Posts Tagged ‘Darkly Humorous’

Look Me in the Eye

August 13, 2012

Author:  John Elder Robison

Title: Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s

Genre:  Nonfiction, Autobiography

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages:  288

Geographical Setting: Primarily Eastern U.S.; Massachusetts

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  In this darkly humorous and moving autobiography, Augusten Burroughs’s older brother, John Elder Robison, candidly and straightforwardly narrates what his life was like growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, his struggles with adjusting to the world around him, and the relief he felt when he was finally diagnosed at age 40.  Robison also describes his traumatic childhood living with an alcoholic, abusive father and a mentally-unstable mother; his gift for repairing, building, and modifying electronic music equipment; and how he used this gift to escape his parents by joining KISS’s 1978 tour to build special effect guitars for Ace Frehley.  Robison’s life is colorful and full of bizarre developments and quirky, offbeat characters that make for a particularly compelling read.  The author’s clever observations of life are both humorous and insightful, and give readers an authentic portrait of one man’s life with Asperger’s.

Subject Headings:  Asperger’s Syndrome; Asperger’s Syndrome Patients; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Family Relationships

Appeal:  Bittersweet, darkly humorous, disturbing, funny, moving, offbeat, reflective, candid, thoughtful, insightful, quirky characters, authentic, clever, straightforward

3 terms that best describe this book:  Darkly humorous, offbeat, and moving

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch

David Finch’s idiosyncratic behaviors are beginning to a take a toll on his five-year marriage when he is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.  Relieved to find reason behind his idiosyncrasies, Finch begins his quest to find ways to manage his Aspergian behaviors, improve his social skills, and save his marriage.  Like John Elder Robison, Finch is a high-functioning Asperger syndrome patient who was unaware of his diagnosis until adulthood.  This title is suggested to readers looking for a heartwarming and funny book chronicling a person’s efforts to “overcome” his diagnosis.

2)  I Am Intelligent: From Heartbreak to Healing – A Mother and Daughter’s Journey through Autism by Peyton and Diane Goddard

Peyton Goddard, a sufferer of severe autism to the extent of being unable to speak or control her own body, and her mother, Diane, recount her history of misdiagnoses, marginalization, neglect, mistreatment, and exclusion from normal society and education.  Later in her life, Peyton was properly diagnosed and given the ability to communicate her story through computer technology.  Suggested to readers who want to read a deeply moving memoir about someone with a much more severe autistic spectrum disorder than Robison’s.

3)  The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood

An accessible, authoritative, and comprehensive book on aspects of Asperger’s syndrome, including its causes, how it is diagnosed, the social and behavioral challenges that Asperger’s syndrome patients encounter, and issues regarding stigmatization and bullying.  Suggested to those looking for a more scientific and clinical book about Asperger’s.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Christopher Boone, an autistic 15-year-old mathematical savant obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, finds his neighbor’s poodle impaled on a garden fork.  Determined to find the murderer, Christopher must learn to overcome his autistic behaviors in order to solve this mystery.  This title is suggested to readers who enjoy mysteries and are interested in individuals or characters with autistic spectrum disorders.

2)  The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin

Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a middle-aged man detached from the world by his neuroses, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and social anxieties, becomes involved in the life of his social worker, Clarissa, and her son, Teddy, and most learn to confront his idiosyncrasies in order to help her escape her abusive ex-husband.  Daniel’s character, while not necessarily described as autistic, exhibits obsessive-compulsive characteristics frequently associated with sufferers of autistic spectrum disorders.  Readers of Look Me in the Eye looking for a similarly witty and touching tale may want to check out this book.

3)  With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, Vol. 1 by Keiko Tobe

The first entry in a multi-volume manga series about Sachiko Azuma’s struggles with raising her autistic son, Hikaru, this volume introduces the characters and follows Hikaru from birth through early elementary school.  This series is a poignant and moving story that explores the realities of being a parent of an autistic child.  The series is suggested to those who enjoyed Look Me in the Eye but want to read about children with autistic spectrum disorders and are open to graphic-novel format.

