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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created
1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created
Author: Charles C. Mann
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 6/20/2020


After reading '1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus,' I was in awe of Charles Mann's research abilities and insightful writing skills. Mann has written a sequel, '1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created.' It is just as good as the previous work. Unfortunately, I decided to 'listen' to the book and I plan to get a physical copy soon and reread it. I thought I missed a great deal by listening.

In the '1491' book, Mann showed that the Americas were already populated with indigenous peoples. However, the early explorers brought their diseases with them from Europe and elsewhere and decimated the local populations as they ravaged the areas for valuable resources. This book talks about the global changes that occurred because of the interaction with the Americas. One crop that created so much change was the lowly sweet potato; I was really shocked to see its worldwide effect on nutrition. Potatoes and rubber were other products highlighted in this study.

With amazing dexterity, Mann talks about the effects of crops, diseases, domesticated animals, pests, and of course, slavery in the world. His explanation of the moving of the silver and gold from their source to other nations initially created vast wealth, but when the markets were flooded with a continuous flow of these metals, it created economic instability and collapse.

Mann shows how America's discovery caused a convulsion in the world's status quo. He explained how each of the new products (crops, diseases, livestock, pests, and slavery) changed the world. This is just as brilliant as the previous book.


The 1920s (Decades of the 20th Century)
The 1920s (Decades of the 20th Century)
Author: Nick Yapp
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 1/22/2015


This book captures the 1920s beautifully; from silent films to the Depression, from the Jazz Age to economic chaos. There are over 300 black-and-white photos that show it all and explain things in English, German and French.

The section, The Haves and the Have Nots is a particularly poignant group of photos. We tend to see films with famous actors in their later years; this book offers early views of Jimmy Cagney, Noel Coward, Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich.

This is an engaging book that brings to the reader the grotesque and gorgeous era in Americas history. The entire series is worthwhile but this book really gives a broad view of an exciting and frightening age.


The 1960s (Cultural History of the United States Through the Decades)
Review Date: 5/8/2016


Having lived during these turbulent 10 years, I appreciated the fact that things seemed to be reported in a rather even-handed fashion . Although aimed towards 9 to 12 year-olds, I found this tome very interesting. It did a wonderful job of looking over the panorama of a very upsetting era. I was disappointed with the large number of black-and-white (instead of color photos).

The author makes a point of saying that the 1960's opened with happiness. A young president and his wife occupied the White House and many referred the presidency as Camelot. The euphoria ended with John Kennedy's death. I was a junior in high school (American History class, to be exact) when the news came.

Then, it seemed as if the country was coming unglued: another Kennedy murder, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, rioting over civil rights and the Vietnam War. It was the first time war was shown literally as it happened and US citizens didn't like what they saw.
I remember feeling very frightened about what was happening. Things that had made sense suddenly changed. People we thought were leading our country sounded like regular liars on TV (LBJ, General Westmoreland, etc.).

This volume offered a useful chronology of the decade; provided the books used and offered suggestions for further reading.


19th Century Schoolgirl: The Diary of Caroline Cowles Richards, 1852-1855 (Diaries, Letters, and Memoirs)
Review Date: 8/10/2013
Helpful Score: 1


The essential value of such a book as this is to take a peek at everyday life in America in the years before the Civil War. It is considered to be a primary source - which is important to those of us who work on genealogy. Primary sources give firsthand accounts of folk's lives; they may appear in letters, diaries, photos, etc.

Caroline was 10 years at the time she began her diary; she lived in western New York, in Canadagua, near the Finger Lakes region. When Caroline was 6, her mother died and her father wanted her to be raised well (good education). Thus, this teacher and Presbyterian minister sent his daughters to their grandparents to live.

His sons were sent to boarding schools. In those days everyone went to elementary school until age 10 - 12. The goal was to teach children how to read, write, spell, do math, plus learn geography, grammar and history. Both genders engaged in physical education.

