Author Archive

Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0-22

April 18, 2012

Author: MariNaomi

Title: Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0-22

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 331

Geographical Setting: California

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

This graphic novel is full of sometimes funny, sometimes touching, and often surprising stories from the authors life.  The stories, told in chronological order, follow MariNaomi’s love life from before she was born, starting with her parents story and ending when she is roughly 22 years old.  Some of the stories are short and sweet, while others are longer or more complicated. In addition to her stories of sex, love, and heartbreak, MariNaomi tells of her adolescence rebellion, getting kicked out of her house and running away several times throughout her youth.  She also tells of her experiments with drug use and sexuality. Almost anyone can relate to at least a few of the stories from Naomi’s life.  The black and white illustrations depict the stories well.

Subject Headings: MariNaomi, Young women – Identity, Mate selection for women, Women – Sexuality, Dating (Social customs), First sexual experience, Self-discovery in women, Women — Interpersonal relations

Appeals: touching, fast-paced, sexual, heartbreaking, candid, bittersweet, character-centered, self-discovery, sympathetic characters, funny, relatable, coming of age

3 Appeal terms to best describe book: fast-paced, touching, coming of age

Blankets: An Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson- In this coming of age, autobiographical graphic novel the author takes us through his adolescence.  Thompson describes the experience of falling in love for the first time as well as the power of sexual attraction and young love.

Talking to Girls about Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield- In this funny, upbeat coming of age novel the author describes his experiences trying to find love starting at the age of 13.  The book leads the reader all the way through to the author’s first apartment and real girlfriend with 80’s and 90’s music as a guide.

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel. This graphic tells of the love life of a diverse group of lesbian friends.  These funny, witty stories explore sexuality between women, which MariNaomi experiments with in Kiss & Tell.

Shortcoming by Adrian Tomine- This funny graphic novel follows a twenty something, Ben, as he looks for the perfect girl. Much like MariNaomi the story is told with humor and follows the life of a Japanese American in their quest for love.

Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross. This semi-autobiographical story follows Melissa as she enters high school. Experimenting with drugs, failing classes, and dealing with the opposite sex are just some of the subjects discussed in this coming of age graphic novel.

Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun. Korean teen Joon runs away from her home in Brooklyn at the age of 12. This novel follows her as she lives in homeless shelters, struggles with drug abuse, and puts herself in dangerous situations. MariNaomi also ran away and was kicked out of her home several times as a teenager.

I Am Not Myself These Days

April 11, 2012

Author: Kilmer-Purcell, Josh

Title: I Am Not Myself These Days

Genre: GLBTQ

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 305

Geographical Setting: New York

Time Period: 1990’s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

The best way to describe this book is by saying it is a very nontraditional love story. The author of this memoir tells of his life in New York City as a young art director in the advertising industry by day and drag queen superstar, Aqua by night. The author Josh has what can only be described as a pretty serious drinking habit, pounding vodkas at night, and starting to sober up at some point in the middle of the next day, only to begin the cycle again that night. After a sixth straight win as New York’s best new drag queen one night, Josh meets a handsome guy at the bar named Jack.  The next day, as he struggles to remember the night before, he recalls waking up in Jack’s apartment. Jack contacts him to meet again, and the romance ensues from there.  Josh quickly discovers that Jack’s beautiful penthouse suite is paid for by his job as a male escort. It is not long until Josh moves into the penthouse and begins his life with Jack.  When Jack starts becoming addicted to crack and Josh is drinking more than ever, their lives being to spiral out of control.  This memoir is full of tragic, touching, heartwarming, and heart wrenching moments. The writing is engaging and extremely humorous throughout the book.

Subject Headings: Kilmer-Purcell, Josh, 1969-, Transvestites — New York City — Biography

Appeals: funny, tragic, sexually explicit, fast-paced, engaging, shocking, flawed characters, bittersweet, violent, romantic, insightful, candid

3 Appeals to best describe book: funny, bittersweet, shocking

3 Fiction read-alikes:

I’ve Got A Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: Tales from Gay Manhattan by Ethan Mordden. This upbeat novel tells interweaving stories of the lives of a small group of gay Manhattanites, including love stories.

Now is the Hour by Tom Spanbauer. This humorous coming of age story follows Rigby John Klusener as he hitchhikes from Idaho to San Francisco to escape his small minded town. Rigby finds true love in an older man George, and experiences several other adventures along the way.

Mount Appetite by Bill Gaston. This is a witty book of short stories about addiction and the power of it. It focuses on everything from romance to drugs and alcohol. Josh and Jack both deal with addiction in I am Not Myself These Days.

