Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Much Ado About Nutmeg

Fox, Sarah. Much Ado About Nutmeg. LaVergne, Tennessee: Lyrical Underground, 2020.

When a man goes overboard on a yacht and a vicious sports writer's body emerges from the same waters, Marley McKinney, the owner of Flip Side, a pancake house in Wildwood Cove, begins pursuing the case. In spite of reminders from the sheriff about dangers of her involvement, she questions people she encounters who are in town for the Golden Oldies Games. Marley prepares for her wedding with Brett as she runs her business and pokes her nose into the investigation. Although I did not read the previous five installments, I really enjoyed the setting and the central characters for this series. I want to go back and read the earlier installments. It's a perfect read for when you need something on the cozy side. I received an advance electronic copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Finding Time to Read

Last week saw the birth of the International Genealogy Book Club. Over the weekend members shared to be read books in piles, shelves, and digital reading stashes. Many found another book to add to the pile.

An administrator asked, "What are some of your tricks to carve more reading time out of your day?"

As someone who read over 300 books in 2018 and over 225 in 2019, I asked myself what my tricks are. I came up with a few things:

1) Listening to audio books on my commute to work and whenever I drive longer distances. Generally speaking if my drive is more than 5 minutes, I listen to an audio book. Yes, I occasionally need a break from it. I sometimes allow myself one work commute (either going or coming home) to clear my mind. If I get tired of listening on the road, I change to the radio, a CD, or downloaded music for awhile. However, I listen to audio books the majority of the time I drive.

2) Reading during lunch break. I usually either take my own lunch or grab something in the library's cafe which I take to my office. This allows me to read while I'm eating, and it gives me about a half-hour to read without interruption afterwards.

3) Reading as I man the service desk in the mornings. I open the library most days. Most students simply print assignments from our computers or retrieve print jobs sent from their rooms. Most of my job responsibilities require special software not available at the front desk. I do not usually get a lot of questions during this time so it's a good time to read.While it amounts to only 15 minutes or so, it enables me to knock out a few pages.

4) Kitty cuddle time. My cats love to sit on my lap as I read. I can even pet them and read. Turning pages may interrupt the petting momentarily, but they wait for me to resume! I read faster than I used to read. If I'm reading fiction or popular non-fiction, my rate is roughly a page per minute. If I'm reading an NGSQ article that needs to be studied or something I may use in a presentation, it takes a little longer, depending on how many notes I take, references I check, etc.

5) Morning devotional time. I read through the Bible each year using a reading plan--usually one in the YouVersion Bible app. I also use some sort of through the Bible daily devotional. These books usually contain one or two pages per day. I also read some other Christian work during the devotion time. It may be a book on Christian living, a Bible study, a devotional commentary, or other book. I try to read a chapter per day (or its equivalent).

6) A chapter per day plan. This works really well for books of short stories or essay-driven books. For example, Generations and Change offers 16 academic essays on genealogy or family history. Reading one essay/chapter per day allows me to finish it in 16 days.

7) As I catalog books. I must confess to reading every picture book which comes across my desk to add to the collection. We don't purchase a lot--usually only the Caldecott winners. However, I enjoy these momentary escapes into my childhood! We receive gift collections. Most books end up in an annual book sale, but I will hold an interesting book destined for the sale in my office to read during lunch and then put it in a box heading to the book sale room.

8) On the plane. If I'm flying, I usually read something. Sometimes it is a book; sometimes it may be NGSQ.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Facets of Death

Stanley, Michael. Facets of Death. Naperville, Illinois: Poisoned Pen Press, 2020.

In this prequel to  Kubu Bengu series, a heist at the world's largest diamond mine sends the straight-out-of-the-university Bengu and CID colleagues into investigation mode, especially when the robbers are killed but the diamonds remain missing. Suspicion falls to a local witch doctor, but the young officer comes up with a plan to solve the case. Will he succeed or fail? The novel felt disjointed to me because the chapters were so short. Ultimately the mystery itself was gratifying, but the novel's flow stymied by the writing. I received an advance review electronic copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Come Homicide or High Water

Swanson, Denise. Come Homicide or High Water. Naperville, Illinois: Poisoned Pen Press, 2020.

A woman whose husband claims she suffers dementia goes missing in Scumble River. A woman who plans to take the high school principal to court turns up dead. School psychologist Skye Denison-Boyd, now on maternity leave, and her husband Wally, chief of police, investigate. While much of the plot is implausible as in many cozy mysteries, it's still an enjoyable holiday read set around Thanksgiving but referring to Christmas in places. I received an advance electronic copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Murder in Rat Alley

Castrique, Mark de. Murder in Rat Alley. Naperville, Illinois: Poisoned Pen Press, 2019.

