Changes are coming to the arrangement of this page, keep checking back ...

----------     ----------
----------     ----------

Benchmark: The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent
  • Other titles by author: The Wolves of Andover [retitled: The Traitor’s Wife] (2010); The Heretic’s Daughter (2008)
Book Discussion Resources:

Biography: "Kathleen Kent." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2014. Literature Resource Center. Web. 18 Jan. 2015.

Awards: The Readng List (RUSA): 2014 (Historical Fiction)

Article: The Texas State Police, Special Report, The Austin-American Statesman. Posted December 3, 2013 by Kathleen Kent:

Article: Upstairs Girls: Mattie Silks. Posted May 13, 2013 by admin:

Article: Mankillers. Posted October 2, 2012 by admin:

Article: Soiled Doves: What Grandma Never Told You. Posted April 17, 2012 by admin:

Nonfiction Genre Resources:

Award websites ...

Readers' Advisory print tools ...

----------     ----------


Online Book Discussion: Wednesday, January 21, 2015  - Tuesday, January 27, 2015 

 The Western book talks will open on Wednesday, January 28, 2015. Prior to that date, a discussion question for the designated benchmark, The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent, will be posted each day on the homepage, to be compiled later under Book Discussions.

Publisher Description: 
A taut, thrilling adventure story about buried treasure, a manhunt, and a woman determined to make a new life for herself in the old west.

It's the 19th century on the Gulf Coast, a time of opportunity and lawlessness. After escaping the Texas brothel where she'd been a virtual prisoner, Lucinda Carter heads for Middle Bayou to meet her lover, who has a plan to make them both rich, chasing rumors of a pirate's buried treasure.

Meanwhile Nate Cannon, a young Texas policeman with a pure heart and a strong sense of justice, is on the hunt for a ruthless killer named McGill who has claimed the lives of men, women, and even children across the frontier. Who--if anyone--will survive when their paths finally cross?

As Lucinda and Nate's stories converge, guns are drawn, debts are paid, and Kathleen Kent delivers an unforgettable portrait of a woman who will stop at nothing to make a new life for herself. [ Source: ] 

Video Book Trailer 


Publishers Weekly:
The fates of a newly minted lawman, a former prostitute, and the promise of buried gold collide in Kent's (The Traitor's Wife) gripping third novel. Set in Texas in the 1870s, the novel alternates between the lives of Lucinda Carter and Nate Cannon, both of whom are starting over but under vastly different circumstances. After years in a Fort Worth brothel, Lucinda makes her escape—along with a pouch full of silver from the stingy landlady—to the remote outpost known as Middle Bayou, where she's arranged a teaching position while she waits for her mysterious lover. Meanwhile, Nate, an Oklahoma native in his first year as a member of the Texas State Police, is sent to track down two legendary Texas Rangers, Capt. George Deerling and Dr. Tom Goddard, and alert them that William McGill, a killer they've been chasing for years, has struck again. The men form an uneasy trio, with the experienced Rangers unsurprisingly less than ecstatic to be saddled with a greenhorn, though Nate soon proves his worth. In Middle Bayou, Lucinda bides her time, waiting for her lover's arrival and for him to follow through on his promise of a life made rich with pirates' gold hidden near her new home. That Lucinda and Nate's paths will cross is inevitable, but Kent ditches predictable romance for a tense, unsparing look at the price we'll pay to get what we think we want. (Oct.) 

Library Journal:
Gun-toting lawmen, cold-blooded murderers, and one conniving woman make up this post-Civil War historical adventure by the best-selling author of The Heretic's Daughter and The Traitor's Wife . Lucinda Carter, a prostitute given to epileptic episodes, is making plans to escape her brothel and meet her lover in Middle Bayou, TX. They've heard rumors of a pile of gold buried in the area and are looking to strike it rich, even if it means swindling the locals out of everything dear to them. Across the state, the governor has appointed Nate Cannon to bring a savage killer to justice with the help of two seasoned rangers, Dr. Tom and Deerling. The rangers have a vendetta against the killer, William McGill, that is unknown to Cannon, but they're determined to bring him in, dead or alive. The two story lines race in parallel through the book until they cross paths in a tension-filled scene worthy of the big screen. VERDICT Kent has built a well-paced story, filled with twists and turns that will surprise most readers. A solid choice for those interested in a Western, a thriller, a historical novel, or even just something new. [See Prepub Alert, 5/1/13.]— Madeline Solien, Deerfield P.L., IL --Madeline Solien (Reviewed July 1, 2013) (Library Journal, vol 138, issue 12, p73) 

