Audiobook · Fiction · Mystery · Theresa F

The Killing Floor | by Lee Child

The Killing Floor by Lee Child
(Jove, 2006, 524 pages)

This is the first book I have read by Lee Childs and it was pretty good.  Set in a small southern town, a drifter gets picked up for murder.  But this is no ordinary drifter, he is an ex-army officer who starts working on the case to clear his name but then stays with it for different reasons.  There is something strange about this little town, it’s too clean, too perfect, and it all ties in to the mysterious corporation that is the main beneficiary.

Fiction · Quick Read! · Theresa F · Thriller

Above Suspicion | by Helen MacInnes

Above Suspicion by Helen MacInnes
(Fontana, 1989, 320 pages)

Written in 1945 but set right before World War II, Above Suspicion follows a young English married couple who are recruited by a friend to go on holiday in Germany and do a little spy mission.  They have to follow a communication route and find the break and hopefully the agent that is missing.  Because they are above suspicion they do well on their quest and seem to be a regular couple traveling before the war breaks out, but of course nothing can be that easy and the suspense mounts.  I loved this book, it was interesting to get a view of the relationship between England and Germany on the eve of war.  It was a quick but suspenseful read.


Ben E · Fiction · In the Library

The Road | by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
(Vintage Books, 2006, 287 pages)

McCarthy’s The Road is worth the read. The story of father and son in a post-apocalyptic wasteland is devoid of the cliché that you might expect. Instead, it follows a vivid and relentless depiction of the struggle of a man facing a new reality against the alluring temptation of what was, and the intensity of his bond with his child. The narration of this experience parallels the world being depicted, with the sparse, stream-of-consciousness dialogue and thought being inconsistently punctuated like the broken world that their owner exists in. The text carries you irresistibly and with investment towards the book’s end, and as a whole provides an introspective and cathartic experience.

Fiction · In the Library · Julia P · Nature · Quick Read!

The Language of Flowers | by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
(Ballantine Books, 2011, 322 pages)

Victoria has lived something of a rough life.  She’s grown up in and out of foster care and group homes after she was abandoned by her mother as an infant.  Now 18, she has been emancipated from the system and must find a way to survive on her own.  There is one brief spark of light when Victoria reflects back on her life, and that was when she was taken in as a foster child by a woman named Elizabeth.  Elizabeth lived on a vineyard and one of the things she taught Victoria while they lived together was that there is a language of flowers.  Each flower means something and can be used to convey that feeling/emotion when the flowers are bestowed upon another.  Victoria held on to this language – in spite of the transitory nature of her life, this knowledge and appreciation of flowers is something she has always been able to cling to.

Forced to live on the street after her emancipation, Victoria is eventually taken under the wing of a local florist.  This relationship surprisingly leads her to a connection to her past and the life she shared with Elizabeth.  The novel moves back and forth from the present day to the past when Victoria experienced the closest thing to a family with Elizabeth.  Mistakes were made and her life was changed because of it…  Now Victoria has to figure out if she can try to move forward, or if she will continue to be haunted by the past that caused her to lose any real chance at having a family.

I really enjoyed reading this novel.  The story was engaging and it really got me interested in learning the language of flowers.  The only “issue” I had with the book is that I felt the protagonist should have been a little older.  The way she reacted to certain situations and handled herself seemed beyond her 18 years.  Granted, that would have changed the story’s outline, but I think it would have been truer to the character if she’d started out around 21 or so.  Anyway, great read – I definitely recommend it!

Fiction · Gwen B · Holiday · In the Library · Quick Read!

The Christmas Note | by Donna VanLiere

The Christmas Note by Donna VanLiere
(St. Martin’s Press, 2011, 224 pages)

About the book:

Gretchen Daniels has recently moved into an apartment with her two children to be closer to her mother, Miriam. She and her children are building a life together in a new community when a mysterious young woman, Melissa McCreary, moves into the apartment next to them. She has few possessions, little personality, and keeps to herself. One day, a local landlord who is looking for Melissa knocks on Gretchen’s door for assistance. Melissa’s mother has died and in the coming weeks the landlord needs Melissa to empty her mother’s apartment. Gretchen reaches out and offers to help, but the apartment is a gut wrenching shamble of a home. There is little worth saving except for a few photos and a note that is discovered on the crate beside the bed. It is unfinished but in the two scribbled lines, Melissa discovers she has a brother and a sister that she never knew about. Even more shocking, she begins to uncover family secrets that show her who she really is. Can two very different women embark on a journey that explores a long-buried need for forgiveness, hope, and redemption?

