Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Heroic Reads: Spotlight on Marvel Graphic Novels!

People like superheroes, I know, because I'm a people, and I like superheroes for going on 35 years already. If you're interested in finding out more about some of our superhero graphic novels, then this entry is for you.

Patrons are often unsure as to where to start with "superhero" graphic novels & collections, mostly because they're disinclined to either wade into the soup of "what has gone before" just to enjoy a story (so they want something that requires minimal introduction - what comics readers of old refer to as a "good jumping-on point") or they're gun shy about being left on a cliffhanger - when someone sets out to read a story, they want the whole story, not a simply an obligation to keep on reading. What follows are some self-contained graphic novels/comic book collections that can be read by people who are only passingly familiar with the characters and still enjoyed to the utmost.

If you're a diehard fan of these characters, you'll enjoy these things too. You already knew that.

As I'm certain it was intended, The Trial of Jean Grey, taken altogether as one story, functions beautifully well as an introduction to the Guardians of the Galaxy (just in time for the movie, since it came out earlier this year) AND the time-displaced squad of original X-Men (plus a couple of folks along for the ride). The introductory material at the beginning is helpful without being exhaustively expository, and we jump right into a story that feels in progress because it is. It's already happening when you get there - don't worry; you didn't miss anything.

The various characterizations made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion and the action scenes are exciting but brief, with none of the typical "jump cut to EVERY character" panels that can wear out a reader, especially in a book that mixes two teams. The writing here is solid enough to make you understand what drives every character without taking up a lot of space to get that job done. Good enough that I enjoyed it and then left it in my son's room to be read and shared. Bonus bit: if you are unfamiliar with Marvel 616 (the standard universe) history, there are a couple of quick lessons in here, too. You don't have to know anything about the X-Men or the Guardians of the Galaxy to enjoy this one - a great ride.

Staying with big team books for a little while, the next one I'm recommending is Avengers Assemble: Forgeries of Jealousy. Nothing works quite as well as a fun Avengers book with a lot going on, and between Kelly Sue DeConnick (who is the current scribe on the wonderful Captain Marvel) and Warren Ellis (among other things, the creator of the Red comics and movies), this achieves that and makes it look easy, like it's always supposed to work this way. Can be read as a standalone volume, as it renders any questions you might ask about status and continuity irrelevant to the plot and story arc. Uses the current line-up of the Avengers as it is in the Marvel Universe - so, more Wolverine, Captain Marvel and Spider-Girl than you will probably ever have seen in movies - but, as I say, if you just roll with the plot and dialogue on this one, the story's good enough to render questions about backstory and status quo completely moot.

Another great Avengers book available at the library is also another Warren Ellis tale, Avengers: Endless Wartime. A little darker than the typical Avengers story (and, as such, perhaps a precursor of what's to come from the movies) this one focuses on two things: the unintended consequences of decades-long careers of heroes like Captain America and Thor, and also the shortcomings and basic human tendencies (some folks would use the word 'foibles,' but I've never been fond of that one) that affect the actions of people like Hulk, Black Widow, Iron Man, Captain Marvel and Hawkeye. How human are you when sometimes you're a monster? How about when you're half-alien? What about when you've compartmentalized your emotions?

The interactions between the characters here are broadly played for laughs, but manage to also convey serious depth of character and relationships; you can tell these people have known each other for years and work together all the time, from the Captains' jokes about Army vs. Navy to the observations about Hawkeye & Iron Man's deplorable personal habits. Who they are and the world they inhabit is explored here in depth, but in not very many pages - only the best writers can do this job this well and this quickly. One of my favorite Avengers books, period.

In the Marvel Comics Universe, Clint Barton is Hawkeye, just like in the movies. Due to complicated "thought-you-were-dead-but-you-turned-up-alive" stuff that only happens in comics and soap operas, Kate Bishop is also Hawkeye. The 1st two collections in this series (My Life as a Weapon & Little Hits) were about Barton. This Hawkeye collection is not.

