NonfictionThe Eleven Commandments of Good Teaching 2d edition by Vickie GillReview by Molly

Foreword -Vanderbilt Professor Emeritus, James R. Lent, sets the tone for the book with his opening statement, ‘there is something different about this book:  It is useful, really useful.

Gill tells the reader that she has been teaching, in 2001 when this book was copyrighted, for the better part of 2 decades during which time she has spent a good bit of time defending the profession and giving advice to help struggling teachers succeed which has led to her setting down her thought in a book meant to provide tools and courage to allow teachers to follow their best instincts about what to do in the classroom.

Vickie Gill’s The Eleven Commandments of Good Teaching 2d edition, Creating Classrooms Where Teachers Can Teach and Students Can Learn features a Table of Contents for easy perusal of various topics Writer Gill showcases as necessary for setting the tone of a classroom.

Gill’s belief that teacher’s teach people not subjects, are among an elite group of people who can truly change the world, and are a closely watched role model who communicates more by what they do than by what they say; is summed up by her first chapter title “Thou Shalt Have a Calling to Teach”.

Gill’s notion that “Thou Shalt Demonstrate and Project the Joy of Learning” came about in large part because it appears that many people who do not teach seem to have the impression that teaching is a boring, joyless profession.  She reminds us as teachers that we need to take time to remember what drew us to teaching including remembering the kinds of things done by our own favorite teachers.

Characteristics of educated persons in writer Gill’s opinion include educated people can find out what they need to know, they share a common body of knowledge with other educated people that aids them in finding out what they need to know and they are curious; in short,  educated people are lifelong learners. When deciding what to teach  Thou Shalt Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” educated persons is the prize.

“Thou Shalt Be Organized and Accountable” Gill notes that it is incumbent upon each teacher to document what is taught in his/her classroom. The notion that every teacher and every classroom is a mirror of all others is not a very functional idea.  Every class is different because needs of each student must be considered along with state and local requirements concerning what must, should, will be taught in the classroom.

Writing lesson plans, using the plans, and maintaining records showing the progress of each student is easier to accomplish when the teacher is organized, accountability is easier to establish when documentation is kept showing what was taught and what learners produced as a result of the teaching.

 Gill notes  “Thou Shalt Ask and Ye May Receive” was one of the first things I was taught in my first teacher preparation, college class.  If you need something for your classroom ask, and be prepared to explain how you will use whatever it is, and why you hope to use the whatever.

“Thou Shalt Be Fair and Prepared” and “Thou Shalt Use Some Common Sense” seem to be self-explanatory and to be expected.  Preparation is the basis of successful teaching whether the teacher is using a commercial lesson plan book, used by many teachers across the nation, in which he/she writes hourly subject notes concerning the lesson to be taught day by day. 

Fairness is expected by teachers and students alike.  Common sense or the lack thereof assure whether success or failure will be the outcome for every teacher.  Gill points out that ‘children like to know there is someone in charge, someone who has their best interests at heart.’   No matter how they may chafe at rules; children do know that they are not skilled or old enough to make what may be life changing decisions.

For peace of mind teachers do well to remember “Thou Shalt Be Open-Minded and Flexible” one of the most important sentences I find in this chapter reads ‘Schools are filled with all types of personalities and styles.  What works well in one classroom may not in the one across the hall.  Find your style and, so long as students are learning you are happy with the style and progress; implement it.  The chapter closes with another sentence worth remembering; ‘because we, teachers, work with people, we have to be ready to embrace the unexpected and make it work.’

“Thou Shalt Not Work in Fear” help new teachers and seasoned ones too remember that while our successes give us more confidence and raise our standing in the eyes of fellow teachers; it is the failures that are the best teachers for refining our technique.

Because students come to the classroom with varying degrees of want to and can do it is important for teachers to remember “Thou Shalt Raise Your Expectations”Gill points out that people fall pretty much into 3 types, the ones who make things happen, those who watch things happening, and those who ask what happened.  Students tend to perform up to reasonable standards, or down to standards set lower than they need.

“Thou Shalt Keep Things in Perspective” Gill helps new and seasoned teachers remember that we are the masters of our own destiny in large part.  Things  happen in life, we can change some and some we cannot.  Fix what we can, and move forward.

My well used copy of The Eleven Commandments of Good Teaching 2d edition, Creating Classrooms Where Teachers Can Teach and Students Can Learn attests to the fact that I too found, as did Professor Lent in the Foreward, ‘there is something different about this book:  It is useful, really useful.

While my career of nearly 4 decades was spent in K-1 and Writer Gill primarily taught high school English; her easily read book is filled with down to earth suggestions for setting up a classroom promoting a learning environment, the need for planning and proposals regarding how to go about devising lessons.   Whatever the grade level, age of students or subject matter planning, learning environment and lessons are something all teachers do.

I read The Eleven Commandments of Good Teaching 2d edition, Creating Classrooms Where Teachers Can Teach and Students Can Learn  cover to cover more than once during my almost 40 years, kept the book in my rolling bag taken to the classroom each day and read individual chapters again, and again as I felt I needed a nudge in one direction or another.

I come from a family of teachers, grandfather taught, my two sisters taught, their husbands were also teachers.  I particularly enjoyed reading Gill’s personal teaching moments, while hers were different than mine because our students were widely apart in age, all teachers have stories of classroom happenings and enjoy remembering their own and hearing those of fellow teachers whatever their classroom makeup.

Excellent gift for a new teacher, student teacher, any teacher.

Interesting, useful, educational read, happy to recommend.

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The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian

Posted October 28, 2016 By Molly

NonfictionThe Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie OmartianReview by Molly

Stormie Omartian’s The Power of a Praying Parent The Power of a Praying series commences with a Foreword from the author in which she states something about the book, as well as, how it and the series in which it is a cornerstone, came to be.

The Introduction furthers reader comprehension of this volume in addition to providing explanation of the series of works regarding prayer offered by the author.

A Table of Contents outlines the 31 chapters comprising the book itself.  Becoming a Praying Parent, Releasing My Child into God’s Hands and Securing Protection from Harm are chapters designed particularly to serve as a guide for new parents.

Each chapter is packed with thoughts and notions, ideas and suggestions the author has found work for her as a parent, and praying individual throughout the continually ever-changing, developing, and fluctuating phases of growth and behavior children enter and leave all through their growing up years.  Most parents swiftly discover that just when you have confidence you have this stage figured out, and things are moving smoothly; the kid enters another phase, and, you start all over again.

Omartian enlightens what prayer really is and how praying works.  Omartian sprinkles pages with Bible quotations for the reader to use for reference.   She offers prayers she has prayed as illustration to be used as a model for how to pray for particular instance or as a prayer to use as is.

Prayers themselves are presented across a two page spread with the prayer on side of the spread, and Biblical verses apropos to the prayer on the other.  And, to help reinforce the message for those who may be new to the notion of relying on prayer to add another dimension to daily life; Omartian frequently adds an example or two of Answered Prayer.

Some of the chapter titles include Maintaining Good Family Relationships, Feeling Loved and Accepted, Instilling Desire to Learn, Enjoying Freedom From Fear, Inviting the Joy of the Lord.

And, she addresses some of the dilemma intrinsic to child rearing all parents face; Attracting Godly Friends and Role Models, Enjoying a Life of Health and Healing, Having the Motivation for Proper Body Care, Destroying an Inheritance of Family Bondage,  Avoiding Alcohol, Drugs and other Addictions, Rejecting Sexual Immorality, Seeking Wisdom and Discernment.

Praying for Your Adult Children wraps up the work.   Parents’ work does not end when the kids become adults.  More than ever our adult children can gain the strength needed for their journey as adults with responsibility.

An Appendix is offered with suggestions for Praying Together With Other Parents.

Stormie Omartian’s The Power of a Praying Parent The Power of a Praying series features optimistic revelations,  recommendations, and devotions delivered by a woman who lives the power of prayer. Omartian has recovered from an abusive childhood, has dedicated her life to service for others, prayer, raising her children and the God she serves.

I found as I was raising my own children the trials and joys of parenting form a bond all parents seem to appreciate, recognize and share.  Knowing that others have also had children who conduct themselves much as my own in a given situation does bring some joy to each stage of the parenting situation.

Omartian’s bestselling The Power of a Praying series with 28 million + copies sold, is intended to provide a tool, prayer, for use to an always changing and growing group of readers ready to determine the power of prayer for their lives, and the individuals and circumstances making up ever fluctuating lives as development, maturity and situations alter.

This small 5 X 8.5 book can easily be tucked into briefcase or handbag and taken out for reading during breaks at work or school, or for those moments when the reader is sitting in the dentist office waiting for child or children, or is stopped at the rail crossing and seemingly endless train of cars is passing.

The one fault I find with the book, the size of type is difficult to read as eye sight dims with age.

The Power of a Praying Parent has a place on the home bookshelf, as well as the book case of class leaders, case workers, care givers.  The small size makes the book ideal as a tuck in gift in the basket prepared for new mom, or grandmother, as well as anyone who is or wants to become a praying parent, care giver or educator dealing with children.

Interesting, educational, helpful read, happy to  recommend.

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Thirteen Soldiers by John McCain and Mark Salter

Posted October 27, 2016 By Molly

NonfictionThirteen Soldiers by John McCain and Mark SalterReview by Molly

Authors US Sen McCain and his aide Mark Salter have created a work featuring military figures spanning from the inception of our country through many conflicts culminating with war in the middle east.

Thirteen Soldiers is a work of 364 pages including title page, Table of Contents, Afterword, Acknowledgements, Selected Bibliography and Index.

