Shelf Life Blog

09/27/2011 - 3:30am

Come one, come all! Wander the Cloud Maze. Delight in the Ice Garden. Ride the amazing Carousel. Have your fortune told. Marvel at the tattooed contortionist. Enjoy the magical creation that is The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern! Only open from dusk to dawn, with every visible surface colored black, white and gray, this amazing venue truly lives up to its proper name, Le Cirque des Rêves or The Circus of Dreams.

The circus was created to serve as a forum for a magical competition to which young magicians Celia and Marco were bound by their teachers while still children. But just as the circus tents spread outward in a series of spiraling circles, so too does the circus’s impact on the people drawn into its orbit. As Celia and Marco fall in love, not realizing that the game is in fact a duel in which only one can be left standing, the circus takes on a life of its own.

10/05/2011 - 4:13pm
Something like Fate by Susane Colasanti

Best friends forever, Lani and Erin have been friends since they can remember in Susane Colasanti's Something Like Fate. Their lives are tied together by a tragedy that happened years ago, and neither girl can now imagine a life without one another. They have always been inseparable but their lives are rapidly changing, moving them farther away from each other.  

Lani is an environmental activist and a high school student.  In her school, it isn't exactly cool to care about the environment. Her best friend Erin is in the popular crowd, the Golden Kids. They used to both be part of the group but when Lani quit hanging out with the group and stopped going to their parties, she fell out of touch with the Golden Crowd. The best friends have a hard time spending time together with Erin hanging out with the popular kids and Lani promoting recycling and green activities.

09/26/2011 - 11:36am
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura

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.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand: "On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared--Lt. Louis Zamperini. Captured by the Japanese and driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor." (Book Description)

If you like Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, you may enjoy these nonfiction titles:

An American Plague: the True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy
If surviving the first 20 years of a new nationhood weren't challenge enough, the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, centering in Philadelphia, was a crisis of monumental proportions. Murphy chronicles this frightening time with solid research and a flair for weaving facts into fascinating stories, beginning with the fever's emergence on August 3, when a young French sailor died in Richard Denny's boardinghouse on North Water Street. As church bells rang more and more often, it became horrifyingly clear that the de facto capital was being ravaged by an unknown killer. Largely unsung heroes emerged, most notably the Free African Society, whose members were mistakenly assumed to be immune and volunteered en masse to perform nursing and custodial care for the dying. Black-and-white reproductions of period art, coupled with chapter headings that face full-page copies of newspaper articles of the time, help bring this dreadful episode to life.--catalog summary
 

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why: True Stories of Miraculous Endurance and Sudden Death by Laurence Gonzales
After her plane crashes, a seventeen-year-old girl spends eleven days walking through the Peruvian jungle. Against all odds, with no food, shelter, or equipment, she gets out. A better-equipped group of adult survivors of the same crash sits down and dies. What makes the difference? ... Deep Survival takes us from the tops of snowy mountains and the depths of oceans to the workings of the brain that control our behavior. Through close analysis of case studies, Laurence Gonzales describes the "stages of survival" and reveals the essence of a survivor: "truths that apply not only to surviving in the wild but also to surviving life-threatening illness, relationships, the death of a loved one, running a business during uncertain times, even war. Fascinating for any reader, and absolutely essential for anyone who takes a hike in the woods, this book will change the way we understand ourselves and the great outdoors.--catalog summary

10/05/2011 - 10:41am
Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems

All good things must come to an end. This includes books, toys, and especially books about toys. After two previous adventures of missing bunny mayhem, Mo Willems has gracefully ended one of his strongest series with Knuffle Bunny Free.

The first two Knuffle (pronounced ca-nuffle) Bunny books, young Trixie and her parents deal with the loss and determined effort to find her favorite stuffed animal. It’s a fairly straightforward conflict that parents immediately recognize. Trixie was a baby in the first volume, and school age in the second effort. This last installment visits her a few years later on a trip to Holland to visit her grandparents. This time, Trixie leaves her beloved rabbit on the plane.

09/21/2011 - 3:31am
The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry

The world Jedediah Berry creates in The Manual of Detection is both familiar and strange. There are detectives who investigate mysteries, but their cases have names like “The Man Who Stole November 12th” and “The Three Deaths of Colonel Baker.” A man named Charles Unwin tries to get his old job back, but discovers he must first figure out who is controlling the sleeping city’s dreams. It’s this creative mixture of mystery and surrealism that makes Berry’s novel both unique and delightfully eerie.

