Posts Tagged ‘honest’

Vampire God: The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture

August 22, 2012

Vampire God: The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture

August 20, 2012

Vampire God: The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture

Author: Mary Y. Hallab

Title: Vampire God: The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture

Genre: non-fiction

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 180

Geographical Setting: Multiple Locations and Time Periods

Time Period: Ancient to Modern Times

Plot Summary: This is a non-fiction work. It delves into the myths and lore that surround vampires throughout history. Moreover, the book studies why the vampire myth has endured for so long and why it is embedded in popular culture today. The book also looks at the various literature and film concerning vampires.

Subject Headings: Nonfiction – Vampire; Nonfiction — Myth; Nonfiction– Popular Culture; Nonfiction – Vampire Culture

Appeal: Humorous, Engaging, Honest, Insightful, Detailed, Engrossing, Complex, Realistic, Mythical, Thought-Provoking, Well-Researched, Well-Written

Three appeal terms:  Engaging, Insightful, Mythical

Three fiction read-alikes:

The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

This book follows Lestat from his mortal years to that of a Vampire. Not wanting to live the life a hidden vampire, he decides to become a rock-star. Lestat also looks into how his species came into being.


Bram Stocker’s Dracula: The Graphic Novel by Gary Reed

This is a graphic novel based on Bram Stocker’s Dracula. Follows the story of Dracula leader of the undead.Wonderful art is on every page bringing the lord of the night into reality. A wonderful adaptation of a classic work.


Salem’s Lot by Stephen King


This story follows Ben Mears, a writer, who returns home after twenty-five years to write about the old Marsten House. When all of a sudden it seems there is a vampire outbreak in the town. A very gripping and suspenseful horror story told by the master of horror Stephen King.


Three related non-fiction titles:

Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality by Paul Barber

This is a non-fiction book that looks at the ancient folklore and myths of vampires. The book also looks at what might have been behind these ancient legends.

Dracula the Price with Many Faces: His Life and Times by Radu R Florescu and Raymond T. McNally

This book is the true account of Vlad Dracula king of Romania. He was nicknamed the Impaler, because he would impale his enemies alive and leave them as a warning to other would-be enemies. One of the cruelest rulers ever to be king in Europe, but honored by his country-men.

The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead by J. Gordon Melton

This encyclopedia of Vampires covers the lore of the legendary creature. It goes in depth on the Vampire’s history, as well as, its influence in literature, and modern incarnations of the Vampire myth.

– Charles Ford

American Born Chinese

August 13, 2012

American Born Chinese

August 13, 2012

American Born Chinese

Author: Gene Luen Yang

Title: American Born Chinese

Genre: Multi-Cultural Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 233

Geographical Setting: San Francisco, California

Time Period: Modern/Mythical Time

Plot Summary: This is a graphic novel that blends traditional Chinese mythology with racial stereotypes and understanding identity. This novel has three separate stories. The first is the tale of the Monkey King, a Chinese Myth. The second story follows a Chinese boy named Jin Wang who moves from China-Town, in San Francisco, to an all white suburb and his struggles to fit in. The third story follows a white-American boy named Danny whose Chinese cousin comes to visit. “Chin-Kee,” his cousin, displays all the racial stereotypes of Chinese peoples. This novel won numerous awards including the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album.

Subject Headings: Chinese – Graphic Novel; Chinese Mythology — Graphic Novel; Race identity– Fiction; Chinese Stereotypes – Graphic Novel

Appeal: Thoughtful, Engaging, Honest, Candid, Detailed, Engrossing, Complex, Realistic, Mythical, Thought-Provoking, Multiple- Points of View, Artistic

Three appeal terms:  Candid, Mythical, Complex

Three fiction read-alikes:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This book is a look at Junior, a teen-ager, who is a Spokane Indian. He lives on the reservation with his family, but decides to go to an all-white high school. This book contains wonderful illustrations and deals with race-identity and racial stereo types.

Black and White by Paul Volponi

This book looks at the disparities in the justice system between blacks and whites in America.  It follows the story of two friends, one black and one white: Marcus and Eddy. They both play basketball and are best friends, but one day they both commit the same crime, will one be treated differently than the other because of race?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This novel is a classic in American Literature. It is a story about a black man who is wrongly accused of a crime and the white lawyer who goes against the “norm” to represent the accused.  It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.

