Posts Tagged ‘lush’

From Barcelona, with Love

October 3, 2012

Cover of From Barcelona, with LoveAuthor:  Elizabeth Adler

Title: From Barcelona with Love

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 338

Geographical Setting: Los Angeles, Barcelona, Spanish Sierra Mountains

Time Period: Present day

Series: Mac Reilly, P.I.; Book 4

Plot Summary: Bibi Fortunata, a famous singer, is released from trial by a judge due to lack of evidence for the murder of her lover and his latest mistress, her supposed best friend. Rather than allow the scandal to affect her seven year-old daughter, Paloma, Bibi decides to leave her in the care of an aunt, and promptly disappears without a trace. Two years later, young Paloma meets TV detective show host and private investigator Mac Reilly, and Bibi’s family asks Mac to take up the case: find Bibi—if she is still alive—and reunite mother and daughter once again. Mac follows the trail to Barcelona, where he must discover the truth behind the murders before Bibi’s sinister ex-husband comes to take Paloma away, and claim her inheritance of a Spanish wine-making dynasty for himself. Moving at a brisk pace, and filled with plot twists, From Barcelona with Love is framed by the atmosphere and rich detail Adler evokes of cosmopolitan Barcelona and the more pastoral wineries and villas of the Spanish countryside. And the tone of the novel strikes a graceful balance between mystery and romance, as the story unravels the secret of Bibi.

Subject Headings: Barcelona (Spain), Murder investigation, Frameups, Women celebrities, Jilted women, Missing Persons, Suspicion, Detectives, Mothers and daughters, Murder suspects, Triangles (Interpersonal relations), Extramarital relations, Americans in foreign countries.

Appeal: compelling, fast paced, intriguing secondary characters, dramatic, vivid, series (characters), character centered, plot twists, resolved ending, rich and famous, steamy, contemporary, detailed settings, exotic, strong sense of place, lush, suspenseful, colorful, conversational.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character centered, plot twists, detailed settings

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Spain: A Culinary Roadtrip by Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, and Gwyneth Paltrow

Spanish food and wine figure prominently in From Barcelona, with Love, and readers who may wish to learn more on the subject will likely enjoy this gastronomic tour of Spain co-written by a preeminent chef, the food critic for the New York Times, and a celebrity foodie.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adrià’s elBulli by Lisa Abend

There are multiple scenes in Adler’s novel that evoke the contemporary Spanish cuisine known as molecular gastronomy, that was first popularized by maverick chef Ferran Adrià. Readers who enjoy food writing and want to explore the topic further will find much to savor here.

Barcelona The Great Enchantress by Robert Hughes

For readers who want to learn more about the historic sites described in From Barcelona, with Love, award-winning travel writer Hughes here vividly describes the Spanish city which he has admired and visited for over forty years.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Someone to Watch Over Me by Judith McNaught

Readers who enjoyed From Barcelona, with Love may also like this steamy Romantic Suspense novel, which similarly focuses on relationships and the foibles of the rich and famous. Leigh Kendall, a Broadway star, awakens in the hospital after a car crash to discover that she is suspected in the disappearance of her well-to-do husband.

Veil of Night by Linda Howard

As From Barcelona, with Love is an example of the gentler side of Romantic Suspense, Veil of Night may appeal to some of Adler’s readers. Howard’s fast-paced novel is focused on romantic relationships, and is humor-inflected with an accent on mystery. Wedding planner Jaclyn Wilde must team with P.I. Eric Wilder to solve the murder of one of her clients, a bridezilla depised by everyone she came in contact with.

Winter Garden by Hannah Kristin

Readers who appreciate Adler’s story of family secrets, sense of place, and richly detailed descriptions of exotic locales may enjoy this story of a woman trying to uncover the mysteries of her mother’s tragic past hidden in a Russian fairy tale she used to tell her children. Winter Garden takes the reader on a journey from apple growing country in the Pacific Northwest to Stalin-era Leningrad.

Name: John Rimer

Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table

August 8, 2012

Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table

Author: Ruth Reichl

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

Genre: Nonfiction; Memoirs; Autobiographies (Best Seller)

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 282

Geographical Setting: New York and Connecticut

Time Period: 1950’s

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

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

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

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

Name: Patty Prodanich

The Women

July 16, 2012

Author: Boyle, T. Coraghessan

Title: The Women: A Novel

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 464 p.

