Sunday, December 22, 2013

Review: Hung, Strung and Potted: A History of Eating Habits in Colonial American by Sally Smith Booth

Synopsis: When colonial settlers first landed in America, that found no vast treasure of gold or rare spices, but something much more valuable to survival - the world's largest outdoor supermarket. This is the story of how city-dwelling Europeans, along in the wilderness, learned to tame the New World's forest and streams. The far of pioneers at all levels of society is portrayed, from the aristocrat who dined on potted swan, to the modest farmer supping on beaver tails or poke greens, and the slave with his cornmeal mush. Completing the portrait of young America's victuals are descriptions of Indian foods and explanations of the legends and taboos which linked the red man so closely with nature. Much of the material is from rare diaries and journals of the period, which show colonial life as seen by those who actually lived it. Many of the illustrations are derived from other precious volumes of the day, designed to show this alien land to patrons in the Old World. Farming, Hunting and cooking techniques are chronicled along with glimpses of various tools and utensils. Nearly 250 authentic recipes are included, and range from instructions on how to stuff a cock's comb to preparing an entire turtle. With its extensive glossary and bibliography, this volume will be a delight for the casual reader, and a special treat for historians, housewives and epicureans. (from the back of the book)

Review: While I enjoyed this book, I found several aspects mildly frustrating. Booth clearly has a wide range of knowledge on the subject. She gives an excellent collection of recipes, divided by main ingredient, and proceeded by a short general essay on the subject. She also have chapters on food acquisition, cooking tools and techniques and dining habits. My qualm is how jumbled the organization is. Things appear in one chapter that belong in another. She jumps topics often, leaving the reader wondering more about the current subject even as they are tossed into another. I wished for more depth and detail. Also, the illustrations, while numerous, often have nothing to do with the text places next to them. It's rather odd. In all, I would recommend this book as a supplement, but not a main text. I'm certain something better has been written in the 40+ years since this was published.

Bookmarks: 6.5 of 10

Awards: None

Published: 1971
Date Finished: 12-21-2013
Pages: 238

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: Country Acres: Country Wisdom for the Working Landscape by David Larkin

Synopsis: Here is the successor to COUNTRY WISDOM, the first in David Larkin's series of handsomely illustrated and informative books about country ways and country life. COUNTRY ACRES takes the reader from the country house to its outbuildings - barns, sheds, cribs - and on to its gardens, fields, trees, and ponds. In his charming fashion, Larkin offers information and guidance for country-lovers of all levels of sophistication, explaining how fields get their size and shape; how best to use the tools of country work, from grub hoe to chainsaw; why you should (or shouldn't) grow potatoes; how to farm your trees and grow fish as a food source; and how best to pick and store your crops. All these and hundreds of other topics are covered in this artfully designed volume, with more than two hundred full-color photographs and drawings. Much more than a how-to book, COUNTRY ACRES is about the art of understanding the country. (from the back of the book)

Review: This was another estate lot acquisition. I waffled on whether to keep it. I'm glad I did. Full of marvelous photographs, it seems like it would be just another pretty picture book. But Larkin adds in excellent information, useful advice on soil, trees, vegetables and grass. He even has a section on farm animals and tractors! While I don't plan on moving to the country and starting a farm any time soon, I  enjoyed reading and dreaming about "what if?". I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the farming life. It would also make an excellent gift to the enthusiastic gardener in your life.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-395-77188-9
Date Finished: 12-15-2013
Pages: 160

Monday, December 16, 2013

Review: Women's Voices, Women's Lives: Documents from Early American History ed. by Carol Berkin and Leslie Horowitz

Synopsis: This book offers a wealth of primary sources on women's experiences in colonial American. Carol Berkin and Leslie Horowitx gather together a broad spectrum of documents that crosscuts race, class, and region, presenting the voices of African American, European, and Native American women, the rich and the poor, and the women in the south,  the middle colonies and New England. (from the back of the book)

