Posts Tagged ‘inspirational’

I Am J

December 11, 2012

i am j coverAuthor: Cris Beam

Title: I Am J

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 326

Geographical Setting: Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood

Time period: Present day

Genre: GLBT fiction; Realistic fiction

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: J has always known that he is a boy stuck in a girl’s body. When he was young, he could refuse to be put in dresses and goof around like one of the boys on the playground.  As a teenager, however, J’s body begins to change, forcing him to hide under layers of clothing. Feeling like nobody understands him, not even his best friend, J decides to run away and figure out things out on his own.  On his journey he makes a new friend at a special school for gay and transgender teens, finds romance with a straight female artist named Blue, and learns about testosterone – the one thing that might finally allow him to come out of hiding and become the boy he always knew he was. This is an inspiring story that can be understood by any teenager (or adult) who has ever felt isolated or struggled to embrace their identity, and how to overcome these obstacles on the path to self-discovery.

Subject Headings: Transsexuals – Fiction. Identity – Fiction. Emotional problems – Fiction. Friendship – fiction.

Appeal: Character driven, thought-provoking, inspirational, issue-oriented, compelling, leisurely paced, sobering, descriptive, well-developed characters, moving, urban setting, realistic

Three appeal terms:  Character driven, thought-provoking, issue-oriented

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Luna by Julie Anne Peters

Luna also tells the tale of a transgender person struggling for self-identity, but this time the reader gets the story from the point of view of another character. Teenager Regan is the only person who knows that her older brother Liam is a transsexual, until he decides to transition and finally shares his secret with his family and friends. Readers who enjoyed the character-driven, issue-oriented tale of J in I Am J will likely get just as wrapped up in Liam’s story in Luna.

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

It’s 1968 in a small Canadian town where the parents of a baby born as a hermaphrodite struggle with how to raise their child. The father takes charge, deciding to raise the child as a boy named Wayne. The mother, however, secretly nurtures her child’s feminine side. As Wayne grows up, he realizes that he can’t ignore the part of his self that he thinks of as a girl named Annabel, and finds himself battling to decide with which gender he truly identifies.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

For readers who would like a more cheerful gay-themed book that doesn’t take itself so seriously, I suggest David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy. The town where high-school sophomore Paul lives is described in reviews as a “gay utopia,” and this is a very fitting description. It’s no secret that Paul is gay, but nobody cares! He fits right in at this high school where the football team’s quarterback is a cross-dresser and the cheerleading team is made up of a bunch of bikers. This is an upbeat, character-driven book that shows the less serious side of finding and accepting one’s true identity.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers by Cris Beam

Written by the same author as I Am J, this is the true story of Beam’s volunteer work at a support center for transgender teens. Beam introduces the reader to four students she meets who are challenged with figuring out who they are and how they are seen by the outside world. Beam’s narrative reveals how the struggles they face are familiar to what we all face – the desire to be comfortable with ourselves and also be accepted by those around us.

GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel

GLBTQ teens can find advice, support, guidance and useful information in this valuable resource that has been updated since it was first published in 2003. This book is geared towards young adults who are questioning their sexual or gender identity and may need guidance and support or simply reassurance that they are not alone.

The Privilege of Youth: a Teenager’s Story of Longing for Acceptance and Friendship by David Pelzer

This book is about acceptance, which has been the underlying theme of all of these books. In this inspiring memoir, Pelzer shares his compelling story of an abusive childhood, followed by an adolescence of bullying and longing for acceptance, and how he finally escaped his home life and overcame the struggles he faced his whole life.

Name: Melissa Apple

Before I Wake

October 3, 2012

Cover Before I Wake Author:  Dee Henderson

 Title:  Before I Wake

 Genre: Christian Fiction & Romantic Suspense

 Publication Date:  2006

 Number of Pages:  381

 Geographical Setting:  Justice, Illinois

 Time Period:  Contemporary

 Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  Haunted by the death of a colleague in a botched undercover investigation, former FBI agent Rae Gabriella is looking for a change in career, as well as scenery.  Taking her ex-fiancé, Bruce Campbell, up on his offer to join his Private Investigation firm, she looks forward to settling into a less stressful life in the small town of Justice, Illinois.  The ideal of small-town life is soon shattered when two unrelated young women visiting Justice are found dead in their hotel rooms within a week; both having died in their sleep.  Are their deaths an unfortunate coincidence or the result of something much more sinister?  Sheriff Nathan Justice asks Rae and Bruce for help in getting to the bottom of the mysterious deaths, unwittingly setting Rae up as a potential victim.  Rae must deal with a personal crisis in faith, as well as growing romantic feelings for both Bruce and Nathan, as she races to pursue leads that indicate a killer is on the loose.

