Posts Tagged ‘Fascinating’

The Help

November 28, 2012

Title: The Help
Author: Stockett, Kathryn
Publication Date:2009
Pages:464 pages
Geographical Setting: Jackson, Mississippi
Time Period: The Sixties (20th century)
Genre:Historical fiction
Series: N/A

Plot Summary:
The author tells a sombre story using three women’s perspective as they share their experiences in Jackson, Mississippi in the mid 60’s. Aibileen and Minny are African American women working as maids in white holds. Aibileen, though has had her own share of personal tragedies, however she is dutiful, loyal and loves the white children she takes care of. Minny on the other hand is sour, resentful and does not hesitate to speak her mind. Skeeter, a young white graduate has an inner struggle about finding who she is and settling down like all of her friends. As the story develops, Skeeter an aspiring writer, feels compassion for the plight of these black maids as they are mistreated while working for these families. She tries to convince the maids to tell their story about how it feels to cook, clean and take care of these white children under such degrading circumstances. As we learn about these women’s lives, we also get an insight into the racial prejudice and discrimination in the the south during the mid 1960‘s. The story moves very fast urging you to follow the characters they develop to find out what eventually happens.
Despite the evocation of sadness and melancholy in the story, the occasional interjections of humor help liven up the overall tone of the book.

Subject Headings: African-American women, Civil Rights Movement, College graduates,
Domestic workers, Housekeepers, Interracial friendship, Race relations, The Sixties (20th century)

Three Appeal Terms: Fast-paced, Compelling, Thought Provoking,

Appeal: Touching, thought-provoking, humorous and compelling, provocative, lively, dialect-rich, upbeat, moving, strong sense of place, engrossing, captivating, Fascinating

Fiction Read-Alikes:

The healing by Odell, Jonathan
A historical fiction – a personal account of a former slave’s experiences during pre civil rights movements in the south. This is a great read alike for those who truly enjoyed The Help and are curious about the lives of the slaves and how they coped.

We are all welcome here by Berg, Elizabeth
Here again, like the The Help we find three women but facing different types of struggles and survival – a bedridden mother, a teenager looking for freedom and an African American caregiver. The author portrays the relationship between race and class during the civil rights movements. This book would appeal to those interested in women’s quest for survival under grave circumstances, but with a lighter tone than in The Help.

Roots: the saga of an American family by Alex Haley
This award winning novel takes you right into the authentic story of slavery portrayed by this African American family. You follow the protagonist Kunte Kinte directly from capture in Africa, his resistance and eventual arrival and forced into slavery. This story spans seven generations of this family recounting their history through work in plantation, civil war and reconstruction period.

Non-Fiction Read-Alikes:

Song in a weary throat: an American pilgrimage by Murray, Paulie
Find a real personal account of Pauli Murray on the civil rights movement, women rights and advocacy. This will appeal to those who would like to learn more about race integration and major works on women’s rights.

Civil rights movement: people and perspectives by Michael, Ezra
For those who are interested in civil rights movements and its effect on the nation, this is a great resource. The book is comprehensive and gives various perspectives on the events of the civil rights era.

W.E.B. DuBois: biography of a race, 1868-1919 by David Levering Lewis
The biography of DuBois is an intelligent and detailed work. It is a great resource with in-depth account and analysis of the history of racism, civil war and civil rights movements. A well researched book and a credible source. Those intrigued by the level of racism and prejudice as portrayed in The Help would appreciate this resource.

King Leopold’s Ghost

November 6, 2012

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa By: Adam HochschildAuthor: Hochschild, Adam

