Shelf Life Blog

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.

I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

I recently moved to Fredericksburg from Maryland, and as much as I’m enjoying my new life in Virginia, I still miss my old haunts. I can always rely on author Laura Lippman (former Baltimore Sun reporter and wife of David Simon—Homicide and The Wire) to capture Baltimore’s unique flavor.

In I'd Know You Anywhere, fifteen-year-old Elizabeth is abducted by Walter Bowman, a man suspected of raping and murdering a series of young women. Another victim is found dead and Walter is finally apprehended. In contrast to her peers, Elizabeth, who obeyed her captor’s every command, survives the hellish ordeal. Walter is tried, convicted and sentenced to die.
 
Over twenty years later, he holds the distinction for being the longest Death Row survivor in Virginia. But Walter’s time is running out. In a last-ditch attempt to reverse his inevitable fate, he contacts Elizabeth, now Eliza. By manipulating and muddying the facts, can he convince her that he, too, is a victim? Can he persuade her to save his life?

Numbers (Audiobook) by Rachel Ward

Jem stays away from people.  She is a loner and she likes it that way.  Then she meets Spider one day under a bridge in London.  As much as she tries, he won't leave her alone.  She rarely makes eye contact with people and for good reason.  When Jem looks into people's eyes she can see the day they are going to die.  She looks into Spider's eyes.  This is the basis for the story Numbers by Rachel Ward (audiobook version).

Despite Jem's efforts, she and Spider form a friendship, which eventually evolves into something more when they decide to run away together.  This happens after a trip to the London Eye.  Jem looks into the eyes of the people waiting in line to board the attraction and she realizes that they all have the same  death date...that very day.  Jem suddenly realizes that something catastrophic is going to happen and that she and Spider have to get away immediately.  While they are running away a tragic event occurs.  Jem and Spider are safe...but are they? The surveillance cameras capture their escape and suddenly they are wanted by authorities for questioning.  Jem and Spider steal a car and head west across England.   As they continue to outrun the authorities, their relationship grows. 

Fast paced and gritty ...this audio will keep you on the edge of your seat.  The reader is adept at the various accents found throughout England.  The story is touching and engaging.  Jem and Spider provide such compelling characters that you can't help rooting for them. 

The ending was stunning and completey unexpected...at least by me!!!

If You Like "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls...

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 like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, here are several inspiring memoirs of people who have survived extremely abusive and difficult childhoods, yet who have found success in their adult lives. The stories are grim but inspiring.

All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg.
This haunting, harrowing, and gloriously moving recollection of a life on the American margin tells the story of Rick Bragg, who grew up dirt poor in Alabama, and who became a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for "The New York Times". 
 

A Piece of Cake: A Memoir by Cupcake Brown.
The bestselling memoir of Cupcake Brown's harrowing and inspiring life from the streets to one of the nation's largest law firms The book bedazzles the reader with the amazing change that is possible in one lifetime.

 

 

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

I just read One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. I really, really enjoyed this book. I love historical fiction and am usually attracted to any new historical fiction title that comes through our Children’s area. I’m just sort of magnetically attracted to these books. But with this one, my radar was ringing in my head and alarms were going off… Check me out… Check me out! The book cover is beautifully illustrated and so attractive! It would catch any reader’s eye, even those reluctant to read “History” books. 

The setting is back in the late 1960’s, Oakland, California, during the beginning of the “Black Panther” movement. It was a time of civil distress and upheaval across the country and within the Black community. It was the time of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. and the clash of their two philosophies.
 
Three young sisters are sent to spend the summer with their mother who they have not seen since the youngest sister was born seven years ago. Big Ma, their grandmother, doesn’t want them to go and warns Pa what a bad idea this is. But, Pa says, ”It’s time. They need to know Cecile.”   

