Posts Tagged ‘imaginative’

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

Advertisements

The Night Circus (Audio Book)

October 24, 2012

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 512

Geographical Setting: Predominately London and Concord, Massachusetts but several worldwide settings (traveling circus) as well.

Time Period: 1873-1903

Plot Summary:

Set in the late 19th century, The Night Circus tells the story of a darkly enchanting traveling circus that opens when the sun goes down. While the circus is made up of a large cast of workers and performers, the plot revolves around two young people skilled in magic- Celia, the circus’ illusionist who possesses the ability to manipulate the world around her, and Marco, a former orphan with a knack for altering physical settings. Due to an ancient feud between their instructors, Celia and Marco are bound to compete against each other in a magical challenge that will test their skill and endurance. Unsure of exactly how a winner will be determined, Celia and Marco approach the challenge with fear and distrust of their less than noble mentors and complicate their arrangement further by falling in love. While the story of the young lovers skilled in magic is at the heart of the plot, Morgenstern includes a slue of additional characters who are strangely bound to the circus itself. Memorable secondary characters include the Murray twins whose birth on circus grounds results in their own magical abilities and Tsukiko, a mysterious contortionist with secrets of her own. Morgenstern writes an engrossing tale that includes multiple plot lines and smoothly vacillates between the past and the future. Celia and Marco’s romance is as endearing as it is heartbreaking and the mysterious magic that surrounds the circus is intriguing and thought provoking. Written in a lush and elegant style, The Night Circus is a fascinating dark fantasy story about love,  mystical circumstances, and a spectacularly magical circus that bewilders both its patrons and performers.

Regarding the audio book specifically, Jim Dale tells this spectacular story in a voice that is both engaging and haunting. His varied dialects for this large cast of characters are enjoyable and believable. Reluctant listeners might find Dale’s reading an excellent introduction to the world of audio books and will perhaps seek out addition titles that he has read.

Subject Headings: Circus, Circus performers, Competition, Games, Good and Evil, Magic, Magicians, Magicians’ apprentices, Nineteenth century

3 Appeal Terms: Magical, Thought-Provoking, Elegant

Appeal: Engrossing, Unhurried, Atmospheric, Dark, Magical, Dramatic Characters, Intriguing, Complex Storyline, Flashbacks, Imaginative, Multiple Plot Lines, Plot-Centered, Thought-Provoking, Elegant Language.

Non-Fiction Read-Alikes:

The Circus at the Edge of the Earth: Travels with the Great Wallenda Circus by Charles Wilkins

Writer Charles Wilkins takes the opportunity to travel with the Wallenda Circus on a worldwide trip that spans several weeks. He describes the intriguing circus performers in rich detail and notes the physical danger in which they put themselves in order to remain a part of the show. For readers whose curiosity of circus life was peaked while reading The Night Circus, The Circus at the Edge of the Earth offers an engrossing true adventure story.

Josser: Days and Nights in the Circus by Nell Stroud

Josser is an autobiographical work that tells the story of 18-year-old Stroud who joined a traveling circus after a family tragedy. Readers who wish to explore the relationships among a real circus family might enjoy this non-fiction title.

The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination by Michael Robert Place

The Night Circus includes several detailed descriptions of tarot cards, mostly through the perspective of Isobel the fortuneteller. For readers who took interest in this aspect of circus life, The Tarot offers additional information on the history of reading as well as symbolism found in the cards.

Fiction Read-Alikes:

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

In a society where magic is nearly non-existent, Gilbert Norrell is the only working magician until he meets Jonathan Strange who will become his student. After observing the depth of Jonathan’s skill, Norrell becomes jealous and controlling and a rivalry quickly develops. Readers seeking another dark read about rival magicians in the 19th century might enjoy this title.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater, a high school student, is delighted to discover a university devoted to teaching magic. Eager to change his seemingly dull existence, Quentin enrolls in this fantastical college and begins studies in wizardry. He quickly learns that magic lessons are more difficult than he previously imagined and finds himself tangled up in an alternate universe’s war, which leads to a compelling adventure. Similar to The Night Circus, The Magicians is dark and suspenseful. Readers seeking additional fantasy reading that includes a coming-of-age theme and magicians might appreciate this book

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

For The Night Circus fans who are seeking additional circus reading but would like to delve outside of the Fantasy genre, Water for Elephants might be an enjoyable title. Set in the 1930s, Water for Elephants tells the story of young Jacob who impulsively joins a traveling circus after the sudden loss of his parents. Jacob quickly finds work caring for the exotic circus animals but finds himself falling in love with Marlena, an equestrian star, who is married to the disturbing animal trainer. Jacob’s adventures in this richly detailed circus make for a fast-paced, engaging read. Water for Elephants also offers flashbacks similar to The Night Circus and emphasizes the love story in a circus setting. Readers who enjoyed the romance between Marco and Celia might appreciate this work of Literary Fiction.

