Archive for August, 2011

Ask Me No Questions

August 25, 2011

Author: Budhos, Marina

Title: Ask Me No Questions

Genre: Multicultural

Publication Date: 2006


Number of Pages: 157 p.

Geographical Setting: New York City

Time Period: Post 9/11/2001

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: A young Muslim Bangledeshi girl named Nadira and her family have lived in America on expired visas for years working, living, and looking for a way to become United States citizens. Then the events of 9/11 occur and suddenly Muslims are considered dangerous and Nadira’s family is under threat from sides. Ask Me No Questions tells the tale of a girl and her family as they face threats of deportation; increased scrutiny from neighbors and the law. This novel provides an intimate and alternate perspective on the United States “war on terror” through the eyes of 14 year-old.

Subject Headings: Freedom, Patriot Act, war on terror, 9/11, Islam, immigration,

Appeal: short chapters, emotional, inspirational, memorable characters, multicultural, , Issue-oriented, relaxed pace, heartwarming, heart-breaking, detailed settings, dramatic, contemporary.

3 terms that best describe this book: Timely, controversial, informative.

3 Relevant Non Fiction Works and Authors

1.)  They were strong and good by Robert Lawson – The author retales how his grandparents helped build the United States

2.) The Ancient Ship by Wei ZhangRecounting the trial and tribulations of three intertwined families over three generations.


3.) Five thousand days like this one: an American family history  by Jane Brox – The history of a family of New England farmers.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1.) Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier – An Indian tennager in the U.S. deals with non- acceptane from both Indian and American peers.

2.)  The absolutely true tales of a part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie – A young Native American leaves his reservation’s troubled high school to attend a majority caucasian high school.

3.) Journey of the Sparrows by Fran Leeper BussBrother and sister refugees are smuggled into the United States from El Salvador and attempt to start a life in Chicago.


Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

August 24, 2011

Author: Corey Doctorow

Title: Little Brother

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 380

Geographical Setting: San Fransisco, CA

Time Period: Near Future

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Little Brother is a cyberpunk techno-thriller that follows the life and tribulations of hacker prodigy Marcus Yallow. While cutting class with his friends, Marcus is caught nearby in a terrorist attack on the San Fransisco Bay Bridge and is taken in for questioning. The government agent takes Marcus in and subjects him to all manner of torments in order to ascertain if he is dangerous or not. After a gruesome ordeal, Marcus is finally released home and vows to make the corrupt government pay for subjecting him and his friends to such inquisition. Marcus uses his technological prowess to keep Big Brother under the watchful eye of the hackers of Little Brother. The story is easy enough to understand (and is written with younger adults in mind) while still being informative and technically accurate. This story is definitely in the realm of “hard” science fiction and follows emerging technologies closely.

Subject Headings: Dystopian future, cyberpunk, hackers, Big Brother, technology, terrorism, human rights, privacy, politics, counter-culture

Appeal: fast-paced, intrigue, informative, technically accurate, younger protagonist,

3 terms that best describe this book: technical, informative, immersive

3 Relevant Non Fiction Works and Authors

1.)The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh- Cryptography and the mechanisms of passwords come into play in various sections of the book.

2.) Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy- This book describes some of the real-world exploits of hackers and digital activists and explains their effects upon world affairs and politics.

3.) The Best of 2600: A Hacker Odyssey by Emmanuel Goldstein- 2600 is the quintessential hacker periodical and this collection has much of the best exploits and techniques while still understandable enough for beginners.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1.) Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson- A story of code-breakers in two separate eras (world war II and the future) and how the struggle to keep secrets and open them. Some of the same themes as Little Brother while being much more adult.

2.) V for Vendetta by Alan Moore- A graphic novel (as well as a movie) that covers the same aspects of government power gone wrong and citizen rebellion.

3.) 1984 by George Orwell- Numerous references and inspirations draw from 1984 in Little Brother not to mention the complete theme of the book.

When the Elephants Dance

August 17, 2011


Title:  When the Elephants Dance

Author: Tess Uriza Holthe

Genre: Multicultural, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2002

Number of Pages: 368

Geographical Setting: Philippines

Time Period: 1941-1945

Format:  Hardcover

Plot Summary:  Tess Uriza Holthe has written a family story like no other. She tells the tale of the Karangalan family in the Philippines during World War II. The Japanese are rounding up and interrogating people and waging a fierce battle against the Americans. In order to survive, this family along with their friends and neighbors crowd together in a cellar and tell spellbinding tales based on Filipino myth and legend. These magical passages of Filipino culture absolutely transport the reader to a place and time far away but only for a short period of time until you are forced back into the fear and unknowing that this family faces every day. Within this book is a wonderful mix of history, humor and magical conversation that will have you wanting more as it comes to a close.

