Archive for the ‘Audio Book’ Category

The Night Circus (Audio Book)

October 24, 2012

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 512

Geographical Setting: Predominately London and Concord, Massachusetts but several worldwide settings (traveling circus) as well.

Time Period: 1873-1903

Plot Summary:

Set in the late 19th century, The Night Circus tells the story of a darkly enchanting traveling circus that opens when the sun goes down. While the circus is made up of a large cast of workers and performers, the plot revolves around two young people skilled in magic- Celia, the circus’ illusionist who possesses the ability to manipulate the world around her, and Marco, a former orphan with a knack for altering physical settings. Due to an ancient feud between their instructors, Celia and Marco are bound to compete against each other in a magical challenge that will test their skill and endurance. Unsure of exactly how a winner will be determined, Celia and Marco approach the challenge with fear and distrust of their less than noble mentors and complicate their arrangement further by falling in love. While the story of the young lovers skilled in magic is at the heart of the plot, Morgenstern includes a slue of additional characters who are strangely bound to the circus itself. Memorable secondary characters include the Murray twins whose birth on circus grounds results in their own magical abilities and Tsukiko, a mysterious contortionist with secrets of her own. Morgenstern writes an engrossing tale that includes multiple plot lines and smoothly vacillates between the past and the future. Celia and Marco’s romance is as endearing as it is heartbreaking and the mysterious magic that surrounds the circus is intriguing and thought provoking. Written in a lush and elegant style, The Night Circus is a fascinating dark fantasy story about love,  mystical circumstances, and a spectacularly magical circus that bewilders both its patrons and performers.

Regarding the audio book specifically, Jim Dale tells this spectacular story in a voice that is both engaging and haunting. His varied dialects for this large cast of characters are enjoyable and believable. Reluctant listeners might find Dale’s reading an excellent introduction to the world of audio books and will perhaps seek out addition titles that he has read.

Subject Headings: Circus, Circus performers, Competition, Games, Good and Evil, Magic, Magicians, Magicians’ apprentices, Nineteenth century

3 Appeal Terms: Magical, Thought-Provoking, Elegant

Appeal: Engrossing, Unhurried, Atmospheric, Dark, Magical, Dramatic Characters, Intriguing, Complex Storyline, Flashbacks, Imaginative, Multiple Plot Lines, Plot-Centered, Thought-Provoking, Elegant Language.

Non-Fiction Read-Alikes:

The Circus at the Edge of the Earth: Travels with the Great Wallenda Circus by Charles Wilkins

Writer Charles Wilkins takes the opportunity to travel with the Wallenda Circus on a worldwide trip that spans several weeks. He describes the intriguing circus performers in rich detail and notes the physical danger in which they put themselves in order to remain a part of the show. For readers whose curiosity of circus life was peaked while reading The Night Circus, The Circus at the Edge of the Earth offers an engrossing true adventure story.

Josser: Days and Nights in the Circus by Nell Stroud

Josser is an autobiographical work that tells the story of 18-year-old Stroud who joined a traveling circus after a family tragedy. Readers who wish to explore the relationships among a real circus family might enjoy this non-fiction title.

The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination by Michael Robert Place

The Night Circus includes several detailed descriptions of tarot cards, mostly through the perspective of Isobel the fortuneteller. For readers who took interest in this aspect of circus life, The Tarot offers additional information on the history of reading as well as symbolism found in the cards.

Fiction Read-Alikes:

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

In a society where magic is nearly non-existent, Gilbert Norrell is the only working magician until he meets Jonathan Strange who will become his student. After observing the depth of Jonathan’s skill, Norrell becomes jealous and controlling and a rivalry quickly develops. Readers seeking another dark read about rival magicians in the 19th century might enjoy this title.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater, a high school student, is delighted to discover a university devoted to teaching magic. Eager to change his seemingly dull existence, Quentin enrolls in this fantastical college and begins studies in wizardry. He quickly learns that magic lessons are more difficult than he previously imagined and finds himself tangled up in an alternate universe’s war, which leads to a compelling adventure. Similar to The Night Circus, The Magicians is dark and suspenseful. Readers seeking additional fantasy reading that includes a coming-of-age theme and magicians might appreciate this book

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

For The Night Circus fans who are seeking additional circus reading but would like to delve outside of the Fantasy genre, Water for Elephants might be an enjoyable title. Set in the 1930s, Water for Elephants tells the story of young Jacob who impulsively joins a traveling circus after the sudden loss of his parents. Jacob quickly finds work caring for the exotic circus animals but finds himself falling in love with Marlena, an equestrian star, who is married to the disturbing animal trainer. Jacob’s adventures in this richly detailed circus make for a fast-paced, engaging read. Water for Elephants also offers flashbacks similar to The Night Circus and emphasizes the love story in a circus setting. Readers who enjoyed the romance between Marco and Celia might appreciate this work of Literary Fiction.

