What I’ve Been Reading…
“Manhunt” by James L. Swanson
This is the first detailed account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the ensuing manhunt for John Wilkes Booth which I’ve read. It is a thrilling and captivating narrative that I was pulled into within the first few pages and it kept pulling me through all the way to the end.
The book reads like a thriller. It is evident that the author did a great deal of research as the book is richly detailed. Never once though did I feel overwhelmed by the amount of detail; I only wanted to keep reading and I found it very hard to put down! Often, I found myself thinking “read just one more chapter!” and of course I’d end up reading more than that.
All the people in the book become “characters” in the story and I found that at the end I had what I can only liken to as favourite characters, in that I want to learn more about them. Most notably of these are two of the females in the story – Asia Booth Clarke (John Wilkes Booth older sister) and Mary Surratt (accused of of being involved in the conspiracy and found guilty. She was executed for her involvement and this is something that has become controversial and I want to read more about it).
For myself, I felt I came to have a better understanding of the assassination, those involved or connected to it and the places that are now made famous because they were where Booth went after fleeing from Washington D.C. If you want to learn more about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, this book is a great place to start.
“Heart Of A Dove” by Abbie Williams
I posted about this book earlier when I was about midway through. I finished it last month and figure it’s high time I finally said a bit more about this book which has become one of I would take to a desert island with me. I was drawn in after reading the first few pages and knew immediately that it would be damn near impossible for me to put this book down!
It is a beautifully written historical fiction romance set a few years after the Civil War. It is the story of Lorie Blake, orphaned after the Civil War and sold into prostitution. She ends up being rescued by three men and she flees north with them. Along their journey, they encounter danger, twists, turns, unbearable decisions and of course, love.
The book made me laugh and cry. The suspense in the book made my heart race and I came to fear the villains as much as the characters themselves do. The ending made me cry. And the build up of romance and love between a couple of the characters? I loved it. It’s some of the best I’ve ever read.
Speaking of the characters, I became quite attached to a few of them. Abbie writes in such a way that I felt as though I came to know all the characters so well. They are unforgettable and when I wasn’t the reading the book, I found myself thinking about the characters – what they they might have looked like, how they would have sounded, their mannerisms.
Lorie is a beautiful, strong female and has become one of my literary heroines. I want to be friends with her. Malcolm, a 12 year old boy, made me laugh so much (all I’m going to say here is “hoop snakes”. Read the book and you’ll know what I’m talking about). I quickly developed a crush on two of the male characters – Angus and Boyd. Especially Boyd, with what I imagine to be a sexy Tennessee accent and a kind of rugged look. I haven’t crushed this hard on a character since Sirius Black. Oh, and of course there is Sawyer. I can’t forget to mention Sawyer. I’m not going to say much more – you’ll just have to read the book to get to know these characters more. I’m sure you’ll see why I’ve grown to love them so much.
I swore off romance after reading some really not-so-great romance. If you’ve sworn off romance, I recommend reading this book. This is real romance – not sappy or unrealistic. Abbie has given me a new appreciation for the genre and I am very much looking forward to reading her other books.
Also, the sequel to “Heart Of A Dove, titled “Soul Of A Crow” is due out in June. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy. Let’s just say I’ve finished it, enjoyed it just as much (if not a little bit more than this one) and I’m very much looking forward to getting a review posted soon. The third book is due out in 2017 (which is going to feel like forever!). I haven’t been this excited about a book series since Harry Potter.
And here’s a shout out to Abbie – thanks for being an awesome author! She’s on Twitter, so be sure to follow her – @WilliamsAbbie77. If you’re a writer, her blog is also a great resource.
“A Friend Of Mr. Lincoln” by Stephen Harrigan
This is a story of Abraham Lincoln in his early years in Springfield in the 1830s & 40s. The story is told through the eyes of Cage Weatherby, a fictional poet, who becomes friends with Lincoln after they meet during the Black Hawk War. He comes to be in Lincoln’s close circle of friends in Springfield, along with faces that those of us who have studied Lincoln have come to know – Joshua Speed, John Stuart and a few others.
Cage is witness to key events in Lincoln’s life, including some of his early political speeches and debates, his courtship with Mary Owens, his life on the circuit, his early career as a lawyer, the almost duel with James Shields in 1842, and of course, his courtship with Mary Todd. This is something I should mention too – while I did not find fault with the way Mary is portrayed, there are some that might. She is certainly not the nicest person at times and is sometimes portrayed downright nasty and malicious.
The story is well told and the narrative pulled me through from start to finish. The descriptions are richly detailed to the point where the book played out just like a movie in my head. I could see all the characters, their movements and mannerisms just as the author describes them.
I enjoy books more when I feel I get to know the characters well and it was certainly the case with this one. Of course my favourite character was Lincoln (well, duh…how could my main history crush NOT be my favourite character?) but I felt I came to know Cage quite well and grew to be quite fond of him. He’s become one of my favourite literary characters. I also liked the character of Ellie, a fiercely independent woman. As for his portrayal of Lincoln, I loved it. He was brought to life for me – the way he spoke, his mannerisms, his sense of humour and his struggle with depression, are all captured in a way that I feel was certainly very close to how Abraham Lincoln probably was. I came away feeling like I know Lincoln a little bit better than I did before. I laughed out loud at many of the stories Lincoln tells in the book and was moved to tears when he goes through some very deep periods of depression. As someone who struggles with depression, I related to exactly how the author portrays it.
This is one of the best historical fiction books I’ve read about Abraham Lincoln (the other one I loved reading was “I Am Abraham” by Jerome Charyn, which I posted about here). My only complaint about the book is that it seemed to end very abruptly. I wanted to know more about Cage, in the latter years of the Civil War.
I definitely recommend reading this book. It is one I know I will read again. It’s another desert island book for me.
Here are the books I’ve got on the go now:
“Rebel Yell” by S.C. Gwynne (yes, I’ve had this one on the go for awhile. I’m a slow reader since I always have four or five books on the go).
“Grant & Sherman: The Friendship That Won The Civil War” by Charles Bracelen Flood
“Palatine” by L.J. Trafford
“Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth” by Terry Alford
Let me know what you’re reading! Or what have you read lately that you really enjoy? I always love book recommendations, too.
Thanks, as always, for reading!