Relic

Authors: Douglas Preston & Lincoln Childrelic
Publisher: Tor
Date: 1995
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
ISBN: 9780812543261
Price: 7.99
Number of Pages: 468
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, E-Book, Audio

Rating Scale: 5Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://www.prestonchild.com/

http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/2009/05/interview-with-douglas-preston-and.html

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/douglas-preston/relic/

http://www.ew.com/article/2012/09/15/weekend-book-pick-relic-by-douglas-preston-and-lincoln-child

Reader’s Annotations

A monster is loose and no one is safe.

Plot Summary

This story takes place at the New York Natural History Museum, where grisly murders are beginning to take place. The first of which are two boys that have been brutally murdered, with their hypothalamus ripped out. This draws the attention of the police department, led by Lieutenant D’Agosta. The FBI also gets involved, as agent Pendergast begins to lead the team. Margo, a botanist at the museum, begins to get involved and suspects a connection between the murders and a shipment from the Amazon. Despite the murders, the museum goes ahead with the big debut of their supernatural exhibit but things quickly turn for the worse when more bodies are discovered.

Critical Evaluation

I think this is a fantastic book. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. It did have some science background thrown in, but it didn’t bother me that much. People often compare this to Michael Crichton, but I think this book does a better job of balancing the more science-heavy aspects with the suspense and horror of the story. The last quarter of the book is one of the most exciting final acts I’ve read in a long time. While the characters aren’t as well developed as I would like, I think the story more than makes up for this. The monster is also really unique and the twist at the end was well-done and interesting. I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Appeal Factors

Fast-paced, suspenseful, gritty

Read-alikes

Contest by Matthew Reilly
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Awards & Lists

Garden State Teen Book Awards (New Jersey): Fiction (Grades 9-12)
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults: 1996

Discussion Ideas

• Discuss the character of Whittlesey and his transformation.
• Discuss the twist ending and why the authors chose to have the audience learn about it and not the characters.

Justification of Selection

I was interested in reading something suspenseful and a little adventurous. This book, although a little more horror than I wanted, immediately caught my eye. The premise sounded creepy and a lot of fun. I liked the idea of it being set in a museum.

Where the Heart Is

Author: Billie Lettswhereheart
Publisher: Warner Books
Date: 1995
Genre: Women’s Fiction
ISBN: 9780446672214
Price: 12.00
Number of Pages: 358
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, E-Book, Audio

Rating Scale: 5Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/authors/billie-letts/

http://www.readersread.com/features/billieletts2.htm

Links to Reviews

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-446-51972-4

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/billie-letts/where-the-heart-is/

Reader’s Annotations

Novalee is 17, pregnant and has just been deserted by her no-good boyfriend. Broke and with nowhere to go, Novalee must find a way to survive and take care of her baby.

Plot Summary

This is the story of Novalee Nation, a pregnant 17-year-old girl who is driving across country with her boyfriend, Willy Jack. During the trip, the couple stop at a Walmart somewhere in Oklahoma so that Novalee can use the restroom. However, when she comes out of the store, she finds that Willy Jack has taken off. Novalee is stranded in a new state with almost no money and a baby on the way. With nowhere to go, she spends the day at Walmart and upon the store closing, she panics and ends up getting locked in overnight. With little options, she ends up living in the store for a period of time. During her stay she meets several people, including Sister Husband, Moses Whitecotton, Benny Goodluck and Forney Hull, who she becomes friendly with. One night, she goes into labor while she is locked in the store, but is thankfully rescued by Forney who had earlier that day discovered her secret. After spending some time in the hospital, Novalee and her baby move in with Sister Husband. The book is also interspersed with Willy Jack’s downward journey into jail, stardom and alcoholism. As Novalee raises her child, she comes to find that she is not alone and that family and a home is what you make of it.

Critical Evaluation

Without a doubt, the novel’s greatest strength lies with its wonderfully eccentric characters. All of the main characters are well-developed. There is not a one-dimensional character in the bunch. Sister Husband, Forney Hull, Moses Whitecotton, Benny Goodluck and Lexie Coop are all extremely well drawn with interesting backstories. They each have a touch of darkness in their lives but have managed to overcome it, just like Novalee. Alcoholism plays a big role in the novel, especially with Willy Jack, Sister Husband and Forney Hull, each with a unique viewpoint of the disease. Willy Jack’s journey throughout the book shows his dissent into alcoholism and his eventual self-destruction. While Sister Husband is a recovering alcoholic, who has managed to move on and devotes her life to helping others. Forney is still different, as he must take care of his sister who struggles with the disease. All of these characters show the destruction in can reign down and how it can be overcome with strength of character. These issues are only a small part of their stories. They never fall into cliché or predictableness. Each character brings a unique viewpoint to the novel and they all play an important role in Novalee’s journey to adulthood and happiness. Like Novalee, you become attached to these characters and it is very hard letting them go when you finish the novel. Very few novels succeed in making their characters come alive off the page like this.

