, and unpretentious.
Subject Heading: Western fiction, women’s fiction, gunfights, siblings, telegraphs
3 terms describing the book: fast-paced, steamy, and humorous

Three relevant fiction books: Gunman’s Rhapsody by Robert B. Parker (describes the shootout at O.K. Corral in more detail)

A Killing in a New Town by Kate Horsley (female main character set in the late 1800’s in New Mexico)

The Trees: First Book in Awakening Land Trilogy by Conrad Richter (Author Readalike for Larry McMurtry)

Three relevant non-fiction books: The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III (biography of Crazy Horse and his interactions with familiar western characters)

Buffalo Bill’s America: William Cody and the Wild West Show by Louis S. Warren (depiction of Buffalo Bill’s travel across America and the different aspects of his famous show)

Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends by Allen Barra (discusses the truth behind the story of Wyatt Earp)
Name: Madeline Solien

The Known World

September 30, 2009

Author: Edward P. Jones
Title: The Known World
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 2003
Number of Pages: 400
Geographical Setting: Manchester County VA.
Time Period: 20 years before the Civil War
Series: No
Plot Summary:
One tiny line on the Manchester Co. historical registry about an African American freed male slave who owned his wife, their children, and two house servants inspires the Pulitzer prize winning tale of the Townsend family, and the residents of Manchester County VA and their very ugly history.  The epic multi generational and character rich tale starts with Augustus Townsend, the family patriarch, who buys his freedom as well as his wife and their son.  Much to the shock of the reader the story continues with the son Henry Townsend, starting a small plantation and purchasing slaves for himself.  At times it seems that after all Henry’s father has done for him he still views their former owner, Mr. Robbins as a mentor father figure. The plot weaves back and forth from Henry’s death bed, his childhood, and continues after his death.  The point of view changes as the story continues from family to family and generation to generation. The book ends with Henry’s wife, Caledonia’s final thoughts on the entangled life that her husband has created for them.  The entire story leads up to Mrs. Townsend’s life changing decision on whether or not to free their slaves or keep them to run the plantation.
12 Appeal: Well-written, character-centered, bitter sweet, introspective, historical details, thought-provoking, engaging, detailed setting, complex, small town, reflective
Subject Heading: African American slave holders, plantation life, 19th century, Historical Fiction, Virginia, Generational.
3 terms describing the book: Introspective, Controversial, Unpopular History.

Three relevant fiction books & why:
My Jim: A Novel by Nancy Rawles
(Sadie tells her story, after her husband decided to run away with a white boy named Huck Finn)
Cane River by Lalita Tademy
(An isolated 19th century community of free slaves, and white French creoles living in perfect harmony unbeknownst to the rest of the world)
Clotel, or, The president’s daughter: a narrative of slave life in the United States by William Wells Brown (The fictional story of Thomas Jefferson’s illegitimate biracial daughter)
Three relevant non-fiction books & why:
Master of Mahogany: Tom Day free black cabinet maker by Mary E. Lyons
(The story of a free, educated, African American cabinet maker living in the south)
Runaway and Freed Missouri Slaves and Those Who Helped Them by Harriet C. Frazier
(The true story of life after slavery)
Remembering slavery: African Americans talk about their personal experiences of slavery and freedom edited by Ira Berlin, Marc Favreau, and Steven F. Miller
(True accounts of slavery survivors)
Name: Laura Bartnik

The Good Thief

September 30, 2009

Author: Hannah Tinti

Title: The Good Thief

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 327

Geographical Setting: Various locations in New England

Time Period: 1800s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Ren is an orphan and accomplished thief who has spent most of his life living at Saint Anthony’s Orphanage for boys waiting for someone to adopt him and longing to be part of a family. He is passed over time and again because of his missing left hand until one day Benjamin Nab appears claiming to be his brother. The two set out, along with Benjamin’s friend Tom, to North Umbrage to rob graves and sell the bodies to the local hospital. Along the way Ren meets a host of characters and learns more about his past.

