Archive for June, 2009


June 29, 2009

Author: Sittenfield, Curtis
Title: Prep
Genre: Literary fiction
Publication Date: 2005
Number of Pages: 403
Geographical Setting: Indiana, Massachusetts, Ault School, New York
Time Period: Present day
Series: N/A

Plot Summary: The novel deals with the story of Lee Fiora, a fourteen year old girl who leaves the comforts of her South Bend, Indiana town for the prestige and financial indulgence of the Ault School in Massachusetts. Thus, after arriving she struggles with trying to familiarize herself not only with the new kind of teenagers there, but also her first love and dealing with eccentric roommates, all at the same time.
The novel seems to follow the standard outline of characters Lee would encounter at school: alienated gays, perfect blond socialites, the new English teacher whose dreams haven’t been crushed yet by years of student apathy and the handsome basketball player who Lee sees something more in. Then language is articulate and well-written and events move along steadily, always with a touch of Lee’s introspective angst. But even as the angst might get predictable, Sittenfield adds a good dose of description to allow the reader to understand more first-hand why Lee has the thoughts she does. Filled with good examples of humor and seriousness, Sittenfield writes a debut novel that let the reader examine the mind of a pensive twenty-something intellectual as she recounts how she grew up miles away from family and familiarity.

Appeal: Well-writen; character-centered; passionate; introspective; elegant; thought-provoking; engaging; smart; sophisticated; dense; contemporary; reflective
Subject Heading: Teenage girls fiction; preparatory school students; self-destructive behavior; Massachusetts; Indiana; Psychological fiction
3 terms describing the book: Introspective; Honest; Articulate

Three relevant fiction books: Miss Educated: An Upper Class Novel by Hobson Brown (young adult read about school children dealing with romance)
The Headmaster Ritual by Taylor Antrim (boarding school in Massachusetts with zany characters)
The Headmaster’s Dilemma by Louis Auchincloss (WASP students dealing with a potential rape in 1960s boarding school)

Three relevant non-fiction books: Boarding School by Clint Adams (memoir about experiences in boarding school)
A Girl’s Survival Guide to Boarding School by Ariana Bedrossian (advice guide to girls dealing with pressures of boarding school)
Preparing for Power: America’s Elite Boarding Schools by Peter W. Cookson Jr. and Caroline Hodges Persell (examination of the leaders that emerge from these schools and what education process goes along with it)
Name: Matt Woronko

Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child

June 24, 2009

Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child

Author: Elva Trevino Hart

Title: Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 1999

Number of Pages: 236

Geographical Setting: Texas, migrating to and from Minnesota

Time Period: 1950’s-

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Barefoot Heart is a vividly told autobiographical account of the life of a child growing up in a family of Mexican immigrants who worked as migrant workers to feed their six children. In 1953, when she was only three, her parents took the family from Texas to work in the fields of Minnesota and Wisconsin for the first time, only to find that in order to comply with the child labor law they had to leave the author and her 11-year-old sister to board in a local Catholic school, where they pined for the rest of the family. Hart remembers other years when the entire family participated in the backbreaking field labor, driven mercilessly by Apa (her father), who was determined to earn enough money to allow all his children to graduate from high school. Apa not only achieved his goal but was able to save $2000 so that Hart could enter college, a step that led to her earning a master’s degree in computer science.

Appeal: Fascinating, Triumphant, Proud, Struggle, Dignity, Beautiful, Picturesque, Driven, Elegant, Passionate, Heartfelt, Powerful, Extraordinary.

Subject Headings:

Hart, Elva Trevino

Mexican-American Women-Autobiography


Mexican Americans—Social life and customs

Migrant farm workers

Migrant farm workers-Social conditions

Boarding School students-biography

Family relationships

Poor families




3 terms that Best Describe the Book: Heartfelt, Powerful and Triumphant.

Three nonfiction titles:

Forged Under the Sun: the Life of Maria Elaena Lucas=Forjada Bajo el Sol by Maria Elena Lucas, edited and with an introduction by Fran Leeper Buss.

This is the oral history of a Chican farmworker. The story begins in Texas and follows Maria to Illinois. The narrative takes the reader through Maria’s struggles with poverty, and her involvement with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee. This also is the struggle of a women and the struggles regarding  her family.

