Can She Do It?!

I set two reading goals for myself at the beginning of 2017. The first was to read five specific nonfiction novels. The second was to complete 40 books by the end of the year. I did read 2 of my 5 nonfiction picks (I’m quite happy with this) and I am currently sitting at 30 of my planned 40 books. Only 10 books left to hit my goal…

December 1st left me contemplating all my missed reading time. I wouldn’t say it was time wasted, but I knew I could totally knock out these last 10 books! I would read instead of watching meaningless tv, I’d let some chores wait, and I’d spend less time talking on the phone on my drive home. I would dedicate that extra time to reading, and listening, to books.

Will I actually be able to read 10 books in 27 days? Probably not, but I see nothing to lose by trying!

What is the most you’ve read in a month? What do you plan to read to get you through the holidays? Do you have any Christmas reads I should check out? Good luck with hitting your goals!

Lindsay

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All The Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

by Anthony Doerr

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A stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

Doerr’s gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work.

I initially learned about All the Light We Cannot See from various Booktube reviewers. I was honestly hesitant to pick up the book because I wasn’t in the mood for a young adult story. I just figured it was YA because that is the predominant genre reviewed on Booktube. It turns out that All the Light We Cannot See is not YA (figured that out half way through the story) and that it was a fantastic book to take a chance on.

I loved how Doerr focused on sharing World War II from the point of view of two children. He did a fantastic job creating realistic, likable characters; each with their own fears, flaws, and strengths. Doerr masterfully weaves the stories of multiple characters through an intricate storyline, while still managing to provide realistic endings for all involved. All the Light We Cannot See touched on so many tough subjects, including love, sacrifice, personal conflict, intellectual passion, and the many small aspects of life during wartime. It is a story that makes a reader think, and even know, I still find myself contemplating the details of Werner’s role.

I felt the representations of the children were unique as Marie Lore is a young blind girl from a loving home in France and Werner a incredibly intelligent young man from a hard childhood existence in Germany. The way they processed the world around them, how they both struggled to survive, and the way their lives inexplicably come together like two trains on a head-on collision were just enthralling.

My only complaint would be the storyline involving the cursed stone. It wasn’t my favorite. I really can’t explain why because I loved the art history and natural science of the story, and I understand the stone could represent the desperate hope of those fighting to survive. Sadly, this plot line just didn’t draw me in as completely as the rest of the book.

With that said, All the Light We Cannot See is fantastically written. Doerr’s expert melding of different settings, characters, and times leaves you feeling as if you’re dancing through the story instead of bouncing from page to page. It is a wonderfully different story about the Second World War and great for readers of all ages!

Have you read All the Light We Cannot See? Let me know what you think! And Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

Lindsay

The Green Mill Murder

The Green Mill Murder

by Kerry Greenwood

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Phryne Fisher is doing one of her favorite things—cutting the rug at the Green Mill, Melbourne’s premier dance hall. In a sparkling lobelia-colored georgette dress, dancing to the stylings of Tintagel Stone’s Jazzmakers, nothing can flap the unflappable flapper. Nothing except death, that is.

The dance competition is trailing into its final hours when suddenly, in the middle of “Bye Bye Blackbird,” one of her fellow contestants slumps to the ground. No shot was heard, and Phryne, conscious of how narrowly the missile must have missed her own bared shoulder, undertakes to investigate. This leads her into the dark and smokey jazz clubs of Fitzroy, the arms of eloquent strangers, and finally into the the sky, on the trail of a complicated family tragedy of the Great War and the damaged men who served at Gallipoli. In the Australian Alps, she meets a hermit with a dog called Lucky and a wombat living under his bunk… and risks her life on the love between brothers.

