Posts Tagged ‘humorous’

The Casual Vacancy

December 5, 2012

casualvacancycoverAuthor: J.K. Rowling

Title: The Casual Vacancy

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 512

Geographical Setting: English village of Pagford

Time period: Present day

Genre: Black humor; Satirical fiction

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: In the quiet village of Pagford, chaos ensues after the unexpected death of Barry Fairbrother leaves a vacancy on the parish council. The local election that follows exposes secrets, causes intense battles between families and community members, and leads to unexpected revelations that may change their lives forever.

Subject Headings: City council members – Death – Fiction. Local elections – Fiction. Country life – England—Fiction. England – Fiction. Black humor (Literature).

Appeal: Character-centered, detailed setting, bleak, thought-provoking, engrossing, unsettling, strong language, humorous, multiple points of view, closely observed characters, political

Three appeal terms:  Character-centered, bleak, thought-provoking

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge

Readers who are seeking another bleak read with self-absorbed characters might enjoy An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge. This darkly humorous book also takes place in an English village and involves a bickering town council. The book also centers on young actress Stella, who takes on the job of assistant stage manager at a reparatory theatre company in Liverpool and finds romance with the director of the show.

Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis

For another darkly humorous, satirical fiction tale that takes place in England, readers should check out Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis. This satire pokes fun at modern society and culture in this story of thug Lionel Asbo, who looks out for his nephew Desmond Pepperdine. While Desmond just seeks a quiet and simple life without any trouble, his uncle’s criminal lifestyle has always gotten in his way, but Desmond has no idea how much worse it will get once Lionel wins big in the lottery.

Every Day is Mother’s Day by Hilary Mantel

Like The Casual Vacancy, Every Day is Mother’s Day is a character-driven book with a darkly humorous tone. This book focuses on medium Evelyn Axon, her daughter, Muriel, and their social worker, Isabel Field, as they all confront their own problems and dark secrets.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

J.K. Rowling: A Biography by Sean Smith

Author J.K. Rowling made a huge name for herself with her legendary Harry Potter series, and had fans eagerly awaiting the release of The Casual Vacancy, her first book for adults. These fans might want to check out a biography about Rowling and learn more about the life of their beloved author. J.K. Rowling: A Biography is the full-length story of her life based on research, interviews, and evaluations of her novels by author Sean Smith. Readers will learn about Joanne Rowling before she became the best-selling author she is today, and the experiences that helped lead her to where she is now.

A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories of History’s Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors by Michael Farquhar

Readers who enjoyed the secrets and scandals exposed in fictional work The Casual Vacancy might enjoy reading about actual scandals and true stories of notorious rulers in history. Some of these include Catherine the Great, King George III, and Joanna the Mad.

The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm by Juliet Nicolson

In The Casual Vacancy, politics and social classes played a big role in the story. Readers might enjoy this book because it discusses English society during a period of time in 1911 and covers milestones such as the crowning a new king and paralyzing strikes in the British industry. Also, this book is told from many points of view, much like readers get several different character’s perspectives in The Casual Vacancy.

Name: Melissa Apple

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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

The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves

November 7, 2012

Author: Anthology, 64 contributing authors

Title: The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 281

Geographical Setting: N/A

Time Period: Present (some flashbacks to authors’ adolescence).

Plot Summary: What would you write if you could send a letter to your young adult self? This question is explored in The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves as sixty-four LGBT authors, including Michael Cunningham and Amy Bloom, create an anthology of letters written to themselves as teenagers. While each letter is unique and distinctive, the collection as a whole discusses topics such as: exploring self-identity, the sometimes painful process of coming out, and encouragement and hope for bright futures ahead. Some authors write letters that are nostalgic and humorous as they discuss memorable moments from their adolescence, a well-remembered love for Barbara Streisand’s Broadway albums for example. Other letters take on a more serious tone with discussions of bullying or teenage self-loathing. Despite the variety of moods present in this anthology, the collective message found in the text is hopeful and reassuring with promises of happy adulthood in a more tolerant society. In addition to content, the letters are also unique in format. While the majority of entries consist of traditional letters, others are written in free verse or graphic novel form. This anthology of unsent letters makes for an emotional read that is heartwarming at times while tearful at others. Written in a conversational tone, The Letter Q is an honest and endearing read about courage and self-acceptance that will appeal to both teen and adult readers.