After elementary school, only the wealthy could afford to send their children to private schools and the poorer children went to work. Seminaries (for girls) and boarding schools (for boys) were separated by gender because it was believed females and males had different educational needs.

The biggest surprise in this small tome is related to Grandmother Beals. Caroline reports that when her grandfather left on a trip out-of-town, Mrs. Beals invited an elderly (and quite portly) black woman to her house for dinner. She also sent a carriage to collect and return the woman to her home.

I was surprised; abolition might be the way people thought in New York State, but prejudice against interacting with them was still the accepted course. Grandmother was rather feisty to tempt the wrath of her neighbors.

The book is a delight with lots of photos, which made the diary jump to life. I just wish it had been longer.

4.5 stars


44 Cranberry Point (Cedar Cove, Bk 4)
44 Cranberry Point (Cedar Cove, Bk 4)
Author: Debbie Macomber
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 504
Review Date: 1/18/2019


This is an incredibly dull bunch of mini-soap-operas combined to make one book of about 380 pages. I knew the Debbie Macomber offered light reading, but this book was plodding and boring.


Abby: Mail Order Bride (Unconventional) (Volume 1)
Abby: Mail Order Bride (Unconventional) (Volume 1)
Author: Verna Clay
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 8/14/2019


The pacing of this novel was perfect. Yes, there was sadness in this story, but frontier life was often sad. This was in a day in which there were no antibiotics and people often died of things we now consider minor. The author did some unique things for a novella or even a romance. I liked the fact that the heroine was 6 years older than Brant. It was a problem for Abby, but when Brant indicated it was immaterial to him, she let go of her concern.

Abby was stunned when she arrived and found there was competition for Brant's affections. I thought Brant handled it well, although Abby was horrified that someone else wanted Brant -- and the competition was beautiful. This book is under 200 pages, yet it offers an interesting story that stays with the reader. There is a great depth of emotion displayed in this book. It is a gem.

Unconventional Series
**1. Abby: Mail Order Bride (2012)
2. Broken Angel (2013)
3. Ryder's Salvation (2014)
4. Joy's Return (2014)


The Abduction (Harlequin Historical, No 78)
The Abduction (Harlequin Historical, No 78)
Author: Patricia Potter
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 8
Review Date: 10/17/2012


This book is Patricia Potters first Scottish historical romance and frankly it shows. At an early point in the book, I found the traitor to be blindingly obvious.

This is an interesting story but the dialogue dragged at times and the build-up to the final confrontation seemed to last forever. However, Potter did one thing very well she offered a long enough ending to tie up several loose ends. Sometimes, Potter rushes the last few pages, as if she cant wait to finish the story.

Alex and Elsbeth are star-crossed lovers; each from an opposing, hostile clan. These two main characters lacked the sparkle and well-developed characterizations of other Potter novels.

Patricia Potter published five books in 1991 (Lawless, Island of Dreams, The Abduction, Rainbow, and The Greatest Gift. Perhaps this is why this book wasnt one of her best; however, Lawless was super!


The Abduction (Harlequin Historical, No 78)
The Abduction (Harlequin Historical, No 78)
Author: Patricia Potter
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 10/17/2012


This book is Patricia Potters first Scottish historical romance and frankly it shows. At an early point in the book, I found the traitor to be blindingly obvious.

This is an interesting story but the dialogue dragged at times and the build-up to the final confrontation seemed to last forever. However, Potter did one thing very well she offered a long enough ending to tie up several loose ends. Sometimes, Potter rushes the last few pages, as if she cant wait to finish the story.

Alex and Elsbeth are star-crossed lovers; each from an opposing, hostile clan. These two main characters lacked the sparkle and well-developed characterizations of other Potter novels.

Patricia Potter published five books in 1991 (Lawless, Island of Dreams, The Abduction, Rainbow, and The Greatest Gift. Perhaps this is why this book wasnt one of her best; however, Lawless was super!


