Posts Tagged ‘colorful’

Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace

November 7, 2012

Author:  Kate Summerscale

Title:  Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

Genre:  Biography

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  291

Geographical Setting:  Scotland and England

Time Period:  Victorian Era, 1850-1859

Plot Summary:  Isabella Robinson was a 31 year-old widow with a young child when she met and married Henry Robinson in 1844.  The Robinsons subsequently had two children of their own, and the family became firmly ensconced in upper middle class society in Scotland and England.   Isabella ultimately grew unhappy with her aloof husband, and spent more and more of her time in the company of family friends and academics whom she admired.  After stumbling upon and reading Isabella’s private diary in 1857, Henry Robinson promptly sued his wife for divorce in the English courts on charges of adultery.   The resulting divorce hearings and trial erupted into in a scandal of massive proportion when The London Times printed a series of unedited excerpts from Isabella’s diary in which she described, in lurid detail, a series of intimate encounters with Edward Lane, a respected London doctor and friend to the Robinson family.  Was Isabella really a bold, unrepentant adulteress or simply a discontented wife who wrote unashamedly about her sexual frustrations and fantasies?  Why was Isabella subject to public scorn, while Dr. Lane was afforded greater sympathy?  Summerscale provides readers with a moving portrait of Isabella’s life, details of her relationship with Edward Lane and his family, and an informative look at the moral and cultural influences of the Victorian era.  This well-researched work includes excerpts from Isabella’s diary and letters, relevant court transcripts and news reports of the day, and excerpts from the personal letters of historical figures such as Charles Darwin and controversial phrenologist George Combe, both of whom were patients of Dr. Lane’s, and acquaintances of Isabella’s.  Overall, this work offers a fascinating examination of the role of women in the Victorian era, and the inequalities afforded them by society and the courts.

Subject Headings:  Robinson, Isabella (1813-1887)—Diaries;  Middle class women—Scotland—Edinburgh—Diaries;  Edinburgh—Scotland—Social life and customs—19th century;  Divorce—England—19th century

Appeal:  compelling, densely written, stately, atmospheric, dramatic, introspective, sophisticated, thoughtful, detailed, evocative, insightful, sympathetic characters, authentic, details of the Victorian era, complex, investigative, rich and famous, accessible, colorful, engaging, informative, journalistic, polished, well-researched

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book:  compelling, insightful, well-researched

Three Fiction Read-alikes:

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson is aware of the scandal surrounding the publication of Madame Bovary in France in 1856, and the charges of obscenity which prevented its publication in Scotland and England.  Did the tale of Emma Bovary’s discontent and adultery influence Isabella’s behavior or simply spark her imagination?  Flaubert’s classic novel mirrors Isabella’s life with its theme of a passionate woman dissatisfied with her marriage and way of life.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace interested in its examination of the effects a scandalous affair can have on a woman’s reputation may also enjoy this fictionalized account of the relationship between architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress of many years, Mameh Cheney.  Horan’s award-winning novel focuses on the impact their long-time affair had on Wright’s wife and family, and the public derision Cheney endured after she left her husband and children to make a new life with Wright.

Clara Callan by Richard Bruce Wright

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace who enjoyed learning about societal expectations impacting women in a bygone era may also enjoy Wright’s novel about two sisters pursuing separate dreams against the backdrop of the political and social upheaval of the 1930’s.  Written as a series of letters and diary entries, Wright’s novel offers a vivid portrait of the lives of the two women, one pursuing a career in glamorous New York City, while the other struggles with the limitations of a more traditional life in her small Canadian town.  Interwoven throughout the story are real world events that shaped the era, including the effects of the Great Depression and the rising political tensions in pre-WWII Europe.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Marriage, Feminism, and the Law in Victorian England, 1850-1895 by Mary Lyndon Shanley

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson found herself a victim of society’s attitudes toward the role of women in Victorian era England, as well as antiquated and discriminatory divorce laws which afforded women few rights when a marriage was dissolved.  Out of the struggles of married women like Isabella, a feminist movement was born.  Shanley’s title examines the Victorian feminists’ battle for fundamental reforms to marriage law that ultimately transformed both the legal and social status of married women.

