Posts Tagged ‘sympathetic characters’

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.

Shopgirl by Steve Martin

August 8, 2012

Author:  Steve Martin

Title:  Shopgirl

Genre:  Literary Fiction, Bestseller, Audio Book

Publication Date:  2000

Number of Pages:  130 (4 CDs, 4 hours)

Geographical Setting:  Beverly Hills, CA

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  n/a

Plot Summary:  Mirabelle Buttersfield is a sad, lonely, and clinically depressed twenty-eight-year-old Vermont native who sometime ago moved to California with aspirations of becoming an artist but now works in the glove department at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills.  Withdrawn and almost friendless, Mirabelle’s life consists of “selling things nobody buys anymore,” commuting to and from her apartment, feeding her cats, taking antidepressants, drawing pictures of dead and dying things, visiting art galleries, and occasionally meeting up with Jeremy, an unambitious and inept young man she met in a laundromat who stencils logos onto amplifiers for a living.  Her life begins to change when Mr. Ray Porter, an enormously wealthy, handsome, and debonair gentleman nearly twice Mirabelle’s age, buys her a pair of expensive gloves and asks her out for dinner.  Although Ray Porter is charming, suave, and genuinely cares about Mirabelle, he makes it perfectly clear that he does not intend on maintaining an exclusive relationship with her.  Despite this revelation, Mirabelle continues this dead-end relationship for quite some time until Jeremy, who has undergone a dynamic transformation with the help of self-improvement books, reenters her life.  Shopgirl is a brief and bittersweet meditation on loneliness, relationships between men and women, and the human capacity for change, containing a vivid cast of closely-observed characters that are sympathetic, somewhat offbeat, and occasionally amusing.  The author’s style is witty, thoughtful, and concise, and deftly matches the book’s unique tone, which is at times funny, reflective, melancholic, dramatic, and romantic.  On audio book, Steve Martin’s reading accentuates the novella’s melancholy tone, making Mirabelle’s depression affectingly palpable and deemphasizing the book’s more humorous moments.

Subject Headings:  Beverly Hills, CA – Fiction; Clerks (Retail Trade) – Fiction; Department Stores – Fiction; Young Women – Fiction; Coming-of-Age Story – Fiction.

Appeal:  Closely-observed characters, sympathetic characters, dramatic, character-driven, details of department store retail, amusing, bittersweet, reflective, introspective, romantic, funny, melancholy, descriptive, thoughtful, concise, witty

3 terms that best describe this book:  Melancholy, reflective, bittersweet

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Minding the Store by Stanley Marcus

Stanley Marcus, son of Neiman Marcus co-founder Herbert Marcus, provides a lively and surprisingly readable history of Neiman Marcus and examines what makes the department store one of the best and most well-known retailers around.  Suggested to Shopgirl readers who want to learn more about Mirabelle’s employer.

2)  Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex by John Gray

One of the most famous and most accessible self-help relationship books that people still read today, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus discusses how men and women are different and offers practical advice on how to transform relationships in clear, easy-to-understand language.  This is one of the books mentioned in Shopgirl that Jeremy read to improve himself.

3)  Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity by Stephanie Barron, Sheri Bernstein, Ilene Susan Fort, Michael Dear, and Howard N. Fox

Published in conjunction with a Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s exhibition that explored the ways in which artistic representations of California affect its identity, this book reproduces 400 pieces and 150 cultural artifacts from the exhibit.  Suggested to readers who, like Mirabelle, are interested in art and California art exhibits.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)   The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing is a witty, humorous, and insightful collection of seven interlinked stories about Jane Rosenal, her relationships, and her lifelong search for love.  In the title story, Jane memorizes a number of self-help relationship guides and strictly adheres to their advice only to hilarious and disastrous ends.  This book is suggested to readers looking for something funnier than Shopgirl while still addressing men’s and women’s relationships with touching insightfulness and wit.

