Posts Tagged ‘candid’

Night

November 28, 2012

Author: Elie Wiesel
Title: Night
Genre: Memoir
Publication: 2006
Number of Pages: 120 pages
Geographical Setting: Europe- Germany
Time Period: 1933-1945
Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

Wiesel writes what seems to be his own autobiography through the eyes of the narrator -Eliezer.  We get a first person narrative of events of the holocaust as Elies takes us through the Nazis invasion of Hungary in 1944.  To the rude awakening of the Jews, a lot of oppressive and stringent laws are created to oppress the Jews forcing them into the ghettos. From then, there are imposed restrictions and eventual massive deportation of the Jews as prisoners by cattle cars to Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.   On getting to camp, Elie is separated from his father during “selection”. From then on we get a detailed  account of the horror, hardship and inhumanity as suffered by Elie Wiesel and his family and the rest of the Jews. Babies are burned in the ditch, hundreds of Jews burned in the crematoria. Prisoners are stripped naked and exposed to extreme weather condition, most people die from malnutrition and disease.

In the end, we see a broken down man, his spirits crushed which causes him to question his faith in God and in his fellow men.
A gut wrenching read, will appeal to those curious about the holocaust.

Subject Headings:
God (Judaism), Wiesel,  Elie, 1928, Birkenau Extermination Camp, Auschwitz (Concentration Camp), Jewish teenage boys, Holocaust survivors, Belief and doubt, Loss, Holocaust, Jewish (1933-1945) – Personal narratives

Three Appeal Terms:
Moving, Disturbing, Gruesome

Appeal:
Reflective, Moody, Haunting, Menacing, Disturbing, Bleak, Gut wrenching, Engaging, Thoughtful, Descriptive, Compelling, Candid

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Gratitude by Kertes, Joseph

Another gripping account of the events of the holocaust, but this time the story is based in Hungary.  We learn more about the atrocities committed against the Jews but with a different story line and complex plot twists than the Night.  Will make a great read for those yearning for more holocaust stories.

Schindler’s list by Keneally, Thomas
Schindler’s story is retold by Keneally about his life how he – Schindler a German saved more than a thousand Jews working for him during the holocaust. For those interested in the events of the holocaust, this books brings a different perspective judging from Schindler’s  acts of goodwill.

The jade peony by Choy,  Wayson

A poignant tale of the recollections of an immigrant Chinese family in Chinatown – Vancouver before and during World War II.  The story is told from the eyes of the three young children about the difficulties, sorrows and loss they felt while growing up.  This is another alternative for readers interested in the theme of persecution, suffering and survival as in Night.

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

The diary of a young girl: the definitive edition by Anne Frank
This book chronicles the personal experiences of Anne Frank and her family as they hide from place to place during the holocaust.  A more convincing account of the reality of the holocaust for those doubtful of the Night.

Maus: a survivor’s tale by Spiegelman, Art
Portrayed in a Graphic format, the author tells the story of his family’s experiences during the holocaust.  How they bounced from place to place, their hardship and survival.  Using animals in this format is a creative and effective way to depict such sorrowful events and will appeal to readers who love Graphic novels.

Holocaust: the events and their impact on real people by Wood, Angela
Find a collection of true stories of children who experienced first hand events of the holocaust.  Not only do we find each harrowing and gripping account of the suffering during this period, but we see  detailed analysis of events  leading up to this sadism and cruelty.  Great history collection.

The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves

November 7, 2012

Author: Anthology, 64 contributing authors

Title: The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 281

Geographical Setting: N/A

Time Period: Present (some flashbacks to authors’ adolescence).

Plot Summary: What would you write if you could send a letter to your young adult self? This question is explored in The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves as sixty-four LGBT authors, including Michael Cunningham and Amy Bloom, create an anthology of letters written to themselves as teenagers. While each letter is unique and distinctive, the collection as a whole discusses topics such as: exploring self-identity, the sometimes painful process of coming out, and encouragement and hope for bright futures ahead. Some authors write letters that are nostalgic and humorous as they discuss memorable moments from their adolescence, a well-remembered love for Barbara Streisand’s Broadway albums for example. Other letters take on a more serious tone with discussions of bullying or teenage self-loathing. Despite the variety of moods present in this anthology, the collective message found in the text is hopeful and reassuring with promises of happy adulthood in a more tolerant society. In addition to content, the letters are also unique in format. While the majority of entries consist of traditional letters, others are written in free verse or graphic novel form. This anthology of unsent letters makes for an emotional read that is heartwarming at times while tearful at others. Written in a conversational tone, The Letter Q is an honest and endearing read about courage and self-acceptance that will appeal to both teen and adult readers.