Each of the 13 soldiers featured are ones McCain holds in high regard beginning with chapter one  “Soldier of the Revolution” and 15 year old Joseph Plum Martin who, a tad hesitantly, joined the rebellion against England and served until the end of the revolution. Martin, all but forgotten in history, lived his life in obscurity and poverty receiving little recompense either monetary or reverence of fellow soldiers for his service. History has Martin’s ‘Kip’s Bay Affair’ memoir to thank for bringing that bit of our combined record to light.  While Martin was little recognized during his lifetime, his ‘A Narrative of some of the Adventures, Danger and Suffering of a Revolutionary Soldier, Interspersed with Anecdotes of Incident that Occurred Within His  Own Observation’ has provided much valuable information for later historians regarding the revolutionary war leading to the founding of the America we know today.

Joseph Plum Martin was among the first to fight for his country, and watch ungrateful fellow citizens belittle, begrudge and question the bravery, worth and need for pensions for the old soldiers who had done so much to gain the freedom for those who were  now taking that freedom for granted.

Each chapter offers insight into the life and mettle of another brave and perhaps disdained patriot.

2 “Brothers” in Arms chronicling particularly the 1812 war service of African American sailors, begins on page 37.

History has not recorded nearly as much of the history as it might have.  George Roberts, American seaman is pictured.  Charles Black, a freeborn African American sailor, son of a Revolutionary War combatant lived in Philadelphia after battling during the war of 1812.  Caught up in the ongoing strife between Irish immigrants and Philadelphia’s African American community; He suffered indignity and beating.

3 “Adventure”  featuring the deeds of Brevet Brigadier General Samuel Chamberlain begins on page 63. Chamberlain was an adventurer, flawed hero of the Mexican American War, his actions inspired novelist, playright  Carman McCarthy.  My Confession; Recollections of a Rogue, handwritten by Chamberlain is dotted with watercolor renditions painted to illustrate his descriptions of the horrors of the war.

4 “Touched with Fire” narrative re War Between  the states  begins on page  87.  1st Lieutenant Oliver Wendell Holmes 20th Mass Volunteers is pictured in uniform.

5 “Fog”  recording the service of  those engaged in the short lived Spanish American War  in begins on page  117. Medal of Honor recipient, Buffalo Soldier Capt.  Edward L Baker,  fought heroically in the battle of San Juan Heights, Cuba.

6 “A Howling Wilderness” the Phillipine American War begins on page  143.  4 February 1899 the Second Battle of Manilla initiated a war lasting 3 years with sporadic fighting continuing for some time after that.  Pictured on page 142  Major General Littleton Waller ‘Tony’ Tazewell Waller of whom legendary Marine Corps  Smedley Butler said, ‘the greatest soldier I have every known’    was court marshaled when he refused to massacre Filipino soldiers.

7  “Lost Scared Kids” a Long Way From Home” recollections of  WW1 begins on page  167.  Cpl. Elton ‘Lucky’ Mackin  who survived one of the most dangerous assignments of the action   is shown on page 166.

8  “Lone Wolf”  narrative re Marine PFC Guy Louis Gabaldon begins on page  193. Galbaldon trekked cave by cave alone to persuade 1500 Japanese to surrender on Saipan WW2 was recommended for Medal of Honor by his company commander. Posing with a Japanese family he saved from mass suicide on the island of Saipan, Galbaldon is pictured on page 192.

9 “Duty” featuring the Korean war  activity of Sgt 1class Chester D ‘Pete’ Salter   who fought hand to hand to get off a hill in Korea was wounded fighting to take back the hill while retrieving the body of the man who had saved his life  begins on page  221.

10  “Valor” narrating the Viet Nam War bravery of US soldiers, and, at time perplexing decisions of those in charge of the situation  begins on page  247.  Wild Weasels Leo Thorness as the pilot and POW fought Migs missiles and artillery to protect the lives of his wingmen.  Thorness and fellow Wild Weasel Henry Johnson sporting regulation mustaches and bush hats are pictured on page 246 with their F 105 Thud.

11  “Wounds” chronicling the bravery of members of the 14th Quartermast Detachment Pennsylvania reserve unit during their tour in the Persian Gulf War begins on page 271. Sgt Mary Rhodes Rhodes, pictured on page 270 was an army reservist whose life was forever changed  by an Iraqui Scud  missile.

12  “The Job” narrative re Combat Medics and Corspmen  begins on page  293. Few jobs are more important, dangerous or critical to the morale of a  platoon than that of the Medic.  75 medics and corpsmen have received posthumous Medals of Honor. The most decorated solder during WW1 was not Sgt Alvin York as is widely thought, but was PFC Charles Denver Barger a stretcher bearer. Combat Medic Specialist  Monica Lin Brown  a frontline medic in Afghanistan risked her life to save others during an ambush.  Brown, decorated for ‘extraordinary heroism’ is pictured.

13  “Above and Beyond” account  re special forces  begins on page 315. Navy SEAL Mikey Mansoor, Iraq  received a Bronze Star for his actions in 11 separate operations in Ramadi.  Petty Officer Monsoor is shown with his men on patrol on the streets of Ramadi on page 314.

Aferword  p 339   we tried not to sentimentalize the soldiers whose stories we chose for this book, or their wars.  They have earned our admiration without embellishing what they did or the cause they served.  American soldiers have been at war since the second year of this century… peace no matter how long it endures is always temporary.

I found this work to be filled with history, detailing often little remembered soldiers who have served to keep our country safe.  Writers McCain and Salter mentioned in the foreward of their book that they wanted to chronicle the lives of ordinary soldiers, and were not particularly interested in showcasing a superman warrior.

With some of their anecdotes there was an abundance of material to provide grist for the book, journals and other writings help flesh out the name and the actions.  For at least one little has been been recorded and little could be located for the writers to use.

Writing is done in clear, lucid prose, easily understood, easily read.   Thirteen Soldiers is a nifty work for history and/or military buffs, I bought this edition for my Nam vet husband who is a history/military buff.

I found each of the anecdotes to follow pretty much the same outline,  soldier is listed and then his/her activities in battle or other settings is set down without a lot of embroidery or personal discourse on the part of the authors.

Having said that, I do not want it to seem that the book is simply dust dry commentary, on the contrary each of the soldiers listed comes alive on the page.  I like the photos or other illustrations used throughout the book.   Seaman Charles Black is shown in his worn and battlestained attire little written record is left regarding this stalwart, I am happy the writers have included his story in their book.  What little they did glean through research now can be read by citizens today.

Thirteen Soldiers is not a story book, it is a book of stories about brave soldiers going about their duties and everyday lives, and fighting battles when combat called for them to do so.

Some of the soldiers listed in this book are ones I have read about before,  some are new to me and I am enriched with the reading.  As a student of history I find much to enjoy within the covers of Thirteen Soldiers and look forward to searching others written by John McCain and Mark Salter.

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Civil War The South by Mort Kunstler

Posted August 29, 2016 By Molly

Civil War The South by Mort KunstlerNonfictionReview by Molly

Mort Kunstler’s – Civil War The South is a work comprising 192 pages including a Table of Contents, Introduction, original sketches, perhaps a photograph of the site or building today and the paintings, with commentary pertaining to the history of the battle, site or other reference depicted; as well as the painters personal feelings about what he was wanting to convey in the work, set against a portion of the painting as well as a two page spread of the painting itself.

Beginning on page 10 with the first battle of Manassas, 21 July 1861 Kunstler sets the scene, based upon his understanding of the history as well as his making a physical visit to the battle site in order to ‘accurately recreate the story of what happened.’  The pine woods down slope from Henry House where Gen’l Jackson and his men formed their line do indeed make a perfect back drop for the painting illustrating the moment when Bernard Bee, one of the brigade commanders rallied his men with the words which were to follow Jackson until his death and into the future where even today many people refer to the general as Stonewall.  I too have visited the Manassas Battlefield where two battles were fought along the banks of Bull Run and am always stirred with the sight of Jackson dressed in his blue VMI uniform, sitting astride Little Sorrel, ignoring the chaos of battle as he is prepared to lead his troops into the fray.

I like the manner used by this artist historian, wherein he explains a bit about the battle, or setting and what he hoped to convey, his research and how he came to use the backdrop shown in the finished piece.

Other paintings include Southern Stars; Kernstown, Virginia

“Winter 1862” beginning on page 16 in which the artist presents a scene likely played out across the south in which groups of southerners stood watching passing soldiers on the march to a battle site.  While the lovely old church depicted is not the one standing in 1862; the original was badly damaged during the battle of Kernstown, and in 1873 it was lost to fire.

“Until We Meet Again” Jackson’s Headquarters, Winchester, Va, Winter 1862 commences commentary on page 24.  There was no battle at the headquarters, however the artist chose to portray the farewell of the husband to his wife as Gen’l Jackson and Mary Anna who had come to Winchester to spend the winter in proximity to her husband.  She was a common sight at the headquarters where she often brought her husband’s supper in a basket.  In the painting the basket is shown set on the snow just behind Mary Anna.

Page 32 features “Confederate Winter”, Gen’l Taylor At Swift Run Gap, Va; March 1862.  Gen’l Taylor’s ‘likeness is based on a contemporary photograph.’

May 25, 1862, page 40, features “Gen Stonewall Jackson” Enters Winchester, Va.  Winchester was the site of several battles and changed hands back and forth throughout much of the war.  While Jackson himself did not use Stonewall as a reference for himself, he preferred that his troops be considered as the stonewall, the painting depicts a victorious Jackson and his men coming into town at 10 o’clock in the morning.

August 1862, pages 48 – 54 the Second Manassas Campaign “I Will Be Moving Within the Hour” illustrates a campsite headquarters meeting between Gen’ls Lee and Jackson.

Page 56, August 29, 1862; “The Commanders of Manassas” Gens Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson.