Salaam, Stanley Matters by Subrata Dasgupta.

Arriving in Britain from Calcutta, this book is a similar migration of a child to an unfamiliar destination and the family struggle of survival and triumphs.

Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Carlos Eire

This novel compares to Hart’s memoir, this book tells the tale of Eire’s childhood, a survivor who describes his family’s conflicts and the impact of the Cuban Revolution on his family.

Three Fiction Titles:

Watercolor Women, Opaque Men by Ana Castillo.

This novel tells the story of migrant farm workers. Ella the main character moves to Chicago and raises her son by drawing on all her personal experiences, to be different from all the men around them.

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez.

This story takes place in Vermont where a family of Migrant Mexican Workers. Mari, the oldest daughter of her migrant family, lives in constant fear of being discovered by the authorities and sent back to the poverty they left behind in Mexico.

The Mexican Chubasco by Roberto Haro.

This is the fictional story of the Mexican Revolution seen through the eyes of a wealthy landowner. Even as a fictional tale, this is a great way to gain a little historical insight to why many Mexicans have migrated to the United States looking for a better life.

Annotation By: Allison Robins

Tuesdays with Morrie

June 24, 2009

Author: Mitch Albom

Title: Tuesdays with Morrie

genre: inspirational, biographies & memoirs

publication date: 1997

number of pages: 192

geographical setting: United States, Detroit and Boston

plot summary: Having graduated and moved on in his life the Author looses touch with what he wants in life. By coincidence he sees an old professor on television who he hadn’t talked to in 16 years. Learning that this great mentor of his is dying of an incurable disease the author puts his life partly on hold to fly back and and learn one final lesson from the teacher, what he learns puts his life in a whole new perspective.

Subject headings: inspirational, religion & spirituality, biographies & memoirs

appeal: enlightening, teaching,  inspirational, thought-provoking, detaching, symbolic, deep, learning, true, spiritual, bereavement, death,

three terms: teacher/student, thoughtful, acceptance

relevant fiction:

The Five people you meet in heaven by Mitch Albom (life’s purpose)

My sister’s keeper by Jodi Picoult (meaning of life)

The Guernsey Literary and potato-peel pie society by Mary Ann Shaffer (human nature)

relevant non-fiction:

Who Dies? by Stephen Levine (dealing with death)

Practicing your path by Holly W. Whitcomb (finding spirituality)

Marley and me by John Grogan (life perspectives)

Name: Bill Thurston

The Runner

June 24, 2009

Author: Christopher Reich

Title: The Runner

Genre: Historical fiction- world war two

publication date: 2001

pages: 512

geographical setting: Europe, Paris, France and Berlin, Germany

time period: shortly after World War Two

summary: World War Two has just ended, the victorious sides are struggling role of the post-war world, but underneath this political intrigue an ex-Nazi Olympic athlete, Erich Seyess, is completing one last mission, to turn the Western powers against Russia by assinating a prominent figure. But close in his trail is  New York lawyer Devlin Judge who’s tracking this man down for the Nuremberg trials, but also for the death of his Soldier brother. As he gets closer and closer to finding his man, he finds himself being hunted in return by Seyss and also being hindered along the way by various powers interested in affecting the outcome of power.

subject headings:  historical fiction-world war two, fiction

appeal terms: suspenseful, intriguing, engaging, historic, thriller, entertaining, fictional, engaging, justice, political, European, interesting

three things that describe this book: espionage, politics, hunter/hunted

relevant non-fiction:

Target: Patton by Robert K. Wilcox (conspiracy)

Justice at Nuremburg by Robert E. Conot (War Crimes trial)

Nazi Games by David Clay Large (Politics and Olympics)

relevant fiction:

The spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst (espionage)

The Plot against america by Philip Roth (Alternate history)

The Steel Wave by Jeff Sharra (world war two)

name: Bill Thurston

The Lesson: A Novel

June 24, 2009

Author: Fred R. Rutledge Jr.

