Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Singapore Sapphire



Stuart, A. M. Singapore Sapphire. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2019.

After losing her husband and son in India, Harriet Gordon works at a school in Singapore where her clergyman brother Julian serves as headmaster. She decides to offer stenography services to provide income. She discovers her client Oswald Newbold's murdered body. Harriet's skills impress Inspector Curran. A clue VOC, which most people consider the old East India Company, surfaces. Inspector Curran and Harriet both know it must bear a different meaning. As the investigation begins to focus on the victim's past, multiple suspects emerge.1910 Singapore offers an interesting setting. I read an advance review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

The Healing Jar



Brunstetter, Wanda E. The Healing Jar. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, 2019.

When Jesse and his young daughter move to their community, Lenore falls in love with the motherless child. She gets her chance at love, but will Jesse be able to move past his love for his first wife to give Cindy the mother she needs? Threads of the story focus on Sara's pursuit of finding her biological father and Michelle's move with husband Ezekiel to New York. I haven't read the earlier books in this series, but I feel certain they provide additional insights into the characters backstories. While the writing style needs improvement, the story itself is enjoyable and should resound with fans of the Amish fiction genre. Discussion questions at the end provide good fodder for book discussion groups in churches. I received an advance review copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Amish Voices: A Collection of Amish Writings



Igou, Brad, compiler. Amish Voices: A Collection of Amish Writings. Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2019.

Brad Igou collected writings from Amish publications on such topics as Amish history, marriage and family, work, church, discipline (especially church discipline), clothing, aging and death, and war and peace. While many people think they know what Amish believe, this book shares their beliefs in their own words. While I enjoyed the book, coverage was uneven. Some topics such as rumspringa which interest the "English" barely received treatment. I would have enjoyed more perspectives from nineteenth century Amish life, but I really do not know if the same type periodical literature or even diaries and letters survive that would allow the Amish to share their story from that era. I received an advance copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.


Belsinger, Susan. Grow Your Own Herbs: The 40 Best Culinary Varieties for Home Gardens. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2019.

This book discusses growing one's own herbs. It discusses not only how to grow them but also how to use them fresh or to preserve them for later use. The illustrations are lovely. Some aspects of the narrative may be more detailed than the average lay person wants, but those with strong interest in herbal gardening will find it useful. I received an electronic review copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Liar in the Library



Brett, Simon. The Liar in the Library. Edinburgh: Black Thorn, 2019.

Boring! The description I read on NetGalley mentioned an inspector. I did not realize this was a late installment in a cozy series. A man allergic to walnuts meets his death from something laced with walnuts. For those new to the series, the characters are not well-enough developed in this book to make it enjoyable. I did not enjoy it and really wish it had been a police procedural instead of a cozy. I received an advance electronic book through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

The Artist Who Loved Cats


Bernardo, Susan S. The Artist Who Loved Cats: The Inspiring Tale of Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen. Illustrated by Courtenay Fletcher. Los Angeles: Inner Flower Child Books, 2019.

Telling the story of Theophile Alexandre Steinlen, the artist famous for his Chat Noir cat illustrations, this picture book will please young readers who love cats. A young girl sees a bronze cat in a shop, enters, and hears the story from the shop owner (and from the cat). I enjoyed the illustrations. A little more biographical information is presented after the main part of the picture book. I received an advance copy through NetGalley with the expectation I would write an honest review.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

A Dagger Before Me



Dams, Jeanne M. A Dagger Before Me. Scottsdale, Arizona: Poisoned Pen Press, 2019.

The first half of the book more or less is nothing but a story of village life and traveling about England and a collection of odd British facts. About halfway into the book, Dorothy and Alan visit one of Alan's former colleague's sons to be godparents at the christening of a newborn son. A rite involving a dagger must be performed at the christening so the boy can inherit according to the estate's entail. Unfortunately the dagger is missing. Then a woman claiming to be mother of the current estate holder is found with a dagger in her back although she died of smoke inhalation. Alan and Dorothy assist a bit but most of the investigation is handled by the police. The ending seemed a bit abrupt. A better editor would have told the author to cut the first half of the book and expand the rest. Waiting until halfway through a book for a stolen dagger and corpse is too long in a mystery. I used to love the Dorothy Martin series but the last few I read contain major problems. Dams needs to decide whether she wants to write about village life or mysteries and stick with the genre. I received an advance electronic review copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Amish Widow's Rescue



Good, Rachel J. The Amish Widow's Rescue. New York: Forever, 2019.

