Sinking the Sultana: A Review

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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Title: Sinking the Sultana: A Civil War Story of Imprisonment, Greed, and a Doomed Journey Home

Author: Sally M. Walker

Setting: 1865 Mississippi River

Synopsis:

The worst maritime disaster in American history wasn’t the Titanic. It was the steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River — and it could have been prevented.

In 1865, the Civil War was winding down and the country was reeling from Lincoln’s assassination. Thousands of Union soldiers, released from Confederate prisoner-of-war camps, were to be transported home on the steamboat Sultana. With a profit to be made, the captain rushed repairs to the boat so the soldiers wouldn’t find transportation elsewhere. More than 2,000 passengers boarded in Vicksburg, Mississippi . . . on a boat with a capacity of 376. The journey was violently interrupted when the boat’s boilers exploded, plunging theSultana into mayhem; passengers were bombarded with red-hot iron fragments, burned by scalding steam, and flung overboard into the churning Mississippi. Although rescue efforts were launched, the survival rate was dismal — more than 1,500 lives were lost. In a compelling, exhaustively researched account, renowned author Sally M. Walker joins the ranks of historians who have been asking the same question for 150 years: who (or what) was responsible for the Sultana’s disastrous fate?

Civil_War_Steamer_Sultana_tintype,_1865 (1)My review:

This little known catastrophe was a tragic end to the war. In their rush to get Union prisoners home after the war, they packed the first boat far past its capacity. That alone might not have caused this disaster, but when the worst happened and the boilers exploded, hundreds more died because there was no way to safely evacuate them all.

I’m so glad I had the chance to read this book. I’ve read many books on the Civil War, but I didn’t know anything about this disaster. The author does a great job of putting this accident in its proper perspective. What made it so heartbreaking is that the entire thing could have been avoided.

This book is packed with photos, maps, and facts that make the story come alive. The writing is clear and easy to follow. I would definitely recommend this one for kids or adults who like reading about disasters or the Civil War.

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Hamilton At War

downloadI received this free in exchange for a honest review. My views, however, are my own.

Title: Alexander Hamilton’s Revolution: His Vital Role as Washington’s Chief of Staff

Author: Philip Thomas Tucker

“Sell-out crowds every night enjoy the smash hit Hamilton on Broadway, which presents a fact-filled and entertaining glimpse into the patriot’s life. But very few of us know about Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton, General George Washington’s trusted military advisor.”

If you thought Rob Chernow’s masterpiece Hamilton was just not detailed enough, then this book is for you. I’m a major fan of Alexander Hamilton – the guy was a genius and I’m glad to see him finally getting the credit he deserves. But even I was a little daunted by the level of detail in this new book by Turner.

I agree with his basic premise – we focus a lot of what Hamilton accomplished before and after the revolution, but sometimes overlook what he did while he was serving. This book deals mainly with the extraordinary relationship between Washington and Hamilton. They became an amazing team who Got. It. Done.

But while the book was insightful and like I say, I love the idea, the writing was often repetitive. He’d wind up saying things three times in one chapter. I don’t need that. I can remember what you just said. And then the level of detail – naming so many names, for instance – was really just too much. I would recommend this one for serious readers of American History and advise others to pass.

 

Review: London Road

Title: London Road, Linked Stories Volume 1

Author: Tessa Smith McGovern

Setting: London, present day

Theme: second chances, family, mental health, love

This little book starts with Janice, recently released from prison for manslaughter with no plans and no friends. She’s heard vaguely about a boarding house that will take in people like her, so she heads that way. It turn out to be a lucky break.

All these stories are short, each focusing on just one person, and just little glimpses into one day of the life of the residents of the London Road boarding house. But together, those glimpses add up to a complex picture. I quite liked this book and I would love to read more by this author.

Book Review: Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales

Title: Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales

Authors: Elisabeth Grace FoleyRachel Heffington, J. Grace Pennington, Emily Ann Putzke, Suzannah Rowntree, Hayden Wand

Looking for a little fairy tale magic this season? This collection offers six stories which are both distinct and unique. From steampunk to western to WWII, this little book offers something for every reader. Not all of them end happily ever after, and as usual with such an anthology, I liked some stories better than others. I didn’t like the Snow White story as much, but they were all good stories. I wasn’t completely crazy about any of them, but I did like them each enough that I want to see how a full length story by these authors stands up.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review, but my opinion is my own. Verdict: worth checking out!

Vampire book review!

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This one totally should have been up for Halloween, but I didn’t finish it in time, so Merry Christmas, bloodsuckers!

Something in the Blood: The  Untold Story of the Man Who Wrote Dracula

by David J. Skal

genre: non-fiction, biography, and horror

where did I find this: Received by Library Thing for an early review – Thanks!

I’ve always been bugged by the sparkly vampire type of story. Vampires should not sparkle. They shouldn’t be the heroes of any story. They are the villains. I’m okay with them as silly, campy villains like in Bugs Bunny or Scooby-Doo. I’m fine with them as menacing villains like in Buffy. I like a good comic vampire. But as a possible romantic partner? A misunderstood sort of fellow who agonizes over his need for blood but at the same time keeps it PG and clean, avoiding any real mention of the violence inherent in its very existence? No thanks.

In a new book by David Skal, the writer confronts head all the most disturbing aspects of vampires, and he does it with a scholarly thoroughness. The blood and gore, the violence, the sexual dominance, the violation – he really examines it, what it all means, and where it fits into Victorian society of the times. He uncovers all the little secrets of Bram Stoker and his influences. If you are a reader who thought Dracula was just a crackling good horror story, you would appreciate it so much more when you see what you missed.

But.

Why are we reading so much about so many other things? Where are you going with this, Mr. Skal? So many times listening to this, I  would just be getting into the story of Bram Stoker, when the writer would introduce a new character, like Oscar Wilde, or Oscar Wilde’s mother, or Oscar Wilde’s brother, or a friend of Oscar Wilde – seriously, why so many Wildes? – and we’d wander totally off the into somewhere else. By the time we meandered back onto Stoker, I had completely lost track of what he was talking about before.

So I don’t know how to rate this. I think I’m going to take the easy way out and give it 2.5/5 stars and split it right down the middle. Also, if it does sound interesting to you, I would recommend the print version instead of audio. The author read it, and he did a fine job, but like I said, sometimes I wanted to skip ahead and the tracking made it impossible for me to know when a chapter was coming to an end.