Posts Tagged ‘compelling’

I Am J

December 11, 2012

i am j coverAuthor: Cris Beam

Title: I Am J

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 326

Geographical Setting: Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood

Time period: Present day

Genre: GLBT fiction; Realistic fiction

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: J has always known that he is a boy stuck in a girl’s body. When he was young, he could refuse to be put in dresses and goof around like one of the boys on the playground.  As a teenager, however, J’s body begins to change, forcing him to hide under layers of clothing. Feeling like nobody understands him, not even his best friend, J decides to run away and figure out things out on his own.  On his journey he makes a new friend at a special school for gay and transgender teens, finds romance with a straight female artist named Blue, and learns about testosterone – the one thing that might finally allow him to come out of hiding and become the boy he always knew he was. This is an inspiring story that can be understood by any teenager (or adult) who has ever felt isolated or struggled to embrace their identity, and how to overcome these obstacles on the path to self-discovery.

Subject Headings: Transsexuals – Fiction. Identity – Fiction. Emotional problems – Fiction. Friendship – fiction.

Appeal: Character driven, thought-provoking, inspirational, issue-oriented, compelling, leisurely paced, sobering, descriptive, well-developed characters, moving, urban setting, realistic

Three appeal terms:  Character driven, thought-provoking, issue-oriented

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Luna by Julie Anne Peters

Luna also tells the tale of a transgender person struggling for self-identity, but this time the reader gets the story from the point of view of another character. Teenager Regan is the only person who knows that her older brother Liam is a transsexual, until he decides to transition and finally shares his secret with his family and friends. Readers who enjoyed the character-driven, issue-oriented tale of J in I Am J will likely get just as wrapped up in Liam’s story in Luna.

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

It’s 1968 in a small Canadian town where the parents of a baby born as a hermaphrodite struggle with how to raise their child. The father takes charge, deciding to raise the child as a boy named Wayne. The mother, however, secretly nurtures her child’s feminine side. As Wayne grows up, he realizes that he can’t ignore the part of his self that he thinks of as a girl named Annabel, and finds himself battling to decide with which gender he truly identifies.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

For readers who would like a more cheerful gay-themed book that doesn’t take itself so seriously, I suggest David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy. The town where high-school sophomore Paul lives is described in reviews as a “gay utopia,” and this is a very fitting description. It’s no secret that Paul is gay, but nobody cares! He fits right in at this high school where the football team’s quarterback is a cross-dresser and the cheerleading team is made up of a bunch of bikers. This is an upbeat, character-driven book that shows the less serious side of finding and accepting one’s true identity.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers by Cris Beam

Written by the same author as I Am J, this is the true story of Beam’s volunteer work at a support center for transgender teens. Beam introduces the reader to four students she meets who are challenged with figuring out who they are and how they are seen by the outside world. Beam’s narrative reveals how the struggles they face are familiar to what we all face – the desire to be comfortable with ourselves and also be accepted by those around us.

GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel

GLBTQ teens can find advice, support, guidance and useful information in this valuable resource that has been updated since it was first published in 2003. This book is geared towards young adults who are questioning their sexual or gender identity and may need guidance and support or simply reassurance that they are not alone.

The Privilege of Youth: a Teenager’s Story of Longing for Acceptance and Friendship by David Pelzer

This book is about acceptance, which has been the underlying theme of all of these books. In this inspiring memoir, Pelzer shares his compelling story of an abusive childhood, followed by an adolescence of bullying and longing for acceptance, and how he finally escaped his home life and overcame the struggles he faced his whole life.

Name: Melissa Apple

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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.

Get me out: a history of childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the sperm bank

November 7, 2012

Get me outTitle: Get me out : a history of childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the sperm bank

Author: Randi Hutter Epstein

Genre: Nonfiction, Science Writing

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 302

Geographical Setting: Setting changes, as does time period

Plot Summary:  Get me out is an incredibly interesting, if not mildly disturbing overview of the history of childbirth.  Randi Hutter Epstein does a good job providing scholarly information in a popular and easily accessible way that non-medical professionals will be able to understand.  An example of this blending of scholarly and popular is the stylistic choice to include footnotes at the bottom of the pages, instead of having to flip to the end of the book to find the additional information.  The topics covered vary from medical to issue-oriented.  A few examples are discussions about how certain current medical procedures were perfected, how resistant doctors were to accept findings contrary to what suited their needs, and how influential health insurance providers were several decades ago.  This is  book is for everyone; however, I would caution the faint of heart, or anyone currently pregnant because the descriptions can be rather graphic and some of the topics covered are still current issues today.
Subject Headings: Birth customs; Childbirth; Gynecology; Midwifery; Obstetrics; Pregnancy; Reproduction; Reproductive technology; Medicine; Childbirth — History

