Shelf Life Blog

07/18/2018 - 12:33am
Lore: Wicked Mortals by Aaron Mahnke

Previously in his book Monstrous Creatures, author and podcast guru Aaron Mahnke discussed mythological beasts, such as the Jersey Devil, the Wendigo, and sneaky elves. In his new collection, Wicked Mortals, Mahnke relates evil of a different kind - a more human kind. Sometimes, the truth can be more terrifying in fiction.

07/16/2018 - 8:21am
Cover to Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware, by M.T. Anderson

Greetings, brave adventurers! So you are looking for uncharted territory to claim and conquer, eh? You've already climbed the highest peaks and had lunch in the craters of the moon. So, where do you go next to do your exploring? Look no further than this hidden gem. This is a land of mystery and danger, a land of wonder and fright, a land with tyrannosaurs, tentacled creatures, and scariest of all....toll booths. Behold, Delaware!

Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware is part of M.T. Anderson's Pals in Peril series, a highly absurdist take on children's detective and adventure series of decades past, the most obvious being Nancy Drew, Goosebumps, and Tom Swift. The title character of this particular book is the star of his own fictional series that has fallen into obscurity. Just looking at Jasper Dash, you can see that he's from another time. Aviator goggles perched atop a perfectly parted swath of blonde hair. And that's when he opens his mouth and 19th-century slang falls out: "Hello, chums...What-ho and tippy tippy dingle and all."

07/11/2018 - 9:43am
The Passage by Justin Cronin

I loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Dark Shadows on TV when I was a kid, Anne’s Rice’s rock’n’roll vampires, and I even discussed what team I would join in the ‘tween Twilight Saga. I also devour vampire novels with “punny” titles such as Undead and Unappreciated by Mary-Janice Davidson, but I put The Passage on request at the library because of an article I read in Time Magazine that stated that vampires are scary again, and I do love a character that bites.

07/09/2018 - 9:26am
Cover to Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell

It sounds almost too perfect to be true. Famed primate expert Jane Goodall had a stuffed toy chimpanzee as a little girl. She went everywhere with it, and together they explored the mysteries of nature. 

Me...Jane is Patrick McDonnell’s peacefully expressive interpretation of Goodall’s childhood through his art, actual photographs of Jane, and the drawings of her youth. Jane starts out a very curious young girl, studying all sort of animals around her home. That curious nature leads to many answers.

07/04/2018 - 12:23am
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

I'd put off reading Altered Carbon for a few years, always reading something newer. Shame on me. This Philip K. Dick Award-winner is a brilliantly dark and gritty mixture of hardboiled detective fiction and cyberpunk that anyone looking for a story with a razor-sharp edge will love. 

07/02/2018 - 8:08am
Cover to Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Friends With Boys is a teenage slice-of-life story. Maggie is dealing with the first day of school. Not just the first day of the year, nor is it simply her first day of high school. This is Maggie's first day of school...ever. 

Once homeschooled, the freshman girl's mother (and teacher) has left home. Luckily, Maggie has three already initiated older brothers to show her the ropes around Sandford High. But Maggie's going to have to get used to the crowds, the schedule, and the fact that her siblings can't always be looking out for her.

06/27/2018 - 11:48am
Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson

My first thought upon reading the description of Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse was "Terminator rip-off."  But I kept thinking, "Robots and the apocalypse, two of my favorite things to read about in fiction." I'm not making that up. And really, anything after Terminator 2 in the franchise doesn't, in my mind, count.  I've always wanted a lot more detail about how the robot uprising occurs and how people struggle in the coming war, especially people who are not John Connor.  After reading Robopocalypse, I want to assure you that it is as far removed from Terminator lore as anything "robot apocalypse" could possibly be.  If you're someone who likes to be frightened and enjoys books where the mundane is made decidedly strange, then you might enjoy Robopocalypse.

06/25/2018 - 8:34am
Cover to Finnikin of the Rock

Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta, is a book for readers who don’t mind losing themselves. The land of Skuldenore is not always a pleasant place to be lost—in fact, it is often heartbreakingly dark. But I didn’t mind being lost within it, as long as I was with Finnikin.

Skuldenore is comprised of several countries, such as Osteria, Charyn, and Yutlind. Each country has its own interesting characterization, and there is much that goes into the world-building in this book, which makes it so successful. The country we care most about is Lumatere, Finnikin’s homeland.

Ten years ago, a power-greedy cousin infiltrated Lumatere’s royal castle, slaughtering the king, queen, and princesses. This violence set off another chain of violent events, which ended with the entire country being cursed and sealed off from the rest of the world. Those events are called “the five days of the unspeakable.” The people who escaped during that time roam the other countries, exiled, ignored, and mostly despised. They die from fever, starvation, and at the hands of other countries’ kings. It is not a good time to be Lumateren.

06/20/2018 - 8:43am
Cover to Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright

“How glorious!”

Beginning-to-be-eleven-year-old Portia and her little brother Foster are excited to be visiting their relatives in the countryside for the summer in Elizabeth Enright’s Gone-Away Lake. Besides seeing their favorite aunt and uncle, there is Katy the boxer dog who has just had a litter of puppies “with flat faces like pansies, and ears that felt like pieces of silk, and claws like the tips of knitting needles”—but best of all for Portia is having time to hang out with her cousin Julian, he of the hundred-thousand freckles. Closer than a friend and nicer than a brother is how she thinks of him. Julian is interesting and interested in everything that goes on around him.

06/18/2018 - 8:56am
Cover to The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard

When Jodi Linder was three, the unbearable happened. As told in Nancy Pickard's The Scent of Rain and Lightning, one Saturday night, her father was murdered and her mother disappeared. Jodi grew up in the small town of Rose, Kansas, wrapped in the fierce protective circle of her three uncles, safe and cherished, but distrustful of happiness.

When Jodi Linder was 26, the unthinkable happens. Billy Crosby, the man convicted of killing her father, has been released from prison and returns to Rose, loudly protesting his innocence of the murder. In a small town, it’s hard to keep your distance from anyone, and Jodi finds that she starts to run into Billy’s son Collin just about everywhere. Collin is a lawyer who wants to live peacefully in Rose and wants to prove his father’s innocence.

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