Staff Picks: Books
I watched the television show “Castle”. In the television show Richard Castle is a writer who gets to ride along with Detective Kate Becket and her team. In the television show (and I emphasize this) Richard Castle (played by Nathan Fillion) writes a book about Detective Kate Becket and calls her Nikki Heat. Someone thought hey lets write a real book about Nikki Heat and pretend it is written by Richard Castle just like in the television series. There are now 6 books in the Nikki Heat Series written by Richard Castle. Nobody knows who really writes these books. The book jacket shows a picture of Nathan Fillion but they say his name is Richard Castle. Nathan Fillion has even signed some books using his television name Richard Castle. The books have the same characters as in the show but they change the names. Richard Castle is called Jameson Rook, Kate Becket is of course Nikki Heat, Detective Ryan is Raley and Detective Esposito is Ochoa. I like that they renamed Castle as Rook. In Chess in a move called Castling, the Rook can change positions with the King. There after you call that piece a Castle. I like that they choose to use that play on words. When reading the books it is like watching the show but can get confusing. I was reading one of the books and watching the show at the same time, not exactly the same same time, and was getting a wee bit confused. In the show her mother was killed in an alley, but in the book she is killed in their kitchen. On the show during think tank sessions they toss around a little ball the size of a tennis ball, in the book they toss a basketball, I like the show version better. I downloaded from KPL and listened to these books on my mp3 player, KPL also has the print versions and digital. So whether you prefer print, digital or audio KPL has it all. Check it out at KPL.
Nikki Heat Series by Richard Castle
I’ll admit flat out that I’m a huge fan of author Kate Atkinson. In her fourth novel featuring semiretired detective Jackson Brodie, “Started Early, Took my Dog”, the author delves into the subject of missing children. Jackson is searching for the biological parents of an Australian woman; it seems straightforward at first, but soon he has more questions than answers. He is also dealing with his teenage daughter by his first wife, his former lover and their son, and a dog that he impulsively rescues from an abusive owner. Concurrently, recently retired detective Tracy Waterhouse, lonely and somewhat jaded after seeing the darker side of life for decades, sees a young girl being dragged along by a prostitute, and something snaps- Tracy offers the woman cash for the kid, and suddenly she is a parent of a child in a fairy costume. Bad people are soon pursuing them, but they don’t seem to want the child back. All roads lead to Jackson; it emerges that he and Tracy are working towards the same end in solving their separate mysteries.
Kate Atkinson takes these potentially dark events and injects them with her sharp observations and wit. Previous novels in the Jackson Brodie series are equally great reading, and her best selling novel, “Life After Life” has won several awards, including the COSTA award in 2013.
Started Early, Took my Dog
The hazmat killer’s recent victim is found on a carousel and Zach and Kylie of the elite NYPD Red force must find him before the mayors re-election vote. The hazmat killer is killing people that the legal system was unable to bring to justice. They torture the bad guy and video tape the confession, kill him and then leave the body in a very public place. The video is then released to the internet. Kylie and Zach have a hard time getting people to help as most are routing for the vigilante. NYPD RED 2 is James Patterson and Marshall Karp’s second book in this series. While you can read this book without having first read NYPD RED, I recommend reading them in order. Kylie and Zach have a romantic history and it’s just better if you read about it in the first book as they talk about it a lot (way more than I wanted) in the second book.You can find both books at KPL, as well as thousand of others both in hard print and digital.
NYPD RED 2
Reviews for “Ripper: a novel” by Isabel Allende intrigued me, since this is a total departure from all of her previous work. I’m a fan of Allende and have read other novels by her, which fall more into the magical realism and historical fiction categories.
But this is a mystery, and much more besides, and it’s definitely hard to put down. The main characters are both strong and striking. Amanda, a brilliant high school senior, is something of a misfit who plays an online game called “Ripper” (as in Jack) with several other like- minded teenagers around the world, as well as her grandfather. Amanda’s parents are divorced but still very much in her life. Her mother, Indiana, is a good hearted healer who’s involved with two very different men- one a Navy SEAL with a past, and the other an independently wealthy man about town. Amanda’s dad is San Francisco’s deputy chief of homicide. When Amanda and her cyber friends start investigating a series of murders they believe are related (but no one else thinks so) things really heat up. Richly drawn and engaging characters add a lot to this fast paced thriller.
I hope that author Allende gives us more like this one!
Ripper: a novel
Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul have written another book, Mirage, filled with the adventures of the crew from the ship the Oregon. This time it’s all about invisible ships and magnetic blue beams. A Navy ship sailing out of Philadelphia disappears and somehow an inventor named Nikola Tesla is involved. Give it a read at KPL.
Sally Spencer writes top-notch suspense novels. Backlash was a little slow going at first. But then it really took off. It was one of those mysteries that once you got into it you couldn’t put it down. It had a very interesting plot and ending. As a matter of fact, the ending was a real shocker! At least, I certainly didn’t expect it.
Well, currently, Monika has her hands full. She’s on her own and still missing Charlie. Chief Superintendent Kershaw’s wife is missing. Monika is caught up in trying to balance between handling the disappearance of the Chief Inspector’s wife and the disappearance of a young prostitute, who no one really cares about. Backlash is a clever mix of suspense and drama as Monika appears to blow off the Chief’s wife as a priority and is mainly focused on the streetwalker. Some question the handling of his case and wonders at her motives. To them she appears callous and uncaring and some question that she might be carrying a grudge. Could that be the problem? Even Monika questions that.
Backlash: A Monika Paniatowski Mystery
Stephanie Plum and Lula are at it again. It’s a formula that works, Stephanie Plum is a cute, bumbling bounty hunter. She is torn between the two men in her life, Morelli and Ranger. Morelli is a former bad boy turned cop and Ranger is a mysterious man who runs a security company, can open any locked door and shows up just in time to save Stephanie over and over, mostly because he has trackers in her purses, cars etc. In Takedown Twenty Stephanie is after Salvatore "Uncle Sunny" Sunucchi who ran over a guy twice. Finding Sunny is problematic. Bella puts the evil eye on Stephanie. Stephanie, as she does in every book, needs Rangers help and wreaks and loses cars. Janet Evanovich, the author, in this book changed up the animal from a monkey, which we have seen in a couple of previous books to a Giraffe which Lula keeps trying to find and feed. The fun is in the reading, not the solving or capturing of the criminal. If you look at the back cover I think Stephanie Plum is Janet Evonovich’s alter ego.