2)  The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland

It would appear that the only thing that Roger, a middle-aged divorcee and aspiring novelist, and Bethany, a teen goth, is that they both work at Staples.  However, one day, Bethany discovers Roger’s diary, finds that they share similar thoughts about loneliness and mortality, and suggests that they begin writing to each other.  Through these letters, these two characters forge a unique friendship.  Like Shopgirl, this is a darkly humorous, melancholic, and introspective novel about loneliness, featuring characters with failed aspirations trapped in dead-end retail jobs.

3)  The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories by Aimee Bender

This book is a collection of sixteen imaginative, offbeat, and surreal short stories about sexuality, love, and relationships between men and women.  These stories feature a librarian who sleeps with all men who enter the library as a way to fight off grief, a woman whose lover is “experiencing reverse evolution” and now lives in a glass baking pan, a man who comes home from war without his lips, and numerous other odd characters and scenarios.  This unorthodox suggestion would be most appropriate for Shopgirl readers who want to read another book dealing with human relationships but also want to read something less grounded in reality.

Name:  Zach Musil

The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames

August 8, 2012

Author:  Jonathan Ames

Illustrator:  Dean Haspiel

Title:  The Alcoholic

Genre:  Graphic Novel

Publication Date:  2008

Number of Pages:  136

Geographical Setting:  New York City

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Famous mystery writer Jonathan A. wakes from a drunken stupor to find himself in a cluttered station wagon next to an old dwarf woman intent on making love to him.  Trying to remember how he got here, he reflects back to his adolescence when he first discovered alcohol and made a pact with his best friend Sal to get drunk every weekend throughout high school, thus beginning his lifelong self-destructive relationship with alcohol.  He moves to New York City after his parents die in a car wreck and begins working as a taxi driver, where he meets a drug-dealer who introduces him to cocaine.  After waking up in a garbage can, he decides to check himself into a substance abuse rehabilitation facility.  Unfortunately, after leaving, his life continues to fill with tragedy: a girl he falls in love with abandons him yet continues to string him along, he learns that his best friend died of AIDS, his Aunt gets breast cancer, and he watches the World Trade Center burn down on September 11 from the roof of his apartment building.  Jonathan Ames’s The Alcoholic is a bleak, semiautobiographical tale of one man’s desperate and constant battle to overcome alcoholism.  Featuring flawed and lifelike characters with whom readers can sympathize, The Alcoholic is an emotionally-charged and sobering look at the horrors of alcoholism.  The illustrations are evocative, realistic, well-drawn, and superbly complement the narrative’s tone.

Subject Headings:  Alcoholics; Alcoholism; Addiction; Self-Destructive Behavior; Novelists

Appeal:  Compelling, unhurried, flawed characters, sympathetic characters, well-drawn characters, lifelike characters, character-driven, authentic, open-ended, candid, honest, gritty, engaging, self-deprecating, descriptive, darkly humorous, melancholy, moving, dramatic, melancholy, sobering, poignant, emotionally-charged, offbeat, reflective

3 terms that best describe this book:  Candid, melancholy, and sobering

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas

In this moving and somewhat disturbing memoir, twenty-four-year-old Koren Zailckas candidly talks about her experience with alcoholism (which began when she was only 14), half-remembered drunken sexual encounters, rape, and alcohol poisoning. She gives an intimate look into the largely overlooked issue of binge drinking among teen girls and young women.  This book is suggested to those who want to read true stories about underage drinking and early alcoholism.

2)  Dry by Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs, in the witty and offbeat writing style he is known for, recounts his stay in an alcohol rehabilitation facility for gay men.  But when he leaves, his recovery is challenged when he falls in love with a cocaine addict and his best friend dies of AIDS.  Simultaneously moving and humorous, Dry is suggested to readers who want a closer look inside a rehabilitation facility and want to read how someone else dealt with losing a friend to AIDS.

