Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Baker's Secret

In a continuing World War II book pattern that I have been reading, I started one more WWII book tonight.  I am reading it via

Here is the synopsis from Good Reads:

From the critically acclaimed author of The Hummingbird and The Curiosity comes a dazzling novel of World War II—a shimmering tale of courage, determination, optimism, and the resilience of the human spirit, set in a small Normandy village on the eve of D-Day

On June 5, 1944, as dawn rises over a small town on the Normandy coast of France, Emmanuelle is making the bread that has sustained her fellow villagers in the dark days since the Germans invaded her country. 

Only twenty-two, Emma learned to bake at the side of a master, Ezra Kuchen, the village baker since before she was born. Apprenticed to Ezra at thirteen, Emma watched with shame and anger as her kind mentor was forced to wear the six-pointed yellow star on his clothing. She was likewise powerless to help when they pulled Ezra from his shop at gunpoint, the first of many villagers stolen away and never seen again.

But in the years that her sleepy coastal village has suffered under the enemy, Emma has silently, stealthily fought back. Each day, she receives an extra ration of flour to bake a dozen baguettes for the occupying troops. And each day, she mixes that precious flour with ground straw to create enough dough for two extra loaves—contraband bread she shares with the hungry villagers. Under the cold, watchful eyes of armed soldiers, she builds a clandestine network of barter and trade that she and the villagers use to thwart their occupiers. 

But her gift to the village is more than these few crusty loaves. Emma gives the people a taste of hope—the faith that one day the Allies will arrive to save them.

Here is a URL for a very good explanation of the beaches that includes an historical photo:

and really good photos here:

from this site I found the photo below:

Friday, November 24, 2017

This Dark Road to Mercy

The book club is reading this Dark Road to Mercy this month.  I drug my feet before buying the book.  And I am having trouble finishing it.  I really like the part in which Easter talks.  I like Easter a lot!  But the other parts are hard to struggle through.  I am stuck right now in a part that involves a saw.....I just can't turn it back on!  I want to finish it in time to go to the meeting, but it is hard to make myself finish.

Here is the review from Amazon:

Hailed as "mesmerizing" (New York Times Book Review) and "as if Cormac McCarthy decided to rewrite Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird" (Richmond Times-Dispatch), A Land More Kind Than Home made Wiley Cash an instant literary sensation. His resonant new novel, This Dark Road to Mercy, is a tale of love and atonement, blood and vengeance, a story that involves two young sisters, a wayward father, and an enemy determined to see him pay for his sins. 
When their mother dies unexpectedly, twelve-year-old Easter Quillby and her six-year-old sister, Ruby, are shuffled into the foster care system in Gastonia, North Carolina, a little town not far from the Appalachian Mountains. But just as they settle into their new life, their errant father, Wade, an ex-minor-league baseball player whom they haven't seen in years, suddenly reappears and steals them away in the middle of the night. 
Brady Weller, the girls' court-appointed guardian, begins looking for Wade, and quickly turns up unsettling information linking him to a multimillion-dollar robbery. But Brady isn't the only one hunting him. Also on the trail is Robert Pruitt, a mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, a man determined to find Wade and claim what he believes he is owed. 
The combination of Cash's evocative and intimate Southern voice and those of the alternating narrators, Easter, Brady, and Pruitt, brings this soulful story vividly to life. At once captivating and heartbreaking, This Dark Road to Mercy is a testament to the unbreakable bonds of family and the primal desire to outrun a past that refuses to let go.

I thought that the ending was a bit contrived, but nonetheless, Easter managed to send her father a baseball signal to "stay on base".  And there was hope that the girls might eventually live a stable life.

Monday, October 9, 2017

She Walks These Hills

I started She Walks These Hills today on the way back from Starbucks.  I loved Sharyn McCrumb's book King's Mountain.  As I read that book, I wished that I had written it.  It is exactly the kind of book that I would like to write.  I have high hopes for this new book.   

I am reading it for our book club at Gallaher Village Library.  It isn't for certain that I will attend the meeting, as our knitting group is leaving for NC on the same day.  So it remains to be seen if we leave before the meeting.  But I decided to read the book in hopes that I might be able to do both things that day.  Imagine that, huh?

