Posts Tagged ‘spiritual’

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich

November 28, 2012

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse book coverTitle: The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

Author: Erdrich, Louise

Publication Date: 2001

Pages: 361

Geographical Setting: Ojibwe Reservation, North Dakota

Time Period: Present Day

Genre: Literary Fiction, Native American Fiction

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:  In the last days of his life, Father Damien Modeste sets out to make a final confession to the Holy Father, the Pope in Rome.  The least of these confessions is that Father Damien is actually Agnes DeWitt, a woman.  When a young priest comes to the remote Ojibwe reservation of Little No Horse to interview him about the possible sainthood of a nun from the reservation convent, Fr. Damien sees an opportunity to lay bare the truth about his past, the woman in question, and the people whom he has shepherded and loved for the better part of eighty years.  Told through multiple perspectives and dipping into different moments in time, the story unfolds slowly and poetically, the first pages building links to the later scenes of Fr. Damien’s life.  The people of Little No Horse may be familiar to readers of Erdrich’s other works, as this novel is one in a sequence of tales about the Kashpaws, Nanpushes, Pillagers, Morrisseys, and Lazarres who make up this Ojibwe tribe.  But the perspective of Agnes/Fr. Damien, the outsider who layers Catholic dogma with the old spirituality, pushes this story beyond the reservation and across cultural barriers.

Appeal Characteristics: Intricately plotted, moving, stylistically complex, lyrical, mystical, leisurely paced, haunting, spiritual, details of Catholicism, details of reservation life, elegantly written, poignant, reflective, reverent, elegiac, vivid characterization, poetic

Subject Headings: Ojibwe Indians, North Dakota, Indians of North America, Reservations, Priests, Male Impersonators, Miracles, Women Saints

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Moving, lyrical, spiritual

Similar Non-fiction:

Rez Life by David Treuer

Written by a member of the Minnesota Ojibwe tribe, this book offers a part memoir, part cultural history look at life on a reservation.  Treuer explores the life of present-day Native Americans as it has been shaped by decisions made long ago.  Politics, alcoholism, casinos, and tragedy are balanced by lesser known facets of Native American culture—walleye fishing, wild rice harvesting, Ojibwe language lessons—creating a narrative of sadness and beauty that characterizes contemporary rez life.

The American Jesuits: A History by Raymond A. Schroth

Schroth offers a comprehensive historical account of the order of priests who, more than anyone else, have brought America to Christ.  Beginning with the first, unfortunately murdered, Jesuit to touch the New World, Schroth details a 450 year history of serving the disenfranchised and the poor, building schools and universities, and making very public stands for social justice.  They are not always perfect, but for those who admire Father Damien in spite of his flaws may find more of the same here.

Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again by Norah Vincent

Agnes’s transformation to Father Damien is an integral part of Erdrich’s novel.  The reservation’s remoteness and the acceptance of the Native people made this easier.  In this book Norah Vincent makes her transformation in the thick of society.  In the guise of Ned, a somewhat nerdy salesman complete with crewcut and ever-present five o’clock shadow, Vincent lived for more than a year as a man, infiltrating and living every aspect of male-ness from the sacred to the profane providing an in-depth look at what is expected of male behavior and how women and men are truly different.

Similar Fiction:

The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende

Similar to Erdrich, Allende writes a generational saga of a family and a people who suffer from the decisions made far in the past.  The Trueba family live in an unnamed Latin American country crippled by political upheaval.  Though less overtly spiritual than Erdrich, readers will find mystical undercurrents and cultural conflicts that color the portrait of this family.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

Another sweeping family portrait, this time of a Mexican American family, Caramelo is the story of Lala Reyes as she grows through the revelations of family stories and histories.  The interconnectedness of seemingly different narratives is reminiscent of Erdrich’s storytelling, as are the shared tragedies and raptures that have brought the family, and specifically Lala, to the place they are today.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

A set of short stories told from the inhabitants of the Spokane Indian Reservation, this is a complex picture of contemporary Native American life that juxtaposes the trappings of modern culture with the traditions of a proud, ancient, and crumbling people.

