Posts Tagged ‘funny’

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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Boy Meets Girl

October 31, 2012

Boy Meets Girl

Author: Cabot, Meg
Title: Boy Meets Girl
Genre: Chick Lit
Publication Date: 2004
Number of Pages: 387
Geographical Setting: New York City
Time Period: Present day
Series: The “Boy Series”

The story is told from a series of emails, instant messages, journal entries, to do lists exchanged between characters in the story.  Kate MacKenzie the main character recently moved out from her long time boyfriend Dale who would not commit to marriage.  She is taken in by her newly married best friend and husband – Jen and Craig Sadler.  The story progresses, with the ex boy friend desperately wanting her back and subsequently creating lot of scene with her refusal.  As the Personnel Representative – Human Resources Department of The New York Journal, Kate is ordered by her (unpopular) boss Amy but known as – T.O.D. (Tyrannical Office Despot), to fire the baker for refusing to serve a senior officer a piece of pie.  Unfortunately, the fired employee sues the the New York Journal for wrongful termination, no – “breach of contract”.   Now, Kate is named as one of the defendants in the lawsuit.  The start of this legal arbitration sets wheels of events rolling, leading to a new romantic venture for Kate, conspiracies, and some love trysts.

There are multiple plot threads going on at the same time involving family issues, friendship, and trust which intertwines and eventually connects back to the main story.  An interesting angle is the plot of the cute  defense lawyer who Kate is beginning  to fall in love with and who happens to be Kate’s boss’ fiancé’s brother. This creates additional level of complexities making the book so much  harder to put down – you are compelled to follow the unraveling of this situation.

This is a really heartwarming story, realistic plot with laugh out loud rhetoric.  Anyone who loves romance without the “mushy” part of it would enjoy this.

Subject Headings:
Employees, Lawyers, Men/women relationships, Newspaper publishing, Personnel management, Single women

Appeal:
Plot-driven, Fast-paced, Funny, Upbeat, Engaging, Charming, Cozy, Romantic, Conversational,Attention-grabbing, Witty,

3 Appeal Terms:
Romantic, Fast-paced, Funny,

Fiction Read – a-likes:

Getting to the Good Part by Files, Lolita
Another fast paced, and heartwarming story of a girl also loving someone who got her fired as in Boy Meets Girl. The story tells about starting a new life in New York city as Kate did in Boy Meets Girl. Readers who enjoyed the theme of moving and trying to settle in a big city would also love this story.

Not Another Bad Date by Gibson, Rachel
Story about a young girl with a track record of a series of bad dates and begins to question her own judgements about men.  Her insecurities is shown as she continually fails to get a good date.  Similar to Boy Meets Girl where Kate believes there had to be something wrong with her because of her poor judgements of her past relationship and things always seem to go wrong whenever she  was in the presence of her new guy.  Another story of a young girls’ quest for love and overcoming some circumstances in the process.

Strange Bedpersons by Crusie, Jennifer
Also funny and upbeat as Meg Cabot’s Boy Meets Girl involving a love affair between a republican lawyer and a democrat.  For those who enjoyed the hint of politics and and different ideologies expressed in Boy Meets Girl, this book delves a little deeper into into such differences and shows how such issues can be overcome through a lot of compromise.

Non-Fiction read a-likes:

Heart of the City : nine stories of love and serendipity on the streets of New York by Ariel Sabar
If you really enjoyed Boy Meets Girl by Cabot, Meg as a fiction, well, here is a non fiction collection of similar stories where couples met and found love in New York city.  This will make a great read for those who enjoy real life events better than fiction.  The author brings us stories of nine couples who met by chance in various parts of the New York city and got married afterwards.  Just like Boy Meets Girl, it is funny, charming and romantic.

Finding Love Again: 6 simple steps to a new and happy relationship by Orbuch, Terri
This book has a lot of information and  ideas on how to find love again.  Considering the turmoil Kate and other characters in the story had to go through in their relationships, this book comes with a 21 day plan on how to commit and keep it real in relationships. Readers who needs new relationships as well as those looking for ways to build a happy union would really enjoy this book.

