Posts Tagged ‘mysterious’

Man in the Picture

August 1, 2012

Author: Hill, Susan

Title: The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 160 p.

Geographical Setting: Cambridge, England and Venice, Italy

Time Period: Unspecified, but likely in the 1900s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This fast-paced, old-fashioned ghost story begins with the narrator, Oliver, visiting his old tutor, Theo Parmitter, at Cambridge on a cold winter night.  While the two friends have had many conversations over the years, Theo chooses this night to tell Oliver the tale of his acquisition of an 18th century painting of Venetian revelers.  While his story starts as a regular trip to an art auction, it soon becomes evident that the painting is more than meets the eye.  As Theo tells Oliver the story of Lady Hawdon and the full history of love, revenge, and death behind the painting, the present starts to mirror the past in dangerous and mysterious ways.  Can Theo and Oliver escape the curse of the painting before it’s too late?  The novel alternates between the points of view of Oliver, Theo, Lady Hawdon, and Oliver’s fiancée, Anne.  Susan Hill uses concise chapters and descriptions to create an atmospheric, eerie, chilling, and suspenseful story of a painting that may be more real and powerful than anyone can imagine.

Subject Headings: Spirits; Carnival; Auctions; Wedding Presents; Portraits; Revenge; Universities and Colleges—England— Cambridge; Cambridge, England; Venice, Italy; Suspense Stories; Horror Stories; Ghost Stories;

Appeal: fast-paced, atmospheric, chilling, creepy, dangerous, darker, disturbing, foreboding, haunting, menacing, mysterious, nightmare, suspenseful, familiar intelligent characters, quirky and dangerous secondary characters, cinematic, layered, plot twists, tragic, atmospheric gothic setting, classic language, concise, dramatic, polished, restrained, vivid

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: mysterious, atmospheric, haunting

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Lore of the Ghost: The Origins of the Most Famous Ghost Stories Throughout the World by Brian Haughton and illustrated by Daniele Serra is a thought-provoking and vivid book about the history of ghost stories and an analysis of people’s fascination with the supernatural.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this haunting book focuses on the subject of spirits and old-fashioned gothic ghost stories.

Haunted England: Royal Spirits, Castle Ghosts, Phantom Coaches, and Wailing Ghouls by Terence Whitaker is an eerie book about various hauntings throughout England’s history.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this creepy book highlights the subjects of spirits and ghost stories in the same setting of England.

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa by R. A. Scotti is a fascinating book about the disappearance and return of one of the most famous portraits of all time.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this book tells a mysterious and suspenseful story about a portrait

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier is a classic horror story about a woman, Mrs. Maxim de Winter, moving into the eerie home of her new husband, where the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, constantly reminds the new Mrs. Maxim de Winter of how inferior she is to the deceased first wife, Rebecca.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this well-written book with plot twists focuses on an atmospheric and haunting story in England about disturbed women as secondary characters who cannot cope with past events and attempt to destroy other women’s lives as a result.

The Uninvited by John Farris is a suspenseful ghost story about a woman, Barry Brennan, who finds a man one day who may or may not be real as she mourns the death of her boyfriend.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this book tells a fast-paced disturbing ghost story about art, characters who cannot forget tragic relationships, and how fantasy can become reality.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is a gothic horror story about a handsome man who never ages while a portrait of him reflects his moral decline.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this book is a horror story with plot twists focused on a haunted portrait with special powers that takes place in England and contains characters who gradually give in to evil activities.

The Hidden Reality

March 28, 2012

Author: Brian Greene

Title: The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos

Genre: Non-Fiction, Popular Science, Science Writing

Publication Date: January, 2011

Number of Pages: 384

Geographical Setting: The Cosmos

Time Period: Present

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Physicist and popular science writer Brian Greene successfully takes ideas and theories on the cutting-edge of modern-day physics and makes them accessible to a wide audience in The Hidden Reality.  The purpose of the writing is to introduce the scientific theories in physics that allow for parallel universes and to explain how scientists came to them.  Greene demonstrates how, rather than seeking out any possible scientific excuse to talk about alternate realities, scientists came to these various theories reluctantly. According to Greene, while trying to make mathematical sense of strange phenomena uncovered in quantum physics and cosmology, scientific theories that allowed for parallel universes began to emerge.

