Posts Tagged ‘sophisticated’

Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace

November 7, 2012

Author:  Kate Summerscale

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

Genre:  Biography

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  291

Geographical Setting:  Scotland and England

Time Period:  Victorian Era, 1850-1859

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

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

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

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

Three Fiction Read-alikes:

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

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

Clara Callan by Richard Bruce Wright

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

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

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

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

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

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

 Darwin:  Portrait of a Genius by Paul Johnson

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

Advertisements

Vlad: A Novel

October 31, 2012

AuthVlad: A Novel by Carlos Fuentesor: Carlos Fuentes

Title: Vlad: A Novel

Genre: Horror; Mexican Fiction

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 122

Geographical Setting: Mexico City

Time Period: Present Day

Series: Not part of a series, but a reimagining of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Plot Summary: Yves Navarro, an attorney, is ordered by his boss, the enigmatic Don Eloy Zurinaga, to find and secure a house for an old school friend of his from Europe, a certain Count Vladimir Radu, who tiring of constant unrest in the Balkans has recently decided to move to Mexico City. At first, Navarro is merely puzzled by some of Radu’s eccentric requests: the home must admit no light and a large tunnel is to be excavated beneath the premises. But after an unsettling dinner with the count, a repulsive, pale-skinned and bulbous-headed figure clumsily disguised with a wig, false mustache, and dark glasses, Navarro becomes anxious for his own safety. A sense of foreboding and menace come sharply into focus as the attorney begins to suspect Radu may be a vampire. But when Navarro discovers a photograph of his own wife and daughter taped inside an armoire in the count’s chambers—a sense of panic grips him, as he realizes too late that he has become ensnared in a web, the contours of which he is only dimly aware. Fuentes’ reimagining of the Dracula story is filled with vivid and darkly disturbing scenes, and punctuated by moments of humor, mostly in the form of roman à clef references to the Bram Stoker’s original. Beneath the tragic horror is a philosophical meditation on the meaning of mortality and what it is to be human.

Subject Headings: Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, 1430 or 31-1476 or 7; Stoker, Bram, 1847-1912; Dracula — Sequels; Vampires; Lawyers; Real estate agents; Grief; Aging; Mortality

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

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: character centered, dark, philosophical

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead (2010) by J. Gordon Melton

Vlad: A Novel weaves familiar tropes of vampire fiction into its narrative and playfully references Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Readers who want to delve further into the lore and literature of the vampire will enjoy perusing this exhaustively detailed collection of some 500 essays on the subject.

The Philosophy of Horror (2012) by Thomas Fahy

Carlos Fuentes’ characters rhapsodize with philosophical musings about the nature of God, the fear of dying, and grief and loss. Fahy’s thought-provoking and persuasive guide to the philosophical subtexts of horror stories will resonate with readers who responded to the thematic underpinnings of Vlad: A Novel.

The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature (2012) edited by Suzanne Bost and Frances R. Aparicio

Carlos Fuentes is a much-admired author and critic in his native Mexico. Readers taken with Fuentes style and subject matter, and who want to learn more about the broader landscape of Latin American Literature, will find here a collection of forty scholarly but accessible essays that describe the most significant Latino and Latina authors and their work.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic (2012) edited by Eduardo Jimenez Mayo and Chris Brown

Three Messages and a Warning will appeal to readers who enjoyed Vlad: A Novel and want to read more tales of the supernatural and the macabre told from a uniquely Mexican perspective. Thematically serious, like Fuentes’ work, the short stories found in this anthology similarly offer a sense of the vibrant Mexican literary scene. The creepy but stylistically complex tales include: a pact with the devil, an apocalyptic ghost story, and an encounter with a doppelganger.

Anno Dracula (New Edition; 2011) by Kim Newman

Fans of Bram Stoker’s Dracula who enjoyed seeing the character revisited in Vlad: A Novel may appreciate Newman’s offbeat and compelling spin on the venerable vampire. In the alternate history of Anno Dracula, Count Dracula has not only not been vanquished, but is married to Queen Victoria and rules over England with an iron fist. Fuentes’ story is filled with references to characters and moments from the original Dracula; Newman goes one further and presents a supporting cast of familiar literary and historical characters, including Jack the Ripper, Dr. Jeckyll, and Sherlock Holmes.

