Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
02/08/2011 - 4:31am
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Dateline: Hampstead, London, 1851

Twenty-something drawing master William Hartright was passing a pleasant evening en route to his next assignment as a live-in tutor for two young ladies at Limmeridge House when he was accosted by a young woman oddly garbed all in white who begged for his help. She refused to tell him her name, from whence she came or to where she was going. Being a gentleman, he escorted her, as was her design, to the nearest cab stand. Along the way, they chatted—The Woman in White, oddly intense and excitable, and he, curious to find out what he could about this very determined lady in distress.
 
What he did discover was that she knew the family who had hired him but, warm as her feelings seemed to be to the Fairlies, she was sufficiently troubled by another horror to bolt into the procured cab and race off towards her unstated destination. A few minutes later, Mr. Hartright saw another carriage driving recklessly and pulling up short near a policeman. The men in the carriage shouted to the officer—had he seen a woman in white? She had just escaped from their private insane asylum.
02/07/2011 - 10:09am
The King of Ithaka by Tracy Barrett

Telemachos, the son of Odysseus, must go in search of his father whom he has never met.  In the book The King of Ithaka by Tracy Barrett, we join Telemachos on his journey.  He was just a baby when his father left the island of Ithaka, but lately the residents have decided that Odysseus must be dead and it is time to find a new king. They want to decide who that will be.  This would also mean that the queen Penelopeia (his mother) would have to marry that person. Telemachos decides that he will set sail to find his long-missing father. There are a few obstacles that he will have to overcome. One is that he hates the sea. The other is that he has no idea where to begin searching. In order to find the right direction to go in search of his father he must consult Daisy.  Daisy is old...really old and, oh, yeah...she has three heads.  She is also really mean, and, when you go to see her, you run the risk that she will kill you.

Telemachos has to be very careful in his approach to Daisy. He decides that he will bring an offering to Daisy in an order to appease her. He brings a basket of eggs and tiny baby rats. Despite the stench of decay, Telemachos finds Daisy and asks her counsel on how to find his father the King. Daisy tells him  to "return to the place that is not on the day that is not bearing the thing that is not." With that cryptic message, he sets sail with his best friend Brax, who is a Centaur, despite his mother's protestations that Brax will eat all the food. After having set sail for a day or so Telemachos and Brax discover that they are not alone on the ship. Hopefully, the food holds out.

03/14/2011 - 2:35pm
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

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. See other book matches here.

"The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the great literary adventures; indeed, William Thackeray was so enthralled he began reading `at six one morning and never stopped till eleven at night'. The hero is Edmond Dantes, a young sailor who, falsely accused of treason, is arrested on his wedding day and imprisoned in the island fortress of Chateau d'If. After staging a dramatic escape he sets out to discover the fabulous treasure of Monte Cristo and catch up with his enemies. A novel of enormous tension and excitement, Monte Cristo is also a tale of obsession and revenge, with Dantes, believing himself to be an `Angel of Providence', pursuing his vengeance to the bitter end before realizing that he himself is a victim of fate." (Book Summary)

If you liked The Count of Monte Cristo, then you may also like these titles and authors.

Captain Alatriste by Arturo Perez-Reverte
Hooded figures, apparently acting on the behalf of Fray Emilio Bocanegra, "president of the Holy Tribunal of the Inquisition," hire famed soldier Capt. Diego Alatriste to murder two Englishmen who have come to Madrid. One of the hooded figures, however, begs Alatriste (out of earshot of the others) only to wound the pair. When Alatriste and his fellow assassin, an ill-humored Italian, surprise the British, the captain is impressed by the fighting spirit they show, and he prevents the assassination from taking place. (The Italian, infuriated, swears eternal revenge.) When the Englishmen turn out to be on an important mission, Alatriste suddenly finds himself caught between a number of warring factions, Spanish and otherwise. (from Publishers Weekly)

The Eight by Katherine Neville
Catherine Velis, a computer expert banished to Algeria by her accounting firm, gets caught up in a search for a legendary chess set once owned by Charlemagne. An antique dealer, a Soviet chess master, KGB agents and a fortune-teller who warns Catherine she's in big trouble all covet the fabled chess pieces, because the chess service, buried for 1000 years in a French abbey, supplies the key to a magic formula tied to numerology, alchemy, the Druids, Freemasonry, cosmic powers. (from Publishers Weekly)

02/03/2011 - 10:02am
Car Science by Richard Hammond

Kids who like car books soon outgrow the ones with nice pictures and simple diagrams—and then what? What do you give a car-crazy kid who – might – be drawn into the fascinating world of science and engineering if he had the right teacher? Most car books for older kids are chock full of dull details and have no excitement whatsoever. They drone. They drag. They discourage with their very verbiage. We’ve got a cure for that.  Richard Hammond, star of the BBC’s Top Gear and past host of Brainiac: Science Abuse, has teamed with picture-mad DK publishing to bring off Car Science: An Under-the-Hood, Behind-the-Dash Look at How Cars Work.

The book is divided into four very fun, very illustrated sections: Power, Speed, Handling, and Technology. There’s never a dull moment as Mr. Hammond divulges details of “…everything you need to know to be a real driving expert. How a turbocharger works, how gasoline is made; we’ll look inside gearboxes and learn why a Formula 1 car’s brakes glow pink when it’s stopping. And, at the end, we’ll look at the kind of cars that we might be driving in the future.”
02/02/2011 - 4:31am
Frankenstein: Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz

“My origins are a prison graveyard, the cadavers of criminals – combined, revitalized, reborn.” - Deucalion

The myth of the evil scientist and his tortured, grotesque creations has fascinated us since Mary Shelley’s inaugural novel Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus was published anonymously in 1818. It spawned variations on the same theme in print and cinema, testifying that this story is now firmly embedded in our popular culture. Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son reworks the classic Frankenstein story for modern times, adding in some great suspenseful elements, science fiction (a la the Stepford Wives), and elements of dark fantasy to make a rollicking read.
 
The story opens with Deucalion, the anguished, tattooed monstrosity who has sought solace away from condemning eyes in the mountains of Tibet. Deucalion receives a letter that brings terrifying news – someone evil, whom he thought was destroyed – is still alive and doing awful things in New Orleans. Meanwhile, a serial killer is hunting down women throughout the city, leaving each corpse with missing body parts. Detectives Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison are on the case, horrified by each grisly discovery and perplexed by the lack of clues leading to a suspect.
04/03/2014 - 1:34pm
Perfect One-Dish Dinners by Pam Anderson

I love making one-dish dinners for my family like chicken n’ dumplings, lasagna, or chili. These dishes may take longer to prepare or cook, but in the end they are delicious and well-loved by kids and adults alike. Pam Anderson’s new book, Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers, combines making homey comfort food with socializing. What a great idea! Anderson scripts the whole meal for you, providing simple, yet delicious, menus to accompany the main dishes. 

The main recipe categories are stews, casseroles, roasting pan, and summer salad/grilled platters. For each main dish mentioned, there is also a suggested appetizer, salad, and dessert. There are even “instant alternatives” for the occasions when you don’t have the time or right ingredients to make the suggested recipe. Each section is rounded off with a helpful wine and beer suggestion.