Apollo 11

Moment in History: Apollo 11

I am of a weird generation; a transitional generation. I can remember when my parents invested in an electronic typewriter, and then a desktop computer. I remember the haunting sounds of the dial-up connecting. The bag car phone..the wireless house phone.. the Nokia brick cell phones. I am not very old, and yet it is so easy to forget about such rapid change as I sit here looking up pictures of the Apollo 11 lunar landing on my smart phone.

I believe all historians have a small space inside of them that will always feel slightly empty; a space that aches with yearning to experience history first hand. If I had a time machine, I would go back to watch Neil Armstrong step off the LEM ladder and leave his foot prints in the dust. I can’t even imagine what it was like for him, or the eleven other men who have walked on the moon, as they stood in their pressurized suits watching the Earth rise.

I take a moment to marvel at the science and ingenuity that took them there. And I thank God, and my parents, for the opportunity to watch the last night shuttle launch live in 2010. Amazement is the only feeling a had as I listened to the rockets burn and watched the golden flames speed towards the stars. Amazing.

So tonight I challenge you to put those smart phones down, walk outside, and look up. Watch the stars twinkle and imagine what we look like from up there. And remember that 68 years ago…man walked on the moon!

Lindsay

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins

by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.

Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.

I’m not going to provide a summary as the synopsis is perfect and I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything. I will admit that I was quite hesitant about picking up Beautiful Ruins because it promised a story about flawed individuals. I am not a huge fan of fiction that doesn’t include some kind of mystery because it typically means spending 300-400 pages reading about barely likeable characters as they struggle to find meaning in their life. So I wasn’t going to read this at all but the cover just kept drawing me in. I’m a sucker for the picturesque coastal cliff towns that populate the Mediterranean. And lets be honest, I needed to push myself to read a different type of historical fiction. So, a story about Italy and old Hollywood wasn’t a bad place to start.

I didn’t necessarily dislike Beautiful Ruins, but even after finishing, I can definitely say that it is not my type of book. I probably wouldn’t have finished if I hadn’t picked up the audio version from my local library. I know what you’re thinking, because I have thought this about many a reviewer in the past: why in the world did this woman read this book if she knew she didn’t like contemporary fiction. Because I am trying to broaden my horizons as a reader! Sadly, this is still not going to be a genre I readily embrace.

But don’t hold that against Beautiful Ruins. Yes, there are a number of barely likeable characters. Yes, I found their parts of the story boring. And yes, it was a well written story, with complex characters, beautiful settings, and an ending that made the book worth reading. I adored the fluid imagery provided by Jess Walter, as I had no problem visualizing Pasquale’s quiet village, the maddening race across the United States, and the vibrant set of Cleopatra. The story is riddled with a snarky, subtle humor and I was honestly surprised to find myself chuckling a number of times during my daily commute. At the same time, I wasn’t surprised to find myself rolling my eyes in disgust when forced to focus my attention on characters that didn’t deserve it. And then I would read a brilliant scene,like the one about paintings on a bunker wall, and would be immediately drawn back in. I found Beautiful Ruins surprising in its ability to pull empathy from me, and yet strangely predictable when it came to character issues and life lessons.

Would I recommend Beautiful Ruins? I honestly don’t know. Yes, if you like these types of stories or are interested in a different historical fiction. No, if you want a lighthearted read or something to keep you on the edge of your seat. I have mixed feelings about Beautiful Ruins, but I’m not disappointed that I finished the story. 

Did you like Beautiful Ruins? Are there other Jess Walter books I need to check out? Let me know. 

Lindsay

Summer Reading!

Last Wednesday was the first official day of summer! I don’t know about you, but for me summer means afternoons with a good book on the beach. And summer always finds me reading stori s about pirates, exotic locals, and dead bodies of beaches. 

(I know what you’re thinking…mystery lovers are pretty morbid. Yes. Yes we are!)
I decided to share my 2017 Summer Reading List for those of you with similar interests looking for a new read! They are separated by subject below; some i have already reviewed and others are still TBR. 

Avast ye book lovers! Let me know what you’re reading this summer! You know i’m always open to recommendations and would to hear from you. 

