Posts Tagged ‘introspective’

Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace

November 7, 2012

Author:  Kate Summerscale

Title:  Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

Genre:  Biography

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  291

Geographical Setting:  Scotland and England

Time Period:  Victorian Era, 1850-1859

Plot Summary:  Isabella Robinson was a 31 year-old widow with a young child when she met and married Henry Robinson in 1844.  The Robinsons subsequently had two children of their own, and the family became firmly ensconced in upper middle class society in Scotland and England.   Isabella ultimately grew unhappy with her aloof husband, and spent more and more of her time in the company of family friends and academics whom she admired.  After stumbling upon and reading Isabella’s private diary in 1857, Henry Robinson promptly sued his wife for divorce in the English courts on charges of adultery.   The resulting divorce hearings and trial erupted into in a scandal of massive proportion when The London Times printed a series of unedited excerpts from Isabella’s diary in which she described, in lurid detail, a series of intimate encounters with Edward Lane, a respected London doctor and friend to the Robinson family.  Was Isabella really a bold, unrepentant adulteress or simply a discontented wife who wrote unashamedly about her sexual frustrations and fantasies?  Why was Isabella subject to public scorn, while Dr. Lane was afforded greater sympathy?  Summerscale provides readers with a moving portrait of Isabella’s life, details of her relationship with Edward Lane and his family, and an informative look at the moral and cultural influences of the Victorian era.  This well-researched work includes excerpts from Isabella’s diary and letters, relevant court transcripts and news reports of the day, and excerpts from the personal letters of historical figures such as Charles Darwin and controversial phrenologist George Combe, both of whom were patients of Dr. Lane’s, and acquaintances of Isabella’s.  Overall, this work offers a fascinating examination of the role of women in the Victorian era, and the inequalities afforded them by society and the courts.

Subject Headings:  Robinson, Isabella (1813-1887)—Diaries;  Middle class women—Scotland—Edinburgh—Diaries;  Edinburgh—Scotland—Social life and customs—19th century;  Divorce—England—19th century

Appeal:  compelling, densely written, stately, atmospheric, dramatic, introspective, sophisticated, thoughtful, detailed, evocative, insightful, sympathetic characters, authentic, details of the Victorian era, complex, investigative, rich and famous, accessible, colorful, engaging, informative, journalistic, polished, well-researched

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book:  compelling, insightful, well-researched

Three Fiction Read-alikes:

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson is aware of the scandal surrounding the publication of Madame Bovary in France in 1856, and the charges of obscenity which prevented its publication in Scotland and England.  Did the tale of Emma Bovary’s discontent and adultery influence Isabella’s behavior or simply spark her imagination?  Flaubert’s classic novel mirrors Isabella’s life with its theme of a passionate woman dissatisfied with her marriage and way of life.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace interested in its examination of the effects a scandalous affair can have on a woman’s reputation may also enjoy this fictionalized account of the relationship between architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress of many years, Mameh Cheney.  Horan’s award-winning novel focuses on the impact their long-time affair had on Wright’s wife and family, and the public derision Cheney endured after she left her husband and children to make a new life with Wright.

Clara Callan by Richard Bruce Wright

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace who enjoyed learning about societal expectations impacting women in a bygone era may also enjoy Wright’s novel about two sisters pursuing separate dreams against the backdrop of the political and social upheaval of the 1930’s.  Written as a series of letters and diary entries, Wright’s novel offers a vivid portrait of the lives of the two women, one pursuing a career in glamorous New York City, while the other struggles with the limitations of a more traditional life in her small Canadian town.  Interwoven throughout the story are real world events that shaped the era, including the effects of the Great Depression and the rising political tensions in pre-WWII Europe.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Marriage, Feminism, and the Law in Victorian England, 1850-1895 by Mary Lyndon Shanley

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson found herself a victim of society’s attitudes toward the role of women in Victorian era England, as well as antiquated and discriminatory divorce laws which afforded women few rights when a marriage was dissolved.  Out of the struggles of married women like Isabella, a feminist movement was born.  Shanley’s title examines the Victorian feminists’ battle for fundamental reforms to marriage law that ultimately transformed both the legal and social status of married women.

