Posts Tagged ‘small town’

Tomorrow, When the War Began

October 3, 2012

Tomorrow, When the War Began cover

Author: John Marsden

Genre: Adventure

Publication Date: 1993

Number of Pages: 277

Geographical Setting: Australia, present day (1990s)

Series: The Tomorrow Series (book 1)

Plot Summary:  A group of teenagers blow off the town’s festivities to go camping in Hell.  After a relaxing week in the Australian bush, the group returns to the unimaginable: empty homes, spoiled food and dead dogs.  The book reads like the first in a series, giving ample time for a fully developed setting and character development before jumping into the thrilling plot.  The characters transform as their new bleak reality sets in.  Readers discover character growth and plot development through a single narrator’s point of view.  The book ends on a suspenseful note as the group decides how best to deal with the grave situation at hand.

Subject Headings: Resourcefulness in teenagers; Hiding; Imprisonment; Resourcefulness; Determination in teenagers; Determination (Personal quality); Guerrilla warfare; War; Survival; Teenagers – Australia; Wilderness areas — Australia

Appeal:  Action-packed; Builds in intensity; Suspenseful; Bleak; Compelling; Series characters; Introspective; Detailed setting; Accessible; Small-town; Episodic; Flawed; Emotionally-charged; Coming-of-age

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Compelling; Bleak; Emotionally-charged

Three fiction read-alikes:

Life as we knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Bleak, Emotionally intense, Compelling, Survival, Series)

Set in rural Pennsylvania, 16 year-old Miranda’s life changed in a blink of an eye as a meteor causes more trouble than scientists predicted.  Miranda and her family struggle to survive the Earth’s violent reaction to this event.

Holding Their Own: A Story of Survival by Joe Nobody (Survival, Action-packed, Series)

Set in 2015, a couple must learn to survive in an America that has fallen into a second Great Depression, and devastated by terror attacks resulting in governmental collapse.

Winter’s End by Jean-Claude Mourlevat (Compelling adventure story about teenagers set in other countries)

Set in an unnamed country, this dystopian story is about four teenagers daring escape from their prison-like boarding school.  The teenagers struggle for survival and quest for answers about their past, keeping readers on the edge of their seats.

Three related non-fiction titles:

The Time of the Rebels: Youth Resistance Movements and 21st Century Revolutions by Matthew Collin (Young adults, Resistance)

This book discusses the role youth movements played in taking down oppressive governments.

 Violent Politics: a History of Insurgency, Terrorism & Guerrilla war, from the American Revolution to Iraq by William R. Polk (guerrilla warfare and insurgency in several countries)

William Polk takes a global approach to the history of insurgency, terrorism & guerrilla warfare.

 Red Earth, Blue Sky: the Australian Outback by Margaret Rau (Australian Outback)

The story of Margaret Rau’s journey through the Australian Outback.

Name: Shira

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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

The Postmistress

September 26, 2012

Author: Sarah Blake

Title: The Postmistress

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 352

Geographical Setting: Franklin, Massachusetts (on Cape Cod) and war-torn Europe

Time Period: Fall 1940 – Summer 1941

Plot Summary: Set in the early 1940s when World War II was raging in Europe, The Postmistress interweaves the stories of three women as their lives are touched by the war. Iris James, the single, 40-year-old postmistress in the coastal town of Franklin, Massachusetts, prides herself in delivering the mail (what she considers delivering secrets). That is, until one day when she reads a letter that she slips into her pocket, where it remains undelivered. Meanwhile, Iris quietly observes the town doctor’s new wife, Emma Trask, as she desperately waits for word from her new husband who ran off to London to offer his services to victims of the war. Both Iris and Emma tune into the radio to listen to American radio girl Frankie Bard as she reports from the London Blitz and other areas in Europe and shares her dramatic personal accounts of the terrors she witnesses. On the eve of America’s entrance into the war, the stories of Iris, Emma, and Frankie collide when Frankie returns to the Cape Cod town with a vow to deliver a secret letter…

Subject Headings: Postmasters – Fiction; World War, 1939-1945—Massachusetts—Franklin—Fiction; World War, 1939-1945—Radio broadcasting and the war—Fiction; London (England)—History—Bombardment, 1940-1941—Fiction.