Subject Headings:  Women Private Investigators — Illinois — Fiction;  Women Travelers —Fiction; Tourists — Crimes Against — Fiction; Illinois – Fiction

Appeal:   fast-paced, compelling, atmospheric, dangerous, suspenseful, romantic, well-developed characters, introspective, inspirational, investigative, multiple plot lines, plot-driven, open-ended, contemporary, small-town, dramatic

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe Book:  fast-paced, suspenseful, small-town

Fiction Read-alikes:

Fatal Judgment by Irene Hannon

Against his wishes, U.S. Marshall Jake Taylor is assigned to protect the life of his best friend’s widow, Federal Judge Liz Michaels, whom Jake blames for his friend’s suicide.  This is the first volume in the Guardians of Justice series, and Hannon is a Christy Award winning author.  Like Before I Wake, this book is a fast-paced, compelling Christian Romantic Suspense title with a law-enforcement theme, where the main female character becomes a potential victim of an unknown predator.

Hideaway by Hannah Alexander

Dr. Cheyenne Allison withdraws to a small Missouri town to escape feelings of guilt over her sister’s tragic death.  When vandalism in town leads to serious violence and injuries, Cheyenne finds her loyalties divided between the town’s mayor and a charismatic neighbor.  This is the first book in the Hideaway series and is a Christy Award winning title.  Like Before I Wake, this book is a fast-paced, Christian Romantic Suspense title where a smart, professional woman seeks a new start in life in a small town, but is soon drawn into danger in her new surroundings.

I Heard that Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark

A new wife doubts her husband’s innocence when he becomes a suspect in an investigation into the death of his first wife four years earlier, as well as the disappearance of a neighbor over 20 years ago.  Clark is known for writing suspense stories and mysteries that are considered gentle reads, and the lack of sex, excessive violence, and strong language may have extra appeal to readers of Christian fiction.  This fast-paced, plot-driven suspense title by Clark won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Mystery & Suspense in 2007, so may also satisfy fans of Romantic Suspense.

Related Non-fiction:

There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America by Philip Dray

A strike by unionized workers at the local tile factory and the ongoing negotiations with management provide a major subplot in Before I Wake.  Dray’s book provides a history of organized labor in the United States, an examination of the social, political, economic, and cultural impact unions have had over the years, and a discussion of the level of influence unions maintain in today’s troubled economy.

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding

In Before I Wake, a clandestine meth lab figures prominently in the rash of serious crime affecting Justice, Illinois; with recognition of the ruinous impact the drug trade can have on small-town America.  Reding’s book presents a study of the devastating effects of meth production on a small, agricultural town in  Iowa, the lives ruined by the drug, and the socioeconomic fallout associated with the meth culture.

Detectives Don’t Wear Seat Belts: True Adventures of a Female P.I. by Cici McNair

The fictional character of Rae Gabriella in Before I Wake is an ex-cop and former FBI agent who is just starting out as a private investigator.  This title is an entertaining and candid memoir by Cici McNair, a successful female private investigator in New York City.  McNair describes her early life, the effort required to break into the male-dominated P.I. profession, and the many cases, adventures, and colorful characters that filled her days.

Becky King

My Year With Eleanor

August 15, 2012

Author: Noelle Hancock

Title: My Year With Eleanor

Genre: Memoir

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 304

Geographical Setting: NYC; Mount Kilimanjaro

Time Period: 2008-2009
Plot Summary: When she gets laid off from her job as Celebrity Blogger, Noelle Hancock decides to heed the advice of Eleanor Roosevelt and do one thing a day that scares her in the year before her 30th birthday. She faces physical fears as well as emotional fears, and the result is an introspective, inspiring, humorous memoir.

Subject Headings: Hancock, Noelle; Women journalists—New York, biography; Eleanor Roosevelt.
Appeal: Humorous, upbeat, inspirational, thoughtful, chatty, witty, engaging, introspective, smart, well-crafted, sophisticated narrator, informative, quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt.

