Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
11/08/2010 - 8:49am

It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper. She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. In Justina Chen Headley's North of Beautiful, Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college but she gets pushed off course by her controlling father. When a handsome, quirky Goth boy sees her for who she really is Terra is forced in yet another direction.

The red-stained birthmark on Terra’s right cheek isn’t the only challenge she has to overcome. She’s with her insensitive boyfriend for all the wrong reasons. Her malicious father, a mapmaker with a humiliating secret, is critical to the point of verbal abuse. And her family is falling apart. But Terra is a likable girl, who desperately wants to be accepted for who she is – flaws and all. A cast of well-developed characters also make this a fun and touching story.

03/03/2011 - 11:55am

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.

11/04/2010 - 9:23am

Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elsbeth Graham is based on a centuries-old legend about tea-picking monkeys.  As the story begins, the reader meets Tashi, a young girl who lives alone with her mother, a tea picker, in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains.   Each day Tashi accompanies her mother and aunts who travel to the rolling tea plantations to pick tea. While the adults work in the fields, Tashi plays and shares her lunch with a troupe of monkeys under the shade of an ancient tree.  

Tashi’s life is disrupted when her mother falls ill and is unable to pick the tea that not only provides for their day-to-day needs, but also would pay for a doctor to heal her mother.  Tashi sees this as a problem that goes “around and around, like a snake with its tail in its mouth.” Tashi decides to try and take her mother's place and pick the tea herself. How will a young girl fill a basket full of tea when the basket is taller than she is?

11/03/2010 - 3:31am

Howard Norman's newest novel takes the reader back to a setting - Nova Scotia - familiar to  fans of his previous works,  and back in time to the 1940s when the Canadian Maritime provinces were vulnerable to German attack and even more remote than they remain today.  I am among the fans of this and two of Norman's earlier novels, The Bird Artist and The Museum Guard, where each offered a compelling mix of interesting characters and unique takes on love, death, and loneliness.

What Is Left the Daughter is structured as a series of letters from Wyatt Hillyer to his long absent daughter. The opening paragraph hints of the drama to be revealed if we read on:

"Marlais, today is March 26, 1967, your twenty-first birthday. I'm writing because I refuse any longer to have my life defined by what I haven't told you. I've waited until now to relate the terrible incident tht I took part in on October 16, 1942, when I was nineteen."

Even in those few words, something of the letter writer's gentle, thoughtful character reveals itself.

11/02/2010 - 10:38am

I recently moved to Fredericksburg from Maryland, and as much as I’m enjoying my new life in Virginia, I still miss my old haunts. I can always rely on author Laura Lippman (former Baltimore Sun reporter and wife of David Simon—Homicide and The Wire) to capture Baltimore’s unique flavor.

In I'd Know You Anywhere, fifteen-year-old Elizabeth is abducted by Walter Bowman, a man suspected of raping and murdering a series of young women. Another victim is found dead and Walter is finally apprehended. In contrast to her peers, Elizabeth, who obeyed her captor’s every command, survives the hellish ordeal. Walter is tried, convicted and sentenced to die.
 
Over twenty years later, he holds the distinction for being the longest Death Row survivor in Virginia. But Walter’s time is running out. In a last-ditch attempt to reverse his inevitable fate, he contacts Elizabeth, now Eliza. By manipulating and muddying the facts, can he convince her that he, too, is a victim? Can he persuade her to save his life?
11/01/2010 - 10:21am

Jem stays away from people.  She is a loner and she likes it that way.  Then she meets Spider one day under a bridge in London.  As much as she tries, he won't leave her alone.  She rarely makes eye contact with people and for good reason.  When Jem looks into people's eyes she can see the day they are going to die.  She looks into Spider's eyes.  This is the basis for the story Numbers by Rachel Ward (audiobook version).

Despite Jem's efforts, she and Spider form a friendship, which eventually evolves into something more when they decide to run away together.  This happens after a trip to the London Eye.  Jem looks into the eyes of the people waiting in line to board the attraction and she realizes that they all have the same  death date...that very day.  Jem suddenly realizes that something catastrophic is going to happen and that she and Spider have to get away immediately.  While they are running away a tragic event occurs.  Jem and Spider are safe...but are they? The surveillance cameras capture their escape and suddenly they are wanted by authorities for questioning.  Jem and Spider steal a car and head west across England.   As they continue to outrun the authorities, their relationship grows. 

Fast paced and gritty ...this audio will keep you on the edge of your seat.  The reader is adept at the various accents found throughout England.  The story is touching and engaging.  Jem and Spider provide such compelling characters that you can't help rooting for them. 

The ending was stunning and completey unexpected...at least by me!!!