Subject Headings:  History, Fiction, Philippines, Japanese occupation, Folklore, War

Appeal:  engrossing, dramatic, heartwarming, hopeful, humorous, magical, eccentric, detailed, inspiring, vivid, cinematic, character-centered, historical details, detailed setting, conversational, metaphorical, unusual, poetic

3 Terms That Best Describe This Book: metaphorical, dramatic and heartwarming

Similar Authors and Works

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Captured: The Japanese Internment of American Civilianns in the Philippines, 1941-1945 by Frances B Cogan-For any reader of When the Elephants Dance who is interested in the history behind the story.

Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission by Hampton Sides- This gripping tale will illuminate the struggle with Japan in the Philippines during WWII. This nonfiction book that reads like fiction will have readers captivated by this personal story of struggle.

Philippine Folk Tales by Mabel Cook Cole-This collection of traditional folk tales will interest readers of When the Elephants Dance who want to delve into the background of some of the tales they read about in Holthe’s novel.

 3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Camera Soldiers: The Philippine Odyssey by James Russell Stephens-The fictional story of a team of soldier whose job it is to take photographs to document the war. It is set in the Philippines in 1942 during World War II.  It would appeal to readers of When the Elephants Dance who are looking for a story from the other side’s point of view.

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat-A harrowing story that includes political violence and the supernatural. The ideas of tradition, suffering and the history of a people will resonate with readers of When the Elephants Dance.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz-A fantastical story with a conversational narrative that is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. The story tells the tale of a family from the Dominican Republic and their life during and after the time of dictator Rafael Trujillo.

Name:  Mary Othic

That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis

August 17, 2011

Author: C.S. Lewis

Title: That Hideous Strength

Genre: Inspirational, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Publication Date: 1945

Number of Pages: 380

Geographical Setting: Fictional towns of Edgetow and surrounding areas, England

Time Period: A few years post World War II (1940’s)

Series: The Space Trilogy

Plot Summary: That Hideous Strength was written as a “a modern fairy tale for grown-ups” and follows the previous books in the series (Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandria) while still standing on its own. The story follows two narratives, following Jane and Mark Studdock respectively. Feeling despondent after a difficult marriage, Jane begins to find herself plagued by strange and prophetic dreams. Her husband, Mark, is drawn into a strange cabal of academics called the NICE. The NICE is a collection of academics who seem bent on subjugating the town of Edgetow, England and the world. As Jane comes to her friends regarding her strange dreams she finds herself taken in with the opposite force, a collection of people led by an enigmatic man who has traveled among the stars. Supernatural forces clash against the hard power of science as good and evil battle for control of the world. This story seamlessly blends the mystery of science fiction, the mysticism of fantasy as well as the underlying spiritual message. In a more “mature” take on Lewis’ Narnia series, That Hideous Strength is a thoroughly unique story.

Subject Headings: Dystopian future, mad science, angels, demons, King Arthur, Merlin, magic, aliens, Christian fiction, supernatural

Appeal: genre-defying, in-depth, deliberate pace, dual-narrative, political intrigue, mysterious, evolving

3 terms that best describe this book: mysterious, supernatural, genre-defying

3 Relevant Non Fiction Works and Authors

1.)The Mammoth Book of King Arthur: Reality and Legend, the Beginning and the End–The Most Complete Arthurian Sourcebook Ever by Michael Ashley- Lewis’ book draws very heavily upon the Arthurian mythos and uses many direct references to specific stories.

2.) Planet Narnia by Michael Ward- This is an in-depth discussion of both the mythology of the space trilogy as well as the Narnia series.

3.) Science and Faith: Friends or Foes? by C. John Collins- One of the emergent themes in That Hideous Strength is the clash of science and faith. This book takes a spiritual and philosophical discussion on the dichotomy between the two.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1.) All Hallow’s Eve by Charles Williams- Lewis was good friends with Williams and much of the similar themes of newer fantasy and spiritualism can be found in this story.

2.) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle- Follows suit with similar melding of science fiction, fantasy and subtle inspirational motifs.

