A guest post from Sharon:

Which of these statements are true?

  • Genetically modified foods are harmful
  • Aspartame is unsafe
  • High-fructose corn syrup is worse for you than sugar

If you said none of the above, you are correct!

But if you’re in the majority of people who are both angry and frustrated with conflicting health information, Robert Davis steps in here to help.

The introduction of his book, Coffee Is Good For You, breaks down why there’s so much confusion as to what is good or bad for you, then goes on to explain how the scientific method fits into nutrition studies. For example, different kinds of studies are more reliable than others, and you should always look at who’s funding the studies, and whether or not they had any say as to what goes on in them. A lot of people skip over the introduction of most books, but this one is definitely worth your time!

After the introduction, we get to the meat of the book. Each chapter is divided into categories of nutrition claims (fats, sugars, diets, etc), then broken down further into a specific claim, which is marked as yes, no, half-true or inconclusive, followed by the findings of pertinent studies. If this all sounds very dry, don’t worry: Davis is extremely good at dropping bits of trivia and humor to keep you interested in what’s being said.

Once you’ve read Coffee Is Good For You, just make sure you can soften your know-it-all response of, “Actually…” when someone inevitably recites scraps of flawed information.

After hearing a glowing review on NPR praising this witty and charming book, I quickly placed a hold on a copy of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.  Told primarily through emails, faxes, letters, and transcripts of taped conversations, the novel explores the events leading up to agoraphobic housewife Bernadette Fox’s disappearance.  She and her Microsoft bigwig husband promise their gifted daughter Bee that if she gets straight A’s at her prestigious middle school, she can have anything she wants as a graduation gift.  Bernadette’s worst nightmare comes true when Bee succeeds and chooses a family trip to Antarctica.  She attempts to cope with this sudden obligation to be around (gasp) people; she even hires a virtual assistant in India to make all the vacation preparations!  That’s why it is such a shock when Bernadette disappears just before they are due to embark on the trip.  Bee compiles these documents looking for clues, hoping against all evidence that she can bring her mom home again.

Semple was a writer for Arrested Development and it shows in this book, in which witty dialogue and over-the-top scenarios abound.  Bernadette’s feud with the PTA moms at Bee’s school, most notably with the one who lives next door, is ridiculous and hysterical.  Neighbor tresspasses to insist that Bernadette remove some unsightly blackberry vines?  Better erect a 5 ft. x 8 ft. billboard telling her to stay off the property, of course!  But despite all of the wacky humor, at the heart of this novel is a very touching mother-daughter relationship.  Bee will stop at nothing to find out what happened to her mother, and it is her unconditional love and determination that will render you unable to stop reading until you find out how their story ends.

One of the most buzzed-about books of the summer, The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker raises the question:  what would happen if the Earth’s rotation suddenly began to slow down?  Narrated by 11-year-old Julia, the novel explores not only the ramifications of this global disaster but also how it affects the already tumultuous time between childhood and adolescence.

I read this book several weeks ago and held off on blogging about it because, frankly, I was disappointed.  But I realize now that perhaps I just went into it with the wrong expectations.  As a reader who adores sci-fi and fantasy literature, I felt that the earth’s slowing rotation and its effects were extremely underdeveloped.  I wanted more information about why it happened, good descriptive passages about the effects it had on life all over the planet, and to feel the sense of danger and dread that should have been felt with this sort of catostrophic event.  But that’s not really the focus of this book, and if you go into it prepared to practically ignore the science of it all, it becomes a better story.

The Age of Miracles is really a coming-of-age story about Julia, who just so happens to live in a time when the earth’s rotation is slowing.  It’s a novel about growing up and the changes that come along with it no matter what kind of crisis is happening in the outside world: friends still grow apart, bodies still change, your parents still don’t understand you.  The passages focusing on Julia’s feelings and her relationships are beautifully written.  Walker quickly draws the reader into Julia’s story and makes you care about her; you’ll want to jump right into the book and punch the bully who picks on her at the bus stop right in front of the boy she likes.  Overall I would recommend this book if you’re looking for a nicely written coming-of-age story in a unique setting, but aren’t too concerned about sci-fi elements.

Before you see these movies on the big screen, check out the books!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (September 21) – Charlie struggles to cope with complex world of high school as he deals with the confusions of sex and love, the temptations of drugs, and the pain of losing a close friend and a favorite aunt.

