Posts Tagged ‘flawed characters’

Heart-Shaped Box

October 31, 2012

Heart-Shaped Box Book CoverTitle: Heart-Shaped Box

Author: Hill, Joe

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 374

Geographical Setting: New York, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia

Time Period: Present Day/Contemporary

Plot Summary:  In this chilling tale that should be read with all the lights on, aging rock star Judas Coyne is no longer touring and releasing album. Instead he spends his time dating Goth chicks, such as his current lady Georgia, and expanding his bizarre, macabre collection of artifacts including a witch’s confession and a snuff film.  So when his assistant Danny mentions an auction for the suit of a dead man that comes with a ghost, Judas is hooked and must have it.  But when the suit arrives, danger and chilling nightmares enter Judas’ life.  He begins to see the dead man everywhere swinging a deadly razor from a chain or rocking in a Shaker chair.  Judas cannot escape the ghost’s hypnotizing presence or the haunting words about taking “a ride on the nightroad.”  It turns out the ghost has a link to Judas’ past and it is out for revenge of the deadliest kind.  As the terror and sense of dread builds, Judas and Georgia are eventually forced to hit the road to face their pasts and solve the mystery surrounding the dead man to avoid the dreaded “nightroad.”  Winner of the Bram Stoker Award, it is a horror novel reminiscent of your favorite classic ghost stories but with a contemporary feel.  You will be wary with each turn of the page as the uneasy, menacing atmosphere builds throughout the story until its satisfying conclusion.  This is a great novel for both newcomers and seasoned veterans of the horror genre, and will have you rooting for its flawed, compelling characters to triumph over evil.

Subject Headings: Ghost stories, Rock Musicians, Suspense Fiction, Supernatural, Paranormal Phenomena, Apparitions, Men/Women Relations, Life after death

Appeal:  builds in intensity, atmospheric, chilling, suspenseful, menacing atmosphere, flawed characters, plot twists, well-crafted, uneasy mood, character-driven, creepy, dangerous, haunting, macabre, sense of dread, compelling, violent, engaging characters, foreboding, vivid storyline, descriptive

Three Most Relevant Appeal Terms: Creepy, Flawed Characters, Suspenseful

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre by H.P. Lovecraft

Horror fans and novices can enjoy this classic collection of ghostly stories from a pioneer of the genre.  Here are 16 classic tales to chill the bones and haunt your dreams, and are just as menacing and creepy as The Heart-Shaped Box.

Christine by Stephen King

Go from haunted suit to a haunted car with this classic novel by Stephen King. Written by Joe Hill’s father, here is a similarly compelling and suspenseful horror novel where teen Arnie Cunningham falls in love with a 1958 Plymouth car dubbed “Christine.”  This car is not as simple as it seems, and it starts to haunt and endanger Arnie as well as those around him.  With Christine, you can get to know the work of Stephen King to whom Heart-Shaped Box was dedicated.

Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson

A horror story that also has hypnotism and a similar mood, Tom Wallace mockingly agrees to be hypnotized at his brother-in-law’s party.  But when Tom awakens from the hypnotism, he discovers that he can hear the thoughts of those around him.  Even more compelling and terrifying, through this new ability he receives a message from beyond the grave that leads Tom onto a dangerous, creepy path in order to solve the message.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Crap I bought on eBay: 101 Crazy Bizarre, Seriously Weird, Ridiculously Raunchy Items Exposed by Cary McNeal and Beverly L. Jenkins

A great book for those fascinated by the macabre collection of character Judas Coyne.  The book highlights 101 of the craziest things actually bought on eBay by the authors.  Enjoy a mixture of laughter and shock as you browse these real-life items.

The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Mick Mars and Vince Neil

Get to know the crazy rock n’ roll world of Judas Coyne with this tell-all book about 80’s heavy metal group Motley Crue.  Written by member of the band with the help of music writer Neil Strauss, this book reveals the tours, drugs and alcohol, rock music and sex.  A fun glimpse into a crazy rocker’s world.

