Posts Tagged ‘detailed setting’

The Casual Vacancy

December 5, 2012

casualvacancycoverAuthor: J.K. Rowling

Title: The Casual Vacancy

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 512

Geographical Setting: English village of Pagford

Time period: Present day

Genre: Black humor; Satirical fiction

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: In the quiet village of Pagford, chaos ensues after the unexpected death of Barry Fairbrother leaves a vacancy on the parish council. The local election that follows exposes secrets, causes intense battles between families and community members, and leads to unexpected revelations that may change their lives forever.

Subject Headings: City council members – Death – Fiction. Local elections – Fiction. Country life – England—Fiction. England – Fiction. Black humor (Literature).

Appeal: Character-centered, detailed setting, bleak, thought-provoking, engrossing, unsettling, strong language, humorous, multiple points of view, closely observed characters, political

Three appeal terms:  Character-centered, bleak, thought-provoking

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge

Readers who are seeking another bleak read with self-absorbed characters might enjoy An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge. This darkly humorous book also takes place in an English village and involves a bickering town council. The book also centers on young actress Stella, who takes on the job of assistant stage manager at a reparatory theatre company in Liverpool and finds romance with the director of the show.

Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis

For another darkly humorous, satirical fiction tale that takes place in England, readers should check out Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis. This satire pokes fun at modern society and culture in this story of thug Lionel Asbo, who looks out for his nephew Desmond Pepperdine. While Desmond just seeks a quiet and simple life without any trouble, his uncle’s criminal lifestyle has always gotten in his way, but Desmond has no idea how much worse it will get once Lionel wins big in the lottery.

Every Day is Mother’s Day by Hilary Mantel

Like The Casual Vacancy, Every Day is Mother’s Day is a character-driven book with a darkly humorous tone. This book focuses on medium Evelyn Axon, her daughter, Muriel, and their social worker, Isabel Field, as they all confront their own problems and dark secrets.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

J.K. Rowling: A Biography by Sean Smith

Author J.K. Rowling made a huge name for herself with her legendary Harry Potter series, and had fans eagerly awaiting the release of The Casual Vacancy, her first book for adults. These fans might want to check out a biography about Rowling and learn more about the life of their beloved author. J.K. Rowling: A Biography is the full-length story of her life based on research, interviews, and evaluations of her novels by author Sean Smith. Readers will learn about Joanne Rowling before she became the best-selling author she is today, and the experiences that helped lead her to where she is now.

A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories of History’s Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors by Michael Farquhar

Readers who enjoyed the secrets and scandals exposed in fictional work The Casual Vacancy might enjoy reading about actual scandals and true stories of notorious rulers in history. Some of these include Catherine the Great, King George III, and Joanna the Mad.

The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm by Juliet Nicolson

In The Casual Vacancy, politics and social classes played a big role in the story. Readers might enjoy this book because it discusses English society during a period of time in 1911 and covers milestones such as the crowning a new king and paralyzing strikes in the British industry. Also, this book is told from many points of view, much like readers get several different character’s perspectives in The Casual Vacancy.

Name: Melissa Apple

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When the Emperor Was Divine

November 27, 2012

Author: Julie Otsuka

Title: When the Emperor Was Divine

Genre: Historical Fiction, Multi-cultural

Publication Date: 2002

Number of Pages: 144

Geographical Setting: California

Time Period: 1942-1945

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: This is a historically detailed story about a family that was in the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. The novel, which is written in third person, begins with the mother and two children still at home after their father was arrested. This was a few months before the rest of the family goes to the internment camp. The rest of the novel the characters reflect there unfortunate journey and lives while in the Japanese Internment Camp and their lives after the war. Even though living in the internment camps for over three years was horrible, it was bittersweet because they have pleasant moments and dreams. This family-centered novel provides the readers with a character-driven perspective of the lives in the internment camps in the United States during the Second World War

Subject Headings: Japanese-Americans – Mass internment, 1942-1945; World War II – California; Japanese-American families; concentration camps — California

Appeal: atmospheric; bittersweet; character-driven; closely observed; detailed setting; emotionally intense; family-centered; historical details; leisurely paced; multiple points of view; nostalgic; reflective; richly detailed; strong sense of place; thought-provoking

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: bittersweet; family-centered; historical details

