Posts Tagged ‘small-town setting’

Fun Home. A Family Tragicomic.

November 30, 2011

Author: Bechdel, Alison.

Title:  Fun Home. A Family Tragicomic. 

 Genre:  Autobiographical Graphic Novel; Nonfiction.

Publication Date: 2006

Number of pages: 232

Geographical Setting: Pennsylvania, United States.

Time period: Contemporary

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary: In this autobiographical graphic novel, Alison Bechdel, an author of a long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, draws a darkly funny and emotionally complex picture of her childhood and her coming-out experiences. The central part of this graphic novel focuses on the author’s loving yet ambivalent relationship with his father—a small-town closeted homosexual, a teacher, a funeral-home owner, and an obsessive interior decorator.  The tone of the story ranges from outrageously funny, especially when describing her father’s obsession with house decor, flowers and fashion, to darkly disturbing, when recalling his inappropriate relationships with male students and the effect of his behavior on the author’s mother. The prose is simple, expressive and often filled with references to literary classics, and the art, with its traditional blue, black and white panels, integrates beautifully into a graphically and textually powerful tale of a family marked by love, sadness, repression but also redemption.  For any skeptics of graphic novels, Fun Home should be an example of this format’s potential for expression, beauty and literary value.

Subject Headings: Graphic Novels; Memoir; Coming-Out-Story; Sexual Orientations; Family and Relationships; 1960’s Small Town–Pennsylvania.

Appeal: heartbreaking, darkly funny, thought-provoking, engaging, literary, disturbing, poignant, character-driven, reflective, psychologically complex, moving, witty, uneasy, well-drawn, candid, sympathetic, sexually explicit, family-centered, small-town setting.

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book: heartbreaking, witty, and literary.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi: A compelling and darkly funny tale of an Iranian girl growing up during the Iranian Revolution. Similarly to Fun Home, it is an autobiographical, character-driven, and textually and visually powerful graphic novel.

2) Epileptic by David B: In this moving graphic novel, the author describes his real-life experiences of growing up with an epileptic brother and how it affected his decision to become a cartoonist.

3) Blankets: an Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson: An autobiographical graphic novel about brothers growing up in a strict, evangelical family and struggling with rivalry, love and doubt.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1) Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: the Beauty Supply District by Ben Katchor.  A collection of witty, nostalgic and character-driven graphic strips picturing the experience of Julius Knipl, a real estate photographer, and other mid-century Jewish characters.

2) The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger: A graphic story of a woman who enters a bookmobile that contains every book she has ever read. Like Bechdel’s story, it is character-driven, literary, reflective and stylistically complex

3) Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine:  This graphic novels tells a story of Ben Tanaka, a not entirely sympathetic, twenty-something American-Japanese, searching for his identity and a place in the world by testing sexual, cultural, philosophical and political waters of the contemporary America.

Megan Rosol

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Full Speed

October 5, 2011

https://i1.wp.com/covers.openlibrary.org/b/olid/OL8609915M-M.jpgAuthor:  Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes
Title:  Full Speed
Genre:  Romantic Suspense (Audiobook)
Publication Date:  2003
Number of Pages:  7.5 hours
Geographical Setting:  A small town outside Knoxville, TN.
Time Period:  21st Century
Series (If applicable):  Full Series
Plot Summary:  Newspaper reporter Jaime Swift finds herself hot on the trail of what she hopes will be a break out story.  She has reason to believe that a popular preacher has connections to the mob.  In order to solve the case and get her story she is forced to team up with millionaire business man Max Holt.  There is a powerful connection between Swift and Holt and as suspense builds so does the romantic tension between them.  This book is filled with quirky characters, an ai (artificial intelligence) computer who sounds like Marilyn Monroe and is going through menopause and a hound dog named Fleas who hates country music.  These characters work to create a romantic suspense that is funny yet still fast paced and suspenseful.  Note: the audio version doesn’t add anything to the story.  The narrator is a woman who does different voices for each character, this can become confusing and at times it can make a scene seem more comical than it’s supposed to be.
Subject Headings:  Romance; Suspense; Fiction; South; Newspaper writing.
Appeal:  Quirky characters, fast-paced, suspenseful, romantic, relatable characters, conversational, builds in intensity, atmospheric, series characters, linear, resolved ending, small town setting, jargon, funny, light-hearted.
3 appeal terms that best describe this book: light-hearted, quirky characters, and romantic.
3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:
Brilliant Bylines:  A Biographical Anthology of Notable Newspaper-Women in America by Barbara Belford.  The main character in Full Speed is a newswoman, so fans of the main character might want to find out about real women reporters in history.

Tennessee Curiosities:  Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff by Kristin Luna.  Provides an in-depth look into some of the more interesting places to see in Tennessee.  Readers who are curious about the Knoxville area, and other cities and counties throughout Tennessee, will find a wealth of information in this text.
The State Line Mob: A True Story of Murder and Intrigue by W.R. Morris.  The villain in Full Speed is a member of a notorious mob family and readers might be interested to read this book about a real mob group who lived and worked in Tennessee in the 1950s.
3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:
Bubbles Ablaze by Sarah Strohmeyer.  This book is part of a series chronicling the life of a ditzy hairdresser turned journalist who tries to solve the various cases that she seems to find herself involved in.  It has quirky characters, comedy, suspense, and romance.

Under the Boardwalk by Carly Phillips.  This book includes all the quirky characters, humor, steamy romance and mild suspense that readers of Full Speed will be drawn to, as the main character Ariana works with the sexy detective Quinn Donovan to find her missing twin sister.

