Civil War Fangirl

The thoughts of a (slighty eccentric & crazy) Canadian who happens to be obsessed with Abraham Lincoln, General William Tecumseh Sherman & the Civil War

Archive for the tag “reading”

My Absolute Favourite Book Of 2016 Is…

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…”A Friend Of Mr. Lincoln” by Stephen Harrigan (you can find him on Twitter @stephenharrigan) . I did write about this book in an earlier post, which you can find here. I give a brief synopsis of the book in that post.

As 2016 comes to a close, I can say not only is this my favourite book that I read this year but it has become one of my favourite books ever. The writing is brilliant. The characters, both real (Lincoln and Speed) and fictional (Cage Weatherby, through whom the story is told), are well-developed, and Harrigan weaves a world in which I was pulled right into. The writing is such that the book played out in my head like a movie. I could see Lincoln and his friends playing handball as they discussed poetry. I felt like I was there at the various social events that play out in the novel. I felt the emotions the characters felt – there were moments I laughed, moments I felt frustrated and yes, moments where I was moved to tears. There was characters I absolutely loved and characters I detested but that I still enjoyed having as part of the story. In reading this book, I got absolutely lost in the world that was mid-19th century Springfield, Illinois.

I absolutely loved Mr. Harrigan’s portrayal of Lincoln. He presents such a humanizing portrayal of Lincoln. If you’re like me, you will come away feeling that you’ve come to know him just a little bit better.

The other thing that made me love this book so much is the author’s portrayal of depression – it is raw, it is relatable and it is real. Lincoln is not the only character to suffer from depression – it is quite clear that some of the other characters do too. I remember one scene in particular making me cry because I knew how the character was feeling. The way in which he described how he was feeling was exactly how I feel when I’ve been in my most depressed states.

But the main reason I recommend this book? I absolutely loved Mr. Harrigan’s portrayal of Lincoln. It is a humanizing, at times raw, portrayal of him. I saw Lincoln’s good side but I saw his bad side too. It doesn’t get much more human than that. I came away feeling that, even though this is historical fiction, I somehow have come to know Lincoln better, especially how he was in his younger days. The author gives a voice to Lincoln as well as the other characters that is relatable. It has given me a deeper respect for a man that I have loved and respected nearly all of my life. It is a book that has stayed with me and that I know I will read again. That’s why it is my favourite book of 2016.

I also want to take this time to wish everyone of my readers a very Happy New Year and all the best in 2017! Y’all are awesome and I can’t thank you enough for reading.

Love,

Mary 🙂

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Another of my favourite books from 2016 is…

…”Lincoln’s Melancholy” by Joshua Wolf Shenk.

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Y’all, I’ll be honest – I’m going to be lazy with this one and just point you over to here. That is my review I wrote of this book back in March.

But I do have some stuff to add (I’m a chatterbox just like my man Cump was…)

It still remains one of my favourite books about Lincoln. It is one I most certainly will read again. In the months since I’ve read it, I’ve recommended it to numerous people. These are not just people who love Lincoln. In fact, quite a few of them do not know much about him. The reason I recommended it though? Because we were discussing depression and I told them how much this book helped me to understand my own depression. It was the first book that really spoke to me, and as I say in my earlier review, made me feel like “hey, you’re not alone”. I tell them how inspirational the book is and that in knowing that Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression (and at a time when it was not well understood) and he managed to do all the incredible things he did. I think a few of them have ended up reading it.

In reading more about Lincoln since finishing “Lincoln’s Melancholy”, I have come to truly realize how much his depression did challenge him and fuel him as a person. When I read about him, I’m always keeping this in mind and it truly has made me see him in a different light. It’s made reading Donald’s bio of “Lincoln” that much more interesting because I read between the lines, as one would say, and will think “Hmm, that could be why he’s being that way”.

The one thing I see the most as stemming from his depression is his empathy. Lincoln had an incredible amount of empathy and I think this is one of the many things about his personality that made him so ahead of his time. The best example I can think of involves General Sherman (I know. Y’all are so not surprised by that…) and just how empathetic Lincoln was to him when Sherman had his breakdown in 1862. O’Connell states in “Fierce Patriot” (side note: if y’all haven’t read that one, you need to. I read it in 2015 hence why it’s not being mentioned as a fav of mine from 2016), his biography about General Sherman, that:

Lincoln had suffered from deep bouts of depression since early manhood (he called it the “hypo”) and it’s likely he [Lincoln] recognized a similar condition lurking behind Sherman’s excessive pessimism. He also must have known from his own experience that these bleak episodes eventually passed and so remained open to giving his fellow sufferer additional responsibility once he [Sherman] recovered.

