Posts Tagged ‘contemplative’

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

August 15, 2012

Author: McClure, Wendy

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

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 336 p.

Geographical Setting: Multiple locations throughout the United States

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: N/A

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

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

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

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

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

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

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

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

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

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

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

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

A Single Man

August 13, 2012

Author: Isherwood, Christopher

Title: A Single Man

Genre:  Literary Fiction, GLBTQ Fiction

Publication Date: 1964

Number of Pages: 192

Geographical Setting:  Los Angeles, California

Time Period: Late 1950’s/Early 1960’s

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary: Before the book begins, George has lost his partner, Jim, in a car crash, but he has told everyone that Jim has moved home to live with his parents for a while.  The story follows one day in the life of George, a late/middle-aged British man who teaches at a university in LA.  The book is comprised almost entirely of George’s thoughts and dialogue is very sparse.  In an almost stream-of-consciousness style, the reader learns about George’s opinions on almost every aspect of his day.  As a gay man in the 1960’s, his thoughts are often tinged with wariness over what people think about him—who knows he’s gay, who knows about Jim, what they would think if they knew, etc.  George has interactions with a variety of characters, some of whom know about his sexual orientation, and some who do not.    As the day goes on, he begins to reach some fascinating conclusions about his life without Jim.

Subject Headings:  Homosexuality, Middle-aged Men, Grief

Appeal: Builds In Intensity, Measured, Bittersweet, Contemplative, Emotionally-Charged, Stark, Insightful, Introspective, Melancholy, Layered, Character-Centered, Lyrical

3 terms that best describe this book:  Bittersweet, Character-Centered, Introspective

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette

This book is the autobiography of Paul Monette.  It follows him from childhood to adulthood as he attempts to keep hide the fact that he is gay from himself and from his family.  Monette’s story is similar to A Single Man because both characters feel the need to hide their sexual orientation from the outside world.

Los Angeles: Portrait of a City by David L. Ulin

Photographs of the city from a variety of time periods give readers the opportunity to look at both George’s Los Angeles and the Los Angeles of modern times.  Because the book describes the city in such detail, it would be helpful to see what the city really looks like (for those who have not visited).

A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski

Spanning 500 years of American History, this book looks at how homosexuality has evolved.  This book will give readers a greater understanding of the viewpoints of Americans during George’s era.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Maurice by E. M. Forester

Set in Edwardian England, this book follows Maurice, a brilliant young boy, as he grows up, attends university, and works in his father’s firm.  In many ways, he seems like a stereotypical young man, but he is also gay.  Forester’s book will give readers insight into homosexuality in a different time period.

The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal

A young man, Jim, “experiments” with his male friend, Bob, and finds his life turned upside down.  When he finds himself separated from Bob, he ignores the wishes of his family and decides to find Bob no matter how long it takes.  Jim’s journey takes him all over the country and expands his ideas of homosexuality and how he fits in.  This breakthrough novel in gay literature will help readers see the evolution of the literary genre.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Also following a day in the life of a single character, Mrs. Dalloway focuses on a woman preparing for a party later in the evening. In stream of consciousness, the reader learns about her past, her present, and her thoughts on the future.  With subtle homosexual themes, this book provides readers with a look at the female side of the GLBTQ genre.

Name: Erin Sloan

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

August 13, 2012

Author: Hadjii

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

Genre: African American Biography

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 219 p.

Geographical Setting: Georgia

Time Period: 1980s and 1990s

Series: N/A

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

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

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

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

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

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

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

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

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

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

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

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

Ghost World

August 8, 2012

Author: Clowes, Daniel

Title: Ghost World

Genre:  Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 80

Geographical Setting:  Unnamed American town

Time Period: Early 1990s

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Dopplemayer are best friends who have recently graduated from high school.  The graphic novel follows them through their transition into adulthood over the summer.  Their town is full of cheesy diners and record stores that never have what they want and the girls long for something, anything to excite them.  Both girls are pessimistic, but Enid revels in making people uncomfortable, especially her friend Josh.  As the days go by, the girls begin to drift apart as they grow ever more aware that their friendship is not built to last.

