Posts Tagged ‘Moving’

I Am J

December 11, 2012

i am j coverAuthor: Cris Beam

Title: I Am J

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 326

Geographical Setting: Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood

Time period: Present day

Genre: GLBT fiction; Realistic fiction

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: J has always known that he is a boy stuck in a girl’s body. When he was young, he could refuse to be put in dresses and goof around like one of the boys on the playground.  As a teenager, however, J’s body begins to change, forcing him to hide under layers of clothing. Feeling like nobody understands him, not even his best friend, J decides to run away and figure out things out on his own.  On his journey he makes a new friend at a special school for gay and transgender teens, finds romance with a straight female artist named Blue, and learns about testosterone – the one thing that might finally allow him to come out of hiding and become the boy he always knew he was. This is an inspiring story that can be understood by any teenager (or adult) who has ever felt isolated or struggled to embrace their identity, and how to overcome these obstacles on the path to self-discovery.

Subject Headings: Transsexuals – Fiction. Identity – Fiction. Emotional problems – Fiction. Friendship – fiction.

Appeal: Character driven, thought-provoking, inspirational, issue-oriented, compelling, leisurely paced, sobering, descriptive, well-developed characters, moving, urban setting, realistic

Three appeal terms:  Character driven, thought-provoking, issue-oriented

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Luna by Julie Anne Peters

Luna also tells the tale of a transgender person struggling for self-identity, but this time the reader gets the story from the point of view of another character. Teenager Regan is the only person who knows that her older brother Liam is a transsexual, until he decides to transition and finally shares his secret with his family and friends. Readers who enjoyed the character-driven, issue-oriented tale of J in I Am J will likely get just as wrapped up in Liam’s story in Luna.

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

It’s 1968 in a small Canadian town where the parents of a baby born as a hermaphrodite struggle with how to raise their child. The father takes charge, deciding to raise the child as a boy named Wayne. The mother, however, secretly nurtures her child’s feminine side. As Wayne grows up, he realizes that he can’t ignore the part of his self that he thinks of as a girl named Annabel, and finds himself battling to decide with which gender he truly identifies.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

For readers who would like a more cheerful gay-themed book that doesn’t take itself so seriously, I suggest David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy. The town where high-school sophomore Paul lives is described in reviews as a “gay utopia,” and this is a very fitting description. It’s no secret that Paul is gay, but nobody cares! He fits right in at this high school where the football team’s quarterback is a cross-dresser and the cheerleading team is made up of a bunch of bikers. This is an upbeat, character-driven book that shows the less serious side of finding and accepting one’s true identity.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers by Cris Beam

Written by the same author as I Am J, this is the true story of Beam’s volunteer work at a support center for transgender teens. Beam introduces the reader to four students she meets who are challenged with figuring out who they are and how they are seen by the outside world. Beam’s narrative reveals how the struggles they face are familiar to what we all face – the desire to be comfortable with ourselves and also be accepted by those around us.

GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel

GLBTQ teens can find advice, support, guidance and useful information in this valuable resource that has been updated since it was first published in 2003. This book is geared towards young adults who are questioning their sexual or gender identity and may need guidance and support or simply reassurance that they are not alone.

The Privilege of Youth: a Teenager’s Story of Longing for Acceptance and Friendship by David Pelzer

This book is about acceptance, which has been the underlying theme of all of these books. In this inspiring memoir, Pelzer shares his compelling story of an abusive childhood, followed by an adolescence of bullying and longing for acceptance, and how he finally escaped his home life and overcame the struggles he faced his whole life.

