Posts Tagged ‘entertaining’

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach

November 7, 2012

Spook CoverTitle: Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

Author: Roach, Mary

Publication Date: 2005

Pages: 311

Geographical Setting: This world or the next

Time Period: Present Day

Genre: Nonfiction, Science Writing

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:  With a heavy dose of wit and humor, Mary Roach examines the subject of life-after-death, delving into the science and the history of humanity’s search for the soul.  Roach’s search for evidence finds her to some curious and oftentimes hilariously strange circumstances—tracking down stories of reincarnation in India, examining “ectoplasm” at Cambridge, medium school—leading the reader on an amusing quest for the truth amongst the odd and the misguided.  Each chapter ends with a teaser that leads smoothly into the next making for compelling read.  And Roach’s ability to esteem both quacks and true scientists equally is charming and wonderfully engaging.  But readers looking for solid evidence and definitive answers beware.  Spook is impressively researched and deftly told.  It doesn’t promise enlightenment.  But it does infuse a great sense of wonder and delight into the world of science.

Appeal Characteristics: humorous, spiritual, scientific, accessible, witty, engaging, funny, well-researched, quirky, unconventional, thought-provoking, engrossing, unpretentious, smart, entertaining, history of science

Subject Headings: Life after death, soul, paranormal phenomena, Religion and Science

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Funny, scientific, engaging

Similar Non-fiction:

The Disappearing Spoon, and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements by Sam Kean

Readers who enjoyed Roach’s obscure anecdotes in Spook will find a wealth of similar stories in this tale about the building of the Periodic Table.  Brimming with whimsy, wit, and authority, this book will appeal to those looking for a good story as much as those looking for scientific history.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Combining history and science, this story brings to life the woman whose cells became one of humanity’s most important medical tools and details the history of medical ethics and the good of society versus the rights of the individual.  Skloot maintains an objective tone evincing compassion and respect for both sides of the debate.

Death by Black Hole, and Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson

In this series of essays, Tyson cheerfully explains the complex fields of astrophysics, relativity, and quantum mechanics with engaging humor, accessible language, and a Star Trek reference or two.  Readers who wished for more “hard science” in Roach’s writing, look no further.

Similar Fiction:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Fans of Roach’s vividly depicted oddballs and outcasts will find their fictional counterparts in droves in this sci-fi cult classic.  Adams tells the story of displaced Earthling Arthur Dent with a serious flair for the wacky, the outlandish, and the odd bit of science.  Prepare yourself for an onslaught of witty one-liners (which is Adams’ case may actually take up an entire paragraph).

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

A darkly funny tale about a neurotic man who becomes a widower, a father, and a sort of grim reaper all in one day, this story takes a comical look at our soul’s inevitable slide toward the undiscovered country.  Readers of Roach will find in Moore a shared philosophy that perhaps death and dying should be approached with less trepidation and more humor.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The first novel in Pratchett’s famed Discworld series, The Color of Magic introduces readers to a universe so richly detailed it seems like it could be real enough if alchemy and suspicion had won over science and reason.  Readers of Roach may enjoy Pratchett’s thought-provoking satire as well as the outrageously funny situations his characters find themselves in.

Name: Jessica

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Trumpet

April 11, 2012

Author – Jackie Kay

Title- Trumpet

Genre –GLBTQ, Literary Fiction

Publication Date – 1998

Number of Pages – 288

Geographical Setting – London & Scotland

Time Period – 1960s – 1990s

Series – N/A

Plot Summary – Trumpet is the haunting and beautiful story of Joss Moody.  Moody, based on real life Billy Tipton, is a famous African American jazz trumpeter who was born female, but identifies as male.  She lives her entire life masquerading as a male, revealing the secret only to her wife, Millie.  The story begins after Moody’s death, when her ‘real’ identity has been discovered through an autopsy.