Hawkeye: L.A. Woman is about Kate Bishop, and her quest to escape Barton's self-destructive behavior, New York problems and Avengersness with a trip out West. It's good and it's funny and Matt Fraction manages to re-capture the tone of this series which was lost a little at the end of Little Hits. Kate travels out to L.A. and old grudges come back to bite her, while new stuff is revealed and her character is given some additional depth. Starts a new arc and makes you want to read it, still makes with the slickest artwork going in the Marvel U right now thanks to Wu & Pulido and gives its background characters a lot of good stuff to do an space in which to do it. Also? Self-mockery without reflexive "look-at-me" cleverness. Good stuff.

Cheating my own rule a little bit, we have the Captain America collection, Castaway in Dimension Z. I have to admit, as a cast-iron Captain America fan, I almost didn't read this, and that would have been a sad moment for me. It's good; warped and weird, sick and twisted, these are the best ways to make Arnim Zola scary again, and Remender does a great job. Bouncing back and forth between the troubled upbringing of Steve Rogers to the now-time mindbending situation that confronts him in Dimension Z, this story feels like an extended wind-up before the pitch of an epic, focusing as it does so heavily on the so I'm looking forward to getting my hands on Volume 2 already. John Romita's art, as always, befits the Captain, and no one does "bedraggled hero" better than Romita, Jr. Good stuff, but ends a little cliffhangery, which is why this is a cheat to my own previously established parameters. This is the first of a two-collection story, and the library's going to be ordering the second one, so in my not particularly humble opinion, it's worth it to get on board with this one.

Finally, Black Widow gets the storyline you've wanted her to have for ages. What motivates a semi-hero like Black Widow, and can you make corruption and guilt and recompense happen quickly enough to still build a comic around it? Turns out that the answer is yes, and that comic is the Black Widow collection The Finely Woven Thread. The art is gorgeous and the story spans the globe, brings in the intelligence community of the Marvel Universe and has The Hand of God reach out into the life of Natasha Romanov.

This one's kind of a re-establishment or re-set of a the character; something that happens more than comics companies explicitly admit. 'Re-boot' is the word bandied about for stuff like this more often than not, but that wouldn't be accurately used here. A Re-boot is complete restart from zero, throwing aside much of what you thought you knew in order to newly establish a character - reinventing the old. This is more of a return to where the character should have been all along - like what Ennis & Dillon did with the Punisher in Welcome Back, Frank - just shedding what you don't need, polishing those brass tacks, and giving us good story. I'm reluctant to say too much more lest I spoil it; suffice it to say that this one is a self-contained, stripped down, high functioning story at breakneck speed, and you only need to enjoy quality art and writing to enjoy this.

That's enough for now - I look forward to another installment of this when new stuff comes in!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wild Readalikes: Books about Hiking and Adventure

This summer I read Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild, and it left me inspired and breathless. The fact that the film adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon is coming out next month is a testament to the fact that my feelings about the book are not unique.

Some background for the uninitiated: Reeling after the dissolution of her marriage and her mother's death, Strayed made the somewhat rushed decision to do a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. (To define "somewhat rushed": Her research consisted of seeing a travel guidebook about the trail and deciding that she liked the idea.) Thru-hike, as in the entire trail, from Mexico to Canada, all 2,650 miles of it, all of its scorching deserts and icy mountains and everything in between. When she set out, she did so encumbered with pounds of extra supplies and without any real understanding of the challenges she would face. Wild eloquently details Strayed's encounters with rattlesnakes, extreme weather, hunger, severely blistered feet, and her own thoughts. It also includes stories of new friends, triumph, and "trail magic."

If you read Wild, it's very likely that two things will happen. First, you will be overcome with the urge to go for a hike, walk, or even just a stroll. (Check out Tennessee State Parks to find a trail near you, and hit up the 796.51 area of nonfiction for some how-to know-how.) Second, you will have no idea what to read next because that book is just so good. In that case, read on for some recommendations.