3)  Stitches by David Small

Written in graphic novel format, Stitches is a poignant, grim, and deeply haunting memoir about the author’s childhood and adolescence among an emotionally unavailable family.  Young David ends up getting throat cancer from his radiologist father, who subjected him to repeated x-rays, and looses his ability to speak after surgery.  Distant, mute, and alone, David turns to drawing as an escape.  Although this suggestion is not about alcoholism or addiction, readers looking for a similarly powerful graphic novel could not go wrong with Stitches.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis

A fictional version of Bret Easton Ellis attempts to change his drug-addled, binge-drinking lifestyle by marrying movie star Jayne Dennis, moving to the suburbs, and becoming a father.  Everything seems well for a while, but when he begins writing a pornographic shock novel his life goes from mundane and peaceful to bizarre and horrific.  He relapses back into alcohol and drug abuse, his house becomes possessed by an insidious spirit, someone begins copying the serial killings in American Psycho, and his neighborhood suffers an increase in child abductions.  Like The Alcoholic, this novel contains similar semiautobiographical elements and features a drug-abusing, flawed character as a protagonist.  Suggested to readers looking for something a bit more wild and offbeat than The Alcoholic.

2)  Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic British ex-consul, escapes to Quahnahuac, Mexico on November 2, 1938—The Day of the Dead—in order to cut himself off from his loved ones and to drink himself to death.  His ex-wife, Yvonne, and his stepbrother, Hugh, travel to the small Mexican town in an attempt to save him, but to no avail.  Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano is renowned for its vivid and sympathetic portrayal of the horrors of alcoholism.  Like The Alcoholic, this semiautobiographical novel provides an unflinching look at alcoholism.

3)  Factotum by Charles Bukowski

Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s alter ego, is a derelict and a drunkard who aimlessly travels throughout America looking for work in dead-end occupations, loose and easy women, and, of course, his next drink.  This bawdy semiautobiographical novel recounts Henry’s experiences in gritty, candid details.  Jonathan Ames, author of The Alcoholic, has mentioned Bukowski as an important influence in his own writing.  Further, Factotum similarly tells the story of an alcoholic’s experiences.

Name:  Zach Musil

Lady Be Good — Susan Elizabeth Phillips

July 31, 2012

Author:  Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Title:  Lady Be Good

Genre:  Romance

Publication Date:  1999

Number of Pages:  372

Geographical Setting:  Texas (primarily Dallas and Wynette, a fictional suburb of Austin)

Time Period:  Contemporary

Series (If applicable):  Third book in the Wynette, Texas series

Plot Summary:  Lady Emma Wells-Finch—the prim, proper, and prudish headmistress of an English all-girls boarding school—is in a most unfortunate engagement to the despicable Duke of Beddington who threatens to close Emma’s beloved school if she does not agree to marry him.  Unable to turn him down, she has no other alternative but to get the Duke to call off the wedding by convincing him that he grossly misjudged her character.  Under the pretense of conducting research, Emma flies to Texas with the intention of ruining her good name through ten days of defamation and debauchery.  Only one person stands in her way: Kenny Traveler, Texas’ hottest and most (in)famous bad boy pro-golfer. Recently suspended by the PGA after his involvement in a series of scandals, Kenny is doing his darnedest to stay out of the tabloids so he can get back into the game.  So when Kenny is hired to assist Emma in her “research,” their opposing agendas—not to mention their innate attraction towards one another—puts more than a few roadblocks in their plans.  Lady Be Good is a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that is both sensual and sentimental, and is an excellent starting point for those new to the romance genre.  Phillips’s witty prose is engaging and full of juicy descriptive details sure to please almost any romance reader looking for something light, quick, and humorous.

Subject Headings:  British in Texas; professional golfers; PGA tour; love stories; headmistresses; blackmail; chauffeurs

Appeal: character driven, descriptive, detailed setting of Texas, dialogue rich, engaging, familiar characters, fast paced, funny, recognizable characters, sensual, steamy, sympathetic characters

3 terms that best describe this book:  Romantic comedy, sensual, and descriptive

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

            3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Bud, Sweat, and Tees: A Walk on the Wild Side of the PGA Tour by Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck provides a thoroughly detailed, no-holds-barred inside look at what really goes on during the PGA Tour, both on and off the golf course.  This title is suggested to readers especially interested in learning more about the golfing aspects of Lady Be Good.

