Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
05/11/2012 - 7:34am
If you like Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

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.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: "The novel, told in flashback by nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski, recounts the wild and wonderful period he spent with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, a traveling circus he joined during the Great Depression. When 23-year-old Jankowski learns that his parents have been killed in a car crash, leaving him penniless, he drops out of Cornell veterinary school and parlays his expertise with animals into a job with the circus, where he cares for a menagerie of exotic creatures, including an elephant who only responds to Polish commands. He also falls in love with Marlena, one of the show's star performers-a romance complicated by Marlena's husband, the unbalanced, sadistic circus boss who beats both his wife and the animals Jankowski cares for." (Publisher's Weekly Review)

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen has become a favorite for book club discussions because it is so rich in interesting characters, historical background and compelling plot. Here are several other titles that are popular with book clubs because there is so much to discuss in all of them.

The Adventures of Miles and Isabel by Tom Gilling
"Writhing with labor pains, the very pregnant actress Eliza McGinty is on stage portraying Hamlet in lieu of the drunken actor originally slated for the part, while in the audience the demure Mrs. Ernest Dowling is having contractions of her own. Miles and Isabel would share more than the same birth date in 1856; they would be children of the Industrial Revolution, fascinated by the power of turning cogs and flying machines. Isabel is the child of privilege and a victim of her own femininity in a male-dominated society, and Miles is the illegitimate son of an actress traveling as part of a levitation act, but their common love of invention and possibility would put them on a journey of souls destined to meet. Fantastical and magical, this novel is peppered with humor and the excitement of a time period laden with anticipation and opportunities for the creative, restless minds of innovation."-Booklist review


The Bee’s Kiss by Barbara Cleverly
“It's 1926, and Joe Sandilands is back from Ranipur, yet there is a darkness behind all the postwar gaiety. Against the background of a looming general strike and pressure from an unseen governmental presence, Joe struggles to solve four murders, picking his way through the political panic and rebelling against authority.”—catalog summary


 

Bel Canto : A Novel by Ann Patchett.

From the bestselling author of "The Magician's Assistant" comes a marvelous novel of love, opera, and terrorism set in South America. Two couples, complete opposites, fall in love; sexual identities become confused; and a horrific imprisonment is transformed into an unexpected heaven on earth.

 

09/23/2010 - 9:08am

My paperback copies of Ray Bradbury's wonderful fantasy collections--The Illustrated Man, October Country, Dandelion Wine, The Machineries of Joy, and The Martian Chronicles--are in sad shape. The pages are brittle, yellowed, and, yes, a bit musty. But I keep them because his lyrical words matchlessly probe humanity at its worst and best. When friends of mine gifted us with 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales one Christmas, I was happy to have many of those beautiful stories collected together in a hardback edition to last for years--and so was the local library for we own several copies of it.

I certainly won't go through every one of the one hundred, but I'll mention several pieces that stuck with me time and again. One of the first stories in the collection is "The Rocket," in which a poor junk man gets hold of a prototype rocketship and dreams of somehow going into space with his family. "The Sailor Home from the Sea" is a tale of loss and love and the imagination to reconcile them. "The Sound of Summer Running" is the opening piece for Dandelion Wine, and it brings back the time of year and the time of life for one young man who feels as if his whole town might capsize, go under, leaving not a trace in the clover and weeds of burgeoning summer.

09/22/2010 - 10:11am

Fans of the Artemis Fowl series will immediately notice something is different with Artemis in this seventh installment in the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, The Atlantis Complex. First off, he obsesses about his lucky number five, even going so far as to count words in his sentences to make sure they conform. He is deathly afraid of the number 4, generally out of touch with reality, and paranoid to the extreme, even doubting Butler’s unceasing loyalty.

It turns out that Artemis is suffering from the Atlantis complex, a degenerative mental disease brought on by guilt caused by his criminal activities and dabbling in fairy magic. The disease even spurs his gallant alter-ego named Orion, determined to woo Holly Short, tough-as-nails LEPrecon officer, with flowery accolades. Artemis, as always, has a plan that sets the plot in motion – but his plan this time is not to make money, but to save the world from global warming. However, there are nefarious forces working against him and things immediately go wrong when a deep-space probe piloted by enemy forces crashes Artemis’s meeting of the minds with Holly Short, Foaly, and Commander Vinyaya.

09/21/2010 - 11:34am

What, another dystopian YA novel? Yes, but Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi is so fresh and involving that even the most jaded reader is sure to enjoy it. 

Teenaged Nailer is a ship breaker, one of the poorest of the poor who eke out a living dismantling rusting oil tankers along the Gulf. He’s still small enough to crawl through the ducts in search of copper wire, which he retrieves and turns over to his crew boss. His drug-addicted father is an unpredictable force, and Nailer considers his friend Pima and her mother the closest thing he has to a real family. 
 
After a hurricane sweeps over the coast, Nailer and Pima discover the wreck of a high-tech clipper ship hidden in an inlet. As they scavenge for food, money and anything else that can turn their luck, they discover the body of a beautiful and clearly rich young woman. Just as Nailer contemplates cutting off her finger to steal her rings, her eyes open.
09/20/2010 - 7:59am

Slow cookers make everyday and special event cooking so much easier that they justify their place among your kitchen gadgets.  Plus, slow cookers come in a variety of sizes, from one quart to six quarts. Get the size that suits most of your needs or go ahead and get both.  Two slow cookers can produce a memorable meal for a party. For example, a smaller one is perfect for seafood dip or fondue while a larger one supplies barbeque beef for sandwiches or coq au vin.  Whichever model(s) you choose, it’s good to have the slow-cooker option for less stress and more flavorful food.

10/12/2011 - 12:34pm

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.

If you like the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, you may like some of the following books.  Sookie is not only a telepath, but a spunky gal!  This series features all kinds of fearsome creatures, but the humor shines through at all times.

One list you might like is "Books With Bite" featuring vampires, werewolves and other fictional creatures that go bump in the night.

A few favorites from this list include:

Carpe Demon by Julie Kenner.
Kate Connor, Demon Hunter, is now a sububarn stay-at-home mom with a teenager and a toddler. Juggling car pools, play dates, teenage mood swings and a workaholic husband makes clearing out a horde of ravening demons seem pretty easy.

 


 

Cajun Cowboy by Sandra Hill
Talk about a bad hair day! Louisiana beauty salon owner Charmaine LeDeux has a loan shark on her tail, and Raoul Lanier, the six-foot-three hunk of testosterone she thought she divorced, has just delivered a bombshell: They're still married! At least the rundown ranch they've inherited together is the perfect hideout. Holy crawfish! It's hard enough for Raoul to play cowboy to a bunch of scrawny steer, let alone suffer the exquisite torture of living with the delectable Charmaine, who's declared herself a born-again virgin. What's a man crazy with desire to do? Seduce her on their home on the range, even if it means taking advice from bachelor ranch hands, Charmaine's belly-dancing great-aunt, and St. Jude, patron saint of lost causes.--catalog summary