Appeal Factors

Heartwarming, upbeat, character-driven

Read-alikes

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand
Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani

Awards & Lists

Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award (Rosie Award)
Oklahoma Book Awards: Fiction category
Oprah’s Book Club
Walker Percy Award

Discussion Ideas

• Discuss the theme of home in the novel.
• Discuss Willy Jack and why his story was included in the novel.

Justification of Selection

Women’s fiction is not a genre that I had read much in, so I was looking for a title and this one caught my eye. Novalee sounded like an interesting character and after reading the first page I was immediately hooked.

Batman: The Killing Joke

Author: Alan Moorebatman
Illustrator: Brian Bolland
Publisher: DC Comics
Date: 1988
Genre: Graphic Novel, Superhero Comics
ISBN: 9780930289454
Price: $17.99
Number of Pages: 48
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book

Rating: 5Q, 5P

Author’s Website & Interviews

http://www.alanmoorefansite.com/

https://slovobooks.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/last-alan-moore-interview/

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/21/superheroes-cultural-catastrophe-alan-moore-comics-watchmen

Links to Reviews

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/batman-alan-moore/1000193854?ean=9781401216672

http://www.ign.com/articles/2005/05/25/batman-the-killing-joke-review

Readers Annotation

The Joker has escaped and on the loose. No one in Gotham is safe, including those Batman cares about.

Plot Summary

The graphic novel begins with Batman visiting Joker in Arkham’s Asylum. During their conversation, Batman realizes that he is an imposter and that the real Joker is on the loose. The real Joker buys an old, dilapidated amusement park, where he has plans for his next attack. Interspersed with the Joker’s machinations, we get to see his background and how he became the Joker. While Batman is following his trail, the Joker comes to Commissioner Gordon’s house, shoots his daughter Barbara, and kidnaps Gordon. Gordon is taken to the amusement park, where he is mentally tortured in the hopes that it will push him to insanity and prove Joker’s point that anyone can be driven insane. Batman visits Barbara and discovers that Gordon is missing. Batman attempts to find Gordon and put a stop to the Joker.

Critical Evaluation

The Killing Joke is one of the best graphic novels ever written. Alan Moore has helped to legitimize graphic novels as a literary form. The book isn’t very long, but he manages to pack in a lot of allusion and symbolism. Moore delves into the Joker’s backstory, one of the first and only writers to do so. In these brief scenes, he depicts a desperate man who is trying to provide for himself and his wife as a comedian by hasn’t had any success. The scenes are whitewashed to signal that these are flashbacks and also to show how mundane his life was. The red that is shown in the flashbacks symbolizes the villain that he will later become, as it is the same color of the red hood he wears that eventually leads him to become the Joker. The color in the flashbacks grows progressively more dominant up through the final frames of the flashbacks, which show the newly created Joker in full color. The Joker’s backstory is an attempt to humanize him and create a stronger duality between Batman and him. Moore consistently highlights their similarities throughout the entire graphic novel. The constant focus on people’s hands helps symbolize this. Moore makes it clear with the end of the novel, which finishes on an ambiguous note, that Batman and the Joker are alike in some key ways and that Batman is really only a few steps away from being the Joker.

Appeal Factors

Dark, Bleak, Disturbing, Suspenseful

Read-alikes

A Death of the Family by Scott Snyder
Batman: Year One by Frank Miller

Awards & Lists

Eisner Awards: Best Graphic Album – New
Harvey Awards: Best Graphic Album – Original

Discussion Ideas

• Discussion of the various portrayals of the Joker
• Discussion of the duality of Batman and the Joker

Justification of Selection

This is another book that my husband has been trying to get me to read. I enjoyed Moore’s Watchmen and I love Batman, so I decided to give this a shot.

The Shining

Book: The Shiningshining

Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Doubleday
Date: 1977
Genre: Horror
ISBN: 9780345806789
Price: $7.99
Number of Pages: 683
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 3Q, 3P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://stephenking.com/

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/stephen-king-the-rolling-stone-interview-20141031

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/stephen-king/the-shining/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shining-stephen-king/1100292429?ean=9780345806789

Readers Annotation

Jack Torrence has found the perfect working situation: acting as caretaker for a swanky hotel during the winter with his wife and son while having time to write his new book. However, the hotel is more than what it seems, and his perfect situation turns into a living nightmare.

