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compelling story of the purported insanity of one of American’s most tragic first ladies provides new and previously unpublished materials, including the psychiatric diagnosis of Mary’s mental illness and her lost will.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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3.5/5, AUTHOR, Author Debut, Book Review, Fiction, L, RATING, Read in 2018, Review Book

Review: Academic Affairs by Peter Likins

Academic Affairs
by Peter Likins

Academic Affairs

Copyright: 2017

Pages: 150

Read: Jan. 5-9, 2018

Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Publicist for review

Blurb: “Jerry, you can’t do this, you can’t!” – Beaufort Prendergast, president of Chickamin Christian College, had gasped these words just before dropping dead of an apparent heart attack outside the office door of Executive Dean for Academic Affairs Jeremy Pilkington just a day before Pilkington himself was murdered in that office.  The murder weapon?  A poisoned apple brought to him by the pretty young college girl he had been tutoring, Mary Belle.  There¹d been whispers of an affair.  But wasn’t she too obvious a suspect?

 So it seemed to the small town’s sheriff, Jake Muffet.  Along with his son and daughter, Muffet comprised the entire law enforcement authority of the sleepy Alabama town of Sparta in the 1930s and now, for the first time in his tenure, there was a murder to solve.  Or maybe two murders if President Prendergast’s death was connected to Pilkington’s.

 At first the investigation looks simple:  Just follow the apple.  Whoever touched it before it reached Pilkington could have laced it with the strychnine.  But as Sheriff Muffet and aspiring young journalist Katy O¹Halleran interview the short list of suspects, a more complicated and far darker picture emerges – a tale of sex, power and blackmail lying just underneath the veneer of Southern respectability.


Review: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions stated are my own.

I was excited to read this one. The blurb immediately caught my eye. A fun little cozy mystery set in the south in the 1930s. I figured it would be a quick and enjoyable read.

My one and only complaint is that I’m not sure I liked how the same story was told by three differing viewpoints. I mean, it worked … but it felt a bit unnecessary. I’m okay with two viewpoints, but it was that third one that really threw me for a loop. I had a little trouble keeping everyone straight at the beginning.

Overall, a pretty good book. A quick read that held my interest well enough. The characters were all portrayed appropriately for the setting. The writing itself was good. The plot was original. This probably isn’t a book I ever would have picked up on my own, but it was still a good read. Definitely recommended!

5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2018, S

Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls
by Riley Sager

Final Girls

Copyright: 2017

Pages: 339

Read: Jan. 4-8, 2018

Rating: 5/5

Source: Book of the Month

 

 

Blurb: Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie-scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to – a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls: Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now Quincy is doing well – maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-finance, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam has sought her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.


Review: This was my second read of 2018 and my first 5 star rating! I mean I could gush on and on about this book! It was THAT good!

So basically you’ve got Quincy who acts like she has her act together after surviving a terrible incident which saw her best friends murdered before her eyes. She’s labeled a “Final Girl”. She’s effectively blocked it completely out of her mind and “thinks” she’s moved past it. But can one really move past something like that?! When Sam, another “Final Girl” randomly shows up on her doorstep, things start to spiral for Quincy. She’s not nearly as perfect as she wants everyone to believe. And then she begins remembering what happened that night many years ago …. Maybe some things are better left unremembered ….

I don’t want to give any more plot details about it without getting into spoilers. But really, this book caught me from the very first page and I was absolutely hooked until I finished it. And that ending …. well! It’s a crazy ending that I was not prepared for! I’m so glad that I picked this one up. It had been on my shelf since July when it was my BOTM pick. And when I saw that Samantha had really enjoyed it, I knew I had to pick it up sooner rather than later. I haven’t been caught up in a book like I was with this one in a very long time, so I really enjoyed my time with it.

I know this one has been marketed as a horror novel. I’m not sure I’m entirely on board with that classification. It definitely has a horror movie feel. But I personally think it’s more in the psychological thriller genre than horror. Maybe that’s just because I tend to correlate horror novels with scary books and this was more intense suspense than scary.

And can I just say that I really hope this book is made into a movie ASAP! I know I read online that the rights have been purchased, but I haven’t seen any more information than that. But I know this one will make an awesome movie! And I don’t usually feel that way about book to movie adaptations.

Anyway … I can only give you one solid piece of advice ….. read this book!!

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, P, RATING, Read in 2018, SERIES, Women's Murder Club

Review: 14th Deadly Sin by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

14th Deadly Sin
by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

14th Deadly Sin

Copyright: 2014

Pages: 304

Read: Dec. 29, 2017 – Jan. 2, 2018

Rating: 4/5

Source: Grandmother

 

 

Blurb: With a beautiful baby daughter and a devoted husband, Detective Lindsay Boxer can safely say that her life has never been better. In fact, things seem to be going well for all the members of the Women’s Murder Club (for a change). But a birthday celebration for medical examiner Claire Washburn gets cut short when Lindsay is called to a gruesome crime scene, where a woman has been murdered in broad daylight. Then video footage of another crime surfaces, so horrific that it shakes the city to its core. Wearing SFPD jackets, their faces obscured by masks, the cold-blooded criminals on tape could be anyone – and all of Lindsay’s coworkers are suspects. As pubic fear and anger grow, Lindsay and her friends must risk their lives in the name of justice – before it’s too late.


Review: This was my first finished book of 2018. It was a quick read that I took on my vacation and read mainly on the airplane rides (and during the 4 hour delay ::eyeroll::)

I can always rely on James Patterson for an enjoyable and easy read. This one was no exception. The two storylines were both fun to “work the case” with Lindsay and company. The character development was good – Joe is trying to figure out where he’s going next after losing his job, Yuki leaves the DA’s office and takes a new job, Cindy has written a book and is doing the publicity for that. I just love series books because you get to know all these great characters!

As usual, I would recommend starting this series from the beginning, but at the same time it would probably stand well on its own if need be. This one was just a good, easy read … definitely “brain candy” for me. And I look forward to the 15th in the series.