Gentleman Boss: The Life of Chester Alan Arthur | by Thomas C. Reeves

Gentleman Boss: The Life of Chester Alan Arthur by Thomas C. Reeves
(American Political Biography Press, 1991, 500 pages)

Gentleman Boss by Thomas C. Reeves is the story of Chester Alan Arthur, the 21st President of the United States. Chester Arthur was an accidental president. Arthur was the reluctant Vice President to President James A. Garfield who was shot and died in office only a few months into his Presidency. Arthur never wanted or intended to be President. When Arthur took over the Presidency, his fellow Republicans and the general public had low expectations for him. Arthur managed to be a more effective leader than his critics predicted.

Gentleman Boss is a comprehensive and well researched book. The author, Thomas C. Reeves, is a U.S. historian who specializes in 19th and 20th century America. His expertise in this area shows in this book. Since I had previously read and blogged about Dark Horse, the story of James Garfield, I was interested in following-up with the Presidency of Chester A. Arthur. Gentleman Boss made a good companion to Dark Horse. Gentleman Boss is recommended for readers interested in the U.S. Presidents.

Barbecue: The History of an American Institution | by Robert F. Moss

Barbecue: The History of an American Institution by Robert F. Moss
(University of Alabama Press, 2010, 277 pages)

This is a well-researched, comprehensive book on the history of barbecue from the 17th century to the present day.   It took Robert Moss ten years to research and write this book. Definitely time and effort well spent!  Throughout the book, Moss used hundreds of primary sources to illustrate not only barbecue and its regional variations, but politics, race, culture and geographies and how they have evolved since the colonial times. Did you know that Virginia is the birth place of barbecue? Would you be surprised if I told you that the world’s largest chain of hamburger restaurants, McDonald’s, started out selling beef and pork barbecue sandwiches? This book is informative, engaging, and it will definitely make you hungry; just look at the subject of the book ;-).

Moss had lots of help with his research including librarians, of course. I can’t help but quote him here: “The Interlibrary Loan Staff at the Charleston County Public Library were invaluable in helping me complete my work far from the walls of a research library.”

We all love a good barbecue. But you are not going to find barbecue recipes and techniques here. What you will get out of this book is a deep appreciation for barbecue and its contribution to the history of the United States. You’ll walk away hungry for barbecue.  Highly recommended.

Quinn | by Iris Johansen

Quinn by Iris Johansen
(St. Martin’s Press, 2011, 374 pages)

About the book:

As a former Navy SEAL turned cop, Joe Quinn has seen the face of evil and knows just how deadly it can be. When he first met Eve Duncan, he never expected to fall in love with a woman whose life would be defined by her dual desires to bring home her missing daughter and discover the truth behind her disappearance—-no matter how devastating. With the help of CIA agent Catherine Ling, they make a shocking discovery that sheds new light on young Bonnie’s abduction and puts Quinn squarely in the crosshairs of danger. Eve’s first love, John Gallo, a soldier supposedly killed in the line of duty, is very much alive—-and very much a threat.

Emotionally charged, with one shock after another, Quinn reveals the electricity of Joe and Eve’s first connection, and how they fell in love in the midst of haunting tragedy. As their search takes them deeper and deeper into a web of murder and madness, Joe and Eve must confront their most primal fears . . . and test their resolve to uncover the ultimate bone-chilling truth.

I’m a big fan of Iris Johansen.  I have followed her books for years and love them.  Quinn is a story that will keep you entertained.  This is the second book in a series of three. The first book is called Eve. Reading the first book hooks you and is captivating all the way through. Quinn goes over the history of Joe Quinn and Eve. It is also captivating and leaves you in suspense for the 3rd book.

I had been waiting for this book since I finished Eve months ago. I really enjoyed the story, especially the last chapter when everything was coming to a climax. Of course she leaves you hanging on, which I expected since Bonnie is the next one to come out. My only criticism is that it wasn’t quite as much about Joe Quinn as I thought it would be.  But, I still very much enjoyed the book and now have to wait patiently for Bonnie to come out in October. I am just dying to know what is going on because this book left me with great suspense at the end!! I’m excited to know what actually happened to Bonnie and for Eve to finally find some peace.  It was a very suspenseful read.  If you do decide to read it, start with Eve first to get the full impact!

