Saturday, December 16, 2017

Villisca

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Rating: 3 Stars

This book deeply saddens me for two reasons:

1. Whatever the motive, six innocent children lost their lives through no fault of their own and to this day their horrific murders have not been solved.

2. The book is in terrible need of a good round or two of thorough editing, given the numerous punctuation errors alone in addition to missing words. The victims of this awful crime deserve better.

The story itself is compelling and is one of those that we can not look away from, given the sensationalism of it all and the fact that so many of the victims were children. We will, in all likelihood, never know who the perpetrator(s) was/(were). I wish that were not the case. They deserve justice and just about everyone involved in investigating the crime was kind of worthless at various times throughout. I understand, the technology needed to solve the crime did not exist yet and most wouldn't for decades. But come on, common sense here: why were so many damn people allowed to traipse through the house while the victims still lay in their beds? Why were so many lookie-lous allowed to HANDLE THE MURDER WEAPON? I mean seriously, FFS, this never stood a chance of being solved.

I purchased this book after embarking on an adventure to Villisca with a friend. We visited the home and spent  quite a while there, as well as the museum downtown owned by the Linns, and part of the tour took us out to the cemetery where the Moore family and Stillinger girls were buried.

I can state 100%, unequivocally, without a doubt, the home is haunted. This is not surprising, given the horrific trauma the home witnessed. As my friend and I explored the home with maybe a handful of other tourists, I snapped several pictures. I had no issues whatsoever with my camera on the first floor of the home where the kitchen, pantry, parlor, and bedroom were located. The first floor bedroom is where the Stillinger girls died.

As we moved up the stairs, I began to feel lightheaded and headachey. I began to feel this intense pressure as I stood on the landing at the top of the stairs where Josiah and Sarah Moore's bed had been, where they too died. There was a narrow passage that could barely be called a hallway, where to the left a door opened into the attic. Straight ahead was the bedroom where the Moore children had slept. I felt drawn to the attic and attempted multiple times to take photos of the space. My camera refused to cooperate. This problem did not occur at any other time during the entire tour. In the end, with dozens of pictures of every other room in the house, both upstairs and downstairs, I managed to finally get two or three of the attic. After heading back downstairs, I had to get out of the house. It was not until I stepped out into the bright October sunshine that the headache and lightheaded-ness went away. The pressure was different, it was more of an overwhelming sadness. I will not go back to the home ever again.

When one looks at the information in this book and the main suspects, it is easy to see that no a single one of the suspects fits perfectly. Kelly was quite insane I'm sure, but enough to murder 8 people on what he thought was a command from God? And Jones, if he was so furious about Moore's competing business or the rumored affair Joe was having with Jones' daughter-in-law, why have the children and Moore's wife killed also? Or was that something the hired killers decided on their own when they'd gone to kill Joe but someone else had woken and would have been able to identify them? And who on earth would ever think it be possible to sneak into a house full of 8 people and murder only one? None of it makes sense, and I don't think it ever will.

Please allow for one more side-note about the book. I purchased it several years ago on the aforementioned visit a friend and I made to Villisca. A couple years after that I began dating a guy who was also interested in paranormal events and I told him about my trip to the house. I had not begun the book at that point, and I am not sure why. Something about the cover really spooked me. I let him borrow it and for weeks it sat on his coffee table, face down. The cover kind of spooked him too. He'd begun reading it and one night as we were going to sleep, the book was sitting on his nightstand. In the middle of the night I woke up to use the rest room and noticed he was sleeping, on his back, with something clutched tightly to his chest. Using the light from my phone, I shrieked in my half-asleep state that woke both of us quickly. He looked down and saw the Villisca book on his chest and without thinking, threw it across the room, startled. He had no memory of waking at any point, nor had no idea why he would have been holding the book so tightly. He'd gone to sleep at the same time I had, turning out the light with no reading beforehand. In the morning he told me I could take the book home with me, he had no intention of ever reading it after the events during the middle of the night. I didn't blame him one bit. I took the book home, keeping it face-down always, but I could not get rid of it. I shoved it in a box and did not read it for years, until today. The cover spooks me still and I don't think that feeling will ever go away.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday!


So this week The Broke and the Bookish made Top Ten Tuesday suuuuuper easy. The topic is Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017. I have read some really fantastic books this year and am happy to share them now. Here they are, in no particular order (except the first one because, duh.)

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This was a given, right?

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The first book I read in 2017. Actually, I started it at the end of 2016 at about 11 PM on December 31st. I was falling short on my Goodreads Challenge last year, so I found a bunch of free chick lit and cozy mysteries for free via BookBub. With ten books to go and an hour left, I threw in the towel and decided to end the year with a book I was sure to love. And I did.

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I know, I know. It's a shocker any time something other than non-fiction appears on one of my lists.