Subject Headings: Coming out (Sexual orientation), Gay men, Self-acceptance, Social situations, Teenage, Teenagers, Gays-Identity, Adolescence

Three Appeal Terms: Hopeful, Humorous, Nostalgic

Appeal: Compassionate, Heartwarming, Hopeful, Humorous, Nostalgic, Optimistic, Flashbacks, Issue-Oriented, Thought-Provoking, Candid, Conversational, Multiple Points of View.

Non-Fiction Read-Alikes:

Oddly Normal: One Family’s Struggle to Help their Teenage Son Come to Terms with his Sexuality by John Schwartz

Written by a New York Times correspondent, Schwartz tells the heartbreaking story of his thirteen-year-old son’s attempt to commit suicide after coming out to friends and family. The near tragedy becomes an uplifting tale as Schwartz recounts his mission to make his teenage son feel safe and supported. Fans of The Letter Q who are looking for additional true coming out stories that are both positive and encouraging may also enjoy this title.

Queer: the ultimate LGBT guide for teens by Kathy Belge

Structured as a guidebook for young adults, Queer offers advice on a wide range of topics including dating, sex, and homophobia. For young adults who appreciated the guidance and suggestions provided in The Letter QQueer may be helpful additional reading for teens who are seeking more resources on coming out.

When I Knew (2005)

A collection of anecdotes from eighty contributing writers, When I Knew authors describe the moment they realized they were gay and the coming out process that followed. When I Knew may appeal to Q fans who are looking for additional anthologies of coming out stories that are both inspiring and humorous.

Fiction Read-Alikes:

My most excellent year: a novel of love, Mary Poppins, & Fenway Park by Steve Kluger

My Most Excellent Year is narrated by three young adults from Boston who share their experiences of love and friendship through letters, emails, and instant messages. This trio of unique characters consists of  T.C., who is baseball-obsessed and has made a hobby of writing letters to his deceased mother; Alejandra, whose father is an ambassador to Mexico and holds Jacqueline Kennedy as her role model; and Augie, a musical theater fanatic who shares his own coming out story. Young adult readers who enjoyed the multiple voices included in The Letter Q may appreciate this humorous coming-of-age/coming out story told through three narrators. My Most Excellent Year’s format of letters, emails, and texts might also appeal to Q fans.

Tessa Masterson Will Go To Prom
 by Emily Franklin

High school senior Lucas is thoroughly shocked when his lifelong best friend, Tessa, turns down his prom invitation and also comes out to him as a lesbian. Wanting to wear a tux and bring her girlfriend to the dance, Tessa is faced with Lucas’ betrayal of spreading her secret and the town’s backlash towards her determination to attend the prom.  readers who are looking for another inspiring yet humorous coming out story told through multiple perspectives might appreciate this title.

Absolutely, Positively Not by David LaRochelle

Sixteen-year-old Steven embarks on a mission to prove to himself that, despite his doubts, he is straight. His adventures include dating a slue of his female classmates, socializing with the jocks, and a comical attempt to purchase a Playboy. When Steven finally admits to himself that he is gay, he comes out to his best friend who responds with overwhelming enthusiasm and urges him to share the good news with everyone he knows. Similar to The Letter Q, Absolutely, Positively Not is endearing, hopeful, and hilarious. Q fans who are seeking additional believable, light-hearted coming out stories might enjoy this book.

Annotation by: Elizabeth Hopkins

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

November 7, 2012

Author:  Jenny Lawson

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

Genre:  Non-Fiction, Autobiography/Memoir

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  318

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

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

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

Similar Authors and Works:

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.  Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy by Melissa Migrom

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

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

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

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

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

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

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

3.  Pipsqueak by Brian M. Wiprud

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

Name:  Nicole

Bossypants

November 7, 2012

Bossypants book coverTitle: Bossypants

Author: Fey, Tina

Genre: Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Biography, Memoir

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 272

Geographical Setting: Pennsylvania, Virginia, Chicago, New York

Time Period: 1970’s to Current Times

Plot Summary: With this hilarious and engaging autobiography, Tina Fey can add clever writer to her list of accomplishments.  Bossypants tells the story of Fey’s life along with her personal advice and general thoughts.   It tells the story of her awkward upbringing in Pennsylvania before moving on to her embarrassing college/theater years as well as her time with Second City, SNL and then her current role as creator and star of 30 Rock.  Fey’s road to success is told in a straightforward manner while also remaining humorous.  There are stories about the people she has worked with through improv and television shows, and she shares intimate stories without being too gossipy.  She shares personal essays on topics such as motherhood and the treatment of women in charge.  Her conversational style pulls the reader in, and you might find yourself wishing you could hang out with her.  Tina Fey manages to be self-deprecating while remaining endearing and it is a fast read.  A great read for those seeking a witty, lighthearted and fun memoir.  Readers who enjoyed her style might want to check out the audiobook version of this autobiography, which Tina Fey herself narrates skillfully.

