The American Civil War : a military history by John Keegan

Read: June 5 - June 28
Format: Paperback 623 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: Civil War
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, SYLL
Category: The Engagement: this is getting serious
Genre: History
Stars: ★★★

In the past 18 months I have ready numerous books on the Civil War - mainly non-military - so I picked up this book to fill in all those blanks that were still empty. A few facts I hadn't gathered from other books were:
  • recent developments of the time in food preservation, especially canning led to the Union soldiers being best fed military force on record up to that point in time.
  • Southern strategy was to deny access to union invaders. This was a major difficulty with such a large perimeter to defend.
  • At Antietam, McClellan did not use all the forces at his disposal. He also lacked the killer instinct and refused to augment hatreds by confiscating property, living off the land, or freeing slaves.
  • inadequacy of the southern railroads with their non-strategic routes hampered the Union efforts after their invasion
  • The battle at Gettysburg is believed by many to be the turning point of the war. What is not surprising is that "both sides at Gettysburg were animated by belief in the justice of their cause and fought with greater determination because of that."
  • 10,000 battles took place during the ACW between 1861 and 1865 = 7 per day on average.
  • It is much easier to understand battles with great maps to illustrate - this book had them.
History also seems to conclude that with more talented leaders on the Union side the war would have progressed differently - ending sooner and with fewer casualties. It is also perceived "indecisiveness of battles is one of the great mysteries of the war." However, the most interesting point made in this book, for me, is the identification of the South's greatest ally and the North's greatest opponent -" the geography of the war". "The obstacles which most hampered the North's armies in their pursuit of victory were terrain and landscape, the enormous distances to be traversed, the multiplicity of waterways to be crossed, the impenetrability of forests, the contour of mountain ranges."

Lastly, I was surprised to read that Karl Marx studied the American War and yet as much as he urged and suggested that the ACW would lead to socialism the author concludes that "American socialism was stillborn on the battlefields of Shiloh and Gettysburg."


Call of the Wild by Jack London

Read: June 27 - June 27
Format: Audiobook 4 CDs equivalent 139 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: Dog sledding
Category: The Kids have it - Young adult and children's books
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, AUDIO, SYLL, 50 State Challenge - ALASKA
Stars: ★★★½

This is the book telling the story of a dog named Buck. He is a magnifiicently strong animal that is stolen from his farm in California and sent off to the Yukon becoming a member of a dog sled team.

The style of the story reminds a great deal of Black Beauty coming from the animal's POV. I wasn't sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised at a fast paced tale.

A Case for Love by Kaye Dacus

Read: June 24 - June 27
Format: 312 pages
Source: My shelves
Subject: faith, family, fairness
Category: Love and Marriage: a lifetime commitment
Genre: Fiction Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI
Stars: ★★★★

The Brides of Bonneterre trilogy ends with A Case of Love. Having seen the romances of Anne and Meredith in the first two books, it is exciting to see a story from the male POV. Forbes Guidry, perpetual bachelor, is a successful lawyer (partner in the firm). He sees his cousin Anne and his sister Meredith are happily married and at his age (near 40) decides that he needs to start seriously thinking about finding a wife.

Aliana Delacroix hosts a daytime news magazine at the local TV station. They've met a few times but when they are thrown together at a new dance studio the sparks begin to fly. Aliana in the meantime is looking for a lawyer to help her parents and their neighbors defend their homes from a major development takeover. Forbes offers his services pro bono before he realizes that this will pit him against his family and the law firm he is part of.

Having read the first two in the series, I can honestly say that it saddens me that there is only a trilogy with these characters. The series was uplifting both spiritually and emotionally, the characters were people that I would like to meet and the town sounds like a winner...the series definitely is!

Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Read: June 20 - June 26
Format: Audiobook 7 CDs equivalent 304 pages
Source: Nook - B&N
Subject: infidelity, spiritual visitations, parental disapproval
Category: Love and Marriage: a lifetime commitment
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, AUDIO, SYLL
Stars: ★★★

Josey is 27 years old with a severe lack of self-esteem who lives with her mother. She doesn't have a job other than taking care of her mother, whom she thinks disapproves and dislikes her. To compensate for those feelings, Josey hordes a cache of candy and other goodies that she hides in a special compartment at the back of her closet. One day she returns from an errand for her mother and finds her friend Della Lee hiding in her closet. Della Lee strives to get Josey to expand her horizons and make new friends. After meeting Chloe while doing an errand for Della Lee, Josey starts to emerge from her shell and her personality blossoms as well as her relationships with other people.