Hidden Depths: The Story of Hypnosis by Robin Waterfield

Hypnosis was featured throughout the novel, and with this book you can become more familiar with it.  You will get to know the history, practice and modern uses of this controversial field.

Name: Margita Lidaka

Love You More

October 3, 2012

Author: Lisa Gardner

Title: Love You More

Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 412

Geographical Setting: Boston, Massachusetts

Plot Summary: In this fifth book of the Detective D.D. Warren series, the veteran detective pairs up with former lover Bobby Dodge to solve what seems at first to be an open-and-shut case. State police trooper Tessa Leoni appears to have shot and killed her husband Brian Darby in self-defense, and she has the bruises to prove it. However, what happened to their six-year-old daughter Sophie? There’s more than meets the eye in this compelling, fast-paced tale, where plot twists abound, suspense constantly builds, and secrets shock as they are unraveled. D.D. and Bobby have their hands full trying to understand the motives behind Brian’s death and the little girl’s disappearance; meanwhile, readers are exposed to Tessa’s stories as told from her point-of-view. At the same time the detectives get closer to solving the case, readers begin to approach their own understanding of what’s really going on through Tessa’s unfolding tales.

Subject Headings: Warren, D.D. (Fictitious character) – Fiction. Police – Massachusetts – Boston—Fiction. Boston(Mass.) – Fiction. Mystery fiction.

Appeal: Fast-paced, suspenseful, multiple points of view, flashbacks, plot twists, investigative, compelling, series (characters), chilling, layered, psychological, flawed characters, engrossing, plot-driven, intricate

Three appeal terms:  Suspenseful, plot twists, investigative

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag

Down the Darkest Road is a crime novel that is suspenseful, compelling, and fast-paced – all the same appeal as Love You More. Engrossing and plot-driven, this book keeps readers on their toes and unable to put the book as they follow the outcomes of the disturbing case. Lauren’s 16-year-old daughter went missing, her husband killed himself, and now she has only her younger daughter, Leah, and the desire for a fresh start to keep her going. Lauren takes her daughter and moves them to the safe haven of Oak Knoll, but soon she finds out she’s not the only one who has relocated to this peaceful town…

Survivor in death by J.D. Robb

This is another fast-paced mystery book bursting with thrills and suspense, with a little romance thrown into the mix. Lieutenant Eve Duncan is on the case of the murder of the Swisher family in New York City, and brings in her partner Peabody and her husband Roarke to help investigate. Meanwhile, she’s guarding the family’s only survivor – a nine year-old girl named Nixie. Readers who enjoyed Love You More will likely enjoy the appeal of familiar characters working together in to solve a crime in an urban setting, but might also like the more emotional aspects present in this book.

Fallen by Karin Slaughter

Fans of suspenseful thrillers will find plenty of edge-of-your-seat twists and turns in Karin Slaughter’s Fallen. Police officer Faith Mitchell seeks the help of her partner, Will Trent, and trauma doctor Sara Linton after walking into a deadly hostage situation in her mother’s home. As Faith tries to find answers and locate her missing mother, she goes on a whirlwind journey to uncover the truth behind what happened and save her mother (and herself) from a deadly fate.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

A Cold Case by Philip Gourevitch

Almost thirty years after an unresolved case of a brutal double homicide in New York, determined investigator Philip Goeurevitch revisits the case, focusing less on the murders themselves and more on the lives and minds of the killers. The investigative appeal that readers enjoyed in Love You More is present here in Geourevitch’s book, only in a different type of murder case. In Love You More, the detectives spend time pondering the whys of murder to understand Tessa’s reasoning and motives. What could drive her to kill her six-year-old child? In A Cold Case, Gourevitch questions what can drive one man to kill and another to hunt murderers.

