Posts Tagged ‘layered’

Vlad: A Novel

October 31, 2012

AuthVlad: A Novel by Carlos Fuentesor: Carlos Fuentes

Title: Vlad: A Novel

Genre: Horror; Mexican Fiction

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 122

Geographical Setting: Mexico City

Time Period: Present Day

Series: Not part of a series, but a reimagining of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Plot Summary: Yves Navarro, an attorney, is ordered by his boss, the enigmatic Don Eloy Zurinaga, to find and secure a house for an old school friend of his from Europe, a certain Count Vladimir Radu, who tiring of constant unrest in the Balkans has recently decided to move to Mexico City. At first, Navarro is merely puzzled by some of Radu’s eccentric requests: the home must admit no light and a large tunnel is to be excavated beneath the premises. But after an unsettling dinner with the count, a repulsive, pale-skinned and bulbous-headed figure clumsily disguised with a wig, false mustache, and dark glasses, Navarro becomes anxious for his own safety. A sense of foreboding and menace come sharply into focus as the attorney begins to suspect Radu may be a vampire. But when Navarro discovers a photograph of his own wife and daughter taped inside an armoire in the count’s chambers—a sense of panic grips him, as he realizes too late that he has become ensnared in a web, the contours of which he is only dimly aware. Fuentes’ reimagining of the Dracula story is filled with vivid and darkly disturbing scenes, and punctuated by moments of humor, mostly in the form of roman à clef references to the Bram Stoker’s original. Beneath the tragic horror is a philosophical meditation on the meaning of mortality and what it is to be human.

Subject Headings: Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, 1430 or 31-1476 or 7; Stoker, Bram, 1847-1912; Dracula — Sequels; Vampires; Lawyers; Real estate agents; Grief; Aging; Mortality

Appeal: compelling, fast paced, dramatic, eccentric, intriguing secondary characters, quirky, vivid, character centered, layered, some elements of humor, literary references, historical references, mystical, mythic, open-ended, tragic, bleak, dark, foreboding, menacing, philosophical, sensual, suspenseful, classic, concise, elegant, sophisticated

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character centered, dark, philosophical

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead (2010) by J. Gordon Melton

Vlad: A Novel weaves familiar tropes of vampire fiction into its narrative and playfully references Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Readers who want to delve further into the lore and literature of the vampire will enjoy perusing this exhaustively detailed collection of some 500 essays on the subject.

The Philosophy of Horror (2012) by Thomas Fahy

Carlos Fuentes’ characters rhapsodize with philosophical musings about the nature of God, the fear of dying, and grief and loss. Fahy’s thought-provoking and persuasive guide to the philosophical subtexts of horror stories will resonate with readers who responded to the thematic underpinnings of Vlad: A Novel.

The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature (2012) edited by Suzanne Bost and Frances R. Aparicio

Carlos Fuentes is a much-admired author and critic in his native Mexico. Readers taken with Fuentes style and subject matter, and who want to learn more about the broader landscape of Latin American Literature, will find here a collection of forty scholarly but accessible essays that describe the most significant Latino and Latina authors and their work.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic (2012) edited by Eduardo Jimenez Mayo and Chris Brown

Three Messages and a Warning will appeal to readers who enjoyed Vlad: A Novel and want to read more tales of the supernatural and the macabre told from a uniquely Mexican perspective. Thematically serious, like Fuentes’ work, the short stories found in this anthology similarly offer a sense of the vibrant Mexican literary scene. The creepy but stylistically complex tales include: a pact with the devil, an apocalyptic ghost story, and an encounter with a doppelganger.

Anno Dracula (New Edition; 2011) by Kim Newman

Fans of Bram Stoker’s Dracula who enjoyed seeing the character revisited in Vlad: A Novel may appreciate Newman’s offbeat and compelling spin on the venerable vampire. In the alternate history of Anno Dracula, Count Dracula has not only not been vanquished, but is married to Queen Victoria and rules over England with an iron fist. Fuentes’ story is filled with references to characters and moments from the original Dracula; Newman goes one further and presents a supporting cast of familiar literary and historical characters, including Jack the Ripper, Dr. Jeckyll, and Sherlock Holmes.

