Posts Tagged ‘literary’

One Better by Rosalyn McMillan

November 27, 2012

Author: Rosalyn McMillan

Title: One Better

Genre: African American Literature, Women’s Lives and Relationships

Publication Date: 1997

Number of Pages: 360

Geographical Setting: Detroit, MI

Time Period: 1990s

Plot Summary:  Having come from a life of abuse, drugs, prostitution, and poverty in Mississippi, the Witherspoon family and their friends have succeeded in creating thriving restaurant and development businesses in Michigan. The author eloquently tells the story of the lives of Spice, Sterling, Mink, Otis, Carmen Enriquez, and Golden Westbrook as they struggle with their successes and failures, addictions to drugs and alcohol, tragic accidents and death. Individuals interested in reading about the redevelopment of Detroit may really like this book. However, there is a lot of explicit sex and drug dealing, so it is not recommended for teenagers.

Subject Headings: Family, Detroit, MI, Illegal Drugs, African American Women, Restauranteurs, Domestic Fiction, Love Stories

Appeal terms:  measured pace, dramatic, episodic, realistic, detailed, melancholy, well-developed, explicit sex, family-centered, urban, literary, details of drug and alcohol addiction

Three appeal terms: family-centered, urban, details of drug and alcohol addiction

Similar Authors and Works:

Fiction:

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston- This book is about the life and marriages of an African American Woman in the 1930s.

The Interruption of Everything by Terry McMillan- Terry McMillan is Rosalyn McMillan’s sister. Both authors write about the lives of African Americans. This book is about a woman, her marriage, and her family as she struggles with the idea of being a perfect wife and mother. Terry McMillan is best known for her books, Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker- This is the story of 20 years in a woman’s life as she experienced abuse and rape by her father and husband.

Non-Fiction:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou- This is the autobiography of the poet, Maya Angelou. The book is about the painful stories that she experienced as a child.

Terry McMillan by Bruce Fish- This is the biography of Rosalyn McMillan’s sister. It tells the story of how she survived a violent childhood to become a bestselling author of books and the screenplays for the movies.

The Honeymoon’s Over: True Stories of Love, Marriage and Divorce edited by Andrea Chapin and Sally Wofford-Girand- This is a book of essays by female authors, including Terry McMillan, about love marriage and divorce.

Name: Rachel Fischer

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Her Fearful Symmetry

October 17, 2012

her fearful symmetry book cover
Author: Audrey Neffenegger

Title: Her Fearful Symmetry

Genre: Literary Fiction, Ghost stories

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 401

Geographical Setting: Lake Forest, IL and London, England

Plot Summary: Twin sisters Julia and Valentina Poole reside in the suburbs of Chicago, where they lead rather unexciting lives and have little interest in anything aside from their extremely close attachment to each other. One day, the girls find out that their mother’s twin sister in London has passed away and left her apartment to the twins. Julia and Valentina take up residence in their deceased aunt Elspeth’s London flat, where they are introduced to the other residents in the building. Among them are Elspeth’s lover Robert, who works at the neighboring Highgate Cemetery, and Martin, who suffers from a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Tension mounts as the twins develop new relationships and begin to find separate identities, and an unexpected family member shows up that could tear them apart forever.

Subject Headings: Sisters — Fiction. London (England) — Fiction. Spiritual life – Fiction. Psychological fiction. Ghost stories.

Appeal: Chilling, builds in intensity, compelling, atmospheric, plot twists, descriptive, literary, haunting, character-centered, lyrical, multiple points of view, detailed setting, psychological

Three appeal terms: Haunting, lyrical, atmospheric

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Housekeeping shares many of the same appeal terms as Her Fearful Symmetry, including an intricate plot centered on characters and family relationships. It is leisurely paced, lyrical, and includes the haunting ghost story element. The book focuses on two sisters Ruth and Lucille and their relationship with each other and other family members. The girls struggle to grow up amidst memories of a family past that they can’t escape in their small hometown.

