Shelf Life Blog
Let Kate Riggs’ Under the Sea take you and your toddler on a dreamy trip to the ocean’s depths. Bonus! This is also a concept book, teaching relative positions—over/under, bottom/top, and so on. Clownfish wiggles OUT of an anemone. Octopus waits IN a dark den. Sea turtle swims AFTER jellyfish but BEFORE tuna. Learning these direction concepts and the names of sea creatures happens happily when accompanied by Tom Leonard’s lovely, glowing illustrations.
In 2008, a young woman from the Blue Ridge Mountains, who loves poetry and literature, arrives in Bulgaria. She’s been hired to teach English but has a month to explore on her own. Jet-lagged, at the wrong hotel and in need of rest and a shower, it’s not surprising Alexandra makes a terrible mistake while simply trying to help a family with their luggage. It’s not the first awful mistake she’s made, either.
In the late 1930s, a 20-something violin virtuoso, who has everything in the world to look forward to, slips back to his Bulgarian hometown on the eve of World War II. When the conflict is over, Stoyan Lazarov has very good reason to believe his talent will grant him fame. So what if he has to play second chair for now in a provincial orchestra? He has the love of his life, brilliant talent and enough patience. But musical genius though he may be, he has not factored in the crushing power of the political police.
In 2008, Alexandra’s and Stoyan’s paths will cross, and their separate, shameful secrets will be laid bare. Elizabeth Kostova’s The Shadow Land is at once a historical mystery and a modern thriller. There is true bravery and true love in this page-turner that spans decades, even as it illuminates an ancient country’s marvels and sorrows.
Kathy Schmitz does not believe in idle hands, as shown by her stitchery projects in Stitches from the Garden. She has clear instructions for 14 projects, including pillows, a bag, sachets, a pincushion, a journal cover, and a wrist bracelet. There are also instructions for the stitches used in each creation.
With romantic colors, she creates the colors, textures and shapes of nature. Birds perch, bees buzz, cherries hang from a tree, and lavender’s lacy shape all adorn her embroidery. Her table runner pattern has a garden full of flowers and insects stitched around the edge. Her artist’s eye captures the joys of a country garden with fabric and thread.
Sometimes it’s better to not know what the future holds. King Acrisius asks the oracle serpent how he will die. The answer frightens him: by his grandson’s hand. But he has no grandson. His daughter Danaë isn’t even married…. And now, the king is determined she never will be.
He builds an astonishingly tall tower just for her. Trusting him as she does, she goes to the top to see the view, only to find she is imprisoned. That’s the plan her father had for her. To let her grow old without ever knowing the comfort of a husband or a child. He thought he was being merciful—after all, he didn’t kill her, did he? She could have anything she wanted up there, as long as she stayed up there and away from everyone else.
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The Gunslinger by Stephen King (Book #1 of The Dark Tower series)
The story centers upon Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, who has been chasing after his adversary, "the man in black," for many years. The novel follows Roland's trek through a vast desert and beyond in search of the man in black. Roland meets several people along his journey, including a boy named Jake Chambers who travels with him part of the way. (Wikipedia)
When promising artist Artemisia is found with a slit throat, her married lover is sentenced to be executed for the murder. But Lady Sundridge is convinced that Miles Ramsforth, patron of the arts, is innocent of killing his comely protégé—who also happened to be pregnant with his first child. On the advice of a shadowy figure, Lady Sundridge enlists the expertise of amateur sleuths Veronica Speedwell and her partner Revelstoke “Stoker” Templeton-Vane.
The pressure’s on for the detectives as the execution is scheduled in seven days. The biggest problem hinges on the existence of any number of suspects who had good reason to frame Ramsforth for the violent crime. And, to introduce several more intriguing wrinkles, Lady Sundridge is not who she claims to be. When their lives are threatened, Veronica and Stoker are certain they’re getting closer to solving the case.
A Perilous Undertaking, by Virginia’s own Deanna Raybourn, is the second in the Veronica Speedwell series. If you haven’t already read the first book, I would definitely recommend starting with A Curious Beginning. Despite the book’s setting of late 1800s England, Veronica is quite the modern woman. She travels the world solo, capturing exotic butterflies to sell to any number of wealthy collectors.
In the 1860s, many people went west after the Civil War, looking for a fresh start and prosperity. Eleven-year-old Jane Deming really wants a new start, too. So, she is excited when a visionary—or is he a con man?—signs up her and her very young widowed stepmother to go on a voyage around South America to Seattle. There, young ladies and Civil War widows with families can marry the many bachelors who have gone on ahead, or in some other way contribute to the new city.
Beautiful, balmy Washington Territory, as described in Mr. Mercer’s “Reflections” pamphlet, is looking for people “with broad minds and sturdy constitutions,” and it sounds like paradise to Jane. A smart and determined girl, she had to give up her schooling to look after her baby brother Jer, while her widowed stepmother worked in a mill. A land full of possibilities sounded perfect to her.
Take a look at this pocket guide from National Geographic before you go out for a gaze on a cloudless evening. Night Sky of North America is the perfect book to bring along with you anywhere a lack of light pollution permits you to see the stars, the planets, and more.
They call her Mary Quinn now. The judge would have happily have called her hanged. That’s what happens to unrepentant thieves, which is what Mary was. Orphaned and growing up on the streets of Queen Victoria’s London, an eight-year-old gets by as best she can. If that means dressing like a boy and picking pockets or even breaking into houses, that’s what she’ll do. Did. For four years until she was caught.
Mary was resigned to an end to her short and brutal life. She wouldn’t give the judge, or anyone, really, the satisfaction of tears or an apology. Even so, it was a harsh situation. Condemned to execution within days. So why was the lady in the courtroom’s gallery smiling at her—as if it was all going to be fine?