Posts Tagged ‘Controversial’

The Kingdom of Childhood

August 1, 2012

Kingdomofchildhood Author: Rebecca Coleman

Title: The Kingdom of Childhood

Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships

Publication Date: Sep 2011

Number of Pages: 338

Geographical Setting: A new-age community in Maryland

Time Period: 1998

Plot Summary: Judy is a teacher at a small private school. At forty-three, her marriage is falling apart and she begins an affair with a sexually-frustrated 16 year-old student, Zach. When Judy starts to get demanding and possessive, Zach wants out of the relationship, but Judy keeps pressuring him. Flashbacks to Judy’s childhood reveal a lonely, unstable home-life; and then questions arise as to what really happened to Judy’s ex-boyfriend who died in an accident. Meanwhile, Judy wishes her husband dead.

Subject Headings: Teachers-fiction; Students-fiction; Love stories; sex crimes.

Appeal: Thought-provoking, issue-oriented, suspenseful, compelling, earthy, builds in intensity, emotionally-charged, flashbacks, controversial, sexually explicit, dark mood, flawed characters.

3 terms that best describe this book: Issue-oriented, flawed characters, builds in intensity.

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):
3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
One Scandalous Story: Clinton, Lewinsky, and Thirteen Days That Tarnished American Journalism by Marvin L. Kalb.
Veteran journalist gives an insider’s look to the many factors that went into revealing the scandal. This news item was the backdrop for Kingdom of Childhood.

If Loving You is Wrong by Gregg Olsen
This is about the Mary Kay Letourneau affair, which was a highly publicized teacher/student scandal in the late 90’s but is not mentioned in KOC.
Rudolf Steiner: An Introduction to His Life and Work by Gary Latchman
Steiner’s education philosophy is the foundation for the Waldorf schools which is the type of school in KOC.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors
What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller
This novel deals with the same issue of a female teacher and male student affair, but this is told by another teacher at the school who is a friend. It also builds in intensity.

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult
A former teacher is just released from prison after being wrongly convicted of statuatory rape. Then new false allegations threaten him in his new town. Suspenseful and issue-oriented.

The Adults by Alison Espach
This 2011 release centers on a teenage girl, Emily, who has a love affair with a young male teacher. It is lighter in tone than Kingdom of Childhood and is more romantic and poignant in parts, but is also wickedly funny and witty. It follows Emily into her twenties when she reunites with the teacher-lover.
Name: Sonia Reppe

Kiss of the Spider Woman

November 15, 2011

Author: Manuel Puig, translated from the Spanish by Thomas Colchie

Title: Kiss of the Spider Woman

Genre: Latin American Fiction, GLBTQ

Publication Date: 1978

Number of Pages: 281

Time period: Late 1970’s

Plot Summary: Perhaps one of the best-known works by Argentine novelist Manuel Puig, Kiss of the Spider Woman is a compelling look at love, sexuality, and human desire, as well as the manipulation and victimization of others that can result from this. Told almost entirely in back-and-forth dialogue between two characters, the story takes place in an Argentine prison where two men are incarcerated together. One is Molina, a gay window dresser convicted of sexual relations with a minor. He is self-absorbed, somewhat self-hating, yet still charming and sympathetic. The other is Valentin, a well-spoken and well-educated political prisoner who has dedicated his life to “the cause”. The two slowly, but guardedly, become attached to each other as they bond over Molina’s retellings of fantastical and romantic movies until their feelings result in sexual attraction. Interspersed throughout the novel are moments of stream-of-conscious prose and Puig’s plot twists and revelations exposed through brief dialogues between prison guards and wardens. There are also, seemingly at random, academic footnotes that recite the development of theories discussing the nature and “origination” of homosexuality.  This is a thoughtful, engaging, character-centered novel that is extremely moving and thought-provoking and, ultimately, about friendship and loyalty.

Subject Headings: Gay prisoners, Torture—Argentina, Prisoners—Argentina, Friendship, Loyalty.

Appeal Terms: Compelling, Moving, Thoughtful, Thought-provoking, Controversial, Romantic, Character-driven, Leisurely Paced, Complex, Literary, Emotional, Issue-oriented, Sparse, Engaging, Dark.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Romantic, Controversial, Character-driven

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

West, D.J. Homosexuality.  This is the work that is frequently cited in the footnotes contained in the book.  The footnotes are such that a reader is intrigued by the practice of psychoanalysis, even if they do not agree with it, and may want to learn more, starting with the book that Puig cites throughout the novel.

Freud, Sigmund. Three Case Histories.  Despite the controversy surrounding Freud’s theory, he is still the founding father of psychoanalytic theory, and he is featured prominently in Kiss of the Spider Woman.  This particular work is both fascinating and easy to read.  Freud should be read at least once by anyone, and this novel makes the reader want to pick up Freud’s work and see what it’s all about.