Hydotherapy:  Simple Treatments for Common Ailments by Clarence Dail and Charles Thomas

Edward Lane, the doctor who was the object of Isabella Robinson’s passion in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, was the proprietor of a popular health retreat that specialized in hydrotherapy, a relatively new and fairly provocative medical treatment at the time.  In addition to Isabella, his patients included upper class members of society, celebrities of the era, and historical figures such as Charles Darwin.  This title by Dail and Thomas examines modern-day beliefs surrounding the healing powers of water.

 Darwin:  Portrait of a Genius by Paul Johnson

As one of many famous patients to take treatment at Dr. Lane’s health retreat throughout the 1850’s, influential scientist Charles Darwin makes several appearances in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, with his opinion regarding the scandal surrounding Dr. Lane and Isabella reflected in his writings of the time.   Readers interested in learning more about Darwin will find much to enjoy in Johnson’s new biography, which details the life and times of the celebrated scientist, whose groundbreaking work Origin of the Species was published in 1859, just as the Robinson divorce case was reaching its conclusion.

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Are You My Mother?

October 24, 2012

Cover of Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

Author: Alison Bechdel

Title: Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 304

Geographical Setting: Mostly Pennsylvania and Vermont

Time Period: Present day with flashbacks

Series: Follow-up to Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006)

Plot Summary: Are You My Mother? is a densely-layered and thought-provoking exploration in graphic memoir form of author Bechdel’s complex, flawed relationship with her mother. Bechdel’s father, the subject of her earlier work, Fun Home, was a closeted bisexual who ultimately committed suicide, and her mother a frustrated poet and actress who sublimated her desires to those of her husband, submitting to the role of primary caregiver to their three children. Are You My Mother? depicts Bechdel, some five years after the publication of her critically-acclaimed book about her father, setting out to write a new book about her mother. Bechdel chronicles her process as an artist and writer, undergoing therapy and looking for analogies to her own life found in the works of favorite authors Virginia Woolf and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, as she attempts to shape a narrative that identifies the moments that wounded her mother and crippled the formation of a healthy mother-daughter bond. The artwork in Are You My Mother? is pen and brush with delicate grey and red washes, offering  a deceptively comic-strip-like simplicity that lightens the densely-written and sophisticated subject matter.

Subject Headings: Motherhood; Mothers and daughters; Teenage daughters—coming out; Parent and child; Suicide; Feminism; Psychoanalysis; Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941; Winnicott, D. W. (Donald Woods), 1896-1971; Artists

Appeal: Detailed, dramatic, eccentric, intriguing secondary characters, introspective, well developed, character centered, complex, domestic, episodic, layered, literary references, sexually explicit, thought-provoking, contemporary, detailed setting, details of psychoanalytic theory, elaborate, metaphorical, sophisticated, unusual

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: introspective, layered, thought-provoking

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Projections: Comics and the History of Twenty-First-Century Storytelling (2012) by Jared Gardner

Readers who admire the scope and depth of Bechdel’s graphic storytelling will find much to explore in Gardner’s recent lively, yet somewhat academic, tome. Gardner offers an interpretation of comics as an art form which encourages interactivity in deciphering its contents and a model for contemporary modes of communication. There are multiple passages on Bechdel’s work which contextualize her place in the comics field.

Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland (2012) by Harvey Pekar

Bechdel works in the form known in graphic novel circles as autobiographical comics. Those who want to read more of this type of story may wish to acquaint themselves with Harvey Pekar, one of the seminal figures in this genre who helped define its contours. Where Are You My Mother? uses literary reference and psychoanalysis as a context for Bechdel’s self-exploration, Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland in rich detail describes the deep impact that place and history have in shaping identity. Cartoonish but heavily-rendered pen and ink drawings highlight both the grit and charm of urban Cleveland.