If Looks Could Kill by M. William Phelps

Fact is often stranger than fiction, which is one reason why fans of Love You More might be drawn to this suspenseful true story. In 2001, Jeff Zack was murdered execution-style in Akron, Ohio, and former beauty queen Cynthia George was implicated in the crime. This non-fiction thriller packs anticipation as the saga unfolds and builds up to the final verdict. An editorial review on Amazon.com says the book “reads like a well-plotted crime novel,” and will likely please readers who enjoyed the suspenseful, crime-solving aspects of Love You More.

Skyjack: the hunt for D.B. Cooper by Geoffrey Gray

This is a fast-paced, compelling true crime story about the search for a hijacker named D.B. Cooper, who vanished after parachuting from a plane in 1971. Cooper was carrying $200,000 in ransom money with him when he disappeared, and was never to be found again. The story includes elements of mystery and suspense, as well as fast-paced storytelling and intriguing characters, making it a relevant readalike for Love You More.

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

September 26, 2012

Author: Ernest J. Gaines

Title: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Genre: Historical Fiction; African American Fiction

Publication Date: 1971

Number of Pages: 259

Geographical Setting: Various rural towns throughout the south, particularly Louisiana

Time Period: 1860s-1960s

Plot Summary: Miss Jane Pittman, originally named Ticey, was not even 13 when she was declared free by the emancipation proclamation and set out to Ohio towards the freedom of the north. While she never makes it to the north, she journeys throughout the south living on various plantations and farms as the wife of two different men and also as a single woman. This story spans nearly a century, as Miss Jane tells the story of her life from emancipation until the civil rights movement and her death in the 1960s. Written in 4 books in Miss Jane’s strong southern dialect, this compelling tale of a courageous woman’s survival through racial injustice is an important tale of American history that often makes it difficult to remember that this is in fact a work of fiction.

Subject Headings: African American Women, Race Relations, Leadership in Women, Slavery, Louisiana, Southern America, Civil Rights, Reconstruction, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century, Segregation, Plantation Life, Historical fiction, Centenarians

Appeal: Compelling, emotionally charged, character driven, complex language usage, flawed characters, inspiring characters, engaging prose, gritty, autobiographical, lyrical, nostalgic, realistic, insightful, candid, historical

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character driven, gritty, lyrical

Similar fiction authors and works:

Cooper, J. California. Some People, Other Places This novel follows a family through their struggles during the late 19th century through multiple generations. It has a similar bittersweet tone, is character driven, and follows a family through multiple generations.

Haley, Alex. Roots This story, like The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, spans generations of African American history. It has a similar tone and is family saga based, following one family through generations to reveal insights on the nature of humanity and the history of the family.

Morrison, Toni. Beloved This novel takes place post-civil war in Ohio, and chronicles the story of an escaped slave and her family. It is similarly lyrical and complex, and deals with family dramas and race relations, particularly regarding the African American community.

Similar nonfiction authors and works:

Delaney, Sarah Louise. Having Our Say A memoir comprised of interviews with Sadie and Bessie Delaney span nearly a century of African American history. The two women’s tales tell of the hardships and challenges faced by these two prominent African American women as they overcame racism and sexism to become successful strong women.

Lewis, David L. W.E.B. DuBois This definitive biography accounts W.E.B. DuBois’ early life and the defining moments that made him a pillar in the civil rights community, especially during the 1920s and 1930s.

Murray, Pauli. Song in a Weary Throat In this autobiographical account, Murray recounts her life as a child, her struggles in education to eventually become a lawyer, and her intense involvement in the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements of the 1960s.

Salvage the Bones

August 14, 2012

Author: Jesmyn Ward

Title: Salvage the Bones

Genre: African American

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 258

Geographical Setting: Rural Mississppi

Time Period: 2005 (Hurricane Katrina)

Plot Summary: In the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, Esch, fifteen, finds out she is pregnant. She and her brothers are leading a hard-scrabble life in rural Mississippi. Randall hopes to get a basketball scholarship and Skeetah is breeding his prize fighting pit bull. Things come to a dramatic conclusion as the Hurricane hits.