Subject Headings:  Graphic Novels, Female Friendship, Teenage Girls

Appeal:  Measured Pace, Contemplative, Earnest, Edgy, Melancholy, Flawed Characters, Eccentric, Open-Ended, Character-Centered, Urban Setting, Heavy Profanity, Conversational, and Informal

3 terms that best describe this book:  Melancholy, Heavy Profanity, Character-Centered

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist by Alvin Buenaventura (editor)

An in-depth look at Daniel Clowes’ art and stories, the book includes some of his most famous works and some never before seen pieces.  For those who liked the art of Ghost World, this book is a great companion.

The 1990s by Mark Oxoby

This nonfiction book looks at American popular culture throughout the 1990s.  While Enid and Rebecca would probably have scoffed at the majority of people and events mentioned in the book, it is important to see what sort of world the girls were living in.

Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud

Focusing on comics as a literary medium, this book combines information on why you should create a comic and how to do it.  Fans of Ghost World who want a chance to tell their own story will appreciate McCloud’s authoritative voice and helpful tips.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Sleepwalk and Other Stories by Adriane Tomine

A collection of the first four of Tomine’s series comic series Optic Nerve, this book follows different characters that seem well-adjusted on the outside, but on the inside are struggling to make connections with those around them.  Set in a similar time period (late 80’s, early 90’s) to Ghost World, Sleepwalk also looks to explore the subtleties of human nature.

I Never Liked You by Chester Brown

This graphic novel steps away from the female protagonists of Ghost World, but keeps with the alienated youth theme.  The story follows Chester and his group of friends as they grow up.  While the art and dialogue seem simple on the surface, the story underneath is anything but.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis tells the author’s story of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.  Through her eyes, we see the toll it takes on her family and her country.  While Marjane’s adolescence and adulthood is very different from the girls’ in Ghost World, the irreverent tone and desire for more is found both.

Name: Erin Sloan

Feed

July 30, 2012

 Author: M.T. Anderson

Title: Feed

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 2002

Number of Pages: 237

Geographical Setting: Earth

Time Period: Future

Plot Summary: In a futuristic society where information is fed directly into the brain, a group of teenagers are enjoying themselves until one of their brain feeds malfunctions. The “feed” is an internet connection tied directly to the brain that gives immediate access to information, communication, and advertisements. Deeper meanings of existence are explored with overarching themes of over abundance of technology, consumerism, instant gratification, corporate empowerment, and disregard of environment. This compelling novel is a thought-provoking tale set in a dark and futuristic society. Although it starts out in a more measured pace as you get to know the characters, it builds in intensity towards the ending.

Subject Headings: Computers and civilization, Consumerism, Environmental degradation, Consumers, Teenagers

Appeal: compelling, builds in intensity, bleak, dark, chilling, contemplative, humorous, character-centered, issue-oriented, thought –provoking, disturbing, serious, high drama, tragic, engaging plot

3 terms that best describe this book: thought-provoking, compelling, chilling

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Future Tech: From Personal Robots to Motorized Monocycles by Charles Piddock – If you liked reading about the futuristic technology in the book Feed, you might enjoy this book that explores the future of technology.

2.    America in the Twenty-First Century by Opposing Viewpoints Series- If you enjoy reading books that provoke thought and contemplation, you may like this book of essays told through various viewpoints.

3.    Endangered Earth by Scientific American Cutting-Edge Science – If reading Feed made you wonder about how people are affecting our environment and possible ways they can lessen their effects, then you may enjoy this book.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      The Diary of Pelly D by L.J. Adlington – If you like reading compelling and thought provoking books that are set in the future, you may enjoy this story about a boy who starts to question his own beliefs.

2.      Rash by Pete Hautman – You may like this book if you enjoy reading dark, futuristic novels with a humorous edge set in the United Safer States of America.

3.      The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – If you liked the compelling world-building nature of Feed, you may also enjoy this bleak and suspenseful story.