Annotation by: Elizabeth Hopkins

The Book Thief

October 24, 2012

Author: Zusak, Markus

Title: The Book Thief

Genre: Audio Book, Juvenile Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 560; number of compact discs: 11 (13 hr., 50 min)

Geographical Setting: Molching (outside of Munich) fictional town outside of Munich in Germany

Time Period: 1933-1945

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: The Book Thief written by an Australian writer, received numerous literary awards, and is one of the most originally written novels of the 2000s. In its audio book version, narrator Allan Corduner, an actor with extensive theatre experience on London’s West End and on Broadway, gives an extraordinary performance by using his voice. The main character, 9 year old Liesel, known as a book thief, is sent by her mother who later on disappears to live with her new foster family. During the journey, her little brother dies on the train; she buries him with her mother and steals her first book, The Grave Digger’s Handbook. However, Liesel cannot read. The most original aspect of the novel is its narrative –Death itself, who tells the story of Liesel. Her adoptive father Hans, who she calls Papa, quickly becomes her friend and teaches her writing and reading. Her stealing adventures with a boy named Rudy, the dark and paranoid living situation of a young Jew, Max, who the family hides in their basement, and a few other strong characters that live in this fictional small town, somewhere outside of Munich, are shown with the philosophical aspects of dehumanization during the World War II. Therefore, there is another side of Germany shown, not the Nazi, fanatic country, but Germans who in spite of the consequences of immediate death, hide in their homes other Germans – Jews and sympathize and help them. And Liesel, a brave and intelligent girl, discovers instantly what a treasure for a human soul a book truly is and learns instantly what  Main Kampf did to one country.

Subject Headings: Books and Reading, Death, Nazi Germany, History 1933-1945, Historical Fiction, Holocaust, Jews Rescue, Juvenile Fiction, Storytelling, World War II.

Appeal: emotional; hopeful; philosophical portray of Germans and Jews during World War II; undeniable proof for power of written word; insightful characters; realistic aspects of human dignity; inspiring acts of courage.

Three Terms for Book:  hopeful, superb and innovative narrative, and important enlightening novel.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

  1. Orlev, Uri, The Island on Bird Street – the story of the 11 year old boy      during the Holocaust, in a Warsaw ghetto in      Poland.      His faith for his father comes back, courage, and reading makes the      horrifying conditions inexplicably able to endure. The author is      internationally known for his books focusing on the subjects of the      Holocaust and the lives of Jews throughout WWII.
  2. Pausewang, Gudrun, Traitor – during the last year of WWII, the 15 year old Anna      must decide about hiding a Russian soldier in her native town in Germany,      while risking their  lives and      certain death if being exposed. The book inspires further dialogue about      the difficult choices Germans had to make in these evil times.
  3.  Peet, Mal, Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal – available      also as an audio book, narrated by two authors, male and female. Tamar is      15 years old and lives in England.      It is 1995 when his beloved grand-father commits  suicide, and Tamar will learn about his      secret past life during WWII in Netherlands under the Nazi      occupation. It is a compelling and suspenseful book about fear, finding      one’s own identity, and once again strength.

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

  1. Frank, Anne, The Diary of a Young Girl – an audio book published in 2010 as      a new edition for new generation of young people about the worldwide known      testament of the Holocaust and Jewish people hiding to survive the war’s      atrocities. Anne died in 1945 as a young girl, leaving her diaries as      evidence of her short life-vulnerable but dignified and in spite of      circumstances full of young, rebellious spirit.
  2. Gross, Leonard, The Last Jews in Berlin – based on the real story, the      survival of twelve Jews in the heart of Nazi Berlin. It’s the middle of      the war, 1942, genocide of Jews, concentration camps, and twelve very      brave women and men against the human degradation called extermination of      Jews. The perspective of a people living in constant fear of being exposed      to sure death among good Germans who wished to help. Moving and      informative.
  3. Friedlander, Saul, Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945: The Years of      Extermination – well researched, revisited sensitive subject of lives      of Jewish people in Europe under the      regime and fear of death. The author, an American professor of history,      focuses on subjects, such as anti-Semitism and its motives.