When Grace’s husband dies suddenly, neighbor Elijah helps with the children as she accompanies her husband to the hospital. He helps with her chores as she manages two children, a baby on the way, a jam business, and household duties. Elijah is distrustful of women after what happened in his own family. The two find themselves being drawn to one another in her year of mourning. The Amish in this novel are more progressive than in many others as they use technology in business with the bishop’s approval. It was an enjoyable summer read embracing truths without being preachy. I received an advance review copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

The Amish Cookie Club



Price, Sarah. The Amish Cookie Club. New York: Zebra/Kensington, 2019.

Myrna's gift is organization; however, what is organized to her may not be organized to someone else. Reorganizing merchandise leads to her job loss. She ends up back in her father's hardware store in the back. One of the Amish women who bakes cookies with her mother suggests Myrna might be able to help a widower by caring for his four children and keeping house while he minds the farm. Zeke makes it clear he lacks interest in marrying again. The rumor mill suggests he does not believe in medicine and that he refused medical treatment for his late wife. Everyone who encounters him finds him to very nice and caring and don't understand how he might be so conservative as to refuse medical treatments but still allow running water and other more progressive things. The Amish women wonder almost immediately if Myrna and Zeke will marry. While this is not great literature, it is the perfect escape. It was the right book at the right time--a clean, wholesome romance. This review is based on an electronic copy received through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Milk Soaps



Faiola, Anne-Marie. Milk Soaps: 35 Skin-Nourishing Recipes for Making Milk-Enriched Soaps, from Goat to Almond. North Adams, Massachusetts: Storey Publishing, 2019.

If you are interested in making soaps, look no further than this guide by Anne-Marie Faiola. She gives step-by-step instructions, each of which is accompanied by a photographic illustration. The soaps range in creation difficulty from fairly simple to very complex. She explains differences in ingredients and explains chemical reactions and textures that might be achieved. She even includes a section at the end which anticipates questions users might have, such as the need for distilled water versus tap water. The milks used in recipes include mammals, such as cows and goats, nuts, and grains. She explains the process of creating milk from the last two sources. She discusses molds, from simple disposable ones to more elaborate ones. She provides lists of "kitchen tools" soapmakers need. The soaps are lovely and would make wonderful gifts. It's a fascinating book, but I'm a bit intimidated by it, probably because of the complexity of some of the more advanced recipes. Workman Publishing sent me an email offering me an egalley of the book which was offered through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Sad News from Loudon County

Last week the world watched as Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral burned. This week East Tennesseans are watching a fire burn the Loudon County Courthouse. The county mayor says it is a significant if not total loss.

The only thing we know for certain was rescued at this point is a flag. Efforts were underway to salvage what they could.

Fortunately many records are microfilmed by Tennessee State Library & Archives. These same records are available in Knoxville's Calvin M. McClung Collection in the East Tennessee History Center. FamilySearch offers a handful of records in comparison to the holdings of Tennessee State Library & Archives.

Many researchers know about Tennessee's county archives program. Sadly Loudon's archives is classified as partial or inactive.

I don't have a photo to share because of copyright issues. This news story offers a photo at the moment, but it may be updated as the evening progresses.

I hope early records are saved, but I'm thankful many records are preserved through microfilming and digitization.

UPDATE: The local news reports many historic documents were recently removed because a "historic preservation society" was being established. I wonder if that means a county archives. Hopefully we'll learn more soon.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Mr. Finchley Discovers His England



Canning, Victor. Mr. Finchley Discovers His England. 1934. Reprint, Richmond, United Kingdom: Farrago, 2019.

