Archive for the ‘Audio Book’ Category

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

December 1, 2011

Author: Julie Powell

Title: Julie & Julia [sound recording] : 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen

Genre: Non-fiction; Food Writing

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 5 sound discs: digital; 4 3/4 in.

Geographical Setting: New York, New York

Time Period: current day

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Julie Powell is a 29 year old living in New York City who is fed up with her dead end secretarial job and depressing apartment in Queens.  In an attempt to find deeper meaning in her life, Julie takes up an ambitious project: she resolves to cook the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year.  To document what she calls “The Julie and Julia project,” she begins writing a blog that captures not only every frustration encountered in following each recipe to exaction but also one that reveals aspects of her marriage, her friends, and her wry observations about daily life.  This memoir delivers a more fleshed out version of events than her blog but still retains its chatty, observant, and hilarious tone.  This inspiring and encouraging book is well written and honest.   It is as much about the character of Julie and her relationships as it is a food memoir that that conveys the challenges and triumphs of a novice young cook attempting masterful French cooking in a tiny New York apartment.

Subject Headings: Powell, Julie.

Child, Julia. Mastering the art of French cooking.

Women cooks Anecdotes.

Cookery, French Anecdotes.

Audiobooks (Abridged).

Appeal: compelling, easy, engrossing, earnest, heartwarming, hopeful, humorous, lighthearted, optimistic, thoughtful, upbeat, quirky, realistic, well developed characters, character-centered, domestic, accurate, contemporary, details of cooking, chatty, candid, conversational, engaging, informal, witty, descriptive, informative, entertaining,

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: engaging, witty, entertaining

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Flinn, Kathleen. The Sharper Your Knife, the Less you Cry: Love, Learning and Tears at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School.  Like Julie and Julia, this book is a memoir that centers on cooking.  The author recalls how she changed careers and attended Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris.  Like Julie and Julia, the author recalls humorous anecdotes, explores love relationships, and uses cooking as a metaphor for life. 

Reichl, Ruth. Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table. Like Julie and Julia, this is a memoir that is centered on food.  It recounts the life and career of the restaurant critic from The New York Times.  Like Julie and Julie, this is a heartwarming account that takes place in New York, features a strong woman character and contains humorous anecdotes and recipes.

Wizenberg, Molly.  A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table. Like Julie and Julia, this memoir was derived from a popular blog that recounts the author’s life in terms of cooking and recipes.  Also like Julie and Julia, the author’s accounts are sometimes touching and sometimes humorous in this charming account.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Bender, Aimee.  The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.  Rose Edelstein has the ability to taste the emotions of others when tasting their cooking.  Like Julie and Julia, this novel is a witty, offbeat account of a woman’s relationship with food and with loved ones.

Esquivel, Laura.  Like Water for Chocolate: a Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies. Tito, a doting daughter who cooks every meal for her parents in Mexico, finds love and herself through her cooking.  Like Julie and Julia, this is a witty story that centers on cooking, love relationships, and contains recipes.

Mileti, Meredith.  Aftertaste, A Novel in Five Courses: In this novel, Mira Rinaldi is a New York City restaurant owner whose life is in a shambles.  Like Julie and Julia, this novel contains many descriptions of delicious food and recipes and features a strong female character who overcomes personal struggle and gains self-worth through cooking.

Name: Meghan M.

The Night Watch (Audio-Unabridged)

November 30, 2011

Author: Waters, Sarah (Narrated by Juanita McMahon)

Title: The Night Watch (Audio-Unabridged)

Genre:  Historical Fiction Publication Date: 2006

Number of pages: 13 CD Disks

Geographical Setting: London, England

Time period: World War II.

