Archive for October, 2009

I, Robot

October 29, 2009

Author: Isaac Asimov

Title: I, Robot

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1977, c1950

Number of Pages: 192

Geographical Setting: Various locations on earth and in space

Time Period: 1996-2057

Series: 1st title in the Robot Series

Plot Summary: After 50 years as a “robopsychologist” Dr. Susan Calvin is about to retire and is being interviewed about her life’s work. Her comments frame the nine funny and thought provoking stories about robots and how they think and work. There are three laws of robotics built into every robot that cannot be broken. Robots cannot harm or allow harm to come to humans, robots must obey humans unless that would break the first rule, and robots must protect themselves unless that would break the first or second rule. Most of the stories involve figuring out problem situations that involve these rules including a robot who thinks he is a prophet, one who can read minds, and one who is a practical joker.  The last few stories are more serious and deal with whether or not man can handle these machines he has created.

Subject Headings: Robots –Fiction. Science fiction, American.

Appeal: compelling, engrossing, lifelike robots, multiple points of view, intriguing characters, episodic, flashbacks, issue-oriented, plot twists, thought-provoking, futuristic, humorous, psychological, thoughtful, classic, concise, jargon, journalistic, plot-centered, open-ended

3 Terms that best describe this book: humorous, episodic, thought-provoking

Relevant Fiction Titles

Man vs. Machine edited by Martin Harry Greenberg – A short story collection by various authors that explores the use of artificial intelligence. This is for fans of science fiction short story collections looking to branch out beyond just robots.

Echelon by Josh Conviser – This is a full length novel that explores the use of a global surveillance project to control the world’s information that ends up going terribly wrong. This is for readers interested in futurist efforts to maintain peace, an idea that Asimov touched on in his stories.

The Cold Equation and Other Stories by Tom Godwin – This title includes both short stories and a full length novel for those readers who cannot decide which they would rather read. The collection deals with survival and colonization in relation to aliens.

Relevant Non-Fiction Titles

Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel by Roger Launius and Howard McCurdy – These authors detail what is happening now in terms of space travel and the use of robots, for those readers who need a dose of reality.

How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself against the Coming Rebellion by Daniel Wilson – Obviously these robots don’t live by the three laws of robotics. This title is for those readers looking for another humorous take on robots.

Love and Sex with Robots: the Evolution of Human-Robot Relations by David Levy – Levy feels that relationships between humans and robots are inevitable. This title is for readers who especially enjoyed Asimov’s short story “Evidence” that revolved around the question of whether or not a mayoral candidate was in fact a robot, and for those readers who enjoyed the various life-like personalities of the other robots featured in I, Robot.

Name: Elizabeth

The Body Farm

October 28, 2009

Author: Patricia Cornwell

Title: The Body Farm

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publication Date: 1994

Number of Pages: 351

Geographical Setting: United States

Time Period: Late 20th Century, 1990’s

Series: Kay Scarpetta

Plot Summary: Kay Scarpetta is back solving crimes and murders. A child is murdered in North Carolina, and Scarpetta is brought in to solve the case. However, she ends up with more than she bargained for, when there is a second death and when she realizes that she is dealing with a killer that has been seen before. She realizes that there could be clues lurking in Tennessee’s Body Farm. However, she must conduct some gruesome experiments to understand the evidence and solve the murders.

Subject Headings: FBI, Scarpetta, Kay, Eleven-year-old girls – Death, Child murders — North Carolina, Women coroners — North Carolina, Women forensic pathologists, Forensic medicine,Women physicians. Murder, Murder investigation, Spies, Virginia, North Carolina, Mystery stories, American, Suspense stories, American

Appeal: Compelling, detailed, character centered, strong secondary (characters), series (characters), psychological, suspenseful, chilling, frank, vivid, dramatic, investigative, fast paced

3 Terms that Best Describe this Book: Suspenseful, Detailed, Character Centered

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Beyond the Body Farm: A Legendary Bone Detective Explores Murders, Mysteries, and the Revolution in Forensic Science by William M. Bass ( Gives examples of cases and details regarding the Body Farm, and various work that has been done there.)

Death’s Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales by William M. Bass (Bass’s first book in which he describes his work, as well as gives theories on famous cases, such as the Lindbergh kidnapping.)

