February Wrap-up/ March TBR

In the month of February I read a total of 4 books. 3 of which were on my TBR for the month.


1. Why Do Catholic’s Do That by Kevin Orlin

I’ll link my full review here.

2. Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca

I did a review as part of my Ladies Guide to History

3. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas Woods

This book was one I listened to on audiobook and was a book that kept surprising me. There were so many things that I didn’t know the Catholic Church contributed to including retaining of and disbursing of information through the University system which was also a development of the church. Overall, I would recommend everyone to read this book who is looking to see what Catholicism has accomplished or even just to read a different perspective of the Medieval Age.

4. Brideshead Revisted by Evelyn Waugh

review coming soon

March TBR

1. Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser

2. Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder

3. Perfectly Yourself by Matthew Kelly

4. Howard’s End by E.M. Forester

5. Murder on Millionaires Row by Erin Lindsey

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Ladies Guide to History: Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca

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This book’s title, Mrs. Sherlock Holmes, caught my attention when I was browsing at Barnes and Noble. Originally, I thought it would be a novel about a wife of Sherlock Holmes or something like it. But rather it’s about something much more interesting. Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca is book, part true crime part biography, tells an incredible story as compelling as fiction.


Who Was She:

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes or Mrs. Grace Quackenbos Humiston decided, as a young woman, to go to law school. After graduating she went on to practice law at the People’s Law Firm. Then she went on to establish her own practice, where she defended the type of people she would spend the entirety of her career defending. These people were often poor immigrants, often illiterate or/and could not speak English fluently, or to the extent needed to understand everything going on. These people came to her as a last resort. She investigated all kinds of cases including fraud and murder. One of these cases led to her being hired by the Attorney general where she investigated peonage in the South.

Another one of her cases was the missing girl Ruth Cruger. Ruth’s parents were desperate. The police had written off the case as a girl who had run away from home (they deliberately ignored evidence that proved the contrary.) But Grace took Ruth’s parents concerns seriously. Because of her attention and the energy and resources she invested in the case she was able to solve the case. Grace’s hopes of finding Ruth alive were dashed when her detective Kron and a police officer found Ruth’s body under the basement of the man they had always suspected. The same basement the police claimed to have already searched.

Because of her success in finding Ruth Cruger when the police could not she gained the appellation of Mrs. Sherlock Holmes. Her success and notoriety led to her being hired by the New York City Police Department to investigate the cases of missing girls and other accolades. However, her success and fame did not last long after she brought to the public’s attention the allegedly 600 girls who had gotten pregnant at the newly established Camp Upton and of that number the 7 found dead. As she never released the proof she had with the press people turned against her. Her life was much quieter after that although she was still occasionally involved in other cases. She spent most of her time making sure that no more girls went missing.

My Thoughts on the Book:

As I said previously this book can be looked at two ways, as a book about the Ruth Cruger case, as well as a biography of Grace Humiston. I think it succeeds in doing both quite well. The author covers the Ruth Cruger case thoroughly discussing the angles and leads followed by the police, Ruth’s parents and Grace which all added up to police corruption as well as the misleading assumption that the girls who had gone missing must have been “bad” The author covers all sides of the story fairly and with enough detail to allow you to make your conclusions.

As a biography the author does a good job too. Although, most of the focus and emphasis is on Grace’s involvement in Ruth’s case. The author does a fairly thorough job in covering Grace’s life but, the details of her personal life, like her childhood and her marriages, were barely mentioned at all. However, her professional life was covered extensively and made it easy to see how remarkable Grace really was.

This book was incredibly engaging. I never wanted to put it down. This is a book I will recommend a lot, especially to people intimidated by nonfiction, people who are true crime fans, as well as people looking to read about remarkable women.

Grace’s fame, though fleeting, was able to make a difference and help society to see that a girl missing should be taken seriously not written off.

My Favorite Presidential Biographies (and one not so presidential biography)

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Happy Presidents Day! I thought I would celebrate today by sharing some of my favorite presidential biographies, and one not so presidential biography. I love reading presidential biographies. I think they give insight not only into the president but also into the time period. If you have any recommendations let me know.