Date or Soul Mate?: How to Know if Someone is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less  by Neil Warren
The author discusses  tips on how to tell you’ve found “the right one”.  This is a practical guide on the psychology of dating.  This book gives more insight to theme of dating found in Boy Meets Girl where the main character Kate was consumed in finding her true love.  Readers in the same life situation would find this book a great resource in navigating the dating scene.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

August 15, 2012

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Author: Mindy Kaling

Title: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 222

Geographical Setting: United States

Time Period: Contemporary

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:

Mindy Kaling, writer and actress on The Office, details her life and everyday musings through short essays in this memoir.  Readers learn about her journey to becoming a writer for a hit television show, what makes her an awesome best-friend, and lists of random plotlines she has for future movies.  Told through anecdotes Kaling relates her childhood with immigrant parents, developing a love of comedy, living and scraping by in New York, and creating and starring in an Off-Broadway production.  Slightly self-deprecating, Mindy presents herself and thoughts in a witty lighthearted manner.

Subject Headings:

Actors and actresses; celebrities; television writers; women comedians; women television personalities

Appeal:

funny; conversational; witty; easy; relaxed; lighthearted; humorous; sarcastic; episodic; straightforward language; unpretentious; chatty;

 3 terms that best describe this book:

Chatty; witty; lighthearted

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett

Similar to Kaling’s book Burnett’s autobiography is told through anecdotes, giving glimpses of her life.   It includes stories on her friendships with some famous stars and her time on the long running Carol Burnett Show.  Those who like the conversational and witty tone of Kaling’s book may also enjoy this read.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Fey’s memoir tells about her rise as a famous comedienne and gives the reader anecdotes about her everyday life.  This book may appeal to readers who liked hearing about Kaling’s work to realize her dream as well as seeing how she is just like us most days.

Under the Duvet: Shoes, Reviews, Having the Blues, Builders, Babies, Families, and other Calamities by Marian Keyes

In this collection of essays, Keyes reflects on her life  experiences, including writing, relationships, and shopping.  This book may appeal to those who liked Kaling’s candid and conversational tone.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America by Leslie Knope

A history of a fictional town written by a fictional character based on the NBC television series Parks and Recreation.   A witty read with a television tie in, those who like Kaling’s connection to the office may like this read.  Also, Kaling mentions a love and respect for Amy Poehler who stars in Parks and Recreation.

Mumbo Gumbo: A Madeline Bean Novel by Jerrilyn Farmer

In the fifth book in this series Madeline is hired to replace a writer on the culinary show Food Freak.  This is a mystery novel that may appeal to readers who like witty writing styles.  Also, for readers who may want to take a fictional look at being  writer for a television show with a quirky staff.

The Book of Other People by Zadie Smith

With contributions from many notable authors, this book is a compilation of short stories based on the prompt to create a character.  Readers who liked Kaling’s essay format, with short, and sometimes very short chapters, may enjoy this read.

Name: Lisa Anne Fisherkeller Barefield

In A Sunburned Country

August 15, 2012

Author: Bill Bryson

Title: In a Sunburned Country

Genre: Nonfiction, Travel Writing

Publication Date: May 15, 2001

Number of Pages: 335

Geographical Setting: Australia –Description and Travel

Time Period: Modern Day

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: In this non-fiction travelogue, Bill Bryson writes of his preparation for, and adventures traveling around Australia, a land filled with friendly inhabitants, deadly and peculiar wildlife, wide open spaces, and one bizarre and interesting history. A quintessential incidental learning book, readers can’t help but pick up and become immersed in history, traveling and lodging tips, and Bryson’s witty and at times sarcastic impressions of an in many ways an undiscovered land. This book will make you both laugh out loud and cringe at Bryson’s details and experiences.