“Night Crossing” Lee and Jackson; September 18, 1862 is, the artist relates, ‘one of the most challenging paintings I have done in years.’  Portrayed is the final moments of Lee’s northern invasion undertaken with the hope that European recognition of the Confederacy would be augmented.  Artist Kunstler reveals the challenges of painting came as he painted the river at night with torch light reflecting in the water.  p 63 -71

Page 72, “Lee at Fredricksburg” Princess Anne Street, 9:10 AM, November 20, 1862 with three steeples as the setting for Gen’ls Lee astride Traveller and Longstreet and their entourages just prior to the Dec 11 bombardment by Union forces;

Page 80 – 87 “…War Is So Terrible” Longstreet and Lee, December 13, 1862 the Confederate victory at Fredricksburg was the site of Lee’s famous, “It is well that war is so terrible – we should grow to fond of it;

Page 88 – 95 “The Review at Moss Neck” Fredricksburg, VA, January 20, 1863, the writer relates his elation that his is the first painting of the cavalry review follow Fredricksburg battle.  A brief mention of the event in Henry Kyd Douglas’ biography of Gen’l Jackson led the artist to research the event and then paint it. Gen’l Jackson and Gen’l Lee are portrayed as Lee reviewed the command of his son Gen’l William Henry Fitzhugh ‘Rooney’ Lee.   On the left the troopers are lined up, the inspection party including Rooney Lee behind and left of his father and Jackson while Gen’l Jeb Stuart is to the right and slightly behind Gen’l Lee.  Gen’l Longstreet carries the National Flag of the Confederacy and is positioned directly behind Gen’l Stuart.

“Wayside Farewell”, p 96 – 105 the scene of a Confederate Cavalry officer and his wife exchanging goodbyes was played out many times during the war years as men prepared for carrying out their duty and worried, hopeful loved ones stayed behind.  Setting is Valley Pike in front of Larricks hotel in Middletown Va;

” Winter Riders” Raleigh, N.C. Feb 5, 1863, p 106 – 113 featuring Confederate troops and civilians representing, the artist says, North Carolina’s major contribution to The War:  its people;

“Confederate Sunset” Middletown VA, February 1863, p 114 – 121 following the battle at Fredricksburg Lee set about to fortify his position and consult with his lieutenants  Gen’ls Jackson and Longstreet, it was the last time the three commanders would be together, before the Battle of Gettysburg Gen’l Jackson would lose his life and Gen’l Lee one of his most trusted allies;

“Model Partnership” Winter of 1863 Lee and Jackson brought out the best in themselves and each other, the painting, the last of the Legends in Grey series features these two worthies during the late afternoon, p 122 -129;

“The Last Council”, Jackson, Lee, and Stuart at Chancellorsville; the artist tells us that this was one of his first paintings of the pair.  The battle at Chancellorsville proved to be Gen’l Lee’s greatest triumphs and his greatest loss.  Not long after the last council meeting Gen’l Jackson would be shot accidentally his own men, Jackson would die on May 10, 1863.  May 1, 1863 p 130 – 135.

“The Grand Review” Brandy Station, Va, June 5,1865, the artists says that after his research regarding the battle indicated that the event had not been painted.  He set out to create a work capturing the lively, flamboyant Jeb Stuart.  p 136 – 143;

“The Loneliness of Command” Gen’l Robert E Lee; the artist says he wanted to portray the dignity in addition to the burden of command.  The painting shows Gen’l sitting alone, in front of his tent, at the edge of the battlefield.  p 144 – 151;

“The High Water Mark”, Gettysburg, July 3, 1863,  the artist says it was 1988 when he set out to do a painting that would need no explanation; it would be instantly recognized as Gettysburg.  Research, visiting the battlefield, talking with historians persuaded artist Kunstler that ‘the view ‘ looking south at Cemetery Ridge just north of the Angle’ would serve his purpose for producing such a painting.    p 152 – 159;

“It’s All My Fault”, Gen’l Robert E Lee at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863 as Gen’l Lee contemplates the defeat at Gettysburg.  The idea for this painting, the artist notes, ‘was conceived as a natural sequel to the first painting I did for the American Print Gallery, titled The High Water Mark; p 152 – 167

“Confederate Christmas”  shows a snowy night with troops marching, through the woods, a conifer is laid atop a cannon barrel. Inspiration for the painting, the artist reveals is an 1860s etching.   p 168 -175;

“Thunder in the Valley” Battle of New Market, VA, May 15, 1864 artist Kunstler reveals he wanted to incorporate three important elements: The battle was fought in a huge thunderstorm, 200+ predominately teenaged, VMI cadets played a key role, and former US vice president Gen’l John C Breckenridge commanded the Confederate troops.  The resulting painting features the Bushong home which is still standing,  Gen’l Breckenridge in proximity to the cadets, on the right is an active cannon, the whole are shown in the midst of a torrential rain,  p 176 – 183;

“We Still Love You, General Lee” Appomattox, VA, April 9, 1865.  Gen’l Lee CSA portrayed with his usual dignity is returning from his meeting with Gen’l Grant USA in the little town of Appommatox Court House.  Lee had negotiated generous surrender terms for the Army of Virginia.  As Lee, shown astride Traveller, bade his men goodbye, and returned to his tent “We Still Love You, General Lee” rang from the men.   p 184 – 191

Mort Kunstler’s – Civil War The South is a, handsized, small volume comprising 192 pages filled with ‘a gallery tour of some of artist Kunstler’s favorite Confederate subjects’ per the inside flap of the protective paper cover safeguarding my particular tome.

The book itself is well made, I have had my copy for a number of years, and it has been read many times:  Cover is sturdy, pages are a good grade paper,

Of the twenty-three paintings placed on these pages, eight have not been published in a book before.  Of his works Kunstler says, ‘all of the paintings are done with a reverence for detail, authenticity, and most of all, the people of this most American of all wars.’

As a student of history, in particular the bleak period of the 1860s, I have always enjoyed reading of various battles, have visited most of the sites artist Kunstler offers in this work, and truly enjoy the book.  It is a work to read, and reread,

I like the format, a bit of explanation regarding the battle or situation, how the artist came to produce the painting as he did, sketches and small portions of the finished work, and the two page spread of the whole painting.  The small size is a handy one to carry in a back pack or purse to take out and read during moments while waiting for the train to pass, or sitting in the VA waiting room as a spouse talks with his doctor.

Mort Kunstler’s – Civil War The South is one many books in our home library.   I find much to enjoy and like about the book and am happy to recommend for other history enthusiasts, casual readers, and reenactors.  No, this small volume is not going to present every nuance regarding any battle, however it is enough to nudge the casual history buff, and can serve as a catalyst for more study.  The paintings are marvelous, preliminary sketches are interesting, and artist revelations regarding how and why he created the painting he did adds much to reader enjoyment.

Size makes the book nice as a small gift tuck in.

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The Civil War - Fort Sumter to Perryville by Shelby FooteNonfictionReview by Molly

The Civil War A Narrative: Vol 1

The three volume set created by War Between The States/Civil War historian Shelby Foote commences with his 840 page work regarding the interlude beginning 21 Jan 1861 and continuing until the battle of Perryville, KY during the fall of 1862. The Civil War A Narrative: Vo1 1 Fort Sumter to Perryville is the opening work of the trilogy.

In this first volume Writer Foote writes of the period packed with disorder and warfare which altered the course of life in the United States forever.

Vo1 1:  Fort Sumter to Perryville commences on an unhappy January 1861 Monday as the United States Senator from Mississippi, Jefferson Davis, rose from his Senate seat.

Back in December 1860, South Carolina had already left the Union.  That withdrawal was swiftly followed by Mississippi, Florida and Alabama during the second week of the New Year.  Eight days later Georgia seceded.  And now on 21 Jan, Louisiana and Texas were on the brink of leaving.

Notwithstanding the fact that each of the original thirteen colonies had written into their state constitutions a stipulation retaining a right to leave the new federation formed during the time of the Revolution from England; the lawfulness of secession had been hotly challenged for the past decade.  The major battle in the past had come when Massachusetts drew up articles of secession following President Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase.   The concern was now moot.

A convention for the purpose of creating a confederation of the seceded states had been called for the first week of February at Montgomery, Alabama.

The former Secretary of War under President Pierce, and present Senator from Mississippi stood gathering his thoughts; many had come to hear his farewell, Davis was going home.

The Civil War A Narrative: Vo1 1 Fort Sumter to Perryville dedicates approximately 100 pages of the book to the causal origins of the war before advancing on to brief dialogue of a number of men whose names would presently be recollected as serving on either side of the battle.

President Lincoln ordered all telegraph records detained, annulled the right to habeas corpus and threw hundreds of men into confinement.  He removed millions of dollars from the national treasury, gave it to privateers and told them to procure materiel for military use.  He delivered orders for almost 100,000 troops to be raised, and did all devoid of endorsement of congress.

Union Generall McClellan quickly demonstrated his ineffectiveness, Union General Irvin McDowell exhibited little predisposition to fight, nonetheless at the urging of the President he decided to move toward Manassas Junction.  Ten batteries of field artillery, fifty regiments of infantry, and one battalion of cavalry trundled down dusty Virginia roads.

Setting out from Arlington, the wedding gift of a president to his grand daughter, the end point was Fairfax Courthouse. Washington gifted the house and surrounding land to the young woman who married a young soldier named Lee who hailed from Virginia. The Federal troops were in high spirits and anxious to meet and rout the rebel rabble.

At length, as night fell, the army was nearing Centerville, after some two and a half days and twenty two miles distant the starting point.

It was then learned that the men did not have cooked provisions in their haversacks as McDowell had ordered. Friday and then Saturday passed, the attack was planned for first light Sunday morning.

The affluent privileged of nearby Washington, in conjunction with congressmen and their families, supposing an easy Union victory, had come to enjoy a day of picnicking as they surveyed the mêlée. When the Union army was forced back in confusion by the Confederates, the roads leading back to Washington were soon congested by frightened civilians trying to escape in their carriages. The departure was reasonably disciplined up to the Bull Run crossings, nevertheless it was poorly accomplished by the Union officers.

