Posts Tagged ‘well-researched’

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach

November 7, 2012

Spook CoverTitle: Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

Author: Roach, Mary

Publication Date: 2005

Pages: 311

Geographical Setting: This world or the next

Time Period: Present Day

Genre: Nonfiction, Science Writing

Series: N/A

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

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

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

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

Similar Non-fiction:

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

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

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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

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

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

Similar Fiction:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

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

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

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

Name: Jessica

Get me out: a history of childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the sperm bank

November 7, 2012

Get me outTitle: Get me out : a history of childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the sperm bank

Author: Randi Hutter Epstein

Genre: Nonfiction, Science Writing

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 302

Geographical Setting: Setting changes, as does time period

Plot Summary:  Get me out is an incredibly interesting, if not mildly disturbing overview of the history of childbirth.  Randi Hutter Epstein does a good job providing scholarly information in a popular and easily accessible way that non-medical professionals will be able to understand.  An example of this blending of scholarly and popular is the stylistic choice to include footnotes at the bottom of the pages, instead of having to flip to the end of the book to find the additional information.  The topics covered vary from medical to issue-oriented.  A few examples are discussions about how certain current medical procedures were perfected, how resistant doctors were to accept findings contrary to what suited their needs, and how influential health insurance providers were several decades ago.  This is  book is for everyone; however, I would caution the faint of heart, or anyone currently pregnant because the descriptions can be rather graphic and some of the topics covered are still current issues today.
Subject Headings: Birth customs; Childbirth; Gynecology; Midwifery; Obstetrics; Pregnancy; Reproduction; Reproductive technology; Medicine; Childbirth — History

Appeal:  Compelling; Engrossing; Sobering; Issue-oriented; Thought-provoking; Historical details; Accessible; Medical details; Descriptive; Episodic; Frank; Jargon; Well-researched; Informative; Graphic

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Compelling; Informative; Historical and Medical details;

Three fiction read-alikes:

The birth house by Ami McKay (Childbirth, Thought-provoking, Descriptive)

In an isolated village in Nova Scotia during the first years of World War I, a midwife and her apprentice, Dora Rare, face the challenge of protecting generations of birthing traditions and wisdom when a smooth new doctor comes to town promising fast, painless childbirths.

The birth of love by Joanna Kavenna (Childbirth, Issue-oriented)

In nineteenth-century Vienna, doctors did not routinely wash their hands.  In twenty-first-century London, a woman chooses to have a drug free homebirth.  In twenty-second-century Arctic Circle, a woman rebels against custom and becomes pregnant without the help of science.  Three different women, during three different centuries face their generations’ challenges of labor and childbirth.

 The zygote chronicles by Suzanne Finnamore (Pregnancy)

A humorous story, told in diary form, about a 30 year-old woman’s pregnancy and the changes and challenges she faces as motherhood nears.

Three related non-fiction titles:

Pink and Blue: telling the boys from the girls in America by Jo B. Paoletti (Social issues, Descriptive, History)

How important is it to dress children in the ‘right’ colors?  This book explores the fascinating history of gendered clothing in America.  A culmination of 30 years of research, this book covers issues of child development, gender studies, fashion, marketing, and parenting. For those curious about the answer to the question, blue used to be for girls!

Birth matters: how what we don’t know about nature, bodies, and surgery can hurt us by Ina May Gaskin (Science writing, Descriptive, Childbirth)

Ina May offers a global and practical look at pregnancy and the significance and purpose of childbirth.  Ina May is a famous midwife with years of experience and knowledge about different cultural approaches to childbirth.

Pushed: the painful truth about childbirth and modern maternity care by Jennifer Block (Science writing, Childbirth, Maternal health services)

Block, known to many from her previous book Our Bodies, Ourselves, tackles the current issues women are faced with when deciding where and how to give birth.  This book delves into questions pertaining to the number of cesarean sections and episiotomies performed and whether or not that number is reflective of necessity for a safe and healthy childbirth.

Name: Shira

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.

Without Pity: Ann Rule’s Most Dangerous Killers

November 7, 2012

Author: Ann Rule

Title: Without Pity: Ann Rule’s Most Dangerous Killers

Genre: True Crime, Essays (Nonfiction)

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 431

Geographical Setting: Various geographical settings, but mainly Washington State and the Pacific Northwest.

