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
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
Previously reviewed books – Recent
Title Type Author Rating Description Date Reviewed
Captain James Cook – A Biography Richard Hough Non-Fiction **** (Bradley) This is a 4 star read for those interested in sea history and 3 stars for the average reader.  To me this was a wonderfully fascinating read that filled in life at sea in the 1700’s.  While Richard’s style was a little dry and sometimes hard to follow, I very much enjoyed the story.  It filled in a great knowledge void which is appropriate given the immensely significant exploration Captain Cook accomplished in his short lifetime.  As somewhat of a modern day explorer, I am constantly amazed at the conditions under which Cook explored.  For the most part he had little or no charts and often what he did have, was of highly questionable accuracy.  It was just during his second and third expeditions that a time piece (a portable accurate watch) was finally created by John Harrison that allowed Navigators to accurately determine their Longitude with reference to GMT.  Captain Cook was responsible for much of what the English navy and others understood on how to prevent the scourge of the sea – Scurvy from taking up to 25% of crews.  In fact, he was so successful at looking after his men, that he could count on his fingers the number of losses he experienced on each of his expeditions – an unheard of accomplishment at the time.  I recommend one read this book with a good atlas handy, to better understand and visualize his voyages.  The maps in my paper back version are almost impossible to read.  For anyone who loves the sea, this is a must read. 2014-10
The Day the World Came to Town 9/11 Jim Defede Non-Fiction **** (Bradley) This is a wonderful uplifting story created by the terrible events of Sept 11, 2001 in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, which just happened to have a major airport, compliments of the US Government.  When the US government decided to close US airspace on the morning of Sept. 11, over 250 aircraft were diverted to Canada, who graciously allowed them to land, even though there was substantial fear of additional terrorists on board those planes.  Gander, a small town of 10,000, ended up accepting 38 planes with 6,595 passengers and crew.  The town’s people and the surrounding towns rallied within hours to help the stranded passengers, complete stingers, who ending up spending up to 5 days with nothing more than their carry on.  To quote Jim – “The terrorists had hoped their attackes would reveal the weaknesses in the western society, the events in Gander proved its strength.” 2014-10
The Bastard John Jakes Historical Fiction **** First in the Kent Family series, this book tells the story of a young Frenchman, illegitimate son of an English lord who has promised to share his fortune. When the Lord takes ill, the young man and his mother travel to England to claim his fortune, but are derailed by the Lord’s wife and legitimate son. This sets in motion a series of events, leading to the  Colonies in America and the beginning of the revolution. Jakes is great at creating a story around real characters and events. This one includes Sam Adams, Ben Franklin, the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere, and much much more. A very fun and engagin way to learn a little history. 2014-10
Me Before You Jojo Moyes Fiction **** (Bradley) There are two amazing aspect to the fact that I am reviewing this book.  One, I do not normally read fiction and two – it was one of the most intense books I have read in a long time – for me it was more like nonfiction.  Warning – this book addresses very difficult and controversial topics related to personal choice, Handicap rights and voluntary euthanasia.  I believe that Jojo does an outstanding job of presenting the impossible choices some of us have to make in our lives and the impact on those close to us.  Regardless of each individual’s personal choice on this topic as it effects them, we need more discussion, debate and understanding for those forced to confront these issues.  Jojo does an excellent job of pulling you into the topic, without turning it into a legal debate or a religious debate.  It is a discussion on a very personal level, that forces one to ask the question – How do we find the balance of happiness, when we are asked to choose between our happiness and those of the person we love. 2014-10
Hope for Wildlife – True Stories of Animal Rescue Ray Macleod Non-Fiction *** (Bradley) This book will appeal to the animal lovers among us.  Ray put together a series of short stories from Hope for Wildlife, a Nova Scotia wildlife rehabilitation center, with experiences over the past 16 years of its existence.  Hope was founded and continues to be run by Hope Swinimer, a certified veterinary practice manager, who also works a full time job at as administrator of the Dartmouth Veterinary Hospital.  Ray has included magnificent color photographs and some very interesting background on the each rescue animal whose story he tells. I most warn you, not all the stories have perfect endings, but he does provide some insight into the challenges of rescuing wild animals, rehabilitating them and releasing back into the wild.  The only aspect of this story I felt Ray missed was some serious discussion regarding the underling ethical questions and economic challenges associated with these types of organizations.  2014-10
Sex on the Moon Ben Mezrich Non-Fiction *** (Bradley) This is a fascinating story of one of the most audacious heists in history.  In 2003 an extremely gifted, overly confident Student Intern at the NASA Space Center Houston, pulled off an amazing theft of moon rocks from NASA.  This is the true story of how Thad Roberts went from high potential NASA Employee, maybe even Astronaut, to the Federal Penitentiary.  Ben does a very good job of keeping the suspense up, even though you know the outcome from the beginning of the book.  This was written with deep cooperation of Thad Roberts and is a very interesting read.  This is a classic example how to much confidence can sink the ship.  Very quick and easy read.  2014-10
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer Non-Fiction *** (Bradley) This is a wonderful story about hope and what can actually be done in Africa to help the continent develop.  Very much worth ones time to read and appreciate all the good will of those who are trying to give back some of their business success in a positive fashion 2014-10
