Posts Tagged ‘stylistically complex’

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

Man in the dark

October 17, 2012

Book JacketAuthor: Paul Auster

Title: Man in the Dark

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 180

Geographical Setting: Vermont

Time Period: 2008

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: August Brill spends his days watching movies with his granddaughter, Katya and his nights creating stories when he cannot fall asleep. Man in the dark is a bleak novel about August Brill’s stories of the alternative history of modern day America. The alternative America that August Brill comes up with is that America is in a war with itself and individual states have become their own republic. August Brill envisions this thought provoking story through the eyes of Owen Brick in which he is brought to kill the man in charge of the war. August Brill’s fictional story about the modern day civil war reflects his own life and the family surrounding him. August was never able to fight in the war, he recently lost his own wife, got into a car accident and had to go live with his daughter Miriam. Also, his granddaughter lost her boyfriend Titus in a terrible accident. Man in the dark is a spare, stylistically complex and descriptive written novel in which it has a lot of plot and detail for a shorter book. The main question is how does his story of the modern day civil war relate to his own life?

Subject Headings: Memories; imaginary wars and battles; senior men; imagination; father and adult daughter; married women – death; murder victims; former critics; forgiveness; civil war; violence

Appeal: bleak; contemporary; descriptive; disturbing; experimental; gritty; flawed; intricately plotted; leisurely-paced; melancholy; reflective; spare; stylistically complex; thought provoking

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: bleak; spare; stylistically complex

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

– Butler, Blake, Nothing: a portrait of insomnia (true story of a man who has insomnia and creates stories that based on his past experiences)

– Cowley, Robert, What if?: the world’s foremost military historians imagine what might have been: essays (historians look at how wars could have ended different if something different happened)

– Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: a narrative (describes the real civil war between 1862-1864)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

– Banville, John, The Sea (stylistically complex, reflective, dealing with family after wife died)

– Evaristo, Bernardine, 1959-, Blonde roots (alternative history about the United States)

– Updike, John, Toward the end of time (creates stories about fictional wars in the U.S. with China, bleak, descriptive)

Name: Samantha Biegel

Code Name Verity

September 26, 2012

Title:  Code Name Verity

Author:  Elizabeth Wein

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  343

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Geographical Setting:  Great Britain and France

Time Period:  World War II (1943)

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary: 

An unnamed young woman, imprisoned and tortured by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied France during WWII, agrees to turn over information about the British War Effort.  Her confession weaves together characters and conditions of her current situation with stories from her past, describing her friendship with Maddie, the pilot of the plane who flew them to France and crashed.  Though Code Name Verity is a suspenseful spy novel, above all else it is a story of friendship and survival, courageous and heart breaking.

Subject Headings:  World War, 1939-1945; Great Britain History; France History German occupation; Insurgency; Nazis; Women air pilots; Espionage; Friendship.

Appeal:  character-driven; suspenseful; compelling; intense; moving; thought-provoking; cross-class friendship; courage; survival; details about period aircraft and flying; women’s involvement in the war effort; stylistically complex; intricately plotted; unreliable narrator; multiple narrators; diary fiction; flashbacks; closed ending; war story; spy story; World War II story.

3 appeal terms that best describe this work:  compelling, character-driven, friendship

Similar/Relevant Authors and Works (Fiction):

Tamar by Mal Peet

After the death of her beloved grandfather, Tamar inherits a box containing clues and coded messages, leading her on a journey to uncover the truth about her family and its secrets, stemming from involvement with resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II.  Tamar and Code Name Verity are both compelling, suspenseful, intricately plotted stories involving secrets and betrayal, set during World War II.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Death narrates the story of Liesl, a young girl living with foster parents in Nazi Germany, for whom stealing books, with their stories and later her own, is a way to survive the horrors of war.  Readers who enjoy moving, character-driven, stylistically complex stories may enjoy The Book Thief and Code Name Verity; both books also involve secrets and survival during World War II.

