Posts Tagged ‘austere’

Butcher’s Crossing

September 28, 2011

Author: John Edward Williams

Title: Butcher’s Crossing

Genre: Western / Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1960

Number of Pages: 240

Geographical Setting: Kansas / Colorado

Time Period: 1870s

Plot Summary: Naïve college boy Will Andrews flees his Harvard education for the wide open spaces of the West, where he hopes to find himself. In the Kansas frontier town of Butcher’s Crossing, Andrews hooks up with a hunter named Miller and ends up bankrolling a buffalo hunting expedition to Colorado. Andrews, Miller and the two other men in their crew endure an arduous journey, from survival mode in the wilderness to the ugly process of killing and skinning buffalo. After a point it becomes clear that hunting buffalo is not just an occupation for Miller, but a dangerous obsession—and Andrews is thrown into personal turmoil as his romantic notions of the West and nature are shattered by the grim reality of their journey.

Subject Headings: Western stories; Revisionist westerns; Buffalo hunting; Frontier life; Coming-of-age stories; Man vs. nature

Appeal: austere, cinematic, coming-of-age, descriptive, detailed, evocative, gritty, intense, physical, realistic, relaxed pace, strong sense of place, vivid

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: descriptive, gritty, physical

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) The Border and the Buffalo by John R. Cook [Memoir by an actual buffalo hunter that gives a detailed, first-hand account of the buffalo slaughter that occurred in the western territories during this time, as well as other descriptions of frontier life]

2) Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer [Idealistic young intellectual tries to brave the wilderness]

3) The Buffalo Hunters: The Story of the Hide Men by Mari Sandoz [Densely packed history of plains buffalo hunters]

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1) The Morning River by W. Michael Gear [Both a western and a coming-of-age story; about a naïve Harvard idealist who faces gritty hardship in the west; realistic, descriptive, detailed]

2) Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy [Revisionist western, also about a massacre (of Indians rather than Buffalo) and the harshness of wilderness; gritty, intense, descriptive; Butcher’s Crossing often cited as precursor to this novel]

3) Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry [Western about an arduous journey; relaxed pace, gritty, descriptive]

Name: Brian W.

The Lost Symbol

July 25, 2011

Author:  Dan Brown

Title:  The Lost Symbol

Genre:  Suspense

Publication Date:  2009

Number of Pages:  509

Geographical Setting:  Washington, D.C.

Time Period:  Present day

Series (If applicable):  Same main character (Robert Langdon) as his novels The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons

Plot Summary:  Robert Langdon is pulled into yet another quest for answers in Dan Brown’s latest novel.  This time set in Washington D.C., only Langdon has the knowledge to solve the latest hunt for one of the biggest secrets in American history.  Langdon and this new cast of friends, law enforcement, and enemies race through our nation’s capitol on a suspenseful quest to protect the Masons longest-kept and most precious secret.

Subject Headings:  Suspense fiction; Washington, D.C.; Freemasonry

Appeal:  Fast-paced, engrossing, austere, suspenseful, detailed characters, multiple points of view, series character, well-drawn characters, action-oriented, cinematic, layered, detailed setting, academic, complex, well-crafted, well-researched

3 terms that best describe this book: fast-paced, well-researched, suspenseful

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

–       Paul Naudon’s The Secret History of Freemasonry: Its Origins and Connection to the Knights Templar – for anyone interested in learning more about the history of the Freemasons that are discussed so much in this novel

–       Scott W. Berg’s Grand Avenues: The Story of the French Visionary Who Designed Washington D.C. – discusses Pierre L’Enfant’s role in designing the architecture of Washington, D.C. as discussed in the novel

–       Robert Hieronimus & Laura Cortner’s Founding Fathers, Secret Societies: Freemasons, Illuminati, Rosicrucians, and the Decoding of the Great Seal – for readers interested in learning more about America’s secret societies

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

–       Daniel Silva’s Portrait of a Spy – recently published suspense spy novel with a similar fast-paced, suspenseful, and intricately plotted story

–       Robert Ludlum’s The Icarus Agenda – a fast-paced, suspenseful spy story involving the government

–       Jonathan Rabb’s The Book of Q – suspense story centered around centuries-old secrets and conspiracies, similar to Brown’s stories

Name:  Julie Foote

The Alchemist

June 23, 2010

Author: Paolo Coelho

Title: The Alchemist

Genre: Inspirational

Publication Date: 1988

Number of Pages: 173

Geographical Setting: Spain, Tangier, Sahara Desert, Egypt

Time Period: Past

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

An introspective young shepherd is trying to sell the wool of his sheep to earn money and impress a girl, but his Personal Legend had other ideas.  When he reaches town, he seeks the help of a gypsy woman who tells him that he will find his treasure at the pyramids.  He tries to dismiss the nonsense, however, when he encounters a man who tells him the same story and knows of his past, they young boy decides to set out on a journey to the pyramids.  Throughout his journey the young boy comes to realizations about his life and learns how to communicate with the world and own heart.  This short novel merges simplicity and profundity magnificently and will appeal to readers who enjoy metaphysical stories and philosophical plotlines.

Subject Headings:

Personal Journey








Appeal: Introspective, Character-Center, Simple, Austere, Compassionate, Contemplative, Heartwarming, Magical, Unpretentious, Thoughtful, Compelling, Deliberate

3 terms that best describe this book: Introspective, Character-Centered, Simple

Similar author and works (why are they similar?):


Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Readers may appreciate the romantic appeal and a story told in a similar style.  Readers might be able to connect to this story because it is from a writer outside the United States.