Appeal: Character-centered, historical details, unsettling, descriptive, small-town, detailed setting, lyrical, dramatic, engrossing, tragic, romantic, leisurely-paced, well-developed characters

Three appeal terms:  Character-centered, historical details and setting, dramatic

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Another historical fiction novel set during the time period of World War II, Sarah’s Key will appeal to fans of The Postmistress because of its similar historical context, character-driven storyline, and lyrical style. In Sarah’s Key, a family history full of secrets is unraveled as American journalist Julia Jarmond investigates the 1942 Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup, and learns about the ordeal of a young girl named Sarah who was arrested with her family during this raid by the French police during the war.

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

The book 22 Britannia Road is another historical fiction read that takes place during World War II. Similar to The Postmistress, this book is character-centered, and tells the stories of different characters whose lives are connected in some way. It allows the readers to connect with these characters and understand the impact of the war on each of their lives.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A suggested readalike for Sarah Blake, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is set in London at the end of the Second World War, and focuses on writer Juliet Ashton as she seeks a subject for her next book. When she begins correspondence with a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (a book club formed when Guernsey was under German occupation) Juliet is drawn into the world of the society’s members and ends up making connections that change her life forever. This is another title with a set of well-developed characters whose stories are told through a series of letters. Through the letters Juliet exchanges with the members, the reader learns details about each member and how the German occupation impacted their lives.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

World War II London Blitz Diary by Ruby Side Thompson

This diary is the personal account of Ruby Side Thompson’s experiences during the World War Two London Blitz. Ruby’s detailed entries chronicle her struggles to cope in a war-torn city where bombs were being dropped nightly while still having to deal with the issues of everyday life. This book offers readers a unique look at this horrific time in history through the eyes of someone who fought to survive through it.  I chose this title because it provides a non-fiction account of World War II, but has appeal for readers of The Postmistress because of its focus on a person and the connection of viewing the war from her point of view. I felt it would have a more lyrical style and be more enticing than just a dry, factual account of events.

Letters from the lost: a memoir of discovery by Helen Waldstein Wilkes

Author Helen Waldstein Wilkes’ parents were among the few Jews who were able to leave Europe in 1938. In this emotional memoir, Wilkes reveals the letters that were written between her parents and the family they had to leave behind. This book provides a compelling glimpse into this tragic time in history through the personal letters of those who witnessed the horrors firsthand, and I feel would be relevant to readers of The Postmistress for the connection to the characters (in this case actual people witnessing the war), and for the historical elements of World War II.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

Erik Larson, the best-selling author of Devil in the White City, writes this compelling narrative about the city of Berlin during the first years of Hitler’s reign. The story focuses on William E. Dodd, America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s regime, and his daughter, Martha, who becomes mesmerized by the glamorous lifestyles of Berlin’s salon society.  This relates to The Postmistress with its subject of World War II, and the character-centered appeal. Also, because it is written by a best-selling author, this fact alone might intrigue readers who are interested in this time in history.

The Postmistress

September 26, 2012

Author:  Sarah Blake

Title:  The Postmistress

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  384

Geographical Setting: Franklin, Massachusetts and London, England

Time Period:  1940-41:  War-torn London/Pre-WWII America

Series: N/A

Plot summary:  After leaving a letter with the local Postmistress to be given to his young wife should he not return, a doctor departs his small, Massachusetts town for London in 1940 to volunteer his services to care for those injured in the Blitz.  A gritty, female war correspondent, devastated by all she has witnessed in war-torn Europe, travels to Massachusetts in 1941 to deliver news of the doctor to his wife.  She soon suspects that the Postmistress may be keeping a devastating secret similar to her own.  The novel offers an engrossing portrait of a small American town’s growing understanding of the issues at stake in the war, and is heartbreaking in its depiction of the impact war can have on those not caught in actual battle.

