Posts Tagged ‘tragic’

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

October 31, 2012

Author: Ira Levin

Title: Rosemary’s Baby

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 1967

Number of Pages: 218

Geographical Setting: New York

Time Period: 1960s

Plot Summary: Do you like reading books that have been made into movies? Then check this one out. Rosemary Woodhouse and her husband Guy Woodhouse moved into a famous apartment building in New York. A close friend of there’s feared that due to many incidents in the building’s past, there was something wrong with the building and they should not have moved there. This story progresses through Rosemary’s painful pregnancy and surprising birth of a child. Unfortunately, Rosemary’s friend hinted within a book that he left her before his death, that something was wrong with her neighbors. Could her neighbors be a coven of witches? Is her husband aware of this problem? Do the witches desire to take her baby? Has Rosemary gone insane? If you are a fan of literary fiction and want just a taste of horror, then try this book.

Sequel: Son of Rosemary

Subject Headings: Pregnancy, Witches, Witch Coven, Devil Worship

Appeal terms: leisurely paced, unhurried, bleak, melancholy, bittersweet, quirky, eccentric, tragic, investigative, classic, character centered, descriptive

Three appeal terms: tragic, character centered, quirky

Similar Authors and Works:

Fiction-

The servants of twilight by Dean Koontz: This is a tale of a cult that is targeting a child because he may be the Antichrist. It was one of Koontz’s best works.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller: This is a classic play about the Salem Witch Trials.

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice: This book is part of the “Lives of the Mayfair Witches” series. It tells the tale of four centuries of witchcraft.

Non-Fiction-

In the Devil’s Snare: the Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 by Mary Beth Norton: This is a book about the history of the Salem Witchcraft trials of 1692.

The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England by Carol F. Karlsen: This is a history of witchcraft accusations in New England. The author wrote about the social, religious, and economic reasons for accusing people of being witches.

Wicca for Beginners: fundamentals of philosophy & practice by Thea Sabin: This is a book about the philosophy, culture, and beliefs of Wiccan religion, a modern day version of a witchcraft based spirituality.

Name: Rachel Fischer

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Vlad: A Novel

October 31, 2012

AuthVlad: A Novel by Carlos Fuentesor: Carlos Fuentes

Title: Vlad: A Novel

Genre: Horror; Mexican Fiction

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 122

Geographical Setting: Mexico City

Time Period: Present Day

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

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

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

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

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

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

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

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

The Philosophy of Horror (2012) by Thomas Fahy

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

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

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

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

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

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

Anno Dracula (New Edition; 2011) by Kim Newman

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

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

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

Name: John Rimer

The Proving Trail

September 26, 2012

Author: Louis L’Amour

Title: The Proving Trail

Genre: Western

Publication Date: 1978

Number of Pages: 215

Geographical Setting: The main character travels through multiple states, including Texas, Colorado, and Kansas.

Time Period: Late 1800s

Plot Summary:  This is a suspenseful tale of crime and corruption in the American West. Kearney McRaven was only a teenager when his father was killed after he had won a lot of money while gambling. He was determined to solve his father’s murder and keep his father’s winnings. This lead McRaven on a cross-country journey of self-discovery to search for information related to his family history and why it seemed like his father was previously running from someone that had attempted to kill him.  Through out this journey Kearney McRaven had to learn to stay alive while out running these same outlaws that had murdered his father.

Subject Headings: Western stories, Outlaws, Murder

Appeal terms:  action-oriented, investigative, menacing atmosphere, fast-paced, chilling, gritty, plot-centered, explicitly violent, tragic, foreboding, details of frontier life, well-crafted

Three appeal terms: action-oriented, investigative, menacing atmosphere

Similar Authors and Works:

Fiction:

West Texas Kill by Johny D. Boggs: This work is about fighting outlaws and corruption in Texas.

Hard Luck Money by J.A. Johnstone: This is a tale about solving a murder and fighting outlaws.

The Badger’s Revenge by Larry D. Sweazy: This story questions why outlaws want to seek revenge against the main character while he tries to stay alive.

Non-Fiction:

Big Trouble: a Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America by J. Anthony Lukas: This is a non-fiction book about a real murder in America’s west.

Sacagawea’s Nickname: Essays on the American West by Larry McMurtry: This is a non-fiction book of essays written by a well-known author of Western fiction.

Gunfighter Nation: the Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America by Richard Slotkin: This is a non-fiction book that examines the influence of the frontier myth on American culture and politics.