Three related non-fiction titles:

Chinese Mythology: An Introduction by Ann M. Birrell

This book includes over three-hundred Chinese myths translated by Anne Birrell. The reason this book is so amazing is that many of the myths are from classical texts that have never been translated for the west.

Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah

This novel is a true account of Adeline Mah’s childhood told as the classical Cinderella story. Her father re-marries after her mother dies in child-birth and the life she and her siblings have to endure at the hands of their “wicked” step-mother. She is treated the worst of all.

Driven Out: The Forgotten War against Chinese Americans by Jean Pfælzer

This is a look at the shocking truth behind the systematic purging of Chinese people from 1848 till the 1900s in the West. This is a true story of triumph over adversity as the Chinese did not sit still for this treatment and fought back for their civil-rights.

– Charles Ford

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

Mom’s Cancer

April 18, 2012

Author: Brian Fies

Title: Mom’s Cancer

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 115

Geographical Setting: New York

Time Period:  2011

Series (If applicable):

Plot Summary: Cancer is never an easy subject to discuss but in this honest graphic novel, Mom’s Cancer discusses one family’s experience with lung and brain cancer. Brian uses his art to be straightforward with his reader about the hardships that him and his family members dealt with after learning about his mother’s cancer.  Written from the words of his journal, Brian turned the text into bold and moving illustrations. His art is bold, reflective and thoughtful. His ability to capture emotion on a page is memorizing as the reader will captivated from image to image.

Subject Headings: Autobiographical Comic Book, Relationships, Graphic Novels, Family, Science Fiction

Appeal: Cancer, Family and Relationships, Memoir, Quick Pace, Thought provoking, Character Driven, Moving, Candid, Honest, Emotional, Powerful, Moving, Well-Developed, Straight-forward, Reflective

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Family and Relationships, Cancer and Graphic Novel

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Mom: 101 Stories Celebrating the Power of Choice for Stay-at-Home and Work-from-Home Moms by Jack Canfield. This non-fiction novel contains 101 stories from mothers who have all made the choice to be a stay at home mother or work from their home all while raising a family. These high-performing women have become powerful mothers who write from the heart about trying to be “perfect” for their children and themselves. This is a great book club book and empower all women who strive to want something better for themselves and their families.

            Stitches by David Small. David awakes from an operation to discover he can no long talk. It isn’t until several years later at the age of 14 that he finds out he had cancer and was not expected to make it through the night. This award-winning child’s author and illustrator recreate his childhood events in a painful, highly anxious and painful story.

The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Lacks. This novel takes a look at an African American southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors.  Henretta became the first “immortal” human to have her cells grown in culture and with the help of her cells, the polio vaccine, secrets of cancer viruses and the atom bomb’s effects were all developed although she has been deceased for more then 60 years. Rebecca Skloot takes a look at her life before and after she became known as HeLa. A well researched novel that will bring numerous topics to be discussed around book club members and family alike.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

What We Keep by Elizabeth Berg. A heartwarming novel about the relationship between both mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. It portrays evolving family dynamics, choices and changes. The novel flips back and forth between two perspectives; 12 year old Ginny who experiences abandonment of her mother along with 47 year old Ginny who is flying to visit her mother who she hasn’t seen in 35 years. Ginny learns how to confront painful choices that occurred in her life as well as surprising truths about the people she thought she knew best. A gripping tale depicting grudges, forgiveness and the importance of having a mother-daughter relationship.

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause. Zoe’s mom is dying of cancer, her father id distracted and her best friend moved away. She feels utterly alone until she meets Simon, who wants to avenge his own mother’s death which was over 300 years ago. Simon is one of the undead, a vampire, seeking revenge for the gruesome death of his mother three hundred years before.  Does Simon ask Zoe to help him with his chase or does she have to suffer forever? The point of you alternates between Zoe and Simon allowing the reader to draw close to each character. This does have a different spin on romance between humans and vampires showcasing that life is valuable and should be lived or move on to the next stage of their life.

Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar. A novel about a man named Paul Giamatti who finds out he has lymphoma and must begin chemotherapy. This graphic novel does a wonderful job discussing the struggles that families go through when dealing with the news. It emphasis’s the energy to survive not just cancer but the treatment as well. It’s a gripping tale that will embrace cancer and the troubles it brings to both its patients and their family members. The tone is soft, encouraging and insightful.