Plot Summary: In this lyrical and structurally complex story, the author describes the atmosphere of the World War II-era London through the experiences of four main characters-Viv, Kay, Helen, and Duncan-and a full set of secondary characters. As the narrative of the book moves backwards from 1947 to 1941, Waters very slowly reveals the details of her characters and their eventual connections through love, hardship and tragedy.  As most of Waters’ books, the story deals with homosexuality and love between women, but it also casts light on the issues of suicide, pacifism, and class and gender roles during that time period. The story does a fine job at showing the physical devastation of the war and the psychological scars caused by betrayal, longing, loss and regret, still the books feels underwhelming when compared to other novels by Sarah Waters.  The backward construction is clever but it also rids the plot of any mystery and greatly slows down the pacing, while the multiplicity of characters decreases their complexity and emotional resonance.  These construction flaws are only underscored by Juanita McMahon’s audio delivery. The narrator tries to differentiate between multiple characters by using different tones and accents but, with a mostly androgynous set of characters, it does not quite work. Also, poor editing and lack of significant pauses make it difficult to keep track of transitions between different people, places and times in the story. Although I am a great proponent of audio books, I feel that this book would be better experienced through reading.

Subject Headings: World War II, 1939-1945 England-London-Fiction; London Bombardment-World War II; Historical Fiction; Psychological Fiction; War Stories; Relationships; Gay and Lesbian Relationships.

Appeal: character-driven, intricately-plotted, relaxed-paced, atmospheric, moody, bleak, compelling, descriptive, lyrical, dark, psychological, uneasy, multiple points of view and plot lines, complex, episodic, layered, historical frame.

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book: complex, atmospheric, character-driven.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) World War II London Blitz Diary (A Woman’s Revelations Enduring War and Marriage) by Ruby Alice Side-Thompson: An unfiltered account of the destruction and the quality of life during the London Blitz. Also, it is a compelling and dark story of an unhappy marriage, social conventions, and personal loss.

2) London at War, 1939-1945 by Phillip Ziegler: A story about a diverse group of Londoners–men, women, and children, rich and poor, heroes and cowards– living through the London Blitz. Through the use of a rich collection of interviews, diaries, books and newspapers, the author creates a complex and compelling portrait of Londoners during the World War II.

3) Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Man and Women In World War Two by Allan Berube: A comprehensive history of gays’ and lesbians’ involvement in the war, including information on the work opportunities, the relationships, the gender and race relations, and on the impact of the anti-gay laws.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1) The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman: A lyrical and complex story about a group of women trying to survive during the first century’s siege of Masada. Similarly to The Night Watch, this novel is rich in historical details, full of diverse characters, layered plot elements, and psychological drama.

2) Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian: A small group of people is fleeing westwards through Europe devastated by World War II. The story is historic in setting, lyrical in language, and addresses similar subject of love and physical and psychological destruction of war.

3) The End of the Affair by Graham Green: Tells a story of an affair during the London Blitz, and the mystery behind the woman’s decision to end the affair. Aside of the similarities in time and setting, the story is also character-driven and deals with relationships and the psychology of love and loss.

Megan Rosol

The Keep

August 10, 2011

Author: Jennifer Egan; Audiobook read by Jeff Gurner and Geneva Carr

Title: The Keep

Genre: Literary fiction; Gothic fiction; Bestsellers; Audiobooks

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: Hardcover: 240; Audiobook: 7 discs – 8 hours

Geographical Setting: Castle in Central Europe; U.S. prison

Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary: After Danny’s involvement in a childhood prank that nearly left his cousin dead, he never expected to see Howard again. Yet when Danny is all out of options in his beloved New York, he finds himself accepting his cousin’s offer to help renovate a remote castle in Central Europe, despite his need for technological connections and an uncertainty about Howard’s motives for asking him. Howard’s goal is to create a hotel in which people leave technology behind to “be tourists of their own imaginations.” Yet as Danny explores the mysterious castle and gets to know the 98-year-old baroness who calls the keep her home, he and readers alike begin to wonder what’s real and what’s imagined. As paranoia builds in this storyline, another layer of uncertainty is added through the narration of Ray, a prison inmate who seems to be relating the story of the keep for his creative writing class. Eventually, these alternating threads weave together to form a complex tale with themes of power, imagination, connections, and how the past haunts us all. While some transitions and elements of the untraditional narrative structure don’t translate seamlessly to audio format, the narrators are able to make up for this by enhancing the book’s cinematic qualities and evoking a more emotional response from the listener.