The author says that this story is partly based on a true event.  Katie Wylie was kidnaped from Mitchell County, NC in 1779 and taken to a Shawnee Camp on the Ohio River.  She escaped her captors and followed the deer paths that ran along the ridges above the rivers to return to her home area. 

OK....I am still reading the book in November.  We did leave for NC before the book club meeting.  I like the book a lot.  But what got my attention tonight is the idea that the people who lived in the Alps moved to many places....but they always chose to live in the mountains.  She says that there is a word for Hillbilly's in every language ....a derogatory term describing people who choose to live on the mountain with freedom instead of living somewhere else where they might have more economic advantage.  Somewhere "down the mountain".....

Mitchell County is shown on the map below outlined in red:


From Sharyn McCrumb's own website:

Historian Jeremy Cobb is backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, attempting to retrace the tragic journey of eighteen-year-old Katie Wyler, who was captured by the Shawnee after the massacre of her pioneer family in Mitchell County, North Carolina. In late summer, Katie escaped from a Shawnee village on the banks of the Ohio, and followed the rivers through the wilderness to find her way home - a brave journey that ended in sorrow. Jeremy, a city-bred graduate student with no trail experience, is determined to complete his scholarly quest, unaware that his journey will be both a trial of hardships and a mystical experience. He does not know that the spirit of Katie Wyler is still seen wandering the hills, trying to get home. Mountain wise woman Nora Bonesteel sees her every autumn "when the air is crisp and the light is slanted and the birds are still." Hiram Sorley, known as Harm, is also at large in the Appalachian wilderness. Sorely, who has escaped from the Northeast Correctional Center in Mountain City, Tennessee, is the focus of a wide-spread manhunt involving most of the area's law enforcement officers. There's just one problem: nobody wants him caught. Harm has become a folk hero. Sheriff Spencer Arrowood feels sorry for Harm, imprisoned for life for killing a hated local bureaucrat. There is even some doubt about Harm's guilt. Besides, the elderly convict has Korsakoff's syndrome, a disease that robs its sufferers of their recent memories. To Harm, it is always 1967. Harm doesn't even remember the crime. For Martha Ayers, who wants the job of deputy, catching Harm Sorely would be the best way to prove her fitness for the position. Harm, an Appalachian Don Quixote on the edge ofreality, meets both Jeremy and the still-wandering Katie Wyler on his journey back to a home that isn't there anymore. He is the "last moonshiner, " holding the dream of an unspoiled wilderness in the fragile web of his delusions. When he goes, it will be lost forever.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Much to my surprise I am fascinated by this book by Jack Weatherford.  From the Amazon sale site:

The name Genghis Khan often conjures the image of a relentless, bloodthirsty barbarian on horseback leading a ruthless band of nomadic warriors in the looting of the civilized world. But the surprising truth is that Genghis Khan was a visionary leader whose conquests joined backward Europe with the flourishing cultures of Asia to trigger a global awakening, an unprecedented explosion of technologies, trade, and ideas.

Fighting his way to power on the remote steppes of Mongolia, Genghis Khan developed revolutionary military strategies and weaponry that emphasized rapid attack and siege warfare, which he then brilliantly used to overwhelm opposing armies in Asia, break the back of the Islamic world, and render the armored knights of Europe obsolete. Under Genghis Khan, the Mongol army never numbered more than 100,000 warriors, yet it subjugated more lands and people in twenty-five years than the Romans conquered in four hundred. With an empire that stretched from Siberia to India, from Vietnam to Hungary, and from Korea to the Balkans, the Mongols dramatically redrew the map of the globe, connecting disparate kingdoms into a new world order.

But contrary to popular wisdom, Weatherford reveals that the Mongols were not just masters of conquest, but possessed a genius for progressive and benevolent rule. On every level and from any perspective, the scale and scope 
of Genghis Khan’s accomplishments challenge the limits of imagination. Genghis Khan was an innovative leader, the first ruler in many conquered countries to put the power of law above his own power, encourage religious freedom, create public schools, grant diplomatic immunity, abolish torture, and institute free trade. The trade routes he created became lucrative pathways for commerce, but also for ideas, technologies, and expertise that transformed the way people lived. The Mongols introduced the first international paper currency and postal system and developed and spread revolutionary technologies like printing, the cannon, compass, and abacus. They took local foods and products like lemons, carrots, noodles, tea, rugs, playing cards, and pants and turned them into staples of life around the world. The Mongols were the architects of a new way of life at a pivotal time in history. 

