BOOK REVIEW: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Title: Sea of Tranquility

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Book Length: 5 hours and 47 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction

Read Start Date: June 17, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 19, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:

A novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

My Review: I’m honestly not sure how to feel about this one. I checked it out from the library because it was written by the same author as Station Eleven (see my review here), which I liked. However, there are a lot of moving pieces in the story and at times it gets a little confusing. There are several smaller stories, which are part of the larger over arching story…but what this means essentially, is that the smaller stories don’t really get too much attention, while at the same time getting too much, if that makes sense.

So for example, the first part of the book is about the character Edwin from the early 1900’s. We get to learn a lot about his character, but in the grand scheme of things, Edwin himself, as a character isn’t all that important. Do we really need to know that Edwin is the son of an Earl who was exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party? Not really. What is important, is his role in the over arching story, i.e., that while in exile he happened to glimpse an anomaly in the time continuum. On the other hand, maybe we do need the background so that we know what Edwin was doing in the woods that fateful day. In this case, however, I would have liked to have more of the story behind the lesser characters themselves.

The book is short, less than 6 hours of listening time. Perhaps it could have benefitted from being longer.

Additionally, like Station Eleven, this book touches on the theme of pandemics. The character Olive Llewellyn is stuck in a lockdown for 100+ days — however, this storyline takes place in the 2100’s, so it’s not COVID-19. There is also mention of various other plagues e.g. Ebola 10 (a made up plague) and a passing reference to COVID-19. I didn’t feel exhausted by this like some other books that have COVID-19 as their central theme.

On the other hand, despite the above, the concept behind the book is intriguing. Time travel, the affect on the time line by such travel, etc. I just wish there had been more of this and less of the other things.

I only gave the book 3 stars, but that’s not to say that there aren’t people out there who absolutely loved the book and gave it 5 stars, for example Theresa Smith Writes.

All in all, I’d have to say it was an entertaining read that is definitely worth it if you have the time.

BOOK REVIEW: Toxic Rage: A Tale of Murder in Tucson by A.J. Flick

41562444Title: Toxic Rage: A Tale of Murder in Tucson

Author: A.J. Flick

Book Length: 303 pages

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime

Read Start Date: April 29, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 11, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Brian Stidham fell in love with Tucson, Ariz., the minute he came to town. A young and talented eye surgeon, he accepted a job with an established eye surgeon to take over his pediatric patients.

“It’s a beautiful place,” Stidham told a friend. “I can live right there by the mountains and go hiking. It’s a great deal for me there. The partner I’ll be working with is ultracool. He’s giving me the keys to the kingdom.”

Brad Schwartz, the doctor who hired Brian, was ambitious and possessed surgical skills few others had. But he was a troubled man.

Within a year of Stidham’s arrival in Tucson, the medical relationship would be severed by Schwartz’s personal troubles. Stidham broke away to start his own practice. Rumors abounded within the medical community that Schwartz was incensed and considered the departure a betrayal. His rage grew, even driving a wedge between him and his fiancée, Lourdes Lopez, a former prosecutor.

Three years after Stidham moved to Tucson, his life ended in an empty, darkened parking lot. But who would murder such a nice man in such a violent manner? Lourdes, who had witnessed Schwartz’s toxic rage toward his former partner, feared she knew. But would her suspicions be enough to catch the killer? Find out in TOXIC RAGE.

My Review: I received this book several years ago from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I stopped reviewing books when the pandemic started for some reason, and am just going back now to read what I didn’t before. I’m a true crime junky, so I was excited to read this book about a case I had never heard about.

Brian Stidham was hired by Brad Schwartz to be another doctor is Schwartz’s ever growing practice. Although a successful doctor, Schwartz was plagued with troubles, eventually leading him to become an addict. While in rehab, Stidham leaves Schwartz’s practice to start one of his own, igniting a fury in Schwartz which eventually leads to Stidham’s murder.