To accomplish the goal of the book, Greene reviews, in accessible language, the chains of scientific discoveries in math and physics from the 19th century to the present day.  The ever growing complexities of the scientific findings he outlines are sure to challenge most readers.  Greene takes great care, however, to shield the reader with poignant analogies and simple language.  For the more mathematically adept, he includes the formulas behind the theories he references in the notes section.  Once he is satisfied the reader has the requisite understanding of the questions and gaps in scientific understanding, he introduces readers to the exotic theories scientists have come up with to explain and fill those gaps.  Finally, Greene brings the reader up to speed on the current debates and experiments in physics and cosmology.  He explains what discoveries scientists, working at CERN and elsewhere, may uncover that could advance or dispel confidence in the various theories in The Hidden Reality.

Subject Headings: Physics, Theoretical Physics, Cosmology, Quantum Physics, General Relativity, Astronomy

Appeal: fascinating, compelling, educational, scientific, well-researched, challenging, engaging, thought provoking, scientific theory, accessible, analogous writing, academic, complex, awe-inspiring, mysterious

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe the Book: challenging, scientific writing, thought provoking

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Grand Design (2010) by Stephen Hawking

Hawking takes the concepts of multiple universes and string theory and explains how scientists are using them to create a unified theory on why the universe exists the way it does.

Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions (2005) by Lisa Randall

This book is also a popular physics book that uses analogies to explain the current theories in quantum physics.  Randall focuses on string theory and its multiple hidden dimensions, a large topic in Greene’s book.

– Decoding Reality: The Universe as Quantum Information (2010) by Vlatko Vedral

This popular science book explores the theory that the mysteries of quantum physics can be better understood through the idea that information is physical and is the basic building block of the universe.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Spin (2005) by Robert Charles Wilson

This science fiction book runs wild with the theory of general relativity with a plot that involves aliens suspending the entire planet Earth in time.  It also deals with cosmologically ideas on the eventual death of our solar system and galaxy.

Properties of Light: A Novel of Love, Betrayal and Quantum Physics (2000) by Rebecca Goldstein

One of the gaps in modern physics that Greene outlines in his book is the failure of scientists to link general relativity with quantum mechanics.  The characters in this literary fiction novel attempt to do just that.

The Light of Other Days (2000) by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter

This science fiction novel expands on the current understanding of quantum physics. The story involves scientists with an advanced knowledge of quantum physics who can create wormholes. The wormholes can bridge distant points, even into the past.

Name: Noel M.


February 22, 2012

Author: Lisa Jackson

Title: Malice

Genre: Suspense

Publication Date: March 2009

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

Geographical Setting: Southern California

Time Period: Present

Series: Bentz/Montoya, New Orleans Series

Plot Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

A Choir of Ill Children

October 24, 2011

Author: Tom Piccirilli

Title: A Choir of Ill Children

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 238

Geographical Setting: Fictional Southern town of Kingdom Come

Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary: In the backwater Southern swamp town of Kingdom Come, Thomas lives in a run-down mansion with his three brothers — conjoined triplets joined at the forehead who share a single brain, feared as freaks by the rest of the town. Thomas cares for the triplets and runs his family’s mill; his father and grandfather were the town bigwigs, but the town is now so desolate that the family’s standing means little. Kingdom Come is populated by a bizarre cast of characters including “granny witches” who live by the swamp and ward against evil spirits, a preacher prone to speaking in tongues and sudden public nudity, a religious cult, and various other creeps and lowlifes; as the story opens, Thomas is also hosting two documentary filmmakers trying to make a movie about the freakish triplets. As a young girl mysteriously appears in the swamp, the town is besieged by storms, an unknown person begins abusing all the town’s dogs, and the preacher warns that “the carnival is coming,” Thomas must lead his people against the dark forces that seem to be attacking the town.

Subject Headings: Southern Gothic fiction; Horror fiction; Conjoined twins; Small towns; Superstition; Swamps

Appeal: atmospheric, bizarre, character centered, dark, disturbing, edgy, episodic, grotesque, lyrical, moody, mysterious, relaxed pace, sexually explicit, surreal, uneasy, violent

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: bizarre, disturbing, uneasyaQQ

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

• One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal by Alice Domurat Dreger [Examines case studies of conjoined twins; argues that they should not necessarily be separated, because their sense of identity is bound up in being conjoined; this is true of the conjoined twins in Piccirilli’s book]

• American Gothic Fiction: An Introduction by Allan Lloyd-Smith [Lit-crit text providing an introduction to the Gothic genre tradition that Piccirilli riffs on in Choir]

• Shadow and Shelter: The Swamp in Southern Culture by Anthony Wilson [Overview of the importance of the swamp to Southern culture throughout history and in the present day; the swamp and its significance is a major component of Piccirilli’s novel]

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

• Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor [Southern Gothic; dark tone, character-centered, bizarre, disturbing; O’Connor influenced Choir]

• Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates [Literary horror; grotesque, atmospheric, dark]

• Softspoken by Lucius Shepard [Horror; contemporary take on Southern Gothic; bizarre family living in run-down mansion; dark, violent]

Name: Brian W.

