Shelf Life Blog

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray

We are all very familiar with the atrocities engineered by Adolph Hitler, but less is heard about the atrocities that occurred at the direction of Joseph Stalin.  Twenty million people were murdered under his leadership.  In the book Between the Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys gives a very compelling account of the Soviet invasion of the country of Lithuania in 1941.  Lists of people who were considered enemies of the state were compliled, and these people were removed from their homes and workplaces.  These people were often professors, teachers, writers, artists, and librarians.  The men were sent to prison and the women and children to forced labor camps--some of which were located in Siberia and the Arctic Circle.  These individuals were separated from family members and forced to live under extremely harsh conditions with none of the comforts of home.  They were not given food or medical attention.  The women and children were shoved into railroad cars and sent away without ever being told where they were going.

The main character in this book is named Lina.  She, her mother, and her younger brother are removed by force from their home and sent to Siberia.  In Siberia, which is harsh enough to begin with, they have to scrounge for anything to eat.  Even one potato becomes a luxury for the prisoners.  Beets become a treat.  The prisoners are forced to dig with shovels which have no handles, and they sleep on the freezing cold floor of a shack.

If you like A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux

A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux

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.

Jude Deveraux's A Knight in Shining Armor: "Vacationing in England with her lover, Robert, and his spoiled teenage daughter, heroine Dougless Montgomery is abandoned by them in a remote country churchyard near the tomb of Nicholas Stafford, an earl who died in 1564. Almost immediately, an armor-clad swashbuckler materializes--Nicholas himself, reincarnated in the 20th century to clear his reputation, having been unjustly convicted of treason. Intrigued by his plight, Dougless agrees to help Nicholas learn his accuser's identity and restore his good name. They become lovers, and their adventures briefly lead Dougless back to the 1560s, allowing Deveraux to portray that period from a contemporary woman's perspective, as well as 1988 through the eyes of a confounded Elizabethan nobleman."

If you like Jude Deveraux's A Knight in Shining Armor, you may also like these suggestions: 

Beyond the Highland Mist, by Karen Marie Moning
"He would sell his warrior soul to possess her...An alluring laird... He was known throughout the kingdom as Hawk, legendary predator of the battlefield and the boudoir. No woman could refuse his touch, but no woman ever stirred his heart-until a vengeful fairy tumbled Adrienne de Simone out of modern-day Seattle and into medieval Scotland. Captive in a century not her own, entirely too bold, too outspoken, she was an irresistible challenge to the sixteenth-century rogue. Coerced into a marriage with Hawk, Adrienne vowed to keep him at arm's length-but his sweet seduction played havoc with her resolve. A prisoner in time... She had a perfect "no" on her perfect lips for the notorious laird, but Hawk swore she would whisper his name with desire, begging for the passion he longed to ignite within her. Not even the barriers of time and space would keep him from winning her love. Despite her uncertainty about following the promptings of her own passionate heart, Adrienne's reservations were no match for Hawk's determination to keep her by his side. (catalog summary)

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
This is the "Bible" of all historical romance time travel novels, and the best thing about it? There are sequels! "Absorbing and heartwarming, this first novel lavishly evokes the land and lore of Scotland, quickening both with realistic characters and a feisty, likable heroine.
English nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall and husband Frank take a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands in 1945. When Claire walks through a cleft stone in an ancient henge, she's somehow transported to 1743. She encounters Frank's evil ancestor, British captain Jonathan ``Black Jack'' Randall, and is adopted by another clan. Claire nurses young soldier James Fraser, a gallant, merry redhead, and the two begin a romance, seeing each other through many perilous, swashbuckling adventures involving Black Jack. Scenes of the Highlanders' daily life blend poignant emotions with Scottish wit and humor. Eventually Sassenach (outlander) Claire finds a chance to return to 1945, and must choose between distant memories of Frank and her happy, uncomplicated existence with Jamie. Claire's resourcefulness and intelligent sensitivity make the love-conquers-all, happily-ever-after ending seem a just reward." (Publishers Weekly)

Poetrees by Douglas Florian

Poetrees by Douglas Florian

Whether you’re “nuts about the coconut,” or think the Japanese Cedar is “ex-seed-ingly fine,” you’ll be drawn into this amazingly creative celebration of trees. I have to say that the statement on the cover was right – I loved this book “tree-mendously!”

Be prepared to have your ideas of books and poetry turned sideways! Poetrees by Douglas Florian is formatted to take advantage of the height created when opened. I’ll go out on a limb and say it is the best combination of words, layout and art I’ve seen in a long time. Whether it is the words of “The Seed” printed in the form of an infinity symbol to show how the life of trees is a cycle or the words in “Roots” that cascade down the page, much like roots sink into the soil, the arrangement of text on the pages adds another layer of meaning to the already strong combination of vivid imagery of the poems and the inspired illustrations. Poetrees is just an amazingly beautiful and effective book.