Brimstone

August 8, 2012

Author: Robert B. Parker, Audiobook read by Titus Welliver

Title: Brimstone (3rd book in Appaloosa trilogy)

Genre: Western

Publication Date: May 5, 2009

Number of Pages: 304 (Paperback), 4. 5 Hours (Audio Book)

Geographical Setting: The West (United States), New Mexico, Texas

Time Period: Old West: Early to Mid 1800’s

Series: Book 3 of Western Appaloosa Trilogy

Plot Summary: In this follow up to Parker’s Appaloosa and Resolution, we meet up with Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, two gun-slinging old friends who have a reputation for cleaning up towns as lawmen-for-hire. In this adventure, Virgil seeks to find the woman who stole his heart in the town of Appaloosa, Allie French. Moving across New Mexico and Texas, Cole and Hitch find Allie and the three try to start over in Brimstone. Things are not that easy as too much has happened between Allie and Virgil. The town of Brimstone also has its problems which Cole and Hitch are hired to solve as town deputies. Tricky solutions are their specialty one of which ties together the book wonderfully. The dialogue and friendship between Cole and Hitch makes this story more character-driven and along with the gun-slinging showdowns, mysterious murders, and fast-paced action, makes for a wonderful western.

Subject Headings: Western stories; Friendship — men; Small town life – The West (United States); Gunfights; Murder; Redemption

Appeal: Character-driven, Exciting, Suspenseful, Fast-paced, Multiple plot lines, Atmospheric, Series characters, Descriptive, Detailed setting, Rural, Friendship story, Well-drawn characters

3 Terms that best describe this book: Fast-paced, Exciting, Character-driven western

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters by Bill O’Neal

True facts and stories as well as myths and folklore about 225 well known gun-slingers and those all but forgotten. A book for those wondering what it was really like to be a gunslinger in the Wild West like Virgil and Everett.

2) Son of the Morning Star: Custer and The Little Bighorn by Evan S. Connell

For those readers looking for more information on the historical events of the Wild West in a form which reads more like a novel, this non-fiction story of Custer’s demise at Little Bighorn fills the reader with facts as well as a glimpse into Native American life and the characters involved in the battle.

3) The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich

A book of essays about her experience moving from a city in the east to very empty Wyoming, Ehrlich captures what it must have been like to live in the West during the time of Virgil and Everett and what it might take the reader to adjust to cowboy life, wide open spaces and the harshest of winters.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)  Black Powder, White Smoke by Loren D. Elsteman

This is a story about the adventures of a freed slave and white bandit who eventually cross paths and team up as they are pursued by the law for different reasons, and their fates and lives intertwine. This book is for readers who liked the fast-paced adventure and atmosphere of the West evident in Brimstone.

2)  The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard by Elmore Leonard

A collection of atmospheric, and gritty Western short stories written by Leonard over 50 years, including 3:10 to Yuma, this is for those readers who appreciated Brimstone for its rich characterizations, plot twists and fast pace.

3) The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie, Jr.

Touted to be one of the books which shaped the Western fiction genre, this classic novel from more than fifty years ago tells the story of the adventures and travels three frontiersmen who live in and long for big open spaces. A good pick for those who want to try earlier works of the genre and who enjoy the relationship between Virgil and Everett in Brimstone.

Name: Bridget Optholt

Shopgirl by Steve Martin

August 8, 2012

Author:  Steve Martin

Title:  Shopgirl

Genre:  Literary Fiction, Bestseller, Audio Book

Publication Date:  2000

Number of Pages:  130 (4 CDs, 4 hours)