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WHAT?! A book NOT non-fiction or even historical fiction?? I know. As mentioned above, last year I was behind on my Goodreads Challenge. I found the first book in the Mercy Watts series as a result and HATED it. Parts of it took place in Lincoln, Nebraska, ON CAMPUS even at UNL, and so much was wrong, I was furious. But then I found a box set that was also free and I kept plugging away and I am glad I did for two reasons. 1) The books got better as the series and novellas went on and 2) Mercy's hot cop "cousin". Cousin is in quotes because they are not actually cousins, Chuck was adopted by her uncle when he and Chuck's mom got married (and divorced a few years later). Mercy and Chuck are now dating, and I promise it is not as weird as it sounds.

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I have to stop here or the list will go on for a while. Let me know what you think of my list and leave a link to your own.

Happy Reading!
Sarah

Monday, December 4, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday!


Hey-o, it is Tuesday again and time for another TTT, brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is an extra cool one for me because it involves travel and I LOVE to travel. The actual topic is "Ten Bookish Settings I'd Love to Visit" but since my reads are non-fiction, I'll actually get to visit the places I read about. Some of this can be considered part of my itinerary for when my daughter is old enough to appreciate and understand the importance of these beautiful places.


Probably a no-brainer, if you know me at all. At Fontevraud Eleanor of Aquitaine was laid to rest, along with Henry II and Richard I. I get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about the day I will set foot into the place Eleanor called home in her final years. I'll cry, and it will be amazing. This is one of the few places left connected to Eleanor, and I plan to see as many of them as possible. It makes me heart hurt to think of all the history that has been lost over the centuries in the name of 'progress'.


Today the palace is a government building, though the same could be said for it functioning as such in its prime. The palace at Poitiers is one of the two most likely places where Eleanor of Aquitaine was born, and/or spent much of her childhood. It was the seat of power for the counts of Poitiers (and dukes of Aquitaine). The original palace on this site was destroyed by a fire in the 1018. It was rebuilt and through the 12th century remained an important palace. During Eleanor's estrangement from Henry, it is believed that she held her own court there, though not the 'Courts of Love' that have been romanticized by earlier historians. 


Everyone else can see the Mona Lisa. I have eyes for one thing, and one thing only: the only known possession of Eleanor's to have survived. Known as the Eleanor crystal vase, it came into her possession either from her grandfather or father. She gifted it to her first husband, Louis VII. In time he then gifted it to Abbot Suger, who added mounting and a plaque.


A journey of this magnitude would not be complete without a visit to the final resting place of William Marshal, pretty much the most bad-ass knight in history. His life story is remarkable, even if only half of it were to be true.


There are so many amazing places in London alone that I must see. The Tower is absolutely the first stop though, right off the plane. I'll make time for Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, all the places associated with my fave and least fave Plantagenets and Tudors, and all the other places Joey made Chandler go while they were in London for Ross and Emily's wedding. I just hope I won't need to go into the map.




No, seriously. I love this country. In 2009 I surprised my mom with a trip to Scotland as her Mother's Day gift. I planned the trip for that November, so we would be there around her birthday (and see Wicked in London the night of her actual birthday). It was my mom's dream vacation, and became a place I fell in love with. The morning we arrived, we dropped our bags at our adorable guest house, The Ben Doran (I won't stay anywhere else, this place was wonderful. Carol was lovely, and assisted in any way she could.) and headed for the Royal Mile. The minute we stepped off the bus, onto the Mile, I had an overwhelming sense of peace. Edinburgh is where I belong. We did a lot of the tourist things and I am looking forward to a return trip where we can wander the city aimlessly and seek out the lesser-known spots - though, you can not beat the view from Edinburgh Castle.

While I love Edinburgh dearly, Stirling Castle is my most favorite of all the castles I have been to so far. The views from the castle are breathtaking, and I've a special place in my heart for Mary, Queen of Scots. There was a bit of restoration work going on when we visited, so I am anxious to go back and see it now, as it was where Mary was crowned. I also look forward to see Linlithgow, where Mary was born and Fotheringhay (in England) where she was unjustly executed by order of her jealous cousin. There are so many castles in general that I would love to see, and I am partial to the beauty and sadness of ruins. Ireland has some great castles as well, and I think Blarney is my favorite. Basically, #ALLTHECASTLES is my goal.


I'm not Catholic, but I do love Pope Francis. He's the pope the world needs, but doesn't deserve.


