ARC

Book Review: The Ghosts of Johns Hopkins

The Ghosts of Johns Hopkins: The Life and Legacy That Shaped an American CityThe Ghosts of Johns Hopkins: The Life and Legacy That Shaped an American City by Antero Pietila

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to love this book. As a current Johns Hopkins graduate student, I spent two weeks in 2018 traveling around Baltimore getting to know its history and its people. I learned so much as a student and I was thrilled to grab an advanced copy of this book in hopes of learning a bit more about the city and the history of the university that calls Baltimore home. Alas, it was not to be.

It’s difficult to write a book about a man who destroyed all of his papers and correspondence. I get that. However, Antero Pietila tries to cover a Johns Hopkins the man, Johns Hopkins the University, and Johns Hopkins as the city of Baltimore. It’s just too great a swath of time and place to discuss well. Rather than a succinct history of a person, place, or time, Pietila has left us with a rambling narrative that only briefly touches on Johns Hopkins the man but also highlights struggles in funding a university, Civil War strife, grave robbing, building various railroads, race riots, mobs, and more. It’s incredibly difficult to follow as time jumps from the 1700s to the 1920s to the 1850s and back again. I often wasn’t sure who was being profiled or what century I was even in anymore.

While there are some really interesting bits of information (the part on Arabbers and the history of rent-to-own homes were fascinating) the book is just so difficult to follow and tedious to read that I quickly lost interest. For those who have an intimate knowledge of Baltimore, very little in the book will be a revelation. Most importantly, this book isn’t really about Johns Hopkins at all but an overarching view of the history of the university with a greater focus on the city of Baltimore.

It’s not often that I don’t finish a book, particularly an advanced copy, but this one is going to sit on the “to finish” shelf for a bit longer.

Advertisements

Book Review: What Lies Below

What Lies BelowWhat Lies Below by Barbara Taylor Sissel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What Lies Below by Barbara Taylor Sissel is a mystery novel, a suspense novel, and a romance novel all rolled into one. Gilly O’Connell is a broken woman. She sees things other people can’t and it’s caused her unending heartbreak her entire life. She’s lost friends, family, and even her husband and child. Yet she can’t stop her dreams and must deal with the consequences that come with visions of events she is powerless to stop.

I read mysteries (a lot) and so very little in this book came as a shock to me. There was maybe one “WHOA!” moment in the entire book. However, that didn’t ruin it for me. The characters could have been fleshed out a bit more, and there were times that I thought characters could have asked more questions or probed deeper in a particular situation. Some of the chapters didn’t flow as smoothly into one another but it didn’t detract from the story. Finally, we all know that I hate the tidy bow at the end of a story and this one wrapped up just a little too cleanly for my tastes.

Overall, the book was a good read. It was quick and intriguing and I’d highly recommend it to any fan of mystery/suspense with a little bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

*I received an advanced electronic copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley.*