2)  My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands by Chelsea Handler

The always irreverent and bawdy Chelsea Handler relates a number of funny sexual encounters from her life.  Suggested for readers who enjoyed the steamy and scandalous sections of Lady Be Goodbut are looking for something more salacious.

3)  Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell

This collection of essays from Candace Bushnell’s popular column in the New York Observer provides humorous and touching insights into the dating and sexual lifestyles of Manhattan’s upper and middle classes.  Suggested to readers who enjoyed the funny and steamy elements of Lady Be Good, but are looking for more general insights into men and women relations.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1)  Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

When Minerva Dobbs discovers that her new admirer, David Fisk, had bet his friends $10,000 that he can get her into bed within a month, she figures she can play him, use him as a date for her sister’s wedding, and dump him before the month ends.  Like Lady Be Good, Crusie’s Bet Me is a hilarious contemporary romance featuring an appealing and engaging cast of characters.

2)  Nothing but Trouble by Rachel Gibson

Former B-movie actress Chelsea Ross is in desperate need of work, so when she is offered $10,000 to be the personal assistant to former hockey star Mark Bressler, she eagerly accepts the position despite her employer’s cantankerous disposition.  Nothing but Trouble is a funny and amusing contemporary romance between a strong female character and a professional sports player that readers of Lady Be Good may enjoy.

3)  Texas Bride by Joan Johnston

A historical romance set in late 19th-century Texas, Miranda Wentworth is forced to become a mail-order bride when the Chicago orphanage where she lives kicks her and her siblings out and marries Jake Creed, a failing Texas ranch owner struggling with the memory of his late wife.  Texas Bride is suggested to readers looking for a romance novel with a heavier western theme that is more serious in tone than Lady Be Good.

Name:  Zach Musil

Jurassic Park

July 30, 2012

Author: Crichton, Michael

Title: Jurassic Park

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1991

Number of Pages: 399 p.

Geographical Setting: Multiple Locations in the United States and Costa Rica

Time Period: 1989

Series: Has a sequel, The Lost World

Plot Summary: In this thrilling, fast-paced science fiction story, a genetic engineering corporation, InGen, successfully clones 15 species of dinosaurs.  Hoping to feature these previously extinct creatures in the greatest theme park of all time in an island off the west coast of Costa Rica, the visionary of the project, John Hammond, brings a group of people to evaluate it, including a paleontologist, Alan Grant, a paleobotanist, Ellie Sattler, an investment banker, Donald Gennaro, a mathematician, Ian Malcolm, a computer system analyst, Dennis Nedry, and Hammond’s two grandchildren, Lex and Tim Murphy.  While the theme park initially lives up to its fascinating premise, the underlying instability and chaos of the organization are apparent when an employee turns off the park’s power and security grid to steal dinosaur embryos for a competing genetic company, Biosyn.  The action that follows is a nightmarish fight for survival against several Tyrannosaurus rex, velociraptors, and other dinosaurs as every character tries to leave the island alive.  The novel alternates between the points of view of many different characters, although Ian Malcolm and his illustrations often serve as the main narrator and framework of Michael Crichton’s concerns regarding unregulated science and technology. As in many of his novels, Crichton uses clear language and technical details to tell a suspenseful and compelling story about the dangers of bioengineering and people’s desire to use science and math to control nature and the world.

