Posts Tagged ‘family relationships’

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

December 5, 2012

Author:  Wes Moore

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

Genre:  Non-Fiction, Biography/Memoir

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  233

Geographical Setting:  primarily in Baltimore (MD), the Bronx (NY), and Wayne (PA)

Time Period:  1982-2010

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  In 2000, Wes Moore read a series of stories in the newspaper about a robbery/homicide in Baltimore; one of the young men arrested and convicted of the crime was also named Wes Moore.  Wes contacted the man, who was serving a life sentence in prison, and discovered through their letters and conversations that they shared much more in common than a name alone.  As boys, both had lived in poor neighborhoods, were fatherless, struggled in school, and had run into trouble with the police- yet their paths would diverge and lead to different ends.  Alternating between their stories, this insightful and thought provoking book follows the lives of the two boys named Wes Moore as they grow up, exposing readers to various factors that would influence their choices and opportunities (or lack thereof).  An extensive resource guide of over 200 youth-serving organizations across the country is provided at the end of the book.

Subject Headings:  Biography/memoir, African Americans, Childhood & youth, Baltimore (MD), Social conditions, Urban life, Family relationships, Life choices, Criminal activities, Prisoners, Education, Military service.

Appeal:  Character-driven, Coming-of-age story, Reflective, Thought provoking, Inspiring, Life choices and expectations, Second chances, Memoir, African American characters, Family relationships, Single-parent households, Mother-son relationships, Mentors, Leadership, Urban street life, Drug dealing & gangs, Baltimore (MD).

Three appeal terms that best describe this book:  Character-driven, coming-of-age story, urban life.

Similar Authors and Works:

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.  Readers interested in learning more about the social justice inequities exposed within The Other Wes Moore may want to read this title- it addresses issues surrounding the high rates of incarceration for people of color in our country’s prison system.

2.  The Beautiful Struggle:  A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Both The Other Wes Moore and this memoir are coming-of-age stories about African-American young men, set in Baltimore, and involving life expectations, choices, and consequences.

3.  My American Journey by Colin Powell.  In his book, Wes Moore describes Colin Powell’s memoir as being influential in his life, and more specifically in his decision to join the military.

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.  Muchacho by LouAnne Johnson.  The Other Wes Moore and this novel are both thought provoking, inspiring, coming-of-age stories in which young men struggle to overcome their circumstances.

2.  Yummy:  The Last Days of a Southside Shorty written by Greg Neri and illustrated by Randy DuBurke.  A graphic novel based upon a gang-related murder that happened in Chicago in 1994, this title could be a good match for readers who found the violence, drug selling and gang life depicted in The Other Wes Moore to be compelling.

3.  Slam! by Walter Dean Myers.  Both Wes Moore and the main character (Greg Harris) of this novel are African-American young men who come from tough, city neighborhoods and have to adjust to life at new, mostly white, schools.  In both stories, the young men find supportive mentors who help open their eyes to life’s possibilities.

Name:  Nicole

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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)

November 7, 2012

Author:  Jenny Lawson

Title:  Let’s Pretend This Never Happened:  (A Mostly True Memoir)

Genre:  Non-Fiction, Autobiography/Memoir

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  318

Geographical Setting:  Various locations in Texas, including Houston and several small towns in West Texas.

Time Period:  2000’s, with flashbacks to 1970’s-80’s

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:

In Jenny Lawson’s self-proclaimed “mostly true memoir” she shares humorous anecdotes and reflections about her childhood and adolescence, marriage and motherhood, foibles and friendships, and attempts to rid her new home from the threat of potential zombie attacks.  With chapter headings like “Stanley, the Magical Talking Squirrel,” “My Vagina is Fine, Thanks for Asking,” “And Then I Got Stabbed in the Face by a Serial Killer,” you realize from the start that this book is probably not going to follow the conventions of many memoirs- and you wouldn’t want it to.

The author, creator of the popular online blog, “The Bloggess,” engages and entertains readers with stories that are mostly funny and offbeat (i.e. an overzealous taxidermist father), though she does share some painful episodes (a miscarriage, an anxiety disorder, rheumatoid arthritis) as well.  In both everyday experiences and big-life moments, Jenny Lawson seems to relish finding and sharing the humor of an awkward and/or absurd situation- overall, it makes for a fun, fast read that you were glad to share in, though slightly thankful you didn’t have to go through first-hand.