Please allow me to end on a serious note. As horrific and traumatic as a visit to this notorious camp might be, it is something we owe the millions of victims. We owe it to them to keep these memories alive, to continue educating future generations, so that atrocities such as these never happen again. In 8th grade our class trip was to Washington D.C. We visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and I bawled my eyes out for most of the tour. When we came to the train car, and we had to pass through it to continue the tour, I could not move. I cried and cried, and my friend Martha had to push me through, while also guiding me because I could not see on account of all the tears. After seeing the display of the hundreds of pairs of shoes confiscated from prisoners on their arrival, I was done. I knew from that moment on, at age 14, I would do whatever I could to be part of that education. I would do whatever I could by myself or through various organizations, to ensure that this does not happen again. Maintaining these camps is crucial. The programs that bring people to view these camps and see firsthand the horrors of life inside must never stop. We can not let the Holocaust-deniers ever gain a solid foothold. This is our duty.

Please take a moment and let me know what you think of my choices. Feel free to leave a link to your blog so I can do the same.

Sarah

Thursday, November 30, 2017

First Line Friday: Eleanor Edition...I've Lost Count

Hoarding Books

Whew! The last couple of weeks have been CRAZY. I missed a couple FLFs because work was insane and then last week I was in such a blissful turkey coma with my food baby that I could not be bothered to do much more than lift up a book in front of my face. Now the food baby is gone and I am sad that the turkey is too.

This week my line is from a book I was not-so-patiently waiting for, and finally have in my hands. I'm very interested to see what it has to say about Eleanor and Aquitaine, and hopefully will assist me in my own research on the medieval queen. It will not surprise you if you saw this week's Top Ten Tuesday (and you really should look because it was a very fabulous list) that I am showing off a book from Amberley.

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"Heroines come in many different forms, and it is no less true for medieval heroines."

Leave a comment and/or your first line, then head over to Hoarding Books to see what other first lines you might discover today.

Happy Reading,
Sarah

Monday, November 27, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday!


Once again TTT is here, brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is 'Top Ten Books on My Winter TBR' and boy, do I have some good ones. Thanks to Amberley Publishing and their amazing/ridiculous sales, I keep finding books that I can't pass up. Seriously. It's like their Black Friday 30%-off-the-entire-site sale was just for me. My entire list is comprised of books from my most recent Amberley order. There are worse things to be addicted to.

Here are my picks, in no particular order:

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1. There are few atrocities that Henry VIII committed during his reign that were as cruel and vile as Margaret Pole's imprisonment and execution. I, however unfortunately, already know that story and am interested in her life and want to learn as much as I can about the one woman who frightened Henry so much, he had her murdered to be rid of her.

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2. I absolutely love any and everything having to do with King Arthur - insomuch as trying to determine whether he was actually a king who ruled, or nothing more than a mish-mash of several rulers, or pure fantasy. I think I enjoy the what-ifs the most, though in all likelihood he did not exist in the way we think of him today.

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3. I am so excited for this one. I love reading about the places that these fascinating people spent their time, and I can't wait for this one to arrive. I myself am trying to do something in a similar vein for Eleanor of Aquitaine, though you can imagine it is a bit trickier going back 900 years than 500.

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4. EEEEEK! Another one I can not wait for - that Bess of Hardwick sure was an instigator. This one won't actually be out until May, but it counts for my winter TBR because I have pre-ordered it.

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5. Another that I am not-so-patiently waiting for. The origins of the Tudor line never cease to amaze me. Just imagine, had Owen Tudor and Catherine of Valois never had children, what would the UK look like today?

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6. Another one that I am EEEEKed about. I know very little about Anne, but plenty about her husband and brother-in-law. And I did not realize until now that she did in fact serve all six queens during Henry's reign. I'm quite interested in finding out more about her.

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7. A pattern is quickly developing, isn't it? Nearly every book on my winter TBR involves the Tudors somehow. This is yet another I have ordered and am waiting to get my hands on. Arbella's story is such a sad one, I am thankful every single day that I was not in any way, shape, or form connected to the royal family, regardless of which dynasty was in power. So much tragedy for so many.

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8. I was pretty much sold on this one the moment I read the phrase 'the Medieval Boudicca'. Plus, she's the daughter of my fave king (Alfred the Great). Heck yes, I'll take a copy ASAP.

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9. I almost bought this one so many times with Amberley's previous sales but am glad I waited for the 30% off. You can't really turn down hardcovers for that price, as long as you pretend that the £ is equal to the $. Which I never do.

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10. I truly love Scotland best of all the countries I have visited. I've really got quite a soft spot in my heart for Mary. She never stood a chance once she left France. She trusted the wrong people and in the end had nothing to lose as plots against Elizabeth began unfolding. Seeing as how she had been held prisoner for so long, it is easy to see why she would risk her life; one way or another, she was going to be free.

Let me know what you think of my Amberley-sponsored (joking) Winter TBR picks and I'll be sure to do the same for you.

Happy Reading!
Sarah

Monday, November 20, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday

Happy Thanksgiving Eve-Eve!