* Starred Review * After two novels re-imagining the history of her own New England ancestors (The Heretic's Daughter, 2008; The Traitor's Wife (originally entitled The Wolves of Andover, 2010)), Kent turns her attention to post–Civil War Texas, where law and morality are far more elastic. In 1870, Lucinda Carter steals away (steal being the operative word) from the Fort Worth brothel where she's worked in semi-slavery as a prostitute. But do not expect her to have a heart of gold. Despite the occasional seizures she hides from most of her clients, she is tough, conniving and deadly when necessary. Having procured a teaching position under false pretenses, she heads to Middle Bayou, Texas, where legend has it that the pirate Lafitte buried his gold and where she hopes to meet up with her secret lover. Meanwhile, young Oklahoman Nate Cannon joins the Texas police force and is assigned to work with veteran Rangers George Deerling and Tom Goddard. As Lucinda manipulates her way into the hearts of her new employers, a community of former land and slave owners from the Deep South, Nate and the Rangers track ruthless killer William McGill. Goddard, a former medical student with an intellectual bent, takes Nate under his wing, but Nate finds he needs to prove himself to the more coldblooded Deerling. Shortly after Deerling finally accepts Nate and confides that he once had a daughter he mistreated, the experienced Ranger is killed by one of McGill's henchmen. Goddard tells Nate that he loved and married Deerling's daughter, although, as a child, she was permanently damaged by her father's decision to place her in an asylum for her epilepsy. She ran off while pregnant, and Goddard does not know what happened to their child, but his wife has become Lucinda. After McGill and Lucinda' Middle Bayou plans go awry and Nate and Goddard close in, all hell breaks loose. A cinematic but refreshingly unsentimental take on the classic Western, starring a woman who is no romantic heroine, but a definite survivor. (Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2013)

----------     ----------
----------     ----------

Benchmark title: In the Kingdom of Ice: the Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides 
  • Other books by author: Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier (2014); Hellhound on His Trail: the Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin (2010); Blood and Thunder: an Epic of the American West (2006); Ghost Soldiers: the Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission (2001)
Book Discussion Resources:



Video Book Trailer  

Review: “Abandon Ship!: ‘In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides.” Robert R. Harris. Sunday Book Review: The New York Times. August 13, 2014: 

Article: Wrangle Island by Hampton Sides. National Geographic Magazine. May 2013: 

Article: 1,000 Days in the Ice (Polar Saga, Part One) by Hampton Sides. National Geographic Magazine. January 2009: 

Discussion Questions:

Nonfiction Genre Resources:

Award websites ...

Readers' Advisory print tools ...

----------     ----------

Online Book Discussion: Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Prior to the Nonfiction book talks session on Wednesday, December 3rd,  a discussion question for In the Kingdom of Ice: the Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides will be posted each day on the homepage, to be compiled later under Book Discussions.

Publisher Description

"New York Times bestselling author Hampton Sides returns with a white-knuckle tale of polar exploration and survival in the Gilded Age.

In the late nineteenth century, people were obsessed by one of the last unmapped areas of the globe: the North Pole. No one knew what existed beyond the fortress of ice rimming the northern oceans, although theories abounded. The foremost cartographer in the world, a German named August Petermann, believed that warm currents sustained a verdant island at the top of the world. National glory would fall to whoever could plant his flag upon its shores. 

James Gordon Bennett, the eccentric and stupendously wealthy owner of The New York Herald, had recently captured the world's attention by dispatching Stanley to Africa to find Dr. Livingstone. Now he was keen to re-create that sensation on an even more epic scale. So he funded an official U.S. naval expedition to reach the Pole, choosing as its captain a young officer named George Washington De Long, who had gained fame for a rescue operation off the coast of Greenland. De Long led a team of 32 men deep into uncharted Arctic waters, carrying the aspirations of a young country burning to become a world power. On July 8, 1879, the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco to cheering crowds in the grip of "Arctic Fever." 

The ship sailed into uncharted seas, but soon was trapped in pack ice. Two years into the harrowing voyage, the hull was breached. Amid the rush of water and the shrieks of breaking wooden boards, the crew abandoned the ship. Less than an hour later, the Jeannette sank to the bottom,and the men found themselves marooned a thousand miles north of Siberia with only the barest supplies. Thus began their long march across the endless ice—a frozen hell in the most lonesome corner of the world. Facing everything from snow blindness and polar bears to ferocious storms and frosty labyrinths, the expedition battled madness and starvation as they desperately strove for survival. 

With twists and turns worthy of a thriller, In The Kingdom of Ice is a spellbinding tale of heroism and determination in the most unforgiving territory on Earth."