I love reading Christmas books during the Christmas season.  I truly enjoyed this one.  I have never read anything by this author before.  I came to find out that she wrote The Christmas Shoes, which was turned into a movie.  The movie was wonderful.  The Christmas Note was recommended to me by a friend.  This was a heart-warming, feel-good story that I thoroughly enjoyed. There are surprises along the way that enhance the story and that will delight the reader. It will make one feel that there’s always hope at the end of the rainbow no matter how difficult you may feel your life is. Throughout the year and especially around this time, we look for hope.

This was an enchanting story of hope, forgiveness, and redemption.  Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down.  It will cheer your heart and make you thankful for the things you have this Christmas and throughout the year. If you enjoy stories that will put you in the mood for the holidays, filled with love, faith and finding forgiveness then you’re going to want to read this one.  This is a quick read and can be read in one sitting. This book will put you in the Christmas spirit!  I now want  to read more of her novels.  I highly recommend it.

Fiction · Mystery · Page-Turner · Ying L

The Silent Girl | by Tess Gerritsen

The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen
(Ballantine Books, 2011, 318 pages)

I picked up a book from my local library’s “Most Wanted” shelf, again. Way to go, St. Charles City-County Library District! It’s the newest novel from Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series. I later found out that there is a tv show based on this series.  I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though I’m new to the series, the author did a good job of giving brief background information on the characters and past events.

Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles are the two main characters. The story starts with a gruesome murder in Boston’s Chinatown, where Rizzoli finds a severed hand in an alley and the rest of the body later on a rooftop. The investigation leads the detectives to a murder/suicide case that happened in a nearby Red Phoenix restaurant nineteen years ago.  There are plot twists, multi-layered stories, and integrated Chinese folklore. The Silent Girl had a great ending – it was surprising, but believable. I had a hard time putting it down.  A great mystery book!

Andrew S · History · Holiday · Non-Fiction · Religion

Saint Nicholas | by Joe Wheeler

Saint Nicholas by Joe Wheeler
(Thomas Nelson, 2010, 192 pages)

This was a very enjoyable read, offering a chance for informed reflection over the holiday season. Wheeler recounts many of the legends surrounding Nicholas, the 4th century Bishop of Myra renowned for his generous giving. He begins with those stories which bear the greatest marks of authenticity and then progresses to trace the stories of miraculous appearances and events associated with Nicholas, both throughout his life and in the centuries following his death. Wheeler follows the development of these legends from Greece, through various parts of Europe, and finally to America, showing how these stories have contributed to figures such as the Dutch “Sinterklaas,” English “Father Christmas,” and American “Santa Claus.”

Wheeler focuses particularly on the different religious observances that are associated with Saint Nicholas and the Christmas season. Through following the historical development of the Nicholas stories and the saint’s heritage of anonymous giving, Wheeler is doing more than simply giving a disinterested account of the precursors to Santa Claus. He is also showing something of the importance of religious belief and observance in all of the different cultures through which the legends surrounding Nicholas have passed. This book will be of interest to those looking to know more about the history of Santa Claus, the nature of Christmas celebrations in other cultures, and the role played by religious belief in those cultures.

