Monday, July 31, 2017

Site Unseen by Dana Cameron, 340 pages

Brilliant, dedicated, and driven, archaeologist Emma Fielding finds things that have been lost for hundreds of years-and she's very, very good at it. A soon-to-be-tenured professor, she has recently unearthed evidence of a seventeenth-century coastal Maine settlement that predates Jamestown, one of the most significant archaeological finds in years. But the dead body that accompanies it has embroiled Emma and her students in a different kind of exploration. With her reputation suddenly in jeopardy-due to the ruthless machinations of a disgruntled rival-and a second suspicious death, heartbreakingly close to home, Emma must unearth a killer among the relics. But that means digging deep to get to dark secrets buried in the heart of the archaeological community-which, in turn, could bury Emma Fielding.

Death in the Pot by Morton Satin, 258 pages

Did King Louis XIV and her courtesans harbor more parasites than common street urchins? Did food poisoning play a role int he Salem witch trials, leading to the hanging of nineteen men and women? Which poison recently laced the food of Russian ex-KGB agent Viktor Yushchenko, and how did it kill him? In Death in the Pot, internationally renowned food expert Morton Satin documents several culinary mishaps and misdeeds in an engrossing narrative that spans from the ancient world to the present day.
Historic events both tragic and bizarre have resulted from adulterated food. In the fifth century BCE, the great plague of Athens, probably caused by contaminated cereals, led to the defeat of the Athenians in the Peloponnesian War. In the prescientific Middle Ages, illnesses resulting from spoiled food were often attributed to the wrath of God or malevolent spirits. Heavily infectious ergot induced a spasmodic muscle condition, which the Church named "St. Anthony's Fire" and interpreted as retribution by God on unbelievers. Similarly, in seventeenth-century America, the hallucinogenic symptoms of moldy grain were thought by Puritans to be signs of witchcraft. Even the madness of King George, which influenced the outcome of the American Revolution, may have been induced by accidental arsenic poisoning.
Moving into more modern times, Satin recounts the story of "Ginger Jake", a Prohibition-era concoction that left a string of customers paralyzed. The secret ingredient-Lindol, used in hydraulic systems and to prepare lacquers. This is one of the many instances that led to efforts by industrial societies to make food supplies safer; in some cases, these efforts were heroic. For example, in the early days of the FDA a "Poison Squad" was formed, consisting of young scientists who willing acted as guinea pigs to test the toxic effects of chemical additives. Satin concludes by describing the measures taken to protect the public and the food supply against possible bioterrorism attacks.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dew on the Grass by Eiluned Lewis, 186 pages

This was my latest "vintage book" from Bookishly, which sends me old paperbacks from England every month. This one was about a little girl's life in Wales and was a really sweet read. Plus, it was cool to have an old Penguin that came out 70 years ago in England. I love the history of it.

The League of Beastly Dreadfuls by Holly Grant, 294 pages

Anastasia is a completely average almost-eleven-year-old. That is, UNTIL her parents die in a tragic vacuum-cleaner accident. UNTIL she's rescued by two long-lost great-aunties. And UNTIL she's taken to their delightful and, er, "authentic" Victorian home, St. Agony's Asylum for the Criminally Insane.
There, Anastasia's aunties give her everything a girl could want: a cozy room (is that a chamber pot under the bed?), sumptuous meals (mmmmm......Mystery Lumps!), and character-building responsibilities (catching leeches!).
But something STRANGE is going on at the asylum. Are those attack poodles in the garden? Is it ODD that her aunties wear the same ring as the EVIL school secretary? And why, for goodness' sake, do they collect pictures of MISSING children?
Anastasia soon begins to suspect that her aunties are NOT who they say they are. So when she meets Quentin and Ollie, two mysterious brothers, the three join to plot their great escape!