Bodies We’ve Buried: Inside the National Forensic Academy, The World’s Top CSI Training School by Jarrett Hallcox, Amy Welch, and Bill Bass (Insider account as to what goes on at the National Forensic Academy.)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Carved in Bone: A Body Farm Novel (Body Farm Novels) by Jefferson Bass (written as a pseudonym, the writer is actually the founder of the Tennessee Body Farm. This is the first in the series.)

One Grave Too Many (Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation, No. 1) by Beverly Connor ( has been compared to Patricia Cornwell)

Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs (Forensic anthropologist is the main character; this is number 11 in the Temperance Brennan series)

Name: Kathryn

A Grave Talent

October 28, 2009

Title: A Grave Talent

Author: Laurie R. King

Publication Date: 1993

Number of Pages: 342

Genre: Mystery

Geographical Setting: San Francisco, CA and Northern California

Time Period: Present Day

Series: Kate Martinelli mysteries, 1

Plot Summary: Two weeks before Christmas, the naked body of a young girl is discovered on the grounds of a small, reclusive community located outside of San Francisco. Over the next eight weeks, two more bodies are discovered. All three victims share similar traits. They are kindergarten-aged white girls with brown hair from upper-middle-class families who disappeared from their neighborhoods in the middle of the day. Veteran police inspector Alonzo Hawkins and newly promoted Detective Kate Martinelli of the San Francisco police department are assigned to investigate the case. Because the victims’ bodies were found on the property of a community that lacks electricity, telephones and also restricts vehicular access, Hawkins and Martinelli focus their search for the killer among the community’s unusual and eccentric residents, especially the haunted and enigmatic artist Vaun Adams who spent nine years in prison seventeen years ago for the murder of a six-year-old girl. Hawkins, known for being gruff and intimidating, and Martinelli, desperately trying to keep both her personal life and her lifestyle choices private from those she works with, forge a productive working relationship as they struggle to decipher the multitude of clues that will lead them to the killer’s identity in this complex and exciting mystery.

Subject Headings: Child murders – Northern California; Women painters – Northern California; Women detectives – Northern California; Lesbian detectives; Child murder investigation – Northern California; Serial Murders – Northern California; Police; Strangling; Murder suspects; Crimes against children; Northern California; Mystery stories, American.

Appeal: engrossing, urgent, fast-paced, compelling, detailed, eccentric secondary characters, intriguing, police detectives, series characters, lesbian relationships, feminism, strong, action-oriented, character-centered, intelligent, complex, investigative, resolved ending, detailed setting of San Francisco, detailed setting of a rural primitive community, dramatic, enigmatic, psychological, emotionally-charged, suspenseful, candid.

Three terms that best describe this book: Dramatic, Investigative, Enigmatic

Red Flags: violence against children, murder of children

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Sacrifice by Clyde Phillips –Newly promoted Lieutenant Jane Candiotti of the San Francisco police department attempts to balance her private life and her professional life while investigating two separate but possibly related murder cases in San Francisco. (Mystery, character-centered, strong intelligent female protagonist juggling personal and professional life, San Francisco setting, series, police detectives, women detectives).

No Defense by Kate Wilhelm – Defense attorney Barbara Holloway agrees to defend a young widow who claims she is being framed for the murder of her husband in this legal thriller. (Mystery, fast-paced, detailed, complex, psychological, strong intelligent female protagonist, rural community setting).

Cop Out by Claire McNab – Australian Detective Inspector Carol Ashton investigates a possible case of fratricide while trying to keep her sexuality secret from her coworkers in the male-dominated Sydney police force. (Mystery, strong intelligent female protagonist, feminism, lesbianism, police detectives).

Relevant Non-fiction Works and Authors:

Lesbian Detective Fiction: Woman as Authors, Subjects, and Reader by Phyllis Betz – Examines lesbian detective and mystery fiction to see how lesbian characters are represented and how their public and private lives intersect in the stories.

Free Land: Free Love: Tales of a Wilderness Commune by Malcolm Terence – Anthology of stories from residents of the Black Bear Ranch, a community created for individuals who wanted to create a counter-cultural society.

Northern California: An Explorer’s Guide by Michele Bigley – Detailed description of Northern California including cultural attractions, natural wonders, and history.

