Posts Tagged ‘magical’

Twenties Girl

October 31, 2012

Author:  Sophie Kinsella

Title:  Twenties Girl

Genre:  Women’s Lives and Relationships

Publication Date:  2009

Number of Pages:  435

Geographical Setting:  London, England

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  As if being recently dumped by her long-time boyfriend and struggling to manage a failing new business weren’t enough to deal with, 27 year-old Londoner Lara Lington suddenly finds herself haunted by her recently deceased, 105 year-old, Great Aunt Sadie, whom she had never met and never cared to know.  Sadie has come back as her 23 year-old self:  a beautiful, irrepressible, Charleston-loving flapper from the Roaring 20’s — and Lara is the only person who can see her.  Sadie’s ghost refuses to rest until she recovers a favorite necklace that has mysteriously disappeared from the nursing home where she resided, and she recruits a reluctant and disbelieving Lara to help with the search.  To Lara’s dismay, Sadie has no qualms about putting Lara in increasingly embarrassing situations as she relives the frivolity of her flapper days and assists in the hunt for her necklace.  Despite her frustrations, Lara soon learns that ghosts can come in pretty handy when dealing with competing love interests, high-stakes business dealings, and swindling family members.  In this heartwarming and funny tale, Lara grows to love and respect the Great Aunt she never knew, whom she learns had to cope with heartbreak and family drama not so very different from Lara’s own modern-day troubles.

Subject Headings:  Young women—Fiction; Families—Fiction; Treasure troves–Fiction

Appeal:  heartwarming, humorous, lighthearted, romantic, quirky, well-drawn characters, strong secondary characters, family relationships, imaginative, magical, strong language, contemporary, details of London, details of the Roaring 20’s, breezy, chatty, engaging, informal, witty

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book:  humorous, heartwarming, quirky

Three Fiction Read-alikes:

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

Like Twenties Girl, Helen Fielding’s funny, classic chick lit tale tells the story of a young, single London woman struggling to sort out the intricacies of love, family, and career.  Bridget’s quest to achieve inner poise, lasting love, and the perfect weight unfolds in the form of a diary kept over the course of an eventful year.

The Ghost of Greenwich Village by Lorna Graham

Readers of Twenties Girl who found pleasure in the ghostly interactions between Lara and Great Aunt Sadie and enjoyed learning about a bygone era, may also enjoy this humorous title by Lorna Graham.  Single, young writer Eve Weldon has moved to Greenwich Village in New York City in search of a job, romance, and inspiration for her writing.  Once settled into her new apartment, she finds it inhabited by the ghost of Donald, a member of the Village’s Beat Generation of the 1960’s, who asks for her help in completing his own unfinished work.

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Readers who enjoyed the humor, quirky heroine, family drama, and elements of mystery that form the heart of Twenties Girl, may also enjoy reading about the adventures of Stephanie Plum, the incompetent bounty-hunter at the center of Janet Evanovich’s comic mysteries.  In this first title of the series, Stephanie puts her amateur tracking skills to work in an effort to hunt down a former high-school flame who has been accused of murder.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring 20’s by Lucy Moore

Through the ghost of Great Aunt Sadie in Twenties Girl, readers get a tantalizing taste of the attitudes, glamour, and scandal that epitomized the Roaring 20’s.  This title by Lucy Moore provides an enjoyable and entertaining history of the 1920’s, including discussion of the real-life personalities and the many significant social and political changes that came to define the era.

He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo

A major plot line in Twenties Girl involves Lara’s desperate attempts to win back the boyfriend who dumped her, despite Great Aunt Sadie’s insistence that Lara deserves much better when it comes to matters of romance.  This popular relationship advice manual counsels women on how to stop obsessing about men who don’t really care about them and to instead focus on finding someone who does.

Ghosts Among Us: Uncovering the Truth About the Other Side by James Van Praagh

The ghost of Great Aunt Sadie becomes a major influence in Lara’s life in Twenties Girl.  In this title, Van Praagh explores the mysterious world of ghosts and spirits and, through the use of true ghost stores, illustrates how they actively participate in our daily lives.

