Posts Tagged ‘polished’

Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace

November 7, 2012

Author:  Kate Summerscale

Title:  Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

Genre:  Biography

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  291

Geographical Setting:  Scotland and England

Time Period:  Victorian Era, 1850-1859

Plot Summary:  Isabella Robinson was a 31 year-old widow with a young child when she met and married Henry Robinson in 1844.  The Robinsons subsequently had two children of their own, and the family became firmly ensconced in upper middle class society in Scotland and England.   Isabella ultimately grew unhappy with her aloof husband, and spent more and more of her time in the company of family friends and academics whom she admired.  After stumbling upon and reading Isabella’s private diary in 1857, Henry Robinson promptly sued his wife for divorce in the English courts on charges of adultery.   The resulting divorce hearings and trial erupted into in a scandal of massive proportion when The London Times printed a series of unedited excerpts from Isabella’s diary in which she described, in lurid detail, a series of intimate encounters with Edward Lane, a respected London doctor and friend to the Robinson family.  Was Isabella really a bold, unrepentant adulteress or simply a discontented wife who wrote unashamedly about her sexual frustrations and fantasies?  Why was Isabella subject to public scorn, while Dr. Lane was afforded greater sympathy?  Summerscale provides readers with a moving portrait of Isabella’s life, details of her relationship with Edward Lane and his family, and an informative look at the moral and cultural influences of the Victorian era.  This well-researched work includes excerpts from Isabella’s diary and letters, relevant court transcripts and news reports of the day, and excerpts from the personal letters of historical figures such as Charles Darwin and controversial phrenologist George Combe, both of whom were patients of Dr. Lane’s, and acquaintances of Isabella’s.  Overall, this work offers a fascinating examination of the role of women in the Victorian era, and the inequalities afforded them by society and the courts.

Subject Headings:  Robinson, Isabella (1813-1887)—Diaries;  Middle class women—Scotland—Edinburgh—Diaries;  Edinburgh—Scotland—Social life and customs—19th century;  Divorce—England—19th century

Appeal:  compelling, densely written, stately, atmospheric, dramatic, introspective, sophisticated, thoughtful, detailed, evocative, insightful, sympathetic characters, authentic, details of the Victorian era, complex, investigative, rich and famous, accessible, colorful, engaging, informative, journalistic, polished, well-researched

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book:  compelling, insightful, well-researched

Three Fiction Read-alikes:

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson is aware of the scandal surrounding the publication of Madame Bovary in France in 1856, and the charges of obscenity which prevented its publication in Scotland and England.  Did the tale of Emma Bovary’s discontent and adultery influence Isabella’s behavior or simply spark her imagination?  Flaubert’s classic novel mirrors Isabella’s life with its theme of a passionate woman dissatisfied with her marriage and way of life.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace interested in its examination of the effects a scandalous affair can have on a woman’s reputation may also enjoy this fictionalized account of the relationship between architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress of many years, Mameh Cheney.  Horan’s award-winning novel focuses on the impact their long-time affair had on Wright’s wife and family, and the public derision Cheney endured after she left her husband and children to make a new life with Wright.

Clara Callan by Richard Bruce Wright

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace who enjoyed learning about societal expectations impacting women in a bygone era may also enjoy Wright’s novel about two sisters pursuing separate dreams against the backdrop of the political and social upheaval of the 1930’s.  Written as a series of letters and diary entries, Wright’s novel offers a vivid portrait of the lives of the two women, one pursuing a career in glamorous New York City, while the other struggles with the limitations of a more traditional life in her small Canadian town.  Interwoven throughout the story are real world events that shaped the era, including the effects of the Great Depression and the rising political tensions in pre-WWII Europe.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Marriage, Feminism, and the Law in Victorian England, 1850-1895 by Mary Lyndon Shanley

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson found herself a victim of society’s attitudes toward the role of women in Victorian era England, as well as antiquated and discriminatory divorce laws which afforded women few rights when a marriage was dissolved.  Out of the struggles of married women like Isabella, a feminist movement was born.  Shanley’s title examines the Victorian feminists’ battle for fundamental reforms to marriage law that ultimately transformed both the legal and social status of married women.