Geographical Setting: Mostly Chicago and Wisconsin.

Time Period: 1880s-1930s


Plot Summary: A Japanese apprentice narrates this fictional biography of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. However, the perspective that depicts this eccentric and flamboyant Wright comes from four women who loved him. Chronologically in reverse, the story starts with the young Montenegrin dancer Olgivanna and life at Taliesin, the center stage of scandals, turmoil and tragedy. The struggles of his relations are further portrayed by the recounts of previous relationships that also bore plenty of commotion. Miriam, his distressed and morphine-addicted southern artist wife, is resilient to break the new couple apart.  Mamah was sadly one of victims of the massacre at Taliesin. His first wife Kitty, the mother of six of his children, was abandoned after 20 years of marriage when Wright falls for Mamah, who was the wife of one of his clients.  The ups and downs of each of these relationships, the media reaction — not different than today’s celebrity fixation, and Wright’s complex personality are captured by Boyle’s rich descriptive prose to deliver a character-driven story full of historical and vivid details.

Subject Headings: Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959 — Relations with women; Architects; Husband and wife; Men/women relations; Twentieth century; Extramarital relations; Scandals; Women’s role — United States — History — 20th century.

Appeal: Detailed characterizations, multiple points of view, tragic, detailed setting, historical details, dramatic, moody, descriptive, atmospheric, nostalgic, lush, passionate, domestic.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  Detailed characterizations, multiple points of view,  domestic.

Similar Fiction Authors and Works:

Horan, Nancy, Loving Frank: A Novel; A fictional account from Mamah Cheney about her love affair and relationship with Frank Lloyd Wright and Chicago society’s reaction.

McLain, Paula. The Paris Wife: A Novel; A story portraying the relationship of a celebrated American writer and his first, out of four wives. Ernest and Hadley Hemingway and their marriage in 1920s Paris.

Ebershoff, David. The 19th Wife: A Novel; For historic murder mystery fans looking for an intriguing fictional tale set in the late 1800’s polygamist Utah community.

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Drennan, William R., Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders; Investigative account of the atrocious 1914 massacre and destruction of Taliesin.

Hess, Alan, and Weintraub, Alan. Frank Lloyd Wright: The Houses; Displays Wright’s residential architecture. Stunning photographs, floor plans, and archive images, texts and essays.

Wright, Frank Lloyd. Frank Lloyd Wright: An Autobiography; First published in 1932; Wright’s own version about his work, philosophy, and personal life.

Fanny Camargo

Tender At The Bone

March 28, 2012

Author: Ruth Reichel

Title: Tender At The Bone

Genre: Nonfiction, Food Writing, Memoir

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 282

Geographical Setting: New York, Montreal, California

Time Period: 1960’s-1970’s.

Plot Summary: Future food critic and editor of Gourmet magazine, Ruth Reichel, writes a memoir about growing up as a budding gourmet and daughter of The Queen of Mold, a woman with an iron stomach who routinely poisons her guests. Reichel writes lovingly about attending a French school in Montreal, having a wild phase in high school, and living in an organic, vegetarian commune in her 20’s. All of her stories relate to her education in good food, such as her best friend’s father who taught her the wonders of French cooking, or the cook who taught her how to make her father’s favorite weiner schnitzel. Every chapter is punctuated with a recipe, which is good because when Reichel describes food, she goes into mouth-watering detail.

Subject Headings: Cooking, Growing Up, Food Habits, Recipes

Appeal: eccentric, intriguing, family-centered, details of cooking, lush, descriptive, colorful, engaging, witty.

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe the Book: Eccentric, lush, witty.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

When Julie Powell is about to have a nervous break down from her drab life, she saves herself by taking on a project where she cooks every single recipe from Julia Child’s “Mastering The Art of French Cooking” in a year and blogging about it. Powell’s writing is sharp and witty, and also ends every chapter with a recipe.

Dirty Sugar Cookies: Culinary Observations, Questionable Taste by Ayun Halliday

Although this is a similar food memoir in which Ayun Halliday writes about her connection to food from an early age and how her tastes expanded while growing up, Halliday is the polar opposite of Reichel. Halliday was an extremely picky eater as a child who didn’t discover her love of food until her first bite of spanikopita, when she discovered her innate love of ethnic cuisine. Halliday’s own cooking is more similar to Reichel’s mother, as Halliday also has an iron stomach and thinks nothing of eating something that fell on the ground, much to the chagrin of her family.

