Posts Tagged ‘open-ended’

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secondary characters, quirky, vivid, character centered, layered, some elements of humor, literary references, historical references, mystical, mythic, open-ended, tragic, bleak, dark, foreboding, menacing, philosophical, sensual, suspenseful, classic, concise, elegant, sophisticated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

Before I Wake

October 3, 2012

Cover Before I Wake Author:  Dee Henderson

 Title:  Before I Wake

 Genre: Christian Fiction & Romantic Suspense

 Publication Date:  2006

 Number of Pages:  381

 Geographical Setting:  Justice, Illinois

 Time Period:  Contemporary

 Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  Haunted by the death of a colleague in a botched undercover investigation, former FBI agent Rae Gabriella is looking for a change in career, as well as scenery.  Taking her ex-fiancé, Bruce Campbell, up on his offer to join his Private Investigation firm, she looks forward to settling into a less stressful life in the small town of Justice, Illinois.  The ideal of small-town life is soon shattered when two unrelated young women visiting Justice are found dead in their hotel rooms within a week; both having died in their sleep.  Are their deaths an unfortunate coincidence or the result of something much more sinister?  Sheriff Nathan Justice asks Rae and Bruce for help in getting to the bottom of the mysterious deaths, unwittingly setting Rae up as a potential victim.  Rae must deal with a personal crisis in faith, as well as growing romantic feelings for both Bruce and Nathan, as she races to pursue leads that indicate a killer is on the loose.

Subject Headings:  Women Private Investigators — Illinois — Fiction;  Women Travelers —Fiction; Tourists — Crimes Against — Fiction; Illinois – Fiction

Appeal:   fast-paced, compelling, atmospheric, dangerous, suspenseful, romantic, well-developed characters, introspective, inspirational, investigative, multiple plot lines, plot-driven, open-ended, contemporary, small-town, dramatic

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe Book:  fast-paced, suspenseful, small-town

Fiction Read-alikes:

Fatal Judgment by Irene Hannon

Against his wishes, U.S. Marshall Jake Taylor is assigned to protect the life of his best friend’s widow, Federal Judge Liz Michaels, whom Jake blames for his friend’s suicide.  This is the first volume in the Guardians of Justice series, and Hannon is a Christy Award winning author.  Like Before I Wake, this book is a fast-paced, compelling Christian Romantic Suspense title with a law-enforcement theme, where the main female character becomes a potential victim of an unknown predator.

Hideaway by Hannah Alexander

Dr. Cheyenne Allison withdraws to a small Missouri town to escape feelings of guilt over her sister’s tragic death.  When vandalism in town leads to serious violence and injuries, Cheyenne finds her loyalties divided between the town’s mayor and a charismatic neighbor.  This is the first book in the Hideaway series and is a Christy Award winning title.  Like Before I Wake, this book is a fast-paced, Christian Romantic Suspense title where a smart, professional woman seeks a new start in life in a small town, but is soon drawn into danger in her new surroundings.

I Heard that Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark

A new wife doubts her husband’s innocence when he becomes a suspect in an investigation into the death of his first wife four years earlier, as well as the disappearance of a neighbor over 20 years ago.  Clark is known for writing suspense stories and mysteries that are considered gentle reads, and the lack of sex, excessive violence, and strong language may have extra appeal to readers of Christian fiction.  This fast-paced, plot-driven suspense title by Clark won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Mystery & Suspense in 2007, so may also satisfy fans of Romantic Suspense.

Related Non-fiction:

There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America by Philip Dray

A strike by unionized workers at the local tile factory and the ongoing negotiations with management provide a major subplot in Before I Wake.  Dray’s book provides a history of organized labor in the United States, an examination of the social, political, economic, and cultural impact unions have had over the years, and a discussion of the level of influence unions maintain in today’s troubled economy.