Appeal:  Compelling; Engrossing; Sobering; Issue-oriented; Thought-provoking; Historical details; Accessible; Medical details; Descriptive; Episodic; Frank; Jargon; Well-researched; Informative; Graphic

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Compelling; Informative; Historical and Medical details;

Three fiction read-alikes:

The birth house by Ami McKay (Childbirth, Thought-provoking, Descriptive)

In an isolated village in Nova Scotia during the first years of World War I, a midwife and her apprentice, Dora Rare, face the challenge of protecting generations of birthing traditions and wisdom when a smooth new doctor comes to town promising fast, painless childbirths.

The birth of love by Joanna Kavenna (Childbirth, Issue-oriented)

In nineteenth-century Vienna, doctors did not routinely wash their hands.  In twenty-first-century London, a woman chooses to have a drug free homebirth.  In twenty-second-century Arctic Circle, a woman rebels against custom and becomes pregnant without the help of science.  Three different women, during three different centuries face their generations’ challenges of labor and childbirth.

 The zygote chronicles by Suzanne Finnamore (Pregnancy)

A humorous story, told in diary form, about a 30 year-old woman’s pregnancy and the changes and challenges she faces as motherhood nears.

Three related non-fiction titles:

Pink and Blue: telling the boys from the girls in America by Jo B. Paoletti (Social issues, Descriptive, History)

How important is it to dress children in the ‘right’ colors?  This book explores the fascinating history of gendered clothing in America.  A culmination of 30 years of research, this book covers issues of child development, gender studies, fashion, marketing, and parenting. For those curious about the answer to the question, blue used to be for girls!

Birth matters: how what we don’t know about nature, bodies, and surgery can hurt us by Ina May Gaskin (Science writing, Descriptive, Childbirth)

Ina May offers a global and practical look at pregnancy and the significance and purpose of childbirth.  Ina May is a famous midwife with years of experience and knowledge about different cultural approaches to childbirth.

Pushed: the painful truth about childbirth and modern maternity care by Jennifer Block (Science writing, Childbirth, Maternal health services)

Block, known to many from her previous book Our Bodies, Ourselves, tackles the current issues women are faced with when deciding where and how to give birth.  This book delves into questions pertaining to the number of cesarean sections and episiotomies performed and whether or not that number is reflective of necessity for a safe and healthy childbirth.

Name: Shira

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.

Without Pity: Ann Rule’s Most Dangerous Killers

November 7, 2012

Author: Ann Rule

Title: Without Pity: Ann Rule’s Most Dangerous Killers

Genre: True Crime, Essays (Nonfiction)

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 431

Geographical Setting: Various geographical settings, but mainly Washington State and the Pacific Northwest.

Time Period: 1970s through 2002

Plot Summary: This collection of stories features some of Ann Rule’s most deranged and horrendous criminals. The book is a collection of twelve true stories about criminals, and includes three cases (the first three of the book) that have never been included in other collections. Ann Rule is a relatively popular true crime writer, and has published many collections of true crime stories, and this one is a collection of some of the worst from her first eight volumes. Each story is set up similarly, with an opening describing the particular town and the victims, and the tone is very reminiscent of a true crime TV show.

Subject Headings: Murder, Murderers, Criminals, Crime, Vic tims, True Crime, United States Case Studies

Appeal: Gritty, Compelling, Emotionally Charged, Menacing, Macabre, Chilling, Nonfiction, True Crime, Journalistic, Compelling, Realistic, Well Researched,

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Gritty, Journalistic, Well Researched

Similar fiction authors and works:

Azzarello, Brian. 100 Bullets Volume 1: First Shot Last Call

A mysterious man known as Agent Graves approaches strangers on the street and offers them the chance to exact revenge on someone who has wronged them in their past. He provides them with a gun, untraceable bullets, and guarantees immunity from any troubles, including murder. This first book in a collection of 13 graphic novels is gritty and chilling, and takes a look at what people will do when offered guaranteed protection.

