Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Review: Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durrell

Lawrence Durrell journeyed from Britain to Cyprus in the mid-1950s. He describes his experiences on the island as well as the landscape and culture. He gives an inside look at some of the political turmoil that was taking place at the time. I particularly enjoyed the few passages in the book that mentioned some of the Biblical events that took place on the island. Apparently there is still a tradition on the island that describes how Paul and Barnabas ate olives as they were traveling to a village. In another place it mentions where Barnbas was buried. I cannot say that I really enjoyed the political aspects of the novel. The author mentions in the introductory pages that this is not a political book. It really isn't, but it was impossible to write about this particular period in time without mentioning how the political events of the day were shaping everyday life. There was a strong anti-British element which ultimately resulted in independence from Britain after the days covered in the book.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Book Review: The Moravians in Labrador

This book, written by an unknown person and published in the mid 1830s, details the missionary efforts of the Moravian Church among the Esquimaux (aka Eskimo) people of Labrador. The work details what like was like among the natives and missionaries. Food was sometimes difficult to come by. After the Moravian missionaries had been there a few years, they finally got to the point that a ship arrived from England once a year. The hardships were incredible, but the Moravians did appear to have a great deal of success in evangelizing the Eskimos. There seemed to be quite a bit of repetition in the book, and there was a lot of what I would call "padding" or "fluff" in the text by including conversations, particularly those of a spiritual nature, which probably were not exactly as they are written. I would have preferred a more concisely written historical account. It's difficult to provide a rating to a book that was written in another time and probably for another purpose other than that which I read it. In the end, I chose to rate it by today's standards. While the book contains glimpses into the culture and into the evangelization efforts, there is little here that would compel an individual to read this account. A journal article or book essay containing the essence of the historical and cultural nuggets and written in a style more engaging for late 20th or early 21st century readers would be much more engaging.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Is recently-deceased poet Ruth Stone related?

Someone over on LibraryThing posted about poet Ruth Stone's death in one of the discussion threads. As I read her obituary, I noticed that she was born Ruth Perkins. The obituary also listed her father as a printer and part-time drummer named Roger Perkins. Since I'm descended from John Perkins and Judith Gater who immigrated to New England, I thought I'd do a little quick and dirty genealogical research to see if she might be related.  Since the obituary showed she was born in 1915, I decided to start with the 1920 census.

I found Ruth in the Roger M. Perkins household, living at 507 18th Street in Roanoke, Virginia. [Roger M. Perkins household, 1920 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, Roanoke Jefferson Ward 2, Roanoke (Independent City), Virginia, ED 23, dwelling 316, family 376, p. 18A; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1912; digital image, Ancestry.com, accessed 25 November 2011]  Other family members present were her mother Ruth, a brother named Edgar A., and a sister named Elsie J. This census confirmed that her father had been a printer. This dwelling was a rental property and another family lived there as well. (Family 375 of dwelling 316 was the Vona S. and Mable Carmel family.)

Armed with the information that her father Roger was born about 1892, I turned to the 1910 census. I located Roger in his father Edgar A. Perkins' household in Indianapolis, Indiana at 307 Olive Avenue. [Edgar A. Perkins household, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, Indianapolis, Ward 9, Marion Co., Indiana, ED 169, dwelling 214, family 217, p. 9B; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 368; digital image, Ancestry.com, accessed 25 November 2011] The name of the street is a bit illegible, so I might discover that it is something else if I took the time to locate a map of Indianapolis from that time period. However, this is quick and dirty work, so I decided to just give it my best guess.  Roger was the oldest child of Edgar A. and Hattie Perkins. (It was recorded as a first marriage for both parents.) Three brothers (Harry, Edgar A., and Rodney), two sisters (Dorothy and Jennie W.), and one servant (Glenn Arend) are also enumerated in the household.

The family was living at 1906 Broadway in Center Township, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana in 1900. [Edgar A. Perkins household, 1900 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, Indianapolis, Marion Co., Indiana, ED 38, dwelling 278, family 300, pp. 13A, 13B; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 387; digital image, Ancestry.com, accessed 25 November 2011] By the way, you may be interested to know that Roger probably picked up his printing trade from his father as Edgar's occupation is listed as printer.

It was now time to find Edgar's parents in the 1880 census. I found Edgar living in the Ellsbury Perkins household at 104 English Avenue in Indianapolis. [Ellsbury Perkins household, 1880 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, Indianapolis, Marion Co., Indiana, ED 126, p. 622B; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 296; digital image, Ancestry.com, accessed 25 November 2011]. Interestingly enough, Ellsbury was also listed as a printer. It appears that Roger was the third generation printer in the family. Ellsbury's wife is Emily. Other children besides Edgar in the household include sisters Olla, Bessie, and Norma and brothers Arthur and Harry.

The family was enumerated twice in the 1870 census, both times in Ward 8 of Indianapolis. This time Elsbury was called Asbury in one and "A." in the other. A nice name discrepancy to clear up! [Asbury Perkins household, 1870 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, Indianapolis Ward 8, Marion Co., Indiana, ED 2, dwelling 25, family 26, p. 480A; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 339; digital image, Ancestry.com, accessed 25 November 2011] and [A. Perkins household, 1870 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, Indianapolis Ward 8, Marion Co., Indiana, dwelling 70, family 70, p. 407A; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 341; digital image, Ancestry.com, accessed 25 November 2011]. The expected children were present, although Olla is called "Ollie" in these censuses.

Hoping to locate Elsbury's parents, I went back to 1860. I only located his presumed mother in this one (since relationships are not specified on this census) in Rushville, Rush County, Indiana. [Nancy Perkins household, 1860 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, Rushville, Rush Co., Indiana, dwelling 122, family 122, p. 507; NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 294; digital image, Ancestry.com, accessed 25 November 2011]  "Elsberry" was the oldest child in the household and had already taken up the printing trade. Two sisters are listed, Laura and Mary E. Mary E. was age 9, so I can presume that I might be able to locate Elsbury's father in the 1850 census.

I discovered Elsbury in the Levi Perkins household in Rush County, Indiana in 1850. [Levi Perkins household, 1850 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, District 97, Rush Co., Indiana, dwelling 471, family 471, p. 406B; NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 170; digital image, Ancestry.com, accessed 25 November 2011] Levi, Nancy, Elsbury, and Laura are all present. Levi is listed as a laborer.

Since I had exhausted the censuses where every household member was listed and knew that it would take extensive digging to make progress on my quest to discover whether or not I was related to the recently deceased poet, I decided to take the shortcut that all of us criticize when we see it on "Who Do You Think You Are?" I decided to see if I could go back several generations all at once with an online tree. I used WorldConnect's trees for this project and hit "pay dirt" with the Sheehan Clan tree that I found at http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=:3306581&id=I895. I will just give a quick summary of my findings from this point onwards. You may click through to the tree and see the complete information. I am listing the information as it appears on this tree. All locations should be verified to make sure that they exist as stated at that time in history.

It appears that Levi Perkins died about 1852. The tree's author claims that Levi was serving as the Rush County jailor at the time of his death and that his wife Nancy continued in that role for the next 9 years. It is interesting that no occupation was listed for Nancy in the 1860 census, so I'm unable to verify this without checking records in Indiana.

Levi's father was Newton "Ute" Perkins who was born February 1792 in Lincoln Co., N.C.  Newton's father was Augustus Perkins who was born in 1763 in Lincoln Co., N.C. and died 5 September 1834 in Rushville, Rush Co., Indiana. Augustus' father was Robert Biggen Perkins who was born 16 Mar 1734/35 in St. George Parish, Baltimore Co., Maryland and died 6 April 1823 in Lincoln Co., N.C. Robert's father was Richard  Perkins who was born 18 Dec 1713 in St. George Parish, Baltimore Co., Maryland and died 9 July 1789 in Lincoln Co., N.C. Richard's father was Richard Perkins who was born 9 July 1689 in Mosquito Creek, Baltimore Co., Maryland and died 5 August 1772 in Rowan Co., N.C. Richard's father was Richard Perkins who was born 1663 in Mosquito Creek, Baltimore Co., Maryland and died 2 May 1706 in Swan Creek, Baltimore Co., Maryland. Richard's father was the immigrant, Chauncey Perkins, born 1645 in England.