Annotation by: Elizabeth Hopkins

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.

Swamplandia!

August 8, 2012

Author:  Karen Russell

Title:  Swamplandia!

Genre:  Literary Fiction/Best sellers

Publication Date:  2011

Number of Pages:  416

Geographical Setting:  Florida Everglades

Time Period:  late 20th century (1980’s)

Plot Summary:  Thirteen-year-old Ava loves the alligator-wrestling life at Swamplandia!, her family’s island home and gator-wrestling theme park in the Florida Everglades.  When her mom—the theme park’s main attraction– dies, the family’s way of life is threatened.  The father goes to the mainland on a business venture; her sister falls in love with a ghost and disappears; and her big brother, Kiwi, gets a job at a rival park called The World of Darkness.  Ava sets out with the eccentric bird-man on a mission through the magical swamps to save her sister, but then she has to save herself.

Subject Headings:  Girls-fiction; Motherless families-fiction; Amusement parks-fiction; Alligators-fiction; Everglades (Florida)-fiction.

Appeal: offbeat, witty, mystical, lyrical, quirky characters, vivid, imaginative, detailed setting, strong sense of place, compassionate, uneasy, changing points of view (two).

3 terms that best describe this book:  imaginative, lyrical, strong sense of place.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Florida Everglades by Connie M. Toops

History of the Florida Everglades, which is where Swamplandia takes place.

Crocodiles and Alligators of the World by David Alderton

Information on origins, evolution and distribution, courtship, reproduction, and many individual species paint a thorough portrait, with maps of their habitats.  References and pictures.  Besides wrestling them, Ava has a pet alligator baby.

The Enduring Seminoles:  From Alligator Wrestling to Ecotourism by Patsy West

Seminole Indians (mentioned in Swamplandia) and economic culture; Florida history, culture and tourism.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard by Kiran Desai

A young postal worker in a small Indian town, Sampath, climbs into a guava tree and becomes unintentionally famous as a holy man, setting off a series of events that spin increasingly out of control.  Humorous, offbeat and strong sense of place.

Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Similar to Swamplandia, because the teen girl is surviving without help of adults, there are descriptions of nature, and a similar writing style.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

A zookeeper’s son, Pi Patel, sets sail for America, but when the ship sinks, he escapes on a life boat and is lost at sea with a dwindling number of animals until only he and a hungry Bengal tiger remain.  It’s a journey with animals and literary.

Name:  Sonia Reppe

 

Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table

August 8, 2012

Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table

Author: Ruth Reichl

Title: Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table

Genre: Nonfiction; Memoirs; Autobiographies (Best Seller)

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 282

Geographical Setting: New York and Connecticut

Time Period: 1950’s

Plot Summary: Ruth Reichl, Gourmet magazine’s editor-in-chief and restaurant critic for The New York Times, writes memoirs about her childhood written under the umbrella of food and cooking. Cooking was her escape from her dysfunctional family, but especially in dealing with her mother who suffered from a mental illness. Although it sounds like this book should be sad and tragic, the stories are told in an amusing and heartwarming way. This novel is set at a relaxed pace as you get to know Ruth as well as the many other descriptive and engaging characters.

Subject Headings: Reichl, Ruth; Cooking; Growing up; Food habits-United States; Recipes

Appeal: character-driven, relaxed pace, amusing, bittersweet, heartwarming, inspirational, nostalgic, candid, conversational, descriptive, dialect-rich, engaging, lush, hopeful, thoughtful, imaginative, clever, colorful, metaphorical

3 terms that best describe this book: heartwarming, descriptive, and character-driven

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber – If you enjoy reading memoirs about food and culture and liked the relaxed pace and amusing nature of Tender at the Bone, you may enjoy this book.

2.    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver- If you enjoy reading memoirs about food and are interested in finding out more about locally grown foods, you may enjoy this read alike.

3.      Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell – If you enjoy reading autobiographies about food and cooking,and appreciate a book with a conversational and humorous tone just like Tender at the Bone, you might want to try this book. (Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs – If you like reading humorous stories about a chefs and cooking set in a relaxed pace, you may enjoy this book.

