Posts Tagged ‘reflective’

Shopgirl by Steve Martin

August 8, 2012

Author:  Steve Martin

Title:  Shopgirl

Genre:  Literary Fiction, Bestseller, Audio Book

Publication Date:  2000

Number of Pages:  130 (4 CDs, 4 hours)

Geographical Setting:  Beverly Hills, CA

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  n/a

Plot Summary:  Mirabelle Buttersfield is a sad, lonely, and clinically depressed twenty-eight-year-old Vermont native who sometime ago moved to California with aspirations of becoming an artist but now works in the glove department at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills.  Withdrawn and almost friendless, Mirabelle’s life consists of “selling things nobody buys anymore,” commuting to and from her apartment, feeding her cats, taking antidepressants, drawing pictures of dead and dying things, visiting art galleries, and occasionally meeting up with Jeremy, an unambitious and inept young man she met in a laundromat who stencils logos onto amplifiers for a living.  Her life begins to change when Mr. Ray Porter, an enormously wealthy, handsome, and debonair gentleman nearly twice Mirabelle’s age, buys her a pair of expensive gloves and asks her out for dinner.  Although Ray Porter is charming, suave, and genuinely cares about Mirabelle, he makes it perfectly clear that he does not intend on maintaining an exclusive relationship with her.  Despite this revelation, Mirabelle continues this dead-end relationship for quite some time until Jeremy, who has undergone a dynamic transformation with the help of self-improvement books, reenters her life.  Shopgirl is a brief and bittersweet meditation on loneliness, relationships between men and women, and the human capacity for change, containing a vivid cast of closely-observed characters that are sympathetic, somewhat offbeat, and occasionally amusing.  The author’s style is witty, thoughtful, and concise, and deftly matches the book’s unique tone, which is at times funny, reflective, melancholic, dramatic, and romantic.  On audio book, Steve Martin’s reading accentuates the novella’s melancholy tone, making Mirabelle’s depression affectingly palpable and deemphasizing the book’s more humorous moments.

Subject Headings:  Beverly Hills, CA – Fiction; Clerks (Retail Trade) – Fiction; Department Stores – Fiction; Young Women – Fiction; Coming-of-Age Story – Fiction.

Appeal:  Closely-observed characters, sympathetic characters, dramatic, character-driven, details of department store retail, amusing, bittersweet, reflective, introspective, romantic, funny, melancholy, descriptive, thoughtful, concise, witty

3 terms that best describe this book:  Melancholy, reflective, bittersweet

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Minding the Store by Stanley Marcus

Stanley Marcus, son of Neiman Marcus co-founder Herbert Marcus, provides a lively and surprisingly readable history of Neiman Marcus and examines what makes the department store one of the best and most well-known retailers around.  Suggested to Shopgirl readers who want to learn more about Mirabelle’s employer.

2)  Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex by John Gray

One of the most famous and most accessible self-help relationship books that people still read today, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus discusses how men and women are different and offers practical advice on how to transform relationships in clear, easy-to-understand language.  This is one of the books mentioned in Shopgirl that Jeremy read to improve himself.

3)  Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity by Stephanie Barron, Sheri Bernstein, Ilene Susan Fort, Michael Dear, and Howard N. Fox

Published in conjunction with a Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s exhibition that explored the ways in which artistic representations of California affect its identity, this book reproduces 400 pieces and 150 cultural artifacts from the exhibit.  Suggested to readers who, like Mirabelle, are interested in art and California art exhibits.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)   The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing is a witty, humorous, and insightful collection of seven interlinked stories about Jane Rosenal, her relationships, and her lifelong search for love.  In the title story, Jane memorizes a number of self-help relationship guides and strictly adheres to their advice only to hilarious and disastrous ends.  This book is suggested to readers looking for something funnier than Shopgirl while still addressing men’s and women’s relationships with touching insightfulness and wit.