Subject Headings: Genetic Engineering; Clones and Cloning; DNA; Dinosaurs; Prehistoric Animals; Amusement Parks; Business Sabotage; Scientists; Eccentric Men; Billionaires; Islands — Costa Rica; Science Fiction; Suspense Stories; Adventure Stories; Thriller Stories;

Appeal: fast-paced, compelling, dangerous, dramatic, foreboding, menacing, suspenseful, thought-provoking, thrilling, multiple points of view, flawed and recognizable characters, strong and interesting secondary characters, sympathetic characters, action-oriented, cinematic, violent, imaginative, issue-oriented, descriptive, detailed, informative, intelligent, persuasive, scientific, thoughtful, unique, vivid, well-crafted

3 Terms That Best Describe This Book: unique, thrilling, thought-provoking

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Rex Appeal: The Amazing Story of Sue, the Dinosaur That Changed Science, the Law, and My Life by Peter Larson and Kristin Donnan is an intriguing book about the politics and legal issues surrounding a real significant dinosaur discovery and excavation.

A Clone of Your Own?: The Science and Ethics of Cloning by Arlene Judith Klotzko is an informative and thought-provoking book about the moral and legal issues and history of stem cell research and cloning.

Blindsided: Surviving a Grizzly Attack and Still Loving the Great Bear by Jim Cole is a fascinating book about a grizzly bear that attacks the author during a trip to Yellowstone National Park and how despite his injuries, he still has empathy for grizzly bears and other animals that are still trying to survive in the wild.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston is an action-oriented, detailed science fiction thriller about Tom Broadbent who receives a journal from a dying man, Stern Weathers, in New Mexico that a murderer and the government is determined to get because of its description of the location of a special completely preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Shock by Robin Cook is a suspenseful and thought-provoking story about two Harvard graduate students Joanna Meissner and Deborah Cochrane, in Boston, Massachusetts, who investigate the use of their eggs at a fertility clinic and in the process, confront firsthand the hazards of cloning.

Esau by Philip Kerr is a fast-paced scientific story about Stella Swift, a paleontologist, who receives a fossilized skull from America’s greatest mountain climber, Jack Furness, and organizes an expedition to the Himalayas to investigate the possible new species that the skull represents.

The Help

July 16, 2012

Author: Kathryn Stockett

Title: The Help

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 522

Geographical Setting: Jackson, MS

Time Period: 1962-1964

Plot Summary: In 1962 Skeeter Phelan has graduated from college and is back in Jackson, Mississippi in the house where she grew up.  Desperate to leave town and become a writer she becomes inspired to write a book from the point of view of the African-American maids who live and work in her hometown.  Not without resistance, she enlists the help of Aibileen and Minny – two friends who have worked for multiple families in town over the years.  Stockett’s novel is told from these three voices as they embark on their secret project,  each aware of the risks and high costs that presenting this story to the world may have.

Subject Headings: African-American women, Civil Rights movement, college graduates, determination in women, domestic workers, housekeepers, interracial friendship, life change events, race relations, the sixties (20th century), and unemployed workers

Appeal:

compelling pacing, hopeful, emotionally-charged, thoughtful tone, character driven, multiple points of view, well-developed and vivid characters, flawed characters, sympathetic characters, inspiring characters, thought-provoking, historical setting, and engaging prose

3 terms that best describe this book:

Character driven, flawed characters, compelling

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Elizabeth and Hazel: two women of Little Rock by David Margolick – Taking place in a similar historical period to The Help, this novel tells the story of two women who were captured in an infamous picture during school integration in Little Rock.  Margolick recounts how this event shaped their lives.  This work has two points of view and focuses on individual people impacted by the civil rights movement.

Freedom Summer: the Savage Summer that Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy by Bruce Watson – Telling the story of seven hundred volunteers who went to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 to help register African-American voters and the violence that followed.  These events took place just after the fictional events of The Help.  The author also focuses on the participants and residents, capturing everyday people.

This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer by Kay Mills – Covering the civil rights movement through one activist, making it a personal character driven narrative.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas – Celeste is a college student and volunteer in the Freedom Summer in 1965. She is sent to a small Mississippi town to register voters, where she makes friends and finds unexpected challenges.  This novel has a similar historical setting, a character driven narrative, with young women questioning society around her.

