Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reading Lists - Westerns

Primarily set in the Western U.S. from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the 20th Century, Westerns feature the exploits of cowboys, scouts, Indians, gunslingers, and lawmen. The mythic feel of the West and the struggle to survive take precedence over historical accuracy.

The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie
Guthrie explores the role of the West as a place for escape and redemption as young Boone Caudill flees his abusive father in Kentucky and becomes a wild mountain man in the rugged West. In addition to Caudill, The Big Sky introduces Jim Deakins and Dick Summers, three of the most memorable characters in Western American literature. (F, LP)

The Branch and the Scaffold by Loren D. Estleman
Estleman’s westerns, like his mysteries, are dark, gritty, and feature loners who operate under a personal moral code. He writes biographical westerns as well as a series featuring lawman Page Murdock. This sharp, funny novel is about Isaac C. Parker (1838–1896), the notorious federal “Hanging Judge” for Arkansas and the Indian Territory. (LP)

Broken Trail by Alan Geoffrion
In this Spur Award winner for best first novel, cowboy Print Ritter and his young nephew find adventure while driving horses to Wyoming, and they attempt to rescue five young Chinese girls from being forced into prostitution. Based on historical documents and more than five years of research, it is the basis for the AMC cable network's production of the same title. (F)

The Dark Island by Robert J. Conley
The Real People series combines powerful characters, gripping plots, and vivid descriptions of tradition and mythology. In the sixth title, Squani, the son of a Timuca woman raped by a Spaniard and taken in by the Cherokee, goes on a dangerous, painful journey of discovery that leads him to the Spanish and a confrontation with his heritage. (LP)

From Where the Sun Now Stands by Will Henry
Appreciation for the land and the people who live there—especially Indians—resonates in Henry’s novels. This classic Spur Award winner examines Nez Perce Chief Joseph, continually betrayed by a government with which he only wants peace. The tale is narrated by Heyets, an old man reflecting on memories of his youth. (LP)

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Lonesome Dove, a Pulitzer Prize and Spur Award winner, is the ultimate Western adventure. Two former Texas Rangers hear rumors of opportunity in the newly opened territory, and they decide to head north. Their dusty trek is filled with troubles, violence, and unfulfilled yearning. This epic tale is descriptive with a relaxed pace. (F)

The Night Birds by Thomas Maltman
Maltman won a Spur Award for best first novel for the story of two generations of the Senger family. When Aunt Hazel is released from the state mental hospital, she brings a hidden part of the family history—an account of their involvement with the neighboring Dakota and its subsequent role in the Sioux uprising. (F)

The Pumpkin Rollers by Elmer Kelton
Kelton is known for his less-than-mythic heroes and elegiac tone. He writes of the disappearance of the West with great historical detail, complex characters, and evocative landscapes. Here, Trey McLean, a pumpkin roller (farmer), wants to become a cattleman, but he encounters frustration and danger on the way to his goal. (F, PB)

Sackett’s Land by Louis L’Amour
L'Amour employs Western landscapes, characters, and virtues, making them synonymous with the best American traits. His action-filled stories of the Sackett family cover 200 years of history. In the first book, set in the early 17th century, Barnabas Sackett is declared an outlaw in England and flees his homeland to seek adventure and fortune in the new land of America. (F, LP)

Shane by Jack Schaefer
Shane is the traditional Paladin hero, a man who rides into the community, rousts the badmen, and rides out again, bringing justice to a lawless land. Shane rides into the valley where Bob Starrett's family lives, and Bob, 15, tells about Shane's winning ways as he helps the homesteaders break the power of the Wyoming cattlemen. Shane has been a favorite Western for over 60 years. (LP, 813.54 Sch)

Tallgrass by Don Coldsmith
Coldsmith’s numerous novels focus mostly on Indian life during the expansion of the west. His stories capture the spirit of the West with evocative settings, characters, and themes. In the first of the Great Plains saga, white settlers begin to take away the lands of the Pawnee and other tribes after the Santa Fe trail opens. The novel covers nearly 300 years of history with seven loosely connected stories. (F)

Vengeance Valley by Richard S. Wheeler
Conned out of his money and land, Hard Luck Yancey stumbles upon black Telluride gold beneath a Sisters of Charity miners' hospital, a discovery that pits him against ruthless mining barons and greedy outlaws. A bookish mining engineer rather than a typical gunslinger, Yancey is an unconventional hero fighting for what is moral and right. (PB)

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
Doig’s realistic depiction filled with historical and landscape details, lyrical writing, and love of the land tie him firmly to the Western tradition. The Whistling Season looks back on Montana's storied past. Hired as a housekeeper on an early 1900s Montana homestead, the irreverent Rose endeavors to educate her employer’s sons. (F)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Read-alike Guides - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

If you liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, you might enjoy one of these books:

Blood Work by Michael Connelly
Eight weeks after a heart transplant saves his life, former FBI agent Terry McCaleb discovers that his new heart came from a murder victim, leading Terry to become involved in tracking down the killer. This first Terry McCaleb mystery is a character-driven, complex thriller. Terry, like Salander and Blomkvist, finds himself manipulated by outside forces.