Review: This book appeared in the bibliography of every single book I've read on women in colonial America. I figured, I should read it. I'm glad I did. Organized by subjects, each chapter each chapter beings with a short exposition of the subject and the general overview. It's followed by reprints of a variety of documents, each with a short explanation. This makes it easy to understand what you are reading, as colonial English can be a bit challenging to the modern reader. I enjoyed Berkin and Horowitz opinions, and the way they attempted to included everyone, not just the white elite. They were honest about the lack of documents from Native American and Negro sources, doing their best to include what they had. I recommend this book as a good starting point for study about colonial females.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-55553-350-7
Date Finished: 12-15-2013
Pages: 203

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Review: Colonial Williamsburg Decorates for Christmas: Step-by-Step Illustrated Instructions for Christmas Decorations that You Can Make for Your Home by Libbey Hodges Oliver

Synopsis: Step-by-step illustrated instructions fro a variety of popular Williamburg Christmas wreaths, centerpieces, accents, and other decorations that you can make from fresh fruits, greens, and natural materials are featured in this Colonial Williamsburg publication. A special section focuses on decorations created from herbs and dried materials. (from the back of the book)

Review: This was part of an estate lot and not something I would purchase on my own. Mostly, I admit, because most of these instructions are probably available on the internet now, but in 1981, when the book was published, there was no internet. First, the instructions are mostly clear and easy to follow. Some of them might see a bit muddling, but I think if you had the pieces in hand, it would make more sense. Second, the illustrations are helpful and simple, making them easy to understand.
My only qualm about the book was the recommend ingredients for the wreaths. While boxwood and pine are easy to fine (I have 3 boxwood bushes in my yard!), some of the ingredients seem expensive, particular the dried herbs. Also, chili peppers and lotus don't seem authentically colonial to me. Neither grow well in Virginia, particular water-growing lotus, where water freezes. However, with a little imagination and some scrounging in your yard, I think you could find pleasing substitutes and indeed, the book encourages that - the substation, not the scrounging. In the end, I'm glad I kept and read this book. I might even try my hand a boxwood wreath made from my own plants!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-87935-056-3
Date Finished: 12-14-2013
Pages: 80

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Review: Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt

Synopsis: Not only is Turner Buckminster the son of the new minister in a small Maine town, he is shunned for playing baseball differently than the local boys. Then he befriends smart and lively Lizzie Bright Griffin, a girl from Malaga Island, a poor community founded by former slaves. Lizzie shows Turner a new world along the Maine coast from digging clams to rowing a boat next to a whale. When the powerful town elders, including Turner’s father, decide to drive the people off the island to set up a tourist business, Turner stands alone against them. He and Lizzie try to save her community, but there’s a terrible price to pay for going against the tide. (from the back of the book)

Review: I hate this book. Hate. And I gave it 8 bookmarks because of that. Here is what I hated: I hated how the people treated Turner. I hated how Mr. Stonecrop used people for their money and claimed it was God's will. I hated how the Hurds treated Mrs. Hurd and Turner and Lizzie. I hated how the town thought it was God's will to destroy the lives of the people on Malaga Island. I hated, hated, hated how it ended. I hated how the lyrical poetry of Schmidt's words contrasted with the meanness of the plot. I hated that it's based on a true story.
I'm giving it 8 bookmarks because it is rare for a book to grab my heart and emotions so strongly, so deeply. Truly, this is an exceptional volume of literature.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: Newbery Honor, 2005

ISBN: 0-553-49495-3
Date Finished: 12-8-2013
Pages: 219

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Review: The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Synopsis: Dorothy Gale is swept up in a cyclone and lands in the magical world of Oz. Here, she meet witches and munckins, china dolls and scarecrows and has many wonderful and frightening adventures in her quest to return home.

