Summer Reading!

Summer is here! And is there really a better way to spend a day at the beach than with a good book?

Here is my Summer reading recommendations. I have read, or am in the process of reading, each book. Let me know if any of these are one your list!

Mystery

Cozy Mystery

Nonfiction

Classic

Pirates

Historical Fiction

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Dress Her in Indigo

Dress Her in Indigo

by John D MacDonald

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A wealthy old man laid up in the hospital is desperate to understand the last months of his daughter’s life before she was killed in a car crash in Mexico. It was puzzling. She’d cleaned out her considerable bank account, left Miami and hadn’t been heard from again. Travis McGee ventures into the steep hills and strange backwoods of Oaxaca through a bizarre world of dropouts, drug freaks, and kinky rich people–and begins to suspect the beautiful girl’s death was no accident….

I have spent most of this year reading books that have a beachy/tropical setting in an attempt to enjoy the miserably cold Florida winter (yes I know it is now spring. I’m behind). Tropical setting plus a thrilling mystery always equals a Travis Magee novel! I am slowly collecting the series thanks to my local book store and I picked up Dress Her in Indigo as it had Travis and Meyer traipsing across Mexico.

Whew.

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Don’t get me wrong; I loved it. I love every Travis Magee novel, but Dress Her in Indigo was a tough read. Let’s go ahead and get the Spoilers/Trigger Warning out of the way. Be prepared for extensive descriptions of substance and sexual abuse. Nothing is sugar coated (in typical JDM fashion) but you don’t have to worry about gratuitous gore. It is what it is and that is exactly how JDM lays it down on the page. Dress Her in Indigo does not have a happy ending; it ends the only way it can. Just…whew. End of Spoilers.

Meyer and Magee are hired to go to Mexico and discover the details of a lost life. An old friend of Meyer’s has recently buried his daughter and wishes to know how she lived while in Mexico. Travis knows that nothing good will come this venture but Meyer insists on doing the favor for a friend. This scene between the three men introduced me to my favorite quote:

“But don’t fault him. He believes he is really in the midst of life and always has been. He doesn’t know any better, because he’s never known anything else. What a limited man believes is emotional reality is indeed his emotional reality.” Meyer (John D MacDonald)

So, Travis takes this job against his better judgement and heads south with Meyer. What follows is a twisted tale of drugs, hard living, and the loss of innocence. It was an amazing story; it was a rough story.

I don’t want my promise of a rough time to dissuade you from reading Dress Her in Indigo. The novel was initially published in 1969 and tackles a number of social issues. Unsurprisingly, JDM’s opinions/suggestions are just as applicable today. He discussed the lack of communication between the young and old, the stark contrast of the materialistic and idealistic, the difference between sexual conquest and intimacy, and the affects of war and violence on mental health. He takes a very candid approach on the struggles of those with same sex sexual orientation (remember it was published in 1969). But most importantly, Dress Her in Indigo highlights the loss of innocence and how to adjust to a new reality.

I especially enjoyed the aforementioned quote because it hit me at the right time in my life. I needed to read that statement. I needed to know that some people are incapable of understanding a life outside their own small reality. To understand this isn’t necessarily because they are mentally incapable of such a feat (though that can be the case) but often they have no idea there is so much more out there.

Do I suggest Dress Her in Indigo? Yup. But like all John D MacDonald books…that recommendation comes with a caveat. This book is going to make you think. It’s going to make you cringe; make you wish beyond anything that you can jump into the pages and hug poor Meyer. This book isn’t a light holiday read, but it is perfect for those longing for more of a thrill as they soak up the sun.

Let me know what you think! Happy Reading

Lindsay

A Caribbean Mystery

A Caribbean Mystery

by Agatha Christie

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As Jane Marple sat basking in the tropical sunshine she felt mildly discontented with life. True, the warmth eased her rheumatism, but here in paradise nothing ever happened. Then a question was put to her by a stranger: ‘Would you like to see a picture of a murderer?’ Before she has a chance to answer, the man vanishes, only to be found dead the next day. The mysteries abound: Where is the picture? Why is the hotelier prone to nightmares? Why doesn’t the most talked-about guest, a reclusive millionaire, ever leave his room? And why is Miss Marple herself fearful for her life?

Of note: A Caribbean Mystery introduces the wealthy (and difficult) Mr Jason Rafiel, who will call upon Miss Marple for help in Nemesis (1971) — after his death.

I was first introduced to Agatha Christie as a preteen. I spent many a night curled up on the couch with my mom binge watching David Suchet’s Piorot (and BBC’s Sherlock Holmes and A&E’s Nero Wolfe). My mom is definitely responsible for my love of historical mysteries.