Today while maintaining the shelves to the high standard of orderliness to which you have become accustomed, I found this book: Killer librarian by Mary Lou Kirwin, and I immediately wanted to read it. However, duty called (sadly, my duties do not include dropping everything to read every fun book I run across while at work) and I am adding yet another title to the list. This happens a lot, and the list is long. I plan to check this out some day when I want a quick and easy read, as it looks to be the sort of cozy mystery to curl up with on a lazy afternoon, and finish by bedtime with no fear of nightmares.
I’m very much enjoying a mystery by a new (to me) author, that a work colleague recommended. The title is “The Dogs of Rome” by Conor Fitzgerald. Actually, this is the first book in the series featuring Commissario Alec Blume. Set in Rome, Blume is an ex-pat American who’s lived in Italy for 22 years, long enough to understand its inner workings. When he and his department investigate the murder of an animal rights activist, it opens up possible connections to the Mob.
What I like best about this book is the setting, and the characters. Blume is something of a world weary loner, but he hasn’t entirely given up on the human race. If you like police novels, especially ones set in European locales, this provides a new series to look forward to. I’ll be reading the others when this one is finished, for sure.
The Dogs of Rome
Eoin Colfer is best known for his teen books the Artemis Fowl series. In Plugged he is targeting the adult audience and as it is an adult audience he lets the language get foul. Not Fowl as in Atemis Fowl but Foul as in let’s let the cuss words fly. Personally I could do without the cussing but if your main character is an Irish bouncer/ ex-army type of guy, I guess some language will come with that. Daniel McEvoy is an ex-army most recently Lebanon. He is a big guy and is an expert killer especially with a knife but also with a gun. Daniel McEvoy is a bouncer at a club called Slots. He used to be a “Protection” guy and a friend for Zeb. Daniel is a very macho guy and can kill you in a dozen of ways but he is going bald and is very vain about it. Zeb, a very unsavory character and is giving Daniel hair plugs. When I first heard the title I thought plugged referred to being killed by bullets not hair plugs. But indeed Daniel and a mob type boss are both vain enough about their hair, hence the title of the book. This book was a little too flash back and now present but I really liked Daniel talking to Ghost Zeb. Daniel goes to Zeb for another treatment and a mob henchman is there and as mob hence men tend to be he tries to kill Daniel. Daniel being OUR hero kills the bad guy. Then the mystery ensues of why is the bad guy here. Ghost Zeb keeps coming to Daniel and talking to him. I listened to the audio book version and loved listening to Zeb talking to Daniel. Daniel has to figure out who killed Connie (a hostess he liked), and what happened to Zeb.
Looking for a great audio book? I loved the audio version of “Dodger” by Terry Pratchett. On a dark and stormy night (what else) in Victorian London, a young 17 year old man named Dodger happens upon a young woman who is being kidnapped. He rescues her, and being a young man who makes his living from the streets, knows how to survive and protect her. It fast becomes apparent that some very bad men are trying to get Felicity back. Whirlwind action, mystery and history combine to make great listening. I’ve listened to lots of audio books over the years, and the reader can make or break a story. The reader here does a great job, and sounds as though he’s thoroughly enjoying himself.
Pratchett has some real life people make appearances, such as Charles Dickens as a sharp newspaper reporter, and also Sweeney Todd, the famous barber murderer. Dodger interacts with them, in what Pratchett calls “historical fantasy.” It’s so well done that it seems perfectly natural.
I really enjoyed this audio version from start to finish, and hope Pratchett does a sequel, preferably soon!
The Drop by Michael Connelly is a good classic police work mystery. Detective Harry Bosch who works cold cases has been requested by a councilman to investigate the death of his son. Bosh is also working a cold case. We get a lot of insight to police work and what they have to do to make sure that their case is ready for court and the scrutiny of the defense lawyer. In some ways they spend way too much time on telling the protocols the whys and wherefores of proper police procedure. The two mysteries that Bosh has to solve; one is the councilman’s son is found splat on the concrete and had apparently jumped from the seventh floor of a hotel (or was he pushed or tossed) the other is a twenty year old cold case of a 19 year old female who was raped and murdered. I listened to this as an audio book downloaded from KPL’s overdrive, so flipping a page and scooting ahead through the boring detail parts of police work was not an option but I was kind of glad I was forced to listen. It gave me a better feel for how tedious the plodding along and building a case was and how crucial it was or your work is all for naught as a defense lawyer gets the bad guy off on a technicality. If you like true crime, you might like this. Michael Connelly is a well know famous author and has many other books for you to choose from also.
The Striker is a book by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott. You can interpret that as by Justin Scott with Clive Cussler taking credit and providing guidance. This is another Isaac Bell Adventure and takes place in 1902. In this book Isaac Bell is just starting out with the Van Dorn Detective agency. This story takes place in Pittsburgh in the coal mines. The Van Dorn agency is hired to find out who has been sabotaging the operations. I could relate to the geographical area of this book. I went to college not too many miles outside of Pittsburgh and used to hitchhike in to town for a weekend. When they described the area they wanted to move their tent city to, they talked about the area where the three rivers came together and then they said just imagine a baseball diamond here. Well, since this book was written in 2013 we know that the famous Three Rivers Stadium home to the Pittsburgh Pirates was built there. I know the area well. I spent the night sleeping in a phone booth just outside of the stadium. I was a college kid with no money, it was snowing and the phone booth offered protection from the wind. The police did make me vacate and find another place, the bus terminal offered warmth. These Pittsburgh police were nice, the ones in book took easily to swinging clubs, cracking heads and putting people in jail or the hospital. In this book they develop the Isaac Bell character. He is young and has a hard time being viewed as a lead detective of a team due to his youthful looks. It is suggested he grow a mustache. In the other Isaac Bell books his mustache is constantly referred to when describing him. Archie, his best friend is an apprentice in this book and just learning the ropes. It seemed odd to have the great Archie being subservient. In the books I have already read, we have experienced Isaac’s and Archie’s love interests and their marriage, their getting shot, they are seasoned professionals. So to now discover them as neophytes was interesting. In this book we are introduced to why Isaac carries a derringer in his hat. We read of him buying the derringer, and the hat and of the many many hours he spent perfecting his drawing the gun, all the time knowing that he has used this trick of a hidden gun to save his bacon later in his life. I think what I liked best about this book was the development of Isaac’s character and the description of what it was like in 1902; the living conditions, the unions, coal and our dependence on it for fuel. This could make a good movie, steam boats blow up, people get shot all the elements of a good movie.