Time Period: 1970s through 2002

Plot Summary: This collection of stories features some of Ann Rule’s most deranged and horrendous criminals. The book is a collection of twelve true stories about criminals, and includes three cases (the first three of the book) that have never been included in other collections. Ann Rule is a relatively popular true crime writer, and has published many collections of true crime stories, and this one is a collection of some of the worst from her first eight volumes. Each story is set up similarly, with an opening describing the particular town and the victims, and the tone is very reminiscent of a true crime TV show.

Subject Headings: Murder, Murderers, Criminals, Crime, Vic tims, True Crime, United States Case Studies

Appeal: Gritty, Compelling, Emotionally Charged, Menacing, Macabre, Chilling, Nonfiction, True Crime, Journalistic, Compelling, Realistic, Well Researched,

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Gritty, Journalistic, Well Researched

Similar fiction authors and works:

Azzarello, Brian. 100 Bullets Volume 1: First Shot Last Call

A mysterious man known as Agent Graves approaches strangers on the street and offers them the chance to exact revenge on someone who has wronged them in their past. He provides them with a gun, untraceable bullets, and guarantees immunity from any troubles, including murder. This first book in a collection of 13 graphic novels is gritty and chilling, and takes a look at what people will do when offered guaranteed protection.

Collins, Max Allen. Double Dealer: CSI Crime Scene Investigation Book 1

A homicide cop, a forensic analyst, and their team of hard boiled police force members work together to solve a murder. Fans of the gritty writing style of Without Pity, or fans of the television show CSI will surely enjoy this novel.

Ellroy, James. Crime Wave: Reportage and Fiction from the Underside of L.A.

This collection of short stories presents some dark and gritty fiction tales taking place in the L.A. crime scene. Fans of the gritty chilling writing style and the short story presentation of Without Pity will be sure to enjoy this fictional but no less dark collection.

Similar nonfiction authors and works:

Connelly, Michael. Crime Beat

This nonfiction work by a well known fiction writer is sure to interest readers. Connelly tells a collection of stories of his time working as a crime reporter in both Florida and Los Angeles, and how these stories have influenced his work as a bestselling fiction crime writer.

Schecter, Harold. True Crime: an American Anthology

This true crime work is a collection of stories from all different time periods. It includes some well known cases and also some lesser known ones, by a variety of authors from Ben Franklin to Ann Rule, and spans over 300 years of true crime writing.

Campbell, John H. Profilers: Leading Investigators Take You Inside the Criminal Mind

This collection of fifteen essays compiles stories from some of the nation’s top homicide investigators. It chronicles the investigation process and the mysteries that surround a variety of crimes, from murder to abduction.

Post by Ellen

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

November 7, 2012

devilwhitecitycoverAuthor: Erik Larson

Title: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Genre:Adult books for young adults; History Writing; True Crime

Publication Date: 2004

Number of Pages: 447

Geographical Setting: Chicago, IL

Plot Summary: While the architect David Burnham and his colleagues labored tirelessly to design the spectacular World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, a man by the name of H.H. Holmes used the distraction of the fair to erect his own World’s Fair Hotel and lure victims under his guise as a charming doctor to their gruesome deaths. Larson alternates the stories of the architect and the serial killer to create one compelling tale of the effects of the World’s Fair on the city of Chicago and the underlying evil that lurked right in the midst of the excitement.

Subject Headings: Mudgett, Herman W. 1861-1896. Burnham, Daniel Hudson, 1846-1912. Serial murderers – Illinois – Chicago – Biography. Serial murders – Illinois – Chicago – Case studies. World’s Columbian Exposition (1893; Chicago, Ill.)

Appeal: Compelling, historical details, well-researched, suspenseful, disturbing, gritty, detailed setting, uneasy, character-centered, engrossing, psychological

Three appeal terms:  Historical details, well-researched, compelling

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

City for Ransom by Robert W. Walker

City for Ransom is a fictional tale of a killer on the loose during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Inspector Alastair Ransom must locate the killer who is using the bustling fairgrounds as a distraction to get away with murder, before the inspector becomes a victim himself.

