Category Archives: Books

I have a glorious seven weeks off from school where I will be spending much time reading for pleasure instead of necessity.  I have many books on my to-be-read shelf, one of the reasons why I started my Drowning in Books blog awhile ago.  Inspired by Inspired Canoe, and in the interest of reading the books I actually own and maybe curtailing the purchasing of new books until these are read (yeah … probably not going to happen), I’m challenging myself to read these ten within the next seven weeks.  The massive tome on the bottom is over 700 pages, and yes the Da Vinci Code is still in my to be read pile (how long has it been in print??).

So … Wish me luck! 🙂

From Amazon:

The Lost Fleet by Jack Campbell: The Alliance has been fighting the Syndic for a century-and losing badly. Now its fleet is crippled and stranded in enemy territory. Their only hope is Captain John “Black Jack” Geary-a man who’s emerged from a century-long hibernation to find he has been heroically idealized beyond belief. Now, he must live up to his own legend.  Average review 4 stars from 145 reviews.

Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley: Grade 7 Up—A novel set in an alternate contemporary world. Viewing dragons as fire-breathing, non-sentient animals with gigantic appetites for livestock, humans have hunted them for centuries, and now they survive only in a few wilderness havens. Jake Mendoza has grown up at one such haven, the Smokehill National Park in the American West, and has inherited his scientist parents’ commitment to the park’s secret inhabitants. When he rescues an orphaned baby dragon, he sets in motion a cascade of events that may eventually save these top predators from extinction. Readers will find the book to be less about the joys of the human-dragon bond and more about the challenges of raising an infant and communicating in a vastly different language. As an exhausted Jake explains, he is the first human in history to find out that a marsupial baby dragon out of its mother’s pouch still expects a round-the-clock source of food, warmth, and company for over a year. Also, their telepathic communication gives Jake and his fellow Smokehill residents debilitating head-aches, and no one on either side is ever entirely sure they’ve got the message right. Once readers get through Jake’s overdone teenage diction in the first few chapters, they will be engaged by McKinley’s well-drawn characters and want to root for the Smokehill community’s fight to save the ultimate endangered species.—Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT  Average review 3.5 stars from 58 reviewers.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: With The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown masterfully concocts an intelligent and lucid thriller that marries the gusto of an international murder mystery with a collection of fascinating esoteria culled from 2,000 years of Western history.

A murder in the silent after-hour halls of the Louvre museum reveals a sinister plot to uncover a secret that has been protected by a clandestine society since the days of Christ. The victim is a high-ranking agent of this ancient society who, in the moments before his death, manages to leave gruesome clues at the scene that only his granddaughter, noted cryptographer Sophie Neveu, and Robert Langdon, a famed symbologist, can untangle. The duo become both suspects and detectives searching for not only Neveu’s grandfather’s murderer but also the stunning secret of the ages he was charged to protect. Mere steps ahead of the authorities and the deadly competition, the mystery leads Neveu and Langdon on a breathless flight through France, England, and history itself. Brown (Angels and Demons) has created a page-turning thriller that also provides an amazing interpretation of Western history. Brown’s hero and heroine embark on a lofty and intriguing exploration of some of Western culture’s greatest mysteries–from the nature of the Mona Lisa’s smile to the secret of the Holy Grail. Though some will quibble with the veracity of Brown’s conjectures, therein lies the fun. The Da Vinci Code is an enthralling read that provides rich food for thought. Average review 3.5 stars from 3991 reviews.

Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine: The first two novels in the New York Times bestselling Morganville Vampires series together for the first time in a new trade paperback edition.

Morganville is a small college town in the heart of Texas—not a place that exactly screams “hotbed of creatures of the night.” But college freshman Claire Danvers is about to discover why, in Morganville, you should never, ever stay out after dark…

Glass Houses
College freshman Claire Danvers moves off campus and into an old house in the small town of Morganville. Her new roommates have her back when the town’s deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood…

The Dead Girls’ Dance
Claire may have a great roommate and a new boyfriend, but when she’s invited to the Dead Girls’ Dance all hell breaks loose—literally. Because this time, the living and the dead are ready to tear up the night…

Average review 4.5 stars from 8 reviewers (more reviews for the individual books)

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein: If you’ve ever wondered what your dog is thinking, Stein’s third novel offers an answer. Enzo is a lab terrier mix plucked from a farm outside Seattle to ride shotgun with race car driver Denny Swift as he pursues success on the track and off. Denny meets and marries Eve, has a daughter, Zoë, and risks his savings and his life to make it on the professional racing circuit. Enzo, frustrated by his inability to speak and his lack of opposable thumbs, watches Denny’s old racing videos, coins koanlike aphorisms that apply to both driving and life, and hopes for the day when his life as a dog will be over and he can be reborn a man. When Denny hits an extended rough patch, Enzo remains his most steadfast if silent supporter. Enzo is a reliable companion and a likable enough narrator, though the string of Denny’s bad luck stories strains believability. Much like Denny, however, Stein is able to salvage some dignity from the over-the-top drama.  Average review 4.5 stars from 903 reviewers