Becky King

Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

October 24, 2012

Castle Waiting coverTitle: Castle Waiting, Volume I

Author: Medley, Linda

Publication Date: 2006

Pages: 457

Geographical Setting: Castle Waiting, a safe-haven in a fairy tale world

Time Period: Once Upon a Time

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fairy Tale

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Castle Waiting begins at the end of Sleeping Beauty’s story, the part where she runs blindly off with Prince Charming.  Abandoned and essentially purposeless, her former ladies-in-waiting along with few other eccentric characters have created a sanctuary past the brambly hedge at Castle Waiting for those seeking peace and refuge.  The story we are brought into is only one among a host of others before it, and it begins on a dark and stormy night with a clandestine meeting between a lady and a bear, her bodyguard.  Lady Jain, our heroine, is on the run and, as we soon find out, pregnant.  She flees her home in sadness, bound for Castle Waiting.  The premise sounds cliché.  Castle Waiting is anything but.  Upon arrival at the castle, Lady Jain is greeted a stork-headed butler, a doctor who only appears wearing a beaked plague mask, a silently gruff but secretly gentle blacksmith/handyman, three ladies-in-waiting who finally have a lady, and a bearded nun.  Yes, a bearded nun.

Told through a linked set of stories, Castle Waiting draws heavily from fairy- and folk-tale conventions and spins them in a feminist light.  That isn’t to say that all the male characters are weak or bad.  In fact many of them are quite gentle and good—except for the ones who aren’t.  But they are generally not as important as the female characters, who are independent and empowered, taking care of themselves and others.  This is a joyous and humorous and optimistic story.  Bad things have happened, do happen, and probably will continue to happen, but we are assured the happiest of endings.  The art and the text blend seamlessly.  Illustrated in black and white with strong line work that is as expressive as it is lighthearted, the frames are reminiscent of woodcuts adding to the fairytale quality of the work.  This is a great choice for those who have found other graphic novels too over-stimulating.  It would also be a good crossover for those who enjoy romance or fairytale-style fantasy, or those who simply crave a warm, lighthearted read.

Appeal Characteristics: Engaging, joyful, upbeat, lighthearted, feminist, magical, warm, humorous, Fairy Tale, Quirky Characters, expressive art, detailed setting, smart, domestic, charming

Subject Headings: Fairy Tales, Graphic Novels, Magic, Knights and Knighthood, Nuns, Princesses, Pregnant Women

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Joyful, Engaging, Charming

Similar Fiction: 

The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

The much beloved comic strip featuring a boy with an unbeatable spirit and his sagacious stuffed tiger will bring readers the same joy and optimism found in Castle Waiting.  The artwork here is spare but delightfully expressive.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Three sisters return to their hometown to help care for their dying mother in this domestic fiction.  This novel explores the relationships and bonds between women under exceptional circumstances and features an idyllic setting populated with quirky and endearing characters.

These Children Come at You with Knives, and other Fairy Tales Stories by Jim Knipfel

This book offers re-imagined fairy tales with a decidedly darker turn.  The polite eccentricities found in the characters of Castle Waiting are twisted here into vulgar oddities.  The optimism and warmth may be absent from these tales, but the stories will certainly offer laughs—albeit of the morbid and inappropriate variety.  Only readers who enjoy their fairy tales told at a slant and who don’t mind their humor dark should attempt this book.

Similar Non-fiction:

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming

This graphic novel details the true story of Chinese magician and vaudeville performer Long Tack Sam, and his great-granddaughter’s quest to bring him back into the public light.  A moving story told through a collage of artifacts from both his and her life, this biography maintains an upbeat optimism in the face of turbulence, uncertainty, and racism.

In the Kingdom of the Fairies: A memoir of a Magical Summer and a Remarkable Friendship by Susan Coyne

A moving story about a five-year old girl who for one summer believes her pen pal to be a fairy princess.  In reality it is her elderly neighbor, a man who loves literature and wants to encourage the imagination this girl.  This memoir will appeal to any adult who still believes in the power of make-believe.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Another memoir told in the graphic novel format, this story told by a cult comic strip artist details the author’s relationship with her father during her childhood.  Bechdel’s writing is both witty and moving, and her artwork features strong line work and a monochromatic palette that allows the expressions of the characters to stand out.