Editorial Reviews: Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, August 2014: In the last few decades of the 19th century, the world looked very different from the way it does now. Parts of the map were unfilled--chief among those spaces was the North Pole, which many believed contained warm currents that might provide safe passage. Enter James Gordon Bennett, the wealthy and eccentric owner of the New York Herald. Bennett--who was responsible for sending Stanley in search of Livingstone--wanted to produce another thrill for his readers, so he funded a naval expedition to reach the pole. Captained by George Washington De Long, the U.S.S. Jeannette shipped out in 1879 toward glory and parts unknown. The Jeannette became encased in ice, but the adventure was only just beginning. Author Hampton Sides does a masterful job of setting up the voyage against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, developing fascinating characters along the way, and delivering a true triumph of narrative nonfiction. Drawing on journal entries, letters, and eventually his own visit to the region, Sides paints a vivid, moving, and breathless portrait of the crew of the Jeannette. How could a book about this much snow and ice be this good? --Chris Schluep


As our knowledge of the world increases, it must be difficult for audacious explorers to find terra incognita to match their passion. Surely the same frustration holds true for writers in that worthy genre, exploration literature: Haven’t all great stories been told? Never underestimate the ingenuity of a first-rate author. Hampton Sides’s In the Kingdom of IceThe Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette, which recounts the astonishing tribulations of a group of seafarers determined to be the first men to reach and reconnoiter the North Pole, is a splendid book in every way… It would be malicious to ruin the suspense about the fate of the Jeannette’s crew… The book is a marvelous nonfiction thriller.”
The Wall Street Journal

"Compelling....Sides spins a propulsive narrative from obscure documents, journals and his own firsthand visits to the Arctic regions visited by the Jeannette and its crew. In the Kingdom of Ice makes for harrowing reading as it recounts the grim aspects of the explorers' battle for survival: illness, crippling frostbite, snow-blindness and the prospect of starvation. As grisly as the details are, you keep turning pages to find out how DeLong and his men pull themselves past each setback — even though there's always another one looming ahead."
--USA Today

[Sides] brings vividness to In the Kingdom of Ice, and in the tragedy of the Jeannette he’s found a story that epitomizes both the heroism and the ghastly expense of life that characterized the entire Arctic enterprise…With an eye for the telling detail, he sketches the crew members as individuals…The bare facts of what happened to the Jeannette’s crew are easily Googleable, but if you don’t already know the story, In the Kingdom of Ice reads like a first-class epic thriller. De Long and his companions became explorers of not only unknown geographical territory but also extremes of suffering and despair. In his stoic endurance of disappointment and pain, De Long rivals Louis Zamperini, the hero of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken…”
--Lev Grossman, Time Magazine

First-rate polar history and adventure narrative...wonderfully evocative.... Sides vividly recounts the horrors [of the voyage]. In the Kingdom of Ice is a harrowing story, well told.
--The New York Times Book Review

“Unforgettable…a pulse-racing epic of endurance set against an exceedingly bizarre Arctic backdrop…[Sides’] descriptions of the physical challenges the men face and the eerie landscape that surrounds them are masterful. As De Long and his crew attempt to save themselves, the story grows in suspense and psychological complexity…More strange and fantastic turns follow, involving uncharted and uninhabited lands, and it pains me that I cannot describe them without spoiling the pleasure of those who have not yet read In the Kingdom of Ice. Sides’ book is a masterful work of history and storytelling.”
--The Los Angeles Times

“America’s own brush with epic polar tragedy, the subject of Hampton Sides’ phenomenally gripping new book, is a less well-known affair…What ensued — a struggle to survive and a nearly 1,000-mile trek across the Arctic Ocean and into the vastness of Siberia — stands as one of the most perilous journeys ever. Sides works story-telling magic as he evokes the pathos and suffering of what unfolded: De Long and his crew endured hardships that boggle the mind. But there is also beauty here… [Sides] writes superbly on the geography of Siberia and the Arctic, and the abundant bird and animal life the explorers encountered on their travels, which took them across ice, storm-tossed seas, treacherous tundra, rocky seacoasts, and volcanic islands.”
--The Boston Globe

----------     ----------
----------     ----------

Benchmark title:  Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach (Paradox: Book 1; 2013)

  • Other titles by author:  Heaven’s Queen (Paradox: Book 2; 2014); Honor’s Knight (Paradox: Book 3; 2014); as Rachel Aaron: Nice Dragon’s Finish Last (Heartstrikers series: Book 1; eBook, 2014); Eli Monpress series: Spirit’s End (2012), The Spirit War (2012), Spirit’s Oath (eBook Novella, 2012), The Spirit Eater (2010), The Spirit Rebellion (2010), The Spirit Thief (2010)

Book Discussion Resources:

Author website: 

Author Post: Orbit. “Why Powered Armor?” Rachel Bach. 02/25/2014

Biography: "Rachel Aaron." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2012. Biography in Context. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. 

