Review: Raven Rock

raven

Raven Rock by Garrett M. Graff

The unthinkable has happened; time has run out, the missiles have been launched and the United States as we know it is doomed. But never fear! The government has planned extensively to assure their safety and that their reign will continue without interruption – even if there’s nothing left to govern after it’s all over!

Raven Rock explores the history of the people and events that brought about these plans, spanning the span of time since the end of World War II, from Truman to Obama (who signed a bill in 2009 giving the US Postal Service the sole responsibility of delivering “biological counter-measures” in the event of a biological weapons attack. Which is better than FedEx (who always seems to deliver my packages late, but that’s another story.)

After I watched a Travel Channel show that talked about The Greenbriar, I picked up Raven Rock to read more about the history behind that Cold War bunker mentality and found much, much more. The easy flow of the book drew me in quickly, the anecdotes and trivia kept things light and interesting and the very linear layout stayed on topic without extraneous detail to confuse the reader.

Raven Rock is an engrossing history illuminating a shadowy aspect of the government not well known or understood and I definitely recommend it to history buffs and trivia fans alike.

Rating: ★★★★✰ 4 stars
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date:  May 2, 2017
Language: English
Formats: Kindle/Hardcover
ISBN: 9781476735405
ASIN: B010MHAG72
Genre: History
Reviewer: Tam (Mystereity Reviews)
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Review: Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them

getwellsoon

Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Get Well Soon isn’t so much a historical book about plagues, it’s also about the human side of plagues; the healers, the sufferers and the people left behind. The book details not only catastrophic plagues like The Black Death, but also some of the lesser known plagues like the Roman Empire-ending Antonine Plague and The Dancing Plague in 16th century Europe (which sounds all very funny until you read that people pretty much danced their feet off. Literally.)

All the major maladies are touched on, from the horrific syphilis and tuberculosis plagues to the ravages of typhoid, smallpox and cholera throughout history. The sad fate of many plague victims, abandoned by their families and in some cases, abandoned by society, was all very heartrending. I also thought it was very interesting how the Victorians glamorized the pale, gaunt appearance of tuberculosis sufferers. Looking at any of today’s popular fashion models or actresses, it’s obvious that’s an ideal that persists even today.

For the most part, this was very entertaining but felt a bit preachy in spots. Although I don’t fault the author for having strong feelings about her subject, it felt a bit like I was being lectured to.

Overall, Get Well Soon is an informative and entertaining trip through the perils of the past, and anyone who loves history (and plagues. I’m sure there are people out there who enjoy a good plague.) will definitely enjoy it.

Thank you to Henry Holt and Co. and Netgalley for an advance copy.  This review is my honest and unsolicited opinion. 

Rating:★★★✰✰ 3 stars
Publisher:Henry Holt & Co
Publication Date:Feb 07, 2017
Language: English
ISBN:9781627797467
ASIN: B01IA6FNUW
Genre:History, Non-Fiction
Reviewer: Tam (Mystereity Reviews)

Review: Scotland Yard’s First Cases

33389767Scotland Yard’s First Cases by Joan Lock

Scotland Yard’s First Cases is more than a story about Victorian crimes, it’s also a fascinating look at the beginnings of Scotland Yard and the first detectives to come aboard and pioneer the finest law enforcement agencies in UK. It highlights not only their fight to create a detective force, but also their struggles to modernize, deal with corruption in the ranks and to standardize crime cases across the UK. Their legacy is still lives today, as Scotland Yard is recognized world wide as one of the premier law enforcement agencies in the world.

I particularly enjoyed the focus on the methods of detection used, their abilities were admirable, considering the lack of technology and training. Really, it’s a wonder that so many crimes were solved and the compelling cases highlighted in the book are a testament to their tenacity. The author’s thorough research in the archives is apparent in the details, with each case presented in a concise but very entertaining manner and one story about the robbery of a stamp office was particularly amusing. One deteective surmised,

…in his experience, thieves engaged in such big operations tended to suffer from looseness of the bowels. One can imagine Superintendent Maybury’s bemusement when the man from the Yard set about looking for ‘deposits’ which might give them an idea how many men were involved.

