Diane's Picks

By Book Review

By Book Review

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919

Stephen Puleo

$17.00 $15.64

In January of 1919, a tank holding 2.3 million gallons of molasses collapsed, flooding nearby homes and businesses, killing 21 people and injuring many more. REALLY, THIS HAPPENED! In recounting this historic event, Puelo skillfully also weaves together the history of molasses in New England, its’ ties to the slave trade, and its’ importance in munitions manufacturing during WWI. He fleshes out the characters involved from laborers, families, company men, lawyers, and the judge who presides over the court case against the molasses company. All of this, plus a compelling look at the political climate of the time; anti-immigration, terrorist (anarchist) activity, and post war industrialization. I found this book to be a page turner, a lesson in history, and a great conversation starter: “Have you heard about the great molasses flood of 1919?”

Once Upon a River

Diane Setterfield

$17.00 $15.64

Washington Black

Esi Edugyan

$16.95 $15.59

I loved this book. Not only is it beautifully written, but the story grabbed me from the very beginning and held on to the very end. Starting in Barbados, on a brutal plantation in the 1830's, to Northern Canada, to England and North Africa, we follow the runaway slave, Washington Black, as he desperately tries to survive in a world where he has been told he has no meaning, no value beyond his ability to work, and no human rights. Rejected by his own people, accused of murder, and left to make it on his own, Wash grows to be a young adult who starts to question all of the old messages, and searches for answers, and a way to put together a life worth living in a harsh world that often makes no sense. There are some very brutal descriptions of the treatment of slaves in Barbados, and it was painful to read at times, but the writing isn't gratuitous in nature, and Edugyan delivers the scenes in a way that gives dignity to those who suffered under colonial slave conditions.

Little

Edward Carey

$17.00 $15.64

“Re-imagined History” is the best way to describe this novel. It is based on much of what is known of Madame Tussaud’s early life, but worked into a compelling story of a person’s ability to adapt and survive during a dark and violent chapter of ‘civilization’. Small,odd Marie is apprenticed to a wax sculptor. They move to Paris and open a museum of sorts. They create wax heads of prominent local politicians and aristocrats. Her reputation leads her to the palace of Louis XVI as an art tutor to the King’s sister. But when French revolutionists take over, she is forced to make death masks of the beheaded. I won’t give more away. The illustrations are grim, macabre even, but they are fitting given the climate of the time and place where Marie learned to survive and even thrive in the face of seemingly insurmountable circumstances. This book isn’t a light read but it is very well crafted and has tidbits of history that fascinate.

Case Histories

Kate Atkinson

$16.99 $15.63

Atkinson's newest book Big Sky, is the 5th in the Jackson Brodie series. So I wanted to read the first one, Case Histories, to get to know Brodie and his crew of quirky characters. Mysteries are not my go-to genre, but I've loved everything I've read by Atkinson so I thought I'd give her series a try. This one is very well written, better than I find in most mystery books. There are characters I can believe exist in the real world, and the set of mysteries Brodie is asked to solve are compelling, heart-wrenching too. If you liked Martha Grimes Richard Jury series, I think you will enjoy Atkinson's Jackson Brodie as well. Atkinson's newest book Big Sky, is the 5th in the Jackson Brodie series. So I wanted to read the first one, Case Histories, to get to know Brodie and his crew of quirky characters. Mysteries are not my go-to genre, but I've loved everything I've read by Atkinson so I thought I'd give her series a try. This one is very well written, better than I find in most mystery books. There are characters I can believe exist in the real world, and the set of mysteries Brodie is asked to solve are compelling, heart-wrenching too. If you liked Martha Grimes Richard Jury series, I think you will enjoy Atkinson's Jackson Brodie as well.

The Alice Network

Kate Quinn

$16.99 $15.63

Highfire

Eoin Colfer

$19.99 $18.39

I’m not quite sure how to describe this book: fantasy, thriller, adventure, coming of age, certainly it is unique. A dragon, most likely the last of his kind, is living out his days in the swamps of Louisiana. He calls himself Vern now, but was once known as Lord Highfire, a member of dragon royalty. Alas, all of his kind were killed off by humans, and Vern now spends his days watching Netflix,drinking vodka, and avoiding humans at all costs. Enter teenager Squib, who just wants to earn money to help his mom, and the evil Constable Hooke who just wants to seduce Squib’s mom. When things go terribly wrong in the swamp, Vern and Squib unite in their mutual goal of getting rid of Hooke. What I like about this book: a breakneck pace, humor, unexpected twists and turns, and a rough-around the-edges dragon that I was rooting for the entire wild ride. One note: There are some pretty violent scenes and descriptions of people I would rather not know exist in the world. Otherwise, hold on to your seat and enjoy the pace and craziness of this clever and (eventually) heart-warming story.

The Dutch House

Ann Patchett

$27.99 $25.19