The story which follows is unexpected and unusual.

Deadly Gamble by Connie Shelton

Read: June 15 - June 24
Format: Paperback 291 pages
Source: B&N Nook purchase
Subject: amateur detective
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, BOYS
Category: Something Old - read those TBRs
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Stars: ★★★

Charlie (Charlotte) Parker works with her brother at their investigation business - he's the PI and she's the accountant, so when he's out-of-town and her former best friend needs help, Charlie sets out to fill in. When the problems continue to escalate for her former friend, Charlie pushes on to find the solution even though it is not her area of expertise.

This is the first in the series and as firsts go it wasn't the greatest but it has possibilities so I will follow up in the future.


Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday was originally hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page, but is now a traveling meme and for the month of June Mailbox Monday will be hosted by BlueStocking Guide! Go over and visit her to see what she got in her mailbox.

As for me, my ER book that I have been waiting on since April finally arrived!

The Borgia Betrayal
by Sara Poole

Before the Tudors, there were the Borgias. More passionate. More dangerous. More deadly.

From the author of Poison, called “stunning”* and “a fascinating page-turner,” comes a new historical thriller, featuring the same intriguing and beautiful heroine: Borgia court poisoner, Francesca Giordano.

In the summer of 1493, Rodrigo Borgia, Alexander VI, has been pope for almost a year. Having played a crucial role in helping him ascend the chair of Saint Peter, Francesca, haunted by the shadows of her own past, is now charged with keeping him there. As court poisoner to the most notorious and dangerous family in Italy, this mistress of death faces a web of peril, intrigue, and deceit that threatens to extinguish the light of the Renaissance.

As dangers close in from every direction, Francesca conceives a desperate plan that puts her own life at risk and hurls her into a nightmare confrontation with a madman intent on destroying all she is pledged to protect. From the hidden crypts of fifteenth-century Rome to its teeming streets alive with sensuality, obsession, and treachery, Francesca must battle the demons of her own dark nature to unravel a plot to destroy the Borgias, seize control of Christendom, and plunge the world into eternal darkness. AMAZON description


The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

Read: June 6 - June 19
Format: Audiobook 11 CDs equivalent 644 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: reconcilation, faith, family
Category: Something Borrowed- from the library, sad
Genre: Fiction
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, SYLL, TIOLI, AUDIO
Stars: ★★★★

Ronnie and her brother Jonah are shipped off to North Carolina to spend the summer at the beach with their father. Sounds like fun right? For Ronnie, it seems anything but. She hasn't spoken with her father since he left their family 3 years ago and now she is going to be forced to live with him for 3 months. Trying to avoid him, Ronnie gets in with the wrong crowd and is picked for shoplifting. Realizing her mistake now that she's in legal trouble, Ronnie makes a complete about face and starts a summer romance with the nicest boy in town. Even though things start to look up at this point, Ronnie is due for a rude awakening to her idyllic summer.

I have read many of Nicholas Sparks books, so when I started this one, I expected to like it, however, the beginning, IMHO, was a bit rough and I was worried for a while until the story took off and then I could barely stop listening. I liked the way that the narration was from several points of view and the resolutions that were eventually arrived at could have seemed a bit contrived, but the impressions came off realistically. The story touched me especially since I was reading on Father's Day and ***SPOILER*** when Steve, Ronnie's Dad died, tears came rolling down my cheeks. Mr. Sparks did not disappoint.


Glazed Murder by Jessica Beck

Read: June 13 - June 15
Format: Paperback 291 pages
Source: My shelves
Subject: donut making, dirty cops
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, BOYS
Category: Something Old - read those TBRs
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Stars: ★★★

This is the first book in the Donut Mysteries and I have to admit, the recipes that are included made me have to go out and get some donuts!