Subject Headings: Gothic fiction, Castles, Cousins, Power, Revenge, Paranoia, Prison life, Creative writing, Story-within-a-story, Role of technology, Clash of old and new

Appeal: Atmospheric, atypical narrative style, complex characters, detailed settings, eerie, engrossing, interweaving storylines, multiple narrators, tense, tragic, vivid

Three Words or Phrases Best Describing this Book: Layered, creepy, cinematic

3 Similar Fiction Works and Authors
End of Story by Peter Abrahams (A psychological thriller based around a writing teacher in a prison and her connection with one of her students; a suspenseful page-turner for readers interested in the prison storyline from The Keep.)

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (Layered and eerie Victorian-era mystery with a strong sense of place; one of Egan’s style inspirations in writing The Keep.)

Different Seasons by Stephen King (This collection follows a theme of journeys through four distinctly different novellas, including the source story for The Shawshank Redemption, which most directly relates to The Keep; readers who enjoyed the eerie, cinematic quality of The Keep might want to check this out.)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors
The Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts, and Walled Cities of the Middle Ages by J.E. Kaufmann and H.W. Kaufmann (Readers interested in the keep and its defenses, as described in pivotal scenes in The Keep, can turn here for a detailed, visual discussion of castles, keeps, siege tactics and weapons.)

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg (Memoir of a former prison librarian and creative writing teacher, with parallels to characters from the prison thread of The Keep; moving, thought-provoking, blends moral reflections with wit.)

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle (An exploration of the power of technology and its impact on our social lives; readers who identify with Danny’s need to be connected or Howard’s desire to escape technology may be interested in this well-researched look at isolation and connectivity.)

By: Elaine

Bossypants

August 10, 2011

Author: Tina Fey

Title: Bossypants

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Bestseller, Audiobook

Narrator: Tina Fey

Running Time: 5.5. hours unabridged

Publication Date: 2011

Geographical Setting: Philadelphia and suburbs, Chicago, New York

Time Period: 1970 to present

Series: NA

Plot Summary: Tina Fey’s Bossypants isn’t so much a memoir as a here’s-what-happened-and-what-I-think-about-it book. Fey stumbles through summer theater camps, college experimentation, and working the desk at the YMCA before breaking into the male-dominated world of comedy. While hardly a feminist manifesto, Bossypants illustrates eloquently (while a tad profanity-riddled) the sexism that challenged female comedians into the 1990s; an obstacle that was largely overcome by comedians like SNL alums Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph.

The audiobook is certainly a revelation to Tina Fey fans. Fey talks you through the “relative stress of various jobs” and the birth of her “swarthy baby.” The stark honesty of Fey’s Bossypants turns brash and unapologetic when read with the comedic timing and flair of the author. For a hilarious and often surprisingly deep story about coming of age, Bossypants will appeal to lovers of self-deprecating humor and no-holds-barred memoirs

Subject Headings: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Humor, Second City, Saturday Night Live

Appeal: engrossing, engaging, flawed, candid, humorous, sarcastic, insightful, honest, quirky, contemporary, informal, strong language

3 Terms that best define this book: humorous, quirky, candid

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern (Both feature strong father features and explore parent/child relationships with sarcastic humor)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? By Mindy Kaling (The Office actress observes, life, romance and pop culture through personal stories and wit)

Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales (Almost three decades of oral histories from the cast and crew of SNL featuring scandals, infighting and showbiz dirt)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles (one man’s sarcastic and humorous look back on his life as he writes a complaint letter to American Airlines while his flight is delayed; very similar humor and autobiographical feel)

My Favorite Midlife Crisis (Yet) by Toby Devens (Fifty-something Dr. Gwyneth Berke is left reeling from her divorce to examine her professional and personal life; the struggle between career and family is told with wit and humor very similar to Fey)

The Starter Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer (The wife of a Hollywood studio head is thrown over for a pop starlet; similar themes with the struggle between career and family, the humorous take on the dating scene)

By Denise

Excerpts:

Scar http://bit.ly/qbmeEK

Gender http://bit.ly/pL4jFw

Don Fey http://bit.ly/o1SZlE

Photo Shoots http://bit.ly/n2HJkN

Life

August 10, 2011

Author:  Keith Richards & James Fox

Title:  Life

Genre:  Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Audiobook

Narrator(s):  Johnny Depp & Keith Richards

Publication Date:  2010

Geographical Setting:  England & America (for the most part)

Time Period:  1943-2010

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  The Rolling Stones are one of the most successful, famous, and infamous bands of the 20th century.  Over the years, rumors have developed about the band, with Keith Richards being viewed as a washed-up, one-transfusion-a-day, crazy rocker.  This compelling autobiography however, combats such rumors and gives readers an intimate look into the life of one of the most memorable guitar players in history.  It provides a no-holds-barred, candid account of Keith’s life, from his beginnings in Dartford, England, obsessing over artists like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, and Elvis Presley (to name just a few), to the formation of the Rolling Stones, to his multiple drug busts, to his tumultuous relationship with Mick Jagger.  Most of all, it dispels Richards’ singularly stock classification as rock legend, helping readers realize that deep down, Richards, in many ways, is  your everyman, who falls in love, loses his best friend, struggles with addiction, and whips up one wicked version of bangers and mash.  This audio version, narrated mostly by Johnny Depp, helps transport the listener as well.  Depp’s smoky vocal tone and nuanced inflection are the perfect fit for the narrative, truly engaging the reader on multiple levels.  In this way, the words become more—the reader can visualize each setting, each event, each tragedy.  A surprisingly moving, yet oftentimes funny and colorful story, this glimpse into the life of a rock superstar is nothing short of spellbinding.

Subject Headings:  Richards, Keith—1943-, Rock musicians—England—Biography, Rolling Stones, Arts & Entertainment, Autobiographies, Celebrities, Music, Rock and roll—history

Appeal:  compelling, candid, edgy, humorous, moving, eccentric, engaging, flawed characters, authentic, rich and famous storyline, details of blue-collar England, details of music, details of rock star life, historical details, colorful, frank style, profane language, vivid

3 terms that best describe this book:  compelling, candid, colorful

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Does the Noise in My Head Bother You: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Memoir—Steven Tyler & David Dalton (candid, details of rock star life, similar subject)

The Rolling Stones and Philosophy: It’s Just a Thought Away—Luke Dick & George Reisch (December 2011) (more details on the band, in-depth look at the controversies, details of music, historical details)

Guitar Aerobics: A 52-Week, One-lick-per-day Workout Program for Developing, Improving and Maintaining Guitar Technique—Troy Nelson (provides instruction for readers that are inspired, details of music)

Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters—Robert Gordon (Muddy Waters was a major inspiration for the Rolling Stones and is mentioned multiple times in Life, details of music, details of a musician’s life, historical details)

Gimme Shelter (DVD)—(Documentary featuring the Rolling Stones’ 1969 U.S. tour)

The T.A.M.I. Show (DVD)—(Film of a concert in 1964 featuring The Rolling Stones, James Brown, The Supremes, and many more)

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Sway—Zachary Lazar (historical details, biographical novel, inspired by the Rolling Stones)

Necrophenia—Robert Rankin (similar time period, humorous, music band aspects, the Rolling Stones are in the narrative)

Evening’s Empire—Bill Flanagan (humorous, British rock band’s rise and demise, issues with drug addictions)

Almost Famous (DVD)—(rock band subject, historical time period, rich and famous aspects)

This is Spinal Tap (DVD)—(rock band subject, humorous, British rock band)

Jessica

 

 

When You Are Engulfed In Flames

August 10, 2011

when-you-are-engulfed-in-flames.jpg

 Author: David Sedaris

 Title: When You Are Engulfed In Flames

 Genre: Essay collection, Humor

 Publication Date: 2008

 Number of Pages: 336

Audio Player Running Time: 9   hours

 Geographical Setting: North Carolina/  France/New York

 Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary:  This is Sedaris’ sixth essay collection, and like the others it offers a humorous and absurd look into his life and the world around him.  He takes ordinary situations like making coffee and picking out a tie and makes them into hilarious stories that go far beyond the topic at hand.  Listening to Sedaris read his essays is even more satisfying than reading them.  His delivery is spot on and his timing and cadence add to the hilariousness and quirkiness of each essay.  Four of the recordings are live, which draws the listener in even more as Sedaris has to pause for the audience’s laughter to subside.  On a side note, some pieces do have strong language, but it is not gratuitous.