Name: Jessica

The Night Circus (Audio Book)

October 24, 2012

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 512

Geographical Setting: Predominately London and Concord, Massachusetts but several worldwide settings (traveling circus) as well.

Time Period: 1873-1903

Plot Summary:

Set in the late 19th century, The Night Circus tells the story of a darkly enchanting traveling circus that opens when the sun goes down. While the circus is made up of a large cast of workers and performers, the plot revolves around two young people skilled in magic- Celia, the circus’ illusionist who possesses the ability to manipulate the world around her, and Marco, a former orphan with a knack for altering physical settings. Due to an ancient feud between their instructors, Celia and Marco are bound to compete against each other in a magical challenge that will test their skill and endurance. Unsure of exactly how a winner will be determined, Celia and Marco approach the challenge with fear and distrust of their less than noble mentors and complicate their arrangement further by falling in love. While the story of the young lovers skilled in magic is at the heart of the plot, Morgenstern includes a slue of additional characters who are strangely bound to the circus itself. Memorable secondary characters include the Murray twins whose birth on circus grounds results in their own magical abilities and Tsukiko, a mysterious contortionist with secrets of her own. Morgenstern writes an engrossing tale that includes multiple plot lines and smoothly vacillates between the past and the future. Celia and Marco’s romance is as endearing as it is heartbreaking and the mysterious magic that surrounds the circus is intriguing and thought provoking. Written in a lush and elegant style, The Night Circus is a fascinating dark fantasy story about love,  mystical circumstances, and a spectacularly magical circus that bewilders both its patrons and performers.

Regarding the audio book specifically, Jim Dale tells this spectacular story in a voice that is both engaging and haunting. His varied dialects for this large cast of characters are enjoyable and believable. Reluctant listeners might find Dale’s reading an excellent introduction to the world of audio books and will perhaps seek out addition titles that he has read.

Subject Headings: Circus, Circus performers, Competition, Games, Good and Evil, Magic, Magicians, Magicians’ apprentices, Nineteenth century

3 Appeal Terms: Magical, Thought-Provoking, Elegant

Appeal: Engrossing, Unhurried, Atmospheric, Dark, Magical, Dramatic Characters, Intriguing, Complex Storyline, Flashbacks, Imaginative, Multiple Plot Lines, Plot-Centered, Thought-Provoking, Elegant Language.

Non-Fiction Read-Alikes:

The Circus at the Edge of the Earth: Travels with the Great Wallenda Circus by Charles Wilkins

Writer Charles Wilkins takes the opportunity to travel with the Wallenda Circus on a worldwide trip that spans several weeks. He describes the intriguing circus performers in rich detail and notes the physical danger in which they put themselves in order to remain a part of the show. For readers whose curiosity of circus life was peaked while reading The Night Circus, The Circus at the Edge of the Earth offers an engrossing true adventure story.

Josser: Days and Nights in the Circus by Nell Stroud

Josser is an autobiographical work that tells the story of 18-year-old Stroud who joined a traveling circus after a family tragedy. Readers who wish to explore the relationships among a real circus family might enjoy this non-fiction title.

The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination by Michael Robert Place

The Night Circus includes several detailed descriptions of tarot cards, mostly through the perspective of Isobel the fortuneteller. For readers who took interest in this aspect of circus life, The Tarot offers additional information on the history of reading as well as symbolism found in the cards.

Fiction Read-Alikes:

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

In a society where magic is nearly non-existent, Gilbert Norrell is the only working magician until he meets Jonathan Strange who will become his student. After observing the depth of Jonathan’s skill, Norrell becomes jealous and controlling and a rivalry quickly develops. Readers seeking another dark read about rival magicians in the 19th century might enjoy this title.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater, a high school student, is delighted to discover a university devoted to teaching magic. Eager to change his seemingly dull existence, Quentin enrolls in this fantastical college and begins studies in wizardry. He quickly learns that magic lessons are more difficult than he previously imagined and finds himself tangled up in an alternate universe’s war, which leads to a compelling adventure. Similar to The Night Circus, The Magicians is dark and suspenseful. Readers seeking additional fantasy reading that includes a coming-of-age theme and magicians might appreciate this book