The New Annotated Dracula (2008) by Bram Stoker; edited by Leslie S. Klinger

After reading Fuentes’ interpretation of Dracula, those who wish to revisit Bram Stoker’s atmospheric and menacing gothic tale will find a treasure trove of history and lore along with the original story in Klinger’s lushly illustrated and comprehensively annotated edition. Along with Stoker’s original manuscript, this edition also includes an alternate ending penned by the author sure to surprise readers who think they already know the story well.

Name: John Rimer

Are You My Mother?

October 24, 2012

Cover of Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

Author: Alison Bechdel

Title: Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 304

Geographical Setting: Mostly Pennsylvania and Vermont

Time Period: Present day with flashbacks

Series: Follow-up to Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006)

Plot Summary: Are You My Mother? is a densely-layered and thought-provoking exploration in graphic memoir form of author Bechdel’s complex, flawed relationship with her mother. Bechdel’s father, the subject of her earlier work, Fun Home, was a closeted bisexual who ultimately committed suicide, and her mother a frustrated poet and actress who sublimated her desires to those of her husband, submitting to the role of primary caregiver to their three children. Are You My Mother? depicts Bechdel, some five years after the publication of her critically-acclaimed book about her father, setting out to write a new book about her mother. Bechdel chronicles her process as an artist and writer, undergoing therapy and looking for analogies to her own life found in the works of favorite authors Virginia Woolf and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, as she attempts to shape a narrative that identifies the moments that wounded her mother and crippled the formation of a healthy mother-daughter bond. The artwork in Are You My Mother? is pen and brush with delicate grey and red washes, offering  a deceptively comic-strip-like simplicity that lightens the densely-written and sophisticated subject matter.

Subject Headings: Motherhood; Mothers and daughters; Teenage daughters—coming out; Parent and child; Suicide; Feminism; Psychoanalysis; Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941; Winnicott, D. W. (Donald Woods), 1896-1971; Artists

Appeal: Detailed, dramatic, eccentric, intriguing secondary characters, introspective, well developed, character centered, complex, domestic, episodic, layered, literary references, sexually explicit, thought-provoking, contemporary, detailed setting, details of psychoanalytic theory, elaborate, metaphorical, sophisticated, unusual

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: introspective, layered, thought-provoking

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Projections: Comics and the History of Twenty-First-Century Storytelling (2012) by Jared Gardner

Readers who admire the scope and depth of Bechdel’s graphic storytelling will find much to explore in Gardner’s recent lively, yet somewhat academic, tome. Gardner offers an interpretation of comics as an art form which encourages interactivity in deciphering its contents and a model for contemporary modes of communication. There are multiple passages on Bechdel’s work which contextualize her place in the comics field.

Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland (2012) by Harvey Pekar

Bechdel works in the form known in graphic novel circles as autobiographical comics. Those who want to read more of this type of story may wish to acquaint themselves with Harvey Pekar, one of the seminal figures in this genre who helped define its contours. Where Are You My Mother? uses literary reference and psychoanalysis as a context for Bechdel’s self-exploration, Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland in rich detail describes the deep impact that place and history have in shaping identity. Cartoonish but heavily-rendered pen and ink drawings highlight both the grit and charm of urban Cleveland.

Donald Winnicott Today (2012) edited by Jan Abram

The work and life of child psychoanalyst and theorist Winnicott are front and center in the narrative of Are You My Mother?  Bechdel comes to terms with life-long insecurities and decodes her troubled relationship with her mother, relying heavily on Winnicott’s models of mother-child dynamics. Readers who want to explore Winnicott’s work further will find this an accessible and thoughtfully assembled overview of his contributions to the field of Psychoanalysis.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

To the Lighthouse (1927; various editions) by Virginia Woolf

Bechdel’s work is heavily influenced by the English writer Virginia Woolf. Although many of her books are discussed in Are You My Mother?, Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse receives particular attention for its story of self-discovery and coming to terms with the past, which mirrors Bechdel’s emotional journey. Believed to be the most autobiographical of all Woolf’s psychological fiction, To the Lighthouse, with its lyrical style and reflective tone, will surely appeal to readers intrigued by the glimpses of the novel found in Are You My Mother?

