3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Nonfiction, RATING, Read in 2018

Review: The Madness of Mary Lincoln by Jason Emerson

The Madness of Mary Lincoln
by Jason Emerson

The Madness of Mary Lincoln

Copyright: 2007

Pages: 190

Read: Jan. 8-12, 2018

Rating: 3/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

 

Blurb: In 2005, historian Jason Emerson discovered a steamer trunk formerly owned by Robert Todd Lincoln’s lawyer and stowed in an attic for forty years. The trunk contained a rare find: twenty-five letters pertaining to Mary Todd Lincoln’s life and insanity case, letters assumed long destroyed by the Lincoln family. Mary wrote twenty of the letters herself, more than half from the insane asylum to which her son Robert had her committed, and many in the months and years after.

The Madness of Mary Lincoln is the first examination of Mary Lincoln’s mental illness based on the lost letters, and the first new interpretation of the insanity case in twenty years. This compelling story of the purported insanity of one of American’s most tragic first ladies provides new and previously unpublished materials, including the psychiatric diagnosis of Mary’s mental illness and her lost will.

Emerson charts Mary Lincoln’s mental illness throughout her life and describes how a predisposition to psychiatric illness and a life of mental and emotional trauma led to her commitment to the asylum. The first to state unequivocally that Mary Lincoln suffered from bipolar disorder, Emerson offers a psychiatric perspective on the insanity case based on consultations with psychiatrist experts.

This book reveals Abraham Lincoln’s understanding of his wife’s mental illness and the degree to which he helped keep her stable. It also traces Mary’s life after her husband’s assassination, including her severe depression and physical ailments, the harsh public criticism she endured, the Old Clothes Scandal, and the death of her son Tad.

The Madness of Mary Lincoln is the story not only of Mary, but also of Robert. It details how he dealt with his mother’s increasing irrationality and why it embarrassed his Victorian sensibilities; it explains the reasons he had his mother committed, his response to her suicide attempt, and her plot to murder him. It also shows why and how he ultimately agreed to her release from the asylum eight months early, and what their relationship was like until Mary’s death.

This historical page-turner provides readers for the first time with the lost letters that historians had been in search of for eighty years.


Review: I majored in history in college. I had a few favorite topics in American history, and the time of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s assassination was one of them. I actually wrote a paper in my History of Illinois class about Abraham and Mary’s marriage. So some of the information in this book was relatively familiar to me from my research during my college years.

It has been a long time since I really read a historical non-fiction book with a somewhat critical eye. I took a lot of notes during my reading and one thing that really stuck out to me was the author’s obvious soft spot for Robert Lincoln. Historically, Abraham and Mary’s son has not been shown in a very good light for having his mother committed to the insane asylum. Some people feel like Robert had a sane woman committed just so he could save the embarrassment she was causing to the Lincoln family. Mr. Emerson has a differing opinion, and claims that Robert was just doing his duty to his mother by protecting her.

The student of history must not make conclusions outside of historical context. This is the principal mistake made in regard to Robert Lincoln. His personality, his motivations, have never been considered in their proper Victorian attire, but when they are, and when he is given a fair standard to measure against, there can be no doubt that Robert Lincoln was an honorable man who loved his mother. [p. 155]

It is not unknown the struggles that the Lincoln family endured. Not only did Mary Lincoln have to bury 3 of her 4 children, but she was also right beside her husband when he was shot. I’m not sure anyone would be able to suffer those kinds of losses and come out completely unscathed. Everyone does handle grief differently, but any way you look at it, the losses Mary had to deal with were substantial.

In the span of ten years, the former First Lady had gone from the White House, to a boarding house, to living as a homeless wanderer, and now, to an insane asylum. [p. 71]

Anyone who has read anything on the Lincoln family should have some knowledge of what is known as the “insanity episode” that Mary suffered. I personally feel as if Abraham kept Mary somewhat sane while he was alive. He was really her crutch that kept her from spiraling out of control. When he was gone she lost that crutch and that’s when her downward spiral really came to light. Based on the evidence from his research, Mr. Emerson puts forward Bipolar Disorder as a potential diagnosis from which Mary Lincoln suffered.

Looking at Mary’s early life, one can discern early manifestations of Manic-Depressive Illness (now called Bipolar Disorder), with symptoms of depression, delusions (of persecution, poverty and various somatic ailments), hallucinations, inflated self-esteem, decreased or interrupted sleep, mood swings, and extravagant spending (monomania). [p. 5]

Overall, I felt like this was a well-written, well-researched book. I enjoyed reading it and learned quite a bit. I found it easy to read. I know that this is not what my readers usually see featured on my blog, but I am trying to expand my reading into more non-fiction.