Collins, Max Allen. Double Dealer: CSI Crime Scene Investigation Book 1

A homicide cop, a forensic analyst, and their team of hard boiled police force members work together to solve a murder. Fans of the gritty writing style of Without Pity, or fans of the television show CSI will surely enjoy this novel.

Ellroy, James. Crime Wave: Reportage and Fiction from the Underside of L.A.

This collection of short stories presents some dark and gritty fiction tales taking place in the L.A. crime scene. Fans of the gritty chilling writing style and the short story presentation of Without Pity will be sure to enjoy this fictional but no less dark collection.

Similar nonfiction authors and works:

Connelly, Michael. Crime Beat

This nonfiction work by a well known fiction writer is sure to interest readers. Connelly tells a collection of stories of his time working as a crime reporter in both Florida and Los Angeles, and how these stories have influenced his work as a bestselling fiction crime writer.

Schecter, Harold. True Crime: an American Anthology

This true crime work is a collection of stories from all different time periods. It includes some well known cases and also some lesser known ones, by a variety of authors from Ben Franklin to Ann Rule, and spans over 300 years of true crime writing.

Campbell, John H. Profilers: Leading Investigators Take You Inside the Criminal Mind

This collection of fifteen essays compiles stories from some of the nation’s top homicide investigators. It chronicles the investigation process and the mysteries that surround a variety of crimes, from murder to abduction.

Post by Ellen

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

November 7, 2012

devilwhitecitycoverAuthor: Erik Larson

Title: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Genre:Adult books for young adults; History Writing; True Crime

Publication Date: 2004

Number of Pages: 447

Geographical Setting: Chicago, IL

Plot Summary: While the architect David Burnham and his colleagues labored tirelessly to design the spectacular World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, a man by the name of H.H. Holmes used the distraction of the fair to erect his own World’s Fair Hotel and lure victims under his guise as a charming doctor to their gruesome deaths. Larson alternates the stories of the architect and the serial killer to create one compelling tale of the effects of the World’s Fair on the city of Chicago and the underlying evil that lurked right in the midst of the excitement.

Subject Headings: Mudgett, Herman W. 1861-1896. Burnham, Daniel Hudson, 1846-1912. Serial murderers – Illinois – Chicago – Biography. Serial murders – Illinois – Chicago – Case studies. World’s Columbian Exposition (1893; Chicago, Ill.)

Appeal: Compelling, historical details, well-researched, suspenseful, disturbing, gritty, detailed setting, uneasy, character-centered, engrossing, psychological

Three appeal terms:  Historical details, well-researched, compelling

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

City for Ransom by Robert W. Walker

City for Ransom is a fictional tale of a killer on the loose during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Inspector Alastair Ransom must locate the killer who is using the bustling fairgrounds as a distraction to get away with murder, before the inspector becomes a victim himself.

The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas J. Preston

For readers who like a suspenseful read about a serial killer, I suggest The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas J. Preston. It’s written in a gritty style similar to The Devil in the White City, and details a copycat serial killer who begins overtaking New York City using methods similar to that of a killer in the 1880s. Together, FBI agent Pendergast, journalist Bill Smithback, and archaeologist Nora Kelly work to solve the case – and keep themselves alive.

Wakefield by Andrei Codrescu

Readers who enjoyed the architectural aspects of the Devil in the White City might enjoy this story of an architecture enthusiast who winds up on a journey to understand his purpose in life and continue to explore his love of architecture.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The World’s Columbian Exposition: the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 by Norman Bolotin and Christine Laing

I suggest this book to readers who enjoyed reading about the Chicago World’s Fair in The Devil in the White City and are looking to learn more about the fair. This book provides a visual history of the fair with stunning panoramic images of the fair’s splendors, including the landscaping, waterways and gondolas, and the structures that were designed and built just for the fair. The authors cover every concept of the history of the fair from its very beginnings to its lasting impact and all of the details in between.

Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-of-the-Century Chicago by Harold Schechter

Those who wish to learn more about notorious serial killer H.H. Holmes can check out this true crime story about the madman who carried out acts of torture and murders in his own “Castle of Horrors.” Schechter chronicles Holmes’ methods of luring victims by posing at different times as a doctor, druggist, and inventor, and the design of his torture chamber that included trapdoors, body chutes, and acid vats.

Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War by James Mauro

Readers that enjoyed the history of the Chicago World’s Fair in The Devil in the White City might enjoy reading about another famous fair in history – the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. As Europe prepared for war overseas, the Big Apple prepared to throw a big party, which met with less than stellar success. Mauro recounts the festivities that brought out 45 million people, even among big rain storms, heat waves, and power outages. This book has much of the same historical appeal as The Devil in the White City, but not as strong a focus on the crime scene.

Name: Melissa Apple

Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters

October 31, 2012

Bedbugs CoverTitle: Bedbugs

Author: Winters, Ben H.

Publication Date: 2011

Pages: 256

Geographical Setting: New York City

Time Period: Present Day

Genre: Horror Stories, Suspense Stories

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: When Alex, Susan, and little Emma Wendt move into a New York City brownstone boasting a prime location and an amazingly cheap rent, they happily embark on a new chapter of their lives.  Sure, the landlady may be slightly eccentric, and the previous tenants may have disappeared inexplicably, but these are small grievances compared to the perfection of the place.  Until the bedbugs show up, those notoriously hardy pests swarming ever-increasingly across the city.  When an exterminator finds no trace of the insects, Susan’s sanity shows signs of cracking.  Where are these bugs?  Why aren’t Alex and Emma being bitten, and what exactly is in the basement?  Winters’ story preys on our collective fear of creepy-crawlies delivering a good, old-fashioned horror story wrapped up in a modern-day package.  He draws inspiration from the best conventions of great horror classics: the hopeful beginning, the slightly off-kilter secondary characters, an ominous warning to stay out of the basement, the escalating psychological torture of a progressively unstable narrator, even a portentous portrait a la Dorian Gray.  This fast-paced novel will keep the pages turning until the chilling and twisted end; it will keep the lights on much longer than that.

Appeal Characteristics: creepy, menacing, fast-paced, foreboding, paranoid, plot-twist, details of New York City, dark, resolved-ending, off-kilter, manic, unsettling, compelling, plot-driven, suspenseful, movie-like

Subject Headings: New York City, Brooklyn, Bedbugs, Family, Haunted Houses, Secrets, Apartment houses, Paranoia

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Creepy, Unsettling, Fast-Paced

Similar Fiction: 

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

This horror classic shares many themes with Bedbugs chief of which is the unstable nature of the narrator’s mind.  Where Winters’ tale is completely resolved, Jackson’s leaves the reader with a little more ambiguity.  Read this as both source material and a genuinely scary story.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Another classic horror story this time featuring the psychological torture of a young woman by neighbors whose eccentricities begin taking on a malevolent tone after Rosemary becomes pregnant.  The similar frame—everyday life slowly replaced by darkness—and paranoid feeling of this novel should appeal to readers who enjoyed Bedbugs.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

For anyone who wants a terrifying read with plenty of turns and surprises set in the modern landscape, look no further.  The menacing bed bugs are replaced here with a menacing—and very real—ghost.  Similar to Winters, though, Hill adds layers of poignant everyday struggles that interweave with the overall fight against the supernatural.

Bonus Watch-alike: The Innkeepers written and directed by Ti West

During the last operating days of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, Claire and Luke, the last remaining employees, are determined to expose the ghosts that haunt the one hundred year old building.  As the final night wears on, Claire’s psyche begins to unravel as the line between reality and imagination begin to blur.  A modern-day ghost story that feels like an homage to its predecessors, the movie finds plenty of common ground with Bedbugs.

Similar Non-fiction:

Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insects by Amy Stewart

This natural history contains not just the story of the bed bug but all manner of creepy and devilish insects.  Stewart proves that bugs don’t have to be supernatural to be scary.

Death Sentence: The True Story of Velma Barfield’s Life, Crimes, and Punishment by Jerry Bledsoe

The horror story staple of sweet, grandmotherly, ladies hiding a menacing secret isn’t just fiction, as proved by this true crime.  An account of the life and murders of the only woman executed in the US between 1962 and 1998, this book will chill readers with accounts of Bledsoe’s crimes as much as it shows redemption by prison.

Songs from the Black Chair: A Memoir of Mental Interiors by Charles Barber

A closely detailed look at mental illness and the real tortures of the psyche from the mouths of the sufferers, this book is part memoir, part investigative science writing.  As a man himself living under the dark shadow of obsessive-compulsive disorder, Barber tells the stories of the insane with balance and respect.