Subject Headings:  American wit and humor, Women comedians, Women television personalities, Fey, Tina 1970-, Saturday Night Live (Television program), Motherhood-Humor, 30 Rock (Television program), Celebrities-humor

Appeal: Witty, observant, self-deprecating, autobiographical, conversational, candid tone, humorous, sarcastic, insightful, pop culture references, clever, straightforward, earnest, easy pace, inventive, chatty style, unpretentious, engaging

Three Most Relevant Appeal Terms: Witty, Insightful, Candid

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

I Don’t Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother by Allison Pearson

A novel that was made into a movie, this book deals with the issue of balancing family and work as hedge fund manager and mother of two Kate Reddy tries to do.   A humorous, moving tale that is a great book for readers who enjoyed Tina Fey’s thoughts on trying to be a successful mother and boss.

The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

Enjoy this Women’s Lives and Relationships novel whose main character could almost be Tina Fey/Liz Lemon.  It follows television writer Ruth Saunders who is living in Los Angeles along with her sassy grandmother Rae, who raised Ruth after a violent crash that killed her parents and left young Ruth with gruesome facial scars.   Ruth’s dream comes true when her autobiographical sitcom is picked up by a large network.  But the dream is not such a fairytale, as Ruth must deal with egotistical actors, difficult show executives, a crush on her boss and her grandmother’s upcoming wedding.  A witty and charming novel that has a smart, witty protagonist who screams Tina Fey and deals with workplace social issues mentioned in Bossypants.

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

A fascinating read with a self-deprecating, witty style that Fey could enjoy.  Judd Foxman is jobless and living out his depressing life in the basement of a crappy house.  He is newly separated from his wife who he caught having an affair in the most outlandish yet amusing way, but must return home to his crazy dysfunctional family to sit shiva after the death of his father.  An intimate, candid tale of a family full of flawed characters and hilarious moments with each other.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein

A nonfiction book that explores the dark side that can lurk in the world of young girls’ princess fascination.  Here is a subject for those interested in the motherhood advice given by Tina Fey, and maybe even a great read for Tina herself.  Orenstein explores the troubling aspects of the princess phenomenon and early sexualization messages given to girls.  Her research takes her to places including Disneyland, American Girl Place, a Miley Cyrus concert and a child beauty pageant.  An engaging read for anyone trying to raise girls or fascinated by the subject.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Loved reading a biography by a comedy star and want even more? Then this similarly styled memoir should fit the bill.  Comedy writer and star of NBC’s The Office and now The Mindy Project, Mindy candidly talks about growing up as a chubby Indian girl in Massachusetts, her road to comedic fame as well as her thoughts on life, love and friendship.  Enjoy some more humorous tales on comedy writing, television show business and the awesomeness of food.

We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy by Yael Kohen

Get an overview of the history of female comedians within this last half century including the witty Tina Fey.  It traces female comedians and their struggle to conquer a male-dominated world, from Phyllis Diller in the 1950s to current comedians like Chelsea Handler and the women of SNL.  Enjoy this inside look at the evolution of female comedians and the personal interviews with the people involved.

Name: Margita Lidaka

Twenties Girl

October 31, 2012

Author:  Sophie Kinsella

Title:  Twenties Girl

Genre:  Women’s Lives and Relationships

Publication Date:  2009

Number of Pages:  435

Geographical Setting:  London, England

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series:  N/A

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

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

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

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

Three Fiction Read-alikes:

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

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

The Ghost of Greenwich Village by Lorna Graham

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

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

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

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becky King

Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

October 24, 2012

Castle Waiting coverTitle: Castle Waiting, Volume I

Author: Medley, Linda

Publication Date: 2006

Pages: 457

Geographical Setting: Castle Waiting, a safe-haven in a fairy tale world

Time Period: Once Upon a Time

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fairy Tale

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Castle Waiting begins at the end of Sleeping Beauty’s story, the part where she runs blindly off with Prince Charming.  Abandoned and essentially purposeless, her former ladies-in-waiting along with few other eccentric characters have created a sanctuary past the brambly hedge at Castle Waiting for those seeking peace and refuge.  The story we are brought into is only one among a host of others before it, and it begins on a dark and stormy night with a clandestine meeting between a lady and a bear, her bodyguard.  Lady Jain, our heroine, is on the run and, as we soon find out, pregnant.  She flees her home in sadness, bound for Castle Waiting.  The premise sounds cliché.  Castle Waiting is anything but.  Upon arrival at the castle, Lady Jain is greeted a stork-headed butler, a doctor who only appears wearing a beaked plague mask, a silently gruff but secretly gentle blacksmith/handyman, three ladies-in-waiting who finally have a lady, and a bearded nun.  Yes, a bearded nun.