The Abduction (Legacy of Love)
The Abduction (Legacy of Love)
Author: Patricia Potter
Book Type: Paperback
  ?
Review Date: 10/17/2012
Helpful Score: 1


This book is Patricia Potter's first Scottish historical romance - and frankly it shows. At an early point in the book, I found the traitor to be blindingly obvious.

This is an interesting story but the dialogue dragged at times and the build-up to the final confrontation seemed to last forever. However, Potter did one thing very well - she offered a long enough ending to tie up several loose ends. Sometimes, Potter rushes the last few pages, as if she can't wait to finish the story.

Alex and Elsbeth are star-crossed lovers; each from an opposing, hostile clan. These two main characters lacked the sparkle and well-developed characterizations of other Potter novels.

Patricia Potter published five books in 1991 (Lawless, Island of Dreams, The Abduction, Rainbow, and The Greatest Gift. Perhaps this is why this book wasn't one of her best; however, Lawless was super!


About Face (Guido Brunetti, Bk 18)  (Audio CD) (Unabridged)
Review Date: 9/22/2015
Helpful Score: 2


This story seems to have been snatched from recent headlines; it is about women who have plastic surgery; Italian political corruption and what to do with trash when all of Europe's landfills are full. Of course, readers are also allowed a glimpse into the home life of a Venetian family (Guido Brunetti).

There's a lot going on in this book; political corruption seems to be a constant in Italian life. With that in the background, the other two themes play out their stories. Commissario Guido Brunetti and his wife are invited to a dinner at his parents-in-law's home. Brunetti is seated across from a very interesting woman with a scarred face. Everyone who sees her think it is plastic surgery gone bad' -- most also think she is too young to have gone under the knife (she's in her mid-thirties).

The woman's much older husband asks Brunetti's father-in-law to go into partnership with him. Then, Brunetti's father-in-law asks him to casually look into this prospective business partner's background.

Solutions for handling trash (regular, medical, nuclear, etc.) are a growing problem in Italy. I learned a great deal about what countries are doing now and it is not a pretty picture. Although the potential business partner says he is in the transportation business, Brunetti soon learns that he is transporting trash to third world countries.

I found this to be a believable and fascinating -- story. This is the 18th story and I don't recommend someone start with this one. Leon's style is interesting; she doesn't explain any of the back stories of secondary characters. But her regular readers know about them as they have been introduced.

Guido Brunetti
1. Death at La Fenice (1992)
2. Death in a Strange Country (1993)
3. The Anonymous Venetian (1994) aka Dressed for Death
4. A Venetian Reckoning (1995) aka Death and Judgment
5. Acqua Alta (1996) aka Death in High Water

6. The Death of Faith (1997) aka Quietly in Their Sleep
7. A Noble Radiance (1997)
8. Fatal Remedies (1998)
9. Friends in High Places (1999) Dagger Awards Best Novel nominee (2000): Friends in High Places
10. A Sea of Troubles (2001)

11. Willful Behaviour (2002)
12. Uniform Justice (2003)
13. Doctored Evidence (2004)
14. Blood from a Stone (2005)
15. Through a Glass Darkly (2006)

16. Suffer the Little Children (2007)
17. The Girl of His Dreams (2008)
18. About Face (2009)


The Accidental Lawman
The Accidental Lawman
Author: Jill Marie Landis
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 25
Review Date: 1/29/2015


This is a sweet Christian Historical novel by Jill Marie Landis; I did not know she wrote Christian fiction. All of the characters (not just the main ones) were carefully drawn and participated in this story. The citizens (and town of Glory, Texas) were engaging.

Amelia Hawthorne is a healer who walks into the town bank just before it is robbed. A stranger trips over Amelia (Hank Larson) and happens to stop the robbery. Immediately, the citizens clamor to name him sheriff; Hank agrees reluctantly.

The citizens assure Hank that nothing ever happens in Glory; it will be an easy task until someone else will take the role. This story pulls the reader in rather quickly and keeps the readers interest.