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

For The Night Circus fans who are seeking additional circus reading but would like to delve outside of the Fantasy genre, Water for Elephants might be an enjoyable title. Set in the 1930s, Water for Elephants tells the story of young Jacob who impulsively joins a traveling circus after the sudden loss of his parents. Jacob quickly finds work caring for the exotic circus animals but finds himself falling in love with Marlena, an equestrian star, who is married to the disturbing animal trainer. Jacob’s adventures in this richly detailed circus make for a fast-paced, engaging read. Water for Elephants also offers flashbacks similar to The Night Circus and emphasizes the love story in a circus setting. Readers who enjoyed the romance between Marco and Celia might appreciate this work of Literary Fiction.

Annotation by: Elizabeth Hopkins

Welcome to Bordertown: New stories and poems of the Borderlands

September 26, 2012

Welcome to Bordertown: New stories and poems of the Borderlands

Edited by Holly Black & Ellen Kushner Introduction by Terri Windling

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 517

Geographical Setting: Multiple Locations, mostly in Bordertown, present day

Series: Bordertown

Plot Summary:  Bordertown, the town on the border between The Realm and our land where neither magic nor technology is reliable, has reappeared after a 13-year absence from the human world; although, the residence think it has only been 13 days.  New humans are pouring into Bordertown with new technology and ideas.  The authors in this anthology, much like the characters in the stories, are a mixture of old Bordertown writers and new, who grew up reading the books and jumped at the chance to contribute to a new volume for this beloved shared world.  Since this book is a compilation from several different authors, the engaging stories each have their own unique feel.  The stories and poems in this anthology touch on many subjects, including, but not limited to love, identity, music, and horror, and sometimes all in the same story.

Subject Headings: Borderlands; Imaginary place; Elves; Humans; Magic; Parallel universes; Supernatural; Runaways; City life, Family life, Friendship.

Appeal:  engrossing, deliberate, series characters, well-developed, character centered, gritty, contemporary, magical, eccentric, poetic, atmospheric, dark, world building, shared world.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: world building, character detailed, dark.

Three fiction read-alikes:

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (urban fantasy, strong sense of place, magic)

This series is about a professional wizard, Harry Dresden, who sets up shop in Chicago as a private eye.  The books in this series are a cross between hard-boiled detective and dark fantasy fiction with a strong sense of place.

Boondocks fantasy edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg

This anthology of urban fantasy contains a collection of 20 stories featuring a mix of characters from folklore and people you might meet on the street today.

The modern fae’s guide to surviving humanity edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray, 2012;

This is a collection of short stories about fairies surviving in the modern world.  Stories range from humor to dark fantasy.

Three related non-fiction titles:

The Fair Folk edited by Marvin Kaye

This 2006 award-winning anthology contains six short stories, from blithe to sinister, involving Fair Folk and the humans who come into contact with them.

Fairy tales in Electri-City by Francesca Lia Block

A short book of poetry involving mythological beings and a girl looking for love in present-day Los Angeles.

Weird U.S. : the oddyssey continues : your travel guide to America’s local legends and best kept secrets by Mark Sceurman, Mark Moran, Matt Lake.

Part of a series of travel books discussing the weirder parts of the U.S. tourists try to avoid and thrill seekers search for.

Name: Shira

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

Anansi Boys

July 24, 2012

Author: Neil Gaiman

Title: Anansi Boys

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 334

Geographical Setting: London, England; Florida; the mysterious Caribbean island of St. Andrews; and various magical places where gods reside

Time Period: Current day

Series:  No, but follows the lead of Gaiman’s 2001 story American Gods

Plot Summary: Charles “Fat Charlie” Nancy’s father had been an embarrassment to him his entire life. Even after his estranged father’s less than respectable death, things don’t improve. At the funeral, Charlie learns that, not only does he have a long lost brother, but that his father was actually the West African trickster god Anansi. Charlie hurries back to his home, job and fiancé in London, hoping to forget everything he’s learned. Things go from bad to worse when Charlie’s brother, Spider, shows up on his doorstep leading to even more chaos for Charlie. This darkly-humorous fantasy adventure is filled with engaging characters and folklore particulars. Gaiman’s vivid descriptions and witty dialogue expertly tie the multiple plotlines together, weaving the story into a satisfying and upbeat conclusion, as artfully as any spider.

