Saturday, April 10, 2010

Booklists Galore

Booklists for Bookworms is taking a little break! There are piles of books that need to be read so more lists of books can be made. In the meantime, here’s one last list—not of books, but of other blogs and websites that can recommend literally hundreds of new booklists and thousands of glorious, wonderful, magical books.

What Should I Read Next? at

Who hasn’t wondered “What should I read next?” Well, here’s a lovely website that can answer that looming question. Simply type in the name of a book or author you like. When you select your desired title, you are rewarded with a handy list of similar books. These titles are linked to, so you can easily access all of Amazon’s user-friendly details like cover art, summaries, and reviews. The recommendations come from the reviews of over a million users of What Should I Read Next?, and you are pretty much guaranteed to find something new and unexpected that will become a well-worn, beloved favorite.

WhichBook is a remarkably fun and unique way to decide which book to read next. The big question is: What are you in the mood for? The website consists of a series of sliding bars with one extreme at each end—“happy – sad,” for example, or “funny – serious.” You pick four categories of extremes, slide the cursor closer to one end the other (whatever you’re in the mood for), and then you click GO! Your result is a list of books that match your mood—it’s genius. Title, author, and a brief plot summary are provided, along with similar reads. WhichBook is U.K. based, so non-Brits will have to look up further details on a website like Amazon or local library websites. You can also search for books based on character (race, age, sexuality, gender), plot type (quest, conflicts, lots of twists and turns), and setting (anywhere in the world).

Fiction Finder lets you get really, splendidly, fantastically specific. You’re greeted by a bunch of lovely blue “subject clouds,” words that will lead you to books about that subject. You may not have even known you were interested in books about assassins, cats, grandmothers, magicians, orphans, soldiers, or wizards until you happened upon a list of such subjects at Fiction Finder. With 275 books listed about governesses alone, you know you’re in for a real treat. And when you click “browse,” a whole new batch of subject lists opens up entire new worlds of books to reads. Goody goody.

Hot lists, starred lists, featured titles lists, themed lists, monthly lists, annual lists, coming soon lists… boy oh boy. Overbooked is a classic booklist website, chock full every subject you could ever hope for. Search by genre, literary theme, literary style, summer reading, and more. Featured titles of September, 2009, for example, include Stitches (graphic novel memoir), Windup Girl (sci-fi thriller), and The Coral Thief (historical fiction mystery). Did you like The Thirteenth Tale? Here’s a list of similar reads. Wanna read books about Ireland? Here you go. Interested in exploring the works of Latino and Latina authors? No problem. We could go on and on because the booklists are practically never ending, that, of course, is the best part.

Stop, You’re Killing Me at

Mystery lovers, rejoice. Stop, You’re Killing Me is a killer resource for readers who love to solve crimes on the page. True to its genre of choice, Stop, You’re Killing Me indulges in some truly inventive categories. Browse through the job index. There’s a list of books about crime-solving characters who are also archeologists and anthropologists. There are lists of mysteries that take place in the worlds of horse racing, construction, and high society. Search the historical index for mysteries that take place in ancient times, in the 1980s, and every time in between. If you like mysteries where the dog is the detective, well, you’re in luck: here’s a list of similar books. If you adore Agatha Christie, here are some author mystery writers you might fall head over heels for. With 3,300 authors, 3,700 series, and over 37,000 titles to chose from, readers can begin detecting and never have to stop. A website to die for, indeed.

Oh, historical fiction, the glory of the past: all that historical fact mixed with all that wonderfully imagined fiction. Blogger and librarian Sarah Johnson writes deliciously detailed reviews of new, unique, and unexpected historical fiction titles. In some blog posts, Johnson does a straight-forward review of her latest read. In others, Johnson goes through the ABCs of historical fiction, with posts like “I is for India.” The early months 2010 includes posts like “Tackiness Extraordinaire” featuring a selection of hilariously lurid vintage historical fiction covers, discussions of book award nominees, thoughts on the work of a variety of different authors, and reviews of over a dozen books. Complete with author interviews, guest posts, lots of reader feedback, and links to even more historical fiction blogs and websites, Reading the Past is a historical fiction fan’s best friend.

Let’s all just admit it right now: sometimes we read trashy, no-good books for the sole purpose of escapism. They’re not literary books. They’re not books that teach us anything. They haven’t won a single book award. Well, thank god for Bookgasm, because these bloggers absolutely relish the books that just plain make us feel good. Science fiction, westerns, graphic novels, comic books, and more are cherished and celebrated here at Bookgasm. Recent posts dissect the finer points of a 1975 book that combines Sherlock Holmes and War of the Worlds, admit to absolutely loving a line of WWE wrestling comic books, make fun of the covers of martial arts books, and occasionally present straight-forward reviews of genre fiction. It’s goofy and clever and and action-packed, and you will still find lots of new books to read. What could be better than that?

