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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Book Review: 23:27 by H.L. Roberts

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review: Soldier of Rome- The Legionary Artorian Chronicles, #1) by James Mace

Title: Soldier of Rome: The Legionary
Series: Artorian Chronicles
Book Number: 1
Author: James Mace 
Genre: Fiction - Historical 
Finished: July 19, 2011

Varus, give me back my legions! Anyone who knows anything about Roman history has heard those words. Just the same, anyone who knows anything about Roman history can pick out the important names and places on the back cover alone: the ill-fated Publius Quinctilius Varus; the Emperor Tiberius, successor to Augustus; and Germanicus, glorious military man and the father of the infamously corrupt Emperor Caligula. James Mace’s Soldier of Rome: The Legionary is about what takes place after the defeat at the Teutoburger Wald forest when Rome sets itself up for a retaliatory measure against the Germanic people, led by the heavily applauded Germanicus. James Mace is not a Roman historian, or an historian by training at all. Rather, he is a military man with an avid passion for Roman history. While historians know to be cautious around the world of enthusiasts who usually do not understand issues such as historiography and source creditability, I have always tried to be more fair minded than that. I liked that in the front of the book is a glossary of Roman military ranks, which is a godsend to any and all who know nothing more about the Roman military than the centurion helmet. I cannot wait to start pulling out all of my books about Rome and checking against them. It’s like a great big fun scavenger hunt of historical detail. My favorite kind. I will admit that I too know little about the Roman military in the age of Empire. My experience is with the military structure of the Republic via historians such as Livy and Plutarch, and of Late Antiquity thanks the volumes of respected historians who study the endlessly to either prove or disprove that the Roman military was a dysfunctional machine by the end of the 200s. The complicated structure of the Roman military during its height makes my head spin. Republican that I am, I wonder where the Consuls are and then remember this is a couple centuries after the Punic Wars. So you see, simply having a glossary of ranks and jobs really assisted me in what I read. You know what else impressed me? That when I flipped back to the end of the book I saw a bibliography. Very few writers who dive into historical fiction bother to give proper credit to sources or reveal where they received their historian information. Perhaps they feel as fiction writers they do not have to disclose their sources or give credit where credit is due, but I am a stuffy nonfictionists who feels that things should be credited. Mace lets his readers know that he got some of his information from good ol’ Tacitus who was writing around the turn of the second century CE. I only wish he had elaborated on it and revealed more of the histories he read to recreate his Roman world, and not only cited Tacitus. 

The story begins with the disastrous battle of the Teutoburger Wald, which Rome mourns as military men plan and seek revenge. Loss is not something the Roman military takes lightly, after all. And enemies must be punished or annihilated. The rest of the story takes us through the early stages of retribution and then battle. A young Roman named Artorius has a personal vendetta since his brother was killed in the forest. Led by the young Germanicus, the Romans reenter battle against the Germans who pretended to be allies only to betray them. It becomes an epic battle between the forces of Germanicus, fighting for Rome, and Arminius, who is fighting to preserve his own land and his own people. The book was very exciting. “War” stories are not my thing, but the truth is that I will read anything about Romans. I just dig them. But this book was more than the overtly masculine posturing of male valor, and went beyond the tedious technicalities that bog down a lot of historical writing of the military nature where military maneuvers are described in long and diagram-free detail. I did wish that there was more... Roman context in it. Hidden beneath the surface are important Roman values, norms of respect and rank, and military training. I was also a bit confused about the naming of the characters in the book. But again, this could just be me, as a Republican, understanding Republican conventions of prenomen, nomen, cognomen, etc, as well as what the difference between Claudius and Clodius is. I wanted to be fully involved in not only what it meant to be a soldier, but what it meant to be a ROMAN soldier. One of the most fascinating things about the Romans is how they were. I wish there was more about this, which would place the reader more securely in the Roman world and therefore create a more realistic story. Also, unfortunately, the book needs a good editor. There were many words misspelled and even a mistake on the back cover book description. That alone could cause a lot of people to disregard the book and never give it a chance. It is clear, though, that Mace truly does love the Roman military and has put more research into them than your average person or even hobby historical enthusiast. It was a good and worthwhile read, I think, and puts me one book closer to my ultimate goal of reading every fiction book I can find set the era of the Romans.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book Review: Changeling Moon (Changeling, #1) by Dani Harper

Title: Changeling Moon
Series: Changeling
Book Number: 1
Author: Dani Harper 
Genre: Fiction - Supernatural Romance 
Finished: June 15, 2011