Name: Melissa Apple

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich

November 28, 2012

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse book coverTitle: The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

Author: Erdrich, Louise

Publication Date: 2001

Pages: 361

Geographical Setting: Ojibwe Reservation, North Dakota

Time Period: Present Day

Genre: Literary Fiction, Native American Fiction

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:  In the last days of his life, Father Damien Modeste sets out to make a final confession to the Holy Father, the Pope in Rome.  The least of these confessions is that Father Damien is actually Agnes DeWitt, a woman.  When a young priest comes to the remote Ojibwe reservation of Little No Horse to interview him about the possible sainthood of a nun from the reservation convent, Fr. Damien sees an opportunity to lay bare the truth about his past, the woman in question, and the people whom he has shepherded and loved for the better part of eighty years.  Told through multiple perspectives and dipping into different moments in time, the story unfolds slowly and poetically, the first pages building links to the later scenes of Fr. Damien’s life.  The people of Little No Horse may be familiar to readers of Erdrich’s other works, as this novel is one in a sequence of tales about the Kashpaws, Nanpushes, Pillagers, Morrisseys, and Lazarres who make up this Ojibwe tribe.  But the perspective of Agnes/Fr. Damien, the outsider who layers Catholic dogma with the old spirituality, pushes this story beyond the reservation and across cultural barriers.

Appeal Characteristics: Intricately plotted, moving, stylistically complex, lyrical, mystical, leisurely paced, haunting, spiritual, details of Catholicism, details of reservation life, elegantly written, poignant, reflective, reverent, elegiac, vivid characterization, poetic

Subject Headings: Ojibwe Indians, North Dakota, Indians of North America, Reservations, Priests, Male Impersonators, Miracles, Women Saints

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Moving, lyrical, spiritual

Similar Non-fiction:

Rez Life by David Treuer

Written by a member of the Minnesota Ojibwe tribe, this book offers a part memoir, part cultural history look at life on a reservation.  Treuer explores the life of present-day Native Americans as it has been shaped by decisions made long ago.  Politics, alcoholism, casinos, and tragedy are balanced by lesser known facets of Native American culture—walleye fishing, wild rice harvesting, Ojibwe language lessons—creating a narrative of sadness and beauty that characterizes contemporary rez life.

The American Jesuits: A History by Raymond A. Schroth

Schroth offers a comprehensive historical account of the order of priests who, more than anyone else, have brought America to Christ.  Beginning with the first, unfortunately murdered, Jesuit to touch the New World, Schroth details a 450 year history of serving the disenfranchised and the poor, building schools and universities, and making very public stands for social justice.  They are not always perfect, but for those who admire Father Damien in spite of his flaws may find more of the same here.

Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again by Norah Vincent

Agnes’s transformation to Father Damien is an integral part of Erdrich’s novel.  The reservation’s remoteness and the acceptance of the Native people made this easier.  In this book Norah Vincent makes her transformation in the thick of society.  In the guise of Ned, a somewhat nerdy salesman complete with crewcut and ever-present five o’clock shadow, Vincent lived for more than a year as a man, infiltrating and living every aspect of male-ness from the sacred to the profane providing an in-depth look at what is expected of male behavior and how women and men are truly different.

Similar Fiction:

The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende

Similar to Erdrich, Allende writes a generational saga of a family and a people who suffer from the decisions made far in the past.  The Trueba family live in an unnamed Latin American country crippled by political upheaval.  Though less overtly spiritual than Erdrich, readers will find mystical undercurrents and cultural conflicts that color the portrait of this family.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

Another sweeping family portrait, this time of a Mexican American family, Caramelo is the story of Lala Reyes as she grows through the revelations of family stories and histories.  The interconnectedness of seemingly different narratives is reminiscent of Erdrich’s storytelling, as are the shared tragedies and raptures that have brought the family, and specifically Lala, to the place they are today.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

A set of short stories told from the inhabitants of the Spokane Indian Reservation, this is a complex picture of contemporary Native American life that juxtaposes the trappings of modern culture with the traditions of a proud, ancient, and crumbling people.