Subject Headings:  Personal narratives, Childhood memories, Growing up, Awkward high school experiences, Drug use, Family relationships, Marriage, Motherhood, Friendships, Pets, New homes, Human resource departments, Anxiety disorder, Misadventures, Taxidermy, Texas, Rural towns, Blogs.

Appeal:  Humorous, Offbeat, Sarcastic, Conversational, Candid, Engaging, Witty, Bawdy, Contemporary, Colorful characters, Family relationships, Growing up in rural towns, Photographs.

Three appeal terms that best describe this book:  Humorous, Offbeat, Engaging.

Similar Authors and Works:

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.  Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy by Melissa Migrom

In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson shares anecdotes of living with a father who is a taxidermist.  Readers interested in finding out more about taxidermy may enjoy this title, in which the author explores the history, community, and craft/art of taxidermy.

2.  I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies): True Tales of a Loudmouth Girl by Laurie Notaro.

Readers who enjoyed the offbeat humor of Jenny Lawson’s book may enjoy reading this collection of funny, quirky stories chronicling the idiosyncrasies of the author’s life in her thirties.

3.  Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho.

Readers inspired to begin a blog of their own after reading Jenny Lawson’s book may find this title to be a helpful resource.  It covers a range of topics about starting and developing a blog, in addition to interviews with current successful bloggers.

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.  The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks

Max Brooks’ humorous book of survival strategies for dealing with the undead could have come in handy for Jenny Lawson- in Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, she searches the property of her new home for supposed graves in order to avoid being unexpectedly accosted by zombies.

2.  If You Were Here: A Novel by Jen Lancaster

In both Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and this story, we follow the funny and frustrating ups and downs of couples as they adapt to life in a new home and married life.

3.  Pipsqueak by Brian M. Wiprud

Readers who enjoyed the wacky humor of Jenny Lawson’s book and her penchant for collecting taxidermies may enjoy reading this title, the first of a series of mysteries starring unlikely sleuth Garth Carson- a New York City taxidermy collector.

Name:  Nicole

Twenties Girl

October 31, 2012

Author:  Sophie Kinsella

Title:  Twenties Girl

Genre:  Women’s Lives and Relationships

Publication Date:  2009

Number of Pages:  435

Geographical Setting:  London, England

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  As if being recently dumped by her long-time boyfriend and struggling to manage a failing new business weren’t enough to deal with, 27 year-old Londoner Lara Lington suddenly finds herself haunted by her recently deceased, 105 year-old, Great Aunt Sadie, whom she had never met and never cared to know.  Sadie has come back as her 23 year-old self:  a beautiful, irrepressible, Charleston-loving flapper from the Roaring 20’s — and Lara is the only person who can see her.  Sadie’s ghost refuses to rest until she recovers a favorite necklace that has mysteriously disappeared from the nursing home where she resided, and she recruits a reluctant and disbelieving Lara to help with the search.  To Lara’s dismay, Sadie has no qualms about putting Lara in increasingly embarrassing situations as she relives the frivolity of her flapper days and assists in the hunt for her necklace.  Despite her frustrations, Lara soon learns that ghosts can come in pretty handy when dealing with competing love interests, high-stakes business dealings, and swindling family members.  In this heartwarming and funny tale, Lara grows to love and respect the Great Aunt she never knew, whom she learns had to cope with heartbreak and family drama not so very different from Lara’s own modern-day troubles.

Subject Headings:  Young women—Fiction; Families—Fiction; Treasure troves–Fiction

Appeal:  heartwarming, humorous, lighthearted, romantic, quirky, well-drawn characters, strong secondary characters, family relationships, imaginative, magical, strong language, contemporary, details of London, details of the Roaring 20’s, breezy, chatty, engaging, informal, witty

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book:  humorous, heartwarming, quirky

Three Fiction Read-alikes:

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

Like Twenties Girl, Helen Fielding’s funny, classic chick lit tale tells the story of a young, single London woman struggling to sort out the intricacies of love, family, and career.  Bridget’s quest to achieve inner poise, lasting love, and the perfect weight unfolds in the form of a diary kept over the course of an eventful year.

The Ghost of Greenwich Village by Lorna Graham

Readers of Twenties Girl who found pleasure in the ghostly interactions between Lara and Great Aunt Sadie and enjoyed learning about a bygone era, may also enjoy this humorous title by Lorna Graham.  Single, young writer Eve Weldon has moved to Greenwich Village in New York City in search of a job, romance, and inspiration for her writing.  Once settled into her new apartment, she finds it inhabited by the ghost of Donald, a member of the Village’s Beat Generation of the 1960’s, who asks for her help in completing his own unfinished work.