Geographical Setting:  Beverly Hills, CA

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  n/a

Plot Summary:  Mirabelle Buttersfield is a sad, lonely, and clinically depressed twenty-eight-year-old Vermont native who sometime ago moved to California with aspirations of becoming an artist but now works in the glove department at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills.  Withdrawn and almost friendless, Mirabelle’s life consists of “selling things nobody buys anymore,” commuting to and from her apartment, feeding her cats, taking antidepressants, drawing pictures of dead and dying things, visiting art galleries, and occasionally meeting up with Jeremy, an unambitious and inept young man she met in a laundromat who stencils logos onto amplifiers for a living.  Her life begins to change when Mr. Ray Porter, an enormously wealthy, handsome, and debonair gentleman nearly twice Mirabelle’s age, buys her a pair of expensive gloves and asks her out for dinner.  Although Ray Porter is charming, suave, and genuinely cares about Mirabelle, he makes it perfectly clear that he does not intend on maintaining an exclusive relationship with her.  Despite this revelation, Mirabelle continues this dead-end relationship for quite some time until Jeremy, who has undergone a dynamic transformation with the help of self-improvement books, reenters her life.  Shopgirl is a brief and bittersweet meditation on loneliness, relationships between men and women, and the human capacity for change, containing a vivid cast of closely-observed characters that are sympathetic, somewhat offbeat, and occasionally amusing.  The author’s style is witty, thoughtful, and concise, and deftly matches the book’s unique tone, which is at times funny, reflective, melancholic, dramatic, and romantic.  On audio book, Steve Martin’s reading accentuates the novella’s melancholy tone, making Mirabelle’s depression affectingly palpable and deemphasizing the book’s more humorous moments.

Subject Headings:  Beverly Hills, CA – Fiction; Clerks (Retail Trade) – Fiction; Department Stores – Fiction; Young Women – Fiction; Coming-of-Age Story – Fiction.

Appeal:  Closely-observed characters, sympathetic characters, dramatic, character-driven, details of department store retail, amusing, bittersweet, reflective, introspective, romantic, funny, melancholy, descriptive, thoughtful, concise, witty

3 terms that best describe this book:  Melancholy, reflective, bittersweet

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Minding the Store by Stanley Marcus

Stanley Marcus, son of Neiman Marcus co-founder Herbert Marcus, provides a lively and surprisingly readable history of Neiman Marcus and examines what makes the department store one of the best and most well-known retailers around.  Suggested to Shopgirl readers who want to learn more about Mirabelle’s employer.

2)  Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex by John Gray

One of the most famous and most accessible self-help relationship books that people still read today, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus discusses how men and women are different and offers practical advice on how to transform relationships in clear, easy-to-understand language.  This is one of the books mentioned in Shopgirl that Jeremy read to improve himself.

3)  Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity by Stephanie Barron, Sheri Bernstein, Ilene Susan Fort, Michael Dear, and Howard N. Fox

Published in conjunction with a Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s exhibition that explored the ways in which artistic representations of California affect its identity, this book reproduces 400 pieces and 150 cultural artifacts from the exhibit.  Suggested to readers who, like Mirabelle, are interested in art and California art exhibits.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)   The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing is a witty, humorous, and insightful collection of seven interlinked stories about Jane Rosenal, her relationships, and her lifelong search for love.  In the title story, Jane memorizes a number of self-help relationship guides and strictly adheres to their advice only to hilarious and disastrous ends.  This book is suggested to readers looking for something funnier than Shopgirl while still addressing men’s and women’s relationships with touching insightfulness and wit.

2)  The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland

It would appear that the only thing that Roger, a middle-aged divorcee and aspiring novelist, and Bethany, a teen goth, is that they both work at Staples.  However, one day, Bethany discovers Roger’s diary, finds that they share similar thoughts about loneliness and mortality, and suggests that they begin writing to each other.  Through these letters, these two characters forge a unique friendship.  Like Shopgirl, this is a darkly humorous, melancholic, and introspective novel about loneliness, featuring characters with failed aspirations trapped in dead-end retail jobs.

3)  The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories by Aimee Bender

This book is a collection of sixteen imaginative, offbeat, and surreal short stories about sexuality, love, and relationships between men and women.  These stories feature a librarian who sleeps with all men who enter the library as a way to fight off grief, a woman whose lover is “experiencing reverse evolution” and now lives in a glass baking pan, a man who comes home from war without his lips, and numerous other odd characters and scenarios.  This unorthodox suggestion would be most appropriate for Shopgirl readers who want to read another book dealing with human relationships but also want to read something less grounded in reality.

Name:  Zach Musil

Ready Player One

July 30, 2012

Author:  Ernest Cline, Audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton

Title:  Ready Player One

Genre:  Science Fiction

Publication Date:  August 16, 2011

Number of Pages:  Hardcover – 372 pages; Audiobook — 13 discs (15 hr., 41 min.)

Geographical Setting:  OASIS, a virtual reality/internet utopia; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Columbus, Ohio.