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander, 180 pages

In the imaginary land of Prydain, where "evil is never distant," Prince Gwydion faces dangers more threatening than have ever been dreamed of. It has become imperative that the Black Cauldron, chief implement of the evil powers of Arawn, lord of the Land of Death, be destroyed.
For each of the warriors chosen to journey to Arawn's domain, the quest has special meaning. To Ellidyr, the youngest son of an impoverished king, it means a chance to satisfy his bitter longing for fame. For Adaon, beloved for his gentleness and bravery, the quest is an omen whose significance he dreads to discover. And to Tara, Assistant Pig-Keeper, the adventure seems a glorious opportunity to wear his first sword, and be a man among men.
In this story, filled with great sacrifice and great adventure, each warrior fulfills his destiny in ways entirely unforeseen.

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander, 190 pages

Taran is bored with his Assistant Pig-Keeper duties, even though his charge is none other than Hen Wen, Prydain's only oracular pig. He'd rather be doing something more heroic, like making swords and learning to use them.
When Hen Wen escapes and Taran goes after her, he finds himself farther from home than he's ever been. Soon he begins to realize that heroism is no easy task. With the dreaded Horned King on the loose and King Arawn gathering the forces of evil, Taran must look past his own dreams to warn the population of Prydain-before it's too late.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore, 479 pages

The Curies' newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty and the wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.
Hundreds of girls paint watch faces amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these "shining girls" are the luckiest alive-until they begin to fall mysterious ill.
But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects and the women's cries of corruption. As the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America's early twentieth century and a groundbreaking battle for workers rights that will echo for centuries to come.
Written with a sparkling voice and breathneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminate the inspiring young women exposed to the "wonder" substance of radium and their strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombings, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
I really enjoyed this book. It was fascinating and kept me engrossed the whole time.

The Ladies' Lending Library by Janice Keefer, 355 pages

It is August of 1963, the year of the Taylor/Burton film epic Cleopatra, showcasing a passion too grand to be contained on the movie screen. The women of the Kalyna Beach cottage community gather for gin and gossip, trading the current racy bestsellers among themselves as they seek a brief  escape from the predictable rhythms of children and chores. But dramatic change is coming this summer as innocence falters and the desire for change reaches a boiling point, threatening to disrupt the warm, sweet, heady days and the lives of parents and children, family and friends, forever.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? by Edward Gorman, 280 pages

Local Iowans and the national press corps crowd the front yard of Roswell Garst's farmhouse in Black River Falls. Gathered this Monday in September 1959 for the much-publicized visit of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, many brandish signs shouting BETTER DEAD THAN RED. The next day that slogan assumes a prophetic truth for Richard Conners, a high-profile leftist political writer. He turns up dead at the office of fledgling lawyer and private investigator Sam McCain with a hammer and sickle painted on his forehead. Everyone surmises Conners was killed for his politics...but McCain is not so sure.
This isn't my favorite series, but isn't bad. I think what I find off-putting is how much the author wants you to know when it took place because every page seems to have some pop culture reference from that time or such. I get it, Elvis was a singer at that time, let it go!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Fellside by M. R. Carey, 486 pages

Fellside is a maximum-security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. It's not the kind of place you'd want to end up. But it's where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life.
It's a place where even the walls whisper. And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess. Will she listen?
This was written by the same author of "The Girl With All the Gifts". I was thinking it would be along the same lines but was really different except for the fact that it was dark, depressing, and not really a feel good ending. I want to see what Rebecca Dudley thinks of this book knowing how much she liked the other.

The Sixth Gun, Volume 1: Cold Dead Fingers by Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt, 170 pages


In the passing shadow of the Civil War, defiant Confederate General Oleander Hume waits to be let loose, too evil and warped to die, too mad with bloodlust to let go of his black magic.

He hungers for his lost and most precious possession, an ancient weapon of foreboding doom. Having fallen into the hands of an innocent girl, this last and most powerful of six revolvers is the key to unlocking unstoppable power.

But before General Hume, with his wicked bride and four twisted horsemen, can summon an army of undead to claim what is his, in his path stands Drake Sinclair--a gunslinger playing with cards close to his chest.

However, Sinclair is no white knight and is himself on the hunt for the six guns...

