Current Picks: Book Reviews

Lora

Killer Choice by Tom Hunt (2018)

killerchoiceWhat would you do to protect the one you love? When Gary Foster finds out his pregnant wife Beth is diagnosed with a brain tumor and that a clinical trial in Germany might help her, he feels powerless, because there is no way they can afford the $200,000 cost. When a local criminal anonymously approaches Gary, offering to give him the money if Gary kills someone for him, Gary agrees--but complications arise both with the deal and in his personal life.

In Killer Choice, Tom Hunt has written a fast-paced read that's hard to put down, as long as you can buy into the premise. Great for readers of Harlan Coben, Linwood Barclay, and David Rosenfelt's standalone novels.
Mary P.

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (2018)

widowsofmalabarhillPerveen Mistry, Bombay’s first female lawyer, is investigating a suspicious will on behalf of three Muslim widows living in strict seclusion when the case to turns to murder. Perveen notices that all three wives have signed away their full inheritances to charity, leaving nothing for them to live on. She is skeptical and puts herself in great danger trying to help the widows, but she is clever and determined to do what is right.

The Widows of Malabar Hill, set in 1920s India, kicks off a new historical mystery series by Sujata Massey.
Mary

How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill (1995)

irishsavedIf you enjoy history, you will want to pick up this engaging title. In How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill relates the philosophy, culture, and history from the decline of the Roman Empire to medieval Europe.

In a mere 246 pages, this narrative is told through the lives of individuals—including the remarkable figure of St. Patrick. As the Dark Ages descended, Irish monks preserved Western civilization through transcriptions of Greek and Latin manuscripts. In so doing, the Irish put their unique imprint on medieval society, and Ireland became known as the “isle of saints and scholars.”
IPPL Staff

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2015)

simon-vs-agenda-homo-sapiensSimon Spier has a crush on a guy he's never met, his friend group is undergoing major changes, and he's being blackmailed. Junior year is way more complicated than he thought it would be.

I absolutely adore this book. I listened to the audiobook version of this early last year and it remains one of my favorite reads of 2017.

Becky Albertalli balances humor, teen angst, and romance to create a fabulous first novel.

And if you like Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, there's another book in the Simonverse: The Upside of Unrequited. (A third book, Leah on the Offbeat, comes out later this year.)

And—Simon is being made into a movie! It was renamed Love, Simon and hit theaters last week. Now's your chance to read the book before you see the movie.

 
Jez

Artemis by Andy Weir (2017)

artemisJazz Bashara, a 26 year-old Saudi-Arabian woman, has spent the last two decades living in Artemis, the only city on the moon. Even off-Earth, life is still a struggle, and Jazz survives by smuggling contraband to anyone who will pay. When one of her wealthiest clients offers her a chance to escape her poverty, she can’t say no, even to a little covert sabotage. Things do not go well, leading to a series of events that put Jazz—and the whole city of Artemis—in mortal danger.

Andy Weir brings to Artemis everything that made his previous book, The Martian, a breakaway hit. He’s given us yet another suspenseful adventure tale with excellent pacing, quick-thinking MacGyver-like escapes, and scientific know-how. Unlike The Martian’s Mark Watney, however, Jazz is not alone on her world and by the end, she’s assembled a ragtag crew to pull off a heist that could save—or end—their lives.
Jennifer

The Woman Left Behind by Linda Howard (2018)

womanleftbehindLinda Howard again successfully balances humor and romantic suspense (a la Mr. Perfect). Tech expert Jina starts a G. I. Jane-like quest to join a special ops group in the field. Her determination to conquer physical and mental challenges is inspiring. As leader, Levi ensures the team is at top preparedness—and because of his guidance, sparks fly between the pair. Jina’s interactions with her teammates are hilarious. But it all takes a serious turn when a mission goes haywire. With immensely likeable characters, strong relationships, and a compelling story, The Woman Left Behind will grab your attention—just hang on for an exhilarating ride.
Elizabeth

A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena (2017)

strangerinthehouseTom Krupp thought he had the perfect marriage. He is very much in love with his wife Karen. But does he really know her? Why did she speed away from a murder scene one night and drive so recklessly that she crashes her car into a utility pole? Why does she continue to say she remembers nothing about that night?

Throw in the obsessed neighbor from across the street and you have a very entertaining thriller by Shari Lapena. Check out A Stranger in the House today.
IPPL Staff

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau (2013)

testingJoelle Charbonneau’s dystopian novel takes place in the far future and depicts the aftereffects of a nuclear fallout. It asks the question of what makes a good leader. How does a people choose leaders that will act in the best interest of everyone? Leaders who won’t abuse the power they’ve been given and instead help the country flourish under their guidance? The Test that the title refers to hopes to be a solution to this question.

There hasn’t been a candidate chosen for the Testing in Cia Vale’s small town in a very long, long time. It’s why it comes as such a surprise that after graduating, she was chosen. Why was it her and not her brothers who were just as qualified (if not more so)?

The Testing is action-packed with decent pacing that keeps you wondering what will happen next. There is also some romance without it overwhelming the main plot (and no love triangle!). Journey with Cia Vale as she proceeds through a Test of her own.

