Vacation Reads!

We are going on a cruise this spring and I get way too excited about picking my Vacation TBR. I always tend to stick to a specific theme. Since I’m cruising…I’m reading all the tropical books!

My list is:

  • Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
  • A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
  • Dress Her in Indigo by John D MacDonald

What reads would you take on a cruise? Have you read any of these?



Darker Than Amber

Darker Than Amber

by John D. MacDonald


A great bestseller starring Travis McGee, a real American hero–and maybe the star of a new movie franchise! Reissue.

Helping damsels in distress is nothing new for Travis McGee–it’s basically how he spends his life. But this one was different right from the start. Tossed off a bridge with cement wired to her feet, dragged to safety by Travis and Meyer, she was a hot Eurasian beauty with a cold heart…ready to snare them in a murder racket to end all murders….

I started February desperately needing an escape into the tropical Florida weather I love. Sadly, this Florida February was dismally cold, wet, and windy. So I turned to one of my recent favorites for an escape, John D MacDonald.

Travis and Meyer are enjoying a quiet evening fishing under a bridge in South Florida when a body comes pummeling down from the road above. Travis acts instinctively, diving in after the body and miraculously pulling the young woman out alive. Evangeline, Vangie for short, opens up to her rescuers. She tells of the dark life she has lead and the murder ring that led to her attempted disposal. McGee only wishes to help the young woman find a new life but instead finds himself vengefully working to discover the truth and destroy the criminal operation.

I want to start out with the negative. This series was written in the 70s in a James Bond/Miami Vice/Magnum PI style. Feminists who easily get their feelings bent about negative cliche representations of women need to steer clear. The book starts with McGee dealing with an old female friend who had become desperately needy and twitchy thanks to an abusive marriage. The woman uses McGee’s boat as a form of escape that naturally results in consensual adult escapades. Additionally, Vangie and her friends are high paid hookers who lure rich single men onto cruises where the girls’ pimps steal fortunes before tossing the marks overboard. The majority of the women in Darker Than Amber are not presented in a positive light. And this is the biggest complaint I have seen. I will add that Travis does complement a handful of secondary female characters who are wholesome and intelligent.

The negativity is more of a commentary on the lack of honest, good people in the world. McGee laments on how he feels used by his old friend; frustrated that knowing she will return to the abusive husband after all. He grieves at how Vangie’s upbringing has given little other options.

I enjoyed Darker Than Amber because it gives us a different look at Travis than I experienced with Tan and Sandy Silence. Travis’ snarky, happy-go-lucky attitude is missing as he barrels forward in stubborn determination to force the ‘bad guys’ to pay. This is a Travis that will do anything to survive; a more vindictive Travis. I prefer the lighthearted Travis, but I enjoyed the complexity presented here.

I enjoyed Darker Than Amber, and am looking forward to reading more by John D MacDonald this year. Are you a fan? What are you reading to get your summer vibes?


Too Many Women

Too Many Women

by Rex Stout


Celebrated sleuth Nero Wolfe is renowned for cracking tough cases — and never leaving his New York apartment, where he quaffs beer and cultivates orchids. For legwork, Wolfe employs a fast-talking, wisecracking assistant named Archie, who also serves as our narrator.In Too Many Women, Wolfe and Archie are charged with investigating the mysterious goings-on at a big engineering supply company.

Work has been crazy the last few weeks. I always find myself needing a good cozy mystery when I’m stressed. I was struggling to find what I wanted, so I decided to stick with a solid favorite, Nero Wolfe.

Too Many Women did the trick! Archie finds himself working in an office setting surrounded by beautiful women and conniving men. A man was run down by a car and Archie is asked to prove it was murder. What follows is humorous account of Archie’s attempt to survive in the office world, full of lies and manipulation.

Of course I adore Archie and Wolfe, but I was even more pleased at how the women are presented. Sure some of them are flighty and manipulative (which is accurate based on my personal experience) but there were a number that were smart and self reliant. I didn’t figure out ‘who dunnit’ until right before Wolfe made his big reveal. And the banter between Inspector Cramer and Wolfe always makes me smile!

Nero Wolfe always makes my day and Too Many Women didn’t disappoint. What is your go to comfort read? What historic cozy mystery do you recommend?




by Gary Paulsen


Brian is on his way to Canada to visit his estranged father when the pilot of his small prop plane suffers a heart attack. Brian is forced to crash-land the plane in a lake–and finds himself stranded in the remote Canadian wilderness with only his clothing and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present before his departure.

