Posts Tagged ‘complex’

The Paternity Test

November 27, 2012

Author: Lowenthal, Michael

Title: The Paternity Test

Genre: GLBT Fiction

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 277

 Geographical Setting: Manhattan (NY), CapeCode (MA)

Time Period: Modern Day

 Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Michael’s Lowenthal The Paternity Test is an incredibly realistic and engrossing story of a gay couple who after almost a decade of their relationship is trying to have a baby through surrogacy. The storyline seems difficult but quite ordinary nowadays, yet because of its complex and deep characters, it quickly becomes a page-turner with multilayered issues of love, parenthood, trust and betrayal. Stu and Patrick are in a long-term relationship. They move from Manhattan’s night life to quiet and peaceful CapeCab, where Stu, a freelance writer hopes to start a family with his partner Pat, an airline pilot. In spite of their love, they used to keep their relationship open; therefore, the leading motivation of having a baby and reconnecting again stays relevant to all couples, gay and straight: does a baby save a marriage? This old cliché is universal for so many couples. However, the dynamics between the characters will never be the same after a decision is made. Consequently, the Brazilian surrogate, beautiful and friendly Debora, has her own obstacles to overcome, and she becomes Pat’s closest confidant. Pat’s family is also very complex characters with straightforward and often conventional, based on their Jewish faith, way of thinking. This novel will take the reader by surprise. The added complications to the couple’s own relationship occurs when one looks for validation and the other for stability and everlasting love,  which makes the story and its rather abrupt ending an eye-opener while exposing our own fears and unexpected life’s twists.

 Subject Heading: Gay couples, Gay and Lesbian Parents, Fatherhood, Surrogate Mothers, Conflict in Marriage, Adult Relationships, Parenthood, Loyalty.

 Appeal: emotional; provoking; realistic and complex characters; multilayered plot; gay community; commitment; contemporary setting; thoughtful; inspirational.

 Three Terms for Book: thoughtful and beautiful portrayal of love; complex and realistic characters, and provoking page-turner.

 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

 1. Lynn,      E. Harris, I Say a Little Prayer – The      new look on the difficulties of homosexuality and faith in      African-American church. The story of a successful      businessman in contemporary Atlanta      and his struggle with his own identity, betrayal, and passion for music.

2. Schwab,      Rochelle Hollander, A Departure From      the Script – The story of traditional Jewish parents who find out that      their 25 year old daughter is a lesbian. Their refusal for her wedding and      denial of her sexual identity is only beginning of this compelling story,      and parents who learn how to accept their child’s choices.

3. Trumble,      J. H., Don’t Let Me Go – written      with a beautiful style story of a teenage love. Two young men are inseparable      since their high school years, despite their sudden separation while one      is seeking an education in distant state. A remarkable novel about genuine      love, but also loss, and hate. Library       School Journal named      it a great addition to GLBT collection “for teens      that are looking for a gay love story that explores a relationship in the      same way that straight love stories do.”

 

 Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

 1. Griswold, Sara, Surrogacy Was the Way: Twenty Intended Mothers Tell Their Stories – Intended mothers is a term used to describe ‘mothers to be’ by the surrogacy. This extremely sensitive and quite difficult subject is a choice for many women nowadays. They provide information and new perspectives through individual stories of mothers as an option to become a parent.

2. Huegel, Kelly, GLBTQ: the Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens – The book was published for the first time in 2003 and reedited several times, and is answering questions among teenagers seeking guidance, information, and support while making choices about their own sexual identity.

3. Rauch, Jonathan, Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America – Since gay marriage became legal for the first time in 2004 in Massachusetts, it is still perpetual and controversial matter in many other U.S. states. The author explains by a range of logical, wise arguments the importance of same-sex marriage in the country.

 

 

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.

Are You My Mother?