Subject Headings: African American teenage girls-fiction; Motherless families-fiction; Brothers and sisters-fiction; Rural poor-Mississippi-fiction; Hurricane Katrina 2005-fiction.

Appeal: descriptive, gritty, flawed characters, sympathetic characters, realistic, bleak, poignant, sexually explicit, profanity, earthy, rural.

3 terms that best describe this book: realistic, gritty, rural setting.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
Hurricane Katrina: The Mississippi Story by James Patterson Smith. Tells of the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, including the devastation of sixty five thousand homes and the precarious days of food and water shortages that followed.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
A true-life story of one man’s ordeal in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Mr.Zeitoun was allegedly mistaken for a terrorist and detained for over 20 days without ever standing trial.

Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a great American City by Jed Horne
An editor of New Orleans’ Times-Picayune presents victims’ tales and the politics behind the disastrous relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, an African-American girl in an America whose love for blonde, blue-eyed children can devastate all others, prays for her eyes to turn blue, so that she will be beautiful, people will notice her, and her world will be different. Literary, character-driven, bleak, haunting, lyrical.

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
Semi-autobiographical novel of a childhood in 1950s-60s South Carolina. The protagonist, nicknamed Bone, is a victim of poverty and physical abuse, including sexual abuse. Her family, like Esch’s, are poor, loving, and protective.

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
Set in Haiti’s impoverished villages and in New York’s Haitian community, this is the story of Sophie Caco, who was conceived in an act of violence, abandoned by her mother and then summoned to America.

Name: Sonia Reppe

Let the Church Say Amen

August 13, 2012

Author: ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Title: Let the Church Say Amen

Genre: African American Fiction, Christian Fiction

Publication Date: July, 2004

Number of Pages: 289

Geographical Setting: Houston, Texas

Time Period: Modern Day

Series: Book 1 of the Amen series

Plot Summary: In book 1 of Billingsley’s Amen series, we are introduced to Reverend Simon Jackson, dedicated pastor who puts his church first  and in working hard to build it up from nothing, ends up neglecting his wife and three children.  Although he runs a tight, successful ship in his congregation, his children are another story. One son is having problems with drugs, one son is confused about his identity and his daughter has her own problems regarding the fathers of her two children.  Jackson’s wife Loretta is the heart of the family and after realizing that she has allowed her husband to focus more on his pastoral duties than their family, works to reunite them despite the shadow of secrets which are revealed. A more urban take on Christian Fiction in that there is some sex  and mild profanity, this is a story of how one African American family turns to God, eachother and their community to figure out what really matters in life.

Subject Headings: African American families; Christian life; Family problems; African American clergy; Children of clergy; Spouses of clergy; Church membership; Christian fiction; Domestic fiction

Appeal: Character-driven, Compelling, Candid, Flawed characters, Inspiring characters, Family centered, Details of Christian Church, Thought-provoking, Urban, Conversational, Melodramatic, Poignant

3 Terms that best describe this book: Character-driven, Family-centered, Compelling

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) The Black Church in America: African American Christian Spirituality (Religious Life in America)by Michael Battle

This book provides a historical perspective about how the Black Church in America came to be including its African roots, the doctrine and practices of the churches and how denominations were formed. Battle also discusses current beliefs, practices and modern day dilemmas facing the church today. This book might appeal to those interested in learning more about the background of the African American Christian Church which is one of the main “characters” in Let the Church Say Amen.

2) I Told the Mountain to Move by Patricia Raybon

Raybon’s frank book is part memoir and part tutorial about how she’s struggled with prayer among life’s many challenges and what readers might learn from what she’s discovered. This book might appeal to those who enjoyed the messages of faith and forgiveness through prayer prevalent in Let the Church Say Amen.

