Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Review: Kingdom of The Blind

Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #14)

Kingdom Of The Blind
Louise Penny

Armand Gamache has received a strange letter directing him to an abandoned farmhouse just outside of the village of Three Pines, where he lives. Arriving at the house in a snowstorm, he's surprised to find one of his neighbors, Myra who owns the bookstore in Three Pines, and a young man from Montreal. Waiting in the derelict house is a notary who informs all three they've been named liquidators in the will of Bertha Baumgartner. The only thing is, they didn't know Mrs. Baumgartner. They can't imagine why they have been named in the will instead of the Baumgartner children.

When Anthony Baumgartner, the eldest son of Mrs. Baumgartner, is found dead in the farmhouse, Gamache wants to know what happened. Although he's been suspended from his job as head of Sûreté du Québec due to his handling of a drugs case months before, he is determined to find out what's behind this death.

Kingdom of The Blind is full of interesting local characters who are eager and willing to help Gamache solve his case. Whether that means providing information or a meal by the fire, they seem to know how to love and protect the intimate nature of Three Pines. 

This review was originally written for City Book Review by me.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Review: Made in Sweden

Made in Sweden: 25 ideas that created a country

Made in Sweden
Elisabeth Åsbrink

Like many people, I probably had a distorted view of Sweden. I thought of minimalist fashion trends, Ikea furniture, and beautiful music, or if I had recently watched a Swedish television Krimi, I thought of it as a place with too many sleazy motorcycle gangs or petty drug dealers. But, Made in Sweden aims to provide a more accurate look at what makes Sweden the community and nation it is today. The author seeks to explain that while we might think of the country as a tolerant, open, and friendly one, that wasn't always the case, and with the rise of the far-right may become less so in the future.

This is an intriguing and well-written book which covers 25 topics that help shed light on what it means to be Swedish and how the country developed into the nation it is today. I particularly enjoyed the chapter about Carl von Linnaeus, whose classification system of nature is still with us today. I was also a little shocked to learn that between 1928 and 1976, around 63,000 Swedish citizens were sterilized to preserve what was most desirable in the population.

As the book shows, the making of a nation is something that happens over time and a process that is continually evolving. For those who want to see another side of this interesting country, this is a good place to start.

Thanks to LibraryThing and Scribe Publications for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, November 4, 2019

Review: The Caribbean Irish

Caribbean Irish, The

The Caribbean Irish
Miki Garcia

Before I picked up this book, I had no idea the Irish were among the earliest settlers in the Caribbean. The Caribbean Irish is a fascinating look at a somewhat forgotten period of history. During the 1600s, as the British set out to colonize the West Indies, they relied heavily on the Irish as a source of indentured labor. But by the 1800s, the Irish had all but disappeared as their labor was replaced by African slaves.

It is hard to imagine life during Cromwell's reign as he developed a policy to rid Ireland of the Irish, particularly by encouraging the transplantation of those considered undesirable. He particularly singled out political prisoners, or the unfortunate like orphans and widows or anyone at the wrong place at the wrong time. And while some Irish did manage to become planters and businessmen, this account looks primarily at the role of servants, and how their experiences contrasted with that of slaves brought to the island as sugar production became more widespread. Although both lived and worked in deplorable conditions, the indentured servants had at least the hope of being free at the end of their contracts, provided they lived that long, unlike slaves who were kept in bondage without any of hope of freedom. And it seems that by the 1800s as their labor was less in demand, they managed to find other opportunities outside the islands.

I found this to be an engaging account of those who often didn't have a voice during British global expansion into the West Indies. And I liked the fact that this book made me aware of a part of history that I otherwise wouldn't have known about.

Thanks to Chronos Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.