Private Berlin is another James Patterson, Mark Sullivan novel. This one takes place in place in Germany, bet you could tell that from the title. This mystery revolves around six children who were in an orphanage pre the Berlin wall coming down. Chris, who works for Private in the Berlin branch, see where they cleverly got the name for the book, goes missing. As Mattie and the rest of Private try to find out what happened to Chris they find that it is about these six children now grown up and getting murdered. They are one step behind this mystery man who calls himself the invisible man. Some of the chapters have us following Private and some of the chapters are told by the murderer. We learn that this man likes masks and has many disguises which make it hard to find him. Everyone they talk with describes him differently but he does make a unique clicking noise in his throat when he gets excited. Most of the book has us with the murderer, describing how he gets access to an apartment and kills his victim and then we flip and follow Private on his trail and discovering the aftermath. I don’t want to give too many details as this is a who could this be type novel. Enough people do get killed, usually with a screw driver to the neck and there is enough hot on the trail to keep you interested. They also dredge up the past atrocities that occurred behind the Berlin wall as this excerpt shows “They used torture and execution at Hoshenschonhausen Prison to make family members testify against one another. Starvation, sleep deprivation, mock drowning” I did find it a little difficult with some of the German names and was glad to be reading to myself and not having to read out loud and trying to pronounce these words.
James Patterson books are what you call quick reads, nice big print, short chapters and it is engaging. Alex Cross, Run is written by James Patterson alone, none of that plastering his name on a book with another author and you know James Patterson read it, gave guidance but really the other author wrote it. This book is chucked full of killings. It spends more time on describing killing after killing than sharing the hunt for the killer. Usually I complain that we have to hear about the detective’s theory of what is happening, he thinks it, he tells someone, he sums it up for someone who is helping him determine if the criminal was really putting his full weight on his steps and aha he has a limp. Its filler for the book, nothing new just hammering home a summary for those of you who put down the book and are now picking it up again a week later and you forgot what had happened.
This starts out rather abruptly with Alex and Samson busting up a party that a wealthy plastic surgeon Elijah Creem and his buddy Bergman, who owns a modeling agent are having complete with drugs, underage girls and lots of naked people. It seemed to me to just toss you in the deep end bang lets arrest some slimy people. It was a way to introduce these two guys. For the rest of the book these two have a competition killing people. Creem kills young perfect looking blonde females and Bergman kills young attractive gay guys. There is not a lot of build up to the killings, no long chapters on stalking the victim. It’s just bang Bergman killed and now Creem has to kill to keep up. Creem will keep his phone turned on so Bergman can listen.
The other running story is of a young man, Ron Guidice, who blames Alex Cross for the death of his wife. It doesn’t matter that it was the bullet from another officer’s gun that actually killed her. This guy is a blogger and he writes edgy pieces about Alex painting him to be a bad policeman. And of course any one who had read the Alex Cross books knows that Alex is the best, greatest policeman ever, at least according to Alex Cross. I find him a bit pompous. Ron Guidice does come up with some interesting ways to tweak Alex Cross. I especially like when at a crime scene Ron calls out to Alex Are you high, you look like you are high. Of course Alex doesn’t just walk away, just the opposite, he walks to Ron. Ron sticks him with a needle quickly and with no one else seeing injecting him with a high getting drug. Alex enraged punches Ron several times. Everyone in the crowd is filming it with their camera phones. Alex tests positive for drugs, gets desk duty, his foster kid is taken away and Ron blogs away happily complaining about police brutality and how Alex is a menace. Nicely played Ron. It is not that hard to enrage Alex Cross. Another good one was when Ron keeps shoving his recording device in Alex’s face. Of course Alex does not do the Gandhi and just walk away, he grabs the device and chucks it into the woods. Ron is tickled pink because he now has more fodder for his blog.
The book alternates between Ron’s antics and Creem and Bergmans killings . Truth be told I was rooting for Ron. I like it when Alex gets his comeuppances.
Alex Cross, Run
A co-worker recommended the book A Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie to me. What a great suggestion! In 1950’s era England, eleven year old Flavia de Luce finds a body in the family’s cucumber patch. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened in my entire life.” She attempts to solve the mystery ( sometimes to the consternation of the local police) using her intelligence, advanced knowledge of chemistry, and just plain persistence. A quirky family- two older, literary sisters and a widowed father who is an avid stamp collector-also figure in the story. Canadian author C. Alan Bradley won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel for this delightful mystery, the first in a series featuring memorable Flavia.
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris first came to my attention on a “Best Mystery” list. It is a mystery, and much more. Set in modern day Saudi Arabia, Palestinian Nayir al-Sharqi is asked by his friend Othman to go with him into the desert to try and discover the whereabouts of Othman’s sixteen year old fiancé, Nouf. The young woman has disappeared into the desert three days before their wedding, seemingly without a trace. Nayir tries to discover what has happened to Nouf, with the help of Katya, a young woman working in the state medical examiner’s office.
What I found particularly fascinating about this book was the glimpse into modern Saudi Arabian life. The author has lived in Saudi Arabia and so has a unique perspective and insight into the lives of both men and women living and working there. I recommended this book to a friend. Her book group chose it as their monthly read, and she said it resulted in a lively discussion.
If you’re looking for a mystery with a different slant, give this a try!
Michigan author Laura Ellen's Blind Spot left me emotional and confused. For me, Blind Spot is one of those unique novels that gains power over the reader by causing intense emotional turmoil and frustration. Basically, this book made me so angry and frustrated that I haven't been able to banish it from my thoughts.