Stuck Rubber Baby (New Edition; 2010) by Howard Cruse

Newcomers to comics featuring LGBT protagonists and themes who wish to explore further will find an incredibly rich and varied tradition awaiting them. One of the first widely critically-acclaimed graphic novels dealing with gay themes to receive national attention was Cruse’s Stuck Rubber Baby, first published in 1995. Moving and reflective, and with a strong sense of place, the story follows the exploits of a young man named Toland Polk discovering his sexuality against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in the South during the 1960s.

Wandering Son, Book 1 (2011) by Shimura Takako

Are You My Mother? explores the thematic territory of gender identity and coming of age as does the moving and character-driven manga Wandering Son.  Two fifth graders on the cusp of puberty share a secret: Shuichi is a boy who wishes he were a girl and Yoshino a girl who wishes she were a boy. Shimura’s spare and evocative art will likely appeal to fans of Bechdel’s stylized and emotionally expressive drawings.

Name: John Rimer

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

July 30, 2012

Author: Ransom Riggs

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 352

Geographical Setting: Florida; Wales, British Isles

Time Period: 1940; 2011

Series: Not Applicable

Plot Summary: Ransom Riggs’s debut novel is filled with old, mysterious, and strange photographs of people doing incredible things such as, levitating and lifting a boulder. How people captured these images is a mystery in itself, but what is more fascinating is how Riggs integrates these images into his narrative. Growing up Jacob Portman’s grandfather, Abe, told him of incredible children he knew at an orphanage in the British Isles that Abe escaped from Poland too during WWII. Jacob rejects these stories until witnessing his grandfather’s brutal death. His death inspires Jacob’s journey to the British Isles in order to solve the mystery that was his Grandfather’s life. This book incorporates fantasy, history, magical realism, and thus will appeal to multiple genre readers. The mystery in the story is what propels the plot and hooks the reader. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a Young Adult novel that has captured the attentions of teenagers and adults alike because of it’s complex plot that incorporates time travel, history, and fantasy with the traditional coming-of-age story that only Riggs’s sophisticated storytelling could tell so well.

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

Appeal: compelling, suspenseful, psychological, vivid, sympathetic, detailed setting, plot twists, sophisticated, imaginative

3 terms that best describes this book: builds in intensity, well crafted, complex

3 Nonfiction Read-a-likes:

Journey through the British Isles, Harry Cory Wright

Photographer, Harry Cory Wright, captures the beautiful, rural landscape of the British Isles. Explore pictures of the mountains, wooded glades, and beaches that will transport you to these islands. If in, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, you were a fan of the setting in the British Isles, then this book will help you visualize the world that Riggs so evocatively describes.

On the Home Front: Growing Up in Wartime England, Ana Stalcup

Join Ana Stalcup describe her life growing up during WWII wartime England. She discusses what it was like to have soldiers stay in her home, constantly seeing soldiers in her city, and dealing with the slow progress of the war. This book will provide detailed, historical background for what it was like growing up during WWII, similar to the children in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit, Robert Bogdan
Between 1840 and 1940, hundreds of people journeyed across America to display their incredible talents as sideshows or as a part of circuses. In the shows you could see Siamese twins, bearded ladies, and dwarves. Similar to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the orphans in the story would travel and display their strange abilities, and in Freak Shows learn about real people who traveled to display their skills. Also, there are interesting black and white photographs like in Riggs’s story, if as the reader, these mysterious photos peaked your interest.

3 Fiction Read-a-likes:

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer

Another great Young Adult book for adults that incorporates unusual photographs, sympathetic characters, and solving the secrets of lost loved ones. Oskar Schell loses his father during the attacks on the World Trade Center, and Oskar is left to find a lock that his father’s mysterious key opens. Foer’s book is similar to Riggs’s because it is also psychological, sophisticated, and well crafted.

Big Fish: a Novel of Mythic Proportions, Daniel Wallace

When Edward Bloom was a boy his father traveled a lot and while growing up, Edward never felt as if he really knew his father. Whenever his father was home, his father would describe his travels as tall tales. As Edward’s father is dying, Edward tries to learn the truth about his father’s life and these tall tales. A great read-a-like choice for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children if they enjoy unearthing strange, mysterious pasts, compelling plots, magical realism elements, and family relationships.

11/22/63, Stephen King

Jake Eppingis has been enlisted to travel back in time to change history, and prevent the assassination of JFK. Readers who enjoyed routing for Jacob in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, will enjoy following and sympathizing with Jake in 11/22/63. Also, if in Rigg’s story you enjoyed the time travel, the history, and the detailed and atmospheric setting, then check out King’s new suspense story.