2)  The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland

It would appear that the only thing that Roger, a middle-aged divorcee and aspiring novelist, and Bethany, a teen goth, is that they both work at Staples.  However, one day, Bethany discovers Roger’s diary, finds that they share similar thoughts about loneliness and mortality, and suggests that they begin writing to each other.  Through these letters, these two characters forge a unique friendship.  Like Shopgirl, this is a darkly humorous, melancholic, and introspective novel about loneliness, featuring characters with failed aspirations trapped in dead-end retail jobs.

3)  The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories by Aimee Bender

This book is a collection of sixteen imaginative, offbeat, and surreal short stories about sexuality, love, and relationships between men and women.  These stories feature a librarian who sleeps with all men who enter the library as a way to fight off grief, a woman whose lover is “experiencing reverse evolution” and now lives in a glass baking pan, a man who comes home from war without his lips, and numerous other odd characters and scenarios.  This unorthodox suggestion would be most appropriate for Shopgirl readers who want to read another book dealing with human relationships but also want to read something less grounded in reality.

Name:  Zach Musil

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

Rainshadow Road

August 3, 2012

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Title: Rainshadow Road (Friday Harbor Trilogy #2)

Genre: Romance (Modern)

Publication Date: February 28, 2012

Number of Pages: 308 (Paperback)

Geographical Setting: Friday Harbor, Washington State, U.S.

Time Period: Present Day

Series: Book 2 of the Friday Harbor Series

Plot Summary: The books in this series are based around the love lives of the three very different  Nolan brothers who all live in Friday Harbor, Washington. Rainshadow Road focus’ on Sam Nolan, and is told from the point of view of Lucy Marinn, who’s a glass artist in town. When Lucy’s longtime boyfriend confesses he’s been cheating on her with Lucy’s sister, Lucy is forced to reevaluate her romantic choices and life as a whole. Meanwhile, Sam is asked by Lucy’s ex as a favor owed, to try and romance Lucy in order to get her over her anger. Reluctantly, Sam and Lucy begin to spend more time together and eventually fall in love. However, it doesn’t go smoothly as Lucy’s ex returns and Lucy finds out about the favor he asked of Sam. Will Lucy be able to forgive Sam and begin a new life with him?

Subject Headings: Love stories; Self-realization in women – Fiction; Sisters – Fiction; Lives and relationships – Fiction

Appeal: Character-driven, Whimsical, Relaxed-paced, Romantic, Dramatic, Richly-detailed, Friendship story, Reflective, Strong sense of place, Family story, Series characters, Descriptive

3 Terms that best describe this book: Romantic, Compelling, Character-Driven story

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) The Essential San Juan Islands Guide by Marge Mueller and Ted Mueller

If you’re wondering about the places in and around Friday Harbor where Rainshadow Road takes place, or if you want to go there, this guidebook filled with pictures is geared toward the tourist so it gives in-depth information on where to go and what to see.

2) Best Places Northwest Cookbook, 2nd Edition: Recipes from the Outstanding Restaurants and Inns of Washington, Oregon, and British Columbiaby Cynthia Nims

Anyone wanting to experience the culture of Friday Harbor shouldn’t forget its food. This book has recipes from some of the places mentioned in Rainshadow Road including the Friday Harbor House.

3) The Light on the Island by Helene Glidden

A different side of life on the San Juan Islands (where Friday Harbor is located), this is a memoir originally published in 1951about Glidden’s childhood growing up in a lighthouse with her large family at the turn of the last century on Patos Island, one of the San Juan Islands.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)  Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

This classic novel is about a woman who is told the story of spirited Idgie and Ruth in the 1930’s and is inspired to change her own life. It also has a strong sense of place and is a character-driven love story.

2)  Rescue Me (Lovett Texas Series #3)by Rachel Gibson

Similar to Rainshadow Road in its romantic undertones and story of letting oneself open up, this is the story of Sadie Howell who returns to her small hometown in Texas single and in a whirl of gossip. She meets a tall, muscled stranger and impulsively asks him to her cousin’s wedding. Also has that small town atmosphere.

