Shelf Life Blog

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

My husband moved to Fredericksburg thirteen months before I did. The three-hour commute between our two worlds birthed my obsession with recorded books. Even though we now share only one home, the obsession remains. Once I began listening to The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman, I became so engrossed in the story that I looked for any reason to drive…indefinitely.

The title character—the cookbook collector—plays only a minor role, but one around whom all others orbit. Tom McClintock was a renowned lichenologist who filled his somewhat reclusive life with cookbooks, both obscure and valuable. Upon his death, McClintock’s estate is inherited by his niece Sandra. In need of money to help her daughter gain custody of her children, Sandra approaches used/antique bookstore owner, George Friedman, about purchasing the entire collection. George agrees to review the cookbooks and brings along his free-spirited clerk, Jessamine Bach, for assistance. George very seldom displays anything but his gruff side, yet he secretly pines for the lovely Jess.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Why red roses on Valentine’s Day? The language of flowers was invented for communication between lovers—a flower can send a coded message. Red roses represent passionate, romantic love. Pink roses are sent for friendship.  Shakespeare uses the language of flowers when Ophelia gives Hamlet rosemary for remembrance before she ends her life.

Victoria Jones, in The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, is obsessed with the subject, but she uses it to spread animosity. Having aged out of the foster care system in California and facing imminent homelessness, her life reads like a series of unfortunate events.

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater is the second book in The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. I choose to read this book because the author is actually a Westmoreland County, Virginia resident. It goes along with the contemporary interest in mythical creatures, with werewolves being the focus of this book. The film rights for this story have been bought by Unique Features/ Warner Brothers and a screenplay has been written. The final book in the series, Forever, came out early 2011.

Sam and Grace are in love. They can finally be together through the entire year. Sam's werewolf past made it hard for them to be together during prior winters, because the cold weather triggers Sam's inner werewolf. This causes him to spend months lost in his werewolf form, making it impossible for him to be with Grace. Since Sam is now a full-time human, they are certain they will be together forever. Everything is perfect, except that Grace can’t kick a fever she has been having recently.  Sam and Grace are unsure about what their future has in store for them now due to Grace's sickness. They only know that they want to be together.

If you like The Locket by Richard Paul Evans

The Locket

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 Locket by Richard Paul Evans "features Michael Romney, an aimless young man working in a rest home whose contact with the elderly Esther turns his life around.

If you like The Locket by Richard Paul Evans, you may like these books:

 

Bee Season by Myla Goldberg
"...As we watch nine-year-old Eliza Naumann transform herself from underachiever to spelling prodigy, we endure the pain out of respect for one girl's courage and all-consuming love. Eliza's family is gradually breaking down in front of her: father Saul, whose self-absorbed passion for Jewish mysticism blinds him to the suffering of those closest to him; mother Myriam, whose quest for perfection leads her into kleptomania; and brother Aaron, who rebels against his faith and turns to Hare Krishna. Eliza attempts to put her family back together by an act of will, spelling her way to harmony, with an assist from her father's Kabbalah masters." (Booklist)

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination. It's a place where your life is explained to you by five people, some of whom you knew, others who may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie's five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his 'meaningless' life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: 'Why was I here?'

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

Most books about pet adoption are told from the child’s or family’s point of view. But Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw explores the delights of adopting a shelter cat from the cat’s perspective. During visiting hours, he pretends not to care but can’t resist taking a peek. On the car ride to his new home, he begs to be let out, only to insist on being let back in. In true cat fashion, he is sure of his own importance. He certainly deserves a name worthy of an oriental prince. “Won Ton? How can I / be soup? Some day, I’ll tell you / my real name. Maybe.”

Rose in a Storm by Jon Katz

Rose in a Storm by Jon Katz

Trinity, our greyhound mix, was a natural leader. She would break up cat fights by putting her head between the fighting cats.  Whenever there was dissent among our dogs, she would stare them down until they retreated. When our cat was dying and had to sleep in the bathroom the night before she took her final trip to the vet, Trinity slept on the other side of the door. We had no idea what a positive effect she had on the dynamics of our household until she passed away. Now the cats fight right next to one of our dogs' heads and they just lie there looking at them as if to say, “Will you look at that!”

The novel Rose in a Storm is Jon Katz's first fiction in 10 years. Jon Katz usually writes nonfiction books about his farm, Bedlam Farm, an hour outside of Albany, NY, where ironically, his lead farm dog is named Rose. It is a wonderful example of how a little book can be so much more than the reader expects. The book is written from Rose’s perspective. Rose is the best farm dog in the county, and her reputation is so good that other farmers have borrowed Rose when they have had problems on their farms. She and Sam, the farmer, share an excellent non-verbal bond as they work the farm on a daily basis. But their life is turned upside down when a catastrophic blizzard envelops the farm and all of the animals that they have are in danger of freezing to death or being attacked by coyotes.

Live Through This by Debra Gwartney

Live Through This by Debra Gwartney

What would you do if your daughters ran away? Live Through This, by Debra Gwartney, is the true story of a mother who lost two of her daughters to the grunge subculture of the 1990s. They began hating everything about her--not just two teenagers fighting with their mother but a feud. Meanwhile, they totally submerged themselves into depression. Shortly after the girls became obsessed with the movement, Gwartney lost them fully to the streets. This story is a unique account by a mother of her lost relationship with her daughters.

Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

There are six things very wrong with my life:

  1. I have one of those under-the-skin spots that will never come to a head but lurk in a red way for the next two years.
     
  2. It is on my nose.
     
  3. I have a three-year-old sister who may have peed somewhere in my room.
     
  4. In fourteen days the summer hols will be over and then it will be back to Stalag 14 and Oberfuhrer Frau Simpson and her bunch of sadistic “teachers."
     
  5. I am very ugly and need to go into an ugly home.
     
  6. I went to a party dressed as a stuffed olive.

And so begins Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison. It is the diary of Georgia, a British fourteen-year-old whose wit and dry humor will keep you laughing out loud and receiving annoyed looks from your sister who’s “trying to do her homework.”

If You Like Saturday by Ian McEwan

Saturday

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.

Saturday by Ian McEwan "follows an ordinary man through a Saturday whose high promise gradually turns nightmarish. Henry Perowne-a neurosurgeon, urbane, privileged, deeply in love with his wife and grown-up children-plans to play a game of squash, visit his elderly mother, and cook dinner for his family. But after a minor traffic accident leads to an unsettling confrontation, Perowne must set aside his plans and summon a strength greater than he knew he had in order to preserve the life that is dear to him."

If you liked Saturday, here are several titles you may also enjoy:

Agapé Agape by William Gaddis
"The late William Gaddis wrote four novels during his lifetime, immense and complex books that helped inaugurate a new movement in American letters. Now comes his final work of fiction, a subtle, concentrated culmination of his art and ideas. For more than fifty years Gaddis collected notes for a book about the mechanization of the arts, told via a social history of the player piano in America. In the years before his death in 1998, he distilled the whole mass into a fiction, a dramatic monologue by an elderly man with a terminal illness. This "man in the bed" lies dying, thinking anxiously about the book he still plans to write, grumbling about the deterioration of civilization and trying to explain his obsession to the world before he passes away or goes mad.
Agape- Agape continues Gaddis's career-long reflection via the form of the novel on those aspects of the corporate technological culture that are uniquely destructive of the arts. It is a stunning achievement from one of the indisputable masters of postwar American fiction."-catalog summary

The Amber Photograph by Penelope Stokes
Diedre McAlister's mother is dying. But before she lets go of this life, she givers her daughter an old photograph and these parting words: "Find yourself. Find your truth. Just don't expect it to be what you thought it would be."And Now Diedre's search begins-a quest to find the only person who can provide the missing pieces, the truth. But that search will cost Diedre her naive innocence and expose her family's unknown dark side. It will shake up Diedre's world, threaten lives, bring out the shadow of her past, challenge her faith-and quite possibly save her life.
 

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin

It's Maggie's favorite day of the year in Wende and Harry Devlin's Cranberry Thanksgiving. She and her grandmother live on a New England cranberry farm. It's lonely and cold at the edge of the sea, but on Thanksgiving the house is warm with lots of good cooking. As part of their family tradition, Maggie and Grandma have each invited someone who otherwise would have to spend Thanksgiving alone.