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld – The wife of the American President considers the path she took and the things about herself she had to give up on her journey.  It is a character driven novel with flawed and complex characters.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – Post World War II Juliet, an English writer, is working to move beyond.  After exchanging letters with members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie society, she decides to visit them on an extended holiday.  A character driven story that involves creating unlikely friendships in trying circumstances

Name: Lisa Anne Fisherkeller Barefield

Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0-22

April 18, 2012

Author: MariNaomi

Title: Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0-22

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 331

Geographical Setting: California

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

This graphic novel is full of sometimes funny, sometimes touching, and often surprising stories from the authors life.  The stories, told in chronological order, follow MariNaomi’s love life from before she was born, starting with her parents story and ending when she is roughly 22 years old.  Some of the stories are short and sweet, while others are longer or more complicated. In addition to her stories of sex, love, and heartbreak, MariNaomi tells of her adolescence rebellion, getting kicked out of her house and running away several times throughout her youth.  She also tells of her experiments with drug use and sexuality. Almost anyone can relate to at least a few of the stories from Naomi’s life.  The black and white illustrations depict the stories well.

Subject Headings: MariNaomi, Young women – Identity, Mate selection for women, Women – Sexuality, Dating (Social customs), First sexual experience, Self-discovery in women, Women — Interpersonal relations

Appeals: touching, fast-paced, sexual, heartbreaking, candid, bittersweet, character-centered, self-discovery, sympathetic characters, funny, relatable, coming of age

3 Appeal terms to best describe book: fast-paced, touching, coming of age

Non-fiction:
Blankets: An Illustrated Novel by Craig Thompson- In this coming of age, autobiographical graphic novel the author takes us through his adolescence.  Thompson describes the experience of falling in love for the first time as well as the power of sexual attraction and young love.

Talking to Girls about Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield- In this funny, upbeat coming of age novel the author describes his experiences trying to find love starting at the age of 13.  The book leads the reader all the way through to the author’s first apartment and real girlfriend with 80’s and 90’s music as a guide.

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel. This graphic tells of the love life of a diverse group of lesbian friends.  These funny, witty stories explore sexuality between women, which MariNaomi experiments with in Kiss & Tell.

Fiction:
Shortcoming by Adrian Tomine- This funny graphic novel follows a twenty something, Ben, as he looks for the perfect girl. Much like MariNaomi the story is told with humor and follows the life of a Japanese American in their quest for love.

Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross. This semi-autobiographical story follows Melissa as she enters high school. Experimenting with drugs, failing classes, and dealing with the opposite sex are just some of the subjects discussed in this coming of age graphic novel.

Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun. Korean teen Joon runs away from her home in Brooklyn at the age of 12. This novel follows her as she lives in homeless shelters, struggles with drug abuse, and puts herself in dangerous situations. MariNaomi also ran away and was kicked out of her home several times as a teenager.

Breathing Room

April 4, 2012

Author: Phillips, Susan Elizabeth

Title: Breathing Room

Genre: Romance

Publication Date: 2002

Number of Pages: 369

Geographical Setting: Tuscany, Italy

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:

It seems as though Dr. Isabel Favor’s life is falling apart when her fiance leaves her, her accountant steals her money and leaves her to pay over 1 million in back taxes, and her self-help empire comes crumbling down. Everything that she has worked so hard for has slipped between the cracks, so when a friend offers up a cottage in Tuscany for a few months, Isabel sees this as a chance to start over. Before entering Tuscany, she spends a night in Florence, where she meets a handsome Italian man, Lorenzo. Isabel goes against everything she believes in and has a one night stand with the sexy stranger. Much to both of their dismay, after Isabel arrives to her farmhouse cottage she discovers the hunk she had a one night stand with is her landlord. And he is not the Italian stranger he pretended to be, but an American bad boy movie star, Ren Gage. Isabel tries to her resist her obvious attraction to the sexy movie star before finally succumbing to her desires to be with him. The two plan to make the relationship strictly sexual, but that can prove more difficult than planned.  Things are complicated when Ren and Isabel try to figure out a secret the town seems to be hiding from them.  Ren’s ex-wife also shows up one day with her five children to escape her husband who she believes to be cheating on her.  This book explores a new, steamy romance, as well as love and complications in marriage.