Hydotherapy:  Simple Treatments for Common Ailments by Clarence Dail and Charles Thomas

Edward Lane, the doctor who was the object of Isabella Robinson’s passion in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, was the proprietor of a popular health retreat that specialized in hydrotherapy, a relatively new and fairly provocative medical treatment at the time.  In addition to Isabella, his patients included upper class members of society, celebrities of the era, and historical figures such as Charles Darwin.  This title by Dail and Thomas examines modern-day beliefs surrounding the healing powers of water.

 Darwin:  Portrait of a Genius by Paul Johnson

As one of many famous patients to take treatment at Dr. Lane’s health retreat throughout the 1850’s, influential scientist Charles Darwin makes several appearances in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, with his opinion regarding the scandal surrounding Dr. Lane and Isabella reflected in his writings of the time.   Readers interested in learning more about Darwin will find much to enjoy in Johnson’s new biography, which details the life and times of the celebrated scientist, whose groundbreaking work Origin of the Species was published in 1859, just as the Robinson divorce case was reaching its conclusion.

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Redshirts

October 17, 2012

John Scalzi's RedshirtsAuthor: John Scalzi

Title: Redshirts

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 317

Geographical Setting: Aboard the Universal Union starship Intrepid; Los Angeles, CA

Time Period: The distant future; 2010

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Redshirts builds an entire novel around the premise that on the television series Star Trek, the actors known as extras—usually wearing red shirts—who accompany the main cast members on away missions, invariably die a horrible death at the hands of whatever space monster is threatening the crew that episode. In a Star Trek-like universe aboard the starship Intrepid, Scalzi relates the exploits of red shirt-wearing junior officers determined to discover why their kind is being killed at such an alarming rate. Led by Ensign Andy Dahl, the redshirts follow the trail of a mysterious rogue officer, Lt. Jenkins, who lives a hermit-like existence in the bowels of the ship. Once cornered, the disheveled and wild-eyed Jenkins reveals the truth: that their reality is somehow being shaped by a poorly-written television program from Earth’s distant past. Although incredulous at first, Dahl and his fellow redshirts steal a shuttle craft and time travel to Hollywood in the year 2010 to confront the creators of the basic cable science fiction show, Chronicles of the Intrepid. With an irreverent, witty tone, and filled with eccentric characters, Redshirts satirizes familiar science fiction tropes in a fast paced story filled with enough plot twists to keep the reader guessing through the action-packed mayhem that ensues.

Subject Headings: Space warfare, Aliens (Humanoid), Interplanetary relations, Betrayal, Interstellar relations, Futurism, Human-alien encounters

Appeal: fast paced, eccentric, intriguing secondary characters, quirky, action oriented, television references, plot twists, strong language, humorous, philosophical, suspenseful, colorful, conversational, jargon, unusual

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: quirky, plot twists, humorous

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Life of Super-Earths: How the Hunt for Alien Worlds and Artificial Cells Will Revolutionize Life on Our Planet (2012) by Dimitar D. Sasselov

Redshirts protagonist Andy Dahl is a xenobiologist aboard the starship Intrepid, an expert in alien biology. For those readers who want to know more about the very real field of xenobiology, Sasselov’s work is a fast paced and thought provoking exploration of the blending of synthetic biology and extra-planetary astronomy that seeks to expand our knowledge of life in the universe.

The Physics of Star Trek (2007) by Lawrence Krauss

Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss has made his reputation as a popular author translating the frontiers of scientific thought for a mass audience. In this work Krauss discusses many of the dramatic devices of the classic television series Star Trek, such as warp speed and time travel, and demonstrates their connection with the very real ideas of scientists like Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Readers who enjoy the discussions of the plausibility of the science of Star Trek in Redshirts will appreciate Krauss’s unique brand of scholarly but accessible science writing.

