4.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, M, Non-Fiction, Presidential Reading Challenge, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: John Adams by David McCullough

John Adams
by David McCullough

John Adams

Copyright: 2001

Pages: 651

Read: Jan. 4 – Feb. 19, 2019

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Goodwill

 

Blurb: In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second president of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as “out of his senses”; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history.

This is history on a grand scale—a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship, and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, John Adams is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived.


Review: After having read seven books on George Washington, I was ready to continue on to John Adams (although I am still kicking myself for not buckling down and reading the Ron Chernow book…ugh!). I chose this one to begin with since I figured it would be the easiest to read and a good jumping off place for me.

First I need to state that I knew very little about John Adams other than the fact that he was instrumental to the creation and execution of the Declaration of Independence, was our first Vice President, and our second President. Other than that I knew next to nothing. I mean, I didn’t even realize he was a one-term president! Oops? So I was eager to dive right in.

I have to say that I was really struggling with my decision to start with this book until I got about 200 pages in. I just found it really difficult to get into at first. I think it was the style of writing that really threw me for a loop. This is not your typical biography. At all. And on one hand I can really appreciate that, and as the book moves forward, I enjoyed the way the writing style handled everything. But at the beginning I had issues with it. I wanted more of a “John Adams was born on…” introduction. I guess more linear in timeline than what was introduced here. But I kept going and in the end I was pleasantly surprised.

I also struggled with the fact that Mr. McCullough made it appear to me that Mr. Adams could do no wrong. Everything seemed to be spun in a very positive light. As a student of history (literally, my bachelor’s degree is in history), I had issue with that. Not everything can be all sunshine and rainbows. There has to be some criticism at some point. Unfortunately, I did not see any criticism whatsoever in this book. That’s not to say that I wanted Mr. McCullough to rip Adams a new one – but I think it would have felt a little more realistic had some of the not-so-popular things about Adams been brought into a different light.

Overall this was a very good and well-researched book. If you can get past the informal writing style (or if that’s what you want in a biography), then this book will be quite enjoyable to you. I however wanted a little more analysis than this particular book provided. I can definitely see how and why it won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for Biography/Autobiography. And it definitely earned a high rating from me. I just wanted a bit more out of it than I got.

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Meme, Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday

February 19: Books I LOVED with Fewer than 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads

This one was tough for me … over the years I’ve been able to read lots of good books that were rather unknown. Most of these that I’m including here were review books that I received for review … actually 7 of the 10 on my list were review books. Here’s my list:

Mailbox Monday, Meme

Mailbox Monday, February 18, 2019

Mailbox MondaysSo this week’s post actually encompasses the last two weeks of acquisitions since I didn’t get my act together last week to put together a post. Here’s what I got:

The first one I picked up from my local Barnes & Noble. The author was there signing copies – unbeknownst to me, she apparently lives locally! Small world 🙂

The Stranger InsideThere’s a stranger living in Kimber Hannon’s house. The man tells the police that he has every right to be there, and he has the paperwork to prove it.

Kimber definitely didn’t invite this man to move in. The intruder claims that he knows something about her, and he wants everyone else to know it too.

I was there. I saw what you did.”

These words reveal a connection to Kimber’s distant past, and dark secrets she’d long ago left buried. This trespasser isn’t after anything as simple as her money or her charming Craftsman bungalow. He wants to move into her carefully orchestrated life – and destroy it.

 


This one was my BOTM pick for February. I went WAYYYYY outside my comfort zone with this selection, but it really appealed to me.

A Woman in No ManPalestine, 1990. Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining the suitors her father has chosen for her. Her desires are irrelevant, however – over the course of a week, the naive and dreamy girl finds herself betrothed, then married, and soon living in Brooklyn. There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law, Fareeda, and her strange new husband, Adam: a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children – four daughters instead of the sons Isra is expected to bear.

Brooklyn, 2008. At her grandmother’s insistence, eighteen-year-old Deya must meet with potential husbands and prepare herself for marriage, though her only desire is to go to college. Her grandmother is firm on the matter, however: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man. But fate has a will of its own, and soon Deya will find herself on an unexpected path that leads her to shocking truths that will force her to question everything she thought she knew about her family, the past, and her own future.

Set in an America at once foreign to many and staggeringly close at hand, A Woman is No Man is a story of culture and honor, secrets and betrayals, love and violence. It is an intimate glimpse into a controlling and closed cultural world, and a universal tale about family and the ways silence and shame can destroy those we have sworn to protect.