October 24, 2012

Cover of Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

Author: Alison Bechdel

Title: Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 304

Geographical Setting: Mostly Pennsylvania and Vermont

Time Period: Present day with flashbacks

Series: Follow-up to Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006)

Plot Summary: Are You My Mother? is a densely-layered and thought-provoking exploration in graphic memoir form of author Bechdel’s complex, flawed relationship with her mother. Bechdel’s father, the subject of her earlier work, Fun Home, was a closeted bisexual who ultimately committed suicide, and her mother a frustrated poet and actress who sublimated her desires to those of her husband, submitting to the role of primary caregiver to their three children. Are You My Mother? depicts Bechdel, some five years after the publication of her critically-acclaimed book about her father, setting out to write a new book about her mother. Bechdel chronicles her process as an artist and writer, undergoing therapy and looking for analogies to her own life found in the works of favorite authors Virginia Woolf and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, as she attempts to shape a narrative that identifies the moments that wounded her mother and crippled the formation of a healthy mother-daughter bond. The artwork in Are You My Mother? is pen and brush with delicate grey and red washes, offering  a deceptively comic-strip-like simplicity that lightens the densely-written and sophisticated subject matter.

Subject Headings: Motherhood; Mothers and daughters; Teenage daughters—coming out; Parent and child; Suicide; Feminism; Psychoanalysis; Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941; Winnicott, D. W. (Donald Woods), 1896-1971; Artists

Appeal: Detailed, dramatic, eccentric, intriguing secondary characters, introspective, well developed, character centered, complex, domestic, episodic, layered, literary references, sexually explicit, thought-provoking, contemporary, detailed setting, details of psychoanalytic theory, elaborate, metaphorical, sophisticated, unusual

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: introspective, layered, thought-provoking

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Projections: Comics and the History of Twenty-First-Century Storytelling (2012) by Jared Gardner

Readers who admire the scope and depth of Bechdel’s graphic storytelling will find much to explore in Gardner’s recent lively, yet somewhat academic, tome. Gardner offers an interpretation of comics as an art form which encourages interactivity in deciphering its contents and a model for contemporary modes of communication. There are multiple passages on Bechdel’s work which contextualize her place in the comics field.

Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland (2012) by Harvey Pekar

Bechdel works in the form known in graphic novel circles as autobiographical comics. Those who want to read more of this type of story may wish to acquaint themselves with Harvey Pekar, one of the seminal figures in this genre who helped define its contours. Where Are You My Mother? uses literary reference and psychoanalysis as a context for Bechdel’s self-exploration, Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland in rich detail describes the deep impact that place and history have in shaping identity. Cartoonish but heavily-rendered pen and ink drawings highlight both the grit and charm of urban Cleveland.

Donald Winnicott Today (2012) edited by Jan Abram

The work and life of child psychoanalyst and theorist Winnicott are front and center in the narrative of Are You My Mother?  Bechdel comes to terms with life-long insecurities and decodes her troubled relationship with her mother, relying heavily on Winnicott’s models of mother-child dynamics. Readers who want to explore Winnicott’s work further will find this an accessible and thoughtfully assembled overview of his contributions to the field of Psychoanalysis.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

To the Lighthouse (1927; various editions) by Virginia Woolf

Bechdel’s work is heavily influenced by the English writer Virginia Woolf. Although many of her books are discussed in Are You My Mother?, Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse receives particular attention for its story of self-discovery and coming to terms with the past, which mirrors Bechdel’s emotional journey. Believed to be the most autobiographical of all Woolf’s psychological fiction, To the Lighthouse, with its lyrical style and reflective tone, will surely appeal to readers intrigued by the glimpses of the novel found in Are You My Mother?

Stuck Rubber Baby (New Edition; 2010) by Howard Cruse

Newcomers to comics featuring LGBT protagonists and themes who wish to explore further will find an incredibly rich and varied tradition awaiting them. One of the first widely critically-acclaimed graphic novels dealing with gay themes to receive national attention was Cruse’s Stuck Rubber Baby, first published in 1995. Moving and reflective, and with a strong sense of place, the story follows the exploits of a young man named Toland Polk discovering his sexuality against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in the South during the 1960s.

Wandering Son, Book 1 (2011) by Shimura Takako

Are You My Mother? explores the thematic territory of gender identity and coming of age as does the moving and character-driven manga Wandering Son.  Two fifth graders on the cusp of puberty share a secret: Shuichi is a boy who wishes he were a girl and Yoshino a girl who wishes she were a boy. Shimura’s spare and evocative art will likely appeal to fans of Bechdel’s stylized and emotionally expressive drawings.