Brian had been distraught over his parents’ impending divorce and the secret he carries about his mother, but now he is truly desolate and alone. Exhausted, terrified, and hungry, Brian struggles to find food and make a shelter for himself. He has no special knowledge of the woods, and he must find a new kind of awareness and patience as he meets each day’s challenges. Is the water safe to drink? Are the berries he finds poisonous?

Slowly, Brian learns to turn adversity to his advantage–an invading porcupine unexpectedly shows him how to make fire, a devastating tornado shows him how to retrieve supplies from the submerged airplane. Most of all, Brian leaves behind the self-pity he has felt about his predicament as he summons the courage to stay alive.

A story of survival and of transformation, this riveting book has sparked many a reader’s interest in venturing into the wild.

I’m not going to provide a summary because the above synopsis does a pretty good job. Plus, I feel like Hatchet is an American classic; if you haven’t read it you’ve probably still heard of it.

Surprisingly, I had not read Hatchet before last year. This is odd as I adore Julie of the Wolves and read My Side of the Mountain as a pre-teen. And I’ve read pretty much every book written by Bill Wallace. I have no idea why I never read Hatchet, but my husband and I decided to remedy that and listened to the audiobook during our annual holiday road trip.

Hatchet was fantastic. For those who don’t know, my husband and I are both pilots and minimalist campers. I have been flying for most of my life and M is really good at survival style camping. Paulsen’s descriptions of the flight (and subsequent crash) are spot on, obviously written by someone with aviation experience. Brian’s successes, and failures, at survival are also quite realistic. Paulsen provides exquisitely detailed descriptions that pull the reader through the story, and Hatchet is a fantastic example of solid character development. It’s a ‘coming of age’ story that was actually enjoyable, without the pages upon pages of teenage angst that now represents the genre standard.

The only ‘negative’ point is there are some pretty gruesome moments as Brian survives the plane crash, multiple injuries, a moose attack, and a tornado. The book is not for the faint of heart and there are a number of people I wouldn’t recommend it to because the well written passages would leave them terrified of small aircraft and the great outdoors. This is not necessarily a fault against the book, just a point audiences need to be aware of.

Hatchet holds up as a classic survival story and I personally think it needs to remain as standard reading for preteens…especially as society forgets the skills of basic survival. I feel like its a book for any season, and look forward to picking it up again.

Does anyone else love Hatchet? What are your favorite survival stories? (I have so many on my list!)

Happy Reading!


Eiger Dreams

Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains

by Jon Krakauer


No one writes about mountaineering and its attendant victories and hardships more brilliantly than Jon Krakauer. In this collection of his finest essays and reporting, Krakauer writes of mountains from the memorable perspective of one who has himself struggled with solo madness to scale Alaska’s notorious Devils Thumb.

In Pakistan, the fearsome K2 kills thirteen of the world’s most experienced mountain climbers in one horrific summer. In Valdez, Alaska, two men scale a frozen waterfall over a four-hundred-foot drop. In France, a hip international crowd of rock climbers, bungee jumpers, and paragliders figure out new ways to risk their lives on the towering peaks of Mont Blanc. Why do they do it? How do they do it? In this extraordinary book, Krakauer presents an unusual fraternity of daredevils, athletes, and misfits stretching the limits of the possible.

From the paranoid confines of a snowbound tent, to the thunderous, suffocating terror of a white-out on Mount McKinley, Eiger Dreams spins tales of driven lives, sudden deaths, and incredible victories. This is a stirring, vivid book about one of the most compelling and dangerous of all human pursuits.

Eiger Dreams is my first nonfiction read in 2018! (One down…eleven to go!)

I liked it. It’s not going to be my favorite book of 2018 but I did enjoy Eiger Dreams. I started the year craving a book that would satisfy my need for adventure. I found myself looking at Jon Krakauer books on Audible, I realized that I had no desire to read Into the Wild (and probably never will) and that I wasn’t up to reading Into Thin Air (I can be lazy…what can I say?). Eiger Dreams seemed to be a perfect choice for my first Jon Krakauer read. It is different because it is a series of articles, some of which were published in magazines, that detail different climbing styles and locations. Each article is full of eccentric characters, death defying feats, and Krakauer’s own climbing experiences.