Subject Headings: Fiancés, Loss (Psychology), Women psychologists, Americans in Tuscany, Sexuality, Desire, Men/women relations, Film actors and actresses

Appeal: funny, steamy, fast-paced, engaging, romantic, moving, passionate, insightful, strong sense of place, sympathetic characters, accessible language, resolved ending

3 Appeal terms to best describe book: passionate, funny, engaging

3 Fiction read-alikes:

I’m In No Mood For Love by Rachel Gibson. Much like Isabel, After Clare Wingate finds her fiancé having an affair she finds herself with a sexy journalist who is nothing like her.  This funny and sexy story follows Clare as she decides whether or not she loves or hates her new lover and his carefree and commitment-free lifestyle.

Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Cruise. This humorous contemporary romance follows Tess Newhart and her ex-boyfriend Nick, as she pretends to be his fiancé on a weekend business trip.  Like Isabel and Ren, these two find that opposites do in fact attract.

Houston, We Have A Problem by Erin McCarthy. This humorously written novel follows Dr, Houston Hayes as he tries to have a one night stand with his resident Josie, and inevitable complications follow.

3 Non-fiction read-alikes:

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Like Isabel, the author of this book heads to Italy, and other exotic locations after a failed relationship.  Eat, Pray, Love also contains humor, romance, and enlightenment.

The Italian Affair by Laura Fraser. The author of this memoir moves to Italy after the devastating news that her husband has left her for her high school sweetheart.  She begins a steamy love affair with a married professor. This book is filled with rich descriptions of European countries, humor, and insight into understanding one’s self.

Helping Me Help Myself: One Skeptic, Ten Self-Help Gurus, and A Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone by Beth Lisick.  Dr. Isabel Favor is a self-help guru whose life falls apart despite following her own rules.  In this perceptive humorous book, the author explores the self-help world to see what works and what doesn’t.

The Heat Seekers by Zane

November 16, 2011
 

Author: Zane

Title: The Heat Seekers

Genre: Urban Fiction /African American

Publication Date: 2002

Number of Pages: 320

Geographical Setting: Washington, D.C.

Time Period: Contemporary

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: In addition to the witty dialogue and steamy sex that Zane is known for, The Heat Seekers is also a saga of two strong women who face some serious issues and manage to overcome them. Best friends Janessa and Tempest have all but given up on finding straight, single, good-looking men who are not “freaks.” Out to have some fun one night, they go to a local club to “get their groove on.” As chance would have it, they end up meeting two eligible men who are also best friends. Geren is handsome, available, seemingly perfect, and is very interested in Tempest. Dvonte is a cute and charming “playa” who nonetheless wins Janessa’s heart. Erotic tension builds for Tempest and Geren as they wait to consummate their love, while Janessa and Dvonte are not ashamed to express their desires. As each couple embarks on their different relationships, the drama builds as each confront issues that could threaten their fairy tale romances. Despite the focus on sexual love, at the heart of this novel is the caring relationship these two women have with each other, and their ability to help each other through rough times. This is an entertaining, thought provoking novel that encourages readers to reflect on their own lives and accomplishments. It also has enough humor and steamy sex scenes to satisfy any reader.

Subject Headings: African American, Urban Fiction, Erotic Fiction, Unwanted Pregnancy, Contemporary Romance Appeal: candid, emotionally charged, dramatic, compassionate, humorous, romantic, sensual, erotic, playful, sympathetic characters, well developed characters, evocative, insightful, character centered, steamy, issue oriented, racy, resolved ending, strong language, sexually explicit, steamy, thought provoking, contemporary, urban, accessible, conversational

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: steamy, thought provoking, humorous

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

How Stella Got her Groove Back by Terry McMillan. Like The Heat Seekers, this book features a strong, African American protagonist who embarks on a passionate love affair and provides the reader with a fairy tale ending.