A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne
Readers who enjoyed the storyline revolving around twins in Her Fearful Symmetry, as well as the London setting, might enjoy A Dark Dividing, another character driven, atmospheric read with an intricate plot. A Dark Dividing features a girl named Simone Anderson, whose twin sister disappeared long ago. Simone has a connection to another pair of twins that were born almost a century earlier, but what is that connection? Journalist Harry Flitzglen is in love with Simone and is determined to solve these mysteries. Curiosity leads him to a ruined mansion known as Mortmain House, where he finds himself immersed in a series of even greater mysteries and a disturbing history he could never have imagined.

Ghost Walk by Heather Graham
Those who are in the mood for a fun ghost story interwoven with suspense and romance would like Ghost Walk by Heather Graham. Nikki DuMonde is having a great time running a New Orleans haunted-tour company when a ghost begins reaching out to her for help. Nikki pairs up with paranormal investigator Brent Blackhawk to find out what this ghost wants…before it’s too late.

Coastliners by Joanne Harris
Like Her Fearful Symmetry, Coastliners also deals with women uncovering family secrets and developing their own identity. Mado returns home to her small island hometown after 10 years in Paris to reconcile with her estranged father. When she comes home, however, she is met with family secrets, village feuds, and the urgent need to save the town’s quickly eroding beach. This book has a strong focus on family relationships with a haunting feel and some paranormal elements thrown into the mix.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla by Felix Barker
In Her Fearful Symmetry, readers are exposed to some of the history of London’s Highgate Cemetery, which may leave them wanting to learn more about this fascinating landmark. Highgate Cemetery: Victorian Valhalla is a great resource for information as it provides a rare, illustrated history of the cemetery.

Identical strangers: a memoir of twins separated and reunited by Elyse Schein
Readers who liked the twin storyline in Her Fearful Symmetry may like this true story about a woman named Elyse who goes on a search for her biological mother and ends up discovering that she has an identical twin sister. When she finally connects with her twin, Paula, the two investigate their past and fill in the missing pieces of their lives. The story is interwoven with details on twin studies and statistics to make for both an informative and touching read.

Ghosts among us: uncovering the truth about the other side by James Van Praagh
Those who dig the paranormal ghost elements in Her Fearful Symmetry can find more information about ghosts in this non-fiction book. The author includes true ghost stories and evidence that ghosts are active in our everyday lives. Believers in ghosts will enjoy uncovering the truth about perceptions of spiritual life and how to have a better understanding of what happens on the other side.

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

The Alchemist

August 13, 2012

Author: Paulo Coehlo; audiobook narrated by Jeremy Irons

Title: The Alchemist

Genre: Inspirational; Spiritual Fiction; Literary Fiction; Fables

Publication Date: 1993

Number of Pages: 177

Geographical Setting: Spain; Egypt

Time Period: Not specified

Series: Not applicable

Plot Summary: Santiago’s reoccurring dream leads him on a quest to Egypt to find treasure and to also discover his personal legend or destiny. Along his journey, Santiago’s commitment to his personal legend is tested on multiple occasions, but he continues to keep choosing his quest. The Alchemist becomes Santiago’s guide through the dessert and his teacher about how to follow his heart and his dreams in the hope that, unlike so many people, Santiago will fulfill his destiny. This is a philosophical and spiritual journey for Santiago and his readers. The Alchemist is a thought-provoking and powerful novel that will cause you to question how your life and actions can impact and change yours and other peoples lives. This book will draw literary fiction, inspirational, and folk tale readers and undoubtedly, will cause all who read it to feel inspired to seek out their own personal legends.

Subject Headings: Alchemists — Fiction. Shepherds — Spain — Andalusia — Fiction. Andalusia (Spain) — Fiction. Fables.

Appeal: mystical, character-centered, gentle, thought-provoking, exotic, detailed setting, literary, thoughtful, lyrical

3 terms that best describes this book: relaxed, philosophical, inspiring

3 Nonfiction Read-a-likes:

The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz.