The Swan Thieves | by Elizabeth Kostova

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
(Little, Brown and Co., 2010, 576 pages)

The Swan Thieves is the second novel by the author of The Historian.  I loved The Historian and I liked The Swan Thieves but for those of you who read The Historian be prepared for something different with this novel.  Taking place in the art world this book is just as well researched as The Historian but it delves more into the psychology of the characters, the relationships between people, and the nature of love and obsession.  Some parts are a little slow but the writing is easy to read so this big book is a quick read.  The description of the art and the process of painting were my favorite parts but the love stories were a little bit underwhelming.  Like The Historian there is a mystery to solve but I have to say it isn’t much of a mystery.  I guess all in all it was fun to read but I wouldn’t say it was a great book.

Olive Kitteridge | by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
(Random House, 2008, 286 pages)

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Olive Kitteridge is a novel made up of a collection of stories that take place in a small town in Maine.  Each story can stand on its own but many of the characters are recurring, especially Olive, who shows up in most of the stories and is a main character in a few.  A strong personality, Olive is a retired school teacher in this small town and often plays an important role in the lives of many of the characters.  The stories are often sad but also somehow uplifting.  Olive is often bossy, mean, and argumentative but you end up loving her because she almost always comes from a good and honest place even if she has trouble expressing herself in a kind way.   I loved the book but I know many people would say it is too depressing.  I found it beautiful and honest.

Clara and Mr. Tiffany | by Susan Vreeland

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
(Random House, 2011, 432 pages)

Clara and Mr. Tiffany takes place at the turn of the 20th century in New York City.  Clara Driscoll has recently returned to work at Tiffany’s after her husband’s sudden death.  This isn’t Tiffany and Co. the jewelry store, rather this is the “artistic” Tiffany glass division run by Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of the owner of Tiffany and Co.  One of the rules for working in Tiffany glass is that all the women must be unmarried.  Mr. Tiffany believes that once married the creative nature of women is somehow stifled and skewed, therefore they are a hindrance to his work.

The clear focus of the story lies with Clara, who single-handedly comes up with the idea for the Tiffany lamps everyone is so familiar with now.  Her relationship with Mr. Tiffany and her dedication to her work are admirable, especially in light of the time period.  The reader can see her struggle with what she wants out of life when she is forced to deal with romantic pursuits over the years.  However, in addition to Clara, the next largest “character” in this historical novel is arguably the city of New York.  Vreeland does a wonderful job bringing the nature of the city during the early 1900s to life.

I enjoyed this book and if you have an interest in historical fiction you’ll probably appreciate it as well.  I finished it wanting to know more about the Tiffany family.

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If you’re interested, there’s a short article on how to identify authentic Tiffany lamps on CNBC.com – that can be found here.  It really helps you appreciate the work and value of the original Tiffany pieces.

For more information about Clara and the “Tiffany girls” (as they were known) check out this 2007 article about them from the New York Times.

Deeper | by Megan Hart

Deeper by Megan Hart
(Spice, 2009, 400 pages)

Bess has returned to her family’s beach house after inheriting it from her parents.  It brings back memories of her college years when she would live and work at the beach each summer.  Times have changed.  20 years have gone by and Bess is now the mother of two teenage boys and she’s in the midst of separating from her husband.  As she attempts to find solace at the beach she finds herself thinking of Nick, the “one who got away” when she was younger.  And suddenly Nick is with her.  He’s there, in the flesh.  He hasn’t aged a  day since she last saw him.  She doesn’t want to think about how he came back to her, why he hasn’t aged, why he doesn’t need to eat or sleep.  She’s just happy to make up for lost time.  The question she doesn’t want to ask, is how long she’ll have him with her this time around…

Normally I’m not into supernatural elements of this variety, but I warmed up to the storyline after a while.  I was introduced to Megan Hart when I worked at Harlequin a few years ago.  This is definitely romance of the “steamier” variety (take note of the fact that this is the “Spice” imprint of Harlequin) – so that’s my fair warning :).  If you appreciate a steamy romance with an actual storyline to go with it, Hart is a great author to have in your back pocket.