I belong to no organized party.  I am a Democrat. -- Will Rogers


I cannot live without good books --  Thomas Jefferson.


A man who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read. -- Mark Twain


When I get a little money I buy books, and if any is left I buy food.  -- Desiderius Erasmus


In general, a review should include: The name of the author and the book title and the main theme. Relevant details about who the author is and where he/she stands in the genre or field of inquiry; the context of the book and/or your review, and the thesis of the book. Most important is if you would recommend the book to a reader.

Six Questions to Ask When Writing a Book Review:

(from Phyllis Anne Duncan) 


1.  Do technical aspects (punctuation, grammar, style) need attention? 

2.  Are the characters believable and three-dimensional?

3.  Is there a protagonist who wants/needs something? 

4.  Is there an antagonist who’s trying to keep him/her from that goal? 

5.  Does the tension build to a conflict, and is that conflict resolved? 

6.  Last, but not least, would you recommend the book to a friend?


Martha Washington: An American Life

Author:  Patricia Brady

Genre: Biography

ISBN: 978-0-14-303713-2

Published by the Penguin group


Patricia Brady uses her wonderfully vibrant description and down-to-earth writing style to get through the “frumpery” that has been imposed on Martha Washington, to bring out the wealthy, attractive, and much loved young widow who captured the heart of George Washington. The author brings us along on the journey as we ride in stagecoaches, chariots and horseback from the Custis plantation to Mount Vernon to New York to Philadelphia to Valley Forge in the winter encampments. From Williamsburg to GW’s mother’s estate they rode in uncomfortable splendor. The author uses word paintings to help a reader feel intimately acquainted with Martha and George, their joys and sorrows, lives and times. She includes genealogy charts of the Washington’s family. I do recommend the book to all lovers of history.


Martha Washington

Prologue:On the Road to History

One:Little Patsy Dandridge


Three:Young Mrs. Custis

Four:The Widow Custis and Colonel Washington

Five:Gentry Life at Mount Vernon

Six:Lady Washington and the American Revolution

Seven:Valley Forge and Eventual Victory

Eight:Mount Vernon and a New Family

Nine:The President’s Lady

Ten:The Torments of the Second Term

Eleven:“Under Their Vine and Under Their Fig Tree”

Twelve:The Widow Washington

Epilogue:The Real Martha Washington










FINDING PAX, One woman’s journey for the love of her wooden boat


Kaci Cronkhite



Adlard Coles, Bloomsbury Publishing Co, London

210 pages, 6x9 softcover


Review by Carolyn B. Leonard 2019


I don’t even like boats or the sea or sailing, but I loved this story about a unique eighty-year-old Danish-built wooden sail boat called a Spidsgatter, and the woman who became entranced with discovering the history of the small curvy craft.


I met Kaci Cronkhite at a book fest in Enid, Oklahoma, and bought the book for my son, but I discovered you can’t just look it over. The loose, airy design draws you in and the author’s captivating writing style sweeps you along like an ocean tide. Beautifully crafted, finely illustrated, and well edited, this book reads like an exciting detective story that keeps you turning the pages to meet the author’s intriguing characters as she travels the world searching remote locales to find historic documents and fleeting glimpses of Pax’s past — but always leading to another unsolved mystery. On the way you will effortlessly learn new words and terms for sailing and festivals in honor of this particular type of wooden boat celebrated around the world for almost a century.


The passion, expertise, and detail displayed by the author is impressive; her descriptions are vivid, e.g.: “Dense fog hung in the inlet, and hand-sized maple leaves filled the ditches and lay like gloves on the road,” and “The intensity of a changing season and the short days matched my pace.”


The book is divided into five parts with fourteen chapters, complete appendices and acknowledgements.


Finding Pax is an excellent fairly quick read to inspire you to follow your own dreams, whatever they may be.




Title:  Mistress of the Monarchy

Subtitle: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster

Author: Alison Weir

Nonfiction, copyright 2010

ISBN: 978-0-345-45324-2

Publisher: Ballantine Books trade paperbacks, New York


Katherine, daughter of the knight Paon (Pan, Payne, baptized Gilles) de Roet, granddaughter of Jean and granddaughter of Huon de Roet, a prominent family in Hainault (now Belgium), is worthy of the many books about her.  She was first the mistress and later the wife of the famous and honored John of Gaunt (Ghent), 3rd son of King Edward and Queen Philippa.  From Katherine is descended every English monarch since 1461, and no fewer than five American presidents.  