November always finds me reading (and watching) historic mysteries. I don’t know what it is about this time of year that has me longing for quirky mysteries and spunky detectives, but you can bet my mystery TBR pile has grown in the last two weeks! One of my go-to gumshoes is Phryne Fisher. The tv show (available on Netflix) is fantastic, and the books are equally enjoyable. I have previously reviewed the first four books in the series, and it’s time to add the fifth story, The Green Mill Murder. Phryne hits the town determined to listen to jazz and dance the night away when a crooked man falls dead at her feet. Phryne finds herself on the hunt for a murderer, dealing with a number of unsavory folk, and flying over mountains in search of a lost soldier. I have an announcement for fans of the show. There is a Green Mill Murder episode, but it is a tad different than the novel. The murder is the same for both, as are the exquisite settings of both the jazz scene and the mountains of the Australian wilderness. But, the relationships between characters are drastically different, which is both good and bad. Let’s start with why I loved The Green Mill Murder, the flying. Greenwood expertly describes the sensation of flying in an open cockpit plane. The feel of ice on the wind, the overwhelming sense of utter freedom, and the smells of the engine fuel and oil had me wanting to put the book down and take off in my little plane. I could feel the tug of mud on wheels upon landing, and the encompassing fear of a sudden fog. Phryne’s flight, and subsequent time in the mountains, is what saved this book AND instilled it as my current favorite in the series.

Honestly, I wasn’t enjoying the story until Phryne took off in her little Gypsy Moth bi-plane. I felt the tv episode had done everything better. I preferred Charlie as a likable character instead of the cruel brat in the book. I felt the tv show actually handled the then illegal same sex relationship shared by Charlie and his lover instead of rushing through it, as in the book. And Phryne’s indifference and impatience through the first half of the novel matched my own feelings. I was worried about continuing the story, but then Phryne went flying!

But flying wasn’t the story’s only saving grace. The Green Mill Murder allows readers a deeper look into the thought processes of our strong willed detective. We see Phryne struggle to tolerate tedious people. We see her trying to mingle with the jazz musicians, only to remain an outsider. And we watch her learn to embrace her need for the lights and sounds of the city while hiding out in the quiet wilderness. It’s a stark look at an intelligent woman who struggles to fit in the world around her, and it was nice to see this side of Phryne.

The Green Mill Murder also provides a blunt examination of shell shock and PTSD. We hear stories shared by Bert and Cec, and watch as Phryne slowly uncovers the events that changed Vic’s world. It is an enlightening aspect of the story which left me feeling hopeful even after the last page was turned.

I recommend reading The Green Mill Murder and then watching the episode. I feel both were good in their own ways. Let me know which Mis Fisher story is your favorite. And i enjoy these cold winter nights with a good cup of coffee and a fun murder mystery!

Lindsay

Nonfiction November

November is here, and I am back from an untended, but needed hiatus. The holidays are upon us; the weather is finally starting to cool off, packages containing Christmas gift are already arriving, and my obsession with coffee is in full force. November normally finds me craving period mystery novels, especially those with spunky female detectives. So I was all prepared to read some Phryne Fisher and Murder on the Orient Express (to celebrate the movie coming out!). Then I watched A Book Olive’s announcement of Nonfiction November, and realized I had only read ONE book out of the FIVE listed as my 2017 goals.

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Luckily three of my goal books fit well with this year’s Nonfiction November challenges (they are all listed below). My goal is to read and review these four nonfiction novels, plus four detective stories this November. Lofty goals but enjoyable none the less.

 

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

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

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Love: Jackie Cochran: An Autobiography

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Scholarship: A Man on the Moon

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Are you participating in #NonfictionNovember2017? Please let me know what books you plan on reading this month, and you can look forward to new reviews on History and Mystery! Happy November everyone!

Lindsay

The Most Dangerous Game

The Most Dangerous Game

by Richard Connell

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The Most Dangerous Game features a big-game hunter from New York who becomes shipwrecked on an isolated island in the Caribbean and is hunted by a Russian aristocrat.

When asked ‘what is your favorite short story?’ (because that happens often..) my immediate response is always The Most Dangerous Game. I have no idea how old I was when I first read it, though I am pretty sure it was per a school assignment. I do; however, vividly remember reading it for the first time. The emotions evoked by The Most Dangerous Game were intense, from the confusion at Rainsford’s predicament, through a shared sense of shock, to the wild fear coursing uncontrolled in my gut as I frantically turned through the pages. It was brilliant!

Rereading it as an adult will never be the same as that first time, but each reread stirs up that memory. That haunting and chilling memory still leaves goosebumps racing up my arms.