This is one that I would have never picked up except for the fact that it was this month's book for Comics and Cocktails. It was different, dark but an interesting read. I'm tempted to read the next one.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Just Clause by Lorna Barrett, 306 pages

Tricia Miles, mystery bookstore owner and amateur sleuth, is in for a surprise when her ne'er-do-well father, John, comes to town-and promptly becomes a prime suspect in the murder of a woman with her own scandalous past. Even Tricia's faith in the old man is shaken when the Stoneham police break the news that her father is a known con man who has done jail time.
But what about bestselling thriller author Steven Richardson? Is it a coincidence that he arrived for a book signing just before the crime or that the victim was found with a signed copy of his latest bestseller?
From merlot to murder, Tricia is determined to clear the family name before another body shows up ruins Stoneham's first-and highly anticipated-wine and jazz festival.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, 331 pages

Long inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction, Neil Gaiman now turns his attention to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. Staying true to the myths, he envisions the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high; Thor, Odin's might son; and Loki, the trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. As Gaiman's deft and witty prose breathes life into their stories, the gods emerge with fiercely competitive natures and a tendency to let passion ignite their actions.

Wicked Women of Missouri by Larry Wood, 137 pages

Marauders like Jesse James and the Younger gang earned Missouri the title of the "Outlaw State," but the male desperadoes had nothing on their female counterparts. Belle "Queen of the Bandits" Starr and Cora Hubbard kept Missouri's sensationalist newspapers and dime novelists in business with exploits ranging from horse thefts to bank heists. Missouri native Ma Barker and her murderous sons rose to infamy during the gangster era of the 1930s while Bonnie Parker crisscrossed the state with Clyde Barrow. From savvy burlesque dancers to deadly gold diggers, historian Larry Wood chronicles the titillating stories of ten of the Show Me State's shadiest ladies.

Memoirs of a Sword-Swallower by Daniel Mannix, 230 pages

Memoirs of a Sword Swallower is Daniel P. Mannix's autobiography as a sword-swallower with a traveling sideshow, illustrated with photos from the 30s and 40s taken by the author. An example of Classic Americana, this book offers a portrayal of a vanished world of working-class performance artists who earned a living by their unique bodies and imaginations. Stars include the Fat Lady, the human beanpole, the Ostrich man who ate broken glass, and many more. The "tricks" behind eating fire and swallowing swords are explicated with clarity and candor. This book will appeal to all who speculate about the outer limits of pain, pleasure, and revulsion.
I've always been fascinated by freak shows and human oddities and it was interesting to read about this entry into the field towards the end of the heyday.

Our Bodies, Our Shelves by Rosalind Warren, 126 pages

There are eight million stories at your local public library -- and not all of them are in the books! Join humorist Roz Warren (“the world’s funniest librarian”) for a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at library life. What really goes on behind the circulation desk? And in the stacks? Roz, who writes for everyone from the New York Times to the Funny Times, tells all! What’s the single most stolen item in any public library? What’s the strangest bookmark ever left in a library book? What’s the lamest excuse ever given for not returning a DVD on time? And what does your favorite librarian REALLY think of you? In twenty entertaining essays, you’ll meet librarians fighting crime, partying with porn stars, coping with impossible patrons, locating hard-to-find books and saving the world. The most closely guarded library secrets will be revealed. You‘ll never look at your local public library the same way again!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Assistants by Camille Perri, 282 pages

Rule #1: All important men have assistants. Rule #2: Men rule the world. Still. Rule #3: There is enough money. There is so much money.

Tina Fontana is a thirty-year-old executive assistant to Robert Barlow, the CEO of Titan Corp., a multinational media conglomerate. She’s excellent at her job and beloved by her famous boss—but after six years of making reservations and pouring drinks from bottles that cost more than her rent, the glamour of working for a media company in New York has completely faded, but her student loan debt has not.