Name: Jessica

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Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach

November 7, 2012

Spook CoverTitle: Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

Author: Roach, Mary

Publication Date: 2005

Pages: 311

Geographical Setting: This world or the next

Time Period: Present Day

Genre: Nonfiction, Science Writing

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:  With a heavy dose of wit and humor, Mary Roach examines the subject of life-after-death, delving into the science and the history of humanity’s search for the soul.  Roach’s search for evidence finds her to some curious and oftentimes hilariously strange circumstances—tracking down stories of reincarnation in India, examining “ectoplasm” at Cambridge, medium school—leading the reader on an amusing quest for the truth amongst the odd and the misguided.  Each chapter ends with a teaser that leads smoothly into the next making for compelling read.  And Roach’s ability to esteem both quacks and true scientists equally is charming and wonderfully engaging.  But readers looking for solid evidence and definitive answers beware.  Spook is impressively researched and deftly told.  It doesn’t promise enlightenment.  But it does infuse a great sense of wonder and delight into the world of science.

Appeal Characteristics: humorous, spiritual, scientific, accessible, witty, engaging, funny, well-researched, quirky, unconventional, thought-provoking, engrossing, unpretentious, smart, entertaining, history of science

Subject Headings: Life after death, soul, paranormal phenomena, Religion and Science

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Funny, scientific, engaging

Similar Non-fiction:

The Disappearing Spoon, and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements by Sam Kean

Readers who enjoyed Roach’s obscure anecdotes in Spook will find a wealth of similar stories in this tale about the building of the Periodic Table.  Brimming with whimsy, wit, and authority, this book will appeal to those looking for a good story as much as those looking for scientific history.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Combining history and science, this story brings to life the woman whose cells became one of humanity’s most important medical tools and details the history of medical ethics and the good of society versus the rights of the individual.  Skloot maintains an objective tone evincing compassion and respect for both sides of the debate.

Death by Black Hole, and Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson

In this series of essays, Tyson cheerfully explains the complex fields of astrophysics, relativity, and quantum mechanics with engaging humor, accessible language, and a Star Trek reference or two.  Readers who wished for more “hard science” in Roach’s writing, look no further.

Similar Fiction:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Fans of Roach’s vividly depicted oddballs and outcasts will find their fictional counterparts in droves in this sci-fi cult classic.  Adams tells the story of displaced Earthling Arthur Dent with a serious flair for the wacky, the outlandish, and the odd bit of science.  Prepare yourself for an onslaught of witty one-liners (which is Adams’ case may actually take up an entire paragraph).

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

A darkly funny tale about a neurotic man who becomes a widower, a father, and a sort of grim reaper all in one day, this story takes a comical look at our soul’s inevitable slide toward the undiscovered country.  Readers of Roach will find in Moore a shared philosophy that perhaps death and dying should be approached with less trepidation and more humor.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The first novel in Pratchett’s famed Discworld series, The Color of Magic introduces readers to a universe so richly detailed it seems like it could be real enough if alchemy and suspicion had won over science and reason.  Readers of Roach may enjoy Pratchett’s thought-provoking satire as well as the outrageously funny situations his characters find themselves in.

Name: Jessica

I, Jedi by Michael A. Stackpole

August 1, 2011

Author: Stackpole, Michael A.

Title: Star Wars: I, Jedi

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1998 (Hardcover), 1999 (Softcover)

Number of Pages: 577

Geographical Setting: A galaxy far, far away

Time Period: A long time ago

Series (If applicable): Star Wars – Stand alone novel.