Special Topics In Calamity Physics

October 10, 2011

Author: Marisha Pessl

Title: Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Genre: Mystery, Literary fiction, Coming-of-age

Publication Date:  2006

Number of Discs: 17 sound discs, 22hrs

Geographical Setting: Stockton, N.C.

Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary:  This is a darkly funny coming-of-age story centers on the character of teenager Blue Van Meer.  Told in the first person narrative, after her mother dies in a car accident while Blue is in kindergarten, Blue travels with her eccentric, highly intelligent, and womanizing widower father Gareth for ten years.  Blue and her father travel to different obscure college towns, where her father is a visiting lecturer for no more than one semester until he and Blue are off to another college in another town.  While this does nothing for Blue’s social life, she is highly attached to her father and, in his company, has developed a clever, deadpan, and astute outlook on life, as well as an impressive lexicon of all things literary, political, philosophical, and scientific.  In Blue’s final year of high school, her father decides to finally settle down in Stockton, N.C. for the entire school year, where Blue is enrolled in the private St. Gallway school of Stockton.  In no time, Blue finds herself courted by an intriguing faculty member, Hannah Schneider, and is reluctantly accepted into her group of student followers: Milton, Charles, Leulah and Jade, each of whom seems to be hiding something about their past.  Blue is slowly accepted by this group of high school royalty known as the Bluebloods, but things soon begin to unravel when a man dies mysteriously at Hannah’s house and, eventually, when Hannah herself is found dead.  It is up to the clever and resourceful Blue to piece together the puzzle of this intricately forged murder mystery.  Cleverly told in a format that models a college syllabus (the chapters are named after everything from Othello to Paradise Lost to The Big Sleep), including a final examination at the end, this novel is an eclectic and intellectual murder mystery, full of subtle literary allusions and a slight undertone of menace or mystery pervades throughout.  Most importantly, however, is the coming of age story of extremely likable Blue van Meer, who, while being too intelligent for her own good, struggles with the classic themes of love, acceptance, and identity.

Subject Headings: Teenagers – Death, Teenage girls, Teachers – Death, College teachers, Father and daughter, Eccentrics and eccentricities, Cliques, Identity (Psychology), Moving to a new city, Murder, Murder investigation

Appeal: quirky, eccentric, dark, funny, mysterious, literary, postmodern, sincere, coming-of-age, suspenseful, character driven, intricate, detailed, engaging, leisurely paced.

 3 appeal terms that best describe this book: intricate, quirky, dark

 3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1) Donna Tartt, The Secret History.  Pessl’s novel is termed the postmodern version of Tartt’s book, which is about a young man who upon his enrollment at a small Vermont college finds himself embraced by a clique of five young people led by a professor.  This group also, however, holds a dark secret that the young man slowly uncovers.  On NoveList, Shauna Griffin says, “Subtle suspense and building dread, as well as flawless prose, characterize both The Secret History and Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Each features a cast of brilliant but self-indulgent young people, whose secrets–and guilt–eventually come to light.”

2) Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, Lolita.  Pessl directly references Nabokov on several occasions in Special Topics, and has professed great admiration for the author personally.  Lolita is referenced frequently, and readers of Special Topics may want to pick this up simply because it was mentioned so many times.  This novel is much more shocking and tragic, however, than Pessl’s novel.

3) Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex.  This award-winning coming-of-age novel is very different from the plot of Special Topics, but the authors build the story the same way and create their eccentric and likable main protagonists the same way.  If you were a fan of Blue van Meer, you would also be a fan of Middlesex’s Calliope.

3 Relevant Nonfiction Works

1) Jay Robert Nash, Among the Missing: An Anecdotal History of Missing Persons from 1800 to the Present.  Books on missing persons are frequently discussed in the novel, and a reader may be curious enough to want to pick up material on the subject.