Name: Maggie

The Namesake

October 28, 2009


Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

Title: The Namesake

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: September 16, 2003

Number of Pages: 291

Geographical Setting: Massachusetts, New York, and India

Time Period: 1968-2000

Series: No

Plot Summary: Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli move from Calcutta, India to Massachusetts in the 1960’s.  They have their son in 1968.  He is given the “temporary” name of Gogol after the Russian author Nikolai Gogol.  After a series of mishaps, this “temporary” name becomes his “permanent” name.  As Gogol grows, he finds himself at odds with his parent’s traditional Indian lifestyle.  His experience as an American teen leads him to question how to balance both cultures and find his own identity.   Gogol believes these identity issues originate with his name so he legally changes it to Nikhil.  Thus begins the process of finding himself and understanding his place within two cultures.

Subject Headings: Literary fiction, Indian culture, Interracial relationships, Parent-child relationships, Multicultural

Appeal: Character-centered, deliberate, steady, familiar, introspective, multiple points of view, realistic, sympathetic, well-developed, complex, family-centered, layered, bittersweet, intimate, thoughtful, academic, literary.

3 Terms that best describe this book: Complex, multicultural, familial

3 Relevant Fiction Books and Why:

Brick Lane by Monica Ali (story centered on a Bangladeshi woman living according to traditional expectations and her experiences of being Bengali in London)

The Kite Runner by Khalid Hossenni (story follows an Afghan boy and his father from their life in Kabul through their lives in America)

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (story focuses on four mother daughter relationships where the daughters do not quite understand their mother’s Chinese background.  They must all learn to appreciate the other generation’s experience)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Books and Why

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi (The story of a young girls life with her family during the Islamic Revolution and their struggle with the strict laws they must follow.)

The Spirit Catches you and You Fall Down by Anne Fadi (A Hmong family that has immigrated to Minnesota resists Western medicine to treat their epileptic child instead choosing to follow their traditional methods)

Dreams of My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama (Obama was born to a white mother and a Kenyan father.  He is raised by his mother in Hawaii but later chooses to explore his African heritage in order to more fully understand his identity)

Name: Madeline

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

October 28, 2009

Author:  Jeff Lindsay

Title:  Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Genre: Psychological Suspense

Publication Date:  2004

Number of Pages:  304

Geographical Setting: Miami, Florida

Time Period: Present Day

Series (If Applicable): Dexter, 1

Plot Summary:  Dexter Morgan is a blood-splatter analyst for the Miami police department.  This is a good job for him because Dexter has a secret life that only he and his late foster father Harry knew about.  Inside Dexter is a monster who needs to kill and it is currently controlled by the “Code of Harry” which states that Dexter is only to kill bad guys – not good guys.  This job keeps him close to those bad guys that need to be taken care of.  A killer is on the loose in Miami cutting up women and Dexter starts to relate to the killer and uses his insight to help his sister, Deborah, who is also a cop move from “streetwalker” patrol to homicide.  Dexter understands what makes this guy tick and he begins to admire the killers work.  He struggles to live his life like other normal humans but inside he feels the Dark Passenger demand that he kill again.

Subject Headings:  Serial murderers, Forensic scientists, Psychopathic criminals, Vigilantes,
Murderer-detectives, Adoptees, PolicewomenMiami, Florida, PoliceMiami, Florida,
Brothers and sisters, Father and son, Serial murders, Serial murder investigation, Crime scene searches, Crime laboratories, Mutilation, Secrets, Personal conduct, Men/women relations,
Miami, Florida, Psychological suspense stories

Appeal: Dark, Methodical, Thriller, Horror, Graphic, Mutilation, Ominous, Strange, Twists, Unresolved ending, Series, Chilling, Measured Pacing, First Person Narration, Creepy, Psychological Suspense, Madness, Serial Killers, Disturbing, Page-Turner.

3 Terms that best describe this book: Disturbing, Graphic and Suspenseful

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

3 Non-Fiction Works

Inside the Minds of Serial Killers: Why They Kill by Katherine Ramsland – This book details a wide variety of motives for why people become serial killers. It shows that there is not a profile for serial killers.