Name:  Zach Musil

The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames

August 8, 2012

Author:  Jonathan Ames

Illustrator:  Dean Haspiel

Title:  The Alcoholic

Genre:  Graphic Novel

Publication Date:  2008

Number of Pages:  136

Geographical Setting:  New York City

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Famous mystery writer Jonathan A. wakes from a drunken stupor to find himself in a cluttered station wagon next to an old dwarf woman intent on making love to him.  Trying to remember how he got here, he reflects back to his adolescence when he first discovered alcohol and made a pact with his best friend Sal to get drunk every weekend throughout high school, thus beginning his lifelong self-destructive relationship with alcohol.  He moves to New York City after his parents die in a car wreck and begins working as a taxi driver, where he meets a drug-dealer who introduces him to cocaine.  After waking up in a garbage can, he decides to check himself into a substance abuse rehabilitation facility.  Unfortunately, after leaving, his life continues to fill with tragedy: a girl he falls in love with abandons him yet continues to string him along, he learns that his best friend died of AIDS, his Aunt gets breast cancer, and he watches the World Trade Center burn down on September 11 from the roof of his apartment building.  Jonathan Ames’s The Alcoholic is a bleak, semiautobiographical tale of one man’s desperate and constant battle to overcome alcoholism.  Featuring flawed and lifelike characters with whom readers can sympathize, The Alcoholic is an emotionally-charged and sobering look at the horrors of alcoholism.  The illustrations are evocative, realistic, well-drawn, and superbly complement the narrative’s tone.

Subject Headings:  Alcoholics; Alcoholism; Addiction; Self-Destructive Behavior; Novelists

Appeal:  Compelling, unhurried, flawed characters, sympathetic characters, well-drawn characters, lifelike characters, character-driven, authentic, open-ended, candid, honest, gritty, engaging, self-deprecating, descriptive, darkly humorous, melancholy, moving, dramatic, melancholy, sobering, poignant, emotionally-charged, offbeat, reflective

3 terms that best describe this book:  Candid, melancholy, and sobering

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas

In this moving and somewhat disturbing memoir, twenty-four-year-old Koren Zailckas candidly talks about her experience with alcoholism (which began when she was only 14), half-remembered drunken sexual encounters, rape, and alcohol poisoning. She gives an intimate look into the largely overlooked issue of binge drinking among teen girls and young women.  This book is suggested to those who want to read true stories about underage drinking and early alcoholism.

2)  Dry by Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs, in the witty and offbeat writing style he is known for, recounts his stay in an alcohol rehabilitation facility for gay men.  But when he leaves, his recovery is challenged when he falls in love with a cocaine addict and his best friend dies of AIDS.  Simultaneously moving and humorous, Dry is suggested to readers who want a closer look inside a rehabilitation facility and want to read how someone else dealt with losing a friend to AIDS.

3)  Stitches by David Small

Written in graphic novel format, Stitches is a poignant, grim, and deeply haunting memoir about the author’s childhood and adolescence among an emotionally unavailable family.  Young David ends up getting throat cancer from his radiologist father, who subjected him to repeated x-rays, and looses his ability to speak after surgery.  Distant, mute, and alone, David turns to drawing as an escape.  Although this suggestion is not about alcoholism or addiction, readers looking for a similarly powerful graphic novel could not go wrong with Stitches.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis

A fictional version of Bret Easton Ellis attempts to change his drug-addled, binge-drinking lifestyle by marrying movie star Jayne Dennis, moving to the suburbs, and becoming a father.  Everything seems well for a while, but when he begins writing a pornographic shock novel his life goes from mundane and peaceful to bizarre and horrific.  He relapses back into alcohol and drug abuse, his house becomes possessed by an insidious spirit, someone begins copying the serial killings in American Psycho, and his neighborhood suffers an increase in child abductions.  Like The Alcoholic, this novel contains similar semiautobiographical elements and features a drug-abusing, flawed character as a protagonist.  Suggested to readers looking for something a bit more wild and offbeat than The Alcoholic.

2)  Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic British ex-consul, escapes to Quahnahuac, Mexico on November 2, 1938—The Day of the Dead—in order to cut himself off from his loved ones and to drink himself to death.  His ex-wife, Yvonne, and his stepbrother, Hugh, travel to the small Mexican town in an attempt to save him, but to no avail.  Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano is renowned for its vivid and sympathetic portrayal of the horrors of alcoholism.  Like The Alcoholic, this semiautobiographical novel provides an unflinching look at alcoholism.

