Essays · In the Library · Non-Fiction · Quick Read! · Science · Ying L

A Planet of Viruses | by Carl Zimmer

A Planet of Viruses by Carl Zimmer
(University of Chicago Press, 2011, 109 pages)

A friend brought back this copy from ALA for me. Having read and enjoyed other books by Zimmer, I immediately put this one on my to-read list. It was a quick read, easy and enjoyable.  The book consists of short essays, a bibliography and an index. It’s an excellent introduction to viruses living within us and on our planet.  Zimmer does a great job on making the book accessible. He helps readers to understand viruses and their impacts through interesting and sometimes scandalous stories. He also incorporates many new research findings and developments in microbiology and medical fields.  I enjoyed reading the chapters on the flu, HIV and SARS as well as little-known viruses in the oceans. Actually, I liked the chapter on marine phages the most.  If you are into science and want to learn some amazing facts on viruses, this is the book for you.

Award Winner · Fiction · Julia P · Page-Turner

The Round House | by Louise Erdrich

The Round House by Louise Erdrich
(Harper Collins, 2012, 336 pages)

Louise Erdrich is hands down one of my favorite authors and I’m so glad she won the National Book Award for this title. The story is set on a North Dakota reservation in the late 1980s and revolves around the Coutts family. Joe is 13 years old and is enjoying his summer vacation – until his mother is brutally attacked. His mother, Geraldine, is traumatized from the attack and refuses to speak about what happened. She sequesters herself in her room, locked within herself. Joe and his father do what they can to figure what happened and to try and bring about justice but the process is painfully slow and frustrating. Joe eventually sets out to see what he can uncover on his own because he can’t stand seeing what this has done to his mother.

As with all Erdrich’s books, there are a wide range of characters that help bring this story to life. From extended family members to Joe’s three best friends – everyone is affected by Geraldine’s attack. Connections are made, conclusions are drawn, but politics end up getting in the way of justice…

This book drew me in almost immediately and has made me eager to revisit Erdrich’s older titles. Her storytelling abilities are really outstanding. Loved this book.

Fiction · Gwen B · In the Library · Page-Turner · Thriller

Sleep No More | by Iris Johansen

Sleep No More by Iris Johansen
(St. Martin’s Press, 2012, 390 pages)


Forensic sculptor Eve Duncan knows what it’s like to be haunted by the past. For years after her daughter Bonnie was stolen from her, she fought for closure. Now, as she strives to begin anew, she finds herself on another missing-persons case—one that is as mysterious as it is personal. A woman named Beth Avery, who has been locked away in a psychiatric facility for years, has vanished. And her connection to Eve is deeper than she can imagine. As long-buried secrets about Beth are uncovered, Eve begins to realize how their lives are entwined—and how Beth’s disappearance puts her in grave danger. Desperate, Eve enlists the help of profiler Kendra Michaels, whose uncanny ability to detect clues and solve puzzles leads her to the truth: That Beth escaped from the hospital—and the mind-altering drugs that held her prisoner for so long—and is on the run. Soon, Eve begins to see the threads of a twisted plot within the powerful Avery family, one that threatens to destroy not only Beth but anyone else who might jeopardize the high-stakes game that is already in play. And time is running out…

Iris Johansen has entertained and terrified me for years with her Eve Duncan thrillers. I love her Eve Duncan’s series and couldn’t wait to continue with reading this one.  This is her 14th Eve Duncan book in the series.  I have to admit that at first it started off kind of sluggish and slow.  Once I did get into it though, it was a rather enjoyable read. Her books are always full of suspense and intrigue and keeps you wanting to keep reading to find out what’s going to happen next. Iris Johansen never disappoints! If you’re a fan, already you know there’s always lots of twists and turns in all her stories and all the books are hard to put down. Iris Johansen is never a disappointment. This is another great page turner!  Great book. If you’ve never read Iris, it’s definitely worth your while to do so and even though this is part of a novel series, it stands well on its own. I enjoyed it and will recommend you to check it out.