Subject Headings:  World War II; London Blitz; Radio; War Correspondents; American Home Front; Small-town Life; Postmasters; Secrets

Appeal: compelling, atmospheric, emotionally-charged, romantic, dramatic, foreboding, heartbreaking, well-developed characters, multiple plot lines, character-driven, thought-provoking, historical details (World War II), small-town, descriptive, lyrical

Three Appeal Terms That Best Describe This Book:  emotionally-charged; small-town, historical details (WWII)

Fiction Read-alikes:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

A British author strikes up correspondence with the members of a literary society on the German-occupied island of Guernsey during WWII, and quickly becomes invested in their lives.  Like The Postmistress in its portrayal of the impact of WWII on a small community not caught in the midst of battle.

Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald.

BBC radio staff struggle to report the news and maintain morale during the chaos of WWII London.  Like The Postmistress in its depiction of the impact of war on the personal lives of civilians, and the quest to get information out to the public.

Coventry by Helen Humphries.

The lives of a widow, a single-mother and her son intertwine as they struggle to escape the chaos and carnage of Coventry, England after it is destroyed by German bombs in 1940.  Like The Postmistress in its portrayal of the devastating impact of war on civilians and the strength of women in dealing with the realities of war.

Related Non-fiction:

WWII on the Air: Edward R. Murrow and the Broadcasts that Riveted a Nation by Mark Bernstein.

The story of Edward R. Murrow and his fellow radio broadcasters who brought news of WWII to Americans at home.  Includes recordings of historic broadcasts.  In The Postmistress, the fictional character of Frankie Bard worked for Murrow.

Blitz: The Story of December 29, 1940  by Margaret Gaskin.

An historical account of one of the worst nights of the London Blitz, the event that drives the story of The Postmistress from afar.

Women of the Homefront: World War II Recollections of 55 Americans by Pauline E. Parker.

A collection of personal stories that illustrate the impact of WWII on American women at home, a perspective shared by The Postmistress.

Becky King

Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir

August 13, 2012

Author: Hadjii

Title: Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir

Genre: African American Biography

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 219 p.

Geographical Setting: Georgia

Time Period: 1980s and 1990s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This fast-paced, character-driven, and humorous autobiography consists of stories from Hadjii’s childhood and teenage years.  Throughout the autobiography, Hadjii covers many interesting situations, like attending a predominantly white school, relating to his traditional parents, going to family parties, visiting church on Sundays, celebrating Christmas, drinking for the first time, taking a test for AIDS, and getting his first job.  In the author’s note, Hadjii admits that some parts of the autobiography are true while others are not although one consistent theme throughout many of the stories is Hadjii’s highlighting of the differences between people who are black and white.  In each chapter, Hadjii’s first-person language and voice are clear.  He is chatty and frank, and he uses this voice to plainly describe and comment on situations and characters from his early years.  Unlike many autobiographies, Hadjii’s story is not tragic or sentimental, but is sarcastic, critical, perceptive, and generally optimistic.  Nonetheless, even though the tone throughout the autobiography is generally light, Hadjii’s sharp observations often present deeper perspectives on issues, especially regarding being a black American growing up in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.

Subject Headings: African-American Families; African-American Young Men; African-Americans; Family and Relationships; The Eighties (20th Century); The Nineties (20th Century); Southern States – Social Life and Customs; Southern States – Race Relations; Autobiographies (Adult Literature); Humor Writing; Memoirs;

Appeal: fast-paced, candid, contemplative, edgy, exuberant, humorous, introspective, playful, thoughtful, upbeat, closely observed, detailed, eccentric, lifelike, recognizable, and vivid primary and secondary characters, character-centered, episodic, family-centered, issue-oriented, strong language, thought-provoking, evocative, small-town, accessible, chatty, colorful, concise, conversational, descriptive, direct, frank, informal

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: frank, funny, episodic

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White, like Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, will appeal to readers who are looking for another character-driven reflection about family and relationships in a small town in Georgia.  Although Bailey White recounts these stories as an adult and does not include an African- American perspective as in Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, readers of Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White will appreciate her humorous episodic tales, closely observed and eccentric characters, and conversational dialogue throughout the novel.

Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams, like Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, will appeal to readers who desire another autobiography that highlights family, relationships, and race relations in the United States.  Even though the tone and style ofLife on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams is far more serious and formal thanDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, both autobiographies focus on how race affected their childhood and teenage years.  Another difference, however, is thatLife on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory Howard Williams takes place in Indiana in the 1960s unlike Hadjii’s upbringing in Georgia in the 1980s and 1990s.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii because it too is a satiric memoir that humorously focuses on perceptions and stereotypes that people have about African Americans in the United States.  Similar toDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii, Thurston tries to present a more nuanced and detailed impression of race relations and his background of growing up and living in America, and like Hadjii, Thurston deemphasizes the need for every black individual to represent his or her entire race.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another character-driven novel about an African American, Betsey Brown, growing up in a middle-class family and dealing with race relations in the United States.  Although the novel is set in Missouri in the late 1950s, Betsey is dealing with many of the same family issues as Hadjii inDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried MemoirAlthough Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange is more poetic and atmospheric thanDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii too, it also is episodic and frankly humorous in many sections and contains a compelling story.

Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another character-driven novel about African-American families, friends, and neighbors in a small town.  Although the book is more sentimental in tone and takes place in Oklahoma, as inDon’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii,Life is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper contains multiple stories told by humorous main characters in a witty and lyrical style.

The Thang That Ate My Grandaddy’s Dog by John Calvin Rainey will appeal to readers of Don’t Let My Mama Read This: A Southern Fried Memoir by Hadjii in that it is another humorous novel about a young African-American boy, Johnny Woodside, growing up in a small town in Florida.  Like Hadjii, Johnny tells many stories about his adventures and the friends and family that he relates to on a regular basis as he learns many lessons about life.

Boy Meets Boy

April 11, 2012

Author: David Levithan

Title: Boy Meets Boy

Genre: Young Adult, GLBTQ

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 192

Geographical Setting: small town in United States

Time Period: Contemporary

Series (If applicable):

Plot Summary: Paul, a gay sophomore in High-School, has several friends including a drag queen football quarter back. When a new boy Noah moves to his small town, Paul is immediately attracted and the two being a relationship. In a world where being gay is difficult, Livithan creates a place where being gay is normal. Although there is the typical romance of discovering your first love, fighting with your best friend and learning to be accepted among your peers, this whimsical novel shares the ups and downs of a protagonist everyone will be rooting for.

Subject Headings:  Magical Realism, Male Friendship, High-School, Gay Teenagers, Teenage Boys

Appeal: Funny, Engaging, Character Driven, Gay Relationships, Cheerful, Charming, Wacky, Artistic, Love, Relationships, Whimsical, Small Town, Contemporary

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  Homosexuality, Relationships and Humorous

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Meaning of Matthew: my son’s murder in Laramie, and a world transformed by Judy Shepard. The mother of Matthew Shepard shares her heartbreaking story of the loss of her son discussing her thoughts and feelings immediately following his murder. Through her son’s brutal massacre the world was turned upside down hearing about this crime. Judy shares intimate moments about Matthew before his death and her life work becoming an activist to support gay and lesbian causes.

The Give Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman. Everyone comes in various sizes as does their personal expressions of love. This book discusses five ways to help your relationship become a stronger one by showing your affection through words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of services, physical touch and quality time. A great self-help book for couples that need to repair communication between one another.

