Shelf Life Blog

Made by Hand: My Adventures in the World of Do-It-Yourself by Mark Frauenfelder

Cover to Made by Hand by Mark Frauenfelder

In the course of dealing with an older house and raising a family on a budget, I’ve read quite a few do-it-yourself books, but never one like Made by Hand, by Mark Frauenfelder.  For example, they’ve never started with a mad dash to a tropical island. That’s where the author, his wife, and young children headed after the dot-com crash left them looking for a simpler, presumably cheaper life. After all, they were writers and theoretically writers can telecommute from anywhere, even the second most gorgeous island in the world.

Mr. and Mrs. Dog: Our Travels, Trials, and Epiphanies by Donald McCaig

Mr. and Mrs. Dog: Our Travels, Trials, and Epiphanies by Donald McCaig

In British canine agility classes, there are often two sections: Border Collies and Anything but a Border Collie. The often black-and-white Border Collies, made famous in the movie Babe, are considered among the smartest and most agile dogs in the world and are in a class by themselves. I picked up Mr. and Mrs. Dog, by Donald McCaig, hoping for a little more understanding of our Border Collie, Tess, a pull from the local pound. Despite her hard upbringing, she is joyous and full of energy, leaping about like a lamb when it’s time for a walk. But she gets down to business, too, gently making sure that everyone is in place and taken care of. Very responsive to commands, gestures, or just a hint of what’s wanted, she wants to do what’s required of her, almost obsessively. I did wonder, is this normal?

If you like Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

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.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters: "Raised by a loving family of thieves, orphan Sue Trinder is sheltered from the worst of the seamy Victorian underworld until it becomes her turn to make her clan's fortune. She must help a professional rogue named Gentleman marry an heiress and then steal the poor girl's inheritance by declaring her insane. Sue wants to please her adoptive mother and friends and persuades herself that she can do the job, but once she's confronted with the seemingly hapless victim, Maud, she begins to have doubts. Sue and Maud's connection is just one reason the scam quickly falls apart. Each clearly drawn character is ensnared by secrets and lies that force his or her actions, and everyone is both a predator and a victim." (Library Journal)

If you like Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, especially the Victorian time period and the gripping suspense of the novel, you may also like these titles:
 
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Seventeen-year-old Evie O'Neill is thrilled when she is exiled from small-town Ohio to New York City in 1926, even when a rash of occult-based murders thrusts Evie and her uncle, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, into the thick of the investigation.
 
 
 
 
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Abandoned on a 1913 voyage to Australia, Nell is raised by a dock master and his wife who do not tell her until she is an adult that she is not their child, leading Nell to return to England and eventually hand down her quest for answers to her granddaughter.
 
 
 
 

Welcome to Your Awesome Robot by Viviane Schwarz

Welcome to Your Awesome Robot by Viviane Schwarz

Welcome to Your Awesome Robot, by Viviane Schwarz, is part comic, part how-to guide, and all around a hilarious way to use your imagination to make something cool. It follows the story of a child who receives a cardboard box with the title phrase written across it.

From there, we explore the fun and logistics of making your own personal robot costume. The book explains the materials you need, tasks that might require adult assistance, and potential hazards to be aware of during your robot's construction. With this guide, your imagination is your only limit.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

As children, Rosemary Cooke, her brother Lowell, and sister Fern are so excited by rolling and jumping in the snow that they look like powdered doughnuts. Their mom says they are all completely beside themselves! It’s a happy memory Rosemary has of her childhood. Author Karen Joy Fowler ponders what we really remember about our pasts. How much of our lives are repressed, forgotten, reordered, retold, and sometimes totally changed or even made up? Do you remember your third birthday, the first day of school, or even what happened last Thanksgiving? I have this lovely photograph of my sister and me on the beach in floaters and have no memory of the event. In Rosemary’s family, a traumatic event changes everything. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves explores the meaning of family and the memories that hold it together.

Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

The 1980s has become a time memorialized in current pop culture as a lost, neon wonderland, a time of gargantuan ambition and even more gargantuan hairstyles that would define America for a young generation. Often forgotten are the numerous problems that young people confronted at the time, including the families splintered through divorce, the temptation of easy access to dangerous drugs such as cocaine, and a world that became more individualistic and “winner take all” each passing day. Less Than Zero was Bret Easton Ellis’ first novel, a satire describing the lives of wealthy, young people on their time off from college as they travel through a disorienting haze of drugs, frayed relationships, and pop cultural references. Although not as widely remembered or highly regarded as Ellis’ other “80s novel,” American Psycho, Less Than Zero is still a worthy read for anyone seeking to understand the true essence of the 1980s.

Axe Cop by Malachai and Ethan Nicolle

Axe Cop by Malachai and Ethan Nicolle

Axe Cop: the name says it all. One day a cop found a magical axe and used it to fight crime. Around the same time, five-year-old Malachai Nicolle teamed up with his professional artist brother Ethan to write a comic book. Ethan took Malachai's words—which usually involve explosions, aliens, and secret attacks—and gave them a visual flourish. And thus Axe Cop was born.

Contained in these pages is a frenzy of unchecked childhood imagination that has been given infinite space to roam free. Malachai invents adventures involving machine gun-toting dinosaurs on the Moon and magic babies with unicorn horns. Axe Cop's adventures are narrated in a plain-spoken manner which adds to their appeal. Axe Cop always says exactly what he is thinking.

If You Like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer: "As London is emerging from the shadow of World War II, writer Juliet Ashton discovers her next subject in a book club on Guernsey--a club born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi after its members are discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island."  

A novel told through a series of letters is called “epistolary fiction” - don’t you just love that word?  Some other epistolary fiction you might like:

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanf
Hanff, a New York writer, responds to an advertisement by a London bookseller and inquires about purchasing some out-of-print books. Her inquiry to Marks & Company is answered by a very proper Englishman, Frank Doel. Thus begins a witty, challenging, ever-literate exchange of letters. 
 
 
 
 
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
An epistolary novel set in the fictional island of Nollop situated off the coast of South Carolina and home to the man who invented the phrase The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog.  
 
 
 
 
 

Nursery Rhyme Comics

Nursery Rhyme Comics

Nursery Rhyme Comics is an all-star line-up of cartoonists and illustrators who use their artistic chops to put fun spins on all sorts of old rhymes and songs. Fifty rhymes adapted by fifty cartoonists. Woo-hoo! I'd like to take a moment to point some choice selections.

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro

There was never any doubt that Claire Roth was an exceptionally gifted painter. But in The Art Forger, by B. A. Shapiro, her troubles begin when she creates a piece for her boyfriend Isaac, a famous but blocked artist. He gratefully submits the work as his own for a prestigious MoMA commission. The painting becomes an instant sensation, and overnight Isaac is the new darling of the art world. He unceremoniously dumps Claire but continues to reap the benefits associated with her work.