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3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Eve Dallas, Fiction, Mini Review, R, RATING, Read in 2017, SERIES, Stephanie Plum

Mini Reviews: Ceremony in Death & Hard Eight

ceremony-in-deathTitle: Ceremony in Death
Author: J.D. Robb
Read: Feb. 9-15, 2017
Pages: 310
Source: Paperbackswap
Rating: 3/5

Thoughts:  This is the fifth book in the In Death series. I read #4 back in the beginning of 2016. I don’t remember much about it other than that I really liked it. So I was looking forward to dipping back into this series. But this one fell flat for me. It had to deal with Wiccans and witchcraft. Which if you’re a long-time follower of mine, you know that I only sparingly dabble in anything dealing with witchcraft/magic. So my personal feelings on these types of storylines definitely affected my overall opinion of the book. But I will still continue on with the series and hopefully the sixth book will be back on track to what I prefer.


hard-eightTitle: Hard Eight
Author: Janet Evanovich
Read: Feb. 16-24, 2017
Pages: 326
Source: Paperbackswap
Rating: 3/5

Thoughts:  I picked this one up because I needed something light after reading the J.D. Robb book. I read a few of these books last year until I kind of burned out when they started to all feel the same. So I was looking forward to knocking another one of these series books out of the way. Overall it wasn’t a bad book. I will say that Albert Kloughn has to be one of the funniest characters I’ve seen in a book in a while. He definitely made the book much better. But seriously …. how many times can Stephanie’s car get blown up? At this point I can’t help but think that Ms.Evanovich needs to get some new ideas for her books – it’s no longer funny when Stephanie’s car gets blown up … it just makes me roll my eyes at this point.

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, P, RATING, Read in 2016

Review: Invisible by James Patterson & David Ellis

Invisible
by James Patterson & David Ellis

Invisible

Copyright: 2014

Pages: 385

Read: Aug. 26-Aug. 30, 2016

Rating: 4/5

Source: Grandmother

 
Blurb: Everyone thinks Emma Dockery is crazy. Obsessed with finding a link between hundreds of unsolved cases – one of the death of her own sister – Emma has taken leave from her job as an FBI researcher. Now all she has are the newspaper clippings that wallpaper her bedroom, and her recurring nightmares of an all-consuming fire.

Not even Emma’s ex-boyfriend, field agent Harrison “Books” Bookman, believe her claim that these dozens of deaths across the country are connected. That is, until Emma finds a piece of evidence Books can’t ignore. More fatalities are reported by the day – and they’re all inexplicable. No motives, no murder weapon, no suspects. Could one person really be responsible for these unthinkable crimes?


Review:  James Patterson is always my go-to when I need a quick, easy read. And this one fits that bill perfectly. But this one is also extremely interesting! It sucked me in quickly. I really liked Emmy’s character. All she wanted was justice for her twin sister. I really admired her perseverance – even when everyone thought she was crazy.

This book has an ending that I never saw coming. It made the overall book that much more enjoyable. I really enjoy when books throw curve balls!

So overall this is another good James Patterson read. Fun, easy, enjoyable. Definitely recommended!

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2016, SERIES, Stephanie Plum

Review: Seven Up by Janet Evanovich

Seven Up
by Janet Evanovich

Seven Up
Copyright: 2001

Pages: 337

Read: July 15-21, 2016

Rating: 4/5

Source: Used book store

 

 

Blurb: All New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has to do is bring in semi-retired bail jumper Eddie DeChooch. For an old man he’s still got a knack for slipping out of sight – and raising hell. How else can Stephanie explain the bullet-riddled corpse in Eddie’s garden? Who else would have a clue as to why two of Stephanie’s friends suddenly vanished? For answers Stephanie has the devil to pay: her mentor, Ranger. The deal? He’ll give Stephanie all the help she needs – if she gives him everything he wants…

As if things weren’t complicated enough, Stephanie’s just discovered her Grandma Mazur’s own unmentionable alliance with Eddie. Add a series of unnerving break-ins, not to mention the bombshell revelation leveled by Stephanie’s estranged sister, and Stephanie’s ready for some good news. Unfortunately, a marriage proposal from Joe Morelli, the love of her life, isn’t quite cutting it. And now – murder, a randy paramour, a wily mobster, death threats, extortion, and a triple kidnapping aside – Stephanie’s really got the urge to run for her life…


Review: I picked this one up to fulfill a Goodreads challenge. I have read books 4-7 so far this year and for the most part have really enjoyed them. They are fun, easy reads. I’m constantly surprised by the messes Stephanie finds herself in. I love the humor in these books, it definitely lightens things up.