Subject Headings: Orphans-Fiction, New England-Fiction, United States History -1783-1865-Fiction

Appeal: deliberate, eccentric, character-centered, historical details, small-town, bleak, darker, layered, candid, vivid

3 terms that best describes this book: historical, bleak, vivid

Similar Authors- Fiction

Me and Billy by James Collier (two orphans, one struggling to maintain his morality and the other eager for money, team up with a Professor in search of gold)

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (classic tale of an orphan searching for his family while struggling to stay true to himself)

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevens (A kidnapped orphan travels the seas and fights for his rightful inheritance)

Similar Authors – Nonfiction

The Italian boy: a Tale of Murder and Body Snatching in 1830s London by Sarah Wise (true story of grave robbers in 1800 England)

Orphan trains: The Story of Charles Loring Brace and the Children He Saved and Failed by Stephen O’Connor (Children’s Aid Society History involving orphans from New York City sent to the Midwest)

The Belles of New England: the Women of the Textile Mills and the Families Whose Wealth They Wove by William Moran (for anyone intrigued by the mousetrap girls and who want to know what it was like for women working in factories)


Odd Thomas

September 30, 2009

Odd Thomas

for November 4, 2009 by cassie67

Author: Dean Koontz

Title: Odd Thomas

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 446

Geographical Setting: Pico Mundo, California

Time Period: Present day

Series: Odd Thomas

Plot Summary: Short order cook Odd Thomas can see the “restless dead” and is compelled to help solve their murders in what at first feels like a cozy mystery. When Odd sees evil, shadowy forms he calls bodachs swarming around residents of his little town and preparing for a bloodbath of some kind, he follows an unusual character he calls “Fungus Man” to try to find out what evil deed is being plotted for August 15. Trouble is, it’s already August 14.

Appeal: engrossing, leisurely pace accelerates toward the end, intriguing secondary characters, quirky, vivid, some explicit violence, folksy tone, literary references, plot twists, tragic, resolved ending, detailed setting, details of supernatural abilities, humorous, menacing, nightmare (tone), conversational, homespun.

3 terms describing the book: Folksy, quirky characters but plot hints of menace

Subject headings:

Koontz, Dean R. (Dean Ray) – Prose & Criticism


Fiction – Horror

Fiction – Espionage/Thriller







Three relevant fiction books:

Empire Falls by Richard Russo is as much about the town in which it is set as the characters and how the lives of those who live in town intertwine. The measured pace of most of the book gives way to a fast-paced ending much like that of Odd Thomas.

In Shadowland: The Mediator, Book 1 by Meg Cabot, a high school sophomore has the power to talk to the dead and to help spirits move on, much as Odd Thomas uses his abilities to do the same.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain is a cat-and-mouse game between serial killer Gretchen Lowell and police detective Archie Sheridan, who was one of Lowell’s victims. Those who want more of the details of the serial killings in Odd Thomas will find them here.

Three relevant non-fiction books:

Don’t Kiss Them Good-bye by Allison DuBois. DuBois’ life and her work with crime investigators are the basis for the TV show “Medium.” Like the character of Odd Thomas, she has had to learn to deal with her psychic gifts and she shares some insights into the afterlife.

Serial Killers; The Method and Madness of Monsters by Peter Vronsky looks at serial killer investigations throughout history, signs to watch for if someone is a serial killer and means of surviving an encounter with one. Odd Thomas investigates someone he suspects of planning a mass killing and finds a lot of clues to the man’s state of mind in his home.

500 Things To Eat Before It’s Too Late by Jane and Michael Stern is a love story to unique foods served in little diners and holes-in-the-wall across the country. Odd Thomas works as a short order cook and prides himself on his light and fluffy pancakes. He also discusses diner slang in one chapter, and the Sterns have a short glossary of diner terms.

Name: Christine Edison

Tags: engrossing, leisurely pace accelerates toward the end, intriguing secondary characters, quirky, vivid, some explicit violence, folksy tone, literary references, plot twists, tragic, resolved ending, detailed setting, details of supernatural abilities, humorous, menacing, nightmare (tone), conversational, homespun.