Plot Summary: Corran Horn was once a former officer and pilot in the Corellian Security Force. For personal and political reasons he defected to join the Rebellion against the Galactic Empire, that still persists after the destruction of the second Death Star at the Battle of Endor. Having worked his way through the piloting ranks of the Rebellion, Corran now finds himself as a lead pilot in the Rogue Squadron, the Rebellion/New Republic’s most elite starfighter squadron. During his time in Rogue Squadron, Corran discovers a long lost secret about his heritage and finds that he is descendant from a long and storied line of Jedi Knights. When his wife goes missing on a mission for the newly formed New Republic, Horn joins the first class of Luke Skywalker’s newly formed Jedi Academy, so that he might gain the skills necessary to rescue his wife. Disappointed with the deliberate pace of  Skywalker’s teachings, Corran leaves half trained, and during his mission to save his wife, finds himself tempted by the dark side of the Force.

Subject Headings: Star Wars, George Lucas, Jedi, Galactic Empire, Corran Horn, fighter pilots, The Force.

3 terms that best describe this book: High adventure, suspenseful, space opera.

Similar Authors and Works: Karen Travis, James Luceno, Troy Denning all are regular contributors to the Star Wars Universe. While they have their own unique styles they all know how to maintain the pace of a Star Wars novel.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card – This book is also about space battles, very dramatic and focuses on a main character’s training and personal development.

Look to Windward by Iain Banks – An intricate plot punctuated by pitched space battles between good and evil.

Once a Hero by Elizabeth Moon – Fast paced science fiction about space warfare, and the main character coming to terms with a storied heritage.

 

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Star Wars Art: Visions by J.W. Rinzler (Introduction)  & George Lucas (Foreword)

Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary by David West Reynolds, James Luceno & Ryder Windham

Star Wars Character Encyclopedia by DK Publishing

by  Morgan S. Lewis

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

June 23, 2010

Author: Lamott, Anne

Title: Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

Genre: Popular Nonfiction/Spiritual/Inspiritational/Bestsellers

Publication date: 2005

Number of pages: 320

Geographical setting: U.S. cities, mostly in northern California

Time period: Present

Series: (If applicable): Not applicable

Plot summary: A collection of funny, smart, passionate essays and true stories that basically describes Lamott’s experiences of God and faith. The former alcoholic, drug addict and bulimic is a natural story teller with a signature voice that is at once acerbic, candid, compassionate and self-deprecating without being cloying. Topics range from Lamott’s leftist political views, her aging, reconciling with her mother after her death, coping with her teenage son Sam, euthanizing her dog, forgiveness, reconnecting with her son’s father eight years after his birth, and more. Most of the events take place around Marin County, California, where she lives. Lamott is at her edgiest when railing against social injustice, and most honest when describing her own foibles and flaws. Always, she finds grace in the details. This is a follow-up to her earlier Traveling Mercies: Thoughts on Faith.

Subject headings: Lamott, Anne; Religion; Novelists, American; 20th century; biography; Christian; Faith.

Appeal: Truthful, self-aware, funny, passionate, wise, humorous, irreverent, wrenchingly honest, Christian, perceptive, droll, smart, liberal values, interfaith beliefs, social justice, sharp writing, personal, spiritual, compassionate.

Three terms that best describe this book: Honest; humorous; spiritual.

Similar author and works and why they are similar:

3 Relevant  Non-fiction Works and Authors:

a) Picking Dandelions: A search for Eden among life’s weeds by Sarah Cunningham.  This daughter of a Baptist minister views her faith not as a “one and done event like a sinner’s prayer” but as a journey for a lifetime. Self-mocking, honest, and a captivating story-teller, Cunningham writes about her spiritual growth from childhood on to her present life as a mother and idealistic teacher. Some consider her a younger Lamott.

b) Eat, Pray, Love: One woman’s search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. Although this is a full-length memoir, its incisive writing, dry wit and spiritual undertone make it a lovely companion to Lamott. Gilbert writes in clear, intelligent, funny, readable journalistic prose, with tantalizing descriptions of exotic locales and about poignantly emotional events of heartache, spiritual search, and longing for love. Her courage to share openly and authentically about her experiences of pain, humiliation and learning from other people and faith traditions, while retaining her charming, self-deprecating wit, made this Lamott fan and readers everywhere fall in love with the author and her book.

c) Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller. Miller’s earnestness contrasts with Lamott’s punchy bluntness and wry humor, but his intimate stories of rediscovering his faith, and his straightforward and progressive approach to Christianity are strongly reminiscent of Lamott at her best. Both have a down-to-earth take on spirituality as a personal, living, relevant day-to-day experience that isn’t dictated by what others say it should be.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

a) Putting Away Childish Things: A tale of modern faith by Marcus Borg. Well-known Christian scholar Borg uses the compelling tale of progressive Midwestern religion professor Kate, through her modern trials and tribulations, to discuss the place of Christianity and its traditional teachings in the 21st century.

b) Life Goes On by Philip Gulley. Part of the Harmony series about a quirky Quaker congregation in Harmony, Indiana led by Pastor Sam Gardner of Harmony Friends Meeting. The delightfully flawed characters’ slice-of-life stories demonstrate the grace of God found everywhere, from friendships to fights. Not as edgy as Lamott but equally thoughtful about the place of faith in our lives.

c) Evensong by Gail Godwin. This evocative novel set in the Smokies in Western North Carolina just before the end of the 20th century about an Episcopalian woman minister who questions the foundation of her marriage is a deeply satisfying read. It draws you in quietly with its insight and empathy for its characters, the varied and interesting parishioners with their tales of conflicts of emotions, faith, and loyalty. There is gentle humor but mostly a deep spiritual sense of possibilities and hope.

Name: Soon Har

Dance Hall of the Dead

June 7, 2010

Author: Tony Hillerman

Title: Dance Hall of the Dead

Genre: Mystery fiction

Publication Date: 1973

Number of Pages: 166

Geographical Setting: Navajo and Zuni Indian reservations in New Mexico

Time Period: present day (1973)

Series (If applicable): second book in the Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee mysteries

Plot Summary:

Navajo Tribal policeman Lt. Joe Leaphorn finds himself trying to solve a case involving two missing boys, one a Zuni Indian and one a Navajo.  The Zuni boy may be dead and the Navajo boy may be the murderer.  But  Leaphorn thinks there is more to it than that simple conclusion and he must investigate all the avenues of this puzzling case; avenues that lead to an archeological dig as well as the strange customs of the Zuni.

Native American cultures and myths add another layer of intrigue to this atmospheric mystery set on the reservations in New Mexico.  Lt. Leaphorn must also deal with the politics and conflicts between the various areas of law enforcement involved (Navajo police, Zuni police, FBI), all while trying to track down the whereabouts of the missing Navajo boy, who just may be the key that unlocks the entire case.

Subject Headings:

Navajo Tribal Police;  Navajo detectives;  Murder investigation;  Murder suspects;  Navajo Indians;  Criminal investigation;  Leaphorn, Joe;  Zuni Indians;  New Mexico;  Police — Southwestern States;  Indian reservation police;  Mystery stories

Appeal:

spiritual, secretive, religious, enigmatic, perplexing, compelling, thoughtful, contemplative, reasoning, mannered, willful, rational, detailed, shrewd

3 terms that best describe this book:

Mystical; Deliberate; Rich with detail and description

Similar Authors and Works:

Fiction

1)      Death Walker (Ella Clah mysteries series, volume 2) by Aimee & David Thurlo

Ella Clah, a Special Investigator with the Navajo Tribal Police, must track down the killer of the Navajo tribe’s cultural and spiritual teachers.

Similarities:  Navajo Tribal Police, murder investigation, spiritual and cultural emphasis.

2)      Shadow Pl[a]y (Laura Winslow mysteries series, volume 6) by  David Cole

Private detective Laura Winslow investigates a possible murder-suicide of a Navajo.  The mystery also draws in her lover, a police officer, and secrets are exposed as they further delve into the case.

Similarities:  Navajo characters, murder investigation, tribal customs and myths.

3)      Spirit Sickness (Emmett Quanah Parker mysteries series, volume 2) by Kirk Mitchell

Supernatural beings are tied to the killing of a Navajo cop and his wife as the murder is investigated by Bureau of Indian Affairs officer Emmet Parker and an FBI agent.

