Darci H.

Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death

Friday, March 16, 2018
James Runcie
Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death

If you’re a fan of the PBS Masterpiece Mysteries series Grantchester you might want to check out this wonderful book that started it all. Set in the 1950’s in England, and capturing all the innocence and nostalgia of the era, James Runcie’s main character Sidney Chambers is not only a product of his time, but a wonderfully complex character. He fought in WWII, has a theology degree from Cambridge and is a vicar of the small, quaint parish of Grantchester. And although he’s a devout young man in this early thirties, he’s also very human. He loves scotch, cricket, warm beer, hot jazz, and has a particular fondness for a young lady named Amanda. But it is Sidney’s curious nature that sets him on the path to amateur sleuthing, that and the fact that people find it easy to talk to him. This fact is soon discovered by Inspector Geordie Keating. As the likable vicar and the roguish inspector combine forces on a myriad of crimes they not only capture the baddies, but also form a touching friendship.  This is the first book in the Grantchester mysteries series.  Check our catalog

Darci H., Reference


Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Malcom Gladwell

Malcom Gladwell has a gift for weaving a compelling narrative.  In his bestselling nonfiction book, Outliers, he tackles the complicated subject of success, taking a special interest in those individuals who lie on the outside of what is considered to be normal, i.e. the outlier.  Gladwell delves into the question of why some people have remarkable success while others of equal or even greater ability fail to ever reach their full potential. Conversely, he points out how disadvantages can actually be the best catalyst for success. What are the factors at play that make a person successful?  Is it genius?  Is it drive? Or could it be something else?  

Gladwell takes the reader on a painstakingly researched journey of success, looking closely at genius and how a high IQ doesn’t always propel a person toward a stellar future.  He examines the cases of software giant Bill Gates, looks into the near miraculous rise of the Beatles and peeks into the world of the giants of industry of the mid-19th century.  Gladwell attempts to answer the question of what it takes to be a superstar on the Canadian Hockey League, how the booming textile industry of the early 20th century paved the way for a generation of successful Jewish lawyers and why Asians really are good at math. What Gladwell concludes is in some ways startling.  No one became a giant of industry, a super-star athlete or a nation of mathletes on their own.  The factors at play are as varied and surprising as the outcome, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll find this book fascinating.

While not everyone has what it takes to be the next Bill Gates (and believe me, it takes a lot!) I do believe that everyone can benefit from that little nugget of practical wisdom found at the heart of Malcom Gladwell’s fascinating look at Outliers.  Check our catalog

Darci H., Reference

Three Sisters, Three Queens

Friday, December 30, 2016
Philippa Gregory

This story of Margaret Tudor, the quintessential English Princess of her time, and the often tumultuous relationship she shares with her siblings as she fulfills her predestine duty to be the wife of King James the IV of Scotland. 

Margaret Tudor is the narrator of this book, and when we meet her she’s a young girl of ten who worships older brother, Arthur Tudor Prince of Wales and is annoyed by the spoiled, childish antics of younger brother, Henry.  Mary Tudor, the youngest of the bunch, is a beautiful, carefree child still in the nursery and the sister of Margaret’s heart.  However, when Katherine of Aragon arrives at the English court to marry Arthur, Margaret’s entire world gets upended and jealousy begins to consumer her. She regards Katherine of Aragon as Katherine of Arrogant, and immediately envies her beauty, lavish wardrobe and jewels.  This jealousy dogs Margaret throughout the rest of this novel, and informs much of the precarious relationship she has with her sister, Mary, and sister-in-law twice over, Katherine. 

When Margaret arrives in Scotland to marry King James, a man seventeen years her senior and the greatest king Scotland has ever known, Margaret, often childish and self-centered, settles in to her new life and celebrates the fact that she is a true queen before both Katherine and Mary. While Margaret is the narrator of this story, the three sisters continue a correspondence that carries them across all the vagaries of their royal lives and the often brutal politics that shape their thoughts and actions.

I’ve read many of Philippa Gregory’s novels but was particularly interested to see how she’d handle the little known Margaret Tudor and her life as Queen Margaret of Scotland.  Although fictionalized and flavored with a relatable modern voice often reminiscent of a shallow, spoiled teenager, I really did enjoy this novel.  Philippa Gregory has a way of taking complicated history, distilling it and delivering it up for every person to enjoy. This was a very detailed, painstakingly researched account of Margaret’s life in Scotland.  The three sister-queens exchange letters and it is through these that we get a glimpse of Katherine and Mary’s most intimate thoughts.  Their lives are as fascinating as they are tragic, mirroring the time and countries in which they lived.  I believe this book is well worth the time if you’re a historical junky like I am.  My honest opinion?  I’d give this five out of five stars.

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Darci in Reference  

The Woman in Cabin 10

Monday, October 31, 2016
Ruth Ware
The Woman in Cabin 10

I’m a sucker for a great mystery and this one reeled me right in from the start with that great spray-speckled portal on the front cover overlooking the North Sea and those enigmatic words: The Woman in Cabin 10. Brilliant!

This is the story of Lo Blacklock, an anxiety-riddled, alcohol-loving thirty-something Brit who works as a journalist for a travel magazine. She’s just landed the assignment of a lifetime: a week-long Scandinavian cruise on the maiden voyage of the Aurora, an über-luxurious mini cruise ship that caters to the wealthy.  It’s her chance to rise to the next level and Lo heads aboard ready to work. There are only ten cabins on the Aurora, and the guest list for this first run is very selective. Lo finds herself mingling with other notable travel journalists, including ex-boyfriend Ben, the ladder-climbing Tina, hot Lars, power couple Cole and Chloe, obese food critic Archer, and the suave billionaire Richard Lord Bullmer, owner of the Aurora, and his wife Anne Bullmer, the ailing Norwegian heiress. As Lo mingles her way through the crowd, heartily indulging in the exotic cuisine and expensive wine, she searches for the woman she met earlier from cabin 10, the cabin next to hers. The woman isn’t there and Lo brushes it off…until she’s awoken in the middle of the night by a woman’s scream. Next she hears a splash and, when she races out to her balcony, she thinks she can see someone sinking in the cold, dark water. She’s certain she’s witnessed a murder! After fighting a panic attack, she immediately reports the incident to the ship’s security guard, only to find him looking at her strangely. She answers his many questions: Yes, she’d been drinking! Yes, she’s on antidepressants! Yes, she heard a woman scream! Yes, she’s freaking out! Yet it’s only when she’s told that no one was ever in cabin 10 that the real terror takes hold. Lo has six days to prove she’s not crazy and find the identity of the woman in cabin 10.

Sound exciting? To be honest I thought this was going to be a much better read than it was. The main character complains too much to be likable and, unfortunately, the twisty-turny mystery was anticlimactic and far-fetched. Part of the problem for me was that once our heroine figured out what was going on, she never bothered to confront the bad guy. And then I feel obligated to mention the one glaring issue I had with this book, which is the fact that no one on this little cruise ship had cell service, or an internet connection, or a way to contact shore. At the very least every ship at sea these days has a satellite phone. Unfortunately the entire plot of this book relied on the fact that this one didn’t. That being said, if you’re able to overlook these little flaws then you just might enjoy The Woman in Cabin 10.

For a great premise, and the fact that this is a New York Times bestseller (quite a feat in itself!), I give this book three out of five stars.

Check our catalog for this book.


Darci H., Reference