Time Period:  Future, the year 2045

Plot Summary:  In Ernest Cline’s fun first novel, past and future collide in a geeky and nostalgic quest for the ultimate prize.  In the year 2045, the word is very bleak, and like most of humanity, 17 year-old orphan Wade Watts, lives most of his life plugged into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual reality and internet utopia, where anyone can be whoever they want to be.  OASIS creator, James Halliday, suddenly dies and it is revealed that not only is there no heir to his fortune, but that there are now three keys hidden somewhere in the OASIS.  Whoever finds the keys and solves their accompanying riddles first, inherits Halliday’s wealth as well as total control over the OASIS itself.  Halliday’s riddles and each of their clues are based on his favorite pop culture of the late 20th century, especially the 1980’s.   After years of no discovery of even the first key, Wade manages to become the first one to do so. He instantly becomes the most famous person (in the form of his avatar named, Parzival) in the world, relaunches a frenzy of competition for Halliday’s prize, and becomes the target of IOI, an evil corporation that is not only vying for control of the OASIS, but that is also willing to commit murder in the real world to do so.

Subject Headings:  Regression (Civilization), Virtual reality, Utopias, Puzzles

Appeal: accessible, earnest, cinematic, contemporary, detailed setting, fast paced, humorous, quirky, urban, jargon, sympathetic, lighthearted

3 terms that best describe this book:  Nostalgic, Richly-detailed, Action-packed

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)    Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

In order to defeat an invading alien race, young Ender Wiggin, is recruited to fight in the ultimate war, where the line blurs between games and battle.  Both novels take place in the future and involve young protagonists who must use gaming skills to protect the world.

2)    For the Win by Cory Doctorow

      In a dystopian future, poor teenagers and children are forced by corporations to work in massive multi-player online games to mine for valuable objects.  In order to escape from slavery, the kids plot their escape.  Both novels are about teenagers squaring off against evil corporations in a virtual, online environment.

3)    Jennifer Government  by Max Barry

      Set in a comically dystopian future where corporations own entire continents and force their employees to take on the names of companies as their last names.  Both novels have comedic tones and writing styles, as well as the fact that both satirize today’s Corporate America.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1)    1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die edited by Tony Mott

      A huge portion of Ready Player One deals with video gaming history and culture, and this immense reference book is a thorough guide for the uninformed.

2)    VH1 100 Greatest Songs of the 80’s by Hal Leonord Corp.

      Ready Player One also deals with a ton of 1980’s pop culture, especially music.  This book lists the decade’s top songs.

3)    The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future by Laurence C. Smith

      Based on various statistics, interviews, and observations, the author predicts what the world will be like in the next 40 years.  Ready Player One takes place in 2045, and the above book makes a nice companion to Cline’s novel.

Name:  Vadim Seyfer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

July 30, 2012

Author: Alexander McCall Smith, Performed by Lisette Lecat

Title: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: Book published 1998, Book on CD 2003

Number of Pages: Book -235, Book on CD – 8.25 hours on 7 discs

Geographical Setting: Botswana

Time Period: The 1990s

Series:  First in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series

Plot Summary: Precious Ramotswe is a rather large middle-aged woman, living in Gabarone, Botswana in 1998. Escaping an abusive marriage, she returns to care for her ailing father. When her beloved Daddy dies, she is left to consider her prospects. Using the money left to her by her father, and inspired by Agatha Christie, Precious Ramotswe opens the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – the first of its kind in all of Botswana. Mma Ramotswe, as she is called, proves adept at helping “people with the problems in their lives” such as finding stray husbands, exposing a con man, and discreetly following a strong-willed daughter. The vignettes are told with a quiet dignity but with humor and sincerity. The writing is very descriptive complementing the easy pace of the story. The narrator is a native of South Africa and adds a rich and lyrical voice to the narrative, providing not only correct pronunciation of the many native words, but also adding a lovely atmosphere to the stories.

Subject Headings: Private investigators – Botswana – Fiction – Sound recordings, Ramotswe, Precious (fictitious character) – Fiction – Sound Recordings, Missing children – Fiction – Sound recordings, Swindlers and swindling – Fiction – Sound recordings, Botswana – Fiction – Sound recordings

Appeal: Leisurely-paced, comfortable, gentle, heartwarming, humorous, upbeat, character-driven, engaging, episodic, family-centered, investigative, resolved ending, detailed setting, strong sense of place, accessible, natural and unaffected language, unpretentious  

3 terms that best describe this book: Comfortable, Humorous, Unpretentious

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Beaton, M. C. Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death; A cozy mystery filled with delightful characters living in the Cotswolds, this narrative presents an amusing and enjoyable fast-paced story. First in the Agatha Raisin series.