Subject Headings: Anansi (Legendary character) – fiction; Fathers and sons – fiction; Brothers – fiction; Fathers – death – fiction; Adult books for young adults – fiction; African folklore; Tricksters – folklore; Gods and goddesses – African; Magic – fiction; Triangles (interpersonal relationships) – fiction

Appeal: Darkly humorous, dramatic, upbeat, magical, detailed characterizations, vivid, character-driven, intricately-plotted, stylistically complex writing, descriptive, engaging, witty

3 terms that best describe this book: Darkly humorous, intricately-plotted, magical

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Chabon, Michael, Wonder Boys; A humorous, upbeat, character-driven novel about the chaos that ensues when an author, unable to fulfill the great expectations thrust upon him, meets up with two cohorts over the course of a weekend literature conference. Though not fantasy, this book contains the rich descriptive writing, the humor and wit found in Gaiman’s work.

Fforde, Jasper, The Eyre Affair; The year is 1985 and England has been reimagined in this entertaining fantasy, where literature is held sacrosanct and stands at the center of the culture. It is, however, under siege by the third most wanted villain in the world and it is up to clever and tenacious Thursday Next to fight this menace. Witty and intricately-plotted, this story combines humor with high drama, social satire with romance.

Pratchett, Terry, Nation; Fans of adventure and fantasy will fall into this funny and engaging  yet thought-provoking story of Mau, the sole survivor of a tidal wave that wipes out his island home, and Daphne, a smart British girl full of energy and common sense. Together they work to rebuild Mau’s island nation. The narrative deftly balances the difficulties faced by the characters with funny, often hilarious episodes told engagingly with wit and humor.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Chopra, Deepak, Life After Death: The Burden of Proof; Chopra draws upon both cutting-edge scientific information as well as religious traditions as he skillfully and thoughtfully explores what happens to us after we die.

Hurston, Zora Neale, Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-Tales from the Gulf States; This is a fascinating account of the wit and redeeming ability of folktales and the art of storytelling as recorded by one of the pre-eminent writers of the 20th century. Hurston brings an authoritative yet personal perspective in her praise of African-American stories and storytellers.

Lott, Bret, Fathers, Sons, and Brothers: The Men in My Family; Drama and humor are employed in this brief but heartfelt memoir where the author writes, with respect and love, about the relationships of the men in his family.

Name: Patty Daniel

CBGB OMFUG

April 18, 2012

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

Title: CBGB OMFUG

Genre: Graphic novel

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 112p

Geographical Setting: New York City (the Bowery)

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

Series (If applicable): n/a

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

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

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

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

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

My Brain Hurts: Vol. One by Liz Baille

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

What We Do Is Secret by Kief Hillbery

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

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

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

Name: Bill

Phonogram: Rue Britannia

April 18, 2012

Author: Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

Title: Phonogram: Rue Britannia

Genre: graphic novel, urban fantasy

Publication Date: 2007

Number of pages: 152

Geographical Setting: England

Time Period: 2006

Series (if applicable): one sequel

Plot Summary: David Kohl is an aging hip kid, completely self-absorbed and only interested in drinking, smoking and going home with a pretty girl at the end of a concert. He is also a phonomancer, which is a type of magician who works arcane spells through music to find their true meaning. Baptized in the early-90’s by Britannia, the goddess of British guitar pop, he learned how to use magic through the genre of music known as Britpop, defined by bands such as Pulp, Suede, Blur and Elastica. He turned his back on Britannia when everybody started worshipping her, and she has since been long dead. Although he left her many years ago, when he discovers that her corpse is being tampered with he knows he has to save her, since his past is rooted with her. If the enemy succeeds in reviving a dead goddess, his entire past could change, and he could become a Kula Shaker fan with no magical powers. Phonogram is about the magic of music, and not ever letting go of it, but learning to move on when the time comes. Britpop fans will squeal over the many inside references to songs and bands, and for those whose knowledge of Britpop begins and ends with Oasis, there is a handy glossary in the back that defines every single reference made.

Subject Headings: British music, fantasy, magic, England.