Touching on themes of identity, love, secrecy and racism, this novel is a captivating and emotional read.  Told from multiple perspectives, readers are given insight into the minds of Millie, Coleman (Moody’s son), the coroner, a journalist attempting to write a tell-all biography on Moody’s life, and many otherss.

Subject Headings – Family Secrets; Identity (Psychology); Jazz; Male Impersonators; Racism; Scotland; Transsexuals; Trumpet Players; Grief

Appeal – Lyrical, Haunting, Thought-Provoking, Poetic, Shocking, Romantic, Intimate, Engaging, Unusual, Multiple Points of View, Quirky, Entertaining

3 Appeal Terms That Best Describe the Book – Thought-Provoking, Unusual, Haunting

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works –

Sexual Metamorphosis: An Anthology of Transsexual Memoirs (Various Authors): This work is a compilation of essays written by transsexuals focusing on their individual quests to find their true selves. Readers who were interested in the transsexual aspect of Trumpet will likely enjoy these first person accounts.

Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton (by Diane Wood Middlebrook): This book is the biography of Billy Tipton, the transsexual trumpet player who Jackie Kay based Trumpet on.  Trumpet is a fictionalized account of Billy Tipton’s story.  Readers who wish for the factual version of Trumpet will certaily enjoy this biography.

The History of Jazz (by Ted Gioia): This book is a comprehensive history of jazz.  Touching on the origins of jazz, the various styles, the places where the genre evolved, and commentary on the style itself, this work will interest readers who enjoyed the musical aspect of Trumpet.

3 Relevant Fiction Works –

Stone Butch Blues (by Leslie Feinberg) – This novel tells the story of Jess, a woman who lives her life as a man. Throughout the novel she is undergoing a transsexual operation, in secret, as well as searching for a community of her own. Readers who wish for a different book about a woman living her life as a man would likely enjoy this read.

Floating (by Nicole Williams-Bailey) – This book is about a young woman coming to terms with her identity.  As the daughter of a white socialite and a black alcoholic, she is continuously rejected by both the white and black communities. This book would appeal to readers who were interested in the struggles found in Trumpet regarding interracial relations.

The Last Report on the Miracle at Little No Horse (by Louise Erdrich)- This is a lyrical and haunting novel about a dying priest who is asked to prove the sainthood of a woman, while guarding a secret about his identity in the process. This will appeal to readers who enjoyed how Trumpet was written from multiple perspectives, and also for those who liked reading about someone protecting a secret regarding their identity.

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

April 4, 2012

Author – Audre Lorde

Title – Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

Genre – Women’s Lives & Relationships, GLBTQ

Publication Date – 1982

Number of Pages – 256

Geographical Setting – New York City

Time Period – 1950s

Series – N/A

Plot Summary – Renowned poet Audre Lorde portrays her life and loves in this self-proclaimed ‘biomythography.’ Lorde’s book gives a firsthand account of what it means to be a black lesbian in the 1950s.  Enlightening, honest, and downright depressing at times, Zami tells the story of Lorde’s childhood and her less-than-graceful transition into adulthood, all the while attempting to define herself in her own terms.  Using her personal life experiences, Lorde provides the reader with a heartfelt portrayal of what a woman must deal with when battling prejudices against three identities which define her, being African American during a time of rampant racism, being a woman during a time of sexism and strict gender roles, and being a lesbian during a time in which the identity was hardly recognized yet certainly ostracized.

Subject Headings – Gay & Lesbian ; Autobiographical Fiction; Lesbian Fiction; Feminist Theory; Women’s Studies; Coming of Age; New York City; Self Discovery

Appeal – Articulate; Thought Provoking; Powerful; Poetic; Descriptive; Emotional; Honest; Lyrical; Fast-Paced; Introspective; Entertaining; Romantic

3 Appeal Terms That Best Describe the Book – Emotional; Powerful; Honest

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works –

Back Then: Two Lives in 1950’s New York (Anne Bernays): The two authors each give their account of coming to age in New York City during a time of various social revolutions, McCarthyism, and the Cold War.  Readers who enjoyed the historical and geographical aspects of Zami may enjoy this different perspective of growing up in New York City.

Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s (Henry Hampton): This book serves as an oral history of the Civil Rights Movement, beginning in 1954.  Readers who wish to know more about race relations in the 1950s may enjoy this historical work.

Full Frontal Feminism:  A Young Women’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters (by Jessica Valenti): Serving as a comprehensive overview of feminism and feminist issues, this book discusses health, reproductive rights, violence, and education from a feminist perspective.  Readers who enjoyed the feminist aspect of Zami and wish to have a better understanding of feminism and its roots will likely enjoy this book.

3 Relevant Fiction Works –

Black Like Us: A Century of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual African American Fiction (Various Authors): This book is a collection of fiction authored by African American lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals.  Ranging from the Harlem Renaissance to the gay liberation movements, this is a comprehensive compilation of 20th century GLBTQ literature.  Readers who wish to learn more about homosexuality within African American culture would likely enjoy this read.

The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison): A classic coming of age story, this novel deals with a young African American girl’s obsession with attaining white standards of beauty.  Raising questions of race, class, and gender, this novel would interest readers who wish for another story of an African American attempting to grow up in a ‘white’ world.

The Beautiful Room is Empty (Edmund White): This novel is about a young gay man attempting to come to terms with his homosexuality during two very different eras: first in the conservative and restrained 1950s and later in the open and experimental 1960s.  Readers interested in another novel portraying the various struggles homosexuals faced in the 1950s and 60s may enjoy this book.

Name: Katie Midgley

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

December 1, 2011

Author: Julie Powell

Title: Julie & Julia [sound recording] : 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen

Genre: Non-fiction; Food Writing

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 5 sound discs: digital; 4 3/4 in.

Geographical Setting: New York, New York

Time Period: current day

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Julie Powell is a 29 year old living in New York City who is fed up with her dead end secretarial job and depressing apartment in Queens.  In an attempt to find deeper meaning in her life, Julie takes up an ambitious project: she resolves to cook the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year.  To document what she calls “The Julie and Julia project,” she begins writing a blog that captures not only every frustration encountered in following each recipe to exaction but also one that reveals aspects of her marriage, her friends, and her wry observations about daily life.  This memoir delivers a more fleshed out version of events than her blog but still retains its chatty, observant, and hilarious tone.  This inspiring and encouraging book is well written and honest.   It is as much about the character of Julie and her relationships as it is a food memoir that that conveys the challenges and triumphs of a novice young cook attempting masterful French cooking in a tiny New York apartment.

Subject Headings: Powell, Julie.

Child, Julia. Mastering the art of French cooking.

Women cooks Anecdotes.

Cookery, French Anecdotes.

Audiobooks (Abridged).

Appeal: compelling, easy, engrossing, earnest, heartwarming, hopeful, humorous, lighthearted, optimistic, thoughtful, upbeat, quirky, realistic, well developed characters, character-centered, domestic, accurate, contemporary, details of cooking, chatty, candid, conversational, engaging, informal, witty, descriptive, informative, entertaining,

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: engaging, witty, entertaining

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Flinn, Kathleen. The Sharper Your Knife, the Less you Cry: Love, Learning and Tears at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School.  Like Julie and Julia, this book is a memoir that centers on cooking.  The author recalls how she changed careers and attended Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris.  Like Julie and Julia, the author recalls humorous anecdotes, explores love relationships, and uses cooking as a metaphor for life. 

Reichl, Ruth. Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table. Like Julie and Julia, this is a memoir that is centered on food.  It recounts the life and career of the restaurant critic from The New York Times.  Like Julie and Julie, this is a heartwarming account that takes place in New York, features a strong woman character and contains humorous anecdotes and recipes.

