Ironskin by Tina Connelly

ironskin$24.99, 304 pages, Steampunk

Author’s Website

Reviews:

Publisher’s Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

This book is the first in a trilogy and also the debut novel for author Tina Connolly.  Jane wears an iron mask to cover the scar on her cheek.  This scar that was inflicted upon her by the Fey during the Great War…nearly 5 years ago.  When Jane becomes a governess to care for Edward’s child, Dorie, the mysteries begin to unfold.  And while the young Jane fills her days caring for Dorie, she begins to discover that she has developed feelings for Edwards.  And yet….so many questions remain in this tale dubbed a mix between Jane Eyre and Beauty and the Beast.  What exactly does Edward do with the women who visit him and leave so much more beautiful?  How had the fey substance inflicted Dorie and Jane?  Will Jane choose to be with Edward no matter the cost?

An interesting and intriguing tale, this book was my first sample from the ever-popular steampunk genre.  I had high expectations after reading some of the reviews and I find this book applicable for even young adults.  The story is one of sadness, romance and risk.  Just how far will Jane go to remove the scar inflicted upon her?

Appeal Factors: Character-Driven, Nostalgic, Dramatic

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include:  Crown of Stars by Kate Elliott, Shade by Richard Knaak and The Gates of Sleep by Mercedes Lackey (accessed May 10, 2013).

Book Trailer

This book joined my reading list after it was selected as one of our five required reading selections for the semester.  This was my first foray into the steampunk genre.

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Blankets by Craig Thompson

blankets$29.95, 592 pages, Non-Fiction Graphic Novel/ Biographies & Memoirs

The story of two brothers growing up in a conservative home discovering life and love.

Author’s Blog

Reviews:

Grovel Graphic Novel Blog

NY Times

This book is an autobiographical story from author Craig Thompson.  Growing up in rural and snowy Wisconsin, Craig and his brother Phil are raised with in a Christian home.  When Craig meets Raina at a church camp, they develop a relationship and begin to question their beliefs and a future life together.  Eventually, Craig begins to question his Christian beliefs and challenges many of the truths he was taught growing up.  This graphic novel ultimately serves as a means for Craig to express to his family his truth beliefs and choices.

This graphic novel was well illustrated and rather enjoyable.  Somewhat overwhelmed by its size and length, I was skeptical when I first began reading it.  I thought the story and characters were very well developed.  I would be curious to learn about Craig’s relationship with his parents today…after he made his choices and turned away from the faith in which he was raised.

Appeal Factors: Character-Driven, Spiritual, Homespun

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include:  Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, I Never Liked You by Chester Brown and Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man by John Porcellino (accessed May 4, 2013).

Awards: Named #1 on Time Magazine’s 2003 Best Comics List and #8 to list of Best Comics of the Decade list and Three
Harvey Awards for Best Artist, Best Graphic Album of Original Work, and Best Cartoonist; and Two Eisner Awards for Best Graphic Album and Best Writer/Artist

Discussion Questions

After visiting several of the graphic novel websites recommended through readers’ advisory websites, I saw this book featured multiple times.

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My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

images$17.95, 224 pages, Non-Fiction Graphic Novel

Jeffrey Dahmer’s high school classmate recalls shared experiences with the infamous serial killer.

Author’s Website

Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

The Comic Journal Review

Do you ever wonder about someone’s everyday life before they decide to commit unthinkable murders?  Derf Backderf was a high-school classmate of Jeffrey Dahmer and created a graphic novel depicting their life during high school.  From classes shared to car rides given and a few odd exchanges, the story reveals glimpses into what may have contributed to Dahmer’s choices.

This graphic novel turned out to be quite a fascinating read.  While I will never understand the motives behind Dahmer’s gruesome actions, the book did shed some light on his family situation and the role of his parents played (or more aptly, did not play) in his rearing.

Appeal Factors: Fast-Paced, Gruesome, Thought-Provoking

Read-alikes for this book include:  Black Hole by Charles Burns and Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen

Selected as a 2013 Alex Award winner by American Library Association

School Library Journal Blog

I saw this book featured on the 2013 Alex Award Winners list and was interested.  When Dr. Bodart mentioned she was reading it during one of our online class sessions, I decided to read it, as well.

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The Dinner by Herman Koch

dinner $24.00, 304 pages, Mystery-Thriller-Suspense

A suspenseful mystery unfolds over the course of two couples sharing dinner.