The minute the research started going into the Carolinas, I was fairly certain that this was not going to be a line that went back to John Perkins and Judith Gater of New England.  This, however, was a fun way to spend a couple of hours avoiding the Black Friday madness!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Review: Black-Eyed Susan by Jennifer Armstrong

Ten-year-old Susie lives with her family on the Dakota prairie in a sod house. Her mother is very unhappy with life on the frontier and quite obviously misses her family and a more affluent life-style back East. Susie wants to find something to cheer up her mom when she and her dad go to town to purchase another quarter section of land. An encounter with a family moving further west proves to be the prescription for her mother's misery. This is a well-written children's novel that does a good job of describing the hardships faced by the pioneer settlers of the Dakota Territory. The author has done a good job with historical research to make the novel accurate in regards to homesteading and other period details. I do question if the target audience would appreciate this work as much as adults. It probably lacks the action younger readers require to hold interest.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgivings of My Younger Years

Marian Pierre-Louis made a comment on Facebook about expecting about 40 people for Thanksgiving dinner that made me think back to my younger days when we had extended family gatherings at either our house or at my paternal grandparents' home. When the gatherings were at our home, the usual attendees included my family, wives of my brothers once they were married, both sets of grandparents, some of my maternal grandfather's brothers and their families, and even my dad's brother's family. We could always count on one of the neighbors across the street showing up about the time dessert was served as well. When the gathering was at my paternal grandparents' home, the gathering included my paternal grandparents, our family (including my brother's wives once they were married), my dad's brother's family, and many of my grandfather's brothers and sisters and their families. Sometimes some of my grandmother's extended family members would also be present. There might even be a friend or two of my grandparents there who weren't related. At some point around my pre-teen to early teen years, the gatherings changed a bit. The attendees tended to be my parents, my brothers, their wives and children, surviving grandparents, my dad's brother and his wife, and my mom's brother and his wife once they moved back to Mississippi. Although you might say that the addition of aunts and uncles did make it an extended family gathering, it did not resemble the gatherings of the older days when we had trouble finding places for all the foods and desserts that were brought.

My maternal grandfather always had to have his ambrosia at the holidays. Ambrosia, as I remember it, consisted of oranges and coconut flakes, with each serving topped by a maraschino cherry. We always had turkey and ham. Of course, we had southern cornbread dressing. There was some form of sweet potato, either a casserole or candied sweet potatoes. (I preferred the casserole.) Later, we often had a butternut squash casserole instead of or in addition to the sweet potatoes. There would be green beans and/or English peas. There would be a relish tray that had pickles, olives, and things like that. (I usually skipped that one.)  We would have cranberry sauce. It was usually the canned variety. There would often be some sort of sweet salad such as a cranberry salad, "Tops" salad (which had pistachio pudding, cottage cheese, pineapples, and cool whip, I think), or maybe one that had an orange jello base to it.  There might even be another vegetable or savory salad. There would be deviled eggs for those who wanted them. We all looked forward to Mom's homemade rolls at Thanksgiving. For dessert, there would be pecan pies and either pumpkin or sweet potato pies (sometimes both). There would usually be some sort of cake also.

We try to incorporate some of those traditional items in our holiday celebrations while adding a few things that my nieces and nephews will eat nowadays. It's almost impossible to find foods that everyone will eat so we have to offer more variety in many cases. This year we'll be having the turkey, ham, dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, green beans, rolls, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie from the traditional meal. We'll be substituting my sister-in-law's fruit salad for the ambrosia. We'll add a hash brown casserole to the mix. I haven't decided whether or not to add some English peas or not yet. It probably depends on how many actually show up and whether some would prefer them to the green beans.

Let me wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are celebrating with family.