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

– Davenport, John C., The attack on Pearl Harbor: The United States enters World War II (explains the historical details of how and why the Japanese were put into the internment camps)

– Grant, Kimi Cunningham, Silver like dust: one family’s story of America’s Japanese internment (an actual individual family-centered account of the internment camps)

– Grapes, Bryan J., Japanese-American internment camps (several articles and stories of people who were in the internment camps)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

– Appanah-Mouriquan, Nathacha, 1973-, The last brother (bittersweet, family-centered, World War II story)

– Finney, Ernest J., California time (family-centered story about a Japanese American families relationship with Portuguese and Italian families, and how World War II affected the relationship)

– Salisbury, Graham, Eyes of the emperor (thought-provoking, Japanese American story during World War II, story through the eyes of individual who fought in the war and was still discriminated against)

Name: Samantha Biegel

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

November 7, 2012

devilwhitecitycoverAuthor: Erik Larson

Title: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Genre:Adult books for young adults; History Writing; True Crime

Publication Date: 2004

Number of Pages: 447

Geographical Setting: Chicago, IL

Plot Summary: While the architect David Burnham and his colleagues labored tirelessly to design the spectacular World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, a man by the name of H.H. Holmes used the distraction of the fair to erect his own World’s Fair Hotel and lure victims under his guise as a charming doctor to their gruesome deaths. Larson alternates the stories of the architect and the serial killer to create one compelling tale of the effects of the World’s Fair on the city of Chicago and the underlying evil that lurked right in the midst of the excitement.

Subject Headings: Mudgett, Herman W. 1861-1896. Burnham, Daniel Hudson, 1846-1912. Serial murderers – Illinois – Chicago – Biography. Serial murders – Illinois – Chicago – Case studies. World’s Columbian Exposition (1893; Chicago, Ill.)

Appeal: Compelling, historical details, well-researched, suspenseful, disturbing, gritty, detailed setting, uneasy, character-centered, engrossing, psychological

Three appeal terms:  Historical details, well-researched, compelling

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

City for Ransom by Robert W. Walker

City for Ransom is a fictional tale of a killer on the loose during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Inspector Alastair Ransom must locate the killer who is using the bustling fairgrounds as a distraction to get away with murder, before the inspector becomes a victim himself.

The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas J. Preston

For readers who like a suspenseful read about a serial killer, I suggest The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas J. Preston. It’s written in a gritty style similar to The Devil in the White City, and details a copycat serial killer who begins overtaking New York City using methods similar to that of a killer in the 1880s. Together, FBI agent Pendergast, journalist Bill Smithback, and archaeologist Nora Kelly work to solve the case – and keep themselves alive.

Wakefield by Andrei Codrescu

Readers who enjoyed the architectural aspects of the Devil in the White City might enjoy this story of an architecture enthusiast who winds up on a journey to understand his purpose in life and continue to explore his love of architecture.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The World’s Columbian Exposition: the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 by Norman Bolotin and Christine Laing

I suggest this book to readers who enjoyed reading about the Chicago World’s Fair in The Devil in the White City and are looking to learn more about the fair. This book provides a visual history of the fair with stunning panoramic images of the fair’s splendors, including the landscaping, waterways and gondolas, and the structures that were designed and built just for the fair. The authors cover every concept of the history of the fair from its very beginnings to its lasting impact and all of the details in between.

Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-of-the-Century Chicago by Harold Schechter

Those who wish to learn more about notorious serial killer H.H. Holmes can check out this true crime story about the madman who carried out acts of torture and murders in his own “Castle of Horrors.” Schechter chronicles Holmes’ methods of luring victims by posing at different times as a doctor, druggist, and inventor, and the design of his torture chamber that included trapdoors, body chutes, and acid vats.

Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War by James Mauro

Readers that enjoyed the history of the Chicago World’s Fair in The Devil in the White City might enjoy reading about another famous fair in history – the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. As Europe prepared for war overseas, the Big Apple prepared to throw a big party, which met with less than stellar success. Mauro recounts the festivities that brought out 45 million people, even among big rain storms, heat waves, and power outages. This book has much of the same historical appeal as The Devil in the White City, but not as strong a focus on the crime scene.

Name: Melissa Apple

Are You My Mother?

