The Grand Design

Physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow bring the latest thinking about the nature of reality to the general, non-scientific public in this interesting and entertaining book. The Grand Design (2010) traces mankind's progress from mythology to science. And do we really have free will? Observer created reality, quantum, string, and M theory are presented. The big bang and multiple universes are discussed.

There is no math in this book, which helps by making the theoretical concepts accessible to those without a masters in physics. The authors have presented much to think about in a very brief book (200 pages or 4.5 hours). In the end, the explanations of our reality in The Grand Design are only theories. And those theories are, so far, unprovable.

Read the ebook or listen to the audiobook via Overdrive today.



Zoo 2

In this short story sequel to Zoo, the adventure starts with Jackson Oz narrowly escaping from a polar bear. He and his family have set up housekeeping in the arctic thinking they would be safe from infected animal attacks.

Oz and wife Chloe were considering the dubious safety of Greenland when Oz gets invited to join a new effort to end the pandemic of animal attacks. There is a concern that the infection could spread from animals to microbes. Then the infection begins to be noticed in some humans in remote areas. Oz joins a team of researchers to capture an infected human alive. Infected humans are as savage as their animal counterparts but can speak and know how to use weapons.

This is an exciting standalone story but I recommend reading Zoo first—and check out my review of that title. Jay Snyder's excellent reading won't let you put this audiobook down till the end. Listen to the audiobook via Hoopla or read the ebook via Overdrive. Check out Zoo 2 (2016) by James Patterson and Max DiLallo today.



Zoo

Grad student Jackson Oz has been noticing an uptick in violent animal attacks in this sci-fi bestseller. No one important will listen. He's dismissed as a crank. He travels to Africa to research the phenomenon firsthand. There he meets ecologist Chloe Tousignant. He would rather research Chloe but he has a serious girlfriend back home in the U.S. The lions snap (pun intended) him back to business.

The animal attack scenes are pretty exciting and following the search for the cause of the animal behavior is interesting. Zoo (2012) is a good thriller. I really liked it. I'm not sure how much of this book is James Patterson and how much is Michael Ledwidge, but Zoo is sometimes referred to as Zoo 1 because Patterson teamed up with someone else, Max DiLallo, to write Zoo 2, a short story sequel.

Visit Overdrive to read the ebook or listen to the audiobook of Zoo. Then, check out the ebook or audiobook of Zoo 2 for more stories in the same universe.



Beat the Reaper

This is a funny book, but the humor is very dark. Peter Brown tells the story himself. He is an emergency room intern. His real name is Pietro Brnwa, and he's a mob hitman. Because the story is told by this former hitman, the language is pretty crude. Very crude. But it has to be, given his background. And the violence is bone crushingly graphic. Still, Beat the Reaper (2009) is really funny. Author Josh Bazell has an M.D. from Columbia (the university, not the country), giving authenticity to Dr. Brown.

The tough guy narration by Robert Petkoff brings Dr. Brown to life. This audiobook is first class entertaining (if you're okay with language and violence). Get this audiobook and thank me later.

Listen to the book on Hoopla or read the book on Overdrive.



A Study in Scarlet

This book started it all. Watson needs to find a cheaper place to live. Holmes is looking for a roommate. They move to 221B and the legend is born. The first use of a magnifying glass by a detective is here too.

The mystery: Scotland Yard asks Sherlock Holmes for help investigating a murder. Holmes has a look around and says the murderer is 6 feet tall, has long fingernails on his right hand, smokes cigars, was taken to the scene in a carriage pulled by a horse with 3 old shoes and 1 new one, and the man was poisoned. Wow! But that's Sherlock.

Arthur Conan Doyle was criticized for his depiction of Mormons in this book. He eventually apologized. And Holmes kills a dog to find out if a pill contained poison. It did. I didn't much like that scene but that was the 1880s and sensibilities were different then. Check out the classic mystery A Study in Scarlet (1887). 

