Write About it Wednesday: Carry A. Nation

“You put me in here a cub, but I will go out a roaring lion, and I will make all hell howl.”

I love podcasts. I subscribe to anything from history to crime and books in between. Two different podcasts covered Carry Nation and peaked my interest. Most would say that listening to two episodes about a woman would be thorough enough, but leave it to me to have more questions. I had never heard of Nation before listening: first to Stuff You Missed in History Class, and second Criminal with Phoebe Judge and I wanted to know more. I’m a sucker for strong female leaders.

Carry was a trouble maker in her youth until she fell ill and found God. She devoted her life to religion and saw fit to improve the lives of others with HER opinions. She was very reserved until a doctor who was boarding at her home stole a kiss in the dark. She soon found herself in love. Carry married Dr. Charles Gloyd, a well-known to everyone (except Carry) alcoholic, in her early 20’s that set her path in life. He was drunk at the ceremony and she never saw him sober again. Her father came to check on her a few months into the marriage and decided she had to return home immediately and leave her husband. Dr. Gloyd died 6 months after she left from complications due to alcohol abuse. No shock there. Carry was now responsible for her daughter and mother-in-law and needed a career. She became a teacher until she was fired for refusing to change the pronunciation of the short and long a. As a teacher myself, this excuse is so ridiculous that it’s comical. They just wanted her gone.

Her only plan was to marry. When she ran into David Nation she believed it was divine intervention. They were married a few weeks later and moved to Texas. This would be one of many moves as Nation faced disaster everywhere they attempted to settle. Their eventual move to Kansas started the famous saloon smashing and prohibition speeches. Carry noticed that several saloons were still fully operating under laws that forbade the sale of alcohol. She started with warnings but then began to throw bricks into saloons, carry a hatchet which she is well known for, and call out bar owners to close shop. It was her divine calling. She had visions that directed her behavior and many saloons were forced to close after Nation swept into town. Not everyone agreed with her behavior. In 1901, she was beaten by a group of women. She was jailed numerous times and during one of the stays, she began publishing a newsletter that eventually turned into a newspaper called “The Hatchet,” which supported prohibition and women’s rights.

I could talk about Carry Nation all night, but I’m going to save you time. Why in the world is this woman famous? If I decided to walk into a bar, tear it apart and break everything in sight and then tell everyone how they should be living…I’d be in jail for a very long time. Should you be honored for breaking the law because it doesn’t hold true to your own way of thinking? Her visions from God sound almost like Andrea Yates, the woman who drowned her children in the bathtub because she had a vision. Believer or non-believer, do we get to use a vision as an out for committing crimes? My research left me with only one thought: Carry Nation was a stubborn, semi-crazy woman in a network of prohibitionists who blamed alcohol for all the problems in the world. I don’t see her as a leader, but as a woman who is just as bad as the people she is trying to stop.

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Book Review Saturday: The Body in the Marsh

“Life is out there and has to be lived.”

Body in the Marsh has an excellent cover. I know the old saying, but that is truly why I picked this book. I was expecting a detective novel, but didn’t realize it would be based in Surrey and Kent. It starts out with Detective Craig Gillard rescuing an unknown woman who gets trapped on a mountain during a winter storm. I was thrown off by this part of the story and was hoping to dive right in to the mystery and intrigue. It was no shock when they developed a somewhat dysfunctional relationship that continues throughout the story. For me, the story began when Craig becomes intrigued by a missing person report. It turns out to be an old girlfriend that broke his heart. He still carries around the baggage and can’t see past the love he still feels for her. Most of the time a relationship would mean that he was taken off the case but he hides it from his boss. The author does a good job of leaving trails of clues along the way, but I called the ending early on. I kept reading because I enjoyed the investigation. The side story of Girl F who reported abuse but was dismissed and later killed herself tied in nicely with the missing person case. Overall, I liked that it had a broader focus but I could take it or leave it.

I am always hesitant to review crime novels because I have read so many. When I discover an ending within a few chapters it makes me wonder if my fellow book lovers do as well. I couldn’t get past Craig’s love for Liz, the missing person. He held on for so long and was STILL in love with her after 30 years. I may be doing love wrong, but this seems a bit excessive for a high school love story. I know Nicholas Sparks would disagree but I like my romance to be a bit more realistic. The cases seemed plausible, but I flagged a quote in Chapter 13 for further review. I have a question for all my fellow crime novelists, detectives, lovers of the law:

“First, we’re monitoring every number on his contact list from the original phone. If any of those numbers is called by a number that’s new to them, we’ll get a copy of the metadata.”

Is this legal? Can the investigators really track calls to all the contacts in a person’s phone? Let’s say I had 5 contacts on my phone, then they would tap into those 5 contacts list to see if any new numbers called? This seems a bit farfetched even with our recent Patriot Act, but maybe this happens? I would hope it would at least require a warrant. I’m interested in your thoughts and opinions! Let me know what you think.

Book Review Saturday: Sarah’s Key

“Because they think we are different. So they are frightened of us.”