Zoe Tyler is an editor with a unique gift that allows her to see things happening in her head. Desperate to start a new life far from her reputation and the stresses of the city, Zoey moves to a small Canadian town where she becomes editor for a tiny local newspaper. All is well until one night Zoey is attacked by a wolf, a werewolf. Enter Connor Macleod, veterinarian and werewolf, who rescues her, though not before Zoey is bitten. It is love at first sight, at least for Connor, who makes it his mission to ensure that Zoey does not become a werewolf. Problem is, her sire is insane and set to destroy the local wolf pack, which he has chosen not to join. The sire is out for blood, killing man and human without hesitation. He also wants Zoey. It’s a dangerous situation for wolf and human alike. Yet, even among the life threatening drama, there is still time for love to grow between Zoey and Connor. Dani Harper clearly knows her way around a word. She has a very clean but elaborate writing style that is both entertaining and accessible. Her book does not falter or linger too long in drawn out description, though it certainly does not lack in detail. 

Unlike those who just seem to have just gotten lucky publising their books, Dani Harper clearly has a natural writing talent, so she well deserves the praise she receives. I will admit that romance is not my cup of tea or preferred genre. As a result, I tend to be a bit harder on it than romance genre fans. Problem is, I think that most romance tends to be contrived and fails to convince me. It is almost formulaic the way a perfect, rugged, handsome loner (or playboy) falls in love with an equally perfect but firey woman who is certainly the first to resist his charms or fight against his possessive/protective/etc nature. And of course, when they have sex, lightening sparks behind her eyes and she has screaming orgasms that leave her shaking. Sound familiar? I bet it does. Because it’s probably somewhat or in part true for 95% of the romance books you’ve ever read. And it to me, it all feels very forced. What was the point of the above rant? Because if I were to pin the one part of the book that I disliked, it was because it fit the formulaic and forced romance model outlined above. Because, as I said, I just do not like romance as it all seems to be like the above and I want something new, something real, something full of complications. Something about discovery, not love at first site with cookie cutter personalities. This is not meant to insult the book because I am sure romance fans would love it. 

So you may be asking yourself: do I like the book? And the answer to that would be a definite yes. Here is why: because Dani Harper has created a believable preternatural world. I respect anyone who can approach an unexplainable situation and say simply, “this is how it is and we don’t know why” such as Connor did when he explained how during the shift their present clothes seem to fall into an invisible third dimension that return as soon as the shifter turns back into a human. Why? Because I think people over think things and sometimes fail to see that sometimes some of the best things are the things we cannot possibly answer. The world of the hidden wolf and normal human was also very believable. I also liked how Dani threw in her own little invention of silver suppressing the change as a way to control those who lack proper control. As a story of a supernatural world, I very much enjoyed reading Changeling Moon. The reader is neither flooded with a complex supernatural world, nor confronted with something that is impossible to believe or simplistic. Dani Harper fuses the natural and supernatural worlds together with flawless ease, and in that way convinces me that there just may indeed be hot werewolves veterinarians with a small auditorium full of brothers and a quaint, quiet farm out there.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review: "When I Can Read My Title Clear" by Janet Duitsman Cornelius

Title: "When I Can Read My Title Clear": Literacy, Slavery, and Religion in the Antebellum South 
Author: Janet Duitsman Cornelius 
Genre: Nonfiction - American 
Finished: March 10, 2011

In "When I Can Read My Title Clear", Janet Duitsman Cornelius states that though much has been written about American slavery, little attention has been paid to slavery literacy. It is her intent to present information, sectioned off into six topical chapters, in the hope of inspiring further discussion and research (6). For this reason, Cornelius presents no overarching thesis or argument, though the book does present a number of her own interpretations and counters claims made by other historians. For example, Cornelius objects to Eugene Genovese's assertion that evangelists fully embraced the cause of slavery, which allowed them to win the trust of slave masters and safely preach the gospel. Cornelius feels that this interpretation is wrong, however, and plainly states her own opinion that acceptance was really just the language of appeasement, which evangelists utilized in order to have access to the slaves they wanted to educate (48). While Cornelius certainly proves earlier in the book that many evangelists rejected slavery and certainly may have catered to slave owners opinions through appeasement, much of the evidence that Cornelius presents also counters that generalized and optimistic image of the evangelical preacher. A subsequent quote by Methodist preacher James O. Andrew that their goal was not to civilize slaves or encourage them to freedom, but only to make holy their deaths would seem to prove that not all evangelists were simply speaking to appease, or to prove that Andrew did not make such a statement in sincerity. Cornelius even presents evidence of Christian preachers who insisted that slavery was a blessing to both the slave and the slave master. Some preachers even taught that educating slaves would, in fact, make them better slaves (46-48, 52). It is impossible, therefore, for Cornelius to claim that proslavery sentiment was entirely absent from evangelism, which, through "mysterious providence" did not always see slavery and Christianity as contradictory. That is not the only instance in which Cornelius fails to make her point with sufficient strength to convince. 