Subject Headings: Voyages and travels; Travelers; Bill Bryson – Journeys – Australia; National characteristics, Australian

Appeal: Funny, Humorous, Engaging, Witty, Engrossing, Leisurely-paced, Thoughtful, Thought-provoking, Strong sense of place, Detailed setting, Details of Australia, Descriptive, Well-researched, Vivid

3 Terms that best describe this book: Humorous, Detailed, Strong sense of place

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks

This travel adventure begins when Hawks accepts a bet that he can travel around Ireland for a month with a mini-fridge as his companion, hoping that he’ll regain some sense of adventure and re-evaluate his life. Meeting many characters, you’ll find yourself rooting for Hawks and laughing along the way. This book might appeal to those who enjoyed the characters Bryson encountered during his journey and the strong sense of place prevalent in In a Sunburned Country.

2) Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison

Much like In a Sunburned Country, this is a funny, informative book written in a way that educates the reader while making him laugh at Allison’s tales of working as a leader of wildlife and eco-tourism trips in the African Bush.

3) A Year in the World by Frances Mayer

Although not as humorous as In a Sunburned Country, Mayer’s tale of traveling around the world, renting ordinary houses on ordinary streets and contemplating the meaning of travel and home pulls the reader into the journey with her, experiencing the lifestyle of each locale. It too has a strong sense of place and informs the reader while telling tales of voyages and travels.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)  A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

This classic WWII tale of love and war tells the story of a young Englishwoman living in Malaya who is captured by the Japanese and years later travels to the Australian Outback to find the man who helped save her.  Like In a Sunburned Country, it has a very strong sense of place and takes the reader on a journey to a more unknown Australia.

2)  Eucalyptus by Murray Bail

Set in New South Wales, the southeast part of Australia, this is the tale of a man who plants hundreds of different species of gum trees on his farm and tells his 19-year-old daughter that she can marry the first man to name all the species correctly. Many suitors show up and the story reads almost like a fairy tale. Like In a Sunburned Country, rural Australia serves as an important backdrop to the story.

3) Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

In this book, Cloudstreet refers to a broken down house on the wrong side of the tracks in Perth which is located in Western Australia. When two families move into the house, they turn it into a beautiful home against all odds and the reader follows the families over 20 years.  It’s a tale of another part of Australia: Perth, which Bryson visits and explores in his book as it’s called ‘the most isolated city on earth.’

Name: Bridget Optholt

Look Me in the Eye

August 13, 2012

Author:  John Elder Robison

Title: Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s

Genre:  Nonfiction, Autobiography

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages:  288

Geographical Setting: Primarily Eastern U.S.; Massachusetts

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  In this darkly humorous and moving autobiography, Augusten Burroughs’s older brother, John Elder Robison, candidly and straightforwardly narrates what his life was like growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, his struggles with adjusting to the world around him, and the relief he felt when he was finally diagnosed at age 40.  Robison also describes his traumatic childhood living with an alcoholic, abusive father and a mentally-unstable mother; his gift for repairing, building, and modifying electronic music equipment; and how he used this gift to escape his parents by joining KISS’s 1978 tour to build special effect guitars for Ace Frehley.  Robison’s life is colorful and full of bizarre developments and quirky, offbeat characters that make for a particularly compelling read.  The author’s clever observations of life are both humorous and insightful, and give readers an authentic portrait of one man’s life with Asperger’s.

Subject Headings:  Asperger’s Syndrome; Asperger’s Syndrome Patients; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Family Relationships

Appeal:  Bittersweet, darkly humorous, disturbing, funny, moving, offbeat, reflective, candid, thoughtful, insightful, quirky characters, authentic, clever, straightforward

3 terms that best describe this book:  Darkly humorous, offbeat, and moving

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch

David Finch’s idiosyncratic behaviors are beginning to a take a toll on his five-year marriage when he is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.  Relieved to find reason behind his idiosyncrasies, Finch begins his quest to find ways to manage his Aspergian behaviors, improve his social skills, and save his marriage.  Like John Elder Robison, Finch is a high-functioning Asperger syndrome patient who was unaware of his diagnosis until adulthood.  This title is suggested to readers looking for a heartwarming and funny book chronicling a person’s efforts to “overcome” his diagnosis.

