Day of Deceit



by Robert B. Stinnett

Published 2000

If you love conspiracy theories, or if you think that FDR  was actually a crappy president (woot! I fit both those categories!) you will enjoy this book.

Honestly, I think that Stinnett did a good job with this book.  It is a *bit* conspiracy-theory-ish, but not in that overboard I’m-writing-this-from-an-undisclosed-location-so-I-don’t-get-killed kind of way.  Basically, Stinnett’s premise is that FDR wanted our country to be involved in World War II, and so he did everything he could to (a) provoke Japan into attacking, (b) to make sure that Pearl Harbor was an available target, and (c) (and perhaps most controversial) ensure that the service men and women at Pearl Harbor would be taken by surprise by an attack.

Now, as I’ve already mentioned, I’m not a fan of FDR.  I was drawn to this book because other (more neutral) readings about World War II have made me a bit leery of FDR’s attitude towards war.  Just reading his speeches and such during the year before Pearl Harbor, he doesn’t sound like a man who truly wants to stay out of a war.  Day of Deceit confirms that concept – FDR realized that our country could be pulled out of the Depression and into a position of great world power if our entry to the war was timed correctly.

I definitely recommend this read.  Although Stinnett is often dealing with some dry material, he keeps things moving, and usually does a fairly good job staying on task.  (Although, let’s be fair, it’s pretty obvious that he’s not a big fan of FDR, either, and although he doesn’t actually spend the book ranting about him or anything, he does manage to work in some rather wry comments on FDR’s policies and personal life.)  While Stennett’s work obviously can’t be used as an end-all argument, he definitely raises some excellent questions about the events leading up to Pearl Harbor, and he does it without making at all less of the incredible sacrifices made by those who served in the military at Pearl Harbor and throughout the war.   A good read, a bit heavy, but worth the effort.

The Stolen Lake



by Joan Aiken

Published 1981

When we last saw Dido Twite, in Nightbirds on Nantucketshe was sincerely hoping to find her way back home to England.  Her friends found her a place on board a British Naval ship, but, along the way, they are called to duty in South America.  In Aiken’s AU, a colony of Britishers settled in South America over a thousand years earlier during an invasion of their home island.  Through the years, Britain and New Cumbria have retained friendly relations, and so the call for help of New Cumbria’s queen is not to be ignored.

The earlier books in this series, while, at times, rather dark, have still been fairly appropriate for children.  In The Stolen Lake, however, things take a turn dark enough that I was a bit confused.  Overall, a 2/5 for this installment of the series.  For more details on this rating, combined with spoilers, read on…


Continue reading



by Jenna Woginrich

Published 2011

So a while back I realized that I have several homesteading books that I really love, and although they are not written by the same person, they are published by the same publisher.  Storey Publishers are a delight, and I highly recommend checking them out if you have any interesting in homesteading or homemaking or doing-it-yourself.  If I could work for a publisher, it would be Storey.  Anyway, I decided to make a list of all the books they publish that are also available at my library and read through them all, and purchase the ones that I felt like would be especially good reference.  I haven’t gotten very far on that project since I’ve been moving and involved in other chaos, but Barnheart was first on the list.

This is actually a memoir sort of book, written by a woman who moved from Idaho to Vermont.  In this first year-and-so of her life in Vermont, she recalls transitioning not only into the community, but attempting to realize some of her dreams, dreams which you will either understand immediately or look at askance – dreams that involve gardening (and composting and canning and everything that goes with a truly amazing vegetable garden), raising sheep, raising chickens – in short, dreams that involve living independently, maybe not quite off the grid, but with the comfortable assurance that you could live off the grid if needed.

Jenna’s story has another unique dimension because she is doing this on her own – she is single, and she stays that way (throughout the book, at least).  She simply has not found someone who shares her passion.

I found myself really appreciating Jenna as I read this book.  She is someone who is overcoming obstacles and pursuing her dreams, even though they are somewhat impractical.  Her willingness to sacrifice many of life’s comforts so that she can achieve her goals is inspiring.  I love the way that she plunges in and learns on the fly.  Things do not always go well for her (this is a story of real life, after all), and no Prince Charming appears on her horizon, but she creates a life that is fulfilling, prosperous, and contented.  This book is a definite recommended read for anyone who has yearned to move to the country and make a go of homesteading.

Brother Cadfael’s Penance



by Ellis Peters

Published 1994

It took Peters almost 20 years to publish the 20 Cadfael books.  The final installment, Brother Cadfael’s Penance, was published in 1994; Peters (whose actual name was Edith Pargeter) died in 1995 at the age of 82.  I am EXTREMELY glad that she was able to finish this book first.  For me, one of the most beautiful parts of the Cadfael books is the way that they all tie together.  Throughout the series, you not only come to know Cadfael himself, but many of the other brothers and townspeople.  Peters tells the story of a man who has followed his faith throughout his life, first during the Crusades and then as a monk, and who, despite these widely different lifestyles, is at peace with the choices he has made.