Cloud Atlas (October 26) – Recounts the connected stories of people from the past and the distant future, from a nineteenth-century notary and an investigative journalist in the 1970s to a young man who searches for meaning in a post-apocalyptic world.

Anna Karenina (November 16) – Trapped in a stifling marriage, Anna Karenina is swept off her feet by the dashing Count Vronsky.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II (November 16) – Having made her choice between living a fully human life or joining the world of immortals to be with her beloved Edward, Bella finds her future threatened by a series of events with potentially disastrous consequences.

Life of Pi (November 21) – After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan – and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger.

*all book descriptions from publishers

I’m going to tread very lightly with this review, because to spoil any plot point of Gillian Flynn’s masterful suspense novel Gone Girl would be a crime against anyone planning to read it.  Nick and Amy Dunne were once young and in love.  But now, on the fifth anniversary of their wedding, their relationship is crumbling and neither spouse seems happy.  It is on this day that Nick receives a phone call from a concerned neighbor:  the Dunne’s front door is wide open, the living room is trashed, and Nick’s wife nowhere to be found.  Anyone interested in the true crime genre could tell you that the husband is always the first suspect, but did Nick really do it?  Told in alternating chapters of Nick’s perspective when Amy goes missing and Amy’s diary entries chronicling their relationship, the novel plays with the narrators’ unreliability to keep the reader guessing every step of the way.

I’ve heard a ton of buzz about this book all summer and trust me, it is all well-deserved.  The fast pacing and many twists and turns make this book painful to put down, even for just a minute.  This is no average whodunit; in addition to being a captivating mystery/thriller, this is also an intriguing character study about what happens when relationships go wrong and when your spouse isn’t quite what they seem to be at the beginning of the relationship.  I finished this book three days ago after reading it in two sittings, and I still can’t stop thinking about it.  I highly recommend Gone Girl to anyone looking for a unique mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

If you have a passing familiarity with Star Trek, you’ve probably heard the term “redshirt” before.  It refers to a random low-ranking crew member (always wearing a red shirt) who gets sent on an away mission with the main characters.  The redshirt inevitably dies early in the episode.  The novel Redshirts, written by prolific sci-fi author John Scalzi, lovingly pokes fun at this phenomena.  Ensign Andrew Dahl is assigned to the Universal Union’s flagship, the Intrepid, and he soon starts to notice the high mortality rate on the ship’s away missions.  His suspicions are raised when he notices that while the captain, the lieutenant, and the chief science officer are always on these missions and always come out alive (though often with dramatic injuries), a lower-ranking officer always seems to die pretty much as soon as the ship lands.  Along with a few of his fellow new crew members, Andrew begins to investigate and is shocked to discover that things are not as they seem on the Intrepid.

Even though I felt like the book started to lose steam around halfway through, it is still funny and entertaining.  If you’ve ever seen classic Star Trek episodes, you’ll enjoy all the inside jokes and the way that Scalzi parodies the series.  But don’t worry, this novel is accessible even if you’ve never seen a single episode.  The humor still manages to come through, and the more poignant moments (particularly in the three codas that follow the story) will still move you.  If you like sci-fi, space travel, Star Trek, or humorous fiction, I’d recommend giving this fun and quick novel a chance.

Looking for something for your kids to do now that school is out?  The library has lots of new video games available for checkout.  You might even find one you would like to play yourself!  Here are just a few of our newest titles:

Mario Party 8

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

GoldenEye 007 Reloaded

Disney Universe

Madden NFL 11

Just Dance Summer Party

Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7

NBA 2K12

And thanks to a grant from Genesis to support health and wellness, the Eastern Avenue Branch also has several new video games that will help you get in shape!  Here are some of our newest games for the Wii, Xbox 360 Kinect, and PlayStation Move that will keep the whole family active:

Zumba Fitness and Zumba Fitness 2

 Wii Sports

Wii Fit Plus

Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout


Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum

Nickelodeon Fit

My Fitness Coach

 Kinect Sports and Kinect Sports 2

The Biggest Loser Challenge

Your Shape: Fitness Evolved

The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout

Jillian Michaels Fitness Adventure

Get Fit with Mel B

….and more!

Popular books being made into movies is nothing new, but it seems like there are a lot of them to get excited about this year.  Here are a few that have already seen theatrical release in 2012 and some more that will be coming soon to a theater near you!