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding

In Before I Wake, a clandestine meth lab figures prominently in the rash of serious crime affecting Justice, Illinois; with recognition of the ruinous impact the drug trade can have on small-town America.  Reding’s book presents a study of the devastating effects of meth production on a small, agricultural town in  Iowa, the lives ruined by the drug, and the socioeconomic fallout associated with the meth culture.

Detectives Don’t Wear Seat Belts: True Adventures of a Female P.I. by Cici McNair

The fictional character of Rae Gabriella in Before I Wake is an ex-cop and former FBI agent who is just starting out as a private investigator.  This title is an entertaining and candid memoir by Cici McNair, a successful female private investigator in New York City.  McNair describes her early life, the effort required to break into the male-dominated P.I. profession, and the many cases, adventures, and colorful characters that filled her days.

Becky King

Chyna Black by Keisha Ervin

August 13, 2012

 Author:  Keisha Ervin

Title:  Chyna Black

Genre:  African American, Urban Lit

Publication Date:  2004

Number of Pages:  259

Geographical Setting:  St. Louis, Missouri

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Seventeen-year-old Chyna Black catches the eye of Tyriek James, a handsome 22-year-old drug dealer living a life filled with fast cars, expensive jewelry, and designer name clothes.  Unheeding her girlfriends’ advice that Tyriek is nothing but trouble, Chyna is blinded by her passion and pursues a relationship with him, forsaking everything else.  Chyna, infatuated and caught up in his lifestyle, goes from straight-A student to high school dropout, begins to isolate herself from her friends, and gets thrown out of her mother’s house.  Although things go well for a while between her and Tyriek, their relationship soon becomes fraught with jealousy, infidelity, violent physical and emotional abuse, passionate make-up sex, and insincere promises of devotion.  Chyna learns all too late the unhealthiness of their relationship, returns to her mother’s house, and begins dating an old boyfriend, LP, who gets her pregnant.  Without LP’s support, she decides to keep the baby and get her life back on track by getting a job and her GED.  One year later, at her daughter’s first birthday, Tyriek reappears with new promises of devotion.  Chyna Black is a fast-paced, gritty tale of urban fiction written in a raw, conversational style that is heavy with dialect and loaded with profanity.  Chyna and Tyriek’s relationship is a maelstrom of drama and passionate eroticism that is sure to engage readers who enjoy these elements.

Subject Headings:  African American Teenage Girls; Inner City Life; Teenage Pregnancy; High School Dropouts; Drug Dealers; Unhealthy Relationships; Responsibility; Coming-of-Age Stories

Appeal:  Conversational, informal, unpretentious, authentic, raw, gritty, dialect-rich, sexually explicit, strong language, erotic, romantic, melodramatic, hopeful, inspiring, fast-paced, open-ended

3 terms that best describe this book:  Dialect-rich, raw, and strong language

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Dear Diary, I’m Pregnant: Ten Real Life Stories by Anrenee Englander

This book is a collection of candid interviews with ten teenage girls from various socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and faiths about their experiences with pregnancy.  The girls’ stories also touch on topics such as abortion, adoption, and deciding to keep their babies.  This title is suggested to those who want to read true-life stories about teenage pregnancies after reading about Chyna’s experiences.

2)  A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown

A harrowing yet inspiring memoir of how the author overcame her history of childhood neglect, abject poverty, trauma, rape, prostitution, gang affiliation, and substance abuse and became a California attorney and motivational speaker.  Like Chyna Black, this is a gritty, raw, and inspiring story of an African American woman taking back control of her life.

3)  Brothers (and Me): A Memoir of Loving and Giving by Donna Britt

An honest and introspective memoir about how the author, growing up as the only daughter in a middle-class African American family, sacrificed her own ambitions and self-identity for the men in her life: her three brothers, her father, her boyfriends, and her husband.  After the police shoot and kill one of her brothers, she reflects on the ways in which she has continually given of herself to others at the expense of her own individuality.  Chyna Black comes to a similar realization when she breaks things off with Tyreik and begins to take responsibility for her future.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Every Thug Needs a Lady by Wahida Clark

Roz puts her personal aspirations of becoming a physical therapist aside when she meets and gets involved with Trae, a drug dealer.  She soon realizes the cost of getting into a relationship with a gangster.  Every Thug Needs a Lady and Chyna Black are similar urban tales of young African American women blinded by their passion for handsome, wealthy thugs at the expense of everything else.

