Shelf Life Blog

Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem

Gun, with Occasional Music

In Gun, with Occasional Music, Jonathan Lethem blends dystopia and noir in order to depict the Oakland of the future: a surreal world where the written word is obsolete and animals wear clothes and behave as humans. It’s also a place where corrupt Inquisitors run amok and one’s social standing is determined by “karma points.”

In the midst of this disorienting environment, Conrad Metcalf is a reassuringly anachronistic figure. Rather than serving the monolithic institution known as the Office, he embraces his own brand of investigation, walking the streets and asking questions as a Private Inquisitor. The Office has tolerated his presence and unorthodox methods, but their complacency evaporates once Conrad starts working for a new client: Orton Angwine.

Bystander by James Preller

Bystander

Eric is thirteen.  His family has moved to Long Island.  They are in a new place and he is in a new school, but all this happens without his Dad.  His Dad did not move with them.  He is elsewhere and suffering from depression.  In Bystander by James Preller, the reader sympathizes with Eric as he makes all these new adjustments in his new life.  He misses his dad, and his mom is very busy trying to create a typical life for her children.

Eric is the new kid in town and in school. He meets a group of middle schoolers while on the basketball court one day.  As the dynamics of the group reveal themselves, Eric is quick to realize that Griffin Connelly (the leader of the pack) is not such a nice guy.  In fact, he is a bully.  One of the main targets for his mean antics is David Hallenback.  David is under the mistaken assumption that he is part of the group and a friend of Griffin's.  That is not the case.

If you like The Beach House by Jane Green

 The Beach House by Jane Green

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 Beach House by Jane Green: "Known in Nantucket as the crazy woman who lives in the rambling house atop the bluff, Nan doesn't care what people think. At sixty-five-years old, her husband died twenty years ago, her beauty has faded, and her family has flown. If her neighbors are away, why shouldn't she skinny dip in their swimming pools and help herself to their flowers? But when she discovers the money she thought would last forever is dwindling and she could lose her beloved house, Nan knows she has to make drastic changes. So Nan takes out an ad: Rooms to rent for the summer in a beautiful old Nantucket home with water views and direct access to the beach. Slowly, people start moving into the house, filling it with noise, with laughter, and with tears. As the house comes alive again, Nan finds her family expanding. Her son comes home for the summer, and then an unexpected visitor turns all their lives upside-down."

If you liked the unexpected storyline and the eccentric characters of The Beach House by Jane Green, you may also like these titles and authors.

Big stone gapBig Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani.
It's 1978, and Ave Maria Mulligan is the thirty-five-year-old self-proclaimed spinster of Big Stone Gap, a sleepy hamlet in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She's also the local pharmacist, the co-captain of the Rescue Squad, and the director of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, the town's long-running Outdoor Drama. Ave Maria is content with her life of doing errands and negotiating small details-until she discovers a skeleton in her family's formerly tidy closet that completely unravels her quiet, conventional life. Suddenly, she finds herself juggling two marriage proposals, conducting a no-holds-barred family feud, planning a life-changing journey to the Old Country, and helping her best friend, the high-school band director, design a halftime show to dazzle Elizabeth Taylor, the violet-eyed Hollywood movie star who's coming through town on a campaign stump with her husband, senatorial candidate John Warner. Filled with big-time eccentrics and small-town shenanigans, Big Stone Gap is a jewel box of original characters, including sexpot Bookmobile librarian Iva Lou Wade; Fleeta Mullins, the chain-smoking pharmacy cashier with a penchant for professional wrestling; the dashing visionary Theodore Tipton; Elmo Gaspar, the snake-handling preacher; Jack MacChesney, a coal-mining bachelor looking for true love; and Pearl Grimes, a shy mountain girl on the verge of a miraculous transformation. Comic and compassionate, Big Stone Gap is the story of a woman who thinks life has passed her by, only to learn that the best is yet to come. (Catalog summary)
 

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg.
Life is the strangest thing. One minute, Mrs. Elner Shimfissle is up in her tree, picking figs, and the next thing she knows, she is off on an adventure she never dreamed of, running into people she never in a million years expected to meet. Meanwhile, back home, Elner's nervous, high-strung niece Norma faints and winds up in bed with a cold rag on her head; Elner's neighbor Verbena rushes immediately to the Bible; her truck driver friend, Luther Griggs, runs his eighteen-wheeler into a ditch-and the entire town is thrown for a loop and left wondering, "What is life all about, anyway?" Except for Tot Whooten, who owns Tot's Tell It Like It Is Beauty Shop. Her main concern is that the end of the world might come before she can collect her social security. In this comedy-mystery, those near and dear to Elner discover something wonderful: Heaven is actually right here, right now, with people you love, neighbors you help, friendships you keep. (from the catalog summary)

Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

Kitten’s First Full Moon

Have you ever mistaken an object for something other than what it truly is? That is exactly what happens to sweet, hungry and unlucky Kitten in Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes. She mistakes the first full moon she has ever seen for a big bowl of milk in the sky. She tries numerous methods to capture the bowl of milk, such as pouncing, chasing, and climbing a tree to reach it, but all attempts lead to dismal results. Then, Kitten becomes overwhelmed with excitement when she believes she has found an even bigger bowl of milk in the pond. Not realizing it is the full moon’s reflection in the water, Kitten leaps into the pond and gets soaked! Throughout the story Kitten is relentless. As the author says multiple times in the book “still, there was the little bowl of milk, just waiting” and Kitten is determined to get it. Readers will delight in Kitten’s unrestrained and enthusiastic spirit.

Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander

Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander

He watched as the mob killed his father slowly and perfectly legally. Mr. Proctor sat in the stocks day after day as neighbors spat on him and pitched rotten fruit and rocks and his body broke down but never his spirit. What was the villain’s crime? He was a printer who dared to publish a tract that angered the local authorities. It was enough to doom him and change his young son’s destiny. In Bruce Alexander‘s Blind Justice, thirteen-year-old Jeremy heeds his dying father’s last words to flee to safety.

The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn

The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn

What if one pill gave you the ability to read four books in a single evening and remember every word? What if you could learn a language in an afternoon, or write a book in a week? Could you walk away from a drug that would basically give you superpowers? While some of us might ask ourselves these questions to make a traffic snarl less agonizing, in The Dark Fields, Alan Glynn constructs a captivating scenario in which they are anything but abstract.  

Before his chemical reinvention, Eddie Spinola was a fallen man. After limping through a life characterized by failure and disappointment, Eddie settled into a slovenly, lackluster pattern. Instead of becoming a successful writer, he struggles as a freelance copy editor and perpetually blocked writer in New York City.  

The Tears of the Salamander by Peter Dickinson

The Tears of the Salamander, by Peter Dickinson

Peter Dickinson’s The Tears of the Salamander begins with a simple gift and ends with a magical legacy. When his seldom-seen, rich Uncle Giorgio gives young Alfredo a strange present on his name day, his parents aren’t sure they want him to have it. The golden chain doesn’t have the expected cross on it—from it dangles the golden image of a strange animal—a little lizard with splayed feet and other peculiar features. Alfredo’s older brother is very jealous. He sees nothing special in Alfredo. Sure, he can sing like an angel, but that’s not much use to a baker’s boy, is it?

The local priests see Alfredo’s gift differently. They want him in their boys’ choir, and he is happy to be there for he loves to sing—but he also loves baking and hopes to follow his father into the trade. When catastrophe strikes leaving Alfredo alone and friendless, the priests urge him to join the choir permanently, and he would have done so even though it would have meant giving up a normal life. But just at the crucial moment, his Uncle Giorgio comes to take him away to reclaim his birthright—the birthright his father refused by choosing instead to become a simple village baker.

If you like Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Let the Great World Spin

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.

"Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCann: A rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s. A radical young Irish monk struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gathers in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. A 38-year-old grandmother turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth. Weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann's allegory comes alive in the voices of the city's people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the "artistic crime of the century"--a mysterious tightrope walker dancing between the Twin Towers.

If you enjoyed "Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCann for the writing, the family story and the setting, you may enjoy these titles:

American Rust by Philipp Meyer
Left alone to care for his aging father after his mother commits suicide and his sister escapes to Yale, Isaac English longs for a life beyond his hometown. But when he finally sets out to leave for good, accompanied by his temperamental best friend, former high school football star Billy Poe, they are caught up in a terrible act of violence that changes their lives forever.-catalog summary


 

Falling Man by Don DeLillo
There is September 11 and then there are the days after, and finally the years. 'Falling Man' is a magnificent, essential novel about the event that defines turn-of-the-century America. It begins in the smoke and ash of the burning towers and tracks the aftermath of this global tremor in the intimate lives of a few people. First, there is Keith, walking out of the rubble into a life that he'd always imagined belonged to everyone but him. Then Lianne, his estranged wife, memory-haunted, trying to reconcile two versions of the same shadowy man. And their small son Justin, standing at the window, scanning the sky for more planes. These are lives choreographed by loss, grief and the enormous force of history. Brave and brilliant, 'Falling Man' traces the way the events of September 11 have reconfigured our emotional landscape, our memory and our perception of the world. It is cathartic, beautiful, heartbreaking. 

Happy Birthday, Monster! by Scott Beck

Happy Birthday, Monster!

There's a lot more to Happy Birthday, Monster! than just monsters. Sure, there is a mummy, a skeleton, a vampire, and a ghost involved, but there's an alien and a robot too. That is not a problem. Diversity is great, especially when dealing with guys and gals like these.

This bunch is just looking to have a good time at their friend Doris' (a lizard creature of sorts) birthday. Devilish Ben is throwing the bash, and early on we see him brushing and flossing his teeth... and then brushing and flossing his horns.

The fun of Scott Beck's book is seeing how each of these very different characters interact with each other.  The book explores what happens when the ghost slow dances ("You're very light on your feet.") or when the robot falls in love with an ordinary houselamp.

A Kiss Before the Apocalypse by Thomas E. Sniegoski

A Kiss Before the Apocalypse

Recently, I found myself running around a hotel and trying to hide so that I could just finish my book and no one would see me crying. Last week my son got married, and even though I am not very emotional my family kept saying “You are going to cry when he gets married. I know you will.” I kept saying, “I am not. I am going to remain calm and collected.” When a friend called to recommend a book, “A Kiss Before the Apocalypse,” I decided to take it with me to the wedding. It is about an angel, Remiel or Remy Chandler who decides to come to earth along with a few other angels to pretend to be one of God’s most beloved creations – Man.

However, while he is here he falls in love with a woman named Madeline and they marry. Since angels do not age and humans do, the book begins with Remy visiting his elderly wife who is dying of cancer in a nursing home. Everyone who works there believes that Madeline is his mother, but the reader soon becomes part of a magical love story of a woman and an angel.