2) Maggie De Vries, Missing Sarah: A Vancouver Woman Remembers Her Vanished Sister.  Same reason as the above, but this one has more in common with the theme of Hannah and her mysterious past and weird fascination with missing people.

3) Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia.  Without giving away too much, this book would interest those who wish to learn about the political organization that comes up at the end of the novel.

Name: Rebecca C.

Dead Until Dark

September 28, 2011

Author: Charlaine Harris

Title: Dead Until Dark

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2001

Number of Pages: 292

Geographical Setting:Louisiana

Time Period: Present Day

Series: Sookie Stackhouse Series

Plot Summary:  Sookie Stackhouse seems like a normal small-town Louisiana waitress, but there is something different about her, she has telepathy.   While some might think it would be awesome to hear the thoughts of other people, Sookie finds it to be a curse.  Four years after they came out of the coffin,
Sookie finally meets a real life vampire, Bill Compton.  Sookie is immediately drawn to Bill and although he is a vampire, she is relieved because unlike humans, she cannot hear his thoughts.  Meanwhile, women in the town are being murdered and the only thing they have in common is “relationships”
with vampires, so Sookie fears she might be next.  Sookie, along with Bill, and a cast of quirky characters work to find out who is murdering the women, all while the idea of coexistence between humans and vampires is still fresh.

Subject Headings:  Vampires; Telepathy; Murder; Mystery; Small-town;Louisiana

Appeal: Mysterious, Fast-paced, Witty, Humorous, Steamy, Romantic,
Supernatural, Engaging, Quirky, Contemporary, Small-Town, Imaginative, Upbeat, Flawed characters

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Supernatural, Quirky, Humorous

Similar Authors and Works

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the
Invention of Murder
by Daniel Stashower

True crime story of the 1841 murder of a 21 year old woman which was sensationalized becasuse of suspected
connections with Edgar Allen Poe.  (Novel-like writing, murder mystery, engaging)

2) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: a Savannah Story by John Berendt

True story of the murder of a young Savannah, GA boy and the trial that follows. (Murder Mystery, Set in the South, Engaging,
Quirky Characters, sometimes witty)

3) The Vampire Defanged: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero
by Susannah Clements

Analysis of pop culture vampire novels, movies, and television shows, including the Sookie Stackhouse books and
the True Blood television show. (Vampires, Humorous)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1) Undead and Unwed by Mary Janice Davidson

Betsy Taylor is killed in a car accident and becomes undead, this is the story of her foray into the vampire world.  (Fantasy Fiction, Vampire stories, Funny,
Steamy, Fast-paced, Series)

2) Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

Follows vampire hunter, Anita Blake as she investigates the murders of innocent vampires. (Fantasy Fiction, Mystery, Fast-Paced, Engaging,
Vampire Stories, Series)

3) One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Follows bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum on her first assignment to track down the murderer of a vice cop.  (Mystery,
Fast-Paced, Funny, Witty, Series)

Name: Michelle Worthington

That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis

August 17, 2011

Author: C.S. Lewis

Title: That Hideous Strength

Genre: Inspirational, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Publication Date: 1945

Number of Pages: 380

Geographical Setting: Fictional towns of Edgetow and surrounding areas, England

Time Period: A few years post World War II (1940’s)

Series: The Space Trilogy

Plot Summary: That Hideous Strength was written as a “a modern fairy tale for grown-ups” and follows the previous books in the series (Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandria) while still standing on its own. The story follows two narratives, following Jane and Mark Studdock respectively. Feeling despondent after a difficult marriage, Jane begins to find herself plagued by strange and prophetic dreams. Her husband, Mark, is drawn into a strange cabal of academics called the NICE. The NICE is a collection of academics who seem bent on subjugating the town of Edgetow, England and the world. As Jane comes to her friends regarding her strange dreams she finds herself taken in with the opposite force, a collection of people led by an enigmatic man who has traveled among the stars. Supernatural forces clash against the hard power of science as good and evil battle for control of the world. This story seamlessly blends the mystery of science fiction, the mysticism of fantasy as well as the underlying spiritual message. In a more “mature” take on Lewis’ Narnia series, That Hideous Strength is a thoroughly unique story.

Subject Headings: Dystopian future, mad science, angels, demons, King Arthur, Merlin, magic, aliens, Christian fiction, supernatural

Appeal: genre-defying, in-depth, deliberate pace, dual-narrative, political intrigue, mysterious, evolving

3 terms that best describe this book: mysterious, supernatural, genre-defying

3 Relevant Non Fiction Works and Authors

1.)The Mammoth Book of King Arthur: Reality and Legend, the Beginning and the End–The Most Complete Arthurian Sourcebook Ever by Michael Ashley- Lewis’ book draws very heavily upon the Arthurian mythos and uses many direct references to specific stories.