Cover Her Face by P.D. James
In the first Adam Dalgliesh novel, Mrs. Maxie must contend with her son's sudden engagement to her new parlor maid at Martingale manor house, Sally Jupp. The next morning, the whole village is shocked by the discovery of Sally’s body. Like the Millennium trilogy, this character-driven series has a moody tone and delivers one compelling read after another.

The Devil’s Feather by Minette Walters
When five women are killed in Sierra Leone, journalist Connie Burns suspects a mercenary of acting out his sadistic fantasies. Her attempt to expose him is complicated by her experience as a hostage in Baghdad. This theme of contemporary evil confronted by a woman (who goes into hiding to solve a crime related to her own personal trauma) will be familiar to Larsson’s readers.

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
Fans of Swedish mystery fiction will enjoy this first series title. Inspector Kurt Wallander, a local Swedish police officer whose own personal life is falling apart, copes with a wave of anti-foreign sentiment when he investigates the murders of an elderly couple. Later in the series, stubborn Linda Wallander joins her father on the force as a rookie.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
The Adelia Aguilar series features absorbing, detailed plotlines with intricate details, propelled by the tempestuous relationship between a brilliant but antisocial woman and her occasional lover. In the first novel, medical expert Adelia is sent to medieval Cambridge to exonerate Jewish prisoners accused of murdering four children.

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo
From World War II to the present, this book follows the adventures of a freedom-seeking war martyr and an alcoholic police officer who is drawn into a mystery with past origins. Norwegian author Nesbo writes slow-building suspense using strong characters whose inner lives are slowly revealed, multilayered plots, and portrayals of the dark side of Scandinavian society.

Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg
When her six-year-old neighbor falls to his death and no one is willing to suspect foul play, Smilla Qaavigaaq Jasperson starts investigating on her own. Danish author Hoeg offers an original, elegantly crafted, savage story. The plot is cryptically clever, beginning with an individual and ending with a discovery on a larger scale.

Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears
In this dazzling historical mystery, John Stone, financier and arms dealer, dies falling out of a window. The quest to uncover the truth behind his death plays out against the backdrop of Europe's first great age of espionage, high-stakes international finance, and the start of the 20th century arms race. With plenty of narrative twists, this is as engrossing as Larsson’s contemporary setting.

Straight into Darkness by Faye Kellerman
In 1929 Munich, Inspektor Axel Berg hunts for a serial killer as the pressure to find a scapegoat intensifies, and he must fight for fairness for the accused and even his own career. An intriguing protagonist, Berg is flawed yet compassionate and heroic, forced to confront enormous odds in brutal times. Politics, prejudice, and revenge form the backdrop for murder in this historical mystery.

Sun Storm by Åsa Larsson
When a body is discovered in her hometown, a young lawyer is called home to northern Sweden, only to become trapped in a web of betrayal, religious fanaticism, and death. Like Salander, Rebecka Martinsson is a strong but troubled lead female character. Åsa Larsson uses psychological insight to reveal her characters and builds to a violent, explosive ending that Stieg Larsson fans will love.

Also by Stieg Larsson:

The Girl Who Played with Fire
Millennium, the magazine Blomkvist publishes, is about to do a story exposing the Swedish sex-trafficking trade when the authors of the story are both murdered, and Salander’s fingerprints are found on the gun. Larsson jumps between Blomkvist’s attempts to investigate the murder (and, he hopes, prove Salander’s innocence) and Salander’s own efforts to tie the killings to her past.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
Blomkvist again sets out to prove Salander innocent of murder. To do so he must expose a decades-old conspiracy within the Swedish secret service that has resulted in, among other travesties, a lifetime of abuse for Salander, whose very life threatens to expose the deadly charade. Larsson amps up the suspense and adds great courtroom drama to the trilogy’s stunning conclusion.

About Stieg Larsson - A leading expert on right-wing extremist organizations, Stieg Larsson was the editor-in-chief of an anti-racist magazine called Expo. He died in 2004. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was made into a film in Sweden in 2009, and an American version is set to be released in 2012.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Staff Selections - Jeanne, Reference

What is your favorite genre? Historical fiction, home improvement and decoration, and l'amour, toujours l'amour.

Who are your favorite authors? Jayne Krentz (aka Amanda Quick), Mary Balogh, and Jane Austen.

What are you reading now? Green Home Improvement: 65 Projects That Will Cut Utility Bills, Protect Your Health, and Help the Environment by Daniel D. Chiras.

What have you read recently? Burning Lamp by Amanda Quick and Money-Wise Makeovers: Modest Remodels and Affordable Room Redos by Jean Nayar.

What is your favorite classic? Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Actually, I like all of hers! Also, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

What are your all time favorite books/series? Hank the Cowdog series by John R.Erickson,  The Izzy Spellman series by Lisa Lutz, The Chet and Bernie mystery series by Spencer Quinn, The Arcane Society series by Amanda Quick and her alter ego–Jayne Krentz, The St. Leger series by Susan Carroll.

What are your favorite recommendations? My favorite authors to recommend are Maeve Binchy, Katie Fforde, Carl Hiaasen, Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Lisa Lutz. Last, but certainly not least, I suggest Dr. Dog by Babette Cole. That’s the world’s best book!