GLTBQ: the survival guide for Queer and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel. For gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender questioning teens, this novel helps take the challenges of prejudice and discrimination that may come with figuring out their true identity. It provides experiences from other teens who have ‘come out’ to parents, family and friends and also describes possible responses of parents after their teen has told them that he/she is gay. It also lists possible ways to respond to those who may be less accepting to the information. This is a great resource for teens.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Weetzie Bat– Francesca Lia Block- This poetic and lyrical novel discuses the life of Weetzie, a girl who lives in LA with her friend Dirk whose gay. In this intricate book, Block combines modern day chaos with mystical occurrences when Weetzie is granted three wishes by a genie and the ever-changing love triangles. This is a novel discusses homosexuality, single parenthood and you’re not so traditional family that it’s bound to be a topic of discussion among a wide variety of readers.

Far From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters. Set in a small town in Kansas, Mike (born Mary- Elizabeth) has a troubling family after her father commits suicide and her mother feels that she is falling into a deep depression. Suddenly things look up when Xanadu a new girl who visits her town, becomes infatuated with her. The problem is that Xanadu is not attracted to Mike. This novel brings out the true emotions and honesty that teenagers have when they are unsure of what sex they prefer. Peters weaves in difficult situations but always leaves the reader rooting for Mike in this uplifting tale.

Luna by Julie Ann Peters. This young adult novel deals specifically with transgender issues. Reagan’s brother, Liam, is a woman trapped in a man’s body. Reagan tries to protect her brother and his secret from his friends and family until Liam decides that he wants to expose “Luna” to his parents and unleash her to the world.

The Next Always

April 4, 2012

Author: Nora Roberts

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 352

Geographical Setting: Boonsboro, Maryland

Time Period: Present

Series (If applicable): Book One of The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy

Plot Summary: Clare is a war widow who has returned to her hometown with her three young sons.  Beckett Montgomery and his brothers are remodeling the Inn BoonsBoro, which happens to be across the street from Clare’s bookshop.  Beckett’s unrequited love for his best friend’s widow may finally have a chance now that Clare’s moved back to their quaint hometown. The author’s richly detailed descriptions of the small town and the remodeling project with a touch of the supernatural nicely frame the budding romance between Clare and Beckett .

Subject Headings: Small towns; Historic buildings – conservation and restoration; Second chances; Architects; Infatuation; Hotels; Single mothers; Widows; Booksellers; Homecomings; Small town life; First loves; Men/women relations.

Appeal: easy, engrossing, descriptive, richly detailed, strong sense of place, leisurely-paced, relaxed, unhurried, atmospheric, comfortable, heartwarming, hopeful, lighthearted, magical, optimistic, romantic, engaging, familiar, realistic, recognizable, series (characters), strong secondary characters, sympathetic, contemporary, detailed setting, small-town, accessible, colloquial, conversational, simple, unembellished, details of small town, details of restoration of old building.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: comfortable; heartwarming; richly detailed.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Under the Tuscan Sun  by Frances Mayes.  Under the Tuscan Sun and The Next Always both evoke strong sense of place using lush descriptions of the small towns where the story takes place and rich details of renovating once magnificent buildings (Mayes a countryside villa and Roberts an Inn).  Both also follow a love story that is framed by the restoration process.

The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran.  Doran amusingly recounts his relocation from LA where he was a TV producer to a tiny Tuscan town where he and his wife embark upon remodeling a 300 year old farmhouse. Doran’s optimism and witty commentary lead up to a happy-ever-after that The Next Always readers will appreciate.

My Boyfriend’s Back: True Stories of Rediscovering Love with a Long-Lost Sweetheart by Donna Hanover.  Beckett’s love for Clare has been unrequited since high school, but he gets a second chance with her in The Next Always.  Like the title suggests, My Boyfriend’s Back explores true stories of first loves rekindled later on in life. Both books will leave readers feeling hopeful about loves from the past.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Wedding Dress by Virginia Ellis. This light, heart-warming historical fiction by Ellis (who typically authors romance novels) centers around a Civil War widow and her sisters as they try to find hope in a bleak post-war life by sewing a wedding dress for the youngest sister.  Like The Next Always, The Wedding Dress offers hope, love, a happy ending, and even a ghostly twist.