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

April 4, 2012

Author – Audre Lorde

Title – Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

Genre – Women’s Lives & Relationships, GLBTQ

Publication Date – 1982

Number of Pages – 256

Geographical Setting – New York City

Time Period – 1950s

Series – N/A

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

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

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

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works –

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

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

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

3 Relevant Fiction Works –

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

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

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

Name: Katie Midgley


August 17, 2011


Author: Leslie Marmon Silko

Title:  Ceremony

Genre:  Native American Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1977, 2006

Number of Pages:  243

Geographical Setting:  WWII Japan, American West

Time Period: 1930s, WWII, post-World War II

Plot Summary: Tayo, a Native American World War II veteran, struggles with coming to terms with the death of his cousin in the war while trying to overcome “battle fatigue.” The story is ripe with flashbacks to the war and Tayo’s childhood on the reservation as well as traditional Laguna stories and tales.

Subject Headings: World War, 1939-1945 –Veterans –Fiction.

Laguna Indians — Fiction

Appeal: densely written, bleak, moving, introspective, character-driven, emotional, details of Laguna life, powerful, realistic, touching, thought provoking, deep, honest, well-crafted

3 terms that best describe this book: moving, character-driven, introspective


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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest – Craig Childs

Just as Tayo’s tribe was being to be “lost” in the white world, this book explores the lost civilization of the Anasazi tribe.

Spirit walker – Nancy Wood and Frank Howell

Native American poetry that draws on tradition and imagery.

Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony: A Casebook – Allan Chavkin

An academic look at Ceremony, including 14 essays that provide more information on Native American traditions.

3 relevant fiction works and authors:

War woman: a novel of the Real People – Robert J Conley

A novel based on the early struggles between the Cherokee and the Europeans. Tribal traditions and beliefs are woven into the story.

Love medicine – Louise Erdrich

Interwoven stories exploring the past and present struggles of Native tribes.

A yellow raft in blue water – Michael Dorris

A more modern look at the hardships of life on a reservation.

A Lesson Before Dying

August 17, 2011

Author:  Gaines, Ernest J.

Title:  A Lesson Before Dying

Genre:  African American Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1997

Number of Pages:  256

Geographical Setting:  Bayonne, LA

Time Period:  late 1940s, post-World War II

Series:  N/A

Plot SummaryA Lesson Before Dying is the story of Jefferson, a young black man in rural Louisiana in the 1940s sentenced to die for a murder he did not commit.  In his closing statement, Jefferson’s defense lawyer argues that Jefferson is as ignorant and stupid as animal, no better than a mere hog, incapable of planning such a crime, but the all-white jury finds him guilty.  From that point on, Jefferson only thinks of himself as a hog.   Miss Emma, Jefferson’s grandmother, persuades Grant Wiggins, the local schoolteacher to speak to Jefferson to help raise him up to believe in himself again as a man, so that he may die with dignity.  The story is told in first person by Wiggins, the black boy who was able to leave the plantation to pursue a better life, but is back as the schoolteacher, burned out now by the futility of teaching poor blacks in the rural South.  Full of self-doubts, Wiggins doesn’t feel he is up to the task, but during their meetings in prison, he discovers as much about himself as Jefferson, and both men re-examine what it means to be a human being, and the strength of the human spirit.  A Lesson Before Dying is a realistic and insightful look at life in the rural South in the 1940s, and the racial prejudice that was an accepted part of everyday life. The characters are believable and very human.   In simple but powerful prose, Gaines lets the realities of the story speak for themselves almost as if this were a nonfiction peace of work.

Subject Headings: Rural Poor, African American Death Row Prisoners, African American Men, African American Teachers, Injustice, Manhood, Race Relations, The South

Appeal: moving, character driven, eloquent, emotional, detailed, ennobling, heartbreaking, powerful, classic, realistic, touching, thought provoking, simple, deep, honest, unflinching

3 terms that best describe this book: simple, honest, eloquent

Similar Authors and Works

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors: A Saint on Death Row:  The Story of Dominique Green by Thomas Cahill is an eerily similar story of a black man on Death Row accused of shooting a white man during a robbery.   Jackie Robinson:  A Biography by Arold Rampersad is the story of the first black Major League baseball player.  Brainwashed:  Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell deals with the disturbing question of why so many blacks still think and act like slaves.