The New Annotated Dracula (2008) by Bram Stoker; edited by Leslie S. Klinger

After reading Fuentes’ interpretation of Dracula, those who wish to revisit Bram Stoker’s atmospheric and menacing gothic tale will find a treasure trove of history and lore along with the original story in Klinger’s lushly illustrated and comprehensively annotated edition. Along with Stoker’s original manuscript, this edition also includes an alternate ending penned by the author sure to surprise readers who think they already know the story well.

Name: John Rimer

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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

Gone Girl

October 17, 2012

Author: Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl

Genre: Psychological Suspense

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 415

Geographical Setting: North Carthage, Missouri and New York City

Time Period: 2005-2012

Plot Summary: On the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne is faced with a nightmare when he learns that his quick-witted, beautiful wife, Amy, has vanished. While investigating Amy’s disappearance from the small town of North Carthage, police and media begin to unravel unflattering secrets of the Dunne marriage that soon put Nick in an incriminating position. Desperate to clear his own name and find his missing wife, Nick sets out on a psychological scavenger hunt in which he discovers dark and shocking secrets about the seemingly perfect Amy. Nick’s narration of the investigation is alternated with entries from Amy’s diary, adding layers to the mystery and leaving readers guessing which characters are trustworthy in this disturbing tale.  Flynn writes a well crafted, suspense story that is both thought provoking and dark. Gone Girl makes for an engrossing read with a disturbing, yet fascinating, conclusion.

Subject Headings: Husbands – Fiction, Married people – Fiction, Wives – Crimes against – Fiction, Mystery Fiction, Conflict in Marriage, Deception, Husband and Wife, Married People, Missing Women, Murder Suspects, Secrets

Appeal: Engrossing, Fast-Paced, Chilling, Foreboding, Psychological, Suspenseful, Detailed Characters, Multiple Points of View, Flashbacks, Layered, Thought-Provoking, Descriptive, Well-Crafted

Three Appeal Terms: Engrossing, Chilling, Suspenseful

Three Fiction Read-Alikes:

The Breaker by Minette Walters
Walters’ psychological suspense story begins with a disorientated three-year-old wandering the streets of Poole, England. Hours later, her mother’s body is found washed up on the beach. Police investigators reveal unsettling evidence that incriminates the woman’s husband as well as a young actor. Gone Girl fans who are looking for another compelling whodunit read might enjoy this disturbing mystery.

Die For You by Lisa Unger

When Isabel Raines’ husband mysteriously disappears she is determined to track him down despite his pleas for her to forget their life together. During her investigation, Isabel discovers her husband had stolen an identity and has been legally dead for a long period of time, among other shocking secrets. Readers who are looking for works told in multiple perspectives with a narrator revealing dark secrets about her spouse might enjoy this book.

In the Woods by Tana French

Detective Rob Ryan is called to investigate the murder of a twelve-year-old girl in a wooded area right outside of Dublin- a creepy coincidence as he witnessed the disappearance of two childhood friends in the same woods twenty years prior to this case. Readers who are looking for another dark, character-driven suspense story involving criminal investigation might also enjoy this title.

Three Nonfiction Read-Alikes:

The Cases that Haunt Us: from Jack the Ripper to JonBenet Ramsey, the FBI’s legendary mindhunter sheds light on the mysteries that won’t go away by John E. Douglas

Through Nick’s narration of the investigation, readers are given detailed descriptions of a missing person case as police and FBI piece together clues in hopes of solving the puzzle and finding Amy. Readers who were intrigued by the crime scene/mystery aspect of Gone Girl might also enjoy The Cases that Haunt Us. Written by a former FBI agent, Douglas explores eight well-known unsolved mysteries and speculates the criminal and motive of each case.