Told through a linked set of stories, Castle Waiting draws heavily from fairy- and folk-tale conventions and spins them in a feminist light.  That isn’t to say that all the male characters are weak or bad.  In fact many of them are quite gentle and good—except for the ones who aren’t.  But they are generally not as important as the female characters, who are independent and empowered, taking care of themselves and others.  This is a joyous and humorous and optimistic story.  Bad things have happened, do happen, and probably will continue to happen, but we are assured the happiest of endings.  The art and the text blend seamlessly.  Illustrated in black and white with strong line work that is as expressive as it is lighthearted, the frames are reminiscent of woodcuts adding to the fairytale quality of the work.  This is a great choice for those who have found other graphic novels too over-stimulating.  It would also be a good crossover for those who enjoy romance or fairytale-style fantasy, or those who simply crave a warm, lighthearted read.

Appeal Characteristics: Engaging, joyful, upbeat, lighthearted, feminist, magical, warm, humorous, Fairy Tale, Quirky Characters, expressive art, detailed setting, smart, domestic, charming

Subject Headings: Fairy Tales, Graphic Novels, Magic, Knights and Knighthood, Nuns, Princesses, Pregnant Women

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Joyful, Engaging, Charming

Similar Fiction: 

The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

The much beloved comic strip featuring a boy with an unbeatable spirit and his sagacious stuffed tiger will bring readers the same joy and optimism found in Castle Waiting.  The artwork here is spare but delightfully expressive.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Three sisters return to their hometown to help care for their dying mother in this domestic fiction.  This novel explores the relationships and bonds between women under exceptional circumstances and features an idyllic setting populated with quirky and endearing characters.

These Children Come at You with Knives, and other Fairy Tales Stories by Jim Knipfel

This book offers re-imagined fairy tales with a decidedly darker turn.  The polite eccentricities found in the characters of Castle Waiting are twisted here into vulgar oddities.  The optimism and warmth may be absent from these tales, but the stories will certainly offer laughs—albeit of the morbid and inappropriate variety.  Only readers who enjoy their fairy tales told at a slant and who don’t mind their humor dark should attempt this book.

Similar Non-fiction:

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming

This graphic novel details the true story of Chinese magician and vaudeville performer Long Tack Sam, and his great-granddaughter’s quest to bring him back into the public light.  A moving story told through a collage of artifacts from both his and her life, this biography maintains an upbeat optimism in the face of turbulence, uncertainty, and racism.

In the Kingdom of the Fairies: A memoir of a Magical Summer and a Remarkable Friendship by Susan Coyne

A moving story about a five-year old girl who for one summer believes her pen pal to be a fairy princess.  In reality it is her elderly neighbor, a man who loves literature and wants to encourage the imagination this girl.  This memoir will appeal to any adult who still believes in the power of make-believe.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Another memoir told in the graphic novel format, this story told by a cult comic strip artist details the author’s relationship with her father during her childhood.  Bechdel’s writing is both witty and moving, and her artwork features strong line work and a monochromatic palette that allows the expressions of the characters to stand out.

Name: Jessica

Same Difference

October 24, 2012

Author/Illustrator:  Derek Kirk Kim

Title:  Same Difference

Genre/Format:  Realistic Fiction, Graphic Novel

Publication Date:  2011

Number of Pages:  90

Geographical Setting:  California (Oakland, Pacifica)

Time Period:  2000 (flashbacks to 1993)

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:

Same Difference first appeared in the collection, Same Difference and Other Stories, which won both the Eisner and the Harvey awards when it debuted in 2004.  Here reissued as a stand alone graphic novel, Same Difference introduces Simon Moore and Nancy Kim- two Korean-American friends in their twenties living in Oakland, California. A trip to Simon’s hometown (Pacifica, CA), spurred by Nancy’s desire to see Ben Leland (a stranger whose love letters she has been secretly reading and responding to) leads to unexpected reunions with classmates from high school.  In both artwork and storytelling, Same Difference depicts the humor and poignancy of people trying to figure out where they are in their lives and what they want from the future- discovering that while our past mishaps may influence who we are today, they need not define us entirely.