3) How We Got Over: Testimonies of Faith, Hope and Courage by Trevy A. McDonald and Bettye J. Allen (editors)

This collection of stories about real people who overcame a variety of obstacles from life-threatening situations to broken family relationships might appeal to those readers who were inspired by the Jackson family’s courage and ability to keep the faith regardless of life’s problems in Let the Church Say Amen.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)  The Reverend’s Wife by Kimberla Lawson Roby

This book centers on the story of Reverend Curtis Black as he struggles to decide whether to forgive his unfaithful wife who is working hard to reconcile or consider a proposition by another woman who loves and wants to marry him. Those who enjoyed Let the Church Say Amen because it’s a character-driven story about African American clergy might enjoy this book.

2)  Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

This book is about John Grimes who experiences a religious conversion while his family struggles with guilt, bitterness, and spiritual issues. Like Let the Church Say Amen, this book is centered on an African American family who turns to faith and the church to solve life’s problems.

3) Have a Little Faith by Jacquelin Thomas, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, J.D. Mason and Sandra Kitt

This collection of stories from four bestselling African-American authors introduces a group of women who discover how life can open up if one has faith. A book for those who enjoyed the themes of faith, family and forgiveness in Let the Church Say Amen.

Name: Bridget Optholt

Ghost World

August 8, 2012

Author: Clowes, Daniel

Title: Ghost World

Genre:  Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 80

Geographical Setting:  Unnamed American town

Time Period: Early 1990s

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Dopplemayer are best friends who have recently graduated from high school.  The graphic novel follows them through their transition into adulthood over the summer.  Their town is full of cheesy diners and record stores that never have what they want and the girls long for something, anything to excite them.  Both girls are pessimistic, but Enid revels in making people uncomfortable, especially her friend Josh.  As the days go by, the girls begin to drift apart as they grow ever more aware that their friendship is not built to last.

Subject Headings:  Graphic Novels, Female Friendship, Teenage Girls

Appeal:  Measured Pace, Contemplative, Earnest, Edgy, Melancholy, Flawed Characters, Eccentric, Open-Ended, Character-Centered, Urban Setting, Heavy Profanity, Conversational, and Informal

3 terms that best describe this book:  Melancholy, Heavy Profanity, Character-Centered

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist by Alvin Buenaventura (editor)

An in-depth look at Daniel Clowes’ art and stories, the book includes some of his most famous works and some never before seen pieces.  For those who liked the art of Ghost World, this book is a great companion.

The 1990s by Mark Oxoby

This nonfiction book looks at American popular culture throughout the 1990s.  While Enid and Rebecca would probably have scoffed at the majority of people and events mentioned in the book, it is important to see what sort of world the girls were living in.

Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud

Focusing on comics as a literary medium, this book combines information on why you should create a comic and how to do it.  Fans of Ghost World who want a chance to tell their own story will appreciate McCloud’s authoritative voice and helpful tips.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Sleepwalk and Other Stories by Adriane Tomine

A collection of the first four of Tomine’s series comic series Optic Nerve, this book follows different characters that seem well-adjusted on the outside, but on the inside are struggling to make connections with those around them.  Set in a similar time period (late 80’s, early 90’s) to Ghost World, Sleepwalk also looks to explore the subtleties of human nature.

I Never Liked You by Chester Brown

This graphic novel steps away from the female protagonists of Ghost World, but keeps with the alienated youth theme.  The story follows Chester and his group of friends as they grow up.  While the art and dialogue seem simple on the surface, the story underneath is anything but.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis tells the author’s story of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.  Through her eyes, we see the toll it takes on her family and her country.  While Marjane’s adolescence and adulthood is very different from the girls’ in Ghost World, the irreverent tone and desire for more is found both.

