Shelf Life Blog
Madeline Hart vanishes without a trace while on a Corsican vacation in Daniel Silva’s new page-turner, The English Girl. As a rising star in British politics, Madeline’s disappearance is certainly troubling. But the fact that she was having a clandestine affair with Prime Minister Jonathan Lancaster—who is both married and up for reelection—adds obvious complications to the situation.
And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini, begins rather simply with a father telling a fairy tale. It’s 1952. Saboor and his two children, sturdy Adbullah and his tiny sister Pari, are walking for days, with only a small wagon and a little food, to the great city of Kabul. Saboor tells them he is looking for work, and they believe him—why should they not? His hands are broken and calloused, his back stooped with constant labor. He is a caring father, and he is a wonderful storyteller. Around the fire that night, they realize that Saboor has never told them this particular story, one full of grief and love—the last story he will ever tell them.
If I Ever Get Out of Here centers around Lewis Blake, a Native American teenager in a gifted junior high program. Lewis might be academically successful, but he has no friends. All his white classmates don't have much to say to Lewis, and all of the kids from the reservation are just in the regular classes.
It is 1976, and living outside of Buffalo, New York, Lewis wonders if the area's teachers are going to be surprised when they find that the Native American kids are not that excited about the country's Bicentennial celebration. His family has called this land "home" for much longer than a mere two hundred years.
A birthday gift from the North Wind. A pie so feathery-light it carries people away. A cat on a mat that grants wishes to a poor girl and her grandmother. Elves in the shelves, mermaids in the bathtub and a tiger that’s faster than the wind. Joan Aiken’s A Necklace of Raindrops and Other Stories is a magical book that is probably one of the best read-alouds out there for kindergarten and early elementary grades.
In Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden, Hallie Brady arrives in the wilderness near Hightop Mountain in 1750. Nobody white had settled this part of Massachusetts before, and the native people who camped nearby vowed that no man would find happiness west of the mountain. Teenaged, English-born Hallie comes with her not-good-for-much husband and a couple of other families he has duped into following him in circles for days before winding up in the shadow of the mountain just as the November snows are settling in.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman, is a touching blend of family drama and otherworldliness. He wrote it for his wife, who does not care so much for extreme fantasy, and so he decided to include many realistic details from his own childhood. But he enriched that beginning with dark and horrific drama, as well as beauty and wisdom, and ultimately gave it an elemental, magical grounding.
In Long Lankin, by Lindsey Barraclough, it’s 1958, and Cora and her small sister Mimi have been taken from their London home and dumped in the middle of the English marshes where something is waiting for them.
Michael K. already has a few strikes against him. He's a new kid at a new school in a new town, but did he really have to get stuck sitting next to the two weirdest kids in the classroom? The girl, Jennifer, is halfway through eating her pencil when the boy, Bob, tells Michael that the two of them aren't human. They are Spaceheadz.
Bob, Jennifer, and the hamster, Major Fluffy, are on an intergalatic mission to save Earth. They must do this by recruiting 3.14 million Earthlings as Spaceheadz, and they think Michael K. is the person to help them get the job done.
Joel and Ethan Coen might be the two finest filmmakers working in America today. There are few directors who have captured more entertaining, accurate, or varied instances of the American experience.
Nearly all of their films center around some sort of crime or illicit behavior. Sometimes the protagonist is the perpetrator. Other times he is a victim or an unwitting bystander sucked into the chaos. Almost always though, the protagonist is a fool.
Jon Ronson sees insanity all around him. Partially that is because as a journalist he is drawn to write stories in which people engage in erratic behavior. It is also because he has learned The Psychopath Test, and he cannot stop administering the 20-point checklist to everyone around him.
Item 1: Glibness/superficial charm
Item 2: Grandiose sense of self-worth
Item 3: Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
Item 4: Pathological lying
And, so on. From a rude concierge at a hotel to the CEO of a giant corporation, no matter where Ronson looks, everything's coming up psycho.