Name: Patty Prodanich

Phonogram: Rue Britannia

April 18, 2012

Author: Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

Title: Phonogram: Rue Britannia

Genre: graphic novel, urban fantasy

Publication Date: 2007

Number of pages: 152

Geographical Setting: England

Time Period: 2006

Series (if applicable): one sequel

Plot Summary: David Kohl is an aging hip kid, completely self-absorbed and only interested in drinking, smoking and going home with a pretty girl at the end of a concert. He is also a phonomancer, which is a type of magician who works arcane spells through music to find their true meaning. Baptized in the early-90’s by Britannia, the goddess of British guitar pop, he learned how to use magic through the genre of music known as Britpop, defined by bands such as Pulp, Suede, Blur and Elastica. He turned his back on Britannia when everybody started worshipping her, and she has since been long dead. Although he left her many years ago, when he discovers that her corpse is being tampered with he knows he has to save her, since his past is rooted with her. If the enemy succeeds in reviving a dead goddess, his entire past could change, and he could become a Kula Shaker fan with no magical powers. Phonogram is about the magic of music, and not ever letting go of it, but learning to move on when the time comes. Britpop fans will squeal over the many inside references to songs and bands, and for those whose knowledge of Britpop begins and ends with Oasis, there is a handy glossary in the back that defines every single reference made.

Subject Headings: British music, fantasy, magic, England.

Appeal: character-driven, complex, contemplative, humorous, magical, intriguing, flawed, strong secondary characters, well-developed, explicitly violent, detailed setting, journalistic, smart, spare, witty.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character-driven, magical, smart.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Britpop!: Cool Britannia And The Spectacular Demise Of English Rock by John Harriss
The heyday of Britpop (1994-1998) began as a reaction against American grunge. In the past bands such as the Smiths and Joy Division were contemptuous of mainstream success, the bands in the 90’s sought it out, with Blur and Oasis competing for the top spot in the charts. It ended in the usual way, with drugs, infighting and egotism. Harris makes the rise and fall of a music movement a fun read.

2. A Version of Reason: In Search of Richey Edwards by Rob Jovanovic

A subplot of Phonogram is the ghost of a memory of David’s ex-stalker who is still haunting the roof of the club they used to hang out at, mourning Richey Edwards. In 1995, the guitarist of the Manic Street Preachers disappeared without a trace. His car was found abandoned on the Severn Bridge and it looked like suicide, but a body was never found. This drove the already-fervid Manics fans into near religious worship. Jovanovic attempts to piece together what might have happened that day.

3. Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (Llewellyn’s Practical Magick) by Raymond Buckland

Buckland’s is one of the definitive books for serious students of magic. Whether you take magic seriously or not, this is one of the books that a fantasy writer would research in order to get the details right for a story. If you’d like to know more about rituals, history, covens and spellwork, this is the book to turn to.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Sandman by Neil Gaiman

Without Sandman, there could be no Phonogram. Gaiman changed what people thought graphic novels could do with this series about Dream, part of the Endless, consisting of Death, Desire, Delirium, Destiny and Destruction. Gods, goddesses, demons and magic abound in this series.

2. Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Scott Pilgrim is a clueless slacker while David Kohl is knowingly selfish, and the music is indie while in Phonogram it’s Britpop, and the super powers are based on video games instead of magic, but anyone who learned to love David in Phonogram will be smitten with Scott Pilgrim.

3. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill

The inside references are fast and furious in this series by Alan Moore, but it’s about brit lit instead of brit pop. Captain Nemo, The Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Allan Quartermain, and Mina Harker team up to fight evil. Packed with action/adventure and literary allusions, this will make any book nerd’s heart beat faster.

Soundtrack: http://sharemyplaylists.com/rue-britannia

Name: Jessica

Sophie’s Choice

March 21, 2012

Author: William Styron

Title: Sophie’s Choice

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1979

Number of Pages: 562

Geographical Setting: Brooklyn, New York

Time Period: Post World War II (1947)

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: The story begins when Stingo, a young southerner and struggling author, moves North in an attempt to write the next great American novel.  Upon arrival, he quickly finds himself emotionally and intellectually involved in the tumultuous and often abusive relationship of his neighbors, Nathan and Sophie.  Nathan, a brilliant but manic-depressive man with a very dark side, shortly becomes like a brother to Stingo.  However, things get messy when Stingo finds himself falling for the beautiful Sophie, a young Polish woman with a terrible secret.  When Stingo notices the tattoo of a concentration camp on the arm of Sophie, this philosophical and emotional novel starts to bounce between past and present, as Sophie begins to tell Stingo the story of her tortured past.