And from Wikipedia to help me sort people out as I read:

Genghis Khan[note 3] (c. 1162 – August 18, 1227), born Tem├╝jin, was the Great Khan and founder of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death. He came to power by uniting many of the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia

The last chapters that I have read explain that one of the practices that started Temujin on his road to success in the early days of his conquest was to exterminate the men who opposed him who were leaders in their own right.  But then to actually adopt the people that had been part of the opposition into his camp so that there was no retaliation from subdued opponents later.  He would even choose a male child to be adopted by his own mother to raise so that the child became his brother.

And tonight I am reading about the fact that while rulers and conquerors over history have asked men to die for them, Genghis never willingly gave up a single man.  All of his strategy was absolutely about not loosing any men in the battle.

I finished the book last night.  Truly I was fascinated to the very end.  And then the author spoke for quite a long time about how he became involved with the story of Ghengis Khan which was interesting in it's own right.  The one thing that I would add to the above information is that the Mongols never imposed their own religion nor their own language (in fact it was forbidden for people who were not Mongols by birth to learn the Mongol language) nor their own ways of life on those people who had been conquered.  When much later in the Mongol empire they built boats and became involved in trading, they themselves were NOT the merchants.  They transplanted merchants who already had those skills to run the trading posts all over the world.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."

I loved these words....but I am not sure just where they come from.  Perhaps I will get that figured at the library meeting on Thursday.  

I balked at reading this book for the selection of the library group this month.  I read the first two books a long time ago (before  I began to blog) and thought to myself that I was finished with this author.  But I do like to go to the meetings and I do like to have read the Friday, I bought this on audible. 

It was pretty much a shoot m up until tonight.  And suddenly Dan Brown got my attention.  I love the part of the Medicis!  The fact that the money that they spent supporting struggling artists was the main reason for the renaissance.  This book said that they actually moved Michelangelo into their home during his young life.  That it is their gift to the world ....the wonderful works of these young artists!  A rich family that supported monetarily the art being produced by artists who were living in their own lifetimes.  Such a simple concept.  Why does it jump out at me when I read it in a book of fiction while reading history analysis or the history section in a travel book I totally miss the concept entirely.  

Dan Brown also gets my attention as he describes so many of the sights in Florence.  His description of the Porto Romano area is altogether different from what one might read in a travel book.  

The Porta Romana, once known as the Porta San Pier Gattolino was the southernmost gate in the 13th-century walls of the Oltrarno section of Florence, region of Tuscany, Italy. It stands at the confluence of a number of roads: accessed from north by Via Romana, Via de' Serragli, and Viale Francesco Petrarca. In addition, a central road along the Boboli Gardens begins near the gate, and allowed the inhabitants of the Pitti Palace to exit and enter Florence with minimal travel on city streets. Beyond the gates are the Via del Poggio Imperiale and Via Senese. The latter led to Siena and points south such as Rome, hence the name. When the majority of the defensive walls of Florence were razed in the 19th century, only a few, and sometimes partial gate structures were left standing including Porta San GalloPorta San Niccolo, and this gate with a snippet of merlonated wall.

While I was looking for the name of the Porta Romana, I found the below site in which the author discusses some of the sites mentioned in Dan Brown's Inferno.  Don't want to loose that idea.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

More WWII books from book club

I made my report at out book club at the Guyandotte library on Thursday.  My report was about my WWII jag.  And the main idea is that it is like the story of the blind men who "see" an elephant.  One feels his legs and compares him to a tree....another feels his tail and compares him to a rope.  Etc.  My books have been a bit like that.  Each of the books that I have read have told about how the war affects different places in that time period: Berlin, Germany, France, Italy, and the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw.