Plot Summary

After getting fired from his teaching job for assaulting a student, Jack Torrence and his wife Wendy and son Danny are in financial straits. Jack needs to find a new job, and with his teaching career ruined, he turns to a winter caretaker position for the Overlook Hotel. It seems like the ideal situation, as he can bring his family with him and work on his novel during his stay. Jack also hopes he can repair his rocky marriage and bond with his troubled son, Danny, whose arm he accidently broke during a drunken argument. However, Jack’s hopes begin to dwindle as a sinister presence in the hotel begins to play with his mind. Danny, who has been told that he has “the shining,” a form of psychic power, is also being affected by the hotel, as he sees horrifying images from the hotel’s troubled past. Danny relies on his imaginary friend Tony to get him through these experiences. What Danny and his parents don’t understand is that his power is feeding the hotel’s sinister spirits. As the winter progresses, Jack begins to decline rapidly and things go from bad to worse for the Torrence family.

Critical Evaluation

Everyone knows that King is a master of the horror genre, and “The Shining” is no exception. The novel stands up as one of his scariest and well-written stories. One of the reasons for this is that he crafts interestingly flawed characters, especially Jack, who struggles with his inner demons throughout the book. Jack is far from being a cut-and-dry hero or villain. Instead, we get to see both his good and bad qualities. Part of the brilliance of the novel is that we get to see Jack’s slow deterioration into madness, but still manage to see glimpses of his humanity and love for his son. None of the characters ever fall into a stereotype, which would have been easy to do, especially for Wendy. At first, you think she’s just another abused housewife. However, as the novel goes on, you get to see her inner strength. She has her own faults, one of which being her inability to take action against her husband. As things get more desprate at the hotel, however, Wendy is able to overcome this in order to protect her son. With Danny, King writes convincingly from a child’s perspective. It is immediately apparent that Danny is special, but he is also just a confused kid who is struggling to understand his powers. Danny’s young age and lack of awareness also creates more suspense, as the readers are more aware of what is going on than he is. King shows with these characters that you can have fully realized characters in the horror genre without giving up the scares.

Appeal Factors

Atmospheric; Creepy; Menacing; Suspenseful

Read-alikes

Starter House by Sonja Condit

Saint Odd by Dean Koontz

Discussion Ideas

  • Discuss the Kubrick movie and how the book is different
  • Discuss the negative effects of isolation on the psyche

Justification of Selection

There is a reason Stephen King has been a mainstay for so many years. He is a master at the horror genre and The Shining holds as one of his best.

The Spellman Files #1

Author: Lisa Lutzspellmen
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: 2007
Genre: Humor, Mystery
ISBN: 9781416532392
Price: $25
Number of Pages: 353
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 3Q, 3P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://lisalutz.com/

http://www.mybookishways.com/2013/07/interview-lisa-lutz-author-of-the-last-word-the-spellman-files.html

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/lisa-lutz/the-spellman-files/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4165-3239-2

Reader’s Annotation

A family full of P.I’s. What could possibly go wrong?

Plot Summary

This is a light-hearted book focuses on the Spellman family that owns a PI firm. The oldest daughter, Izzy, is the main character and the story is told from her point of view. It is very non-linear, with the story told mostly through flashbacks, focusing on her childhood and adult years working in the firm. We learn that Izzy has had a very troubled life, as she has had many run-ins with the law and was on a very destructive path until she realized that her little sister, Rae, was beginning to act like her. The bulk of the story is about the family’s shenanigans in spying on each other. The novel, however, is framed by Rae’s disappearance and Izzy is looking back on how it came to be.

Critical Evaluation

This book wasn’t quite what I expected. I had expected more of a mystery with eccentric characters, such as Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells series. However, the central mystery in this book is really non-existent. The story is really about the family and their relationships with each other. The book is extremely funny, but the character of Izzy began to wear thin on me after a while. I felt like her character didn’t develop as fast as I would like. Her character grows annoying and downright crazy toward the end of the book. I especially didn’t like her relationship with Daniel and how she was pretending to be something she wasn’t. I understood at first, but as they grew closer, I felt like it didn’t make sense to keep her profession a secret. The little sister was along similar lines in that I liked her at first but she began to grow more obnoxious as the novel progressed. Her antics were supposed to be funny but really just got on my nerves. However, I think it was a well-written book overall. It just wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, and that’s colored my opinion of it somewhat.

Appeal Factors

Funny, upbeat, fast-paced

Read-alikes

The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot
One for the Money by Janet Evanovitch

Awards & Lists

Alex Award: 2008

Discussion Ideas

• Discuss the relationship between Izzy and Rae.
• Discuss Izzy as a character.
• Discuss the genre. Is the book really a mystery?

Justification of Selection

I’m not very familiar with mysteries and I wanted to try different ones out. This one caught my eye because of its humorous tone. It reminded me of Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells mysteries, which I loved.