3 Non-fiction read-alikes:

Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs. Both of these stories tell sometimes sad, serious stories in a quirky, darkly humorous way.  They are both stories about the author’s lives, and deal with issues of addiction, the advertising industry, and being a gay man in NYC.  The authors are very candid, witty, and humorous.

Hiding My Candy: The Autobiography of the Grand Empress of Savannah by Lady Chablis. Savannah’s most famous drag queen tells her life story in this humorous and at times heart-wrenching book.  Like Kilmer-Purcell, Lady Chablis goes behind the scenes in the life of a drag queen, and tells the story with heart and wit.

Dandy in the Underworld: An Unauthorized Autobiography by Sebastian Horsley. This autobiography tells of the author’s life from an early age with a dysfunctional family. Later in his life he struggles with a heroin addiction, and has a short career as a male escort, much like Jack.

Breathing Room

April 4, 2012

Author: Phillips, Susan Elizabeth

Title: Breathing Room

Genre: Romance

Publication Date: 2002

Number of Pages: 369

Geographical Setting: Tuscany, Italy

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

It seems as though Dr. Isabel Favor’s life is falling apart when her fiance leaves her, her accountant steals her money and leaves her to pay over 1 million in back taxes, and her self-help empire comes crumbling down. Everything that she has worked so hard for has slipped between the cracks, so when a friend offers up a cottage in Tuscany for a few months, Isabel sees this as a chance to start over. Before entering Tuscany, she spends a night in Florence, where she meets a handsome Italian man, Lorenzo. Isabel goes against everything she believes in and has a one night stand with the sexy stranger. Much to both of their dismay, after Isabel arrives to her farmhouse cottage she discovers the hunk she had a one night stand with is her landlord. And he is not the Italian stranger he pretended to be, but an American bad boy movie star, Ren Gage. Isabel tries to her resist her obvious attraction to the sexy movie star before finally succumbing to her desires to be with him. The two plan to make the relationship strictly sexual, but that can prove more difficult than planned.  Things are complicated when Ren and Isabel try to figure out a secret the town seems to be hiding from them.  Ren’s ex-wife also shows up one day with her five children to escape her husband who she believes to be cheating on her.  This book explores a new, steamy romance, as well as love and complications in marriage.

Subject Headings: Fiancés, Loss (Psychology), Women psychologists, Americans in Tuscany, Sexuality, Desire, Men/women relations, Film actors and actresses

Appeal: funny, steamy, fast-paced, engaging, romantic, moving, passionate, insightful, strong sense of place, sympathetic characters, accessible language, resolved ending

3 Appeal terms to best describe book: passionate, funny, engaging

3 Fiction read-alikes:

I’m In No Mood For Love by Rachel Gibson. Much like Isabel, After Clare Wingate finds her fiancé having an affair she finds herself with a sexy journalist who is nothing like her.  This funny and sexy story follows Clare as she decides whether or not she loves or hates her new lover and his carefree and commitment-free lifestyle.

Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Cruise. This humorous contemporary romance follows Tess Newhart and her ex-boyfriend Nick, as she pretends to be his fiancé on a weekend business trip.  Like Isabel and Ren, these two find that opposites do in fact attract.

Houston, We Have A Problem by Erin McCarthy. This humorously written novel follows Dr, Houston Hayes as he tries to have a one night stand with his resident Josie, and inevitable complications follow.

3 Non-fiction read-alikes:

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Like Isabel, the author of this book heads to Italy, and other exotic locations after a failed relationship.  Eat, Pray, Love also contains humor, romance, and enlightenment.

The Italian Affair by Laura Fraser. The author of this memoir moves to Italy after the devastating news that her husband has left her for her high school sweetheart.  She begins a steamy love affair with a married professor. This book is filled with rich descriptions of European countries, humor, and insight into understanding one’s self.

Helping Me Help Myself: One Skeptic, Ten Self-Help Gurus, and A Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone by Beth Lisick.  Dr. Isabel Favor is a self-help guru whose life falls apart despite following her own rules.  In this perceptive humorous book, the author explores the self-help world to see what works and what doesn’t.

Girl in Landscape

March 21, 2012


Author: Lethem, Jonathan

Title: Girl in Landscape

Genre: Literary Fiction, Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 280

Geographical Setting: New York, Planet of the Archbuilders

Time Period: Future

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

In this lyrically written coming of age story, Pella Marsh and her family make the trek from Brooklyn, New York to the Planet of the Archbuilders to start over. The children’s mother dies shortly before leaving for the new planet, leaving Pella, her two brothers, and her father, Clement, to explore this new planet without her. The planet was previously inhabited by Archbuilders who have left behind a few of their own, as well as viruses, and ruins in a desolate landscape.  The remaining Archbuilders are peaceful and unique creatures, fascinated with the English language. There are a few human inhabitants on the planet, all of who take anti-viral drugs to stop the Archbuilder viruses from growing within them.  Pella and her family opt not to take the anti-viral pills, leaving them susceptible to the viruses. Pella finds herself turning into an invisible “household deer”, creatures that cover the landscape of the planet, entering homes, and running wild.  This gives her the ability to spy on others in the new town, sometimes much to her dismay. Pella finds herself both repelled and attracted to the town xenophobic leader, Efram Nugget. This novel explores grief, growing up, sexual awakening, and the morals created in society.