The Gardner Heist: a true story of the world’s largest unsolved art theft by Ulrich Boser

Flynn writes with such detail while describing the investigation and discovery of evidence that Gone Girl sometimes reads like a true crime piece. The Gardner Heist should be considered for readers who liked the suspense of solving a crime but perhaps are not interested in missing person cases. The Gardner Heist details the true story of a 1990 museum robbery in which 12 highly valuable pieces of the collection (worth over $500 million collectively) were stolen. Boser writes of his own informal investigation, including interviews with art thieves and mobsters, taking readers through his collection of clues as he attempts to offer insight on this mysterious cold case.

The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City’s Cold Case Squad by Stacy Horn

Another strong title for those who enjoy reading about crime investigation; however, The Restless Sleep may also be of interest to fans who enjoyed the New York City setting found in Gone Girl. After interviewing NYC detectives, Horn writes a true crime piece that describes four unsolved murders, some of which have remained cold cases for over fifty years. Horn provides readers with an in depth view of each case and describes the dedication of the NYPD detectives who are determined to solve the mysteries and seek justice.

Name: Elizabeth Hopkins

Love You More

October 3, 2012

Author: Lisa Gardner

Title: Love You More

Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 412

Geographical Setting: Boston, Massachusetts

Plot Summary: In this fifth book of the Detective D.D. Warren series, the veteran detective pairs up with former lover Bobby Dodge to solve what seems at first to be an open-and-shut case. State police trooper Tessa Leoni appears to have shot and killed her husband Brian Darby in self-defense, and she has the bruises to prove it. However, what happened to their six-year-old daughter Sophie? There’s more than meets the eye in this compelling, fast-paced tale, where plot twists abound, suspense constantly builds, and secrets shock as they are unraveled. D.D. and Bobby have their hands full trying to understand the motives behind Brian’s death and the little girl’s disappearance; meanwhile, readers are exposed to Tessa’s stories as told from her point-of-view. At the same time the detectives get closer to solving the case, readers begin to approach their own understanding of what’s really going on through Tessa’s unfolding tales.

Subject Headings: Warren, D.D. (Fictitious character) – Fiction. Police – Massachusetts – Boston—Fiction. Boston(Mass.) – Fiction. Mystery fiction.

Appeal: Fast-paced, suspenseful, multiple points of view, flashbacks, plot twists, investigative, compelling, series (characters), chilling, layered, psychological, flawed characters, engrossing, plot-driven, intricate

Three appeal terms:  Suspenseful, plot twists, investigative

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag

Down the Darkest Road is a crime novel that is suspenseful, compelling, and fast-paced – all the same appeal as Love You More. Engrossing and plot-driven, this book keeps readers on their toes and unable to put the book as they follow the outcomes of the disturbing case. Lauren’s 16-year-old daughter went missing, her husband killed himself, and now she has only her younger daughter, Leah, and the desire for a fresh start to keep her going. Lauren takes her daughter and moves them to the safe haven of Oak Knoll, but soon she finds out she’s not the only one who has relocated to this peaceful town…

Survivor in death by J.D. Robb

This is another fast-paced mystery book bursting with thrills and suspense, with a little romance thrown into the mix. Lieutenant Eve Duncan is on the case of the murder of the Swisher family in New York City, and brings in her partner Peabody and her husband Roarke to help investigate. Meanwhile, she’s guarding the family’s only survivor – a nine year-old girl named Nixie. Readers who enjoyed Love You More will likely enjoy the appeal of familiar characters working together in to solve a crime in an urban setting, but might also like the more emotional aspects present in this book.

