Write About it Wednesday: Serial Killers, Henry Lee Lucas

“I was bitter at the world. I hated everything. There wasn’t nothin’ I liked. I was bitter as bitter could be.”

Disclaimer: Violent crime content.

It is no secret that I love crime. Crime novels, crime podcasts, past crimes and all the in between. I found a copy of Serial Killers by Joel Norris at my local book sale. One dollar to read about the nature, personal statements and unifying patters of a serial killer? Sold! I’m covering this book in small increments because it is loaded with information. Although some of it is outdated, it allows me the foundation for branching out on my own for further research. I had not heard of Henry Lee Lucas before this book. One completely creepy fact before I dive in: We share the same birthday. I didn’t even realize until I was reviewing the text again to write this review…but whoa. Isn’t it weird when you share the same birthday with someone or is it just me? It peaked my interest in his case even more.

Henry Lee Lucas was starved, beaten, forced to watch his mother have sex, even forced to wear girls’ clothing for his mother’s amusement. He watched his mother shoot one of her clients with a shotgun while blood splattered on him. His mother would kill or break anything he liked, just for the sake of taking his happiness away. Her abuse went so far as beating him over the head with a 2 x 4 piece of wood so hard that he laid in a semi-conscious state for over 3 days. The brain damage would later be linked to his lack of control over his violent behavior and ability to manage emotions. He finally killed her. He was sentenced to prison for the murder but was later released.

Lucas claims he committed his first murder, a 17-year-old female, when he was just 15 years old. He had sex with animals, sex with his half-brother and later married his 12-year-old cousin. Beth was originally raised as his “daughter” but the two claimed to be common law married up until her death by Lucas. In a heated argument about her desire to return home, he stabbed her in the chest and then cut her into pieces in Montague County, TX. Although he ended up confessing to 100s of murders along Interstate 35, his only other known kill was Granny Rich who was the only person close to him remaining. Many of his claims turned out to be false, but investigators had to rely on the information they had.

This book does an excellent job of listing out the many reasons behind his behavior. He was unable to cope with negative stimulus and was prone to blackouts. The propensity for violence was there at an early age, and given the constant abuse from his mother, only intensified. He noted that he only committed murder after drinking large amounts of alcohol. That mixed with his brain injuries led to little to no control over his emotions. He did not feel any remorse until he was acclimated to the prison system where his diet, routine and personality development could be nurtured.

How does this type of abuse go unnoticed? How do brain injuries go untreated or acknowledged? I found this case to be interesting for two reasons, a) the amount of research performed on his body, diet, etc. and how it related to his crimes and b) his outright confession to so many murders. We may never know how many he truly committed but that is only half of the story. 

What is everyone reading this month? Any spooky Halloween recommendations? I’d love to hear from you!

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Book Review Saturday: Love & Gelato

“Once I read that last entry, it was over. I’d never hear anything new from her again.”

Often, I forget how nice it is to step away from all my heavy reading and just enjoy a young adult novel. I can wrap up in a blanket, brew a cup of coffee and become completely lost in a story for hours. I was hoping to make a trip to meet with Jenna Evans Welch but due to a flat tire (why must I be an adult?), that trip was postponed. As fate would have it, I already finished the book and was packed and ready to go. Luckily, this book was just what I needed to kickstart my month of long October reads and I am planning new book trips for the upcoming year.

Love & Gelato starts off with Lina finding out about her mother’s illness. When she passes away, she requests that Lina travel to Italy to stay with an old friend, Howard. Her mother has sent a journal from her time spent in Italy to the cemetery where Howard lives. Lina becomes immersed in her journey and wishes to experience Italy in the same way as her mother once did. She quickly makes friends and even finds herself falling in love. The story bounces back and forth between Lina and her mother, but in an almost flawless way. The dual experience allows Lina to understand her mother and why she made certain life choices. I think this is a topic that is missed in most literature. The element of generations perception of one another. Most of us believe we “know” our parents, but do we really? Do we take the time to ask them questions and understand who they are? I long for my own journal from my mother so that I could share her experiences. It’s a missed opportunity for so many of us.

After reading this I need to a) try gelato and b) visit Italy…the author managed to describe both in wonderful detail and now it’s a must. The story has some secrets that come to light that will hold your attention, and who doesn’t love a good teen romance unfolding? Any of my fellow book lovers that have traveled to Italy, what is your favorite part? Are there secret bakeries scattered around cities with the good desserts? If so, I need to visit ALL of them. Happy Reading!