I listened to the audiobook read by Stephen Thorne (4.5 hours), and you can too through Hoopla. If you prefer to read the book, that's in Hoopla too. Check out the series list.



11/22/63

This is a long book, over 30 hours, but worth every minute. It's the story of Jake Epping. His friend Al has found a time portal to September 9th, 1958. Al has been using it to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. But now Al is dying. He shows the portal to Jake and convinces him to take over the project. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty. The portal has rules. First, while everyone else is whatever age they were in 1958, Jake is still aging normally. Second, the past doesn't want to be changed. The bigger the change, the bigger the resistance to change. Third, every trip through the portal erases any changes made during previous trips. Jake has to start from scratch each time he enters the portal.

Stephen King did a great job researching Lee Harvey Oswald. Jake has to be sure he's got the right man.And then there's Sadie.

Check out 11/22/63 (2011) today. You can read or listen to the book via Overdrive.


In the Garden of Beasts

Take a fascinating and frightening look at the early years of Germany under Nazi rule. The perspective is from the Dodd family. The Dodds moved from Chicago to Berlin when Professor William Dodd became the U.S. ambassador.

1933 Berlin is a glittering, exciting, and prosperous capital. The Dodds are expected to make connections with Berlin's elite by hosting lavish dinner parties at their own expense. And Dodd is supposed to get Hitler to be less vocal about the Jews.

While America turns a blind eye, Dodd slowly begins to see what's really going on behind the scenes in Berlin. His warnings and reports to the State Department are ignored. Then, Dodd's daughter, Martha, a free spirit, starts dating Rudolph Diels. He's handsome, cultured, important, and the head of the Gestapo!

This book is nonfiction but reads like a riveting suspense thriller once it gets going. Check out In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin (2011) by Erik Larson on Overdrive today: read the ebook or listen to the audiobook. Then, check out our list: we've got more titles of nonfiction that reads like fiction.



The Heist

Kate is a tough, smart, and determined FBI Special Agent on the hunt for the elusive Nick, an international thief and charming con man. She finally catches him, but he talks her FBI boss into letting him work for them. And he's to be Kate's partner on her next mission: stopping a crooked banker on a private island.

Fighting bodyguards, pirates, and each other, the action is pretty farfetched, but it's so much fun you won't mind. This is fiction after all.

The Heist (2013) is a fast-paced and entertaining adventure, but it's the fun kind, not the gripping white knuckle kind. The flirty sexual tension between Kate and Nick help keep this story light.

The Heist is the first book in the Kate O'Hare and Nicholas Fox series written by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg.

Narrator Scott Brick is a solid storyteller and a pleasure to listen to—visit Overdrive to listen to the audiobook or read the ebook today.



Bird Box

Imagine you hear a noise in a completely dark room. You think there very well might be a big crazy guy with a large knife ready to pounce right in front of you. Would you turn on the light?

That's the creepy tense feeling of Bird Box (2014). No crazy guy with a knife, but some strange abstract entities that cause people and animals that see them to go insane, kill others around them, and kill themselves.

This is the story of Malorie and her children as they try to find safety blindfolded and in a blindfolded world. Taking off the blindfold outside could mean madness and death. The book starts a few years into the ongoing horror then alternates flashbacks and current action.

Cassandra Campbell narrates with a calm but serious voice. You will want to hear the whole book by Josh Malerman in one sitting (about 9 hours). Visit Overdrive to read or listen to the book today.



The Cuckoo’s Calling

The first book in the Cormoran Strike detective series made me a fan— and I have three more Strike novels to look forward to.

Strike is a British private detective. Unfortunately, he and his business are a mess. Just as he gets to the end of his rope, a wealthy man hires him to investigate the death of his sister, a famous celebrity high fashion model. Everyone except the victim's brother thinks it was a suicide. Strike has a temp secretary, Robin, who helps him with the case. Their interactions make this sixteen-hour audiobook seem like a quick read (and Robert Glenister narrates with a dignified British accent).