2)  I Am Intelligent: From Heartbreak to Healing – A Mother and Daughter’s Journey through Autism by Peyton and Diane Goddard

Peyton Goddard, a sufferer of severe autism to the extent of being unable to speak or control her own body, and her mother, Diane, recount her history of misdiagnoses, marginalization, neglect, mistreatment, and exclusion from normal society and education.  Later in her life, Peyton was properly diagnosed and given the ability to communicate her story through computer technology.  Suggested to readers who want to read a deeply moving memoir about someone with a much more severe autistic spectrum disorder than Robison’s.

3)  The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood

An accessible, authoritative, and comprehensive book on aspects of Asperger’s syndrome, including its causes, how it is diagnosed, the social and behavioral challenges that Asperger’s syndrome patients encounter, and issues regarding stigmatization and bullying.  Suggested to those looking for a more scientific and clinical book about Asperger’s.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Christopher Boone, an autistic 15-year-old mathematical savant obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, finds his neighbor’s poodle impaled on a garden fork.  Determined to find the murderer, Christopher must learn to overcome his autistic behaviors in order to solve this mystery.  This title is suggested to readers who enjoy mysteries and are interested in individuals or characters with autistic spectrum disorders.

2)  The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin

Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a middle-aged man detached from the world by his neuroses, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and social anxieties, becomes involved in the life of his social worker, Clarissa, and her son, Teddy, and most learn to confront his idiosyncrasies in order to help her escape her abusive ex-husband.  Daniel’s character, while not necessarily described as autistic, exhibits obsessive-compulsive characteristics frequently associated with sufferers of autistic spectrum disorders.  Readers of Look Me in the Eye looking for a similarly witty and touching tale may want to check out this book.

3)  With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, Vol. 1 by Keiko Tobe

The first entry in a multi-volume manga series about Sachiko Azuma’s struggles with raising her autistic son, Hikaru, this volume introduces the characters and follows Hikaru from birth through early elementary school.  This series is a poignant and moving story that explores the realities of being a parent of an autistic child.  The series is suggested to those who enjoyed Look Me in the Eye but want to read about children with autistic spectrum disorders and are open to graphic-novel format.

Name:  Zach Musil

Too Cool to be Forgotten

August 8, 2012

Author: Robinson, Alex

Title: Too Cool to be Forgotten

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 128 p.

Geographical Setting: New York

Time Period: 2010 and 1985

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This fast-paced, character-driven graphic novel begins with 39-year-old main character, Andy Roberts, visiting a hypnotist to try to quit smoking, and instead, gets transported back into his 15-year-old body in 1985.  In high school, Andy relives moments from his teenage years, including asking girls out, sitting through boring classes, arguing with his parents, and going to parties.  However, even with his 15-year-old body, Andy still has his 39-year-old mind which allows him to view events in his teenage years from a nostalgic adult perspective, including gasping in class because he feels hair on his head for the first time in years.  Chapter by chapter, Andy’s teenage journey leads up to the moment when he first smokes a cigarette, but can Andy change the past?  The entire graphic novel takes place from Andy’s perspective and is full of traditional and unique panels of ink art.  While many pages have between 6 and 9 panels with dialogue in balloons, other pages have less or more panels without text.  Overall, this graphic novel is an upbeat coming-of-age story that is full of dialogue and makes readers reflect on their teenage years in a new and moving way.

Subject Headings: Time Travel (Past); Second Chances; High School Students; Teenage Boys – Decision-Making; Middle-Aged Men; Addiction; Smoking; Hypnotism; The Eighties (20th Century); Humor; Coming-of-Age Stories; Comic Books, Strips, Etc.; Graphic Novels

Appeal: fast-paced, funny, moving, nostalgic, reflective, upbeat, closely observed, engaging, and involving primary and secondary characters, character-driven, intricately plotted, family-centered, flashbacks, imaginative, layered, thought-provoking, accessible, chatty, concise, conversational

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: funny, nostalgic, moving 

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is similar toToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another reflective, concise, and character-driven graphic novel about a girl dealing with the problems of growing up in the 1980s.  The main differences between the books are that the setting of Iran inPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi plays a much larger role and that the tone is more dramatic and somber despite many humorous moments.  In addition, the lines in the illustrations are bolder, thicker, and less realistic than the illustrations are inToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson.