 Name: Rachel Fischer

The Postmistress

September 26, 2012

Author: Sarah Blake

Title: The Postmistress

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 352

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

Time Period: Fall 1940 – Summer 1941

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

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

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

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

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

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

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

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

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

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

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

World War II London Blitz Diary by Ruby Side Thompson

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

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

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

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

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

Watchmen

August 8, 2012

Author:  Alan Moore; illustrated by Dave Gibbons

Title:  Watchmen

Genre:  Graphic Novel, Superhero

Publication Date:  Originally published as a 12 issue comic book miniseries in 1986 – 1987.

Number of Pages:  Complete paperback edition — 408

Geographical Setting:  Various parts of the United States, Vietnam, Antarctica, Mars.

Time Period:  Alternate History 1985; several flashbacks dating back to the 1940’s.

Plot Summary:  In Alan Moore’s groundbreaking and influential graphic novel, masked crime fighters have existed since the 1940’s, and their presence has greatly influenced the outcome of world events.  Thanks to Dr. Manhattan (an atomic being who is also the  only character with actual superpowers), the United States has won the Vietnam War and in the present 1985, Richard Nixon is still president.  Now, the world is on the brink of nuclear war, and someone just murdered Edward Blake, a former superhero and notorious CIA operative known as The Comedian.  As Rorschach, a psychotic vigilante and former member of Watchmen (a later superhero team which included The Comedian, Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan, and Ozymandias) investigates Blake’s murder, he uncovers a plot that could save the world from annihilation, but, at an unimaginable price.  By presenting superheroes with very real and tragic human flaws, Moore deconstructs the superhero genre, and presents the reader with a familiar world that is both rich in detail, and terribly bleak.

Subject Headings:  Heroes — Comic books, strips, etc. ; Assassins — Comic books, strips, etc.; Imaginary histories — Comic books, strips, etc

Appeal:  Compelling, densely written, atmospheric, bleak, contemplative, foreboding, gritty, paranoid, philosophical, sophisticated, strong secondary characters, vivid, well-developed, cinematic, episodic, investigative, layered, multiple plot lines, open-ended, thought-provoking, detailed setting, urban, well-crafted

3 terms that best describe this book:  Character-centered, complex,  multiple point of views

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)  Kick-Ass – Written by Mark Millar; Illustrated by John Romita Jr.

Dave Lizewski is a comic book-obsessed teenager who decides he wants to become a superhero in real life.  Putting on a green costume and calling himself, Kick-Ass, Dave hits the streets.  But, he quickly discovers that the real world has consequences far more frightening and brutally violent, than the than the heroic adventures in his favorite comic books.  Both Kick-Ass and Watchmen deconstruct the superhero genre, and illustrate just how physically and emotionally taxing it is to be a masked crime-fighter in the real world.

2)  The Boys – Written by Garth Ennis; Illustrated by Darick Robertson

In this ongoing and darkly-humored series, superheroes exist in the real world but most of them are corrupt, amoral, and only care about their celebrity status and hedonistic lifestyles.  Their heroic actions, which are staged for the media by a ruthless corporation known as Vought-American, not only result in massive collateral damage, but also puts the very existence of the world at risk.  Because of this, “The Boys,” a super-powered CIA team is charged with monitoring and policing the superhero community.  Again, both Watchmen and The Boys deconstruct the superhero genre by presenting superheroes as deeply flawed and corrupt individuals.

3)  The Dark Knight Returns – Written and illustrated by Frank Miller

In a dystopian future, a sixty-something Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement by putting on the cape and cowl to once again rid Gotham City of crime, corruption, as well as a vicious new gang known as “The Mutants.”  With the aid of a new female Robin, named Carrie Kelly, Batman resurfaces in a world where masked crime-fighters have been outlawed, and the only superhero who is able to legally operate is Superman, a puppet for the Reagan white house.  Both Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns were released around the same time, and have both garnered massive and well-deserved acclaim.  Both also take place in dystopian settings where superheroes have been outlawed, and feature characters who find redemption by coming out of retirement.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1)  Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human by Grant Morrison

Groundbreaking comic book author, Grant Morrison, muses on the genre of superheroes and how its characters have become permanent fixtures in our modern-day mythologies.  This is a great companion which examines the role superheroes play in our daily lives.

2)  Minutes to Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen by various authors

Twelve different authors present their observations and analyses of the many plot points, themes, and symbolic imagery of Watchmen.  This makes for an excellent companion to Moore’s graphic novel.