The Goodreads synopsis of this book is a little misleading. The hook of the synopsis: “Lourdes, who had witnessed Schwartz’s toxic rage toward his former partner, feared she knew. But would her suspicions be enough to catch the killer? Find out in TOXIC RAGE,” makes it sound like Lourdes is the focus of the book and we follow her story as she tries to uncover the killer. This isn’t what happens at all. Lourdes is actually a very small part of the story. And actually, it was pretty obvious that Schwartz was the killer from the beginning.

While I liked this book, I felt that there was a lot of repetition. For example, Schwartz went around telling anyone he spoke to that he wanted Stidham dead. He even asked several people if they could kill him, or if not, knew anyone that could. We heard from each of these people. This got a little mundane and at points I found it hard to get through. It would have been more powerful if we had heard the details about one or two of the most shocking stories, and then the author could have lumped the rest into a brief paragraph or two.

Despite the above, I did find the book to be very interesting. Even though the book makes it very obvious from the beginning that Schwartz was the killer, the book still explores the other possibilities the police looked into. I thought it was good that the author wrote what actually happened rather than have an opinion as to what happened. The book seemed well researched and included information about interviews and court proceedings.

While I would recommend this book, it wasn’t my favorite true crime story.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

34066798._SY475_Title: A Gentleman in Moscow

Author: Amor Towles

Audiobook Length: 17 hours and 52 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, 

Read Start Date: May 23, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 31, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style. Readers and critics were enchanted; as NPR commented, “Towles writes with grace and verve about the mores and manners of a society on the cusp of radical change.”

A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

My Review: As an aristocrat and general thorn in the side of the Bolsheviks, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to spend the rest of his days in a hotel. “Thus, it is the opinion of this committee that you should be returned to that hotel of which you are so fond. But make no mistake: should you ever set foot outside of the Metropol again, you will be shot. Next matter.”

This book was good, but I didn’t love it. It is essentially the story of a man who is sentenced to live in a hotel for the rest of his life — that’s it. It is written well, but there wasn’t really all that much happening. It seemed like an interesting premise, but at points it got a little boring, and I found myself having to listen to it at 1.25x the normal speed just to stay attentive. The voice of the narrator of the audiobook version drags a little, and sometimes I found myself drifting away to other thoughts.

That’s not to say that this isn’t a good book, or that if you like this type of book you won’t enjoy it. I just usually like a bit more plot motion / action in the books that I read.

BOOK REVIEW: The Killing Gene by E.M. Davey

41060034._SY475_Title: The Killing Gene

Author: E.M. Davey

Book Length: 304 pages

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller

Read Start Date: March 22, 2022

Read Finish Date: April 25, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: There is none available. There are only 44 ratings total for this book, so it is not widely known.

My Review: I received this book as an ARC from Netgally in exchange for an honest review a while back. Unfortunately, I soon stopped reviewing books as I lost the taste for it. I am now picking it back up, and am reading the books I didn’t get to.

As per Netgalley this book is summarized as follows: “When a young archaeologist goes missing in the Congo basin, Professor Randolph Harkness and troubled tearaway Ross McCartney go in search of her only to stumble upon a conspiracy to conceal ancient horrors lost to the passage of time. Evading spies and trained killers, can they expose this cover-up in time or will they be buried with it? An unputdownable thriller, The Killing Gene reveals the story of our species, the paradox of the modern mind and our innate predilection for murder…”

The plot sounded intriguing, and it was mainly good, until about Chapter 83 (about 85% into the book). Then it just took a nose dive. Don’t get me wrong, there were issues also with the first 82 chapters, but I wasn’t rolling my eyes until Chapter 83.

Let’s talk about the positives: it was action packed, an interesting premise, and the writing wasn’t bad. The book seemed to be well researched into the history of humanity and how homo sapiens came to be the dominant human species on Earth. This aspect of the book was very interesting to me.

What could have been done better:

1) There were so many characters introduced (only to die in the same chapter) that it got a little confusing and tedious. Why did we need to see each person die? Couldn’t we have learned about the deaths from the main characters instead?