Name: Jessica

The Help

November 28, 2012


Title: The Help
Author: Stockett, Kathryn
Publication Date:2009
Pages:464 pages
Geographical Setting: Jackson, Mississippi
Time Period: The Sixties (20th century)
Genre:Historical fiction
Series: N/A

Plot Summary:
The author tells a sombre story using three women’s perspective as they share their experiences in Jackson, Mississippi in the mid 60’s. Aibileen and Minny are African American women working as maids in white holds. Aibileen, though has had her own share of personal tragedies, however she is dutiful, loyal and loves the white children she takes care of. Minny on the other hand is sour, resentful and does not hesitate to speak her mind. Skeeter, a young white graduate has an inner struggle about finding who she is and settling down like all of her friends. As the story develops, Skeeter an aspiring writer, feels compassion for the plight of these black maids as they are mistreated while working for these families. She tries to convince the maids to tell their story about how it feels to cook, clean and take care of these white children under such degrading circumstances. As we learn about these women’s lives, we also get an insight into the racial prejudice and discrimination in the the south during the mid 1960‘s. The story moves very fast urging you to follow the characters they develop to find out what eventually happens.
Despite the evocation of sadness and melancholy in the story, the occasional interjections of humor help liven up the overall tone of the book.

Subject Headings: African-American women, Civil Rights Movement, College graduates,
Domestic workers, Housekeepers, Interracial friendship, Race relations, The Sixties (20th century)

Three Appeal Terms: Fast-paced, Compelling, Thought Provoking,

Appeal: Touching, thought-provoking, humorous and compelling, provocative, lively, dialect-rich, upbeat, moving, strong sense of place, engrossing, captivating, Fascinating

Fiction Read-Alikes:

The healing by Odell, Jonathan
A historical fiction – a personal account of a former slave’s experiences during pre civil rights movements in the south. This is a great read alike for those who truly enjoyed The Help and are curious about the lives of the slaves and how they coped.

We are all welcome here by Berg, Elizabeth
Here again, like the The Help we find three women but facing different types of struggles and survival – a bedridden mother, a teenager looking for freedom and an African American caregiver. The author portrays the relationship between race and class during the civil rights movements. This book would appeal to those interested in women’s quest for survival under grave circumstances, but with a lighter tone than in The Help.

Roots: the saga of an American family by Alex Haley
This award winning novel takes you right into the authentic story of slavery portrayed by this African American family. You follow the protagonist Kunte Kinte directly from capture in Africa, his resistance and eventual arrival and forced into slavery. This story spans seven generations of this family recounting their history through work in plantation, civil war and reconstruction period.

Non-Fiction Read-Alikes:

Song in a weary throat: an American pilgrimage by Murray, Paulie
Find a real personal account of Pauli Murray on the civil rights movement, women rights and advocacy. This will appeal to those who would like to learn more about race integration and major works on women’s rights.

Civil rights movement: people and perspectives by Michael, Ezra
For those who are interested in civil rights movements and its effect on the nation, this is a great resource. The book is comprehensive and gives various perspectives on the events of the civil rights era.

W.E.B. DuBois: biography of a race, 1868-1919 by David Levering Lewis
The biography of DuBois is an intelligent and detailed work. It is a great resource with in-depth account and analysis of the history of racism, civil war and civil rights movements. A well researched book and a credible source. Those intrigued by the level of racism and prejudice as portrayed in The Help would appreciate this resource.

Heartwood

October 31, 2012

Publication Date: 2011

Author: Belva Plain

Title: Heartwood

Genre: Women Lives and Relationships

Number of Pages: 311

Geographical Setting: New York City

Time Period: 1979-1983

Series (If applicable): Werner Family Saga

Plot Summary: The last novel in the Werner Family Saga, Heartwood is a leisurely-paced story about Iris Stern’s family life. Set in the late 1970s and into the early 1980s, Iris Stern, who is a daughter of a Polish-Jewish immigrant and a professor at a university. Even though she is a modern woman with a successful career, but when it comes to family, she is more old-fashioned. Even when her marriage is unwinding, Iris stays with her husband, Theo. Additionally; Heartwood goes into the adult lives of Iris’s three children, which are two boys and a girl. Although all three of her children are described in the story, it mainly goes back and forth between Iris and her only daughter Laura. Laura married her husband Robbie in college because she was pregnant with her daughter Katie. Laura’s marriage to Robby is on the rocks because she has found success in her catering business and Robby cannot adapt to the fact that she is the breadwinner. The heartwarming novel explains the stories of Iris and Laura’s secrets, hardships and happy moments in their marriages and family life.