Hank finds out that Amelia is a healer and a mid-wife; before his death, her father was the only doctor for miles. Hank is horrified; a year before, his wife and child were killed by the incompetence of a mid-wife and Hank still wears the scars of their loss.

The author captures the bustle of a small town and peoples it with folks the reader will care about; they will also enjoy the gossip-tendencies of the town folk. These characters are so likeable that readers are eager to meet them again in future books.

This is a low-key, pleasant story about 2 people who have to get over their prejudices against the other before they can enter into a serious relationship.


Ace of Hearts (House of Cards, Bk 1)
Ace of Hearts (House of Cards, Bk 1)
Author: Barbara Metzger
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 58
Review Date: 7/24/2016


This is a delightful trio of stories (see the list below). You will laugh out loud with the antics in this story. It is just plain fun. The hero in this outing is almost an anti-hero. Ace, an earl, is shaking the dust of London to get away from the three women he is engaged to (at the same time). He makes a point of running away from unpleasant problems.

Alex (Ace) and his brother, Jack, were given a quest by their dying father. Earlier, there was a carriage accident that claimed his second wife and all hands in the conveyance. However, the baby Lottie (Charlotte) Endicott disappeared -- without a trace. The old earl was convinced that the child still lived and begged his sons to continue the search for their half-sister.

Ace decides that this would be a great time to search for Lottie. To that end, he goes to the place his step-mother was visiting at the time of her death. As he arrives at the Ambeaux Cottage, he finds that the brother entrusted with the care if his manor (and its tenants) has been stealing, draining the value from Ace's minor estate.

There, Ace meets the sister, Nell, a lovely spinster, under the thumb of her older brother. Nell is an interesting character; her best friend is a goose, Wellsley. The goose is rather protective of Nell and attacks those he feels have gotten too forward. When the goose attacks Ace and his horse, he winds up with a head wound, broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder. While Ace is trying to get well, Fiancee #1 arrives, planning to snare the earl at last.

The house also holds the old aunt, who has regular conversations with the dead. Ace has a wonderful valet who adds much to the comical goings-on. As you can see, there are plenty of zany characters to keep the story going. Be sure to read these books in order.

House of Cards Trilogy
1. Ace of Hearts (2005)
2. Jack of Clubs (2006)
3. Queen of Diamonds (2006)


The Achaemenid Persian Empire: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Greeks? Most Famous Enemy
Review Date: 11/7/2019


The Persians were unique in that they did not 'conquer, obliterate and rebuild according to their own terms' but were known by their tolerance of other cultures. As long as they paid their taxes to the Persian king, they could continue to live according to their own customs and culture. Old Persian was the language used for the bureaucracy, but otherwise, groups used their own cultural languages. When the Achaemenid inscriptions were found, they used Old Persian and the languages of the communities that they controlled. This is very different from other capturing groups, who tended to uproot conquered tribes.

The Persians were the first postal system with staging posts every 20 miles along a route. Travel was fast and safe along these roads the Persians built. Interestingly enough, the Persians left little in the way of writings behind, so what we know of them is from the Greeks, who were their sworn enemies. The last page sums up the Persians: They had respect for their subjects, religious tolerance, and promoted trade, art, and culture. They were a stable empire for 250 years.


Ada Lovelace: A Life from Beginning to End (Biographies of Women in History)
Review Date: 10/28/2019


Augusta Ada King, the Countess of Lovelace, was the only legitimate child of Lord and Lady Byron.  Since Lord and Lady Byron separated when Ada was 5 weeks old (and he left England forever four months later), father and child would never have a relationship.  Because of Lady Byron's grief over the ending of her marriage, she was never emotionally close to her daughter.  Ada seems to have been raised mostly by Lady Byron's mother, Judith.

