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.

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.

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

My Sunshine AwayMy Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh
It was the summer everything changed.…

My Sunshine Away unfolds in a Baton Rouge neighborhood best known for cookouts on sweltering summer afternoons, cauldrons of spicy crawfish, and passionate football fandom. But in the summer of 1989, when fifteen-year-old Lindy Simpson—free spirit, track star, and belle of the block—experiences a horrible crime late one evening near her home, it becomes apparent that this idyllic stretch of Southern suburbia has a dark side, too.

In My Sunshine Away, M.O. Walsh brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love. Acutely wise and deeply honest, it is an astonishing and page-turning debut about the meaning of family, the power of memory, and our ability to forgive.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a book to read on the way through Baton Rouge! Incidentally I was reading this book on the way to NOLA, so it was very appropriate.

I honestly can’t think of a single negative thing to say about this novel. It starts out raising the curiosity of the reader and keeps that pace and momentum going until the very end.

This book deals with a very serious issue, rape, but also with what it is like to come of age in a typical American neighbourhood. The trials and tribulations of an adolescent boy’s life are laid out plainly and truthfully on these pages, but in such a way that even a person never having been in the same situation can understand and appreciate.

The descriptions that M.O. Walsh uses in his writing are more than adequate, they transform a page full of words into a hot Louisiana night, where you can smell the air and see the happenings of the neighbours.

I was impressed with the way he chose to end this book as well. Since the story was built mostly around one important event, I half expected it to end the way most authors would have chosen to take it. This was different. Well thought out and unexpected, the climax of this story did the rest of the book justice.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Tasteful, exciting, fresh writing from an author I hope to see much more from.

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

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely PostmanThe Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault
A beautifully tragic and thought-provoking tale that perfectly reflects the elegance and style of Murakami and the skill and plotting of Julian Barnes

Bilodo lives a solitary daily life, routinely completing his postal rounds every day and returning to his empty Montreal apartment. But he has found a way to break the cycle—Bilodo has taken to stealing people’s mail, steaming open the envelopes, and reading the letters inside. And so it is he comes across Ségolène’s letters. She is corresponding with Gaston, a master poet, and their letters are each composed of only three lines. They are writing each other haikus. The simplicity and elegance of their poems move Bilado and he begins to fall in love with her. But one day, out on his round, he witnesses a terrible and tragic accident. Just as Gaston is walking up to the post-box to mail his next haiku to Ségolène, he is hit by a car and dies on the side of the road. And so Bilodo makes an extraordinary decision—he will impersonate Gaston and continue to write to Ségolène under this guise. But how long can the deception continue for? Denis Thériault weaves a passionate and elegant tale, comic and tragic with a love story at its heart.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve got mixed emotions about this book. I would certainly call it more experimental than mainstream, and yet there is a certain brilliance in the way the author made this book less about character development and more about the art of Haiku. It is almost like the poetry replaces the main character in much of the book.

This is a strange book. The reader never really gets to know a lot about the main character, but you get the sense that loneliness controls his every thought and action. The author did a good job of portraying what it is like to be an extreme introvert and I liked the relationship the character built with someone he had never met–even if the way he did it was somewhat creepy.

This novella has a few different interesting themes and the author explores the human heart, mind and decision making abilities of his main character well.

Overall, I thought this was worth the time to read. If nothing else, it will make you think.

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.

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.

Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution

Sleepy Hollow: Children of the RevolutionSleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution by Keith R.A. DeCandido

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Whilst I enjoyed the interaction between Crane and Abby just as I do in the television series, this book really didn’t do the excitement and adventure of the series justice, in my opinion. Rarely do I see a novelisation that I feel is as good as the original thing that it was based on, but I will give this credit–it wasn’t horrible as many of them are.

The story itself was interesting and for any author to be able to come into something that already exists and give it a new lease, especially one that makes sense and stays in keeping with the personality of the characters is quite impressive.

This book has the same type of humour and good-natured sarcasm as the show does, and it was easy to see the personalities of favourite characters shining in these pages. What I didn’t love, was the story itself. For a book of standard length, there just wasn’t enough excitement for me. The use of fictional as well as historical elements was interesting, but there were just times I felt this book was lagging. Had this been a TV episode that was over in an hour–maybe, but for a book–not so much.

I didn’t think it was terrible, but it wasn’t as intriguing as the show.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the blogging for books program, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All opinions are my own.