Subject Headings: Coming out (Sexual orientation), Gay men, Self-acceptance, Social situations, Teenage, Teenagers, Gays-Identity, Adolescence

Three Appeal Terms: Hopeful, Humorous, Nostalgic

Appeal: Compassionate, Heartwarming, Hopeful, Humorous, Nostalgic, Optimistic, Flashbacks, Issue-Oriented, Thought-Provoking, Candid, Conversational, Multiple Points of View.

Non-Fiction Read-Alikes:

Oddly Normal: One Family’s Struggle to Help their Teenage Son Come to Terms with his Sexuality by John Schwartz

Written by a New York Times correspondent, Schwartz tells the heartbreaking story of his thirteen-year-old son’s attempt to commit suicide after coming out to friends and family. The near tragedy becomes an uplifting tale as Schwartz recounts his mission to make his teenage son feel safe and supported. Fans of The Letter Q who are looking for additional true coming out stories that are both positive and encouraging may also enjoy this title.

Queer: the ultimate LGBT guide for teens by Kathy Belge

Structured as a guidebook for young adults, Queer offers advice on a wide range of topics including dating, sex, and homophobia. For young adults who appreciated the guidance and suggestions provided in The Letter QQueer may be helpful additional reading for teens who are seeking more resources on coming out.

When I Knew (2005)

A collection of anecdotes from eighty contributing writers, When I Knew authors describe the moment they realized they were gay and the coming out process that followed. When I Knew may appeal to Q fans who are looking for additional anthologies of coming out stories that are both inspiring and humorous.

Fiction Read-Alikes:

My most excellent year: a novel of love, Mary Poppins, & Fenway Park by Steve Kluger

My Most Excellent Year is narrated by three young adults from Boston who share their experiences of love and friendship through letters, emails, and instant messages. This trio of unique characters consists of  T.C., who is baseball-obsessed and has made a hobby of writing letters to his deceased mother; Alejandra, whose father is an ambassador to Mexico and holds Jacqueline Kennedy as her role model; and Augie, a musical theater fanatic who shares his own coming out story. Young adult readers who enjoyed the multiple voices included in The Letter Q may appreciate this humorous coming-of-age/coming out story told through three narrators. My Most Excellent Year’s format of letters, emails, and texts might also appeal to Q fans.

Tessa Masterson Will Go To Prom
 by Emily Franklin

High school senior Lucas is thoroughly shocked when his lifelong best friend, Tessa, turns down his prom invitation and also comes out to him as a lesbian. Wanting to wear a tux and bring her girlfriend to the dance, Tessa is faced with Lucas’ betrayal of spreading her secret and the town’s backlash towards her determination to attend the prom.  readers who are looking for another inspiring yet humorous coming out story told through multiple perspectives might appreciate this title.

Absolutely, Positively Not by David LaRochelle

Sixteen-year-old Steven embarks on a mission to prove to himself that, despite his doubts, he is straight. His adventures include dating a slue of his female classmates, socializing with the jocks, and a comical attempt to purchase a Playboy. When Steven finally admits to himself that he is gay, he comes out to his best friend who responds with overwhelming enthusiasm and urges him to share the good news with everyone he knows. Similar to The Letter Q, Absolutely, Positively Not is endearing, hopeful, and hilarious. Q fans who are seeking additional believable, light-hearted coming out stories might enjoy this book.

Annotation by: Elizabeth Hopkins

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)

November 7, 2012

Author:  Jenny Lawson

Title:  Let’s Pretend This Never Happened:  (A Mostly True Memoir)

Genre:  Non-Fiction, Autobiography/Memoir

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  318

Geographical Setting:  Various locations in Texas, including Houston and several small towns in West Texas.

Time Period:  2000’s, with flashbacks to 1970’s-80’s

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:

In Jenny Lawson’s self-proclaimed “mostly true memoir” she shares humorous anecdotes and reflections about her childhood and adolescence, marriage and motherhood, foibles and friendships, and attempts to rid her new home from the threat of potential zombie attacks.  With chapter headings like “Stanley, the Magical Talking Squirrel,” “My Vagina is Fine, Thanks for Asking,” “And Then I Got Stabbed in the Face by a Serial Killer,” you realize from the start that this book is probably not going to follow the conventions of many memoirs- and you wouldn’t want it to.

The author, creator of the popular online blog, “The Bloggess,” engages and entertains readers with stories that are mostly funny and offbeat (i.e. an overzealous taxidermist father), though she does share some painful episodes (a miscarriage, an anxiety disorder, rheumatoid arthritis) as well.  In both everyday experiences and big-life moments, Jenny Lawson seems to relish finding and sharing the humor of an awkward and/or absurd situation- overall, it makes for a fun, fast read that you were glad to share in, though slightly thankful you didn’t have to go through first-hand.