Mr. Finchley who serves as clerk for a London firm finds himself taking a 3-week vacation for the first time in years. The new manager insisted he take it. He books himself for a trip to Margate, but from the beginning of his trip things take a strange turn. Mr. Finchley finds himself in one adventure after another. Mr. Finchley is not one to be on the wrong side of the law, but he finds himself skirting it on several occasions because he is too trusting of shady characters he encounters along the way. The humor comes mostly from seeing what one considers a straight-laced person in the situations in which he finds himself. He learns quite a bit about himself along the way. The novel is not a new one. It first appeared in print in 1934. Although I enjoyed the book, I found it was one I could easily put down. I received an electronic galley in exchange for an honest review of the book.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Crazy Plant Lady



Serna, Isabel. Crazy Plant Lady. New York: Workman Publishing, 2019.

I might have enjoyed this book more if I were truly a crazy plant lady, but I'm more of a crazy cat lady, and one illustration said "Plant lady is the new cat lady," a sentiment with which I strongly disagree. The book seemed more repetitive than the cat lady volume. The illustrations are nice, and it's a gift book I'm sure plant ladies will enjoy. Workman Publishing invited me to download an electronic galley through NetGalley. NetGalley's terms expect an honest review for e-galleys received.

Crazy Cat Lady



Loonstra, Agnes and Ester Scholten. Crazy Cat Lady. New York: Workman Publishing, 2019.

This is a perfect gift book for a cat-loving female like myself! The illustrations and text provide content to which we can relate. Workman Publishing invited me to download an electronic copy which was delivered through NetGalley. NetGalley's terms expect an honest review in exchange for electronic galleys.

Muddy: The Raccoon Who Stole Dishes



Ondaatje, Griffin and Linda Wolfsgruber. Muddy: The Raccoon Who Stole Dishes. New York: NorthSouth Books, 2019.

While most of the raccoons learned it is best to leave the garbage on the other side of the river alone, Muddy braves it each night. The other raccoons fear it will get him into big trouble. One day he crosses the river, goes into the restaurant, steals a plate, and pushes it across the river, heaping the plate with others he's stolen. The other raccoons help him wash the dishes and return all the plates, clearing the restaurant in the process. This book, first published in Switzerland, offers nice illustrations, but the story may not resonate with some readers.I received an advance electronic copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood



Rogers, Fred and Josie Carey. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2019.

Fans of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood will love this collection of song lyrics from the show. Fred Rogers wrote many of them, although Josie Carey contributed lyrics for several. Fred Rogers earned a degree in music composition and lent his skills to the accompanying music, which is not included in this collection focusing on the lyrics. The art work by Luke Flowers seems to fit the lyrics although the illustrations reflect the twenty-first century rather than the era of the show. For example, one illustration shows a modern flat screen computer monitor in a doctor's office. As I read the book and looked at the accompanying illustrations, I often thought, "We need Mister Rogers' influence on today's children." I received an electronic copy from the publisher through NetGalley with expectation of an honest review.

The Family Tree Problem Solver (3rd edition)



Rising, Marsha Hoffman. The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried-and-True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors. 3rd edition. Cincinnati: Family Tree Books, 2019.

This review applies to the 3rd edition (2019) of the book. Marsha Hoffman Rising's [The Family Tree Problem Solver] inspired many genealogists to move beyond basic ancestral searches to more meaningful research which meets the genealogical proof standard. Marsha died in 2010, so I was curious why a third edition bearing her name alone was being released. Although it is obvious someone edited the original work to include website addresses and even information about the FamilySearch Wiki and other resources which did not exist during Marsha's lifetime, no one takes credit for these revisions. A chapter about "tree hints" was added by Sunny Morton, a well-known popular press genealogical author, and a chapter on using DNA was written by Diahan Southard, a well-regarded genealogical DNA lecturer. Neither of these chapters lives up to the standards the original author set, weakening the overall book. While care was taken to include web addresses and resources, references to Everton's Genealogical Helper and to the censuses on CD-ROM illustrate a problem in the new edition's editing. Everton's Genealogical Helper suspended operations years ago. While a person might find a clue about someone who researched an individual or family in the past, the contact information, if the query submitter remains alive, may be dated. While a few of us still own some of those CD-ROMs, very few use them. Ancestry, FamilySearch, and other online databases provide the access we need to the censuses. The book needed to be edited more thoroughly, and someone needed to take credit for their editing and revision role with an added author. The chapter on "tree hints" just does not fit the nature of the book. It is too basic of a topic. It remains at the "search" level described by Rising rather than the "research" one. While I appreciated Diahan Southard's comments when she talked about researching specific families, the chapter did not adequately demonstrate using DNA as evidence. Also missing from the chapter was a bibliography of published case studies demonstrating how to use DNA, which Rising would have provided if she were alive. The content originally written by Rising remains valuable although researchers may need to discover resources current researchers use in place of some of those no longer available. This review is based on an advance electronic copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley with expectations of an honest review.

