John Gaines

01/02/2013 - 8:42am
How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman

Have you ever wanted to become a writer and brave the strange and confusing world of trying to sell your work to the publishing industry? Do you feel you might need a refresher course in creating a marketable thriller or romance novel?  If you are curious about improving your writing technique to make your work more compelling, concise, or appealing to publishers, you may benefit from How Not to Write a Novel, a writing guide from Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman.  This guide is a compilation of examples of common writing mistakes that can make novels confusing, boring, or unappealing to read.  Humorous and well-organized, this book is both a great educational resource and a good comedic read.

12/21/2012 - 3:33am
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett: Follows the fates of five interrelated families--American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh--as they move through the dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women's suffrage.

If you enjoyed the use of different character perspectives and tumultuous historical change over a period of time, here are some other novels you may enjoy:

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
A tale of love and war early this century. The protagonists are Stephen Wraysford, a British businessman, and Isabelle Azaire, a married Frenchwoman. They meet in 1910, she elopes with him, gives birth to his child, then remorse sends her back to her husband. But World War I will bring them together when he returns to France as an officer in the British army. (worldcat.org)
 

 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The story of a farm family's Depression-era journey from the Dustbowl of Oklahoma to the California migrant labor camps in search of a better life. (worldcat.org)

 

 

12/18/2012 - 3:33am
The Meowmorphosis by Coleridge Cook and Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” is a short story about Gregor Samsa, a salesman who wakes up one day to find himself turned into a large insect.  It is a grim tale of social alienation that is frequently considered one of the most depressing short stories ever written.  How could any writer possibly expand such a profoundly melancholy text into a novel-length adaptation? Quirk Classics, the specialty publisher behind such “revised” versions of classic texts as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Android Karenina, has attempted this with The Meowmorphosis, an adaptation of “The Metamorphosis” that has Gregor turning into a human-sized kitten rather than a bug.  Although perhaps still too grim for some tastes, The Meowmorphosis does provide an interesting take on social alienation and a clever satire on Kafka’s writing technique.

12/14/2012 - 7:36am
The Green Mile by Stephen King

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

The Green Mile by Stephen King: Welcome to Cold Mountain Penitentiary, home to the Depression-worn men of E Block. Convicted killers all, each awaits his turn to walk the Green Mile, keeping a date with "Old Sparky," Cold Mountain's electric chair. Prison guard Paul Edgecombe has seen his share of oddities in his years working the Mile. But he's never seen anyone like John Coffey, a man with the body of a giant and the mind of a child, condemned for a crime terrifying in its violence and shocking in its depravity. In this place of ultimate retribution, Edgecombe is about to discover the terrible, wondrous truth about Coffey, a truth that will challenge his most cherished beliefs...and yours. 
 
If you enjoyed this novel's writing style and themes, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
 
Now that his father is dying, William Bloom realizes he hardly knows him, but the father is more interested in evading his questions than answering them. So Bloom reconstructs his father's life with a series of heroic tales and in the process gets to know him. (worldcat.org)
 
 
 
 
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
One moment June Nealon was happily looking forward to years full of laughter and adventure with her family, and the next, she was staring into a future that was as empty as her heart. Now her life is a waiting game. Waiting for time to heal her wounds, waiting for justice. In short, waiting for a miracle to happen. For Shay Bourne, life holds no more surprises. The world has given him nothing, and he has nothing to offer the world. In a heartbeat, though, something happens that changes everything for him. Now, he has one last chance for salvation, and it lies with June's eleven-year-old daughter, Claire. But between Shay and Claire stretches an ocean of bitter regrets, past crimes, and the rage of a mother who has lost her child. Would you give up your vengeance against someone you hate if it meant saving someone you love? Would you want your dreams to come true if it meant granting your enemy's dying wish? (worldcat.org)
 
12/07/2012 - 3:33am
Under the Tuscan Sun cover

Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes: Frances Mayes--widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer--opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. In evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Mayes also creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes from her traditional kitchen and simple garden, all of which she includes in the book. Doing for Tuscany what M.F.K. Fisher and Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion.