French Lessons: Adventures With Knife, Fork And Corkscrew by Peter Mayle

Mayle takes the reader on a culinary tour of France, in which he imparts the French’s enthusiasm for truly good food in a charming and lighthearted way.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

At nine-years-old Rose Edelstein discovers that when she bites into food, she can taste the emotions of the cook who made it. Her mother’s lemon cake tastes of “despair and desperation.”

Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Tita De La Garza is the youngest daughter in her family and forbidden to marry because she has to take care of her mother. She falls in love with someone anyway, and he falls for her from the magical way that she cooks. He marries her sister to stay close to her, and they keep their passion at a low ebb until circumstances throw them together again.

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

This book follows eight students who gather for cooking lessons at Lillian’s Kitchen every Monday. The stories of what they really want is woven in between sumptuous descriptions of the food that they make.

Name: Jessica DiMaio

Garlic and Sapphires

August 8, 2011

Author:  Ruth Reichl

Title:  Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

Genre:  Non-Fiction

Publication Date:  2005

Number of Pages:  333

Geographical Setting:  New York City

Time Period:  1990’s

Plot Summary:  Fresh from L.A. in the early 1990’s, Ruth Reichl landed every foodie’s dream job: she became the restaurant critic for the New York Times.  Reichl quickly discovers that every fine dining establishment has her photo posted and monetary rewards are being offered to anyone who knows which restaurant she will be visiting next, compromising her ability to write an objective review.  To reclaim her anonymity, Reichl creates elaborate disguises to use when dining out, including a slightly overweight Midwestern teacher, a vivacious middle-aged hippie, a breathy Marilyn Monroe-like blond, and a meek old lady.  Garlic and Sapphires follows Ruth through New York City’s most exclusive restaurants and examines how outward appearances can affect how the world treats you.  Both humorous and insightful, Reichl’s memoir is full of the “artifice and excellence” of the restaurant experience, including vivid (and utterly delicious) descriptions of the food she ate.  In addition, her narration is peppered with the original New York Times reviews and personal recipes.

Subject Headings:  Autobiographies; Food Writing; Food Memoirs

Appeal:  Humorous, insightful, thought provoking, colloquial, descriptive, vivid, episodic, charming, upbeat, richly detailed, lush, straightforward

3 terms that best describe this book: charming, upbeat, lush

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York by Williams Grimes:  Written by the restaurant critic that succeeded Reichl at the Times, Appetite City examines New York’s food history from the 19th century through the restaurant culture of the early 21st century.  Like Reichl, Grimes provides the reader with his personal experiences dining in what many proclaim to be the “food capital of the world.”

Eat my Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything by Simon Majumdar:  Internationally-renowned food blogger Majumdar humorously chronicles his adventures experiencing cuisine from every continent (except Antarctica).  With a fearless
approach to food (he samples Mongolian fermented mare’s milk), Majumdar describes his meals in lush detail.

Two for the Road: Our Love Affair with American Food by Jane and Michael Stern:  Like Reichl, Jane and Michael Stern are major foodies, but instead of four-star restaurants in New York City, they travel the back roads of America, seeking out mom-and-pop diner cuisine.  Upbeat and humorous with vivid descriptions of unpretentious meals, Two for the Road chronicles Jane and Michael’s episodes of eating their way across the United States.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Butter Did It: A Gastronomic Tale of Love and Murder by Phyllis C. Richman:  Written by the restaurant critic for the Washington Post, this upbeat cozy mystery features restaurant critic Charlotte (Chas) Wheatley, who decides to investigate the suspicious death of her former French-chef lover.  The Butter Did It contains vivid descriptions of savory dishes that would make
any foodie’s stomach growl.

Eating Heaven by Jennie Shortridge:  At first, food writer Eleanor Samuels’s world is torn apart when she becomes caretaker to her Uncle Benny, but as she cooks for and nurtures her Uncle, she uncovers family secrets, and finds a way to come to terms with herself and her past.  Rich, charming, and humorous, Shortridge gives readers a delicious novel, ending with a food manifesto titled, “How to Eat.”

Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery, translated by Alison Anderson:  As France’s premier restaurant critic lies in his deathbed, he remembers past meals in search the one perfect flavor from his youth – the flavor that is “the only true thing ever accomplished.”  Lush culinary prose peppers scenes (both charming and sad) alternately narrated by the critic and his family (including the cat).

Name:  Mieko Fujiura

Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

April 6, 2011

Brava, Valentine

Author: Adriana Trigiani
Title: Brava, Valentine
Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships, Gentle Reads
Publication Date: 2010
Number of Pages: 332
Geographical Setting: New York City
Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary: In Adriana Trigianai’s second novel in the Very Valentine series, Brava, Valentine further expands on the love stories, family dramas began in the first, and adds new twists and passions that make up the life of main character Valentine Rancalli.  The novel opens with the wedding of Valentine’s beloved grandmother and fellow custom shoemaker, Teodora.  Valentine is then faced with changes to her life and her business.  Throughout the story, Valentine further discovers her passion for custom shoemaking and past love Gianluca.  She takes on a new avenue in expanding her business, and expanding her heart in her long-distance romance with Gianluca.  Of course, her family dynamics and relationships take center stage as they weave in and out of the novel, with an entertaining and hilarious scene at Thanksgiving, and as we learn more about her brother Alfred, who is now her business partner.  Change and self-discovery are prevalent for Valentine as she learns not only about her family, her love, but also herself.  A well-developed story leaves an ending without lose ends, but with anticipation for what happens next.

Subject Headings: Family relationships, Family businesses, Italian Americans, Weddings, Long-distance romance, Grandmothers, Sibling rivalry, Businesswomen, Dating, Mentors, Female friendship, Relationships, Transformations, Past loves, Power struggles, Brothers and sisters, Family secrets, Scandal, Self-discovery; New York, Mid-Atlantic States (U.S.), Buenos Aires, Argentina, South America, Argentina; 2000s, 21st century; Fiction Romance, Contemporary, Domestic Saga Family; Italian American, Grandmother, Newlywed Italian; Businesswoman, Artist, Businessman, Financier

Appeal: romantic, love story, career woman, friendships, custom shoemakers, lush, passionate professional, Italian-Americans, family relationships, change, acceptance, self-discovery, New York City, Greenwich Village, Buenos Aires, fast paced, humorous, emotionally charged, sophisticated, sensual, family businesses, stylish, glamorous, down-to-earth characters, series novel, bestselling author

3 terms that best describe this book: family relationships, Italian-American experiences, passionate female businesswoman

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The World in a City: traveling the globe through the neighborhoods of the new New York by Joseph Berger is a nonfiction books for people who want to learn more about New York City, it’s ethnically diverse neighborhoods and constant change in people, culture, cuisine and sights.

Marcella Amarcord Remembers: the story of a woman who started out to teach science in a small town in Italy, but ended up teaching America how to cook Italian by Marcella Hazan traces the life story of the best-selling cookbook author from her childhood in a quiet Adriatic Sea fishing town and her family’s struggles through World War II to her marriage and her work as a cooking instructor.

Coffee With Nonna: The Best Stories of My Catholic Grandmother by Vincent M. Iezzi; The author complies stories his nonna shared with him while he was a child during World War II in his Philadelphia neighborhood.  Other readers describe this as heartwarming and precious.  Found this book using Amazon “What other customers bought.”

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Fair Play by Deirdre Martin is the second in the New York Blades series.  Each novel is about a different woman hired to “take charge” of a problem surrounding one of the New York Blades’ players.  This novel is about PR maven Theresa Falconetti, hired by Michael Dante, the winger for the New York Blades, to publicize his family’s restaurant.  A romance ensues between Michael and Theresa, yet Theresa is torn as she tries to stick to her ‘no hockey players’ rule.

Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe by Jennie Shortridge is the story of Mira Serafino, a woman who recently discovered her husband was having an affair.  She decides to change her life, moves to Seattle, and takes a new job, all while keeping the news about her marriage from her large Italian family.

Love and Meatballs by Susan Volland is the story of thirty-something Jo Cerbone who is struggling to keep her Italian-American family’s restaurant running.  She finds herself in the midst of a romance between two men, and in the midst of learning more about what she really wants to do with her life.