The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas J. Preston

For readers who like a suspenseful read about a serial killer, I suggest The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas J. Preston. It’s written in a gritty style similar to The Devil in the White City, and details a copycat serial killer who begins overtaking New York City using methods similar to that of a killer in the 1880s. Together, FBI agent Pendergast, journalist Bill Smithback, and archaeologist Nora Kelly work to solve the case – and keep themselves alive.

Wakefield by Andrei Codrescu

Readers who enjoyed the architectural aspects of the Devil in the White City might enjoy this story of an architecture enthusiast who winds up on a journey to understand his purpose in life and continue to explore his love of architecture.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The World’s Columbian Exposition: the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 by Norman Bolotin and Christine Laing

I suggest this book to readers who enjoyed reading about the Chicago World’s Fair in The Devil in the White City and are looking to learn more about the fair. This book provides a visual history of the fair with stunning panoramic images of the fair’s splendors, including the landscaping, waterways and gondolas, and the structures that were designed and built just for the fair. The authors cover every concept of the history of the fair from its very beginnings to its lasting impact and all of the details in between.

Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-of-the-Century Chicago by Harold Schechter

Those who wish to learn more about notorious serial killer H.H. Holmes can check out this true crime story about the madman who carried out acts of torture and murders in his own “Castle of Horrors.” Schechter chronicles Holmes’ methods of luring victims by posing at different times as a doctor, druggist, and inventor, and the design of his torture chamber that included trapdoors, body chutes, and acid vats.

Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War by James Mauro

Readers that enjoyed the history of the Chicago World’s Fair in The Devil in the White City might enjoy reading about another famous fair in history – the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. As Europe prepared for war overseas, the Big Apple prepared to throw a big party, which met with less than stellar success. Mauro recounts the festivities that brought out 45 million people, even among big rain storms, heat waves, and power outages. This book has much of the same historical appeal as The Devil in the White City, but not as strong a focus on the crime scene.

Name: Melissa Apple

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

August 15, 2012

Author: McClure, Wendy

Title: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

Genre: Nonfiction

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 336 p.

Geographical Setting: Multiple locations throughout the United States

Time Period: Contemporary

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Author and children’s book editor, Wendy McClure, takes readers on a humorous, reflective, and contemporary journey to revisit her favorite children’s books, the series of Little House on the Prairie.  In each chapter, McClure shares with readers her research into the history of the books along with her visits to several of the historical sites in the United States where Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of Little House on the Prairie, lived.  McClure even goes to festivals dedicated to the books and tries to camp out and cook as in the 19th century.  However, what adds even more depth to this novel is that McClure learns as much about herself throughout this journey as she does about her favorite series.  McClure leads this novel with a relatable, introspective, and self-deprecating voice. She describes situations and characters in a detailed, vivid, and generally sympathetic style with accessible and conversational language.  Also, while much of the novel is character-centered and informative, numerous funny adventures occur during the course of McClure’s trips.  This novel is an engaging and thought-provoking novel about one person’s relationship with the books that she loves.

Subject Headings: Books and Reading; Arts and Entertainment; Frontier and Pioneer Life; Frontier and Pioneer Life in Literature; Home; Women’s Studies; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Appreciation; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Homes and Haunts; Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 1867-1957 – Little House on the Prairie; 19th Century; Autobiographies (Adult Literature); Humor Writing;

Appeal: leisurely-paced, relaxed, steady, bittersweet, candid, contemplative, gentle, humorous, introspective, moving, nostalgic, poignant, unpretentious, closely observed, detailed, engaging, familiar, quirky, realistic, and vivid primary and secondary characters, authentic, character-centered, episodic, layered, literary references, thought-provoking, accurate, contemporary, historical details, rural, academic, accessible, conversational, descriptive, engaging, informal, informative, thoughtful, well-researched

3 Terms that Best Describe This Book: humorous, bittersweet, historical details

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrimwill appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another autobiographical novel that highlights a different perspective ofLittle House on the PrairieSimilar toThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim is a funny, character-centered, conversational, and contemporary book about how her real life differed from the mean character that she played on the famous television show.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim is more about the life of the actress beyond the series while McClure’s novel is a nostalgic and academic return to the past.

Forty Acres and a Fool: How to Live in the Country and Still Keep Your Sanity by Roger Welsch will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another humorous novel about a man who tries to live a simpler life in the country and discovers it is more difficult than he initially expected.  Similar to The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Forty Acres and a Fool: How to Live in the Country and Still Keep Your Sanity by Roger Welsch is a character-centered, chatty, and contemporary book, but unlike McClure, Welsch’s adventures take place in Nebraska.  Also, he continues to live in rural areas despite its hardships.