Hydotherapy:  Simple Treatments for Common Ailments by Clarence Dail and Charles Thomas

Edward Lane, the doctor who was the object of Isabella Robinson’s passion in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, was the proprietor of a popular health retreat that specialized in hydrotherapy, a relatively new and fairly provocative medical treatment at the time.  In addition to Isabella, his patients included upper class members of society, celebrities of the era, and historical figures such as Charles Darwin.  This title by Dail and Thomas examines modern-day beliefs surrounding the healing powers of water.

 Darwin:  Portrait of a Genius by Paul Johnson

As one of many famous patients to take treatment at Dr. Lane’s health retreat throughout the 1850’s, influential scientist Charles Darwin makes several appearances in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, with his opinion regarding the scandal surrounding Dr. Lane and Isabella reflected in his writings of the time.   Readers interested in learning more about Darwin will find much to enjoy in Johnson’s new biography, which details the life and times of the celebrated scientist, whose groundbreaking work Origin of the Species was published in 1859, just as the Robinson divorce case was reaching its conclusion.

Man in the Picture

August 1, 2012

Author: Hill, Susan

Title: The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 160 p.

Geographical Setting: Cambridge, England and Venice, Italy

Time Period: Unspecified, but likely in the 1900s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This fast-paced, old-fashioned ghost story begins with the narrator, Oliver, visiting his old tutor, Theo Parmitter, at Cambridge on a cold winter night.  While the two friends have had many conversations over the years, Theo chooses this night to tell Oliver the tale of his acquisition of an 18th century painting of Venetian revelers.  While his story starts as a regular trip to an art auction, it soon becomes evident that the painting is more than meets the eye.  As Theo tells Oliver the story of Lady Hawdon and the full history of love, revenge, and death behind the painting, the present starts to mirror the past in dangerous and mysterious ways.  Can Theo and Oliver escape the curse of the painting before it’s too late?  The novel alternates between the points of view of Oliver, Theo, Lady Hawdon, and Oliver’s fiancée, Anne.  Susan Hill uses concise chapters and descriptions to create an atmospheric, eerie, chilling, and suspenseful story of a painting that may be more real and powerful than anyone can imagine.

Subject Headings: Spirits; Carnival; Auctions; Wedding Presents; Portraits; Revenge; Universities and Colleges—England— Cambridge; Cambridge, England; Venice, Italy; Suspense Stories; Horror Stories; Ghost Stories;

Appeal: fast-paced, atmospheric, chilling, creepy, dangerous, darker, disturbing, foreboding, haunting, menacing, mysterious, nightmare, suspenseful, familiar intelligent characters, quirky and dangerous secondary characters, cinematic, layered, plot twists, tragic, atmospheric gothic setting, classic language, concise, dramatic, polished, restrained, vivid

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: mysterious, atmospheric, haunting

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Lore of the Ghost: The Origins of the Most Famous Ghost Stories Throughout the World by Brian Haughton and illustrated by Daniele Serra is a thought-provoking and vivid book about the history of ghost stories and an analysis of people’s fascination with the supernatural.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this haunting book focuses on the subject of spirits and old-fashioned gothic ghost stories.

Haunted England: Royal Spirits, Castle Ghosts, Phantom Coaches, and Wailing Ghouls by Terence Whitaker is an eerie book about various hauntings throughout England’s history.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this creepy book highlights the subjects of spirits and ghost stories in the same setting of England.

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa by R. A. Scotti is a fascinating book about the disappearance and return of one of the most famous portraits of all time.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this book tells a mysterious and suspenseful story about a portrait

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier is a classic horror story about a woman, Mrs. Maxim de Winter, moving into the eerie home of her new husband, where the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, constantly reminds the new Mrs. Maxim de Winter of how inferior she is to the deceased first wife, Rebecca.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this well-written book with plot twists focuses on an atmospheric and haunting story in England about disturbed women as secondary characters who cannot cope with past events and attempt to destroy other women’s lives as a result.

