Shelf Life Blog

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?

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.