Sam Blackman and his partner Nakayla Robertson investigate a death linked to the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute near Asheville. The man's remains were found when equipment was brought in to help with current operations. He had been missing for decades. His former fiancee does not trust federal officials to get to the bottom of things because she thinks PAGI and other agencies covered up his disappearance. In the meantime someone burns Nakayla's home. Sam and Nakayla must work with several jurisdictional law enforcement agencies to get to the bottom of the case. I enjoy the series, but this installment did not hold my attention as much as some, likely because of some espionage elements. I learn odd bits of Western North Carolina history because of this series. The setting always delivers!  This review is based on an advance review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Giver of Stars

Moyes, Jojo. The Giver of Stars. New York: Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 2019.

Set during the years of the Works Progress Administration, this novel weaves the story of a group of pack horse librarians in the Kentucky Appalachian area. Margery spearheaded the efforts in Lee County. Alice, the English wife of the mine owner's son, Beth, Izzy, a slightly crippled young woman, and Sophia, a black woman trained to work in Louisville's libraries for blacks, assisted her. Later others began to help. Some thought the books and magazines might be too unwholesome, but they helped achieve a higher literacy rate in the area. Unhappy in her marriage and beaten by her father-in-law, Alice moved in with Margery. When a drunken man dies, apparently of an injury caused by a library book, the mine owner points suspicion to the very pregnant Margery whose family had a known feud with the man's clan. The book generates interest in the important New Deal era of American history by bringing interesting characters fulfilling an interesting role to life. Although the book included some information on the role of church in the area, particularly in regards to what materials certain persons would read, I felt the author underutilized that element by failing to show characters regularly attending church. The book ably depicts the courage and bravery of the women in navigating treacherous terrain and in humanitarian efforts during a flooding situation. I received this book through a GoodReads giveaway. Although no review is required, one is appreciated.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch

Potts, Kimberly. The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch: How the Canceled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking About Today. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2019.

Author Kimberly Potts provides insight into one of television's most beloved programs of all time. The Brady Bunch never garnered top ratings during its five seasons, but it remains popular 50 years after the first show aired in syndication. Several other programs featuring the Brady Bunch cast appeared throughout the years, sometimes with a "fake Jan" or "fake Marcia." We learn about the show's casting, about Robert Reed's hatred for the program, and more in the pages. Comparisons to other shows of the time and influence upon shows that appeared later are covered. The show's fans will want to own or read a copy of this book. The book provided a trip down memory lane as the author mentioned things I read on the pages of popular teen magazines of the 70s such as Tiger Beat. The book covers the recent HGTV renovation of the home used for exterior house shots. I received an electronic advance review copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The publisher classified this book under "Art & Photography" at NetGalley so I expected a little text with a lot of photos. Instead I got a lot of text and no photos. In spite of the disappointment, I still enjoyed the book.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

The Body in the Dumb River

Bellairs, George. The Body in the Dumb River. 1961, Reprint with new introduction by Martin Edwards. Naperville, Illinois: Poisoned Pen Press, 2019.

With flooding in the area, the local police find themselves stretched to the limit. Since Inspector Littlejohn of Scotland Yard wrapped up a case in the area, they call on him to investigate. The victim James Teasdale, aka Jim Lane, suffers the misfortune of being married to a woman from a snobbish family. He owned a carnival game attraction and spent most of the time on the road. His income helped maintain his wife's standard of living, but she nor her family knew how he really earned the income. While on the road, he lived with another woman to save money. Although the author includes several red herrings, the perpetrator seemed obvious. The writing style did not really grab me. I received an advance electronic copy from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Caribbean Irish

Garcia, Miki. The Caribbean Irish: How the Slave Myth Was Made. Alresford, Hampshire: Chronos Books, 2019.

Many Irish settled in the Caribbean region, particularly in Barbados, fairly early. They mostly came as indentured servants, but this led to a rumor of enslavement. The sugar trade in the Caribbean drove the need for workers in the region, and the Irish, considered less-than-desirable by other Europeans, produced the essential labor until their replacement by African slave labor. While the book seems to be well-researched, it is not well-documented. With an average of one end note every two pages, the author failed to credit many sources and inadequately cited others by including a title in the text without including pages. The lack of documentation makes the work less useful and less credible. I received an advance review copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Knot on Your Life

Hechtman, Betty. Knot on Your Life. n.p.: Beyond the Page, 2019.