Serial Killers: The Method and the Madness of Monsters by Peter Vronsky – This book talks about the history of serial killers and documents the psychological, investigative, and cultural aspects of serial murder.

Serial Killers and Mass Murderers: Profiles of the World’s Most Barbaric Criminals by Nigel Cawthorne – This book describes what makes ordinary people turn into killers.  It explores the minds of these people who commit these crimes and why people are so fascinated by them.

3 Fiction Works

Dearly Devoted Dexter: a Novel by Jeff Lindsay – Book 2 in the Dexter series continues the story of the first book.  There is a new serial killer on the loose and Sergeant Drakes is getting more suspicious of Dexter.

Deeper than the Dead by Tami Hoag – Two boys and a girl stumble on a murder victim of the “See No Evil Killer” who just may turn out to be the father of one of the boys.

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris – Will Graham has the ability to project himself into the minds of psychopathic serial killers.  He is called on to investigate the murders of two suburban families.

Name: Chris S.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

October 28, 2009

Author: Philip K. Dick

Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1968

Number of Pages: 244

Geographical Setting: Mainly post-apocalyptic San Francisco but also Seattle and rural Oregon.

Time Period: 2021

Series: No.  However, K.W. Jeter wrote a SF series of sequels to Blade Runner, the movie based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Plot Summary: The year is 2021, and World War Terminus has killed millions, driven countless species into extinction, and forced much of mankind to colonize Mars with the help of androids.  Those remaining on Earth are at constant risk from radioactive fallout and try to distract themselves from their grim lives by dialing up emotions on their mood organs, following the new religion of Mercerism, and caring for rare and much-coveted living animals.  One of these remaining Earthlings is Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter who works for the San Francisco Police Department.  With androids banned from Earth for fear of the havoc they could wreak, Deckard’s job is to track and “retire” any illegal android immigrants from Mars.  When reports are received of eight new android fugitives on Earth, Deckard is sent to track them down, but there is a problem.  The Rosen Association’s new Nexus-6 android is so human-like that the Voigt-Kampff empathy test is potentially worthless in helping to differentiate them from humans.  As Deckard enters on his mission, many questions are raised:  What if the Voigt-Kampff test fails, and he mistakenly “retires” a human?  Can he outwit such sophisticated androids who are willing to fight for their survival?  What should he make of his complicated feelings for the Rosen Association’s android Rachael?  Most importantly, however, will Deckard make enough bounty to finally trade his electric sheep for a real one?

Subject Headings: Androids — California;  Bounty hunters — California;  Detectives — Los Angeles, California;  Twenty-first century;  Deckard, Rick;  Dystopias;  Los Angles, California;  Science fiction, American.

Appeal: engrossing, fast-paced, intriguing characters, cinematic, complex, plot twists, inventive, thought-provoking, urban, futuristic, post-apocalyptic, dangerous, suspenseful, speculative, satirical, philosophical, psychological, concise, direct and accessible language.

Three terms that best describe the book: Fast-paced, Futuristic, Philosophical

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Hydrogen Steel by K.A. Bedford — Former homicide detective Zette McGee is called out of retirement to help an android friend accused of murdering his family.  Efforts to clear her friend’s name take Zette deep into space to confront the powerful artifical intelligence Hydrogen Steel as well as her recent realization that she too is an android.  (plot twists, thought-provoking, suspenseful, futuristic, philosophical, intriguing characters, artificial intelligence)

Chimera by Will Shetterly — In a grim twenty-first century, androids and humans genetically crossed with animals serve as slaves for the rest of mankind.  When a cheetah woman asks PI Chase Maxwell for protection against a wrongful murder conviction, a thrilling sci-fi mystery begins that explores the definitions of freedom and humanity.  (plot twists, though-provoking, suspenseful, philosophical, futuristic, fast paced, intriguing characters, artificial intelligence)

Man vs. Machine edited by Martin H. Greenberg & John Helfers —  This themed anthology of fifteen short stories explores a future world where humans must interact and compete with computers who achieve genuine Artificial Intelligence.  Includes stories by Jean Rabe, Simon Brown, Ed Gorman, and Rick Hautala.  (futuristic, artificial intelligence, thought-provoking, complex, inventive, speculative, philosophical)

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Edison’s Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life by Gaby Wood —  This NY Times Notable Book from 2002 explores the efforts of humans over the past three centuries to build machines that resemble themselves.  Included are examinations of human-like mechanical flute and chess players from the 18th century and a robotic duck that fooled and fascinated Europe.  This book’s exploration of actual efforts at artificial intelligence compliments Dick’s speculative look at a future with androids.

