Shelf Life Blog

Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith

Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith’s Corduroy Mansions is about Family. The group of tenants in the genteel but slightly shabby house in the Pimlico neighborhood in London cares about each other and finds joy in the simple things in life.

This is an ensemble piece with a simple plot and many eccentric and likable characters.  There is William French, a widower and wine merchant, who cannot get his 24-year-old son to move out.  He “borrows’ Freddy de la Hay, a terrier with human behavior and thoughts, to get the dog-hating Eddie to move out. Instead, William’s ersatz girlfriend moves in. On the floor below live four young women: Dee works in a health food shop; Caroline is studying art history at Sotheby’s; Jenny is MP Oedipus Snark’s assistant; Jo, an Australian, is assistant manager at a local wine bar. Below them lives a quiet accountant in his mid-forties called Basil Wickramsinghe.   The characters touch each other’s lives and have moral dilemmas to solve.

Slim Calm Sexy Yoga by Tara Stiles

Slim Calm Sexy Yoga by Tara Stiles

Tara Stiles' Slim Calm Sexy Yoga is full of easy-to-follow 15-minute routines that target specific fitness goals and health issues.

In her introduction Stiles states: "My approach is based on harnessing the healing power of yoga and applying it in the most targeted way possible - fixing whatever hurts you, stresses you, or makes you sad, in less time than it takes to wash and dry your hair."

Stiles begins by discussing the concept of 15-minute yoga and three essential yoga principles: breathing, meditation and body alignment. She goes on to cover the essential yoga poses that she'll combine into the various 15-minute routines. You'll find lots of large explanatory pictures in this section. From there the book is divided into chapters focusing on "Slim," "Calm," "Sexy," "Fit," "Gorgeous," and "Healthy" yoga, each offering several routines (with pictures) that address each issue. The book wraps up with tips and advice on making yoga more a part of your life, mainly through attending classes.

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex

“I think sometimes you think you’re the hero of the story, and sometimes you think you’re the victim…but you’re not either.”

Douglas Lee is rightfully confused in Adam Rex’s new novel Fat Vampire. He is the title character, doomed to remain a chubby fifteen-year-old for all time. He was trying to lose weight before he was attacked at his family’s cabin, but the curse of a vampire means that he will never change. Eternally hefty, eternally hungry for blood. 
 
At first, he gets by biting cattle and stealing from a bloodmobile (aided by his partner in nerd-crime Jay). But an incident at the San Diego Zoo while trying to suck a panda has blown Doug’s cover, and the host of the basic cable show Vampire Hunters is now close behind and frantic for high ratings.

If you like Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout

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.

Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout "follows a recent widower from grief through breakdown to recovery in 1959 smalltown Maine. The father of two young girls and the newly appointed minister of the fictional town of West Annett, Tyler Caskey is quietly devastated by wife Lauren's death following a prolonged illness. Tyler's older daughter Katherine is deeply antisocial at school and at home; his adorable younger daughter Jeannie has been sent to live upstate with Tyler's overbearing mother. Talk begins to spread of Katherine's increasing unsoundness and of Tyler's possible affair with his devoted-though-suspicious housekeeper, Connie Hatch. It's spearheaded by the gossipy Ladies' Aide Society, whose members bear down on Tyler like the dark clouds of a gathering storm. Meanwhile, Tyler's grief shades into an angry, cynical depression, leaving him unable to parent his troubled daughter or minister to his congregation, and putting his job and family at risk." (Publisher's Weekly)

 If you enjoyed the well-written characters of Elizabeth Strout's "Abide with Me", you may enjoy these titles:

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
"The idyllic lives of civic-minded environmentalists Patty and Walter Berglund come into question when their son moves in with aggressive Republican neighbors, green lawyer Walter takes a job in the coal industry, and go-getter Patty becomes increasingly unstable and enraged."-catalog summary

 

 

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
"In 1956, as a minister approaches the end of his life, he writes a letter to his son chronicling three previous generations of his family, a story that stretches back to the Civil War and reveals uncomfortable family secrets."-catalog summary


 

Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick

The jacket notes of Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick promise readers that the novel they have picked up will "retrace the story of Henry James's The Ambassadors --- the work he considered his best --- but as a photographic negative, in which the plot is the same but the meaning is reversed."  A tip of the hat to James promises Americans in Europe, and sure enough Ozick's tale involves one Bea Nightingale and her efforts to track and retrieve a nephew gone astray in post-World War II Paris.

Bea's journey [beginning in the summer of 1952]  takes her inside the lives of her brother's family, forces her to retrace the path of her own life, and expands her world view as she comes into intimate contact with Europe's "ghosts," the waves of refugees displaced, wounded who have "washed up in Paris," the war "still in them."