Don Miguel Ruiz discusses and explicates the paths and steps to take to personal freedom, peace, and unconditional love. A great read-a-like for readers who were inspired by themes in The Alchemist of filling your life with love and peace that will help readers know spiritual enlightenment.

The Awakening Course: the Secret to Solving All Problems, Joe Vitale

This book offers a step-by-step approach to changing your personal and professional transcendence. A thought-provoking, spiritual transformation that will help readers of The Alchemist be able to take their own inspirational journey to help achieve their lives goals.

Andalusia, Eliane Faure

 Andalusia is an illustrated guide to this part of Spain. This book offers a visual understanding to one of the exotic landscape of The Alchemist. You can explore Andalusia customs, the landscape, the major regions, and more.

 3 Fiction Read-a-likes:

Siddhartha, Herman Hesse.

Brahmin or Siddhartha abandons his aristocratic life to embark on a spiritual journey to better understand Indian spirituality. Siddhartha is another inspirational, mystical, though-provoking piece of literary fiction for the reader who enjoys spiritual journeys like in The Alchemist.

The Five People You Will Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom

After Eddie dies in a tragic accident, Eddie reflects upon his life in heaven feeling that his life was uninspired, but five people he knew in life explains the meaning of his life.  The Five People You Will Meet in Heaven is an inspiring, philosophical tale about appreciating and realizing ones purpose in life.

The Tale of the Unknown Island, Jose Saramago

A philosophical fable about a man who knocks on a king’s petitioner’s door to ask him for a boat to use on his voyage. Like the king, the man sparks curiosity and desire in the reader to find out where it is he is journeying too. The Tale of the Unknown Island is a spiritual journey similar to The Alchemist in the sense that both stories are character centered, literary, and inspires readers to explore their relationship to the world.

Name: Alison Kulczak

Interview with the Vampire

August 1, 2012

Author: Anne Rice

Title:  Interview with the Vampire

Genre:  Horror

Publication Date: 1976

Number of Pages:  342

Geographical Setting:  New Orleans and various cities around the world

Time Period: 1790s-modern day

Series (If applicable):  The Vampire Chronicles #1

Plot Summary:

Through an interview with a mortal, the vampire Louis tells the story of both his mortal and immortal life.  Louis was a rich plantation owner in New Orleans in the late 18th century.  After his brother died, Louis became depressed and wanted to die, Lestat, a vampire, helps Louis by killing him and turning him into a vampire.  Louis and Lestat are then bonded together, despite the fact that Louis despises his maker.  Louis accidentally changes a young girl, Claudia, into a vampire and the two of them band together against Lestat, eventually fleeing to Europe to find other vampires.  Lestat, however, is not as keen to be rid of Louis.  Interview with the Vampire presents a well written and researched look at the vampire myth.

Subject Headings:  Horror—Fiction, Vampire—Fiction, American—Fiction, New Orleans, Europe

Appeal:  Measured Pace, Atmospheric, Chilling, Darker, Suspenseful, Character-Driven, Cinematic, Interview Setting, Historic Frame, Colorful, Descriptive, Elegant, Literary

3 terms that best describe this book:  Suspenseful, Character-Driven, Literary

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Vampire Companion by Katherine Ramsland

Written as a guide to the world of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles series, this book helps gives new readers a better understanding of the characters and times.  The companion book also helps avid followers of the series keep characters and settings clear.  Readers who want to know more about Anne Rice’s novels should definitely check this book out.

The Vampire Book by J. Gordon Melton

For readers who want to know more about vampire culture in general, where it came from, how it evolved, etc., Melton’s book provides information on all things vampire.  The book is an A-Z bibliographic guide.

The World that Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square by Ned Sublette

The New Orleans setting of Interview with the Vampire acts almost as a character throughout the story, because it constantly pulls at Louis, trying to bring him back home.  This book provides historical information about this fascinating American city.  Readers who want to know more about the city’s history will find ample information in this book.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Readers who enjoyed the overwhelming sense of dread and Interview with The Vampire unfolded will no doubt enjoy one of the most famous vampire books of all time.  Stoker’s story follows several storylines unfolding around the mysterious Count Dracula as he moves from Eastern Europe to England.