Overall, I throughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the eighth installment.

3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2013, SERIES, Taylor Jackson

2013.30 REVIEW – Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

Where All the Dead Lie
by J.T. Ellison

Copyright: 2011
Pages: 392
Rating: 3/5
Read: July 6 – July 12, 2013
Challenge: No challenge
Yearly count: 30
Format: Print
Source: Personal copy

Blurb: In her showdown with the murderous Pretender, a bullet taken at close range severed the connection between Taylor’s thoughts and speech. Effectively mute, there’s no telling if her voice will ever come back. Trapped in silence, she is surrounded by ghosts – of the past, of friendships and trusts lost … of a lost faith in herself and her motives that night.

When Memphis Highsmythe offers Taylor his home in the Scottish Highlands to recuperate, her fiancé can’t refuse her excitement, no matter his distrust of the man. At first, Memphis’s drafty and singularly romantic castle seems the perfect place for healing. But shortly the house itself surrounds her like a menacing presence. As Taylor’s sense of isolation and vulnerability grows, so too does her grip on reality.

Someone or something is coming after Taylor. But is she being haunted by the dead … or hunted by the living?


Review: This is a hard review for me to write. I am a huge fan of the Taylor Jackson series. But this book left me a little flat. I think my problem with it is that it is nothing like the previous Taylor books. It is completely different and at times I had to wonder what on earth Ms. Ellison was thinking at the time. It really wasn’t until the very end of the book that it felt like we got to actually see the Taylor that the readers know. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily disliked this book, because I really didn’t, but if this is the end of the Taylor Jackson series, I’m not sure that Ms. Ellison did Taylor justice.

I had a big problem with the change in setting. This series has always been set in Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve always liked that – I live about 2.5 hours from Nashville and go down there occasionally. But in this book it is set in Scotland. It felt like it was way out in left field at times too, honestly. There is no doubt that the author definitely did her research in regards to this new setting, but I think it was just too drastic of a change for my liking.

It’s hard not to like Taylor Jackson. I’ve always liked her. And I pitied her in this book, and that’s not something that I ever wanted to do. At the same time I was a little more than frustrated with her. She knew better than to go off to a foreign country with a man like Memphis! I didn’t like what that did to Baldwin … and she didn’t even seem to care at first. It wasn’t until she really got there that she realized that she hadn’t given Baldwin a fair shake in everything.

I don’t know. It’s really hard to explain my feelings on this book. Overall, I’m glad that I read it. But if this is really the last Taylor Jackson book (I don’t know that it is – I just know that Ms. Ellison has taken off with a spin-off series with Sam’s character) I feel like it could have been wrapped up better. But then again, maybe I’m just bummed because I really don’t want Taylor’s series to end. Who knows. I might add that this book could probably be read as a standalone, just because it is so different from the other books, but then you would be spoiling a lot of the storyline with Memphis in the earlier books.

Bottom line: Recommended, but probably only to die-hard fans of this series.

AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, Read in 2013, READING CHALLENGES 2013, SERIES, Taylor Jackson

2013.15 REVIEW – So Close the Hand of Death by J.T. Ellison

So Close the Hand of Death
by J.T. Ellison

Copyright: 2011
Pages: 406
Read: March 15-24, 2013
Challenge: Off the Shelf 2013
Yearly count: 15
Format: Print
Source: Personal Copy

So Close the Hand of DeathBlurb: It’s a hideous echo of a violent past. Across America, murders are being committed with all the twisted hallmarks of the Boston Strangler, the Zodiac Killer and Son of Sam. The media frenzy explodes and Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson knows instantly that The Predator is back … and he’s got helpers.

As The Pretender’s disciples perpetrate their sick homages – stretching police and the FBI dangerously thin – Taylor tries desperately to prepare for their inevitable showdown. And she must do it alone. To be close to her is to be in mortal danger, and she won’t risk losing anyone she loves. But the isolation, the self-doubt and the rising body count are taking their toll – she’s beside herself and ready to snap.

The brilliant psychopath who both adores and despises her is drawing close. Close enough to touch…


Review: I love, love, love the Taylor Jackson series. It’s one that I found a few years back and have read almost all of them – I only lack the latest one (is it the last? I just might cry if it is … but at the same time, I’ll be relieved because I kind of prefer to have some closure to series, not the huge 40+ book long-running ones).