Title: The Lesson: A Novel

Genre: Science Fiction/ African American

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 500

Geographical Setting: A new and remote planet

Time Period: Future

Series: NA

Summary: Twenty years after Earth’s devastateing bio-genetic racial war, David Kenyatta, African American ace freighter pilot and space engineer crash lands on a wild an remote planet hidden for centuries by the Altoura Nebula. The deadly secrets he discovers there will ultimately save or destroy the last survivors of humanity forever.

Subject Headings: Science Fiction, African American Fiction, Adult Fiction, African American Science Fiction, Horror, Horror Thriller, Sci-Fi Horror.

Appeal Terms: Fast paced, colorful, engaging, intriguing, details of new world, futuristic, resolved ending, horror,  racial issues, what-if,  issue-orientated, dangerous, science fiction

3 terms that best describe this book: what-if, science fiction, African American

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction:

Across the Wounded Galaxies: Interviews with Contemporary American Science Fiction Writers by Larry McCaffrey

Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction By James Gunn and Isaac Asimov

American Science Fiction TV: Star Trek, Stargate, and Beyond by Jan Johnson-Smith

3 Relevant Fiction:

The Host by Stephanie Meyer (Science Fiction, parasites, different world, romance)

Watercolored Pearls by Stacy Hawkins Adams (African American, Contemporary, what-if)

Zephyr Unfolding by Nicole Givens Kurtz (Science Fiction, war, new worlds, what-if)

Name: Elizabeth Towns-Law

Comfort & Joy

June 24, 2009

Author: Jim Grimsley

Title: Comfort & Joy

Genre: Gay Fiction & Holiday Fiction

Publication Date: 1999

Number of Pages: 302

Geographical Setting: North Carolina & Georgia

Time Period: Present Day

Series: Preceded by Winter Birds (1994)

Plot Summary: Ford comes from old Savannah money, and Danny from a trailer in the backwoods of North Carolina. As the holidays roll around, the reader is invited into flashbacks of the development of Ford and Danny’s cautious relationship. The holidays, of course, bring requisite visits to extended family. This story is just as much about class issues as it is about gay issues. Together, they explore the backwoods of North Carolina, complete with an account of Danny’s troubled life. Ford musters up the courage to take Danny to his ritzy family. Needless to say, the only comfort and joy that Ford and Danny find is within each other.

Subject Headings: Gay men – Fiction, Holiday – Fiction, Coming out – Fiction,
Family issues – Fiction, Class issues – Fiction, Interclass Romance,

Appeal: Conversational, Southern, Gay, Dark, Light, Perseverance, Melancholy, Class issues, Relationship-centered, Survival, Comforting, Relatable

Three terms that best describe this book: Southern, family-centered, gay issues

Relevant Fiction: Upon a Midnight Clear: Queer Christmas Tales edited by Greg Herren (gay men, Christmas, hyjinks)
Metes and Bounds: A Novel by Jay Quinn (gay men, North Carolina, surfing)
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris (gay men, comedy, family)

Relevant Nonfiction: Straight Parents, Gay Children by Robert A. Bernstein (gay men & women, parents, coming out)
Gay and Lesbian Atlanta by Wesley Chenault (Southern, gay, history)
Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America by Mitchell Gould and Mindy Drucker (coming out, history, America)

Stephen K.

Gonna Lay Down My Burdens

June 24, 2009

Author: Monroe, Mary
Title: Gonna Lay Down My Burdens
Genre: African-American fiction
Publication Date: 2002
Number of Pages: 295
Geographical Setting: Alabama, Mississippi
Time Period: 1982, present day
Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Set in the small southern town of Belle Helene, Carmen finds herself intervening to help out her friend Desiree into an argument with her love interest, Chester. But what should have been a simple act turns into a life on the run as Carmen uses a handweight to kill Chester in a heated confrontation. After Carmen and Desiree go to Carmen’s house in an attempt to sort things out and get a plan of attack, Carmen reflects back on her life growing up in Alabama and her first encounters with Chester, her experiences with friends and townspeople and how she accidently helped put her fiancé Burl into a wheelchair. It’s this analysis of how these characters have affected her life and what she should do after Chester’s apparent murder that make up the bulk of the novel and intrigue the reader to the end.