So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel (2012) by Phil Hornshaw

Hornshaw’s humorous, offbeat study of the theory of time travel will appeal to readers of Redshirts who were taken with Scalzi’s descriptions of black holes, alternate timelines, and time paradoxes. Descriptive and engaging, this book uses real science as the basis for a handy guide for would-be time travelers.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Lost and Found (2004) by Alan Dean Foster

In this first volume of the Taken trilogy, Foster tells an atmospheric tale of Marc Walker, who while camping is abducted by seven foot-tall aliens known as the Vilenjji. From his cage aboard an interstellar slave ship, he learns from a fellow abductee, a talking dog named George, that they are to be auctioned off to collectors of interstellar life forms. Readers who responded to Scalzi’s blend of humor and suspense will appreciate a similar tone found here in Dean’s writing.

Night of the Living Trekkies (2010) by Kevin David Anderson

Fans of Star Trek who delighted in seeing that show parodied in Redshirts—if they are willing to swap science fiction for horror with a humorous tone—will be amused by this book. Richly detailed in the lore of all things Trek, Anderson’s novel follows the exploits of Jim Pike, who is forced to lead a small band of survivors when a strange virus transforms most of the attendees at a Star Trek convention into flesh-eating zombies.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (2010) by Charles Yu

Time travel was central to the storyline of Redshirts, as it is in this novel, which depicts a future where time travel is commonplace, and about a young man’s quest through time to find his missing father—the very first time traveler. Both Redshirts and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe share a tongue-in-cheek meta-perspective about the genre of science fiction, are witty in tone and similarly filled with eccentric and interesting characters.

Name: John Rimer

Mama Black Widow

August 15, 2012

Author:  Iceberg Slim

Title: Mama Black Widow: A Novel

Genre: African-American, Urban Lit, GLBTQ

Publisher/Publication Date:  Old School Books, 1998

Number of Pages:  240

Geographical Setting:  Southside Chicago

Time Period:  1930s-1970s

Plot Summary:  Mama Black Widow tells the tragic tale of Otis Tilson, a 40-year-old gay drag queen living on Chicago’s south side during the racially turbulent 70s.  Much of the novel is told in a realistic way by Otis about how his family moved to Chicago from the south in the 1930s, and the hard times they had to endure from then on.  Most of the novel is spent examining Otis’s mother “mama,” a vile, manipulative, downright evil woman who basically destroys every member of the Tilson family.  She drives her husband away, coerced one of her daughters into prostitution, and a lot of innocent people suffer greatly by her hands.  The author of this novel, Iceberg Slim (former pimp) writes in a way that is both shocking and insightful.  The language is often blunt, candid, and very, very offensive.  Sex scenes are described in explicit detail, and tone often changes from jovial to deadly serious.  Issues such as integration, trade unions, Chicago’s underground gay scene, police brutality, and hatred for the white man are discussed at length throughout the novel.  Slim even admits in the introduction that he is not the greatest writer, but he writes for the common people, and “tells it like it is.”

Subject Headings: Chicago (Southside)–Police (Brutality)–House of Corrections–Plantations–Trade Unions–Black Power–Bars (Gay)–Drag Queens–Cross-dressing–GLBTQ–Pimps–Drugs–Guns–Prostitution–Religion–False Preachers–Sex–Erotica–Rape–Pedophiles–Martin Luther King, Jr.–Street Cars–The El

Appeal: Realistic, Shocking, Character-Driven, Blunt, Candid, Erotic, Frantic, Intense, Dramatic, Serious, Political, Steamy, Graphic, Comical, Gut-Wrenching, Tragic, Sad, GLBTQ, Sexy

3 Appeal terms that best describe this book:  Serious, Steamy, Graphic

3 Similar Non-Fiction works and authors:

Soul on Ice, Eldridge Cleaver

This non-fiction memoir by Eldridge Cleaver will appeal to Iceberg Slim fans for its ability to shock, outrage, and question the readers’ ideas of what it means to be black in America.  His memoir is both sincere, raw, and very engaging.  He says at one point, “I’m perfectly aware that I’m in prison, that I’ve been a rapist, and that I have a higher Uneducation.”  Cleaver made indeed be too offensive to some, but he always savagely honest.  He tells the truth and he knows it.