The main character, Roz, suffers from macular degeneration, leaving her legally blind. She constantly struggles to make up for this deficit as she maneuvers her way through high school, but her eyesight is, unsurprisingly, always on her mind, making her self-conscious and lowering her self-esteem. Constantly frustrated from feeling helpless and out of her element in many situation while still wanting to be able to handle everything herself and without help, Roz has a tendency to jump to conclusions and snap at those around her, even those with the best intentions. This aspect of the novel felt very realistic to me. My younger sister was born with glaucoma and I think she'd identify closely with Roz. I can't say what goes on inside my sister's head, but I do know how she reacted to things when she was in high school and, from my point of view, Roz had similar reactions and thoughts. In the novel, Roz points out that people don't realize how poor her vision is and are constantly asking why she doesn't just get glasses. She can't drive and isn't able to play sports because she's a liability. These are all things my sister struggled with. Also like Roz, my sister could be a bit angry. She didn't like wearing her glasses, which improved her vision but left her feeling dorky and unattractive (which is not fun for anyone, let alone a high school-aged girl), and new situations were extremely stressful because she couldn't see to figure things out.
This is where the similarities between my sister and Roz end, right along with my positive feelings regarding Blind Spot. My biggest issue? I absolutely loathed all of the characters. The teachers, the police, Roz's friends, her mother, her boyfriend: all horrible, mean people motivated by self-interest and unwilling to see things from any point of view other than their own. I know it's a strong word, but I was truly disgusted. Realistically, I know that there are people like this in real life, people that let power go to their head and exploit others, but to have an entire novel populated with them was sometimes overwhelming.
I will say that I actually did enjoy the character Tricia, but she's dead from the first page (the focus of the book is, primarily, her disappearance and murder). Tricia, however, was the only character who, though monumentally messed up, actually seemed to do some genuinely nice, even protective, things for Roz without expecting anything in return.
So, despite feeling extremely frustrated with the characters as I read Blind Spot, I can't really say my strong negative feelings were necessarily a bad thing. Yes, I was disgusted and unhappy and wanted to stop reading because I felt like what was happening on the page was terribly unfair, BUT I didn't. And I can't help but talk about about this book and the messed up characters to anyone who will listen... so disliking the characters of this book isn't the worst thing that could have happened. Having no opinion of the characters or easily forgetting them would be even worse than hating them. In this case, hating the characters is a good thing.
Despite being very unhappy with pretty much all of the characters, I kept reading because I really wanted to know what happened to Tricia. It really bothered me that the one person who wasn't completely horrible ended up dead and I had to know what happened to her.
From the moment I finished Blind Spot, it hasn't been far from mind and I'm still trying to sort out all of my feelings about it. In the end, I want you to read this book. It isn't long and it clips along at a quick pace, but it isn't an easy read. I think it's good to challenge your perceptions and ideas though and Blind Spot allows for this in very interesting ways.
I like James Patterson’s books. The last few years a lot of “James Patterson” books are written under his guidance and he has a co-writer. I still read them. I like his solo books better but I read them all. “Private London”, soon to be followed by “Private Berlin” (reserve your copy now) is written by James Patterson and Mark Pearson. This series follows cases by a detective agency called “Private” because they handle cases for famous, rich people privately. In this one we are in the London office. You get a hint it will take place in London from the title. We are introduced to a new detective Dan Carter, who runs the London office. His ex-wife works for the London Police force, DI Kristy Webb. My synapses made a leap in my brain and I was thinking of Dragnet and Jack Webb, no connection and nothing to do with the story but thought I share that tidbit. Hannah Sahpiro as a child was abducted along with her mother. Jack Morgan, of Private USA found her but too late to save her mother who was raped and killed in front of her. Then we jump ahead seven years and Hannah is on her way to London to go to school and Dan Carter is charged with protecting her. Well, surprise surprise she gets abducted again. It would have made a boring mystery if she hadn’t. Dan Carter draws on the whole resources of Private International, a phrase they use over and over to show you how important they are. They even use it as an excuse for why Jack Morgan failed to save Hannah’s mother, he didn’t have the resources of Private International like he would today. I found the use of the phrase irritating but the actual mystery kept my attention. So if you can stomach that phrase, give it a read.
Stephen King’s latest novel, 11/22/63, is so entertaining from start to finish that even with 850 pages, it can be a quick read. The story is told from the perspective of Jake Epping, a recently divorced high school English teacher. Jake is introduced by his friend to a time portal that leads from Lisbon Falls, Maine in 2011 to September 9, 1958. He also learns the rules of time travel. You can visit the past for as long as you like but when you return to the present it's always exactly two minutes later. Every subsequent visit is a "reset." You can change the past and consequently the present, but as Jake learns, the past is obdurate. It resists.
Jake sets out on a mission to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy on 11/22/63. Because he enters the past in 1958, much of the story centers on the life he creates for himself while simultaneously preparing for the big day. He is always conscious of the butterfly effect – even his seemingly smallest actions could have major consequences for the future. This is a love story with vivid, unforgettable characters that is often very suspenseful. I enjoyed Stephen King’s creativity and thought provoking concepts. Consider this quote: “For a moment everything was clear, and when that happens you see that the world is barely there at all. Don’t we all secretly know this? It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dreamclock chiming beneath a mystery-glass we call life. . . . A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark.” Hmmm…
We are what we read. But how do we decide what to read? Normally we don't have a systematic program for our reading life. Perhaps a friend told us, or the "customers also bought this..." on Amazon.com, or our last book mentioned it, or we heard it on NPR or Oprah. These are all great, but there's many other ways. Try the Now Read This through our website. Or, if you want a Read-a-Like based on an author you like, try our Books and Authors database (or try Good Reads or LibraryThing).
But, if you want to get super serious, we have tons of books that are about books (i.e. bibliographies, "treasuries," "anthologies," "companions").