Doc Martin

Doc Martin

If you are a fan of House, MD and are tired of the summer’s reruns, give Doc Martin a try. This BBC series has a British version of a neurotic and tortured physician. He’s rude, socially awkward, and funny-looking – yet still lovable.

The series takes place in Portwenn in Cornwall, England, and has beautiful scenery of the Cornish coast and village and lots of local color.  In the first episode, Doc Martin (Martin Clunes) leaves his London practice because of a phobia of blood and becomes the general practitioner for the village where he had stayed as a boy with his Aunt Joan.
 

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

Started Early, Took My Dog

April 9, 1975, and Carol Braithwaite, a known prostitute, has been savagely murdered. And if that crime isn't heinous enough, her emaciated four-year-old son had been locked in with the dead body for an estimated three weeks. In Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog, the Braithwaite case remains unsolved, but over 30 years later promises to disrupt any number of disparate lives.

There’s Tracy Waterhouse. She and her partner discovered Carol’s body and her traumatized son in 1975. Tracy always felt that certain details of the case didn’t make sense. Why was the house locked from the outside? Who had had the key? Why did Carol’s son simply vanish into thin air? And, why wasn’t the police department more actively investigating the case? Tracy, now retired from the police department and never married, witnesses a young child being mistreated by a street addict and, on a whim, buys the girl with money saved for house renovations.  

Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn

Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn

On April 15, 1912, the supposedly unsinkable Titanic struck an iceberg, cracked in two and plunged fathoms deep into the icy North Atlantic.  Some passengers were saved, but more than a thousand souls were lost that night, and each one had a rich, full life leading up to either those final moments or desperate rescues. Such was the case for one special family in Suzanne Weyn’s Distant Waves.

Jane and her four sisters were very young when their mother, widowed and alone, decided to move the lot of them to Spirit Vale, a place where ghosts gathered around the psychics, real and fake, who were the principal citizens of the place. Their mother could have chosen to stay with her mother-in-law—a woman whose grudging wealth and the security it provided did not make up for her cold, insulting ways.  Spirit Vale seemed the answer to their mother’s dreams, as she had the Sight, and so did several of her daughters.

If you like A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

A Year of Wonders by Geraldine 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.

A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks: "This gripping historical novel is based on the true story of Eyam, the "Plague Village", in the rugged mountain spine of England. In 1666, a tainted bolt of cloth from London carries bubonic infection to this isolated settlement of shepherds and lead miners. A visionary young preacher convinces the villagers to seal themselves off in a deadly quarantine to prevent the spread of disease. The story is told through the eyes of eighteen-year-old Anna Frith, the vicar's maid, as she confronts the loss of her family, the disintegration of her community, and the lure of a dangerous and illicit love. As the death toll rises and people turn from prayers and herbal cures to sorcery and murderous witch-hunting, Anna emerges as an unlikely and courageous heroine in the village's desperate fight to save itself."

If you like A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, you may like these books as well:

Divining Women by Kaye Gibbons
In this enveloping tale of marital strife and female resilience, Gibbons considers conflicts between blacks and whites and men and women within the context of the First World War and the Spanish influenza epidemic. (Booklist)
 


 

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Kivrin, a history student at Oxford in 2048, travels back in time to a 14th-century English village, despite a host of misgivings on the part of her unofficial tutor. When the technician responsible for the procedure falls prey to a 21st-century epidemic, he accidentally sends Kivrin back not to 1320 but to 1348--right into the path of the Black Death. (Publisher's Weekly)

 

LMNO Peas by Keith Baker

LMNO Peas by Keith Baker

LMNO Peas, by Keith Baker, will bring a smile to parents who have heard their children slur the middle letters together as they sing the alphabet song. This engaging book is populated by lively Peas whose occupations and activities match the letters of the alphabet. These little “pea-ple” are acrobats and explorers, parachutists and X-ray doctors.

Baker’s colorful illustrations bring the peas to life as they bicycle across the pages to the finish line, dive underwater or juggle dishes. The images are simple and clear, perfect for reading aloud to a group, but with plenty of detail to invite closer looking. Parents will enjoy such hidden treasures as “The King” singing for the kayakers. See if you can find the ladybug hiding in every two-page spread. 

All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang

All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost

Lan Samantha Chang presents difficult questions in this thoughtful and provoking novel, All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost: Is a poet born or made?  What happens to the poetic imagination as time passes? What is the role of poetry in our time?