Interview: Lytherus: Fantasy, Sci Fi, Horror. “Author Rachel Bach Stops by to Talk Mercs, Aliens,Books, and More.” Emma Engel. 03/08/2014 

Interview: Fantasy Book Critic. Interview with Rachel Bach (Rachel Aaron). Mihir Wanchoo. 11/06/2013 

Review: Fantasy Book Critic. “Fortune’s Pawn byRachel Bach” Reviewed by Liviu Suciu and Mihir Wanchoo. 10/29/2013 

Discussion Questions:

Science Fiction Genre Resources:

Arthur C. Clarke Award - 
The Hugo Awards - 
Locus Online - 
Nebula Awards - 
Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America – 
SF Site - 
Worlds Without End –

Genreflecting: a Guide to Popular Reading Interests, 7th ed. Cynthia Orr and Diana Tixier Herald, Editors. Libraries Unlimited, 2013 (Chapter 15: Science Fiction, pages 339-388) 

The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed. Joyce G. Saricks. ALA Editions, 2009 (Part 3: Intellect Genres, Chapter 13: Science Fiction, pages 244-262) 

Strictly Science Fiction: a Guide to Reading Interests. Diana Tixier Herald and Bonnie Kunzel. Libraries Unlimited, 2002

----------     ----------

Book Discussion Meeting:
     Wednesday, August 25, 2014

We will be covering Science Fiction in August and September with the benchmark title being Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach. This is the first book in a new series, Paradox, and a science fiction debut for Bach who has previously written Fantasy as Rachel Aaron.

Library Journal:
Already a member of one of the most prestigious mercenary groups, Devi Morris has higher ambitions. She aspires to become one of the Devastators, the King's own mercenary guards and the most elite army of the Paradoxian Empire. To qualify, she enlists with the crew of the Glorious Fool, a trade ship with a reputation for especially dangerous encounters. Once aboard, Devi proves her worth almost from the beginning—but her mysterious attraction to Rupert Charkov, ostensibly the ship's "cook" but one with preternaturally fast reflexes and phenomenal weapons knowledge, could threaten all her carefully mapped out plans. VERDICT Bach, who writes fantasy as Rachel Aaron (Eli Monpress series) makes her sf debut with this series launch that introduces a strong female heroine whose mind is mostly on her career—and her high-tech suit of armor—yet who finds herself inexplicably drawn into a relationship that could damage her life and her honor. Fans of Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series and David Weber's Honor Harrington novels should enjoy starting another potentially long-running sf military saga. [Previewed in Kristi Chadwick's Genre Spotlight feature, "New Worlds To Explore," LJ 8/13 (—Ed.] --Jackie Cassada (Reviewed September 15, 2013) (Library Journal, vol 138, issue 15, p50)
(The following is a combined review for FORTUNE&#39 and S PAWN)Rollicking space opera starring a tough, sexy, armor-clad space chick who smells like rotten meat. So, anyway, thinks the massive, claw-endowed dude who ought to be Deviana Morris' mortal enemy. Devi, as she's known, returns the compliment. "There are four space-faring races in the known galaxy: humans, aeons, lelgis, and xith'cal," she mutters--adding that the last are "always dangerous." So what's an 8-foot-tall xith'cal doing aboard their ship? Well, therein hangs a tale. Devi is an accomplished sleep-arounder, tough and cynical, though capable of melting a bit in the arms of the right space guy; when she's not, she is most definitely kicking butt and, thanks to her ability to speak Universal, taking names out in space. She's also got a secret weapon, namely, "Custom Verdemont master craft knight's armor," which is a bigger deal than it might seem. Bach, aka Rachel Aaron, a much-published fantasy/science fiction author best known for her Legend of Eli Monpress series, does a nice job of painting a scenario that, if familiar--think the space marines of the Alien franchise or the motley crew of Firefly--allows her plenty of room for action. And action aplenty is what she delivers, with lots of variegated blood and memorable characters, major and minor. Devi is the most complete of them, but New Agers, for instance, will thrill at Novascape Starchild, a groover who utters oracular sayings such as "[t]here is no top or bottom in space. We are all exactly where we are meant to be." And where we're meant to be is tucked inside our armored long johns blasting xith'cal. Lots of fun.(Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2013) 
Publishers Weekly:
Ambitious career mercenary Devi Morris, believing her advancement stalled in the prestigious Blackbird company, accepts a security position on the notorious trade ship Glorious Fool, a ship so prone to interesting times that one year served there counts as five years served anywhere else. Devi discovers a diverse crew of aliens and humans under a demanding master, and a ship full of secrets worth killing to protect. Swarms of alien slavers and predator-infested derelict ships lost in the depths of space are dangerous enough, but can Devi survive the Glorious Fool herself? All of space opera’s conventions make appearances, including violent aliens, mysterious powers, high-tech weaponry, powered armor, sympathetic mercenaries, and feudal societies. What Bach fails to demonstrate is much ability to blend her stock set pieces into a coherent whole or put a new spin on familiar clichés. (Nov.) --Staff (Reviewed August 12, 2013) (Publishers Weekly, vol 260, issue 32, p)

----------     ----------
----------     ----------


Benchmark title: Dark Witch (Audio edition) by Nora Roberts, performed by Katherine Kellgren

  • Other titles by author:

Book Discussion Resources:

Romance Genre Resources:

----------     ----------


Audiobook Discussion Meeting:
     Wednesday, May 28, 2014

For the Romance genre we will be listening to Dark Witch (Book One of the Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy) by Nora Roberts, performed by Katherine Kellgren.