 Title: King Leopold’s Ghost

 Genre: Nonfiction

 Publication Date: 1998

 Number of Pages: 366

 Geographical Setting: Europe and Africa

 Time Period:  1500’s -1800’s

 Series: N/A


Plot Summary: When the egocentric Belgian king Leopold II meets writer, explorer and businessman Henry Morton Stanley in 1871, result is disastrous and with deep consequences. Their common plans and collaboration begin the story of the biggest genocide of the 19th century, which has been forgotten too early, is too shameful for modern Western Europeans, and is not studied enough. King Leopold’s dream of owning his own colony in Africa is the perfect fulfillment for a megalomaniac who seeks land nearly seventy-six times bigger then his own country. Ironically, because of his reputation as a modern philanthropist and humanitarian, he colonized the Congo in 1880’s with help of Henry Morton Stanley, and all this without ever visiting Africa. Congo became his territory of exploration after looking for years for land that he could rule from distant Europe. Under the guise of civilizing the Congo’s people, he tortured, killed and ordained its inhabitants into forced labor and modern slavery. His brutal regime killed thousands. Because of travelers, missionaries, and a few individuals who witnessed Leopold’s tyranny, and their efforts to expose this genocide, they initiated the first human right movement of twentieth century. Hochschild’s book is one of the best researched documents of the cruel history of European colonization in nineteenth century Africa.

 Subject Headings: Congo, Africa, 19th and 20th century history, Colonization, Europe, Slavery, Forced Labor, Human rights movements, Belgium.

 Appeal: intense; 19th century genocide; destructive egocentrism; informative and significant part of the history; detailed research of colonial times; unknown Western European history; densely written; engrossing; violent portray of forced labor and modern slavery; tragic.

 Three Terms for Book: deeply researched, shocking tragedy, and chilling reminder of a forgotten history.


Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

  1. Jeal,      Tim, Stanley: the Impossible Life of      Africa’s Greatest Explorer –       new perspective supported by newly opened family archives on the      writer and imperialist who first explored and ruled Africa’s Congo,      together with King Leopold of Belgium. Sharp and detailed new biography      portraying Henry Morton Stanley as an undervalued explorer.
  2. Pakenham,      Thomas, The Scramble for Africa: the      White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876-1912 – an      excellent study of the colonization and partition of African territory in      the 1800s between six European rulers: Belgium,      Britain, France, Germany,      Italy and Portugal.
  3. Vanthemsche,      Guy, Belgium and the Congo      1885-1980 – a rare overview on the effects of colonialism in Africa and in its mother country.  Also addresses Belgium’s diplomacy and      politics, in addition to providing a better understanding of both      countries pasts.


Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:


  1. Sienkiewicz,      Henryk, In Desert and Wilderness      – written around a hundred years ago, the book is about two European      children, the kids of diplomats living in 1900’s Egypt.      It’s an adventurous, compelling story by a Nobel Prize winner that takes      us back in colonial times, often with stereotypical points of view from a      century ago; however, the characters are of strong moral and ethical      principles.
  2. Galbraith,      Douglas, The Rising Sun – in      this work of Historical Fiction, the author explores an expedition of      Scottish ships sent to establish a colony in Central America, later known      as Panama.      Vivid, descriptive, and adventurous.
  3. Kingsolver,      Barbara, The Poisonwood Bible – an      evangelical Baptist missionary from Georgia      brings his wife and four daughters to live in the Belgian       Congo in 1959. An insightful and compassionate view of the      lives of both white and indigenous cultures in the heart of Africa.



The Hidden Reality

March 28, 2012

Author: Brian Greene

Title: The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos

Genre: Non-Fiction, Popular Science, Science Writing

Publication Date: January, 2011

Number of Pages: 384

Geographical Setting: The Cosmos

Time Period: Present

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Physicist and popular science writer Brian Greene successfully takes ideas and theories on the cutting-edge of modern-day physics and makes them accessible to a wide audience in The Hidden Reality.  The purpose of the writing is to introduce the scientific theories in physics that allow for parallel universes and to explain how scientists came to them.  Greene demonstrates how, rather than seeking out any possible scientific excuse to talk about alternate realities, scientists came to these various theories reluctantly. According to Greene, while trying to make mathematical sense of strange phenomena uncovered in quantum physics and cosmology, scientific theories that allowed for parallel universes began to emerge.

To accomplish the goal of the book, Greene reviews, in accessible language, the chains of scientific discoveries in math and physics from the 19th century to the present day.  The ever growing complexities of the scientific findings he outlines are sure to challenge most readers.  Greene takes great care, however, to shield the reader with poignant analogies and simple language.  For the more mathematically adept, he includes the formulas behind the theories he references in the notes section.  Once he is satisfied the reader has the requisite understanding of the questions and gaps in scientific understanding, he introduces readers to the exotic theories scientists have come up with to explain and fill those gaps.  Finally, Greene brings the reader up to speed on the current debates and experiments in physics and cosmology.  He explains what discoveries scientists, working at CERN and elsewhere, may uncover that could advance or dispel confidence in the various theories in The Hidden Reality.