Subject Headings:  Essayists, Humorists, Memoir, Satirists, American culture, GLBTQ

Appeal:  humorous, witty, quirky, engaging, compelling, conversational, relaxed, candid, satirical, strong language, authentic, intimate

 3 terms that best describe this book: humorous, satirical, authentic

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works

Fierce Pajamas: an Anthology of Humor Writing from the New Yorker David Remnick and Henry Finder (eds.)

This is a collection of articles from The New Yorker that has over 70 contributors.  Comic writers like Ogden Nash, Woody Allen, Steve Martin and Groucho Marx are just some of the humorous literary writers you will find.  It is the humorous literary style that I think will appeal to Sedaris fans.

Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs (audio 9 hours)

Like Sedaris, Burroughs also writes collections of memoir essays.  His essays are funny, irreverent and eccentric, but can also be racy and edgy.  His essays run the gamut from his childhood, love life, career, and battle with alcoholism.  Burroughs‘ reading of his work adds to the humor and realness of the stories.

Who’s to Say What’s Obscene by Paul Krassner

This collection of essays has the same satirical humor of Sedaris’ work, but is definitely edgier.  Readers may wonder if some pieces are more offensive than funny, but all will definitely make the reader think about today’s society and the hypocrisy that is often found surrounding it.

 3 Relevant Fiction Works                                                                                              

Bear v. Shark by Chris Bachelder

This quirky satirical novel about a fighting match between a mechanical shark and a mechanical bear sounds like something Sedaris would write about if he had a chance to experience it.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Those enjoying the satirical and humorous elements of Sedaris’ work may enjoy those same element’s in Toole’s novel.

Everything is Illuminated: A Novel  by Jonathan Safran Foer

The witty writing style and humor mixed with the bittersweet in Everything is Illuminated may appeal to fans of Sedaris’ essay collections.

Katie

Bloody Mary

August 10, 2011

Author:  J.A. Konrath

Title:  Bloody Mary

Genre:  Audiobook, Suspense

Narrators: Dick Hill, Susie Breck

Publication Date:  2005

Duration:  7 discs/7 hours

Geographical Setting:  Chicago, Illinois

Time Period:  Present day (likely set in the early 2000’s)

Series: Jack Daniels Mysteries, #2

Plot Summary:  Lieutenant Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels has seen some pretty bizarre things during her tenure with the Chicago Police Department, but nothing quite like what the Cook County Morgue is reporting: extra limbs are popping up and no one can account for where they came from.  To make matters more confusing, the limbs seem to be wearing Jack’s accessories.  A psychotic killer has it in for Jack and her partner, Detective Herb Benedict – one who appears to have easy access to Jack’s life.  Jack and Herb find that the killer isn’t as elusive as they were expecting.  However, for the killer, getting caught is only a minor inconvenience.  In addition, Jack is trying to balance out her personal life, and contends with a colorful cast of secondary characters, including her stubborn mother, her mother’s geriatric “lover,” a sadistic cat, and an egocentric ex-partner.  The reader also is allowed short and scary glimpses into the killer’s mind.  Bloody Mary mixes together humor and fear, action and suspense in a fast-paced and gritty – often violent – thrill ride (gentle readers be warned – Konrath can make even a hard-boiled reader squirm).  If you can, listen to the audio version, narrated by the prolific Dick Hill and Susie Breck.  Their characterizations bring the characters and acerbic banter to life, and special sound effects (like muffled voices over the phone) also adds to the listening experience.  (Also included is the short story, “Whelp Wanted” read by the author.)  *Bloody Mary is the second installment in the Jack Daniels series, but can be read as a stand-alone novel.*

