Wednesday 30 April 2014


Finished April 28
Scars by Cheryl Rainfield

This young adult novel deals with a couple of difficult themes, cutting and child sexual abuse. The main character, Kendra, only recently became aware of the past sexual abuse she suffered, as the repressed memories began to surface. The violent threats of her abuser still echo inside her head whenever she tries to dig deeper into those memories to find clues to the identity of her abuser. When this voice become too loud and too terrifying, the only way she can calm herself and retreat from those memories is to cut herself.
Kendra is working with a therapist that she has come to trust and she finds comfort when visiting a family friend, Sandy. Another source of comfort for her is her art. Painting helps her let out her feelings in a safe way, but her mother's own artistic ability and opinions on Kendra's art have led her to keep her parents unaware of the paintings she is still creating.
Kendra has had the feeling lately that she is being followed, and she is sure the person following her is her abuser. But when he starts leaving messages for her she becomes even more wary. When a new school friend Meghan starts to play a larger role in her life, Kendra has more strength to face the issues in her life and continue to work to uncover those memories that will lead to the identification of her abuser. But are the threats she is getting from him real, and is she in more danger than ever now?
A difficult read, but a sympathetic character dealt with in real terms. A good addition to any young adult collection.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Timeless Tales of Beatrix Potter

Finished April 28
Timeless Tales of Beatrix Potter by Beatrix Potter, read by Katherine Kellgren

This collection of Beatrix Potter tales is charming. Containing twenty tales and two small collections of nursery rhymes, this covers all the favourites plus the lesser known ones. The disc contains both the audiobook and a pdf ebook, so you could follow along with the reading if you wanted to.
I just listened, and Kellgren made the stories come alive. I heard her speak recently and she talked about how she listened to nature recordings to learn the sounds that the animals made so that she could more accurately recreate them. She has done an amazing job here,
This is a lovely collection and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Saturday 26 April 2014

Last Message

Finished April 26
Last Message by Shane Peacock

This is the final book in Seven: the Series. I've read all the others starting with Between Heaven and Earth, then Lost Cause, then Jump Cut, then Ink Me, then Devil's Pass, and Close to the Heel. They've all been good, and because they're all written by different authors, very different from each other as well.
In this one, the grandson is Adam. Adam lives in Buffalo, New York, and his dad is a commercial pilot, and a veteran of the Gulf War. Adam's last memory of his grandfather is overhearing him say something that really hurt Adam. He feels that his grandfather was disappointed in him, and the task, or really series of tasks, that has been set for Adam is a test of a sort.
Adam is a good kid, plays sports and does okay in school, but has come to feel that being okay at a lot of things means that he isn't really good at anything. He has a girlfriend he likes, but still yearns for the girl that all the other boys want. He is kind to others, but doesn't see that as the character asset that it is.
As Adam works through the tasks, he constantly second guesses his actions, but his determination carries him forward. Adam's tasks take him to France, with his parents enjoying a vacation in Marseilles while he bases his movements from nearby Arles. There are links back to his grandfather David's time in World War II and the contacts he made then, including one with the famous writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. These experiences cause Adam to look at his actions and the choices he made and reflect on them in a thoughtful way.  

Friday 25 April 2014

An Inquiry into Love and Death

Finished April 24
An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James, read by Rosalyn Landor

This novel is set in 1924. Jillian Leigh is 22, a student at Oxford, when she is informed of her uncle Toby's death in Rothewell, a small coastal village in Dorsetshire. Jillian's parents are in Paris, and they've asked her to go sort our her uncle's belongings.
But the job is much bigger than that as it turns out. First, Jillian has to identify her uncle's body, and then the village offers some unusual challenges. Toby was a ghost hunter, wandering the countryside, investigating the appearances of ghosts and trying to figure out how to set them to rest. The ghost of renown in Rothewell is Walking John, and he has haunted the forest and the bay for decades. Jillian's first night in Barrow House, where her uncle had stayed, brings her clawings on her bedroom window and a deep sense of unease. As she finds objects left for her discovery, and the ghost grows more insistent, she also finds her uncle's journal. Here she learns that he might have found more than ghosts in Rothewell, and begins to believe his death may not have been an accident after all.
When Scotland Yard detective Drew Merriken appears on her doorstep, things grow more complicated. The mutual attraction between Jillian and Drew adds another layer to this story. The sense of village life is strong here, and Jillian finds that she may have personal ties to Rothewell that throw her whole sense of herself off kilter.
This is a page-turner, with an interesting twist or two. I can see why it was shortlisted for the OLA Evergreen Award for 2014. The narrator does an excellent job of immersing you in the place and time of this novel.