Book Review: The Brass Dolphin by Caroline Harvey

Lila Cunningham learns that her father has borrowed money against their home and that now the bank is repossessing it. Her employer and friend owns a home in Malta that they never use so they decide to send Lila and her father there. They arrive at a time just before World War II breaks out. It isn't long until they are taking cover from the bombings. Lila had begun working for a Count who was a historian, but she begins helping a new friend with her hospital in the city after the war erupts. Lila also begins to see a different side to her father. I really enjoyed most of this World War II story which had some of the feeling of a romantic suspense while not being pretty light on the romance and with more of a war theme than the darker suspenseful tones. Ultimately I did not like the manner in which the book was resolved and lowered my rating because of it. (I gave it 3 out of 5 stars.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review: A Light In the Storm by Karen Hesse

Full Title: A Light in the Storm: The Civil War Diary of Amelia Martin of Fenwick Island, Delaware
Author: Karen Hesse
Series: Dear America
Publication Information: New York: Scholastic, 1999.

***SPOILER ALERT: This review will contain spoilers.*** Amelia Martin is the 15-year-old daughter of the assistant lighthouse keeper off the coast of Delaware as this diary begins in late 1860 and continues through 1861. She turns 16 in the book She keeps the first watch at the lighthouse.Delaware is a border state in the issue over slavery. Much of the Southern part of the state is aligned with the South, while the north tends to be more aligned with the Union. A group of runaway slaves makes Amelia realize the magnitude of the differences in her parents. Her mother believes the slaves should be sent back to their owners. Her father believes they should be helped to freedom. While Amelia has agreed with her mother in the past, something about her encounter with them makes her realize that her father is correct. It isn't long before South Carolina secedes from the Union--something that Amelia considers completely unacceptable. Other Southern States follow South Carolina's lead gradually. The tension at home begins to mount. Her mother becomes more withdrawn over time and has physical and medical problems. Her mother eventually moves in with Amelia's ailing grandmother. Her father serves divorce papers on her mother. I really enjoyed this look at the tensions in a divided community due to the war. In several places, Amelia referred to what was happening in Tennessee to Union supporters during this time. Since I live a section of Tennessee that had strong Union sympathies, these mentions were interesting. However, there was some unevenness to the writing. I felt that the author used a 20th century solution to the marriage problem. Divorce was not as commonplace in the 19th century as it is in 21st century America, and while it was not unheard of, they were more difficult to obtain. I felt the author made it too easy, even in the strained relations due to ideologies. I also felt that the diary ended rather abruptly and that its conclusion was in an awkward place and that it should have continued until one of the major events in 1862. I also felt that the Epilogue wrapped things up a little too tidily and left little room for the reader's imagination of what the future might have been for those persons mentioned in the diary. It's a good, but not a great, work of fiction.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Google Reader Sharing

I've been using Google Reader now for several years, but the recent changes incorporating sharing with Google+ have left me at a loss as to how I can define my circles so that only those persons who are interested in seeing my shared items will be troubled with them. I read a variety of blogs. Not all of these blogs are genealogy-related. I know that many people will not care to read many of the topics in my feeds, yet I struggle to know which persons really do want to read them. With the old Google Reader, only my close friends who followed me received my posts. Now with the circles feature, everyone in a circle receives something. I've considered various options such as creating a circle of only persons in a circle who express interest in posts, but that might leave some people who really want to see these out. Another is to just send it to everyone in a circle that is defined for the topic (such as genealogy); however, some might consider it SPAM particularly if they've already read the post through their reader. How do I know which genealogists also share other interests and might be interested in being added to a circle of another interest? Another option is to abandon use of sharing altogether. I really think that Google+ really didn't think this change through before implementation. I'm curious as to how others are handling this sharing -- or have you just abandoned sharing?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Review: Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger

The discovery of the town's judge's body is the impetus that springs former sheriff Cork O'Connor back into action. He is partially Anishinaabe Indian. The frigid northern part of Minnesota is the setting for this mystery that takes place just prior to Christmas. His marriage is in trouble. He claims to want reconciliation even though he pursues an affair with a local waitress named Molly. As the story unfolds, many characters are in danger. More murders are revealed. A native American concept called "Windigo" plays an important role in this novel. I found this to be an interesting read, full of action. While I think there are some elements of the plot that could have been a bit tighter, the action was sufficient to move it forward. The use of the native American concepts reminds me of author Tony Hillerman's use of them. The unique setting of Krueger's novel provides contrast to the deserts of Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Jonathan Edwards: Model Father?