Told with a little bit of sass and laden with pop culture references, Morrison writes an articulate, slow developing piece with short chapters to help readers feel like they are reading the book quickly. The pace is slower and spends time examining the relationship of the characters and periodically, Morrison will make sure to mention TV shows, magazines and other items associated with black culture in order to show the book’s appeal to the black audience. The vocabulary is conversational, but can have longer sentences and doesn’t contain much slang. The most attitude readers will pick up is some verbosity with Carmen saying “Girl…” before talking with other characters in the novel. Heavy on characterization, this character-centered African-American novel can resonate easily with the African-American community, especially females, but might take some time to connect with readers from different racial and gender backgrounds.

Subject Headings: African-American fiction; Female friendship fiction; Man-woman relationships; Alabama fiction

Appeal: Character-centered; contemporary; methodical; conversational; reflective; engrossing; introspective; realistic; emotionally-charged; dramatic; vivid; flamboyant

Three terms that describe this book: Contemporary; Introspective; African-American

Relevant Fiction: Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby (woman dealing with relationship of preacher husband)

Midnight: A Gangster Love Story by Sister Souljah (trip of mother and son from Sudan making it in America)

Just Too Good To Be True: A Novel by E. Lynn Harris (mother dealing with relationship of her son becoming an adult)

Relevant Nonfiction: Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment by Steve Harvey (self-help book dealing with relationships)

Alabama Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities and Other Offbeat Stuff by Andy Duncan (unusual things to see in Alabama)

The African American Church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1815-1963: A Shelter in the Storm by W. Wilson Fallin (examining the black church in Alabama)

Name: Matt Woronko

The Lost Language of Cranes

June 24, 2009

Author: David Leavitt

Title: The Lost Language of Cranes

Genre: Gay/Lesbian Fiction

Number of Pages: 308 p.

Geographical Setting: New York City

Time Period: current/ contemporary

Plot Summary: An engaging story of a family, parents Owen and Rose and son Philip each struggling with their own life issues. Rose and Owen have lived in the same middle-class apartment for their entire lives together. The building is now turning co-op and they are threatened with the loss of their apartment and the upheaval of their quiet lives. Their son Philip, is a 25 year old gay man who has a tremendous fear of coming out to his parents. Meanwhile Owen is going through his own personal crisis of his full realization of his attraction to men despite his marriage to his wife. Emotionally charged and written candidly, Leavitt describes the resentment and fears which Rose feels, the distress and confusion which Own suffers from, and the steamy yet painful relationships Philip experiences as he matures.

Subject Headings: Gay men – Fiction, Coming out – Fiction, Parent and child relationship – Fiction, Gay husband – Fiction, Husband and wife – Fiction, New York City – Fiction

Appeal Terms: detailed characters, engaging, introspective, realistic, family-centered, open-ended, candid, edgy, emotionally charged, contemplative, deliberate, sexually explicit

Three Words to Best Describe the Book: candid, emotionally charged, and introspective

Similar Author and Works:

Dancing on Glass by Susan Taylor Chehak. A tale of violence and homosexuality, married man,  Bader Von Vetchen, falls for a young man. His wife, Katherine Craig responds desperately and changes their lives forever.

Tommy’s Tale by Alan Cumming. The story of Tommy in his struggle to resist settling down and his desire to become a father. Written in narrative form with interwoven obscenities, cultural references, and even fairy tales.

The Way Things Ought to Be by Gregory Hilton. A coming of age story of a young gay man’s difficulty in finding himself in the 1970’s.

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Makings of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 by George Chauncey. In New York, during the turn of the century, this book maps out the complex world of gay society before WWII.

The Gay Metropolis: 1940-1996 by Charles Kaiser. Beginning with the sexual openness following the end of WWII, this book gives the account of modern gay life in New York City. The focus is on the gay rights movement and the daily private and personal lives of homosexual men and women.

Boys Like Us: Gay Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories edited by Patricia Merla. This compilation of twenty-eight most admired gay writers tell the tales of their personal lives across the years 1949 to 1995.


June 24, 2009

Author: Zane

Title: Skyscraper

Genre: African-American, Women’s Lives

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 289

Geographical Setting: Washington, D.C.