The story is simple, with a basic writing style that modern readers may find overly simplistic. And yet, Connell manages to connect to your primal emotions despite a writing style that lacks the detailed, showy language of modern literature. I think the simplistic style easily allows the reader to tap into their imagination, triggering a deeper emotional response. In my reread, I was also realized the historical aspects of the setting. Reading it for school meant discussing emotions and the moral complexities of big game sport hunting, but this time I recognized that the General and Rainsford both survived the Great War. I was able to acknowledge Zaroff’s Cossack heritage and the evolution of his life after the Russian Revolution. And of course, I was fascinated at this unique approach on how boredom affects a mind. There is just so much packed in those 20 pages.

I will always recommend The Most Dangerous Game. Always. It takes everything for me not to restart it each time I turn that last page. So, do yourself a favor, and pick this story up for a late October night read.

Is anyone else a fan? Let me know so that we can nerd out together!

Lindsay

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

by Cat Winters

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In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

I am not the type of person who typically buys a book because of the cover. Sure, I like pretty covers. Sure, I’ll pick one edition over another based on the cover. (I actually tend to prefer old used books that have that particular smell…anyways) But I do not buy books that I don’t find interesting, great cover or no. So, it may surprise you that I was drawn to In the Shadow of Blackbirds because of the cover. Thankfully, I was also intrigued by the paranormal historic mystery promised by the synopsis…but that cover! It is so beautifully haunting that I was going to read this book no matter what!

In the Shadow of Blackbirds tells the story of Mary Shelley Black, a bright young woman who must relocate to California after her father is arrested. But California in 1918 is a hard place for a 16 year old; surrounded by the devastating effects of Spanish Influenza, Mary Shelley learns upon arrival that something bad has happened to her childhood sweetheart who is serving in the Army in France. Surrounded by death, thanks to the flu epidemic and World War I, Mary Shelley must attempt to come to age while processing loss, dealing with frauds, and finding the truth in ghostly whispers.

Mary Shelley Black was a refreshing heroine!  The typical young adult female lead is drowned in teenage angst and plenty of insta-love, but Mary Shelley is a self aware, confident woman of science in an era where that behavior was socially frowned upon. She typically embraces her personality and quirks with little care of what others think. I adored how often she wore her aviator goggles, but loved even more that she wore them because she liked them….not to get a rise out of people, or to make a statement. Despite handling her situation in a stoic, mature fashion, Winters still manages to present a heroine who is both mature for her age but still a child. You don’t forget that Mary Shelley is only 16 years old, because she is still impulsive, as we see with the lightening storm and her decision to help wounded soldiers. She is a wonderful character; a girl who is willing to discover the truth, capable of following her gut instinct, but naïve enough to trust that people are inherently good despite all that she has been through.

I found the story fascinating, the paranormal aspects engaging, and was thrilled that Winters provided a brilliant standalone novel (instead of trying to force this story into a typical YA duology/trilogy), but I admit the most gripping aspect of In the Shadow of Blackbirds was the year, 1918. I need to read more historical fiction set during the Great War (World War I). Winters’ vivid descriptions of the affects of the Spanish Influenza outbreak, both in physical setting, such as when Mary Shelley comes across stacks of coffins and the constant wailing of ambulance sirens in the background, and in the mental toll on characters battling against an unseen killer, was to me more haunting than the actual haunting! (geez, sorry for the super long sentence guys) And I applaud Winters for her blunt, honest approach on shell shock. She deftly displays the period social reaction to shell shock, at the time a very misunderstood mental and physical reaction to trench warfare, without imparting modern judgement. Winters shows us young soldiers struggling to heal after the war. We hear stories of boys being left by love ones after they lost limbs. We are transported to the bloody mud of the trenches in France, feeling the concussion of artillery shake the ground. And the blackbirds…they may haunt my dreams as they did Stephen’s. Brilliant; her descriptions were absolutely immersive and plain brilliant!

I don’t really have any negative thoughts but will say the scenes involving the paranormal can be a tad jumpy and abrupt. I believe this is done intentionally to leave readers a tad unsettled; it works and it can make the book tough to read during long sessions. I also wasn’t a fan of Aunt Eva. She was just too frantic, and wasn’t as developed as Mary Shelley. The gritty details of her somewhat tragic life were there, but these points were overshadowed by her frantic and somewhat irrational response to events. I could tell there was so much more to her and would have loved to see that on the pages. Especially since deep-down Eva is a survivor. I can also see where some readers might complain about the lightening strike, writing it off as a fantastic and convenient plot tool It is but it was still well done, and I have no complaints.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds was fantastic, and the perfect read during the month of spooks! I dare say Winters’ may have restored my faith in young adult fiction…..no matter. I recommend it for those in need of a spooky read!

