The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of the Moving Pictures
by Edward Ball
Synopsis: From the National Book Award-winning author of Slaves in the Family, a riveting true life/true crime narrative of the partnership between the murderer who invented the movies and the robber baron who built the railroads.
I am a sucker for historic true crime. I love reading about crime, detection, and the law from the past. This one sounded pretty interesting. I really liked the movie aspect of the story, more about the early days of film.
Unfortunately, this book didn’t really work for me. It’s a joint biography of two men in the 19th century, inventor Eadweard Muybridge and rail tycoon Leland Stanford. I liked the story about the building of the railroad – and the many references to Utah in there – and the story of the inventor/photographer was pretty interesting too. But together, they didn’t make any sense. The only connection, as far as I could tell, was that that had a brief business connection. But I’m sure that millionaire Stanford had lots of business dealing with a lot of people.
But the author chose to drop plenty of hints about the murder and then drop it for another chapter about the plight of Chinese workers on the railroad. Honestly, I finally just got bored and let it go. I need a better book about the the building of the railroad. This one just didn’t work for me.
I usually do these posts on Monday, but I missed it this week. I’ve been in a bit of a slump, but things are picking up.
My current audio book is Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman. Kate rides up on her horse Silver to discover her father’s been murdered and the gang responsible is getting away. She disguised herself as Hate and heads off after them, Colt Revolver at her side. This one starts off with a bang and I can’t wait to see how it ends.
I’m also reading a nonfiction book, The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen. Islands have been crucial to our understanding of biology and evolution for hundreds of years, but they still have a lot to teach us about survival.
Finally, I’m working on There Is Something About Edgefield: Shining a Light on the Black Community through History, Genealogy, and Genetic DNA by Edna Gail Bush and Natonne Elaine Kemp for review. It’s been great for me to read about another family’s genealogy, but it’s not a quick read.
I also realized I have a couple of Audible credits available, so I’m trying to decide what I want to listen to next. Give me your best recommendation!
Title: Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, and Murder and the Battle for Modern New Orleans
Author: Gary Krist
I’ve been on a true crime kick lately, but historic true crime, if that makes sense. I love mysteries, and I love history, so a book that combines the two in a well written way is a home run for me. This one did better with the history part than the mystery, but it’s still recommended.
It covers New Orleans steamier side during the turn of the 20th century. Loved the part about the birth of jazz. I also enjoyed reading about the Italian influence on NOLA. I had no idea!
I would recommend this book of you love New Orleans, music, crime, or US history.
Hey bookies! How was your weekend? We had a fun time around here with a trip to the library, a very nice little session of Dungeons & Dragons, church, and plenty of reading! This week I’m planning another viewing of Black , and I have a new book I want to write! Here’s a teaser – it’s a twist on a fairy tale.
As for what I’m reading right now, I have 3 nonfiction titles going.
The first is from Net Galley and it’s called Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Change and/or Ruin Everything, by Kelly Weinersmith. It’s a little rough to read because the ARC copy throws the formatting off a little. It’s kinda fun, but not compelling or anything.
I’m also reading one called What Wizards Ate and Kings Drank by Krista Bell. It’s also kinda fun, but not the sort of book you want to binge read. I’m falling behind with it.
Finally, I’m enjoying the audio version of The Templars by Dan Jones. Definitely becoming a fan of his.
Sam the cat 🐱 says hi! He survived his first trip to the vet, but we discovered why he has a certain odor about him. Apparently his teeth are bad! So expensive repairs are needed. Super excited about that.
Hope you have a good reading week and tell me what you’ve enjoyed lately in the comments!
Here’s a review I published earlier that I hope you will enjoy.
I’ve been reading a lot lately but I haven’t been able to keep up the reviews on here. I thought I would do some short reviews and bundle a bunch of them together so you can see what I’ve been up to.
Murder among friends
The Accident by Linwood Barclay centers around a man whose wife dies in a drunk driving accident. He can’t believe that she would have gotten behind the wheel in that state, but her death starts him asking questions that trigger a rash of violence all around him. I really like this writer – what a page turner!
I found The Man Who Would Be King at the thrift store for a dollar. I love Rudyard Kipling, so this little collection of 5 of his best stories was just what I needed. If you can find such a collection (and I think some of them are free on Kindle) this is a great place to start. I loved Kim and Jungle Stories too.
After finishing my book for book club, I was looking for another good book to listen to from my library. I decided on Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell. It’s the first book I’ve read by her and I enjoyed it. This one is about the history of Hawaii, a state with such a rich and interesting heritage that I feel she barely scratched the surface. She has a rather annoying voice though, so I think I’d read it instead of listen.
We did have to say goodbye to Tina and it was just as heartbreaking as we thought it would be. She was feisty right up to the last, but went right off to sleep in the end. It sort of broke my heart today to come home to all the signs she left around the house, to be cooking dinner and not have her under foot demanding her fair share. We still have Rosie, but to go from 3 cats to one in just eight months is such a shock. We had Tina for 15 years and Spooky for 12. It’s not easy to say goodbye.