In chapter one, Cornelius promises to discuss the various reasons for white reluctance toward slave literacy in early North America, including the ways in which slave owners sought to restrict a slave's right to education (5). What Cornelius implies is that the chapter will be about the power of white resistance, especially after revolts aroused a sense of threat for the permanence of the slave institution, which white southerners adamantly protected. Throughout the chapter, Cornelius mitigates the strength of white resistance by stating that the rules against allowing slaves an education were rarely enforced, and that, in the end, only four states total had laws passed banning slave education, which were also rarely enforced. She admits herself that "the sweeping extent of these laws has been exaggerated." In addition, with her emphasis on various religious groups and their efforts to bring education to slaves, Cornelius seems to prove the opposite of what she claims will be discussed (18-22, 33-34). What the reader is left with is a sense that the white power structure actually cared very little about slave literacy, as evidenced by their ambivalent political stand on the matter. Cornelius can be praised for her careful use of sources in many cases, and in her attempts to point out where sources may be misleading, which is particularly useful for people new to the subject, or to students of history who are learning historical research methods. In one instance, after spending pages talking about the ways slave masters facilitated the learning of their slaves, Cornelius reminds the readers that we should not assume the picture presented was the total shape of society because such stories were often written in order to justify slavery and counter criticism (108). 

However, there are moments when Cornelius’s use of sources and the information contained within can be called into question. When discussing slave testimonies that speak of how slaves learned to read and write, Cornelius uses the autobiographies of the Federal Writers Project. The findings of the FWP, she feels, support her claim that by the 1840s restrictive literacy laws of the decade previous had been relaxed. One of the major pieces of her evidence is that most of those interviewed by the FWP claim to have learned to read between the years of 1856 and 1865 (63). It must be noted that the FWP was interviewing slaves who were still alive in the 1930s, and slaves who learned to read earlier in life would have been older than most of those who learned to read in the 1850s and 1860s, and therefore may not have survived into the 1930s. In another instance, Cornelius discusses the punishments slaves would face if caught learning against their master's will, one major punishment in particular being amputation. One of the stories used is of an uncle of a Mr. Henry Nix who had his finger removed because he stole a book to learn to read and write (66). Cornelius assumes from this story that the punishment was because the slave was trying to read and write, but by the quote she presents, nothing directly indicates this. It could be the case that the slave had his finger removed for stealing. 

Though the book is about slave literacy in the antebellum period, Cornelius includes an epilogue that describes the conditions of learning after slave emancipation. The inclusion of the epilogue strengthens Cornelius's claims that literacy was important to slaves as a mark of their humanity, as a way to liberate the soul, as a way to read the Bible, and as a way to resist power because it is these values and the lingering importance of them that drove many blacks to push for literacy after emancipation (150). Cornelius's book also gives the reader a sense of the diversity not only of slaves, but slave work and masters, however unintended this is. The slave testimonies of chapter 3 in particular, which discuss the challenges, obstacles, and dangers slaves faced when trying to learn to read are the most enlightening part of the book not only for what they say about slave literacy, but about slavery itself and all of the variations within the institution (74-78). Cornelius is able to achieve such a varied picture because she used a number of sources, both primary and secondary, in her research. Featuring prominently are slave narratives, which are the sources that give the book life. Cornelius also uses a number of archival materials and manuscripts, government documents, and newspapers. As far as secondary sources go, Cornelius clearly has a very good background in her subject because she uses the research of a number of well known and respected historians of African American history such as Carter G. Woodson, Eugene Genovese, and Herbert Aptheker.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Book Review: World War Z- An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Title: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War 
Author: Max Brooks 
Genre: Fiction - Horror 
Finished: March 7, 2011