3) Lucky in Love (Lucky Harbor Series #4) by Jill Shalvis

A modern romance about Mallory Quinn, a nurse who is always looking out for everyone else. When she meets bad-boy Ty Garrison, Mallory decides to throw caution to the wind and give in to his advances. But what to do when Ty unexpectedly falls for Mallory? This is a book for those who liked the back and forth dialogue between Sam and Lucy in Rainshadow Road.

Name: Bridget Optholt

Water for Elephants

April 18, 2012

Author: Sara Gruen

Title: Water for Elephants

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: May 1, 2007

Number of Pages: 335

Geographical Setting: United States

Time Period: Great Depression Era

Plot Summary: Jacob Jankowski lives a carefree life, even during a time of great depression for most.  He is about to graduate from Cornell College, join his father’s veterinary business, and has caught the eye of the most beautiful girl in school (to whom he hopes to lose his virginity).  But a deadly car accident, which claims the life of both his parents, flips Jacob’s life upside down.  After the bank seizes his house, Jacob leaves in search of…anything.  In the middle of the night he jumps a train, not knowing that it belongs to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth!  Young Jacob is thrust into a world filled with adventure, romance, and illusion, one that he can still remember years later when he is ninety-something-years-old.

Subject Headings: Circus — Fiction. Depressions — 1929 — Fiction. Circus performers — Fiction. Parents — Death — Fiction. Elephants — Fiction. Circus animals — Fiction. Triangles (Interpersonal relations) — Fiction.

Appeal: bittersweet, romantic, nostalgic, reflective, engaging, richly detailed, multiple perspectives, character-driven, intricately plotted, literary, suspenseful, atmospheric.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: multiple perspectives, romantic, character-driven.

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

  1. The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy, Stewart O’Nan. A historical account of the Hartford circus fire in 1944; a deadly disaster that killed more than 150 people.  A sobering depiction of circus life, and the risks associated with performing and life on the road.
  2. Tell Me Where it Hurts, Nick Trout.  Heartwarming and moving, the author, a veterinary surgeon tells about his experiences working with pets and their owners.
  3. Children of the Great Depression, Russell Freedman.  Through diaries, letters, and other firsthand accounts, the stories of American children affected by the Great Depression during the 1930s.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

  1. Life of Pi, Yann Martel.  Similarly to Guren, Yann also writes intricately plotted books in which reminiscing in old age in a main topic.  In this book, Pi Patel, a zookeeper’s son, escapes a sinking ship on a life boat with a Bengal tiger.
  2. The Sea, John Banville.  Character-driven and reflective, this book introduces Max Morgen who, after the death of his wife, goes to live town of his childhood in search of peace and solitude.
  3. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Oscar Hijuelos.  Two Cuban brothers form a band in New York during the 1950s.  Their talent brings them to new heights with an opportunity to perform on the I Love Lucy Show.

Name: Erin Shinneman

Caramelo

April 18, 2012

Author: Sandra Cisneros

Title: Caramelo

Genre: Best-Selling Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2002

Number of Pages: 449

Geographical Setting: Chicago & Mexico City

Time Period: Modern

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:  Caramelo is a character-driven and descriptive novel about a young girl struggling to find herself amidst her huge family.  Celaya (“Lala”) Reyes, the youngest and only girl among seven children, is a young Mexican American living in Chicago.  Each year, her entire family drives from Chicago to Mexico City to visit her ‘Awful Grandmother.’  This year, Celaya is determined to figure out what makes her grandmother so awful.   She sets out to tell the tales of her ancestors, and understand exactly where she came from.

Weaving historical detail with lyrical prose, Cisneros has created a classic coming-of-age novel.   Mixing past with present, and filled with humor, sadness, and a lot of love, Caramelo is sure to please readers from all walks of life.