Drayson, Nicholas. A Guide to the Birds of East Africa; A gentle and delightful book that tells the story of a retired gentleman who is vying for the attention of a woman who appears to be out of his league; but all is not as it seems. The lovely descriptions of the Kenyan landscape frames the quiet and richly detailed narrative.

Farahad, Zama. Marriage Bureau for Rich People; This affectionate story tells of a retired Indian man who has a knack for matchmaking and opens a marriage arrangement office in southern India. Containing humor and optimism, this book is full of amusing characters and gentle stories in an exotic setting.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Randall, Will. Botswana Time; Using vivid descriptions, this personal account of life in rural Botswana gives the reader an insightful and engaging look at the culture and success of this African nation.

Summerscale, Kate. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective; Scotland Yard Detective Jack Whicher is called to unravel the mystery of the murder of a three year old boy in 1860 England. Tireless research and a compelling account by the author drives the reader forward in the investigation of this heinous crime.

Thompson, Laura. Agatha Christie: An English Mystery; Having unprecedented access to Christie’s letters and journals and using a conversational writing style, the author presents a detailed and interesting account of the life and works of Agatha Christie.

Name: Patty Daniel

Water for Elephants

April 18, 2012

Author: Sara Gruen

Title: Water for Elephants

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: May 1, 2007

Number of Pages: 335

Geographical Setting: United States

Time Period: Great Depression Era

Plot Summary: Jacob Jankowski lives a carefree life, even during a time of great depression for most.  He is about to graduate from Cornell College, join his father’s veterinary business, and has caught the eye of the most beautiful girl in school (to whom he hopes to lose his virginity).  But a deadly car accident, which claims the life of both his parents, flips Jacob’s life upside down.  After the bank seizes his house, Jacob leaves in search of…anything.  In the middle of the night he jumps a train, not knowing that it belongs to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth!  Young Jacob is thrust into a world filled with adventure, romance, and illusion, one that he can still remember years later when he is ninety-something-years-old.

Subject Headings: Circus — Fiction. Depressions — 1929 — Fiction. Circus performers — Fiction. Parents — Death — Fiction. Elephants — Fiction. Circus animals — Fiction. Triangles (Interpersonal relations) — Fiction.

Appeal: bittersweet, romantic, nostalgic, reflective, engaging, richly detailed, multiple perspectives, character-driven, intricately plotted, literary, suspenseful, atmospheric.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: multiple perspectives, romantic, character-driven.

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

  1. The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy, Stewart O’Nan. A historical account of the Hartford circus fire in 1944; a deadly disaster that killed more than 150 people.  A sobering depiction of circus life, and the risks associated with performing and life on the road.
  2. Tell Me Where it Hurts, Nick Trout.  Heartwarming and moving, the author, a veterinary surgeon tells about his experiences working with pets and their owners.
  3. Children of the Great Depression, Russell Freedman.  Through diaries, letters, and other firsthand accounts, the stories of American children affected by the Great Depression during the 1930s.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

  1. Life of Pi, Yann Martel.  Similarly to Guren, Yann also writes intricately plotted books in which reminiscing in old age in a main topic.  In this book, Pi Patel, a zookeeper’s son, escapes a sinking ship on a life boat with a Bengal tiger.
  2. The Sea, John Banville.  Character-driven and reflective, this book introduces Max Morgen who, after the death of his wife, goes to live town of his childhood in search of peace and solitude.
  3. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Oscar Hijuelos.  Two Cuban brothers form a band in New York during the 1950s.  Their talent brings them to new heights with an opportunity to perform on the I Love Lucy Show.