Donald Winnicott Today (2012) edited by Jan Abram

The work and life of child psychoanalyst and theorist Winnicott are front and center in the narrative of Are You My Mother?  Bechdel comes to terms with life-long insecurities and decodes her troubled relationship with her mother, relying heavily on Winnicott’s models of mother-child dynamics. Readers who want to explore Winnicott’s work further will find this an accessible and thoughtfully assembled overview of his contributions to the field of Psychoanalysis.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

To the Lighthouse (1927; various editions) by Virginia Woolf

Bechdel’s work is heavily influenced by the English writer Virginia Woolf. Although many of her books are discussed in Are You My Mother?, Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse receives particular attention for its story of self-discovery and coming to terms with the past, which mirrors Bechdel’s emotional journey. Believed to be the most autobiographical of all Woolf’s psychological fiction, To the Lighthouse, with its lyrical style and reflective tone, will surely appeal to readers intrigued by the glimpses of the novel found in Are You My Mother?

Stuck Rubber Baby (New Edition; 2010) by Howard Cruse

Newcomers to comics featuring LGBT protagonists and themes who wish to explore further will find an incredibly rich and varied tradition awaiting them. One of the first widely critically-acclaimed graphic novels dealing with gay themes to receive national attention was Cruse’s Stuck Rubber Baby, first published in 1995. Moving and reflective, and with a strong sense of place, the story follows the exploits of a young man named Toland Polk discovering his sexuality against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in the South during the 1960s.

Wandering Son, Book 1 (2011) by Shimura Takako

Are You My Mother? explores the thematic territory of gender identity and coming of age as does the moving and character-driven manga Wandering Son.  Two fifth graders on the cusp of puberty share a secret: Shuichi is a boy who wishes he were a girl and Yoshino a girl who wishes she were a boy. Shimura’s spare and evocative art will likely appeal to fans of Bechdel’s stylized and emotionally expressive drawings.

Name: John Rimer

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

We Can Remember it for you Wholesale

October 17, 2012

We Can The Collected Works of Philp K. Dick Volume 2Remember it for you Wholesale: The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick Volume 2

Author: Philip K. Dick

Genre: Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Books to Movies

Publication Date: 1987

Number of Pages: 381

Geographical Setting: The not so distant future, variety of locals

Series: The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick (Volume 2)

Plot Summary:  One of the important names in the Science Fiction genre, Philip K. Dick’s influence has reached beyond the printed word and onto the big screen.  This is a collection of short stories dating from early in his career, 1952 -1955.  The stories in this volume read like Twilight Zone episodes.  He is somehow able to create believable worlds, with compelling characters, and in-depth plots, complete with twists that leave readers thinking, in the same number of pages as a single chapter in some novels.  These chilling stories, mostly set in the not so distant future, take place in a variety of locals including Chicago, Earth, and other planets.  The stories in this collection cover a variety of topics, including, but not limited to the importance placed on modern convenience, ethical responsibility, and time travel.  Contained in this volume is the short story, We Can Remember it for you Wholesale, which is the basis for both the 1990 and 2012 Total Recall movies.

Subject Headings: Futurism; Speculative fiction; Short stories; Stories to film; Aliens; Technology; Interpersonal relations; Science fiction; Time travel;

Appeal:  Thought-provoking; Descriptive; Chilling; Plot twists; Accessible; Conversational; Engaging; Atmospheric; Flawed; Issue-oriented; Exotic; Introspective; Fast paced

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Thought-provoking; Chilling; Engaging;

Three fiction read-alikes:

The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke by Arthur C. Clarke (Science fiction; Short stories; Story to film)

A collection of thought-provoking stories from one of Science Fictions biggest names, this collection includes “The Sentinel”, the basis for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, and stories not found in other collections.

A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories by Ray Bradbury (Books to movies, Science fiction, Short stories, Thought-provoking)

A collection of 32 thought-provoking stories that explore the depths of humanity by the genre defying Ray Bradbury.  The title story was adapted for screen in 2005.

Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov (Science fiction, Thought-provoking, Technology)

A collection of 21 thought provoking stories involving technology and humanity’s future from one of Science Fictions biggest names.

Three related non-fiction titles:

You are not a gadget: a manifesto by Jaron Lanier (Speculative, Technology, Social aspects)

Many people today worry about how social media, such as Facebook, is changing society.  In this book Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist, discusses his opinions on how current computer technology is changing society and where it will take us in the future.