2.) Planet Narnia by Michael Ward- This is an in-depth discussion of both the mythology of the space trilogy as well as the Narnia series.

3.) Science and Faith: Friends or Foes? by C. John Collins- One of the emergent themes in That Hideous Strength is the clash of science and faith. This book takes a spiritual and philosophical discussion on the dichotomy between the two.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1.) All Hallow’s Eve by Charles Williams- Lewis was good friends with Williams and much of the similar themes of newer fantasy and spiritualism can be found in this story.

2.) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle- Follows suit with similar melding of science fiction, fantasy and subtle inspirational motifs.

3.) The Shape of Things to Come by H.G. Wells- That Hideous Strength was actually partially written as a reaction of Lewis to this story and uses some of its dominant themes as a counterpoint.

Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes: The Authorized Adaptation by Ron Wimberly

August 3, 2011

Author: Ron Wimberly

Title: Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes: The Authorized Adaptation

Genre: Horror, Graphic Novel

Publication Date: July 19, 2011

Number of Pages: 130

Geographical Setting: Green Town, Illinois

Time Period: Late October in the 1920’s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Something Wicked This Way Comes is about two 13-year-old boys, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway, who have a harrowing experience with a nightmarish traveling carnival that comes to their Midwestern town one October. The carnival’s leader is the mysterious “Mr. Dark” who bears a tattoo for each person who, lured by the offer to live out his secret fantasies, has become bound in service to the carnival. Mr. Dark’s malevolent presence is countered by that of Will’s father, Charles Halloway, who harbors his own secret desire to regain his youth. Jim and Will recognize the dark magic at work and have to come up with a plan to stop this ancient evil. As a graphic novel, the addition of dark/light pages and detailed illustration add to the ambiance of the story.

Subject Headings: carnival, boys, fathers and sons, magic, male friendship, the Illustrated Man, good vs. evil.

Appeal: fantastical, nostalgic, vibrant, classic, creepy, suspenseful, imaginative, entertaining, dark.

3 terms that best describe this book: mysterious, disturbing, phantasmagorical.

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

American Sideshow by Marc Hartzman. (A fascinating look into the history of the American sideshow and its performers. Learn what’s real, what’s fake, and what’s just downright bizarre.)

Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth by Peter Kelder. (Offers practical instructions for the Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation, which resemble yoga postures.)

The Fortune Telling Book: Reading Crystal Balls, Tea Leaves, Playing Cards, and Everyday Omens of Love and Luck by Gillian Kemp. (Filled with practical advice, gypsy folklore, and both ancient and modern divinations, this lavishly illustrated primer reveals the future to all those who believe and shows how to employ crystal balls, tea leaves, and playing cards to predict the future.)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Bloody Carnival by Matt Kurtz, Darren W. Pearce, Neal Levin, and Mindy MacKay, etc. (Freak shows, rusted rides, demonic ring mistresses, demented clowns, melting beauty queens, flesh-eating fun-seekers, ghosts, gremlins and other terrors haunt the pages of this bloody collection of thirty-four short stories.)

The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon. (A eight-year-old boy runs away and joins the carnival only to realize that a threat far greater than his cruel father inhabits the carnival and has been searching for him longer than he has been alive.)

The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. (Odd and creepy with dark secrets. This is another graphic novel that features a carnival, in this case a mini one, a traveling Punch & Judy show.)

The Dark Half by Stephen King

August 3, 2011

Author: Stephen King

Title: The Dark Half

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 1989

Number of Pages: 431

Geographical Setting: Maine

Time Period: present time

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Thad Beaumont is a writer, a husband, and a father of twins. He has made many fans and big money writing gory horror novels under a pen name, George Stark. When a potential blackmailer threatens to reveal Stark’s identity, Thad decides to “kill” his alter ego and to start writing under his real name. After Thad makes a fake funeral for Stark, a serial killer starts murdering people in the fashion of Stark’s novels. The main suspect in these horrible crimes is Thad, since his fingerprints are all over the murder scenes.  As he realizes it is his own “dark half” to blame, the revenge seeking killer goes for Thad’s life. Although the horrifying killing spree takes place later in the story, the reader can feel the sense of menace from the first chapter, when teenage Thad’s brain tumor surgery reveals body parts of an undeveloped twin. This character-driven story is high in emotion as the reader feels for Thad, a nice family guy, and fears for his supposedly fictional sinister alter ego. Suspense, a mysterious villain, and an intriguing storyline make this book impossible to put down. Even those who find unexpectedly appearing graphic scenes of violence disturbing will keep reading this page-turner to find out what happens next.

