The Professor of Secrets: Mystery, Medicine, and Alchemy In Renaissance Italy

by Willaim Eamon

I know very little about modern medicine, much less ancient medicine. I go to the doctor only when necessary and am not ashamed to say, that I still don’t trust them. That being said, of course I thought my neurosis would be placated by reading a book about alchemy back in the day, and by back in the day I mean the 1570s and doctor Leonardo Fioravanti. Read More »

Dracula in Love

by Karen Essex

Ugh. This ‘novel’ was beyond awful. It would be too generous to call this an attempt at glorified fan fiction. I am often leery of books that tell a well-known story from the perspective of another character. This has always seemed to be more of a creative writing class assignment than anything that should sell as a novel. Read More »

Dark Places

by Gillian Flynn

I really wish I would have read Flynn’s Dagger Award-winning novel Sharp Objects before reading this novel, because after reading Dark Places, I am not going to be reading anything else written by Flynn unless it is a gift and I have no other reading materials on hand. Read More »

The Angel’s Game

by Carlos Ruiz Zafron

I don’t know what it is about the Spaniards but they have a way of weaving the mystical with modern to create a macabre sense of possibility. Zafron again makes use of some well beloved characters in his first novel, The Shadow of the Wind. Read More »

Hunting Eichman: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World’s Most Notorious Nazi

by Neal Bascomb

A well researched, carefully crafted account of a series of events leading to the multiple escapes and captures of Adolf Eichmann, Nazi war criminal. The prologue begins with the tension of Mossad agents waiting for Eichmann to arrive in order to kidnap him and transport him to Israel, the only nation willing to prosecute him for his crimes. Though the tension is evident from the first page, the novel takes you back to Eichmann’s past as an SS officer in charge of implementing the ‘Final Solution’. Read More »

Peace Like a River

by Leif Enger

Peace Like a River is the kind of book I have been looking for. Enger creates the fascinating character Jeremiah Land, a father, and modern worker of miracles. We begin the story by remembering the story of Reuben Land’s miraculous birth. Read More »

The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale

by Joseph Conrad

It is no secret that I have a difficult time caring about the book when I can’t relate in any way to the characters. Mr. Verloc is lazy, loathsome, and self centered. Conrad paints a picture of a cumbersome man who sweats a lot as he rambles around alternately toad eating and bullying his own family passive aggressively. Read More »

Postcards from a Dead Girl

by Kirk Farber

I’ve read a few books in my time that leave me confused, not knowing whether I liked the book or didn’t like it. This is one of those books. Read More »

The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

by Alan Bradley

Another Flavia de Luce mystery that leaves one feeling warm and fuzzy and wishing for more. This book begins with an innocent puppet show coming to town. Flavia soon becomes entangled with the puppet master and his assistant. Rounding out the old faithful characters, are some new and interesting townspeople. Read More »

Thunderstruck

by Erik Larson

Erik Larson has done it again. Larson has a way to bring history to life. He spins a tale of murder and a tale of progress showing that man can evolve in evil and in technology at the same time. Read More »

Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade

by Patrick Dennis

This is one of the few novels that I read after seeing the movie. A roommate persuaded me to see the old movie full of technicolor hijinks but I didn’t seem to remember much of the novel when I read the book. Auntie Mame was written by Edward Everett Tanner III under the pseudonym Patrick Dennis.  Read More »

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

by Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce is a modern day Miss Marple. Sure, she isn’t set in modern times but she is a likable detective heroine that is sure to keep people reading this new mystery series. And she’s only eleven! Read More »

I Was Told There’d Be Cake

by Sloane Crosley

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… if you write memoirs, or essays about your own life, or an autobiography, you should definitely have done something in your life worth writing about. Sloan Crosley has done nothing worth writing about. Read More »

A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924

by Orlando Figes

Perhaps it is the Political Scientist in me… but I REALLY enjoyed this book. Orlando Figes is not only an expert in Russian history he is THE expert and his novel could be used both as a textbook in a Russian history or Political Science class or works equally well when just read by someone with an interest in Russia, or the history of communism in Russia. What sets this book apart is that Figes uses the words of the people themselves to describe conditions and explain complex situations instead of relying on overused and sometimes unsubstantiated political theory. Read More »

The Swan Thieves

by Elizabeth Kostova

I enjoy Elizabeth Kostova. I thought The Historian was a great read, but I worried that Ms. Kostova might not be able to pull it off again. Happily, I was wrong. Ms. Kostova talent lies in being able to weave different time periods and different stories together into a larger mystery. Read More »

On the Ridge Between Life and Death: A Climbing Life Reexamined

by David Roberts

A book that didn’t need to be written. Read More »

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters

I don’t like Sense and Sensibility. Let me make that clear. I always felt that Maryanne was off her rocker, that Edward Ferrars was a weak sort of individual, and that Colonel Brandon needed to stop trying to rob the cradle. That being said, Austin and Winters have done it. They have written a book that makes me not utterly despise the Dashwoods. Read More »