Replay by Ken Grimwood

This title will gain interest with readers who are interested in life cycles and the permanence of the future.

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

A personal journey for a boy who thinks he has it all, soon find out that the way he is living will lead him to sure unhappiness.


The Dream Weaver: One Boy’s Journey Through the Landscape of Reality by Jack Bowen

Will appeal to readers who enjoy the philosophical tone, and deeper meaning in The Alchemist.

Finding God in the Questions: A Personal Journey by Timothy G. Johnson

The religious appeal will carry readers through this title if they are looking for deeper meaning and a higher power.

Headwraps: A Global Journey by Georgia Scott

This multi-cultural exploration ties in the larger scope of humanity with coincidence and serendipity.

The Turn of the Screw

November 4, 2009

Author:  Henry James

Title:  The Turn of the Screw

Genre:  Horror

Publication Date:  1898

Number of Pages:  87

Geographical Setting:  Essex

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:  This story is told by an unknown narrator, which only adds to the eeriness of the tale.  It tells the story of a governess who has undertaken the task of caring for a young boy and girl (as their parents have passed away) on a large estate while their uncle is away.  The boy, Miles, has been expelled from school for reasons that are never disclosed to the reader.  That lack of certainty is carried out throughout the tale and it is that aspect that makes this such a chilling read.  The housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, tells the governess all she needs to know about caring for the children.  She does not, however, make her aware of Miss Jessel and her lover, Peter Quint, whom the governess sees around the grounds.  The governess begins to suspect that they are ghosts, and she learns that they died under suspicious circumstances.  She also suspects that the children are aware of the ghosts as well, though they refuse to admit it.

Subject Headings:  Essex; London; Ghosts; Orphans; Secrets

Appeal:  Complex, unknowing, densely written, stately, closely observed, family-centered, linear, detailed setting, rural, chilling, claustrophobic, dark, foreboding, psychological, austere, stark

3 terms that best describe this book:  Unknowing, Muted, Dark

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

“Henry James:  A Life” by Leon Edel.  A biography depicting the life of the writer is always a great supplement to analyzing a work.

“Essex:  The Buildings of England” by James Bettley.  This modernized guide will teach all about the gothic architecture of the setting of James’ novel.

“Our Haunted Life:  True Life Ghost Encounters” by Jeff Belanger.  Whether or not the reader believes in ghosts and the afterlife, tales of haunting are always unsettling.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

“The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson.  Another tale full of subtle, psychological twists, the ghosts and foreboding estate are similar to “Turn of the Screw”.

“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte.  This dark tale of passionate forbidden love with tragedy in the ending is like that of the love between Miss Jessel and Peter Quint.

“Grave’s End” by Elaine Mercado.  This tale of haunting makes the stretch of what might happen if a ghost or spirit took to violent actions.

Name:  Melissa

The Blind Assassin

June 10, 2009

Title: The Blind Assassin

Author: Margaret Atwood

Publication Date: 2001

Pages: 521

Genre: Literary Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Science Fiction

Geographic Setting: Ontario Canada

Time Period: 1930s and 1940s

Plot Summary: The Blind Assassin tells the tale of two sisters, Laura and Iris Chase. The layered and ambitious novel is from Iris’s point of view and gives an account of her life as a sheltered child, an unhappy wife, an insufficient mother and the suicide of her sister Laura. The story goes back and forth in time and also into a story within a story within a story.   The novel is interwoven with Iris’s narrative as well as parts from Laura’s novel about a love affair with a revolutionary who writes a science fiction pulp novel about a blind assassin.  That novel is based on Laura (and Iris’s) experience with a man.  As the story unfolds, the pieces of the novel and Iris’s life come together in an intriguing, dark and complex book by Margaret Atwood.

Subject Headings: Subject(s): Psychological fiction, sisters—fiction, women novelists—Canada—Fiction, Women novelists—fiction, Sisters—Death—Fiction, Love stories, Canada—Social life and customs—20th century—fiction,

Appeal: complex, historical details, family-centered, flashbacks, multiple plot lines, thought provoking, detailed, well drawn, intriguing, austere, darker, psychological, suspenseful, uneasy, poetic, vivid, restrained, bleak

Three Terms that describe this book: Intriguing, austere, well drawn

Similar Authors and Works (fiction):

The Lace Reader by Bruonia Berry (gripping, investigative, historical, different perspectives)

Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz (historical, weaving tale, dark, harsh, compelling, well drawn characters, family mystery)

Fall on Your Knees by Anne Marie MacDonald (epic family history, sisters, lyrical, Canada, shifting plot lines, mythic, dark)

The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder (story within story, multiple plots, symbolism, whimsical, philosophical)

Similar Authors and Works (Non-fiction):

Time Machines:  The Story of Pulp Fiction Magazines from the Beginning to 1950 by Mike Ashley

My Sister, My Self: Understanding the Sibling Relationship the Shapes Our Lives, Our Loves and Our Selves by Vikki Stark

Ontario: Image, Identity and Power by Peter Baskerville

Name: Alicia Hammond

At Risk

February 25, 2009

Author: Patricia Cornwell

Title: At Risk

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 212

Geographical Setting: Boston, MA and Knoxville, TN

Time Period: 2006

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

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

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

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

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

Similar Authors and Works (Fiction):

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

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

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

Similar Authors and Works (Non-Fiction):

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

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

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

Name: Tori