The Uninvited by John Farris is a suspenseful ghost story about a woman, Barry Brennan, who finds a man one day who may or may not be real as she mourns the death of her boyfriend.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this book tells a fast-paced disturbing ghost story about art, characters who cannot forget tragic relationships, and how fantasy can become reality.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is a gothic horror story about a handsome man who never ages while a portrait of him reflects his moral decline.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this book is a horror story with plot twists focused on a haunted portrait with special powers that takes place in England and contains characters who gradually give in to evil activities.

Sin in the Second City

March 28, 2012

Author:  Karen Abbott

Title:  Sin in the Second City:  Madams, Ministers, Playboys and the Battle for America’s Soul

Genre:  Nonfiction, history

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages:  360

Geographical Setting:  Chicago

Time Period: 1900-1911

Series (If applicable):  n/a

Plot Summary:  Sin in the Second City details the rise and fall of Chicago’s most famous and well-respected brothel, the Everleigh Club.  Run by sisters Minna and Ada Everleigh, the club was the jewel of the south side Levee district, as the sisters strove to create an upscale business where only the best would do—the best customers, the best ladies, and the plushest décor.  The Everleigh Club boasted 50 rooms filled with perfume fountains, walls of mirrors, Oriental rugs, fine artwork, a library, and a gold leafed piano.  As the most prominent brothel of the vice district, the Everleigh Club was often the target for religious reformers and government agencies who were determined to stop white slavery—the kidnapping and selling of girls into a life of prostitution.  The reformers and the brothel owners clash for years, and this resulting story is candid, authoritative and will appeal to readers with an interest in Chicago history or in the “seedy underbelly” of American society.

Subject Headings:

Prostitution — Illinois — Chicago.

Brothels — Illinois — Chicago.

Everleigh Club.

Everleigh, Ada.

Everleigh, Minna.

Appeal:  leisurely-paced, candid, intriguing characters, layered, evocative, historical details, well-researched, straightforward, polished, atmospheric, eccentric characters, a few steamy scenes

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  historical details, eccentric characters, well-researched

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Devil in the White City—Erik Larson:  Both books are about the dark side of life in Chicago around the turn of the century.

The Outfit—Gus Russo:  Looks at corruption and crime within Chicago, without explicit violence.

Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern—Joshua Zeitz:  Both books explore the existence of women who didn’t conform to society’s standards during the early part of the century.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Jungle—Upton Sinclair:  A classic book about the underbelly of Chicago society.

The Coast of Chicago—Stuart Dybek:  This collection of fictional stories provides glimpses into the lives of eccentric Chicago residents.

Memories of My Melancholy Whores—Gabriel Garcia Marquez:  Has a prostitution theme, but the protagonist is a customer, instead of a professional.

Name:  Amanda

The Alchemist’s Daughter by Katherine McMahon

April 5, 2011

The Alchemist's Daughter

Author: Katharine McMahon

Title: The Alchemist’s Daughter

Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships / Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 338

Geographical Setting: Buckinghamshire, England (some scenes in London)

Time Period: 1700s

Series (If applicable): none

Plot Summary: Nineteen year-old Emilie Selden has lived her entire life on her family’s estate, learning alchemy and natural philosophy from her father, himself a student of Isaac Newton. Her mother died in childbirth, leaving Emilie her exotic French features and not much else. While Emilie is a brilliant scientist, she has had no exposure to society, nor to matters of the heart. Her father protects her fiercely, but even his shelter can not keep her from the eyes or arms of the dashing merchant who comes to call. Cast out of her only home and into the clutches of the London social scene, Emilie makes startling discoveries about human nature, her father’s scribbled observations, her new husband’s motives and her own strengths and weaknesses.

Subject Headings: history, scientists, romance, England, London, high society, fathers and daughters, 18th century

Appeal: easy pacing, engrossing, dramatic, introspective, thoughtful, closely observed, detailed, eccentric, flawed, sympathetic, well-developed, character-centered, domestic, sexually explicit, thought-provoking, detailed setting, details of scientific method, historical details, small-town, classic, descriptive, frank, polished, smart

3 terms that best describe this book: self-discovery, young woman, England

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Newton and the Counterfeiter: the Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist by Thomas Levenson.

