Shelf Life Blog

The Tradition Masters by Odetta

The Tradition Masters by Odetta

Being dubbed "The Queen of Folk" is no small feat. Having Martin Luther King, Jr. give you that title is something else entirely. That is how strongly affecting the music of folk pioneer Odetta is.

The Tradition Masters is a collection of Odetta's most invigorating traditional songs. Born in Birmingham in 1930, Odetta Holmes helped to embody both the Civil Rights and the Folk Revival movements of the 1950's and 60's. One could say that she was in the right place at the right time, but that would fail to credit her heart-stopping talent as a musician and vocalist.

The King's Swift Rider: A Novel on Robert the Bruce by Mollie Hunter

The King's Swift Rider: A Novel on Robert the Bruce by Mollie Hunter

From where he stood on the hill above the valley, Martin Crawford saw that the leader of the war band was in serious trouble. When a hunting horn sounded from behind, the leader ordered his men to scatter before the onslaught of English soldiers. They were on him in moments, but their numbers broke as they chased the leader's scattered men. In all his sixteen years, Martin had never seen a man fight as this one did, swinging his great sword beside his companions until the last living enemy fled in fear.

If you like The Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein

The Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein

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 Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein: "After Esther graduates from Northwestern University, she finds herself jobless, directionless, and moving back in with her parents. When her mother finds her a job caring for the four-year-old daughter of a neighboring family, she grudgingly agrees. But the family lost an infant child earlier in the year, and Esther, struggling with her own depression, finds herself caring for both the girl and the grieving mother. As she also navigates through romantic relationships with the girl's father and a friend her own age, we witness her inner conflict and personal growth." (Booklist)

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
A novel that spans fifty years. The Italian housekeeper and his long-lost American starlet; the producer who once brought them together, and his assistant. A glittering world filled with unforgettable characters. (catalog description)
 
 
 
 
Stuck in a dead-end relationship, this fearless narrator leaves her metaphorical baggage behind and finds a comfort zone in the air, feeling safest with one plane ticket in her hand and another in her underwear drawer. She flies around the world, finding reasons to love life in dozens of far-flung places from Alaska to Bhutan. Along the way she weathers unplanned losses of altitude, air pressure, and landing gear (catalog description)
 
 

A Vision of Light by Judith Merkle Riley

A Vision of Light by Judith Merkle Riley

In A Vision of Light, by Judith Merkle Riley, Margaret of Ashbury is a rather ordinary albeit quite pretty woman—ordinary that is, except for the Voice she sometimes hears and the visions she sometimes sees. One day, the Voice tells Margaret that she should write a book about the extraordinary things that have happened to her. She argues with the Voice… she is a woman so who would listen to her, and what is more, like nearly everybody, she does not know how to write. And further, she has not done any great deeds worth writing about.

The Voice answered:

“Put in it what you have seen. There is nothing wrong with being a woman, and doing ordinary things. Sometimes small deeds can show big ideas.  As for writing, do as others do: get someone to write it for you.”

“Voice,” I said, “how do I know you are from God, and not the Devil, tempting me into something foolish?”

“Margaret,” answered the Voice, “isn’t it a good idea? God never gives bad ones.”

How to Get Sued: An Instructional Guide by J. Craig Williams

How to Get Sued by J. Craig Williams

Many people wonder about the possible legal implications of their actions, given that legal cases can be financially and emotionally stressful. Although it’s impossible to predict the legal consequences of every single action in your life, How to Get Sued, by J. Craig Williams, provides a good summary of some of the main issues that can land people in legal trouble. With such chapters as “Go to Work” and “Get Married,” Williams provides humorous examples of how seemingly small issues can be inflamed by bizarre and contradictory state and local laws. Although written primarily as a humor book and lacking in deep legal analysis, How to Get Sued provides plenty of amusingly bizarre examples of how twisted the legal system—and human behavior—can potentially become.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

Jennifer Strange is The Last Dragonslayer, but just yesterday she was your ordinary foundling girl, helping to run a magical business in which wizards specialize in plumbing, speedy organ delivery, and getting cats down from trees. As you can see, magic is no longer held in as high regard as it used to be. Oh, and they just lost the organ delivery contract.

If you like A Discovery of Witches by Deborah E. Harkness

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah E. Harkness
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.
 
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah E. Harkness: "Witch and Yale historian Diana Bishop discovers an enchanted manuscript, attracting the attention of 1,500-year-old vampire Matthew Clairmont. The orphaned daughter of two powerful witches, Bishop prefers intellect, but relies on magic when her discovery of a palimpsest documenting the origin of supernatural species releases an assortment of undead who threaten, stalk, and harass her." (Book description)
 
Some other titles that have similar themes, or evoke the same "feeling" as A Discovery of Witches include:
 
Blackout by Connie Willis
Time-traveling historians Michael, Merope, and Polly find themselves in World War II, facing air raids, blackouts, unexploded bombs, dive-bombing Stukas, rationing, shrapnel, V-1s, and two of the most incorrigible children in all of history.
 
 
 
 
The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn
Excitement, danger, and romance await independent, headstrong author Theodora Lestrange when she flees 1858 Scotland and miserable spinsterhood for the wilds of Transylvania, joining a childhood friend who will soon be wed. 
 
 
 
 

My New Teacher and Me! by Al Yankovic

My New Teacher and Me! by Al Yankovic

Getting ready for back-to-school, but not ready to pack away the fun? Al Yankovic’s My New Teacher and Me! is as welcome for the last weeks of summer as an ice cream truck after a long, hot day at the pool.  In this rollicking story, Mr. Booth’s strict rules have met their match in Billy, a bright-eyed boy who shows up for the first day of class with a wide-open imagination. Disapproving Mr. Booth spots the dirt on Billy’s shirt immediately! Billy quickly—and politely—tells him how that came to be:

“I was digging to China out in my backyard.

And I almost was there when—I hit something hard!

Well, I dug, and I dug, and I dug a bit more

And discovered the skull of a real dinosaur!

“And I would have cleaned up, sir, but hey, I’m no fool—

I just couldn’t be late on the first day of school!”

Bow-tied and sour, Mr. Booth says his tale sounds highly unlikely, but as Billy points out, “the awesome-est things in the world often are!”

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?