Unsolved! II: More Famous Real-Life Mysteries

Title: Unsolved II
Author: George Sullivan
Pages: 119
Recommended Ages: 10 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!

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I find mysteries absolutely fascinating. So, when I found this book of unsolved real-life mysteries, I was more than intrigued.

The Cases.

Murder at Random. On September 29, 1982, a man named Adam Janus took the prescribed dose of Tylenol to relieve chest pain. He died before the doctors could determine the cause of his illness. Later that same morning, Mary Keller felt a cold coming on and took the proper dose of Tylenol to ward off the symptoms. Minutes later she was taken seriously ill and she too died before the day was out. There was a rash of similarly mysterious and unconnected deaths. Unconnected, that is, until someone noticed that each of the cases involved Tylenol… Could someone have slipped poison into the capsules?

The Brief Life of a Superhero. Bruce Lee, the King of Kung Fu, was beloved by millions when he unexpectedly died on the set of his latest film. A few doctors thought that they had explanations – all contradictory – but each explanation left questions unanswered. Why did Bruce Lee really die?

The Hindenburg Disaster. It was a glorious moment. The Hindenburg, the biggest airship ever built, was preparing to land in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Its passengers were waving from the windows, the press was gathered in force to observe the landing of the giant aircraft. And then, the unthinkable happened. While still hovering in the air, the craft burst into flames! How was this fire started?

Movie Star Mystery. Natalie Wood was not an unhappy woman. And she had no enemies – at least none who would’ve had the opportunity to push her off of her husband’s yacht and leave her to drown. But that’s exactly how she was found – floating in the water, dead. Was it an accident? Murder? Suicide? No one knows.

A President’s Mysterious Death. President Warren G. Harding, the first president to be elected after the completion of World War I, found himself in an administration that was being engulfed by corruption and scandal. Rumor had it that he, Warren Harding, was involved in the dishonorable intrigues. Two years into his presidency, Harding was taken violently ill and died. The official report was that he had died from food poisoning, but his wife, a power-seeking woman, refused to allow an autopsy on his body. Many still believe that she poisoned her husband to avert guilt being placed upon him.

Vanished! Helen Brach was a wealthy woman. One day she traveled from a hotel in Minnesota to her home in Glenview, Illinois. Her caretaker, Jack Matlick, reports that he picked Mrs. Brach up at the airport in Chicago and brought her to her home. She remained there for four days before catching a flight to Florida. He is the last person to claim to have seen Mrs. Brach – no one else saw her during the time that he claims she was at home. After her disappearance, the police investigation discovered that Mrs. Brach had written several large checks out to Matlick; but when examined, the signatures proved to be forgeries. Was Matlick responsible for Mrs. Brach’s disappearance?

Death of a Big Shot. Sam Giancana ruled the Mafia in Chicago before being imprisoned in 1965. When he was released in 1966, he found that his power was gone – he had been replaced on the syndicate – no one was afraid of him now. But when the government offered Giancana immunity in exchange for revealing all he knew, the gangsters began to get uncomfortable. The only solution was to get rid of Giancana…

“Remember the Maine!In 1898, the American battleship, Maine, exploded in the harbor of Havana, Cuba. While the cause of the explosion was unclear, it was clear enough to send America into a war with Spain. But experts still wonder – was the explosion of the Maine accidental or purposeful?

Who Killed Karyn Kupcinet? Karyn Kupcinet was an actress; sweet, happy, and definitely not of a suicidal bent. But when she was discovered, dead, in her apartment, there were no signs of a struggle. Therefore, either it was suicide, or her murderer was someone she knew…

Discussion.

As a lover of mysteries, I knew I was going to love this book. And did I? Yes and no. I love the idea of real-life mysteries – real people, real actions – instead of entirely fictional ones. However, in this case, they were unsolved. Yes, that was obvious from the title. No, I didn’t fully realize what that would mean.