This book was hard to read. It’s so easy to put the Holocaust and its atrocities behind you and go about your day. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Not dwell on the past or give it another thought? This book slaps you in the face with it and then kicks you while you are down. Honestly, I knew very little about the French involvement in the deportation of Jews and that saddens me. We know what happened, we see the memorials and hear the sad tales but the digging stops there. We don’t want to face those kinds of truths. At one point, my boyfriend asked me why I was still reading if it makes me so upset? My answer was how can I not? The author does not spare you on details, and the pain is brought to life through her intertwining tale of Sarah, a Jewish child who was picked up by the French police, and Julia, a journalist investigating the round up.

Sarah is awoken by the French police banging on the apartment door. They ask for her father but he is already in hiding. The police are not aware of her little brother in the next room so she hides him away in the secret cupboard and locks the door. She knows he will be safe because she believes they will be coming right back. As they walk out onto the street her mother calls her father’s name and he appears. They board a train and are escorted to an arena where they are grouped with the other Jews. They remain there for days. Her brother has no one to save him. The children are eventually left alone and sent to Auschwitz. I waited for any sign of good news in Sarah’s story but little comes.

Julia is an American journalist married to a “typical” French man. She is asked to cover the anniversary of the roundup and becomes completely immersed in the story. Her research unfolds hidden secrets that her husband’s family wishes to stay buried. I don’t know if it’s the fact that she is a journalist or that the story so completely changes her but I just felt drawn to her character. I have buried myself into research and felt the changes in my own life. She wants to make a difference, she wants people to feel something. It’s a quality that appeals to me in a main character. I wasn’t a huge fan of her relationship with her husband that parallels her work, but overall this story will stay with me for a long time.

I highly recommend this book even if you normally shy away from historical fiction. It’s important to remember and study the past, and those emotions and feelings it sparks are what makes us human. It’s easy to leave things in the past, it takes courage to face it head on and learn from it. It only takes one person to change a life, one person to stand up for something, one person to help us remember.

Book Review Saturday: War and Peace Check-In

“We don’t love people so much for the good they have done us, as for the good we have done them.”

War and Peace is intimidating. It is easily the largest book I have ever tackled weighing in at over 1000 pages. This book has been on my TBR list for quite some time but I’ve never had the courage to start. I stumbled upon a read-along on Instagram and joined the group. I had every intention of keeping up with the weekly readings, joining discussions, aka tackling the world and Tolstoy in one fell swoop. How am I doing so far? Miserably.

To be clear, I am still reading War and Peace. I’m honestly enjoying it. I can see why Tolstoy consistently ranks in the top authors of all time. His descriptions are unmatched in most literary works. The amount of characters can be overwhelming. At the suggestion of another reader I began to keep a list of each character with me as I read and it became easier to keep things straight. I was still feeling defeated and falling behind quickly. The book is so large that it is difficult to hold up while reading in bed, and the post-it notes that marked where I should be seemed to keep staring at me saying “failure, failure, failure.” I don’t like to be defeated. I decided to try a new tactic and downloaded the free Kindle version to try it out. This is the one time I will admit the Kindle version is better than the book. I started flying through the pages. I didn’t have the dreaded post-it notes staring at me and I could stop reading without feeling guilty.

I’ve learned quite a few things while reading this book. It’s okay to fall behind. I am busy. I have a life and it consists of work, graduate school, running a blog, taking care of my house, finding time for me and still seeing my boyfriend in between. There aren’t any more hours in the day just because I need to read. This was honestly the first time I let myself slow down the pace and just enjoy the fact that I’m accomplishing something that most don’t.

Joining a read-along is excellent motivation. Even though I am behind, without joining this read-along I would have given up a long time ago. It’s like a book support group. I would recommend this approach to anyone who needs that extra push to tackle a classic, or enjoys discussing books with others. I would love to host one in the future, but I’m just happy to be a part of something bigger than me. My TBR piles are always growing and it’s nice to know that other people out there enjoy reading as much as I do.

Stay tuned for another War and Peace check-in. Do you have a classic that you’ve been scared to start? Have you ever joined a read-along? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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: Murder Games

“This is all a game to you, isn’t it? A sick, perverted, and twisted game that’s only getting started. Are you really going to play every card in the deck? It’s what you want us to think, right?”

This is my first Patterson. In my effort to add another author to my “have read” list I picked up this new release and a day and a half later here we are. I mean a girl has to work right? That was pretty much my only break from this book and I even managed to squeeze in some pages in between the summer rush there. This book is fast and furious with short chapters helping you dive quickly into the race against the clock to save the next victim.

Dr. Dylan Reinhart wrote a book on criminal behavior that happens to be found at a crime scene along with a threat on the cover next to his name. This starts his journey into the discovery of the man behind the murders of several “innocent” people. He is teamed up with NYPD detective Elizabeth Needham who sets an example for all women who want to be taken seriously. They are two very strong, likeable characters that go from crime scene to crime scene trying to prevent The Dealer from striking again. A playing card is left at each scene to hint at his next target. This isn’t a new idea, in fact I just read a Patricia Cornwell with the same context but it didn’t feel overdone or predictable. Reinhart takes a chance and discovers the truth after they get one step ahead. There are a few subplots of interest with the mayor of New York fighting for reelection, Reinhart’s background in the CIA, and the media playing a large role in events.

Patterson has the formula down for an enjoyable reading experience. Short chapters, constant action, and a mystery to be solved make for a good time. I had a bias against this author after being let down by many other popular bestsellers but he has renewed my faith. I understand why so many people are eager to get their hands on his new releases. I may be next in line to jump on the bandwagon. 

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!