Saturday 19 April 2014

In the Orchard, The Swallows

Finished April 18
In the Orchard, The Swallows by Peter Hobbs

This short novel is intense and poetic. In northern Pakistan, the young son of the owner of a pomegranate orchard, sees a girl his age when he is taking the fruit to the local village market and offers her a choice fruit. Thus a friendship begins. When an opportunity arises as a result of a neighbour's wedding celebration, the boy brings the girl to see the beauty of the orchard, and the two fall asleep. Their relationship is discovered by her father, a powerful government representative, and the boy is seized, tortured and imprisoned without trial.
Fifteen years later, the released young man, physically fragile, makes his way home, and is discovered, and taken in by a kind man who lives near the village. As he recovers, he returns to the orchard again and again, revealing his story, discovering the fate of his family and the orchard he loved, and learning of the kindness and violence of his fellow man.
The writing in this book is beautiful, the story intense and moving. This is a book to savour and think about, and read again.

The Poisoned Pawn

Finished April 18
The Poisoned Pawn by Peggy Blair

This mystery novel's plot moves back and forth between Ottawa and Cuba, but the series is around Inspector Ramirez, a Cuban policeman. Definitely page-turning, I read this book in one sitting.
A Canadian woman whose has made a pivotal decision in her life falls fatally ill on the flight returning from her Cuban vacation. Her husband, a Canadian policeman, is held up in Cuba, and doesn't make it home until after her death.
Back in Cuba, a body is found that has Inspector Ramirez curious. Some of the circumstances seem to indicate a tie to Santeria, but it takes some time to identify the victim and lead the team in the right direction. Ramirez has the ability, or the misfortune, to see ghosts. Ever since he began working homicide, the ghosts of his victims follow him, giving clues to their fate until he uncovers the truth. One of his good friends is the plastic surgeon and pathologist Hector Apiro, a dwarf with insight and intellectual abilities that often help point Ramirez in the right direction on a case.
Now, Ramirez is pulled away from this case and given unprecedented permission to travel to Canada to bring back a priest who is suspected of ties to child sexual abuse. After he leaves, leaving the young detective Espinoza in charge of the case and headway is made. But also back in Cuba two more women die in suspicious circumstances and with one of them also being Canadian, the Canadian government is considering a travel advisory. Can Ramirez and his team bring enough information together to prevent this from happening?
There are lots of things going on in this mystery, from the larger issue of Catholic Church involvement in sanctioned pedophelia to domestic strife. We see the realities of life for ordinary Cuban people just trying to live in a simple healthy way, and the temptations of the underground economy and corruption. Ramirez is an interesting man, thoughtful and observant, ethical and yet also pragmatic. A man who cares about his family, his friends, and his country. I look forward to learning more about him.

