Monday, May 27, 2019

Book Review: One Picture Two Journeys by Tommy Gibbs; Prepare For An Epic Ride

Book Review: One Picture Two Journeys by Tommy Gibbs
Published April 2019 by Tacky Rooster
180 pages
Available on
Genre: Fiction

Reviewers note: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Can I say, Wow! What a fantastic book. From the first page to the last Tommy Gibbs pulls you in and takes you along for a wild ride. Part travelogue, part mystery, part journey of discovery, this book, set in 1990 follows a motorcycle loving young college student determined to find the identity of a long lost father. From the deserts of Arizona to the swamps of Louisiana we ride along, wingman to Rand Garrett. Gibbs descriptions bring to life the people and places we encounter in small towns across America and the joy that only a full tank of gas and an open road can bring. Armed with an old photo, taken before Rand’s birth, and led by an unseen force, Rand retraces the path of a father on a trek that culminates in a tiny Cajun town near the Atchafalaya Swamp. Through a dramatic series of events, Rand discovers the healing powers of friendship and forgiveness and longed for answers that unlock the past.

The characters are well drawn and spring from the pages. From the roadside clerks to bar room owners they will charm you, make you laugh, make you smile and some will break your heart. Rand is kind, observant, full of spirit, an old soul in a young body with a keen inquisitive mind.

The writing is crisp, well paced, and littered with well-placed details that add to the story. When describing the landscape Gibbs waxes lyrical, almost poetic, about the amazing and diverse American countryside.

Congratulations to Tommy Gibbs on this wonderful book. I highly recommend it to both men and women, fans of Americana, the movie Easy Rider, and generally well written fiction.

My rating: 5+ stars

If you are interested in purchasing this book, click on the cover and it will take you to Amazon.

My Ratings: 

1  Star: Not good at all, do not read!

2  Stars: Read only as a last resort, no other books available

3 Stars: Good, enjoyed it, will recommend with reservations

4 Stars: Really good, read this book!

5 Stars: So good, I might read it again sometime! Highly recommend

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

HIstorical Book Review: Julia Mistress of Longwood by Linda Metcalf

Reviewers note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

This book, written in the format of a journal, tells us the story of Julia Williams Nutt. Julia shares with us the highs, the lows, the good and the bad of her life in Antebellum Mississippi before, during and after the American Civil War. Like other reviewers I found the writing enchanting and although sorely tempted, I did not read it all in one go. Instead I  wanted to savor each journal entry, image her in her lovely magenta gown or riding alone through Union troops to petition General U.S. Grant. 

 I was amazed by the incredible life she led; her pampered upbringing, the utter joy she finds in her family, and her brave reaction  to all that befell her and her family. I felt like I acquired a new friend by the end of the book. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in historical fiction, you will utterly lose yourself in the world of the Deep South. Although not a romance novel there is a wonderful love story at the heart of the book, so I think anyone who loves great, well written historical romances will definitely appreciate this novel. 

Congratulations to Linda Metcalf on a wonderful book, meticulously researched, flawlessly written.  Five Plus Stars from me!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Book Review: The King's Furies by Stephanie Churchill

The King’s Furies by Stephanie Churchill
Crowns of Destiny, Book 3
341 pages

The King’s Furies by Stephanie Churchill

Reviewer’s note: I was given an ARC of the book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

The King’s Furies is a historical fantasy, the setting of which resembles medieval Europe. The book is the third in a series. I have not read the first two. The book is told in both first person, Casmir-the king, and in third person by various other characters, including Queen Irisa and her sister Kassia, the main characters of the first two books. 

The Plot: Without giving anything away, the book is centered on the king, Casmir, who has recently come to the throne of a kingdom once ruled by the father he hated. He is determined not to follow in his footsteps as king, husband or parent. Although the setting is medieval, it is not our medieval. The king’s ideals are much more modern and progressive. An event occurs early in the plot which sets Casmir on a path which challenges his principles, abilities and beliefs. I didn’t feel his actions were all that outrageous or merited the reactions they received. 

It seemed as if the first half of the book was mostly dialogue. There was little actual action but lots of talking. Characters would go off and do things, come back and talk about them. There is also a great deal of back story, filling in details from the first two books. There are several chapters that take place in the near to distant past. I almost felt as if I read a mini version of  book one and two, contained inside the pages of the third. 

Casmir spends a great deal of time in self reflection. It was fine for a while, but I found it tedious by the end of the book. One character, Helene, was introduced in chapter three. She does not appear again until chapter 34. I found this confusing, wondering who she was and why the huge gap in her appearance. I went back to chapter 3 several times to try to see if I had missed something. 