2.      Corinna Chapman Mysteries by Kerry Greenwood – If you enjoy reading engaging mysteries about food and cooking, this series might appeal to you. (First book in the series is Earthly Delights.)

3.      The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender – If you liked the character-driven nature of Tender at the Bone, but would like to try something a little bit more offbeat and lyrical, you might want to try this book.

Name: Patty Prodanich

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

July 30, 2012

Author: Douglas Adams

Title:  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Genre:  Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1979

Number of Pages:  216

Geographical Setting:  Earth, various other planets and spaceships

Time Period: Present

Series (If applicable):  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Series Book #1

Plot Summary:

With only seconds to spare before the world ends, undercover alien Ford Prefect saves his best friend and himself from annihilation. As the aliens known as Vogons destroy the Earth, Ford and Arthur Dent become galactic hitchhikers on a Vogon ship.  Eventually the two travelers meet up with Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy, his girlfriend Trillion, a woman Arthur tried to pick up at a party once, and a depressed robot named Marvin.  They travel across space and time, learning about the mysteries of the universe (like where all the ballpoint pens go).

Subject Headings:  Science—Fiction, Interstellar Travel, Interplanetary Voyages,

Appeal:  Fast -Paced, Clever Language, Sarcastic, Humorous Tone, Suspenseful, Multiple Points of View, Quirky Characters, Multiple Plot Lines, Plot-Driven, Imaginative, Details of Outer Space and Space Travel, Well-Crafted, Witty

3 terms that best describe this book:  Details of Outer Space and Space Travel, Quirky Characters, Witty

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Megacatastrophes! by David Darling and Dirk Schulze-Makuch (2012)

Chronicles nine bizarre ways the world could suddenly end and how likely those endings are.

The Living Cosmos by Chris Impey (2007)

A study in astrobiology and how it leads to a better understanding of humanity’s place in the universe.

The Space Tourist’s Handbook by Eric Anderson and Joshua Piven (2005)

Details of the voyages made by wealthy tourists going to the International Space Station.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Malachi Constant is given the opportunity to travel the universe with a beautiful woman, who happens to be another man’s wife.  The woman’s husband, Winston Niles Rumfoord, has other plans and the trip does not turn out as any of them expect.  Similar because

Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers by Grant Naylor

All Lister wants to do is get home to Earth, so he boards the Red Dwarf, a ship that will travel to Earth in six or seven years.  Soon he finds himself three million years in the future and the only surviving member of the human race.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

After rescuing a girl named Door, Richard Mayhew finds himself in London Below, a completely new world of magical creatures both good and evil.  Richard and Door begin a quest to save the world.

Name: Erin Sloan

Jurassic Park

July 30, 2012

Author: Crichton, Michael

Title: Jurassic Park

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1991

Number of Pages: 399 p.

Geographical Setting: Multiple Locations in the United States and Costa Rica

Time Period: 1989

Series: Has a sequel, The Lost World

Plot Summary: In this thrilling, fast-paced science fiction story, a genetic engineering corporation, InGen, successfully clones 15 species of dinosaurs.  Hoping to feature these previously extinct creatures in the greatest theme park of all time in an island off the west coast of Costa Rica, the visionary of the project, John Hammond, brings a group of people to evaluate it, including a paleontologist, Alan Grant, a paleobotanist, Ellie Sattler, an investment banker, Donald Gennaro, a mathematician, Ian Malcolm, a computer system analyst, Dennis Nedry, and Hammond’s two grandchildren, Lex and Tim Murphy.  While the theme park initially lives up to its fascinating premise, the underlying instability and chaos of the organization are apparent when an employee turns off the park’s power and security grid to steal dinosaur embryos for a competing genetic company, Biosyn.  The action that follows is a nightmarish fight for survival against several Tyrannosaurus rex, velociraptors, and other dinosaurs as every character tries to leave the island alive.  The novel alternates between the points of view of many different characters, although Ian Malcolm and his illustrations often serve as the main narrator and framework of Michael Crichton’s concerns regarding unregulated science and technology. As in many of his novels, Crichton uses clear language and technical details to tell a suspenseful and compelling story about the dangers of bioengineering and people’s desire to use science and math to control nature and the world.