Beach Mystery

Tan and Sandy Silence

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Fun Mystery Series

Phryne Fisher Mysteries

83927  382843  382847  382840

Iris Cooper Mysteries

1716475  5777339  2157504

Pirate Stories

Pirate Latitudes

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Daughter of the Pirate King

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Treasure Island

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Travel

The Wonder Trail

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History

Moloka’i

3273

Peril Under the Palms

Peril Under the Palms

by K.K. Beck

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1920s Stanford co-ed Iris Cooper vacations in lush Honolulu with Aunt Hermione and solves a mystery for her friend Antoinette Caulfield, Hawaiian sugarcane heiress. Wisecracking newspaperman Jack Clancy is on the scoop, writing sensational headlines and digging up secrets.

Peril Under the Palms is the last novel in the Iris Cooper Mystery series. A Book Olive mentioned a concluding short story and I desperately need to find it! I will update y’all once I have that information but until then…on with the review!

Iris and Aunt Hermione are vacationing in Hawaii and celebrating the engagement of Antoinette, Iris’ college roommate and the heiress of a Hawaiian sugarcane family. Iris is determined to have a good time despite her annoyance at traveling with an engaged couple after recently being stood-up by her old partner in crime, snappy reporter Jack Clancy. Thankfully, bodies start dropping like flies, and Iris is pulled into solving multiple murders and unearthing dark secrets about Antoinette’s family. Good thing Jack Clancy shows up to help out!

Peril Under the Palms is my favorite of the series, and I am sad Beck didn’t continue writing Iris’ adventures. The Hawaiian setting is exquisite and the mystery is twisted enough to keep you guessing until the very last page. I’m so glad that Aunt Hermione is back! Her quick whit and insatiable curiosity was definitely missed in Murder in a Mummy Case. This trip finds Hermione working overtime helping with grief stricken old ladies and gathering intel at bridge games. Iris is once again everything I love in a snarky female detective! This story finds her participating in true ‘behind the scenes’ investigation as she sneaks around looking for clues. She is older, wiser, and just as stubborn, and this time Iris intentionally puts herself in danger in order to uncover the truth.

And what can I say about Jack Clancy? The chemistry between the reporter and novice detective is electric! And that’s all I’m going to say because…spoilers! Just know…the scene on the beach…I’m not much of a swooner but that scene was perfectly swoon worthy!

I am so sad this is the last book in the series. Despite the brevity of the stories, Beck did a wonderful job developing her characters and providing thrilling mysteries. I’m not ready to say goodbye; I want to know what happens to them! Hopefully, I’ll have a concluding short story to share in the near future. Thank you again Olive at A Book Olive! I would have never known about this series without you!

Please pick up the Iris Cooper stories! They are the perfect addition to a quiet summer day. And let me know what you think!

Lindsay

Murder in a Mummy Case

Murder in a Mummy Case

by K.K. Beck

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The second in a scintillating new series full of Art Deco ambience is a mystery set in the 1920’s. Young Iris Cooper visits the home of a fellow-student with a special interest in Egyptology–and an actual mummy in his home that soon contains a new dead body.

Today we continue with book two of the Iris Cooper series, Murder in a Mummy Case. Iris is in her first year a Standford when she agrees to spend the Easter holiday at the home of fellow co-ed, Clarence Brockhurst. He is a young egyptologist interested in courting Iris, but our young heroine gets more than she bargained for when she arrives to house full of eccentric characters only to find the body of a maid hidden in a mummy sarcophagus. What follows is a world wind investigation that takes Iris to China Town and dumps her in the world of the occult.

I’m going to start by saying that this is my least favorite of the three Iris Cooper novels. The Brockhurst family were so frustrating. The male Brockhursts are tedious and boring; females are needy and naive. And they were the perfect stereotypical representation of an affluent family in the 1920s. However well written, it didn’t make Clarence and his obnoxious pursuit of Iris any easier to read! Thankfully, Iris was just as put off. And since I started with the negative today, I’ll continue by saying the archaeologist side of me wanted more information concerning the actual mummy, Clarence’s expedition, and why the mummy was being stored in the house! WHY?!? I need more!

All that being said, the characters are once again fantastically unique and well developed. Beck expertly weaves together a variety of different cultures to present a surprising plot, and we get to experience a deeper look at both Iris and Jack. We see Iris struggling to suppress her opinions and refer to her better upbringing. We get to see Jack actually compose his articles, showing us that there is more substance beneath his snarky exterior. And we get to watch the two of them give in to friendship and a mutual love of the mysterious. (eep! you get some spoilers tomorrow!)

Murder in a Mummy Case is a great transitional story that develops our main characters in preparation for the final installment of the series, Peril Under the Palms. Murder in a Mummy Case will leave you laughing at the outrageous and on the edge of your seat in curiosity. It’s the perfect read to pull you through the work week!