His Majesty’s Dragon

September 30, 2009

His Majesty’s Dragon

September 30, 2009 by Christine Edison

Author: Naomi Novik

Title: His Majesty’s Dragon

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 264

Geographical Setting: Great Britain

Time Period: 19th Century, Napoleonic Wars

Series: Temeraire

Plot summary: Captain Lawrence and his crew capture a French frigate carrying a precious cargo: a dragon’s egg. Before they can bring it to land, it hatches, and the dragon chooses to bond with Lawrence as his master. (Lawrence names him Temeraire after a British warship.) Lawrence must therefore leave the Navy and become an aviator, which ruffles the feathers of his admiral, his family, and the Royal Flying Corps – but he is a man of honor and soldiers through. Lawrence and Temeraire travel to Scotland for battle training and are eventually sent to Dover to defend the English Channel against French invaders. He also begins a casual romantic relationship with one of the female pilots in the Corps.

Appeal: densely written, engrossing, authentic, detailed characterizations, intriguing secondary (characters), well drawn, character-centered, complex, plot twists, resolved ending, thought-provoking, bittersweet, detailed setting, details of seamanship and dragon air corps life, evocative, exotic, historical details, complex, elaborate, elegant, extravagant, flamboyant, ornate, polished, restrained, seemly, sophisticated, unusual.

Subject headings:

Novik, Naomi
Science Fiction – Alternative History

Alternative histories (Fiction)
Fiction / Fantasy / HistoricalFantasy – Epic

Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815
Ship captains
Fantasy romance

3 terms that best describe the book: Historical details, evocative, sophisticated

Three relevant nonfiction authors and similar works:

Patrick O’Brian’s Navy by Richard Neill gives a vivid picture of what life was like for British sailors of different ranks serving on tall ships during the Napoleonic Wars. This compendium is a companion to the Aubrey-Maturin series listed below, which is based on a British Naval officer serving during this time period.

Historical Dictionary of the Napoleonic Era by George F. Nafziger is a review of political, military and popular historical figures, as well as artistic movements, cultural and theological events during the Napoleonic Era, 1789-1815. Novik refers to historical events at times in the Temeraire series, particularly in regards to Napoleon and what was happening elsewhere in Europe, and this book could help fill in gaps for readers eager to learn more about the period.

The Dragon in China and Japan by Marinus Willem de Visser explores numerous stories of dragons in Chinese and Japanese culture in this revised text with a new introduction by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. Temeraire the dragon’s background in China is discussed in His Majesty’s Dragon (with more to follow in the second book, Throne of Jade), and the dragon receives a book of stories about Asian dragons during the course of the story, which he asks Captain Lawrence to read to him again and again.

Three Fiction Titles:

The Hornblower saga by C.S. Forester, The Ramage series by Dudley Pope, and The Aubrey Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian are all well-known action-adventure series set on the high seas in British tall ships during the Napoleonic era. The Temeraire series features battle scenes as well as shipboard life scenes much like those seen in these books.

Persuasion by Jane Austen includes many discussions of the British Navy and shows the women’s side of life at this time. Naval officers are featured as characters, and there are discussions as to what a woman’s proper place is when he husband is to go to sea, a theme taken up in the Temeraire series, where women are part of the Air Corps.

The Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey features humans riding fire-breathing dragons to burn away threads that would otherwise kill off all life on the planet of Pern. Scenes of humans tending their dragon charges and bonding with them are much like what happens in His Majesty’s Dragon.

Annotation By: Christine Edison

Tags: densely written, engrossing, detailed characterizations, intriguing secondary (characters), well drawn, character-centered, complex, plot twists, resolved ending, thought-provoking, bittersweet, detailed setting, details of seamanship and dragon air corps life, evocative, exotic, historical details, complex, elaborate, elegant, extravagant, flamboyant, ornate, polished, restrained, seemly, sophisticated, unusual.

Posted in Fantasy