54. 18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics
Frances Glessner Lee is best known for creating sort of dollhouse models of crime scenes used to train forensic scientists and police involved in crime scene investigation. I was familiar with them because I live in Baltimore where they currently live. This book was not really what I was expecting in that those models are mostly not what the book is about despite the title. It’s really yet another story of a woman who played a large part in the development of a field without really getting credit for it. I found it to be a really interesting story. I didn’t really have any knowledge of the development of forensics or the difference between medical examiners and coroners until reading this book or the contributions that Frances Lee Glessner made towards trying to get states to replace coroners with medical examiners. It’s well worth a read even if it’s only barely about the creation of the miniature crime scenes. I give it an 8 out of 10.
53. Anxious People by Fredrick Backman
The story of a group of strangers who get stuck together in an apartment after someone takes them hostage in attempt to escape the police after a bank robbery gone wrong. It’s also the story of the father and son policemen trying to solve the case and figure out what happened to the bank robber after the hostages were set free. There are definitely some clever things that play with your preconceptions and stereotypes, but on the whole it was probably a bit too twee for me. I give it a 6 out of 10.
52. Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers
One of my book clubs read Lucy Worsley’s book The Art of the English Murder. She talks about the works of Dorothy L. Sayers in the book, so we decided to read one of her books for our next meeting and settled on Murder Must Advertise. You can’t necessarily hold a book written almost a hundred years to today’s standards, but this book did not do women any favors. I also struggled with the writing style. There seemed to be long passages of just lists of things that could have conveyed the sentiment in just an example or two instead of an exhaustive list. I also figured out who did it fairly early in the book and thought it must be a red herring because it seemed so obvious, but no that is in fact who the murderer was. Mysteries aren’t typically my genre anyway, but this book was not in any way convincing me I should read more of them. I give it a 3 out of 10.
51. Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar
It’s hard to describe this book because while the author claims it is a work of fiction it also hews very closely to his own story and is written as if it’s a memoir told in a series of essays. Fact or fiction at its heart it’s a book about an immigrant doctors from Pakistan and their American born son, the supposed author of the work, figuring out life after 9/11 and then in Trump’s America. I found it to be a very engaging story with lots of poignant insights about life in America. I give it a 9 out of 10.
50. Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach
As she does in her other books Mary Roach digs into an interesting facet of the world and explores it through an interesting and somewhat humorous lens. This time she looking into human/animal interactions and what happens when their habitats collide. She explores the topic from areas all over the world from bear encounters in the United States to elephants in Africa and leopards in India. It’s a subject I never thought much about, but as usual she provides a very readable and entertaining look into a world most of us know little about. I give it a 7 out of 10.
49. The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
Shortly after comic book illustrator Leia discovers that she’s pregnant from a one night stand at a comic convention, her life takes even more turns when her step-sisters marriage falls apart and she finds out that her elderly grandmother has been keeping her dementia hidden after an incident happens in the small Alabama town where she lives. In order to find out what’s happening with her grandma and to give her teenage niece a break from what’s happening with her parents, Leia heads down to Alabama to sort out everyone’s lives.
For the most part I very much enjoyed this book. I liked the characters and particularly liked the relationship between Leia and her teenage niece. I did feel like some of the characters weren’t filled out as well as they should have been, particularly Leia’s sister. I think people who like Southern women’s fiction with a little bit of a twist and some focus on racial issues would very much enjoy this book. I give it a 7 out of 10.
48. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
Hamnet is a historical fiction imagining of the story of Shakespeare’s wife and the death of their son Hamnet. I don’t know enough about Shakespeare’s history to know how much of their childhood backstories she imagined completely and how much was based on fact. The book was well written and readable, but I often don’t love historical fiction based on real people. I usually just wish I read a non-fiction book about them and that was the case with this book as well. Obviously based on all the praise this book has gotten most people don’t feel the same. I give it a 6 out of 10.
46. The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley
Lucy Worsley look at the rise of the fascination with true crime in 18th century England through the development of crime and detective fiction. There were some interesting things in the book, but I found that the book struggled to hold my interest. The only reason I finished reading it was because it was for a book club. I give it a 5 out of 10.
45. Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker
Hidden Valley Road is both the story of the Galvin family in which 6 of their 12 children developed schizophrenia as well as a history of the view and treatment of the disease. The Galvins are one of the families that have been studied to help determine the genetic component to schizophrenia. It was a really fascinating story of a family dealing with very difficult mental health issues and how it affected both the family members with schizophrenia and those who had to live with and take care of them. This book was a on a lot of best of lists the year it came out and it definitely deserved to be there. I give it a 9 out of 10.
41. Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile
Broken Horses is a memoir by singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile. There is no possible way to for me to give an objective review of this book. I am a Brandi superfan. I have seen her in concert more times than any other artist in many states. As such I knew a lot of the stories at least from her adulthood that are included in the book, but not as many from her early childhood. I really enjoyed reading it, but I also have so many personal memories tied up in various songs or her stories about shows that I was actually at. I did really like how at the end of each chapter she included lyrics to either songs she referenced written by other people who influenced her or songs of her own that once you read the chapter you could see were very much written in reference to the events she talked about. I knew the origins of some of the songs from stage banter, but not all of them so it was great to get to see where they came from. I thought it was a great book, but as I said it’s impossible for me to separate myself enough from it to say how much people who aren’t Brandi fans would like the book. I give it a 9 out of 10.