2)  Black: A Street Tale by Tracy Brown

When her mother throws her out of the house, 17-year-old Kaia is forced to live on the streets.  Trying desperately just to survive, she meets and gets involved in relationship with a local hoodlum named Aaron.  Although this relationship changes her life, she questions whether it has changed for the better or if it is stifling her freedom.  Suggested to readers looking for another story about a young African American teenage girl who is thrown out of her home and becomes romantically involved with a dangerous man.

3)  Push by Sapphire

Sixteen-year-old Precious Jones lives in a severely abusive household where her father routinely rapes her and her mother emotionally and physically abuses her.  When she finds herself pregnant with her father’s child for the second time, she enrolls in an alternative school in Harlem to overcome her illiteracy.  Her teacher, Blue Rain, encourages and pushes her to learn how to read and write.  By learning these skills, Precious is able to find an outlet for communicating her tragic existence.  Push is suggested to readers looking for a grittier, bleaker, and more harrowing tale of a pregnant African American teenage girl gaining the confidence she needs to confront the adversity and trauma she has suffered.

Name:  Zach Musil

Ghost World

August 8, 2012

Author: Clowes, Daniel

Title: Ghost World

Genre:  Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 80

Geographical Setting:  Unnamed American town

Time Period: Early 1990s

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Dopplemayer are best friends who have recently graduated from high school.  The graphic novel follows them through their transition into adulthood over the summer.  Their town is full of cheesy diners and record stores that never have what they want and the girls long for something, anything to excite them.  Both girls are pessimistic, but Enid revels in making people uncomfortable, especially her friend Josh.  As the days go by, the girls begin to drift apart as they grow ever more aware that their friendship is not built to last.

Subject Headings:  Graphic Novels, Female Friendship, Teenage Girls

Appeal:  Measured Pace, Contemplative, Earnest, Edgy, Melancholy, Flawed Characters, Eccentric, Open-Ended, Character-Centered, Urban Setting, Heavy Profanity, Conversational, and Informal

3 terms that best describe this book:  Melancholy, Heavy Profanity, Character-Centered

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist by Alvin Buenaventura (editor)

An in-depth look at Daniel Clowes’ art and stories, the book includes some of his most famous works and some never before seen pieces.  For those who liked the art of Ghost World, this book is a great companion.

The 1990s by Mark Oxoby

This nonfiction book looks at American popular culture throughout the 1990s.  While Enid and Rebecca would probably have scoffed at the majority of people and events mentioned in the book, it is important to see what sort of world the girls were living in.

Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud

Focusing on comics as a literary medium, this book combines information on why you should create a comic and how to do it.  Fans of Ghost World who want a chance to tell their own story will appreciate McCloud’s authoritative voice and helpful tips.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Sleepwalk and Other Stories by Adriane Tomine

A collection of the first four of Tomine’s series comic series Optic Nerve, this book follows different characters that seem well-adjusted on the outside, but on the inside are struggling to make connections with those around them.  Set in a similar time period (late 80’s, early 90’s) to Ghost World, Sleepwalk also looks to explore the subtleties of human nature.

I Never Liked You by Chester Brown

This graphic novel steps away from the female protagonists of Ghost World, but keeps with the alienated youth theme.  The story follows Chester and his group of friends as they grow up.  While the art and dialogue seem simple on the surface, the story underneath is anything but.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis tells the author’s story of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.  Through her eyes, we see the toll it takes on her family and her country.  While Marjane’s adolescence and adulthood is very different from the girls’ in Ghost World, the irreverent tone and desire for more is found both.