Subject Headings: Authors, American; Concentration Camp Survivors;  Dating Violence;  Guilt in Women;  Jealousy in Men;  Jewish Men;  Men/Women Relations;  Suicide Pacts;   Triangles (Interpersonal Relations);  Women Holocaust Survivors.

Appeal: Engrossing, Contemplative, Foreboding, Detailed, Haunting, Bleak, Tragic, Sympathetic, Well-Developed, Character-Centered, Passionate, Emotional

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book: Haunting, Tragic, Passionate

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works:
Five Chimneys: The Story of Auschwitz (by Olga Lengyel): This memoir provides one woman’s unflinching account of life in Auschwitz- Birkenau.  Lengyel offers readers unbelievable and shocking descriptions of the daily horrors of life in the most famous concentration camp.  Readers who were interested in the historical aspect of Sophie’s Choice will enjoy this read.

Free Yourself From an Abusive Relationship (by Andrea Lissette & Richard Kraus): This work is a guide to recognizing and dealing with abusive relationships.  The work focuses on various stages of domestic abuse and violence, and how to change these relationships or break them off for good.  Readers who were interested in, or identified with, Nathan and Sophie’s abusive relationship might be interested in this read.

How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead:  Your Words in Print and Your Name in Lights (by Ariel Gore):  Written by a writer, teacher, and ‘self-made lit-star,’ this book is a fun and useful guide on how to become an accomplished writer.  Combining writing advice with self-promotion and marketing techniques, the aim of this work is to help you achieve the literary success you always dreamed of.  Readers who identify with Stingo’s plight as a struggling author may enjoy this read.

3 Relevant Fiction Works:

The Other Side of the Bridge (by Mary Lawson): This compelling and character-driven novel tells the story of a classic love triangle. Set in Canada in the 1950s, follow Arthur and Jake Dunn as their relationship takes a turn for the worse when they both fall in love with the same beautiful young woman.  Readers who enjoyed the love triangle aspect of Sophie’s Choice would likely enjoy this novel.

Chain of Love (by Anne Stuart): Recovering from an abusive relationship, Cathy Whiteheart has sworn off men completely.  However, when an attractive man begins to pursue her, she finds herself on a romantic journey.  The situation, however, may unravel when her disturbing secret is discovered.  Readers may enjoy this if they were caught up in Sophie’s struggle as an abused girlfriend, as well as her burdensome secret.

Fatelessness (by Imre Kertesz): This historical novel, told through the eyes of a fourteen-year old boy, recounts the daily life of prisoners at Auschwitz.  The boy, placed on a train to Auschwitz for no apparent reason, attempts to make sense of his surroundings as he witnesses countless horrors.  Readers who were interested in the historical aspect of Sophie’s Choice will enjoy this work of fiction.

The Water’s Edge by Karin Fossum

October 12, 2011

Author: Karin Fossum

Title: The Water’s Edge

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 227

Geographical Setting: Norway

Time Period: present

Series: 6th in the Inspector Sejer series

Plot Summary:  In Fossum’s haunting sixth novel featuring Inspector Sejer, Ris and Kristine Reihhardt are out for a quiet walk on a Sunday afternoon when they stumble on the body of a young boy left in a pile of leaves.  They also have happened to see a man with a limp walking out of the woods and to his car just minutes before.  Is this man with a white car and a distinct look the killer?  After finding the boy, the couple’s relationship is tested as Ris becomes more and more obsessed by the case while Kristine is disgusted by his morbid fascination.  As Inspector Sejer and his young partner, Jacob Skaar, begin interviewing townspeople, the stark beauty of Norway comes alive and the nature of the tight-knit community is revealed.  Before long, another young boy has gone missing, leaving the entire town edgy, terrified and suspicious of each other.  This time, however, the boy has some serious problems of his own in relation to his single mother that may complicate the case.  With haunting, poetic prose Fossum tells the dark, twisted story through the eyes of the Reinhardts, the killer, and the investigators as the chase down the elusive murderer. This novel is satisfying on many levels; first as an intriguing police procedural, second as a character-centered novel that gets into the minds of many characters, and lastly as a musing on human nature and the meaning of good and evil.