Subject Headings:  Humorous stories, interpersonal relationships, friendship, Korean-Americans, graphic novels.

Appeal:  Humorous, poignant, reflective, regrets, missed opportunities, love letters, stereotypes, multicultural characters, friendship, awkward teenage relationships, rediscovery, growth, characters in their twenties.

Three appeal terms that best describe this book:  Humorous, reflective, friendship.

Similar Authors and Works:

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Happy Birthday or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee, and Other Family Disasters by Annie Choi

Readers who enjoyed the humor of Same Difference, and its depiction of modern Korean-American characters may enjoy this book- a witty and funny collection of stories and anecdotes about growing up and being Korean-American.

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

Readers interested in learning how to create stories in a graphic novel format may find this book a useful resource for getting started.  It covers theory and design principles involved with mixing words and art in storytelling, along with exercises and examples to motivate and inspire its readers.

3.  Other People’s Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See by Bill Shapiro

A collection of real love letters of all sorts comprise this book- written on napkins, in e-mails, via traditional pen & paper, etc.  The messages range from funny and sweet to sad and sincere.  In Same Difference, Nancy reads the letters of a stranger, imagining the life and love of the author.  Other People’s Love Letters gives readers a similar glimpse into the personal relationships of others.

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.  The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

This collection of stories centers around Jane Rosenal, beginning at the age of fourteen and continuing into her twenties.  Both Same Difference and this book follow the humor and drama of characters as they learn about themselves and their relationships during their twenties.

2.  Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock

A story unfolds in a series of illustrated letters and postcards between Griffin Moss, a card-designer living in London, and Sabine Strohem, a mysterious woman living in the South Pacific.  Readers who enjoyed Nancy’s pursuit of a stranger, whom she came to know through his letters in Same Difference, may find the romance and mystery of this book appealing.

3.  Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine

Ben Tanaka is a Japanese-American man in his twenties living in Berkeley, California, who travels cross-country in pursuit of love.  Though more melancholy in tone than Same Difference, both stories are graphic novels involving relationships, cultural identity, and self-discovery.

Name:  Nicole

Embroideries

October 24, 2012

Embroideries
Embroideries

Author: Marjane Satrapi

Genre: Graphic Novels; Autobiographical stories; Women’s Lives

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: unpaged

Geographical Setting: Iran (present day)

 

Plot Summary:  A multi-generational group of Iranian women gathers after a meal to share a cup of tea and raunchy stories.  In this book, Marjane Satrapi reveals a glimpse into the world of the women in her life.  These compelling stories of sexual exploits range from humorous to sad.  Despite the fact these women come from an exotic country, the stories are accessible, engaging and full of issues that arise in the lives of most women, regardless of era, country, and culture.

Subject Headings: Family; Friendship; Marriage; Women; Sexuality; Interpersonal relationships;

Appeal:  Thought-provoking; Humorous; Reflective; Character-driven; Accessible; Conversational; Engaging; Spare; Nostalgic; Issue-oriented; Exotic; Introspective;Realistic; Bleak

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Exotic; Humorous; Realistic;

Three fiction read-alikes:

Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea (Islamic county, Women’s lives, Sexuality)

Four young women navigate the complex line between today’s modern culture and the more traditional one of their parents and their land.

Laughable loves by Milan Kundera (Character-driven; Spare; Exotic)

A collection of short-stories revolving around the sexual games and fantasies of middle-class Central Europeans.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros (Character-driven, Spare, Reflective)

Family secrets unfold and sibling rivalries flare during intergenerational vacations involving road trips from Chicago to visit relatives in Mexico.

Three related non-fiction titles:

 Unlikely by Jeffrey Brown (Graphic novel, Interpersonal relationships, Autobiographical)

In this autobiographical graphic novel, Jeffrey Brown bravely shares the compelling story of his first sexual relationship and eventual breakup.

 Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books by Azar Nafisi (Iran, Women)

This is a compelling true story of a group of women in Iran, who risk their lives for the love of literature.

Passionate uprisings: Iran’s sexual revolution by Pardis Mahdavi (Iran, Sexuality)

Told from the unique point of view of a Westerner born of Iranian parents, this book explores the sexual revolution and extreme risks taking place in Iran today.

