Posts Tagged ‘mystical’

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

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Vlad: A Novel

October 31, 2012

AuthVlad: A Novel by Carlos Fuentesor: Carlos Fuentes

Title: Vlad: A Novel

Genre: Horror; Mexican Fiction

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 122

Geographical Setting: Mexico City

Time Period: Present Day

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

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

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

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secondary characters, quirky, vivid, character centered, layered, some elements of humor, literary references, historical references, mystical, mythic, open-ended, tragic, bleak, dark, foreboding, menacing, philosophical, sensual, suspenseful, classic, concise, elegant, sophisticated

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

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

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

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

The Philosophy of Horror (2012) by Thomas Fahy

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

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

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

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

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

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

Anno Dracula (New Edition; 2011) by Kim Newman

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

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

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

Name: John Rimer

The Alchemist

August 13, 2012

Author: Paulo Coehlo; audiobook narrated by Jeremy Irons

Title: The Alchemist

Genre: Inspirational; Spiritual Fiction; Literary Fiction; Fables

Publication Date: 1993

Number of Pages: 177

Geographical Setting: Spain; Egypt

Time Period: Not specified

Series: Not applicable

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

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

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

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

3 Nonfiction Read-a-likes:

The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz.

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

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

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

Andalusia, Eliane Faure

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

 3 Fiction Read-a-likes:

Siddhartha, Herman Hesse.

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

The Five People You Will Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom

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

The Tale of the Unknown Island, Jose Saramago

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

Name: Alison Kulczak

Swamplandia!

August 8, 2012

Author:  Karen Russell

Title:  Swamplandia!

Genre:  Literary Fiction/Best sellers

Publication Date:  2011

Number of Pages:  416

Geographical Setting:  Florida Everglades

Time Period:  late 20th century (1980’s)

Plot Summary:  Thirteen-year-old Ava loves the alligator-wrestling life at Swamplandia!, her family’s island home and gator-wrestling theme park in the Florida Everglades.  When her mom—the theme park’s main attraction– dies, the family’s way of life is threatened.  The father goes to the mainland on a business venture; her sister falls in love with a ghost and disappears; and her big brother, Kiwi, gets a job at a rival park called The World of Darkness.  Ava sets out with the eccentric bird-man on a mission through the magical swamps to save her sister, but then she has to save herself.

Subject Headings:  Girls-fiction; Motherless families-fiction; Amusement parks-fiction; Alligators-fiction; Everglades (Florida)-fiction.

Appeal: offbeat, witty, mystical, lyrical, quirky characters, vivid, imaginative, detailed setting, strong sense of place, compassionate, uneasy, changing points of view (two).

3 terms that best describe this book:  imaginative, lyrical, strong sense of place.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Florida Everglades by Connie M. Toops

History of the Florida Everglades, which is where Swamplandia takes place.

Crocodiles and Alligators of the World by David Alderton

Information on origins, evolution and distribution, courtship, reproduction, and many individual species paint a thorough portrait, with maps of their habitats.  References and pictures.  Besides wrestling them, Ava has a pet alligator baby.

The Enduring Seminoles:  From Alligator Wrestling to Ecotourism by Patsy West

Seminole Indians (mentioned in Swamplandia) and economic culture; Florida history, culture and tourism.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard by Kiran Desai

A young postal worker in a small Indian town, Sampath, climbs into a guava tree and becomes unintentionally famous as a holy man, setting off a series of events that spin increasingly out of control.  Humorous, offbeat and strong sense of place.

Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Similar to Swamplandia, because the teen girl is surviving without help of adults, there are descriptions of nature, and a similar writing style.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

A zookeeper’s son, Pi Patel, sets sail for America, but when the ship sinks, he escapes on a life boat and is lost at sea with a dwindling number of animals until only he and a hungry Bengal tiger remain.  It’s a journey with animals and literary.