Storm Front (Dresden Files #1)

Author: Jim Butcherstorm
Publisher: Roc
Date: 2000
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Mystery
ISBN: 9780451457813
Price: $9.99
Number of Pages: 322
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 3Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://www.jim-butcher.com/

http://www.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/blogcritics/article/The-Gencon-Files-Interview-with-Jim-Butcher-5689106.php

Links to Reviews

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/features/jim-butchers-dresden-files/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/storm-front-jim-butcher/1100315481?ean=9780451457813

Reader’s Annotation

A P.I who just happens to be a wizard. Good thing Harry Dresden is on the case.

Plot Summary

It is just another day for Harry Dresden at his PI office when he receives a mysterious phone call from a frightened woman. She seems to have an idea that Harry is a wizard, which immediately intrigues him. He makes an appointment for her to come by to discuss her case. However, almost immediately, he is called away to assist the police in a murder case. He is a consultant for the police on unexplained or paranormal cases. They do not know that he is a wizard but know he has a knowledge in the occult. He arrives at the scene of the case and finds the murder of a man and woman whose hearts had exploded. He knows immediately that this is the work of a powerful wizard but hide his true findings and investigation from the police. He is quickly accosted by a mob lord and threatened not to pursue the case. Harry decides to keep investigating and takes the woman’s case as well. As he investigates further, he begins to realize that there’s more to the cases than he thought and that his life and those around him are in danger.

Critical Evaluation

This isn’t normally the type of book I would read. I’m usually not interested in hard-boiled detective stories, but I found myself liking this book. Harry is an interesting character. I enjoyed his sense of humor and how tough he could be. The fantastical elements are handled well and don’t feel overdone. The reader slowly learns about the world rather than through a massive exposition dump at the beginning of the novel. I also liked some of the side characters, such as Karrin Murphy, who had a nice rapport with Harry. The writing was very straight-forward and simplistic, which I thought fit with the overall tone and theme of the book. Overall, I thought it was a nice change of pace. Butcher did a wonderful job mixing the fantasy and mystery genres.

Appeal Factors

Fast-paced, quirky, YA appeal

Read-alikes

Moon Over SoHo by Ben Aaronovitch
Hot Lead, Cold Iron by Ari Marmell

Discussion Ideas

• Discuss the role of women in the novel.
• Discuss the genres of fantasy and mystery. Is Butcher successful in blending the two?

Justification of Selection

I don’t read a lot of fantasy nor mystery, so I thought this would be a good way to get both. It sounded like a very interesting blend of the two and Harry seemed like a very interesting character. They are somewhat popular in my school library, so I thought I would give it a try.

Amber Beach

Author: Elizabeth Lowellamber
Publisher: Avon Books
Date: 1997
Genre: Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 9780380973170
Price: $7.99
Number of Pages: 387
Available Formats: Hardback, Paper back, E-book, Audio

Rating: 2Q, 4P

Links to Author’s Website and Interviews

http://elizabethlowell.com/

http://www.writerswrite.com/journal/sep00/a-conversation-with-elizabeth-lowell-9001

Links to Reviews

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-380-97317-0

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/elizabeth-lowell/amber-beach/

Reader’s Annotation

Honor’s brother is missing and a mysterious stranger has just arrived.

Plot Summary

This book is from the perspective of Honor Donovan, a jewelry designer who has come to the state of Washington to search for her missing brother. Her brother Kyle has gone missing under suspicious circumstances as a shipment of priceless amber has disappeared with him. Honor is determined to find her brother, despite her family’s protests. Even though she doesn’t like boats, she hires a boating and fishing guide to teach her how so she can search the surrounding islands. The guide ends up being Jake who, unbeknownst to Honor, is also looking for Kyle and the missing amber. Jake believes Kyle betrayed him by taking the amber and wants revenge. However, he doesn’t expect to fall in love with Honor. The two grow closer, despite the fact that they are trying to conceal their true motivations.

Critical Evaluation

I wasn’t a huge fan of how this book turned out. I didn’t mind Honor as a character, but I what I didn’t like was how she was always in need of rescuing by Jake. I felt like Jake was a bit misogynistic at times, especially at the end of the novel. I also didn’t enjoy how much boating and fishing exposition was included. I felt like it slowed the pacing and was incredibly boring. Even the plot about the amber got to be a little too fact-heavy and I found myself skimming some of the detail. I also felt that the ending was a little anti-climactic. I felt like there was a lot of buildup and little payoff. The actual romance scenes were decent, but I don’t think I will read any other books by this author.

Appeal Factors

Fast-paced, suspenseful, steamy

Read-alikes

The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann
Deadline by Sandra Brown

Discussion Ideas

• Discuss the amber room and the historical details of the novel.
• Discuss the role of women in the novel.

Justification of Selection

This was the romance group’s selection. I was interested in reading another romance author and expanding my horizon.