Posts Tagged ‘subtle’

Mortal Groove

November 16, 2011

Author: Ellen Hart

Title: The Mortal Groove: A Jane Lawless Mystery

Genre: GLBT mystery stories; Mystery stories

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 358

Geographical Setting: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Time Period: Current

Series: Jane Lawless Mysteries, Book 15

Plot Summary:    Jane Lawless is a Minnesota restaurateur who maintains very close relationships with her friends and her family.  In this book of the series, Jane’s father is running for governor, and family secrets, as well as the secrets of those involved in his campaign threaten the campaign’s success, as well as the personal well-being of many of the characters.  Many of the characters in this book have secrets, the least of which is their sexuality.  Jane and her sidekick Cordelia investigate the people working with her father after the assault of one of their friends. This takes them back to a murder around the time of the Vietnam war. Jane’s investigation results in the kidnapping of her brother and she takes it upon herself to try to save him.  In the meantime, Cordelia is trying to regain custody of her niece, and Jane’s brother is trying to save his marriage by searching for his wives’ baby, given up for adoption at birth.  This multi-layered story offers resolution of most story lines at the end of the book, while creating new issues, perhaps to be resolved in the next book.

Subject Headings:  Candidates for public office; Cold cases (Criminal investigation); Fathers; Lawless, Jane; Lesbians; Murder investigation; Restaurateurs; Secrets; Thorn, Cordelia; Women detectives

Appeal: memorable, suspenseful, fast-paced, entertaining, multi-layered, secretive, witty, strong secondary characters, family-centered, thoughtful, bittersweet, elegant

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: well-developed characters, subtle, engaging

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

 Inseparable: Desire between Women in Literature by Emma Donoghue

This book discusses the prescense and evolution of women in love in literature. This scholarly work delves into the portrayal of lesbians in classic  and contemporary literature as well as the prevalence of lesbians in crime fiction.

The Safe Sea of Women by Bonnie Zimmerman

This Lamanalysis of lesbian fiction and short stories between 1969-1989 discusses the portrayal of lesbians in fiction set against a historical background.  This book is for anyone who is unfamiliar with the genre (

Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabel-Rouser by Rita Mae Brown

This conversational, engaging and witty autobiography of this mystery writer chronicles her  eccentric family as well as her love interests, and is written in a funny tone.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Report for Murder: A Lindsay Gordon Mysteryby Val McDermid

This is the first book in the series, featuring an amateur sleuth.  This character is the U.K.’s first lesbian detective ( and has a sidekick, also named Cordelia and a loyal following of friends and family.  While grittier than Mortal Groove, this book has its intricate plotting.

Lucky in the Corner by Carol Anshaw

This work of domestic fiction revolves around a mother and daughter, dealing with issues of the mother’s sexuality and the mother-daughter relationship. This book has strong secondary characters that are well-developed.  Even though, this book deals with social issues in more depth, it does so with wit and a sense of humor that is present in the Mortal Groove.

Blue Plate Special by Abagail Padgett

This book series, Blue McCarron mysteries, features the main character, Blue who is a social psychologist, who is hired by the police department to help solve a murder. This story follows Blue’s new relationship with her psychiatrist partner, Roxie, and includes a cast of funny, idiosyncratic characters (Novelist).  This also is a very suspenseful story with a series of red herrings, similar to the story in the Mortal Groove.


How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read

March 30, 2011

Author: Pierre Bayard, Translated by Jeffrey Mehlman

Title: How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publication Date: 2007

Geographical Setting: Paris, France

Time Period: Contemporary

Summary: Pierre Bayard, a professor of Literature at a Paris University, wants to assuage the guilt associated with non-reading.  Believing the guilt to be part of a larger fear of culture, he attempts to build the confidence needed to discuss books that you have not read.  He offers advice on books “you don’t know”, “have skimmed”, and “heard of” in different confrontations and then delves into psychoanalytical advice on behavior and confidence.  Along the way he mentions characters and writers he has come across, with footnotes that label his level of non-reading for the particular book, who exemplify non-reading including Oscar Wilde, Paul Valery, and Michel de Montaigne.

Subject Headings: Literature-History and Criticism-Theory, Psychoanalysis, Books and Reading

Appeal: humorous, thought-provoking, insightful, literary, candid, frank, witty, informative, satirical, philosophical, tongue-in-cheek, practical, lucid, subtle

Three terms that best describe this book: Witty, thought-provoking, and satirical

Three relevant works of fiction:

The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil: The man without qualities is a thirty-something who is not ambitious nor contemplative and is no longer passionate about the only aspect of life he once cared for, mathematics. The librarian, a proud non-reader, claims to never have read a single book in order to know about them all equally.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco: A post-modern take on a historical murder mystery set in a medieval Italian library that is based on Umberto Eco’s theory of Reader Response, similar to Bayard’s claims. The Inquisitionists are out to destroy a book that has the potential to ruin people’s lives.

Small World: An Academic Romance by David Lodge: Here is an entertaining look into the world of literary criticism.  Lodge’s characters, young academicians, try to find love at their yearly conferences, which are their break from work. An interesting look into the world of those who decide which books and acclaimed and which are not.

Three relevant works of non-fiction:

How to Read and Why by Harold Bloom: Bloom, also a Literature professor, promotes books and reading rather than satirically avoiding it like Bayard, but the subject matter and the authors opinions are the same: reading matters.

Literature and Psychoanalysis: The Question of Reading: Otherwise edited by Shoshana Felman: The definitive collection on the link between Literature and Psychoanalysis.

Falling into Theory: Conflicting Views on Reading Literature by David H. Richter: Richter examines why we read, what we read, and how we read.  He discussed these topics with students, critics, writers, and teachers and summarized his findings in this work.

-Mike Monahan