 

Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku (Speculative, Technology)

This book discusses technological innovations, and speculates how these innovations will influence humanity in the future.

This will change everything: ideas that will shape the future by John Brockman (Inventions, Social prediciton)

New ideas are dreamed, new inventions are created every day, but which ones will change the way we live.  This book contains the opinions of 130 scientists about what innovations will come to pass and have the greatest impact on humanity.

Name: Shira

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

October 17, 2012

Author: Sylvia Plath

Title: The Bell Jar

Genre: Literary Fiction, Women’s Lives and Relationships, Bestsellers

Publication Date: 1963 (England), 1971 (USA)

Number of Pages: 216

Geographical Setting: New York, Massachusetts

Time Period: Six months in 1953

Plot Summary:  This is a semi-autobiographical novel related to the author’s life. She killed herself shortly after it was published. This is a coming-of-age story of a 20-year-old woman as she discovers herself and her desires, just as any college student does. Esther Greenwood was going to college on a scholarship when she got accepted for a special internship with a fashion magazine in New York for the summer. The book describes her relationships with her family, friends, colleagues, and psychologists in a descriptive manner. As this melancholic story progresses, Esther slowly loses her mind to mental illness and eventually attempts to commit suicide. The lyrical and poetic writing is a must read for fans of literary fiction. It is an excellent book to recommend for those interested in studying psychology or going through their own quarter life crisis.

Subject Headings: Depression, Suicidal Behavior, Psychological Fiction, College Students

Appeal terms:  leisurely-paced, introspective, psychological, emotionally charged, melancholy, detailed, realistic, character-centered, timeless, classic, lyrical, literary

Three appeal terms: character-centered, psychological, and literary

Similar Authors and Works:

Fiction-

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger- A reviewer has compared Sylvia Plath’s book to Salinger’s Franny. Both books are about the experiences of female college students during the same time period.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen- This book is about an 18 year old that spent two years living in a psychiatric hospital, in 1967, that Sylvia Plath may have spent time in.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender- This book is a young adult fantasy. It is about a girl that can taste the true emotions of the person who made her food.

Non-Fiction-

Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis: Advice from Twentysomethings Who Have Been There and Survived by Alexandra Robbins- This is a guide for those that are lost and confused as they become adults in order to help them get through their quarter life crisis.

No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One by Carla Fine- This book offers advice for those who have lost family members due to suicide. The author’s husband was a doctor who committed suicide.

Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir by Lauren Slater- This is the memoir of a woman that had a psychological problem in which she was a compulsive liar. The character, Esther Greenwood, regularly lies in The Bell Jar.

Name: Rachel Fischer

Tomorrow, When the War Began

October 3, 2012

Tomorrow, When the War Began cover

Author: John Marsden

Genre: Adventure

Publication Date: 1993

Number of Pages: 277

Geographical Setting: Australia, present day (1990s)

Series: The Tomorrow Series (book 1)

Plot Summary:  A group of teenagers blow off the town’s festivities to go camping in Hell.  After a relaxing week in the Australian bush, the group returns to the unimaginable: empty homes, spoiled food and dead dogs.  The book reads like the first in a series, giving ample time for a fully developed setting and character development before jumping into the thrilling plot.  The characters transform as their new bleak reality sets in.  Readers discover character growth and plot development through a single narrator’s point of view.  The book ends on a suspenseful note as the group decides how best to deal with the grave situation at hand.

Subject Headings: Resourcefulness in teenagers; Hiding; Imprisonment; Resourcefulness; Determination in teenagers; Determination (Personal quality); Guerrilla warfare; War; Survival; Teenagers – Australia; Wilderness areas — Australia

Appeal:  Action-packed; Builds in intensity; Suspenseful; Bleak; Compelling; Series characters; Introspective; Detailed setting; Accessible; Small-town; Episodic; Flawed; Emotionally-charged; Coming-of-age

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Compelling; Bleak; Emotionally-charged

Three fiction read-alikes:

Life as we knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Bleak, Emotionally intense, Compelling, Survival, Series)

Set in rural Pennsylvania, 16 year-old Miranda’s life changed in a blink of an eye as a meteor causes more trouble than scientists predicted.  Miranda and her family struggle to survive the Earth’s violent reaction to this event.