Similarities:  Navajo police, murder investigation, supernatural and spiritual angle.

Non-Fiction

Diné: A History of the Navajos by  Peter Iverson; featuring photographs by Monty Roessel

A general narrative history of the Navajos from their origins to the present.

Similarities:  Navajo culture and history

The Unquiet Grave: the FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country by Steve Hendricks

Details the conflict between the FBI and Native Americans concerning a murder of a Native American activist in 1976.

Similarities:  Native Americans, law enforcement, conflict of cultures

The Zuni Enigma by Nancy Yaw Davis

Examines the culture of the Zuni Indians of New Mexico

Similarities:  Zuni culture and history

Name: Valerie Kyriakopoulos

Zane’s Trace

May 26, 2010

Author: Allan Wolf

Title: Zane’s Trace

Genre: Adventure

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 177

Geographical Setting: U.S.A. (West Virginia and Ohio)

Time Period: Present day

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:

17 year old Zane Guesswind, an epileptic who also suffers from hypergraphia (the overwhelming urge to write), finds himself driving a stolen 1969 Plymouth Barracuda to his schizophrenic mother’s gravesite in Zanesville, Ohio after believing that he has killed his grandfather by writing him out of the world with a Sharpie.  As the numbers on the mile markers dwindle, Zane also embarks on a journey through his past and starts to learn more about who he is and where he came from.

Zane picks up a mysterious hitchhiker at The Happy Days Diner, 288 miles from his destination.  Her name is Libba and although she has to have the last word in any discussion she does give Zane insights into his past that he never could have expected.  As the Barracuda eats up the miles, Zane also meets several other characters, some real and some imagined (or are they?), who also provide him with pieces to the puzzle that is his life.

Presented in verse form, this fast paced and energetic novel puts the reader in the back seat of that Plymouth Barracuda along with Zane and Libba.

Subject Headings:

Epilepsy; Orphans; Interracial persons; Family; Death; Automobile travel; Loss (Psychology); Grief; Guilt; Suicide; Mental illness; Self-discovery; Novels in verse

Appeal:

energetic, fast moving, engrossing, fierce, reckless, compelling, cynical/sarcastic, humorous, spiritual, earnest, melancholy, trippy, quirky, supernatural, cathartic

3 terms that best describe this book: tight; charismatic characters;  wild ride

Similar Authors and Works:

Fiction:

1)      Before and Again by Doris Mortman

Callie, the daughter of a schizophrenic who committed suicide, searches for answers after she begins having the same sort of disturbing dreams that destroyed her mother.

2)      Night of the Radishes by Sandra Benitez

Annie Rush has dealt with various family tragedies which prompts her to try and find her long lost brother.  Along the way she must decide who she really is.

3)      The Rhythm of the Road: A Novel by Albyn Leah Hall

Another novel involving road trips and hitchhikers, this one centers on Jo Pickering, who travels everywhere with her truck driving father.  When they pick up a female country singer, Jo’s life is forever changed.

Non-Fiction:

1)      Flight of Passage: A Memoir by Rinker Buck

Two teenage brothers fly a plane over the U.S.  This adventure eventually brings them closer to their father and to each other.

2)      The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain by Alice Flaherty

Flaherty talks about how hypergraphia affected her as a writer and as a person.

3)      The Mourner’s Dance: What We Do When People Die by Katherine Ashenburg

Rituals of death are explored in this book and how different cultures deal with death is also examined.