The Seekers: A Bounty Hunter’s Story by Joshua Armstrong with Anthony Bruno —  This fascinating memoir tells the story of a New Jersey-based team of bounty hunters who capture 85% of their fugitives using spiritual, non-violent methods.  Although Rick Deckard often violently “retires” his targeted fugitives, the spiritually informed bounty hunting in this book resembles Deckard’s changing attitude toward his job as he begins feeling empathy for androids.

I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey Into the Mind of Philip K. Dick by Emmanuel Carrere —  Written by critically-acclaimed French author Carrere, this biography of Philip K. Dick traces the sci-fi author’s traumatic early life, drug experimentation, and multiple marriages.  It also, and most importantly, looks at the philosophies and creative inspirations that influenced Dick’s more than fifty novels including Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Name: Russ


October 28, 2009

Chuck Palahniuk
Publication Date:
Number of Pages:
289, numbered backwards
Literary Fiction, Psychological Fiction
Geographical Setting:
a plane about to crash into Australia, various other locations throughout the US and the world via flashback
Time Period:
present-day/alternate reality of present-day

Plot Summary: Tender Branson, the last surviving member of the so-called “Creedish Death Cult”, dictates his life story into the recorder of a plane about to crash into the Australian outback.  From his childhood in the Creedish Church District, to his years of work for a family he never sees, to his meeting and subsequent sort-of romance with the elusive Fertility Hollis, to his encounters with his older brother, Adam, this is a twisted but darkly funny look at cults and post-cult life, as seen through Tender’s eyes.

Subject Headings: Cults
Religion — Commercialization


Suicide victims


Airplane accidents

Mass media

Popular culture
Black humor
Psychological fiction

Satirical fiction
Pacific Northwest literature

Appeal: relentless, steady, detailed, eccentric, intriguing, quirky, vivid, cinematic, strong language, open-ended, layered, thought-provoking, contemporary, evocative, darker, gritty, hard-edged, unpretentious, psychological, edgy, candid, spare, witty

Three terms that best describe this book: Eccentric, Psychological, Edgy

Similar Authors and Works (Fiction): The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by George Saunders (psychological fiction, ambitious and power-hungry people)

Rushing to Paradise by J.G. Ballard (attempt at utopian community gone horribly awry)

Home Land: A Novel by Sam Lipsyte (hilarious confession of a “failure”)

Similar Authors and Works (Nonfiction): Evil Harvest: The True Story of Cult Murder in the American Heartland by Rod Colvin (the impact of cults and cult leaders)

Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History by Philip Jenkins (a history of cults in America)

Why Waco? Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America
by James D. Tabor and Eugene V. Gallagher (an in-depth look at a specific cult, and other cults throughout America)

Name: Anne

Native Tongue

October 28, 2009

Author: Elgin, Suzette Haden

Title: Native Tongue

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1984

Number of Pages: 301

Geographical Setting: United States

Time Period: The Future: 2205

Series: The Native Tongue Series

Plot Summary: It is the year 2205 and some major amendments have been made to the constitution, specifically to the 19th, in fact, it has been repealed. Again, people are living in a patriarchal society where men reign and make all decisions; including very personal ones for everybody. The priorities of this elite subgroup of society on which this novel is focused, is to learn alien languages. The women in this group calle, “The Lines” have been subordinated into positions of breeders, passing on their genetic predisposition to learning and mastering these languages. When the women are no longer able to contribute to society with offspring, they are shoved away into Barren House and declared completely obsolete. Little do the men know that the “silly encoding project” that “keeps the women busy and contented” (and out of the way) may hold a secret weapon of liberation.

Subject headings:  1. Language and Languages – – Fiction. 2. Languages, Secret – – Fiction. 3. Women – – Fiction. Women’s rights. Men/women relations. Linguists. Futurism.