Wizenberg, Molly.  A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table. Like Julie and Julia, this memoir was derived from a popular blog that recounts the author’s life in terms of cooking and recipes.  Also like Julie and Julia, the author’s accounts are sometimes touching and sometimes humorous in this charming account.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Bender, Aimee.  The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.  Rose Edelstein has the ability to taste the emotions of others when tasting their cooking.  Like Julie and Julia, this novel is a witty, offbeat account of a woman’s relationship with food and with loved ones.

Esquivel, Laura.  Like Water for Chocolate: a Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies. Tito, a doting daughter who cooks every meal for her parents in Mexico, finds love and herself through her cooking.  Like Julie and Julia, this is a witty story that centers on cooking, love relationships, and contains recipes.

Mileti, Meredith.  Aftertaste, A Novel in Five Courses: In this novel, Mira Rinaldi is a New York City restaurant owner whose life is in a shambles.  Like Julie and Julia, this novel contains many descriptions of delicious food and recipes and features a strong female character who overcomes personal struggle and gains self-worth through cooking.

Name: Meghan M.

The Botany of Desire. A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

November 16, 2011

Author: Pollan, Michael

Title:  The Botany of Desire. A Plant’s-Eye View of the World.

Genre:  Nonfiction; Nature Writing; Science Writing; History Writing

Publication Date: 2001

Number of pages: 354 (Large Print)

Geographical Setting: United States; Holland; Ireland

Time period: Contemporary; Historic  Series:  N/A

Plot Summary: In this engaging and thought-provoking collection of essays, Michael Pollan follows the stories of four plans-apple, tulip, marijuana and potato-and discusses how these plants satisfy human desire for sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control, and use humans for their survival. To explain this fluid relationship, the author combines his knowledge of science, history, culture, philosophy, psychology and gardening into an informative, highly readable and intimate micro-history of plants and humans.  Each chapter uses a unique character or an event to emphasize the nature of the relationship. For example, in the chapter on apples, Pollan explores the story of Dionysus-like Johnny Appleseed, who by planting apple seeds contributed to the apple’s diversity and the popularity of apple cider. In the following chapters, Pollan uses an example of the 17th century Holland’s obsession for “perfect” tulip, describes inadvertent results of “the war on drugs” on marijuana, and tells the story of a potato from the perspective of the Irish famine and the present-day drive for a genetically engineered “perfect” potato. The author’s view on the human desire to control and manipulate biodiversity is fairly clear-he is mostly against it-but Pollan avoids sounding preachy by using humorous anecdotes, multiple perspectives and an engaging prose.  The Desire of Botany is a great example of a witty, accessible, yet well-researched, micro-history of codependency between humans and plants.

Subject Headings: Human–Plans Relationships; Plants—Development, Co-Evolution, Men and Nature, Gardening, Micro-history, Apple, Tulip, Marijuana, Potatoes.

Appeal: engaging, accessible, engrossing, witty, reflective, conversational, historic details, descriptive, entertaining, thought-provoking, well-researched, candid, investigative, intriguing, quirky, persuasive.

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book: engaging, accessible, thought-provoking.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors: 

1) Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver: This book chronicles the year that Barbara Kingsolver and her family moved to a farm in Virginia and tried to live on home or locally-grown food. Similarly to The Botany of Desire, the book is a light-hearted part-memoir about a relationship between humans and plants.

2) Weed: in Defense of Nature’s Most Unloved Plants by Richard Mabey. The author combines history, science and descriptions of his travels into a story of unholy weeds and how they gained their unflattering position in the world of plants.

3) The Earth Knows my Name: Food, Culture and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans by Patricia Klindienst.  A collection of stories of urban, suburban and rural gardens created by Native American and immigrants who wanted to preserve the connection with the land. The collection is a part microhistory, part  meditation on the relationship between food, land and culture.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1) Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel:  A love story about Tita de la Garza, a heart broken Mexican girl, who finds escape and meaning in her love of cooking. Both, The Botany of Desire and this book, describe the link between certain foods, feelings and desires and use bittersweet wit and engrossing tales to share a story of food and human emotions.