3)  Alan Moore:  Storyteller by Gary Spencer Millidge

Another excellent companion to Watchmen, this book offers an in-depth retrospective of the life and prolific career of comic book author, Alan Moore.  Moore’s creative process is examined, and a behind the scenes look is given of some of his most popular and influential works.

Name:  Vadim Seyfer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man in the Picture

August 1, 2012

Author: Hill, Susan

Title: The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 160 p.

Geographical Setting: Cambridge, England and Venice, Italy

Time Period: Unspecified, but likely in the 1900s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: This fast-paced, old-fashioned ghost story begins with the narrator, Oliver, visiting his old tutor, Theo Parmitter, at Cambridge on a cold winter night.  While the two friends have had many conversations over the years, Theo chooses this night to tell Oliver the tale of his acquisition of an 18th century painting of Venetian revelers.  While his story starts as a regular trip to an art auction, it soon becomes evident that the painting is more than meets the eye.  As Theo tells Oliver the story of Lady Hawdon and the full history of love, revenge, and death behind the painting, the present starts to mirror the past in dangerous and mysterious ways.  Can Theo and Oliver escape the curse of the painting before it’s too late?  The novel alternates between the points of view of Oliver, Theo, Lady Hawdon, and Oliver’s fiancée, Anne.  Susan Hill uses concise chapters and descriptions to create an atmospheric, eerie, chilling, and suspenseful story of a painting that may be more real and powerful than anyone can imagine.

Subject Headings: Spirits; Carnival; Auctions; Wedding Presents; Portraits; Revenge; Universities and Colleges—England— Cambridge; Cambridge, England; Venice, Italy; Suspense Stories; Horror Stories; Ghost Stories;

Appeal: fast-paced, atmospheric, chilling, creepy, dangerous, darker, disturbing, foreboding, haunting, menacing, mysterious, nightmare, suspenseful, familiar intelligent characters, quirky and dangerous secondary characters, cinematic, layered, plot twists, tragic, atmospheric gothic setting, classic language, concise, dramatic, polished, restrained, vivid

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: mysterious, atmospheric, haunting

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Lore of the Ghost: The Origins of the Most Famous Ghost Stories Throughout the World by Brian Haughton and illustrated by Daniele Serra is a thought-provoking and vivid book about the history of ghost stories and an analysis of people’s fascination with the supernatural.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this haunting book focuses on the subject of spirits and old-fashioned gothic ghost stories.

Haunted England: Royal Spirits, Castle Ghosts, Phantom Coaches, and Wailing Ghouls by Terence Whitaker is an eerie book about various hauntings throughout England’s history.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this creepy book highlights the subjects of spirits and ghost stories in the same setting of England.

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa by R. A. Scotti is a fascinating book about the disappearance and return of one of the most famous portraits of all time.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this book tells a mysterious and suspenseful story about a portrait

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier is a classic horror story about a woman, Mrs. Maxim de Winter, moving into the eerie home of her new husband, where the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, constantly reminds the new Mrs. Maxim de Winter of how inferior she is to the deceased first wife, Rebecca.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this well-written book with plot twists focuses on an atmospheric and haunting story in England about disturbed women as secondary characters who cannot cope with past events and attempt to destroy other women’s lives as a result.

The Uninvited by John Farris is a suspenseful ghost story about a woman, Barry Brennan, who finds a man one day who may or may not be real as she mourns the death of her boyfriend.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this book tells a fast-paced disturbing ghost story about art, characters who cannot forget tragic relationships, and how fantasy can become reality.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is a gothic horror story about a handsome man who never ages while a portrait of him reflects his moral decline.  Like The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill, this book is a horror story with plot twists focused on a haunted portrait with special powers that takes place in England and contains characters who gradually give in to evil activities.

Feed

July 30, 2012

 Author: M.T. Anderson

Title: Feed

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 2002

Number of Pages: 237

Geographical Setting: Earth

Time Period: Future

Plot Summary: In a futuristic society where information is fed directly into the brain, a group of teenagers are enjoying themselves until one of their brain feeds malfunctions. The “feed” is an internet connection tied directly to the brain that gives immediate access to information, communication, and advertisements. Deeper meanings of existence are explored with overarching themes of over abundance of technology, consumerism, instant gratification, corporate empowerment, and disregard of environment. This compelling novel is a thought-provoking tale set in a dark and futuristic society. Although it starts out in a more measured pace as you get to know the characters, it builds in intensity towards the ending.

