Shelf Life Blog

04/03/2013 - 3:30am
Life! Death! Prizes! by Stephen May

You've seen the attention-grabbing headlines while you're standing in line at the grocery store. You know you look at them. In the tabloids there are always lurid accounts of death - gruesome, improbable, and even the ones that are funny-except-someone-died. So losing your mum in a botched hold up attempt really doesn't even rate.  Sad, yeah, tragic even, but only to those directly involved.

In Life! Death! Prizes! by Stephen May, Billy Smith is 19, working at a social history museum for his gap year, when his mother is killed. He is suddenly responsible for his six-year-old half-brother, Oscar.  He thinks they're doing fine, but his aunt, the social workers, Oscar's teachers and even his friends think maybe not.  Even Oscar's dad shows up, which he's never done before.

When the courts decide that Oscar will be better off with his aunt, Billy decides there is only one way that he and Oscar can stay together forever.

04/02/2013 - 3:31am
The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway

The bare, forlorn branches and thorny sticks of her rose bushes give Galilee Garner something to look forward to all winter in The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns: “Something to hang my daydreams on like the ornaments on a Christmas tree. In the spring, they will bloom again.”

Roses have long been used in metaphors for love in literature, and Margaret Dilloway continues the tradition in her charming novel. Dig right in with Gal Garner as she grows and breeds her difficult and obstinate Hulthemia roses, which thrive under a set of specific and limited conditions.  The roses she breeds pretty much describe Gal, who was born with kidney problems, has gone through two kidney transplants, and has been on dialysis for eight long years waiting for another donor. Learn about love, roses and thriving under difficult conditions as you read this sweet, beautifully-written story.

04/01/2013 - 3:30am
Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories

A lot of writers for teens have excellent memories for very painful things. Some remember what it was like to be a targeted teen--the dread of going to school every day knowing what would probably happen, whether it was going to happen in a hallway, a locker room, a classroom, or on a school bus. Being pulled apart emotionally and humiliated was often just an everyday occurrence for them. The usual.

But some writers remember high school very differently. They were the people who just stood to one side AND DIDN’T DO ANYTHING while watching their friends and classmates being bullied. And in a few, a very few, cases they did the bullying themselves. Dear Bully is a collection of reflections of writers for teens who share their true stories of hurt and regret and how these experiences changed them.

03/29/2013 - 3:30am
Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

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.

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves: "In a remote Sheltland Islands hamlet, New Year's Eve rings in a dead body for Inspector Jimmy Perez in this 2006 Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award winner." (Library Journal)

If you enjoyed the unique rural British Isles settings of these books, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
 

The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor A tale set in eighteenth-century Cambridge finds bookseller John Holdsworth commissioned to investigate Lady Anne Oldershaw's son's mental illness, a deep melancholy tied to a woman's mysterious death and a secret society. (catalog description)

 

 


The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards Ten years after the disappearance of a Lake District woman, Detective Chief Inspector Hannah Scarlett re-opens the case when a stranger's tip leads to clues that could solve the mystery. Once again, Scarlett's mystery and historian Daniel Kind's research intersect at the Arsenic Labyrinth, a group of mining tunnels. (catalog description)

 

 

03/28/2013 - 3:30am
Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by Peter Brown

Everybody knows that rabbits love carrots. Jasper Rabbit, in Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, is no exception. Jasper especially loves the carrots that grow in Crackenhopper Field. The problem is that Jasper can't get enough carrots, yanking and ripping them from the ground every chance he gets. That is, he did until the carrots started following him. Jasper is convinced that the carrots are creeping up on him.

03/27/2013 - 8:30am
Cover of Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman is the story of Rory Dawn Hendrix, a girl growing up on the Calle de las Flores, a trailer park on the outskirts of Reno, Nevada. The Calle is a neighborhood where people live from government check to government check. It is a place where a mother must take the night and weekend shifts because the tips are better and they need the money to survive, even though there is no such thing as reliable child care. It is a world where a mother's determination to spare her daughter the abuse she suffered as a child isn't enough to give her the skills to identify the true risks to that girlchild.

03/26/2013 - 8:18am
The Grimm Reader by Maria Tatar

Modernized versions of traditional fairy tales have become popular in recent years, with television series such as ABC’s Once Upon a Time and graphic novels such as Bill Willingham’s Fables providing creative and original narratives utilizing characters and concepts from old folk tales. Although popular, these newer variations on older fairy tales have created controversy for altering the traditional characterizations and stories that many people grew up with. This exposes a major flaw in many people’s understanding of fairy tales and traditional folk culture—which versions are the “most correct” version of the story, and why? Maria Tatar’s The Grimm Reader is a collection of many of the traditional fairy tales recorded by the Brothers Grimm, providing an English translation of some of the oldest written versions of these stories.  Notable for being far more violent than the “traditional” versions of the fairy tales popularized in the Victorian period (and later, by Disney films), the typical Grimm story is a combination of children in jeopardy, adults that range from neglectful to destructive, and flat narrative that is driven by plot rather than by characterization.

03/25/2013 - 3:31am
I heard the Owl Call my Name cover

My favorite book when I was in high school was I Heard the Owl Call my Name, by Margaret Craven, so I decided to reread it to see how I related to the book now.  Even though it is almost 50 years old, the book is still just as timely and beautifully-written as it was in the 60’s. Perhaps its message is even more important in today’s world.  It is about a young Vicar, Mark Brian, who has been diagnosed with only a few years to live.  His Bishop has been told his diagnosis, but the Vicar has not. 

When the Bishop learns of the young Vicar’s diagnosis he says, “So short a time to learn so much? It leaves me with no choice. I shall send him to my hardest parish. I shall send him to Kingcome on patrol of the Indian Villages.”

03/22/2013 - 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.  You can browse the book matches here.

The Cider House Rules by John Irving: "First published in 1985, The Cider House Rules is John Irving's sixth novel. Set in rural Maine in the first half of this century, it tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch--saint and obstetrician, founder and director of the orphanage in the town of St. Cloud's, ether addict and abortionist. It is also the story of Dr. Larch's favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted." (Book description)

If you enjoyed this book, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
Macon Leary hates to travel. He is someone who travels through life accidentally. Things just happen to him--the senseless death of his child, the baffling desertion of his wife, even his involvement with Muriel, the frizzy-haired, stiletto-heeled, non-stop talker from the kennel where he boards his dog. (worldcat.org)

 

 

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
A classic tale of an orphan growing up in the 1800's of England. Intimately rooted in the author's own biography and written as a first-person narrative, "David Copperfield" charts a young man's progress through a difficult childhood in Victorian England to ultimate success as a novelist, finding true love along the way. (worldcat.org)


 

03/21/2013 - 3:31am
Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

On a Southern farm during the Civil War, a young girl finds a runaway slave hiding in the family's barn. She is frightened but must make a difficult decision. What does she owe to the runaway with frightened eyes? Unspoken, by Henry Cole, is the story of a choice she makes and the bond that forms between the two of them.

Throughout the book, the reader never sees the runaway slave's face, just an eye peering fearfully from among the stored corn stalks. The girl and the slave never speak. In fact, there are no words in the book. But though all communication is unspoken, the message remains powerful. Detailed graphite drawings convey the tension and emotions, as well as the strong connection that grows between the girl and the runaway.

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