Details how Newton outwitted master counterfeiters as Master of the Mint. (For those interested in more about the science of the time)

Hubbub: Filth, Noise & Stench in England 1600-1770 by Emily Cockayne.

An examination of how truly gross things were in ye olden days, from dead bodies on the curb to how horribly the living people smelled, too. (For those who appreciate lively, witty explanations of history)

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World by Edward Dolnick.

A tribute to the lasting contributions made by the Royal Society 350 years ago. (For those interested in Emilie and her father’s work and the group he participated in/revered)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Glass Virgin by Catherine Cookson.

Detailed historical fiction about a sheltered young English woman whose family is not all it appears. She must also question who she really is and plot twists build as she grows from a girl into a woman. (Historical / similar dark family secrets and personal discovery/growth)

The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys.

Historical fiction set in England during the Second World War. Gwen Davis leaves London to work with the Women’s Land Army raising crops in the countryside. She is socially awkward and inexperienced, thrust into a tumultous world, but perhaps the attentions of a Canadian soldier stationed nearby can open her eyes and heart. (Historical / similar awkward young woman and romance)

The Wet Nurse’s Tale by Erica Eisdorfer.

A bawdy young woman in Victorian England enters the upper class world as a wet nurse, leaving her illicitly-conceived child and abusive father behind. (Historical / for fans of Emilie’s London-born maid Sarah, who had her own demons to hide)

Name: Genevieve Grove

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

March 16, 2011

Author: Alan Bradley

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 370

Geographical Setting: England

Time Period: 1950

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

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

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

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

Name: Cassie Carbaugh

His Majesty’s Dragon

September 30, 2009

His Majesty’s Dragon

September 30, 2009 by Christine Edison

Author: Naomi Novik

Title: His Majesty’s Dragon

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 264

Geographical Setting: Great Britain

Time Period: 19th Century, Napoleonic Wars

Series: Temeraire

Plot summary: Captain Lawrence and his crew capture a French frigate carrying a precious cargo: a dragon’s egg. Before they can bring it to land, it hatches, and the dragon chooses to bond with Lawrence as his master. (Lawrence names him Temeraire after a British warship.) Lawrence must therefore leave the Navy and become an aviator, which ruffles the feathers of his admiral, his family, and the Royal Flying Corps – but he is a man of honor and soldiers through. Lawrence and Temeraire travel to Scotland for battle training and are eventually sent to Dover to defend the English Channel against French invaders. He also begins a casual romantic relationship with one of the female pilots in the Corps.

Appeal: densely written, engrossing, authentic, detailed characterizations, intriguing secondary (characters), well drawn, character-centered, complex, plot twists, resolved ending, thought-provoking, bittersweet, detailed setting, details of seamanship and dragon air corps life, evocative, exotic, historical details, complex, elaborate, elegant, extravagant, flamboyant, ornate, polished, restrained, seemly, sophisticated, unusual.

Subject headings:

Novik, Naomi
Science Fiction – Alternative History

Alternative histories (Fiction)
Fiction / Fantasy / HistoricalFantasy – Epic

Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815
Ship captains
Fantasy romance

3 terms that best describe the book: Historical details, evocative, sophisticated

Three relevant nonfiction authors and similar works:

Patrick O’Brian’s Navy by Richard Neill gives a vivid picture of what life was like for British sailors of different ranks serving on tall ships during the Napoleonic Wars. This compendium is a companion to the Aubrey-Maturin series listed below, which is based on a British Naval officer serving during this time period.

Historical Dictionary of the Napoleonic Era by George F. Nafziger is a review of political, military and popular historical figures, as well as artistic movements, cultural and theological events during the Napoleonic Era, 1789-1815. Novik refers to historical events at times in the Temeraire series, particularly in regards to Napoleon and what was happening elsewhere in Europe, and this book could help fill in gaps for readers eager to learn more about the period.