3.) The Shape of Things to Come by H.G. Wells- That Hideous Strength was actually partially written as a reaction of Lewis to this story and uses some of its dominant themes as a counterpoint.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

August 17, 2011

Title:  The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Author: Mitch Albom

Genre: Inspirational, Fiction

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 198

Geographical Setting: Heaven, Amusement Park

Time Period: Current day

Format:  Hardcover

Plot Summary:  This is the story of Eddie. He is a maintenance man at the Ruby Point Amusement Park and he is about to die. We learn of Eddie’s death and are told about the life he had and the people who were in it. Along the way, we start to understand that Eddie feels his life was lacking and not meaningful. The last section of the story takes place in Heaven where Eddie meets five people who he touched during his life. He then learns of how important he was throughout his life even if it wasn’t readily apparent to him. This short parable like story will have you feeling uplifted and that you have a purpose by the end.

Subject Headings:  Spirituality, Death, Inspirational

Appeal:  Easy, Heartwarming, Hopeful, Optimistic, Thoughtful, Introspective, Inspiring, Gentle, Timeless, Accessible, Breezy, Simple

3 Terms That Best Describe This Book: Hopeful, Heartwarming, Inspiring

Similar Authors and Works

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Voices of Many Waters: Irrefutable Evidence of Life After Death by Alan Youngblood-A factual study of the possibility of a life after death. This is a readable book where you can explore this topic further.

Theme Park Design: Behind the Scenes With an Engineer by Steve Alcorn-Get  a basic knowledge of theme parks and the maintenance issues that Eddie dealt with during his life.

Learning to Love Yourself: Finding Your Self-Worth by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruise-a place to gain insight into how people get over feeling like Eddie did all his life. Start now before you are in Heaven.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

  Life’s Golden Ticket: An Inspirational Story by Brendon Burchard-Another inspirational tale that is set in an amusement park. An uplifting story that will appeal to readers of The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

Name:  Mary Othic


August 17, 2011


Author: Leslie Marmon Silko

Title:  Ceremony

Genre:  Native American Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1977, 2006

Number of Pages:  243

Geographical Setting:  WWII Japan, American West

Time Period: 1930s, WWII, post-World War II

Plot Summary: Tayo, a Native American World War II veteran, struggles with coming to terms with the death of his cousin in the war while trying to overcome “battle fatigue.” The story is ripe with flashbacks to the war and Tayo’s childhood on the reservation as well as traditional Laguna stories and tales.

Subject Headings: World War, 1939-1945 –Veterans –Fiction.

Laguna Indians — Fiction

Appeal: densely written, bleak, moving, introspective, character-driven, emotional, details of Laguna life, powerful, realistic, touching, thought provoking, deep, honest, well-crafted

3 terms that best describe this book: moving, character-driven, introspective


Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest – Craig Childs

Just as Tayo’s tribe was being to be “lost” in the white world, this book explores the lost civilization of the Anasazi tribe.

Spirit walker – Nancy Wood and Frank Howell

Native American poetry that draws on tradition and imagery.

Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony: A Casebook – Allan Chavkin

An academic look at Ceremony, including 14 essays that provide more information on Native American traditions.

3 relevant fiction works and authors:

War woman: a novel of the Real People – Robert J Conley

A novel based on the early struggles between the Cherokee and the Europeans. Tribal traditions and beliefs are woven into the story.

Love medicine – Louise Erdrich

Interwoven stories exploring the past and present struggles of Native tribes.

A yellow raft in blue water – Michael Dorris

A more modern look at the hardships of life on a reservation.


August 17, 2011


Author:  Frank Peretti

Title:  Monster

Genre:  Christian fiction, Horror, Suspense

Publication Date:  2005

Number of Pages:  419

Geographical Setting:  Abney, Idaho and surrounding forested area

Time Period:  Present day (not explicit)

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Reed and Rebecca (“Beck”) Shelton head to Abney, Idaho to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.  However, plans for a peaceful escape into the wilderness soon become dashed as Reed and Beck discover that the forest contains much more than your typical wildlife.  As night falls, they begin to hear strange noises, and the sound of giant steps in the surrounding forest.  They quickly realize these creatures aren’t there to make friends, and flee into the surrounding darkness.  They’re not quick enough; Beck falls and is kidnapped by one of these hairy, hulking, smelly creatures and carried off into the night.  When Reed returns to the nearby town of Abney to get help, no one believes his story involving giant, ape-like, foul-smelling, hairy beasts with unbelievable speed and agility; they assume that they’re dealing with a bear attack.  However, evidence mounts up to the contrary, and soon others begin to realize that they may be dealing with a legendary beast: Bigfoot…or are they?  Are these beasts actually man-made, the result of altering chimpanzee DNA to create a super creature?  Suspense builds in this fast-paced tale of horror that is both action-oriented and issue-oriented, centering around the discussion of man’s involvement in DNA splicing and the concept of evolution.  A quick, exciting read, even fans that hold beliefs contrary to Peretti’s won’t be able to put down this cinematic tale.

