Newest Reviews

Books are reviewed on a 4-Star system

See Drop Down menu for previously reviewed books.

New Books reviewed since last update
Title Author Type Rating Description Date Reviewed
Dead Wake Erik Larson Non-Fiction **** The story of the Lusitania, a British passenger ship on a voyage from NY to London with a number of American passengers on board. It was sunk by a German U-Boat, helping to facilitate the US entry into WWI. The book tells the story from several points of view, including some interesting perspectives from the German U-Boat Captain, some history about the building of the vessel, and some insight into Woodrow Wilson and some of the personal challenges he was facing during a difficult time in his presidency. Quite educational, but with the action and plot of a good thriller! 2015-07
One Summer Bill Bryson Non-Fiction **** This book focuses on the events of the summer of 1927, when there was quite a lot to write about! From Lindbergh’s first transatlantic flight, to infamous murder trials, prohibition and Al Capone, and Babe Ruth’s home run exploits, and much more, there’s a lot to cover and Bryson does it in his typical light-hearted way, making History fun! 2015-07
The Prime Ministers Yehuda Avner Non-Fiction **** (Bradley) For me this was an outstanding book.  It is written by an insider, who worked for each of the Israeli Prime Ministers beginning with David Ben-Gurion  and ending with Menachem Begin.  Yehuda immigrated from the UK to Israeli prior to its statehood does an outstanding job of presenting the challenges Israeli’s faced in her first 50 years.  This was a very personal book for me, as it clearly demonstrates the challenges Israeli faced, continues to face.  It also very effectively demonstrates just biased the majority of the worlds press are as they report on the conflict.

Avner does a great job of opening the closed doors of both the Israeli and the US governments negotiations in the quest for a peaceful solution to the Palestinian problem.  This is a very challenging read that revels some of the horrors of WWII on a personal level, the duplicity of world leaders, including our own presidents and what it is like to be an Israeli.  Avener also shed light on the challenges Israel continues to face, with over half a billion hostile neighbors sworn to  the destruction of the state of Israel.  This should be required reading for all high school students the world over.  We might eventually reach peace!The amazing story of the girl shot by the Taliban for speaking out for the right of women to be educated. The story includes some excellent background on the Swat Valley in Pakistan where Malala is from and how the Taliban gained a foothold there and what it meant for families that lived there. Malala’s father dreamed of building a school and ultimately succeeded. He also believed strongly in educating girls and it is clear that Malala leared many of her values and skills from her father. Though I was interested in this book, I admit that I was pleasantly suprised by the depth of content and what I learned from it.

