Posts Tagged ‘amusing’

Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary

August 8, 2012

Author: Keshni Kashyap   Illustrator: Mari Araki

Title: Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary

Genre: Coming of Age Stories; Multicultural; Graphic Novel (format)

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 242

Geographical Setting: Southern California

Time Period: Modern

Plot Summary: This engaging graphic novel tells the coming of age story of an East Indian American teenager named Tina as she struggles with the bigger questions in life. As an English honors assignment on existentialism, Tina begins to keep a diary of letters she writes to philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Keshni Kashyap, an East-Indian-American herself who struggled with her own racial identity as a teen, is the author of this novel. The black and white illustrations by Araki help to convey the charming and mellow tone of the story. The writing is amusing yet realistic and authentic. The diaries are candid thoughts on growing up and philosophy that are cleverly intertwined.

Subject Headings: Teenage girls-Southern California; Individuality; Diaries; East Indian-Americans; High schools

Appeal: leisurely-paced, candid, humorous, philosophical, thoughtful, engaging, quirky, realistic, authentic, diaries, clever, smart, charming, amusing, mellow

3 terms that best describe this book: engaging, philosophical, authentic

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Tete-aTete: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre by Hazel Rowley – If you’d like to learn more about Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophies as well as more about his personal and unusual relationship with Simone de Beauvoir, you may want to read this book.

2.    Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Villages to Five Continents by Minal Hajratwala – If after reading Tina’s Mouth, you would like to find out more about East Indian culture, immigration, and history this may be a book you would enjoy.

3.    Being and Time by Martin Heidegger – If after reading Tina’s Mouth you would like to learn more about existentialism as a philosophy, you may enjoy reading this book about human existence.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Too Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson – If you enjoy coming of age graphic novels that are reflective in nature like Tina’s Mouth, you may also enjoy this.

2.      Action Philosophers! by Fred Van Lente – You may enjoy this book if you like reading graphic novels about philosophy like Tina’s Mouth. This graphic novel that is part of the Action Philosophers Series (Book 2) takes a humorous approach to the expansive field of philosophy.

3.      The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani –If you would like to read another fiction book about East Indian culture and racial struggles in the United States, this book about an arranged marriage might appeal to you.

Name: Patty Prodanich

Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table

August 8, 2012

Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table

Author: Ruth Reichl

Title: Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table

Genre: Nonfiction; Memoirs; Autobiographies (Best Seller)

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 282

Geographical Setting: New York and Connecticut

Time Period: 1950’s

Plot Summary: Ruth Reichl, Gourmet magazine’s editor-in-chief and restaurant critic for The New York Times, writes memoirs about her childhood written under the umbrella of food and cooking. Cooking was her escape from her dysfunctional family, but especially in dealing with her mother who suffered from a mental illness. Although it sounds like this book should be sad and tragic, the stories are told in an amusing and heartwarming way. This novel is set at a relaxed pace as you get to know Ruth as well as the many other descriptive and engaging characters.

Subject Headings: Reichl, Ruth; Cooking; Growing up; Food habits-United States; Recipes

Appeal: character-driven, relaxed pace, amusing, bittersweet, heartwarming, inspirational, nostalgic, candid, conversational, descriptive, dialect-rich, engaging, lush, hopeful, thoughtful, imaginative, clever, colorful, metaphorical

3 terms that best describe this book: heartwarming, descriptive, and character-driven

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber – If you enjoy reading memoirs about food and culture and liked the relaxed pace and amusing nature of Tender at the Bone, you may enjoy this book.

2.    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver- If you enjoy reading memoirs about food and are interested in finding out more about locally grown foods, you may enjoy this read alike.

3.      Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell – If you enjoy reading autobiographies about food and cooking,and appreciate a book with a conversational and humorous tone just like Tender at the Bone, you might want to try this book. (Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs – If you like reading humorous stories about a chefs and cooking set in a relaxed pace, you may enjoy this book.

2.      Corinna Chapman Mysteries by Kerry Greenwood – If you enjoy reading engaging mysteries about food and cooking, this series might appeal to you. (First book in the series is Earthly Delights.)

3.      The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender – If you liked the character-driven nature of Tender at the Bone, but would like to try something a little bit more offbeat and lyrical, you might want to try this book.