Name: John Rimer

Tell No One

October 3, 2012

Tell No One by Harlan CobenTitle: Tell No One

Author: Coben, Harlan

Publication Date: 2001

Pages: 339

Geographical Setting: New York City

Time Period: Modern Day

Genre: Suspense

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: For eight years Dr. David Beck has been living under the shadow of his wife Elizabeth’s abduction and murder.  It was supposed to be a celebration, a trip to the family’s private lake commemorating the anniversary of the first kiss they shared when they were twelve years old.  What followed instead was a scream piercing the placid summer night and Beck’s last view of his wife before she was taken from him forever.  Unable to move on, Beck has thrown himself into his work at a pediatric hospital serving New York City’s poor.  But the absence that is Elizabeth cannot be filled.  That is until he receives an email containing information that only Elizabeth would know.  With only this one piece of desperate hope, Beck plunges into the middle of a web of secrets, lies, and hidden truths that all lead back to one central question: Did Elizabeth die all those years ago, or is there something else afoot?  Coben really moves the story along with quick chapters that shift viewpoint from first-person (Beck) to third-person.  Vivid language that verges on poetic draws the reader into the space of the novel.  Characters, both good and bad, doing all manner of surreptitious and shadowy things, populate the pages and lead the reader on a twist-filled sprint that is at the same time heartbreaking and hopeful, ruthless and tender.

Appeal Characteristics: Compelling, Breakneck, Intense, Dramatic, Multiple points of view, Plot twists, Suspenseful, Action-oriented, Cinematic, Details of New York City, Vivid, Complex, Descriptive, Heartbreaking, Resolved Ending

Subject Headings: Missing Persons, Murder, Frameups, Betrayal, Physicians, Husbands of murder victims, Serial murderers, Father and adult daughters, Husband and wife

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Compelling, Dramatic, Action-oriented

Similar Fiction: 

Vanished by Karen Robards

This novel also features the return of a missing person presumed dead, this time the protagonist’s young child.  The plot is fast-paced and suspenseful like Coben.  But where Coben’s novel contains light romantic elements, Robards is downright steamy.

High Crimes by Joseph Finder

Betrayal and conspiracy feature high in this novel where a woman must learn the secrets of her husband’s past in order to defend him in a top-secret, military court-martial.  The examination of the relationship between husband and wife as well as the breakneck speed with which secrets are unveiled will appeal to readers of Coben. 

Money to Burn by James Grippando

Another wife who disappeared under mysterious circumstances may have returned from the dead, but this time, she’s out to financially ruin her husband.  A tale of corporate espionage set against the backdrop of Wall Street, this novel contains plenty of twists and deceptions to boot.

 Similar Non-fiction:

The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City’s Cold Case Squad by Stacy Horn

Mysterious and unsolved cases set against the backdrop of New York City.  This book offers an intriguing look at the detectives who work to solve cold cases against the obstacles of time, technology, and department politics.

The Company We Keep: a Husband-and-Wife True-Life Spy Story by Robert Baer and Dayna Baer

Here readers will find the true story of a couple who met while on a mission for the CIA that echoes the theme of husbands and wives under difficult circumstances.

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Scientific discovery and murder collide in this Edwardian era true mystery.  Those who appreciated the technology aspect of Coben’s novel may find similar ground in this non-fiction.

Name: Jessica

Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume 1

September 26, 2012

Game of Thrones Graphic Novel

Author: George R. R. Martin, adapted by Daniel Abraham, art by Tommy Patterson

Title: A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume 1

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 240

Geographical Setting: A fictitious continent, Westeros, is composed of nine regions, each governed by a ruling house, which in turn are ruled over by a King of The Seven Kingdoms.

Time Period: The story takes place on an alternative world, but the time period resembles Earth’s Middle Ages.