Name: Erin Sloan

The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames

August 8, 2012

Author:  Jonathan Ames

Illustrator:  Dean Haspiel

Title:  The Alcoholic

Genre:  Graphic Novel

Publication Date:  2008

Number of Pages:  136

Geographical Setting:  New York City

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Famous mystery writer Jonathan A. wakes from a drunken stupor to find himself in a cluttered station wagon next to an old dwarf woman intent on making love to him.  Trying to remember how he got here, he reflects back to his adolescence when he first discovered alcohol and made a pact with his best friend Sal to get drunk every weekend throughout high school, thus beginning his lifelong self-destructive relationship with alcohol.  He moves to New York City after his parents die in a car wreck and begins working as a taxi driver, where he meets a drug-dealer who introduces him to cocaine.  After waking up in a garbage can, he decides to check himself into a substance abuse rehabilitation facility.  Unfortunately, after leaving, his life continues to fill with tragedy: a girl he falls in love with abandons him yet continues to string him along, he learns that his best friend died of AIDS, his Aunt gets breast cancer, and he watches the World Trade Center burn down on September 11 from the roof of his apartment building.  Jonathan Ames’s The Alcoholic is a bleak, semiautobiographical tale of one man’s desperate and constant battle to overcome alcoholism.  Featuring flawed and lifelike characters with whom readers can sympathize, The Alcoholic is an emotionally-charged and sobering look at the horrors of alcoholism.  The illustrations are evocative, realistic, well-drawn, and superbly complement the narrative’s tone.

Subject Headings:  Alcoholics; Alcoholism; Addiction; Self-Destructive Behavior; Novelists

Appeal:  Compelling, unhurried, flawed characters, sympathetic characters, well-drawn characters, lifelike characters, character-driven, authentic, open-ended, candid, honest, gritty, engaging, self-deprecating, descriptive, darkly humorous, melancholy, moving, dramatic, melancholy, sobering, poignant, emotionally-charged, offbeat, reflective

3 terms that best describe this book:  Candid, melancholy, and sobering

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas

In this moving and somewhat disturbing memoir, twenty-four-year-old Koren Zailckas candidly talks about her experience with alcoholism (which began when she was only 14), half-remembered drunken sexual encounters, rape, and alcohol poisoning. She gives an intimate look into the largely overlooked issue of binge drinking among teen girls and young women.  This book is suggested to those who want to read true stories about underage drinking and early alcoholism.

2)  Dry by Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs, in the witty and offbeat writing style he is known for, recounts his stay in an alcohol rehabilitation facility for gay men.  But when he leaves, his recovery is challenged when he falls in love with a cocaine addict and his best friend dies of AIDS.  Simultaneously moving and humorous, Dry is suggested to readers who want a closer look inside a rehabilitation facility and want to read how someone else dealt with losing a friend to AIDS.

3)  Stitches by David Small

Written in graphic novel format, Stitches is a poignant, grim, and deeply haunting memoir about the author’s childhood and adolescence among an emotionally unavailable family.  Young David ends up getting throat cancer from his radiologist father, who subjected him to repeated x-rays, and looses his ability to speak after surgery.  Distant, mute, and alone, David turns to drawing as an escape.  Although this suggestion is not about alcoholism or addiction, readers looking for a similarly powerful graphic novel could not go wrong with Stitches.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis

A fictional version of Bret Easton Ellis attempts to change his drug-addled, binge-drinking lifestyle by marrying movie star Jayne Dennis, moving to the suburbs, and becoming a father.  Everything seems well for a while, but when he begins writing a pornographic shock novel his life goes from mundane and peaceful to bizarre and horrific.  He relapses back into alcohol and drug abuse, his house becomes possessed by an insidious spirit, someone begins copying the serial killings in American Psycho, and his neighborhood suffers an increase in child abductions.  Like The Alcoholic, this novel contains similar semiautobiographical elements and features a drug-abusing, flawed character as a protagonist.  Suggested to readers looking for something a bit more wild and offbeat than The Alcoholic.