Name: Erin Sloan

The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames

August 8, 2012

Author:  Jonathan Ames

Illustrator:  Dean Haspiel

Title:  The Alcoholic

Genre:  Graphic Novel

Publication Date:  2008

Number of Pages:  136

Geographical Setting:  New York City

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Famous mystery writer Jonathan A. wakes from a drunken stupor to find himself in a cluttered station wagon next to an old dwarf woman intent on making love to him.  Trying to remember how he got here, he reflects back to his adolescence when he first discovered alcohol and made a pact with his best friend Sal to get drunk every weekend throughout high school, thus beginning his lifelong self-destructive relationship with alcohol.  He moves to New York City after his parents die in a car wreck and begins working as a taxi driver, where he meets a drug-dealer who introduces him to cocaine.  After waking up in a garbage can, he decides to check himself into a substance abuse rehabilitation facility.  Unfortunately, after leaving, his life continues to fill with tragedy: a girl he falls in love with abandons him yet continues to string him along, he learns that his best friend died of AIDS, his Aunt gets breast cancer, and he watches the World Trade Center burn down on September 11 from the roof of his apartment building.  Jonathan Ames’s The Alcoholic is a bleak, semiautobiographical tale of one man’s desperate and constant battle to overcome alcoholism.  Featuring flawed and lifelike characters with whom readers can sympathize, The Alcoholic is an emotionally-charged and sobering look at the horrors of alcoholism.  The illustrations are evocative, realistic, well-drawn, and superbly complement the narrative’s tone.

Subject Headings:  Alcoholics; Alcoholism; Addiction; Self-Destructive Behavior; Novelists

Appeal:  Compelling, unhurried, flawed characters, sympathetic characters, well-drawn characters, lifelike characters, character-driven, authentic, open-ended, candid, honest, gritty, engaging, self-deprecating, descriptive, darkly humorous, melancholy, moving, dramatic, melancholy, sobering, poignant, emotionally-charged, offbeat, reflective

3 terms that best describe this book:  Candid, melancholy, and sobering

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas

In this moving and somewhat disturbing memoir, twenty-four-year-old Koren Zailckas candidly talks about her experience with alcoholism (which began when she was only 14), half-remembered drunken sexual encounters, rape, and alcohol poisoning. She gives an intimate look into the largely overlooked issue of binge drinking among teen girls and young women.  This book is suggested to those who want to read true stories about underage drinking and early alcoholism.

2)  Dry by Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs, in the witty and offbeat writing style he is known for, recounts his stay in an alcohol rehabilitation facility for gay men.  But when he leaves, his recovery is challenged when he falls in love with a cocaine addict and his best friend dies of AIDS.  Simultaneously moving and humorous, Dry is suggested to readers who want a closer look inside a rehabilitation facility and want to read how someone else dealt with losing a friend to AIDS.

3)  Stitches by David Small

Written in graphic novel format, Stitches is a poignant, grim, and deeply haunting memoir about the author’s childhood and adolescence among an emotionally unavailable family.  Young David ends up getting throat cancer from his radiologist father, who subjected him to repeated x-rays, and looses his ability to speak after surgery.  Distant, mute, and alone, David turns to drawing as an escape.  Although this suggestion is not about alcoholism or addiction, readers looking for a similarly powerful graphic novel could not go wrong with Stitches.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis

A fictional version of Bret Easton Ellis attempts to change his drug-addled, binge-drinking lifestyle by marrying movie star Jayne Dennis, moving to the suburbs, and becoming a father.  Everything seems well for a while, but when he begins writing a pornographic shock novel his life goes from mundane and peaceful to bizarre and horrific.  He relapses back into alcohol and drug abuse, his house becomes possessed by an insidious spirit, someone begins copying the serial killings in American Psycho, and his neighborhood suffers an increase in child abductions.  Like The Alcoholic, this novel contains similar semiautobiographical elements and features a drug-abusing, flawed character as a protagonist.  Suggested to readers looking for something a bit more wild and offbeat than The Alcoholic.

2)  Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic British ex-consul, escapes to Quahnahuac, Mexico on November 2, 1938—The Day of the Dead—in order to cut himself off from his loved ones and to drink himself to death.  His ex-wife, Yvonne, and his stepbrother, Hugh, travel to the small Mexican town in an attempt to save him, but to no avail.  Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano is renowned for its vivid and sympathetic portrayal of the horrors of alcoholism.  Like The Alcoholic, this semiautobiographical novel provides an unflinching look at alcoholism.