Subject Headings: Family Relationships; Girls; Grandmothers; Grandparent and child; Mexican-American families; Mexican- Americans; Mexicans in the United States; Women; Family Histories; Immigrants; Hispanics, Mexico City Mexico, Chicago Illinois

Appeal: Descriptive, Character-Driven, Lyrical, Reflective, Humorous, Moving, Atmospheric, Engaging, Intricate, Historical, Cultural, Well-Developed

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe the Book: Character-Driven, Reflective, Atmospheric

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

From Out of the Shadows (by Vicki L Ruiz): This work is a comprehensive look at the history of Mexican-American women in the twentieth century.  Combining personal stories and interviews with her narrative, the author seeks to showcase how Mexican-American women went about finding their own place in America.  This book will appeal to readers who enjoyed Caramelo for its intricate look at the history of Mexican-American women in one family.

El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City (by John Ross): This is a vibrant and gritty history of Mexico City.  The author, a journalist who has inhabited Mexico City for over three decades, tells the history and secrets of the his favorite city.  This book will appeal to readers who enjoyed the location of Caramelo, and wish to know more about the historical background of the city where the majority of the novel took place.

Gabriel’s Fire: A Memoir (by Luis Gabriel Aguilera): This is a young man’s account of growing up an immigrant in the inner city of Chicago.  He touches on what it is like to grow up as a minority in America—all the while attempting to counter mainstream prejudices about Latino culture.  This work will appeal to readers who enjoyed reading about the life and struggles of immigrants living in America.

3 Relevant Fiction Works:

Chicano (by Richard Vasquez): This novel follows the lives of four generations of a Mexican-American family who immigrated to the United States as a result of the Mexican Revolution.  This work will appeal to those who enjoyed reading an intricate family history of Mexican immigrants.

All the Pretty Horses (by Cormac McCarthy): This novel is about a man who flees to Mexico with some companions after his grandfather’s death.  This novel will appeal to readers who enjoyed the writing style of Caramelo.  Both novels are character-driven, atmospheric, and lyrical.  In addition, both are considered adult books for young adults, as well as coming-of-age literary fiction.

Gilead (by Katherine Howe): In this novel, the main character discovers multiple family secrets when she is forced to go through the possessions in her late grandmother’s home.  She uses the various items she finds to weave a tale of her grandmother’s life (leading all the way back to the Salem Witch Trials!) Readers of Caramelo will likely enjoy this work because the plot of each novel revolves around characters uncovering family secrets, as well as retelling the pasts of their grandmothers.

Name: Katie Midgley

CBGB OMFUG

April 18, 2012

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

Title: CBGB OMFUG

Genre: Graphic novel

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 112p

Geographical Setting: New York City (the Bowery)

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

Series (If applicable): n/a

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

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

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

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

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

My Brain Hurts: Vol. One by Liz Baille

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

What We Do Is Secret by Kief Hillbery

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

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

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

Name: Bill

Mom’s Cancer

April 18, 2012

Author: Brian Fies

Title: Mom’s Cancer

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 115

Geographical Setting: New York

Time Period:  2011

Series (If applicable):

Plot Summary: Cancer is never an easy subject to discuss but in this honest graphic novel, Mom’s Cancer discusses one family’s experience with lung and brain cancer. Brian uses his art to be straightforward with his reader about the hardships that him and his family members dealt with after learning about his mother’s cancer.  Written from the words of his journal, Brian turned the text into bold and moving illustrations. His art is bold, reflective and thoughtful. His ability to capture emotion on a page is memorizing as the reader will captivated from image to image.

Subject Headings: Autobiographical Comic Book, Relationships, Graphic Novels, Family, Science Fiction

Appeal: Cancer, Family and Relationships, Memoir, Quick Pace, Thought provoking, Character Driven, Moving, Candid, Honest, Emotional, Powerful, Moving, Well-Developed, Straight-forward, Reflective

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Family and Relationships, Cancer and Graphic Novel

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Mom: 101 Stories Celebrating the Power of Choice for Stay-at-Home and Work-from-Home Moms by Jack Canfield. This non-fiction novel contains 101 stories from mothers who have all made the choice to be a stay at home mother or work from their home all while raising a family. These high-performing women have become powerful mothers who write from the heart about trying to be “perfect” for their children and themselves. This is a great book club book and empower all women who strive to want something better for themselves and their families.