Series (If applicable): This graphic novel is an adaptation of the first half of a novel entitled A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin, which is itself the first volume of a planned seven part series of epic fantasy novels, collectively known as A Song of Fire and Ice and five of which have been published to date. A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume Two is scheduled to be published in June of 2013.

Plot Summary: As mysterious omens portend the return of a mysterious ancient evil from the frozen wastelands beyond his northern kingdom of Winterfell, more pressing political concerns drag Lord Eddard Stark to King’s Landing, where he is asked to serve as the “King’s Hand” to his friend King Robert Baratheon, King of the Seven Kingdoms, in his hour of need. Conspiracies and rumors of conspiracies which threaten to topple Baratheon, seem even to include the queen’s own clan, the power hungry Lanisters. Meanwhile, Daenerys Targaryen is King’s Landing-bound, carrying the mysterious dragon eggs which are the only legacy of her clan’s former claim to the throne. This character-driven story which unfolds along multiple plot-lines, weaves a complex portrait of a civil war set in a world of kings, knights and barbarians, but with long-dormant magic beginning to reassert itself. The artwork is richly detailed pencil and ink, and the layouts give focus mostly to the characters, emphasizing the dialogue, with the occasional wide-angle or splash panel which help evoke the lushly-imagined world of the story.

Subject Headings: Nobility, Knights and knighthood, Good and evil, Violence, Rulers, Magic, Dragons, Imaginary places

Appeal: compelling, deliberate, engrossing, atmospheric, dangerous, dramatic, closely observed, detailed, intriguing, multiple points of view, strong secondary characters, vivid, well-developed, character-centered, episodic, multiple plot lines, sexually explicit, detailed setting, exotic, political, complex, well-crafted, witty

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: atmospheric, character-centered, well-crafted

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

 3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

300 by Frank Miller

Readers who respond to the rich atmosphere generated by George R. R. Martin’s research into Medieval history may appreciate this vivid graphic novel retelling of the last stand of a band of Spartan warriors, led by King Leonidas, against an overwhelming force of Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae.

The Book of Five Rings: A Graphic Novel, by Miyamoto Musashi, adapted by Sean Michael Wilson, illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada

This classic treatise on swordsmanship and the way of the samurai, here translated into graphic novel form, may appeal to readers of A Game of Thrones who revel in depictions of swordplay and ancient forms of combat.

The Wars of the Roses, by Alison Weir

Readers who want to peek behind the curtain at George R. R. Martin’s process, may wish to read about the real Wars of the Roses, which he researched in writing A Game of Thrones. This epic dynastic battle between the royal houses of Lancaster and York would forever impact the British monarchy, and led to the rule of the Lancastrian Tudor dynasty for over a century.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Conan: Volume 1: The Frost Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories adapted by Kurt Busiek, art by Cary Nord

Robert E. Howard’s pulp classic, “sword and sorcery” hero, Conan the Barbarian, receives the glossy, painted, graphic novel treatment. Although myth and magic are more front-and-center here than in A Game of Thrones, Conan’s world is similarly well-developed, with complex societies and cultures as the backdrop to the non-stop violent action. This volume contains a series of short tales that illuminate Conan’s backstory, including the young warrior’s meeting with the titular frost giant’s daughter, an ice nymph.

The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 (The Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan, adapted by Chuck Dixon, art by Chase Conley

Featuring elaborate world-building filled with complex political machinations not unlike George R. R. Martin’s, this graphic novel adaptation follows a rag tag band of adventurers on a quest to find the Infant Dragon Reborn and save their world from evil.

Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: Vol. 1: The Journey Begins by Stephen King, adapted by Robin Furth, art by Sean Phillips and Richard Isanove

Readers who enjoyed A Game of Thrones, which refracts the Middle Ages through the prism of the fantasy genre, may enjoy the parallel world that King has constructed, which blends the Old West with Arthurian quest. The story follows a knight-like gunslinger, Roland, as he journeys toward the Dark Tower, claimed to be the nexus of all realities.