Subject Headings:  Women detectives; Serial murderers; Chicago; Murder investigation

Appeal:  fast-paced, funny, sarcastic, suspenseful, gritty, violent, gruesome, menacing, flawed, multiple points of view, uneasy, quirky secondary characters

3 terms that best describe this book:  suspenseful, gruesome, funny

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Armed and Dangerous: Memoirs of a Chicago Policewoman by Gina Gallo: Gallo’s memoir covers the sixteen years she spent on the Chicago police force, from the police academy, to her time covering a West Side district, and her tenure in a plainclothes unit.  Readers who are interested in what Jack’s experiences as a cop in Chicago will be interested in Gallo’s cases and encounters with gang members, drug dealers, prostitutes, and hustlers as well as her insight on how carrying a badge affects your beliefs and behavior.

Courtroom 302: A Year behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse by Steve Bogira: Part of the suspense in Bloody
Mary
is played out in the courtroom.  For readers who are interested in a what really happens inside the American criminal justice system, there is Courtroom 302.  Chicago-based journalist Bogira presents an insightful and gritty look at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse from the points of view of the prisoners, jury, spectators, and judge.

Serial Killers: the Method and Madness of Monsters by Peter Vronsky: Vronsky (an investigative journalist and documentary film producer) gives readers a compelling and engrossing look into the psychological, investigative, and cultural analysis of serial killers, both historical and modern.  He also includes a section on how to survive an encounter with a serial killer.  As an interesting side note – Serial Killers has been included in reading lists for criminal justice programs.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Bangkok 8 by John Burdett (#1, Sonchai Jitpleecheep mysteries): Sonchai Jitpleecheep, a mysterious but honest Bangkok cop, investigates the deaths of his partner, Pichai Apiradee and U.S. Embassy Sargent William Bradley, but the investigation grows increasingly complex when unusual details are revealed.  Gritty, fast-paced, and suspenseful, readers who sympathized with the flawed Jack Daniels may be drawn to Burdett’s protagonist.

Mortal Stakes by Robert B. Parker (#3, Spenser series):  Boston P.I. Spenser is hired to see if a Red Sox player has been throwing games.  The investigation brings Spenser deeper than he imagined, into the realm of pimps, madams, and the mob.  Funny, gritty, and suspenseful, fans of Bloody Mary will find themselves drawn into Spenser’s classic case.

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (#1, Stephanie Plum series): Stephanie Plum is an out-of-work discount lingerie buyer in need of money when she takes on a job as a bounty hunter for her cousin.  Having no previous experience with bounty hunting, hilarity ensues.  Readers who enjoyed the humor and quirky secondary characters in Bloody Mary will be drawn to Stephanie Plum’s misadventures with her family and co-workers.

Name:  Mieko Fujiura

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

August 10, 2011

Author:
Laura Esquivel, read by Kate Reading

Title: Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies

Genre: Latino Fiction

Audiobook

Publication Date: 1994 (audiobook)

First copyrighted by Laura Esquivel in 1989 with original Spanish Text
English translation copyright 1992

Number of Pages: 5 sound discs (54 min. each)

Geographical Setting: Mexico

Time Period: early 20thcentury

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Divided into 12 chapters, one for each month of the year, this book shows a family living in the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution. Tita is the youngest of three daughters, and that position gives her a devastating fate. The family’s harsh tradition forbids Tita to marry and have children. Instead, it and requires her to take care of her mother until the day she dies. Sharing already a passionate love with her soul mate Pedro does not qualify for an exception to the rule. As Pedro asks for permission to marry Tita, the mother offers her oldest daughter Rosaura instead. Disappointed, Pedro decides to marry Rosaura just in order to be close to Tita. Living under the same roof, rebellious Tita expresses her desires to Pedro through the food she prepares for him. With lyrical prose, the narrator’s pleasant voice, magical realism, and unique structure, this story feels like a fairy tale thrown into a cookbook. Each chapter starts with a recipe, and is followed by detailed instructions for its preparation, blended with Tita’s emotions. Easy to follow, very descriptive, and bittersweet in style, this story is good for both a laugh and a cry. Although it can be listened to in only one evening, it remains in a memory long after that. Those interested in the recipes may wish to reach for the book format after listening to the audio
version.