3)  Factotum by Charles Bukowski

Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s alter ego, is a derelict and a drunkard who aimlessly travels throughout America looking for work in dead-end occupations, loose and easy women, and, of course, his next drink.  This bawdy semiautobiographical novel recounts Henry’s experiences in gritty, candid details.  Jonathan Ames, author of The Alcoholic, has mentioned Bukowski as an important influence in his own writing.  Further, Factotum similarly tells the story of an alcoholic’s experiences.

Name:  Zach Musil

The Kingdom of Childhood

August 1, 2012

Kingdomofchildhood Author: Rebecca Coleman

Title: The Kingdom of Childhood

Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships

Publication Date: Sep 2011

Number of Pages: 338

Geographical Setting: A new-age community in Maryland

Time Period: 1998

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Espresso Tales

August 1, 2012

Author: Alexander McCall Smith

Title: Espresso Tales

Genre: Gentle

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 368

Geographical Setting: Edinburgh, Scotland

Time Period: Current

Series: 44 Scotland Street, 2

Plot Summary:

Espresso Tales is the sequel to 44 Scotland Street and continues to follow the lives of the tenants, who happen to reside at the address 44 Scotland St.  Readers can catch up with Pat, who had just finished her second gap year, has decided to stay in Edinburgh, Bruce who needs a new job and may give the wine business a try, and gifted 6-year-old Bertie who is starting kindergarten and is forced to wear crushed-strawberry (or pink) dungarees on his first day. The characters, of various ages, form relationships in odd and endearing ways.  This is a lighthearted work that takes turns revealing the story of each of the characters.  By using alternating points of view, the reader is able to see how the different characters reflect on the other residents, and themselves, providing insight and humor.

Subject Headings:

Apartment houses; father and son; friendship; genius; gifted children; men/women relations; mother and son; neighbors; roommates; senior women; women college students; young women

Appeal:

Strong sense of place; amusing; upbeat; engaging; character driven; relaxed pacing; lighthearted tone; humorous tone; flawed characters; recognizable characters; insightful characters; episodic storyline

3 terms that best describe this book:

Strong sense of place; amusing; relaxed pacing

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Edinburgh: A Cultural and Literary History by Donald Campbell

Alexander McCall Smith captures the city in Espresso Tales, providing a great sense of place.  This work, organized by sections of town provides an introduction to Edinburgh’s history.  For those who want to know more about the town that is the backdrop of this series.

Waiter, There’s a Horse in My Wine: A Treasury of Entertainment, Exploration and Education by America’s Wittiest Wine Critic by Jennifer Rosen

In Espresso Tales one of the characters, Bruce decides to try his luck in the wine trade.  This suggestion is for those readers who may want to know a bit more about the world of wine through a collection of humorous wine critic columns.

Hothouse kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child by Alissa Quart

This work looks at the consequences that putting too much pressure on gifted children may have.  This could be an interesting book for readers who were invested in Bertie’s difficulties with his mother and would like to learn more about the predicament of gifted children.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Secret Lives of Walter Mitty and of James Thurber by James Thurber illustrated by Marc Simont

This humorous book is a compilation of short stories detailing the roles the narrator, a meek man, imagines himself in.  Combining illustrations with Thurber’s short stories, as well as including Thurber’s amusing autobiographical essay this book may appeal to those who like the lighthearted introspection that can be found in Espresso Tales.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

In this novel, set during the Great Depression, two young couples meet and befriend one another in Wisconsin.   A stylistically complex and moving novel, this story focuses on the connections that people make, which may resonate with readers who like the unlikely friendships and acquaintances that are made at 44 Scotland Street.

Bed Rest by Sarah Bilston

In this book ambitious Quinn, a British Lawyer living in New York City, is put on bed rest for the last three months of her pregnancy.  This character-driven, humorous work has Quinn reflecting on her life, getting to know her neighbors, developing relationships in places she didn’t think she would.  This book may appeal to those who like insight into their characters thoughts as well as those who like circumstances that create unlikely bonds.

