Shelf Life Blog

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.

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper. She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. In Justina Chen Headley's North of Beautiful, Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college but she gets pushed off course by her controlling father. When a handsome, quirky Goth boy sees her for who she really is Terra is forced in yet another direction.

The red-stained birthmark on Terra’s right cheek isn’t the only challenge she has to overcome. She’s with her insensitive boyfriend for all the wrong reasons. Her malicious father, a mapmaker with a humiliating secret, is critical to the point of verbal abuse. And her family is falling apart. But Terra is a likable girl, who desperately wants to be accepted for who she is – flaws and all. A cast of well-developed characters also make this a fun and touching story.

If You Like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

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.

Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elsbeth Graham

Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elsbeth Graham is based on a centuries-old legend about tea-picking monkeys.  As the story begins, the reader meets Tashi, a young girl who lives alone with her mother, a tea picker, in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains.   Each day Tashi accompanies her mother and aunts who travel to the rolling tea plantations to pick tea. While the adults work in the fields, Tashi plays and shares her lunch with a troupe of monkeys under the shade of an ancient tree.  

Tashi’s life is disrupted when her mother falls ill and is unable to pick the tea that not only provides for their day-to-day needs, but also would pay for a doctor to heal her mother.  Tashi sees this as a problem that goes “around and around, like a snake with its tail in its mouth.” Tashi decides to try and take her mother's place and pick the tea herself. How will a young girl fill a basket full of tea when the basket is taller than she is?

What Is Left the Daughter by Howard Norman

Howard Norman's newest novel takes the reader back to a setting - Nova Scotia - familiar to  fans of his previous works,  and back in time to the 1940s when the Canadian Maritime provinces were vulnerable to German attack and even more remote than they remain today.  I am among the fans of this and two of Norman's earlier novels, The Bird Artist and The Museum Guard, where each offered a compelling mix of interesting characters and unique takes on love, death, and loneliness.

What Is Left the Daughter is structured as a series of letters from Wyatt Hillyer to his long absent daughter. The opening paragraph hints of the drama to be revealed if we read on:

"Marlais, today is March 26, 1967, your twenty-first birthday. I'm writing because I refuse any longer to have my life defined by what I haven't told you. I've waited until now to relate the terrible incident tht I took part in on October 16, 1942, when I was nineteen."

Even in those few words, something of the letter writer's gentle, thoughtful character reveals itself.