Title: The Lady in the Cellar
Author: Sinclair McKay
Page Count: Unknown
Publishing Date/Publisher: 30 October/ White Lion Publishing
Review: I really enjoyed this book. Sinclair McKay has an amazing writing style, bringing the historical mystery to life and giving enough background information without it feeling like you’re being bogged down with too much information.
The mystery is so engaging and kept me guessing the whole time, which is not something I can say about too many mysteries these days. They tend to be predictable and the twists and turns aren’t actual twists and turns. This one had me at the edge of my seat, so definitely no complaints there.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a good yet quick read.
Title: Dread Nation
Author: Justina Ireland
Performer: Bahni Turpin
Length: 11 hr, 56 min
Series: Dread Nation, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 3, 2018 by HarperAudio
Review: This book is fantastic, and I loved every minute of it. Bahni Turpin did an excellent job reading it, and I have come to expect nothing less from her than a stellar performance.
Shortly before finishing this book, I browsed through some of the reviews posted on Goodreads and was surprised to find that there has actually been some controversy regarding this book. After reading through these criticisms, I strongly believe that many people misunderstand the difference between author opinion and writing a story that is true to the era in which it is taking place.
Many people took issue with the fact that people of color are spoken of negatively in this book and did not like the way they were portrayed. I saw words like “colorism” being thrown around because of the way the main character describes herself and other people of color, but it is important to remember that people of this time period had been indoctrinated with a very negative view of people of color. It is not surprising that many people of color internalized this negativity, and it deeply affected the way they viewed themselves and others. This is largely the reason that colorism exists, and I think this book was a powerful commentary on how damaging that type of rhetoric is.
It also confused me that so many people considered this an LGBT+ representative book. Some people consider Jane bisexual, but I think that this is a stretch. I think it can be argued that she is curious, but her strong attraction to men is made apparent throughout the book. I understand that sexuality can fall on a pretty broad and fluid scale, but it does not seem that she considers herself to be particularly attracted to women. It is also stated by reviewers that another central character, Katherine, is asexual, but I think this is also a stretch. She admits that she has not experienced attraction to anyone, however, considering her traumatic upbringing and the near constant barrage of sexual harassment she experiences on a daily basis, I do not find this to be especially surprising. My point in all of this is that this book should not be touted as LGBT+ literature. Perhaps this topic will be explored more deeply in the next book, in which case I may change my mind.
There are so many positive things to say about this book. It features strong female characters who are equally clever and badass. It is a truly original story and the character development is quite good in my opinion. The author even hit me with a twist at the end that I did not see coming at all. I feel good about the ending, and I am so excited for the next book in this series!
Title: End of Days, the Assassination of John F. Kennedy
Author: James Swanson
Page Count: 398
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2013, William Morrow
Format: Printed, paperback
Review: ‘Does this guy only write about assassinations?’ my coworker asked when I told him about James L. Swanson’s books. And yes, yes he does. And he does it well. End of Days is a compelling read and had me on the edge of my seat despite knowing what happened. I grew up hearing about JFK’s assassination from my parents and later in documentaries but this is the first book I sought out to explain it. That’s probably because I loved Swanson’s book on Lincoln’s assassination (review for Manhunt), so I already knew his writing style and the level of research he puts into his work (which is a lot, by the way).
Much like his book on Lincoln, he wrote this full of historical facts but made it so it read like a novel. You don’t find yourself inundated with a bunch of dates and names; instead, he integrates it all into the narrative so smoothly.
I highly recommend this book, and one of the biggest pluses for me is that it doesn’t go into any of the conspiracy theories. He mentions some of them at the end, but only to acknowledge that they exist. I thought that was a good call on his part.
Title: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates
Author: Brian Kilmeade
Page Count: 304
Publishing Date/Publisher: November 2015/Sentinel
Review: This was a very interesting book. I hadn’t heard about any naval battles the US took part in during its infancy, so I was surprised when I came across this book. Kilmeade goes into Jefferson’s struggles in keeping American ships from being taken over by pirates once the US lost the protection of the British Navy. No longer flying the British flag, the American ships were free game to the Tripoli pirates; no deal had been struck to pay the pirates off to assure ships could pass in safety.
No spoilers for the rest of it, you’ll have to read that for yourself.
I would have liked there to have been more discussion on Jefferson’s more problematic aspects in the beginning, but I understand that it probably wouldn’t have fit with the narrative flow very well. That, and given the author’s political stance, I don’t think he would have anyway.
I would still recommend it, that’s for sure. It was well written and engaging and I enjoyed reading it.
Title: Washington’s Spies
Author: Alexander Rose
Page Count: 402
Publishing Date/Publisher: December 2007/Bantam
Review: I don’t have too much to say about this book, to be honest. I enjoyed it and I also didn’t. It was interesting but also not. It lagged a little too much to recommend highly, but I don’t want to discourage people from reading it at the same time, if that makes sense.
It was informative, that’s for sure. I learned a lot about the use of spy rings during the Revolutionary War, which is something I hadn’t even thought before: it’s not like we go into detail about it in school. But reading about how they developed their codes for letters and the danger they put themselves under was interesting.
I’m not sure exactly what it is about this book that makes it interesting and not at the same time, but it is. It’s the Schrödinger’s cat of books. So I recommend it, but simultaneously don’t recommend it.
Title: The Atlas of Disease
Author: Sandra Hempel
Page Count: Unavailable
Publishing Date/Publisher: 4 October, White Lion Publishing
Review: This is a book that will only appeal to a certain group of readers, but since I am in that group, I found it fascinating. Sandra Hempel offers a concise history of various diseases that have plagued the Earth for centuries (and in some cases, millennia), and writes in a very clear manner. It’s not bogged down with too much academic terminology, making it accessible for the general public, not just those studying the topic.
The structure of the book itself is amazing, and the maps are so informative. Hempel includes old drawings/political cartoons of the diseases, which helps show the historical impact of the disease. She also doesn’t focus too much on one disease; each chapter is relatively short, yet still provides a great deal of information. It takes a great deal of talent to be able to have something be in depth and short at the same time.
Bottom line: if you like to study history and disease, this book is for you.
Title: Killers on the Flower Moon
Author: David Grann
Page Count: N/A
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 2017, Doubleday
Review: I loved this book, I kept recommending it to everyone. David Grann has a very unique way of writing, and it flows so well. The history itself is compelling and tragic at the same time, and Grann does a great job at highlighting the injustice Native Americans faced at the hands of both the government and the general public.
Grann detailed the history of the Osages and how they came to be the richest people in the world, as well as the history of the FBI, excellently. It was very interesting to read about how the FBI started investigating murders- something we associate with them so much today thanks to TV shows like Bones.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in Native American history or their treatment in the early parts of the 1900s.