Author’s Website

Reviews:

NY Times

Two couples sit down to an elegant and expensive dinner at a restaurant in Amsterdam.  The men are brothers and throughout the many courses of dinner, a mystery unfolds.  The story involves the sons of these couples and choices they made.  A shameful crime has occurred and the atrocity was videotaped on a cellular phone.  It becomes evident the each set of parents are devoted to their own sons.  And yet….how will they deal with the pressing matter at hand?

I enjoyed the suspense behind this book.  I read and continued to guess at what the parents were avoiding.  I found it incredible that the entire book is set throughout the course of a single dinner.  Without spoiling the ending, I found the crime that was revealed tragic and incredibly sad.  Overall, the book was interesting….not great.  It makes a reader question the lengths they would go to help a child in desperate need of parenting and help.

Appeal Factors: Suspenseful, Sobering, Dramatic

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include: Engleby by Sebastian Faulks, Next by James Hynes and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (accessed May 4, 2013).

Amazon Best Book of the Month, February 2013
11 Weeks on NPR Bestseller List

Discussion Questions

After finishing Gone Girl for this class, I read several book reviews that touted The Dinner as the “European Gone Girl.”  A friend also posted a review of this book on Goodreads and I was intrigued.  During my site evaluation assignment for this course, the title was recommended to me at as a readalike for Gone Girl.

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The Boyfriend by Thomas Perry

boyfriend $25.00, 288 pages, Suspense/Mystery Fiction

A homicide detective tracks a serial killer who changes locations and targets high-end call girls.

Author’s Website

Reviews:

NY Times

Kirkus Reviews

Jack Till is a homicide detective who has been hired by a family after their daughter is discovered dead.  What unfolds is a city-to-city adventure in which Till is tracking a serial killer.  The victims are high-end prostitutes…but are they really the target?  Just when Till thinks he has the suspect in his grip, he discovers he is a few steps behind.  The mystery involves layers of research and the realization of other victims throughout the cities Till visits.

I thoroughly enjoyed this new book from suspense author Thomas Perry.  I loved the fast pace, change of location and the main character of Jack Till.  Easy to read and hard to put down, this book leaves you guessing to the end.  In fact, I had to read the ending twice!

Appeal Factors: Fast-Paced, Suspenseful, High-Drama

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include:  Michael Connelly’s The Scarecrow, Linda Howard’s Killing Time and Blood Game by Iris Johansen. (accessed May 4, 2013).

Read Chapter 1

I chose this book after viewing it under the “Coming Soon” books on the front page of our library district’s website.   The brief synopsis grabbed me and I was hooked.

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The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

jacketCAF9XH41 $14.00, 336 pages, Christian Fiction

A plane crash forces strangers Ben and Ashley to work together to save their lives.

Author’s Website

Reviews:

The Examiner

Book Reporter

A snowstorm cancels many outgoing commercial planes in the Salt Lake City area.  Dr. Ben Payne charters a small single-engine plane in an attempt to quickly get home.  He befriends Ashley in the airport terminal and invites her to hop a ride with him as she is desperate to get home for her wedding festivities.  The plane crashes and an incredible story of survival unfolds as relationships are questioned and lives are at stake.

I love a good survival story and was not disappointed in this book from Charles Martin.  I especially enjoyed the dynamics between Ashley and Ben and how they worked together to overcome insurmountable odds.  A tad far-fetched, the ending developed with a bit of a twist.

Appeal Factors: Fast-Paced, Plot-Driven,  Suspenseful

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include: Broken Wings by Terri Blackstock, The Note by Angela Hunt and The Princess by Lori Wick (accessed May 4, 2013).

Book Reading Guide

I chose this book after it was recommend by a close friend.  She loved the story and thought I would, as well.  A fan of Christian fiction, I welcomed the opportunity.

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Mice by Gordon Reece

41t4142W7zL $24.95, 336 pages, Mystery-Fiction

Shelly and her mom seek privacy after a bullying incident…and yet, they are attacked once again.

Author’s Website

Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

The New Yorker

After being horrifically bullied by classmates, Shelley and her mom begin a new life in the countryside.  The parents divorce, Shelley is left with deep scars, and the teenager and her mom start life anew.  Homeschooled and with a simple routine, Shelley’s new life seems both protected and secure….until she and her mom are visited by a stranger one night.  What unfolds is a suspenseful story of fear, horror and working to protect the ones you love.

