Shelf Life Blog

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

 Jane Austen fans rejoice—the comedy of manners is still alive. In her debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson’s plot  is wry, witty, and charming, yet her gentle and sometimes hilarious satire catches human foibles perfectly.

The Testimony of Two Men by Taylor Caldwell

Enter a brilliant surgeon who says exactly what he thinks, no matter whom it offends. He’s almost always right on his controversial diagnoses and drives his fellow doctors mad with his insistence that things be done the right way. He drinks too much sometimes, has few friends, and never, ever suffers fools. But this is not Dr. Gregory House. This is Dr. Jonathan Ferrier, a beleaguered genius who, though acquitted of his pretty wife’s grisly death, is still held accountable for it by many of Hambledon’s citizens in Taylor Caldwell’s A Testimony of Two Men.

Hambledon, Pennsylvania, in 1901 is a small town full of fine, upstanding people and a veritable matrix of malice. Dr. Ferrier has had enough of the place and is packing his bags to light out for the territories—or a big city, or anywhere, really, as long as it isn’t Hambledon. Enter Dr. Robert Morgan, as well-meaning and wet-behind-the-ears as any of House’s famous team. He’s the chosen man, the replacement who’s to buy out Dr. Ferrier’s practice. Is it because he, too, is a budding genius who has impressed Ferrier with his surgical wizardry and diagnostic discoveries? No, in Dr. Ferrier’s words, it is simply because he is the least likely of the candidates to do harm.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games - twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. A revolution is unfolding, and it is up to Katniss to accept her role as the eponymous Mockingjay in Suzanne Collins' third and final installation of the series. In the first book, The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta manage to survive. In book two, Catching Fire, they are sent back in to the arena. Mockingjay picks up the action with the rebels advancing on the Capital and races to a violent conclusion.

In an interview with School Library Journal, author Suzanne Collins explained her obsession with war. She’s the daughter of an Air Force and Vietnam veteran who taught her from an early age about history and war. Inspired by her combination of combat knowledge and reality TV, The Hunger Games is a dystopian country in chaos, in which teenagers are forced to compete to the death as punishment for an earlier rebellion. Mockingjay examines the necessity of war and answers the question: Will Katniss take on the responsibility for countless lives and change the course of the future of Panem?

If you’ve read the first two books in the trilogy, then you must find out how this gripping story ends. If you’re still a newbie to the Hunger Games phenomenon, you’ll want to get on board. The books deliver action, romance, and depth of characters all in a brilliantly visualized future.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead

That time is upon us.  That time when we start sniffling and coughing.  A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead is about one of those days when you just want to go back to bed.  Amos McGee is the cheerful zookeeper at the local zoo.  Every morning he "ambles" down to the bus stop after his breakfast of oatmeal and tea to catch the number 5 bus to the zoo.  When he arrives there he always makes sure to spend time with his friends before he starts working.  He plays chess with the elephant, he races with the turtle, and he sits quietly with the penguin.  This particular day, Amos  wakes up with the sniffles and his legs are achy.  He decides to stay home and not to go to work.

Well, after some time has passed the animals begin to worry when Amos has not arrived at his usual time.  The elephant has the chess board ready, the turtle is ready to race, and the penguin waits patiently alone.  "Where is Amos?" they all wonder.  Tired of waiting and concerned for their friend, the animals decide to go and check on Amos.  So, they board the bus and head to Amos' house, where they arrive to find him not well.  They each tend to Amos in their own special way, and then they end the day with a pot of tea.

Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook

Noreen Kelly worked at Balancing Act Shoes for 18 years as a senior manager, but she did not start walking in The Wildwater Walking Club until she takes a Voluntary Reduction in Force package—or maybe not so voluntary--as she finds out her so-called boyfriend, who has now fallen off the face of the earth, has engineered her buyout. She is unemployed—redundant—and hits rock bottom.

With the help of a quirky set of friends and family, Noreen starts taking steps to reclaim her life. In these days of double-digit unemployment, Claire Cook writes with humor and romance and the plot resonates with our time.

Noreen finds out she is not her resume. She reconnects with her mother, finds new friends in her neighbors Tess and Rosie, helps parent and child, improves her taste in men, gets involved in her community, and gets herself and her life back in shape.

And what about her career? She attends a career coaching group and does find a “Fresh Horizon.”

This book was a fun read, and I got off my couch and took a walk after finishing it!