Name: Valerie Kyriakopoulos

The Alchemist

November 17, 2009

Title: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho / Audio Narration: Jeremy Irons

Publication Date: 2001

Number of Pages: N/A (Unabridged: 4 CDs-4.5 hours)

Genre: Inspirational/Audio Book

Geographical Setting: Spain, Morocco, Egypt

Time Period: Distant past, Middle Ages

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Destined to be a priest, Santiago decides to be a shepherd instead due to his love for travel. He sets off to find hidden treasures in Egypt after having the same dream for two nights in a row. Along the way, he encounters a Gypsy woman, a crystal merchant, an Englishman who is on his own quest to become an Alchemist, and a self-proclaimed king. Receiving directions from each of these unique people, his journey takes him away from his homeland in Spain, to Tangier, and across Egypt, to his final destination, the Great Pyramids. At an oasis in the desert, Santiago believes he has found the ultimate treasure – his one true love, Fatima. Eventually Santiago meets an alchemist, and their student-teacher relationship clarifies much of the boy’s misguided agenda. After a long journey during which he grows mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, he finally discovers the location of the treasure. Listeners, uncertain of the treasure that the boy seeks, learn that riches are not found in possessions, but are within our hearts and minds. Jeremy Irons performs the unabridged audio version of this story, with a crisp, articulate, and amazingly unique portrayal of each primary and secondary character. A British stage and screen actor, Irons has the perfect tone and rhythm for this contemporary fable that draws the listener into the story, eager to walk along side Santiago.

Subject Headings: Self-discovery, Voyages and travels, Egypt, Wisdom, Boy shepherds, Dreams, Imagination in boys, Courage in boys, Spiritual fiction, Metaphorical tales, Fables, Brazilian fiction , 20th century, Portuguese fiction, 20th century, Translations into English, Omens, Human spirit, Idealism, Personal legend, Coming-of-age, Pilgrimage, Quest, Magical phenomenon, Internal struggle

Appeal: Exotic, Wise, Timeless, Philosophical, Inspirational, Destiny, Love, Spiritual, Coming-of-Age, Symbolic, Irony, Imaginative, Transforming, Psychologically intense, Introspective tone, Leisurely paced, Dramatic

Three terms that best describe this book: Inspiring, Imaginative, Captivating

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Epic of Arya: In Search of the Sacred Journey – by Ahir Taha: An inner journey of self-discovery, this inspirational, allegorical novel is the spiritual bible: it heals, awakens, transforms. Arya’s epic conveys a universal message of unity, hope, and salvation in a world torn apart by the clash of civilizations and religions, offering a spiritual alternative to the two scourges plaguing mankind today: the scourge of religious fundamentalism, God idolatry, and the scourge of atheist materialism, God denial, for only a spiritual awakening can save man from his own blind folly.

That Same Flower – Floria Aemilia’s Letter to Saint Augustine – by Jostein Gaardner: Using the device of a text-within-a-text, Norwegian writer Gaardner presents the story of the woman whom Augustine abandoned when he answered God’s call to the celibate life. In a brief introduction, the author describes how he stumbled upon an ancient Latin manuscript in a Buenos Aires bookshop, then bought it, believing it to be the only known letter to Augustine from Floria, his lover and the mother of his son. Written in response to Augustine’s Confessions, which she has just read, the letter has the biting tone of a woman scorned, but also the drive of a fearless intellect.

Castle of Wisdom – by Rhett Ellis: Elias, a curious young man, sets out to find the “Castle of Wisdom,” a mysterious old ruin where he believes he will learn The Master Truth: the meaning of life, the secret of existence, the reason for it all. Along the course of his eighteen year journey he experiences everything from romance, joy, and wealth to misery, pain, and poverty.

Relevant Non-fiction Works and Authors:

Essence and Alchemy: A Book of Perfume – by Mandy Aftel: To this most extraordinary treatise on the history and making of perfume, Aftel, a writer and aroma designer, brings sheer delight in the bouquet of aromas in the natural world, as well as a “love for arcana” and an irreverent sensibility that embraces aphrodisiacs. Smell is one of the most primal senses, and world history is full of the manipulation of smell, she reveals, starting with the palace perfumers of ancient Egypt; the Israelite women who concocted essences for temple sacrifices; the Romans, who anointed nearly everything; the alchemists, who searched for the Divine Essence.

