Shelf Life Blog
Part fantasy, part romance, Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson is a time travel novel featuring Richard Collier, who falls in love with a turn of the century actress and travels back in time to meet her.
In 1971, Richard, on finding out that he is suffering from terminal cancer, embarks on a road trip from Los Angeles to Denver. On the way, he stops at a historic hotel on the coast in San Diego where he sees a play program from the late 1800s and falls in love with the woman pictured on the front. Captivated by her beauty, Collier researches the actress, Elise McKenna and finds out that she never married, had an overbearing manager named W.F. Robinson, and that she had a brief encounter in 1896 with a mysterious man at the hotel he is currently staying at. Throughout his research, he realizes that he has fallen deeply in love with the woman, and convinces himself that he is the mysterious man with whom Elise had an affair.
In the year 2194, there are three Zimbabwes. There is the Zimbabwe of the rich such as the luxurious compound of General Amadeus Matsika, the country's Chief of Security. His children, Tendai, Rita, and Kuda want for nothing. The robots take care of all their needs, and the Mellower, the house poet, makes everyone feel so much better when he sings their Praises in The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer.
In another part of the city dwells the woman who is called the She-Elephant. She has her own compound, her own kingdom, in the abandoned waste dump. She has her servants, too. Fist and Knife are good for running errands-- a little thieving here, a little kidnapping there... When they find Matsika's children by themselves in downtown Harare, the opportunity for profit is just too good to let go.
This is a short book, but it is a gem as so many of M.B. Goffstein's are. Our Snowman has a very simple, very true plot that is not the slightest bit exotic. It is as comforting as hot cocoa and a perfect book for young ones on a night when a Snow Watch is called.
In Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Abraham Lincoln uncovers a terrible truth at a tender age: that vampires infiltrate every corner of society and are “living man’s” mortal enemy. Lincoln’s father, a classic underachiever, idiotically defaults on a loan to one of the bloodsuckers, who warns that he will have to “take it in other ways.” It is no coincidence then that Abraham’s aunt, uncle, and beloved mother die quickly thereafter from a painful illness with “scorching fevers, delusions, and cramps.” Old folks called this the “milk sickness,” believed to be brought on by drinking tainted milk, but that wasn’t the case this time. Eventually Abraham learns of the connection and vows to “kill every vampire in America.”
“All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hidden in plain sight.”
In Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, an unemployed Web designer, a bookstore that never closes, a series of beloved fantasy novels, a secret society, and a typeface known as Gerritszoon are all embroiled in the search for immortality. While eternal life is a frequently-pursued prize in history and popular culture, Sloan’s rendition of this classic quest revolves around quirky characters and a cadre of technophobic code breakers.
Clay Jannon’s life has been disrupted by the economic recession. Since losing his job as a Web designer for a bagel company, he has struggled to find a sense of purpose and a source of income. One night while aimlessly wandering the streets of San Francisco, he happens upon a fascinating sight: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Clay is drawn to the store and takes special notice of the help wanted sign hanging in the front window. Once inside, Clay discovers Mr. Penumbra’s labyrinthine store requires parkour-like maneuvers: “The shelves were packed close together, and it felt like I was standing at the border of a forest – not a friendly California forest, either, but an old Transylvanian forest, a forest full of wolves and witches and dagger-wielding bandits all waiting just beyond moonlight’s reach.”
Blue, daughter of the town psychic, has grown up hearing that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. So she has resolved to stay away from boys and, especially, to stay away from Raven boys – students at the exclusive Aglionby Academy. The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater, is the story of how Blue comes to break her own resolution and is drawn into the lives and adventures of some of those Raven boys she swore to avoid.
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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinarylife, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed. There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them. And he must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew. (catalog summary)
If you enjoyed this book's real-world fantasy setting and morally ambiguous characters, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas
A cursed book. A missing professor. Some nefarious men in gray suits. And a dreamworld called the Troposphere? Ariel Manto has a fascination with nineteenth-century scientists—especially Thomas Lumas and The End of Mr. Y, a book no one alive has read. When she mysteriously uncovers a copy at a used bookstore, Ariel is launched into an adventure of science and faith, consciousness and death, space and time, and everything in between. Seeking answers, Ariel follows in Mr. Y's footsteps: she swallows a tincture, stares into a black dot, and is transported into the Troposphere—a wonderland where she can travel through time and space using the thoughts of others. There she begins to understand all the mysteries surrounding the book, herself, and the universe. Or is it all just a hallucination? (catalog summary)
Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
The twelve gods of Olympus are alive and well in the twenty-first century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse--and none too happy about it. Even more disturbingly, their powers are waning...[and] a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire, must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of humankind. Nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed-but can these two decidedly ordinary people replicate the feats of the mythical heroes and save the world? (catalog summary)
It started as a a funny, little notion scrawled of a piece of scrap paper. "Mice have a culture all their own; Too small to integrate with other animals." Over the past decade, David Petersen's throwaway thought has emerged into a beautifully vivid adventure series that combines breathtaking action with gorgeous artwork. That series starts with Mouse Guard: Fall 1152.
The Mouse Guard are essentially wandering knights who serve a widespread kingdom. Mice have many natural predators and the guard has been established to protect citizens and keep the peace. But the kingdom is not simply threatened by snakes and owls. There are also enemies within.
When David Gilmour's son decided to drop out of high school, his father could have screamed at the top of his lungs about ruining one's future and the misery of being a lifelong freeloader. Instead he created The Film Club.
Fifteen-year-old Jesse could leave school under a couple of conditions. One: he had to avoid getting involved with drugs. Two: he had to watch three movies a week with his father, a former film critic. Dad picked the films, and all Jesse had to do was pay attention. What followed is one of the riskiest experiments in alternative education I have ever seen. Was David 100% sure this was an ideal solution? Heck no, but he thought it was worth a try.
What if you had never noticed the small things in life? Having lived a privileged life defined by ceremonies and duties, would you have had the time to notice the subtle changes in behavior of the people around you when upset, worried, or flustered? And what would make you start noticing? This is the premise for the brilliantly witty audiobook The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett.
In this audiobook, richly-narrated by the author, the Queen, having never read for pleasure, stumbles upon a bookmobile outside the gates of Buckingham Palace and feels duty bound to check out a book. While she dutifully finishes the first book she checks out, she feels duty bound once again to check out a second book, which is the one that captures her attention and leads to her rabid consumption of books. Helping the Queen on this journey is Norman, a kitchen boy in the palace, who is promoted to page after his encounter with the Queen in the bookmobile. With Norman as her accomplice, the Queen is introduced to an array of authors and begins to see the world through other people’s eyes.