The Murder of the Century Paul Collins Non-Fiction *** If this story wasn’t true, it would be hard to believe. In 1897, a series of grisly discoveries of dismembered human remains begins the unraveling of a murder mystery. At the same time, newspaperment William Randolph Hurst and Joseph Pulitzer are battling for supremacy in their field. This is perhaps the first time the press figured prominently in not only reporting, but in interfering with and spinning the events. It’s a well told story, well documented and very interesting. 2014-10
Betrayal of Trust J. A. Jance Fiction *** This is the 19th book in the JP Beumont series. Another muder mystery begins when a snuff video is found on a cell phone, setting in motion a whole series of puzzling events. I continue to enjoy this character and the stories. Fun, mindless entertainment. 2014-10
Casual Vacancy J. K. Rowling Fiction *** J.K. Rowlings first novel aimed at adults is pretty good but not great. The death of a local politician causes a “casual vacancy” which requires a special election to fill. Various people in the small town have ambitions of filling the seat. The book looks into the lives of several local families. It’s a bit of a soap opera, but the characters are interesting and the story reasonable. A bit longer than it should have been but I enjoyed it, though I much preferred The Cuckoo’s Calling which she wrote under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. 2014-10
Fire and Ice J. A. Jance Fiction *** Arizona Sheriff Joanna Brady and Seattle Detective JP Beaumont team up in this murder mystery. Investigating separate cases, there turns out to be a link which brings the two together. As a reader of both series, I enjoyed this one. 2014-10
Six Years Harlan Cobam Fiction *** I accidentally bought the abridged version of this book from Audible so wasn’t sure how that would work out. Turns out is was just fine. It’s a fun mystery – a professor meets a woman and they fall madly in love, but then she inexplicably dumps him to marry an old flame. Six years later the old flame is murdered and it turns out he was married – to someone else. The story unfolds and makes for easy entertainment. Hard to imagine what was cut from the originial – I enjoyed this version. 2014-10
Sycamore Row John Grisham Fiction *** When a wealthy man dying of cancer leaves his estate to his black housekeeper, the family takes the matter to court. Local lawyer Jake Brigance receives a letter from the man written before he died asking him to defend his wishes. It’s a typical Grisham legal thriller with lots of side stories. Fun and easy read. 2014-10
The Black Box Michael Connelly Fiction *** The latest in the Harry Bosch series, this involves an old case from 1992 when the young Harry was the first on the scene to the murder of a white woman during the race riots in LA. With many other crimes occurring, the case was left to linger but is now resurrected. Harry has his typical run-ins with incomeptent beaurocrats but manages to find the “Black Box” – the crucial clue that leads to solving the case. A good story and easy read 2014-10
Let Me Survive Louise Longo Non-Fiction ** (Bradley) A true tale of the very sad story of a Mom, Dad and 5 year old who decide to take a sailing trip together.  The book is a very quick and easy read, but very emotional.  It also drives home for any sailor or cruiser, that you never, ever get into a life raft until you are stepping up into it, as the boat is literally sinking.   From an experienced sailors perspective, Louise does not address many of the key questions, and as it happened before internet in 1994, there is not a lot of other information out there.  It is a great read for those cruising to drive home some key points on preparing for the worst.  It is also a very good read for the non sailors, to get a sense of the true challenges of cruising. 2014-10
Sailing A Serious Ocean John Kretschmer Non-Fiction ** (Bradley) John is an extremely well respected sailor author, but this book has two faults in my opinion.  One, it is written almost exclusively for those who are serious sailors or those thinking about purchasing a boat and heading offshore. This book not for the general public  Two and more importantly – I disagree with so much of what he says and how often he ends up in bad weather.  That is not to say that for those thinking of purchasing a boat, there is not some excellent information and insights in the book.  It is just that I fear those just joining the cruising world might get the wrong idea on some critical issues.  I also believe John missed a key cruising sailboat, Oyster, that have clearly demonstrated they are ocean capable.  I do not believe there is any other brand of boat that has so many circumnavigations under its hulls.  Why he elected to leave this boat out, I do not know, but I suspect it may be a price issues.  There are far better sailing books to spend one’s time on.  2014-10
Gone Girl Gillian Flynn Fiction ** This one was interesting for awhile but in the end became so whacky and far-fetched I just couldn’t wait for it to be done. For me, this had great potential but did not live up to it. 2014-10
The Buffalo Soldier Chris Bohjalian Fiction ** I really enjoyed The Sandcastle Girls and hoped for a similar experience with this book. Although it was enjoyable, it was much more pure fiction, with only tangential references to the real Buffalo soldiers. A family loses twin daughters in a tragic flood and several years later takes in a foster child, a young African American boy. A fairly engaging story and easy read, but I was a bit disappointed that the story of the Buffalo soldiers was not more entwined in the story. 2014-10


  1. #1 by click here on October 17, 2013 - 10:41 pm

    Everyone would benefit from reading this post


  1. 2013-12 Boat Maintenance and Other Travels | Shear Madness
  2. Test Post 2 | Not Current Site
  3. 2012-11-12 Back to Normal « Shear Madness
  4. 2012-09-26 Chesapeake Bay « Shear Madness
  5. 2012-07 Jarrett Bay and Cape Lookout « Shear Madness
  6. Bahamas Shakedown Cruise – Part 2 (May/June 2012) « Shear Madness
  7. It’s Better in the Bahamas (May 2012) « Shear Madness
  8. Old Port Cove (March 2012) « Shear Madness
  9. Sweet Home Carolina (December 2011) « Shear Madness
  10. Haul Out (October 2011) « Shear Madness

Send us your comment, question, or suggestion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 855 other followers

%d bloggers like this: