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Biography Book Reviews Books Featured Nonfiction

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

Whether she is contemplating the history of walking as a cultural and political experience over the past two hundred years (Wanderlust), or using the life of photographer Eadweard Muybridge as a lens to discuss the transformations of space and time in late nineteenth-century America (River of Shadows), Rebecca Solnit has emerged as an inventive and original writer whose mind is daring in the connections it makes. A Field Guide to Getting Lost draws on emblematic moments and relationships in Solnit’s own life to explore the issues of wandering, being lost, and the uses of the unknown. The result is a distinctive, stimulating, and poignant voyage of discovery.

A Field Guide to Getting LostA Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I don’t know. I really wanted to like this one but I had a really hard time getting into it. I read it for Life’s Library Book Club. I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from reading it or at least giving it a try, but it wasn’t the book for me.

In the book, there are definitely great stories to be told but I couldn’t get into the author’s thoughts. I needed more that I could relate to I suppose and this one centered on the author’s very personal form of contemplation. It presented a lot of overthinking and navel-gazing type content, being more about perception and a lot of personal reflection. Other people may enjoy that. For me, I just didn’t enjoy it as much.

I would like to try reading another book by Rebecca Solnit.

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ARCs Biography Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Mystery Nonfiction Thriller

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

The stunning story of an Alabama serial killer and the true-crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird.

Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted–thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the Reverend.

Sitting in the audience during the vigilante’s trial was Harper Lee, who had traveled from New York City to her native Alabama with the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research seventeen years earlier. Lee spent a year in town reporting, and many more working on her own version of the case.

Now Casey Cep brings this story to life, from the shocking murders to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South. At the same time, she offers a deeply moving portrait of one of the country’s most beloved writers and her struggle with fame, success, and the mystery of artistic creativity.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper LeeFurious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Penguin Random House for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the First to Read program.

This book was absolutely fascinating! I would recommend it to anyone. If you have fond memories of reading Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird as a child or are looking to read classics this year, be sure to put this one on your TBR. It’s also a type of story within a story about a story whose final works (those being Harper Lee’s) were never published in which readers of true crime/thrillers will appreciate.

Furious Hours made full circle as it encompassed the published/unpublished works and the personal and literary life of author Harper Lee. As the first chapters unfolded into a compelling story of the accused Reverend Maxwell, I gained incredible insight into the norms of Southern living as well as the cultural and political climate of the times. From the perceptive value of the aesthetic and functional features of the Alabama courthouses to the practice of law itself, the intriguing writing style kept my full attention.

The author, Casey Cep, did an amazing job articulating and organizing the depth and reach of Harper Lee in a way that was captivating. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about influential circumstances and notable people who crossed paths with Harper Lee, including Truman Capote. All these details added so much biographical context to how Harper Lee lived her life, the choices she made, and how it shaped her writing as an author. This is one book you won’t want to put down!

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ARCs Biography Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero by Christian Di Spigna

A rich and illuminating biography of America’s forgotten Founding Father, the patriot physician and major general who fomented rebellion and died heroically at the battle of Bunker Hill on the brink of revolution

Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution's Lost HeroFounding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero by Christian Di Spigna

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Penguin Random House for providing me with an uncorrected proof via access to the galley for free through the First to Read program. All opinions are my own. Not sponsored.

I enjoyed this book! I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading biographies and non-fiction wartime, as well those interested in learning what life was like during the 18th century. More specifically, those who would like to know about events surrounding the American Revolutionary War/American War of Independence and the life of Dr. Joseph Warren.

The author, Christian Di Spigna, did a wonderful job presenting the story of Dr. Joseph Warren who held multiple titles and roles as a well-respected physician and key political activist during the early days of the American Revolution. It’s presented in a well-constructed, well-organized, semi-chronological timeline that preserves several historical dates of interest. This was balanced with excerpts from Dr. Warren’s personal life, excellent scene descriptions, and insight into the fascinating social norms of the time, which made for a pleasurable read that wasn’t overwritten or boring. As someone who is familiar with Dr. Joseph Warren, I appreciated the level of detail that was contained in this historical account. The beginning chapter did contain a few long-winded bits, but the sentences made for case in point and weren’t overly distracting.

The author was able to cleverly depict interesting differences in the knowledge and culture of the time to a more common worldview of today without interjecting loads of personal bias/opinions or unnecessary embellishment to the storyline. I enjoyed the careful placement of 18th century prose by use of direct quotes along with the occasional summarization. I also really liked the inclusion of words that were used for certain items at the time instead of substituting them with overly descriptive imagery and explanations. Though I had to reach for my dictionary a couple times, I found it refreshing to learn the names of objects that are not common in today’s daily life and language.

As far as the storyline is concerned, people familiar and unfamiliar with it will find it intriguing and the writing compelling. It would make a great addition to anyone’s historical or medical biography literary collection.

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Biography Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

Three Angels Over Rancho Grande by Viola M. Payne

Pat Martinez looked up into Jim’s cold eyes. “You arrested me once,” Jim said as he fingered the rope in his hands. “But this time, I’ve come after you. I’ll drag you behind my horse until I tear you to pieces!”

Alone against Jim and his men, Pat’s mind raced. Instinctively, he dismissed saints and priest and church, and prayed silently to the Being who created the universe. “Lord, please help me! Remember that I have a big family. There’s only one man to take care of that family, and that’s Pat!”

Three Angels Over Rancho Grande is the dramatic story of Patrocinio Martinez, a part-Apache pioneer settler in the old Southwest. As sheriff in Socorro County, New Mexico, he apprehended many criminals but never killed a man. A faithful member of the Catholic Church, he and his large family would never be the same after Brother Vargas came to town with his message of the Bible’s three angels.

In this story of the old West and the settling of the New Mexico territory , God guides the life of Pat Martinez and his children, including Max Martinez, who went on to be a missionary, church leader, and patriarch of the church in the Texico Conference. Three Angels Over Rancho Grande traces the origins of a family whose contributions to the work of God are now so far-reaching that they can never fully be known until eternity begins.

Three Angels Over Rancho GrandeThree Angels Over Rancho Grande by Viola M. Payne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading about the life and impact of the Patrocinio Martinez family as they settled in the Southwestern United States. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a casual read, enjoys pioneership, and stories about the old West.

I love reading about New Mexican culture and heritage. Viola Payne brings to light many of the victories and hardships within a historical timeline of activities that surrounded Native persons and recorded interactions with settlers. The second half of the book was more focused on Seventh Day Adventist indoctrination. I wasn’t as excited to read about it in such depth when compared to the lively, attention-capturing events that were told in previous chapters.

She puts amazing perspective to character development and cultural adaptation in a relaxed, informal, yet well-though-out writing style. Patrocinio Martinez was a sheriff in the most classical sense and his adventures reflect just that. This book includes everything from brawls, horsemanship, childrearing, farming, hospitality, legacy, friendship, family, and self-reflection- which all strongly support the title and importance of faith in this book.

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