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Adult Book Reviews

Book Review: Inferno
Brown, Dan
2 stars = Meh

Dan Brown's latest novel is not up to snuff with his previous work, but still has that great mix of culture, art, and history that Brown fans love. Angels & Demons is the highlight of his work for me, and this novel was not developed in the way I would have hoped. Not a big fan of this one, but it was worth a read. Not one for my bookshelf, since with this novel, Langdon's world becomes far more distanced from ours than in previous novels. I don't feel like Brown did a good job in suspending my disbelief, where in his other Langdon novels, I was pulled right in. So, meh. I think Brown is tired of Langdon.

Casey
Book Review: Plain Truth
Picoult, Jodi
2 stars = Meh

Meh. I don't know why I keep reading Jodi Picoult books. The twist endings always annoy me. I liked reading about the Amish, but overall was underwhelmed.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Ender's Game
Card, Orson Scott
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

While some may despise this terrific sci-fi novel, I absolutely loved it.
Sure it is a bit mature, but it is really for a understanding audience. I enjoyed the battle games and Ender's resourcefulness. This is perhaps one of the best sci-fi novel I have ever read

Scaddi Archer
Book Review: Inferno
Brown, Dan
4 stars = Really Good

Dan Brown has done it again! In Inferno, he has blended a concoction of cultural history, shadowy power brokers, and cutting-edge apocalyptic science into an intriguing potboiler.

Our hero, Robert Langdon, is tossed headfirst into a violent, shifting conflict between European authorities and a brilliantly mad scientist who is obsessed with Dante's Divine Comedy.

Naturally, said mad scientist is bent on world destruction/domination and the key to stopping him lies in deciphering clues hidden in the medieval masterpiece and the art and architecture of Florence, Italy.

Most readers either love or hate Dan Brown's writing. If you enjoyed his signature style in the Da Vinci Code and his other novels, Inferno will be a great read. If you find a lot of art history and cultural background boring, it might seem like the Seventh Circle of Hell. The addition of some thought-provoking scientific threats that reminded me of Michael Crichton were a definite plus for me.

All in all, a worthwhile addition to the series, even though Langdon fails to save the world! Or does he? Hmmm.

Alan
Book Review: The Greater Good
Mitchell, Sandy
4 stars = Really Good

As my first Ciaphas Cain novel, I was really impressed. This book will show new readers what the universe of the year 40,000 is like. The main plot has the imperial navy and the main character, Commisar Cain, fighting to drive off the hive fleets of the tyranid invasion.

Matt
Book Review: Ender's Game
Card, Orson Scott
1 star = Yuck!

I despised this book. Although I respect Card's mastery in the sci-fi genre, this was not one of his wonder-books. He failed to capture the personality of the childrens' ages, and parts of it were beyond gruesome, especially after you realized it was a 6-11 year old participating in those actions. The time-frame was speedy; the child went from 6 to eleven years old within 100 pages. Also, the Locke and Demosthenes part was plain confusing. Not a fan.

JBird
Book Review: The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Dow
McCarthy, Andrew
2 stars = Meh

This book was okay. There was quite a bit of navel-gazing going on. But there was also the occasional interesting bit. Meh.

vfranklyn
Book Review: White Butterfly
Mosley, Walter
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Walter Mosley knows how to tell a story like no one else. He captures life in the fifties in Southern California for black folks in Watts and surrounding areas shortly after WW1. Boy Oh Boy...His books are actually stories told to him by his father when he was a young man growing up in that era. Humor and suspense await anyone who has the pleasure to pick up any of his well written books.....

Melinda
Book Review: I Suck at Girls
Halpern, Justin
4 stars = Really Good

This book is very clever, funny, and sweet. The author talks about his misadventures with girls in a very self-deprecating manner. His father even makes a showing in the book, to hilarious effect. Thumbs up!

vfranklyn
Book Review: Halfway Home
Sheldon, Mary
4 stars = Really Good

This is an awesome book! I found myself laughing out loud and just couldn't put it down. Ms. Sheldon's style of writing is one that will get you caught up in the lives of mothers and daughters everywhere. Highly recommend for a great read.

Rebecca
Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel
Joyce, Rachel
3 stars = Pretty Good

Setting: Modern day, southern coast of England. Quite unexpectedly, after twenty years, Harold Fry receives a letter from Queenie Hennessy (a former co-worker), who informs him that she is dying of inoperable cancer and is in hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed, located in northern England. He writes her a note and sets off to post it. Along the way he meets a young woman who tells him that knowing someone cares can mean all the difference to a person with cancer. Harold hadn't known he would walk the 600 miles to Queenie, but after that short conversation, he phones the hospice (he has left his mobile phone at home) to tell Queenie to "hold on. I'm walking to you." He just kept walking, buying her souvenirs and sending his wife postcards along the way. He endures blisters, hunger, sleeping outside, and publicity-seekers. As he walks, he remembers his parents, his job, his wife and his absent son. And his wife remembers him. It's a simple story, but also extraordinary.