As an infant, Katherine, born probably 1350, was placed in the household of Queen Philippa of Hainault, wife to Edward III of England around 1352, when her father left to protect the Countess Margaret’s sons on a pilgrimage to St Martin’s. Apparently her mother was deceased. Paon is believed to have had two older children, Elizabeth and Walter and one younger, Philippa. Elizabeth is believed to have spent her whole life in the convent, William later married King Edward’s cousin, Matilda of Lancaster, William later served as knight to Queen Philippi’s eldest son, known as the Black Prince, and Philippa married poet Geoffrey Chaucer, known as the Father of English literature. 


In that world, Katherine would have lodged at Windsor Castle, Westminster Palace and a number of other luxurious residences of the King.They dined in style on rich cuisine, drank to excess, and dressed in extravagant fashionable and colorful clothing. Women dared not show an ankle but necklines were very low often leaving the shoulders and breasts half bared. The population of about 3 million lived in an economy based on farming, wool, and overseas trade, in tight communities, in villages or on manors, in crude wattle-and-daub cottages. The contents of a knightly household might comprise a canopied or “tester” bed, covers, blankets, linens, coverlets, mattresses, painted cloths, rugs, napkins, towels, washbasins candelabra of bronze, marble and silver gilt, bronze poets and pans, twelve silver spoons, spits, poles, iron pots, vessels of silver gilt and lead for beer, silver-gilt salt cellars, three iron braziers, trestles and boards for tables. Furniture probably included cupboards, buffets, and stools.


Katherine grew up in this male dominated, militaristic society. Girls like Katherine knew they must wait to be addressed, keep their eyes downcast, and their hands folded. Females were non-persons without a husband but catching one was not so easy for penniless women in that time of arranged marriages. Courtly love had little to do with the hardheaded medieval approach to marriage, which then was essentially a business contract giving full control of a wife to her husband. But Edward was devoted to Queen Philippa and they enjoyed a long and happy marriage. 


in the year preceding Katherine’s birth, the Black Death, a particularly virulent form of bubonic plague, killed almost 3/4ths of the population of Europe, leaving the world a very different place.


Females were bound n marriage as quickly as possible.The husband chosen for Katherine at age 12 was Sir Hugh Swynford, lord of the manors of Coleby and Kettlethorpe in Lincolnshire. In the meantime, John of Gaunt had married the Duchess Blanche and they had several children.  Both Katherine Swynford and the Duchess Blanche were pregnant when their husbands rode off to war in 1366. Both their spouses, Blanche and Hugh, died in subsequent years, leaving John of Gaunt and Katherine alone. Their affair had certainly begun by the spring of 1372. John  was required to make an alliance for the good of the country so he married Constance of Castile as his second wife, but was already committed to his “unspeakable concubine” Katherine. For the next nine years Katherine remained John’s mistress and bore 4 or 5 of his children, and after the death of Constance, John made all special arrangements and married Katherine, even though she was not of the royal blood line.


I probably would not have read this book if not for the book study led by Elizabeth Prosser. It does drag in places and reading the fiction version (below) is much easier.  So I would recommend it only to true fans of the history of  english queens.









Leadership: In Turbulent Times 

Released:  September 18, 2018

byDoris Kearns Goodwin(Author)

Available in Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook, and CD



        Hardcover:496 pages

        Publisher:Simon & Schuster; First Edition/First Printing 



        Product Dimensions:6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches

        Shipping Weight:2 pounds 


I’d call this book, case studies on how to deal with difficult situations.


Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Harvard history professor, frames the leadership question around the lives of the four US Presidents she has already written books about: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson. Her classes have a primary focus on the lives and careers of these four men. 


She spent her life studying those four US presidents – Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, and Johnson - detailing and comparing  their personalities, skills and character traits. 


The thick book is divided into three sections: 1.  Ambition and the recognition of leadership. 2. Adversity and growth. 3. The leader and their times, how they led. Also included is a complete bibliography.


The author points out how these four, although each very different in personality, also shared high intelligence and resilience, and set their goals early in life. The book demonstrates politically how leaders are made, not born. Each one had the desire to enter politics, each leader encountered calamitous blows that knocked them down but they got back up and tackled the struggles that were tearing the country apart during their time in office. Those in the top office before them could have addressed the problem, but they kicked the can down the road. 


She describes Lincoln's delivery of the Emancipation Proclamation to approach the crisis of slavery and the Civil War, Theodore Roosevelt's handling of labor strikes for the rise of giant corporations, FDR's battle against the Great Depression in his first 100 days,  and Johnson's prioritization of civil rights to fight racial discrimination while the country was still mourning the death of JFK.


I highly recommend the book to historians, or anyone interested in politics and leadership. While I have always admired Lincoln, and respected the two Roosevelts for their accomplishments in spite of their wealth, I never felt that LBJ was so much to be admired. The author gave me a new view of Johnson’s term in office.