Subject Headings: Jewish women – New York City; options, alternatives, choices; family secrets – New York City; Jewish families; Adult children – family relationships; stern family

Appeal: character-driven; detailed; engaging; family-centered; heartwarming; intimate; leisurely-paced; moving; nostalgic; reflective; romantic; straightforward; well-developed

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: family-centered; heartwarming; leisurely-paced

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

– Pearlman, Ann, Infidelity (autobiography of three generations of a Jewish family and there family secrets)

– Rosen, Ruth, The world split open: how the modern women’s movement changed America (explains why women’s movement changed America,  how women like Iris and Laura can be successful women in the late 1970s into the early 1980s because of the impact of the women’s movement)

– Schulman, Bruce J., The seventies: the great shift in American culture, society, and politics (describes the cultural and political history of the 1970s which is when Heartwood took place)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

– Bradford, Barbara Taylor, 1933-, A Women of Substance ( first book of Harte family saga throughout several generations, woman who immigrated from Europe)

– Kristin Hannah, Winter Garden (mother-daughter relationship, secrets of family- history)

– Sullivan, J. Courtney, Maine (three generations of women who have different values, hidden secrets)

Name: Samantha Biegel

Code Name Verity

September 26, 2012

Title:  Code Name Verity

Author:  Elizabeth Wein

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  343

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Geographical Setting:  Great Britain and France

Time Period:  World War II (1943)

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary: 

An unnamed young woman, imprisoned and tortured by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied France during WWII, agrees to turn over information about the British War Effort.  Her confession weaves together characters and conditions of her current situation with stories from her past, describing her friendship with Maddie, the pilot of the plane who flew them to France and crashed.  Though Code Name Verity is a suspenseful spy novel, above all else it is a story of friendship and survival, courageous and heart breaking.

Subject Headings:  World War, 1939-1945; Great Britain History; France History German occupation; Insurgency; Nazis; Women air pilots; Espionage; Friendship.

Appeal:  character-driven; suspenseful; compelling; intense; moving; thought-provoking; cross-class friendship; courage; survival; details about period aircraft and flying; women’s involvement in the war effort; stylistically complex; intricately plotted; unreliable narrator; multiple narrators; diary fiction; flashbacks; closed ending; war story; spy story; World War II story.

3 appeal terms that best describe this work:  compelling, character-driven, friendship

Similar/Relevant Authors and Works (Fiction):

Tamar by Mal Peet

After the death of her beloved grandfather, Tamar inherits a box containing clues and coded messages, leading her on a journey to uncover the truth about her family and its secrets, stemming from involvement with resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II.  Tamar and Code Name Verity are both compelling, suspenseful, intricately plotted stories involving secrets and betrayal, set during World War II.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Death narrates the story of Liesl, a young girl living with foster parents in Nazi Germany, for whom stealing books, with their stories and later her own, is a way to survive the horrors of war.  Readers who enjoy moving, character-driven, stylistically complex stories may enjoy The Book Thief and Code Name Verity; both books also involve secrets and survival during World War II.

Yossel by Joe Kubert

A graphic novel set in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II, Yossel portrays the harsh life and conditions in Nazi-occupied Poland, told by a fifteen-year-old Jewish boy through his sketches.  Readers interested in exploring more stories about World War II and the Resistance movement that are moving, thought-provoking, and character-driven may be interested in this book.

Similar/Relevant Authors and Works (Nonfiction):

A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII by Sarah Helm

After WWII, Vera Atkins, a high-ranking female officer of a British Intelligence unit, investigated the fates of agents who had disappeared during the war.  Readers interested in learning more about the British Intelligence unit and its involvement with the resistance movement during WWII may enjoy this book, as could readers interested in reading about the involvement of women in the war effort.