2) The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood:   A lyrical and darkly witty story of a young Toronto woman who finds herself unable to eat, and instead starts to identify with the foods and feel as if she was being consumed, instead. It’s a provocative and entertaining commentary on the consumer culture, gender, identity, and the role of food.

3) Old Herbaceous: A Novel of the Garden by Reginald Arkell. This is a classic British novel that tells a comic life story of Bert Pinnegar, a gardener and a lover of plants. It’s filled with beautiful descriptions of flowers, shrubs and trees but also with thoughtful and philosophical musings on human existence and the social history of England at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

Megan R.

Mortal Groove

November 16, 2011

Author: Ellen Hart

Title: The Mortal Groove: A Jane Lawless Mystery

Genre: GLBT mystery stories; Mystery stories

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 358

Geographical Setting: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Time Period: Current

Series: Jane Lawless Mysteries, Book 15

Plot Summary:    Jane Lawless is a Minnesota restaurateur who maintains very close relationships with her friends and her family.  In this book of the series, Jane’s father is running for governor, and family secrets, as well as the secrets of those involved in his campaign threaten the campaign’s success, as well as the personal well-being of many of the characters.  Many of the characters in this book have secrets, the least of which is their sexuality.  Jane and her sidekick Cordelia investigate the people working with her father after the assault of one of their friends. This takes them back to a murder around the time of the Vietnam war. Jane’s investigation results in the kidnapping of her brother and she takes it upon herself to try to save him.  In the meantime, Cordelia is trying to regain custody of her niece, and Jane’s brother is trying to save his marriage by searching for his wives’ baby, given up for adoption at birth.  This multi-layered story offers resolution of most story lines at the end of the book, while creating new issues, perhaps to be resolved in the next book.

Subject Headings:  Candidates for public office; Cold cases (Criminal investigation); Fathers; Lawless, Jane; Lesbians; Murder investigation; Restaurateurs; Secrets; Thorn, Cordelia; Women detectives

Appeal: memorable, suspenseful, fast-paced, entertaining, multi-layered, secretive, witty, strong secondary characters, family-centered, thoughtful, bittersweet, elegant

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: well-developed characters, subtle, engaging

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

 Inseparable: Desire between Women in Literature by Emma Donoghue

This book discusses the prescense and evolution of women in love in literature. This scholarly work delves into the portrayal of lesbians in classic  and contemporary literature as well as the prevalence of lesbians in crime fiction.

The Safe Sea of Women by Bonnie Zimmerman

This Lamanalysis of lesbian fiction and short stories between 1969-1989 discusses the portrayal of lesbians in fiction set against a historical background.  This book is for anyone who is unfamiliar with the genre (Amazon.com)

Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabel-Rouser by Rita Mae Brown

This conversational, engaging and witty autobiography of this mystery writer chronicles her  eccentric family as well as her love interests, and is written in a funny tone.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Report for Murder: A Lindsay Gordon Mysteryby Val McDermid

This is the first book in the series, featuring an amateur sleuth.  This character is the U.K.’s first lesbian detective (Amazon.com) and has a sidekick, also named Cordelia and a loyal following of friends and family.  While grittier than Mortal Groove, this book has its intricate plotting.

Lucky in the Corner by Carol Anshaw

This work of domestic fiction revolves around a mother and daughter, dealing with issues of the mother’s sexuality and the mother-daughter relationship. This book has strong secondary characters that are well-developed.  Even though, this book deals with social issues in more depth, it does so with wit and a sense of humor that is present in the Mortal Groove.

Blue Plate Special by Abagail Padgett

This book series, Blue McCarron mysteries, features the main character, Blue who is a social psychologist, who is hired by the police department to help solve a murder. This story follows Blue’s new relationship with her psychiatrist partner, Roxie, and includes a cast of funny, idiosyncratic characters (Novelist).  This also is a very suspenseful story with a series of red herrings, similar to the story in the Mortal Groove.