2)  Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic British ex-consul, escapes to Quahnahuac, Mexico on November 2, 1938—The Day of the Dead—in order to cut himself off from his loved ones and to drink himself to death.  His ex-wife, Yvonne, and his stepbrother, Hugh, travel to the small Mexican town in an attempt to save him, but to no avail.  Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano is renowned for its vivid and sympathetic portrayal of the horrors of alcoholism.  Like The Alcoholic, this semiautobiographical novel provides an unflinching look at alcoholism.

3)  Factotum by Charles Bukowski

Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s alter ego, is a derelict and a drunkard who aimlessly travels throughout America looking for work in dead-end occupations, loose and easy women, and, of course, his next drink.  This bawdy semiautobiographical novel recounts Henry’s experiences in gritty, candid details.  Jonathan Ames, author of The Alcoholic, has mentioned Bukowski as an important influence in his own writing.  Further, Factotum similarly tells the story of an alcoholic’s experiences.

Name:  Zach Musil

Catching Fire

July 23, 2012

Author:  Suzanne Collins

Title: Catching Fire

Genre:  Adventure, Science Fiction

Publication Date:  2009

Number of Pages:  391

Geographical Setting:  Panem (North America in the future)

Time Period:  Post-apocalyptic

Series (If applicable):  The Hunger Games

Plot Summary:  In book two of The Hunger Games trilogy, the story of Katniss Everdeen is continued.  By surviving the games with Peeta Mellark in book one, she has unwittingly started stirring rebellion among the districts.  The evil President Snow is out to get her and his forces are ready to staunch the rebellion.  The lengths he goes in order to stop her and make them an example to the districts are horrifying and surprising.  When they are forced back into the Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta must reach deep inside themselves and band together with the other contestants in a dramatic struggle for survival.

Subject Headings: Insurgency- Fiction, Survival- Fiction, Television programs- Fiction, Interpersonal relations- Fiction, Contests- Fiction, Dystopia- Fiction

Appeal:  breakneck pacing, detailed, dramatic, intriguing secondary characters, vivid, well drawn characters, action oriented, violent, open-ended, thought-provoking, bleak, darker tone, detailed setting, suspenseful, candid

3 terms that best describe this book:  action oriented, intriguing characters, thought-provoking

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Tube Has Spoken:  Reality TV and History- edited by Julie Ann Tadeo and Ken Dvorak

The Tube Has Spoken provides an analysis of the growing phenomenon of reality TV, its evolution as a genre, and how it has been shaped by cultural history. Readers who enjoyed reading about the broadcasting of the Hunger Games, will like this look at reality television today.

Little Green: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution– Chun Yu

In China in 1966, Chun Yu was born as the Great Cultural Revolution began under Chairman Mao. Here, in verse, she recalls her childhood as a witness to a country in turmoil and struggle.  Readers interested in true stories of political oppression and revolution will enjoy this poignant memoir.

Democracy Incorporated:  Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism– Sheldon S. Wolin

This book is critical analysis of modern-day urban America, which Wolin claims is politically uninterested and submissive, much like the residents of the Capitol in Catching Fire are submissive and agree with whatever President Snow says.  A thought provoking read for those interested in government and democracy.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Uglies- Scott Westerfield

Tally Youngblood, an Ugly, is excited to turn 16 so she can have the operation everyone gets to turn Pretty. A few months before her birthday though, Tally meets Shay who challenges some of her ideas about being Pretty. When Shay runs away before her operation, the authorities get a hold of Tally and tell her that she must locate Shay and give up their group or else she will not be able to turn Pretty. Tally finds the Smoke, but discovers it’s not so bad and that there are some sinister things going on back in Pretty Town.  Readers of post-apocalyptic adventure will appreciate this fast-paced, suspenseful novel and it’s proceeding books in the series.