It’s not until the second half of the book, when the storyline is picked up by Jack, that the action kicks up a notch. I found this odd as he was a secondary character. There is also a significant amount of backstory from previous books but at least someone is doing something other than talking. The final chapters are back to the angsty king and his personal struggles. The resolution of the plot was practically a nonevent. 

The Characters: I have to admit I didn’t particularly care for Casmir. I found him somewhat whiny. He seemed out of place; out of time. The Queen, Irisa, was better, but she really did nothing in this book but talk. I wanted her to do something, anything. Her sister Kassia was an improvement, but then she too fell into the angsty female trap. Jack seems to have been the only one with any confidence or cojones. 

The Writing: I thought the writing was good. I sometimes found her word order and syntax to be off-putting. For instance, “He peeked at them from hiding and found nothing amiss.” I dislike having to reread sentences to try to understand what the author means, it breaks my concentration and pulls me out of the story. I did enjoy the fact that the author used her own words, I assume invented, and her use of original names, etc. Some descriptions were overly wordy and unnecessary to the plot. 

Overall: I thought it was better than good, but not a page turner. I had no trouble putting it down. I think I might have enjoyed it more if I had read at least one of the first two books and felt a stronger bond with the characters. I think the emphasis on emotions over action put me off. Blame it on Game of Thrones, I was expecting a high action period drama and got a medieval Hallmark Channel movie instead. I think the target audience for this book is women who love to talk about their feelings. Not sure if men would like it. Recommend it for women who like historical romance. I would give this book 3 1/2 stars, I don’t have that option, so I giving it 4 stars on Amazon and Goodreads. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Dover, New Hampshire, Hatevil Nutter and the Quaker Problem of 1662

What do you think of  when you read the words, 'religious radical'? A few images spring to my mind. A fiery preacher raining hell and damnation on his flock, pointing a finger at those who do not follow his theology, of which he is certain is the only way to salvation. Most religions have some variation of radicalism. I don't have to give you a list, you can create your own. One religious denomination which would not make my personal list would be the Quakers. I live in a town founded by Quakers. They seem to be very nice people, they are known for their peacefulness. A well known early Quaker, Margaret Fell, wrote to King Charles II:
"We are a people that follow after those things that make for peace, love, and unity; it is our desire that others' feet may walk in the same, and do deny and bear our testimony against all strife, and wars, and contentions that come from the lusts that war in the members, that war against the soul, which we wait for and watch for in all people, and love and desire the good of all."
Today, they are known for their pacifism and anti-war stance, they would appear to the the antithesis of radicalism. And yet, their arrival in New England in the 1650s and 1660s was regarding as something akin to a visit from the devil himself with all his plagues in tow.  The Massachusetts General Court issued an indict in October 1656 that said:

"Whereas there is a cursed sect of heretics recently risen up in the world, which are commonly called Quakers, who take it upon them to be immediately sent from God, and infallibly assisted by the spirit to speak and write blasphemous opinions, despising government, and the order of God in church and Commonwealth, speaking evil of dignities, reproaching and reviling magistrates and ministers, seeking to turn people from their faith and gain proselytes to their pernicious ways..." 
What followed this lengthy proclamation was a list of punishments for those who provided transportation to Quakers into the Colony, gave aid or shelter to Quakers, were found to have Quaker books or pamphlets or was found to be a Quaker.  

The first Quakers to arrive in Massachusetts were two women, Mary Fisher and Ann Austin, who traveled to Boston from Barbados. They were taken into custody, their papers burned, their bodies searched for witch marks. After a stint in prison they were sent back to Barbados. Many early Quakers shared their fate, imprisonment, whipping then banishment. But the Quakers were a persistent bunch and by 1658 the Massachusetts General Court, in order to deter further arrivals, adopted the death penalty for returning Quakers. In 1659 three people, two men and one woman, Ann Dyer, were hung in Boston. More followed their fate.