2) the reason why all these people were getting murdered was confusing. “That Brian Finer was investigating the Neanderthal extinction and stumbled upon their lack of New Brain. That this gave you a gateway into the human psyche that allowed you to manipulate public opinion like nothing else before or since.”

Essentially: since humans have “Old Brain” (a word that the author used more than 50 times in the last 15% of the book) politicians can plant concepts into the brain that make the public act in the way they want, or vote a certain way etc. I mean, everyone knows this already. It’s not a secret that politicians manipulate the public. I just couldn’t understand why this was the reason for the whole adventure or that so many people were dead…at the end of the book, the UK government collapsed because this “secret” was exposed…huh?

3) the characters seemed to jump around from country to country from one page to another. One page they were in some remote place in Afghanistan, the next page they were in England, with no connector paragraph. This was annoying. On the other hand, this definitely kept the action going!

Until I got to the last 15% of the book, I was sure that the ending would be different. Even the title “The Killing Gene” led me to believe that there was a gene that humans had that made us killers and that maybe the government was doing some experimentation on this gene or something — I definitely wasn’t expecting the actual ending, which I won’t say here to avoid spoiling it for you if you want to read the book.

The above issues being said, I was entertained, so I gave it a 3 stars. As for a recommendation to read it, I guess this would depend on whether you had a lot already on your TBR list. If yes, I would probably read the others first.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: King of the World by Matt Waters

59088468Title: King of the World

Author: Matt Waters

Audiobook Length: 7 hours and 12 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Read Start Date: July 3, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 10, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The Persian Empire was the world’s first hyperpower, with territory stretching from Central Asia to Northeastern Africa and from Southeastern Europe to the Indus Valley. It was the dominant geopolitical force from the later sixth century to its conquest by Alexander in the 330s BCE. Much of the empire’s territory was conquered by its founder, Cyrus the Great, who reigned from 559-530 BCE. Cyrus became a legend in his own lifetime, and his career inspired keen interest from Persia’s unruly neighbors to the west, the ancient Greeks. The idealized portrait of Cyrus by the Greek Xenophon had a profound impact on ancient, medieval, and early modern debates about rulership.

King of the World provides an authoritative and accessible account of Cyrus the Great’s life, career, and legacy. While Greek sources remain central to any narrative about Cyrus, a wealth of primary evidence is found in the ancient Near East, including documentary, archaeological, art historical,
and biblical material. Matt Waters draws from all of these sources while consistently contextualizing them in order to provide a cohesive understanding of Cyrus the Great. This overview addresses issues of interpretation and reconciles limited material, while the narrative keeps Cyrus the Great’s
compelling career at the forefront. Cyrus’ legacy is enormous and not fully appreciated– King of the World takes readers on a journey that reveals his powerful impact and preserves his story for future generations.

My Review: I received this audiobook as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. When I read the description about the book, it sounded really interesting to me, as I generally like reading about the history of the Middle East region. I had never heard of Cyrus the Great before, so I was interested to read about his life and legacy. The first part of the book was a little tedious, with a lot of references to dates and people, which I found to be overwhelming. I couldn’t keep straight who everyone was, how they related to Cyrus, etc. I think that part of the problem was that I was listening to an audiobook rather than print version. It might have been easier to follow in black and white, especially because in print version you can go back and look at it again, take notes, etc.

When the book shifted into actual stories about Cyrus, it got better. If I remember correctly, the book mentions that the author has spent a lot of time compiling and researching the subject matter of this book, and it really shows. I think that the author was enthusiastic to put all his knowledge down on the page, but that in some aspects this came off less like storytelling and more like a university class history lesson. Not that there is anything wrong with a history lesson per se, but when reading books, I like to have a feel more of being told a story. This is why I couldn’t give more than 3 stars, as this book dragged for me in some places.

That being said, I think that anyone who is interested in the ancient history of the region will enjoy this book for the wealth of knowledge that it imparts. It was definitely very educational.