Subject Headings: Teenage girls, Aliens (Non-humanoid), Father and daughter, Homesteaders, Loners, Space colonies

Appeal: set in the future, moving, darkly humorous, offbeat, suspenseful, sympathetic character, engrossing, exotic location, lyrically written, haunting, coming of age story, alien life

3 Appeal terms to best describe book: coming of age story, exotic location, offbeat

3 Fiction read-alikes:

The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway: This book was chosen because it takes place in an unfamiliar landscape and explores our sense of humanity.  This offbeat, darkly humorous story set in the future is a genre-bending fast paced story of friendship.

The Searchers by Alan LeMay: Girl in Landscape is often compared the classic western film, The Searchers, adapted from this novel.  In many ways, Girl in Landscape can be considered a western set in the future.  The Searchers deals with frontier life, xenophobia, and relationships between siblings.

Jumper by Steven Gould: Much like Pella, the main character of this novel, Davy, is given special abilities.  He is able to teleport himself away from his troubled life at any time.  This coming of age story combines science fiction with reality as it explore ethical dilemmas.

3 Non-fiction read-alikes:

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs: This book was chosen because it is a coming of age story full of interesting and unique characters.  Like Pella, Augusten grew up in a very unconventional manner without rules or much parental guidance through their teenage years.

First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth by Marc Kaufman: This book discusses the scientific reasoning behind the belief that there is extraterrestrial life out there.  The book is not too technical, making it accessible for readers not familiar with scientific terminology and concepts.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers: This witty, character-driven memoir discusses dealing with the loss of parents at an earlier age.  Dave is also responsible for his brother after the death of his parents, much in the way Pella takes on responsibilities with her brothers after the loss of her mother.

Shanghai Girls

February 15, 2012

Author: See, Lisa

Title: Shanghai Girls

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 314

Geographical Setting: China, United States (Los Angeles)

Time Period: 1937-1957

Series: 1st of sequel (Dreams of Joy)

Plot Summary:

Sisters, Pearl and May live a care-free and enjoyable life of modeling and luxuries wealthier Chinese were afforded in the 1930s until one day their lives were changed forever.  Forced into arranged marriages with two brothers, the girls are forced to flee war-torn China and head to America to be with their husbands.  Life in America is hard for the women, forced to live with and work for in-laws that appear to be cruel.  The women must rely on each other through the many struggles they face. This book explores complicated family relationships and the difficulties of immigration, especially for Chinese in the 1950s.

Subject Headings: Chinese-American women, Immigrants-United States, The Thirties (20th century), Sisters, Chinese-American immigrants, Father and daughter, Husband and wife, Family secrets, Betrayal, Loyalty.

Appeal: leisurely paced, bittersweet, moving, emotionally charged, well-developed characters, strong secondary character, character-centered, unresolved ending, historical, descriptive writing, sobering, family-centered

3 Appeal terms to best describe book: moving, character-centered, family-centered

3 Fiction read-alikes:

Paradise Alley, by Kevin Baker. This book was chosen because it is about immigrants, and suspicion being cast upon them. This book is also historical fiction, and explores racism, and parts of history that aren’t often discussed.

Away, by Amy Bloom. This was chosen because it deals with issues of immigration in the early 20th century.  It also deals with a mothers love for her daughter.  It also has rich, fully developed characters, and is read at a relaxed pace.

The Buddha in the Attic, by Julie Otsuka. This book is similar in that it is about women immigrants to the U.S.  and it deals with stereotyping and skepticism during the war. It also explores the hardships of raising children in the U.S. with a culture very different from yours. Like Shanghai Girls, it is character driven, historical, moving, and sobering.

3 Non-fiction read-alikes:

The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family, by Mary S. Lovell.  This book explores the lives and relationships between 6 sisters who take different paths in life.

Girlfriends: Invisible Bonds, Enduring Ties, by Carmen Renee Barry. This book explores the loyalty and sometimes complicated relationships between women friends. The friendship between May and Pearl is an important theme in the book.

The Rice Groom: Growing up Chinese-American: From Number Two Son to Rock ‘n’ Roll, by Ben Fong-Torres.  This book is about growing up Chinese in Oakland’s Chinatown in the 1950s, and facing discrimination.