As I was processing a gift collection, I ran across a rather interesting book entitled Marriage to a Difficult Man: The "Uncommon Union" of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards written by Elisabeth D. Dodds. It's a title that was already in our collection. The book is described as a "blend of family guidance book, sociological study, psychologically- and devotionally-oriented American historical biography" on its dust jacket. The dust jacket goes on to reveal that his children really loved him. She offers Jonathan and his wife as examples of parents to modern readers as parents who had found the balance between permissiveness and discipline in their child rearing. (The book was written in 1971.) It really sounds like a fascinating read about the man who penned one of the most famous sermons of all time, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Although the book lacks footnotes, there is a bibliography with references sorted by chapter in the back. The content appears to be mostly historical with "modern" application to its readers. This book is going on my "TBR" (to-be-read) list. It probably offers a fascinating glimpse of what life was like living in a clergy family in colonial New England. Since I had a few ancestors that fit that category, I'm hoping to find some background that might be useful in my ancestors' story.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Review: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

This is an excellent piece of historical fiction about the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia. The narrator is an early teenage girl named Matilda whose family operates a coffeehouse. When the fever hits, many persons begin fleeing the town. Readers will empathize with Matilda as she encounters the attitudes toward fever victims and the treatments, may of which were ineffective, that were used. The author does a good job of bringing the historical elements to life. She explained that Philadelphia was the largest city in the United States at the time and brought the death toll to life for readers when she explained how many were expected to die early in the book. I suspect that the book will be enjoyed by some younger readers and not by others, but this book would be a great springboard for discussion in classes of the epidemic, medical treatments, etc.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Are we headed toward a "Paperless Society"?

Years ago when I went to library school, I remember reading an article about the world becoming a "paperless society." I believe the term was coined by F. W. Lancaster in an 1978 book entitled Toward Paperless Information Systems. (There's a bibliography which includes many of Lancaster's writings on the topic on the Wikipedia article for "paperless society.") At the time, most of us in the class could not envision such a thing happening. Of course, now most of us can envision it and fear the day it happens. As I was reading the Chronicle of Higher Education's blog this morning, I was reminded of that article. Marc Prensky has written an article entitled "In the 21st-Century University, Let's Ban Books."  I have to admit that the thought still scares me. I've seen many books that don't format well on electronic devices, particularly those with footnotes. I much prefer footnotes (or end notes) as used in The Chicago Manual of Style rather than the internal references used by the style guides produced by MLA and APA. Those of us in genealogy use footnotes all the time in our writing. OCR scanning does not handle footnotes well. When you get to a footnote, it appears right where it appeared in the text of the book. The reader has to figure out where this is and try to figure out where the footnotes end so that he can resume the sentence he has been reading. I wish publishers producing Kindle and other format e-books would recognize this and convert footnotes to end notes (at least at the chapter level) before publishing the electronic format of the book. It is such a simple process to do with most Word processing programs. Of course, it's less of a problem if the book is delivered as a PDF. There are some books that don't lend themselves well to ePub and MOBI formats because of the nature of their contents. A style guide, such as Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained is one such book. These formats would not preserve the indentations, etc. that are seen in a carefully formatted print publication. One also has to wonder what would happen to books that contain transcriptions of probate and other court cases and such where the case name is bracketed on one side and the content begins on the other. I know that moving print books to storage is in the long range plans of many academic libraries who have embraced the e-book. It's a scary thought, not only from the aspect of losing such a cherished medium, but also from the aspects of job security and the availability of books to those who really cannot afford them. If academic libraries take the lead on this, it won't be long until public libraries follow them down this "slippery slope."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review: The Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton

Lara McClintoch is taking a break from the antique business after a recent divorce from her husband. She doesn't want him to be able for him to obtain a larger divorce settlement. When a friend asks her to come to Merida, Mexico, she does so, even though she doesn't know a lot about the nature of what he wants. When she arrives, he cancels their first dinner and then disappears, turning up dead. The Mexican officials confiscate her passport so that she can't leave the country. She doesn't have a lot of faith in the investigator, so she begins an investigation of her own, placing herself in danger. It was a fun read that I couldn't put down. I'm not sure that I ever sorted all the characters fully in my mind though. I'm not sure if that is because of the rapidity of my reading or if that would have been the case had I read it in a slower manner. I do believe that some of the characters were developed more than others. It's not my favorite in the series, but it's worth the read if one is interested in the Mayan culture.

Monday, November 14, 2011

On County Heritage Books

Over the weekend, someone posted to that Alabama Genealogy Network on Facebook about the Heritage Books that were available for each county. The minute I saw the post, I immediately thought back to my own experiences with such books. I waited awhile to see what people would post. To my surprise, no one was cautioning people about accepting the undocumented contributions without verifying the information through their own research. Finally, I could stand it no more and posted a word of caution to those who seemed to think they may have stumbled onto some sort of resource that was going to solve all their brickwalls. I encouraged them to verify the information because there is a lot of erroneous information that is submitted.

Let me share a couple of examples of such problems. I had a brick wall on one family line. I had researched just about every person within several counties with the same surname in an attempt to resolve that brick wall. I had a promising lead in a county that was a little south of where my family lived, but then there were some things that cropped up as I was researching the family to the south that made me realize that I had some serious negative evidence that this family was not related to mine. I stumbled across a Heritage Book from the county and found a submission that tied that family to mine. I contacted the researcher for her evidence that she had connecting the two families. She sent me what she had, and I realized she had made a jump in her research without fully studying all the evidence. I explained my concerns to the other researcher. DNA has since proven that we could not be related in the manner in which she stated because the two lines have different markers. However, that particular erroneous connection is there in the Heritage Book, and I'm sure there will be others who take it to be the truth simply because it is in print, and they don't take the time to verify the information.

In another case, the wrong first name is attributed to my great great grandmother. I had tons of information stating that her first name was Nancy. The person who submitted the article said that her name was Nora. I have never seen one record of the time that shows her name as Nora. (Most of the records simply use an N. plus her middle name or her middle name alone; however, I do have several that list her first name as Nancy.) I attempted to contact the person at an e-mail address I found online, but I never received a response. To make matters even worse, someone (either her or another person who found the article in the heritage book) purchased a second grave marker to accompany the original marker which listed her only as "& wife." Now we have a marker that permanently identifies her by the wrong first name because someone did not look at all the evidence of what her name was. The person who submitted the article is a very distant cousin who was probably trying to remember some of the childhood stories of the family and remembered the name wrong or confused the name with another person. Most of the remainder of the article did seem to rely mostly on family tradition, so I'm fairly certain she didn't really research much and just wanted to have our ancestor honored. It would have been nice if this person had done an exhaustive search of resources before publishing erroneous information.

I have a third family included in another heritage book. The line is so garbled in the narrative that one is better off completely ignoring that contribution. Even a simple census search for any year will reveal some of the errors in that essay. There are gaps in generations as well in that submission.

Too often these sorts of mistakes are included in the heritage books by someone who means well but really does not perform the reasonable exhaustive search, misinterprets evidence, etc. Do I completely ignore the books? No. I simply use them for clues and hints as I would any secondary source. I have also found that the historical information on various communities in the county is often of better quality than the individual family essays. One still needs to verify that type of information to the best of his ability.