KDL What’s Next Books in Series Database at

There is nothing more frustrating than reading the first book in a thrilling series and not knowing which book comes second, third, fourth, or fortieth. Kent District Library in Michigan maintains a series database so that all of us can avoid precisely that problem. You can search by author, book title, series title, and genre. Before you know it, you have a wonderful list of series books in the order they are meant to be read. Soon you know for certain that Seeing a Large Cat is the ninth book in the Amelia Peabody Mystery series, that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire comes after Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and that Suzanne Collins is the author of both the Hunger Games trilogy and the Underland Chronicles series. And for the voracious reader in all of us, that is a very big relief.

More Genre Booklist Websites:

Cozy Library at (sweet, friendly, gentle mysteries to cozy up to)

I Love a Good Mystery at (a mystery a day keeps the doctor away)

Urban Fiction at (the dirty, gritty, thrilling realities of street life in the big city)

All About Romance at (bask in the romance)

No Flying, No Tights: The Lair at (everything you always wanted to know about graphic novels but were afraid to ask)

Uchronia: The Alternate History List at (what if history took a different path?)

Webrary at (the ultimate list of book list resources)


Novelist is a subscription database, but if you belong to a public library (and you should because it’s free), odds are you have access to arguably the best book resource in the business. Once you log in with your library barcode, you can search for books like crazy. Basic search includes author, title, series title, and “describe a plot,” with the added benefit of narrowing your search by audience (adults, teens, older kids, younger kids). You can also find author read-alikes, that all-important source when you’ve devoured everything your favorite author ever wrote but still can’t get enough. Genre outlines can help you explore your old favorites or branch out in new directions. Popular fiction checklists keep you up-to-date on all the hottest new releases. Award winners, recommended reads (from nice friendly book-obsessed librarians), special features, and discussion guides for your book club, there’s hardly anything about a book that you can’t find on Novelist. This database will be your new book best friend.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Historical Figues Doing Strange, Strange Things


Famous people are meant to be remembered. The achievements of presidents, rulers, writers, and scientists go down in history, as they should. But sometimes famous people have secrets. And not the secrets you’re thinking of—there’s much more going on than skeletons in the closet and lovers on the sly. Instead, the best-known historical figures cavorted with unsavory members of the underground or snuck out at night to keep our ancestors safe and sound in their beds. Want to know what history class didn’t—or couldn’t—teach you? Read about these famous fellows and their strange secrets and hidden talents.

Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford, 2009, Ballantine Books (Fantasy/ Humor/ Historical Fiction)


We love Jane Austen. We love her so much, in fact, that even though she only wrote six books, there are dozens upon dozens of sequels, prequels, knockoffs, spin-offs, and mash-ups to be found on bookshelves everywhere. And here’s another one: Jane Bites Back. Jane Austen is still alive and well. How? She’s a vampire, of course. She’s also a bookstore owner and an aspiring author. Her last book has been rejected for nigh on two hundred years. But now she’s finally found a publisher—and a handsome one at that. She's beginning to feel truly comfortable with her daffy assistant (who reminds her of sister Cassandra) and her admiring neighbor Walter (who is not at all a Mr. Darcy, even though he’s very sweet and caring). And her books are selling better than ever (even if they have to compete with knockoffs like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). But when Jane’s renewed fame as author “Elizabeth Jane Fairfax” of the new bestselling Constance shoves her into the spotlight, our heroine finds herself involved in a couple familiar entanglements: one a wicked battle-of-the-sexes with ex-boyfriend and fellow vampire Lord Byron, and the other a fierce catfight with Charlotte Brönte-fanatic Violet Grey. Now Jane's treasured privacy as a human and her dark vampire secret are threatened--and just when things finally seemed to be going her way. Author Michael Thomas Ford joyously plays with popular culture's current mania for all things Austen and still gifts readers with a realistically warm, witty, and sometimes sarcastic Jane who fans will recognize and relate to. The first of a planned trilogy, readers can rest assured that Jane will be back to bite again and again.

Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter by A.E. Moorat, 2010, Eos Books (Horror/ Humor/ Historical Fiction)


Ah, Queen Victoria, the stiff-upper-lipped little woman whose long rule oversaw the British Empire’s growing power in all things industrial, political, military, cultural, and scientific. She was a controversial monarch whose assassination was attempted some dozen times in her life. The first attempt, though few know it today, came on the eve of her ascension to the throne when a foul demon (yes, demon) infiltrated her bedroom and attempted to slice her into little pieces. Young Victoria, as told in author A.E. Moorat’s new biography Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter, is not too surprised that there are demons—she has received an excellent education, after all—but it does come as something of a shock that she, as queen, is to be the lead demon hunter of the land. Still, Victoria is determined to be a successful ruler in all areas, and willingly begins training under the Protektorate, a motley crew of warriors in possession of all manner of demon-slaying skills—and in Victorian England, demons come in all sizes and shapes. As Victoria learns the proper way to behead a zombie, defeat a werewolf, and tackle other evil spirits, her mind occasionally wanders to daydreams of handsome Prince Albert. Trying to balance the desires of the heart with the demands of a demon-ravaged kingdom is certainly a trial, but no one is better suited to meet the challenge than the new Queen Victoria. There’s enough gore here to thrill raving horror fans, enough historical detail to satisfy devoted Anglophiles, and plenty of dashes of humor, romance, and satire to tie it all together in a neat little bow—and then, of course, good old Vicky will come along and lop its head off.