Casey continues to host yarn retreats at the resort across from the home she inherited from a relative. In this installment she finds herself hosting a group of women all acquainted with one another. A Silicon Valley entrepreneurial group on a mindfulness treat also booked the resort. The entrepreneurs are a bit jealous of the extra perks the women receive and ask for knitting lessons which one man thinks would be more "mindful" than the activities the resort's owner planned for them. Casey discovers one of the women dying near the dangerous rocks. A former Chicago private investigator, Casey remains one step ahead of the police investigator. Although not a complex mystery, it was enjoyable. The only other book in the series I read was the first. I received an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Manor House Murder

Martin, Faith. The Manor House Murder. London: Joffe Books, 2019.

Monica and husband Vicar Graham attend a clerics conference at a manor house. A cleric who mentioned a nut allergy dies after eating a dessert infused with peanuts. The chef is appalled someone tampered with his dessert. Monica, convinced Chief Inspector Jason is on the wrong track, begins her own investigation. We see more of Jason's investigation than Monica's. Too many characters and dull writing make this a struggle to read. A few places showed promise but the narrative's flatness returned too quickly. I did not read previous installments in the series so it's possible that affected my enjoyment as well. I received an advance review copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Christian Education

Cardoza, Freddy, editor. Christian Education: A Guide to the Foundations of Ministry. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2019.

Christian education has changed quite a bit over the years, but it has also remained the same. The discipline itself has expanded to include many new ministries, and many of us witnessed the development of these ministries. Designed to serve as an introductory textbook for Christian education courses in Christian universities, this book demonstrates the hybrid nature of Christian education today. It draws from philosophy, psychology, business, religion, sociology, and other disciplines to emphasize the importance of ministering to all persons. With chapters by leading Evangelical Christian educators, the book emphasizes personal evangelism in spreading the Gospel and encourages training all believers to share their faith. Some writers developed their topic better than others who seemed to give only superficial treatment to the topic. With more topics to cover than textbooks of forty years ago, the editor's challenge in creating a volume suitable for a foundation course is understandable, but the coverage given some topics which used to garner more attention in courses of this nature is disappointing. This book should serve well as an introductory text for years to come when supplemented by additional content addressing weaker portions of the text. I received this advance review copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review. Although I worked as a seminary librarian when some of the chapter authors attended my institution, I did not allow my friendship with the authors to influence my review.

Death Has Deep Roots

Gilbert, Michael. Death Has Deep Roots. Naperville, Illinois: Poisoned Pen Press, 2019.

Victoria Lamartine faces a charge of murder. Her alleged lover Major Thoseby's murder made her the most logical suspect. Attorney Nap Rumbold becomes a late replacement for the defense. Can he save his client from the gallows? Much of the book consists of hearings at the Old Bailey. Some shows Rumbold's activities in trying to clear his client. Lamartine participated in the French Resistance during World War II, and the mystery takes us back to that time to absolve her. Although I enjoyed Perry Mason mysteries during my junior high years, my love of the courtroom mystery did not continue into adulthood. I requested it based on the World War II connection and because of its British Library Crime Classics series designation. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would after discovering it was a courtroom setting. I consider it an average mystery. I received an advance electronic copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Hampton, New Hampshire, in Poem

Bill West created the Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge. The challenge now in its eleventh year asks participants to blog a poem about a region where an ancestor resided and to tell how it relates to the ancestor.

This poem mentions my ancestor Rev. Stephen Bachiler as "Father Bachiler." His Puritan-leaning teachings led to his arrival in Boston in 1632. He pastored in Saugus (now Lynn) and Newbury before helping establish the town of Hampton. He returned to England in 1653 and died near London in 1656.1

The poem lacks historical accuracy. The actual wreck mentioned in this poem occurred in the autumn, rather than summer, of 1657, after Bachiler's return to England and death.2 Goody Cole, also mentioned in the poem, was imprisoned in 1656.3 While the poem does not report the number aboard the vessel, Joseph Dow's town history reports the deaths of eight Hampton residents in the disaster.4

The Wreck of Rivermouth
by John Greenleaf Whittier

Rivermouth Rocks are fair to see,
By dawn or sunset shone across,
When the ebb of the sea has left them free,
To dry their fringes of gold-green moss
For there the river comes winding down,
From salt sea-meadows and uplands brown,
And waves on the outer rocks afoam
Shout to its waters, "Welcome home!"

And fair are the sunny isles in view
East of the grisly Head of the Boar,
And Agamenticus lifts its blue
Disk of a cloud the woodlands o'er;
And southerly, when the tide is down,
'Twixt white sea-waves and sand-hills brown,
The beach-birds dance and the gray gulls wheel
Over a floor of burnished steel.