Earth 2012: The Ultimate Quest – by Aurora Juliana Ariel: How to Find Peace in a World of Chaos encourages readers to embark on a personal quest to push themselves to find inner peace. Dr. Ariel guides the reader on a personal quest, providing a powerful key to inner peace in her revolutionary breakthrough Counseling Theory and Practice, The Quest. Distilled into seven powerful steps, this healing process is designed to accelerate a personal and planetary transformation that could help end suffering on Earth. Her message: If we want to avert the dire potentials before us, we must look within and unlock the subconscious patterns behind our challenging life conditions.

The Art of Living – by Epictetus (Audio book-Narrated by Richard Bolles): Epictetus, one of the greatest of the ancient thinkers, believed that the primary mission of philosophy is to help ordinary people meet the challenges of daily life and deal with losses, disappointments, and grief. His prescription for the good life: master desires, perform one’s duties, and learn to think clearly about oneself and the larger community.

Name: Maurine

A Dirty Job

November 4, 2009

Author: Christopher Moore

Title: A Dirty Job

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2006

Geographical Setting: San Francisco

Time Period: Present

Series: No

Plot Summary: Charlie Asher is a neurotic thrift store owner whose wife has just died after giving birth to their first child. Full of grief, he worries about how he’ll raise his daughter Sophie, even with the help of his sister Jane. But after a brief encounter with a mystery man in his wife’s hospital room, strange things start happening to Charlie. Unseen by any of his employees, items in his shop begin to glow a mysterious red. When Charlie sees a man at the ATM machine with a glowing red umbrella, he tries to ask him about it, but the man immediately gets hit by a bus, and the police and other observers act as if they can’t even see Charlie. People and pets starting dying all around him, and Charlie starts to see dark shadows and hear voices from the sewers. Convinced he has become the Grim Reaper, Charlie sets out to find the man from the hospital to get some answers. What he finds out will put him and his family in great danger, unless he can hold off the evil forces that are trying to take over the world. But first he has to figure out how.

Although it is a horror novel, with plenty of death and evil, this book manages to have a lighter tone thanks to the author’s use of humor and quirky characters. The main character—who refers to himself as a Beta Male because of his wimpiness—usually has no idea what he is doing or what he is up against, which puts him in plenty of outlandish situations and lets readers laugh at heavy subjects like death and dying. Secondary characters are colorful and mouthy; even the evil sewer harpies banter. The storyline moves quickly and holds your interest, with plenty of plot twists and turns, especially at the end.

Appeal Terms: humorous, neurotic, outlandish, mythical underworld, spiritual, strong language, sexual situations, witty, fast-paced, quirky characters, action-oriented, complex, violent, plot-centered, racy, contemporary, details in San Francisco, plot twists, urban, cynical, dark, lots of dialogue, battle scenes, epilogue, resolved ending

Subject Headings: San Francisco, California – Death and Dying –Secondhand Retail – Children – Gay and Lesbian – Dogs – Celtic Mythology – Luminatus – Police Detectives – Buddhism – Reincarnation

Three Terms that Best Describe this Book: satiric, unpredictable, surreal

Three Nonfiction Titles:

The Guises of the Morrigan: The Irish Goddess of Sex & Battle by David Rankine
– Learn more about The Morrigan, the starring villain of A Dirty Job.

Buddhism for Dummies by Jonathan Landow
– Learn more about Buddhism and its teachings about reincarnation.

Lonely Planet San Francisco by Alison Bing
– Learn more about San Francisco, where the novel was set.

Three Fiction Titles:

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin
– Depicts an animated toyland of living dolls stalked by a serial killer

Blood Lite: An Anthology of Humorous Horror Stories presented by the Horror Writers Association edited by Kevin J. Anderson
– A collection of short horror fiction by such authors as Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Kelley Armstrong

A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
– A diner in the middle of the desert is a portal to another dimension, and it’s up to a zombie and a werewolf to save the world.

Tuesdays with Morrie

June 24, 2009

Author: Mitch Albom

Title: Tuesdays with Morrie

genre: inspirational, biographies & memoirs

publication date: 1997

number of pages: 192

geographical setting: United States, Detroit and Boston

plot summary: Having graduated and moved on in his life the Author looses touch with what he wants in life. By coincidence he sees an old professor on television who he hadn’t talked to in 16 years. Learning that this great mentor of his is dying of an incurable disease the author puts his life partly on hold to fly back and and learn one final lesson from the teacher, what he learns puts his life in a whole new perspective.