Name:Cheryl

Neverwhere

September 28, 2011

Author: Gaiman, Neil

Title:  Neverwhere

Genre:  Fantasy Fiction

Publication Date: 2007 (recorded)

Number of pages: 10 sound discs (12.5 hours)

Geographical Setting: Present-Day London (England) and fantasy London Below

Time period: Contemporary

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary: The book tells a story of a young Englishman, Richard Mayhew, who enjoys routine and avoids conflict, that is until he impulsively helps a girl he finds bleeding on a sidewalk and is thrust into a fantastic world of London Below. There Richard and his companions, the girl named Door, a shadowy figure-Marquis de Carabas, and a she-warrior named Hunter, embark on a suspenseful quest of obsession, revenge against a powerful evil, and a desire to return home. This strangely believable parallel universe of London Below is inhabited by humans who “have fallen through the cracks” of the modern city, by revered rats, chilling vampires, brilliant angels, and many other colorful villains and heroes, amongst them a deliciously wicket couple of werewolf-like creatures, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, who add a brilliant touch of Victorian macabre to this story. In his imagining of London Below, Gaiman blends history, mythology and religion with the issues of good and evil, while on a deeper level the author sheds a satirical light on Londoners’ modern-day inability to “see” people who are homeless, addicted or just different.  Neverwhere is a fast-paced book with a dark and suspenseful story and a rich set of fantastic characters. The story is also sprinkled with witty word puns and literary allusions, making this book appealing not only to the fans of urban fantasy but to the readers of dark literary fiction. Finally, the unabridged, audio version of this book, as narrated by the author, only makes the story better. Neil Gaiman provides an intimate and pitch-perfect reading of the book. His accent emphasizes the setting of the story, his varied dialects provide unique personalities to the characters, and his even and calm tone adds to the suspense of the plot.

Subject Headings: English fiction—20th century, Parallel Universes, Quests, Underground Worlds, Villains, Heroes, Angels, Go0d and Evil.

Appeal: suspenseful, dark, menacing, character-driven, chilling, intricately-plotted, entertaining, witty, world-building, fast-paced, intimately-narrated, original, urban, imaginative.

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book: dark, engrossing, intimately-narrated.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets by Peter Ackroyd: a witty and engaging story about everything that lies underneath London, from streams, animals, ghost stories, Roman buildings to Victorian sewers, gang hideouts and modern train stations.

2) Necropolis: London and Its Dead by Catharine Arnold: a macabre historical tour of London’s dead with an emphasis on London’s plagues, fires, and burial grounds hidden underneath the contemporary city.

3) A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirit by Carol K. Mack and Dinah Mack: a great reference guide to the world’s most famous folkloric and mythological spirits, their sources and their role in the society.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1) A Madness of Angels: or the Resurrection of Matthew Swift by Kate Griffin: a dark and witty story of Matthew Swift who wakes up in his London bed two years after being murdered and starts his quest for revenge.

2) The Pillars of Creation by Terry Goodkind: a story of a young woman, Jennsen, compelled by inhuman voices in her head on a vengeful quest against the demonic powers.

3) Kraken: an Anatomy by China Mieville: another urban fantasy vision of London (England), in which Billy, a young museum curator, is propelled into a supernatural underworld filled with magic squids, witches, golems and warriors.

Megan Rosol

Me Talk Pretty One Day

August 6, 2011

Author: David Sedaris

Title: Me Talk Pretty One Day

Genre: Nonfiction, GLBTQ Humor, Audio Book

Publication Date: 2001

Number of Pages: 5 CDs, 6 hrs.