The Wind-Up Girl- Paolo Bacigalupi

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko. Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok.  Like Catching Fire, this book paints a bleak future of a dystopian world that will have readers racing through it.

The Alchemy of Stone– Ekaterina Sedia

Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets. However, this doesn’t sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart.  Readers who appreciate the conflicted romance and adventure of Catching Fire will enjoy this book.

Name:  Becky Ozinga

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

February 15, 2012

Author: Ransom Riggs

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 352

Geographical Setting: Florida and Wales

Time Period: Present day and 1940

Series (If applicable): Second book forthcoming

Plot Summary: Sixteen year old Jacob has spent his life listening to his grandfather’s stories about growing up in a children’s home during World War II. He is regaled with stories of children who levitate, who can lift boulders, and who are invisible. As Jacob grows up he loses confidence in the truth of the stories, but never loses his affection for his grandfather. Life changes suddenly one day with his grandfather’s brutal murder, which sends Jacob on a downward spiral of depression. Then, in an effort to find the truth behind his grandfather’s life and death, he travels to the small, isolated Welsh island where the children’s home was located. On this lonely island Jacob discovers more about his grandfather and himself than he could have imagined. He finds an island filled with peculiar children, dangerous monsters, and long-kept secrets, and as the book progresses he finds his life becoming more and more inextricably linked to the island and its inhabitants. The photos included throughout the book add an air of authenticity to this atmospheric, captivating mystery.

Subject Headings: Orphanages — Fiction.
Islands — Fiction.
Mystery and detective stories.

Appeal: atmospheric, haunting, magical, vivid characters, complex, imaginative, accessible, darker, open-ended, dramatic, engrossing, compelling

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: atmospheric, imaginative, compelling

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):
3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families after World War II, Tara Zahara—Deals with child refugees, family relationships and World War II.
American Sideshow: An Encyclopedia of History’s Most Wondrous and Curiously Strange Performers, Marc Hartzman—Profiles many people whose unusual characteristics made them a success as sideshow performers.

A History of Wales, John Davies—Provides background information about the area in which most of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children takes place.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Secret Hour, Scott Westerfield—Features children with secret powers facing monsters/predators, storyline contains elements of time shifting, and the story is compelling and suspenseful.

The Aviary, Kathleen O’Dell—Contains magical elements, the plotline features family secrets and mystery elements, and is suspenseful, atmospheric and magical.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close—Jonathan Safran Foer—Dark story with fascinating characters, and featuring images that assist in the storytelling.

Name: Amanda

Little Girl Lost

October 12, 2011

Author: Richard Aleas

Title: Little Girl Lost


Publication Date: 2004

Number of Pages: 221

Geographical Setting: New York

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: followed by Songs of Innocence.

Plot Summary:

John Blake is a PI, but not the Mike Hammer/Raymond Chandler tough-guy sort. Instead, he’s an English major who couldn’t find a better gig and now he’s a desk-bound detective, doing all his investigating from the safety of an office and an Ethernet connection. All that changes one day when he reads the paper to find out Miranda, his high school girlfriend who he’s not seen in ten years is dead. Murdered. On the roof of the strip club where she worked, not living the quiet suburban life he imagined for her. As he digs deeper he ends up hunted by the police and by a mob boss and his men, while trying to uncover what happened to Miranda and her now-missing best friend Jocelyn.

Subject Headings: Detectives, murder mystery, strip clubs,

Appeal: character-driven, gritty, intricately plotted, plot twists, fatalistic, fast-paced, flawed character, open-ended, urban, action-oriented, bleak, foreboding

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: gritty, character-driven, fast-paced

 3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Chandler, Raymond. The Simple Art of Murder. This collection of Chandler’s short story work is recommended for the non-fiction titular essay that leads off the collection, wherein Chandler describes the noir or hardboiled mystery and expectations, some which Aleas intentionally subverts.

Cody, Diablo. Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. Diablo Cody, writer of Juno, details a year in her life working as a stripper, including the seedy underbelly of the industry.