I had a good giggle at that one, and it was interesting and satisfying to read how the Yard went on to solve that crime and all the other. Their legendary exploits even made it into literary works of the time, including stories by Charles Dickens.

Scotland Yard’s First Cases is an entertaining first-rate history of one of the world’s most prestigious and recognizable agencies in law enforcement and its captivating cases will appeal to fans of history and/or true crime.

Scotland Yard’s First Cases is available at book retailers or online at Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble

Rating:★★★★✰ 4 stars
Publisher:Endeavor Press
Publication Date: Dec 13, 2016
Language: English
Formats: Kindle/Hardcover
ISBN:978070909125
ASIN: B01N7I8ETM
Genre: True crime, History
Reviewer: Tam (Mystereity Reviews)

Review: Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places

29933974Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

Colin Dickey is on the trail of America’s ghosts. Crammed into old houses and hotels, abandoned prisons and empty hospitals, the spirits that linger continue to capture our collective imagination, but why? His own fascination piqued by a house hunt in Los Angeles that revealed derelict foreclosures and “zombie homes,” Dickey embarks on a journey across the continental United States to decode and unpack the American history repressed in our most famous haunted places.

I was interested in this book because if there’s one thing I love, it’s true ghost stories/haunted places. I was a little disappointed to find that’s not what Ghostland is about. It’s about the history of haunted places,  and the real facts surrounding the alleged hauntings.

I enjoyed the writing, it was obviously well-researched and there were a lot of interesting stories and I particularly liked that the author spent a lot of time presenting the real facts of the case. The chapter about the Winchester House was my favorite, not because it’s allegedly haunted (I never thought it was) but because the idea of someone continually adding on to their house was just bizarre. Doorways and staircases that lead nowhere, all designed by one woman with no training in architecture. The true facts about Sarah and the Winchester family were presented, debunking a lot of the myth around the house. I was fascinated!

Overall, it was an interesting book, but a little dry in parts. History fans would enjoy it, but if you’re looking for a scare-your-pants-off true ghost story book, you’ll be disappointed.

Ghostland is available at book retailers or online at Amazon  | Barnes & Noble

Rating:★★★✰✰ 3 stars
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: Oct. 4, 2016
Language: English
Format: Kindle/Hardcover/ePub
ISBN: 9781101980194
ASIN: B01BD1SUA6
Genre: Non-Fiction/History
Reviewer: Tam (Mystereity Reviews)

Review: The United States of Absurdity

31860053The United States of Absurdity: Untold Stories from American History by Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds

The duo from The Dollop podcast have written a book full of the odd, the outrageous and all the funny stories that never made it into the history books.

This was a laugh out loud funny take on some of the lesser well-known stories that make up the fabric of our history. The presidential cheese story made me chuckle (What. A. Legend.) and the Lobotomobile story was outrageous, but the best story, and the reason I wanted to read this book, was the Kentucky Meat Shower story.

Meat.  Meat rained down all over Crouch’s property.  The meat dropped to the ground in varying sizes.  Some pieces were small.  Some were big.  It was raining meat; Hallelujah, it was raining meat!  The happiest creature was Crouch’s cat, who walked around eating the sky meat like it had won the feline lottery.

The stories are indeed hilarious and absurd, but not necessarily untold. I’ve seen a few of the stories in other places, and Reddit is full of Action Park stories (and even has its own subreddit, /r/actionpark, or check out these commercials of seemingly innocuous Action Park rides on Youtube.)

Overall, The United States of Absurdity is a short and funny look at US history,  great as a time-waster, side-splitting funny and a must-read for trivia fans and history buffs.

The United States of Absurdity is available at book retailers or onine at Amazon  | Barnes & Noble

Thank you to Ten Speed Press and NetGalley, who provided an advance copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Rating:★★★★✰ 4 stars
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Language: English
Formats: Kindle/ePub/Hardcover
ISBN: 9780399578755
ASIN: B01KE61LUC
Genre: History
Reviewer: Tam (Mystereity Reviews)

Review: Daufuskie Island

Daufuskie Island, Mystery, Time Travel, Mystereity, John Lueder, Adventure

Daufuskie Island by John Lueder

The St. John family owns a summer house on Daufuskie Island, off the coast of South Carolina. After a hurricane, Caris and her kids discover a mysterious treasure chest containing a note and a silver key. The key unlocks a mysterious silver door in an old, abandoned lighthouse that leads the family on a harrowing adventure through history.