The Girl You Left Behind Jojo Moyes Historical Fiction **** The focus of the book is on restoration of art taken during wartime. However, rather than focus on the Nazis and WWII, this book is set in France during WWI. A well written fictional account, the book provides some excellent history and really tries to show both sides of the issue and the difficulties involved in determining what is “right” in what can often be ambiguous circumstances. 2015-07
Dead Wrong J. A. Jance Fiction *** One of the Sheriff Joanna Brady series, just an easy fun read. Honestly, I can’t remember much about the story – there are a couple murders which get solved, but it’s fun. 2015-07
The Boston Girl Anita Diamant Fiction *** I have loved Diamant’s previous books, which were heavier on the Historical than the Fiction. This one, while interesting, didn’t provide the same level of satisfaction for me. A Jewish woman is being interviewed by her granddaughter for a school project and the interview covers her life in Boston from the early 1900’s until the 1980’s. There is more emphasis on her family life as a Jewish immigrant than on actual historical events, but it is a quick and easy read – intersting but not great. 2015-07
Agent 6 Tom Rob Smith Fiction ** A Soviet secret police investigator tries to exist while still maintaining a sense of humanity. Personal tragedy leads to a series of events which span the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and other events during the cold war. Not a bad story, but feels a bit dated. 2015-07
The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins Fiction ** If you liked Gone Girl, you’ll probably like this book. For me, it wasn’t bad enough to give up on, but I couldn’t wait to be finished with it. I felt no empathy for any of the sorry cast of characters. The main character, a divorced drunk who was fired from her job but continues to commute to the city every day rather than to tell her friend/roomate constructs a fantasy about a couple she often sees through the window of the train. When the woman goes missing, she becomes involved in the investigation, leading to a long and complicated series of events meant to keep you guessing who did what to whom. 2015-07
The Kitchen House Kathleen Grissom Fiction ** An orphaned Irish girl is consigned to indentured servitude on a Virginia plantation, lives alongside the slaves and works in the Kitchen House. As her circumstances and status change, she tries to maintain these ties to her “family” but with increasing difficulty. The are some real flaws in the story, but it is interesting. Personally I would have preferred that it incorporate a bit more of the politics and events of the time – this was pure fiction with not much history evident, though the author in her notes talks about the extensive reseach she did in order to accurately portray the conditions. 2015-07
Previously reviewed books – Recent
Title Type Author Rating Description Date Reviewed
I Am Malala Malala Yousafzei Non-Fiction **** The amazing story of the girl shot by the Taliban for speaking out for the right of women to be educated. The story includes some excellent background on the Swat Valley in Pakistan where Malala is from and how the Taliban gained a foothold there and what it meant for families that lived there. Malala’s father dreamed of building a school and ultimately succeeded. He also believed strongly in educating girls and it is clear that Malala leared many of her values and skills from her father. Though I was interested in this book, I admit that I was pleasantly suprised by the depth of content and what I learned from it. 2015-04
Infidel AyaanHirsi Ali Non-Fiction **** (Bradley) I can understand why there is a Fatwa out on her by the radical Islamists.  Her story is a very clear call for western democracies to wake up to the real threats by the core tenants of Islam.  This is a very worthwhile read about the deep power of human nature to overcome extreme challenges, to grow and learn, and to adapt.  What Ayaan does not answer is:How does democracy balance the right for religious freedom with the abuse and subservient nature against women that much of Islam appears to believe? 2015-04
Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredinle Rescue Mission of WWII Mitchel Zuckoff Non-Fiction **** From a remote base in the South Pacific, a pilot discovers a beautiful valley in New Guinea which is nicknamed Shangri-La after the fictional place in the novel Lost Horizon.Inaccessible by land, It soon becomes a sightseeing destination for base personnel with pilots descending between two mountains before flying low over the valley. All’s well until a plane carrying 24 people on such a tour crashes, leaving only five survivors. They soon learn they are in a land untouched by civilization, with an isolated community of natives. They must learn to survive while rescuers come up with a daring plane to rescue them. It’s a great story on many levels and well worth a read. 2015-04
The Boys in the Boat Daniel Brown Non-Fiction **** True story of the 8-man rowing team from the University of Washington who won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics. The books tells the story of several members of the team, including their backgrounds and hardships during the depression era and their trials and tribulations frst in getting to college, then in making the rowing team, and culminating with their trip to Berlin for the Olympics. An inspirational and excellent story that also provides a great history and foundation for the sport of crewing. 2015-04
The Nazi Officer’s Wife Susan Dworkin and Edith Beer Non-Fiction **** Memoir of Edith Beer, an Austrian Jew who assumes the identity of a friend, moves to Berlin, and spends the war years as a U-Boat, a term used to define Jews secretly living as Aryans. She meets and marries a German man who knows her true identity. He is later drafted and becomes a Nazi officer, though does not support their cause. A heart-felt story with much of the emotion and drama you would expect. 2015-04