Review: Everyone has seen the Judy Garland version of The Wizard of Oz. I hate it, much to my mother's sorrow. I read an article comparing the original story to the Judy Garland version, citing the strong difference between the original Dorothy (courageous) and Garland's Dorothy (weak). I read Wicked by Gregory Maguire, and it was okay, but I didn't much enjoy that either. The musical, of course, is fabulous, but I think the exquisite music has more to do with that than the story. I've also seen the 1985 movie, Return to Oz and 2013 movie Oz, The Great and Powerful. Return to Oz scared the bejeebus out of me. Oz, The Great and Powerful was good, a bit cheesy and the acting was meh, but I enjoyed the origin story of the two Wicked Witches. I've even seen (and rather enjoyed) the sci-fi miniseries, Tin Man, which was a creative, if someone liberal, imagining of Oz and the story.
All that being said, it occurred to me I have never read the actual original story. So, I dug out my copy and set to reading. It was vastly different from any of my previous encounters. There are small bits and pieces that are similar, namely the characters and some of the lands and the barest thread of story. But none, NONE, of the movies even come close to the original book. The book has more depth and more life and more story than any of the movie. I now consider most of them to be  gross bastardization of the original.
As for the book, I can see why children have loved this story for over 100 years. It's just the sort of story that makes sense to child. I would highly recommend to anyone with a child under 10. I think this is the perfect book to read aloud as a bedtime story.

Bookmarks: 7 0f 10

Awards: None

Date Published: 1900
Date of the Read Copy: 1944
Date Finished: 12-7-2013
Pages: 192

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review: Serpent's Gift by A.C. Crispin with Deborah A. Marshall (Starbridge, Book 4)

Synopsis: His career as an instructor at Starbidge Academy was a second change for Serge LaRoche, a gifted musician. Until a freak accident took away his hands. For young Heather Farley, brilliant but undisciplined, Starbridge was a first change at the security and stability she had been without all her life. but now an incredible archaeological find beneath the cold surface of the school's asteroid base threatens their dream for the future - and the future of StarBridge itself... (from the back of the book)

Review: This is, so far, my favorite Starbridge book. Unlike the other three, that started out slow, this one starts with a breakneck speed. More so than the others, I felt connected to the characters, in particular Heather. Seeing how she changed and grew was interesting. Unlike the others, I found this was slightly darker and sad as well as romantic, fascinating and intriguing. The mystery had enough twists and turns that even though I figured out the bad guy early on, I wasn't sure how or why until the end. Again, I recommend this entire series to someone who enjoys a classic, excellent-done science fiction story.

Bookmarks: 7.5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-441-78331-7
Date Finished: 12-7-2013
Pages: 295

Monday, December 9, 2013

Review: Shadow World by A.C. Crispin and Jannean Elliott (Starbridge 3)

Synopsis: For the golden-eyes Elspind, membership in the Cooperative League of Systems could bring many benefits...including a drug that would greatly increase their brief life spans. Mark Kenner, on the brink of abandoning his StarBridge career, is forced into one last assignment - to speak on Elseemar for the CLS. But some of the Elspind are opposed to any such alliance. Violently opposed. They call themselves Wospind. And they are waiting for Mark and his companions. (from the back of the book)

Review: Like the two previous books, this one starts out slow and little boring. But it picks up quickly and gets excited, fast-paced and breathless to the end. I liked the focus on death and life and how the two are together. I also found the Elspind culture unquie and fascinating. I recommend.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-441-78332-5
Date Finished: 12-2-2013
Pages: 279

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ramble: One Whole Year

I had a crazy idea: Go an entire year (2014 to be specific) without purchasing a book.

And I don't mean my normal book ban, which has loopholes galore. I mean complete. No special allowances for book sales or estate sales. No use of gift cards, or even asking for books as gifts.

I know, I know. Many question my ability to do this. Experience has taught us all the prudence of questioning this. I doubt myself.

But...what if I could?

My reasoning is too complex to put to words. It has a lot to do with my belief in Christ, my wish to change my spending habits, the need to be more prudent with my finances, etc.

What about you? Could you go an entire year without buying books?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Review: Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry

Synopsis: Mafatu's name means "Stout Heart," but his people call him coward. Ever since the sea took his mother's life and spared his own, he has lived with a deep dear. And even though his father is the Great Chief of Hiueru - an island whose seafaring people worship courage - he is terrified and so they hate him. By the time he is fifteen years old, Mafatu can bear it no longer. He must conquer his fear alone...even if it means certain death. (from the back of the book)

Review: I read this book because it's a Newbery. It lived up to the medal. Mafatu's fear was real and understandable and his quest to overcome it took the reader through highs and lows, peace and storms. I would highly recommend this to young boys, age 6-13. I can see them, in particular, enjoying the adventure.