This is a review book that I received for a TLC Book Tour coming up in March:

Before She Knew HimHen and her husband, Lloyd, have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator who works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Final, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder – an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor Matthew be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face-to-face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him, and that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape…


The next four are ones that I picked up at my local Goodwill:

All Dressed in WhiteFive years ago Amanda Pierce was excitedly preparing to marry her college sweetheart in a lavish ceremony at The Grand Victoria Hotel in Palm Beach. Then, with their guests and families on site, Amanda disappeared.

In present-day New York City, Laurie accepts an uninvited visitor into her office: Amanda’s desperate mother, who begs Laurie and her Under Suspicion television team to investigate Amanda’s disappearance. It’s an appeal Laurie, a widow too familiar with the grief felt by the families of victims of unsolved crimes, can’t refuse. Soon she and the team are re-creating the night of the disappearance at the Florida resort with Amanda’s friends and family in attendance, hoping to shed new light on the mystery, as the series has done in the past.

With Amanda’s former fiance now married to one of Amanda’s bridesmaids, her jealous sister now integral in the family business, playboy groomsmen still behaving badly, a too-friendly wedding photographer, and rumors about the “beloved” bride herself, Laurie and Under Suspicion host Alex Buckley quickly realize everyone has a theory about why Amanda vanished into thin air – and a reason to direct Laurie’s attention elsewhere.

One thing is certain: whoever was behind Amanda’s disappearance plans to keep the truth hidden “until death do they part…”


The Maltese Falcon
A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man named Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett’s coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted generations of readers.

 


The Devil in the White City

Bringing Chicago circa 1893 to vivid life, Erik Larson’s spell-binding bestseller intertwines the true tale of two men – the brilliant architect behind the legendary 1893 World’s Fair, striving to secure America’s place in the world; and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.

 


The Wife
The moment Joan Castleman decides to leave her husband, they are on an airplane, thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean. Joan’s husband, Joseph, is one of America’s preeminent novelists, about to receive a prestigious international award, and Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to his careers, has finally decided to stop. From this gripping opening, Meg Wolitzer flashes back to 1950s Smith College and Greenwich Village and follows the course of the marriage that has brought the couple to this breaking point – one that results in a shocking revelation.

With her skillful storytelling and pitch-perfect observations, Wolitzer has crafted a wise and candid look at the choices all men and women make – in marriage, work, and life.

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, M, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: Back to School Murder by Leslie Meier

Back to School Murder
by Leslie Meier

Back to School Murder

Copyright: 1997

Pages: 268

Read: Feb. 3 – 6, 2019

Rating: 3/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

Blurb: It’s back to school time in the peaceful Maine town of Tinker’s Cove, and for mother-of-four Lucy Stone it isn’t a moment too soon. But trouble at the local elementary school soon has the sometime crime-solver juggling family, job, and night classes with another mystery to solve. And it starts with a bang.

A bob goes off with the noon lunch bell, but not before all the kids are safely evacuated, and Carol Crane, the new assistant principal, is hailed as a hero. But days later, Carol is found murdered and everyone is stunned when the most popular teacher at the school is arrested for the crime. However, not everyone is buying the open-and-shut case, including Lucy Stone, who senses there’s more to things than meets the eye.

It soon becomes clear that Lucy is flirting with danger, as sizzling secrets and explosive surprises provide a primer for the most diabolical of motives. Hot on the trail of a clever killer, the dedicated mom and seasoned sleuth must harness the courage and cool aplomb to uncover a crime that just might give her an education in the fine art of murder.


Review: This is the 4th book in the Lucy Stone series. So far I’ve really enjoyed this “cozy” mystery series. (I feel a need to clarify “cozy” here, because while technically classified as a cozy mystery, these books don’t feel as cookie-cutter cozy as others do – that’s probably why I’m so drawn to these books!) I really enjoy Lucy’s character.

In this particular installment, Lucy is really struggling with herself as a woman – not just a mom. I can totally relate. However, she made some boneheaded moves in this book that I didn’t care much for … hopefully she got all that out of her system. Anyway. The one thing that I really struggled with in this book was who the killer ended up being. It just seemed a little far-fetched to me. There were three other perfectly good suspects … and yet the actual killer came out of left field. And it just didn’t feel right to me. I usually love a good twist, but this twist didn’t really work for me.

All that said, it was still a fun read. I enjoyed catching up with Lucy and I’m really looking forward to seeing her continue on at the newspaper in town. I think that will add a lot more depth to the series. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing on. While this one’s storyline probably wasn’t up to par with the previous three, I did still enjoy it. Overall, a fun and easy read.