Once, in the old Colonial days,
Two hundred years ago and more,
A boat sailed down through the winding ways
Of Hampton River to that low shore,
Full of a goodly company
Sailing out on the summer sea,
Veering to catch the land-breeze light,
With the Boar to left and the Rocks to right.

In Hampton meadows, where mowers laid
Their scythes to the swaths of salted grass,
"Ah, well-a-day! our hay must be made!"
A young man sighed, who saw them pass.
Loud laughed his fellows to see him stand
Whetting his scythe with a listless hand,
Hearing a voice in a far-off song,
Watching a white hand beckoning long.

"Fie on the witch!" cried a merry girl,
As they rounded the point where Goody Cole
Sat by her door with her wheel atwirl,
A bent and blear-eyed poor old soul.
"Oho!" she muttered, "ye 're brave to-day!
But I hear the little waves laugh and say,
'The broth will be cold that waits at home;
For it 's one to go, but another to come!'"

"She's cursed," said the skipper; "speak her fair:
I'm scary always to see her shake
Her wicked head, with its wild gray hair,
And nose like a hawk, and eyes like a snake."
But merrily still, with laugh and shout,
From Hampton River the boat sailed out,
Till the huts and the flakes on Star seemed nigh,
And they lost the scent of the pines of Rye.

They dropped their lines in the lazy tide,
Drawing up haddock and mottled cod;
They saw not the Shadow that walked beside,
They heard not the feet with silence shod.
But thicker and thicker a hot mist grew,
Shot by the lightnings through and through;
And muffled growls, like the growl of a beast,
Ran along the sky from west to east.

Then the skipper looked from the darkening sea
Up to the dimmed and wading sun;
But he spake like a brave man cheerily,
"Yet there is time for our homeward run."
Veering and tacking, they backward wore;
And just as a breath-from the woods ashore
Blew out to whisper of danger past,
The wrath of the storm came down at last!

The skipper hauled at the heavy sail
"God be our help!" he only cried,
As the roaring gale, like the stroke of a flail,
Smote the boat on its starboard side.
The Shoalsmen looked, but saw alone
Dark films of rain-cloud slantwise blown,
Wild rocks lit up by the lightning's glare,
The strife and torment of sea and air.

Goody Cole looked out from her door
The Isles of Shoals were drowned and gone,
Scarcely she saw the Head of the Boar
Toss the foam from tusks of stone.
She clasped her hands with a grip of pain,
The tear on her cheek was not of rain
"They are lost," she muttered, "boat and crew!
Lord, forgive me! my words were true!"

Suddenly seaward swept the squall;
The low sun smote through cloudy rack;
The Shoals stood clear in the light, and all
The trend of the coast lay hard and black.
But far and wide as eye could reach,
No life was seen upon wave or beach;
The boat that went out at morning never
Sailed back again into Hampton River.

O mower, lean on thy bended snath,
Look from the meadows green and low
The wind of the sea is a waft of death,
The waves are singing a song of woe!
By silent river, by moaning sea,
Long and vain shall thy watching be
Never again shall the sweet voice call,
Never the white hand rise and fall!

O Rivermouth Rocks, how sad a sight
Ye saw in the light of breaking day
Dead faces looking up cold and white
From sand and seaweed where they lay.
The mad old witch-wife wailed and wept,
And cursed the tide as it backward crept
"Crawl back, crawl back, blue water-snake
Leave your dead for the hearts that break!"

Solemn it was in that old day
In Hampton town and its log-built church,
Where side by side the coffins lay
And the mourners stood in aisle and porch.
In the singing-seats young eyes were dim,
The voices faltered that raised the hymn,
And Father Dalton, grave and stern,
Sobbed through his prayer and wept in turn.

But his ancient colleague did not pray;
Under the weight of his fourscore years
He stood apart with the iron-gray
Of his strong brows knitted to hide his tears;
And a fair-faced woman of doubtful fame,
Linking her own with his honored name,
Subtle as sin, at his side withstood
The felt reproach of her neighborhood.

Apart with them, like them forbid,
Old Goody Cole looked drearily round,
As, two by two, with their faces hid,
The mourners walked to the burying-ground.
She let the staff from her clasped hands fall
"Lord, forgive us! we're sinners all!"
And the voice of the old man answered her
"Amen!" said Father Bachiler.

So, as I sat upon Appledore
In the calm of a closing summer day,
And the broken lines of Hampton shore
In purple mist of cloudland lay,
The Rivermouth Rocks their story told;
And waves aglow with sunset gold,
Rising and breaking in steady chime,
Beat the rhythm and kept the time.