It's Tuesday and that means a new Top Ten list brought to you by the bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is the top ten books you are thankful for. Please be patient with me, because you know this list is going to be more than ten. I will try my very best to keep it under twenty - no promises though.

Here they are in no particular order:

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1. This one is a given, isn't it, for those of you who have seen many of my other TTT lists? This is the book where I met Eleanor of Aquitaine, and where I fell in love with Plantagenet history. This is THE BOOK that made me the BookDragonHistoryNerd that I am today. I have always loved to read, but the gravitational pull of non-fiction that I embrace is because of this book and now it is very rare for me to read any works of fiction. Plus, Dan Jones is pretty awesome. We are practically BFFs 😆


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2. Everything else Jones has written, because.

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3. I love Erik Larson's books. If you really are not into non-fiction, these read as though they are fiction. Another fantastic writer who brings history to life.

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4. Man, I loved this show and for years had cable and never missed an episode. I still love it, but I no longer have cable, so I have to rely on the show's website and clips posted on Facebook. Jon Stewart was so very comforting in those rough years of W's administration, and Trevor Noah has successfully helmed the ship for a couple years now in these very bizarre times. I greatly appreciate all he has done to keeping the show as quality now as it was when Stewart sat at the desk.

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5. Not only these, but a myriad of other texts written by contemporaries of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, and their children. My research and writing would not be where it is at today if not for these immensely valuable texts, as well as slews of surviving charters, letters, and objects even from the era - not to mention the Journal of Medieval History, from which I have dozens of articles to help paint a full an accurate picture of who Eleanor was and why she is so important. 

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6. Just a few of the many wonderful texts that are leading me to more sources and contemporary chronicles from Eleanor's time.

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7. I read this book every year starting on Palm Sunday. It breaks down Christ's final week day-by-day. The book also puts the books of the Gospel side by side, discussing the differences in each account. It is a very important book and one I cherish.

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8. All of the small groups at my church right now are reading The Story and it is wonderful. My daughter's Sunday School class is also reading the age-appropriate kids' version and we read her copy together every night before bed also. Nothing compares to the real thing (and I myself am partial to the King James Version, which will shock NO ONE who knows me), but for those who feel overwhelmed by the Bible, this is a great way to be introduced to the most important book ever written.

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9. I love Love LOVE this one. Though I recognize the need for William the Bastard to conquer England in order for my beloved Plantagenets to come to power, I can not ignore my love for the Anglo-Saxons and their way of life that was completely destroyed by the Normans. I treasure this book because it gives a variety of options for how things might have gone different in 1066, at varying times throughout the year, not only at the Battle of Hastings. There were many stories that were plausible and could truly have been the way things went had different people made different decisions. There were also some that were a bit more fanciful, but incredible reads none-the-less. A must-read for those who love the era.

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10. Two topics near and dear to my heart, by the same author. It absolutely guts me to think of that library and all the knowledge that was lost when it was destroyed. If I think about it for too long, I can occasionally nearly be moved to tears. And what else can be said about Alfred, the only English king to be called 'the Great'. Well-deserving, as it was all his work that paved the way for his grandson to unite the country.

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11. I have a love/hate relationship with the title of the book, but I truly love everything else about it. The title bothers me in that it seems to be defeating the purpose of the book as a whole. The purpose is to showcase strong women who have made very distinct changes to our world throughout history. We should not be encouraging little girls to think of these women as rebels, but as powerful women who left their marks. If we continue to think of them as rebels, then we are further perpetuating the idea that these behavior and abilities are uncommon. Still, a wonderful collection of stories about women who followed their dreams, stood up for what they believed in, advanced our society, and fought for those who could not fight for themselves. My Mighty Girl loves this book and it is a treasure.

Here are a few others I am also thankful for, for my Mighty Girl. Reading to my sweet girl at bedtime is my favorite time of day. We love each of these books and in some cases the entire series. Seriously, do you know how hard it is to choose a most favorite Elephant and Piggie book? I recommend each of these books very highly; they are our go-tos for long car rides and cuddly rainy-day reading time. And really, pretty much any time.

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12. There are so many more books to include here but I could go on a while. I am thoroughly obsessed with the 5 boroughs and Manhattan in particular in the Gilded and Jazz Ages, but the city in general. I can not wait to see it for myself someday with my daughter and to take in the history and wonder of the City that Never Sleeps.

I feel like this is the best place to stop. I am pouring over my shelves and Kindle and trying so hard to determine which books truly deserve a place on this list and to continue choosing is almost too difficult. Plus, this might be one of my longest TTTs ever if I keep going.

Let me know what you think of my list and leave a link so I can take a look at the books you are thankful for also.

Happy Reading and Happy Thanksgiving,
Sarah