Shelf Life Blog
Sometimes life takes us in a direction that unexpectedly changes everything and alters all our future plans. Happily, this is just what happened to Conor Grennan, the author of Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal. It is necessary for me to state now that I know Conor and my daughter and her husband play the smallest of roles in Conor’s memoir. Perhaps because of this I took particular pleasure in reading this book, but I think personal interest was quickly overtaken by the value of his touching story.
Conor planned a long, world-wide trip after working in Prague for a couple of years. His adventure begins in Nepal at the Little Princes Children’s Home, where he volunteered to help the “orphans." The children turned out not to be orphans, but victims of child traffickers.
Steve Harmon is sixteen years old and on trial for murder in Monster by Walter Dean Myers, which takes the reader through the suspenseful trial and the verdict. Steve is a young man who has never been in trouble before. Suddenly, he finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Is he truly guilty or just guilty by association? Can a young man be on trial for having made poor choices?
Steve recounts the events that transpired the night of the robbery at the convenience store. He says he just happened to be there at the moment the robbery and murder took place. But a murder did occur and the prosecution is looking for the guilty party -- and they think they have found it in Steve. The term "monster" is the one used by the prosecutor as she describes Steve and his alleged actions -- but is Steve really a monster or is she just trying to build a case against Steve? When Steve hears this term used to describe himself, he is very disturbed.
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 Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield: "A ruined mansion in the English countryside, secret illegitimate children, a madwoman hidden in the attic, ghostly twin sisters-yep, it's a gothic novel, and it doesn't pretend to be anything fancier. But this one grabs the reader with its damp, icy fingers and doesn't let go until the last shocking secret has been revealed. Margaret Lea, an antiquarian bookseller and sometime biographer of obscure writers, receives a letter from Vida Winter, "the world's most famous living author." Vida has always invented pasts for herself in interviews, but now, on her deathbed, she at last has decided to tell the truth and has chosen Margaret to write her story. Now living at Vida's (spooky) country estate, Margaret finds herself spellbound by the tale of Vida's childhood some 70 years earlier...but is it really the truth? And will Vida live to finish the story?" (Library Journal Review)
If you liked The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, you may enjoy the following works:
Darling Jim by Christian Moerk
“When two sisters and their aunt are found dead in their suburban Dublin home, it seems that the secret behind their untimely demise will never be known. But then Niall, a young mailman, finds a mysterious diary in the post office's dead-letter bin. From beyond the grave, Fiona Walsh shares the most tragic love story he's ever heard--and her tale has only just begun in this modern gothic novel of suspense.”—catalog summary
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
A long-lost letter arriving at its destination fifty years after it was sent lures Edie Burchill to crumbling Milderhurst Castle, home of the three elderly Blythe sisters, where Edie's mother was sent to stay as a teenager during World War II.
When the war in Iraq started, there were more than 600 animals being kept in public zoos and on private premises in and near Baghdad. Lions and tigers and bears…oh, no; were they safe? Were they being cared for? Were they hurt and in need of medical attention? Were they scared and hungry? Saving the Baghdad Zoo, by Kelly Milner Halls and Major William Sumner, is a wonderful story of the animals and those people who stepped up to the challenge of caring for them.
If you’re in the mood for a harrowing reality check, Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death is the antidote to your craving. Postman’s revelatory book was initially published in the 1980s, but his exploration of America’s preoccupation with entertainment is still sharp and pertinent. And it has retained its power to make us re-think the role of technology in our everyday lives.
Throughout Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman questions how the content of our culture has been radically altered by the emergence of new media. As he states, “our notions of truth and our ideas of intelligence have changed as a result of new media displacing the old.” The assertion that cultural practices and technologies constantly influence and respond to one another might seem like a value neutral observation, but as Postman delves deeper into his analysis, it becomes obvious that he views the shift from the Age of Exposition (text-based communication) to the Age of Show Business (image-based communication) as a profoundly problematic and troubling phenomenon.
She was an educated daughter of the privileged class—granddaughter of two of Iraq’s heroes from its pre-Saddam era. A successful journalist and later owner of a printing business, she seemed to live a more charmed life than most of Iraq’s citizens. But as the door of the women’s prison closed behind her, leaving her virtually entombed, she realized that her sense of security had been nothing more than an illusion, and as one prisoner after another was dragged away to be tortured, she understood the true horror that underlay her world. Mayada: Daughter of Iraq: One Woman’s Survival Under Saddam Hussein is her story as shared with fellow writer Jean Sasson.
Libba Bray’s Going Bovine is the story of 16-year-old Cameron who has always dealt with life in a standoff manner, trying to avoid social contact with his peers. Things start to get interesting for him when he begins seeing objects that others seem to miss. While alone at home he hears a noise and discovers a feather, which leads him on a roller coaster of events and introduces him to some unlikely folks.
Cameron’s parents fear that drugs must be a factor so they send him to doctors and psychologists to figure out exactly what’s going on with their son, as he is still seeing things that others can't possibly be seeing. Finally, they find a doctor who unveils the mystery of what’s happening to him--Mad Cow Disease…and he’s going to die.
Jumpy Jack and Googily, by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall, is about the very special friendship of Jumpy Jack the snail and his pal, Googily. Jumpy Jack thinks there could be a monster behind every nook and cranny. Good thing he’s got Googily, who bravely investigates Jumpy Jack’s every fearful suspicion and reassures his friend that no monster could be lurking near. The humor in this sweet account of the exchange between two friends is that Googily himself is a monster, matching the exact description Jumpy Jack provides when he expresses the frightful possibilities his wild imagination creates.
I decided to read this book because I’ve always been interested in the Dalai Lama. I really thought The Art of Happiness would be more focused on understanding Buddhist principles; instead, it’s a peculiar mix of Eastern religion meets Western medicine.
Co-author Dr. Howard Cutler is a psychiatrist with a private practice in Phoenix, and the Dalai Lama is a Buddhist monk. It’s amusing to see two very different approaches to achieving happiness. The Dalai Lama’s approach to achieving happiness is more of a holistic, spiritual system that focuses on improving oneself using the power of the mind. Dr. Howard Cutler takes more of a back-seat approach in which he listens to the Dalai Lama’s suggestions and gives input about modern psychological approaches used in the United States.
Most people know what it feels like to be stuck in limbo somewhere between departure and destination. Even if your journey was perfectly planned, there are so many things that can easily go awry and impede your progress. In Dear American Airlines, that agonizing stasis is symptomatic of much more than an airline’s incompetence or a missed connection. It characterizes the 53 years that Benjamin R. Ford has been living and drawing breath.
While en route from New York to Los Angeles, Bennie’s flight is abruptly canceled. Even though the sky is bright and the clouds look picturesque, rather than ominous, American Airlines claims foul weather has interfered with the scheduled flight. As a consequence, Bennie finds himself trapped in Chicago’s O’Hare airport with no way out. But he does have a pen, some paper, and the desire to complain to American Airlines.
The entirety of Jonathan Miles’s poignant and humorous novel is written in the form of a letter of complaint. At first, Bennie’s explicit goal is to write and get his ticket refunded. As the letter progresses, however, it becomes quite clear that a check from American Airlines will not resolve Bennie’s existential crisis.