Name: Jessica

Vlad: A Novel

October 31, 2012

AuthVlad: A Novel by Carlos Fuentesor: Carlos Fuentes

Title: Vlad: A Novel

Genre: Horror; Mexican Fiction

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 122

Geographical Setting: Mexico City

Time Period: Present Day

Series: Not part of a series, but a reimagining of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Plot Summary: Yves Navarro, an attorney, is ordered by his boss, the enigmatic Don Eloy Zurinaga, to find and secure a house for an old school friend of his from Europe, a certain Count Vladimir Radu, who tiring of constant unrest in the Balkans has recently decided to move to Mexico City. At first, Navarro is merely puzzled by some of Radu’s eccentric requests: the home must admit no light and a large tunnel is to be excavated beneath the premises. But after an unsettling dinner with the count, a repulsive, pale-skinned and bulbous-headed figure clumsily disguised with a wig, false mustache, and dark glasses, Navarro becomes anxious for his own safety. A sense of foreboding and menace come sharply into focus as the attorney begins to suspect Radu may be a vampire. But when Navarro discovers a photograph of his own wife and daughter taped inside an armoire in the count’s chambers—a sense of panic grips him, as he realizes too late that he has become ensnared in a web, the contours of which he is only dimly aware. Fuentes’ reimagining of the Dracula story is filled with vivid and darkly disturbing scenes, and punctuated by moments of humor, mostly in the form of roman à clef references to the Bram Stoker’s original. Beneath the tragic horror is a philosophical meditation on the meaning of mortality and what it is to be human.

Subject Headings: Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, 1430 or 31-1476 or 7; Stoker, Bram, 1847-1912; Dracula — Sequels; Vampires; Lawyers; Real estate agents; Grief; Aging; Mortality

Appeal: compelling, fast paced, dramatic, eccentric, intriguing secondary characters, quirky, vivid, character centered, layered, some elements of humor, literary references, historical references, mystical, mythic, open-ended, tragic, bleak, dark, foreboding, menacing, philosophical, sensual, suspenseful, classic, concise, elegant, sophisticated

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character centered, dark, philosophical

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead (2010) by J. Gordon Melton

Vlad: A Novel weaves familiar tropes of vampire fiction into its narrative and playfully references Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Readers who want to delve further into the lore and literature of the vampire will enjoy perusing this exhaustively detailed collection of some 500 essays on the subject.

The Philosophy of Horror (2012) by Thomas Fahy

Carlos Fuentes’ characters rhapsodize with philosophical musings about the nature of God, the fear of dying, and grief and loss. Fahy’s thought-provoking and persuasive guide to the philosophical subtexts of horror stories will resonate with readers who responded to the thematic underpinnings of Vlad: A Novel.

The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature (2012) edited by Suzanne Bost and Frances R. Aparicio

Carlos Fuentes is a much-admired author and critic in his native Mexico. Readers taken with Fuentes style and subject matter, and who want to learn more about the broader landscape of Latin American Literature, will find here a collection of forty scholarly but accessible essays that describe the most significant Latino and Latina authors and their work.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic (2012) edited by Eduardo Jimenez Mayo and Chris Brown

Three Messages and a Warning will appeal to readers who enjoyed Vlad: A Novel and want to read more tales of the supernatural and the macabre told from a uniquely Mexican perspective. Thematically serious, like Fuentes’ work, the short stories found in this anthology similarly offer a sense of the vibrant Mexican literary scene. The creepy but stylistically complex tales include: a pact with the devil, an apocalyptic ghost story, and an encounter with a doppelganger.

Anno Dracula (New Edition; 2011) by Kim Newman

Fans of Bram Stoker’s Dracula who enjoyed seeing the character revisited in Vlad: A Novel may appreciate Newman’s offbeat and compelling spin on the venerable vampire. In the alternate history of Anno Dracula, Count Dracula has not only not been vanquished, but is married to Queen Victoria and rules over England with an iron fist. Fuentes’ story is filled with references to characters and moments from the original Dracula; Newman goes one further and presents a supporting cast of familiar literary and historical characters, including Jack the Ripper, Dr. Jeckyll, and Sherlock Holmes.

