Posts Tagged ‘cynical’

Stuck Rubber Baby

June 23, 2010
Stuck Rubber Baby

Author: Howard Cruse;  Art by Howard Cruse

Title: Stuck Rubber Baby

Genre: Gay/Lesbian, African-American, Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 1995

Number of Pages: 210

Geographical Setting: Southern United States

Time Period: 1960’s

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:

While not a strictly autobiographical story, Stuck Rubber Baby nonetheless explores much of what author and artist Howard Cruse went through while growing up as a gay man in the South.

The story follows Toland Polk, a young white man living in the Southern town of Clayfield during the 1960s and the civil rights movement.  While unrest between blacks and whites (and whites and homosexuals) rages all around him, Toland must also deal with his inner turmoil about his own sexuality.  He begins the story in denial but eventually realizes who is and embraces it.

An older and wiser Toland “narrates”, appearing at the beginning of certain chapters with his present day partner.  We see them doing somewhat mundane things such as preparing dinner.  These small vignettes remind the reader that the story is being recalled and also let the reader know that Toland did emerge from all the chaos and become true to himself.

The black and white art is busy at times but highly detailed.  Various degrees of shading and crosshatching are used to distinguish black characters from white characters and though most of the faces sport unusually pointy chins, they all have defining characteristics that set them apart from each other.  This is important since there is quite a large cast surrounding Toland for the reader to keep track of throughout the story.

Touching, poignant and often funny, Stuck Rubber Baby is a moving story that resonates with themes both universal and personal.

Subject Headings:

Gay men – Comic books, strips, etc; Race relations; Civil rights; Graphic novels


ambitious, thoughtful, hostile, bleak, menacing, wistful, melancholy, hopeful, complex, angst-ridden, turmoil, provocative, poignant, courageous, potent, cynical, sardonic

3 terms that best describe this book: Challenging; Provocative; Rebellious

Similar Authors and Works:


Strangers In Paradise: Pocket Book 1 by Terry Moore

Slice of life tale of three friends who weather the storms of relationships with people outside their circle (or triangle) as well as with each other.

Similarities:  graphic novel format, gay/lesbian relationships, self discovery, cynical

Max and Sven by Tom Bouden

The story of Max who has a crush on his best friend Sven.  Sven however, is straight.

Similarities: graphic novel format, gay character, self discovery, angst

Blankets: An Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson

A memoir of Thompson’s religious upbringing and how he began to discover his true self after finding and falling in love with a girl at his bible camp.

Similarities:  graphic novel format, relationships, family, self discovery


Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel recalls growing up in a funeral home with her father, a high school English teacher and closeted homosexual.

Similarities:  graphic novel format, gay relationships, families

Freedom Riders: John Lewis And Jim Zwerg On The Front Lines Of The Civil Rights Movement by Ann Bausum ; forewords by Freedom Riders Congressman John Lewis and Jim Zwerg

Two young men, one white and one black, recount their experiences during the Civil Rights era when they took part in the freedom rides.

Similarities:  civil rights, race relations, courage

The Wrong Side Of Murder Creek: A White Southerner In The Freedom Movement by Bob Zellner, with Constance Curry

Another memoir, this one dealing with the author’s experiences as a civil rights activist in the 1960s.  Like Toland in Stuck Rubber Baby, Bob Zellner was born in the South and participated in demonstrations against racial discrimination.

Similarities:  racial tension, civil rights, rebelliousness, courage

Name: Valerie Kyriakopoulos

Julie and Julia: My year of cooking dangerously

June 16, 2010

Author: Julie Powell

Title: Julie and Julia: My year of cooking dangerously

Genre: nonfiction, memoir, best-seller

Publication Date: 2005

Plot Summary:

Just like you should always do your grocery shopping on a full stomach, you should not read this book until after you have eaten. Powell’s delectable descriptions of her cooked meals are short, succinct and sexy. In this memoir, Julie Powell is a women stuck in the vicious circle of temp jobs after failing (or not even really trying) to be an actress in New York. On her latest hysteric breakdown, her husband, encouraging to a fault, suggests she do something that she actually likes, cooking, for example. Julie decides to start a blog about cooking through every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The book is cynical, hilarious, self-obsessed and triumphant. For all you horror genre lovers out there, Julie has to stalk lobsters through the boroughs of New York and murder them with knives and boiling water, while they wiggle their innocent little tentacles at her and try to jump the grocery bag.

Subject Headings:

Food Writing; Humore Writing; Autobiography; Memoir; Julie Powell; Julia Child; Women Cooks—anecdotes; French Cooking; Food Habits; Marriage

Appeals: cynical, hilarious, self-obsessed, triumphant, sexual, intimate, urban, dramatic, accessible, profanity, witty, unhurried

3 words to describe book: cynical, funny, appetizing

Read a likes:


The School of Essential Ingredients – Erica Bauermeister

This novel tells of a cooking class that takes place at a restaurant where the students learn that they need more than just recipes and become involved in each other’s lives. This is if you like a more literary pick.

Cooking for Mr. Right – Susan Volland

At a similar age as Powell, a Seattle chef has a quarter life crisis because of her recent pink slip and break up, so she decides (once again, like Powell) to cook up a scheme to redeem her life.

Deep Dish – Mary Kay Andrews

The Cooking Channel is hiring. Gina wants the job. So does Mr. Kill It and Grill It. He is the ideal candidate, but Gina knows she can take him on… or turn him on? For foodies that also like romance.


Mastering the Art of French Cooking – Julia Child

A given. Julia Child’s French cook book for American housewives without servents. The book that Julie Powell cooked out of.

My Kitchen Wars – Betty Harper Fussell

If you like historical fiction, this would be a next step. Fussell writes about her personal war with the place of women during and following WW2.

Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris

Sedaris, a humorist writer, remembers his days living in Paris as an American. (Julia Child also moved to Paris as an American, which is where she started writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking.) The book is similarly a humorous memoir like Powell’s.

A Dirty Job

November 4, 2009

Author: Christopher Moore

Title: A Dirty Job

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2006

Geographical Setting: San Francisco

Time Period: Present

Series: No

Plot Summary: Charlie Asher is a neurotic thrift store owner whose wife has just died after giving birth to their first child. Full of grief, he worries about how he’ll raise his daughter Sophie, even with the help of his sister Jane. But after a brief encounter with a mystery man in his wife’s hospital room, strange things start happening to Charlie. Unseen by any of his employees, items in his shop begin to glow a mysterious red. When Charlie sees a man at the ATM machine with a glowing red umbrella, he tries to ask him about it, but the man immediately gets hit by a bus, and the police and other observers act as if they can’t even see Charlie. People and pets starting dying all around him, and Charlie starts to see dark shadows and hear voices from the sewers. Convinced he has become the Grim Reaper, Charlie sets out to find the man from the hospital to get some answers. What he finds out will put him and his family in great danger, unless he can hold off the evil forces that are trying to take over the world. But first he has to figure out how.

Although it is a horror novel, with plenty of death and evil, this book manages to have a lighter tone thanks to the author’s use of humor and quirky characters. The main character—who refers to himself as a Beta Male because of his wimpiness—usually has no idea what he is doing or what he is up against, which puts him in plenty of outlandish situations and lets readers laugh at heavy subjects like death and dying. Secondary characters are colorful and mouthy; even the evil sewer harpies banter. The storyline moves quickly and holds your interest, with plenty of plot twists and turns, especially at the end.

Appeal Terms: humorous, neurotic, outlandish, mythical underworld, spiritual, strong language, sexual situations, witty, fast-paced, quirky characters, action-oriented, complex, violent, plot-centered, racy, contemporary, details in San Francisco, plot twists, urban, cynical, dark, lots of dialogue, battle scenes, epilogue, resolved ending

Subject Headings: San Francisco, California – Death and Dying –Secondhand Retail – Children – Gay and Lesbian – Dogs – Celtic Mythology – Luminatus – Police Detectives – Buddhism – Reincarnation

Three Terms that Best Describe this Book: satiric, unpredictable, surreal

Three Nonfiction Titles:

The Guises of the Morrigan: The Irish Goddess of Sex & Battle by David Rankine
– Learn more about The Morrigan, the starring villain of A Dirty Job.

Buddhism for Dummies by Jonathan Landow
– Learn more about Buddhism and its teachings about reincarnation.

Lonely Planet San Francisco by Alison Bing
– Learn more about San Francisco, where the novel was set.

Three Fiction Titles:

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin
– Depicts an animated toyland of living dolls stalked by a serial killer

Blood Lite: An Anthology of Humorous Horror Stories presented by the Horror Writers Association edited by Kevin J. Anderson
– A collection of short horror fiction by such authors as Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Kelley Armstrong

A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
– A diner in the middle of the desert is a portal to another dimension, and it’s up to a zombie and a werewolf to save the world.

Liars & Thieves

June 1, 2009

Author: Stephen Coonts

Title: Liars & Thieves

Genre: Thriller

Publication Date: 2004

Pages: 383

Geographical Setting: Washington D.C., Allegheny Mountains, Delaware, New York

Time Period: Present

Series: The first of the Tommy Carmellini series (spin off of Jake Grafton series)

Plot Summary: Tommy Carmellini—a former burglar turned CIA agent—is assigned to routine guard duty at a safe house, where he stumbles upon a bunch of dead bodies, some assassins, and the house in flames.  He rescues the one survivor, a beautiful Russian translator, along with a suitcase filled with files belonging to a KGB defector who was in the process of being debriefed when the trouble began.  Soon, they are on the run—hunted by an unknown foe—and everyone Carmellini knows is in danger.  With the help of Jake Grafton (retired hero of Coonts’s previous series), they find that not only is the KGB defector still alive, but that those who wish him and Carmellini dead are very highly-placed U.S. government officials.

Subject Headings: International intrigue, CIA, KGB, Politics, Espionage

Appeal: fast paced, compelling, suspenseful, multiple points of view, recognizable characters, action-oriented, violent, plot twists, political, details of intelligence operations, bleak, dangerous, cynical, witty dialogue, jargon

Three terms that describe this book: film noir-esque, action-packed, insider’s view

Relevant Fiction:

Stephen Coonts’s Jake Grafton novels and the following Tommy Carmellini novels.

The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy—a fast paced thriller with a cross-cutting narrative, which offers an insider’s view of CIA and KGB intelligence operations. (Jack Ryan series)

The Camel Club by David Baldacci—a Washington D.C.-set political thriller with conspiracy-theorist protagonists on the run and investigating after witnessing a crime with national and international repercussions. (The Camel Club series)

Fade by Kyle Mills—a fast paced, cynical political thriller in which an old friend pursues and attempts to re-recruit a former Homeland Security agent.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler—this classic noir detective story features an action-heavy, fast paced plot and a similarly cynical, wisecracking protagonist in Philip Marlowe.

Relevant Nonfiction:

A Spy’s Journey: A CIA Memoir by Floyd Paseman—an accessible memoir by a former field agent.

The Sword and the Shield by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin—a summary of secret KGB papers revealing the history of the KGB.  The defector and secret papers of the novel are based on Mitrokhin.

Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake by Stan Redding and Frank W. Abagnale, Jr.—the true story of a con-turned-consultant for the FBI, the book features a wise-cracking (and real!) narrator.