October 24, 2012

Cover of Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

Author: Alison Bechdel

Title: Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 304

Geographical Setting: Mostly Pennsylvania and Vermont

Time Period: Present day with flashbacks

Series: Follow-up to Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006)

Plot Summary: Are You My Mother? is a densely-layered and thought-provoking exploration in graphic memoir form of author Bechdel’s complex, flawed relationship with her mother. Bechdel’s father, the subject of her earlier work, Fun Home, was a closeted bisexual who ultimately committed suicide, and her mother a frustrated poet and actress who sublimated her desires to those of her husband, submitting to the role of primary caregiver to their three children. Are You My Mother? depicts Bechdel, some five years after the publication of her critically-acclaimed book about her father, setting out to write a new book about her mother. Bechdel chronicles her process as an artist and writer, undergoing therapy and looking for analogies to her own life found in the works of favorite authors Virginia Woolf and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, as she attempts to shape a narrative that identifies the moments that wounded her mother and crippled the formation of a healthy mother-daughter bond. The artwork in Are You My Mother? is pen and brush with delicate grey and red washes, offering  a deceptively comic-strip-like simplicity that lightens the densely-written and sophisticated subject matter.

Subject Headings: Motherhood; Mothers and daughters; Teenage daughters—coming out; Parent and child; Suicide; Feminism; Psychoanalysis; Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941; Winnicott, D. W. (Donald Woods), 1896-1971; Artists

Appeal: Detailed, dramatic, eccentric, intriguing secondary characters, introspective, well developed, character centered, complex, domestic, episodic, layered, literary references, sexually explicit, thought-provoking, contemporary, detailed setting, details of psychoanalytic theory, elaborate, metaphorical, sophisticated, unusual

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: introspective, layered, thought-provoking

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Projections: Comics and the History of Twenty-First-Century Storytelling (2012) by Jared Gardner

Readers who admire the scope and depth of Bechdel’s graphic storytelling will find much to explore in Gardner’s recent lively, yet somewhat academic, tome. Gardner offers an interpretation of comics as an art form which encourages interactivity in deciphering its contents and a model for contemporary modes of communication. There are multiple passages on Bechdel’s work which contextualize her place in the comics field.

Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland (2012) by Harvey Pekar

Bechdel works in the form known in graphic novel circles as autobiographical comics. Those who want to read more of this type of story may wish to acquaint themselves with Harvey Pekar, one of the seminal figures in this genre who helped define its contours. Where Are You My Mother? uses literary reference and psychoanalysis as a context for Bechdel’s self-exploration, Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland in rich detail describes the deep impact that place and history have in shaping identity. Cartoonish but heavily-rendered pen and ink drawings highlight both the grit and charm of urban Cleveland.

Donald Winnicott Today (2012) edited by Jan Abram

The work and life of child psychoanalyst and theorist Winnicott are front and center in the narrative of Are You My Mother?  Bechdel comes to terms with life-long insecurities and decodes her troubled relationship with her mother, relying heavily on Winnicott’s models of mother-child dynamics. Readers who want to explore Winnicott’s work further will find this an accessible and thoughtfully assembled overview of his contributions to the field of Psychoanalysis.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

To the Lighthouse (1927; various editions) by Virginia Woolf

Bechdel’s work is heavily influenced by the English writer Virginia Woolf. Although many of her books are discussed in Are You My Mother?, Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse receives particular attention for its story of self-discovery and coming to terms with the past, which mirrors Bechdel’s emotional journey. Believed to be the most autobiographical of all Woolf’s psychological fiction, To the Lighthouse, with its lyrical style and reflective tone, will surely appeal to readers intrigued by the glimpses of the novel found in Are You My Mother?

Stuck Rubber Baby (New Edition; 2010) by Howard Cruse

Newcomers to comics featuring LGBT protagonists and themes who wish to explore further will find an incredibly rich and varied tradition awaiting them. One of the first widely critically-acclaimed graphic novels dealing with gay themes to receive national attention was Cruse’s Stuck Rubber Baby, first published in 1995. Moving and reflective, and with a strong sense of place, the story follows the exploits of a young man named Toland Polk discovering his sexuality against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in the South during the 1960s.

Wandering Son, Book 1 (2011) by Shimura Takako

Are You My Mother? explores the thematic territory of gender identity and coming of age as does the moving and character-driven manga Wandering Son.  Two fifth graders on the cusp of puberty share a secret: Shuichi is a boy who wishes he were a girl and Yoshino a girl who wishes she were a boy. Shimura’s spare and evocative art will likely appeal to fans of Bechdel’s stylized and emotionally expressive drawings.