Subject Headings: Mexico – fiction, Families – Mexico – fiction, Mexican cooking, Love stories

Appeal: original structure, romantic, bittersweet, dramatic, magical realism, richly detailed, witty style, imaginative, nostalgic, passionate, character-driven, lyrical prose, plot twist, unpredictable ending

3 terms that best describe this book: original structure, bittersweet, romantic

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

House of Houses by Pat Mora (a nonfiction twin to Like Water for Chocolate:  divided into 12 chapters, one of each month of the year; explores family relations in the Mexican culture; memories aremixed with recipes and folk remedies; some sense of magical realism; lyrical writing style)

Seasons of My Heart: A Culinary Journey Through Oaxaca, Mexico by Susana Trilling (this culinary follow up to Like Water for Chocolate explores in depth one of Mexico’s culinary rich areas and provides detailed recipes; personal stories attached to the culinary experiences resemble the novel’s unique style)

The Wind that Swept Mexico: The History of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1942 by Anita Brenner and George R. Leighton (Esquivel’s novel is set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution, and this title, accessible and rich in photographs, allows the reader to familiarize quickly with that piece of history)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber (although featuring Arabic instead of Latino culture, it resembles Like Water for Chocolate in lyrical style, magical mood associated with high spirited culture, the theme of love, and preparation of food as a major element of the story)

Esperanza’s Box of Saints by Maria Amparo Escandon (both novels feature Mexican culture and magical realism with the appearance of a spirit and rituals; in both stories the line between life and death is vague)

Mrs. Vargas and The Dead Naturalist by Kathleen Alcalá (both books feature Mexican culture and magical realism; a collection of short stories may resemble Esquivel’s novel’s structure where each chapter contains a different recipe through which the story within that chapter is told)

Name: Anna

The Graveyard Book

August 10, 2011

Author: Gaiman, Neil

Title:  The Graveyard Book

Genre: Fantasy, Suspense

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 336

Geographical Setting: A graveyard in England

Time Period: Current times

Series:  N/A

Format:  Audio

Plot Summary:  “There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife.”  So begins the extraordinary story of a boy, a toddler really, who was made an orphan on that fateful night.  The knife held by the man Jack takes the lives of the boy’s father, mother and sister and would also have taken the boy’s had he not tumbled out of his crib and escaped into the darkness.  He wanders into an abandoned graveyard where the forgotten souls residing there agree to take him in as one of their own.  He is named Nobody Owens, (“Bod”) for protection, and in honor of his of his adoptive parents, Mr. and Mrs. Owens, a ghostly but genial couple.  The mysterious Silas, who is neither dead nor alive, is his guardian,  bringing  him food and ensuring  that he is educated in the ways of the dead and the living.  The book follows Bod’s life in the graveyard with each chapter set in a different year.  Throughout this time however, there is still the man Jack, searching for Bod so that he may finish his work.  When Bod turns fifteen, he is ready to leave the graveyard and resume a life of his own among the living, but first he must confront the evil that has been stalking him for so long.  Bod’s final showdown with the man Jack provides a dramatic and satisfying conclusion to this unusual story.  This is a fast-paced book with magical and creepy moments.   Gaiman’s storytelling skills are brilliantly inventive, particularly in relating Bod’s adventures with the visiting ghouls and his rescue by the talented Miss Lupescu.   However, what makes this book a standout, is that along with the witty plot, odd characters and unusual setting, the author also creates the poignant story of an orphan boy  learning the skills needed to survive in the world.   The audio version of The Graveyard Book, read by Neil Gaiman himself, completely sets the tone, beginning with a beautifully performed rendition of “The Danse Macabre” on banjo.  This music selection immediately alerts the listener that this will be a sinister, perhaps quirky book, but not necessarily scary.   Gaiman is the perfect reader, using different accents for different characters and able to mimic precisely the indescribable call of a night-gaunt.   His understated reading of the text, in particular the opening chapter with its gruesome murders , is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock at his best.

