Shelf Life Blog

If you like the "Sword of Truth" series by Terry Goodkind...

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.

If you liked the "Sword of Truth" series, by Terry Goodkind, for the way an ordinary person rises to be a hero and for the way the story was flavored by the author with humor and suspense, you may enjoy these titles:

Good Omens

by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
"From two delightful imaginations comes a comic masterpiece in which the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride motorcycles, the hound of the devil chases sticks, and the end of the world is subject to Murphys Law."-catalog summary


Bill the Galactic Hero
by Harry Harrison
"It was the highest honor to defend the Empire against the dreaded Chingers, an enemy race of seven-foot-tall lizards. But Bill, a Technical Fertilizer Operator from a planet of farmers, wasn't interested in honor-he was only interested in two things: his chosen career, and the shapely curves of Inga-Maria Calyphigia. Then a recruiting robot shanghaied him with knockout drops, and he came to in deep space, aboard the Empire warship Christine Keeler. And from there, things got even worse... From the sweltering fuse room aboard the Keeler, where he loses an arm while blasting a Chinger spaceship, to the Department of Sanitation far below the world-city of Helior, where he finds peace, job security, and unlimited trash...here is Bill, a pure-hearted fool fighting a deluxe cast of robots, androids, and aliens in a never-ending losing battle to preserve his humanity while upholding the glory of the Empire."-catalog summary

Trick or Treat Smell My Feet! By Lisa Desimini

A pair of particularly nasty twin witches are bad news for the neighborhood in Lisa Desimini’s Trick-or-Treat, Smell My Feet! They chase kids with fire-powered umbrellas, steal their neighbors’ socks, and fool with everyone’s electricity on stormy nights.

This Halloween, the witches have hatched a particularly evil plan to foil the children’s Halloween fun. Brewing a foul concoction made of smelly socks, the greenish smoke rolling out of the chimney spreads across town and affects a key change in the typical Halloween procedure. Instead of saying, “Trick or Treat!” kids have no choice but to say “Smell my feet!” when going door to door. Worse still, instead of candy, the kids get a slammed door in their faces.
 
Luckily, a pair of sweet, pink socks accidentally falls into the witches’ brew, and their plan backfires in a funny way. Halloween is saved for the neighborhood kids, and the twin witches are even given another chance to be a little nicer, although who knows if they will take it. Given their love of black, their mean disposition, and pinched, green faces, I wouldn’t bet on it.
 
Lisa Desimini’s book is great fun to read with preschoolers and early elementary students. The witches are just scary enough, and the cut-paper illustrations are perfect. This story is a great addition to your Halloween read-aloud tradition!
 

A New England Fish Tale: Seafood Recipes and Observations of a Way of Life from a Fisherman's Wife

Martha Watson Murphy’s A New England Fish Tale combines two of my favorite things: good recipes and folk culture. The best of these books are like visiting with new friends at their kitchen tables. Alongside Fish Tale’s recipes are photos and information both historic and modern that capture some of the atmospheric flavor of New England maritime life.

The author is a commercial fisherman’s wife who never expected to become part of that world, but she learned to respect it and make the most of it. As seen on Deadliest Catch and A Perfect Storm, it’s a hard and dangerous life for those who go out to the sea to catch a living. The loved ones left at home can usually expect a bounty of seafood when the boats come in so it’s very much the focus of fishermen’s family cuisine, much as it is here in our Chesapeake Bay region. While we certainly do have favorite seafood recipes in Virginia, getting more creative takes on them beyond our traditional steamed crabs, fried oysters, and crab cakes is always a welcome experience.
 
The recipes contained here are largely of Murphy’s devising. In addition to being a fisherman’s wife, she is also a professional chef who ran the award-winning Murphy’s Bed & Breakfast in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Although New England fishermen of Melville’s time surely never saw Clam and Potato Pizza or Mussel-Filled Focaccia on their dinner tables, those recipes look tasty as does more traditional fare such as Old-Fashioned Fish and Chips and Panfried Flounder with Lemon and Wine Sauce.

I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle

The awkwardness, the loneliness, the humiliation and the anxiety...high school has it all for you. This is one of the messages in Larry Doyle’s devilishly witty debut novel I Love You, Beth Cooper. On graduation day, Denis Cooverman makes those five words the basis of his valedictorian speech, declaring his love to that perfect girl that he constantly sat behind…but never actually spoke to. 

Sure, she was the head cheerleader and he was the debate team captain. And sure, she hung out with a posse of foxy young women while he spent his high school years with his obsessively movie-quoting buddy Richard Munsch. And it's an absolute fact that Denis cannot hold a conversation without constantly peppering it with random bits of inane knowledge. But after high school, none of that should matter anymore...right? 

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

This past weekend, the film adaptation of Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story opened in theaters across the country. Vizzini’s book centers on a smart teenager named Craig Gilner, who has had growing issues of anxiety and depression since joining an extremely selective, intense private high school in Manhattan. After obsessively studying and getting a perfect score on the entrance exam, Craig finds himself in way over his head, drowning in a sea of labs and math equations. Partying and pining for his best friend’s girl doesn’t help matters either.

Craig can’t sleep or eat. During an especially fitful day, he makes a decision to call 1-800-SUICIDE. Their suggestion for him to check into an emergency room brings Craig to Six North, a Brooklyn psychiatric hospital...for adults. There Craig finds a collection of people at least twice his age with a variety of mental issues. Strangely enough, he finds it incredibly easy to make friends. Craig starts to compare his issues to his new peers, and finds life in Six North to be simultaneously simpler and more complicated than his regular life. His own evaluation of life, friendships, and his doctors help to push Craig in a better direction.

If you like "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen...

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 first place to start is to read all of Jane Austen’s novels. She only had six novels published, but no writer has ever surpassed her in writing the novel of manners, revealing the human heart through the minutiae of social interaction.

Emma. by Jane Austen - As daughter of the richest, most important man in the small provincial village of Highbury, Emma Woodhouse is firmly convinced that it is her right--perhaps even her "duty"--to arrange the lives of others. Considered by most critics to be Austen's most technically brilliant achievement, "Emma" sparkles with ironic insights into self-deception, self-discovery, and the interplay of love and power.

Mansfield Park  by Jane Austen - Fanny is an impoverished young woman, snubbed by society, who earns the respect and love of her cousin in this classic set in 19th century England.



 
 

Oliver Nocturne: The Vampire's Photograph

Oliver Nocturne, hero of Kevin Emerson's The Vampire's Photograph, is your typical 13-year-old vampire. At least that’s what he always thought. He’s the youngest in his family, which consists of a businessman father, a sophisticated mother, and a bossy older brother.

Early one evening, while having trouble sleeping; Oliver hears a sound upstairs. Sneaking out of his coffin because his parents and brother are still asleep, he creeps upstairs into the decrepit human house that serves as a decoy above his families vampire crypt. There he encounters Emalie, a human girl around his age. She is snooping around the house and taking photographs. Oliver knows he should turn her in, but he's too enthralled by her presence to do more than watch her. When a careless misstep alerts Emalie to Oliver’s presence, she snaps a picture of him and runs off.

The Succession: A Novel of Elizabeth and James

She killed his mother and kept him on a cheap allowance for decades, but James VI of Scotland learned to play the political game successfully and survived the Virgin Queen to become the supreme ruler of Britain and her fledgling colonies. Just the years-long strain of their relations would be enough in itself to create a satisfying novel for history fans. But George Garrett took it further in The Succession. He gives us the rulers’ views and often their exact correspondence, but he goes far deeper than most historical novelists in recreating the personalities of the age.

The Queen’s spying messenger riding hell-bent for leather; drunken and fearless border reivers; a condemned noble priest hiding in plain sight; an actor full of bluff and bravado; Elizabeth’s too-young, too-ambitious lover; and her brilliant, crookbacked secretary are all players on this stage of statecraft. This is no romance but rather a swirling journey back to a time when it meant something to be ruler of the realm. What’s at stake for these bit characters? Power, riches, adventure, sometimes freedom as well as their very lives. Some will perish by the Queen’s command on the rack or by the blade. The Succession is too intellectually and emotionally honest to pretend there are no losers when a crown’s at stake.

In The Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time by Peter Lovenheim

This title of this book, In The Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time intrigued me because I have very little contact with my neighbors and have often wondered if other neighborhoods are the same. Peter Lovenheim, the author, is prompted to better understand his neighbors and his neighborhood after one of his neighbors, Dr. Wills, murders his wife and then kills himself. Their two children, who were home at the time, ran to a neighbor’s house for assistance. Although they did not know their neighbors, the children’s mother had the foresight to tell the children if anything bad happened to run to the home across the street for help.

On the day of the murder, Wills’ wife was afraid of her husband and tried to contact her best friend who lived across town, but she was not home. Lovenheim was troubled by the fact that the woman had no one to turn to in her neighborhood for help. He also wants to understand how such a tragic event could have virtually no impact on the neighborhood.

I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb

Let’s face it, people--this vampire craze might just be on its way out. Passé. Gone from undead to dead again. A new kind of hero has been taking their place. A powerful being with brains, creativity, and money on his side.  This is a new kind of hero for the ages: The Super-villain.

Josh Lieb’s new book, “I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President,” does not deal with a Lex Luthor from Superman or a Gru from Despicable Me. His main character, Oliver Watson, is still in the seventh grade, but his secret criminal empire is so strong that by the time he turns 18, world domination will be no big deal. In the meantime, he’s playing dumb….really dumb. From his peers to his parents, no one suspects that the class moron has been acting this whole time.