Appeal: bleak, melancholy, dramatic, engaging, jargon, engrossing, unhurried, intriguing, sympathetic, issue-oriented, thought-provoking, political

Three terms that best describe this book:  Feminist Science Fiction, nightmarish, triumph
Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Gibbon’s Decline and Fall by Sheri S. Tepper
The year is 1959 and seven college-aged women form a club “dedicated to eradicating misogynistic practices.” Women in the club include a devout nun, brilliant scientist, and lesbian artist (Feminist Science Fiction, issue-oriented: role of women in civilization & ethics, contains a quirky feminist writer, anti-patriarchal themes).

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The United States is now named, “The Republic of Gilead.” Women are no longer aloud to read and are valued only as vessels for procreation (Feminist Science Fiction, characters escape this theological and social bondage in America to a free life in Europe, Orwellian dramatization, and futurism).

White Queen Trilogy by Gwyneth A. Jones
The year is 2038 and humanoid aliens arrive on earth. Though they claim, “we come in peace,” they inevitably change the planet in some undesirable ways. (Feminist Science Fiction, Futurism, contains seemingly hermaphroditic aliens, dystopic world, angry feminists, has a romance story, theme of world-wide ecological disaster).

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Backlash: the undeclared war against American women by Susan Faludi examines new attacks on women’s rights and biases against women in film, television, fashion, science, law, and politics. Asserts that women have “lost ground on their quest for equal rights” (Themes are anti-feminism, social conditions of women in the US, gender equity, and touches on myths told to women).

Gender on Planet Earth by Ann Oakley
Oakley examines the power dynamic between men and women and how they are manifested in communities and their prevalence in humanity (not just in the US) all over the world (Themes are: Feminist theory, crimes against women, social conditions for women, government policy and women, gender equality).

The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker
The argument in this book lies on the premise that language is innate, not learned. Explains why it is difficult for adults to learn foreign languages and why computers cannot learn human languages (will be fascinating to those interested in cognitive processes: specifically in those involving language and for those who are interested in linguistics and language development will enjoy this book, contains a lot of intelligent humor as well).

Name: Susan

Twenties Girl

October 22, 2009

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Title: Twenties Girl

Genre: Bestseller/Chick Lit

Publication Date: July 21, 2009

Number of Pages: 448

Geographical Setting: London

Time Period: 21st Century

Series: No

Plot Summary: A 105 year old woman, Sadie, comes back as a 20-something flapper girl to “haunt” her great-niece Lara. Sadie needs Lara to figure out a family mystery before she can rest in peace.  However, solving the mystery is not as simple as it first seems to Lara, and Sadie is around longer than Lara planned.  During the time that Lara and Sadie are trying to solve the mystery, Sadie learns that her family and friends, and many more really love her, and Lara learns the difference between being “in love” and finding true love.

Subject Headings: Chick lit, Women’s Fiction, Ghosts, Mystery, Humor, Young Women, Necklaces

Appeal: Character centered, engaging, heartwarming, nostalgic, lighthearted, romantic, earnest, hopeful, humorous, witty, smart, urban, strong secondary characters.

3 Terms that best describe this book: Witty, Smart, Nostalgic

3 Relevant Fiction Books and Why:

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (similar female character who is still looking for the right man, and runs into many different humorous circumstances along the way.)

Mr. Maybe by Jane Green (female character, living in London, and needs to decide which man is right for her, by following her head or her heart.)

Bubbles Unbound by Sarah Strohmeyer (books have mystery to them, and main female character is always getting herself into trouble trying to solve the various mysteries that arise.)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Books and Why

Phantom Encounters: Chillingly True Ghost Stories by Maria Christine

“True” ghost stories, suitable for youth to adults.

Further Five-Minute Mysteries by Ken Weber

30 new mysteries for the reader to solve.

America in the 1920’s by Michael J. O’Neal

A nice way to learn about American history. An account of the decade, including presidents, fashions, music, and more.