Manchild in the Promised Land, Claude Brown

Claude Brown is a young, streetwise criminal growing up in Harlem in the 1940s and 50s.  This novel does an excellent job of describing northern black ghettos in New York in a turbulent, thrilling way.  Everything from pimps, drugs, street vendors, local shop owners, police brutality, gangs, sex and violence, and the gay underground are discussed in this book.  This book is however, quite inspiring and affirmative because Claude Brown is one of the lucky few who “made it” in this brutal world.

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City’s Gay Community,  Tracy Baim

This handy reference book guides the reader through Chicago’s long and rich history of the gay community.  Those interested in Slim’s descriptive scenes of obscure bars and drag clubs will enjoy the multiple photographs presented within these pages (both in color and black & white).  The book draws on many scholarly, historical, and journalistic sources and covers time periods from pre- WWI to WWII-1960s, and 1970s to the present day.

3 Similar Fiction works and authors:

Blow Your Mind, Eric Pete

The description of the book reads,”In this erotic novel of sex and revenge, Eric Pete takes the consequences of dark sexual fantasies one step further.”  This story is about Tanner Coleman, his wife Bianca, and her wild sister, pumpkin.  When a man named Henry shows up and blackmailed Tanner, their lives are changed forever in a truly twisted way.  Not for the squeamish, this hardcore erotic, steamy, violent novel will appeal to Slim fans for its challenging dialogue, absurd situations, and the pessimistic world view that “we all die, and it will probably be sooner rather than later.”  Very popular!

Drag Queen, Robert Rodi

Considering the titles mentioned above, Rodi’s novel Drag Queen is a bit more light-hearted and comical, but also very engaging.  One review describes it as “The Parent Trap meets Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert.”  Gay attorney Mitchell Sayer has just found out from his mother that he has an identical twin, who happens to live not far from him in Northern Chicago.  The thing is, Mitchell’s brother is now named “Kitten Kaboodle,” gown-wearing, stillet0 strutting star of Tam-Tam’s “All-girl” review.  Furious, Mitchell tries to force Kitten into “the real world,” but Kitten feels she has a few lessons to teach as well.  Comical, insightful, and full of the Chicago landmarks Slim famously paints throughout his books.

Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby, Jr.

This graphic, brutally raw novel of characters living in Brooklyn during the 60s and 70s examines the anger and rage of many diverse individuals in a time where justice seemed non-existent.  Considered a classic of modern American writing, this book, as Slim would describe it, “tells it like it is.”  There are crooks, hoodlums, pimps, prostitutes, drag queens, gay men and women, police riots, and strikes galore.  Gritty and serious, blunt and brutally honest.  Truly essential.

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

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

Interview with the Vampire

August 1, 2012

Author: Anne Rice

Title:  Interview with the Vampire

Genre:  Horror

Publication Date: 1976

Number of Pages:  342

Geographical Setting:  New Orleans and various cities around the world

Time Period: 1790s-modern day

Series (If applicable):  The Vampire Chronicles #1

Plot Summary:

Through an interview with a mortal, the vampire Louis tells the story of both his mortal and immortal life.  Louis was a rich plantation owner in New Orleans in the late 18th century.  After his brother died, Louis became depressed and wanted to die, Lestat, a vampire, helps Louis by killing him and turning him into a vampire.  Louis and Lestat are then bonded together, despite the fact that Louis despises his maker.  Louis accidentally changes a young girl, Claudia, into a vampire and the two of them band together against Lestat, eventually fleeing to Europe to find other vampires.  Lestat, however, is not as keen to be rid of Louis.  Interview with the Vampire presents a well written and researched look at the vampire myth.