3 terms that best describe this book: Inspirational, engaging, humorous.
Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):
3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
The author chronicles her year of trying to become a happier person by observing happiness in others and pro-actively pursuing the activities that make her own life happier. A stint memoir like hancock’s, where a sophisticated woman is trying to improve her happiness.

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 564 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell
Julie Powell decided to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year and blog about the experience. Her blog led to a book deal and movie. Like MYWE, this is a women’s stint memoir.

The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt by Eleanor Roosevelt
First lady to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt was a UN delegate, chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, newspaper columnist, Democratic party activist, world-traveler, and diplomat. This book and Eleanor Roosevelt’s life is the inspiration for Noelle Hancock.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
A student from NYU nannies for a wealthy family. Like MYWE, this is a story about a twenty-something girl in New York City that ends happily.

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
This 1957 novel follows the romantic and comedic adventures of a 22-year-old American girl living in Paris in the late 1950s. Chosen because it is witty, humorous, written in 1st person, and about a young sophisticated woman.

The Guy Not Taken: Stories by Jennifer Weiner
This collection of stories about women and their transformative moments is similar because both books are light women’s reads and Hancock’s book is somewhat episodic, which fits in with this short story collection.
Name: Sonia Reppe

The Color of Water

August 14, 2012

Author:  James McBride

Title:  The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother

Genre:  Nonfiction, Multicultural, Biography, Memoir

Publication Date:  1996

Number of Pages: 285

Geographical Setting:  Suffolk, Virginia, New York City

Time Period:  1930s-1990s.

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  “God is the color of water. Water doesn’t have a color.”

Growing up, James McBride noticed his mother did not look like him or his eleven brothers and sisters.  She didn’t look like anyone in the New York projects where they lived.  He would repeatedly ask her why she does not look like they do; she’d reply she was light skinned, that was she was a human being and not to worry about it, anything to not talk about it.  None of that matter to her; what mattered was school and church.  As an adult, James persuaded his mother, Ruth to tell her story.  She shared the story of a Jewish girl born in Poland to a Rabbi and her loving mother, immigrating to the United States, and raised in the south.  When she was twenty, she escaped to Harlem, where she married a black man in the 1940s, and converted to Christianity, thereby renouncing her Jewish background and family.  This biographical memoir takes the readers into Ruth’s world, growing up in the 1930’s to the present, while also taking readers into James’s upbringing in Ruth’s household in the 1960s.

Subject Headings:  Racially mixed people – New York (State) – New York – Biography, Mothers – New York (State) – New York – Biography, Whites – New York (State) – New York – Biography, Racially mixed people –Race identity, New York (N.Y.) – Biography.  Family and Relationships – Families.  Biography – Everyday People.  Christianity.  Judaism.

Appeal:  Inspirational, character-driven, heartwarming, thoughtful, leisurely-paced, steady, compassionate, flawed, realistic, sympathetic, family-centered, intimate, thoughtful.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  Inspirational, character-driven, thoughtful.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He was Black by Gregory Howard Williams.  The author recounts the shocking experience of learning his father’s relatives in Indiana were poor and Black and the resulting prejudice him and his brother experienced from both sides.  Like Color of Water, these two memoirs address a young man’s search for his racial and ethnic identity while growing up with a white mother and an African-American father.

The Color of Love: A Mother’s Choice in Jim Crow South by Gene Cheek.  This memoir presents a story surrounding the year 1963 in during the Jim Crow era, where the author was removed from his mother’s custody because she has a half-mixed baby.  While the exact circumstances differ, both books are moving accounts of the southern United States, racial tension, poverty and the struggle for identity and feeling of belonging.

The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South by Eli N. Evans, Willie Morris.  This is a classic portrait of Jews in the South.   Authors Evans and Morris takes readers inside the nexus of southern and Jewish histories.  This book gives the reader a closer look to what it was like to be Jewish in the south, straddling the line between black and white, that Ruth McBride Jordan experienced.

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

Stopping for Green Lights by Alyce Miller.  This coming of age book set in the 1960s is about a cynical young white woman, yearning to fit in with her Black friends, falling in love with a nineteen year old Black man, who teaches her a hard lesson by his betrayal.  This fictional account shares similar subject and appeal terms, like coming of age, racial identity and the sixties, which was part of the back drop in The Color of Water.