-Jennifer Peterson

Running in the Family, by Michael Ondaatje

March 30, 2011

9780771098956.jpg (243×400)

Author: Michael Ondaatje

Title: Running in the Family

Genre: Memoir, literary nonfiction

Publication Date: 1982

Number of Pages: 182

Geographical Setting: Sri Lanka

Time Period: Contemporary to writing

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:

Canadian poet and novelist Michael Ondaatje journeys from the chill of a Toronto winter to exotic Sri Lanka, the homeland he left at eleven.  The trip is a launching point for Ondaatje to revisit his family history; he describes many of his family members, such as his eccentric and memorable grandmother Lalla, and his father Mervyn, whom he lovingly describes as both a mischievous young man and an alchoholic father.  Woven in with Ondaatje’s family history are poetic interludes (a highlight is his poem “The Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife”) and sensory-rich descriptions of Sri Lanka.  This slim and stylistically complex work gently draws readers’ imaginations into Ondaatje’s beloved homeland and his equally beloved but eccentric family.

Subject Headings: Alcoholism; Eccentric Families; Family Histories; Homecomings; Ondaatje, Michael, 1943 -; Sri Lanka; Travel

Appeal: descriptive, complex structure, lyrical, humorous, relaxed, literary, eccentric characters, contemplative, humorous, family-centered, exotic setting, lush

3 terms that best describe this book: lyrical, exotic setting, family history,

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Relative Merits: A Personal Memoir of the Bandaranaike Family of Sri Lanka, by Yasmine Gooneratne – Written around the same time as Running in the Family, this memoir of an aristocratic Sinhalese family gives another glimpse into life in Sri Lanka.

New Wind in a Dry Land, by Margaret Laurence – Another famous Canadian author’s memoir, this one also occurs in an exotic setting and has lush, atmospheric writing.

Living to Tell the Tale, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – another literary, stylistically complex memoir with lyrical writing.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Reef, by Romesh Gunesekera – those who like Booker Prize-winning novels (Ondaatje’s The English Patient received this award) may appreciate this novel, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Like Running in the Family, Reef is set in Sri Lanka and characterized by poetic, sensual language.

Who Occupies this House, by Kathleen Hill – This literary novel is a moving family saga with lyrical writing.

Skippy Dies, by Paul Murray – a funny, moving, stylistically complex literary novel dealing with family relationships, among other things.

-Noelle Nightingale

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

March 16, 2011

Author: Alan Bradley

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 370

Geographical Setting: England

Time Period: 1950

Series (If applicable): Flavia de Luce Mysteries #1

Plot Summary:
The quaint life of eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, a budding chemist with a special interest in poisons, is disturbed by the discovery of a dead bird left on the doorstep of her family’s English manor, a postage stamp impaled in its beak. This symbolic message visibly disturbs her reclusive, stamp collecting father, and when she finds a dying man in the cucumber patch only hours later, Flavia is mostly thrilled by the opportunity to investigate the relationship between the two events. Her investigation reveals links between her father, the recently deceased, and the suspicious death of a schoolteacher, and when her father is arrested, the precocious preteen is more determined than ever to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Narrator Flavia is as charming as she is intelligent, and Bradley’s fictional Bishop’s Lacey, a small town in the English countryside, comes alive with his evocative descriptions and its colorful inhabitants.

Subject Headings:
Child detectives, England, Murder investigations, Chemistry, Poisons, Sisters, Father and daughter, Stamp collecting, Child prodigies

Witty, compelling, quirky, descriptive, extravagant, upbeat, playful, polished, well-drawn characters, evocative, folksy, investigative, series, lush, details of poisons, detailed setting

3 terms that best describe this book:
Upbeat, playful, compelling

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Told from the perspective of 15 year-old Christopher, an autistic math prodigy, this touching and unique tale follows him as he tries to solve the mystery behind his neighbor’s dead dog and stumbles upon some revelations about his absent mother.
Similarities: Young prodigy solving a mystery, quirky characters, family relationships

Death at Wentwater Court (Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries #1) by Carola Dunn
After her husband is killed during World War I, Daisy Dalrymple decides to make an independent living as a journalist. When a murder occurs while Daisy is researching her first assignment at Wentwater Court, she aids Scotland Yard in finding the killer.
Similarities: Amateur investigator, Historical English setting