This is how zombie horror should be. Or horror in general, for that matter. For some reason I have yet to wrap my head around, the entire horror genre has just gotten silly. Now, I am not against the occasional horror comedy cross over. After all, Evil Dead and Shaun of the Dead are magnificent. But between the zombies overcoming their real life issues and learning to adapt to the normal world and sparkling vampires, people have somehow forgotten that monsters are meant to be feared, not laughed at or lusted after. I admit, I was hesitant to pick up this book because there has been so much hype surrounding it. Yet as we know, sometimes the hype is well deserved. In the case of World War Z, the attention and praise is very much deserved. I think if ever there was to be a realistic depiction of how people would handle a zombie attack, World War Z hits it. The book is organized into a bunch of 'oral history' interviews from people who survived the zombie war. Within it are unique tales of survival, fear, and human adaptation. The characters come across as genuine and real because they express such a variety of human emotion and reaction. Some people would disbelieve. Some people would lose their minds. Some people would fight back viciously. There is no one way to handle any sort of trauma, and that is what World War Z tries to impart. Ultimately, how do people survive, both by their own action or by circumstance. And then, the story is also one about rebuilding. I was impressed with the sheer breadth of Mr. Brooks' knowledge. After all, he has to deal with medical technicalities, military terminology, and some serious science stuff. Either Mr. Brooks has one impressive brain, or he did a serious amount of study and expert investigation in order to piece together his book. Any reader should appreciate an author who is willing to go above and beyond, and to learn new things, in order to learn things that will make the book more realistic. I think part of the realism is due to the fact that the voice Mr. Brooks gives to his characters is that of expert, and of individual. I have to give this book my highest rating because I was absolutely enthralled throughout. Very rarely does a book compel me to keep reading, absolutely demand that I turn the page to see what happens next. Yet, above the story of zombies, which in themselves are creatures we need not take seriously enough to fear in real life, is, as I've said, a story of real human action, reaction, and adaptation. There is no saying what anyone would do when faced with a life or death situation, but this book, for all of its fantastical basis, makes you really begin to question that. Most of all, it makes zombies scary again. It reminds you that you need to be afraid of things that go bump in the night.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Review: Celia, A Slave by Melton A. McLaurin

Title: Celia, a Slave 
Author: Melton A. McLaurin 
Genre: Nonfiction- American 
Finished: February 10, 2011 

Rejecting the big man and big event approach many historians adopt when defining any era, Melton A. McLaurin uses the story of a young slave girl accused of murdering her white master in Celia, a Slave to illustrate what he calls the “major issues” of the pre-Civil War period. Melton admits from the start that Celia’s story, in fact, reveals little about slavery as a broad institution. Instead, what he presents is a case study in the “fundamental moral anxiety” produced by slavery, which he feels has been ignored by historians who focus on social or economic aspects of slavery, and therefore need not confront the more intimate moral issues blacks and whites faced daily when participating in an institution that dehumanized one group for the sake of the other. Melton’s task is made all the more difficult by the fact that evidence and sources are scant, and discloses from the start that a lot of his story will be based on assumptions or inferences. Milton states that he will do this with the sensitivity of a storyteller, giving readers a flowing and engaging narrative that avoids what he calls the “dry and dull” history others fall into the trap of (vii, ix-x). That is not to say that McLaurin’s narrative is void any detail of politics and economy. 

Since the book itself, taking place in 1855 Missouri, centers on the continual rape of the slave Celia, then the murder of her master Robert Newsome, and finally Celia’s trial, McLaurin cannot avoid including political facets of slave life and slave status. To inform the reader, McLaurin scatters his book with interesting facts of slave legality such as that slaves were considered property, and as a result masters could not be guilty of rape since a man could hardly “trespass” on his own property (93). In addition, McLaurin very nicely frames the intimate events that make up the focus on the book within a larger national context. Featured very heavily throughout Celia is the tumultuous Nebraska-Kansas Act, which threatened the institution of slavery in bordering Missouri where Celia lived. The political climate of the time, especially one so important to Missouri, demonstrates to the reader just why the murder of a white man by a slave, no matter for what reason, was so intolerable. McLaurin then proceeds to describe ramifications of the Celia case more important to Missouri and the power dynamic of slavery than the more famous Dred Scott case (95). 