The format made Eiger Dreams feel like a quick read. This is essential to enjoy the story as Krakauer’s stories have a way of disenchanting the romance of climbing while also pulling at adventurous heartstrings in a way that makes you want to sell everything you own for the next trip. It can be a pretty overwhelming wave of emotion by the time you finish one climb. And then you are off to another part of the word! Eiger Dreams introduces readers to a variety of cultures that seem so foreign while so familiar as the field is full of the same type of character who longs to reach the top of each peek.

My only complaint can not be considered a complaint because its not the book’s fault. Eiger Dreams it dated. The book was published in 1997 and I never forgot that while listening. The book was great, but I finished it ready to pick up a second installment. Ready to read more stories, newer adventures, of those who long to conquer nature’s peaks and ignore danger to follow their passion

It was an interesting read, and I recommend for those wishing to learn more about the varied aspects of climbing. Let me know if you have read Eiger Dreams. What is your favorite Krakauer book?

Have a great weekend!


The Blind Contessa’s New Machine

The Blind Contessa’s New Machine

by Carey Wallace


An iridescent jewel of a novel that proves love is the mother of invention

In the early 1800s, a young Italian contessa, Carolina Fantoni, realizes she is going blind shortly before she marries the town’s most sought-after bachelor. Her parents don’t believe her, nor does her fiancé. The only one who understands is the eccentric local inventor and her longtime companion, Turri. When her eyesight dims forever, Carolina can no longer see her beloved lake or the rich hues of her own dresses. But as darkness erases her world, she discovers one place she can still see-in her dreams. Carolina creates a vivid dreaming life, in which she can not only see, but also fly, exploring lands she had never known.

Desperate to communicate with Carolina, Turri invents a peculiar machine for her: the world’s first typewriter. His gift ignites a passionate love affair that will change both of their lives forever.

Based on the true story of a nineteenth-century inventor and his innovative contraption, The Blind Contessa’s New Machine is an enchanting confection of love and the triumph of the imagination.

2018 has been so crazy so far! Thankfully I managed to get some reading in despite the reviews not got out at a consistent rate. We’re starting March off with an interesting historical fiction.

The Blind Contessa’s New Machine follow’s the story of Carolina, the blind woman who inspired the creation of the first typewriter. The story is written from her perspective as she grows from child to woman, deals with matters of the heart, and struggles as the world turns dark around her.

The story is good. I enjoyed Carolina. She is an interesting woman with a pleasant mixture of stereotypical teenage girl characteristics (having crushes and trying her hardest to be a mature adult) and a refreshing intelligence driven by the wonders of nature. Like Carolina, I find contentment in being outdoors alone. She was refreshing and find to read. I enjoyed her friendship with Turri, and her quick whit even when she struggled with depression.

Wallace’s setting is brilliant. You can taste the sugar coated lemons; you can see the lights of the lake cabin beckoning in the darkness. Turri’s experiment are intricate without being tedious; especially the typewriter.

I even enjoyed the tough aspects of the story; the affairs of both Carolina and Pietro, the condescending statements concerning her blindness, the constant underlying feeling of being trapped in a passionless relationship. Wallace handled each masterfully, easily invoking an emotional connection to the characters when I normally would struggle.

Here There Be Spoilers! I didn’t like the ending. I will admit that it was brilliantly written by Wallace, BUT it was too openended for me. Those that have read The Blind Contessa’s New Machine will argue, “but Lindsay, it couldn’t end any other way.” I KNOW. I still wanted answers. I wanted to know if Pietro intercepted Carolina’s letter. I wanted to know Turri’s last words to his love. I wanted to know why it didn’t end with the happily ever after knowing that it could never end that way. And I was so frustrated with Carolina’s pig headed refusal to read that letter! So while the ending was fantastic, I am still over here throwing my sucker in the dirt and pouting.

sad star trek GIF

The Blind Contessa’s New Machine is a fantastic love story and an interesting fictionalization of the woman who inspired the creation of the typewriter. I wish there was more history available about the actual typewriter (history buffs may find this frustrating) but I still recommend it!

Have your read The Blind Contessa’s New Machine? Let me know what you think!


Favorite 2017 Reads

I totally forgot to share my favorite reads of 2017! Looking back on the year I can say that my reading was ok. I read some fantastic books, but I struggled with my reading goals the first half of the year. Thankfully I was back to consistently reading, and writing reviews, after June. Still, I didn’t read as much as hoped so I am sharing only my top fiction and nonfiction reads of 2017.