Drood by Dan Simmons, 2009, Little, Brown and Co. (Historical Fiction/ Horror)

Charles Dickens may be a classic writer of fine literature today, but way back when, he was a major celebrity. Readers waited on edge for the newest installments of his novels to come out in weekly newspapers and magazines; his book readings were carefully crafted performances and boy, were they packed. And according to author Dan Simmons, Dickens was a strange and secretive man. In Drood, Dickens is the main character, though his real-life friend (“frenemy” is perhaps more accurate) Wilkie Collins narrates the story. The starting point is a horrifying and near-fatal train derailing in 1865 that Dickens survived but never entirely recovered from. Simmons uses this factual event to introduce a mysterious character who Dickens encounters amid the gore and wreckage of the train—a gaunt specter, calling himself Drood, who emits a decidedly creepy aura and has a sinister agenda of his own. Dickens becomes obsessed with tracking Drood and enlists Collins to assist him in nighttime voyages though London’s grotesque underground caverns and crypts. Collins, as portrayed in Drood, is bitterly jealous and opium-addicted; Dickens is an egomaniac of the highest order who’s keeping heavy secrets from friends and family, including the motive behind what will be his final, uncompleted book, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Things get weirder, spookier, and more bizarre as the final years of Dickens’ life draw to a close for a wholly atmospheric blend of history, historical fiction, and supernatural horror that’s as dramatic (and melodramatic) as the novels by Dickens and Collins that inspired it. Be sure to check out Dickens’ novels (especially The Mystery of Edwin Drood), and don’t let Wilkie Collins, who remains largely in the shadow of his better-known contemporary, be forgotten again—his novels The Moonstone and The Woman in White are masterpieces in their own right.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith, 2010, Grand Central Publishing (Horror/ Humor/ Historical Fiction)


Best known for living in a log cabin as a boy and ending slavery as our illustrious sixteenth president, a diary by the man himself (fortuitously discovered by Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) reveals that Abraham Lincoln was also a skilled slayer of vampires. Following his mother’s death at the hand (or bite) of a blood-sucking creature of the undead, young Abraham vows to spend the rest of his life ridding this great nation of the foul demon presence. And since slavery is a projection of the vampires’ natural desire for control over their victims, Abe vows to defeat that vile institution as well. His legendary strength and height are a definite advantage; his practiced skill with his sharp ax serves him well as he fights to crush the vampires’ political power—and just plain chop their heads off. The road to victory (and the White House) is not easy, and Abraham faces an uphill battle fraught with failed love affairs, sickly sons, dying soldiers, disguised vampires, and bloody fangs. Complete with documentary photographs, diary entries, quotes from letters, and explanatory footnotes, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter has the look and feel of a grand historical biography—but with tongue firmly in cheek. Continuing his tradition of adding scenes of gory mayhem to solid classics, Grahame-Smith might cause history buffs to grumble, but horror and humor fans will be tickled pink by the image of Honest Abe swinging his trusty ax at hoards of blood-thirsty sharp-toothed fangs.

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe, 2004, Pantheon Books (Humor/ Adventure/ Historical Fiction)


Charles Darwin changed the world with his theory of evolution. But first, he frolicked with pirates. When the very silly Pirate Captain and his crew of jolly buccaneers mistake Darwin’s ship The Beagle for a treasure ship from the Bank of England, Darwin charms the pirates with his fancy trained chimp, Mr. Bobo, who is a perfect little English gentleman and destined to be a start of the British stage. Chumming it up, Darwin and his new BFF the Pirate Captain head back to England to save the day. Darwin's brother, Erasmus, has been kidnapped by the vile Bishop of Oxford, who has invested heavily in P.T. Barnum’s traveling freak show and doesn't want any competition standing in his way—especially not from the likes of Charles Darwin and his upstart monkey. But with the pirates on the case, Darwin is certain to come out on top--if he can only convince the unruly crew to pose as scientists, dress in drag, and stop obsessing with ham. Author Gideon Defoe spins a yarn that is deliriously goofy (the 19th century characters indulge in such modern anachronisms as dental floss and post-it notes) but always endearing and charming. The Pirate Captain and his merry crew have several more adventure with noted celebrities of the age, including Karl Marx (The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists) and Napoleon (The Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon), and even a run-in with the fictional Captain Ahab (The Pirates! In an Adventure with Ahab). But with Charles Darwin the Pirate Captain strikes up a true friendship (if only because Darwin has no comparable sword, beard, or ship to envy) and their adventure together is a droll, nonsensical romp with a light-hearted flair for the enjoyably ridiculous.