McLaurin also finds it essential to illuminate relevant details of the economics of slavery, more specifically the economic value of a slave woman’s reproductive ability, since a judgment in Celia’s favor would have called into question a white master’s sexual control over his slaves (100). It seems McLaurin, despite his intentions, was unable to avoid entirely big names and big events, or politics and economy, but the book is better and more deeply illustrated because he did not avoid including them. McLaurin’s greatest problem is the one he identified in the introduction: the availability of sources. While his sources include a variety of newspapers, census data records, and even Celia’s court case file, what he does not have is the personal documentation that would direct his formulation of some of the more personal thoughts and motivations. Since the intent is to provide an engaging narrative, McLaurin sets for himself the difficult task of providing the emotional depth that his sources cannot provide to him. McLaurin must address questions like: what was Celia thinking, how did she truly feel about her status as concubine, and what really happened the night of the murder? All McLaurin can do to answer these questions is make inferences based on the facts of Celia’s testimony and the cultural setting. In some cases, McLaurin is very successful in providing logical rationales out of minds he has no access to. For example, when the questioning began after the death of Celia’s master, the first person approached was Celia’s secret lover, George. McLaurin supposes that this was so because the inquisiting party already had some knowledge about the secret affair and suspected that George may have been involved. 

McLaurin also makes some unnecessary and weak conjecture. This comes about usually when he is trying to develop some of the deeper emotions involved in the crimes of rape and murder. For instance, McLaurin makes the statement that Celia’s adamant denial of any knowledge about her master’s disappearance points to a lack of remorse (36-38). There are also details missing that would flesh out the trial more. Powell, the man who interrogated Celia, willingly testified that he had to threaten Celia to get her to confess to her crime (84). Therefore, what laws were in place to protect people who confessed under duress? By extension, why were these laws not extended to someone like Celia? Was this too a matter of human rights much like Celia’s right to her own body? In the attempt to create an interesting and novel-like narrative, McLaurin includes many details that are ultimately unimportant to the story itself. An entire paragraph is dedicated to the many ways in which Robert Newsome may have possibly travelled from Virginia into Missouri where he settled his farm, and then later McLaurin discusses the vehicle in which Newsome perhaps travelled in to an adjourning county where he purchased Celia (2, 20). 

The narrative is also broken by McLaurin’s habit of providing multiple guesses and inferences for one instance or action. The story may have flowed better if not for the lengthy paragraphs dotted with multiple usages of words like “maybe” and “perhaps.” It is reasonable that McLaurin must do a great deal of guessing in order to fill in information that he does not have the sources for, but there are times in the book when it is excessive. McLaurin also approaches his featured players from the perspective that each person at some point had to confront their own private “fundamental moral anxiety” over slavery, whether it was Newsome’s daughters turning the other cheek in regards to Celia’s repeated rapes, or the jury that chose to ignore certain parts of Celia’s testimony in order to protect the reputation of a white slave master and friend, and indeed the institution itself. According to McLaurin, as each individual made their choices, each had to face within himself larger questions about the humanity possessed by slaves and the morality of slavery. McLaurin even points out specifically the moment in which some individuals reached this moment of contemplation (28). Certainly not every person involved had a moment of moral questioning, and if they did, not at the moment that McLaurin feels that they did. Nevertheless, McLaurin is correct that the “fundamental moral anxiety” was essential to the institution itself, though perhaps not to every individual, since slavery and slave supporters did have to repeatedly justify themselves to the increasingly louder voice of abolition. Stressed repeatedly in sections on the case backdrop, trial, and verdict that at hand were moral issues of Celia’s basic human rights, and that is why she is an appropriate case study in the morality of slavery. In this way, McLaurin keeps to the purpose of his book.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Book Review: The Origins of American Slavery by Betty Wood

Title: The Origins of American Slavery: Freedom and Bondage in the English Colonies 
Author: Betty Wood 
Genre: Nonfiction- American 
Finished: January 19, 2011

Betty Wood’s concise The Origins of American Slavery: Freedom and Bondage in the English Colonies examines the early roots of American slavery by tracing how and why the English adopted slave practices, why the English chose West Africans in particular for enslavement, how the ambiguous legal standing of a slave became one of undisputable human property, and how the English justified enslavement. Though Wood does not have a direct or clear thesis, she does state that she will show the English chose to enslave West Africans for economic and racial considerations. According to Wood, historians believe that either one cause or the other influenced English enslavement of West Africans, racial or economic, but according to Wood both were central elements (7-8).