Name:  Sonia Reppe

 

The Hummingbird’s Daughter

July 16, 2012

Author: Luis Alberto Urrea

Title: The Hummingbird’s Daughter

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 495

Geographical Setting: RuralMexico

Time Period: Late 19th Century

Series: Though not a series,there is a sequel – Queen of America, published in 2011

Plot Summary: Teresa Urrea is the illegitimate daughter of Don Tomás Urrea, a wealthy Mexican rancher, and a young Indian girl, Cayetana Chávez, known as The Hummingbird. Teresa is born in 1873 into desperate poverty and suffers abuse at the hands of her aunt, who raises Teresa after her mother abandons her. In spite of this, Teresa is a bright and engaging child. Teresa is rescued by Huila, the medicine woman, and learns the mystical ways of nature and healing. When Teresa is older, Don Tomás, defying contemporary conventions, takes her in and raises her as his own. A horrific event befalls Teresa when she is sixteen, miraculously transforming her into the Saint of Cabora, although Teresa dismisses the label. Pilgrims, hoping she will heal them, arrive at the ranch by the thousands, as do vagabonds, soldiers and revolutionaries. Insurrection is contemplated within the crowd and it is rumored that Teresa is fomenting revolution. Teresa and her father are arrested and sentenced to be shot as seditionists, though the sentence is later commuted to exile in the United States.This is a thoroughly researched, yet fictional account of a woman related to the author, known as the Saint of Cabora.

Subject Headings: Teenage girls – fiction; Woman healers – fiction; Illegitimate children – fiction; Near-death experiences – fiction; Mexico – History – 1867-1910 – fiction;

Appeal: Sweeping, atmospheric, authentic, measured pacing, engrossing,  gritty, humorous, evocative, mystical, detailed characterizations, strong characters, interwoven perspectives, accessible, thought-provoking, well-researched

3 terms that best describe this book: Expansive, dramatic, anddetailed in both characterization and setting

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Cookson, Catherine, The Glass Virgin. This is a character driven and dramatic coming-of-age story of a young girl who learns the truth and accepts the consequences of her true lineage in Edwardian England.

Le Guin, Ursula, Malafrena. This historical fiction title reflects an atmospheric and dramatic tale of a young man who becomes a revolutionary and forsakes his homeland.

Rice, Luanne, The Edge of Winter. This is a character-driven coming-of-age story about a mother and daughter facing the unforgiving realities as well as the beauty of life in a bird sanctuary in Rhode Island.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Gilly, Adolfo,The Mexican Revolution. This book recounts the peasant revolts against the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz and the inauguration of Álvaro Obregón in 1920.

Porterfield, Amanda, Healing in the History of Christianity. This title examines how healing is a central theme in the history of Christianity.

Shapiro, Marcy, Transforming the Nature of Health: A Holistic Vision of Healing That Honors Our Connection to the Earth, Others, and Ourselves. This title explores how our health is connected to love, meaning and respect between ourselves and nature.

Name: Patty Daniel

The Shack

April 11, 2012

Author: Wm. Paul Young

Title: The Shack         

Genre: Inspirational fiction

Publication Date: 2007

Number of pages: 252

Geographical Setting: Oregon

Time Period: Present day

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack is a novel that takes readers on a journey from heartache and despair through metamorphosis into acceptance and joy. Mackenzie Allen Phillips, a family man who makes his home in the state of Oregon, has a faith in God that is nearly obliterated beyond recognition because of a great and unexpected tragedy in his immediate family. However, by going into and through his worst fears, both figuratively and literally, he is able to finally find peace and an infinitely more satisfying and wonderful life than he had ever dreamed possible. His faith in God thus becomes a living, growing relationship between the Savior and the saved.

Subject Headings: God, Christianity – The Trinity, Serial murderers, Faith, Family relationships, Friendship, Oregon

Appeal: compelling, engrossing, detailed (characters), introspective (characters), well-developed characters, familiar (characters), inspirational, issue-oriented, resolved ending, thought-provoking, tragic, bittersweet, detailed setting, mystical, philosophical, suspenseful, graceful, metaphorical, thoughtful

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: inspirational, thought-provoking, bittersweet

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.) Christianity: the First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch – MacCulloch takes a long and detailed look at Christianity from its beginnings to modern times. Includes influences that helped it to develop as well as discusses differences among today’s Christian sects or denomination.

2.) Founding Faith: the Birth of Religious Freedom in America by Steven Waldman – This text explores the beginnings of faith from the founding fathers on into early America. Waldman debunks popular myths as well as largely discussing what America is most famous for regarding religion – freedom of belief and faith.

3.) Lasso the Wind: Away to the New West by Timothy Egan – Egan takes us on a journey into the rich history of the pacific northwestern United States and carries us on into today’s struggles, adventures and possibilities for the future of the area and its inhabitants. This text is at once moving and depressing, but always realistic.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

.) For One More Day by Mitch Albom – Charles Benetto, a grief-stricken alcoholic, comes to terms with himself and the loss of his mother in this moving, inspirational novel. The author takes us on a journey back into time to truly repair Benetto’s relationship with his deceased mother.

.) Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed stranger: New and Selected Stories by Lee Smith – A collection of bittersweet short stories with a distinctly southern feel, these tales are ones of love, forgiveness, adaptation, and redemption. Smith includes both new tales and old favorites here also.

.) Where No Storms Come by John F. Deane – This Christian love story is at once a poet’s delight and a thought-provoking romance. It tells the tale of two individuals who each pursue a life in religious vocations – lives filled with brutal awakenings and other eye-opening spiritual revelations.

Name: Melissa

Dead Love

April 4, 2012

Author: Linda Watanabe McFerrin

Title: Dead Love

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 304

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

Time Period: Present

Series (If applicable): n/a

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

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

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

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

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Theories of International Politics and Zombies by Daniel W. Drezner

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

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

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

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

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

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service by Eiji Ōtsuka and Housui Yamazaki

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

Thirsty by M.T. Anderson

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

Magic For Beginners by Kelly Link

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

Name: Bill S.

Beloved

November 16, 2011

Author: Toni Morrison

Title: Beloved

Genre: African-American Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 1987

Number of Pages: 316

Geographical Setting: Ohio, Kentucky

Time Period: 1870s

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: In Beloved, Toni Morrison writes about the devastating effects of slavery in a lyrical and haunting style. The story begins in 1873 in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Sethe is living with her daughter, Denver, in a house that is haunted by a malevolent spirit, believed to be the ghost of Sethe’s baby daughter, who died 18 years ago. One day, Paul D, who used to be a slave along with Sethe at Sweet Home Plantation in Kentucky, shows up at Sethe’s house. Paul and Sethe begin a relationship and Paul moves in with Sethe and Denver. Paul chases the spirit out, but soon after, a strange woman who goes only by the name of ‘Beloved’ shows up at the house and soon moves in also. Beloved was also the name given to Sethe’s baby daughter who died 18 years ago, and the tragic circumstances of Beloved’s death are eventually revealed. Through a series of flashbacks, which seem to flow effortlessly within the present narrative, Sethe’s experiences as a slave at the most ironically named farm ever, Sweet Home, and her escape to Ohio and freedom, show the lasting psychological effects of slavery and how hard it can be to escape the past.

Subject Headings: Slavery, Post-Civil War United States, African-American, Ghosts

Appeal: Engrossing, Atmospheric, Haunting, Mystical, Introspective, Well-developed characters, Complex, Flashbacks, Tragic, Details of Slavery, Lyrical, Poetic

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Haunting, Complex, Lyrical

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1) Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs. This is one of the first personal narratives written by a former slave and one of the few written by a woman. Jacobs escaped from a plantation in North Carolina after years of brutal treatment from her owners. Jacobs’ narrative is a haunting, true account of the evils of slavery.

2) Slavery and the Making of America  by James Oliver Horton. This historical account of slavery in the United States is richly illustrated and covers a wide range of topics. Readers will gain a better understanding of how slavery began and ended in America and why understanding slavery is so important to understanding United States history.

3) Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America’s First Civil Rights Movement by Fergus M. Bordewich. The story of the Underground Railroad, which helped Sethe escape to freedom in Beloved, is explored in this book and myths about the Railroad are turned into fact.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1) Property by Valerie Martin. This atmospheric, haunting novel takes place in antebellum Louisiana and is written from the perspective of a white woman unhappily married to a sugar plantation owner who takes out her resentment on her slave, Sarah, who is also her husband’s mistress.

2) The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. Readers who enjoy Toni Morrison’s lyrical and complex writing will enjoy the similar style of Faulkner. This novel tells the story of the tragic Compson family in the southern United States.

3) Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. This novel by Allende is written in a lyrical style and is about Zarité, a woman who is born into slavery in the colony of Saint-Domingue. Like Beloved, this novel explores the psychic wounds of slavery.

Name: Elizabeth Allen

Legends of Shannara: Bearers of the Black Staff

September 28, 2011

Author: Terry Brooks

Title: Bearers of the Black Staff

Genre: Fantasy fiction

Publication Date: August 24, 2010

Number of Pages: 353 pages (audio – 12 CDs)

Geographical Setting: A mythical, protected valley called Shannara.