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Readers who enjoyed the humor, quirky heroine, family drama, and elements of mystery that form the heart of Twenties Girl, may also enjoy reading about the adventures of Stephanie Plum, the incompetent bounty-hunter at the center of Janet Evanovich’s comic mysteries.  In this first title of the series, Stephanie puts her amateur tracking skills to work in an effort to hunt down a former high-school flame who has been accused of murder.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring 20’s by Lucy Moore

Through the ghost of Great Aunt Sadie in Twenties Girl, readers get a tantalizing taste of the attitudes, glamour, and scandal that epitomized the Roaring 20’s.  This title by Lucy Moore provides an enjoyable and entertaining history of the 1920’s, including discussion of the real-life personalities and the many significant social and political changes that came to define the era.

He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo

A major plot line in Twenties Girl involves Lara’s desperate attempts to win back the boyfriend who dumped her, despite Great Aunt Sadie’s insistence that Lara deserves much better when it comes to matters of romance.  This popular relationship advice manual counsels women on how to stop obsessing about men who don’t really care about them and to instead focus on finding someone who does.

Ghosts Among Us: Uncovering the Truth About the Other Side by James Van Praagh

The ghost of Great Aunt Sadie becomes a major influence in Lara’s life in Twenties Girl.  In this title, Van Praagh explores the mysterious world of ghosts and spirits and, through the use of true ghost stores, illustrates how they actively participate in our daily lives.

Becky King

Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

April 6, 2011

Brava, Valentine

Author: Adriana Trigiani
Title: Brava, Valentine
Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships, Gentle Reads
Publication Date: 2010
Number of Pages: 332
Geographical Setting: New York City
Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary: In Adriana Trigianai’s second novel in the Very Valentine series, Brava, Valentine further expands on the love stories, family dramas began in the first, and adds new twists and passions that make up the life of main character Valentine Rancalli.  The novel opens with the wedding of Valentine’s beloved grandmother and fellow custom shoemaker, Teodora.  Valentine is then faced with changes to her life and her business.  Throughout the story, Valentine further discovers her passion for custom shoemaking and past love Gianluca.  She takes on a new avenue in expanding her business, and expanding her heart in her long-distance romance with Gianluca.  Of course, her family dynamics and relationships take center stage as they weave in and out of the novel, with an entertaining and hilarious scene at Thanksgiving, and as we learn more about her brother Alfred, who is now her business partner.  Change and self-discovery are prevalent for Valentine as she learns not only about her family, her love, but also herself.  A well-developed story leaves an ending without lose ends, but with anticipation for what happens next.

Subject Headings: Family relationships, Family businesses, Italian Americans, Weddings, Long-distance romance, Grandmothers, Sibling rivalry, Businesswomen, Dating, Mentors, Female friendship, Relationships, Transformations, Past loves, Power struggles, Brothers and sisters, Family secrets, Scandal, Self-discovery; New York, Mid-Atlantic States (U.S.), Buenos Aires, Argentina, South America, Argentina; 2000s, 21st century; Fiction Romance, Contemporary, Domestic Saga Family; Italian American, Grandmother, Newlywed Italian; Businesswoman, Artist, Businessman, Financier

Appeal: romantic, love story, career woman, friendships, custom shoemakers, lush, passionate professional, Italian-Americans, family relationships, change, acceptance, self-discovery, New York City, Greenwich Village, Buenos Aires, fast paced, humorous, emotionally charged, sophisticated, sensual, family businesses, stylish, glamorous, down-to-earth characters, series novel, bestselling author

3 terms that best describe this book: family relationships, Italian-American experiences, passionate female businesswoman

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The World in a City: traveling the globe through the neighborhoods of the new New York by Joseph Berger is a nonfiction books for people who want to learn more about New York City, it’s ethnically diverse neighborhoods and constant change in people, culture, cuisine and sights.

Marcella Amarcord Remembers: the story of a woman who started out to teach science in a small town in Italy, but ended up teaching America how to cook Italian by Marcella Hazan traces the life story of the best-selling cookbook author from her childhood in a quiet Adriatic Sea fishing town and her family’s struggles through World War II to her marriage and her work as a cooking instructor.