3)  Factotum by Charles Bukowski

Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s alter ego, is a derelict and a drunkard who aimlessly travels throughout America looking for work in dead-end occupations, loose and easy women, and, of course, his next drink.  This bawdy semiautobiographical novel recounts Henry’s experiences in gritty, candid details.  Jonathan Ames, author of The Alcoholic, has mentioned Bukowski as an important influence in his own writing.  Further, Factotum similarly tells the story of an alcoholic’s experiences.

Name:  Zach Musil

Anansi Boys

July 24, 2012

Author: Neil Gaiman

Title: Anansi Boys

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 334

Geographical Setting: London, England; Florida; the mysterious Caribbean island of St. Andrews; and various magical places where gods reside

Time Period: Current day

Series:  No, but follows the lead of Gaiman’s 2001 story American Gods

Plot Summary: Charles “Fat Charlie” Nancy’s father had been an embarrassment to him his entire life. Even after his estranged father’s less than respectable death, things don’t improve. At the funeral, Charlie learns that, not only does he have a long lost brother, but that his father was actually the West African trickster god Anansi. Charlie hurries back to his home, job and fiancé in London, hoping to forget everything he’s learned. Things go from bad to worse when Charlie’s brother, Spider, shows up on his doorstep leading to even more chaos for Charlie. This darkly-humorous fantasy adventure is filled with engaging characters and folklore particulars. Gaiman’s vivid descriptions and witty dialogue expertly tie the multiple plotlines together, weaving the story into a satisfying and upbeat conclusion, as artfully as any spider.

Subject Headings: Anansi (Legendary character) – fiction; Fathers and sons – fiction; Brothers – fiction; Fathers – death – fiction; Adult books for young adults – fiction; African folklore; Tricksters – folklore; Gods and goddesses – African; Magic – fiction; Triangles (interpersonal relationships) – fiction

Appeal: Darkly humorous, dramatic, upbeat, magical, detailed characterizations, vivid, character-driven, intricately-plotted, stylistically complex writing, descriptive, engaging, witty

3 terms that best describe this book: Darkly humorous, intricately-plotted, magical

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Chabon, Michael, Wonder Boys; A humorous, upbeat, character-driven novel about the chaos that ensues when an author, unable to fulfill the great expectations thrust upon him, meets up with two cohorts over the course of a weekend literature conference. Though not fantasy, this book contains the rich descriptive writing, the humor and wit found in Gaiman’s work.

Fforde, Jasper, The Eyre Affair; The year is 1985 and England has been reimagined in this entertaining fantasy, where literature is held sacrosanct and stands at the center of the culture. It is, however, under siege by the third most wanted villain in the world and it is up to clever and tenacious Thursday Next to fight this menace. Witty and intricately-plotted, this story combines humor with high drama, social satire with romance.

Pratchett, Terry, Nation; Fans of adventure and fantasy will fall into this funny and engaging  yet thought-provoking story of Mau, the sole survivor of a tidal wave that wipes out his island home, and Daphne, a smart British girl full of energy and common sense. Together they work to rebuild Mau’s island nation. The narrative deftly balances the difficulties faced by the characters with funny, often hilarious episodes told engagingly with wit and humor.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Chopra, Deepak, Life After Death: The Burden of Proof; Chopra draws upon both cutting-edge scientific information as well as religious traditions as he skillfully and thoughtfully explores what happens to us after we die.

Hurston, Zora Neale, Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-Tales from the Gulf States; This is a fascinating account of the wit and redeeming ability of folktales and the art of storytelling as recorded by one of the pre-eminent writers of the 20th century. Hurston brings an authoritative yet personal perspective in her praise of African-American stories and storytellers.

Lott, Bret, Fathers, Sons, and Brothers: The Men in My Family; Drama and humor are employed in this brief but heartfelt memoir where the author writes, with respect and love, about the relationships of the men in his family.