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that itis another autobiographical story about a woman, who reads a book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, and decides to change her contemporary life and relationships because of it.  Like McClure, Powell describes the challenges and triumphs of trying to replicate recipes from a famous book in a reflective, conversational, and engaging style.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell is set in New York and focuses solely on cooking while McClure’s journey is in multiple locations and involves many different types of 19th century activities.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is anotherhistorical novel about a strong woman, Meg Mambry, who is investigating the truth regarding a diary from her great-grandmother in the 19th century. UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook is more serious and psychological in tone and takes place in New Mexico.  However, like The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook has humorous moments and focuses on women’s lives and relationships.

Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another compilation of stories that include subjects, such as homesteading and living on the frontier.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx is set in Wyoming and contains more serious and dark stories in a more literary style.  Nonetheless, likeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, Fine Just the Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3 by Annie Proulx has humorous moments and focuses on family relationships as well.

An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland will appeal to readers ofThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure in that it is another historical novel based on the true story of Nancy Kelsey who is the first woman to travel to California in the 19th century.  UnlikeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure,An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland is a more serious adventure story of survival.  However, likeThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure, An Ordinary Woman: A Dramatized Biography of Nancy Kelsey by Cecelia Holland has well-researched historical details and focuses on strong women.

In A Sunburned Country

August 15, 2012

Author: Bill Bryson

Title: In a Sunburned Country

Genre: Nonfiction, Travel Writing

Publication Date: May 15, 2001

Number of Pages: 335

Geographical Setting: Australia –Description and Travel

Time Period: Modern Day

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: In this non-fiction travelogue, Bill Bryson writes of his preparation for, and adventures traveling around Australia, a land filled with friendly inhabitants, deadly and peculiar wildlife, wide open spaces, and one bizarre and interesting history. A quintessential incidental learning book, readers can’t help but pick up and become immersed in history, traveling and lodging tips, and Bryson’s witty and at times sarcastic impressions of an in many ways an undiscovered land. This book will make you both laugh out loud and cringe at Bryson’s details and experiences.

Subject Headings: Voyages and travels; Travelers; Bill Bryson – Journeys – Australia; National characteristics, Australian

Appeal: Funny, Humorous, Engaging, Witty, Engrossing, Leisurely-paced, Thoughtful, Thought-provoking, Strong sense of place, Detailed setting, Details of Australia, Descriptive, Well-researched, Vivid

3 Terms that best describe this book: Humorous, Detailed, Strong sense of place

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1) Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks

This travel adventure begins when Hawks accepts a bet that he can travel around Ireland for a month with a mini-fridge as his companion, hoping that he’ll regain some sense of adventure and re-evaluate his life. Meeting many characters, you’ll find yourself rooting for Hawks and laughing along the way. This book might appeal to those who enjoyed the characters Bryson encountered during his journey and the strong sense of place prevalent in In a Sunburned Country.

2) Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison

Much like In a Sunburned Country, this is a funny, informative book written in a way that educates the reader while making him laugh at Allison’s tales of working as a leader of wildlife and eco-tourism trips in the African Bush.

3) A Year in the World by Frances Mayer

Although not as humorous as In a Sunburned Country, Mayer’s tale of traveling around the world, renting ordinary houses on ordinary streets and contemplating the meaning of travel and home pulls the reader into the journey with her, experiencing the lifestyle of each locale. It too has a strong sense of place and informs the reader while telling tales of voyages and travels.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1)  A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

This classic WWII tale of love and war tells the story of a young Englishwoman living in Malaya who is captured by the Japanese and years later travels to the Australian Outback to find the man who helped save her.  Like In a Sunburned Country, it has a very strong sense of place and takes the reader on a journey to a more unknown Australia.

2)  Eucalyptus by Murray Bail

Set in New South Wales, the southeast part of Australia, this is the tale of a man who plants hundreds of different species of gum trees on his farm and tells his 19-year-old daughter that she can marry the first man to name all the species correctly. Many suitors show up and the story reads almost like a fairy tale. Like In a Sunburned Country, rural Australia serves as an important backdrop to the story.

3) Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

In this book, Cloudstreet refers to a broken down house on the wrong side of the tracks in Perth which is located in Western Australia. When two families move into the house, they turn it into a beautiful home against all odds and the reader follows the families over 20 years.  It’s a tale of another part of Australia: Perth, which Bryson visits and explores in his book as it’s called ‘the most isolated city on earth.’

Name: Bridget Optholt

The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War

August 8, 2012

The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War

 

Author: James Bradley

Title: The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War

Genre: Nonfiction; History Writing (Best Seller)

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages: 387

Geographical Setting: United States, Japan, East Asia, and Pacific Ocean

Time Period: 1905

Plot Summary: This book covers the historical cruise from the Pacific Islands to the continent of Asia made by defense secretary Taft and President Teddy Roosevelt’s famous daughter Alice along with other political figures of the time. This book reveals the prejudicial views of some of the most prominent leaders of the United States and exposes some tragic foreign policy decisions concerning Asia and the Pacific Islands. Although some may argue with some of the views or opinions presented in the book, it is well documented with over 30 pages of “Notes” at the end. It is filled with historic details including maps and original photographs from the time. This book has a journalistic tone, and is quite insightful and compelling.

Subject Headings: Roosevelt, Theodore; Taft, William H.; United States. Navy-Cruise; Imperialism; Diplomacy; War; Twentieth Century

Appeal: scholarly, compelling, journalistic, densely-written, sobering, insightful, investigative, thought-provoking, historical details, political, informative, well-researched, disturbing

3 terms that best describe this book: insightful, journalistic, historic details

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Habits of Empire by Walter Nugent – If you enjoyed the historical perspective of the Teddy Roosevelt presidency in The Imperial Cruise, you may like this book that covers a broader range of American imperialism.

2.      Alice by Stacy Cordery – If you would like to find out more about Teddy Roosevelt’s famous daughter Alice who joined the historical cruise, you may enjoy this book.

3.      In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines by Stanley Karnow – If you would like to read more about the history of the Philippines especially as related to the events in The Imperial Cruise, you may like this one.  

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Taft by Jason Heller – This plot-driven novel is about William Taft entering the 2012 election. If you enjoyed reading about Taft in The Imperial Cruise, you might enjoy this fiction novel.

2.      Cuba by Stephen Coonts – If you like to read about American imperialism set against a historical backdrop, you may like this book.

3.      To The Last Man by Jeff Shaara – This fiction novel is set during World War I. If you enjoy reading stories about politics and wars, you may enjoy this one.

Name: Patty Prodanich

The Hummingbird’s Daughter

July 16, 2012

Author: Luis Alberto Urrea

Title: The Hummingbird’s Daughter

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 495

Geographical Setting: RuralMexico

Time Period: Late 19th Century

Series: Though not a series,there is a sequel – Queen of America, published in 2011

Plot Summary: Teresa Urrea is the illegitimate daughter of Don Tomás Urrea, a wealthy Mexican rancher, and a young Indian girl, Cayetana Chávez, known as The Hummingbird. Teresa is born in 1873 into desperate poverty and suffers abuse at the hands of her aunt, who raises Teresa after her mother abandons her. In spite of this, Teresa is a bright and engaging child. Teresa is rescued by Huila, the medicine woman, and learns the mystical ways of nature and healing. When Teresa is older, Don Tomás, defying contemporary conventions, takes her in and raises her as his own. A horrific event befalls Teresa when she is sixteen, miraculously transforming her into the Saint of Cabora, although Teresa dismisses the label. Pilgrims, hoping she will heal them, arrive at the ranch by the thousands, as do vagabonds, soldiers and revolutionaries. Insurrection is contemplated within the crowd and it is rumored that Teresa is fomenting revolution. Teresa and her father are arrested and sentenced to be shot as seditionists, though the sentence is later commuted to exile in the United States.This is a thoroughly researched, yet fictional account of a woman related to the author, known as the Saint of Cabora.