Fallen by Karin Slaughter

Fans of suspenseful thrillers will find plenty of edge-of-your-seat twists and turns in Karin Slaughter’s Fallen. Police officer Faith Mitchell seeks the help of her partner, Will Trent, and trauma doctor Sara Linton after walking into a deadly hostage situation in her mother’s home. As Faith tries to find answers and locate her missing mother, she goes on a whirlwind journey to uncover the truth behind what happened and save her mother (and herself) from a deadly fate.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

A Cold Case by Philip Gourevitch

Almost thirty years after an unresolved case of a brutal double homicide in New York, determined investigator Philip Goeurevitch revisits the case, focusing less on the murders themselves and more on the lives and minds of the killers. The investigative appeal that readers enjoyed in Love You More is present here in Geourevitch’s book, only in a different type of murder case. In Love You More, the detectives spend time pondering the whys of murder to understand Tessa’s reasoning and motives. What could drive her to kill her six-year-old child? In A Cold Case, Gourevitch questions what can drive one man to kill and another to hunt murderers.

If Looks Could Kill by M. William Phelps

Fact is often stranger than fiction, which is one reason why fans of Love You More might be drawn to this suspenseful true story. In 2001, Jeff Zack was murdered execution-style in Akron, Ohio, and former beauty queen Cynthia George was implicated in the crime. This non-fiction thriller packs anticipation as the saga unfolds and builds up to the final verdict. An editorial review on Amazon.com says the book “reads like a well-plotted crime novel,” and will likely please readers who enjoyed the suspenseful, crime-solving aspects of Love You More.

Skyjack: the hunt for D.B. Cooper by Geoffrey Gray

This is a fast-paced, compelling true crime story about the search for a hijacker named D.B. Cooper, who vanished after parachuting from a plane in 1971. Cooper was carrying $200,000 in ransom money with him when he disappeared, and was never to be found again. The story includes elements of mystery and suspense, as well as fast-paced storytelling and intriguing characters, making it a relevant readalike for Love You More.

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.

A Single Man

August 13, 2012

Author: Isherwood, Christopher

Title: A Single Man

Genre:  Literary Fiction, GLBTQ Fiction

Publication Date: 1964

Number of Pages: 192

Geographical Setting:  Los Angeles, California

Time Period: Late 1950’s/Early 1960’s

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary: Before the book begins, George has lost his partner, Jim, in a car crash, but he has told everyone that Jim has moved home to live with his parents for a while.  The story follows one day in the life of George, a late/middle-aged British man who teaches at a university in LA.  The book is comprised almost entirely of George’s thoughts and dialogue is very sparse.  In an almost stream-of-consciousness style, the reader learns about George’s opinions on almost every aspect of his day.  As a gay man in the 1960’s, his thoughts are often tinged with wariness over what people think about him—who knows he’s gay, who knows about Jim, what they would think if they knew, etc.  George has interactions with a variety of characters, some of whom know about his sexual orientation, and some who do not.    As the day goes on, he begins to reach some fascinating conclusions about his life without Jim.

Subject Headings:  Homosexuality, Middle-aged Men, Grief

Appeal: Builds In Intensity, Measured, Bittersweet, Contemplative, Emotionally-Charged, Stark, Insightful, Introspective, Melancholy, Layered, Character-Centered, Lyrical

3 terms that best describe this book:  Bittersweet, Character-Centered, Introspective

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette

This book is the autobiography of Paul Monette.  It follows him from childhood to adulthood as he attempts to keep hide the fact that he is gay from himself and from his family.  Monette’s story is similar to A Single Man because both characters feel the need to hide their sexual orientation from the outside world.

Los Angeles: Portrait of a City by David L. Ulin

Photographs of the city from a variety of time periods give readers the opportunity to look at both George’s Los Angeles and the Los Angeles of modern times.  Because the book describes the city in such detail, it would be helpful to see what the city really looks like (for those who have not visited).

A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski

Spanning 500 years of American History, this book looks at how homosexuality has evolved.  This book will give readers a greater understanding of the viewpoints of Americans during George’s era.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Maurice by E. M. Forester

Set in Edwardian England, this book follows Maurice, a brilliant young boy, as he grows up, attends university, and works in his father’s firm.  In many ways, he seems like a stereotypical young man, but he is also gay.  Forester’s book will give readers insight into homosexuality in a different time period.