Joshua’s Bible by Shelly Leanne. Philadelphia minister Joshua Clay is sent to South Africa, to be the first black minister in years.  He struggles to minister during the apartheid-era 1930s.  This story shares the Christianity tones, racial struggle and adversity during a time period that was featured in The Color of Water.

The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank. This fictional tale follows observations by Sophie Applebaum of her Jewish Pennsylvania family over the course of twenty years.  This story is a readalike because it features the dynamic of a Jewish family.

Name:  Olivia Button

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

CBGB OMFUG

April 18, 2012

Author: Various (22 authors and illustrators collaborate for 9 vignettes)

Title: CBGB OMFUG

Genre: Graphic novel

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 112p

Geographical Setting: New York City (the Bowery)

Time Period: 1970’s, present day, the future

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary:  Through nine separate vignettes, the history and lore of the legendary, mythical, pivotal, incredibly dirty, and defunct Lower East Side punk rock club is examined and explained.  CBGB’s was ground zero for the mid-70’s NYC punk rock scene.  Artists that would emerge from CBGB’s include Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, and Talking Heads, as well as lesser-known, yet highly influential acts, such as Television, the Heartbreakers, the Dead Boys, and the Dictators. Varying in time period, some of the stories use the club as a main character, while others use it merely as a backdrop or meeting place.  The common theme running throughout the book is that of CBGB’s as a fertile haven for inspiration, community, discovery, expression, freedom, individuality, and lots of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Subject Headings: Punk rock music, New York City—nightclubs, 1970’s, Artists, Drugs and alcohol, Rebellion, Nostalgia, Nonconformity, Antisocial behavior, Self discovery, Youth, Fandom.

Appeal:  Breakneck, fast-paced, relentless, atmospheric, edgy, flamboyant, gritty, hard-edged, humorous, impassioned, magical, idealized, romanticized, nostalgic, sarcastic, sensual, artsy, bohemian, punk, vivid, inspirational, mythic, sexually explicit, strong language, urban, colorful, informal, passionate, witty, hedonistic, rebellious, reflective, street-smart, rowdy, energetic, fun, aggressive, joyous, enigmatic, self-aggrandizing, loud.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Energetic, passionate, enigmatic

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Please Kill Me: the Uncensored History of Punk edited by Legs McNeill and Gillian McCain

This is an oral history of the New York punk scene from its infancy in the early 1970’s to its slow death in the early 1980’s strung together by interviews with the people who were there and making things happen.  The people who are still alive, anyway.  Interviewees (many of whom are portrayed in CBGB) include Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, and members of the Ramones, the Stooges, New York Dolls, Television, Blondie and many more artists and other scenesters.  This is a great read for fans of ribald accounts of debauchery and degeneracy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle For the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler

In the 1970’s, large Northern cities found themselves broke, decaying, crime-ridden, and desperate.  None had it worse than New York.  The tumultuous year of 1977 is examined here; a year that included Son of Sam, the Blackout, punk rock, Studio 54 and disco, and ruthless political battles.  What is the conduit Mahler uses to examine and piece these events together?  — the World Series winning Yankees, of course.

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever by Will Hermes

Sure, New York had the punk thing happening in the mid-1970’s, but during those years the city also witnessed the birth of hip-hop, disco, and salsa as well as playing host to fertile jazz and avant-garde/minimalist music scenes.  Here is an examination of those years, where the music seemed to get better as the urban blight grew worse.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

My Brain Hurts: Vol. One by Liz Baille

This graphic novel series chronicles a group of gay,teenage New York punks making out, drinking beer, getting arrested, and flexing their gay activism muscles.  I include this as there was no mention in CBGB as to how entangled the NYC punk scene was with the seedier side of gay culture on Manhattan at the time (many a near destitute musician made rent by moonlighting as “chickens”, as in a homosexual prostitute who may not necessarily be gay but will do x for money.  Dee Dee Ramone has talked extensively about this topic [see: ‘53rd and 3rd by the Ramones], as well as others).

What We Do Is Secret by Kief Hillbery

Hollywood 13-year-old punk and gay hustler Rockets Redglare must come to terms with the suicide of his idol/guru Darby Crash, lead singer of the Germs (circa 1980).  This book is the closest equivalent to the seediness and nihilism that personified the L.A. punk scene in the late 70’s and early 80’s (as far as fiction goes.)