Subject Headings: Physics, Theoretical Physics, Cosmology, Quantum Physics, General Relativity, Astronomy

Appeal: fascinating, compelling, educational, scientific, well-researched, challenging, engaging, thought provoking, scientific theory, accessible, analogous writing, academic, complex, awe-inspiring, mysterious

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe the Book: challenging, scientific writing, thought provoking

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Grand Design (2010) by Stephen Hawking

Hawking takes the concepts of multiple universes and string theory and explains how scientists are using them to create a unified theory on why the universe exists the way it does.

Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions (2005) by Lisa Randall

This book is also a popular physics book that uses analogies to explain the current theories in quantum physics.  Randall focuses on string theory and its multiple hidden dimensions, a large topic in Greene’s book.

– Decoding Reality: The Universe as Quantum Information (2010) by Vlatko Vedral

This popular science book explores the theory that the mysteries of quantum physics can be better understood through the idea that information is physical and is the basic building block of the universe.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Spin (2005) by Robert Charles Wilson

This science fiction book runs wild with the theory of general relativity with a plot that involves aliens suspending the entire planet Earth in time.  It also deals with cosmologically ideas on the eventual death of our solar system and galaxy.

Properties of Light: A Novel of Love, Betrayal and Quantum Physics (2000) by Rebecca Goldstein

One of the gaps in modern physics that Greene outlines in his book is the failure of scientists to link general relativity with quantum mechanics.  The characters in this literary fiction novel attempt to do just that.

The Light of Other Days (2000) by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter

This science fiction novel expands on the current understanding of quantum physics. The story involves scientists with an advanced knowledge of quantum physics who can create wormholes. The wormholes can bridge distant points, even into the past.

Name: Noel M.

The Da Vinci Code

February 22, 2012

Author: Dan Brown

Title: The Da Vinci Code

Genre: Suspense

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 454

Geographical Setting: Paris, France and London, England

Time Period: Present

Series: Angels and Demons (Prequel), featuring Robert Langdon

Plot Summary: The mystery begins with the shocking murder of Jacques Sauniere, the elderly museum curator for the Louvre in Paris.  Upon dying he leaves behind a bizarre set of symbols, written in his own blood, as a clue to his allies.  This triggers a hunt for the murderer in which Robert Langdon, a professor of symbology, and Sophie Neveu, a French cryptologist, must search below the glass pyramid of the Louvre, to uncover a perplexing puzzle emanating from a work by one of the world’s greatest artists, Leonardo DaVinci.  But can Langdon and Neveu solve the mystery before it is too late?  Full of action and suspense, this thriller, now a major motion picture, is sure to have you on the edge of your seat!

Subject Headings: 1. Art museum curators — Crimes against — Fiction 2. Cryptographers — Fiction 3. Grail — Fiction 4. Secret Societies — Fiction

Appeal: atmospheric, suspenseful, descriptive, fascinating, intricately plotted,  compelling, thrilling, religious tie-ins, gripping, page-turner, historical aspects, cinematic

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: cinematic, page-turner, intricately plotted

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

  1. The Lost City of Z, David Grann – for readers who enjoy a mix of history and mystery.  This is a non-fiction book about the British explorer, Percy Fawcett.
  2. The Way of DaVinci, Jay Williams – for readers who want to know more about Leonardo DaVinci.
  3. Seven Days in the Art World, Sarah Thorton – this book provides a look at the world of contemporary art today through interviews and narratives.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

  1. The Fire, Katherine Neville – Suspenseful, female protagonist, and involves cryptic codes and puzzles.
  2. The Breath of God, Jeffery Small – Compelling, though-provoking, and for readers who want more Christianity-themed fiction.
  3. Timeline, Michael Crichton – for readers who like books set in Paris, also richly detailed and incorporates time travel.