Lastly, with respect to the audiobook version I have two comments to make. While I enjoyed the lyrical voice of the narrator, there was a lot of references to illustrations, maps, pictures, etc. which obviously cannot be seen while listening to the audiobook. Therefore, it might be nice to read the paper or ebook version in order to get the benefit of this aspect of the book as well.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

53205888._SY475_Title: Under the Whispering Door

Author: TJ Klune

Audiobook Length: 14 hours and 54 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT, Romance, Contemporary

Read Start Date: April 15, 2022

Read Finish Date: April 23, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Welcome to Charon’s Crossing. The tea is hot, the scones are fresh, and the dead are just passing through.

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead.

And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead.

But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home

My Review: This book for me was only so so. To be honest, the pacing seemed a little off to me. When Wallace dies and finds himself at the tea shop, there was a long patch of storyline where he is just figuring out how to be a ghost. It isn’t until almost the end of the book, when Wallace is told by “the Manager” that he only has 7 days until he has to cross over, that things start to pick up. Actually, these 7 days pass by so quickly it is annoying, since this is arguably the most interesting part of the book (I think it is the climax of the book) –and then the ending (the anti-climax) takes ages.

I also was not too impressed with the “love story” between Hugo and Wallace. I just didn’t feel anything about it. It was not steamy, there was no sexual anticipation between the lovers. Where are all the feels, T.J. Klune? It was basically just two people saying “I love you” to each other and touching hands. This is classified as a “romance” novel on Goodreads, but it didn’t really feel that way. I wanted to feel the butterflies in my stomach whenever Hugo and Wallace were in the room together, unable to touch because Wallace was dead and Hugo was alive. I wanted to feel the racing of my heart when they spoke to each other guardedly, neither admitting their feelings to each other, but instead there was nothing. It didn’t need to be X rated or anything, but a little more than what it was would have been appreciated. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by the Bridgerton series.

The above being said, I did like the plot — it wasn’t unique per se, but it was well done, which is why I am giving this book 3 stars.

BOOK REVIEW: Passports and Pacifiers—Traveling the World, One Tantrum at a Time by Kaitlyn Jain

55608649Title: Passports and Pacifiers–Traveling the World, One Tantrum at a Time

Author:  Kaitlyn Jain

Audiobook Length: 8 hours and 37 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Parenting, Travel

Read Start Date: June 6, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 12, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Starting with two bumbling parents taking their Never-Sleep infant to Italy and ending with an adventure across Scandinavia, Passports and Pacifiers follows a naïve, baby-wearing family on memorable, affordable, and nap-centered trips.

You’ll be regaled with honest, often hilarious, accounts of their misadventures, like losing the only pacifier of the trip, missing ferries, and soothing tantrums across the globe. The Jains find deals—traveling just a tad off the prime season, finding buy one get two flights, and using credit card miles and free grandparent babysitters—and save where they can.

In addition, you’ll receive hard-earned travel tips like:
• Entertaining kids during long flights
• Packing light (while bringing what you need!)
• Driving with a carsick-prone toddler
• Keeping your Ever-Hungry spouse happy

My Review: I received this audiobook as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was excited to read this book because I also love to travel, and now I have a 10 month old daughter. I really liked the lessons learned and the tips the author provided. The stories were also humorous and the substance of the book was, in general, a good read. Listening to it made me long to travel and gave me some inspiration as to which places to go to.

I would have rated the book 4 or even 5 stars had it not been for the poor quality of the audiobook. To be honest, while I was enjoying the substance of the book, it was hard to finish because of the audio. The book was read by the author, and the recording was very unprofessional. You could hear pages turning, mouth noises, and once the author even stumbled over a sentence. Why was this recording not better edited? Additionally, the author would sometimes pause in weird places in the sentence, which prompted me to listen at 1.25x speed, as this normalized the reading somehow.

While I would highly recommend this book, I would ONLY recommend the print or ebook version. Steer clear of the audiobook!