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

While this book is the farthest thing from the seediness that CBGB and the Lower Eastside personified, it is an excellent portrait of the feeling of freedom, possibility, and wonder that a night out in the big city can give a person as they find themselves on the cusp of adulthood and independence.  Even for rich kids from New Jersey.

Name: Bill

American Born Chinese

April 18, 2012

Author: Yang, Gene Luen

Title: American Born Chinese

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 233

Geographical Setting: America

Time Period: Current

Series (If applicable): N/A

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

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

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

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

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

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

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

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

Name: Jun Yoon

The Shack

April 11, 2012

Author: Wm. Paul Young

Title: The Shack         

Genre: Inspirational fiction

Publication Date: 2007

Number of pages: 252

Geographical Setting: Oregon

Time Period: Present day

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack is a novel that takes readers on a journey from heartache and despair through metamorphosis into acceptance and joy. Mackenzie Allen Phillips, a family man who makes his home in the state of Oregon, has a faith in God that is nearly obliterated beyond recognition because of a great and unexpected tragedy in his immediate family. However, by going into and through his worst fears, both figuratively and literally, he is able to finally find peace and an infinitely more satisfying and wonderful life than he had ever dreamed possible. His faith in God thus becomes a living, growing relationship between the Savior and the saved.

Subject Headings: God, Christianity – The Trinity, Serial murderers, Faith, Family relationships, Friendship, Oregon

Appeal: compelling, engrossing, detailed (characters), introspective (characters), well-developed characters, familiar (characters), inspirational, issue-oriented, resolved ending, thought-provoking, tragic, bittersweet, detailed setting, mystical, philosophical, suspenseful, graceful, metaphorical, thoughtful

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: inspirational, thought-provoking, bittersweet

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.) Christianity: the First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch – MacCulloch takes a long and detailed look at Christianity from its beginnings to modern times. Includes influences that helped it to develop as well as discusses differences among today’s Christian sects or denomination.

2.) Founding Faith: the Birth of Religious Freedom in America by Steven Waldman – This text explores the beginnings of faith from the founding fathers on into early America. Waldman debunks popular myths as well as largely discussing what America is most famous for regarding religion – freedom of belief and faith.

3.) Lasso the Wind: Away to the New West by Timothy Egan – Egan takes us on a journey into the rich history of the pacific northwestern United States and carries us on into today’s struggles, adventures and possibilities for the future of the area and its inhabitants. This text is at once moving and depressing, but always realistic.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

.) For One More Day by Mitch Albom – Charles Benetto, a grief-stricken alcoholic, comes to terms with himself and the loss of his mother in this moving, inspirational novel. The author takes us on a journey back into time to truly repair Benetto’s relationship with his deceased mother.

.) Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed stranger: New and Selected Stories by Lee Smith – A collection of bittersweet short stories with a distinctly southern feel, these tales are ones of love, forgiveness, adaptation, and redemption. Smith includes both new tales and old favorites here also.

.) Where No Storms Come by John F. Deane – This Christian love story is at once a poet’s delight and a thought-provoking romance. It tells the tale of two individuals who each pursue a life in religious vocations – lives filled with brutal awakenings and other eye-opening spiritual revelations.

Name: Melissa

Homer’s Odyssey

March 28, 2012

Author: Gwen Cooper

Title: Homer’s Odyssey

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

Publication Date: 2009

Number of pages: 299

Geographical Setting: Miami, FL; Manhattan, NY

Time Period: 1990s – 2000s

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Gwen Cooper, a writer currently residing in New York, tells the story of one special cat named Homer and how he changed (and continues to change) her life in endless manners. Homer had a raging eye infection at just two weeks of age that nearly took his life, but one committed veterinarian saw the true potential in him and therefore, performed a surgery to remove his eyes and thus, save his life. Gwen adopted Homer when so many refused and he has been there for her (and countless others) in so many unspoken and spoken (or “meowed”) ways. Cooper once stated in her memoir that she is his eyes, and he is her heart (283). Homer taught her about love, loss, commitment, responsibility and generosity, and Gwen clearly and beautifully writes of all of this in her book. For example, Homer saved her from a burglar; taught her how to love unconditionally; and provided her with hours and weeks and years of humor, entertainment, and inspiration. This is a true masterpiece of a memoir about one woman and her “blind wonder cat.”