(Note: these are new reads. I re-read Every Secret Thing, which will always be one of my favorite books. Considering it makes it less fair for all the other books.)

(Other random note: I read both of these via audiobook.)


A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles


I still find myself thinking about A Gentleman in Moscow. Months later I can still picture the ornate hotel decor, the taste of wines perfectly paired with exceptional food, and the overwhelming since of unconditional friendship that filled the pages. The imagery is enough to boost this book to the top of the list but Towles’ ability to pull readers in and invest them in every aspect of one man’s life makes this story one worth returning to again and again.


Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff


I picked up Frozen in Time because, well honestly, it promised military aviation and arctic survival. How could I not pick it up?!? Two aspects propelled this book to the top of my list. The first is that this is a TRUE STORY! The second, Zuckoff’s writing has you there surviving on the ice with these airmen. There was many an afternoon where I was super irritated at having to put the book down. It was just fantastic.

I obviously recommend both of these stories, and I would love to hear about your favorites! Happy reading everyone.


Trio for Blunt Instruments

Trio for Blunt Instruments

by Rex Stout


If Nero Wolfe and his sidekick, Archie, would ever admit to an Achilles’ heel-which they wouldn’t-it would be a weakness for damsels in distress. In these three charming chillers the duo answer the call of helpless heroines with nothing to lose-except their lives. First a beautiful young Aphrodite comes to Nero looking for a hero-and the answer to the mystery of her father’s death….Then an old flame of Archie’s reignites with a plan that may corner him into a lifetime commitment-behind bars….And finally a detective’s work is never done, as a hot tip leads the team into the sizzling center of a sexy scandal that could leave them cold-dead cold.

After a much needed month off, I am back with weekly book reviews!

So, you might know that I adore Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories. I tend to read my Nero Wolfe during the holidays because my mom and I like to binge watch the TV series over Christmas. Winter has always been a time for Nero Wolfe; however, Trio for Blunt Instruments would be better suited for a summer read. Trio of Blunt Instruments is a collection of 3 novellas (Kill Now Pay Later, Murder is Corny, and Blood Will Tell) in which the murders are committed with…you guessed it…a blunt instrument! Here are my thoughts on each story.

Kill Now Pay Later

Sadly, this is my least favorite of the three. I adored the murder victim, who was a hard working immigrant who works for Nero Wolfe, but his daughter, main female character, just fell flat. She is presented as an intelligent, hard working woman but the description never matched her actions. Her reactions to the men around her, men that were influencing her future, was distracted and halfhearted, and not in a way that could be explained away with grief. However, the murder is intriguing and I enjoy how Nero Wolfe gets involved and stands up for a man he respected no matter his assigned social status.

Murder is Corny

Definitely my favorite of the three! It may not be the most complex mystery of the three novellas, but I find the way Archie which is framed as the murder to be so simple, yet brilliant, that I find myself rereading that one scene over and over again. Murder is Corny was actually converted into a TV episode for the show. It was fantastically done, and stays true to the story, so I had the film version playing in my head, which only enhanced my reading. Plus, Wolfe’s dialogue on how to properly prepare summer corn will leave your mouth watering!

Blood Will Tell

The last novella, Blood Will Tell, presents the most complex murder. Archie is dragged in to a world of jealousy and manipulation when he is sent a bloody tie in the mail. What follows is a detailed look at the effects of individuals’ actions and the destructive nature of manipulation. My favorite aspect of the story is reading of Archie’s almost romantic wish for everything to turn out right for good people despite the negativity around him.

Trio for Blunt Instruments was a fun quick read that offered a variety of mysteries. It is the perfect book for a hot summer days, or those winter days where you long for summer weather. I definitely recommend it. Let me know what your favorite Nero Wolfe story is (mine is still The Black Orchids), and I would love to hear which books you are reading this winter!


2017 Recap and 2018 Goals

2017 Recap

I entered the Goodreads Challenge with the goal of completing 40 books in 2017.

Total Read: 37 books

  • Nonfiction: 5
  • Fiction: 32

I didn’t finish as many books as I would have liked but I was happy at how close I came despite struggling with a reading slum both in the Winter AND Summer. I was also happy that I started reading more nonfiction during the latter half of the year. You may remember, my second 2017 goal was to read 5 specific nonfiction books. I only managed to read two of them (Descent Into Darkness and The Poisoner’s Handbook). 2017 was not what I would call an amazing reading year but I am still happy with the progress I made. I rediscovered my love for historic nonfiction and started 2018 excited to read!

happy emma watson GIF

2018 Goals

This year I am planning on keeping my goals simple. I am signing up for the Goodreads Challenge (you should join me!) and am aiming for 50 books read this year. I could have easily surpassed this number last year if not for those pesky reading slumps! I also am setting a Nonfiction goal for myself. My goal is for at least 12 of the books I read this year to be Nonfiction. I am not going to pick a specific list to read, but instead go where my mood sends me!