Andrew S · Non-Fiction · Religion

Allah: A Christian Response | by Miroslav Volf

Allah: A Christian Response by Miroslav Volf
(HarperOne, 2011, 336 pages)

There are few contemporary religious issues as contentious as the relationship between Christianity and Islam, and there are few Christian theologians more capable than Miroslav Volf of treating such a delicate topic. Volf’s primary goal is to show that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, however differently their relationship to that God is understood. He seeks to discredit the view, held by both religious and secular critics of Islam, that the God of Islam is basically violent and capricious in nature. Through an examination of contemporary statements by both Christian and Muslim leaders, as well as examinations of some specific historical perspectives from both traditions, Volf argues that mainstream Muslim and Christian beliefs form a consensus around the ideas of a God whose basic character is love and who commands love for one’s neighbor. From this foundation, Volf goes on to sketch a vision for how the belief in a common God can serve to encourage cooperation between Muslims and Christians in seeking the common good.

Volf, a professor at Yale Divinity School and the director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture, is uniquely qualified to speak to this set of issues. He works from a position of classical Christian belief, and is engaged in active dialogue with Muslim leaders. He represents fairly and accurately the positions of the two faiths, seeking what is common to both without ignoring the important differences. While Volf is clear on the fact that these are two different religions with significantly divergent concepts of how God should be worshiped and served, he is more concerned with highlighting what both can affirm about the nature of God and its consequences for courteous public engagement. In fact, it is Volf’s clarity that is one of his greatest assets. Readers – Christian, Muslim, or otherwise – are sure to find points of disagreement with Volf. For one thing, there are points at which the historical precedents offered for some of his bolder theses appear a bit selective. However, his careful statement of opposing positions and his lucid rendering of the relevant issues is sure to be of help to anyone seeking to better understand the role that Muslim and Christian views on God play in public life.

Fiction · In the Library · Julia P · Juvenile · Quick Read! · Science Fiction

When You Reach Me | by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
(Yearling, 2010, 199 pages)

This title had been on my “to read” list for a while so I was glad I finally had the time to squeeze it in.  It was different than I thought it would be, but I still enjoyed it.

The story takes place in New York City during the 70s.  Miranda has just entered the 6th grade and suddenly her life undergoes some serious changes.  Her best friend Sal unexpectedly gets in a fight while they are walking home from school.  From then on he essentially refuses to acknowledge her.  Then more weird things start happening.  The hidden key to their apartment is suddenly missing.  And she starts finding notes meant for her with cryptic information about how she needs to do things, like write the note-sender a letter (which is the form the book is written in), and predicting what will happen in the near future.  Miranda is naturally scared by these occurrences and isn’t sure how best to handle things because she feels like has to do it all alone. . .

When You Reach Me pays homage to Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time in a way that I hadn’t anticipated when I first picked up the book.  I really liked the book – it definitely made me want to pick up A Wrinkle in Time again soon. 🙂

Food! · Non-Fiction · Ying L

The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker | by Roger Ebert

The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker
by Roger Ebert
(Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2010, 128 pages)

I was pleasantly surprised after I picked up this reserved book from my local library. The author is the famous film critic, Roger Ebert. The Pot and How to Use It is informative and entertaining. I really enjoyed it.  This is not your typical recipe cookbook.  Less than a third of the pages are recipes. Ebert shares with readers the most creative ways to use a rice cooker along with his intriguing personal and professional food-related stories. Since “Soup makers seem intent on driving up Americans’ blood pressure” with high sodium canned soup, he takes his pot to the Sundance Film Festival and makes soups from dried soup mix and fresh vegetables. He lets readers know right away that you don’t need fancy rice cookers. The basic two setting cook-and-warm rice cookers are the best ones.

Of course you can cook food other than rice.  That’s the main point he tries to stress throughout the book. Ebert gives readers the basics of using a rice cooker and many practical ideas on how to modify recipes according to your own tastes. He encourages readers to try their own ideas by trial and error. I’ll be trying many recipes including Seafood Jambalaya and Beef Stew. It’s a great book for beginners and seasoned users like myself.  If you don’t have a rice cooker yet, you’ll be buying one as soon as you put down this book. Here’s what Ebert has to say about oatmeal:

Take a good look at the label on that microwave oatmeal you’ve been eating. It’s probably loaded with salt, corn syrup, and palm and coconut oils – the two deadliest oils on the planet. It’s a dangerous travesty of the healthy food it pretends to be. But it’s high fiber, you say? Terrific. You can die of a heart attack during a perfect bowel movement.