Name: Erin Shinneman

The Calling of the Grave

April 18, 2012

nullAuthor:  Simon Beckett

Title:  The Calling of the Grave

Genre:  Suspense, Audiobook

Publication Date:  February 2011

Number of Pages:  336, 9 hrs and 54 mins

Geographical Setting:  England

Time Period:  Eight years ago and present

Series (If applicable):  Dr. David Hunter series (book 4)

Plot Summary:

Eight years ago, forensic anthropologist Dr. David Hunter was helping the police attempt to locate the bodies of two teenage girls.  The man who confessed to and was convicted for their murder, Jerome Monk, was brought out of prison in order to help the police locate the burial site.  When Monk’s involvement ends in violence, the search is called off.  In the intervening eight years, David’s life has changed in ways that he couldn’t have imagined, but he’s shocked when the lead investigator in the missing girl’s case shows up on his doorstep to tell him that Jerome Monk has escaped from prison and might be targeting people involved in the previous investigation.  Quickly following that, a call from a woman he briefly met on the investigation eight years prior involves David in a quest to locate the murderer and ensure the safety of himself, Sophie, and anybody else involved in the investigation.  The narrator, Jonathan Keeble, gives the audiobook the appropriate sense of foreboding and helps to drive this suspenseful, fast-paced story to its conclusion.

Subject Headings:

Forensic anthropologists — Fiction.

Murder — Investigation — Fiction.

England — Fiction.

Hunter, David (Fictitious character) — Fiction.

Mystery fiction.

Detective and mystery stories.

Serial murder investigation–Fiction.

Appeal:  fast-paced, chilling, darker, menacing atmosphere, plot-centered, violent, straightforward, evocative setting, investigative, plot twists, suspenseful, foreboding, gritty

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  fast-paced, suspenseful, violent

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist–William R. Maples:  This book gives the reader insight into the real experiences of a man in the same field as David Hunter.

Murder in the First-Class Carriage: The First Victorian Railway Killing–Kate Colquhoun:  This true story is a suspenseful murder story set in England, with the extra bonus of historical accuracy.

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders–Vincent Bugliosi:  This true crime book describes how Charles Manson made his followers commit murder, the investigation, and the ensuing trials.  This is a gritty, faced-paced book with a menacing tone.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Flesh and Bones—Kathy Reichs:  Like David Hunter, Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist investigating murders in this series of suspenseful, fast-paced novels.

Private—James Patterson:  This is another fast-paced suspense novel, but the investigator in this book is dealing with cold cases, like David Hunter does in this book.

Dead End—Leigh Russell:  Another novel that is a part of a series, this suspense story also takes place in small-town England, features violence against women, and serial killers.

Name:  Amanda

Casanova: The Venetian Years

April 18, 2012

Title: Casanova: The Venetian Years

Author: Giacomo Casanova (Author), Benedict Cumberbatch (Reader)

Genre: Nonfiction, Audiobook

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: N/A

Geographical Setting: Italy

Time Period: 1725-1798

Plot Summary: The story of Giacomo Casanova, scholar, adventurer, traveler, soilder and political ally, yet he is more often known for his womanizing  ways, which has made the name “Casanova”  synonymous for a charismatic womanizer. The audiobook version is read by British actor Benedict Cumberbatch whose calm and snarky voice really adds to the humor of the story, as well as being very deep and charismatic, which adds to the more racy scenes. His reading of the story only adds more dimension to the tale, rather than taking anything away.

Subject Headings:

Adventure and Adventures – Biography
Courts and Courtiers – Biography
Casanova, Giacomo, 1725-1798.
Europe – History – Biography

Appeal: engrossing, leisurely-paced, atmospheric, chatty, passionate, smart, graceful, historical details, intimate, political, cinematic, sexually explicit, romp, emotionally charged, playful,

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe the Book: Sexually explicit, passionate, cinematic

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Dangerous Liaisons – Pierre-Ambrois-Francois Choderlos de Laclos

Aristocrats and ex-lovers Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont embark on a sophisticated game of seduction and manipulation to bring fun to their lives. They challenge each other to seduce others until their lives begin to spin out of control.

The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists – Neil Strauss

Author Neil Strauss goes undercover into a secret world where he is taught the art of being a pick up artist. This book covers the two year span in which Strauss trained to be a pick up artist, as well as his highs and lows as one and helpful tips on how to seduce the opposite sex.

Introducing NLP: Psychological Skills for Understanding and Influencing People – Joseph O’Connor

For those who might not be interested in Casanova’s romantic skill but rather his ability to manipulate and coerce people into doing his bidding. An interesting read for anyone who wishes to figure out how to use their understanding of other people in order to get ahead in life and business.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

One Last Look – Susanna Moore

Moving to an English settlement in Calcutta, India in the 1830s, Ladies Eleanor & Harriet expect to hate their time there but instead find a new life full of seduction and exotic cultures and men.