Have you picked up the Iris Cooper series yet? Let me know what you think!

Lindsay

Death in a Deck Chair

Death in a Deck Chair

by K.K. Beck

Death in a Deck Chair (Iris Cooper, #1)

Young, innocent Iris Cooper, awarded a round-the world cruise by her doting and wealthy Aunt Hermione, is on the final lap of her voyage home . Her travels have prepared her for many of the types she meets on board: participants in a Balkan political intrigue, a vampy screen star, a muck-raking writer for a tattle-tale publication; a professor given to lecturing on the mind of the criminal lunatic; a prince who wants to be a jazz pianist. But she is not prepared for a murder. The captain recruits a reluctant Iris to take shorthand notes during the investigation, and soon Iris is on the trail of a dangerous murderer.

May found me struggling with a pretty epic book hangover after rereading my favorite mystery, Every Secret Thing. I’ll go into more detail about book hangovers later in the week, but I eventually found a cure while watching A Book Olive’s video, Spring 2017 Book Haul, Part 2: Fiction. (please check out her site as she is one of my favorite booktubers) Olive talked about picking up a few historical cozy mysteries by K.K. Beck and my interest was peeked. I started the first in the series, Death in a Deck Chair, on my Kindle that very night!

I am a fan of Beck’ Iris Cooper series. Death in a Deck Chair, finds 19 year old Iris returning to America via cruise ship after a around-the-world tour with her hilarious Aunt Hermione. I found Iris to be rather relatable and extremely likable; I enjoyed her intelligence, snarky whit, and unflapable curiosity. And I adore Aunt Hermione as well. I would have jumped at the chance of traveling the world with this woman and it’s obvious Iris inherited her spunk from her aunt. And don’t even get me started on Jack Clancy (you’ll hear more about him in the next few days!)

Each character was unique, with vibrant well developed personalities and each hiding their own secrets. It was easy to picture each of them sauntering along the upper ship decks by day and sneaking around the corridors by night. What’s even better is the lack of an insta-love story for Iris. Sure there is some flirting and the swapping of steamy kisses, but Iris doesn’t lose her cool over some good looking chap. She is there to find a killer!

My only negative point is that I wanted more. You will be able to read my review of the rest of the series, Murder in a Mummy Case and Peril Under the Palms, this week and my main complaint will be that I wanted just a little more from each story. I related with the characters and Beck provides decent descriptions, but I feel these stories would have better longevity just a few extra pages worth of detailed descriptions and enhanced development. The could just be a flection of the times as the book, though set in the 1920s-1930s, was written in the early 80s. *shrugs shoulder* Readers should also know thateven though I  didn’t figure out who-dunnit before the end, there were times where I easily guessed what would happen next. So, those wanting a novel that will keep them guessing at every turn should probably steer clear of this series. 

Death in a Deck Chair is a great start to a fun cozy mystery series and the perfect read for a racing summer day. Go ahead and pick up all the books, cause you won’t be able to put them down once you join Iris in solving the mystery! 

Are you a fan of K.K. Beck? Have you read any of the Iris Cooper stories? Let me know what you think!

Lindsay

A Tan and Sandy Silence

A Tan and Sandy Silence

by John D. MacDonald

A Tan and Sandy Silence

Travis McGee is the strikingly handsome and ever resourceful invention of John D. MacDonald. Born in the author’s imagination in 1964, McGee drifted into the world on a 52-foot diesel-powered houseboat, the Busted Flush, which he has used as a base of operations through many adventures.

In A TAN AND SANDY SILENCE, news of a former girlfriend’s mysterious disappearance leads McGee to the West Indian island of Grenada. There he takes on a whirlwind plot of double-dealing, shady financing and shifting identities.

I am the type of person who takes a book with me everywhere; going grocery shopping, going to work (lunch break!), and of course I have at least one when on vacation. So it was somewhat of a shock when I found myself staying at a friend’s beach condo without something to read. I’m an early riser and I like to spend a quiet morning with a nice cup of coffee and a good book. Thankfully, the best thing about beach condos is there is almost always a shelf of second hand books for guests to peruse. And that is how I picked up A Tan and Sandy Silence.

I’m going to start with a warning. There will be a few spoilers in this review but I will not reveal who-dunnitt or ruin any part of the mystery for readers. However, these spoilers will discuss certain period plot devices that some readers may find disturbing. You will know about this stuff if you read any of the reviews on Goodreads, so it’s not really going to be a shock. I just wanted to let you know there are a few spoilers. You’ve been warned!