Read these and then check out the new DVD from the library:

One For the Money by Janet Evanovich: A New Jersey bounty hunter with attitude, bail-bonds apprehension agent Stephanie Plum pursues a former vice cop, now on the run, with whom she shares a sordid history and a powerful chemistry.  Now available on DVD.

The Vow  by Kim Carpenter: Presents the true story of a couple who fell in love again after the wife, Krickitt, suffered a traumatic brain injury in an automobile crash and lost all memory of her previous life.  Now available on DVD.

John Carter (based on John Carter of Mars) by Edgar Rice Burroughs:  Presents the adventures of John Carter, a Civil War veteran who is mysteriously transported to Mars, where he fights a variety of enemies with the aid of the lovely Martian princess Dejah Thoris.  Coming soon to DVD.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill: Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor, travels to the north of England to settle the estate of Alice Drablow, but unexpectedly encounters a series of sinster events.  Now available on DVD.


Read these before they hit the big screen this summer:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith: Reveals the hidden life of the 16th U.S. president, who was actually a vampire hunter, obsessed with the complete elimination of the undead, and uncovers the role vampires played in the birth, growth and near-death of the nation.  In theaters June 22.

The Bourne Legacy by Eric Lustbader:  Former CIA agent David Webb leads a quiet life as a university professor until he becomes a target of an assassin and is framed for the murders of two close friends, and as he fights for his life, he finds himself under the control of his alternate personality–Jason Bourne.  In theaters August 3.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney:  In the latest diary of middle-schooler Greg Heffley, he records his attempts to spend his summer vacation sensibly indoors playing video games and watching television, despite his mother’s other ideas.  In theaters August 3.

Dorothy of Oz by Roger S. Baum:  With the aid of Lion, Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and Tugg the talking boat, Dorothy battles Jester, who is using the dead Wicked Witch’s magic wand to turn the citizens of Oz into porcelain dolls.  In theaters August 3.

(all descriptions from publishers)

Arcadia by Lauren Groff chronicles the rise and fall of a 1970s commune in upstate New York.  While living in makeshift homes, a group of idealists calling themselves The Free People work together to renovate an old mansion where hundreds could coexist in harmony, sharing equally in manual labor and production of food.  Though it was started by people looking for a life of freedom, equality, and communal living, it becomes clear over time that this utopian society isn’t all that was promised and dreamed of.  People are often just cold and starving, but they keep waiting for life in Arcadia to get better at the encouragement of their charismatic but ultimately hypocritical leader.

We learn about Arcadia through the eyes of a five-year-old boy named Bit, the first child born in the commune.  Bit lives in a bread truck with his hard-working father Abe and his deeply depressed mother Hannah, who was a ray of light in Arcadia until her miscarriage caused her to see Arcadia as it really was.  Despite his age Bit is an astute observer of the good times and bad in Arcadia, and so his childlike lens is perfect for introducing this society.  The story moves through the ups and downs of Arcadia’s history, visiting Bit and catching up on his life and the livelihood of the Arcadians when Bit is 5, 15, 35, and 50 years old.

My favorite thing about this book was Lauren Groff’s lovely prose.  She makes it easy to become fully immersed in the world of Arcadia through the lush detail.  Even the parts of the story that could easily come off sounding like cliches (everyone is vegan, the women wear flowing dresses and braids, plenty of illegal drugs are consumed) somehow transcend this because Groff’s rich writing and realistic characters keep this novel from turning into a series 1970s cliches.

Once I really got into this book, I couldn’t put it down.  The characters were so compelling and real that I just had to know what would happen to Bit, Abe, Hannah, and Arcadia itself.  Though I had a good idea of how things would turn out, the last quarter of the book took me to some unexpected places.  Overall I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re interested in historical fiction or 1970s culture.

Demand for the library’s copies of The Hunger Games has skyrocketed since the movie came out.  Don’t worry, we can put you on the reserve list, but you might have a little bit of a wait ahead of you before your copy comes in.  So while you wait, here are a few similar titles you might want to try:

If you like plenty of action and powerful female characters:

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

If you’re looking for fast-paced stories about survival:

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Gone by Michael Grant

If you’re interested in a dystopian world with a government gone bad:

1984 by George Orwell

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

If you want something with a bit of romance:

Matched by Ally Condie

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

If you’re looking for some cool sci-fi:

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card