Shelf Life Blog
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.”
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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?
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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)
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.
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.
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.