A Federal dray overturned by artillery fire on a bridge across Cub Run Creek triggered trepidation in McDowell’s troops. Soldiers rushing at a gallop, throwing away their arms and gear in the process, dashing excitedly toward Centreville; and were soon ensnared in the throng of civilians also fleeing the area.  It was impossible to reunite the troops before they reached Washington. In the fright that followed the stampede at Manassas Junction, hundreds of Union troops were taken prisoner.

All the most important battles conducted during the period, from Manassas/Bull Run through Shiloh, the Seven Days Battles, Second Manassas to Antietam, and Perryville occurring  during the fall of 1862 are detailed in Vol. 1.  Moreover, so too are numerous of the lesser, and less recognized, nonetheless ones often were equally momentous engagements conducted both on sea and land: Ball’s Bluff, Fort Donelson, Island No. Ten, Elk Horn Tavern/Pea Ridge, New Orleans, Monitor versus Merrimac, and General Jackson’s Valley Campaign to name a few.

On the pages of The Civil War A Narrative: Vo1 1 Fort Sumter to Perryville is exemplified the awfulness, overtiredness, dirt and stench of war. It was a time of fading hope, misinterpretation, fundamental disquiet vis-à-vis the future and an anxiety that the war which everyone had hoped would end rapidly, would not.

The last best hope for the Federal troops appeared to be in question by fall 1862.  Heads were rolling, Generals McDowell and Pope had previously found themselves under the ax, Farragut out in the Gulf of Mexico contemplated his position; Lincoln had his sights set upon George McClellan who was more than mindful that he was likely to not command the army much longer.   General Rosecrans was now a rising star.  At Perryville Philip Sheridan was becoming noticed for his doggedness.

In December President Lincoln offered, not in person, but rather a long speech read by a clerk to Congress, in which he finished his remarks, ‘Without slavery the rebellion could never have existed; without slavery it could not continue.’

Lincoln’s means for bringing the war to an end was his old recompensed emancipation strategy under which each state was, whether now, or at the end of the century, or at any intermediary time to have the choice of when to act on the matter.  The national administration was to have no voice in the achievement, but would bear the total expense by issue long term bonds as payment to loyal masters.  The aggregate sum compulsory for reimbursed emancipation of course was certain to be great.  Many owners dwelling in union states were loathe to free their slaves.

Lincoln advanced his conviction that measured emancipation would be good for the people he represented, and also for the sake of the Negro slaves, for whom the plan would alleviate the nomadic hardship which was likely to be a part of instantaneous emancipation in localities where slave numbers were very large.

Writer Foote, Greenville native, was descended from a long line of Mississippians.  Foote served in the European theater, WWII, as a captain of field artillery.  Foote studied and wrote extensively regarding The War Between The States, and received three Guggenheim fellowships.   Foote takes the period of 1860 – 1865, separates every nuance in a manner that leaves the reader with the feeling that they have been listening to a speaker telling of the actions.

Notwithstanding the nearly 900 page enormity of the work, The Civil War A Narrative: Vo1 1 Fort Sumter to Perryville is an edition to be studied by serious scholars of history. Weighing some three plus pounds, this individual tome can be expected to be a bit unwieldy.  The size is the one drawback I find with this book; my hands are small and arthritic.  While reading I lean the book against, pillow when sitting on a chair or against a book rest while sitting at my desk and turn the pages.  The edition might be better served if presented as a series of smaller, more easily handled works.

Chockfull with names, dates, places, and times; Vo1 1 Fort Sumter to Perryville is not essentially a manuscript for the marginally inquisitive or the non-serious reader who occasionally reads historical works.  The size alone will put off the borderline student.  Vo1 1 Fort Sumter to Perryville is a wide-ranging, heavily researched source work principally focused for use by those readers who do have a deeper interest in military history, the dedicated student of the United States war waged during the 1860s, and for any who enjoy reading United States history in general.

Throughout his life and writing career; author Foote was always keenly aware that to the victors go the writing and portrayal of history.  That awareness motivated Foote’s writing objective that his historical works be as focused in fact as possible.  Even in the face of variance of prevalent opinion from either side of the issue, concerning the incidents, grounds and occurrences Write historian Foote chose not to take sides or let personal bias color his thinking or writing.  Foote choose to carry out abundant investigative research prior to his setting down facts based on that research while allowing the chips to fall as they may regarding comments made by fellow historians with either northern or southern bias or similarly biased readers of his work.

In particular, readers can appreciate that all historical details have been heavily investigated for accuracy. Lending to the legitimacy of the work; the book offers perceptions, reminiscences and actual writings of individual soldiers/officers who actually were a part of episodes recounted.

Vo1 1 Fort Sumter to Perryville has a place on the personal reading list, in the reenactor’s repertoire of reading materials, and as a part of the home, school, and public library holdings. Happy to recommend for history buffs, re-enactors, Civil War buffs and those who just want something interesting to read.

This is a book in my personal library.  Happy to recommend.

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NonfictionLeadership: Theory and Practice by Peter G. NorthouseReview by Molly

Not a novel or storybook, rather Leadership: Theory and Practice 4th edition is an instructional, educational work produced by one of the leading authors of the genre, Peter G. Northouse.

Table of Contents lists Preface highlighting Special Features, Audience and Acknowledgements.

Chapter headings are listed with page number, followed by an overview of the particular subject matter covered within the chapter.

Chapter 1 deals with Leadership, as such the word is defined, and described followed by a Plan of the Book, Summary and References.

Chapter 2 title is Trait Approach with descriptions of the traits found in successful leaders.

Other chapters present Skills Approach, Style Approach, Situational Approach, Contingency Theory, Path-Goal Theory, Leader-Member Exchange Theory, Transformational Leadership, Team Leadership, Psychodynamic Approach , Women and Leadership, Culture and Leadership, Leadership Ethics summarize the topics covered in the work.

Beginning on page 371 is the Name Index, Subject Index, About the Author and About the Contributors.

I found this work to be highly readable, understandable and filled with many good suggestions especially for the novice to the Leadership role as well as the ‘in the trenches’ for years leaders who want to expand their expertise.

Per the Preface this edition is a revised tome featuring 2 new chapters ‘Culture and Leadership’, and ‘Women and Leadership’.  I gave especial attention to reading those 2 chapters; as women become a greater component in the work force and our culture becomes more diverse both areas seemed to be particularly important for study.

Per the author the target audience for this edition is the undergraduate and grad student in management, leadership studies, business, educational leadership, public administration, nursing and allied health, social work, criminal justice, industrial and organizational psychology, communication, religion, agricultural education, political and military science, and training and development.  The author states that the information would be useful as a text in student activities, continuing education, in service training and other leadership development programs.  As well, the text is particularly well suited as a supplementary text for core organization behavior courses, or as an overview text with MBA curricula.

After giving the Table of Contents a once over to note the various types and styles of Leadership traits this book entails; I read chapter 4 more in depth to gain insight into the methodology and writing technique of the author.

Chapter 4, Style Approach, begins on page 69 and continue for 20 pages over which the reader is offered a description of the approach.  The Style approach focuses on what leaders do and how they act including actions of leaders toward subordinates in various contexts.

Researchers determined that leadership is composed of two general types; task behaviors and relationship behaviors.  Studies conducted at Ohio State, University of Michigan were compared.   Blake and Mouton’s Managerial (Leadership) Grid is detailed.

An explanation regarding How does the Style Approach Work including Strengths, and Criticisms as well as Application is presented with 4 Case Studies.  Case studies include specific examples of the Style Approach as well as a series of questions at the end of each case study presented to guide the reader into careful reading of the material.

End of chapter questionnaire and summary are followed by References Bibliography for reader who would like to read more on the topic.

Crystal L Hoyt is credited with information contained in chapter 12; Women and Leadership.  Until the 1970s due in part, to methodological leadership hindrances, a predominance of male researchers mainly uninterested in the topic and an academic assumption of gender equality of leaders, not much attention was given to the role of Women in leadership positions.

All in all I found Leadership: Theory and Practice 4th edition to be a worthwhile addition for those seeking to improve their leadership skills.  A must have for the office library shelf, the college library and for reading for information.

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NonfictionBusy Day Slow Cooking by Vickie Hutchins and Jo Ann MartinReviewed by Molly

Vickie Hutchins and Jo Ann Martin’s Busy Day Slow Cooking is a lay flat when opened, work packed with great recipes, homey notes and hints offered across 224 pages.

Readers are offered opportunity to have one of their own favorite recipes featured in the next cookbook offered by the duo.  The first page is one to be used for writing a trusted recipe, prize offered is a free copy of the cookbook in which the recipe is placed.

A Table of Contents helps busy cooks quickly locate a recipe needed for preparing a tasty Breakfast, Soup or Weeknight supper.  Beginning on page 5 are the Warm & Cozy Breakfasts, I found the Cheddar Cheese Strata to be a tasty Breakfast, or even fall suppertime meal.  Other Breakfast offerings include more Stratas, Family Favorite Potatoes, Quiche, Grits, Burritos, Casseroles and more.   Apple Coffee Cake will be my next recipe to try.

The section beginning on page 25 offers recipes for Hot Sandwiches to share.  BBQ Roast, Sloppy Joes, Chicken, Pulled Pork, Hot Ham, Open Faced and Meat to spoon over Buns, Hoagies and Tacos, are  all included.  Grandma’s Sloppy Joes were a hit at my house.

Simmering Soups begins on page 60 and includes Chowders, Chilis, Stews, Bean Soups, Vegetable Soups, Lentils and Peas, one recipe on a page at a time over 60+ pages.  Mom’s So Simple Chili is one I have marked to make for our first fall football on the TV and soup in the Crock Pot.

EASY WEEKNIGHT Meals commences with Courtney’s Chicken & Noodles, offers several more chicken recipes then moves to Ham & Potatoes and Cabbage & Chops, Casseroles, Enchiladas, Pasta, Beans, and more, comprise these 43 recipes.  Sloppy Burritos are becoming a family favorite.