Name: Patty Daniel

Girl in Landscape

March 21, 2012


Author: Lethem, Jonathan

Title: Girl in Landscape

Genre: Literary Fiction, Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 280

Geographical Setting: New York, Planet of the Archbuilders

Time Period: Future

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

In this lyrically written coming of age story, Pella Marsh and her family make the trek from Brooklyn, New York to the Planet of the Archbuilders to start over. The children’s mother dies shortly before leaving for the new planet, leaving Pella, her two brothers, and her father, Clement, to explore this new planet without her. The planet was previously inhabited by Archbuilders who have left behind a few of their own, as well as viruses, and ruins in a desolate landscape.  The remaining Archbuilders are peaceful and unique creatures, fascinated with the English language. There are a few human inhabitants on the planet, all of who take anti-viral drugs to stop the Archbuilder viruses from growing within them.  Pella and her family opt not to take the anti-viral pills, leaving them susceptible to the viruses. Pella finds herself turning into an invisible “household deer”, creatures that cover the landscape of the planet, entering homes, and running wild.  This gives her the ability to spy on others in the new town, sometimes much to her dismay. Pella finds herself both repelled and attracted to the town xenophobic leader, Efram Nugget. This novel explores grief, growing up, sexual awakening, and the morals created in society.

Subject Headings: Teenage girls, Aliens (Non-humanoid), Father and daughter, Homesteaders, Loners, Space colonies

Appeal: set in the future, moving, darkly humorous, offbeat, suspenseful, sympathetic character, engrossing, exotic location, lyrically written, haunting, coming of age story, alien life

3 Appeal terms to best describe book: coming of age story, exotic location, offbeat

3 Fiction read-alikes:

The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway: This book was chosen because it takes place in an unfamiliar landscape and explores our sense of humanity.  This offbeat, darkly humorous story set in the future is a genre-bending fast paced story of friendship.

The Searchers by Alan LeMay: Girl in Landscape is often compared the classic western film, The Searchers, adapted from this novel.  In many ways, Girl in Landscape can be considered a western set in the future.  The Searchers deals with frontier life, xenophobia, and relationships between siblings.

Jumper by Steven Gould: Much like Pella, the main character of this novel, Davy, is given special abilities.  He is able to teleport himself away from his troubled life at any time.  This coming of age story combines science fiction with reality as it explore ethical dilemmas.

3 Non-fiction read-alikes:

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs: This book was chosen because it is a coming of age story full of interesting and unique characters.  Like Pella, Augusten grew up in a very unconventional manner without rules or much parental guidance through their teenage years.

First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth by Marc Kaufman: This book discusses the scientific reasoning behind the belief that there is extraterrestrial life out there.  The book is not too technical, making it accessible for readers not familiar with scientific terminology and concepts.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers: This witty, character-driven memoir discusses dealing with the loss of parents at an earlier age.  Dave is also responsible for his brother after the death of his parents, much in the way Pella takes on responsibilities with her brothers after the loss of her mother.

American Gods

February 11, 2012

Author: Gaiman, Neil

Title: American Gods

Genre: Fantasy Fiction

Publication Date: 2002

Number of Pages: 592

Geographical Setting: America

Time Period: Current

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: 

Shadow, before being released from prison, finds out that his wife has been killed. On his way home, he is confronted by a man known as Mr. Wednesday, who seems to know a lot about Shadow and offers him a job as a bodyguard. Shadow’s acceptance of this offer takes him on a dangerous journey. Shadow is used for many strange tasks and he encounters things he never knew existed as well as various gods living in America. This novel follows the story of Shadow but at the end of each chapter, a little story about a certain god living in America can be found. Shadow, a gritty man, takes the reader on an adventure full of suspense and haunting images.

Subject Headings: National characteristics, American Fiction; Spiritual warfare Fiction; Ex-convicts Fiction; Bodyguards Fiction; Widowers Fiction; Fantasy fiction.

Appeal: Fast-paced, character-driven, intricately plotted, darkly humorous, dramatic, romantic, haunting, gritty, thought-provoking, suspenseful, macabre, witty, adventurous, compassionate, familiar, and well-developed.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Darkly humorous, macabre, and haunting.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors: Erikson, Steven – Crippled God (A mortal woman challenging the gods); Parker, T. Jefferson – Storm Runners (Taking place in California, an ex-cop loses his whole family from a bomb explosion and takes on a job as a bodyguard); Harrison, Kim – Pale Demon (A bounty hunter goes on a cross-country drive across America with supernatural companions to clear her name).

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors: Azzarello, Brian – Filthy Rich (Vertigo Crime) (A hired bodyguard who ends up committing murder for his boss); Henderson, Jeff – Cooked: from the streets to the stove, from cocaine to foie gras (Story of an ex-convict who becomes an executive chef); Bailey, John – Gods and men: myths and legends from the world’s religion (Mythical Gods).