Subject Headings:  Northwest, Pacific—Fiction, Wilderness areas—Fiction, Supernatural—Fiction, DNA research, Evolutionary beliefs, missing persons investigations, supernatural

Appeal:  fast-paced, menacing atmosphere, chilling tone, dangerous, didactic, foreboding, nightmare, scary, suspenseful, uneasy, familiar characters, action-oriented storyline, cinematic, investigative, issue-oriented, linear, detailed setting, details of Pacific Northwest forests, accessible

3 terms that best describe this book:  fast-paced, suspenseful, chilling

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul—Edward Humes (religion and evolution, novelistic approach, accessible style)

Bushwhack: A Serial Story of Off-Trail Hiking & Camping in the Pacific Northwest Wilderness—Gerald M. Chicalo (similar setting, also about a hiking trip gone awry, suspenseful elements)

Bigfoot!: The True Story of Apes in America—Loren Coleman (supernatural element, investigative aspects, accessible style)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Prodigal Son—Dean R. Koontz (man messing with creation aspect, fast-paced, horror aspects)

Adam—Ted Dekker (fast-paced, Christian fiction/horror, suspenseful tone)

Double Helix—Sigmund Brouwer (DNA experimentation theme, Christian fiction, suspenseful tone, scary, issue-oriented)


The People Could Fly

August 17, 2011

Author: Hamilton, Virginia

Title: The People Could Fly

Genre: Folktale, African-American

Publication Date: 1985 (Hardcover), 1993 (First paper back printing)


Number of Pages: 178 p.

Geographical Setting: A somewhat mythical antebellum Southern United States

Time Period: Prior to 1865, each tale is essential timeless

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: The People Could Fly is a collection of Black American folk tale passed down through oral traditions from the arrival of enslaved Africans in the North America, through slavery, to this very day. The collection can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. There are tales that are somewhat familiar (i.e. “Doc Rabbit, Bruh Fox, and Tar Baby.) and other tales that should be new to the casual reader. A Coretta Scott King Honor Book, its beautiful illustration won the award in 1986. The book divides the tales into 4 thematic sections: animal tales, tales of the Real, Extravagant, and Fanciful, tales of the supernatural, and slave tales of freedom. And after every story the origin cultural and geographic origins of that tale are broken down for the reader. This tome contains humorous yarns, weird stories, and inspirational tales great for all ages.

Subject Headings: Freedom, slavery, folklore, animal tales, Black American culture, oral traditions

Appeal: great read-a-loud book, short chapters, imaginative, weird, inspirational, memorable characters, beautiful illustrations, dialect, funny, Issue-oriented, Relaxed pace, heartwarming, homespun.

3 terms that best describe this book: Witty, humorous, timeless

3 Relevant Non Fiction Works and Authors

1.)  African folktales: traditional stories of the Black world by Roger D. Abrahams – Another collection of folk tales, this time including tales from the nations and people of West Africa.

2.) Italian folktales by Italo Calvino: A collection of 200 Italian folk tales.


3.) Dee Brown’s folktales of the Native American, retold for our times by Dee Alexander Brown: Thirty six stories of various Native American oral traditions retold for the common era

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1.) Best African-American fiction, 2010 edited by Gerald Early & Nikki Giovanni. – A collection of short stories and novel excerpts from the years catalog of black fiction writers.

2.)  Best African-American fiction, 2009 edited by Gerald Early & E. Lynn Harris. – A collection of short stories and novel excerpts from the years catalog of black fiction writers.

3.) The monkey suit: and other short fiction on African Americans and justice by David Dante Troutt – Ten short fictional stories based off of actual case of documenting the African American struggle against segregation and for civil/human rights.