Name: Alison Kulczak

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.

The Book Thief

February 16, 2012

Author: Markus Zusak

Title: The Book Thief

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 552

Geographical setting: Germany

Time Period: Word War II (1939-1945)

Plot Summary:  Liesel Meminger knows death.  It is the reason why she is in foster care.  After suffering the loss of her mother and brother, this young German girl develops a knack for stealing books.  Her talent is of even greater value when she learns to how to read, and can regale the stolen stories to her family and neighbors.  Her obsession takes her on a number of adventures to obtain what she desires most – books.  Set during the Holocaust outside Munich Germany, this haunting work of fiction is captivating and powerful.

Subject Headings: 1. Germany–History–1933-1945–Juvenile Fiction. 2. Books and reading–Fiction. 3. Storytelling–Fiction. 4. Death–Fiction. 5. Jews–Germany–History–1933-1945–Fiction. 6. World War, 1939-1945–Jews–Rescue–Fiction.

Appeal: haunting, moving, dark, absorbing, character-driven, intense, complex, compelling, lyrical, challenging, sophisticated, powerful.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: absorbing, haunting, sophisticated

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1. Night, Elie Wiesel – a narrative of a boy who survived the Holocaust in various camps.

2. Auschwitz: a new history, Laurence Rees – a historical account of what happened in Auschwitz.

3. A Lucky Child: a memoir of surviving Auschwitz, Thomas Buergenthal – an autobiography of wht it was like to survive Auschwitz at the age of eleven.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1. Auschwitz, Pascal Croci – a graphic novel that tells the story of two survivors of the concentration camp

2. Postcards from No Man’s Land, Aidan Chambers – similar in that it is character-driven, stylistically complex, compelling with to references Word War II.

3. Keturah and Lord Death, Martine Leavitt – a dark, gripping fantasy in which, Death is one of the main characters.

Asterios Polyp

November 29, 2011

Author: David Mazzucchelli

Title: Asterios Polyp

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 344

Geographical Setting: New York / fictional small town of “Apogee”

Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary: Asterios Polyp is a middle-aged professor of architecture. When his New York apartment burns down after a lightning strike, he hops on a Greyhound bus and gets off in a middle-America town called Apogee, where he finds employment as an auto mechanic and rents a room in his boss’s house. The story of Asterios’ sudden change in lifestyle is intercut with flashbacks recalling previous episodes in his life including a past marriage, as well as dream sequences and various abstract visual/verbal ideas (including some of Asterios’ theories of architecture) narrated by his unborn twin brother. Although it has an epic sweep, the plot is less important than the intricate and beautiful visual design of the illustrations and the intellectual ideas they convey.

Subject Headings: Architecture; Duality; Romantic relationships; Graphic novels

Appeal:  abstract, character-centered, cerebral, detailed, epic, episodic, humorous, intricate, intellectual, literary, melancholy, quirky, sophisticated, stylistically complex, symbolic, thought-provoking

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: intricate, sophisticated, stylistically complex

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Blankets by Craig Thompson [Autobiographical graphic novel; epic-length, character-centered, literary]

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel [Autobiographical graphic novel; literary, emotionally rich, complex]

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud [Covers the history and theory of comics as an artistic medium]

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth by Chris Ware [Sophisticated graphic novel with an intricate visual design, emotionally rich sense of melancholy, literary complexity and symbolism]

Wilson by Daniel Clowes [Graphic novel; character study about a sad middle-aged man on a journey; complex, quirky, humorous]

The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire [Sweeping, character-centered graphic novel; also, both this and Asterios Polyp are by Canadian artists]

Name: Brian W.