Goddess of the Hunt – Tessa Dar

A steamy historical romance in which our main character, Lucy Waltham attempts to seduce her brother’s best friend while trying to get a different man to marry her. She must choose which man is better suited to her adventurous spirit and passionate hidden life.

Terrorist – John Updike

A seduction of another kind. Eighteen-year-old Ahmad, the son of an Irish-American mother and Egyptian father, finds himself rejecting the capitalist and obsessive society around him. He becomes drawn to the teachings of Islam and along the way finds himself pulled into a terrorist plot.

Name: Courtney Rose

Malice

February 22, 2012

Author: Lisa Jackson

Title: Malice

Genre: Suspense

Publication Date: March 2009

Number of Pages: 480/ Number of Compact Discs: 13 unabridged

Geographical Setting: Southern California

Time Period: Present

Series: Bentz/Montoya, New Orleans Series

Plot Summary:

Malice is a suspenseful, fast-paced story that takes a straight-shooting police officer and places him in an impossible situation. Upon awakening from a coma, Rick Bentz is haunted by sightings of his ex-wife Jennifer. The same woman whose body he identified in a fatal car crash 12 years earlier. When he receives a package with fresh pictures of Jennifer and a copy of her birth certificate with a question mark written on it, Bentz journeys back to California and a sorrowful past he left behind there. His presence sets off a string of murders, menacing phone calls, and more sightings of his dead ex-wife.

Malice is an action-oriented story that pulls the reader along thanks to Jackson’s concise writing and knack for creating intrigue. The reader is implicitly invited to try and put the pieces of the puzzle together, gaining access to other perspectives besides the main protagonist. Jackson combines multiple plot threads and threats in short, sparse chapters that keep the material from being confusing or complex. This is the sixth book in a series, and offers a more in-depth look at a popular character’s past, which in turn makes it a touch more psychological than other bestseller of the week suspense tales. It is moody and serious. The plot is sprinkled with romance as it explores both Rick’s marriage to his current wife Olivia, but the book is focused on suspense and intrigue as Rick races to solve the mystery of why he was led to southern California.

Readers who enjoy clear-cut characters and closed-endings will be happy to know characters are generally familiar and recognizable as good or bad. The ending is definitively closed and ties up all the plot threads neatly.

Subject Headings: Detectives, Serial murders, Husband and wife, Widowers, Secrets, Murder suspects, Serial murderers

Appeal: suspenseful, plot oriented, concise, familiar characters, closed ending, menacing, mysterious, puzzling, thrilling, action filled, multiple plot threads, different POVs (including serial killer), haunting, psychological

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: fast-paced, menacing, thrilling

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

Dangerous Women: why mothers, daughters, and sisters become stalkers, molesters, and murderers, by Larry A. Morris – Jennifer is a compulsive cheater who propels Rick Bentz to return to Southern California and find out if she is still alive and plotting revenge against him for her death 12 years earlier. Readers may enjoy this exploration of what causes women to behave psychotically.

Mistaken identity: two families, one survivor, unwavering hope, by Don Van Ryn – Rick spends nearly the entire book second-guessing his identification of Jennifer’s body at the scene of her car accident. Ryn’s book follows a true case of mistaken identity thanks to a car accident.

In the Still of the Night, by Ann Rule – It is revealed in the prologue that Jennifer did not kill herself but was instead being stalked by someone who may have murdered her. Rule’s true crime story follows the investigation of a death ruled as a suicide but may have been a murder.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Drop, by Michael Connelly – Los Angeles detective Harry Bosch investigates a serial killer and deals with office politics and corruption in this fast-paced but more character-driven mystery story also set in California and focusing on a long-unsolved mystery.

Cold Vengeance, by Doug Preston and Lincoln Child – FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast tries to figure out the details of his wife’s bizarre death 12 years ago and begins to believe it may have been a part of a greater conspiracy in this plot-driven, suspenseful tale that delves into ideas of the occult. (Note: this is a part of a sequence in a larger series; readers may want to at least start with the preceding book, Fever Dream).

Stealing Shadows, by Kay Hooper – Readers who enjoy the psychic yet realistic character of Olivia Bentz may also like Hooper’s protagonist Cassie Neill. Neill is a member of the LAPD who has used her telepathic powers to try and stop serial killers in this fast-paced romantic suspense tale.