Posts Tagged ‘complex storyline’

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

A Dark Matter

October 26, 2011

Author: Peter Straub

Title:  A Dark Matter

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: February 9, 2010

Number of Pages:  Audio Edition (I-Pod) 12 parts; 14 hours 33 minutes

Narrator: Robertson Dean

Geographical Setting: Madison, WI and Chicago, IL

Time Period:  1966 and present day

Series (If applicable): A companion work called The Skylark told from the point of view of Spenser Mallon.

Plot Summary: Four High School students fall under the spell of a charismatic wandering guru, Spenser Mallon, and join him in performing a spiritual ritual in the agronomy meadow of the University of Wisconsin.  During this ceremony something supernatural happens, the participants see things and feel things that are indescribable.  The ritual also leaves one kid dead.  That was in 1966.   Several decades later, Lee Harwell is searching for answers as to what happened that fateful day in the meadow.  He was not involved in the ritual, but his three friends were, along with the woman who would become his wife, Lee Traux (The Eel).  Lee Harwell attempts to track down his old friends, Don Olsen (Dilly), Howard Bly (Hootie) and Jason Boatman (Boats), and in doing so each recounts their experience in the meadow, offering many different versions of the same event.  All involved in the ill-fated event were greatly affected in some way or another.  A Dark Matter is a creepy, psychologically suspenseful story that will leave the reader wondering what really happened in the meadow until the last page.

Subject Headings: The sixties; occult ceremonies; supernatural rites, teenagers, good vs. evil; psychic trauma; Bram Stoker Award Winners

Appeal: character-centered, intricately plotted, relaxed pace, bleak, creepy, psychological, supernatural, complex storyline, literary prose, multiple points of view, detailed, foreboding

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character-centered, psychological, foreboding

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1)     Helter Skelter: the True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi – Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney in the Charles Manson murder trial.  His position as an insider has allowed him to give a unique perspective on one of the most notorious killers in American history. Charles Manson was a charismatic “cult” leader.  He lured both men and women into this “family” and he had a baffling hold on his followers.  In 1969 Manson and 4 of his followers carried out several murders of seemingly random victims.  It continues to be one of the most famous crimes and trials in American History.  Chosen as a non-fiction read-alike for A Dark Matter because the charismatic wandering guru Spencer Mallon is similar to Mason, luring young people in with his ideas and personality.

2)     The Tibetan Book of the Dead by Padma Sambhava and translated by Robert Thurman – Said to have been written in the 8th century A.D. by Padma Sambhava who is also said to have been the first person to bring Buddhism to Tibet.  The book is a guide for the dead to guide them through the stages the will encounter between death and their rebirth.  Basically the soul needs guidance once it leaves the physical body and this book is a guide.  It contains prayers and ways the living can assist the dead.  In A Dark Matter the Tibetan Book of the Dead is mentioned on several occasions by the guru Spencer Mallon, so perhaps readers of the novel would enjoy this non-fiction work to learn more.

3)     The New Encyclopedia of the Occult by John Michael Greer – John Michael Greer is an “occult practitioner” who consulted scholarly text in order to write a well researched, informative encyclopedia of occult traditions, lore, etc.  Included are 1500 entries listed in alphabetical order and include spiritual movements, magic, alchemy, and astrology.  Chosen as a read-alike for A Dark Matter because the ceremony the teenagers and guru perform in the meadow is an occult ceremony and readers of the novel may appreciate learning more about the occult and all of its aspects.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)     I’ll Take You There by Joyce Carol Oates – A nameless white girl at a fictional college falls for an African-American grad student in this character-centered work set in the 1960’s.  There is, of course, the racial tension one would expect from an inter-racial relationship at the time.  Along with the social backlash, the girl is also haunted by the fact that someone she once thought was dead is actually alive.  Similar to A Dark Matter in that it is set in the 1960’s and involves college students.  (creepy, psychological suspense, character-centered)