This book was riveting; I couldn’t put it down. The story switches between each character’s adventures, and I found myself racing through them to get to the next. The characters were very believable, from the squabbles between the children (reminded me of my own childhood!) to the family’s reactions to the confusing events and the situations they found themselves in. I think my favorite character was Maitland, I love the idea of someone from the past being transported into present times and how they cope with it.

While enjoyable for adults, it would be a great learning companion for middle school aged kids, with scenes set both in the Revolutionary War and Civil War that would enhance their history classes. Although there’s some minor violence towards the end of the book, It’s not any more graphic than what kids see on an average cartoon or superhero movie, so very little parental guidance would be necessary.

Overall, a captivating, exciting and thrilling romp through history, Daufuskie Island will appeal to history buffs of all ages, from kids to adults.

Thank you to Mountain Arbor Press and Netgalley for a copy of the book in return for my honest review.

Daufuskie Island is available at book retailers or at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 stars
Publisher: Mountain Arbor Press
Publication Date: July 23, 2016
Genre: Mystery, Time Travel, Adventure, History
Format: Paperback, Kindle, ePub
Language:
English
ASIN: B01J0HDWI0
ISBN-13: 978-1631830310
Reviewer: Tam (Mystereity Reviews)

Review: The Secret Poisoner

26196584The Secret Poisoner: The Victorian Age of Poisoning by Linda Stratmann

What a great book! Very well organized and thoroughly researched, the book neatly lays out the progression of forensic toxicology in the 1800s, encompassing some truly outrageous poisonings in England, France and even in the United States. I don’t know what surprised me more, how many people got away with it, or how many people were found guilty of their crimes. Forensic toxicology was in its infancy during the nineteenth century and some of the techniques used to find poisons in the body after death were ingenious. Equally amazing was that many scientists would take samples from the stomach, intestines and vomit of the poison victim and taste a small amount. Good grief, that takes a lot of guts (pun intended.)

Warning: there are numerous references to animals being experimented on, so if you’re an animal lover, you may find it hard to read at times (I know I did.)

I think the hardest stories to read were the ones where women poisoned young children.  The story of Sarah Chesham, who poisoned two of her sons (among others)  with arsenic and got away with it, was particularly disturbing and will probably stay with me for awhile.

The upper room in which the boys slept projected several feet over a room occupied by Deards and, that night, he heard the two children groaning in pain. Next morning, as he sat at breakfast, the boys’ vomit poured between the cracks in the floorboards and on to his table and the floor. He knocked on the Cheshams’ door, but there was no answer. Later that day, he was astonished to see Sarah Chesham in the street. ‘Mrs Chesham, are you aware how bad your children are?’ he exclaimed, adding, ‘We can scarcely live in the house!’ Her reply was, ‘I will go home and alter it.’

Stratmann, The Secret Poisoner p 156

It’s also disturbing how easily people could purchase a variety of poisons, from arsenic, strychnine and cyanide from a grocer or a druggist, right up until the 20th century.  While these poisons are still available today,  they are regulated and very few consumer products still contain them.

Overall, The Secret Poisoner was a fascinating read, one that will appeal to fans of history, true crime and/or forensic science.

The Secret Poisoner is available at book retailers or on Amazon

Review: Strange History

26196336Strange History by  Bathroom Readers’ Institute

Strange History is a collection of historical trivia that will leave you laughing.  I’ve already had several occasion to reference the fact about the day it rained geese in Canada

I love books like this where every page is a something new waiting to be discovered. I found it hard to put the book down and even when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. Inside, you can find historical facts encompassing everything from the longest unassisted solo cow flight in recorded history to historical facts about famous figures, to the treasures one can find digging up old privies (I fully expect Outhouse Detectives to be a series on the History Channel sometime in the near future.)

Strange History is a fascinating, entertaining and side-splitting read that will stay with you for a long time.  At the very least, you’ll never look at an Olympic torch relay the same way again.

This book would make a great gift for any trivia or history buff.

Strange History  is available at book retailers or online at  Amazon