Subject Headings:  Personal narratives, Childhood memories, Growing up, Awkward high school experiences, Drug use, Family relationships, Marriage, Motherhood, Friendships, Pets, New homes, Human resource departments, Anxiety disorder, Misadventures, Taxidermy, Texas, Rural towns, Blogs.

Appeal:  Humorous, Offbeat, Sarcastic, Conversational, Candid, Engaging, Witty, Bawdy, Contemporary, Colorful characters, Family relationships, Growing up in rural towns, Photographs.

Three appeal terms that best describe this book:  Humorous, Offbeat, Engaging.

Similar Authors and Works:

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.  Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy by Melissa Migrom

In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson shares anecdotes of living with a father who is a taxidermist.  Readers interested in finding out more about taxidermy may enjoy this title, in which the author explores the history, community, and craft/art of taxidermy.

2.  I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies): True Tales of a Loudmouth Girl by Laurie Notaro.

Readers who enjoyed the offbeat humor of Jenny Lawson’s book may enjoy reading this collection of funny, quirky stories chronicling the idiosyncrasies of the author’s life in her thirties.

3.  Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho.

Readers inspired to begin a blog of their own after reading Jenny Lawson’s book may find this title to be a helpful resource.  It covers a range of topics about starting and developing a blog, in addition to interviews with current successful bloggers.

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.  The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks

Max Brooks’ humorous book of survival strategies for dealing with the undead could have come in handy for Jenny Lawson- in Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, she searches the property of her new home for supposed graves in order to avoid being unexpectedly accosted by zombies.

2.  If You Were Here: A Novel by Jen Lancaster

In both Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and this story, we follow the funny and frustrating ups and downs of couples as they adapt to life in a new home and married life.

3.  Pipsqueak by Brian M. Wiprud

Readers who enjoyed the wacky humor of Jenny Lawson’s book and her penchant for collecting taxidermies may enjoy reading this title, the first of a series of mysteries starring unlikely sleuth Garth Carson- a New York City taxidermy collector.

Name:  Nicole

Breakdown

October 17, 2012

Author:  Sara Paretsky

Title:  Breakdown

Genre:  Mystery

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  431

Geographical Setting:  Chicago, Illinois

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series:  The V.I. Warshawski Series (#16)

Plot Summary:  Chicago private detective V.I. Warshawski investigates the potential involvement of a group of preteen girls interested in the Supernatural in the grisly vampire-style murder of a local private detective.  Meanwhile, a polarizing cable TV news host ratchets up his attempts to smear a candidate for the U.S. Senate by digging up dirt on wealthy businessman Chaim Salanter, an elderly Jewish supporter of the candidate and the grandfather of one of the girls discovered at the scene of the murder.  Plotlines converge at breakneck speed when Salanter’s granddaughter is kidnapped.  With the girl’s life hanging in the balance, Warshawski races to determine how the original murder and Salanter’s well-kept secrets are related to the kidnapping, a vicious attack on an old friend, and the death of an orderly at a state mental facility.  As the plot twists and turns, it seems clear that someone is willing to go to great lengths to make sure events of the past stay buried. 

Subject Headings:  Warshawski, V.I. (Ficticious Character)—Fiction; Women Private Investigators—Illinois—Chicago—Fiction;  Murder—Investigation—Fiction; Rich People—Fiction; Political Campaigns—Fiction;  Chicago (Ill.)—Fiction

Appeal:  fast-paced, compelling, suspenseful, dangerous, dark, gritty, sarcastic, engaging, series characters, intricately plotted, multiple plotlines, plot twists, investigative, rich and famous, contemporary, urban, political, details of Chicago, candid, earthy, straight-forward

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe Book:  fast-paced, intricately plotted, suspenseful

Fiction Read-alikes:

A Trouble of Fools by Linda Barnes

Fans of Sara Paretsky’s tough, female private investigator V.I. Warshawski may also enjoy getting to know Carlotta Carlyle, the smart, hard-nosed female P.I. at the heart of Linda Barnes’ fast-paced mysteries, which are set against the gritty urban landscape of Boston. In this first title of the series, Carlotta’s investigation into the disappearance of a missing cab driver soon draws her into intrigue involving the IRA, a major drug ring, the FBI, and a member of the Mob.