Subject Headings: Computers and civilization, Consumerism, Environmental degradation, Consumers, Teenagers

Appeal: compelling, builds in intensity, bleak, dark, chilling, contemplative, humorous, character-centered, issue-oriented, thought –provoking, disturbing, serious, high drama, tragic, engaging plot

3 terms that best describe this book: thought-provoking, compelling, chilling

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Future Tech: From Personal Robots to Motorized Monocycles by Charles Piddock – If you liked reading about the futuristic technology in the book Feed, you might enjoy this book that explores the future of technology.

2.    America in the Twenty-First Century by Opposing Viewpoints Series- If you enjoy reading books that provoke thought and contemplation, you may like this book of essays told through various viewpoints.

3.    Endangered Earth by Scientific American Cutting-Edge Science – If reading Feed made you wonder about how people are affecting our environment and possible ways they can lessen their effects, then you may enjoy this book.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      The Diary of Pelly D by L.J. Adlington – If you like reading compelling and thought provoking books that are set in the future, you may enjoy this story about a boy who starts to question his own beliefs.

2.      Rash by Pete Hautman – You may like this book if you enjoy reading dark, futuristic novels with a humorous edge set in the United Safer States of America.

3.      The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – If you liked the compelling world-building nature of Feed, you may also enjoy this bleak and suspenseful story.

Name: Patty Prodanich

The Fortress Of Solitude

July 23, 2012

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Author: Jonathan Lethem

Title:  The Fortress of Solitude

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: September 2003

Number of Pages: 528

Geographical Setting:  Brooklyn, NY

Time Period:  1970’s — 1980’s

Plot Summary:  Jonathan Lethem’s semi-autobiographical novel follows the parallel stories of Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude, two friends growing up in Brooklyn, NY during the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Dylan is white, and is constantly bullied by his Black and Hispanic peers.  He’s also struggling to deal with his mother’s abandonment of him and his emotionally distant artist father.  Mingus is black, and while dabbling in petty crime, he helplessly watches his father, a formerly successful soul musician, destroying himself with drugs.  The two teenagers’ friendship is built on their mutual love of superhero comic books, graffiti tagging, and they’re possession of a magic ring (given to them by a dying homeless man) which grants its wearer the powers of flight and invisibility.

Subject Headings:  Male Friendship, Race Relations, Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.), The Seventies (20th century), Bullying and bullies, Magic Rings

Appeal:  Leisurely-paced, Autobiographical, Urban, Nostalgic, Candid, Descriptive, Lyrical, Poetic, Epic, Authentic, Character-driven, Multiple point of views, Vivid, Episodic, Tragic, and Details of comic books, graffiti tagging, drugs, and music

3 terms that best describe this book:  Character-driven, Strong sense of time and place, Tragic

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

 1)    The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Deals with a character coming-of-age in a multicultural and urban setting during the 1970’s and 1980’s.  He is also bullied and seeks refuge in comic books and science fiction.

2)    The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis

On the eve of his twentieth birthday, a young man prepares for college while trying to win over a girl named Rachel.  A character-driven coming-of-age novel.

3)    Emmaus by Alessandro Baricco

A lyrical, coming-of-age story that follows four friends as they move from adolescence to manhood, while being attracted to the same woman.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

 1)    Comic Book Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Guide to Characters, Graphic Novels, Writers, and Artists in the Comic Book Universe by Ron Goulart

The two protagonists are obsessed with comic books, and many different titles and characters are referenced.  The above encyclopedia serves as an excellent guide to those unfamiliar with comic books, especially those that deal with superheroes.

2)    The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn, edited by John B. Manbeck

Brooklyn, NY, especially the section known as Boerum Hill, plays a pivotal role in the novel, and the above book gives a thorough introduction to those unfamiliar with the city’s many nooks and crannies.

 3)    Graffiti Kings: New York City Mass Transit Art of the 1970s by Jack Stewart

The characters in the book spend a great deal of time perfecting their graffiti tags throughout Brooklyn’s many landmarks.  This book deals with the origins of this controversial urban art form.

Name:  Vadim Seyfer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Women

July 16, 2012

Author: Boyle, T. Coraghessan

Title: The Women: A Novel

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 464 p.

Geographical Setting: Mostly Chicago and Wisconsin.

