Shelf Life Blog
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.
Let me get this out of the way: if you're not a "computer person," someone with more than a vague knowledge of computer networking technology, Brain Jack, by Brian Falkner, is probably not the book for you. If, however, you ARE such a person, Brain Jack will start off as the kind of thriller that you think you will love, but its ending, like so many other cyber-thrillers, feels rushed and absurd. Don’t get me wrong--you'll enjoy reading it, but don't expect anything too deep from this book.
Sam is the generic hero of our story. He's 17; he's a computer prodigy; and he's going to save the country from itself. The world of Brain Jack is set only a few years into our future. Falkner does a good job of building a world that, initially, is entirely conceivable based on our present. Computer technology is even more prevalent, and its consequences all the more potent. Las Vegas has been the victim of a nuclear attack that has left it in ruins, and the rest of the country is decaying under strict martial conditions.
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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
In early nineteenth-century England, an orphaned young woman accepts employment as a governess at Thornfield Hall, a country estate owned by the mysteriously remote Mr. Rochester. (catalog summary)
If you enjoyed this book's combination of romance and mystery themes and are interested in similar works from the time period, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
The Moonstone, a yellow diamond looted from an Indian temple and believed to bring bad luck to its owner, is bequeathed to Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night the priceless stone is stolen again and when Sergeant Cuff is brought in to investigate the crime, he soon realizes that no one in Rachel's household is above suspicion. Hailed by T. S. Eliot as "the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels," The Moonstone is a marvelously taut and intricate tale of mystery, in which facts and memory can prove treacherous and not everyone is as they first appear. (catalog summary)
The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
Edwin Drood is contracted to marry orphan Rosa when he comes of age, but when they find that duty has gradually replaced affection, they agree to break the engagement off. Shortly afterwards, in the middle of a storm on Christmas Eve, Edwin disappears, leaving nothing but some personal belongings and the suspicion that his jealous uncle John Jasper, madly in love with Rosa, is the killer. And beyond this presumed crime there are further intrigues: the dark opium underworld of sleepy cathedral town Cloisterham, and the sinister double life of choirmaster Jasper, whose drug-fuelled fantasy life belies his respectable appearance. Dickens died before completing Edwin Drood, leaving its tantalizing mystery unsolved and encouraging generations of readers to try to work out what happened next. (catalog summary)
From the time she was quite young, Sylvia Earle loved the outdoors. She spent her early childhood on a farm in New Jersey exploring the animals and plants around her. Her family moved to Florida when Sylvia was twelve, to a home with a backyard on the Gulf of Mexico. Once Sylvia began exploring the waters of the Gulf, she found her life’s calling. Throughout her career as an oceanographer, Sylvia has been driven to push the boundaries of the possible in order to find out more about the underwater world she loves so much.
This book has a brilliant title: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. The oxymoron continues in the characters, the plot and the language—its poetic style contrasts with the violence of the Old West. It’s a Western but with twists on the genre; the novel has brutality mixed with moments of sweetness and humor.
The main characters are killers with bruised pasts: Charlie Sisters is the epitome of Old West: brutal, money-hungry and cold; Eli Sisters, the narrator of the tale, loves to give away his money, has a soft heart for barmaids, and is questioning his profession and his future. Eli loves his poor excuse for a horse, Tub, and embraces dental hygiene!
Shambling Towards Hiroshima is a brisk and inventive novel that incorporates elements of science fiction, humor, historical fiction, and moody introspection. James Morrow utilizes these disparate narrative modes in order to portray the life story of a B-movie actor named Syms Thorley. Thorley has spent most of his screen time bringing monsters to life. His devoted fans fondly remember him as “Kha-Ton-Ra the living mummy, Corpuscula the alchemical creature, and Gorgantis, King of the Lizards.” However, no one suspects that Gorgantis, a grotesque fire- breathing lizard, originated as a top secret military project designed to swiftly end World War II.