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

A more modern day vampire story, Let the Right One In uses the same foreboding tone of Rice’s story, with a younger protagonist.  This book also delves into children being turned into vampires, like Claudia in Interview.

Dead until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris

With the same Louisiana setting as Interview with the Vampire, but set in the present day, the Sookie Stackhouse series follows Sookie, a young woman who falls in love with a vampire, Bill Compton.  The series uses similar atmospheric, mystical tones to Interview in order to describe the location.

Name: Erin Sloan

Water for Elephants

April 18, 2012

Author: Sara Gruen

Title: Water for Elephants

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: May 1, 2007

Number of Pages: 335

Geographical Setting: United States

Time Period: Great Depression Era

Plot Summary: Jacob Jankowski lives a carefree life, even during a time of great depression for most.  He is about to graduate from Cornell College, join his father’s veterinary business, and has caught the eye of the most beautiful girl in school (to whom he hopes to lose his virginity).  But a deadly car accident, which claims the life of both his parents, flips Jacob’s life upside down.  After the bank seizes his house, Jacob leaves in search of…anything.  In the middle of the night he jumps a train, not knowing that it belongs to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth!  Young Jacob is thrust into a world filled with adventure, romance, and illusion, one that he can still remember years later when he is ninety-something-years-old.

Subject Headings: Circus — Fiction. Depressions — 1929 — Fiction. Circus performers — Fiction. Parents — Death — Fiction. Elephants — Fiction. Circus animals — Fiction. Triangles (Interpersonal relations) — Fiction.

Appeal: bittersweet, romantic, nostalgic, reflective, engaging, richly detailed, multiple perspectives, character-driven, intricately plotted, literary, suspenseful, atmospheric.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: multiple perspectives, romantic, character-driven.

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

  1. The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy, Stewart O’Nan. A historical account of the Hartford circus fire in 1944; a deadly disaster that killed more than 150 people.  A sobering depiction of circus life, and the risks associated with performing and life on the road.
  2. Tell Me Where it Hurts, Nick Trout.  Heartwarming and moving, the author, a veterinary surgeon tells about his experiences working with pets and their owners.
  3. Children of the Great Depression, Russell Freedman.  Through diaries, letters, and other firsthand accounts, the stories of American children affected by the Great Depression during the 1930s.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

  1. Life of Pi, Yann Martel.  Similarly to Guren, Yann also writes intricately plotted books in which reminiscing in old age in a main topic.  In this book, Pi Patel, a zookeeper’s son, escapes a sinking ship on a life boat with a Bengal tiger.
  2. The Sea, John Banville.  Character-driven and reflective, this book introduces Max Morgen who, after the death of his wife, goes to live town of his childhood in search of peace and solitude.
  3. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Oscar Hijuelos.  Two Cuban brothers form a band in New York during the 1950s.  Their talent brings them to new heights with an opportunity to perform on the I Love Lucy Show.

Name: Erin Shinneman

Dead Love

April 4, 2012

Author: Linda Watanabe McFerrin

Title: Dead Love

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 304

Geographical Setting: Tokyo, Haiti, Amsterdam, Malaysia, Singapore

Time Period: Present

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: Okay, here goes: Eighteen year old dancer Erin Orison (our narrator), a gloomy – but incredibly hot – product of European boarding schools, is summoned to Tokyo by her (evil!) father, also the U.S. Ambassador to Japan (as well as an important cog in the Consortium, an international secret society intent on unleashing supernatural evil upon the world), to appear in a production scripted by a famed Japanese choreographer.  After being somewhat murdered by Ryu, her bodyguard come lover and Yakuza assassin, Erin awakens in a hospital morgue a not-quite zombie, the full transformation having been botched by an unknowing hospital intern.  Erin is now caught in between a human and zombie existence, possessing consciousness and self-will, albeit in a hazy, dream-like state.  Enter Clement, the puppet master behind all these doings.  Clement is a ghoul (a ghoul being an eternal yet formless being that inhabits, and feeds upon, recently deceased corpses) and has been stricken from afar for Erin since she was an infant.  What ensues is a hunt around the globe for Erin (and the microchip inside her body that would unveil the Consortium’s dastardly plans).