Appeal: character-driven, complex, contemplative, humorous, magical, intriguing, flawed, strong secondary characters, well-developed, explicitly violent, detailed setting, journalistic, smart, spare, witty.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character-driven, magical, smart.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Britpop!: Cool Britannia And The Spectacular Demise Of English Rock by John Harriss
The heyday of Britpop (1994-1998) began as a reaction against American grunge. In the past bands such as the Smiths and Joy Division were contemptuous of mainstream success, the bands in the 90’s sought it out, with Blur and Oasis competing for the top spot in the charts. It ended in the usual way, with drugs, infighting and egotism. Harris makes the rise and fall of a music movement a fun read.

2. A Version of Reason: In Search of Richey Edwards by Rob Jovanovic

A subplot of Phonogram is the ghost of a memory of David’s ex-stalker who is still haunting the roof of the club they used to hang out at, mourning Richey Edwards. In 1995, the guitarist of the Manic Street Preachers disappeared without a trace. His car was found abandoned on the Severn Bridge and it looked like suicide, but a body was never found. This drove the already-fervid Manics fans into near religious worship. Jovanovic attempts to piece together what might have happened that day.

3. Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (Llewellyn’s Practical Magick) by Raymond Buckland

Buckland’s is one of the definitive books for serious students of magic. Whether you take magic seriously or not, this is one of the books that a fantasy writer would research in order to get the details right for a story. If you’d like to know more about rituals, history, covens and spellwork, this is the book to turn to.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Sandman by Neil Gaiman

Without Sandman, there could be no Phonogram. Gaiman changed what people thought graphic novels could do with this series about Dream, part of the Endless, consisting of Death, Desire, Delirium, Destiny and Destruction. Gods, goddesses, demons and magic abound in this series.

2. Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Scott Pilgrim is a clueless slacker while David Kohl is knowingly selfish, and the music is indie while in Phonogram it’s Britpop, and the super powers are based on video games instead of magic, but anyone who learned to love David in Phonogram will be smitten with Scott Pilgrim.

3. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill

The inside references are fast and furious in this series by Alan Moore, but it’s about brit lit instead of brit pop. Captain Nemo, The Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Allan Quartermain, and Mina Harker team up to fight evil. Packed with action/adventure and literary allusions, this will make any book nerd’s heart beat faster.

Soundtrack: http://sharemyplaylists.com/rue-britannia

Name: Jessica

The Hummingbird’s Daughter

April 11, 2012

Author: Luis Alberto Urrea

Title: The Hummingbird’s Daughter

Genre: Historical fiction

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 499

Geographical Setting: Mexico

Time Period: 1880s

Series: n/a, but story is continued in Queen of America.

Plot Summary: The Hummingbird’s Daughter is the historic story of Urrea’s great aunt. After researching his Aunt Teresita for twenty years, Urrea recreated the magical stories of the People’s struggle and his aunt that were passed down to him. Teresita is born into hardship, her young mother abandons Teresita early on and with no idea of who her father is Teresita is forced to move in with an abusive aunt. However the small-village life opens up new possibilities for Terestia as she makes friends with a healing woman named Huila. It is soon discovered that Teresita also inherited skills in healing. Urrea uses a strong sense of place and nature writing to give Teresita the power to heal with herbs and plants. As Teresita becomes a young woman, it becomes obvious to the People that her ability to heal is more than earthly and they deem her to be a Saint. Crowds gather as she heals and sends a message that the Mexican government sees as rebellious and threatening. Through poetic language and a witty undercurrent an inspiring story is woven through historic details creating a dramatic and thoughtful image of Saint Teresita.

Subject Headings: Teenage girls – fiction. Young women – fiction. Mexican Civil War – fiction. Nineteenth century – fiction. Women healers – fiction. Women saints – fiction. Ranchers – fiction. Family – fiction. Paternity – fiction. Near-death experience – fiction. Faith – fiction. Revolutions – fiction. Midwife – fiction.

Appeal: magical, compelling, well-developed characters, faithful characters, character-driven, thought-provoking, political, atmospheric, historical details, descriptive language, poetic, inspiring, witty, strong sense of place, strong sense of nature, relaxed pace.

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe the Book: magical, poetic, well-developed characters

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard – A collection of writings about nature and spirituality, written with a poetic style.

