Shelf Life

Our Shelf Life Blog features the latest recommendations chosen by library staff and volunteers.
10/26/2010 - 8:22am

Clare Clark's The Great Stink brings to life the literal dank and dismal underbelly of Victorian London.

During the summer of 1858 a heat wave gripped London. The water level in the Thames sank from the accompanying drought. Raw sewage flowed into the Thames, spilled over the banks, and caused a stench that filled the city. The powerful machinery of the House of Commons ground to a halt as a hot, fetid miasma enveloped the chambers. Curtains soaked in a solution of chloride of lime did nothing to block the foul air. The Great Stink had arrived.

An outbreak of cholera rapidly followed. Members of Parliament, sick and dizzy from the heat and smell, finally passed legislation to fund a new sanitary sewage system for the city of London. The newly formed Metropolitan Board of Works got busy. Engineers and surveyors were hired. Massive contracts for bricks and supplies and construction were awarded. The potential for profits - and corruption - was enormous.

10/26/2010 - 11:23am

Seventh graders Emily, Spencer, Aria and Hanna worship Alison in Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars. Alison’s the prettiest, most popular girl at Rosewood Day School. When the five girls are thrown together at their school’s charity drive, they quickly become friends. Over a year later, the girls are still friends, but the power Ali wields over them all has them feeling uncomfortable. She knows all of their deep, dark secrets: secrets that could ruin their lives if anyone else found out. When Ali disappears, the four girls are shaken, but also…relieved.

Three years later the girls start getting strange text messages, emails and notes from someone: someone who seems to know all of those secrets that they thought were safe since the disappearance of Ali. The messages get more and more threatening and the girls can’t help but wonder: Is Ali sending the messages? If not, then who?
 
10/22/2010 - 3:31am

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 liked  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, outrageous humor may be the draw.
If so, you may want to try one of the books listed below:

The Philosophical Strangler by Eric Flint 
Greyboar's professional career as an assassin for hire falls prey to his penchant for philosophy as moral qualms intervene to cause disaster in even the simplest tasks. The latest fantasy by the author of 1632 features an angst-ridden hero, a fast-talking side-kick, fast-paced action, and bawdy humor. Though sometimes the comedy misses the mark,
Flint tells a multilayered tale of camaraderie in the face of misadventure with apologies to the great philosophers. (Library Journal)

The Steampunk Trilogy by Paul Di Filippo 
Raunchy, uproarious silliness in the time-honored sf tradition of alternative history. (Library Journal) Features 19th century stories of Queen Victoria, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Hottentots in Massachusets.

 

 

10/21/2010 - 3:31am

A young girl and her cat enter a dark, old, ramshackle house. Ghosts are waiting for her there. As she opens the door they all fly out. This is where the fun begins in Kazuno Kohara’s Ghosts in the House!

The book dodges a potentially frightening situation by having the little girl don a witch hat and immediately contain the ghosts. She washes them out and uses them as helpful household items like tablecloths and curtains. Our main character is not only brave, but friendly too, and the ghosts enjoy assisting her throughout her daily tasks.
 
The charm of the book comes from the simple text combined with bold illustrations. The limited use of color (orange, black, and white) allows the pictures to jump off the page and create a powerful Halloween world for you to enter. White ghosts have a texture and dimension as if someone had stamped them onto the pages with a wood block. All of these stylistic choices make the book feel like a hidden gem from the 1950’s, when really it was only published a couple of years ago. Kohara followed her debut picture book with one that may be worth checking out in a couple of months, the equally delightful Here Comes Jack Frost.
 
Looking for a children’s book that will evoke the spooky fun of Halloween without scaring the younger ones? Kazuno Kohara’s Ghosts in the House! has it all.
10/20/2010 - 3:31am

As a Fine Cooking magazine subscriber and fan, whenever the Fine Cooking team releases a new book I rush to check it out. The title of this new volume, Big Buy Cooking: The Food Lover’s Guide to Buying in Bulk and Using it All Up, appealed to me as a mom of four children who often shops at bulk warehouses like Costco. I was a little surprised to see that the “bulk” ingredients included such items as kalamata olives, brie, and mangoes….all of which I would consider a pricier gourmet option, not a weekday dinnertime staple.

The introduction, however, explains that the purpose of this book is to give you options to fall back on when you come home with that large wheel of brie from Costco: “It’s cheap, ripe, and calling out to you. Go on, give in. Once home, cut yourself a wedge to enjoy with grapes and crackers…brie on crostini, warm and melting, with dates and walnuts. Brie, ham, and tart apples on a toasted baguette, with a hint of Dijon mustard and honey. Brie in the best-ever version of fondue.” So, once you know that this book is not going to save you money but is going to aid your food indulgences, you can feel free to dabble.
10/19/2010 - 9:18am

If you are thinking about being a dog owner, whether it's your first time or your first time considering a new breed, you'll want to check out The Dog Selector: How to Choose the Right Dog for You by David Alderton. 

The Dog Selector provides an overview of 130 popular dog breeds with the goal of pairing a potential owner with the right type of dog for his or her lifestyle. Alderton provides a brief history of each breed as well as a "canine characteristics" chart which covers personality, exercise requirements, typical behavior at home and in public, grooming requirements, and common health issues. Of course, you'll see a picture of each dog and sometimes a puppy too!

Each chapter features ten breeds (which can vary widely in size and look) which share common characteristics that would make them good for beginners, or low-maintenance (and high-maintenance too, if you're brave and energetic), or good for people with allergies, or good for families, etc.