Suzanne Hart takes her divorce settlement and buys a donut shop. She rises each morning shortly after Midnight so that she can make the donuts and have them ready when the shop opens at 6AM. One morning shortly after arriving at the shop and before she has time to start donuts, she sees a body dumped on the street in front of her door. Since she doesn't feel that the local police force are taking her safety into consideration, she decides that in her own best interests she has to solve the murder. Her screwy hours bring a fun POV to the story.

The characters are delightful and entertaining, and the budding romance with a state policeman to the annoyance of her ex add a light touch to this cozy. Definitely makes for a fine beach read.


Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday was originally hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page, but is now a traveling meme and for the month of June Mailbox Monday will be hosted by BlueStocking Guide! Go over and visit her to see what she got in her mailbox.

This week I received a book I won in a giveaway on Bookin' with Bingo. I entered because the title reminded me of the area where I grew up and I haven't read a Danielle Steele book in many years. So it seems that fate says it is time to get back to her.

44 Charles Street

Danielle Steele

A magical transformation takes place in Danielle Steel’s luminous new novel: strangers become roommates, roommates become friends, and friends become a family in a turn-of-the-century house. The plumbing was prone to leaks, the furniture rescued from garage sales. And every square inch was being devotedly restored to its original splendor—even as a relationship fell to pieces.

The other two books were purchases made from my book club. The descriptions for romances always get to me.

The School for Brides
Mary Jo Putney

Publishers Weekly

Smith's lively debut is chockablock with plot twists. Frowzy, pseudonymous Miss Eva Black runs a school and sanctuary for courtesans who wish to retire from carnal service. Part yenta and part Henry Higgins, Eva teaches the young women proper manners and matches them with eligible suitors.

It Happened One Season
Mary Balogh, Stephanie Laurens, and more

A young lady facing yet another season without a suitor never expects to find herself the object of his affections. A handsome hero returns from war, battle-scarred and world-weary. But family duty calls and he must find a bride. It Happened One Season has four amazing talents - Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D'Alessandro, and Candice Hern - have come together to create one of the most unforgettable events of the year. The results are spectacular—each story is as unique as a lover's first kiss.

Finally, I received LibraryThing's May ER book from Random House.

S.J. Parris

Description: Bestselling author S. J. Parris returns with the next Giordano Bruno mystery, set inside Queen Elizabeth’s palace and steeped in period atmospherics and the strange workings of the occult.

It is the year of the Great Conjunction, when the two most powerful planets, Jupiter and Saturn, align—an astrological phenomenon that occurs once every thousand years and heralds the death of one age and the dawn of another. The streets of London are abuzz with predictions of horrific events to come, possibly even the death of Queen Elizabeth.

When several of the queen’s maids of honor are found dead, rumors of black magic abound. Elizabeth calls upon her personal astrologer, John Dee, and Giordano Bruno to solve the crimes. While Dee turns to a mysterious medium claiming knowledge of the murders, Bruno fears that some thing far more sinister is at work. But even as the climate of fear at the palace intensifies, the queen refuses to believe that the killer could be someone within her own court.

Bruno must play a dangerous game: can he allow the plot to progress far enough to give the queen the proof she needs without putting her, England, or his own life in danger?

What came in your mailbox this week?


Mister Monday

Read: June 6 - June 9
Format: Audiobook 7 CDs equivalent 361 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: Alternative universe,
Category: The Kids have it - Young adult and children's books
Genre: Fantasy
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, SYLL, TIOLI, AUDIO
Stars: ★★★

Arthur Penhaligon starts an unusual adventure when after an asthma attack in the schoolyard he is confronted by Mister Monday and presented with a peculiar key which not only eases his health problems but leads him to an alternative world where he must defeat Mister Monday and his minions to find a cure for a plague attacking those in his home world. Arthur is assisted by Suzy Turquoise Blue and a portion of the Architect's will.

I thought that the beginning was a bit confusing, but once clarification was achieved, the story was exciting, entertaining and well-worth the effort to hang in. It's no Harry Potter but definitely a keeper for the kids.