The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Readers who enjoyed following the nasty political campaign and related media tie-ins at the heart of Breakdown may also enjoy this suspenseful and intricately plotted mystery involving murder and sleazy politicians.  Plotlines converge as Detective Jake Brogan investigates a series of murders of young women in Boston, while disgraced reporter Jane Ryland covers a seemingly-unrelated sex scandal involving a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The Chicago Way by Michael T. Harvey

Readers of the V.I. Warshawski series who enjoy its gritty Chicago setting may also enjoy this first title in Harvey’s series about ex-Chicago cop and private detective, Michael Kelly.  At the request of his former partner, Kelly agrees to investigate a cold case involving a violent rape committed 8 years ago.  After his partner is found dead the next day, Kelly’s investigation soon points to the possibility that a serial killer/rapist is currently on the loose.  In this fast-paced mystery, the body count mounts as Kelly races to expose a cover-up related to the original crime.

Related Non-Fiction:

Politics on Demand: The Effects of 24-Hour News on American Politics by Alison Dagnes

A major plotline in Breakdown revolves around the efforts of a popular, politically polarizing host of a major cable TV news program to influence the outcome of a campaign for the U.S. Senate.  This book examines the proliferation of the 24-hour news cycle perpetuated by cable news stations, and the resulting shift in coverage away from substantive treatment of political issues to opinion-based reporting.   Also discussed is the impact this type of coverage has had on Americans’ understanding of politics and government, changes in the ways in which news organizations use politicians, and vice versa.

The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania: Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps, 1939-1944 by Herman Kruk

A significant plotline in Breakdown involves an investigation into a major character’s experience as a youth living in the Jewish Ghetto of Vilna, Lithuania during WWII.  This book is a translation of a diary kept by Herman Kruk, a Polish Jew who lived in the Vilna Ghetto, who ultimately perished in a labor camp in Estonia.  The diary provides a heartbreaking account of the conditions, violence, and cruelty that marked everyday life in the Ghetto.

Vampires, Zombies, and Shape-shifters (Secrets of the Supernatural)  by Rebecca Stefoff

Secret rituals surrounding membership in a book club for a (fictitious) popular series of books about vampires and shape-shifters inadvertently connects a group of preteen girls to a dangerous murder plot in Breakdown.  This book provides a review of the legend and folklore surrounding the enduring myth of vampires, zombies, and shape-shifters (e.g., werewolves).

Becky King

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

September 26, 2012

Author: Ernest J. Gaines

Title: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Genre: Historical Fiction; African American Fiction

Publication Date: 1971

Number of Pages: 259

Geographical Setting: Various rural towns throughout the south, particularly Louisiana

Time Period: 1860s-1960s

Plot Summary: Miss Jane Pittman, originally named Ticey, was not even 13 when she was declared free by the emancipation proclamation and set out to Ohio towards the freedom of the north. While she never makes it to the north, she journeys throughout the south living on various plantations and farms as the wife of two different men and also as a single woman. This story spans nearly a century, as Miss Jane tells the story of her life from emancipation until the civil rights movement and her death in the 1960s. Written in 4 books in Miss Jane’s strong southern dialect, this compelling tale of a courageous woman’s survival through racial injustice is an important tale of American history that often makes it difficult to remember that this is in fact a work of fiction.

Subject Headings: African American Women, Race Relations, Leadership in Women, Slavery, Louisiana, Southern America, Civil Rights, Reconstruction, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century, Segregation, Plantation Life, Historical fiction, Centenarians

Appeal: Compelling, emotionally charged, character driven, complex language usage, flawed characters, inspiring characters, engaging prose, gritty, autobiographical, lyrical, nostalgic, realistic, insightful, candid, historical

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character driven, gritty, lyrical

Similar fiction authors and works:

Cooper, J. California. Some People, Other Places This novel follows a family through their struggles during the late 19th century through multiple generations. It has a similar bittersweet tone, is character driven, and follows a family through multiple generations.

Haley, Alex. Roots This story, like The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, spans generations of African American history. It has a similar tone and is family saga based, following one family through generations to reveal insights on the nature of humanity and the history of the family.

Morrison, Toni. Beloved This novel takes place post-civil war in Ohio, and chronicles the story of an escaped slave and her family. It is similarly lyrical and complex, and deals with family dramas and race relations, particularly regarding the African American community.

Similar nonfiction authors and works:

Delaney, Sarah Louise. Having Our Say A memoir comprised of interviews with Sadie and Bessie Delaney span nearly a century of African American history. The two women’s tales tell of the hardships and challenges faced by these two prominent African American women as they overcame racism and sexism to become successful strong women.

Lewis, David L. W.E.B. DuBois This definitive biography accounts W.E.B. DuBois’ early life and the defining moments that made him a pillar in the civil rights community, especially during the 1920s and 1930s.

Murray, Pauli. Song in a Weary Throat In this autobiographical account, Murray recounts her life as a child, her struggles in education to eventually become a lawyer, and her intense involvement in the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements of the 1960s.

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

August 15, 2012

Author: McClure, Wendy

Title: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 336 p.