Mailbox Monday, Meme

Mailbox Monday, February 11, 2019

Mailbox Mondays

Last week I received my bookcase.club box:

Seeing RedKerra Bailey is a television journalist on the rise, and she’s hot on the trail of a story guaranteed to skyrocket her career to even greater heights: an interview with the legendary Major Trapper. Twenty-five years ago, The Major emerged a hero from the bombing of the Pegasus Hotel in downtown Dallas when he was photographed leading a handful of survivors out of the collapsing building. The iconic picture transformed him into a beloved national icon, in constant demand for speeches and interviews–until he suddenly dropped out of the public eye, shunning all members of the media. However, Kerra is willing to use any means necessary to get to The Major–even if she has to wrangle an introduction from his estranged son, former ATF agent John Trapper.

Still seething over his break with both the ATF and his father, John Trapper wants no association with the hotel bombing or his hero father, and spurns the meddling reporters determined to drag them back into the limelight. Yet Kerra’s sheer audacity and tantalizing hints that there’s more to the story rouse Trapper’s interest despite himself. And when her interview of a lifetime goes catastrophically awry–with unknown assailants targeting not only The Major, but also Kerra–Trapper realizes he needs her under wraps if he’s going to track down the gunmen before they strike again . . . as well as discover, finally, who was responsible for the Pegasus bombing.

Kerra is wary of a man so charming one moment and dangerous the next, and she knows Trapper is withholding evidence collected during his ATF investigation into the bombing. But having no one else to trust and enemies lurking closer than they know, Kerra and Trapper join forces and risk their very lives to expose a sinuous network of lies and conspiracy running deep through Texas–and uncover who would want a national hero dead.


The MentorKyle Broder has achieved his lifelong dream of becoming an editor at a major publishing house. When he’s contacted by his favorite college professor, William Lansing, Kyle couldn’t be happier, especially after William mentions that he’s been writing a novel. The idea of being his mentor’s editor is a dream come true.

But William’s manuscript is the most depraved story Kyle has ever read. After Kyle politely rejects the novel, William becomes obsessed, threatening Kyle’s career, his relationship with his girlfriend, and even his life. As Kyle delves into more of this psychopath’s work, it begins to resemble a cold case from his college town. William’s work is looking increasingly like a true-crime confession. One in which Kyle may just end up starring.

4/5, AUTHOR, Author Debut, Book Review, Fiction, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2019, X-Y-Z

Review: Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson

Meet Me at the Museum
by Anne Youngson

Meet Me at the Museum

 

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 272

Read: Jan 28 – Feb. 3, 2019

Rating: 4/5

Source: Library

 

Blurb: In Denmark, Professor Anders Larsen, an urbane man of facts, has lost his wife and his hopes for the future. On an isolated English farm, Tina Hopgood is trapped in a life she doesn’t remember choosing. Both believe their love stories are over.

Brought together by a shared fascination with the Tollund Man, the subject of Seamus Heaney’s famous poem, they begin writing letters to each other. And from their vastly different worlds, they find they have more in common than they could have imagined. As they open up to each other about their lives, an unexpected friendship blooms. But then Tina’s letters stop coming, and Anders is thrown into despair. How far are they willing to go to write a new story for themselves?


Review: This book is the February selection for the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. It is an epistolary novel, a little romance, and WAY outside of my comfort zone. But I was definitely looking forward to giving it a shot!

First, it took me a little bit to get into the book. The first few letters are a little cumbersome feeling with the two main characters, Tina and Anders, not knowing what to expect out of the correspondence. But I found that once they got deeper into knowing each other their letters became a lot easier to read. On the other hand, I struggled with how things progressed for both characters. Anders was still grieving his dead wife; I felt like he was taking the correspondence as something tangible that he could hold onto and I could definitely see him falling for Tina. Then there was Tina, who was in a lukewarm marriage and obviously unsure of her life in general. I felt like she became so engrossed in these letters with Anders that she may have ignored her real life in some ways. It’s really difficult for me to properly say my opinion on how both characters handled themselves in their letters (ok – mainly just Tina…) because it hits a very personal nerve on something that I’m not comfortable sharing on my blog. Plus it also enters into spoiler territory to fully explain it.

Well, I’m sure that was clear as mud!