The Inn at Eagle Point by Sherryl Woods.  This is the heartwarming first book of in the contemporary romance series, Chesapeake Shores.  Like the Inn Boonsboro Trilogy, Chesapeake Shores is about second chances and men/women relations and gives readers a strong sense of place.

Virgin River by Robyn Carr.  Virgin River is a leisurely-paced contemporary romance about a widow looking to start over in a small town.  A strong sense of place and a heartwarming story will appeal to readers who enjoyed The Next Always.

Name: Ally C.

Heaven is for Real

March 28, 2012

Author: Todd Burpo

Title: Heaven is for Real

Genre: Spirituality and Religion

Publication Date: November 2, 2010

Number of Pages: 163

Geographical Setting: Nebraska

Time Period: Present Day

Plot Summary: Heaven is for Real tells Colton Burpo’s story of experiencing Heaven during an emergency appendectomy.  It all started as a bad case of the flu in which Colton, three years old at the time, could not stop throwing-up.  When Colton’s symptoms had not pass within 48 hours, Todd and his wife Sonja knew it had to be something more serious.  They rushed their son to the hospital and after many tests discovered that Colton was suffering from a burst appendix, causing a steady leak of acid into his small body.  Months after his surgery, Colton mentions to his parents that he remembers the angels singing to him at the hospital, and this is only the beginning of what he experienced.  Heartwarming and compelling, it is hard not to fall in love with Colton Burpo, but more importantly this book will leave you wondering if Heaven is for real.

Subject Headings: Burpo, Colton, 1999-; Four-year-old boys — Nebraska — Biography; Heaven (Christianity); Near-death experience — Religious aspects — Christianity; Christian life — Nebraska; Eschatology, Christian

Appeal: compelling, heartwarming, inspirational, thought-provoking, fast-paced, humorous, engaging, best-seller, small-town, conversational, emotional, captivating

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

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

  1. Just Who Will You Be?, Maria Shriver.  Philosophical and inspirational, Shriver has a similar writing style to that of Todd Burpo.  This book is about her experience of giving up her job at NBC and discovering what is most important about oneself.
  2. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Mary Roach.  Engaging and humorous, this quirky read is the perfect blend of skepticism and a sincere desire to know about life after death.
  3. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Carl Sagan.  This book provides an argument for the role of scientific thought in our society and how it competes with spirituality.

3 Fiction Works and Authors

  1. The Ice Queen: A Novel, Alice Hoffman.  After surviving a near-death experience, a small town librarian finds herself in a love affair with a most unlikely partner.
  2. A Bend in the Road, Nicholas Sparks.  Heartwarming and homespun, this story is about finding happiness after the loss of a loved one.
  3. The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom.  Inspirational and psychological, this book explains the meaning of Eddie’s life through his encounters with five people in heaven.

Name: Erin Shinneman

Ghost World

December 1, 2011

Author: Daniel Clowes

Title: Ghost World

Genre: Literary Fiction, Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages:80

Geographical Setting: Unnamed American Small Town/City

Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary: It’s the summer after high school graduation, and Enid Coleslaw and her friend Rebecca have no plans but to hit up the local diner and make sarcastic comments about the other, eccentric, customers. They have nobody else but each other, but the promise of the coming fall and their different priorities leads them to re-evaluate their friendship.

Subject Headings: Friendship, Graphic Novels, Teenage Girls

Appeal: sarcastic, episodic, melancholy, stark, quirky, flawed characters, thought-provoking, small-town, direct, witty, edgy, atmospheric, slice of life

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: melancholy, edgy, witty

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

McCloud, Scott. “Understanding Comics”. Clowes’ take on the comic medium requires an intimate understanding of the comics medium; McCloud’s book, written as a comic, is the book where one can get that understanding.