Vickie
Book Review: A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Futur
Guinness, Os
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

America's Suicide?

Suicide as a personal or a social phenomenon is never a comfortable conversation, as tragedy seldom is. When presented on the level of civilization itself, suicide is a challenging subject indeed, particularly when it is your own society at stake. Yet, in his 2012 volume "A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future," this is precisely what Os Guinness invites us - even commands us - as Americans, to think hard on. It is a penetrating read. It is a vital read.
As an Irish descendant of a certain beer magnate and as a self-described "resident alien" in the U. S. A., Guinness brings to his argument the presumed objective detachment of a third party looking in at America. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford, is widely published in American social studies, is founder of the Trinity Forum and past member of the Brookings Institute and Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies. He is a dedicated and very empathetic observer of the contemporary American scene and is highly informed of the trajectory of American history, the foundations of our political success as an independent nation, our internal struggles to maintain our freedoms and suggests what we might do to halt our suicidal plunge into incoherence.
Guinness comes armed with the full panoply of some 200 of history's observers and participants in the rise and fall of societies, from Thucydides, Sophocles and Xenophon among the ancients, through the Revolutionaries of Voltaire, Montesquieu, Jefferson, Madison and Adams to the moderns of Keynes, Weber and Wilson. All of this collective "wisdom of the ages" testifies to the hard fact that every civilization known to history has disappeared. While foreign invasions have precipitated many of these social catastrophes, Guinness insists with volumes of evidence that it is the internal decay of societies that universally explains their devolution. It is not the "wolves at the door" that today threaten our survival, but the "termites within" that will inevitably do the job.
The footnotes should not scare off the American reader. The inevitable conclusion should. Guinness' journalistic style is aimed at the concerned citizen, not the PhD.
Guinness first establishes his baseline for understanding the current American condition with a review of the American Founding, the forceful riddance of external control begun in 1776. This was the revolutionary startup of 1776, the first stage of the three-phased cycle of freedom. The second phase was the creation of ordered freedom manifested by the constitutional structure that provided the perimeter fence against any future government tyranny and the internal "checks and balances" to prevent internal anarchy. Here the Founders combined the negative freedom from excessive government intrusion and the equally important positive freedom to believe in what we will and to act on those beliefs. This was history's first attempt at structuring a society from scratch on specific ideas and tenets. This took time, as the Constitution was only ratified in 1787 together with the original Bill of Rights. This Constitution was a "covenant" among freely consenting partners as much as it was a document, a "covenant" that manifested the Founders' understanding of how "freedom" was to be defined and commonly understood.
The third phase of Guinness' freedom is the sustaining of freedom. This has become the critical phase, a continuing one over the decades and is the principle theme of "A Free Peoples' Suicide." Simply put, Guinness pictures an American society that has disintegrated to a level of incoherence and spends most of his pages explaining why. Pick your metaphor: a physician attempting to heal his living patient; a coroner dissecting a carcass looking for clues of the cause of death. The reader might suppose that Guinness himself is unsure which one he represents.
"Freedom" alone, Guinness claims, is not an ultimate value. It is a vacuum into which we import values. Freedom is an identifiable structure, a "golden triangle" consisting of three equilateral corners, freedom, virtue and faith. Removing any one corner and the structure falls to the ground.
The virtue he proclaims is that of "personal restraint," the consensus among mature citizens that there are essential norms of behavior that can be agreed upon. This was the Jeffersonian notion of "reason" and "sentiment,"
the "aristocracy of virtue" of John Adams and de Tocqueville's "habits of the heart" that together enabled citizens to govern themselves rather than be subjected to the destructive dependancies of "monarchy" and an all-consuming government.
The faith that Guinness proclaims is one essential source of that virtue, an interdependency that results in "morality" itself. This is the Christian/Judeo faith that acknowledges something superior to the individual, something that offers guidelines of behavior that all citizens can agree on voluntarily without government dictat. The loss of this faith in the "invisible" unhappily is the "completest revolution" of the American experience since we also have no faith in anything "visible."
The challenge to the reader of "A Free Peoples' Suicide" is whether to continue with Guinness' excruciating depiction of the collapse of that "golden triangle," of American society itself, or to retreat ignominiously under his security blanket of "I can have it all" at the hands of beneficent and ever-expanding government.