For some people, the lack of resolution would fire their imagination, which would thence race at once to seventeen different possible conclusions. (I’m looking at you, Sherlock.) But for me, it just left me feeling a bit unfulfilled. There’s no possible way I can solve the mysteries – experts have tried and failed, I’d have to wade through pages and pages of evidence, conjectures, reports, et cetera, and in the end, I don’t think I’d be smart enough to come up with a theory to fit the facts. However, children love this pursuit of the unknown.

Of the nine mysteries, only two really captured my attention – Murder at Random and Vanished! I would love to do more reading about these two cases.

Cautions.

In the Bruce Lee case, a film is described in which “a murdered rock star, through supernatural power, takes the form of a bird to avenge his girlfriend’s death and his own.” [pg. 25]

In Vanished, it is mentioned that Helen Brach was interested in “automatic writing” – communication with the spirit world.

In Movie Star Mystery, it is mentioned that Natalie dated several famous men and was divorced.

The words ‘hell’ and ‘God’ are each used once. These are in quotations from the actual cases, not inserted by Mr. Sullivan.

Conclusion. Interesting – conspiracy / mystery oriented children will enjoy it.

Whopping on Goodwills

This past week, my mother and I visited my grandmother, who lives in Louisiana. Along the way we stopped at four different Goodwills – one had the horridly steep prices of forty-nine cents for children’s books and ninety-nine cents for adults, but the other three were much more reasonable. 4 hardcovers / $1 and 8 softcovers / $1!

When We Were Very Young – $ .49 I love, love, love A. A. Milne’s darling British style. Thus far I have only read a few of his Winnie-the-Pooh stories, but I am eager to read this collection of his poetry.

And on the Eighth Day – $ .99
The Player on the Other Day – $ .99
I’ve read books by other authors from the Golden Age of mystery fiction – Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, & Margery Allingham – but never Ellery Queen. These two books are from later in the Ellery Queen series, but I hope are nevertheless indicative of Queen’s work.

Saturnalia – $ .49 Set in 17th century Boston, Saturnalia is the story of William, a printer’s apprentice, who is searching for his lost brother.

Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego – $ .49 This installment in the Carmen Sandiego series actually has the collectible cards intact. Yay! This will make reading the book WAY more interesting…

Maigret and the Loner – $ .99 I recently purchased Maigret and the Apparition at a book sale, and, although it contained a few indiscretions, I enjoyed it. Hopefully this volume will maintain the intriguing story-line without the romance.

Encyclopedia Brown Collection – $ .25
Encylopedia #15: Sets the Pace – $ .49
The boy detective returns. The first book, Collection, is a snazzy hardcover with four different Encyclopedia Brown books buried inside.

Peak – $ .25 This is the story of Peak, a fourteen year old who loves climbing and is given the opportunity to climb Mount Everest with his father.

The Untamed West – $ .12 ½ This book contains three stories by Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, & Max Brand. I’ve read L’Amour before, but never Grey or Brand.

McDuff Comes Home – $ .12 ½
Sleddings – $ .12 ½
Two picture books. McDuff Comes Home, the story of a little terrier, looks especially cute.

Christmas Tidings – $ .25 Quotes by classic and other famous authors on the subject of Christmas.

The Wizard of Oz – $ .12 ½ I never watched the movie as a kid, but I know the basics of the story. This will be an interesting experience…

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – $ .12 ½
The Golden Fleece – $ .49
Two Newbery Medalists. The rats one seems to be about an advanced race of rats. The fleece one is a collection of stories about Greek heroes.

The Tenth Man – $ .12 ½ This story, written by Graham Greene (author of numerous espionage novels), is set during World War II. It concerns a group of men who is held hostage by the Germans.              

Anne of Green Gables # 4: Anne’s House of Dreams – $ .12 ½
Anne of Green Gables # 5: Anne of Windy Poplars – $ .12 ½
I’ve read these online, but did not own copies of them myself.

The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael # 2: One Corpse Too Many – $ .12 ½ The second installment from the Brother Cadfael series. It appears to be set during a medieval war and concerns the appearance of an extra body after the public hanging of a gang of men.

The A.B.C. Murders – $ .25
Murder on the Orient Express – $ .25
These two volumes are from the beautiful Bantam black padded-hardcover set. I would love to own the complete set!