Subject Headings:  Zombies, Conspiracies, Supernatural, Dance, Voodoo, Vampires—Dutch, Yakuza, Ghouls, Tokyo, Haiti, Amsterdam, Malaysia, Singapore, Secret societies, Assassination, Manga, Nightclubs, Pursuit.

Appeal:  Dreamlike, surreal, psychedelic, atmospheric, dark, foreboding, otherworldly, melancholy, moody, mystical, nightmare, eccentric, complex, well-crafted, literary, aggressive, brooding, menacing, weary, gloomy, bleak, eerie, ominous, stylish.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Surreal, atmospheric, eerie.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Theories of International Politics and Zombies by Daniel W. Drezner

A professor of international politics, Drezner attempts to explain different theories on international political systems by supposing the various schools supposed reactions to the world being overrun by zombie hordes.  For instance, how would a realpolitik reaction to zombies differ from, say, a neoconservative one.  Could there be human-zombie alliances for political gain or security?  And would shock and awe be so shocking to the already dead?

The Epic of Kings: Hero Tales of Ancient Persia by Firdausi

This book is suggested by McFerrin in a footnote contained in Dead Love regarding the origins of ghouls.  These myths and legends from the ancient world include ghouls, demons, jinn, and many other supernatural rabble-rousers.

Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting by W. Scott Poole

From colonial times, monsters have always loomed large in American culture.  This compendium examines the various things that have scared our nation senseless over the course of generations.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service by Eiji Ōtsuka and Housui Yamazaki

Not only is one of Dead Love’s chapters presented in manga form, the prose does well in evoking the visual moodiness of some supernaturally concerned manga.  In this on-going horror series, a group of students at a Buddhist college, each of whom possesses a special “power”, go into business collecting corpses while acting out the last wishes of the dead.

Thirsty by M.T. Anderson

Chris’s only desire is to be a normal teenager: hang out with friends, pursue his high school crush, etc.. Chris also lives in a world where vampires are hunted down and killed like vermin.  Much like Erin, Chris has embarked on a slow, agonizing descent toward supernatural damnation, this time by way of vampirism.  Much like Clement, Chris has his own other-dimensional puppet-master in Chet the Celestial Being, a servant of a vampire lord.  This book is also hilarious.

Magic For Beginners by Kelly Link

This very highly acclaimed collection of bizarre and humorous short stories includes the likes of zombies, witches, ghosts, superheroes and a whole bevy of supernatural delights.

Name: Bill S.

Fun Home. A Family Tragicomic.

November 30, 2011

Author: Bechdel, Alison.

Title:  Fun Home. A Family Tragicomic. 

 Genre:  Autobiographical Graphic Novel; Nonfiction.

Publication Date: 2006

Number of pages: 232

Geographical Setting: Pennsylvania, United States.

Time period: Contemporary

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary: In this autobiographical graphic novel, Alison Bechdel, an author of a long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, draws a darkly funny and emotionally complex picture of her childhood and her coming-out experiences. The central part of this graphic novel focuses on the author’s loving yet ambivalent relationship with his father—a small-town closeted homosexual, a teacher, a funeral-home owner, and an obsessive interior decorator.  The tone of the story ranges from outrageously funny, especially when describing her father’s obsession with house decor, flowers and fashion, to darkly disturbing, when recalling his inappropriate relationships with male students and the effect of his behavior on the author’s mother. The prose is simple, expressive and often filled with references to literary classics, and the art, with its traditional blue, black and white panels, integrates beautifully into a graphically and textually powerful tale of a family marked by love, sadness, repression but also redemption.  For any skeptics of graphic novels, Fun Home should be an example of this format’s potential for expression, beauty and literary value.