5. Manhunt by James Swanson

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Is this considered a true biography of Lincoln? Well, probably not. Instead, it’s an account of his assassination and the attempted assassinations of other key figures of his administration. Manhunt also describes what happened to John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln’s assassin), and his co-conspirators. The story of Lincoln’s assassination, while gruesome and heartbreaking, is absolutely fascinating. This is a great book if you’re looking for a place to start reading nonfiction. If you love true crime podcasts Manhunt is definitely up your alley.

4. Grant by Jean Edward Smith

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I possibly could have replaced this biography with one of the others I’ve read. But this biography does the best job of looking at Grant’s presidency and generalship fairly. For many years the prevalent opinion of Grant was that he was a drunk and his presidency a failure, and riddled with corruption. The author gives an in-depth view of Grants presidency and found the best parts of Grant’s administration were often overlooked. His compassionate treatment of Native Americans, and his stand against the politicians and members of the Ku Klux Klan, who were terrorizing the newly freed African Americans, were only some of the things overlooked. My only problem with this book was there was only a very short chapter on the Grants’ World tour because it sounds incredibly fascinating. I actually wrote a full review I’ll link it here.

3. Hamilton by Ron Chernow

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Okay, bear with me… I do know Hamilton was never president. But as the musical… I mean book demonstrates, Hamilton had a tremendous influence on the formation of the United States. He was instrumental in getting the constitution ratified, and set many precedents while secretary of the treasury. The Constitution, with the explanations and elaboration in the Federalist Letters, describes the powers the president has. As Washington’s secretary of the treasury, Hamilton had a tremendous impact on the new United States. As an opponent of both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, this biography provides unique insight into their administrations, as well as Washington’s. “Alexander Hamilton, America sings for you.”

2. John Adams by David McCullough

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I honestly think this has to be one of the best biographies ever written. A few years ago, I made a list of the books that taught me how good nonfiction could be (link here). This book was on that list for good reason. The writing in this book is superb and John Adams’ story is so compelling, this book reads like a novel. John Adams’ story, more than many other presidents, is a story of overcoming failure and finding your own success. John Adams has to be one of the most “flawed” of the Founding Fathers or his flaws are more visible because they are written down much more often. All of this makes this book a truly remarkable read.

1. Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant by U.S. Grant

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If the award winning biography of John Adams is only second on my list what would come first? That book would actually happen to be a memoir, Grant’s memoir. Grant’s writes about the time his Father tells him he’s going to be attending West Point till the end of the Civil War. Filled with anecdotes that showcase a remarkably humanitarian Grant, and a fantastic leader. Grant’s writing is superb and often painfully real. This is demonstrated when he described how remarkably unjust he thought the Mexican American War was, and when he described the unnecessary blood spilled at Cold Harbor. Truly, this memoir is an amazing piece of nonfiction and American history.

My Favorite Bookish Romances: A 2019 Update

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Last year for Valentine’s Day I decided to list some of my favorite romances from the books I had been reading. (read it here) I still love that idea so I thought I would update that list with some of my favorite romances I’ve discovered this past year.


3. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

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I was a little hesitant about putting this book on my list because it wasn’t so much that I loved the romances that are fully fleshed out and explored in the novel but rather that I loved the relationship that you only get glimpses of. I loved the glimpses you get of the main character and her husband. I want a sequel where we can see how they go from their less than auspicious first meeting to the couple we see at the beginning and end of the novel. But this novel is definitely worth a read romance or not I just could not get it out of my head.

2. Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers

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I will remember 2018 as the year I fell in love with the Peter Wimsey series. But I digress, Strong Poison is the fifth book in the Peter Wimsey series (if you don’t count the short story bind-ups). In this novel, Peter investigates the case of a woman on trial for killing her boyfriend. Peter insists she’s innocent and must find the proof to prove it. Throughout the case and as he meets with Harriet Vane (a mystery novelist herself) Peter falls for her. This is just the first novel in the subseries of novels in the series with Harriet Vane.

1. Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

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This one should come as a surprise to no one. I absolutely loved this series. I’ll link my series review here.) A huge part of the reasons I loved it so much was the relationship between the characters: Milo and Amory. At the start of the series and at the opening of the first novel their relationship seems to be in crisis. But solving the mystery throughout the book is what brings them together. As the series continues and they solve more mysteries, they learn more about themselves and each other which brings them gradually closer together.

