One Giant Leap…

Fifty years ago, today, man walked on the moon.

buzz aldrin vintage GIF by US National Archives

So put down the mini computer that you hold in your hand and just think how mind-blowing it is that FIFTY years ago two men walked on the moon.

People designed and built a machine to keep men alive in space. People figured out all the crazy variables involved in space flight. People did this at their 9-5 job in a time before:

  • soft contact lenses
  • airbags
  • 9-1-1

They put man on the moon and brought them home…alive! That one step is proof scientists, mathematicians, engineers, pilots, and explorers can accomplish anything. Apollo 11 .

I had planned to share reviews on four stories to celebrate the anniversary of the lunar landing. I managed to get Hidden Figures and The Martian up on the site. I am still reading the other two! And these reviews will be up soon. (A Man on the Moon is 600 pages long. This will take time.)

Keep reading. Keep learning. And keep striving to branch out and explore all the world, and space beyond, has to offer. Happy reading!

Lindsay

Empire of Blue Water

Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan’s Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws’ Bloody Reign
by Stephan Talty

He challenged the greatest empire on earth with a ragtag bunch of renegades—and brought it to its knees. Empire of Blue Water is the real story of the pirates of the Caribbean.

Henry Morgan, a twenty-year-old Welshman, crossed the Atlantic in 1655, hell-bent on making his fortune. Over the next three decades, his exploits in the Caribbean in the service of the English became legendary. His daring attacks on the mighty Spanish Empire on land and at sea determined the fates of kings and queens, and his victories helped shape the destiny of the New World.

Morgan gathered disaffected European sailors and soldiers, hard-bitten adventurers, runaway slaves, and vicious cutthroats, and turned them into the most feared army in the Western Hemisphere. Sailing out from the English stronghold of Port Royal, Jamaica, “the wickedest city in the New World,” Morgan and his men terrorized Spanish merchant ships and devastated the cities where great riches in silver, gold, and gems lay waiting. His last raid, a daring assault on the fabled city of Panama, helped break Spain’s hold on the Americas forever.

Awash with bloody battles, political intrigues, natural disaster, and a cast of characters more compelling, bizarre, and memorable than any found in a Hollywood swashbuckler—including the notorious pirate L’Ollonais, the soul-tortured King Philip IV of Spain, and Thomas Modyford, the crafty English governor of Jamaica—Empire of Blue Water brilliantly re-creates the passions and the violence of the age of exploration and empire.

2019 has found me really wanting to learn more about the Golden Age of Piracy. Not really a weird reading trend; I did take an Archaeology of Piracy class during my Undergrad studies. It’s just last year I preferred fiction (Pirates Latitudes and Daughter of the Pirate King) and this year I am craving nonfiction. So I decided to finish Empire of Blue Water.

Note: Empire of Blue Water is one of the 2018 stragglers I needed to finish.

My overall reaction to this novel was…meh. The good thing is Empire of Blue Water provides so much detailed information. The bad thing is Empire of Blue Water provides soooooooo much detailed information.

The novel details the life of Henry Morgan and the golden age of Caribbean piracy. Readers are provided a detailed history of Henry Morgan’s upbringing, his life of privateering (let’s be real…it was piracy), and his transition to plantation owner and civil servant. The text also provides an generalized account of the lives of pirate crew, which works as both an educational and comparison tool. And I was shocked to learn that Morgan specialized in ‘over land’ battles instead of epic battles at sea. Empire of Blue Water was well organized, deftly presented, and relatively engaging.

And yet I struggled to get through the audiobook. It took me a solid four months to read! The problem was the book talked about everything that influenced Caribbean piracy: Spanish politics, English politics, the varieties of Christianity, the sugar crop, the silver trade, all the pirate captains and their impact on the Caribbean. EVERYTHING. There were just so many people covered that it was often difficult to keep them all separated in my mind. I consistently found myself drifting off, especially when the author spent an entire chapter dedicated to the health and superstitious qualities of the Spanish monarchy. I know, I know; this information is important in understanding all aspects of the golden age of piracy. The story just dragged, and I was a tad embarrassed at how relieved I was upon finishing it.

Empire of Blue Water was ok. I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about Morgan and the Golden Age of piracy. Just be prepared for the information dump and know you won’t really get to read about epic sea battles.