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan: Pollan (The Botany of Desire) examines what he calls “our national eating disorder” (the Atkins craze, the precipitous rise in obesity) in this remarkably clearheaded book. It’s a fascinating journey up and down the food chain, one that might change the way you read the label on a frozen dinner, dig into a steak or decide whether to buy organic eggs. You’ll certainly never look at a Chicken McNugget the same way again.Pollan approaches his mission not as an activist but as a naturalist: “The way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world.” All food, he points out, originates with plants, animals and fungi. “[E]ven the deathless Twinkie is constructed out of… well, precisely what I don’t know offhand, but ultimately some sort of formerly living creature, i.e., a species. We haven’t yet begun to synthesize our foods from petroleum, at least not directly.”Pollan’s narrative strategy is simple: he traces four meals back to their ur-species. He starts with a McDonald’s lunch, which he and his family gobble up in their car. Surprise: the origin of this meal is a cornfield in Iowa. Corn feeds the steer that turns into the burgers, becomes the oil that cooks the fries and the syrup that sweetens the shakes and the sodas, and makes up 13 of the 38 ingredients (yikes) in the Chicken McNuggets.Indeed, one of the many eye-openers in the book is the prevalence of corn in the American diet; of the 45,000 items in a supermarket, more than a quarter contain corn. Pollan meditates on the freakishly protean nature of the corn plant and looks at how the food industry has exploited it, to the detriment of everyone from farmers to fat-and-getting-fatter Americans. Besides Stephen King, few other writers have made a corn field seem so sinister.Later, Pollan prepares a dinner with items from Whole Foods, investigating the flaws in the world of “big organic”; cooks a meal with ingredients from a small, utopian Virginia farm; and assembles a feast from things he’s foraged and hunted.This may sound earnest, but Pollan isn’t preachy: he’s too thoughtful a writer, and too dogged a researcher, to let ideology take over. He’s also funny and adventurous. He bounces around on an old International Harvester tractor, gets down on his belly to examine a pasture from a cow’s-eye view, shoots a wild pig and otherwise throws himself into the making of his meals. I’m not convinced I’d want to go hunting with Pollan, but I’m sure I’d enjoy having dinner with him. Just as long as we could eat at a table, not in a Toyota.  Average review 4.5 stars from 625 reviewers

The Maze Runner by James Dashner: Grade 6–10—Thomas wakes up in an elevator, remembering nothing but his own name. He emerges into a world of about 60 teen boys who have learned to survive in a completely enclosed environment, subsisting on their own agriculture and supplies from below. A new boy arrives every 30 days. The original group has been in “the glade” for two years, trying to find a way to escape through a maze that surrounds their living space. They have begun to give up hope. Then a comatose girl arrives with a strange note, and their world begins to change. There are some great, fast-paced action scenes, particularly those involving the nightmarish Grievers who plague the boys. Thomas is a likable protagonist who uses the information available to him and his relationships (including his ties to the girl, Teresa) to lead the Gladers. Unfortunately, the question of whether the teens will escape the maze is answered 30 pages before the book ends, and the intervening chapter loses momentum. The epilogue, which would be deliciously creepy coming immediately after the plot resolves, fails to pack a punch as a result. That said, The Maze Runner has a great hook, and fans of dystopian literature, particularly older fans of Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember (Random, 2003), will likely enjoy this title and ask for the inevitable sequel.  Average review 4 stars from 191 reviewers

Eight Days to Live by Iris Johansen: Although billed as an Eve Duncan Forensics Thriller, neither Eve nor forensics plays a big part in Johansen’s latest. Instead the focus is on Eve’s adopted daughter, Jane MacGuire, who has a successful art show at a Parisian gallery. But a painting titled Guilt has drawn some unwanted attention: the religious cult Sang Noir wants Jane dead. When the cult starts going after those closest to Jane, she turns to two strong, dangerous men: Jock, a trained assassin, and Seth, a hunter with psychic powers. Friction ensues between these two strapping guys as they fight to protect the globe-trotting Jane while she travels from Paris to Switzerland to Jerusalem in an attempt to find out why Sang Noir is so determined to kill her. She’s fighting an intense attraction to Caleb, even as she disapproves of his methods of extracting information, and when Eve’s life hangs in the balance, Jane finds herself crossing lines she never thought she would. Readers interested in hard forensic science will want to look elsewhere, but those receptive to paranormal abilities and religious mysteries will find much to enjoy in this page-turner.  Average review 4 stars from 17 reviewers

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris: Still reeling from the deaths of her fairy cousin, Claudine, and many others in 2009’s Dead and Gone, Sookie Stackhouse struggles with paranormal politics in her entertaining if slow-moving 10th outing. When Claudine’s triplet, Claude, appears at her doorstep, Sookie reluctantly allows him to move in. The government threatens two-natures with mandatory registration, and tensions run high in the local Were pack. Then Eric’s maker, a Roman named Appius Livius Ocella, arrives without warning, bringing along Alexei Romanov, whom he rescued from the Bolsheviks and turned into a vampire. Though the action often builds too slowly, the exploration of family in its many human and undead variations is intriguing, and Harris delivers her usual mix of eccentric characters and engaging subplots.  Average review 3 stars from 749 reviewers

The Passage by Justin Cronin: Fans of vampire fiction who are bored by the endless hordes of sensitive, misunderstood Byronesque bloodsuckers will revel in Cronin’s engrossingly horrific account of a post-apocalyptic America overrun by the gruesome reality behind the wish-fulfillment fantasies. When a secret project to create a super-soldier backfires, a virus leads to a plague of vampiric revenants that wipes out most of the population. One of the few bands of survivors is the Colony, a FEMA-established island of safety bunkered behind massive banks of lights that repel the virals, or dracs—but a small group realizes that the aging technological defenses will soon fail. When members of the Colony find a young girl, Amy, living outside their enclave, they realize that Amy shares the virals’ agelessness, but not the virals’ mindless hunger, and they embark on a search to find answers to her condition. PEN/Hemingway Award–winner Cronin (The Summer Guest) uses a number of tropes that may be overly familiar to genre fans, but he manages to engage the reader with a sweeping epic style. The first of a proposed trilogy, it’s already under development by director Ripley Scott and the subject of much publicity buzz.  Average review 3.5 stars from 278 reviewers