Based on Age:
1001 children's books you must read before you grow up, 100 best books for children, The Book of virtues for young people : a treasury of great moral stories, Black Books Galore! Guide to great African American children's books about girls, 500 Great Books for Teens, Disabilities and disorders in literature for youth : a selective annotated bibliography for K-12, The Ultimate Teen Book Guide
"I just want the classics!" (usually this means great literature, not necessary from the Classical period):
Cambridge Guide to Literature in English, Magill's survey of world literature, Literature Lovers Companion: the essential reference to the world’s greatest writers—past and present, popular and classical, Assessing the Classics: great reads for adults, teens, and English language learners, The modern library : the two hundred best novels in English since 1950, Harvard Classics series (has the actual writings)
Short Story Writers, The Essential Mystery Lists, Harold Bloom writes several books, e.g. on British Women Fiction Writers, Asian American Women Writers, Major Black American Writers, Classic Science Fiction Writers, and more.
To find the major books in an academic field, like philosophy or physics or astronomy, look for an introductory book. They usually have primary sources and "further reading" sections.
Racial or Cultural Identity:
African Writers, Sacred fire : the QBR 100 essential Black books, Concise encyclopedia of Latin American literature, Native American literatures : an encyclopedia of works, characters, authors, and themes
Movements and Places:
Literary movements for students : presenting analysis, context, and criticism on commonly studied literary movements, Promised Land: 13 books that shaped America, The Oxford companion to American literature (we also have these for Austrialian, French, Canadian, and more); Michigan in the Novel (really cool book list of novels set in MI or about MI)
Have fun reading, and slow down to think!
1001 Books for Every Mood
Detroit in the early 1900s is the setting for a fast paced historical mystery, The Detroit Electric Scheme, written by Kalamazoo area author D.E. Johnson. The book was named one of Booklist’s Top Ten First Crime Novels of the year, and won a 2011 Michigan Notable Book Award.
Will Anderson is the son of the owner of Detroit Electric, the era’s leading manufacturer of electric cars. One night Will gets a call from a former college roommate, John Cooper, asking Will to meet him at the car factory. Will agrees, but when he arrives at the darkened factory, he finds Cooper dead, crushed by a huge press. Since Cooper was engaged to Elizabeth, Will’s former fiancé, Will becomes the police’s prime suspect in the murder, and they pursue him ruthlessly.
Will’s cat and mouse game with the police involves him in encounters with organized crime, and dealing with hooligans such as the Dodge brothers. Will also has friends in the upper echelons of society- Edsel Ford, for example.
I found the history of Detroit especially fascinating in this book—the beginnings of the automobile industry and the “players” come to life. It also gives a view of the everyday lives of Detroiters around 1910, the well off and immigrants alike.
You can come and hear author D.E. Johnson in person on Tuesday, February 7, 6:30 pm at the Washington Square Branch Library, 1244 Portage St. Books will be available for sale and signing.
Please join us!
The Detroit Electric Scheme
Smokin" Seventeen by Janet Evonavich
The Stephanie Plum novels are a fun quick read. Leave reality, immerse in the characters and have fun.
Take a look at the back cover and you tell me who Stephanie is modeled after. I was very upset when it was announced that they were making a Stephanie Plum book into a movie. I love that they will make it a movie I hated that they chose Katherine Heigel for the role of Stephanie Plum. My fellow CAMP workers at the library tend to agree with me on that aspect. They do think that the person picked to play Ranger is definitely drool able. Ranger is a major hunk so this actor has an almost impossible task ahead of him. In this novel there are a bunch of bodies being buried in shallow graves at Vincent Plum Bail Bonds temporary location. Not good for business to have police roping off crime scene areas right in front of your trailer which is your office. Yeah the killer of these victims is sought but the greater thrust is Who will Stephanie pick; will it be the Hunky Ranger who can send her into orgasmic heaven or will it be Morelli who was Mr. Bad boy but is now a cop and can give her a night of passion that has her passing out from delight. These books have a rough plot of solve the crime and Stephanie has colorful friends like Lulu but mostly the book is about Stephanie's urges. Her quandary about which man to hook up with solely. She wants them both and has them both. As do we vicariously as the author describes the mounting passion and the trip to heaven. Personally I think she needs to settle down and choose Morelli, but she is still in the have your cake and eat it too phase. So she sleeps with both, mostly Morelli kinda in the roll of husband (or steady lover) but she also keeps taking a trip on the wild side with Ranger as he has the ability to blast her into outer space. There is debate in CAMP as to who she should choose. But there is not debate that even the thought of being with Ranger makes you weak in the knees. But Ranger is so transient that he is only good for a roll in the hay. Morelli is the one she should marry but not until she has the ability to quit getting it on with Ranger. She has to choose someday but the longer she puts it off the longer she has the best of both worlds and lives in orgasmic bliss. As to the story, it's incidental but yes she solves the mystery. I love the Stephanie Plum novels. I love the quirky way she brings in a bond jumper and I love her internal debate over who to choose and I love her descriptions of her trips to the heavenly delights.
Shock Wave by John Sandford.
John Sandford is one of myBook My Favorites authors. If you are a resident you too can sign up for Book My Favorites. This book is one of his Virgil Flowers series. Virgil Flowers is a spinoff of the Lucas Davenport books. Virgil Flowers is a detective in the Minneapolis area and works for Lucas Davenport. In this mystery someone is blowing up stuff and people, with bombs. Virgil is called in to solve the mystery. The readability of the book is more of an immersion than a finding out who did it. Yeah, Virgil solves the crime but the author brings Virgil to life. When Virgil will be up late at night he takes a nap in the afternoon, he eats breakfast (and you get to read what he orders). You feel like you are there, an unseen watcher. Virgil is a holdover from the 60's person, always wears a t shirt from some band. The people he interacts with always comment on his penchant for wearing these t shirts. Women for some reason desire him and he usually winds up woo'ing one of them.
PyeMart is planning to open a store in a small town. By opening this store it will destroy many small businesses, they just will not be able to compete. The rain runoff from the huge parking lot is threatening the river. PyeMart is a made up name but when Walmart came to Portage we had some of the same issues. There were lots of articles about how the runoff ruined Portage Creek. So, I'm thinking some of this is a change the name so we don't get sued, make a statement about big business and the environment, take a what if scenario and make a mystery of it. It's a good read.