Page 139 begins one of my favorite meal fixing times, family and Scout potlucks and Church Suppers always bring together wonderful food and likeminded people.  Potlucks and GET TOGETHERS.  Braised Beef, Meatballs, Spaghetti, Cabbage Rolls, Pot Roast, Scalloped Potatoes, Italian Sausage, Meat Sauce, and more are included in this collection of nearly 50 recipes.  The Easy Beef Stroganoff was easy to prepare, and tasted delicious.

Beginning on page 185 commences a group of Party Food, SNACKS AND SWEETS.  BBQ Meatballs, Chicken Wings, Dips, Appetizers, Wassail, cider, Fondue, Spice Coated Pecans, Chocolate Nut Cups, Pudding, Salad Dessert, Cobbler and Cake, Thanksgiving Cake, and Christmasy Cran Apple Cobbler provide lots of yummy treats.   I am anxious to try Pumpkin Bread Pudding when next Thanksgiving is nigh.

An Index, table with US to Metric Recipe Equivalents and a little note telling the reader something of the story behind the cook books round out the work.

I found the format used for this edition to be very easy to use, my cookbook lays flat when open allowing me to see the recipe easily.  Most recipes are offered on their own 1 page spread with a handy hint, interesting quote or shopping suggestions at the bottom of the page.

The wipe off cover is sturdy, section cover page is a full page graphic which appears as a pen and ink, hand drawn illustration.  Font size used for printing the recipes is large enough that my older eyes can see without need to fumble for reading glasses as I work.

Recipes presented in this work are the type women have kept and shared for as long as we have cooked and shared ideas with friends and family.  Similar to the cookbooks many of us have had a part in as a fundraising effort for school, church, scouts, band and the like; these recipes are the ones that women know they can put together quickly using items from their pantry, to produce a meal children, husbands and other family WILL eat.  They collaborative cookbooks have always been my favorite type to purchase, use, gift to others and collect.

I especially enjoy reading who has submitted a particular recipe and learn where he or she may live.  Personal notes regarding how the dish is served, family enjoys the dish, suggestions for selling as concession offering and the like; make the recipe all the more interesting.

All in all I find Busy Day Slow Cooking to be an excellent, usable cookbook certain to please new brides, longtime cooks needing a new recipe or two, and those who prefer lots of home cooking rather than relying on fast food.

A must have for the personal cooking book shelf, tucking into a wedding shower gift basket, and anyone who uses a crock pot frequently for home food preparation.

Happy to recommend.

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Ships of the Civil War by Kevin J. Dougherty

Posted May 15, 2016 By Jandy

Ships of the Civil War by Kevin J. DoughertyNonfictionReviewed by Molly

Kevin J Dougherty’s Ships of the Civil War 1861 – 1865 is a training type work rather than being a story book. While this tome is not a sit on the porch in the shade, sip tea and read book; it is significant as a quick reference.  Arranged by type of ship, this volume helps the reader appreciate that while the land battles waged during the war are the more remembered element of the divisive time in our history, naval engagements were also an essential component of the era.

From river boats driven by paddle wheels to ram ships, cruisers, steam driven ships and the introduction of ironclads; warfare was entering an innovative and continuing setting for combat.

This Illustrated Guide To The Fighting Vessels Of The Union And The Confederacy is an admirable reference work available for history buff, or serious scholar, as well as one having some, but not a lot of cognizance or familiarity for that bitter period in our nation’s history when the sounds of armed conflict resounded across much of the country.

This work of 224 pages begins with a Table of Contents listing the Introduction, and then the types of ships included in the work.  Ironclads, Gunboats, Raiders, Cruisers, Blockade Runners and Submarines are detailed with the name of the ship, year, information regarding the vessel on the left page and a large illustration of the ship on the right. The format of the book allows the volume to be completely open with facing pages lying side by side. Full color illustrations are done by hand.

Many early photographs portraying ships, their crews and actions add a deeper element of understanding for the reader to consider.

On the pages of the introduction author Dougherty details first The Federal Navy strength and activities, numbers of naval personnel at the beginning of the war, 1861, clarifies who Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles was, in addition to what his function was.  In large part the blockade of Southern ports was a major concern for the Union, Federal, Navy, closely followed with capitalizing upon Southern vulnerability via large rivers leading into the heart of the Confederacy.

Early lithograph type images and sketches as well as paintings are liberally sprinkled amongst the prose.

The Confederate Navy faced the formidable task of building and implementing a Navy beginning with 5 ships brought into the Confederacy by seceded states and growing to 130 vessels.  The Confederacy lacked industrial shipbuilding capacity to match that of the Union shipbuilders.

The listing of individual vessels begins with the Ironclad, CSS Manassas, 1861 a Confederate craft initially built in 1855 as a twin screw towboat in Massachusetts, converted to ice breaker, and was used during the war as a Ram.

Specifications noted for the various boats generally includes displacement, dimensions, armament, armor, machinery, the Manassas was powered by steam, and manned by a crew of 36.

The text portion of the ship’s description begins with an explanation regarding when and where a vessel was built, original expected use of the ship if built before the war as a non war vessel, and how it was converted to war usage.

I like that many of the crafts are shown flying either the first national flag of the Confederacy, The Stars and Bars, or the Union’s Old Glory.

Many of the ships are shown as the only one on the page, as is the CSS Arkansas; while some are shown with another of the same type as is the CSS Atlanta built in Scotland, which launched in 1861 as a merchant steamship the Fingal.  When the blockade prevented her leaving US waters, she was cut down to the waterline, rebuilt as an ironclad ram and went into battle before being run ashore and captured by the US Navy.  Once repaired the Atlanta was recommissioned as the USS Atlanta joined other ships in the blockade of Southern ports.

On the same page is a description of the CSS Texas, another ram.

One illustration was especially thought-provoking; The USS Essex is shown in cutaway providing the reader with a view to the interior of the vessel.

The Ironclads are a grouping 44 vessels including rams, blockade vessels, riverboats, combat boats in the Western Theater, some were converted side wheel steamers, others were powered by a diversity of steam engines powering single or twin screws, at least one bore sails in addition to horizontal direct-acting Mazeline engines driving twin screws, while another utilized two vibrating lever engines representative of the wide diversity of vessels used by Union and Confederate naval personnel.

Gun Boats are listed between pages 88 – 162 show the predominance of federal naval power for 27 vessels to the 7 confederate ships and others used by both sides at differing times.  Gunboats, armed with a variety of guns, were used as blockade, fighting, river patrol and defensive vessels powered by sail, side wheel steam, horizontal direct acting engines, and a further diversity of mechanisms.

One ship among the gun boats noted that I found to be especially attention-grabbing is the USS General Bragg, impressed into Confederate service, converted into a cotton clad ram… double pine bulkheads were filled with compressed cotton.

Raiders are listed on pages 162 – 183.  These are the ships most often shown in movies dodging and running the blockade of southern ports.  Most of the raiders shown are those commissioned by the Confederacy.  From the Cuba built in New York in 1851 and commissioned by the Confederacy in 1861 as a privateer, to the mail ship, USS Rattlesnake before the fall of Ft Sumter to being fitted as a cruiser under the command of Lt RB Pegram when she became the first ship of war, CSS Rattlesnake, to fly the Confederate Flag to the CSS Sumter a commerce raider the raiders are a colorful group.

Of particular interest, I found the CSS Alabama shown in cutaway helped this reader understand the interior set up of the ship.  The Alabama was the most effective and became the most famous of the raiders with a history of burning, sinking or capturing 69 ships valued at $6 million during her career.

English ship yards produced a number of vessels for the Confederate effort, including the 1862 CSS Florida built under the name Oreto in an effort to throw the suspicious off as perhaps being built for Italian interests rather than as a ship for the American Confederacy.  All in all 10 Confederate raiders are depicted while only 1 USS is shown.

The USS Quaker City, a side wheel steamer built in Philadelphia in 1854, was purchased by the Union Navy in 1861 and became one of the most effective, most active Federal Blockaders.  The Quaker was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard 18 May, 1865 and was sold at auction in June that same year.

With names USS Susquehanna, San Jacinto, Powhatan, Brooklyn, Hartford, Iroquois, Richmond, Kearsage, Vanderbuilt, the Union Stockade Squadron effectively prevented many ships bringing needed goods into Confederate ports.

On the pages beginning 204 -212 the Blockade Runners includes the Teaser, in essence the first air craft carrier, a wooden hulled, screw tugboat purchased by Virginia, April 1861; the Teaser was used during the Seven Days’ Battles by balloonist Lt. Col Edw Porter Alexander.  Tethered to the deck of the Teaser, Col Alexander observed Federal movements.

Others in the flotilla of blockade runners include 4 more vessels; A D Vance, originally a side wheel steamer, Lord Clyde built in 1862, the vessel operated under state control.  She made 20 successful voyages before being captured 10 Sep 1864 while attempting to carry a cargo of cotton to Europe.  The Hope, Salvor, and Stag are noted as part of the ships used for blockade as the need became greater for the Confederacy to replenish goods and materiel as the war continued.

Closing out the naval vessels portrayed in this book is a small selection, 3 CSS and 1 USS forerunners of the Submarines which are an important part of modern naval contingents.

The CSS Pioneer propelled by a crank shaft, carried a crew of 3 men, 1 of whom propelled the craft by turning the manual crank of the screw.  Armed with a clockwork torpedo, the cigar shaped vessel had a conning tower, manholes in the top and small, and circular glass windows in the sides.

The CSS David, was an early semi-submersible, cigar shaped, having an explosive charge at the end of a spar, and made at least a trio of attacks against Federal vessels.

David is used to refer to any of several vessels resembling this early boat. Several of the David class were captured by the Federals at the end of the war, the exact fate of the original David remains unknown.