Subject Headings:  Horror—Fiction, Vampire—Fiction, American—Fiction, New Orleans, Europe

Appeal:  Measured Pace, Atmospheric, Chilling, Darker, Suspenseful, Character-Driven, Cinematic, Interview Setting, Historic Frame, Colorful, Descriptive, Elegant, Literary

3 terms that best describe this book:  Suspenseful, Character-Driven, Literary

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Vampire Companion by Katherine Ramsland

Written as a guide to the world of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles series, this book helps gives new readers a better understanding of the characters and times.  The companion book also helps avid followers of the series keep characters and settings clear.  Readers who want to know more about Anne Rice’s novels should definitely check this book out.

The Vampire Book by J. Gordon Melton

For readers who want to know more about vampire culture in general, where it came from, how it evolved, etc., Melton’s book provides information on all things vampire.  The book is an A-Z bibliographic guide.

The World that Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square by Ned Sublette

The New Orleans setting of Interview with the Vampire acts almost as a character throughout the story, because it constantly pulls at Louis, trying to bring him back home.  This book provides historical information about this fascinating American city.  Readers who want to know more about the city’s history will find ample information in this book.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Readers who enjoyed the overwhelming sense of dread and Interview with The Vampire unfolded will no doubt enjoy one of the most famous vampire books of all time.  Stoker’s story follows several storylines unfolding around the mysterious Count Dracula as he moves from Eastern Europe to England.

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

A more modern day vampire story, Let the Right One In uses the same foreboding tone of Rice’s story, with a younger protagonist.  This book also delves into children being turned into vampires, like Claudia in Interview.

Dead until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris

With the same Louisiana setting as Interview with the Vampire, but set in the present day, the Sookie Stackhouse series follows Sookie, a young woman who falls in love with a vampire, Bill Compton.  The series uses similar atmospheric, mystical tones to Interview in order to describe the location.

Name: Erin Sloan

Maybe This Time

August 1, 2012

Author:  Jennifer Cruise

Title: Maybe This Time

Genre:  Romance

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  342

Geographical Setting:  Ohio

Time Period:  1992

Series (If applicable):

Plot Summary:  When Andie Miller’s ex-husband, North Archer, asks her to drive down to southern Ohio and take care of two children of whom he has recently become guardian, she is a bit reluctant.  She decides to go for a month, take the money that he offers and then be free to marry her new fiancé, Will.  When she gets down there she finds two uninterested children, one lazy housekeeper and a home full of ghosts.  With the help of several other family members Andie gets through to the children and discovers that the romance between her and her ex may not be dead after all.

Subject Headings: Nannies-Fiction, Haunted houses- Fiction, Domestic-Fiction, Divorce- Fiction, Paranormal- Fiction, Romance.

Appeal:  easy pacing, relaxed, character centered, domestic, quirky characters, sexy, light, heartwarming, humorous, upbeat, candid, colorful.

3 terms that best describe this book:

easy pacing, quirky characters, humorous

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Spook:  Science Tackles the Afterlife- Mary Roach

In an attempt to find out what happens when people die, Roach brings in the opinions of an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that there is an afterlife.  Readers interested in ghosts and the afterlife will enjoy this book.

Baking– James Peterson

The craft of baking is based on good technique. Learn the fundamentals well, and you can bake perfect cakes, cookies, tarts, breads, and pastries each and every time. That’s the premise of Baking, revered cooking teacher James Peterson’s master course in baking fundamentals. In more than 350 recipes and techniques, accompanied by step-by-step photographs, Peterson lays the foundation for lifelong baking success.  Readers inspired by Andie’s baking lessons with Alice will enjoy this guide to baking.

