Shelf Life Blog

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.

If you like books by Lee Child...

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 are a fan of Lee Child's books, try these titles and authors:

The General's Daughter
by Nelson DeMille.
West Point graduate and daughter of legendary General "Fighting Joe" Campbell, Ann Campbell is the pride of Fort Hadley, until one morning when her lifeless body is found naked and bound on the firing range. Paul Brenner is a member of the army's elite undercover investigative unit and the man in charge of this politically explosive case. Teamed with rape specialist Cynthia Sunhill, Brenner is about to learn just how many people were sexually, emotionally, and dangerously involved with the Army's "golden girl".
 

Separation of Power by Vince Flynn
Newly appointed CIA Director Dr. Irene Kennedy is the target of an inside plot to destroy her and end the American President's term. Even worse, Israel uncovers an Iraqi plan to enter the nuclear arms race. Now, Rapp has two weeks to beat the clock--or watch the world go up in flames. (Catalog description)

 
 
 

Henry in Love by Peter McCarty

In Peter McCarty's Henry in Love, magic can be found in the simplest pleasures of an ordinary school day. The main character gets ready for school and decides that this is the day that he is going to talk to the loveliest girl in the class. Perfect cartwheels, games of tag, and the sharing of afternoon snacks follow. 

The look of McCarty's characters is quite special. The illustrations are reminiscent of two children's classics. Henry and his classmates, all animals, recall the characters from Rosemary Wells' Max and Ruby books, but with smaller eyes and a less cartoony demeanor. They look sweet without treading into cutesy territory. The wide margins and very selective use of color reminds one of Ian Falconer's Olivia books. 

The Collector’s Garden: Designing With Extraordinary Plants by Ken Druse

One of the gardening goals I find most elusive is to create a garden that is more than just a collection of plants but actually a cohesive whole. The Collector’s Garden: Designing With Extraordinary Plants by Ken Druse demonstrates that even obsessed collectors can also create gardens that are beautifully designed.

Druse, a noted garden writer and photographer, takes a look at the various kinds of plant collectors: aesthetes, specialists, missionaries and hunters, as he styles them. Some specialize in old roses, others in trilliums or desert plants, others in finding plants new to commerce by traveling to Asia or South America and bringing back specimens.  An overview of the gardens and gardeners is accompanied by gorgeous photos, including many close-ups of plants as well as the sweeps and drifts of a successfully designed garden. The gardens are as extraordinary as the obsessed gardeners. I was particularly struck by three of them.

The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer hailing from Mississippi’s Delta region, authored The Robber Bridegroom, a steamy and chaotic story set during her home state’s antebellum years. Although loosely based on a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, this Robber Bridegroom is no murderous Bluebeard. Jamie Lockhart is, however, a handsome scoundrel with no more compunction against relieving pretty ladies of their virtue than their jewels. He meets his match in beautiful Rosamond Musgrove, who goes on everyday errands wearing her one silk gown while singing love ballads.

The Robber Bridegroom is the kind of yarn that gifted story-spinners can make out of loose threads of myth and folk tale wound together with a peculiar variety of language-rich Southern humor. She somehow binds together a jealous and mildly-murderous stepmother, a band of untrustworthy robbers (imagine that!), true love—with flaws, and raucous Mike Fink, legendary bully and “King of the Keel-boaters.”  The story is larger than life—a fantasy, really—and made it onto the Broadway stage as a musical in the 1970s. It’s still showing on the playbills of colleges and dinner theaters around the country.

Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser

An anonymous blogger  named Str-S-d announces that she hates Lucy Cunningham and wishes her dead.  A few days later Lucy disappears. Madison Archer drove Lucy home the night she went missing.  Madsion receives messages that warn she could be next.  The mysterious blogger posts another name and that student goes missing...and then a third.  Madison decides that she needs to find her missing friends before it is too late. In addition to the strange blog postings, Madsion receives hastily scribbled notes from a "friend."  These notes provide clues as to the circumstances surrounding the disappearances of Madison's friends.

Madison is so freaked out by all of this that she hardly notices the attentions of Tyler.  He is the new boy in town and kind of mysterious.  No one knows much about him.  He and Madison work together to find their missing classmates.  As Madison and Tyler become closer, there are some details that are revealed about him.  He is not who he says he is and has a motive for being in that town that goes beyond going to the high school.

Another great book from teen favorite author Todd Strasser.  This one will keep you on the edge of your seat, and you won't believe the ending!!