In Wood’s introduction, she mentions nothing about religion, though religion, in fact, features heavily throughout the book, both as justification for slavery and to distinguish the various English groups who sought to rationalize the practice of slavery such as the Puritans. Slavery is typically discussed within the context of the ideology of racism since, as Wood states, the link between race and enslavement was undeniable by the 18th century. Yet, according to Wood, there are other complex systems of belief to take into account when studying the history of slavery. First and foremost, and one that historians often fail to analyze, was the English concept of enslavement and how that reconciled with beliefs about freedom. In order to practice slavery, the English had to find ways over the dual hurdles of equality and freedom. Wood stresses the absence of slavery from English common law, and that the English had to devise an unprecedented legal standard using systems practiced by the Spanish and Portuguese as the foundation. Wood is correct in stating that the hierarchy of English society and politics was transplanted to the New World, but Wood misses something important and vital about English concepts of equality, which were not all encompassing for every Englishman. Wood writes that all English could “lay claim to the liberties, privileges, and rights of Englishmen (12-13).” However, equality in English society did not exist, though freedom for all certainly did with various levels of servitude, and all men did not possess the same liberties. In the 1430s, Henry VI established the forty shilling property requirement for voting, which would be maintained until the Reform Act of 1832 lowered property requirements. It would not be until 1928 that England would remove any and all property restrictions. Hence, even in England, the English had set legal restrictions on social rank and a sense of the worth of people who were afforded legal rights accordingly. It was not, therefore, as difficult or as much of the reach that Wood suggests for the English to create newer and more restricted categories of social hierarchy and fit them into established hierarchical practices along with ethnocentrism. There was, in fact, a system in place that would support slavery by virtue of delineating the social ranking and legal powers of different men, though the model of actual enslavement was taken from elsewhere. Wood’s thoughts are sometimes scattered and sometimes too extensive for such a small book.

In chapter 3, Wood discusses early that there was a shift between indentured labor and slave labor. It is not until pages later that Wood finally delineates the numerous reasons for this shift. For a more cohesive understanding of the movement away from relying on European indentured servants to slaves, it would make more sense for Wood to include these two portions together so as not to scatter the reader by jumping between subjects. Similarly, Wood devotes a lot of space in her brief monograph toward English feelings about mainland natives. The reason Wood includes such a topic is because she is trying to make a point about why the English used West Africans instead of the ready supply of natives at hand (29, 48 & 55). However, in a book only 117 pages, devoting 10 entire pages to English feelings toward natives is excessive when instead Wood could use her pages to further flesh out shifting ideologies, practices, and economic conditions. While it is important to understand why the English chose West Africans, feelings toward the natives can be understood in greater brevity. This is especially the case when, in some sections of the book, details are lacking where they would be useful. Wood uses the example of one escaped group of white and black laborers to show that even as of the 1680s there was a distinct difference in the treatment of whites and blacks doing the same jobs. According to Wood, the fact that the black slave was dealt a different and indeed harsher punishment indicates that all black workers were considered inferior (83). While this estimation is without a doubt correct, Wood could have fleshed out her evidence more. For instance, Wood stated that the workers had different owners. Different owners may naturally have had different styles of punishment. Wood would have proven her point better to give an example of a black and white worker of the same owner. Further, more examples would have strengthened the correlation between race and punishment. Wood would also benefit from the inclusion of citations and tables. There is no indication whatsoever what sources Wood uses to gather the numbers she gives of the slaves and English in various colonies, which feature in her claims about the growing importance and reliance on slave labor by a small portion of settlers becoming very wealthy. In fact, the book lacks any citation at all; it is impossible to know where Wood got any of her historical data. The fact that she does not provide a guide for fact verification casts doubt on her historical information, and by association, the inferences that she makes.

All that Wood provides is a guide of suggested readings, lacking a proper bibliography. A conclusion would have also helped sum up her thoughts and questions, especially since she does not state a clear thesis in her introduction. Using tables for quantitative data such as population is also a useful tool for readers, and explains with better understanding what often gets confused in words. None of this is to suggest, however, that Origins of American Slavery is without any merit or historical use. Wood traces the development of English involvement in slavery and the slave trade in a clear and succinct way, and she also poses questions that readers do not typically encounter in general histories such as English law and the development of slave codes; religious justifications for enslavement; and how the virulent racism that people typically associate with slavery was not the sole cause of slavery, but rather the result of it, and necessary to remove any lingering moral question over the practice of human enslavement. The link between how America changed from small suffering colonies of starving Englishmen to one with a powerful pre-Civil War Southern economy driven by slaves is often missing. Wood places a link in early American transformation, also hinting toward later history through her examples of the small numbers of Englishmen dominating the economic scene through the products of slave labor, which would characterize the later Southern plantation economy. People recite that Africans were enslaved in America, but without asking the question of why they were the ones enslaved and how this came about. While Wood by no means provides a complete and thoroughly documented set of answers to her questions, she engages readers in what could be the beginning of an historical discussion that could be taken further with more research.