Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy

One of the greatest stories you've never heard is about the women code breakers, both civilian and military, who helped win the war one decryption at a time. Their story has been classified all these years and these women never broke their silence about their great contribution to not only the war effort but to cryptography itself. The book follows the advent of modern cryptographical efforts in the United States (and briefly in England). It also tracks a handful of individuals throughout the war to keep them firmly in the readers' mind.  

Mundy weaves a very engrossing tale of secrets and war. Not only does she describe several breakthroughs in cryptography throughout World Wars I and II, she highlights the lives of individuals who contributed greatly to America's effort to learn the enemy's secrets. There is also a glimpse into the lives of women during World War II and the attitudes and difficulties they had to face just to do their part. Code Girls is a wonderful tapestry of cryptography and a study of women's lives during the early to mid-Twentieth Century. An engrossing true story that finally is being told. 

You can find Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy on the VBPL Catalog. If you enjoyed Code Girls, you may want to try Codebreaker: The History of Codes and Ciphers, from the Ancient Pharaohs to Quantum Cryptography by Stephen Pincock or The Code Book: How to Make It, Break It, Hack It, Crack It by Simon Singh.

Review by Michelle L. Chrzanowski, NASA's Scientific and Technical Information Program

Monday, March 19, 2018

Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes who Fought Them by Jennifer Ashley Wright

Take a tour of history's worst plagues and learn about the heroes who battled them. This most deadly journey of illness begins in ancient Rome with the Antonine Plague and travels through time to the Dancing Plage, the horrific Black Death, leprosy, and into more modern times with the Spanish Flu and polio. In addition to learning about these interesting and deadly periods of time, Wright also brings to light those souls that did their best to fight and irradicate these horrible epidemics.

Get Well Soon is an interesting look at history through epidemics. Wright tackles these tragedies with wit and humanity. What makes this book so engrossing are the human elements brought to each deadly disease. Wright is able to take this dark topic and make it quite enjoyable with stories of interesting people and even injects some needed humor. What really made me love this book is the overall theme of treating those who are sick with dignity and respect and to not repeat the ills of the past. It may not be a light-hearted narrative, but a needed one.

You can find Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright on the VBPL Catalog. If you Get Well Soon, you may want to try Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared M. Diamond or The Great Influenza by John M. Barry.

In addition to these titles, I highly recommend The Black Death: The World's Most Devastating Plague by Dorsey Armstrong from The Great Courses, which tackles the Black Death from disease to economic ramifications to religion to literature.

Review by Michelle L. Chrzanowski, NASA's Scientific and Technical Information Program

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances

Laura Cavendish appears to have it all: a successful career in television development, an equally successful husband, and a lifestyle only select few can afford. But under the surface, her life is not as perfect as it seems.

The most important thing in Laura’s life is her relationship with her only son, Daniel. When Daniel decides it’s finally time to move out of his parents’ home and into his own flat, he meets real estate agent Cherry. Daniel falls for her instantly, and soon the two are inseparable.

But when Laura meets her son’s new girlfriend, she can’t quiet the unease she feels. There’s just something about Cherry that Laura doesn’t trust—and Laura will stop at nothing to protect her son.

Search the VBPL catalog for The Girlfriend. If you enjoy this book, you might also like The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

For a decade in California, from 1976 to 1986, an unknown serial rapist terrorized more than fifty people. Initially, his victims were women. Later, his crimes would include couples. Eventually, sexual assault escalated to murder.

Dubbed the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker (EAR/ONS), the predator somehow managed to evade police, despite dozens of investigations spanning numerous jurisdictions. His elusive nature, combined with the senseless acts of violence that he committed against so many, prompted true crime writer and journalist Michelle McNamara to study the case years later.

The search for the EAR/ONS—whom McNamara named the Golden State Killer—consumed McNamara, who spent countless hours researching possible suspects, theories, and clues. She connected with the case on a visceral level. Fascinated with true crime since she was a teenager, when a neighborhood girl was murdered by an unknown assailant, McNamara dedicated much of her life to researching cold cases. She documented her work on her website, True Crime Diary.

Sadly, McNamara passed away while in the process of writing this book, which was later completed by her co-researchers as well as her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt. To this day, the Golden State Killer has never been captured.

It feels terribly wrong that McNamara didn’t get the chance to complete the work that she was so dedicated to—finally seeing the Golden State Killer brought to justice. But her work lives on, and the compassion she felt for the many victims is a worthy legacy indeed.

Search the VBPL catalog for I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. For similar true crime books, try Mind Hunter by John E. Douglas and I Will Find You by Detective Lt. Joe Kenda.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Five women set out into the remote bushland of Australia. Only four of them return.

What begins as a workplace team-building adventure quickly turns sinister when Alice Russell goes missing. As federal agent Aaron Falk delves into the case, he uncovers the numerous tensions between the remaining women, all of whom had a tenuous relationship with Alice. But despite the fact that no one liked Alice, could any of them be capable of murder? Or is it possible that Alice simply walked away from their camp, as the women claim?

The Australian outback becomes a character in itself, with its foreboding presence and devastating secrets. Told in alternating timelines and points of view, Harper creates a taut psychological thriller.

Search the VBPL catalog for Force of Nature. If you enjoy this book, you might like The Dry (also by Jane Harper) and Look for Me by Lisa Gardner.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

I Will Find You by Detective Lt. Joe Kenda

I Will Find You by Detective Lt. Joe Kenda

I Will Find You by Detective Lt. Joe Kenda is a fascinating memoir from the star of Investigation Discovery’s Homicide Hunter. In this book, Lt. Kenda delves deeper into the cases portrayed on his show—and shares details too real for TV. I Will Find You is a must-read for fans of Homicide Hunter.

Lt. Kenda served 23 years on the Colorado Springs Police Department—19 of those as a homicide detective. He held a case solution rate of 92 percent. Through the show and book, it’s obvious how much Lt. Kenda cares about each and every victim—as well as their families—and how he stopped at nothing to bring their killers to justice.

The book revisits familiar territory featured on the show, but digs deeper and brings added perspective not shown on TV. Additionally, Lt. Kenda shares moments from his personal life—including stories about his steadfast wife and children—and gives a glimpse into life after retirement from the police force. Kenda and his wife now live in Suffolk, VA.

Thanks to his show, Lt. Kenda is widely known for his sharp wit, acute senses, and commitment to justice. I Will Find You reinforces that portrait and provides the reader with extra clarity into the keen mind of the Homicide Hunter.

Search the VBPL catalog for I Will Find You. If you enjoy this book, you might also like Mind Hunter and The Cases That Haunt Us, both by John E. Douglas.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

New York, 1969. The four adolescent Gold siblings visit a local fortune teller who claims that she can tell each of them exactly when they’ll die—down to the month, day, and year. With her prophecies about their respective death days in mind, the Golds find themselves on vastly different paths in life.

In search of identity, Simon flees to San Francisco. Klara’s obsession with illusion and magic leads her to Las Vegas. Responsible, dependable Daniel becomes an Army doctor. Pragmatic Varya devotes herself to a scientific career studying longevity.

As the siblings’ lives diverge over the span of decades, the fortune teller’s prophecies linger in each of their minds. But just how much of life is choice, and how much is fate? Both heartbreaking and illuminating, The Immortalists poses the ultimate question: If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

Search the VBPL catalog for The Immortalists. If you enjoy this book, you might also like Someone by Alice McDermott and Home by Marilynne Robinson.