Name: John Rimer

Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

October 24, 2012

Castle Waiting coverTitle: Castle Waiting, Volume I

Author: Medley, Linda

Publication Date: 2006

Pages: 457

Geographical Setting: Castle Waiting, a safe-haven in a fairy tale world

Time Period: Once Upon a Time

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fairy Tale

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Castle Waiting begins at the end of Sleeping Beauty’s story, the part where she runs blindly off with Prince Charming.  Abandoned and essentially purposeless, her former ladies-in-waiting along with few other eccentric characters have created a sanctuary past the brambly hedge at Castle Waiting for those seeking peace and refuge.  The story we are brought into is only one among a host of others before it, and it begins on a dark and stormy night with a clandestine meeting between a lady and a bear, her bodyguard.  Lady Jain, our heroine, is on the run and, as we soon find out, pregnant.  She flees her home in sadness, bound for Castle Waiting.  The premise sounds cliché.  Castle Waiting is anything but.  Upon arrival at the castle, Lady Jain is greeted a stork-headed butler, a doctor who only appears wearing a beaked plague mask, a silently gruff but secretly gentle blacksmith/handyman, three ladies-in-waiting who finally have a lady, and a bearded nun.  Yes, a bearded nun.

Told through a linked set of stories, Castle Waiting draws heavily from fairy- and folk-tale conventions and spins them in a feminist light.  That isn’t to say that all the male characters are weak or bad.  In fact many of them are quite gentle and good—except for the ones who aren’t.  But they are generally not as important as the female characters, who are independent and empowered, taking care of themselves and others.  This is a joyous and humorous and optimistic story.  Bad things have happened, do happen, and probably will continue to happen, but we are assured the happiest of endings.  The art and the text blend seamlessly.  Illustrated in black and white with strong line work that is as expressive as it is lighthearted, the frames are reminiscent of woodcuts adding to the fairytale quality of the work.  This is a great choice for those who have found other graphic novels too over-stimulating.  It would also be a good crossover for those who enjoy romance or fairytale-style fantasy, or those who simply crave a warm, lighthearted read.

Appeal Characteristics: Engaging, joyful, upbeat, lighthearted, feminist, magical, warm, humorous, Fairy Tale, Quirky Characters, expressive art, detailed setting, smart, domestic, charming

Subject Headings: Fairy Tales, Graphic Novels, Magic, Knights and Knighthood, Nuns, Princesses, Pregnant Women

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Joyful, Engaging, Charming

Similar Fiction: 

The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

The much beloved comic strip featuring a boy with an unbeatable spirit and his sagacious stuffed tiger will bring readers the same joy and optimism found in Castle Waiting.  The artwork here is spare but delightfully expressive.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Three sisters return to their hometown to help care for their dying mother in this domestic fiction.  This novel explores the relationships and bonds between women under exceptional circumstances and features an idyllic setting populated with quirky and endearing characters.

These Children Come at You with Knives, and other Fairy Tales Stories by Jim Knipfel

This book offers re-imagined fairy tales with a decidedly darker turn.  The polite eccentricities found in the characters of Castle Waiting are twisted here into vulgar oddities.  The optimism and warmth may be absent from these tales, but the stories will certainly offer laughs—albeit of the morbid and inappropriate variety.  Only readers who enjoy their fairy tales told at a slant and who don’t mind their humor dark should attempt this book.

Similar Non-fiction:

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming

This graphic novel details the true story of Chinese magician and vaudeville performer Long Tack Sam, and his great-granddaughter’s quest to bring him back into the public light.  A moving story told through a collage of artifacts from both his and her life, this biography maintains an upbeat optimism in the face of turbulence, uncertainty, and racism.

In the Kingdom of the Fairies: A memoir of a Magical Summer and a Remarkable Friendship by Susan Coyne

A moving story about a five-year old girl who for one summer believes her pen pal to be a fairy princess.  In reality it is her elderly neighbor, a man who loves literature and wants to encourage the imagination this girl.  This memoir will appeal to any adult who still believes in the power of make-believe.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Another memoir told in the graphic novel format, this story told by a cult comic strip artist details the author’s relationship with her father during her childhood.  Bechdel’s writing is both witty and moving, and her artwork features strong line work and a monochromatic palette that allows the expressions of the characters to stand out.