Subject Headings:  Cemeteries, Ghosts, Supernatural, Werewolves, Vampires, Assassins, Orphan Boys

Appeal:  attention grabbing, witty, enthralling, scary, suspenseful, sinister, creepy, wild, well crafted, bittersweet, smart, wry, original, imaginative, clever, poignant, foreshadowing, quirky

3 Terms That Best Describe This Book: original, suspenseful, bittersweet

Similar Authors and Works

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Stories in Stone: The Complete Guide to Cemetery Symbolism by Douglas Keister, engraved symbols used on tombstones  tell a very detailed story about  the person buried there; The Other Side:  A Teen’s Guide to Ghost Hunting and the Paranormal by Marley Gibson, an informative look at  the technical aspects of ghost hunting as a hobby; Encyclopedia Horrifica:  The Terrifying Truth About Vampires, Ghosts,Monsters and More by Joshua Gee, geared to young adults, this is a paranormal reference book  described as “hilariously horrifying.”

3 Revelant Fiction Works and Authors:

  Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, about a boy who can see ghosts, is certainly more of an adult book, but it shares the same darkly humorous tone.  The graphic novel version, In Odd We Trust might be less intense.   Christopher Moore, A Dirty Job,   another adult book about a new father who can see ghosts is described as “dizzyingly inventive and hypnotically engaging”,  similar to The Graveyard Book.  Skellig by David Almond, is a young adult novel that tells the story of a strange creature living in a shed behind a young man’s house and has the same eerie, magical feel.

Name:  Chris M.

The Camel Club

August 10, 2011

Author:  David Baldacci

Title:  The Camel Club

Genre:  Political fiction; Suspense stories

Publication Date:  2005

Number of Pages:  448; Audiobook  (Read By Jonathan Davis) Running Time: 16 hours

Geographical Setting: Washington D.C.

Time Period:  Post 9/11

Series (If applicable): Camel Club Novels

Plot Summary:  Oliver Stone is the head of the group that calls themselves the Camel Club.  It consists of three more members, a brilliant hacker who has obsessive – compulsive disorder, an archivist who likes to dress in 19th century garb and a Vietnam veteran.  These four men meet to uncover the “truth” that is hidden from the American public by the government.  During one of these meetings, they witness a murder, which involves them in a plot that will threaten the security of the entire nation.  The Camel club gets help from a Secret Service agent, Alex Ford, who is also drawn into this dramatic and suspenseful plot. David Baldacci’s latest thriller is full of conspiracy theories, politics, murder, intrigue and terrorist plots and it promises to keep the reader on the edge of it’s seat.

Subject Headings: Murder Witnesses; Terrorists; Conspiracies; Secret societies; conspiracy theories; kidnapping; National security; Nuclear warfare

Appeal: Plot-driven, intricately plotted, compelling, suspenseful, dramatic, multiple points of view, foreboding, series characters, contemporary, descriptive, investigative, issue-oriented

3 terms that best describe this book:

Plot-driven, compelling, suspenseful

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Middle East: a brief history of the last 2000 years Bernard Lewis (Gives a history of the Middle East and the political, social and cultural development).

Conspiracies and Secret Societies Brad Steiger; Sherry Steiger (Provides a detailed and extensive list of conspiracies and secret societies throughout history).

My jihad: the true story of an American mujahid’s amazing journey from Usama Bin Laden’s training camps to counterterrorism with the FBI and CIA  Aukai Collins (This story combines an inside look into the training camps in Afghanistan and an inside look into the United States intelligence agencies.)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Jefferson Key Steve Berry (A story that is rich with American history and complete with secret codes, political information and is action-packed).

The Inner Circle Brad Meltzer ( A political thriller that is full of conspiracies and history that takes place within Washington D.C).

Sphere of Influence Kyle Mills ( A story of a terrorist cell within the United States and an international conspiracy).

Name:  Sara Bartels