2)     The Revelation by Bentley Little – This creepy story in a small town in Arizona, where events seemingly signal a looming apocalypse.  The church is desecrated, animals are being sacrificed and people are disappearing.  A new Episcopal Priest comes to town and enlists the help of three others as he believes only the four of them can save the town from the evil.  Similar to A Dark Matter this novel has supernatural elements and an underlying theme of good versus evil. (creepy, menacing, supernatural)

3)     Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King – A collection of five short stories that are linked to each other and revolve around events that occurred in the 1960’s.  The Vietnam War is at the forefront of the creepy tales that include some supernatural elements, which makes this story similar to A Dark Matter.  Other similarities include a 1960’s setting and having interweaving stories told by several individuals. (creepy, suspenseful, character-centered)

Name: Michelle Worthington

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

October 21, 2009

Author: Dan Brown

Title: “The Lost Symbol”

Genre: Adventure

Publication Date: September 2009

Number of Pages: 504

Geographical Setting: Washington, D.C.

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: Series character, Robert Langdon

Plot Summary:  Robert Langdon returns to use his brains to help out an organization as the reader is toured around a detailed set of Washington, D.C..  Langdon finds that he has been called to the Capitol building to help out a long-time friend, Peter Solomon, and to return a mysterious packaged item that has been entrusted to him.  He arrives only to discover that the severed hand of his friend has been tattooed and set up in the middle of the room, pointing upwards.  Peter’s sister, Katherine, joins the search for her brother.  The CIA join as well, except that that are not concerned with finding Peter’s captor, but will do anything to get the package held by Landon, which is said to reveal all the secret knowledge held by the legendary secret society, the Masons .  Questions litter this tale: Who has captured and tortured Peter?  Is he alive?  How has he come to know all that he does?  How did the CIA get involved?  Whose interests do they have at heart?  What exactly is this secret knowledge that has been guarded vehemently for centuries?

Subject Headings: Washington, D.C., Secret societies – Masons,

Appeal:  fast paced, relentless, series character, eccentric villain, complex storyline, investigative, plot twists, informative details, detailed depiction of Washington D.C. architecture, historical details, contemporary setting, political backdrop, dangerous, dangerous mood, conversational language, natural description, resolved ending, easy yet researched

3 terms that best describe this book:  Historical, Exciting, Dangerous

Similar Authors and Works
3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

“The Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capitol:  The Masons and the Building of Washington, D.C.” by David Ovason.  This text notes several important founders who were involved in the construction of D.C, such as James Hoban (designer of the White House) and notes how their designs reflect well-known Mason symbols.  This may in fact be a source Dan Brown used for his own text, as it was published in 2002.

“Insight Guide Washington, D.C.” by Insight Guides.  A great resource for Washington architecture, offering plenty of historical details and little bias.

“Secret Societies: And How They Affect Our Lives Today” by Sylvia Browne.  This text documents sixteen different societies, offers a brief history of each, and whether or not it is known to be active today and how.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

“The Kabalyon Key” by Charles Westbrook.  A religiously controversial tale of secrets and conspiracy wherein the world is threatened as historical secrets are revealed.  Westbrook peels the layers of mystery similar to Dan Brown so that the reader is taken on an exciting adventure.  Historical facts and illustration are also used to supplement the story.

“Spartan Gold” by Clive Cussler.  Like Brown, Cussler chronicles the hunt for a secret treasure (once belonging to the ancient world and then again to Napoleon) while two parties race to solve the clues to finding it.

“The Doomsday Key” by James Rollins.  This text intertwines history and science (like The Lost Symbol does).  Scientific experiments are explored that have the magnitude to change mankind, offering high suspense.  Also similar is the usage of series characters, for those who appreciate comfort with their narrator.

Name:  Melissa

Riders of the Purple Sage

September 30, 2009

Title: Riders of the Purple Sage

Author: Zane Grey

Publication Date: 1912

Number of Pages: 265

Genre: Western

Geographical Setting: South Utah

Time Period: 1871

Series: N/A

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

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

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

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

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

Relevant Non-fiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

Name: Maggie