Reviews by Sara W
Just so-so
This book is based on the absolutely incredible true story of Kim Philby, a double agent who was very senior in Britain's intelligence service, an entrenched member of the upper class, and a confidante of the CIA. Philby was a complicated figure, to say the least, but this story doesn't really succeed in making him come to life. Because of his deeply secretive double life, I didn't expect to find him particularly relatable, but I expected to feel more connected to the story and engaged at least in the outcome, which I really didn't get.

For a much better take on Philby, I highly recommend Ben MacIntyre's A Spy Among Friends.
Great Start
This is a great title to review before you bring your new baby home, and very helpful to have around in the first months. It was a great relief to refer to this resource to help determine what occurrences are normal, and which might need attention. Great tips and instructions for new parents and all written in a nonjudgmental and reassuring tone.
The Life of a Wealthy Recluse
Having never heard of Huguette Clark, or her copper magnate father, W.A. Clark, before I picked up this book, I was amazed at how drawn into the story I became. Author Bill Dedman's explanation of how he discovered Huguette's never-occupied, monumental real estate holdings worked its magic on me and I was hooked. It's not just Huguette's bizarre reclusive lifestyle that fascinated me, but the fact that due to unusual longevity, she and her father combined lived for a total of 190 years. Between the two of them, they lived through a pretty sizable chunk of American history.
Laugh Out Loud Cookbook
You don’t expect a cookbook to make you laugh out loud, but that’s exactly what Jennifer Reese‘s Make the Bread, Buy the Butter did to me. Reese is a practical homemaker, humorous writer, and a daredevil in the kitchen.

Inspired by the discovery that frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a thing that exist, she launches a “make it or buy it” examination of foods from butter to vanilla extract. Reese makes foods I’ve never thought of as homemade – vanilla extract being one example. She says she’ll try anything – and she does. She ranges from tamer experiments, like making bagels and yogurt from scratch, to kitchen adventures that take some real guts, like raising and slaughtering chickens and curing her own bacon.

I like a lot of things about this cookbook, but what I enjoyed the most are the introductions to each chapter and to each recipe. The author sets the stage for each new food foray and her self-deprecating humor is pretty hilarious. I laughed out loud at the passage when her husband discovered she’d bought chickens to raise. She’s honest about when she takes shortcuts, when a recipe just isn’t worth the work, and when her kids tell her she’s nuts.

Another plus is how the book is laid out. For each recipe, she answers the question asked in the title: make it or buy it? She also offers a cost breakdown between supermarket brands and homemade. If you weren’t motivated to make your own cocoa mix or Hollandaise sauce when you turned to that page, you might change your mind after reading her cost and taste comparisons.

I’ve recommended this cookbook to even my most kitchen-challenged friends. I think it’s as pleasant to just read and enjoy as it is to cook from. It’s clear that Reese simply believes food should taste good and she doesn’t discriminate about foods like potato chips (buy them) and hot dog buns (make them).
Read it for the fun of it and you might surprise yourself with what recipes you end up wanting to try out for yourself.
Great narrator
The narrator of this audiobook does an amazing job capturing each character's distinctive voice - from Elizabeth Tassell's wheeze to Orlando's plaintive appeals. Strong mystery, very descriptive and well-paced, and engaging right until the end, but the audiobook experience really clinched it for me. Well done.