Hirsch, Foster. The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir. Readers of hardboiled mysteries tend to love noir, and this is the most well-known guide to film noir, detailing common character traits, recurring plot-threads, and the visuals that make film noir so distinctive.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Block, Lawrence. Grifter’s Game. oth are pulps, although Block’s focuses on the conman as lead character. Both contain fatalistic endings where the lead’s morality is put on trial, and the final pages leave the reader shocked.

Faust, Christa. Money Shot. Both are contemporary noir-pulp; Faust’s book has a female heroine caught in the world of pornography, Aleas’ male lead is entrenched in strip clubs. Both cases are extremely personal.

Hammett, Dashiel. The Maltese Falcon. Both are hardboiled mysteries where the lead character, in the course of a murder investigation, must temporarily have a truce with an apparent mob boss.

Name: Brian C.

Free Food for Millionaires

August 17, 2011

Author:  Min Jin Lee

Title:  Free Food for Millionaires

Genre:  Literary Fiction, Asian-American Fiction

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages:  560

Geographical Setting:  New York City

Time Period:  1990’s

Plot Summary:  Recent Princeton economics graduate Casey Han finds herself caught between two worlds.  During her years at Princeton, she became accustomed to the lifestyle of the well-to-do upper middle class – fine dining, expensive clothing, golf outings – but upon leaving college, she is back in her working-class Korean immigrant parents’ two-bedroom apartment in Queens.  During a particularly explosive argument, Casey’s father kicks her out; she suddenly finds herself living off credit cards in Manhattan.  Casey flees to her boyfriend’s apartment, only to find him in bed with not one, but two other women.  Just when she is feeling the most vulnerable, Casey has a chance encounter with Ella Shim, an Upper-East-Side-dwelling childhood acquaintance.  Ella invites Casey to stay with her and her fiancé, Ted, and Ted finds Casey an entry-level job at his investment firm.  In this new chapter in her life, Casey encounters many issues and themes that will be familiar to twenty-something’s: unemployment or underemployment (though well-educated), feeble attempts to find financial stability, and discovering your adult self.  Underlying all this is Casey’s struggle to balance her Korean-American background and her Ivy-League self.  Lee takes the reader through the trials, tragedies, and triumphs of Casey, Ella, Ted and others as they transition through the world of haves and have-nots.

Subject Headings:  Young Women – Identity; Korean American Women; Children of Immigrants; Women College Graduates; Generation Gap

Appeal:  character driven, authentic, detailed, descriptive, unpretentious, reflective, multiple points of view, flawed characters, realistic characters, steady pacing, introspective, open-ended

3 terms that best describe this book: character driven, descriptive, reflective

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Balancing Two Worlds: Asian American College Students Tell Their Life Stories edited by Andrew Garrod and Robert Kilkenny:  14 Asian-American students from Dartmouth University share their insights on identity and their struggles with race, family (especially between generations), religion, the workplace, class, and economics.  Casey’s internal struggles are echoed in Balancing Two Worlds, a poignant look at young adults in the process of uniting their backgrounds with their current point of views.

Green with Envy: Why Keeping Up with the Joneses is Keeping Us in Debt by Shira Boss:  Boss, a business journalist, uses case studies to examine the gap between our financial realities and the public image we try to project, resulting in us living beyond our means.  If you found yourself frustrated with Casey every time she made a poor financial choice, you will find yourself engrossed in Boss’s timely look at America’s spending problem.

Hats!: Make Classic Hats and Headpieces in Fabric, Felt, and Straw by Sarah Cant:  To make ends meet, Casey takes a job selling hats at a department store.  She becomes so enamored by the structure and construction of hats that she begins to take millinery classes.  In Hats! milliner Sarah Cant takes the reader through a step-by-step introduction (with photographs) to creating hats, then expands on the basics to show how to alter designs and add trimmings for hats that are both beautiful and unique.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld:  American Wife is the fictional memoir (based on the life of former First Lady Laura Bush) of Alice Blackwell, from her tumultuous Wisconsin beginnings to her husband’s ascent to the White House.  With the ascension of her family’s political and social status, Alice struggles with her newfound privileges and expectations as a public figure.  Alice’s narration is unpretentious and authentic, and Sittenfeld gives readers a reflective, character-driven novel to become lost in.

