Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

I really enjoy novels that are set in a unique and exciting new world, and Incarceron by Catherine Fisher fit the bill perfectly and didn’t disappoint.  Finn is an inmate in a futuristic, self-aware prison called Incarceron.  He doesn’t remember anything from before the age of 15 when he recalls waking up in Incarceron, but he is certain that he was born outside the prison and doesn’t belong there.  The prison itself has come to life and is reigning over the inmates, and Finn is determined to escape its cruel walls.  After discovering a crystal key, Finn makes contact with someone on the outside:  Claudia, the daughter of Incarceron’s icy warden, who is betrothed (quite against her will) to the foolhardy prince.  The two work together to plot Finn’s escape and the downfall of Incarceron, learning some surprising and coincidental things about Finn’s past along the way.

I was so confused when I started reading this book.  My problem was that I couldn’t figure out during which time period it is set, since there is a lot of futuristic technology but everyone dresses and behaves in a medieval way.  But that problem quickly got set aside once I figured out what was going on, and the answer made it a really unique and thought-provoking book.  The characters really come alive, and the technology is cool to ponder.  I was on the edge of my seat right up to the end wondering if Finn would succeed in his escape and what his true identity was.  Plus, I hear that it’s being made into a movie soon starring Twilight’s Taylor Lautner as Finn, so all the members of Team Jacob are sure to enjoy it.  If you like dystopian novels or anything with a sci-fi/fantasy slant, you’ll devour Incarceron and rush out to find its sequel, Sapphique.

The Preacher by Camilla Lackberg

Though the recent cold and snowy weather makes us all dream of warmer places, I still can’t stop reading more Scandinavian mysteries, where the cold climate plays a major role.   The Preacher is the second mystery novel by Swedish author Camilla Lackberg – if you have recently enjoyed other Scandinavian crime fiction you may want to add her to your list.  I blogged about her first novel, The Ice Princess, a few months ago and after I finished reading this book I couldn’t wait for the next book in the series to be translated into English.

In The Preacher, again we meet Erica and Patrik who are now expecting their first child.  As a detective in Fjallbacka, a tiny fishing village in southwest Sweden, Patrik has been thrown in to a new investigation – the murder of a young tourist from Germany.  With this new case, the 30 year old unsolved disappearance of  two young women is also thrust into the spotlight – the young tourist’s body is found with the remains of these two young women.

The case takes an unexpected turn when a young girl, Jenny Moeller whose appearance is nearly identical to the murdered tourist, is kidnapped and Patrik and his fellow detectives know that time is running out to try and save her.  With Jenny’s disappearance, clues come to light that  focus the investigation on a local and radical family, the Hult’s, whose public feud only complicates the case further.  The ending is completely unexpected and shocking – definitely well worth it!

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde fits into a lot of different genres:  it’s a little bit sci-fi, literary fiction, humor and thriller.  In an alternate 1985 in England, Thursday Next is a LiteraTec working to solve literary crimes (typically small-time stuff like copyright infringement).  But her career takes a more drastic turn when criminal mastermind Acheron Hades steals the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens.    And so begins a game of cat and mouse between Thursday and Acheron in which she is constantly escaping death, though just barely.  Things take a turn when a character goes missing from Dickens’ novel:  it turns out that Thursday’s uncle has created a device that allows a person to jump into a literary work, and Acheron has found the device and kidnapped the character, changing the whole story.  And if his demands aren’t met, Acheron will take things to the next level and do the same to the beloved Jane Eyre herself, removing her from her classic novel and thus changing the face of classic literature forever.

It took me a while to really get into this book, but once Acheron has made the threat on Jane Eyre, it gets hard to put down (especially for a Jane Eyre fan!).  This is a very unique book, especially with the alternate history that is involved; it’s not the world that we know today, and this includes the ending to Jane Eyre itself.  If you’re into the classics and enjoy a little bit of a sci-fi edge to your books, I recommend picking up this book.

Better Off Ted

Another television series cancelled too soon, Better Off Ted center around the Research and Development department of a giant, evil coropration called Veridian Dynamics.  Its common practices include freezing an employee and trying to convince him not to sue, attempting to create products like synthetic meat, and covering up products that have unexpected negative side effects (like perfume).  The main character and narrator is Ted, the beloved head of the department who is often left struggling with what to do with his company’s outlandish requests.    Ted is also coming to terms with his feelings for new co-worker and the show’s moral compass Linda despite his brief fling with his ice-cold supervisor Veronica, played by scene-stealing Portia de Rossi.

The show is certainly unusual,  with its heavy satire and frequent breaking of the fourth wall by Ted speaking directly to the viewers.  But fans of Arrested Development (another show cancelled before its time) will enjoy this unique and often hilarious series.  It lasted for two seasons, and so far only the first has been released on DVD.  I’m still anxiously awaiting the release of season two, and I’m sure I’m not the only one!

Mothers & Other Liars by Amy Bourret

If the title doesn’t grab you, the story will.  In a style similar to Jodi Picoult’s, author Amy Bourret takes a controversial subject and somehow manages to sympathetically portray both sides of the issue in Mothers and Other Liars.

Ruby was only 19 when she discovered an abandoned infant in a trash can at an Oklahoma rest stop.  She raises the baby girl as her own. After nine years they have settled into a comfortable and happy life in Sante Fe, New Mexico, with a “family” of very supportive friends.   Then one day she happens to read a magazine article about a baby who was unintentionally kidnapped by car-jackers.  Ruby realizes that life as she knows it is over.  Will she choose to move to Mexico and live a life on the run? Or will she present herself to the authorities and suffer the consequences?  Her choice is further complicated by that fact that she is pregnant by her boyfriend of 3 years.

As a Yale Law School graduate who practiced included child advocacy law, author Bourret brings real-life experience to the tale.  The courtroom scenes seem particularly dramatic.  However, the real kicker comes at the end of the story.  Sorry — but you’ll need to read it to find out what happens!

Library Closed Due to Bad Weather

It’s the Blizzard of the Century! OK, maybe it won’t be, but it is shaping up to be a major snowstorm with dangerous winds and lots of snow. The best thing to do is to stay home and leave the roads to snowplows and emergency vehicles.

Because of this major storm, the Davenport Public Library will be closed Wednesday, February 2 at all three locations. We will re-open on Thursday, February 3rd.

Stay safe and warm!

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt

You might remember him as the sidekick from King of Queens or the voice of Ratatoille. If you’re really on top of it, you recall last year when our fair city was the epicenter of a national stand-up comedy debacle when a community theatre hack mindlessly regurgitated his bits verbatim for profit under the presumption no one would notice.  Or, from a commentary in the last issue of Wired Magazine pronouncing the geek fringe as the status quo.

Patton Oswalt is a genius, master comedic manipulator of the spoken word, dilletante, and highly sought-after nerd-culture commentator.

His NYTimes bestselling latest effort,  Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, features childhood reminisces of Dungeons and Dragons and youth mired in suburban DC no-mans land, custom-crafted in his own inimitable style.   It is a rare feat how he wields his half-orc comedic pen with 20+ melee damage so effortlessly and without the pretension of his contemporaries.

You may also consider checking out any of his spoken word albums.