He goes on to write that “mental illness of any sort carried a tremendous stigma in nineteenth century America, but not with Lincoln when it came to a general he instinctively liked and believed in”

Of course I have to include a photo of my two favourite men 🙂

I could go on with other examples of Lincoln’s empathy but this is one that always comes to mind. And hey, any chance to mention my two favourite men in a blog post is always awesome. #goals #historycrush #hotties

“Lincoln’s Melancholy” did make me feel like I came to know Lincoln better. It very much is a book worth reading, especially if you love Abraham Lincoln and want to know more about him. Depression was very much a part of who he was just as was his sense of humour and his empathy, both of which, I believe, stem from him having depression. I know for myself, my sense of humour has been a sort of defence mechanism against depression since I was very young.

I’ll wrap up my post there. What are y’all reading right now? Better yet, what was your favourite book of 2016? I’ll be posting tomorrow what my favourite book of 2016 was.

Until that time, have a happy Friday, y’all!!

Much love,

Mary 🙂

Favourite Books of 2016: “Soul Of A Crow” by Abbie Williams

I think I’ve mentioned on here that I am a slow reader. I also tend to have five or six books on the go at once (…because ADD. Oh, and I like variety). 2016 was not the year of reading MANY books for me. Honestly, it’s about quality and NOT quantity for me when it comes to books.

I was going to do one gigantic post about my top five books but I thought, why not do individual posts? It seems like a good way to count down to 2017. So, over the next few days, I’ll be posting about my favourite books of 2016.

So, shall we get started? Oh, and they’re all going to be Civil War related books. Would y’all expect anything less from the Civil War fangirl? I think not.

So, here go…

“Soul Of A Crow” by Abbie Williams

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This book cover is gorgeous. One of my favourites.

This is the review I wrote for this book on Good Reads. I’ve added in a few things here and there to the original review.
The story is absolutely beautiful – yes, there are heart breaking moments but at the core of it all is love. I was pulled all the way through by Abbie’s beautiful style of writing. The characters are absolutely unforgettable.

These are two of the main reasons why I love the Dove series by Abbie Williams so very much. Picking up where “Heart of a Dove” (Book 1 of the series) leaves off, “Soul Of A Crow” will draw you in immediately into the world of Lorie Blake and her travelling companions – brothers Boyd & Malcolm Carter, and Sawyer Davis. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention Sawyer’s beautiful horse, Whistler. They are making their way their to begin a new life in Minnesota after the Civil War. But along the way the past will come back to haunt them and they will face new challenges.

I’d all but given up on romance when I decided to give “Heart Of A Dove”a try – I wrote about it here and here . I was pulled in right from the start. Just like the first book, “Soul Of A Crow” the romance that is real – there is anguish, torment, heartbreaking decisions but of course, above all else, there is love. The bonds of love formed between the characters are incredible and this is another reason I love this series so much.

Abbie is a beautiful writer. She writes in such a way that I become immersed in the world she has created. I can hear the mosquitoes as the Lorie, Sawyer, Malcolm and Boyd sit by a fire, I can see the fireflies, feel the prairie grass beneath my feet. I can hear the horses and picture everything so clearly in my mind. I also feel what the characters feel – I laugh when they laugh, cry when they cry and feel the torment they go through when heart breaking decisions are made. I feel the happiness they feel of being with the ones they love.

The characters have become so familiar to me. I feel I have come to know them so well. When I wasn’t reading the book, I found myself thinking about them. I adore Lorie. She’s a beautiful, strong female character that has become one of my literary heroines. Malcolm is like a younger brother – so sweet and adorable yet mischievous and always knows how to make people laugh. Sawyer is such a beautiful soul. Oh, and then there is Boyd (with what I imagine is a sexy Tennessee accent and eyes that I could get lost in). I’ll admit I am crushing on him hard. There are also new characters introduced in this book and they are just as likeable as the characters I have mentioned.

Just like the “Heart Of A Dove”, the romance is real and not sappy. This is how romance should be. The deep love between the characters is incredible. And I love when romance starts to blossom between characters because Abbie knows how to write this so very well – the anticipation and buildup is so gripping and real. I also relate to the friendships that develop between the characters.

As a Civil War buff, I also enjoyed the story. Abbie captures the feelings of post-war America – the wounds that are still there and the conflict and prejudices the arise. There is also the personal struggle of the characters that fought in the war and it’s heart wrenching to hear some of their thoughts. But this is yet another thing that makes the story so very real and one of the best I have read in a long time.