            Stitches by David Small. David awakes from an operation to discover he can no long talk. It isn’t until several years later at the age of 14 that he finds out he had cancer and was not expected to make it through the night. This award-winning child’s author and illustrator recreate his childhood events in a painful, highly anxious and painful story.

The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Lacks. This novel takes a look at an African American southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors.  Henretta became the first “immortal” human to have her cells grown in culture and with the help of her cells, the polio vaccine, secrets of cancer viruses and the atom bomb’s effects were all developed although she has been deceased for more then 60 years. Rebecca Skloot takes a look at her life before and after she became known as HeLa. A well researched novel that will bring numerous topics to be discussed around book club members and family alike.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

What We Keep by Elizabeth Berg. A heartwarming novel about the relationship between both mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. It portrays evolving family dynamics, choices and changes. The novel flips back and forth between two perspectives; 12 year old Ginny who experiences abandonment of her mother along with 47 year old Ginny who is flying to visit her mother who she hasn’t seen in 35 years. Ginny learns how to confront painful choices that occurred in her life as well as surprising truths about the people she thought she knew best. A gripping tale depicting grudges, forgiveness and the importance of having a mother-daughter relationship.

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause. Zoe’s mom is dying of cancer, her father id distracted and her best friend moved away. She feels utterly alone until she meets Simon, who wants to avenge his own mother’s death which was over 300 years ago. Simon is one of the undead, a vampire, seeking revenge for the gruesome death of his mother three hundred years before.  Does Simon ask Zoe to help him with his chase or does she have to suffer forever? The point of you alternates between Zoe and Simon allowing the reader to draw close to each character. This does have a different spin on romance between humans and vampires showcasing that life is valuable and should be lived or move on to the next stage of their life.

Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar. A novel about a man named Paul Giamatti who finds out he has lymphoma and must begin chemotherapy. This graphic novel does a wonderful job discussing the struggles that families go through when dealing with the news. It emphasis’s the energy to survive not just cancer but the treatment as well. It’s a gripping tale that will embrace cancer and the troubles it brings to both its patients and their family members. The tone is soft, encouraging and insightful.

Fun Home

April 11, 2012

Author: Alison Bechdel

Genre: Autobiography; Graphic novels (Nonfiction); Memoirs; Family and relationships; Adult books for young adults;

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 232

Geographical Setting: Pennsylvania

Time Period:  1960’s – early 1980’s

Series (If applicable): n/a

Plot Summary: This graphic memoir—graphic as in comic strip, not explicit (though there is an explicit moment)—centers around the author’s slow revelation that she is a lesbian and her relationship with her closeted English teacher/historical house restorer/funeral home director father.  It’s full of references to Greek myths and American novels and plays that will please literary folks and non-literary types as the graphic representations help convey the meaning of the references.  This dark but not depressing multiple award nominee and winner will appeal to readers that like a more mature coming-of-age memoir.

Subject Headings: Bechdel, Alison, 1960 – Comic books, strips, etc.; Father and daughter; Closet gay men; Lesbian teenagers – Coming out; Brothers; English language teachers;  Gay men; Undertakers and undertaking; Parent and child; Children of divorced parents; Funeral homes; Teacher-student relationships; Divorce; Death; Historic preservation; Cartoonists – United States.

Appeal: candid; darker; humorous; introspective; melancholy; moving; moody; poignant; reflective; sophisticated; thoughtful; eccentric; quirky; realistic; sympathetic; well-developed; authentic; character-centered; issue-oriented; literary references; accurate; contemporary; accessible; chatty; conversational; direct; frank; informal; smart; straightforward; witty; award winner.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: witty; reflective; candid

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Epileptic by David B.  This is another moving and thoughtful memoir told in a graphic medium.  Epileptic, like Fun Home, is about a family with problems and how the author came out of the experience, though the problems are different.