Do you have any other spooky young adult books I should check out? Have you read anything else by Cat Winters? Do you know where I can find a pair of vintage aviator goggles?!? Let me know, and happy spooky reading!

Lindsay

Mad City

Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders that America Forgot

by Michael Arntfield

Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot

Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot is a chilling, unflinching exploration of American crimes of the twentieth century and how one serial killer managed to slip through the cracks—until now.

In fall 1967, friends Linda Tomaszewski and Christine Rothschild are freshmen at the University of Wisconsin. The students in the hippie college town of Madison are letting down their hair—and their guards. But amid the peace rallies lurks a killer.

When Christine’s body is found, her murder sends shockwaves across college campuses, and the Age of Aquarius gives way to a decade of terror.

Linda knows the killer, but when police ignore her pleas, he slips away. For the next forty years, Linda embarks on a cross-country quest to find him. When she discovers a book written by the murderer’s mother, she learns Christine was not his first victim—or his last. The slayings continue, and a single perpetrator emerges: the Capital City Killer. As police focus on this new lead, Linda receives a disturbing note from the madman himself. Can she stop him before he kills again?

I received Mad City as my September Amazon First book and decided to upgrade it to the audiobook version because I usually prefer listening to nonfiction books. I was intrigued by the prospect of learning about a forgotten homicide; however, I quickly found myself disappointed in the story’s progression and actually relieved when I finally reached the end.

As you may guess, this will not be a glowing review of Mad City, which I rated 2 out of 5 stars. Mad City, per the synopsis, promises a discussion of the murder of Christine Rothschild in 1968 at the University of Wisconsin. Sure, we learn about this murder, take a detailed look at the killer, and follow Christine’s best friend, Linda, on her personal witch hunt for justice. We also learn about seven other murders (I think it was seven) of females loosely associated with the University of Wisconsin that occur over a span of 15 years after Christine’s death. Additionally, readers are treated to an intense discussion of criminal profiling, criminal mentality, the differences between criminal modus operandi, MO, and signature, as well as, a detailed discussion of every major serial homicide case in America between 1968 and 2013. It was just too much.

I want to get my positive points out now. The prose was well constructed. Additionally, Arntfield is obviously knowledgeable about criminology. His discussion of the criminal mind and detailing of a variety of cases is well researched and comprehensively presented. Honestly, I would consider Mad City a decent novel if it had been marketed as a nonfiction piece evaluating criminal mentality in serial murderers. These two points are the only reason I didn’t stamp Mad City with just 1 out of 5 stars.

Mad City starts strong with the details of the Christine Rothschild case, but then quickly disintegrates into chapters upon chapters of information overload. Readers are forced to sift through the information in an attempt to distinguish the forgotten campus murders between descriptions of other murder scenes, other killers, and other cities plagued with serial murder activity. Unsurprisingly, this information overload completely negates the purpose of Mad City, and leaves these UW campus murders all but forgotten in this criminology text. Additionally, Arntfield pulls this nonfiction into the realm of fiction, when he consistently provides the thoughts and motivations of every investigator associated with the UW campus murders over the course of 15-20 years. What follows is blatant cop-bashing as Arntfield pretty much claims that these investigators intentionally ignored these cases, attempted to ‘pin the crimes’ on individuals just to get them off their desk, and refused to connect the murders out of sheer laziness. Arntfield does give some nod to the lack of modern investigation techniques hampering progress, but his credibility is completely ruined by his blatant padding with pure conjecture. It is cop-bashing by a former cop and has no place in a work of nonfiction.

Spoilers: there are a number of times when the author breaks the fourth wall and provides his personal opinion on events. This type of writing is fine in certain types of nonfiction works (memoirs, self-help books, travel stories, etc.). It is not appropriate in a historical true crime novel, unless the author has a personal role in the story. I spent the whole story annoyed with this audacious style UNTIL it is revealed the author does have a personal role in the story IN THE LAST CHAPTER. UGH! This should have been announced in the epilogue or first chapter, and would have justified the language of the novel.