The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal

A young man, Jim, “experiments” with his male friend, Bob, and finds his life turned upside down.  When he finds himself separated from Bob, he ignores the wishes of his family and decides to find Bob no matter how long it takes.  Jim’s journey takes him all over the country and expands his ideas of homosexuality and how he fits in.  This breakthrough novel in gay literature will help readers see the evolution of the literary genre.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Also following a day in the life of a single character, Mrs. Dalloway focuses on a woman preparing for a party later in the evening. In stream of consciousness, the reader learns about her past, her present, and her thoughts on the future.  With subtle homosexual themes, this book provides readers with a look at the female side of the GLBTQ genre.

Name: Erin Sloan

Just Too Good to be True

August 13, 2012

Author:  E Lynn Harris

Title: Just Too Good to be True

Genre:  Multi-cultural

Publication Date:  2003

Number of Pages:  336 (audio: 9 hours, 52 minutes)

Geographical Setting:  Georgia

Time Period:  Present

Series (If applicable):

Plot Summary:  Brady Bledsoe is the only son of single mother Carmyn Bledsoe and the star senior on his college football team.  They are very close and Carmyn is proud of the fact that Brady has been involved in their church and is part of the “Celibacy Circle”.  As his final football season ends changes start building between the two.  Brady gets his first serious girlfriend; aggressive sports agents start knocking, and secrets about Carmyn’s past and Brady’s father start coming out.  The relationship between mother and son is tested in ways it never has been before.

One interesting thing about the audio book is that three different readers read each point of view. 

Subject Headings: Mothers and Sons- Fiction, African-American college athletes-Fiction, Family Secrets- Fiction, Celibacy- Fiction, Football- Fiction

Appeal:  compelling, deliberate pacing, dramatic, multiple points of view, character centered, episodic, layered, strong language, racy, hard edged, candid, colorful

3 terms that best describe this book:  character centered, candid, multiple points of view

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Fifty Years of College Football- Bob Boyles and Paul Guido

Jam-packed with information about college football, the book is perfect for the reader looking up a fact or in search of a good read.  As the ultimate college football reference book, it is a must-read for true fans.  Readers who enjoyed the college football aspect of Just Too Good to be True and want to know more about the sport will enjoy this book.

License to Deal:  A Season on the Run with a Maverick Baseball Agent by Jerry Crasnick

During baseball’s evolution from national pastime to a $3.6 billion business, the game’s agents have played a pivotal role in driving the sport.  License to Deal follows Matt Sosnick as he deals with up-and-coming clients while trying to keep his love of baseball and his integrity.  The integrity of sports agents is a big subject in Just To Good to be True and this book examines one sports agent and his quest to keep his honor in this profession.

Raising Sons Without Fathers: A Woman’s Guide to Parenting Strong, Successful Boys by Leif Turdel and Patricia Kennedy

Dr. Leif Terdal and Patricia Kennedy describe the problems faced by sons without fathers and advise single mothers about how to raise more self-reliant young men. Providing practical, hands-on advice, the authors offer solutions to a variety of problems, including but not limited to, raising a boy’s self-esteem; discipline from preschool to adolescence; helping a boy get the best education he can; and how mothers can survive alone.  Readers who appreciate the dynamic between Carmyn and Brady will enjoy this non-fiction parenting book.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Preacher’s Son by Carl Weber

Bishop T.K. Wilson, popular pastor of the largest African American church in Queens, New York, has decided to run for borough president. In public, his wife and two children are a shining example of respectability. Yet privately, the Wilson kids are giving in to the same temptations as any other young adults. And their parents have no idea what’s going on behind closed doors.  This page-turner also deals with the way family dynamics can change when secrets come to light.

Mothers & Sons by Jill M Morgan, Diana Gabaldon, and others

This book is an anthology of memoirs and fictional stories about relationships between mothers and their sons.  Some stories are wonderfully sweet, while some are painfully sad.  Readers who enjoyed the dynamic between Brady and Carmen in Just Too Good to be True will appreciate this collection of stories about mothers and sons.