If you enjoyed this book about travel and coming of age and would like something similar, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

Ciao, America by Beppe Severgnini. Beppe Severgnini chronicles the experiences he and his wife had while renting a house in Georgetown and attempting to adapt to modern American culture. (worldcat.org)

 
 
 
 
 
In her early thirties, [the author] had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want - husband, country home, successful career - but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This ... is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Presents the memoir of a magazine writer's yearlong travels across the world in search of pleasure, guidance, experience, and meaning. (worldcat.org)

 
12/03/2012 - 12:54pm

It has been over a decade since the first of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptations, The Fellowship of the Ring, was released.  This film was greeted with both critical and audience acclaim upon its debut, and became a definitive cinematic event of the early 21st Century.  On December 14, 2012, Jackson’s long-awaited adaptation of the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, will be released.  Jackson’s films have become regarded as classics to the point that many fans may become unhappy with anyone other than Peter Jackson making a cinematic Tolkien adaptation, and it may come as a surprise to them that some film adaptations of Tolkien’s mythic cycle had already been made prior to Jackson’s! While waiting for the release of the first film in Jackson’s Hobbit adaptation, let’s take a look back at some prior cinematic versions of Tolkien’s works, and at Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

11/30/2012 - 10:13am
picture of copy machine

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Isn’t that how an article about derivative works is supposed to begin?  We only ask because there are probably other articles out there on this topic that begin the same way.  Whether or not we admit it to ourselves, 100% true originality in the case of media like books, film, music and games is practically unheard of.  That’s not a bad thing; works that build on one another can be some of the richest experiences imaginable.  On the other hand, some people are just lazy and rip-off other, greater works. 

09/22/2016 - 2:53pm
If you like The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules. (catalog summary)

 

If you enjoyed the dystopian themes of this novel and would be interested in similar dystopian works, here are some other titles you may enjoy:


1984
by George Orwell
Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell's chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell's narrative is more timely that ever. 1984 presents a "negative utopia," that is at once a startling and haunting vision of the world—so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of entire generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions--a legacy that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time. (catalog summary)

 


 


The Dispossessed
by Ursula K. Le Guin
A bleak moon settled by utopian anarchists, Anarres has long been isolated from other worlds, including its mother planet, Urras—a civilization of warring nations, great poverty, and immense wealth. Now Shevek, a brilliant physicist, is determined to reunite the two planets, which have been divided by centuries of distrust. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have kept them apart. To visit Urras--to learn, to teach, to share—will require great sacrifice and risks, which Shevek willingly accepts. But the ambitious scientist's gift is soon seen as a threat, and in the profound conflict that ensues, he must reexamine his beliefs even as he ignites the fires of change. (catalog summary)

 

11/29/2012 - 3:31am
The Moon Pool by Abraham Merritt

One of the earliest adventure novels detailing the journey of a group of explorers from the surface world through a subterranean civilization, Abraham Merritt’s The Moon Pool is also one of the best examples of the genre.  With an exciting narrative full of thrilling action sequences, memorable characters, and a fascinating civilization of bizarre wonders, The Moon Pool is a great adventure novel that will thrill fans of classic science fiction.  For fans of shorter novels, it is also a fast-paced read. Edited together from two novellas titled “The Moon Pool” and “Conquest of the Moon Pool,” it is under 300 pages in length and can be completed by most readers in about 3-5 days.  For those seeking to discover the roots of sci-fi adventure stories in the early twentieth century, The Moon Pool is an excellent trip back in time.

09/22/2016 - 10:21am
If you like Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

This readalike is in response to a customer's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids. You can browse the book matches here.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinarylife, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed. There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them. And he must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew. (catalog summary)
 

If you enjoyed this book's real-world fantasy setting and morally ambiguous characters, here are some other titles you may enjoy:


The End of Mr. Y
by Scarlett Thomas
A cursed book. A missing professor. Some nefarious men in gray suits. And a dreamworld called the Troposphere? Ariel Manto has a fascination with nineteenth-century scientists—especially Thomas Lumas and The End of Mr. Y, a book no one alive has read. When she mysteriously uncovers a copy at a used bookstore, Ariel is launched into an adventure of science and faith, consciousness and death, space and time, and everything in between. Seeking answers, Ariel follows in Mr. Y's footsteps: she swallows a tincture, stares into a black dot, and is transported into the Troposphere—a wonderland where she can travel through time and space using the thoughts of others. There she begins to understand all the mysteries surrounding the book, herself, and the universe. Or is it all just a hallucination? (catalog summary)





Gods Behaving Badly
by Marie Phillips
The twelve gods of Olympus are alive and well in the twenty-first century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse--and none too happy about it. Even more disturbingly, their powers are waning...[and] a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire, must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of humankind. Nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed-but can these two decidedly ordinary people replicate the feats of the mythical heroes and save the world? (catalog summary)

 

 

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