Friday 18 April 2014

The 8.55 to Baghdad

Finished April 17
The 8.55 to Baghdad by Andrew Eames

Andrew Eames is a travel journalist and he was in the ancient city of Aleppo in Syria when he discovered a side of Agatha Christie that he hadn't previously been aware of. As he learned more of her life in the Middle East, he decided  to retrace the 1928 trip she took on her own to Baghdad, and beyond, the trip that completely changed her life. It was on this trip she met Max, who became her second husband and led her to spend many winters in this part of the world as she accompanied him on his archeological digs.
Eames travels the route of the Orient Express, the Taurus Express and on, exploring not only Christie's life, but the history of the train routes, train stations, and of each of the places he goes through. Of course he also talks about the people he meets along the way, whether those travelling along with him, or those he interacted with when off the train visiting the locations along the route.
He begins this journey in Sunningdale, England, the wealthy community Agatha lived in with her first husband Archie. He arrived at Victoria Station in London and boarded the first stage of the VSOE (Venice Simplon Orient Express) which uses restored Pullman coaches and then switched to a bus for the trip across the Channel. Once across, he was once again in luxury, this time in restored Wagon-Lits coaches, which took him on to Venice.
Not spending much time in Venice, he took a regional express to Trieste, where he did take time to explore this port city with a very interesting history. From there he took the Drava to Ljubljana, Slovenia, where he took a sidetrip from Ljubljana to Lake Bohinj, where Christie vacationed in 1967 and talking to a journalist who interviewed her then. He then took the Mimara from Ljubljana to Zagreb, Croatia. There he visited the Archeological Museum, observed the people, and met with a local historian to better understand the complex history of the former Yugoslavia and its resultant nations. He then took a train on to Belgrade, where he again made time to learn more about the Balkan situation, even arranging a meeting with the Crown Prince.
Eames then crossed into Bulgaria, but felt a need to take a break from cities, so took a sidetrip to the Black Sea, exploring the route of the original Orient Express. Following the first World War, the route was changed to the south to avoid German-speaking countries. The original train route ended in Ruse, Bulgaria, where the tracks ended (to be completed six years later), took a local train to the coastal resort of Varna and switched to a sea voyage on to Constantinople across the Black Sea. Eames travelled to Ruse, where he explored the Railway Museum, to Varna, on to the Golden Sands resort on the Black Sea and then inland to Veliko Turnovo [which I have also visited] and then back to Sofia to catch the sleeper to Istanbul. In Istanbul, he managed to stay in Christie's usual room at the Pera Palas hotel and explored the city for a few days.
He then took a train on to Konya, stayed a few days, and then took the day train on to join back up with the Taurus Express. This took him into Syria and on to Aleppo, where he again stayed in the Baron Hotel where Christie stayed when in town. He then continued on to Damascus on the sleeper train. From here following on Christie's 1928 route was only possible by joining a group tour by bus, which he did. This took him to Baghdad, but also on to the archeological sites of Samarra, Nimrud (where Christie spent many seasons), Nineveh (where Christie first worked together with her husband Max), and Ur (where the two met in 1929).
It was only a few short months later that the Iraq war started, so this story is also catches a unique moment in history for Iraq. The author takes time to try to find out what he can about the places he goes, talking to locals, trying to make connections, and showing the historical background. It is no surprise that this book won the British Guild of Travel Writers' Narrative Travel Book of the Year Award in 2004. It is a great, thought-provoking, informative read that also entertains.

A Conspiracy of Alchemists

Finished April 14
A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz

This is the first steampunk novel I think I've read, but it is historical fiction and has a paranormal romance in it as well. The year is 1903, and air traffic consists mostly of helium dirigibles. Elle Chance is likely the only female pilot of one, and she takes what charter work she can to get enough money to keep her ship, Water Lily, in good condition. So when Patrice, someone she has done work for before, asks her to come to Paris to transport something back to England, she agrees readily.
But when the item he entrusts to her is stolen and she is nearly kidnapped, and she discovers the real nature of what she is transporting, she realizes the danger she is now in. Back in England, more things have gone wrong and her father is now endangered as well. The influential Viscount Greychester has taken a strong interest in her safety, but what is his real purpose?
For the world that Elle lives in is divided into Light and Shadow. On the Shadow side are the Nightwalkers (vampires) with their partners the Alchemists trying to increase the influence of Shadow. On the Light side are other creatures including Warlocks like Marsh trying to keep the world in balance.
One of the controlling factors is an influential female known as The Oracle, and Elle's mother played this role until her death when Elle was a child. There are many on both sides who believe Elle is destined to take her mother's place, but what levels will they stoop to to make her fulfill such a role?
This is a book with a lot going on. One is the struggle between Light and Shadow, which is not a pure fight between good evil, but more complex. Another is the ambitious and adventurous Elle, with her strong family feelings and naivety in love. And then there is Marsh, who is the youngest on the Council of Warlocks, but also imbued with a strong sense of right and wrong, and an increasingly strong regard for Elle.
A good story, that is obviously the first in a series. Interesting characters with some complexity. Very enjoyable read.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Hope Deferred

Finished April 13
Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives compiled and edited by Peter Orner and Annie Holmes