Geographical Setting: Multiple locations throughout the United States

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Author and children’s book editor, Wendy McClure, takes readers on a humorous, reflective, and contemporary journey to revisit her favorite children’s books, the series of Little House on the Prairie.  In each chapter, McClure shares with readers her research into the history of the books along with her visits to several of the historical sites in the United States where Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of Little House on the Prairie, lived.  McClure even goes to festivals dedicated to the books and tries to camp out and cook as in the 19th century.  However, what adds even more depth to this novel is that McClure learns as much about herself throughout this journey as she does about her favorite series.  McClure leads this novel with a relatable, introspective, and self-deprecating voice. She describes situations and characters in a detailed, vivid, and generally sympathetic style with accessible and conversational language.  Also, while much of the novel is character-centered and informative, numerous funny adventures occur during the course of McClure’s trips.  This novel is an engaging and thought-provoking novel about one person’s relationship with the books that she loves.

Subject Headings: Books and Reading; Arts and Entertainment; Frontier and Pioneer Life; Frontier and Pioneer Life in Literature; Home; Women’s Studies; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Appreciation; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Homes and Haunts; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Little House on the Prairie; 19th Century; Autobiographies (Adult Literature); Humor Writing;

Appeal: leisurely-paced, relaxed, steady, bittersweet, candid, contemplative, gentle, humorous, introspective, moving, nostalgic, poignant, unpretentious, closely observed, detailed, engaging, familiar, quirky, realistic, and vivid primary and secondary characters, authentic, character-centered, episodic, layered, literary references, thought-provoking, accurate, contemporary, historical details, rural, academic, accessible, conversational, descriptive, engaging, informal, informative, thoughtful, well-researched

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: humorous, bittersweet, historical details

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrimwill appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another autobiographical novel that highlights a different perspective ofLittle House on the PrairieSimilar toThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim is a funny, character-centered, conversational, and contemporary book about how her real life differed from the mean character that she played on the famous television show.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim is more about the life of the actress beyond the series while McClure’s novel is a nostalgic and academic return to the past.

Forty Acres and a Fool: How to Live in the Country and Still Keep Your Sanity by Roger Welsch will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another humorous novel about a man who tries to live a simpler life in the country and discovers it is more difficult than he initially expected.  Similar to The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Forty Acres and a Fool: How to Live in the Country and Still Keep Your Sanity by Roger Welsch is a character-centered, chatty, and contemporary book, but unlike McClure, Welsch’s adventures take place in Nebraska.  Also, he continues to live in rural areas despite its hardships.

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that itis another autobiographical story about a woman, who reads a book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, and decides to change her contemporary life and relationships because of it.  Like McClure, Powell describes the challenges and triumphs of trying to replicate recipes from a famous book in a reflective, conversational, and engaging style.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell is set in New York and focuses solely on cooking while McClure’s journey is in multiple locations and involves many different types of 19th century activities.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is anotherhistorical novel about a strong woman, Meg Mambry, who is investigating the truth regarding a diary from her great-grandmother in the 19th century. UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook is more serious and psychological in tone and takes place in New Mexico.  However, like The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook has humorous moments and focuses on women’s lives and relationships.

Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another compilation of stories that include subjects, such as homesteading and living on the frontier.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx is set in Wyoming and contains more serious and dark stories in a more literary style.  Nonetheless, likeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx has humorous moments and focuses on family relationships as well.

An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another historical novel based on the true story of Nancy Kelsey who is the first woman to travel to California in the 19th century.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland is a more serious adventure story of survival.  However, likeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland has well-researched historical details and focuses on strong women.

Let the Church Say Amen

August 13, 2012

Author: ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Title: Let the Church Say Amen

Genre: African American Fiction, Christian Fiction

Publication Date: July, 2004

Number of Pages: 289

Geographical Setting: Houston, Texas

Time Period: Modern Day

Series: Book 1 of the Amen series

Plot Summary: In book 1 of Billingsley’s Amen series, we are introduced to Reverend Simon Jackson, dedicated pastor who puts his church first  and in working hard to build it up from nothing, ends up neglecting his wife and three children.  Although he runs a tight, successful ship in his congregation, his children are another story. One son is having problems with drugs, one son is confused about his identity and his daughter has her own problems regarding the fathers of her two children.  Jackson’s wife Loretta is the heart of the family and after realizing that she has allowed her husband to focus more on his pastoral duties than their family, works to reunite them despite the shadow of secrets which are revealed. A more urban take on Christian Fiction in that there is some sex  and mild profanity, this is a story of how one African American family turns to God, eachother and their community to figure out what really matters in life.