Blood and Beauty: The Borgias, a Novel Sarah Dunant Historical Fiction **** Spanish Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia becomes Pope through some very sketchy means in the late 15th century. He has great plans for his illegitimate children, whom he loves. One interesting fact – celibate in those days meant that one could not marry – not that they had to abstain from sex. It seems primarly meant to ensure that clergy did not have heirs with a claim to their wealth. In any case, it’s a heck of a good story, based on real events as best as they can be reconstructed. It has everything you could ask for – love, romance, blood, gore, politics, backstabbing, scheming, tragedy, triumph. 2015-04
Edge of Eternity Ken Follett Historical Fiction **** Edge of Eternity, the third and final book in The Century Trilogy, begins on Germany following WWII. German, Russian, English, and American families traverse the events of the 50’s through 80’s, including segregation and civil rights, the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam, the King and Kennedy assasinations, the irse of Gorbachev, the fall of Communism, the music of the times and much more. I especially enjoyed this book because many of the events occurred when I was old enough to remember but too young to understand. It was great to get more of the bacjground and Follett as usual does a masterful job of wrapping real events and historical figures into his complex and engagin stories. 2015-04
Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America’s First Sensational Murder Mystery Paul Collins Non-Fiction *** In late 1799, Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist, and Aaron Burr, a Republican, were political enemies but both practiced law in New York. When the remains of a young woman were found in a well and a man was charged with her murder, the two teamed up to defend him, Though the central story is the murder case, the book also takes you through much of the politica atmosphere in the country at the time, some of the shady dealings and scandals, and the events leading up to the famous duel where Burr shot and killed Hamilton. 2015-04
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Jamie Ford Historical Fiction *** Henry Lee is a Chinese-American. The story begins in 1986 with the death of Henry’s wife. It then alternates between the 1980’s and the 1940’s, when Henry met a Japanese girl at school. His parents hated the Japanese and Henry could not disclose his friendship to them. As the friendship grows into something more, Keiko and her family are sent to an internment camp and Henry eventually loses touch until the 1980’s when an old hotel is being restored and belongings of some Japanes families are discovered in the basement. It was an interesting book, providing some historical context for the animosity towards the Japanese by both Americans and Chinese, while also highlighting the challenges of all immigrants who become American. 2015-04
The Furies John Jakes Historical Fiction *** Fourth book in the Kent Family Chronicles, this one begins with the Alamo and continues through the California gold rush and the increasing divisiness over the issue of slavery. Many historical events and people are woven together into a good story. A great way to review the country’s history. 2015-04
Gray Mountain John Grisham Fiction *** A young New York lawyer is laid off in the aftermath of an economic downturn. She is told she can have her job back when the economy recovers if she agrees to an internship at a non-profit group. She accepts a job as a legal aid lawyer in Southwest Virginia and soon finds herself helping real people with real problems. But of course, the evil Big Coal companies are a worthy nemesis and soon she is pitted against them. A fine story with plenty of the author’s personal biases incorporated. 2015-04
The Burning Room Michael Connelly Fiction *** Lastest in the Harry Bosch detective series. An aging Harry, now working in the Open-Unsolved unit, gets an interesting cse. A man shot 9 years earlier, paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair with a bullet lodged in his spine, finally dies. The bullet is removed and is evidence in what is now a murder investigation. Bosch is teamed with a young Latina partner and together they work to solve the case. Perhaps not the best of the series, but still a good read. 2015-04
The Silkworm Robert Galbraith Fiction *** This is the second Cormoan Strike book, a series written under J. K. Rowling pseudonym. I found it very enjoyable, though perhaps a but longer than it needed to be. The characters are well developed and believable. Cormoran and his assistant, Robin, are retained by the wife of a novelist who has disappeared. This leads to a complex series of events which in the end is of course solved. But the ride along the way is fun. 2015-04
The Astronaut Wive’s Club Lily Koppel Non-Fiction ** This story centers on the wives of the original Mercury Seven astronauts. Ill-prepared to be thrust into the sudden spotlight they found themselves in, they did their best to cope, helping each other while at times succumbing to pettiness and jealousy. Interesting, especially for those interested in the Space Program, but not great. 2015-04
Deja Dead Kathy Reichs Fiction ** This is the author and book that the TV show Bones is based on. This book is the first of the Temperence Brennan series and she has just moved from NC to Quebec. While examining some dismembered remains, she believes there is a serial killer out there, but is unable to convince the police who she works with. A good rea, but the character is not exactly the Bones portrayed on the TV show. 2015-04
  1. #1 by click here on October 17, 2013 - 10:41 pm

    Everyone would benefit from reading this post


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