The Harry Potter series wasn't for mewrong generation, I guess. What I didn't know was that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J. K. Rowling. That was a surprise. Terrific job, J. K.

The Cuckoo's Calling (2013) is available to read or listen to in Overdrive—and if you get hooked, you can read the rest of the series too. Also, the first three novels were adapted into a British TV show called C. B. Strike.



Crime Scene Cleaner

This TV show is classified as a comedy, but it's much, much more than that. Heiko Schotte works with, but not for, the police, cleaning up blood and gore at the scenes of violent crimes. While he works, he becomes involved with homeowners and people visiting the places he's cleaning. Schotty, as he calls himself, doesn't get much cleaning done. Most of the episodes are Schotty and someone else just talking. It's philosophical with really thought-provoking observations on humanity and life—all with some laugh out loud moments.

There are ten 25-minute episodes in season 1. Crime Scene Cleaner (2011-2018) has some adult situations and is not for children.This series is worth a look. Start with season 1 on Hoopla. So far, Hoopla has the first two seasons of this interesting sophisticated seriesIn German with English subtitles.


The Psychopath Test

This is a funny yet thought-provoking look at the diagnosis and treatment of psychopathy, a disorder involving anti-social attitudes and behavior. Jon Ronson talks to some pretty interesting characters including Emmanuel Constant, paramilitary leader of a Haitian death squad.

Beyond the very interesting case histories, Ronson purports that the diagnosis of psychopathy is largely dependent on the confirmation bias of the examinerand that could put all of us at risk.

The title of this book refers to an actual list of anti-social traits called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. Ronson examines the effectiveness of the list and concludes checklist results can be interpreted conflictingly by different researchers. In other words, the checklist results are in the eye of the beholder.

You will like The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry (2011). Read the book on Overdrive or listen to the audiobook on Hoopla. Ronson also wrote The Men Who Stare at Goats and So You've Been Publicly Shamed, which are good too.



Coherence

Mike and Lee are having friends over for dinner tonight. It's also the night Miller's comet will pass near the Earth. Smartphones crack, the Internet goes out, and then all power is lost. Mike has a generator which restores the lights. The landscape outside is dark except for one house in the distance with the lights on. Despite having been warned by a physicist friend to stay inside during the comet event, two of the party take glow sticks and attempt to visit the other house.

Then it really starts getting weird. This is one of those movies you have to watch over again to notice the clues you missed the first time. Don't look for car chases, fiery explosions, or gunfights. Coherence (2013) is more of a thought-provoking suspense puzzle.

I really liked Coherence and always recommend it when I'm asked for a good movie: you can place a hold on the dvd or watch it on Hoopla today.

100 Bullets. Book 1

In the first story, Mr. Graves takes a seat next to Isabelle on the train taking her home after her release from Statesville. She doesn't know him but he knows every detail of her life. He shows her proof of who murdered her husband and child while she was in prison. He offers her revenge.

A gun and 100 untraceable bullets. Police will immediately drop any investigation of a crime committed using one of these bullets. Will she take him up on it?

Each of the ten stories have that same premise: proof of some kind of outrageous wrong and 100 untraceable bullets. You won't see superheroes, dragons or sorcery. You will get gripping noir drama.

Read 100 Bullets. Book 1 (2014) by Brian Azzarello in Hoopla today.



The Week

Use Flipster to access issues of The Week online. This magazine creates news articles by bringing together different sources and viewpoints in single topic articles. Thus, a story about homelessness might include conflicting quotes from The Slate, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and others in one concise article. The reader gets to read differing viewpoints and form their own opinion. There is a section on U.S. news, world news, and a page titled "How They See Us" with articles containing viewpoints from foreign publications. My favorite section is "Good Week Bad Week," highlighting this week's winners and losers.

Download Flipster on your smartphone or tablet, or read the magazine via Flipster on your computer. You'll have access to the current issue as well as back issues