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
This quirky novel is accented by illustrations and footnotes from 12-year-old narrator and prodigy, T.S. Spivet. When he travels to Washington, D. C. to accept an award, he meets a colorful cast of characters.
Similarities: Young prodigy as narrator, richly detailed, family relationships

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Poisons: From Hemlock to Botox and the Killer Bean of Calabar by Peter Macinnis
Details the many uses of popular toxins, how they are detected and created, and how poisons have been used throughout history and popular literature.
Similarities: Poisons are narrator Flavia’s passion

Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks
In this memoir, acclaimed science writer and distinguished neurologist Oliver Sacks recalls his childhood love affair with chemistry and the pains of growing up in wartime England.
Similarities: Child chemists, England in the 1950s, quirky family

Blue Mauritius by Helen Morgan
Provides a history of the most valuable stamp of all time, the passionate collectors in pursuit of it, and how stamp hunting became a popular hobby.
Similarities: Investigative, Stamp collecting is Colonel de Luce’s hobby of choice

Name: Cassie Carbaugh

Pride of Baghdad

June 21, 2010

Author: Brian K. Vaughan;  Art by Niko Henrichon

Title: Pride of Baghdad

Genre: Graphic Novel (Adventure)

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 136

Geographical Setting: Baghdad, Iraq

Time Period: 2003

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:

During a bombing raid in Iraq in 2003, four lions escape from the Baghdad Zoo after it is destroyed.  Now that their wish to be free has been granted, the pride must navigate the ruined streets of the city, searching for food and shelter, things that were previously taken for granted.  As they continue their journey, it becomes apparent that the real meaning of freedom is perhaps not as concrete as the lions once imagined.

In this graphic novel that was inspired by a true event, the voices of Brian K. Vaughan’s pride are enhanced by the art of Niko Henrichon.  Using primarily oranges and greens, Henrichon presents the streets of Baghdad as both a bombed out ruin and a wild jungle.  Throughout the city, the lions encounter a horse stampede, bombs and tanks, as well as an angry bear taking refuge in a once opulent mansion.

The personalities of the lions and other creatures are heightened by the art and their dialogue is matched by their expressions and mannerisms.  The backgrounds also add to the overall feel of the story, giving a dreamlike touch to the proceedings.  A two page spread of two lions gazing at the sunset from a building rooftop is both a breathtaking and surreal sight.

Subject Headings:

Lions; Animal liberation; Independence (Personal quality); Freedom; Captive wild animals; Iraq War, 2003; Survival; Iraq – History – 2003; Graphic novels; Comic books, strips, etc.


thoughtful, sorrowful, emotional, cerebral, turbulent, philosophical, ironic, provocative, intense, visceral, surreal, lush, visually stimulating, elegant, bittersweet

3 terms that best describe this book: Bittersweet; Profound; Powerful

Similar Authors and Works:


1)      Shooting War by Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman

Anti-corporate blogger Jimmy Burns travels to Iraq to become a war correspondent who tell it like it is after he captures a terrorist bombing and posts it online.  He soon discovers that he may not be equipped to handle the realities of the situation in Iraq.

Similarities:  graphic novel, Iraq, influence of war, turbulent

2)      War Fix by Steve Olexa and David Axe

Journalist David Axe tells of his experiences in Iraq and the addiction of being in the thick of the battle in this pseudo-autobiographical story.

Similarities:  graphic novel, Iraq, influence of war, intense

3)      We3 by Grant Morrison

Animals used as experimental weapons escape their creators and have trouble adapting to their new found freedom.  Intense, thought-provoking and emotionally charged, this graphic novel also packs a punch visually, depicting the horrors committed by both the experimenters and the animals themselves, sometimes subtly and often graphically.

Similarities:  graphic novel, animals in peril, meaning of freedom, bittersweet


1)      A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld

A tale of survival amidst chaos.

Similarities:  graphic novel, profound and powerful, depicts stories of the struggle for survival

2)      Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo by Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence

The real life events that inspired Brian K. Vaughan to write Pride of Baghdad.

Similarities:  animals in peril, war in Iraq, influence of war

3)      From Baghdad with Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava by Jay Kopelman and Melinda Roth

Focuses on the suffering of ordinary Iraqis during the war and how one marine tried to save a stray dog named Lava by sending him to the United States.