Chasteen, John Charles. Born in Blood & Fire: A Concise History of Latin America (3rd Ed.).  Readers may want to learn more about the history of Latin America after reading this novel.  It alludes to the political climate of the time but only in the way it affects the two main characters.  This is perhaps on purpose, for the novel leaves the reader wanting to learn more about the history of Latin America, specifically Argentina.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Borges, Jorge Luis. Collected Fictions.  Borges is considered to be one of the most influential Argentine authors and is known for his short fiction.  NoveList calls him “a seminal figure in the magical realism movement”, Borges blends fantastical elements with reality.  This is similar to the way Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman tells fanstastical and romantic stories to pass the time in prison.  Molina’s stories are as much a part of the novel as the story of the two men in prison, so readers may also enjoy Borges’ magical realism.

Llosa, Mario Vargas.  The Feast of the Goat.  This Peruvian author, much like Puig, explores the darker side of human nature, but thoughtfully and with insight.  Also like Puig, his novels are often political and violent and contain elements of magical realism.  A little more stylistically complex than Kiss of the Spider Woman, this author writes thoughtful and haunting books that readers who liked Kiss of the Spider Woman will appreciate.

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia.  Any of the novels written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez will attract readers of Kiss of the Spider Woman.  A Colombian novelist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, Marquez is also a writer of magical realism and lush descriptions of Latin America.  His work is strongly character-centered and his storytelling techniques are unique and imaginative.

Rebecca C.

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

November 8, 2011

Author: Jon Krakauer

Title: Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of theMount Everest Disaster

Genre: Nonfiction, Adventure

Publication Date: 1997

Number of Pages: 293

Geographical Setting: Nepal; Mount Everest

Time Period: 1996 Everest climbing season

Series (If applicable): None

Plot Summary: 

After being asked to investigate commercial expeditions of Mount Everest for an article for Outside magazine, Jon Krakauer, himself an avid climber, joined Rob Hall’s Adventure Consultants Everest expedition in 1996—a year that turned out to be one of the most deadly ever on the mountain.  As Krakauer himself grows more and more determined to reach the top of the mountain, he chronicles the experiences of the other members of his expedition and that of the competing expedition run by Scott Fisher. A gripping account of death, near death, survival, heroism, and guilt, this heart-pounding read is made even more harrowing because it is nonfiction.

Subject Headings: Mount Everest—commercial expeditions, mountaineering, Adventure Consultants, Mountain Madness, survival stories

 Appeal: heart-pounding, first-person point-of-view, fast-paced, exotic setting, sense of place, exciting, accessible language, controversial, sense of danger, graphic, descriptive

 3 appeal terms that best describe this book: heart-pounding, strong sense of place, exciting

 3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest’s Most Controversial Season by Nick Heil

This chronicle of the 2006 climbing season, the deadliest since 1996, describes the conditions that allowed climbers to leave still-living colleagues for dead.  Like Into Thin Air, this book tackles the controversy surrounding commercial climbing expeditions and the personalities associated with them.

Surviving the Extremes: a Doctor’s Journey to the Limits of Human Endurance by Kenneth Kamler

Written by the doctor who treated survivors during the 1996 Everest climbing season chronicled in Into Thin Air, this book explores survival in all kinds of extreme environments along with case studies of patients who survived in the most difficult of situations.

Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 by Willie Drye

The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 devastated the Florida Keys and caused massive loss of life, not the least of which was the result of a series of errors by government officials and the placement of large numbers of homeless veterans into work camps on Key Largo. This riveting, fast-paced tale chronicles the lead-up to the storm and shares the stories of those who survived.

 3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Peak by Roland Smith

While this book is a young-adult novel, it’s premise is fascinating and nuanced.  Fourteen-year-old Peak, a boy raised by a father who runs a mountaineering expedition company, is trying to be the youngest person to reach the top of Mount Everest.  But climbing Everest is dangerous, unsettling, and even Peak’s father’s motives may not be what they seem.

The Ascent: a Novel of Survival by Ronald Damien Malfi

Tim Overleigh’s wife has died, and the only way he feels alive himself is when he is participating in extreme sports. So when an old friend asks him to join a mountaineering expedition in the Himalayas, he agrees—only to find that the elements may not be all he must contend with in order to survive.

Rapids by Tim Parks

When a fifteen-member kayaking club takes on the rapids of the Italian Alps, personal conflicts, obsessions, and the dangerous forces of nature make this adventure take a dark and disturbing turn.

Name: Shelley

The Greatest Lies in History

August 8, 2011

Author: Canducci, Alexander

Title: The Greatest Lies in History

Genre: Non Fiction

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 335

Geographical Setting: Generally speaking, Earth and its immediate environs.