If your favorite parts of Wild were the ones concerned with Strayed pushing her physical and mental limits and experiencing bracing moments of sheer girl power, you will not want to miss Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods by Christine Byl. Like Strayed, Byl made a choice on little more than a whim that ended up profoundly changing her life. Following her graduation from college, Byl joined the trail crew at Glacier National Park. In so doing, she left behind a life primarily of the mind for one of the body, engaging in the difficult and very physical work of clearing brush, laying trail, felling trees, and moving boulders. I was impressed by the lyrical quality of Byl's writing and by the breadth of her technical knowledge. This woman knows more about an axe than Paul Bunyan and writes well enough to make that axe interesting.

If you spent a lot of time wondering about the really bad what-ifs of Strayed's journey, read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. Unlike my other suggestions, it's not a memoir, but it is no less compelling. Krakauer presents a meticulously researched account of Christopher McCandless. After graduating from college, McCandless assumed the name Alexander Supertramp, donated his money to charity, cut ties with his family, and disappeared. He spent the time traveling across the United States, working odd jobs, meeting people, and gathering experiences. His wanderings culminated in his death in Alaska. (A fact you learn on the cover of the book, so don't worry: It's not a spoiler.) Krakauer traces McCandless's steps, examines the causes of his death, and explores the aftermath of his departure from his family. I enjoyed Krakauer's engaging journalistic style and his ability to deliver the whole picture, connecting McCandless's story to those of other youthful wilderness explorers. McCandless is a polarizing figure in the world of nature enthusiasts, survivalists, and hikers. Read the book and see what you think.

If you were equal parts amused and horrified by that moment when Strayed's hiking boot went flying irretrievably off the edge of the mountain, try A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson. Bryson and his hapless partner (estranged friend Stephen Katz) endeavor to conquer the entire Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine. Like Strayed, they are inexperienced but ambitious, and the mixture of these two attributes leads to some unexpected moments of comedy on the trail. Bryson's conversational writing style mixes personal anecdote with AT history for fascinating results. A Walk in the Woods is less serious in tone than Wild, and it sort of felt like an uncle telling me stories about his adventures. (Obviously, this effect will vary if you are not, like me, a woman in her mid-to-late twenties.)

I hope these suggestions satisfy your need for adventure. Happy trails!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Using the Catalog - Searching Tips and Tricks!

LPLS's online catalog is a powerful tool.  One that allows you to search our holdings, place holds on things, request titles we don't have yet, monitor your account, renew items, and pay overdue fines.  Today, we're going to focus on some searching tips and tricks to help you find exactly what you're looking for, quickly and efficiently.  Using as many adverbs as possible.

You can use Boolean Operators (and, not, or) to customize your results.  Which is extremely helpful!  But if a title begins with one of those operators - like Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None - you'll get this:



But putting the title in quotes will get you results.



One-word titles can also make things difficult.  (Jonathan Kellerman, I'm looking at you.)  Since I'm picking on poor Mr. Kellerman, we'll use his book Mystery as an example.  When you do the default keyword search for Mystery you get 10,534 titles.  That's ten-thousand.  Changing your search from a keyword to a title search gets you 3,876.  But we can do better.  Because we have Power Search!



Power Search is an advanced searching tool that will let you use multiple criteria. In this case, searching for the author (last name first!) and title will greatly improve your results:



But what if you need to get really specific?  Say, you need a picture book about George Washington for a small child.  You can specify the area of the library that you want the results to come from!

In this case, you would click on Power Search and type Washington, George into the subject field.  Below that, you should see a series of drop-down menus.

These are defaulted to provide you with the most results possible.  The more fields you change, the more specific your results will be.  But beware - if you use too many, you may not get enough results.  Or maybe none at all.

It can be tricky at first to know what each field is and which one(s) to use.  Some of them are more helpful than others.