Dark Witch From #1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts comes a trilogy about the land we’re drawn to, the family we learn to cherish, and the people we long to love…. With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance. From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends. Ireland, County Mayo, to be exact. Where her ancestors’ blood and magic have flowed through generations—and where her destiny awaits. Iona arrives in Ireland with nothing but her Nan’s directions, an unfailingly optimistic attitude, and an innate talent with horses. Not far from the luxurious castle where she is spending a week, she finds her cousins, Branna and Connor O’Dwyer. And since family is family, they invite her into their home and their lives.When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath. Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horseman, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package.Iona realizes that here she can make a home for herself—and live her life as she wants, even if that means falling head over heels for Boyle. But nothing is as it seems. An ancient evil has wound its way around Iona’s family tree and must be defeated. Family and friends will fight with each other and for each other to keep the promise of hope—and love—alive….

AudioFile Reviews 2013 December
Katherine Kellgren narrates the author's Cousins O'Dwyer trilogy with a bravado that will bewitch her listeners. Long ago, Sorcha, a witch and healer, began a feud with Cabhan, a fearsome sorcerer. Now as her descendant, Iona, arrives in Ireland to begin a new life with her cousins, she finds an ancient evil still haunting the family--and it's waiting for her. The ambiance of Ireland is palpable in this audiobook, thanks to Kellgren's nearly flawless accent and inflections. She does a remarkable job making each character's voice distinct and the emotions that bind them instantly tangible. Throughout the book, she emphasizes every shift in tension and intensity, bringing each lush scene to life. B.E.K. (c) AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

----------     ----------
----------     ----------


Benchmark title: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

  • Other titles by author:

Book Discussion Resources:

Biography / Autobiography Genre Resources:

----------     ----------


Book Discussion Meeting:
     Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The RAT Genre study program will cover Biography / Autobiography in March and April. The benchmark title is The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss.

This is a fascinating book about General Alex Dumas, the father of French novelist Alexandre Dumas. You may have heard of son, he is author of such classic novels as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo both of which were based (in part) on the life and exploits of his father! 

Alex was born in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), the son of a disreputable French plantation owner and a black slave. He made his way to Paris, earning employment as a fencing master - a true swashbuckling adventurer! Later he became a soldier and eventually a General in Napoleon Bonaparte's Grande Armée. Alex Dumas was a real-life hero of France!

From the back cover of the book: " ... he was the son of a black slave - who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time."



"General Alex Dumas, is a man almost unknown today, yet his story is strikingly familiarbecause his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used his larger-than-life feats as inspiration for such classics asThe Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers
     But, hidden behind General Dumas's swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: he was the son of a black slavewho rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time. 
     Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas made his way to Paris, where he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolutionuntil he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.
     TIME magazine called The Black Count
 "one of those quintessentially human stories of strength and courage that sheds light on the historical moment that made it possible." It is also a heartbreaking story of the enduring bonds of love between a father and son."

For those who check page count and worry if they could finish the book in time, take note.  The book is NOT as long as the 414 pages listed in catalog entry; the text of the biography is actually 330 pages. There are almost 100 pages of Acknowledgments, Notes and Index which you could (gasp!) skip if you wish!  ;-)

----------     ----------

Benchmark title: The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

  • Other titles by author: 

Book Discussion Resources:

Literary Fiction Genre Resources:

----------     ----------

Online Book Discussion: 
     Wednesday, November 13 - Tuesday, November 19
Book Discussion Meeting:
     Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The son of a singer mother whose career forcibly separated her from her family and an influential father who runs an orphan work camp, Pak Jun Do rises to prominence using instinctive talents and eventually becomes a professional kidnapper and romantic rival to Kim Jong Il. By the author of Parasites Like Us.


