Tag Archives: Deborah Blum

Parker’s Picks: April/May 2011

The Bird Sisters: A NovelThe Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

 I’m proud to be able to share my review of Rebecca’s debut novel you!  It’s a coming of age story about family, relationships, secrets, and the realization that when you trust someone you love, you might be disappointed:  “…a secret she would have to keep forever: you can’t count on me.” (The Bird Sisters, Rasmussen)  Tucked away in the heart of the Midwest in the small town of Spring Green, Wisconsin, live two spinster sisters, Milly and Twiss, who have spent a life time growing old together in their childhood home.  This is their story and reflections on how their lives evolved and what might have been.  The story moves along effortlessly connecting the present day to the past and the astounding string of events that changed their family’s lives forever.   Throughout the book Milly and Twiss think back on their youth and their parents’ troubled irreparable marriage which is emblazoned in their minds. While reading, The Bird Sisters, the narrative element of foreshadowing led me to anticipate something heartbreaking and foreboding would transpire later in the book.  There is a great deal more to impart on you — but I cannot spoil the book for you! I will leave you with this hook, Twiss tries to alter the outcome of her parents’ relationship or so she thinks by passing along a note to her mother from her father. 

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal... Clockwork Angel: (The Infernal Devices, #1) by Cassandra Clare

For those of you who love fantasy series this will be a book to place on your reading list!  Heroine, Tessa Gray, journeys to England in search of her brother Nate but is kidnapped by a group of warlocks, the Dark Sisters. She soon discovers another world beneath Victorian London and what the Dark Sisters have in store for her.  Clare has just the right balance in this coming of age story full of stratagem, the unexplained, and clashes between good vs. evil. You will easily get drawn into the tale. If you enjoy a story full of twists and turns and most importantly – romance -you’ll enjoy reading the first book in this trilogy!

Full Dark, No StarsFull Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

King’s newest book is a collection of short stories and has been compared to one of his previous book of novellas, Different Seasons.  If you are a fan of Stephen King you will thoroughly NOT be disappointed! My favorite story was, 1922: “My name is Wilfred Leland James, and this is my confession. In June of 1922 I murdered my wife, Arlette Christina Winters James, and hid her body by dumping it down an old well.” Enough said!!

The Girl Who Chased the Moon The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

There is something about magical Southern fiction that always seizes my attention.  The Girl Who Chased the Moon is no exception! I was quite fond of this particular story about Emily Benedict who returns to her mother’s hometown of Mullaby, North Carolina after her mother dies. Emily discovers she has a grandfather she never knew existed and moves into his home with him to observe: “Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood.” (Allen)  Then there is Julia Winterson whom Emily hopes will answer many questions about her mother.  Julia is quite special as well because she,bakes hope in the form of cakes.”  (Allen) This is entirely a delightful read and you’ll want to find the answers to these two important questions:Is there really a ghost dancing in her backyard? Can a cake really bring back a lost love?” (Allen)

The Girls of Murder City: Fame... The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers who Inspired Chicago  by  Douglas Perry  

Are you a fan of the Broadway musical Chicago AND intrigued by Chicago history?!  I most definitely am! When I first happened upon this book; I knew I had to read it!  I love to research and investigate the “true story behind the story.”  This book examines the account of the real killers, “Stylish Belva” Gaertner and “Beautiful Beulah” Annan, who shot their lovers in cold blood.  Chicago Tribune “girl reporter,” Maurine Watkins brought this story to the forefront for readers first as news story and eventually as a play based on these true life accounts. This play later was immortalized on the stage and the screen as CHICAGO. Fascinatingly enough it illustrates how the media coverage helped to sensationalize the crimes committed by Belva and Annan.  Also interwoven into the book is another “pair of killers,” the infamous, Leopold & Loeb! This will be one of my book club’s summer selections.

The Hangman's Daughter The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch, Lee Chadeayne (Translator)

An amazing historical thriller set in 1680 Germany!!  Is it witchcraft that is killing young children or is there a serial killer on the loose??!!  Helping with the investigation as further children go missing, is hangman, Jacob Kuisl.  With the help of his daughter, Magdalena and a local young man they try to unravel the mystery of the murders??  Will they be able to stop the evil that is lurking in their small village of Shongau?!

Kings of the Earth Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch

Living together on a farm in upstate New York are the three Proctor brothers, Vernon, Audie, and Creed. At the onset of the story, Vernon is found dead in his bed.  As the police are called to investigate questions begin to arise.  Was it murder?  If so, did one of the other brothers kill him and why??  The family saga spans many years and is told from various points of view.  You’ll discover bleak and sad circumstances surrounding the characters in this tale which is loosely based on the true life story of the Ward Brothers which was made into a documentary, ‘Brother’s Keeper” in the 1992. A well written memorable book!