Subject Headings: Graphic Novels; Memoir; Coming-Out-Story; Sexual Orientations; Family and Relationships; 1960’s Small Town–Pennsylvania.

Appeal: heartbreaking, darkly funny, thought-provoking, engaging, literary, disturbing, poignant, character-driven, reflective, psychologically complex, moving, witty, uneasy, well-drawn, candid, sympathetic, sexually explicit, family-centered, small-town setting.

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book: heartbreaking, witty, and literary.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi: A compelling and darkly funny tale of an Iranian girl growing up during the Iranian Revolution. Similarly to Fun Home, it is an autobiographical, character-driven, and textually and visually powerful graphic novel.

2) Epileptic by David B: In this moving graphic novel, the author describes his real-life experiences of growing up with an epileptic brother and how it affected his decision to become a cartoonist.

3) Blankets: an Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson: An autobiographical graphic novel about brothers growing up in a strict, evangelical family and struggling with rivalry, love and doubt.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1) Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: the Beauty Supply District by Ben Katchor.  A collection of witty, nostalgic and character-driven graphic strips picturing the experience of Julius Knipl, a real estate photographer, and other mid-century Jewish characters.

2) The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger: A graphic story of a woman who enters a bookmobile that contains every book she has ever read. Like Bechdel’s story, it is character-driven, literary, reflective and stylistically complex

3) Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine:  This graphic novels tells a story of Ben Tanaka, a not entirely sympathetic, twenty-something American-Japanese, searching for his identity and a place in the world by testing sexual, cultural, philosophical and political waters of the contemporary America.

Megan Rosol

Asterios Polyp

November 29, 2011

Author: David Mazzucchelli

Title: Asterios Polyp

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 344

Geographical Setting: New York / fictional small town of “Apogee”

Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary: Asterios Polyp is a middle-aged professor of architecture. When his New York apartment burns down after a lightning strike, he hops on a Greyhound bus and gets off in a middle-America town called Apogee, where he finds employment as an auto mechanic and rents a room in his boss’s house. The story of Asterios’ sudden change in lifestyle is intercut with flashbacks recalling previous episodes in his life including a past marriage, as well as dream sequences and various abstract visual/verbal ideas (including some of Asterios’ theories of architecture) narrated by his unborn twin brother. Although it has an epic sweep, the plot is less important than the intricate and beautiful visual design of the illustrations and the intellectual ideas they convey.

Subject Headings: Architecture; Duality; Romantic relationships; Graphic novels

Appeal:  abstract, character-centered, cerebral, detailed, epic, episodic, humorous, intricate, intellectual, literary, melancholy, quirky, sophisticated, stylistically complex, symbolic, thought-provoking

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: intricate, sophisticated, stylistically complex

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Blankets by Craig Thompson [Autobiographical graphic novel; epic-length, character-centered, literary]

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel [Autobiographical graphic novel; literary, emotionally rich, complex]

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud [Covers the history and theory of comics as an artistic medium]

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth by Chris Ware [Sophisticated graphic novel with an intricate visual design, emotionally rich sense of melancholy, literary complexity and symbolism]

Wilson by Daniel Clowes [Graphic novel; character study about a sad middle-aged man on a journey; complex, quirky, humorous]

The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire [Sweeping, character-centered graphic novel; also, both this and Asterios Polyp are by Canadian artists]

Name: Brian W.