Ada's early teen years were marred by a form of paralysis, after a bout of measles.  By the age of 16, however, she started to recover.  When Ada had some sort of a dalliance with a tutor, Ada's mom worried that Ada would become a degenerate (like her father) and pushed Ada into her studies, especially mathematics and physics.  Interestingly, Ada's mother was a math whiz.

From this short study of Ada's life, it is easy to see that she got flamboyance from her father.  It looks like she was often bored by life's mundaneness.  Ada's association with Charles Babbage wasn't as close as I had thought from other reading.  However, she did understand exactly what he was trying to do.  It is a shame that Ada had such a short time to explore the world of science.  She died much too soon; she was 36 at the time of her death.


The Admiral's Penniless Bride (Harlequin Historical, No 1025)
The Admiral's Penniless Bride (Harlequin Historical, No 1025)
Author: Carla Kelly
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 60
Review Date: 5/29/2014
Helpful Score: 2


This charming story is about a woman who is destined to go to the workhouse because she is down-on-her-luck and can find no work. As a last defiant gesture, Sally Paul walks into The Drake and has a cup of tea.

Admiral Sir Charles Bright's seafaring days are over and according to society, that must mean he's in need of a wife (famous line from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE). Charles Bright has two older, domineering sisters who are throwing eligible females his way. Charles thinks he can do a better job; he has agreed to meet a young woman (sister to one of his sea companions) at The Drake and marry.

Charles obviously doesnt think much of his intended; he refers to her as The Mouse. When The Mouse fails to appear, Charles looks around and sees an attractive, (if shabbily dressed) woman who is obviously in some difficulty. The waiter wants to throw her out; she is drinking her tea as slowly as possible.

Charles strikes up a conversation with her and tells her his plight. He makes her an offer of a marriage of convenience. Sally sees at once that it would be a solution short of the workhouse but declines. She leaves and looks for a quiet place to spend the night. As she is making herself comfortable in a pew of a local church, Charles arrives and sits nearby. He renews his offer and Sally reluctantly agrees.

Both of the main characters are well-drawn and are extremely likeable; Charles is a wit and Sally has a good sense of humor and a strong sense of humility and humanity. They fit well together.

However, Sally has a desperate secret and she decides not to tell Charles until later. She does tell Charles that she was married before and had a son (who died because she could not earn enough to keep her small son warm). She also tells Charles that her husband committed suicide.

When someone mentions suicide, most polite folks immediately drop the subject. Thus, Charles does not know the reason for the suicide. This is a warm and gentle story; however I had a problem with all the crying (men, women and children). On the positive side, Mrs. Kelly gives an accurate view of the child abuse and anti-Semitism that was part of Regency life in England.


The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (Poirot)
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (Poirot)
Author: Agatha Christie
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 6/17/2020


While in college, I was a real Agatha Christie enthusiast. I read all of her full-length mysteries. However, I don't remember seeing short stories from this famous author. "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding" was originally written in 1960. The famous Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot is called upon to help a foolish young aristocrat. Unfortunately, he must go to an English country mansion, Kings Lacey, to ferret out the thief. Poirot has no interest in spending Christmas in a drafty old pile of stone; he'd rather stay in his warm London home. But Poirot is a kind man and is soon induced to experience a 'real British Christmas.'

When he gets there, Poirot learns that there is another problem. The older Laceys tell Poirot about their unhappiness that their daughter is committed to marrying a man her family is convinced just wants her money. Keep in mind that this story only fills 32 pages. That isn't much time to tell two somewhat connected stories. However, by the 32nd page, Poirot has helped peace reign in the British countryside.

I thoroughly enjoy Christie's mysteries and unique solutions. However, this book, like all of her others, only offers stick-figures for people, not living-and-breathing humans.


Affair
Affair
Author: Amanda Quick
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 209
Review Date: 11/26/2018


The author created a Prologue for both the heroine and a separate one for the hero. After her stepfather had run through the family fortune and been killed, Charlotte had to create a way to maintain herself and her younger sister, Ariel. To that end, she became a discrete investigator of men (who wanted to marry older women who suddenly came into some money).