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Who by Fire: War, Atonement, and the Resurrection of Leobnard Cohen by Matti Friedman

58916252Title: Who by Fire: War, Atonement, and the Resurrection of Leonard Cohen

Author: Matti Friedman

Audiobook Length: 5 hours and 15 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography, Music

Read Start Date: March 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 31, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The incredible never-before-told story of Leonard Cohen’s 1973 tour of Israel during the Yom Kippur War.

“Who by Fire is a stunning resurrection of a moment in the life of Leonard Cohen and the history of Israel. It’s the story of a young artist in crisis and a young country at war, and the powerful resonance of the chord struck between them. A beautiful, haunting book full of feeling.” —Nicole Krauss, author of To Be a Man

In October, 1973, the poet and singer Leonard Cohen – 39 years old, famous, unhappy, and at a creative dead end – traveled to the Sinai desert and inserted himself into the chaos and bloodshed of the Yom Kippur War. Moving around the front with a guitar and a pick-up team of local musicians, Cohen dived headlong into the midst of a global crisis and met hundreds of fighting men and women at the worst moment of their lives. His audiences heard him knowing it might be the last thing they heard, and those who survived never forgot what they heard.

Cohen’s war tour was an electric cultural moment, one that still echoes today, and one that inspired some of his greatest songs – but a moment that only few knew about, until now. In Who By Fire, Canadian-Israeli journalist Matti Friedman gives us a riveting account of what happened during those weeks in Israel in October, 1973. With access to amazing and never-before-seen material written by Cohen himself, along with dozens of interviews and rare photographs, Friedman revives this fraught and stunning time, presenting an intimate and unforgettable portrait of the artist, and of the young people who heard him sing in the midst of combat.

Who By Fire brings us close to one the greatest, most brilliant and charismatic voices of our times, and gives us a rare glimpse of war, faith, and belonging.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I didn’t really know much about Leonard Cohen before reading this book, so I had no idea he had also spent some time in Israel during the Yom Kippur war in October of 1973. To be honest, I’m not even really a fan of his music, but thought the subject of the book seemed interesting, as I didn’t really remember anything about this particular war from school.

After reading this book, I don’t have any warm or fuzzy feelings about Leonard Cohen. He seemed to have gone to Israel because he just didn’t have anything else to do — or in other words, he was at a cross roads in his life, and he thought what better way to fill it then to go to Israel and “help”. However, he didn’t even bring his guitar with him–so it seemed that he went / arrived there without a plan as to how to “help” Israel in the war. Additionally, from his speeches later in life he claimed to have written certain songs for the Egyptians AND the Israelis…and he even removed verses that were pro Israel…so does this mean he didn’t really have a “side”?

I got the impression that Cohen was a fickle celebrity who had high notions of his own self importance. I understand that through his music he gave inspiration, hope and joy to the troops who were facing death, but from reading the book it didn’t seem like that was really his intention. It felt more like he was bored, and this was something to do, and maybe gain some inspiration for himself.

I would have liked to learn more about the war itself, not just the “role” (if you can even call it that) that Leonard Cohen played (no pun intended) in the war.

That being said, the book was well written and I liked the audiobook version where the quotes of Leonard Cohen are read by a different voice then the narrator.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Manhattan Phoenix: The Great Fire of 1835 and the Emergence of Modern New York by Daniel S. Levy

55332359Title: Manhattan Phoenix; The Great Fire of 1835 and the Emergence of Modern New York

Author: Daniel S. Levy

Book Length (Audiobook) 18 hours and 51 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Read Start Date: March 22, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 26, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: On a freezing December night almost two centuries ago, a fire erupted in lower Manhattan. The city’s inhabitants, though accustomed to blazes in a town with so many wooden structures, a spotty water supply, and a decentralized fire department, looked on in horror at the scale of this one. Philip Hone, a former mayor of New York, wrote in his diary how the progress of the flames, like flashes of lightning, communicated in every direction, and a few minutes sufficed to level the lofty edifices on every side. By the time the fire was extinguished, a huge swath of land had been transformed from a thriving business center into the Burnt District, an area roughly the same size as was devastated during the September 11th attack. In the end, nearly 700 buildings were destroyed. So vast was the conflagration that it was immediately and henceforth known as the Great Fire of 1835.