I laughed, cried and have grown to love this series and the characters Abbie has created so very much. She writes with so much heart and soul it’s impossible not to get drawn into the world she has created. If you’ve read “Heart Of A Dove” and enjoyed it, “Soul Of A Crow” will not disappoint you. If you haven’t read the series yet, be sure to start with “Heart Of Dove”. If you love historical fiction, you will not be disappointed. Even after finishing the book, the characters are popping into my mind. I am left eagerly awaiting to read Book 3, which is titled “Grace Of  A Hawk”. It is due out in November 2017 (ahhh!! That seems so far away!!)

You can follow Abbie on Twitter or check her website. Besides being a talented writer, she’s a wonderful and sweet person.

Okay, y’all that’s all for now! Until next time (which will be tomorrow when I post about another book), hope y’all are doing awesome!

Mary

 

Cump’s Memoirs…

For those who don’t know, “Cump” is the nickname of General William Tecumseh Sherman. I make no secret of the fact, that next to Lincoln, I dearly love the man and find him an incredibly fascinating individual. He’s pretty damn handsome too. I mean, come on…

oh, hai, Cump…you handsome devil…

Okay, enough with the swooning and batting of eyelashes…

Awhile ago, I started reading Sherman’s Memoirs. Being as I have 5 books on the go AND I’m a slow reader, I’m not too far into it. Plus, the book is freaking gigantic. Cump had a lot to say and Robert L O’Connell is absolutely correct in his book”Fierce Patriot” (hands down, one of the best bios I’ve ever read) when he refers to Sherm as a chatterbox and states “if there was a contest for who spoke the most words in a lifetime, Sherman would have been a finalist…”. Slay that dragon, Cump…

oh, hey…look at that…two of my favourite men.

But the memoirs are full of good chatter. Yes, he has much to say but it’s interesting as hell. I’m enjoying it immensely. When I read it, I seem to get lost in a world where Cump is sitting with me, telling me the whole story. It’s fascinating to read. He also lets his sense of humour shine through and he’s got a certain way of saying things that I can see the meaning underneath the words. Let’s just say I’ve had a few laugh out loud moments and times where I’ve uttered “Oh, Cump…you’re cute”.There has also been many times I can picture him in a situation and imagine the mannerisms he must have employed, like eye rolling and uttering “Whatever the f$&/” under his breath when he was frustrated about something. Or maybe not under his breath. This is General Sherman after all…

Anyway, here’s some cool stuff I’ve found out so far…

He attended West Point and graduated in 1840 at the age of twenty. His best subjects were drawing, chemistry, mathematics and natural philosophy (science).He graduated sixth in a class of forty-three. His explanation as to why this happened is, to me, typical Sherman:

At the Academy I was not considered a good soldier, for at no time was I selected for any office, but remained a private throughout the whole four years. Then, as now, neatness in dress and form, with a strict conformity to the rules, were the qualifications required for office and I suppose I was found not to excel in any of these…

 

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I give you Exhibit A…messy haired Cump. Clearly not excelling in neatness yet still excelling in being handsome. Cump wins again!


He continues on about his demerit points.

My average demerits, per annum, were about one hundred and fifty, which reduced my final class standing from number four to six.

All I thought was “Damn, Cump, you knew how to have fun & you made sure you did at West Point”. Uncle Billy, as his soldiers later called him, knew how to have a good time. I’m also surprised geography wasn’t mentioned as one of his best subjects because, damn, you can tell the man was quite the geographer. The level of detail he gives in describing places in his memoirs , such as the terrain, buildings, etc. is incredible.

In the summer of 1840, he was appointed and commissioned second-lieutenant, Third Artillery. He was in Company A. He reported to Governor’s Island, New York and after that, it was off to the sunny south! Florida, specifically.

The entire Third Artillery were stationed along the Atlantic coast of Florida from St. Augustine south to Key Biscayne. His Company was stationed at Fort Pierce, Indian River.

Not the best map but you get an idea of where Cump was stationed

The fort was abandoned in 1842 (not long after Cump left) and burned down the following year. It’s now the home of Old Fort Pierce Park. Cump describes his first encounter with the fort:

We walked up the steep sand-bluff on which the fort was situated and across the parade-grounds to the officers’ quarters. These were six or seven log-houses, thatched with palmetto-leaves, built on high posts, with a porch in front facing the water. The men’s quarters were also of logs forming the two sides of rectangle, open toward the water; the intervals and flanks were closed with log stockades.

It doesn’t sound like it was a bad place to be. Plus it’s Florida (granted, Florida pre-Disney so maybe not as fun…).

