Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
Mon, 06/20/2011 - 06:38
The Tears of the Salamander, by Peter Dickinson

Peter Dickinson’s The Tears of the Salamander begins with a simple gift and ends with a magical legacy. When his seldom-seen, rich Uncle Giorgio gives young Alfredo a strange present on his name day, his parents aren’t sure they want him to have it. The golden chain doesn’t have the expected cross on it—from it dangles the golden image of a strange animal—a little lizard with splayed feet and other peculiar features. Alfredo’s older brother is very jealous. He sees nothing special in Alfredo. Sure, he can sing like an angel, but that’s not much use to a baker’s boy, is it?

The local priests see Alfredo’s gift differently. They want him in their boys’ choir, and he is happy to be there for he loves to sing—but he also loves baking and hopes to follow his father into the trade. When catastrophe strikes leaving Alfredo alone and friendless, the priests urge him to join the choir permanently, and he would have done so even though it would have meant giving up a normal life. But just at the crucial moment, his Uncle Giorgio comes to take him away to reclaim his birthright—the birthright his father refused by choosing instead to become a simple village baker.

Fri, 06/17/2011 - 03:31
Let the Great World Spin

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.

"Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCann: A rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s. A radical young Irish monk struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gathers in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. A 38-year-old grandmother turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth. Weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann's allegory comes alive in the voices of the city's people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the "artistic crime of the century"--a mysterious tightrope walker dancing between the Twin Towers.

If you enjoyed "Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCann for the writing, the family story and the setting, you may enjoy these titles:

American Rust by Philipp Meyer
Left alone to care for his aging father after his mother commits suicide and his sister escapes to Yale, Isaac English longs for a life beyond his hometown. But when he finally sets out to leave for good, accompanied by his temperamental best friend, former high school football star Billy Poe, they are caught up in a terrible act of violence that changes their lives forever.-catalog summary


 

Falling Man by Don DeLillo
There is September 11 and then there are the days after, and finally the years. 'Falling Man' is a magnificent, essential novel about the event that defines turn-of-the-century America. It begins in the smoke and ash of the burning towers and tracks the aftermath of this global tremor in the intimate lives of a few people. First, there is Keith, walking out of the rubble into a life that he'd always imagined belonged to everyone but him. Then Lianne, his estranged wife, memory-haunted, trying to reconcile two versions of the same shadowy man. And their small son Justin, standing at the window, scanning the sky for more planes. These are lives choreographed by loss, grief and the enormous force of history. Brave and brilliant, 'Falling Man' traces the way the events of September 11 have reconfigured our emotional landscape, our memory and our perception of the world. It is cathartic, beautiful, heartbreaking. 

Thu, 06/16/2011 - 03:31
Happy Birthday, Monster!

There's a lot more to Happy Birthday, Monster! than just monsters. Sure, there is a mummy, a skeleton, a vampire, and a ghost involved, but there's an alien and a robot too. That is not a problem. Diversity is great, especially when dealing with guys and gals like these.

This bunch is just looking to have a good time at their friend Doris' (a lizard creature of sorts) birthday. Devilish Ben is throwing the bash, and early on we see him brushing and flossing his teeth... and then brushing and flossing his horns.

The fun of Scott Beck's book is seeing how each of these very different characters interact with each other.  The book explores what happens when the ghost slow dances ("You're very light on your feet.") or when the robot falls in love with an ordinary houselamp.

Wed, 06/15/2011 - 03:31
A Kiss Before the Apocalypse

Recently, I found myself running around a hotel and trying to hide so that I could just finish my book and no one would see me crying. Last week my son got married, and even though I am not very emotional my family kept saying “You are going to cry when he gets married. I know you will.” I kept saying, “I am not. I am going to remain calm and collected.” When a friend called to recommend a book, “A Kiss Before the Apocalypse,” I decided to take it with me to the wedding. It is about an angel, Remiel or Remy Chandler who decides to come to earth along with a few other angels to pretend to be one of God’s most beloved creations – Man.

However, while he is here he falls in love with a woman named Madeline and they marry. Since angels do not age and humans do, the book begins with Remy visiting his elderly wife who is dying of cancer in a nursing home. Everyone who works there believes that Madeline is his mother, but the reader soon becomes part of a magical love story of a woman and an angel.

Tue, 06/14/2011 - 03:31
The Centurion's Wife, by Bunn and Oke

The first time I read one of Janette Oke’s books I was around twelve years old, and since then, whenever I pick up a book written or co-written by her, I know I am in for a captivating story that has a good plot, romance, and an uplifting message. The Centurion’s Wife, which Oke co-wrote with Davis Bunn, is no exception.

The story takes place in Jerusalem and in the surrounding Judean provinces immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and during its controversial aftermath: his burial, resurrection, and appearances before his disciples. The reader experiences all this through the perspectives of two people: Leah and Alban.

Mon, 06/13/2011 - 05:41
Entwined, by Heather Dixon

Entwined, by Heather Dixon, is a new take on the fairytale of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” The twelve sisters live in the kingdom of Eathesbury where their father the king rules with a firm and practical hand. Their mother loves to dance, and her joy and optimism are passed down to her eldest daughter, Azalea. On the eve of her death, their mother makes Azalea promise upon a silver handkerchief that she will take care of her sisters; and Azalea does just that, with the fulfillment of her promise being enforced by the magic of the silver handkerchief.

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