  • Library relates to the branch that owns the item.   Specifying this is helpful if you don't have time to wait for a hold to be transferred to your preferred branch.  Otherwise, leaving this as ALL will get you more complete results.
  • Language relates to the language the book is written in or, in the case of audio-visual items, what languages the audio track and/or subtitles are in.  This is most helpful, obviously, if you're looking for an item in a specific language, but it not necessary to use if your preferred language is English.
  • Format is a fun one.  You can choose to only get results that are books, or DVDs.  At the time of this writing, there wasn't an audiobook option, but there is a way!
  • And that way is Type!  Not all of the possible choices under Type will give you results.  Audio Books and New Books, for example.  Choosing Book, Compact Disc, Books on CD, DVD, or Paperback Books will result in those kind of items.
  • Location relates to where the item lives in the library.  Like Type, not all of the possible choices will yield results.  LPLS uses FIC (for adult fiction), LG-PRINT, NONFIC (for adult nonfiction), REF, HIST-REF, JUV (for children's chapter books and nonfiction), EASY (for children's picture books), AUDIOBOOK, AV, AV-JUV, DVD-FIC, and DVD-NF.  Some of the audiovisual criteria has changed over the years, so try using multiple searches for a more comprehensive result.
  • Item Category 1 is related to location.  For example, if you use JUV in the location field, you can use FICTION in Item Category 1 to get results that are only children's chapter books.  In my opinion, this is the best use of this menu.  Other choices, such as genre for adult fiction, are very subjective and might limit your results too much.
  • Item Category 2 will let you specify the basic age level of an item.  Adult, Juvenile and YA.  If an item was acquired with state or federal funds, this is also indicated in this field with an HRL or SRL in front of the age category.  If you use Item Category 2, multiple searches might be required for comprehensive results.
  • If you're looking for a specific edition, you can also specify pub year.
  • You can choose how the catalog sorts your results.  (If there is a large number of items sorting may not be available.) 
  • And, finally, you can use the drop-down menus to just browse the collection.  Leave the search fields empty, choose any combination from the menu(s) and click the Search button.
So, knowing all of that, what would we use to find a picture book about George Washington for small children?




Changing EASY to JUV will get you fiction and nonfiction for older children.

I hope you found this helpful!  If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or give us a call at any branch.  We're always happy to assist!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

They're Coming For You.

There is no shortage of books that you could read around this time of year that would scare you and jangle your nerves and give you a good adrenaline rush. This is the scare that's familiar and welcome, like a cup of flavored coffee on a Fall morning. These are the books we read like we read Poe - almost a tradition and still scary, but bordering on comfort, campfire tales for curling up with On a crisp eve near All Hallows'.

I'm not talking about those books.

These books are the books about the human race confronting hostile, existential threats and being irrevocably changed in the process; books that will, if you let them, take you on page-turning journeys into terrifying fates and leave you with a sinking feeling of delectable dread because they tread new ground in terms of being so completely frightening.

The Girl with All the Gifts is not an experience that is improved by a lot of advance detail; I was a double-digit number of pages into this book before I realized what kind of book it even was. Anyone who says to you that it is a "zombie book" is a lazy person and likely not your friend. I'm your friend, and you can trust me when I tell you to read this, not simply because it bucks easy genre classification and deserves the additional attention of anything which defies category, but because it is outstanding. In the genre-within-a-genre that is monster / horror stories, and with pop culture having made the walking dead such a buzzphrase that you thought of the TV show when I used it, it should be impossible to revitalize and make once again chilling, the zombie.

It should be impossible. It isn't, because Carey has done it. Familiarity dulls the knifepoint of terror, so Carey alienates you from what is expected. From the sterile and regimented beginnings of this tale - which begins before we arrive - to the inescapable and inexorable series of unfolding conclusions which follow, every character is fleshed out and feels like a person you might have run into, every locale is described in mundane detail that never seems mundane, and the reader gets sucked into the book while the book leaves a thumbprint on the reader's brain. As it should be, I think.

Listening to this book on audio is also a good option, read as it is by Finty Williams, an actress of all screen sizes who is also the daughter of Dame Judi Dench. The reading is excellent, and I recommend one or both.