Booklist -- 12-01-2011, Vol 108, No 7, p 23
/*Starred Review*/ Pak Jun Do lives with his father at a North Korean work camp for orphans. In a nation in which every citizen serves the state, orphans routinely get the most dangerous jobs. So it is for Jun Do, who becomes a "tunnel soldier," trained to fight in complete darkness in the tunnels beneath the DMZ. But he is reassigned as a kidnapper, snatching Japanese citizens with special skills, such as a particular opera singer or sushi chef. Failure as a kidnapper could lead directly to the prison mines. But in Johnson's fantastical, careening tale, Jun Do manages to impersonate Commander Ga, the country's greatest military hero, rival of Dear Leader Kim Jong II and husband of Sun Moon, North Korea's only movie star. Informed by extensive research and travel to perhaps the most secretive nation on earth, Johnson has created a remarkable novel that encourages the willing suspension of disbelief. As Jun DO, speaking as Ga, puts it, "people have been trained to accept any reality presented to them." Johnson winningly employs different voices, with the propagandizing national radio station serving as a mad Greek chorus. Descriptions of everyday privations and barbarities are matter of fact, and Jun Do's love for Sun Moon reads like a fairy tale. Part adventure, part coming-of-age tale, and part romance, The Orphan Master's Son is a triumph on every level. -- Thomas Gaughan

Publishers Weekly -- October 24, 2011, Vol 258, Issue 43, p 29
/* Starred Review */ Johnson's novel accomplishes the seemingly impossible: an American writer has masterfully rendered the mysterious world of North Korea with the soul and savvy of a native, from its orphanages and its fishing boats to the kitchens of its high-ranking commanders. While oppressive propaganda echoes throughout, the tone never slides into caricature; if anything, the story unfolds with astounding empathy for those living in constant fear of imprisonment -- or worse -- but who manage to maintain their humanity against all odds. The book traces the journey of Jun Do, who for years lives according to the violent dictates of the state, as a tunnel expert who can fight in the dark, a kidnapper, radio operator, tenuous hero, and foreign dignitary before eventually taking his fate into his own hands. In one of the book's most poignant moments, a government interrogator, who tortures innocent citizens on a daily basis, remembers his own childhood and the way in which his father explained the inexplicable: "...we must act alone on the outside, while on the inside, we would be holding hands." In this moment and a thousand others like it, Johnson (Parasites Like Us) juxtaposes the vicious atrocities of the regime with the tenderness of beauty, love , and hope. -- Staff

Library Journal -- November 1, 2011, Vol 136, Issue 18, p 72
/* Starred Review */ Imagine a society in which the official political story tells only of happiness and prosperity, yet personal experience reveals the opposite. Imagine the resulting internal dissonance and the ways in which people might reconcile such opposing forces. This is the experience offered by Johnson (Parasites Like Us) in his novel of modern-day North Korea. Following the path of the hero's journey, young Pak Jun Do moves from an orphanage into a life of espionage, kidnapping, and torture, only to be given a new identity as the husband of the Dear Leader's favorite actress. With references to the classic American film Casablanca, Johnson's narrative portrays his hero as he makes his way through a minefield of corruption and violence, eventually giving his all so that his loves ones might have a better life. VERDICT: Readers who enjoy a fast-paced political thriller will welcome this wild ride through the amazingly conflicted world that exists within the heavily guarded confines of North Korea. Highly recommended. -- Susanne Wells, M.L.S., Indianapolis

Kirkus -- January 1, 2012
Note to self: Do not schedule a vacation in North Korea, at least not without an escape plan. The protagonist of Johnson's (Parasites Like Us, 2003, etc.) darkly satisfying if somewhat self-indulgent novel is Pak Jun Do, the conflicted son of a singer. He knows no more, for "That was all Jun Do's father, the OrphanMaster, would say about her." The OrphanMaster runs an orphanage, but David Copperfield this ain't: Jun Do may have been the only non-orphan in the place, but that doesn't keep his father, a man of influence, from mistreating his as merrily as if he weren't one of his own flesh and blood. For this is the land of Kim Jong II, the unhappy Potemkin Village land of North Korea, where even Josef Stalin would have looked around and thought the whole business excessive. Johnson's tale hits the ground running, and fast: Jun Do is recruited into a unit that specializes in kidnapping Koreans, and even non-Koreans, living outside the magic kingdom: doctors, film directors, even the Dear Leader's personal sushi chef. "There was a Japanese man. He took his dog for a walk. And then he was nowhere. For the people who knew him, he'd forever be nowhere." So ponders Jun Do, who specializing in crossing the waters to Japan sneaking out of tunnels and otherwise working his ghostlike wonders, rises up quickly in the state apparatus, only to fall after a bungled diplomatic trip to the United States. Johnson sets off in the land of John le Carré, but by the time Jun Do lands in Texas we're in a Pynchonesque territory of impossibilities, and by the time he's in the pokey we're in a subplot worth of Akutagawa. Suffice it to say that Jun Do switches identities, a which point thriller becomes picaresque satire and rifles through a few other genres, shifting narrators, losing and regaining focus and point of view. The reader will have to grant the author room to accommodate the show-offishness, which seems to say, with the rest of the book, that in a world run by a Munchkin overlord like Kim, nothing can be too surreal. Indeed, once Fearless Leader speaks, he's a model of weird clarity: "But let's speak of our shared status as nuclear nations another time. Now let's have some blues." Ambitious and very well written, despite the occasional overreach. When it's made into a film, bet that Kim Jong II will want to score an early bootleg.