Getting it Right This Time:  How to Create a Loving and Lasting Marriage– Barry W McCarthy and Emily J McCarthy

Although divorce is common, it often holds negative associations. Husband and wife team Barry and Emily McCarthy view divorce and remarriage with optimism, showing it to be a courageous choice and a positive step towards a better life. In Getting it Right This Time, they zoom in on remarriage issues and identify the factors that led to the end of a marriage, using that information to help you learn from past mistakes and start over.  The themes of divorce and starting over are a strong part of Maybe This Time.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Summer by the Sea- Susan Wiggs

Rosa Capoletti runs an award-winning restaurant that is one of the most romantic in town.  She herself has not had a real romance since her love affair with Alexander Montgomery ended suddenly a decade ago. But Rosa’s life takes an unexpected turn when Alexander arrives back in town and asks for her help sorting through his late mother’s affairs. Reunited at the beach house where they first met and fell in love, Rosa and Alexander discuss the past and try to decide if their love can have a second chance.  “Maybe This Time and Summer by the Sea are character-driven, funny, and witty contemporary romances about second chances.”- Novelist

Eat Cake- Jeanne Ray

Ruth has always found baking cakes to be a source of relief from the stresses of life. And now-as her husband loses his job; her parents arrive for an extended stay, and her teenage daughter perfects the art of sulking-Ruth is going to have to save the day. Readers who enjoy the upbeat tone and well developed characters of Maybe This Time will enjoy this book.

Demon Hunting in Dixie– Lexi George

Addy Corwin is a florist with an attitude, who knows there’s not many men to choose from in Hannah, AL. Until one day Brand Dalvahni shows up.  He’s a supernaturally sexy, breathtakingly well-built warrior from another dimension.  Brand claims he’s here to rescue Addy from a demon, which she thinks is insane!  But right after Brand shows up, strange things start to happen and Addy knows she wants to keep Brand close.  This supernatural romance will appeal to readers of Maybe This Time who enjoyed the light and funny paranormal aspects of the story.

Name:  Becky Ozinga

CBGB OMFUG

April 18, 2012

Author: Various (22 authors and illustrators collaborate for 9 vignettes)

Title: CBGB OMFUG

Genre: Graphic novel

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 112p

Geographical Setting: New York City (the Bowery)

Time Period: 1970’s, present day, the future

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary:  Through nine separate vignettes, the history and lore of the legendary, mythical, pivotal, incredibly dirty, and defunct Lower East Side punk rock club is examined and explained.  CBGB’s was ground zero for the mid-70’s NYC punk rock scene.  Artists that would emerge from CBGB’s include Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, and Talking Heads, as well as lesser-known, yet highly influential acts, such as Television, the Heartbreakers, the Dead Boys, and the Dictators. Varying in time period, some of the stories use the club as a main character, while others use it merely as a backdrop or meeting place.  The common theme running throughout the book is that of CBGB’s as a fertile haven for inspiration, community, discovery, expression, freedom, individuality, and lots of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Subject Headings: Punk rock music, New York City—nightclubs, 1970’s, Artists, Drugs and alcohol, Rebellion, Nostalgia, Nonconformity, Antisocial behavior, Self discovery, Youth, Fandom.

Appeal:  Breakneck, fast-paced, relentless, atmospheric, edgy, flamboyant, gritty, hard-edged, humorous, impassioned, magical, idealized, romanticized, nostalgic, sarcastic, sensual, artsy, bohemian, punk, vivid, inspirational, mythic, sexually explicit, strong language, urban, colorful, informal, passionate, witty, hedonistic, rebellious, reflective, street-smart, rowdy, energetic, fun, aggressive, joyous, enigmatic, self-aggrandizing, loud.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Energetic, passionate, enigmatic

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Please Kill Me: the Uncensored History of Punk edited by Legs McNeill and Gillian McCain

This is an oral history of the New York punk scene from its infancy in the early 1970’s to its slow death in the early 1980’s strung together by interviews with the people who were there and making things happen.  The people who are still alive, anyway.  Interviewees (many of whom are portrayed in CBGB) include Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, and members of the Ramones, the Stooges, New York Dolls, Television, Blondie and many more artists and other scenesters.  This is a great read for fans of ribald accounts of debauchery and degeneracy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle For the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler

In the 1970’s, large Northern cities found themselves broke, decaying, crime-ridden, and desperate.  None had it worse than New York.  The tumultuous year of 1977 is examined here; a year that included Son of Sam, the Blackout, punk rock, Studio 54 and disco, and ruthless political battles.  What is the conduit Mahler uses to examine and piece these events together?  — the World Series winning Yankees, of course.

