Shelf Life Blog

04/17/2013 - 3:31am
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Which is cooler: Finding the answer to life’s most important question using brain power or Google? Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is optimistic about the future of technology and people working together as it looks at the question of immortality. In the novel, friends care about each other. A multi-generational fellowship forms. Two young couples get together. Read deeply and follow the clues to solve the mystery of the Unbroken Spine left by the fifteenth-century printer Griffo Gerritszoon. This novel is a mystery, but it is also about the love of books, whether you find them in the Central Rappahannock Regional Library; a big-box store like Barnes & Noble; a local, independent bookstore like The Griffin; or the quiet little stores built into our Kindles and Nooks.

04/16/2013 - 9:58am
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdich

The Ojibwa trappers had come to trade with the villagers on Spirit Island, but what they saw caused them to turn their boats around and head for home as quickly as they could.  The entire island seemed empty of life. Smallpox, the terrible illness for which the Native Americans had little immunity, had wiped out everyone. Well, almost everyone. Still alive and crawling through the ruins was a baby girl, all alone.

Omakayas, or Little Frog, was soon adopted into another Ojibwa family on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island.  Her life is as rich and full as that of another beloved book character, Laura Ingalls, and there are many similarities between the stories, including the children’s delight in nature and wild creatures.. Omakayas’ family’s everyday activities and celebrations and tragedies are carefully set down, from season to season.  The Birchbark House is foremost a very well-written story with believable, lovable and intriguing characters, including Omakayas’ annoyingly greedy little brother and beautiful but sometimes cold-hearted big sister.  Older generations are also well-represented.  The grandmother, a gifted healer, shares stories of long-ago, and her dreams are filled with omens of things to come and solutions to real-life problems given by the spirit world.

04/15/2013 - 8:06am
Until Tuesday

One of my favorite customers called me to tell me that he loved the book Until Tuesday.  I am sure that this story about a veteran spoke to him since he is also a veteran who happens to love dogs. 

Until Tuesday
is the true story of a highly-decorated Iraqi war veteran who returns home as a war hero.  However, Luis Carlos Montalvan has such incredible injuries to his body and his psyche that he cannot cope with everyday life. He hovers on the brink of suicide until he meets Tuesday, a golden retriever who also had an emotionally difficult journey to get to Luis.

04/12/2013 - 1:40pm
If you like World War Z by Max Brooks

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.

World War Z by Max Brooks: "Brooks tells the story of the world's desperate battle against the zombie threat with a series of first-person accounts "as told to the author" by various characters around the world. A Chinese doctor encounters one of the earliest zombie cases at a time when the Chinese government is ruthlessly suppressing any information about the outbreak that will soon spread across the globe. The tale then follows the outbreak via testimony of smugglers, intelligence officials, military personnel and many others who struggle to defeat the zombie menace." (Publisher's Weekly)

If you enjoyed World War Z and other books dealing with pandemics and global menaces, here are some other novels you may enjoy:

Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber
When the Imperial prison barge Purge breaks down in a distant, uninhabited part of space, its only hope appears to lie with a Star Destroyer found drifting, derelict, and seemingly abandoned. But soon after a boarding party returns from a scavenging expedition, a horrific disease breaks out and takes the lives of all but a half-dozen survivors whose only option forces them to return to the Star Destroyer--and the soulless, unstoppable dead waiting aboard its vast emptiness. (


Feed by Mira Grant
The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. NOW, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them. (catalog description)


04/10/2013 - 10:49pm
Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer

One of the most popular humanitarian nonfiction books of the 2000s was Greg Mortenson’s best seller Three Cups of TeaThree Cups of Tea was marketed as a call for humanitarian aid to impoverished Central Asian nations such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, but Mortenson’s life story of dedicating himself to providing education to the people of Central Asia was the emotional connection that sold many readers on the book.  Mortenson traveled across the U.S., giving lectures, setting up charities to provide money for his Central Asia Institute (CAI), and appearing on numerous talk shows to promote his book.  As beautiful as his humanitarian mission seemed, it was ultimately revealed as too good to be true by writer Jon Krakauer, whose expose Three Cups of Deceit explored the lies in Mortenson’s story and the lack of effectiveness in the CAI’s schools program.  Although Three Cups of Deceit can be a depressing read at times, it also makes for a fascinating study in media awareness and image manipulation.

07/22/2015 - 4:34pm
Sumo by Thien Pham

Sumo, by Thien Pham, is a quiet tale about a sport of epic proportions. Scott is a twenty-something football player who has missed his shot at NFL glory. Now that his girlfriend has left him, he has no sense of himself anymore. So like any lost youth pining for a change, he moves to Japan to become a sumo wrestler.

04/04/2013 - 3:31am
Salt Is Sweeter than Gold by Andrew Peters

In Andrew Peters’ Salt Is Sweeter than Gold, an old king has three daughters, but only one will inherit his kingdom. Who should it be? When it’s time to decide, the king holds a grand ceremony and asks in front of huge crowd a simple question: how much do you love me?  The first answer pleases him very much: “I love you more than all the jewels that encrust your fingers and all the gold that lies hidden in the vaults of this castle!”  The second daughter also gives a charming answer: “I love you more than all the land that spreads like an ocean beyond this castle!” But when the youngest, who did truly love him, says simply, “Father, I love you more than salt,” the king is so insulted he banishes her immediately and tells her she is no longer his….  until the day that salt becomes more precious than gold.

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.


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