If technological terror is more your game, then I would also recommend Daniel H. Wilson's Robogenesis, the follow-up to his 2011 book, Robopocalypse. While it would be easy to think of the latter as World War Z with robots, that would not give the book enough credit; while there were similarities in format and presentation, Wilson's story was simply a first act, and the narrative made that amply clear. His second act, Robogenesis, takes the story of the global robot uprising into its second stage, and in so doing, mixes technology with humanity in three completely disturbing and horrifying ways, taking us into the minds of humans and AI as they progress in their journeys and adjust to the new reality of what life is in the wake of the events of the first book. While it is possible to jump in without having read the first part of the story, I don't recommend it and I imagine the effect would be confusing and a little jarring. The rhythm of Wilson's narrative jumps effortlessly from the first book to the second one, and even after three years, I found myself clicking with the characters while my skin crawled to imagine what was happening to them.

Robopocalypse and Robogenesis are also both available as audiobooks from the library - I have not personally sampled either one, but listening to the first one would be a quick way to get caught up if you're unfamiliar. Additionally (and also recommended), there is a collection of short stories from the library edited by Daniel H. Wilson, appropriately titled Robot Uprisings, which is generally less on the scary side of things, leaning more toward the speculative and philosophical.

So, go and read - the fate of humanity may depend upon it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Genre Spotlight: Graphic Memoir

I love reading memoirs. Whether it’s a celebrity or a regular person you’ve never heard of, there’s something unique in the reading experience when someone shares their life story with you. When a memoir is really well-written, you come away not only entertained, but having gained a deeper understanding of the complexity of human experience. Memoirs aren’t just good reading; they also build empathy.

Graphic memoirs hold an extra special place in the bookshelf in my heart. They have all the things I love about memoirs in general, with the added bonus of gorgeous or funny art that helps convey the story. Interested in trying out this genre for the first time? Check out one of these hand-picked suggestions.

Persepolis and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi
This two-volume memoir recounts the author’s experiences growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution of 1979. It’s a powerful book that depicts the mingling of the political and the personal during a turbulent time and flawlessly recreates the confusion of a child’s perception of war and politics. The clean lines of the stark, black-and-white artwork make for perfect accompaniment to Satrapi’s experiences.


Blankets by Craig Thompson
Blankets is a story of sharp contrasts: the experience of childhood abuse and stifling religious orthodoxy, and the experience of falling in love for the first time. Thompson grew up in rural Wisconsin, sharing a bed with his younger brother, attending church with his family, and drawing. When he falls in love with a girl at church camp, the experience profoundly challenges and alters his worldview. Thompson’s storytelling and his artwork are equally matched in elegance and in their ability to break your heart. If you’re a coming-of-age aficionado, do not miss this one. It’s a huge tome, but you’ll fly through the pages.

You might have seen Brosch’s hilarious comics online, where they originally appeared and enjoy a wide readership. This volume collects Brosch’s misadventures, with episodes detailing adopting a problematic dog, struggling when the world does not conform to one’s arbitrary rules of how things should be, being literally lost in the woods, coping with depression, and more. The artwork isn’t beautiful; in fact, it’s as crabbed and awkward as Brosch’s experiences. Which, I think, is all part of the charm.




If you’ve heard of the Bechdel Test (a method of determining the quality of depictions of women in film), but haven’t read anything by the woman who invented it, try Fun Home. This memoir focuses on Bechdel’s experiences with her father, a closeted gay man. This book is both sad and funny, which is, I guess, what you can expect from an author who grew up in the family funeral home. (Get the title now?) If you like Fun Home, you'll also want to check out Are You My Mother?, which turns the lens on Bechdel's mother. Still not sold? Bechdel just won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant. Yeah, she's good.

Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges
Georges grew up believing that her father was dead. (After all, that’s what her mother told her.) When she’s in her twenties, she receives a prediction from a psychic that challenges this knowledge. Although it comes from an unlikely source, this revelation prompts Georges to discover the truth about her past. This memoir also deals with Georges’s emerging awareness of her sexual identity, and with her relationship with dogs. (As a dog lover and a fan of LGBTQ narratives, I adored this book!)The artwork alternates between a simpler style for childhood scenes and a more complex style for adult scenes. Sometimes our early memories are fallible and seem almost unreal and cartoonish, so I thought this contrast was really appropriate and clever.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Genre Spotlight: New Adult

What in the world is New Adult? This might be a question you've asked yourself lately while reading book blogs, scanning new releases, or perusing bookstore shelves. Like Young Adult, New Adult is more of a demographic than a genre, focusing on readers between the ages of around 18 and 25. However, books categorized as New Adult typically have several features in common. They follow characters in their late teens or early twenties. Romantic relationships are usually front-and-center. You can expect intensity, transformation, and lots and lots of drama. You can also expect some heat; New Adult is almost notorious (among both fans and detractors) for its steamy scenes. Usually when someone calls a book New Adult, they mean that it has these features. So, a book might have characters in the right age range, but is not really a New Adult book. (Just as there are many books about teenagers that are not Young Adult novels, and books about children that are not juvenile literature.)

Like its little sibling Young Adult, New Adult enjoys a diverse readership. It really doesn't matter if you don't fit into the 18-25 age group. Fans of contemporary romance, in particular, will find much to love in New Adult. So if you're feeling curious, go for it! Here are some author suggestions to get you started.

Jay Crownover
Jay Crownover's Marked Men series follows a group of friends in Denver, Colorado. Among them are a tattoo artist, a metal singer, a soldier, and plenty of other bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold types.  The series starts with Rule and continues with Jet and Rome. Crownover's new series is called Welcome to the Point and begins with Better When He's Bad. It follows ex-con Shane Baxter as he leaves prison, looks for answers, and falls for a much-too-innocent girl named Dovie. If you're into star-crossed, mismatched lovers battling personal demons and hashing out their differences--or if you like guys with tattoos and piercings--then these are the books for you.
 
Cora Carmack
Carmack's Goodreads biography describes her as "a twenty-something writer who likes to write about twenty-something characters"--in other words, quintessential New Adult. Her series starts with Losing It. The protagonist, Bliss, is tired of being the only virgin in her group of friends, and decides to take care of the situation with a no-strings-attached one-night-stand. But Bliss freaks out and leaves the stranger lying there in her own bed--only to discover, about 8 hours later, that he's her new theater professor. If you like watching characters get into and out of cringe-inducingly awkward situations, this is the book for you! The series continues with  Faking It and Finding It. (There are also related novellas, so if you really get into this series, there's plenty to explore.)


Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover is one of the most popular New Adult authors, so if you're wanting to explore what it's all about, she's a logical choice. In Hopeless Sky begins her senior year at a public high school after being home-schooled for her entire life. If that's not enough change already, her world gets far more complicated when she meets Dean Holder, who instantly mesmerizes her and brings back buried memories from her past. This one is full of twists and secrets, so if you like high drama, check it out. Fans can continue the reading experience with Losing Hope, which is told from Dean's perspective. Hoover's other books include Slammed, set in the slam poetry scene, and Maybe Someday, in which an aspiring musician must deal with betrayal at the hands of her boyfriend and her best friend.

Abbi Glines
If you want a big series to get involved in, Abbi Glines might be your author. Her Rosemary Beach series actually combines three miniseries, so if you start and like it, you're guaranteed to have plenty more reading material lined up for you. The whole thing starts with Fallen Too Far, in which nineteen-year-old Blair trades in Alabama farm life for the Florida coast, where she will be living with her father, his new wife, and her sexy new stepbrother. (And if you need a handy list of all the books in order, Fantastic Fiction is your friend.)