The Bluest Eye

August 17, 2011

Author: Toni Morrison

Title: The Bluest Eye

Genre: Literary Fiction,  African-American

Publication Date: 1970

No. of Pages: 224

Geographical Setting: Lorain, Ohio

Time Period: Years following the Great Depression

Series: NA

Plot Summary: An African-American family, the MacTeers, is struggling out of the Great Depression in Lorain, Ohio when they take in a troubled girl from a rough background, Pecola, when she is forced “outdoors.” All her life Pecola has hid behind the “ugliness” of her dark skin and brown eyes, always wishing and praying for beautiful blue eyes. As she struggles to find her way with a strange new family, her own family fights against their demons of racism, alcoholism and sexual depravity.

While Pecola and her fervent wish for blue eyes may be the focus of The Bluest Eye, her character is rarely developed throughout the story. Rather her struggles and gradual surrender to insanity are documented through the eyes of those closest to her, effectively underscoring the actions of the remaining characters. This is a story of vulnerability and of a young girl unable to overcome her circumstances, even to get blue eyes. Readers should be aware of several disturbing scenes that are sexual in nature.

Subject Headings: African-Americans, Racism – United States, Family Relations

Appeal: unhurried, emotionally-charged, character-centered, vivid, flawed, historical details, timeless, intimate, poignant, dialect, gritty, stark

3 Terms that Best Describe this Book: emotionally-charged, flawed, gritty

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Growing Up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race by Jennifer Ritterhouse (Explores the unwritten rules of segregation in the South that guided child development)

Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith (A Southern white view of the psychological and moral consequences of the Southern mindset on sin, sex and segregation)

In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (The companion book to the PBS series, Gates helps 19 individuals explore their pasts while gaining a better understanding of their own personality)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Uncle Tom’s Children by Richard Wright (A collection of powerful novellas illustrating the racism and oppression African-Americans lived with in the post-slavery era – originally published in 1938, this plays out in the same time period of The Bluest Eye and delves into some of the same issues of race)

Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell (A poor white family of sharecroppers struggles to survive during the Depression and retain their slim social standing among the black community they live – similar backdrop of the Great Depression and familial tensions)

Oral History by Lee Smith (A college student returns to her childhood home in the Appalachians to research the complex and cursed history of her family – a similar story of a doomed family and all their flaws and foibles)

by Denise


August 17, 2011

Author: Ted Dekker

Title: Thr3e

Genre: Christian Fiction, Psychological Suspense

Publication Date: 2003

No. of Pages: 400

Geographical Setting: United States

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: NA

Plot Summary: Driving home from seminary school, 28-year old Kevin Parson receives an anonymous call; “I will give you exactly three minutes to call the newspaper and confess your sin, or I will blow that silly Sable you call a car sky-high.” At a loss to what “sin” he must confess, Kevin ditches his car moments before it explodes. So begins a tale of cat and mouse between Kevin and his secretive nemesis Slater. Obsessed with Kevin’s destruction and the number three, Slater initiates a game in which Kevin must answer riddles to avoid Slater’s retribution. With the help of FBI agent Jennifer Peters, Kevin struggles to uncover his stalker – and stay alive.

Dekker creates a world where no one is quite who he seems, even the protagonist as he gradually reveals Kevin’s nightmarish childhood. The action builds with twists and turns ending in a shocking conclusion. Dekker eschews most conventions of evangelical fiction and incorporates his spiritual message subtly without the theology or political conservatism of his peers.

Subject Headings: Good and evil – Fiction, Christian fiction

Appeal: plot-driven, action-oriented, fast-paced, compelling, menacing atmosphere, gritty, haunting, psychological, vivid, introspective, contemporary, plot twists

3 Terms that Best Describe this Book: psychological, plot twists, action-oriented

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Wounded Spirit by Frank Peretti (The author’s personal journey through pain, disfigurement and abuse offering help for those struggling with emotional wounds)

For relevant true crime try:

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi (Explores the psychological motivation behind the murders and the young women who carried out Manson’s orders)

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule (The author’s chilling account of knowing and befriending serial killer Ted Bundy)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Snitch by Booker T. Mattison (A man witnesses a murder and spotted by the killer finds himself torn between his assuaging his conscience by testifying and protecting his family – elements of suspense and faith)

The Assignment by Mark Andrew Olsen (A secret Catholic sect search for an immortal man whose mission is to battle demonic forces – suspense-laden battle between good and evil)

The Talisman by Peter Straub and Stephen King (A 12-year old boy must embark on a quest to find a mystical talisman that will save his mother’s life – a struggle between good and evil and fantastical elements may appeal to Dekker fans)

by Denise