Pekar, Harvey. “The Quitter”. Comic memoir about Pekar’s childhood where he was a quitter—when things grew tough, he quit and moved on. A mindset that Enid seems far too familiar with.

Wurtzel, Elizabeth. “Prozac Nation”. Enid goes through the motions of life as much as Wurtzel did in her own teen years; Wurtzel suffered from extreme depression, and it seems Enid is balancing between depression and ennui.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Robinson, Alex. “Box Office Poison”. If Ghost World is about post-high school uncertainty and malaise, BOP is the same about post-college life, where a degree in English just means working part time at a book shop. Melancholy tone and simple art are here as well.

Salinger, J.D. “Catcher in the Rye”. The teen angst classic, of which Enid no doubt identifies. Similar tone as well.

Tomine, Adrian. “Summer Blonde”. Another slice-of-life about teens, with a similar melancholy tone and artistic style—Tomine was highly influenced by Clowes. And the central love triangle in both have nice echoes.

Name: Brian C.

Christine

October 26, 2011

Author: Stephen King

Title: Christine

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 1983

Number of Pages: 503

Geographical Setting: Pennsylvania

Time Period: 1978

Series (If applicable):

Plot Summary:  The year is 1978 and the pimply high school
senior Arnold Cunningham falls in love with “Christine,” a wrecked 1958
Plymouth Fury that he purchases for $250 from an old man who happened to be
wearing a back brace.  Arnie starts to
change after he takes possession of Christine.
The inward character starts standing up to his parents, his acne clears,
and he starts dating the new high school beauty Leigh.  Arnie is not the only one who’s appearance
begins to change.  Christine is restored
back to her 1958 condition extremely quickly by Arnie.  Accept no one actually sees Arnie working on
the car.   Arnie’s friend Dennis who
narrates the story starts to grow concerned after the cars previous owner dies
it is discovers the owner’s wife and daughter both died in the car.  While on a date with Leigh, Christine’s doors
lock Arnie out while Leigh starts choking to death.  Although Arnie is never seen at the scene of
the crime mysteriously all of his high school enemies are murdered while
Christine is present.  Arnie’s friend
Dennis who is convinced Arnie is being possessed devises a final showdown with
Christine.

Subject Headings: Automobiles, Spirit Possession, Supernatural, the Seventies (20th
century), High school seniors, Misfits(persons), Death.

Appeal: Character-driven, Flawed, Strong Secondary Characters,
Fast-paced, Easy, Small Town, Suspenseful, Uneasy, Dangerous, Haunting, Chilling,
Creepy, Bleak, Compelling, Edgy,

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Character-driven,
Fast-paced, Haunting.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Hidden Files: Law
Enforcements True Case Stories of the Unexplained and Paranormal,
by Sue Kovach.  A
look at documented unexplained phenomena from the perspective of on duty law
officers.

 Unseen World: The Science,
Theories, and Phenomena Behind Events Paranormal,
by Ruppert Matthews.
A scientific look into spiritual mediums and reincarnation.

 Chrysler Muscle Cars, by Mike Mueller.
References pictures of Chrysler cars for the auto enthusiast or readers
curious to see what Christine looked like including engine, body, and interior
shots.

 3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill. This is the story of a metal band
musician who buys a ghost over the internet.
The ghost turns out to be the spirit of his dead girlfriend’s stepfather.  Similar to Christine the storyline is
character-driven with a fast pace.

Turn of the Screw, by Henry James.
This character driven horror story revolves around a governess of a
country estate who is haunted by ghosts of servants who once served the estate.

The Black Stone Chronicles,
by John Saul.  This fast paced horror story deals with the
destruction of an asylum to make way for a shopping complex.  Similar to Christine the book deals with past horrors effecting people during
the current time period of the story.

Name: Bill P.