Manhattan Phoenix reveals how New York emerged from the disaster to become a global powerhouse merely a quarter of a century later. Daniel S. Levy’s book charts the city’s almost miraculous growth during the early 19th century by focusing on the topics that shaped its destiny, starting with fire but
including water, land, disease, culture, and politics, interweaving the lives of New Yorkers who took part in its transformation. Some are well-known, including the land baron John Jacob Astor. Others less so, as with the Bowery Theatre impresario Thomas Hamblin and the African-American restaurateur Thomas Downing. The book celebrates Fire Chief James Gulick, who battled the Great Fire, examines the designs of the architect Alexander Jackson Davis who built marble palaces for the rich, follows the abolitionist Arthur Tappan, chronicles the career of the merchant Alexander Stewart, and reveals how the engineer John Bloomfield Jervis succeeded in bringing clean water into homes. The city’s resurrection likewise owed much to such visionaries as Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who designed Central Park, creating the refuge that it remains to this day.

Manhattan Phoenix offers the story of a city rising from the ashes to fulfill its destiny to grow into one of the world’s greatest metropolises–and in no small part due to catastrophe. It is, in other words, a New York story.

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Although the book was extensively researched and informative, I found the subject matter to be a little dry and at times found myself wandering off into other thoughts which is why I can only give this book 3 stars. I think that this was also because the audiobook narrator was a little monotone. I had to increase the speed of the reading to 1.25x the normal speed so as to get rid of the monotone issue.

I lived in Manhattan for about 10 years, so it was interesting to learn about its past. As I mentioned above, the author seems to have done extensive research on this subject and gives a lot of information about the past of the City. I was immensely impressed — I imagine it took a lot of work to get this book compiled in the cohesive manner in which it is presented.

On the other hand, this is not the typical nonfiction book that I read (I’m more interested in natural disasters, science topics such as viruses and genetics, women’s issues, etc) — I was expecting this book to be more about the fire of 1835 (which is why I had picked it up), but instead it was 90% about the growth of Manhattan which came after the fire.

That being said, I think that this book would be great for history buffs who also have a love for the City.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Last Resort: A Zombicide Novel by Josh Reynolds

57694631Title: Last Resort: A Zombicide Novel

Author: Josh Reynolds

Book Length (Audiobook): 8 hours and 52 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Post Apocalyptic

Read Start Date: March 13, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 15, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Hordes of zombies threaten to wipe out all of mankind in this first action-horror novel set in the exciting (yet horrifying) world of the Zombicide games.

The zombie apocalypse has driven humanity up into the Adirondacks. Enter Westlake, hardened career criminal on the path of “the Villa”, a legendary mafia hideout where he can escape the devastation. When he’s ambushed by the undead, an old FBI “friend” and his squad of survivors rescue him… and then force him to reveal his secrets. The jokey myth of the Villa suddenly becomes salvation for the settlements scattered around Saranc Lake. Reluctantly, Westlake is saddled with an oddball team to navigate mine fields, trip wires, and flesh-eating zombies at every turn to find their safe haven. Shame there’s already someone living there…

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley as an ARC in exchange for an honest review. While I liked this book, I didn’t find it to be anything special. I am currently in the process of watching The Walking Dead for the first time, and this book reminded me a lot of that, i.e., the world is at an end, there are lots of zombies around, and the survivors are trying to find a safe place to live. That is, in a nutshell, what this book is about. Last Resort even uses the term “walkers” just like in The Walking Dead.

I have never heard of the game that this book is based upon, so maybe for fans of the game this book would rate higher than 3 stars. Don’t get me wrong, the book is a fun read, but it’s par for the zombie course. That being said, if you like other zombie stuff (books, movies, shows), then you won’t be disappointed.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.