Name: Patty Prodanich

Shopgirl by Steve Martin

August 8, 2012

Author:  Steve Martin

Title:  Shopgirl

Genre:  Literary Fiction, Bestseller, Audio Book

Publication Date:  2000

Number of Pages:  130 (4 CDs, 4 hours)

Geographical Setting:  Beverly Hills, CA

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  n/a

Plot Summary:  Mirabelle Buttersfield is a sad, lonely, and clinically depressed twenty-eight-year-old Vermont native who sometime ago moved to California with aspirations of becoming an artist but now works in the glove department at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills.  Withdrawn and almost friendless, Mirabelle’s life consists of “selling things nobody buys anymore,” commuting to and from her apartment, feeding her cats, taking antidepressants, drawing pictures of dead and dying things, visiting art galleries, and occasionally meeting up with Jeremy, an unambitious and inept young man she met in a laundromat who stencils logos onto amplifiers for a living.  Her life begins to change when Mr. Ray Porter, an enormously wealthy, handsome, and debonair gentleman nearly twice Mirabelle’s age, buys her a pair of expensive gloves and asks her out for dinner.  Although Ray Porter is charming, suave, and genuinely cares about Mirabelle, he makes it perfectly clear that he does not intend on maintaining an exclusive relationship with her.  Despite this revelation, Mirabelle continues this dead-end relationship for quite some time until Jeremy, who has undergone a dynamic transformation with the help of self-improvement books, reenters her life.  Shopgirl is a brief and bittersweet meditation on loneliness, relationships between men and women, and the human capacity for change, containing a vivid cast of closely-observed characters that are sympathetic, somewhat offbeat, and occasionally amusing.  The author’s style is witty, thoughtful, and concise, and deftly matches the book’s unique tone, which is at times funny, reflective, melancholic, dramatic, and romantic.  On audio book, Steve Martin’s reading accentuates the novella’s melancholy tone, making Mirabelle’s depression affectingly palpable and deemphasizing the book’s more humorous moments.

Subject Headings:  Beverly Hills, CA – Fiction; Clerks (Retail Trade) – Fiction; Department Stores – Fiction; Young Women – Fiction; Coming-of-Age Story – Fiction.

Appeal:  Closely-observed characters, sympathetic characters, dramatic, character-driven, details of department store retail, amusing, bittersweet, reflective, introspective, romantic, funny, melancholy, descriptive, thoughtful, concise, witty

3 terms that best describe this book:  Melancholy, reflective, bittersweet

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Minding the Store by Stanley Marcus

Stanley Marcus, son of Neiman Marcus co-founder Herbert Marcus, provides a lively and surprisingly readable history of Neiman Marcus and examines what makes the department store one of the best and most well-known retailers around.  Suggested to Shopgirl readers who want to learn more about Mirabelle’s employer.

2)  Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex by John Gray

One of the most famous and most accessible self-help relationship books that people still read today, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus discusses how men and women are different and offers practical advice on how to transform relationships in clear, easy-to-understand language.  This is one of the books mentioned in Shopgirl that Jeremy read to improve himself.

3)  Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity by Stephanie Barron, Sheri Bernstein, Ilene Susan Fort, Michael Dear, and Howard N. Fox

Published in conjunction with a Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s exhibition that explored the ways in which artistic representations of California affect its identity, this book reproduces 400 pieces and 150 cultural artifacts from the exhibit.  Suggested to readers who, like Mirabelle, are interested in art and California art exhibits.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)   The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing is a witty, humorous, and insightful collection of seven interlinked stories about Jane Rosenal, her relationships, and her lifelong search for love.  In the title story, Jane memorizes a number of self-help relationship guides and strictly adheres to their advice only to hilarious and disastrous ends.  This book is suggested to readers looking for something funnier than Shopgirl while still addressing men’s and women’s relationships with touching insightfulness and wit.

2)  The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland

It would appear that the only thing that Roger, a middle-aged divorcee and aspiring novelist, and Bethany, a teen goth, is that they both work at Staples.  However, one day, Bethany discovers Roger’s diary, finds that they share similar thoughts about loneliness and mortality, and suggests that they begin writing to each other.  Through these letters, these two characters forge a unique friendship.  Like Shopgirl, this is a darkly humorous, melancholic, and introspective novel about loneliness, featuring characters with failed aspirations trapped in dead-end retail jobs.