PS: The dog lives.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: Newbery Medal, 1941

ISBN: 978-0-689-71391-0
Date Finished: 12-1-2013
Pages: 95

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Review: The Book of the Continental Soldier by Harold L. Peterson

Synopsis: In human interest, but definitely authentic, text - and using nearly two hundred photographs of actual specimens and special paintings and drawings by leading military artists - The Book of the Continental Soldier offers an eyewitness kind of understanding of how the Continental Army functioned, of the things the solider used to live and to win. Despite an impressive shelf of technical and popular studies and biographies of the conflict and the era, this handsome book deals with an almost neglected area. Even for the reader who doesn't like history, a browse here makes the past very present. Of course it's a unique resource for those who enjoy fresh historical views, and a treasure for buffs and collectors of all kinds (from the inside flap)

Review: I picked this up at a local book sale for 50 cents, mostly because I've developed a rabid interest in the Revolutionary War. This book is old, but still worth reading for the prose. It's a little dry at times, but highly informative, packed with details, specs, notes and other assorted bits that will delight the heart of a true enthusiast. The pictures are old, only 2 in color and the drawings are well-down, but without color, lack something. Peterson was Chief Curator for the National Park Service for many years and his extensive knowledge and obvious passion make this otherwise dull work worth looking at.

Bookmarks: 6.5 of 10

Awards: None

Published: 1968
Date Finished: 11-30-13
Pages: 287

Monday, December 2, 2013

Review: Revoltionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Indepence by Carol Berkin

Synopsis: The American Revolution was a home-front war that brought scarcity, bloodshed, and danger into the life of every American. In this ground-breaking history, Carol Berkin shows us how women played a vital role throughout the conflict. The women of the Revolution were most active at home, organizing boycotts of British goods, raising funds for the fledgling nation, and managing the family business while struggling to maintain a modicum of normalcy as husbands, brothers, and fathers died. Yet Berkin also reveals that it was not just the men who fought on the front lives, as in the story of Margaret Corbin, who was crippled for life when she took her husbands place beside a cannon at Fort Monmouth. This incisive and comprehensive history illuminates as fascinating and unknown side of the struggle for American independence. (from the back of the book)

Review: As I've been gathering and reading books on Women in the American Revolution, Berkin's work (this book and others) consistently show up in the bibliographies. I had to read it. I'm very glad I did. Berkin clearly knows her history and how to impart the information. Each chapter centers on a different group of women - including First Nations and African-American. Berkin gives an excellent overview of the many different roles women played in this war - some good, some bad, some for Britain, so for the USA. I highly recommend this work as a starting point for more in depth research or reading about Women in the Revolution. I'm also eager to get my hands on more books by Berkin. She has several I mostly eagerly want to read.

Bookmarks: 7.5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4000-7532-4
Date Finished: 11-29-13
Pages: 194

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Review: A Treasury of A.W. Tozer: A Collection of Tozer Favorites by A.W. Tozer

Synopsis: This outstanding selection of excerpts from the most popular books of A.W. Tozer includes favorite from The Knowledge of the Holy and The Divine Conquest. Each chapter in this collection of favorites reflects the genius of a pastor whose words continue to reach the hearts of Christians everywhere. (From the back of the book)

Review: Tozer has long been a favorite, since I first read his The Pursuit of God in 8th grade. When I saw this at a Thrift Store, I eager snatched it up. Simple and honest, Tozer does not mince words. He is not going to sugar-coat the truth or make is fluffy and happy and comfortable. He tells you the truth and always brings it back to Christ Jesus. I found much joy and much conviction in his words, and his instructions caused me to step back and examine many aspects of my relationship with Christ. I highly recommend this for Christians of any walk or creed.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-87509-176-8
Date Finished: 11-29-13
Pages: 296