Let’s get started with the positive. A Tan and Sandy Silence was initially published in 1971 (my copy was printed in the 80s) and it is the 13th book in the Travis McGee series. Trav is a private detective living a comfortable life on a boat in a south Florida marina. All is right in his world until a man he despises arrives looking for a lost wife and almost kills McGee in the process. This encounter has McGee worried for the missing wife, who happens to be an old lover, and he sets out on his own to find her. I’ll be honest; the setting and atmosphere is the primary reason I was drawn to A Tan and Sandy Silence. I instantly felt like I was reading a mixture of Miami Vice and Magnum PI (two shows I love) and the beach mystery was the perfect way to jump into summer. The mystery was intriguing, the plot fast paced, and I was pleasantly surprised by the retrospective moments presented by our hero. I like Trav McGee. He is a very flawed and yet extremely likable character. I was drawn in by how smart he is and yet not discouraged during his shallow self-pitying moments. You could easy imagine stumbling upon him at the end of the dock cleaning freshly caught fish while enjoying a cold one. And his reflections on human nature still resonate today even after 40 years since the book was published. It was a thrilling beach mystery that made me think! And that’s something I will always say yes to.

Now on to the negative points…A Tan and Sandy Silence is definitely a product of the 1970s. Now for the previously warned spoiler, and well, all of the Goodreads reviews mention this scene so it’s not really a spoiler. About 2/3rds into the story, Travis strangles a female suspect during his interrogation. In my opinion the action was completely unnecessary, as it was rough, kinda out of character for McGee, and did nothing but cheapen the female character. However, I have to concede that I’m not sure what plot device could have been used instead. It did what it was intended to do; it let you know that this female suspect had no respect for herself and would do anything for money, including partnering with a man who threatened to kill her. I will add that one of two things could have happened after this scene. Travis could have taken advantage of the situation and I would have lost all respect for the gritty detective. Or he could have decided not to. I finished the story so that that for what you will. I will advise that the female characters are overly sexualize and are rather shallow. Note that I say SOME, as there are a few strong willed smart business women which was pleasant to read. However, I don’t recommend this story for those wanting well developed female characters. They just aren’t there.

This book provided exactly what I wanted; a written story that invokes the same beachy nostalgia that I get when watching Miami Vice and Magnum P.I. Is it a work of genius? Nope. Is it on the top of my favorites list? Nope. Will I probably read another Travis McGee story? Absolutely! These are the type of stories I crave during Florida’s hot summer days, and you can definitely expect to find me enjoying a second hand Travis McGee story at the beach. So check out Tan and Sandy Silence and let me know what you think!

Have a great weekend.

Lindsay

Three Year Anniversary

Hey everyone! Last month was my three year blogiversary! I can not believe that I have been sharing book reviews on this site for three years!

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Here is a brief history for those new to History and Mystery. Three years ago I was finally finishing grad school and struggling with a reality that no longer included reading for fun. Days and nights filled with academic writing and reading had left me burned out. So much so, that I struggled with even selecting a book to read. A friend recommended Goodreads, which unfortunately left me even more discouraged. I had made the mistake of reading the mass reviews. How could one book be ‘the best thing ever written’ and ‘bad enough to be burned’ at the same time? The reviews were all over the place and the majority far from constructive.

I had just finished my Masters degree in history and considered myself a semi-expert on both giving and receiving constructive criticism. I decided to write a few helpful book reviews…and so Sand Between the Pages was born!

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Starting a review site is still one of the best decisions I ever made. For over two years I rediscovered old favorites and found new ones. I made extra time to hit the beach just to enjoy reading outside. And I met some wonderful book lovers! Through it all I read everything and shared it here.

And then last year I gave the site a makeover. The name changed to History and Mystery and I decided to focus on specific genres: historical fiction, mystery, and non-fiction. (I’ll go into greater depth concerning that decision in later posts.) It’s been nice challenging myself and reading something different. So what can you expect now from History and Mystery?

  • at least one book review per week
  • one bookish/life post per week

I may eventually post my book reviews on YouTube, but for now, I just look forward to sharing my love of all things books here with you! Do you have any good historical mystery stories I need to pick up? Any nonfiction books you recommend? Let me know! And have a great weekend.