Part of a trilogy, The Testing is followed by Independent Study and Graduation Day.
Denise

Without Warning by Joel Rosenberg (2017)

withoutwarningA true page-turner. I highly recommend Without Warning for anyone who enjoys political thrillers or has any interest in the Middle East. It is fast-paced, suspenseful, thought provoking, and has a cast of fascinating characters, some likable and some deplorable. The intricately plotted storyline focuses on one man’s determination to capture or kill the leader of the ISIS terrorist group. Very relevant to today’s situation in the Middle East. Author Joel Rosenberg portrays radical Islamic terrorism in a realistic, and often disturbing, manner.

This book is the third in the J.B. Collins series, although I didn’t know that, so had not read the first two. That certainly didn’t take any enjoyment away from this book (but if you prefer to start at the beginning of a series, book one is The Third Target).
Jez

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare (2014)

romancingthedukeIzzy Goodnight, once a main character in her father’s highly popular fairytales, but now close to penniless, has inherited a castle. The problem? It’s in terrible shape: ransacked by looters, missing windows, full of vermin, and, oh, yeah, it’s still housing its former master—and he didn’t know about the sale. The surly and rakish Duke of Rochester took up residence after losing his sight and pride in a sword fight and now refuses to leave...but so does Izzy. The two are forced to share until the ownership battle is settled and might find themselves in closer quarters than they imagined.

Check out Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare to cuddle up with a humorous and steamy romance that will warm up your winter nights.
Jennifer

Big Mushy Happy Lumpy by Sarah Andersen (2017)

bighappymushyAfter reading Heather’s review of Adulthood is a Myth, I immediately whipped through the first in the “Sarah Scribbles” collection. Sarah Andersen’s comic strips offer sparse drawings and humorous relatable insights. Big Mushy Happy Lumpy, the second book in the collection, is also a quick and enjoyable read—but it takes a different turn, highlighting struggles with social anxiety. This shift in tone brings to mind Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh and Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.

I can’t wait to read Herding Cats, a new collection out next month.
IPPL Staff

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (2014)

alltheboysLara Jean Song Covey has written a love letter to every boy she's ever loved. The letters are in her room, in a hatbox, hidden. Until suddenly they are mailed out...

Lara Jean is a fantastic protagonist. She's incredibly family-oriented, with very tight bonds to her father and both of her sisters.

One of my favorite things about this book series is that while Lara Jean may have a romance, her entire story isn't a romance. She has friends, goals, aspirations, and hobbies besides dating.

Both of the romantic possibilities are fleshed-out, and I could see Lara Jean with either of them -- which made it all the more realistic.

All three books in the series are out now, so there's no waiting to find out how Lara Jean's story ends. Start with To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved by Jenny Han, then check out P.S. I Still Love You (book 2) and Always and Forever, Lara Jean (book 3).

 
Mary S.

Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig (2015)

lastbustowisdomInspired by a cross-country trip Ivan Doig took as a young boy in the summer of 1951, Last Bus to Wisdom is about Donal, an 11-year-old boy, being raised by his grandmother on the Double W Ranch in Montana. When his grandmother requires surgery, Donal is sent to live with his bossy, rule-driven great-aunt Kate in Wisconsin. When Kate reaches her wit’s end, she sends Donal back to Montana. Her husband, Herman, joins Donal on the greyhound for the summer of a lifetime, using their wits to survive.

Along the way, Donal asks characters to sign his memory book, which opens him up to all kinds of people on the road, from hobos and villains to soldiers and kind-hearted travelers, with a few recognizable faces, such as Jack Kerouac. Doig is a great storyteller, whose character-driven novel has a strong sense of place, keeping readers anticipating where the story will go next and who they will meet along the way. In Last Bus to Wisdom, it’s not about the destination, but the journey.
Lora

The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy (2017)

libraryedgeofworldHanna, a librarian in the small town of Lissbeg, on the west coast of Ireland, determines that she must renovate the cottage left to her by her Aunt Maggie, because she cannot stand to live with her mother, Mary, anymore. Hanna and her daughter, Jazz, now living in France, had moved back to the area from London three years ago after Hanna discovered her husband, Malcolm, had been cheating on her.

With limited funds, since she took no divorce settlement from wealthy Malcolm, Hanna wonders if she has enough money to get the home in shape. Builder Fury O'Shea just might come through for her, despite his unorthodox methods. Hanna also finds herself involved in local government affairs when it appears that some would like to divert money and resources from the Lissbeg area towards touristy areas like Ballyfin and Carrick. Will they succeed in their plan? Felicity Hayes-McCoy’s The Library at the Edge of the World is a cozy story that will appeal to readers of Maeve Binchy, Jenny Colgan, and Gil McNeil.
Jez

Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life by Niki Brantmark (2017)

lagomDespite living a few months of the year without sunlight, Sweden regularly appears highly on the Happiness Index. Almost everything, from their friendly, welcoming communities (which take in more refugees than any other country) to eco-friendly construction to their trademark interior decorating can be traced back to the Swedish philosophy of lagom. Roughly translating to “not too little, not too much,” lagom is all about taking life in moderation.

In Lagom, Niki Brantmark explains Swedish culture through the eyes of an adopter, discussing how to balance life in a large number of ways. You don’t need to deny yourself pleasures, nor do you need to ignore responsibilities—you just have to find the right amount of each. With tips on crafts, holidays, decoration, health, relationships, diet, and more, Lagom is the perfect whole-life introduction to living like a Swede, wherever you are.