And the sunset paled, and warmed once more
With a softer, tenderer after-glow;
In the east was moon-rise, with boats off-shore
And sails in the distance drifting slow.
The beacon glimmered from Portsmouth bar,
The White Isle kindled its great red star;
And life and death in my old-time lay
Mingled in peace like the night and day!5

1 “Stephen Bachiler,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Bachiler : accessed 1 November 2019).
2 Joseph Dow, History of the Town of Hampton, New Hampshire: From Its Settlement in 1638, to the Autumn of 1892 (Salem, Massachusetts: Salem Press, 1894), 1:57; Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/historyoftownofh00dowj/ : accessed 1 November 2019.
3 Dow, History of the Town of Hampton, New Hampshire, 1:54.
4 Joseph Dow, History of the Town of Hampton, New Hampshire, 1:57.
5 John Greenleaf Whittier, The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1894), 245-247.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Tracing Your Ancestors in Lunatic Asylums

Higgs, Michelle. Tracing Your Ancestors in Lunatic Asylums: A Guide for Family Historians. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Family History, 2019.

Higgs provides a highly readable discussion on the institutionalization of British Isles persons suffering from a variety of mental disorders.The majority of institutions discussed are in England, Scotland, or Wales. Higgs shows how attitudes toward the mentally ill evolved over time. The narrative includes several case studies of individuals, providing a list of sources used in each sketch. Near the end she discusses record availability, providing a few examples. As a genealogist, I wish this section had been expanded to include additional record images. Genealogists with family members spending time in an asylum in the United Kingdom will find this book helpful to their research. This review is based on an advance review copy provided through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Can't Judge a Book by Its Murder

Lillard, Amy. Can't Judge a Book by Its Murder. Naperville, Illinois: Poisoned Pen Press, 2019.

A man falls from atop the bookstore to the sidewalk below. The investigating officer initially believes the man committed suicide, but the autopsy reveals poison in his system, confirming the suspicions of those who knew he was unlikely to commit suicide. When Chloe ends up in jail, Arlo begins her own investigation to get her friend freed. Some of the action stretches the imagination. The solution was fairly obvious. Still I enjoyed this mystery set in extreme northern Mississippi. Farmington is the only community in Alcorn County large enough to be a candidate for the fictitious Sugar Springs, but its description doesn't seem to fit the actual city. I read an advance electronic review copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Garden Miscellany

Staubach, Suzanne. A Garden Miscellany: An Illustrated Guide to the Elements of the Garden. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2019.

This book is a dictionary of types of gardens, design considerations, and features found in gardens. While it does not provide in-depth information on each, enough is present to satisfy most readers. A bibliography listing additional resources appears in the back, providing opportunities for those interest to gain further knowledge. The illustrations by Julia Yellow provide whimsy and delight for readers and perfectly accompany the book. I received an advance electronic copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Christmas in Newfoundland

Martin, Mike. Christmas in Newfoundland: Memories and Mysteries. Ottawa: Ottawa Press and Publishing, 2019.

Sgt. Windflower remembers Christmases past in this volume. It seemed rather disjointed to me. The author overused "be" verbs, and no editor assisted him in cleaning up the sloppy and dull writing. This was my first and probably last venture into this series. The setting intrigued me, but its brevity is the only reason I did not abandon the read. I received an electronic copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Early Alabama

Bunn, Mike. Early Alabama: An Illustrated Guide to the Formative Years, 1798-1826. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2019.

The author uses photos, paintings, and maps, mostly color, to illustrate his brief history covering the history of Alabama from the separation of the Mississippi Territory from Georgia until its capital moved to Tuscaloosa in 1826. It spent 1798 to 1816 as part of the Mississippi Territory. I felt some points received better treatment than others. For example, settlement of rural areas received brief mention while coverage of large centers often received more attention tied to an historical figure, such as John Hunt's settlement of Huntsville. The work's bibliography provides readers opportunities to locate works which may provide better treatment in their area of interest in the state's history. The author closes with a historical sites tour which included several sites in Mississippi as well as those in Alabama. The book's illustrations make it interesting, but those seeking a more comprehensive approach to the topic will want to look elsewhere.

Thursday, October 17, 2019


Dowling, Paul. Graze: Healthy Graze Craze Recipes to Kickstart Your Metabolism. s.l.: s.n., 2019.

Grazing involves eating 6 small meals per day rather than 3 larger ones. Cookbook uses the same ingredients over and over. I'd be completely bored with food if I ate only from recipes in this recipe for a couple weeks. The author uses oatmeal, granolas, quinoa, etc. in abundance. Many recipes are influenced by Hispanic cultures. Recommended for persons seeking this type diet or cookbook, but it's not one for me. I love my Southern foods too much! I received an advance review copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.