Yossel by Joe Kubert

A graphic novel set in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II, Yossel portrays the harsh life and conditions in Nazi-occupied Poland, told by a fifteen-year-old Jewish boy through his sketches.  Readers interested in exploring more stories about World War II and the Resistance movement that are moving, thought-provoking, and character-driven may be interested in this book.

Similar/Relevant Authors and Works (Nonfiction):

A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII by Sarah Helm

After WWII, Vera Atkins, a high-ranking female officer of a British Intelligence unit, investigated the fates of agents who had disappeared during the war.  Readers interested in learning more about the British Intelligence unit and its involvement with the resistance movement during WWII may enjoy this book, as could readers interested in reading about the involvement of women in the war effort.

The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman

Antonina Zabinski and her husband, Jan, helped many Jews escape the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII by hiding them in their home and in the empty cages of the Warsaw Zoo, which had been heavily damaged during a Nazi bombing of the city.  Readers interested in finding more stories about courage and survival during WWII may be interested in this dramatic tale of compassion and heroism in the midst of war.

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

In this graphic novel memoir, the author/illustrator portrays his father’s experiences in Nazi-occupied Poland and imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp.  Readers looking for intense, moving and thought-provoking stories about survival during WWII may be interested in discovering this title.

Name:  Nicole

House on Mango Street

April 11, 2012

Author: Sandra Cisneros

Title: The House on Mango Street

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

Publication Date: 1994

Number of pages: 134

Geographical Setting: Chicago

Time Period: Contemporary

Series (if applicable): N/A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

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

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

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

Name: Jessica

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.

Blackout

October 12, 2011

Author: Willis, Connie

Title: Blackout

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 491

Geographical Setting: Oxford, UK 2060 and Multiple Locations, UK 1940’s

Time Period: 2060 and 1940’s during WWII

Series (If applicable): Book 1 of 2

Plot Summary:  Set in the year 2060, Blackout is the story of a time-travel lab at Oxford University who is sending 3 historians, Michael, Polly and Merope, on assignment to study different events during WWII.  Prior to their departures, assignments are being cancelled and changed and it seems like the situation in the lab is a little chaotic.  Once they reach 1940 they all experience different aspects of the war, from the blackouts to the bombings during the London Blitz,  and from the evacuation at Dunkirk
to the evacuation of London children to the countryside.  Things seem strange from the start, but the reality of the situation really sets in when
their assignments are supposed to end or are overdue, and they cannot seem to get back to 2060 and no one from the lab seems to be coming to rescue
them.  Will the historians be permanently stuck in the past? We have to wait to find out because this is the 1st of 2 books in this series.

Subject Headings: Time Travel; World War II; Historians; England; Oxford; Speculative Future; Hugo Award Winners

Appeal: Fast-paced, suspenseful, witty, bleak, stylistically complex, multiple story lines, richly detailed, intricately plotted, compelling,  historically detailed, character-centered, emotionally charged

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: compelling, richly
detailed, stylistically complex

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1) The Longest Night: the Bombing of London on May 10, 1941 by Gavin Mortimer – Several of the historians in Blackout visited London
during the Blitz. This work is a compilation of eyewitness accounts of the London Blitz, which began on Sept. 7, 1940 and continued through 1941, leavingLondon in ruins.  (WWII, Bleak, richly detailed)

2) The Zookeeper’s Wife: a War Story by Diane Ackerman – This is the true story of a zookeeper’s wife in Warsaw Poland who sheltered 300 Jews and
non-Jews alike during WWII.  Although not set in Britain, it shows the lives of normal citizens during the war and that is what the historians in Blackout were studying. (Compelling, Stylistically complex, WWII)

3) A Girls War: a Childhood Lost in Britain’s WWII Evacuation by Doreen Drewry-Lehr – One of the time-traveling historians in Blackout is sent back to WWII England to study the children who were evacuated from London to the country to avoid the bombing.  This non-fiction work recounts, in her own words, the experience of one of the children who was evacuated. The author is the little girl.  (WWII, Britain, Thought-provoking)

