Shelf Life Blog
A chance encounter with the legendary Sherlock Holmes alters the life trajectory of fifteen-year-old Mary Russell. In The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie R. King, Mary literally bumps into Holmes while roaming the hills near her cottage. After the initial awkward run-in, the two are immediately drawn to each other’s insatiable curiosity and superior intellect. As both of Mary’s parents died in a horrific accident, her friendship with Holmes is a welcome respite from her days with a cold, disapproving aunt.
I started listing adjectives to describe My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante: visceral; violent; passionate. This is the first in a series of four Neapolitan Novels by an elusive Italian author who writes under a pseudonym. Elena and Lila’s friendship is full of envy and love as they claw their way out childhood into adolescence in a poverty-stricken quarter of Naples in the 1950s.
If the crayons can’t stop the scribble monster, then this picture book might be cancelled!
How can a picture book be cancelled?
Her sister’s young twins came to Luce after a hard patch. Which is to say, having their mother meet her end most violently at the hands of their stepfather. They were odd children, quiet to the point of not speaking and not looking people in the eye. Ever. They had some disturbing habits, too, which spoke of far more having been done to their small selves than they would fess to. Not that they were fessing to anything, encased as they were in their eerie, shared silence. In Charles Frazier’s Nightwoods, their eccentric Aunt Luce and the North Carolina mountain she calls home promise nothing to them, yet they do provide a haven—for a while.
Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity starts with something different and unexpected, a story’s protagonist, or hero, not being very heroic. Our protagonist, a young female British spy, is being held hostage in an aristocratic hotel in Nazi-occupied France. While other spies would withstand any amount of torture in order to protect their friends, family, and country, Code Name Verity’s protagonist, whose name and identity are a secret, begins by making a deal with the Gestapo. She will give them anything and everything they want to know, including writing the story of how she arrived in Nazi-occupied France, and, in return, they will feed her, clothe her, stop torturing her, and they will not kill her—for now.
In The Only Child, a girl leaves home without telling her parents, hoping to visit her grandma. She soon finds herself lost, alone, and afraid in the woods. When she comes across a mighty stag, her fortunes turn as a magical adventure begins.
During the day, Abe practices his violin to please his Jewish grandfather. His African-American neighbor Willie works to be as good at baseball as his father, a starter in the Negro leagues. But at night, the two boys meet Across the Alley in this story by Richard Michelson. Leaning out their bedroom windows, they swap hobbies and share dreams, until the night they are discovered.
Mila and Julian were supposed to enter the Isles together. Julian was her mentor, her support. But when he plummeted from the thin cable stretching across the waters, she knew it was now up to her. To follow his instructions and get inside the Isle, no matter what. But being captured, labelled as as terrorist, and having a phone implanted in her head—even if everyone else has one—is a little more than she bargained for. The phone’s video feature works like everyone else’s in the Isles, capturing her every move so the detectives can watch her.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: "Shifting among multiple viewpoints but focusing mostly on blind French teenager Marie-Laure and Werner, a brilliant German soldier just a few years older than she, this novel has the physical and emotional heft of a masterpiece. The main protagonists are brave, sensitive, and intellectually curious, and in another time they might have been a couple. But they are on opposite sides of the horrors of World War II, and their fates ultimately collide in connection with the radio-a means of resistance for the Allies and just one more avenue of annihilation for the Nazis. Set mostly in the final year of the war but moving back to the 1930s and forward to the present, the novel presents two characters so interesting and sympathetic that readers will keep turning the pages hoping for an impossibly happy ending." (Library Journal)
If you enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See, you may also like these titles:
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
"In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage as she relates what she must do to survive while keeping secret all that she can." (Book Description)
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
"Set in the ethnic neighborhoods of Seattle during World War II and Japanese American internment camps of the era, this debut novel tells the heartwarming story of widower Henry Lee, his father, and his first love Keiko Okabe." (Book Description)
I have a challenge for readers of Speak, by Louisa Hall. Read the first chapter and stop. Ask yourself, is the narrator human?