Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

An Event in Autumn

Mankell, Henning. An Event in Autumn. New York: Knopf Doubleday, 2014.

Kurt Wallander receives a call from Martinson on his day off. Wallander really does not want to be interrupted, but he takes the call. Martinson is offering Wallander the first opportunity to purchase a property from some of his wife's relatives and wants Wallander to go out and take a look. He almost buys it but discovers a hand sticking up in the ground. Further investigation locates an entire skeleton that has been there for awhile. A good bit of time is spent awaiting the forensic report, and when it finally arrives the investigation must seek to determine the deceased woman's identify. I'll leave the rest of the book for you to discover. I enjoyed this visit with Kurt Wallander. The plot is not as action-filled as some of the others, partially due to the dynamics of this particular investigation, but it does not bog down because of the short length of the installment. Mankell's writing even in this briefer volume is a cut above that of many mysteries. The author actually wrote this book awhile ago as a free novel for those who purchased a crime novel in Holland during a particular month, and it fits chronologically before the last installment of the series, The Troubled Man. It is a short, quick, and enjoyable read that certainly foreshadows Wallander's retirement. Fans of Wallander will want to read this one. Those who are reading the series in order may wish to read this one prior to The Troubled Man. I received an uncorrected proof e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.


Saturday, August 02, 2014

Torn Away

Brown, Jennifer. Torn Away. New York: Little, Brown, 2014.

Jersey's world is torn apart when a tornado rips through her Missouri town, taking away the only family she has ever known. The fatality toll is high for such a small town, and school ends early because the school is also destroyed. Jersey and her friends survive the first couple of days until her stepfather finds her and takes her to a hotel, but he's devastated by the loss of his wife and daughter and can't cope with it all. I don't want to say too much about the rest of the plot for fear of revealing spoilers. The first part of the story is probably essential but it is slow and hard to get into. After Jersey's life begins to drastically change, this novel turns into a real tear-jerker. It leaves the reader wanting to know more about what happened to Jersey during her senior year. The ending certainly makes it possible for the author to create a sequel that can tie up some of the things that may not have been fully resolved while exploring a slightly different theme. It's a book that many teens will enjoy reading and can certainly be used to explore themes relating to grief and disaster. I received an Advance Reading Copy of this title through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program with the expectation that a review would be written.


Sunday, July 27, 2014


Moalem, Sharon. Inheritance: How Our Genes Change Our Lives and Our Lives Change Our Genes. New York: Grand Central, 2014.

An interesting look at  medical genetics, written with the general public in mind. Many books on the subject are over the head of the average lay reader, but Moalem, a researcher and practicing doctor in the field of genetics, breaks it down so that most readers will understand. He doesn't cover a great deal of material, focusing on only one or two examples per chapter. He usually does not provide the SNP responsible for inherited conditions in his writing, although a person wanting to know more can likely find articles in library databases that will provide the information if they are willing to wade through scientific details. As a genealogist, I loved his recommendation at the end of chapter 6. He says, "One of the best gifts you can provide them [your siblings, children, and grandchildren] with is a thorough genealogical history, starting with what you know about the health of your own parents and moving on up and across the family tree as far as you can." (p. 122) He also cautions persons considering genetic testing to consider its implications for health and life insurance coverage. There is some great information in the book, but it does bog down a bit in places and probably focuses a bit too much on his own work in places although that it is what is most familiar to him.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Secrets of Hallstead House

Reade, Amy M. Secrets of Hallstead House. New York: Kensington, 2014.

Macy Stoddard of New York City, recovering from the loss of her parents in an accident, takes a nursing job on an island in the St. Lawrence River at Summerplace, also known as Hallstead House. Her job is to provide care and therapy for Alexandria Hallstead who is recovering from a fall. Macy is afraid of the water as she leaves the mainland for the island as she has never learned to swim. She likes Pete, the local man who often works for Alexandria and took her by the island though which puts her more at ease than she expected. She is met with hostility by the housekeeper and her husband the handyman as well as Alexandria's nephew. Macy soon learns that Alexandria's only daughter had met her death by drowning and that Alexandria's husband had suffered a fatal fall. When Macy learns the real reason that Alexandria has invited her to the island, Macy isn't sure that she wants to stay. This story has many of the elements of the classic romantic suspense novel. Readers who enjoyed the works of Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt will find much to enjoy in the novel. It suffers a bit in the believability department in a few places, but the pleasure of finding a book that took me back to my early love of this genre more than made up for it. I received an advance e-galley for review by the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation that a review would be written.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Psalms and Prayers for Little Ones

Nolan, Allia Zobel. Psalms and Prayers for Little Ones. Illustrated by Tammie Lyon. Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House, 2014.

This little volume takes several of the Psalms and paraphrases them so younger children can more easily understand them. It then pairs them with a short prayer based on each Psalm. The illustrations are good but not the quality that would be found in a Caldecott medal or honor book. The paraphrases sometimes stray a bit too far from some of the mainstream versions for my own tastes. If that does not bother you as much, this might be a book for your child or grandchild. There are certainly some Scripture truths to be learned here. This review is based on an advance review e-galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review. I did find the "Review Copy" in black letters on each pair of pages to be of overkill. Perhaps the publisher needs to learn the art of watermarking the images so they are still readable but easily identified as review copies.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Summer Wind

Monroe, Mary Alice. The Summer Wind. New York: Gallery Books, 2014.

Mamaw has convinced Carson, Dora, and Harper to spend the summer at Sea Breeze one final time before it is put on the market. Carson is the victim of downsizing and is seeking a job. Dora is in the midst of a divorce and has a child with Asperger's syndrome (Nate). Harper is well off financially but isn't very happy in New York City. Also present is Mamaw's longtime employee Lucille who is like family. Most off Monroe's books that I have read have an environmental aspect to them. In this particular installment, readers are made aware of dolphin rehabilitation groups through an incident involving Carson and Nate and a dolphin that became ensnared in a fishing line. Each character is dealing with hurt and each must be healed from the scars of his/her/its own situation. It's a good summer read, and Monroe has woven together a plot where all the threads compliment each other and create a multidimensional portrayal of what healing is. Although I loved all the characters and they are all well drawn, my favorite has to be Lucille. My only disappointment is that we really do not get to see the complete resolution for every situation. We do see progress. I suspect that Monroe will revisit one or more of the characters in a future book. I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation that a review would be written. There were a couple of misspellings in the ARC which I hope are corrected in the official version.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Long Way Home

Brierley, Saroo. A Long Way Home. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2014.

Saroo Brierley managed to get lost from his home in India by jumping aboard a train at the age of five. He traveled all the way to Calcutta with no identification, landing in an orphanage in that city. A couple from Australia adopted him. This is the story of his life and of his search for his family in India using the Internet, especially Google Earth and Facebook, to locate his home town. I don't want to provide spoilers so I'll simply say that the search illustrates how limited a five year old's vocabulary can sometimes be. Many memoirs can be rather boring and sometimes suffer from being poorly written but this one was a quick well-written read and managed to maintain my interest.  Persons interested in intercountry adoption or in locating birth parents will likely find it interesting. This review is based on an "Uncorrected Manuscript for Limited Distribution" received through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program with the expectation that a review would be written.