The Walk by Richard Paul Evans

Richard Paul Evans’ The Walk is a remarkable journey of the spirit. At 28, Alan Christoffersen had it all. He had married the love of his life, owned a wildly successful advertising company, and was settling into a beautiful and comfortable existence in the Seattle suburbs. A good man, a happy man, Alan could not know how soon his world would shatter. When a terrible accident cripples his family life, the faithful husband stands by his beloved McKale, trusting blindly that his business partner and purported best friend will manage his workaday affairs.

At the moment that he finds himself bereaved, betrayed, homeless, and flat-out broke, he does consider a dark and quick way out of the pain.  He manages to pull away from that moment and decides instead to take a far walk from Seattle to Key West, Florida. Now that he has no one and nothing save a tent, a backpack, and very few provisions, it seems as good a thing to do as any other. Some prefer to grieve and ponder alone, and Alan is one of those people.

Fallen by Lauren Kate

In Lauren Kate’s Fallen, Luce starts life at her new boarding school with a secret. Well, to be honest, most kids there have secrets. The Sword & Cross school is hardly a swanky prep school, with doors open to anyone with enough cash. Rather, it’s a reform school for the hardboiled repeat offenders who really have no where else to go, except behind bars. Luce has been court-ordered to attend The Sword & Cross after the mysterious death of her boyfriend in a fire, where she was the only other person present.

Luce already has a tarnished past, having complained of seeing dark shapes since early childhood, which lead to years of psychiatrist appointments and anti-psychotic medication. She has always seen the shadows: “No one knew about the murky shapes she sometimes saw in the darkness. They’d always come to her.” However, Luce learns early on that no one else can see them, and so tries to keep her fear to herself. Unfortunately, the shadows make things happen, things that can hurt other people, like her doomed boyfriend Trevor.

If You Like The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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 Help by Kathryn Stockett is a historical fiction novel set in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, where "there are lines that are not crossed. With the civil rights movement exploding all around them, three women start a movement of their own, forever changing a town and the way women--black and white, mothers and daughters--view one another." (Book Description)

If you liked The Help by Kathryn Stockett, then you may like these books with similar themes:

Clover by Dori Sanders
After her father dies within hours of being married to a white woman, a ten-year-old black girl learns with her new mother to overcome grief and to adjust to a new place in their rural black South Carolina community.
(Catalog summary)

 

 

Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas
When University of Michigan sophomore Celeste Tyree travels to Mississippi to volunteer her efforts in Freedom Summer, she's assigned to help register voters in the small town of Pineyville, a place best known for a notorious lynching that occurred only a few years earlier.

As the long, hot summer unfolds, Celeste befriends several members of the community, but there are also those who are threatened by her and the change that her presence in the South represents. Finding inner strength as she helps lift the veil of oppression and learns valuable lessons about race, social change, and violence, Celeste prepares her adult students for their showdown with the county registrar. All the while, she struggles with loneliness, a worried father in Detroit, and her burgeoning feelings for Ed Jolivette, a young man also in Mississippi for the summer.  (Catalog summary)

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, by Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain's first book, Kitchen Confidential, was a surprise when it hit national best seller lists; even the author was taken aback. He thought it would appeal to food-service workers in the New York city area, as it was a "look behind the curtain" of local restaurants. The secret to Bourdain's success in this and later books is his passion for food and his ability to write well why he finds food exciting. We get two Tonys in his books: bad Tony and good Tony. Good Tony is articulate and writes well about food or preparation of food. Bad Tony is foul-mouthed and angry. We get both Tonys in Medium Raw.

A Brave Vessel by Hobson Woodward

The subtitle of A Brave Vessel by Hobson Woodward says it all: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest. The voyage of the Sea Venture, May to July, 1609, featured an encounter with a perfect storm that flung the little boat ashore on the island of Bermuda instead of its intended destination, the fledgling colony at Jamestown.

The author is a credible historian (the text is fleshed out with ample notes and an extensive bibliography) with a novelist's skill at telling a story enlived with fleshed out characters, dramatic  tension, and pacing that make it a true page turner. One of the Sea Venture's passengers was William Strachey, a writer whose extensive chronicle of the castaways' experiences of the desert island was widely circulated on his successful return to England and clearly was familiar to Shakespeare who apparently wrote his play while the news was still fresh.

Who were these people?  How did they survive?  How did they hand build a boat capable of getting them up to Jamestown and what did they find when they arrived?  What elements did Shakespeare incorporate into his play?  Fascinating reading, with an amazing finish.