Funny Misshapen Body by Jeffrey Brown is similar toToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another humorous character-driven graphic novel about a boy dealing with the problems of growing up in the 1980s and 1990s.  The main differences between the books are that the book focuses on his art career and that the illustrations are less polished and realistic than the illustrations inToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson.

 Fun With Hypnosis: The Complete How-To Guide by Professor Svengali is similar toToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson because it is a concise fast-paced instructional guide about the subject of hypnosis, including how the history of it and its uses today, like in trying to help people end their addictions to smoking. The main differences between the books are that this book is informational rather than a fictional story.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

A Distant Neighborhood, Vol. 1 by Jiro Taniguchi is similar to Too Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another character-driven graphic novel about a middle-aged man, Hiroshi Nakahara, who revisits his hometown and at his mother’s grave, travels back in time to become 14-years-old again.  Like Andy Roberts, Hiroshi Nakahara keeps his 48-year-old brain despite his 14-year-old body and tries to fix the problems that happened in his past.  The main differences between the books are the setting of Japan and more serious tone inA Distant Neighborhood, Vol. 1 by Jiro Taniguchi.  In addition, the illustrations are in the style of manga and less realistic than the illustrations are inToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson.

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli is similar to Too Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another fast-paced, character driven graphic novel about a middle-aged man, Asterios Polyp, in New York, who is having a spiritual crisis.  Also, likeToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson, it is a moving and reflective coming-of-age story.   The main differences between the books are that the main character inAsterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli is less likable and that the illustrations are more experimental and contain color.

Zombie Parents: And Other Hopes for a More Perfect World by Jerry Scott and illustrated by Jim Borgman is the latest book in the series of Zits Sketchbook.  It is similar toToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another funny graphic novel about a 15-year-old boy, Jeremy, and his problems with high school, driving, and dating.  It too focuses on Jeremy’s relationship with his parents through these teenage years.  The main differences between the books are thatZombie Parents: And Other Hopes for a More Perfect World is a compilation of traditionally stylized ink comic strips unlike the more detailed, realistic, and experimental illustrations and panels inToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson.

Shopgirl by Steve Martin

August 8, 2012

Author:  Steve Martin

Title:  Shopgirl

Genre:  Literary Fiction, Bestseller, Audio Book

Publication Date:  2000

Number of Pages:  130 (4 CDs, 4 hours)

Geographical Setting:  Beverly Hills, CA

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  n/a

Plot Summary:  Mirabelle Buttersfield is a sad, lonely, and clinically depressed twenty-eight-year-old Vermont native who sometime ago moved to California with aspirations of becoming an artist but now works in the glove department at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills.  Withdrawn and almost friendless, Mirabelle’s life consists of “selling things nobody buys anymore,” commuting to and from her apartment, feeding her cats, taking antidepressants, drawing pictures of dead and dying things, visiting art galleries, and occasionally meeting up with Jeremy, an unambitious and inept young man she met in a laundromat who stencils logos onto amplifiers for a living.  Her life begins to change when Mr. Ray Porter, an enormously wealthy, handsome, and debonair gentleman nearly twice Mirabelle’s age, buys her a pair of expensive gloves and asks her out for dinner.  Although Ray Porter is charming, suave, and genuinely cares about Mirabelle, he makes it perfectly clear that he does not intend on maintaining an exclusive relationship with her.  Despite this revelation, Mirabelle continues this dead-end relationship for quite some time until Jeremy, who has undergone a dynamic transformation with the help of self-improvement books, reenters her life.  Shopgirl is a brief and bittersweet meditation on loneliness, relationships between men and women, and the human capacity for change, containing a vivid cast of closely-observed characters that are sympathetic, somewhat offbeat, and occasionally amusing.  The author’s style is witty, thoughtful, and concise, and deftly matches the book’s unique tone, which is at times funny, reflective, melancholic, dramatic, and romantic.  On audio book, Steve Martin’s reading accentuates the novella’s melancholy tone, making Mirabelle’s depression affectingly palpable and deemphasizing the book’s more humorous moments.