2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
ALA Notable Books - Fiction: 2013

National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist - Longlisted for the American Library Association's Andrew Carnegie Medal - Winner of The California Book Award for Fiction - New York Times Bestsellers

Named one of the best books of the year by: The Washington Post; Entertainment Weekly; The Wall Street Journal; Los Angeles Times; San Francisco Chronicle; Financial Times; Newsweek/The Daily Beast; The Plain Dealer; St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Slate; Salon; BookPage; Shelf Awareness

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, January 2012: "It is only January, but Adam Johnson's astonishing novel is destined to cast a long shadow over the year in books. Jun Do is The Orphan Master's Son, a North Korean citizen with a rough past who is working as a government-sanctioned kidnapper when we first meet him. He is hardly a sympathetic character, but sympathy is not author Johnson's aim. In a totalitarian nation of random violence and bewildering caprice -- a poor, gray place that nonetheless refers to itself as "the most glorious nation on earth" -- an unnatural tension exists between a citizen's national identity and his private life. Through Jun Do's story we realize that beneath the weight of oppression and lies beats a heart not much different from our own -- one that thirsts for love, acceptance, and hope -- and that realization is at the heart of this shockingly believable, immersive, and thrilling novel." -- Chris Schluep  
----------     ----------
----------     ----------
 Horror Resource Guide

Benchmark title: 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill (Short Story collection)
  • Other titles by author: NOS4A2 (2013); Horns (2010); Locke & Key (a six-part Graphic Novel series with Gabriel Rodriguez: 2008-2013); Heart-Shaped Box (2007)
Book Discussion Resources:
Author website:
Interview: A.V. Club. "Interview: Horns Author Joe Hill." Zack Handlen. February 24, 2010 -,38522
Review: New York Times, Sunday Book Review. "Horror Doesn't Scare Easily." Terrance Rafferty. 01/27/2008 -
Review: The Internet Review of Science Fiction. "20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill." Niall Harrison. February 2006 -
Review: Strange Horizons. "20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill." Graham Sleight. 20 March 2006 -
Horror Genre Resources:
Dark Scribe Magazine -
Monster Librarian -
Horror Writers Association (HWA) -
Genreflecting: a Guide to Popular Reading Interests, 7th ed. Cynthia Orr and Diana Tixier Herald, Editors. Libraries Unlimited, 2013 (Chapter 14: Horror, pages 313-338).
Hooked on Horror III: a Guide to Reading Interests. Anthony J. Fonseca and June Michele Pulliam. Libraries Unlimited, 2009.
The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed. Joyce G. Saricks. ALA Editions, 2009 (Part 2: Emotion Genres, Chapter 7: Horror, pages 112-130).
The Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror, 2nd ed. Becky Siegel Spratford. ALA Editions, 2013.
----------     ----------

Online Book Discussion: 

     Wednesday, September 18 - Tuesday, September 24
Book Discussion Meeting:
     Wednesday, September 25, 2013

  • -- Baker & Taylor:  A compilation of short fiction includes the tales of Imogene, the legendary ghost of the Rosebud theater, and Francis, an unhappy, hopeless human turned giant locust seeking revenge on his Nevada hometown.

    -- Baker & Taylor:  The winner of the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and International Horror Guild Awards, a compilation of imaginative, surreal, and macabre short fiction by the author of Heart-Shaped Box includes the tales of Imogene, the legendary ghost of the Rosebud theater, and Francis, an unhappy, hopeless human turned giant locust seeking revenge on his Nevada hometown. Reprint. 60,000 first printing.

    -- HarperCollins: 

    Imogene is young, beautiful . . . and dead, waiting in the Rosebud Theater one afternoon in 1945. . .  

    Francis was human once, but now he's an eight-foot-tall locust, and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing. . . 

    John is locked in a basement stained with the blood of half a dozen murdered children, and an antique telephone, long since disconnected, rings at night with calls from the dead. . .  

    Nolan knows but can never tell what really happened in the summer of '77, when his idiot savant younger brother built a vast cardboard fort with secret doors leading into other worlds. . .. 

    The past isn't dead. It isn't even past. . . .

    ----------     ----------


  • 2005 Bram Stoker Award: Best Fiction Collection
  •   -- The Bram Stoker Awards are presented annually by the Horror Writers Association (HWA). Established in 1987 and named for the author of Dracula, HWA members vote to honor superior achievement in dark fantasy, horror, and the occult.

  • 2005 International Horror Guild Award: Best Collection
  •   -- These awards honors achievement in the field of horror and dark fantasy, and are presented annually by members of the International Horror Guild (IHG). The public recommends nominees, but winners for each category are then determined by a panel of judges.