I really enjoyed this book and was quite surprised.  I have never been drawn to stories about bullying as I find it despicable how mean kids can be to one another.  And yet, I was drawn to Shelley and found myself rooting for her, her mother and their new life together.

Appeal Factors: Character-Driven, Issue-Oriented, Suspenseful

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Godless by Pete Hautman and Bystander by James Preller (accessed May 4, 2013).

Reading Guide

I selected this book after I saw it on our library district’s website.  I was intrigued by the suspense and mystery angle.  Having never heard of the author, I was curious to try something new.

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Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

51-TsC7KuxL $26.00, 320 pages, Women’s Fiction- Medical

Two women befriend one another and learn their paths were meant to cross.

Author’s Website

Reviews:

USA Today

Book Reporter

When Beth and Olivia meet by accident and befriend one another, they discover that their relationship was meant to be.  Olivia has found her way to Nantucket after the loss of her son and when her marriage is on the fritz.  Olivia is rediscovering her love for writing after she leaves her unfaithful husband behind.  When a character in Olivia’s manuscript embodies the son Beth lost, the connection becomes very real for them both.

I found this story a bit far-fetched and as a result, I was somewhat disappointed in this latest from Lisa Genova.  I cannot fathom the pain and grief that must accompany the loss of a child.  I felt such emotion for Beth and I rallied for Olivia as she left her cheating husband.  And yet, the means by which the two ultimately connected was just a bit too coincidental for me to believe.

Appeal Factors: Character-driven, Sobering, Bittersweet

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include: Until the Real Thing Comes Along by Elizabeth Berg, Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller and Cage of Stars by Jacquelyn Mitchard  (accessed May 4, 2013).

Reading Guide

I chose this book as I have read another book by author Lisa Genova.  I was excited to see a new title being released by her and promptly placed my name on the hold list at my library.

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Screwjack by Hunter S. Thompson

jacket$15.00, 64 pages, Short Story

Author Biography

Reviews:

Salon

Simon and Schuster

From Hunter S. Thompson comes this small book that contains three short stories.  The first is titled “Mescalito” and describes a wild night of drinking and use of mescaline for the first time in a hotel room.  The second is “Death of a Poet” and finds Thompson dealing with the death of a friend after he visits a trailer park complex.  The final story is titled “Screwjack” and is a wild ride through Thompson’s head and imagination.

Bizarre.  Truly the best way for me to describe this trio of stories.  I had heard Hunter S. Thompson’s writing was a little out there, however, this was my first experience.  I found the short stories very hard to follow.  I felt as though I was reading a short segment from Thompson’s own personal diary after a mescaline infueled drug encounter.

Appeal Factors: Melancholy, Offbeat, Violent

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include:  Hit Parade by Lawrence Block, Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King and Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (accessed May 4, 2013).

Study Guide and Discussion Questions

I chose this book because I receive a plethora of requests for books by Hunter S. Thompson at the library where I work.  Ever curious, I thought it wise to begin my foray into Thompson’s works with something short.

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The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

jacket $19.99, 240 pages, Graphic Novel

Author’s Website

Reviews:

Grovel

Book Drum

The goal of this graphic novel involves the attempt of a wizard to capture Death.  And yet, in the process, it is actually Dream (or Morpheus), who is captured.  Dream is the younger brother of Death.  The graphic novel is divided into a series of shorter chapters and stories in which characters often represent much more.  Morpheus travels throughout the graphic novel in an attempt to retrieve the items lost to him while he was away for some 70 years.  Multiple characters are introduced which will eventually create the need for additional volumes of the Sandman series.  Gaiman’s writing introduces elements of life and death, mythology and Biblical references, as well.

This graphic novel was very dark and disturbing to me.  I found the vignettes or short stories hard to follow and often filled with multiple meanings.  When not struggling with the text, I often turned to the visuals for guidance.  Perhaps if I read more of the volumes of the Sandman series, I would understand the storylines a bit more.

Appeal Factors: Character-driven, Gruesome, Moody

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include:  Y, the Last Man by Brian Vaughan, Black Hole by Charles Burns and Finder by Carla Speed McNeil (accessed May 4, 2013).

Sandman Series Summary

I read this book after it was selected as required reading and discussion for our Readers’ Advisory class.

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