The Water’s Edge by Karin Fossum

October 12, 2011

Author: Karin Fossum

Title: The Water’s Edge

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 227

Geographical Setting: Norway

Time Period: present

Series: 6th in the Inspector Sejer series

Plot Summary:  In Fossum’s haunting sixth novel featuring Inspector Sejer, Ris and Kristine Reihhardt are out for a quiet walk on a Sunday afternoon when they stumble on the body of a young boy left in a pile of leaves.  They also have happened to see a man with a limp walking out of the woods and to his car just minutes before.  Is this man with a white car and a distinct look the killer?  After finding the boy, the couple’s relationship is tested as Ris becomes more and more obsessed by the case while Kristine is disgusted by his morbid fascination.  As Inspector Sejer and his young partner, Jacob Skaar, begin interviewing townspeople, the stark beauty of Norway comes alive and the nature of the tight-knit community is revealed.  Before long, another young boy has gone missing, leaving the entire town edgy, terrified and suspicious of each other.  This time, however, the boy has some serious problems of his own in relation to his single mother that may complicate the case.  With haunting, poetic prose Fossum tells the dark, twisted story through the eyes of the Reinhardts, the killer, and the investigators as the chase down the elusive murderer. This novel is satisfying on many levels; first as an intriguing police procedural, second as a character-centered novel that gets into the minds of many characters, and lastly as a musing on human nature and the meaning of good and evil.

Subject Headings: crimes against children, grief, marriage, murder, murder investigation. Konrad Sejer

 

Appeal: chilling, haunting, atmospheric, character-centered, dark, elegant, compelling, engrossing, intense, bleak, contemplative, evocative, foreboding, psychological, suspenseful, sophisticated, multiple plots, investigative, start, rural, poetic, well crafted, police procedural

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: chilling, atmospheric, character-centered

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Staalesen, Gunnar, The Consorts of Death.  Like The Water’s Edge, this is a police procedural mystery that also takes place in Norway and features a young boy who is connected to a murder.

Holt, Anne, What is Mine.  This novel features a Norwegian police commissioner who leads a murder investigation of the murder of several young children.  Fans of Fossum will enjoy the characterization as the main characters attempt to get inside the minds of the criminals.  Like The Water’s Edge, this is an engrossing mystery with several plot twists.

Edwardson, Ake, Frozen Tracks.  Like The Water’s Edge, this is a haunting police procedural from a Scandinavian writer in which two crimes are connected.  Also like Fossum’s novel, this book features multiple plot lines, one of which gets inside the mind of the criminal.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Holt, Elizabeth, Living in Norway.  This picture book shoes the beautiful landscape of Norway and also talks about the history of the country and the unique character of the Norwegian people.  Fans of Norwegian writers may be interested in learning more about and seeing a visual representation of the setting and landscape that is so important to these mysteries.

Amy Hammel-Zaban, Conversations with a Pedophile, in the Interest of our Children. The Water’s Edge seeks to get in the mind of a pedophile to better understand the affliction and try to show the abuse that occurs early in life which often turns people into pedophiles.  It also features an important scene in which the detectives are interviewing a known pedophile who gives them some vital information.  This book would be helpful for those who wish to gain a better understanding of this affliction after reading this novel.  Like the novel, it also features a first person account of a pedophile.

Rangle, Larry, Crime Scene: From Fingerprinting to DNA Testing- An Astonishing Look at the Real World of CSIThe Water’s Edge features multiple scenes of crime scene investigation and the crime is also eventually solved using forensic evidence.  This book would be great for readers who are interested in learning more of the forensic aspect of the police procedural.

Name: Meghan Maleski

The Hound of the Baskervilles

October 12, 2011

The Hound of BaskervillesAuthor: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Title:  The hound of the Baskervilles

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: 1902

Number of Pages: 272

Geographical Setting: England

Time Period: Early 1900’s

Plot Summary:  Generations ago a hound of hell tore out the throat of Hugo Baskerville on the English moors.  Once again the legend lives as the latest head of the line Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead in the same area with a massive hound’s print found nearby.  It is up to Sherlock Holmes and his trusted friend Dr. Watson to piece together the puzzle before the next Baskerville in line winds up dead.

Subject Headings: Curses; Detectives; Dogs; Moors and heaths; Holmes, Sherlock; Watson, John H.; Murder investigation; Eccentrics and eccentricities; Nineteenth century

Appeal: Plot-driven, Fast-paced, Suspenseful, Compelling, atmospheric, dark, sophisticated, intriguing, series (characters), investigative, plot twists, classic

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Suspenseful, atmospheric, investigative

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Science of Sherlock Holmes: From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear, the Real Forensics Behind the Great Detective’s Greatest Cases by E. J. Wagner

Wagner blends familiar examples from Doyle’s accounts into a history of the growth of forensic science, pointing out where fiction strayed from fact. The author avoids the technical details that mar so many other efforts in this genre, injecting life into her narrative by weaving in true crime cases that either influenced Holmes’s creator or may have been influenced by a published story from the Baker Street sleuth.