The New Annotated Dracula (2008) by Bram Stoker; edited by Leslie S. Klinger

After reading Fuentes’ interpretation of Dracula, those who wish to revisit Bram Stoker’s atmospheric and menacing gothic tale will find a treasure trove of history and lore along with the original story in Klinger’s lushly illustrated and comprehensively annotated edition. Along with Stoker’s original manuscript, this edition also includes an alternate ending penned by the author sure to surprise readers who think they already know the story well.

Name: John Rimer

Heart-Shaped Box

October 31, 2012

Heart-Shaped Box Book CoverTitle: Heart-Shaped Box

Author: Hill, Joe

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 374

Geographical Setting: New York, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia

Time Period: Present Day/Contemporary

Plot Summary:  In this chilling tale that should be read with all the lights on, aging rock star Judas Coyne is no longer touring and releasing album. Instead he spends his time dating Goth chicks, such as his current lady Georgia, and expanding his bizarre, macabre collection of artifacts including a witch’s confession and a snuff film.  So when his assistant Danny mentions an auction for the suit of a dead man that comes with a ghost, Judas is hooked and must have it.  But when the suit arrives, danger and chilling nightmares enter Judas’ life.  He begins to see the dead man everywhere swinging a deadly razor from a chain or rocking in a Shaker chair.  Judas cannot escape the ghost’s hypnotizing presence or the haunting words about taking “a ride on the nightroad.”  It turns out the ghost has a link to Judas’ past and it is out for revenge of the deadliest kind.  As the terror and sense of dread builds, Judas and Georgia are eventually forced to hit the road to face their pasts and solve the mystery surrounding the dead man to avoid the dreaded “nightroad.”  Winner of the Bram Stoker Award, it is a horror novel reminiscent of your favorite classic ghost stories but with a contemporary feel.  You will be wary with each turn of the page as the uneasy, menacing atmosphere builds throughout the story until its satisfying conclusion.  This is a great novel for both newcomers and seasoned veterans of the horror genre, and will have you rooting for its flawed, compelling characters to triumph over evil.

Subject Headings: Ghost stories, Rock Musicians, Suspense Fiction, Supernatural, Paranormal Phenomena, Apparitions, Men/Women Relations, Life after death

Appeal:  builds in intensity, atmospheric, chilling, suspenseful, menacing atmosphere, flawed characters, plot twists, well-crafted, uneasy mood, character-driven, creepy, dangerous, haunting, macabre, sense of dread, compelling, violent, engaging characters, foreboding, vivid storyline, descriptive

Three Most Relevant Appeal Terms: Creepy, Flawed Characters, Suspenseful

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre by H.P. Lovecraft

Horror fans and novices can enjoy this classic collection of ghostly stories from a pioneer of the genre.  Here are 16 classic tales to chill the bones and haunt your dreams, and are just as menacing and creepy as The Heart-Shaped Box.

Christine by Stephen King

Go from haunted suit to a haunted car with this classic novel by Stephen King. Written by Joe Hill’s father, here is a similarly compelling and suspenseful horror novel where teen Arnie Cunningham falls in love with a 1958 Plymouth car dubbed “Christine.”  This car is not as simple as it seems, and it starts to haunt and endanger Arnie as well as those around him.  With Christine, you can get to know the work of Stephen King to whom Heart-Shaped Box was dedicated.

Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson

A horror story that also has hypnotism and a similar mood, Tom Wallace mockingly agrees to be hypnotized at his brother-in-law’s party.  But when Tom awakens from the hypnotism, he discovers that he can hear the thoughts of those around him.  Even more compelling and terrifying, through this new ability he receives a message from beyond the grave that leads Tom onto a dangerous, creepy path in order to solve the message.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Crap I bought on eBay: 101 Crazy Bizarre, Seriously Weird, Ridiculously Raunchy Items Exposed by Cary McNeal and Beverly L. Jenkins

A great book for those fascinated by the macabre collection of character Judas Coyne.  The book highlights 101 of the craziest things actually bought on eBay by the authors.  Enjoy a mixture of laughter and shock as you browse these real-life items.

The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Mick Mars and Vince Neil

Get to know the crazy rock n’ roll world of Judas Coyne with this tell-all book about 80’s heavy metal group Motley Crue.  Written by member of the band with the help of music writer Neil Strauss, this book reveals the tours, drugs and alcohol, rock music and sex.  A fun glimpse into a crazy rocker’s world.