Subject Headings:  Beverly Hills, CA – Fiction; Clerks (Retail Trade) – Fiction; Department Stores – Fiction; Young Women – Fiction; Coming-of-Age Story – Fiction.

Appeal:  Closely-observed characters, sympathetic characters, dramatic, character-driven, details of department store retail, amusing, bittersweet, reflective, introspective, romantic, funny, melancholy, descriptive, thoughtful, concise, witty

3 terms that best describe this book:  Melancholy, reflective, bittersweet

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Minding the Store by Stanley Marcus

Stanley Marcus, son of Neiman Marcus co-founder Herbert Marcus, provides a lively and surprisingly readable history of Neiman Marcus and examines what makes the department store one of the best and most well-known retailers around.  Suggested to Shopgirl readers who want to learn more about Mirabelle’s employer.

2)  Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex by John Gray

One of the most famous and most accessible self-help relationship books that people still read today, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus discusses how men and women are different and offers practical advice on how to transform relationships in clear, easy-to-understand language.  This is one of the books mentioned in Shopgirl that Jeremy read to improve himself.

3)  Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity by Stephanie Barron, Sheri Bernstein, Ilene Susan Fort, Michael Dear, and Howard N. Fox

Published in conjunction with a Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s exhibition that explored the ways in which artistic representations of California affect its identity, this book reproduces 400 pieces and 150 cultural artifacts from the exhibit.  Suggested to readers who, like Mirabelle, are interested in art and California art exhibits.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)   The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing is a witty, humorous, and insightful collection of seven interlinked stories about Jane Rosenal, her relationships, and her lifelong search for love.  In the title story, Jane memorizes a number of self-help relationship guides and strictly adheres to their advice only to hilarious and disastrous ends.  This book is suggested to readers looking for something funnier than Shopgirl while still addressing men’s and women’s relationships with touching insightfulness and wit.

2)  The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland

It would appear that the only thing that Roger, a middle-aged divorcee and aspiring novelist, and Bethany, a teen goth, is that they both work at Staples.  However, one day, Bethany discovers Roger’s diary, finds that they share similar thoughts about loneliness and mortality, and suggests that they begin writing to each other.  Through these letters, these two characters forge a unique friendship.  Like Shopgirl, this is a darkly humorous, melancholic, and introspective novel about loneliness, featuring characters with failed aspirations trapped in dead-end retail jobs.

3)  The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories by Aimee Bender

This book is a collection of sixteen imaginative, offbeat, and surreal short stories about sexuality, love, and relationships between men and women.  These stories feature a librarian who sleeps with all men who enter the library as a way to fight off grief, a woman whose lover is “experiencing reverse evolution” and now lives in a glass baking pan, a man who comes home from war without his lips, and numerous other odd characters and scenarios.  This unorthodox suggestion would be most appropriate for Shopgirl readers who want to read another book dealing with human relationships but also want to read something less grounded in reality.

Name:  Zach Musil

Lady Be Good — Susan Elizabeth Phillips

July 31, 2012

Author:  Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Title:  Lady Be Good

Genre:  Romance

Publication Date:  1999

Number of Pages:  372

Geographical Setting:  Texas (primarily Dallas and Wynette, a fictional suburb of Austin)

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  Third book in the Wynette, Texas series

Plot Summary:  Lady Emma Wells-Finch—the prim, proper, and prudish headmistress of an English all-girls boarding school—is in a most unfortunate engagement to the despicable Duke of Beddington who threatens to close Emma’s beloved school if she does not agree to marry him.  Unable to turn him down, she has no other alternative but to get the Duke to call off the wedding by convincing him that he grossly misjudged her character.  Under the pretense of conducting research, Emma flies to Texas with the intention of ruining her good name through ten days of defamation and debauchery.  Only one person stands in her way: Kenny Traveler, Texas’ hottest and most (in)famous bad boy pro-golfer. Recently suspended by the PGA after his involvement in a series of scandals, Kenny is doing his darnedest to stay out of the tabloids so he can get back into the game.  So when Kenny is hired to assist Emma in her “research,” their opposing agendas—not to mention their innate attraction towards one another—puts more than a few roadblocks in their plans.  Lady Be Good is a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that is both sensual and sentimental, and is an excellent starting point for those new to the romance genre.  Phillips’s witty prose is engaging and full of juicy descriptive details sure to please almost any romance reader looking for something light, quick, and humorous.