Name: Jun Yoon

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian

November 9, 2011

Author: Avi Steinberg

Title: Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian

Genre: Autobiographies, Biographies, Memoirs, True Crime

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 399

Geographical Setting: Boston

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:  After experiencing a crisis of faith, Avi Steinberg abandons his Orthodox Jewish ubringing to attend Harvard. Now graduated, Steinberg is wandering aimlessly though life, barely getting by as a freelance obituary writer. Anxious for a change, he takes a job as a librarian in a Boston prison. In his new job Steinberg encounters an assortment of quirky regulars, some of them searching for the perfect book, some for a shoulder to cry on, and others for a connection to the outside world. Over time, Steinberg is accepted into this community of outcasts. He tells their stories with a unique combination of humor, wit and compassion. Running the Books is an exploration of library and prison culture and an entertaining tale of a young man’s attempt to find his place in the world.

Subject Headings: Communication, Interperonal Relations, Jewish Men, Prison Librarians, Prisoners, Prisons, Writing.

Appeal: Moving, Off-Beat, Reflective, Thought-Provoking, Candid, Witty, Relaxed Pace, Atmospheric, Character-Driven, Issue-Oriented, Funny, Darkly Humorous.

3 Terms That Best Describe This Book: Off-Beat, Witty, Thought-Provoking.

Relevant Works and Authors


Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

A memoir exploring the prison world from a female inmate’s perspective. May appeal to readers who enjoy prison memoirs or memoirs written by a female author.

This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson

A discussion of the importance of librarians by a true library enthusiast. May appeal to readers who enjoy reading about libraries and library-related issues.

You Got Nothing Coming: Notes from a Prison Fish by Jimmy A. Lerner

A prison memoir from the perspective of a “prison fish,” a newcomer to prison life. May appeal to readers who enjoy prison memoirs.


The Borrower: A Novel by Rebecca Makkai

The story of a young librarian and her favorite young patron as they take a road trip together. May appeal to readers who enjoy novels with librarian protaginists.

Everything is Illuminated: A Novel by Jonathan Safram Foer

The story of a young man searching for answers about his past and his family’s history. May appeal to readers who enjoy stories about Jewish heritage.

The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel by Brady Udall

The story of a Mormon man struggling with life and having a crisis of faith. May appeal to readers who enjoy stories about unique lifestyles or issues involving faith and religion.

Created by: Brigitte Bell

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

October 12, 2011

Author: Jeff Lindsay

Title: Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Genre: Psychological Suspense

Publication Date: 2004

Number of Pages: 288

Geographical Setting: Miami, Florida

Time Period: Contemporary

Series (If applicable): Dexter series

Plot Summary:  Dexter Morgan moonlights as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami police department, as a dear brother, and as a devoted boyfriend.  In real life, Dexter devotes himself to researching, stalking and dismembering his prey.  As a psychopathic serial killer, Dexter may seem inevitably a not-so-nice guy, except for one small thing: he limits his prey to other psychopathic serial killers.  This devotion is not based so much on some twisted vigilante morality, but rather on a respect for his deceased, police officer, foster father, Harry, who taught him to be careful and to never kill the innocent.  His resolve is tested, however, when a new serial killer comes on the scene with a mode of operation not unlike Dexter’s, tantalizing him and tempting him into playing the game with much more innocent victims.  Dexter details his dashing deceit, dark dreams, and deadly demons with a sarcastic wit and a humorous tone despite his obvious character flaws.

Subject Headings: Serial killers, psychopaths, forensic analysis, Miami, blood spatter analysis, prostitution, dismemberment

Appeal: Disturbing, darkly humorous, compelling, sarcastic tone, complex characters, chilling, psychological, suspenseful, series characters, flawed characters, explicitly violent, urban, straightforward language, witty

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Disturbing, darkly humorous, compelling

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Blood Secrets: a Forensic Expert Reveals How Blood Spatter Tells the Crime Scene’s Story by Ron Englert

This book details the true science of blood spatter analysis, Dexter’s day job.   Englert looks at real cases and shows how scientific analysis of the way blood behaves can provide information about how a person died.

I: The Creation of a Serial Killer by Jack Olsen

Jack Olsen allows serial killer Keith Hunter Jesperson, or the “Happy Face Killer,” to tell his own story in this book which details his early childhood and his murders, similarly to how Dexter tells his own story.