Romancing the Zone by Kenna White

Liz Elliott is a business woman and single mother to nineteen-year-old daughter, Becca. Becca is a freshman at Ashton College and a star of the basketball team, like her mother was years ago. But in those early days, a dirty little secret collapsed Liz’s world.  When Liz accepts Becca’s challenge to return to college and complete her degree as well as play her last year of basketball eligibility, she is met with resistance from the new head coach. Coach Sheridan Ross has no patience for babysitting an over-the-hill athlete, but sparks soon begin to fly. This is another sports fiction book that deals with family secrets.  Romancing the Zone is similar to Just Too Good to be True, but with GLBTQ themes.

Name:  Becky Ozinga

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.

Gone Girl

August 8, 2012

Author: Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl

Genre: Psychological Suspense

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 415

Geographical Setting: North Carthage, Missouri and the Missouri Ozarks

Time Period: Present Day

Series:  No

Plot Summary: BrilliantAmy and handsome Nick are anything but the ideal couple they appear to be. After losing their jobs and moving from New York City to North Carthage, Missouri to care for Nick’s ailing parents, Nick and Amy find nothing rewarding in this rural and provincial burg. On their fifth anniversary, Amy vanishes . . . or does she? Resentment and jealously shatters their world and explodes into a game where people’s lives are the chess pieces. Alternating voices, told in first person, reflect Nick and Amy’s particular points of view. The story moves at a brisk pace, conveying a dark and disturbing tone. There are so many twists and turns in Nick and Amy’s version of events that the reader doesn’t know whom to believe.  The unpredictable accounts recorded by these unreliable narrators produce a feeling of unease adding to the suspense.  This is a riveting and spine tingling story from beginning to end.

Subject Headings: Murder suspects – Fiction, Missing women – Fiction, Conflict in marriage – Fiction, Husband and wife – Fiction, Married people – Fiction, Crimes against women – Fiction, Deception – Fiction, Secrets – Fiction

Appeal: builds in intensity, deliberate, engrossing, creepy, disturbing, suspenseful, emotionally-charged, menacing, paranoid, detailed, multiple points of view, intricately plotted, character driven, episodic, layered, strong language, rural, contemporary, journals, clever, pretentious

3 terms that best describe this book: builds in intensity, character driven, suspenseful

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Howatch, Susan. The High Flyer; Carter Graham, a successful lawyer, is married to Kim Betz, also a lawyer, who fits into her plans perfectly. Carter feels that everything is just perfect for her when Sophie, Kim’s first wife, reveals some disturbing secrets about Kim making Carter realize that she doesn’t know her husband at all. Full of suspense, this is a character-driven story where Howatch weaves together stories involving the occult, blackmail and murder. This is a suspenseful and compelling read.

Walters, Minette. The Breaker; The mysterious death of a young woman found on a beach and a seemingly drugged and wandering child lead the police of Dorset into a tangled web of lies, trying to discover who brutally killed Kate Hill-Sumner, yet let her young daughter go free. Suspense builds in intensity and deliberately in this intricately plotted and character-driven nail biter.

Watson, S.J. Before I Go to Sleep; This fast-paced yet chilling story tells of a woman who has an impaired memory and can’t make sense of the divergent tales told to her by the man she thinks is her husband and the journal she has kept, but can’t remember. The story is filled with psychological suspense, crammed with twists and turns leading to an unpredictable outcome.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Covington, Dennis. Cleaving: The Story of a Marriage; Presented using alternate voices, the couple recounts the struggles they encountered in their twenty year marriage and their search for spiritual redemption. This book provides a constructive counterpoint to the chilling game playing of Amy and Nick.

Flook, Maria. Invisible Eden: A Story of Love and Murder on Cape Cod; This edgy true-crime story imparts the unsolved murder of fashion writer Christa Worthington in her Cape Cod home in 2002. According to one attorney, “The more the police investigate her life, the uglier she gets.” People and secrets are revealed in a deliberate yet nonjudgmental way, presenting clear characterizations of the individuals involved. This is a chilling tale of suspense.