Name: Jessica

Her Fearful Symmetry

October 17, 2012

her fearful symmetry book cover
Author: Audrey Neffenegger

Title: Her Fearful Symmetry

Genre: Literary Fiction, Ghost stories

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 401

Geographical Setting: Lake Forest, IL and London, England

Plot Summary: Twin sisters Julia and Valentina Poole reside in the suburbs of Chicago, where they lead rather unexciting lives and have little interest in anything aside from their extremely close attachment to each other. One day, the girls find out that their mother’s twin sister in London has passed away and left her apartment to the twins. Julia and Valentina take up residence in their deceased aunt Elspeth’s London flat, where they are introduced to the other residents in the building. Among them are Elspeth’s lover Robert, who works at the neighboring Highgate Cemetery, and Martin, who suffers from a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Tension mounts as the twins develop new relationships and begin to find separate identities, and an unexpected family member shows up that could tear them apart forever.

Subject Headings: Sisters — Fiction. London (England) — Fiction. Spiritual life – Fiction. Psychological fiction. Ghost stories.

Appeal: Chilling, builds in intensity, compelling, atmospheric, plot twists, descriptive, literary, haunting, character-centered, lyrical, multiple points of view, detailed setting, psychological

Three appeal terms: Haunting, lyrical, atmospheric

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Housekeeping shares many of the same appeal terms as Her Fearful Symmetry, including an intricate plot centered on characters and family relationships. It is leisurely paced, lyrical, and includes the haunting ghost story element. The book focuses on two sisters Ruth and Lucille and their relationship with each other and other family members. The girls struggle to grow up amidst memories of a family past that they can’t escape in their small hometown.

A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne
Readers who enjoyed the storyline revolving around twins in Her Fearful Symmetry, as well as the London setting, might enjoy A Dark Dividing, another character driven, atmospheric read with an intricate plot. A Dark Dividing features a girl named Simone Anderson, whose twin sister disappeared long ago. Simone has a connection to another pair of twins that were born almost a century earlier, but what is that connection? Journalist Harry Flitzglen is in love with Simone and is determined to solve these mysteries. Curiosity leads him to a ruined mansion known as Mortmain House, where he finds himself immersed in a series of even greater mysteries and a disturbing history he could never have imagined.

Ghost Walk by Heather Graham
Those who are in the mood for a fun ghost story interwoven with suspense and romance would like Ghost Walk by Heather Graham. Nikki DuMonde is having a great time running a New Orleans haunted-tour company when a ghost begins reaching out to her for help. Nikki pairs up with paranormal investigator Brent Blackhawk to find out what this ghost wants…before it’s too late.

Coastliners by Joanne Harris
Like Her Fearful Symmetry, Coastliners also deals with women uncovering family secrets and developing their own identity. Mado returns home to her small island hometown after 10 years in Paris to reconcile with her estranged father. When she comes home, however, she is met with family secrets, village feuds, and the urgent need to save the town’s quickly eroding beach. This book has a strong focus on family relationships with a haunting feel and some paranormal elements thrown into the mix.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla by Felix Barker
In Her Fearful Symmetry, readers are exposed to some of the history of London’s Highgate Cemetery, which may leave them wanting to learn more about this fascinating landmark. Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla is a great resource for information as it provides a rare, illustrated history of the cemetery.

Identical strangers: a memoir of twins separated and reunited by Elyse Schein
Readers who liked the twin storyline in Her Fearful Symmetry may like this true story about a woman named Elyse who goes on a search for her biological mother and ends up discovering that she has an identical twin sister. When she finally connects with her twin, Paula, the two investigate their past and fill in the missing pieces of their lives. The story is interwoven with details on twin studies and statistics to make for both an informative and touching read.

Ghosts among us: uncovering the truth about the other side by James Van Praagh
Those who dig the paranormal ghost elements in Her Fearful Symmetry can find more information about ghosts in this non-fiction book. The author includes true ghost stories and evidence that ghosts are active in our everyday lives. Believers in ghosts will enjoy uncovering the truth about perceptions of spiritual life and how to have a better understanding of what happens on the other side.