Time Period: 1880s-1930s

Series:

Plot Summary: A Japanese apprentice narrates this fictional biography of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. However, the perspective that depicts this eccentric and flamboyant Wright comes from four women who loved him. Chronologically in reverse, the story starts with the young Montenegrin dancer Olgivanna and life at Taliesin, the center stage of scandals, turmoil and tragedy. The struggles of his relations are further portrayed by the recounts of previous relationships that also bore plenty of commotion. Miriam, his distressed and morphine-addicted southern artist wife, is resilient to break the new couple apart.  Mamah was sadly one of victims of the massacre at Taliesin. His first wife Kitty, the mother of six of his children, was abandoned after 20 years of marriage when Wright falls for Mamah, who was the wife of one of his clients.  The ups and downs of each of these relationships, the media reaction — not different than today’s celebrity fixation, and Wright’s complex personality are captured by Boyle’s rich descriptive prose to deliver a character-driven story full of historical and vivid details.

Subject Headings: Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959 — Relations with women; Architects; Husband and wife; Men/women relations; Twentieth century; Extramarital relations; Scandals; Women’s role — United States — History — 20th century.

Appeal: Detailed characterizations, multiple points of view, tragic, detailed setting, historical details, dramatic, moody, descriptive, atmospheric, nostalgic, lush, passionate, domestic.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  Detailed characterizations, multiple points of view,  domestic.

Similar Fiction Authors and Works:

Horan, Nancy, Loving Frank: A Novel; A fictional account from Mamah Cheney about her love affair and relationship with Frank Lloyd Wright and Chicago society’s reaction.

McLain, Paula. The Paris Wife: A Novel; A story portraying the relationship of a celebrated American writer and his first, out of four wives. Ernest and Hadley Hemingway and their marriage in 1920s Paris.

Ebershoff, David. The 19th Wife: A Novel; For historic murder mystery fans looking for an intriguing fictional tale set in the late 1800’s polygamist Utah community.

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Drennan, William R., Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders; Investigative account of the atrocious 1914 massacre and destruction of Taliesin.

Hess, Alan, and Weintraub, Alan. Frank Lloyd Wright: The Houses; Displays Wright’s residential architecture. Stunning photographs, floor plans, and archive images, texts and essays.

Wright, Frank Lloyd. Frank Lloyd Wright: An Autobiography; First published in 1932; Wright’s own version about his work, philosophy, and personal life.

Fanny Camargo

Stitches

April 18, 2012

Author: David Small

Title: Stitches

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 329

Geographical Setting: Detroit

Time Period: 20th Century

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: Stitches is David Small’s memoir of his troubled childhood, done to great effect in graphic novel form. From his earliest memories Small recounts the tension and emotional turbulence he felt as he grew up with a disturbed and withholding mother and distant father. Sickly as a child, his radiologist father treated his sinus-related illnesses with countless x-rays, a common practice at the time. As he grew older, a long untreated growth on his neck turned out to be cancer, although his parents withheld this information, and he lost his thyroid and a vocal chord in the surgery that ensued. The emotional and evocative illustrations throughout invoke a dark moodiness to the book, and the lack of color only adds to the bleak tone. Small’s tale is a complicated one, but he finds relief and escape in his art. Compelling and ultimately moving, Stitches speaks volumes with few words.

Subject Headings: Child cancer patients, Family Secrets, Mute boys, Throat cancer, Mother and Son, Father and Son.

Appeal: character driven, compelling, thought-provoking, moody, bleak, disturbing, moving, unique, emotional, well-paced, secretive, tense, unsentimental

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  compelling, moving, and bleak

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Fun Home—Alison Bechdel: A similarly dark and moody graphic novel memoir of a difficult childhood and finding salvation through art. Bechdel’s story of her relationship with her troubled father is moving, and at times humorous.

A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father—Augusten Burroughs: Another dark memoir, detailing the psychological cruelty of Burroughs’ father, A Wolf at the Table eloquently describes his deeply dysfunctional family and his place in it.

Epileptic—David B.: Unsentimental and compelling, Epileptic is the story of how a boy’s disease affects an entire family, and how it led his brother into cartooning.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

After Ever After—Jordan Sonnenblick: Encouraged by a third friend, teenagers Jeff and Tad make a pact to help each other overcome their cancer treatments before graduation.

A Family Matter—Will Eisner: A moody graphic novel, A Family Matter finds a group of family members at a birthday celebration, whose conversations reveal troubled pasts, secrets, and contention.

Sharp Objects—Gillian Flynn: An impressively dark novel of twisted family secrets, Munchausen-by-proxy, serial murder, dysfunctional relationships, journalism.

Name: Laura