August 10, 2011

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Title: Outliers: The Story of Success

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publication Date: November 2008

Number of Pages: 336

Geographical Setting: N/A

Time Period: N/A

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: In this intriguing book, the author Malcolm Gladwell asks how successful people, such as celebrities and sports figures have achieved such greatness. Is it pure luck or hard work and determination? Some are born with high IQ’s and innate abilities, but others must spend the proverbial 10,000 practicing a task in order to conquer it and be successful.

Subject Headings: success, achievement, social environment, famous persons, successful people.

Appeal: provocative, insightful, inspiring, fascinating, intriguing, useful, smart, interesting.

3 terms that best describe this book: .

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin. (Author Geoff Colvin asserts in this book that no talent is innate and that all greatness comes from hard work and practice alone.)

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande. (Atul Gawande takes the reader into the stressful lives of doctors and explores the consequences they must face while attempting to be their best at all times.)

Bounce by Matthew Syed. (This book focuses on greatness and asks if everyone has the innate ability to become truly talented.)
3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. (A young Maya and her little brother must adjust to a new life with their grandmother, cope with prejudice, and Maya must allow herself to feel free and content within her won skin.)

This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff. (This memoir tells the story of Toby, a boy who must deal with a difficult upbringing and learn to achieve success all on his own.)

Push by Sapphire. (In this novel, the protagonist is a 16-year-old pregnant girl who must learn to overcome a hard life and adversity with the help of a teacher.)

Name: Mindy Foote

Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child

June 24, 2009

Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child

Author: Elva Trevino Hart

Title: Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 1999

Number of Pages: 236

Geographical Setting: Texas, migrating to and from Minnesota

Time Period: 1950’s-

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Barefoot Heart is a vividly told autobiographical account of the life of a child growing up in a family of Mexican immigrants who worked as migrant workers to feed their six children. In 1953, when she was only three, her parents took the family from Texas to work in the fields of Minnesota and Wisconsin for the first time, only to find that in order to comply with the child labor law they had to leave the author and her 11-year-old sister to board in a local Catholic school, where they pined for the rest of the family. Hart remembers other years when the entire family participated in the backbreaking field labor, driven mercilessly by Apa (her father), who was determined to earn enough money to allow all his children to graduate from high school. Apa not only achieved his goal but was able to save $2000 so that Hart could enter college, a step that led to her earning a master’s degree in computer science.

Appeal: Fascinating, Triumphant, Proud, Struggle, Dignity, Beautiful, Picturesque, Driven, Elegant, Passionate, Heartfelt, Powerful, Extraordinary.

Subject Headings:

Hart, Elva Trevino

Mexican-American Women-Autobiography


Mexican Americans—Social life and customs

Migrant farm workers

Migrant farm workers-Social conditions

Boarding School students-biography

Family relationships

Poor families




3 terms that Best Describe the Book: Heartfelt, Powerful and Triumphant.

Three nonfiction titles:

Forged Under the Sun: the Life of Maria Elaena Lucas=Forjada Bajo el Sol by Maria Elena Lucas, edited and with an introduction by Fran Leeper Buss.

This is the oral history of a Chican farmworker. The story begins in Texas and follows Maria to Illinois. The narrative takes the reader through Maria’s struggles with poverty, and her involvement with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee. This also is the struggle of a women and the struggles regarding  her family.

Salaam, Stanley Matters by Subrata Dasgupta.

Arriving in Britain from Calcutta, this book is a similar migration of a child to an unfamiliar destination and the family struggle of survival and triumphs.

Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Carlos Eire

This novel compares to Hart’s memoir, this book tells the tale of Eire’s childhood, a survivor who describes his family’s conflicts and the impact of the Cuban Revolution on his family.

Three Fiction Titles:

Watercolor Women, Opaque Men by Ana Castillo.

This novel tells the story of migrant farm workers. Ella the main character moves to Chicago and raises her son by drawing on all her personal experiences, to be different from all the men around them.

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez.

This story takes place in Vermont where a family of Migrant Mexican Workers. Mari, the oldest daughter of her migrant family, lives in constant fear of being discovered by the authorities and sent back to the poverty they left behind in Mexico.

The Mexican Chubasco by Roberto Haro.

This is the fictional story of the Mexican Revolution seen through the eyes of a wealthy landowner. Even as a fictional tale, this is a great way to gain a little historical insight to why many Mexicans have migrated to the United States looking for a better life.

Annotation By: Allison Robins