You’ll Never Know by Carol Tyler.  This moving and thoughtful story is the first book in this 3-part graphic novel/memoir that centers around the author’s relationship with her father and how it affected her later relationships.  Bechdel’s memoir Fun Home is also a moving and thoughtful graphic novel/memoir that focuses on her relationship with her father.

Running with Scissors by August Burroughs.  It’s not a graphic novel but, like Fun HomeRunning with Scissors is a candid, engaging and witty coming-of-age memoir.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

A Family Matter by Will Eisner.  Though this candid graphic novel only covers a day in the life, it too reveals family secrets that include suppressed dark family secrets.

Martin Bauman: or, A Sure Thing by David Leavitt is also a character-driven, moody and witty coming-of-age novel. Though this tale about an insecure writer struggling to come out of the closet may be based on the author’s own life, it seems that Leavitt may have also had a mentor-type figure that strongly shaped the author’s life.

Escape from “Special” by Miss Lasko-Gross is a coming-of-age graphic novel of a girl trying to get through a difficult childhood with hippie parents.  The muted colors of the artwork is similar to Fun Home (Fun Home uses grayish blues and Escape uses smoky grays) in that it evokes a moody tone throughout the darkly humorous story.

Name: Ally C.

House on Mango Street

April 11, 2012

Author: Sandra Cisneros

Title: The House on Mango Street

Genre: Coming of age stories; Mexican-American women’s fiction; Novels in verse

Publication Date: 1994

Number of pages: 134

Geographical Setting: Chicago

Time Period: Contemporary

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: This novel, written by a poet, is a series of short vignettes told by 12-year-old Esperanza, which weave into an over-arching story. Esperanza’s family has just moved to Mango Street, in Chicago’s Hispanic district. Although they now live in a house instead of an apartment, it still isn’t the kind of house Esperanza’s parents have always promised, with bedrooms for everyone and stairs that aren’t just hallway stairs. All four children and two parents still have to sleep all in one room. Through Esperanza’s eyes we get short character sketches of her family, her annoying sister, Nenny, her new friends, and all her neighbors, both beautiful and eccentric. Esperanza longs to leave the neighborhood and someday have a beautiful house of all her own, but she is reminded not to forget where she comes from.

Appeal:character-driven, moving, reflective, strong sense of place, spare, stylistically complex, compelling, engaging, lyrical, bittersweet, introspective, thought provoking

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character-driven, strong sense of place, stylistically complex

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

1.) When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago This memoir chronicles a young girl’s childhood in Puerto Rico, and the jarring experience of moving to New York as an adolescent. Written in a lyrical prose, this book echoes the poetry that Cisneros is famous for.

2.) Chicanas of 18th Street: Narratives of a Movement from Latino Chicago by Leonard G. Ramirez, Yenelli Flores, Maria Gamboa and Isaura Gonzalez Following six different women who are active in their communities, Chicana’s of 18th Street illustrates the desire to raise one’s community and fight for gender, race and class equality.

3.) Mexican Chicago (Images of America) by Rita Arias Jirasek This book documents the Mexican community in Chicago from 1900 to present day, and explores neighborhoods such as Pilsen, Little Village and South Deering. Told from a first person voice and studded with photographs from family archives, museums and university collections, the stories of Mexican-Americans comes alive for the reader.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.) Girl by Blake Nelson Although this book is different in that it’s a coming of age story about a girl growing up in the lily-white suburbs of Portland, 16-year-old Andrea still feels the pull to experience something outside of her narrow community, and uses the burgeoning music scene to escape. Like Mango Street, this book is much more about the language it is written in than it is about the plot.