The Apothecary Rose

October 17, 2012

Author: Candace M. Robb

Title: The Apothecary Rose

Genre: Historical Mystery

Publication Date: 1993

Number of Pages: 256 pages

Setting: Great Britain

Time Period: 1363

Series: Owen Archer Mysteries, 1

Plot Summary: Owen Archer,  a former Captain of the Archers, turned spy and masquerades as an apothecary apprentice; all in order to discover who murdered two pilgrims at York and for what reason.

Subject Headings: Archer, Owen, 14th Century, Civilization-Medieval- England

Appeal Terms:

suspenseful, murder investigation, authentic, tangled relationships, detailed settings, poison, 14th Century England, religion, Medieval culture, pilgrimages

3 Best Appeal Terms:

  • suspenseful
  • authentic
  • detailed

Similar Fiction Authors:

  • The Nightingale Gallery by P.C. Doherty;1991 (historical mystery series, Medieval Great Britain)
  • The Last Templar by Michael Jecks; 1995 (14th Century, historical murder mysteries, Knights Templar)
  • A Shrine of Murders by C. L. Grace: 1993 (15th Century Great Britain, woman protagonist, Medieval murder mystery series)

Similar Nonfiction Authors:

  • The Lust for Blood: Why We are Fascinated by Death, Murder, Horror and Violence by Jeffery A. Kottler; 2010                                                                                                 For those readers who say “why am I reading murder mysteries when I am squeamish about blood?” you aren’t alone. This scientific book takes a hard and gritty look at why people continue to be infatuated  with blood and violence, starting with the gladiators of Rome all the way to popular culture figures such as zombies and vampires. (science, gritty, from the ancients to contemporary times)
  • Dead and the Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I and the dark scandal that rocked the throne by Chris Skidmore :2011                                                                                              For readers that like to know if any of these murders were even possible, try some true crime from the 16th Century. Written as an exploratory study of the death of Anne Robsart using forensics, science and history buffs should enjoy this little hidden gem (16th Century Great Britain, true crime, journalistic, compelling)
  • Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes by Bertram Fields: 1998                                                                                                                                                         Here’s another forensic mystery that might change the history books. This one has no resolution, but for those who like cold cases, this is bound to be interesting.  (true crime, 15th Century Great Britain, forensics)

Name: Jennifer Palermo

Tomorrow, When the War Began

October 3, 2012

Tomorrow, When the War Began cover

Author: John Marsden

Genre: Adventure

Publication Date: 1993

Number of Pages: 277

Geographical Setting: Australia, present day (1990s)

Series: The Tomorrow Series (book 1)

Plot Summary:  A group of teenagers blow off the town’s festivities to go camping in Hell.  After a relaxing week in the Australian bush, the group returns to the unimaginable: empty homes, spoiled food and dead dogs.  The book reads like the first in a series, giving ample time for a fully developed setting and character development before jumping into the thrilling plot.  The characters transform as their new bleak reality sets in.  Readers discover character growth and plot development through a single narrator’s point of view.  The book ends on a suspenseful note as the group decides how best to deal with the grave situation at hand.

Subject Headings: Resourcefulness in teenagers; Hiding; Imprisonment; Resourcefulness; Determination in teenagers; Determination (Personal quality); Guerrilla warfare; War; Survival; Teenagers – Australia; Wilderness areas — Australia

Appeal:  Action-packed; Builds in intensity; Suspenseful; Bleak; Compelling; Series characters; Introspective; Detailed setting; Accessible; Small-town; Episodic; Flawed; Emotionally-charged; Coming-of-age

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Compelling; Bleak; Emotionally-charged

Three fiction read-alikes:

Life as we knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Bleak, Emotionally intense, Compelling, Survival, Series)

Set in rural Pennsylvania, 16 year-old Miranda’s life changed in a blink of an eye as a meteor causes more trouble than scientists predicted.  Miranda and her family struggle to survive the Earth’s violent reaction to this event.

Holding Their Own: A Story of Survival by Joe Nobody (Survival, Action-packed, Series)

Set in 2015, a couple must learn to survive in an America that has fallen into a second Great Depression, and devastated by terror attacks resulting in governmental collapse.

Winter’s End by Jean-Claude Mourlevat (Compelling adventure story about teenagers set in other countries)

Set in an unnamed country, this dystopian story is about four teenagers daring escape from their prison-like boarding school.  The teenagers struggle for survival and quest for answers about their past, keeping readers on the edge of their seats.