Similarities:  animals in peril, influence of war, Iraq and Iraqi culture

Name: Valerie Kyriakopoulos

Water for Elephants

May 24, 2010

Water for Elephants Book Cover

Author: Gruen, Sara

Title: Water for Elephants

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2006

Geographical Setting: Small towns across the United States

Time Period: Alternates between the Depression and Present Day

Series: No

Plot Summary: Water for Elephants is the colorful and historically accurate story of life on the road for a community of circus employees/workers. Jacob Jankowski is 90 or 93 years old and resides in a nursing home. The circus has come to town and all of the fellow nursing home inhabitants are excited about attending. Unbeknownst to the other residents, at the age of 23 Jacob spent several years working as the veterinarian for The Benzini Bothers Circus. Flashing back and forth between the 1930s and the present day, Jacob narrates the story of his life in the circus and afterwards. On the verge of graduating from veterinary school, Jacob learns of his parent’s tragic death and despair causes him to walk out of his final exams. He jumps a train only to discover that he is in the midst of a traveling circus company. Hired by Uncle Al, the Benzini Brothers’ corrupt owner, Jacob discovers life in a traveling circus is far from glamorous. As the vet, Jacob is a member of the privileged circus staff, and finds himself involved in an awkward relationship with August, his boss, and August’s wife Marlena. Jacob and Marlena work to keep their desire at a distance and are successful at reigning in their desire until a catastrophic event occurs involving August, Jacob, Marlena, and Rosie, Jacob’s beloved circus elephant.

Subject Headings: Circus performers; Reminiscing in old age; Depressions – 1929-1941; Traffic accident victims; Human/animal relations; Parents – Death; Veterinarians; Men/women relations; Triangles (Interpersonal relations); Women circus performers; Circus animals; Women horse trainers; Elephants; Human-animal communication; Manic-depressive men; Circus; Literary Fiction

Appeal: compelling, engrossing, gritty, nostalgic, romantic, dangerous, bittersweet, well-drawn characters, well-developed, first-person narrative, memorable and important secondary characters, authentic, storyline told through flashbacks, tragic, resolved ending, accurate, historical details, lush, descriptive language, detailed settings, circus life, engaging, nostalgic, vivid, emotionally-charged, exciting page-turner

Three Terms that best describe this book: Character-Centered, Romantic, Nostalgic

Similar Authors and Works:

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Modoc: the true story of the greatest elephant that ever lived by Ralph Helfer is the story of a circus elephant and her dedicated comrade/trainer. (Circus, Circus animals, Human/animal relations, Human-animal communication)

Jumbo: the Greatest Elephant in the World by Paul Chambers is the real life tale of Jumbo the elephant and his devoted zookeeper Matthew Scott. Jumbo’s life is traced from Africa to Europe to the United States. His tragic death is preceded by a stint in P.T. Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth. (Human/animal relations, Human-animal communication, Circus, Circus animals)

The Tarantula Whisperer: a Celebrity Vet Shares her Secrets to Communication with Animals by Laura Pasten; foreword by Stephanie Laland. This book is an educational and entertaining biography by a veterinarian who offers her tales about communicating with a variety of animals, including elephants. (Human/animal relations, Human-animal communication)

Night after night by Diana Starr Cooper with illustrations by Ivy Starr illustrates life in the Big Apple Circus. Cooper’s reflections focus on animals and performers as well as the shared way of life for both. (Circus, Circus performers, Circus animals)

Under the Big Top: a Season with the Circus by Bruce Feiler is the story of the author’s season with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers troupe and provides an education in circus history. (Circus, Circus performers)

All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot is the real-life story of a veterinarian and his relationships with his animal patients. (Human/animal relations, Human-animal communication, Veterinarians, Memoir)

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter is the story of Sophie, a circus aerialist and Jack, a young writer, who is captivated by her. (Historical fiction, romance, Women circus performers, Men/women relations)

The Aerialist by Richard Schmitt is a novel about the growing relationship of two friends, Gary and Dave, who join the circus as grounds workers. (Circus, Circus performers)

World of Wonders by Robertson Davies is the story of a magician who narrates his life story to coworkers on a film set. (Magicians, Coming of age, Narrative that moves from the present to the past, Reminiscing in old age)

Losing Julia by Jonathan Hull is the story of a soldier who falls in love with his dead military comrade’s girlfriend. (Historical fiction, Romance, Men/women relations, Reminiscing in old age)

Name: Laona Fleischer