Hidden Depths: The Story of Hypnosis by Robin Waterfield

Hypnosis was featured throughout the novel, and with this book you can become more familiar with it.  You will get to know the history, practice and modern uses of this controversial field.

Name: Margita Lidaka

Her Fearful Symmetry

October 17, 2012

her fearful symmetry book cover
Author: Audrey Neffenegger

Title: Her Fearful Symmetry

Genre: Literary Fiction, Ghost stories

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 401

Geographical Setting: Lake Forest, IL and London, England

Plot Summary: Twin sisters Julia and Valentina Poole reside in the suburbs of Chicago, where they lead rather unexciting lives and have little interest in anything aside from their extremely close attachment to each other. One day, the girls find out that their mother’s twin sister in London has passed away and left her apartment to the twins. Julia and Valentina take up residence in their deceased aunt Elspeth’s London flat, where they are introduced to the other residents in the building. Among them are Elspeth’s lover Robert, who works at the neighboring Highgate Cemetery, and Martin, who suffers from a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Tension mounts as the twins develop new relationships and begin to find separate identities, and an unexpected family member shows up that could tear them apart forever.

Subject Headings: Sisters — Fiction. London (England) — Fiction. Spiritual life – Fiction. Psychological fiction. Ghost stories.

Appeal: Chilling, builds in intensity, compelling, atmospheric, plot twists, descriptive, literary, haunting, character-centered, lyrical, multiple points of view, detailed setting, psychological

Three appeal terms: Haunting, lyrical, atmospheric

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Housekeeping shares many of the same appeal terms as Her Fearful Symmetry, including an intricate plot centered on characters and family relationships. It is leisurely paced, lyrical, and includes the haunting ghost story element. The book focuses on two sisters Ruth and Lucille and their relationship with each other and other family members. The girls struggle to grow up amidst memories of a family past that they can’t escape in their small hometown.

A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne
Readers who enjoyed the storyline revolving around twins in Her Fearful Symmetry, as well as the London setting, might enjoy A Dark Dividing, another character driven, atmospheric read with an intricate plot. A Dark Dividing features a girl named Simone Anderson, whose twin sister disappeared long ago. Simone has a connection to another pair of twins that were born almost a century earlier, but what is that connection? Journalist Harry Flitzglen is in love with Simone and is determined to solve these mysteries. Curiosity leads him to a ruined mansion known as Mortmain House, where he finds himself immersed in a series of even greater mysteries and a disturbing history he could never have imagined.

Ghost Walk by Heather Graham
Those who are in the mood for a fun ghost story interwoven with suspense and romance would like Ghost Walk by Heather Graham. Nikki DuMonde is having a great time running a New Orleans haunted-tour company when a ghost begins reaching out to her for help. Nikki pairs up with paranormal investigator Brent Blackhawk to find out what this ghost wants…before it’s too late.

Coastliners by Joanne Harris
Like Her Fearful Symmetry, Coastliners also deals with women uncovering family secrets and developing their own identity. Mado returns home to her small island hometown after 10 years in Paris to reconcile with her estranged father. When she comes home, however, she is met with family secrets, village feuds, and the urgent need to save the town’s quickly eroding beach. This book has a strong focus on family relationships with a haunting feel and some paranormal elements thrown into the mix.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla by Felix Barker
In Her Fearful Symmetry, readers are exposed to some of the history of London’s Highgate Cemetery, which may leave them wanting to learn more about this fascinating landmark. Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla is a great resource for information as it provides a rare, illustrated history of the cemetery.

Identical strangers: a memoir of twins separated and reunited by Elyse Schein
Readers who liked the twin storyline in Her Fearful Symmetry may like this true story about a woman named Elyse who goes on a search for her biological mother and ends up discovering that she has an identical twin sister. When she finally connects with her twin, Paula, the two investigate their past and fill in the missing pieces of their lives. The story is interwoven with details on twin studies and statistics to make for both an informative and touching read.

Ghosts among us: uncovering the truth about the other side by James Van Praagh
Those who dig the paranormal ghost elements in Her Fearful Symmetry can find more information about ghosts in this non-fiction book. The author includes true ghost stories and evidence that ghosts are active in our everyday lives. Believers in ghosts will enjoy uncovering the truth about perceptions of spiritual life and how to have a better understanding of what happens on the other side.