Time Period: Present Day

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: It’s the week before Christmas, and the employees at Wolfe Industries are acting naughty, not nice: blackmail, prostitution, and corporate espionage are only a few of the activities conducted after hours. This book weaves together the story of three employees and the head executive, bringing the action to a head at the annual Christmas party. Zane’s main characters are fun to follow, and her cast of mischievous secondary characters are equally enjoyable.  Readers looking for sexy scenes, funny dialogue, and a happily resolved ending will not be disappointed.

Subject Headings: African-American owned businesses, African-Americans, Men/women relations, Sexuality, Christmas parties, Single mothers, Marriage, Office romance, Extramarital relations, Secrets, Erotic fiction, African-American, African-American fiction21st century

Appeal Terms: Gossipy, urban, conversational, sexy, light tone, interweaving plot lines, multiple points of view, graphic, page-turner, character-centered, racy, resolved ending

3 terms that best describe this book: Conversational, sexy, character-centered

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction:

If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start with Your Legs by Big Boom (Humorous, conversational, contemporary love advice)

Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment by Steve Harvey (Conversational, relationship-centered, contemporary love advice)

It’s No Secret: From Nas to Jay-Z, from Seduction to Scandal–a Hip-Hop Helen of Troy Tells All by Carmen Bryan (Gossipy, sexy, contemporary, scandalous)

3 Relevant Fiction:
Thong on Fire: An Urban Erotic Tale by Noire (Sexy, contemporary, conversational, page-turner)

The Playa’s Handbook by Brenda Jackson (Romantic, sexy, contemporary, resolved ending)

Pleasure by Eric Jerome Dickey (Sexy, contemporary, page-turner)

Name: Marisa


June 24, 2009

Kindred by Octavia Butler
Author: Octavia Butler
Title: Kindred
Genre: African American / Science Fiction / Literary Fiction
Publication Date: 1979
Number of Pages: 264
Geographical Setting: Los Angeles, CA / Maryland’s Eastern Shore
Time Period: 1976 / 1815
Series: n/a

Plot Summary: Dana just turned 26. She just moved out of her apartment into a house with her husband Kevin. She had no plans for how to celebrate her birthday, being satisfied with the excitement of the move. When Dana feels dizzy and nauseated while unpacking, she doesn’t think much of it, until the house around her suddenly disappears. When the little red-haired boy appears in front of her drowning, she jumps to the rescue. Unfortunately her efforts are rewarded by a man pointing a gun at her. She is no longer in modern day Los Angeles, and black women in Antebellum Maryland are not equals. Luckily Dana disappears back to Los Angeles before the trigger is pulled, but soon Dana finds herself transported between the two times, with her time in the past getting longer, and the little red-haired child getting older. She finds herself saving him over and over again, especially once she figures out that this little boy is her Great-Grandfather. Kindred is one of Octavia Butler’s earlier novels, it is notably one of her few standalone novels. It is notably one of her bestselling novels, although she struggled to get it out there. Butler finally sold her story with the principle that “people really need to think what it’s like to have all of society arrayed against you.”

Subject Headings: African American—Fiction; African American women; Interracial couple; Time travel; Slavery; Slaveholders; Los Angeles—Fiction; Southern States—Fiction; Maryland—History

Appeal: Engrossing, steady, faithful, lifelike, reflective, complex, investigative, layered, plot twists, thought-provoking, detailed setting, bittersweet, compassionate, foreboding, haunting, psychological, accessible, smart, thoughtful

Three terms that best describe this book: Time travel, family, challenging situations

Relevant Fiction:

  • A Million Nightmares by Susan Straight (escaping slavery, tough voyage)
  • Home Across the Road by Nancy Peacock (two families black and white living across from each other realizes their histories go back hundreds of years back to 1800s and slavery)
  • A Different Kind of Christmas by Alex Haley (white Southerner helps people escape on the underground railroad)

Relevant Nonfiction:

  • Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Freedom edited by Ira Berlin, Marc Favreau, and Steve Miller
  • Slavery and the Making of America by James Oliver Horton
  • Here Lies Jim Crow: Civil Rights in Maryland by C. Fraser Smith

Name: Jill Chouinard