Name: John Rimer

Vampire God: The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture

August 22, 2012

Vampire God: The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture

August 20, 2012

Vampire God: The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture

Author: Mary Y. Hallab

Title: Vampire God: The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture

Genre: non-fiction

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 180

Geographical Setting: Multiple Locations and Time Periods

Time Period: Ancient to Modern Times

Plot Summary: This is a non-fiction work. It delves into the myths and lore that surround vampires throughout history. Moreover, the book studies why the vampire myth has endured for so long and why it is embedded in popular culture today. The book also looks at the various literature and film concerning vampires.

Subject Headings: Nonfiction – Vampire; Nonfiction — Myth; Nonfiction– Popular Culture; Nonfiction – Vampire Culture

Appeal: Humorous, Engaging, Honest, Insightful, Detailed, Engrossing, Complex, Realistic, Mythical, Thought-Provoking, Well-Researched, Well-Written

Three appeal terms:  Engaging, Insightful, Mythical

Three fiction read-alikes:

The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

This book follows Lestat from his mortal years to that of a Vampire. Not wanting to live the life a hidden vampire, he decides to become a rock-star. Lestat also looks into how his species came into being.

 

Bram Stocker’s Dracula: The Graphic Novel by Gary Reed

This is a graphic novel based on Bram Stocker’s Dracula. Follows the story of Dracula leader of the undead.Wonderful art is on every page bringing the lord of the night into reality. A wonderful adaptation of a classic work.

 

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

 

This story follows Ben Mears, a writer, who returns home after twenty-five years to write about the old Marsten House. When all of a sudden it seems there is a vampire outbreak in the town. A very gripping and suspenseful horror story told by the master of horror Stephen King.

 

Three related non-fiction titles:

Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality by Paul Barber

This is a non-fiction book that looks at the ancient folklore and myths of vampires. The book also looks at what might have been behind these ancient legends.

Dracula the Price with Many Faces: His Life and Times by Radu R Florescu and Raymond T. McNally

This book is the true account of Vlad Dracula king of Romania. He was nicknamed the Impaler, because he would impale his enemies alive and leave them as a warning to other would-be enemies. One of the cruelest rulers ever to be king in Europe, but honored by his country-men.

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

This encyclopedia of Vampires covers the lore of the legendary creature. It goes in depth on the Vampire’s history, as well as, its influence in literature, and modern incarnations of the Vampire myth.

– Charles Ford

American Born Chinese

August 13, 2012

American Born Chinese

August 13, 2012

American Born Chinese

Author: Gene Luen Yang

Title: American Born Chinese

Genre: Multi-Cultural Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 233

Geographical Setting: San Francisco, California

Time Period: Modern/Mythical Time

Plot Summary: This is a graphic novel that blends traditional Chinese mythology with racial stereotypes and understanding identity. This novel has three separate stories. The first is the tale of the Monkey King, a Chinese Myth. The second story follows a Chinese boy named Jin Wang who moves from China-Town, in San Francisco, to an all white suburb and his struggles to fit in. The third story follows a white-American boy named Danny whose Chinese cousin comes to visit. “Chin-Kee,” his cousin, displays all the racial stereotypes of Chinese peoples. This novel won numerous awards including the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album.

Subject Headings: Chinese – Graphic Novel; Chinese Mythology — Graphic Novel; Race identity– Fiction; Chinese Stereotypes – Graphic Novel

Appeal: Thoughtful, Engaging, Honest, Candid, Detailed, Engrossing, Complex, Realistic, Mythical, Thought-Provoking, Multiple- Points of View, Artistic

Three appeal terms:  Candid, Mythical, Complex

Three fiction read-alikes:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This book is a look at Junior, a teen-ager, who is a Spokane Indian. He lives on the reservation with his family, but decides to go to an all-white high school. This book contains wonderful illustrations and deals with race-identity and racial stereo types.

Black and White by Paul Volponi

This book looks at the disparities in the justice system between blacks and whites in America.  It follows the story of two friends, one black and one white: Marcus and Eddy. They both play basketball and are best friends, but one day they both commit the same crime, will one be treated differently than the other because of race?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This novel is a classic in American Literature. It is a story about a black man who is wrongly accused of a crime and the white lawyer who goes against the “norm” to represent the accused.  It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.