In 1662 the Quaker problem came to a head in Dover. The presence of three Quaker women did not sit well with some of the leading males of the town including Hatevil Nutter. Nutter was an elder of the church, served as a selectman, town moderator and justice of the peace. Hatevil crafted a petition, signed by his neighbors, and sent to the General Court craving assistance with the Quakers. The General Court's answer:
" is ordered that Captain Richard Walderne shall and hereby is empowered to act in the execution of the laws of this jurisdiction against all criminal offenders within the said town of Dover, as any one magistrate may do until this court should take further order."
The further order decreed:
To the constables of Dover, Hampton, Salisbury, Newbury, Rowley, Ipswich, Windham, Lynn, Boston, Roxbury, Dedham, and until these Quaker Vagabonds are out of this jurisdiction You and every one of your are required in the King's Majesty's name to take these Vagabond Quakers, Anna Coleman, Mary Tompkins, and Alice Ambrose, and make them fast to the cart's tail, and drawing the cart through your several towns, to whip them upon their naked backs, not exceeding ten stripes apiece, on each of them in each town, and so convey them from Constable to Constable till they are out of this jurisdiction, as you will answer it at your peril, and this shall be your warrant." (Provincial Papers, I:243)

Constables, brothers John and Thomas Roberts, arrested the three women. They were brought to the meeting house on High Street on Dover Neck. Deputy Walderne had the women stripped to the waist, and according to Sewell's History of the Quakers, had the women 'cruelly whipped while the Priest stood and looked and laughed. They were then sent to Hampton, the next stage of their journey to Boston. Accompanying the women was Doctor Walter Barefoot, a resident of Dover Neck. Perhaps he went to attend to the women's medical needs. In Hampton the women received their lashing and were sent on their way.

In Salisbury, they encountered a merciful reception. Major Robert Pike and Dr. Walter Barefoot concocted a plan. A boat was hired that carried the women to the home of Major Nicholas Shapleigh who lived in Kittery, Maine, just across the river from Dover Neck. There they received treatment for their wounds and were treated with hospitality.

The women remained in the area but damped down the ardor of their preaching. In time, the persecution of Quakers ceased and approximately one-third of the population of Dover called themselves Friends. It would seem then, it was the Quakers, not the Puritans who fought for religious liberty, the freedom to worship as they saw fit. King Charles II gave the Quakers the right to worship as they saw fit.

Hatevil Nutter has borne the brunt of the blame for the whipping and persecution of these women in New Hampshire. I'm not sure he deserves our censure. Hatevil was a product of his time. A staunch believer who saw chaos and strife in those who chose to go their own way; individualism is a tenet of Quaker belief. He sought to maintain order and regiment in a world very different from ours. I doubt I'd like him or him me, but I cannot hold him to the standards of this day, even as I despise his actions and those of my ancestors who lived alongside him. I'm sure they were they standing at the meetinghouse gaping at the Quaker women as they were cruelly whipped. I can only hope they cringed at the scene before them and felt some measure of pity for those poor souls.

Be on the lookout for my next book: Pine Tree House, coming in 2020.

You can purchase a genealogy of Hatevil Nutter on Amazon. 
Beware it's $100.00, here's a link:

Essential Genealogy Book Review: New Englanders in the 1600s by Martin E. Hollick

Genealogy book review: New Englanders in the 1600s, A guide to Genealogical Research Published Between 1980 and 2010. By Martin L. Hollick

Information from Amazon:
Publisher: New England Historic Genealogical Society (2010)
ISBN-10: 0880822759
ISBN-13: 978-0880822756
Package Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars   2 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,916,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

I am doing research for my new book which will be set in the 1600s in New Hampshire. Many of the characters in my book will be real people, some ancestors others their friends, neighbors, and possibly their enemies. Where do I turn to find the latest genealogy on these folks? Martin E. Hollick's New Englanders in the 1600s

What it is:
This book is a compendium of known New England immigrants, born prior to 1700, who are mentioned in scholarly works published between the years 1980 and 2010. Each entry provides the name of the immigrant, mostly men, birth and death if known and the location where they resided. This is followed by a reference to every publication which mentions their name. This is so important. How many of us have found incorrect, out of date information from old genealogy's published as long ago as the 1800s. Now don't get me wrong, those genealogist of old did an amazing job and produced high quality work which stands today. But, there are some dubious works out there, some innocent mistakes, some deliberate. The internet has fueled many genealogy disasters by propagating old, false information. Folks, surfing the web find these old book, not available online for free and copy out bad genealogy. Many of the sources used by Hollick require a subscription to genealogical societies such as the New England Historic Genealogical Society. This paywall can be a barrier for some who cannot afford the price. 

Anyone who pursues genealogy with family ties in early New England should get a copy of this book. I ordered mine from American Ancestors, the website for the New England Historic Genealogical Society. As a member, I got a discount. 