Subject Headings: African American families; Christian life; Family problems; African American clergy; Children of clergy; Spouses of clergy; Church membership; Christian fiction; Domestic fiction

Appeal: Character-driven, Compelling, Candid, Flawed characters, Inspiring characters, Family centered, Details of Christian Church, Thought-provoking, Urban, Conversational, Melodramatic, Poignant

3 Terms that best describe this book: Character-driven, Family-centered, Compelling

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) The Black Church in America: African American Christian Spirituality (Religious Life in America)by Michael Battle

This book provides a historical perspective about how the Black Church in America came to be including its African roots, the doctrine and practices of the churches and how denominations were formed. Battle also discusses current beliefs, practices and modern day dilemmas facing the church today. This book might appeal to those interested in learning more about the background of the African American Christian Church which is one of the main “characters” in Let the Church Say Amen.

2) I Told the Mountain to Move by Patricia Raybon

Raybon’s frank book is part memoir and part tutorial about how she’s struggled with prayer among life’s many challenges and what readers might learn from what she’s discovered. This book might appeal to those who enjoyed the messages of faith and forgiveness through prayer prevalent in Let the Church Say Amen.

3) How We Got Over: Testimonies of Faith, Hope and Courage by Trevy A. McDonald and Bettye J. Allen (editors)

This collection of stories about real people who overcame a variety of obstacles from life-threatening situations to broken family relationships might appeal to those readers who were inspired by the Jackson family’s courage and ability to keep the faith regardless of life’s problems in Let the Church Say Amen.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)  The Reverend’s Wife by Kimberla Lawson Roby

This book centers on the story of Reverend Curtis Black as he struggles to decide whether to forgive his unfaithful wife who is working hard to reconcile or consider a proposition by another woman who loves and wants to marry him. Those who enjoyed Let the Church Say Amen because it’s a character-driven story about African American clergy might enjoy this book.

2)  Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

This book is about John Grimes who experiences a religious conversion while his family struggles with guilt, bitterness, and spiritual issues. Like Let the Church Say Amen, this book is centered on an African American family who turns to faith and the church to solve life’s problems.

3) Have a Little Faith by Jacquelin Thomas, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, J.D. Mason and Sandra Kitt

This collection of stories from four bestselling African-American authors introduces a group of women who discover how life can open up if one has faith. A book for those who enjoyed the themes of faith, family and forgiveness in Let the Church Say Amen.

Name: Bridget Optholt

Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir

August 13, 2012

Author: Hadjii

Title: Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir

Genre: African American Biography

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 219 p.

Geographical Setting: Georgia

Time Period: 1980s and 1990s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This fast-paced, character-driven, and humorous autobiography consists of stories from Hadjii’s childhood and teenage years.  Throughout the autobiography, Hadjii covers many interesting situations, like attending a predominantly white school, relating to his traditional parents, going to family parties, visiting church on Sundays, celebrating Christmas, drinking for the first time, taking a test for AIDS, and getting his first job.  In the author’s note, Hadjii admits that some parts of the autobiography are true while others are not although one consistent theme throughout many of the stories is Hadjii’s highlighting of the differences between people who are black and white.  In each chapter, Hadjii’s first-person language and voice are clear.  He is chatty and frank, and he uses this voice to plainly describe and comment on situations and characters from his early years.  Unlike many autobiographies, Hadjii’s story is not tragic or sentimental, but is sarcastic, critical, perceptive, and generally optimistic.  Nonetheless, even though the tone throughout the autobiography is generally light, Hadjii’s sharp observations often present deeper perspectives on issues, especially regarding being a black American growing up in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.

Subject Headings: African-American Families; African-American Young Men; African-Americans; Family and Relationships; The Eighties (20th Century); The Nineties (20th Century); Southern States – Social Life and Customs; Southern States – Race Relations; Autobiographies (Adult Literature); Humor Writing; Memoirs;

Appeal: fast-paced, candid, contemplative, edgy, exuberant, humorous, introspective, playful, thoughtful, upbeat, closely observed, detailed, eccentric, lifelike, recognizable, and vivid primary and secondary characters, character-centered, episodic, family-centered, issue-oriented, strong language, thought-provoking, evocative, small-town, accessible, chatty, colorful, concise, conversational, descriptive, direct, frank, informal

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: frank, funny, episodic

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White, like Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, will appeal to readers who are looking for another character-driven reflection about family and relationships in a small town in Georgia.  Although Bailey White recounts these stories as an adult and does not include an African- American perspective as in Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, readers of Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White will appreciate her humorous episodic tales, closely observed and eccentric characters, and conversational dialogue throughout the novel.

Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams, like Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, will appeal to readers who desire another autobiography that highlights family, relationships, and race relations in the United States.  Even though the tone and style ofLife on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams is far more serious and formal thanDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, both autobiographies focus on how race affected their childhood and teenage years.  Another difference, however, is thatLife on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams takes place in Indiana in the 1960s unlike Hadjii’s upbringing in Georgia in the 1980s and 1990s.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii because it too is a satiric memoir that humorously focuses on perceptions and stereotypes that people have about African Americans in the United States.  Similar toDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, Thurston tries to present a more nuanced and detailed impression of race relations and his background of growing up and living in America, and like Hadjii, Thurston deemphasizes the need for every black individual to represent his or her entire race.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another character-driven novel about an African American, Betsey Brown, growing up in a middle-class family and dealing with race relations in the United States.  Although the novel is set in Missouri in the late 1950s, Betsey is dealing with many of the same family issues as Hadjii inDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried MemoirAlthough Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange is more poetic and atmospheric thanDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii too, it also is episodic and frankly humorous in many sections and contains a compelling story.

Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another character-driven novel about African-American families, friends, and neighbors in a small town.  Although the book is more sentimental in tone and takes place in Oklahoma, as inDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii,Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper contains multiple stories told by humorous main characters in a witty and lyrical style.

The Thang That Ate My Grandaddy’s Dog by John Calvin Rainey will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another humorous novel about a young African-American boy, Johnny Woodside, growing up in a small town in Florida.  Like Hadjii, Johnny tells many stories about his adventures and the friends and family that he relates to on a regular basis as he learns many lessons about life.

Just Too Good to be True

August 13, 2012

Author:  E Lynn Harris

Title: Just Too Good to be True

Genre:  Multi-cultural

Publication Date:  2003

Number of Pages:  336 (audio: 9 hours, 52 minutes)

Geographical Setting:  Georgia

Time Period:  Present

Series (If applicable):

Plot Summary:  Brady Bledsoe is the only son of single mother Carmyn Bledsoe and the star senior on his college football team.  They are very close and Carmyn is proud of the fact that Brady has been involved in their church and is part of the “Celibacy Circle”.  As his final football season ends changes start building between the two.  Brady gets his first serious girlfriend; aggressive sports agents start knocking, and secrets about Carmyn’s past and Brady’s father start coming out.  The relationship between mother and son is tested in ways it never has been before.

One interesting thing about the audio book is that three different readers read each point of view. 

Subject Headings: Mothers and Sons- Fiction, African-American college athletes-Fiction, Family Secrets- Fiction, Celibacy- Fiction, Football- Fiction

Appeal:  compelling, deliberate pacing, dramatic, multiple points of view, character centered, episodic, layered, strong language, racy, hard edged, candid, colorful

3 terms that best describe this book:  character centered, candid, multiple points of view

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Fifty Years of College Football- Bob Boyles and Paul Guido

Jam-packed with information about college football, the book is perfect for the reader looking up a fact or in search of a good read.  As the ultimate college football reference book, it is a must-read for true fans.  Readers who enjoyed the college football aspect of Just Too Good to be True and want to know more about the sport will enjoy this book.

License to Deal:  A Season on the Run with a Maverick Baseball Agent by Jerry Crasnick

During baseball’s evolution from national pastime to a $3.6 billion business, the game’s agents have played a pivotal role in driving the sport.  License to Deal follows Matt Sosnick as he deals with up-and-coming clients while trying to keep his love of baseball and his integrity.  The integrity of sports agents is a big subject in Just To Good to be True and this book examines one sports agent and his quest to keep his honor in this profession.

Raising Sons Without Fathers: A Woman’s Guide to Parenting Strong, Successful Boys by Leif Turdel and Patricia Kennedy

Dr. Leif Terdal and Patricia Kennedy describe the problems faced by sons without fathers and advise single mothers about how to raise more self-reliant young men. Providing practical, hands-on advice, the authors offer solutions to a variety of problems, including but not limited to, raising a boy’s self-esteem; discipline from preschool to adolescence; helping a boy get the best education he can; and how mothers can survive alone.  Readers who appreciate the dynamic between Carmyn and Brady will enjoy this non-fiction parenting book.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Preacher’s Son by Carl Weber

Bishop T.K. Wilson, popular pastor of the largest African American church in Queens, New York, has decided to run for borough president. In public, his wife and two children are a shining example of respectability. Yet privately, the Wilson kids are giving in to the same temptations as any other young adults. And their parents have no idea what’s going on behind closed doors.  This page-turner also deals with the way family dynamics can change when secrets come to light.

Mothers & Sons by Jill M Morgan, Diana Gabaldon, and others

This book is an anthology of memoirs and fictional stories about relationships between mothers and their sons.  Some stories are wonderfully sweet, while some are painfully sad.  Readers who enjoyed the dynamic between Brady and Carmen in Just Too Good to be True will appreciate this collection of stories about mothers and sons.