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever by Will Hermes

Sure, New York had the punk thing happening in the mid-1970’s, but during those years the city also witnessed the birth of hip-hop, disco, and salsa as well as playing host to fertile jazz and avant-garde/minimalist music scenes.  Here is an examination of those years, where the music seemed to get better as the urban blight grew worse.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

My Brain Hurts: Vol. One by Liz Baille

This graphic novel series chronicles a group of gay,teenage New York punks making out, drinking beer, getting arrested, and flexing their gay activism muscles.  I include this as there was no mention in CBGB as to how entangled the NYC punk scene was with the seedier side of gay culture on Manhattan at the time (many a near destitute musician made rent by moonlighting as “chickens”, as in a homosexual prostitute who may not necessarily be gay but will do x for money.  Dee Dee Ramone has talked extensively about this topic [see: ‘53rd and 3rd by the Ramones], as well as others).

What We Do Is Secret by Kief Hillbery

Hollywood 13-year-old punk and gay hustler Rockets Redglare must come to terms with the suicide of his idol/guru Darby Crash, lead singer of the Germs (circa 1980).  This book is the closest equivalent to the seediness and nihilism that personified the L.A. punk scene in the late 70’s and early 80’s (as far as fiction goes.)

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

While this book is the farthest thing from the seediness that CBGB and the Lower Eastside personified, it is an excellent portrait of the feeling of freedom, possibility, and wonder that a night out in the big city can give a person as they find themselves on the cusp of adulthood and independence.  Even for rich kids from New Jersey.

Name: Bill

The Boys on the Rock

April 11, 2012

Author: John Fox

Title: The Boys on the Rock

Genre: LGBT

Publication Date: 1984

Number of Pages: 146p.

Geographical Setting: Bronx, N.Y.

Time Period: 1968

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: It’s 1968 in the Bronx and Catholic High School sophomore, swim team star, and narrator Billy Connor is gay and knows it and likes it.  Unfortunately, he has only been able to explore his sexuality in very frequent, detailed, creative, and enthusiastic masturbation sessions that the reader will come to know very well.  Billy, not wanting to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, is a Gene McCarthy supporter who meets Al, the head of the local McCarthy campaign office.  Canvassing soon leads to lingering dinners at a pizzeria, which leads to making out, which of course leads to the sex that Billy has longed for.  Billy is very talented in graphic and detailed accounts of his and Al’s lovemaking, leaving not a thing to the reader’s imagination.  While Billy feels newly free and empowered by his relationship with Al, is it really love?  And is it a love that will last?  With the tumultuous Democratic presidential primary and a colorful cast of neighborhood friends and eccentrics as a constant backdrop, Billy brings the reader along for the first few baby steps he will take onto the path that will lead him to the man he will become.

Subject Headings: Coming of age stories, Gay teenagers, Eroticism, U.S. history–1968, Presidential elections–1968, First love, Homosexuality, Graphic sex–homosexual, Graphic sex–heterosexual, Political assassination, Gene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy, Bronx, Competitive swimming, Catholic school, Homophobia, Nostalgia, Masturbation.