Subject headings: inspirational, religion & spirituality, biographies & memoirs

appeal: enlightening, teaching,  inspirational, thought-provoking, detaching, symbolic, deep, learning, true, spiritual, bereavement, death,

three terms: teacher/student, thoughtful, acceptance

relevant fiction:

The Five people you meet in heaven by Mitch Albom (life’s purpose)

My sister’s keeper by Jodi Picoult (meaning of life)

The Guernsey Literary and potato-peel pie society by Mary Ann Shaffer (human nature)

relevant non-fiction:

Who Dies? by Stephen Levine (dealing with death)

Practicing your path by Holly W. Whitcomb (finding spirituality)

Marley and me by John Grogan (life perspectives)

Name: Bill Thurston

Women’s Lives and Relationships/African American

June 15, 2009

Women’s Lives and Relationships

Title: The Lost Quilter

Author: Chiaverini, Jennifer

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 500 (large print edition)

Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships

Geographical Setting: Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina

Time Period: Pre –Civil War and Present Day

Series: Elm Creek Quilts Novels

Plot Summary: The Elm Creek Quilts Novels focus on women’s lives and relationships. Jennifer Chiaverini has interwoven historical relationships at Elm Creek Farm with present day ties to the farm in her books. The owners of Elk Creek Farm currently live at the home but have turned it into a quilt camp business. This latest book, The Lost Quilter, tells the historical story of Joanna, a runaway slave, who came to the farm when it played a role in the Underground Railroad. Joanna gives birth while at the farm but is subsequently apprehended by slave catchers.  As a result of her capture, Joanna is forced to leave her infant son behind at the farm. The Lost Quilter focuses on Joanna’s difficult life, her desire to one day reconnect with her son, and her eventual escape from slavery. The present day characters find hidden letters, realize a great-uncle was Joanna’s son, and attempt to find out what happened to Joanna. Seeing a historical quilt made during Pre-Civil War days leads the family to uncover Joanna’s story.

Subject Headings: Quilting – Fiction, Quilt makers – Fiction, Slavery – Fiction, African American – Fiction, Underground Railroad – Fiction, Genealogy – Fiction

Appeal: Historical, Multi-cultural, Historical detailed settings, Generational relationships,  Multiple plotlines, Layered, Different Points of View, Varied pace, Engaging, Heartwarming, Spiritual, Issues Resolved.

Three Terms that Describe this Book: Historical, Female Relationships, Heartwarming.

Similar Authors and Works (Fiction)

Dallas, Sandra – The Persian Pickle Club. This book, set during the Depression, weaves a story of friendship during hard times and addresses several issues, including physical abuse, infertility and prejudice.

Brice, Carleen – Orange Mint and Honey is the story of a struggling black graduate student, Shay. Raised by an alcoholic mother, Shay reluctantly returns home to move in with her mom. Although her mother no longer drinks, Shay, her mother, and baby half-sister struggle to forge new family relationships.

Allen, Sarah Addison – Garden Spells. This engaging book, with a whiff of magic, is the story of two sisters. One sister stayed in the family home, and the other left town as soon as she could. The wayward sister returns, with a young daughter in tow, to the family home as a refuge. Both work to form new family relationships and attempt to support one another as they strive to become emotionally healthy individuals.

Similar Authors and Works (Nonfiction)

Wisconsin Public Television – “A Century of Quilts: America in Cloth” is a DVD showing quilts as records of history, symbols of family and community and works of art.

Better Homes and Gardens Books – America’s Heritage Quilts. This books explains traditional quilts and their history. It also includes instructions and pattern pieces to quilt.

Hagedorn, Ann – Beyond the River: the untold story of the heroes of the Underground Railroad gives the history of the antislavery movement, abolitionists, and fugitive slaves.

Name: Donna Mihovilovich