This collection of narratives includes experiences of a wide variety of people: black and white, male and female, urban and rural, from a variety of economic and educational backgrounds, aged from 14 to 63. What all of them have in common is the destruction of their lives. These are people who lost everything, many of them were tortured, many lost people close to them, and most are still struggling to find their way forward. Some are still in Zimbabwe, some are exiles. They have seen Zimbabwe change from a country with a good economy, a country known as the breadbasket of Africa to a country that imports almost everything its people need, with 90% unemployment and a valueless currency.
But most of them still have hope. Hope that their country can recover, hope that they can return, hope that their families can better their situation, hope for a Zimbabwe they can be proud of.
Many of the experiences recounted here are difficult to read, especially those involving torture, but I am glad that someone took the time to go and find these people and interview them and tell their stories, so that we can all hear them and know that these lives exist alongside our own.

Saturday 12 April 2014

The Hole in the Middle

Finished April 12
The Hole in the Middle by Kate Hilton

This novel is a story of a woman, Sophie Whelan, in her late thirties with two young children. Her boss is an idiot. Her workload is increasing by the day, her husband seems more interested in his business partner than he is in her, and her children are a handful. So when a man from her past calls her, she can't help but wonder why things didn't work out between them.
Sophie is the head of communications for a children's hospital, and she is faced with many challenges at work. Her assistant does little to assist her, some of her employees need more supervision than someone at their level should need, and her boss dumps other department work on her and sets her near impossible deadlines for projects. Her youngest son has yet another ear infection, her late pickups threaten his spot in the daycare, her older son may not be getting the range of experiences she wants for him, and she worries about the amount of television they boys watch. She usually seems to be the one picking the kids up when they're sick, getting up in the night, and dealing with doctors, because her husband's Jesse has deadlines at work, but she worries about her own work deadlines. She hasn't been to book club in months, she hates the family yoga sessions her mother has talked her into, and she feels she is not there when her best friend Zoe needs her to be.
She's beginning to feel that her life has gotten away from her and in trying to have both a family and a career, she somehow has ended up with a life she no longer enjoys. Is she a bad mother, is she a bad manager, is she not looking after herself as she should? Everything seems to be coming together to make her take a hard look at her life.
Besides the story, there were two things I really liked about this book, and maybe that speaks to my love of tests and analysis. The first is Sophie's numerical way of deciding whether to do something or not which she calls Requirement Of Action Rating (ROAR). Her formula reads DPA + GF + NBLG - AS = ROAR. DPA stands for Desire to Perform Activity. GF stands for Guilt Factor associated with not doing it. NBLG stands for the Need to Behave Like a Grown-up. AS stands for Allowable Selfishness. I thought this was a very interesting way of looking at things, and made a lot of sense. The other bit I really liked was her friend Zoe's theory of romantic archetypes, which I won't go into here, but found really interesting.
I'll definitely be looking for more from Hilton as I really enjoyed her writing. Her prose flowed nicely, the plot was good, and I liked her characters.

The Accident

Finished April 11
The Accident by Chris Pavone, read by Mozhan Marno

This thriller has a couple of the main characters from Pavone's earlier book The Expats, Kate and Hayden is more minor roles in this new novel. Isabel Reed is a New York literary agent, and recently a manuscript was delivered to her office that seems to have potentially huge prospects. The title of the manuscript is The Accident and the author is listed as Anonymous. The story it tells is the unauthorized memoir of Charlie Wolfe, head of an international media organization, and a man who now has his eye on a political career. The book would cause that hope to die, and raise serious questions about Charlie's company. The reader is exposed gradually to the contents of this biography by other people reading the manuscript. Another source of information about its contents is the extraordinary length someone is going to to ensure the book doesn't get published. It is Hayden who takes the lead on that endeavour, first in Europe tailing the supposed author, and then in the United States once the biography reaches Isabel. Hayden is a Berlin CIA operative, but this case is black ops, completely off the books, and we gradually understand why. Hayden will stop at nothing to prevent publication, and that includes murder. As people with possession or knowledge of the manuscript are followed and eliminated the race to see the real story on Wolfe come out grows ever more precarious.
Isabel suspects who the author really is, but the man she is thinking of is dead. Or is he? We also occasionally see the real author and realize his role in the story and his motivations. He has made a lot of plans to get this story out, but will they be enough?
This novel also gives an inside look at the publishing industry with literary agents, editors, publishers, and even a subsidiary rights agent playing roles. The depth of the characters here add real substance to the book, and give us insight into the story as it develops.
A read that is hard to put down.