I don't really get excited when I stumble across a heritage book. I recognize it for what it is. I do get excited when I research in original records or when I'm able to build a case using a combination of records. It's a shame that the motivation behind these was to "sell books" rather than to produce well-documented family histories. Maybe one of these days someone will insist that submissions meet genealogical standards. Until then, I'll probably continue to do most of my research before looking at the heritage books.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book Review: Eggs Benedict Arnold by Laura Childs

One of the co-owners of the funeral home turns up dead on his own embalming table. He's someone everyone in the town loves, so no one can quite figure out who would have a motive to murder him. As Suzanne and Sheriff Doogie investigate, they turn up a wide range of possibilities and motives. I enjoyed this second installment in the Cackleberry Club series even more than the first. The girls' reaction when visiting an abandoned cemetery is one that many genealogists such as myself often have. There are lots of red herrings. This is one that will keep many readers guessing to the very end, even if they read a lot of mysteries.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Book Review: I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

It's nearing Christmas, and in order to keep the family in house and home, the Colonel has agreed to allow a movie crew to shoot on location at Buckshaw. The star of the show is one of the most famed actresses of the time. It's about 40% of the way into the book before we get to the corpse. Needless to say, 11-year-old Flavia will get involved in the investigation. This is the first in the series where Flavia has spent the majority of the time at Buckshaw. I enjoyed this change. Flavia is always a delight! I enjoyed all the literary references in this installment. While the book is set during the Christmas season, it's a book that can be enjoyed year-round. I would encourage reading the earlier books before reading this one because there are some things that will be appreciated only by those who have followed the series. This review is based on an advance uncorrected proof provided by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program with the expectation that a review would be written. 4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Book Review: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brain

Author: Nicholas Carr
Publication Information: New York: W.W. Norton, 2010.

Nicholas Carr, like many others, noted that attention spans are on the decrease. He notes changes in the print media brought about by the age of the Internet. Many newspapers have gone under; others have declared bankruptcy. Formats have changed for both newspapers and magazines to make the experience more Web-like. He acknowledges that sometimes it is even difficult to remain focused on a blog post which is more than a few paragraphs long. He notes the presence of e-readers, but at the time he wrote the book, they had not gained the full audience they have now so he didn't feel that they were influencing reading that differently. There is much to think about in this book because Carr also analyzes the experiences of previous generations and the changes they experienced. One of the most thought-provoking sections is one which shares the results of research on multitasking. I think this title would create great discussion among faculty members. I'm not sure that I agree with all conclusions he makes. I find that I am able to stay concentrated and focused while readings books and e-books on my Kindle reader. I am sometimes overwhelmed by information coming to me by way of the Internet through Facebook or my RSS reader for blogs, newspapers, etc. I find that I'm able to often read a headline and pass up an item. I do have trouble staying focused on longer blog posts because I am usually more pressed for time when I'm reading these online items. I realize the need to be offline, so I've prioritized reading and find other ways to keep myself from staring at a screen (both computer and television). I think that the author alludes to the Internet's ability to be addictive, but he probably doesn't address it forcefully enough. This is an important book that is certain to be discussed for years to come.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Book Review: K.C.: A History of Kansas City, Missouri

Authors: A. Theodore Brown and Lyle W. Dorsett
Publication Information: Boulder, Colorado: Pruett Pub. Co., 1978.

This is a rather dry and tedious read. It focuses on the political history of the city and very little on its settlement, progress, and other things that would have made it a more engaging read. It is also flawed by its lack of footnotes/endnotes. The authors do have a list of sources used for each chapter at the end of the book, but the failure to tie these references to specific points is a major failure.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Do You Want to Visit 19th Century Maine?

I heartily recommend reading Sarah Orne Jewett's classic work, The Country of Pointed Firs. I recently read this book which is available as a free download for most e-readers, including my Kindle. I loved the author's descriptions of the landscape and vegetation of the area of coastal Maine which she called "Dunnet Landing" in the book. It features descriptions of change by many of the residents of the area as they tell their story to a vacationer who is staying in the schoolhouse during the summer months.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Book Review: A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

Young Flavia befriends a gypsy whose tent burned down. It's not long until the gypsy is injured by an intruder to her caravan. She would have died had Flavia not arrived unexpectedly. Then a local man turns up dead. Flavia finds herself suddenly interested in a religious sect in the area. She puzzles through many clues as well as plenty of red herrings to find the truth. Of course, the Inspector on the case is a bit upset that she keeps contaminating his crime scenes. Flavia's character continues to delight in this installment of the series.