Whitney
Book Review: Assholes: A Theory
James, Aaron
4 stars = Really Good

If language doesn't offend you, this is one of the more thought-out, funny and smart books about certain members of our society. While reading, it seems more like entertainment, but you catch yourself noticing patterns in reality that apply. It's both fun and educational!

Cassie
Book Review: Rant
Palahniuk, Chuck
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

This is one of Chuck Palahniuk's best novels. It's everything you love about any of his other books, but it's nothing you'd expect. It's written in an interview-esque style, detailing the life of Buster "Rant" Casey, one of the most notorious and mysterious serial killers. It's funny, it's shocking, it's utterly mind-blowing. One of those novels you'd hate to ever put down.

Cassie
Book Review: Heaven is for Real
Burpo, Todd
4 stars = Really Good

Good.

Kim
Book Title: After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story
Hainey, Michael
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I heard about this book from my cousin who read it in her book club. It is one of the best books I read all year. I wish I was a faster reader but I managed to finish it all the way to the end. You know exactly what the author is thinking. Its a great book!

Karen
Book Review: If You Were Here
Lancaster, Jen
2 stars = Meh

It was okay. The author kind of annoyed me with all the cutsie footnotes. But I did read it fast and it did remind me of a friend of mine, so there's that.

vfranklyn
David Sedaris: Live For Your Listening Pleasure
Sedaris, David
3 stars = Pretty Good

This was a good way to be distracted on my runs. I didn't find it to be laugh-out-loud funny, but it was somewhat engaging, which is good enough for my needs.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette?
Semple, Maria
4 stars = Really Good

Not bad. I liked Bernadette and Bee's voices. I also liked that while Bernadette seemed unhinged, she really just needed something spectacular to create in order to function. I liked how the author resolved that need. I'm not familiar with Seattle or Microsoft, but the book made me feel like I was there. I liked that Audrey was not a two dimensional character. Overall, I enjoyed the book

vfranklyn
Book Review: Our Dumb World: The Onion's Atlas of the Planet Earth
Dikkers, Scott
4 stars = Really Good

Very funny, especially on eAudio. I liked the Luxembourg section the best but they were all good.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me
Handler, Chelsea
3 stars = Pretty Good

Let me just say that I cannot understand why anyone would want to work for Chelsea Handler. My God, I'd be in hell. It was entertaining but not hilarious until the chapter about Standards and Practices and the chapter written by her dog. This makes me want to read another book by Chelsea herself. This one was written by her cronies.

vfranklyn
Book Review: Salmon Fishing In The Yemen
Torday, Paul
4 stars = Really Good

After having seen the movie, I really appreciated the format of the book. It is written in interview, press release style. So you're only seeing what each character is thinking at a time. The premise is so far-fetched but you begin to really believe it can happen after hearing the thoughts of the main character Dr. Jones and the Sheikh who wants to do the project. There is also the human interest of the relationships between Dr.Jones and his wife Mary and Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, who represents the Sheikh, and her boyfriend who has gone to Afghanistan.

Patricia
Book Review: The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story
Ackerman, Diane
4 stars = Really Good

The Zookeeper's Wife: A war story by Diane Ackerman tells the story
of Polish zookeepers, Jan and Antonina Zabinski and how they saved 300 Jews in the middle of occupied Warsaw in WWII. It is a remarkable story of imagination and fierce resistance, as the Zabinskis harbored Jews in their home and on their zoo grounds, with Nazis all around them. Antonina was especially concerned that the Jews not merely survive but survive with their humanity in tact--at night the house was full of art and music for the hidden Jews. Because Diane Ackerman is the writer of this tale, she draws upon her work as a naturalist to explore the relationship between animals and humans and to explore the odd fascination that the Nazis had with questions of "pure" and "aryan" animals, which the Zabinskis exploited to gain access to
the Jewish ghettos, where they took out Jews and brought in food. A fascinating, bizarre tale. This is a perfect book for book clubs: the questions raised are many and heady.

Roger
Book Review: Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
Lansing, Alfred
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

An incredible true story that details the leadership, skills and experience of Ernest Shackleton and his crew as they survive daunting odds and extreme misery while attempting to cross Antarctica. While the book starts a bit slowly, a few chapters in it is near impossible to set down. It reminds us of the endless capability of man to survive in situations where death seems to be the only option available.

Greg
Book Review: When I Fall in Love
Kurland, Lynn
4 stars = Really Good

If you enjoy historical romance that's more about the relationship and the time period than the bedroom scenes, this is a fabulous book! Part of Lynn Kurland's paranormal romance series with the MacLeods and the DePiagets, this is a fun, light-hearted time travel experience. Jennifer is a 21st century girl who ends up in 1229 England, and lives to tell about it!

Deb