Friday 11 April 2014

After I'm Gone

Finished April 9
After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman, performed by Linda Emond

This mystery is set in the Baltimore area. In 2012, Roberto "Sandy" Sanchez, a retired cop now doing consultant work on cold cases, pulls out the case of Julie Saxony. In 1976, Julie was a stripper working in a club owned by Felix Brewer. She was also his mistress. When Felix, facing prison for some of his activities, disappears in 1976, he leaves behind not only Julie, but also his wife Bernadette "Bambi", and his three children, Linda, 17, Rachel, 14, and Michelle, 3. He also transfers the ownership of his cafe to Julie.
As the years go by, Julie has transformed herself into a businesswoman and, by 1986, owns an inn and is on the verge of opening a restaurant. Then, she disappears with no notice. People wonder, did she go to join Felix or did something happen to her? When her decomposed body is found in 2001 in a wooded park near the Brewer house in Baltimore the trail has gone cold, and the case went cold. Hence, Sandy's work now.
As Sandy goes over the evidence, talking to everyone whose name was in the file, and reinterviewing all the players, he awakens old resentments and memories, and possibly more.
We see Bambi, Julie, Linda, Rachel, and Michelle at various points in the intervening years, learning their stories and their experiences that brought them to the present day. This is a complex situation and there are lots of secrets that have been kept for years.
This is a story that reveals things slowly, gradually, and it creeps toward the final story inexorably. A very nice plot.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Before I Go to Sleep

Finished April 6
Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson

This novel was one I could barely put down. Christine wakes up in the morning to a bedroom she is not familiar with, beside a man she does not recognize, a man with a wedding ring on his finger. When she goes to the bathroom, she finds that she is twenty years older than she expects to be, and the photos taped around her mirror tell her that the man in bed with her is her husband, whose name is Ben.
When she returns to the bedroom and asks questions, she is told there was an accident, when she was twenty-nine and she is now forty-seven. Later that day, a Dr. Nash phones her and says that he has been working with her without Ben's knowledge in hopes of making some progress with her memory. He gives her a blank notebook and encourages her to begin keeping a journal to see if she remembers different things and to see what things might trigger her memory.
As she begins to have different memories, she finds that Ben has been lying to her. But is he lying to make things easier, so he doesn't have to explain things that will upset her over and over again. So that he doesn't have to talk about the things that upset him. Or is there something more sinister to his behaviour?
This book had me, wanting to know what Christine discovered next, what new things she learned about her life. But the twist at the end took my by surprise, and yet seemed inevitable at the same time.
A great psychological thriller with a plot that is original and gripping.

Saturday 5 April 2014

Emotional Vampires at Work

Finished April 5
Emotional Vampires at Work: Dealing with Bosses and Coworkers Who Drain You Dry by Albert J Bernstein

This self-help book takes a look at personalities, behaviours, and culture in the workplace. Rather than look at why people behave the way they do, this book emphasizes how to recognize certain behaviours as potential problems for you at work, and offers ways to deal with these behaviours.
First, the author offers a quiz that helps you to identify your own behavioural tendencies so that you know your weak points and can modify your reaction to others' behaviour to allow for these, or at least think about them before you act. The author encourages slow thinking, rather than the fast thinking that is more reactive in nature. By taking the time to look at a situation, think about who certain actions benefits, why someone is telling you something, and what your options are, you can act smarter and more productively.
He categorizes five types of emotional vampires. These are more extreme than difficult people, often because they have strong personalities that can draw you in. These five types are Antisocials, Histrionics, Narcissists, Obsessive-Compulsives, and Paranoids. He acknowledges that many people may show some aspects of these behaviours, including yourself, but the key is that most of us recognize those behaviours in our selves, and thus have a level of self-awareness that protects us from acting to an extreme. The emotional vampires do not. They have several aspects of one of these types of behaviours, but don't seem themselves in these descriptions, and react badly if you try to show them how they do. For each of these types, the author describes traits, shows how these might manifest themselves in different general senses, and talks about strategies to still have a productive workplace while dealing with these people. He also talks about how an organizational culture can take on these traits if the people at the top are emotional vampires.
All readers will recognize some people they have worked with at some point in their lives, or that they know in their personal lives. They key to dealing with these people is not to take things personally, but think with care about who benefits from their actions, protect yourself, and leave the organization if necessary.
An interesting read.