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murde... The Poisoner’s  Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

I found this to be an absolutely fascinating book to read! I’ve told more people to read this book!  Author Deborah Blum has written a flawless and well-researched account of actual crimes which took place in New York during the 1920’s. Each chapter is devoted to a particular poison, the deaths related to them, and the research done by Chief Medical Examiner, Charles Norris. He and his department, along with Thomas Gonzales explored, made inquiries, and eventually aided in solving many of these cases finding the killer to these crimes. Both Norris and Gonzales were forensic pioneers. What I found most intriguing was that at the beginning of Prohibition the numbers of deaths related to alcohol were fairly low in comparison to what the death toll was by the end of Prohibition.  Amazing!  This utterly intriguing work of non-fiction will capture the attention of fans of today’s television shows such as CSI and Criminal Minds.

Receive Me FallingReceive Me Falling by Erika Robuck

I loved this historical fiction book told in two voices from two different time periods! It vacillates from the present day as Meg Owen tells her story to the nineteenth century where we learn about a young woman Catherine Dall. Catherine lives on the plantation of Eden.   After the untimely death of her parents, Meg learns she has inherited the plantation of Eden on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean.  Meg sets off for the island of Nevis in search of some family secrets.  She soon discovers the island is haunted and some sort of tragedy occurred many years ago. Both women deal with their fathers’ respective weaknesses.  Meg soon finds out her father had been swindling his clients prior to his death. Catherine runs the family plantation due to the fact her drunken father cannot.  Catherine struggles with slavery issue and the wicked overseer of the plantation. What is the connection between Meg and Catherine?  What mysteries surround Eden and are there really ghosts roaming the island?! This book already is on hold in the Media Center for several patrons! Yeah!

Unbroken: A World War II Story... Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand 

When you finally read the last page of Unbroken, the name, Louis Zamperini, the ordeals and obstacles he encountered during WWII will be emblazoned in your memory forever. I cannot begin to tell you enough about his story – you must read it and experience for yourself! Louis Zamperini was an extraordinary athlete during the 1936 Berlin Olympics who consequently shook the hand of Adolf Hitler. Later, Zamperini would find himself protecting our country against the enemy nations during WWII only to experience the horror and awfulness of war as a POW.  The atrocities he suffered at the hands of his captors were unimaginable and a living nightmare for him.  Hillenbrand also wrote the bestselling book, Seabiscuit. I highly recommend that you read Louis Zamperini’s story!!

A Vintage Affair A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

For those of you who love clothes, especially vintage clothing you will be in for a treat with this story! Thirty-something Phoebe Swift quits her very comfortable job to open a vintage clothing shop which was a life-long dream for Phoebe. There are many central characters revolving around Phoebe that feature and encompass the major concepts of relationships, friendships and love throughout the story. Interestingly enough you’ll notice a very important character in the book are the clothes themselves. It was remarkable and noteworthy to watch how each person was affectionately drawn to the particular clothing in the shop and the effect it had on them. Simply put, this is a delightful read!



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Spring Reads 2011

Chicago Cubs Cap Insignia

Image via Wikipedia

We have been trying to coax the warm weather to the Midwest but Mother Nature is being pretty fickle these days!  I’m hoping by posting my list of Spring Reads she’ll decide to fetch some of the warmer Southern temperatures and shift it up here.  I know Spring arrived last week but I thought I’d announce my newest reading list in conjunction with the Chicago Cubs‘ Home Opener which is today!  As many of you know I bleed Cubbie Blue and I’m ready to continue my undying love and devotion for my Chicago Cubs.  If you haven’t had a chance to see my March WGNTV/Cubs’ Favorite Memory commercial promoting the upcoming 2011 Cubs’ season here’s your chance!!  I’m dedicating this post to two of my favorite Cubs’ fans who will be watching the Cubs from above – hopefully together-  my Dad, Fred Vicini Jr. and Number 10, Ron Santo.

Looking at my extensive list below, you can see I’ve been diligently reading numerous book reviews over the last several months.  Some of these books will have their own special separate reviews in my upcoming posts.  I love to hear from you as to which ones you’ve decided to add to your reading lists.  I always enjoy reading and responding to your comments.

Best to all of you as we usher in the season of Spring &  to Cubs’ fans everywhere let me hear you sing: “Go Cubs Go!”