Name: Kathryn

Water For Elephants

October 22, 2009

Title: Water for Elephants

Author: Sara Gruen

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 335

Playaway: 11.5 hours (unabridged)

Genre: Historical Fiction/Best Seller/Audio Book

Geographical Setting: United States

Time Period: 1931 & Present Day

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: The time period is the Great Depression. Jacob Jankowski, a young man of twenty-three, is about to take his final exams in veterinary medicine and join his father’s veterinary practice when his life falls apart. He learns that his parents have died in a car accident leaving him with nothing. Jacob, suddenly homeless and heartbroken, leaves school and hops a train unaware that it is a circus train. When Uncle Al, the unscrupulous owner of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, learns that Jacob studied veterinary medicine, he hires him to be the circus’ vet and Jacob finds himself immersed in the exotic, gritty and often dangerous world of a traveling circus. While Jacob cares for the menagerie of animals that make up the circus’ animal acts, he finds himself falling in love with both a magnificent, intelligent elephant named Rosie and the beautiful circus performer, Marlena , who is married to August, Jacob’s cruel, sadistic boss. Jacob and Marlena manage to fight their growing attraction to each other until one fateful day when there is a horrific incident that involves Jacob, Marlena, August and even Rosie. This engrossing story, told in flashbacks by Jacob who is now in his nineties and living in a nursing home, paints a vivid and accurate picture of circus life while following the circus and its unusual and sometimes freakish inhabitants as it travels from town to town across the United States.

Audio Book Review: In this entertaining audio version of Water for Elephants, two distinct voices bring to life the story of Jacob Jankowski. David LeDoux provides the voice of Jacob as a 23 year old, a voice that is full of passion, enthusiasm, and wonder at all he sees and experiences and John Randolph Jones provides the voice of Jacob at the age of 90 or 93. Jones’ voice, cracked, reedy, and world weary, brings to life the elder Jacob as a man who, at the age of 93,rails against his current surroundings as he reflects on his past, wonders what happened to the young man he used to be and asks the question, who is the old man in the mirror?

Subject Headings: Circus performers; Reminiscing in old age; Depressions –1929-1941; Traffic accident victims; Human/animal relations; Parents — Death; Veterinarians; Men/women relations; Triangles (Interpersonal relations); Women circus performers; Circus animals; Women horse trainers; Elephants; Human-animal communication; Manic-depressive men; Circus.

Appeal: engrossing, page-turner, vivid, quirky secondary characters, authentic, accurate, exotic, circus performers, cinematic, story told through flashbacks, resolved ending, accurate, lush, detailed descriptions of the life of a traveling circus, Great Depression, gritty, nostalgic, romantic, mesmerizing.

Three terms that best describe this book: Exotic, Nostalgic, Circus

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day – The interconnected short stories that are featured in this book offer readers a glimpse into the lives and relationships between the townspeople of Lima, Indiana and the acrobats, clowns and other circus performers of the Great Porter Circus who spend their winters in Lima during the years 1884-1939. (Circus performers, narrative that shifts across time, circus elephants and trainers).

Embrace Me by Lisa Samson – Valentine who is scarred and disfigured, and Lella, a quadriplegic, become best friends while making a living working in the Roland Wayfaring Marvels and Oddities. (Circus performers, traveling circus).

Waterborne: A Novel by Bruce Murkoff – Engineer Filius Poe,  pretty Lena McCardell, and Jewish outlaw Lew Beck all journey to the Hoover Dam construction site in Nevada during the Great Depression hoping to find work and start their lives over. (Protagonists trying to start their lives over, Great Depression, romance, men/women relationships).

The House at Riverton: A Novel by Kate Morton – In 1924 a tragedy occurs at Riverton House and Grace the Hartford’s family maid is a witness to it. When a filmmaker who is working on a movie about the Hartford family contracts Grace, her long suppressed memories of the event come back and Grace, who is now ninety-eight, recounts through flashbacks what really happened. (Engrossing, story told through flashbacks, authentic recreation of an earlier period).

Relevant Non-fiction Works and Authors:

The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top by Janet M. Davis – Fascinating history and examination of the traveling railroad circuses at the turn of the century.

Love, War, and Circuses: The Age-Old Relationship Between Elephants and Humans by Eric Scigliano – Examines the relationships and connections between humans and elephants.

Lions & Tigers & Mares, Oh My! by Gay Louise Balliet –Humorous and touching stories about the daily life of a veterinarian in eastern Pennsylvania  who treats large and exotic animals from farms, exotic game parks, traveling circuses, and horse breeders.

Name: Maggie