S. C. Stephens
Kiera and Denny have been a happy couple for two years, with no intention of changing that. After high school they move to the city together; Kiera will be in college, and Denny will be starting at his dream job. But when an unexpected circumstance drives them apart, Kiera's loneliness drives her to seek friendship with Kellan, a local musician. Can you say love triangle? Find out what happens in Thoughtless. The series continues with Effortless and Reckless


K. A. Tucker
In Ten Tiny Breaths, orphan Kacey flees a dysfunctional home with her younger sister Livie, determined to bury the past and to protect Livie whatever the cost. Their journey takes them from Grand Rapids to Miami, where a distressingly attractive neighbor catches Kacey's attention and complicates her already less-than-perfect life. The series continues in One Tiny Lie, Four Seconds to Lose, and Five Ways to Fall.

Tammara Webber

Tammara's first novel in the Contours of the Heart series is Easy, and it  presents a situation that is anything but. The couple at the center of the story meet when Lucas saves Jacqueline from being assaulted, which is hardly a light-hearted "meet cute." When Jacqueline's attacker refuses to leave her alone, Lucas continues to protect her. But of course, this is a New Adult novel, so there are plenty of complications and secrets to keep things interesting. Who can Jacqueline trust? Find out in Easy. The story continues in Breakable.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mysteries for Nature Lovers - If you like Nevada Bar & C.J. Box

Nevada Barr and C.J. Box have long been favorite authors of both LPLS staff and patrons alike.  While they both write very distinct series, their books share many similarities.  Both authors draw on their professional backgrounds, which adds a great deal of realism to their writing.  Their protagonists read like real people who have flaws and make mistakes.  And, along with relentless pacing and plotting, both series feature the beauty and savagery of nature.

While Box and Barr are the most well known writers of nature-focused mystery, there are other very good ones out there that shouldn't be missed.

If you enjoy the Wyoming setting and environmental issues that Box tackles in his Joe Pickett series, David Bertsch might be a good one to try.  Both Bertsch and his protagonist Jake Trent are former lawers-turned-fishing guides, and that knowledge adds an extra dimension to the plot.  This first in his series is Death Canyon.

Scott Graham adds an archaeological element to the wilderness mystery in his National Parks series.  Both Barr fans and Reichs/Griffiths readers will find much to like here!  His debut is called Canyon Sacrifice.

Patricia Skalka's debut, Death Stalks Door County, introduces park ranger Dave Cubiak.  Set in
Wisconsin, the setting has a different feel from the others that take place in the West or Southwest.  Skalka's prose is reminiscent of the great Robert B. Parker's, so fans of the Jesse Stone series should try this one out.

Paul Doiron's game warden, Mike Bowditch, works in Maine.  Doiron shares the twisty plotting and top-notch characterization that Barr and Box are known for, but he does it from a first-person perspective.  This gives the prose an immediacy and an intimacy that sets it apart from the rest.  Consistently well-reviewed, he should be on every mystery lover's must read list.  The first in the series is The Poacher's Son.

William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor is a half-Irish, half-Native American P.I.  The rural Minnesotan setting and O'Connor's Ojibwe point of view makes this series fine company for Box and Barr.  Western readers and Tony Hillerman fans will also enjoy the series.  The first in the series is Iron Lake.

Set in the Rockies, Beth Groundwater's RM Outdoor Adventures series is perfect for white water rafters.  Or those of us who prefer to raft vicariously through fictional characters.  The rivers of Colorado are as important a character as river ranger and guide Mandy Tanner.  Start with Deadly Currents.

Dana Stabenow brings the rugged and brutal beauty of Alaska to life through P.I. Kate Shugak.  Kate and Barr's Anna Pigeon are kindred spirits as they are both tough, smart, and willing to do the right thing no matter the personal cost.  The first in the series is A Cold Day for Murder.

While Stabenow's a master of the genre, M.J. McGrath is brand-new.  White Heat starts in the Arctic as guide Edie Kiglatuk is hired to find the remains of a lost Victorian explorer.  Its haunting tone will appeal to fans of Scandinavian mysteries.