Sherman was stationed there during the Second Seminole War, which lasted from 1835 to 1842. He arrived just before active operations so there was time for leisure and there was a particularly colorful character called Captain Ashlock (Sherman describes him as a “character of some note”), with whom he and other officers spent a good deal of time with:

The season was hardly yet come for active operations against the Indians, so that the officers were naturally attracted to Ashlock, who was the best fisherman I ever saw. He soon initiated us into the mysteries of shark-spearing, trolling for red-fish and taking the sheep’s-head and mullet.

They also caught green turtles so the cooks had an ample supply. They often ate turtle instead of what he describes as “poor Florida beef or the usual barreled mess-pork” (ummm…yuck).

Captain Ashlock unfortunately ended up drowning after his boat capsized while he was bringing people to shore. Sherman remarked that “strange to say, he [Ashlock] could not swim, although he had been employed on the water all his life”. Ashlock had just been married too and had brought his wife back with him. Sherman did see to it that she and her sister were taken care of, giving them his own quarters to use. The two women were eventually sent back to St. Augustine, Florida.

Sherman did not see much action while in Florida. He did seem to enjoy his time there though, remarking that while on excursions there was:

a peculiar charm, for the fragrance of the air, the abundance of game and fish, and just enough of adventure, gave to life a relish.

So, while he seemed to have enjoyed Florida, he felt it was of little value to it being a great state. If only he knew what the future held…

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Florida became something, Cump! It’s the happiest freaking place on earth!

Let’s face it. Sherman would have enjoyed the fireworks. He probably would have also enjoyed the “Pirates Of The Caribbean”. As for “It’s A Small World”, however…

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Cump not impressed after the kids make him binge ride “It’s A Small World”…

He’s internally burning “It’s A Small World”. Let’s face it…some of us secretly want that…

My question for y’all: have you read the memoirs of anyone from the Civil War? Do you have a favourite and why?

As always, thanks for reading!

Until next time,

Mary


Sources

“Memoirs”. General William Tecumseh Sherman

O’Connell, Robert L. “Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives Of William Tecumseh Sherman”. Random House: New York, 2014

This might be the cutest Lincoln book ever…

We went to the Henry Ford Museum yesterday. It was awesome. I plan on doing a post about it on here once I get my photos off my camera. For now, check out this post I did about the Lincoln chair over on another blog I’m part of called historygeekweb.

Anyway, before we went back home, I went to Barnes & Noble, the most amazing place ever (okay, not as amazing as Borders Books and Music was. Y’all remember Borders?). I managed to find what is perhaps the cutest Abraham Lincoln book ever.

Check this out:


The illustrations are cute. And the story is good. It’s a great introduction to Abraham Lincoln for a young child. As an Abraham Lincoln fanatic (and I can’t resist cute things like this), I had to get it.  I’m happy to have it as part of my book collection.

The author, Brad Meltzer, is a cool guy. He’s written other children’s books like this Lincoln one, all about various historical figures like George Washington, Jane Goodall, Rosa Parks and Amelia Earhart.

He also has a series of novels called the “Culper Ring”. I’ve read “The Fifth Assassin” and it was really good. I’m looking forward to reading the others in the series too.

This also is not my first children’s Lincoln book I’ve purchased as an adult. I’ve also got this one too:


It’s a cool story too.

Do you have any kids books that are part of your book collection? Any other kids books about Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War that you’ve come across? Please let me know in the comments.

As always, thanks for reading.

Mary

Starting the day…

This is how I’m starting the day: a wonderful book and a good cup of tea in my favourite mug.

  
It’s a grey day outside, damp and cold. I want nothing more than to stay inside, reading and drinking tea. But alas, I have to work. Such is life. I don’t start until 1 so I am going to try and use the time to get some much needed stuff done.

But I decided to take the some time for myself right off and get lost in this awesome book for even just 20 minutes. “Heart Of A Dove” written by Abbie Williams has become my “never want to put down” fiction book as of late. It’s historical fiction set just after the Civil War. It’s wonderfully written and the characters seemed to real to me from the start. I love the lead female character, Lorie. One chapter into this book and I knew it was going to be hard to put down.

I’ll be honest. This is romance and I don’t normally read romance. But I was drawn into the book because it was set post Civil War plus I love historical fiction. I LOVE THIS BOOK! It’s given me a new appreciation for romance novels because it’s so well written. It’s also the first in a series. Book 2 comes out in June and book 3 is due in 2017. I’ll say this too – I have not been eagerly awaiting the rest of the series since Harry Potter! And I’m not even done the first book! I’m also planning on reading Abbie’s other books. She’s a beautiful writer.

Once I’m done this book, I’ll be sure to give my full thoughts. For now, happy Friday. Do you have a book you’re reading today or a book for the weekend ahead?

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