Subject Headings:  British in Texas; professional golfers; PGA tour; love stories; headmistresses; blackmail; chauffeurs

Appeal: character driven, descriptive, detailed setting of Texas, dialogue rich, engaging, familiar characters, fast paced, funny, recognizable characters, sensual, steamy, sympathetic characters

3 terms that best describe this book:  Romantic comedy, sensual, and descriptive

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Bud, Sweat, and Tees: A Walk on the Wild Side of the PGA Tour by Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck provides a thoroughly detailed, no-holds-barred inside look at what really goes on during the PGA Tour, both on and off the golf course.  This title is suggested to readers especially interested in learning more about the golfing aspects of Lady Be Good.

2)  My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands by Chelsea Handler

The always irreverent and bawdy Chelsea Handler relates a number of funny sexual encounters from her life.  Suggested for readers who enjoyed the steamy and scandalous sections of Lady Be Goodbut are looking for something more salacious.

3)  Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell

This collection of essays from Candace Bushnell’s popular column in the New York Observer provides humorous and touching insights into the dating and sexual lifestyles of Manhattan’s upper and middle classes.  Suggested to readers who enjoyed the funny and steamy elements of Lady Be Good, but are looking for more general insights into men and women relations.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

When Minerva Dobbs discovers that her new admirer, David Fisk, had bet his friends $10,000 that he can get her into bed within a month, she figures she can play him, use him as a date for her sister’s wedding, and dump him before the month ends.  Like Lady Be Good, Crusie’s Bet Me is a hilarious contemporary romance featuring an appealing and engaging cast of characters.

2)  Nothing but Trouble by Rachel Gibson

Former B-movie actress Chelsea Ross is in desperate need of work, so when she is offered $10,000 to be the personal assistant to former hockey star Mark Bressler, she eagerly accepts the position despite her employer’s cantankerous disposition.  Nothing but Trouble is a funny and amusing contemporary romance between a strong female character and a professional sports player that readers of Lady Be Good may enjoy.

3)  Texas Bride by Joan Johnston

A historical romance set in late 19th-century Texas, Miranda Wentworth is forced to become a mail-order bride when the Chicago orphanage where she lives kicks her and her siblings out and marries Jake Creed, a failing Texas ranch owner struggling with the memory of his late wife.  Texas Bride is suggested to readers looking for a romance novel with a heavier western theme that is more serious in tone than Lady Be Good.

Name:  Zach Musil

Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0-22

April 18, 2012

Author: MariNaomi

Title: Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0-22

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 331

Geographical Setting: California

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

This graphic novel is full of sometimes funny, sometimes touching, and often surprising stories from the authors life.  The stories, told in chronological order, follow MariNaomi’s love life from before she was born, starting with her parents story and ending when she is roughly 22 years old.  Some of the stories are short and sweet, while others are longer or more complicated. In addition to her stories of sex, love, and heartbreak, MariNaomi tells of her adolescence rebellion, getting kicked out of her house and running away several times throughout her youth.  She also tells of her experiments with drug use and sexuality. Almost anyone can relate to at least a few of the stories from Naomi’s life.  The black and white illustrations depict the stories well.

Subject Headings: MariNaomi, Young women – Identity, Mate selection for women, Women – Sexuality, Dating (Social customs), First sexual experience, Self-discovery in women, Women — Interpersonal relations

Appeals: touching, fast-paced, sexual, heartbreaking, candid, bittersweet, character-centered, self-discovery, sympathetic characters, funny, relatable, coming of age

3 Appeal terms to best describe book: fast-paced, touching, coming of age

Non-fiction:
Blankets: An Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson- In this coming of age, autobiographical graphic novel the author takes us through his adolescence.  Thompson describes the experience of falling in love for the first time as well as the power of sexual attraction and young love.