Fiction · Sadie J

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake | by Aimee Bender

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2010, 304 pages)

Rose is a perfectly normal girl until the night before her ninth birthday when she discovers that she can taste her mother’s emotions through her homemade lemon-chocolate cake. As the days go by, Rose can start tasting anyone’s emotions in anything they cook and then is burdened with all their hidden feelings such as resentment, anger, and loneliness. She quickly learns to keep her secret mostly to herself because it is such an unusual thing to be able to do. Rose starts to notice how different each member of her family is; her father will never go into a hospital, her brother distances himself from people so much it’s as if he’s not there at all, and her mother can keep a secret from anyone unless it’s revealed to Rose through her cooking. So maybe Rose’s secret isn’t that weird at all.

This is a weird book. There were times when I kept asking myself what the point of all of it was. I’m glad I finished it though because in the end, everything made sense. The story is very different from things I’ve read before but Bender has a vivid imagination which is what got me to the end of the book.

Audiobook · Classic · Fiction · In the Library · Julia P · Magic · Mystery · Page-Turner · Pop Culture/Entertainment

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire | by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
(Scholastic, 2002, 734 pages)

Book 4 of the Harry Potter series has Harry experiencing strange sensations. He has dark and vivid dreams and his scar occasionally hurts him. Unsure what to do he sends an owl to let his godfather, Sirius, know what’s going on. Fortunately, the Quidditch World Cup comes along to distract him. It’s an amazing experience, but while in attendance death-eaters terrorize a family of muggles nearby and the Dark Mark is shot into the sky. It is unclear who was responsible for sending the signal, but it certainly has people wary.

After the chaos of the World Cup fades away, Harry, Ron and Hermione head to Hogwarts to start their 4th year. They are surprised to learn that this year marks the return of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Students from two other schools, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, will be coming to Hogwarts to participate. There are meant to be three champions, one from each school. You must be 17 to enter your name into the Goblet of Fire, but surprisingly, when the champions are announced it is revealed that there is a 4th champion. That champion is Harry Potter… No one is sure what to make of this since Harry could not have put his name in there, but many are concerned for his safety. One of those who seems especially concerned is the new Professor of the Dark Arts, “Mad Eye” Moody, a man who put many death-eaters away when working as an Auror for the Ministry of Magic after Voldemort’s downfall.

There is no question that someone has it in for Harry. Things take a dark turn in book 4 and the lives of everyone at Hogwarts will be forever changed by the re-emergence of the Tri-Wizard Tournament and the reason behind the erratic pain of Harry’s scar.

I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. It’s kind of amazing how dark things get in these books so quickly. I’ve already started listening to book 5 and now I’m in the mood to start re-watching the movies!

Fiction · In the Library · Jean R · Mystery · Page-Turner · Thriller

The Racketeer | by John Grisham

The Racketeer by John Grisham
(Doubleday, 2012, 343 pages)

John Grisham’s The Racketeer is the story of a former lawyer who is sentenced to ten years in a federal prison camp for racketeering. The Racketeer starts with the former lawyer, Malcolm Bannister, in a cell in Frostburg, Maryland bemoaning the fact that he is falsely imprisoned and still has half of his sentence to serve. The plot quickly heats up when a federal judge, Ray Fawcett, is murdered and Malcolm Bannister claims to know who the murderer is. Bannister is willing to supply the name of the murderer in exchange for his freedom and the $150,000.00 reward money.

The Racketeer is a wild ride with many twists and turns. When you think that you know what is going to happen next, it turns out that you don’t. The plot gets less and less plausible, but you continue to read because you need to know what happens next.

John Grisham is one of my favorite authors. I’ve reviewed a few of his other titles on this blog, including his young adult novels. The Litigators was one of my favorite legal thrillers by John Grisham. While I don’t rate The Racketeers as highly as The Litigators, it is an enjoyable read.