Adult Fiction:

The Bird Sisters: A Novel The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

Crestmont Crestmont by Holly Weiss

Crooked Letter, Crooked LetterCrooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (Nominee for 2011 Edgar Award)

The Death Instinct The Death Instinct by Jed Rebenfeld

A Discovery of Witches (All So...A Discovery of Witches: (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deb Harkness

EvenfallEvenfall by Liz Michalski

Exposure: A Novel Exposure by Therese Fowler

Faithful Place Faithful Place by Tana French (Nominee for 2011 Edgar Award)

The Hangman's Daughter The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzch, Lee Chadeayne (Translator)

The Priest's Graveyard The Priest’s Graveyard by Ted Dekker

The Quickening The Quickening by Michelle Hoover (Nominated for 2011 Indies Choice in category for Adult Debut Book of the Year)

The Red Garden The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

A Red Herring Without Mustard:... The Red Herring Without Mustard (Flavia de Luce #3) by Alan Bradley

Receive Me FallingReceive Me Falling by Erika Robuck

The Stormchasers Stormchasers by Jenna Blum

These Things HiddenThese Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

The Weird Sisters The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Adult Non-Fiction:

American Rose: A Nation Laid B...American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee by Karen Abbott

And I Shall Have Some Peace Th... And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road by Margaret Roach

Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accid... Cut! Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies by Denise Imwold

Ghost Hunters: William James a...Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life after Death by Deborah Blum

In the Garden of Beasts: Love,...In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin  by Erik Larson

It's Always Personal: Emotion... It’s Always Personal: Emotion in the New Workplace by Anne Kraemer

The Killer of Little Shepherds...The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science by Douglas Starr

Rawhide Down: The Near Assassi... Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan by Del Quentin Wilbur

Young Adult:

Blessed (Tantalize, #3) Blessed (Tantalize #3) by Cynthia Leitich Smith

The Boneshaker The Boneshaker by Kate Milford

Dash & Lily's Book of DaresDash and Lily’s Book of Daresby Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (Nominated for 2011 Indies Choice in category for Young Adult Book of the Year)

The Fates Will Find Their Way:... The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard

I Don't Want to Kill You (John...I Don’t Want to Kill   by Dan WellsYou (John Cleaver #3)

Last Bus Out Last Bus Out by Beck McDowell

Middle Grades:

No Passengers Beyond This Poin... No Passengers Beyond This Pointby Gennifer Choldenko

The Strange Case of Origami Yo...The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

A Tale Dark and GrimmA Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz ( Nominated for 2011 Indies Choice in category for Middle Reader – E.B. White Read-Aloud Award)


Bink and GollieBink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Allison McGhee

The Invisible ManThe Invisible Man by Arthur Yorinks

Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln by Patricia Polacco

LMNO Peas LMNO Peas by Keith Baker

Mudkin (Carolrhoda Picture Boo...Mudkin by Stephen Gammell


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Winter Reads: “And finally Winter, with it’s bitin’, whinin’ wind, and all the land will be mantled with snow.” (Roy Bean)

SVG line drawing, meant to simulate 1600's sty...

Image via Wikipedia

Even though winter hasn’t officially arrived Mother Nature has doused us with our first big snowstorm of winter in the Midwest and I’m sure it’s just a taste of what is to follow!  With this in mind I’ve been diligently perusing through reviews and reading lists to come up with some new reading material just for you for the impending winter months.  The titles range from adult books all the way down to children’s books.  Get a head start on Old Man Winter and have these titles ready as the snow begins to fall!



BloodrootBloodroot by Amy Greene

Faithful Place Faithful Place by Tana French

Full Dark, No Stars (Hardcover) Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

The Girl Who Chased the MoonThe Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Winter GardenWinter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Wishin' and Hopin': A Christma...Wishin’ and Hopin’: A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb



At Home: A Short History of Pr... At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

The Immortal Life of Henrietta... The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murde...The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

Sh*t My Dad Says Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern 

Unbroken: A World War II Story...Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, & Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

The Warmth of Other Suns: The... The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson


Amy & Roger's Epic Detour Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Clockwork AngelClockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare

Dream Merchant Saga Book 1 The... Dream Merchant Saga: Book One, The Magic Crystal by Lorna T. Suzuki

Intrinsical Intrinsical: The Yara Silva Trilogy #1 by Lani Woodland

Mr. Monster Mr. Monster (John Cleaver #2) by Dan Wells

Salvaged Salvaged by Stefne Miller

Sing Me to Sleep Sing Me To Sleep by Angela Morrison


Benno and the Night of Broken... Benno and the Night of Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott

The Familiars The Familiars (Familiars #1) by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobsen

How The Sphinx Got To The Muse... How the Sphinx Got to the Museum by Jessie Hartland

How to Survive Middle SchoolHow to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart

Out of My Mind Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

The Red Pyramid The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles, #1) by Rick Riordan

Selling HopeSelling Hope by Kristin O. Tubb

Smile by Raina Telegemeier


Clementine, Friend of the Week Clementine: Friend of the Week (Clementine # 4) by Sara Pennypacker

Dog Loves Books Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates

Fancy Nancy's Fabulous Fashion... Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique by Jane O’Connor

Here Comes the Garbage Barge!Here Comes the Garbage Barge! by Jonah Winter

It's a Book It’s a Book by Lane Smith

Shark vs. TrainShark vs. Train by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld

We Are in a Book! We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) By Mo Willems


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