Subject Headings: Teenage girls – fiction; Woman healers – fiction; Illegitimate children – fiction; Near-death experiences – fiction; Mexico – History – 1867-1910 – fiction;

Appeal: Sweeping, atmospheric, authentic, measured pacing, engrossing,  gritty, humorous, evocative, mystical, detailed characterizations, strong characters, interwoven perspectives, accessible, thought-provoking, well-researched

3 terms that best describe this book: Expansive, dramatic, anddetailed in both characterization and setting

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Cookson, Catherine, The Glass Virgin. This is a character driven and dramatic coming-of-age story of a young girl who learns the truth and accepts the consequences of her true lineage in Edwardian England.

Le Guin, Ursula, Malafrena. This historical fiction title reflects an atmospheric and dramatic tale of a young man who becomes a revolutionary and forsakes his homeland.

Rice, Luanne, The Edge of Winter. This is a character-driven coming-of-age story about a mother and daughter facing the unforgiving realities as well as the beauty of life in a bird sanctuary in Rhode Island.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Gilly, Adolfo,The Mexican Revolution. This book recounts the peasant revolts against the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz and the inauguration of Álvaro Obregón in 1920.

Porterfield, Amanda, Healing in the History of Christianity. This title examines how healing is a central theme in the history of Christianity.

Shapiro, Marcy, Transforming the Nature of Health: A Holistic Vision of Healing That Honors Our Connection to the Earth, Others, and Ourselves. This title explores how our health is connected to love, meaning and respect between ourselves and nature.

Name: Patty Daniel

World War Z

April 4, 2012

Author: Max Brooks

Title: World War Z

Genre: Horror

Publication Date: 2006

Number of pages: 320

Geographical Setting: Global

Time Period: not too distant future

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: This book takes place after the zombie war has already occurred. Compiling interviews from all sorts of people from many different countries, Brooks attempts to piece together exactly what happened when the dead began to rise. Interviews range from doctors to American housewives to body guards to war veterans, detailing where they were when they discovered this disease wasn’t “rabies” like they were told, and how the world eventually conquered over two million walking corpses. The pacing is moderate, but the short interviews from so many different types of people make this a page turner. Highlights include the doctor in China who discovers “Patient Zero”, a twelve-year old boy who had been bitten while swimming, the body guard assigned to protect a mansion full of rich people and celebrities from zombies while they get filmed to the masses, and a Japanese warrior monk who recounts how he escaped a high rise full of zombies back when he was a socially awkward computer nerd. Part war novel and part survival guide, this book will keep the reader up at night planning out his/her escape route for when the undead come scratching at the door.

Subject Headings: undead, zombies, diseases, epidemics, supernatural, survival (after epidemics) war.

Appeal: builds in intensity, measured, chilling, darker, nightmare, deadpan, intriguing, multiple points of view, explicitly violent, action-oriented, political, stark, conversational, journalistic, straight-forward, well-crafted, well-researched.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: chilling, multiple points of view, explicitly violent.

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

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Family Safe in a Crisis by Peggy Layton.

If after reading World War Z, you are feeling less than prepared for the zombie apocalypse, or any other disaster, this book will teach you how to equip your home with food, water, medical supplies and fuel.

2. The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson.

One of the terrifying aspects of zombie lore is that it begins as a disease and turns into an epidemic that no one knows how to cure. The Ghost Map chronicles such an epidemic when cholera breaks out over London in 1854.

3. Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie by Wade Davis.

Zombie mythology originates from Haitian voodoo (voudon), and is an unfortunate stereotype of a complex religion. Davis explains how one goes about making a zombie (a harsh punishment exacted to someone found guilty of a heinous crime), as well as the politics of Haitian culture.

 

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Twelve-year-old Oskar has a crush on the new girl (“I’m not a girl,” she keeps telling him) living next door, who only comes out at night. Both bone-chilling and heart-warming at the same time, this updated take on classic vampires who drink real blood and don’t sparkle, compels the reader to fall in love with Eli and root for her no matter how gruesome her actions become.

 

2. Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson

In Koontz’s take on Frankenstein, 7 foot monster Deucalion is living peacefully in a Tibetan monastery when he discovers that his creator is still alive and living in New Orleans. Deucalion must track him down before he creates an army of “posthumans” that take over the world.

 

3, The Wolfen by Whitley Streiber.

Two detectives in New York discover a secret pack of werewolves preying on weak humans who won’t be missed. Streiber plays with the werewolf myth to create a separate race of wolf-men with heightened sense of smell and hearing and superhuman intelligence.

 

Name: Jessica