Fiction · In the Library · Quick Read! · Sadie J

Summerland | by Elin Hilderbrand

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand
(Reagan Arthur Books, 2012, 400 pages)

The small island of Nantucket is shocked when four teens are involved in a summer car accident. The driver, Penny Alistair, has died and her twin brother, Hobby, is in a coma with multiple fractures. Penny’s boyfriend, Jake, and their friend Demeter walk away from the accident with only guilt and loss to show for it. Everyone starts to wonder if they had a part in Penny’s rage that caused her to drive too fast the night of the accident. The only person who knows what caused Penny’s erratic behavior is Demeter and she’s making sure she forgets the accident ever happened.

This was definitely a fast and quick read with a lot of emotion packed in. There are a lot of characters to keep up with and the story is told through almost every character’s point of view, even from the town of Nantucket. The character’s lives are nicely weaved together which makes it easier to keep track of what is happening in each character’s life. I enjoyed the story but it made me miss summer a little too much!

Fiction · Jean R · Mystery · Quick Read!

Final Sail | by Elaine Viets

Final Sail by Elaine Viets
(NAL Hardcover, 2012 272 pages)

Final Sail is the 11th book in the Dead-End Job Mystery series by Elaine Viets. In this book, Helen Hawthorne and her husband, Phil Sagemont, are private investigators that have started their own firm called Coronado Investigations. In Final Sail, the husband and wife team are working two cases. The first case involves a gold digger who may have poisoned her elderly husband for his money. The second case involves a private yacht and emerald smuggling.

Elaine Viets has held many dead-end jobs and uses those experiences in her novels. Viets has been a telemarketer, dress store clerk, babysitter, and even a weed puller. For Final Sail, Viets did research on working on a private yacht. Viets real life experience and extensive research make Helen Hawthorne a more realistic and sympathetic heroine.

Final Sail is a fun, fast read. In the background, Final Sail continues a plot point involving Helen’s ex-husband and her nephew that has been brewing for the last few novels. I hope the next novel in this series will resolve this mystery. I’ll be looking forward to reading the 12th novel in the Dead End Job Mystery series.

Fiction · Mystery · Thriller · Ying L

A Wanted Man | by Lee Child

A Wanted Man by Lee Child
(Delacorte Press, 2012, 405 pages)

Jack Reacher, a former military cop, is hitch-hiking on a country road in Nebraska. He is picked up by a car with two men and a woman. All three are middle-aged and dressed in black pants and blue denim shirts. The men talk much more than the woman.  Reacher realizes something is off about the trio after a few minor slip-ups he noticed.  As they continue on their journey to Chicago, they start to run into police roadblocks on the interstate.

Back in a small town in Nebraska, a victim was found stabbed to death. His fingerprints were found in the FBI system and they matched an employee from The U.S. Department of State. The small town sheriff and FBI agents are trying to sort out the events encircling the murder. Again, Reacher relies on his intelligence and military cop trainings to try to put pieces together.  Reacher survives and moves on with his journey to Virginia.  The story is far-fetched in some parts. I still enjoyed the suspense, the developments and the unpredictable ending.

Humor · Political Science · Pop Culture/Entertainment · Ying L

America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t | by Stephen Colbert

America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t by Stephen Colbert
(Grand Central Publishing, 2012, 240 pages)

I watched The Colbert Report regularly before we cancelled cable a few years ago. I enjoyed his show. This book is equally provocative and entertaining.  America Again has 10 chapters accompanied with pictures, sidebars and silly footnotes.  Colbert tackles economic and social issues like jobs, healthcare, justice, Wall Street, presidential elections, and much more.  I enjoyed his bizarre explanations, cynical commentaries and ridiculous conclusions at the end of each chapter. I had many laugh-out-loud moments. You’ll love the book if you are a Colbert fan. Here are two UNAMERICAN ACTIVITIES from chapter 6 “Elections”:

England: In this supposed democracy, Queen Elizabeth has managed to win every election since 1952. Plus, at any time, Parliament can pass a resolution of “no confidence” and dissolve the government. May I remind you, this was also the plot of the most boring Star Wars.

Canada: With their laws mandating use of both French and English, candidates are forced to both kiss babies and French kiss babies. No, thanks.