Geographical Setting: North Carolina, Chicago, New York, France

Time Period: Present day/author’s childhood

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary: David Sedaris returns in his fourth book with more sharp, witty stories mined from his childhood, career and relationships. Even as Sedaris articulately paints a picture of himself as the perennial put-upon loser, his charming near-misanthropy, cheerful self-deprecation and skewed perspective on life nevertheless soon have readers rooting for him. Anecdotes range from childhood speech therapy and failed attempts at teaching to his meeting and moving to France with boyfriend Hugh and struggles to learn the language. This is funny, funny stuff. And—perhaps unsurprisingly to those already familiar with Sedaris’ uniquely engaging style—the material is served even better in this audio CD edition, read by the author himself. Sedaris’ reedy, nasal voice, with its slight lisp and just a hint of his North Carolina upbringing, is naturally perfect in delivering the nuances and timing needed for a listening experience more akin to performance art than many audio books ’perfunctory readings. His familiarity with the material gives the collection an appealing storytelling quality, and in fact some of the stories appeared on NPR’s This American Life before the book was published. Some are accompanied by small musical highlights, while others were recorded live, reinforcing the storytelling/performance art feeling. Sedaris writes clever, intelligent and hilarious stories, drawing on a tradition going back to Mark Twain. Readers should note that Sedaris doesn’t shy away from some mature language or subjects. A great choice when looking for something funny, nonfiction or that works particularly well in audio format.

Subject Headings: Humorous nonfiction; GLBTQ humor; American humor; Paris (France); Anecdotes—Humorous

Appeal: Humorous, witty, charming, entertaining, self-deprecating, curmudgeonly, nostalgic, sardonic, ironic, leisurely-paced, clever, conversational, storytelling, cultural commentary, wry observations, read by author, empathetic characters, underdog themes

3 terms that best describe this book: Sharp, witty, conversational

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, by David Foster Wallace (A collection of wryly humorous essays on childhood, vacationing and other cultural observations)

The Partly Cloudy Patriot (Audio CD), by Sarah Vowell (Witty, quirky essays with a keen eye for observation and history, the audio edition features a cast of noted readers like Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert, Michael Chabon and the author herself, with music from quirky popsters They Might Be Giants)

A Woman Trapped in a Woman’s Body: (Tales from a Life of Cringe), by Lauren Weedman (Humorous, self-deprecating, confessional memoir from a former Daily Show correspondent)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

After the Plague: Stories, by T. Coraghessan Boyle (Series of ironic and darkly humorous tales of contemporary life)

The Adrian Mole Diaries, by Sue Townsend (Humorous, touching diary of a 13-year-old boy who writes down his daily experiences and observations)

A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby (A dark comedy, themes of suicide, angst, depression and promiscuity, sharp wit)

 -Joe

Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes: The Authorized Adaptation by Ron Wimberly

August 3, 2011

Author: Ron Wimberly

Title: Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes: The Authorized Adaptation

Genre: Horror, Graphic Novel

Publication Date: July 19, 2011

Number of Pages: 130

Geographical Setting: Green Town, Illinois

Time Period: Late October in the 1920’s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Something Wicked This Way Comes is about two 13-year-old boys, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway, who have a harrowing experience with a nightmarish traveling carnival that comes to their Midwestern town one October. The carnival’s leader is the mysterious “Mr. Dark” who bears a tattoo for each person who, lured by the offer to live out his secret fantasies, has become bound in service to the carnival. Mr. Dark’s malevolent presence is countered by that of Will’s father, Charles Halloway, who harbors his own secret desire to regain his youth. Jim and Will recognize the dark magic at work and have to come up with a plan to stop this ancient evil. As a graphic novel, the addition of dark/light pages and detailed illustration add to the ambiance of the story.

Subject Headings: carnival, boys, fathers and sons, magic, male friendship, the Illustrated Man, good vs. evil.

Appeal: fantastical, nostalgic, vibrant, classic, creepy, suspenseful, imaginative, entertaining, dark.

3 terms that best describe this book: mysterious, disturbing, phantasmagorical.

