Shelfish: The Blog of Answers

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Woman walking alongside train tracks toward wooded area. Dust jacket has a sepia tone.As a fan of Ian McEwan’s novels, I have trained myself to read each of his books perched on the edge of my seat waiting for the one unexpected and truly gruesome event that comes out of nowhere and changes the lives of the characters forever.  His last few books have broken from this pattern and I find this break oddly alarming.  When you’ve come to expect a sudden horror, there’s a puzzling letdown of sorts when it doesn’t happen.

"My name is Serena Frome… and almost 40 years ago I was sent on a secret mission for the British security service." That mission we learn was code-named Sweet Tooth and its objective was to fund unsuspecting right-leaning authors.  Through a series of twists and turns we observe the transformation of Serena’s author Tom Haley’s writing life.  I found this to be McEwan’s most gimmicky novel but still hard to put down and generally satisfying.

Affliction: An Anita Blake Novel by Laurell K. Hamilton

Woman's face obscured by blue fragments of paper. “Real ghosts are so much easier to deal with than the kind we carry around in our heads. Most people haunt themselves more effectively than any spirit.”

Laurell K. Hamilton is not unfamiliar when it comes to writing about vampires. This is the 22nd novel in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. The story continues with Anita receiving a call from Micah’s mother asking her to bring him home because his father is dying. Micah, years ago, deliberately turned his back on his own family to protect them against a sadistic killer. Micah rushes back home with Anita to spend time with his dying father, who is rotting inside from a strange infection that is whispered to be the “zombie disease”. While Micah visits his father, Anita, who makes her living raising zombies, must face an army of destructive “zombies” who feast on the living in gruesome ways.

I have read every Anita Blake book that has been published. In the last few novels, the focus has pulled away from Anita fighting paranormal creatures and more about her sex life with her men. However in this recent novel, fighting paranormal creatures became the main focus. Micah, who was introduced eleven books ago, remained a mystery to readers until in Affliction which gives us a glimpse of his world. I found myself once again engrossed with old characters and introduced to some new ones.

Find Affliction: An Anita Blake Novel in the Library

Shaira, Reference Services

When do you stop reading?

The Psychology of Abandonment: An Infographic from

How many people can say they have an action figure modeled in their likeness? Nancy Pearl can. The librarian is famous for many things: the aforementioned action figure, her Book Lust series of literary recommendations, and her NPR book recommendation spot. She is also fond of telling people about her "rule of 50." Basically, if you don't like a book after 50 pages, stop reading. Her philosophy is there are too many books and not enough time to waste on something you don't like.

According to this infographic from, however, it seems that most people read more than 50 pages before calling it quits, at least among the people who took the survey on the social networking site. In fact, 38% of people say they always finish a book and over 25% read 50-100 pages.

Tell us about your reading habits. Do you always read an entire book even if you can't stand it? If you stop reading a book you don't like, when do you abandon it?

Find Book Lust in the Library.

Palms by Palms

album cover with a fiery scene over water.“The closer I am… I know that something’s wrong with you…”

Palms is a somewhat traditional rock band (who have chosen the somewhat traditional path of having an eponymous first release) with a familiar instrumental configuration for the genre (guitars, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals) but the energies coaxed from those instruments synergize into a sound much more ethereal than the likes of The Doors or The Stooges via the hands and minds (and tongue?) of the artists comprising the band. Instead of a lo-fidelity, dirty, bluesy rock sound the listener finds his or herself surrounded by a landscape of mellifluous sonic territory often similar to what you could expect from Disintegration-era The Cure with clean, echoing guitar notes twinkling and decaying across the sound field but with the added dimension of the recurring infusion of a deep, almost metal-style distorted guitar strum which flows heavily like the crest of an ocean wave crashing down or streams of rapid-motion magma. This offering actually feels as though it is placing you somewhere physically and carrying you around the mystical area as the songs flow and change from movement to movement. The vocals follow suit often soaring and breathing through the tracks with a sort of tranquility but always managing to complement the recrudescent aggression with a sharp and distinctive bite that retains musicality while vocalist/lyricist Chino Moreno both vaguely and colorfully references characters and emotions through the lyrics in his signature style.