I think that it is the very humanness of her characters that makes these books so readable.  She certainly has her share of flat, shallow characters, but the ones who reappear in multiple books definitely take on depth and portray the many facets of human choices and life.  In this final book, Cadfael has to make some of the most difficult choices of his life, decisions that impact not only himself, but the fates of many others, and Peters writes about the agony of those decisions with beauty and poignancy.  Sometimes life does not present us with clear black and white choices, and life never presents us with people who are wholly evil or wholly good.  Dealing with those decisions and individuals is no easy task.

Every time I have reviewed one of these books, I have recommended the series.  This review is no different – these are excellent stories, beautifully written – stories that are not only decent mysteries, but wonderful reflections of humankind.

Nightbirds on Nantucket



by Joan Aiken

Published 1966

At the end of Black Hearts and Battersea, Simon and his friend, Dido Twite, are shipwrecked.  While we know that Simon is rescued, everyone fears the worst for Dido Twite, and the book ends with her friends assuming that she died at sea.  I read someplace that Aiken’s original intention was to leave that as canon, but so many of her readers wrote to her asking about Dido’s fate, that she decided that Dido would live.  And, in fact, Dido becomes the main character for the next several books in the Wolves series.  (I am not yet through them all, so I cannot say whether she is the heroine of all of the rest or not!)

In Nightbirds, we find that Dido was rescued by a whaler, and has been in a coma for several months.  The story picks up when Dido regains consciousness, and follows her adventures on the ship, as she befriends the captain’s daughter.  Left on Nantucket to be a companion to the fearful Dutiful Penitence as she goes to live with her aunt.  Except the aunt seems oddly familiar to readers of Aiken’s earlier books…

Adventures with a pink whale, a giant gun, and ridiculous Hanoverians, this story set in Aiken’s alternate-universe world where bonny James III rules England and magic is not completely fictional, this tale was a great deal of fun.


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea


by Jules Verne

Published 1870

So I have been meaning to read some of Verne’s work ever since I read a biography about him almost a year ago.  I decided to start with what is possibly his most famous work, and the first of his that I read as a child.  My dad, for some reason, LOVES Jules Verne.  I think that as an engineer, Dad appreciates the technical and scientific method of writing.  Combined with the fact that Verne was quite ahead of his time–many times he writes about things that no one had even imagined at the time of his writing–this makes Verne a fun classic author.

The “20,000” part is a bit of a trick, though, considering that the ocean isn’t even 20,000 leagues deep–the narrator of the story actually travels 20,000 leagues around the world while underneath the ocean (sneaky, I know).

Verne’s strength is in his descriptions of places and natural phenomenon; his weakness is in character development.  Most of the  people in his stories (including the narrator) feel very flat.  Even Captain Nemo, with his mysterious hatred for land remains quite mysterious.  As for the narrator and his companions–well, you understand how they are going to react with the first couple of chapters, and they never surprise you for the rest of the book.

Despite this, I still recommend 20,000 Leagues.  When you read it, imagine being a young boy in the mid-1800’s, reading this story as a serial, anxiously anticipating the publication of each new chapter, full of descriptions of an aquatic wonderland far below the surface of the ocean.

The Potter’s Field, Summer of the Danes, and The Holy Thief



by Ellis Peters

Published 1989, 1991, 1992

Sorry for the long posting delay…  we are in the  midst of moving house (again) so things are more than a bit chaotic around here!  But reading is always a constant, and I have TONS of books to post!!!

All the way back on vacation, I finally finished the Brother Cadfael series.  I’ll talk about the final book later, but first, books 17-19…

As always, excellent stories.  The Potter’s Field is an interesting one to me because it brings up an interesting question–a man left his wife to become a monk.  And I’m not sure that I agree that God would ever have someone take sacred vows (marriage) and then call that man to walk away from those vows.  Still, the cast of characters involved in this story are interesting.

The Summer of the Danes reintroduces one of my very favorite characters from the series, Brother Mark.  He and Cadfael are sent on an errand into Wales, and, while there, are caught up in a local civil war.  This book is a bit unusual for the series, in that Cadfael is not the center of the story.  He’s there, and we see much of it through his eyes, but it’s almost like she had this other story that she wanted to tell and just stuck Cadfael in it so she could include it in the series.  That doesn’t make the story any less worthwhile, because some of the other characters are very well drawn.

In The Holy Thief, we actually meet several characters who were first introduced in The Potter’s Field.  Saint Winifred again plays a large role in the story as well.  Somehow, this series gives you a great love and respect for that saint.

I truly love these books, as I say every time I review any of them, and highly recommend this well-written, historically accurate series.