Subject Headings: crimes against children, grief, marriage, murder, murder investigation. Konrad Sejer

 

Appeal: chilling, haunting, atmospheric, character-centered, dark, elegant, compelling, engrossing, intense, bleak, contemplative, evocative, foreboding, psychological, suspenseful, sophisticated, multiple plots, investigative, start, rural, poetic, well crafted, police procedural

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

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Staalesen, Gunnar, The Consorts of Death.  Like The Water’s Edge, this is a police procedural mystery that also takes place in Norway and features a young boy who is connected to a murder.

Holt, Anne, What is Mine.  This novel features a Norwegian police commissioner who leads a murder investigation of the murder of several young children.  Fans of Fossum will enjoy the characterization as the main characters attempt to get inside the minds of the criminals.  Like The Water’s Edge, this is an engrossing mystery with several plot twists.

Edwardson, Ake, Frozen Tracks.  Like The Water’s Edge, this is a haunting police procedural from a Scandinavian writer in which two crimes are connected.  Also like Fossum’s novel, this book features multiple plot lines, one of which gets inside the mind of the criminal.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Holt, Elizabeth, Living in Norway.  This picture book shoes the beautiful landscape of Norway and also talks about the history of the country and the unique character of the Norwegian people.  Fans of Norwegian writers may be interested in learning more about and seeing a visual representation of the setting and landscape that is so important to these mysteries.

Amy Hammel-Zaban, Conversations with a Pedophile, in the Interest of our Children. The Water’s Edge seeks to get in the mind of a pedophile to better understand the affliction and try to show the abuse that occurs early in life which often turns people into pedophiles.  It also features an important scene in which the detectives are interviewing a known pedophile who gives them some vital information.  This book would be helpful for those who wish to gain a better understanding of this affliction after reading this novel.  Like the novel, it also features a first person account of a pedophile.

Rangle, Larry, Crime Scene: From Fingerprinting to DNA Testing- An Astonishing Look at the Real World of CSIThe Water’s Edge features multiple scenes of crime scene investigation and the crime is also eventually solved using forensic evidence.  This book would be great for readers who are interested in learning more of the forensic aspect of the police procedural.

Name: Meghan Maleski

The Other Wes Moore

August 8, 2011

Author: Wes Moore

Title: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

Genre: Nonfiction; African American; Biography, Autobiography and Memoir

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 233 (including a 45-page resource guide)

Geographical Setting: primarily Baltimore, Maryland, and the Bronx, New York

Time Period: 1982-2000

Plot Summary: Before writing this book, Wes Moore had been haunted for years by the idea of a man from his neighborhood, with his name, whose path started out so similar to his own, yet ended up widely diverging. Born just a couple of years apart, both were raised by single mothers in the inner city; both had ready access to the drug culture, early run-ins with police, and trouble in school; both had numerous turning points and second chances. The author emerged as a Rhodes Scholar, White House Fellow, Wall Street investment professional, and decorated Afghanistan war veteran. The other Wes Moore is serving a life sentence in a Maryland jail for his role in a botched jewelry store robbery that left an off-duty cop dead. Unable to shake questions about who the other Wes Moore was and how his life unfolded, the author reached out to him and began several years of correspondence with a goal of shedding light on how their various circumstances and choices made the difference in their lives. Through a series of interviews with Wes and other important people from both their lives, this book pieces together a chronological story that tells about more than just these two men. It looks at the broader social and cultural factors that impact inner-city youth, and tries to motivate readers to think differently about their lives, and have different expectations for others. At its close, it includes a call to action and a detailed resource guide of organizations that help youth across the country.

