Shelf Life Blog

The Weaver's Tale: A Medieval Mystery

Wracked with sickness on a frozen day in 1473, Roger the Chapman collapses on the road in the city of Bristol. Strong as he usually was, he had overestimated his ability to lug his pack of goods the many miles in such gruesome weather. Most of the townspeople want to leave him to die—just such a one might be a plague-bearer—but a weaver’s widow and her young daughter decide to shelter him anyway in Kate Sedley’s The Weaver’s Tale.

Margaret Walker and her daughter Lillis were already regarded with suspicion by their neighbors because of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of Margaret’s father. The town feels guilty for the part it played in the affair, and they have taken to bullying the Walker women. The bullying is bad now, but it seems to be getting worse—perhaps fatally so. Roger agrees to stay in the Walker cottage for several weeks until winter has passed. He can help them with their chores and perhaps, too, help in solving the mystery surrounding the weaver’s death.

32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter

Are you’re looking for an entertaining book to read? Are you also willing to briefly suspend reality--as in what are the chances that two main characters would randomly bump into each other…repeatedly. If you answered “Yes’” to both questions, then let me recommend 32 Candles. This first novel by Ernessa T. Carter will not leave you pondering the meaning of life, but I guarantee you won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough.

Growing up in rural Glass, Mississippi, Davidia Jones lives with her mother Cora, who is both an alcoholic and a prostitute. With no father in the picture, Cora treats her daughter with constant cruelty and contempt. To compound her misery, Davidia is equally ridiculed at school for her plain face and hand-me-down clothing. One night with Cora on the town, Davidia stages an imaginary Tina Turner concert. Arriving home early, Cora brutally beats her daughter for wearing her high heels. Davidia chooses to stop talking…permanently. She maintains her mute state through middle and into high school.

Struts & Frets by Jon Skovron

Sammy Bojar plays guitar in Tragedy of Wisdom with a frightening and talentless lead singer (guess which member chose the name). Most of their practices end in a ragin' tantrum. It looks like a dead-end situation for Sammy and his crew, until a battle of the bands competition gives them a possible chance to record a song for radio play. As Sammy struggles to gain control of his songwriting career, he is helped by his paranoid jazz pianist grandfather and his old best friend/new girlfriend, Jen5. 

Jon Skovron’s debut novel Struts & Frets manages to be authentic in its language and characterization every step of the way. The book is littered with the sort of phrases and people that I can swear I heard and met in high school and at local concerts when I was a teen, right down to the friend who can play video game theme songs with his sweaty, sweaty hand-farts.

If you like "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold

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 Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is a book that takes a tragedy and transforms it: "When we first meet 14-year-old Susie Salmon, she is already in heaven. This was before milk carton photos and public service announcements, she tells us; back in 1973, when Susie mysteriously disappeared, people still believed these things didn't happen. In the sweet, untroubled voice of a precocious teenage girl, Susie relates the awful events of her death and her own adjustment to the strange new place she finds herself. It looks a lot like her school playground, with the good kind of swing sets. With love, longing, and a growing understanding, Susie watches her family as they cope with their grief, her father embarks on a search for the killer, her sister undertakes a feat of amazing daring, her little brother builds a fort in her honor and begin the difficult process of healing." (Book Description)

If you liked The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, then you may like these titles and authors:

Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman
Ethan and Jorie Ford's idyllic life is tested when a photo of the man wanted for a murder and rape committed in Maryland 15 years ago is broadcast on TV. A viewer identifies the suspect as Ethan and he is arrested. As his friends raise money for his defense, Jorie seeks information about the victim, Rachel Morris. After reading Rachel's diary, Jorie begins to wonder about Ethan.  (from What Do I Read Next?)

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
In a small Mississippi town, Harriet Cleve Dusfresnes grows up in the shadow of her brother, who-when she was only a baby-was found hanging dead from a black-tupelo tree in their yard. His killer was never identified, nor has his family, in the years since, recovered from the tragedy. For Harriet, who has grown up largely unsupervised, in a world of her own imagination, her brother is a link to a glorious past she has only heard stories about or glimpsed in photograph albums. Fiercely determined, precocious far beyond her twelve years, and steeped in the adventurous literature of Stevenson, Kipling, and Conan Doyle, she resolves, one summer, to solve the murder and exact her revenge.
Harriet's sole ally in this quest, her friend Hely, is devoted to her, but what they soon encounter has nothing to do with child's play: it is dark, adult, and all too menacing.  (Catalog Description).

A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup

There are a lot of stories out there: boy wizards, girl detectives, wimpy kids, and underpantsed captains. Despite the many possibilities and and numerous titles to read, there may be that ever-lurking fear that there is not a story out there for you. In this is the case, you might want to avoid a panic attack by taking a note from Dr. Cuthbert Soup, head of the National Center for Unsolicited Advice. If you are so brave and wise to follow Soup’s advice, you will be handsomely rewarded with A Whole Nother Story.

This particular tale revolves around inventor Ethan Cheeseman and his three children, who are on the run from a madcap menagerie of pursuers: Secret agents known only by different numbers, evil corporations, a Russian spy and his extremely talented chimp (for one thing, he can speak yak). All of these sundry types wish to get their hands on Cheeseman’s latest creation: A time machine.

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!