I had thought that perhaps I would get off this "jag" and read something else, but by serendipity others had read WWII books as well.  So whether I read them now or later, I wanted to put down some of the ideas,

Here are the WWII books that were suggested:

Kinderlater by Milton Gay Mieuwsma about the children of the Holocaust (need to check spelling)
Skeletons at the Feast about East Germans who farmed
The Maggie Bright about England and Dunkirk
And If I Perish a book about nurses in the Philippines
We Band of Angels about nurses in Africa
Story Teller by Jodie Picolt about the Holocaust

A couple of other books were mentioned of interest to me:

First I killed my Father (Cambodia) by author of Lucky Girl which tells about her life after she comes to the US
Liar Temptress Soldier Spy by Karen Abbott about women spies during the Civil War in US
Frog Music by Emma Donahue

Weeks later I found this review:

"Ellen Marie Wiseman's provocative and realistic images of a small German village are exquisite. The Plum Tree will find good company on the shelves of those who appreciated Skeletons at the Feast, by Chris Bohjalian, Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay, and Night, by Elie Wiesel." --NY Journal of Books

"The meticulous hand-crafted detail and emotional intensity of The Plum Tree immersed me in Germany during its darkest hours and the ordeals its citizens had to face. A must-read for WWII Fiction aficionados--and any reader who loves a transporting story." --Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us

"Wiseman eschews the genre's usual military conflicts of daily life during wartime, lending an intimate and compelling po.....

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Before the Dawn

I couldn't decide between reading one more WWII book or starting something else.  Sitting on the porch, the first book that I came to as I went down the audible list was Before the Dawn.  I have barely started, but I already have two ideas that I want to put down on the blog.

First is that almost the only thing that we have from the time period of the wonderful paintings on the walls in France is just that:  the wonderful paintings on the walls in France.  And those paintings were done by my own ancestors according to the mtDNA test that I took.

Second is the idea that it has only been since 2003 that the full sequence of the human genome has been available as a tool for understanding the history of the human.  I have been involved in DNA for genealogy for what seems like such a long time that I forget that it is such a new study.  I find my interest in the book waning and ebbing.  But I feel sure that I will finish it as I am truly interested in so many of the ideas put forth.  Last night I paused long enough to add a blog post to my main blog about the author's information about some of the caves that have been painted on in France.  The experts believe that some of the caves have paintings from at least two entirely different time periods.  And I remember in the Auel book called the Painted Caves, the people in the time period of the book were beginning to paint in caves that already had paintings on the wall.  These paintings were so ancient even in this time of the last ice age that the artist or artists were unknown to the characters in the book.

One of the most surprising statements in Before the Dawn is that all of the people who now live other places besides Africa are descendants of a very small group of humans who left Africa (I can't do the date from memory...I'll try to look this up and add later) in one small group.  The first place that they settled was India.  They were hunter/gatherers, so they probably moved to India slowly as they followed the game.  Making sure that each move had fresh water, game, vegetation.  From there some moved East and some West.  There is DNA evidence that even the indigenous people as far south in South America as south Chile have a connection to this very small group of adventurers.  The people who came across the continent that existed between Asia and Alaska came in three groups.  All of them are the ancestors of our Indians as well as those indigenous people of South and Central America.  The last group to come across are the ancestors of the Alaskan indigenous people.

The author also explains that they were entirely different from the Neanderthals and it would seem that the Neanderthal people disappeared .....perhaps from having been destroyed by the new more modern men and women who moved into their territories.

Tonight I am reading chapter 11 out of 12 chapters.  There are many ideas that I want to put down from this chapter.  It is a particularly interesting chapter to me.  One is that "DNA faithfully records who slept with whom through the ages."  Even before recorded history.

These ideas are not necessarily in the order that they were presented in the book.  I finished the book and am now going back filling in some of the ideas that I wasn't quick enough to put down while reading it.   Nicholas Wade gave a very good accounting of Thomas Jefferson's family with Sally Hemmings and how DNA has proved that while it isn't certain that Thomas Jefferson fathered all of Sally's children, it certainly "shores up"the written information that was provided about this family.

