Mourning Lincoln by Martha Hodes

Mourning LincolnMourning Lincoln by Martha Hodes

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Mourning Lincoln

The news of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 15, 1865, just days after Confederate surrender, astounded the war-weary nation. Massive crowds turned out for services and ceremonies. Countless expressions of grief and dismay were printed in newspapers and preached in sermons. Public responses to the assassination have been well chronicled, but this book is the first to delve into the personal and intimate responses of everyday people—northerners and southerners, soldiers and civilians, black people and white, men and women, rich and poor.

Through deep and thoughtful exploration of diaries, letters, and other personal writings penned during the spring and summer of 1865, Martha Hodes, one of our finest historians, captures the full range of reactions to the president’s death—far more diverse than public expressions would suggest. She tells a story of shock, glee, sorrow, anger, blame, and fear. “’Tis the saddest day in our history,” wrote a mournful man. It was “an electric shock to my soul,” wrote a woman who had escaped from slavery. “Glorious News!” a Lincoln enemy exulted. “Old Lincoln is dead, and I will kill the goddamned Negroes now,” an angry white southerner ranted. For the black soldiers of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts, it was all “too overwhelming, too lamentable, too distressing” to absorb.

There are many surprises in the story Hodes tells, not least the way in which even those utterly devastated by Lincoln’s demise easily interrupted their mourning rituals to attend to the most mundane aspects of everyday life.  There is also the unexpected and unabated virulence of Lincoln’s northern critics, and the way Confederates simultaneously celebrated Lincoln’s death and instantly—on the very day he died—cast him as a fallen friend to the defeated white South.

Hodes brings to life a key moment of national uncertainty and confusion, when competing visions of America’s future proved irreconcilable and hopes for racial justice in the aftermath of the Civil War slipped from the nation’s grasp. Hodes masterfully brings the tragedy of Lincoln’s assassination alive in human terms—terms that continue to stagger and rivet us one hundred and fifty years after the event they so strikingly describe.–From Goodreads

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truly one of the best “Lincoln Books” that I have had the pleasure of reading.

Rather than just showing the side of America (and the world at large) that felt sorrow for the loss of the sixteenth president, this author researched, learned and wrote a book that shows both sides of the after effects the death of Lincoln had.

Whilst some were angry, disbelieving and sorrowful over the new of the president’s assassination, others were jubilant, relieved or even boastful. This book defines the boundaries between the belief systems of the North and South in a way that I have seen no other book attempt.

Through a multitude of first person accounts, the author manages to paint a picture of the American public after the death of Lincoln and show the reader what was really happening in the minds and hearts of those who survived the event.

From describing the feeling of some that mourning the loss of the president was a collective effort of everyone, to the reality that it was not, the author does a brilliant job of recounting history.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who is looking for further information about Lincoln, and the period after his death. A smartly researched, intelligently written book.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Doctor Death by Lene Kaaberol

Doctor DeathDoctor Death by Lene Kaaberbøl
From the New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Boy in the Suitcase, a gripping historical thriller and poignant coming-of-age story set in nineteenth-century France.

Madeleine Karno is an ambitious young woman eager to shatter the confines of her provincial French town. Driven and strong headed, Madeleine is set apart by her unusual occupation: assisting her father, Dr. Albert Karno, in his job as a forensic doctor.

The year is 1894, and a young girl is found dead on the snowy streets of Varbourg. Dr. Karno is called in to determine the cause of her death, but before he can examine the body, the girl’s family forbids the autopsy from taking place. The only anomaly he manages to find is in the form of a mite in her nostril. Shortly after, several other dead bodies are discovered throughout the city, and Madeleine, her father, and the city commissioner must use the new science of forensic evidence to solve the mysterious cases before they all become the next victims of a deadly disease – or of a heinous murderer.–Goodreads

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. The author has given us once more a strong main character that is both intelligent and willing to get her hands dirty to get to the root of a mystery.

In the realm of early forensic science there have been quite a few recent novels, but most of them I felt were either using science too advanced for their time or not advanced enough. This book seemed to strike the right balance and also told an exciting story in the process.

The author did a good job of making her main character emotional enough that we feel her pain, and yet kept her sensible enough that she did not come off as silly and a damsel in distress.

Overall, I thought this was a great book with lots of mysteries to solve and characters that I could easily care for.

Recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Flour + Water Pasta

Flour and Water: PastaFlour and Water: Pasta by Thomas McNaughton

An elevated guide to the craft of pasta-making by rising star chef Thomas McNaughton of San Francisco’s hottest Italian restaurant, flour + water.
San Francisco’s flour + water has a devoted local following, a strong national reputation, and is well known for its specialty regional pasta varieties, all-Italian wine program, and star chef Thomas McNaughton. McNaughton is an artisan truly passionate about pasta whose inventive recipes and fresh flavor combinations–such as Corn and Crescenza Cappelletti with Bitter Honey; Spaghetti with Confit Albacore, Pole beans and Chili Flakes; and Asparagus Caramelle with Brown Butter–set “Flour + Water”apart from other pasta books. The 75 recipes are organized seasonally, and appeal to all pasta-lovers, from those who’ve never made it themselves to weekend warriors looking for their next challenge. Steeped in Italian tradition with a chef’s flair, “Flour + Water “is a must-have for all home pasta-makers.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is definitely “elevated” as they claim. Most of the ingredients in this book, other than possibly the flour and the water will not be found easily in the home cook’s basic pantry, nor will they be located at your local grocery store unless that store is a specialty foods place.

All of that aside, this is a well organised and useful book regardless. The beginning sections of the book deal with how to make a basic dough and how flour and water bind together to make pasta, so for people just starting out making their own, this is helpful information. There is also a complete section on how to cook the pasta properly.