Three related non-fiction titles:

The Time of the Rebels: Youth Resistance Movements and 21st Century Revolutions by Matthew Collin (Young adults, Resistance)

This book discusses the role youth movements played in taking down oppressive governments.

 Violent Politics: a History of Insurgency, Terrorism & Guerrilla war, from the American Revolution to Iraq by William R. Polk (guerrilla warfare and insurgency in several countries)

William Polk takes a global approach to the history of insurgency, terrorism & guerrilla warfare.

 Red Earth, Blue Sky: the Australian Outback by Margaret Rau (Australian Outback)

The story of Margaret Rau’s journey through the Australian Outback.

Name: Shira

Secrets of the Lost Summer

October 3, 2012

cover

Author: Carla Neggers

Title: Secrets of the Lost Summer

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 344

Geographical Setting: Swift River Valley- New England

Time Period: Present day and 1938 (historical flashbacks)

Plot Summary: After suffering from a friend’s betrayal that damages her career, Olivia Frost decides it is time to walk away from her life in Boston and start fresh in her hometown. While Olivia is delighted to renovate her historic home in scenic Swift River Valley, she finds herself annoyed by the dilapidated house that neighbors her own. Dylan McCaffrey, California businessman and retired NHL player, is surprised to learn he inherited this crumbling shack from his father. Eager to investigate what brought his adventure-seeking father to New England and why he purchased this rural home before his sudden passing, Dylan heads east and quickly becomes engrossed in both his attractive neighbor and the mystery his father left him in Quabbin Valley. While trying to solve a seventy-year-old puzzle, Dylan and Olivia become fearful that their findings will not only explain Dylan’s unusual inheritance but also reveal a small-town secret that will change the lives of the people of Swift River Valley forever.

Subject Headings: Bed-and-Breakfast, Inheritance and Succession,  Interpersonal Attraction, Jewel Thefts, Men/Women Relations, Secrets, Treasure Hunting, Family Secrets, New England

Appeal: engrossing, gentle, heartwarming, romantic, closely observed characters, multiple points of view, flashbacks, steamy, detailed setting, historical details, straightforward style, conversational language.

Three Appeal Terms: closely observed characters, detailed setting, historical details

Three Fiction Read-Alikes

Juliet by Anne Fortier

Fortier tells the story of Julie Jacobs, a young woman who finds herself pursuing a family treasure upon receiving a surprising inheritance. Set in scenic Italy, readers who enjoyed Neggers’ element of mystery in a detailed setting will appreciate the descriptive landscape and Julie’s suspenseful mission.

Moving Target by Elizabeth Lowell

Lowell’s romantic suspense novel follows Serena Charters as she tries to piece together a mysterious inheritance she received upon her grandmother’s shocking passing. During her quest for information, Serena seeks the help of Erik North, a writer/historian, to whom she is instantly attracted. Fans of Secrets of the Lost Summer will enjoy the mysterious, historical inheritance plot entwined in a love story.

The Treasure by Iris Johansen

Like Neggers, Johansen writes engrossing love stories that appeal to those looking for a suspenseful read. The Treasure takes place in 12th century Europe and follows the story of Selene, a young woman who falls in love with a former assassin who rescued her from slavery. Readers who enjoyed the historical references and fast-paced storyline of Secrets of the Lost Summer will appreciate this read.

Three Nonfiction Read-Alikes

The Herbal Kitchen: Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor by Jerry Traunfeld

Along with her vivid descriptions of New England countryside in Secrets of the Lost Summer, Neggers also describes Olivia’s charming garden and farm-to-table cooking in great detail. Readers are provided with rich descriptions of Olivia’s obsession with freshly grown herbs, an element of this love story that may particularly engage readers with a gardening or cooking interest. For those who share Neggers’ fascination with herb gardens, The Herbal Kitchen cookbook is a strong nonfiction suggestion. Readers may enjoy applying Olivia’s cooking experiences to their own lives.

Quabbin Valley: People and Places by Elizabeth Peirce

This collection of vintage photographs depicts the lives of the people of Quabbin Valley from 1750 to 1938, when the land was purposefully flooded to create a steady water supply for Boston natives. Neggers discusses this historical moment and the affect it had on Quabbin residents in great detail. Readers who seek a visual representation of Neggers prose will enjoy this title.