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

American Sideshow by Marc Hartzman. (A fascinating look into the history of the American sideshow and its performers. Learn what’s real, what’s fake, and what’s just downright bizarre.)

Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth by Peter Kelder. (Offers practical instructions for the Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation, which resemble yoga postures.)

The Fortune Telling Book: Reading Crystal Balls, Tea Leaves, Playing Cards, and Everyday Omens of Love and Luck by Gillian Kemp. (Filled with practical advice, gypsy folklore, and both ancient and modern divinations, this lavishly illustrated primer reveals the future to all those who believe and shows how to employ crystal balls, tea leaves, and playing cards to predict the future.)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Bloody Carnival by Matt Kurtz, Darren W. Pearce, Neal Levin, and Mindy MacKay, etc. (Freak shows, rusted rides, demonic ring mistresses, demented clowns, melting beauty queens, flesh-eating fun-seekers, ghosts, gremlins and other terrors haunt the pages of this bloody collection of thirty-four short stories.)

The Dreaming Jewels by Theodore Sturgeon. (A eight-year-old boy runs away and joins the carnival only to realize that a threat far greater than his cruel father inhabits the carnival and has been searching for him longer than he has been alive.)

The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. (Odd and creepy with dark secrets. This is another graphic novel that features a carnival, in this case a mini one, a traveling Punch & Judy show.)

Judge and Jury by James Patterson

July 25, 2011

Author: James Patterson

Title: Judge and Jury

Genre: Suspense

Legal Thriller

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 421

Geographical Setting: New York

Time Period: present day

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: FBI agent Nick Pellisante after a long chase finally brought to the trial a mob godfather, Dominic Cavello. One of the jurors selected for the court case against Cavello is Andie DeGrasse, a single mom and jobless actress. She does not even want to serve her jury duty, and her destiny takes her way beyond that. As soon as the trial starts, things go horribly wrong. Cavello sends an assassin to put the bus with all jurors on fire, and then escapes. Nick with an unexpected partner goes for a deadly chase after Cavello. This story has multiple plot twists and it will keep the reader on the edge of the seat. Short chapters and witty language splattered with some humor will make it a fast and entertaining read. Fans of Suspense will appreciate the sense of menace as Cavello and his people take unpredictable actions.

Subject Headings: Mafia trials – New York – Fiction; Women jurors – Fiction; Organized crime – Fiction; Suspense fiction

Appeal: plot-driven, fast paced, suspenseful, entertaining, dramatic, humor, chase, tense, deadly threat, sympathetic protagonists, villains, sense of menace, short chapters, alternating points of view, plot twist, uneasy atmosphere, roller-coaster style, resolved ending

3 terms that best describe this book: fast paced, suspenseful, entertaining

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Gotti: Rise and Fall by Jerry Capeci – while Cavello appears to be “the most vicious and powerful mobster since John Gotti” (Goodreads.com), this book pictures the real Gotti and the New York organized crime; like in Patterson’s novel, bringing the mobster to justice is extremely challenging

A Trial by Jury by Graham D. Burnett – this true crime memoir of an ordinary citizen who serves as a juror on a New York’s murder trial explores in depth a situation in which Andie became involuntarily thrown

We’re Going to Win this Thing: The Shocking Frame-up of a Mafia Crime Buster by Lin DeVecchio – true story so unbelievable it reads like a fiction thriller; fans of Nick Pellisante may appreciate his efforts even more after reading a shocking story of an FBI agent framed for New York mafia crimes while trying to bring the mafia to justice

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Firm by John Grisham – like Judge and Jury it is a fast paced, plot-driven, and suspenseful legal thriller about the mafia chased by FBI

I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark – suspenseful, plot-driven page turner; the same setting – modern day New York

The Jury Master by Robert Dugoni – this Suspense/Legal thriller is fast paced, plot-driven, and with a sense of malice; like in Patterson’s novel the focus is more on non-stop action rather than legal details

Name: Anna Demitraszek