Three related non-fiction titles:

Chinese Mythology: An Introduction by Ann M. Birrell

This book includes over three-hundred Chinese myths translated by Anne Birrell. The reason this book is so amazing is that many of the myths are from classical texts that have never been translated for the west.

Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah

This novel is a true account of Adeline Mah’s childhood told as the classical Cinderella story. Her father re-marries after her mother dies in child-birth and the life she and her siblings have to endure at the hands of their “wicked” step-mother. She is treated the worst of all.

Driven Out: The Forgotten War against Chinese Americans by Jean Pfælzer

This is a look at the shocking truth behind the systematic purging of Chinese people from 1848 till the 1900s in the West. This is a true story of triumph over adversity as the Chinese did not sit still for this treatment and fought back for their civil-rights.

– Charles Ford

Watchmen

August 8, 2012

Author:  Alan Moore; illustrated by Dave Gibbons

Title:  Watchmen

Genre:  Graphic Novel, Superhero

Publication Date:  Originally published as a 12 issue comic book miniseries in 1986 – 1987.

Number of Pages:  Complete paperback edition — 408

Geographical Setting:  Various parts of the United States, Vietnam, Antarctica, Mars.

Time Period:  Alternate History 1985; several flashbacks dating back to the 1940’s.

Plot Summary:  In Alan Moore’s groundbreaking and influential graphic novel, masked crime fighters have existed since the 1940’s, and their presence has greatly influenced the outcome of world events.  Thanks to Dr. Manhattan (an atomic being who is also the  only character with actual superpowers), the United States has won the Vietnam War and in the present 1985, Richard Nixon is still president.  Now, the world is on the brink of nuclear war, and someone just murdered Edward Blake, a former superhero and notorious CIA operative known as The Comedian.  As Rorschach, a psychotic vigilante and former member of Watchmen (a later superhero team which included The Comedian, Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan, and Ozymandias) investigates Blake’s murder, he uncovers a plot that could save the world from annihilation, but, at an unimaginable price.  By presenting superheroes with very real and tragic human flaws, Moore deconstructs the superhero genre, and presents the reader with a familiar world that is both rich in detail, and terribly bleak.

Subject Headings:  Heroes — Comic books, strips, etc. ; Assassins — Comic books, strips, etc.; Imaginary histories — Comic books, strips, etc

Appeal:  Compelling, densely written, atmospheric, bleak, contemplative, foreboding, gritty, paranoid, philosophical, sophisticated, strong secondary characters, vivid, well-developed, cinematic, episodic, investigative, layered, multiple plot lines, open-ended, thought-provoking, detailed setting, urban, well-crafted

3 terms that best describe this book:  Character-centered, complex,  multiple point of views

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)  Kick-Ass – Written by Mark Millar; Illustrated by John Romita Jr.

Dave Lizewski is a comic book-obsessed teenager who decides he wants to become a superhero in real life.  Putting on a green costume and calling himself, Kick-Ass, Dave hits the streets.  But, he quickly discovers that the real world has consequences far more frightening and brutally violent, than the than the heroic adventures in his favorite comic books.  Both Kick-Ass and Watchmen deconstruct the superhero genre, and illustrate just how physically and emotionally taxing it is to be a masked crime-fighter in the real world.

2)  The Boys – Written by Garth Ennis; Illustrated by Darick Robertson

In this ongoing and darkly-humored series, superheroes exist in the real world but most of them are corrupt, amoral, and only care about their celebrity status and hedonistic lifestyles.  Their heroic actions, which are staged for the media by a ruthless corporation known as Vought-American, not only result in massive collateral damage, but also puts the very existence of the world at risk.  Because of this, “The Boys,” a super-powered CIA team is charged with monitoring and policing the superhero community.  Again, both Watchmen and The Boys deconstruct the superhero genre by presenting superheroes as deeply flawed and corrupt individuals.