I think my next pirate reads will be X Marks the Spot and the Under the Black Flag. Let me know your favorite pirate fiction and nonfiction!

Lindsay

The Diamond Formula

The Diamond Formula
by Alina Simone

A possible genius, a smidgen of madness, a twist of science, and an invention that very nearly changed the world—all collide in a giddy, unbelievably true mystery set in turn-of-the-century Paris.

In 1905, inventor Henri Lemoine claimed that he’d uncovered the secret to a coveted alchemy: creating diamonds in a laboratory. It intrigued a host of investors, and it soon made Lemoine an international celebrity. Then he disappeared.

The Diamond Formula is part of Inventions: Untold Stories of the Beautiful Era, a collection of incredible true stories from the belle epoque, an age of innovation, daring, bluster, and beauty when anything seemed possible. Each piece can be read, listened to, and marveled at in a single sitting.

Amazon’s Inventions: Untold Stories of the Beautiful Era collection may be my favorite discovery of 2019. It consists of three nonfiction novellas covering the inventions and discoveries of the early 1900s. I listened to the audiobook versions which were an interesting mix of audiobook and podcast. Actually, I often felt as if I was listening to a radio broadcast of the events. I enjoyed the format as a nonfiction lover and I feel it will make nonfiction more accessible for those new to the genre.

The Diamond Formula was the second story I read in the Inventions series; it was also my least favorite. Now, that doesn’t mean this review is going to be negative. I just don’t typically enjoy stories about con-men and that is probably the nicest way to describe Henri Lemoine. I just couldn’t make myself care about his life or the outcome of his actions. And well, it is hard to get past that when the audiobook is only an hour long.

The Diamond Formula discusses the initial attempts to create artificial diamonds and covers the development of the De Beers diamond dynasty. So in this story, readers are exposed to the blood diamond trade, often questionable acquisition techniques used by big business to control the competition, and the implications that basic lying has on the scientific community. So it was kinda a rough read guys. I love how this series doesn’t attempt to lessen the good and bad effects of actions but instead focuses on how this moment in time resulted in eventual positive developments for society/art/science/safety/technology…and Simone does a wonderful job with this. I still struggled with finishing the book in a positive frame of mind.

The good thing is this story reminded me of perusing the gem stone section of Natural History Museums visited in my childhood. Thinking about museums always makes me happy! And The Diamond Formula pushed me to realize there are aspects of history I still need to explore, no matter how tough the content. Read it, and then go dance in the rain just for the sheer joy of doing so.

Lindsay

A Caribbean Mystery

A Caribbean Mystery
by Agatha Christie

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.

NOTE: A Caribbean Mystery is the last review of Vacation Mystery Week! Thank you all for tagging along and sharing in these vacation themed stories. Please check out one of my favorite Agatha Christie stories and let me know which books you love to read on vacation!

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 Poirot (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

Death in a Deck Chair

Death in a Deck Chair
by K.K. Beck

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.

NOTE: Death in a Deck Chair is the book that hooked me on cruise ship mysteries. I loved this series and wish there had been more than just 3 books. Funny enough…the third book in the series is also a vacation mystery! Be sure to check out my reviews of Murder in the Mummy Case and Peril Under the Palms.

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

Vacation Mysteries!

It’s time for a theme week!

Every summer finds me reading mysteries set in a tropical local. I really enjoy reading a tropically book while enjoying a summer day at the beach. But earlier this month I realized a number of these stories take place when our main characters are on a vacation. What is more fun (and corny) than reading a vacation mystery while on vacation? Nothing!

I compiled a list of these vacation books and decided to share a few with you. Just in case you need a light vacation mystery while on vacation. I will be sharing reviews of five books. They are all historical mysteries. Two are considered full length mysteries; three are cozy. Three of these novels have been previously reviewed so I will be re-sharing my reviews. Two of these novels are new reads!

These theme weeks are fun for me to do so please let me know if you would like to see these more often (aka more than once a year). Please let me know of any additional books that fit the theme! I am always looking to add more to my TBR!

Lindsay

The Electricity Fairy

The Electricity Fairy
by Alex Mar

The inspiring true story of Loïe Fuller, a radical nineteenth-century art nouveau icon who turned artificial light into performance art and became the incandescent inventor of modern dance.

In a new era lit by Edison bulbs, Loïe Fuller was the quicksilver that connected scientific and artistic inspiration. In a flurry of shifting lights and serpentine spins, she inspired the earliest films of Georges Méliès and held Jean Cocteau spellbound. She even sought out the Curies for a radioactive showstopper. In this transportive and hypnotic historical narrative, the uninhibited Folies Bergère superstar la fée lumière is finally restored to her shimmering, glorious place in modern history.

The Electricity Fairy is part of Inventions: Untold Stories of the Beautiful Era, a collection of incredible true stories from the belle epoque, an age of innovation, daring, bluster, and beauty when anything seemed possible. Each piece can be read, listened to, and marveled at in a single sitting.

Amazon’s Inventions: Untold Stories of the Beautiful Era collection may be my favorite discovery of 2019. It consists of three nonfiction novellas covering the inventions and discoveries of the early 1900s. I listened to the audiobook versions which were an interesting mix of audiobook and podcast. Actually, I often felt as if I was listening to a radio broadcast of the events. I enjoyed the format as a nonfiction lover and I feel it will make nonfiction more accessible for those new to the genre.

I started with listening to The Electricity Fairy, and am not ashamed to say I picked it because I thought it would be about the electricity wars between Edison and Tesla. (Nope…didn’t even bother to read the story summary.) I was pleasantly surprised to find myself learning about the life of Loie Fuller, dancer and harnesser of light. This was a historic figure/story that I knew NOTHING about…I GET TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW! That is why we read nonfiction right?

Loie Fuller, the Electricity Fairy, was a dancer who combined flowing fabric and colored lights to create mesmerizing performances. She was driven by the effects of light and motion, and was innovative in her use of extensive moving light rigs to produce her desired illusions. But The Electricity Fairy covers more than just dance and fancy lighting. This story introduces readers to Marie Currie’s research on radium and Edison’s push towards moving pictures through our artist’s personal association with the scientists. Readers are also provided a detailed description of period artistic movements, with Fuller’s activities highlighting how art mixed with industrial innovation to influence the society growing around the advancements.

The information presented in The Electricity Fairy was well researched and presented in an easy to read format. It is a wonderfully engaging mix of light, dance, and science.

Let me know if you have listened to the Inventions collection and happy reading!

Lindsay

Destination Unknown

Destination Unknown

by Agatha Christie

5

In Agatha Christie’s gripping international thriller Destination Unknown, a woman at the end of her rope chooses a more exciting way to die when she embarks upon an almost certain suicide mission to find a missing scientist.

When a number of leading scientists disappear without a trace, concern grows within the international intelligence community. And the one woman who appears to hold the key to the mystery is dying from injuries sustained in a plane crash.

Meanwhile, in a Casablanca hotel room, Hilary Craven prepares to take her own life. But her suicide attempt is about to be interrupted by a man who will offer her an altogether more thrilling way to die. . . .

Destination Unknown is my favorite Agatha Christie novel (so far)! Pretty sure you now know how this review is going to go….

The weather was turning muggy and I wanted an Agatha Christie novel to take to the beach. Her stories are typically the perfect length and tone for a lazy weekend reading and listening to the waves crash on the shore. I wasn’t necessarily in the mood to peruse the next instalment of the Miss Marple or Piroit series, so I picked up one of her stand-alone stories. And I openly admit that I picked Destination Unknown solely because of the cover. I mean look at it! Airplanes! I was in.

(Don’t even pretend that you don’t pick up books because of the cover. WE ALL DO! That’s the whole point of books having a cover.)

The mystery and suspense is the best aspect of any Agatha Christie novel, so I will not be going into too much detail about the plot. I don’t want to spoil it! Just know the story was fantastic. The plot progressed quickly, with Christie providing just enough detail to keep me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Everything tied together perfectly and I didn’t figure out ‘who-dunnit’ before our heroine. And speaking of the heroine, I enjoyed reading this story from Hilary’s point of view. She is smart, witty, and surprisingly average making her a relatable character. Readers can easily connect with her emotions, which range from grief to hope to curiosity, and feel as if we are traveling the unknown roads right next to her. Hilary is the reason I enjoyed this story so much.

