Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America by Jack Rakove (2010). Excellent history of several of the founding fathers, some famous, some not. The first half of the book looks at what changes led to the acceptance of an inevitable war for revolution, while the second half focuses on how the Constitution was devised. Rakove's analysis of the various regional differences in attitudes towards revolution was a new understanding to me, and fascinating. A hearty recommendation to read this book is offered.
Nature's Wrapture and Get Hooked on Tunisian Crochet, both by Sheryl Thies. Excellent pattern books, with good photos, charts, and written patterns. The Tunisian book in particular is stunning, with every pattern a winner.
King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (1885). The summer choice of my 19th century literature group, this rollicking good tale was perfect for the summer--lots of adventure, mysterious people, a hidden treasure, and quite a bit of humor. And no, the movie is very different. Yes, there are a few slightly uncomfortable moments and words for a 21st-century reader, but the evolution of Allan Quatermain's views of the Kukuana, while not perfect and far from satisfying in today's world, was probably quite dramatic and unusual for his time and place.
The Agony Column by Earl Derr Biggers (1916) A classic mystery from the writer of Charlie Chan. The agony column, what we call the personals, is the lynchpin for the mystery and the romance. Cheesy mystery lover that I am, I thought I had guessed who the murderer was. Then I thought I was wrong. Then I thought I was right. And then I found out I was wrong! Deliciously, decidedly wrong! This short story, just 9 chapters long, is worth a read for the author's fantastic descriptions of London, the atmosphere before the outbreak of World War I, and a murder than will keep you guessing.
The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller (2011) Another post WWI mystery (I told you in the last review column that there are a slew of them out now), this takes place in, you guessed it, 1920 London. Our hero is another returned soldier, damaged, trying to find his way in a world that no longer makes sense to him. The mystery is good, although a little drawn out; tighter editing and compression of timescales may have made this a more enjoyable read. There are two strong female protagonists that will appeal to a modern female reader. The author lists reference works at the end, something I always enjoy and approve of, especially in a historical setting as detailed as this. I had no idea who the murder was, but once this person was revealed, the entire M.O. was obvious without reading another paragraph, so don't expect anything unusual in the murder mystery itself. Read the book for a well-researched depiction of London in 1920 and a fairly good, although at times slightly tedious, mystery.
Dandy Detects, a Victorian San Francisco Story by M. Louisa Locke (2010) Novelette featuring Ms. Locke's protagonists from her Victorian San Francisco series--except the detective is Dandy, a small terrier owned by the son of a teacher. The short story is well drawn; the characters are finely etched and sympathetic with just a few short lines of description, and the murder mystery, while predictable, is believable. Nice introduction to this series. Award winner? No, but a pleasant hour's read.
The Amersham Rubies by Rhys Bowen (2011) Novelette that tells how Molly Murphy, the plucky Irish immigrant solving murder mysteries in 1900-era New York, solved her first mystery in Ireland. Enjoyable, and the backstory is a perfectly light summer's brunch book.