The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman

Antonina Zabinski and her husband, Jan, helped many Jews escape the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII by hiding them in their home and in the empty cages of the Warsaw Zoo, which had been heavily damaged during a Nazi bombing of the city.  Readers interested in finding more stories about courage and survival during WWII may be interested in this dramatic tale of compassion and heroism in the midst of war.

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

In this graphic novel memoir, the author/illustrator portrays his father’s experiences in Nazi-occupied Poland and imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp.  Readers looking for intense, moving and thought-provoking stories about survival during WWII may be interested in discovering this title.

Name:  Nicole

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

August 15, 2012

Author: McClure, Wendy

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

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 336 p.

Geographical Setting: Multiple locations throughout the United States

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: N/A

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

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

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

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

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

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

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

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

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

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

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

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

Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog

August 15, 2012

Author: Grogan, John

Title: Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog

 Genre: Non-fiction

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 291 p.

Geographical Setting: Florida, United States.

Time Period: Contemporary

Series:

Plot Summary: This story follows Marley, an adorable hyperactive Labrador retriever, and his owners as they embark on a journey of growth as a family. Since the first days at his new home, Marley proved to be a charming trouble-maker mastering the art of adventurous mischief. Grogan, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and his wife decided owning a puppy early in their marriage. Little did they know that Marley would make such an impact in their lives. In this heartwarming and humorous memoir Grogan includes unforgettable anecdotes full of hilarious naughty behavior, such as the time when Marley was kicked out of obedience school, or when he shut down an entire beach, and the time when he swallowed an 18-karat solid gold necklace. Not much was out of Marley’s reach, even protecting a teenager neighbor after a stabbing attack. But more than an adorable bad dog, Marley became inspiration, comfort and support for this family through good and difficult times.

Subject Headings: Labrador retriever – Florida; Dogs as pets; Men and dogs; Dogs; Human/animal relations.

Appeal: Emotionally-charged, heartwarming, humorous, engaging, homespun, lighthearted, upbeat, friendly, family-centered, moving, details of pet-owner relations, dog-centered.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  heartwarming, humorous, engaging.

 ***

Similar Fiction Authors and Works:

One Good Dog by Susan Wilson. Adam March is an ambitious businessman who suddenly looses everything, including his job and family. He is sentenced to community service at a homeless shelter where he meets Chance, an abused pit bull mix, who teaches him about survival.  Just Like Marley and me, this inspirational read strongly emphasizes the power of dog companionship and bonding through life changing events.

Stay by Allie Larkin. After seeing the love of her life getting married, followed by a Rin Tin Tin marathon, drunk and heartbroken Van Leone makes an impulse online puppy purchase. To her surprise, she receives a peculiar one-hundred-pound German Shepherd that responds to Slovakian commands only and introduces her to a handsome veterinarian. This funny chick lit story shares Grogan’s upbeat, dog-centered, and feel-good elements.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. In this inspirational and moving novel, a philosophical lab terrier mix named Enzo narrates his life story as companion for a family from which he has learned what he needs in order to return as a human on his next life. This novel also features strong human-pet relationships with humorous and heartwarming tones.

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horrowitz.  Based on cognitive science, this book provides some insight about how dogs perceive the world around them and their relationships.  This a good read for those who would like to get better understanding about their Marley-like energetic and neurotic dogs.

Cherished: 21 Writers on Animals They Have Loved and Lost by Barbara Abercrombie. This is a moving collection of tales celebrating beloved animal-human experiences. Columnist Grogan certainly knows how painful the loss of a pet can be; readers will find comfort on these joyful and tender stories authored by different writers.

Imagine Life with a Well-Behaved Dog: A 3-Step Positive Dog-Training Program by Julie A. Bjelland. With 15 years of experience, Bjelland offers practical and helpful information and advice emphasizing a simple and effective approach for positive dog training. For those who want to avoid the embarrassment of being kicked out of domineering obedience schools.