Recommendations: I have many early ancestors who immigrated to New England during the Great Migration. This book is great for me. If you have only one or two Great Migration ancestors you may not want to spend the money on this book. If you are like me, I highly recommend it. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

On The Trail of the American Civil War in Mississippi and Tennessee

Whew! Just back from weeks driving vacation tour of Civil War sites in Mississippi and Tennessee. The weather cooperated for the most part, not too hot, nice and sunny most days, one day of rain. We have watched a fair number of Civil War documentaries so I was excited to see some of the actual places related to the war. 

Day was a long drive to the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi. It's not much of a town, in fact what we saw of it was rather depressing. We  checked into a B&B called the Cedar Grove Mansion Inn and Restaurant. (Alas, the restaurant was shuttered.) The guest rooms are spread out over several buildings on the remains of what was a large antebellum estate. The neighborhood is kinda dicey and I was a bit nervous, but they have 24 hour security. We stayed in the main house in a downstairs room. The house was build in 1840 for John Alexander Klein and his bride, Elizabeth Day, a cousin of William Tecumseh Sherman. During the Civil War the house was used as a hospital by the Union. There is a cannonball lodged in the wall of one of the rooms. 

As we were checking in, a rather angry German man was shouting at the receptionist, something to the effect that he had stayed in hundreds of great hotels in America. I'm guessing he was not adding Cedar Grove to his top ten list. It's not making mine either. The house, once beautiful, is in need of repair. A lot of repair. Many several millions in repair. The paint is peeling and the plaster cracked. The sidewalks outside are uneven and a trip hazard. I wouldn't stick my big toe in the pool. Our basement room was dark and gaudy. The thermostat was incredibly and inconveniently located upstairs in another part of the building. In the bathroom, we had a tub, no shower. We were served the exact same breakfast both mornings. Most of the guests were Europeans. The couple across from us, from the Netherlands, stared in horror at their bowl of grits. I bet they throw away a lot of grits in that place. There is no wi-fi in the rooms! You have to go outside or stand in  one of the ground floor rooms to access the Internet. I can live with the Internet but I was disappointed overall in the state of the place. 

For dinner our first night we ate at a great restaurant called 10 South. The place is on the 10th floor of a building with large windows on three sides. The views of the river and the historic downtown district of Vicksburg were great. The food was excellent as well. I had their Shrimp and Grits and they were perfect. See, you can make great grits. Our second night we had pizza in a place next door to 10 South called the Cottonwood Public House. They have their own brewery. It was good, I'd recommend it.  

Day two, following our less than stellar breakfast, we headed to the Vicksburg National Military Park. After watching a film in the visitors center we hit the trail, widows down, sunroof open, armed with a great map. I also recommend you download the app on Vicksburg from American Battlefield Trust. Do this before you leave home and download all the media. There are plaques and statues everywhere. You cannot possibly see them all in one day. Do not go on the tour without watching the film! The battlefield/siege area is well preserved, amazingly peaceful and empty of tourists. (Except the Germans from our B&B. The trail is marked with stops where you can get out and walk around. We took our time and spent several hours going through the park. It was superb, I really loved it. 

After lunch we drove back into Vicksburg. We stopped in at the Old Courthouse Museum. It was ok, nothing fantastic. We walked around a bit they drove down by the river to the Louisiana Overlook, great view of the river, but some shady folks hanging out there.

Day three, a shortish drive to Memphis, Tennessee. Home of Graceland, blues and bar-b-que on Beale Street. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, right downtown. It was perfect. The day was pretty warm and we walked a block or two to Beale Street. It was not crowded and in the bright light of day is was rather tired and rundown looking. We had a great lunch at the Rum Boogie Cafe. We were the only customers. I guess Beale Street is like a vampire hangout, best viewed after dark. After lunch we visited the Cotton Museum. I know what you're thinking...Cotton Museum right, but hey it was pretty good and interesting. Since we had eaten late, we sat in the bar with a group of French people who had shipped their Ford Mustangs from France to Houston to tour the U.S. How cool is that. That evening, instead of returning to Beale Street we opted to attend a baseball game. The ballpark is right across the street from the Holiday Inn Express! The Redbirds are the triple A farm team for the St. Louis Cardinals. The beer was expensive, the hot dogs cheap. The Redbirds lost, but it was fun. 