There is interesting information about  the genetic story of Great Britain.  There are so many ideas that I want to capture here that it may take me a few nights to get all of them.  They will not be in order as I will go back to write down some of the ideas that I have already heard.  However, the idea that "got me out of my seat on the porch" is that British text books have intimated that the Celts were dispersed to Wales and Scotland....the hinterlands with the invasions of others over the centuries.  A survey of y Chromosomes in Britain show that a large proportion of British do indeed carry yChromosomes that are attributed to the Celtic tribes.  Nowhere does the indigenous population seem to have been wiped out entirely by the invaders that came later.   The genetic material that is attributed to the Celts is known as yChromo Atlantic Modal Haplotype.  This genetic material is also found in the Basque area of Spain.  This same genetic material is particularly common in Castleway (perhaps I heard this wrong and he said Cashel? or something else...but I would guess way on the interior of Ireland) in Ireland in an area that was reached over the centuries by no invaders.  The commonality of the Basque and Irish haplotype would suggest the idea that this haplotype is that of the original hunter/gatherers who took refuge in Spain during the last ice age moved north as the glaciers melted at the end of the ice age.  Some may have used boats to travel up to the British Isles.   These ideas were very complicated.  One needs to read it for oneself to really understand.  But I think that what I heard says that the scientists feel that the Celtic civilization may have been brought into the area to the hunter/gatherers who were living there.  So that this Atlantic Modal Haplotype is not exactly that of the Celts, but of the original inhabitants who adopted the Celtic ways.  Kind of like which came first the chicken or the egg....

So this morning I got up and thought....hmmmm wonder if any of my participants carry this genetic material?  My quick research on the subject revealed that this haplotype is associated with the R1b haplotype group.  FTDNA does not seem to use this designation any more.  When I checked Jack's haplotype it is said to be R-M269.  But when I looked at this, this is a Subclade (not sure my terminology is correct?) of R1b.  And, quick look ups tell me that Jim Morrison also shares this group as well as my dad.....VERY INTERESTING!

And another confusing and puzzling fact is that the mt DNA seems to match that of the northern Europe rather .....guess I need to reread this information...but I think that I quit for the day.

There is interesting information about Iceland.

His information about Brian Sykes study is also interesting.  Brian found that all of the Sykes men that he tested fell into one of two groups:  those whose y chromosome matched and those who did not match.  The ones who did not match had a miscellany of unrelated y chromosomes.  The surname had been assigned only once.  There was exactly one y chromosome that matched with the Sykes surname.  The first Mr. Sykes lived in the 13th C.  That is the time in which surnames were assigned. His summary is very good.

In the next to last chapter, the author talks about the beginnings of cities.  The first city was in what is now Iraq and the author names that as Uruk (when I looked at the internet, there seems to be some controversy about what was the first city).  This city sprang up as early as 6000 years ago.  It is very interesting to see that in that time frame Uruk would have been on the shores of the Persian Gulf:

And the fact that as the hunter/gatherers became city dwellers, they had to develop skills to live in this new way.  It took armies of men to feed the city dwellers and to build the buildings etc.  The date that caused me to add this to the blog post is that this author says that writing became a part of human skills in 3400BC.  As Nicholas Wade says in the book:  "the next phase of the human experiment had begun"

1227 was the year that Genghis Khan died.  He is buried in northeast Mongolia from where he began his life.   No one has found his tomb.  However, geneticists have discovered an amazing fact about the legacy that Genghis left in the Asian world.   Geneticists have analyzed the y Chromosomes of  some 2000 men in Asia.  Of these 100 men it was found that many carried identical y chromosomes and others were only one step away from that match.  This  y chromosome was particularly found in Mongolia.  A fourth of the men in the area of Mongolia  carry this y-chromosome.  There is more information in this chapter about how these geneticists came to the conclusion that this y-Chromosome can be directly attributed to Genghis and his descendants.  But I will explain one more clue.  There are  only 16 groups of Asians who carry this specific y Chromosome.  The y Chromosome is not found outside of these 16 groups...but all of these 16 live within the area that was conquered by Genghis Khan except for one group who were a part of his army.  This must be the y chromosome of the royal  house of Genghis.   Mongol soldiers doubtless raped many females as they conquered.  However, a more important reason seems to be that it seems to have been a deliberate policy of Genghis and his sons to father as many sons as possible.  Genghis Khan had as many as 500 wives and concubines according to a very early historian.   One of his sons is credited with 40 sons.  One historian says that it is pretty easy to know what these men were doing when they were not fighting.  A history written in AD1260  says that there are more than 20,000 descendants of Genghis.  One study says that an astonishing 8% of males which is 16,000,000 men  carry the genes of Genghis Khan in our world today.  ( I am not sure that I got this right:  that would be men 0.5% of the world today)  There is another study of an Asian conqueror in this book that I am not going to try to capture.

There is also information about Jewish people who have intermarried among themselves for generations.