Thursday 3 April 2014

The Stowaways

Finished April 3
The Stowaways by Meghan Marentette

This children's novel focuses on a family of long-tailed mice, the Stowaways. Twins Morgan and Rory exemplify the family's history of innovation and adventurousness. Morgan likes gadgets, learning how things work, and making things. Rory hungers for a life beyond their little corner of the river and loves to hear stories of his grandfather's adventures. But Grandpa disappeared when Rory was just a baby, caught in a trap, and Rory and Morgan's dad is sure that he didn't survive. Gran thinks he might still be out there though, and when Great Aunt Hazel turns up alive, she is bent on finding out the truth about Grandpa.
This is a nice little family, with Mama and Papa making daily treks to the nearby farm to cart home objects and tidbits of food, Gran berry picking for the family larder, and little sister Bimble eager to start school next fall.
Rory becomes an assistant in his grandmother's quest to find Grandpa, and Morgan puts his mind to creating a bicycle like he saw in town and learning how to man a boat. Both young mice find success in their endeavors and prove to their father that they are mature enough to assist the family in meaningful ways. This is an interesting tale that will captivate young readers.

Until You're Mine

Finished April 2
Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes

This psychological thriller starts with Claudia Morgan-Brown and her husband James advertising for a nanny. James is in the Navy and Claudia is eight and a half months pregnant as well as the stepmother to 4 year old twins Noah and Oscar. Claudia is thrilled to finally be a mother in her own right, but sorry that James will be away for the birth. They both worry about the workload once the baby arrives. Zoe Harper is in her thirties and has a stellar resume, working for families sorry to see her leave. But we see enough background on Zoe to know there is something else going on with her, and she seems desperate to have a baby as well.
When Sally-Ann, a local woman, is found murdered with her baby cut out of her in a botched home Caesarian section, the police can't figure out why someone would do such a thing. Their search takes them to Sally-Ann's friends and acquaintances, including the father of the child and his contacts. The two DIs in charge of this case have different last names, but are husband and wife. They are going through a bad period though after Adam's episode of infidelity. When their oldest daughter Grace shows signs of rebellion, the two draw closer together, but don't know how to stop her.
Zoe is settling in well, with the twins getting along with her and Claudia's close friend Pip, also a pregnant mother, meeting her for playdates and school pickups. But Zoe's past keeps calling her, and she struggles to deal with her job as she sees it. When Claudia suspects her of accessing material she shouldn't, the police also take a closer look.
Lots of suspense here, and some nice twists and turns. Just when you think you have figured things out, the story shifts and you aren't sure of anything anymore. A great read.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

The Spymistress

Finished April 1
The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini

This historical novel is based on the U.S. Civil War experiences of the real-life Elizabeth Van Lew. In her forties, a spinster, with her fiance dying of a fever two decades earlier, Lizzie is dedicated to her family and good works. She and her mother would have freed their slaves following her father's death, but his will expressly denied them the ability to do so. Instead, they pay them like they were free men and treat them well. As Virginia votes to secede from the Union, Lizzie is appalled and determined to do what she can for the Union cause. As Union troops are captured, she works hard to get permission to visit them, bringing them food, medical assistance and comfort. She walks a fine line in the community to not be arrested and taken for treason, but she works carefully, and with the support of her family and the guidance of like-minded friends, makes headway. Eventually she became a reliable source of information for the North, sending them coded messages, assisting escaped prisoners to make their way north and helping place others in strategic positions where they can learn useful information and help those in need.
Lizzie's sister-in-law is on the Confederate side, and life becomes easier for Lizzie when her brother's family moves to their own home. To cover her activities, she also supports charity and assistance for Confederates in need from time to time, evening opening her home to Confederate officers when they are waiting for housing.
This is an interesting story of Richmond, Virginia during the war, the influx of prisoners and wounded men to the city, its effect on the common people, and the availability of those goods needed to survive, and the ultimate abandonment by the South, resulting in terrible destruction. It is also the story of a strong woman, who went on to a career as the postmaster of Richmond under President Grant, proving herself as a good businesswoman as well as a good spy.