3 Revelant Fiction Works and Authors:  As I Lay Dying by William Falkner has the similar bleak setting of life in the rural South, as well as the same poignant feel .  To Kill a Mockingbird has a similar plot, setting, and sense of hopelessness of a black man falsely accused and judged by whites.  The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck has the same simple prose and similar theme of rural poverty and injustice.

Chris M.


August 10, 2011

Author: Tina Fey

Title: Bossypants

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Bestseller, Audiobook

Narrator: Tina Fey

Running Time: 5.5. hours unabridged

Publication Date: 2011

Geographical Setting: Philadelphia and suburbs, Chicago, New York

Time Period: 1970 to present

Series: NA

Plot Summary: Tina Fey’s Bossypants isn’t so much a memoir as a here’s-what-happened-and-what-I-think-about-it book. Fey stumbles through summer theater camps, college experimentation, and working the desk at the YMCA before breaking into the male-dominated world of comedy. While hardly a feminist manifesto, Bossypants illustrates eloquently (while a tad profanity-riddled) the sexism that challenged female comedians into the 1990s; an obstacle that was largely overcome by comedians like SNL alums Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph.

The audiobook is certainly a revelation to Tina Fey fans. Fey talks you through the “relative stress of various jobs” and the birth of her “swarthy baby.” The stark honesty of Fey’s Bossypants turns brash and unapologetic when read with the comedic timing and flair of the author. For a hilarious and often surprisingly deep story about coming of age, Bossypants will appeal to lovers of self-deprecating humor and no-holds-barred memoirs

Subject Headings: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Humor, Second City, Saturday Night Live

Appeal: engrossing, engaging, flawed, candid, humorous, sarcastic, insightful, honest, quirky, contemporary, informal, strong language

3 Terms that best define this book: humorous, quirky, candid

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern (Both feature strong father features and explore parent/child relationships with sarcastic humor)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? By Mindy Kaling (The Office actress observes, life, romance and pop culture through personal stories and wit)

Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales (Almost three decades of oral histories from the cast and crew of SNL featuring scandals, infighting and showbiz dirt)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles (one man’s sarcastic and humorous look back on his life as he writes a complaint letter to American Airlines while his flight is delayed; very similar humor and autobiographical feel)

My Favorite Midlife Crisis (Yet) by Toby Devens (Fifty-something Dr. Gwyneth Berke is left reeling from her divorce to examine her professional and personal life; the struggle between career and family is told with wit and humor very similar to Fey)

The Starter Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer (The wife of a Hollywood studio head is thrown over for a pop starlet; similar themes with the struggle between career and family, the humorous take on the dating scene)

By Denise




Don Fey

Photo Shoots

How Starbucks Saved my Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else

June 23, 2010


Author:  Michael Gates Gill

Genre: Memoir, Inspirational

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages: 268

Geographical Setting:  New York

Time Period:  present day

Plot Summary: Michael Gates Gill was born into a privileged life. A very privileged life. His family had money, just like everyone else they knew or cared about. Michael went to the best schools, graduated from Yale. In his late fifties he had everything: high-powered career as a marking executive, six-figure salary, big house in a great neighborhood, a wife and four loving children. But it didn’t last. He lost professional footing as his firm became gradually younger, fresher, and more innovative. Eventually he lost his job, then struggled and failed at employing himself as an independent consultant. Michael sought consolation in an affair, a relationship started ‘on totally false assumptions.’ Eventually his girlfriend became pregnant. He told his wife about their relationship after his son was born. Unsurprisingly, his marriage ended in divorce. Karmatically, his girlfriend looses interest and their relationship is limited to raising little Jonathan. Then Michael is diagnosed with a brain tumor.

While sitting in a Starbucks, mulling over his looses with a latte his dwindling savings can hardly afford, a young African American woman asks Michael if he wants a job. Not realizing a Starbucks was holding a job fair in the café, he was drawn in by the company’s generous health insurance. When Crystal calls Mike (the author discarded his former persona) to offer him a job he immediately accepts is hired as a barista.  Here the real story begins. Mike shares the story of his first year working for Starbucks; the people he works with and learns to respect, serving customers good and bad, and the value of work. Though initially a ‘fish out of water’ Mike learns to truly enjoy and appreciate what outsides can only call his ‘misfortune.’