Subject Headings: Genetic Engineering; Clones and Cloning; DNA; Dinosaurs; Prehistoric Animals; Amusement Parks; Business Sabotage; Scientists; Eccentric Men; Billionaires; Islands — Costa Rica; Science Fiction; Suspense Stories; Adventure Stories; Thriller Stories;

Appeal: fast-paced, compelling, dangerous, dramatic, foreboding, menacing, suspenseful, thought-provoking, thrilling, multiple points of view, flawed and recognizable characters, strong and interesting secondary characters, sympathetic characters, action-oriented, cinematic, violent, imaginative, issue-oriented, descriptive, detailed, informative, intelligent, persuasive, scientific, thoughtful, unique, vivid, well-crafted

3 Terms That Best Describe This Book: unique, thrilling, thought-provoking

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Rex Appeal: The Amazing Story of Sue, the Dinosaur That Changed Science, the Law, and My Life by Peter Larson and Kristin Donnan is an intriguing book about the politics and legal issues surrounding a real significant dinosaur discovery and excavation.

A Clone of Your Own?: The Science and Ethics of Cloning by Arlene Judith Klotzko is an informative and thought-provoking book about the moral and legal issues and history of stem cell research and cloning.

Blindsided: Surviving a Grizzly Attack and Still Loving the Great Bear by Jim Cole is a fascinating book about a grizzly bear that attacks the author during a trip to Yellowstone National Park and how despite his injuries, he still has empathy for grizzly bears and other animals that are still trying to survive in the wild.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston is an action-oriented, detailed science fiction thriller about Tom Broadbent who receives a journal from a dying man, Stern Weathers, in New Mexico that a murderer and the government is determined to get because of its description of the location of a special completely preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Shock by Robin Cook is a suspenseful and thought-provoking story about two Harvard graduate students Joanna Meissner and Deborah Cochrane, in Boston, Massachusetts, who investigate the use of their eggs at a fertility clinic and in the process, confront firsthand the hazards of cloning.

Esau by Philip Kerr is a fast-paced scientific story about Stella Swift, a paleontologist, who receives a fossilized skull from America’s greatest mountain climber, Jack Furness, and organizes an expedition to the Himalayas to investigate the possible new species that the skull represents.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

July 30, 2012

Author: Ransom Riggs

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 352

Geographical Setting: Florida; Wales, British Isles

Time Period: 1940; 2011

Series: Not Applicable

Plot Summary: Ransom Riggs’s debut novel is filled with old, mysterious, and strange photographs of people doing incredible things such as, levitating and lifting a boulder. How people captured these images is a mystery in itself, but what is more fascinating is how Riggs integrates these images into his narrative. Growing up Jacob Portman’s grandfather, Abe, told him of incredible children he knew at an orphanage in the British Isles that Abe escaped from Poland too during WWII. Jacob rejects these stories until witnessing his grandfather’s brutal death. His death inspires Jacob’s journey to the British Isles in order to solve the mystery that was his Grandfather’s life. This book incorporates fantasy, history, magical realism, and thus will appeal to multiple genre readers. The mystery in the story is what propels the plot and hooks the reader. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a Young Adult novel that has captured the attentions of teenagers and adults alike because of it’s complex plot that incorporates time travel, history, and fantasy with the traditional coming-of-age story that only Riggs’s sophisticated storytelling could tell so well.

Subject Headings: Orphanages — Fiction. Islands — Fiction. Mystery and detective stories. Mystery fiction.

Appeal: compelling, suspenseful, psychological, vivid, sympathetic, detailed setting, plot twists, sophisticated, imaginative

3 terms that best describes this book: builds in intensity, well crafted, complex

3 Nonfiction Read-a-likes:

Journey through the British Isles, Harry Cory Wright

Photographer, Harry Cory Wright, captures the beautiful, rural landscape of the British Isles. Explore pictures of the mountains, wooded glades, and beaches that will transport you to these islands. If in, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, you were a fan of the setting in the British Isles, then this book will help you visualize the world that Riggs so evocatively describes.

On the Home Front: Growing Up in Wartime England, Ana Stalcup

Join Ana Stalcup describe her life growing up during WWII wartime England. She discusses what it was like to have soldiers stay in her home, constantly seeing soldiers in her city, and dealing with the slow progress of the war. This book will provide detailed, historical background for what it was like growing up during WWII, similar to the children in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit, Robert Bogdan
Between 1840 and 1940, hundreds of people journeyed across America to display their incredible talents as sideshows or as a part of circuses. In the shows you could see Siamese twins, bearded ladies, and dwarves. Similar to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the orphans in the story would travel and display their strange abilities, and in Freak Shows learn about real people who traveled to display their skills. Also, there are interesting black and white photographs like in Riggs’s story, if as the reader, these mysterious photos peaked your interest.

