It's a good book, but it's not my Typee...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hoopskirts, Union Blues, and Confederate Grays

Hoopskirts, Union Blues, and Confederate Grays by Kate Havelin is a complete look at what Americans were wearing during the Civil War. It's a book intended for youngsters, but is capable of holding the attention of history buffs and fashionistas of all ages.

Illustrated with period photos punctuated with bright backgrounds, Hoopskirts is as visually pleasing as it is informative. From underwear to parasols, every conceivable item worn by men, women, children, soldiers and slaves is covered in full, but easy to understand, detail. The reader will learn about fashion in the days leading up to the Civil War, as well as the ingenuity it required just to create clothing during wartime privations. In the years following the war, American fashion was greatly influenced by England and France, something still true to some extent today.

Havelin's descriptions only occasionally dip below an adult level of understanding, but for most of us not accustomed to wearing pantelets or crinolines, the explanations are necessary and helpful to an understanding of what our ancestors wore.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

While the World Watched

While the World Watched, by Carolyn Maull McKinstry, is the story of the author's remarkable experiences during the Civil Rights movement. Her march under the leadership of Martin Luther King and her later experiences as a speaker about the fight for racial equality pale in comparison to the place in history she never asked for.

On a Sunday morning in September, 1963, Carolyn stuck her head into the girl's bathroom at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. After chatting for a moment with the girls inside, including her best friend, she continued with her usual task of compiling Sunday School reports. If she had stayed in the room three minutes longer, she would likely have shared the fate of her friends. Local men had planted a bomb which went off shortly before worship was to begin that day, killing the four girls Carolyn had just been talking to. Another girl, farther away from the blast, was blinded and badly injured.

For years, Carolyn was haunted by survivor's guilt, something no one talked about in the 1960s. She grew to adulthood shadowed by the deaths of her friends and convinced she would one day be killed by the same hate-filled people who were continuing to plant bombs in homes and businesses around town. Any black citizen who stepped beyond the accepted limits could expect delivery of a bomb, a beating, or a fire in short order. Authorities did little or nothing to discourage these crimes. Even if a suspect was arrested, the all-white jury often found them not guilty despite overwhelming evidence.

When Carolyn reached adulthood, she found herself descending into a depression she didn't understand. Having been discouraged from talking about the violence around her and the people she had lost, she wasn't aware of the effect that years of terror and silent grief had had upon her. She hit rock bottom (or as close to rock bottom as someone with a loving family and supportive husband can) and then turned her life around. She went from drinking all day to divinity school. Since then she has devoted her life to speaking to others around the world about God and about racial conflicts that still continue.

While the World Watched
is not a polished book. It reads like a journal, or a personal message written to be shared with a daughter or granddaughter. McKinstry's words are interspersed with excerpts from Martin Luther King's speeches and letters. King spoke at Sixteenth Street Baptist and had a profound effect on McKinstry. His words give shape and context to the story of a young girl's struggle to find justice and peace in a world that often lacks any.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hoopskirts, Union Blues, and Confederate Grays

You learn something new every day.

Today, while reading a galley of Hoopskirts, Union Blues, and Confederate Grays by Kate Havelin, I found out that the Paisley pattern is named for Paisley, Scotland. During the Civil War era, the town became known for the distinctive design on their popular shawls.

Havelin's book is due out in October of 2011 and will keep the attention of kids and adults with its attractive pictures and descriptions of what anyone who was anyone was wearing in the 1860s.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Tyndale House has a great summer reading program in place. I've joined and started reading their books, which means I'm also working my way toward FREE books. Just read 5 of their books and post about them online. For each five 5 you read and review, you earn a free book. There's quite a list to choose from, both fiction and non-fiction.

Click here to check it out and join.

Let me know if you join--I'd love to hear what you think of the books.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven

The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven is the story of father and son, Kevin and Alex (whose last name, unfortunately, is Malarkey). Both were involved in a terrible car accident, leaving Alex in a coma. Upon awakening two months later, Alex began to tell his family about meeting God and visiting Heaven. Unsure at first how to take this news, Kevin continued to listen to Alex's tales and eventually embraced what he was saying as truth.

Children are heavily influenced by their parents, so it should be no surprise to anyone that the child of devoutly Christian parents would return from a brush with death speaking of seeing angels, Heaven, and God Himself. But if the Malarkeys' account is true, Alex also watched the events taking place at the accident site after he himself was airlifted to the hospital. This would suggest that he actually did have experiences while separated from his body. If he could watch his father being loaded into an ambulance while his own body was miles away, is a visit to Heaven any more far-fetched?

The book really reveals very few details about Alex's conversations with God and his knowledge of Heaven. It's a story more about the fact that the visit to Heaven took place rather than a meticulous account of all that happened there.

If you want to read this book to learn all the secrets of Heaven, don't bother. If you think reading this book will turn someone into a Christian, it won't. But if you want to see how faith can flourish in the worst of circumstances and catch a glimpse of the wondrous effect a strong Christian background can have on even a young child, this is a book you should read.

There is, of course, no way to prove Alex has seen all the things he claims. But for anyone who feels the presence of God in their life, this story will ring true on many levels.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Looking over books I've read this year, I can't help but notice the wide variation in my chosen reading material.

I've read plays: Shakespeare to Beckett,
Mysteries: Jill Paton Walsh to Peter James
Weighty fiction: Fitzgerald to Nabokov
Frothy fiction: Confessions of a Shopaholic to Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters
Nonfiction: The World is Flat to Secret Lives of Great Filmmakers

My reading choices fall into three major categories: Fiction about women, religious books, and vampire literature. Needless to say, Anne Rice is one of my favorite authors. Her books almost invariably involve all three of my favorite topics. Even though her main characters are often male, her fiction is written in a lush, ornately feminine voice.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Book shopping

On Memorial Day I did some successful used book shopping. My parents and I visited Pinehurst, NC and found stacks of used books for great prices at The Given Book Store.

I've been pacing my reading of Anne Rice's many books, which means I need to read Blackwood Farm next, even though it came out years ago. I can't find my copy, but picked one up at The Given Books Store for $1.

My other favorite find of the day was a beautiful copy of one of my favorite books, Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda.

I'd like to thank my darling daddy for buying me such lovely books on our day trip and for constantly picking up books he knows I'd like.