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review 2015-04-09 18:11
Patty Reed's Doll: The Story of the Donner Party
Patty Reed's Doll: The Story of the Donner Party - Rachel K. Laurgaard,Elizabeth Michaels

I was skeptical.  How could this book be accurate, but also engaging and appropriate for kids?  Well, she totally pulls it off 100% with the clever storytelling device of having everything told from the point of view of a doll which belonged to a real-life survivor of the ill-fated expedition.  Being a doll and constant companion to a child, she experiences and relays the journey as a child would - knowing when things are going badly (even catastrophically), but not of the truly grim and desperate moments that take place out of her view.  Of course, being a book about a treacherous journey, it isn't without death and sadness, but it's handled in an age appropriate manner.  Definitely recommended to anyone wanting to explore this episode in history with a child.

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review 2015-03-31 19:38
By the Great Horn Spoon
By the Great Horn Spoon! - Inc. Sid Fleischman,Eric Von Schmidt

A very fun historical fiction read -perhaps the most fun one that we've read all year.  This tells the story of young Jack and his faithful and unflappable butler, Praiseworthy, as they set off in hopes of striking it rich in the 1849 California gold rush.  A large portion of the story is taken up with the sea voyage from Boston to San Francisco and rightly so as they have to travel all the way around the tip of South America.  Once in California, the duo has no shortage of scrapes and adventures.  All in all, a great blend of fun and history!

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text 2014-11-08 18:19
October Roundup
A Trick of the Light - Louise Penny
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 - Gordon S. Wood
America 1844: Religious Fervor, Westward Expansion, and the Presidential Election That Transformed the Nation - John Bicknell
Bet Me - Jennifer Crusie
Long Summer Day - R.F. Delderfield
Over My Dead Body (A Nero Wolfe Mystery) - Rex Stout
Blood and Circuses - Kerry Greenwood
The Green Mill Murder - Kerry Greenwood
The Late Scholar - Jill Paton Walsh

October was a pretty good reading month. 


I got off of my plate a book I've been working on in bits and pieces for a good while now (Empire of Liberty).   (Which reminds me, I need to review it.)


Best read: A Trick of the Light, by Louise Penny.  The Inspector Gamache series is a excellent series on average, and this one of the best in it that I've read so far.


No worst read, as nothing under 3 stars.


New author discovered: Jennifer Crusie.  Bet Me was a hoot, and I'd read another of her books.

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review 2014-10-31 18:29
America 1844, by John Bicknell
America 1844: Religious Fervor, Westward Expansion, and the Presidential Election That Transformed the Nation - John Bicknell

My ARC courtesy of Chicago Review Press/Net Galley - much thanks!


This survey of what America was like, and what Americans were up to, in 1844 (an election year, and an important one) is broadly chronological, smoothly written, and sometimes very amusing.


President Tyler ("His Accidency") is trying to get re-elected, despite being quite aware both parties (Whigs and Democrats) hate him, offering his possible election rivals seats on the Supreme Court.  John Quincy Adams, no longer president, has retired to the U.S. House of Representatives, and is fighting the "gag rule" preventing the discussion of slavery by that body.  Andrew Jackson is also out of the White House but not retired from politics - his opinion will count for much in the election.  The Millerites think the world is coming to an end, and predict the Second Coming of Christ for both spring and fall.  Joseph Smith first runs for president, and is then assassinated.  Americans, professional explorers and otherwise, are heading west to Oregon and California, neither of which are part of the United States.


It's a very good coverage of an important year in U.S. history (1844 would elect James K. Polk, determine war with Mexico in the near future, and the expansion of both the U.S. and of slavery). It would probably be very interesting to read this back-to-back with Bernard DeVoto's excellent 1846: The Year of Decision, which takes a similar format.

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