The Knitter's Year: 52 Make-in-a-Week Projects - Quick Gifts and Seasonal Knits by Debbie Bliss

For anyone whose New Year's resolution is to knit more The Knitter's Year: 52 Make-in-a-Week Projects - Quick Gifts and Seasonal Knits by Debbie Bliss offers great inspiration by providing patterns for 52 quick (depending on your skill level) knitting projects.

Bliss offers a project per week, grouped by season. The projects she's chosen are a nice mix of home decor and functional items (pillow cases, chair covers and door stops), clothing (baby cardigan, hat and sandals), accessories (scarves, hats, gloves and bags), and whimsical items (bunny egg cozies, tech gadget covers, Christmas tree decorations and pompom garland). Of course, all projects call for Debbie Bliss yarns, but you could easily substitue a yarn of your choice. However, Bliss's yarns are beautiful and luxurious, so it might be worth a little bit of a splurge to use her line. Since the projects are small you wouldn't have to make a huge investment.

Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire, by Ruth Downie

Gaius Petrius Ruso has just arrived for duty in the Britain, a far backwater of the Roman Empire. He’s been assigned to the Valeria Victrix Legion as Medicus, serving the legion and the natives living in the town surrounding the barracks. When the only other doctor on staff is poisoned by a plate of oysters at the local bar/bordello, Ruso works on alone. Tramping the town in an exhausted stupor, he encounters an odious merchant beating an unconscious slave girl—who clearly has a badly broken arm.

Ruso wants to forget he ever saw the girl. He doesn’t have the money to buy her. He has no use for her. But it’s clear that if she stays as she is, she’ll die. So Ruso does buy her, with the plan to heal her and put her to work.  But pretty and clever Tilla has other plans. As a point of honor, she wants to die, and there’s very little Ruso can do about it as she has no plans to tell him.

Bone by Jeff Smith

Banished from their small village, three small, bald cousins aimlessly wander in the desert. The one with a star on his shirt is greedy and sneaky. The tallest one is jolly but dim-witted. The quietest one is a hero in the making, though he doesn’t know that yet. They quickly become separated and when they reunite they are wrapped up in the beginnings of a brutal war involving humans, dragons, and a frightening race of giant rat-creatures…stupid stupid rat creatures.

Jeff Smith’s graphic novel series Bone manages to combine the look and humor of Disney cartoons while tackling the sort of epic adventure that one might find in J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis.

Fone Bone, our hero, and his cousins owe their looks to early Disney characters, particularly the work of Carl Barks, who created Scrooge McDuck comics and revolutionized the drawing style of Donald Duck for the company. Recognizing Barks’ influence baffled me at first. Donald was not someone’s subject to be reformed and retooled. Similar to Athena, he sprung forth from Walt Disney’s head, already wearing his sailor suit…without the pants. Right?
 
Apparently not. Just like those famous ducks, the Bone cousins have large heads, round bellies, low centers of gravity, and the same aversion to pants. All of this might make it hard for a reader to take their epic quest seriously, but Smith valiantly strikes at the importance of their mission.

If you like The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

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.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory is about: "Two sisters competing for the greatest prize: the love of a king. When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family's ambitious plots as the king's interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king, and take her fate into her own hands." (Book Summary).

If you like The Other Boleyn Girl and historical fiction about royalty that explores the details of court life, you may enjoy these selections:

The Creation of Eve
by Lynn Cullen
Renaissance portraitist Sofonisba Anguissola joins the Spanish court of Felipe II after a scandal in her native Italy and becomes embroiled in a love triangle involving the royal couple and the king's illegitimate half-brother, Don Juan. (catalog summary)


 

Crowner Royal
by Bernard Knight
It is April 1196. At the command of King Richard and his Chief Justiciar Hubert Walter, county coroner Sir John de Wolfe -- along with his officer Gwyn of Polruan and clerk Thomas de Peyne -- has left Exeter for London where he is to become the first Coroner of the Verge. Thrust into the intrigues of the closed world of the Royal Court, John quickly finds himself embroiled in a case of theft, blackmail, espionage, and murder. (catalog summary)
 

Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann

In Pinkalicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann, Pinkalicious is a little girl who is obsessed with pink and cupcakes. On a rainy day, she makes pink cupcakes with her mom. And she can’t stop eating them! She eats so many, in fact, that she turns a bright shade of pink. Pinkalicious is delighted. How perfect that from the top of her head all the way down to the tip of her toes she is the prettiest bubblegum shade of pink!

Even after a bath, Pinkalicious’s dad cannot make the pink go away. Her parents take her to the doctor who prescribes a strict diet of green vegetables and no more pink. No more pink cupcakes?! No more cotton candy?! Not even watermelon?!