Sadly, I do not think Mad City succeeded in informing readers on the campus murders that America forgot. The overload of crime information only managed to further muddle the University of Wisconsin murders. I was disappointed, but I do feel that Arntfield has potential if he can make his work on criminology strictly objective.

Do you have any true crime nonfiction that you suggest? I need to read something good!

Lindsay

Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants

by Sara Gruen

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An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932 illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. Winner of the 2007 BookBrowse Award for Most Popular Book.

An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932, by the bestselling author of Riding Lessons.

When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, drifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.

Beautifully written, Water for Elephants is illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. It tells a story of a love between two people that overcomes incredible odds in a world in which even love is a luxury that few can afford.

Some of you may be asking after the post from earlier this week, “why did she include circus stories on her ‘creepy Halloween’ TBR?” Well, let me explain. First, I am absolutely terrified of clowns. I am not going to go into the details of why, just know that I did not see the reincarnation of IT just as I couldn’t force myself (at 18 years old) to make it through the original IT without crying in fear. Second, after finally attending a Ringling Bros circus performance in my early 20s, I was hooked. There is something magical and wondrous about the world of the circus and each October I find myself returning to this bright, mysterious culture. So, expect a couple circus stories this month, and the first is Water for Elephants.

I initially heard about Water for Elephants when the movie came out in 2011. I was intrigued with the story because circus, but almost immediately decided not to read the book. Guys, I will openly admit that I can be a bit of a book snob, and if ‘everyone’ just LOVES a book…..it probably won’t live up to the hype. (Please don’t tell me how stupid this is. I KNOW IT IS! I just can’t help my snobby reaction.) So, instead I spent my time reading stuff like The Night Circus and Girl on a Wire. But this year, I couldn’t stop wondering about the story, and decided to finally pick up Water for Elephants on a couple of trusted friends’ recommendation.

Guys, I loved it! (I know..I know) The book was fantastic! I am not going to add a summary of the story because this post will be long enough as is, but I will say that my favorite aspect of Water for Elephants is how it jumps between Jacob’s current stay in the nursing home and his memories of the circus. Jacob’s modern experience was heart wrenching and yet still humorous. His self awareness was brutally refreshing and eye-opening for someone who hasn’t been forced to experience such a regulated reality. Even now, tears come to my eyes when I remember certain revelations shared by 90, or 93, year old Jacob. I would recommend Water for Elephants just because of that starkly honest storyline.

But, I didn’t initially pick up this book for the modern half, and thankfully Jacob’s memories of the circus seamlessly melded with his current reality. Gruen had me hooked with her gorgeous and unapologetically gritty descriptions of life during the great depression. From Jacob’s loss of security, to the brutal form of animal training, and the fear of a lost job and starvation, I felt like I was there desperately hoping for life. This was a world where people were not free to follow their dreams, but were forced to focus on mere survival. And yet amidst this life of necessity, there is this magical world of the circus. A world of bright lights and mystery that arrives and disappears in one day. A world that promises excitement as big cats prowl, elephants march, and horses prance under the big top. And a disgruntled clown, sordid peepshow, and extensive amount of shoveled animal waste only enhanced the atmosphere. Every character was realistically flawed, and I felt the sadist August was the perfect villain. And I am shocked to still find myself thinking about Walter, the Shakespeare loving clown. So despite the extensive animal and human abuse, I found myself immersed in the culture. Gruen provides a story that feels historically accurate, including the good and bad aspects of people/life in the 1930s.

My only negative point for the book was the development of Marlena. I didn’t feel she was fully hashed out as a character. Yes, we see both her good qualities and her flaws, but I just felt like something was missing. That we were still viewing her through some type of rose colored glasses. And I realized, while writing this review, that even though the circus storyline is presented as the main story, it is still a visualization of Jacob’s memories. And one truth about life is that love is blind. And Jacob loves Marlena. So, I really can not call this a negative aspect of the story because this is how Jacob would remember her.

Now as for the movie….sigh. I didn’t think it was bad; I just think it could have been better. I watched the movie the same day I finished the book, and I was happy with how August and Uncle Al were combined into one character. Same with Greg and Camel. And Robert Pattinson was absolutely perfect as Jacob. I just felt the pacing did not do justice to the story. How can the movie be both slow and very jumpy? Characters were not explored; the culture was not explained. I knew the nuances of these people and their world because I had just stepped out of their story. But I wouldn’t have felt compelled to read the book if I had watched the movie first. Especially with the ending lacking the immense joy of the book’s. The book was just better.

Read Water for Elephants. It is a wonderful story and has taught me to ignore my book snob tendencies. Which circus books are your favorite?

Lindsay

OCTOBER!

My favorite month has finally arrived! The 1st of October signals the start of fall (despite Florida holding on to the 90s), the start of the holiday season, and an excuse to indulge in all things creepy! My Halloween decorations are up, my seasonal fall scents are out, and my corny Halloween movies are on!

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So what can you expect from History and Mystery this month? Reviews on gruesome murder mysteries, macabre paranormal historical fiction, and circus stories! I am so excited to be sharing my favorite month with y’all!

Go ahead and check out last year’s spooky reads:

What spooky books are on your TBR this month? Please feel free to share your favorite October reads, movies, TV shows…just know I fully plan on binging Stranger Things!

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Happy October!  Lindsay

 

Red Dog

Red Dog

by Bill Wallace

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TERROR IN THE MOUNTAINS
In the rugged Wyoming territory, the red pup is Adam’s best friend.
Adam and his family live in a lonely cabin in the mountains, facing the dangers of the wilderness alone. One day, Adam¹s stepfather announces that he must leave for a weeklong trip to Cheyenne. Adam is put in charge of the family. Everything goes smoothly until three cutthroat gold prospectors come crashing into the cabin and hold the family at gunpoint.

Late that night, Adam manages to escape. Unfortunately, the men let the red pup loose, and the one thing that dog does best is track Adam…Will the pup lead the men to Adam? And if he does, can Adam still save his family?

I am finally getting around to sharing my review of the last book in my Back to School series, Red Dog. Honestly, this is the perfect time of year to talk about this story, as I first discovered the works of Bill Wallace one amazing afternoon in my elementary school library. They were never assigned reading, but I read every available book by Wallace in one year (probably all before the winter break). And Red Dog is my favorite.

Actually, Red Dog will likely always be a favorite! While rereading it a few weeks ago (I’m in my 30s y’all) I realized that, once again, I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what would happen to Adam and his pup, and I found myself grumbling at any distraction. So, yes this will be a glowing review. Bill Wallace had this expert way of sharing life lessons disguised as a spellbinding adventure! In Red Dog, Adam is forced to let go of childish insecurities, learn how to properly treat animals, and develop a better understanding of his changed family dynamics. The lessons are at times painful, but the writing shows readers the necessity of choosing to be a better person. This is a reminder from which everyone, both young and old, can benefit. I’m not going to share any details of the actual story, because I don’t want to ruin the reading experience. Just know that the vivid imagery and heart racing scenes will stick with you long after turning that last page.

I do have a few less than positive points that sadly have to be shared. First, Adam is a royal pain for the first third of the book; whining and fighting against his mom and step-father. Thankfully, this only lasts for a third of the novel and it is necessary to show Adam’s personal growth throughout the story. Second, Wallace does not shy away from violence. Red Dog is set during the gold rush and the characters live in the Wyoming wilderness, days away from any town. Wallace does not sugar-coat the unfortunate reality that some people do not have good intentions, which results in a couple of gruesome moments. Both of these aspects mold this story and are necessary. I don’t consider them negative points, just aspects that readers should be aware of.

I have lost count of the number of times I have read Red Dog. I have my own copy of the story and now, so does godson. This is the story I share with parents requesting book for their kids. Wallace was my favorite author and his stories helped shape my childhood. Here were these amazing books that offered an escape to the wilderness when I was stuck inside, and Wallace promised a grand adventure that usually included a cute dog.

I blame Wallace for sparking my love of thriller and mystery fiction, and am forever grateful for finding him on that shelf.

Please share you’re favorite Bill Wallace book. I would love to hear what you think of his stories.
Lindsay