Shelf Life Blog
Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, starts off with a young girl trying to keep life interesting at her a dead-end job at the hat shop. So Sophie talked to the hats. No, they didn't answer her, but she talked to them just the same. "You have a heart of gold and someone in a high position will see it and fall in love you," she told one. Soon enough a plain-looking lass bought the plain bonnet and sailed off with the heart of the Count of Catterack.
At a recent library staff-development event we were introduced to local author Belle Boggs and her colorful collection of short stories that comprise Mattaponi Queen. It’s telling that Ms. Boggs started her talk by giving us a slideshow tour of her hometown of Walkerton in King William County, Virginia. When I had the opportunity to read my copy of the stories, I was impressed that the setting was so strongly communicated in each story that it carried the same weight as characterization, plot, and other pillars upon which a story is built. The characters--lively, quirky, and in some cases, doomed--pigeonhole neatly into this clearly envisioned landscape and truly come to life.
If you knew when the world was going to end, to the day, what would you do? Would you abandon everything and do the things you always wanted to? Would you wallow in despair? Would you go insane? Would you end your life? Or would you cling to your identity, doing what you'd always been doing right up to the end? You will ask yourself these questions and many more as you read through Ben H. Winters' The Last Policeman.
In Every Day, David Levithan creatively reinvents the familiar saga of star-crossed romance. The relationship at the novel's core is predictably fraught with tension and angst, but a significant twist transforms the entire scenario: one of the participants isn't actually a physical person, but exists as an intangible entity that inhabits a different body each day.
The entity known as A has no gender or corporeal presence, nor can it control which body it will occupy next. There are several restrictions that govern A's movements, however. A is never in the same body twice, inhabits hosts that match A's own age, and lingers in a geographical area as long as there are eligible bodies for it to occupy.
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.
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones: On a copper-rich tropical island shattered by war, on which survival is a daily struggle, eccentric Mr. Watts, the only white man left after the other teachers flee, spends his day reading to the local children from Charles Dickens's classic "Great Expectations."
If you enjoyed this book's portrayal of teachers in the learning process of reading and its connection to classic literature, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel--a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors. (worldcat.org)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
This book traces the coming-of-age of a young orphan, Pip, from a boy of shallow aspirations into a man of self-possession. Raised by a humble blacksmith, Pip is recruited by the wealthy Miss Havisham to be a companion to her ward, the cold but beautiful Estella. There, Pip learns to despise his rough origins as Estella torments him about his low prospects. When Pip is informed that an unknown benefactor expects to make him his heir, he sets off to London to realize his "great expectations." But true gentleman stature, he will find, is a matter of character, not fortune. (catalog description)
The English Monster, by Lloyd Shepherd, blends two stories of horror—one short, sharp, and bloody while the other is a slow unraveling of a man’s conscience.
October, 1564: A handsome young man, just married and very much in love, travels a dangerous path to the port of Plymouth, England, where he hopes to find a berth on a ship bound for adventure, but more importantly, riches to make their new life together secure. It is try and succeed or fail and never return for William Ablass. His letter of introduction earns him a place on board Captain Hawkins’ vessel where he becomes shipmates and friends with Francis Drake, later “El Draco,” the terror of the Spanish fleet. Their adventures succeed in turning a golden profit but at a very dark cost.
This is a love story. This is a story about what makes us human. This is a story about reaching for the stars. Lydia Netzer’s poetic narration in Shine Shine Shine transports us to the Moon.
We meet Sunny Mann living in an immaculate Georgian house in a perfectly geometrically gridded neighborhood in Norfolk, Virginia and hosting a get-together with her girlfriends. She is perfectly manicured and coiffed and dressed in cute maternity wear, as she is pregnant with her second child. The ladies gossip about Les Weathers, the perfect news anchor, who lives nearby. The girls chat about Sunny’s brilliant and rich but odd astronaut husband, Maxon, who is on a rocket on the way to colonize the moon. Sunny is embodiment of the well-off suburban stay-at-home mom, including the silver minivan.
Marian Caldwell has it all. She’s the producer of a critically-acclaimed TV show. She’s deeply in love with Peter (a powerful player in the entertainment world), who also happens to reciprocate her feelings. She’s gorgeous, lives in a penthouse with stunning views of NYC and never thinks twice about dropping big bucks for haute couture. But in Emily Giffin’s latest novel, Where We Belong, Marion is harboring a secret she’s kept for eighteen years.
Despite being thought of primarily as an author of adult-oriented literature, Neil Gaiman has published several young adult titles over his career, including MirrorMask, M Is for Magic, and The Books of Magic. One of his best loved YA titles was Coraline, published in 2002. Coraline’s imaginative plot, memorable characters and evocative illustrations by Dave McKean made it a modern classic of YA literature, and an excellent film adaptation was released in 2009. Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book follows in the footsteps of Coraline and presents another vivid journey into a richly imaginative fantasy world.
It can be difficult for some modern audiences to remember at what point in American history science fiction began to be taken seriously as a subgenre. Many works are credited as early classics of “serious” science fiction, from Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, but they are all predated by A.E. Van Vogt’s thriller Slan, originally published in 1940.