"Kill Alex Cross" by James Patterson. There are times I'd like to kill Alex Cross or at least let him get beat up like he did in a previous book. For those of you who do not know Alex Cross, he is a Detective working in Washington DC and is a recurring character in James Patterson books. For those of you who do know him, do you find him as arrogant and full of himself as I do? In this book the President's children go missing. Even though there are literally thousands of intelligent agents from all sorts of agencies; Secret Service, FBI etc, Alex Cross thinks if only he could see the evidence he could solve this. Unfortunately he is James Patterson's protagonist so of course he solves the crimes and is the hero. That said, I did find this book to be a page turner and stayed up too late nights reading just one more chapter. In addition to the president's children missing there is also a terrorist group doing bad things. I'm not sure how I feel about books that detail how a terrorist group could poison the water, or sabotage the subway etc, on one hand it makes us more aware but on the other hand it hands over to a terrorist group a plan of attack. Course a lot of mysteries show you how to commit the perfect crime. The other thing that bugs me about Alex Cross is how he thinks he is the best dad in the world when really his nana is raising those children. He just shows up from time to time like a divorced dad with visitation rights. Keeping in mind this is a fictional character I give kudos to James Patterson, he elucidated a response out of me and made Alex Cross Real. His name is on many books in collaboration with another writer. Personally I think those books are written by those writers and James Patterson just had editorial rights. I like the Alex Cross novels best and I anxiously await his next Alex Cross Book.
Kill Alex Cross
Readers of my previous posts will know of my fondness for N. K. Jemisin and Joseph Heywood. Both published new books fairly recently, and I enthusiastically devoured them. Jemisin's finale to her Inheritance trilogy, The kingdom of gods, was just as delightful as its two predecessors; Heywood's latest installment in the Woods Cop series, Force of blood, was another enjoyable, exciting read (and I particularly liked the self-reference near the end).
Right now I'm rereading a classic by Jerry Mander, Four arguments for the elimination of television. It's just as compelling the second time around.
The kingdom of gods
It is always a pleasure to find an author whose books are so enjoyable that one finds oneself eagerly anticipating each new arrival. Six years ago, I read And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander, and I’ve been delightedly reading each and every book in the series. These appealing mysteries are set in nineteenth century Europe, and feature Lady Emily Ashton, a feisty heroine who is always stumbling across a mystery, and who contravenes the prescribed behavior for upper class young ladies in her pursuit of adventure, solutions, and an exciting, authentic life.
The most recent title, A Crimson Warning, has just been published. I’m waiting for an uninterrupted moment to curl up with a cup of tea, a cat, and this undoubtedly engaging book.
A crimson warning
Lisa Gardner had me guessing, backtracking and rethinking. She did it, she didn’t do it or how could she do it! In Love You More a female state trooper must fight the battle of her life for her survival and the survival of the most important person in the world to her. This is a passionate suspense that touches on the lives of many and the relationships that intertwine with them. Great story! I was hooked from the beginning and could not put it down!
This title comes in many formats. I'm sure you can find the right one for you.
Love you more
When the weather is sweltering and the mosquitoes are biting, it is tempting to explore the wilderness through a good book. Instead of venturing out for a hike, take a virtual trip with DNR Detective Grady Service, a Conservation Officer with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Service, the main character in Joseph Heywood’s Woods Cop mystery series, is a former Marine who patrols the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula, thwarting poachers and solving mysteries. The first book in the series is Ice Hunter; if you enjoy it, there are six more mysteries featuring Service, and KPL has them all.
These are intricately plotted mysteries that leave the reader with heightened appreciation for the natural beauty of Michigan’s wild areas.
Joseph Heywood lives in Portage.
Are you one of the chosen? Those are the words across the cover of the book above the haunting, crystal bluish-grey-green eyes of a child. She is Lisa, Queen of the Fairies.
When I started reading the book and discovered it might be a fantasical jaunt through a world of mystical, other worldly beings, I was leery. Not something I would normally read. But, the narration flip between Lisa from 15 years ago and Phoebe from today both trying to find some meaning in their lives kept me intrigued. I like stories written like that, so I read on. Before I knew it, I was half way done and couldn't put the book down. I'm not a devourer of books at all. I kind of nibble on them, a couple at a time. I'm a slow reader, at best. Jennifer McMahon, however, kept me reading deep into the early morning. Craftily detailed, suspenseful, strewn with the possibility of another world, but not so much so that it soured a reader not believing in such things, this book is both haunting and exciting at the same time. Caught between children's imaginations and the reality of life, the reader is easily (and ironically) sucked in.
I can't wait to read her other novels.
Don't Breathe a Word
Recently, I was reading the May/June 2011 issue of The Horn Book Magazine when an editorial caught my eye. Written by Roger Sutton, Editor in Chief for the magazine, the editorial, titled “Who Can We Count On?” raises several very good questions about reading in general, and specifically, about summertime reading by schoolchildren. These questions are certainly ones that teachers, parents, librarians, and other concerned adults should ponder. Here they are, with some of my own added:
• How many books should one read in a given time frame?
• Should we encourage schoolchildren to read?
• Does reading level (of the reader) really matter?
• Should summer reading schoolchildren be provided with incentives for reaching pre-set reading goals? And, who should set these goals?
• What types of incentives should be offered? (books, burgers, bicycles?)
• Should the number of books read count for anything?
As a librarian in a public library who works almost exclusively with children’s reading habits, I find these questions “right on the money” for insuring success in a summertime reading program or club. At the Kalamazoo Public Library, the summertime reading program for kids begins in early to mid-June, and continues until the last weekend in August. Somewhere close to twelve (12) weeks. The Library offers summer games for children ages birth-entering Kindergarten, for children entering 1st-4th grade, for ‘tweens who are entering grades five through seven, and for teens entering grades eight through graduation. (Don’t worry, adults, there’s a game for you, too!) Each of these games offers incentives at intervals along the way. Each of the children’s games encourages reading books at one’s pre-determined level (usually from the Accelerated Reader program in the schools). Each game encourages reading for a minimum of twenty (20) minutes a day, and also allows for reading at one’s level and for being read aloud to.
This year, incentives and games are going to be more “across the board” than they have been in the past. Readers will earn paperback books, tee shirts, stickers, and colorful beads at pre-set intervals.