Subject Headings: Horror fiction, Mystery fiction, American authors – fiction

Appeal: fast-paced, character driven, terrifying, emotional, sense of menace, unexplained phenomena, sympathetic protagonist, sinister antagonist, intriguing characters, graphic violence, serial killer, clever plotline, gripping, mysterious

3 terms that best describe this book: terrifying, fast-paced, intriguing characters

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Man with the Phantom Twin: Adventures of the Neuroscience and Human Nature by V.S. Ramachandran (his scientific book explains multiple phenomena of the human brain, a topic that was raised but never rationally explained in King’s novel)

The Monster of Florence by Douglas J. Preston (like King’s horror, this true crime story has a suspenseful, creepy, and dark tone; in both books there is an element of sleuthing for a brutal serial killer and accusation of the crime falls on the “good guys”)

Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms by Carmela Ciuraru (while Dark Half is about a writer whose pseudonym comes to life with horrible consequences, this true historical writing expands the topic of pen names – it describes multiple writers, their lives hidden under their pen names, and various consequences of their reveal)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Darkfall by Dean Koontz (both novels are fast paced, with suspenseful, menacing tone, and multiple scenes of explicit violence; like in King’s novel, there is a supernatural antagonist killing people, and attempts to catch him bring deadly threat)

Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk (like King’s novel this story is character-driven, creepy, suspenseful, and violent, featuring a serial killer; although satirical in nature, it resembles King’s concept of having in the brain a supernatural being that kills others)

The Stake by Richard Laymon (like Dark Half, this is a fast paced horror story with explicit violence; the main characters of both novels are horror writers and their writings in some ways come to life)

Name: Anna

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

August 1, 2011

Author: Haruki Murakami

Title: Kafka on the Shore

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2002 (Original Publishing) 2005 (English Version)

Number of Pages: 407

Geographical Setting: Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku, Japan

Time Period: Late 20th century (1990-2000)

Plot Summary: This surreal narrative intertwines the stories of 15-year-old, runaway Kafka Tamura and middle-aged, eccentric Satoru Nakata, both who are inexorably drawn by fate to the city of Takamatsu. Kafa (under the direction of his inner advisor, Crow) runs from his father’s home, and his father’s curse, vowing to become “the world’s toughest 15-year-old”. Kafa soon finds himself working at a small private library in Takamatsu under the the affable, androgynous Oshima and the quiet, mysterious Miss Saeki. Nakata uses his ability to speak to cats to track down a missing kitten only to find himself challenged by the deranged Johnnie Walker. As these two narratives begin to draw together and intersect, the world begins to shift and twist in strange ways. The two protagonists search for the other half of themselves which they have left behind. This story bends the traditions and tropes of the “usual” story and freely juggles the intellectual and the sensual. The narrative progresses at a slow and deliberate pace, yet still sets the story with suspense. Kafka of the Shore is one of the pinnacle works of magical realism.

Subject Headings: Japan, magical realism, music, prophecy, spirituality, supernatural, art, poetry, Oedipus.

Appeal: surreal: complex, philosophical, relaxed pace, thought-provoking, contemplative, referential, imaginative, dual-narrative, well-crafted, densely written, deeply complex, mystical, mysterious, explicit, extremely vivid, haunting.

3 terms that best describe this book: surreal, intellectual, poetic

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

A Long Rainy Season: Haiku and Tanka edited by Leza Lowitz, Miyuki Aoyama and Akemi Tomioka ([the book makes reference to tanka and related poetry])

Supernatural and Mysterious Japan: Spirits, Hauntings and Paranormal Phenomena by Catrien Ross

(Japan, ghosts, supernatural, hauntings)

The Eichmann Trial: Jewish Encounters by Deborah E. Lipstadt ([The Eichmann trial becomes a theme that haunts Kafka throughout his journey])

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood (magical realism, coming of age, surreal, deep, philosophical)

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles ([Referenced in the book] tragedy, curse, fate, love, death)

The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights by Richard Burton (translated) ([This is one of the books that engrosses Kafka in the story])