Romancing the Zone by Kenna White

Liz Elliott is a business woman and single mother to nineteen-year-old daughter, Becca. Becca is a freshman at Ashton College and a star of the basketball team, like her mother was years ago. But in those early days, a dirty little secret collapsed Liz’s world.  When Liz accepts Becca’s challenge to return to college and complete her degree as well as play her last year of basketball eligibility, she is met with resistance from the new head coach. Coach Sheridan Ross has no patience for babysitting an over-the-hill athlete, but sparks soon begin to fly. This is another sports fiction book that deals with family secrets.  Romancing the Zone is similar to Just Too Good to be True, but with GLBTQ themes.

Name:  Becky Ozinga

Look Me in the Eye

August 13, 2012

Author:  John Elder Robison

Title: Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s

Genre:  Nonfiction, Autobiography

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages:  288

Geographical Setting: Primarily Eastern U.S.; Massachusetts

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  In this darkly humorous and moving autobiography, Augusten Burroughs’s older brother, John Elder Robison, candidly and straightforwardly narrates what his life was like growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, his struggles with adjusting to the world around him, and the relief he felt when he was finally diagnosed at age 40.  Robison also describes his traumatic childhood living with an alcoholic, abusive father and a mentally-unstable mother; his gift for repairing, building, and modifying electronic music equipment; and how he used this gift to escape his parents by joining KISS’s 1978 tour to build special effect guitars for Ace Frehley.  Robison’s life is colorful and full of bizarre developments and quirky, offbeat characters that make for a particularly compelling read.  The author’s clever observations of life are both humorous and insightful, and give readers an authentic portrait of one man’s life with Asperger’s.

Subject Headings:  Asperger’s Syndrome; Asperger’s Syndrome Patients; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Family Relationships

Appeal:  Bittersweet, darkly humorous, disturbing, funny, moving, offbeat, reflective, candid, thoughtful, insightful, quirky characters, authentic, clever, straightforward

3 terms that best describe this book:  Darkly humorous, offbeat, and moving

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch

David Finch’s idiosyncratic behaviors are beginning to a take a toll on his five-year marriage when he is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.  Relieved to find reason behind his idiosyncrasies, Finch begins his quest to find ways to manage his Aspergian behaviors, improve his social skills, and save his marriage.  Like John Elder Robison, Finch is a high-functioning Asperger syndrome patient who was unaware of his diagnosis until adulthood.  This title is suggested to readers looking for a heartwarming and funny book chronicling a person’s efforts to “overcome” his diagnosis.

2)  I Am Intelligent: From Heartbreak to Healing – A Mother and Daughter’s Journey through Autism by Peyton and Diane Goddard

Peyton Goddard, a sufferer of severe autism to the extent of being unable to speak or control her own body, and her mother, Diane, recount her history of misdiagnoses, marginalization, neglect, mistreatment, and exclusion from normal society and education.  Later in her life, Peyton was properly diagnosed and given the ability to communicate her story through computer technology.  Suggested to readers who want to read a deeply moving memoir about someone with a much more severe autistic spectrum disorder than Robison’s.

3)  The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood

An accessible, authoritative, and comprehensive book on aspects of Asperger’s syndrome, including its causes, how it is diagnosed, the social and behavioral challenges that Asperger’s syndrome patients encounter, and issues regarding stigmatization and bullying.  Suggested to those looking for a more scientific and clinical book about Asperger’s.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Christopher Boone, an autistic 15-year-old mathematical savant obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, finds his neighbor’s poodle impaled on a garden fork.  Determined to find the murderer, Christopher must learn to overcome his autistic behaviors in order to solve this mystery.  This title is suggested to readers who enjoy mysteries and are interested in individuals or characters with autistic spectrum disorders.

2)  The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin

Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a middle-aged man detached from the world by his neuroses, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and social anxieties, becomes involved in the life of his social worker, Clarissa, and her son, Teddy, and most learn to confront his idiosyncrasies in order to help her escape her abusive ex-husband.  Daniel’s character, while not necessarily described as autistic, exhibits obsessive-compulsive characteristics frequently associated with sufferers of autistic spectrum disorders.  Readers of Look Me in the Eye looking for a similarly witty and touching tale may want to check out this book.

3)  With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, Vol. 1 by Keiko Tobe

The first entry in a multi-volume manga series about Sachiko Azuma’s struggles with raising her autistic son, Hikaru, this volume introduces the characters and follows Hikaru from birth through early elementary school.  This series is a poignant and moving story that explores the realities of being a parent of an autistic child.  The series is suggested to those who enjoyed Look Me in the Eye but want to read about children with autistic spectrum disorders and are open to graphic-novel format.

Name:  Zach Musil