"A library doesn't need windows. A library is a window." – Stewart Brand

Dec 21, 2010

Read Something! _Mother, Come Home_ (Paul Hornschemeier)

Mother, Come Home
Graphic Novel / Literary Fiction


A boy and his father try to cope after the boy's mother dies. Mother, Come Home is a powerful exploration of how we can either overcome tragedy or be broken by it.

Appeal characteristics
  • Frame: Told simply, from a child's perspective (although some comments are clearly those of an adult looking back) but nevertheless grapples with complex and difficult concepts
  • Frame: Frequent and adept use of metaphor (usually visual)
  • Plot: No happy ending
  • Characterization: Main character is a child who has to deal with emotionally difficult situations
  • ???: The art style is very clean; frames often just have a character or two in them and are not very "busy"
Other notes
  • J. R. Ackerley, My Father and Myself? -- similar frame of a son looking back on a troubled relationship with his father, but honestly not much else that I can think of as similar; I don't know why this feels like a good readalike to me

Dec 13, 2010

Read Something! _The Hidden_ (Bill Pronzini)

The Hidden
210 pp.
Suspense?/General Fiction


Jay Macklin and his wife, Shelby, are off on a Christmas getaway to a remote cabin on the northern California coast. Jay hopes for a last few days of happiness before he must reveal a secret that might mean the end of their already rocky marriage.

But the couple gets far more than they bargained for when they find themselves trapped by violent storms, their only neighbors a set of two couples whose relationships are ugly on the verge of becoming violent -- and in the heart of a stretch of coastline haunted by a serial killer.

Appeal characteristics
  • ???: Basically no way to identify the killer before the very end of the book, but some red herrings that keep you guessing
  • Characterization: All characters (except those immediately dispatched by the killer as soon as they are encountered) play at least a minimally important role; there aren't a lot of extraneous people walking around
  • Plot vs. characterization: Heavy focus on characters for an ostensible suspense novel; much of the middle of the book is about Jay and Shelby's relationship, Jay's psychological state, etc.
  • Plot: Characters have major problems that are often surmounted with relatively little effort when the plot requires them to be resolved
  • Pacing: Fast-paced beginning with lots of mysteries, revelations, and suspense; a lull in the middle; an action-packed end where all of the surviving major characters are placed in mortal peril at least once
  • Pacing: All plot threads are wrapped up very quickly at the end
  • Pacing: Short chapters
  • Frame: Atmospheric in tone, with a general mood/feeling/atmosphere built up through careful use of detail and allusion
  • Frame: Third person limited point of view, alternating between Jay and Shelby's perspectives with an occasional chapter from the killer's point of view

Other notes
  • This book is not suspenseful in the gripping, heart pounding way I would expect from something marketed as "a novel of suspense." Perhaps it is literary suspense, but honestly I don't really find it suspenseful at all (which is not to say that it was not engaging or did not keep me interested).
  • My Noting: Books entry for this book: http://notingbooks.com/users/hbackman/readings/6057-The-Hidden-A-Novel-of
  • ???

Dec 7, 2010

Read Something! _Swift Justice_ (Laura DiSilverio)

Swift Justice
290 pp.
Mystery/Chick Lit


Charlotte "Charlie" Swift's private investigation business is finally breaking even. Her life is self-contained and self-sufficient, save for the occasional drink with her neighbor or romantic overtures from cop Connor Montgomery.

Then her silent partner flees the country, and Charlie learns that his abandoned wife, Gigi, wants to hold on to the half-share of the business left by her husband and to be a partner -- but decidedly not a silent one. As Charlie tries to track down the mother of an abandoned baby, she sends Gigi on assignments that will hopefully put her off of PI work forever.

But then the baby's mother turns up dead, and multiple different people claim that the infant belongs with them. As Charlie works to untangle the mess, she finds that she may need all the help she can get.

Appeal characteristics

  • Frame?: Humor generously interspersed (often "slapstick" or goofy humor)
  • Frame: Mostly written in first person with a few third person limited passages
  • Frame: Lots of details are given about clothing, decor, etc.
  • Frame?: Charlie is threatened but never is placed in really serious danger; the book is generally to light to bear that
  • Plot: The case is not 100% resolved but the important facts are revealed
  • Plot: Female main character's love life is a fairly minor subplot, but regularly comes up as she periodically dates/flirts with/feels attracted to various male characters
  • Plot: Multiple subplots going on at once
  • Characterization: There are multiple minor characters, each with a defining characteristic or quirk (e.g. sexy cop, priest with a mysterious past, chauvinistic fundamentalist kook, ...)
  • Characterization: Strong female main character who can take care of herself, including physically - but who also has a more feminine romantic side brought out by men she's attracted to
  • Plot vs. Characterization: Unraveling the case is one focus of the book, but the development of Charlie and Gigi's relationship is another
  • Pacing: Suspense increases toward the end
Other notes

  • ???

Dec 2, 2010

Read Something! _The Story of a Marriage_ (Andrew Sean Greer)

The Story of a Marriage
195 pp.
Literary Fiction


"We think we know the ones we love," says Pearlie Cook. But when a stranger appears on her doorstep, Pearlie discovers that her husband has secrets she never could have guessed. Given an offer of freedom as yet unknown to her, for six months Pearlie struggles to understand who her husband really is, and what her own deepest desires might be.

Set in California in 1953 -- a world just out of one war and already engulfed in another, where the slightest hint of nonconformity is severely repressed, The Story of a Marriage is a novel about coming to know ourselves and the people we love, about the damage war does even to those who do not fight, and about the battles we fight to gain and keep our heart's desire.

Appeal characteristics

  • Plot: Love triangle
  • Characterization: Characters' histories are slowly revealed over the course of the whole book, gradually deepening our understanding of them as we learn new secrets
  • Plot/Characterization: Character-focused book; the point is the development of each major character and the relationships between them -- not much actually "happens", plotwise
  • Pacing: Fairly slow pacing
  • Frame: Meditative/introspective tone
  • Frame: First person narration
  • Frame: Some plot events and character backgrounds are integrated with real historical events of World War II and the early 1950s
  • Frame: The historical setting, while important, is not overemphasized; it is significant that the book is set in 1953 but more for atmospheric/thematic reasons than for the use of period detail (of which there is relatively little)

  • The Hours (Michael Cunningham)? Similar time setting (for one of the plots), focus on characters, literary writing... but honestly it has been several years since I read this and I do not have a solid idea as to why my brain is coming up with this as a suggestion