2.) How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez Four sisters from the Dominican Republic come of age in New York. What makes this book a little different is that the girls grow down instead of up…it starts when they are adult and continues backward in time until they are small girls in the Dominican Republic.

3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie Like Esperanza, Junior also longs to leave the reservation and make something better of himself. He begins this journey by transferring from the high school on the rez to the local white high school, where he is the only Indian. Beautifully illustrated by Ellen Forney, this story also deals with the struggle of wanting to leave the community you grew up in, but not wanting to forget where you came from.

Name: Jessica

Into Thin Air

March 28, 2012

Author:  Jon Krakauer

Title: Into Thin Air:  A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 1997

Number of Pages: 332

Geographical Setting: Mount Everest (The border between China and Nepal)

Time Period:  1996

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: The story begins when journalist Jon Krakauer is asked by Outside magazine to report on the booming popularity of high-altitude climbing.  At the time, mountaineering had become a fad.  People wanted to pay to climb Everest, but they lacked one essential thing: the skills required to survive the climb.  Many ill-prepared men and women accompanied Krakauer on his ascent, and as a result the expedition ended up being the most deadly in Everest’s history.  This is the story of exactly what went wrong.

In this reflective and haunting book, Krakauer provides a first person account of the disaster.  In addition to great detail about the actual climb, he provides plenty of background information about previous Everest expeditions, as well as the history of the indigenous men, Sherpas, who assist Westerners in their climb.  As informative as it is thrilling, this book is sure to have readers on the edge of their seat.

Subject Headings: Adventure; Expeditions; Extreme Sports; Krakauer, Jon; Mount Everest Expedition 1996; Mountaineering; Mountaineering Accidents; Mountaineers

Appeal: Haunting, Suspenseful, Informative, Reflective, Detailed, Historical Details, Journalistic, Thoughtful, Plot-Driven, Chilling, Claustrophobic, Atmospheric, Well Developed

3 Appeal Terms That Best Describe This Book: Suspenseful, Chilling, Informative

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Between a Rock and a Hard Place (by Aron Ralston): This is the shocking memoir of an adventurer who’s hike through the Utah canyons took a turn for the worse when a boulder fell and trapped him, by the arm, in the middle of a canyon.  The book will appeal to readers intrigued by an adventure gone totally wrong.

Climbing Self Rescue:  Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations (by Mike Clelland): This resource helps readers learn self rescue procedures that are effective for rock, snow, and ice climbers alike.  Including 40 different rescue scenarios, this book helps climbers learn how to get themselves out of a jam using typical climbing gear and common sense.  This book will appeal to readers interested in the rock climbing aspect of Into Thin Air.

Touching My Father’s Soul:  A Sherpa’s Journey to the Top of Everest (by Jamling Tenzing Norgay):  The author, a local man who makes a living assisting tourists in their climb up Everest, describes his experiences.  In addition to providing stories of his time on Everest, he also narrates the story of his father, the first Sherpa to reach the peak of Everest.  He provides background information about the society of the Sherpa, and the Tibetan Buddhists who assist Western climbers in their ascent.  This book will appeal to readers who were intrigued by the local culture surrounding Mount Everest.

3 Relevant Fiction Works:

A Change in Altitude (by Anita Shreve): This reflective and psychological work involves a woman coming to terms with a tragic accident that takes place while on a climbing expedition.  Readers who enjoyed Into Thin Air but wish for a fictionalized account of a climbing accident may enjoy this book.

Life of Pi (by Yann Martle): This haunting and suspenseful novel is about a zookeeper’s son who is en route to America when his ship sinks.  He finds himself on a lifeboat with various animals, completely lost at sea and struggling to survive.  Readers who enjoyed the fight-for-survival aspect of Into Thin Air may enjoy this bestselling work.

The Ascent (by Jeff Long):  In this novel, ten men and two women attempt to ascend the most dangerous side of Mount Everest.  Readers who are interested in a fictitious account of an attempt at Everest’s peak will likely enjoy this work.

Name: Katie Midgley