Sing You Home

November 15, 2011

Author:  Jodi Picoult

Title:  Sing You Home

Genre: GLBTQ; Domestic Fiction

Publication Date: March 1, 2011

Number of Pages:  480

Geographical Setting: Rhode Island

Time Period:  Present Day

Plot Summary: Zoe and Max have been trying to have a baby for 9 years.  After a final round of IVF, and a stillborn baby, Max cannot take it any longer, and the couple divorces. Both go their separate ways and deal with the tragedy and life change differently.  Max initially goes back to being an alcoholic, but after a very bad accident he finds Jesus and becomes a Christian fundamentalist.  Zoe throws herself into her work as a music therapist and an unexpected friendship with a high school counselor blooms into love.  However, their love is not accepted by everyone.  When the two want to use the frozen embryos from Zoe and Max’s last round of In-virto, many people, including Max, wish to stop them from having a family. This emotionally charged and heavily issue-oriented novel explores the boundaries of love, marriage, parenthood and most importantly identity.

Subject Headings:  Gay and Lesbian rights; Music Therapy; Christian Fundamentalism; Infertility; In-vitro Fertilization; Lesbian relationships

Appeal:  Issue-oriented, thought-provoking, character-driven, lyrical prose, fast-paced, haunting, multiple points of view, compelling, emotionally charged, domestic, literary, moving

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: thought-provoking, multiple points of view, emotionally charged

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1)     Case Studies in Music Therapy by Kenneth E. Bruscia – This book contains 42 stories of music therapy told by the patients, not the therapists.  It includes all types of cases where music therapy was used, from individual to group therapy, from psychiatric, medical, or educational purposes. This is a good non-fiction read-alike for Sing You Home because the character Zoe is a music therapist and there is much about this profession in the novel.

2)     Revive Us Again: the Reawakening of American Fundamentalism by Joel A. Carpenter – This well researched book explores the history of American fundamentalism focusing on the years 1925-1950.  It includes anecdotes, analysis, and really shows the nature of the fundamentalist movement during this time period when many may have not even known the movement was in full swing.  This would be a good non-fiction read-alike for Sing You Home because the character Max becomes a member of a Christian fundamentalist church and there is much regarding their beliefs in this novel.

3)     Surviving In-vitro Fertilization: IVF Stories from the Women who have been there by Karen Daniels – A compilation of true stories of In-vitro fertilization told by the women who lived through the process. They share their thoughts, stories, and lessons learned through their IVF journeys.  A good read-alike for Sing You Home because the majority of the story involves embryos that were created when Zoe and Max had to undergo in-vitro.  There is much about the process and issues surrounding in-vitro in the novel.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)     Between Friends by Kristy Kiernan – The story of two women who have been friends since childhood.  When Ali and her husband had trouble getting pregnant, Cora donated her eggs, resulting in Ali’s daughter Letty.  That was 14 years ago.  Now Cora has found out that she has a hereditary disease which may have been passed on through her donated egg and Ali is considering asking Cora for another frozen embryo even amid marriage trouble.  This moving, inspirational story of friendship is similar to Sing You Homein that it is a work of domestic fiction that it discusses infertility issues but also issues of marriage and relationships.  (moving, emotionally charged, fertility issues)

2)     Trace Elements of Random Tea by Felicia Luna Lemus – Coming-of-age story of a young gay, Latina girl, Leticia.  She has run away from her strict, but loving grandmother to live in the big city of LA.  She encounters love, loss, and trouble along the way.  Her ties to her family, however, are very strong and when the time comes she reconciles with her grandmother.  Similar to Sing You Home because it is also domestic fiction that involves a lesbian couple and strong family relationships. (GLBTQ, domestic fiction, moving)

3)     Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner – This is the story of four women whose lives become connected when one of the women decides she wants a baby, but encounters fertility issues.  India is in her 40’s and desires a baby, but issues arise, so she and her older husband decide to go another route and try surrogacy.  Jules is a college student who decides to donate her eggs to acquire some extra money.  Annie is a married mother of two who becomes the surrogate to help her family financially.  Finally there is Bettina, India’s step-daughter who becomes the baby’s legal mother.  Each woman tells their own story and of course their paths end up intersecting.  Similar to Sing You Home because the story is told by multiple characters and involves infertility issues as well as domestic family issues.  (emotionally charged, character-driven, moving)

Name: Michelle Worthington