Subject Headings: Cats – Nonfiction; Blind cats; Miami, FL; Manhattan, NY; Memoirs; Writers; Families; Love relationships; Friendships; Marriage; 9/11/01; Terrorists

Appeal: compelling, engrossing, detailed (characters), intriguing secondary (characters), well-developed (characters), gentle, inspirational, resolved ending, thought-provoking, heartwarming, graceful, nostalgic

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: engrossing, inspirational, thought-provoking

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.) 9/11: The World Speaks by Tribute WTC Visitor Center – This book is a collection of stories, comments, photos and drawings left at the WTC Visitor Center in New York from persons from across the globe. Readers who would like to learn more about international personal accounts regarding the events of 9/11 would very much appreciate this text.

2.) Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa – This book details the life of a cat named Oscar who has a gift of being able to point out who is on their way to the next world (a.k.a. – Heaven). Dosa’s text is as much about cats and their remarkable abilities, and listening and showing compassionate care for others.

3.) Soul Mates: Honoring the Mystery of Love and Relationship by Thomas Moore – Moore has here created a text which discusses relationships between partners, spouses, friends and others and draws upon history, philosophy and spirituality. Readers may enjoy reading his suggestions for honoring all of the relationships in our lives, whether with humans or animals.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

3.) May the Road Rise Up to Meet You: A Novel by Peter Troy – Troy’s novel tells the story of four individuals (many whom are immigrants) during the nineteenth century in America. This is an engrossing novel that, in the end, brings together the lives of all four persons as well as two love relationships.

1.) Those Christmas Angels by Debbie Macomber – This novel focuses on Macomber’s familiar, recurring angels named Shirley, Goodness and Mercy who are, in fact, matchmaking angels. They are working together in this novel to help two individuals to find love during the holiday season. This book will hit home for readers who enjoy heartwarming tales.

2.) Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho – Coelho’s novel is about a young woman who, after a failed suicide attempt, ends up in an asylum. Once there, Veronika eventually finds that life is so much more than what she had previously thought and that every moment here is truly precious. An inspirational read.

Name: Melissa

Heaven is for Real

March 28, 2012

Author: Todd Burpo

Title: Heaven is for Real

Genre: Spirituality and Religion

Publication Date: November 2, 2010

Number of Pages: 163

Geographical Setting: Nebraska

Time Period: Present Day

Plot Summary: Heaven is for Real tells Colton Burpo’s story of experiencing Heaven during an emergency appendectomy.  It all started as a bad case of the flu in which Colton, three years old at the time, could not stop throwing-up.  When Colton’s symptoms had not pass within 48 hours, Todd and his wife Sonja knew it had to be something more serious.  They rushed their son to the hospital and after many tests discovered that Colton was suffering from a burst appendix, causing a steady leak of acid into his small body.  Months after his surgery, Colton mentions to his parents that he remembers the angels singing to him at the hospital, and this is only the beginning of what he experienced.  Heartwarming and compelling, it is hard not to fall in love with Colton Burpo, but more importantly this book will leave you wondering if Heaven is for real.

Subject Headings: Burpo, Colton, 1999-; Four-year-old boys — Nebraska — Biography; Heaven (Christianity); Near-death experience — Religious aspects — Christianity; Christian life — Nebraska; Eschatology, Christian

Appeal: compelling, heartwarming, inspirational, thought-provoking, fast-paced, humorous, engaging, best-seller, small-town, conversational, emotional, captivating

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: heartwarming, inspirational, thought-provoking

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

  1. Just Who Will You Be?, Maria Shriver.  Philosophical and inspirational, Shriver has a similar writing style to that of Todd Burpo.  This book is about her experience of giving up her job at NBC and discovering what is most important about oneself.
  2. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Mary Roach.  Engaging and humorous, this quirky read is the perfect blend of skepticism and a sincere desire to know about life after death.
  3. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Carl Sagan.  This book provides an argument for the role of scientific thought in our society and how it competes with spirituality.

3 Fiction Works and Authors

  1. The Ice Queen: A Novel, Alice Hoffman.  After surviving a near-death experience, a small town librarian finds herself in a love affair with a most unlikely partner.
  2. A Bend in the Road, Nicholas Sparks.  Heartwarming and homespun, this story is about finding happiness after the loss of a loved one.
  3. The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom.  Inspirational and psychological, this book explains the meaning of Eddie’s life through his encounters with five people in heaven.

Name: Erin Shinneman