Talking to Girls about Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield- In this funny, upbeat coming of age novel the author describes his experiences trying to find love starting at the age of 13.  The book leads the reader all the way through to the author’s first apartment and real girlfriend with 80’s and 90’s music as a guide.

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel. This graphic tells of the love life of a diverse group of lesbian friends.  These funny, witty stories explore sexuality between women, which MariNaomi experiments with in Kiss & Tell.

Fiction:
Shortcoming by Adrian Tomine- This funny graphic novel follows a twenty something, Ben, as he looks for the perfect girl. Much like MariNaomi the story is told with humor and follows the life of a Japanese American in their quest for love.

Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross. This semi-autobiographical story follows Melissa as she enters high school. Experimenting with drugs, failing classes, and dealing with the opposite sex are just some of the subjects discussed in this coming of age graphic novel.

Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun. Korean teen Joon runs away from her home in Brooklyn at the age of 12. This novel follows her as she lives in homeless shelters, struggles with drug abuse, and puts herself in dangerous situations. MariNaomi also ran away and was kicked out of her home several times as a teenager.

American Born Chinese

April 18, 2012

Author: Yang, Gene Luen

Title: American Born Chinese

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 233

Geographical Setting: America

Time Period: Current

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: This book holds three stories of characters that are struggling with acceptance in their society. The Monkey King is a character of old Chinese fable, a deity who mastered the art of kung fu and wants to be more than just a monkey. Jin Wang is the son of two foreign Chinese parents and just moved from Chinatown to an “All-American” neighborhood. Jin Wang struggles as he tries to fit in and make friends. The last character is Danny. He is a blonde-haired kid who is popular, until his cousin Chin-Kee, a stereotypical Chinese character, shows up and ruins his life. These three stories are interrelated and as they unfold, readers learn what it is like to be an Asian American. This metaphorical story is full of thought-provoking storylines. This is a coming-of-age book that is funny, moving, and thoughtful.

Subject Headings: Chinese Americans Comic books, strips, etc.
Identity (Psychology) Comic books, strips, etc.
Schools Comic books, strips, etc.
Chinese Americans Fiction.
Identity Fiction.
Schools Fiction.
Cartoons and comics.
Graphic novels.

Appeal: fast-paced, thought-provoking, intricately-plotted, funny, metaphoric, moving, thoughtful, contemporary, realistic, inspirational, resolved ending, interrelated, character-driven, intricately plotted, engaging, and coming of age.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  thought-provoking, intricately-plotted, and funny

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Mar, M.Elaine – Paper Daughter: A Memoir (A life of a Chinese immigrant girl who copes with life in American as she struggles with society and family)

Garrison, Philip – Because I don’t have Wings: stories of Mexican immigrant life (Story of first generation Mexican immigrant as they cope with their life in the new land)

Felder, Leonard – Fitting In is Overrated: the survival guide for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider (A guide to help people deal with others making one feel like an outsider at work, in family, etc.)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Clugston-Major, Chynna – Queen Bee (The main character, Haley, is a newly transferred student who is determined to be popular)

Lee, Marie G – Necessary Roughness (A 16-year old Korean boy who moves to Minnesota with his family now must deal with racism on the football team and his strict father)

Adoff, Jaime – Jimi & me (Keith James is a 12-year old of a mixed race. After his father’s death, he moves to a small town where he is not accepted because of his heritage)

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Bento Box in the Heartland:  My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America by Linda Furiya – Asian-American experience, memoir, adult book for young adults, childhood memories, food, cultural identity, United States, racism, Midwest America, childhood struggles of trying to be accepted, conflicting feelings concerning her ethnicity, identity, and her parents’ arranged marriage.

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming – graphic novel, adult book for young adults, biographical, China’s greatest magician, racism in Hollywood, Asians, Asian Americans, captivating, moving, triumphing over adversity.

Yellow:  Race in America Beyond Black and White by Frank H. Wu – history writing, Asian-American experience, racism, personal account of his own childhood experiences with racism and stereotypes of Asian-Americans, United States.

Name: Jun Yoon