Infusions of Healing: A Treasury of Mexican-American Herbal Remedies by Joie Davidow – Just as Huila taught Teresita the power of plants, you can learn too. 200 herbs, their descriptions, and their healing uses are explained in this book.

The Big Book of Women Saints by Sarah Gallick – It was her People that gave Teresita the title of being a Saint, we saw her own understanding of the situation, her inner desires, and her sense of purpose. Read about the lives of other Saintly women.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Sacred Ground by Barbara Wood – In this character-driven, moving, and compelling novel, a young female healer is cursed by another person in her village. The curse affects and radiates through her life and her family relationships.

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain – Through Twain’s witty writing style, moving tone, with a strong sense of place, he explores the life of Joan of Arc in this historical fiction.

Malafrena by Ursula K. Le Guin – Like The Hummingbird’s Daughter, this is a historical fiction and a coming-of-age story combined, with a relaxed pace and an atmospheric tone the story of a man who leaves his town to join a revolution.

name: Jaymie

The Next Always

April 4, 2012

Author: Nora Roberts

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 352

Geographical Setting: Boonsboro, Maryland

Time Period: Present

Series (If applicable): Book One of The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy

Plot Summary: Clare is a war widow who has returned to her hometown with her three young sons.  Beckett Montgomery and his brothers are remodeling the Inn BoonsBoro, which happens to be across the street from Clare’s bookshop.  Beckett’s unrequited love for his best friend’s widow may finally have a chance now that Clare’s moved back to their quaint hometown. The author’s richly detailed descriptions of the small town and the remodeling project with a touch of the supernatural nicely frame the budding romance between Clare and Beckett .

Subject Headings: Small towns; Historic buildings – conservation and restoration; Second chances; Architects; Infatuation; Hotels; Single mothers; Widows; Booksellers; Homecomings; Small town life; First loves; Men/women relations.

Appeal: easy, engrossing, descriptive, richly detailed, strong sense of place, leisurely-paced, relaxed, unhurried, atmospheric, comfortable, heartwarming, hopeful, lighthearted, magical, optimistic, romantic, engaging, familiar, realistic, recognizable, series (characters), strong secondary characters, sympathetic, contemporary, detailed setting, small-town, accessible, colloquial, conversational, simple, unembellished, details of small town, details of restoration of old building.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: comfortable; heartwarming; richly detailed.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Under the Tuscan Sun  by Frances Mayes.  Under the Tuscan Sun and The Next Always both evoke strong sense of place using lush descriptions of the small towns where the story takes place and rich details of renovating once magnificent buildings (Mayes a countryside villa and Roberts an Inn).  Both also follow a love story that is framed by the restoration process.

The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran.  Doran amusingly recounts his relocation from LA where he was a TV producer to a tiny Tuscan town where he and his wife embark upon remodeling a 300 year old farmhouse. Doran’s optimism and witty commentary lead up to a happy-ever-after that The Next Always readers will appreciate.

My Boyfriend’s Back: True Stories of Rediscovering Love with a Long-Lost Sweetheart by Donna Hanover.  Beckett’s love for Clare has been unrequited since high school, but he gets a second chance with her in The Next Always.  Like the title suggests, My Boyfriend’s Back explores true stories of first loves rekindled later on in life. Both books will leave readers feeling hopeful about loves from the past.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Wedding Dress by Virginia Ellis. This light, heart-warming historical fiction by Ellis (who typically authors romance novels) centers around a Civil War widow and her sisters as they try to find hope in a bleak post-war life by sewing a wedding dress for the youngest sister.  Like The Next Always, The Wedding Dress offers hope, love, a happy ending, and even a ghostly twist.

The Inn at Eagle Point by Sherryl Woods.  This is the heartwarming first book of in the contemporary romance series, Chesapeake Shores.  Like the Inn Boonsboro Trilogy, Chesapeake Shores is about second chances and men/women relations and gives readers a strong sense of place.

Virgin River by Robyn Carr.  Virgin River is a leisurely-paced contemporary romance about a widow looking to start over in a small town.  A strong sense of place and a heartwarming story will appeal to readers who enjoyed The Next Always.

Name: Ally C.