Fanny Camargo

Look Me in the Eye

August 13, 2012

Author:  John Elder Robison

Title: Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s

Genre:  Nonfiction, Autobiography

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages:  288

Geographical Setting: Primarily Eastern U.S.; Massachusetts

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  In this darkly humorous and moving autobiography, Augusten Burroughs’s older brother, John Elder Robison, candidly and straightforwardly narrates what his life was like growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, his struggles with adjusting to the world around him, and the relief he felt when he was finally diagnosed at age 40.  Robison also describes his traumatic childhood living with an alcoholic, abusive father and a mentally-unstable mother; his gift for repairing, building, and modifying electronic music equipment; and how he used this gift to escape his parents by joining KISS’s 1978 tour to build special effect guitars for Ace Frehley.  Robison’s life is colorful and full of bizarre developments and quirky, offbeat characters that make for a particularly compelling read.  The author’s clever observations of life are both humorous and insightful, and give readers an authentic portrait of one man’s life with Asperger’s.

Subject Headings:  Asperger’s Syndrome; Asperger’s Syndrome Patients; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Family Relationships

Appeal:  Bittersweet, darkly humorous, disturbing, funny, moving, offbeat, reflective, candid, thoughtful, insightful, quirky characters, authentic, clever, straightforward

3 terms that best describe this book:  Darkly humorous, offbeat, and moving

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch

David Finch’s idiosyncratic behaviors are beginning to a take a toll on his five-year marriage when he is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.  Relieved to find reason behind his idiosyncrasies, Finch begins his quest to find ways to manage his Aspergian behaviors, improve his social skills, and save his marriage.  Like John Elder Robison, Finch is a high-functioning Asperger syndrome patient who was unaware of his diagnosis until adulthood.  This title is suggested to readers looking for a heartwarming and funny book chronicling a person’s efforts to “overcome” his diagnosis.

2)  I Am Intelligent: From Heartbreak to Healing – A Mother and Daughter’s Journey through Autism by Peyton and Diane Goddard

Peyton Goddard, a sufferer of severe autism to the extent of being unable to speak or control her own body, and her mother, Diane, recount her history of misdiagnoses, marginalization, neglect, mistreatment, and exclusion from normal society and education.  Later in her life, Peyton was properly diagnosed and given the ability to communicate her story through computer technology.  Suggested to readers who want to read a deeply moving memoir about someone with a much more severe autistic spectrum disorder than Robison’s.

3)  The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood

An accessible, authoritative, and comprehensive book on aspects of Asperger’s syndrome, including its causes, how it is diagnosed, the social and behavioral challenges that Asperger’s syndrome patients encounter, and issues regarding stigmatization and bullying.  Suggested to those looking for a more scientific and clinical book about Asperger’s.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Christopher Boone, an autistic 15-year-old mathematical savant obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, finds his neighbor’s poodle impaled on a garden fork.  Determined to find the murderer, Christopher must learn to overcome his autistic behaviors in order to solve this mystery.  This title is suggested to readers who enjoy mysteries and are interested in individuals or characters with autistic spectrum disorders.

2)  The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin

Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a middle-aged man detached from the world by his neuroses, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and social anxieties, becomes involved in the life of his social worker, Clarissa, and her son, Teddy, and most learn to confront his idiosyncrasies in order to help her escape her abusive ex-husband.  Daniel’s character, while not necessarily described as autistic, exhibits obsessive-compulsive characteristics frequently associated with sufferers of autistic spectrum disorders.  Readers of Look Me in the Eye looking for a similarly witty and touching tale may want to check out this book.