I do have one negative point and it contains SPOILERS. Look away if you must! I was left wanting more development when it comes to Hilary’s relationships. The last half of the book finds her forced into a relationship with one man while she is subtly developing feelings for another. I knew this was happening; I was all about it happening! I just wanted a little bit more. I wanted more passages detailing her struggles, her strain to keep up appearances, and her hopes for the future. We know she wants to escape but I wanted to know more about her hopes for after the planned escape. The ending felt a tad rushed and I wasn’t ready to say good-bye. That’s all for the negatives!

Agatha Christie is definitely the Queen of Suspense and Destination Unknown will be one of my top mystery recommendations of the year. It is perfect if you are in need of a quick summer suspense!

Let me know which story is your favorite by Agatha Christie and happy reading!

Lindsay

Island of the Sequined Love Nun

Island of the Sequined Love Nun

by Christopher Moore

2

Take a wonderfully crazed excursion into the demented heart of a tropical paradise—a world of cargo cults, cannibals, mad scientists, ninjas, and talking fruit bats. Our bumbling hero is Tucker Case, a hopeless geek trapped in a cool guy’s body, who makes a living as a pilot for the Mary Jean Cosmetics Corporation. But when he demolishes his boss’s pink plane during a drunken airborne liaison, Tuck must run for his life from Mary Jean’s goons. Now there’s only one employment opportunity left for him: piloting shady secret missions for an unscrupulous medical missionary and a sexy blond high priestess on the remotest of Micronesian hells. Here is a brazen, ingenious, irreverent, and wickedly funny novel from a modern master of the outrageous.

Here is the setting: I am standing in the airport waiting for my flight on a bleak January evening. The pit of my stomach aches with the unnecessary stress that always accompanies the holidays and, thankfully, the airport bar is open. I shoot a whiny text to my best friend expressing my despair of not having a funny tropical book to get me through family vacation. She’s a gem and readily suggests Island of the Sequined Love Nun. I curse spotty wifi and download the book (I didn’t even read the book blurb) while sitting at the airport bar waiting for a shot of tequila. Guys….it turned out to be the perfect read to pull me out of my grumpy slump!

I am not providing a summary; the one above is perfectly vague and tantalizing. We are just going to jump into the review. I loved it. I mean…WWII flight exploits, Cargo Cults, live nose art, and perfectly detailed flight scenes…is there any question why I enjoyed this story?

drunk independence day GIF

It helps Island of the Sequined Love Nun also provides a complex plot, well developed characters, and tons of laughs. First: the characters are well rounded with each having individual flaws, positive qualities, and obvious personal growth. (Well. Except for the villains; however, they are delightfully crappy). Second: the setting is so effortlessly perfect. One minute you’re reading about Tucker traipsing through the jungle and the next you can taste the island grog and feel a bead of sweet roll its way down your butt crack. Moore is a quirky master of his craft.

HOWEVER….this is definitely the type of book you have to be in a specific mood to read. That is really going to be the only negative comment I have about the story. I mean there is a talking fruit bat and a holy poker game. It’s hilarious; it’s wacky. I picked up Island of the Sequined Love Nun because I desperately needed an easy laugh and it immediately delivered. But, I didn’t finish the book in one reading. I put it down and read something else when I experienced a change in mood. I picked it back up when I was ready to laugh again. And I enjoyed it!

This is the story I would recommend for those needing a funny, laugh-out-loud read to start off a beach vacation. It helped me get through the stress of a family vacation and frustrating time at work. I turned that last page (figuratively since I read it on my Kindle) while at the beach enjoying the perfect Florida spring weather. It was equally enjoyable on a sunny beach and gloomy airport. So read it!

Let me know if you’re a Christopher Moore fan and please share your summer reading list! Happy Reading!

Lindsay

2019 Goals

I am going to keep it simple. I am participating in the Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge and I would like to focus on reading more nonfiction this year.  I have two personal goals, which just so happen to be the same as last year’s!

Total: 50

Nonfiction: 12

I’d like to finish all the books I started but didn’t finish in 2018….there are sooooooo many.

It looks like 2019 is going to be a fun reading year! Please tell me all about your personal reading goals.
Lindsay