3)  The Dark Knight Returns – Written and illustrated by Frank Miller

In a dystopian future, a sixty-something Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement by putting on the cape and cowl to once again rid Gotham City of crime, corruption, as well as a vicious new gang known as “The Mutants.”  With the aid of a new female Robin, named Carrie Kelly, Batman resurfaces in a world where masked crime-fighters have been outlawed, and the only superhero who is able to legally operate is Superman, a puppet for the Reagan white house.  Both Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns were released around the same time, and have both garnered massive and well-deserved acclaim.  Both also take place in dystopian settings where superheroes have been outlawed, and feature characters who find redemption by coming out of retirement.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1)  Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human by Grant Morrison

Groundbreaking comic book author, Grant Morrison, muses on the genre of superheroes and how its characters have become permanent fixtures in our modern-day mythologies.  This is a great companion which examines the role superheroes play in our daily lives.

2)  Minutes to Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen by various authors

Twelve different authors present their observations and analyses of the many plot points, themes, and symbolic imagery of Watchmen.  This makes for an excellent companion to Moore’s graphic novel.

3)  Alan Moore:  Storyteller by Gary Spencer Millidge

Another excellent companion to Watchmen, this book offers an in-depth retrospective of the life and prolific career of comic book author, Alan Moore.  Moore’s creative process is examined, and a behind the scenes look is given of some of his most popular and influential works.

Name:  Vadim Seyfer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Room

August 8, 2012

  Author:  Emma Donoghue

Title: Room

Genre:  Psychological Suspense, Bestseller

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  321

Geographical Setting:  Not specified- probably North America

Time Period:  Present

Series (If applicable):

Plot Summary:  Five-year-old Jack has lived in Room his entire life.  His Ma was abducted at age 19 and forced to live in a one-room shed for seven years.  She has done the best she could raising a small child, making sure he has been fed and healthy and keeping their captor from coming near Jack.  But, as Jack gets older she knows they must get out and away from “Old Nick”.  Escape is dangerous and the outside world will be scary but Jack and Ma are ready for a new life and a second chance.

Subject Headings: Boys-Fiction, Mother and Child- Fiction, Kidnapping-Fiction, Psycopaths- Fiction, Escapes- Fiction

Appeal:  compelling, engrossing, detailed characterization, intriguing, realistic characters, well- drawn characters, complex, issue oriented, thought-provoking, bittersweet, foreboding, candid, unusual style

3 terms that best describe this book:  compelling, well-drawn characters, thought-provoking

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Anatomy of a Kidnapping- Steven L Berk
In March 2005, Dr. Steven Berk was kidnapped in Amarillo, Texas, by a dangerous and enigmatic criminal who entered his home, armed with a shotgun, through an open garage door. Dr. Berk’s experiences and training as a physician, enabled him to keep his family safe, establish rapport with his kidnapper, and bring his captor to justice.  This nonfiction book would interest readers who want to hear a true story of abduction from an adult point of view.

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
When Jaycee Dugard was eleven years old; she was abducted from a school bus stop in South Lake Tahoe, California. She was missing for more than eighteen years, held captive by Phillip Craig and Nancy Garrido, and gave birth to two daughters during her imprisonment. On August 26, 2009, Garrido showed up for a meeting with his parole officer; he brought Jaycee, her daughters, and his wife Nancy with him. Their unusual behavior raised suspicions and an investigation revealed the tent behind the Garridos’ home where Jaycee had been living for nearly two decades.  A Stolen Life was written by Jaycee herself and covers the period from the time of her abduction in 1991, up until the present. This book is a very similar, true-life story of Jack’s Ma in Room.

Breaking Night:  A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray
Liz Murray was born to loving but drug-addicted parents in the Bronx. At age fifteen, Liz found herself on the streets when her family finally unraveled. She learned to scrape by, foraging for food and riding subways all night to have a warm place to sleep. When Liz’s mother died of AIDS, she decided to take control of her own destiny and go back to high school, often completing her assignments in the hallways and subway stations where she slept. Liz squeezed four years of high school into two, while homeless; won a “New York Times” scholarship; and made it into the Ivy League.  This is a compelling story about a woman breaking free from extreme adversity that readers of Room will thoroughly enjoy.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

His Illegal Self by Peter Carey
Che is an eight-year-old boy being raised by his grandmother in New York in the 1960’s.  His parents are radical student activists and Che has been yearning for them since he was very small, but his grandmother has kept him in relative isolation.  One day someone comes to take him back to his real parents and Che enters a wild journey that leads him to Queensland, Australia.  This book deals with the same themes of isolation and kidnapping that Room does.