3)  With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child, Vol. 1 by Keiko Tobe

The first entry in a multi-volume manga series about Sachiko Azuma’s struggles with raising her autistic son, Hikaru, this volume introduces the characters and follows Hikaru from birth through early elementary school.  This series is a poignant and moving story that explores the realities of being a parent of an autistic child.  The series is suggested to those who enjoyed Look Me in the Eye but want to read about children with autistic spectrum disorders and are open to graphic-novel format.

Name:  Zach Musil

For One More Day

August 13, 2012

Author: Albom, Mitch

Title: For One More Day

 Genre: Inspirational

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 197 p.

Geographical Setting: United States

Time Period: Contemporary

Series:

Plot Summary: This is an inspirational story about Charley “Chick” Benetto, a broken man on the verge of suicide. Chick was a child of divorce forced to choose between his mother and his father. Soon after choosing his father, Chick gets abandoned and bitterly returns to his mother. After her death, a grief-stricken Chick forms a family of his own, but later loses his job, becomes regretful, depressed, alcoholic and eventually lonely and isolated. His daughter’s rejection triggers a suicide attempt that unexpectedly takes him to an ordinary day at his childhood home where he gets a second chance to spend time with his lost mother. During that day Chick learns family secrets, seeks forgiveness, discovers her mother’s self-sacrifices, and regains awareness of the destructive path in his life. Inspired by his mother’s loving guidance he decides to make a change a try to put his life back together.

Subject Headings: Personal Transformations; Loneliness in men; Alcoholics; Nervous breakdown; Mother and adult son; Ghosts; Single mothers; Divorced women; Mothers – Death; Men — Suicidal behavior; Depression in men; Grief in men; Ambition in men; Coping in men.

Appeal: Emotionally-charged, gentle, family-centered, homespun style, haunting, hopeful, psychological, moving, nostalgic, dramatic, inspiring, domestic.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  Family-centered, nostalgic, moving.

***

Similar Fiction Authors and Works:

This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes. In this story, wealthy middle-aged divorcé Richard Novak has mastered isolation by choice. Two incidents force him to reconnect with his family and establish new relationships. Just like For One More Day, this story is psychological and centers on relationships and personal transformation.

Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard. The narrator of this story finds himself in a peculiar abandoned amusement park per her dying fiancé’s request. Guided by a wise groundskeeper, the narrator embarks in a profound psychological journey to self-discovery. This is also an inspirational novel emphasizing past memories, self awareness, and overcoming difficult circumstances.

Blame by Michelle Huneven. Patsy MacLemoore is a young, smart and wild history professor that wakes up once again in jail, this time after running over and killing a mother and daughter in her driveway. She spends several years in jail sobering up, trying to atone for her misdeed until new information turns up to change and bring a different light on her life. Besides its psychological nature, this novel shares Albom’s subjects of alcoholism, guilt and regret, and rebuilding a life.

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

           The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. In this auto-biographical account computer science professor Pausch thoughtfully reflects about his experience as a terminally ill cancer patient. This is an inspiring choice for readers looking for real life stories of lessons learned, spirituality, family and relationship in adversity, and the pursue of dreams.

           Unfinished Business: What the Dead Can Teach Us about Life by James Van Praagh. Written by medium James Van Praagh, this book provides thought-provoking information, theories and stories about ghosts and spirits and their experience and relationships with their living loved ones. Chick’s encounter with his lost mother is sometimes described as other-worldly, this may interest those curious about hopeful ghostly messages about healing.

           Living Through the Meantime: Learning to Break the Patterns of the Past and Begin the Healing Process by Iyanla Vanzant. The author describes a “meantime” concept generally fueled by past experiences that tends in cases cause confusion, anger, disappointment, frustration, anxiety, apprehensiveness, etc. For those considering self-help options to heal and get their life back together.

Fanny Camargo

Too Cool to be Forgotten

August 8, 2012

Author: Robinson, Alex

Title: Too Cool to be Forgotten

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 128 p.