Brothers in Battle: Best of Friends

by William “Wild Bill Guarnere and Edward “Babe” Heffron with Robyn Post

I’d already read Band of Brothers, by the time I picked this book up, so I was fairly familiar with the history and the stories that were retold. Two of the most engaging ‘characters’ of Ambrose’s tale were indeed Wild Bill and Babe so it was interesting to see the past through their perspective. Read More »

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy

by Jeanne Birdsall

This is nearly a perfect book for kids. There is a bit of action, drama, and romance, couple this with an engaging family pet, and you have the recipe for good old fashioned fun. This reminds me of what kids books were before Harry Potter, those highly politicized memoirs of slave children or Native Americans, gossipy girls, and vampires. Birdsall has written a book that recalls to mind the joy of youth, and the innocence of a summer vacation with new friendships. There is nothing sinister, nothing lurking, no misplaced moral compasses. Read More »

The Monster of Florence: A True Story

by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi

Confession, I enjoy true crime. I do. I once went to a writing seminar when they spoke of the appeal of escapist literature. A study had been done which said that people tend to read what they are missing in their lives. Teenagers read fantasy, house wives read “Twilight”, etc etc etc. If this theory holds true, I enjoy true crime because there is not enough crime in my life. Read More »

Ship of Ghosts: The Story of the USS Houston, FDR’s Legendary Lost Cruiser, and the Epic Saga of Her Survivors

by James D. Hornfischer

One: unnecessarily long title. Two: seriously, after writing that title I am exhausted. That being said, this book is well worth reading. I have only a passing interest in WWII history (gasp) as I feel I’ve read it, heard it, seen it all a hundred times over. What I enjoyed about this book was that the author tried to keep the focus narrow in an arena that hasn’t received much media attention. Read More »

My Lobotomy

by Howard Dully and Charles Fleming

As I began reading Dully’s account of his youth and the lobotomy given at the age of eleven, I found myself disliking the author intensely. Granted, he has had a lobotomy so his memory was affected, but he strikes me as the textbook bratty kid with a bad attitude. Read More »

What Am I Doing Here

by Bruce Chatwin

Ah, Bruce… I think I am done with you. Maybe it was wrong to read three separate Bruce Chatwin books in a two week period, but I couldn’t help it. They were loaners from my uncle who needed them back in a hurry. Unlike other travel memoirs What Am I doing Here is a series of essays. They follow no general pattern that I could discern. Read More »

Who Killed Iago: A Book of Fiendishly Challenging Literary Quizzes

by James Walton

Yes, I did read this book. What can I say? I really love bargains at the bookstore and I really like books. I can think of, perhaps, four of my friends who would actually be willing to do these quizzes, but it was  a fun read none the less. The premise of the book is great. Read More »

Write It When I’m Gone: Remarkable Off-the-Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford

by Thomas M. DeFrank

I have never been a big fan of Gerald Ford. It is the Star Wars/Star Trek thing. I like Reagan, and I agree with Nancy when she called him “the unelected President”. Apparently, that incensed President Ford, as comes out in the book. Despite an almost non interest in President Ford as an entity, I am a sucker for history and politics. Read More »

Show of Hands

by Anthony McCarten

I learned something about myself while reading this book. Mainly, that I am a sucker for likable characters, and likable characters were few in this. Anthony McCarten is also a playwright, which is a strike against him in my book (did you see what I did there? Yes, that was a pun, and I blame my husband-he delights in that sort of thing). Read More »

Shades of Grey

by Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde has done it again. Any unfamiliar with the Thursday Next books, or the Nursery Crime series needs to stop what they are doing, immediately, and read them. They are that good. Read More »

The Undercover Economist

by Tim Harford

I like a good book about economics.  I particularly like Harford’s style of sneaking the economics in there and not bogging the text down with a bunch of technical economics terms. He gives the reader just enough to be able to converse with some authority afterward, but not enough to start pitching his own economic theories. Read More »

The Songlines

by Bruce Chatwin

Another travel memoir, but this time with a thesis, that all men are born to wander as it is their natural state. Bruce Chatwin writes of his travels to Australia to learn more about the songlines. It appears that Mr. Chatwin did his homework before he goes, because those he come into contact with seem impressed by his knowledge about the culture. In a later book I read that one of the reviewers called the book unbelievably pretentious, and I agree.  Read More »

In Patagonia

by Bruce Chatwin

A little back ground is in order. I am actually half Chilean, and have spent a little time there over the years. I also lived for a while in Brazil. This helped me in my pursuit of a second major field of study at university. Yes, one major was not enough. I double majored in Political Science and Latin American Studies. As a result I feel fairly confident in my knowledge of Latin American history, culture, politics and religion. So when my uncle (also an avid reader of anything he can get his hands on) lent me his battered copy of In Patagonia, I was excited to see what Mr. Chatwin would have in store. Read More »