Indignation by Philip Roth: It is 1951 and college student Marcus Messner transfers from a local college in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey to the pastoral Winesburg College in Ohio to get away from his overprotective Jewish parents.  He finds himself struggling with culture clashes, the first taste of independence on a college campus, and his academics – if he flunks out or is expelled, he will likely be enlisted to fight in the Korean War.  Like Casey, Marcus’s background adds another layer to his coming-of-age experiences in this character-driven, reflective, and descriptive novel.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri: Bengali newlyweds Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli move to Cambridge in the 1960’s and gives birth to a son named, by mistake, Gogol.  As Gogol grows up, he shuns his name and his Indian background and becomes enveloped in Ivy League WASP culture.  Reflective and descriptive, readers of Free Food for Millionaires will enjoy this character-driven novel of a young man caught between these two cultures.

Name:  Mieko Fujiura

Leap Years

April 14, 2011

Author: Ian Bennett

Title: Leap Years

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: April 1, 2005

Number of Pages: 212 pages

Geographical Setting: U.S.A.

Time Period: Modern Day

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

Jake is a lonely high school Freshman who has trouble socializing with others in the school.  He slowly begins to feel that he is invisible and starts losing a grasp on reality.  Right at this time, he meets an imaginary friend, a frog named Wilbur, who helps him navigate the difficulties of high school.  Jake joins the basketball team and many other clubs in order to meet people and impress his crush, Sarah.  As Jake goes through the different grades, he and Wilbur play various pranks on the school.  Eventually, they invent a character called Super Pencil who rallies the other students into all sorts of harmless, but rebellious pranks against the school.  Jake becomes so popular with Wilbur’s help that he gets voted as class president, but it is at this point that Jake begins to wonder if there were more important things to life than being popular in high school.

Subject Headings: Emotions in teenage boys, frogs, high school students, coming-of-age, self-discovery, imaginary playmates, high school romance, basketball teams, revenge

Appeal terms: Candid, humorous, emotionally charged, introspective, witty, sarcastic, imaginative, optimistic, quirky, character-driven, open-ended, chatty, colloquial, rebellious

3 terms that best describe this book: Imaginative, optimistic, introspective

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Blankets by Craig Thompson

This is a graphic novel memoir about the life of Craig, who grew up in a conservative Christian home, and the difficult time he was experiencing in high school until he met Raina, a popular girl who helps him discover who he is.

True Story, Swear To God: 100 Stories by Tom Beland

This graphic novel talks about the life of Beland and his journey growing up, where everything comes together when he finds the love of his life and his career takes off.  Jake experience a similar experience meeting Wilbur and fulfilling his high school dreams.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

This is a story about Bechdel’s life growing up in a funeral home and her turbulent relationship with her father, which is similar to Jake’s relationship with the authority figures in his life.  Eventually, she comes out as a lesbian, but her father passes away in a suicide attempt.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O’Malley

This is a story about an imaginative young girl who like Jake has trouble socializing, but somehow ends up on a roadtrip with three of her classmates and is forced to interact.  This is drawn by the same artist and author of the Scott Pilgrim series.

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

Jane is forced to move to a new city when her parents relocate, and she ends up forming a gang with other girls named Jane when she finds herself bored and lonely in the new town.  The gang plays various pranks on the town, just like Wilbur and Jake did to their school.

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

This is a story of two best friends named Enid and Rebecca who are navigating the time in between high school and college.  Like Wilbur and Jake, they go through a lot together, growing up and exploring romantic relationships, but also recognizing that their friendship is changing.

Name: Lian Sze