2007 School Library Journal's Adult Books for High School Students
  -- School Library Journal editors appoint a group of professionals working with teens in library settings to review and select a list of exceptional adult level books to recommend to high school students. The list usually includes both fiction and non-fiction books.

----------     ----------


School Library Journal:

Adult/High School –This collection of short stories will appeal not only to fantasy and horror fans, but also to those who appreciate drama and suspense. The book was originally published in the United Kingdom in 2005; the U.S. edition contains 14 short stories, two of which are new to it, and a novella. Selections vary from “My Father's Mask,” a bone-chilling tale of a family on the run, to “The Widow's Breakfast” and the kindness of a stranger. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this anthology is the author's ability to engage readers by eliciting a broad spectrum of emotions, in many cases all within the same story. Teens will find themselves disturbed, amused, and touched by the various conclusions to these tales. And while the plots and characters vary greatly, each story challenges readers to use their own imaginations while appreciating the tales' twists and turns. With their cliff-hanger endings, quick pacing, and three-dimensional characters, many of these selections will spark interesting classroom and book-club discussions. Recommend this title to teens looking for a book that will both challenge and entertain.–Lynn Rashid, Marriots Ridge High School, Marriotsville, MD --Lynn Rashid (Reviewed October 1, 2007) (School Library Journal, vol 53, issue 10, p187)
Library Journal:
/* Starred Review */ When Hill's first novel (Heart-Shaped Box ) was published, there was much buzz when it was revealed that he was the son of Stephen King. Before that was widely known, however, Hill published a collection of short stories in Britain, which won the Bram Stoker Award, and his novella Best New Horror beat out his father's "The Things They Left Behind" in the Long Fiction category. Ghosts , which had a limited print run in Britain, is finally being released here, and it is astounding. Though most of the stories have elements of horror, the overall mood of the collection is one of heartbreaking wonderment, especially evident in the beautiful story "Pop Art" about a young delinquent's friendship with an inflatable boy. Other standouts are "In the Rundown," a Raymond Carveresque tale about a loser who peaked in high school; "Better Than Home," about a disabled boy's relationship with his father; and "Voluntary Committal," in which a child's cardboard fort becomes a solution to his big brother's problems. This edition includes the new story "Scheherezade's Typewriter" hidden in the acknowledgments. Highly recommended for short story and horror fiction collections.—Karl G. Siewert, MLIS, Tulsa City-Cty. Lib., OK --Karl G. Siewert (Reviewed October 15, 2007) (Library Journal, vol 132, issue 17, p52)
A collection of pleasantly creepy stories follows Hill's debut novel (Heart Shaped Box, 2007).Published in a number of magazines from 2001 to the present, most of the stories display the unself-conscious dash that made Hill's novel an intelligent pleasure. In addition to the touches of the supernatural, some heavy, some light, the stories are largely united by Hill's mastery of teenaged-male guilt and anxiety, unrelieved by garage-band success or ambition. One of the longest and best, "Voluntary Committal," is about Nolan, a guilty, anxious high-school student, Morris, his possibly autistic or perhaps just congenitally strange little brother, and Eddie, Nolan's wild but charming friend. Morris, whose problems dominate but don't completely derail his family's life, spends the bulk of his time in the basement creating intricate worlds out of boxes. Eddie and Nolan spend their time in accepted slacker activities until Eddie, whose home life is rough, starts pushing the edges, leading to real mischief, a big problem for Nolan who would rather stay within the law. It's Morris who removes the problem for the big brother he loves, guaranteeing perpetual guilt and anxiety for Nolan. "My Father's Mask" is a surprisingly romantic piece about a small, clever family whose weekend in an inherited country place involves masks, time travel and betrayal. The story least reliant on the supernatural may leave the most readers pining for a full-length treatment: "Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead" reunites a funny but failed standup comedian with his equally funny ex-high school sweetheart Harriet, now married and a mother. Bobby has come back to Pittsburgh, tail between his legs, substitute teaching and picking up the odd acting job, and it is on one of those gigs, a low-budget horror film, that the couple reconnects, falling into their old comedic rhythms. Not just for ghost addicts. (Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007) 
Publishers Weekly:
            Fully developed characters with complex emotional lives enhance the 14 stories in Joe Hill's extraordinary collection, 20th Century Ghosts. There's not a false note or disappointing effort in this volume from the author of the bestselling novel Heart-Shaped BoxHill's is one of the most confident and assured new voices in horror and dark fantasy in recent years. (Morrow, $24.95 320p ISBN 9780-06-114797-5) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information. (PW Reviews, 2007 September #4)

----------     ----------

* A bit of Horror genre trivia for you -- Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King, author of CarrieSalem's Lot, The StandUnder the Dome, and the forthcoming Dr. Sleep, a sequel to The ShiningJoe is already being thought of and written about as a master of this genre in his own right.