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

This account discusses real life psychopathy, the condition Dexter claims to compel him to kill.  It discusses the implications of psychopaths being more prevalent than realized, and the damage they can wreak, not only in the sense that some are serial killers, but also as those in positions of political, corporate, or religious power.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Florida Roadkill by Tim Dorsey

The first in a series of novels about serial killer Serge Storms, operating in Florida with a group of murderous friends.  The series has a darkly humorous tone, similar to the Dexter series.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

This psychological suspense novel begins a series about Tom Ripley, a con man and a murderer, who uses his resourcefulness to evade the law, similarly to Dexter.  Also a novel with a darkly humorous tone.

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

This novel tells the story of a woman suspected of murder, held in a psychiatric hospital, as she tells the story of how she became part of a covert organization dedicated to killing “irredeemables” with weapons designed to look like death of natural causes.  Employs a darkly humorous tone, similar to the Dexter series, and also features a protagonist who believes in killing those deemed not deserving of life.

Name: Christi H.

Dearly Devoted Dexter

October 12, 2011

Author: Jeffrey P. Lindsay (narrator Nick Landrum)

Title: Dearly Devoted Dexter

Genre: Psychological suspense fiction

Publication Date: July, 2005

Number of Pages: 292 (8 audio CDs)

Geographical Setting: Miami, Florida

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: Dexter #2

Plot Summary:  Dexter Morgan is a blood spatter analyst for the Miami-Dade police department, who incidentally doesn’t like blood.   Unknown to his co-workers and his police officer sister, Deb, he is a neat serial killer, who preys on other serial killers.  This series is the story of Dexter, and his serial killer persona, that he affectionately refers to as the “Dark Passenger”.  While working for the police department, he encounters serial killers, hunts them, and disposes of them with his own variety of vigilante justice, while trying to hide his extra-curricular activities from the people in his life. While the Dark Passenger is targeting a pedophile and a photographer, Dexter’s boss is starting to suspect that Dexter is not what he seems.  Meanwhile, a darker serial killer comes to town and exacts disturbing revenge on a list of veterans from an army occupation in El Salvador. Dexter must throw his suspecting boss off his trail and does so by accidentally getting engaged. This little complication gives Dexter more trouble than tackling two serial killers. This audio performance illustrates the quiet, introspective and charming character of Dexter, in juxtaposition with his very dangerous activities.

Subject Headings:  Crime laboratories, Forensic scientists, Morgan, Dexter, Police, Psychopathic criminals, serial murder investigation, Serial murderers, Serial murders, Vigilantes

Appeal:  gruesome, sarcastic, fast-paced, disturbing, first-person narrative, issue-oriented, contradictory, suspenseful, offbeat, gritty, dialogue-rich, puzzling, charming, introspective.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: witty, darkly humorous, grisly

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

 1)    Mindhunter: inside the FBI’s elite serial crime unit by John Douglas-This collection of interviews of real serial killers reads like a fiction novel and chronicles the development of the Investigative Support Unit of the FBI. These interview get into the minds of the killers to probe for their motivations.

2)    Crime Beat: a decade of covering cops and killers by Michael Connelly-Before he was the author of popular mystery series featuring Detective Harry Bosch, Michael Connelly was a crime beat reporter in Florida and Los Angeles.  This book shows how this work contributed to the details in his novels.  Includes the true crime story of a Florida serial killer, Christopher Wilder.

3)    Without Pity: Ann Rule’s most dangerous killers by Ann Rule-This prolific true crime writer gives equal attention  to the criminal, investigators and prosecutors (Novelist).  This book covers crimes committed by seemingly normal me, like Dexter.

 3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

 1) Double Cross by James Patterson-This is a suspenseful, dark and violent series set mostly in Washington D.C. about a police detective, Alex Cross, who is a psychologist and uses his talents to profile the serial killer he is tracking.  The identity of the killer is sometimes surprising.

2) Heartsick by Chelsea Cain-This gruesome and violent series starter was chosen for the treatment of the relationship between a police officer and his abductor-serial killer who let him go. This story gets inside the serial killer’s head as well as the officer’s. The dark local of the Pacific Northwest adds to the darkness of the story.