Slay it with Flowers by Kate Collins.  Also part of a series, this book will appeal to fans who enjoy a comedic twist to their romantic suspense, as a flower shop owner works with a sexy ex-cop to solve a murder at her cousin’s wedding.
Name:  Jessica Lake

The Man in My Basement: A Novel

November 18, 2009

Author: Walter Mosley

Title: The Man in My Basement: A Novel

Genre: African-American/Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2004

Number of Pages: 256

Geographical Setting: The village of Sag Harbor, NY

Time Period: Present day (2004)

Series: No

Plot Summary: Charles Blakey’s life is falling apart at the age of thirty-three.  Unemployed, drinking far too much, and estranged from his only friends, he spends his days reading science fiction novels alone in his family’s three-story Sag Harbor home.  The Blakey family has a long history in Sag Harbor dating back to the 17th century when they arrived in New York as free blacks.  Now, however, Charles is in danger of losing the home his family has owned for seven generations.  Nearly penniless, Charles is far behind on his loans, and the bank is threatening to take his house.  Then one day Charles hears a knock at his door.  A mysterious, 57-year-old white man named Anniston Bennet has an unusual propostion.  If Charles is willing to rent him his basement for 65 days, Bennet will pay him nearly $50,000.  Though the money would solve his financial problems, Charles is wary.  Who is this mysterious white man, and why did he chose Charles for this strange request?  Why is Bennet insisting on complete secrecy, and what is contained in the large packages he wants delivered to Charles’ basement?  Though suspicious, Charles begins the monumental task of preparing his basement for Bennet’s arrival.  In the process, he discovers a family heirloom – a trio of ancient African masks – that rekindles in him a sense of belonging, family, and identity.  Charles begins to rethink his decision to rent to Bennet, and his anxiety is multiplied when he learns Bennet plans to construct a prison cell for himself inside Charles’ basement so that he can pay for “crimes against humanity.”  Ultimately, Charles’ need for money and cautious curiosity prevail, and he allows Bennet to lock himself in the basement.  As the 65 days pass, the voluntary “prisoner” and his “warden” engage in several heated conversations that explore themes of guilt, punishment, responsibility, and redemption which all lead to an unpredictable ending that will challenge and haunt readers.

Subject Headings: African-American men;  Unemployed workers;  European-American men;  Rich men;  African-American families — History;  African-Americans — Material culture;  Landlord and tenant;  Race relations;  Power (Social sciences);  Identity (Psychology);  Atonement;  Home ownership;  Debt;  Alcohol use;  Los Angles, California;  Psychological fiction.

Appeal: gripping, steady, realistic characters, vivid, strong secondary characters, mythic, character-centered, complex, literary references, inventive, thought-provoking, sexually explicit, small-town setting, contemporary, haunting, philosophical, psychological, suspenseful, frank, some strong language, realistic dialogue

Three terms that best describe the book: Haunting, Philosophical, Realistic

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Dirty Bird Blues: A Novel by Clarence Major – Manfred Banks is an aspiring blues musician in Chicago who’s life is falling apart thanks to his taste for Old Crow whiskey (aka the “Dirty Bird”).  His wife Cleo has taken their daughter and left him for a preacher, and he can’t find work.  Will he be able to quit the bottle and regain his family or will he spiral into drunken oblivian?  (realistic characters, psychological, realistic dialogue, alcohol abuse, unemployment, search for identity, race relations, inventive)

The Book of Illusions: A Novel by Paul Auster – Since losing his wife and young sons in a plane crash, Vermont English professor David Zimmer has been lost in an alcoholic haze.  When a chance T.V. viewing of old silent film star Hector Mann makes him laugh for the first time in months, Zimmer sets out to track down the actor.  This is a difficult task, however, because Mann had disappeared years before at the height of his fame.  Zimmer’s quest to find Mann leads him to confront death, chaos, and his own guilt and leads to haunting encounter with the old film star.  (gripping, steady pace, realistic characters, complex, haunting, psychological, frank language, alcohol abuse, inventive)

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison – This classic work traces a young African-American man’s life journey from the South to New York City during which he concludes he is an “invisible man.”  After growing up trusting, the narrator encounters shocking injustices at college, at a paint factory job, and as a member of Harlem’s Communist Party.  These experiences convince him that to whites he has no identity.  He’s an invisible man on to whom they project their own preconcieved ideas.  (gripping, haunting, realistic characters, psychological, thought-provoking, race relations, philosophical, vivid, search for identity)

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860 by James Oliver Horton – Co-written by professors of sociology at George Washington and George Mason Universities, this book traces the lives of the first free blacks in America from the American Revolution through the Civil War.  It examines this black communities struggles with racial injustice while striving to maintain a unique identity.  This book is about Charles Blakey’s own ancestors.  The Blakey family decended back to these same free black families in Sag Harbor, and it is with this family past that Charles longs to reconnect.

African Masks from the Barbier-Mueller Collection by Iris Hahner-Herzog – Written by a noted ethnologist, this book presents nearly 250 of the finest African masks from the renowned Barbier-Mueller collection.  With 100 color photographs and in-depth essays explaining the origins and uses of the masks, this book offers a fascinating look at fascinating African art form.  As Charles Blakey cleans family heirlooms from his basement, he discovers a trio of “passport” masks from his African ancestors.  These masks help him reconnect with his roots and start to reform his identity.

The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan – Written by a law professor at the University of British Columbia, this book traces the rise of the corporation over the past 150 years and contends that today it is a pathological institution.  As a system “programmed to exploit others for profit,” the modern corporation is a dangerous possessor of great power over society.  When Anniston Bennet wishes to imprison himself in Charles’ basement, it is to atone for the great evils he has committed in service to corporate interests.  He’s exploited the African people and literally killed children to provide profit and power to the corporate elite.

Name: Russ