The Treasure Principle – $ .25 I’ve read Randy Alcorn’s book Why Pro-Life?, and found it entirely satisfactory. This slim volume is on the subject of joyful giving.

The Elements of Style – $ .25 A hardcover version of the classic by E. B. White and William Strunk, Jr.

Turn Homeward, Hannalee – $ .12 ½ Remember Who Comes With Cannons? Written by the same author, Turn Homeward, Hannalee is also set during the same era – the War Between the States.

Sense and Sensibility – $ .25
My Antonia – $ .25
Treasure Island – $ .25
Nice hardcover copies of books I already owned. My Antonia is a Barnes and Nobles hardcover. Sense and Sensibility is from the darling Barnes and Nobles miniature hardcovers collection.

Unsolved II: More Famous Real-Life Mysteries – $ .12 ½ CANNOT WAIT to read this book. It contains brief histories of nine ‘unsolved’ real-life mysteries. How fun!

Thunder from the Sea – $ .12 ½ Ever since reading about Seaman, I’ve had a soft spot for Newfies. In this story, thirteen year old orphan Tom Campbell feels less lonely after adopting Thunder, the Newfoundland, whom he rescued from a thunderstorm.

Hamlet – $ .12 ½
The Dialogues of Plato – $ .12 ½
Black Beauty – $ .12 ½
Robinson Crusoe – $ .12 ½
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – $ .12 ½
The Scarlet Letter – $ .12 ½
The Hound of the Baskervilles – $ .12 ½
Pragmatism – $ .12 ½
All of these softcovers were in amazingly good condition. Among their numbers are Bantam, Puffin, Signet, and Barnes and Nobles Classics. I was super-excited to find The Hound of the Baskervilles, as I did not yet own a copy of that outside of a collection. Also, I decided that if I were to ever to pay good money for The Scarlet Letter, twelve cents was the route to go.

On the Way – $ .12 ½ Remember 26 Fairmount Avenue? Well, this is one of Tomie DePaola’s sequels to that book and contains more humorous anecdotes from his life.

Nancy Drew # 4: The Mystery at Lilac Inn – $ .25 I lived on the Boxcar Children series as a kid, but never actually read any of the Nancy Drew stories. This will be my first. :O

The Littles and the Lost Children – $ .12 ½ Remember The Littles Go to School? Same series. Hopefully this one will be more interesting.

Aircraft – $ .25 A pictorial history of aircraft from the Wright brothers’ experiments through the most up-to-date models of the 1990s.

The Attack on Pearl Harbor – $ .12 ½
The Attacks of September 11, 2001 – $ .12 ½
Two children’s history books. Pearl Harbor is from the same series as The Titanic, and is also ‘An Interactive History Adventure’.

William Carey – $ .12 ½ This biography of the great missionary is from the Heroes of the Faith series. I look forward to learning more about ‘The Father of Modern Missions’.

The Truth about Mormonism – $ .12 ½ A slim book which discusses the more bizarre beliefs of the Mormon sect. It looks really interesting.

Muggie Maggie – $ .12 ½ Written by Beverly Cleary, author of Dear Mr. Henshaw and the Ralph S. Mouse series, Muggie Maggie is about a little girl trying to learn how to read cursive.

Peter Rabbit and Eleven other Favorite Tales – $ .12 ½
The Tale of Little Pig Robinson – $ .25
A few stories by Beatrix Potter. The Tale of Little Pig Robinson the original color illustrations, while Peter Rabbit has black and white sketches based upon the original illustrations.

Paddington at Work – $ .12 ½  Paddington Bear, the precocious teddy from Peru, returns to his friends, the Browns, and gets into more mischief than ever!

Who Was Abraham Lincoln? – $ .12 ½ A children’s biography of Abraham Lincoln. I’ve recently read Who Was Ronald Reagan? from the same series and found it thorough, considering its audience.

Pride of the Green Mountains – $ .12 ½
Spirit of the West – $ .12 ½
The Island Stallion’s Fury – $ .12 ½
Unbroken – $ .12 ½
Four random horse stories.

