Book Reviews

Book Review: Lost Roses

1914: Tensions are rising; war is in the air. It is during this uncertain time in history that Lost Roses, written by Martha Hall Kelly, begins. Despite the simmering unrest swirling through Europe, Eliza Ferriday, a New York socialite, travels to St. Petersburg, Russia to visit with her friends, Sofya and Luna Streshnayva, cousins of Tsar Nicholas II. All seems to be going well until, more than 1,500 miles away, something horrible happens, sending shock waves throughout Europe.

On 28 June 1914, in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Archduke Franz Ferdinand—heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire—and his wife Sophie are assassinated by a Serbian nationalist desperate to end Austro-Hungarian rule of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Austria-Hungary is incensed and wants to strike back. However, because Russia is an ally of Serbia, Austria-Hungary appeals to Kaiser Wilhelm II, who on 5 July 1914, pledges Germany’s support. After securing this agreement, Austria-Hungary issues an ultimatum to Serbia. In response, Serbia mobilizes its army and asks Russia for assistance. Then, on 28 July 1914, exactly one month after the Archduke’s murder, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, and the tenuous peace between Europe’s countries collapses. Within a week, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Russia, and Serbia are pitted against Austria-Hungary and Germany. World War I has begun.

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Book Review: The Dry Grass of August

Before I review the book, The Dry Grass of August, written by Anna Jean Mayhew, I would like to provide a quick historical overview of America’s institutional racism from the 1600s through the 1900s. Exactly 400 years ago, the first Africans were brought over to the American Colonies. From that point until the early 1970s, blacks were systematically oppressed and suppressed by those in power through deeds and laws.

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Book Review: Castle on the Rise

For more than 800 years, the relationship between England and Ireland was held in a tenuous balance. The English Parliament and Crown felt that Ireland could not and should not be independent of England:

Ireland is too great to be unconnected with us, and too near us to be dependent on a foreign state, and too little to be independent. ~C.T. Grenville, the Duke of Rutland, 3 December 1784.

However, many Irish citizens thought differently. Starting in 1534, the Irish began opposing English claims on their land and demanding sovereignty. Conflicts continued for more than 250 years.

Then, 14 years after the Duke of Rutland uttered his condescending words, the Irish Rebellion of 1798 erupted. Inspired by both the American Revolution and the French Revolution, the Society of United Irishmen, dedicated to the pursuit of a republican form of government in a separate and independent Ireland, took up arms against their English oppressors. The rebellion lasted from 24 May-12 October 1798. When all was said and done, approximately 30,000 Irish were dead.

Fast forward about 125 years to 1916. With England heavily engaged in World War I, members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Irish Citizen Army, and Irish Volunteers rose up against English rule in Ireland, demanding an independent Irish Republic. Dubbed the Easter Rising because it occurred during Easter week (24–29 April 1916), it was the most significant Irish uprising since the rebellion of 1798. About 2,600 people were wounded, including at least 2,200 civilians, and more than half of the 485 people killed in the Easter Rising were civilians.

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Book Review: The Things We Cannot Say

Nearly 75 years ago, on 1 September 1939, the Luftwaffe bombed Poland just before the German army invaded. Although the Poles tried to fight back, they were no match for the Nazi war machine, and the Third Reich soon annexed Poland.

The border of the German General Government was established a few miles east of the town of Trzebinia, Poland. On 5 September 1939, just four days after the blitzkrieg, German soldiers marched into Trzebinia and executed 97 people, including local leaders.

Then, from mid-1940 until 1945, approximately 200,000 Polish children were abducted by the Nazis. Those kidnapped were deemed Aryan-looking—fair-skinned and fair-haired—and were adopted or fostered by German families or sent to Schutzstaffel (SS) Home Schools. Children determined to be Slavik in appearance and/or nature were sent to extermination or concentration camps, where they were either worked to death or gassed or were subjected to barbaric medical experiments.

As if things weren’t bad enough, in 1941, Nazi Germany decided that the Polish people must be eradicated so that their lands could be settled by German colonists. As part of the Generalplan Ost, the Nazis’ plan for mass-scale genocide, ethnic cleansing, and colonization, the Polish population was forced to perform hard labor and, through strict rationing, were slowly starved. The Nazis’ goal was to eliminate between 70 and 80 percent of the population (or about 20 million people.)
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Book Review: The Familiars

If I were to ask you about witches in history, I bet one of the first things that comes to mind is the Salem Witch Trials. Between February 1692 and May 1693, more than 200 people were accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. Nineteen were found guilty and hanged (14 women and five men), one man was crushed to death for refusing to plead, and five others died in jail.

But have you ever heard of the Pendle Witch Trials? In the Summer of 1612, 70 years before Salem, in the remote region of Pendle Hill, Lancashire, England, a dozen people—Jane Bulcock, John Bulcock, Alizon Device, Elizabeth Device, James Device, Alice Gray, Katherine Hewitt, Alice Nutter, Jennet Preston, Anne Redferne, Elizabeth Southerns, and Anne Whittle—were accused of witchcraft. (Most were just herbalists, midwives, or just plain odd ducks.) Although Alice Gray was discharged without trial, the others were charged with the murders of ten people via witchcraft. Elizabeth Southerns died in prison, and Jennet Preston was convicted and hanged at York in July 1612. The remaining nine, along with accused witches from Salmesbury—Ellen Brierley, Jennet Brierley, and Jane Southworth, who were charged with child murder and cannibalism; Margaret Pearson, who was facing her third trial for witchcraft, this time for killing a horse; and Isobel Robey of Windle, who was accused of using witchcraft to cause sickness—were tried at Lancaster Assizes.  Margaret Pearson, a woman of some means, was sentenced to four days in the pillory, while the other Salmesbury accused were acquitted. However, the accused from Pendle did not fare as well. They were convicted and hanged in August 1612.
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