Murder Once Removed



Perkins, S. C. Murder Once Removed. New York: Minotaur Books, 2019.

Lucy Lancaster, a professional genealogist, researches the family of Gus Halloran, uncovering a mystery surrounding the mid-19th century death of Seth Halloran. A photographer's journal states he was murdered by C.A. and then the scene was tampered to make it look as though he were trampled by horses. Lucy finds two candidates for C.A., but since enmity runs deep between the Applewhite and Halloran families, Gus focuses on that solution when he tells his family's story in a press conference. A page, possibly revealing the identity of C.A., was missing from the journal. As Lucy investigates, she runs into an FBI agent moonlighting as a history professor and into danger. I enjoyed the historic mystery; however, several things bothered me about the book. Lucy discusses research several times in very vague terms, making me wonder how familiar the author was with genealogical research. At one point Lucy tells another character about her flat rate package for researching "first family" Texas ancestry. Very few professional genealogists offer flat rate packages these days because it is nearly impossible to predict how long it will take to make a genealogically sound connection to a qualifying individual. Those who do offer such a package generally work for a larger firm rather than for themselves. Most charge an hourly rate plus expenses with a retainer collected up front. The balance is usually due before the final report is sent. The biggest error concerned census research. Lucy found results in the 1890 census. That census was mostly destroyed by fire. For the state in question, fragments of three enumeration districts in two counties exist as well as the Union Veterans schedule, which was small in a Confederate state. In the extent schedules, six families appear in one county; in the other county, four families appear in one enumeration district fragment and ninety-two families in the other district. Nowhere did Lucy mention the county to which the family moved and nowhere did she mention luck at finding the family. In fact the two counties were unlikely places for the family to reside based on comments about the family's life in the state. While widows of Union veterans were sometimes heads of household in these schedules, the information supposedly gleaned from the census makes it impossible the veterans schedule was what she consulted. While the mystery held great potential, the author's unfamiliarity with genealogical research hampered its effectiveness. If the series continues, I hope the author gets a professional genealogist to read the book to find errors in record availability and in practice. The other irritating flaw in the book was the author's unprofessional conduct in several instances. No instance's activity served to advance the plot in a way that could not be achieved through ethical means. The author needs to read Genealogy Standards by the Board for Certification of Genealogists and the Association of Professional Genealogist's Code of Ethics before writing additional installments. This review reflects the text appearing in an advance electronic copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

The Shortest History of Germany



Hawes, James. The Shortest History of Germany. New York: The Experiment, 2019.

When I saw this book, I saw it as an opportunity to learn more about the history of Germany. Disappointment set in almost from the moment I opened the book. Non-existent documentation, an overly familiar writing style, and blatant political bias plagued the account. In a small book such as this, one expects superficial treatment; however, the author's biases seem to drive what he glosses over and what he treats more in-depth. The author needs to return to writing fiction and refrain from non-fiction unless he plans to document his work and ignore his own biases. I received an advance electronic copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review. The book's index was not included in the version I read.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Something Read, Something Dead



Gates, Eva. Something Read, Something Dead. New York: Crooked Lane, 2019.

The lighthouse has a crack threatening continuing library operations unless significant funds are raised. Josie's upcoming wedding brings in distant relatives from New Orleans who think she's way behind on her wedding planning and try to take over. When one of them shows up dead, Josie becomes a suspect. The state police send in their own detective since the local law enforcement know the main suspect too well. Officer Watson doesn't even try to dissuade Lucy from her investigation in his usual manner. The action takes place during winter when tourism is slow on the Outer Banks. I figured this one out much earlier than Lucy did, but it didn't stop me from enjoying my trip to the Outer Banks with the enjoyable cast of characters, including Charlie the lighthouse cat. I received an advance electronic copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.