Subject Headings: Starbucks Coffee Company, New York City, Biography,
Advertising executives, Coffee houses, Brain tumor patients, New York Times bestseller, memoir

Appeal Terms: accessible, leaps of faith, fateful, introspective, humbling, philosophical, life crisis, optimistic, relatable characters, honest, challenges stereotypes, appreciative, free-falling, survival story

Three words that describe this book: accessible, honest, modern-day survival story

Similar Works:


The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

Newspaper columnist Corrigan was a happily married mother of two young daughters when she discovered a cancerous lump in her breast. As Corrigan reports on her cancer treatment—the chemo, the surgery, the radiation—she weaves in the story of her family: larger-than-life father, loving mother and brothers, her husband and daughters. Stories lead up to ‘that middle place’, being someone’s child, but also having children of her own. Similarities: cancer survival, contemplation, relationships, coping, honest, inspiring

Doing nothing: a history of loafers, loungers, slackers and bums in America by Tom Lutz

A cultural history of the American attitude toward work cites the pivotal contributions of the Industrial Revolution in the formation of the modern work ethic, evaluating the current divergence between “worker” and “slacker” stereotypes. Similarities: explores work ethic/ social responsibility and values, enlightening, engaging

It’s Not About the Coffee by Howard Behar

Howard Behar, founding president of Starbucks International and president of Starbucks North America, tells of the strategies he used to establish the business into the success it is today. Behar shares the soft skills that helped to construct the company from a regional outlet to a corporation with international reach. Similarities: straightforward, heartfelt, refreshing, success story.


Diary of a Yuppie by Louis Auchincloss

Driven by an insatiable hunger for power, Bob Service, a thirty-two year-old New York lawyer whose morals are tempered by expediency, tramples his associates and cripples his marriage. When Service meets the female version of himself–a “hard-boiled yuppette” he undergoes a “conversion.” Literature, once Service’s passion, seems to redeem him. Similarities: cautionary tale, explores the ethics of in business, love, and friendship, reforming shallow characters

Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos

When elderly Margaret Hughes discovers that she has a malignant brain tumor, she refuses treatment and decides to take a nice young tenant into her huge, lonely Seattle mansion for company. What she gets is Wanda Schultz, a tough-as-nails stage manager who is secretly seeking the man who left her and prone to inexplicable weeping breakdowns. Wanda, ignorant of Margaret’s illness, is intrigued by the museum-like house and its eccentric owner. Similarities: intergenerational relationships, coping with illness, hopeful outlook

Man Walks into a Room by Nicole Krauss

Found wandering in the desert outside of Las Vegas, Samson Greene, a thirty-six-year-old Columbia University English professor, is discovered to have a brain tumor, but when surgery removes the tumor, leaving him with no recollection of his life after the age of twelve, he finds himself struggling to deal with a life, and a wife, he no longer recognizes. Similarities: surprisingly lighthearted, observant, touching, philosophical

The Kite Runner

October 21, 2009

Title: The Kite Runner

Author: Khaled Hosseini

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 371

Genre: Bestseller (September, 2004) – Literary Fiction

Geographical Setting: Afghanistan, Pakistan, California

Time Period: 1970s to the present

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: The Kite Runner follows the story of Amir, the privileged son of a wealthy businessman (Baba) in Kabul, and Hassan, the son of Amir’s father’s servant, Ali. A first-person narrative, Amir tells the story of growing up in Kabul, with his best friend Hassan. As children in the relatively stable Afghanistan of the early 1970s, the boys are inseparable. They spend their days running kites and telling stories of mystical places and powerful warriors until an unspeakable event changes their relationship forever. Soon after this event, Hassan and his father, Ali, leave Baba’s home. Amir and his father end up fleeing to America, where Amir remains haunted by his cowardly actions and disloyalty towards Hassan. In part, it is these demons and the inability to forgive himself that brings Amir, as an adult, back to his war-torn native land after it comes under Taliban rule. When he receives a phone call from his father’s best friend, Rahim Khan, Amir realizes that returning to Kabul may be the only way he can find forgiveness and perhaps peace of mind.