The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World’s Most Perplexing Cold Cases
by Michael Capuzzo

Once a month, several forensic experts gather in a posh Victorian brownstone in downtown Philadelphia, have a sumptuous lunch, and then consider cold cases brought to them by baffled detectives. The club is called the Vidocq Society, named after the nineteenth-century French criminologist who was one of the inspirations for Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes and Philosophy: The Footprints of a Gigantic Mind  by Josef Steiff

Sherlock Holmes sees things others don’t. He sees the world in a different way, and by so doing, allows us to see that same world – and human behavior – in different ways as well.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The 39 Steps  by John Buchan

He has been feeling bored with London life – until he discovers a dead man in his flat, skewered to the floor with a knife through his heart. Only a few days before, the victim had warned him of an assassination
plot that could bring the country to the brink of war. An obvious suspect for the police and an easy target for the murderer, ordinary man Richard Hannay goes on the run in his native Scotland. There, on the wild moors, he must use all his wits to stay one step ahead of the game – and warn the government of the impending danger before it is too late.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Village rumor hints that Mrs. Ferrars poisoned her husband, but no one is sure. Then there’s another victim in a chain of death. Unfortunately for the killer, master sleuth Hercule Poirot takes over the investigation.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

One of the first English detective novels, this mystery involves the disappearance of a valuable diamond, originally stolen from a Hindu idol, given to a young woman on her eighteenth birthday, and then stolen again.

Name: Jason Rock

The Adventures of Unemployed Man

August 10, 2011

Author: Erich Origen and Gan Golan

Title: The Adventures of Unemployed Man

Genre: Science Fiction/Graphic Novels

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: unpaged

Geographical Setting:

Time Period: Present day

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Follow the amazing adventures of Unemployed Man, formerly known as The Ultimatum until good intentions and a stand against The Man got him The Boot. Shrewd, witty commentary on the state of the economy and the roots of our nation’s fiscal woes inform the action in this cleverly written, beautifully illustrated graphic novel. The parody is ripped straight from today’s headlines—supervillains like Cobra (he’ll cover your insurance after being laid off, only $200 a month!) and Kollectus (he comes after outstanding debts and takes everything) show up alongside heroes such as perpetual grad student Master of Degrees, fix-it-with-tape Ducto, pain-shrinking therapist Good Grief, and Wonder Mother (she built her invisible jet from pieces of the glass ceiling), all presented in a dead-on tribute to many classic comic book styles. Nods to noted comics illustrators such as Jack Kirby and others are just some of the sharp, wonderful little details crammed into every page. The parody is not limited to the characters, however; the book itself is organized as a parody of a comic book, right down to the inclusion of phony ads for products and a wickedly funny section titled Fantastic Facts. Origen and Golan back up their stylistic accomplishments with an insightful, provocative story, made all the more effect for its presentation in such a fun, familiar and nostalgic format. This would be a good book for fans of graphic novels or superheroes with a twist, or patrons looking for an interesting presentation of basic socioeconomics in an easy to follow format.

Subject Headings: Unemployed; Graphic novels; Humorous stories; U.S. economic conditions; 21st century; Superheroes

Appeal: Witty, satirical, humorous, smart, shrewd, Swiftian, clever, sophisticated, retro, hopeful, classic, illustrated, insightful, provocative, social commentary, parody

3 terms that best describe this book: Shrewd, provocative, witty

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

SuperFreakonomics, Illustrated edition: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (Expanded edition of the fascinating, humorous and poignant look at modern economics; new graphs, photos and drawings further add to the impact of these astonishing discussions)

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis (An inside look at the build-up of the housing and credit bubble during the 2000s and the resulting economic downturn)

The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker, by Steven Greenhouse (Bleak picture of the current environment for the American worker, emphasis on the role corporations play)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Inside Straight, edited by George R.R. Martin (From the classic Wild Cards series, this mosaic novel sometimes humorously, sometimes matter-of-factly presents a universe where extranormal abilities are an accepted fact, with characters competing to win a new reality show, American Hero)

Superheroes, edited by John Varley (Collection of superhero-themed stories with an ironic, antihero twist)

The Pursuit of Other Interests: A Novel, by Jim Kokoris (Chicago ad exec suddenly loses his job, and with the help of assorted colorful new friends gains a new perspective on his life through a series of unfamiliar challenges)

-Joe