Time Period: Post Apocalyptic

Series: Legends of Shannara

Plot Summary: In a valley protected by magical mists and a loner, Sider Ament, two young trackers find that demons have breached their valley and killed innocent trackers.  Sider is the only surviving member of the Knights of the Word and the Bearer of the Black staff.  He and the trackers seek to warn the inhabitants of the valley- humans, elves, lizards and spiders.  In doing so, they put themselves in danger from those who believe that the failure of the mists means the second coming of their God.  This forces them to seek help from other species in order to protect the impending demon invasion. They join with an Elven cast of characters and other humans to defend their valley. In their quest they encounter duplicitous royalty, demons, and the religious, who are on their own quest for power.  Sider Ament’s personal quest is to find a worthy successor to bear the black staff. The audio book is narrated by Phil Gigante, who is known for his ability to do characterizations. Listening to the audio version brings all of these characters to life.

Subject Headings: Refugees; Survival; Magic; Trolls; Knights and Knighthood; Magic sticks; Good and evil; Shannara (Imaginary place)
Appeal: reflective, fast-paced, engrossing, compelling, dangerous, foreboding, heartwarming, optimistic, flawed but memorable characters, well-developed, multiple plot lines, mystical, world building, nostalgic.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: heroic, richly detailed, strong sense of place.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) Tolkien & C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship by Colin Duriez. A commentary on the friendship and the inspiration for each authors’ fantasy works, including their spiritual beliefs.

2) Tales from a Perilous Realm by J.R.R. Tolkien.  A collection of short fantasy novellas and poetry with illustrations.

3) The Mythical Creatures Bible: The Definitive Guide to Legendary Beings by Brenda Rosen. Illustrations and history of the origins of mythical creatures and their basis in reality.

 

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)  Dragons of Autumn Twilight (DragonLance saga) by Margaret Weis. A world-building and fast-paced work including themes of good and evil with magic wielding creatures and humans.

2) Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters Fantasies) by Juliet Marillier.  These stories have young heroes/heroines that are noble, but sometimes behave badly.  They learn from their experiences and sometimes are fighting religious battles.

3) The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan. This series is chosen for the story of unlikely heroes banding together with other species to go on a dangerous quest in order to defeat evil.

Name:Cheryl R.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

August 1, 2011

Author: Haruki Murakami

Title: Kafka on the Shore

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2002 (Original Publishing) 2005 (English Version)

Number of Pages: 407

Geographical Setting: Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture, Shikoku, Japan

Time Period: Late 20th century (1990-2000)

Plot Summary: This surreal narrative intertwines the stories of 15-year-old, runaway Kafka Tamura and middle-aged, eccentric Satoru Nakata, both who are inexorably drawn by fate to the city of Takamatsu. Kafa (under the direction of his inner advisor, Crow) runs from his father’s home, and his father’s curse, vowing to become “the world’s toughest 15-year-old”. Kafa soon finds himself working at a small private library in Takamatsu under the the affable, androgynous Oshima and the quiet, mysterious Miss Saeki. Nakata uses his ability to speak to cats to track down a missing kitten only to find himself challenged by the deranged Johnnie Walker. As these two narratives begin to draw together and intersect, the world begins to shift and twist in strange ways. The two protagonists search for the other half of themselves which they have left behind. This story bends the traditions and tropes of the “usual” story and freely juggles the intellectual and the sensual. The narrative progresses at a slow and deliberate pace, yet still sets the story with suspense. Kafka of the Shore is one of the pinnacle works of magical realism.

Subject Headings: Japan, magical realism, music, prophecy, spirituality, supernatural, art, poetry, Oedipus.

Appeal: surreal: complex, philosophical, relaxed pace, thought-provoking, contemplative, referential, imaginative, dual-narrative, well-crafted, densely written, deeply complex, mystical, mysterious, explicit, extremely vivid, haunting.

3 terms that best describe this book: surreal, intellectual, poetic

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

A Long Rainy Season: Haiku and Tanka edited by Leza Lowitz, Miyuki Aoyama and Akemi Tomioka ([the book makes reference to tanka and related poetry])

Supernatural and Mysterious Japan: Spirits, Hauntings and Paranormal Phenomena by Catrien Ross

(Japan, ghosts, supernatural, hauntings)

The Eichmann Trial: Jewish Encounters by Deborah E. Lipstadt ([The Eichmann trial becomes a theme that haunts Kafka throughout his journey])

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood (magical realism, coming of age, surreal, deep, philosophical)

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles ([Referenced in the book] tragedy, curse, fate, love, death)

The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights by Richard Burton (translated) ([This is one of the books that engrosses Kafka in the story])