The Dragon in China and Japan by Marinus Willem de Visser explores numerous stories of dragons in Chinese and Japanese culture in this revised text with a new introduction by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. Temeraire the dragon’s background in China is discussed in His Majesty’s Dragon (with more to follow in the second book, Throne of Jade), and the dragon receives a book of stories about Asian dragons during the course of the story, which he asks Captain Lawrence to read to him again and again.

Three Fiction Titles:

The Hornblower saga by C.S. Forester, The Ramage series by Dudley Pope, and The Aubrey Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian are all well-known action-adventure series set on the high seas in British tall ships during the Napoleonic era. The Temeraire series features battle scenes as well as shipboard life scenes much like those seen in these books.

Persuasion by Jane Austen includes many discussions of the British Navy and shows the women’s side of life at this time. Naval officers are featured as characters, and there are discussions as to what a woman’s proper place is when he husband is to go to sea, a theme taken up in the Temeraire series, where women are part of the Air Corps.

The Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey features humans riding fire-breathing dragons to burn away threads that would otherwise kill off all life on the planet of Pern. Scenes of humans tending their dragon charges and bonding with them are much like what happens in His Majesty’s Dragon.

Annotation By: Christine Edison

Tags: densely written, engrossing, detailed characterizations, intriguing secondary (characters), well drawn, character-centered, complex, plot twists, resolved ending, thought-provoking, bittersweet, detailed setting, details of seamanship and dragon air corps life, evocative, exotic, historical details, complex, elaborate, elegant, extravagant, flamboyant, ornate, polished, restrained, seemly, sophisticated, unusual.

Posted in Fantasy

Empress of the Splendid Season

April 14, 2009

Title: Empress of the Splendid Season

Author: Hijuelos, Oscar

Publication Date: 1999

Number of Pages: 342

Genre: Latino/a

Geographical Setting: Cuba; New York City

Time Period: 1940s-1980s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Lydia España was the daughter of a mayor in a small town in Cuba who lived a life of privilege before Castro’s rise to power. Everything changes for the spoiled and pampered Lydia when she exiled from her homeland by her father for a sexual indiscretion that casts shame upon her family. Lydia immigrates to the United States and connects with other Cuban immigrants in New York’s Spanish Harlem. Lydia meets her husband Raul, a Cuban waiter, who nicknames her “Empress of the Splendid Season” because of her beauty and sophistication. In order to provide for her husband and their two children, Rico and Alicia, Lydia works as a cleaning woman for upper class New Yorkers much better off than herself. Lydia struggles to maintain her Cuban upbringing and recapture the life she was forced to abandon in Cuba, but is met with challenges, which make that dream nearly impossible. Through it all, Lydia never loses her dignity or her dream of a life as the “Empress of the Splendid Season.”

Subject Headings: Cuban-American women – New York City; Cuban-Americans – New York City; Cuban-American domestic workers – New York City; Women immigrants – New York City; Cuban immigrants – New York City; New York City; Cuban-American fiction – 20th century

Appeal: leisurely paced, measured, unhurried, detailed, introspective, like life, realistic, vivid, well developed, well drawn, character centered, family centered, intergenerational, inspirational, vibrant, though-provoking, bittersweet, sensual, detailed setting, melodramatic, episodic, nostalgic, cinematic, candid, elegant, frank, polished, cinematic, thoughtful

Similar Authors and Works (Fiction): Dubus, Andre – House of Sand and Fog (immigrant experience, melodramatic, nostalgic, tragic, realistic, cinematic) Kim, Nancy – Chinhominey’s Secret (intergenerational, immigrant experience, complex relationships, insightful) Perez, Loida Martiza – Geographies of Home (intergenerational; immigrant experience, complex family relationships, haunting, inspirational, character-centered)

Similar Authors and Works (Nonfiction): Diaz, GuarioneThe Cuban American Experience: Issues, Perceptions, and Realities (comprehensive analysis of Cuban Americans in the United States) James, Ian Michael – Ninety Miles: Cuban Journeys in the Age of Castro (stories of three Cuban immigrants and their individual reasons for leaving Cuba for the United States) Carlson, Lori Marie and Hijuelos, Oscar (editors) Burnt Sugar (Caña Quemada) Contemporary Cuban Poetry in English and Spanish (collection of poems about love and longing for Cuba written by Cubans living in Cuba and abroad)