Hey bookies! It’s time to share my favorite reads of the year. This will books that I read this year, not books that were first published in 2017. There were a few that were rereads, but I pulled them out, so this is books that I read for the first time this year. They are in no particular order, just as I found them in my list.
Three Singles to Adventure by Gerald Durrell. This one took me a bit to read because I only had one copy of it, but it was so funny and entertaining. It’s a memoir of Durrell’s time collecting specimens for zoos and museums. Great because I could pick it up and jump right in to a different world.
March by John Lewis, et al. In this graphic novel, Congressman John Lewis writes about his experiences with the Freedom Riders during 1962-1963. Powerful and especially timely. This one refers to the 2nd in the 3 book series.
Both of those are 5 star reads. These are 4 star reads. Still extremely good.
Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, & a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories by Simon Winchester. Lots of stuff packed in here, from Winchester’s own travel experiences to natural history and geology to commerce and all kinds of other fascinating stuff.
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. Great story of determination and daring. Loved this look at early aviation.
American Colonies: The Settling of North America by Alan Taylor. Comprehensive look at the early United States before it became a country. Most complete of any book on the subject I’ve read and very readable.
The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 by Rick Atkinson. A sobering look at the realities of World War II. At times depressing, but worth reading all the same.
Title: Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation
Author: Bill Nye
Themes: science, religion, space, technology
Engineer and science educator agreed to debate creationist Ken Ham in a well-publicized event in 2016. You can see a Youtube video of the debate here. I have to admit that I’ve never watched the entire video. But I have watched clips. I am myself religious. I’m a LDS and a Christian, and I do believe in a form of Creation. However, my church doesn’t teach that it took X amount of time or anything like that. I don’t have any trouble reconciling my belief in a God who created the world (using whatever scientific rules necessary) and in scientific evolution at the same time.
I listened to this book, so I can’t go back and quote things, but my favorite parts of it was about space. That’s always my favorite part, really, but he had some fascinating stuff about what it would take to colonize Mars or explore Europa and so on.
There was a lot of humor in this book, but he talks about sex like A LOT. That makes sense, because it’s a book about evolution, and a species can’t evolve without sexual reproduction. But because of that, I wouldn’t recommend the book for kids who might enjoy Bill’s show. There are other Bill Nye books that are written especially for younger readers. This one is for adults.
I can’t say I loved it though. He is pretty relentless is making fun of religion and Creationists. I think he could have easily taken it down a notch. Just because he can’t comprehend how a god could operate within such limitations as Bill sets out doesn’t mean that 1/God isn’t more powerful that Bill imagines and 2/Those limitations aren’t just plain wrong.
Anyhow, I would recommend it and I want to read his next book, Unstoppable, on climate change. But I think maybe I’ll go with print format.
Who doesn’t love this guy? Besides Aaron Burr. Which brings me to this book I read: Duel with the Devil by Paul Collins.
The subtitle here is: The true story of how Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr teamed up to take on American’s first sensational murder mystery. It was pretty sensational, and I loved the look at how the court system has changed, but I was really reading it for the interplay between Hamilton and Burr.
Elma Sands and Levi Weeks lived at the same boarding house in Manhattan. They had a close friendship, so close that when she went missing, all eyes turned to him. Then her body turned up in a well nearby. He was arrested for her murder, just before the mob closed in and lynched him themselves. But was he really guilty?
The description of the early court system was really interesting. Hamilton and Burr both worked for the defense. NYC being as small as it was, everyone involved on the case knew each other and had worked together – the defense, the jury, the prosecution, the witnesses – they all had ties. Burr’s company even owned the well where the body was found. But there wasn’t a lot of room to choose anyone else.
This wasn’t the best book ever, but it was good. The author and I have very different takes on Hamilton and Burr. He would describe Burr as a war hero. Um, no. Not buying it. Burr was an opportunistic show-off. Hamilton was the true hero. And his description of the duel left out a few key parts. But the emphasis was on the trial, and he did a good job there. Recommended for those interested in New York, in law, or in the Founding Fathers.
I received this free in exchange for an unbiased review.
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
Setting: New Jersey and Illinois, early 20th century
A horrifying look at at why we have work place regulations.
In the early 20th century, a girl couldn’t get a much better job than working at a watch factory. The girls got paid by watch and their take home pay was better than anything else in town. The only drawback – and it was a big one – was that the job was killing them. Literally. Sometimes it killed them quickly, with virulent oozing sores and crumbling bones, sometimes slowly, but it always, always killed.
This book was by turns fascinating, horrifying, and disgusting. I was a little overwhelmed by all the names, but it made sense in the end. Thanks for the chance to read this one.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Net Galley.