Appeal: Quick-paced, bittersweet, candid, passionate, adolescent, horny, dramatic, edgy, sexual, graphic, gritty, impassioned, nostalgic, naive, sensual, romantic, unpretentious, foul-mouthed, colorful, unrelenting, rebellious, melancholy, vivid, sexually explicit, steamy, issue-oriented, introspective, retrospective, political, historical detail, urban, colloquial, dialect, direct, unaffected, hormonal, empowering, gay, sweaty, messy, intimate, personal discovery, sexual discovery.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: adolescent, gritty, sexually explicit.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Joy of Sex: The Ultimate Revised Edition by Alex Comfort

The Joy of Gay Sex, Revised & Expanded by Charles Silverstein and Felice Picano

The Joy of Lesbian Sex: A Tender and Liberated Guide to the Pleasures and Problems of a Lesbian Lifestyle by Dr. Emily L. Sisley and Bertha Harris

Yes, I know three books are not one book, but I feel I must evoke an “apples and oranges” (and “pears”[?]) exception in this case.  For people that may find appeal in any of these works, two titles will be completely useless (sort of) to them.  And the goal is to be able to satisfy 100% of readers, yes?

There is so much graphic sex and language in Boys that it would seem almost impossible that a reader wouldn’t take some stock of their own romantic life at some point.  These seminal, highly respected, and somewhat clinical works are certainly the “safe” and “tasteful” (yet graphically illustrated) suggestions that could be a stepping off point for a reader who may want to explore better or newer ways in which to get their freak on.

Time 1968: War Abroad, Riots at Home, Fallen Leaders and Lunar Dreams

The United States +1968= CRAZY: MLK shot, RFK shot, protests, race riots, political riots, cities on fire, Vietnam, Tet Offensive, Chicago Democratic Convention (police beatings and rioting and the MC5, for those too young), drugs, sex, rock and roll, men on the moon—and those are just the headlines.

While the rebellion, protest, and awakening of Billy’s 1968 took place mostly in his head and underwear, there is much happening around him that will inform a bevvy of decisions, political and not.  Here is an overview of that year with lots of color pictures.

Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution by David Carter

One year later from Billy’s awakening, the gay community of Greenwich Village rose up against police harassment to spark the beginning of the gay rights movement.  I can vividly picture Billy chanting slogans and punching cops in the face.  Here is a timeline of the events leading up to, and the riots themselves, as well as the aftermath.  This comprehensive account is the result of hundreds of interviews, public and sealed files, and a decade of research.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Forever by Judy Blume

If one took a plot synopsis of Boys and replaced the Bronx with a woodsy, well-to-do suburb, and weekends of beer in the park with ski trips, and animalistic gay sex with meticulously thought-out hetero sex, and Billy with a Katherine, and a cowardly Al with an impossibly sensitive Michael and then washed everyone’s mouths out with soap, one would be left holding a copy of Forever. Had those who have taken the often challenged Forever (ALA 7th all-time) to trial had known that Boys may have been right around the corner, I shudder to think at the number of libraries that may have burned.  While certainly trying to please entirely different audiences, these two books are identical thematically, giving Forever large appeal to the reader who may have picked up Boys hoping for a sentimental tale of teenage sexual awakening, but just not as sticky.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Luckily for the high-school kids that populate Boy Meets Boy, Levithan has created a bizarro-world town where there is no prejudice of any sort, especially sexual.  This bodes well for a school that features a Harley riding cheerleading squad and a cross-dressing star quarterback/Homecoming Queen.  The book centers on Paul, who thinks he finally may have found true love in Noah.  Simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking, Levithan brilliantly illustrates that freed of the burden of prejudice, hatred, and ignorance these are just kids, whatever their sexual orientation, awkwardly trying to find their place in the world and maybe a little happiness, too.

Best Lesbian Erotica 2011 by D.L. King, Giselle Renarde, Kathleen Warnock and Kirsty Logan

Best Gay Erotica 2011 by Johnny Murdoc, Natty Soltesz, and Rob Wolfsham

Sweet Confessions: Erotic Fantasies for Couples by Violet Blue

Again, I must use the “apples and oranges” rule exception.  For any reader of Boys that enjoyed the very detailed and descriptive sex scenes, here you go: a little something for everyone.

Name: Bill S.