The photos in this cook book are beautifully done and there are many of them, so if you are like I am and want to see if your product looks like the recipe says it should, this is a good book for that.

The book is arranged into seasons so you have a perfect pasta for each time of the year.

Overall I thought this was a delightful addition to my home library and would recommend it for those looking to add a little excitement to their family dishes.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

First Frost (Waverley Family #2)First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves…

It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree… and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections—rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds—are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby— a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen’s enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.–from Goodreads

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you are a fan of Sarah Addison Allen or new to her work, this book is certainly a pleasure. Encompassing all the qualities of family, magic and love that her books represent, this latest novel reminded me why I love her work so.

I truly enjoyed this novel. Bay is an amazingly realistic character with a big heart and an unlimited supply of reasons for readers to adore her. In previous novels this author has managed to wow and amaze me with her ability to write from the heart and create moments and characters so viable and tender that you feel as if you know them first hand. She has done so again with First Frost, and I was again sorry to see this book end.

The relationships in this novel are born of strong family ties, and gave me, as the reader, a sense of belonging with this family throughout their discoveries, trials and tribulations. Sisterhood, marriage and mother/daughter ties are strong in this book and it made me smile, cry a little and look forward to the next book in the Waverly series.

I strongly recommend this book if you enjoy characters that are full of life and novels that make you feel a part of things. There is no match for this author’s ability to invite her readers into her world and feel welcomed.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Deep by Nick Cutter

The DeepThe Deep by Nick Cutter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is creepy in a stuck in a lift with an unknown horror kind of way. Good, clean, claustrophobic, heart-wrenching terror!

One thing that bothers me about a lot of horror novels is that the characters don’t tend to have much poise and personality or appear to have had much of a life before the horror aspects of the story begin. This is not the case with this book, nor with the previous book I read by this author. Nick Cutter is a master at making you wonder if the things he writes about could really happen in some form or another, and he gives the reader well fleshed characters that can support a complex plot.

I think the thing that I like the most about this book is that the reader is never really sure if the horror they are experiencing is really happening, or if it is a byproduct of a psychotic cast of characters.

The terror in this novel is increased by the creepy atmosphere, the mysterious side characters and the flashbacks of a more ordinary kind of horror that all of us could potentially experience.

I have a new favourite horror author in Nick Cutter. Looking forward to what comes out of his twisted mind next.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher and Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Finding Hope by Stacy Finz

Finding Hope (Nugget, #2)Finding Hope by Stacy Finz

The small mountain town of Nugget, California, is way off the beaten path. But somehow it helps the lost and lonely find a new beginning in life—and in love…

One solitary day at a time is the only way cookbook writer Emily Mathews can restart her life—and cope with consuming loss. Still, the former city girl is finding all kinds of odd inspiration and advice from Nugget’s proudly eccentric residents on everything from new recipes to opening her heart again. Especially when it comes to her rugged rancher landlord …

His no-drama new tenant is the first break Clay McCreedy has had in a long time. He’s got his hands full enough dealing with his wife’s scandalous death and his sons’ unresolved grief. Clay can’t help but be drawn to Emily’s quiet understanding and strength. When their fragile trust turns into passionate healing, he longs for much more. And when both their pasts come calling, he’s determined not to walk away…

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For being a contemporary romance, and me having read so many of them in the last year, I was pleasantly surprised that this author managed to make this book stand out from the crowd. Stacy Finz has created a warm and realistic environment for her characters to thrive in, and has a way of making them so lovable that they creep into the recesses of your heart and stay there.

I was particularly interested in the setting for this story as I only live a few miles from many of the areas the author described in the book. Her descriptions were, for the most part, accurate and made me feel a deeper appreciation for this story, knowing first hand of the places she spoke of.

The love story is complex enough to be interesting and keep you reading and doesn’t fall into the usual cliches to much. I liked that the author allowed us to see sides of the main characters that they did not show one another until a good way into the story.

Secondary characters in this story also have interesting lives and help to balance out the main love story.

This was a great afternoon read for a cold day. I recommend it to those who like love stories with a bit more depth. This book is part of a series, but can be read alone and still make perfect sense.

I liked it!

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley.

The Child’s Past Life by Cai Jun

Child's Past Life, TheChild’s Past Life, The by Cai Jun

On a rainy June night in 1995, an unknown assailant stabs to death Shen Ming, a self-made and much-envied high school teacher. This death in the school’s haunted Demon Girl Zone is the last in a chain of events that already claimed two other victims. But the police are unable to prove any connection between the murders, and the deeper they dig, the fewer answers they find. In order to avenge his own death, Shen Ming inhabits the body of the eerily precocious boy Si Wang, whose life’s quest is to solve the mystery of Shen Ming’s murder—even if it means that others will die.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Without doubt, this book has one of the most complex plots I have ever seen in a fiction novel. In the beginning, I struggled a bit to figure out where the author was going with this story, but soon found myself enthralled and unable to put this book down. When I wasn’t actively reading it, I was thinking about it.

The concept of this story is simple, a child remembering a life that he never lived in his current form, but the plot takes multiple unexpected twists and leaves the reader hungering for answers by the time they reach the halfway mark.

This author has a way with character creation and made me feel as if these characters were people I knew and cared for. The outsider-like feel of the main character when he is reborn as a different child made me long to help him figure things out and kept me involved in the story.

I think this may be my favourite book of the year. For anyone who likes novels that keep you guessing, make you feel strongly about the ending and like solving mysteries, this is a book you should definitely read.

Excellent and worth all five stars.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.