Now, I know I read a number of Agatha Christie novels as a preteen, but I cannot remember which ones, and I decided it was time to revisit her work after watching Murder on the Orient Express over the holidays. I found myself rewatching the old tv shows, and found A Caribbean Mystery to be the perfect read for the Caribbean cruise vacation I took last week.

I have always been a fan of Hercule Piorot, but GUYS, I forgot how much I loved the snarky Miss Marple! Miss Marple is on vacation in order to relax and maintain good health…which of course means that she is bored out of her mind. Then a man suddenly dies, the day after telling Miss Marple that he has a picture in his wallet of a murderer. Marple knows that something fishy has happened, and must discover the truth without her normal confidants.

I loved how our detective assumed a self-depreciation persona to gain information from her fellow guests. It’s refreshing how she does not lament her age, instead embraces it. She frequently rolls her eyes at the ignorance of youth and manipulates people’s preconceptions of ‘little old ladies’ to her advantage.

The mystery was interesting, twisted, and surprising. It kept me hooked and guessing until the very last page. Marple is relatable as she frequently brainstorms the facts in order to discover the culprit; she does just suddenly have the answers. My favorite part of A Caribbean Mystery was Marple’s conversation with the fantastically curt Mr. Rafiel. And it was kinda refreshing that Christie didn’t attempt to provide an explanation behind the murder’s behavior.

A Caribbean Mystery was fantastic and a mystery that I would recommend to anyone, especially those needing a light read for a beachy vacation! I have a feeling that I will be spending more time enjoying the adventures of Miss Marple this year.

Have you read A Caribbean Mystery? What is your favorite Agatha Christie story? Let me know and happy reading!

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

Florida Reading

Spring is here and soon it will be warm enough for reading days at the beach! Until then I am sharing pictures that show the joy of reading in Florida.

It’s finally warm enough to go to the beach. I will be hitting my favorite reading spot soon!


I hope you all get plenty of beach time in the coming months. I plan to have plenty of sand between the pages!

Lindsay

Florida Reading

Spring is here and soon it will be warm enough for reading days at the beach! Until then I am sharing pictures that show the joy of reading in Florida.

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Beach-read is the only book damage I am ok with. Salt water worn edges, sand between the pages, and the faint smell of coconut sunscreen always make me smile!

You may notice The Martian made a few trips to the beach 😜!

Happy reading!

Lindsay

What to Expect: JULY

What To Expect: JULY

Well…it’s probably quite obvious by the number of reviews I posted in June that I’m STILL adjusting to my new day-shift schedule. UGH!! 13 hours of my day are dedicated to exercise, work, and my commute back and forth, which leaves far less reading time than I’m accustomed to. Thank the Lord for audiobooks! Guys, I haven’t even made it to the beach this summer! That should be considered a crime against humanity. (DEEP BREATH, DEEP BREATH) But, July is a brand new month and I have a new trusty planner to help me navigate this new schedule!

So what should you expect to see in July?! the same thing you should have seen in June!

1. A Time to Live by Jonas Lee

2. Akarnae by Lynette Noni

3. Identity Theft by Laura Lee

Don’t worry! The reviews will keep coming. I love doing this too much to throw in the towel! Happy reading this July and hopefully we’ll all find time to hit the beach and get a little sand between the pages!

Lindsay

What to Expect: JUNE

What to Expect: JUNE

Today is June 1st and like most people I am shocked that 2015 is zipping by so quickly! I am still adjusting to my new schedule and workload but am doing better with keeping up with my reading. June promises more posts and here is what to expect.

I have a few books that I have needed to read and review for some very patient friends.  The following are three you will definitely hear about this month!

1. A Time to Live by Jonas Lee

2. Akarnae by Lynette Noni

3. Identity Theft by Laura Lee

Plus, there will still be a few mysteries left over from May!

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Thank you all for being so patient with me the last few months. Things here at Sand Between the Pages are getting back to normal, so be ready for plenty of reviews coming your way!  Here’s to summer and lazy beach days spent reading!

Lindsay

Sorry Guys

I owe y’all an apology.  I’ve fallen behind on my reviews the last three weeks and I’m sorry.  I’ve just had a hard time focusing on my reading and reviewing because this has been me.

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See, today is my last day at my job.  A job I’ve had for the last four years working in a wonderful place with some amazing people.  Working at a place I have dreamed of working at since I was eleven years old.  A job I would love to have for the rest of my life but the time has come to move on.  So I am taking a different job, one that offers an actual career and a great working environment.  This move is for the best but I’m still just a little….

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My free time next week will be spent on the beach…reading.  I’ll catch up on all those TBR books and get you those reviews!  The future is bright at this new job and I will have more time to pursue my writing dreams.  So hopefully, I’ll be back to my normal self in the coming weeks.  I may even take a hint from Stitch and put on some Elvis to put me in a dancing mood!

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I’m sorry guys! I promise the reviews are coming!

Lindsay