Write About it Wednesday: Reading Goals


I celebrated an important milestone today: meeting my Goodreads reading challenge. I have read 65 books this year and its only September! I know it may sound like a low number to most fellow book lovers but this is a huge accomplishment for me. Taking time for myself has been a priority this year and reading time is at the forefront. I no longer feel that I’m letting anyone down by taking this time for me. Books are not only entertainment, but they allow me to learn and grow as a person. I have tackled many subjects that I had been longing to research and I’ve grown as a writer. I have been working my way through the Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell, tackling a few classics including War and Peace, finding new historical fiction authors and even read my first James Patterson. I spent a whole month researching the Underground Railroad, reading several books on the subject: fiction and nonfiction. I read new young adult authors at the suggestions of my students and ventured back into the world of Twilight. It has been a wonderful year already and I’m excited to see how many more I can manage to read before January.

What are your reading goals this year? Are you on track to meet them?

Write About it Wednesday: The Mystery Queen

“Grant a great age to Queen Nefertiti, long years may she keep the hand of the King.”

Have you ever made it to the last page of a book and wondered what you just read? It is no secret that my reading list is a mile long and therefore my reading time is precious to me. I am curious by nature and walk the nonfiction aisles of my library with a purpose. I have things that I want to know and my hope is the books that I choose will feed that curiosity. I make stacks and lists of topics and try to tackle them in a semi-organized fashion (let’s be honest though, the stacks and lists are so long I may never get to them all).

I decided to start on Egyptian history and found a short biography of Nefertiti. I own a copy of Michelle Moran’s Nefertiti but haven’t found the time to start it yet. It’s buried between A Guide to Serial Killers, a pictorial history of Hurricane Katrina and a biography of Andrew Jackson. (My reading knows few limits.) I thought the biography would be a great introduction but it was a major disappointment. Although the book is titled for the Queen, much of the time is spent reading about her husband. I should have thrown the red flag when I read the author’s note that the story would be told from Nefertiti’s point of view in current time. The short version:

Nefertiti came from a family who was close to the King and Queen, so she was destined to marry the prince. They marry at 15 and 16 and have children. The prince who is now King decides that there is only one god, the sun itself. He wants everyone to believe this and angers his people. Bad luck comes knocking and everyone dies.

Does that answer all your questions? Mine either. I know that I signed up for a short biography but I think there might be more to the story… How do you select your nonfiction titles? Do you read reviews prior to selecting? If you have any Egyptian books to recommend, please reach out so I can add them to my list!

Book Review Saturday: The Address

“It’s a monstrosity in the middle of nowhere. No good families would dream of living here, I tell you. Can only imagine what sort will end up inside.”

I am fascinated by the history of New York City. I have never been to the city myself and daydream of the streets existing as they did many years ago. It will be a big shock once I realize the city doesn’t exist in black and white and the people do not walk around dressed in cocktail dresses drinking whiskey out of glasses and smoking long cigarettes. I have to admit that might be why I’m prolonging my visit. I can keep the dream of New York alive without accepting the reality that modern times have wreaked havoc on my perfect picture. Fiona Davis attempts to bring her readers back in time to the popular homes of New York by blending the past and the present in a mixture of fiction and reality. I recently read The Dollhouse which took place at the Barbizon Hotel for Women in New York, and then picked up the Address which occurs in The Dakota. I had never heard of either and found a great deal of research on the history and architecture of the buildings.

From the very beginning the parallels to The Dollhouse are evident. I think I read the two novels too close together for my taste. I crave originality and this fell flat. This book alternates between the 1880s and the 1980s following two characters whose lives intersect, which is also the story line for The Dollhouse. Sara is whisked off to New York City by an offer she can’t refuse. She is to take over the management of The Dakota as a result of saving the architect’s daughter at a hotel in London. She begins an affair with the architect (Mr. Camden), is charged with theft and sent to an asylum, is rescued by a reporter and then returns to him and an apartment at The Dakota. Bailey is the secondary main character who is fighting an alcohol addiction and seems to have no options remaining. Her cousin allows her to live in her apartment at The Dakota while she oversees renovations and gets back on her feet. Bailey uncovers trunks of family heirlooms and begins to piece together the history of Sara and Theodore Camden. She believes she is related and must deal with the possibility of becoming part of a family while sacrificing her relationship with her cousin. The story concludes by revealing the truth behind the murder of Mr. Camden and revealing the true identity of Bailey. There is a slight twist involved, but nothing to make you gasp or get excited about.

I wish I could rank this book higher. I will say that reading her books so close together definitely weighed in on my review. I was more interested in the side stories than Bailey and Sara. Sara’s time in the asylum sparked some new research for me and added a few new books to the “TBR pile.” I was hoping to finish this book before its release but it took me almost a month to power through because I wasn’t interested enough to keep turning the pages. If you like to read about the history of New York then you will enjoy this one, but make sure to read the Author’s Note at the end for the minor changes to the historical accuracy.

What are your favorite books about New York? I’d love to add to my reading list!

Book Review Saturday: Cinders & Sapphires

“Looking up into the depth of the night and the countless stars, she felt somehow as if she were standing on the brink of a precipice, and that if she had the courage to step forward, she might find that she could fly.”