Should you bring your child/encourage your child to come to the library this summer and read in one of the games? Absolutely! And, don’t forget to read yourself! What better role model than a reading parent?
Roger Sutton’s editorial concludes with this question: “…creating a second home on the floor of the children’s room…”. Won’t you join me this summer and read, read, read?
The Scent of Rain and Lightning was my first introduction to author Nancy Pickard. I originally read a review that places this in the “mystery” category. It is that, but it’s also more, and was very hard to put down since it keeps you guessing to the very end.
Jody Linder has grown up in the small plains town of Rose, Kansas, and one hot summer afternoon is puzzled and alarmed to look out her window and see three of her uncles approaching the house. They definitely have a purpose, and that is to tell Jody that Billy Crosby, the man who was convicted of murdering her father 23 years earlier is being released from prison. Not only that, Crosby will be returning to town, since his wife and son Collin, now a lawyer, live in Rose. At the same time that Jody’s father was murdered, her mother disappeared, but was never found, and was presumed dead.
Jody has always been surrounded by the love and prestige of the Lindner family in the community, especially since her parents were gone. So when questions begin to surface about the reliability of the information she has always been given about the terrible events 23 years earlier, she begins to investigate on her own. She also becomes reacquainted with the convicted man’s son, with whom she has always felt, even unwillingly, an invisible bond.
Characters in this story are strong and well defined. Another strength is the portrayal of the town and the community- it’s so well drawn that you feel as if you could go there and would recognize and know many of the residents and the places mentioned. The author lives in Kansas, so maybe that’s partly why. I’ll be searching out more titles by Nancy Pickard!
The Scent of Rain and Lightning
Sally Spencer’s latest mystery The Ring of Death blew me away! I had no idea who the suspect was until he was revealed. Nor, had I guessed what the ring of death was until D.C.I. Monika Panaitowski walked into it. Sally Spencer did a fantastic job of attaching readers to her British character, DCI Charlie Woodend and now, Monika is following in her beloved boss’s footsteps. In The Ring of Death Monika often asked herself “what would Charlie do?” But, in spite of the twist and turns, oppositions and supporters Monika proved herself to be a topnotch investigator.
I can't wait for Sally Spencer's next DCI Monika Paniatowsky Mystery! The Echoes of the Dead is due out this spring!
The Ring of Death
NoveList, a database of fiction authors, titles, book group discussion ideas, and read-alikes, gave me the suggestion to read Chris Bohjalian's novel The Double Bind. I had just completed Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse and wanted to find something similar in psychological thrill and storyline. The description sounded intriguing enough: Working at a homeless shelter, student Laurel Estabrook encounters Bobbie Crocker, a man with a history of mental illness and a box of secret photos, but when Bobbie dies suddenly, Laurel embarks on an obsessive search for the truth behind the photos. Then, when I found the story was an extension of the tragedy of Jay Gatsy, Myrtle and George Wilson, Daisy and Tom Buchanan and their lives, I was unsure. I love The Great Gatsby so much that I thought any iteration or abandonment of the original dreams and disasters in the story would be an abhoration.
And, often as I read, I kept feeling this way. It seemed like the author was just trying too hard to force a story of a child of Daisy's who becomes homeless leaving behind a legacy of incriminating photos. Then, I would read a section which gave insight into the psyche of the homeless or schizophrenic. Somehow, I kept reading, and by the last three or four pages, I was ready to skim over parts of the book again looking for the clues I might have missed in my earlier distraction.
The Double Bind
Yup. And, it appears, for a thirteen-year-old middle school 8th grader, a darn good one. Theo’s family are all lawyers. His Dad, real estate things. His Mom, abuse cases. His Uncle Ike, disbarred but doing income tax things. Theo’s classmates and schoolmates ask him questions about their brother’s getting arrested for marijuana, about which parent should a child live within a divorce case, about what can be done with an illegal immigrant who…
OOPS! I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot of John Grisham’s newest thriller titled Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer. Theo lives in a small town with many “real” lawyers, including his family as described above. He even fancies himself as an attorney, sort of. And, then, the unlikely happens. A murder is committed, and the defendant is being tried by a local judge, who just happens to be Theo’s friend. At least, as much of a friend as a sitting judge can be to a kid in the 8th grade. Theo’s favorite class in school is Government, and he finagles seats for his classmates so that they can attend the opening day of this murder trial. And, the excitement begins.
Author John Grisham’s titles for adults are known for their intrigue and suspense, a fact that has made him a #1 international best-selling author. He is certainly the master of the legal thriller. When I heard that he had written a book for younger readers (and I’d say late elementary age through middle school), I thought, “yeah, right”. John Grisham can’t write a book for children! Well, friends, guess what? He can, and he has.
Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer is for kids and it is every bit as exciting as the author’s adult novels. I started this book yesterday, and finished it today…it kept me guessing and kept me turning pages as I read (almost skimmed some parts, I was so interested) what certainly could become a best-seller for children, and maybe even an award winner!
Thanks, John Grisham! But, you didn’t finish the story. A sequel maybe?
Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer
I’ve just finished reading Bryan Gruley’s newest mystery and I’m still shivering with cold! All the folks from Starvation Lake are back in this new book, still playing hockey, still making ends meet in small-town Michigan, still getting out the news whether it’s in the weekly paper or around Audrey’s diner tables.
The Hanging Tree hits bookstore shelves August 3, but if you wait a few days you can meet the author and buy your book in person. Bryan Gruley will be in Kalamazoo on Saturday, August 7, 2:00 p.m. at the Central Library to give us the backstory behind these two terrific mysteries.
When he’s not writing about Starvation Lake, Bryan Gruley is the Chicago bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal; he’s also a former reporter for the Kalamazoo Gazette. Don’t miss this chance to meet Brian, buy a book from our good friends at Michigan News Agency, and hear all about our new friends in Starvation.
The Hanging Tree
Suppose an uncle who supposedly died in the London Blitz appeared out of nowhere, and told you he had been locked inside an Irish prison for the last 30 years, for a crime he didn’t commit? That’s the beginning of this thriller by British author Robert Goddard, and in Goddard’s world, there are unforseen twists and turns aplenty.
