Shelf Life Blog

11/28/2012 - 3:35am
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

I’m a photographer. Since I carry some expensive equipment (AND I’m a woman), I’m leery about shooting by myself. But the best light is often around dawn and because Autumn has been so spectacular this year, I’ve seen more than my share of sunrises. One morning in particular, I decided to let my hardworking husband sleep in and I left to hike by myself along the Rappahannock River. Apparently no one else had the same idea. I found myself alone with the trees and birds for company. Or was I alone? The imagination is a powerful tool and, with every unexpected noise, I was certain I’d see a bad guy around the next corner. I forced myself to think of Cheryl Strayed and decided I’d just have to (wo)man up to enjoy my excursion. In Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Strayed, a novice hiker, walks eleven hundred miles (!!!!) SOLO from California to Oregon on the above-mentioned trail. Did I mention she was by herself??

11/27/2012 - 9:23am
Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson

Part fantasy, part romance, Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson is a time travel novel featuring Richard Collier, who falls in love with a turn of the century actress and travels back in time to meet her.

In 1971, Richard, on finding out that he is suffering from terminal cancer, embarks on a road trip from Los Angeles to Denver.  On the way, he stops at a historic hotel on the coast in San Diego where he sees a play program from the late 1800s and falls in love with the woman pictured on the front.  Captivated by her beauty, Collier researches the actress, Elise McKenna and finds out that she never married, had an overbearing manager named W.F. Robinson, and that she had a brief encounter in 1896 with a mysterious man at the hotel he is currently staying at.  Throughout his research, he realizes that he has fallen deeply in love with the woman, and convinces himself that he is the mysterious man with whom Elise had an affair.

11/26/2012 - 9:14am
The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer

In the year 2194, there are three Zimbabwes. There is the Zimbabwe of the rich such as the luxurious compound of General Amadeus Matsika, the country's Chief of Security. His children, Tendai, Rita, and Kuda want for nothing. The robots take care of all their needs, and the Mellower, the house poet, makes everyone feel so much better when he sings their Praises in The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer.

In another part of the city dwells the woman who is called the She-Elephant. She has her own compound, her own kingdom, in the abandoned waste dump. She has her servants, too. Fist and Knife are good for running errands-- a little thieving here, a little kidnapping there... When they find Matsika's children by themselves in downtown Harare, the opportunity for profit is just too good to let go.

11/24/2012 - 9:41am

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.

Middlemarch by George Eliot: "Set in a provincial Victorian neighborhood, the author explores the complex social relationship and the struggle to hold fast to personal tragedy in a materialistic environment."

If you enjoyed the philosophical and social themes of Middlemarch, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
 

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Into the narrow social world of New York in the 1870s comes Countess Ellen Olenska, surrounded by shocked whispers about her failed marriage to a rich Polish Count. A woman who leaves her husband can never be accepted in polite society. Newland Arthur is engaged to young May Welland, but the beautiful and mysterious Countess needs his help. He becomes her friend and defender, but friendship with an unhappy, lonely woman is a dangerous path for a young man to follow - especially a young man who is soon to be married (worldcat.org)
 

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
"Anna Karenina" tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel's seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness. (amazon.com)
 

11/22/2012 - 3:32am
Our Snowman by M.B. Goffstein

This is a short book, but it is a gem as so many of M.B. Goffstein's are. Our Snowman has a very simple, very true plot that is not the slightest bit exotic. It is as comforting as hot cocoa and a perfect book for young ones on a night when a Snow Watch is called.

11/21/2012 - 3:32am

In Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Abraham Lincoln uncovers a terrible truth at a tender age: that vampires infiltrate every corner of society and are “living man’s” mortal enemy. Lincoln’s father, a classic underachiever, idiotically defaults on a loan to one of the bloodsuckers, who warns that he will have to “take it in other ways.” It is no coincidence then that Abraham’s aunt, uncle, and beloved mother die quickly thereafter from a painful illness with “scorching fevers, delusions, and cramps.” Old folks called this the “milk sickness,” believed to be brought on by drinking tainted milk, but that wasn’t the case this time. Eventually Abraham learns of the connection and vows to “kill every vampire in America.”

11/20/2012 - 7:35am
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

“All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hidden in plain sight.”

In Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, an unemployed Web designer, a bookstore that never closes, a series of beloved fantasy novels, a secret society, and a typeface known as Gerritszoon are all embroiled in the search for immortality. While eternal life is a frequently-pursued prize in history and popular culture, Sloan’s rendition of this classic quest revolves around quirky characters and a cadre of technophobic code breakers.

Clay Jannon’s life has been disrupted by the economic recession. Since losing his job as a Web designer for a bagel company, he has struggled to find a sense of purpose and a source of income. One night while aimlessly wandering the streets of San Francisco, he happens upon a fascinating sight: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Clay is drawn to the store and takes special notice of the help wanted sign hanging in the front window. Once inside, Clay discovers Mr. Penumbra’s labyrinthine store requires parkour-like maneuvers: “The shelves were packed close together, and it felt like I was standing at the border of a forest – not a friendly California forest, either, but an old Transylvanian forest, a forest full of wolves and witches and dagger-wielding bandits all waiting just beyond moonlight’s reach.”

12/04/2012 - 11:29am
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue, daughter of the town psychic, has grown up hearing that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. So she has resolved to stay away from boys and, especially, to stay away from Raven boys – students at the exclusive Aglionby Academy. The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater, is the story of how Blue comes to break her own resolution and is drawn into the lives and adventures of some of those Raven boys she swore to avoid.

11/16/2012 - 7:49am
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

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.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinarylife, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed. There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them. And he must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew.

If you enjoyed this book's real-world fantasy setting and morally ambiguous characters, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
The twelve gods of Olympus are alive and well in the twenty-first century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse--and none too happy about it. Even more disturbingly, their powers are waning.... [and] a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire, must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of humankind. Nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed-but can these two decidedly ordinary people replicate the feats of the mythical heroes and save the world? (worldcat.org)

Little, Big by John Crowley
Little, Big tells the epic story of Smoky Barnable -- an anonymous young man who meets and falls in love with Daily Alice Drinkwater, and goes to live with her in Edgewood, a place not found on any map. In an impossible mansion full of her relatives, who all seem to have ties to another world not far away, Smoky fathers a family and tries to learn what tale he has found himself in -- and how it is to end. (worldcat.org)

 

11/15/2012 - 3:31am
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Peterson

It started as a a funny, little notion scrawled of a piece of scrap paper. "Mice have a culture all their own; Too small to integrate with other animals." Over the past decade, David Petersen's throwaway thought has emerged into a beautifully vivid adventure series that combines breathtaking action with gorgeous artwork. That series starts with Mouse Guard: Fall 1152.

The Mouse Guard are essentially wandering knights who serve a widespread kingdom. Mice have many natural predators and the guard has been established to protect citizens and keep the peace. But the kingdom is not simply threatened by snakes and owls. There are also enemies within.

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