Lindsay

Every Secret Thing

Every Secret Thing

by Susanna Kearsley

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Kate Murray is deeply troubled. In front of her lies a dead man, a stranger who only minutes before had spoken to her about a mystery, a long-forgotten murder and, most worryingly, her grandmother. His story was old, he had told her, but still deserving of justice. Soon Kate is caught up in a dangerous whirlwind of events that takes her back into her grandmother s mysterious war-time past and across the Atlantic as she tries to retrace the dead man s footsteps. Finding out the truth is not so simple, however, as only a few people are still alive who know the story and Kate soon realizes that her questions are putting their lives in danger. Stalked by an unknown and sinister enemy, she must use her tough journalistic instinct to find the answers from the past in order to have a future.

Hey everyone! I’m back! Thank you for being so patient during that unexpected three month break. I was having to deal with some life stuff that left little want and time for reviewing. But that’s in the past! I’m back for good, and I can’t think of a better way to jump back into the game than sharing my favorite mystery with you.

So, I’m not going to provide a synopsis because I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything. However, I will share how I came to read Every Secret Thing. A few years back, I was in need of a historical mystery, and my friend, Rachel, recommended Susanna Kearsley. I browsed through her book list on Goodreads and stumbled upon this novel, which was originally published under Kearsley’s pseudonym, Emma Cole. I decided to try it out, and Every Secret Thing instantly became one of my favorite books.

Every time I open these pages, I am swept along on a harrowing adventure. Every time I anxiously will Kate to find the clues and to stay alive. Every time I am swept away in the romance of New York during World War II. And every time I find myself in tears, heartbroken over Deacon’s lost love. EVERY TIME! Because Kearsley provides characters that are so well developed with all their strengths and faults that it’s hard to remember Every Secret Thing not a true story. I am completely invested in the outcome of the story.

But it’s more than realistic characters that keeps me coming back. Kearsley’s descriptive settings carry you across the world. She expertly guides you on this thrilling ride and ties everything together in a way that leaves you sighing contently when you turn that last page. History and intrigue drips from every page. And Every Secret Thing contains the best love story I have ever read!

Honestly, I can not think of anything bad to say about this story. I love it so much that I try to get everyone I know to read it. It’s been a month since I last finished it, and well, I’m tempted to read it again. I will say that I haven’t read anything else by Susanna Kearsley, so I am unable to compare it to her other work. And this may not be the book for readers wanting an over the top sappy romance, because the love story is far from the typical romance story. But I personally find that a good thing.

Just read it! Please!

Lindsay

My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

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The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

Sorry for the brief review hiatus everyone. I’ve been a little under the weather lately, which means much more reading and tv watching than reviewing. Anyways, I first heard about My Lady Jane from a number of BookTubers that I follow, and decided to give it a go for a couple of reasons: 1. historical fiction is a genere that is not often discussed on BookTube and I was surprised to see this novel keep popping up, and 2. everyone kept talking about how funny it was and I can’t say no to a good laugh!

So, a brief synopsis. My Lady Jane presents a very loosely historic recount of the life of Jane Grey and her limited term (9 days) as the queen of England. It’s definitely loosely historical as there is a magical element that definitely makes this a fantasy read as well. But don’t worry; the authors warn readers with a disclaimer on the very first page. 

Don’t let the fantasy element discourage you from reading My Lady Jane. The authors do a wonderful job of creating a detailed and engaging setting which left me feeling as I was running for my life along with the characters. The adventure is fast paced, but the love story of Jane and G progressed at a wonderfully realistic pace. No insta-love here folks, which I’m sure we will all find refreshing. And I absolutely adored our heroine, Jane. She is complicated, stubborn, passionate, awkward, and driven by her love of books. She is unapologetically herself! 

Now, I’ll reiterate that My Lady Jane is not historically accurate, but you are made aware of this point through out the story thanks to hilarious interjections by the narrator/authors. This gives it a fireside story telling atmosphere that more serious readers may not appreciate. I do also have to point out that many of the secondary characters and aspects of the plot felt a little under developed. This was  definitely evident when looking at G’s hobbies and the whole last quarter of the book. I would like to provide specific details, but I know y’all don’t like spoilers.

I heard a number of reviews describing this novel as hilarious. Did I find it hilarious? Yeah, it was pretty darn funny and had a delightfully honest tone that embraced teenage sexual awkwardness without all the tedious angst that is typical of young adult literature. It is fun, and very different which is why I recommend it for readers, especially those in need of a break from serious topics and prose.

Have you read My Lady Jane? Let me know what you thought!

Lindsay