The story begins in 1976, when young Stephen Swan’s 68 year old uncle Eldritch shows up in England, claiming to have been wrongly accused of spying. Now ill, Eldritch persuades Stephen to try and help him track down a missing Picasso painting, worth an untold fortune to the family who owned it prior to World War II. The story alternates between Stephen’s narration in 1976, and Eldritch’s story, set in the 1940’s, when he was a cocky young man involved in profitable but somewhat shady activities. Secrets buried in the past are affecting current generations, and Eldritch hopes to right old wrongs.
This story of espionage and suspense kept me guessing until the final pages. Give Goddard a try if you like well written historical mysteries, with plenty of action and atmosphere.
A Long Time Coming: a novel
I hope I look this good when I am 80! The character I’m referring to is Nancy Drew, who made her debut in 1930, at the tender age of 16 years. Nancy Drew lived “the life” in Midwestern River Heights, a town I always thought might be a Chicago suburb, but I have no proof that it could be. Nancy had it all: an understanding father who gave her free rein, a dashing blue convertible roadster (this morphed into a Mustang-type car in later editions, and then into a hybrid in very recent updates), a housekeeper who was a great cook and who took the best of care of Nancy and her widowed father, lawyer Carson Drew, and two friends, cousins Bess Marvin and Georgia (George) Fayne who supported Nancy in all of her adventures. Speaking of Nancy’s friends, I remember a very early story where Nancy visited her friend Helen Corning, at a lake resort/campground/association type place. There was a definite suggestion of affluence in these stories. There was also the element of boyfriends for each of the girls.
I always thought that the “author” of the Nancy Drew books was Carolyn Keene... a single, female type person with a wonderful gift for writing. As an adult, I learned that Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym, often for a team of ghostwriters employed by the actual creator of the series, Edward Stratemeyer. It seems that Stratemeyer himself wrote outlines and plot summaries for the stories, and then found writers to complete the stories, for a one-time fee of $50-$250. All copyright remained with the syndicate. Stratemeyer also owned the pseudonyms.
I began reading Nancy Drew after I finished the Bobbsey Twins (also a creation of the Stratemeyer Syndicate). I would get the books as gifts, and devour them quickly, and often. I would trade with girl friends so that I didn’t have to wait for the next occasion to get another book. So, I was about in third or fourth grade, and was already an avid library user. But, I couldn’t find my newest favorite books at the library! An article I read by Meghan O’Rourke in an issue of The New Yorker from 2004 said that “the Stratemeyer Syndicate came under attack from educators and librarians from the start.” The article continues with calling series published by the Syndicate “tawdry, sensationalist work taking children away from books of moral or instructional value.” I knew that my teachers didn’t allow me to do required book reports on Nancy Drew titles, but sure didn’t understand why.
I have always said that if I hadn’t read series books (Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames [not a Stratemeyer series]) that I wouldn’t be the reader that I am today. I see these books as stepping stones to more sophisticated literature…and I’ve read them all from Treasure Island to Tom Sawyer to Gulliver’s Travels to... I could go on and on. I’ve read biographies, and loved them. I’ve read romances, mysteries, science fiction, and fantasy (Brian Jacques’ Redwall series was wonderful)… I’ve read Newbery Award winners and nonfiction and...
Nancy Drew titles have been updated, and modernized and have had mentions of racism/sexism removed. Why have they survived? Back to Meghan O’Rourke’s article, it’s because of the re-writes, and because “as Nancy has aged, children’s book publishing has become more sensitive to psychological issues”, and Nancy now “acknowledges her flaws, and shows herself to be a more inclusive soul than the old Nancy.”
I sure wouldn’t hesitate to re-read these books, even now. And, to me, it would be a good way of saying to Nancy Drew and friends, “Happy Birthday”!
It is always gratifying to emerse oneself into a totally alien culture and become so absorbed into that world that one feels that one could navigate with ease any twists and turns that might come up while one is there. That is the feeling that I get when I read the wonderful series of mysteries by the British author Barbara Nadel featuring Turkist police inspector Cetin Ikmen. I know in the back of my mind that I would be completely out of my element in the palaces and the back alleys of Istanbul, but Nadel paints such a complete picture of these places that I feel that I would be right at home, and her policeman is such an ethical and competent detective that I feel that I would love to bump into him and have a conversation about his latest case or his large family (9 children) or his Albanian mother who is reputed to have had magical powers which Ikmen has inherited, or any number of topics about which he is knowledgeable.
The Ikmen series runs to at least 9 titles and I am sure there are more to come. They are in cronological order but it is possible to wade in anywhere and navigate the story without getting lost and wishing that you could have read the series in order.
A particularily delightful story which shows off all the talents of Cetin Ikmen is Death by Design. The action takes place in both Istanbul, Turkey and London, England. The plot involves the smuggling and enslaving of illegal aliens to work in nightmarish conditions producing counterfeit goods. The descriptions of the conditions of these illegal workplaces and of the efforts to close them down are some of the most compelling fictional narratives that I have read in a long time.
When I look for "something to read" I want a character and a setting that I would like to spend a good deal of time with. Nadel's Inspector Ikmen series meets that standard in every way.
Death by Design
Three compelling but unrelated stories unfurl in alternating chapters. The deftly drawn characters of Await Your Reply share just one common thread—the absence of any attachment to their personal histories. Gradually, the author injects a smattering of clues, subtle and easily overlooked, and eventually weaves a stunning web of connections between these people and their unraveling lives.
Dan Chaon employs several creative devices to render his writing unique, but time is the premiere trickster. Jumbled sequences bring to mind the dazzling film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or the artful Memento, both of which whipsaw the viewer's sense of logic. But this literary telling progresses smoothly and most often masquerades as linear. A puzzling story whose ending happens before its beginning is bound to test the readers’ wit!
This is a "genre-bending" novel about the fragile nature of identity, an expose of technology’s ruinous potential, a masterful, if sobering, treatment of alienation, and a picture of the horrors that can befall people who lose their grounding---by chance or by choice.
Dan Chaon says his inspiration sprang from some favorite classics read in childhood, including some with a supernatural bent. I believe this chilling, contemporary spin on timeless themes is remarkable and fresh.
If you read this book, I’ll await your reply. It cries out to be discussed!
Await Your Reply