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1) Timeline by Michael Crichton – Similar to Blackout, this book recounts the tale of a time-traveling Yale history professor whose present
is sometime in our future and who travels back to the 15th century.  Unfortunately he gets stuck in the past and must enlist the help of his students to rescue him.  (Fast-paced, suspenseful, richly detailed)

2) In the Garden of Iden: a Novel of the Company by Kage Baker – Also similar to Blackout, this book follows a botanist from the 24th century back to the 16th century.  Her mission is to prevent the extinction of a very important plant that could be used in her time to cure cancer. (Fast-paced, witty, richly detailed)

3) The Night Watch by Sarah Waters – Although this book is not science fiction like Blackout, it is a historical fiction story which features characters caught in London’s Blitz during WWII.  (Compelling, descriptive, WWII, intricately plotted)

Name: Michelle Worthington

Ilium

October 11, 2011

IliumAuthor: Dan Simmons

Title:  Ilium

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy Fiction

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 592

Geographical Setting: Mars, Earth in the far furture

Time Period: The 40th Century

Plot Summary:  High atop Olympus Mons on Mars the Gods of ancient Greece watch the battle of Troy play out over and over again for their amusement.  The reader first meets the main hero Thomas Hockenberry on the battle field as an invisible observer.  Raised from the dead he is forced to work for the gods or risk being sent back to the grave.  When he gets caught up in the machinations of Aphrodite he sets off a series of event that threaten to take down the gods themselves.  Meanwhile down on Earth life is far different since the post-humans have disappeared.  Humans have all of their needs taken care of but their knowledge of the world is limited to the borders of the few cities still populated.  Harman, a man living his “last twenty”, is determined to search beyond the walls to find out what really happened to the post humans.  At the same time in deep space sentient robots speed towards our Mars on a mission to hopefully prevent a catastrophe that could potentially destroy the galaxy.

Subject Headings: Homer. Iliad. – Influence; Trojan War; Mythology, Greek ; Artificial intelligence; Genetic engineering; Gods and goddesses, Greek; Warriors; Wanderers and wandering; Robots; Space flight; Imaginary wars and battles

Appeal: Intricately plotted, Dramatic, thought-provoking, stylistically complex, Experimental, measured pacing, philosophical, suspenseful, detailed, engaging, character-centered, layered, multiple plot lines,

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: intricately plotted, thought-provoking, engaging

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Trojan War by Carol G. Thomas

The Trojan War is an event that stands at the very foundation of the Western and the epic tradition, and this volume provides readers with an opportunity to experience it in as direct and as varied a manner as is possible.

Genetic Engineering: Principles and Methods by Jane K. Setlow

Genetic Engineering: Principles and Methods presents state-of-the-art discussions in modern genetics and genetic engineering. This series covers gene therapy research, genetic mapping, plant science and technology, transport protein biochemistry, and viral vectors in gene therapy, among many other topics.

100 Characters from Classical Mythology: Discover the Fascinating Stories of the Greek and Roman Deities by Malcolm Day

This book charts 100 of the most important characters from Greco-Roman mythology. Beginning with the primordial deities, the author goes on to describe the great gods of Olympus and the shadowy inhabitants of Hades. Addressing universal themes such as love, jealousy, anger, ambition, deceit, and beauty, these stories are as relevant today as they were in ancient times.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Voyage by Stephen Baxter

This book creates a recent past in which President Kennedy survives an assassination attempt to set in motion the next great NASA mission, a manned voyage to Mars, in a story of NASA’s detailed plans to visit the red planet.

The Iliad by Homer

The story of the darkest episode of the Trojan War. At its center is Achilles, the greatest warrior-champion of the Greeks, and his conflict with his leader Agamemnon. Interwoven in the tragic sequence of events are powerfully moving descriptions of the ebb and flow of battle, the besieged city of Ilium, the feud between the gods, and the fate of mortals.

Ender’s game by
Orson Scott Card

A veteran of years of simulated war games, Ender believes he is engaged in one more computer war game when in truth he is commanding the last fleet of Earth against an alien race seeking the complete destruction of Earth.

Name: Jason Rock