The CSS Hunley privately built in spring 1863, in Alabama was discovered, underwater, off Sullivan Island, she was recovered in 2000.  In 1999 the remains of 4 of her crew were located in a Confederate Cemetery during renovations at the football stadium at the Citadel.

The remains of the 8 man crew recovered when the Hunley was raised were buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston with full military honors in 2004.

Page 220 offers a Select Bibliography as well as a small glossary of terms used in the specifications regarding weaponry, propeller, in naval terms screw and engines.

An index closes out the work.

I bought this book as a gift for my husband.  Husband and I share an interest in US history in general, and the War Between the States in particular.  We each have a pretty fair understanding of many of the land battles, have visited many of the battlefields, and have a fairly sizable home library filled with books written about the era.

While we, as nearly everyone who has even passing understanding of the war, were well aware of the Merrimac and the Monitor; we did realize these were not the only ships of the era.  However, we were both a bit surprised to learn there were so many vessels of widely diversified type and usage employed by both sides during the bitter fighting waged on our continent during the 1860s..

Writer Dougherty, a professor at The Citadel, has produced an admirable volume featuring a well-rounded selection of ships detailing both Union and Confederate capabilities, strengths and short comings.

Written in clearly intelligible language; details of individual vessels are easily understood; type of ship, name, reason for the name if known, captain, battles and uses are all set down.  Some of the crafts survived the war and are now on exhibition as is the USS Cairo today displayed at Vicksburg National Military Park.  Others as was the fate of the CSS Louisiana did not survive battle, she was cast adrift towards the Union fleet, burst into flames and did not survive.  Some ships sank and have been recovered, some were sold for scrap.

For those who are not familiar with the various types of ships; chapter headings designating Ironclads, Raiders, Blockage Runners and the like, likely will prove helpful for the interested but not yet well educated regarding the various types of vessels.

I found the introduction to be filled with a wealth of information especially for the attentive reader who may be interested but has not yet become steeped in the details of the 1861-1865 era.

I am always interested in enlarging my own understanding of the period, and found fascinating that Mare Island in California was one of the Union’s eight navy yards.  I was born in the Bay Area, California, and grew up on stories my Dad told of driving materiel and the like to or from Mare Island during WW2.

Addition of artwork with vessels detailed in concert with the pages describing individual ships add much to the text forming the introduction.

Thought-provoking, motivating read, happy to  recommend

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Revolvers by Rick Sapp

Posted May 15, 2016 By Molly

NonfictionRevolvers by Rick SappReviewed by Molly

Rick Sapp’s Revolvers begins with 9 pages of text detailing the evolution of what has become one of the most preferred, trustworthy small arms used the world over.  I like a tome which gives some space to illumination how and why and what things are, as well as indicating explicit illustrations of whatever it is the book is describing.  And, the 9 pages of text included in this book is packed with lots of information for the reader who does have some to a lot of curiosity for how things come about.

Reading Sapp’s text leaves the reader with a better understanding of revolvers, how they came about, their evolution and use.

Contrasting modern semi-automatic fire arms, revolvers are very dependable, tend not to jam, can take a good bit of hard use and still discharge a tight group, and, they can accept potent loads.

During the early days of our country one shot weaponry, flintlock pistols and muskets, used by soldiers and hunters alike were deadly and quite accurate at short distances.  Time needed to reload led to experiments and tinkering to develop a gun able to fire multiple times.  One of the earliest firearm inventors in our country was a little recollected Bostonian gunsmith, Elisha Collier, who in 1818 received a patent for a single action flintlock based weapon having self-priming action.

Even though Collier’s designs were not widely accepted here in the U.S.; they were soon mass produced by John Evans & Son, London and were being used by the British army in India.

While Samuel Colt has been long been accepted as the Father of the Revolver, other names too do stand out in the story of small handguns.  Oliver Winchester bought the failing Volcanic Repeating Arms Co, launched by Horace Smith of Massachusetts and Dan Wesson of Connecticut, and, renamed his new enterprise after himself which ultimately lead to Winchester Repeating Arms.

Rollin White patented a design for a revolver in 1855, licensed the idea to Smith and Wesson who in 1857 made a second, more successful, attempt at fabrication of a small revolver to fire a self-contained rimfire cartridge they had patented in 1854.  The development of a patented revolver capable of firing a .22 Short with four grains of black powder behind a conical bullet; helped to make the name Smith and Wesson well known.  

Remington, the 1860s self-contained metallic centerfire cartridges, Colt single Action Army, known as Peacemaker, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, Period Guns and Rise of the 1911, Webley, continued refinement and development of cartridges and guns; hold reader attention and keep the reader turning the pages.

Photographs of revolvers begins on page 14 and continues on to page 95.  Page 96 is an index with guns listed by manufacture including Beretta, Charter Arms, Colt, Rossi, Ruger, Smith & Wesson and more; there are 13 in all.

Beginning with the Beretta Laramie each page illustrates a revolver one to a page.  Some of the revolvers shown have longish barrels, and some are very short.  Handgrips run the gamut of wood, plastic, rubberized, General Patton’s were Ivory.

The grip appearing on Charter Arms Bulldog appears to be stocky while the Chiappa Model 1873-22 is more slender.  Many of the grips are black, wood is sanded and stained, rubber and plastic are offered in varied colors.

Many of the revolvers shown, Charter Arms Target Mag Pug, Ruger Super Blackhawk Bisley Hunter, Smith and Wesson 680 Plus are presented in natural steel color,  while Ruger Bearcat, Uberti 1875 Top Break, Taurus Raging Judge Magnum are blued.  Charter Arms Pink Lady sports a strawberry pink frame.

While not a big weighty tome, I found Rick Sapp’s Revolvers to be a very thought-provoking, instructive work comprised of enough background to foster reader interest and inform at the same time.  Packed with enough photographs to portray the diversity of the gun called a revolver; this small book having 96 pages and measuring just over 5 inches square is a perfect size for tucking into gift bag for gun enthusiast, and curious hand gun collector alike.

I enjoyed the read. Happy to recommend, particularly for the target audience of gun enthusiasts, and, for the inquisitive, non-gun enthusiasts alike.

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NonfictionTesserae by Mathias B. FreeseReviewed by Molly

Mathias B. Freese’s Tesserae: a Memoir of Two Summers is a work of 218 pages including a forward, Introduction, and Afterword all encapsulated in 36 chapters.

By definition a tesserae is a small block or piece of glass, pebbles, tile, bone, or other materials employed in the creation of a mosaic. Using this definition; the title of this book, Tesserae, indicates to the reader that a mosaic of vibrant narrative pieces will be conveyed to generate an interesting, perhaps uplifting, array.

As I read the text offered in fresh, frank prose; I found the reader is provided a miscellany of mental representations forming a whole consummated in an interesting, readable manner by a writer who has been disposed to be direct while to baring himself completely.

In reading the Foreword I found English instructor, Steven Berndt, who specializes in proletarian literature of the Thirties feels that unlike many memoirs available today this particular work ‘is no mere pastiche of other works.’

Moving on to the Introduction I found myself becoming drawn into the work for much the writer’s stated ‘I miss the sixties. I miss them because they are still within me; missing them is akin to loss.’ I understand his feeling completely, I too miss times long past in my own life, and for much the same reason.

From that opening, writer Freese carries the reader along from summers spent in Woodstock, and on into his life during the sixties, until the current time.

Chapter titles indicate a beginning August 1, 1968 with client and therapist during a session. From there the reader is moved along via the therapist’s thoughts regarding his client and vice versa.  The 1963 political scene, black and white TV, skinny dipping, high school friends, an affair and the ending of that affair, the sixties and an awareness of the self, Woodstock summers, sharing difficult memories, musing over daily happenings, and at last musing from the period well beyond the sixties and coming to grips with everything in between leave the reader with an understanding of the ‘unconscious forces which human beings generally dismiss as so much climate change chatter and we really can’t get our minds around evolutionary psychology which, with monumental and ever growing scientific evidence, states that our genes rule us, that we are simply host bodies, that our genes mutate and struggle for what is best for their survival. ‘

Capable author Freese, his book cover indicates his use of no capitals, at least for this work; is an essayist, educator, and psychotherapist. Freese, winner of the National Indie Excellence Book Award of 2012 in general nonfiction, presented a well received, compelling collection of essays, “This Mobius Strip of Ifs.” I like that.

Freese’s writing embodies a charming, reader pleasing eminence of human frailty and humanity in his work. Our life histories; how they develop, support and encourage us is something that moves many writers to set down an accounting of their lives.

Centering on choices that have to be made author freese, who frequently was obliged to reconsider his own problems before deciding on a plan of action; helps the reader understand each person does experience successes as well as disappointments and traumatized moments.

As each chapter focuses on a phase of Freese’s life be it his memories and the feelings engendered concerning marriage, youth, the moment now, or at age 75 about aging and the bits of his past that he does not appear able to leave in the past and to move on.

Freese, fondly weaves a narrative seeming having origins in Woodstock, and moving on to other venues including North Carolina. He remembers family, friends, acquaintances, and relationships long since disappeared, passion that at times was satisfying and then sated and done, and some that were one-sided.

He faces head on the tormenting misery that comes from the disheartening sense of regret. The reader should remember Tesserae really is not an effort of melancholy and anguish. Relatively, this book is a work presented by a qualified psychotherapist who is proficient at realizing the emotional state inherent to us all.

Freese’s reflections regarding life, affection and the inherent implications leading us all toward change, as we develop, and become who we are now and why as opposed to who we were then, be it a day, week, decade or lifetime ago; Tesserae may serve to motivate the reader toward exploring and perhaps setting down for themselves; what purpose memories serve.

I found Tesserae to be well written, Freese’s writing is distinctive, his writing voice propels the reader through the narrative with a pause now and then to do some reflective thinking about the life and perhaps shared moments we all have shared and how we have been compelled forward or perhaps have been held back on our own journey.