Sweeter than Honey by Mary B Morrison. This is a steamy, urban tale. Like The Heat Seekers, it features a strong female African American protagonist who encounters drama and has to overcome adversity. It also deals with complex, thought-provoking issues.

True to the Game by Teri Woods. This gritty, urban tale is grittier than The Heat Seekers, yet it provides readers with a similar steamy love affair between passionate African American characters. Like The heat Seekers, this novel deals with some of the serious issues facing contemporary young people.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors In Good Conscience: a Practical, Emotional, and Spiritual Guide to Deciding Whether to Have an Abortion by Anna Runkle. Multiple characters in The Heat Seekers deal with unwanted pregnancy, all in different ways. One character deals with a very difficult abortion. This guide will help readers who may be facing the same situation to think their pregnancy through before making a decision.

Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: a Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether To Stay in or Get Out of your Relationship by Mira Kirshenbaum. In The Heat Seekers, Janessa stays in a bad relationship with Dvonte. Readers who are dealing with a similar situation in their lives may find help in this chatty, sympathetic relationship guide.

 Men, Love & Sex: the Complete User’s Guide for Women by David Zinczenko with Ted Spiker. The relationships in The Heat Seekers are complicated and the men sometimes seem like they are from another planet. At the same time, the characters are all having satisfying sexual adventures. This book would be great for readers who want to understand the other sex a little more or simply put some spark into their sex lives.

Name: Meghan Maleski

The Keepsake

October 5, 2011

Author: Gerritsen, Tess

Title: The Keepsake

Genre: Suspense

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Discs: 9 discs, 10 hours, 52 minutes

Narrator: Deirdre Lovejoy

Geographical Setting: Boston, Massachusetts

Time Period: Contemporary

Series (If applicable): Rizzoli & Isles

Plot Summary: At an aging archaeology museum in Boston, a forgotten mummy called ‘Madam X’ by museum staff, is found in the basement. During a CT scan, medical examiner Maura Isles discovers that Madam X is not ancient, but a modern-day murder victim. As detective Jane Rizzoli begins investigating the murder, more preserved victims appear and a young archaeologist at the museum, Josephine Pulcillo, is targeted as the killer’s next victim. As Detective Rizzoli searches for clues to the killer’s identity, dark secrets from Josephine Pulcillo’s past threaten her life as the killer stops at nothing to add her to his collection.

Subject Headings: Archaeology, Forensics, Crime, Boston, Museums

Appeal: Fast-paced, Atmospheric, Chilling, Suspenseful, Multiple Points of View, Series Characters, Sympathetic, Violent, Plot-driven, Contemporary, Descriptive, Well-crafted

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Suspenseful, Violent, Plot-driven

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

1) Bodies in the Bog and the Archaeological Imagination by Karin Sanders. Readers may want to find out more about how bodies are preserved in bogs since the killer used this method on one of his victims.

2) Beneath the Sands of Egypt: Adventures of an Unconventional Archaeologist by Donald P. Ryan. This book will help readers understand the thrill of discovering ancient objects, an important aspect of The Keepsake.

3) Forensics For Dummies by Douglas P. Lyle. This book is a must-have for fans of the Maura Isles character. The book features “plain-English” explanations of how forensics works.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

1) Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell. This is the first book in a series featuring medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta and features plenty of forensic details and a serial killer who is after Dr. Scarpetta.

2) Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs. This book features forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan, familiar to fans of the television show Bones. Reichs is a real-life forensic anthropologist and readers will appreciate her inside knowledge of the field.

3) Coma by Robin Cook. Though Cook’s novels lean more toward the medical world, fans of Gerritsen will appreciate the fast-paced storyline and suspenseful atmosphere.

Name: Elizabeth Allen