Holding Their Own: A Story of Survival by Joe Nobody (Survival, Action-packed, Series)

Set in 2015, a couple must learn to survive in an America that has fallen into a second Great Depression, and devastated by terror attacks resulting in governmental collapse.

Winter’s End by Jean-Claude Mourlevat (Compelling adventure story about teenagers set in other countries)

Set in an unnamed country, this dystopian story is about four teenagers daring escape from their prison-like boarding school.  The teenagers struggle for survival and quest for answers about their past, keeping readers on the edge of their seats.

Three related non-fiction titles:

The Time of the Rebels: Youth Resistance Movements and 21st Century Revolutions by Matthew Collin (Young adults, Resistance)

This book discusses the role youth movements played in taking down oppressive governments.

 Violent Politics: a History of Insurgency, Terrorism & Guerrilla war, from the American Revolution to Iraq by William R. Polk (guerrilla warfare and insurgency in several countries)

William Polk takes a global approach to the history of insurgency, terrorism & guerrilla warfare.

 Red Earth, Blue Sky: the Australian Outback by Margaret Rau (Australian Outback)

The story of Margaret Rau’s journey through the Australian Outback.

Name: Shira

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

Memoirs of Geisha

September 26, 2012

Title: Memoirs of a Geisha

Author: Arthur, Golden

Publication Date: 1999

Time Period: Japan – 1920s to the 1940s.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 503

Plot Summary: Arthur Golden weaves a compelling story in this memoir about a poor girl Sayuri sold and taken to the big city and is forced into a  kind of  life she was totally unprepared for. She finds herself in the world of Geisha, and learns the Geisha trade where she eventually becomes one of the most desired Geisha in Japan. Told from a first person point of view, this book explores in detail the daily life of  the Geisha, various stages of the Geisha training, the competitions, and  rivalries among the Geisha and the ultimate sale of the Geisha’s virginity.  Though leisurely paced, the reader is taken  through twists and turns of the plot and is made to feel real sympathetic to the  strong willed and determined Sayuri – who decides to go by the wishes of her heart rather than the dictates of the society. You find  a lot of cultural elements and language that evokes  a strong sense of place that depicts the culture and tradition of the Japanese in a very realistic fashion..

Appeal Characteristics: Compelling; lyrical; richly detailed, leisurely paced, atmospheric; reflective, introspective, insightful, inspiring, detailed, homespun; Leisurely-Paced; Evocative, sympathetic, introspective – Japanese culture, single character development over time, explores interesting multiple  characters

Subject Headings: Geishas, Artisans, competition in women, Women entertainers,

Prostitution, Women friendship, Men/women relationships, Jealousy in women, First loves, 20th century

3 Best Appeal Terms: Leisurely paced, Compelling, Reflective

Similar Fiction: 

My Antonia by  Carter, Willa – Shares similar tone and plot  as Memoirs of a Geisha -The story of an orphaned girl who struggles from a young age…

Reflective, Homespun, Bittersweet, Narrative style –

The whistling season by Doig, Ivan – Set in the early 1900s, has a very strong sense of place, Moving, Reflective, Nostalgic, Descriptive, Atmospheric. Readers who loved these elements in Memoirs of a Geisha would also love this novel.

The commoner by Schwartz, John Burnham

Those who loved Memoirs of a Geisha will also love this because they both share similar themes –  Where one from a lowly beginning finds love and rises to top – a commoner marries into royalty. Novel set in Japan, evokes language and cultural elements.  Gives a good insight into the culture and tradition of the Japanese. Has similar narrative style, from first person point of view.

Similar Non-fiction:

Autobiography of a Geisha by Masuda, Sayo

Masuda recounts from a first person point of view life as a Geisha.  This book exposes both the glamour and the indignity surrounding “Geisha”. Readers of Memoirs of a Geisha would be enthralled.