3) Final Price by Gregory J. Smith-This detective with a sidekick story, similar to Dexter and his sister, is a story of brutal serial murders told in a darkly humorous fashion with the subject of revenge.


War Dances

August 1, 2011

War Dances by Sherman Alexie

Author: Alexie, Sherman; narrated by Sherman Alexie

Title: War Dances

Genre: Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Audiobook

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 209, 4 discs

Geographical Setting: Seattle, United States

Time Period: 21st Century

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Twenty-three short stories and poems combine to examine the mental insights of a range of men; fathers and sons, friends who become enemies, husbands and lovers. The work begins with the story of a film editor of Native American descent who kills a young black man who has broken into his home and continues by examining other men, some who belong to the Spokane tribe and others who do not. The title short story, “War Dances”, follows a man through the discovery of a small tumor in his brain, as he remembers his father’s slow, “natural Indian death” from alcohol and diabetes. Written in a mixture of lyrical elegance and casual, every day jargon, Alexie captures each member of his cast of characters as they face a range of situations and conflicts. Alexie’s narration captures the lyrical quality of his writing, as well as the cadence of traditional native speech.

Subject Headings: Short Stories, American; Indians of North America-fiction; Spokane Indians-fiction

Appeal: Darkly humorous, lyrical, character-driven, bittersweet, moving, reflective, candid, conversational, measured, introspective, sympathetic, flawed

3 terms that best describe this book: Darkly humorous, lyrical, bittersweet

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors: Frazier, Ian On the Rez (Look at life on Indian Reservations in the 21st century); Moody, Fred Seattle and the Demons of Ambitions: From Boom to Bust in the Number One City of the Future (Information about Seattle); Chabon, Michael Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father and Son (essays on fatherhood and manhood)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors: DeWeese, Dan You Don’t Love This Man (Literary fiction about fatherhood); Erdrich, Louise Love Medicine (family and relationship fiction); Towers, Wells Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (a collection of short stories, with unusual characters).

Meg Cichantk

An Affair of Sorcerers

August 1, 2011

Author: George Chesbro


Title: An Affair of Sorcerers


Genre:  Paranormal Mystery/Thriller/Suspense


Publication Date: 1979


Number of Pages: 265


Geographical Setting: New York


Time Period: Present day


Series (If applicable): The Mongo Mysteries


Plot Summary: Three separate cases—a nun trying to save a faith healer accused of a murder he didn’t commit, a university dean with a professor mixed up in something sinister, and a dying little girl with a desperate need for answers—suddenly connect by threads leading straight to New York’s occult underground, and the only person capable of unraveling them is Dr. Robert “Mongo” Frederickson, former circus tumbler and karate black-belt turned criminologist/private investigator. This third entry in the Mongo Mysteries series finds Chesbro’s shrewd, diminutive detective going up against the forces of the occult to save a little girl’s life, and discover the secrets behind her father’s death. Faithful sidekick and brother Garth (himself an NYPD detective) returns to provide muscle for Mongo’s more thoughtful (and agile) investigative style. Some language and situations in Affair reflect the grittiness of urban crime, and readers sensitive to the presence of mild violence and mature themes should make note. The swift pace will keep pages turning all the way up to the stark, dramatic ending.



Subject Headings: Private investigators; New York (State); Criminologists; Dwarves; Martial arts; Witchcraft; Occult; Supernatural

Appeal: Suspenseful, swiftly-paced, intricately-plotted, offbeat, spooky, gritty, darkly humorous, wry tone, quirky characters, paranormal elements, occult themes, provocative, dark


3 terms that best describe this book:  Suspenseful, intricately-plotted, quirky characters


3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors


The Ultimate Evil: The Truth about the Cult Murders: Son of Sam and Beyond, by Maury Terry (occult murder, suspenseful, true crime)


A Cop’s Guide To Occult Investigations: Understanding Satanism, Santeria, Wicca, and Other Alternative Religions, by Tony M. Kail (occult criminal investigation)


Occult Murders (True Crime Series), by John Dunning (true crime accounts of occult murder investigations)


3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors


The Immortals, by J.T. Ellison (occult murder, gritty, criminal investigation)


The Skeptic: An Occult Thriller, by Aaron Niz (occult elements, sinister tone, intricate plot)


Tengu: The Mountain Goblin, by John Donohue (martial arts, mystery, suspenseful)


-Joe Collier