Subject Headings: Afghanistan, Literary fiction, Kite runner, Taliban, Historical fiction, Boys, Rape, Adoption, Friendship, Deception, Sexual abuse, Betrayal, Abuse, Coming of age, Forgiveness, Kites, Love, Loyalty, Multiculturalism, Muslim, Survival, Religion, Redemption, Relationships, Tragedy, War, Kabul, Abandonment, Family, Alienation, Arabic, Disability, Family, Violence, The 1970s

Appeal: Well-told, compelling, eye-opening, emotional, honest, tragic, funny, hopeful, heartfelt, extraordinary, insightful, intriguing, enlightening

Three terms that best describe this book: Compelling, Heartrending, Thought-provoking

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

House of Sand and Fog (1999) by Andre Dubus Kathy is living alone in the modest California bungalow she inherited from her father and has few material or emotional resources upon which to draw when a pair of sheriff’s deputies evict her. It’s all a mistake, but before Kathy can straighten things out, Colonel Behrani, an exiled Iranian air force officer forced to work menial jobs to support his family, snaps up her home at auction for a third of its value, moves in, and prepares to resell it at a profit. The turmoil and anguish that Kathy, the Colonel, and his family go through make this a heart-wrenching, realistic story.

The Warlord’s Son (2004) by Dan Fesperman – A tale of betrayal, brutality, and courage, Skelly (aka Stan Kelly), is a three times-married, journalistic warhorse, a veteran of hot spots from Managua to Sarajevo to the Kuwaiti deserts. Suffering burnout, he returns to the U.S., but “three years of the suburbs of the Midwest had left [him] forgetful of past lessons.” Now in Pakistan, he plans to cross the border into post-9/11 Afghanistan in hopes of a career-crowning story.

The Mulberry Empire (2002) by Philip Hensher — In 1839, about 50,000 British troops entered Afghanistan to replace the amir with someone more palatable to the Empire. In this fictionalized account, Burnes, a British explorer who ventures into the capital city of Kabul and befriends the soon-to-be-ousted Amir Dost Mohammed Khan. There are a large cast of characters that include Russians, Afghans, emperors, merchants, journalists, serfs, soldiers, expatriates, army wives, and Bella Garraway, the woman whom Burnes, the protagonist, briefly loves. After their affair, Burnes returns to Afghanistan by way of India. The numerous characters, plot lines, and time shifts make the events of this story appear timeless.

Relevant Non-fiction Works and Authors:

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (2007) by Ishmael Beah Beah lived with his family in the village of Mogbwemo until the civil war reached their area in 1991. All members of Beah’s immediate family were killed, and his village destroyed. In 2007, Beah’s memoir, was published, recounting the story of how Beah was forced to go into hiding along with several other young boys after their villages were attacked by the RUF (Revolutionary United Front). Eventually, at the age of thirteen, Beah was forced to become a soldier for the Sierra Leonean army. After nearly three years of fighting, Beah was rescued by UNICEF and sent to a rehabilitation center in Freetown.

One Day the Soldiers Came: Voices of Children in War (2007) by Charles London — London speaks with child soldiers from around the world, recounting their stories and helping to raise awareness of the estimated 300,000 child soldiers across the world. This book explores the world of refugee children and compiles stories and drawings of children from Burma, Congo, Kosovo, Sudan, and Rwanda to reveal how they understand and have been shaped by the conflicts surrounding them. As a 21-year-old research associate for Refugees International, young-adult advocate London began his five-year immersion in the international world of refugee youth and child militia in East Africa, Thailand and the Balkans, barely scratching the surface of the estimated 20 million uprooted refugee children worldwide.

They Poured Fire on Us From The Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan (2005) by Alephonsion Deng, Benson Deng, Benjamin Ajak ; with Judy A. Bernstein. Raised by Sudan’s Dinka tribe, the Deng brothers and their cousin Benjamin were all under the age of seven when they left their homes after terrifying attacks on their villages during the Sudanese civil war. In 2001, the three were relocated to the U.S. from Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp as part of an international refugee relief program. Arriving in this country, they immediately began to fill composition books with the memoirs of chaos and culture shock collected here.

Name: Maurine