If you like Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

If you like Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

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.  You can browse the book matches here.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: "The novel, told in flashback by nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski, recounts the wild and wonderful period he spent with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, a traveling circus he joined during the Great Depression. When 23-year-old Jankowski learns that his parents have been killed in a car crash, leaving him penniless, he drops out of Cornell veterinary school and parlays his expertise with animals into a job with the circus, where he cares for a menagerie of exotic creatures, including an elephant who only responds to Polish commands. He also falls in love with Marlena, one of the show's star performers-a romance complicated by Marlena's husband, the unbalanced, sadistic circus boss who beats both his wife and the animals Jankowski cares for." (Publisher's Weekly Review)

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen has become a favorite for book club discussions because it is so rich in interesting characters, historical background and compelling plot. Here are several other titles that are popular with book clubs because there is so much to discuss in all of them.

The Adventures of Miles and Isabel by Tom Gilling
"Writhing with labor pains, the very pregnant actress Eliza McGinty is on stage portraying Hamlet in lieu of the drunken actor originally slated for the part, while in the audience the demure Mrs. Ernest Dowling is having contractions of her own. Miles and Isabel would share more than the same birth date in 1856; they would be children of the Industrial Revolution, fascinated by the power of turning cogs and flying machines. Isabel is the child of privilege and a victim of her own femininity in a male-dominated society, and Miles is the illegitimate son of an actress traveling as part of a levitation act, but their common love of invention and possibility would put them on a journey of souls destined to meet. Fantastical and magical, this novel is peppered with humor and the excitement of a time period laden with anticipation and opportunities for the creative, restless minds of innovation."-Booklist review


The Bee’s Kiss by Barbara Cleverly
“It's 1926, and Joe Sandilands is back from Ranipur, yet there is a darkness behind all the postwar gaiety. Against the background of a looming general strike and pressure from an unseen governmental presence, Joe struggles to solve four murders, picking his way through the political panic and rebelling against authority.”—catalog summary


 

Bel Canto : A Novel by Ann Patchett.

From the bestselling author of "The Magician's Assistant" comes a marvelous novel of love, opera, and terrorism set in South America. Two couples, complete opposites, fall in love; sexual identities become confused; and a horrific imprisonment is transformed into an unexpected heaven on earth.

 

Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales

My paperback copies of Ray Bradbury's wonderful fantasy collections--The Illustrated Man, October Country, Dandelion Wine, The Machineries of Joy, and The Martian Chronicles--are in sad shape. The pages are brittle, yellowed, and, yes, a bit musty. But I keep them because his lyrical words matchlessly probe humanity at its worst and best. When friends of mine gifted us with 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales one Christmas, I was happy to have many of those beautiful stories collected together in a hardback edition to last for years--and so was the local library for we own several copies of it.

I certainly won't go through every one of the one hundred, but I'll mention several pieces that stuck with me time and again. One of the first stories in the collection is "The Rocket," in which a poor junk man gets hold of a prototype rocketship and dreams of somehow going into space with his family. "The Sailor Home from the Sea" is a tale of loss and love and the imagination to reconcile them. "The Sound of Summer Running" is the opening piece for Dandelion Wine, and it brings back the time of year and the time of life for one young man who feels as if his whole town might capsize, go under, leaving not a trace in the clover and weeds of burgeoning summer.

Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer

Fans of the Artemis Fowl series will immediately notice something is different with Artemis in this seventh installment in the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, The Atlantis Complex. First off, he obsesses about his lucky number five, even going so far as to count words in his sentences to make sure they conform. He is deathly afraid of the number 4, generally out of touch with reality, and paranoid to the extreme, even doubting Butler’s unceasing loyalty.

It turns out that Artemis is suffering from the Atlantis complex, a degenerative mental disease brought on by guilt caused by his criminal activities and dabbling in fairy magic. The disease even spurs his gallant alter-ego named Orion, determined to woo Holly Short, tough-as-nails LEPrecon officer, with flowery accolades. Artemis, as always, has a plan that sets the plot in motion – but his plan this time is not to make money, but to save the world from global warming. However, there are nefarious forces working against him and things immediately go wrong when a deep-space probe piloted by enemy forces crashes Artemis’s meeting of the minds with Holly Short, Foaly, and Commander Vinyaya.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

What, another dystopian YA novel? Yes, but Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi is so fresh and involving that even the most jaded reader is sure to enjoy it. 

Teenaged Nailer is a ship breaker, one of the poorest of the poor who eke out a living dismantling rusting oil tankers along the Gulf. He’s still small enough to crawl through the ducts in search of copper wire, which he retrieves and turns over to his crew boss. His drug-addicted father is an unpredictable force, and Nailer considers his friend Pima and her mother the closest thing he has to a real family. 
 
After a hurricane sweeps over the coast, Nailer and Pima discover the wreck of a high-tech clipper ship hidden in an inlet. As they scavenge for food, money and anything else that can turn their luck, they discover the body of a beautiful and clearly rich young woman. Just as Nailer contemplates cutting off her finger to steal her rings, her eyes open.