Japanland: a year in search of wa by Muller, Karin

An american film maker travels to Japan to explore the customs and traditions of the people.  We get an insight into the life of geishas, samurai and other communities.  Readers who loved memoirs of a Geisha would thoroughly enjoy this true life account on what goes behind closed doors of these customs.

Women of the pleasure quarters: the secret history of the geisha by Downer, Leslie

This is a well researched  book that delves more into the history of the Geisha.  A fascinating read by anyone curious about how “Geisha” came to be.

By: Vera

 

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

August 15, 2012

Author: McClure, Wendy

Title: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 336 p.

Geographical Setting: Multiple locations throughout the United States

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Author and children’s book editor, Wendy McClure, takes readers on a humorous, reflective, and contemporary journey to revisit her favorite children’s books, the series of Little House on the Prairie.  In each chapter, McClure shares with readers her research into the history of the books along with her visits to several of the historical sites in the United States where Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of Little House on the Prairie, lived.  McClure even goes to festivals dedicated to the books and tries to camp out and cook as in the 19th century.  However, what adds even more depth to this novel is that McClure learns as much about herself throughout this journey as she does about her favorite series.  McClure leads this novel with a relatable, introspective, and self-deprecating voice. She describes situations and characters in a detailed, vivid, and generally sympathetic style with accessible and conversational language.  Also, while much of the novel is character-centered and informative, numerous funny adventures occur during the course of McClure’s trips.  This novel is an engaging and thought-provoking novel about one person’s relationship with the books that she loves.

Subject Headings: Books and Reading; Arts and Entertainment; Frontier and Pioneer Life; Frontier and Pioneer Life in Literature; Home; Women’s Studies; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Appreciation; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Homes and Haunts; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Little House on the Prairie; 19th Century; Autobiographies (Adult Literature); Humor Writing;

Appeal: leisurely-paced, relaxed, steady, bittersweet, candid, contemplative, gentle, humorous, introspective, moving, nostalgic, poignant, unpretentious, closely observed, detailed, engaging, familiar, quirky, realistic, and vivid primary and secondary characters, authentic, character-centered, episodic, layered, literary references, thought-provoking, accurate, contemporary, historical details, rural, academic, accessible, conversational, descriptive, engaging, informal, informative, thoughtful, well-researched

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: humorous, bittersweet, historical details

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrimwill appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another autobiographical novel that highlights a different perspective ofLittle House on the PrairieSimilar toThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim is a funny, character-centered, conversational, and contemporary book about how her real life differed from the mean character that she played on the famous television show.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim is more about the life of the actress beyond the series while McClure’s novel is a nostalgic and academic return to the past.

Forty Acres and a Fool: How to Live in the Country and Still Keep Your Sanity by Roger Welsch will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another humorous novel about a man who tries to live a simpler life in the country and discovers it is more difficult than he initially expected.  Similar to The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Forty Acres and a Fool: How to Live in the Country and Still Keep Your Sanity by Roger Welsch is a character-centered, chatty, and contemporary book, but unlike McClure, Welsch’s adventures take place in Nebraska.  Also, he continues to live in rural areas despite its hardships.

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that itis another autobiographical story about a woman, who reads a book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, and decides to change her contemporary life and relationships because of it.  Like McClure, Powell describes the challenges and triumphs of trying to replicate recipes from a famous book in a reflective, conversational, and engaging style.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell is set in New York and focuses solely on cooking while McClure’s journey is in multiple locations and involves many different types of 19th century activities.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is anotherhistorical novel about a strong woman, Meg Mambry, who is investigating the truth regarding a diary from her great-grandmother in the 19th century. UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook is more serious and psychological in tone and takes place in New Mexico.  However, like The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook has humorous moments and focuses on women’s lives and relationships.

Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another compilation of stories that include subjects, such as homesteading and living on the frontier.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx is set in Wyoming and contains more serious and dark stories in a more literary style.  Nonetheless, likeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx has humorous moments and focuses on family relationships as well.

An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another historical novel based on the true story of Nancy Kelsey who is the first woman to travel to California in the 19th century.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland is a more serious adventure story of survival.  However, likeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland has well-researched historical details and focuses on strong women.

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