Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Friday, November 25, 2016

Death in the Shadows

McCusker, Paul. Death in the Shadows. Oxford: Lion Fiction, 2016.

Father Gilbert is attending a church conference. He becomes involved in an investigation led by his friend and former law enforcement colleague Detective Inspector Gwynn. A prostitute was murdered, and one of the suspects is a fellow clergyman. The area is saturated with "spas" offering under the table services. I was uncomfortable reading this book. Lion Fiction has published some of the better written Christian fiction. However, I do not think many Christian readers will be comfortable reading about sexual slavery. I think even fewer of them want a sleuthing priest to make a call requesting services even if he is only investigating and does not engage the young woman for her services. The book is well-written, but it is far outside my comfort zone. I considered abandoning it. This review is based on an advance readers copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.


Thursday, November 03, 2016

Remarriage after Divorce Was Not an Option

I've been studying many of Mississippi's laws that affect our research as genealogists. Sargent's Code, the earliest collection of laws dating back to 1799 in the Territorial Period of the state's history is not freely available online. However, an 1807 version of The Statues of the Mississippi Territory is available at Google Books.

In today's culture and society, remarriage after a divorce is pretty commonplace, but in the early days of Mississippi's existence, it was not permitted. Chapter 13, section 4 of this code reads:

And be it further enacted, That divorces from the bond of matrimony shall also be decreed, where either of the parties had another wife or husband, living at the time of such second or other marriages : and that all marriages, where either of the parties shall have a former wife or husband living, at the time of such marriage, shall be invalid from the beginning, and absolutely void.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Oliver, Mary. Upstream: Selected Essays. New York: Penguin Books, 2016.

When I first saw this book, its subtitle was "essays and poems." When I received the book, its subtitle was "selected essays." I love Mary Oliver's poetry so I was curious about her writing in the essay format; however, I really was not that thrilled about the book having very little poetry of hers with a couple of exceptions, introducing the book and perhaps one section. I was, however, pleasantly surprised that many of her essays were almost poetic because of the way she described things. In one section she reflects on the writings of other poets, and parts of their poems are included. I found all of the essays readable, but a few did not quite live up to the poetic characteristic of others. Still, all in all, it is a good collection, even if I was disappointed Oliver's own poetry was not really present. This review is based on an advance review copy received by the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.



Atwood, Margaret. Hag-Seed. (Hogarth Shakespeare) New York: Hogarth Shakespeare, Crown Publishing, 2016.

Margaret Atwood did a remarkable job re-imagining Shakespeare's The Tempest. Since his release as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Festival, Felix Phillips has been going by the name Mr. Duke and teaching theatre to a group of prisoners at a medium security institution. He calls his group the Fletcher Correctional Players. The class is more than simply theatre, but he uses theatre as a means to teach other material and critical thinking to the inmates. When the person who had him ousted is set to visit the facility in his official governmental role, Felix sees his opportunity for revenge. He decides to perform The Tempest. He chooses the role of Prospero for himself, gets the woman who was to play Miranda before he was ousted to portray her in this version, and assigns the inmates their roles.  This work is certain to please Shakespeare enthusiasts as well as those who love Atwood's writing. I received an electronic copy for review purposes from the publisher through NetGalley.


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Holy Shakespeare!

Sparks, Maisie. Holy Shakespeare!: 101 Scriptures that Appear in Shakespeare's Plays, Poems, and Sonnets. New York: Faith Words, 2016.

I was looking forward to this book, thinking perhaps the author was using the Scriptures and passages of Shakespeare to create devotional thoughts. I was disappointed when I opened the book to find only the passage from Shakespeare at the top and the Scripture at the bottom with a few pages of short "facts" about Shakespeare or his times scattered in between. This is definitely a marginal purchase for most persons and libraries as other books treat the subject better from both an academic and devotional point of view. The bibliography at the end of the book is probably the most useful aspect of the entire volume. This review is based on an advance uncorrected proof e-galley provided by the publisher for review purposes through NetGalley.

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Napoleon's Last Island

Keneally, Tom. Napoleon's Last Island. New York: Atria, 2016.

Abandoned read. Napoleon was exiled to the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic in 1815. His residence was not fully renovated so he spent time near the Balcombe family home. Betsy Balcombe, in particular, became a friend of Napoleon for the remainder of their lives. Keneally's well-researched novel focuses on the strange relationship between the two. What the novelist failed to do was create anything that engaged me as a reader. I made it approximately one third of the way into the book before deciding to quit reading it. Other persons may find the book more engaging than I did, particularly if they have a strong interest in Napoleon or enjoyed other books by the author. This review is based on an advance reader's e-galley provided by the publisher through Edelweiss for review purposes.


Saturday, October 01, 2016

Crossing the Waters

Fields, Leslie Leyland. Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus Through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2016.

Fields, the author of this volume, resides in Kodiak, Alaska, where she works with her family in the commercial fishing industry. This book relates stories from her own experience. She also travels to Israel where she visits the waters Jesus himself frequented -- the Sea of Galilee and Jordan River. I found the narrative to be fairly rambling, jumping around in locations of the stories, and making the reader question how they got from Alaska to Israel. I felt the narratives needed further editing to really polish them and have the desired impact. The Bible study materials in the appendix were quite good and probably could be used whether Fields' main book was read or not. I received an advance electronic copy of the book through Edelweiss for review purposes.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Return of Sir Percival: Book 1, Guinivere's Prayer

O'Keefe, S. Alexander. The Return of Sir Percival: Book 1, Guinevere's Prayer. Austin, Texas: Greenleaf Book Publishing Group, 2016.

Sequels to classic literary works either work well or fail miserably. Fortunately this one keeps the reader looking forward to the story unfolding. It's ten years after the fall of Camelot. Everyone believes Sir Percival who went in search of the Holy Grail met his death along the way. Guinivere remains in the abbey. Merlin is still around, mainly putting his "magic" to use for medicinal purposes. Sir Galahad is going by the name Lord Aeron and serving the evil Morgana. This is a wonderful revisit with the Knights of the Round Table. O'Keefe does a great job telling his story, and it's certain to please those who love the Arthurian legend. It's one of my top reads this year. This review is based on an electronic galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Another Me

Wiseman, Eva. Another Me. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2016.

The setting is 14th century Strasbourg where the Jews are accused of poisoning the well water. Kaspar the butcher and his friends have begun persecuting the Jewish community. A Jewish boy named Natan became fascinated with Elena, the daughter of another draper but one who is fair. When Natan confronts Kaspar's gang about what he saw, he is killed and becomes an "ibbur," residing inside the body of Hans, Elena's father's apprentice. Soon the bubonic plague breaks out in the city, while the persecution continues. I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and this title sounded very promising. However, when the plot took on the "ghostly" element, my enjoyment plunged. To be fair to the author, the concept of the "ibbur" began to take hold in the late 13th century. I just felt it was unnecessary in this plot and the plot would be stronger had she allowed Natan to escape. I found the plot implausible. I enjoyed the historical parts about the persecution of the Jews and about the bubonic plague; however, I felt Wiseman's writing was not all that strong. The book is a bit of a mixed bag with some parts enjoyable and others not and with some parts plausible and others not. I received an electronic e-galley of the book from the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.