At the time the story opens, Charlotte is interviewing Baxter St. Ives for a job as a man-of-affairs. What she needs is a forgettable face that is well-versed in asking questions. I gave the book a four stars for the following: I could not believe a woman of such strong opinions would change her mind about hiring St. Ives on such flimsy reasoning. Second, I did not find it realistic that they began an intimate relationship on such short acquaintance. I might have given the book a lower rating but the story is interesting and it moves quickly to a rousing conclusion.


An Affair of Interest
An Affair of Interest
Author: Barbara Metzger
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 2/17/2020


There are only a few Barbara Metzger's remaining on my "to read" list but this one is about the funniest so far. I loved it; the author carried the humor throughout the story, one madcap event after another.

Sydney Lattimore is a managing female; she has plotted and planned how to get the three of them (Sydney, her sister Winnie, and the "General," a war veteran) to London for a Season. Sydney is convinced that she can show off her beautiful sister and find her a wealthy husband, who will take care of the three of them. Syd has enough money to land the three in London, but not enough to keep them there.

The next time we see Syd, she has arrived at a London loanshark's office, hoping for a loan. Viscount Mainwaring is shocked by her outrageous plots and plans. He decides to give her the 1000 pounds she needs; Syd insists it is a loan. The viscount doesn't expect to see the little lady again. Hah. Before long, the viscount knows Sydney needs a keeper.

Metzger has outdone herself in describing Pekingese dogs as 'little rodents in fur coats.' I fell out of my chair laughing; I wasn't expecting such a wild description of such a sweet, tame breed of dog. There are chuckles on virtually every page; enjoy.


African Mythology: Captivating Myths of Gods, Goddesses, and Legendary Creatures of Africa
Review Date: 11/29/2019


Of all the books I've read this year, this has to be the most unique. I did not know that there are 54 African countries and over 3000 different cultures there. The author has taken 10 African folktales to share with the reader. Most of these stories have been transmitted orally for many generations.

The tales are of differing kinds: animal tricksters, hero tales, cautionary stories and stories that show Arab and Islam influences. I was fascinated to learn that in Africa, they have the concept of owning stories and one must get permission to tell another's story. Thank you to the author for offering helpful explanations before each story. Because other cultures have differing attitudes about life and death, those explanations are critical to understanding what is offered.


African Myths and Egyptian Gods: A Captivating Guide to African Mythology and Gods of Ancient Egypt
Review Date: 8/26/2020


This is the combination of two of Captivating History's winning productions offered recently. The first is about the unique African myths that come from many independent tribes and cultures. The second is about the Egyptian gods and how they changed over the centuries. Overall score: 4.5 stars.

African Myths --
Of all the books I've read this year, this has to be the most unique. I did not know that there are 54 African countries and over 3000 different cultures there. The author has taken 10 African folktales to share with the reader. Most of these stories have been transmitted orally for many generations.

The tales are of differing kinds: animal tricksters, hero tales, cautionary stories, and stories that show Arab and Islam influences. I was fascinated to learn that in Africa, they have the concept of owning stories and one must get permission to tell another's story. Thank you to the author for offering helpful explanations before each story. Because other cultures have different attitudes about life and death, those explanations are critical to understanding what is offered.

Egyptian Gods --
Probably one of the most important facts of this book: The pharaohs were thought to be the sons of a deity; so Egyptian religion was closely involved with politics. Religion changed according to the pharaoh's beliefs. However, a pharaoh could move too rapidly for his population and be accused of heresy. We all know of Akhenaten's drastic changes that were reversed by his son, Tutankhamun.

There is a huge pantheon of gods for the Egyptians. The gods and goddesses changed their roles over the centuries. Thus, this book is an effort to explain the most significant gods and goddesses of the Egyptians. Thanks for the timeline; it helped place events and characters in a time reference. I referred to it often. The book offers an impressive bibliography and even endnotes.


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