Time Period: Length and breadth of human history.

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: There is no plot to this book as it addresses, in a case by case manner, the many myths, falsehoods, and outright lies that have passed for history for centuries despite evidence to the contrary. The text is organized by the specific type of cover up, and is divided into four parts: “Spin & Doublespeak”, “Passing the Buck”, “Official Deceptions & Cover Ups”, and “Acting Under False Pretenses”. The pages of this book will shatter many of the legends that have acted as a substitute for history in elementary, high school, and even in some college classrooms.

Subject Headings: History, conspiracy, deception,

Appeal: Quick pace, short chapters, informative, written in the vernacular, accessible, humorous, witty, subversive, historical, well organized, stunning illustrations.

3 terms that best describe this book: Controversial, well researched, life changing.

3 Relevant Non Fiction Works and Authors

1.)  Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond – This book is rational scientific  explanations for why some societies are conquered by other and why some societies simply fail. Diamond looks directly at geographic, epidemiological data, and social phenomena as opposed to taking the essentialist view and attributing societal failure to the individual quality of the people who made up said civilizations.

2.) A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn – Another example of a history text that re-examines historical myth and seeks to replace it with social historical fact; or at the very least provide a “bottom-up” view of American history.

3.) Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond: In this text Diamond focuses on the political and social choices that societies make and how those choices can determine whether a society will collapse under its own weight or last for centuries.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1.) The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown – This book’s main character attempts to untangle myth from “historical truth” concerning the Catholic Church in this thrilling bit of historical fiction.

2.) The Breath of God by Jeffrey Small – This is a fast paced, thought provoking novel where the main character discovers secrets that run counter to the prevailing history of Christianity.

3.) The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury – Similar to the Da Vinci code in pacing and also in its fictional accounts of cover-ups within the Catholic Church, however the secrets the protagonist uncovers span far beyond the church itself.


Let the Right One In

November 4, 2009

Title: Let the Right One In (Let Me In) (Låt den rätte komma in)

Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 480

Geographical Setting: Sweden (suburbs of Stockholm)

Time Period: Present day

Series: no

Plot Summary:

Oskar is a struggling 12 year old who collects articles about serial killers and murders. He is tortured at school, and since his parents divorce his home life is not much better. Life in general is gray and lonely for Oskar until his new neighbors move in, an old man and his young daughter. Late one night Oskar meets Eli, the young androgynous looking girl. Right away Oskar notices that she is odd. She is pale like Oskar, but smells bad (like rotten meat) and in the dead of winter and she has no coat, and no socks and shoes. They form a friendship as lonely outcasts of a small town. She encourages him to stand up to the bullies at school, and he becomes her closest confident. Due to Oskar’s slightly morbid side he is neither shocked or frightened when Eli tells him that she survives on blood, and that the old man is not her father, but an aging pedophile who kills for her in exchange for money and the promise that one day he can touch her. The old man is soon caught by the police, and now Eli must fend for herself. Fearing that the town is suspicious of her she says her goodbyes to Oskar and leaves. Life goes on with out his only friend, until it is almost ended at the hands of his bullies. In the midst of a swim practice the boys gang up on Oskar and try to drown him. Eli intervenes in a gruesome way, she pulls Oskar from the blood filled pool and they escape together.

Subject Headings: Vampires, 12 year old boys, Revenge, Swedish Horror

Appeal: Vampire, Horror, coming of age, Sweden, Bullies, twisted love story, Dark, Sad, Lonely, Gruesome, character centered, Controversial, Mysterious, Suburban, Cold, Morbid, Divorce.

3 Terms that best describe this book: Lonely, Dark, Friendship

3 fiction read alikes

Popular music from Vittula: a novel by Mikael Niemi

(Looks at life in a small Swedish village during the 1960s and its colorful inhabitants, including an African missionary, a German tourist who happens to be an ex-Nazi, and a music teacher who has no fingers on his right hand.)

The princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson

(When the mutilated body of the local reformed troublemaker is found, Inspector Ann Lindell takes time off from maternity leave to uncover the killer and is drawn into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a vicious murderer.)

Depths: a novel by Henning Mankell

(Swedish naval officer Lars Tobiasson-Svartman finds himself attracted to a young widow whose wild nature is in total contrast to his wife’s reserved personality.)

3 non-fiction read alikes

The dead travel fast: stalking vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula by Eric Nuzum

(A cultural exploration of vampire lore and the lifestyles it has inspired)

Fight scenes by Greg Bottoms

(Suburban male coming of age vignettes from around the U.S.)

Real Vampires by Daniel Cohen

(Argues that vampires are not merely creatures of fiction, and provides instances of real-life encounters with vampires from Middle Europe to Middle America, from medieval to modern times)

Name: Laura