The Crocodile Bird by Ruth Rendell
A mother and a daughter live quietly in the rustic gatehouse of Shrove House, an isolated British estate. Their life seems perfectly ordinary except that daughter Liza has been kept isolated from the outside world for all of her sixteen years. And that she has seen her beautiful mother commit murder. Now, as the police come searching for a missing man, Liza’s sheltered, strange world begins to fall apart. Room and The Crocodile Bird are both haunting psychological suspense stories in which a child who grew up in isolation now faces the unexpected real world.

Trance by Christopher Sorrentino
When a newspaper heiress is kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, she ends up surprising everyone by taking a new name and staying with her captors.  This story is loosely based on the Patty Hearst case and chronicles the next 16 months of Tania’s life in hiding with them.  Like Room, this book deals with the psychological effects of living in isolation and captivity.

Name:  Becky Ozinga

World War Z

August 1, 2012

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Author:  Max Brooks

Title:  World War Z

Genre:  Horror

Publication Date:  September 12, 2006

Number of Pages:  Hardcover – 342

Geographical Setting:  Many locations throughout the world.

Time Period:  Ten years after the decade long war waged against zombies.

Series:  Technically not part of a series, but Brooks has written other zombie books that are presented as non-fiction.

Plot Summary:  Written in the form of an oral history (identical to that Studs Terkel), Max Brooks’s first novel is composed of first-person accounts of the decade long zombie war, known as World War Z.  Starting in China with the first infected Patient Zero, the book chronicle the virus as it spreads and devastates the globe, nation by nation.  After many mistakes and hard lessons learned, humanity eventually perseveres, but now exists in a world of serious religious, geo-political, and environmental consequences and implications.  Although World War Z is a horror story on the surface, Brooks uses it as a platform to criticize government ineptitude, corporate corruption and human short-sightedness.

Subject Headings:  War, Zombies, Imaginary Wars and Battles — Fiction, Horror Fiction, War Stories

Appeal:  Builds in intensity, compelling, candid, bleak, dangerous, hopeful, nightmare, vivid, recognizable, metaphorical, journalistic, thought-provoking, episodic, explicitly violent.

3 terms that best describe this book:  Multiple points of view, realistic, menacing atmosphere

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)    The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

This ongoing graphic novel series deals with a group of survivors trying to survive in a world overrun be zombies, or the walking dead.  Both this series and World War Z feature a large cast of characters that exist in a world plagued by zombies.

2)    Rant by Chuck Palahniuk

An oral history of Buster “Rant” Casey, the creator of an urban demolition derby, and the man responsible for the world larges rabies outbreak.  Both novels are written in the form of an oral history, with several different point of views by various colorful characters.  The section of the book which deals with the rabies epidemic is humorously similar to that of a zombie movie.

3)    The Living Dead edited by John Joseph Adams

A collection of short stories by various authors that cover a broad spectrum of zombie fiction.  There are many different versions of the “zombie story” and this collection gives the reader a great idea of what is out there.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1)    American Zombie Gothic: The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the Walking Dead in Popular Culture by Kyle William Bishop

A history, as well as analysis and critique of the zombie creature as it exists in today’s popular culture.  This book gives the reader a great look at the origins of this very popular American icon.

2)    The Good War: An Oral History of World War II by Studs Terkel

This Pulitzer Prize-winning collection covers World War II from every possible point of view of those directly and indirectly involved.  World War Z, especially it’s writing style, was heavily influenced by this as well as other works by Terkel.

3)    The Epidemic: A Global History of AIDS by Jonathan Engel

Chronicles the devastation AIDS epidemic and the impact it’s had on our modern world.  A large portion of World War Z is commentary on global pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, and this book gives a thorough overview of the devastating virus.

Name:  Vadim Seyfer