This book is definitely marketed for the Downton Abbey fan club that needs something to console them for their loss. I wanted so badly to love it, but the story line has been done before. These upstairs, downstairs books are supposed to leave us daydreaming of tea time and fighting for women’s independence. I just felt that I’d been there, done that.

Ada is expected to marry someone that will ensure her family’s fortune and keep her in luxury. She has other plans that include attending Oxford University and learning to support herself. On a return trip from India due to her father’s disgrace of his position (there is much talk and gossip as to what actually occurred), Ada meets Ravi and their kiss seems to open up a world of new possibilities for her. Act One occurs in Somerton where the family is returning home. Her father is quickly married to secure the estate from financial ruin. Ada longs to see Ravi and rejects a marriage proposal from an acceptable suitor because of her mixed emotions. Act Two moves us to London where Ada’s stepmother is determined to get invitations from all the right people to secure marriages for her own daughter and Ada. Ada convinces her father to allow her to attend a political dinner party by faking interest in Lord Fintan, who she shares many meaningful conversations with, to see Ravi again. This ends in an argument as Ravi believes her flirting to be true feelings. They part ways only to be brought back together as Ada returns to Somerset. Ravi is offered a position to act as a go between for the British and Indian Congress and although he wants to marry Ada he knows it isn’t the best path for her. Act Three shares yet another marriage proposal for Ada from Lord Fintan who will allow her to attend Oxford once they are engaged. There are several side stories caring on alongside Ada, my favorite being her ladies maid Rose. Rose was promoted from a downstairs maid to waiting on Ada. She is a wonderful piano player and writes her own music. Her story follows alongside with her struggle to want more and see her compositions on stage. She ties in the elements of the downstairs while assisting Ada with passing letters between her and Ravi.

The whole thing reads as more of a fairy tale than real life. First off, three marriage proposals just doesn’t read well to me. I know they help tie the story together but it felt like something else should be happening. It was expected and therefore disappointing as a reader. Second, I feel that the relationship between Sebastian and Oliver is forced. If you want to throw in a relationship between two men then it shouldn’t feel like the exact relationship in every other story line. Man loves man, man is blackmailed by man, and new man stands up against blackmailer. It has been done too many times. Lastly, there is SO much love in this story. Everyone is in love with someone. Can someone just be content with themselves? I needed a love break once it ended. I will say that I was intrigued with the insight into the British occupation of India. This has always been one of my favorite research topics and this element alone kept me reading. Overall it wasn’t a waste of time, but I don’t have a desire to continue the series. 

Who shares my love for Downton Abbey? Do you have any books that have helped fill the void? I’d love to hear from you!

Write About it Wednesday: Winifred Bodkin and New York’s Most Unusual Address

“It’s a grand old building. In the old days, this building was New York.”

Life at the Dakota by Stephen Birmingham is a lovely guide to New York’s Most Unusual Address: The Dakota. I had never heard of this building until receiving a copy of The Address by Fiona Davis. Architecture and building design fascinate me. I think the buildings themselves embody history and allow us insight into life in a previous time. There have been so many celebrities, guests, and workers in and out of this building that if only the old saying were true, “if walls could talk…”

I chose to focus on Winifred Bodkin in my research. She came to the Dakota in 1930 not long after her arrival in America. She started as an elevator girl and promoted to the front desk where she remained for the rest of her working years. She was loyal to the Dakota far beyond a regular employee. During the strike of 1976, she chose not to participate (the only worker to do so) and continued her regular duties. She packed her bag the night before so she would not have to cross the picket line but would still be available to the occupants. I thought it was very interesting that during this strike, all of the occupants chipped in and compared the event to an adventure at summer camp. The women loved sorting the mail, the men volunteered to take out the garbage, and everyone learned how to run and staff the building. Winifred left memories of this event along with other tales of occupants working out of their apartments, announcing callers, and helping famous people avoid the paparazzi such as John Lennon. She noted the security changes through the decades and the renovations that pained her to watch. Some of the residents described Winifred as more than the building’s concierge, she was the heart and soul of the operation. Her scrapbook of the time she spent at the Dakota is one of the only remaining documents of the building’s history. Most of the building’s eighty year history was destroyed in one single day by a porter “throwing all this old stuff out.”

It is hard to imagine a person working decades in the same job. We bounce around and change careers more than any generation before us. I think that is what drew me to Winifred. Can you imagine what you could see and document if you spent your entire working career at one company? My parents both had this luxury (that might be a stretch) of working for the same company and watching it evolve, seeing the highs and the lows and all the in between. I think this is a new way to look at history. We all hear the stories of the John Lennons, Joe Namaths, and Judy Garlands of the world, but what about the workers that watch them pass through each day? How would the Dakota compare today from let’s say 1960, 1970, 1980? One woman can tell us that story. We just have to look in the right places.