Total Books: 50

Nonfiction: 12

What are your 2018 goals? What books are you excited to read this year? Do you have any books I should check out!? Let me know! And Happy Reading!




The Poisoner’s Handbook

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

by Deborah Blum


Deborah Blum, writing with the high style and skill for suspense that is characteristic of the very best mystery fiction, shares the untold story of how poison rocked Jazz Age New York City. In The Poisoner’s Handbook Blum draws from highly original research to track the fascinating, perilous days when a pair of forensic scientists began their trailblazing chemical detective work, fighting to end an era when untraceable poisons offered an easy path to the perfect crime.

Drama unfolds case by case as the heroes of The Poisoner’s Handbook—chief medical examiner Charles Norris and toxicologist Alexander Gettler—investigate a family mysteriously stricken bald, Barnum and Bailey’s Famous Blue Man, factory workers with crumbling bones, a diner serving poisoned pies, and many others. Each case presents a deadly new puzzle and Norris and Gettler work with a creativity that rivals that of the most imaginative murderer, creating revolutionary experiments to tease out even the wiliest compounds from human tissue. Yet in the tricky game of toxins, even science can’t always be trusted, as proven when one of Gettler’s experiments erroneously sets free a suburban housewife later nicknamed “America’s Lucretia Borgia” to continue her nefarious work.

From the vantage of Norris and Gettler’s laboratory in the infamous Bellevue Hospital it becomes clear that killers aren’t the only toxic threat to New Yorkers. Modern life has created a kind of poison playground, and danger lurks around every corner. Automobiles choke the city streets with carbon monoxide; potent compounds, such as morphine, can be found on store shelves in products ranging from pesticides to cosmetics. Prohibition incites a chemist’s war between bootleggers and government chemists while in Gotham’s crowded speakeasies each round of cocktails becomes a game of Russian roulette. Norris and Gettler triumph over seemingly unbeatable odds to become the pioneers of forensic chemistry and the gatekeepers of justice during a remarkably deadly time. A beguiling concoction that is equal parts true crime, twentieth-century history, and science thriller, The Poisoner’s Handbook is a page-turning account of a forgotten New York.

My husband and I are both fans of documentaries, and one lazy weekend we discovered The Poisoner’s Handbook on Netflix. It was fantastic! The film covered the development of forensic science in New York during the 1920s/1930s. It detailed the lives of the innovators of the field, Norris and Gettler, while also providing detailed examples of the various poisons and substances studied. I LOVED IT! To date I have watched that documentary 6-7 times. And then I realized it was based on a book, so of course I had to read it!

I picked up The Poisoner’s Handbook as part of Nonfiction November (I read two books for that challenge. The other was Frozen in Time) My opinion was the same for the book as the movie…it was fantastic!

Blum’s writing style easy to follow, as it is informative without being insultingly simplistic. The presentation follows a relatively chronological process from the initial development of the medical examiner’s office and forensic investigation department to the establishment of national forensic standards. Yet, this information is provided strategically throughout the story. Each chapter is dedicated to an individual poison, providing stories of actual criminal cases, the process of testing for each poison, and how each substance impacted the growth of the forensic department. I turned the last page feeling as if I personally knew both Norris and Gettler. And Blum’s inclusion of actual criminal cases kept The Poisoner’s Handbook engaging, educational, and downright intriguing!

I personally do not have a negative opinion to share, but I do want to note that most of the bad reviews of The Poisoner’s Handbook concern the actual science. I am an archaeologist/historian/writer by training and trade; I know absolutely nothing about chemistry. I cannot attest to the validity of the science documented in this book. I trust Blum’s presentation, but that’s all I can do at this point. I will say that these negative reviews have me wanting to read and learn more about this topic.

I will recommend this book, and the documentary, to anyone remotely interested in the history of criminology and forensic investigation. I find this to be a very tumultuous and interesting time in American history, and one that I am always eager to learn more about. Let me know if you’ve ready The Poisoner’s Handbook. I want to know what you think!

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!