Day four, Shiloh. We got an early start and drove to the Shiloh National Military Park. It's in the middle of nowhere, really absolute nowhere. Again download the app from American Battlefield Trust and watch the film in the visitor's center. It was another glorious day and we had the park to ourselves. The battlefield is immense, much of it wooded. The trails are well marked and the stops along the route well documented. More 110,000 men fought at this Battle, over 23,000 were killed or injured. I felt like every step I took was on sacred ground. When we walked around the site where General U.S. Grant had his headquarters, I could picture him standing in the very spot on which I stood. The National Cemetery is sobering and contains the remains of thousands of men, many unknown. It's a beautiful place with a dreadful past. Highly recommend. 

Although the battlefield is in Tennessee we stayed in the town of Corinth in Mississippi. Corinth, once called Cross City was and is the location where two important railroads cross. The Union needed to capture the town and the rail lines to control the West. The Confederates desperately need to stop them. The Battle of Shiloh was fought for control of the rail. 

We stayed two nights at a great B&B called The Generals' Quarters Inn. The house was built in 1870, just after the end of the war. The rooms are large and air, the bathroom had a claw-footed tub. Breakfast was great! It had wi-fi! I loved it. The house is in a lovely historic neighborhood in walking distance of downtown and restaurants. We ate dinner on night four at Smith, a cute little place just down the street from the B&B. The food was top notch. 

Day Five, Corinth. It was pouring rain when we hit the road. First stop the Corinth Interpretive Center, also part of the National Park Service. Once again, we had the entire place to ourselves. The siege and battle of Corinth are explained in depth, with lots of displays. We visited the Crossroads Museum to see the rail road crossing. It's a small local museum but fun to visit and the only way to see the crossing. We tried to visit the Contraband Camp, a free black camp, but because of the rain it was closed. After a quick lunch we did a walking tour of the historic homes of Corinth, including the house where Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnson made the fateful decision to launch an attack against General Grant's army of the Tennessee. The house is beautifully preserved and we had a personal tour by the curator. 

We had a nice day in Corinth, lots to see in this pretty Southern town. We walked to a restaurant called Pizza Grocery. All I will say is that it was terrible!

Day six, Fort Donelson. We left Corinth, well fed, on a grey rainy morning and drove to the small Tennessee town of Dover to visit Fort Donelson. The battlefield here is spread out across town but well marked. The views of the Cumberland River were fantastic. Highlights were the Dover Hotel where General Ulysses S. Grant demanded the unconditional surrender of the Confederate troops under the command of his friend and West Point alum General Simon Buckner. This win for the Union opened the door for Grant to attempt the taking of Corinth. The area around Dover is beautiful, both the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers come together to form a boaters dream landscape. There is not as much to see as Shiloh or Vicksburg but if you have the time, it's well worth the effort to effort. Sadly, there was no real hotel in the area so we spent the night in Kentucky, near Fort Campbell. This was the end of our adventure, save for the long drive home, but it was well worth the miles to see not only the  amazingly preserved battlefields so full of history, but also America itself, the land, the people the culture that makes America what it is.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Essential Genealogy Book Review: Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills and Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones

Several years ago I took an online course on Mastering the Genealogical Proof. We used the book by that name, Mastering Genealogical Proof as our text book. The author of the book is Dr. Thomas W. Jones, PhD. He is a noted genealogist and educator whose books focus on the methodology of genealogical research. The book teaches you how to recognize and evaluate sources for writing genealogical proofs. Each chapter is set up like a lesson with problem solving questions to help you understand the content. His book is for any researcher who wants to up their game and take their research to a higher level. I got a lot out of this book, the online class was an added bonus, working alongside other students raised the bar and made a tremendous impact on my research abilities. If you are looking to better understand sources, how to differentiate the quality of source types and fine tune your ability to write a proof, then I highly recommend this book.  

One of the things I learned how to do during this course was to write source citations. The book we used as our guide is Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills. This book is the gold standard for source citation. Now writing citations is no easy thing, each type of evidence requires a different style of citation. With many sources no found online the citations become even more difficult. Elizabeth Shown Mills breaks down each type of evidence and givens ample examples of citations for any source you can imagine. 

One of the problems I had when I first started doing genealogy research was not being able to locate my sources once I'd moved on. Someone would write and say how do you know that, where did you find that? And I couldn't remember. That is where a well written citation comes into play. With an excellent citation you can always find your evidence. I highly recommend this book to every researcher who takes their work seriously. I personally bought the hardback edition. There are so many pages that I thought it might be difficult to find what I was looking for in a digital edition. 

Roles of Men, Women and Children in 17th Century Puritan Massachusetts

In 17 th century pur itan Massachusetts , the roles of men , women and children were very clearly defined . Men were the ...