I can't remember the last time I was so elated during a first listen to an album that I was anticipating before this one. After hearing “Tropics” and “Patagonia” before the album’s release, my expectations for it changed from what I initially envisioned that I would hear based on the mere notion of the two party's union (the vocalist has his day job with The Deftones who are known for fusing heavy metal with hip hop and the other three collaborators are ex-members of defunct post-progressive-metal band ISIS) but this LP is so much more than just a rehash of each members’ other or previous projects. In only six songs, which collectively clock in at about 47 minutes, the band manages to move from mood to mood with both subtle nuance and complete juxtaposition in song composition and structure all the while expanding on certain familiar styles from the pasts of these musicians’ bodies of work which coalesce into an all new flavor. That flavor’s name is “Awesome.”

Find Palms at the library.

Brian, Technology Clerk

Summer Blockbusters

world war z dust jacket. title over a muted orange background with blood splattering.World War Z

In World War Z, life as we know it ends the way many horror fans knew it would: zombies rise up! After the post-war devastation, author Max Brooks (son of actors Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft) "interviews" survivors and records their stories as well as details on what causes zombies, how they spread, what will stop them, and effective strategic warfare methods against them. (via Novelist)

Watch the trailer.

Find the book in the library.


black and white photograph of a man and woman staring into each other's eyes. "much ado about nothing" written in bright pink in between the couple.Much Ado About Nothing

The director of The Avengers takes on Shakespeare. Leonato (Clark Gregg), the governor of Messina, is visited by his friend Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) who is returning from a victorious campaign against his rebellious brother Don John (Sean Maher). Accompanying Don Pedro are two of his officers: Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Claudio (Fran Kranz). While in Messina, Claudio falls for Leonato's daughter Hero (Jillian Morgese), while Benedick verbally spars with Beatrice (Amy Acker), the governor's niece. The budding love between Claudio and Hero prompts Don Pedro to arrange with Leonato for a marriage. (via Moviefone)

Watch the trailer. Find the play in the library.

Man standing upon ruins, gazing out at a destroyed city. Star Trek: Into Darkness

After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

Watch the trailer.

Find the last installment at the library.


superman flying through his "s" symbol, which is supended in the clouds.Man of Steel

A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.

Watch the trailer.

Superman has been America's superhero since his debut in 1938. The library has a ton of great stuff about Earth's most famous alien. Find more about the Man of Steel at the library.

Peanut (graphic novel) by Ayun Halliday & Paul Hoppe

dust jacket of peanut. completely blue cover with a peanut in the center. title at bottom of image.“The hardest part about a peanut allergy is remembering to stay vigilant…especially if you don’t actually have one.”

It all starts with a lie. Sadie is the new girl at Plainfield Central High School and she’s determined to stand out from the hoards of other high schoolers crowding the halls—what better way than a deadly peanut allergy? So what if it’s all a lie? Sadie even orders a fake medical alert bracelet and an EpiPen. Surrounded by new friends and a budding romance, everything is going according to plan. But life gets complicated as Sadie spins a web of lies too difficult to manage. When your proximity to peanut butter can spell certain death, keeping up appearances becomes difficult!

The well-developed supporting characters were something that I loved. Sadie’s boyfriend, Zoo is an anachronistic electronic-phobic boy delivering hand written notes via bicycle. Sadie’s friends are not two-dimensional. Instead, they are slow to forgive and continually transform. The storyline is simple, but Sadie is a complex girl spinning lies with big consequences.                               

Find Peanut in the Library

Kathleen, Reference Services

Stories of Surveillance

Sales of George Orwell's classic, 1984, have soared following the revelation of a government spying program and all of our copies are currently checked out. Originally published in 1949, 1984 has been a staple on required reading lists in the U.S. for decades. Here's a list of similar reads:

1984 by George Orwell

Portrays life in a future time when a totalitarian government watches over all citizens and directs all activities.






Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

A totalitarian regime has ordered all books to be destroyed, but one of the book burners suddenly realizes their merit.

Spotlight on Downloadable Material

Old fashioned glasses on top of an open bookA recent study by Renaissance Learning suggests that required reading for American students has become less complex over the last hundred years. According to their report, complexity is determined by vocabulary difficulty, word length and sentence length but not more difficult to define, quantitative content such as plot, theme or sub-text. Below you’ll find a list of the top five most popular assigned books for 1907 and 2012. Many of these books are available as easy-to-download eBooks or audiobooks from the Library’s Media on Demand service. Check a couple out and decide for yourself. You can also download the full report, What Kids are Reading, which includes much more information, including grade school reading statistics and thoughts on why kids choose their recreational reading materials.

Julius Caesar by  William Shakespeare (eBook)
Macbeth by William Shakespeare (eBook)
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Milton's Minor Poems by John Milton
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (Audio)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Crucible by Arthur Miller (eBook)
Night by Elie Wiesel (Audio)
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (eBook)
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Audio)

The Art of Betrayal by Gordon Corera

art of betrayal dust jacket. manilla dossier with the title stamped across in red letters. “Scratch beneath the thin veneer of glamour and much of the routine work of MI6 was a form of glorified train-spotting…”

“The professional skill of espionage…is the exploitation of human weakness”.

In The Art of Betrayal, Gordon Corera navigates through the complicated history of MI6 (the British equivalent of the CIA) after the Second World War  Relying on both first-hand accounts of intelligence officers as well as official government records, Corera examines (in great detail) the strategic role espionage has played throughout the world over the past sixty years; from racing against the Soviets in trying to find and smuggle scientists out of Vienna and into the West immediately after the War, to the execution of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the 9/11 attacks and subsequent invasion of Iraq, as well as the numerous traitors, double-agents and blown operations found in-between.

The text also intermittently refers to the books of Graham Greene, Ian Fleming and John le Carré (all of whom had worked for the government [in one capacity or another] during the War) and the events that had inspired their work.

For those interested, The Art of Betrayal is more le Carré than Fleming (and more George Smiley than James Bond) in that it reveals a cold, grey world full of shadows and doubt, which operates in a frightfully indifferent and “matter-of-fact” manner that, if nothing else, highlights the moral ambiguity of it all.  While it may prove a bit dense for some, readers already familiar with Cold War politics, as well as fans of the spy genre as a whole, should find it both informative and enjoyable.

Find The Art of Betrayal at the Library.

Man of Steel Primer

Superman still from the film "Man of Steel"With the new Superman film only days away, and everyone excited to see which direction it takes the world’s first superhero, maybe it is a good time to check out a few of the comic book story arcs which were reportedly influential to the direction of the new version of the Man of Steel.
In 1986, John Byrne rewrote the Superman origin story, re-introducing elements such as the destruction of Krypton, Clark Kent discovering his alien heritage, and the Daily Planet newsroom, all of which have become well-known staples of the Superman mythology.
John Byrne continued to refine the Superman origin story, further developing the planet Krypton and revealing that genetic engineering may have been somehow responsible for Superman's abilities. Man of Steel director Zach Snyder has publicly credited this story arc as an influence on his film.
Geoff Johns examines Clark Kent's mixed emotions and torn allegiances between his human adopted parents and his Kryponian birth parents, showing us how these duel influences led him to become Superman. Man of Steel writer David Goyer wrote the introduction to this volume while working on his script.
Mark Waid tells the origin story again, this time updating it for the 21st century and adding new details such as Clark Kent as a globe traveler trying to "find himself" and Lois Lane as an investigator following reports of a super-powered "good Samaritan" which reportedly figure prominently in the new film.
All of these volumes are available through the Library. Just click the titles to visit our catalog and reserve them.