3)  The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories by Aimee Bender

This book is a collection of sixteen imaginative, offbeat, and surreal short stories about sexuality, love, and relationships between men and women.  These stories feature a librarian who sleeps with all men who enter the library as a way to fight off grief, a woman whose lover is “experiencing reverse evolution” and now lives in a glass baking pan, a man who comes home from war without his lips, and numerous other odd characters and scenarios.  This unorthodox suggestion would be most appropriate for Shopgirl readers who want to read another book dealing with human relationships but also want to read something less grounded in reality.

Name:  Zach Musil

Espresso Tales

August 1, 2012

Author: Alexander McCall Smith

Title: Espresso Tales

Genre: Gentle

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 368

Geographical Setting: Edinburgh, Scotland

Time Period: Current

Series: 44 Scotland Street, 2

Plot Summary:

Espresso Tales is the sequel to 44 Scotland Street and continues to follow the lives of the tenants, who happen to reside at the address 44 Scotland St.  Readers can catch up with Pat, who had just finished her second gap year, has decided to stay in Edinburgh, Bruce who needs a new job and may give the wine business a try, and gifted 6-year-old Bertie who is starting kindergarten and is forced to wear crushed-strawberry (or pink) dungarees on his first day. The characters, of various ages, form relationships in odd and endearing ways.  This is a lighthearted work that takes turns revealing the story of each of the characters.  By using alternating points of view, the reader is able to see how the different characters reflect on the other residents, and themselves, providing insight and humor.

Subject Headings:

Apartment houses; father and son; friendship; genius; gifted children; men/women relations; mother and son; neighbors; roommates; senior women; women college students; young women

Appeal:

Strong sense of place; amusing; upbeat; engaging; character driven; relaxed pacing; lighthearted tone; humorous tone; flawed characters; recognizable characters; insightful characters; episodic storyline

3 terms that best describe this book:

Strong sense of place; amusing; relaxed pacing

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Edinburgh: A Cultural and Literary History by Donald Campbell

Alexander McCall Smith captures the city in Espresso Tales, providing a great sense of place.  This work, organized by sections of town provides an introduction to Edinburgh’s history.  For those who want to know more about the town that is the backdrop of this series.

Waiter, There’s a Horse in My Wine: A Treasury of Entertainment, Exploration and Education by America’s Wittiest Wine Critic by Jennifer Rosen

In Espresso Tales one of the characters, Bruce decides to try his luck in the wine trade.  This suggestion is for those readers who may want to know a bit more about the world of wine through a collection of humorous wine critic columns.

Hothouse kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child by Alissa Quart

This work looks at the consequences that putting too much pressure on gifted children may have.  This could be an interesting book for readers who were invested in Bertie’s difficulties with his mother and would like to learn more about the predicament of gifted children.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Secret Lives of Walter Mitty and of James Thurber by James Thurber illustrated by Marc Simont

This humorous book is a compilation of short stories detailing the roles the narrator, a meek man, imagines himself in.  Combining illustrations with Thurber’s short stories, as well as including Thurber’s amusing autobiographical essay this book may appeal to those who like the lighthearted introspection that can be found in Espresso Tales.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

In this novel, set during the Great Depression, two young couples meet and befriend one another in Wisconsin.   A stylistically complex and moving novel, this story focuses on the connections that people make, which may resonate with readers who like the unlikely friendships and acquaintances that are made at 44 Scotland Street.

Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston

In this book ambitious Quinn, a British Lawyer living in New York City, is put on bed rest for the last three months of her pregnancy.  This character-driven, humorous work has Quinn reflecting on her life, getting to know her neighbors, developing relationships in places she didn’t think she would.  This book may appeal to those who like insight into their characters thoughts as well as those who like circumstances that create unlikely bonds.

Name: Lisa Anne Fisherkeller Barefield

Stephen Fry in America

March 27, 2012

Author: Stephen Fry

Title: Stephen Fry in America

Genre: Nonfiction, Travel Memoir, Essays

Publication Date: November 3, 2009

Number of Pages: 320

Geographical Setting: Various places throughout the United States

Time Period: Present Day

Plot Summary: Actor, writer, comedian and British national treasure Stephen Fry travels around the United States in a black cab in order to discover the hidden gems that shape the United States into a multicultural society. Fry visits all 50 states and includes interesting facts about each, as well as photographs of him performing tasks in every area.

