Shelf Life Blog
No one can see women of a certain age. We--I am of a certain age--are nothing but the ghosts of our former selves. We have a contentious relationship with mirrors just like Snow White’s stepmother. We fight aging with Botox, HRT, calcium, and even anti-depressants. Clover Hobart in Calling Invisible Women has contemplated figurative invisibility, but one fall day she becomes literally invisible.
After thinking she has had a breakdown or a stroke, Clover becomes proactive and explores the possibilities of invisibility. This novel has laugh-out-loud moments, is well-plotted, has great characters, and has thoughtful ideas about women and aging.
In the world of manga, Ryoko Kiyama is an ideal character. His eyes turn into pulsating hearts when he sees the object of his affection, sadness creates literal storm clouds overhead, and he is an expert at combating giant lizards and robots without getting injured. After accidentally falling through an “interdimensional cross-rip,” however, Ryoko’s ordinary behavior suddenly becomes freakish and bizarre. Ryoko has accidentally fallen into Western comics, a place populated by American teenagers who struggle to understand and tolerate such a strange visitor.
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.
Zero History by William Gibson: "Former rock singer Hollis Henry and ex-addict Milgrim, an accomplished linguist, are at the front line of a sinister proprietor's attempts to get a slice of the military budget. When a Department of Defense contract for combat-wear turns out to be the gateway drug for arms dealers, they gradually realize their employer has some very dangerous competitors--including Garreth, a ruthless ex-military officer with lots of friends. Set largely in London after our post-Crash times."
If you enjoyed this book's depiction of a plausible near future and integration of philosophy into the narrative, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
Blood Music by Greg Bear
Experimenting with biochips, Vergil Ulam creates instead a microscopic intelligence that mutates. Vergil injects himself with the disease culture to smuggle it out of the country. That is how the end of the world begins. (worldcat.org)
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley's tour de force, Brave New World is a darkly satiric vision of a "utopian" future—where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order. A powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations, it remains remarkably relevant to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying entertainment. (amazon.com)
In Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Found, Jonah Skidmore feels like an ordinary thirteen-year-old boy. His family consists of a slightly annoying but smart younger sister named Katherine and a mom and dad who love him unconditionally. Jonah is adopted and has known this fact for a while but it’s never been a big deal for him because his parents have always been open about it to him. Life definitely feels normal for Jonah. That is, until the mysterious letter arrives--the letter that contains just six words: YOU ARE ONE OF THE MISSING. The letter does not contain a signature or a return address. Who sent it? Where did it come from? What does it mean?
“I’ll be happy when…I win the lottery. Snag my dream job. Lose that last ten pounds.” Does that sound familiar? Marci Shimoff in Happy for No Reason points out the flaws in this type of thinking and presents practical advice for living a life of happiness, regardless of your circumstances. Shimoff herself thought she had achieved the American Dream as a successful, published author married to a loving husband and living in a beautiful home. But she, too, felt something was missing from her life. Through her research and her interviews of the “Happy 100,” Shimoff discovers that happiness is derived from within and offers the following seven steps to creating your own happiness:
1. Take Ownership of Your Happiness
2. Don’t Believe Everything You Think
3. Let Love Lead
4. Make Your Cells Happy
5. Plug Yourself Into Spirit
6. Live a Life Inspired by Purpose
7. Cultivate Nourishing Relationships
So, why should you read this book now that I’ve given away Shimoff’s seven steps? Because although these steps are the basics of Shimoff’s plan, her explanations and advice are well worth reading, to the point where I wanted to dog-ear the book’s pages (as it was a library book, I did not). Even the new-age concept of the Law of Attraction had me thinking “what if it is true?” and “what do I have to lose?”
Halfway through this spring, during a week of practically living out of our minivan and eating dinners on the run due to a parade of soccer games, drama rehearsals, and tae kwon do practices, I said to myself, “Enough. I want to get off this ride!” I picked up Putting Family First: Successful Strategies for Reclaiming Family Life in a Hurry-Up World, by William Doherty and Barbara Carlson, and devoured it in the next 2 days. Doherty and Carlson first trace the evolution of the overscheduling of today's kids and then provide concrete steps for reclaiming family time. I found myself nodding along to almost every chapter and came away with some great suggestions for how to streamline our outside commitments and reconnect as a family.
Doherty points out there are positive reasons why kids are busier today - like more opportunities to choose from - but also several that are negative, like more intense sports schedules, fear that children will be left behind if they don’t engage from an early age, and parental guilt due to long work schedules. Whatever the reasons, Doherty stresses that the end result is that “the adult world of hypercompetition and marketplace values has invaded the family.” What to do about it? The first step is to slow down and reconnect over family meals, optimally four times a week or more. The second is to reclaim bedtime as a soothing ritual. And the third step is to look critically at the schedule, cut back on outside obligations, and find time to “hang out as a family.”
In Christine Hinwood’s The Returning, the war between the Uplanders and the Downlanders is over. But everyone in the village of Kayforl is still struggling with the after effects. Cam returns home from the fighting maimed and struggles to make a new life for himself. But his betrothal to Graceful Fenister is broken off by her father.
A patron called me this week to say that he loved Crashers, by Dana Haynes, so much that he didn’t even want to stop the audio book to go to sleep at night! That is an excellent endorsement! He wanted more books by this author, and we found out that this was the debut novel of Dana Haynes.
It is about an airliner that crashes outside of Portland, Oregon, and a team of experts assembled to investigate the cause of the crash. Some of the members of the team are: Kiki Duvall, a “sonar witch”--a recorder specialist who can hear things that other people cannot; John Roby, a former cop and bomb expert; Walter Mulroney who can build any plane given the right number of bolts; engineer Peter Kim, pilot and former F.B.I. agent Isaiah Grey; pathologist Tommy Tomzak; and the leader, Susan Tanaka who is an intergovernmental liason. They soon discover that this plane crash was no accident--it was a trial run.
I loved my Southern Mama and my Southern Grandma, so when I found Suck in Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On! I knew that I would love it, too. It is chock full of wisdom from mothers across the South--plus a running commentary by the author which is hysterical!
There are such wonderful pearls of wisdom as:
"My mom’s advice on raising children: ‘If it washes off or grows out, it doesn’t hurt anyone. Don’t worry about it!’”
“Mama said, ‘Just because it fits doesn’t mean you oughta wear it.’”
“My mama told me ladies never answered the door barefoot!”
“My grandmother advised me to marry a man my age or a little younger, ‘because they don’t improve with age.’ I now know what she meant.’”
Young Fredle grows up repeatedly hearing the rules about how mice behave. Sometimes it seems like life between the walls of the kitchen is nothing but rules. One of the most important rules is that mice don’t change. But that doesn’t dampen Fredle’s curiosity and sense of adventure. Finally, his mother’s predictions come true, and his curious nature and sweet tooth get Fredle in deep trouble. And so Fredle finds himself Outside.