Anyways, I must start this review with stating that if you have never read a book in the Taylor Jackson series, do not start with this one. You will be so confused. You probably won’t like Taylor’s character. You have to start from the beginning to really understand this book and who she is in this installment.

That being said, I think that this is the best book in the series that I have read. It’s so raw. It’s so eye-opening. It’s just a perfect blend of everything I love in  my mystery/thriller books.

The storyline is so fast paced in this book. It really starts off and never lets up. I was constantly turning the pages trying to figure out what was going to happen. And the end-game between Taylor and The Pretender is not at all how I expected things to happen.

And I must say that I really like the sound of the next book in this series. I don’t have a copy of it, but I’m definitely on the hunt. I think it’s going to be a very good installment. I’m interested in seeing what happens between Taylor and Baldwin … there’s a definite disconnect after the events of this book, and it will be interesting to see what happens between them.

Final Thoughts: I can’t say enough good things about this book. Or the entire series, really. So –  read this series. End of story.

5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2012, READING CHALLENGES 2012, SERIES

2012.14 REVIEW – The Wrong Man by David Ellis

The Wrong Man
by David Ellis

Copyright: 2012
Pages: 466
Rating: 5/5
Read: May 27 – June 13, 2012
Challenge: Mystery & Suspense 2012
Yearly Count: 14
Format: Print
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewer Program

Blurb: When Jason Kolarich agrees to defend a homeless Iraq War veteran accused of murdering a young paralegal, his course seems clear: to mount an insanity defense for a man suffering so badly from post-traumatic stress disorder that he has no real memory of the crime. But as Kolarich digs deeper, he realizes that, unlikely as it seems, his client is probably innocent … and the murder was no random crime, but a targeted hit. As Kolarich races to find the truth in time to save his client, he’ll find himself embroiled in a mystery involving the mob, a mysterious assassin, and a conspiracy of wealthy international terrorists with explosive plans for his city.


Review: I received this book courtesy of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program.

I have to admit that I normally resist picking up a book that is part of a series without reading the books before it in the series. This is usually a big pet peeve of mine. But I was just so thrilled at getting the opportunity to get this book I didn’t really care that it was the third in the series. And honestly, it stands relatively well on its own. There were a few places where I felt like knowing a little more background could have been helpful, but knowledge of what happened in the previous books really is not an issue with how this book reads.

All that aside, how can you go wrong when you’ve got the mob, an assassin, and terrorists involved? And the courtroom action was very interesting as well – I got a big kick out of how Jason perceives the Judge in the case and what his rulings will be. But of course I am a sucker for good courtroom action in any book.

Overall I found this book to be very interesting. The storyline was good and current. The writing and grammar were perfect (I think I saw one grammatical error, but my copy is an advanced reader copy). The characters were well-developed, as they should be for being the third in a series. And there’s a pretty big twist at the end. I had a sneaking suspicion something was a little off, but when I realized what exactly the twist was I was pleasantly surprised.

Bottom line: Definitely pick up this book if given the chance. And I look forward to meeting Jason Kolarich from the beginning sometime in the future.

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2012, READING CHALLENGES 2012, SERIES, Taylor Jackson

2012.6 REVIEW – The Immortals by J.T. Ellison

The Immortals
by J.T. Ellison

Copyright: 2010
Pages: 389
Rating: 4/5
Read: Feb. 22– Mar. 6, 2012
Challenge: Mystery & Suspense 2012; Off the Shelf 2012 Challenge
Yearly Count: 6
Format: Print
Source: Personal Copy

Blurb: It is Samhain – the Blood Harvest. Nonbelievers call it Hallowe’en. The night when eight Nashville teenagers are found dead, with occult symbols carved into their naked bodies. It’s a ritual the killers believe was blessed by Death himself.

When children are victimized, emotions always run high, and this case has the public both outraged and terrified: a dangerous combination. Recently reinstated homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson knows she has to act quickly, but tread carefully.

Exploring the baffling culture of mysticism and witchcraft, Taylor is immersed in a darkness that threatens to unbalance the order of her world, and learns how unchecked wrath can push a killer to his limits.