Subject Headings:

United States – Description and Travel

Fry, Stephen – 1957, Travel

British – Travel – United States

United States – Foreign public opinion, British

Appeal: Amusing, engaging, informative, charming, witty, insightful, knowledgeable, refreshing, heartwarming, poignant, upbeat, conversational

Appeal Terms that Best Describe the Book: Amusing, insightful, charming.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Sex Lives of Cannibals – Martin Troost

The author and his girlfriend decide to move to a remote South Pacific island for two years in the hopes of discovering a romantic paradise. Rather than romance, the couple find themselves in one misadventure after another and an unforgiving environment. This is a travel memoir about what happens when a good trip goes bad.

Mental Floss History of the United States – Erik Sass

This book is a spin off from the satirical and informative magazine, Mental Floss, and discusses some of the most famous stories concerning the history of the United States. It takes a satirical but historically correct spin on the history of the US and points out facts that we may have been taught in school, but were not entirely factual.

Around the World in 80 Days – Michael Palin

Palin, part of the legendary comedy group Monty Python, tries to pay homage to the original Around the World in 80 Days by traveling the globe without the use of an airplane for 80 days. He visits the same places as the original but adds in more information regarding the specific areas, and a substantial bit of humor.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Gulliver’s travels – Jonathan Swift

This novel is the classic travel story. An Englishman voyages away from home and finds himself in a world entirely unlike his own.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

A strange choice perhaps, but this novel is a fish-out-of-water story where our main character is moved from his life on Earth to one in space. Fry and Adams have a similar sense of humor and attention to detail.

Freddy and Fredericka – Mark Helprin

Prince of Wales Freddy and his wife, Fredericka, are sent to colonize the barbaric land of America after being ridiculed by the press. They set off to hide among Americans and try to reconquer the country. During their time in America they find themselves accidentally in misadventure after misadventure

Name: Courtney Rose

Coraline

May 19, 2010



Author:  Neil Gaiman

Title:  Coraline

Genre:  Fantasy/Horror/Juvenile Fiction

Publication Date:  2002

Number of Pages:  162 (or 3:37:15)

Geographical setting:  England, outside of London

Time Period:  Present

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  Bored and feeling neglected by her parents, Coraline Jones spends her days exploring her new neighborhood, apartment building, quirky neighbors, and odd black cat.  Her new apartment has a doorway which opens onto a brick wall.  However, when Coraline opens the door it leads to an alternate universe, similar to her world, yet different and seemingly better.  In this “other” world her “other mother” and “other father” are attentive, she has better toys, the cat speaks, and even the food is better.  Coraline grows suspicious and begins to see this “other” world is not her own.  When she returns to her world, her parents have been taken by the “other mother” and Coraline must rescue her real family, along with the souls of the children the “other mother” has taken.

Subject Headings:  Fantasy Fiction; Horror Fiction; Juvenile Fiction; Alternate Universe; Courage; Present day England; Children; Kidnapping; Good vs. Evil; Identity; Family; Parental roles;

Appeal:  detailed, vivid, quirky, strong secondary characters, eccentric, layered, eerie, engaging, witty, thoughtful, amusing, graceful,

3 terms that best describe this book:  character-oriented, creepy, engaging,

Similar Authors & Works:

Non-Fiction

Leszli Kalli – Kidnapped, A Diary: A diary style account of an 18 year old girl’s kidnapping by the National Liberation Army and her 373 days of captivity.  Relatively well treated, her diary details her relationship with her fellow hostages and her kidnappers.

David Sedaris – Me Talk Pretty One Day: A vivid, engaging, and character oriented set of short stories.  The essays deal with the subjects of family, behavior, and individual identity in relation to others and your environment.

Sigmund Freud – Das Unheimliche (The Uncanny): An essay which explores the concept of things being familiar and yet foreign.  Ideas regarding things not being what they seem and the issues of identity and essence are examined.

Fiction:

Stephen King – The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: A psychological horror/fantasy story about a poised young girl lost by herself in the woods.  The book has an eerie and foreboding tone and is told with vivid detail.

Phillip Pullman – His Dark Materials: A children’s series with philosophical and religious themes.  They are fantasy/adventure books about a young girl trying to save her friend from evil, including her mother.  An imaginative and engaging series, these books are layered with meaning.

Ramsey Campbell – Silent Children: In the horror genre, a man kidnaps a boy and his sister from their divorced parents and hides them in their own home.  He intends to kill them to “save” them from their parent’s anger.

Name:  Summer