Poison, A Novel of the Renaissance by Sara Poole

Read: May 22 - June 7
Format: E- book 416 pages
Source: Nook - B&N
Subject: Poisoner, Borgia Papacy
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, BOYS
Category: Honeymoon - foreign settings/thrillers
Genre: Historical Fiction/Thriller
Stars: ★★★½

The Borgias have been well-hyped historical figures for many years but recently they have been front and center so there is no surprise that more and more books are being written with them as main characters. This book is the first in a series with the Borgias in the forefront. In 1492 when this book is set, Rodrigo Borgia, a cardinal in the Catholic Church, is startled when his Poisoner is poisoned by the daughter of his former poisoner. (Are there enough poisoners to go around?) When Francesca Giodano explains that she needs to avenge her father's death she is placed in the envious/not so envious position of protecting Il Cardinale and assisting him in his efforts to be the next Pope.

The story-telling is so well structured that one wonders if it could be true. What fascinates me the most about this book and the story it tells is how Ms Poole exposes the corruption of the Church's upper echelon as well as interweaving anti-Semitism and the Spanish Inquisition. MS Poole also has an interesting style of writing with this tale coming directly from the central character as if it were a very long letter being written to a friend.

To be honest, I won the second book in the series Borgia Betrayal and figured that I should probably read the first in the series as preparation. Now I am really looking forward to the Borgia Betrayal if it would just get here!

Hell Gate by Linda Fairstein

Read: June 3 - June 6
Format: Audiobook 10 CDs equivalent 597 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: Illegal immigration, sex trafficking
Category: Going steady: Should we keep seeing each other? - ongoing series/favorite authors Genre: Police Procedural
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, SYLL, TIOLI, AUDIO
Stars: ★★★

The 12th in the Alexandra Cooper series tells the tale of the shipwreck filled with a human cargo from the Ukraine. The secondary story is of political corruption in the Mayor's office related to the trusts of the historical buildings such as the Hamilton Grange and Gracie Mansion in New York City.

How the two stories intertwine and lead to a surprising conclusion, just shows the continued talent of Ms. Fairstein. The characters continue to be like old friends that the reader wants to invite home and help with their personal problems. Seeing the personal side of this terrific trio (Alexandra, Mike, and Mercer) only intensifies the horror of those unfortunate creatures caught in the web of the Sex trafficking trade.

This was not the best of the series but was definitely worth the time to read. The history lessons, related to the Historical buildings in this case, are always well researched and detailed.

Fit to Die by J B Stanley

Read: June 1 - June 3
Format: E-book 240 pages
Source: Nook - B&N
Subject: Dieting, revenge, commercial competition
Category: Something New - books acquired in 2011
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, BOYS
Stars: ★★★½

Fit to Die is the second of the Supper Club Mysteries. The Flab Five have been falling off their diets rather than having the pounds fall off, so when a new Diet guru, Veronica Levitt, meets Professor Henry and Lindy buying items that are not on their diets, she convinces them to sign up along with the rest of the Flab Five at her new diet center Witness to Fitness. The night before their new commitment, "Ronnie" sees all the group at the Polar Pagoda eating ice cream served up by a likeable Willy Kendrick which then leads to a verbal altercation between the two proprietors. However, Ronnie hasn't made a lot of friends, the food and prices at Witness to Fitness don't invoke the warm fuzzies for any of the members, and after the arson fire of the Polar Pagoda and death of the night watchman, the Flab Five decide that some investigation is in order. It gets even deeper when the prime suspect, Ronnie is found dead.

This tightly-woven story is very entertaining mainly because of the small town setting and the magnificent characters. I'm definitely going to "devour" this series.


A Noble Radiance by Donna Leon

Read: May 29 - May 31
Format: Audiobook 7 CDs equivalent of 277 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: toxic waste disposal,
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, SYLL
Category: Something Borrowed - from library
Genre: Mystery
Stars: ★★★

A partially decomposed body is found in a field and identified by the family signet ring that was with it. Roberto Lorenzoni had been kidnapped two years earlier and the case was still open When Commissario Guido Brunetti takes up the case. Count Lorenzoni and his wife still grieve the loss of their only son, but have moved forward training a nephew to take over the family business.

This is not one of the author's more in depth mysteries but still enjoyable for the atmosphere and characters.