Overall I enjoyed the book quite a bit more than I had anticipated. I’m not a huge fan of the epistolary format in general, however I truly feel like this particular one was done “right.” I know that “right” is subjective and quite personal, but I don’t think that this story could have been as effectively told without the use of letters. I suppose it’s easier to just say that this format worked for me in this particular book. I also felt that the way the correspondence began felt totally believable to me, in addition to how the correspondence naturally continued. It just felt “right.”

I can definitely see how this little gem of a book has garnered attention. I unfortunately had never heard of this one prior to it being announced as a book club selection and I most likely would never have picked it up on my own, but I thoroughly enjoyed stepping outside of my comfort zone for this one.

Mailbox Monday, Meme

Mailbox Monday, February 4, 2019

Mailbox Mondays

Well this week I just *had* to go to the Goodwill for books ::eyeroll::. Anyway, I did get four new-to-me books:

ExclusiveBarrie Travis is not famous: she’s just a damn good reporter stuck at a low-budget television station. Then the First lady calls her … and offers her the story of a lifetime. The president’s wife, stunned by grief after the loss of her infant son, hints that her child may have ben murdered. Blind to everything but finding the truth, Barrie’s fight for an exclusive story will test her ethics, her patriotism, and her courage. Then, with the help of Gray Bondurant, a mysterious former presidential aide, she unearths White House secrets that, if exposed, could topple the presidency. Now, even as she falls in love, Barrie must fight powerful forces that want nothing more than to see the scandalous past – and a certain young reporter – dead and buried.


Unspeakable1Carl Herbold is a cold-blooded psychopath who has just escaped the penitentiary where he was serving a life sentence. Bent on revenge, he’s going back to where he began – Blewer County, Texas…

Born deaf, lately widowed, Anna Corbett fights to keep the ranch that is her son’s birthright, unaware that she is at the center of Herbold’s horrific scheme – and that her world of self-imposed isolation is about to explode…

Drifter Jack Sawyer arrives at Anna’s ranch asking for work, hoping to protect the innocent woman and her son from Herbold’s rage. But Sawyer can’t outrun the secrets that stalk him – or the day of reckoning awaiting them all…


Now that She's Gone

Notorious serial killer Brenda Nevins has cajoled, seduced, blackmailed, and left a trail of bodies all across Washington State. Now, after a daring prison escape, she is free to carry out her ultimate act of revenge. The targets: forensic pathologist Birdy Waterman and sheriff’s detective Kendall Stark. The pawn: a television psychic hungry for fame, ratings, and blood. There’s only one way to stop a killer as brutal, brilliant, and twisted as this: beat her at her own game

 


The GiftThe time is the 1950s, when life was simpler, people still believed in dreams, and family was, very nearly, everything. The place is a small midwestern town with a high school and a downtown, a skating pond and a movie house. And on a tree-lined street in the heartland of America, an extraordinary set of events begins to unfold. And gradually what seems serendipitous is tinged with purpose. A happy home is shattered by a child’s senseless death. A loving marriage starts to unravel. And a stranger arrives – a young woman who will touch many lives before she moves on. She and a young man will meet and fall in love. Their love, so innocent and full of hope, helps to restore a family’s dreams. And all of their lives will be changed forever by the precious gift she leaves them.

The Gift, Danielle Steel’s thirty-third best-selling work, is a magical story told with stunning simplicity and power. It reveals a relationship so moving it will take your breath away. And it tells a haunting and beautiful truth about the unpredictability – and the wonder – of life.

Monthly Wrap Up

January 2019 Wrap Up

Only I would start January in a reading slump. It is what it is, but I only finished 4 books last month. Not exactly the start to the year I was hoping for, but 4 is always better than none. Anyhoo, here’s what I read:

Treasureharry's treesfresh disastersinjustice for all

As always, clicking on the covers will take you to my reviews. So even though I only finished 4 books, overall I had a good reading month. I had a hard time deciding which was my “best” book for the month; these were all pretty much solid 3 star books for me. Injustice for All was probably the strongest.

To recap what happened here on the blog:

We had a good month personally. We went down to Nashville to see Metallica in concert. We’ve seen them once before, at Busch Stadium a couple of years ago, and to be honest it was absolutely miserable … it poured down rain pretty much the entire evening and was just a total bust. It also doesn’t help that Metallica isn’t necessarily my cup of tea in music anyway. However, it was a much better concert in Nashville. Besides, I got to check out McKay’s Used Books for the first time (I’m in love!)

Well that’s about all I’ve got for today. Hopefully February will be a stronger reading month for me 🙂

Happy reading!