Charles Unwin has many talents. He can ride his bicycle through the city’s slick streets while simultaneously holding his umbrella aloft; he is a meticulous dreamer, who can exert control over the images that flood his brain at night; and, perhaps most importantly, he is incredibly adept at maintaining order. As one of the Agency’s most dedicated clerks Unwin possesses a definite knack for transforming mysteries into tidy, logical explanations, especially when he is piecing together airtight solutions from the reports of Detective Travis Sivart. But when Sivart goes missing, Unwin’s own world is profoundly disrupted. In fact, he is whisked away from his clerk’s desk, handed a book, and told that his new title is Detective.

09/20/2011 - 3:30am
Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabriell

I’m going to Brooklyn to visit my daughter, and as with every excursion to the “Big Apple,” I make a list of must-see places. Usually I include a tea house, a photo gallery, and a farmer’s market. (If you’re a locavore, NYC’s markets are BEYOND compare!). But this time I’m making a reservation at Prune--Gabrielle Hamilton’s acclaimed West Village restaurant. Coincidentally, Hamilton is also the author of Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. Her book, like her food (or so I’ve heard), is exceptional!

Hamilton’s childhood in rural Pennsylvania was unconventional and idyllic. Her father was a stage designer, frequently involved with Broadway productions; her mother, French and a former dancer, spent her days aproned in front of a six-burner stove. The clan lived in a crumbling, 19th-century silk mill. They regularly hosted legendary parties—complete with spring lamb roasting on a spit and an endless variety of creative themes.

09/19/2011 - 3:30am
Anything but Typical

Jason Blake isn't a "neurotypical" kid.  Jason is an autistic 12-year old struggling to live in a world filled with "neurotypicals," who unsuccessfully try to understand the problems he faces in day-to-day life. In the book, Anything but Typical, Nora Raleigh Baskin demonstrates what it is like to be a sixth grader with autism.

Jason tries to express himself with others but finds that people don't like to take the time to get to know and understand him. The only place that Jason feels safe to communicate is online. There he writes and posts short stories on a Web site where young writers share their work amongst each other. There he meets Rebecca; they quickly begin helping each other with their writing. Jason strikes up a friendship with Rebecca but fears that they could never meet due to his autism.

09/16/2011 - 3:30am
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

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.

To Say Nothing of the Dog: "It is 1888 and Ned Henry is shuttling between the 1940s and modern day, researching Coventry Cathedral for a patron who wants to rebuild it. But when the time continuum is disrupted, Ned must scramble to set things right."

If you like Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, you may also enjoy these titles:
 

Bears Discover Fire and Other Stories by Terry Bisson
Readers turn from 'Bears Discover Fire', a meditative tale that blends the irreconcilable sadness of the loss of a loved one with the weirdness of the very literal title, to the delightfully silly 'They're Made Out of Meat', a dialogue between two odd aliens about the nature of life on Earth, to the elegaic 'England Underway', in which a bookish Englishman confronts the New World, bringing all of England with him. Leavening even his most serious tales with humor, Bisson can deal with issues frequently blighted by stridency: three stories address environmental concerns with a black humor that enhances rather than mitigates their impact."-from Pusblisher's Weekly
 

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
"Great Britain circa 1985: time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. ... England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in Wordsworth poems, militant Baconians roam freely spreading the gospel that Bacon, not Shakespeare, penned those immortal works. And forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. This is all business as usual for brainy, bookish (and heat-packing) Thursday Next, a renowned Special Operative in literary detection -- that is, until someone begins murdering characters from works of literature. When this madman plucks Jane Eyre from the pages of Bronte's novel Thursday faces the challenge of her career. Aided and abetted by characters that include her time-traveling father, an executive of the all-powerful Goliath Corporation, and Edward Rochester himself, Thursday must track down the world's Third Most Wanted criminal and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide."-(from the Book jacket)

09/15/2011 - 8:31am
Mistress Masham's Repose

When one thinks of heirs and heiresses, one thinks of bags and bags of money.  But in T. H. White’s Mistress Masham’s Repose, ten-year-old Maria has no money. She is only the heiress to a falling down 17th-century English estate called Malplaquet. Even so, she might have enjoyed a lovely if quiet life in the countryside. But she doesn’t.

09/13/2011 - 3:31am

Attention all dog lovers: Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog, by Ted Kerasote, is a must-read book about a dog and his human companion. This non-fiction tale takes the reader to the banks of the San Juan River where Ted, the author, finds Merle, a ten-month-old pup living on his own. Ted, who had been looking for a dog but never really felt connected to any of the dogs he had met, finds it impossible to leave this dog. Merle seems to also be looking for a companion and doesn't want to leave Ted's side either.

Merle and Ted strike up a relationship that any dog owner can understand. They share their lives together, all the while learning from each other. Merle teaches Ted how to navigate in nature and techniques for hunting, while Ted teaches about the ways of the human world. In actuality, Merle teaches Ted more about obedience and other dog behaviors than Ted teaches him. Ted uses his knowledge of Merle to translate dog behavior to human language. It's a fantastic relationship between dog and human.

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