Name: Shira

Redshirts

October 17, 2012

John Scalzi's RedshirtsAuthor: John Scalzi

Title: Redshirts

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 317

Geographical Setting: Aboard the Universal Union starship Intrepid; Los Angeles, CA

Time Period: The distant future; 2010

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Redshirts builds an entire novel around the premise that on the television series Star Trek, the actors known as extras—usually wearing red shirts—who accompany the main cast members on away missions, invariably die a horrible death at the hands of whatever space monster is threatening the crew that episode. In a Star Trek-like universe aboard the starship Intrepid, Scalzi relates the exploits of red shirt-wearing junior officers determined to discover why their kind is being killed at such an alarming rate. Led by Ensign Andy Dahl, the redshirts follow the trail of a mysterious rogue officer, Lt. Jenkins, who lives a hermit-like existence in the bowels of the ship. Once cornered, the disheveled and wild-eyed Jenkins reveals the truth: that their reality is somehow being shaped by a poorly-written television program from Earth’s distant past. Although incredulous at first, Dahl and his fellow redshirts steal a shuttle craft and time travel to Hollywood in the year 2010 to confront the creators of the basic cable science fiction show, Chronicles of the Intrepid. With an irreverent, witty tone, and filled with eccentric characters, Redshirts satirizes familiar science fiction tropes in a fast paced story filled with enough plot twists to keep the reader guessing through the action-packed mayhem that ensues.

Subject Headings: Space warfare, Aliens (Humanoid), Interplanetary relations, Betrayal, Interstellar relations, Futurism, Human-alien encounters

Appeal: fast paced, eccentric, intriguing secondary characters, quirky, action oriented, television references, plot twists, strong language, humorous, philosophical, suspenseful, colorful, conversational, jargon, unusual

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: quirky, plot twists, humorous

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Life of Super-Earths: How the Hunt for Alien Worlds and Artificial Cells Will Revolutionize Life on Our Planet (2012) by Dimitar D. Sasselov

Redshirts protagonist Andy Dahl is a xenobiologist aboard the starship Intrepid, an expert in alien biology. For those readers who want to know more about the very real field of xenobiology, Sasselov’s work is a fast paced and thought provoking exploration of the blending of synthetic biology and extra-planetary astronomy that seeks to expand our knowledge of life in the universe.

The Physics of Star Trek (2007) by Lawrence Krauss

Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss has made his reputation as a popular author translating the frontiers of scientific thought for a mass audience. In this work Krauss discusses many of the dramatic devices of the classic television series Star Trek, such as warp speed and time travel, and demonstrates their connection with the very real ideas of scientists like Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Readers who enjoy the discussions of the plausibility of the science of Star Trek in Redshirts will appreciate Krauss’s unique brand of scholarly but accessible science writing.

So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel (2012) by Phil Hornshaw

Hornshaw’s humorous, offbeat study of the theory of time travel will appeal to readers of Redshirts who were taken with Scalzi’s descriptions of black holes, alternate timelines, and time paradoxes. Descriptive and engaging, this book uses real science as the basis for a handy guide for would-be time travelers.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Lost and Found (2004) by Alan Dean Foster

In this first volume of the Taken trilogy, Foster tells an atmospheric tale of Marc Walker, who while camping is abducted by seven foot-tall aliens known as the Vilenjji. From his cage aboard an interstellar slave ship, he learns from a fellow abductee, a talking dog named George, that they are to be auctioned off to collectors of interstellar life forms. Readers who responded to Scalzi’s blend of humor and suspense will appreciate a similar tone found here in Dean’s writing.

Night of the Living Trekkies (2010) by Kevin David Anderson

Fans of Star Trek who delighted in seeing that show parodied in Redshirts—if they are willing to swap science fiction for horror with a humorous tone—will be amused by this book. Richly detailed in the lore of all things Trek, Anderson’s novel follows the exploits of Jim Pike, who is forced to lead a small band of survivors when a strange virus transforms most of the attendees at a Star Trek convention into flesh-eating zombies.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (2010) by Charles Yu

Time travel was central to the storyline of Redshirts, as it is in this novel, which depicts a future where time travel is commonplace, and about a young man’s quest through time to find his missing father—the very first time traveler. Both Redshirts and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe share a tongue-in-cheek meta-perspective about the genre of science fiction, are witty in tone and similarly filled with eccentric and interesting characters.

Name: John Rimer