Name: Lisa Anne Fisherkeller Barefield

Light a Penny Candle

August 1, 2012

Author:  Maeve Binchy

Title:  Light a Penny Candle

Genre:  Women’s Lives and Relationships

Publication Date:  1982

Number of Pages: 592

Geographical Setting:  Ireland, London

Time Period:  World War II, Post World War II

Series:  n/a

Plot Summary:  During World War II, ten year old English girl Elizabeth White is sent to Kilgarret, Ireland to live with her mother’s former schoolmate in Kilgarret, Ireland.  There, reserved and shy Elizabeth begins a lifelong friendship with the vivacious daughter, Aisling O’Connor.  It is Aisling who teaches Elizabeth to have faith in life and convinces her that if you light a penny candle at church, your most sacred wish will come true.  Five years later, Elizabeth returns to London, armed with a new sense of independence and love of life.  She pursues a career in art, against her parent’s wishes and embarks in a no-strings attached love life.  Aisling, meanwhile remains in Kilgarret, longing to exploring the world.  She is courted by the son of Kilgarret’s wealthiest families but cannot convince herself he would make her happy.  She escapes to London to meet up with Elizabeth.   They experience their past and present meeting while they struggle when they realize they are both involved and in love with the same irresistible man and how they choose to deal with it.  Their friendship spans through the war and after, through the trials and tribulations of life, including sorrow, dreams, love, and betrayal. 

Subject Headings:  Friendship – Fiction, Women, Self-Discovery, World War II, Women – Ireland, The Forties (20th Century), Men-Women Relationships.

Appeal:   Character-centered, leisurely paced, heartwarming, homespun, vivid, detailed, flawed characters, domestic, engaging, poetic, multiple points of view, emotionally-charged.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  character-centered, heartwarming, engaging.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors (why they are similar):

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah.  Inseparable best friends Kate and Tully, who despite completely different lives, have vowed to be there for each other forever. They have stayed true to this promise for thirty years, until evens and choices in their lives tear them apart.  This book’s appeal reflects the life-long female friendship that is similar to Light a Penny Candle.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells.  
When Siddi inadvertently reveals some revealing things about her Southern childhood in a newspaper interview, her mother, Vivi, virtually disowns her. Vivi’s lifelong friends, the Ya-Ya’s, set in motion a plan to bring the mother and daughter back together using a scrapbook of childhood memories that they ask Vivi to put together.”   -Novelist Plus.    This story was chosen as a read-alike because it has multiple perspectives, is character driven, along with relationships that span a lifetime.

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin.  After a night of drunken partying, Rachel sleeps with her best friend’s fiancée.  Rachel is consumed with guilt and intense feelings for the finance, forcing her to make a difficult choice.
This suggestion has more dramatic readalike because it features a female friendship but in a raw, gritty way, set in present day  in compared to Light a Penny Candle.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Dear Helen: Wartime Letters from a Londoner to her American Pen Pal by Betty M. Swallow.   Between 1937 and 1950, a working-class Londoner and her American pen pal exchange letters.  The Londoner offers accounts on the Blitz and how World War II affected life in London.  This account gives the reader a look at what life could have been for the character Elizabeth if her mother did not send her to Ireland to live for the duration of the war.

The Story of Ireland: a History of the Irish People by Neil Hegarty.  A history of how Ireland has been shaped by outside influences through the past 2,500 years.   This book in particular touches when Ireland was neutral in World War II.

Austerity Britain, 1945-51 by David Kynaston.  This is the people’s history of post-World War II England as a social profile that links everyday lives to period events.  It pays tribute to the nation’s passionate dedication to survival and rebuilding.   After the war, Elizabeth and Aisling spends time in London.  This compliments the time period to give the reader a better sense of how life was during that rebuilding time.

Name:  Olivia Button