Gottman, John Mordechai. Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage: America’s Love Lab Experts Share Their Strategies for Strengthening Your Relationship; This primer offers ten principles to help couples examine their relationship. The author conveys thoughtful and practical advice for couples to use in a variety of situations, before those problems escalate.

Name: Patty Daniel

American Born Chinese

August 8, 2012

Author: Gene Luen Yang , Ill. Lark Pien

Title: American Born Chinese

Genre: Comic Books; Graphic Novels

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 233

Geographical Setting: American suburbs

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: Not Applicable

Plot Summary: American Born Chinese consists of three seemingly unconnected stories that come together in a complex, surprising, and heart-warming way. The first story is based on a Chinese fable about the Monkey King. The Monkey King wants to become an immortal god, but in trying to become something he is not, he defies his inner nature and upsets Tze-Yo-Tzuh (the god who created existence). The second story is about Jin Wang, who after moving to a suburb from San Francisco, just wants to fit in at school. Jin wants to be popular, play basketball, make friends, and date the American girl he has fallen in love with. Instead, he meets Wei-Chen, a Taiwanese boy who only increases the bullying and decreases Jin’s chances for becoming popular. Lastly, Chin-Kee is Danny’s cousin visiting from China, and every time Chin-Kee visits he turns Danny into a high school outcast. Danny has had to change schools several times, and at his current school he is does not want to give up his popularity. American Born Chinese is a layered, magical, and an insightful story about being happy with who you are, what you have, and being true to yourself.

Subject Headings: Graphic novels. Chinese Americans — Fiction. Identity — Fiction. Schools — Fiction. Cartoons and comics. Michael L. Printz Award — 2007.

Appeal: engaging, fast-paced, flawed, insightful, realistic, sympathetic, layered, multiple points of view, magical

3 terms that best describes this book: humorous, character-centered, plot twists,

3 Nonfiction Read-a-likes:

Writing and Illustrating the Graphic Novel, Daniel Cooney

If American Born Chinese inspired you to try your hand at drawing and writing your own graphic novel, then check out Writing and Illustrating the Graphic Novel. This book will teach you how to draw lifelike illustrations, write exciting dialogue, and become a published author.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dating for Teens, Susan Rabens

Just like Jin Wang in American Born Chinese, teens agonize over how to ask someone on a date. If you are a teen trying to figure out dating, then check out The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dating for Teens. This book will talk about how to ask, how to handle rejection, how to discuss it with your parents, and much more. Or, this would be a great book for Mom or Dad to read in order to have a better understanding for how to start a conversation with your teen about dating.
Monkey: Folk Novel of China, Arthur Waley
This acclaimed translation from Arthur Waley, makes this western fable of the Monkey King accessible to English speaking natives. In American Born Chinese, Yang retells the Monkey King fable, in this translation learn and read the origins of this sixteenth century Chinese fable.
3 Fiction Read-a-likes:

Anya’s Ghost, Vera Brosgol

Anya’s Ghost is a magical realist story about Anya who is trying to fit in at high school, but it is a one-hundred-year-old ghost named Emily that helps Anya figure out high school. The flawed characters and the combination of the magical and realistic features to this graphic novels plot, makes this a great read-a-like for American Born Chinese.

The Accidental Genius of Weasel High, Rick Detorie

A realistic fiction novel interspersed with comic strips, this is a great coming-of-age story about a young boy named, Larkin Pace who is obsessed with films and his best friend since third grade, Brooke. Similar to American Born Chinese, Brosgol’s story is realistic, humorous, character-centered, and is about teenagers that have just entered the dating world.

The Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Sherman Alexie

Junior leaves his Spokane Indian reservation and attends a high school where the only other Native American is the mascot. Similar to American Born Chinese, this is a realistic, engaging, and insightful story about trying to fit into high school.

Name: Alison Kulczak