3 Fiction Read-a-likes:

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer

Another great Young Adult book for adults that incorporates unusual photographs, sympathetic characters, and solving the secrets of lost loved ones. Oskar Schell loses his father during the attacks on the World Trade Center, and Oskar is left to find a lock that his father’s mysterious key opens. Foer’s book is similar to Riggs’s because it is also psychological, sophisticated, and well crafted.

Big Fish: a Novel of Mythic Proportions, Daniel Wallace

When Edward Bloom was a boy his father traveled a lot and while growing up, Edward never felt as if he really knew his father. Whenever his father was home, his father would describe his travels as tall tales. As Edward’s father is dying, Edward tries to learn the truth about his father’s life and these tall tales. A great read-a-like choice for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children if they enjoy unearthing strange, mysterious pasts, compelling plots, magical realism elements, and family relationships.

11/22/63, Stephen King

Jake Eppingis has been enlisted to travel back in time to change history, and prevent the assassination of JFK. Readers who enjoyed routing for Jacob in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, will enjoy following and sympathizing with Jake in 11/22/63. Also, if in Rigg’s story you enjoyed the time travel, the history, and the detailed and atmospheric setting, then check out King’s new suspense story.

Name: Alison Kulczak

In the presence of mine enemies

March 28, 2012

Author: Harry Turtledove

Title: In the Presence of Mine Enemies

Genre: Science Fiction (Alternative Histories)

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 454p.

Geographical Setting: Berlin*

Time Period: Present-day (-ish)*

*In the Presence of My Enemies is a work of fictional alternate history wherein Germany has won the 2nd and 3rd World Wars (the 3rd resulting in the nuclear destruction of all significant American cities, and a new capital in Omaha, in case you were wondering about the home team) and has exterminated (to their satisfaction, at least—think slave labor) the world’s population of Slavs, Jews, Blacks, and a plethora of other racial, ethnic, and nationalist groups.  They are cozy with the Japanese Empire.

Series (If applicable): Not yet.

Plot Summary:  A small community of Jews, loosely allied by family and friendship, struggle to raise families, work, continue the Jewish faith, and survive clandestinely in “present day” Berlin as good “Germans” alongside their unknowing, yet legitimately Aryan, German friends and colleagues.  Adding to their many daily trials, the Reich has been hurled into a new and uncertain direction toward “reform” that leaves the Empire, and especially Berlin, in a heightened state of political and national unrest, boldness, and uncertainty, by the appointment of a progressive new Fuhrer and the political emergence of an enigmatic Party rabble-rouser (think Gorbachev and Yeltsin!).

Subject Headings: Nazi Party (Germany), Jews—German, World War 2, 21st century, Jewish families, Middle class families, Secrets, Secret identity, Identity (Psychology), Political upheaval, Political demonstration, Secret police, Police state, Fascism, Adolf Hitler, Revenge, Genetics, Germany—Politics and government, Genocide, Adultery.

Appeal: plot-driven, dark, surreal, steady, bleak, candid, claustrophobic, foreboding, melancholy, menacing atmosphere, paranoid, suspenseful, detailed, authentic, imaginative, intense, tense/anxious, multiple plot lines, thought-provoking, political, urban, concise, straightforward, ominous.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: plot-driven, dark, thought-provoking.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler

While the suggestion of reading this book might seem as appealing to a reader as stabbing themselves in the eye with a fork, it does merit consideration as Turtledove’s Nazi Empire is wholly dependent on it as both their Constitution and their Bible.  While the plot line of radical reformists calling for adherence to the more democratic-minded first edition of Mein Kampf in order to extend freedoms, liberties, and self-determination to the citizens and conquered nations of the Reich is clever and ironic, the real shivers happen as it becomes clear that Hitler has achieved God-like infallibility and reverence in Turtledove’s nightmare world.

What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany by Eric A. Johnson

Can genocide become an everyday facet of society? Apparently so, the author would argue.  Over 3,000 Germans of the era (Jews and non-Jews, victims and perpetrators) took part in the research for this book.  The conclusion: the average German lived not in fear of the Gestapo or anything else for most of Hitler’s reign, but existed rather comfortably and prosperous.  The estimated 1/3 of Germany that knew of what was happening in the concentration camps, chose to ignore what was going on in their backyards, as well as those citizens that knew of the extermination through rumor.  By the time of Turtledove’s Reich, the extermination of millions (billions?) of people around the globe is viewed simply as historical fact and a privilege of the victors.  This book is a well-deserved kidney punch to German ambiguity and nostalgia when it comes to the pre-War years, as well as to those who think a movement like the Nazis could never threaten the globe again.

Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany by Marion A. Kaplan

This book attempts to answer the age-old question of why the Jews didn’t leave Nazi Germany en masse.  The author uses interviews, diaries, letters, and other first person accounts to portray a Jewish population as confused as they were frightened as the Nazis slowly stole freedom and property until they were trapped in a hostile country, completely deprived and isolated.  This book puts the machinations of genocide into motion with enough momentum to be a fully realized institution for the Jewish families in “Presence”, who know fully well any disclosure of their true identities would result in immediate execution.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Legendary and iconic sci-fi author Dick gives his version of a world in which the Germans and Japanese won the 2nd World War.  Almost a companion piece to In the Presence of Mine Enemies in depicting the goings-on on the other side of the globe, Dick portrays a 1960’s United States that is German-Japanese occupied and has reinstated slavery.  What few Jews who survived live hidden under the cloak of assumed identities.  Sound familiar?

1945: A Novel by Robert Conroy

This is another WW2 based alternate history.  The twist here is that instead of surrendering after the dropping of the atomic bombs, military extremists assume control of the nation, vowing never to surrender.  The ensuing U.S. invasion of the home island unleashes death and carnage in apocalyptic proportion.  This is all the more disturbing given the fact that in reality the Emperor being deposed in a coup by hardline generals vowing to fight to the last man, woman, and child was a very real possibility, narrowly escaped.

Into the Storm: Destroyermen, Book One by Taylor Anderson.

Again, WW2 is the stepping off point for this first book in an on-going series.  In the heat of battle the bloodies and battered destroyer USS Walker seeks escape from faster, deadlier Japanese boats by heading directly into a massive, otherworldly looking squall.  As the storm subsides, the Captain and colorful crew notice that while geographically things look familiar, everything else in the parallel Earth they find themselves trapped in is very, very different.  In no time at all, Walker is tossed into the middle of a genocidal (and carnivorous) war begun by the Grik (human sized vicious, but mindless, lizards) against the Lemurians (human sized noble and peace-loving lemurs).  As this New Earth is technologically somewhere in the 18th century, the allegiance, modern armament, and know-how of Walker and its crew may prove decisive to the fate of this world.

Name: Bill S.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

February 15, 2012

Author: Ransom Riggs

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 352

Geographical Setting: Florida and Wales

Time Period: Present day and 1940

Series (If applicable): Second book forthcoming

Plot Summary: Sixteen year old Jacob has spent his life listening to his grandfather’s stories about growing up in a children’s home during World War II. He is regaled with stories of children who levitate, who can lift boulders, and who are invisible. As Jacob grows up he loses confidence in the truth of the stories, but never loses his affection for his grandfather. Life changes suddenly one day with his grandfather’s brutal murder, which sends Jacob on a downward spiral of depression. Then, in an effort to find the truth behind his grandfather’s life and death, he travels to the small, isolated Welsh island where the children’s home was located. On this lonely island Jacob discovers more about his grandfather and himself than he could have imagined. He finds an island filled with peculiar children, dangerous monsters, and long-kept secrets, and as the book progresses he finds his life becoming more and more inextricably linked to the island and its inhabitants. The photos included throughout the book add an air of authenticity to this atmospheric, captivating mystery.

Subject Headings: Orphanages — Fiction.
Islands — Fiction.
Mystery and detective stories.

Appeal: atmospheric, haunting, magical, vivid characters, complex, imaginative, accessible, darker, open-ended, dramatic, engrossing, compelling

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: atmospheric, imaginative, compelling

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):
3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families after World War II, Tara Zahara—Deals with child refugees, family relationships and World War II.
American Sideshow: An Encyclopedia of History’s Most Wondrous and Curiously Strange Performers, Marc Hartzman—Profiles many people whose unusual characteristics made them a success as sideshow performers.

A History of Wales, John Davies—Provides background information about the area in which most of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children takes place.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Secret Hour, Scott Westerfield—Features children with secret powers facing monsters/predators, storyline contains elements of time shifting, and the story is compelling and suspenseful.

The Aviary, Kathleen O’Dell—Contains magical elements, the plotline features family secrets and mystery elements, and is suspenseful, atmospheric and magical.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close—Jonathan Safran Foer—Dark story with fascinating characters, and featuring images that assist in the storytelling.

Name: Amanda