Stephen of Philadelphia – $ .12 ½ This Abeka book is set in Philadelphia during its earliest days. It describes the lifestyle and history of that city and its inhabitants through the story of Stephen, an immigrant to America.   

How I Came to Be a Writer – $ .12 ½ Written by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, the author of Shiloh and The Fear Place, this volume outlines how she pursued her writing career.

Total Spent = $ 13.17

Total Value = $ 268.50

Next Book Sale = September 14, 2013

The Wright Brothers

Title: The Wright Brothers
Author: George Sullivan
Pages: 126
Recommended Ages: 8 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!

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Do you know – never in my life have I flown in a plane.

#yesiknowimdeprived

Their Lives.

Although separated in age by several years (Wilbur was born in 1867, Orville in 1871) Wilbur and Orville Wright were inseparable friends and play-fellows, even as children. As they grew older, they began to co-partner in business ventures; their two favorite enterprises were printing newspapers and repairing bicycles. While in their twenties, the Wright boys opened their own bicycle repair shop and began making steady incomes.

Already inclined toward engineering and mechanics, it was natural that Wilbur and Orville should find themselves interested in the ever-advancing attempts at flight. Their first experiments were with kites and gliders.  It was in a glider that they first began their famous Kitty Hawk enterprises. But their great success came in the winter of 1903, when their engine-powered airplane first made its debut.

Unfortunately, Wilbur Wright was paranoid by the thought of others stealing his work, and, although he sought a buyer, he refused to give demonstrations of his airplane and was thus viewed with incredulity. It was not until 1908 that Wilbur finally agreed to give a public demonstration of the airplane he and Orville had built.

The rest of Wilbur’s life was spent dazzling and fighting people. Dazzling them with his invention, fighting them over its patent. At the age of forty-five, he died from typhoid fever.

Orville, on the other hand, did not enjoy the prospect of legal battles, but accepted his position as President of the Wright Company. After several years of uneasiness, he withdrew from this as well, and took up residence in Hawthorne Hill, a mansion which he had designed himself. After the patent wars ended, most of them being decided in the Wrights’ favor, Orville became a rich man. He died at the age of seventy-seven after his second heart attack.

Cautions.

None. Yay! :)

Conclusion. A fine introduction for children, The Wright Brothers will satisfy the preliminary questions about aviation and will likely spark more!

Facts and Fun About the Presidents

Title: Facts and Fun About the Presidents
Author: George Sullivan
Pages: 96
Recommended Ages: 10 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

Hi there! As of October 2013, I have upgraded to a new site – The Blithering Bookster – where I have posted all of my old reviews and continue to post new ones. Hoist yourself over to join the fun!

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There are various ways to learn about our Presidents; you can find biographies which describe them exhaustively, you might find a textbook that briefly introduces all of them, or you can do it the fun way. You can buy books like Facts and Fun About the Presidents.

Facts and Fun doesn’t tell you all that much about the Presidents’ political stances or religious beliefs, but it does tell you about the Roosevelt’s pet pony who rode in the White House elevator, and the nickname Grover Cleveland gave his favorite hunting rifle.

Tidbits.

Abraham Lincoln sometimes made jokes about his homely looks. When Senator Stephen A. Douglas called him a ‘two-faced man,’ Lincoln replied, “If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?” [pg. 65]

Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth President, never wasted words. His nick-name was ‘Silent Cal’.

A reporter once said to him: “I bet someone that I could get more than two words out of you.”

Replied Cal: “You lose.” [pg. 65]

Abigail Adams, First Lady from 1797-1801, brought the first piano to the White House. [pg. 43]

Five of the forty-one Presisents had no children. The thirty-six Presidents who did have children had a total of 151 – 90 were boys and 61 were girls. [pg. 31]

“Herbert Hoover’s son, Allan, had two pet alligators that sometimes were permitted to wander loose around the White House.” [pg. 42]

Ulysses S. Grant smoked twenty cigars a day. [pg. 82]

Conclusion. Each of the Presidents are treated with the same degree of approbation. Because no serious issues were addressed, this worked fine. Facts and Fun About the Presidents is filled with those kinds of facts that children love to remember – the funny ones. Purchase a copy here.