Subject Headings: Family and relationships – Growing up; African American teenage boys; Moore, Wes, 1978- – Childhood and youth; Moore, Wes, 1975- – Childhood and youth; Baltimore, Md. – Social conditions 20th century; Violence – Baltimore, Md.; Prisoners – Maryland; Turning points.

Appeal: Accessible, candid, contemplative, compelling, details of urban life, family-centered, haunting, insightful, issue-oriented, thought-provoking, well-researched

Three Words or Phrases Best Describing this Book: Character-driven, inspiring, heartbreaking

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors
Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life’s Challenges by Byron Pitts (Autobiography by 60 Minutes correspondent Pitts about overcoming obstacles such as poverty and functional illiteracy growing up in Baltimore; emphasis on family and faith.)

Stand by Me: The Risks and Rewards of Mentoring Today’s Youth by Jean E. Rhodes (Examination of mentoring programs that serve underprivileged youth, and analysis of what makes them effective; good for readers inspired by Wes Moore’s message about the importance of mentors and setting high expectations for at-risk youth.)

Brothers and Keepers: A Memoir by John Edgar Wideman (Memoir and social history examining why the author was successful while his brother ended up in jail for murder; similar themes and character-centered approach to uncovering where two paths diverged as in The Other Wes Moore.)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors
Chyna Black by Keisha Ervin (An urban coming-of-age tale in which the protagonist is an African American female caught up in St. Louis street life. Character-driven, and with many themes that overlap with The Other Wes Moore.)

Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers (A young adult novel and National Book Award finalist that follows a 14-year-old in a juvenile detention center and his efforts to change his life’s direction. Gritty, moving, compelling and true-to-life.)

Between Brothers: A Novel by C. Kelly Robinson (Compelling story of four men at a historically black college and obstacles they still face, including funding for education, drug dealers, and other social issues from The Other Wes Moore. Character-centered and issue-oriented.)

By: Elaine

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time

August 8, 2011

Author:  Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Title:  Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time

Publication Date:2006

Pages:  331

Genre:  Non-fiction

Geographical Setting:  Pakistan

Time Period:  1993-2003

Subject Headings:  Greg Mortenson, Pakistan, K2, Korphe Pakistan, Pakistan Schools, Muslims Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia Institute

Appeal: steady, contemplative, moving, detailed, lifelike, complex, layered, flashbacks, political, informal, unusual, character-centered, (meandering)

Plot Summary: Professional mountain climber Greg Mortenson, tackles Pakistan’s K2 mountain in an effort to bury his deceased sister’s necklace.  Failure to do so takes him on a journey to a remote Pakistani village, where he discovers exceptionally poor conditions and lack of education for the children.   This  experience launches his lifetime commitment to building schools in various remote villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan, making unusual friendships and enemies along the way.

Three terms that best describe this book:  character-centered, political, unusual, (meandering)

Similar authors and fiction works:

Murder on Everest by Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins

Murder mystery about the death of a multi-millionaire’s son as he attempts to climb Mt. Everest.  fast-paced, details of mountain climbing, dangerous

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

A memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.  Graphic Novel.  builds in intensity, dangerous, family-centered

Christy by Catherine Marshall

A young woman moves away from her life of privilege in order to teach the children of an impoverished community in the Smoky Mountains. detailed setting, character-centered, disturbing

Similar authors and non-fiction works:

Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan by Ali Eteraz

This book is a coming of age memoir written by Ali Eteraz, who was born in Pakistan and raised in the United States by the age of 10.  He struggles with his religious upbringing versus western way of life.  introspective, informative, authentic

Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell

Esme Raji Codell is a first year teacher working in an inner city school.  This is a diary account of the obstacles she faces including non-supportive administrators, abusive parents and angry students.  candid, authentic, humorous

K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain by Ed Viesturs, David Roberts

Harrowing true stories about six expeditions attempting to climb the second highest mountain in the world. dramatic, compelling, informative

Name:  Debbie