Geographical Setting: New York

Time Period: 2010 and 1985

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This fast-paced, character-driven graphic novel begins with 39-year-old main character, Andy Roberts, visiting a hypnotist to try to quit smoking, and instead, gets transported back into his 15-year-old body in 1985.  In high school, Andy relives moments from his teenage years, including asking girls out, sitting through boring classes, arguing with his parents, and going to parties.  However, even with his 15-year-old body, Andy still has his 39-year-old mind which allows him to view events in his teenage years from a nostalgic adult perspective, including gasping in class because he feels hair on his head for the first time in years.  Chapter by chapter, Andy’s teenage journey leads up to the moment when he first smokes a cigarette, but can Andy change the past?  The entire graphic novel takes place from Andy’s perspective and is full of traditional and unique panels of ink art.  While many pages have between 6 and 9 panels with dialogue in balloons, other pages have less or more panels without text.  Overall, this graphic novel is an upbeat coming-of-age story that is full of dialogue and makes readers reflect on their teenage years in a new and moving way.

Subject Headings: Time Travel (Past); Second Chances; High School Students; Teenage Boys – Decision-Making; Middle-Aged Men; Addiction; Smoking; Hypnotism; The Eighties (20th Century); Humor; Coming-of-Age Stories; Comic Books, Strips, Etc.; Graphic Novels

Appeal: fast-paced, funny, moving, nostalgic, reflective, upbeat, closely observed, engaging, and involving primary and secondary characters, character-driven, intricately plotted, family-centered, flashbacks, imaginative, layered, thought-provoking, accessible, chatty, concise, conversational

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: funny, nostalgic, moving 

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is similar toToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another reflective, concise, and character-driven graphic novel about a girl dealing with the problems of growing up in the 1980s.  The main differences between the books are that the setting of Iran inPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi plays a much larger role and that the tone is more dramatic and somber despite many humorous moments.  In addition, the lines in the illustrations are bolder, thicker, and less realistic than the illustrations are inToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson.

Funny Misshapen Body by Jeffrey Brown is similar toToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another humorous character-driven graphic novel about a boy dealing with the problems of growing up in the 1980s and 1990s.  The main differences between the books are that the book focuses on his art career and that the illustrations are less polished and realistic than the illustrations inToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson.

 Fun With Hypnosis: The Complete How-To Guide by Professor Svengali is similar toToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson because it is a concise fast-paced instructional guide about the subject of hypnosis, including how the history of it and its uses today, like in trying to help people end their addictions to smoking. The main differences between the books are that this book is informational rather than a fictional story.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

A Distant Neighborhood, Vol. 1 by Jiro Taniguchi is similar to Too Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another character-driven graphic novel about a middle-aged man, Hiroshi Nakahara, who revisits his hometown and at his mother’s grave, travels back in time to become 14-years-old again.  Like Andy Roberts, Hiroshi Nakahara keeps his 48-year-old brain despite his 14-year-old body and tries to fix the problems that happened in his past.  The main differences between the books are the setting of Japan and more serious tone inA Distant Neighborhood, Vol. 1 by Jiro Taniguchi.  In addition, the illustrations are in the style of manga and less realistic than the illustrations are inToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson.

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli is similar to Too Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another fast-paced, character driven graphic novel about a middle-aged man, Asterios Polyp, in New York, who is having a spiritual crisis.  Also, likeToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson, it is a moving and reflective coming-of-age story.   The main differences between the books are that the main character inAsterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli is less likable and that the illustrations are more experimental and contain color.

Zombie Parents: And Other Hopes for a More Perfect World by Jerry Scott and illustrated by Jim Borgman is the latest book in the series of Zits Sketchbook.  It is similar toToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson in that it is another funny graphic novel about a 15-year-old boy, Jeremy, and his problems with high school, driving, and dating.  It too focuses on Jeremy’s relationship with his parents through these teenage years.  The main differences between the books are thatZombie Parents: And Other Hopes for a More Perfect World is a compilation of traditionally stylized ink comic strips unlike the more detailed, realistic, and experimental illustrations and panels inToo Cool to be Forgotten by Alex Robinson.