Book Review: Why Do Catholics Do That? by Kevin Orlin Johnson

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Lately, I’ve been trying to get more than a surface understanding of my faith. This has led me to read more about it. Mostly I’ve been reading saint biographies but I thought a more general book like Why Do Catholics Do That? by Kevin Orlin Johnson would also be helpful.

This book gives an overview of the Catholic Faith from its beginnings to why it’s practiced the way it is today. It discusses the churches history, what the actions and objects in the mass mean, what separates it from Protestantism as well as Catholic culture in the United States.

Parts of this book were fascinating and enlightening while others seemed rather dry. This book after a while really gave me the impression that it wasn’t meant to be read all at once but rather that if the reader was interested in a certain chapter they went straight to that chapter. It really came off in a lot of ways like a reference book a place to look up information rather than a book that is meant to be read and taken as a whole. That being said I will definitely keep this book on my shelf because it will be very helpful if I’m looking for information on a particular subject.

As I stated previously there was a lot of hit or miss chapters in this book. Which probably could be account for by the “hit” chapters were on subjects I am currently interested in while the “miss” chapters were ones I haven’t found an interest in yet. I particularly liked the chapters on the Marian Appearances and the Miraculous Medal.

I was, however, extremely disappointed in the chapter on music in the church. As he states: But as a matter of fact, the church sees music as her ‘treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art.” He is quoting from The Second Vatican Council. But for something so important (yes, I’m totally biased as a musician lol) this chapter really lacks cohesion he jumps from subject to subject without giving the reader a clear understanding of the topic. At times it becomes clear he lacks an understanding of the practical aspect of music or performance. Perhaps he tried to cover an immense subject in a very small chapter of 7 pages.

Who would I recommend this book to? Someone who already has an understanding of the Church. Someone who has little knowledge of the church would find parts of this book confusing as the author assumes the reader is familiar with the mass and other aspects of the church. But for someone who wants to build on their knowledge of Catholicism, this book would definitely be worth a read.

This is a good book for me to have around as it could be very useful if I wanted to learn more about a subject covered in the book. I’m glad I read it since I learned a lot of useful information that will bring meaning into things I rarely gave much thought to before.

My Top Three Classics

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I recently posted some of my reading goals for 2019 (link here) and one of my goals was to read 12 classics this year. So in honor of that goal I thought I would share a few of my favorite classics.


3. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

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The first time I read a Room of One’s Own I was absolutely mesmerized. Virginia Woolf cuts straight to the truth of why there aren’t as many women writers or why their writing isn’t as prolific. Her words are as relevant today as they were when she was writing. Her thoughts are articulated so clearly through her story of Shakespeare’s imaginary sister. I would recommend this book to everybody.

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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Last year for Halloween I reread Frankenstein and it was really then that it connected with me and I realized how much I loved it. Frankenstein is a powerful novel about creation. About how human may not be the best of creators. It’s about how science should be practiced thoughtfully and morally. I think a great tagline for this novel would be: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. This tiny novel is jammed packed with themes that will keep you thinking long after you’ve finished the book.

1. Persuasion by Jane Austen

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I could have filled every space on this list with a Jane Austen novel (in fact it would have been a longer list) but that would probably be more than a little boring so I decided not to. But any Jane Austen novel could really fill this space they are all fantastic and worth a read but I picked Persuasion. I picked Persuasion not because it was the first Jane Austen I read or because it is my favorite. (I don’t think I could pick a favorite). But this book is the book that made me fall in love with Jane Austen’s writing. I particularly love the heroine Anne who is such a beautiful character and the love letter, swoon. This book, one of Jane’s shorter works, is the one that I recommend people start with. It’s just that good.

So those are my favorite classics, well, so far. What are yours?

February 2019 TBR

 
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I can’t believe January went by so fast and it’s now February. For me, January wasn’t the best reading month. So here’s hoping February will be better. Over the past year, I’ve found TBRs help to hold myself accountable. Rather, they relieve the stress of figuring out what to read next. So without further ado here is my February TBR.

1. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

  •  This is part of my goal, reading 12 classics this year.

2. Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca

3. Why Do Catholics Do That by Kevin Orlin Johnson

4. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

  •  This will be a reread but I was definitely inspired when I found out there is going to be a Tolkien Biopic

5. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley