Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
02/16/2011 - 3:31am
Grendel, by John Gardner

Lurking in the shadows of the Dark Ages is the howling form of Grendel. He is the monster of midnight, the bone-gnasher, the ardent hunter of warriors who strews their bones and howls his fury to the world as he wreaks havoc on the safety of civilization. No hall fire burning brightly, no line of armed men can keep him back when he desires destruction. But as John Gardner tells of Grendel, this was not always so. For the bane of the Hrothgar’s hall has a soul much tormented by his desire for good and fellowship with the humans even as his demonic appearance frightens them into violent action. To them, he is a thing, and so he becomes what they believe him to be--an adversary whose fame has spanned the centuries.

02/15/2011 - 3:30am
The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

Occasionally you’re lucky enough to find a book you just can’t put down. Its gripping plot grabs hold of you and, chapter by chapter, propels you along. Equally compelling is that rare title where the action isn’t paramount, but the key players are so real you find yourself reading into the wee hours. The Good Daughters, by Joyce Maynard, falls into the second category with its unforgettable characters. 

Two girls, Dana Dickerson and Ruth Plank, are born on the same day in the same hospital to neighbors. Despite their proximity, the families couldn’t be more different. The Dickersons are like seeds that can’t seem to take hold. Often ignoring her two children, Val is consumed with art projects, while husband George constantly leaves home to chase yet another “get rich” scheme. Edwin and Connie Plank, on the other hand, live a stable, God-fearing (and some might say boring) life providing for their five daughters on a farm passed down the family tree for generations.
02/14/2011 - 3:30am
Cupid by Julius Lester

Just in time for Valentine's Day, here is Cupid, by Julius Lester.  In this retelling from Greek mythology, we are introduced to Psyche.  She is the daughter of a king and so beautiful that every time she walks outside people stopped and stared.  They even stopped working.  In fact, it was getting so bad that it was affecting the infrastructure of her community--and not in a good way.  Her father, the king, felt  it was in the best interest of his kingdom and his subjects to restrict  Psyche from her daily walks.  He decreed that she could only walk outside the castle gates once a month.

Word quickly reached Mount Olympus about the young beauty and the effect she was having on the other humans.  Venus, the goddess of love, was not pleased at all when she learned of this young woman, She viewed her as a threat and decided to dispatch her son, Cupid, to do away with her.  Never one to disappont his mother, Cupid quickly plans how he will get rid of this pesky human.  However, when Cupid lays his eyes on Psyche, he is immediately stunned by her beauty, and he falls in love with her himself.  He vows that she will become his wife, but he is reluctant to let his mother in on his little plan as she is a formidable force with which to be reckoned. 

02/14/2011 - 8:57am
Books by Robert Heinlein

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.

Robert Heinlein is a fantastic "old" master of hard science fiction whose famous books include Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers. If you like his books, you may also like these selections:

cosmCOSM / Gregory Benford
On an otherwise ordinary day not long from now, inside a massive installation of ultra-high-energy scientific equipment, something goes wrong with a brilliant young physicist's most ambitious experiment. But this is not a calamity. It will soon be seen as one of the most significant breakthroughs in history. For the explosion has left something behind: a wondrous sphere the size of a basketball, made of nothing known to science. Before long, it will be clear that this object has opened a vista on an entirely different universe - a newborn cosmos whose existence will rock this world and test one woman to the limit as she comes face-to-face with fame and terror. That woman is the physicist who has ignited this thrilling adventure. (catalog summary)

Earth / David Brin
Brin uses the escape of a manmade black hole that is eating away at the Earth's core and a plausible future of sophisticated, instant universal and global computer data linkage and retrieval to reexamine, explore, and expand upon the themes regarding genetic creation and advancement begun in Star tide Rising (1983) and The Uplift War (1987). There is an element of suspense and intrigue as the characters scramble to define, find, and solve the black hole damage before each other and before it's too late. Although less engaging than the previously mentioned books, this is timely in its investigation of current ecological issues…(Joan Lewis Reynolds, School Library Journal)

02/10/2011 - 3:30am
Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai

"I am so mad at you," the little rabbit says to his mother.  Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai is the story of a little rabbit who is very angry at his mother.  The story continues with the little rabbit listing the reasons for his anger.  For instance, Mommy says that she cannot marry little rabbit even when he gets bigger.  Little rabbit goes on to inform his mother that when he gets bigger he "will do whatever he wants."

Komako Sakai is the author and illustrator of this tender story.  The illustrations are gentle and quiet as they juxtapose a tranquility against the ire of the little rabbit.  The muted tones beautifully capture the story while sparse text expresses the universal sentiment of children at one point or another during their childhood.  Every parent will recognize themselves as a child and will chuckle at the familiar words used by the little rabbit.  They may even recognize their own children.  In particular, the page where the little rabbit expresses his anger and turns his nose up into the air captured the moment beautifully.  I know that I have seen that expression myself.   This story is great to read aloud or for the emerging reader to ponder over after a particularly difficult day. 

In the end, the little rabbit announces that he is going away.  You can almost hear the "huff" as he leaves.   He walks out of the room only to quickly return and ask his mother if she missed him.   In the end the little rabbit and the mother are reconciled and everyone is happy.

02/09/2011 - 3:30am
I Slept With Joey Ramone

How’s that for a title that gets your attention? No, this isn’t one of those glamorous, tell-all, rock star groupie memoirs. In fact, I cannot imagine any of the members of the punk rock pioneers, the Ramones, even using the word “glamorous” in a sentence…except perhaps to describe a pizza.

I Slept with Joey Ramone is the affectionate account of lead singer Joey Ramone’s complicated relationship with his kid brother Mickey, who also wrote and played music, but lived in Joey’s shadow.

The sections relating the brothers’ childhood in Queens were especially informative, and had the same sense of deep camaraderie that I loved in Frank McCourt’s first memoir Angela’s Ashes, with just a couple of brothers looking out for each other in the big bad city. You learn about their fascination and burgeoning love of rock music, thanks to the Beatles and Phil Spector’s wall of sound.