Name: Joanna

Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez

April 13, 2009

Author: Richard Rodriguez


Title: Hunger on Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez


Genre: Latino (Hispanic)


Publication Date: 1982


Number of Pages: 195


Geographic Setting: California


Time Period: 1950’s through 1970’s


Plot Summary: In this vivid and honest autobiography, Mexican-American, Richard Rodriguez, describes his life growing up in a newly immigrated family during a racially and politically changing United States.  With intimate detail, Richard relays his childhood and how he was taught to be private, remain strictly religious, and be untrustworthy of the American “gringo”.  However, as Richard moves from his private life at home to the public life at school, his desire for education and longing to be accepted quickly elevates him to the head of the class, the pride of his teachers, and the interest of America’s leading universities.  Richard soon realizes that it is possible to achieve the American dream, but it may cost him his Mexican heritage, his family, and himself.


Subject Headings: Mexican Americans – California – Biography, Mexican Americans – Education, Education, Bilingual – United States, Affirmative action – programs – United States, English language – Acquisition, Bilingualism


Appeal: compelling, engrossing, unhurried, engaging, intriguing, introspective, vivid, episodic, inspirational, issue-oriented, thought-provoking, heartening ending, intimate, thoughtful, candid, polished, metaphorical, unembellished, direct


Similar Authors and Works:


Non-Fiction Works:


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou – (autobiographical, honest, touching, overcoming obstacles, childhood experiences, inspirational)


When I Was Puerto Rican, by Esmeralda Santiago – (vivid, autobiographical, Latino literature, transitioning into United States, family relationships)  


Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans, by Ronald Takaki – (fascinating, personal experiences, immigrant struggles, thought-provoking)  


Fiction Works:

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, by Sherman Alexie – A thought-provoking story about a young Native American man who is trying to hold onto his ancestors’ proud and awe-inspiring heritage while at the same time he must come to terms with the fact that his people’s present situation is one of defeatism, alcoholism, and a life of squalor on an Indian reservation.


Growing Up Latino: memoirs and stories, introduction by Harold Augenbraum and Iian Stavans – Written by several authors from different Latino backgrounds, this collection of short stories deals with the struggles that young Latino Americans face as they balance their Latino heritage with American society.


The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros – Through eloquent poetry and emotional storytelling, this is a coming of age story about the harsh realities a young Puerto Rican girl must face as she tries to overcome the obstacles she faces from being a Latino in the United States.



When You Are Engulfed in Flames

April 8, 2009

Author:  David Sedaris

Title: When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Genre:  Non-Fiction, Creative non-fiction

Publication Date: 2008

Pages: 323

Geographic Setting:    Tokyo, Paris, Normandy, and America

Time Period:  Present Day

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Essays full of humor, wit, and observations of life and death fill David Sedaris’ entertaining collection.  Readers will meet a plethora of quirky characters, including an elderly, spunky, New Yorker who was formerly Sedaris’ neighbor, a former nanny who loved to have her back scratched, and the friendly people Sedaris meets while living in Tokyo.  Sedaris explores the topics of death, sex, relationships, and even quitting smoking with humor, but respects the serious nature of the topics.  When You Are Engulfed in Flames is a wonderful read for those who see the humor in everyday life.

Subject Headings:  Humor Writing, Essays, Creative Non-Fiction

Appeal: leisurely-paced, steady, eccentric, lifelike, quirky, realistic, character-centered, episodic, thought-provoking, contemporary, candid, comfortable, contemplative, humorous, introspective, dark, sarcastic, candid, engaging, simple, thoughtful, witty, polished

Similar Authors and works (fiction): The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (eccentric, humorous, introspective); Unaccustomed Earth: Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri (episodic, thought-provoking, polished); Downtown Owl: A Novel by Chuck Klosterman (character-centered, quirky, introspective)

Similar Authors and works (non-fiction): Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs (lifelike, humorous, candid); I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley (humorous, witty, quirky); Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell (eccentric, thought provoking, dark)

Name: Michelle K