Writer Freese seems to be leaning toward helping himself, his patients, and readers of this book understand that the road we each travel toward realizing who we really are and why; frequently takes most of our lifetime no matter who we are or whatever our upbringing. Along with that realization Freese helps himself, his patients, and the readers of this book begin to also realize we also need to accept that we are who we are just because that is who we are is something most of us finally begin to realize as well.

The latter understanding of ourselves may be a long and hard struggle as we each come to that realization following much angst filled, and perhaps finger pointing and blame placing, trial and error to come to understand that who we are with or without the understanding of why we attach to it during the process helps us each live more satisfying lives.

Tesserae is a work to be read while highlighting with a marker and making notes in the margins; then considered and perhaps re read again. This work can offer the reader perception re the reader’s thinking of times long past and ways and the mechanisms of being and motivated developing relationships, good times and those not so good. Reading the book in its entirety leads the reader to under that when art, painted, sketched or written, is completed with thoughtful creativity, does provide the observer/reader perceptions into the self.

Interesting, uplifting read; Happy to recommended

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Quick & Easy Dump Cakes by Cathy Mitchell

Posted April 5, 2016 By Jandy

NonfictionQuick & Easy Dump Cakes by Cathy MitchellReviewed by Molly

Cathy Mitchell’s Quick & Easy Dump Cakes features 250 tasty recipes for creating cakes, cobblers, coffecakes, one bowl bars and more.

The Table of Contents features 13 chapters or sections and an index.  Some of the recipes are pictured in a center section beginning at page 145 and ending at page 160.

 Section 1: The Classic Dump Cakes include Apple Peach Cake, Banana Split Cake, Blueberry Cinnamon Cake; I prefer allspice and substitute it for cinnamon in every recipe calling for cinnamon, several Cherry varieties and a Classic Apple Dump Cake which does not require mixing a batter, but is a true dump it in the pan in layers and bake.

Section 2: Family Favorites begins with Cherry Cheesecake Dump Cake; a true dump cake made in layers including dry cake mix dotted with butter and baked in the oven.  Just below the title of the cake the reader is directed to check page 147 for a picture of the finished cake.  This section includes directions for a variety of fruit filled desserts, Pink Lemonade Cake, Peachy Keen Cake, Cinnamon Chip Pumpkin Cake and Rainbow Cake are a few of the recipes included.

Section 3: Very Berry is a selection of cakes featuring a variety of berries from Blue to Raspberry to Cran to Blackberry and more.  I am particularly happy to find the Cranberry Lemon Cake recipe; cranberries have long been a standby addition in our family to salads, cakes and more particularly at holiday time.

Section 4: Chocolate Heaven is the section to catch my interest first as I thumbed through the book Dark Chocolate Raspberry Dump Cake is an wicked treat made with raspberry fruit spread or jam, chocolate chips, and chocolate cake mix was the first I tried, Strawberry Devil’s Food incorporates cake mix and pie filling as does Cherry Chocolate Dump Cake, while Decadent Chocolate Delight combines chocolate cake mix, instant pudding, sour cream and chocolate chips and Chocolate Mystery Cake combines cake mix and root beer and Aztec Chocolate Cake adds bittersweet chocolate ganache and ground red pepper.   I have not yet made each of the chocolate recipes, and I may never get to them, the Apricot Double Chip Dump Cake created with apricot preserves, both semisweet and white chocolate chips, yellow cake mix and butter has a powerful hold on my will power at the moment; yummy.

Section 5: Fall Flavors includes a Cranberry Apple Dump Cake recipe calls for walnuts; due to walnut allergy, I substituted pecans, Carrot Spice Cake is a tasty mix of shredded carrots, raisins, crush pineapple and spice cake mix.  I never find spice cake mix on the shelves of our local market; however, depending on how spicey you like, the addition of a scant teaspoon or so of allspice added to the mix works just fine.

Section 6: Tropical Treats begins with Island Delight combining mangoes, pineapple cake mix, lemon lime or orange soda and macadamia nuts, Pineapple, Orange, Coconut, are all chief ingredients for several of the offerings.

Section 7: Cathy’s Cakes and More is a section I have yet to try, however S’more Magic Bars is a longtime family favorite made often when kids were at home, Cookies and Cream Bars, variously flavored cakes, Mug Cake… those made in a microwaveable mug for individual serving made easy, and Coffee Cup Coffeecake for a quick breakfast treat are all on my agenda.

Section 8:  Quick to Fix Cakes include snack cake bars, several recipes using flour or biscuit baking mix and a few made with packaged cake mixes and various add ins.

Section 9: No Fuss Bundt Cakes features recipes for making a little fancier cake than those baked and served from the same baking pan.  Quick Triple Chocolate Cake created using cake mix was an instant hit for family get together as was Orange Rum Cake made with flour orange juice chopped pecans and ½ cup rum, the secret ingredient used in Light Chocolate Bundt Cake is pureed baby food prunes in addition to instant coffee granules, the puree helps keep the cake moist.   Zucchini Spice Bundt Cake can be served as is or with a powdered sugar glaze.

Section 10: Easy as Pie, begins with a simple Pecan Pie, always a staple for holiday in my extended family, although  not a pie I personally like, maybe I will make and take one of these next Thanksgiving.  If you like pumpkin pie, not my personal favorite, despite the fact that my family all adore it; Sour Cream Squash Pie made from winter squash with appearance and taste of pumpkin may be for you.  Included in this section are several old time favorites, Buttermilk Pie, Lemon Chess, several pumpkin or sweet potato, and a Southern Oatmeal Pie.

Section 11:  Breads & Coffeecakes begins with Cranberry Pumpkin Nut Bread… dandy for holiday get togethers, Spicy Gingerbread, Lemon Raisin Quick Bread and Irish Soda Bread are all nice for brunch or later in the day snacking.  Zucchini Orange Bread has long been a family favorite…. I did not tell sons and their friends that the secret ingredient was zuke, it was just secret ingredient.  I particularly like quick, breakfast type breads, and will eventually give a try to each of the recipes in this section.

Section 12: Brownies & Blondies is a section filled with 30 recipes for brownies, I could have used this when sons were teens.  Included in this section are raspberry, chocolate chip and pumpkin treats as well as some with nuts, some with peanut butter or mint or other types of chips, secret ingredient brownies made with applesauce has been a standby for years.  The applesauce helps keep the brownies moist.

Section 13: One Bowl Bars finishes off the book beginning with Banana Oatmeal Snack Bars, and continuing with Espresso Walnut Bars, I substituted pecans, Hawaiian Bars incorporated coconut and macadamia nuts, longtime favorite Chocolate Cookie Magic Bars, Layered Bars, Lemonade Bars and Applesauce Fudge Bars all are easy to prepare and are quickly devoured.

Cathy Mitchell’s Quick & Easy Dump Cakes is a handy sized worked, well made, sturdy book with heavy duty, wipe clean covers, I do like wire bound cook books so the book lays flat, this one is not, however standing the book in a book holder keeps the page open during preparation.  Paper used for pages is not as heavy duty or wipe off as I like.

The pictured bars, cakes and breads are full page, full color, glossy paper, can be gently wiped clean. Banana Split Cake is the first depicted, Mixed Berry is shown served in a stemmed dessert goblet, while Double Pineapple Berry Cake is shown with a dollop of cream.

The title of the book is perhaps a little misleading for some in that many of the recipes do require creating a batter which is poured over layers in the pan, or is the foundation batter for adding in the other ingredients prior to pouring into the pan.  I have no problem with the title, by and large the term dump cake is often used to indicate a cake, bread, or dessert made in a single layer in a baking pan, requires no icing and is served warm or cooled.

While I have made a number of dump cakes beginning back when my children were little Cub Scouts and their Pack, and later Troops held once a month pot luck suppers, as well as our attending frequent pot lucks at church; the cakes we made then were simply ones we devised on our own, with no cook book handy.

I like Cathy Mitchell’s Quick & Easy Dump Cakes it has a handy variety of desserts, breads and the like all in one place, many of the recipes can be fairly interchangeable with white cake substituted for yellow or chocolate depending upon what you want the dessert to be.  Almost any berry can be substituted for others called for in the recipe, I use allspice rather than cinnamon, and pecans rather than walnuts, the end product is always tasty, family pleasing and eaten quickly.

Recipes are laid out in good order with ingredient list at the top in a single column, preparation steps, size of pan and preheat oven directions, I personally like to see the oven temp and size of pan as the very first item at the top of the recipe so that I can get out the needed pan and get the oven preheating immediately.  Last item in the recipe is the serving indication.   Often a recipe baked in a 9” pan is cut into 9 servings, and a 13”x9” is cut into 12 to 16 servings.

Tasty Recipes,     Happy to Recommended

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Vikings: A History of the Norse People by Martin J. DoughertyNonfictionReviewed by Molly

Martin J Dougherty’s Vikings: A History of the Norse People is a volume is filled with maps, drawings, photos of surviving artefacts and well researched text.

CONTENTS  Introduction  It is in the introduction that historian/writer Dougherty offers the assertion that hardly any peoples or groups have ever such an impact on common ethos as had the Vikings.  From that bold declaration the author sets out to substantiate his contention.  Referring to chronological confirmation, The Reader learns that what is acknowledged regarding the Norse People is gleaned from many sources; and we learn to that none of the sources are wholly trustworthy.

Chapter 1  origins of the Vikings      Early peoples became cognizant of the society we refer to today as the Vikings; in 793 AD, when a group of plunderers from across the North Sea landed on Lindisfarne Island and despoiled the monastery there.

This chapter discusses early inhabitance of Vikings in Scandinavia. The Iron Age was an interval Archaeological finds suggest Scandinavians of the period, perhaps in large numbers, launched seaborne incursions as well as engaged in building hillforts and other defenses for themselves.  During the years between 400 and 800 AD, The Period was a hectic time in most of Europe.