When a technical error with Robert’s expense report presents Tina with the opportunity to pay off the entire balance of her loans with what would essentially be pocket change for her boss, she hesitates. She’s always played by the rules, but this would be a life-changer. As Tina begins to fall down the rabbit hole of her morally questionable plan, other assistants with crushing debt and fewer scruples approach her to say that they want in. Before she knows it, she’s at the forefront of a movement that has implications far beyond what anyone anticipated.

Featuring an eclectic clan of coconspirators, a love interest far too handsome to be trusted, and a razor-sharp voice full of wry humor, The Assistants is a rallying cry for the leagues of overeducated and underpaid women who are asking themselves, How is it that after all these years, we are still assistants?

Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey, 405 pages

He'd caught only a glimpse of her from the window of his carriage, but the young Russian prince knew he had to have her. Within minutes, Lady Katherine St. John was dragged from the London street like a common waif and carried off to a sumptuous town house-for the pleasure of her noble admirer. But it was a captive tigress Prince Dimitri found in his bed-consumed with a fierce rage toward the Russian "barbarian" who had kidnapped her-even as she found herself desiring this tawny-maned Adonis with a hunger beyond her understanding....
From the tempestuous passion of that first encounter, across stormy seas, to the golden splendor of palaces in Moscow, she was his prisoner. But ever as her fury defied his bold claim of ownership, an all-consuming need made her his slave. For theirs was a fever that fed upon itself, carrying them irrevocably toward a final surrender to the power of undeniable love.
I'd read this for the first time as a teenager and fell in love with Lindsey's torrid bodice-rippers. Sometimes you just need something tawdry and entertaining.

Wake Up Little Susie by Edward Gorman, 225 pages

It is September 1957, and America is waiting to meet the Edsel, Ford’s top-secret new automobile, whose promotional campaign has redefined the word hype. Sam McCain, lawyer, detective, and car fiend, has been dreaming of the Edsel for months. But when the sheet comes off Ford’s new creation, the car is a nightmare. Pastel colored, bulky, and with a distinctively ugly grill, the Edsel draws snickers instead of applause. But in case the dealership owner’s day isn’t going badly enough, one of the cars has a last surprise in store: a body in the trunk.

She is the beautiful young wife of the district attorney, and Sam knows she deserved better than to end up dead in an ugly car. As the local police bungle the investigation, Sam quietly digs into the death—and finds a secret in his city that could be even more disastrous than the Edsel.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg, 403 pages

Elmwood Springs, Missouri, is a small town like any other, but something strange is happening at the cemetery. Still Meadows, as it’s called, is anything but still. Original, profound, The Whole Town’s Talking, a novel in the tradition of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and Flagg’s own Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, tells the story of Lordor Nordstrom, his Swedish mail-order bride, Katrina, and their neighbors and descendants as they live, love, die, and carry on in mysterious and surprising ways.

Lordor Nordstrom created, in his wisdom, not only a lively town and a prosperous legacy for himself but also a beautiful final resting place for his family, friends, and neighbors yet to come. “Resting place” turns out to be a bit of a misnomer, however. Odd things begin to happen, and it starts the whole town talking.

With her wild imagination, great storytelling, and deep understanding of folly and the human heart, the beloved Fannie Flagg tells an unforgettable story of life, afterlife, and the remarkable goings-on of ordinary people. In The Whole Town’s Talking, she reminds us that community is vital, life is a gift, and love never dies.

This was a very sweet read, I started it one evening and finished it before bed, I just couldn't put it down.

Yanked Into Eternity by Larry Wood, 227 pages

Author Larry Wood, noted chronicler of notorious incidents in Missouri and the Ozarks, delves into a dark chapter of the Show Me State's history: its record of lynchings and hangings. From its territorial days until the late 1930s when executions were moved to the state prison in Jefferson City, the State of Missouri put its official stamp of approval on approximately 300 legal hangings. During roughly the same time period, Missourians resorted to mob violence to carry out approximately 200 extralegal hangings. In Yanked to Eternity, Wood details thirteen of Missouri's more remarkable lynchings and an equal number of its legal hangings.