The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry

Charlotte Ellison lives a outwardly beatific and genuinely boring existence at her home in the London suburbs. To her mind, her most vexing problems are her father’s refusal to allow her to read his newspapers—a common enough attitude in Victorian England—and her unresolved, unadmitted crush on her brother-in-law Dominic. Anne Perry’s Cater Street Hangman portrays Charlotte’s extremely circumscribed position as one that might have yawningly gone on for years, filled with good works and a suitable marriage, were it not for the gruesome murders of young girls in the environs of her Cater Street home.

The Great Stink by Clare Clark

Clare Clark's The Great Stink brings to life the literal dank and dismal underbelly of Victorian London.

During the summer of 1858 a heat wave gripped London. The water level in the Thames sank from the accompanying drought. Raw sewage flowed into the Thames, spilled over the banks, and caused a stench that filled the city. The powerful machinery of the House of Commons ground to a halt as a hot, fetid miasma enveloped the chambers. Curtains soaked in a solution of chloride of lime did nothing to block the foul air. The Great Stink had arrived.

An outbreak of cholera rapidly followed. Members of Parliament, sick and dizzy from the heat and smell, finally passed legislation to fund a new sanitary sewage system for the city of London. The newly formed Metropolitan Board of Works got busy. Engineers and surveyors were hired. Massive contracts for bricks and supplies and construction were awarded. The potential for profits - and corruption - was enormous.

Pretty Little Liars

Seventh graders Emily, Spencer, Aria and Hanna worship Alison in Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars. Alison’s the prettiest, most popular girl at Rosewood Day School. When the five girls are thrown together at their school’s charity drive, they quickly become friends. Over a year later, the girls are still friends, but the power Ali wields over them all has them feeling uncomfortable. She knows all of their deep, dark secrets: secrets that could ruin their lives if anyone else found out. When Ali disappears, the four girls are shaken, but also…relieved.

Three years later the girls start getting strange text messages, emails and notes from someone: someone who seems to know all of those secrets that they thought were safe since the disappearance of Ali. The messages get more and more threatening and the girls can’t help but wonder: Is Ali sending the messages? If not, then who?
 

If You Like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams ...

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 Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, outrageous humor may be the draw.
If so, you may want to try one of the books listed below:

The Philosophical Strangler by Eric Flint 
Greyboar's professional career as an assassin for hire falls prey to his penchant for philosophy as moral qualms intervene to cause disaster in even the simplest tasks. The latest fantasy by the author of 1632 features an angst-ridden hero, a fast-talking side-kick, fast-paced action, and bawdy humor. Though sometimes the comedy misses the mark,
Flint tells a multilayered tale of camaraderie in the face of misadventure with apologies to the great philosophers. (Library Journal)

The Steampunk Trilogy by Paul Di Filippo 
Raunchy, uproarious silliness in the time-honored sf tradition of alternative history. (Library Journal) Features 19th century stories of Queen Victoria, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Hottentots in Massachusets.

 

 

Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

A young girl and her cat enter a dark, old, ramshackle house. Ghosts are waiting for her there. As she opens the door they all fly out. This is where the fun begins in Kazuno Kohara’s Ghosts in the House!

The book dodges a potentially frightening situation by having the little girl don a witch hat and immediately contain the ghosts. She washes them out and uses them as helpful household items like tablecloths and curtains. Our main character is not only brave, but friendly too, and the ghosts enjoy assisting her throughout her daily tasks.
 
The charm of the book comes from the simple text combined with bold illustrations. The limited use of color (orange, black, and white) allows the pictures to jump off the page and create a powerful Halloween world for you to enter. White ghosts have a texture and dimension as if someone had stamped them onto the pages with a wood block. All of these stylistic choices make the book feel like a hidden gem from the 1950’s, when really it was only published a couple of years ago. Kohara followed her debut picture book with one that may be worth checking out in a couple of months, the equally delightful Here Comes Jack Frost.
 
Looking for a children’s book that will evoke the spooky fun of Halloween without scaring the younger ones? Kazuno Kohara’s Ghosts in the House! has it all.