The Dawn of the Viking Age appears to have launched in 789 when three ships, likely Norse, landed in Weymouth on what is today is recognized to be a trading expedition which rapidly devolved into a brawl complete with use of axe and swords.

Chapter 2  the old Norse religion     Dougherty familiarizes the reader to the Valkyries, Elves, Dwarves and Norns … the three women who could see the past, present and future and decided the fate of every person; the idea of Valhalla, the Viking Gods, chief of them Odin, along with Thor, Aegir, Loki, and many others, as well as funeral rites, ships and pyres, religious practices including feasts and sacrifices, holy sites and temples.

Chapter 3  Viking Law and Social Order    While Vikings are regularly represented across the board as lawless savages, Viking culture did differ in some extent from place to place; and social structure was anything but lawless.  Laws decided the progression for countenancing a warrior’s use of a sword.  Rules provided constancy leading to success for the group as a whole.

Hardly any warriors were full time combatants, most were farmers or engaged in various nonaggressive occupations.  Legitimate differences were determined by rules, as was outlawry.   Feuds, vengeance and even duels were all regulated by the laws of society.

Chapter 4  Viking Society      Karls included landowners and farmers, craftsmen and merchants; any might seek to elevate into the Jarl, ruling class, by attaining influence and prosperity.  Contained in each group were various subgroups with slaves at the furthermost bottom, freed slaves and vagrants a step up.  Hired hands including fishermen, farm hands and the like were lower status than were the tenant farmers and craftsmen who ranked lower than well off merchants and landowners.  Social mores surrounding marriage and divorce, extended families, clothing, longhouses, farmsteads, foods, hunting, eating and drinking, grooming health and hygiene are all discussed in this chapter.

Chapter 5  The Early Raids      The writer tells us ‘it is easier to comprehend the story of the Vikings in terms of activity, raiding, exploring or settling, than in terms of a strict chronology.’ While those living in one area might be engaged in peaceful living, another might be intent upon raiding, while another might engage in trade and plundering now and then.

Early in the development the Vikings were often found leaving their homes to set out on missions to raid, explore and trade before returning again to their land and homes.

Later the Vikings took land, created kingdoms; the establishing of settlements continued as raiding became less a focus and colonization became more so.

Booty and Plunder, the first raid, at Lindisfarne, on a small island off the NE coast of England, was such a success that others in the general area soon followed.  By 800 AD Viking ships attacked Iona near the SE coast of France and in 795 AD began attacks against Ireland.

When trading seemed to be more lucrative than plundering, the Vikings turned to trade, however, raids continued should plunder seemed to bring more booty.  Some raids included the carrying away of settlers to sell as slaves, or held as hostages, and even as brides.

Inland strikes, raids in Northumbria, Wessex and Mercia and elsewhere continued until by 900 AD most of the raiding came to an end as people began defending their towns more, or initiated other methods of opposition to the pillage.

Chapter 6  Viking Weapons and Combat    While not an army of soldiers; the Vikings were warriors.  Little is known of the definite methods of battle, or dress employed by the Vikings.  Representations of Vikings seem to have helmets and chainmail as part of the picture is largely due to resourceful thoughts of artists.

Skeletal remains found at old battle sites can help explain weaponry and fighting manner to a degree. Location and nature of wounds, help create a clarification regarding types of weaponry causing wounds and blows. While not structured into mass activity for attack; the Vikings did use some formations, offered support to a downed comrade and the like.

The writer offers explanation for The Swine Array, a wedge formation, as well as describing a shield wall.  Combat on water was pretty much that on land; arrows were launched when the ships closed the gap between ships.  Hand to hand battle was a staple.

On land Vikings might use horses for travel; battle was on the ground, hand to hand.

Shields were used both as weapons and a defensive tool to block a strike, to prevent an enemy’s arm ability to thrust with sword, as a covering to protect a downed comrade.

Cloaks, leather tunic, helmets and other head protection, swords and scabbards, knives, axes, sax -a bladed weapon larger than a knife, smaller than a sword- , spears, bows and arrows, and later chainmail, were all part of battle gear employed by the Vikings.

Combat, on the main, was hand to hand.

The most infamous and provocative of Viking combatants were the Berserkers.

Chapter 7  Explorations, Settlement and Trade   Trekking as far away as to the Americas where they established settlements; demonstrate the Vikings skill as explorers and seamen.

Sunstones and sailing rigs, as well as the settling parties are explained.  By 870 AD, Iceland was the site of some settlements.  America, Europe and Russia were visited and settlements were established in various areas and along many rivers.

Trade towns, overland trade, coin and silver, trade goods, slavery, even violence for sale became part of the trade scene. Ship terminology, merchant ships, dragon ships, long ships are all explained.

Chapter 8 The Viking Kingdoms  States and kingdoms during the inauguration of the Viking age tended to be quite small.  Although they are largely remembered as being destructive raiders; Vikings proved quite proficient in constructing sophisticated towns, tombs, and defensive works strong enough to withstand ravages of time.  Some of them remain to the present time.

Triggered by the need for land; Viking growth settled over a wide area and came to control a large breadth of Europe and beyond.  Viking influence has been found in Scandinavia, Russia, what is now England, and in Eastern Europe.  There is evidence that their travels carried Vikings to the Americas before they were finished.

The Kievan Rus founded settlements along and around Lake Onega and Lake Ladoga where the local Slavic people were subject to raids of plunder along with benefitting from trade with the Nordic adventurers.  Scandinavian Kingdoms have added the names of Gudrod the Hunter, and his son Halfdan.  Viking sagas tell of King Harald, Haakon, Erik Bloodaxe, Greycloke and Knut, and SveinForkbeard.

Settlements were established in Ireland, Iceland, Norway, the Friesian Islands, Greenland, and the New World.  As was done in other areas; The Vikings tended to engage in trade with local settlements when they were not raiding and plundering them.  Britain and Northern Europe was visited by the Vikings as early as 789.

A mixture of cultures, political change, raids in Europe, and an English invasion all left their mark on the region.

Chapter 9 The End of the Viking Age While there is no single date at which the Viking Age ended in total, 1066 does provide a definite date that most Viking colonization was ended; the various peoples were becoming Icelanders, or Scandinavian, Danes or Greenlanders. As Normandy was evolving from Viking conquest into a feudal realm, the Viking kingdom in Jorvik was suffering troubled times.

Knut the Great faded into history, the last true Viking king Harold Godwinson and the warring during 1066 continue to provide grist for film, books and reenactors.    Chapter 10 The Legacy of the Vikings

While the date thought to end of the Viking era may be an arbitrary time imposed by historians; Viking settlements, towns, sagas, poems, along with the social values they lived; color by much of our understanding of these robust and strong willed people.

‘Many of the worlds’ nations can trace their origins or elements of their history to Viking influence.  … they were a major part of the process shaping the modern Western world.

Index  at the end of the book is 3 pages.

That Dougherty is both historian and author becomes evident when first the cover is turned and the pages of the Introduction appear, here we find a longboat, a photo of land today indicating the Aalborg burial site in Denmark, and an artist’s rendition of a helmeted Nordic head ready for battle.

I found Martin J Dougherty’s Vikings: A History of the Norse People to be an effortlessly read overview for all things Viking.  Filled with maps, photographs and graphics; Dougherty treats the reader to a very eye appealing, gratifying volume regarding the fundamentals of Viking life, history and a broad spectrum of activities carried out for the duration of the period.

I thoroughly enjoyed the hard cover print edition; it is sized to be held easily even by a reader whose hands are now rather gnarled by arthritis… a larger, more cumbersome edition might well contain more pertinent information, however it would be an edition I would find difficult to use.  I do not personally like reading hand held devices simply because my eyes, as are my hands, are showing their age and the paper printed page is easier on my eyes.  I am sure a younger, audience may well enjoy the Kindle version.

Vikings A History of the Norse People presents a robust overview of a fascinating people whose life, culture, accomplishments and behaviors have colored much of the world and have left an indelible mark on those of us who descend from the settlement areas colonized by them.   I like that the work is forthright, candid and direct.  By noting some ancient traditions drawn from poetry and sagas while acknowledging that there are limits of our factual knowledge in some areas; the writer makes clarifies when we must make suppositions.

Written in plain, unvarnished prose, the tome draws in both those who have some understanding of these hearty folk as well as the reader who may have little awareness of the Norse, other than that offered now and then by supposed specialists, or artists and writers based on some history and perhaps, more of their personal imagination.

The horned helmets often depicted in more recent graphics as well as early Viking warriors pictured in chain mail, may well be due more to imaginative thinking than based in historical fact through use of known artefacts.  I am especially pleased with the varied graphics found in abundance on the pages.  Included in the illustrations are photographs of relics, as well as timeworn sketches describing pertinent examples of life, more relics, scenes including burial mounds and the like all from the time period of the era.  Detailed maps having regarding borders, battles, settlement locations, travel; are abundantly present to help put everything into perspective.

One of the strong suits of this particular book is that it serves to draw in readers who may have interest in The Norse people, while having little to no previous edification regarding the history of the Viking peoples.   As a reader whose hobby includes genealogy; I value the enlightenment regarding impact my forebears, who are often cast in the main as little other than lusty marauders plundering settlements bordering the North Sea, had upon a great swath of the world including but not restricted to Scandinavia, England, Ireland and Scotland, and even so far away from the North Sea as The American continent and even the Mediterranean.

The volume itself is well made, and will stand up to repeated usage, a good thing since readers will want to read and re read and enjoy this book over a period of time.   The book does well what the writer intended; reading Martin J Dougherty’s Vikings: A History of the Norse People presents by and large solid information in an accessible form to the reader. It is both enlightening and enjoyable, and the data is provided in a common-sense mode.

I enjoyed reading Martin J Dougherty’s Vikings: A History of the Norse People, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the Norse peoples or the time period.

Thought-provoking read     Recommended

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