Review: I have enjoyed all of the Taylor Jackson books in this series so far and this installment is no exception. I had a bad feeling going into this book when I found out that there was an occult spin on the storyline. I tend to steer clear of anything with witches/vampires/werewolves, etc. It’s just not my thing. But I love Taylor’s character and was pleasantly surprised to find this one enjoyable. I guess I should say that while there was that aspect to this story, it wasn’t too overpowering for someone who tends to not care for paranormal stuff.

For whatever reason it had been a few months since I had read the previous Taylor Jackson book. I don’t know why; this book had been on my shelf since before I finished the previous book. (It’s probably because it had the occult/paranormal twist and I was putting it off). So I had a little bit of trouble recalling some things that had happened previously. But all in all I found this one to be another great installment in this series.

I need to say that while you do not have to read these books in order, it is definitely for the best that you do.

So I guess my final rating would be that it was another good installment in a favorite series!

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2011, SERIES, Taylor Jackson

2011.29 REVIEW – The Cold Room by J.T. Ellison

The Cold Room 
by J.T. Ellison

Copyright: 2010
Pages: 401
Rating: 4/5
Read: June 8 – June 14, 2011
Challenge:  No Challenge
Yearly Count: 29
Format: Print

First Line: Gavin Adler jumped when a small chime sounded on his computer.

Blurb: Homicide detective Taylor Jackson thinks she’s seen it all in Nashville – but she’s never seen anything as perverse as The Conductor. Once his victim is captured, he contains her in a glass coffin, slowly starving her to death. Only then does he give in to his attraction. Later, he creatively disposes of the body by reenacting scenes from famous paintings. Strangely, similar macabre works are being displayed in Europe. Taylor teams up with her fiance, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin, and New Scotland Yard detective James “Memphis” Highsmythe – a haunted man who has eyes only for Taylor – to put an end to The Conductor’s art collection. Has the killer gone international? Or are there dueling artists, competing to create the ultimate masterpiece.

Review: I love this series, there is just something absolutely haunting about the stories J.T. Ellison can weave. There were some new characters introduced in this installment, one of whom I really hope will continue to be an integral part – the new detective, Renn McKenzie. In this particular book there has been a lot of changes within the Nashville Metro Police Department. These changes have directly impacted Taylor Jackson’s work life, so it was very interesting to see just how Taylor would handle them as a person. I sincerely hope that Taylor and Baldwin get married sooner rather than later, because I think they’re a great couple. I’m definitely interested in seeing where they go together in future books. I would highly recommend this series to anyone who hasn’t tried it before.

AUTHOR, Book Review, E, Fiction, Read in 2011, READING CHALLENGES 2011, SERIES, Taylor Jackson

2011.2 REVIEW – Judas Kiss by J.T. Ellison

Judas Kiss
by J.T. Ellison

Copyright: 2009
Pages: 395
Rating: 4/5
Read: Jan. 5 – 14, 2011
Challenge: Mystery & Suspense Challenge; TBR Dare
Yearly Count: 2
Format: Print

First Line: Blood. It was everywhere.

Blurb: It was a murder made for TV: a trail of tiny bloody footprints. An innocent toddler playing beside her mother’s bludgeoned body. Pretty young Corinne Wolff, seven months pregnant, brutally murdered in her own home. Cameras and questions don’t usually faze Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson, but the media frenzy surrounding the Wolff case is particularly nasty … and thorough. When the seemingly model mommy is linked to an amateur porn Web site with underage actresses and unwitting players, the sharks begin to circle. The shock is magnified when an old adversary uses the sexy secret footage to implicate Taylor in a murder – an accusation that threatens her career, her reputation and her relationship. Both cases hinge on the evidence – real or manufactured – of crimes that go beyond passion, into the realm of obsessive vengeance and shocking betrayal. Just what the networks love.

Review: Okay, so it took me forever to read this book. But not because I wasn’t enjoying it! I actually really liked this book. For whatever reason, I really like Taylor Jackson as a character! She’s witty, independent, smart, and manages to balance all of that with her love life and work life. It’s amazing what kind of insight the author, J.T. Ellison, has into the psyche of the character she has created. In this particular installment, many of the cases from Taylor’s past come back into her life. It’s interesting to see how she handles it all – along with the pressure of having some really embarrassing tapes being released to the media. This book does have some adult aspects to it, so I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. (But I’m not really a good judge when it comes to offensive material because I’m not offended by much of anything.) Overall I’m really looking forward to reading more Taylor Jackson, I’m dying to know what she does with the awful Delores Norris (what a despicable woman!).

Here’s a line that made me laugh out loud when I was reading:

She was starting to get a complex; just how many serial killers could the city of Nashville have in one day?