Coffee With Nonna: The Best Stories of My Catholic Grandmother by Vincent M. Iezzi; The author complies stories his nonna shared with him while he was a child during World War II in his Philadelphia neighborhood.  Other readers describe this as heartwarming and precious.  Found this book using Amazon “What other customers bought.”

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Fair Play by Deirdre Martin is the second in the New York Blades series.  Each novel is about a different woman hired to “take charge” of a problem surrounding one of the New York Blades’ players.  This novel is about PR maven Theresa Falconetti, hired by Michael Dante, the winger for the New York Blades, to publicize his family’s restaurant.  A romance ensues between Michael and Theresa, yet Theresa is torn as she tries to stick to her ‘no hockey players’ rule.

Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe by Jennie Shortridge is the story of Mira Serafino, a woman who recently discovered her husband was having an affair.  She decides to change her life, moves to Seattle, and takes a new job, all while keeping the news about her marriage from her large Italian family.

Love and Meatballs by Susan Volland is the story of thirty-something Jo Cerbone who is struggling to keep her Italian-American family’s restaurant running.  She finds herself in the midst of a romance between two men, and in the midst of learning more about what she really wants to do with her life.

-Jennifer Peterson

Mama Dearest

April 25, 2010

Author: E. Lynn Harris

Genre: African American/GLBTQ

Publication Date: 2009

Number of  Pages: 387

Geographical Setting: New York City

Series: Yes. Third in the Basil and Yancy Series

Plot Summary: Singer and actress Yancy Harrington Braxton is finishing a low-budget tour of Dreamgirls, but she is determined to reclaim her stardom. She thinks the best way to achieve this is to star in her own reality T.V. show. This is not easy when she is surrounded by people who will stop at nothing to make sure she does not succeed. Her scheming, conniving, just been released from prison, mother Ava, does not want Yancy to succeed in anything, which is not surprising as it was Yancy who sent her mother to prison when she testified against her in a shooting incident, and Ava is not about to let Yancy forget it! Ava lets Yancy believe that she has set her up with a T.V. producer, but it turns out he is a drug dealing criminal. Yancy’s involvement with this criminal lands her in prison until an unknown benefactor posts bail for her. Yancy is amazed that somebody would make such a kind gesture and it makes her even more determined to change her diva ways and become a better person. Yancy is surrounded by a cast of colorful characters, including Dani, one of the young gay men in her Dreamgirls cast. Dani and Yancy have a strong friendship and are always there for each other. We meet other lovers and ex-lovers of both Yancy and Ava along the way, one of them being Basil Henderson a bisexual NFL tight end who appears in the other books in this series.

When Yancy was in college she fell in love with Derrick, but when she discovered she was pregnant she gave the baby up for adoption. Unbeknown to Yancy Derrick adopted their baby daughter, naming her Madison B. Madison B is now a very popular and successful young singer. Yancy and Madison B discover their relationship during the making of their own realityT.V. shows. Yancy discovers she has strong maternal feelings for Madison B and realises she would really like to try and be a mother to her. But is it too late? Will the sins of  Ava and Yancy carry on from one generation to the next? Will Madison B give Yancy a chance?

Subject Headings: African-American actors and actresses; African-American women singers; African-American Fiction – 21st century; Entertainment industry; Mother and daughter.

Appeal: character centered, strong secondary characters, multiple story lines, fast-paced, dramatic, sexuallyexplicit, strong language, steamy, romantic, family relationships, friendship, glbtq, bisexual, plot twists.

3 Terms Best Describe this book:  hopeful, dramatic, character-centered

Similary Works/Authors:

Fiction:

1. Baby Momma Drama by Carl Weber (strong characters, plot twists, relationship issues, drug dealing, dramatic).

2. Drop Dead Beautiful by Jackie Collins (although not an African-American author, her books have strong similarities to the entertainment world as Mama Dearest. They are full of steamy sex, family relationships, hopefulness, powerful female characters, fast-paced).

3. One in a Million by Kimberla Lawson Roby (dramatic, hopeful, plot twists, family relationships, steady pace).

Non-Fiction:

1. Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television (biographical, stardom, television,entertainment world).

2. Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner (family relatsionships, hopefulness, rise to fame, parent-child relationship).

3. Freedom in this Village: Twenty-five years of Black Gayt Men’s Writing by Isaac Jackson (black, gay male literature, authors, biographies, essays).

Jane