SarahMichigan (sarahmichigan) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books #43 & 44

Book #43 was "Act of Grace" by Karen Simpson. I will start off by saying I'm not an entirely objective reviewer as I helped workshop this book in a writers group, and she thanks me in the acknowledgements. :) However, I really enjoyed this book even more than I expected.

From the official summary: "Why would Grace Johnson, a bright, African-American high school senior, save the life of a Ku Klux Klansman named Jonathan Gilmore? ...if Grace had her way, she would not reveal the circumstances that led her to make what some deem to be a foolish sacrifice and an act of treason against her race. The decision to remain silent, however, is not Grace’s to make, for the spirit of her ancestors have emerged and insist, in ways Grace cannot ignore, that she bear witness to the violent racial history that continues to divide the town of Vigilant..." 

I'd call this a coming-of-age tale with supernatural elements, since Grace comes into her powers at age 18. It handles the issue of racial intolerance very sensitively, the characters are well-drawn, and Simpson's prose is a joy to read - overflowing with charming turns of phrases that make you love Grace even when she's not sure she likes herself too much. I REALLY liked that a potential romance was introduced but that it's not the main focus because Grace has other, more important things on her mind.

Highly recommended.

Book #44 was "The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York" by Deborah Blum. This may end up being one of my favorite, if not my favorite, non-fiction read of the year. It's just over 200 pages but she packs in nearly the entire history of the birth of forensic medicine in the United States. It has a lot of the suspense you'd find in forensic mystery shows like "Bones" as she tells of famous poisoners and the medical examiner's office in New York that helped catch them, or in some cases, exhonerated innocent people. Each chapter is named after a poison, such as arsenic or thallium, and there's some basic chemistry, but mostly it's the story of how New York's chief medical examiner Charles Norris and his top toxicologist Alexander Gettler created the standards for medical examiner offices all over the country and the many discoveries they made in how to detect poisons.

Also highly recommended!

1. Blue Light [fiction]- Walter Mosley
2. Titus Alone [fiction]- Mervyn Peake
3. "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" [non-fiction]- Beverly Tatum
4. Never Let Me Go [fiction]- Kazuo Ishiguro
5. The Jehovah Contract [fiction]- Victor Koman
6. When the Phone Rings, My Bed Shakes: The Memoirs of a Deaf Doctor [non-fiction/memoir]- Philip Zazove
7. The Foreign Student [fiction]- Susan Choi
8. V for Vendetta [fiction/graphic novel]- Alan Moore and David Lloyd
9. City at the End of Time [fiction]- Greg Bear (unabridged audiobook)
10. Figuring: The Joy of Numbers [non-fiction]- Shakuntala Devi
11. Towing Jehovah [fiction]- James Morrow.
12. Black Apollo of Science: The Life of Ernest Everett Just [non-fiction]- Keith R. Manning
13. The Finster Effect [fiction]- Wednesday Lee Friday
14. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America [non-fiction]- Ronald Takaki.
15. The autobiography of my mother [fiction]- Jamaica Kincaid
16. Death du Jour [fiction]- Kathy Reichs (unabridged audiobook)
17. What Is My Cat Thinking?: The Essential Guide to Understanding Pet Behavior [non-fiction]- Gwen Bailey
18. God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything [non-fiction]- Christopher Hitchens (unabridged audiobook)
19. History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos [non-fiction]- Luis Francia
20. Feynman [non-fiction/graphic memoir]- Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick.
21. The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson & the Olympians series) [fiction]- Rick Riordan (unabridged audiobook)
22. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World [fiction]- Haruki Murakami
23. Slowing Down to the Speed of Life [non-fiction]- Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey
24. Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors [non-fiction]- Lizzie Collingham
25. Frankenstein [fiction]- Mary Shelley (unabridged audiobook)
26. Empty Cradle: The Untimely Death of Corey Sanderson [fiction]- Emmy Jackson
27. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil [non-fictioni]- John Berendt
28. Lucky [non-fiction/memoir]- Alice Sebold
29. Soon I Will Be Invincible [fiction]- Austin Grossman
30. For a Few Demons More (Book 5 of "The Hollows" series) [fiction]- Kim Harrison (unabridged audiobook)
31. American Gods [fiction]- Neil Gaiman
32. The Kitchen God's Wife [fiction]- Amy Tan
33. Bluebeard: The Life and Times of Gilles de Rais [non-fiction]- Leonard Wolf
34. Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of Critic in Disguise [non-fiction]- Ruth Reichl
35. The Accidental Time Machine [fiction]- Joe Haldeman
36. A Discovery of Witches [fiction]- Deborah Harkness
37. The Kite Runner [fiction]- Khaled Husseini
38. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West [non-fiction]- Dee Brown
39. The Outlaw Demon Wails [fiction]- Kim Harrison (unabridged audiobook)
40. Redemption in Indigo- [fiction]- Karen Lord
41. Talk Dirty to Me: An Intimate Philosophy of Sex [non-fiction]- Sallie Tisdale
42. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking [non-fiction]- Malcolm Gladwell


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