Quabbin: A History and Explorers Guide by Michael Tougias

In the spirit of Dylan’s father’s love for adventure and treasure-hunting, Quabbin: A History and Explorers Guide makes for great additional reading for those who were taken with Neggers’ description of the New England landscape and its evolution since 1938. This title provides readers with a brief history of the valley as well as tips for those that may want to explore the area themselves.

Annotation by: Elizabeth Hopkins

Shattered

October 3, 2012

Shattered Book Cover
Title: Shattered

Author: Robards, Karen

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 388

Geographical Setting: Lexington, Kentucky

Time Period: Present Day/Contemporary

Plot Summary: In this fast-paced and steamy read; Lisa Grant grew up with wealth and privilege in Kentucky’s horse loving country.  But when the recession hits, Lisa loses her job with a Boston law firm and moves back home to care for her ailing mother and their vanishing finances.  She gets a research assistant job working for District Attorney Scott Buchanan.  Tall, dark and difficult Scott has known the vexing, unattainable Lisa and the Grant family since his teenage years, when they helped him escape his abusive, alcoholic father.  Lisa is sent to organize the cold case files and stumbles upon a family who went missing about 30 years ago.  She becomes enthralled in unraveling this mystery, especially since she looks just like the mother from the missing family.  The case heats up as does the chemistry and passion between Lisa and Scott.  There is a steady build-up to the dramatic conclusion, while fans of this genre will also enjoy the sultry love scenes.  A romantic suspense novel filled with mystery, danger and most importantly romance.

Subject Headings: Young Women, Cold Cases (Criminal Investigation), Family Secrets, Romantic Suspense, Arson, Rescues, Horse Farms, District Attorneys

Appeal: Fast-paced, Engaging Characters, Dramatic, Contemporary, Investigative Storyline, Suspenseful, Conversational, Detailed Setting, Romantic, Plot-driven, Accessible, Steamy, Descriptive, Resolved Ending, Plot Twists

Three Most Relevant Appeal Terms: Steamy, Suspenseful, Plot-driven

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Black Hills by Nora Roberts

As seen in Shattered, this read is filled with intrigue, danger, romance and has a rugged landscape with the story being set in the hills of South Dakota.  We meet childhood sweethearts Cooper Sullivan and Lil Chance; former sweethearts who have grown up and drifted apart.  Similar to Shattered’s Lisa Grant, Cooper leaves his investigator job in New York to return home and care for his grandparents while Lil Dare continues to work towards opening the Chance Wildlife Refuge. They reenter each other lives and must work together to avoid danger from a serial killer.

The Ideal Man by Julie Garwood

This novel links FBI agent Max Daniels and Dr. Ellie Sullivan, when Ellie saves Max’s life after a terrifyingshooting.  Like Shattered, this book has drama, suspense, great character names and especially hot romance.  You will get more of the strong verbal banter experienced in Shattered, as well as a strong heroine and tenacious male lead who will be unable to resist their mutual attraction.

Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown

TV news reporter Britt Shelley wakes up next to rising star police detective Jay Burgess, but without knowing how she got there or how Jay ended up dead.  Disgraced firefighter Raley Gannon experienced the same occurrence 5 years earlier.  Now Ray sees a chance to get redemption through Britt Shelley, and they must work together to solve these murders while also dealing with their attraction to each other.  Although grittier, this is another fast-paced and plot-driven novel that deals with solving criminal cases while providing characters with great chemistry.

 

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

After Etan: The Missing Child Case That Held America Captive by Lisa R. Cohen

On May 25, 1979, 6 year-old Etan Patz was on his way to his school bus stop when he went missing forever.  This heart-breaking story generated headlines and consumed the nation.  This compelling true crime book explores the details of the case over the years and is suggested for readers who want to delve into a real-life missing persons investigation.

Kentucky Horse Country: Images of the Bluegrass by James Archambeault

A great read for those wishing they could have seen the beautiful Kentucky landscape described in the book.  This book contains vivid images of Kentucky Bluegrass land that includes beautiful horses, horse races and shots of the enchanting countryside.

The Science of Cold Case Files by Katherine Ramsland

Author Ramsland who spent a year working for well-known former FBI profiler John Douglas reveals the inner workings of the world of cold case files and forensic science, which the A&E’s Cold Case Files Television show is based on.  Great for those who want to learn more about the process of cold case file investigation brought up in Shattered, and also great for fans of TV shows like Bones and CSI.

Name: Margita Lidaka